Chapter 16 M. SEGUIER, KEEPER OF THE SEALS, LOOKS MORE THAN ONCE FOR TH_ELL, IN ORDER TO RING IT, AS HE DID BEFORE
It is impossible to form an idea of the impression these few words made upo_ouis XIII. He grew pale and red alternately; and the cardinal saw at onc_hat he had recovered by a single blow all the ground he had lost.
"Buckingham in Paris!" cried he, "and why does he come?"
"To conspire, no doubt, with your enemies, the Huguenots and the Spaniards."
"No, PARDIEU, no! To conspire against my honor with Madame de Chevreuse, Madame de Longueville, and the Condes."
"Oh, sire, what an idea! The queen is too virtuous; and besides, loves you_ajesty too well."
"Woman is weak, Monsieur Cardinal," said the king; "and as to loving me much, I have my own opinion as to that love."
"I not the less maintain," said the cardinal, "that the Duke of Buckingha_ame to Paris for a project wholly political."
"And I am sure that he came for quite another purpose, Monsieur Cardinal; bu_f the queen be guilty, let her tremble!"
"Indeed," said the cardinal, "whatever repugnance I may have to directing m_ind to such a treason, your Majesty compels me to think of it. Madame d_annoy, whom, according to your Majesty's command, I have frequentl_nterrogated, told me this morning that the night before last her Majesty sa_p very late, that this morning she wept much, and that she was writing al_ay."
"That's it!" cried the king; "to him, no doubt. Cardinal, I must have th_ueen's papers."
"But how to take them, sire? It seems to me that it is neither your Majest_or myself who can charge himself with such a mission."
"How did they act with regard to the Marechale d'Ancre?" cried the king, i_he highest state of choler; "first her closets were thoroughly searched, an_hen she herself."
"The Marechale d'Ancre was no more than the Marechale d'Ancre. A Florentin_dventurer, sire, and that was all; while the august spouse of your Majesty i_nne of Austria, Queen of France—that is to say, one of the greates_rincesses in the world."
"She is not the less guilty, Monsieur Duke! The more she has forgotten th_igh position in which she was placed, the more degrading is her fall.
Besides, I long ago determined to put an end to all these petty intrigues o_olicy and love. She has near her a certain Laporte."
"Who, I believe, is the mainspring of all this, I confess," said the cardinal.
"You think then, as I do, that she deceives me?" said the king.
"I believe, and I repeat it to your Majesty, that the queen conspires agains_he power of the king, but I have not said against his honor."
"And I—I tell you against both. I tell you the queen does not love me; I tel_ou she loves another; I tell you she loves that infamous Buckingham! Why di_ou not have him arrested while in Paris?"
"Arrest the Duke! Arrest the prime minister of King Charles I! Think of it, sire! What a scandal! And if the suspicions of your Majesty, which I stil_ontinue to doubt, should prove to have any foundation, what a terribl_isclosure, what a fearful scandal!"
"But as he exposed himself like a vagabond or a thief, he should have been—"
Louis XIII stopped, terrified at what he was about to say, while Richelieu, stretching out his neck, waited uselessly for the word which had died on th_ips of the king.
"He should have been—?"
"Nothing," said the king, "nothing. But all the time he was in Paris, you, o_ourse, did not lose sight of him?"
"Where did he lodge?"
"Rue de la Harpe. No. 75."
"Where is that?"
"By the side of the Luxembourg."
"And you are certain that the queen and he did not see each other?"
"I believe the queen to have too high a sense of her duty, sire."
"But they have corresponded; it is to him that the queen has been writing al_he day. Monsieur Duke, I must have those letters!"
"Monsieur Duke, at whatever price it may be, I will have them."
"I would, however, beg your Majesty to observe—"
"Do you, then, also join in betraying me, Monsieur Cardinal, by thus alway_pposing my will? Are you also in accord with Spain and England, with Madam_e Chevreuse and the queen?"
"Sire," replied the cardinal, sighing, "I believed myself secure from such _uspicion."
"Monsieur Cardinal, you have heard me; I will have those letters."
"There is but one way."
"What is that?"
"That would be to charge Monsieur de Seguier, the keeper of the seals, wit_his mission. The matter enters completely into the duties of the post."
"Let him be sent for instantly."
"He is most likely at my hotel. I requested him to call, and when I came t_he Louvre I left orders if he came, to desire him to wait."
"Let him be sent for instantly."
"Your Majesty's orders shall be executed; but—"
"But the queen will perhaps refuse to obey."
"Yes, if she is ignorant that these orders come from the king."
"Well, that she may have no doubt on that head, I will go and inform he_yself."
"Your Majesty will not forget that I have done everything in my power t_revent a rupture."
"Yes, Duke, yes, I know you are very indulgent toward the queen, to_ndulgent, perhaps; we shall have occasion, I warn you, at some future perio_o speak of that."
"Whenever it shall please your Majesty; but I shall be always happy and proud, sire, to sacrifice myself to the harmony which I desire to see reign betwee_ou and the Queen of France."
"Very well, Cardinal, very well; but, meantime, send for Monsieur the Keepe_f the Seals. I will go to the queen."
And Louis XIII, opening the door of communication, passed into the corrido_hich led from his apartments to those of Anne of Austria.
The queen was in the midst of her women—Mme. de Guitaut, Mme. de Sable, Mme.
de Montbazon, and Mme. de Guemene. In a corner was the Spanish companion, Donna Estafania, who had followed her from Madrid. Mme. Guemene was readin_loud, and everybody was listening to her with attention with the exception o_he queen, who had, on the contrary, desired this reading in order that sh_ight be able, while feigning to listen, to pursue the thread of her ow_houghts.
These thoughts, gilded as they were by a last reflection of love, were not th_ess sad. Anne of Austria, deprived of the confidence of her husband, pursue_y the hatred of the cardinal, who could not pardon her for having repulsed _ore tender feeling, having before her eyes the example of the queen-mothe_hom that hatred had tormented all her life—though Marie de Medicis, if th_emoirs of the time are to be believed, had begun by according to the cardina_hat sentiment which Anne of Austria always refused him—Anne of Austria ha_een her most devoted servants fall around her, her most intimate confidants, her dearest favorites. Like those unfortunate persons endowed with a fata_ift, she brought misfortune upon everything she touched. Her friendship was _atal sign which called down persecution. Mme. de Chevreuse and Mme. de Berne_ere exiled, and Laporte did not conceal from his mistress that he expected t_e arrested every instant.
It was at the moment when she was plunged in the deepest and darkest of thes_eflections that the door of the chamber opened, and the king entered.
The reader hushed herself instantly. All the ladies rose, and there was _rofound silence. As to the king, he made no demonstration of politeness, onl_topping before the queen. "Madame," said he, "you are about to receive _isit from the chancellor, who will communicate certain matters to you wit_hich I have charged him."
The unfortunate queen, who was constantly threatened with divorce, exile, an_rial even, turned pale under her rouge, and could not refrain from saying,
"But why this visit, sire? What can the chancellor have to say to me that you_ajesty could not say yourself?"
The king turned upon his heel without reply, and almost at the same instan_he captain of the Guards, M. de Guitant, announced the visit of th_hancellor.
When the chancellor appeared, the king had already gone out by another door.
The chancellor entered, half smiling, half blushing. As we shall probably mee_ith him again in the course of our history, it may be well for our readers t_e made at once acquainted with him.
This chancellor was a pleasant man. He was Des Roches le Masle, canon of Notr_ame, who had formerly been valet of a bishop, who introduced him to hi_minence as a perfectly devout man. The cardinal trusted him, and therei_ound his advantage.
There are many stories related of him, and among them this. After a wil_outh, he had retired into a convent, there to expiate, at least for som_ime, the follies of adolescence. On entering this holy place, the poo_enitent was unable to shut the door so close as to prevent the passions h_led from entering with him. He was incessantly attacked by them, and th_uperior, to whom he had confided this misfortune, wishing as much as in hi_ay to free him from them, had advised him, in order to conjure away th_empting demon, to have recourse to the bell rope, and ring with all hi_ight. At the denunciating sound, the monks would be rendered aware tha_emptation was besieging a brother, and all the community would go to prayers.
This advice appeared good to the future chancellor. He conjured the evi_pirit with abundance of prayers offered up by the monks. But the devil doe_ot suffer himself to be easily dispossessed from a place in which he ha_ixed his garrison. In proportion as they redoubled the exorcisms he redouble_he temptations; so that day and night the bell was ringing full swing, announcing the extreme desire for mortification which the peniten_xperienced.
The monks had no longer an instant of repose. By day they did nothing bu_scend and descend the steps which led to the chapel; at night, in addition t_omplines and matins, they were further obliged to leap twenty times out o_heir beds and prostrate themselves on the floor of their cells.
It is not known whether it was the devil who gave way, or the monks who gre_ired; but within three months the penitent reappeared in the world with th_eputation of being the most terrible POSSESSED that ever existed.
On leaving the convent he entered into the magistracy, became president on th_lace of his uncle, embraced the cardinal's party, which did not prove want o_agacity, became chancellor, served his Eminence with zeal in his hatre_gainst the queen-mother and his vengeance against Anne of Austria, stimulate_he judges in the affair of Calais, encouraged the attempts of M. de Laffemas, chief gamekeeper of France; then, at length, invested with the entir_onfidence of the cardinal—a confidence which he had so well earned—h_eceived the singular commission for the execution of which he presente_imself in the queen's apartments.
The queen was still standing when he entered; but scarcely had she perceive_im then she reseated herself in her armchair, and made a sign to her women t_esume their cushions and stools, and with an air of supreme hauteur, said,
"What do you desire, monsieur, and with what object do you present yoursel_ere?"
"To make, madame, in the name of the king, and without prejudice to th_espect which I have the honor to owe to your Majesty a close examination int_ll your papers."
"How, monsieur, an investigation of my papers—mine! Truly, this is a_ndignity!"
"Be kind enough to pardon me, madame; but in this circumstance I am but th_nstrument which the king employs. Has not his Majesty just left you, and ha_e not himself asked you to prepare for this visit?"
"Search, then, monsieur! I am a criminal, as it appears. Estafania, give u_he keys of my drawers and my desks."
For form's sake the chancellor paid a visit to the pieces of furniture named; but he well knew that it was not in a piece of furniture that the queen woul_lace the important letter she had written that day.
When the chancellor had opened and shut twenty times the drawers of th_ecretaries, it became necessary, whatever hesitation he might experience—i_ecame necessary, I say, to come to the conclusion of the affair; that is t_ay, to search the queen herself. The chancellor advanced, therefore, towar_nne of Austria, and said with a very perplexed and embarrassed air, "And no_t remains for me to make the principal examination."
"What is that?" asked the queen, who did not understand, or rather was no_illing to understand.
"His majesty is certain that a letter has been written by you during the day; he knows that it has not yet been sent to its address. This letter is not i_our table nor in your secretary; and yet this letter must be somewhere."
"Would you dare to lift your hand to your queen?" said Anne of Austria, drawing herself up to her full height, and fixing her eyes upon the chancello_ith an expression almost threatening.
"I am a faithful subject of the king, madame, and all that his Majest_ommands I shall do."
"Well, it is true!" said Anne of Austria; "and the spies of the cardinal hav_erved him faithfully. I have written a letter today; that letter is not ye_one. The letter is here." And the queen laid her beautiful hand on her bosom.
"Then give me that letter, madame," said the chancellor.
"I will give it to none but the king monsieur," said Anne.
"If the king had desired that the letter should be given to him, madame, h_ould have demanded it of you himself. But I repeat to you, I am charged wit_eclaiming it; and if you do not give it up—"
"He has, then, charged me to take it from you."
"How! What do you say?"
"That my orders go far, madame; and that I am authorized to seek for th_uspected paper, even on the person of your Majesty."
"What horror!" cried the queen.
"Be kind enough, then, madame, to act more compliantly."
"The conduct is infamously violent! Do you know that, monsieur?"
"The king commands it, madame; excuse me."
"I will not suffer it! No, no, I would rather die!" cried the queen, in who_he imperious blood of Spain and Austria began to rise.
The chancellor made a profound reverence. Then, with the intention quit_atent of not drawing back a foot from the accomplishment of the commissio_ith which he was charged, and as the attendant of an executioner might hav_one in the chamber of torture, he approached Anne of Austria, for whose eye_t the same instant sprang tears of rage.
The queen was, as we have said, of great beauty. The commission might well b_alled delicate; and the king had reached, in his jealousy of Buckingham, th_oint of not being jealous of anyone else.
Without doubt the chancellor, Seguier looked about at that moment for the rop_f the famous bell; but not finding it he summoned his resolution, an_tretched forth his hands toward the place where the queen had acknowledge_he paper was to be found.
Anne of Austria took one step backward, became so pale that it might be sai_he was dying, and leaning with her left hand upon a table behind her to kee_erself from falling, she with her right hand drew the paper from her boso_nd held it out to the keeper of the seals.
"There, monsieur, there is that letter!" cried the queen, with a broken an_rembling voice; "take it, and deliver me from your odious presence."
The chancellor, who, on his part, trembled with an emotion easily to b_onceived, took the letter, bowed to the ground, and retired. The door wa_carcely closed upon him, when the queen sank, half fainting, into the arms o_er women.
The chancellor carried the letter to the king without having read a singl_ord of it. The king took it with a trembling hand, looked for the address, which was wanting, became very pale, opened it slowly, then seeing by th_irst words that it was addressed to the King of Spain, he read it rapidly.
It was nothing but a plan of attack against the cardinal. The queen presse_er brother and the Emperor of Austria to appear to be wounded, as they reall_ere, by the policy of Richelieu—the eternal object of which was the abasemen_f the house of Austria—to declare war against France, and as a condition o_eace, to insist upon the dismissal of the cardinal; but as to love, there wa_ot a single word about it in all the letter.
The king, quite delighted, inquired if the cardinal was still at the Louvre; he was told that his Eminence awaited the orders of his Majesty in th_usiness cabinet.
The king went straight to him.
"There, Duke," said he, "you were right and I was wrong. The whole intrigue i_olitical, and there is not the least question of love in this letter; but, o_he other hand, there is abundant question of you."
The cardinal took the letter, and read it with the greatest attention; then, when he had arrived at the end of it, he read it a second time. "Well, you_ajesty," said he, "you see how far my enemies go; they menace you with tw_ars if you do not dismiss me. In your place, in truth, sire, I should yiel_o such powerful instance; and on my part, it would be a real happiness t_ithdraw from public affairs."
"What say you, Duke?"
"I say, sire, that my health is sinking under these excessive struggles an_hese never-ending labors. I say that according to all probability I shall no_e able to undergo the fatigues of the siege of La Rochelle, and that it woul_e far better that you should appoint there either Monsieur de Conde, Monsieu_e Bassopierre, or some valiant gentleman whose business is war, and not me, who am a churchman, and who am constantly turned aside for my real vocation t_ook after matters for which I have no aptitude. You would be the happier fo_t at home, sire, and I do not doubt you would be the greater for it abroad."
"Monsieur Duke," said the king, "I understand you. Be satisfied, all who ar_amed in that letter shall be punished as they deserve, even the quee_erself."
"What do you say, sire? God forbid that the queen should suffer the leas_nconvenience or uneasiness on my account! She has always believed me, sire, to be her enemy; although your Majesty can bear witness that I have alway_aken her part warmly, even against you. Oh, if she betrayed your Majesty o_he side of your honor, it would be quite another thing, and I should be th_irst to say, 'No grace, sire—no grace for the guilty!' Happily, there i_othing of the kind, and your Majesty has just acquired a new proof of it."
"That is true, Monsieur Cardinal," said the king, "and you were right, as yo_lways are; but the queen, not the less, deserves all my anger."
"It is you, sire, who have now incurred hers. And even if she were to b_eriously offended, I could well understand it; your Majesty has treated he_ith a severity—"
"It is thus I will always treat my enemies and yours, Duke, however high the_ay be placed, and whatever peril I may incur in acting severely toward them."
"The queen is my enemy, but is not yours, sire; on the contrary, she is _evoted, submissive, and irreproachable wife. Allow me, then, sire, t_ntercede for her with your Majesty."
"Let her humble herself, then, and come to me first."
"On the contrary, sire, set the example. You have committed the first wrong, since it was you who suspected the queen."
"What! I make the first advances?" said the king. "Never!"
"Sire, I entreat you to do so."
"Besides, in what manner can I make advances first?"
"By doing a thing which you know will be agreeable to her."
"What is that?"
"Give a ball; you know how much the queen loves dancing. I will answer for it, her resentment will not hold out against such an attention."
"Monsieur Cardinal, you know that I do not like worldly pleasures."
"The queen will only be the more grateful to you, as she knows your antipath_or that amusement; besides, it will be an opportunity for her to wear thos_eautiful diamonds which you gave her recently on her birthday and with whic_he has since had no occasion to adorn herself."
"We shall see, Monsieur Cardinal, we shall see," said the king, who, in hi_oy at finding the queen guilty of a crime which he cared little about, an_nnocent of a fault of which he had great dread, was ready to make up al_ifferences with her, "we shall see, but upon my honor, you are too indulgen_oward her."
"Sire," said the cardinal, "leave severity to your ministers. Clemency is _oyal virtue; employ it, and you will find that you derive advantage therein."
Thereupon the cardinal, hearing the clock strike eleven, bowed low, askin_ermission of the king to retire, and supplicating him to come to a goo_nderstanding with the queen.
Anne of Austria, who, in consequence of the seizure of her letter, expecte_eproaches, was much astonished the next day to see the king make som_ttempts at reconciliation with her. Her first movement was repellent. He_omanly pride and her queenly dignity had both been so cruelly offended tha_he could not come round at the first advance; but, overpersuaded by th_dvice of her women, she at last had the appearance of beginning to forget.
The king took advantage of this favorable moment to tell her that her had th_ntention of shortly giving a fete.
A fete was so rare a thing for poor Anne of Austria that at this announcement, as the cardinal had predicted, the last trace of her resentment disappeared, if not from her heart at least from her countenance. She asked upon what da_his fete would take place, but the king replied that he must consult th_ardinal upon that head.
Indeed, every day the king asked the cardinal when this fete should tak_lace; and every day the cardinal, under some pretext, deferred fixing it. Te_ays passed away thus.
On the eighth day after the scene we have described, the cardinal received _etter with the London stamp which only contained these lines: "I have them; but I am unable to leave London for want of money. Send me five hundre_istoles, and four or five days after I have received them I shall be i_aris."
On the same day the cardinal received this letter the king put his customar_uestion to him.
Richelieu counted on his fingers, and said to himself, "She will arrive, sh_ays, four or five days after having received the money. It will require fou_r five days for the transmission of the money, four or five days for her t_eturn; that makes ten days. Now, allowing for contrary winds, accidents, an_ woman's weakness, there are twelve days."
"Well, Monsieur Duke," said the king, "have you made your calculations?"
"Yes, sire. Today is the twentieth of September. The aldermen of the city giv_ fete on the third of October. That will fall in wonderfully well; you wil_ot appear to have gone out of your way to please the queen."
Then the cardinal added, "A PROPOS, sire, do not forget to tell her Majest_he evening before the fete that you should like to see how her diamond stud_ecome her."