Won by the Sword
by G. A. Henty
Chapter XII: The Poitou Regiment
"Well, MacIntosh," Hector said as he entered the cabaret, "have you made up your mind? The castle is a strong one, and I mean to make it stronger. The air is good and so is the wine, and I am sure that you will find the duties pleasant.
"If you go I think it would be as well that you should take a couple of your old comrades -- you said there were many of them in Paris -- with you, to act as your sergeants, drill the tenants, and see that all goes on in order. It will be pleasant for you to have two of your old friends with whom you can talk over past times."
"I had decided to accept your offer, Hector; but certainly this would have decided me had I not already made up my mind. That was the one drawback, that I should be among strangers, but with two of my old friends I should not feel lonely. There is Sholto Macfarlane, he was in my troop. He lost a hand from his musket bursting three years ago, and now makes his living by helping the boatmen unload at the quays. Then there is Kenneth Munroe. He was invalided after a bad attack of fever in Flanders, and now teaches the broadsword exercise at a fencing master's place at St. Denis. They would both jump at the offer if they only got free lodgings and keep."
"Then that is settled, MacIntosh. I am heartily glad of it. Now the sooner you get down there the better."
"Well, I can go at once. Sergeant Morrison is taking his discharge at the end of the week. He is a married man with a helpful little wife. I was telling him of the offer that you had made me, and he asked me what I would take for the cabaret. It is a good business, and having a wife he could manage it better than I can. I said that if he had a fancy for it I would rather that he took it than another; and he would do better than a Frenchman would, for the lads would not care for the place unless it was kept by one of the regiment. He asked me what were the profits. I told him.
"'Then I am afraid that you would want a bigger sum than I could pay, MacIntosh,' he said. 'I have been a saving man, especially since I first thought of marrying, and I have laid by half my pay for the last eight years; but that would not go far towards the purchase of the place, for your profits in a year are as much as my savings of eight years.' So I said to him, 'Well, we will get the place valued. You will want half the money that you have saved to stock it well, the other half you shall pay me down; and I will give you five years to pay the rest, you paying me a tenth part every half year.'
"Well, sir, we struck a bargain on that. The place has been valued, and on Saturday evening Morrison will come straight in and take it over. He is a popular man in the regiment; and as he is only just leaving it he is known to them all, while there are not above a quarter of the men who knew me as a comrade in the old days."
They then had a long talk over the sergeant's new duties, and Hector gave him a plan of the new fortifications that he had drawn out, together with full instructions how they were to be carried out.
"The steward will arrange all about the tenants coming to work, and the proportion of labour that each will have to give. As I have told you, he will manage all details of that kind, look after the indoor retainers, and see to the food. You will have entire control of the garrison, of the tenants who will come to drill, and of the works on the fortifications. You will find the steward a very pleasant and agreeable young man. He will take his meals with you. I have chosen a room for you, and you can have another near it for your two sergeants. You can pay them at the same rate as sergeants of the regiment receive, and I need hardly say that the position will be a good deal better. As commander of the garrison and castellan of the castle you will be called Captain MacIntosh, and as such you will be named in my letter appointing you to the post, and I propose that you shall receive the pay of captain."
"The pay is immaterial, lad, I have been nigh twelve years here, and have laid by enough to keep me comfortably all my life, and as, so far as I can see, there will be nothing to spend down there, I don't know what I should do with pay."
"That is nonsense, MacIntosh. You must draw the pay, and spend it as you like, or save it. You must remember that I may be killed in the next battle I go into, and as I have no heirs the king will give the fief to someone else. The newcomer might like myself have some friend who he might appoint castellan."
"It would make no difference," the other said. "In addition to what I have saved I shall have the price of the cabaret."
"That is not to the point, MacIntosh. The steward has instructions to hand you your money monthly, while the garrison will be paid weekly. If you choose to throw the money into the fosse, that is your own business, mine is to see that my castellan is paid. I am going over at noon today to St. Denis, where my regiment is quartered, but will ride in on Saturday. You must buy three horses for yourself and your sergeants; get good serviceable animals.. I have told the steward to repay you their cost when you arrive there; he has monies of mine in hand for all purposes."
Hector then went round and had a chat with Colonel Maclvor, and returned to the auberge, where the troopers and Paolo had the horses already saddled. He mounted and rode with them to St. Denis, putting up at an hotel. He found where the regiment of Poitou were stationed and at once proceeded there on foot. Two or three officers were chatting together in the barrack square, while some sergeants were drilling the companies.
He at once went up to them. "Gentlemen," he said, "I must introduce myself to you. I am Colonel Campbell; I have the honour to command the regiment. I shall be glad if you will order the officer's call to be sounded and send orderlies off at once to the lodgings of the officers and ask them to assemble. To whom have I the pleasure of speaking?"
The senior officer introduced himself and the others. Report had told them that their new colonel was still a young man, and that he had served with distinction under both Turenne and Enghien, but they were not prepared for so young a commander as this. The French regiments had, as a rule, two colonels, the one a veteran soldier, who had won his way to the rank by long service and long fighting, the other a young nobleman who had gained the post solely by family influence, but possessed no knowledge whatever of military matters, and who was never with the regiment except when it went upon a campaign, and even then generally preferred the pleasures of Paris to the hardships of war. Had Hector been appointed to what was called the second no surprise would have been felt at his youth, but that anyone should have gained the position of first colonel at his age by sheer merit was astonishing indeed to them. In twenty minutes the officers were all assembled and introduced by the senior captain to Hector.
"We will not begin business now," the latter said. "My leave of absence does not terminate until tomorrow morning, and I think that it is much more pleasant to talk over matters comfortably round a table than it is to do so in a set manner. Therefore, gentlemen, if you will all sup with me this evening at the Fleur de Lis, after we have finished our meal we will talk over our wine. My opinion is that officers of a regiment should be good comrades. The regiment benefits by it, and everything goes on more smoothly and comfortably. This is specially so in a newly raised regiment, where the officers either are altogether new to military matters, or join from other regiments, and have no previous knowledge of each other. In the same way the men are all new to each other, and to their officers. Unless there is perfect harmony among the officers, there cannot be perfect harmony in the regiment.
"If one officer looks after the comfort of his company, and treats them as he should do, while another company is neglected and left solely to the care of the sergeants, there will necessarily be envy and ill feeling. The regiment will cease to be a unit. I may say, gentlemen, that this is the dictum not of myself, but of Marshal Turenne, who was my instructor in the art of war, and who followed out the better system from the time that he was a boy of fourteen until now. The result is that his regiment is the finest in the service. It will be my aim and ambition to raise the Poitou regiment as nearly as possible to the same condition, and I shall rely upon your assistance and cooperation to bring this about.
"Supper will be served at six. I have only just returned from the country, and have heard no news. I suppose that no intimation has been received as to what is our destination and whither we shall march?"
"None whatever, colonel," de Thiou, the senior captain, said.
"All the better. I hope that they will give us a couple of months to get into shape. There is but little time for drill and discipline when we are once in the field."
So saying he saluted the officers and returned to the hotel.
"Who would have thought of seeing a mere lad placed at the head of the regiment as colonel," one of the captains said. "I cannot imagine how such a thing can have come about, for certainly he can have no family influence. A newly raised regiment like ours wants a bright man, one that all can look up to and respect."
"I fancy that you will find that this young gentleman will be respected," de Thiou said. "He is young and pleasant looking, and whatever he is I should say that he is levelheaded, and that he has an infinite fund of firmness and resolution. I should certainly advise nobody to take advantage of his youth. I have seen more service than any of you, and had my family possessed any influence at court, I should have been a colonel by this time. Unless I am greatly mistaken we shall find that we have a man, a good man, and a strong one. Do you think that he could have won his way to a regiment at the age of twenty unless there had been something quite unusual? I was talking the other day with one of Gassion's staff, who has come back until the wound that he got at Rocroi is healed. He told me that Gassion -- and France has no better soldier -- said publicly after the battle that the victory was largely due to this young friend of ours, and that had it not been for him things might have gone altogether differently; and he said that Enghien, proud and ambitious as he is, frankly admitted the same thing. Of course I can only go upon what I have seen of him, but from what he said, and the manner in which he said it, I am convinced that we could not get a better chief than this young colonel. I believe that he will make it a comfortable regiment to be in, but I also believe that those who oppose him will find that they make a grievous mistake."
The next day Hector took up in earnest the work of organizing the regiment. In the first place he insisted that the officers should learn their drill; then, that instead of handing over the practical command of their companies to their sergeants, they should themselves command them on the drill ground, look after the discipline and comfort of the men in barracks, and become personally acquainted with the character of every man under their command. Many of the sergeants were inefficient; these were speedily deprived of their rank, and men of good conduct and zeal appointed to their places. The regard of the men was won by his insisting that the contractors for their food should send in meat and bread and wine of the quality that they had guaranteed to supply.
Three officers were told off every day to examine the quality of all food sent in; any reported as being bad was examined by Hector, and if the complaint was well founded, was at once condemned. Great attention was paid to the cooking, to the cleanliness of the barrack rooms, and to many other details that had until then been entirely neglected. There were at first some grumblers, not only among the men, but among the officers as well; but the extraordinary and rapid improvement in the efficiency of the regiment, its appearance and condition, was such that these were not long in recognizing that although the work was hard, no unnecessary labour was imposed upon them, while, as their knowledge of drill increased the work became easier and less irksome. All recognized that by far the hardest worker in the regiment was the colonel himself. Every morning for the first month he himself drilled the officers in a courtyard that was not overlooked, and when they all knew their work, sent them to take charge of their companies. Until he considered the officers competent, he drilled the companies by turn, and when drill was over, made a tour of every room in the barracks, visited the kitchen, and conversed freely with the men, listening to any complaints.
At first the number of men brought up for drunkenness was large. The first offence he always condoned, giving the offender a lecture on the folly of his conduct and of the discredit that it brought upon the regiment. For the second offence a man was confined to barracks, and forced to wear his coat inside out even at drill. The ridicule that the men had to suffer was worse than any punishment inflicted upon them, and no case occurred of a third offence. By turns the three officers of each company dined with him, and, chatting with them as a friend, he not only gained their liking but made himself acquainted with their individual characters. Turenne came to Paris a short time after Hector assumed the command of his regiment, and as soon as he heard of his arrival, the latter called upon him.
"I heard from the cardinal of your good fortune," the viscount said, "and congratulate you heartily upon it. Mazarin was good enough to say that the discovery of the Spaniards' ambush was the result of my teaching, and indeed I feel somewhat proud of my pupil. I am going to the Rhine, as perhaps you may have heard."
"I hope to have the honour of serving under you with my regiment, sir."
"I shall be glad to have you, but I fear there is little chance of it. I am to take the command of the Weimar troops. The death of the duke has been a heavy blow to us, and it is thought that unless I go down there -- I say it because I have served there and am known by the Weimar troops -- that force will break up altogether. From what I hear, I hardly think there is much chance of having any French regiments with me, and those now being raised are likely to be sent to fight under Enghien in Flanders. My position is, as you know, a painful one, owing to Bouillon having gone to Italy to take the command of the Pope's troops. I believe that is the reason why Mazarin has withdrawn me from the command of our army in Savoy. However, as a soldier I accept the work he has given me, not allowing family matters to interfere in any way with it, though it is my opinion that Bouillon has been very hardly treated by the breaking of the engagements that were given him when he surrendered Sedan to France."
A week later Hector presented himself at the levee of Cardinal Mazarin.
"I was expecting to see you, baron. I received your note saying that you had taken the command of your regiment, and would do yourself the honour of presenting yourself as soon as you had put matters in trim. Are you satisfied with your men and your officers?"
"With both, your eminence, and trust that in two or three months' time you will do us the honour of inspecting us."
"And how did you find your barony?"
"I was delighted with it. The castle is a strong one, and I am taking steps to add to its strength; and I believe when it is finished that it will be almost impregnable save by an army, and that well commanded."
"Then you think," the cardinal said with a smile, but with a certain air of seriousness, "that you could offer me a safe asylum if I needed one."
"I trust that such an event may never occur, your eminence, but if it should, my castle is at your disposal, and I will guarantee that it will resist for three months, whoever might attack it."
"One can never say," the cardinal said mournfully. "Oh, these nobles! They are, as they have ever been, the curse of France. Each man thinks only of himself and of increasing his domains. What France may suffer matters nothing to them so that they are enriched. Were one of them capable of ruling France I would gladly retire; but who is there? Orleans, vain, empty headed, treacherous to his friends, a man whose word is not to be relied upon. Conde, who thinks only of enriching himself and adding to his possessions. Beaufort, a roistering trooper. None of these men could maintain his position for a moment. The whole country seethes with discontent at the heavy taxation necessitated by the war; Paris, as is always the case when there is trouble in the air, is restless and turbulent. I have good friends, but they are insufficient to sustain me against the intrigues of my enemies. The queen alone upholds me. Truly, the burden is too great for one man to bear.
"You will wonder why I am speaking thus to you, Colonel Campbell, but it is of the greatest necessity that her majesty should know upon whom she can rely absolutely in case of trouble. You, sir, being altogether unconnected with any of the great families of France, stand in a different position from that of the great majority of officers of your rank. Look where I will, I see our regiments officered by men connected by birth and family with one or other of the men who are at present intriguing against us, and were they ordered to take steps to arrest, for example, one of those persons connected with them, they might, without openly refusing, give such warning to them that they would be able to escape. Now, sir, I ask you to tell me frankly whether, under all contingencies, the queen can rely upon your services? I give you my word that whatever your reply is, it shall in no way count against you. There are cases in which it would doubtless be painful to you to carry out such an order. You are a protege of Monsieur de Turenne. Monsieur de Turenne is brother of the Duc de Bouillon, and, as I know, you yourself were staying for some months in the castle of Sedan, where you went to be cured of your wounds. Now, monsieur, frankly, were you ordered to arrest the Duc de Bouillon, would you carry it out without fear or favour?"
"Certainly I would, your excellency; and should you give such an order to Marshal Turenne he would do so himself. He is a soldier of the queen before all things, and has taught me that my duty is towards the sovereign who represents France, regardless of all other considerations."
The cardinal while speaking had watched the young soldier's face scrutinizingly. Faithful as Turenne had always been to the crown, even when his brother was in arms against it, Mazarin had still in his heart some doubts as to his fidelity under all circumstances. He could not but be conscious that faith had been absolutely broken with Bouillon, and, accustomed to tortuous ways, he could scarce imagine that Turenne would hold himself altogether above family interest. He saw by the manner more than the words of Hector that he was speaking from a profound conviction. In asking him the question, he had been thinking more of Turenne's loyalty than of the young colonel's. Having been four years in the closest connection with the marshal, he could not but know his real sentiments, and he felt sure that had Turenne expressed any anger at the treatment his brother had received, he would have seen it in the young man's face. The answer was a reassuring one.
"Thank you, monsieur le baron; the musketeers and the Swiss guards we know we can absolutely rely upon, and I shall be glad to be able to inform the queen that she can place implicit faith in your regiment. I need not impress upon you the necessity for our conversation being regarded by you as absolutely confidential."
Hector, thinking the matter over, had no great difficulty in the end in arriving at the truth, namely, that his own loyalty was a very secondary object of interest to the minister, and that his real motive in thus apparently opening his mind to him had been, not to gather his own sentiments, but to endeavour to ascertain those of Turenne. From the talk among his officers he had already learned that the general opinion was, that although the queen had always entertained a most favourable opinion of Turenne, and had herself nominated him as marshal and commander of the forces on the Rhine, Mazarin had assented to the arrangement because he feared that the army of Italy would probably follow its commander should the latter take up the quarrel of his brother, while, on the Rhine with but a few regiments, to all of whom he was a stranger, under his command, he would be practically powerless, whatever his sentiments might be with regard to Bouillon.
In the middle of August Hector received an order from Mazarin to take part with his regiment in a review which the queen intended to hold at Versailles two days later. At this review the musketeers, the Swiss guards, the Scottish regiment, and two regiments of the line besides his own, the queen, the young king, Mazarin, and most of the members of the court were present. The Poitou regiment acquitted itself admirably, and its marching, and the steadiness with which it went through its manoeuvres, were in such strong contrast to that of the other two infantry regiments, which had both been formed for some years, as to excite the surprise and admiration of the spectators. After it was over a mounted officer rode up to Hector and told him that the queen wished to speak to him. Riding up, he dismounted, and advanced to the queen's pavilion.
"Monsieur Campbell," the queen said graciously, "I wish to express to you how well satisfied we are with the efficiency of your regiment, and the admirable way in which it has gone through its manoeuvres. Never have I seen these better performed; and this is the more surprising as it has been but four months raised, and but three months under your personal command. The cardinal has informed me that he learns that this is due entirely to your personal exertions, and the care that you have bestowed upon it. I wish that all my officers showed the same zeal and diligence. In order to mark my gratification at the conduct of the regiment, I have requested monsieur le cardinal to order that two companies of your regiment shall be quartered at the barracks now occupied by the Scottish regiment, which is to march east tomorrow."
Hector bowed deeply; and, immensely gratified at the praise that his regiment had received, returned to his place at its head, and marched back to St. Denis. On their arrival there he informed his men of the gracious words the queen had been pleased to say about the regiment, and the great honour bestowed upon them by the quartering of two companies in Paris. The men broke into loud cheering as he concluded.
Hector then called the officers together. "Gentlemen," he said, "I have to thank you for the admirable way in which you have seconded my efforts, and by the aid of which the regiment has just gained the high commendation of Her Majesty, within so very short a time after it has been raised. I have been thinking the matter over as I rode back, and I have decided that where all did so well, it would be invidious to give to any the sole honour of being thus quartered near the Louvre and furnishing guards, and to yourselves the pleasure of being in Paris. Therefore, gentlemen, I shall send, in the first place, the first and tenth companies. At the end of two weeks the ninth company will take the place of the tenth; a fortnight later, the second will take the place of the first, and so in order, so that each company will in turn have its share in this honourable service."
There was a general murmur of satisfaction. The next morning a formal order was received that two companies of the Poitou regiment should march into Paris, and occupy a portion of the barracks which the Scotch regiment had just vacated.
Hector called up the two companies he had selected.
"Now, men," he said, "you see the advantage that you have gained by discipline and good conduct. I have no doubt that before granting us the honour of forming a part of the garrison of Paris, the minister has made inquiries respecting the conduct of the regiment here, and has doubtless heard that it has been eminently satisfactory, and that the authorities and inhabitants have no complaint, of drunkenness or misconduct, against us. Of misconduct there have been no cases, of drunkenness very few, and, indeed, for the past month there has not been a single case among you. I trust that you will remember that while in Paris the credit of the regiment is in your hands, and that no single case of drunkenness or brawling in the streets will take place. I feel confident that this will be so, and I need hardly say that should there be an exception, the punishment will be vastly more severe than any that has previously been awarded, and I am sure that any offender will find, in the contempt with which he will be regarded by his comrades, a still more severe punishment than any that I can inflict."
That evening Captain de Thiou and the other officers of the two companies that were to march into Paris the next day dined with Hector; and after dinner de Thiou rose and said: "Colonel, I have been requested to express to you, on behalf of the whole of the officers of the regiment, our deep gratitude for the honours that our regiment has obtained. These you were good enough yesterday to ascribe partly to us; but we feel that they are wholly due to yourself. Although some of us were at first a little inclined to think that the changes made by you in our work were unnecessary, all now recognize fully how great has been the benefit, not only to the regiment, but to ourselves. Duties which were at first considered irksome are now regarded as pleasant. We feel that, as you said would be the case, we have acquired the respect of the men, and that it is upon us that they rely, and not upon their sergeants. "Our own time passes more pleasantly from being fully occupied, and from consciousness that we are doing our duty. As to the regiment in general, the benefit has been enormous. The men seem pleased with the interest shown in them, as much as with the comfort that they now enjoy, and they in turn endeavour to satisfy us, both by their attention to drill, by their bearing and manner, and by their avoidance of giving any cause for complaint. All this, monsieur, has been your work, and I am sure that we are all conscious of the difference of the display we made in the park, and that which we should have shown had it not been for the reforms which have been introduced by you. We all trust that the day may not be far distant when we shall be able to prove on the field of battle the same efficiency that has won us credit upon the parade ground."
"I thank you heartily, Captain de Thiou, for what you have been good enough to say on your own behalf and that of the officers of the regiment. I can only say that I have endeavoured to act up to the teaching of Monsieur de Turenne, and I felt sure that although my methods might at first seem irksome to some of you, their value would gradually become appreciated. I am scarcely less pleased at the decrease in drunkenness, and at the general improvement in the men, than by the increase of discipline and efficiency."
"Do you mean to come to Paris, colonel?" De Thiou asked presently.
"No; I shall remain here. I shall ride in every day, but my presence will be more necessary with the regiment than with only two companies. You as senior officer will be responsible for the general order of the detachment."
Hector rode in the next day with his men, and after seeing them comfortably lodged in barracks, returned to St. Denis. A week later reports reached St. Denis of a strange scene at the court. The haughty and insolent Duchess of Monthazon, who belonged to the party of the Importants, had the impertinence to insult the queen grossly in the gardens of the Tuileries. She had at once been disgraced and ordered to retire to Rochfield, and the Duke of Beaufort and his friends were furious at this exercise of Mazarin's authority. The next day Hector received a message asking him to call at the Hotel de Cleves, the cardinal's residence. On his presenting himself, he was at once shown into Mazarin's private apartments.
"Monsieur de Villar," Mazarin said, "I am sorely in need of friends. You have heard of what has happened, and from the threats that he has publicly uttered against myself I am convinced that Beaufort will hesitate at nothing to bring about my ruin. I hear that you are still with your regiment at St. Denis. I shall be glad if for a time you will take up your abode at Paris, and will hold yourself in readiness to be of service to me if there should be occasion. Beaufort is capable of even attempting my life; he is very unscrupulous, and will hesitate at nothing. I shall be glad if you will take up your lodging within a short distance of this, so that I can communicate with you instantly."
"Certainly, your excellency; I will keep half a company always under arms, so that at the shortest notice they will be in readiness to act as you may direct. But surely, your excellency, you have the queen's musketeers close at hand?"
"The queen's musketeers are a body of gallant soldiers, but they will take their orders only from the queen. They were strongly anti-cardinalist in the late reign, and I do not suppose that they are better affected towards myself than they were towards Richelieu. If they heard that my hotel was attacked they would not move a foot until they received orders from the queen to do so."
"At any rate, you shall have no reason to complain of delay on our part, your excellency, and I can assure you of my devotion."
Hector at once went to an auberge but a few hundred yards from the cardinal's residence. He thought it better to put up there than to take lodgings, as he could then have his four mounted men with him; and, riding to St. Denis, he returned the same night with them.
"A horse is always to be saddled," he said to them when they had dismounted and his orderlies had come up to his room, "and one of you by turns will always remain here armed and ready to mount without an instant's delay. The others will put aside their scarves; and one of you will always be at the cabaret nearest to the Hotel de Vendome, the residence of the Duke of Beaufort, who is a son of the Duc de Vendome. At times two of you can be there so as to drink and play cards together, as the appearance of one sitting too long might attract attention. Your object is to find out from the conversation of the duke's guards and servants whether they have any idea that anything unusual is going to take place. I have reason to believe that there is a plot against the cardinal, and I am much concerned in defeating it."
When the four Scotch soldiers had retired, Hector said to Paolo:
"Now, Paolo, I place more reliance upon your finding out anything that is afloat than upon the soldiers. It is not likely that any plans Beaufort may form will be communicated to his people until the moment for action, and indeed it is probable that he will rely solely upon his personal friends. Now I want you to disguise yourself in any way you may think best, and watch Beaufort's hotel; see who comes in and out, and if a messenger goes out follow him, see the houses he calls at, and mark if those who dwell there repair at once to the Hotel de Vendome. If you perceive that this is the case let me know at once. See if you can get hold of half a dozen street gamins, and employ them to watch the houses of all these gentlemen, and especially that of Monsieur Id, captain of Beaufort's guards, and of the two Messieurs de Campion and the Count de Beaupuis, who are, I know, among the duke's most intimate friends. There are scores of these street boys who for a few sous a day would gladly undertake the work."
"I will do that, master. You can take my word that by tomorrow at noon the lodging of these four gentlemen will be strictly watched. This is a business after my own heart."
"In the first place, Paolo, take a note from me to the Hotel de Cleves and wait for an answer."
The note was a short one. It merely gave the name of the auberge at which he had taken up his quarters, and added: If your eminence will be good enough to send me every morning a list of any visits that you may intend to pay, or any journey that you may make during the day, it would enable me to regulate my movements accordingly in order to be always here and ready to carry out any orders that you may send me from your hotel.
The cardinal's reply was even more brief:
It is well thought of. I shall go nowhere but to the Louvre tomorrow, and shall probably be there the greater part of the day. Unless you hear from me to the contrary, you need only remain in between twelve and one.
The next morning Paolo appeared dressed in ragged clothes.
"What is that bundle of papers that you have got?"
"They are lampoons on the cardinal. Nothing so natural as that I should try and sell them in front of the Hotel de Vendome."
"Nothing could be better, Paolo."
"I have already picked up a dozen gamins, master, sharp little beggars, who jumped at the idea of being set to watch people. Between them everyone who goes in or comes out from the hotel will be followed, and they will, in the first place, find out his name and bring it to me, after that they will follow him wherever he goes, and from time to time let me know what he is doing."
Several days passed. The four gentlemen specially named, together with several others, were frequently at the hotel. There was in this, however, nothing suspicious, as Hector easily learned that they were all vassals or close friends of the house of Vendome. On the third day, however, he heard that at least a dozen of these gentlemen met in twos or threes at various cabarets near the Duke of Beaufort's, and spent the greater portion of their time there. Hector at once procured dresses suitable for gentlemen of the middle class for the troopers, and gave them instructions to spend the greater portion of their time at the cabarets at which these gentlemen stopped. Their reports were that they talked of indifferent subjects, but that they were evidently waiting for someone, as they invariably turned a glance at the door whenever a fresh comer entered.
The next day Hector received a note from the cardinal:
I am just starting with the Duke of Orleans for Maisons, where I shall dine with him.
Two hours later the three troopers who had been out returned almost at the same minute with the news that the persons they were watching had all got up suddenly and gone out after a messenger wearing the Beaufort cognizance had come in and spoken to them. And a few minutes later Paolo arrived and said that the Duke of Beaufort had gone with the Count of Beaupuis to the convent of the Capuchins, and that several horses had been taken there.
Hector thought the matter over. "Certainly," he said to himself, "as the cardinal's note is dated at nine o'clock, he is now some distance on his way. As soon as the duke received notice of his having gone, he notified his friends. It can only be on his way home that they will venture to attack him; but even if they have that intention they will scarcely do so if the Duke of Orleans returns with him, unless, indeed, the duke is himself in the plot, and as none of Paolo's scouts have brought news of any communications between Beaufort and Orleans, it is hardly likely that it is so.
"Paolo, do you go down and watch the convent of the Capuchins. If the Duke of Beaufort remains there with his friend -- and he may doubtless be joined by others -- let me know if he rides away. If he does so the attack may take place anywhere along the road; if he remains, he will doubtless attack the cardinal as his carriage passes. Should there be more than one entrance to the convent, put boys to watch them, and bring you news should the party sally out. I shall be at the barracks. It is there that you must bring or send me word."
The troopers were ordered to put on their military clothes and saddle their horses, and a quarter of an hour later Hector rode to the barracks, followed by them.
"De Thiou," he said, "I want you and the other five officers to have your horses ready at a moment's notice. I have some sort of idea that there is a plot on foot against the cardinal, and I want to take a hand in the matter. I fancy that with you and my five troopers we shall be strong enough to disconcert the plotters."
Two hours later he received a message from Paolo, saying that the Duke of Beaufort and three other gentlemen were still at the convent, but that most of the others had gone to the residence of Henri de Campion in the Rue St. Honore.
"They mean to attack him just at the end of the journey," Hector said to himself, "and close to the Hotel de Vendome. Now it only depends upon whether the Duke of Orleans stays at Maisons or returns with the cardinal."
He ordered the officers and troopers to mount, and with them took his post on the road by which the cardinal would return. In half an hour they saw his carriage approaching. They then moved forward. As the carriage passed them Hector saluted, and saw to his satisfaction that the Duke of Orleans was with the cardinal. After the carriage had gone fifty yards Hector turned, and with his party followed the carriage at that distance. When within a quarter of a mile of the Rue St. Honore a horseman came along. He met the carriage, and immediately it passed him turned and galloped back along the road. Hector felt no doubt that he was placed there to warn the conspirators to be in readiness if the Duke of Orleans was not in the carriage, and that there would now be no attempt. However, he closed up to within thirty yards. As they entered the Rue St. Honore all was quiet there, and nothing happened until the cardinal alighted at the Hotel de Cleves. As he did so he looked round, and beckoned to Hector to follow him.