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16. IN WHICH M. SEGUIER, KEEPER OF THE SEALS, LOOKS MORE THAN
ONCE FOR THE BELL, IN ORDER TO RING IT, AS HE DID BEFORE

It is impossible to form an idea of the impression these few
words made upon Louis XIII. He grew pale and red alternately;
and the cardinal saw at once that 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 your Majesty 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
Buckingham came to Paris for a project wholly political."

"And I am sure that he came for quite another purpose, Monsieur
Cardinal; but if the queen be guilty, let her tremble!"

"Indeed," said the cardinal, "whatever repugnance I may have to
directing my mind to such a treason, your Majesty compels me to
think of it. Madame de Lannoy, whom, according to your Majesty's
command, I have frequently interrogated, told me this morning
that the night before last her Majesty sat up very late, that
this morning she wept much, and that she was writing all day."

"That's it!" cried the king; "to him, no doubt. Cardinal, I must
have the queen's papers."

"But how to take them, sire? It seems to me that it is neither
your Majesty nor myself who can charge himself with such a
mission."

"How did they act with regard to the Marechale d'Ancre?" cried
the king, in the highest state of choler; "first her closets were
thoroughly searched, and then she herself."

"The Marechale d'Ancre was no more than the Marechale d'Ancre. A
Florentine adventurer, sire, and that was all; while the august
spouse of your Majesty is Anne of Austria, Queen of France--that
is to say, one of the greatest princesses in the world."

"She is not the less guilty, Monsieur Duke! The more she has
forgotten the high 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 of policy 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 against the 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 tell you she loves another; I tell you she loves that
infamous Buckingham! Why did you 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 still continue to doubt, should prove to
have any foundation, what a terrible disclosure, 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 the lips of the king.

"He should have been--?"

"Nothing," said the king, "nothing. But all the time he was in
Paris, you, of course, did not lose sight of him?"

"No, sire."

"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 all the day. Monsieur Duke, I must have those letters!"

"Sire, notwithstanding--"

"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 always opposing my will? Are you also in accord with Spain
and England, with Madame de Chevreuse and the queen?"

"Sire," replied the cardinal, sighing, "I believed myself secure
from such a suspicion."

"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, with this 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 to the 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 what?"

"But the queen will perhaps refuse to obey."

"My orders?"

"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 her myself."

"Your Majesty will not forget that I have done everything in my
power to prevent a rupture."

"Yes, Duke, yes, I know you are very indulgent toward the queen,
too indulgent, perhaps; we shall have occasion, I warn you, at
some future period to 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 between you and the Queen of France."

"Very well, Cardinal, very well; but, meantime, send for Monsieur
the Keeper of the Seals. I will go to the queen."

And Louis XIII, opening the door of communication, passed into
the corridor which 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 reading aloud, and everybody was
listening to her with attention with the exception of the queen,
who had, on the contrary, desired this reading in order that she
might be able, while feigning to listen, to pursue the thread of
her own thoughts.

These thoughts, gilded as they were by a last reflection of love,
were not the less sad. Anne of Austria, deprived of the
confidence of her husband, pursued by the hatred of the cardinal,
who could not pardon her for having repulsed a more tender
feeling, having before her eyes the example of the queen-mother
whom that hatred had tormented all her life--though Marie de
Medicis, if the memoirs of the time are to be believed, had begun
by according to the cardinal that sentiment which Anne of Austria
always refused him--Anne of Austria had seen her most devoted
servants fall around her, her most intimate confidants, her
dearest favorites. Like those unfortunate persons endowed with a
fatal gift, she brought misfortune upon everything she touched.
Her friendship was a fatal sign which called down persecution.
Mme. de Chevreuse and Mme. de Bernet were exiled, and Laporte did
not conceal from his mistress that he expected to be arrested
every instant.

It was at the moment when she was plunged in the deepest and
darkest of these reflections that the door of the chamber opened,
and the king entered.

The reader hushed herself instantly. All the ladies rose, and
there was a profound silence. As to the king, he made no
demonstration of politeness, only stopping before the queen.
"Madame," said he, "you are about to receive a visit from the
chancellor, who will communicate certain matters to you with
which I have charged him."

The unfortunate queen, who was constantly threatened with
divorce, exile, and trial 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 your Majesty could not
say yourself?"

The king turned upon his heel without reply, and almost at the
same instant the captain of the Guards, M. de Guitant, announced
the visit of the chancellor.

When the chancellor appeared, the king had already gone out by
another door.

The chancellor entered, half smiling, half blushing. As we shall
probably meet with him again in the course of our history, it may
be well for our readers to be made at once acquainted with him.

This chancellor was a pleasant man. He was Des Roches le Masle,
canon of Notre Dame, who had formerly been valet of a bishop, who
introduced him to his Eminence as a perfectly devout man. The
cardinal trusted him, and therein found his advantage.

There are many stories related of him, and among them this.
After a wild youth, he had retired into a convent, there to
expiate, at least for some time, the follies of adolescence. On
entering this holy place, the poor penitent was unable to shut
the door so close as to prevent the passions he fled from
entering with him. He was incessantly attacked by them, and the
superior, to whom he had confided this misfortune, wishing as
much as in him lay to free him from them, had advised him, in
order to conjure away the tempting demon, to have recourse to the
bell rope, and ring with all his might. At the denunciating
sound, the monks would be rendered aware that temptation was
besieging a brother, and all the community would go to prayers.

This advice appeared good to the future chancellor. He conjured
the evil spirit with abundance of prayers offered up by the
monks. But the devil does not suffer himself to be easily
dispossessed from a place in which he has fixed his garrison. In
proportion as they redoubled the exorcisms he redoubled the
temptations; so that day and night the bell was ringing full
swing, announcing the extreme desire for mortification which the
penitent experienced.

The monks had no longer an instant of repose. By day they did
nothing but ascend and descend the steps which led to the chapel;
at night, in addition to complines and matins, they were further
obliged to leap twenty times out of their 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 grew tired; but within three months the penitent
reappeared in the world with the reputation of being the most
terrible POSSESSED that ever existed.

On leaving the convent he entered into the magistracy, became
president on the place of his uncle, embraced the cardinal's
party, which did not prove want of sagacity, became chancellor,
served his Eminence with zeal in his hatred against the queen-
mother and his vengeance against Anne of Austria, stimulated the
judges in the affair of Calais, encouraged the attempts of M. de
Laffemas, chief gamekeeper of France; then, at length, invested
with the entire confidence of the cardinal--a confidence which he
had so well earned--he received the singular commission for the
execution of which he presented himself in the queen's
apartments.

The queen was still standing when he entered; but scarcely had
she perceived him then she reseated herself in her armchair, and
made a sign to her women to resume their cushions and stools, and
with an air of supreme hauteur, said, "What do you desire,
monsieur, and with what object do you present yourself here?"

"To make, madame, in the name of the king, and without prejudice
to the respect which I have the honor to owe to your Majesty a
close examination into all your papers."

"How, monsieur, an investigation of my papers--mine! Truly, this
is an indignity!"

"Be kind enough to pardon me, madame; but in this circumstance I
am but the instrument which the king employs. Has not his
Majesty just left you, and has he not himself asked you to
prepare for this visit?"

"Search, then, monsieur! I am a criminal, as it appears.
Estafania, give up the 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 would place the important letter she had
written that day.

When the chancellor had opened and shut twenty times the drawers
of the secretaries, it became necessary, whatever hesitation he
might experience--it became necessary, I say, to come to the
conclusion of the affair; that is to say, to search the queen
herself. The chancellor advanced, therefore, toward Anne of
Austria, and said with a very perplexed and embarrassed air, "And
now it remains for me to make the principal examination."

"What is that?" asked the queen, who did not understand, or
rather was not willing 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 in your 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 chancellor with an expression almost threatening.

"I am a faithful subject of the king, madame, and all that his
Majesty commands I shall do."

"Well, it is true!" said Anne of Austria; "and the spies of the
cardinal have served him faithfully. I have written a letter
today; that letter is not yet gone. 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, he would have demanded it of you himself. But I repeat
to you, I am charged with reclaiming it; and if you do not give
it up--"

"Well?"

"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 the suspected 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 whom the imperious blood of Spain and Austria began to
rise.

The chancellor made a profound reverence. Then, with the
intention quite patent of not drawing back a foot from the
accomplishment of the commission with which he was charged, and
as the attendant of an executioner might have done in the chamber
of torture, he approached Anne of Austria, for whose eyes at the
same instant sprang tears of rage.

The queen was, as we have said, of great beauty. The commission
might well be called delicate; and the king had reached, in his
jealousy of Buckingham, the point of not being jealous of anyone
else.

Without doubt the chancellor, Seguier looked about at that moment
for the rope of the famous bell; but not finding it he summoned
his resolution, and stretched forth his hands toward the place
where the queen had acknowledged the paper was to be found.

Anne of Austria took one step backward, became so pale that it
might be said she was dying, and leaning with her left hand upon
a table behind her to keep herself from falling, she with her
right hand drew the paper from her bosom and held it out to the
keeper of the seals.

"There, monsieur, there is that letter!" cried the queen, with a
broken and trembling voice; "take it, and deliver me from your
odious presence."

The chancellor, who, on his part, trembled with an emotion easily
to be conceived, took the letter, bowed to the ground, and
retired. The door was scarcely closed upon him, when the queen
sank, half fainting, into the arms of her women.

The chancellor carried the letter to the king without having read
a single word 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 the first 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 pressed her brother and the Emperor of Austria to appear to
be wounded, as they really were, by the policy of Richelieu--the
eternal object of which was the abasement of the house of
Austria--to declare war against France, and as a condition of
peace, to insist upon the dismissal of the cardinal; but as to
love, there was not 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 the business cabinet.

The king went straight to him.

"There, Duke," said he, "you were right and I was wrong. The
whole intrigue is political, and there is not the least question
of love in this letter; but, on the 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, your Majesty," said he, "you see how far
my enemies go; they menace you with two wars if you do not
dismiss me. In your place, in truth, sire, I should yield to
such powerful instance; and on my part, it would be a real
happiness to withdraw from public affairs."

"What say you, Duke?"

"I say, sire, that my health is sinking under these excessive
struggles and these never-ending labors. I say that according to
all probability I shall not be able to undergo the fatigues of
the siege of La Rochelle, and that it would be far better that
you should appoint there either Monsieur de Conde, Monsieur de
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 to look after matters for which I have no
aptitude. You would be the happier for it 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 are named in that letter shall be punished as they
deserve, even the queen herself."

"What do you say, sire? God forbid that the queen should suffer
the least inconvenience or uneasiness on my account! She has
always believed me, sire, to be her enemy; although your Majesty
can bear witness that I have always taken her part warmly, even
against you. Oh, if she betrayed your Majesty on the side of
your honor, it would be quite another thing, and I should be the
first to say, 'No grace, sire--no grace for the guilty!'
Happily, there is nothing 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 you always 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 be seriously offended, I could well understand it; your
Majesty has treated her with a severity--"

"It is thus I will always treat my enemies and yours, Duke,
however high they may 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 a devoted, submissive, and irreproachable wife. Allow me,
then, sire, to intercede 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 antipathy for that amusement; besides, it will be an
opportunity for her to wear those beautiful diamonds which you
gave her recently on her birthday and with which she has since
had no occasion to adorn herself."

"We shall see, Monsieur Cardinal, we shall see," said the king,
who, in his joy at finding the queen guilty of a crime which he
cared little about, and innocent of a fault of which he had great
dread, was ready to make up all differences with her, "we shall
see, but upon my honor, you are too indulgent toward her."

"Sire," said the cardinal, "leave severity to your ministers.
Clemency is a royal virtue; employ it, and you will find that you
derive advantage therein."

Thereupon the cardinal, hearing the clock strike eleven, bowed
low, asking permission of the king to retire, and supplicating
him to come to a good understanding with the queen.

Anne of Austria, who, in consequence of the seizure of her
letter, expected reproaches, was much astonished the next day to
see the king make some attempts at reconciliation with her. Her
first movement was repellent. Her womanly pride and her queenly
dignity had both been so cruelly offended that she could not come
round at the first advance; but, overpersuaded by the advice 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 the intention 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 day this fete would take
place, but the king replied that he must consult the cardinal
upon that head.

Indeed, every day the king asked the cardinal when this fete
should take place; and every day the cardinal, under some
pretext, deferred fixing it. Ten days passed away thus.

On the eighth day after the scene we have described, the cardinal
received a letter 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 hundred pistoles, and four or five
days after I have received them I shall be in Paris."

On the same day the cardinal received this letter the king put
his customary question to him.

Richelieu counted on his fingers, and said to himself, "She will
arrive, she says, four or five days after having received the
money. It will require four or five days for the transmission of
the money, four or five days for her to return; that makes ten
days. Now, allowing for contrary winds, accidents, and a 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 give a fete on the third of October. That will fall
in wonderfully well; you will not 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 Majesty the evening before the fete that you should like to
see how her diamond studs become her."





The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
Category:
General Fiction

Romance Literatures
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