The retreat in which monsieur louis of france says his prayers
The reader has not, perhaps, forgotten that one moment before catching sight of the nocturnal band of vagabonds, Quasimodo, as he inspected Paris from the heights of his bell tower, perceived only one light burning, which gleamed like a star from a window on the topmost story of a lofty edifice beside the Porte Saint-Antoine. This edifice was the Bastille. That star was the candle of Louis XI.
King Louis XI. had, in fact, been two days in Paris. He was to take his departure on the next day but one for his citadel of Montilz-les-Tours. He made but seldom and brief appearance in his good city of Paris, since there he did not feel about him enough pitfalls, gibbets, and Scotch archers.
He had come, that day, to sleep at the Bastille. The great chamber five toises square, which he had at the Louvre, with its huge chimney-piece loaded with twelve great beasts and thirteen great prophets, and his grand bed, eleven feet by twelve, pleased him but little. He felt himself lost amid all this grandeur. This good bourgeois king preferred the Bastille with a tiny chamber and couch. And then, the Bastille was stronger than the Louvre.
This little chamber, which the king reserved for himself in the famous state prison, was also tolerably spacious and occupied the topmost story of a turret rising from the donjon keep. It was circular in form, carpeted with mats of shining straw, ceiled with beams, enriched with fleurs-de-lis of gilded metal with interjoists in color; wainscoated with rich woods sown with rosettes of white metal, and with others painted a fine, bright green, made of orpiment and fine indigo.
There was only one window, a long pointed casement, latticed with brass wire and bars of iron, further darkened by fine colored panes with the arms of the king and of the queen, each pane being worth two and twenty sols.
There was but one entrance, a modern door, with a fiat arch, garnished with a piece of tapestry on the inside, and on the outside by one of those porches of Irish wood, frail edifices of cabinet-work curiously wrought, numbers of which were still to be seen in old houses a hundred and fifty years ago. “Although they disfigure and embarrass the places,” says Sauvel in despair, “our old people are still unwilling to get rid of them, and keep them in spite of everybody.”
In this chamber, nothing was to be found of what furnishes ordinary apartments, neither benches, nor trestles, nor forms, nor common stools in the form of a chest, nor fine stools sustained by pillars and counter-pillars, at four sols a piece. Only one easy arm-chair, very magnificent, was to be seen; the wood was painted with roses on a red ground, the seat was of ruby Cordovan leather, ornamented with long silken fringes, and studded with a thousand golden nails. The loneliness of this chair made it apparent that only one person had a right to sit down in this apartment. Beside the chair, and quite close to the window, there was a table covered with a cloth with a pattern of birds. On this table stood an inkhorn spotted with ink, some parchments, several pens, and a large goblet of chased silver. A little further on was a brazier, a praying stool in crimson velvet, relieved with small bosses of gold. Finally, at the extreme end of the room, a simple bed of scarlet and yellow damask, without either tinsel or lace; having only an ordinary fringe. This bed, famous for having borne the sleep or the sleeplessness of Louis XI., was still to be seen two hundred years ago, at the house of a councillor of state, where it was seen by old Madame Pilou, celebrated in Cyrus under the name “Arricidie” and of “la Morale Vivante”.
Such was the chamber which was called “the retreat where Monsieur Louis de France says his prayers.”
At the moment when we have introduced the reader into it, this retreat was very dark. The curfew bell had sounded an hour before; night was come, and there was only one flickering wax candle set on the table to light five persons variously grouped in the chamber.
The first on which the light fell was a seigneur superbly clad in breeches and jerkin of scarlet striped with silver, and a loose coat with half sleeves of cloth of gold with black figures. This splendid costume, on which the light played, seemed glazed with flame on every fold. The man who wore it had his armorial bearings embroidered on his breast in vivid colors; a chevron accompanied by a deer passant. The shield was flanked, on the right by an olive branch, on the left by a deer’s antlers. This man wore in his girdle a rich dagger whose hilt, of silver gilt, was chased in the form of a helmet, and surmounted by a count’s coronet. He had a forbidding air, a proud mien, and a head held high. At the first glance one read arrogance on his visage; at the second, craft.
He was standing bareheaded, a long roll of parchment in his hand, behind the arm-chair in which was seated, his body ungracefully doubled up, his knees crossed, his elbow on the table, a very badly accoutred personage. Let the reader imagine in fact, on the rich seat of Cordova leather, two crooked knees, two thin thighs, poorly clad in black worsted tricot, a body enveloped in a cloak of fustian, with fur trimming of which more leather than hair was visible; lastly, to crown all, a greasy old hat of the worst sort of black cloth, bordered with a circular string of leaden figures. This, in company with a dirty skull-cap, which hardly allowed a hair to escape, was all that distinguished the seated personage. He held his head so bent upon his breast, that nothing was to be seen of his face thus thrown into shadow, except the tip of his nose, upon which fell a ray of light, and which must have been long. From the thinness of his wrinkled hand, one divined that he was an old man. It was Louis XI.
At some distance behind them, two men dressed in garments of Flemish style were conversing, who were not sufficiently lost in the shadow to prevent any one who had been present at the performance of Gringoire’s mystery from recognizing in them two of the principal Flemish envoys, Guillaume Rym, the sagacious pensioner of Ghent, and Jacques Coppenole, the popular hosier. The reader will remember that these men were mixed up in the secret politics of Louis XI.
Finally, quite at the end of the room, near the door, in the dark, stood, motionless as a statue, a vigorous man with thickset limbs, a military harness, with a surcoat of armorial bearings, whose square face pierced with staring eyes, slit with an immense mouth, his ears concealed by two large screens of flat hair, had something about it both of the dog and the tiger.
All were uncovered except the king.
The gentleman who stood near the king was reading him a sort of long memorial to which his majesty seemed to be listening attentively. The two Flemings were whispering together.
“Cross of God!” grumbled Coppenole, “I am tired of standing; is there no chair here?”
Rym replied by a negative gesture, accompanied by a discreet smile.
“Croix-Dieu!” resumed Coppenole, thoroughly unhappy at being obliged to lower his voice thus, “I should like to sit down on the floor, with my legs crossed, like a hosier, as I do in my shop.”
“Take good care that you do not, Master Jacques.”
“Ouais! Master Guillaume! can one only remain here on his feet?”
“Or on his knees,” said Rym.
At that moment the king’s voice was uplifted. They held their peace.
“Fifty sols for the robes of our valets, and twelve livres for the mantles of the clerks of our crown! That’s it! Pour out gold by the ton! Are you mad, Olivier?”
As he spoke thus, the old man raised his head. The golden shells of the collar of Saint-Michael could be seen gleaming on his neck. The candle fully illuminated his gaunt and morose profile. He tore the papers from the other’s hand.
“You are ruining us!” he cried, casting his hollow eyes over the scroll. “What is all this? What need have we of so prodigious a household? Two chaplains at ten livres a month each, and, a chapel clerk at one hundred sols! A valet-de-chambre at ninety livres a year. Four head cooks at six score livres a year each! A spit-cook, an herb-cook, a sauce-cook, a butler, two sumpter-horse lackeys, at ten livres a month each! Two scullions at eight livres! A groom of the stables and his two aids at four and twenty livres a month! A porter, a pastry-cook, a baker, two carters, each sixty livres a year! And the farrier six score livres! And the master of the chamber of our funds, twelve hundred livres! And the comptroller five hundred. And how do I know what else? ’Tis ruinous. The wages of our servants are putting France to the pillage! All the ingots of the Louvre will melt before such a fire of expenses! We shall have to sell our plate! And next year, if God and our Lady (here he raised his hat) lend us life, we shall drink our potions from a pewter pot!”
So saying, he cast a glance at the silver goblet which gleamed upon the table. He coughed and continued,—
“Master Olivier, the princes who reign over great lordships, like kings and emperors, should not allow sumptuousness in their houses; for the fire spreads thence through the province. Hence, Master Olivier, consider this said once for all. Our expenditure increases every year. The thing displease us. How, pasque-Dieu! when in ’79 it did not exceed six and thirty thousand livres, did it attain in ’80, forty-three thousand six hundred and nineteen livres? I have the figures in my head. In ’81, sixty-six thousand six hundred and eighty livres, and this year, by the faith of my body, it will reach eighty thousand livres! Doubled in four years! Monstrous!”
He paused breathless, then resumed energetically,—
“I behold around me only people who fatten on my leanness! you suck crowns from me at every pore.”
All remained silent. This was one of those fits of wrath which are allowed to take their course. He continued,—
“’Tis like that request in Latin from the gentlemen of France, that we should re-establish what they call the grand charges of the Crown! Charges in very deed! Charges which crush! Ah! gentlemen! you say that we are not a king to reign dapifero nullo, buticulario nullo! We will let you see, pasque-Dieu! whether we are not a king!”
Here he smiled, in the consciousness of his power; this softened his bad humor, and he turned towards the Flemings,—
“Do you see, Gossip Guillaume? the grand warden of the keys, the grand butler, the grand chamberlain, the grand seneschal are not worth the smallest valet. Remember this, Gossip Coppenole. They serve no purpose, as they stand thus useless round the king; they produce upon me the effect of the four Evangelists who surround the face of the big clock of the palace, and which Philippe Brille has just set in order afresh. They are gilt, but they do not indicate the hour; and the hands can get on without them.”
He remained in thought for a moment, then added, shaking his aged head,—
“Ho! ho! by our Lady, I am not Philippe Brille, and I shall not gild the great vassals anew. Continue, Olivier.”
The person whom he designated by this name, took the papers into his hands again, and began to read aloud,—
“To Adam Tenon, clerk of the warden of the seals of the provostship of Paris; for the silver, making, and engraving of said seals, which have been made new because the others preceding, by reason of their antiquity and their worn condition, could no longer be successfully used, twelve livres parisis.
“To Guillaume Frère, the sum of four livres, four sols parisis, for his trouble and salary, for having nourished and fed the doves in the two dove-cots of the Hôtel des Tournelles, during the months of January, February, and March of this year; and for this he hath given seven sextiers of barley.
“To a gray friar for confessing a criminal, four sols parisis.”
The king listened in silence. From time to time be coughed; then he raised the goblet to his lips and drank a draught with a grimace.
“During this year there have been made by the ordinance of justice, to the sound of the trumpet, through the squares of Paris, fifty-six proclamations. Account to be regulated.
“For having searched and ransacked in certain places, in Paris as well as elsewhere, for money said to be there concealed; but nothing hath been found: forty-five livres parisis.”
“Bury a crown to unearth a sou!” said the king.
“For having set in the Hôtel des Tournelles six panes of white glass in the place where the iron cage is, thirteen sols; for having made and delivered by command of the king, on the day of the musters, four shields with the escutcheons of the said seigneur, encircled with garlands of roses all about, six livres; for two new sleeves to the king’s old doublet, twenty sols; for a box of grease to grease the boots of the king, fifteen deniers; a stable newly made to lodge the king’s black pigs, thirty livres parisis; many partitions, planks, and trap-doors, for the safekeeping of the lions at Saint-Paul, twenty-two livres.”
“These be dear beasts,” said Louis XI. “It matters not; it is a fine magnificence in a king. There is a great red lion whom I love for his pleasant ways. Have you seen him, Master Guillaume? Princes must have these terrific animals; for we kings must have lions for our dogs and tigers for our cats. The great befits a crown. In the days of the pagans of Jupiter, when the people offered the temples a hundred oxen and a hundred sheep, the emperors gave a hundred lions and a hundred eagles. This was wild and very fine. The kings of France have always had roarings round their throne. Nevertheless, people must do me this justice, that I spend still less money on it than they did, and that I possess a greater modesty of lions, bears, elephants, and leopards.— Go on, Master Olivier. We wished to say thus much to our Flemish friends.”
Guillaume Rym bowed low, while Coppenole, with his surly mien, had the air of one of the bears of which his majesty was speaking. The king paid no heed. He had just dipped his lips into the goblet, and he spat out the beverage, saying: “Foh! what a disagreeable potion!” The man who was reading continued:—
“For feeding a rascally footpad, locked up these six months in the little cell of the flayer, until it should be determined what to do with him, six livres, four sols.”
“What’s that?” interrupted the king; “feed what ought to be hanged! Pasque-Dieu! I will give not a sou more for that nourishment. Olivier, come to an understanding about the matter with Monsieur d’Estouteville, and prepare me this very evening the wedding of the gallant and the gallows. Resume.”
Olivier made a mark with his thumb against the article of the “rascally foot soldier,” and passed on.
“To Henriet Cousin, master executor of the high works of justice in Paris, the sum of sixty sols parisis, to him assessed and ordained by monseigneur the provost of Paris, for having bought, by order of the said sieur the provost, a great broad sword, serving to execute and decapitate persons who are by justice condemned for their demerits, and he hath caused the same to be garnished with a sheath and with all things thereto appertaining; and hath likewise caused to be repointed and set in order the old sword, which had become broken and notched in executing justice on Messire Louis de Luxembourg, as will more fully appear .
The king interrupted: “That suffices. I allow the sum with great good will. Those are expenses which I do not begrudge. I have never regretted that money. Continue.”
“For having made over a great cage… ”
“Ah!” said the king, grasping the arms of his chair in both hands, “I knew well that I came hither to this Bastille for some purpose. Hold, Master Olivier; I desire to see that cage myself. You shall read me the cost while I am examining it. Messieurs Flemings, come and see this; ’tis curious.”
Then he rose, leaned on the arm of his interlocutor, made a sign to the sort of mute who stood before the door to precede him, to the two Flemings to follow him, and quitted the room.
The royal company was recruited, at the door of the retreat, by men of arms, all loaded down with iron, and by slender pages bearing flambeaux. It marched for some time through the interior of the gloomy donjon, pierced with staircases and corridors even in the very thickness of the walls. The captain of the Bastille marched at their head, and caused the wickets to be opened before the bent and aged king, who coughed as he walked.
At each wicket, all heads were obliged to stoop, except that of the old man bent double with age. “Hum,” said he between his gums, for he had no longer any teeth, “we are already quite prepared for the door of the sepulchre. For a low door, a bent passer.”
At length, after having passed a final wicket, so loaded with locks that a quarter of an hour was required to open it, they entered a vast and lofty vaulted hall, in the centre of which they could distinguish by the light of the torches, a huge cubic mass of masonry, iron, and wood. The interior was hollow. It was one of those famous cages of prisoners of state, which were called “the little daughters of the king.” In its walls there were two or three little windows so closely trellised with stout iron bars; that the glass was not visible. The door was a large flat slab of stone, as on tombs; the sort of door which serves for entrance only. Only here, the occupant was alive.
The king began to walk slowly round the little edifice, examining it carefully, while Master Olivier, who followed him, read aloud the note.
“For having made a great cage of wood of solid beams, timbers and wall-plates, measuring nine feet in length by eight in breadth, and of the height of seven feet between the partitions, smoothed and clamped with great bolts of iron, which has been placed in a chamber situated in one of the towers of the Bastille Saint-Antoine, in which cage is placed and detained, by command of the king our lord, a prisoner who formerly inhabited an old, decrepit, and ruined cage. There have been employed in making the said new cage, ninety-six horizontal beams, and fifty-two upright joists, ten wall plates three toises long; there have been occupied nineteen carpenters to hew, work, and fit all the said wood in the courtyard of the Bastille during twenty days.”
“Very fine heart of oak,” said the king, striking the woodwork with his fist.
“There have been used in this cage,” continued the other, “two hundred and twenty great bolts of iron, of nine feet, and of eight, the rest of medium length, with the rowels, caps and counterbands appertaining to the said bolts; weighing, the said iron in all, three thousand, seven hundred and thirty-five pounds; beside eight great squares of iron, serving to attach the said cage in place with clamps and nails weighing in all two hundred and eighteen pounds, not reckoning the iron of the trellises for the windows of the chamber wherein the cage hath been placed, the bars of iron for the door of the cage and other things.”
“’Tis a great deal of iron,” said the king, “to contain the light of a spirit.”
“The whole amounts to three hundred and seventeen livres, five sols, seven deniers.”
“Pasque-Dieu!” exclaimed the king.
At this oath, which was the favorite of Louis XI., some one seemed to awaken in the interior of the cage; the sound of chains was heard, grating on the floor, and a feeble voice, which seemed to issue from the tomb was uplifted. “Sire! sire! mercy!” The one who spoke thus could not be seen.
“Three hundred and seventeen livres, five sols, seven deniers,” repeated Louis XI.
The lamentable voice which had proceeded from the cage had frozen all present, even Master Olivier himself. The king alone wore the air of not having heard. At his order, Master Olivier resumed his reading, and his majesty coldly continued his inspection of the cage.
“In addition to this there hath been paid to a mason who hath made the holes wherein to place the gratings of the windows, and the floor of the chamber where the cage is, because that floor could not support this cage by reason of its weight, twenty-seven livres fourteen sols parisis.”
The voice began to moan again.
“Mercy, sire! I swear to you that ’twas Monsieur the Cardinal d’Angers and not I, who was guilty of treason.”
“The mason is bold!” said the king. “Continue, Olivier.” Olivier continued,—
“To a joiner for window frames, bedstead, hollow stool, and other things, twenty livres, two sols parisis.”
The voice also continued.
“Alas, sire! will you not listen to me? I protest to you that ’twas not I who wrote the matter to Monseigneur do Guyenne, but Monsieur lé Cardinal Balue.”
“The joiner is dear,” quoth the king. “Is that all?”
“No, sire. To a glazier, for the windows of the said chamber, forty-six sols, eight deniers parisis.”
“Have mercy, sire! Is it not enough to have given all my goods to my judges, my plate to Monsieur de Torcy, my library to Master Pierre Doriolle, my tapestry to the governor of the Roussillon? I am innocent. I have been shivering in an iron cage for fourteen years. Have mercy, sire! You will find your reward in heaven.”
“Master Olivier,” said the king, “the total?”
“Three hundred sixty-seven livres, eight sols, three deniers parisis.
“Notre-Dame!” cried the king. “This is an outrageous cage!”
He tore the book from Master Olivier’s hands, and set to reckoning it himself upon his fingers, examining the paper and the cage alternately. Meanwhile, the prisoner could be heard sobbing. This was lugubrious in the darkness, and their faces turned pale as they looked at each other.
“Fourteen years, sire! Fourteen years now! since the month of April, 1469. In the name of the Holy Mother of God, sire, listen to me! During all this time you have enjoyed the heat of the sun. Shall I, frail creature, never more behold the day? Mercy, sire! Be pitiful! Clemency is a fine, royal virtue, which turns aside the currents of wrath. Does your majesty believe that in the hour of death it will be a great cause of content for a king never to have left any offence unpunished? Besides, sire, I did not betray your majesty, ’twas Monsieur d’Angers; and I have on my foot a very heavy chain, and a great ball of iron at the end, much heavier than it should be in reason. Eh! sire! Have pity on me!”
“Olivier,” cried the king, throwing back his head, “I observe that they charge me twenty sols a hogshead for plaster, while it is worth but twelve. You will refer back this account.”
He turned his back on the cage, and set out to leave the room. The miserable prisoner divined from the removal of the torches and the noise, that the king was taking his departure.
“Sire! sire!” be cried in despair.
The door closed again. He no longer saw anything, and heard only the hoarse voice of the turnkey, singing in his ears this ditty,—
“Maître Jean Balue, A perdu la vue De ses évêchés. Monsieur de Verdun. N’en a plus pas un; Tous sont dépêchés."
The king reascended in silence to his retreat, and his suite followed him, terrified by the last groans of the condemned man. All at once his majesty turned to the Governor of the Bastille,—
“By the way,” said he, “was there not some one in that cage?”
“Pardieu, yes sire!” replied the governor, astounded by the question.
“And who was it?”
“Monsieur the Bishop of Verdun.”
The king knew this better than any one else. But it was a mania of his.
“Ah!” said he, with the innocent air of thinking of it for the first time, “Guillaume de Harancourt, the friend of Monsieur the Cardinal Balue. A good devil of a bishop!”
At the expiration of a few moments, the door of the retreat had opened again, then closed upon the five personages whom the reader has seen at the beginning of this chapter, and who resumed their places, their whispered conversations, and their attitudes.
During the king’s absence, several despatches had been placed on his table, and he broke the seals himself. Then he began to read them promptly, one after the other, made a sign to Master Olivier who appeared to exercise the office of minister, to take a pen, and without communicating to him the contents of the despatches, he began to dictate in a low voice, the replies which the latter wrote, on his knees, in an inconvenient attitude before the table.
Guillaume Rym was on the watch.
The king spoke so low that the Flemings heard nothing of his dictation, except some isolated and rather unintelligible scraps, such as,—
“To maintain the fertile places by commerce, and the sterile by manufactures… .— To show the English lords our four bombards, London, Brabant, Bourg-en-Bresse, Saint-Omer… .— Artillery is the cause of war being made more judiciously now… .— To Monsieur de Bressuire, our friend… .— Armies cannot be maintained without tribute, etc.
Once he raised his voice,—
“Pasque Dieu! Monsieur the King of Sicily seals his letters with yellow wax, like a king of France. Perhaps we are in the wrong to permit him so to do. My fair cousin of Burgundy granted no armorial bearings with a field of gules. The grandeur of houses is assured by the integrity of prerogatives. Note this, friend Olivier.”
“Oh! oh!” said he, “What a long message! What doth our brother the emperor claim?” And running his eye over the missive and breaking his reading with interjection: “Surely! the Germans are so great and powerful, that it is hardly credible— But let us not forget the old proverb: ’The finest county is Flanders; the finest duchy, Milan; the finest kingdom, France.’ Is it not so, Messieurs Flemings?”
This time Coppenole bowed in company with Guillaume Rym. The hosier’s patriotism was tickled.
The last despatch made Louis XI. frown.
“What is this?” be said, “Complaints and fault finding against our garrisons in Picardy! Olivier, write with diligence to M. the Marshal de Rouault:— That discipline is relaxed. That the gendarmes of the unattached troops, the feudal nobles, the free archers, and the Swiss inflict infinite evils on the rustics.— That the military, not content with what they find in the houses of the rustics, constrain them with violent blows of cudgel or of lash to go and get wine, spices, and other unreasonable things in the town.— That monsieur the king knows this. That we undertake to guard our people against inconveniences, larcenies and pillage.— That such is our will, by our Lady!— That in addition, it suits us not that any fiddler, barber, or any soldier varlet should be clad like a prince, in velvet, cloth of silk, and rings of gold.—That these vanities are hateful to God.— That we, who are gentlemen, content ourselves with a doublet of cloth at sixteen sols the ell, of Paris.— That messieurs the camp-followers can very well come down to that, also.— Command and ordain.— To Monsieur de Rouault, our friend.— Good.”
He dictated this letter aloud, in a firm tone, and in jerks. At the moment when he finished it, the door opened and gave passage to a new personage, who precipitated himself into the chamber, crying in affright,—
“Sire! sire! there is a sedition of the populace in Paris!” Louis XI.’s grave face contracted; but all that was visible of his emotion passed away like a flash of lightning. He controlled himself and said with tranquil severity,—
“Gossip Jacques, you enter very abruptly!”
“Sire! sire! there is a revolt!” repeated Gossip Jacques breathlessly.
The king, who had risen, grasped him roughly by the arm, and said in his ear, in such a manner as to be heard by him alone, with concentrated rage and a sidelong glance at the Flemings,—
“Hold your tongue! or speak low!”
The new comer understood, and began in a low tone to give a very terrified account, to which the king listened calmly, while Guillaume Rym called Coppenole’s attention to the face and dress of the new arrival, to his furred cowl, (caputia fourrata), his short cape, (epitogia curta), his robe of black velvet, which bespoke a president of the court of accounts.
Hardly had this personage given the king some explanations, when Louis XI. exclaimed, bursting into a laugh,—
“In truth? Speak aloud, Gossip Coictier! What call is there for you to talk so low? Our Lady knoweth that we conceal nothing from our good friends the Flemings.”
“But sire… ”
Gossip Coictier was struck dumb with surprise.
“So,” resumed the king,— “speak sir,— there is a commotion among the louts in our good city of Paris?”
“And which is moving you say, against monsieur the bailiff of the Palais-de-Justice?”
“So it appears,” said the gossip, who still stammered, utterly astounded by the abrupt and inexplicable change which had just taken place in the king’s thoughts.
Louis XI. continued: “Where did the watch meet the rabble?”
“Marching from the Grand Truanderie, towards the Pont-aux-Changeurs. I met it myself as I was on my way hither to obey your majesty’s commands. I heard some of them shouting: ‘Down with the bailiff of the palace!’”
“And what complaints have they against the bailiff?”
“Ah!” said Gossip Jacques, “because he is their lord.”
“Yes, sire. They are knaves from the Cour-des-Miracles. They have been complaining this long while, of the bailiff, whose vassals they are. They do not wish to recognize him either as judge or as voyer?"
“Yes, certainly!” retorted the king with a smile of satîs-faction which he strove in vain to disguise.
“In all their petitions to the Parliament, they claim to have but two masters. Your majesty and their God, who is the devil, I believe.”
“Eh! eh!” said the king.
He rubbed his hands, he laughed with that inward mirth which makes the countenance beam; he was unable to dissimulate his joy, although he endeavored at moments to compose himself. No one understood it in the least, not even Master Olivier. He remained silent for a moment, with a thoughtful but contented air.
“Are they in force?” he suddenly inquired.
“Yes, assuredly, sire,” replied Gossip Jacques.
“Six thousand at the least.”
The king could not refrain from saying: “Good!” he went on,—
“Are they armed?”
“With scythes, pikes, hackbuts, pickaxes. All sorts of very violent weapons.”
The king did not appear in the least disturbed by this list. Jacques considered it his duty to add,—
“If your majesty does not send prompt succor to the bailiff, he is lost.”
“We will send,” said the king with an air of false seriousness. “It is well. Assuredly we will send. Monsieur the bailiff is our friend. Six thousand! They are desperate scamps! Their audacity is marvellous, and we are greatly enraged at it. But we have only a few people about us to-night. To-morrow morning will be time enough.”
Gossip Jacques exclaimed, “Instantly, sire! there will be time to sack the bailiwick a score of times, to violate the seignory, to hang the bailiff. For God’s sake, sire! send before to-morrow morning.”
The king looked him full in the face. “I have told you to-morrow morning.”
It was one Of those looks to which one does not reply. After a silence, Louis XI. raised his voice once more,—
“You should know that, Gossip Jacques. What was— ”
He corrected himself. “What is the bailiff’s feudal jurisdiction?”
“Sire, the bailiff of the palace has the Rue Calendre as far as the Rue de l’Herberie, the Place Saint-Michel, and the localities vulgarly known as the Mureaux, situated near the church of Notre-Dame des Champs (here Louis XI. raised the brim of his hat), which hotels number thirteen, plus the Cour des Miracles, plus the Maladerie, called the Banlieue, plus the whole highway which begins at that Maladerie and ends at the Porte Sainte-Jacques. Of these divers places he is voyer, high, middle, and low, justiciary, full seigneur.”
“Bless me!” said the king, scratching his left ear with his right hand, “that makes a goodly bit of my city! Ah! monsieur the bailiff was king of all that.”
This time he did not correct himself. He continued dreamily, and as though speaking to himself,—
“Very fine, monsieur the bailiff! You had there between your teeth a pretty slice of our Paris.”
All at once he broke out explosively, “Pasque-Dieu!” What people are those who claim to be voyers, justiciaries, lords and masters in our domains? who have their tollgates at the end of every field? their gallows and their hangman at every cross-road among our people? So that as the Greek believed that he had as many gods as there were fountains, and the Persian as many as he beheld stars, the Frenchman counts as many kings as he sees gibbets! Pardieu! ’tis an evil thing, and the confusion of it displeases me. I should greatly like to know whether it be the mercy of God that there should be in Paris any other lord than the king, any other judge than our parliament, any other emperor than ourselves in this empire! By the faith of my soul! the day must certainly come when there shall exist in France but one king, one lord, one judge, one headsman, as there is in paradise but one God!”
He lifted his cap again, and continued, still dreamily, with the air and accent of a hunter who is cheering on his pack of hounds: “Good, my people! bravely done! break these false lords! do your duty! at them! have at them! pillage them! take them! sack them!… .Ah! you want to be kings, messeigneurs? On, my people on!”
Here he interrupted himself abruptly, bit his lips as though to take back his thought which had already half escaped, bent his piercing eyes in turn on each of the five persons who surrounded him, and suddenly grasping his hat with both hands and staring full at it, he said to it: “Oh! I would burn you if you knew what there was in my head.”
Then casting about him once more the cautious and uneasy glance of the fox re-entering his hole,—
“No matter! we will succor monsieur the bailiff. Unfortunately, we have but few troops here at the present moment, against so great a populace. We must wait until to-morrow. The order will be transmitted to the City and every one who is caught will be immediately hung.”
“By the way, sire,” said Gossip Coictier, “I had forgotten that in the first agitation, the watch have seized two laggards of the band. If your majesty desires to see these men, they are here.”
“If I desire to see them!” cried the king. “What! Pasque-Dieu! You forget a thing like that! Run quick, you, Olivier! Go, seek them!”
Master Olivier quitted the room and returned a moment later with the two prisoners, surrounded by archers of the guard. The first had a coarse, idiotic, drunken and astonished face. He was clothed in rags, and walked with one knee bent and dragging his leg. The second had a pallid and smiling countenance, with which the reader is already acquainted.
The king surveyed them for a moment without uttering a word, then addressing the first one abruptly,—
“What’s your name?”
“What were you going to do in this damnable sedition?” The outcast stared at the king, and swung his arms with a stupid air.
He had one of those awkwardly shaped heads where intelligence is about as much at its ease as a light beneath an extinguisher.
“I know not,” said he. “They went, I went.”
“Were you not going to outrageously attack and pillage your lord, the bailiff of the palace?”
“I know that they were going to take something from some one. That is all.”
A soldier pointed out to the king a billhook which he had seized on the person of the vagabond.
“Do you recognize this weapon?” demanded the king.
“Yes; ’tis my billhook; I am a vine-dresser.”
“And do you recognize this man as your companion?” added Louis XI., pointing to the other prisoner.
“No, I do not know him.”
“That will do,” said the king, making a sign with his finger to the silent personage who stood motionless beside the door, to whom we have already called the reader’s attention.
“Gossip Tristan, here is a man for you.”
Tristan l’Hermite bowed. He gave an order in a low voice to two archers, who led away the poor vagabond.
In the meantime, the king had approached the second prisoner, who was perspiring in great drops: “Your name?”
“Sire, Pierre Gringoire.”
“How do you permit yourself, knave, to go and besiege our friend, monsieur the bailiff of the palace, and what have you to say concerning this popular agitation?”
“Sire, I had nothing to do with it.”
“Come, now! you wanton wretch, were not you apprehended by the watch in that bad company?”
“No, sire, there is a mistake. ’Tis a fatality. I make tragedies. Sire, I entreat your majesty to listen to me. I am a poet. ’Tis the melancholy way of men of my profession to roam the streets by night. I was passing there. It was mere chance. I was unjustly arrested; I am innocent of this civil tempest. Your majesty sees that the vagabond did not recognize me. I conjure your majesty— ”
“Hold your tongue!” said the king, between two swallows of his ptisan. “You split our head!”
Tristan l’Hermite advanced and pointing to Gringoire,—
“Sire, can this one be hanged also?”
This was the first word that he had uttered.
“Phew!” replied the king, “I see no objection.”
“I see a great many!” said Gringoire.
At that moment, our philosopher was greener than an olive. He perceived from the king’s cold and indifferent mien that there was no other resource than something very pathetic, and he flung himself at the feet of Louis XI., exclaiming, with gestures of despair:—
“Sire! will your majesty deign to hear me. Sire! break not in thunder over so small a thing as myself. God’s great lightning doth not bombard a lettuce. Sire, you are an august and, very puissant monarch; have pity on a poor man who is honest, and who would find it more difficult to stir up a revolt than a cake of ice would to give out a spark! Very gracious sire, kindness is the virtue of a lion and a king. Alas! rigor only frightens minds; the impetuous gusts of the north wind do not make the traveller lay aside his cloak; the sun, bestowing his rays little by little, warms him in such ways that it will make him strip to his shirt. Sire, you are the sun. I protest to you, my sovereign lord and master, that I am not an outcast, thief, and disorderly fellow. Revolt and brigandage belong not to the outfit of Apollo. I am not the man to fling myself into those clouds which break out into seditious clamor. I am your majesty’s faithful vassal. That same jealousy which a husband cherisheth for the honor of his wife, the resentment which the son hath for the love of his father, a good vassal should feel for the glory of his king; he should pine away for the zeal of this house, for the aggrandizement of his service. Every other passion which should transport him would be but madness. These, sire, are my maxims of state: then do not judge me to be a seditious and thieving rascal because my garment is worn at the elbows. If you will grant me mercy, sire, I will wear it out on the knees in praying to God for you night and morning! Alas! I am not extremely rich, ’tis true. I am even rather poor. But not vicious on that account. It is not my fault. Every one knoweth that great wealth is not to be drawn from literature, and that those who are best posted in good books do not always have a great fire in winter. The advocate’s trade taketh all the grain, and leaveth only straw to the other scientific professions. There are forty very excellent proverbs anent the hole-ridden cloak of the philosopher. Oh, sire! clemency is the only light which can enlighten the interior of so great a soul. Clemency beareth the torch before all the other virtues. Without it they are but blind men groping after God in the dark. Compassion, which is the same thing as clemency, causeth the love of subjects, which is the most powerful bodyguard to a prince. What matters it to your majesty, who dazzles all faces, if there is one poor man more on earth, a poor innocent philosopher spluttering amid the shadows of calamity, with an empty pocket which resounds against his hollow belly? Moreover, sire, I am a man of letters. Great kings make a pearl for their crowns by protecting letters. Hercules did not disdain the title of Musagètes. Mathias Corvin favored Jean de Monroyal, the ornament of mathematics. Now, ’tis an ill way to protect letters to hang men of letters. What a stain on Alexander if he had hung Aristoteles! This act would not be a little patch on the face of his reputation to embellish it, but a very malignant ulcer to disfigure it. Sire! I made a very proper epithalamium for Mademoiselle of Flanders and Monseigneur the very august Dauphin. That is not a firebrand of rebellion. Your majesty sees that I am not a scribbler of no reputation, that I have studied excellently well, and that I possess much natural eloquence. Have mercy upon me, sire! In so doing you will perform a gallant deed to our Lady, and I swear to you that I am greatly terrified at the idea of being hanged!”
So saying, the unhappy Gringoire kissed the king’s slippers, and Guillaume Rym said to Coppenole in a low tone: “He doth well to drag himself on the earth. Kings are like the Jupiter of Crete, they have ears only in their feet.” And without troubling himself about the Jupiter of Crete, the hosier replied with a heavy smile, and his eyes fixed on Gringoire: “Oh! that’s it exactly! I seem to hear Chancellor Hugonet craving mercy of me.”
When Gringoire paused at last, quite out of breath, he raised his head tremblingly towards the king, who was engaged in scratching a spot on the knee of his breeches with his finger-nail; then his majesty began to drink from the goblet of ptisan. But he uttered not a word, and this silence tortured Gringoire. At last the king looked at him. “Here is a terrible bawler!” said, he. Then, turning to Tristan l’Hermite, “Bali! let him go!”
Gringoire fell backwards, quite thunderstruck with joy.
“At liberty!” growled Tristan “Doth not your majesty wish to have him detained a little while in a cage?”
“Gossip,” retorted Louis XI., “think you that ’tis for birds of this feather that we cause to be made cages at three hundred and sixty-seven livres, eight sous, three deniers apiece? Release him at once, the wanton (Louis XI. was fond of this word which formed, with Pasque-Dieu, the foundation of his joviality), and put him out with a buffet.”
“Ugh!” cried Gringoire, “what a great king is here!”
And for fear of a counter order, he rushed towards the door, which Tristan opened for him with a very bad grace. The soldiers left the room with him, pushing him before them with stout thwacks, which Gringoire bore like a true stoical philosopher.
The king’s good humor since the revolt against the bailiff had been announced to him, made itself apparent in every way. This unwonted clemency was no small sign of it. Tristan l’Hermite in his corner wore the surly look of a dog who has had a bone snatched away from him.
Meanwhile, the king thrummed gayly with his fingers on the arm of his chair, the March of Pont-Audemer. He was a dissembling prince, but one who understood far better how to hide his troubles than his joys. These external manifestations of joy at any good news sometimes proceeded to very great lengths thus, on the death, of Charles the Bold, to the point of vowing silver balustrades to Saint Martin of Tours; on his advent to the throne, so far as forgetting to order his father’s obsequies.
“Hé! sire!” suddenly exclaimed Jacques Coictier, “what has become of the acute attack of illness for which your majesty had me summoned?”
“Oh!” said the king, “I really suffer greatly, my gossip. There is a hissing in my ear and fiery rakes rack my chest.”
Coictier took the king’s hand, and begun to feel of his pulse with a knowing air.
“Look, Coppenole,” said Rym, in a low voice. “Behold him between Coictier and Tristan. They are his whole court. A physician for himself, a headsman for others.”
As he felt the king’s pulse, Coictier assumed an air of greater and greater alarm. Louis XI. watched him with some anxiety. Coictier grew visibly more gloomy. The brave man had no other farm than the king’s bad health. He speculated on it to the best of his ability.
“Oh! oh!” he murmured at length, “this is serious indeed.”
“Is it not?” said the king, uneasily.
“Pulsus creber, anhelans, crepitans, irregularis,” continued the leech.
“This may carry off its man in less than three days.”
“Our Lady!” exclaimed the king. “And the remedy, gossip?”
“I am meditating upon that, sire.”
He made Louis XI. put out his tongue, shook his head, made a grimace, and in the very midst of these affectations,—
“Pardieu, sire,” he suddenly said, “I must tell you that there is a receivership of the royal prerogatives vacant, and that I have a nephew.”
“I give the receivership to your nephew, Gossip Jacques,” replied the king; “but draw this fire from my breast.”
“Since your majesty is so clement,” replied the leech, “you will not refuse to aid me a little in building my house, Rue Saint-André-des-Arcs.”
“Heugh!” said the king.
“I am at the end of my finances,” pursued the doctor; and it would really be a pity that the house should not have a roof; not on account of the house, which is simple and thoroughly bourgeois, but because of the paintings of Jehan Fourbault, which adorn its wainscoating. There is a Diana flying in the air, but so excellent, so tender, so delicate, of so ingenuous an action, her hair so well coiffed and adorned with a crescent, her flesh so white, that she leads into temptation those who regard her too curiously. There is also a Ceres. She is another very fair divinity. She is seated on sheaves of wheat and crowned with a gallant garland of wheat ears interlaced with salsify and other flowers. Never were seen more amorous eyes, more rounded limbs, a nobler air, or a more gracefully flowing skirt. She is one of the most innocent and most perfect beauties whom the brush has ever produced.”
“Executioner!” grumbled Louis XI., “what are you driving at?”
“I must have a roof for these paintings, sire, and, although ’tis but a small matter, I have no more money.”
“How much doth your roof cost?”
“Why a roof of copper, embellished and gilt, two thousand livres at the most.”
“Ah, assassin!” cried the king, “He never draws out one of my teeth which is not a diamond.”
“Am I to have my roof?” said Coictier.
“Yes; and go to the devil, but cure me.”
Jacques Coictier bowed low and said,—
“Sire, it is a repellent which will save you. We will apply to your loins the great defensive composed of cerate, Armenian bole, white of egg, oil, and vinegar. You will continue your ptisan and we will answer for your majesty.”
A burning candle does not attract one gnat alone. Master Olivier, perceiving the king to be in a liberal mood, and judging the moment to be propitious, approached in his turn.
“What is it now?” said Louis XI.
“Sire, your majesty knoweth that Simon Radin is dead?”
“He was councillor to the king in the matter of the courts of the treasury.”
“Sire, his place is vacant.”
As he spoke thus, Master Olivier’s haughty face quitted its arrogant expression for a lowly one. It is the only change which ever takes place in a courtier’s visage. The king looked him well in the face and said in a dry tone,— “I understand.”
“Master Olivier, the Marshal de Boucicaut was wont to say, ’There’s no master save the king, there are no fishes save in the sea.’ I see that you agree with Monsieur de Boucicaut. Now listen to this; we have a good memory. In ’68 we made you valet of our chamber: in ’69, guardian of the fortress of the bridge of Saint-Cloud, at a hundred livres of Tournay in wages (you wanted them of Paris). In November, ’73, by letters given to Gergeole, we instituted you keeper of the Wood of Vincennes, in the place of Gilbert Acle, equerry; in ’75, gruyer of the forest of Rouvray-lez-Saint-Cloud, in the place of Jacques lé Maire; in ’78, we graciously settled on you, by letters patent sealed doubly with green wax, an income of ten livres parisis, for you and your wife, on the Place of the Merchants, situated at the School Saint-Germain; in ’79, we made you gruyer of the forest of Senart, in place of that poor Jehan Daiz; then captain of the Château of Loches; then governor of Saint-Quentin; then captain of the bridge of Meulan, of which you cause yourself to be called comte. Out of the five sols fine paid by every barber who shaves on a festival day, there are three sols for you and we have the rest. We have been good enough to change your name of Le Mauvais (The Evil), which resembled your face too closely. In ’76, we granted you, to the great displeasure of our nobility, armorial bearings of a thousand colors, which give you the breast of a peacock. Pasque-Dieu! Are not you surfeited? Is not the draught of fishes sufficiently fine and miraculous? Are you not afraid that one salmon more will make your boat sink? Pride will be your ruin, gossip. Ruin and disgrace always press hard on the heels of pride. Consider this and hold your tongue.”
These words, uttered with severity, made Master Olivier’s face revert to its insolence.
“Good!” he muttered, almost aloud, “’tis easy to see that the king is ill to-day; he giveth all to the leech.”
Louis XI. far from being irritated by this petulant insult, resumed with some gentleness, “Stay, I was forgetting that I made you my ambassador to Madame Marie, at Ghent. Yes, gentlemen,” added the king turning to the Flemings, “this man hath been an ambassador. There, my gossip,” he pursued, addressing Master Olivier, “let us not get angry; we are old friends. ’Tis very late. We have terminated our labors. Shave me.”
Our readers have not, without doubt, waited until the present moment to recognize in Master Olivier that terrible Figaro whom Providence, the great maker of dramas, mingled so artistically in the long and bloody comedy of the reign of Louis XI. We will not here undertake to develop that singular figure. This barber of the king had three names. At court he was politely called Olivier lé Daim (the Deer); among the people Olivier the Devil. His real name was Olivier lé Mauvais.
Accordingly, Olivier lé Mauvais remained motionless, sulking at the king, and glancing askance at Jacques Coictier.
“Yes, yes, the physician!” he said between his teeth.
“Ah, yes, the physician!” retorted Louis XI., with singular good humor; “the physician has more credit than you. ’Tis very simple; he has taken hold upon us by the whole body, and you hold us only by the chin. Come, my poor barber, all will come right. What would you say and what would become of your office if I were a king like Chilperic, whose gesture consisted in holding his beard in one hand? Come, gossip mine, fulfil your office, shave me. Go get what you need therefor.”
Olivier perceiving that the king had made up his mind to laugh, and that there was no way of even annoying him, went off grumbling to execute his orders.
The king rose, approached the window, and suddenly opening it with extraordinary agitation,—
“Oh! yes!” he exclaimed, clapping his hands, “yonder is a redness in the sky over the City. ’Tis the bailiff burning. It can be nothing else but that. Ah! my good people! here you are aiding me at last in tearing down the rights of lordship!”
Then turning towards the Flemings: “Come, look at this, gentlemen. Is it not a fire which gloweth yonder?”
The two men of Ghent drew near.
“A great fire,” said Guillaume Rym.
“Oh!” exclaimed Coppenole, whose eyes suddenly flashed, “that reminds me of the burning of the house of the Seigneur d’Hymbercourt. There must be a goodly revolt yonder.”
“You think so, Master Coppenole?” And Louis XI.’s glance was almost as joyous as that of the hosier. “Will it not be difficult to resist?”
“Cross of God! Sire! Your majesty will damage many companies of men of war thereon.”
“Ah! I! ’tis different,” returned the king. “If I willed.” The hosier replied hardily,—
“If this revolt be what I suppose, sire, you might will in vain.”
“Gossip,” said Louis XI., “with the two companies of my unattached troops and one discharge of a serpentine, short work is made of a populace of louts.”
The hosier, in spite of the signs made to him by Guillaume Rym, appeared determined to hold his own against the king.
“Sire, the Swiss were also louts. Monsieur the Duke of Burgundy was a great gentleman, and he turned up his nose at that rabble rout. At the battle of Grandson, sire, he cried: ‘Men of the cannon! Fire on the villains!’ and he swore by Saint-George. But Advoyer Scharnachtal hurled himself on the handsome duke with his battle-club and his people, and when the glittering Burgundian army came in contact with these peasants in bull hides, it flew in pieces like a pane of glass at the blow of a pebble. Many lords were then slain by low-born knaves; and Monsieur de Château-Guyon, the greatest seigneur in Burgundy, was found dead, with his gray horse, in a little marsh meadow.”
“Friend,” returned the king, “you are speaking of a battle. The question here is of a mutiny. And I will gain the upper hand of it as soon as it shall please me to frown.”
The other replied indifferently,—
“That may be, sire; in that case, ’tis because the people’s hour hath not yet come.”
Guillaume Rym considered it incumbent on him to intervene,—
“Master Coppenole, you are speaking to a puissant king.”
“I know it,” replied the hosier, gravely.
“Let him speak, Monsieur Rym, my friend,” said the king; “I love this frankness of speech. My father, Charles the Seventh, was accustomed to say that the truth was ailing; I thought her dead, and that she had found no confessor. Master Coppenole undeceiveth me.”
Then, laying his hand familiarly on Coppenole’s shoulder,—
“You were saying, Master Jacques?”
“I say, sire, that you may possibly be in the right, that the hour of the people may not yet have come with you.”
Louis XI. gazed at him with his penetrating eye,—
“And when will that hour come, master?”
“You will hear it strike.”
“On what clock, if you please?”
Coppenole, with his tranquil and rustic countenance, made the king approach the window.
“Listen, sire! There is here a donjon keep, a belfry, cannons, bourgeois, soldiers; when the belfry shall hum, when the cannons shall roar, when the donjon shall fall in ruins amid great noise, when bourgeois and soldiers shall howl and slay each other, the hour will strike.”
Louis’s face grew sombre and dreamy. He remained silent for a moment, then he gently patted with his hand the thick wall of the donjon, as one strokes the haunches of a steed.
“Oh! no!” said he. “You will not crumble so easily, will you, my good Bastille?”
And turning with an abrupt gesture towards the sturdy Fleming,—
“Have you never seen a revolt, Master Jacques?”
“I have made them,” said the hosier.
“How do you set to work to make a revolt?” said the king.
“Ah!” replied Coppenole, “’tis not very difficult. There are a hundred ways. In the first place, there must be discontent in the city. The thing is not uncommon. And then, the character of the inhabitants. Those of Ghent are easy to stir into revolt. They always love the prince’s son; the prince, never. Well! One morning, I will suppose, some one enters my shop, and says to me: ’Father Coppenole, there is this and there is that, the Demoiselle of Flanders wishes to save her ministers, the grand bailiff is doubling the impost on shagreen, or something else,’— what you will. I leave my work as it stands, I come out of my hosier’s stall, and I shout: ‘To the sack?’ There is always some smashed cask at hand. I mount it, and I say aloud, in the first words that occur to me, what I have on my heart; and when one is of the people, sire, one always has something on the heart: Then people troop up, they shout, they ring the alarm bell, they arm the louts with what they take from the soldiers, the market people join in, and they set out. And it will always be thus, so long as there are lords in the seignories, bourgeois in the bourgs, and peasants in the country.”
“And against whom do you thus rebel?” inquired the king; “against your bailiffs? against your lords?”
“Sometimes; that depends. Against the duke, also, sometimes.”
Louis XI. returned and seated himself, saying, with a smile,—
“Ah! here they have only got as far as the bailiffs.”
At that instant Olivier lé Daim returned. He was followed by two pages, who bore the king’s toilet articles; but what struck Louis XI. was that he was also accompanied by the provost of Paris and the chevalier of the watch, who appeared to be in consternation. The spiteful barber also wore an air of consternation, which was one of contentment beneath, however. It was he who spoke first.
“Sire, I ask your majesty’s pardon for the calamitous news which I bring.”
The king turned quickly and grazed the mat on the floor with the feet of his chair,—
“What does this mean?”
“Sire,” resumed Olivier lé Daim, with the malicious air of a man who rejoices that he is about to deal a violent blow, “’tis not against the bailiff of the courts that this popular sedition is directed.”
“Against whom, then?”
“Against you, sire?’
The aged king rose erect and straight as a young man,—
“Explain yourself, Olivier! And guard your head well, gossip; for I swear to you by the cross of Saint-Lô that, if you lie to us at this hour, the sword which severed the head of Monsieur de Luxembourg is not so notched that it cannot yet sever yours!”
The oath was formidable; Louis XI. had only sworn twice in the course of his life by the cross of Saint-Lô.
Olivier opened his mouth to reply.
“On your knees!” interrupted the king violently. “Tristan, have an eye to this man.”
Olivier knelt down and said coldly,—
“Sire, a sorceress was condemned to death by your court of parliament. She took refuge in Notre-Dame. The people are trying to take her from thence by main force. Monsieur the provost and monsieur the chevalier of the watch, who have just come from the riot, are here to give me the lie if this is not the truth. The populace is besieging Notre-Dame.”
“Yes, indeed!” said the king in a low voice, all pale and trembling with wrath. “Notre-Dame! They lay siege to our Lady, my good mistress in her cathedral!— Rise, Olivier. You are right. I give you Simon Radin’s charge. You are right. ’Tis I whom they are attacking. The witch is under the protection of this church, the church is under my protection. And I thought that they were acting against the bailiff! ’Tis against myself!”
Then, rendered young by fury, he began to walk up and down with long strides. He no longer laughed, he was terrible, he went and came; the fox was changed into a hyaena. He seemed suffocated to such a degree that he could not speak; his lips moved, and his fleshless fists were clenched. All at once he raised his head, his hollow eye appeared full of light, and his voice burst forth like a clarion: “Down with them, Tristan! A heavy hand for these rascals! Go, Tristan, my friend! slay! slay!”
This eruption having passed, he returned to his seat, and said with cold and concentrated wrath,—
“Here, Tristan! There are here with us in the Bastille the fifty lances of the Vicomte de Gif, which makes three hundred horse: you will take them. There is also the company of our unattached archers of Monsieur de Châteaupers: you will take it. You are provost of the marshals; you have the men of your provostship: you will take them. At the Hôtel Saint-Pol you will find forty archers of monsieur the dauphin’s new guard: you will take them. And, with all these, you will hasten to Notre-Dame. Ah! messieurs, louts of Paris, do you fling yourselves thus against the crown of France, the sanctity of Notre-Dame, and the peace of this commonwealth! Exterminate, Tristan! exterminate! and let not a single one escape, except it be for Montfauçon.”
Tristan bowed. “’Tis well, sire.”
He added, after a silence, “And what shall I do with the sorceress?”
This question caused the king to meditate.
“Ah!” said he, “the sorceress! Monsieur d’Estouteville, what did the people wish to do with her?”
“Sire,” replied the provost of Paris, “I imagine that since the populace has come to tear her from her asylum in Notre-Dame, ’tis because that impunity wounds them, and they desire to hang her.”
The king appeared to reflect deeply: then, addressing Tristan l’Hermite, “Well! gossip, exterminate the people and hang the sorceress.”
“That’s it,” said Rym in a low tone to Coppenole, “punish the people for willing a thing, and then do what they wish.”
“Enough, sire,” replied Tristan. “If the sorceress is still in Notre-Dame, must she be seized in spite of the sanctuary?”
“Pasque-Dieu! the sanctuary!” said the king, scratching his ear. “But the woman must be hung, nevertheless.”
Here, as though seized with a sudden idea, he flung himself on his knees before his chair, took off his hat, placed it on the seat, and gazing devoutly at one of the leaden amulets which loaded it down, “Oh!” said he, with clasped hands, “our Lady of Paris, my gracious patroness, pardon me. I will only do it this once. This criminal must be punished. I assure you, madame the virgin, my good mistress, that she is a sorceress who is not worthy of your amiable protection. You know, madame, that many very pious princes have overstepped the privileges of the churches for the glory of God and the necessities of the State. Saint Hugues, bishop of England, permitted King Edward to hang a witch in his church. Saint-Louis of France, my master, transgressed, with the same object, the church of Monsieur Saint-Paul; and Monsieur Alphonse, son of the king of Jerusalem, the very church of the Holy Sepulchre. Pardon me, then, for this once. Our Lady of Paris, I will never do so again, and I will give you a fine statue of silver, like the one which I gave last year to Our Lady of Ecouys. So be it.”
He made the sign of the cross, rose, donned his hat once more, and said to Tristan,—
“Be diligent, gossip. Take Monsieur Châteaupers with you. You will cause the tocsin to be sounded. You will crush the populace. You will seize the witch. ’Tis said. And I mean the business of the execution to be done by you. You will render me an account of it. Come, Olivier, I shall not go to bed this night. Shave me.”
Tristan l’Hermite bowed and departed. Then the king, dismissing Rym and Coppenole with a gesture,—
“God guard you, messieurs, my good friends the Flemings. Go, take a little repose. The night advances, and we are nearer the morning than the evening.”
Both retired and gained their apartments under the guidance of the captain of the Bastille. Coppenole said to Guillaume Rym,—
“Hum! I have had enough of that coughing king! I have seen Charles of Burgundy drunk, and he was less malignant than Louis XI. when ailing.”
“Master Jacques,” replied Rym, “’tis because wine renders kings less cruel than does barley water.”