" Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned."
In a firm voice she remarked to the priest whom she had summoned to absolve him, "My father, I now retire, leaving this man to you. Prepare him for death and take care of his soul." The priest himself then intervened with tears and sobs, but the woman was as unyielding and pitiless as stone. Half an hour later, the three swordsmen who had been ordered by Christina to despatch the prisoner announced to her that the deed was done. Louis XIV, then at Versailles, merely expressed displeasure at this murder, committed thus audaciously in one of his palaces, but Christina continued to remain here for nearly two years.
The Library, Fontainebleau.
Along The Loire.
Midway between Paris and the Pyrenees there is a charming section of La Belle France, dotted with fertile vineyards, peaceful streams, picturesque castles, and historic towns, and known as La Touraine. Across this, like a silver girdle, stretches the river Loire, flowing along as peacefully as if its waves had not run red with blood and its broad valley had not often been the scenes of intrigues, wars, and massacres.
It is a singular river, apparently as capricious as some stately beauty of the old Court days, - now gathering up the blue folds of its current till the glistening pebbles are scarce visible, then dropping them again and sweeping on in slow, majestic curves, displaying proudly its long silvery train. In close proximity to this are several famous castles which sovereigns of France have made their favorite abodes. The first of these which I beheld, one summer on my way to Spain, was the Chateau of Blois. The entrance is a sculptured portal, the sight of which seemed to transport me at once into the heart of the Middle Ages, for, with its elaborately carved columns, ornaments, and arches, it stood before me like some rare mediaeval volume, with covers of the richest carving, and pages glowing with illuminated parchment and quaintly devised capitals. This castle has, in fact, been for centuries the residence of Kings and Princes, and the scene of many memorable events. Here was born Louis XII, whose equestrian statue crowns the doorway; hither was sent, as Florentine ambassador, the cunning statesman and unprincipled diplomatist, Machiavelli; here also Catharine de' Medici plotted deeds of blood; and to this Chateau of Blois, in 1814, came, in their flight from Paris, Marie Louise and the little King of Rome, when the allied armies of Europe were closing fast upon the capital, and Napoleon's mighty power was drawing near its end. Still other memories crowd upon the thoughtful tourist, who makes his way beneath this gate and enters the famous Court of Honor; for here his gaze immediately rests with admiration upon the principal architectural glory of the place, - the beautiful staircase of Francis I. This exquisite structure rises to the height of four stories, and is composed of stone so wonderfully carved and ornamented, that one might almost fancy that the docile mass had shaped itself, like sculptor's clay, beneath the fingers of the architect, obeying every caprice of his imagination. Or one might fancy it a fountain suddenly petrified and standing just as it was stopped in its joyous progress from the pavement.
Statue Of Louis XII, Chateau Of Blois.
A Corridor At Fontainebleau.
A Part Of The Staircase At Blois.
Beautiful as it is, however, there is a deeper pleasure here than that which appeals merely to the eye; for, let but our imaginations carry us back into the past, and immediately the scenes of by-gone days start forth in vivid colors from these old walls, and we can almost hear this staircase once more echo to the tread of mailed knights, the music of sweet-voiced minstrels, and the laughter of lovely women, like Diana of Poitiers, who once looked forth from these same windows, whose jeweled fingers rested on these very balustrades, and whose distinguished beauty gave to this famous court a greater charm. So realistic also is the power of genius, that we recall Dumas' "Three Guardsmen" here, and, in imagination see those dashing musketeers drinking and fencing in this castle, as the great novelist has described them; for they seem like historical characters. In lingering on these steps, however, and tracing the dramatic chronicles of France indelibly inscribed upon the walls, we sometimes shudder, as we read the record. Thus, in a room whose windows open on this court, on the third night before Christmas in the year 1588, the cowardly king Henry III sat plotting the death of his enemy, the Duke of Guise, whom he had ordered to appear before him at six o'clock the next morning. The duke was not without repeated warnings of his danger. At supper, on the previous evening, he had found in his napkin a note with the mysterious words: "Be on your guard ! A plot is formed against you!" But he threw it contemptuously beneath the table, muttering, "They would not dare!' The following morning, also, as the duke passed through this court in the gray light of that December dawn, a woman's form appeared in a half-opened doorway, a white hand beckoned to him appealingly, and a voice, whose accents thrilled him, whispered from lips, trembling and white with fear: "Escape or thou art lost!" His only answer was a smile and a caressing gesture of assurance; then he passed proudly on into the Salle des Gardes.