Page images



(From “ The Page of the Duke of Savoy.")

[ALEXANDRE DUmas, PÈRE, French novelist and dramatist, was born July 24, 1803 ; his grandmother was a Haytian negress. His youth was roving and dissipated; the few years after he became of age were spent in Paris experimenting in literary forms; at twenty-six be took the public by storm with his play Henry III. and his Court." He was probably the most prolific great writer that ever lived, his works singly and in collaboration amounting to over two thousand volumes; he had some nipety collaborators, few of whom ever did successful independent work. A catalogue of his productions would fill many pages of this work. The most popular of his novels are: “ The Three Musketeers” series (including “Twenty Years After” and “The Viscount de Bragelonne"), and “The Count of Monte Cristo." He died December 5, 1870.]

At this moment a servant of the cardinal, who had been placed on guard by his Eminence, hastily raised the tapestry, and cried :

“ The king!”
“ Where?” asked Catherine.
“At the end of the grand gallery,” replied the servant.

Catherine looked at Duc François, as if to question him as to what had better be done.

“I shall wait for him," he said.

“Wait for him, monseigneur,” said M. de Nemours ; "you are a taker of cities and a winner of battles, and you may wait for all the kings in the world with a bearing loftier than theirs. But do you not believe that when his Majesty meets here the Cardinal de Lorraine and the Duc de Guise he may find that quite enough without me?"

“ Yes,” said Catherine, “there is no use in his finding you here. The key, my dear cardinal."

Charles de Lorraine, who held the key in his hand, ready for use at any moment, gave it hastily to the queen. The door opened before the Duc de Nemours, and was just shut discreetly on the news teller, when Henri de Valois, with gloomy face and wrinkled forehead, appeared at the threshold of the opposite door.

If we have followed the Duc de Guise first, instead of the constable, it was not because what was to pass in the apartments of Madame de Valentinois would be less interesting than what

[ocr errors]

we have seen pass in the apartments of Catherine de Médicis; but it was because François de Guise was a greater personage than M. de Montmorency, as, indeed, we have said, and because Catherine de Médicis was a greater lady than Madame de Valen. tinois. - Honor to whom honor is due.

But now that we have shown our deference for the royal supremacy, let us see what took place in the apartment of the fair Diane, and try to find out why King Henri presented himself before his wife with gloomy face and wrinkled forehead.

The arrival of the constable was no more a mystery for the Duchesse de Valentinois than the return of the Duc de Guise was a secret for Queen Catherine de Médicis. Each was staking her cards on the table, Catherine crying, “Guise !” and Diane, “ Montmorency!”

Just as there were scandalous stories told of the queen and the cardinal, so wicked tongues wagged, as we have said already, on the subject of the relations between the favorite and the constable. Now, how did it happen that an old man of sixty-eight, peevish, crotchety, and brutal, became the rival of a king full of grace and gallantry, twenty-eight years younger? It is a mystery the solution of which we leave to those skillful anatomists who claim that no fiber of the heart can escape their investigation.

But what was real, incontestable, and visible to all eyes, was the almost passive obedience of the fair Diane, — that favorite who was more of a queen than the true queen, not only to the wishes, but even to the whims, of the constable.

It is true this had lasted for twenty years ; that is to say, from the time when Diane was thirty and the constable fortyeight.

It was, therefore, with an exclamation of joy that she heard announced :

“Monseigneur le Connétable de Montmorency.”

She was not, however, alone; in a corner of the apartment, half reclining on a pile of cushions, two fair children were testing the joys of life, into which they had entered through the gate of love: they were the young Queen Mary Stuart and the little Dauphin François, married now for the last six months, and more in love, perhaps, than on the eve of their marriage.

The young sovereign was trying to fix on the head of her husband a velvet cap, which was a little too large for it, but which she was insisting was the right size.

They were so deeply engrossed in this grave occupation that, important as was, politically speaking, the announcement of the return of the illustrious prisoner to Paris, they did not hear it, or, if they did hear it, they did not pay the least attention to it.

Love is such a beautiful thing at fifteen and seventeen that a year of love then is worth twenty years of existence ! Was not François II., dying at the age of nineteen, after two years of happiness with the young and beautiful Mary, more fortunate than the latter, who lived thirty years longer than he, but spent three of those thirty years in flight and eighteen in prison ?

But Diane, without paying any attention to the two charming beings who were living their exceptional and favored life in a corner of the apartment, went with open arms towards the constable, and offered him her forehead to kiss.

More prudent than she, he stopped as he was about to press his lips on it, and exclaimed:

“Ha! we are not alone, it seems, my fair duchess.' “You are right, my dear constable,” she replied.

“Of course I am! I may be old, but my eyes are still good enough to see something stirring yonder.”

Diane burst out laughing. “The something stirring yonder," said she, “is the Queen of England and Scotland and the heir to the crown of France. But don't be alarmed ; they are too busy with their own affairs to concern themselves about ours.'

“ Hum !” said the constable, “are matters going on badly on the other side of the Channel that even these young brains are troubled about them?

My dear constable, the Scotch might be at London, or the English at Edinburgh, — which would be, in either case, great news, — yet, though this news were cried as loudly as that of

, your return, I question if either of these two children would turn their heads to hear it. Oh, no, they are absorbed by things much more important: they are in love, my dear constable. What is the kingdom of England and Scotland to them, in comparison with that word love, which gives the kingdom of heaven to those who pronounce it between two kisses ?”

“Ah, siren that you are !” murmured the old constable, “ But, come now, how are our affairs getting on?”

“Why, now that you are here,” said Diane, “ I think they

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]



are likely to get on marvelously well. The peace is c'ncluded, or very nearly so ; M. de Guise is about to be forced to sheathe

O his sword; as there is no need of a lieutenant general, but as there is always need of a constable, my own dear constable will soon have his head above water, and take first place in the kingdom, instead of the second.”

“ The game has not been badly played, tête Dieu !said the constable. “Remains the question of ransom.

You know, my fair Diane, that I have been released on parole, but that I owe two hundred thousand crowns."

“ Well, then?” asked the duchess, with a smile.

“ Well, then, mille diables! I count on not having to pay this ransom."

“For whom were you fighting, my dear constable, when you were taken?”

Pardieu! it was for the king, I should think, though the wound I received was, beyond any doubt, for myself.”

Well, then, the king shall pay it; but I thought I heard it said, my dear constable, that if I brought the negotiations for peace to a successful end, Duke Emmanuel, who is a generous prince, would probably make you a present of these two hundred thousand crowns.

“Did I say so ?” asked the constable.
“ You did not say so to me : you wrote it.”

“ The devil !” said the constable, laughing; “it will, then, be necessary to make you a partner in the speculation. Well, look here; we are going to play fair and open. Yes, the Duke of Savoy did release me from the obligation of paying these two hundred thousand crowns; but as my fine nephew, the admiral, is too proud a fellow to accept such a release, I shall not say a single word to him about it.”

“Good ! so that he will hand you over his one hundred thousand crowns, just as if you had to pay them to Emmanuel Philibert?”

“ Perfectly correct."

" And that makes three hundred thousand free of all liabilities?"

" Yes, decidedly ? they owe the pleasure of being in my hands to the fair Duchesse de Valentinois. But, as the laborer deserves his hire, this is what we are going to do with these three hundred thousand crowns

“In the first place,” interrupted the duchess, “we must

[ocr errors]



apply two hundred thousand to indemnify our dear constable for the expenses of his campaign, and for the loss and prejudice his eighteen months' imprisonment have caused him.”

“ Do you think it too much ?”

“Our dear constable is a lion, and it is just that he should have the lion's share. — And the remaining hundred thousand ?”

“ Will be divided thus : half — that is to say, fifty thousand — will buy trinkets and knickknacks for the adornment of my fair duchess ; and fifty thousand will endow our poor children, who are sure, besides, to be in a very wretched condition if the king does not add something to the portion an unhappy father can give his son only by bleeding himself to death!

“ It is true our daughter Diane has already her dowry as Duchesse de Castro, and this dowry is a hundred thousand

But know right well, my dear constable, that if the king, in his munificence, chooses to think that it is not enough for the wife of a Montmorency and the daughter of a king, it is not I who, when he loosens his purse strings, shall attempt to tighten them."

The constable regarded the favorite with a sort of admiration.

“Good !” said he ; “does our king still wear the magic ring you placed on his finger ?

Always," answered the duchess, smiling ; " and as I fancy I hear his Majesty's steps, you are going to have the proof of it.”

" Ah, ah !” said the constable," he always comes, then, by this corridor, and always has the key of this door?

And, in fact, the king had the key of the secret door of Diane, just as the cardinal had the key of the secret door of Catherine.

There were many secret doors in the Louvre, and all had one key, when they had not two.

“Good!” said the duchess, regarding her venerable adorer with an ineffable smile of mockery ; "are you going to be jealous of the king now?

“I ought, perhaps,” grumbled the old soldier.

“Ah, take care !” said the duchess, not able to resist the temptation of alluding to the proverbial avarice of Montmorency ; "it would be a sort of jealousy that would entail a


« PreviousContinue »