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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

A Trick is Played on Henry III. by Aid of Chicot

By Alexandre Dumas (1802–1870)

From ‘The Lady of Monsoreau’

THE KING and Chicot remained quiet and silent for the next ten minutes. Then suddenly the King sat up, and the noise he made roused Chicot, who was just dropping off to sleep.

The two looked at each other with sparkling eyes.

“What is it?” asked Chicot in a low voice.

“Do you hear that sighing sound?” replied the King in a lower voice still. “Listen!”

As he spoke, one of the wax candles in the hand of the golden satyr went out; then a second, then a third. After a moment, the fourth went out also.

“Oh, oh!” cried Chicot, “that is more than a sighing sound.” But he had hardly uttered the last word when in its turn the lamp was extinguished, and the room was in darkness, save for the flickering glow of the dying embers.

“Look out!” exclaimed Chicot, jumping up.

“He is going to speak,” said the King, shrinking back into his bed.

“Then listen and let us hear what he says,” replied Chicot, and at the same instant a voice which sounded at once both piercing and hollow, proceeded from the space between the bed and the wall.

“Hardened sinner, are you there?”

“Yes, yes, Lord,” gasped Henri with chattering teeth.

“Dear me!” remarked Chicot, “that is a very hoarse voice to have come from heaven! I feel dreadfully frightened; but never mind!”

“Do you hear me?” asked the voice.

“Yes, Lord,” stammered Henri; “and I bow before your anger.”

“Do you think you are carrying out my will by performing all the mummeries you have taken part in to-day, while your heart is full of the things of this world?”

“Well said!” cried Chicot; “you touched him there!”

The King’s hands shook as he clasped them, and Chicot went up to him.

“Well,” murmured Henri, “are you convinced now?”

“Wait a bit,” answered Chicot.

“What do you want more?”

“Hush! listen to me. Creep softly out of bed, and let me take your place.”


“Because then the anger of the Lord will fall first upon me.”

“And do you think I shall escape?”

“We will try, anyway;” and with affectionate persistence he pushed the King out of bed, and took his place.

“Now, Henri,” he said, “go and lie on my sofa, and leave all to me.”

Henri obeyed; he began to understand Chicot’s plan.

“You are silent,” continued the voice, “which proves that your heart is hardened.”

“Oh, pardon, pardon, Lord!” exclaimed Chicot, imitating the King’s nasal twang. Then, stretching himself out of bed, he whispered to the King, “It is very odd, but the heavenly voice does not seem to know that it is Chicot who is speaking.”

“Oh!” replied Henri, “what do you suppose is the meaning of that?”

“Don’t be in a hurry; plenty of strange things will happen yet!”

“Miserable creature that you are!” went on the voice.

“Yes, Lord, yes!” answered Chicot. “I am a horrible sinner, hardened in crime.”

“Then confess your sins, and repent.”

“I acknowledge,” said Chicot, “that I dealt wickedly by my cousin Condé, whose wife I betrayed; and I repent bitterly.”

“What is that you are saying?” cried the King. “There is no good in mentioning that. It has all been forgotten long ago.”

“Oh, has it?” replied Chicot; “then we will pass on to something else.”

“Answer,” said the voice.

“I acknowledge,” said the false Henri, “that I behaved like a thief toward the Poles, who had elected me their king, in stealing away to France one fine night, carrying with me all the crown jewels; and I repent bitterly.”

“Idiot!” exclaimed Henri, “what are you talking about now? Nobody remembers anything about that.”

“Let me alone,” answered Chicot, “I must go on pretending to be the King.”

“Speak,” said the voice.

“I acknowledge,” continued Chicot, “that I snatched the throne from my brother D’Alençon, who was the rightful heir, since I had formally renounced my claims when I was elected King of Poland; I repent bitterly.”

“Rascal!” cried the King.

“There is yet something more,” said the voice.

“I acknowledge to have plotted with my excellent mother, Catherine de’ Medicis, to hunt from France my brother-in-law the King of Navarre, after first destroying all his friends, and my sister Queen Marguerite, after first destroying all her lovers; and I repent bitterly.”

“Scoundrel! Cease!” muttered the King, his teeth clenched in anger.

“Sire, it is no use trying to hide what Providence knows as well as we do.”

“There is a crime unconfessed that has nothing to do with politics,” said the voice.

“Ah, now we are getting to it,” observed Chicot dolefully; “it is about my conduct, I suppose?”

“It is,” answered the voice.

“I cannot deny,” continued Chicot, always speaking in the name of the King, “that I am very effeminate, very lazy; a hopeless trifler, an incorrigible hypocrite.”

“It is true,” said the voice.

“I have behaved ill to all women, to my own wife in particular; and such a good wife too.”

“A man should love his wife as himself, and above all the world,” cried the voice angrily.

“Oh dear!” wailed Chicot in despairing tones; “then I certainly have sinned terribly.”

“And by your example you have caused others to sin.”

“That is true, sadly true.”

“You very nearly sent that poor Saint-Luc to perdition.”

“Bah!” said Chicot, “are you sure I did not send him there quite?”

“No; but such a fate may befall both of you if you do not let him go back to his family at break of day.”

“Dear me!” said Chicot to the King, “the voice seems to take a great interest in the house of Cossé.”

“If you disobey me, you will suffer the same torments as Sardanapalus, Nabuchodnosor, and the Marshal De Retz.”

Henry III. gave a loud groan; at this threat he became more frightened than ever.

“I am lost,” he ejaculated wildly; “I am lost. That voice from on high will be my death-warrant.”