In the end Don Guzman behaved well. He praised the skill and courage of his antagonist, and presented him with an Andalusian horse, covered with rich trappings. In this Jacques was not to be outdone. He sent the Don a charger of great beauty and value, whose coverings were of blue velvet embroidered in gold, and the saddle of violet velvet. Banquets and balls followed the combat; the combatants were feasted to their hearts' content; and Sir Jacques at length left the court of Spain loaded with presents and covered with honor.
And now the "good knight" turned his steps homeward, challenging all champions as he went, but without finding an opponent. Feasting he found in abundance; but no fighting. Stopping at Montpelier, he became the guest of Jacques Coeur, silversmith and banker to Charles VII. His worthy host offered him money freely, and engaged to redeem any valuables which the wandering knight might have found it necessary to pawn. Sir Jacques thanked him, but said,—
"My good master, the Duke of Burgundy, provides all that is necessary for me, and allows me to want for nothing."
Soon after, our errant knight reached Philip's court, where he was received with the highest honors. Then to his paternal castle he wended his way, to be welcomed by his proud parents as gladly as if he had won the Holy Grail. Dancing and rejoicing followed, in which all the neighboring noble families participated, and many a fair damsel shed her smiles—in vain it seems—on the famous and heart-whole knight.
We next hear of Jacques de Lelaing in 1449. In that year the herald Charolais made his advent at the Scottish court, bearing a challenge from the Burgundian knight to the whole clan of the Douglases. James Douglas accepted the challenge, and Sir Jacques appeared in due time at Stirling, where a battle took place in which the Burgundian again came off victor. From Scotland Jacques sought England but failed to find in that kingdom any knight willing to accept his challenge. Yet he had but fairly got home again when an English knight, Sir Thomas Karr by name, appeared at the court of Philip the Good, and challenged Jacques de Lelaing to combat for the honor of old England.
As may well be imagined, this challenge was speedily accepted, the lists being set in a field near Bruges. The English knight was the heavier, but Jacques was the favorite, for once again he was fighting on his native soil. Fierce was the combat. It ended in the Burgundian's favor. Karr struck him a blow on the arm with his battle-axe which rendered that arm useless, it being paralyzed or broken. But the valiant Jacques dropped his axe, closed with his foe, and with the aid of his one arm flung him to the ground, falling upon him. This ended the combat, the Burgundian being pronounced victor. But as he had been the first to drop his battle-axe, he presented Sir Thomas with a rich diamond, as he had agreed in his challenge.
Jacques had been sorely hurt. His wound took a long time to heal. When his arm had grown strong again he repaired to Chalons, where he opened a tournament of his own, in which he held the lists against all comers. This was in fulfilment of a vow which he had made that he would appear in the closed lists thirty times before the completion of his thirtieth year. Much fighting was done, much blood spilt, and much honor gained by Sir Jacques. We cannot tell all that took place, but the noble tournament at Chalons was long afterwards the talk of the country-side.
As for Sir Jacques, he was now at the height of fame, and Philip the Good, to do him the highest honor in his power, created him a knight of the illustrious order of the Golden Fleece. Of his single combats afterwards we shall but speak of one fought at Brussels, in honor of the son of the Duke of Burgundy, then eighteen years old. Jacques de Lelaing was selected to tilt with the young count,—doubtless with the idea that he could be trusted not to harm him. In the first course that was run the count shattered his spear against the shield of Jacques, who raised his own weapon and passed without touching his adversary. This complaisance displeased the duke, who sent word to the knight that if he proposed to play with his adversary he had better withdraw at once. They ran again. This time both splintered their spears, and both kept their seats, much to the delight of Duke Philip.
On the next day the grand tourney came off. To behold it there were present no less than two hundred and twenty-five princes, barons, knights, and squires. That day the youthful Count de Charolais acquitted himself nobly, breaking eighteen spears,—and possibly some bones of his antagonists. He carried off the prize, which was bestowed upon him by the ladies of his father's court, and Duke Philip gloried in the prowess of his son.
With that tournament ended the record of the single combats of Jacques de Lelaing. War followed, the duke and his robber barons fighting against the rich cities of Belgium, and spoiling many of them. In those wars Sir Jacques took part. At length, in June, 1453, siege was being made against the Chateau de Pouckes, a stronghold against whose walls the Burgundians plied a great piece of artillery, an arm which was then only fairly coming into use. Behind this stood Sir Jacques, with a number of other nobles, to watch the effect of the shot. Just then came whizzing through the air a stone bullet, shot from a culverin on the walls of the castle, the artillerist being a young man of Ghent, son of Henry the Blindman. This stone struck Sir Jacques on the forehead and carried away the upper half of his head, stretching him dead on the field. He was yet a young man when death thus came to him. Only eight years before he had made his first appearance in the lists, at Nancy.
Philip the Good was infuriated when he heard of the loss of his favorite knight. He vowed that when the Chateau was taken every soul in it should be hung from the walls. He kept his word, too, with a few exceptions, these being some priests, a leprous soldier, and a couple of boys. One of these lads made his way in all haste to Ghent, and not until well out of reach of the good Philip did he reveal the truth, that it was his hand which had fired the fatal shot.
And so ended the life of our worthy knight-errant, the prize-fighter of an earlier day than ours, the main difference between past and present being that his combats were fought with battle-axe and sword instead of fists, and that his backers were princes, his admirers high-born ladies, instead of the low-lived class of bruisers who now support such knightly exhibitions. Four centuries and more have passed since the days of Sir Jacques. It is to be hoped that long before another century has passed, there will be an end of all single combats in civilized lands.
LOUIS THE POLITIC AND CHARLES THE BOLD.
In the latter half of the fifteenth century Europe had two notable sovereigns, Louis XI. of France and Charles the Bold, or Charles the Rash, of Burgundy; the one famous in history for his intricate policy, the other for his lack of anything that could fairly be called policy. The relations between these two men ranged from open hostility to a peace of the most fragile character. The policy of Louis was of the kind that was as likely to get him into trouble as out of it. The rashness and headstrong temper of Charles were equally likely to bring trouble in their train. In all things the two formed a strongly contrasted pair, and their adjoining realms could hardly hope for lasting peace while these men lived.
The hand of Charles was ever on his sword. With him the blow quickly followed the word or the thought. The hand of Louis—"the universal spider," as his contemporaries named him—was ever on the web of intrigue which he had woven around him, feeling its filaments, and keeping himself in touch with every movement of his foes. He did not like war. That was too direct a means of gaining his ends. It was his delight to defeat his enemies by combinations of state policy, to play off one against another, and by incessant intrigue to gain those ends which other men gained by hard blows.
Yet it is possible for a schemer to overdo himself, for one who trusts to his plots and his policy to defeat himself by the very neatness and intricacy of his combinations, and so it proved on one occasion in the dealings between these two men. The incident which we propose to relate forms the subject of "Quentin Durward," one of the best-known novels by Sir Walter Scott, and is worth telling for itself without the allurements of romance.
"Louis had a great idea of the influence he gained over people by his wits and his language," says one of his biographers. "He was always convinced that people never said what ought to be said, and that they did not set to work the right way." He liked to owe success to himself alone, and had an inordinate opinion of his power both of convincing and of deceiving people. In consequence, during one of his periods of strained relations with Charles of Burgundy, which his agents found it impossible to settle, this royal schemer determined to visit Charles in person, and try the effect on his opponent of the powers of persuasion of which he was so proud.
It was as rash a project as Charles himself could have been guilty of. The fox was about to trust himself in the den of the angry lion. But Louis persisted, despite the persuasions of his councillors, sent to Charles for a letter of safe-conduct, and under its assurance sought the Duke of Burgundy in his fortified town of Peronne, having with him as escort only fourscore of his Scotch guard and sixty men-at-arms.
It was a mad movement, and led to consequences of which Louis had not dreamed. Charles received him civily enough. Between rash duke and politic king there was every show of amity. But the negotiations went on no more rapidly now than they had done before. And soon came news which proved that Louis the schemer had, for once at least, played the fool, and put himself in a position of the utmost danger.
The policy of the royal spider had been stretched too far. His webs of plot had unluckily crossed. In truth, shortly before coming to Peronne, he had sent two secret agents to the town of Liege, to stir the unruly citizens up to rebellion against the duke. Quite forgetting this trifle of treachery, the too-hasty plotter had sought the duke's stronghold with the hope of placating him with well-concocted lies and a smooth tongue. Unluckily for him, his agents did not forget their orders.
The Liegoise broke out into rebellion, under the insidious advice of the French king's agents, advanced and took the town of Tongres, killed some few people, and made prisoner there the bishop of Liege and the lord of Humbercourt. The fugitives who brought this news to Peronne made the matter even worse than this, reporting that the bishop and lord had probably been killed. Charles believed them, and broke into a fury that augured badly for his guest.
"So the king came here only to deceive me!" he burst out. "It is he who by his ambassadors excited these bad folks of Liege! By St. George, they shall be severely punished for it, and he himself shall have cause to repent."
The measures taken by the incensed duke were certainly threatening. The gates of the town and castle were closed and guarded by archers. Louis was to all intents and purposes a prisoner, though the duke, a little ashamed, perhaps, of his action, affirmed that his purpose was to recover a box of gold and jewels that had been stolen from him.
The den of the lion had closed on the fox. Now was the time for the fox to show his boasted wit, for his position was one of danger. That rash-headed Duke of Burgundy was never the man to be played with, and in his rage was as perilous as dynamite. It was, in truth, an occasion fitted to draw out all the quickness and shrewdness of mind of Louis, those faculties on which he prided himself! To gain friends in the castle he bribed the household of the duke. As for himself he remained quiet and apparently easy and unsuspicious, while alertly watchful to avail himself of any opportunity to escape from the trap into which he had brought himself. During the two days that succeeded, the rage of Charles cooled somewhat. Louis had offered to swear a peace, to aid Charles in punishing the Liegoise for their rebellion, and to leave hostages for his good faith. This the angry duke at first would not listen to. He talked of keeping Louis a prisoner, and sending for Prince Charles, his brother, to take on himself the government of France. The messenger was ready for this errand; his horse in the court-yard; the letters written. But the duke's councillors begged him to reflect. Louis had come under his safe-conduct. His honor was involved. Such an act would be an eternal reproach to Burgundy. Charles did reflect, and slowly began to relent. He had heard again from Liege. The affair was not so bad as he had been told. The bishop and lord had been set free. The violent storm in the duke's mind began to subside.
Early in the next day the irate duke entered the chamber of the castle in which he held his royal guest a prisoner. The storm had fallen, but the waves still ran high. There was courtesy in his looks, but his voice trembled with anger. The words that came from his lips were brief and bitter; there was threat in his manner; Louis looked at him with more confidence than he felt.
"Brother," he said, "I am safe, am I not, in your house and your country?"
"Yes," answered the duke, with an effort at self-repression; "so safe that if I saw an arrow from a bow coming towards you I would throw myself in the way to protect you. But will you not be pleased to swear to the treaty just as it is written?"
"Yes, and I thank you for your good-will," said Louis, heartily.
"And will you not be pleased to come with me to Liege to help me punish the treason committed against me by these Liegoise, all through you and your journey hither? The bishop is your near relative of the house of Bourbon."
"Yes, Paques-Dieu!" replied Louis; "and I am much astounded by their wickedness. But let us begin by swearing this treaty; and then I will start with as many or as few of my people as you please."
"My brother, the fox, is over-willing," may have been the thought that passed through the duke's mind. "He is ready to lose his foot to get his body out of the trap."
But whatever his thoughts, in action he took prompt measures to bind the slippery king to his promise. From Louis's boxes was produced the cross of St. Laud, claimed to be made of the wood of the true cross, and so named because it was usually kept in the church of St. Laud, at Angers. It was said to have belonged to Charlemagne, and Louis regarded it as the most sacred of relics. On this the king swore to observe the treaty, though it contained clauses to which he would not have assented under other circumstances. The document was immediately signed. Louis, for the first moment since learning of his almost fatal blunder, breathed at ease. As for the second part of his promise, that of helping Charles to punish the townsmen whom he had himself stirred to rebellion, it little troubled his conscience—if he possessed any sentiment that could properly be denominated by this name.
On the day after the signing of the treaty the two princes set out together. Charles was followed by his army, Louis by his modest body-guard, which had been augmented by three hundred men-at-arms, just arrived from France. On the 27th of October  they arrived at the rebellious city. There seemed no trouble to get into it. No wall or ditch surrounded it. The duke had previously deprived it of these obstacles to his armies. But an obstacle remained in the people, who could not easily be brought to believe that the king of France and the Duke of Burgundy, those fire-and water-like potentates, were true allies. The thing seemed impossible. Louis was their friend, and would certainly strike for them. They made a sortie from the city, shouting, "Hurrah for the king! Hurrah for France!"
To their consternation, they saw Louis and Duke Charles together at the head of the advancing army, the king wearing in his hat the cross of St. Andrew of Burgundy, his false voice shouting "Hurrah for Burgundy!"
The surprise of the Liegoise was shared by many of the French, whose sense of national honor was shocked to see so utter a lack of pride and so open a display of treachery in their monarch. They had not deemed his boasted policy capable of such baseness. Louis afterwards excused himself with the remark, "When pride rides before, shame and hurt follow close after," a saying very pretty as a politic apothegm, but not likely to soothe the wounded pride of France.
The treachery of Louis roused a different feeling in the hearts of the Liegoise,—that of indignation. They determined to defend their city, despite its lack of ramparts, and met the advancing army with such spirit that it was obliged to convert its assault into a siege. Night after night the Burgundian army was troubled by the bold sorties of the citizens. In one of these the duke and king both were in danger of capture. At ten o'clock, one night, about six hundred well-armed men made a sudden assault upon the duke's quarters. They were ill-defended. Charles was in bed. Only twelve archers were on guard, and these were playing at dice. The assault came with startling suddenness. The archers seized their arms, but had great difficulty in defending the door-way. Charles hastened to put on breast-plate and helmet and to join them. But only the opportune arrival of aid saved him from being seized in the midst of his army.
Louis ran a similar danger. His quarters had simultaneously been attacked. Luckily for him, his Scotch guardsmen were more ready than those of Burgundy. They repulsed the attack, with little heed whether their arrows killed hostile Liegoise or friendly Burgundians. As for the assailants, they found it easier to get into the French camp than out of it. They were killed almost to a man.
On the next day the duke and his councillors determined on an assault. The king was not present, and when he heard of it he did not favor the plan.
"You have seen the courage of these people," he remarked. "You know how murderous and uncertain is street-fighting. You will lose many brave men to no purpose. Wait two or three days, and the Liegoise will certainly come to terms."
Most of the Burgundian captains were of the same opinion. The duke, whose rash spirit could ill brook opposition, grew angry.
"He wishes to spare the Liegoise," he angrily exclaimed. "What danger is there in this assault? There are no walls; they cannot put a single gun in position; I certainly will not give up the assault. If the king is afraid, let him get him gone to Namur."
This insult to the king, which shocked the Burgundians themselves, was repeated to him, and received in silence. He had made up his mind to drain the cup of humiliation to the dregs. The next day, October 30, the assault was made, Charles at the head of his troops. Louis came up to join him.
"Bide your time," said Charles. "Put not yourself uselessly in danger. I will send you word when it is time."
"Lead on, brother," answered Louis. "You are the most fortunate prince alive; I will follow you."
On they marched—into, as it proved, an undefended city. The Liegoise had been discouraged by the fall of many of their bravest men. It was Sunday; no attack was looked for; "the cloth was laid in every house, and all were preparing for dinner"; the Burgundians moved through empty streets, Louis following with his own escort, and shouting, "Hurrah for Burgundy!"
By mid-day the vengeance of Charles was complete; the town had been pillaged; there was nothing left to take in house or church; many a floor was stained with blood; Liege for the time was ruined.
As for the arch-deceiver to whom all this was due, he completed his work of baseness by loading the duke with praises, his tone and manner so courteous and amiable that Charles lost the last shreds of his recent anger.
"Brother," said the king the next day, "if you still need my help, do not spare me. But if you have nothing more for me to do, it would be well for me to go back to Paris, to make public in my court of parliament the arrangement we have come to together; otherwise it would risk becoming of no avail. You know that such is the custom of France. Next summer we must meet again. You will come into your duchy of Burgundy, and I will go and pay you a visit, and we will pass a week joyously together in making good cheer."
It may be that this smooth speech was accompanied by a mental commentary,—"Let me once get from under your claws, my playful tiger, and I will not be fool enough to put myself back there again,"—but if so nothing of the kind appeared on his face.
Charles made no answer. He sent for the treaty, and left it to the king to confirm or renounce it, as he would. Louis expressed himself as fully satisfied with its terms, and on the next day, November 2, set out on his return to France. Charles kept him company for some distance. On parting, the king said,—
"If my brother Charles, who is in Brittany, should not be content with the assignment which I, for love of you, have made him, what would you have me do?"
"If he do not please to take it, but would have you otherwise satisfy him, I leave that to the two of you to settle," said Charles.
With these words he turned back, leaving Louis to pursue his way free once more, "after having passed the most trying three weeks of his life."
That the fox kept faith with the lion, or the lion with the fox, is not to be looked for. New disputes broke out, new battles were fought,—not now in alliance,—and the happiest day in the life of Louis XI. was that in which he heard that Charles of Burgundy, the constant thorn in his chaplet, had fallen on the fatal field of Nancy, and that France was freed from the threatening presence of the bold and passionate duke.
CHARLES THE BOLD AND THE SWISS.
On the 6th of February, 1476, Duke Charles of Burgundy marched from Besancon to take the field against the Swiss, between whom and Burgundy hostilities had broken out. There were three parties to this war, Louis XI. being the third. That politic monarch had covertly stirred up the Swiss to their hostile attitude, promised them aid in money, if not in men, and now had his secret agents in both camps, and kept himself in readiness to take advantage of every circumstance that might be turned to his own benefit. Leaving Tours, he went to Lyons, that he might be within easy distance of the seat of war. And not long had he been there before news of the most gratifying character came to his ears, Duke Charles had met the foe, and—but we anticipate.
The army of Burgundy was a powerful one, having not less than thirty or forty thousand men and a strong train of artillery. It was followed, as was Charles's fashion in making war, with an immense baggage-train. Personally his habits were simple and careless, but he loved to display his riches and magnificence, and made his marches and encampments as much scenes of festival as of war. What this showy duke wanted from their poor cities and barren country the Swiss could not very well see. "The spurs and the horses' bits in his army are worth more money than the whole of us could pay in ransom if we were all taken," they said.
Without regard to this, Charles marched on, and on February 19 reached Granson, a little town in the district of Vaud. Here fighting had taken place, and hither soon came the Swiss battalions. Powerful fellows they were, bold and sturdy, and animated with the highest spirit of freedom. On they marched, timing their long strides to the lowings of the "bull of Uri" and the "cow of Unterwalden," two great trumpets of buffalo horn which, as was claimed, Charlemagne had given to their ancestors.
Against these compact battalions, armed with spears eighteen feet long, the squadrons of Burgundy rode in vain. Their lines were impregnable. Their enemies fell in numbers. In the end the whole Burgundian army, seized with panic, broke and fled, "like smoke before the northern blast."
So sudden and complete was the defeat that Charles himself had to take to flight with only five horsemen for escort, and with such haste that everything was left in the hands of the foe,—camp, artillery, treasure, the duke's personal jewels, even his very cap with its garniture of precious stones and his collar of the Golden Fleece.
The Swiss were as ignorant of the value of their booty as they were astonished at the completeness of their victory. Jewels, gold, silver, rich hangings, precious tapestry, had little value in their eyes. They sold the silver plate for a few pence, taking it for pewter. The silks and velvets found in the baggage-wagons of the duke, the rich cloth of gold and damask, the precious Flanders lace and Arras carpets, were cut in pieces and distributed among the peasant soldiers as if they had been so much common canvas. Most notable of all was the fate of the great diamond of the duke, which had once glittered in the crown of the Great Mogul, and was of inestimable value. This prize was found on the road, inside a little box set with fine pearls. The man who picked it up thought the box pretty and worth keeping, but saw no use for that bit of shining glass inside. He threw this contemptuously away. Afterwards he thought it might be worth something, to be so carefully kept, and went back to look for it. He found it under a wagon, and sold it to a clergyman in the neighborhood for a crown. This precious stone, one of the few great diamonds in the world, is now in the possession of the Emperor of Austria, its value enhanced to him, it may be, by its strange history.
There was only one thing in this event that did not please Louis XI.,—that Charles had left the field alive. He sent him advice, indeed, to let those poor folks but hard fighters of the Alps alone, well convinced that the fiery duke would not take his counsel. In truth, Charles, mad with rage, ordered that all the soldiers who had fled from the field should be put to death, and that the new recruits to be raised should be dealt with in the same manner if they did not march to his camp with all haste. It cannot be said that this insane command was obeyed, but so intense was his energy, and so fierce his rage against the Swiss, that in no great time he had a fresh army, of from twenty-five to thirty thousand men, composed of Burgundians, Flemings, Italians, and English.
Late in May he was again on the march,—with much less parade and display than before,—and on the 10th of June pitched his camp before the little town of Morat, six leagues from Berne.
Everywhere as he went he left word that it was war to the death on which he was bent. His pride had been bitterly wounded. He vowed to heal it in the blood of his foes.
The Swiss were preparing with all haste, and advancing to Berne. The governor of Morat sent them word to be at ease concerning him. "I will defend Morat," he said, and to garrison and people he swore that he would hang the first who spoke of surrender. For ten days he had held out against Charles's whole army, while his countrymen were gathering.
The men of Zurich were the last to reach Berne. On the 21st of June, in the evening, the Swiss encamped near their foes.
"Have those hounds lost heart, pray?" the duke had just said; "I was told that we were about to get at them."
His wish was to be gratified in a way he had not meant; they were about to get at him. The next day, June 22, opened with a pelting rain. Later, the sun burst through the clouds. With its first beams the Swiss were in motion, marching on the camp of their foes.
A man-at-arms hurried to the duke's tent, and told him that the Swiss were coming, and that they had attacked the lines. He declared the story was a lie, and drove the messenger with an insulting reproof from his tent. What, these base peasants? To attack his army? The thing was incredible! For all that, he left the tent and hurried to the point indicated. It was true, they had attacked, and were already driving back his men.
Charles rallied them as he best could. The battle was desperate. All the remainder of the day it continued. But before nightfall the Swiss were everywhere victorious, the Burgundians everywhere beaten. Charles had still three thousand horsemen, but they, too, broke before the fierce charges of the Swiss, and in the end he escaped with difficulty, having but a dozen men at his back, and leaving eight or ten thousand of his soldiers dead on the field, the greater part of them killed after the fight by the relentlessly furious Swiss.
Charles, obstinate, furious, wild with rage, sought to collect another army, but failed. No men could be found willing to bear arms against those terrible Swiss. He shut himself up for weeks in one of his castles, dismayed, inconsolable, heated with passion, ready to crush the world if his hand could have grasped it, a sorry spectacle of disappointed ambition and overthrown pride.
Other enemies rose against him. Rene II., duke of Lorraine, whom he had robbed of his dominions and driven from Nancy, now saw an opportunity to recover his heritage. He had been wandering like a fugitive from court to court. Before Morat he had joined the Swiss, and helped them to their victory. Now, gathering a force, he re-entered his duchy, besieged Nancy, then feebly garrisoned, and pressed it hard. The governor sent messengers to Duke Charles, asking for aid. He received none. The duke did not even reply to him. He seemed utterly dispirited. In this emergency the governor surrendered, and Rene had his own again.
Yet at that very moment, Charles the Bold, throwing off his apathy, was marching upon Lorraine, with a small army which he had hastily collected. On the 22d of October, 1476, he reached Nancy, which was once more besieged. At his approach, Duke Rene left the town, but left it well garrisoned. He went in search of reinforcements. These he found in Switzerland, the agents of Louis XI. promising them good pay, while their hatred of Charles made them fully ready for the service.
On January 4, 1477, Rene, having led his new army to Lorraine, found himself face to face with the army of Charles the Bold, who was still besieging Nancy. Charles held council with his captains.
"Well," he said, "since these drunken scoundrels are upon us, and are coming here to look for meat and drink, what ought we to do?"
"Fall back," was the general opinion. "They outnumber us. We should recruit our army. Duke Rene is poor. He will not long be able to bear the expense of the war, and his allies will leave him as soon as his money is gone. Wait but a little, and success is certain."
The duke burst into one of his usual fits of passion.
"My father and I," he cried, "knew how to thrash these Lorrainers, and we will make them remember it. By St. George, I will not fly before a boy, before Rene of Vaudemont, who is coming at the head of this scum! He has not so many men with him as people think; the Germans have no idea of leaving their stoves in winter. This evening we will deliver the assault against the town, and to-morrow we will give battle."
He did give battle on the morrow,—his last, as it proved. The fray did not last long, nor was the loss of life in the field great. But the Burgundians broke and fled, and the pursuit was terrible, the Lorrainers and their Swiss and German allies pursuing hotly, and killing all they found. Rene entered Nancy in triumph, and relieved the citizens from the famine from which they had long suffered. To show him what they had endured in his cause, there were piled up before his door "the heads of the horses, dogs, mules, cats, and other unclean animals which had for several weeks past been the only food of the besieged."
The battle over, the question arose, what had become of the Duke of Burgundy? None could answer. Some said a servant had carried him wounded from the field; others, that a German lord held him prisoner. But a page soon appeared who said he had seen him fall and could lead to the spot. He did so, conducting a party to a pond near the town, where, half buried in the mud, lay several dead bodies lately stripped. Among the searchers was a poor washerwoman, who, seeing the glitter of a ring on the finger of one of the corpses, turned it over, and cried, "Ah! my prince!"
All rushed to the spot. The body was examined with care. There was no doubt, it was that of Charles of Burgundy. His rash and violent disposition had at length borne the fruit that might have been anticipated, and brought him to an end which gave the highest satisfaction to many of his foes, and to none more than to Louis XI. of France. He was buried with great pomp, by the order of Duke Rene. In 1550 the emperor Charles V., his great grandson, had his body taken to Bruges, and placed on the tomb the following inscription:
"Here lieth the most high, mighty, and magnanimous prince, Charles, Duke of Burgundy, ... the which, being mightily endowed with strength, firmness, and magnanimity, prospered awhile in high enterprises, battles, and victories, as well at Montlhery, in Normandy, in Artois, and in Liege, as elsewhere, until fortune, turning her back on him, thus crushed him before Nancy."
To-day it might be written on his tomb, "His was a fitting end to a violent, lawless, and blood-thirsty career."
BAYARD, THE GOOD KNIGHT.
Good knights were abundant in the romance of the age of chivalry; they seem to have been greatly lacking in its history. Of knights without fear there were many; of knights "without fear and without reproach" we are specially told of but one, Pierre du Terrail, Chevalier de Bayard, "Le chevalier sans peur et sans reproche." Many are the stories of the courage, the justice, the honor, the mercy, the intrepidity in war, the humanity and kindliness of spirit in peace, which make this admirable character an anomaly in that age of courteous appearance and brutal reality yclept the "age of chivalry." One such story we have to tell.
The town of Brescia had been taken by the French army under Gaston de Foix, and given up to pillage by his troops, with all the horrors which this meant in that day of license and inhumanity. Bayard took part in the assault on the town, and was wounded therein, so severely that he said to his fellow-captain, the lord of Molart,—
"Comrade, march your men forward; the town is ours. As for me, I cannot pull on farther, for I am a dead man."
Not quite dead, as it proved. He had many years of noble deeds before him still. When the town was taken, two of his archers bore him to a house whose size and show of importance attracted them as a fair harbor for their lord. It was the residence of a rich citizen, who had fled for safety to a monastery, leaving his wife to God's care in the house, and two fair daughters to such security as they could gain from the hay in a granary, under which they were hidden.
At the loud summons of the archers the lady tremblingly opened the door, and was surprised and relieved when she saw that it was a wounded knight who craved admittance. Sadly hurt as Bayard was, his instinct of kindness remained active. He bade the archers to close the door and remain there on guard.
"Take heed, for your lives," he said, "that none enter here unless they be some of my own people. I am sure that, when this is known to be my quarters, none will try to force a way in. If, by your aiding me, you miss a chance of gain in the sack of the town, let not that trouble you; you shall lose nothing by your service."
The archers obeyed, and the wounded knight was borne to a rich chamber, the lady herself showing the way. When he had been laid in bed, she threw herself on her knees before him, and pleadingly said,—
"Noble sir, I present you this house and all that is therein, all of which, in truth, I well know to be yours by right of war. But I earnestly pray that it be your pleasure to spare me and my two young daughters our lives and honor."
"Madam," answered the knight, with grave courtesy, "I know not if I can escape from my wound; but, so long as I live, trust me that no harm shall come to you and your daughters, any more than to myself. Only keep them in their chambers; let them not be seen; and I assure you that no man in the house will take upon himself to enter any place against your will."
These words the lady heard with joy, and on Bayard's request that he should have a good surgeon without delay, she and one of the archers set out in quest of the best that could be found. Fortunately, it proved that the knight's wound, though deep, was not mortal. At the second dressing Master Claude, the surgeon of Gaston de Foix, took him in hand, and afterwards attended him assiduously until his wound was healed, a process which took about a month. After the first dressing of the wound, Bayard asked his hostess, in kindly tones, where her husband was.
"I know not, my lord, if he be dead or alive," she answered, bursting into tears. "If he be living, I am sure he has taken refuge in a monastery where he is well known."
"Let him return home," answered Bayard. "I shall send those after him who will see that he has no harm."
The lady, elate with hope, sent to inquire, and found that her husband was really where she had supposed. Bayard's steward and the two archers were sent for him, and conducted him safely through the turmoil of the streets, where war's ravage, in its worst form, was still afoot. On his arrival, the knight received him with a courteous welcome, and bade him not to be alarmed, as only friends were quartered upon him, and he should suffer no loss in person or estate.
For a month the wounded knight lay on his couch, where, though he was made as comfortable as possible by the assiduous ministrations of his grateful host and hostess, he suffered much from his hurt. At the end of that time he was able to rise and walk across the chamber, though still very weak. But news came that a great battle between the French and the Spaniards was likely soon to be fought, and the brave Bayard burned with warlike desire to take part in the conflict.
"My dear friend," he said to the surgeon, "tell me if there is any danger in setting me on the march. It seems to me that I am well, or nearly so; and, in my judgment, to stay here longer will do me more harm than good, for I fret sorely to be thus tied."
"Your wound is not yet closed," said the surgeon, "though it is quite healed inside. After another dressing you may be able to ride, provided that your barber attends to dressing it with ointment and a little lint every day. The worst of the wound is now on the surface, and, as it will not touch your saddle, you will run no risk in riding."
Bayard heard these words with gladness, and at once gave orders to his people to prepare for the road, as he would set out for the army in two days.
Meanwhile, his host and hostess and their children were far from well at ease. Until now their guest had protected and spared them, but they knew too well the habits of soldiers to imagine that he intended to do this without being abundantly paid for the service. They held themselves as his prisoners, and feared that he might yet force them to ransom themselves with the utmost sum their estate would afford, perhaps ten or twelve thousand crowns. Yet he had been so gentle and kindly that the good lady entertained hopes that he might prove generous, if softened by a suitable present. Therefore, on the morning of the day which he had fixed for his departure, she appeared in his chamber, followed by a servant who carried a small steel box.
Bayard had been walking up and down the room to try his leg, and had now thrown himself into a chair to rest. The lady fell upon her knees before him; but before he would permit her to speak he insisted that she should rise and be seated.
"My lord," she began, "I can never be thankful enough for the grace which God did me, at the taking of this town, in directing you to this our house. We owe to you our lives and all that we hold dear. Moreover, from the time that you arrived here, neither I nor the least of my people have endured a single insult, but all has been good-will and courtesy, nor have your folks taken a farthing's worth of our goods without paying for them. I am aware that my husband, myself, my children, and all my household are your prisoners, to be dealt with according to your good pleasure, in person and goods; but, knowing the nobleness of your heart, I am come to entreat you humbly to have pity on us, and extend to us your wonted generosity. Here is a little present we make you; and we pray that you may be pleased to take it in good part."
She opened the box which the servant held, and Bayard saw that it was filled with golden coins. The free-hearted knight, who had never in his life troubled himself about money, burst out laughing, and said,—
"Madam, how many ducats are there in this box?"
His action, so different from what she expected, frightened the poor woman. Thinking it to indicate that the sum was below his expectations, she said hurriedly,—
"My lord, there are but two thousand five hundred ducats; but, if you are not content, we will find a larger sum."
"By my faith, madam," he warmly replied, "though you should give a hundred thousand crowns, you would not do as well towards me as you have done by the good cheer I have had here and the kind attendance you have given me. In whatsoever place I may happen to be, you will have, so long as God shall grant me life, a gentleman at your bidding. As for your ducats, I will have none of them, and yet I thank you; take them back; all my life I have always loved people much more than crowns. And take my word for it that I go away as well pleased with you as if this town were at your disposal and you had given it to me."
The good lady listened to him with deep astonishment. Never had she dreamed of such a marvel as this, a soldier who did not crave money. She was really distressed by his decision.
"My lord," she said, "I shall feel myself the most wretched creature in the world if you will not take this small present, which is nothing in comparison with your past courtesy and present kindness."
Seeing how firm she was in her purpose, he said, with a gentle smile,—
"Well, then, I will take it for love of you; but go and fetch me your two daughters, for I would fain bid them farewell."
Much pleased with his acceptance, the lady left the room in search of her daughters, whom the knight knew well, for they had solaced many of the weary hours of his illness with pleasant chat, and music from their voices and from the lute and spinet, on which they played agreeably. While awaiting them he bade the servant to empty the box and count the ducats into three lots, two of a thousand each and one of five hundred.
When the young ladies entered, they would have fallen on their knees as their mother had done before them, but Bayard would not consent that they should remain in this humble attitude.
"My lord," said the elder, "these two poor girls, who owe so much to your kindness, are come to take leave of you, and humbly to thank your lordship for your goodness, for which they can make no return other than to pray that God may hold you in His good care."
"Dear damsels," answered Bayard, much affected, "you have done what I ought to do; that is, to thank you for your good company, for which I am much beholden. You know that fighting men are not likely to be laden with pretty things to present to ladies. I am sorry not to be better provided. But here are some ducats brought me by your lady-mother. Of these I give to each of you a thousand towards your marriage; and for my recompense you shall, if it please you, pray God for me, as you have offered."
He swept the ducats from the table into their aprons, forcing them to accept them whether they would or not. Then, turning to his hostess, he said,—
"Madam, I will take these five hundred ducats that remain for my own profit, to distribute among the poor sisterhoods of this town which have been plundered; and to you I commit the charge of them, since you, better than any other, will understand where they are most needed. And with this mission I take my leave of you."
Then he bade them adieu by touching their hands, after the Italian fashion, "and they fell upon their knees, weeping so bitterly that it seemed as if they were to be led out to their deaths."
The dinner hour came and passed. When it was over the knight quickly left the table and called for his horses, being eager to be gone for fear the two armies might come to battle in his absence. As he left his chamber to seek his horse, the two fair daughters of the house came down to bid him a final farewell and to make him presents which they had worked for him during his illness.
One gave him a pair of pretty and delicate bracelets, made of gold and silver thread, worked with marvellous neatness. The other presented him a handsome purse of crimson satin very cleverly ornamented with the needle. The knight received these graceful gifts with warm thanks, saying that presents which came from hands so fair were more to him than a hundred-fold their value in gold. To do them the more honor, he put the bracelets on his wrists and the purse in his sleeve, and assured them that, as long as they lasted, he would wear them for love of the givers.
Then, mounting, the good knight rode away, leaving more tears of joy and heartfelt gratitude behind him than can be said of few soldiers since the world began. It was not for fame he had wrought, or of fame he had thought, but he won high fame by his generous behavior, for his treatment of his Brescian hosts is still quoted as the rarest deed in his chaplet of good actions.
The two archers who had stayed with Bayard failed not to receive the promised reward. Gaston de Foix, the Duke of Nemours, sent the knight a number of presents, among them five hundred crowns, and these he divided between the archers whom he had debarred from their share of the spoil.
It will suffice to say, in conclusion, that he reached the army in time to take part in the battle that followed, and to add therein to his fame as a "good knight without fear."
EPISODES IN THE LIFE OF A TRAITOR.
At the early hour of one o'clock in the morning of September 8, 1523, a train of men-at-arms and servants, headed by a tall, stern-faced, soldierly-looking man, rode from the gates of the strong castle of Chantelle, and headed southward in the direction of Spain. The leader was dressed in armor, and carried sword by side and battle-axe at his saddle-bow. Of his followers, some fifteen of them were attired in a peculiar manner, wearing thick jackets of woollen cloth that seemed as stiff as iron mail, and jingled metallically as they rode. Mail they were, capable of turning arrow or spear thrust, but mail of gold, not of iron, for in those jackets were sewed up thirty thousand crowns of gold, and their wearers served as the ambulatory treasury of the proud soldier at their head.
This man was no less a personage than Charles, Duke of Bourbon, Constable of France, the highest personage in the kingdom next to the monarch himself, but now in flight from that monarch, and from the soldiers who were marching to environ Chantelle and carry him as a prisoner to the king. There had been bad blood between Bourbon and Francis I., pride and haughtiness on the one side, injustice and indecision on the other; wrong to the subject, defiance to the king; and now the "short-tempered" noble and great soldier had made a moonlight flitting, bent on cutting loose from his allegiance to France, and on lending the aid of his sword and military skill to her hereditary foes.
For a month Bourbon and his followers wandered around the provinces of southern France. Incessantly he changed his road, his costume, his companions, his resting-place, occasionally falling in with soldiers of the king who were on their way to take part in the wars in Italy, seeking in vain for adherents to his cause, and feeling his way by correspondence to an understanding with the enemies of France. In early October he entered the domains of the emperor, Charles V., and definitely cut loose from his allegiance to the king.
The news of this defection filled Francis with alarm. He had, by his injustice, driven his greatest soldier from the realm, and now sought to undo the perilous work he had done. He put off his journey to join the army marching to Italy, and sent a messenger to the redoubtable fugitive, offering restitution of his property, satisfaction in full of his claims, and security for good treatment and punctual payment. Bourbon curtly refused.
"It is too late," he said.
"Then," said the envoy, "I am bidden by the king to ask you to deliver up the sword of constable and the collar of the order of St. Michael."
"You may tell the king," answered Bourbon, shortly, "that he took from me the sword of constable on the day that he took from me the command of the advanced guard to give it to M. d'Alencon. As for the collar of his order, you will find it at Chantelle under the pillow of my bed."
Francis made further efforts to win back the powerful noble whom he had so deeply offended, but equally in vain. Bourbon had definitely cut loose from his native land and was bent on joining hands with its mortal foes. Francis had offended him too deeply to be so readily forgiven as he hoped.
It is not the story of the life of this notable traitor that we propose to tell, but simply to depict some picturesque scenes in his career. Charles V. gladly welcomed him, and made him his lieutenant-general in Italy, so that he became leader against the French in their invasion of that land. We next find him during the siege of Milan by the army of Francis I., one of whose leaders was Chevalier Bayard, "the good knight," who was the subject of our last story. The siege was destined to prove a fatal affair for this noble warrior. The French found themselves so hard pressed by the imperial army under the Constable de Bourbon that they fell back to await reinforcements. Near Romagnano, on the banks of the Sesia, they were thrown into disorder while seeking to pass the stream, and Bonnivet, their leader, was severely wounded. The Count de St. Pol and Chevalier Bayard took command. Bayard, always first in advance and last in retreat, charged the enemy at the head of a body of men-at-arms. It proved for him a fatal charge. A shot from an arquebuse gave him a mortal wound.
"Jesus, my God," he cried, "I am dead!"
He took his sword by the handle, kissed its cross-hilt as an act of devotion, and repeated the Miserere,—"Have pity on me, O God, according to Thy great mercy!"
In a moment more he grew deathly pale and grasped the pommel of the saddle to keep him from falling, remaining thus until one of his followers helped him to dismount, and placed him at the foot of a tree.
The French were repulsed, leaving the wounded knight within the lines of the enemy. Word of Bayard's plight was quickly brought to Bourbon, who came up with a face filled with sympathetic feeling.
"Bayard, my good friend, I am sore distressed at your mishap," he said. "There is nothing for it but patience. Give not way to melancholy. I will send in quest of the best surgeons in this country, and, by God's help, you will soon be healed."
Bayard looked up at him with dying eyes, full of pity and reproach.
"My lord, I thank you," he said, "but pity is not for me, who die like a true man, serving my king; pity is for you, who bear arms against your prince, your country, and your oath."
Bourbon made no answer. He turned and withdrew, doubtless stung to the soul by the reproachful words of the noblest and honestest man of that age. His own conscience must have added a double sting to Bayard's words. Such is the bitterest reward of treason; it dares not look integrity in the face.
Bayard lived for two or three hours afterwards, surrounded by his friends, who would not leave him, though he bade them do so to escape falling into the enemy's hands. They had nothing to fear. Both armies mourned the loss of the good knight, with equal grief. Five days after his death, on May 5, 1524, Beaurain wrote to Charles V.,—
"Sir, albeit Sir Bayard was your enemy's servant, yet was it pity of his death, for he was a gentle knight, well beloved of every one, and one that lived as good a life as ever any man of his condition. And, in truth, he fully showed it by his end, for it was the most beautiful that I ever heard tell of."
So passed away a man who lived fully up to the principles of chivalry, and whose honesty, modesty, sympathy, and valor have given him undying fame. His name survives as an example of what chivalry might have been had man been as Christian in nature as in name, but of what it rarely was, except in theory.
The next picture we shall draw belongs to the date of February 24, 1525. Francis I. had for months been besieging Pavia. Bourbon came to its relief. A battle followed, which at first seemed to favor the French, but which Bourbon's skill soon turned in favor of the Imperialists. Seeing his ranks breaking on all sides, Francis, inspired by fury and despair, desperately charged the enemy with such knights and men-at-arms as he could get to follow him. The conflict was fierce and fatal. Around the king fell his ablest warriors,—Marshal de Foix, Francis of Lorraine, Bussy d'Amboise, La Tremoille, and many others. At sight of this terrible slaughter, Admiral Bonnivet, under the king the leader of the French host, exclaimed, in accents of despair, "I can never survive this fearful havoc." Raising the visor of his helmet, he rushed desperately forward where a tempest of balls was sweeping the field, and in a moment fell beside his slain comrades.
Francis fought on amid the heaps of dead and dying, his soul filled with the battle rage, his heart burning with fury and desperation. He was wounded in face, arms, and legs, yet still his heavy sword swept right and left, still men fell before his vigorous blows. His horse, mortally wounded, sank under him, dragging him down. In an instant he was up again, laying about him shrewdly. Two Spaniards who pressed him closely fell before the sweep of that great blade. Alone among his foes he fought on, a crowd of hostile soldiers around him. Who he was they knew not, but his size, strength, and courage, the golden lilies which studded his coat of mail, the plume of costly feathers which waved from his helmet, told them that this must be one of the greatest men in the French array.
Despite the strength and intrepid valor of the king, his danger was increasing minute by minute, when the Lord of Pomperant, one of Bourbon's intimate friends, pressed up through the mass and recognized the warrior who stood like a wounded lion at bay amid a pack of wolves.
"Back! back!" he cried, springing forward, and beating off the soldiers with his sword. "Leave this man to me."
Pressing to the king's side, he still beat back his foes, saying to him,—
"Yield, my liege! You stand alone. If you fight longer, I cannot answer for your life. Look! there is no hope for you. The Duke of Bourbon is not far off. Let me send for him to receive your sword."
The visor of the king hid the look with which he must have received these words. But from the helmet's iron depths came in hollow tones the reply of Francis of France to this appeal.
"No," he cried, sternly, "rather would I die the death than pledge my faith to Bourbon the traitor! Where is the Viceroy of Naples?"
Lannoy, the viceroy, was in a distant part of the field. Some time was lost in finding and bringing him to the spot. At length he arrived, and fell upon one knee before Francis, who presented him his sword. Lannoy took it with a show of the profoundest respect, and immediately gave him another in its place. The battle was over, and the king of France was a prisoner in the hands of his rebellious subject, the Duke of Bourbon. The wheel of fate had strangely turned.
The captive king had shown himself a poor general, but an heroic soldier. His victors viewed him with admiration for his prowess. When he sat at table, after having his wounds, which were slight, dressed, Bourbon approached him respectfully and handed him a dinner napkin. Francis took it, but with the most distant and curt politeness. The next day an interview took place between Bourbon and the king, in reference to the position of the latter as captive. In this Francis displayed the same frigidity of manner as before, while he was all cordiality with Pescara, Bourbon's fellow in command. The two leaders claimed Francis as their own captive, but Lannoy, to whom he had surrendered, had him embarked for Naples, and instead of taking him there, sent him directly to Spain, where he was delivered up to Charles V. Thus ended this episode in the life of the Constable de Bourbon.
We have still another, and the closing, scene to present in the life of this great soldier and traitor. It is of no less interest than those that have gone before. Historically it is of far deeper interest, for it was attended with a destruction of inestimable material that has rarely been excelled. The world is the poorer that Bourbon lived.
In Spain he had been treated with consideration by the emperor, but with disdain by many of the lords, who despised him as a traitor. Charles V. asked the Marquis de Villena to give quarters in his palace to the duke.
"I can refuse the emperor nothing," he replied; "but as soon as the traitor is out of my house I shall set it on fire with my own hand. No man of honor could live in it again."
Despite this feeling, the military record of Bourbon could not be set aside. He was the greatest general of his time, and, recognizing this, Charles again placed him in command of his armies in Italy. On going there, Bourbon found that there was nothing that could be called an army. Everything was in disorder and the imperial cause almost at an end. In this state of affairs, Bourbon became filled with hopes of great conquests and high fame for himself. Filled with the spirit of adventure, and finding the Spanish army devoted to him, he added to it some fifteen thousand of German lanzknechts, most of them Lutherans.
Addressing this greedy horde of soldiers of fortune, he told them that he was now but a poor gentleman, like themselves, and promised that if they would follow him he would make them rich or die in the attempt. Finishing his remarks, which were greeted with enthusiastic cheers, he distributed among them all his money and jewels, keeping little more than his clothes and armor for himself.
"We will follow you everywhere, to the devil himself!" shouted the wild horde of adventurers. "No more of Julius Caesar, Hannibal, and Scipio! Hurrah for the fame of Bourbon!"
Putting himself at the head of this tumultuous array, the duke led them southward through Italy, halting before Bologna, Florence, and other towns, with a half-formed purpose to besiege them, but in the end pushing on without an assault until, on the 5th of May, 1527, his horde of land pirates came in sight of Rome itself.
The imperial city, after being sacked by the Goths, Vandals, and other barbarians, had remained without serious damage for a thousand years, but now another army was encamped under its walls, and one equally bent on havoc and ruin with those of the past.
"Now is the time to show courage, manliness, and the strength of your bodies," said Bourbon to his followers. "If in this bout you are victorious, you will be rich lords and well off for the rest of your lives. Yonder is the city whereof, in times past, a wise astrologer prophesied concerning me, telling me that I should die there; but I swear to you that I care but little for dying there if, when I die, my corpse be left with endless glory and renown throughout the world."
He then bade them to retire for the night, ordering them to be ready betimes in the morning for the assault, which would take place at an early hour on that day. Hardly, indeed, had the stars faded before the sunrise of May 6, when the soldiers were afoot and making ready for the assault. Bourbon placed himself at their head, clad all in white that he might be better seen and known. To the walls they advanced, bearing scaling ladders, which they hastened to place. On the first raised of these Bourbon set foot, with the soldier's desire to be the earliest in the assault. But hardly had he taken two steps up the ladder than his grasp loosened and he fell backward, with blood gushing from his side. He had been hit with an arquebuse-shot in the left side and mortally wounded.
He had but voice enough left to bid those near him to cover his body with a cloak and take it away, that his followers might not know of his death. Those were the last words recorded of the Duke of Bourbon. He died as he had lived, a valiant soldier and a born adventurer, hurling havoc with his last words on the great city of the Church; for his followers, not knowing of his death, attacked so furiously that the walls were soon carried and the town theirs. Then, as news came to them that their leader had fallen, they burst into the fury of slaughter, shouting, "Slay, slay! blood, blood! Bourbon! Bourbon!" and cutting down remorselessly all whom they met.
The celebrated artist, Benvenuto Cellini, tells us in his autobiography that it was he who shot Bourbon, aiming his arquebuse from the wall of the Campo Santo at one of the besiegers who was mounted higher than the rest, and who, as he afterwards learned, was the leader of the assailing army.
Whoever it was that fired the fatal shot, the slain man was frightfully avenged, Rome being plundered, ravaged, and devastated by his brutal followers to a degree not surpassed by the work of the Vandals of old. For several months the famous city remained in the hands of this licentious soldiery, and its inhabitants were subjected to every outrage and barbarity which brutal desire and ungoverned license could incite, while in none of its former periods of ravage were so many of the precious relics of antiquity destroyed as in this period of occupation by men who called themselves the soldiers of civilized and Christian lands.
ST. BARTHOLOMEW'S DAY.
"Kill! kill! kill!" was the cry in Paris. "Blood! blood! death to the Huguenots!" came from the lips of thousands of maddened murderers. Blood flowed everywhere; men dabbled in blood, almost bathed in blood. A crimson tide flowed in the streets of Paris deep enough to damn the infamous Catherine de' Medici and her confederates. To the crime of assassination on that direful day of St. Bartholomew must be added that of treachery of the darkest hue. Peace had been made between the warring parties. The Protestant chiefs had been invited to Paris to witness the marriage of the young King Henry of Navarre with Marguerite de Valois, sister of the king of France, which was fixed for the 18th of August, 1572. They had been received with every show of amity and good-will. The great Huguenot leader, Admiral de Coligny, had come, confiding in the honor of his late foes, and had been received by the king, Charles IX., with demonstrations of sincere friendship, though the weak monarch warned him to beware of the Guises, his bitter enemies and the remorseless haters of all opponents of the Catholic party.
On the 22d of August the work of treachery began. On that day a murderous shot was fired at Coligny as he stood by the window of his room engaged in reading a letter. It smashed two fingers of his right hand, and lodged a ball in his left arm. The would-be murderer escaped.
"Here is a fine proof of the fidelity to his agreement of the Duke of Guise," said Coligny, reproachfully, to the king.
"My dear father," returned the king, "the hurt is yours, the grief and the outrage mine; but I will take such vengeance that it shall never be forgotten."
He meant it for the moment; but his mind was feeble, his will weak, himself a mere puppet in the hands of his imperious mother and the implacable Guises. Between them they had determined to rid themselves of the opposing party in the state on the death of the admiral and the other Protestant leaders. Sure of their power over the king, the orders for the massacre were already given when, near midnight of August 24, St. Bartholomew's day, the queen, with some of her leading councillors, sought the king's room and made a determined assault upon the feeble defences of his intellect.
"The slaughter of many thousands of men may be prevented by a single sword-thrust," they argued. "Only kill the admiral, the head and front of the civil wars, and the strength of his party will die with him. The sacrifice of two or three men will satisfy the loyal party, who will remain forever your faithful and obedient subjects. War is inevitable. The Guises on one side, and the Huguenots on the other, cannot be controlled. Better to win a battle in Paris, where we hold all the chiefs in our clutches, than to put it to hazard in the field. In this case pity would be cruelty, and cruelty would be pity."
For an hour and a half the struggle with the weak will of the king continued. He was violently agitated, but could not bring himself to order the murder of the guest to whom he had promised his royal faith and protection. The queen mother grew alarmed. Delay might ruin all, by the discovery of her plans. At length, with a show of indignation, she said,—
"Then, if you will not do this, permit me and your brother to retire to some other part of the kingdom."
This threat to leave him alone to grapple with the difficulties that surrounded him frightened the feeble king. He rose hastily from his seat.
"By God's death!" he cried, passionately, "since you think proper to kill the admiral, I consent." With these words he left the room.
The beginning of the work of bloodshed had been fixed for an hour before daybreak. But the king had spoken in a moment of passion and agitation. An hour's reflection might change his mind. There was no time to be lost. The queen gave the signal at once, and out on the air of that dreadful night rang the terrible tocsin peal from the tower of the church of St. Germain l'Auxerrois, the alarm call for which the white-crossed murderers waited.
Quickly the silence of the night was broken by loud cries, shouts of vengeance, the tramp of many feet, the sharp reports of musketry. The work was begun. Every man not marked by a cross was to be slaughtered. The voice of murder broke fearfully upon the peacefulness of the recently quiet midnight hour.
The noise roused Coligny. He rose hastily and threw on his dressing-gown. The cries and shots told him what was going on. He had trusted the faithless Guises and the soulless De' Medici, and this was what came of it.
"M. Merlin," he said to a clergyman who was with him, "say me a prayer; I commit my soul to my Saviour."
Some of his gentlemen entered the room.
"What is the meaning of this riot?" asked Ambrose Pare.
"My lord, it is God calling us," said Cornaton.
"I have long been ready to die," said the admiral; "but you, my friends, save yourselves, if it is still possible."
They left him, and escaped, the most of them by the roof. Only one man stayed with him, Nicholas Muss, a German servant, "as little concerned," says Cornaton, "as if there was nothing going on around him."
The flight had been made barely in time. Hasty footsteps were heard below. The assassins were in the house. In a moment more the chamber door was flung open and two servants of the Duke of Guise entered.
"Art not thou the admiral?" asked one of them, Behme by name.
"Young man," answered Coligny, "thou comest against a wounded and aged man. Thou'lt not shorten my life by much."
Behme's answer was to plunge a heavy boar-spear which he held into the body of the defenceless veteran. Withdrawing it, he struck him on the head with it. Coligny fell, saying,—
"If it were but a man! But it is a horse-boy."
Others rushed into the room and thrust their weapons into the dying man.
"Behme," cried the duke of Guise from the court-yard, "hast thou done?"
"It is all over, my lord," answered the assassin.
The murderers flung the body from the window. It fell with a crash at the feet of Guise and his companions. They turned it over, wiped the blood from the face, and said,—
"Faith, it is he, sure enough!"
Some say that Guise kicked the bleeding corpse in the face.
Meanwhile, murder was everywhere. The savage lower orders of Paris, all, high and low, of the party of the Guises, were infected with the thirst for blood, and the streets of the city became a horrible whirlpool of slaughter, all who did not wear the saving cross being shot down without mercy or discrimination.
The anecdotes of that fatal night and the succeeding day are numerous, some of them pathetic, most of them ferocious, all tending to show how brutal man may become under the inspiration of religious prejudice and the example of slaughter,—the blood fury, as it has been fitly termed.
Teligny, the son-in-law of Coligny, took refuge on a roof. The guards of the Duke of Anjou fired at him as at a target. La Rochefoucauld, with whom the king had been in merry chat until eleven o'clock of the preceding evening, was aroused by a loud knocking upon his door. He opened it; six masked men rushed in, and instantly buried their poniards in his body. The new queen of Navarre had just gone to bed, under peremptory orders from her mother, Catherine de' Medici. She was wakened from her first slumber by a man knocking and kicking at her door, with wild shouts of "Navarre! Navarre!" Her nurse ran to open the door, thinking that it was the king, her lady's husband. A wounded and bleeding gentleman rushed in, blood flowing from both arms, four archers pursuing him into the queen's bedchamber.
The fugitive flung himself on the queen's couch, seizing her in his alarm. She leaped out of bed towards the wall, he following her, and still clasping her round the body. What it meant she knew not, but screamed in fright, her assailant screaming as loudly. Their cries had the effect of bringing into the room M. de Nancay, captain of the guards, who could not help laughing on seeing the plight of the queen. But in an instant more he turned in a rage upon the archers, cursed them for their daring, and harshly bade them begone. As for the fugitive, M. de Leran by name, he granted him his life at the queen's prayer. She put him to bed, in her closet, and attended him until he was well of his wounds.
Such are a few of the anecdotes told of that night of terror. They might be extended indefinitely, but anecdotes of murder are not of the most attractive character, and may profitably be passed over. The king saved some, including his nurse and Ambrose Pare his surgeon, both Huguenots. Two others, destined in the future to play the highest parts in the kingdom, were saved by his orders. These were the two Huguenot princes, Henry of Navarre, and Henry de Conde. The king sent for them during the height of the massacre, and bade them recant or die.
"I mean, for the future," he said, "to have but one religion in my kingdom; the mass or death; make your choice."
The king of Navarre asked for time to consider the subject, reminding Charles of his promised protection. Conde was defiant.
"I will remain firm in what I believe to be the true religion," he said, "though I have to give up my life for it."
"Seditious madman, rebel, and son of a rebel," cried the king, furiously, "if within three days you do not change your language, I will have you strangled."
In three days Charles himself changed his language. Remorse succeeded his insensate rage.
"Ambrose," he said to his surgeon, "I do not know what has come over me for the last two or three days, but I feel my mind and body greatly excited; in fact, just as if I had a fever. It seems to me every moment, whether I wake or sleep, that these murdered corpses appear to me with hideous and blood-covered faces. I wish the helpless and innocent had not been included."
On the next day he issued orders, prohibiting, on pain of death, any slaying or plundering. But he had raised a fury not easily to be allayed. The tocsin of death still rang; to it the great bell of the palace added at intervals its clanging peal; shouts, yells, the sharp reports of pistols and arquebuses, the shrieks of victims, filled the air; sixty thousand murderers thronged the streets, slaying all who wore not the white cross, breaking into and plundering houses, and slaughtering all within them. All through that dreadful Sunday the crimson carnival went on, death everywhere, wagons loaded with bleeding bodies traversing the streets, to cast their gory burdens into the Seine, a scene of frightful massacre prevailing such as city streets have seldom witnessed. The king judged feebly if he deemed that with a word he could quell the storm his voice had raised. Many of the nobles of the court, satisfied with the death of the Huguenot leaders, attempted to stay the work of death, but a report that a party of Huguenots had attempted to kill the king added to the popular fury, and the sanguinary work went on.
It is not known how many were slain during that outbreak of slaughter. It was not confined to Paris, but spread through France. Thousands are said to have been killed in the city. In the kingdom the number slain has been variously estimated at from ten to one hundred thousand. Such was the frightful result of a lamentable event in which religious animosity was taken advantage of to intensify the political enmity of the warring parties of the realm.
It proved a useless infamy. Charles IX. died two years afterwards, after having suffered agonies of remorse. Despite the massacre, the Huguenots were not all slain. Nor had the murder of Coligny robbed them of a leader. Henry of Navarre, who had narrowly escaped death on that fearful night, was in the coming years to lead the Protestants to many a victory, and in the end to become king of France, as Henry IV. By his coronation, Coligny was revenged; the Huguenots, instead of being exterminated by the hand of massacre, had defeated their foes and raised their leader to the throne, and the Edict of Nantes, which was soon afterwards announced, gave liberty of conscience to France for many years thereafter.
KING HENRY OF NAVARRE.
For the first time in its history France had a Protestant king. Henry III. had died by the knife of an assassin. Henry of Navarre was named by him as his successor. But the Catholic chiefs of France, in particular the leaders of the League which had been banded against Henry III., were bitterly opposed to the reign of a Huguenot in a realm that had always been governed by Catholic kings, and it was evident that only by the sword could the throne be secured.
The League held Paris and much of France. Henry's army was too weak to face them. He fell back on Dieppe, that he might be near the coast, and in position to receive reinforcements and supplies promised him by Queen Elizabeth. The Duke of Mayenne pursued him with an army of some thirty-five thousand men. Such was the situation at the date of the opening of our story.
Henry III. had been killed on the 1st of August, 1589. Henry IV. was proclaimed king on the 2d of August. On the 26th of the same month he reached Dieppe, where he was met by the governor, Aymar de Chastes, and the leading citizens, who brought him the keys of the place.
"I come to salute my lord and hand over to him the government of this city," said Aymar, who was a Catholic noble.
"Ventre-saint-gris!" cried Henry, with his favorite exclamation; "I know none more worthy of it than you are."
The citizens crowded round the king, profuse in their expressions of loyalty.
"No fuss, my lads," said Henry, who was the embodiment of plain common sense; "all I want is your affection, good bread, good wine, and good hospitable faces."
Within the town he was received with loud cheers, and the population seemed enthusiastic in his favor. But the shrewd soldier had no idea of shutting himself up in a walled town, to be besieged there by Mayenne. So, after carefully inspecting its fortifications, he left five hundred men within the town, assisted by a garrison of burgesses, and established his camp on a neighboring hill, crowned by the old castle of Arques, where he put all his men and all the peasants that could be found busily to work digging like beavers, working night and day to fortify the camp. He set the example himself in the use of the spade.
"It is a wonder I am alive with such work as I have," he wrote at the time. "God have pity upon me and show me mercy, blessing my labors, as He does in spite of many folks. I am well, and my affairs are going well. I have taken Eu. The enemy, who are double me just now, thought to catch me there; but I drew off towards Dieppe, and I await them in a camp that I am fortifying. To-morrow will be the day when I shall see them, and I hope, with God's help, that if they attack me they will find they have made a bad bargain."
The enemy came, as Henry had said, saw his preparations, and by a skilful manoeuvre sought to render them useless. Mayenne had no fancy for attacking those strong works in front. He managed, by an unlooked-for movement, to push himself between the camp and the town, "hoping to cut off the king's communications with the sea, divide his forces, deprive him of his reinforcements from England, and, finally, surround him and capture him, as he had promised the Leaguers of Paris, who were already talking of the iron cage in which the Bearnese would be sent to them."
But Henry IV. was not the man to be caught easily in a trap. Much as had been his labor at digging, he at once changed his plans, and decided that it would not pay him to await the foe in his intrenchments. If they would not come to him, he must go to them, preserving his communications at any cost. Chance, rather than design, brought the two armies into contact. A body of light-horse approached the king's intrenchments. A sharp skirmish followed.
"My son," said Marshal de Biron to the young Count of Auvergne, "charge; now is the time."
The young soldier—a prince by birth—obeyed, and so effectively that he put the Leaguers to rout, killed three hundred of them, and returned to camp unobstructed. On the succeeding two days similar encounters took place, with like good fortune for Henry's army. Mayenne was annoyed. His prestige was in danger of being lost. He determined to recover it by attacking the intrenchments of the king with his whole army.
The night of the 20th of September came. It was a very dark one. Henry, having reason to expect an attack, kept awake the whole night. In company with a group of his officers, he gazed over the dark valley within which lay Mayenne's army. The silence was profound. Afar off could be seen a long line of lights, so flickering and inconstant that the observers were puzzled to decide if they were men or glow-worms.
At five in the morning, Henry gave orders that every man should be at his post. He had his breakfast brought to him on the field, and ate it with a hearty appetite, seated in a fosse with his officers around him. While there a prisoner was brought in who had been taken during a reconnoissance.
"Good-morning, Belin," said the king, who knew him. "Embrace me for your welcome appearance."
Belin did so, taking the situation philosophically.
"To give you appetite for dinner," he said, "you are about to have work to do with thirty thousand foot and ten thousand horse. Where are your forces?" he continued, looking around curiously.
"You don't see them all, M. de Belin," answered Henry. "You don't reckon the good God and the good right, but they are ever with me."
Belin had told the truth. About ten o'clock Mayenne made his attack. It was a day ill-suited for battle, for there lay upon the field so thick a fog that the advancing lines could not see each other at ten paces apart. Despite this, the battle proceeded briskly, and for nearly three hours the two armies struggled, now one, now the other, in the ascendant.
Henry fought as vigorously as any of his men, all being so confusedly mingled in the fog that there was little distinction between officers and soldiers. At one time he found himself so entangled in a medley of disorganized troopers that he loudly shouted,—
"Courage, gentlemen; pray, courage! Are there not among you fifty gentlemen willing to die with their king?"
The confusion was somewhat alleviated by the arrival, at this juncture, of five hundred men from Dieppe, whose opportune coming the king gladly greeted. Springing from his horse, he placed himself beside Chatillon, their leader, to fight in the trenches. The battle, which had been hot at this point, now grew furious, and for some fifteen minutes there was a hand-to-hand struggle in the fog, like that of two armies fighting in the dead of night.
Then came a welcome change. For what followed we may quote Sully. "When things were in this desperate state," he says, "the fog, which had been very thick all the morning, dropped down suddenly, and the cannon of the castle of Arques, getting sight of the enemy's army, a volley of four pieces was fired, which made four beautiful lanes in their squadrons and battalions. That pulled them up quite short; and three or four volleys in succession, which produced marvellous effects, made them waver, and, little by little, retire all of them behind the turn of the valley, out of cannon-shot, and finally to their quarters."
Mayenne was defeated. The king held the field. He pursued the enemy for some distance, and then returned to Arques to return thanks to God for the victory. Immediately afterwards, Mayenne struck camp and marched away, leaving Henry master of the situation. The king of Navarre had scored a master-point in the contest for the throne of France.
During the ensuing year the cause of the king rapidly advanced. More and more of France acknowledged him as the legitimate heir to the throne. A year after the affair at Dieppe he marched suddenly and rapidly on Paris, and would have taken it had not Mayenne succeeded in throwing his army into the city when it was half captured. In March, 1590, the two armies met again on the plain of Ivry, a village half-way between Mantes and Dreux, and here was fought one of the famous battles of history, a conflict whose final result was to make Henry IV. king of all France.
On this notable field the king was greatly outnumbered. Mayenne had under his command about four thousand horse and twenty thousand foot, while Henry's force consisted of three thousand horse and eight thousand foot. But the king's men were much better disciplined, and much more largely moved by patriotism, Mayenne's army being in considerable part made up of German and Swiss auxiliaries. The king's men, Catholics and Protestants alike, were stirred by a strong religious enthusiasm. In a grave and earnest speech to his men, Henry placed the issue of the day in the hands of the Almighty. The Catholics of his army crowded to the neighboring churches to hear mass. The Huguenots, much fewer in number, "also made their prayers after their sort."
The day of battle dawned,—March 14, 1590. Henry's army was drawn up with the infantry to right and left,—partly made up of German and Swiss auxiliaries,—the cavalry, under his own command, in the centre. In this arm, in those days of transition between ancient and modern war, the strength of armies lay, and those five lines of horsemen were that day to decide the fate of the field.
In the early morning Henry displayed a winning instance of that generous good feeling for which he was noted. Count Schomberg, colonel of the German auxiliaries, had, some days before, asked for the pay of his troops, saying that they would not fight if not paid. Henry, indignant at this implied threat, had harshly replied,—
"People do not ask for money on the eve of a battle."
He now, just as the battle was about to begin, approached Schomberg with a look of contrition on his face.
"Colonel," he said, "I have hurt your feelings. This may be the last day of my life. I cannot bear to take away the honor of a brave and honest gentleman like you. Pray forgive me and embrace me."
"Sir," answered Schomberg, with deep feeling, "the other day your Majesty wounded me; to-day you kill me."
He gave up the command of the German reiters that he might fight in the king's own squadron, and was killed in the battle.
As the two armies stood face to face, waiting for the signal of onset, Henry rode along the front of his squadron, and halted opposite their centre.
"Fellow-soldiers," he said, "you are Frenchmen; behold the enemy! If to-day you run my risks, I also run yours. I will conquer or die with you. Keep your ranks well, I pray you. If the heat of battle disperse you for a while, rally as soon as you can under those pear-trees you see up yonder to my right; and if you lose sight of your standards, do not lose sight of my white plume. Make that your rallying point, for you will always find it in the path of honor, and, I hope, of victory also."
And Henry pointed significantly to the snow-white plume that ornamented his helmet, while a shout of enthusiastic applause broke from all those who had heard his stirring appeal. Those words have become famous. The white plume of Henry of Navarre is still one of the rallying points of history. It has also a notable place in poetry, in Macaulay's stirring ode of "Ivry," from which we quote:
"'And if my standard-bearer fall, As fall full well he may; For never saw I promise yet Of such a bloody fray; Press where ye see my white plume shine Amidst the ranks of war, And be your oriflamme to-day The helmet of Navarre.'"
The words we have quoted spoken, Henry galloped along the whole line of his army; then halted again, threw his bridle over his arm, and said, with clasped hands and deep feeling,—
"O God, Thou knowest my thoughts, and dost see to the very bottom of my heart; if it be for my people's good that I keep the crown, favor Thou my cause and uphold my arms. But if Thy holy will have otherwise ordained, at least let me die, O God, in the midst of these brave soldiers who give their lives for me!"
The infantry began the battle. Egmont, in command of Mayenne's right wing, attacked sharply, but after a brief success was killed and his men repulsed. On the king's right, Aumont, Biron, and Montpensier drove their opponents before them. At this stage of the affray Mayenne, in command of the powerful body of cavalry in the centre, fell upon the king's horse with a furious charge, which for the time threatened to carry all before it. The lines wavered and broke; knights and nobles fell back; confusion began and was increasing; the odds appeared too great; for a brief and perilous period the battle seemed lost. At this critical moment Henry came to the rescue. Victory or death had been his word to his men. His promise was now to be kept in deeds. Pointing with his sword to the enemy, and calling in a loud voice upon all who heard him to follow, he spurred fiercely forward, and in a moment his white plume was seen waving in the thickest ranks of the foe.
His cry had touched the right place in the hearts of his followers. Forgetting every thought but that of victory and the rescue of their beloved leader, they pushed after him in a gallant and irresistible charge, which resembled in its impetuosity that of the Black Prince at Poitiers. Mayenne's thronging horsemen wavered and broke before this impetuous rush. Into the heart of the opposing army rode Henry and his ardent followers, cutting, slashing, shouting in victorious enthusiasm. In a few minutes the forward movement of Mayenne's cavalry was checked. His troops halted, wavered, broke, and fled, hotly pursued by their foes. The battle was won. That rush of the white plume had carried all before it, and swept the serried ranks of the Leaguers to the winds. Let us quote the poetic rendition of this scene from Macaulay's ode.
"Hurrah! the foes are moving! Hark to the mingled din Of fife, and steed, and trump, and drum And roaring culverin! The fiery duke is pricking fast Across St Andre's plain, With all the hireling cavalry Of Gueldres and Almayne. 'Now by the lips of those ye love, Fair gentlemen of France, Charge for the golden lilies, Upon them with the lance!' A thousand spurs are striking deep, A thousand spears in rest, A thousand knights are pressing close Behind a snow-white crest, And in they burst, and on they rushed, While, like a gliding star, Amidst the thickest carnage blazed The helmet of Navarre."
The enemy's cavalry being in flight and hotly pursued, Henry with a handful of horsemen (he had but thirty at his back when he came out of the melee) charged upon the Walloons and Swiss, who instantly broke and fled, with such impetuous haste that they left their standards behind them.
"Slay the strangers, but spare the French," was the king's order, as a hot pursuit of the flying infantry began, in which the German auxiliaries in particular were cut down mercilessly.
"And then we thought on vengeance, And all along our van, 'Remember St. Bartholomew!' Was passed from man to man. But out spake gentle Henry, 'No Frenchman is my foe; Down, down with every foreigner, But let your brethren go.'"
The Swiss, however, ancient friends and allies of France, begged the king's compassion and were admitted to mercy, being drafted into his service. The flying Germans and French were severely punished, great numbers of them falling, many more being taken, the list of prisoners including a large number of lords and leaders of the foe. The battle had been remarkably short. It was won by the cavalry, the infantry having scarcely come into action. As to its effect, we may quote again from the poem.
"Now glory to the Lord of Hosts, From whom all glories are, And glory to our sovereign liege, King Henry of Navarre. Now let there be the merry sound Of music and of dance, Through thy corn-fields green and sunny vines, Oh, pleasant land of France. Hurrah! Hurrah! a single field Hath turned the chance of war! Hurrah! Hurrah! for Ivry, And Henry of Navarre!"
It "turned the chance of war" in truth, in a great measure. Paris was in consternation. Everywhere was a great change in public opinion. Men ceased to look on Henry as an adventurous soldier, and came to regard him as a great prince, fighting for his own. Beyond this, however, the effect was not immediate. Paris remained in the hands of the League. A Spanish League was formed. The difficulties seemed to grow deeper. The only easy solution to them was an abjuration of the Protestant faith, and to this view Henry in the end came. He professed conversion to Catholicism, and all opposition ceased. Henry IV. became the fully acknowledged king of France, and for the time being all persecution of the Huguenots was at an end.
THE MURDER OF A KING.
History is full of stories of presentiments, of "visions of sudden death," made notable by their realization, of strange disasters predicted in advance. Doubtless there have been very many presentiments that failed to come true, enough, possibly, to make those that have been realized mere coincidences. However that be, these agreements of prediction and event are, to say the least, curious. The case of Caesar is well known. We have now to relate that of Henry IV.
Sully has told the story. Henry had married, as a second wife, Mary de' Medici, daughter of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, and a woman whose headstrong temper and cantankerous disposition were by no means calculated to make his life with her an agreeable one. In the end she strongly insisted on being crowned queen, a desire on her part which was very unpleasant to her royal husband, who seemed to feel that some disaster impended over the event.
"Hey! my friend," he said to Sully, his intimate, "I know not what is the meaning of it, but my heart tells me that some misfortune will happen to me."
He was seated on a low chair, his face disturbed by uneasy thought, his fingers drumming on his spectacle-case. Of a sudden he sprang up, and struck his hand sharply on his thigh.
"By God!" he said; "I shall die in this city, and shall never go out of it. They will kill me. I see quite well that they have no other remedy in their dangers but my death. Ah! accursed coronation; thou wilt be the cause of my death!"
"What fancy is this of yours?" asked Sully. "If it continue, I am of opinion that you should break off this anointment and coronation. If you please to give me orders, it shall be done."
"Yes, break off the coronation," said the king. "Let me hear no more about it. I shall have my mind at rest from divers fancies which certain warnings have put into it. To hide nothing from you, I have been told that I was to be killed at the first grand ceremony I should undertake, and that I should die in a carriage."
"You never told me that, sir," answered Sully. "I have often been astounded to hear you cry out when in a carriage, as if you had dreaded this petty peril, after having so many times seen you amidst cannon-balls, musketry, lance-thrusts, pike-thrusts, and sword-thrusts, without being a bit afraid. Since your mind is so exercised thereby, if I were you, I would go away to-morrow, let the coronation take place without you, or put it off to another time, and not enter Paris for a long time, or in a carriage. If you please, I will send word to Notre Dame and St. Denys to stop everything and to withdraw the workmen."
"I am very much inclined," said the king; "but what will my wife say? She has gotten this coronation marvellously into her head."
"She may say what she likes," rejoined Sully. "But I cannot think that, when she knows your opinion about it, she will persist any longer."
He did not know Mary de' Medici. She did persist strongly and offensively. For three days the matter was disputed, with high words on both sides. In the end, Henry, weary of the contention, and finding it impossible to convince or silence his obstinate wife, gave way, and the laborers were again set to work to prepare for the coronation.
Despite his presentiments Henry remained in Paris, and gave orders for the immediate performance of the ceremony, as if he were anxious to have done with it, and to pass the crisis in his life which he feared. The coronation was proclaimed on the 12th of May, 1610. It took place on the 13th, at St. Denys. The tragical event which he had dreaded did not take place. He breathed easier.
On the next day, the 14th, he took it in mind to go to the arsenal to see Sully, who was ill. Yet the same indecision and fear seemed to possess him. He stirred about in an unquiet and irresolute mood, saying several times to the queen, "My dear, shall I go or not?"
He went so far as to leave the room two or three times, but each time returned, in the same doubt.
"My dear, shall I really go?" he said to the queen; and then, making up his mind, he kissed her several times and bade her adieu.