E-text prepared by Al Haines
THE GREY CLOAK
Author of The Puppet Crown
The Illustrations by Thomas Mitchell Peirce
Grosset and Dunlap Publishers, New York
SHE LOVES A STORY FOR THE STORY'S SAKE
SO I DEDICATE THIS BOOK TO HER
WHOSE BEAUTY I ADMIRE
AND WHOSE HEART AND MIND I LOVE
LILLIAN A. BALDWIN
I THE MAN IN THE CLOAK II THE TOILET OF THE CHEVALIER III THE MUTILATED HAND IV AN AENEAS FOR AN ACHATES V THE HORN OF PLENTY VI AN ACHATES FOR AN AENEAS VII THE PHILOSOPHY OF PERIGNY VIII THE LAST ROUT IX THE FIFTY PISTOLES X THE MASQUERADING LADIES XI THE JOURNEY TO QUEBEC XII A BALLADE OF DOUBLE REFRAIN XIII TEN THOUSAND LIVRES XIV BRETON FINDS A MARKER XV THE SUPPER XVI THE POET EXPLAINS XVII WHAT THE SHIP BRINGS XVIII THE MASTER OF IRONIES XIX A PAGE FROM MYTHOLOGY XX A WARRANT OR A CONTRACT XXI AN INGENIOUS IDEA XXII MADAME FINDS A DROLL BOOK XXIII A MARQUIS DONS HIS BALDRIC XXIV A DISSERTATION ON CHARITY XXV ORIOLES AND PREROGATIVES XXVI THE STORY OF HIAWATHA XXVII ONONDAGA XXVIII THE FLASH FROM THE FLAME XXIX A JOURNEY INTO THE HILLS XXX BROTHER JACQUES' ABSOLVO TE XXXI THE HUNTING HUT XXXII A GALLANT POET XXXIII HOW GABRIELLE DIANE LOVED XXXIV ABSOLUTION OF PERIGNY XXXV BROTHER!
The author has taken a few liberties with the lives of various historical personages who pass through these pages; but only for the story's sake. He is also indebted to the Jesuit Relations, to Old Paris, by Lady Jackson, and to Clark's History of Onondaga, the legend of Hiawatha being taken from the last named volume.
THE GREY CLOAK
THE MAN IN THE CLOAK.
A man enveloped in a handsome grey cloak groped through a dark alley which led into the fashionable district of the Rue de Bethisy. From time to time he paused, with a hand to his ear, as if listening. Satisfied that the alley was deserted save for his own presence, he would proceed, hugging the walls. The cobbles were icy, and scarce a moment passed in which he did not have to struggle to maintain his balance. The door of a low tavern opened suddenly, sending a golden shaft of light across the glistening pavement and casting a brilliant patch on the opposite wall. With the light came sounds of laughter and quarreling and ringing glasses. The man laid his hand on his sword, swore softly, and stepped back out of the blinding glare. The flash of light revealed a mask which left visible only the lower half of his face. Men wearing masks were frequently subjected to embarrassing questions; and this man was determined that no one should question him to-night. He waited, hiding in the shadow.
Half a dozen guardsmen and musketeers reeled out. The host reviled them for a pack of rogues. They cursed him, laughing, and went on, to be swallowed up in the darkness beyond. The tavern door closed, and once more the alley was hued with melting greys and purples. The man in the cloak examined the strings of his mask, tilted his hat still farther down over his eyes, and tested the looseness of his sword.
"The drunken fools!" he muttered, continuing. "Well for them they came not this way."
When he entered the Rue de Bethisy, he stopped, searched up and down the thoroughfare. Far away to his right he saw wavering torches, but these receded and abruptly vanished round a corner of the Rue des Fosses St-Germain l'Auxerrois. He was alone. A hundred yards to his left, on the opposite side of the street, stood a gloomy but magnificent hotel, one of the few in this quarter that was surrounded by a walled court. The hotel was dark. So far as the man in the grey cloak could see, not a light filled any window. There were two gates. Toward the smaller of the two the man cautiously directed his steps. He tried the latch. The gate opened noiselessly, signifying frequent use.
"So far, so good!"
An indecisive moment passed, as though the man were nerving himself for an ordeal of courage and cunning. With a gesture resigning himself to whatever might befall, he entered the court, careful to observe that the way out was no more intricate than the way in.
"Now for the ladder. If that is missing, it's horse and away to Spain, or feel the edge of Monsieur Caboche. Will the lackey be true? False or true, I must trust him. Bernouin would sell Mazarin for twenty louis, and that is what I have paid. Monsieur le Comte's lackey. It will be a clever trick. Mazarin will pay as many as ten thousand livres for that paper. That fat fool of a Gaston, to conspire at his age! Bah; what a muddled ass I was, in faith! I, to sign my name in writing to a cabal! Only the devil knows what yonder old fool will do with the paper. Let him become frightened, let that painted play-woman coddle him; and it's the block for us all, all save Gaston and Conde and Beaufort. Ah, Madame, Madame, loveliest in all France, 'twas your beautiful eyes. For the joy of looking into them, I have soiled a fresh quill, tumbled into a pit, played the fool! And a silver crown against a golden louis, you know nothing about politics or intrigue, nor that that old fool of a husband is making a decoy of your beauty. But my head cleared this morning. That paper must be mine. First, because it is a guaranty for my head, and second, because it is likely to fatten my purse. It will be simple to erase my name and substitute another's. And this cloak! My faith, it is a stroke. To the devil with Gaston and Conde and Beaufort; their ambitions are nothing to me, since my head is everything."
He tiptoed across the stone flags.
"Faith, this is a delicate operation; and the paper may be hidden elsewhere into the bargain. We venture, we lose or we win; only this is somewhat out of my line of work. Self-preservation is not theft; let us ease our conscience with this sophism . . . Ha! the ladder. Those twenty louis were well spent. This is droll, good heart. An onlooker would swear that this is an assignation. Eh well, Romeo was a sickly lover, and lopped about like a rose in a wind-storm. Mercutio was the man!"
He had gained the side of the hotel. From a window above came a faint yellow haze such as might radiate from a single candle. This was the signal that all was clear. The man tested the ladder, which was of rope, and it withstood his weight. Very gently he began to climb, stopping every three or four rounds and listening. The only noise came from the armory where a parcel of mercenaries were moving about. Up, up, round by round, till his fingers touched the damp cold stone of the window ledge; the man raised himself, leaned toward the left, and glanced obliquely into the room. It was deserted. A candle burned in a small alcove. The man drew himself quickly into the room, which was a kind of gallery facing the grand staircase. A sound coming from the hall below caused the intruder to slip behind a curtain. A lackey was unbarring the door. The man in the gallery wondered why.
"My very nerves have ears," he murmured. "If I were sure . . . to pay madame a visit while she sleeps and dreams!" His hand grew tense around the hilt of his sword. "No; let us play Iago rather than Tarquinius; let ambition, rather than love, strike the key-note. Greed was not born to wait. As yet I have robbed no man save at cards; and as every noble cheats when he can, I can do no less. Neither have I struck a man in the back. And I like not this night's business."
On the cold and silent night came ten solemn strokes from the clock of St.-Germain l'Auxerrois. Then all was still again. The man came from behind the curtain, his naked sword flashing evilly in the flickering light. He took up the candle and walked coolly down the wide corridor. The sureness of his step could have originated only in the perfect knowledge of the topography of the hotel. He paused before a door, his ear to the keyhole.
"She sleeps! . . . and the wolf prowls without the door!" He mused over the wayward path by which he had come into the presence of this woman, who slept tranquilly beyond these panels of oak. He felt a glow on his cheeks, a quickening of his pulse. To what lengths would he not go for her sake? Sure of winning her love, yes, he would become great, rise purified from the slough of loose living. He had never killed a man dishonorably; he had won his duels by strength and dexterity alone. He had never taken an advantage of a weakling; for many a man had insulted him and still walked the earth, suffering only the slight inconvenience of a bandaged arm or a tender cheek, and a fortnight or so in bed. Conde had once said of him that there was not a more courageous man in France; but he could not escape recalling Conde's afterthought: that drink and reckless temper had kept him where he was. There was in him a vein of madness which often burst forth in a blind fury. It had come upon him in battle, and he had awakened many a time to learn that he had been the hero of an exploit. He was not a boaster; he was not a broken soldier. He was a man whose violent temper had strewn his path with failures. . . . In love! Silently he mocked himself. In love, he, the tried veteran, of a hundred inconstancies! He smiled grimly beneath his mask. He passed on, stealthily, till he reached a door guarded by two effigies of Francis I. His sword accidentally touched the metal, and the soft clang tingled every nerve in his body. He waited. Far away a horse was galloping over the pavement. He tried the door, and it gave way to his pressure. He stood in the library of the master of the hotel. In this very room, while his brain was filled with the fumes of wine and passion, he had scribbled his name upon crackling parchment on which were such names as Gaston d'Orleans, Conde, Beaufort, De Longueville, De Retz. Fool!
Grinning from the high shelves were the Greek masks, Comedy and Tragedy. The light from the candle gave a sickly human tint to the marble. He closed the door.
"Now for the drawer which holds my head; of love, anon!"
He knelt, placing the candle on the book-ledge. Along the bottom of the shelves ran a series of drawers. These he opened without sound, searching for secret bottoms. Drawer after drawer yawned into his face, and his heart sank. What he sought was not to be found. The last drawer would not open. With infinite care and toil he succeeded in prying the lock with the point of his sword, and his spirits rose. The papers in this drawer were of no use to any one but the owner. The man in the grey cloak cursed under his breath and a thrill of rage ran through him. He was about to give up in despair when he saw a small knob protruding from the back panel of the drawer. Eagerly he touched the knob, and a little drawer slid forth.
"Mine!" With trembling fingers he unfolded the parchment. He held it close to the candle and scanned each signature. There was his own, somewhat shaky, but nevertheless his own. . . . He brushed his eyes, as if cobwebs of doubt had suddenly gathered there. Her signature! Hers! "Roses of Venus, she is mine, mine!" He pressed his lips to the inken line. Fortune indeed favored him . . . or was it the devil? Hers! She was his; here was a sword to bend that proud neck. Ten thousand livres? There was more than that, more than that by a hundred times. Passion first, or avarice; love or greed? He would decide that question later. He slipped the paper into the pocket of the cloak. Curiosity drew him toward the drawer again. There was an old commission in the musketeers, signed by Louis XIII; letters from Madame de Longueville; an unsigned lettre-de-cachet; an accounting of the revenues of the various chateaus; and a long envelope, yellow with age. He picked it out of the drawer and blew away the dust. He read the almost faded address, and his jaw fell. . . . "To Monsieur le Marquis de Perigny, to be delivered into his hands at my death."
He was not conscious how long a time he stared at that address. Age had unsealed the envelope, and the man in the grey cloak drew out the contents. It was in Latin, and with some difficulty he translated it. . . . So rapt was he over what he read, so nearly in a dream he knelt there, that neither the sound of a horse entering the court nor the stir of activity in the armory held forth a menace.
"Good God, what a revenge!" he murmured. "What a revenge!"
Twice, three times, and yet again he drank of the secret. That he of all men should make this discovery! His danger became as nothing; he forgot even the object of his thieving visit.
"Well, Monsieur?" said a cold, dry voice from the threshold.
The man in the grey cloak leaped to his feet, thrusting the letter into the pocket along with the cabal. His long rapier snarled from its scabbard, just in time. The two blades hung in mid air.
"Nicely caught," said the cold, dry voice again. "What have you to say? It is hanging, Monsieur, hanging by the neck." The speaker was a man of sixty, white of hair, but wiry and active. "Ha! in a mask, eh? That looks bad for you. You are not a common thief, then? . . . That was a good stroke, but not quite high enough. Well?"
"Stand aside, Monsieur le Comte," said the man in the cloak. His tones were steady; all his fright was gone.
The steel slithered and ground.
"You know me, eh?" said the old man, banteringly. His blade ripped a hole in the cloak. "You have a voice that sounds strangely familiar to my ears."
"Your ears will soon be dull and cold, if you do not let me pass."
"Was it gold, or jewels? . . . Jesus!" The old man's gaze, roving a hair's breadth, saw the yawning drawers. "That paper, Monsieur, or you shall never leave this place alive! Hallo! Help, men! To me, Gregoire! Help, Captain!"
"Madame shall become a widow," said the man in the mask.
Back he pressed the old man, back, back, into the corridor, toward the stairs. They could scarce see each other, and it was by instinct alone that thrust was met by parry. Up the rear staircase came a dozen mercenaries, bearing torches. The glare smote the master in the eyes, and partly dazzled him. He fought valiantly, but he was forced to give way. A chance thrust, however, severed the cords of his opponent's mask.
There was a gurgling sound, a coughing, and the elder sank to his knees, rolled upon his side, and became still. The man in the grey cloak, holding the mask to his face, rushed down the grand staircase, sweeping aside all those who barred his path. He seemed possessed with strength and courage Homeric; odds were nothing. With a back hand-swing of his arm he broke one head; he smashed a face with the pommel; caught another by the throat and flung him headlong. In a moment he was out of the door. Down the steps he dashed, through the gate, thence into the street, a mob yelling at his heels. The light from the torches splashed him. A sharp gust of wind nearly tore the mask from his fingers. As he caught it, he ran full into a priest.
"Out of the way, then, curse you!"
Before the astonished priest, who was a young man, could rise from the pavement where the impact had sent him sprawling, the assailant had disappeared in the alley. He gained the door of the low tavern, flung it open, pushed by every one, upsetting several, all the while the bloody rapier in one hand and the mask held in place by the other. The astonished inmates of the tavern saw him leap like a huge bird and vanish through one of the windows, carrying the sash with him. But a nail caught the grey cloak, and it fluttered back to the floor. Scarce a moment had passed when the pursuers crowded in. When questioned, the stupefied host could only point toward the splintered window frame. Through this the men scrambled, and presently their yells died away in the distance.
A young man of ruddy countenance, his body clothed in the garments of a gentleman's lackey, stooped and gathered up the cloak.
"Holy Virgin!" he murmured, his eyes bulging, "there can not be two cloaks like this in Paris; it's the very same."
He crushed it under his arm and in the general confusion gained the alley, took to his legs, and became a moving black shadow in the grey. He made off toward the Seine.
Meanwhile terror stalked in the corridors of the hotel. Lights flashed from window to window. The court was full of servants and mercenaries. For the master lay dead in the corridor above. A beautiful young woman, dressed in her night-robes, her feet in slippers, hair disordered and her eyes fixed with horror, gazed down at the lifeless shape. The stupor of sleep still held her in its dulling grasp. She could not fully comprehend the tragedy. Her ladies wailed about her, but she heeded them not. It was only when the captain of the military household approached her that she became fully aroused. She pressed her hand against her madly beating heart.
"Who did this?" she asked.
"A man in a mask, Madame," replied the captain, kneeling. He gently loosed the sword from the stiffening fingers. The master of twenty-five years was gone.
"In a mask?"
"And the motive ?"
"Not robbery, since nothing is disturbed about the hotel save in monsieur's library. The drawers have all been pulled out."
With a sharp cry she crossed the corridor and entered the library. The open drawers spoke dumbly but surely.
"Gone!" she whispered. "We are all lost! He was fortunate in dying." Terror and fright vanished from her face and her eyes, leaving the one impassive and the other cold. She returned to the body and the look she cast on it was without pity or regret. Alive, she had detested him; dead, she could gaze on him with indifference. He had died, leaving her the legacy of the headsman's ax. And his play-woman? would she weep or laugh? . . . She was free. It came quickly and penetrated like a dry wine: she was free. Four odious years might easily be forgiven if not forgotten. "Take him to his room," she said softly. After all, he had died gallantly.
Soon one of the pursuers returned. He was led into the presence of his mistress.
"Have they found him?"
"No, Madame. He disappeared as completely as if the ground had swallowed him. All that can be added is that he wore a grey cloak."
"A grey cloak, did you say?" Her hand flew to her throat and her eyes grew wild again. "A grey cloak?"
"Yes Madame; a grey cloak with a square velvet collar."
"Ah!" said the captain, with a singular smile. He glanced obliquely at madame. But madame lurched forward into the arms of one of her waiting-women. She had fainted.
THE TOILET OF THE CHEVALIER DU CEVENNES
The Chevalier du Cevennes occupied the apartment on the first floor of the Hotel of the Silver Candlestick, in the Rue Guenegaud. The apartment consisted of three rooms. In all Paris there was not to be found the like of them. They were not only elegant, they were simple; for true elegance is always closely allied to simplicity. Persian rugs covered the floors, rugs upon which many a true believer had knelt in evening prayer; Moorish tapestries hung from the walls, making a fine and mellow background for the various pieces of ancient and modern armor; here and there were Greek marbles and Italian vases; and several spirited paintings filled the gaps left between one tapestry and another. Sometimes the Chevalier entertained his noble friends, young and old, in these rooms; and the famous kitchens of Madame Boisjoli, the landlady of the Candlestick, supplied the delicacies of his tables. Ordinarily the Chevalier dined in the cheery assembly-room below; for, like all true gourmands of refinement, he believed that there is as much appetite in a man's ears and eyes as in his stomach, and to feed the latter properly there must be light, a coming and going of old and new faces, the rumor of voices, the jest, and the snatch of song.
At this moment the Chevalier was taking a bath, and was splashing about in the warm water, laughing with the joyous heart of a boy. With the mild steam rose the vague perfume of violets. Brave as a Crillon though he was, fearless as a Bussy, the Chevalier was something of a fop; not the mincing, lisping fop, but one who loved physical cleanliness, who took pride in the whiteness of his skin, the clarity of his eyes. There had been summer nights in the brilliant gardens of La Place Royale when he had been pointed out as one of the handsomest youths in Paris. Ah, those summer nights, the cymbals and trumpets of les beaux mousquetaires, the display of feathers and lace, unwrought pearls and ropes of precious stones, the lisping and murmuring of silks, the variety of colors, the fair dames with their hoods, their masks, their elaborate coiffures, the crowds in the balconies! All the celebrities of court might be seen promenading the Place; and to be identified as one above many was a plume such as all Mazarin's gold could not buy.
"My faith! but this has been a day," he murmured, gazing wistfully at his ragged nails. "Till I entered this tub there was nothing but lead in my veins, nothing but marble on my bones. Look at those boots, Breton, lad; a spur gone, the soles loose, the heels cracked. And that cloak! The mud on the skirts is a week old. And that scabbard was new when I left Paris. When I came up I looked like a swashbuckler in one of Scudery's plays. I let no one see me. Indeed, I doubt if any would have recognized me. But a man can not ride from Rome to Paris, after having ridden from Paris to Rome, changing neither his clothes nor his horse, without losing some particle of his fastidiousness, and, body of Bacchus! I have lost no small particle of mine."
"Ah, Monsieur Paul," said the lackey, hiding the cast-off clothing in the closet, "I am that glad to see you safe and sound again!"
"Your own face is welcome, lad. What weather I have seen!" wringing his mustache and royal. "And Heaven forfend that another such ride falls my lot." He smiled at the ruddy heap in the fireplace.
What a ride, indeed! For nearly two weeks he had ridden over hills and mountains, through valleys and gorges, access deep and shallow streams, sometimes beneath the sun, sometimes beneath the moon or the stars, sometimes beneath the flying black canopies of midnight storms, always and ever toward Paris. He had been harried by straggling Spaniards; he had drawn his sword three times in unavoidable tavern brawls; he had been robbed of his purse; he had even pawned his signet-ring for a night's lodging: all because Mazarin had asked a question which only the pope could answer.
Paris at last!—Paris the fanciful, the illogical, the changeable, the wholly delightful Paris! He knew his Paris well, did the Chevalier. He had been absent thirty days, and on the way in from Fontainebleau, where he had spent the preceding night at the expense of his signet-ring, he had wondered what changes had taken place among the exiles and favorites during this time. What if the Grande Mademoiselle again headed that comic revolution, the Fronde, as in the old days when she climbed the walls at Orleans and assumed command against the forces of the king? What if Monsieur de Retz issued orders from the Palais Royal, using the same-pen with which Mazarin had demanded his resignation as Archbishop of Paris? In fact, what if Madame de Longueville, aided by the middle class, had once more taken up quarters in the Hotel de Ville? Oh! so many things happened in Paris in thirty days that the Chevalier would not have been surprised to learn that the boy Louis had declared to govern his kingdom without the assistance of ministers, priests, and old women. Ah, that Fronde! Those had been gallant days, laughable, it is true; but every one seemed to be able to pluck a feather from the golden goose of fortune. He was eighteen then, and had followed the royal exodus to Germain.
The Chevalier sighed as he continued to absorb the genial heat of the water. The captain at the Porte Saint Antoine had told him that the Grande Mademoiselle was still in exile at Blois, writing lampoons against the court and particularly against Mazarin; that De Retz was biting his nails, full of rage and impotence against those fetters which banishment casts around men of action; that Madame de Longueville was conducting a love-intrigue in Normandy; and that Louis had to borrow or beg his pocket-money. Strange as it seemed to the Chevalier, Paris was unchanged.
But what warmed the Chevalier's heart, even as the water warmed his body, was the thought of that adorable mystery, that tantalizing, haunting mystery, the woman unknown. This very room was made precious by the fact that its air had once embraced her with a familiarity such as he had never dared assume. What a night that had been! She had come, masked; she had dined; at his protestations of love she had laughed, as one laughs who hears a droll story; and in the attempt to put his arm around her waist, the cold light flashing from her half-hidden eyes had stilled and abashed him. Why did she hold him, yet repel? What was her object? Was she some princess who had been hidden away during her girlhood, to appear only when the bud opened into womanhood, rich, glorious, and warm? Like a sunbeam, like a shadow, she flitted through the corridors and galleries of the Louvre and the Palais Royal, and whenever he had sought to point her out to some one, to discover her name, lo, she was gone! Tormenting mystery! Ah, that soft lisp of hers, those enchanting caprices, those amazing extravagances of fancy, that wit which possessed the sparkle of white chambertin! He would never forget that summer night when, dressed as a boy, she had gone with him swashbuckling along the quays. And for all these meetings, for all her supplicating or imperious notes, what had been his reward? To kiss her hand when she came, to kiss her hand when she went, and all the while her lips burned like a cardinal poppy and her eyes lured like those phantom lakes of the desert. True, he had often kissed her perfumed tresses without her knowledge; but what was that? Why had he never taken by force that which entreaty did not win? Love. Man never uses force where he loves. When would the day come when the hedge of mystery inclosing her would be leveled? "Love you, Monsieur?" she had said. "Ah, well, in a way!"
The Chevalier smiled. Yes, it was fine to be young, and rich, and in love. He recalled their first meeting. He had been placed on guard at the entrance to the grand gallery at the Palais Royal, where Mazarin was giving a mask. Presently a slender, elegant youth in the garb of a grey musketeer approached.
"Your name, Monsieur, if you please," he said, scanning the list of invited guests.
"I am one of those who pass without the interrogatory." The voice was hoarse, affectedly so; and this roused the Chevalier's suspicions.
"I can not believe that," he laughed, "since Monsieur le Duc, his Majesty's brother, was good enough to permit me to question him." He leaned against the wall, smiling and twisting his mustache. What a charming musketeer!
"What!" haughtily, "you parley with me?" A gauntleted hand flew to a jeweled hilt.
"Monsieur will not be so rude?" mockingly.
"Monsieur!" with a stamp of the foot—a charming foot.
"Monsieur!" he mimicked, also stamping a foot which, though shapely, was scarce charming.
Then through the curtain of the mask there came a low, rollicking laugh. The hand fell away from the sword-hilt, and a grey gauntlet slipped to the floor, discovering a hand as dazzling white and begemmed as that on which Anne of Austria prided herself.
"Death of my life!" said a voice as soft and musical as the vibration of a bell, "you make an admirable Cerberus. My gauntlet." The sweep of the hand fascinated him. "Are your ears like the sailors' of Ulysses, filled with wax? I am asking you to pick up my gauntlet."
As he stooped to obey the command, a laugh sounded behind him, and he knew that he had been tricked. The little musketeer had vanished. For a moment he was disturbed. In vain he searched the gauntlet for some distinguishing sign. But as reason told him that no harm could possibly come from the prank, his fears subsided, and he laughed. On being relieved from duty, later, he sought her, to return the gauntlet. She was talking to Mademoiselle de Longueville. As she saw the Chevalier, she moved away. The Chevalier, determined on seeing the adventure to its end, followed her deliberately. She sat in a window-seat. Without ceremony he sat down beside her.
"Monsieur," he said, smiling, and he was very handsome when he smiled, "permit me to return this gauntlet."
She folded her arms, and this movement of her shoulders told him that she was laughing silently.
"Are you madame or mademoiselle?" he asked, eagerly.
She raised her mask for an instant, and his subjugation was complete. The conversation which ensued was so piquant and charming that thereafter whatever warmth the gauntlet knew was gathered not from her hand but from the Chevalier's heart.
The growing chill in the water brought the Chevalier out of his reverie. He leaped from the tub and shone rosily in the firelight, as elegantly proportioned a youth as ever was that fabulous Leander of the Hellespont.
"Bring me those towels I purchased from the wandering Persian. I regret that I did not have them blessed by his Holiness. For who knows what spell the heretic Saracen may have cast over them?"
"Monsieur knows," said Breton piously, "that I have had them sprinkled with the blessed water."
The Chevalier laughed. He was rather a godless youth, and whatever religion he possessed was merely observance of forms. "Donkey, if the devil himself had offered them for sale, I should have taken them, for they pleased me; and besides, they have created a fashion. I shall wear my new baldric—the red one. I report at the Palais Royal at eight, and I've an empty stomach to attend to. Be lively, lad. Duty, duty, always duty," snatching the towels. "I have been in the saddle since morning; I am still dead with stiffness; yet duty calls. Bah! I had rather be fighting the Spaniard with Turenne than idle away at the Louvre. Never any fighting save in pothouses; nothing but ride, ride, ride, here, there, everywhere, bearing despatches not worth the paper written on, but worth a man's head if he lose them. And what about? Is this person ill? Condolences. Is this person a father? Congratulations. Monsieur, the king's uncle, is ailing; I romp to Blois. A cabal is being formed in Brussels; I gallop away. His Eminence hears of a new rouge; off I go. And here I have been to Rome and back with a message which made the pope laugh; is it true that he is about to appoint a successor? Mazarin, tiring of being a left-handed king, aspires to the mantle of Saint Peter. Mazarin always selects me for petty service. Why? Oh, Monsieur le Chevalier, having an income, need not be paid moneys; because Monsieur le Chevalier was born in the saddle, his father is an eagle, his grandsire was a centaur. And don't forget the grey cloak, lad, the apple of my eye, the admiration of the ladies, and the confusion of mine enemies; my own particular grey cloak." By this time the Chevalier was getting into his clothes; fine cambrics, silk hose, velvet pantaloons, grey doublet, and shoes with buckles and red heels.
"But the grey cloak, Monsieur Paul . . ." began the lackey.
"What! you have dared to soil it?"
"No, Monsieur; but you have forgotten that you loaned it to Monsieur de Saumaise, prior to your departure to Italy. He has not returned it."
"That's not like Victor. And I had dreamed of wearing that cloak. Mademoiselle complimented me on it, and that fop De Montausier asked me how many pistoles I paid for it."
"The purple cloak is new, Monsieur. It is fully as handsome as the grey one. All it lacks is the square collar you invented."
"Ah well, since there is no grey cloak. Now the gossip. First of all, my debts and debtors."
"Monsieur de Saumaise," said Breton, "has remitted the ten louis he lost to you at tennis."
"There's a friend; ruined himself to do it. Poetry and improvidence; how they cling together!"
"Brisemont, the jeweler, says that the garters you ordered will come to one hundred and ten pistoles. But he wants to know what the central gem shall be, rubies or sapphires surrounding."
"Topaz for the central gem, rubies and diamonds for the rest. The clasps must match topaz eyes. And they must be done by Monday."
"Monsieur's eyes are grey," the lackey observed slyly.
"Rascal, you are asking a question!"
"No, Monsieur, I was simply stating a fact. Plutarch says . . ."
"Plutarch? What next?" in astonishment.
"I have just bought a copy of Amyot's translation with the money you gave me. Plutarch is fine, Monsieur."
"What shall a gentleman do when his lackey starts to quote Plutarch?" with mock helplessness. "Well, lad, read Plutarch and profit. But keep your grimy hands off my Rabelais, or I'll trounce you."
Breton flushed guiltily. If there was one thing he enjoyed more than another it was the adventures of the worthy Pantagruel and his resourceful esquire; but he had never been able to complete this record of extravagant exploits, partly because he could not read fast enough and partly because his master kept finding new hiding places for it.
"A messenger from De Guitaut," he said, "called this morning for you."
"For me? That is strange. The captain knew that I could not arrive before to-night, which is the twentieth."
"I told the officer that. He laughed curiously and said that he expected to find you absent."
"What the devil did he call for, then?"
Breton made a grimace which explained his inability to answer this question.
The Chevalier stood still and twisted his mustache till the ends were like needle-points. "Horns of Panurge! as Victor would say; is it possible for any man save Homer to be in two places at once? Possibly I am to race for some other end of France. I like it not. Mazarin thinks because I am in her Majesty's Guards that I belong to him. Plague take him, I say."
He snapped the buckles on his shoes, while Breton drew from its worn scabbard the Chevalier's campaign rapier, long and flexile, dreaded by many and respected by all, and thrust it into the new scabbard,
"Ah, Monsieur," said Breton, stirred by that philosophy which, one gathers from a first reading of Plutarch, "a man is a deal like a sword. If he be good and true, it matters not into what kind of scabbard he is thrust."
"Aye, lad; but how much more confidence a handsome scabbard gives a man! Even a sword, dressed well, attracts the eye; and, heart of mine, what other aim have we poor mortals than to attract?"
"Madame Boisjoli makes out her charges at twelve louis, including the keep of the horses."
"That is reasonable, considering my absence. Mignon is an excellent woman."
"The Vicomte d'Halluys did not come as he promised with the eight hundred pistoles he lost to you at vingt-et-un."
"Ah!" The Chevalier studied the pattern in the rug. "Eh, well, since I had no pistoles, I have lost none. I was deep in wine, and so was he; doubtless he has forgotten. The sight of me will recall his delinquency."
"That is all of the debts and credits, Monsieur."
"The gossip, then, while I trim my nails. Paris can not have stood still like the sun of Joshua's time, simply because I was not here."
"Beaufort has made up with Madame de Montbazon."
"Even old loves can become new loves. Go on."
Breton recounted the other important court news, while the Chevalier nodded, or frowned, as the news affected him.
"Mademoiselle Catharine . . ."
"Has that woman been here again?"
"You attended her down the stairs?"
"I did, but she behaved coarsely and threatened not to cease coming until you had established her in the millinery."
The Chevalier roared with laughter. "And all I did was to kiss the lass and compliment her cheeks. There's a warning for you, lad."
Breton looked aggrieved. His master's gallantries never ceased to cause him secret unrest.
"Yesterday your quarterly remittance from Monsieur le Marquis, your father, arrived."
"Was there a letter?" with subdued eagerness.
"There was nothing but the gold, Monsieur," answered Breton, his eyes lowered. How many times during the past four years had his master asked this question, always to receive the same answer?
The Chevalier's shoulders drooped. "Who brought it?"
"Jehan," said the lackey.
"Had he anything to say?"
"Very little. Monsieur le Marquis has closed the chateau in Perigny and is living at the hotel in Rochelle."
"He mentions my name?"
The Chevalier crossed the room and stood by one of the windows. It was snowing ever so lightly. The snow-clouds, separating at times as they rushed over the night, discovered the starry bowl of heaven. Some noble lady's carriage passed surrounded by flaring torches. But the young man saw none of these things. A sense of incompleteness had taken hold of him. The heir to a marquisate, the possessor of an income of forty thousand livres the year, endowed with health and physical beauty, and yet there was a flaw which marred the whole. It was true that he was light-hearted, always and ever ready for a rout, whether with women or with men, whether with wine or with dice; but under all this brave show there was a canker which ate with subtile slowness, but surely. To be disillusioned at the age of sixteen by one's own father! To be given gold and duplicate keys to the wine-cellars! To be eye-witness of Roman knights over which this father had presided like a Tiberius!
The Duchesse de Montbazon had been in her youth a fancy of the marquis, his father. Was it not a fine stroke of irony to decide that this son of his should marry the obscure daughter of madame?—the daughter about whom very few had ever heard? Without the Chevalier's sanction, miniatures had been exchanged. When the marquis presented him with that of Mademoiselle de Montbazon, together with his desires, he had ground the one under foot without glancing at it, and had laughed at the other as preposterous. Since that night the marquis had ceased to recall his name. The Chevalier's mother had died at his birth; thus, he knew neither maternal nor paternal love; and a man must love something which is common with his blood. Even now he would have gone half-way, had his father's love come to meet him. But no; Monsieur le Marquis loved only his famous wines, his stories, and his souvenirs. Bah! this daughter had been easily consoled. The Comte de Brissac was fully sixty. The Chevalier squared his shoulders and shifted his baldric.
With forced gaiety he turned to his lackey. "Lad, let us love only ourselves. Self-love is always true to us. We will spend our gold and play the butterfly while the summer lasts. It will be cold soon, and then . . . pouf! To-morrow you will take the gold and balance my accounts."
"Yes, Monsieur. Will Monsieur permit a familiarity by recalling a forbidden subject?"
"Monsieur le Comte de Brissac died last night," solemnly.
"What! of old age?" ironically.
"Of steel. A gallant was entering by a window, presumably to entertain madame, who is said to be young and as beautiful as her mother was. Monsieur le Comte appeared upon the scene; but his guard was weak. He was run through the neck. The gallant wore a mask. That is all I know of the scandal."
"Happy the star which guided me from the pitfall of wedded life! What an escape! I must inform Monsieur le Marquis. He will certainly relish this bit of scandal which all but happened at his own fireside. Certainly I shall inform him. It will be like caviar to the appetite. I shall dine before the effect wears off." The Chevalier put on his hat and cloak, and took a final look in the Venetian mirror. "Don't wait for me, lad; I shall be late. Perhaps to-night I shall learn her name."
Breton smiled discreetly as his master left the room. Between a Catharine of the millinery and a mysterious lady of fashion there was no inconsiderable difference.
THE MUTILATED HAND
"Monsieur Paul?" cried the handsome widow of Monsieur Boisjoli, stepping from behind the pastry counter.
"Yes, Mignon, it is I," said the Chevalier; "that is, what remains of me."
"What happiness to see you again!" she exclaimed. She turned to a waiter. "Charlot, bring Monsieur le Chevalier the pheasant pie, the ragout of hare, and a bottle of chambertin from the bin of '36."
"Sorceress!" laughed the Chevalier; "you have sounded the very soul of me. Thanks, Mignon, thanks! Next to love, what is more to a man than a full stomach? Ah, you should have seen me when I came in! And devil take this nose of mine; not even steam and water have thawed the frost from it." He chucked her under the chin and smiled comically, all of which made manifest that the relations existing between the hostess of the Candlestick and her principal tenant were of the most cordial and Platonic character.
"And you have just returned from Rome? Ah, what a terrible ride!"
"And I see you hungry!" She sighed, and her black eyes grew moist and tender. Madame Boisjoli was only thirty-two. She was young.
"But alive, Mignon, alive; don't forget that."
"You have had adventures?" eagerly; for she was a woman who loved the recital of exploits. Monsieur Boisjoli had fallen as a soldier at Charenton.
"Adventures? Oh, as they go," slapping his rapier and his pockets which had recently been very empty.
"You have been wounded?"
"Only in the pockets, dear, and in the tender quick of comfort. And will you have Charlot hasten that pie? I can smell it from afar, and my mouth waters."
"This moment, Monsieur;" and she flew away to the kitchens.
The Chevalier took this temporary absence as an opportunity to look about him. Only one table was occupied. This occupant was a priest who was gravely dining off black bread and milk served in a wooden bowl. But for the extreme pallor of his skin, which doubtless had its origin in the constant mortification of the flesh, he would have been a singularly handsome man. His features were elegantly designed, but it was evident that melancholy had recast them in a serious mold. His face was clean-shaven, and his hair clipped, close to the skull. There was something eminently noble in the loftiness of the forehead, and at the same time there was something subtly cruel in the turn of the nether lip, as though the spirit and the flesh were constantly at war. He was young, possibly not older than the Chevalier, who was thirty.
The priest, as if feeling the Chevalier's scrutiny, raised his eyes. As their glances met, casually in the way of gratifying a natural curiosity, both men experienced a mental disturbance which was at once strange and annoying. Those large, penetrating grey eyes; each seemed to be looking into his own as in a mirror.
The Chevalier was first to disembarrass himself. "A tolerably shrewd night, Monsieur," he said with a friendly gesture.
"It is the frost in the air, my son," the priest responded in a mellow barytone. "May Saint Ignatius listen kindly to the poor. Ah, this gulf you call Paris, I like it not."
"You are but recently arrived?" asked the Chevalier politely.
"I came two days ago. I leave for Rouen this night."
"What! you travel at night, and leave a cheery tavern like this?" All at once the crinkle of a chill ran across the Chevalier's shoulders. The thumb, the forefinger and the second of the priest's left hand were twisted, reddened stumps.
"Yes, at night; and the wind will be rough, beyond the hills. But I have suffered worse discomforts;" and to this statement the priest added a sour smile. He had seen the shudder. He dropped the maimed hand below the level of the table.
"You ride, however?" suggested the Chevalier.
"A Spanish mule, the gift of Father Vincent."
"Her Majesty's confessor?"
"You are a Jesuit?"
"I have the happiness to serve God in that order. I have just presented my respects to her Majesty and Cardinal Mazarin. I am come from America, my son, to see his Eminence in regard to the raising of funds for some new missions we have in mind; but I have been indifferently successful, due possibly to my lack of eloquence and to the fact that my superior, Father Chaumonot, was unable to accompany me to Paris. I shall meet him in Rouen."
"And so you are from that country of which I have heard so much of late—that France across the sea?" The Chevalier's tones expressed genuine interest. He could now account for the presence of the mutilated hand. Here was a man who had seen strange adventures in a strange land. "New France!" musingly.
"Yes, my son; and I am all eagerness to return."
The Chevalier laughed pleasantly. "Pardon my irrelevancy, but I confess that it excites my amusement to be called 'son' by one who can not be older than myself."
"It is a habit I acquired with the savages. And yet, I have known men of fifty to be young," said the Jesuit, his brows sinking. "I have known men of thirty to be old. Youth never leaves us till we have suffered. I am old, very old." He was addressing some inner thought rather than the Chevalier.
"Well, I am thirty, myself," said the Chevalier with assumed lightness. "I am neither young nor old. I stand on the threshold. I can not say that I have suffered since I have known only physical discomforts. But to call me 'son' . . ."
"Well, then," replied the priest, smiling, "since the disparity in years is so small as to destroy the dignity of the term, I shall call you my brother. All men are brothers; it is the Word."
"That is true." How familiar this priest's eyes were! "But some are rich and some are poor; beggars and thieves and cutthroats; nobly and basely born."
The Jesuit gazed thoughtfully into his bowl. "Yes, some are nobly and some are basely born. I have often contemplated what a terrible thing it must be to possess a delicate, sensitive soul and a body disowned; to long for the glories of the world from behind the bar sinister, an object of scorn, contumely and forgetfulness; to be cut away from the love of women and the affection of men, the two strongest of human ties; to dream what might and should have been; to be proved guilty of a crime we did not commit; to be laughed at, to beg futilely, always subject to that mental conflict between love and hate, charity and envy. Yes; I can think of nothing which stabs so deeply as the finger of ridicule, unmerited. I am not referring to the children of kings, but to the forgotten by the lesser nobility."
His voice had risen steadily, losing its music but gaining a thrilling intenseness. Strange words for a priest, thought the Chevalier, who had spoken with irony aforethought. Glories of the world, the love of women; did not all priests forswear these? Perhaps his eyes expressed his thought, for he noted a faint color on the priest's checks.
"I am speaking as a moral physician, Monsieur," continued the priest, his composure recovered; "one who seeks to observe all spiritual diseases in order to apply a remedy."
"And is there a remedy for a case such as you have described?" asked the Chevalier, half mockingly.
"Yes; God gives us a remedy even for such an ill."
"And what might the remedy be?"
"What is your religious name, Monsieur?" asked the Chevalier, strangely subdued.
"I am Father Jacques, protege of the kindly Chaumonot. But I am known to my brothers and friends as Brother Jacques. And you, Monsieur, are doubtless connected with the court."
"Yes. I am known as the Chevalier du Cevennes, under De Guitaut, in her Majesty's Guards."
"Cevennes?" the priest repeated, ruminating. "Why, that is the name of a mountain range in the South."
"So it is. I was born in that region, and it pleased me to bear Cevennes as a name of war. I possess a title, but I do not assume it; I simply draw its revenues." The Chevalier scowled at his buckles, as if some disagreeable thought had come to him.
The priest remarked the change in the soldier's voice; it had grown harsh and repellent. "Monsieur, I proceed from Rouen to Rochelle; are you familiar with that city?"
"Rochelle? Oh, indifferently."
The Jesuit plucked at his lips for a space, as if hesitant to break the silence. "Have you ever heard of the Marquis de Perigny?"
The Chevalier whirled about. "The Marquis de Perigny? Ah, yes; I have heard of that gentleman. Why do you ask?"
"It is said that while he is a bad Catholic, he is generous in his charities. Father Chaumonot and I intend to apply to him for assistance. Mazarin has not been very liberal. Ah, how little they dream of the length and breadth and riches of this France across the sea! Monsieur le Marquis is rich?"
"Rich; but a bad Catholic truly." The Chevalier laughed without merriment. "The marquis and charity? Why not oil and water? They mix equally well."
"You do not seem quite friendly toward the Marquis?" suggested Brother Jacques.
"No; I am not particularly fond of Monsieur le Marquis," patting the pommel of his sword.
"Monsieur le Marquis has wronged you?" asked the priest, a fire leaping into his eyes.
"It is a private affair, Monsieur," coldly.
"Pardon me!" Brother Jacques made a gesture of humility. He rolled the bread crumbs into a ball which he dropped into the bowl. Presently he pushed aside the bowl and rose, his long black cassock falling to his ankles. He drew his rosary through his belt and put on his shovel-shaped hat.
Again the Chevalier's attention was drawn toward the mutilated hand.
"The pastimes of savages, Monsieur," Brother Jacques said grimly, holding out his hand for inspection: "the torture of the pipe, which I stood but poorly. Well, my brother, I am outward bound, and Rouen is far away. The night is beautiful, for the wind will drive away the snow-clouds and the stars will shine brightly. Peace be with you."
"I wish you well, Monsieur," returned the Chevalier politely.
Then Brother Jacques left the Candlestick, mounted his mule, and rode away, caring as little as the Chevalier whether or not their paths should cross again.
"Monsieur le Marquis!" murmured the Chevalier, staring at the empty bowl. "So the marquis, my father, gives to the Church? That is droll. Now, why does the marquis give to the Church? He has me there. Bah! and this priest's eyes. Ah!" as he saw Madame Boisjoli returning, followed by Charlot who carried the smoking supper; "here is something that promises well."
"Brother Jacques is gone?" said madame, her eyes roving.
"Yes." The Chevalier sat down at a table.
"Monsieur Paul?" timidly.
"Well, Mignon?" smiling. Mignon was certainly good to look at.
"Did you notice Brother Jacques's eyes?"
"Do you mean to say that you, too, observed them?" with a shade of annoyance. Vanity compelled him to resent this absurd likeness.
"Immediately. It was so strange. And what a handsome priest!" slyly.
"Shall I call him back, Mignon?" laughing.
Madame exhibited a rounded shoulder.
"Bah with them all, Mignon, priests, cardinals, and journeys." And half an hour later, having demolished all madame had set before him, besides sharing the excellent chambertin, the Chevalier felt the man made whole again. The warmth of the wine turned the edge of his sterner thoughts; and at ten minutes to eight he went forth, a brave and gallant man, handsome and gaily attired, his eyes glowing with anticipating love, blissfully unconscious of the extraordinary things which were to fall to his lot from this night onward.
The distance from the Candlestick was too short for the need of a horse, so the Chevalier walked, lightly humming an old chanson of the reign of Louis XIII, among whose royal pastimes was that of shaving his courtiers:
"Alas, my poor barber, What is it makes you sad?" "It is the grand king Louis, Thirteenth of that name."
He swung into the Rue Dauphin and mounted the Pont Neuf, glancing idly below at the ferrymen whose torches threw on the black bosom of the Seine long wavering threads of phantom fire. The snow-clouds had passed over, and the stars were shining; the wind was falling. The quays were white; the Louvre seemed but a vast pile of ghostly stones. The hands of the clock in the quaint water-tower La Samaritaine pointed at five to eight. Oddly enough there came to the Chevalier a transitory picture of a young Jesuit priest, winding through the bleak hills on the way to Rouen. The glories of the world, the love of women? What romance lay smoldering beneath that black cassock? What secret grief? What sin? Brother Jacques? The name signified nothing. Like all courtiers of his time, the Chevalier entertained the belief that when a handsome youth took the orders it was in the effort to bury some grief rather than to assist in the alleviation of the sorrows of mankind.
He walked on, skirting the Louvre and presently entering the courtyard of the Palais Royal. The number of flambeaux, carriages and caleches indicated to him that Mazarin was giving a party. He lifted his cloak from his shoulders, shook it, and threw it over his arm, and ascended the broad staircase, his heart beating swiftly. Would he see her? Would she be in the gallery? Would this night dispel the mystery? At the first landing he ran almost into Captain de Guitaut, who was descending.
"Cevennes?" cried the captain, frankly astounded.
"And freshly from Rome, my Captain. His Eminence is giving a party?"
"Are you weary of life, Monsieur?" asked the captain. "What are you doing here? I had supposed you to be a man of sense, and on the way to Spain. And my word of honor, you stick your head down the lion's mouth! Follow your nose, follow your nose; it is none of my affair." And the gruff old captain passed on down the stairs.
The Chevalier stared after him in bewilderment. Spain? . . . Weary of life? What had happened?
"Monsieur du Cevennes?" cried a thin voice at his elbow.
The Chevalier turned and beheld Bernouin, the cardinal's valet.
"Ah!" said the Chevalier. Here was a man to explain the captain's riddle. "Will you announce to his Eminence that I have returned from Rome, and also explain why you are looking at me with such bulging eyes? Am I a ghost?" The Chevalier, being rich, was one of the few who were never overawed by the grandeur of Mazarin's valet. "What is the matter?"
"Matter?" repeated the valet. "Matter? Nothing, Monsieur, nothing!" quickly. "I will this instant announce your return to monseigneur."
"One would think that I had been trying to run away," mused the Chevalier, following the valet.
Meanwhile a lackey dressed in no particular livery entered the Hotel of the Silver Candlestick and inquired for Monsieur Breton, lackey to Monsieur le Chevalier du Cevennes. He was directed to the floor above. On hearing a knock, Breton hastily closed the book he was reading and went to the door. The hallway was so dark that he could distinguish no feature of his caller.
"Monsieur Breton?" the strange lackey inquired,
"Are you seeking me?" Breton asked diplomatically.
"I was directed to deliver this to you. It is for your master," and the stranger placed a bundle in Breton's hands. Immediately he turned and disappeared down the stairs. Evidently he desired not to be questioned.
Breton surveyed the bundle doubtfully, turned it this way and that. On opening it he was greatly surprised to find his master's celebrated grey cloak. He examined it. It was soiled and rent in several places. Breton hung it up in the closet, shaking his head.
"This is very irregular," he muttered. "Monsieur de Saumaise would never have returned it in this condition; besides, Hector would have been the messenger. What will Monsieur Paul say when he sees it?"
And, knowing that he had no cause to worry, and having not the slightest warning that his master's liberty was in danger, Breton reseated himself by the candles and continued his indulgence in stolen sweets; that is to say, he renewed the adventures of that remarkable offspring of Gargantua.
AN AENEAS FOR AN ACHATES
In the grand gallery of the Palais Royal stood a mahogany table, the bellying legs of which, decorated with Venetian-wrought gold, sparkled and glittered in the light of the flames that rose and fell in the gaping chimney-place. Around this table were seated four persons of note: the aging Marechal de Villeroi, Madame de Motteville of imperishable memoirs, Anne of Austria, and Cardinal Mazarin. The Italian, having won a pile of golden louis from the soldier, was smiling amiably and building yellow pyramids, forgetful for the time being of his gouty foot which dozed on a cushion under the table. This astute politician was still a handsome man, but the Fronde and the turbulent nobility had left their imprint. There were many lines wrinkling the circle of his eyes, and the brilliant color on his cheeks was the effect of rouge and fever.
The queen gazed covetously at Mazarin's winnings. She was growing fat, and the three long curls on each side of her face in no wise diminished its width; but her throat was still firm and white, and her hands, saving their plumpness, were yet the envy of many a beautiful woman. Anne of Austria was now devoted to three things; her prayers, her hands, and her plays.
As for the other two, Madame de Motteville looked hungry and politely bored, while the old marechal scowled at his cards.
Near-by, on a pile of cushions, sat Philippe d'Orleans, the king's brother. He was cutting horses from three-colored prints and was sailing them up the chimney. At the left of the fireplace, the dark locks of the girl mingling with the golden curls of the boy, both poring over a hook filled with war-like pictures, the one interested by the martial spirit native to his blood, the other by the desire to please, sat the boy Louis and Mademoiselle de Mancini, Mazarin's niece. From time to time the cardinal permitted his gaze to wander in their direction, and there was fatherly affection in his smile. Mazarin liked to call these gatherings "family parties."
The center of the gallery presented an animated scene. The beautiful Madame de Turenne, whose husband was the marechal-general of the armies of France, then engaged in war against Spain, under whose banners the great Conde was meeting with a long series of defeats, the Comtesse de Soissons, the Abbe de la Rivre, Madame de Brigy, the Duc and Duchesse de Montausier,—all were laughing and exchanging badinage with the Duc de Gramont, who was playing execrably on Mademoiselle de Longueville's guitar. Surrounding were the younger courtiers and ladies, who also were enjoying the affair. There are few things which amuse young people as much as the sight of an elderly, dignified man making a clown of himself.
"Oh, Monsieur le Duc," cried Mademoiselle de Longueville, springing from the window-seat from which position she had been staring at the flambeaux below, "if you fought as badly as you play, you would never have gained the baton."
"Mademoiselle, each has its time and place, the battle and the madrigal, Homer and Voiture, and besides, I never play when I fight;" and De Gramont continued his thrumming.
Just outside the pale of this merry circle the Duc de Beaufort leaned over the chair of Madame de Montbazon, and carried on a conversation in low tones. The duchess exhibited at intervals a fine set of teeth. In the old days when the literary salons of the Hotel de Rambouillet were at zenith, the Duchesse de Montbazon was known to be at once the handsomest and most ignorant woman in France. But none denied that she possessed a natural wit or the ability successfully to intrigue; and many were the grand sieurs who had knelt at her feet. But now, like Anne of Austria, she was devoting her time to prayers and to the preservation of what beauty remained.
"So De Brissac is dead?" said Beaufort seriously. "Ah well, we all must die. I hope he has straightened up his affairs and that his papers fall into worthy hands." The prince glanced covertly toward Mazarin. "But it was all his own fault. The idea of a man of sixty marrying a girl of seventeen, fresh from convent, and a beauty, too, they say. He deserved it."
"Beaufort, few persons deserve violent deaths," replied the duchess; and with a perceptible frown she added: "And are you aware that Madame de Brissac, of whom you speak so lightly, is my own daughter?"
Beaufort started back from the chair. "Word of honor, I had forgotten! But it was so long ago, and no one seems to have heard of her. Your daughter! Why was she never presented at court?"
"She was presented three years ago, informally. I wished it so. Monsieur, we women love to hold a surprise in reserve. When we are no longer attractive, a daughter more or less does not matter."
"Truly I had forgotten. Eh well, we can not remember everything, especially when one spends five years in Vincennes," with another furtive glance at Mazarin. "But why De Brissac? If this daughter has half the beauty you had in your youth . . ."
"Half the beauty you still possess . . ."
Madame laughed. "Take care, or it will be said that Beaufort is become a wit."
Beaufort went on serenely—"there had been many a princeling."
Madame contemplated the rosy horn on the tips of her fingers. "Monsieur le Comte was rich."
"His title was old."
"Again admitted. And all very well had he been only half as old as his title, this son-in-law of yours. Your son-in-law! It reads like one of Marguerite's tender tales. The daughter is three times younger than the husband who is old enough to be the father of his wife's mother. I must tell Scarron; he will make me laugh in retelling it."
Madame's lips formed for a spiteful utterance, but what she said was: "Prison life has aged you."
"Aged me, Madame?" reproachfully. "I grow old? Never. I have found the elixir of life."
"You will give me the recipe?" softening.
"You already possess it."
"I? Pray, explain."
"We who have the faculty of learning, without the use of books, of refusing to take life seriously, of forgetting injuries,—we never grow old. We simply die."
A third person would have enjoyed this blundering, unconscious irony which in no wise disturbed madame.
"The recipe is this," continued Beaufort: "enjoy the hours as they come; borrow not in advance, but spend the hour you have; shake the past from the shoulders like a worn-out cloak; laugh at and with your enemies; and be sure you have enemies, or life's without salt."
Madame gazed dreamily at the picture-lined walls. She smiled, recalling some happy souvenir. Presently she asked: "And who is this Chevalier du Cevennes?"
"A capital soldier, a gay fellow, rich and extravagant. I do not know him intimately, but I should like to. I knew his father well. The Marquis de Perigny was . . ."
"The Marquis de Perigny!" interrupted the duchess, half rising from her seat. "Do you mean to tell me that the Chevalier du Cevennes is the son of the Marquis de Perigny?" For a moment her mind was confused; so many recollections awoke to life at the mention of this name. "The Marquis de Perigny!"
Beaufort smiled. "Yes. Do you not recall the gay and brilliant marquis of fifteen years ago?"
Madame colored. "You said that the past should be shaken from the shoulders like a worn-out cloak."
"True. Ah, but that mad marquis!" reminiscently. "What a man he must have been in his youth! A fatalist, for I have seen him walk into the enemy's fire, laughing. Handsome? Too handsome. Courage? He was always fighting; he was a lion. How we youngsters applauded him! He told Richelieu to his face that he would be delighted to have him visit Perigny and dance the saraband before his peasant girls. He was always breaking the edicts, and but for the king he would have spent most of his time in the Bastille. He hasn't been to court in ten years."
"And is this son handsome?"
"Handsome and rich, with the valor of a Crillon. The daughter of a Montbazon would never look at a clod. . . . Monks of Touraine!" he ejaculated. "I remember now. I have seen her. Madame, I compliment you."
"Beaufort, believe me when I say that my daughter and the Chevalier du Cevennes have never met face to face. I am in a position to know. Since presentation Gabrielle has not been to court, unless it has been without my knowledge. Certainly the motive must have been robbery."
"Nothing of the sort. Nothing was missing from the Hotel de Brissac. The Chevalier is rich."
"The Chevalier? I tell you that the association is impossible. In the first place . . . It is of no matter," biting her lips. "I know."
"Ventre Saint Gris! as my grandfather used to say, there is but one grey cloak lined with purple satin, but one square velvet collar, a fashion which the Chevalier invented himself. Three persons saw and recognized the cloak. If the Chevalier returns, it is the Bastille and forgetfulness. Mazarin is becoming as strict as those pot-hat Puritans yonder in England. He might possibly overlook a duel in the open; but to enter a man's house by the window . . . What more is there to be said? And all this recalls what my father used to say. De Brissac and the Marquis de Perigny were deadly enemies. It seems that De Brissac had one love affair; Madame la Marquise while she was a Savoy princess. She loved the marquis, and he married her because De Brissac wanted her. But De Brissac evidently never had his revenge."
Madame felt that she could no longer sustain the conversation. In her own mind she was positive that her daughter and the son of her old flame had never met. A man does not fall in love with a woman after he refuses to look at her; and the Chevalier had refused to look at Gabrielle. Why? Her mind was not subtile enough to pierce the veil.
A lackey approached Beaufort.
"I was directed to give this note to your Highness." The lackey bowed profoundly and retired.
Beaufort opened the note, scanned the lines, and grew deadly pale. What he read was this: "Monsieur le Comte's private papers are missing, taken by his assailant, who entered the hotel for that purpose. Be careful." The note was unsigned.
At this moment Bernouin approached Mazarin and whispered something in his ear.
"Impossible!" cried the cardinal.
"It is true, nevertheless," replied the valet. "He is in the anteroom."
"The fellow is a fool! Does he think to brazen it out? I shall make an example of him. De Meilleraye, take my cards, and if you lose more than ten louis! . . . Ladies, an affair of state," and Mazarin rose and limped into the adjoining cabinet. "Bring him into this room," he said to the valet. He then stationed two gentlemen of the musketeers behind his chair, sat down and waited, a grimace of pain twisting his lips.
Meanwhile the Chevalier entered the gallery, following Bernouin. His face wore a puzzled, troubled expression. All this ado somewhat confused him.
"He is handsome," said Madame de Montbazon; "handsomer than ever his father was."
"He is more than handsome," said Beaufort, whose astonishment was genuine; "he is brave. What the devil brings him here into the wolf's maw?"
"His innocence. You see I was correct;" and madame's face grew placid again. So satisfied was she that she did not notice Beaufort's pallor nor the fever which burned in his brilliant eyes.
When the Chevalier was ushered into Mazarin's presence he was in great perturbation. Diane had not met him in the gallery as she had fairly promised, and the young page who had played Mercury to their intrigue stared him coolly in the face when questioned, and went about his affairs cavalierly. What did it mean? He scarce saw Mazarin or the serious faces of the musketeers. With no small effort he succeeded in finding his voice.
"Monseigneur, I have the honor to report to you the success of my mission. His Holiness directed me to give you this message." He choked; he could utter no more.
Mazarin read wrongly these signs of agitation. He took the missive and laid it aside. He drummed with his fingers, a sign that he was contemplating something disagreeable.
"Monsieur, when did you arrive?" he asked.
"At six this evening, Monseigneur," answered the Chevalier listlessly . . . He had entered Paris with joy in his heart, but now everything seemed to be going wrong.
"Take care, Monsieur," said Mazarin, lifting a warning finger. "You arrived yesterday, secretly."
"I? Why, Monseigneur, this is the twentieth of February, the evening we agreed upon. I slept last night at the Pineapple in Fontainebleau. I repeat to you, I arrived scarce two hours ago." It was now for the first time that he noted the seriousness of the faces confronting him.
"And I repeat that you arrived last night."
"Monseigneur, that is telling me that I lie!"
"Then tell the truth." Mazarin did not particularly relish the Chevalier's haughtiness. "You were in Paris last night."
"Monseigneur, I am a gentleman. While I lack many virtues, I do not lack courage and truthfulness. When I say that I slept in Fontainebleau, I say so truthfully. Your Eminence will tell me the cause of this peculiar interrogatory. There is an accusation pending." There was no fear in the Chevalier's face, but there was pride and courage and something bordering closely on contempt.
"Very well, then," replied Mazarin icily. "You were in Paris last night. You had an appointment at the Hotel de Brissac. You entered by a window. Being surprised by the aged Brissac, you killed him."
The musketeers, who knew the Chevalier's courage, exchanged glances of surprise and disbelief. As for the accused, he stepped back, horrified.
"Monseigneur, one or the other of us is mad! I pray God that it be myself; for it can not be possible that the first minister in France would accuse of such a crime a gentleman who not only possesses courage but pride."
"Weigh your words, Monsieur le Chevalier," warned the cardinal. The Chevalier's tone was not pleasing to his cardinal's ear.
"You ask me to weigh my words, Monseigneur?—to weigh my words?" with a gesture which caused the musketeers to draw closer to Mazarin, "Oh, I am calm, gentlemen; I am calm!" He threw his hat to the floor, drew his sword and tossed it beside the hat, and folding his arms he said, his voice full of sudden wrath—wrath, against the ironical turn of fortune which had changed his cup of wine into salt:—"Now, Monseigneur, I demand of you that privilege which belongs to and is inseparable from my house: the right to face my accusers."
"I warn you, Monsieur," said Mazarin, "I like not this manner you assume. There were witnesses, and trustworthy ones. Yon may rely upon that."
"Trustworthy? That is not possible. I did not know De Brissac. I have never exchanged a word with him."
"It is not advanced that you knew Monsieur le Comte. But there was madame, who, it is said, was at one time affianced to you." Mazarin was a keen physiognomist; and as he read the utter bewilderment written on the Chevalier's face, his own grew somewhat puzzled.
"Monseigneur, as our Lady is witness, I have never, to my knowledge, set eyes upon Madame de Brissac, though it is true that at one time it was my father's wish that I should wed Mademoiselle de Montbazon."
"Monsieur, when a man wears such fashionable clothes as you wear, he naturally fixes the memory, becomes conspicuous. Do not forget the grey cloak, Monsieur le Chevalier."
"The grey cloak?" The Chevalier's face brightened. "Why, Monseigneur, the grey cloak . . ." He stopped. Victor de Saumaise, his friend, his comrade in arms, Victor the gay and careless, who was without any influence save that which his cheeriness and honesty and wit gave him! Victor the poet, the fashionable Villon, with his ballade, his rondeau, his triolet, his chant-royal!—Victor, who had put his own breast before his at Lens! The Chevalier regained his composure, he saw his way clearly, and said quietly: "I have not worn my grey cloak since the king's party at Louvre. I can only repeat that I was not in Paris last night. I slept at the Pineapple at Fontainebleau. Having no money, I pawned my ring for a night's lodging. If you will send some gentleman to make inquiries, the truth of my statement will be verified." There was now no wrath in the Chevalier's voice; but there was a quality of resignation in it which struck the acute ear of the cardinal and caused him to raise his penciled brows.
"Monsieur, you are hiding something," he said quickly, even shrewdly.
"You, Monsieur. I believe that you slept in Fontainebleau. But who wore your grey cloak?"
"I can not say truthfully because I do not know."
"I do not know who wore my cloak."
"A while back you said something about truth. You are not telling it now. I will know who killed De Brissac, an honored and respected gentleman, whatever his political opinions may have been in the past. It was an encounter under questionable circumstances. The edict reads that whosoever shall be found guilty of killing in a personal quarrel shall be subject to imprisonment or death. The name of the man who wore your cloak, or I shall hold you culpable and punish you in his stead."
The Chevalier stooped and recovered his hat, but he did not touch the sword.
"It is impossible for me to tell you, Monseigneur. I do not know. The cloak may have been stolen and worn by some one I never saw."
"To whom did you lend the cloak?"
"To tell that might bring another innocent man under a cloud. Besides, I have been absent thirty days; that is a long time to remember so trivial a thing."
"Which is to say that you refuse to tell me?" not without some admiration.
"It is," quietly.
"Your exoneration for the name, Chevalier. The alternative is your resignation from the Guards and your exile."
Exile from Paris was death to the courtier; but the Chevalier was more than a courtier, he was a soldier. "I refuse to tell you, Monseigneur. It is unfair of you to ask me."
"So be it. For the sake of your father, the marquis,—and I have often wondered why you never assume your lawful title,—for the sake of your father, then, who is still remembered kindly by her Majesty, I shall not send you to the Bastille as was my original intention. Your exile shall be in the sum of five years. You are to remain in France. If you rebel and draw your sword against your country, confiscation and death. You are also prohibited from offering your services to France against any nation she may be at war with. If within these five years you set foot inside of Paris, the Bastille, with an additional three years."
"Monseigneur, that is severe punishment for a man whose only crime is the possession of a grey cloak."
"Death of my life! I am not punishing you; I am punishing the man who killed De Brissac. Come, come, Monsieur le Comte," in a kindly tone; "do not be a fool, do not throw away a brilliant career for the sake of a friendship. I who know tell you that it is not worth while. Friendship, I have learned, is but a guise for self-interest."
The Chevalier, having nothing to say, bowed.
"Go, then, to your estates." Mazarin was angry. "Mark me, I shall find this friend of yours, but I shall not remit one hour of your punishment. Messieurs," turning to the musketeers, "conduct Monsieur le Chevalier to his lodgings and remain with him till dawn, when you will show him the road to Orleans. And remember, he must see no one." Then Mazarin went back to the gallery and resumed his game. "What! De Meilleraye, you have won only three louis? Give me the cards; and tell his Grace of Gramont that I am weary of his discords."
"Monsieur le Chevalier," said one of the musketeers, waking the Chevalier from his stupor, "pardon us a disagreeable duty."
The other musketeer restored the Chevalier's rapier.
"Proceed, Messieurs," said the Chevalier, picking up his hat and thrusting his sword into its scabbard; "I dare say this moment is distasteful to us all."
The musketeers conducted him through the secret staircase to the court below. The Duc de Beaufort, who had been waiting, came forward.
"Stand back, Messieurs," said the prince; "I have a word to say to Monsieur le Chevalier."
Mazarin's word was much, but the soldier loved his Beaufort. The two musketeers withdrew a dozen paces.
"Monsieur," said the duke lowly, "that paper, and my word as a gentleman, you shall go free."
"Paper? I do not understand your Highness."
"Come, come, Monsieur," said the duke impatiently; "it is your liberty. Besides, I am willing to pay well."
"Your Highness," coldly, "you are talking over my head. I do not understand a word you say."
Beaufort stared into the Chevalier's face. "Why did you enter De Brissac's . . . ?"
"I have explained all that to monseigneur, the cardinal. Is everybody mad in Paris?" with a burst of anger. "I arrive in Paris at six this evening, and straightway I am accused of having killed a man I have seen scarce a half dozen times in my life. And now your Highness talks of papers! I know nothing about papers. Ask Mazarin, Monsieur. Mazarin knows that I was not in Paris yesterday."
"Messieurs," called the Chevalier. The musketeers returned. "Tell his Highness for me that monseigneur acquits me of all connection with the De Brissac affair, and that I am being punished and exiled because I happen to possess a grey cloak."
"It is true, your Highness."
"Whom are you shielding?" demanded the prince with an oath. He was alarmed.
"Since I refused to tell his Eminence it is not probable that I shall tell your Highness."
Beaufort left in a rage. The prince's lackey spent a most uncomfortable hour that night when his Highness, son of Monsieur le Duc de Vendome, retired.
The Chevalier espied a yellow caleche, Mademoiselle de Longueville herself in the act of entering it. Mademoiselle was the only person he knew to be in the confidence of Diane.
"Messieurs, will you permit me to speak to Mademoiselle de Longueville?" he asked.
"Do you think that monsieur can see mademoiselle?" said one to the other, humorously.
"It is too dark for him to see her. His Eminence said nothing about Monsieur le Chevalier speaking to any one he could not see."
"Thanks, Messieurs, thanks!" And the Chevalier hastened to the caleche. "Mademoiselle . . ."
"Monsieur," she interrupted, "I have a message for you. A certain lady whom we both know requests me to say that she forbids you further to address her. Her reasons . . . Well, she gives none. As for me, Monsieur, I believe you to be a gentleman and a man of honor who is above exile and calumny."
"God bless you, Mademoiselle. Tell her for me that whatever her indictments are, I am innocent; and that we do not love when we do not trust."
She gave him a curious glance. "You have not yet discovered who she is?"
"No, Mademoiselle. Will you tell me?"
"She is . . . No; to tell you would be wrong and it would do you no good. Forget her, Chevalier. I should." And she drew the curtain and ordered her lackeys to drive on.
"It is snowing," said the Chevalier, irrelevantly, when the musketeers rejoined him.
"So it is, so it is," one replied. "Put on your hat, Monsieur, or my word for it, you will catch a devil of a chill."
The Chevalier put on his hat. "Five years . . . his Eminence said five years?"
"Yes, Monsieur. But what are five years to a man like yourself? You have youth and money, and the little Rochellaises are pretty. My word! the time will pass quickly enough. Come; we will go to your lodging. Did his Eminence say anything about wine, Georges?" to his companion.
"Nothing prohibitory. I once heard him say 'Bonum vinum laetificat cor hominis.'"
"What does that mean?"
"Good wine rejoices the heart of man. Let us watch for the dawn with the Chevalier, who is a man in all things. Monsieur, whoever your friend may be, I hope he is not without gratitude."
"Yes, yes! Let's off to the Chevalier's. The Candlestick has some fine burgundy. It is cold and wine warms the heart."
The Chevalier burst into a despairing laugh, "Wine! That is the word, my comrades. On to the Candlestick!" he cried in a high voice. He caught the musketeers by the arms and dragged them toward the gate. "Wine rejoices the heart of man: and one forgets. Let Mazarin take away my liberty; praise be to Bacchus, he can not take away my thirst! And oh! I shall be thirsty these five long years. On to the Candlestick! I know a mellow vintage; and we three shall put the candle out to-night."
And the three of them made off for the Candlestick.
Dawn. A Swiss leaned sleepily against one of the stone abutments which supported the barriers of the Porte Saint Antoine. These barriers would not be raised for the general public till nine; yet the Swiss, rubbing his gummed eyes, saw the approach of three men, one of whom was leading a handsome Spanish jennet. The three men walked unevenly, now and then laughing uproariously and slapping one another on the back. Presently one stepped upon a slippery cobble and went sprawling into the snow, to the great merriment of his companions, who had some difficulty in raising the fallen man to his feet.
"Go along with you, Messieurs," said the Swiss enviously; "you are all drunk."
"Go along yourself," said Georges, assuming a bacchanalian pose.
"What do you want?" asked the Swiss, laughing.
"To pass this gentleman out of the city," said Georges; "and here is the order."
"Very good," replied the Swiss.
The Chevalier climbed into the saddle. Breton was to follow with the personal effects. The barriers creaked, opened the way, and the Chevalier passed forth. There was a cheering word or two, a waving of hats, and then the barriers fell back into place. A quarter of a mile away, having reached an elevation, the exile stopped his horse and turned in the saddle. As he strained his bloodshot eyes toward the city, the mask of intoxication fell away from his face, leaving it worn and wretched. The snow lay everywhere, white, untrampled, blinding. The pale yellow beams of the sun broke in brilliant flashes against the windows of the Priory of Jacobins, while above the city, the still sleeping city, rose long spiral threads of opal-tinted smoke.
Five years. And for what? Friendship. How simple to have told Mazarin that he had loaned the cloak to Victor de Saumaise. A dozen words. His head was throbbing violently and his throat was hot. He took off his hat and the keen air of morning cooled his damp forehead. Five years. He could see this year drag itself to its dismal end, and another, and another, till five had come and gone, each growing infinitely longer and duller and more hopeless. Of what use were youth and riches without a Paris? Friendship? Was he not, as Mazarin had pointed out, a fool for his pains? It was giving away five years of life and love. A word? No. He straightened in the saddle, and the fumes of wine receded from his brain, leaving a temporary clearness. Yes, he was right, a hundred times right. Victor would have done the same for him, and he could do no less for Victor. And there was something fine and lofty in the sacrifice to him who until now had never sacrificed so much as an hour from his worldly pleasures. It appealed to all that was good in him, leaving a wholesomeness in his heart that was tonic and elevating.
And yet . . . How strongly her face appeared before him! If only he could have stayed long enough to explain to her, to convince her of his loyalty; ah, then would this exile be a summer's rustication. He fumbled at his throat and drew forth a ruby-studded miniature. He kissed it and hid it from sight. By proxy she had turned him aside in contempt. Why? What had he done? . . . Did she think him guilty of De Brissac's death? or, worse still, of conducting an intrigue with Madame de Brissac, whom he had never seen?
"Ah, well, Victor offered his life for mine. I can do no less than give him five years in exchange. And where is yesterday?" He had passed along this very road yesterday. "Eh, where indeed is yesterday?"
He looked once more toward Paris, then turned his back toward it forever.
THE HORN OF PLENTY AND MONSIEUR DE SAUMAISE'S POTPIE
Night, with fold on fold of ragged purple, with wide obliterating hand, came roughly down upon the ancient city of Rochelle, which seemed slowly to draw itself together and assume the proportions of a huge, menacing rock. Of the roof lines, but lately of many hues and reaches, there now remained only a long series of grotesque black profiles which zigzagged from north to south, from ruined wall to ruined wall. The last dull silver gleam of day trembled a moment on the far careening horizon, then vanished; and presently the storm which had threatened all through the day broke forth, doubly furious. A silent stinging snow whipped in from the sea, and the lordly voices of the surges rose to inharmonious thunders in the straits of Antioch, or burst in rugged chorus against the rock-bound coasts of the gloomy promontory and the isles of Re and Oleron. As the vigor of the storm increased, the harbor towers Saint Nicholas and the Chain, looming in the blur like suppliant arms, and the sea walls began gradually to waver and recede in the accumulating haze, while across the dim yellow flame in the tower of the Lantern the snow flurried in grey, shapeless, interminable shadows. Hither and thither the wind rushed, bold and blusterous, sometimes carrying landward the intermittent crashing of the surf as it fell, wrathful yet impotent, on the great dike by which, twenty-odd years before, the immortal Richelieu had snuffed the last heroic spark of the Reformists.
The little ships, the great ships, the fisherman's sloop, the king's corvette, and the merchantman, all lay anchored in the basin and harbor, their prows boring into the gale, their crude hulls rising and falling, tossing and plunging, tugging like living things at their hempen cables. The snow fell upon them, changing them into phantoms, all seemingly eager to join in the mad revel of the storm. And the lights at the mastheads, swooping now downward, now upward, now from side to side, dappled the troubled waters with sickly gold. A desert of marshes behind it, a limitless sea before it, gave to this brave old city an isolation at once splendid and melancholy; and thrice melancholy it stood this wild March night, witnessing as it did the final travail of winter, pregnant with spring.
At seven o'clock the ice-clad packet from Dieppe entered the harbor and dropped anchor. Among those who disembarked were two Jesuit priests and an Iroquois Indian, who immediately set out for the episcopal palace. They passed unobserved through the streets, for the blinding, whirling snow turned them into shadow-shapes, or effaced them totally from sight. Besides, wayfarers were few and the hardy mariners had by this time sought the warm chimney in the favorite inn. For well they knew that there were times when God wished to be alone with His sea; and he was either a poor Catholic or a bad Huguenot who refused to be convinced that the Master had contrived the sea and the storm for His own especial pastime.
The favorite inn! What a call to food and wine and cheer the name of the favorite inn sounded in the ears of the mariners! It meant the mantle of ease and indolence, a moment in which again to feel beneath one's feet the kindly restful earth. For in those days the voyages were long and joyless, fraught with the innumerable perils of outlawed flags and preying navies; so that, with all his love of the sea, the mariner's true goal was home port and a cozy corner in the familiar inn. There, with a cup of gin or mulled wine at his elbow and the bowl of a Holland clay propped in a horny fist, he might listen tranquilly to the sobbing of the tempest in the gaping chimney. What if the night voiced its pains shrewdly, walls encompassed him; what if its frozen tears melted on the panes or smoked on the trampled threshold, glowing logs sent forth a permeating heat, expanding his sense of luxury and content. What with the solace of the new-found weed, and the genial brothers of the sea surrounding, tempests offered no terrors to him.
Listen. Perhaps here is some indomitable Ulysses, who, scorning a blind immortalizer, recites his own rude Odyssey. What exploits! What adventures on the broad seas and in the new-found wildernesses of the West! Ah, but a man was a man then; there were no mythic gods to guide or to thwart him; and he rose or fell according to the might of his arm and the length of his sword. Hate sought no flimsy pretexts, but came forth boldly; love entered the lists neither with caution nor with mental reservation; and favor, though inconsiderate as ever, was not niggard with her largess. Truly the mariner had not to draw on his imagination; the age of which he was a picturesque particle was a brave and gallant one: an Odyssey indeed, composed of Richelieus, sons and grandsons of the great Henri, Buckinghams, Stuarts, Cromwells, Mazarins, and Monks; Maries de Medicis, Annes of Austria, Mesdames de Longueville; of Royalists, Frondeurs, and Commonwealth; of Catholics, Huguenots, and Puritans. Some were dead, it is true; but never a great ship passes without leaving a turbulent wake. And there, in the West, rising serenely above all these tangles of civil wars and political intrigues, was the splendid star of New France. Happy and envied was the mariner who could tell of its vast riches, of its endless forests, of its cruel brown savages, of its mighty rivers and freshwater seas.