And Meg began to hope for her Gaspard. She told how the young King was fond of him, and really seemed fired by some emulation at finding that a boy so much younger than himself knew more than he did. Our boy was reading Virgil and Plutarch’s lives. He told the stories to the young King, who delighted to listen, though the Duke of Anjou thought everything dull except cards, tennis, and gossip. The King was even beginning to read to himself. ‘And,’ said Clement, when he heard it, ’let him be fired with the example of Agis or Clomenes, and what may he not do for France?’ Oh, yes! we were very happy, though we talked of hardly anything but politics. It was the last happy day we were to have for a good while to come.
THE BOEUF GRAS
I said it was a fool’s paradise, and it did not last long. The Queen-Regent had a convenient fashion of making nothing of her promises. She did not think base burghers and lawyers human creatures towards whom honour was necessary, and she naturally expected the States-General to act our Long Parliament over again.
It seems that Kings of France come of age at fourteen; and on the day that young Louis was thirteen he was declared to be major, and his mother ceased to be Regent, though she managed everything just as much as if she had still written Anne R. at the end of all the State papers. The advantage to the Court was that no promises or engagements made in his minority were considered to be binding. And so the whole matter of the States-General went to the wall.
There was a magnificent ceremony at the Parliament House, the old hall of the Augustins. The little King held a bed of justice, upon a couch under a purple velvet canopy, with all his grandees round him. I would not go to see it, I thought it a wicked shame to set up a poor boy to break all the solemn pledges made in his name, and I knew it was the downfall of Clement’s hopes; but Meg went in her Princess’s suite, and I had her account of it, the King looking very handsome with his long fair hair, and bowing right and left, with such a dignity and grace that no one saw what a little bit of a fellow he really was. Poor child! the best thing they could have taught him would have been to worshipping and loving no one but himself. Of course Meg saw nothing so plainly as how beautiful her little Marquis looked among the attendant young nobles, and I must own that he was a very fine fellow, and wonderfully little spoiled considering the sort of folk with whom he lived. On that ceremonial day there came doleful tidings to us. Worcester had been the scene of a massacre rather than a fight, and my brother was in despair and misery at not having been there—as if his single arm could have retrieved the day!—thinking shame of himself for resting at home while sword and block were busy with our friends, and no one knew where the King was. I know not whether it were the daunting of his hopes or the first beginning of the winter cold; but from that time he began to decline from the strength he had gained while I had him to myself in Holland, free from all pressing cares.