Victor Marie Hugo (18021885). Notre Dame de Paris.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.
V. The Closet Where Monsieur Louis of France Recites His Orisons
THE READER perhaps remembers that Quasimodo, a moment before catching sight of the nocturnal band of truands and scrutinizing Paris from the height of his steeple, saw but a single remaining light twinkling at a window in the topmost storey of a grim and lofty building beside the Porte Saint-Antoine. The building was the Bastille, the twinkling light was the taper of Louis XI.
The King had, in fact, been in Paris these two days past, and was to set out again the next day but one for his citadel of Montilz-les-Tours. He made but rare and short visits to his good city of Paris, not feeling himself sufficiently surrounded there by pitfalls, gibbets, and Scottish archers.
That day he had come to sleep at the Bastille. The great chamber, five toises square, which he had at the Louvre, with its splendid chimney-pieces bearing the effigies of twelve great beasts and thirteen great prophets, and his bed, eleven feet by twelve, were little to his taste. He felt lost amid all these grandeurs. The good homely King preferred the Bastille, with a chamber and bed of more modest proportions; besides, the Bastille was stronger than the Louvre.
This chambrette which the King reserved for his own use in the famous prison was spacious enough, nevertheless, and occupied the uppermost storey of a turret forming part of the donjon-keep. It was a circular apartment hung with matting of shining straw, the rafters of the ceiling being decorated with raised fleurs de lis in gilt metal interspaced with colour, and wainscotted with rich carvings sprinkled with metal rosettes and painted a beautiful vivid green made of a mixture of orpiment and fine indigo.
There was but one window, a long pointed one, latticed by iron bars and iron wire, and still further darkened with fine glass painted with the arms of the King and Queen, each pane of which had cost twenty-two sols.
There was also but one entrance, a door of the contemporary style under a flattened arch, furnished inside with a tapestry hanging, and outside with one of those porches of Irish wooddelicate structures of elaborately wrought cabinet-work which still abounded in old mansions a hundred and fifty years ago. Although they disfigure and encumber the places, says Sauval in desperation, our old people will not have them removed, but keep them in spite of everybody.
Not a single article of the ordinary furniture of a room was to be seen hereneither benches, nor trestles, nor forms; neither common box-stools, nor handsome ones supported by pillars and carved feet at four sols apiece. There was one folding arm-chair only, a very magnificent one, its frame painted with roses on a crimson ground, and the seat of crimson Cordova leather with a quantity of gold-headed nails. The solitary state of this chair testified to the fact that one person alone was entitled to be seated in the room. Beside the chair and close under the window was a table covered by a cloth wrought with figures of birds. On the table was a much-used inkstand, a few sheets of parchment, some pens, and a goblet of chased silver; farther off, a charcoal brasier and a prie-dieu covered with crimson velvet and ornamented with gold bosses. Finally, at the other end of the room, an unpretentious bed of red and yellow damask with no decoration of any sort but a plain fringe. This bed, famous as having borne the sleep or sleeplessness of Louis XI, was still in existence two hundred years ago in the house of a councillor of state, where it was seen by the aged Mme. Pilou, celebrated in Le Grand Cyrus under the name of Arricidie and of La Morale Vivante.
At the moment at which we have introduced the reader into it, this closet was very dark. Curfew had rung an hour back, night had fallen, and there was but one flickering wax candle on the table to light five persons variously grouped about the room.
The first upon whom the light fell was a gentleman superbly attired in doublet and hose of scarlet slashed with silver and a cloak with puffed shoulder-pieces of cloth of gold figured with black, the whole gorgeous costume appearing to be shot with flames wherever the light played on it. The man who wore it had his heraldic device embroidered in vivid colours on his breasta chevron and a stag passant, the scutcheon supported by a branch of olive dexter and a stags horn sinister. In his girdle he wore a rich dagger, the silver-gilt hilt being wrought in the form of a helmet and surmounted by a counts coronet. He had a venomous eye, and his manner was haughty and overbearing. At the first glance you were struck by the arrogance of his face, at the second by its craftiness. He stood bareheaded, a long written scroll in his hand, behind the arm-chair in which sat a very shabbily dressed personage in an uncouth attitude, his shoulders stooping, his knees crossed, his elbow on the table. Picture to yourself in that rich Cordovan chair a pair of bent knees, two spindle shanks poorly clad in close-fitting black worsted breeches, the body wrapped in a loose coat of fustian the fur lining of which showed more leather than hair, and to crown the whole, a greasy old hat of mean black felt garnished all round by a string of little leaden figures. This, with the addition of a dirty skull-cap, beneath which hardly a hair was visible, was all that could be seen of the seated personage. His head was bowed so low on his breast that nothing was visible of his deeply shadowed face but the end of his nose, on which a ray of light fell, and which was evidently very long. By his emaciated and wrinkled hands one divined him to be an old man. It was Louis XI.
At some distance behind them, two men habited after the Flemish fashion were conversing in low tones. They were not so completely lost in the gloom but that any one who had attended the performance of Gringoires Mystery could recognise them as the two chief Flemish envoys: Guillaume Rym, the sagacious pensionary of Ghent, and Jacques Coppenole, the popular hosier. It will be remembered that these two men were concerned with the secret politics of Louis XI.
And finally, quite in the dim background near the door, there stood, motionless as a statue, a brawny, thick-set man in military accoutrements and an emblazoned coat, whose square, low-browed face with its prominent eyes, immense slit of a mouth, ears concealed beneath two wide flaps of smooth hair, seemed a cross between the bulldog and the tiger.
As he spoke the old man raised his head, and you could see the golden shells of the collar of Saint-Michael glittering round his neck. The candle shone full on his fleshless and morose countenance. He snatched the paper from the hands of the other.
You are ruining us! he cried, casting his hollow eyes over the schedule. Whats all this? What need have we of so prodigious a household? Two chaplains at ten livres a month each, and a chapel clerk at a hundred sols! A valet-de-chambre at ninety livres a year! Four kitchen masters at a hundred and sixty livres a year each! A roaster, a soup-dresser, a sauce-dresser, a head cook, an armourer, two sumpter men at the rate of ten livres a month each! Two turn-spits at eight livres! A groom and his two helpers at four and twenty livres a month! A porter, a pastry-cook, a baker, two carters, each at sixty livres a year! And the marshal of forges a hundred and twenty livres! And the master of our exchequer chamber twelve hundred livres! And a comptroller five hundred livres! And God knows what besides! Its raving madness! The wages of our domestics are simply stripping France bare. All the treasure of the Louvre would melt away before such a blaze of expense! We shall have to sell our plate! And next year, if God and Our Lady (here he raised his hat) grant us life, we shall have to drink our tisanes from a pewter pot!
Master Olivier, princes who reign over great realms as kings and superiors should not allow sumptuousness to be engendered in their households, inasmuch as that is a fire which will spread from thence to the provinces. And so, Master Olivier, make no mistake about this. Our expenses increase with every year, and the thing displeases us. Why, pasque-Dieu! up till 79 it never exceeded thirty-six thousand livres. In 80 it rose to forty-three thousand six hundred and nineteen livres. I have the figures in my head. In 8I it was sixty-six thousand six hundred and eighty livres, and this year, faith of my body! it will come to eighty thousand livres. Doubled in four years! Monstrous!
It is the same thing with that Latin memorial from the great lords of France requesting us to re-establish what they call the great offices of the Crown. Offices! call them rather burdensburdens that crush us to the ground. Ah, messieurs! you tell us we are no King to reign dapifero nullo buticulario nullo!1 But we will let you see, pasque-Dieu! whether we are a King or no!
Look you, Gossip Guillaume, the grand baker, the grand butler, the grand chamberlain, the seneschal are not worth the meanest valet. Bear this in mind, Gossip Coppenole, they are of no use whatever. Standing thus useless about the King, they put me in mind of the four evangelists that surround the face of the great clock of the palace, and that Philippe Brille has just renovated. They are gilded, but they do not mark the hour, and the clock hand could do excellently well without them.
To Adam Tenon, assistant keeper of the seals of the provostry of Paris, for the silver, workmanship, and engraving of the said seals which have had to be renewed, inasmuch as the former ones, being old and worn out, could no longer be used, twelve livres parisis.
To Guillaume Frère, the sum of four livres four sols parisis for his wages and trouble in having fed and maintained the pigeons of the two pigeon-houses at the Hôtel des Tournelles during the months of January, February, and March of this year, for the which he has furnished seven setiers of barley.
For putting in, at the Hôtel des Tournelles, six panes of white glass, at the place where the iron cage stands, thirteen sols. For making and delivering on the day of the mustering of the troops, four escutcheons bearing the arms of our said lord, wreathed round with chaplets of roses, six livres. A pair of new sleeves to the Kings old doublet, twenty sols. A pot of grease to grease the Kings boots, fifteen deniers. A new sty for lodging the Kings black swine, thirty livres parisis. Several partitions, planks, and trap-doors, for the safe-keeping of the lions at the Hôtel Saint-Paul, twenty-two livres.
Costly beasts, these, said Louis XI. But no matter, it is a magnificence befitting a King. There is a great tawny lion that I love for his engaging ways. Have you seen him, Maître Guillaume? It is fitting that princes should keep these marvellous animals. For dogs, we kings should have lions; and for cats, tigers. The great beseems a crown. In the days of the pagan worshippers of Jupiter, when the people offered a hundred bullocks and a hundred sheep in the churches, the emperors gave a hundred lions and a hundred eagles. That was very fierce and noble. The kings of France have always had these roarings around their throne. Nevertheless, to do me justice, it must be admitted that I spend less in that way than my predecessors, and that I am less ostentatious in the matter of lions, bears, elephants, and leopards,Continue, Maître Olivier. This was for the benefit of our friends, the Flemings.
Guillaume Rym bowed low, while Coppenole, with his surly face, looked much like one of the bears of whom his Majesty had spoken. The King paid on attention: he had just taken a sip from the goblet, and was spitting out the beverage again with a Faugh! the nasty stuff!
The reader went on: For the food of a rogue and vagabond kept locked up for the last six months in the cell at the Skinners yard until it should be known what was to be done with him, six livres four sols.
Whats that? interrupted the King. Feeding what ought to be hanged! Pasque-Dicu! Ill not give another sol for that food. Olivier, arrange this matter with M. dEstouteville, and see to it that this very night preparations are made to unite this gallant with the gallows. Go on.
To Henriet Cousin, chief executioner at the Justice of Paris, the sum of sixty sols parisis, to him adjudged and accorded by the Lord Provost of Paris for having purchased, by order of the said Lord Provost, a great broad-bladed sword, to be used for executing and decapitating the persons condemned by law for their delinquencies, and having it furnished with a scabbard and all necessary appurtenances; and similarly for the repair and putting in order of the old sword, which had been splintered and notched in executing justice on Messire Louis of Luxembourg, as can be plainly shown.
Ah! said the King, grasping the arms of his chair, I knew I had come to the Bastille for something special. Stop, Master Olivier, I will see that cage myself. You shall read over the cost of it to me while I examine it. Messieurs the Flemings, you must come and see this; it is curious.
The Kings cortège was recruited at the door by a party of men-at-arms ponderous with steel, and slim pages carrying torches. It proceeded for some time through the interior of the grim donjon-keep, perforated by flights of stairs and corridors even to the thickness of the walls. The captain of the Bastille walked at its head, and directed the opening of the successive narrow doors before the bent and decrepit King, who coughed as he walked along.
At each door every head was obliged to stoop, except that of the old man already bent with age. Hum! said he between his gums, for he had no teeth; we are in excellent trim for the gate of the sepulchre. A low door needs a stooping passenger.
At length, after passing through the last door of all, so encumbered with complicated locks that it took a quarter of an hour to get them all open, they entered a lofty and spacious Gothic hall, in the centre of which they could discern by the light of the torches a great square mass of masonry, iron, and wood-work. The interior was hollow. It was one of those famous cages for state prisoners familiarly known as Fillettes du roilittle daughters of the King. There were two or three small windows in its walls, but so closely grated with massive iron bars that no glass was visible. The door consisted of a huge single slab of stone, like that of a tombone of those doors that serve for entrance alone. Only here, the dead was alive.
For making a great wooden cage of heavy beams, joists, and rafters, measuring nine feet in length and eight in breadth, and seven feet high between roof and floor, mortised and bolted with great iron bolts; which has been placed in a certain chamber situated in one of the towers of the Bastille Saint-Antoine; in the which said cage is put and kept by command of our lord the King a prisoner, who before inhabited an old, decayed, and unserviceable cage. Used in the building of the said new cage, ninety-six horizontal beams and fifty-two perpendicular, ten joists, each three toises long. Employed in squaring, planing, and fitting the same woodwork in the yard of the Bastille, nineteen carpenters for twenty days
Used in this cage, continued the other, two hundred and twenty great iron bolts nine feet and eight feet long, the rest of medium length, together with the plates and nuts for fastening the said bolts; the said iron weighing in all three thousand seven hundred and thirty-five pounds; besides eight heavy iron clamps for fixing the said cage in its place, altogether two hundred and eighteen pounds; without reckoning the iron of the grating to the windows of the chamber and other items
Pasque-Dieu! exclaimed the King. This oath, which was the favourite one of Louis XI, apparently aroused some one inside the cage; there was sound of clanking chains being dragged across its floor, and a feeble voice that seemed to issue from the tomb, wailed: Sire! Sire, mercy! The speaker was not visible.
The voice of lamentation which had issued from the cage chilled the blood of all present, even Maître Olivier. The King alone gave no evidence of having heard it. At this command Olivier resumed his reading, and his Majesty coolly continued his inspection of the cage.
Besides the above, there has been paid to a mason, for making the holes to fix the window-grating and the flooring of the chamber containing the cage, forasmuch as the floor would not otherwise have supported the said cage by reason of its weighttwenty-seven livres, fourteen sols parisis
Have mercy, Sire! cried the voice again. It is not enough that all my possessions have been given to my judgesmy table service to M. de Torcy, my library to Maître Pierre Doriolle, my tapestries to the Governor of Roussillon? I am innocent. Lo, these fourteen years have I shivered in an iron cage. Have mercy, Sire! and you shall find it in heaven!
He snatched the paper from Oliviers hand, and began to reckon it up himself on his fingers, examining the schedule and the cage by turnswhile the prisoner was heard sobbing within it. It was a dismal scene in the darkness, and the bystanders paled as they looked at one another.
Fourteen years, Sire! It is fourteen yearssince April, 1469. I conjure you in the name of the Holy Mother of God, listen to me, Sire! During all those years you have enjoyed the warmth of the sun; shall I, feeble wretch that I am, never see the light of day again? Mercy, Sire! Show mercy! Clemency is a noble virtue in a King, and turns aside the current of the wrath to come. Think you, your Majesty, that at the hour of death it will be a great satisfaction to a King to know that he has never let an offence go unpunished? Moreover, I never betrayed your Majestyit was Monsieur of Angers. And I have a very heavy chain on my foot with a huge iron ball attached to itfar heavier than there is any need for. Oh, Sire, have pity on me!
He turned his back on the cage, and began to move towards the door of the chamber. The wretched prisoner judged by the withdrawal of the torchlight and by the sounds that the King was preparing to depart.
A few minutes later, the door of the closet had opened and closed again on the five persons whom the reader found there at the beginning of this chapter, and who had severally resumed their places, their attitudes, and their whispered conversation.
During the Kings absence some despatches had been laid upon the table, of which he himself broke the seal. He then began reading them attentively one after another, motioned to Maître Olivier, who seemed to fill the post of minister to him, to take a pen, and without imparting to him the contents of the despatches, began in a low voice to dictate to him the answers, which the latter wrote kneeling uncomfortably at the table.
The King spoke so low that the Flemings could hear nothing of what he was dictating, except here and there a few isolated and scarcely intelligible fragments, such as: Maintain the fertile tracts by commerce and the sterile ones by manufactures.Show my lords the English our four bombards: the Londres, the Brabant, the Bourg-en-Bresse, the Saint-Omer.It is owing to artillery that war is now more reasonably carried on.To Monsieur de Bressuire, our friend.Armies cannot be maintained without contributions, etc.
Once he raised his voice. Pasque-Dieu! Monsieur the King of Sicily seals his letters with yellow wax like a King of France! Perhaps we do wrong to permit this. My good cousin of Burgundy accorded no arms of a field gules. The greatness of house is secured by upholding the integrity of its prerogatives. Note that down, friend Olivier.
Another time: Oh, oh! said he, a big missive! What does our friend the Emperor demand of us now? Then, running his eye over the despatch and interrupting the perusal now and again with brief interjections: Certes, Germany is getting so grand and mighty it is scarcely credible. But we do not forget the old proverb: The finest country is Flanders; the finest duchy, Milan; the finest kingdom, France. Is that not so, Messieurs the Flemings?
The last of the batch made Louis XI knit his brows. What have we here? he exclaimed. Complaints and petitions against our garrisons in Picardy! Olivier, write with all speed to Monsieur the Marshal de Rouault: That discipline is relaxed; that the men-at-arms, the nobles, the free archers, and the Swiss are doing infinite mischief to the inhabitants; that the military, not content with the good things they find in the dwellings of the husbandmen, must needs compel them with heavy blows of staves or bills to fetch them from the town wine, fish, spices, and other superfluous articles; that the King knows all this; that we mean to protect our people from annoyance, theft, and pillage; that such is our will, by Our Lady! That, furthermore, it does not please us that any musician, barber, or man-at-arms whatsoever, should go clad like a prince in velvet, silk, and gold rings; that such vanities are hateful to God; that we, who are a gentleman, content ourselves with a doublet of cloth at sixteen sols parisis the ell; that messieurs the varlets may very well come down to that price likewise. Convey and command thisTo M. de Rouault, our friend.Good.
He dictated this letter in a loud voice with a firm tone, and in short, abrupt sentences. As he spoke the last word, the door flew open and admitted a fresh person, who rushed into the chamber in breathless agitation, crying:
The Kings grave face contracted, but such emotion as he displayed passed like a flash. He controlled himself. Compere Jacques, he said in a tone and with a look of quiet severity, you enter very abruptly.
Louis, who had risen from his seat, seized him roughly by the arm, and in a tone of concentrated anger and a sidelong glance at the Flemings, said in his ear so as to be heard by him alone: Hold thy peace, or speak low!
The newcomer grasped the situation and proceeded to tell his news in a terrified whisper, the King listening unmoved, while Guillaume Rym directed Coppenoles attention to the messengers face and dress, his furred hood (caputia forrata), his short cloak (epitogia curta), his gown of black velvet, which proclaimed him a president of the Court of Accompts.
Scarcely had this person given the King a few details, when Louis exclaimed in a burst of laughter: Nay, in good sooth, speak up, Compere Coictier. What need to whisper thus? Our Lady knows we no secrets from our good Flemish friends.
Advancing from the Great Truanderie towards the Pont-aux-Changeurs. I met it myself on my way here in obedience to your Majestys orders. I heard some of them cry, Down with the Provost of the Palais!
Yes, Sire. They are rascals from the Court of Miracles. They have long been complaining of the provost whose vassals they are. They will not acknowledge him either as justiciary or as lord of the highway.
He, he! chuckled the King, rubbing his hands with that internal laugh which irradiates the countenance. He could not disguise his delight, though he made a momentary effort to compose himself. No one had the least idea what it meant, not even Olivier. He remained silent for a moment, but with a thoughtful and satisfied air.
We will send, said the King with simulated earnestness. Good! we will certainly send. Monsieur the Provost is our friend. Six thousand! These are determined rogues! Their boldness is extraordinary, and we are highly incensed thereat. But we have few men about us to-night. It will be time enough to-morrow morning.
Coictier gave a cry. This moment, Sire! They would have time to sack the court-house twenty times over, storm the manor, and hang the provost himself. For Gods sake, Sire, send before to-morrow morning!
Sire, the Rue de la Calandre as far as the Rue de lHerberie, the Place Saint-Michel and places commonly called Les Mureaux situated near the Church of Notre Dame des Champs,here the King lifted the brim of his hatwhich mansions are thirteen in number; further the Court of Miracles, further the Lazaretto called the Banlieue, further the whole of the high-road beginning at the Lazaretto and ending at the Porte Saint-Jacques. Of these several places he is reeve of the ways, chief, mean, and inferior justiciary, full and absolute lord.
Suddenly he burst out: Pasque-Dieu! what are all these people that claim to be highway-reeves, justiciaries, lords and masters along with us! that have their toll-gates at the corner of every field, their gibbet and their executioner at every crossway among our people, so that, as the Greek thought he had as many gods as he had springs of water, the Persian as many as the stars he saw, the Frenchman reckons as many kings as he sees gibbets. Pardieu! this thing is evil, and the confusion of it incenses me! I would know if it be Gods pleasure that there should be in Paris any keepers of the highways but the King, any justiciary but our Parliament, any emperor but ourself in this empire? By my soul, but the day must come when there shall be in France but one king, one lord, one judge, one headsman, just as in paradise there is but one God!
He stopped himself abruptly, bit his lips as if to regain possession of his escaping thoughts, bent his piercing eye in turn on each of the five persons around him, and suddenly taking his hat in both hands and regarding it steadfastly, he exclaimed: Oh, I would burn thee, didst thou know what I have in my head!
Then casting around him the alert and suspicious glance of a fox stealing back to his holeNo matter, he said, we will send help to Monsieur the Provost. Most unfortunately we have very few troops here at this moment to send against such a mob. We must wait till to-morrow. Order shall then be restored in the city, and all who are taken shall be promptly hanged.
Maître Olivier went out and returned immediately with the two prisoners, surrounded by archers of the body-guard. The first of the two had a wild, imbecile face, drunken and wonder-struck. He was clad in rags and walked with one knee bent and dragging his foot. The other presented a pale and smiling countenance, with which the reader is already acquainted.
The truand gazed at the King, swinging his arms the while with an air of sottish stupidity. His was one of those uncouth heads in which the intellect is about as much at its ease as a light under an extinguisher.
No, Sire, there is a misapprehension; tis an unlucky mischance. I am a maker of tragedies, Sire. I beseech your Majesty to hear me. I am a poet. It is the craze of men of my profession to go about the streets at night. I was passing by, this evening; twas a mere chance. They took me without reason. I am innocent of this civil disturbance. Your Majesty sees that the truand did not know me. I conjure your Majesty
Our philosophers countenance at this moment rivalled the hue of the olive. He saw by the cold and indifferent air of the King that he had no resource but in something excessively pathetic. He therefore threw himself at the feet of Louis XI, and, with gestures of despair, cried:
Sire, will your Majesty deign to listen to me? Sire, break not forth in thunders against so poor a thing as Ithe bolts of God strike not the lowly lettuce. Sire, you are an august and mighty monarch; have pity on a poor honest man who would be more incapable of inflaming a revolt than an icicle of producing a spark. Most gracious Sire, magnanimity is the virtue of the lion and of the King. Alas! severity does but exasperate the spirit; the fierce blast of the north wind will not make the traveller lay aside his mantle, but the suns gentle rays, warming him little by little, cause him at last to strip himself gladly to his shirt. Sire, you are the sun. I protest to you, my sovereign lord and master, that I am no disorderly companion of truands and thieves. Revolt and brigandage go not in the train of Apollo. I am no man to throw myself headlong into those clouds that burst in thunders of sedition. I am a faithful vassal of your Majesty. The same jealousy which the husband has for his wifes honour, the affection with which the son should requite his fathers love, a good vassal should feel for the glory of his King, should wear himself out for the upholding of his house, for the furtherance of his service. All other passions that might possess him were mere frenzy. These, Sire, are my maxims of state. Therefore judge me not as sedition-monger and pillager because my coat is out at elbows. Show me mercy, Sire, and I will wear out my knees in praying God for you day and night. Alas! I am not extremely rich, it is truerather, I am somewhat poor; but for all that, I am not vicious. It is not my fault. Every one knows that great wealth is not to be acquired from belles-letters, and that the most accomplished writers have not always a great fire to warm them in winter. The advocates alone take all the grain, and leave nothing but the chaff for the other learned professions. There are forty very excellent proverbs upon the philosophers threadbare coat. Oh, Sire, clemency is the only light that can illumine the interior of a great soul. Clemency bears the torch before all the other virtues. Without her they are blind, groping for God in the darkness. Mercy, which is the same as clemency, produces loving subjectsthe most powerful body-guard that can surround a prince. What can it signify to your Majesty, by whom all faces are dazzled, that there should be one more poor man upon eartha poor, innocent philosopher crawling about in the slough of calamity, his empty purse flapping upon his empty stomach? Besides, Sire, I am a man of letters. Great kings add a jewel to their crown by patronizing learning. Hercules did not disdain the title of Musagetesleader of the Muses. Mathias Corvinus showed favour to Jean de Monroyal, the ornament of mathematics. Now tis an ill way of patronizing letters to hang the lettered. What a stain on Alexander had he hanged Aristotle! The act would not have been a beauty-spot upon the cheek of his reputation to embellish it, but a virulent ulcer disfiguring it. Sire, I wrote a very appropriate epithalamium for Made moiselle of Flanders and Monsieur the most august Dauphin. That was not like a fire-brand of rebellion. Your Majesty can see that I am no dunce; that I have studied excellently, and that I have much natural eloquence. Grant me mercy, Sire! By so doing, you will perform an action agreeable to Our Lady, and I do assure you, Sire, that I am greatly frightened at the thought of being hanged!
So saying, the desperate Gringoire kissed the Kings shoe, whereat Guillaume Rym murmured low to Coppenole: He does well to crawl upon the floor. Kings are like the Cretan Jupiterthey have ears on their feet only. And Coppenole, unmoved by the peculiar attributes of the Cretan Jupiter, answered with a slow smile and his eye fixed on Gringoire: Ah, thats good! I could fancy I hear the Chancellor Hugonet begging mercy of me?
When Gringoire stopped at length, out of breath, he raised his head tremulously to the King, who was engaged in scratching off a spot on his breeches knee with his fingernail, after which his Majesty took another mouthful from the goblet. But he said never a word, and his silence kept Gringoire on the rack. At last the King looked at him.
Compère, returned Louis XI, dost thou think it is for birds like this we have cages made at three hundred and seventy-seven livres, eight sols, three deniers apiece? Set him at liberty, the rascal, and send him off with a drubbing.
And, fearing a counter-order, he hurried to the door, which Tristan opened for him with a very bad grace. The soldiers went out with him, driving him before them with great blows of their fists, which Gringoire bore like a true Stoic.
The good humour of the King, since the revolt against the provost had been announced to him, manifested itself at every point, and this unusual clemency was no insignificant sign of it. Tristan lHermite in his corner looked as surly as a dog that has seen much but got nothing.
Meanwhile the King was gaily drumming the Pont Audemer march on the arms of his chair. He was a dissembling prince, but he was much better able to conceal his sorrow than his joys. These outward and visible signs of rejoicing at good news sometimes carried him great lengthsthus at the death of Charles the Bold, to vowing balustrades of silver to Saint-Martin of Tours; on his accession to the throne, of forgetting to give orders for his fathers obsequies.
As he felt the Kings pulse, Coictier assumed a look of great alarm. Louis regarded him with some anxiety, while the physicians countenance waxed gloomier every instant. The good man had no other means of subsistence but the Kings bad health; he accordingly made the most of it.
He made Louis put out his tongue; then shook his head, pulled a long face, and in the midst of these anticsPardieu! Sire, he remarked suddenly, I must inform you that there is a receivership of episcopal revenues vacant, and that I have a nephew.
I am at the end of my money, continued the doctor, and it would indeed be a pity that the house should be left without a roofnot for the sake of the house itself, which is plain and homely, but for the paintings of Jehan Fourbault which adorn the wainscoting. There is a Diana among them, flying in the air; but so excellently limned, so tender, so delicate, the attitude so artless, the hair so admirably arranged and crowned by a crescent, the flesh so white, that she leads those into temptation who regard her too closely. Then there is also another, a Ceresanother most admirable divinityseated on sheaves of corn, and crowned with a garland of wheat-ears intertwined with salsify and other flowers. Never were more amorous eyes, or shapelier limbs, or a nobler mien, or more graceful folds of drapery. It is one of the most innocent and perfect beauties that ever brush produced.
Jacques Coictier made a profound obeisance and said: Sire, it is a repellant that will save you. We shall apply to your loins the great deterrent composed of cerade, clay of Armenia, white of egg, oil, and vinegar. You will continue the tisane, and we will answer for your Majestys safety.
As he spoke, Maître Oliviers overbearing countenance changed its arrogance for cringingthe only alternation on the face of a courtier. The King looked him very straight in the face and answered dryly, I understand.
Maître Olivier, he went on, the Marshal de Boucicaut says: There is no good gift but from the King; there is no good fishing but in the sea. I see you share Monsieur de Boucicauts opinion. Now harken to thiswe have a good memory. In 68 we made you a groom of the chamber; in 69, warder of the fort on the bridge of Saint-Cloud, with a salary of a hundred livres tournois (you wanted it parisis). In November, 73, by letters patent given at Gergeole, we appointed you ranger of the forest of Vincennes in place of Gilbert Acle, squire; in 75, warden of the forest of Rouvraylez-Saint-Cloud, in place of Jacques le Maire; in 78, we graciously settled upon you, by letters patent sealed with a double seal of green wax, an annuity of ten livres parisis, for yourself and your spouse, chargeable on the place aux Marchands, near the School of Saint-Germain; in 79, we made you warden of the forest of Senard, in the place of poor Jehan Diaz; then captain of the Castle of Loches; then Governor of Saint-Quentin; then captain of the Bridge of Meulan, of which you had yourself called count. Of the five sols fine paid by every barber who shaves on a holiday, you get threeand we get what you leave. We were pleased to change your surname of Le Mauvais as being too expressive of your mien. In 74, we granted you, to the great umbrage of our nobility, armorial bearings of many colours, which enables you to display a peacock breast. Pasque-Dieu! are you not surfeited? Is not the draught of fishes abundant and miraculous enough? Are you not afraid that one salmon more will sink your boat? Pride will be your ruin, my Gossip. Ruin and shame tread ever close upon the heels of pride. Remember that, and keep still.
Far from taking offence at this piece of effrontery, Louis resumed in a milder tone: Stay, I had forgotten too that I made you my ambassador at Ghent to Mme. Marie. Yes, gentlemen, he added, addressing himself to the Flemings, this man has been an ambassador. There, there, Gossip, turning to Olivier, let us not fall outwe are old friends. It is getting late. We have finished our businessshave me.
The reader has doubtless already recognised in Maître Olivier the terrible Figaro whose part Providencethat master playwrightwove so skilfully into the long and sanguinary drama of Louis XI. We shall not attempt here to describe that baleful character. This barber to the King had three names. At Court they addressed him politely as Olivier le Daim; among the people he was Olivier le Diable. His real name was Olivier le Mauvaisthe Miscreant.
Quite so; the physician! repeated Louis with unwonted affability; the physician has yet more influence than thy self. The reason is not far to seekhe has hold over our entire body; thou only of our chin. Come, come, my poor barber, all will be well. Now, Gossip, perform thy office, and shave me; go fetch what is needful.
Oh, yes! he exclaimed, clapping his hands, theres a glare in the sky over the city. It is the Provost of the Palais burning; it can be nothing else. Ha! my good people, so ye aid me at last in the overthrow of the feudal lords! Gentlemen, and he turned to the Flemings, come and look at this. Is that not the red glare of a conflagration?
Regardless of the signs Guillaume Rym was making to him, the hosier seemed bent upon contesting the matter with the King. Sire, said he, the Swiss were common people too. Monsieur the Duke of Burgundy was a great seigneur, and held the canaille of no account. At the battle of Granson, Sire, he shouted: Cannoneers, fire upon these churls! and he swore by Saint-George. But the syndic Scharnachtal rushed upon the fine duke with his clubs and his men, and at the shock of the peasants with their bull-hides, the glittering Burgundian army was shattered like a pane of glass by a stone. There was many a knight killed there by the base-born churls, and Monsieur de Château-Guyon, the greatest lord in Burgundy, was found dead, with his great gray charger, in a little boggy field.
Let him speak his mind, friend Rym, said the King. I like this plain speaking. My father, Charles VII, used to say that truth was sick For my part, I thought she was dead and had found no confessor. Maître Coppenole shows me I am mistaken. Then, laying his hand on Maître Coppenoles shoulder: You were saying, Maître Jacques
Coppenole, with his quiet and homely self-possession, signed to the King to approach the window. Listen, Sire! There is here a donjon-keep, a bell-tower, cannon, townsfolk, soldiers. When the tocsin sounds, when the cannons roar, when, with great clamour, the fortress walls are shattered, when citizens and soldiers shout and kill each otherthen the hour will strike.
Oh, answered Coppenole, it is no very difficult matter. There are a hundred ways. First of all, there must be dissatisfaction in the townthats nothing uncommon. And next, there is the character of the inhabitants. Those of Ghent are prone to revolt. They ever love the son of the prince, but never the prince himself. Well, one fine morning, we will suppose, some one enters my shop and says to me: Father Coppenole, it is thus and thusthe Lady of Flanders wants to save her favourites, the chief provost has doubled the toll on green food, or something of the kindwhat you will. I throw down my work, run out of my shop into the street, and cry, A sac! There is sure to be some empty cask about. I get upon it, and say in a loud voice the first thing that comes into my headwhats uppermost in my heartand when one is of the people, Sire, one has always something in ones heart. Then a crowd gets together; they shout, they ring the tocsin, the people arm themselves by disarming the soldiers, the market people join the rest, and off they march. And so it will always be, so long as there are lords in the manors, citizens in the cities, and peasants in the country.
At the same instant Olivier le Daim entered the apartment. He was followed by two pages bearing the toilet necessaries of the King; but what struck Louis was to see him also accompanied by the Provost of Paris and the commander of the watch, who both appeared full of consternation. There was consternation, too, in the manner of the rancorous barber, but with an underlying satisfaction.
Explain thyself, Olivier! explain thyself! And look well to thy head, my Gossip; for I swear to thee by the cross of Saint-Lô, that if thou speakest false in this matter, the sword that cut the throat of M. de Luxembourg is not so notched but it will manage to saw thine too.
Olivier went down on his knees. Sire, he said composedly, a witch was condemned to death by your Court of Parliament. She took sanctuary in Notre Dame. The people want to take her thence by main force. Monsieur the Provost and Monsieur the Commander of the Watch are here to contradict me if I speak not the truth. It is Notre Dame the people are besieging.
Ah! ah! murmured the King, pale and shaking with passion. Notre Dame they besiege! Our Lady, my good mistress, in her own Cathedral! Rise, Olivier. Thou art right. I give thee Simon Radins office. Thou art right; it is me they attack. The witch is under the safeguard of the Church, the Church is under my safeguard. And Iwho thought all the while that it was only the provostand tis against myself!
Rejuvenated by passion, he began to pace the room with great strides. He laughed no more; he was terrible to look upon as he went to and frothe fox was become a hyena. He seemed choking with rage, his lips moved, but no word came, his fleshless hands were clenched. Suddenly he raised his head, his sunken eyes blazed full of light, his voice rang like a clarion: Seize them, Tristan! Cut down the knaves! Away, Tristan, my friend! Kill! Kill!
This outburst over, he returned to his seat, and went on in a voice of cold and concentrated rage: Hither, Tristan. We have with us in this Bastille fifty lances of the Vicomte de Gif, which makes three hundred horses; you will take them. There is also a company of the archers of our bodyguard, under Monsieur de Châteaupers; you will take them. You are provost-marshal, and have the men of your provostry; you will take them. At the Hôtel Saint-Pol you will find forty archers of the new guard of Monsieur the Dauphin; take them, and with all these you will speed to Notre Dame. Ah, messieurs, the commons of Paris, do you fly thus in the face of the crown of France, of the sanctity of Notre Dame, and the peace of this commonwealth! Exterminate, Tristan! exterminate! and let not one escape for Montfaucon!
Then, as if an idea had suddenly occurred to him, he fell on his knees before his chair, took off his hat, laid it on the seat, and gazing devoutly at one of the little lead images with which it was encircled: Oh! he cried, clasping his hands, Our Lady of Paris, my gracious patroness, give me pardon, I will do it only this once. This criminal must be punished. I do assure you, Madame the Virgin, my good mistress, that it is a sorceress, unworthy of your kind protection. You know, Madame, that many very devout princes have trespassed on the privileges of the Church for the glory of God and the necessity of the state. Saint-Hugh, Bishop of England, permitted King Edward to seize a magician in his church. My master, Saint-Louis of France, transgressed for the like purpose in the Church of Saint-Paul, and Monsieur Alphonse, son of the King of Jerusalem, in the Church of the Holy Sephulchre itself. Pardon me, then, for this once, Our Lady of Paris! I will never again transgress in this manner, and I will give you a fair statue of silver, like that I gave last year to Our Lady of Ecouys. So be it!
He made the sign of the cross, rose to his feet, replaced his hat, and turned to Tristan. Make all speed, Compère. Take M. de Châteaupers with you. You will sound the tocsin, crush the people, hang the witchthat is all. You will defray all the charges of the execution and bring me the account. Come, Olivier, I shall not go to bed to-night. Shave me.
Tristan lHermite bowed and left. The king then dismissed Rym and Coppenole with a wave of the hand. God keep you, my good Flemish friends. Go and take a little rest. The night is far advanced, and we are nearer the morning than the evening.
They both withdrew. On reaching their apartments under the escort of the captain of the Bastille, Coppenole remarked to Rym, Hum! Ive had enough of this coughing King. I have seen Charles of Burgundy drunk, but he was not near so wicked as Louis XI sick.