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HOME > Short Stories > Won by the Sword > CHAPTER X: AN ESTATE AND TITLE
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 On entering the Scottish Soldier, Hector found that, as he hoped, the cabaret was deserted, for it was the hour at which the regiment was assembled for drill. It would have been a little embarrassing for him as a colonel to come upon a number of private soldiers at the cabaret. Separately he might have chatted with each, but a general greeting when a number of them were there together would have been embarrassing. The old sergeant as he entered ran up to him. “Well done, my lad, well done! 'Tis a delight to me indeed to know that you have so grandly made your way, and already won the rank of colonel.”
“Why, how did you know, MacIntosh?”
“The guard at the colonel's was changed just after you went into his quarters, and you may be sure that they lost no time in spreading the news that you had returned, and returned a colonel. In ten minutes this place was as full as it would hold, and there was such a crowd outside the door that a sergeant-de-ville came in to inquire what was the matter, thinking, perhaps, that the regiment was in mutiny. I was right glad when I heard the trumpet sound the assembly a few minutes ago, and they had to rush off in a hurry, for I felt that it would be awkward for you were you to come in when they were all so excited.”
“Yes, I was glad myself when I found that they were gone. I regard every soldier in the regiment as my friend, and would shake hands with them now as heartily as I did when I went away near four years back, but I myself felt that it would be somewhat embarrassing were I greeted by them wine cup in hand. Here are twenty pistoles; say that I left them here for them to drink my health on my promotion, but that I shall be so busy during the day or two that I remain in Paris that I shall not be able to pay another visit here. Now let us have a quiet talk together, and give me all the news of the regiment.”
“Perhaps, colonel—”
“Oh, you need not call me colonel, MacIntosh, when you and I are together alone. I am what I was—Hector Campbell, the lad to whom you showed so much kindness for his father's sake. Yes, I will tell you one or two of my adventures, and you shall come round to me tomorrow morning at seven o'clock at the Hotel Conde, and we will stroll out together, and sit down in the gardens of the Palais Cardinal, and you shall then tell me about the regiment, who have gone, and what changes there are.”
“That will be best,” the sergeant said. “We did hear something of how you were made captain. Turenne was good enough to tell the colonel, and so some of it came down to us, but of course it was very little. The men would like to hear all about it and about this battle at Rocroi, at which, of course, you must have in some way distinguished yourself to be appointed colonel at your age.”
Hector gave him a full account of the battle. “The special thing for which I was promoted,” he said, at the finish, “was that, the night before, it struck me that there might be an ambush set in the copses in the hollow between the two armies. So far as I could see, no efforts whatever had been made either to occupy the woods or to find out if the enemy had done so; so I went with my servant, who is a capital fellow, and we made our way into them, and discovered a regiment of musketeers hidden there. Of course I reported the fact to General Gassion, and he told the prince. So, before attacking the enemy's lines, the prince charged right along the wood and destroyed the musketeers there. If he had not done so, they would have taken him in rear when he was hotly engaged with the Spaniards, and might have changed the fate of the battle.”
“Certainly they might,” the sergeant said. “A volley from a thousand muskets from the rear would well shake even the best cavalry. It was a happy thought of yours indeed.”
“Any merit there is in it was due to Turenne, who had carefully instructed me in everything that could be of importance when two hostile armies faced each other; and as he would never have dreamt of retiring to rest before having every place where an enemy could conceal himself carefully searched, it seemed to me a matter of course that it should be done. However, General Gassion and the prince were both good enough to consider that the service was a vital one, and as soon as the battle was over the prince gave me my promotion.”
“And it was well earned, lad, well earned. And now about that affair at Turin.”
“It could not have been better done, Hector,” the old soldier said in high delight when the story was told. “I used to think that you spent more time than was necessary in reading over accounts of battles and sieges, but I see that the time was well spent. You may be sure that I will be with you at seven tomorrow morning,” he added as Hector rose to leave, “though I expect I shall have a heavy night of it here, for there will scarcely be a man in the regiment who won't come round and stay to hear the news. I warrant that by this evening there will not be a sou remaining out of the money you have left for them.”
Hector arrived at the hotel just in time for the midday meal, and was pleased to find that Conde himself was not present. He and his two companions were placed at different points at the great table, so that as many as possible could hear the story of the battle. After the meal was over, Hector was glad to leave the salon, and in company with a gentleman of the household, who had volunteered to be his guide, spent the afternoon in visiting the principal sights of Paris, of which he had seen but little when a boy in barracks. The hotels of the nobles, each a fortress rather than a private building, interested him greatly, as also the streets in which the principal traders lived; but he was unfavourably impressed with the appearance of the population in all other parts, and could well understand what his guide told him, that it was dangerous in the extreme for a gentleman unattended to pass through these quarters.
At six o'clock he sat down to the evening meal at Conde's, after which, having attired himself in his new suit, he repaired with de Penthiere and de Caussac to the Louvre. It was eight o'clock when they entered, the reception rooms were already full, and the brilliancy of the attire, both of the courtiers and ladies, seen by the light of great chandeliers, was impressive in the extreme to one who had never seen any gathering of the kind before. There was a little pause in the buzz of conversation as the three officers entered, and Hector's two companions were at once surrounded by friends, while he himself was joined by Colonel Maclvor and the other two officers.
“You are the heroes of the evening, Campbell,” the former said with a laugh. “A dozen ladies have already asked me to present you to them.”
“Well, please don't do so just now, colonel; let me look round first.”
“That is but fair, Campbell. First, though, I will tell you a piece of news that I have just heard. The queen sent off a messenger two days ago to Turenne, and it is believed that he is to have the command of the army on the Rhine.”
“That is good news indeed,” Hector exclaimed. “It is high time that he should be given a command, instead of being always put under men less capable than himself. Still, it is unexpected at the present moment.”
“I know that the queen always had the greatest liking for Turenne,” the colonel said, “but of course until now she has had no power. Moreover, I fancy that the appointment is to some extent dictated by policy. Conde is already dangerously powerful; Enghien's victory will, of course, largely add to his influence. No doubt some large estates will be given to the latter, such a service cannot be ungenerously rewarded, but it will be thought unadvisable to give him at present further opportunities. Conde is old, and his son, who is certainly ambitious and hotheaded now, will be even more powerful than his father has been. Were he to win more victories, and to become a popular idol, his power might well overshadow that of the throne. Therefore it is likely enough that my news is true. Turenne has proved that military duty is with him supreme, for he held aloof from all the troubles in which his brother the duke has involved himself, and he may act as a counterpoise to Enghien. I fancy that the latter's plan, which, as you have told me, would lead to a conquest of Flanders, will not be adopted. It would not have been so in Richelieu's time. The red cardinal would not have lost a moment in ordering him to march into Flanders, thinking only of the good of France, and disregarding the fact that continued successes might lead to his own power being shaken.”
“And you do not think that Mazarin will act in the same way?”
“I think not. Of course at present not much is known about him. He affects the greatest humility, is almost obsequious to the great nobles, and even professes to be anxious to return to Italy as soon as his services here can be dispensed with. But I expect that he will in time occupy as great a position as that of Richelieu, but that he will hold it by craft rather than strength is, from the look of the man, likely enough. For myself I should say that it is infinitely better for France that an ecclesiastic like Richelieu or Mazarin should be at the head of affairs, than that the great nobles should all struggle and intrigue for power, ready as they have shown themselves over and over again to plunge France into civil war for the attainment of their aims. Ah, here comes the queen!”
The door at the end of the salon opened and Anne entered. By her side walked the young king, a little behind were Orleans and Conde, Beaufort and Bouillon, while, following them, with an air that was almost humble, came Mazarin. The queen and the young king were dressed in violet, the mourning colour of the court, and the ladies present all wore shades of that colour relieved by white. All present formed themselves into two lines, through which the queen walked. She acknowledged the deep reverences, and the little king bowed repeatedly. Anne of Austria was one of the most beautiful women of her time, and although the charm of youth had disappeared, her stateliness of bearing made up for this loss, and Hector thought that he had never seen so lovely a woman.
As soon as they had passed into an inner apartment known as the audience chamber the lines broke up, and a buzz of conversation and light laughter followed the silence that had reigned as the procession passed. The court, indeed, felt a general feeling of relief at the death of Louis. Although well meaning and desirous of doing good, the life of the monarch had not been a happy one. His health had never been good, and although he had the wisdom to see that in supporting Richelieu, and in every way adding to his authority, he was acting for the good of France, the knowledge that he himself was little more than a cipher galled and irritated him. His disposition was a jealous one, and as the great minister knew that Anne of Austria was ever his opponent politically, he worked upon this feeling, and embittered the lives of both the king and queen, and the latter was the constant victim of the king's jealousy and caprices.
These things, combined with the ascetic temperament of the king, had rendered the court of France a dismal one, and the royal salons formed a strong contrast to the brilliancy of those of Richelieu. Now the king was gone, and there was a general feeling of relief among the nobles and ladies of the court. It might be that stormy times were ahead, and indeed it was no secret that Conde, Beaufort, and many other nobles were already united against Mazarin. They called themselves “The Importants,” a term well suited to their own idea of their power, and of the position they aspired to as the natural leaders of France.
“Madame de Chevreuse wishes you to be presented to her,” Colonel Maclvor said to Hector. “Everyone knows her reputation; she is the cleverest woman in France, and one of the most intriguing. She is the queen's greatest friend, and has been her mainstay in her struggle with Richelieu. Of one thing we may be sure, that she will not tamely see Mazarin step into his place, and she has, it is whispered, already thrown herself into the arms of 'The Importants,' and if anyone can persuade the queen to throw over the cardinal it is she.”
With a slight shrug of his shoulders Hector followed the colonel to a group of three or four ladies seated upon some fauteuils.
The colonel stopped before one of these, and bowing deeply said, “Duchess, I have the honour to present to you my compatriot, Colonel Campbell, who arrived here this morning with despatches from the Duc d'Enghien.”
Madame Chevreuse, like the queen, was still a beautiful woman. She was petite, and possessed a face whose fascination few could withstand. She was the most restless of intriguers, and was never so happy as when engaged in conspiracies which might cost her her estates and liberty.
“Why, Monsieur Campbell,” she said with a smile, “I had looked to see a fierce warrior, and, lo and behold I find one who, by his appearance, will be far more in his element at court than in the field.”
“Then appearances must greatly belie me, madame,” Hector said; “for while I may say that I am at home in a military camp, I feel sorely ill at ease here, and I feel I would rather face an enemy's battery than so many beautiful faces.”
“That is not bad for a beginner,” the lady said with a smile, “but methinks you will soon get over that fear, for there is nothing very dangerous in any of us. The Duchesse de Longueville,” and she motioned to the lady next to her, “is as desirous as myself that you should be presented to her, and that she should hear from your lips somewhat more of the doings of her brother than she has yet learned.”
Hector again bowed deeply. The sister of Enghien was as ambitious for her brother's sake as he was for his own self, and she was his potent ally in the troubles of the times.
“Enghien was wounded,” she said. “Monsieur la Moussaie left the field directly the battle was won, and could tell me little about my brother's injuries.”
“He received three wounds, duchess, but happily none of them were severe, and he was on horseback on the following morning. It seemed miraculous to us all that he should so escape, for he rode ever ahead of us in the charges against the Spanish square.”
“You were acting as one of his aides-de-camp? I do not remember having seen your face before.”
“No, madame. I have been for the past four years on the staff of the Viscount de Turenne, and have not left the army during that time. The general had the goodness, seeing that there was little doing in the south, to send me to learn what I could from the operations of the duke against the Spanish. He sent me a letter of recommendation to your brother, who kindly appointed me to the same position under him that I had occupied under Turenne.”
“Did you find the ladies of Italy very lovely?” Madame de Chevreuse asked suddenly.
“In truth, madame, I had but small opportunities of judging, seeing that, unless when sent with some message from the general to the Duchess of Savoy, I do not think that I exchanged a single word with a woman during the whole of my stay there.”
Madame de Chevreuse, and the Duchesse de Longueville, and all the ladies sitting round, smiled.
“Then you have very much to learn, Colonel Campbell,” Madame de Chevreuse said. “You will find plenty of ladies in the court here who will not object to give you lessons.”
“I trust, madame,” Hector said bluntly, “that there will be little opportunity for me to take lessons as to the manners of the court, for I hope that my stay here will be short indeed.”
“That is a most ungallant speech,” the younger duchess said, laughing, “and shows indeed the truth of what you have said as to your ignorance of women. Do you not know, sir; that it is an unwritten law at court that every gentleman here must be at the feet of one fair lady?”
“I suppose that, had I been brought up at court,” Hector said, “I should not be more insensible than others; but when one passes three-quarters of one's time on horseback, and that under a commander like Turenne, who sets us all an example in the matter of endurance and watchfulness, one has small leisure indeed for aught else, and ind............
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