"Yes, sire. And the more as St. Germain tells me that M. de Saintonge in his clemency has reconsidered my claims; and has undertaken to use that influence with Mademoiselle which--"
But on that word M. de Saintonge, comprehending the RUSE by which he had been overcome, cut him short; crying out in a rage that he would see him in perdition first. However, we all immediately took the Marquis in hand, and made it our business to reconcile him to the notion; the King even making a special appeal to him, and promising that St. Mesmin should never want his good offices. Under this pressure, and confronted by his solemn undertaking, Saintonge at last and with reluctance gave way. At the King's instance, he formally gave his consent to a match which effectually secured St. Mesmin's fortunes, and was as much above anything the young fellow could reasonably expect as his audacity and coolness exceeded the common conceit of courtiers.
Many must still remember St. Mesmin; though an attack of the small-pox, which disfigured him beyond the ordinary, led him to leave Paris soon after his marriage. He was concerned, I believe, in the late ill-advised rising in the Vivarais; and at that time his wife still lived. But for some years past I have not heard his name, and only now recall it as that of one whose adventures, thrust on my attention, formed an amusing interlude in the more serious cares which now demand our notice.
I might spend many hours in describing the impression which this great Sovereign made upon my mind; but if the part which she took in the conversation I have detailed does not sufficiently exhibit those qualities of will and intellect which made her the worthy compeer of the King my master, I should labour in vain. Moreover, my stay in her neighbourhood, though Raleigh and Griffin showed me every civility, was short. An hour after taking leave of her, on the 15th of August, 1601, I sailed from Dover, and crossing to Calais without mishap anticipated with pleasure the King's satisfaction when he should hear the result of my mission, and learn from my mouth the just and friendly sentiments which Queen Elizabeth entertained towards him.
Unfortunately I was not able to impart these on the instant. During my absence a trifling matter had carried the King to Dieppe, whence his anxiety on the queen's account, who was shortly to be brought to bed, led him to take the road to Paris. He sent word to me to follow him, but necessarily some days elapsed before we met; an opportunity of which his enemies and mine were quick to take advantage, and that so insidiously and with so much success as to imperil not my reputation only but his happiness.
The time at their disposal was increased by the fact; that when I reached the Arsenal I found the Louvre vacant, the queen, who lay at Fontainebleau, having summoned the King thither. Ferret, his secretary, however, awaited me with a letter, in which Henry, after expressing his desire to see we, bade me nevertheless stay in Paris a day to transact some business. "Then," he continued, "come to me, my friend, and we will discuss the matter of which you know. In the meantime send me your papers by Ferret, who will give you a receipt for them."
Suspecting no danger in a course which was usual enough, I hastened to comply. Summoning Maignan, who, whenever I travelled, carried my portfolio, I unlocked it, and emptying the papers in a mass on the table, handed them in detail to Ferret. Presently, to my astonishment, I found that one, and this the most important, was missing. I went over the papers again, and again, and yet again. Still it was not to be found.
It will be remembered that whenever I travelled on a mission of importance I wrote my despatches in one of three modes, according as they were of little, great, or the first importance; in ordinary characters that is, in a cipher to which the council possessed the key, or in a cipher to which only the King and I held keys. This last, as it was seldom used, was rarely changed; but it was my duty, on my return from each mission, immediately to remit my key to the King, who deposited it in a safe place until another occasion for its use arose.
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