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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesCatherine De' Medici - Part 2. The Secrets Of The Ruggieri - Chapter 5. The Alchemists
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Catherine De' Medici - Part 2. The Secrets Of The Ruggieri - Chapter 5. The Alchemists Post by :FyreBrigidIce Category :Long Stories Author :Honore De Balzac Date :May 2012 Read :1876

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Catherine De' Medici - Part 2. The Secrets Of The Ruggieri - Chapter 5. The Alchemists

PART II. THE SECRETS OF THE RUGGIERI CHAPTER V. THE ALCHEMISTS

Again absorbed in thought, Charles IX. made her no answer; he was idly flicking crumbs of bread from his doublet and breeches.

"Your science cannot change the heavens or make the sun to shine, messieurs," he said at last, pointing to the curtains which the gray atmosphere of Paris darkened.

"Our science can make the skies what we like, sire," replied Lorenzo Ruggiero. "The weather is always fine for those who work in a laboratory by the light of a furnace."

"That is true," said the king. "Well, father," he added, using an expression familiar to him when addressing old men, "explain to us clearly the object of your studies."

"What will guarantee our safety?"

"The word of a king," replied Charles IX., whose curiosity was keenly excited by the question.

Lorenzo Ruggiero seemed to hesitate, and Charles IX. cried out: "What hinders you? We are here alone."

"But is the King of France here?" asked Lorenzo.

Charles reflected an instant, and then answered, "No."

The imposing old man then took a chair, and seated himself. Cosmo, astonished at this boldness, dared not imitate it.

Charles IX. remarked, with cutting sarcasm: "The king is not here, monsieur, but a lady is, whose permission it was your duty to await."

"He whom you see before you, madame," said the old man, "is as far above kings as kings are above their subjects; you will think me courteous when you know my powers."

Hearing these audacious words, with Italian emphasis, Charles and Marie looked at each other, and also at Cosmo, who, with his eyes fixed on his brother, seemed to be asking himself: "How does he intend to get us out of the danger in which we are?"

In fact, there was but one person present who could understand the boldness and the art of Lorenzo Ruggiero's first step; and that person was neither the king nor his young mistress, on whom that great seer had already flung the spell of his audacity,--it was Cosmo Ruggiero, his wily brother. Though superior himself to the ablest men at court, perhaps even to Catherine de' Medici herself, the astrologer always recognized his brother Lorenzo as his master.

Buried in studious solitude, the old savant weighed and estimated sovereigns, most of whom were worn out by the perpetual turmoil of politics, the crises of which at this period came so suddenly and were so keen, so intense, so unexpected. He knew their ennui, their lassitude, their disgust with things about them; he knew the ardor with which they sought what seemed to them new or strange or fantastic; above all, how they loved to enter some unknown intellectual region to escape their endless struggle with men and events. To those who have exhausted statecraft, nothing remains but the realm of pure thought. Charles the Fifth proved this by his abdication. Charles IX., who wrote sonnets and forged blades to escape the exhausting cares of an age in which both throne and king were threatened, to whom royalty had brought only cares and never pleasures, was likely to be roused to a high pitch of interest by the bold denial of his power thus uttered by Lorenzo. Religious doubt was not surprising in an age when Catholicism was so violently arraigned; but the upsetting of all religion, given as the basis of a strange, mysterious art, would surely strike the king's mind, and drag it from its present preoccupations. The essential thing for the two brothers was to make the king forget his suspicions by turning his mind to new ideas.

The Ruggieri were well aware that their stake in this game was their own life, and the glances, so humble, and yet so proud, which they exchanged with the searching, suspicious eyes of Marie and the king, were a scene in themselves.

"Sire," said Lorenzo Ruggiero, "you have asked me for the truth; but, to show the truth in all her nakedness, I must also show you and make you sound the depths of the well from which she comes. I appeal to the gentleman and the poet to pardon words which the eldest son of the Church might take for blasphemy,--I believe that God does not concern himself with human affairs."

Though determined to maintain a kingly composure, Charles IX. could not repress a motion of surprise.

"Without that conviction I should have no faith whatever in the miraculous work to which my life is devoted. To do that work I must have this belief; and if the finger of God guides all things, then--I am a madman. Therefore, let the king understand, once for all, that this work means a victory to be won over the present course of Nature. I am an alchemist, sire. But do not think, as the common-minded do, that I seek to make gold. The making of gold is not the object but an incident of our researches; otherwise our toil could not be called the GREAT WORK. The Great Work is something far loftier than that. If, therefore, I were forced to admit the presence of God in matter, my voice must logically command the extinction of furnaces kept burning throughout the ages. But to deny the direct action of God in the world is not to deny God; do not make that mistake. We place the Creator of all things far higher than the sphere to which religions have degraded Him. Do not accuse of atheism those who look for immortality. Like Lucifer, we are jealous of our God; and jealousy means love. Though the doctrine of which I speak is the basis of our work, all our disciples are not imbued with it. Cosmo," said the old man, pointing to his brother, "Cosmo is devout; he pays for masses for the repose of our father's soul, and he goes to hear them. Your mother's astrologer believes in the divinity of Christ, in the Immaculate Conception, in Transubstantiation; he believes also in the Pope's indulgences and in hell, and in a multitude of such things. His hour has not yet come. I have drawn his horoscope; he will live to be almost a centenarian; he will live through two more reigns, and he will see two kings of France assassinated."

"Who are they?" asked the king.

"The last of the Valois and the first of the Bourbons," replied Lorenzo. "But Cosmo shares my opinion. It is impossible to be an alchemist and a Catholic, to have faith in the despotism of man over matter, and also in the sovereignty of the divine."

"Cosmo to die a centenarian!" exclaimed the king, with his terrible frown of the eyebrows.

"Yes, sire," replied Lorenzo, with authority; "and he will die peaceably in his bed."

"If you have power to foresee the moment of your death, why are you ignorant of the outcome of your researches?" asked the king.

Charles IX. smiled as he said this, looking triumphantly at Marie Touchet. The brothers exchanged a rapid glance of satisfaction.

"He begins to be interested," thought they. "We are saved!"

"Our prognostics depend on the immediate relations which exist at the time between man and Nature; but our purpose itself is to change those relations entirely," replied Lorenzo.

The king was thoughtful.

"But, if you are certain of dying you are certain of defeat," he said, at last.

"Like our predecessors," replied Lorenzo, raising his hand and letting it fall again with an emphatic and solemn gesture, which presented visibly the grandeur of his thought. "But your mind has bounded to the confines of the matter, sire; we must return upon our steps. If you do not know the ground on which our edifice is built, you may well think it doomed to crumble with our lives, and so judge the Science cultivated from century to century by the greatest among men, as the common herd judge of it."

The king made a sign of assent.

"I think," continued Lorenzo, "that this earth belongs to man; he is the master of it, and he can appropriate to his use all forces and all substances. Man is not a creation issuing directly from the hand of God; but the development of a principle sown broadcast into the infinite of ether, from which millions of creatures are produced, --differing beings in different worlds, because the conditions surrounding life are varied. Yes, sire, the subtle element which we call /life/ takes its rise beyond the visible worlds; creation divides that principle according to the centres into which it flows; and all beings, even the lowest, share it, taking so much as they can take of it at their own risk and peril. It is for them to protect themselves from death,--the whole purpose of alchemy lies there, sire. If man, the most perfect animal on this globe, bore within himself a portion of the divine, he would not die; but he does die. To solve this difficulty, Socrates and his school invented the Soul. I, the successor of so many great and unknown kings, the rulers of this science, I stand for the ancient theories, not the new. I believe in the transformations of matter which I see, and not in the possible eternity of a soul which I do not see. I do not recognize that world of the soul. If such a world existed, the substances whose magnificent conjunction produced your body, and are so dazzling in that of Madame, would not resolve themselves after your death each into its own element, water to water, fire to fire, metal to metal, just as the elements of my coal, when burned, return to their primitive molecules. If you believe that a certain part of us survives, /we/ do not survive; for all that makes our actual being perishes. Now, it is this actual being that I am striving to continue beyond the limit assigned to life; it is our present transformation to which I wish to give a greater duration. Why! the trees live for centuries, but man lives only years, though the former are passive, the others active; the first motionless and speechless, the others gifted with language and motion. No created thing should be superior in this world to man, either in power or in duration. Already we are widening our perceptions, for we look into the stars; therefore we ought to be able to lengthen the duration of our lives. I place life before power. What good is power if life escapes us? A wise man should have no other purpose than to seek, not whether he has some other life within him, but the secret springs of his actual form, in order that he may prolong its existence at his will. That is the desire which has whitened my hair; but I walk boldly in the darkness, marshalling to the search all those great intellects that share my faith. Life will some day be ours,--ours to control."

"Ah! but how?" cried the king, rising hastily.

"The first condition of our faith being that the earth belongs to man, you must grant me that point," said Lorenzo.

"So be it!" said Charles de Valois, already under the spell.

"Then, sire, if we take God out of this world, what remains? Man. Let us therefore examine our domain. The material world is composed of elements; these elements are themselves principles; these principles resolve themselves into an ultimate principle, endowed with motion. The number THREE is the formula of creation: Matter, Motion, Product."

"Stop!" cried the king, "what proof is there of this?"

"Do you not see the effects?" replied Lorenzo. "We have tried in our crucibles the acorn which produces the oak, and the embryo from which grows a man; from this tiny substance results a single principle, to which some force, some movement must be given. Since there is no overruling creator, this principle must give to itself the outward forms which constitute our world--for this phenomenon of life is the same everywhere. Yes, for metals as for human beings, for plants as for men, life begins in an imperceptible embryo which develops itself. A primitive principle exists; let us seize it at the point where it begins to act upon itself, where it is a unit, where it is a principle before taking definite form, a cause before being an effect; we must see it single, without form, susceptible of clothing itself with all the outward forms we shall see it take. When we are face to face with this atomic particle, when we shall have caught its movement at the very instant of motion, /then/ we shall know the law; thenceforth we are the masters of life, masters who can impose upon that principle the form we choose,--with gold to win the world, and the power to make for ourselves centuries of life in which to enjoy it! That is what my people and I are seeking. All our strength, all our thoughts are strained in that direction; nothing distracts us from it. One hour wasted on any other passion is a theft committed against our true grandeur. Just as you have never found your hounds relinquishing the hunted animal or failing to be in at the death, so I have never seen one of my patient disciples diverted from this great quest by the love of woman or a selfish thought. If an adept seeks power and wealth, the desire is instigated by our needs; he grasps treasure as a thirsty dog laps water while he swims a stream, because his crucibles are in need of a diamond to melt or an ingot of gold to reduce to powder. To each his own work. One seeks the secret of vegetable nature; he watches the slow life of plants; he notes the parity of motion among all the species, and the parity of their nutrition; he finds everywhere the need of sun and air and water, to fecundate and nourish them. Another scrutinizes the blood of animals. A third studies the laws of universal motion and its connection with celestial revolutions. Nearly all are eager to struggle with the intractable nature of metal, for while we find many principles in other things, we find all metals like unto themselves in every particular. Hence a common error as to our work. Behold these patient, indefatigable athletes, ever vanquished, yet ever returning to the combat! Humanity, sire, is behind us, as the huntsman is behind your hounds. She cries to us: 'Make haste! neglect nothing! sacrifice all, even a man, ye who sacrifice yourselves! Hasten! hasten! Beat down the arms of DEATH, mine enemy!' Yes, sire, we are inspired by a hope which involves the happiness of all coming generations. We have buried many men--and what men!--dying of this Search. Setting foot in this career we cannot work for ourselves; we may die without discovering the Secret; and our death is that of those who do not believe in another life; it is this life that we have sought, and failed to perpetuate. We are glorious martyrs; we have the welfare of the race at heart; we have failed but we live again in our successors. As we go through this existence we discover secrets with which we endow the liberal and the mechanical arts. From our furnaces gleam lights which illumine industrial enterprises, and perfect them. Gunpowder issued from our alembics; nay, we have mastered the lightning. In our persistent vigils lie political revolutions."

"Can this be true?" cried the king, springing once more from his chair.

"Why not?" said the grand-master of the new Templars. "/Tradidit mundum disputationibus/! God has given us the earth. Hear this once more: man is master here below; matter is his; all forces, all means are at his disposal. Who created us? Motion. What power maintains life in us? Motion. Why cannot science seize the secret of that motion? Nothing is lost here below; nothing escapes from our planet to go elsewhere,--otherwise the stars would stumble over each other; the waters of the deluge are still with us in their principle, and not a drop is lost. Around us, above us, beneath us, are to be found the elements from which have come innumerable hosts of men who have crowded the earth before and since the deluge. What is the secret of our struggle? To discover the force that disunites, and then, /then/ we shall discover that which binds. We are the product of a visible manufacture. When the waters covered the globe men issued from them who found the elements of their life in the crust of the earth, in the air, and in the nourishment derived from them. Earth and air possess, therefore, the principle of human transformations; those transformations take place under our eyes, by means of that which is also under our eyes. We are able, therefore, to discover that secret, --not limiting the effort of the search to one man or to one age, but devoting humanity in its duration to it. We are engaged, hand to hand, in a struggle with Matter, into whose secret, I, the grand-master of our order, seek to penetrate. Christophe Columbus gave a world to the King of Spain; I seek an ever-living people for the King of France. Standing on the confines which separate us from a knowledge of material things, a patient observer of atoms, I destroy forms, I dissolve the bonds of combinations; I imitate death that I may learn how to imitate life. I strike incessantly at the door of creation, and I shall continue so to strike until the day of my death. When I am dead the knocker will pass into other hands equally persistent with those of the mighty men who handed it to me. Fabulous and uncomprehended beings, like Prometheus, Ixion, Adonis, Pan, and others, who have entered into the religious beliefs of all countries and all ages, prove to the world that the hopes we now embody were born with the human races. Chaldea, India, Persia, Egypt, Greece, the Moors, have transmitted from one to another Magic, the highest of all the occult sciences, which holds within it, as a precious deposit the fruits of the studies of each generation. In it lay the tie that bound the grand and majestic institution of the Templars. Sire, when one of your predecessors burned the Templars, he burned men only,--their Secret lived. The reconstruction of the Temple is a vow of an unknown nation, a race of daring seekers, whose faces are turned to the Orient of /life/,--all brothers, all inseparable, all united by one idea, and stamped with the mark of toil. I am the sovereign leader of that people, sovereign by election, not by birth. I guide them onward to a knowledge of the essence of life. Grand-master, Red-Cross-bearers, companions, adepts, we forever follow the imperceptible molecule which still escapes our eyes. But soon we shall make ourselves eyes more powerful than those which Nature has given us; we shall attain to a sight of the primitive atom, the corpuscular element so persistently sought by the wise and learned of all ages who have preceded us in the glorious search. Sire, when a man is astride of that abyss, when he commands bold divers like my disciples, all other human interests are as nothing. Therefore we are not dangerous. Religious disputes and political struggles are far away from us; we have passed beyond and above them. No man takes others by the throat when his whole strength is given to a struggle with Nature. Besides, in our science results are perceivable; we can measure effects and predict them; whereas all things are uncertain and vacillating in the struggles of men and their selfish interests. We decompose the diamond in our crucibles, and we shall make diamonds, we shall make gold! We shall impel vessels (as they have at Barcelona) with fire and a little water! We test the wind, and we shall make wind; we shall make light; we shall renew the face of empires with new industries! But we shall never debase ourselves to mount a throne to be crucified by the peoples!"

In spite of his strong determination not to be taken in by Italian wiles, the king, together with his gentle mistress, was already caught and snared by the ambiguous phrases and doublings of this pompous and humbugging loquacity. The eyes of the two lovers showed how their minds were dazzled by the mysterious riches of power thus displayed; they saw, as it were, a series of subterranean caverns filled with gnomes at their toil. The impatience of their curiosity put to flight all suspicion.

"But," cried the king, "if this be so, you are great statesmen who can enlighten us."

"No, sire," said Lorenzo, naively.

"Why not?" asked the king.

"Sire, it is not given to any man to foresee what will happen when thousands of men are gathered together. We can tell what one man will do, how long he will live, whether he will be happy or unhappy; but we cannot tell what a collection of wills may do; and to calculate the oscillations of their selfish interests is more difficult still, for interests are men /plus/ things. We can, in solitude, see the future as a whole, and that is all. The Protestantism that now torments you will be destroyed in turn by its material consequences, which will turn to theories in due time. Europe is at the present moment getting the better of religion; to-morrow it will attack royalty."

"Then the Saint-Bartholomew was a great conception?"

"Yes, sire; for if the people triumph it will have a Saint-Bartholomew of its own. When religion and royalty are destroyed the people will attack the nobles; after the nobles, the rich. When Europe has become a mere troop of men without consistence or stability, because without leaders, it will fall a prey to brutal conquerors. Twenty times already has the world seen that sight, and Europe is now preparing to renew it. Ideas consume the ages as passions consume men. When man is cured, humanity may possibly cure itself. Science is the essence of humanity, and we are its pontiffs; whoso concerns himself about the essence cares little about the individual life."

"To what have you attained, so far?" asked the king.

"We advance slowly; but we lose nothing that we have won."

"Then you are the king of sorcerers?" retorted the king, piqued at being of no account in the presence of this man.

The majestic grand-master of the Rosicrucians cast a look on Charles IX. which withered him.

"You are the king of men," he said; "I am the king of ideas. If we were sorcerers, you would already have burned us. We have had our martyrs."

"But by what means are you able to cast nativities?" persisted the king. "How did you know that the man who came to your window last night was King of France? What power authorized one of you to tell my mother the fate of her three sons? Can you, grand-master of an art which claims to mould the world, can you tell me what my mother is planning at this moment?"

"Yes, sire."

This answer was given before Cosmo could pull his brother's robe to enjoin silence.

"Do you know why my brother, the King of Poland, has returned?"

"Yes, sire."

"Why?"

"To take your place."

"Our most cruel enemies are our nearest in blood!" exclaimed the king, violently, rising and walking about the room with hasty steps. "Kings have neither brothers, nor sons, nor mothers. Coligny was right; my murderers are not among the Huguenots, but in the Louvre. You are either imposters or regicides!--Jacob, call Solern."

"Sire," said Marie Touchet, "the Ruggieri have your word as a gentleman. You wanted to taste of the fruit of the tree of knowledge; do not complain of its bitterness."

The king smiled, with an expression of bitter self-contempt; he thought his material royalty petty in presence of the august intellectual royalty of Lorenzo Ruggiero. Charles IX. knew that he could scarcely govern France, but this grand-master of Rosicrucians ruled a submissive and intelligent world.

"Answer me truthfully; I pledge my word as a gentleman that your answer, in case it confesses dreadful crimes, shall be as if it were never uttered," resumed the king. "Do you deal with poisons?"

"To discover that which gives life, we must also have full knowledge of that which kills."

"Do you possess the secret of many poisons?"

"Yes, sire,--in theory, but not in practice. We understand all poisons, but do not use them."

"Has my mother asked you for any?" said the king, breathlessly.

"Sire," replied Lorenzo, "Queen Catherine is too able a woman to employ such means. She knows that the sovereign who poisons dies by poison. The Borgias, also Bianca Capello, Grand Duchess of Tuscany, are noted examples of the dangers of that miserable resource. All things are known at courts; there can be no concealment. It may be possible to kill a poor devil--and what is the good of that?--but to aim at great men cannot be done secretly. Who shot Coligny? It could only be you, or the queen-mother, or the Guises. Not a soul is doubtful of that. Believe me, poison cannot be twice used with impunity in statecraft. Princes have successors. As for other men, if, like Luther, they are sovereigns through the power of ideas, their doctrines are not killed by killing them. The queen is from Florence; she knows that poison should never be used except as a weapon of personal revenge. My brother, who has not been parted from her since her arrival in France, knows the grief that Madame Diane caused your mother. But she never thought of poisoning her, though she might easily have done so. What could your father have said? Never had a woman a better right to do it; and she could have done it with impunity; but Madame de Valentinois still lives."

"But what of those waxen images?" asked the king.

"Sire," said Cosmo, "these things are so absolutely harmless that we lend ourselves to the practice to satisfy blind passions, just as physicians give bread pills to imaginary invalids. A disappointed woman fancies that by stabbing the heart of a wax-figure she has brought misfortunes upon the head of the man who has been unfaithful to her. What harm in that? Besides, it is our revenue."

"The Pope sells indulgences," said Lorenzo Ruggiero, smiling.

"Has my mother practised these spells with waxen images?"

"What good would such harmless means be to one who has the actual power to do all things?"

"Has Queen Catherine the power to save you at this moment?" inquired the king, in a threatening manner.

"Sire, we are not in any danger," replied Lorenzo, tranquilly. "I knew before I came into this house that I should leave it safely, just as I know that the king will be evilly disposed to my brother Cosmo a few weeks hence. My brother may run some danger then, but he will escape it. If the king reigns by the sword, he also reigns by justice," added the old man, alluding to the famous motto on a medal struck for Charles IX.

"You know all, and you know that I shall die soon, which is very well," said the king, hiding his anger under nervous impatience; "but how will my brother die,--he whom you say is to be Henri III.?"

"By a violent death."

"And the Duc d'Alencon?"

"He will not reign."

"Then Henri de Bourbon will be king of France?"

"Yes, sire."

"How will he die?"

"By a violent death."

"When I am dead what will become of madame?" asked the king, motioning to Marie Touchet.

"Madame de Belleville will marry, sire."

"You are imposters!" cried Marie Touchet. "Send them away, sire."

"Dearest, the Ruggieri have my word as a gentleman," replied the king, smiling. "Will madame have children?" he continued.

"Yes, sire; and madame will live to be more than eighty years old."

"Shall I order them to be hanged?" said the king to his mistress. "But about my son, the Comte d'Auvergne?" he continued, going into the next room to fetch the child.

"Why did you tell him I should marry?" said Marie to the two brothers, the moment they were alone.

"Madame," replied Lorenzo, with dignity, "the king bound us to tell the truth, and we have told it."

"/Is/ that true?" she exclaimed.

"As true as it is that the governor of the city of Orleans is madly in love with you."

"But I do not love him," she cried.

"That is true, madame," replied Lorenzo; "but your horoscope declares that you will marry the man who is in love with you at the present time."

"Can you not lie a little for my sake?" she said smiling; "for if the king believes your predictions--"

"Is it not also necessary that he should believe our innocence?" interrupted Cosmo, with a wily glance at the young favorite. "The precautions taken against us by the king have made us think during the time we have spent in your charming jail that the occult sciences have been traduced to him."

"Do not feel uneasy," replied Marie. "I know him; his suspicions are at an end."

"We are innocent," said the grand-master of the Rosicrucians, proudly.

"So much the better for you," said Marie, "for your laboratory, and your retorts and phials are now being searched by order of the king."

The brothers looked at each other smiling. Marie Touchet took that smile for one of innocence, though it really signified: "Poor fools! can they suppose that if we brew poisons, we do not hide them?"

"Where are the king's searchers?"

"In Rene's laboratory," replied Marie.

Again the brothers glanced at each other with a look which said: "The hotel de Soissons is inviolable."

The king had so completely forgotten his suspicions that when, as he took his boy in his arms, Jacob gave him a note from Chapelain, he opened it with the certainty of finding in his physician's report that nothing had been discovered in the laboratory but what related exclusively to alchemy.

"Will he live a happy man?" asked the king, presenting his son to the two alchemists.

"That is a question which concerns Cosmo," replied Lorenzo, signing his brother.

Cosmo took the tiny hand of the child, and examined it carefully.

"Monsieur," said Charles IX. to the old man, "if you find it necessary to deny the existence of the soul in order to believe in the possibility of your enterprise, will you explain to my why you should doubt what your power does? Thought, which you seek to nullify, is the certainty, the torch which lights your researches. Ha! ha! is not that the motion of a spirit within you, while you deny such motion?" cried the king, pleased with his argument, and looking triumphantly at his mistress.

"Thought," replied Lorenzo Ruggiero, "is the exercise of an inward sense; just as the faculty of seeing several objects and noticing their size and color is an effect of sight. It has no connection with what people choose to call another life. Thought is a faculty which ceases, with the forces which produced it, when we cease to breathe."

"You are logical," said the king, surprised. "But alchemy must therefore be an atheistical science.'

"A materialist science, sire, which is a very different thing. Materialism is the outcome of Indian doctrines, transmitted through the mysteries of Isis to Chaldea and Egypt, and brought to Greece by Pythagoras, one of the demigods of humanity. His doctrine of re-incarnation is the mathematics of materialism, the vital law of its phases. To each of the different creations which form the terrestrial creation belongs the power of retarding the movement which sweeps on the rest."

"Alchemy is the science of sciences!" cried Charles IX., enthusiastically. "I want to see you at work."

"Whenever it pleases you, sire; you cannot be more interested than Madame the Queen-mother."

"Ah! so this is why she cares for you?" exclaimed the king.

"The house of Medici has secretly protected our Search for more than a century."

"Sire," said Cosmo, "this child will live nearly a hundred years; he will have trials; nevertheless, he will be happy and honored, because he has in his veins the blood of the Valois."

"I will go and see you in your laboratory, messieurs," said the king, his good-humor quite restored. "You may now go."

The brothers bowed to Marie and to the king and then withdrew. They went down the steps of the portico gravely, without looking or speaking to each other; neither did they turn their faces to the windows as they crossed the courtyard, feeling sure that the king's eye watched them. But as they passed sideways out of the gate into the street they looked back and saw Charles IX. gazing after them from a window. When the alchemist and the astrologer were safely in the rue de l'Autruche, they cast their eyes before and behind them, to see if they were followed or overheard; then they continued their way to the moat of the Louvre without uttering a word. Once there, however, feeling themselves securely alone, Lorenzo said to Cosmo, in the Tuscan Italian of that day:--

"Affe d'Iddio! how we have fooled him!"

"Much good may it do him; let him make what he can of it!" said Cosmo. "We have given him a helping hand,--whether the queen pays it back to us or not."

Some days after this scene, which struck the king's mistress as forcibly as it did the king, Marie suddenly exclaimed, in one of those moments when the soul seems, as it were, disengaged from the body in the plenitude of happiness:--

"Charles, I understand Lorenzo Ruggiero; but did you observe that Cosmo said nothing?"

"True," said the king, struck by that sudden light. "After all, there was as much falsehood as truth in what they said. Those Italians are as supple as the silk they weave."

This suspicion explains the rancor which the king showed against Cosmo when the trial of La Mole and Coconnas took place a few weeks later. Finding him one of the agents of that conspiracy, he thought the Italians had tricked him; for it was proved that his mother's astrologer was not exclusively concerned with stars, the powder of projection, and the primitive atom. Lorenzo had by that time left the kingdom.

In spite of the incredulity which most persons show in these matters, the events which followed the scene we have narrated confirmed the predictions of the Ruggieri.

The king died within three months.

Charles de Gondi followed Charles IX. to the grave, as had been foretold to him jestingly by his brother the Marechal de Retz, a friend of the Ruggieri, who believed in their predictions.

Marie Touchet married Charles de Balzac, Marquis d'Entragues, the governor of Orleans, by whom she had two daughters. The most celebrated of these daughters, the half-sister of the Comte d'Auvergne, was the mistress of Henri IV., and it was she who endeavored, at the time of Biron's conspiracy, to put her brother on the throne of France by driving out the Bourbons.

The Comte d'Auvergne, who became the Duc d'Angouleme, lived into the reign of Louis XIV. He coined money on his estates and altered the inscriptions; but Louis XIV. let him do as he pleased, out of respect for the blood of the Valois.

Cosmo Ruggiero lived till the middle of the reign of Louis XIII.; he witnessed the fall of the house of the Medici in France, also that of the Concini. History has taken pains to record that he died an atheist, that is, a materialist.

The Marquise d'Entragues was over eighty when she died.

The famous Comte de Saint-Germain, who made so much noise under Louis XIV., was a pupil of Lorenzo and Cosmo Ruggiero. This celebrated alchemist lived to be one hundred and thirty years old,--an age which some biographers give to Marion de Lorme. He must have heard from the Ruggieri the various incidents of the Saint-Bartholomew and of the reigns of the Valois kings, which he afterwards recounted in the first person singular, as though he had played a part in them. The Comte de Saint-Germain was the last of the alchemists who knew how to clearly explain their science; but he left no writings. The cabalistic doctrine presented in this Study is that taught by this mysterious personage.

And here, behold a strange thing! Three lives, that of the old man from whom I have obtained these facts, that of the Comte de Saint-Germain, and that of Cosmo Ruggiero, suffice to cover the whole of European history from Francois I. to Napoleon! Only fifty such lives are needed to reach back to the first known period of the world. "What are fifty generations for the study of the mysteries of life?" said the Comte de Saint-Germain.

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