“Silence!” cried the king. “Some one is here who will wear out my patience. Go at once and put a stop to the execution,” he continued, addressing the grand provost. “You will answer with your own body for that of the criminal, my friend. This affair must be better sifted, and I reserve to myself the doing of it. Set the prisoner at liberty provisionally; I can always recover him; these robbers have retreats they frequent, lairs where they lurk. Let Cornelius know that I shall be at his house to-night to begin the inquiry myself. Monsieur de Saint-Vallier,” said the king, looking fixedly at the count, “I know about you. All your blood could not pay for one drop of mine; do you hear me? By our Lady of Clery! you have committed crimes of lese-majesty. Did I give you such a pretty wife to make her pale and weakly? Go back to your own house, and make your preparations for a long journey.”
The king stopped at these words from a habit of cruelty; then he added:—
“You will leave to-night to attend to my affairs with the government of Venice. You need be under no anxiety about your wife; I shall take charge of her at Plessis; she will certainly be safe here. Henceforth I shall watch over her with greater care than I have done since I married her to you.”
Hearing these words, Marie silently pressed her father’s arm as if to thank him for his mercy and goodness. As for Louis XI., he was laughing to himself in his sleeve.
The hidden treasure
Louis XI. was fond of intervening in the affairs of his subjects, and he was always ready to mingle his royal majesty with the burgher life. This taste, severely blamed by some historians, was really only a passion for the “incognito,” one of the greatest pleasures of princes, —a sort of momentary abdication, which enables them to put a little real life into their existence, made insipid by the lack of opposition. Louis XI., however, played the incognito openly. On these occasions he was always the good fellow, endeavoring to please the people of the middle classes, whom he made his allies against feudality. For some time past he had found no opportunity to “make himself populace” and espouse the domestic interests of some man “engarrie” (an old word still used in Tours, meaning engaged) in litigious affairs, so that he shouldered the anxieties of Maitre Cornelius eagerly, and also the secret sorrows of the Comtesse de Saint-Vallier. Several times during dinner he said to his daughter:—
“Who, think you, could have robbed my silversmith? The robberies now amount to over twelve hundred thousand crowns in eight years. Twelve hundred thousand crowns, messieurs!” he continued, looking at the seigneurs who were serving him. “Notre Dame! with a sum like that what absolutions could be bought in Rome! And I might, Pasques-Dieu! bank the Loire, or, better still, conquer Piedmont, a fine fortification ready-made for this kingdom.”