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Book 3 Chapter 13 Cinq Mars by Alfred de Vigny


CHAPTER XIII

THE SPANIARD

Meantime, a scene of different nature was passing in the tent of
Cinq-Mars; the words of the King, the first balm to his wounds, had been
followed by the anxious care of the surgeons of the court. A spent ball,
easily extracted, had been the only cause of his accident. He was allowed
to travel and all was ready. The invalid had received up to midnight
friendly or interested visits; among the first were those of little Gondi
and of Fontrailles, who were also preparing to quit Perpignan for Paris.
The ex-page, Olivier d'Entraigues, joined with them in complimenting the
fortunate volunteer, whom the King seemed to have distinguished. The
habitual coldness of the Prince toward all who surrounded him having
caused those who knew of them to regard the few words he had spoken as
assured signs of high favor, all came to congratulate him.

At length, released from visitors, he lay upon his camp-bed. De Thou sat
by his side, holding his hand, and Grandchamp at his feet, still
grumbling at the numerous interruptions that had fatigued his wounded
master. Cinq-Mars himself tasted one of those moments of calm and hope,
which so refresh the soul as well as the body. His free hand secretly
pressed the gold cross that hung next to his heart, the beloved donor of
which he was so soon to behold. Outwardly, he listened with kindly looks
to the counsels of the young magistrate; but his inward thoughts were all
turned toward the object of his journey--the object, also, of his life.
The grave De Thou went on in a calm, gentle voice:

"I shall soon follow you to Paris. I am happier than you at seeing the
King take you there with him. You are right in looking upon it as the
beginning of a friendship which must be turned to profit. I have
reflected deeply on the secret causes of your ambition, and I think I
have divined your heart. Yes; that feeling of love for France, which made
it beat in your earliest youth, must have gained greater strength. You
would be near the King in order to serve your country, in order to put in
action those golden dreams of your early years. The thought is a vast
one, and worthy of you! I admire you; I bow before you. To approach the
monarch with the chivalrous devotion of our fathers, with a heart full of
candor, and prepared for any sacrifice; to receive the confidences of his
soul; to pour into his those of his subjects; to soften the, sorrows of
the King by telling him the confidence his people have in him; to cure
the wounds of the people by laying them open to its master, and by the
intervention of your favor thus to reestablish that intercourse of love
between the father and his children which for eighteen years has been
interrupted by a man whose heart is marble; for this noble enterprise, to
expose yourself to all the horrors of his vengeance and, what is even
worse, to brave all the perfidious calumnies which pursue the favorite to
the very steps of the throne--this dream was worthy of you.

"Pursue it, my friend," De Thou continued. "Never become discouraged.
Speak loudly to the King of the merit and misfortunes of his most
illustrious friends who are trampled on. Tell him fearlessly that his old
nobility have never conspired against him; and that from the young
Montmorency to the amiable Comte de Soissons, all have opposed the
minister, and never the monarch. Tell him that the old families of France
were born with his race; that in striking them he affects the whole
nation; and that, should he destroy them, his own race will suffer, that
it will stand alone exposed to the blast of time and events, as an old
oak trembling and exposed to the wind of the plain, when the forest which
surrounded and supported it has been destroyed. Yes!" cried De Thou,
growing animated, "this aim is a fine and noble one. Go on in your course
with a resolute step; expel even that secret shame, that shyness, which a
noble soul experiences before it can resolve upon flattering--upon paying
what the world calls its court. Alas, kings are accustomed to these
continual expressions of false admiration for them! Look upon them as a
new language which must be learned--a language hitherto foreign to your
lips, but which, believe me, may be nobly spoken, and which may express
high and generous thoughts."

During this warm discourse of his friend, Cinq-Mars could not refrain
from a sudden blush; and he turned his head on his pillow toward the
tent, so that his face might not be seen. De Thou stopped:

"What is the matter, Henri? You do not answer. Am I deceived?"

Cinq-Mars gave a deep sigh and remained silent.

"Is not your heart affected by these ideas which I thought would have
transported it?"

The wounded man looked more calmly at his friend and said:

"I thought, my dear De Thou, that you would not interrogate me further,
and that you were willing to repose a blind confidence in me. What evil
genius has moved you thus to sound my soul? I am not a stranger to these
ideas which possess you. Who told you that I had not conceived them? Who
told you that I had not formed the firm resolution of prosecuting them
infinitely farther in action than you have put them in words? Love for
France, virtuous hatred of the ambition which oppresses and shatters her
ancient institutions with the axe of the executioner, the firm belief
that virtue may be as skilful as crime,--these are my gods as much as
yours. But when you see a man kneeling in a church, do you ask him what
saint or what angel protects him and receives his prayer? What matters it
to you, provided that he pray at the foot of the altars that you
adore--provided that, if called upon, he fall a martyr at the foot of
those 'altars? When our forefathers journeyed with naked feet toward the
Holy Sepulchre, with pilgrims' staves in their hands, did men inquire the
secret vow which led them to the Holy Land? They struck, they died; and
men, perhaps God himself, asked no more. The pious captain who led them
never stripped their bodies to see whether the red cross and haircloth
concealed any other mysterious symbol; and in heaven, doubtless, they
were not judged with any greater rigor for having aided the strength of
their resolutions upon earth by some hope permitted to a Christian--some
second and secret thought, more human, and nearer the mortal heart."

De Thou smiled and slightly blushed, lowering his eyes.

"My friend," he answered, gravely; "this excitement may be injurious to
you. Let us not continue this subject; let us not mingle God and heaven
in our discourse. It is not well; and draw the coverings over your
shoulder, for the night is cold. I promise you," he added, covering his
young invalid with a maternal care--"I promise not to offend you again
with my counsels."

"And I," cried Cinq-Mars, despite the interdiction to speak, "swear to
you by this gold cross you see, and by the Holy Mary, to die rather than
renounce the plan that you first traced out! You may one day, perhaps, be
forced to pray me to stop; but then it will be too late."

"Very well!" repeated the counsellor, "now sleep; if you do not stop, I
will go on with you, wherever you lead me."

And, taking a prayer-book from his pocket, he began to read attentively;
in a short time he looked at Cinq-Mars, who was still awake. He made a
sign to Grandchamp to put the lamp out of sight of the invalid; but this
new care succeeded no better. The latter, with his eyes still open,
tossed restlessly on his narrow bed.

"Come, you are not calm," said De Thou, smiling; "I will read to you some
pious passage which will put your mind in repose. Ah, my friend, it is
here that true repose is to be found; it is in this consolatory book,
for, open it where you will, you will always see, on the one hand, man in
the only condition that suits his weakness--prayer, and the uncertainty
as to his destiny--and, on the other, God himself speaking to him of his
infirmities! What a glorious and heavenly spectacle! What a sublime bond
between heaven and earth! Life, death, and eternity are there; open it at
random."

"Yes!" said Cinq-Mars, rising with a vivacity which had something boyish
in it; "you shall read to me, but let me open the book. You know the old
superstition of our country--when the mass-book is opened with a sword,
the first page on the left contains the destiny of him who reads, and the
first person who enters after he has read is powerfully to influence the
reader's future fate."

"What childishness! But be it as you will. Here is your sword; insert the
point. Let us see."

"Let me read myself," said Cinq-Mars, taking one side of the book. Old
Grandchamp gravely advanced his tawny face and his gray hair to the foot
of the bed to listen. His master read, stopped at the first phrase, but
with a smile, perhaps slightly forced, he went on to the end.

"I. Now it was in the city of Milan that they appeared.

"II. The high-priest said to them, 'Bow down and adore the gods.'

"III. And the people were silent, looking at their faces, which appeared
as the faces of angels.

"IV. But Gervais, taking the hand of Protais, cried, looking to heaven,
and filled with the Holy Ghost:

"V. Oh, my brother! I see the Son of man smiling upon us; let me die
first.

"VI. For if I see thy blood, I fear I shall shed tears unworthy of the
Lord our God.

"VII. Then Protais answered him in these words:

"VIII. My brother, it is just that I should perish after thee, for I am
older, and have more strength to see thee suffer.

"IX. But the senators and people ground their teeth at them.

"X. And the soldiers having struck them, their heads fell together on the
same stone.

"XI. Now it was in this same place that the blessed Saint Ambroise found
the ashes of the two martyrs which gave sight to the blind."

"Well," said Cinq-Mars, looking at his friend when he had finished, "what
do you say to that?"

"God's will be done! but we should not scrutinize it."

"Nor put off our designs for a child's play," said D'Effiat impatiently,
and wrapping himself in a cloak which was thrown over him. "Remember the
lines we formerly so frequently quoted, 'Justum et tenacem Propositi
viruna'; these iron words are stamped upon my brain. Yes; let the
universe crumble around me, its wreck shall carry me away still
resolute."

"Let us not compare the thoughts of man with those of Heaven; and let us
be submissive," said De Thou, gravely.

"Amen!" said old Grandchamp, whose eyes had filled with tears, which he
hastily brushed away.

"What hast thou to do with it, old soldier? Thou weepest," said his
master.

"Amen!" said a voice, in a nasal tone, at the entrance of the tent.

"Parbleu, Monsieur! rather put that question to his Gray Eminence, who
comes to visit you," answered the faithful servant, pointing to Joseph,
who advanced with his arms crossed, making a salutation with a frowning
air.

"Ah, it will be he, then!" murmured Cinq-Mars.

"Perhaps I come inopportunely," said Joseph, soothingly.

"Perhaps very opportunely," said Henri d'Effiat, smiling, with a glance
at De Thou. "What can bring you here, Father, at one o'clock in the
morning? It should be some good work."

Joseph saw he was ill-received; and as he had always sundry reproaches to
make himself with reference to all persons whom he addressed, and as many
resources in his mind for getting out of the difficulty, he fancied that
they had discovered the object of his visit, and felt that he should not
select a moment of ill humor for preparing the way to friendship.
Therefore, seating himself near the bed, he said, coldly:

"I come, Monsieur, to speak to you on the part of the
Cardinal-Generalissimo, of the two Spanish prisoners you have made; he
desires to have information concerning them as soon as possible. I am to
see and question them. But I did not suppose you were still awake; I
merely wished to receive them from your people."

After a forced interchange of politeness, they ordered into the tent the
two prisoners, whom Cinq-Mars had almost forgotten.

They appeared--the one, young and displaying an animated and rather wild
countenance, was the soldier; the other, concealing his form under a
brown cloak, and his gloomy features, which had something ambiguous in
their expression, under his broad-brimmed hat, which he did not remove,
was the officer. He spoke first:

"Why do you make me leave my straw and my sleep? Is it to deliver me or
hang me?"

"Neither," said Joseph.

"What have I to do with thee, man with the long beard? I did not see thee
at the breach."

It took some time after this amiable exordium to make the stranger
understand the right a Capuchin had to interrogate him.

"Well," he said, "what dost thou want?"

"I would know your name and your country."

"I shall not tell my name; and as for my country, I have the air of a
Spaniard, but perhaps am not one, for a Spaniard never acknowledges his
country."

Father Joseph, turning toward the two friends, said: "Unless I deceive
myself, I have heard his voice somewhere. This man speaks French without
an accent; but it seems he wishes to give us enigmas, as in the East."

"The East? that is it," said the prisoner. "A Spaniard is a man from the
East; he is a Catholic Turk; his blood either flags or boils; he is lazy
or indefatigable; indolence makes him a slave, ardor a tyrant; immovable
in his ignorance, ingenious in his superstition, he needs only a
religious book and a tyrannical master; he obeys the law of the pyre; he
commands by that of the poniard. At night he falls asleep in his
bloodthirsty misery, nurses fanaticism, and awakes to crime. Who is this
gentleman? Is it the Spaniard or the Turk? Guess! Ah! you seem to think
that I have wit, because I light upon analogy."

"Truly, gentlemen, you do me honor; and yet the idea may be carried much
further, if desired. If I pass to the physical order, for example, may I
not say to you, This man has long and serious features, a black and
almond-shaped eye, rugged brows, a sad and mobile mouth, tawny, meagre,
and wrinkled cheeks; his head is shaved, and he covers it with a black
handkerchief in the form of a turban; he passes the whole day lying or
standing under a burning sun, without motion, without utterance, smoking
a pipe that intoxicates him. Is this a Turk or a Spaniard? Are you
satisfied, gentlemen? Truly, it would seem so; you laugh, and at what do
you laugh? I, who have presented this idea to you--I have not laughed;
see, my countenance is sad. Ah! perhaps it is because the gloomy prisoner
has suddenly become a gossip, and talks rapidly. That is nothing! I might
tell you other things, and render you some service, my worthy friends.

"If I should relate anecdotes, for example; if I told you I knew a priest
who ordered the death of some heretics before saying mass, and who,
furious at being interrupted at the altar during the holy sacrifice,
cried to those who asked for his orders, 'Kill them all! kill them
all!'--should you all laugh, gentlemen? No, not all! This gentleman here,
for instance, would bite his lips and his beard. Oh! it is true he might
answer that he did wisely, and that they were wrong to interrupt his
unsullied prayer. But if I added that he concealed himself for an hour
behind the curtain of your tent, Monsieur de Cinq-Mars, to listen while
you talked, and that he came to betray you, and not to get me, what would
he say? Now, gentlemen, are you satisfied? May I retire after this
display?"

The prisoner had uttered this with the rapidity of a quack vending his
wares, and in so loud a voice that Joseph was quite confounded. He arose
indignantly at last, and, addressing himself to Cinq-Mars, said:

"How can you suffer a prisoner who should have been hanged to speak to
you thus, Monsieur?"

The Spaniard, without deigning to notice him any further, leaned toward
D'Effiat, and whispered in his ear:

"I can be of no further use to you; give me my liberty. I might ere this
have taken it; but I would not do so without your consent. Give it me, or
have me killed."

"Go, if you will!" said Cinq-Mars to him. "I assure you I shall be very
glad;" and he told his people to retire with the soldier, whom he wished
to keep in his service.

This was the affair of a moment. No one remained any longer in the tent
with the two friends, except the abashed Joseph and the Spaniard. The
latter, taking off his hat, showed a French but savage countenance. He
laughed, and seemed to respire more air into his broad chest.

"Yes, I am a Frenchman," he said to Joseph. "But I hate France, because
she gave birth to my father, who is a monster, and to me, who have become
one, and who once struck him. I hate her inhabitants, because they have
robbed me of my whole fortune at play, and because I have robbed them and
killed them. I have been two years in Spain in order to kill more
Frenchmen; but now I hate Spain still more. No one will know the reason
why. Adieu! I must live henceforth without a nation; all men are my
enemies. Go on, Joseph, and you will soon be as good as I. Yes, you have
seen me once before," he continued, violently striking him in the breast
and throwing him down. "I am Jacques de Laubardemont, the son of your
worthy friend."

With these words, quickly leaving the tent, he disappeared like an
apparition. De Thou and the servants, who ran to the entrance, saw him,
with two bounds, spring over a surprised and disarmed soldier, and run
toward the mountains with the swiftness of a deer, despite various
musket-shots. Joseph took advantage of the disorder to slip away,
stammering a few words of politeness, and left the two friends laughing
at his adventure and his disappointment, as two schoolboys laugh at
seeing the spectacles of their pedagogue fall off. At last they prepared
to seek a rest of which they both stood in need, and which they soon
found-=the wounded man in his bed, and the young counsellor in his chair.

As for the Capuchin, he walked toward his tent, meditating how he should
turn all this so as to take the greatest possible revenge, when he met
Laubardemont dragging the young mad-woman by her two hands. They
recounted to each other their mutual and horrible adventures.

Joseph had no small pleasure in turning the poniard in the wound of his
friend's heart, by telling him of the fate of his son.

"You are not exactly happy in your domestic relations," he added. "I
advise you to shut up your niece and hang your son, if you are fortunate
enough to find him."

Laubardemont replied with a hideous laugh:

"As for this idiot here, I am going to give her to an ex-secret judge, at
present a smuggler in the Pyrenees at Oleron. He can do what he pleases
with her--make her a servant in his posada, for instance. I care not, so
that my lord never hears of her."

Jeanne de Belfiel, her head hanging down, gave no sign of sensibility.
Every glimmer of reason was extinguished in her; one word alone remained
upon her lips, and this she continually pronounced.

"The judge! the judge! the judge!" she murmured, and was silent.

Her uncle and Joseph threw her, almost like a sack of corn, on one of the
horses which were led up by two servants. Laubardemont mounted another,
and prepared to leave the camp, wishing to get into the mountains before
day.

"A good journey to you!" he said to Joseph. "Execute your business well
in Paris. I commend to you Orestes and Pylades."

"A good journey to you!" answered the other. "I commend to you Cassandra
and OEdipus."

"Oh! he has neither killed his father nor married his mother."

"But he is on the high-road to those little pleasantries."

"Adieu, my reverend Father!"

"Adieu, my venerable friend!"

Then each added aloud, but in suppressed tones:

"Adieu, assassin of the gray robe! During thy absence I shall have the
ear of the Cardinal."

"Adieu, villain in the red robe! Go thyself and destroy thy cursed
family. Finish shedding that portion of thy blood that is in others'
veins. That share which remains in thee, I will take charge of. Ha! a
well-employed night!"