So far good. I could arrange matters with Vilain, and probably avoid publicity. But what was now to be done with her?
In the case of a man I should have thought no punishment too severe, and the utmost rigour of the law too tender for such perfidy; but as she was a woman, and young, and under my wife's protection, I hesitated. Finally, the Duchess interceding, I leaned to the side of that mercy which the girl had not shown to her lover; and thought her sufficiently punished, at the moment by the presence of Mademoiselle de Figeac whom I called into the room to witness her humiliation, and in the future by dismissal from my household. As this imported banishment to her father's country-house, where her mother, a shrewd old Bearnaise, saved pence and counted lentils into the soup, and saw company once a quarter, I had perhaps reason to be content with her chastisement.
For the rest I sent for M. de Vilain, and by finding him employment in the finances, and interceding for him with the old Vicomte de Figeac, confirmed him in the attachment he had begun to feel for me before this unlucky event; nor do I doubt that I should have been able in time to advance him to a post worthy of the talents I discerned in him. But, alas, the deplorable crime, which so soon deprived me at one blow of my master and of power, put an end to this, among other and greater schemes.
Without attaching to dreams greater importance than a prudent man will always be willing to assign to the unknown and unintelligible, I have been in the habit of reflecting on them; and have observed with some curiosity that in these later years of my life, during which France has enjoyed peace and comparative prosperity, my dreams have most often reproduced the stormy rides and bivouacs of my youth, with all the rough and bloody accompaniments which our day knows only by repute. Considering these visions, and comparing my sleeping apathy with my daylight reflections, I have been led to wonder at the power of habit; which alone makes it possible for a man who has seen a dozen stricken fields, and viewed, scarcely with emotion, the slaughter of a hundred prisoners, to turn pale at the sight of a coach accident, and walk a mile rather than see a rogue hang.
I am impelled to this train of thought by an adventure that befell me in the summer of this year 1605; and which, as it seemed to me in the happening to be rather an evil dream of old times than a waking episode of these, may afford the reader some diversion, besides relieving the necessary tedium of the thousand particulars of finance that render the five farms a study of the utmost intricacy.
My appointment to represent the King at the Assembly of Chatelherault had carried me in the month of July into Poitou. Being there, and desirous of learning for myself whether the arrest of Auvergne had pacified his country to the extent described by the King's agents, I determined to take advantage of a vacation of the assembly and venture as far in that direction as Gueret; though Henry, fearing lest the malcontents should make an attempt on my person in revenge for the death of Biron, had strictly charged me not to approach within twenty leagues of the Limousin.
I had with me for escort at Chatelherault a hundred horse; but, these seeming to be either too many or too few for the purpose, I took with me only ten picked men with Colet their captain, five servants heavily armed, and of my gentlemen Boisrueil and La Font. Parabere, to whom I opened my mind, consented to be my companion. I gave out that I was going to spend three days at Preuilly, to examine an estate there which I thought of buying, that I might have a residence in my government; and, having amused the curious with this statement, I got away at daybreak, and by an hour before noon was at Touron, where I stayed for dinner. That night we lay at a village, and the next day dined at St. Marcel. The second afternoon we reached Crozant.
Here I began to observe those signs of neglect and disorder which, at the close of the war, had been common in all parts of France, but in the more favoured districts had been erased by a decade of peace. Briars and thorns choked the roads, which ran through morasses, between fields which the husbandman had resigned to tares and undergrowth. Ruined hamlets were common, and everywhere wolves and foxes and all kinds of game abounded. But that which roused my ire to the hottest was the state of the bridges, which in this country, where the fords are in winter impassable, had been allowed to fall into utter decay. On all sides I found the peasants oppressed, disheartened, and primed with tales of the King's severity, which those who had just cause to dread him had instilled into them. Bands of robbers committed daily excesses, and, in a word, no one thing was wanting to give the lie to the rose-coloured reports with which Bareilles, the Governor of Gueret, had amused the Council.
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