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"Dear Wife, — ^We have now reached the moment of de-
cision. I have concentrated here at Naseby camp all the re-
sources which Heaven has left me ; and I write to you in haste
from thence. Here I await the army of my rebellious subjects,
and I am about to fight for the last time against them. If
victorious* I shall continue the struggle; if beaten, I am com-
pletely lost I shall try, in the latter case (alas ! in our position,
one must provide for everything), I shall try to gain the coast
of France. But can they, will they receive an unhappy king,
who will bring such a sad story into a country already agitated
by evil discord? Your wisdom and your affection must serve
me as guides. The bearer of this letter will tell you, madam,
what I dare not trust to the risk of miscarrying. He will
explain to you the steps which I expect you to pursue. I charge
him also with my blessing for my children, and with the senti-
ments of my heart for yourself, dear wife."

The letter bore the signature, not of "Charles, King," but of
"Charles—still king."


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"And let him be no longer King!" cried the Queen. "Let him
be conquered, exiled, proscribed, provided he still lives. Alas!
in these days the throne is too dangerous a place for me to
wish him to keep it! But, my lord, tell me, she continued,
**hide nothing from me — ^what is, in truth, the King's position?
Is it as hopeless as he thinks?"

** Alas ! madam — more hopeless than he thinks."

"And now, my lord, that I see how sad the position of the
King is, tell me with what you are charged on the part of my
rcyal husband."

"Well then, madam," said Winter, "the King wishes you to
try and discover the dispositions of th6 King and Queen towards

"Alas! you know the King is but still a child, and the Queen
is a woman weak enough, too. Mazarin is everything here."

"Does he desire to play the part in France that Cromwell
plays in England?"

"Oh, no! He is a subtle and cunning Italian, who, though
he may dream of crime, dares never commit it;' and unlike
Cromwell, who disposes of both Houses, Mazarin has had the
Queen to support him in his struggle with the Parliament."

"More reason, then, that he should protect a king pursued
by his Parliament."

The Queen shook her head despairingly.

"If I judge for myself, my lord," she said, "the Cardinal will
do nothing and will even, perhaps, act against us. The pres-
ence of my daughter and myself in France is already irksome to
him; much more so would be that of the King. My lord,"
added Henrietta with a melancholy smile, "it is sad, and almost
shameful, to be obliged to say that we have passed the winter
in the Louvre without money, without linen — almost without
bread, and often not rising from bed because we wanted fire."

"Horrible!" cried Winter; "the daughter of Henry IV., and
the wife of King Charles! Wherefore did you not apply then,
madam, to the first person you saw from us?"

"Such is the hospitality shown to a queen by the minister,
from whom a king would demand it"

"But I heard that a marriage between the Prince of Wales
and Mdlle. d'Orleans was spoken of," said Winter.

"Yes, for an instant I hoped it was so. The young people
felt a mutual esteem; but the Queen, who at first sanctioned
their affection, changed her mind, and the Duke d'Orleans, who
had encouraged the familiarity between them, has forbidden
his daughter to think any longer about the union. Oh, my
lord!" continued the Queen, without restraining her tears, "it
is better to fight as the King has done, and to die, as perhaps
he will, than to live begging as I have."

"Courage, madam! courage! Do not despair! The interests
of the French crown — endangered this moment — are to dis-


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138 t;wenty years after.

courage civil rebellion in a nation so near to it Mazarin, as
a statesman, will understand the necessity of doing so."

"But are you sure,** said the Queen doubtfully, "that you
have not been forestalled by the Puritan?"

"By tailors, coachmakers, brewers. Ah! I hope, madam, that
the Cardinal will not enter into negotiations with such men!"

"Ah! what wishes he himself?" asked Mdme. Henrietta.

"Solely the honor of the King— of the Queen."

"Well, let us hope that he will do something for the sake of
their honor," said the Queen. "A true friend's eloquence is so
powerful, my lord, that you have reassured me. Give me your
hand, and let us go to the minister; and yet," she added, "sup-
pose he refuse, and that the Kling loses the battle!"

"His majesty will then take refuge in Holland, where I hear
that the Prince of Wales is."

"And can his majesty count upon many such subjects as
yourself for his fight?"

"Alas! no, madam," answered Winter; "but the case is pro-
vided for, and I am come to France to seek allies."

"Allies!" said the Queen, shaking her head.

"Madam!" replied Winter, "provided I can find some old
friends of former times, I will answer for anything."

"Come, then, my lord, said the Queen, with the painful doubt
that is felt by those who have suffered much; "come, and may
Heaven hear you."

Cromwell's letter.

At the very moment when the Queen quitted the convent to
go to the Palais Royal, a young man dismounted at the gate
of this royal abode, and announced to the guards that he had
something of consequence to communicate to Cardinal Mazarin.
Although the Cardinal was often tormented by fear, he was
more often in need of counsel and information, and he was
therefore sufficiently accessible. The true difficulty of being
admitted was not to be found at the first door, and even the
second was passed easily enough ; but at the third watched, be-
sides the guard and the doorkeepers, the faithful Bernouin, a
Cerberus whom no speech could soften; no wand, even of gold,
could charm.

It was, therefore, at the third door, that those who solicited
or were bid to an audience, underwent a formal interrogatory.

The young man, having left his horse tied to the gate in the
court, mounted the great staircase, and applied to Bernouin for
admittance to the Cardinal for whom he said he bore a message
from General Oliver Cromwell.


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^Be so good as to mention this name to his Eminence, and to
bring me word whether he will receive me — ^yes or no.

Saying which, he resumed the sullen and proud bearing
peculiar at that time to the Puritans. Bernouin cast an inquisi-
torial glance at the young man, and entered the cabinet of the
Cardinal, to whom he transmitted the messenger's words.

"What kind of a man?" said Mazarin .

**A true Englishman, your Eminence. Hair sandy-red — ^more
red than sandy; grey blue eyes — more grey than blue; and for
the rest, stiff and proud."

"Let him give in his letter."

"His Eminence asks for the letter," said Bernouin, passing
back into the ante-chamber.

"His Eminence cannot see the letter without the bearer of
it," replied the young man; "but to convince you that I am
really the bearer of a letter, see, here it is; and add," continued
he, "that I am not a simple messenger, but an envoy extraor-

Bernouin re-entered the cabinet, and returning in a few sec-
onds, — "Enter, sir," said he.

The young man appeared on the threshold of the minister's
closet, in one hand holding his hat, in the other the letter.
Mazarin rose. "Have you, sir," asked he, "a letter accrediting
you to me?"

"There it is, my lord," said the young man.

Mazarin took the letter, and read it thus:

"Mr. Mordaunt, one of my secretaries, will remit this letter
of introduction to his Eminence, Cardinal Mazarin, in Paris.
He is also the bearer of a second confidential epistle for his
Eminence. "Oliver Cromwell."

"Very well, M. Mordaunt," said Mazarin, "give me the second
letter, and sit down."

The young man drew from his pocket the second letter, pre-
sented it to the Cardinal, and sat down. The Cardinal, how-
ever, did not unseal the letter at once, but continued to turn
it again and again in his hand; then, in accordance with his
usual custom, and judging from experience that few people
could hide anything from him, when he began to question them,
fixing his eyes upon them at the same time, he thus addressed
the messenger:

"You are very young, M. Mordaunt, for this difficult task
of ambassador, in which the oldest diplomatists sometimes fail."

"My lord, I am twenty-three years of age; but your Emi-
nence is mistaken in sa)ring that I am young. I am older than
your Eminence, although I possess not your wisdom. Years
of suffering, in mv opinion, count double, and I have suffered
for twenty years.'

"Ah, yes, I understand," said Mazarin; "want of fortune, per-


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haps. You are poor — are you not?" Then he added to him-
self— "These English revolutionists are all beggars and ill-bred."

"My lord, I ought to have a fortune of three hundred a year,
but it has been taken from me."

"You are not then a commoner?" said Mazarin, astonished.

"If I bore my titje I should be a lord. If I bore my name,
you would have heard one of the most illustrious in England."

"What is it, pray?" asked Mazarin.

"My name is Mordaunt," replied the young man, bowing.

Mazarin now understood that Cromwell's envoy desired to
retain his incognito. He was silent for an instant, and during
that time he scanned the young man even more attentively
than he had done at first. The messenger was unmoved

"Devil take these Puritans," said Mazarin aside; "they are
cut out of marble." Then he added aloud, "But you have rela-
tives left to you?"

"I have one remaining, and three times I have presented my-
self to him to ask his support, and three times he has desired
his servants to turn me away."

"Oh, my dear M. Mordaunt," said Mazarin, hoping, by a
display of affected pity, to catch the young man in a snare,
"how extremely your history interests me! You know not,
then, anything of your birth, you have never seen your mother?"

"Yes, my lord; she came three times, while I was a child, to
my nurse's house; I remember the last time she came as well
as if it were to-day."

"You have a good memory," said Mazarin.

"Verj', my lord!" said the young man, with such peculiar
emphasis that the Cardinal felt a shudder run through all his

"And who brought you up?" he asked again.

"A French nurse, who sent me away when I was five years
old, because no one paid her for me, telling me a kinsman's
name of whom she had heard my mother often speak."

"What became of you?"

"As I was weeping and begging on the high road, a minister
from Kingston took me in, instructed me in the Calvinistic
faith, taught me all he knew himself, and aided me in my re-
searches after my family."

"And these researches?"

"Were fruitless; chance did everything."

"You discovered what had become of your mother?"

"I learnt that she had been assassinated by my relation, aided
by four friends, but I was already aware that I had been
robbed of all my wealth, and degraded from my nobility, by
King Charles I.'^

"Oh! I now understand why you are in the service of Crom-
well; you hate the King."

"Yes, my lord, I do hate him!" said the young man.

Mazarin marked, with surprise, the diabolical expression with


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which the young man uttered these words; as, in general, ordi-
nary countenances are colored by the blood — ^his face seemed
dyed by hatred, and became livid.

"Your history is a terrible one, M. Mordaunt, and touches
me keenly; but, happily for you, you serve an all-powerful
master, he ought to aid you in your search; we have so many
means of gaining information."

**My lord, to a hoimd of good breed it is only necessary to
show but one end of a trail, that he may be certain to reach
the other end."

"But this relative whom you mentioned-^o you wish me to
speak to him?" said Mazarin, who was anxious to make a friend
about Cromwell's person.

"Thanks, my lord, I will speak to him myself; he will treat
me better the next time I see him."

"You have the means, then, of touching him?"

"I have the means of making myself feared."

Mazarin looked at the man, but at the fire which shot from
his glance, he bent down his head; embarrassed how to con-
tinue such a conversation, he opened Cromwell's letter. It was
lengthy, and began by alluding to the situation of England, and
announcing that he was on the eve of a decisive engagement
with King Charles, and certain of success. He then adverted
to the hospitality and protection afforded by France to. Henrietta
Maria, and continued:

"As regards King Charles, the question must be viewed
differently ; in receiving and aiding him, France will censure
the acts of the English nation, and thus so essentially do harm
to England, and especially to the progress of the Government
which she reckons upon forming, so that such a proceeding will
be equal to flagrant hostilities."

At this moment Mazarin became very uneasy at the turn
which the letter was taking, and paused to glance^ under his
eyes at the young man. The latter continued lost in thought.
Mazarin resumed his reading of the General's worthy epistle,
which ended by demanding perfect neutrality from France.

"A neutrality," it said, which was solely to consist in ex-
cluding King Charles from the French territories, nor to aid a
king so entirely a stranger, either by arms, money, or troops.
Farewell, sir, should we not receive a reply in the space of
fifteen days, I shall presume my letter has miscarried.

"Oliver Cromwell."

"M. Mordaunt," said the Cardinal, raising his voice, as if to
arouse the thinker, "my reply to this letter will be more satis-
factory to General Cromwell if I am convinced that all are
ignorant of my having given one; go, therefore, and await it
at Boulogne on the sea, and promise me to set out to-morrow
morning. '

"I promise, my^ lord," replied Mordaunt; "but how many
days will your Eminence oblige me to await your reply?"

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**If you do not receive it in ten days, you can leave.**

Mordaunt bowed.

"It is not all, sir," continued Mazarin; "your private adven-
tures have touched me to the quick; besides, the letter from
Mr. Cromwell makes you an important person in my eyes as
ambassador; come, tell me what can I do for you?"

Mordaunt reflected a moment, and, after some hesitation, was
about to speak, when Bernouin entered hastily, and, bending
down to the ear of the Cardinal, whispered to him:

"My lord. Queen Henrietta Maria, accompanied by an Eng-
lish noble, is just entering the Palais Royal at this moment."

Mazarin made a bound from his chair, which did not escape
the attention of the young man, and repressed the confidence
he was about to make.

"Sir," said the Cardinal, "you have heard me? I fix on Bou-
logne because I presume that every town in France is indifferent
t"» you* if you prefer another, name it; but you can easily con-
ceive that, surrounded as I am by influences from which 1 can
escape alone by means of discretion, I desire your presence
in Paris to be ignored."

"I shall go, sir," said Mordaunt, advancing a few steps to
the door by which he had entered.

"No, not that way, I beg, sir," quickly exclaimed the Car-
dinal; "be so good as to pass by that gallery, by which you can
gain the hall ; I do not wish you to be seen leaving— our inter-
view must be kept secret."

Mordaunt followed Bernouin, who conducted him through a
neighboring chamber, and left him with a doorkeeper showing
him the way out



The Cardinal rose, and advanced in haste to receive the
Queen of England. He showed the more respect to this Queen,
deprived of all pomp, and without followers, as he felt some
self-reproach for his own want of heart and his avarice. But
suppliants for favor know how to vary the expression of their
features, and the daughter of Henry IV. smiled as she advanced
to meet one whom she hated and despised.

"Ah!" said Mazarin to himself, "what a sweet face! does
she come to borrow money of me?"

And he threw an uneasy glance at his strong box; he even
turned inside the bevel of the magnificent diamond ring, the
brilliancy of which drew every eye upon his hand, which indeed
was handsome and white.

"Your Eminence," said the august visitor, "it was my first


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intention to speak of the affairs which have brought me hjsre,
to the Queen, my sister, but I have reflected that political
matters are more especially the concerns of men. I am come
to petition you, too happy should my prayer be heard favorably.**

^I listen, madam, with interest," said Mazarin.

"Your Eminence, it concerns the war which the King, my
husband, now sustains against his rebellious subjects. You are,
perhaps, ignorant that they are fighting in England," added she,
with a melancholy smile, "and that, in a short time they will
fight in a much more decided fashion than they have done

**! am completely ignorant of it, madam," said the Cardinal,
accompanying his words with a slight shrug of the shoulders;
"alas, our own wars have quite absorbed the time and the mind
of a poor, incapable, and infirm minister like myself."

"Well, then, your Eminence," said the Queen, I must inform
you that Charles I., my husband, is on the eve of a decisive
engagement. In case of a check — " (Mazarin made a slight
movement) "one must foresee evenrthing; in case of a check,
he desires to retire into France, and to live here as a private
individual. What do you say to this project?"

The Cardinal had listened without permitting a single fibre of
his face to betray what he felt, and his smile remained as it
ever was — false and flattering, and, when the Queen finished
speaking, he said:

"Do you think, madam, that France, agitated and disturbed
as it is, would be a safe refuge for a dethroned king? How
will the crown, which is not too firmly set on the head of
Louis IV., support a double weight?"

"This weight was not so heavy when I was in peril," inter-
rupted the Queen, with a sad smile, "and I ask no more for
my husband than has been done for me; you see that we are
very humble monarchs, sir."

"Oh, you, madam, you," the Cardinal hastened to say, in
order to cut short the explanations which he foresaw were
coming, "with regard to you, that is another thing; a daughter
of Henry IV., of that great, that sublime sovereign "

"All which does not prevent you refusing hospitality to his
son-in-law, sir ! Nevertheless, you ought to remember that that
great, that sublime monarch, when proscribed at one time, as
my husband may be, demanded ^ aid from England, and that
England accorded it to him; and it is but just to say that Queen
Elizabeth was not his niece."

**Peccatol" said Mazarin, writhing beneath this simple elo-
quence, "your majesty does not understand me; you judge my
intentions wrongly, and that is because doubtless I explain
myself ill in French."

"Speak Italian, sir; ere the Cardinal, your predecessor, sent
our mother, Marie de Medicis, to die' in exile, she taught us
that language. If anything yet remains of that great, that sub-


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lime King Henry of whom you have just spoken, he would be
much surprised at so little pity for his family being united to
such a profound admiration of himself.**

The perspiration hung in large drops upon Mazarin*s brow.

"That admiration, on the contrary, so great, so real, madam,"
returned Mazarin, without noticing the change of language
offered to him by the Queen, "that if the King, Charles I.,
whom Heaven protect from evil! came into France, I would
offer him my house — ^my own house— but, alas! it would be but*
an unsafe retreat. Some day the people will burn that house,
as they burnt that of Marshal d*Ancre. Poor Concinil and yet
he but desired the good of the people."

"Yes, my lord, like yourself!" said the Queen ironically.

"Madam," cried Mazarin, more and more moved, "will your
majesty permit me to give you counsel?"

"Speak, sir," replied the Queen; "the counsel of so prudent
a man as yourself ought certainly to be good."

"Madam, believe me, the King ought to defend himself to
the last, and not leave his kingdom. Absent kings are very soon
forgotten; if he passes over to France his cause is lost."

"But then," persisted the Queen, "if such be your advice, and
you have his interest at heart, send him some help of men and
money, for I can do nothing for him: I have sold even to my
last diamond to aid him. If I had a single jewel left, I should
have bought wood this winter to make a fire for my daughter
and myself."

"Oh, madam," said Mazarin, "your majesty knows not what
you ask. On the day when foreign succor follows in the train
of a king to replace him on his throne, it is an avowal that he
no longer possesses the help and the love of his subjects."

"To the point, sir," said the Queen, "to the point, and answer
me, yes or no; if the King persists in remaining in England,
will you send him succor? If he comes to France, will you
accord him hospitality? What do you intend to do? — speak."

"I will go this instant and consult the Queen, and we will
refer the affair at once to the Parliament."

"With which you are at war, is it not so? You will charge
Broussel to report it. Enough, sir, enough. I understand you,
or rather, I am wrong. Go to the Parliament; for it was from
this Parliament, the enemy of monarchs, that the daughter, of
the great, the sublime Henry IV., whom you so much admire,
received the only relief this winter, which prevented her from
dying of hunger and cold!"

And with these words Henrietta rose in majestic indignation,
while the Cardinal, raising his hands clasped towards her, ex-
claimed, "Ah, madam, madam, how little you know me!"

"It signifies little," said Mazarin, when he was alone; "it
gave me pain, and it is an ungracious part to play. But I have
said nothmg either to the one or the other. Bempuin'**

Bernouin entered.


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*|See if the young man with the black doublet and the short
hair, who was with me just now, is still in the palace."

Bernouin went out, and soon returned with Comminges, who
was on guard.

"Your Eminence," said Comminges, **as I was re-conducting
the young man for whom you have asked, he approached the
glass door of the gallery, and gazed intently upon some object,
doubtless the picture by Raphael, which is opposite the door.
He reflected for a second, and then descended the stairs. I
believe I saw him mount on a grey horse and leave the palace
court. But is not your Eminence going to the Queen?"

"For what purpose?"

"Guitaut, my uncle, has just told me that her majesty has
received news of the army."

"It is well— I will go."

Comminges had seen rightly, and Mordaunt had really acted
as he had related. In crossing the gallery parallel to the large
glass gallery, he perceived Lord Winter, who was waiting until
the Queen had finished her negotiation.

At this sight the young man stopped short, ^ot in admiration
of Raphael's picture, but as if fascinated at the sight of some
terrible object. His eyes dilated, and a shudder ran through
his body. One would have said that he longed to break through
the wall of glass which separated him from his enemy ; for if
Comminges had seen with what an expression of hatred the
eyes of this young man were fixed upon Winter, he would not
have doubted for an instant but that the English lord was his
mortal foe.

But he stopped — doubtless to reflect; for, instead of allowing
his first impulse, which had been to go straight to Lord Winter,
to carry him away, he leisurely descended the staircase, left
the palace with his head down, mounted his horse, which he
reined in at the corner of the Rue Richelieu, and with his eyes
fixed on the gate, he waited until the Queen's carriage had left
the court.

He did not wait long, for the Queen scarcely remained a
quarter of an hour with Mazarin; but this quarter of an hour
of expectation appeared a century to him. At last the heavy
machine, called a coach in those days, came out, rumbling, and
Winter, still on horseback, bent again to the door to converse
with her majesty.

The horses started into a trot, and took the road to the
Louvre, which they entered. Before leaving the convent of the

Online LibraryAlexandre DumasTwenty years after → online text (page 15 of 38)