Chapter 10 The King's Closet at the Tuileries
WILL LEAVE Villefort on the road to Paris, travelling--thanks to trebled
fees--with all speed, and passing through two or three apartments, enter
at the Tuileries the little room with the arched window, so well known as
having been the favorite closet of Napoleon and Louis XVIII., and now of
seated before a walnut table he had brought with him from Hartwell, and to
which, from one of those fancies not uncommon to great people, he was
particularly attached, the king, Louis XVIII., was carelessly listening to
a man of fifty or fifty-two years of age, with gray hair, aristocratic
bearing, and exceedingly gentlemanly attire, and meanwhile making a
marginal note in a volume of Gryphius's rather inaccurate, but much
sought-after, edition of Horace--a work which was much indebted to the
sagacious observations of the philosophical monarch.
say, sir"--said the king.
I am exceedingly disquieted, sire."
have you had a vision of the seven fat kine and the seven lean kine?"
sire, for that would only betoken for us seven years of plenty and seven
years of scarcity; and with a king as full of foresight as your majesty,
scarcity is not a thing to be feared."
of what other scourge are you afraid, my dear Blacas?"
I have every reason to believe that a storm is brewing in the south."
my dear duke," replied Louis XVIII., "I think you are wrongly
informed, and know positively that, on the contrary, it is very fine
weather in that direction." Man of ability as he was, Louis XVIII.
liked a pleasant jest.
continued M. de Blacas, "if it only be to reassure a faithful
servant, will your majesty send into Languedoc, Provence, and Dauphiné, trusty men, who will bring you
back a faithful report as to the feeling in these three provinces?"
surdis," replied the king, continuing the annotations in his Horace.
replied the courtier, laughing, in order that he might seem to comprehend
the quotation, "your majesty may be perfectly right in relying on the
good feeling of France, but I fear I am not altogether wrong in dreading
some desperate attempt."
Bonaparte, or, at least, by his adherents."
dear Blacas," said the king, "you with your alarms prevent me
you, sire, prevent me from sleeping with your security."
my dear sir, wait a moment; for I have such a delightful note on the
Pastor quum traheret--wait, and I will listen to you afterwards."
was a brief pause, during which Louis XVIII. wrote, in a hand as small as
possible, another note on the margin of his Horace, and then looking at
the duke with the air of a man who thinks he has an idea of his own, while
he is only commenting upon the idea of another, said,--
on, my dear duke, go on--I listen."
said Blacas, who had for a moment the hope of sacrificing Villefort to his
own profit, "I am compelled to tell you that these are not mere
rumors destitute of foundation which thus disquiet me; but a
serious-minded man, deserving all my confidence, and charged by me to
watch over the south" (the duke hesitated as he pronounced these
words), "has arrived by post to tell me that a great peril threatens
the king, and so I hastened to you, sire."
ducis avi domum," continued Louis XVIII., still annotating.
your majesty wish me to drop the subject?"
no means, my dear duke; but just stretch out your hand."
you please--there to the left."
tell you to the left, and you are looking to the right; I mean on my
left--yes, there. You will find yesterday's report of the minister of
police. But here is M. Dandré
himself;" and M. Dandré,
announced by the chamberlain-in-waiting, entered.
in," said Louis XVIII., with repressed smile, "come in, Baron,
and tell the duke all you know--the latest news of M. de Bonaparte; do not
conceal anything, however serious,--let us see, the Island of Elba is a
volcano, and we may expect to have issuing thence flaming and bristling
war--bella, horrida bella." M. Dandré
leaned very respectfully on the back of a chair with his two hands, and
your majesty perused yesterday's report?"
yes; but tell the duke himself, who cannot find anything, what the report
contains--give him the particulars of what the usurper is doing in his
said the baron to the duke, "all the servants of his majesty must
approve of the latest intelligence which we have from the Island of Elba.
looked at Louis XVIII., who, employed in writing a note, did not even
raise his head. "Bonaparte," continued the baron, "is
mortally wearied, and passes whole days in watching his miners at work at
scratches himself for amusement," added the king.
himself?" inquired the duke, "what does your majesty mean?"
indeed, my dear duke. Did you forget that this great man, this hero, this
demigod, is attacked with a malady of the skin which worries him to death,
moreover, my dear duke," continued the minister of police, "we
are almost assured that, in a very short time, the usurper will be
mad; his head becomes weaker. Sometimes he weeps bitterly, sometimes
laughs boisterously, at other time he passes hours on the seashore,
flinging stones in the water and when the flint makes 'duck-and-drake'
five or six times, he appears as delighted as if he had gained another
Marengo or Austerlitz. Now, you must agree that these are indubitable
symptoms of insanity."
of wisdom, my dear baron--or of wisdom," said Louis XVIII., laughing;
"the greatest captains of antiquity amused themselves by casting
pebbles into the ocean--see Plutarch's life of Scipio Africanus."
de Blacas pondered deeply between the confident monarch and the truthful
minister. Villefort, who did not choose to reveal the whole secret, lest
another should reap all the benefit of the disclosure, had yet
communicated enough to cause him the greatest uneasiness.
said Louis XVIII., "Blacas is not yet convinced; let us proceed,
therefore, to the usurper's conversion." The minister of police
usurper's conversion!" murmured the duke, looking at the king and
Dandré, who spoke alternately, like
Virgil's shepherds. "The usurper converted!"
my dear duke."
what way converted?"
good principles. Tell him all about it, baron."
this is the way of it," said the minister, with the gravest air in
the world: "Napoleon lately had a review, and as two or three of his
old veterans expressed a desire to return to France, he gave them their
dismissal, and exhorted them to 'serve the good king.' These were his own
words, of that I am certain."
Blacas, what think you of this?" inquired the king triumphantly, and
pausing for a moment from the voluminous scholiast before him.
say, sire, that the minister of police is greatly deceived or I am; and as
it is impossible it can be the minister of police as he has the
guardianship of the safety and honor of your majesty, it is probable that
I am in error. However, sire, if I might advise, your majesty will
interrogate the person of whom I spoke to you, and I will urge your
majesty to do him this honor."
willingly, duke; under your auspices I will receive any person you please,
but you must not expect me to be too confiding. Baron, have you any report
more recent than this dated the 20th February.--this is the 4th of
sire, but I am hourly expecting one; it may have arrived since I left my
thither, and if there be none--well, well," continued Louis XVIII.,
"make one; that is the usual way, is it not?" and the king
sire," replied the minister, "we have no occasion to invent any;
every day our desks are loaded with most circumstantial denunciations,
coming from hosts of people who hope for some return for services which
they seek to render, but cannot; they trust to fortune, and rely upon some
unexpected event in some way to justify their predictions."
sir, go"; said Louis XVIII., "and remember that I am waiting for
will but go and return, sire; I shall be back in ten minutes."
I, sire," said M. de Blacas, "will go and find my
sir, wait," said Louis XVIII. "Really, M. de Blacas, I must
change your armorial bearings; I will give you an eagle with outstretched
wings, holding in its claws a prey which tries in vain to escape, and
bearing this device--Tenax."
I listen," said De Blacas, biting his nails with impatience.
wish to consult you on this passage, 'Molli fugiens anhelitu," you
know it refers to a stag flying from a wolf. Are you not a sportsman and a
great wolf-hunter? Well, then, what do you think of the molli anhelitu?"
sire; but my messenger is like the stag you refer to, for he has posted
two hundred and twenty leagues in scarcely three days."
is undergoing great fatigue and anxiety, my dear duke, when we have a
telegraph which transmits messages in three or four hours, and that
without getting in the least out of breath."
sire, you recompense but badly this poor young man, who has come so far,
and with so much ardor, to give your majesty useful information. If only
for the sake of M. de Salvieux, who recommends him to me, I entreat your
majesty to receive him graciously."
de Salvieux, my brother's chamberlain?"
is at Marseilles."
writes me thence."
he speak to you of this conspiracy?"
but strongly recommends M. de Villefort, and begs me to present him to
de Villefort!" cried the king, "is the messenger's name M. de
he comes from Marseilles?"
did you not mention his name at once?" replied the king, betraying
I thought his name was unknown to your majesty."
no, Blacas; he is a man of strong and elevated understanding, ambitious,
too, and, you know his father's name!"
the Girondin?--Noirtier the senator?"
your majesty has employed the son of such a man?"
my friend, you have but limited comprehension. I told you Villefort was
ambitions, and to attain this ambition Villefort would sacrifice
everything, even his father."
sire, may I present him?"
instant, duke! Where is he?"
below, in my carriage."
him at once."
hasten to do so." The duke left the royal presence with the speed of
a young man; his really sincere royalism made him youthful again. Louis
XVIII. remained alone, and turning his eyes on his half-opened Horace,
muttered, "Justum et tenacem propositi virum."
de Blacas returned as speedily as he had departed, but in the ante-chamber
he was forced to appeal to the king's authority. Villefort's dusty garb,
his costume, which was not of courtly cut, excited the susceptibility of
M. de Brezé, who was all astonishment at
finding that this young man had the audacity to enter before the king in
such attire. The duke, however, overcame all difficulties with a word--his
majesty's order; and, in spite of the protestations which the master of
ceremonies made for the honor of his office and principles, Villefort was
king was seated in the same place where the duke had left him. On opening
the door, Villefort found himself facing him, and the young magistrate's
first impulse was to pause.
in, M. de Villefort," said the king, "come in." Villefort
bowed, and advancing a few steps, waited until the king should interrogate
de Villefort," said Louis XVIII., "the Duc de Blacas assures me
you have some interesting information to communicate.
the duke is right, and I believe your majesty will think it equally
the first place, and before everything else, sir, is the news as bad in
your opinion as I am asked to believe?"
I believe it to be most urgent, but I hope, by the speed I have used, that
it is not irreparable."
as fully as you please, sir," said the king, who began to give way to
the emotion which had showed itself in Blacas's face and affected
Villefort's voice. "Speak, sir, and pray begin at the beginning; I
like order in everything."
said Villefort, "I will render a faithful report to your majesty, but
I must entreat your forgiveness if my anxiety leads to some obscurity in
my language." A glance at the king after this discreet and subtle
exordium, assured Villefort of the benignity of his august auditor, and he
I have come as rapidly to Paris as possible, to inform your majesty that I
have discovered, in the exercise of my duties, not a commonplace and
insignificant plot, such as is every day got up in the lower ranks of the
people and in the army, but an actual conspiracy--a storm which menaces no
less than your majesty's throne. Sire, the usurper is arming three ships,
he meditates some project, which, however mad, is yet, perhaps, terrible.
At this moment he will have left Elba, to go whither I know not, but
assuredly to attempt a landing either at Naples, or on the coast of
Tuscany, or perhaps on the shores of France. Your majesty is well aware
that the sovereign of the Island of Elba has maintained his relations with
Italy and France?"
am, sir," said the king, much agitated; "and recently we have
had information that the Bonapartist clubs have had meetings in the Rue
Saint-Jacques. But proceed, I beg of you. How did you obtain these
they are the results of an examination which I have made of a man of
Marseilles, whom I have watched for some time, and arrested on the day of
my departure. This person, a sailor, of turbulent character, and whom I
suspected of Bonapartism, has been secretly to the Island of Elba. There
he saw the grand-marshal, who charged him with an oral message to a
Bonapartist in Paris, whose name I could not extract from him; but this
mission was to prepare men's minds for a return (it is the man who says
this, sire)--a return which will soon occur."
where is this man?"
the matter seems serious to you?"
serious, sire, that when the circumstance surprised me in the midst of a
family festival, on the very day of my betrothal, I left my bride and
friends, postponing everything, that I might hasten to lay at your
majesty's feet the fears which impressed me, and the assurance of my
said Louis XVIII., "was there not a marriage engagement between you
and Mademoiselle de Saint-Méran?"
of one of your majesty's most faithful servants."
yes; but let us talk of this plot, M. de Villefort."
I fear it is more than a plot; I fear it is a conspiracy."
conspiracy in these times," said Louis XVIII., smiling, "is a
thing very easy to meditate, but more difficult to conduct to an end,
inasmuch as, re-established so recently on the throne of our ancestors, we
have our eyes open at once upon the past, the present, and the future. For
the last ten months my ministers have redoubled their vigilance, in order
to watch the shore of the Mediterranean. If Bonaparte landed at Naples,
the whole coalition would be on foot before he could even reach Piomoino;
if he land in Tuscany, he will be in an unfriendly territory; if he land
in France, it must be with a handful of men, and the result of that is
easily foretold, execrated as he is by the population. Take courage, sir;
but at the same time rely on our royal gratitude."
here is M. Dandré!"
cried de Blacas. At this instant the minister of police appeared at the
door, pale, trembling, and as if ready to faint. Villefort was about to
retire, but M. de Blacas, taking his hand, restrained him.