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HOME > Short Stories > Won by the Sword > CHAPTER XIII: THE BATTLES OF FREIBURG
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 The cardinal did not address Hector until he had entered his private room, when he turned and said sharply, “What means this, colonel? When I saw you and your officers on the road I felt sure that you were not there for nothing, and still more sure when on alighting I found you so closely following me.” “I was convinced, cardinal, that there was a plot against your life, and I believe that it was only because the Duke of Orleans returned with you that it was not carried into effect.”
“And possibly because they saw your troop behind the carriage. Now tell me your reason for supposing that I was in danger.”
Hector related the various steps that he had taken.
“Your spies worked better for you than mine did for me,” the cardinal said. “That a dozen or so of Beaufort's friends were for some reason or other spending their time at the Angel Inn and other cabarets I was aware, but I have had no word of their proceedings today. You have been better served, doubtless, because your plans were better laid. I hardly think that they would have attacked me when Orleans was with me, but there is no saying; for if Beaufort has daring and insolence enough to attempt to slay the queen's minister within a quarter of a mile of the Louvre, he would not trouble greatly whether princes of the blood were in the carriage or not, especially if he had some reason for believing that Orleans would not regard the deed with very great disapproval.
“However, whatever his intentions might be, it is clear that the appearance of your party of twelve armed men decided the question. We may regard it as certain that the news that I had such an escort was carried to them by the man who galloped on ahead. I thank you, sir, I thank you very heartily, not only for my sake, but for that of France. I will ask you to go across to the Louvre; I will take half a dozen armed servants with me, but there is little fear that the attempt will be renewed today. They must be too much disconcerted by the failure of their plot to make fresh arrangements so speedily. I shall go first to the Louvre and inform her majesty of what has taken place. You will remain here for half an hour, and will then leave by the gate at the back of the house and make a circuit, and enter the palace by the river gate. The musketeers on guard will stop you, but I will give you a pass.” And he wrote a few lines on paper. “The queen's confidential servant, Laporte, will be at the door to meet you, and will have instructions to escort you by corridors where you will be unobserved, and so to her majesty's private closet. Were you to accompany me, Beaufort would soon hear of it, and would be shrewd enough to perceive that your meeting with me was by no means a matter of chance.”
Hector followed out his instructions, and on presenting himself at the palace was at once taken up to the queen's closet. Laporte went in, and returning immediately requested him to enter. The queen was walking up and down the room, her face flushed with indignation.
“Her majesty would fain hear from your own lips, monsieur le baron, the statement that you have made to me.”
The queen sat down and listened intently while Hector repeated the story.
“There can be no doubt about it, cardinal; this keeping of a number of armed men within call for days, the summons to them to gather in the Rue St. Honore, while he himself with others took up his post at the convent of the Capuchins hard by, the moment his spies had discovered that you had left for Maisons, could but have been for one purpose. But they shall learn that although a woman, Anne of Austria, Queen of France, is not to be deprived of her minister and faithful friend without striking back in return. Monsieur de Villar, you have rendered me a great service. Is there any boon that you would ask of me? it is granted beforehand.”
“I thank your majesty most humbly,” Hector said. “Already I have received honours far beyond anything I deserve. I had the honour when thanking your majesty, to hope some day to be able to give proof that they were not unworthily bestowed, and still hope to do so.”
“You have already shown yourself worthy,” the queen said, “by the manner in which you have in so short a time rendered the regiment to which we appointed you so efficient. However, if there is at present no boon that we can bestow, then remember that the Queen of France holds herself your debtor, and that you have my royal word that any boon that you may hereafter ask for, that is in my power to grant, will be given you. Take this as a pledge of my promise.” And she took off a gold chain exquisitely worked, and gave it him. He received it kneeling. “Now, sir, we will keep you here no longer. I have much to say to his excellency. I trust that you will present yourself at the levee this evening.”
“One thing more, colonel,” Mazarin added; “I doubt not that some of Beaufort's people will endeavour to find out how it was that you came to be behind my carriage. If they do so you might carelessly mention that you and your officers had ridden out in a party at St. Germain, and that on your way back you chanced to fall in with my carriage.”
At the barracks Hector called the officers together. “Gentlemen,” he said, “I have no doubt that your little ride today has somewhat puzzled you. I am not at liberty to tell you the reason why I requested you to ride with me; but it is very probable that you may be asked the question, and I beg you all to remember that we have been on a little party of pleasure to St. Germain, and having dined there were on our way back when we overtook the carriage of the cardinal; and seeing that he had the Duke of Orleans with him, we reined back and followed him, deeming that it would not appear respectful were we to gallop past the carriage. Please bear this story in mind. Recall also that we dined at the Lion d'Or there, that our dinner was a good one and that it was a sort of celebration on my part of our two companies having the honour to be chosen for duty in Paris. This is a matter upon which much depends; it is, in fact, a matter of state; and you may well imagine that I should not be recalling these events to your mind were it not that a good deal depends upon it, and that I have received strict orders that this little comedy shall be carried out. I know that I can rely implicitly upon your discretion, and I have indeed answered for you all. The story will be true in every respect. Instead of the excursion having come off today it shall come off on the first day I can arrange that we can be all off duty.”
That evening at the palace Hector was, as the cardinal predicted, accosted by one of Beaufort's officers, to whom he had been previously introduced. After talking on other subjects for a few minutes, he said:
“I saw you today, monsieur, riding with a party of your officers along the Rue St. Honore. You did not notice me?”
“I assure you that I did not, sir, or I should not have been so rude as to pass without saluting you.” Then he added with a laugh, “We were riding slowly, too, for the cardinal's coach was in front of us, and it would not have been good manners to have galloped past him, especially as he had the Duke of Orleans with him.”
“Had you been far?” the other asked carelessly.
“No great distance; a little party of pleasure with my officers to eat a dinner together, to celebrate the honour we had received in being brought into Paris. My officers have worked very hard, and the matter served as a good excuse for giving them a little dinner.”
For the next day or two everything passed off quietly, but four of the officers reported that when dining at a cabaret two or three of the duke's officers had come in and entered into conversation with them, and had brought up the subject of their riding in after the cardinal.
“You almost looked as if you were serving as a bodyguard to him,” one of them laughed.
“I daresay we did,” was the answer. “It was rather a nuisance; but it would not have been courteous to have ridden past the carriage.” And he then repeated the story as had been arranged.
Although the Duke of Beaufort had been told by some of his friends that there were rumours abroad of a plot against Mazarin's life, and that it would be best for him to leave Paris for a time, he refused to do so, saying that even if it was discovered the cardinal would not dare to lay hands on him. Moreover, the replies which had been obtained from Hector and his officers convinced him that their riding behind Mazarin's carriage was an accident.
On the 2nd of September the duke presented himself at the Louvre as usual. After speaking with him for a few minutes, the queen left the room with Mazarin, and Guibaut, captain of the Guards, at once came forward and arrested him. He was kept at the Louvre that night, and next day was taken to the castle of Vincennes. Two companies of Swiss guards marched first, followed by a royal carriage containing the duke and Guibaut. The carriage was surrounded by the royal musketeers. A body of light cavalry followed, and the two companies of the Poitou regiment brought up the rear. Thus the people of Paris were shown that the queen had both the will and the power to punish, and the fickle population, who would the day before have shouted in honour of Beaufort, were delighted at seeing that the royal authority was once again paramount in Paris. The other members of the party of Importants either fled or were arrested. The Campions, Beaupuis, and others, succeeded in making their escape from France. The Marquis of Chateauneuf, governor of Touraine, was ordered back to his province. La Chatres, colonel general, was dismissed from his post; the Duc de Vendome was forced to leave France; and the ambitious Bishop of Beauvais and several other prelates were commanded to return to their dioceses. All the members of the Vendome family were exiled to the chateau of Annette. Madame de Chevreuse, de Hautefort, and a large number of other members of the party were ordered to leave Paris. Thus the party of the Importants ceased to exist.
The people of Paris seemed greatly pleased at what appeared to them the end of the troubles, and they exclaimed that Richelieu was not dead, but that he had simply changed his appearance, and had become twenty years younger. Mazarin chose a number of soldiers belonging to his own regiment, and several officers who belonged to Richelieu's own guard. These were at all times to follow him wherever he went. He selected a number of noblemen, all of distinguished merit and influence, and created five of them dukes, and thus secured to himself a party that would to some extent balance the power of his adversaries.
He also made an effort to bring about a union between the Duke of Orleans and the Condes, but failed, owing to the enormous demands that each put forward. Conde demanded the government of Languedoc for himself, of Burgundy for Enghien, and Normandy for the Duc de Longueville, and the entire domains of his late brother-in-law, Henry of Montmorency. Orleans on his part demanded the province of Champagne, the three bishoprics of Metz, Toul, and Verdun, and the town and castle of Sedan. As these demands, if granted, would have rendered the two families all powerful, Mazarin gave up the attempt, and decided that the best plan to prevent troubles was to let these dangerous families continue to be hostile to each other.
As soon as he had finished his work of crushing the Importants, Mazarin sent for Hector.
“Now, Monsieur Campbell,” he said, “I have breathing time. The conspiracy among the nobles is for the time crushed, and now that they see that the queen is determined to protect me, and that I am not afraid of using the power committed to me, I hope that it will be some time before they venture to conspire again. I have further strengthened my position by granting honours to many distinguished gentlemen who were well inclined towards me, and on whose support in the future I shall be able to rely. Now it is time that I should turn to the man who has probably saved my life, and to whose evidence given before the queen I in no small degree owe it that she resolved to suppress these insolent nobles. I have not hurried in this matter, since, by your answer to the queen, it was evident that you desired no change in your position, and that the matter could wait.
“Still, monsieur, her offer was to grant honours for services rendered to the state. The matter of the service that you have rendered to Cardinal Mazarin is still untouched. It is something so new to me that anyone in France should be so perfectly contented with his lot as to refuse such an offer as that made to you by the queen, that I feel somewhat at a loss what to do. I can understand that, young and ardent, increased rank would have no charm for you. Were it otherwise I could bestow the highest rank upon you. I am aware that your habits are simple, for I have made inquiries, and that money in itself goes for little in your eyes; still, sir, one who has the honour of being first minister of France, and who is also a very rich man, cannot remain with a debt of gratitude wholly uncancelled. I hear from my agent in Poitou that you have voluntarily remitted the fine that your vassals would pay on the occasion of a new lord taking possession, on account of the heavy taxation that presses so sorely upon them.
“I honour you, sir, for such a step, and have even mentioned it to the queen as a proof of the goodness of your disposition, and I feel sure that there is nothing that would please you better than that I should grant the tenants of your estate an immunity from all taxation; but this I cannot do. All private interests must give way to the necessities of the state. I deplore the sufferings of the cultivators of France, sufferings that have of late driven many to take up arms. It is my duty to repress such risings; but I have ordered the utmost leniency to be shown to these unfortunate men, that the troops should not be quartered upon their inhabitants, and that the officers shall see that there is no destruction of houses and no damage to property; that would increase still further their difficulty in paying the imposts, which I regret to say press so sorely and unduly upon them. Tell me frankly what is the greatest object of your ambition?”
“I thank your excellency most heartily for your kind intentions towards me, but any ambition that I may have had is already much more than gratified. I have never for a moment thought of, or even wished that I might some day become lord of a fair estate and a noble of France. I had not ventured to hope that I might become colonel of a regiment for another fifteen years. Both these things have, thanks to the kind appreciation of her majesty and yourself for a very simple act of duty, fallen to me. If I might ask a boon, it would be that my regiment may be sent to join the force of Marshal Turenne. So long as there was danger here I should not have wished to be removed from a position where I might be of some assistance, however slight, to the queen and yourself, but now that all danger is at an end I should be glad to return to active duty. I have endeavoured humbly to make Marshal Turenne my model. He has but one thought and one desire—namely, to do his duty and to make the soldiers under his command contented and happy, but I have no hope of ever emulating his great merits as a commander.”
“That request is easily granted,” Mazarin said, and drawing a sheet of paper towards him, he wrote:
The regiment of Poitou will at once proceed to the Rhine, where it will place itself under the orders of Marshal Turenne.
He added his signature, and handed the paper to Hector.
“That counts for nothing,” he said. “You must remember that life is short and, especially in the case of a minister of France, uncertain. In your own case you might be disabled in the field and unable to serve further. The advent of a party hostile to me in power would doubtless be signalized by acts of vengeance against those who have been friends, and estates change hands so frequently in France that la Villar might well be confiscated. No man is above the chances of fortune. I have agents in ............
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