The Closet where Monsieur Louis of France Recites his Orisons

The reader perhaps remembers that Quasimodo, a moment before catching sight of the nocturnal band of truands and scrutinizing Paris from the height of his steeple, saw but a single remaining light twinkling at a window in the topmost storey of a grim and lofty building beside the Porte Saint-Antoine. The building was the Bastille, the twinkling light was the taper of Louis XI.

The King had, in fact, been in Paris these two days past, and was to set out again the next day but one for his citadel of Montilz-les-Tours. He made but rare and short visits to his good city of Paris, not feeling himself sufficiently surrounded there by pitfalls, gibbets, and Scottish archers.

That day he had come to sleep at the Bastille. The great chamber, five toises square, which he had at the Louvre, with its splendid chimney-pieces bearing the effigies of twelve great beasts and thirteen great prophets, and his bed, eleven feet by twelve, were little to his taste. He felt lost amid all these grandeurs. The good homely King preferred the Bastille, with a chamber and bed of more modest proportions; besides, the Bastille was stronger than the Louvre.

This chambrette which the King reserved for his own use in the famous prison was spacious enough, nevertheless, and occupied the uppermost storey of a turret forming part of the donjon-keep. It was a circular apartment hung with matting of shining straw, the rafters of the ceiling being decorated with raised fleurs de lis in gilt metal interspaced with colour, and wainscotted with rich carvings sprinkled with metal rosettes and painted a beautiful vivid green made of a mixture of orpiment and fine indigo.

There was but one window, a long pointed one, latticed by iron bars and iron wire, and still further darkened with fine glass painted with the arms of the King and Queen, each pane of which had cost twenty-two sols.

There was also but one entrance, a door of the contemporary style under a flattened arch, furnished inside with a tapestry hanging, and outside with one of those porches of Irish wood—delicate structures of elaborately wrought cabinet-work which still abounded in old mansions a hundred and fifty years ago. “Although they disfigure and encumber the places,” says Sauval in desperation, “our old people will not have them removed, but keep them in spite of everybody.”

Not a single article of the ordinary furniture of a room was to be seen here—neither benches, nor trestles, nor forms; neither common box-stools, nor handsome ones supported by pillars and carved feet at four sols apiece. There was one folding arm-chair only, a very magnificent one, its frame painted with roses on a crimson ground, and the seat of crimson Cordova leather with a quantity of gold-headed nails. The solitary state of this chair testified to the fact that one person alone was entitled to be seated in the room. Beside the chair and close under the window was a table covered by a cloth wrought with figures of birds. On the table was a much-used inkstand, a few sheets of parchment, some pens, and a goblet of chased silver; farther off, a charcoal brasier and a prie-dieu covered with crimson velvet and ornamented with gold bosses. Finally, at the other end of the room, an unpretentious bed of red and yellow damask with no decoration of any sort but a plain fringe. This bed, famous as having borne the sleep or sleeplessness of Louis XI, was still in existence two hundred years ago in the house of a councillor of state, where it was seen by the aged Mme. Pilou, celebrated in Le Grand Cyrus under the name of Arricidie and of La Morale Vivante.

Such was the room known as “the closet where Monsieur Louis of France recites his orisons.”

At the moment at which we have introduced the reader into it, this closet was very dark. Curfew had rung an hour back, night had fallen, and there was but one flickering wax candle on the table to light five persons variously grouped about the room.

The first upon whom the light fell was a gentleman superbly attired in doublet and hose of scarlet slashed with silver and a cloak with puffed shoulder-pieces of cloth of gold figured with black, the whole gorgeous costume appearing to be shot with flames wherever the light played on it. The man who wore it had his heraldic device embroidered in vivid colours on his breast—a chevron and a stag passant, the scutcheon

  By PanEris using Melati.

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