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Book 2 Chapter 6 Cinq Mars by Alfred de Vigny


CHAPTER VI

THE DREAM

Meanwhile, Cinq-Mars, amid the excitement which his outbreak had
provoked, felt his left arm seized by a hand as hard as iron, which,
drawing him from the crowd to the foot of the steps, pushed him behind
the wall of the church, and he then saw the dark face of old Grandchamp,
who said to him in a sharp voice:

"Sir, your attack upon thirty musketeers in a wood at Chaumont was
nothing, because we were near you, though you knew it not, and, moreover,
you had to do with men of honor; but here 'tis different. Your horses and
people are at the end of the street; I request you to mount and leave the
town, or to send me back to Madame la Marechale, for I am responsible for
your limbs, which you expose so freely."

Cinq-Mars was somewhat astonished at this rough mode of having a service
done him, was not sorry to extricate himself thus from the affair, having
had time to reflect how very awkward it might be for him to be
recognized, after striking the head of the judicial authority, the agent
of the very Cardinal who was to present him to the King. He observed also
that around him was assembled a crowd of the lowest class of people,
among whom he blushed to find himself. He therefore followed his old
domestic without argument, and found the other three servants waiting for
him. Despite the rain and wind he mounted, and was soon upon the highroad
with his escort, having put his horse to a gallop to avoid pursuit.

He had, however, hardly left Loudun when the sandy road, furrowed by deep
ruts completely filled with water, obliged him to slacken his pace. The
rain continued to fall heavily, and his cloak was almost saturated. He
felt a thicker one thrown over his shoulders; it was his old valet, who
had approached him, and thus exhibited toward him a maternal solicitude.

"Well, Grandchamp," said Cinq-Mars, "now that we are clear of the riot,
tell me how you came to be there when I had ordered you to remain at the
Abbe's."

"Parbleu, Monsieur!" answered the old servant, in a grumbling tone, "do
you suppose that I should obey you any more than I did Monsieur le
Marechal? When my late master, after telling me to remain in his tent,
found me behind him in the cannon's smoke, he made no complaint, because
he had a fresh horse ready when his own was killed, and he only scolded
me for a moment in his thoughts; but, truly, during the forty years I
served him, I never saw him act as you have in the fortnight I have been
with you. Ah!" he added with a sigh, "things are going strangely; and if
we continue thus, there's no knowing what will be the end of it."

"But knowest thou, Grandchamp, that these scoundrels had made the
crucifix red hot?--a thing at which no honest man would have been less
enraged than I."

"Except Monsieur le Marechal, your father, who would not have done at all
what you have done, Monsieur."

"What, then, would he have done?"

"He would very quietly have let this cure be burned by the other cures,
and would have said to me, 'Grandchamp, see that my horses have oats, and
let no one steal them'; or, 'Grandchamp, take care that the rain does not
rust my sword or wet the priming of my pistols'; for Monsieur le Marechal
thought of everything, and never interfered in what did not concern him.
That was his great principle; and as he was, thank Heaven, alike good
soldier and good general, he was always as careful of his arms as a
recruit, and would not have stood up against thirty young gallants with a
dress rapier."

Cinq-Mars felt the force of the worthy servitor's epigrammatic scolding,
and feared that he had followed him beyond the wood of Chaumont; but he
would not ask, lest he should have to give explanations or to tell a
falsehood or to command silence, which would at once have been taking him
into confidence on the subject. As the only alternative, he spurred his
horse and rode ahead of his old domestic; but the latter had not yet had
his say, and instead of keeping behind his master, he rode up to his left
and continued the conversation.

"Do you suppose, Monsieur, that I should allow you to go where you
please? No, Monsieur, I am too deeply impressed with the respect I owe to
Madame la Marquise, to give her an opportunity of saying to me:
'Grandchamp, my son has been killed with a shot or with a sword; why were
you not before him?' Or, 'He has received a stab from the stiletto of an
Italian, because he went at night beneath the window of a great princess;
why did you not seize the assassin?' This would be very disagreeable to
me, Monsieur, for I never have been reproached with anything of the kind.
Once Monsieur le Marechal lent me to his nephew, Monsieur le Comte, to
make a campaign in the Netherlands, because I know Spanish. I fulfilled
the duty with honor, as I always do. When Monsieur le Comte received a
bullet in his heart, I myself brought back his horses, his mules, his
tent, and all his equipment, without so much as a pocket-handkerchief
being missed; and I can assure you that the horses were as well dressed
and harnessed when we reentered Chaumont as if Monsieur le Comte had been
about to go a-hunting. And, accordingly, I received nothing but
compliments and agreeable things from the whole family, just in the way I
like."

"Well, well, my friend," said Henri d'Effiat, "I may some day, perhaps,
have these horses to take back; but in the mean time take this great
purse of gold, which I have well-nigh lost two or three times, and thou
shalt pay for me everywhere. The money wearies me."

"Monsieur le Marechal did not so, Monsieur. He had been superintendent of
finances, and he counted every farthing he paid out of his own hand. I do
not think your estates would have been in such good condition, or that
you would have had so much money to count yourself, had he done
otherwise; have the goodness, therefore, to keep your purse, whose
contents, I dare swear, you do not know."

"Faith, not I."

Grandchamp sent forth a profound sigh at his master's disdainful
exclamation.

"Ah, Monsieur le Marquis! Monsieur le Marquis! When I think that the
great King Henri, before my eyes, put his chamois gloves into his pocket
to keep the rain from spoiling them; when I think that Monsieur de Rosni
refused him money when he had spent too much; when I think--"

"When thou dost think, thou art egregiously tedious, my old friend,"
interrupted his master; "and thou wilt do better in telling me what that
black figure is that I think I see walking in the mire behind us."

"It looks like some poor peasant woman who, perhaps, wants alms of us.
She can easily follow us, for we do not go at much of a pace in this
sand, wherein our horses sink up to the hams. We shall go to the Landes
perhaps some day, Monsieur, and you will see a country all the same as
this sandy road, and great, black firs all the way along. It looks like a
churchyard; this is an exact specimen of it. Look, the rain has ceased,
and we can see a little ahead; there is nothing but furze-bushes on this
great plain, without a village or a house. I don't know where we can pass
the night; but if you will take my advice, you will let us cut some
boughs and bivouac where we are. You shall see how, with a little earth,
I can make a hut as warm as a bed."

"I would rather go on to the light I see in the horizon," said Cinq-Mars;
"for I fancy I feel rather feverish, and I am thirsty. But fall back, I
would ride alone; rejoin the others and follow."

Grandchamp obeyed; he consoled himself by giving Germain, Louis, and
Etienne lessons in the art of reconnoitring a country by night.

Meanwhile, his young master was overcome with fatigue. The violent
emotions of the day had profoundly affected his mind; and the long
journey on horseback, the last two days passed almost without
nourishment, owing to the hurried pressure of events, the heat of the sun
by day, the icy coldness of the night, all contributed to increase his
indisposition and to weary his delicate frame. For three hours he rode in
silence before his people, yet the light he had seen in the horizon
seemed no nearer; at last he ceased to follow it with his eyes, and his
head, feeling heavier and heavier, sank upon his breast. He gave the
reins to his tired horse, which of its own accord followed the high-road,
and, crossing his arms, allowed himself to be rocked by the monotonous
motion of his fellow-traveller, which frequently stumbled against the
large stones that strewed the road. The rain had ceased, as had the
voices of his domestics, whose horses followed in the track of their
master's. The young man abandoned himself to the bitterness of his
thoughts; he asked himself whether the bright object of his hopes would
not flee from him day by day, as that phosphoric light fled from him in
the horizon, step by step. Was it probable that the young Princess,
almost forcibly recalled to the gallant court of Anne of Austria, would
always refuse the hands, perhaps royal ones, that would be offered to
her? What chance that she would resign herself to renounce a present
throne, in order to wait till some caprice of fortune should realize
romantic hopes, or take a youth almost in the lowest rank of the army and
lift him to the elevation she spoke of, till the age of love should be
passed? How could he be certain that even the vows of Marie de Gonzaga
were sincere?

"Alas!" he said, "perhaps she has blinded herself as to her own
sentiments; the solitude of the country had prepared her soul to receive
deep impressions. I came; she thought I was he of whom she had dreamed.
Our age and my love did the rest. But when at court, she, the companion
of the Queen, has learned to contemplate from an exalted position the
greatness to which I aspire, and which I as yet see only from a very
humble distance; when she shall suddenly find herself in actual
possession of the future she aims at, and measures with a more correct
eye the long road I have to travel; when she shall hear around her vows
like mine, pronounced by lips which could undo me with a word, with a
word destroy him whom she awaits as her husband, her lord--oh, madman
that I have been!--she will see all her folly, and will be incensed at
mine."

Thus did doubt, the greatest misery of love, begin to torture his unhappy
heart; he felt his hot blood rush to his head and oppress it. Ever and
anon he fell forward upon the neck of his horse, and a half sleep weighed
down his eyes; the dark firs that bordered the road seemed to him
gigantic corpses travelling beside him. He saw, or thought he saw, the
same woman clothed in black, whom he had pointed out to Grandchamp,
approach so near as to touch his horse's mane, pull his cloak, and then
run off with a jeering laugh; the sand of the road seemed to him a river
running beneath him, with opposing current, back toward its source. This
strange sight dazzled his worn eyes; he closed them and fell asleep on
his horse.

Presently, he felt himself stopped, but he was numbed with cold and could
not move. He saw peasants, lights, a house, a great room into which they
carried him, a wide bed, whose heavy curtains were closed by Grandchamp;
and he fell asleep again, stunned by the fever that whirred in his ears.

Dreams that followed one another more rapidly than grains of sand before
the wind rushed through his brain; he could not catch them, and moved
restlessly on his bed. Urbain Grandier on the rack, his mother in tears,
his tutor armed, Bassompierre loaded with chains, passed before him,
making signs of farewell; at last, as he slept, he instinctively put his
hand to his head to stay the passing dream, which then seemed to unfold
itself before his eyes like pictures in shifting sands.

He saw a public square crowded with a foreign people, a northern people,
who uttered cries of joy, but they were savage cries; there was a line of
guards, ferocious soldiers--these were Frenchmen. "Come with me," said
the soft voice of Marie de Gonzaga, who took his hand. "See, I wear a
diadem; here is thy throne, come with me." And she hurried him on, the
people still shouting. He went on, a long way. "Why are you sad, if you
are a queen?" he said, trembling. But she was pale, and smiled and spoke
not. She ascended, step after step, up to a throne, and seated herself.
"Mount!" said she, forcibly pulling his hand. But, at every movement, the
massive stairs crumbled beneath his feet, so that he could not ascend.
"Give thanks to love," she continued; and her hand, now more powerful,
raised him to the throne. The people still shouted. He bowed low to kiss
that helping hand, that adored hand; it was the hand of the executioner!

"Oh, heavens!" exclaimed Cinq-Mars, as, heaving a deep sigh, he opened
his eyes. A flickering lamp lighted the ruinous chamber of the inn; he
again closed his eyes, for he had seen, seated on his bed, a woman, a
nun, young and beautiful! He thought he was still dreaming, but she
grasped his hand firmly. He opened his burning eyes, and fixed them upon
her.

"Is it you, Jeannede Belfiel? The rain has drenched your veil and your
black hair! Why are you here, unhappy woman?"

"Hark! awake not my Urbain; he sleeps there in the next room. Ay, my hair
is indeed wet, and my feet--see, my feet that were once so white, see how
the mud has soiled them. But I have made a vow--I will not wash them till
I have seen the King, and until he has granted me Urbain's pardon. I am
going to the army to find him; I will speak to him as Grandier taught me
to speak, and he will pardon him. And listen, I will also ask thy pardon,
for I read it in thy face that thou, too, art condemned to death. Poor
youth! thou art too young to die, thy curling hair is beautiful; but yet
thou art condemned, for thou hast on thy brow a line that never deceives.
The man thou hast struck will kill thee. Thou hast made too much use of
the cross; it is that which will bring evil upon thee. Thou hast struck
with it, and thou wearest it round thy neck by a hair chain. Nay, hide
not thy face; have I said aught to afflict thee, or is it that thou
lovest, young man? Ah, reassure thyself, I will not tell all this to thy
love. I am mad, but I am gentle, very gentle; and three days ago I was
beautiful. Is she also beautiful? Ah! she will weep some day! Yet, if she
can weep, she will be happy!"

And then suddenly Jeanne began to recite the service for the dead in a
monotonous voice, but with incredible rapidity, still seated on the bed,
and turning the beads of a long rosary.

Suddenly the door opened; she looked up, and fled through another door in
the partition.

"What the devil's that-an imp or an angel, saying the funeral service
over you, and you under the clothes, as if you were in a shroud?"

This abrupt exclamation came from the rough voice of Grandchamp, who was
so astonished at what he had seen that he dropped the glass of lemonade
he was bringing in. Finding that his master did not answer, he became
still more alarmed, and raised the bedclothes. Cinq-Mars's face was
crimson, and he seemed asleep, but his old domestic saw that the blood
rushing to his head had almost suffocated him; and, seizing a jug full of
cold water, he dashed the whole of it in his face. This military remedy
rarely fails to effect its purpose, and Cinq-Mars returned to himself
with a start.

"Ah! it is thou, Grandchamp; what frightful dreams I have had!"

"Peste! Monsieur le Marquis, your dreams, on the contrary, are very
pretty ones. I saw the tail of the last as I came in; your choice is not
bad."

"What dost mean, blockhead?"

"Nay, not a blockhead, Monsieur; I have good eyes, and I have seen what I
have seen. But, really ill as you are, Monsieur le Marechal would
never--"

"Thou art utterly doting, my friend; give me some drink, I am parched
with thirst. Oh, heavens! what a night! I still see all those women."

"All those women, Monsieur? Why, how many are here?"

"I am speaking to thee of a dream, blockhead. Why standest there like a
post, instead of giving me some drink?"

"Enough, Monsieur; I will get more lemonade." And going to the door, he
called over the staircase, "Germain! Etienne! Louis!"

The innkeeper answered from below: "Coming, Monsieur, coming; they have
been helping me to catch the madwoman."

"What mad-woman?" said Cinq-Mars, rising in bed.

The host entered, and, taking off his cotton cap, said, respectfully:
"Oh, nothing, Monsieur le Marquis, only a madwoman that came here last
night on foot, and whom we put in the next room; but she has escaped, and
we have not been able to catch her."

"Ah!" exclaimed Cinq-Mars, returning to himself and putting his hand to
his eyes, "it was not a dream, then. And my mother, where is she? and the
Marechal, and--Ah! and yet it is but a fearful dream! Leave me."

As he said this, he turned toward the wall, and again pulled the clothes
over his head.

The innkeeper, in amazement, touched his forehead three times with his
finger, looking at Grandchamp as if to ask him whether his master were
also mad.

Grandchamp motioned him away in silence, and in order to watch the rest
of the night by the side of Cinq-Mars, who was in a deep sleep, he seated
himself in a large armchair, covered with tapestry, and began to squeeze
lemons into a glass of water with an air as grave and severe as
Archimedes calculating the condensing power of his mirrors.