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Honore De Balzac - Catherine De'Medici (1841)

( Originally Published Early 1900's )



This historical romance consists of three separate stories of different lengths, entirely independent of one another. The first part, Le Martyr Calviniste, was the last of the three in regard to date of publication. It first appeared in Le Siecle, under the title of Les Lecamus. The second part was the second also with regard to date of publication. It has retained its title, Le Secret de Ruggieri. It appeared in Le Chronique de Paris in 1836-1837. The third part, Les Deux Reves, had appeared in La Mode as early as 1830; also as Le Petit Souper in the Revue de deux Mondes. It was included in Romans et Contes Philosophiques in 1831. These three stories, with an Introduction, were published in three volumes, in 1843, under the title of Catherine de Medici Expliquee; but when the work was included in the Etudes Philosophiques in 1846, the title was changed to Sur Catherine de' Medici. In his Introduction Balzac says: "In France, and at the most important period of our history, Catherine de' Medici has suffered more from popular error than any other woman, unless it be Brunehaut or Fredegonde; while Marie de' Medici, whose every action was prejudicial to France, has escaped the disgrace that should cover her name. . . Catherine de' Medici, on the contrary, saved the throne of France; she maintained the royal authority under circumstances to which more than one great prince would have succumbed. Face to face with such leaders of the factions and ambitions of the houses of Guise and of Bourbon as the two Cardinals of Lorraine and the two Balafres, the two Princes de Conde, Queen Jeanne d'Albret, Henri IV, the Connetable de Montmorency, Calvin, the Colignys, and Theodore de Beze, she was forced to put forth the rarest fine qualities, the most essential gifts of statesmanship, under the fire of the Calvinist press. These, at any rate, are indisputable facts; and to the student who digs deep into the history of the sixteenth century in France, the figure of Catherine de' Medici stands out as that of a great king."

PART I

THE CALVINIST MARTYR

ON the bank of the Seine, at the end of the Pont au Change, lived Master Lecamus, furrier to Catherine de' Medici and Mary Stuart. He was very wealthy and the head of his guild. He was secretly in sympathy with the new religious teaching that was setting Paris by the ears, as was also his son, Christophe, an ardent youth of two-and-twenty.

One evening in April, 156o, the latter received a visit from a man who announced himself as Chaudieu, one of the most famous ministers and heroic actors in the terrible drama about to open. He led Christophe down to a boat, containing two men, which was rowed under one of the arches of the bridge. There the occupants could tall. without being overheard. The two strangers were La Renaudie and the Prince de Conde. The four men were representative of the faith of the people, the intellect of eloquence, the arm of the soldier, and royalty cast into the shade.

Christophe declared that he was ready to suffer all things for the holy cause, and the plans of the conspirators were revealed to him. He was told that most of the nobles of the kingdom saw through the schemes of the Cardinal de Lorraine and his brother, the Duc de Guise, who, under pretense of defending the Catholic faith, claimed the Crown of France as the inheritance of the House of Lorraine. "It leans on the Church, and has made it a formidable ally; the monks are its supporters, its acolytes and spies. It asserts itself as a protector of the throne it hopes to usurp, of the Valois it hopes to destroy." Therefore, the reformers had decided to rise in arms, because the liberties of the people were threatened, as well as the interests of the nobility. "The Queen Mother is ready to enter into our views. Humiliated and desperate as she is at seeing the power she had hoped to wield at the King's death in the grasp of the Guises, and alarmed at the influence exerted by the young Queen Mary, Queen Catherine will be inclined to support the nobles who are about to strike a blow. Though apparently devoted to the Guises, she hates them, longs for their ruin, and will make use of us to oppose them. . .. Everything is ready; and we have cast our eyes on you to communicate to Queen Catherine our treaty of alliance, our schemes for edicts, and the basis of the new rule."

Though Catherine was under close espionage, it would be possible for the son of the court furrier to deliver some garment and the papers at the same time. He was given to under-stand, however, that should he be taken, he would be abandoned by everybody, and opprobrium and disgrace would be cast upon him. Entire self-sacrifice was demanded of him, and he gladly consented. Instructions were given as to the way to reach Blois, and he was landed at the back door of his father's house.

The Syndic of the Guild of Furriers was a cunning and clear-sighted man of vast ambitions. He had amassed an immense fortune and planned a splendid future for his son. He longed to place the house of Lecamus on a par with the oldest and most honored families of Paris citizens. He had engaged his son to Babette Lallier, the daughter of the rich Syndic of the Goldsmiths, and was ambitious to see his son a Councilor of the Parliament. He had spied on Christophe; and, on the latter's entrance, encouraged him on his perilous quest. He concluded that his schemes would not suffer by Christophe's being of service to Queen Catherine.

Catherine's position when Diane de Poitiers ruled Henri II had been more endurable than now: at least, she had enjoyed the homage and respect of the court; but now she was practically a prisoner at Blois, and her Guise jailers took pleasure in humiliating her. Every hour she was the object of blows offensive to her dignity. She was, therefore, ready to make use of any party that would help her to destroy the Guises : the tools she would throw away later. Her game was to play off the Huguenots, the Bourbons, and the Guises against one another.

On the day when Christophe reached Blois, the two Princes of Guise were on the eve of striking a fatal blow at the heart of the nobility, of whose plans their spies had informed them, and were discussing the means of announcing their coup d'etat to the King. They knew that their niece, Mary, would approve of extinguishing heresy with a single blow.

After much trouble, Christophe succeeded in placing the compromising documents in Catherine's hands; but before she could conceal them, Mary Stuart, who regarded her mother-in-law as a low-born intriguing adventuress, and one who having been humbled was always prepared for revenge, kept a close watch on her. Her suspicions being aroused by Catherine's absence from the council, she broke in on her mother-in-law's privacy. Catherine immediately cried: "Treason, Madame! I have them fast! Send for the Cardinal and the Duke, and be sure that this fellow does not escape!" Pleased at finding her adversaries in the mind she had hoped for, now that the plot had become known, policy required her to assume the merit of discovering it.

On being asked who had sent him, Christophe said Chaudieu, the preacher, had, and even under horrible torture could not be induced to implicate the Prince de Conde, whose head the Guises were so anxious should fall. Even in his worst agonies from the "boot," he denied that he had ever seen that Prince. The Duke exhorted him in vain to confess, and he could hear Catherine say: "Go on; after all, he is only a here-tic!" She thought it prudent to appear more severe to her accomplice than his executioners were. The whole future of this ambitious woman depended on her demeanor, so she gazed on Christophe's sufferings calmly, although she felt the greatest admiration for his fortitude.

The Princes of Lorraine transferred the court to Amboise. At this moment, the crown, the council, the court, and every kind of power were in their hands. The first rush to arms had ended in the brief skirmish in which the flower of the nobility whom Calvin had misled all perished. This affair the Guises, with crafty policy, spoke of as the riots at Amboise. The Prince de Conde now showed astuteness and spirit. He boldly went to Amboise, where he was immediately arrested. Chicot, the jester, visited him with a message from the Queen Mother that nothing but daring could get him out of the scrape. On being conducted to the court, Catherine sternly accused him of plotting with the reformers. Thereupon Conde flung his glove at the King's feet, angrily challenging his calumniator to stand forth. The Duc de Guise unexpectedly stepped for-ward and offered to be his second, with the crafty intention of watching his behavior at the execution of his rebel friends.

The King's victory over the heretics, together with the execution to be inflicted, was announced from every pulpit, and the auto-da- fe attracted vast multitudes. Lecamus had hurried to Blois on hearing of his son's danger; but could only learn that after torture he had been removed to Amboise. He was, therefore, an agitated spectator of the hideous spectacle. Fifty gentlemen in all ascended the scaffold, including twenty-seven barons, eleven counts, and seven marquises. They all refused to recant, and sang their Calvinistic hymn on the appearance of the court. They bowed to Conde, who was purposely placed between Queen Mary and the Duc d'Orleans. He returned their salutations, and maintained his nerve throughout the horrible massacre. The next day he was released and set out for Navarre.

Lecamus, not seeing Christophe among the victims, dressed as a beggar and put himself in the way of Catherine as she passed, who told him to get himself appointed delegate to the States General from the Corporation of Paris Guilds.

The Guises had convoked the States General at Orleans in the hope of recapturing their prey and overthrowing the House of Bourbon. The Princes of the blood arrived there under the King's safe conduct. Conde was treacherously arrested, and tried by the magistrates, notwithstanding his demand to be tried by his peers. The King of Navarre was left at liberty, temporarily.

Lecamus arrived at Orleans and learned from Ruggieri, Catherine's astrologer, that Christophe was to be placed on the morrow where the Prince would pass by. If either made a sign of recognition, Conde's head would be forfeited. The astrologer predicted that the Duc de Guise would be killed within a year, but that neither Christophe nor Conde was des-tined to die. Catherine relied on Christophe's fidelity, and Lecamus was advised to vote for her as Regent. Ruggieri concluded: "The King will die; if he recovers his health, the Guises must triumph, the Princes are dead men, the House of Bourbon is extinct, we go back to Florence, your son is hanged, and the Guises will make short work of the royal family."

At this juncture, Catherine's position was even more critical and dangerous than at Amboise. Though she pretended to be in agreement with the Guises, she was plotting against them. They had planned with the King of Spain to seize Bearn, and Catherine had warned the Queen of Navarre in time. She had also divulged the intention to make away with the King of Navarre, and the Cardinal had denounced her in the King's presence and threatened her with banishment. Catherine immediately warned the Constable Anne de Montmorency of the danger his nephew, Conde, was in, and he at once gathered a force to save him.

Francis II took an excursion on the Loire, so as to be absent at Conde's intended execution; and there caught a cold, which gave him so violent an earache that he was forced to return. The physicians disagreed; but Ambroise Pare, the greatest surgeon of the sixteenth century, maintained that the King had an abscess on the brain and should be trepanned. Lecamus explained the situation to Pare in a midnight interview in the following terms: "If you save the King, you ruin France. Do you know that your instrument will place the crown of the Valois on the head of a Prince of Lorraine calling himself the direct heir of Charlemagne? Do you know that surgery and politics are at this moment at daggers drawn? Yes, the triumph of your genius will be the overthrow of your religion. If the Guises retain the regency, the blood of the Reformers will flow in streams. Be a great citizen rather than a great surgeon." But Pare refused to be influenced. Ruggieri, who learned from Lecamus the nature of Pares intended operation, immediately hastened to the Queen Mother. In the morning, when Catherine and Mary and the Guises and the doctors and the physicians and attendants were gathered in the King's bed-chamber, everyone realized that a terrible crisis was at hand. Catherine strenuously opposed a cruel operation, and the Duke accused her of desiring her son's death. When the discussion was at its height, the Constable hastily entered, and forbade the operation, because the first Prince of the blood, the Prince de Conde, the Queen Mother, and the Chancellor were all opposed to it. As Lord High Constable he had dismissed all the sentinels from their posts, leaving the States General to deliberate in perfect liberty, laying before it the protest of his nephew, whom he had rescued from prison. He accused the Guises of meaning to let the royal blood and decimating the French nobility, and he defied them to oppose him.

Within a few minutes Francis died. Mary Stuart accused Catherine of being his murderess, and Catherine retorted with a sentence of deportation to Scotland the next day. On Catherine's withdrawal, the Guises discussed their fall and fortunes.

"How can we be reconciled to the Queen?" asked the Cardinal.

"Wait till she quarrels with the Huguenots," said the Duchess of Guise.

Catherine's next step was to gain over the Reformers by summoning a convocation, for which Calvin's favor and consent were necessary. Chaudieu was, therefore, sent to Geneva. Catherine thus gained a breathing-space of six months, during which she amused the court, lulled party feeling by the King's coronation, and his first Bed of Justice, when Charles IX en-trusted the government to his mother.

Calvin was in a dying condition, and his final decision was as follows: "Nobody, neither the Queen, nor the Guises, nor I, wants pacification : it would not suit our purpose. We must compel the King of Navarre to join the Guises and the Con-stable, by advising him to desert Queen Catherine. Let us take full advantage of his weakness : he is but a poor creature. If he prove a turncoat to the Italian woman, she, finding herself bereft of his support, must inevitably join Conde and Coligny. Such a maneuver may possibly compromise her so effectually that she must remain on our side." He ended : "Ideas can never grow till they are watered with blood. The murder of the Duc de Guise would give rise to a fearful persecution and I hope for it with all my might. To us, reverses are more favorable than success. The Reformation can be beaten and endure, do you hear, oaf? Whereas Catholicism is overthrown if we win a single battle."

These words were spoken to Theodore de Beze, Chaudieu's companion. Eighteen months later, Poltrot, who fired a pistol at the Duke, confessed that he had been urged to the crime by De Beze. On the day when Chaudieu and De Beze reached Paris, the court returned from Rheims, where Charles IX had been crowned. Catherine had made the coronation unusually splendid, and the occasion of great festivities, which enabled her to gather around her the leaders of every faction. She fully understood that, sooner or later, she must fall back on the Constable Montmorency and the Guises to fight the Huguenots. The convocation, which served to flatter the vanity of the orators on each side, and as an excuse for another imposing ceremony to clear the blood-stained field for the religious war that had indeed already begun, was as futile in the eyes of the

Guises as it was in Catherine's. Catherine flattered the Cardinal de Lorraine into the hope of conquering the heretics by the eloquence of the Princes of the Church, and the Cardinal won over the Duke.

Catherine next had trouble with her son, who was so attached to his tutor, Amyot, that he made him High Almoner of France without consulting his mother. In a rage, Catherine sent for Amyot and threatened him with death unless he induced his pupil to change his mind. Charles IX went immediately to his mother and said : "Madame, did I not comply with your wishes and sign the letter you asked of me for the Parliament, by virtue of which you govern my kingdom? Did you not promise me, when you laid it before me, that my will should be yours? And now the only favor I have cared to bestow ex-cites your jealousy. The Chancellor talks of making me of age at fourteen, three years hence, and you treat me as a child. By God, I mean to be King!"

Catherine was shocked at his tone and tried to explain to him the difficulties and perils of kingcraft; but she had to restore his favorite to the office of High Almoner. She then supplied Charles with a tutor in Albert de Gondi, whom she made a marshal of France and a duke. This Italian gave her the following advice : "You let the late King die to save your other children; well, then, do as the grand seignors of Constantinople do: crush this one's political passions and fancies. He likes the arts, poetry, hunting, and a little girl he saw at Orleans; all this is quite enough to occupy him."

On the return of the Geneva envoys, the convocation of Poissy was arranged for, and on taking leave of De Beze, Chaudieu whispered: "I have saints in Paris that I can rely on, and I mean to make a prophet of Calvin. Christophe will rid us of our most dangerous enemy."

Meanwhile, the Queen Mother had succeeded in having Conde's trial quashed, and he was reinstated in all his rights, possessions, and honors. Christophe was released in the same proceedings, and, as a compensation for his sufferings, was made a pleader by De Thou. On his return to Paris, he was tenderly nursed by his family and Babette, and the furrier's neighbors were astonished to see him attended by Pare, the court physician. Old Lecamus gradually worked on his son's heretical mind by recalling the sufferings he had gone through and pointing out the danger of meddling with political reform. Babette also told him that her father would never allow her to marry a heretic. One day his father told him that he had written in Christophe's name to Conde and Queen Jeanne for permission to purchase a legal business in Bearn. In reply, Conde's secretary merely offered a place of a man-at-arms in his own company. This for a man who would hardly be able to stand on his legs for the rest of his life !

The mortified Christophe, however, felt confident that Catherine would be more grateful.

Soon after this, Chaudieu called and reproached him for his apostasy, and did his utmost to win Christophe back to Calvinism and to persuade him to assassinate the Duc de Guise —but in vain.

Not long after the Syndic of the Goldsmiths spent half a million livres for a fine estate in Picardy belonging to the Crown; and one evening, when Christophe and Babette were to be betrothed, Catherine and Charles IX unexpectedly arrived to grace the occasion and to sign the marriage contract on condition that Christophe should remain a Catholic. As a present the King and Catherine permitted the purchase of the offices and appointments of Groslay, Councilor of the Parliament, who accompanied their Majesties. The King remitted all royal fines and fees of the Picardy estate as a wedding-gift to the bride. Old Lecamus was shrewd enough to offer the King a splendid silver cup by Benvenuto Cellini, which was graciously accepted, and the Queen presented Babette with a diamond ring. Before leaving, Christophe managed to inform Catherine of the Duc de Guise's danger, and received her renewed thanks.

This was the origin of the famous Lecamus family of lawyers, who were particularly celebrated and magnificent during the seventeenth century.

PART II

THE RUGGIERIS' SECRET

One evening, toward the end of October, 1573, the court was in attendance after supper on the two Queens and the King. Queen Elizabeth of Austria and her mother-in-law, Catherine de' Medici, were seated on one side of the great fire-place, and in the other corner, sunk lethargically after hunting, or sulking, sat Charles IX in his big armchair. Of all the dull assembly the two Gondis alone were laughing. Albert, who had come with Catherine from Italy and had been made Duc de Retz and Gentleman of the Bedchamber, and had obtained a marshal's baton without ever having commanded an army, had also been sent as the King's proxy to marry Charles's bride at Spires. This fact alone showed that he was one of the few persons whom the King and Queen admitted to a certain familiarity. On the King's side of the room, among the courtiers, the most conspicuous were the old Cardinal de Lorraine and his nephew, the young Duc de Guise. These two chiefs of the Holy Alliance looked as submissive as servants awaiting their opportunity to become masters. Catherine and her son were watching each other like two cats.

Each of the three royal personages had reason for gloomy reflection. The young Queen was enduring all the torments of jealousy, and disguised them ineffectually by trying to smile at her husband, whom, as a pious woman of infinite kindness, she adored. Marie Touchet, the only mistress of Charles IX, for whom he entirely neglected his gentle wife, had lately re-turned from Fayet in Dauphine, bringing with her the only son Charles IX ever had—Charles, afterward Duc d'Angouleme. Another trouble was that Catherine, who, hitherto, had apparently been her friend, had lately encouraged her son's infidelity.

The reason of this was that Marie preferred happiness to splendor, and dearly loved the King for his own sake. She was ignorant of the ambitious objects aimed at by the women of family who were struggling for the advancement of them-selves and their relatives with the weapons of love. The in-significant Marie Touchet spared Catherine the annoyance of finding in her son's mistress the daughter of some great house who might have set up as her rival. She had tasted that cup of bitterness during the sway of Diane de Poitiers. The gentle Marie, therefore, won her warm affection, and later Catherine left the son her personal estate. Marie, who asked for nothing, had already received from Catherine the manor of Belleville, near Vincennes, in which royal residence Charles spent the greater part of his later days, hunting in the surrounding forest.

Anything that kept the King interested outside of politics was pleasing to Catherine. She had been watching the King because during supper he had been suspiciously cheerful, a mood strongly in contrast to the fractious humor he had betrayed by his persistent hunting and by his frenzied toil at his forge, where he wrought iron. Catherine was satisfied that some scheme against herself was in the wind, and the unexpected appearance of the Marechal de Tavannes on business had greatly strengthened her suspicions.

Two words—dominion and astrology—fully summarize this strange woman. She had no passion but for power, and her only sincere belief was in the occult sciences. To Cosmo Ruggieri, her astrologer, she clung more than to her children. She housed him and made him her chief adviser. Her trust seemed to be justified by the horoscopes he had cast and the events he had correctly predicted. From her earliest years, the events of her life had justified the horoscope. Catherine's devouring thirst for dominion was so great that, in order to grasp or retain it, she could ally herself with the enemies of the throne; and to keep the reins of power in her own hands she would sacrifice her friends and even her children. She could not live without the intrigues of rule, and, though a Medici, even the Calvinists never accused her of having a lover. She upheld by turns the Guises and the Calvinists; then, after using the two creeds to check each other in the heart of the people, she set the Duc d'Anjou against his brother, Charles IX. After instilling into the King's mind a jealousy of his brother, she worked upon this feeling so as to exhaust Charles's really fine qualities in the intrigues of rivalry with his brother. When the Duc d'Anjou went to govern Poland, he robbed her of the means of keeping the mind of Charles IX occupied with domestic intrigues. Catherine then hatched the La Mole and Coconnas conspiracy, in which her fourth son had a hand. This plot, now ripening, aimed to put the young Duke and his brother-in-law, the King of Navarre, at the head of the Calvinists, seizing and imprisoning the heirless Charles IX, thus leaving the throne vacant for the Duke, who purposed establishing Calvinism in France.

La Mole and Coconnas had now been in prison for fifty days, and were to be beheaded in the following April. Cosmo Ruggieri's participation in the affair shows that Catherine secretly directed it. Cosmo admitted that he had furnished La Mole with an image representing the King stabbed to the heart with two needles. This kind of witchcraft was a capital crime, and Charles's death alone saved Ruggieri from the King's vengeance.

At this moment, Charles was only anxious to shake off his mother's yoke. He watched her proceedings and kept her in ignorance of his own, with much of her own craft. He was trying by cunning measures to seize the reins of government.

The secret of the drama that was being played was guessed by some of their followers, especially the Italians.

Charles IX was worn out. He was in the last stages of the illness of which he died, and Ambroise Pare and Jean Chapelain had been sent for secretly to observe him. Before leaving the room, the King exchanged a few confidential words with Tavannes. The Marechal de Retz remarked that he looked royally bored, and Charles acknowledged that he missed the good old days when they used to go gadding about at night, jumping across the narrow streets from roof to roof, breaking in shutters, beating watchmen, and generally annoying and maltreating respectable citizens. A party was therefore made up to go night-hawking once more.

The two Gondis soon fell behind the others to discuss the dangerous trend of events, while Charles and two others went on till they came to the house of Rene, the court perfumer, who was credited with having invented the famous elixir a succession, and had poisoned the mother of Henri IV. Charles had long been anxious to explore the laboratory in which Rene was often visited by Ruggieri. When, therefore, he saw a light in a window on the roof, he crawled along the parapet and peeped in. He saw a large room lighted by a big lamp, and the ceiling was rendered invisible by the numbers of hanging animals, skeletons, and dried herbs; the room was filled with books, retorts, chests full of instruments for magic and astrology, and diagrams for horoscopes, vials, and wax figures. There were also two lighted stoves on which heretical mixtures were brewing; besides a large table and a couch. Seated at the table was a patriarchal old man with a magnificent beard and dressed in black velvet. His attention was divided between a manuscript before him and the concoctions on the stove. On the couch lay a beautiful girl in a trancelike sleep. As the King and Tavannes gazed spellbound upon the scene, the old man arose and left the room, and opened a window from which a view could be had of the column which Catherine had built for Cosmo Ruggieri. They saw light signals exchanged and could perceive Cosmo on the top of the column. In a few minutes Cosmo came in saying : " Good evening, brother." He brought with him a hideous, toothless, hunchbacked, crooked, lame, wrinkled old hag, who stank of devilry and the stake. She sat down by the side of the girl. Though Cosmo could not see the spies, he went up to the girl and took her hand, saying, "Someone is near; who is it?" "The King," said she. Thereupon, the King knocked at the window, which Ruggieri opened and the two jumped into the wizard's kitchen. There the King demanded an explanation, and threatened the astrologers with condign punishment unless they confessed the meaning of it all. They would not give the King any satisfaction, so he and Tavannes set seals on the doors and sent the two witches to Rene's room, where he and they were guarded by soldiers. The two astrologers Charles had taken to the house of his mistress, and left them there under guard till the next day.

Charles had more work to do that night. Accompanied by one faithful follower, he crossed the Seine and hurried toward the Pre-au-Cleres. There he held a conference with some high nobles, whose friendliest advice was that Madame Catherine should be sewn up in a sack and thrown into the river. Charles told them plainly that he had decided that the time had come for the royal authority to assert itself. He appealed to them for their support in putting an end to the troubles of the realm, and gave them a month in which to make up their minds. It was four o'clock before he reached the Louvre. He retired to his workshop and went to work at his anvil. At dawn, Catherine entered and warned him of a plot in which his brother D'Alencon was implicated with the King of Navarre and Conde to snatch the Crown by seizing his person. After a long discussion, she left him in perplexity, asking himself, " On which side are the snares? What is the better policy?" and calling on the Almighty to give him the clearness of vision to see into his mother's eyes by questioning the Ruggieri.

Late in the afternoon, Charles made his way to the charming mansion inhabited by Marie Touchet. He found her as gentle, loving, and fascinating as ever. She did her best to soothe his troubled spirit, and before long he was tenderly dandling their infant in his arms. Presently Marie asked him why he had left assassins in her keeping, and he related his adventures of the night before. When Marie expressed a desire to see the mysterious sages, he sent for them and examined them in her presence. Both the Ruggieri deported themselves with extreme dignity and assurance. Lorenzo took the lead in the discussion, which soon developed into a lecture on alchemy, astrology, chemistry, and the other occult sciences.

Notwithstanding his desire to avoid being entrapped by Florentine cunning, the King, as well as his simple-minded mistress, was soon caught and carried away by the rhetoric and rodomontade of the Grand Master of Adepts' pompous and specious flow of words; but Charles was anxious to learn some of the secrets and practise of poisons and poisoning, wax images, and other forms of witchcraft, and therefore turned to stern interrogation after a time. From the omniscience claimed by Lorenzo, Charles learned that the stars said that he was soon to die; his successor would fall by violence; his youngest brother would never reign; that Henri de Bourbon would be King and suffer a violent death; and that Marie Touchet would marry again, have children, and live to be more than eighty years old. Charles went to fetch his infant son, and, while out of the room, learned that a search of the laboratory had been barren of results. Cosmo examined the child's hand, while Lorenzo again lectured on the doctrines transmitted through the mysteries of Isis to Chaldaea and Egypt, and brought back to Greece by Pythagoras. Cosmo said : "This child will live nearly a hundred years; he will meet with some checks, but will be happy and honored, having in his veins the blood of the Valois."

"I will go to see you," said the King, who had recovered his good humor; "you can go."

As they reached the Louvre moat, Lorenzo said in Italian : "By God ! we have caught them. Much good may it do him!"

"He must make what he can of it," replied Cosmo; "may the Queen do as much for me. We have done a good stroke for her."

A few days later Marie called the King's attention to the fact that Lorenzo had done all the talking and that Cosmo had said nothing. "That is true," said the startled King, "and there was as much falsehood as truth in what they said. Those Italians are as slippery as the silk they spin."

This suspicion explains the hatred of Cosmo that the King immediately betrayed at the trial of La Mole and Coconnas. When he found that Cosmo was implicated in the plot, Charles believed himself duped by the two Italians; for it proved to him that his mother's astrologer did not devote himself exclusively to studying the stars, fulminating powder, and final atoms. Lorenzo had then left the country. By Catherine's influence, Cosmo was condemned only to the galleys and pardoned as soon as Charles was dead.

PART III

THE TWO DREAMS

In 1786, Bodard de Saint-James was one of the most luxurious financiers of Paris, and his wife's extravagance attracted remark. She indulged an ambition of never receiving any but people of quality. One evening in August, therefore, when her rooms were full, the habitues were astonished to see two new faces of decidedly inferior birth. To one of her inquisitive guests, Madame de Saint-James, she explained that one was physician to the Court pages and had done her the great service of removing blemishes in her complexion. The other, a little prim man, as neat as a doll, who looked as if he drank verjuice, was a lawyer from Artois, who had some business with her husband. After this humiliating confession, Madame Bodard returned to her game of faro. When the tables broke up, at half-past twelve, ten of the guests sat down to supper, the two strangers only staying on the pressing invitation of the hostess.

At first the supper was deadly dull, but after a time one of the guests, Beaumarchais, and two of the ladies entered into a little plot to make the two strangers tipsy. The surgeon was easy enough to ply with wine; but, after the first glass, the lawyer, with cold politeness, refused a second.

The hostess turned the conversation to the wonderful suppers given by Cardinal de Rohan to the Comte de Cagliostro, and asserted, with great positiveness, that she had seen Queen Cleopatra. The lawyer said that he quite believed her, because he had spoken to Catherine de' Medici. Nettled at the incredulity of his convives, he had to tell his story.

He would not actually swear that it was the Queen herself, because such a miracle appeared impossible to a Christian and a philosopher; but, at any rate, the lady he saw was costumed exactly as in the Queen's famous portrait and had her color-less complexion and familiar features. Cagliostro could not guess the name of the personage in whose company the lawyer wished to be. The latter was utterly amazed. The magic spectacle of a supper where such illustrious women of the past were guests dumfounded him, and when he left about midnight his mind was in a whirl.

As he laid his head upon the pillow the grand shade of Catherine again rose before him; and, prompted by some unknown power, he said: "Ah, Madame, you committed a very great crime!"

"Which?" she asked in. a deep voice.

"That for which the signal was given on the 24th of August !"

With a scornful smile, she replied: "Do you call that a crime? It was only an accident. The undertaking was badly managed, and the good result we looked for failed—for France, for all Europe, and for the Catholic Church. How could we help it? Our orders were badly carried out. We could not find as many Montlucs as we needed. Posterity will not give us credit for the defective communications which hindered us from giving our work the unity of impulse which is necessary to any great coup d'elat; that was our misfortune. H by the 25th of August not the shadow of a Huguenot had been left in France, I should have been regarded to the remotest posterity as a noble incarnation of Providence. How often have the spirits of Sixtus Fifth, of Richelieu, of Bossuet, secretly accused me of having failed in my undertaking, after daring to conceive of it ! And how many regrets attended my death !

"The disease was still rife thirty years after that Saint-Bartholomew's night; and it had caused the shedding of ten times more noble blood in France than was left to be shed on August 26, 1572. The revocation of the Edict of Nantes, for which you had medals struck, cost more tears, more blood and money, and killed more prosperity in France than three Saint-Bartholomews. Letellier, with a dip of ink, carried into effect the decree which the crown had secretly desired since my day; but though on August 25, 1572, this tremendous execution was necessary, on August 25, 1685, it was useless. Under Henri de Valois's second son, heresy was scarcely pregnant; under Henri de Bourbon's second son the teeming mother had cast her spawn over the whole world.

"You accuse me of crime, and you raise statues to the son of Anne of Austria! But he and I aimed at the same end. He succeeded; I failed; but Louis Fourteenth found the Protestants disarmed, while in my day they had armies, states-men, captains, and Germany to back them."

Catherine proceeded in the same strain to defend her course, saying she had been as calm and cold as reason itself. It was all for the sake of the State that she had condemned the Huguenots: it was without pity but without anger; they were the rotten orange in her basket. Her only aversion was for the Guises, who wanted to snatch the crown from her children.

When the lawyer suggested that she might have given to the Reformers the wise institution which made the reign of Henri IV so glorious and peaceful, she said that the secret of that reign was that a nation needs repose after a furious struggle. Still, Henri committed two terrible blunders : he ought neither to have recanted nor to have left France Catholic after his conversion; he ought to have seen that he could have changed the face of France without a shock—" either not a single stole, or not a single conventicle. To leave two hostile principles at work in a government with nothing to balance them is a crime in a king: it is sowing the seed of revolutions."

Catherine proceeded to say that, although a Pope's niece, she would just as soon have been a Calvinist; and, after all, could it be possible that men of brains still thought that religion had anything to do with that retarded revolution? "A revolution," said she, with a look of deep meaning, "which is still progressing, and which you may achieve—yes, you, who hear me!"

Luther and Calvin, Catherine held, by pointing out to the middle classes the abuses of Rome, aroused a spirit of general investigation, and examination leads to doubt. Instead of faith, an inquisitive and destructive philosophy rose; science bred heresy, indefinite liberty was aimed at more than reform. The Reformers sought to annihilate religion and royalty, and the middle classes were to join in an international compact. Catherine maintained that she stood between Louis XII and Richelieu, the one who lived too soon and the other too late"as a visible link in an unrecognizable chain. "You forget that political liberty, the peace of a nation, and science itself, are gifts for which Fate demands a heavy blood tax. Great truths find vigor only in baths of blood. Christianity itself was not established without martyrs." This doctrine of blood was dinned into the ears of her hearer until he woke; and he was to be one of the builders of the new social edifice.

When the lawyer ceased speaking, the doctor awoke from a half-drunken stupor and exclaimed: "I, too, dreamed!" His dream was of a people he found in the leg of a patient he was about to amputate, and he was astonished to find someone to talk to in that leg. "When I first found myself in his skin, I discerned there an amazing number of tiny beings, moving, thinking, and arguing. Some lived in the man's body and some in his mind. His ideas were creatures that were born, grew, and died; they were sick, gay, healthy, sad—and all had personal individuality. They fought or fondled. A few ideas flew forth and went to dwell in the world of intellect.

"Suddenly I understood that there are two worlds—the visible and the invisible universe; that the earth, like man, has a body and a soul. A new light was cast on nature, and I perceived its immensity when I saw the ocean of beings every-where distributed in masses and in species, all of one and the same living matter, from marble rocks up to God. A magnificent sight! In short, there was a universe in my patient. When I inserted my lancet in his gangrened leg, I destroyed a thousand such beings."

When the bored company rose from the supper-table, Madame de Saint-James took the lawyer aside and said:

"Monsieur de Robespierre, will you do me the favor of seeing Monsieur Marat home? He is incapable of standing upright."

"With pleasure, Madame; I wish you had ordered me to do something more difficult."



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