Chicot the jester, p.1
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       Chicot the Jester, p.1

           Alexandre Dumas
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Chicot the Jester

  Produced by Robert J. Hall


  Abridged translation of "La dame de Monsoreau"

  By Alexandre Dumas



  On the evening of a Sunday, in the year 1578, a splendid fete wasgiven in the magnificent hotel just built opposite the Louvre,on the other side of the water, by the family of Montmorency, who,allied to the royalty of France, held themselves equal to princes.This fete was to celebrate the wedding of Francois d'Epinay deSt. Luc, a great friend and favorite of the king, Henri III.,with Jeanne de Crosse-Brissac, daughter of the marshal of thatname.

  The banquet had taken place at the Louvre, and the king, who hadbeen with much difficulty induced to consent to the marriage, hadappeared at it with a severe and grave countenance. His costumewas in harmony with his face; he wore that suit of deep chestnut,in which Clouet described him at the wedding of Joyeuse; andthis kind of royal specter, solemn and majestic, had chilledall the spectators, but above all the young bride, at whom hecast many angry glances. The reason of all this was known toeveryone, but was one of those court secrets of which no one likesto speak.

  Scarcely was the repast finished, when the king had risen abruptly,thereby forcing everyone to do the same. Then St. Luc approachedhim, and said: "Sire, will your majesty do me the honor to acceptthe fete, which I wish to give to you this evening at the HotelMontmorency?" This was said in an imploring tone, but Henri,with a voice betraying both vexation and anger, had replied:

  "Yes, monsieur, we will go, although you certainly do not meritthis proof of friendship on our part."

  Then Madame de St. Luc had humbly thanked the king, but he turnedhis back without replying.

  "Is the king angry with you?" asked the young wife of her husband.

  "I will explain it to you after, mon amie, when this anger shallhave passed away."

  "And will it pass away?"

  "It must."

  Mademoiselle de Brissac was not yet sufficiently Madame de St.Luc to insist further; therefore she repressed her curiosity,promising herself to satisfy it at a more favorable time.

  They were, therefore, expecting St. Luc at the Hotel Montmorency,at the moment in which our story commences. St. Luc had invitedall the king's friends and all his own; the princes and theirfavorites, particularly those of the Duc d'Anjou. He was alwaysin opposition to the king, but in a hidden manner, pushing forwardthose of his friends whom the example of La Mole and Coconnashad not cured. Of course, his favorites and those of the kinglived in a state of antagonism, which brought on rencontres twoor three times a month, in which it was rare that some one wasnot killed or badly wounded.

  As for Catherine, she was at the height of her wishes; her favoriteson was on the throne, and she reigned through him, while shepretended to care no more for the things of this world. St. Luc,very uneasy at the absence of all the royal family, tried toreassure his father-in-law, who was much distressed at this menacingabsence. Convinced, like all the world, of the friendship ofHenri for St. Luc, he had believed he was assuring the royalfavor, and now this looked like a disgrace. St. Luc tried hardto inspire in them a security which he did not feel himself;and his friends, Maugiron, Schomberg, and Quelus, clothed intheir most magnificent dresses, stiff in their splendid doublets,with enormous frills, added to his annoyance by their ironicallamentations.

  "Eh! mon Dieu! my poor friend," said Jacques de Levis, Comtede Quelus, "I believe now that you are done for. The king isangry that you would not take his advice, and M. d'Anjou becauseyou laughed at his nose."

  "No, Quelus, the king does not come, because he has made a pilgrimageto the monks of the Bois de Vincennes; and the Duc d'Anjou isabsent, because he is in love with some woman whom I have forgottento invite."

  "But," said Maugiron, "did you see the king's face at dinner?And as for the duke, if he could not come, his gentlemen might.There is not one here, not even Bussy."

  "Oh! gentlemen," said the Duc de Brissac, in a despairing tone,"it looks like a complete disgrace. Mon Dieu! how can our house,always so devoted to his majesty, have displeased him?"

  The young men received this speech with bursts of laughter, whichdid not tend to soothe the marquis. The young bride was alsowondering how St. Luc could have displeased the king. All at onceone of the doors opened and the king was announced.

  "Ah!" cried the marshal, "now I fear nothing; if the Duc d'Anjouwould but come, my satisfaction would be complete."

  "And I," murmured St. Luc; "I have more fear of the king presentthan absent, for I fear he comes to play me some spiteful tricks."

  But, nevertheless, he ran to meet the king, who had quitted at lasthis somber costume, and advanced resplendent in satin, feathers,and jewels. But at the instant he entered another door openedjust opposite, and a second Henri III., clothed exactly likethe first, appeared, so that the courtiers, who had run to meetthe first, turned round at once to look at the second.

  Henri III. saw the movement, and exclaimed:

  "What is the matter, gentlemen?"

  A burst of laughter was the reply. The king, not naturally patient,and less so that day than usual, frowned; but St. Luc approached,and said:

  "Sire, it is Chicot, your jester, who is dressed exactly likeyour majesty, and is giving his hand to the ladies to kiss."

  Henri laughed. Chicot enjoyed at his court a liberty similarto that enjoyed thirty years before by Triboulet at the courtof Francois I., and forty years after by Longely at the courtof Louis XIII. Chicot was not an ordinary jester. Before beingChicot he had been "De Chicot." He was a Gascon gentleman, who,ill-treated by M. de Mayenne on account of a rivalry in a loveaffair, in which Chicot had been victorious, had taken refugeat court, and prayed the king for his protection by telling himthe truth.

  "Eh, M. Chicot," said Henri, "two kings at a time are too much."

  "Then," replied he, "let me continue to be one, and you play Ducd'Anjou; perhaps you will be taken for him, and learn somethingof his doings."

  "So," said Henri, looking round him, "Anjou is not here."

  "The more reason for you to replace him. It is settled, I amHenri, and you are Francois. I will play the king, while you danceand amuse yourself a little, poor king."

  "You are right, Chicot, I will dance."

  "Decidedly," thought De Brissac, "I was wrong to think the kingangry; he is in an excellent humor."

  Meanwhile St. Luc had approached his wife. She was not a beauty,but she had fine black eyes, white teeth, and a dazzling complexion.

  "Monsieur," said she to her husband, "why did they say that theking was angry with me; he has done nothing but smile on me eversince he came?"

  "You did not say so after dinner, dear Jeanne, for his look thenfrightened you."

  "His majesty was, doubtless, out of humor then, but now--"

  "Now, it is far worse; he smiles with closed lips. I would ratherhe showed me his teeth. Jeanne, my poor child, he is preparingfor us some disagreeable surprise. Oh I do not look at me sotenderly, I beg; turn your back to me. Here is Maugiron coming;converse with him, and be amiable to him."

  "That is a strange recommendation, monsieur."

  But St. Luc left his wife full of astonishment, and went to payhis court to Chicot, who was playing his part with a most laughablemajesty.

  The king danced, but seemed never to lose sight of St. Luc. Sometimeshe called him to repeat to him some pleasantry, which, whetherdroll or not, made St. Luc laugh heartily. Sometimes he offeredhim out of his comfit box sweetmeats and candied fruits, whichSt. Luc found excellent. If he disappeared for an instant, theking sent for him, and seemed not happy if he was out of hissight. All at once a voice rose above all the tumult.

  "Oh!" said Henri, "I th
ink I hear the voice of Chicot; do youhear, St. Luc?--the king is angry."

  "Yes, sire, it sounds as though he were quarreling with some one."

  "Go and see what it is, and come back and tell me."

  As St. Luc approached he heard Chicot crying:

  "I have made sumptuary laws, but if they are not enough I willmake more; at least they shall be numerous, if they are not good.By the horn of Beelzebub, six pages, M. de Bussy, are too much."

  And Chicot, swelling out his cheeks, and putting his hand to hisside, imitated the king to the life.

  "What does he say about Bussy?" asked the king, when St. Lucreturned. St. Luc was about to reply, when the crowd opening,showed to him six pages, dressed in cloth of gold, covered withchains, and bearing on their breasts the arms of their masters,sparkling in jewels. Behind them came a young man, handsome andproud; who walked with his head raised and a haughty look, andwhose simple dress of black velvet contrasted with the splendorof his pages. This was Bussy d'Amboise. Maugiron, Schomberg,and Quelus had drawn near to the king.

  "See," said Maugiron, "here is the servant, but where is the master?Are you also in disgrace with him, St. Luc?"

  "Why should he follow Bussy?" said Quelus.

  "Do you not remember that when his majesty did M. de Bussy thehonor to ask him if he wished to belong to him, he replied that,being of the House of Clermont, he followed no one, and belongedto himself."

  The king frowned.

  "Yes," said Maugiron, "whatever you say, he serves the Duc d'Anjou."

  "Then it is because the duke is greater than the king."

  No observation could have been more annoying to the king thanthis, for he detested the Duc d'Anjou. Thus, although he didnot answer, he grew pale.

  "Come, come, gentlemen," said St. Luc, trembling, "a little charityfor my guests, if you please; do not spoil my wedding day."

  "Yes," said the king, in a mocking tone; "do not spoil St. Luc'swedding-day."

  "Oh!" said Schomberg, "is Bussy allied to the Brissacs?--sinceSt. Luc defends him."

  "He is neither my friend nor relation, but he is my guest," saidSt. Luc. The king gave an angry look. "Besides," he hastenedto add, "I do not defend him the least in the world."

  Bussy approached gravely behind his pages to salute the king,when Chicot cried:

  "Oh, la! Bussy d'Amboise, Louis de Clermont, Comte de Bussy,do you not see the true Henri, do you not know the true kingfrom the false? He to whom you are going is Chicot, my jester,at whom I so often laugh."

  Bussy continued his way, and was about to bow before the king,when he said:

  "Do you not hear, M. de Bussy, you are called?" and, amidst shoutsof laughter from his minions, he turned his back to the youngcaptain. Bussy reddened with anger, but he affected to take theking's remark seriously, and turning round towards Chicot:

  "Ah! pardon, sire," said he, "there are kings who resemble jestersso much, that you will excuse me, I hope, for having taken ajester for a king."

  "Hein," murmured Henri, "what does he say?"

  "Nothing, sire," said St. Luc.

  "Nevertheless, M. Bussy," said Chicot; "it was unpardonable."

  "Sire, I was preoccupied."

  "With your pages, monsieur," said Chicot; "you ruin yourself inpages, and, par la mordieu, it is infringing our prerogatives."

  "How so? I beg your majesty to explain."

  "Cloth of gold for them, while you a gentleman, a colonel, aClermont, almost a prince, wear simple black velvet."

  "Sire," said Bussy, turning towards the kings' minions, "as welive in a time when lackeys dress like princes, I think it goodtaste for princes to dress like lackeys."

  And he returned to the young men in their splendid dress theimpertinent smiles which they had bestowed on him a little before.They grew pale with fury, and seemed only to wait the king'spermission to fall upon Bussy.

  "Is it for me and mine that you say that?" asked Chicot, speakinglike the king.

  Three friends of Bussy's now drew near to him. These were Charlesd'Antragues, Francois, Vicomte de Ribeirac, and Livarot. Seeingall this, St. Luc guessed that Bussy was sent by Monsieur toprovoke a quarrel. He trembled more than ever, for he fearedthe combatants were about to take his house for a battle-field.He ran to Quelus, who already had his hand on his sword, andsaid, "In Heaven's name be moderate."

  "Parbleu, he attacks you as well as us."

  "Quelus, think of the Duc d'Anjou, who supports Bussy; you donot suppose I fear Bussy himself?"

  "Eh! Mordieu, what need we fear; we belong to the king. If weget into peril for him he will help us."

  "You, yes; but me," said St. Luc, piteously.

  "Ah dame, why do you marry, knowing how jealous the king is inhis friendships?"

  "Good," thought St. Luc, "everyone for himself; and as I wishto live tranquil during the first fortnight of my marriage, Iwill make friends with M. Bussy." And he advanced towards him.After his impertinent speech, Bussy had looked round the room tosee if any one would take notice of it. Seeing St. Luc approach,he thought he had found what he sought.

  "Monsieur," said he, "is it to what I said just now, that I owethe honor of the conversation you appear to desire?"

  "Of what you have just said, I heard nothing. No, I saw you,and wished to salute you, and thank you for the honor you havedone me by your presence here."

  Bussy, who knew the courage of St. Luc, understood at once thathe considered the duties of a host paramount, and answered himpolitely.

  Henri, who had seen the movement said, "Oh, oh! I fear there ismischief there; I cannot have St. Luc killed. Go and see, Quelus;no, you are too rash--you, Maugiron."

  But St. Luc did not let him approach Bussy, but came to meet himand returned with him to the king.

  "What have you been saying to that coxcomb?" asked the king.

  "I, sire?"

  "Yes, you."

  "I said, good evening."

  "Oh! was that all?"

  St. Luc saw he was wrong. "I said, good evening; adding, thatI would have the honor of saying good morning to-morrow."

  "Ah! I suspected it."

  "Will your majesty keep my secret?" said St. Luc.

  "Oh! parbleu, if you could get rid of him without injury toyourself----"

  The minions exchanged a rapid glance, which Henri III. seemednot to notice.

  "For," continued he, "his insolence is too much."

  "Yes, yes," said St. Luc, "but some day he will find his master."

  "Oh!" said the king, "he manages the sword well. Why does he notget bit by some dog?" And he threw a spiteful glance on Bussy,who was walking about, laughing at all the king's friends.

  "Corbleu!" cried Chicot, "do not be so rude to my friends, M.Bussy, for I draw the sword, though I am a king, as well as ifI was a common man."

  "If he continue such pleasantries, I will chastise Chicot, sire,"said Maugiron.

  "No, no, Maugiron, Chicot is a gentleman. Besides, it is nothe who most deserves punishment, for it is not he who is mostinsolent."

  This time there was no mistaking, and Quelus made signs to D'Oand D'Epernon, who had been in a different part of the room,and had not heard what was going on. "Gentlemen," said Quelus,"come to the council; you, St. Luc, go and finish making yourpeace with the king."

  St. Luc approached the king, while the others drew back into awindow.

  "Well," said D'Epernon, "what do you want? I was making love,and I warn you, if your recital be not interesting I shall bevery angry."

  "I wish to tell you that after the ball I set off for the chase."

  "For what chase?"

  "That of the wild boar."

  "What possesses you to go, in this cold, to be killed in somethicket?"

  "Never mind, I am going."


  "No, with Maugiron and Schomberg. We hunt for the king."

  "Ah! yes, I understand," said Maugiron and Schomberg.

  "The king wishes a boar's head for breakfast to-morrow."

  "With the neck dressed a l'Italienne," said Maugiron, alludingto the turn-down collar which Bussy wore in opposition to theirruffs.

  "Ah, ah," said D'Epernon, "I understand."

  "What is it?" asked D'O, "for I do not."

  "Ah! look round you."


  "Did any one laugh at us here?"

  "Yes, Bussy."

  "Well, that is the wild boar the king wants."

  "You think the king----"

  "He asks for it."

  "Well, then, so be it. But how do we hunt?"

  "In ambush; it is the surest."

  Bussy remarked the conference, and, not doubting that they weretalking of him, approached, with his friends.

  "Look, Antragues, look, Ribeirac," said he, "how they are grouped;it is quite touching; it might be Euryale and Nisus, Damon andPythias, Castor and----. But where is Pollux?"

  "Pollux is married, so that Castor is left alone."

  "What can they be doing?"

  "I bet they are inventing some new starch."

  "No, gentlemen," said Quelus, "we are talking of the chase."

  "Really, Signor Cupid," said Bussy; "it is very cold for that.It will chap your skin."

  "Monsieur," replied Maugiron, politely, "we have warm gloves,and doublets lined with fur."

  "Ah! that reassures me," said Bussy; "do you go soon?"

  "To-night, perhaps."

  "In that case I must warn the king; what will he say to-morrow,if he finds his friends have caught cold?"

  "Do not give yourself that trouble, monsieur," said Quelus, "hismajesty knows it."

  "Do you hunt larks?" asked Bussy, with an impertinent air.

  "No, monsieur, we hunt the boar. We want a head. Will you huntwith us, M. Bussy?"

  "No, really, I cannot. To-morrow I must go to the Duc d'Anjoufor the reception of M. de Monsoreau, to whom monseigneur hasjust given the place of chief huntsman."

  "But, to-night?"

  "Ah! To-night, I have a rendezvous in a mysterious house of theFaubourg St. Antoine."

  "Ah! ah!" said D'Epernon, "is the Queen Margot here, incognito,M. de Bussy?"

  "No, it is some one else."

  "Who expects you in the Faubourg St. Antoine?"

  "Just so, indeed I will ask your advice, M. de Quelus."

  "Do so, although I am not a lawyer, I give very good advice."

  "They say the streets of Paris are unsafe, and that is a lonelyplace. Which way do you counsel me to take?"

  "Why, I advise you to take the ferry-boat at the Pre-aux-Clercs,get out at the corner, and follow the quay until you arrive atthe great Chatelet, and then go through the Rue de la Tixanderie,until you reach the faubourg. Once at the corner of the Rue St.Antoine, if you pass the Hotel des Tournelles without accident,it is probable you will arrive safe and sound at your mysterioushouse."

  "Thanks for your route, M. de Quelus, I shall be sure to followit." And saluting the five friends, he went away.

  As Bussy was crossing the last saloon where Madame de St. Lucwas, her husband made a sign to her. She understood at once,and going up, stopped him.

  "Oh! M. de Bussy," said she, "everyone is talking of a sonnetyou have made."

  "Against the king, madame?"

  "No, in honor of the queen; do tell it to me."

  "Willingly, madame," and, offering his arm to her, he went off,repeating it.

  During this time, St. Luc drew softly near his friends, and heardQuelus say:

  "The animal will not be difficult to follow; thus then, at thecorner of the Hotel des Tournelles, opposite the Hotel St. Pol."

  "With each a lackey?" asked D'Epernon.

  "No, no, Nogaret, let us be alone, and keep our own secret, anddo our own work. I hate him, but he is too much a gentleman fora lackey to touch."

  "Shall we go out all six together?"

  "All five if you please," said St. Luc.

  "Ah! it is true, we forgot your wife."

  They heard the king's voice calling St. Luc.

  "Gentlemen," said he, "the king calls me. Good sport, au revoir."

  And he left them, but instead of going straight to the king, heran to where Bussy stood with his wife.

  "Ah! monsieur, how hurried you seem," said Bussy. "Are you goingalso to join the chase; it would be a proof of your courage,but not of your gallantry."

  "Monsieur, I was seeking you."


  "And I was afraid you were gone. Dear Jeanne, tell your fatherto try and stop the king, whilst I say a few words tete-a-teteto M. Bussy." Jeanne went.

  "I wish to say to you, monsieur," continued St. Luc, "that ifyou have any rendezvous to-night, you would do well to put itoff, for the streets are not safe, and, above all, to avoid theHotel des Tournelles, where there is a place where several mencould hide. This is what I wished to say; I know you fear nothing,but reflect."

  At this moment they heard Chicot's voice crying, "St. Luc, St.Luc, do not hide yourself, I am waiting for you to return tothe Louvre."

  "Here I am, sire," cried St. Luc, rushing forward. Near Chicotstood the king, to whom one page was giving his ermine mantle,and another a velvet mask lined with satin.

  "Sire," said St. Luc, "I will have the honor of lighting yourmajesties to your litters."

  "No," said Henri, "Chicot goes one way, and I another. My friendsare good-for-nothings, who have run away and left me to returnalone to the Louvre. I had counted on them, and you cannot letme go alone. You are a grave married man, and must take me backto the queen. Come, my friend, my litter is large enough for two."

  Madame de St. Luc, who had heard this, tried to speak, and totell her father that the king was carrying away her husband, buthe, placing his fingers on his month, motioned her to be silent.

  "I am ready, sire," said he, "to follow you."

  When the king took leave, the others followed, and Jeanne wasleft alone. She entered her room, and knelt down before the imageof a saint to pray, then sat down to wait for her husband's return.M. de Brissac sent six men to the Louvre to attend him back. Buttwo hours after one of them returned, saying, that the Louvrewas closed and that before closing, the captain of the watchhad said, "It is useless to wait longer, no one will leave theLouvre to-night; his majesty is in bed."

  The marshal carried this news to his daughter.


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