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Chapter 9


The ingenuous Hercules was set down from a public carriage, in the court of the kitchens. He asks the chairmen, what hour the king can be seen? The chairmen laugh in his face, just as the English Admiral had done: and he treated them in the same manner—he beat them. They were for retaliation, and the scene had like to have proved bloody, if a soldier, who was a gentleman of Britany, had not passed by, and who dispersed the mob.

"Sir," said the traveler to him, "you appear to me to be a brave man. I am nephew to the Prior of our Lady of the Mountain. I have killed Englishmen, and I am come to speak to the king. I beg you will conduct me to his chamber."

The soldier, delighted to find a man of courage from his province, who did not seem acquainted with the customs of the court, told him it was necessary to be presented to M. de Louvois.

"Very well, then, conduct me to M. de Louvois, who will doubtless conduct me to the king."

"It is more difficult to speak to M. de Louvois than the king. But I will conduct you to Mr. Alexander, first commissioner of war, and this will be just the same as if you spoke to the minister."

They accordingly repair to Mr. Alexander's, who is first clerk, but they cannot be introduced, he being closely engaged in business with a lady of the court, and no person is allowed admittance.

"Well," said the soldier, "there is no harm done, let us go to Mr. Alexander's first clerk. This will be just the same as if you spoke to Mr. Alexander himself."

The Huron quite astonished, followed him. They remained together half an hour in a little anti-chamber.

"What is all this?" said the ingenuous Hercules. "Is all the world invisible in this country? It is much easier to fight in Lower Britany against Englishmen, than to meet with people at Versailles, with whom one hath business."

He amused himself for some time with relating his amours to his countryman; but the clock striking, recalled the soldier to his post, when a mutual promise was given of meeting on the morrow.

The Huron remained another half hour in the anti-chamber, meditating upon Miss St. Yves, and the difficulty of speaking to kings and first clerks.

At length the patron appeared.

"Sir," said the ingenuous Hercules, "If I had waited to repulse the English as long as you have made me wait for my audience, they would certainly have ravaged all Lower Britany without opposition."

These words impressed the clerk. He at length said to the inhabitant of Britany, "What is your request?"

"A recompense," said the other: "these are my titles;" showing his certificates.

The clerk read, and told him, "that probably he might obtain leave to purchase a lieutenancy."

"Me? what, must I pay money for having repulsed the English? Must I pay a tax to be killed for you, whilst you are peaceably giving your audience here? You are certainly jesting. I require a company of cavalry for nothing. I require that the king shall set Miss St. Yves at liberty from the convent, and give her to me in marriage. I want to speak to the king in favor of fifty thousand families, whom I propose restoring to him. In a word, I want to be useful. Let me be employed and advanced."

"What is your name, sir, who talk in such a high style?"

"Oh! oh!" answered the Huron; "you have not then read my certificates? This is the way they are treated. My name is Hercules de Kerkabon. I am christened, and I lodge at the Blue Dial." The clerk concluded, like the people at Saumur, that his head was turned, and did not pay him any further attention.

The same day, the Reverend Father de la Chaise, confessor to Louis XIV., received his spy's letter, which accused the Breton Kerkabon of favoring in his heart the Huguenots, and condemning the conduct of the Jesuits. M. de Louvois had, on his side, received a letter from the inquisitive bailiff, which depicted the Huron as a wicked, lewd fellow, inclined to burn convents, and carry off the nuns.

Hercules, after having walked in the gardens of Versailles, which had become irksome to him; after having supped like a native of Huronia and Lower Britany: had gone to rest, in the pleasant hope of seeing the king the next day; of obtaining Miss St. Yves in marriage; of having, at least, a company of cavalry; and of setting aside the persecution against the Huguenots. He was rocking himself asleep with these flattering ideas, when the Marechaussée entered his chamber, and seized upon his double-charged fusee and his great sabre.

They took an inventory of his ready money, and then conducted him to the castle erected by King Charles V., son to John II., near the street of St. Antoine, at the gate des Tournelles.

What was the Huron's astonishment in his way thither the reader is left to imagine. He at first fancied it was all a dream; and remained for some time in a state of stupefaction. Presently, transported with rage, that gave him more than common strength, he collared two of his conductors who were with him in the coach, flung them out of the door, cast himself after them, and then dragged the third, who wanted to hold him. He fell in the attempt, when they tied him, and replaced him in the carriage.

"This, then," said he, "is what one gets for driving the English out of Lower Britany! What wouldst thou say, charming Miss St. Yves, if thou didst see me in this situation?"

They at length arrived at the place of their destination. He was carried without any noise into the chamber in which he was to be locked up, like a dead corpse going to the grave. This room was already occupied by an old solitary student of Port Royal, named Gordon, who had been languishing here for two years.

"See," said the chief of the Marechaussée, "here is company I bring you;" and immediately the enormous bolts of this strong door, secured with large iron bars, were fastened upon them. These two captives were thus separated from all the universe besides.

Francois-Marie Arouet Voltaire

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