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Book 1 Chapter 1 Cinq Mars by Alfred de Vigny


CHAPTER I

THE ADIEU

     Fare thee well! and if forever,
     Still forever fare thee well!

                       LORD BYRON.

Do you know that charming part of our country which has been called the
garden of France--that spot where, amid verdant plains watered by wide
streams, one inhales the purest air of heaven?

If you have travelled through fair Touraine in summer, you have no doubt
followed with enchantment the peaceful Loire; you have regretted the
impossibility of determining upon which of its banks you would choose to
dwell with your beloved. On its right bank one sees valleys dotted with
white houses surrounded by woods, hills yellow with vines or white with
the blossoms of the cherry-tree, walls covered with honeysuckles,
rose-gardens, from which pointed roofs rise suddenly. Everything reminds
the traveller either of the fertility of the land or of the antiquity of
its monuments; and everything interests him in the work of its busy
inhabitants.

Nothing has proved useless to them; it seems as if in their love for so
beautiful a country--the only province of France never occupied by
foreigners--they have determined not to lose the least part of its soil,
the smallest grain of its sand. Do you fancy that this ruined tower is
inhabited only by hideous night-birds? No; at the sound of your horse's
hoofs, the smiling face of a young girl peeps out from the ivy, whitened
with the dust from the road. If you climb a hillside covered with vines,
a light column of smoke shows you that there is a chimney at your feet;
for the very rock is inhabited, and families of vine-dressers breathe in
its caverns, sheltered at night by the kindly earth which they
laboriously cultivate during the day. The good people of Touraine are as
simple as their life, gentle as the air they breathe, and strong as the
powerful earth they dig. Their countenances, like their characters, have
something of the frankness of the true people of St. Louis; their
chestnut locks are still long and curve around their ears, as in the
stone statues of our old kings; their language is the purest French, with
neither slowness, haste, nor accent--the cradle of the language is there,
close to the cradle of the monarchy.

But the left bank of the stream has a more serious aspect; in the
distance you see Chambord, which, with its blue domes and little cupolas,
appears like some great city of the Orient; there is Chanteloup, raising
its graceful pagoda in the air. Near these a simpler building attracts
the eyes of the traveller by its magnificent situation and imposing size;
it is the chateau of Chaumont. Built upon the highest hill of the shore,
it frames the broad summit with its lofty walls and its enormous towers;
high slate steeples increase their loftiness, and give to the building
that conventual air, that religious form of all our old chateaux, which
casts an aspect of gravity over the landscape of most of our provinces.
Black and tufted trees surround this ancient mansion, resembling from
afar the plumes that encircled the hat of King Henry. At the foot of the
hill, connected with the chateau by a narrow path, lies a pretty village,
whose white houses seem to have sprung from the golden sand; a chapel
stands halfway up the hill; the lords descended and the villagers
ascended to its altar-the region of equality, situated like a neutral
spot between poverty and riches, which have been too often opposed to
each other in bitter conflict.

Here, one morning in the month of June, 1639, the bell of the chateau
having, as usual, rung at midday, the dinner-hour of the family,
occurrences of an unusual kind were passing in this ancient dwelling. The
numerous domestics observed that in repeating the morning prayers before
the assembled household, the Marechale d'Effiat had spoken with a broken
voice and with tears in her eyes, and that she had appeared in a deeper
mourning than was customary. The people of the household and the Italians
of the Duchesse de Mantua, who had at that time retired for a while to
Chaumont, saw with surprise that sudden preparations were being made for
departure. The old domestic of the Marechal d'Effiat (who had been dead
six months) had taken again to his travelling-boots, which he had sworn
to abandon forever. This brave fellow, named Grandchamp, had followed the
chief of the family everywhere in the wars, and in his financial work; he
had been his equerry in the former, and his secretary in the latter. He
had recently returned from Germany, to inform the mother and the children
of the death of the Marechal, whose last sighs he had heard at
Luzzelstein. He was one of those faithful servants who are become too
rare in France; who suffer with the misfortunes of the family, and
rejoice with their joys; who approve of early marriages, that they may
have young masters to educate; who scold the children and often the
fathers; who risk death for them; who serve without wages in revolutions;
who toil for their support; and who in prosperous times follow them
everywhere, or exclaim at their return, "Behold our vines!" He had a
severe and remarkable face, a coppery complexion, and silver-gray hair,
in which, however, some few locks, black as his heavy eyebrows, made him
appear harsh at first; but a gentle countenance softened this first
impression. At present his voice was loud. He busied himself much that
day in hastening the dinner, and ordered about all the servants, who were
in mourning like himself.

"Come," said he, "make haste to serve the dinner, while Germain, Louis,
and Etienne saddle their horses; Monsieur Henri and I must be far away by
eight o'clock this evening. And you, gentlemen, Italians, have you warned
your young Princess? I wager that she is gone to read with her ladies at
the end of the park, or on the banks of the lake. She always comes in
after the first course, and makes every one rise from the table."

"Ah, my good Grandchamp," said in a low voice a young maid servant who
was passing, "do not speak of the Duchess; she is very sorrowful, and I
believe that she will remain in her apartment. Santa Maria! what a shame
to travel to-day! to depart on a Friday, the thirteenth of the month, and
the day of Saint Gervais and of Saint-Protais--the day of two martyrs! I
have been telling my beads all the morning for Monsieur de Cinq-Mars; and
I could not help thinking of these things. And my mistress thinks of them
too, although she is a great lady; so you need not laugh!"

With these words the young Italian glided like a bird across the large
dining-room, and disappeared down a corridor, startled at seeing the
great doors of the salon opened.

Grandchamp had hardly heard what she had said, and seemed to have been
occupied only with the preparations for dinner; he fulfilled the
important duties of major-domo, and cast severe looks at the domestics to
see whether they were all at their posts, placing himself behind the
chair of the eldest son of the house. Then all the inhabitants of the
mansion entered the salon. Eleven persons seated themselves at table. The
Marechale came in last, giving her arm to a handsome old man,
magnificently dressed, whom she placed upon her left hand. She seated
herself in a large gilded arm-chair at the middle of one side of the
table, which was oblong in form. Another seat, rather more ornamented,
was at her right, but it remained empty. The young Marquis d'Effiat,
seated in front of his mother, was to assist her in doing the honors of
the table. He was not more than twenty years old, and his countenance was
insignificant; much gravity and distinguished manners proclaimed,
however, a social nature, but nothing more. His young sister of fourteen,
two gentlemen of the province, three young Italian noblemen of the suite
of Marie de Gonzaga (Duchesse de Mantua), a lady-in-waiting, the
governess of the young daughter of the Marechale, and an abbe of the
neighborhood, old and very deaf, composed the assembly. A seat at the
right of the elder son still remained vacant.

The Marechale, before seating herself, made the sign of the cross, and
repeated the Benedicite aloud; every one responded by making the complete
sign, or upon the breast alone. This custom was preserved in many
families in France up to the Revolution of 1789; some still practise it,
but more in the provinces than in Paris, and not without some hesitation
and some preliminary words upon the weather, accompanied by a deprecatory
smile when a stranger is present--for it is too true that virtue also has
its blush.

The Marechale possessed an imposing figure, and her large blue eyes were
remarkably beautiful. She did not appear to have yet attained her
forty-fifth year; but, oppressed with sorrow, she walked slowly and spoke
with difficulty, closing her eyes, and allowing her head to droop for a
moment upon her breast, after she had been obliged to raise her voice. At
such efforts her hand pressed to her bosom showed that she experienced
sharp pain. She saw therefore with satisfaction that the person who was
seated at her left, having at the beginning engrossed the conversation,
without having been requested by any one to talk, persisted with an
imperturbable coolness in engrossing it to the end of the dinner. This
was the old Marechal de Bassompierre; he had preserved with his white
locks an air of youth and vivacity curious to see. His noble and polished
manners showed a certain gallantry, antiquated like his costume--for he
wore a ruff in the fashion of Henri IV, and the slashed sleeves
fashionable in the former reign, an absurdity which was unpardonable in
the eyes of the beaux of the court. This would not have appeared more
singular than anything else at present; but it is admitted that in every
age we laugh at the costume of our fathers, and, except the Orientals, I
know of no people who have not this fault.

One of the Italian gentlemen had hardly finished asking the Marechal what
he thought of the way in which the Cardinal treated the daughter of the
Duc de Mantua, when he exclaimed, in his familiar language:

"Heavens, man! what are you talking about? what do I comprehend of this
new system under which France is living? We old companions-in-arms of his
late Majesty can ill understand the language spoken by the new court, and
that in its turn does not comprehend ours. But what do I say? We speak no
language in this sad country, for all the world is silent before the
Cardinal; this haughty little, vassal looks upon us as merely old family
portraits, which occasionally he shortens by the head; but happily the
motto always remains. Is it not true, my dear Puy-Laurens?"

This guest was about the same age as the Marechal, but, being more grave
and cautious, he answered in vague and few words, and made a sign to his
contemporary in order to induce him to observe the unpleasant emotions
which he had caused the mistress of the house by reminding her of the
recent death of her husband and in speaking thus of the minister, his
friend. But it was in vain, for Bassompierre, pleased with the sign of
half-approval, emptied at one draught a great goblet of wine--a remedy
which he lauds in his Memoirs as infallible against the plague and
against reserve; and leaning back to receive another glass from his
esquire, he settled himself more firmly than ever upon his chair, and in
his favorite ideas.

"Yes, we are in the way here; I said so the other day to my dear Duc de
Guise, whom they have ruined. They count the minutes that we have to
live, and shake the hour-glass to hasten the descent of its sands. When
Monsieur le Cardinal-Duc observes in a corner three or four of our tall
figures, who never quitted the side of the late King, he feels that he is
unable to move those statues of iron, and that to do it would require the
hand of a great man; he passes quickly by, and dares not meddle with us,
who fear him not. He believes that we are always conspiring; and they say
at this very moment that there is talk of putting me in the Bastille."

"Eh! Monsieur le Marechal, why do you delay your departure?" said the
Italian. "I know of no place, except Flanders, where you can find
shelter."

"Ah, Monsieur! you do not know me. So far from flying, I sought out the
King before his departure, and told him that I did so in order to save
people the trouble of looking for me; and that if I knew when he wished
to send me, I would go myself without being taken. He was as kind as I
expected him to be, and said to me, 'What, my old friend, could you have
thought that I desired to send you there? You know well that I love
you.'"

"Ah, my dear Marechal, let me compliment you," said Madame d'Effiat, in a
soft voice. "I recognize the benevolence of the King in these words; he
remembers the affection which the King, his father, had toward you. It
appears to me that he always accorded to you all that you desired for
your friends," she added, with animation, in order to put him into the
track of praise, and to beguile him from the discontent which he had so
loudly declared.

"Assuredly, Madame," answered he; "no one is more willing to recognize
his virtues than Francois de Bassompierre. I shall be faithful to him to
the end, because I gave myself, body and fortune, to his father at a
ball; and I swear that, with my consent at least, none of my family shall
ever fail in their duties toward the King of France. Although the
Besteins are foreigners and Lorrains, a shake of the hand from Henri IV
gained us forever. My greatest grief has been to see my brother die in
the service of Spain; and I have just written to my nephew to say that I
shall disinherit him if he has passed over to the Emperor, as report says
he has."

One of the gentlemen guests who had as yet been silent, and who was
remarkable for the profusion of knots, ribbons, and tags which covered
his dress, and for the black cordon of the Order of St. Michael which
decorated his neck, bowed, observing that it was thus all faithful
subjects ought to speak.

"I' faith, Monsieur de Launay, you deceive yourself very much," said the
Marechal, to whom the recollection of his ancestors now occurred;
"persons of our blood are subjects only at our own pleasure, for God has
caused us to be born as much lords of our lands as the King is of his.
When I came to France, I came at my ease, accompanied by my gentlemen and
pages. I perceive, however, that the farther we go, the more we lose
sight of this idea, especially at the court. But here is a young man who
arrives very opportunely to hear me."

The door indeed opened, and a young man of fine form entered. He was
pale; his hair was brown, his eyes were black, his expression was sad and
reckless. This was Henri d'Effiat, Marquis de Cinq-Mars (a name taken
from an estate of his family). His dress and his short cloak were black;
a collar of lace fell from his neck halfway down his breast; his stout,
small, and very wide-spurred boots made so much noise upon the flags of
the salon that his approach was heard at a distance. He walked directly
toward the Marechale, bowed low, and kissed her hand.

"Well, Henri," she said, "are your horses ready? At what hour do you
depart?"

"Immediately after dinner, Madame, if you will allow me," said he to his
mother, with the ceremonious respect of the times; and passing behind
her, he saluted M. de Bassompierre before seating himself at the left of
his eldest brother.

"Well," said the Marechal, continuing to eat with an excellent appetite,
"you are about to depart, my son; you are going to the court--a slippery
place nowadays. I am sorry for your sake that it is not now what it used
to be. In former times, the court was simply the drawing-room of the
King, in which he received his natural friends: nobles of great family,
his peers, who visited him to show their devotion and their friendship,
lost their money with him, and accompanied him in his pleasure parties,
but never received anything from him, except permission to bring their
vassals with them, to break their heads in his service. The honors a man
of quality received did not enrich him, for he paid for them out of his
purse. I sold an estate for every grade I received; the title of
colonel-general of the Swiss cost me four hundred thousand crowns, and at
the baptism of the present King I had to buy a costume that cost me a
hundred thousand francs."

"Ah!" said the mistress of the house, smiling, "you must acknowledge for
once that you were not obliged to do that. We have all heard of your
splendid dress of pearls; but I should be much vexed were it still the
custom to wear such."

"Oh, Madame la Marquise, do not fear, those times of magnificence never
will return. We committed follies, no doubt, but they proved our
independence; it is clear that it would then have been hard to convert
from their allegiance to the King adherents who were attached to him by
love alone, and whose coronets contained as many diamonds as his own
locked-up crown. It is also certain that ambition could not then attack
all classes, since such expenses could come only from rich hands, and
since gold comes only from mines. Those great houses, which are being so
furiously assailed, were not ambitious, and frequently, desiring no
employment from the Government, maintained their places at court by their
own weight, existed upon their own foundation, and might say, as one of
them did say, 'The Prince condescends not; I am Rohan.' It was the same
with every noble family, to which its own nobility sufficed; the King
himself expressed it in writing to one of my friends: 'Money is not a
common thing between gentlemen like you and me.'"

"But, Monsieur le Marechal," coldly, and with extreme politeness,
interrupted M. de Launay, who perhaps intended to anger him, "this
independence has produced as many civil wars and revolts as those of
Monsieur de Montmorency."

"Monsieur! I can not consent to hear these things spoken," said the fiery
Marechal, leaping up in his armchair. "Those revolts and wars had nothing
to do with the fundamental laws of the State, and could no more have
overturned the throne than a duel could have done so. Of all the great
party-chiefs, there was not one who would not have laid his victory at
the feet of the King, had he succeeded, knowing well that all the other
lords who were as great as himself would have abandoned the enemy of the
legitimate sovereign. Arms were taken against a faction, and not against
the sovereign authority; and, this destroyed, everything went on again in
the old way. But what have you done in crushing us? You have crushed the
arm of the throne, and have not put anything in its place. Yes, I no
longer doubt that the Cardinal-Duke will wholly accomplish his design;
the great nobility will leave and lose their lands, and, ceasing to be
great proprietors, they will cease to be a great power. The court is
already no more than a palace where people beg; by and by it will become
an antechamber, when it will be composed only of those who constitute the
suite of the King. Great names will begin by ennobling vile offices; but,
by a terrible reaction, those offices will end by rendering great names
vile. Estranged from their homes, the nobility will be dependent upon the
employments which they shall have received; and if the people, over whom
they will no longer have any influence, choose to revolt--"

"How gloomy you are to-day, Marechal!" interrupted the Marquise; "I hope
that neither I nor my children will ever see that time. I no longer
perceive your cheerful disposition, now that you talk like a politician.
I expected to hear you give advice to my son. Henri, what troubles you?
You seem very absent."

Cinq-Mars, with eyes fixed upon the, great bay window of the dining-room,
looked sorrowfully upon the magnificent landscape. The sun shone in full
splendor, and colored the sands of the Loire, the trees, and the lawns
with gold and emerald. The sky was azure, the waves were of a transparent
yellow, the islets of a vivid green; behind their rounded outlines rose
the great sails of the merchant-vessels, like a fleet in ambuscade.

"O Nature, Nature!" he mused; "beautiful Nature, farewell! Soon will my
heart cease to be of simplicity enough to feel your charm, soon you wall
no longer please my eyes. This heart is already burned by a deep passion;
and the mention of the interests of men stirs it with hitherto unknown
agitation. I must, however, enter this labyrinth; I may, perchance, lose
myself there, but for Marie--"

At this moment, aroused by the words of his mother, and fearing to
exhibit a childish regret at leaving his beautiful country and his
family, he said:

"I am thinking, Madame, of the road which I shall take to Perpignan, and
also of that which shall bring me back to you."

"Do not forget to take that of Poitiers, and to go to Loudun to see your
old tutor, our good Abbe Quillet; he will give you useful advice about
the court. He is on very good terms with the Duc de Bouillon; and
besides, though he may not be very necessary to you, it is a mark of
deference which you owe him."

"Is it, then, to the siege of Perpignan that you are going, my boy?"
asked the old Marechal, who began to think that he had been silent a long
time. "Ah! it is well for you. Plague upon it! a siege! 'tis an excellent
opening. I would have given much had I been able to assist the late King
at a siege, upon my arrival in his court; it would have been better to be
disembowelled then than at a tourney, as I was. But we were at peace; and
I was compelled to go and shoot the Turks with the Rosworm of the
Hungarians, in order that I might not afflict my family by my idleness.
For the rest, may his Majesty receive you as kindly as his father
received me! It is true that the King is good and brave; but they have
unfortunately taught him that cold Spanish etiquette which arrests all
the impulses of the heart. He restrains himself and others by an
immovable presence and an icy look; as for me, I confess that I am always
waiting for the moment of thaw, but in vain. We were accustomed to other
manners from the witty and simple-hearted Henri; and we were at least
free to tell him that we loved him."

Cinq-Mars, with eyes fixed upon those of Bassompierre, as if to force
himself to attend to his discourse, asked him what was the manner of the
late king in conversation.

"Lively and frank," said he. "Some time after my arrival in France, I
played with him and with the Duchesse de Beaufort at Fontainebleau; for
he wished, he said, to win my gold-pieces, my fine Portugal money. He
asked me the reason why I came into this country. 'Truly, Sire,' said I,
frankly, 'I came with no intention of enlisting myself in your service,
but only to pass some time at your court, and afterward at that of Spain;
but you have charmed me so much that, instead of going farther, if you
desire my service, I will devote myself to you till death.' Then he
embraced me, and assured me that I could not find a better master, or one
who would love me more. Alas! I have found it so. And for my part, I
sacrificed everything to him, even my love; and I would have done more,
had it been possible to do more than renounce Mademoiselle de
Montmorency."

The good Marechal had tears in his eyes; but the young Marquis d'Effiat
and the Italians, looking at one another, could not help smiling to think
that at present the Princesse de Conde was far from young and pretty.
Cinq-Mars noticed this interchange of glances, and smiled also, but
bitterly.

"Is it true then," he thought, "that the affections meet the same fate as
the fashions, and that the lapse of a few years can throw the same
ridicule upon a costume and upon love? Happy is he who does not outlive
his youth and his illusions, and who carries his treasures with him to
the grave!"

But--again, with effort breaking the melancholy course of his thoughts,
and wishing that the good Marechal should read nothing unpleasant upon
the countenances of his hosts, he said:

"People spoke, then, with much freedom to King Henri? Possibly, however,
he found it necessary to assume that tone at the beginning of his reign;
but when he was master did he change it?"

"Never! no, never, to his last day, did our great King cease to be the
same. He did not blush to be a man, and he spoke to men with force and
sensibility. Ah! I fancy I see him now, embracing the Duc de Guise in his
carriage, on the very day of his death; he had just made one of his
lively pleasantries to me, and the Duke said to him, 'You are, in my
opinion, one of the most agreeable men in the world, and destiny ordained
us for each other. For, had you been but an ordinary man, I should have
taken you into my service at whatever price; but since heaven ordained
that you should be born a great King, it is inevitable that I belong to
you.' Oh, great man!" cried Bassompierre, with tears in his eyes, and
perhaps a little excited by the frequent bumpers he had drunk, "you said
well, 'When you have lost me you will learn my value.'"

During this interlude, the guests at the table had assumed various
attitudes, according to their position in public affairs. One of the
Italians pretended to chat and laugh in a subdued manner with the young
daughter of the Marechale; the other talked to the deaf old Abbe, who,
with one hand behind his ear that he might hear, was the only one who
appeared attentive. Cinq-Mars had sunk back into his melancholy
abstraction, after throwing a glance at the Marechal, as one looks aside
after throwing a tennis-ball until its return; his elder brother did the
honors of the table with the same calm. Puy-Laurens observed the mistress
of the house with attention; he was devoted to the Duc d'Orleans, and
feared the Cardinal. As for the Marechale, she had an anxious and
afflicted air. Careless words had often recalled the death of her husband
or the departure of her son; and, oftener still, she had feared lest
Bassompierre should compromise himself. She had touched him many times,
glancing at the same time toward M. de Launay, of whom she knew little,
and whom she had reason to believe devoted to the prime minister; but to
a man of his character, such warnings were useless. He appeared not to
notice them; but, on the contrary, crushing that gentleman with his bold
glance and the sound of his voice, he affected to turn himself toward
him, and to direct all his conversation to him. M. de Launay assumed an
air of indifference and of assenting politeness, which he preserved until
the moment when the folding-doors opened, and "Mademoiselle la Duchesse
de Mantua" was announced.

The conversation which we have transcribed so lengthily passed, in
reality, with rapidity; and the repast was only half over when the
arrival of Marie de Gonzaga caused the company to rise. She was small,
but very well made, and although her eyes and hair were black, her
complexion was as dazzling as the beauty of her skin. The Marechale arose
to acknowledge her rank, and kissed her on the forehead, in recognition
of her goodness and her charming age.

"We have waited a long time for you to-day, dear Marie," she said,
placing the Duchess beside her; "fortunately, you remain with me to
replace one of my children, who is about to depart."

The young Duchess blushed, lowered her head and her eyes, in order that
no one might see their redness, and said, timidly:

"Madame, that may well be, since you have taken toward me the place of a
mother;" and a glance thrown at Cinq-Mars, at the other end of the table,
made him turn pale.

This arrival changed the conversation; it ceased to be general, and each
guest conversed in a low voice with his neighbor. The Marechal alone
continued to utter a few sentences concerning the magnificence of the old
court, his wars in Turkey, the tournaments, and the avarice of the new
court; but, to his great regret, no one made any reply, and the company
were about to leave the table, when, as the clock struck two, five horses
appeared in the courtyard. Four were mounted by servants, cloaked and
armed; the other horse, black and spirited, was held by old
Grandchamp--it was his master's steed.

"Ah!" exclaimed Bassompierre; "see, our battlehorses are saddled and
bridled. Come, young man, we must say, with our old Marot:

          'Adieu la cour, adieu les dames!
          Adieu les filles et les femmes!
          Adieu vous dy pour quelque temps;
          Adieu vos plaisans parse-temps!
          Adieu le bal, adieu la dance;
          Adieu mesure, adieu cadance,
          Tabourins, Hautbois, Violons,
          Puisqu'a la guerre nous allons!'"

These old verses and the air of the Marechal made all the guests laugh,
except three persons.

"Heavens!" he continued, "it seems to me as if, like him, I were only
seventeen years old; he will return to us covered with embroidery.
Madame, we must keep his chair vacant for him."

The Marechale suddenly grew pale, and left the table in tears; every one
rose with her; she took only two steps, and sank into another chair. Her
sons and her daughter and the young Duchess gathered anxiously around
her, and heard her say, amid the sighs and tears which she strove to
restrain:

"Pardon, my friends! it is foolish of me--childish; but I am weak at
present, and am not mistress of myself. We were thirteen at table; and
you, my dear Duchess, were the cause of it. But it is very wrong of me to
show so much weakness before him. Farewell, my child; give me your
forehead to kiss, and may God conduct you! Be worthy of your name and of
your father."

Then, as Homer says, "smiling under tears," she raised herself, pushed
her son from her, and said:

"Come, let me see you on horseback, fair sir!"

The silent traveller kissed the hands of his mother, and made a low bow
to her; he bowed also to the Duchess, without raising his eyes. Then,
embracing his elder brother, pressing the hand of the Marechal, and
kissing the forehead of his young sister almost simultaneously, he went
forth, and was on horseback in an instant. Every one went to the windows
which overlooked the court, except Madame d'Effiat, who was still seated
and suffering.

"He sets off at full gallop. That is a good sign," said the Marechal,
laughing.

"Oh, heavens!" cried the young Princess, retiring from the bay-window.

"What is the matter?" said the mother.

"Nothing, nothing!" said M. de Launay. "Your son's horse stumbled under
the gateway; but he soon pulled him up. See, he salutes us from the
road."

"Another ominous presage!" said the Marquise, upon retiring to her
apartments.

Every one imitated her by being silent or speaking low.

The day was sad, and in the evening the supper was silent at the chateau
of Chaumont.

At ten o'clock that evening, the old Marechal, conducted by his valet,
retired to the northern tower near the gateway, and opposite the river.
The heat was extreme; he opened the window, and, enveloping himself in
his great silk robe, placed a heavy candlestick upon the table and
desired to be left alone. His window looked out upon the plain, which the
moon, in her first quarter, indistinctly lighted; the sky was charged
with thick clouds, and all things disposed the mind to melancholy.
Although Bassompierre had nothing of the dreamer in his character, the
tone which the conversation had taken at dinner returned to his memory,
and he reconsidered his life, the sad changes which the new reign had
wrought in it, a reign which seemed to have breathed upon him a wind of
misfortune--the death of a cherished sister; the irregularities of the
heir of his name; the loss of his lands and of his favor; the recent fate
of his friend, the Marechal d'Effiat, whose chambers he now occupied. All
these thoughts drew from him an involuntary sigh, and he went to the
window to breathe.

At that moment he fancied he heard the tramp of a troop of horse at the
side of the wood; but the wind rising made him think that he had been
mistaken, and, as the noise suddenly ceased, he forgot it. He still
watched for some time all the lights of the chateau, which were
successively extinguished, after winding among the windows of the
staircases and rambling about the courtyards and the stables. Then,
leaning back in his great tapestried armchair, his elbow resting on the
table, he abandoned himself to his reflections. After a while, drawing
from his breast a medallion which hung concealed, suspended by a black
ribbon, he said:

"Come, my good old master, talk with me as you have so often talked;
come, great King, forget your court for the smile of a true friend; come,
great man, consult me concerning ambitious Austria; come, inconstant
chevalier, speak to me of the lightness of thy love, and of the fidelity
of thine inconstancy; come, heroic soldier, complain to me again that I
obscure you in combat. Ah, had I only done it in Paris! Had I only
received thy wound? With thy blood the world has lost the benefits of
thine interrupted reign--"

The tears of the Marechal obscured the glass that covered the large
medallion, and he was effacing them with respectful kisses, when, his
door being roughly opened, he quickly drew his sword.

"Who goes there?" he cried, in his surprise, which was much increased
when he saw M. de Launay, who, hat in hand, advanced toward him, and said
to him, with embarrassment:

"Monsieur, it is with a heart pierced with grief that I am forced to tell
you that the King has commanded me to arrest you. A carriage awaits you
at the gate, attended by thirty of the Cardinal-Duke's musketeers."

Bassompierre had not risen: and he still held the medallion in his right
hand, and the sword in the other. He tendered it disdainfully to this
man, saying:

"Monsieur, I know that I have lived too long, and it is that of which I
was thinking; in the name of the great Henri, I restore this sword
peacefully to his son. Follow me."

He accompanied these words with a look so firm that De Launay was
depressed, and followed him with drooping head, as if he had himself been
arrested by the noble old man, who, seizing a flambeau, issued from the
court and found all the doors opened by horse-guards, who had terrified
the people of the chateau in the name of the King, and commanded silence.
The carriage was ready, and departed rapidly, followed by many horses.
The Marechal, seated beside M. de Launay, was about to fall asleep,
rocked by the movement of the vehicle, when a voice cried to the driver,
"Stop!" and, as he continued, a pistol-shot followed. The horses stopped.

"I declare, Monsieur, that this is done without my participation," said
Bassompierre. Then, putting his head out at the door, he saw that they
were in a little wood, and that the road was too narrow to allow the,
horses to pass to either the right or the left of the carriage--a great
advantage for the aggressors, since the musketeers could not advance. He
tried to see what was going on when a cavalier, having in his hand a long
sword, with which he parried the strokes of the guard, approached the
door, crying:

"Come, come, Monsieur le Marechal!"

"What! is that you, you madcap, Henri, who are playing these pranks?
Gentlemen, let him alone; he is a mere boy."

And, as De Launay called to the musketeers to cease, Bassompierre
recognized the cavalier.

"And how the devil came you here?" cried Bassompierre. "I thought you
were at Tours, or even farther, if you had done your duty; but here you
are returned to make a fool of yourself."

"Truly, it was not for you I returned, but for a secret affair," said
Cinq-Mars, in a lower tone; "but, as I take it, they are about to
introduce you to the Bastille, and I am sure you will not betray me, for
that delightful edifice is the very Temple of Discretion. Yet had you
thought fit," he continued, aloud, "I should have released you from these
gentlemen in the wood here, which is so dense that their horses would not
have been able to stir. A peasant informed me of the insult passed upon
us, more than upon you, by this violation of my father's house."

"It is the King's order, my boy, and we must respect his will; reserve
your ardor for his service, though I thank you with all my heart. Now
farewell, and let me proceed on my agreeable journey."

De Launay interposed, "I may inform you, Monsieur de Cinq-Mars, that I
have been desired by the King himself to assure Monsieur le Marechal,
that he is deeply afflicted at the step he has found it necessary to
take, and that it is solely from an apprehension that Monsieur le
Marechal may be led into evil that his Majesty requests him to remain for
a few days in the Bastille."--[He remained there twelve years.]

Bassompierre turned his head toward Cinq-Mars with a hearty laugh. "You
see, my friend, how we young men are placed under guardianship; so take
care of yourself."

"I will go, then," said Henri; "this is the last time I shall play the
knight-errant for any one against his will;" and, reentering the wood as
the carriage dashed off at full speed, he proceeded by narrow paths
toward the castle, followed at a short distance by Grandchamp and his
small escort.

On arriving at the foot of the western tower, he reined in his horse. He
did not alight, but, approaching so near the wall that he could rest his
foot upon an abutment, he stood up, and raised the blind of a window on
the ground-floor, made in the form of a portcullis, such as is still seen
on some ancient buildings.

It was now past midnight, and the moon was hidden behind the clouds. No
one but a member of the family could have found his way through darkness
so profound. The towers and the roof formed one dark mass, which stood
out in indistinct relief against the sky, hardly less dark; no light
shone throughout the chateau, wherein all inmates seemed buried in
slumber. Cinq-Mars, enveloped in a large cloak, his face hidden under the
broad brim of his hat, awaited in suspense a reply to his signal.

It came; a soft voice was heard from within:

"Is that you, Monsieur Cinq-Mars?"

"Alas, who else should it be? Who else would return like a criminal to
his paternal house, without entering it, without bidding one more adieu
to his mother? Who else would return to complain of the present, without
a hope for the future, but I?"

The gentle voice replied, but its tones were agitated, and evidently
accompanied with tears: "Alas! Henri, of what do you complain? Have I not
already done more, far more than I ought? It is not my fault, but my
misfortune, that my father was a sovereign prince. Can one choose one's
birthplace or one's rank, and say for example, 'I will be a shepherdess?'
How unhappy is the lot of princesses! From the cradle, the sentiments of
the heart are prohibited to them; and when they have advanced beyond
childhood, they are ceded like a town, and must not even weep. Since I
have known you, what have I not done to bring my future life within the
reach of happiness, in removing it far from a throne? For two years I
have struggled in vain, at once against my evil fortune, that separates
me from you, and against you, who estrange me from the duty I owe to my
family. I have sought to spread a belief that I was dead; I have almost
longed for revolutions. I should have blessed a change which deprived me
of my rank, as I thanked Heaven when my father was dethroned; but the
court wonders at my absence; the Queen requires me to attend her. Our
dreams are at an end, Henri; we have already slumbered too long. Let us
awake, be courageous, and think no more of those dear two years--forget
all in the one recollection of our great resolve. Have but one thought;
be ambitious for--be ambitious--for my sake."

"Must we, then, indeed, forget all, Marie?" murmured Cinq-Mars.

She hesitated.

"Yes, forget all--that I myself have forgotten." Then, after a moment's
pause, she continued with earnestness: "Yes, forget our happy days
together, our long evenings, even our walks by the lake and through the
wood; but keep the future ever in mind. Go, Henri; your father was
Marechal. Be you more; be you Constable, Prince. Go; you are young,
noble, rich, brave, beloved--"

"Beloved forever?" said Henri.

"Forever; for life and for eternity."

Cinq-Mars, tremulously extending his hand to the window, exclaimed:

"I swear, Marie, by the Virgin, whose name you bear, that you shall be
mine, or my head shall fall on the scaffold!"

"Oh, Heaven! what is it you say?" she cried, seizing his hand in her own.
"Swear to me that you will share in no guilty deeds; that you will never
forget that the King of France is your master. Love him above all, next
to her who will sacrifice all for you, who will await you amid suffering
and sorrow. Take this little gold cross and wear it upon your heart; it
has often been wet with my tears, and those tears will flow still more
bitterly if ever you are faithless to the King. Give me the ring I see on
your finger. Oh, heavens, my hand and yours are red with blood!"

"Oh, only a scratch. Did you hear nothing, an hour ago?"

"No; but listen. Do you hear anything now?"

"No, Marie, nothing but some bird of night on the tower."

"I heard whispering near us, I am sure. But whence comes this blood? Tell
me, and then depart."

"Yes, I will go, while the clouds are still dark above us. Farewell,
sweet soul; in my hour of danger I will invoke thee as a guardian angel.
Love has infused the burning poison of ambition into my soul, and for the
first time I feel that ambition may be ennobled by its aim. Farewell! I
go to accomplish my destiny."

"And forget not mine."

"Can they ever be separated?"

"Never!" exclaimed Marie, "but by death."

"I fear absence still more," said Cinq-Mars.

"Farewell! I tremble; farewell!" repeated the beloved voice, and the
window was slowly drawn down, the clasped hands not parting till the last
moment.

The black horse had all the while been pawing the earth, tossing his head
with impatience, and whinnying. Cinq-Mars, as agitated and restless as
his steed, gave it the rein; and the whole party was soon near the city
of Tours, which the bells of St. Gatien had announced from afar. To the
disappointment of old Grandchamp, Cinq-Mars would not enter the town, but
proceeded on his way, and five days later he entered, with his escort,
the old city of Loudun in Poitou, after an uneventful journey.