The Fowl in the
Pot by Stanley
An Episode Adapted from the Memoirs of Maximilian de Bethune, Duke
What I am going to relate may seem to some merely to be curious and
on a party with the diverting story of M. Boisrose, which I have
set down in an earlier part of my memoirs. But among the calumnies
of those who have never ceased to attack me since the death of the
late king, the statement that I kept from his majesty things which
should have reached his ears has always had a prominent place,
though a thousand times refuted by my friends, and those who from
an intimate acquaintance with events could judge how faithfully I
labored to deserve the confidence with which my master honored me.
Therefore, I take it in hand to show by an example, trifling in
itself, the full knowledge of affairs which the king had, and to
prove that in many matters, which were never permitted to become
known to the idlers of the court, he took a personal share, worthy
as much of Haroun as of Alexander.
It was my custom, before I entered upon those negotiations with the
Prince of Conde which terminated in the recovery of the estate of
Villebon, where I now principally reside, to spend a part of the
autumn and winter at Rosny. On these occasions I was in the habit
of leaving Paris with a considerable train of Swiss, pages, valets,
and grooms, together with the maids of honor and waiting women of
the duchess. We halted to take dinner at Poissy, and generally
contrived to reach Rosny toward nightfall, so as to sup by the
light of flambeaux in a manner enjoyable enough, though devoid of
that state which I have ever maintained, and enjoined upon my
children, as at once the privilege and burden of rank.
At the time of which I am speaking I had for my favorite charger
the sorrel horse which the Duke of Mercoeur presented to me with a
view to my good offices at the time of the king's entry into Paris;
and which I honestly transferred to his majesty in accordance with
a principle laid down in another place. The king insisted on
returning it to me, and for several years I rode it on these annual
visits to Rosny. What was more remarkable was that on each of
these occasions it cast a shoe about the middle of the afternoon,
and always when we were within a short league of the village of
Aubergenville. Though I never had with me less than half a score
of led horses, I had such an affection for the sorrel that I
preferred to wait until it was shod, rather than accommodate myself
to a nag of less easy paces; and would allow my household to
precede me, staying behind myself with at most a guard or two, my
valet, and a page.
The forge at Aubergenville was kept by a smith of some skill, a
cheerful fellow, whom I always remembered to reward, considering my
own position rather than his services, with a gold livre. His joy
at receiving what was to him the income of a year was great, and
never failed to reimburse me; in addition to which I took some
pleasure in unbending, and learning from this simple peasant and
loyal man, what the taxpayers were saying of me and my reformsa
duty I always felt I owed to the king my master.
As a man of breeding it would ill become me to set down the homely
truths I thus learned. The conversations of the vulgar are little
suited to a nobleman's memoirs; but in this I distinguish between
the Duke of Sully and the king's minister, and it is in the latter
capacity that I relate what passed on these diverting occasions.
"Ho, Simon," I would say, encouraging the poor man as he came
bowing and trembling before me, "how goes it, my friend?"
"Badly," he would answer, "very badly until your lordship came this
"And how is that, little man?"
"Oh, it is the roads," he always replied, shaking his bald head as
he began to set about his business. "The roads since your lordship
became surveyor-general are so good that not one horse in a hundred
casts a shoe; and then there are so few highwaymen now that not one
robber's plates do I replace in a twelvemonth. There is where it
At this I was highly delighted.
"Still, since I began to pass this way times have not been so bad
with you, Simon," I would answer.
Thereto he had one invariable reply.
"No; thanks to Ste. Genevieve and your lordship, whom we call in
this village the poor man's friend, I have a fowl in the pot."
This phrase so pleased me that I repeated it to the king. It
tickled his fancy also, and for some years it was a very common
remark of that good and great ruler, that he hoped to live to see
every peasant with a fowl in his pot.
"But why," I remember I once asked this honest fellowit was on
the last occasion of the sorrel falling lame there"do you thank
"She is my patron saint," he answered.
"Then you are a Parisian?"
"Your lordship is always right."
"But does her saintship do you any good?" I asked curiously.
"Certainly, by your lordship's leave. My wife prays to her and she
loosens the nails in the sorrel's shoes."
"In fact she pays off an old grudge," I answered, "for there was a
time when Paris liked me little; but hark ye, master smith, I am
not sure that this is not an act of treason to conspire with Madame
Genevieve against the comfort of the king's minister. What think
you, you rascal; can you pass the justice elm without a shiver?"
This threw the simple fellow into a great fear, which the sight of
the livre of gold speedily converted into joy as stupendous.
Leaving him still staring at his fortune I rode away; but when we
had gone some little distance, the aspect of his face, when I
charged him with treason, or my own unassisted discrimination
suggested a clew to the phenomenon.
"La Trape," I said to my valetthe same who was with me at Cahors
"what is the name of the innkeeper at Poissy, at whose house we
are accustomed to dine?"
"Andrew, may it please your lordship."
"Andrew! I thought so!" I exclaimed, smiting my thigh. "Simon and
Andrew his brother! Answer, knave, and, if you have permitted me
to be robbed these many times, tremble for your ears. Is he not
brother to the smith at Aubergenville who has just shod my horse?"
La Trape professed to be ignorant on this point, but a groom who
had stayed behind with me, having sought my permission to speak,
said it was so, adding that Master Andrew had risen in the world
through large dealings in hay, which he was wont to take daily into
Paris and sell, and that he did not now acknowledge or see anything
of his brother the smith, though it was believed that he retained a
sneaking liking for him.
On receiving this confirmation of my suspicions, my vanity as well
as my sense of justice led me to act with the promptitude which I
have exhibited in greater emergencies. I rated La Trape for his
carelessness of my interests in permitting this deception to be
practiced on me; and the main body of my attendants being now in
sight, I ordered him to take two Swiss and arrest both brothers
without delay. It wanted yet three hours of sunset, and I judged
that, by hard riding, they might reach Rosny with their prisoners
I spent some time while still on the road in considering what
punishment I should inflict on the culprits; and finally laid aside
the purpose I had at first conceived of putting them to deathan
infliction they had richly deservedin favor of a plan which I
thought might offer me some amusement. For the execution of this I
depended upon Maignan, my equerry, who was a man of lively
imagination, being the same who had of his own motion arranged and
carried out the triumphal procession, in which I was borne to Rosny
after the battle of Ivry. Before I sat down to supper I gave him
his directions; and as I had expected, news was brought to me while
I was at table that the prisoners had arrived.
Thereupon I informed the duchess and the company generally, for, as
was usual, a number of my country neighbors had come to compliment
me on my return, that there was some sport of a rare kind on foot;
and we adjourned, Maignan, followed by four pages bearing lights,
leading the way to that end of the terrace which abuts on the
linden avenue. Here, a score of grooms holding torches aloft had
been arranged in a circle so that the impromptu theater thus
formed, which Maignan had ordered with much taste, was as light as
in the day. On a sloping bank at one end seats had been placed for
those who had supped at my table, while the rest of the company
found such places of vantage as they could; their number, indeed,
amounting, with my household, to two hundred persons. In the
center of the open space a small forge fire had been kindled, the
red glow of which added much to the strangeness of the scene; and
on the anvil beside it were ranged a number of horses' and donkeys'
shoes, with a full complement of the tools used by smiths. All
being ready I gave the word to bring in the prisoners, and escorted
by La Trape and six of my guards, they were marched into the arena.
In their pale and terrified faces, and the shaking limbs which
could scarce support them to their appointed stations, I read both
the consciousness of guilt and the apprehension of immediate death;
it was plain that they expected nothing less. I was very willing
to play with their fears, and for some time looked at them in
silence, while all wondered with lively curiosity what would ensue.
I then addressed them gravely, telling the innkeeper that I knew
well he had loosened each year a shoe of my horse, in order that
his brother might profit by the job of replacing it; and went on to
reprove the smith for the ingratitude which had led him to return
my bounty by the conception of so knavish a trick.
Upon this they confessed their guilt, and flinging themselves upon
their knees with many tears and prayers begged for mercy. This,
after a decent interval, I permitted myself to grant. "Your lives,
which are forfeited, shall be spared," I pronounced. "But punished
you must be. I therefore ordain that Simon, the smith, at once
fit, nail, and properly secure a pair of iron shoes to Andrew's
heels, and that then Andrew, who by that time will have picked up
something of the smith's art, do the same to Simon. So will you
both learn to avoid such shoeing tricks for the future."
It may well be imagined that a judgment so whimsical, and so justly
adapted to the offense, charmed all save the culprits; and in a
hundred ways the pleasure of those present was evinced, to such a
degree, indeed, that Maignan had some difficulty in restoring
silence and gravity to the assemblage. This done, however, Master
Andrew was taken in hand and his wooden shoes removed. The tools
of his trade were placed before the smith, who cast glances so
piteous, first at his brother's feet and then at the shoes on the
anvil, as again gave rise to a prodigious amount of merriment, my
pages in particular well-nigh forgetting my presence, and rolling
about in a manner unpardonable at another time. However, I rebuked
them sharply, and was about to order the sentence to be carried
into effect, when the remembrance of the many pleasant simplicities
which the smith had uttered to me, acting upon a natural
disposition to mercy, which the most calumnious of my enemies have
never questioned, induced me to give the prisoners a chance of
escape. "Listen," I said, "Simon and Andrew. Your sentence has
been pronounced, and will certainly be executed unless you can
avail yourself of the condition I now offer. You shall have three
minutes; if in that time either of you can make a good joke, he
shall go free. If not, let a man attend to the bellows, La Trape!"
This added a fresh satisfaction to my neighbors, who were well
assured now that I had not promised them a novel entertainment
without good grounds; for the grimaces of the two knaves thus
bidden to jest if they would save their skins, were so diverting
they would have made a nun laugh. They looked at me with their
eyes as wide as plates, and for the whole of the time of grace
never a word could they utter save howls for mercy. "Simon," I
said gravely, when the time was up, "have you a joke? No. Andrew,
my friend, have you a joke? No. Then"
I was going on to order the sentence to be carried out, when the
innkeeper flung himself again upon his knees, and cried out loudly
as much to my astonishment as to the regret of the bystanders, who
were bent on seeing so strange a shoeing feat"One word, my lord;
I can give you no joke, but I can do a service, an eminent service
to the king. I can disclose a conspiracy!"
I was somewhat taken aback by this sudden and public announcement.
But I had been too long in the king's employment not to have
remarked how strangely things are brought to light. On hearing the
man's words thereforewhich were followed by a stricken silenceI
looked sharply at the faces of such of those present as it was
possible to suspect, but failed to observe any sign of confusion or
dismay, or anything more particular than so abrupt a statement was
calculated to produce. Doubting much whether the man was not
playing with me, I addressed him sternly, warning him to beware,
lest in his anxiety to save his heels by falsely accusing others,
he should lose his head. For that if his conspiracy should prove
to be an invention of his own, I should certainly consider it my
duty to hang him forthwith.
He heard me out, but nevertheless persisted in his story, adding
desperately, "It is a plot, my lord, to assassinate you and the
king on the same day."
This statement struck me a blow; for I had good reason to know that
at that time the king had alienated many by his infatuation for
Madame de Verneuil; while I had always to reckon firstly with all
who hated him, and secondly with all whom my pursuit of his
interests injured, either in reality or appearance. I therefore
immediately directed that the prisoners should be led in close
custody to the chamber adjoining my private closet, and taking the
precaution to call my guards about me, since I knew not what
attempt despair might not breed, I withdrew myself, making such
apologies to the company as the nature of the case permitted.
I ordered Simon the smith to be first brought to me, and in the
presence of Maignan only, I severely examined him as to his
knowledge of any conspiracy. He denied, however, that he had ever
heard of the matters referred to by his brother, and persisted so
firmly in the denial that I was inclined to believe him. In the
end he was taken out and Andrew was brought in. The innkeeper's
demeanor was such as I have often observed in intriguers brought
suddenly to book. He averred the existence of the conspiracy, and
that its objects were those which he had stated. He also offered
to give up his associates, but conditioned that he should do this
in his own way; undertaking to conduct me and one other personbut
no more, lest the alarm should be givento a place in Paris on the
following night, where we could hear the plotters state their plans
and designs. In this way only, he urged, could proof positive be
I was much startled by this proposal, and inclined to think it a
trap; but further consideration dispelled my fears. The innkeeper
had held no parley with anyone save his guards and myself since his
arrest, and could neither have warned his accomplices, nor
acquainted them with any design the execution of which should
depend on his confession to me. I therefore accepted his terms
with a private reservation that I should have help at handand
before daybreak next morning left Rosny, which I had only seen by
torchlight, with my prisoner and a select body of Swiss. We
entered Paris in the afternoon in three parties, with as little
parade as possible, and went straight to the Arsenal, whence, as
soon as evening fell, I hurried with only two armed attendants to
A return so sudden and unexpected was as great a surprise to the
court as to the king, and I was not slow to mark with an inward
smile the discomposure which appeared very clearly, on the faces of
several, as the crowd in the chamber fell back for me to approach
my master. I was careful, however, to remember that this might
arise from other causes than guilt. The king received me with his
wonted affection; and divining at once that I must have something
important to communicate, withdrew with me to the farther end of
the chamber, where we were out of earshot of the court. I there
related the story to his majesty, keeping back nothing.
He shook his head, saying merely: "The fish to escape the frying
pan, grand master, will jump into the fire. And human nature, save
in the case of you and me, who can trust one another, is very
I was touched by this gracious compliment, but not convinced. "You
have not seen the man, sire," I said, "and I have had that
"And believe him?"
"In part," I answered with caution. "So far at least as to be
assured that he thinks to save his skin, which he will only do if
he be telling the truth. May I beg you, sire," I added hastily,
seeing the direction of his glance, "not to look so fixedly at the
Duke of Epernon? He grows uneasy."
"Conscience makesyou know the rest."
"Nay, sire, with submission," I replied, "I will answer for him; if
he be not driven by fear to do something reckless."
"Good! I take your warranty, Duke of Sully," the king said, with
the easy grace which came so natural to him. "But now in this
matter what would you have me do?"
"Double your guards, sire, for to-nightthat is all. I will
answer for the Bastile and the Arsenal; and holding these we hold
But thereupon I found that the king had come to a decision, which I
felt it to be my duty to combat with all my influence. He had
conceived the idea of being the one to accompany me to the
rendezvous. "I am tired of the dice," he complained, "and sick of
tennis, at which I know everybody's strength. Madame de Verneuil
is at Fontainebleau, the queen is unwell. Ah, Sully, I would the
old days were back when we had Nerac for our Paris, and knew the
saddle better than the armchair!"
"A king must think of his people," I reminded him.
"The fowl in the pot? To be sure. So I willto-morrow," he
replied. And in the end he would be obeyed. I took my leave of
him as if for the night, and retired, leaving him at play with the
Duke of Epernon. But an hour later, toward eight o'clock, his
majesty, who had made an excuse to withdraw to his closet, met me
outside the eastern gate of the Louvre.
He was masked, and attended only by Coquet, his master of the
household. I too wore a mask and was esquired by Maignan, under
whose orders were four Swisswhom I had chosen because they were
unable to speak Frenchguarding the prisoner Andrew. I bade
Maignan follow the innkeeper's directions, and we proceeded in two
parties through the streets on the left bank of the river, past the
Chatelet and Bastile, until we reached an obscure street near the
water, so narrow that the decrepit wooden houses shut out well-nigh
all view of the sky. Here the prisoner halted and called upon me
to fulfill the terms of my agreement. I bade Maignan therefore to
keep with the Swiss at a distance of fifty paces, but to come up
should I whistle or otherwise give the alarm; and myself with the
king and Andrew proceeded onward in the deep shadow of the houses.
I kept my hand on my pistol, which I had previously shown to the
prisoner, intimating that on the first sign of treachery I should
blow out his brains. However, despite precaution, I felt
uncomfortable to the last degree. I blamed myself severely for
allowing the king to expose himself and the country to this
unnecessary danger; while the meanness of the locality, the fetid
air, the darkness of the night, which was wet and tempestuous, and
the uncertainty of the event lowered my spirits, and made every
splash in the kennel and stumble on the reeking, slippery
pavementsmatters over which the king grew merryseem no light
troubles to me.
Arriving at a house, which, if we might judge in the darkness,
seemed to be of rather greater pretensions than its fellows, our
guide stopped, and whispered to us to mount some steps to a raised
wooden gallery, which intervened between the lane and the doorway.
On this, besides the door, a couple of unglazed windows looked out.
The shutter of one was ajar, and showed us a large, bare room,
lighted by a couple of rushlights. Directing us to place ourselves
close to this shutter, the innkeeper knocked at the door in a
peculiar fashion, and almost immediately entered, going at once
into the lighted room. Peering cautiously through the window we
were surprised to find that the only person within, save the
newcomer, was a young woman, who, crouching over a smoldering fire,
was crooning a lullaby while she attended to a large black pot.
"Good evening, mistress!" said the innkeeper, advancing to the fire
with a fair show of nonchalance.
"Good evening, Master Andrew," the girl replied, looking up and
nodding, but showing no sign of surprise at his appearance.
"Martin is away, but he may return at any moment."
"Is he still of the same mind?"
"And what of Sully? Is he to die then?" he asked.
"They have decided he must," the girl answered gloomily. It may be
believed that I listened with all my ears, while the king by a
nudge in my side seemed to rally me on the destiny so coolly
arranged for me. "Martin says it is no good killing the other
unless he goes toothey have been so long together. But it vexes
me sadly, Master Andrew," she added with a sudden break in her
voice. "Sadly it vexes me. I could not sleep last night for
thinking of it, and the risk Martin runs. And I shall sleep less
when it is done."
"Pooh-pooh!" said that rascally innkeeper. "Think less about it.
Things will grow worse and worse if they are let live. The King
has done harm enough already. And he grows old besides."
"That is true!" said the girl. "And no doubt the sooner he is put
out of the way the better. He is changed sadly. I do not say a
word for him. Let him die. It is killing Sully that troubles me
that and the risk Martin runs."
At this I took the liberty of gently touching the king. He
answered by an amused grimace; then by a motion of his hand he
enjoined silence. We stooped still farther forward so as better to
command the room. The girl was rocking herself to and fro in
evident distress of mind. "If we killed the King," she continued,
"Martin declares we should be no better off, as long as Sully
lives. Both or neither, he says. But I do not know. I cannot
bear to think of it. It was a sad day when we brought Epernon
here, Master Andrew; and one I fear we shall rue as long as we
It was now the king's turn to be moved. He grasped my wrist so
forcibly that I restrained a cry with difficulty. "Epernon!" he
whispered harshly in my ear. "They are Epernon's tools! Where is
your guaranty now, Rosny?"
I confess that I trembled. I knew well that the king, particular
in small courtesies, never forgot to call his servants by their
correct titles, save in two cases; when he indicated by the seeming
error, as once in Marshal Biron's affair, his intention to promote
or degrade them; or when he was moved to the depths of his nature
and fell into an old habit. I did not dare to reply, but listened
greedily for more information.
"When is it to be done?" asked the innkeeper, sinking his voice and
glancing round, as if he would call especial attention to this.
"That depends upon Master la Riviere," the girl answered. "To-
morrow night, I understand, if Master la Riviere can have the stuff
I met the king's eyes. They shone fiercely in the faint light,
which issuing from the window fell on him. Of all things he hated
treachery most, and La Riviere was his first body physician, and at
this very time, as I well knew, was treating him for a slight
derangement which the king had brought upon himself by his
imprudence. This doctor had formerly been in the employment of the
Bouillon family, who had surrendered his services to the king.
Neither I nor his majesty had trusted the Duke of Bouillon for the
last year past, so that we were not surprised by this hint that he
was privy to the design.
Despite our anxiety not to miss a word, an approaching step warned
us at this moment to draw back. More than once before we had done
so to escape the notice of a wayfarer passing up and down. But
this time I had a difficulty in inducing the king to adopt the
precaution. Yet it was well that I succeeded, for the person who
came stumbling along toward us did not pass, but, mounting the
steps, walked by within touch of us and entered the house.
"The plot thickens," muttered the king. "Who is this?"
At the moment he asked I was racking my brain to remember. I have
a good eye and a fair recollection for faces, and this was one I
had seen several times. The features were so familiar that I
suspected the man of being a courtier in disguise, and I ran over
the names of several persons whom I knew to be Bouillon's secret
agents. But he was none of these, and obeying the king's gesture,
I bent myself again to the task of listening.
The girl looked up on the man's entrance, but did not rise. "You
are late, Martin," she said.
"A little," the newcomer answered. "How do you do, Master Andrew?
What cheer? What, still vexing, mistress?" he added contemptuously
to the girl. "You have too soft a heart for this business!"
She sighed, but made no answer.
"You have made up your mind to it, I hear?" said the innkeeper.
"That is it. Needs must when the devil drives!" replied the man
jauntily. He had a downcast, reckless, luckless air, yet in his
face I thought I still saw traces of a better spirit.
"The devil in this case was Epernon," quoth Andrew.
"Aye, curse him! I would I had cut his dainty throat before he
crossed my threshold," cried the desperado. "But there, it is too
late to say that now. What has to be done, has to be done."
"How are you going about it? Poison, the mistress says."
"Yes; but if I had my way," the man growled fiercely, "I would out
one of these nights and cut the dogs' throats in the kennel!"
"You could never escape, Martin!" the girl cried, rising in
excitement. "It would be hopeless. It would merely be throwing
away your own life."
"Well, it is not to be done that way, so there is an end of it,"
quoth the man wearily. "Give me my supper. The devil take the
king and Sully too! He will soon have them."
On this Master Andrew rose, and I took his movement toward the door
for a signal for us to retire. He came out at once, shutting the
door behind him as he bade the pair within a loud good night. He
found us standing in the street waiting for him and forthwith fell
on his knees in the mud and looked up at me, the perspiration
standing thick on his white face. "My lord," he cried hoarsely, "I
have earned my pardon!"
"If you go on," I said encouragingly, "as you have begun, have no
fear." Without more ado I whistled up the Swiss and bade Maignan
go with them and arrest the man and woman with as little
disturbance as possible. While this was being done we waited
without, keeping a sharp eye upon the informer, whose terror, I
noted with suspicion, seemed to be in no degree diminished. He did
not, however, try to escape, and Maignan presently came to tell us
that he had executed the arrest without difficulty or resistance.
The importance of arriving at the truth before Epernon and the
greater conspirators should take the alarm was so vividly present
to the minds of the king and myself, that we did not hesitate to
examine the prisoners in their house, rather than hazard the delay
and observation which their removal to a more fit place must
occasion. Accordingly, taking the precaution to post Coquet in the
street outside, and to plant a burly Swiss in the doorway, the king
and I entered. I removed my mask as I did so, being aware of the
necessity of gaining the prisoners' confidence, but I begged the
king to retain his. As I had expected, the man immediately
recognized me and fell on his knees, a nearer view confirming the
notion I had previously entertained that his features were familiar
to me, though I could not remember his name. I thought this a good
starting-point for my examination, and bidding Maignan withdraw, I
assumed an air of mildness and asked the fellow his name.
"Martin, only, please your lordship," he answered; adding, "once I
sold you two dogs, sir, for the chase, and to your lady a lapdog
called Ninette no larger than her hand."
I remembered the knave, then, as a fashionable dog dealer, who had
been much about the court in the reign of Henry the Third and
later; and I saw at once how convenient a tool he might be made,
since he could be seen in converse with people of all ranks without
arousing suspicion. The man's face as he spoke expressed so much
fear and surprise that I determined to try what I had often found
successful in the case of greater criminals, to squeeze him for a
confession while still excited by his arrest, and before he should
have had time to consider what his chances of support at the hands
of his confederates might be. I charged him therefore solemnly to
tell the whole truth as he hoped for the king's mercy. He heard
me, gazing at me piteously; but his only answer, to my surprise,
was that he had nothing to confess.
"Come, come," I replied sternly, "this will avail you nothing; if
you do not speak quickly, rogue, and to the point, we shall find
means to compel you. Who counseled you to attempt his majesty's
On this he stared so stupidly at me, and exclaimed with so real an
appearance of horror: "How? I attempt the king's life? God
forbid!" that I doubted that we had before us a more dangerous
rascal than I had thought, and I hastened to bring him to the
"What, then," I cried, frowning, "of the stuff Master la Riviere is
to give you to take the king's life to-morrow night? Oh, we know
something, I assure you; bethink you quickly, and find your tongue
if you would have an easy death."
I expected to see his self-control break down at this proof of our
knowledge of his design, but he only stared at me with the same
look of bewilderment. I was about to bid them bring in the
informer that I might see the two front to front, when the female
prisoner, who had hitherto stood beside her companion in such
distress and terror as might be expected in a woman of that class,
suddenly stopped her tears and lamentations. It occurred to me
that she might make a better witness. I turned to her, but when I
would have questioned her she broke into a wild scream of
From that I remember that I learned nothing, though it greatly
annoyed me. But there was one present who didthe king. He laid
his hand on my shoulder, gripping it with a force that I read as a
command to be silent.
"Where," he said to the man, "do you keep the King and Sully and
Epernon, my friend?"
"The King and Sullywith the lordship's leave," said the man
quickly, with a frightened glance at me"are in the kennels at the
back of the house, but it is not safe to go near them. The King is
raving mad, andand the other dog is sickening. Epernon we had to
kill a month back. He brought the disease here, and I have had
such losses through him as have nearly ruined me, please your
"Get upget up, man!" cried the king, and tearing off his mask he
stamped up and down the room, so torn by paroxysms of laughter that
he choked himself when again and again he attempted to speak.
I too now saw the mistake, but I could not at first see it in the
same light. Commanding myself as well as I could, I ordered one of
the Swiss to fetch in the innkeeper, but to admit no one else.
The knave fell on his knees as soon as he saw me, his cheeks
shaking like a jelly.
"Mercy, mercy!" was all he could say.
"You have dared to play with me?" I whispered.
"You bade me joke," he sobbed, "you bade me."
I was about to say that it would be his last joke in this world
for my anger was fully arousedwhen the king intervened.
"Nay," he said, laying his hand softly on my shoulder. "It has
been the most glorious jest. I would not have missed it for a
kingdom. I command you, Sully, to forgive him."
Thereupon his majesty strictly charged the three that they should
not on peril of their lives mention the circumstances to anyone.
Nor to the best of my belief did they do so, being so shrewdly
scared when they recognized the king that I verily think they never
afterwards so much as spoke of the affair to one another. My
master further gave me on his own part his most gracious promise
that he would not disclose the matter even to Madame de Verneuil or
the queen, and upon these representations he induced me freely to
forgive the innkeeper. So ended this conspiracy, on the diverting
details of which I may seem to have dwelt longer than I should; but
alas! in twenty-one years of power I investigated many, and this
one only can I regard with satisfaction. The rest were so many
warnings and predictions of the fate which, despite all my care and
fidelity, was in store for the great and good master I served.