THE FORTY-FIVE GUARDSMEN
A SEQUEL TO "CHICOT, THE JESTER"
Alexandre Dumas père
PETER FENELON COLLIER, PUBLISHER
On the 26th of October, 1585, the barriers of the Porte St. Antoine were, contrary to custom, still closed at half-past ten in the morning. A quarter of an hour after, a guard of twenty Swiss, the favorite troops of Henri III., then king, passed through these barriers, which were again closed behind them. Once through, they arranged themselves along the hedges, which, outside the barrier, bordered each side of the road.
There was a great crowd collected there, for numbers of peasants
and other people had been stopped at the gates on their way into
There were, besides this mass of arrivals, some groups who seemed to have come from the city. These, instead of looking at the gate, fastened their gaze on the horizon, bounded by the Convent of the Jacobins, the Priory of Vincennes, and the Croix Faubin, as though they were expecting to see some one arrive. These groups consisted chiefly of bourgeois, warmly wrapped up, for the weather was cold, and the piercing northeast wind seemed trying to tear from the trees all the few remaining leaves which clung sadly to them.
Three of these bourgeois were talking together—that is to
say, two talked and one listened, or rather seemed to listen, so occupied was
he in looking toward
"Yes, Maitre Miton," said the little man to the
tall one, "yes, I tell you that there will be 100,000 people around the
scaffold of Salcede—100,000 at least. See, without counting those already on
the Place de Greve, or who came there from different parts of
"One hundred thousand! that is much, Friard," replied M. Miton. "Be sure many people will follow my example, and not go to see this unlucky man quartered, for fear of an uproar."
"M. Miton, there will be none, I answer for it. Do you not think so, monsieur?" continued he, turning to the long-armed man.—"What?" said the other, as though he had not heard.
"They say there will be nothing on the Place de Greve to-day."
"I think you are wrong, and that there will be the execution of Salcede."
"Yes, doubtless: but I mean that there will be no noise about it."
"There will be the noise of the blows of the whip, which they will give to the horses."
"You do not understand: by noise I mean tumult. If there were likely to be any, the king would not have had a stand prepared for him and the two queens at the Hotel de Ville."
"Do kings ever know when a tumult will take place?" replied the other, shrugging his shoulders with an air of pity.
"Oh, oh!" said M. Miton; "this man talks in a singular way. Do you know who he is, compere?"
"Then why do you speak to him? You are wrong. I do not think he likes to talk."
"And yet it seems to me," replied Friard, loud enough to be heard by the stranger, "that one of the greatest pleasures in life is to exchange thoughts."
"Yes, with those whom we know well," answered M. Miton.
"Are not all men brothers, as the priests say?"
"They were primitively; but in times like ours the relationship is singularly loosened. Talk low, if you must talk, and leave the stranger alone."
"But I know you so well, I know what you will reply, while the stranger may have something new to tell me."
"Hush! he is listening."
"So much the better; perhaps he will answer. Then you think, monsieur," continued he, turning again toward him, "that there will be a tumult?"
"I did not say so."
"No; but I believe you think so."
"And on what do you found your surmise, M. Friard?"
"Why, he knows me!"
"Have I not named you two or three times?" said Miton.
"Ah! true. Well, since he knows me, perhaps he will answer. Now, monsieur, I believe you agree with me, or else would be there, while, on the contrary, you are here."
"But you, M. Friard, since you think the contrary of
what you think I think, why are you not at the Place de Greve? I thought the
spectacle would have been a joyful one to all friends of the king. Perhaps you
will reply that you are not friends of the king; but of MM. de Guise, and that
you are waiting here for the
"No, monsieur," replied the little man, visibly frightened at this suggestion; "I wait for my wife, Nicole Friard, who has gone to take twenty-four tablecloths to the priory of the Jacobins, having the honor to be washerwoman to Dom. Modeste Gorenflot, the abbe."
"Look, compere," cried Miton, "at what is passing."
M. Friard, following the direction of his friend's finger, saw them closing yet another door, while a party of Swiss placed themselves before it. "How! more barriers!" cried he.
"What did I tell you?" said Miton.
At the sight of this new precaution, a long murmur of astonishment and some cries of discontent proceeded from the crowd.
"Clear the road! Back!" cried an officer.
This maneuver was not executed without difficulty; the people in carts and on horseback tried to go back, and nearly crushed the crowd behind them. Women cried and men swore, while those who could escape, did, overturning the others.
"Oh!" cried Miton, trembling, "let us fly."
"Fly! and where?" said Friard.
"Into this inclosure," answered Miton tearing his hands by seizing the thorns of the hedge.
"Into that inclosure, it is not so easy. I see no opening, and you cannot climb a hedge that is higher than I am."
"I will try," returned Miton, making new efforts.
"Oh! take care, my good woman," cried Friard, in a tone of distress; "your ass is on my feet. Oh, monsieur, take care, your horse is going to kick."
While M. Miton was vainly trying to climb the hedge, and M. Friard to find an opening through which to push himself, their neighbor quietly opened his long legs and strode over the hedge with as much ease as one might have leaped it on horseback. M. Miton imitated him at last after much detriment to his hands and clothes; but poor Friard could not succeed, in spite of all his efforts, till the stranger, stretching out his long arms, and seizing him by the collar of his doublet, lifted him over.
"Ah! monsieur," said he, when he felt himself on the ground, "on the word of Jean Friard, you are a real Hercules; your name, monsieur? the name of my deliverer?"
"I am called Briquet—Robert Briquet, monsieur."
"You have saved me, M. Briquet—my wife will bless you. But apropos; mon Dieu! she will be stifled in this crowd. Ah! cursed Swiss, only good to crush people!"
As he spoke, he felt a heavy hand on his shoulder, and, looking round and seeing that it was a Swiss, he took to flight, followed by Miton. The other man laughed quietly, then turning to the Swiss, said:
"Then why do they close the door. I do not understand it."
"There is no need that you should," replied the Swiss, laughing at his own wit.
One of the groups was formed of a considerable number of citizens. They surrounded four or five of a martial appearance, whom the closing of the doors annoyed very much, as it seemed, for they cried with all their might, "The door! the door!"
Robert Briquet advanced toward this group, and began to cry also, "The door! the door!"
One of the cavaliers, charmed at this, turned toward him and
said, "Is it not shameful, monsieur, that they should close the gates in
open day, as though the Spaniards or the English were besieging
Robert Briquet looked attentively at the speaker, who seemed to be about forty-five years of age, and the principal personage in the group. "Yes, monsieur," replied he, "you are right: but may I venture to ask what you think their motive is for these precautions?"
"Pardieu! the fear they have lest some one should eat their Salcede."
"Diable!" said a voice, "a sad meal."
Robert Briquet turned toward the speaker, whose voice had a strong Gascon accent, and saw a young man from twenty to twenty-five, resting his hand on the crupper of the horse of the first speaker. His head was bare; he had probably lost his hat in the melée.
"But as they say," replied Briquet, "that this Salcede belongs to M. de Guise—"
"Bah! they say that!"
"Then you do not believe it, monsieur?"
"Certainly not," replied the cavalier,
"doubtless, if he had, the duke would not have let him be taken, or at all
events would not have allowed him to have been carried from
"An attempt to rescue him," replied Briquet, "would have been very dangerous, because, whether it failed or succeeded, it would have been an avowal, on the duke's part, that he had conspired against the Duc d'Anjou."
"M. de Guise would not, I am sure, have been restrained by such considerations; therefore, as he has not defended Salcede, it is certain that he is not one of his men."
"Excuse me, monsieur, if I insist, but it is not I who invent, for it appears that Salcede has confessed."
"Where? before the judges?"
"No, monsieur; at the torture."
"They asserted that he did, but they do not repeat what he said."
"Excuse me again, monsieur, but they do."
"And what did he say?" cried the cavalier impatiently. "As you seem so well informed, what were his words?"
"I cannot certify that they were his words," replied Briquet, who seemed to take a pleasure in teazing the cavalier.
"Well, then, those they attribute to him."
"They assert that he has confessed that he conspired for M. de Guise."
"Against the king, of course?"
"No; against the Duc d'Anjou."
"If he confessed that—"
"Well, he is a poltroon!" said the cavalier, frowning.
"Ah! monsieur, the boot and the thumb-screw make a man confess many things."
"Alas! that is true, monsieur."
"Bah!" interrupted the Gascon, "the boot and the thumb-screw, nonsense: if Salcede confessed that, he was a knave, and his patron another."
"You speak loudly, monsieur," said the cavalier.
"I speak as I please; so much the worse for those who dislike it."
"More calmly," said a voice at once soft and imperative, of which Briquet vainly sought the owner.
The cavalier seemed to make an effort over himself, and then said quietly to the Gascon, "Do you know him of whom you speak?"
"Not in the least."
"And the Duc de Guise?"
"Well, then, Salcede is a brave man."
"So much the better: he will die bravely."
"And know that, when the Duc de Guise wishes to conspire, he conspires for himself."
"What do I care?"
"Mayneville! Mayneville!" murmured the same voice.
"Yes, mordieu! what do I care?" continued the
Gascon, "I came to
At this moment there was a sound of trumpets. The Swiss had
cleared the middle of the road, along which a crier proceeded, dressed in a
flowered tunic, and bearing on his breast a scutcheon on which was embroidered
the arms of
"This is to make known to our good people of
The crowd gave vent to their discontent in a long hoot, to which, however, the crier seemed indifferent. The officer commanded silence, and when it was obtained, the crier continued:
"All who are the bearers of a sign of recognition, or
are summoned by letter or mandate, are exempt from this rule. Given at the
hotel of the provost of
Scarcely had the crier ceased to speak, when the crowd began to undulate like a serpent behind the line of soldiers.
"What is the meaning of this?" cried all.
"Oh! it is to keep us out of
"Room!" cried the officer in command; "make room for those who have the right to pass!"
"Cap de Bious! I know who will pass, whoever is kept out!" said the Gascon, leaping into the cleared space. He walked straight up to the officer who had spoken, and who looked at him for some moments in silence, and then said:
"You have lost your hat, it appears, monsieur?"
"Is it in the crowd?"
"No. I had just received a letter from my sweetheart, and was reading it, cap de Bious! near the river, about a mile from here, when a gust of wind carried away both my letter and my hat. I ran after the letter, although the button of my hat was a single diamond; I caught my letter, but my hat was carried by the wind into the middle of the river. It will make the fortune of the poor devil who finds it."—"So that you have none?"
"Oh, there are plenty in
The officer shrugged his shoulders slightly, and said, "Have you a card?"
"Certainly I have one—or rather two."
"One is enough, if it be the right one."
"But it cannot be wrong—oh, no, cap de Bious! Is it to M. de Loignac that I have the honor of speaking?"
"It is possible," said the officer coldly, and evidently not much charmed at the recognition.
"M. de Loignac, my compatriot?"
"I do not say no."
"Good! Your card?"
"Here it is;" and the Gascon drew out the half of a card, carefully cut.
"Follow me," said De Loignac, without looking at it, "and your companions, if you have any. We will verify the admissions."
The Gascon obeyed, and five other gentlemen followed him. The first was adorned with a magnificent cuirass, so marvelous in its work that it seemed as if it had come out of the hands of Benvenuto Cellini. However, as the make of this cuirass was somewhat old-fashioned, its magnificence attracted more laughter than admiration; and it is true that no other part of the costume of the individual in question corresponded with this magnificence. The second, who was lame, was followed by a gray-headed lackey, who looked like the precursor of Sancho Panza, as his master did of Don Quixote. The third carried a child of ten months old in his arms, and was followed by a woman, who kept a tight grasp of his leathern belt, while two other children, one four and the other five years old, held by her dress.
The fourth was attached to an enormous sword, and the fifth, who closed the troop, was a handsome young man, mounted on a black horse. He looked like a king by the side of the others. Forced to regulate his pace by those who preceded him, he was advancing slowly, when he felt a sudden pull at the scabbard of his sword; he turned round, and saw that it had been done by a slight and graceful young man with black hair and sparkling eyes.
"What do you desire, monsieur?" said the cavalier.
"A favor, monsieur."
"Speak; but quickly, I pray you, for I am waited for."
"I desire to enter into the city, monsieur; an imperious necessity demands my presence there. You, on your part, are alone, and want a page to do justice to your appearance."
"Take me in, and I will be your page."
"Thank you; but I do not wish to be served by any one."
"Not even by me," said the young man, with such a strange glance, that the cavalier felt the icy reserve in which he had tried to close his heart melting away.
"I meant to say that I could be served by no one," said he.
"Yes, I know you are not rich, M. Ernanton de Carmainges," said the young page. The cavalier started, but the lad went on, "therefore I do not speak of wages; it is you, on the contrary, who, if you grant what I ask, shall be paid a hundred-fold for the service you will render me; let me enter with you, then, I beg, remembering that he who now begs, has often commanded." Then, turning to the group of which we have already spoken, the lad said, "I shall pass; that is the most important thing; but you, Mayneville, try to do so also if possible."
"It is not everything that you should pass," replied Mayneville; "it is necessary that he should see you."
"Make yourself easy; once I am through, he shall see me."
"Do not forget the sign agreed upon."
"Two fingers on the mouth, is it not?"
"Yes; success attend you."
"Well, monsieur page," said the man on the black horse, "are you ready?"
"Here I am," replied he, jumping lightly on the horse, behind the cavalier, who immediately joined his friends who were occupied in exhibiting their cards and proving their right to enter.
"Ventre de Biche!" said Robert Briquet; "what an arrival of Gascons!"
The process of examination consisted in comparing the half card with another half in the possession of the officer.
The Gascon with the bare head advanced first.
"Your name?" said De Loignac.
"It is on the card."
"Never mind; tell it to me."
"Well, I am called Perducas de Pincornay."
Then, throwing his eyes on the card. M. de Loignac read. "Perducas de Pincornay, 26 October, 1585, at noon precisely. Porte St. Antoine."
"Very good; it is all right," said he, "enter. Now for you," said he to the second.
The man with the cuirass advanced.
"Your card?" said De Loignac.
"What! M. de Loignac, do you not know the son of your old friend, whom you have danced twenty times on your knee?"—"No."
"I am Pertinax de Montcrabeau," replied the young man, with astonishment. "Do you not know me now?"
"When I am on service, I know no one. Your card, monsieur?"
He held it out. "All right! pass," said De Loignac.
The third now approached, whose card was demanded in the same terms. The man plunged his hand into a little goatskin pouch which he wore, but in vain; he was so embarrassed by the child in his arms, that he could not find it.
"What the devil are you doing with that child?" asked De Loignac.
"He is my son, monsieur."
"Well; put your son down. You are married, then?"—-"Yes, monsieur."
"They marry young among us; you ought to know that, M. de Loignac, who were married at eighteen."
"Oh!" thought De Loignac, "here is another who knows me."
"And why should he not be married?" cried the woman advancing. "Yes, monsieur, he is married, and here are two other children who call him father, besides this great lad behind. Advance, Militor, and bow to M. de Loignac."
A lad of sixteen, vigorous and agile, with an incipient mustache, stepped forward.
"They are my wife's sons, monsieur."
"In Heaven's name, your card!" cried De Loignac.
"Lardille!" cried the Gascon to his wife, "come and help me."
Lardille searched the pouch and pockets of her husband, but uselessly. "We must have lost it!" she cried.
"Then I arrest you."
The man turned pale, but said, "I am Eustache de Miradoux, and M. de St. Maline is my patron."
"Oh!" said De Loignac, a little mollified at this name, "well, search again."
They turned to their pockets again, and began to re-examine them.
"Why, what do I see there, on the sleeve of that blockhead?" said De Loignac.
"Yes, yes!" cried the father. "I remember, now, Lardille sewed it on."
"That you might carry something, I suppose, you great lazy fellow."
The card was looked at and found all right, and the family passed on in the same order as before.
The fourth man advanced and gave his name as Chalabre. It was found correct, and he also entered.
Then came M. de Carmainges. He got off his horse and presented his card, while the page hid his face by pretending to adjust the saddle.
"The page belongs to you?" asked De Loignac.
"You see, he is attending to my horse."
"Quick, my master," said the page.
Behind these men the door was closed, much to the discontent
of the crowd. Robert Briquet, meanwhile, had drawn near to the porter's lodge,
which had two windows, one looking toward Paris and the other into the country.
From this post he saw a man, who, coming from
"Good. Where do you come from?"
"From the Porte St. Victor."
"Here they are."
De Loignac took them, examined them, and wrote on a slate
the number five. The messenger left, and two others appeared, almost
immediately. One came from the Porte Bourdelle, and brought the number four,
the other from the Porte du
"Good!" said he. "Now open the gates, and all may enter."
The gates were thrown open, and then horses, mules, and carts, men, women, and children, pressed into Paris, at the risk of suffocating each other, and in a quarter of an hour all the crowd had vanished.
Robert Briquet remained until the last. "I have seen enough," said he: "would it be very advantageous to me to see M. Salcede torn in four pieces? No, pardieu! Besides, I have renounced politics; I will go and dine."
M. Friard was right when he talked of 100,000 persons as the
number of spectators who would meet on the Place de Greve and its environs, to
witness the execution of Salcede. All
The spectators who succeeded in reaching the Place saw the archers and a large number of Swiss and light horse surrounding a little scaffold raised about four feet from the ground. It was so low as to be visible only to those immediately surrounding it, or to those who had windows overlooking the Place. Four vigorous white horses beat the ground impatiently with their hoofs, to the great terror of the women, who had either chosen this place willingly, or had been forcibly pushed there.
These horses were unused, and had never done more work than to support, by some chance, on their broad backs the chubby children of the peasants. After the scaffold and the horses, what next attracted all looks was the principal window of the Hotel de Ville, which was hung with red velvet and gold, and ornamented with the royal arms. This was for the king. Half-past one had just struck when this window was filled. First came Henri III., pale, almost bald, although he was at that time only thirty-five, and with a somber expression, always a mystery to his subjects, who, when they saw him appear, never knew whether to say "Vive le Roi!" or to pray for his soul. He was dressed in black, without jewels or orders, and a single diamond shone in his cap, serving as a fastening to three short plumes. He carried in his hand a little black dog that his sister-in-law Marie Stuart had sent him from her prison, and on which his fingers looked as white as alabaster.
Behind the king came Catherine de Medicis, almost bowed by age, for she might be sixty-six or sixty-seven, but still carrying her head firm and erect, and darting bitter glances from under her thick eyebrows. At her side appeared the melancholy but sweet face of the queen, Louise de Torraine. Catherine came as a triumph, she as a punishment. Behind them came two handsome young men, brothers, the eldest of whom smiled with wonderful beauty, and the younger with great melancholy. The one was Anne, duc de Joyeuse, and the other Henri de Joyeuse, comte de Bouchage. The people had for these favorites of the king none of the hatred which they had felt toward Maugiron, Quelus, and Schomberg.
Henri saluted the people gravely; then, turning to the young men, he said, "Anne, lean against the tapestry; it may last a long time."
"I hope so," said Catherine.
"You think, then, that Salcede will speak, mother?"
"God will, I trust, give this confusion to our enemies."
Henri looked doubtful.
"My son," said Catherine, "do I not see some tumult yonder?"
"What clear sight you have! I believe you are right. I have such bad eyes, and yet I am not old. Yes, here comes Salcede."
"He fears," said Catherine; "he will speak."
"If he has strength," said the king. "See, his head falls about like that of a corpse."
"He is frightful," said Joyeuse.
"How should a man be handsome whose thoughts are so ugly? Have I not explained to you, Anne, the secret connection of the physical and the moral, as Hippocrates and Galen understood and expounded them?"
"I admit it, sire, but I am not a good pupil. I have sometimes seen very ugly men very good soldiers. Have you not, Henri?" said he, turning to his brother: but he looked without seeing, and heard without understanding, so the king answered for him.
"Eh, mon Dieu! my dear Anne, who says this man is not
brave? He is brave, pardieu, like a wolf, a bear, or a serpent. He burned in
his house a
"That is a well-filled existence, but which will soon finish."
"On the contrary," said Catherine, "I trust it will finish as slowly as possible."
"Madame," said Joyeuse, "I see those four stout horses, who appear to me so impatient of their state of inactivity that I do not believe in a long resistance of the muscles, tendons, and cartilages of M. de Salcede."
"Yes, but my son is merciful," replied she, with the smile peculiar to herself, "and he will tell the men to go gently."
"But, madame," said the queen timidly, "I heard you say this morning that there were only to be two draws?"
"Yes, if he conducts himself well; in that case all will be finished as soon as possible, and, as you interest yourself so much in him, you had better let him know as much, my daughter."
"Madame," said the queen, "I have not your strength when looking at suffering."
"Do not look, then."
The king heard nothing; he was all eyes. They were lifting Salcede from the car on to the scaffold, round which the archers had cleared a large space, so that it was distinctly visible to all eyes.
Salcede was about thirty-five years of age, strong and
vigorous; and his pale features, on which stood drops of blood, were animated
alternately by hope and anguish. He was no vulgar assassin; he was of good
birth, and even distantly related to the queen, and had been a captain of some
renown. Those bound hands had valiantly borne the sword, and that livid head,
on which were depicted the terrors of death, had conceived great designs.
Therefore, to many of the spectators, he was a hero; to others, a victim; some
looked on him as an assassin; but the crowd seldom despises those very great
criminals who are registered in the book of history as well as in that of
justice. Thus they told, in the crowd, that Salcede was of a race of warriors;
that his father had fought against the Cardinal de Lorraine, but that the son
had joined with the Guises to destroy in
He had been arrested and conducted to France, and had hoped to be rescued by the way; but unfortunately for him, M. de Bellièvre had kept such good watch, that neither Spaniards nor Lorraines, nor leaguers, had been able to approach. In the prison Salcede hoped; during the torture, on the car, even on the scaffold, he still hoped. He wanted neither courage nor resignation; but he was one of those who defend themselves to their last breath. He darted curious glances toward the crowd, but constantly turned away, with a look of disappointment.
At this moment, an usher, raising the tapestry of the royal tent, announced that the president Brisson and four councilors desired the honor of an instant's conversation with the king on the subject of the execution.
"Good," said the king. "Mother, you will be satisfied."
"Sire, a favor," said Joyeuse.
"Speak, Joyeuse; and provided it be not the pardon of the criminal—"
"Sire, permit my brother and me to retire."
"What! you take so little interest in my affairs that you wish to retire at such a moment!"
"Do not say so, sire; all that concerns your majesty profoundly interests me; but I am of a miserable organization, and the weakest woman is stronger than I am on this point. I cannot see an execution without being ill for a week; and as I am the only person who ever laughs at the Louvre, since my brother—I know not why—has given it up, think what would become of the Louvre—so sad already—if I were sad also."
"You wish to leave me then, Anne."
"Peste! sire, you are exacting; an execution is a spectacle of which, unlike me, you are fond. Is not that enough for you, or must you also enjoy the weakness of your friends?"
"If you will remain, Joyeuse, you will see that it is interesting."
"I do not doubt it, sire; I only think that the interest will be carried to a point that I cannot bear;" and he turned toward the door.
"Go, then," said Henri, sighing; "my destiny is to live alone."
"Quick! Du Bouchage," said Anne to his brother. "The king says yes now; but in five minutes he will say no."
"Thanks, my brother," said Bouchage; "I was as anxious as you to get away."
The councilors entered.
"Well, gentlemen," said the king, "is there anything new?"
"Sire," replied the president, "we come to beg your majesty to promise life to the criminal; he has revelations to make, which, on this promise, we shall obtain."
"But have we not obtained them?"
"Yes, in part; is that enough for your majesty?"
"No," said Catherine; "and the king has determined to postpone the execution, if the culprit will sign a confession substantiating his depositions before the judge."
"Yes," said Henri, "and you can let the prisoner know this."
"Your majesty has nothing to add?"
"Only that there must be no variation in the confessions, or I withdraw my promise; they must be complete."
"Yes, sire; with the names of the compromised parties."
"With all the names."
"Even if they are of high rank?"
"If they were those of my nearest relations."
"It shall be as your majesty wishes."
"No misunderstanding, M. Brisson. Writing materials shall be brought to the prisoner, and he will write his confessions; after that we shall see."
"But I may promise?"
"Oh! yes, promise."
M. Brisson and the councilors withdrew.
"He will speak, sire," said the queen; "and your majesty will pardon him. See the foam on his lips."
"No," said Catherine; "he is seeking something. What is it?"
"Parbleu!" said Henri; "he seeks M. le Duc de
Guise, M. le Duc de Parma, and my brother, the very Catholic king. Yes, seek,
wait; do you believe that there is more chance of rescue on the Place de Greve
than on the route from
Salcede had seen the archers sent off for the horses, and he understood that the order for punishment was about to be given, and it was then that he bit his lips till they were covered with blood, as the queen had remarked.
"No one," murmured he; "not one of those who had promised me help. Cowards! cowards!"
The horses were now seen making their way through the crowd, and creating everywhere an opening which closed immediately behind them. As they passed the corner of the Rue St. Vannerie, a handsome young man, whom we have seen before, was pushed forward impatiently by a young lad, apparently about seventeen. It was the Vicomte Ernanton de Carmainges and the mysterious page.
"Quick!" cried the page; "throw yourself into the opening, there is not a moment to lose."
"But we shall be stifled; you are mad, my little friend."
"I must be near," cried the page, imperiously. "Keep close to the horses, or we shall never arrive there."
"But before we get there, you will be torn to pieces."
"Never mind me, only go on."
"The horses will kick."
"Take hold of the tail of the last; a horse never kicks when you hold him so."
Ernanton gave way in spite of himself to the mysterious influence of this lad, and seized the tail of the horse, while the page clung to him. And thus, through the crowd, waving like the sea, leaving here a piece of a cloak, and there a fragment of a doublet, they arrived with the horses at a few steps from the scaffold.
"Have we arrived?" asked the young man, panting.
"Yes, happily!" answered Ernanton, "for I am exhausted."
"I cannot see."
"Come before me."
"Oh, no! not yet. What are they doing?"
"Making slip knots at the ends of the cords."
"And he—what is he doing?"
"His eyes turn incessantly from side to side."
The horses were near enough to enable the executioner to tie the feet and hands of the criminal to the harness. Salcede uttered a cry when he felt the cord in contact with his flesh.
"Monsieur," said the Lieutenant Tanchon to him politely, "will it please you to address the people?" and added in a whisper, "a confession will save your life."
Salcede looked earnestly at him, as though to read the truth in his eyes.
"You see," continued Tanchon, "they abandon you. There is no other hope in the world but what I offer you."
"Well!" said Salcede, with a sigh, "I am ready to speak."
"It is a written and signed confession that the king exacts."
"Then untie my hands, and give me a pen and I will write it."
They loosened the cords from his wrists, and an usher who stood near with writing materials placed them before him on the scaffold. "Now," said Tanchon, "state everything."
"Do not fear; I will not forget those who have forgotten me;" but as he spoke, he cast another glance around.
While this was passing, the page, seizing the hand of Ernanton, cried, "Monsieur, take me in your arms, I beg you, and raise me above the heads of the people who prevent me from seeing."
"Ah! you are insatiable, young man."
"This one more service; I must see the condemned, indeed I must."
Then, as Ernanton still hesitated, he cried, "For pity's sake, monsieur, I entreat you."
Ernanton raised him in his arms at this last appeal, and was somewhat astonished at the delicacy of the body he held. Just as Salcede had taken the pen, and looked round as we have said, he saw this young lad above the crowd, with two fingers placed on his lips. An indescribable joy spread itself instantaneously over the face of the condemned man, for he recognized the signal so impatiently waited for, and which announced that aid was near. After a moment's hesitation, however, he took the paper and began to write.
"He writes!" cried the crowd.
"He writes!" exclaimed Catherine.
"He writes!" cried the king, "and I will pardon him."
Suddenly Salcede stopped and looked again at the lad, who repeated the signal. He wrote on, then stopped to look once more; the signal was again repeated.
"Have you finished?" asked Tanchon.
Salcede signed, with his eyes still fixed on the young man. "For the king alone," said he, and he gave the paper to the usher, though with hesitation.
"If you have disclosed all," said Tanchon, "you are safe."
A strange smile strayed over the lips of Salcede. Ernanton, who was fatigued, wished now to put down the page, who made no opposition. With him disappeared all that had sustained the unfortunate man; he looked round wildly and cried: "Well, come!"
No one answered.
"Quick! quick! the king holds the paper; he is reading!"
Still there was no response.
The king unfolded the paper.
"Thousand devils!" cried Salcede, "if they have deceived me! Yet it was she—it was really she!"
No sooner had the king read the first lines, than he called out indignantly, "Oh! the wretch!"
"What is it, my son?"
"He retracts all—he pretends that he confessed nothing; and he declares that the Guises are innocent of any plot!"
"But," said Catherine, "if it be true?"
"He lies!" cried the king.
"How do you know, my son? Perhaps the Guises have been calumniated: the judges, in their zeal, may have put false interpretation on the depositions."
"Oh! no, madame; I heard them myself!" cried Henri.
"You, my son?"
"When the criminal was questioned, I was behind a curtain and heard all he said."
"Well, then, if he will have it, order the horses to pull."
Henri, in anger, gave the sign. It was repeated, the cords were refastened, four men jumped on the horses, which, urged by violent blows, started off in opposite directions. A horrible cracking, and a terrible cry was heard. The blood was seen to spout from the limbs of the unhappy man, whose face was no longer that of a man but of a demon.
"Ah, heaven!" he cried; "I will speak, I will tell all. Ah! cursed duch—"
The voice had been heard above everything, but suddenly it ceased.
"Stop, stop," cried Catherine, "let him speak."
But it was too late; the head of Salcede fell helplessly on one side, he glanced once more to where he had seen the page, and then expired. Tanchon gave some rapid orders to his archers, who plunged into the crowd in the direction indicated by Salcede's glance.
"I am discovered!" said the page to Ernanton. "For pity's sake, aid me! they come, they come!"
"What do you want?"
"To fly! Do you not see that it is me they want?"
"But who are you, then?"
"A woman. Oh, save me! protect me!"
Ernanton turned pale; but generosity triumphed over fear. He placed his protégée before him, opened a path with blows, and pushed her toward the corner of the Rue du Mouton, toward an open door. Into this door she entered; and she seemed to have been expected, for it closed behind her. Ernanton had not even time to ask her name, or where he should find her again; but in disappearing she had made a sign full of promise.
Meanwhile, Catherine was standing up in her place, full of rage.
"My son," said she, at last, "you would do well to change your executioner; he is a leaguer."
"What do you mean, mother?"
"Salcede suffered only one draw, and he is dead."
"Because he was too sensible to pain."
"No; but because he has been strangled with a fine cord underneath the scaffold, just as he was about to accuse those who let him die. Let a doctor examine him, and I am certain that he will find round his neck the circle that the cord has left."
"You are right!" cried Henri, with flashing eyes; "my cousin of Guise is better served than I am!"
"Hush, my son—no éclat; we shall only be laughed at, for once more we have missed our aim."
"Joyeuse did well to go and amuse himself elsewhere," said the king; "one can reckon on nothing in this world—not even on punishments. Come, ladies, let us go."
MM. De Joyeuse had, as we have seen, left this scene, and were walking side by side in the streets generally so populous but now deserted, for every one was in the Place de Greve. Henri seemed preoccupied and sad, and Anne was unquiet on account of his brother. He was the first to speak.
"Well, Henri," said he, "where are you taking me?"
"I take you nowhere, brother; I was only walking before you. Do you wish to go anywhere?"
"Oh! I do not care where I go."
"Yet you go somewhere every evening, for you always go out at the same hour and return late at night."
"Are you questioning me, brother?" said Henri, with gentleness.
"Certainly not; let each keep his own secrets if he wishes to do so."
"If you wish it, brother, I will have no secrets from you."
"Will you not, Henri?"
"No; are you not my elder brother and friend?"
"Oh! I thought you had secrets from me, who am only a poor layman. I thought you confessed to our learned brother, that pillar of theology, that light of the Church, who will be a cardinal some day, and that you obtained absolution from him, and perhaps, at the same time, advice."
Henri took his brother's hand affectionately. "You are more than a confessor to me, my dear Anne—more than a father; you are my friend."
"Then, my friend, why, from so gay as you used to be, have I seen you become sad? and why, instead of going out by day, do you only go out at night?"
"My brother, I am not sad."
"Good! And this preoccupation?"
"Is because I am always thinking of my love."
"And you sigh in saying that?"
"You sigh?—you, Henri, comte de Bouchage?—you, the
brother of Joyeuse?—you, whom some people call the third king in
"My dear Anne, I have never reckoned the gifts of fortune, past and to come, as things to constitute happiness; I have no ambitions."
"That is to say, you have not at present."
"At all events, not for the things you speak of."
"Not just now, perhaps, but later you will return to them."
"Never, brother; I desire nothing—I want nothing."
"You are wrong. When one is called 'Joyeuse,' one of the best names in France, when one has a brother a king's favorite, one desires everything, and has everything."
Henri hung his blond head sadly.
"Come," continued Anne, "we are quite alone here; have you anything to tell me?"
"Nothing, but that I love."
"Diable! that is not a very serious affair; I also am in love."
"Not like me, brother."
"I, also, think sometimes of my mistress."
"Yes, but not always."
"I, also, have annoyances."
"Yes; but you also have joys, for you are loved."
"True; but I have obstacles. They exact from me so much mystery."
"They exact! If your mistress exacts, she loves you."
"Yes, she loves me and M. de Mayenne—or rather only me, for she would give up Mayenne at once if she was not afraid he would kill her; it is his habit to kill women, you know. I am obliged to be constantly on my guard, but I do not grow sad on that account; I continue to laugh—at least, sometimes. Tell me, Henri, is your lady beautiful?"
"Alas! she is not mine."
"Is she beautiful? Her name?"
"I do not know it."
"On my honor."
"My friend, I begin to think it is more dangerous than I thought; it is not sadness, but madness."
"She never spoke but once before me, and since then I have not heard the sound of her voice."
"And you have not inquired about her?"
"Why, of the neighbors."
"She lives in her own house, and no one knows her."
"Ah! ça! then she is a ghost!"
"She is a woman, tall and beautiful as a nymph, serious and grave as the angel Gabriel!"
"When did you meet her?"
"One day I followed a young girl to the
"No; but never mind—go on."
"It began to grow dark; I had lost sight of the young girl, and in seeking her I arrived at this seat. I saw a woman's dress, and held out my hands. 'Pardon, monsieur,' said the voice of a man whom I had not noticed, and he gently but firmly pushed me away."
"He dared to touch you, Henri?"
"Listen; he had his face hidden in a sort of frock, and I took him for a monk. Besides, he impressed me also by the polite manner of his warning; for, as he spoke, he pointed out to me the woman, whose white dress had attracted me, and who was kneeling before the seat as though it were an altar. It was toward the beginning of September that this happened; the air was warm, the flowers planted by friends around the tombs scattered their delicate perfume, and the moon, rising above the white clouds, began to shed her silver light over all. Whether it were the place, or her own dignity, I know not, but this woman seemed to me like a marble statue, and impressed me with a strange respect. I looked at her earnestly. She bent over the seat, enveloping it in her arms, placed her lips to it, and soon I saw her shoulders heave with such sobs as you never heard, my brother. As she wept she kissed the stone with ardor; her tears had troubled me, but her kisses maddened me."
"But, by the pope, it is she who is mad, to kiss a stone and sob for nothing."
"Oh! it was a great grief that made her sob, a profound love which made her kiss the stone. Only whom did she love? whom did she weep for? whom did she pray for? I know not."
"Did you not question this man?"
"What did he reply?
"That she had lost her husband."
"Bah! as if people weep like that for a husband. Were you content with such an answer?"
"I was obliged to be content, for he would give me no other."
"But the man—what is he?"
"A sort of servant who lives with her."—"His name?"
"He would not tell me."
"Young or old?"
"He might be about thirty."
"Well, afterward? She did not stop all night praying and weeping, did she?"
"No; when she had exhausted her tears she rose, and there was so much mystery and sadness about her that, instead of advancing to her as I might have done to another, I drew back; but she turned toward me, though she did not see me, and the moon shone on her face, which was calm and sad, and the traces of her tears were still on her cheeks; she moved slowly, and the servant went to support her. But, oh! my brother, what dreadful, what superhuman beauty. I have never seen anything like it on earth, only sometimes in my dreams."
"Well, Henri?" said Anne, interested, in spite of himself, at a recital at which he had determined to laugh.
"Oh! it is nearly finished, brother. Her servant whispered something to her, and she lowered her veil; doubtless he told her I was there, but she did not glance toward me. I saw her no more, and it seemed to me, when the veil concealed her face, as if the sky had become suddenly overshadowed—that it was no longer a living thing, but a shade escaped from the tomb, which was gliding silently before me. She went out of the garden, and I followed her; from time to time the man turned and saw me, for I did not hide myself; I had still the old habits in my mind—the old leaven in my heart."
"What do you mean, Henri?"
The young man smiled. "I mean, brother," said he, "that I have often thought I loved before, and that all women, until now, have been for me—women to whom I might offer my love."
"Oh! and what is this one?" said Anne, trying to recover his gayety, which, in spite of himself, had been a little disturbed by his brother's confidence.
"My brother," said Henri, seizing his hand in a fervent grasp, "as truly as I live, I know not if she be a creature of this world or not."
"Holy Fathers! you would make me afraid, if a Joyeuse could know fear. However, as she walks, weeps, and gives kisses, it seems to me to augur well. But finish."
"There is little more. I followed her, and she did not try to escape or lead me astray; she never seemed to think of it."
"Well, and where does she live?"
"By the side of the Bastille, Rue de Lesdiguieres. At the door, the servant turned and saw me."
"You asked to speak to him?"
"You will think it ridiculous, but I dared not."
"You entered the house, then?"
"Really, Henri, I am tempted to disown you this evening. But you returned the next day?"
"Yes, but uselessly, and equally so to La Gypecienne."
"She had disappeared?"
"Like a shadow."
"But you inquired?"
"The street has few inhabitants, and no one knew her. I watched for the servant, but he also had disappeared; however, a light which shone every evening through the Venetian blinds consoled me by the knowledge that she was still there. At last this disappeared; she had quitted the Rue de Lesdiguieres, and no one knew where she had gone."
"But you found her again?"
"Chance did it. Listen: it is really strange. I was going along the Rue de Bussy, a fortnight ago, about midnight; you know how strict the regulations are about fire; well, I saw, not only light in the windows of a house, but a real fire, which had broken out in the second story. I knocked at the door, and a man appeared at the window. 'You have fire in your house!' I cried. 'Silence! I beg; I am occupied in putting it out.' 'Shall I call the watch?' I asked. 'No! in Heaven's name, call no one!' 'But can I help you?' 'Will you? I shall be very grateful,' and he threw me the key out of the window.
"I mounted the stairs rapidly, and entered the room where the fire was burning; it was used as a chemist's laboratory, and in making I know not what experiments, an inflammable liquid had been spilled, which had ignited the floor. When I entered, the fire was almost got under. I looked at the man; a dreadful scar disfigured his cheek, and another his forehead; the rest of his face was hidden by a thick beard. 'I thank you, monsieur,' said he; 'but you see all is finished now; if you are as gallant a man as you seem, have the goodness to retire, for my mistress may return at any moment, and will be angry if she sees a stranger here.'
"The sound of his voice struck me instantly. I was about to cry, 'You are the man of La Gypecienne—of the Rue de Lesdiguieres!' for you remember that I had not seen his face before, but only heard his voice, when suddenly a door opened, and a woman entered. 'What is the matter, Remy, and why this noise?' she asked. Oh! my brother, it was she! more beautiful than ever, by the dying light of the fire. It was she!—the woman whose memory had ever lived in my heart. At the cry which I uttered the servant looked narrowly at me. 'Thanks, monsieur,' said he, again; 'you see the fire is out; go, I beg of you.'
"'My friend,' said I, 'you dismiss me very rudely.' 'Madame,' said he, 'it is he.' 'Who?' 'The young man we met in the garden, and who followed us home.' She turned toward me and said, 'Monsieur, I beg of you to go.' I hesitated; I wished to speak, but my words failed me. I remained motionless and mute, gazing at her. 'Take care, monsieur,' said the servant, sadly; 'you will force her to fly again.' 'Heaven forbid!' cried I; 'but how do I offend you, madame?' She did not reply; insensible, mute, and cold, as though she had not heard me, she turned, and I saw her disappear gradually in the shade."
"And is that all?"
"All; the servant led me to the door, saying, 'Forget, monsieur, I beg of you.' I fled, bewildered and half crazy, and since then I have gone every evening to this street, and, concealed in the angle of the opposite house, under the shade of a little balcony, I see, once in ten times, a light in her room: that is my life, my happiness."
"Alas! I should lose this, if I tried for more."
"But in acting thus, you lose all the amusements of the world."
"My brother," said Henri, with a sad smile, "I am happy thus."
"Not so, mordieu! One monk in a family is enough."
"No railleries, brother."
"But let me say one thing!"
"What is it?"
"That you have been taken in like a schoolboy."
"I am not taken in; I only gave way to a power stronger than mine. When a current carries you away, you cannot fight against it."
"But if it lead to an abyss?"
"You must be swallowed up!"
"Do you think so?"
"I do not: and in your place—"
"What would you have done?"
"Enough, certainly, to have learned her name and—"
"Anne, you don't know her."
"No, but I know you, Henri. You had 50,000 crowns that I gave you out of the last 100,000 the king gave to me."
"They are still in my chest, Anne; I have not touched one of them."
"Mordieu! If they were not there, you would be in a different position."
"Oh! my brother!"
"Certainly. An ordinary servant may be bought for ten crowns, a good one for 100, an excellent one for 1,000, and a marvel for 3,000. Let us see, then. Suppose this man to be the phoenix of all servants—the beau ideal of fidelity, yet, by the pope! for 20,000 crowns you will buy him. There would then remain 30,000 crowns for the phoenix of women, and all would be settled."
"Anne!" sighed Henri, "there are people who cannot be bought; there are hearts that the king is not rich enough to purchase."
"Well! perhaps so; but hearts are sometimes given. What have you done to win that of the beautiful statue?"
"I believe, Anne, that I have done all I could."
"Really, Comte du Bouchage, you are mad. You see a woman, sad, solitary, and melancholy, and you become more sad, more recluse, and more melancholy than she. She is alone—keep her company; she is sad—be gay; she regrets—console her, and replace him she regrets."
"Have you tried? Are you in love, or are you not?"
"I have no words to express how much!"
"Well! I see no reason to despair."
"I have no hope."
"At what time do you see her?"
"I have told you that I do not see her."—"Never?"—"Never!"
"Not even at her window?"
"Not even at her window!"
"We must put an end to that. Do you think she has a lover?"
"I have never seen any one enter her house, except the Remy of whom I spoke to you."
"Take the house opposite."
"It may not be to let."
"Bah! offer double the rent!"
"But if she sees me there, she will disappear as before."
"You shall see her this evening."
"Yes! Be under her balcony at eight o'clock."
"I am always there."
"Well, give me the address."
"Between the Porte Bussy and the Hotel St. Denis, near the corner of the Rue des Augustins, and a few steps from a large inn, having for a sign, 'The Sword of the Brave Chevalier.'"
"Very well, then; this evening at eight o'clock."
"But what do you intend to do?"
"You shall see: meanwhile, go home; put on your richest dress, and use your finest perfume, and I hope that you will enter the house to-night."
"May you be a true prophet, brother!"
"Well! I leave you for the present, for my lady-love waits for me: and I confess, that after your account, I prefer her to yours. Adieu! Henri, till the evening."
The brothers then pressed each other's hands, and separated.
During the conversation we have just related, night had begun to fall, enveloping the city with its damp mantle of fog.
Salcede dead, all the spectators were ready to leave the Place de Greve, and the streets were filled with people, hurrying toward their homes. Near the Porte Bussy, where we must now transport our readers, to follow some of their acquaintances, and to make new ones, a hum, like that in a bee-hive at sunset, was heard proceeding from a house tinted rose color, and ornamented with blue and white pointings, which was known by the sign of "The Sword of the Brave Chevalier," and which was an immense inn, recently built in this new quarter. This house was decorated to suit all tastes. On the entablature was painted a representation of a combat between an archangel and a dragon breathing flame and smoke, and in which the artist, animated by sentiments at once heroic and pious, had depicted in the hands of "the brave chevalier," not a sword, but an immense cross, with which he hacked in pieces the unlucky dragon, of which the bleeding pieces were seen lying on the ground. At the bottom of the picture crowds of spectators were represented raising their arms to heaven, while from above, angels were extending over the chevalier laurels and palms. Then, as if to prove that he could paint in every style, the artist had grouped around gourds, grapes, a snail on a rose, and two rabbits, one white and the other gray.
Assuredly the proprietor must have been difficult to please, if he were not satisfied, for the artist had filled every inch of space—there was scarcely room to have added a caterpillar. In spite, however, of this attractive exterior, the hotel did not prosper—it was never more than half full, though it was large and comfortable. Unfortunately, from its proximity to the Pre-aux-Clercs, it was frequented by so many persons either going or ready to fight, that those more peaceably disposed avoided it. Indeed, the cupids with which the interior was decorated had been ornamented with mustaches in charcoal by the habitues; and Dame Fournichon, the landlady, always affirmed that the sign had brought them ill-luck, and that had her wishes been attended to, and the painting represented more pleasing things, such as the rose-tree of love surrounded by flaming hearts, all tender couples would have flocked to them.
M. Fournichon, however, stuck to his sign, and replied that he preferred fighting men, and that one of them drank as much as six lovers.
About a month before the execution of Salcede, the host and hostess, all of whose rooms were then empty, were looking out of the window, sadly, and were watching the exercises of some soldiery on the Pre-aux-Clercs, when they saw an officer, followed by a single soldier, advancing toward their hotel. He was about to pass, when the host called out loudly—"Oh! wife, what a beautiful horse!"
Madame Fournichon replied in an equally audible voice, "And what a handsome cavalier!"
The officer, who did not appear insensible to flattery, raised his head and looked first at the host and hostess and then at the hotel. Fournichon ran rapidly downstairs and appeared at the door.
"Is the house empty?" asked the officer.
"Yes, monsieur; just at present," replied the host, humiliated; "but it is not usually so."
However, Dame Fournichon, like most women, was more clear-sighted than her husband, and called out, "If monsieur desires solitude, he will find it here."
"Yes, my good woman, that is what I desire, at present," said the officer, who dismounted, threw the bridle to the soldier, and entered the hotel.
He was a man of about thirty-five years of age, but he did not look more than twenty-eight, so carefully was he dressed. He was tall, with a fine countenance and a distinguished air.
"Ah! good!" said he, "a large room and not a single guest. But there must be something," he added, "either in your house or conduct that keeps people away."
"Neither, monsieur," replied Madame Fournichon; "only the place is new, and we choose our customers."
"Oh! very well."
"For example," continued she, "for a person like your lordship, we would send away a dozen."
"Thanks, my kind hostess."
"Will monsieur taste the wine?" asked M. Fournichon.
"Will monsieur visit the rooms?" added his wife.
"Both, if you please."
Fournichon descended to the cellar.
"How many people can you lodge here?" asked the captain of the hostess.
"That is not enough."
"Why so, monsieur?"
"I had a project—but we will speak of it no more."
"Ah! monsieur, you will find nothing larger, except the Louvre itself."
"Well; you can lodge thirty people?"
"But for a day?"
"Oh! for a day, forty, or even forty-five."
"Without making a commotion outside?"—"We have often eighty soldiers here, on Sundays."
"And no crowd before the house—no spying by the neighbors?"
"Mon Dieu! no! our nearest neighbors are a worthy bourgeois, who meddles with no one, and a lady who lives so retired, that although she has been here for three weeks, I have not seen her."
"That will do excellently."
"So much the better."
"And in a month from to-day—"
"That will be the 26th of October."
"Precisely. Well, on that day I hire your inn."—"The whole of it?"
"Yes, the whole. I wish to give a surprise to some countrymen, officers—or at least—soldiers: they will be told to come here."
"But if it be a surprise—"
"Oh! if you are curious, or indiscreet—"
"No, no, monsieur," cried she.
M. Fournichon, who had heard what had passed, added, "Monsieur, you shall be master here; and all your friends will be welcome."
"I did not say my friends, I said countrymen," replied the officer, haughtily.
"Yes, monsieur, it was my mistake."
"You will give them supper."
"If necessary, they will sleep here."
"In a word, give them all they want, and ask no questions."
"Very well, monsieur."
"Here are thirty livres in advance."
"Well, monsieur, these gentlemen shall be treated like princes; will you assure yourself by tasting the wine?"
"Thank you, I never drink."
"But, monsieur, how shall I know these gentlemen?"
"That is true; parfandious! I forgot. Give me paper, light, and wax."
When they were brought, the captain made a seal on the paper with a ring he had on his finger. "Do you see this figure?" said he.
"A beautiful woman."
"Yes; a Cleopatra. Well, each of these men will present a similar one, on which you will receive him. You will have further orders afterward."
The captain then descended the stall's and rode off, leaving the Fournichons delighted with their thirty livres in advance.
"Decidedly," said the host, "the sign has brought us good fortune."
We dare not affirm that Dame Fournichon was as discreet as she had promised to be, for she interrogated the first soldier whom she saw pass as to the name of the captain who had conducted the review. The soldier, more cautious than she, asked her why she wished to know.
"Because he has just been here," she replied, "and one likes to know to whom one has been talking."
The soldier laughed. "The captain who conducted the review would not have entered this hotel," said he.
"Why not; is he too great for that?"
"Well, but it is not for himself that he wanted the hotel."
"For whom then?"
"For his friends."
"He would not lodge his friends here, I am sure."
"Peste! why, who can he be, then?"
"Well, my good woman, he who conducted the review is
simply Monsieur le Duc Nogaret de Lavalette d'Epernon, peer of
"That if it was he, he did me great honor."
"Did you hear him say 'parfandious'?"
We may now judge if the 26th of October was impatiently expected. On the evening of the 25th a man entered, bearing a heavy bag, which he placed on Fournichon's table.
"It is the price of the repast ordered for to-morrow," said he.
"At how much a head?"
"At six livres."
"Will they have only one meal here?"
"That is all."
"Has the captain found them a lodging, then?"
"It appears so," said the messenger, who went, and declined to answer any more questions.
At last the much-desired day arrived; half-past twelve had
just struck when some cavaliers stopped at the door of the hotel. One, who
appeared to be their chief, came with two well-mounted lackeys. Each of them
produced the seal of Cleopatra's head, and were received with all sorts of
courtesies, especially the young man with the lackeys. Nevertheless, excepting
this young man, they all seemed timid and preoccupied. Most of them dispersed,
however, until supper-time, either to swell the crowd at the execution of
Salcede, or to see
About two o'clock, others began to arrive. One man came in
alone, without a hat, a cane in his hand, and swearing at
"Is it not strange," said Fournichon to his wife, "they are all Gascons?"
"Well, what of that? The captain said they were all
countrymen, and he is a Gascon. M. d'Epernon is from
"Then you still believe it was M. d'Epernon?"
"Did he not say three times the famous 'parfandious'?"
Very soon the five other Gascons arrived; the number of
guests was complete. Never was such surprise painted on so many faces; for an hour
nothing was heard but "saudioux," "mordioux!" and "cap
de Bious!" and such noisy joy, that it seemed to the Fournichons that all
"Is it not singular to find so many Gascons here?" asked one.
"No," replied Perducas de Pincornay, "the sign is tempting for men of honor."
"Ah! is it you?" said St. Maline, the gentleman with the lackeys, "you have not yet explained to me what you were about to do, when the crowd separated us."
"What was that?" asked Pincornay, reddening.
"How it happens that I met you on the road between
"It seems to interest you, monsieur?"
"Ma foi! yes.
"Yes, from St. Andre de Cubsac."
"And without a hat?"
"Oh! it is very simple. My father has two magnificent horses, and he is quite capable of disinheriting me for the accident that has happened to one of them."
"What is that?"
"I was riding one of them when it took fright at the
report of a gun that was fired close to me, and ran away; it made for the bank
"No; luckily I had time to slip off, or I should have been drowned with him."
"Ah! then the poor beast was drowned?"
"Pardioux! you know the
"Then I resolved not to return home, but to go away as far as possible from my father's anger."
"But your hat?"
"Diable! my hat had fallen."
"I did not fall; I slipped off."
"But your hat?"
"Ah! my hat had fallen. I sought for it, being my only resource, as I had come out without money."
"But how could your hat be a resource?"
"Saudioux! it was a great one, for I must tell you that the plume of this hat was fastened by a diamond clasp, that his majesty the emperor Charles V. gave to my grandfather, when, on his way from Spain to Flanders, he stopped at our castle."
"Ah! ah! and you have sold the clasp, and the hat with it. Then, my dear friend, you ought to be the richest of us all, and you should have bought another glove; your hands are not alike; one is as white as a woman's, and the other as black as a negro's."
"But listen; as I turned to seek my hat I saw an enormous crow seize hold of it."
"Of your hat!"
"Or rather of the clasp; attracted by the glitter, and
in spite of my cries, he flew away with it, and I saw it no more. So that,
overwhelmed by this double loss, I did not dare to return home, but came to
seek my fortune in
"Good!" cried a third, "the wind has changed into a crow. I heard you tell M. de Loignac that the wind had carried it away while you were reading a letter from your mistress."
"Now," cried St. Maline, "I have the honor of knowing M. d'Aubigne, who, though a brave soldier, writes well, and I recommend you to tell him the history of your hat; he will make a charming story of it."
Several stifled laughs were heard.
"Ah! gentlemen," cried the Gascon, "do you laugh at me?"
They turned away to laugh again.
Perducas threw a glance around him, and saw a young man near the fireplace hiding his face in his hands. He thought it was to laugh, and, going up to him, struck him on the shoulder, saying—
"Eh! monsieur, if you laugh, at all events show your face."
The young man looked up; it was our friend Ernanton de Carmainges.
"I beg you will leave me alone," said he, "I was not thinking of you."
Pincornay turned away, grumbling; but at this moment an officer entered.
"M. de Loignac!" cried twenty voices.
At this name, known through all
"Supper!" cried M. de Loignac; "and from this moment let all be friends, and love each other like brothers."
"Hum!" said St. Maline.
"That would be difficult," added Ernanton.
"See," cried Pincornay, "they laugh at me because I have no hat, and they say nothing to M. Montcrabeau, who is going to supper in a cuirass of the time of the Emperor Pertinax, from whom it probably came. See what it is to have defensive arms."
"Gentlemen," cried Montcrabeau, "I take it off; so much the worse for those who prefer seeing me with offensive instead of defensive arms;" and he gave his cuirass to his lackey, a man about fifty years of age.
"Peace! peace!" cried De Loignac, "and let us go to table."
Meanwhile the lackey whispered to Pertinax, "And am I not to sup? Let me have something, Pertinax. I am dying of hunger."
Pertinax, instead of being offended at this familiar address, replied, "I will try, but you had better see for something for yourself."
"Hum! that is not reassuring."
"Have you no money?"
"We spent our last crown at Sens."
"Diable! then try to sell something."
A few minutes after a cry was heard in the street of "Old iron! who wants to sell old iron?"
Madame Fournichon ran to the door, while M. Fournichon placed the supper on the table, and to judge by its reception it must have been exquisite. As his wife did not return, however, the host asked a servant what she was doing.
"Oh, master," he replied, "she is selling all your old iron for new money."
"I hope not my cuirass and arms," said he, running to the door.
"No," said De Loignac, "it is forbidden to buy arms."
Madame Fournichon entered triumphantly.
"You have not been selling my arms?" cried her husband.
"Yes, I have."
"I will not have them sold."
"Bah! in time of peace; and I have got ten crowns instead of an old cuirass."
"Ten crowns! Samuel, do you hear?" said Pertinax, looking for his valet, but he was not to be seen.
"It seems to me that this man carries on a dangerous trade. But what does he do with them?"
"Sells them again by weight."
"By weight! and you say he gave you ten crowns—for what?"
"A cuirass and a helmet."
"Why, even if they weighed twenty pounds, that is half-a-crown a pound. This hides some mystery."
Voices rose, and the mirth grew loud with all, except Carmainges, who still thought of the mysterious page. He sat by M. de Loignac, who said to him:
"Here are a number of joyful people, and they do not know what for."
"Nor I, neither; but at least I am an exception."
"You are wrong, for you are one of those to whom
"Do not laugh at me, M. de Loignac."
"I do not; I distinguished you at once, and that other young man also who looks so grave."
"M. de St. Maline."
"And why this distinction, if this question be not too curious?"
"I know you, that is all."
"Me! you know me?"
"You, and he, and all here."
"It is strange."
"Yes, but necessary."
"Because a chief should know his soldiers."
"And all these men—"
"Will be my soldiers to-morrow."
"But I thought that M. d'Epernon—"
"Hush! do not pronounce that name here."
Then rising, M. de Loignac said, "Gentlemen, since chance unites here forty-five compatriots, let us empty a glass of wine to the prosperity of all."
This proposal gave rise to frantic applause. "They are almost all half drunk," said De Loignac; "it would be a good opportunity to make them repeat their histories, only time does not permit of it." Then he added aloud, "Hola! M. Fournichon, dismiss from the room all women, children and lackeys."
Lardille retired grumbling, but Militor did not move. "Did you not hear, M. Militor," said De Loignac; "to the kitchen!"
There remained only forty-five men, and M. de Loignac then
said, "Now, gentlemen, each knows who called him to
A murmur of assent came from all, mingled with astonishment, for each one knew only what concerned himself, and was ignorant that his neighbor had been moved by the same influence.
"Well, then!" continued De Loignac, "you will have time to become acquainted with each other afterward. You agree that you have come here to obey him?"
"Yes, yes," they cried.
"Then, to begin; go quietly out of this hotel to the lodgings prepared for you."
"For all?" asked St. Maline.
"Yes, for all."
"We are all equal here," cried Perducas, whose limbs felt rather doubtful under him.
"Yes," replied De Loignac; "all are equal before the will of the master."
"Oh!" cried Carmainges, coloring; "I do not know that M. d'Epernon would be called my master."
"I did not expect that."
"Wait, hot head! I did not tell you who was to be your master."
"No; but you said we should have one."
"Every one has a master; and if you are too proud to acknowledge him we spoke of, you may look higher; I authorize you."
"The king!" murmured Carmainges.
"Silence!" said De Loignac. "But first will you do me the favor to read aloud this parchment."
Ernanton took it and read these words:
"Order to M. de Loignac to take the command of the
forty-five gentlemen whom I have sent for to
"NOGARET DE LAVALETTE.
They all bowed at this.
"Thus," continued De Loignac, "you have to follow me at once; your equipages and servants will remain here, M. Fournichon will take care of them: we will send for them; but now, be quick! the boats are ready."
"The boats!" cried they.
"Certainly; to go to the Louvre, we must go by water."
"To the Louvre!" cried they, joyfully. "Cap de Bious! we are going to the Louvre."
De Loignac made them all pass before him, counting them as they went, and then conducted them to the place where three large boats were waiting for them.
As soon as the valet of Pertinax heard the words of Madame Fournichon, he ran after the dealer, but as it was night and he was doubtless in a hurry, he had gone some little way and Samuel was obliged to call to him. He appeared to hesitate at first, but seeing that Samuel was laden with merchandise, he stopped.
"What do you want, my friend?" said he.
"Pardieu! I want to do a little business with you."—"Well, be quick!"
"Are you in a hurry?"
"When you have seen what I bring you, you will be willing to wait."
"What is it?"
"A magnificent piece, of which the work—but you do not listen."
"Yes; but I am also looking round."
"Do you not know that it is forbidden to buy arms?"
Samuel thought it best to feign ignorance, and said, "I know nothing; I have just arrived from Mont-de-Marsan."
"Oh! that is another thing; but how did you know that I bought arms?"
"I was at the door of 'The Brave Chevalier.'"
"Well, come under that portico; it is too public here. Now, let me see this cuirass," said he, when they were there.
"It is so heavy."
"It is old and out of date."
"A work of art."
"I will give you six crowns."
"What! six crowns! and you gave ten just now for an old thing—"
"Six, or none."
"But look at the chasing."
"Of what use is the chasing, when I sell by weight?"
"The gilding alone is worth ten crowns—"
"Well, I will give you seven."
"You bargain here, and at the inn you gave anything; you go against the law and then endeavor to cheat honest people."—"Do not call out so loud."
"Oh! I am not afraid."
"Come, then, take ten crowns and begone."
"I told you the gold was worth more. Ah! you want to escape; I will call the guard," and he raised his voice.
At the noise, a window opposite was opened.
"Come," said the dealer; "I see I must give you what you want. Here are fifteen crowns; now go."
"That will do," said Samuel; "only these are for my master: I want something for myself."
The dealer half drew his dagger.
"Yes, yes, I see your dagger," said Samuel; "but I also see the figure in that balcony, watching you."
The dealer, white with terror, looked up, and saw a man who had witnessed the whole scene. "Oh!" said he, affecting to laugh; "you get all you want out of me: here is another crown. And may the devil take you," he added to himself.
"Thanks, my good friend," said Samuel, and he made off.
The dealer began to take up his wares and was also going, when the bourgeois opposite cried out:
"It seems, monsieur, that you buy armor."
"No, monsieur," replied the unlucky dealer; "this was a mere chance."
"A chance that suits me."
"In what respect, monsieur?"
"I have a heap of old things that I want to get rid of."
"I have as much as I can carry."
"But let me show them to you."
"It is useless; I have no more money."
"Never mind, I will give you credit; you look like an honest man."
"Thank you; but I cannot wait."
"It is odd how I seem to know you."
"Know me!" cried the dealer, trembling.
"Look at this helmet," said the bourgeois, showing it from the window.
"You say you know me?" asked the dealer.
"I thought so. Are you not—" he seemed seeking for the name. "Are you not Nicholas—"
The dealer looked frightened.
"Nicholas Trouchon, ironmonger, Rue de la Cossonnerie?"
"No, no!" cried the man, breathing more freely again.
"Never mind; will you buy all my armor, cuirass, sword, and all?"
"It is a forbidden commerce."
"I know that; he whom you dealt with just now called it out loud enough."
"Yes, all; and you were liberal. But be easy, I will not be hard upon you; I have been a trader myself."
"What did you sell?"
"Never mind; I have made my fortune."—"I congratulate you."
"Well, will you buy all my armor?"
"No, I only want the cuirass."
"Do you only buy cuirasses?"
"That is odd, for if you buy and sell by weight, one sort of iron is as good as another."
"That is true, but I have preferences."
"Well, then, buy only the cuirass, or rather—now I think again—buy nothing at all."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that in these times every one wants his arms."
"What! in perfect peace?"
"My good friend, if we were in perfect peace, you would not buy so many cuirasses, and so secretly, too. But really, the longer I look at you, the more I think I know your face. You are not Nicholas Trouchon, but still I know you."
"And if you buy cuirasses—"
"I am sure it is for a work agreeable to God."
"Hold your tongue!"
"You enchant me!" cried the bourgeois, stretching out a long arm over the balcony and seizing the hand of the dealer.
"Then who the devil are you?" cried he, who felt his hand held as if in a vise.
"I am Robert Briquet, the terror of schismatics, the
friend of the
"No, no! good-by."
"What! are you going?"
"Yes!" and he ran off.
But Robert Briquet was not a man to be foiled; he jumped from his balcony and ran after him.
"You are mad!" said he. "If I were your
enemy, I have but to cry out, and the watch is in the next street; but you are
my friend, and now I know your name. You are Nicholas Poulain, lieutenant to
the provost of
"I am lost!" murmured the man.
"No; you are saved. I will do more for the good cause than ever you would; you have found a brother. Take one cuirass, and I will take another; I give you my gloves and the rest of my armor for nothing. Come on, and Vive l'Union!"
"You accompany me?"
"I will help you to carry these cuirasses which are to conquer the Philistines. Go on, I follow."
A spark of suspicion lingered in the soul of the lieutenant, but he thought; "If he wished me ill, he would not have acknowledged he knew me. Come on then!" he added aloud, "if you will."
"To life or death!" cried Briquet, and he continued to talk in this strain till they arrived near the Hotel Guise, where Nicholas Poulain stopped.
"I fancied it would be here," thought Briquet.
"Now," said Nicholas, with a tragic air, "there is still time to retire before entering the lion's den."
"Bah! I have entered many. Et non intermuit medulla mea!" exclaimed Briquet; "but pardon me, perhaps you do not understand Latin?"
"Do you?"—"As you see."
"What a catch?" thought Poulain, "learned, strong, bold, and rich!" Then he added aloud, "Well! let us enter," and he conducted Briquet to the door of the hotel. The court was full of guards and men wrapped in cloaks, and eight horses, saddled and bridled, waited in a corner; but there was not a light to be seen. Poulain whispered his name to the porter, and added, "I bring a good companion."—"Pass on."
"Take these to the magazine," said Poulain, handing the cuirasses to a soldier. "Now I will present you," said he to Briquet.
"No, I am very timid. When I have done some work, I will present myself."
"As you please. Then wait here for me."—"What are we waiting for?" asked a voice.
"For the master," replied another.
At this moment, a tall man entered. "Gentlemen," said he, "I come in his name."
"Ah! it is M. de Mayneville," said Poulain.
"Ah, really!" said Briquet, making a hideous grimace, which quite altered him.
"Let us go, gentlemen," said M. de Mayneville, and he descended a staircase leading to a vault. All the others followed, and Briquet brought up the rear, murmuring: "But the page! where the devil is the page?"
At the moment when Robert Briquet was about to enter, he saw Poulain waiting for him.
"Pardon," said he, "but my friends do not know you, and decline to admit you to their councils till they know more of you."
"It is just, and I retire, happy to have seen so many brave defenders of the Holy Union."
"Shall I re-conduct you?"
"No, I thank you, I will not trouble you."
"But perhaps they will not open for you; yet I am wanted."
"Have you not a password?"
"Then give it to me. I am a friend, you know."
"True. It is '
"And they will open?"
"Thanks; now return to your friends."
Briquet took some steps as if to go out, and then stopped to explore the locality. The result of his observations was, that the vault ran parallel to the exterior wall, and terminated in a hall destined for the mysterious council from which he had been excluded. What confirmed him in this supposition was that he saw a light at a barred window, pierced in the wall, and guarded by a sort of wooden pipe, such as they placed at the windows of convents and prisons to intercept the view from without, while the air was still admitted. Briquet imagined this to be the window of the hall, and thought that if he could gain this place he could see all. He looked round him; the court had many soldiers and servants in it, but it was large, and the night was dark; besides, they were not looking his way, and the porter was busy, preparing his bed for the night.
Briquet rapidly climbed on to the cornice which ran toward the window in question, and ran along the wall like a monkey, holding on with his hands and feet to the ornaments of the sculpture. Had the soldiers seen in the dark this figure gliding along the wall without apparent support, they would not have failed to cry, "Magic!" but they did not see him. In four bounds he reached the window, and established himself between the bars and the pipe, so that from the inside he was concealed by the one, and from the outside by the other.
He then saw a great hall, lighted by a torch, and filled with armor of all sorts. There were enough pikes, swords, halberds, and muskets to arm four regiments. He gave less attention, however, to the arms than to the people engaged in distributing them, and his piercing eyes sought eagerly to distinguish their faces.
"Oh! oh!" thought he, "there is M. Cruce, little Brigard and Leclerc, who dares to call himself Bussy. Peste! the bourgeoisie is grandly represented; but the nobility—ah! M. de Mayneville presses the hand of Nicholas Poulain; what a touching fraternity! An orator, too!" continued he, as M. de Mayneville prepared to harangue the assembly.
Briquet could not hear a word, but he thought that he did not make much impression on his audience, for one shrugged his shoulders, and another turned his back. But at last they approached, seized his hand, and threw up their hats in the air. But though Briquet could not hear, we must inform our readers of what passed.
First, Cruce, Marteau, and Bussy had complained of the inaction of the Duc de Guise.
Marteau was spokesman, and said, "M. de Mayneville, you
come on the part of M. le Duc de Guise, and we accept you as his ambassador;
but the presence of the duke himself is indispensable. After the death of his
glorious father, he, when only eighteen years of age, made all good Frenchmen
join this project of the
This speech was applauded by all the leaguers.
M. de Mayneville replied, "Gentlemen, if nothing is
decided, it is because nothing is ripe. Consider our situation; M. le Duc and
his brother the cardinal are at
"They are everywhere where they are not wanted," said Bussy. "Where is Madame de Montpensier, for instance?"
"No one has seen her."
"Who was it?"
"Oh! oh!" cried all.
"But where is she?" cried Bussy. "Has she disappeared? how did you know she was here?"
"Because I accompanied her to the Porte St. Antoine."
"I heard that they had shut the gates."
"Yes, they had."
"Then, how did she pass."
"In her own fashion. Something took place at the gates
Thus Mayneville, from the accused, became the accuser, which is the great art of an orator.
"Cards and exceptional admissions!" cried Nicholas Poulain, "what can that mean?"
"If you do not know, who live here, how should I know,
who live in
"How did these people come?"
"Some on foot, some on horseback; some alone, and some with lackeys."
"Were they soldiers?"
"There were but two swords among the six; I think they
were Gascons. This concerns you, M. Poulain, to find out. But to return to the
League. Salcede, who had betrayed us, and would have done so again, not only
did not speak, but retracted on the scaffold—thanks to the duchess, who, in the
suite of one of these card-bearers, had the courage to penetrate the crowd even
to the place of execution, and made herself known to Salcede, at the risk of
being pointed out. At this sight Salcede stopped his confession, and an instant
after, the executioner stopped his repentance. Thus, gentlemen, you have
nothing to fear as to our enterprise in
It was this last speech which had so pleased all the
conspirators. Their joy seemed to annoy Briquet; he slipped down from his
place, and returning to the court, said to the porter, "
History tells us what passed afterward. M. de Mayneville brought from the Guises the plan of an insurrection which consisted of nothing less than to murder all the principal people of the city who were known to be in favor with the king, and then to go through the streets crying, "Vive la Messe! death to our enemies!" In fact, to enact a second St. Bartholomew; in which, however, all hostile Catholics were to be confounded with the Protestants.
In a great room at the Louvre sat Henri, pale and unquiet. Since his favorites, Schomberg, Quelus and Maugiron had been killed in a duel, St. Megrin had been assassinated by M. de Mayenne, and the wounds left by their deaths were still fresh and bleeding. The affection he bore his new favorites was very different from what he had felt for the old. He had overwhelmed D'Epernon with benefits, but he only loved him by fits and starts, and at certain times he even hated him, and accused him of cowardice and avarice.
D'Epernon knew how to hide his ambition, which was indeed vague in its aspirations; but his cupidity governed him completely. When he was rich, he was laughing and good-tempered; but when he was in want of money, he used to shut himself up in one of his castles, where, frowning and sad, he bemoaned his fate, until he had drawn from the weakness of the king some new gift.
Joyeuse was very different. He loved the king, who, in turn, had for him almost a fatherly affection. Young and impulsive, he was, perhaps, somewhat egotistical, and cared for little but to be happy. Handsome, brave and rich, Nature had done so much for him that Henri often regretted that she had left so little for him to add. The king knew his men well, for he was remarkably clear-sighted: and though often betrayed, was never deceived. But ennui was the curse of his life; he was ennuyé now, and was wondering if any one would come and amuse him, when M. le Duc d'Epernon was announced. Henri was delighted.
"Ah! good-evening, duke; I am enchanted to see you. Why were you not present at the execution of Salcede?—I told you there would be room in my box."
"Sire, I was unable to avail myself of your majesty's kindness."
"Yes, sire; I was busy."
"One would think that you were my minister, coming to announce, with a long face, that some subsidy had not been paid."
"Ma foi! your majesty is right; the subsidy has not been paid, and I am penniless. But it was not that which occupied me."
"Your majesty knows what passed at the execution of Salcede?"
"Parbleu! I was there."
"They tried to carry off the criminal."
"I did not see that."
"It is the rumor all through the city, however."
"A groundless one."
"I believe your majesty is wrong."
"On what do you found your belief?"
"Because Salcede denied before the people what he had confessed to the judges."
"Ah! you know that, already."
"I try to know all that interests your majesty."
"Thanks; but what do you conclude from all this?"
"That a man who dies like Salcede was a good servant, sire."
"And the master who has such followers is fortunate."
"You mean to say that I have none such; or, rather, that I no longer have them. You are right, if that be what you mean."
"I did not mean that; your majesty would find, I am sure, were there occasion, followers as devoted as Salcede."
"Well, duke, do not look gloomy; I am sad enough already. Do be gay."
"Gayety cannot be forced, sire."
The king struck the table angrily. "You are a bad friend," said he; "I lost all, when I lost my former ones."
"May I dare to say to your majesty that you hardly encourage the new ones."
The king looked at him with an expression which he well understood.
"Ah! your majesty reproaches me with your benefits," said he, "but I do not reproach you with my devotion."
"Lavalette," cried Henri, "you make me sad; you who are so clever, and could so easily make me joyful. It is not your nature to fight continually, like my old favorites; but you are facetious and amusing, and give good counsel. You know all my affairs, like that other more humble friend, with whom I never experienced a moment's ennui."
"Of whom does your majesty speak?"
"Of my poor jester, Chicot. Alas! where is he?"
D'Epernon rose, piqued. "Your majesty's souvenirs, to-day, are not very amusing for other people," said he.
"Your majesty, without intending it, perhaps, compared me to Chicot, which is not very flattering."
"You are wrong, D'Epernon; I could only compare to Chicot a man who loves me, and whom I love."
"It was not to resemble Chicot, I suppose, that your majesty made me a duke?"
"Chicot loved me, and I miss him; that is all I can say. Oh! when I think that in the same place where you now are have been all those young men, handsome, brave, and faithful—that there, on that very chair on which you have placed your hat, Chicot has slept more than a hundred times—"
"Perhaps that was very amusing," interrupted the duke, "but certainly not very respectful."
"Alas! he has now neither mind nor body."—"What became of him?"
"He died, like all who loved me."
"Well, sire, I think he did well to die; he was growing old, and I have heard that sobriety was not one of his virtues. Of what did he die—indigestion?"
"Oh! he told you so, to make you laugh once more."
"You are wrong; he would not sadden me with the news of his illness. He knew how I regretted my friends—he, who had so often seen me weep for them."
"Then it was his shade that came to tell you?"
"No; I did not even see his shade. It was his friend, the worthy prior Gorenflot, who wrote me this sad news."
"I see that if he lived your majesty would make him chancellor."
"I beg, duke, that you will not laugh at those who loved me, and whom I loved."
"Oh! sire, I do not desire to laugh, but just now you reproached me with want of gayety, parfandious!"
"Well, now I am in the mood to hear bad news, if you have any to tell. Luckily I have strength to bear it, or I should be dead ten times a day."
"Which would not displease certain people of our acquaintance."
"Oh! against them I have the arms of my Swiss."
"I could find you a better guard than that."
"What is it?"
"Will your majesty be so good as to accompany me to the old buildings of the Louvre?"
"On the site of the Rue de l'Astruce?"
"What shall I see there?"
"Oh! come first."
"It is a long way, duke."
"We can go in five minutes through the galleries."
"If what you are about to show me be not worth seeing, take care."
"I answer for it, sire."
"Come, then," said the king, rising.
The duke took his cloak, presented the king's sword to him, then, taking a light, preceded his majesty.
In less than five minutes they arrived at their destination. The duke took out a key, and, after crossing a court, opened an arched door, the bottom of which was overgrown with long grass. They went along a dark corridor, and then up a staircase to a room, of which D'Epernon had also the key. He opened the door, and showed the king forty-five beds, and in each of them a sleeper.
The king looked at all this with a troubled curiosity. "Well," said he, "who are these people?"
"People who sleep to-night, but will not do so to-morrow night."
"That your majesty may sleep in peace."
"Explain yourself. Are these your friends?"
"And you thought of this, D'Epernon?"
"I, alone, sire."
"We shall be laughed at."
"No, we shall be feared."
"But they will ruin me?"
"How can a king be ruined?"
"I cannot pay my Swiss!"
"Look at these men, sire; do you think they would be very expensive to keep?"
"But they could not always live like this, they would be stifled. And look at their doublets!"
"Oh! I confess they are not all very sumptuously clothed, but if they had been born dukes and peers—"
"Yes, I understand; they would have cost me more?"—"Just so."
"Well, how much will they cost? That will, perhaps, decide me, for, in truth, D'Epernon, they do not look very inviting."
"Sire, I know they are rather thin and burned by our
southern sun, but I was so when I came to
"How they snore!"
"Sire, you must not judge them to-night; they have supped well."
"Stay, there is one speaking in his sleep; let us listen."
Indeed, one of the gentlemen called out, "If you are a woman, fly!"
The king approached him softly. "Ah! ah!" said he, "he is a gallant."
"What do you think of him, sire?"
"His face pleases me, and he has white hands and a well-kept beard." "HIS FACE PLEASES ME, AND HE HAS WHITE HANDS AND A WELL-KEPT BEARD."
"It is Ernanton de Carmainges, a fine fellow, who is capable of much."
"He has left behind him some love, I suppose, poor fellow. But what a queer figure his next neighbor is."
"Ah! that is M. de Chalabre. If he ruins your majesty, it will not be without enriching himself, I answer for it."
"And that one, with such a somber air; he does not seem as though he dreamed of love."
"What number, sire?"
"M. de St. Maline, a brave fellow, with a heart of bronze."
"Well, Lavalette, you have had a good idea."
"I should think so. Imagine the effect that will be produced by these new watch-dogs, who will follow you like your shadow."
"Yes, yes; but they cannot follow me in this guise."
"Now we return to the money. But about this, also, I have an idea."
"My zeal for your majesty doubles my imagination."
"Well, let us hear it."
"If it depended upon me, each of these gentlemen should find by his bed a purse containing 1,000 crowns, as payment for the first six months."
"One thousand crowns for six months! 6,000 livres a year! You are mad, duke; an entire regiment would not cost that."
"You forget, sire, that it is necessary they should be well dressed. Each will have to take from his 1,000 crowns enough for arms and equipments. Set down 1,500 livres to effect this in a manner to do you honor, and there would remain 4,500 livres for the first year. Then for subsequent years you could give 3,000 livres."
"That is more reasonable."
"Then your majesty accepts?"
"There is only one difficulty, duke."
"What is it?"
"Want of money."
"Sire, I have found a method. Six months ago a tax was levied on shooting and fishing."
"The first payment produced 65,000 crowns, which have not yet been disposed of."
"I destined it for the war, duke."
"The first interest of the kingdom is the safety of the king."
"Well; there still would remain 20,000 crowns for the army."
"Pardon, sire, but I had disposed of them, also."
"Yes, sire; your majesty had promised me money."
"Ah! and you give me a guard to obtain it."
"Oh! sire. But look at them; will they not have a good effect?"
"Yes, when dressed, they will not look bad. Well, so be it."
"Well, then, sire, I have a favor to ask."
"I should be astonished if you had not."
"Your majesty is bitter to-day."
"Oh! I only mean, that having rendered me a service, you have the right to ask for a return."
"Well, sire, it is an appointment."
"Why, you are already colonel-general of infantry, more would crush you."
"In your majesty's service, I am a Samson."
"What is it, then?"
"I desire the command of these forty-five gentlemen."
"What! you wish to march at their head?"
"No; I should have a deputy; only I desire that they should know me as their head."
"Well, you shall have it. But who is to be your deputy?"
"M. de Loignac, sire."
"Ah! that is well."
"He pleases your majesty?"
"Then it is decided?"
"Yes; let it be as you wish."
"Then I will go at once to the treasurer, and get my forty-five purses."
"They are to find them to-morrow, when they wake."
"Good; then I will return."
"Well guarded, at all events."
"By men who sleep."
"They will not sleep to-morrow, sire."
The king, as we have said, was never deceived as to the
character of his friends; he knew perfectly well that D'Epernon was working for
his own advantage, but as he expected to have had to give and receive nothing
in return, whereas he had got forty-five guards, he had thought it a good idea.
Besides, it was a novelty, which was a thing that a poor king of
"These men are doubtless brave, and will be perhaps very devoted," thought he; "and forty-five swords always ready to leap from their scabbards are a grand thing."
This thought brought to his mind the other devoted swords that he regretted so bitterly. He became sad again, and inquired for Joyeuse. They replied that he had not returned.
"Then call my valets-de-chambre."
When he was in bed, they asked if his reader should attend, for Henri was subject to long fits of wakefulness, and was often read to sleep.
"No," replied the king, "I want no one; only if M. de Joyeuse returns, bring him to me."
"If he returns late, sire?"
"Alas! he is always late; but whatever be the hour, bring him here."
The servants extinguished the candles and lighted a lamp of essences, which gave a pale blue flame, that the king liked. Henri was tired, and soon slept, but not for long; he awoke, thinking he heard a noise in the room.
"Joyeuse," he asked; "is it you?"
No one replied. The light burned dim, and only threw faint circles on the ceiling of carved oak.
"Alone, still!" murmured the king. "Mon Dieu! I am alone all my life, as I shall be after death."
"'Alone after death'; that is not certain," said a powerful voice near the bed.
The king started up and looked round him in terror. "I know that voice," cried he.
"Ah! that is lucky," replied the voice.
"It is like the voice of Chicot."
"You burn, Henri: you burn."
Then the king, getting half out of bed, saw a man sitting in the very chair which he had pointed out to D'Epernon.
"Heaven protect me!" cried he; "it is the shade of Chicot."
"Ah! my poor Henriquet, are you still so foolish?"
"What do you mean?"
"That shades cannot speak, having no body, and consequently no tongue."
"Then you are Chicot, himself?" cried the king, joyfully.
"Do not be too sure."
"Then you are not dead, my poor Chicot?"
"On the contrary; I am dead."
"Chicot, my only friend."
"You, at least, are not changed."
"But you, Chicot, are you changed?"
"I hope so."
"Chicot, my friend, why did you leave me?"
"Because I am dead."
"You said just now that you were not dead."
"Dead to some—alive to others."
"And to me?"—"Dead."
"Why dead to me?"
"It is easy to comprehend that you are not the master here."
"You can do nothing for those who serve you."
"Do not be angry, or I shall be so, also."
"Speak then, my friend," said the king, fearful that Chicot would vanish.
"Well, I had a little affair to settle with M. de Mayenne, you remember?"
"I settled it; I beat this valiant captain without mercy. He sought for me to hang me; and you, whom I thought would protect me, abandoned me, and made peace with him. Then I declared myself dead and buried by the aid of my friend Gorenflot, so that M. de Mayenne has ceased to search for me."
"What a frightful courage you had, Chicot; did you not know the grief your death would cause me?"
"I have never lived so tranquilly as since the world thought me dead."
"Chicot, my head turns; you frighten me—I know not what to think."
"Well! settle something."
"I think that you are dead and—"
"Then I lie; you are polite."
"You commence by concealing some things from me; but presently, like the orators of antiquity, you will tell me terrible truths."
"Oh! as to that, I do not say no. Prepare, poor king!"
"If you are not a shade, how could you come unnoticed into my room, through the guarded corridors?" And Henri, abandoning himself to new terrors, threw himself down in the bed and covered up his head.
"Come, come," cried Chicot; "you have only to touch me to be convinced."
"But how did you come?"
"Why, I have still the key that you gave me, and which I hung round my neck to enrage your gentlemen, and with this I entered."
"By the secret door, then?"
"And why to-day more than yesterday?"
"Ah! that you shall hear."
Henri, sitting up again, said like a child, "Do not tell me anything disagreeable, Chicot; I am so glad to see you again."
"I will tell the truth; so much the worse if it be disagreeable."
"But your fear of Mayenne is not serious?"
"Very serious, on the contrary. You understand that M.
de Mayenne gave me fifty blows with a stirrup leather, in return for which I
gave him one hundred with the sheath of my sword. No doubt he thinks,
therefore, that he still owes me fifty, so that I should not have come to you
now, however great your need, had I not known him to be at
"Well, Chicot, I take you now under my protection, and I wish that you should be resuscitated and appear openly."
"I will protect you, on my royal word."
"Bah! I have better than that."
"My hole, where I remain."
"I forbid it," cried the king, jumping out of bed.
"Henri, you will catch cold; go back to bed, I pray."
"You are right, but you exasperated me. How, when I have enough guards, Swiss, Scotch, and French, for my own defense, should I not have enough for yours?"
"Let us see: you have the Swiss—"
"Yes, commanded by Tocquenot."
"Good! then you have the Scotch—"
"Commanded by Larchant."
"Very well! and you have the French guards—"
"Commanded by Crillon. And then—but I do not know if I ought to tell you—"
"I did not ask you."
"A novelty, Chicot!"
"Yes; imagine forty-five brave gentlemen."
"Forty-five? What do you mean?"
"Where did you find them? Not in
"No, but they arrived here yesterday."
"Oh!" cried Chicot, with a sudden illumination, "I know these gentlemen."
"Forty-five beggars, who only want the wallet; figures to make one die with laughter."
"Chicot, there are splendid men among them."
"Gascons, like your colonel-general of infantry."
"And like you, Chicot. However, I have forty-five formidable swords at command."
"Commanded by the 46th, whom they call D'Epernon."
"By whom, then?"
"And it is with them you think to defend yourself?"
"Yes, mordieu! yes."
"Well, I have more troops than you."
"You have troops?"
"What are they?"
"You shall hear. First, all the army that MM. de Guise
are raising in
"Are you mad?"
"No; a real army—at least six thousand men."
"But how can you, who fear M. de Mayenne so much, be defended by the soldiers of M. de Guise?"
"Because I am dead."
"Again this joke!"
"No; I have changed my name and position."
"What are you, then?"
"I am Robert Briquet, merchant and leaguer."
"You a leaguer?"
"A devoted one, so that I keep away from M. de Mayenne.
I have, then, for me, first, the army of
"Then, at least one hundred thousand Parisians."
"Sufficiently so to annoy you much: 6,000 and 100,000 are 106,000; then there is the pope, the Spaniards, M. de Bourbon, the Flemings, Henry of Navarre, the Duc d'Anjou—"
"Have you done?" interrupted Henri, impatiently.
"There still remain three classes of people."
"What are they?"
"First the Catholics, who hate you because you only three parts exterminated the Huguenots: then the Huguenots, who hate you because you have three parts exterminated them; and the third party is that which desires neither you, nor your brother, nor M. de Guise, but your brother-in-law, Henri of Navarre."
"Provided that he abjure. But these people of whom you
speak are all
"Just so. These are my troops as a leaguer; now add, and compare."
"You are joking, are you not, Chicot?"
"Is it a time to joke, when you are alone, against all the world?"
Henri assumed an air of royal dignity. "Alone I
am," said he, "but at the same time I alone command. You show me an
army, but where is the chief? You will say, M. de Guise; but do I not keep him
"On the contrary; you are the game whom the hunters track to his lair."
"Well! let me hear whom you have seen come."
"Yet some one has come."
"Of those whom I named?"
"Not exactly, but nearly."
"My sister Margot?"
"No; the Duchesse de Montpensier."
"Mon Dieu! yes."
"Well, if she be; I do not fear women."
"True; but she comes as the avant courier to announce the arrival of her brother."
"Of M. de Guise?"
"And do you think that embarrasses me? Give me ink and paper."
"What for? To sign an order for M. de Guise to remain
"Exactly; the idea must be good, since you had it also."
"Execrable, on the contrary."
"As soon as he receives it he will know he is wanted at
The king grew angry. "If you only returned to talk like this," said he, "you had better have stayed away."
"What would you have? Phantoms never flatter. But be
reasonable; why do you think M. de Guise remains at
"To organize an army."
"Well; and for what purpose does he destine this army?"
"Ah, Chicot! you fatigue me with all these questions."
"You will sleep better after it. He destines this army—"
"To attack the Huguenots in the north—"
"Or rather, to thwart your brother of
"Which I never sent."
"To the great joy of the Duc de Guise. Well, if you were to feign to send this aid—if they only went half way—"
"Ah! yes, I understand; M. de Guise would not leave the frontier."
"And the promise of Madame de Montpensier that her brother would be here in a week—"
"Would be broken."
"You see, then?"
"So far, good; but in the south—"
"Ah, yes; the Béarnais—"
"Do you know what he is at?"
"He claims the towns which were his wife's dowry," said the king.
"Insolent! to claim what belongs to him."
"Cahors, for example; as if it would be good policy to give up such a town to an enemy."
"No; but it would be like an honest man."
"But to return to
"I, a dead man?"
"No; you shall go as Robert Briquet."
"As a bagman?"
"Do you refuse?"—"Certainly."
"You disobey me!"
"I owe you no obedience—"
Henri was about to reply, when the door opened and the Duc de Joyeuse was announced.
"Ah! there is your man," said Chicot; "who could make a better ambassador?"
Chicot then buried himself in the great chair, so as to be quite invisible in the dim light. M. de Joyeuse did not see him. The king uttered a cry of joy on seeing his favorite, and held out his hand.
"Sit down, Joyeuse, my child," said he; "how late you are."
"Your majesty is very good," answered Joyeuse, approaching the bed, on which he sat down.
Chicot was hidden in his great chair, and Joyeuse was half lying on the foot of the bed in which the king was bolstered up, when the conversation commenced.
"Well, Joyeuse," said Henri, "have you well wandered about the town?"
"Yes, sire," replied the duke, carelessly.
"How quickly you disappeared from the Place de Greve."
"Sire, to speak frankly, I do not like to see men suffer."
"No; egotistical heart, rather; then sufferings act on my nerves."
"You know what passed?"
"Ma foi! no."
"Salcede denied all."
"You bear it very indifferently, Joyeuse."
"I confess I do not attach much importance to it; besides, I was certain he would deny everything."
"But since he confessed before the judges—"
"All the more reason that he should deny it afterward. The confession put the Guises on their guard, and they were at work while your majesty remained quiet."
"What! you foresee such things, and do not warn me?"
"I am not a minister, to talk politics."
"Well, Joyeuse, I want your brother."
"He, like myself, is at your majesty's service."
"Then I may count on him?"
"I wish to send him on a little mission."
"In that case, it is impossible."
"Du Bouchage cannot go away just now."
The king looked astonished. "What do you mean?" said he.
"Sire," said Joyeuse quietly, "it is the simplest thing possible. Du Bouchage is in love, but he had carried on his negotiations badly, and everything was going wrong; the poor boy was growing thinner and thinner."
"Indeed," said the king, "I have remarked it."
"And he had become sad, mordieu! as if he had lived in your majesty's court."
A kind of grunt, proceeding from the corner of the room interrupted Joyeuse, who looked round astonished.
"It is nothing, Joyeuse," said the king, laughing, "only a dog asleep on the footstool. You say, then, that Du Bouchage grew sad?—"
"Sad as death, sire. It seems he has met with some woman of an extraordinary disposition. However, one sometimes succeeds as well with this sort of women as with others, if you only set the right way to work."
"You would not have been embarrassed, libertine!"
"You understand, sire, that no sooner had he made me his confidant, than I undertook to save him."
"So that already the cure commences."
"What, is he less in love?"
"No; but he has more hope of making her so. For the future, instead of sighing with the lady, we mean to amuse her in every possible way. To-night I stationed thirty Italian musicians under her balcony."
"Ah! ma foi! music would not have amused me when I was in love with Madame de Conde."
"No; but you were in love, sire; and she is as cold as an icicle."
"And you think music will melt her?"
"Diable! I do not say that she will come at once and throw herself into the arms of Du Bouchage, but she will be pleased at all this being done for herself alone. If she do not care for this, we shall have plays, enchantments, poetry—in fact, all the pleasures of the earth, so that, even if we do not bring gayety back to her, I hope we shall to Du Bouchage."
"Well, I hope so; but since it would be so trying to
him to leave
"I never was more free, sire."
"Oh! I thought you were in love with a beautiful lady?"
"Yes, sire, so I was; but imagine that this evening, after having given my lesson to Du Bouchage, I went to see her, with my head full of his love story, and, believing myself almost as much in love as he, I found a trembling frightened woman, and thinking I had disturbed her somehow, I tried to reassure her, but it was useless. I interrogated her, but she did not reply. I tried to embrace her, and she turned her head away. I grew angry, and we quarreled: and she told me she should never be at home to me any more."'
"Poor Joyeuse; what did you do?"
"Pardieu, sire! I took my hat and cloak, bowed, and went out, without once looking back."
"Bravo, Joyeuse; it was courageous."
"The more so, sire, that I thought I heard her sigh."
"But you will return?"
"No, I am proud."
"Well, my friend, this rupture is for your good."
"Perhaps so, sire; but I shall probably be horribly ennuyé for a week, having nothing to do. It may perhaps amuse me, however, as it is something new, and I think it distingué."
"Certainly it is, I have made it so," said the king. "However, I will occupy you with something."
"Something lazy, I hope?"
A second noise came from the chair; one might have thought the dog was laughing at the words of Joyeuse.
"What am I to do, sire?" continued Joyeuse.
"Get on your boots."
"Oh! that is against all my ideas."
"Get on horseback."
"On horseback! impossible."
"Because I am an admiral, and admirals have nothing to do with horses."
"Well, then, admiral, if it be not your place to mount
a horse, it is so at all events to go on board ship. So you will start at once
"I said so," replied the king, in a cold and haughty tone, "and there is no need to repeat it."
Joyeuse, without making the least further resistance, fastened his cloak and took his hat.
"What a trouble I have to make myself obeyed," continued Henri. "Ventrebleu! if I forget sometimes that I am the master, others might remember it."
Joyeuse bowed stifly, and said, "Your orders, sire?"
The king began to melt. "Go," said he, "to
Joyeuse did not answer, but only bowed.
"Do you prefer the land route, duke?" asked Henri.
"I have no preference when I have an order to execute, sire."
"There, now you are sulky. Ah! kings have no friends."
"Those who give orders can only expect to find servants."
"Monsieur," replied the king, angry again,
"you will go then to
"My commission, if you please, sire."
"And since when have you been unable to act by virtue of your rank as admiral?"
"I only obey, sire; and, as much as possible, avoid responsibility."
"Well, then, M. le Duc, you will receive the commission at your hotel before you depart."
"And when will that be?"
"In an hour."
Joyeuse bowed and turned to the door. The king's heart misgave him. "What!" cried he, "not even the courtesy of an adieu? You are not polite, but that is a common reproach to naval people."
"Pardon me, sire, but I am a still worse courtier than I am a seaman;" and shutting the door violently, he went out.
"See how those love me, for whom I have done so much," cried the king; "ungrateful Joyeuse!"
"Well, are you going to recall him?" said Chicot, advancing. "Because, for once in your life, you have been firm, you repent it."
"Ah! so you think it very agreeable to go to sea in the month of October? I should like to see you do it."
"You are quite welcome to do so; my greatest desire just now is to travel."
"Then if I wish to send you somewhere you will not object to go?"
"Not only I do not object, but I request it."
"On a mission?"
"Will you go to
"I would go to the devil."
"You are joking."
"No; since my death I joke no more."
"But you refused just now to quit
"I was wrong, and I repent. I will go to
"Doubtless; I wish it."
"I wait your orders, gracious prince," said Chicot, assuming the same attitude as Joyeuse.
"But you do not know if the mission will suit you. I have certain projects of embroiling Margot with her husband."
"Divide to reign was the A B C of politics one hundred years ago."
"Then you have no repugnance?"
"It does not concern me; do as you wish. I am ambassador, that is all; and as long as I am inviolable, that is all I care for."
"But now you must know what to say to my brother-in-law."
"I say anything! Certainly not."
"I will go where you like, but I will say nothing."
"Then you refuse?"
"I refuse to give a message, but I will take a letter."
"Well, I will give you a letter."
"Give it me, then."
"What! you do not think such a letter can be written at once. It must be well weighed and considered."
"Well, then, think over it. I will come or send for it early to-morrow."
"Why not sleep here?"
"Yes, in your chair."
"I sleep no more at the Louvre."
"But you must know my intentions concerning Margot and her husband. My letter will make a noise, and they will question you; you must be able to reply."
"Mon Dieu!" said Chicot, shrugging his shoulders, "how obtuse you are, great king. Do you think I am going to carry a letter a hundred and fifty leagues without knowing what is in it? Be easy, the first halt I make I shall open your letter and read it. What! have you sent ambassadors for ten years to all parts of the world, and know no better than that? Come, rest in peace, and I will return to my solitude."
"Where is it?"
"In the cemetery of the Grands-Innocens, great prince."
Henri looked at him in astonishment again.
"Ah! you did not expect that," said Chicot. "Well, till to-morrow, when I or my messenger will come—"
"How shall I know your messenger when he arrives?"
"He will say he comes from the shade." And Chicot disappeared so rapidly as almost to reawaken the king's fears as to whether he were a shade or not.
From the Louvre Chicot had not far to go to his home. He
went to the bank of the
"It is strange," thought he, as he rowed and looked at the still-lighted window of the king's room, "that after so many years, Henri is still the same. Others have risen or fallen, while he has gained some wrinkles, and that is all. He has the same weak, yet elevated mind—still fantastical and poetical—still the same egotistical being, always asking for more than one has to give him, friendship from the indifferent, love from the friendly, devotion from the loving, and more sad than any one in his kingdom. By-the-by, he did not speak of giving me any money for my journey; that proves at least that he thinks me a friend." And he laughed quietly.
He soon arrived at the opposite bank, where he fastened his boat. On entering the Rue des Augustins, he was struck by the sound of instruments and voices in the street at that late hour.
"Is there a wedding here?" thought he, "I have not long to sleep, and now this will keep me awake."
As he advanced, he saw a dozen flambeaux carried by pages, while thirty musicians were playing on different instruments. The band was stationed before a house, that Chicot, with surprise, recognized as his own. He remained for an instant stupefied, and then said to himself, "There must be some mistake; all this noise cannot be for me. Unless, indeed, some unknown princess has suddenly fallen in love with me."
This supposition, flattering as it was, did not appear to convince Chicot, and he turned toward the house facing his, but it showed no signs of life.
"They must sleep soundly, there," said he; "such a noise is enough to wake the dead."
"Pardon me, my friend," said he, addressing himself to a torch-bearer, "but can you tell me, if you please, who all this music is for?"
"For the bourgeois who lives there." replied he, pointing out to Chicot his own house.
"Decidedly it is for me!" thought he. "Whom do you belong to?" he asked.
"To the bourgeois who lives there."
"Ah! they not only come for me, but they belong to me—still better. Well! we shall see," and piercing through the crowd, he opened his door, went upstairs, and appeared at his balcony, in which he placed a chair and sat down.
"Gentlemen," said he, "are you sure there is no mistake? is all this really for me?"
"Are you M. Robert Briquet?"
"Then we are at your service, monsieur," said the leader of the band, giving the sign to recommence.
"Certainly it is unintelligible," thought Chicot. He looked around; all the inhabitants of the street were at their windows, excepting those of the opposite house, which, as we have said, remained dark and quiet. But on glancing downward, he saw a man wrapped in a dark cloak, and who wore a black hat with a red feather, leaning against the portico of his own door, and looking earnestly at the opposite house.
The leader of the band just then quitted his post and spoke softly to this man, and Chicot instantly guessed that here lay all the interest of the scene. Soon after, a gentleman on horseback, followed by two squires, appeared at the corner of the street, and pushed his way through the crowd, while the music stopped.
"M. de Joyeuse," murmured Chicot, who recognized him at once.
The cavalier approached the gentleman under the balcony.
"Well! Henri," said he, "what news?"
"No; she has not even appeared."
"They have not made noise enough."
"They have roused all the neighborhood."
"They did not cry as I told them, that it was all in honor of this bourgeois."
"They cried it so loud, that there he is, sitting in his balcony, listening."
"And she has not appeared?"
"Neither she, nor any one."
"The idea was ingenious, however, for she might, like the rest of the people, have profited by the music given to her neighbor."
"Ah! you do not know her, brother."
"Yes, I do; or at all events I know women, and as she is but a woman, we will not despair."
"Ah! you say that in a discouraged tone, brother."
"Not at all; only give the bourgeois his serenade every night."
"But she will go away."
"Not if you do not speak to her, or seem to be doing it on her account, and remain concealed. Has the bourgeois spoken?"
"Yes, and he is now speaking again."
"Hold your tongue up there and go in," cried Joyeuse, out of humor. "Diable! you have had your serenade, so keep quiet."
"My serenade! that is just what I want to know the meaning of; to whom is it addressed?"
"To your daughter."
"I have none."—"To your wife, then."
"Thank God, I am not married."
"Then to yourself, and if you do not go in—" cried Joyeuse, advancing with a menacing air.
"Ventre de biche! but if the music be for me—"
"Old fool!" growled Joyeuse. "If you do not go in and hide your ugly face they shall break their instruments over your head."
"Let the man alone, brother," said Henri, "the fact is, he must be very much astonished."
"Oh! but if we get up a quarrel, perhaps she will look to see what is the matter; we will burn his house down, if necessary."
"No, for pity's sake, brother, do not let us force her attention; we are beaten, and must submit."
Chicot, who heard all, was mentally preparing the means of defense, but Joyeuse yielded to his brother's request, and dismissed the pages and musicians.
Then he said to his brother, "I am in despair; all conspires against us."
"What do you mean?"
"I have no longer time to aid you."
"I see now that you are in traveling dress; I did not remark it before."
"I set off to-night for
"When did he give you the order?"
"Come with me, I entreat."
"Do you order me, brother?" said Henri, turning pale at the thought.
"No; I only beg you."
"Thank you, brother. If I were forced to give up passing my nights under this window."
"I should die."
"You are mad."
"My heart is here, brother; my life is here."
Joyeuse crossed his arms with a mixture of anger and pity. "If our father," he said, "begged you to let yourself be attended by Miron, who is at once a philosopher and a doctor?"
"I should reply to my father that I am well and that my brain is sound, and that Miron cannot cure love sickness."
"Well, then, Henri, I must make the best of it. She is but a woman, and at my return I hope to see you more joyous than myself."
"Yes, yes, my good brother, I shall be cured—I shall be happy, thanks to your friendship, which is my most precious possession."
"After your love."
"Before my life."
Joyeuse, much touched, interrupted him.
"Let us go, brother," said he.
"Yes, brother, I follow you," said Du Bouchage, sighing.
"Yes, I understand; the last adieux to the window; but you have also one for me, brother."
Henri passed his arms round the neck of his brother, who leaned down to embrace him.
"No!" cried he. "I will accompany you to the gates," and with a last look toward the window, he followed his brother.
Chicot continued to watch. Gradually every one disappeared, and the street was deserted. Then one of the windows of the opposite house was opened, and a man looked out.
"There is no longer any one, madame," said he; "you may leave your hiding-place and go down to your own room," and lighting a lamp, he gave it into a hand stretched out to receive it.
Chicot looked earnestly, but as he caught sight of her pale but sublime face, he shuddered and sat down, entirely subjugated, in his turn, by the melancholy influence of the house.
Chicot passed the remainder of the night dreaming in his armchair, for the face of that woman brought before him a number of illustrious shades connected with many happy or terrible souvenirs, and he who had regretted his sleep on first arriving, now thought no more of it.
When morning dawned he got up, threw a cloak over his shoulders, and with the firmness of a sage, examined the bottom of his purse and his shoes. Chicot, a man of lively imagination, had made in the principal beam which ran through his house a cavity, a foot and a half long and six inches wide, which he used as a strong box, to contain 1,000 crowns in gold. He had made the following calculation: "I spend the twentieth part of one of these crowns every day; therefore I have enough to last me for 20,000 days. I cannot live so long as that, but I may live half as long, and as I grow older my wants and expenses will increase, and this will give me twenty-five or thirty good years to live, and that is enough." He was therefore tranquil as to the future.
This morning on opening his store, "Ventre de biche!" he cried, "times are hard, and I need not be delicate with Henri. This money did not come from him, but from an old uncle. If it were still night, I would go and get 100 crowns from the king; but now I have no resource but in myself or in Gorenflot."
This idea of drawing money from Gorenflot made him smile. "It would be odd," thought he, "if Gorenflot should refuse 100 crowns to the friend through whom he was appointed prior to the Jacobins. But this letter of the king's. I must go and fetch it. But these Joyeuses are in truth capable of burning my house down some night, to attract the lady to her window: and my 1,000 crowns! really, I think it would be better to hide them in the ground. However, if they burn my house the king shall pay me for it."
Thus reassured, he left the house, and at that moment saw at the window of the opposite house the servant of the unknown lady. This man, as we have said, was completely disfigured by a scar extending from the left temple to the cheek; but although bald and with a gray beard, he had a quick, active appearance, and a fresh and young-looking complexion. On seeing Chicot, he drew his hood over his head, and was going in, but Chicot called out to him:
"Neighbor! the noise here last night quite disgusted me, and I am going for some weeks to my farm; will you be so obliging as to look after my house a little?"
"And if you see robbers?"
"Be easy, monsieur, I have a good arquebuse."
"I have still one more favor to ask."
"What is it?"
"I hardly like to call it out."
"I will come down to you."
He came down accordingly, with his hood drawn closely round his face, saying, as a sort of apology, "It is very cold this morning."
"Yes," said Chicot, "there is a bitter wind. Well, monsieur, I am going away."
"You told me that before!"
"Yes, I know; but I leave a good deal of money behind me."
"So much the worse; why not take it with you?"
"I cannot; but I leave it well hidden—so well, that I have nothing to fear but fire. If that should happen, will you try and look after that great beam you see on the right."
"Really, monsieur, you embarrass me. This confidence would have been far better made to a friend than to a stranger of whom you know nothing."
"It is true, monsieur, that I do not know you; but I believe in faces, and I think yours that of an honest man."
"But, monsieur, it is possible that this music may annoy my mistress also, and then she might move."
"Well, that cannot be helped, and I must take my chance."
"Thanks, monsieur, for your confidence in a poor unknown; I will try to be worthy of it;" and bowing, he went into the house.
Chicot murmured to himself, "Poor young man, what a wreck, and I have seen him so gay and so handsome."
The priory which the king had bestowed upon Gorenflot was situated near the Porte St. Antoine. This was at that time a very favorite quarter, for the king frequently visited the Chateau of Vincennes, and different noblemen had built charming residences in its neighborhood.
The priory was built on four sides of an immense court, planted with trees; it had a kitchen-garden behind, and a number of out-houses, which made it look like a small village. Two hundred monks occupied the dormitories situated at the end of the courtyard, while in the front, four large windows, with a balcony before them, gave to these apartments air and light.
It was maintained on its own resources and dependencies; its pasture land fed a troop of fifty oxen and ninety-nine sheep, for by some traditional law, no religious order was allowed to possess one hundred of anything, while certain outbuildings sheltered ninety-nine pigs of a particular breed, which were most carefully reared and fattened. The espaliers of the priory, which were exposed to the mid-day sun, furnished peaches, apricots, and grapes, while preserves of these fruits were skillfully made by a certain Brother Eusebius, who was the architect of the famous rock constructed of sweetmeats which had been presented to the two queens by the Hotel de Ville of Paris at the last state banquet which had taken place there.
In the interior of this paradise for gourmands and sluggards, in a sumptuous apartment, we shall find Gorenflot, ornamented with an additional chin, and characterized by that sort of venerable gravity which the constant habit of repose and good living gives to the most vulgar faces. Half-past seven in the morning had just struck. The prior had profited by the rule which gave to him an hour's more sleep than to the other monks, and now, although he had risen, he was quietly continuing his sleep in a large armchair as soft as eider down. The furniture of the room was more mundane than religious; a carved table, covered with a rich cloth, books of religious gallantry—that singular mixture of love and devotion, which we only meet with at that epoch of art—expensive vases, and curtains of rich damask, were some of the luxuries of which Dom Modeste Gorenflot had become possessed by the grace of God, of the king, and of Chicot.
Gorenflot slept, as we have said, in his chair, when the door opened softly, and two men entered. The first was about thirty-five years of age, thin and pale, and with a look which commanded, even before he spoke; lightnings seemed to dart from his eyes when they were open, although the expression was generally softened by a careful lowering of the white eyelids. This was Brother Borromée, who had been for the last three weeks treasurer of the convent. The other was a young man about seventeen or eighteen, with piercing black eyes, a bold look, and whose turned-up sleeves displayed two strong arms quick in gesticulation.
"The prior sleeps still, Father Borromée," said he: "shall we wake him?"
"On no account, Brother Jacques."
"Really, it is a pity to have a prior who sleeps so long, for we might have tried the arms this morning. Did you notice what beautiful cuirasses and arquebuses there were among them?"
"Silence! brother; you will be heard."
"How unlucky," cried the young man, impatiently, stamping his feet, "it is so fine to-day, and the court is so dry."
"We must wait, my child," replied Borromée, with a submission his glance belied.
"But why do you not order them to distribute the arms?"
"You know that I am not the master here; there is the master."
"Yes, asleep, when every one else is awake," replied Jacques, impatiently.
"Let us respect his sleep," said Borromée, overturning a chair, however, as he spoke.
At the sound, Gorenflot looked up and said, sleepily, "Who is there?"
"Pardon us," said Borromée, "if we interrupt your pious meditations, but I have come to take your orders."
"Ah! good-morning, Brother Borromée; what orders do you want?"
"About the arms."
"Those which your reverence ordered to be brought here."
"I, and when?"
"About a week ago."
"I ordered arms?"
"Without doubt," replied Borromée, firmly.
"And what for?"
"Your reverence said to me, 'Brother Borromée, it would be wise to procure arms for the use of the brethren; gymnastic exercises develop the bodily forces, as pious exhortations do those of the soul.'"
"I said that?"
"Yes, reverend prior; and I, an unworthy but obedient brother, hastened to obey."
"It is strange, but I remember nothing about it."
"You even added this text, 'Militat spiritu, militat gladio.'"
"What!" cried Gorenflot, "I added that text!"
"I have a faithful memory," said Borromée, lowering his eyes.
"Well, if I said so, of course I had my reasons for it. Indeed, that has always been my opinion."
"Then I will finish executing your orders, reverend prior," said Borromée, retiring with Jacques.
"Go," said Gorenflot, majestically.
"Ah!" said Borromée, "I had forgotten; there is a friend in the parlor who asks to see your reverence."
"What is his name?"
"M. Robert Briquet."
"Oh! he is not a friend; only an acquaintance."
"Then your reverence will not see him?"
"Oh, yes! let him come up; he amuses me."
When Chicot entered, the prior did not rise, but merely bent his head.
"Good-morning," said Chicot.
"Ah! there you are; you appear to have come to life again."
"Did you think me dead?"
"Diable! I never saw you."
"I was busy."
Chicot knew that before being warmed by two or three bottles of old Burgundy, Gorenflot was sparing of his words; and so, considering the time of the morning, it was probable that he was still fasting, Chicot sat down to wait.
"Will you breakfast with me, M. Briquet?" asked Gorenflot.
"You must not be angry with me, if it has become impossible for me to give you as much time as I could wish."
"And who the devil asked you for your time? I did not even ask you for breakfast; you offered it."
"Certainly I offered it; but—"
"But you thought I should not accept."
"Oh! no, is that my habit?"
"Ah! a superior man like you can adopt any habits, M. le Prior."
Gorenflot looked at Chicot; he could not tell whether he was laughing at him or speaking seriously. Chicot rose.
"Why do you rise, M. Briquet?" asked Gorenflot.
"Because I am going away."
"And why are you going away, when you said you would breakfast with me?"
"I did not say I would; I said, perhaps."
"You are angry."
Chicot laughed. "I angry!" said he, "at what? Because you are impudent, ignorant, and rude? Oh! my dear monsieur, I have known you too long to be angry at these little imperfections."
Gorenflot remained stupefied.
"Adieu," said Chicot.
"Oh! do not go."
"My journey will not wait."
"I have a mission."
"From the king."
"A mission from the king! then you have seen him again?"
"And how did he receive you?"
"With enthusiasm; he has a memory, king as he is."
"A mission from the king!" stammered Gorenflot.
"Adieu," repeated Chicot.
Gorenflot rose, and seized him by the hand. "Come! let us explain ourselves," said he.
"On your susceptibility to-day."
"I! I am the same to-day as on all other days."
"A simple mirror of the people I am with. You laugh, and I laugh; you are rude, so am I."
"Well! I confess I was preoccupied."
"Can you not be indulgent to a man who has so much work on his shoulders? Governing this priory is like governing a province: remember, I command two hundred men."
"Ah! it is too much indeed for a servant of God."
"Ah! you are ironical, M. Briquet. Have you lost all your Christian charity? I think you are envious, really."
"Envious! of whom?"
"Why, you say to yourself, Dom Modeste Gorenflot is rising—he is on the ascending scale."
"While I am on the descending one, I suppose?"
"It is the fault of your false position, M. Briquet."
"M. Gorenflot, do you remember the text, 'He who humbles himself, shall be exalted?'"
"Nonsense!" cried Gorenflot.
"Ah! now he doubts the Holy Writ; the heretic!"
"Heretic, indeed! But what do you mean, M. Briquet?"
"Nothing, but that I set out on a journey, and that I have come to make you my adieux; so, good-by."
"You shall not leave me thus."
"In grandeur one has no friends."
"I am no longer Chicot; you reproached me with my false position just now."
"But you must not go without eating; it is not wholesome."
"Oh! you live too badly here."
"Badly, here!" murmured the prior, in astonishment.
"I think so."
"You had to complain of your last dinner here?"
"I should think so."
"Diable! and of what?"
"The pork cutlets were burned."
"The stuffed ears did not crack under your teeth."
"The capon was soft."
"The soup was greasy."
"And then you have no time to give me."
"You said so, did you not? It only remains for you to become a liar."
"Oh! I can put off my business: it was only a lady who asks me to see her."
"See her, then."
"No, no! dear M. Chicot, although she has sent me a hundred bottles of Sicilian wine."
"A hundred bottles!"
"I will not receive her, although she is probably some great lady. I will receive only you."
"You will do this?"
"To breakfast with you, dear M. Chicot—to repair my wrongs toward you."
"Which came from your pride."
"I will humble myself."
"From your idleness."
"Well! from to-morrow I will join my monks in their exercises."
"Yes; but it will be fatiguing to command."
"Who had this idea?"
"I, it seems."
"No. I gave the order to Brother Borromée."
"Who is he?"
"The new treasurer."
"Where does he come from?"
"M. le Cardinal de Guise recommended him."
"No, by letter."
"And it is with him you decided on this?"
"Yes, my friend."
"That is to say, he proposed it and you agreed."
"No, my dear M. Chicot; the idea was entirely mine."
"And for what end?"
"To arm them."
"Oh! pride, pride! Confess that the idea was his."
"Oh! I do not know. And yet it must have been mine, for it seems that I pronounced a very good Latin text on the occasion."
"You! Latin! Do you remember it?"
"Yes, yes: that was it."
"Well, you have excused yourself so well that I pardon you. You are still my true friend."
Gorenflot wiped away a tear.
"Now let us breakfast, and I promise to be indulgent."
"Listen! I will tell the cook that if the fare be not regal, he shall be placed in confinement; and we will try some of the wine of my penitent."
"I will aid you with my judgment."'
Gorenflot was not long in giving his orders. The cook was summoned.
"Brother Eusebius," said Gorenflot, in a severe voice, "listen to what my friend M. Briquet is about to tell you. It seems that you are negligent, and I hear of grave faults in your last soup, and a fatal mistake in the cooking of your ears. Take care, brother, take care; a single step in a wrong direction may be irremediable."
The monk grew red and pale by turns, and stammered out an excuse.
"Enough," said Gorenflot, "what can we have for breakfast to-day?"
"Eggs fried with cock's combs."
"Crabs cooked with
"Those are all trifles; tell us of something solid."
"A ham boiled with pistachios."
Chicot looked contemptuous.
"Pardon!" cried Eusebius, "it is cooked in sherry wine."
Gorenflot hazarded an approving glance toward Chicot.
"Good! is it not, M. Briquet?" said he.
Chicot made a gesture of half-satisfaction.
"And what have you besides?"
"You can have some eels."
"Oh! we will dispense with the eels," said Chicot.
"I think, M. Briquet," replied the cook, "that you would regret it if you had not tasted my eels."
"What! are they rarities?"
"I nourish them in a particular manner."
"Yes," added Gorenflot; "it appears that the Romans or the Greeks—I forget which—nourished their lampreys as Eusebius does his eels. He read of it in an old author called Suetonius."
"Yes, monsieur, I mince the intestines and livers of fowls and game with a little pork, and make a kind of sausage meat, which I throw to my eels, and they are kept in soft water, often renewed, in which they become large and fat. The one which I shall offer you to-day weighs nine pounds."
"It must be a serpent!" said Chicot.
"It swallowed a chicken at a meal."
"And how will it be dressed?"
"Skinned and fried in anchovy paste, and done with bread crumbs; and I shall have the honor of serving it up with a sauce flavored with garlic and allspice, lemons and mustard."
"Perfect!" cried Chicot.
Brother Eusebius breathed again.
"Then we shall want sweets," said Gorenflot.
"I will invent something that shall please you."
"Well, then, I trust to you; be worthy of my confidence."
Eusebius bowed and retired. Ten minutes after, they sat
down, and the programme was faithfully carried out. They began like famished
men, drank Rhine wine,
"What do you think of it?" asked Gorenflot.
"Good, but light. What is your fair petitioner's name?"
"I do not know; she sent an ambassador."
They ate as long as they could, and then sat drinking and talking, when suddenly a great noise was heard.
"What is that?" asked Chicot.
"It is the exercise which commences."
"Without the chief? Your soldiers are badly disciplined, I fear."
"Without me! never!" cried Gorenflot, who had become excited with wine. "That cannot be, since it is I who command—I who instruct—and stay, here is Brother Borromée, who comes to take my orders."
Indeed, as he spoke, Borromée entered, throwing on Chicot a sharp and oblique glance.
"Reverend prior," said he, "we only wait for you to examine the arms and cuirasses."
"Cuirasses!" thought Chicot, "I must see this," and he rose quietly.
"You will be present at our maneuvers?" said Gorenflot, rising in his turn, like a block of marble on legs. "Your arm, my friend; you shall see some good instruction."
When Chicot, sustaining the reverend prior, arrived in the courtyard, he found there two bands of one hundred men each, waiting for their commander. About fifty among the strongest and most zealous had helmets on their heads and long swords hanging to belts from their waists. Others displayed with pride bucklers, on which they loved to rattle an iron gauntlet.
Brother Borromée took a helmet from the hands of a novice, and placed it on his head. While he did so, Chicot looked at it and smiled.
"You have a handsome helmet there, Brother Borromée," said he; "where did you buy it, my dear prior?"
Gorenflot could not reply, for at that moment they were fastening a magnificent cuirass upon him, which, although spacious enough to have covered Hercules, Farnese constrained wofully the undulations of the flesh of the worthy prior, who was crying:
"Not so tight! I shall stifle; stop!"
But Borromée replied, "It made part of a lot of armor that the reverend prior bought yesterday to arm the convent."
"I!" said Gorenflot.
"Yes; do you not remember that they brought several cuirasses and casques here, according to your reverence's orders?"
"It is true," said Gorenflot.
"Ventre de biche!" thought Chicot; "my helmet is much attached to me, for, after having taken it myself to the Hotel Guise, it comes here to meet me again."
At a sign from Borromée, the monks now formed into lines, while Chicot sat down on a bench to look on.
Gorenflot stood up. "Attention," whispered Borromée to him.
Gorenflot drew a gigantic sword from the scabbard, and waving it in the air, cried in the voice of a stentor, "Attention!"
"Your reverence will fatigue yourself, perhaps, in giving the orders," said Borromée, softly; "if it please you to spare your precious health, I will command to-day."
"I should wish it, I am stifling."
Borromée bowed and placed himself at the head of the troop.
"What a complaisant servant," said Chicot.
"He is charming, I told you so."
"I am sure he does the same for you every day."
"Oh! every day. He is as submissive as a slave."
"So that you have really nothing to do here—Brother Borromée acts for you?"
"Oh! mon Dieu, yes."
It was wonderful to see Borromée with his arms in his hands, his eye dilated, and his vigorous arm wielding his sword in so skillful a manner that one would have thought him a trained soldier. Each time that Borromée gave an order, Gorenflot repeated it, adding:
"Brother Borromée is right; but I told you all that yesterday. Pass the pike from one hand to the other! Raise it to the level of the eye!"
"You are a skillful instructor," said Chicot.
"Yes, I understand it well."
"And Borromée an apt pupil."
"Oh, yes! he is very intelligent."
While the monks went through their exercises, Gorenflot said, "You shall see my little Jacques."
"Who is Jacques?"
"A nice lad, calm-looking, but strong, and quick as lightning. Look, there he is with a musket in his hand, about to fire."
"And he fires well."
"That he does."
"Do you know him?"
"No; I thought I did, but I was wrong."
While they spoke, Jacques loaded a heavy musket, and placing himself at one hundred yards from the mark, fired, and the ball lodged in the center, amid the applause of the monks.
"That was well done!" cried Chicot.
"Thank you, monsieur," said Jacques, whose cheeks colored with pleasure.
"You manage your arms well," added Chicot.
"I study, monsieur."
"But he is best at the sword," said Gorenflot; "those who understand it, say so, and he is practicing from morning till night."
"Ah! let us see," said Chicot.
"No one here, except perhaps myself, is capable of fencing with him; but will you try him yourself, monsieur?" said Borromée.
"I am but a poor bourgeois," said Chicot; "formerly I have used my sword like others, but now my legs tremble and my arm is weak."
"But you practice still?"
"A little," replied Chicot, with a smile. "However, you, Brother Borromée, who are all muscle and tendon, give a lesson to Brother Jacques, I beg, if the prior will permit it."
"I shall be delighted," cried Gorenflot.
The two combatants prepared for the trial. Borromée had the advantage in height and experience. The blood mounted to the cheeks of Jacques and animated them with a feverish color. Borromée gradually dropped all appearance of a monk, and was completely the maitre d'armes: he accompanied each thrust with a counsel or a reproach, but often the vigor and quickness of Jacques triumphed over the skill of his teacher, who was several times touched.
When they paused, Chicot said, "Jacques touched six times and Borromée nine; that is well for the scholar, but not so well for the master."
The flash of Borromée's eyes showed Chicot that he was proud.
"Monsieur," replied he, in a tone which he endeavored to render calm, "the exercise of arms is a difficult one, especially for poor monks."
"Nevertheless," said Chicot, "the master ought to be at least half as good again as his pupil, and if Jacques were calmer, I am certain he would fence as well as you."
"I do not think so," replied Borromée, biting his lips with anger.
"Well! I am sure of it."
"M. Briquet, who is so clever, had better try Jacques himself," replied Borromée, in a bitter tone.
"Oh! I am old."
"Yes, but learned."
"Ah! you mock," thought Chicot, "but wait." Then he said, "I am certain, however, that Brother Borromée, like a wise master, often let Jacques touch him out of complaisance."
"Ah!" cried Jacques, frowning in his turn.
"No," replied Borromée, "I love Jacques, certainly, but I do not spoil him in that manner. But try yourself, M. Briquet."
"Come, only one pass."
"Try," said Gorenflot.
"I will not hurt you, monsieur," said Jacques, "I have a very light hand."
"Dear child," murmured Chicot, with a strange glance. "Well!" said he, "since every one wishes it, I will try," and he rose slowly, and prepared himself with about the agility of a tortoise.
Fencing was not at that time the science that it is now. The swords, sharp on each side, made them strike as often with the edge as with the point; besides, the left hand, armed with a dagger, was at the same time offensive and defensive, and hence resulted a number of slight wounds, which, in a real combat, kept up a continual excitement. Fencing, then in its infancy, consisted in a crowd of evolutions, in which the actor moved continually, and which, on a ground chosen by chance, might be continually impeded by its nature.
It was common to see the fencer throw himself forward, draw back again, or jump to the right or left, so that agility, not only of the hand, but of the whole body, was necessary. Chicot did not appear to have learned in this school, but seemed to have forestalled the modern style, of which the superiority and grace is in the agility of the hands and immovability of the body. He stood erect and firm, with a wrist at once strong and supple, and with a sword which seemed a flexible reed from the point to the middle of the blade, and an inflexible steel from thence to the guard.
At the very first commencement, Jacques, seeing before him this man of bronze, whose wrist alone seemed alive, gave some impatient passes, which merely made Chicot extend his arm, and at every opening left by the young man, strike him full on the chest. Jacques, red with anger and emulation as this was repeated, bounded back, and for ten minutes displayed all the resources of his wonderful agility—he flew like a tiger, twisted like a serpent, and bounded from right to left; but Chicot, with his calm air and his long arm, seized his time, and putting aside his adversary's sword, still sent his own to the same place, while Borromée grew pale with anger. At last, Jacques rushed a last time on Chicot, who, parrying his thrust with force, threw the poor fellow off his equilibrium, and he fell, while Chicot himself remained firm as a rock.
"You did not tell us you were a pillar," said Borromée, biting his nails with vexation.
"I, a poor bourgeois!" said Chicot.
"But, monsieur, to manage a sword as you do, you must have practiced enormously."
"Oh! mon Dieu! yes, monsieur, I have often held the sword, and have always found one thing."—"What is that?"
"That for him who holds it, pride is a bad counselor and anger a bad assistant. Now, listen, Jacques," added he: "you have a good wrist, but neither legs nor head; you are quick, but you do not reason. There are three essential things in arms—first the head, then the hands and legs: with the one you can defend yourself, with the others you may conquer, but with all three you can always conquer."
"Ah! monsieur," said Jacques, "try Brother Borromée; I should like to see it."
"No," said the treasurer, "I should be beaten, and I would rather confess it than prove it."
"How modest and amiable he is!" said Gorenflot.
"On the contrary," whispered Chicot, "he is stupid with vanity. At his age I would have given anything for such a lesson," and he sat down again.
Jacques approached him, and admiration triumphing over the shame of defeat:
"Will you give me some lessons, M. Briquet?" said he; "the prior will permit it, will you not, your reverence?"
"With pleasure, my child."
"I do not wish to interfere with your master," said Chicot, bowing to Borromée.
"Oh! I am not his only master," said he. "Neither all the honor nor the defeat are wholly due to me."
"Who is the other, then?"
"Oh! no one!" cried Borromée, fearing he had committed an imprudence.
"Who is he, Jacques?" asked Chicot.
"I remember," said Gorenflot; "he is a little fat man who comes here sometimes and drinks well."
"I forget his name," said Borromée.
"I know it," said a monk who was standing by. "It is Bussy Leclerc."
"Ah! a good sword," said Chicot.
Jacques reiterated his request.
"I cannot teach you," said Chicot. "I taught myself by reflection and practice; and I advise you to do the same."
Gorenflot and Chicot now returned to the house.
"I hope," said Gorenflot, with pride, "that this is a house worth something, and well managed."
"Wonderful! my friend; and when I return from my mission—"
"Ah! true, dear M. Chicot; let us speak of your mission."
"So much the more willingly, that I have a message to send to the king before I go."
"To the king, my dear friend! You correspond with the king?"
"And you want a messenger?"
"Will you have one of our monks? It would be an honor to the priory."
"Then you are restored to favor?"
"More than ever."
"Then," said Gorenflot, "you can tell the king all that we are doing here in his favor."
"I shall not fail to do so."
"Ah! my dear Chicot," cried Gorenflot, who already believed himself a bishop.
"But first I have two requests to make."
"First, money, which the king will restore to you."
"Money! I have my coffers full."
"Ma foi! you are lucky."
"Will you have 1,000 crowns?"
"No, that is far too much; I am modest in my tastes, humble in my desires, and my title of ambassador does not make me proud; therefore 100 crowns will suffice."
"Here they are; and the second thing?"
"Yes, to accompany me; I love society."
"Ah! my friend, if I were but free, as formerly."
"But you are not."
"Greatness enslaves me," murmured Gorenflot.
"Alas!" said Chicot, "one cannot do everything at once. But not being able to have your honorable company, my dear prior, I will content myself with that of the little Jacques; he pleases me."
"You are right, Chicot, he is a rare lad."
"I am going to take him 250 leagues, if you will permit it."
"He is yours, my friend."
The prior struck a bell, and when the servant appeared said, "Let Brother Jacques come here, and also our messenger."
Ten minutes after both appeared at the door.
"Jacques," said Gorenflot, "I give you a special mission."
"Me!" cried the young man, astonished.
"Yes, you are to accompany M. Robert Briquet on a long journey."
"Oh!" cried he, enthusiastically, "that will be delightful. We shall fight every day—shall we not, monsieur?"
"Yes, my child."
"And I may take my arquebuse?"
Jacques bounded joyfully from the room.
"As to the message, I beg you to give your orders. Advance, Brother Panurge."
Panurge advanced. He looked intelligent, but like a fox.
"Do you know the Louvre?" said Chicot.
"And in the Louvre a certain Henri de Valois?"
"People generally call him so."
"Is it to him that I am to go?"
"Just so. You will ask to speak to him."
"Will they let me?"
"Yes, till you come to his valet-de-chambre. Your frock is a passport, for the king is very religious."
"And what shall I say to the valet-de-chambre?"
"Say you are sent by the shade."
"Curiosity is a vice, my brother."
"Say then that you want the letter."
"You will add that the shade will wait for it, going slowly along the road to Charenton."
"It is on that road, then, that I am to join you?"
As Panurge went out, Chicot thought he saw some one listening at the door, but could not be sure. He fancied it was Borromée.
"Where do you go?" asked Gorenflot.
"How do you travel?"
"Oh! anyhow; on foot, on horseback, in a carriage—just as it happens."
"Jacques will be good company for you."
"Thanks, my good friend, I have now, I think, only to make my adieux."
"Adieu; I will give you my benediction."
"Bah! it is useless between us."
"You are right; but it does for strangers," and they embraced.
"Jacques!" called the prior, "Jacques!"
"Brother Jacques," repeated the prior.
"Jacques is gone."
"What! gone," cried Chicot.
"Did you not wish some one to go to the Louvre?"
"Yes; but it was Panurge."
"Oh! stupid that I am," cried Borromée, "I understood it to be Jacques."
Chicot frowned, but Borromée appeared so sorry that it was impossible to say much.
"I will wait, then," said he, "till Jacques returns."
Borromée bowed, frowning in his turn. "Apropos," said he, "I forgot to announce to your reverence that the unknown lady has arrived and desires to speak to you."
"Is she alone?" asked Gorenflot.
"No; she has a squire with her."
"Is she young?"
Borromée lowered his eyes. "She seems so," said he.
"I will leave you," said Chicot, "and wait in a neighboring room."
"It is far from here to the Louvre, monsieur, and Jacques may be long, or they may hesitate to confide an important letter to a child."
"You make these reflections rather late," replied Chicot, "however, I will go on the road to Charenton and you can send him after me." And he turned to the staircase.
"Not that way, if you please," said Borromée, "the lady is coming up, and she does not wish to meet any one."
"You are right," said Chicot, smiling, "I will take the little staircase."
"Do you know the way?"
"Perfectly." And Chicot went out through a cabinet which led to another room, from which led the secret staircase. The room was full of armor, swords, muskets, and pistols.
"They hide Jacques from me," thought Chicot, "and they hide the lady, therefore of course I ought to do exactly the opposite of what they want me to do. I will wait for the return of Jacques, and I will watch the mysterious lady. Oh! here is a fine shirt of mail thrown into a corner; it is much too small for the prior, and would fit me admirably. I will borrow it from Gorenflot, and give it to him again when I return." And he quietly put it on under his doublet. He had just finished when Borromée entered.
Chicot pretended to be admiring the arms.
"Is monsieur seeking some arms to suit him?" asked Borromée.
"I! mon Dieu! what do I want with arms?"
"You use them so well."
"Theory, all theory; I may use my arms well, but the heart of a soldier is always wanting in a poor bourgeois like me. But time passes, and Jacques cannot be long; I will go and wait for him at the Croix Faubin."
"I think that will be best."
"Then you will tell him as soon as he comes?"
"And send him after me?"
"I will not fail."
"Thanks, Brother Borromée; I am enchanted to have made your acquaintance."
He went out by the little staircase, and Borromée locked the door behind him.
"I must see the lady," thought Chicot.
He went out of the priory and went on the road he had named; then, when out of sight, he turned back, crept along a ditch and gained, unseen, a thick hedge which extended before the priory. Here he waited to see Jacques return or the lady go out.
Chicot made a slight opening through the hedge, that he might see those who came and went. The road was almost deserted as far as he could see; there was no one but a man poorly clothed measuring the ground with a long, pointed stick. Chicot had nothing to do, and therefore was preparing to watch this man, when a more important object attracted his attention.
The window of Gorenflot's room opened with folding-doors on to a balcony, and Chicot saw them open, and Gorenflot come out, with his most gallant manner and winning smile, leading a lady almost hidden under a mantle of velvet and fur.
"Oh!" thought Chicot, "here is the penitent. She looks young; it is very odd, but I find resemblances in every one I see. And here comes the squire; as for him, there is no mistake; I know him, and if he be Mayneville—ventre de biche!—why should not the lady be Madame de Montpensier? And, morbleu! that woman is the duchess!"
After a moment, he saw the pale head of Borromée behind them.
"What are they about?" thought Chicot; "does the duchess want to board with Gorenflot?"
At this moment Chicot saw M. de Mayneville make a sign to some one outside. Chicot looked round, but there was no one to be seen but the man measuring. It was to him, however, that the sign was addressed, for he had ceased measuring, and was looking toward the balcony. Borromée began also to gesticulate behind Mayneville, in a manner unintelligible to Chicot, but apparently clear to this man, for he went further off, and stationed himself in another place, where he stopped at a fresh sign. Then he began to run quickly toward the gate of the priory, while M. de Mayneville held his watch in his hand.
"Diable!" said Chicot, "this is all very odd."
As the man passed him, he recognized Nicholas Poulain, the man to whom he had sold his armor the day before. Shortly after, they all re-entered the room and shut the window, and then the duchess and her squire came out of the priory and went toward the litter which waited for them. Gorenflot accompanied them to the door, exhausting himself in bows and salutations. The curtains of the litter were still open, when a monk, in whom Chicot recognized Jacques, advanced from the Porte St. Antoine, approached, and looked earnestly into it. The duchess then went away, and Nicholas Poulain was following, when Chicot called out from his hiding place—
"Come here, if you please."
Poulain started, and turned his head.
"Do not seem to notice, M. Nicholas Poulain," said Chicot.
The lieutenant started again. "Who are you, and what do you want?" asked he.
"I am a friend, new, but intimate; what I want will take long to explain; come here to me."
"Yes; here in the ditch."
"You shall know when you come."
"Come and sit down here, without appearing to notice me."
"Oh! M. Robert Briquet has the right to be exacting."
"Robert Briquet!" cried Poulain, doing as he was desired.
"That is right; it seems you were taking measures in the road."
"Yes; there is nothing surprising that you should be a surveyor, especially as you acted under the eyes of such great people."
"Great people! I do not understand."
"What! you did not know?"
"What do you mean?"
"You did not know who that lady and gentlemen on the balcony were?"
"Oh! how fortunate I am to be able to enlighten you. Only imagine, M. Poulain; you had for admirers Madame de Montpensier and M. de Mayneville. Do not go away. If a still more illustrious person—the king—saw you—"
"Ah! M. Briquet—"
"Never mind; I am only anxious for your good."
"But what harm have I done to the king, or to you, or anybody?"
"Dear M. Poulain, my ideas may be wrong, but it seems to me that the king would not approve of his lieutenant of the Provostry acting as surveyor for M. de Mayneville; and that he might also take it ill that you should omit in your daily report the entrance of Madame de Montpensier and M. de Mayneville, yesterday, into his good city of Paris."
"M. Briquet, an omission is not an offense, and his majesty is too good—"
"M. Poulain, I see clearer than you, and I see—"
"And more—a new cord, four soldiers at the four cardinal points, a number of Parisians around, and a certain lieutenant of my acquaintance at the end of the cord."
Nicholas Poulain trembled so that he shook the hedge. "Monsieur!" cried he, clasping his hands.
"But I am your friend, dear M. Poulain, and I will give you a counsel."
"Yes; and very easy to follow. Go at once, you understand, to—"
"Let me think. To M. d'Epernon."
"M. d'Epernon, the king's friend?"
"Take him aside, and tell him all about this."
"This is folly."
"No, it is wisdom. It is clear that if I denounce you as the man of the cuirasses and measures, they will hang you; but if, on the contrary, you disclose all, with a good grace, they will reward you. You do not appear convinced, however. Well! that will give me the trouble of returning to the Louvre, but I do not mind doing that for you," and he began to rise.
"No, no; stay here, I will go."
"Good! But you understand, no subterfuges, or to-morrow I shall send a little note to the king, whose intimate friend I have the honor to be, so that if you are not hanged till the day after to-morrow, you will only be hanged the higher."
"I will go; but you abuse your position."
"Oh! M. Poulain, you were a traitor five minutes ago, and I make you the savior of your country. Now, go quickly, for I am in a hurry. The Hotel d'Epernon—do not forget."
Nicholas Poulain ran off, with a despairing look.
"Ah! it was time," said Chicot, "for some one is leaving the priory. But it is not Jacques; that fellow is half as tall again."
Chicot then hastened to the Croix Faubin, where he had given the rendezvous. The monk, who was there to meet him, was a giant in height; his monk's robe, hastily thrown on, did not hide his muscular limbs, and his face bore anything but a religious expression. His arms were as long as Chicot's own, and he had a knife in his belt.
As Chicot approached, he turned and said, "Are you M. Robert Briquet?"
"Then I have a letter for you from the reverend prior."
Chicot took the letter, and read as follows:
"My dear friend, I have reflected since we parted; it is impossible for me to let the lamb confided to me go among the wolves of the world. I mean, you understand, our little Jacques, who has fulfilled your message to the king. Instead of him, who is too young, I send you a good and worthy brother of our order; his manners are good, and his humor innocent, and I am sure you will like him. I send you my benediction. Adieu, dear friend."
"What fine writing," said Chicot; "I will wager it is the treasurer's."
"It was Brother Borromée who wrote it," said the Goliath.
"In that case you will return to the priory, my friend."—"I?"
"Yes; and tell his reverence that I have changed my mind, and intend to travel alone."
"What! you will not take me, monsieur?" said the man, with astonishment, mixed with menace.
"No, my friend."
"And why, if you please?"
"Because I must be economical, and you would eat too much."
"Jacques eats as much as I do."
"Yes, but Jacques was a monk."
"And what am I?"
"You, my friend, are a gendarme, or a foot soldier."
"What do you mean? Do you not see my monk's robe?"
"The dress does not make the monk, my friend; tell Brother Borromée that, if you please."
The giant disappeared, grumbling, like a beaten hound.
On the evening of the same day on which Chicot set off for
At last a horse's step was heard, and the usher almost immediately announced M. le Duc de Mayenne. Madame de Montpensier ran to her brother so hastily that she forgot to proceed on the point of the right foot, as was her habit, in order to conceal her lameness.
"Are you alone, brother?" asked she.
"Yes, my sister."
"But Henri; where is Henri? Do you know that every one expects him here?"
"Henri has nothing to do here, and plenty to do in
"But where it will be quickly undone, if you do not hasten."
"Bah! if you like. I tell you the citizens will be put off no longer; they insist upon seeing their Duke Henri."
"They shall see him at the right time. And Salcede—?"
"Without uttering a word."
"Good! and the arming?"
"Is divided into sixteen quarters."
"And each quarter has the chief pointed out?"
"Then let us live in peace, and so I shall say to our good bourgeoisie."
"They will not listen to you."
"I tell you they are furious."
"My sister, you judge others by your own impatience. What Henri says must be done; and he says we are to remain quiet."
"What is to be done, then?" asked the duchess impatiently.
"What do you wish to do?"
"Firstly, to take the king."
"That is your fixed idea; I do not say it is bad, if it could be done, but think how often we have failed already."
"Times are changed, the king has no longer defenders."
"No; except the Swiss, Scotch, and French guards."
"My brother, when you wish it, I will show you the king on the road with only two lackeys."
"I have heard that a hundred times, and never seen it once."
"You will see it if you stay here only three days."
"Another project: tell me what it is."
"You will laugh at a woman's idea."
At this moment, M. de Mayneville was announced. "My accomplice," said she: "let him enter."
"One word, monseigneur," said he to M. de Mayenne as he entered; "they suspect your arrival at the Louvre."
"I was conversing with the captain of the guards at St. Germain l'Auxerrois, when two Gascons passed—"
"Do you know them?"
"No; they were quite newly dressed. 'Cap de Bious!' said one, 'you have a magnificent doublet, but it will not render you so much service as your cuirass of yesterday.' 'Bah!' said the other; 'however heavy the sword of M. de Mayenne may be, it will do no more harm to this satin than to my cuirass,' and then he went on in a series of bravadoes, which showed that they knew you were near."
"And to whom did these men belong?"
"I do not know; they talked so loudly that some passers-by approached, and asked if you were really coming. They were about to reply, when a man approached, whom I think was De Loignac, and touched them on the shoulder. He said some words in a low voice, and they looked submissive, and accompanied him, so that I know no more; but be on your guard."
"You did not follow them?"
"Yes, but from afar. They went toward the Louvre, and disappeared behind the Hotel des Meubles."
"I have a very simple method of reply," said the duke.
"To go and pay my respects to the king to-night."
"To the king?"
"Certainly; I have come to
"The idea is good," said Mayneville.
"It is imprudent," said the duchess.
"It is indispensable, sister, if they indeed suspect my arrival. Besides, it was the advice of Henri to go at once and present to the king the respects of the family; that once done, I am free, and can receive whom I please."
"The members of the committee, for example, who expect you."
"I will receive them at the Hotel St. Denis on my return from the Louvre. You will wait for us, if you please, my sister."—"Here?"
"No; at the Hotel St. Denis, where I have left my equipages. I shall be there in two hours."
That same day, about noon, the king came out of his cabinet and called for M. d'Epernon. The duke, when he came, found the king attentively examining a young monk.
The king took D'Epernon aside, "Look, what an odd-looking monk," said he.
"Does your majesty think so?—I think him very ordinary."
"Really!" Then to the monk, the king said, "What is your name?"
"Brother Jacques, sire."
"Your family name?"
"Good. You have performed your commission very well."
"What commission, sire?" said the duke, with his wonted familiarity.
"Nothing!" said Henri. "It is a little secret between me and some one you do not know."
"How strangely you look at the lad, sire! you embarrass him."
"It is true; I know not why, but it seems to me that I have seen him before; perhaps it was in a dream. Go, my child; I will send the letter to him who asks for it; be easy. D'Epernon, give him ten crowns."
"Thanks, sire," said the monk.
"You did not say that as if you meant it," said D'Epernon, who did not understand a monk despising ten crowns.
"I would rather have one of those beautiful Spanish knives on the wall," said Jacques.
"What! you do not prefer money?"
"I have made a vow of poverty."
"Give him a knife, then, and let him go, Lavalette," said the king.
The duke chose one of the least rich and gave it to him. Jacques took it, quite joyful to possess such a beautiful weapon. When he was gone, the king said to D'Epernon, "Duke, have you among your Forty-five two or three men who can ride?"
"Twelve, at least, sire; and in a month all will be good horsemen."
"Then choose two, and let them come to me at once."
The duke went out, and calling De Loignac, said to him, "Choose me two good horsemen, to execute a commission for his majesty."
De Loignac went to the gallery where they were lodged, and called M. de Carmainges and M. de St. Maline. They soon appeared, and were conducted to the duke, who presented them to the king, who dismissed the duke.
"You are of my Forty-five, then?" said he to the young men.
"I have that honor, sire," said St. Maline.
"And you, monsieur?"
"And I, also, sire," replied Carmainges; "and I am devoted to your majesty's service, as much as any one in the world."
"Good! Then mount your horses, and take the road to
"We will inquire."
"Go by Charenton."
"And proceed till you overtake a man traveling alone."
"Will your majesty describe him?" said St. Maline.
"He has long arms and legs, and has a large sword by his side."
"May we know his name, sire?" asked Carmainges.
"He is called 'the Shade.'"
"We will ask the name of every traveler we see, sire."
"And we will search the hotels."
"When you find him, give him this letter."
Both the young men held out their hands.
The king was embarrassed. "What is your name?" said he.
"Ernanton de Carmainges, sire."
"Rene de St. Maline."
"M. de Carmainges, you shall carry the letter, and you, M. de St. Maline, shall deliver it."
Ernanton took the precious deposit, and was going to place it in his doublet, when St. Maline stopped him, kissed the letter, and then returned it to Ernanton.
This made Henri smile. "Come, gentlemen," said he, "I see I shall be well served."—"Is this all, sire?"
"Yes, gentlemen; only our last recommendation. This letter is more precious than the life of a man—for your heads, do not lose it; give it secretly to the Shade, who will give you a receipt for it, which you will bring back to me; and, above all, travel as though it were on your own affairs. Go."
The two young men went out—Ernanton full of joy, and St. Maline filled with jealousy. M. d'Epernon waited for them, and wished to question them, but Ernanton replied: "M. le Duc, the king did not authorize us to speak."
They went to the stables, when the king's huntsman gave them two strong horses. M. d'Epernon would have followed them, but at that moment he was told that a man much wished to speak to him at once. "Who is he?" he asked.
"The lieutenant of the provost of the Ile de France."
"Parfandious! am I sheriff or provost?"
"No, monsieur; but you are a friend of the king, and, as such, I beg you to hear me," said a humble voice at his side.
The duke turned. Near him was a man, bowing perpetually.
"Who are you?" asked the duke.
"Nicholas Poulain, monsieur."
"And you wish to speak to me?"
"I beg for that favor."
"I have no time."
"Not even to hear a secret?"
"I hear a hundred every day."
"But this concerns the life of his majesty," said Poulain, in a low voice.
"Oh! oh! then come into my cabinet."
M. D'Epernon, in traversing the antechamber, addressed himself to one of the gentlemen who stood there.
"What is your name, monsieur?" said he.
"Pertinax de Montcrabeau, monsieur."
"Well, M. de Montcrabeau, place yourself at that door, and let no one enter."
"Yes, M. le Duc;" and M. Pertinax, who was sumptuously dressed, with a blue satin doublet and orange stockings, obeyed. Nicholas Poulain followed the duke into his cabinet.
"Now let us hear your conspiracy," said the duke.
"Oh! M. le Duc, it concerns the most frightful crimes."
"They wish to kill me, I suppose."
"It does not concern you, monsieur; it is the king. They wish to carry him off."
"Oh! again that old story," replied the duke, disdainfully.
"This time the thing is serious, M. le Duc."
"On what day do they intend to do it?"
"The first time that his majesty goes to
"How will they do it?"
"By killing his two attendants."
"And who will do it?"
"Madame de Montpensier."
D'Epernon began to laugh. "That poor duchess; what things are attributed to her!"
"Less than she projects, monsieur."
"And she occupies herself with that at
"No; she is in
"I can answer for it."
"Have you seen her?"
"You thought you did?"
"I have had the honor of speaking to her."
"I am wrong; the misfortune."
"But, my dear lieutenant, the duchess cannot carry off the king."
"With her associates, of course."
"And where will she be when this takes place?"
"At a window of the Jacobin Priory, which is, as you
know, on the road to
"What the devil do you tell me?"
"The truth, monsieur: all is prepared to stop the litter at the gate of the priory."
"And who made the preparations?"
"I did, monsieur."
D'Epernon started back. "You, who denounce them!"
"Monsieur, a good servant should risk all in the service of the king."
"Mordieu! you risk hanging."
"I prefer death to infamy, or to the death of the king, therefore I came; and I thought, M. le Duc, that you, the friend of the king, would not betray me, and would turn my news to good account."
The duke looked fixedly at Poulain. "There must be more in it," said he; "resolute as the duchess is, she would not attempt such an enterprise alone."
"She expects her brother."
"The Duke Henri?"
"No, monsieur; only the Duc de Mayenne."
"Ah! good," said d'Epernon; "now I must set to work to counteract these fine projects."
"Doubtless, monsieur; it was for that I came."
"If you have spoken the truth you shall be rewarded."
"Why should I lie, monsieur; where is my interest—I, who eat the king's bread? If you do not believe me, I will go to the king himself."
"No, parfandious, you shall not go to the king: you shall have to deal with me, alone."
"I only said it because you seemed to hesitate."
"No, I do not hesitate; and, first, here are a thousand crowns for you, and you shall keep this secret between you and me."
"I have a family, monsieur."
"Well! a thousand crowns, parfandious."
"If they knew in
The duke approached a coffer. Poulain thought it was for the money, and held out his hand, but he only drew out a little book and wrote, "Three thousand livres to M. Nicholas Poulain."
"It is as if you had them," said he.
Nicholas bowed, and looked puzzled.
"Then it is agreed?" said the duke.
"That you will continue to instruct me?"
"What! has your noble devotion vanished already?"
"Then I may count on you?"
"And I alone know this?"
"Now you may go, my friend; and, parfandious, let M. de Mayenne look to himself."
When D'Epernon returned to the king he found him playing at cup and ball. D'Epernon assumed a thoughtful air, but the king did not remark it. However, as the duke remained perfectly silent, the king raised his head and said, "Well, Lavalette, what is the matter, are you dead?"
"I wish I were," replied D'Epernon, "and I should not see what I do see."
"What, my cup and ball?"
"Sire, in a time of great peril the subject may be alarmed for the safety of his master."
"What! again perils; devil take you, duke."
"Then you are ignorant of what is passing?"
"Ma foi, perhaps."
"Your most cruel enemies surround you at this moment."
"Bah! who are they?"
"First, the Duchesse de Montpensier."
"Yes, that is true; she came to see Salcede; but what is that to me?"
"You knew it, then?"
"You see I did."
"But that M. de Mayenne was here?"
"Yes, since yesterday evening."
"What! this secret?" cried D'Epernon, with a disagreeable surprise.
"Are there, then, any secrets from the king? You are zealous, dear Lavalette, but you are slow. This news would have been good at four o'clock yesterday, but to-day—"
"Well, sire, to-day?"
"It comes too late, you will agree?"
"Still too soon, sire, it seems, since you will not listen to me."
"I have been listening for half-an-hour."
"You are menaced—they lay ambushes for you."
"Well, yesterday you gave me a guard, and assured me that my immortality was secured. Are your Forty-five no longer worth anything?"
"Your majesty shall see."
"I should not be sorry, duke; when shall I see?"
"Sooner perhaps than you think."
"Ah! you want to frighten me."
"You shall see, sire. Apropos, when do you go to
"That is enough, sire." D'Epernon bowed and withdrew.
We will now follow the two young men sent by the king. Scarcely on horseback, Ernanton and St. Maline, determined that one should not get before the other, nearly crushed each other in the gateway. The face of St. Maline became purple, and that of Ernanton pale.
"You hurt me, monsieur," cried the former; "do you wish to crush me?"
"You also hurt me, only I did not complain."
"You wish to give me a lesson, I believe?"
"I wish to give you nothing."
"Ah!" cried St. Maline, "pray repeat that."
"You are seeking a quarrel, are you not?" replied Ernanton, quietly; "so much the worse for you."
"And why should I wish to quarrel? I do not know you," replied St. Maline, disdainfully.
"You know me perfectly, monsieur, because at home my house is but two leagues from yours, and I am well known there, being of an old family; but you are furious at seeing me in Paris, when you thought that you alone were sent for; also, because the king gave me the letter to carry."
"Well," said St. Maline, "it may be true, but there is one result."
"What is it?"
"That I do not like to be near you."
"Go away, then; pardieu, I do not want to keep you. On the contrary, I understand perfectly; you would like to take the letter from me and carry it yourself; but unfortunately you must kill me first."
"And who tells you that I do not wish to do that?"
"To desire and to do are two different things."
"Descend with me to the banks of the water, and you will see that with me they are the same."
"My dear monsieur, when the king gives me a letter to carry, I carry it."
"I will tear it from you by force."
"You will not force me, I hope, to shoot you like a dog."
"Yes; I have a pistol, and you have not."
"You shall pay for this."
"I trust so, after my commission is over; but, meanwhile, I beg you to observe that as we belong to the king, it is setting a bad example to quarrel."
St. Maline was furious, he bit his fingers with rage. As they crossed the Rue St. Antoine, Ernanton saw a litter with a lady in it. "My page!" cried he, and he rode toward it; but she did not seem to recognize him, and passed on.
The young men now rode on without speaking. St. Maline soon discovered, to his chagrin, that his horse was not as good as Ernanton's, and could hardly keep pace with him. This annoyed him so much that he began to quarrel with his horse, and to fret him so perpetually with the spur, that at last the animal started off and made for the river Bievre, where he got rid of his rider by throwing him in. One might have heard half a mile off the imprecations of St. Maline, although he was half stifled by the water. By the time he scrambled out his horse had got some little way off. He himself was wet and muddy, and his face bleeding with scratches, and he felt sure that it was useless to try and catch it; and to complete his vexation, he saw Ernanton going down a cross-road which he judged to be a short cut.
He climbed up the banks of the river, but now could see neither Ernanton nor his own horse. But while he stood there, full of sinister thoughts toward Ernanton, he saw him reappear from the cross-road, leading the runaway horse, which he had made a detour to catch. At this sight St. Maline was full of joy and even of gratitude; but gradually his face clouded again as he thought of the superiority of Ernanton over himself, for he knew that in the same situation he should not even have thought of acting in a similar manner.
He stammered out thanks, to which Ernanton paid no attention, then furiously seized the reins of his horse and mounted again. They rode on silently till about half-past two, when they saw a man walking with a dog by his side. Ernanton passed him; but St. Maline, hoping to be more clever, rode up to him and said, "Traveler, do you expect something?"
The man looked at him. Certainly his aspect was not agreeable. His face still bore marks of anger, and the mud half dried on his clothes and the blood on his cheeks, and his hand extended more in menace than interrogation, all seemed very sinister to the traveler.
"If I expect something," said he, "it is not some one; and if I expect some one, it is not you."
"You are impolite," said St. Maline, giving way to the anger that he had restrained so long; and as he spoke he raised his hand armed with a cane to strike the traveler, but he, with his stick, struck St. Maline on the shoulder, while the dog rushed at him, tearing his clothes, as well as his horse's legs.
The horse, irritated by the pain, rushed furiously on. St.
Maline could not stop him for some time, but he kept his seat. They passed thus
before Ernanton, who took no notice. At
Ernanton was not deceived; the man he saw was really Chicot. He on his side had seen the cavaliers coming, and suspecting that it was for him that they came, waited for them.
Ernanton and St. Maline looked at each other.
"Speak, monsieur, if you wish," said Ernanton to his adversary.
St. Maline was suffocated by this courtesy, he could not speak, he could only bend his head; then Ernanton, advancing said, to Chicot—
"Monsieur, would it be indiscreet to inquire your name?"
"I am called 'the Shade.'"
"Do you expect anything?"
"Will you be good enough to tell us what?"
"From the Louvre."
"Sealed with what seal?"
"The royal seal."
Ernanton put his hand into the breast of his doublet and drew out a letter.
"That is it," said Chicot, "and for greater certainty, I was to give you something in exchange, was I not?"
"Monsieur," continued Ernanton, "I was told to carry it, but this gentleman was to deliver it." And he handed the letter to St. Maline, who gave it to Chicot.
"You see," said Ernanton, "that we have faithfully fulfilled our mission. There is no one here, and no one has seen us give you the letter."
"It is true, gentlemen; but to whom am I to give the receipt?"
"The king did not say," said St. Maline, with a meaning air.
"Write two, monsieur, and give one to each of us. It is far from this to the Louvre, and some misfortune may happen to one of us on the road," and as he spoke, Ernanton's eyes flashed in their turn.
"You are wise," said Chicot, drawing his tablets from his pocket, from which he tore out two pages and wrote on each, "Received from the hands of St. Maline the letter brought by M. Ernanton de Carmainges.—THE SHADE."
"Adieu, monsieur," said St. Maline, taking his.
"Adieu, monsieur, and a pleasant journey to you," added Ernanton. "Have you anything else to send to the Louvre?"
"Nothing, I thank you."
Then the young men set off toward Paris, and Chicot in the opposite direction. When he was out of sight—
"Now, monsieur," said Ernanton to St. Maline, "dismount, if you please."
"And why so?"
"Our task is accomplished; we have now to converse, and this place appears excellent for an explanation of this sort."
"As you please, monsieur;" and they got off their horses.
Then Ernanton said, "You know, monsieur, that without any cause on my part, you have during the whole journey insulted me grievously. You wished to make me fight at an inopportune time, and I refused; but now the time is good and I am your man."
But St. Maline was angry no longer, and did not wish to fight.
"Monsieur," replied he, "when I insulted you, you responded by rendering me a service. I can no longer hold the language I did just now."
"No; but you think the same."
"How do you know?"
"Because your words were dictated by hatred and envy, and they cannot already be extinct in your heart."
St. Maline colored, but did not reply.
Ernanton continued, "If the king preferred me to you, it was because I pleased him best. If I was not thrown into the Bievre like you, it was because I ride better; if I did not accept your challenge before, it was because I was wiser than you; if I was not bitten by the dog, it was because I had more sagacity; if I now summon you to draw your sword, it is because I have more honor; and if you hesitate, I shall say more courage."
St. Maline looked like a demon, and drew his sword furiously.
"I have fought eleven times," said he, "and two of my adversaries are dead. Are you aware of that, monsieur?"
"And I, monsieur, have never fought, for I have never had occasion, and I did not seek it now. I wait your pleasure, monsieur."
"Oh!" said St. Maline, "we are compatriots, and we are both in the king's service; do not let us quarrel. You are a brave man, and I would give you my hand if I could. What would you have? I am envious—it is my nature. M. de Chalabre, or M. de Montcrabeau, would not have made me angry; it was your superior merit. Console yourself, therefore, for I can do nothing against you, and unluckily your merit remains. I should not like any one to know the cause of our quarrel."
"No one will know it, monsieur."
"No; for if we fight I should kill you, or you would kill me. I do not despise life; on the contrary, I cling to it, for I am only twenty-three years of age, have a good name and am not poor, and I shall defend myself like a lion."
"Well, I, on the contrary, am thirty, and am disgusted with life; but still I would rather not fight with you."
"Then you will apologize?"
"No, I have said enough. If you are not content, so much the better, for you are not superior to me."
"But, monsieur, one cannot end a quarrel thus, without the risk of being laughed at."—"I know it."
"Then you refuse to fight?"
"After having provoked me?"
"I confess it."
"But if my patience fail, and I attack you?"
"I will throw my sword away; but I shall then have reason to hate you, and the first time I find you in the wrong, I will kill you."
Ernanton sheathed his sword. "You are a strange man," said he, "and I pity you."
"You pity me!"
"Yes, for you must suffer."
"Do you never love?"
"Have you no passions?"
"One alone, jealousy; but that includes all others to a frightful degree. I adore a woman, as soon as she loves another; I love gold, when another possesses it;—yes, you are right, I am unhappy."
"Have you never tried to become good?"
"Yes, and failed. What does the venomous plant? What do the bear and bird of prey? They destroy, but certain people use them for the chase. So shall I be in the hands of MM. d'Epernon and Loignac, till the day when they shall say, 'This plant is hurtful, let us tear it up; this beast is furious, let us kill him.'"
Ernanton was calmed; St. Maline was no longer an object of anger but of pity.
"Good fortune should cure you," said he; "when you succeed, you should hate less."
"However high I should rise, others would be higher."
They rode on silently for some time. At last Ernanton held out his hand to St. Maline, and said, "Shall I try to cure you?"
"No, do not try that; you would fail. Hate me, on the contrary, and I shall admire you."
An hour after they entered the Louvre; the king had gone out, and would not return until evening.
Each of the young men placed himself at a window to watch for the return of the king. Ernanton, however, soon forgot his present situation, and became abstracted in thinking who the woman could be who had entered Paris as his page, and whom he had since seen in such a splendid litter; and with a heart more disposed to love adventure than to make ambitious calculations, he forgot why he was sitting there, till, suddenly raising his head, he saw that St. Maline was no longer there. He understood at once that he had seen the king arrive, and had gone to him. He rose quickly, traversed the gallery, and arrived at the king's room just as St. Maline was coming out.
"Look!" cried he joyfully, "what the king has given me," and he showed a gold chain.
"I congratulate you, monsieur," said Ernanton, quietly, and he entered in his turn.
When Ernanton came out, he looked all over him, and seeing nothing, he cried joyfully, "And you, monsieur, what has he given to you?"
"His hand to kiss," replied Ernanton.
St. Maline crushed his chain impatiently in his hands, and they both returned in silence. As they entered the hall, the trumpet sounded, and at this signal all the Forty-five came out of their rooms, wondering what was the matter; while they profited by this reunion to examine each other. Most of them were richly dressed, though generally in bad taste. They all had a military tournour, and long swords, boots and gloves of buckskin or buffalo, all well gilded or well greased, were almost universal.
The most discreet might be known by their quiet colors, the most economical by the substantial character of their equipments, and the most gay by their white or rose-colored satins. Perducas de Pincornay had bought from some Jew a gold chain as thick as a cable; Pertinax de Montcrabeau was all bows and embroidery: he had bought his costume from a merchant who had purchased it of a gentleman who had been wounded by robbers. It was rather stained with blood and dirt, it was true, but he had managed to clean it tolerably. There remained two holes made by the daggers of the robbers, but Pertinax had had them embroidered in gold.
Eustache de Miradoux did not shine; he had had to clothe Lardille, Militor, and the two children. All the gentlemen were there admiring each other, when M. de Loignac entered frowning, and placed himself in front of them, with a countenance anything but agreeable.
"Gentlemen," said he, "are you all here?"
"All!" they replied.
"Gentlemen, you have been summoned to
"Doubtless," replied many voices.
"Well, gentlemen, this very day a measure of his majesty's has been betrayed, and a step which he wished to take rendered, perhaps, impossible."
Terror began to replace pride in the minds of the Forty-five, and they looked at each other with suspicion and disquietude.
"Two of you, gentlemen," continued De Loignac, "have been heard in the open street chattering like a couple of old women, and that about grave things."
St. Maline advanced. "Monsieur," said he, "pray explain at once, that suspicion may not rest on us all."
"That is easy. The king heard to-day that one of his
enemies—precisely one of those whom we have been enrolled to guard him
against—had arrived in
Pertinax de Montcrabeau and Perducas de Pincornay turned deadly pale, and Montcrabeau tried to stammer out some excuses. All eyes were turned toward them.
"Nothing can excuse you," said De Loignac; "even if you were drunk you should be punished for that; and you shall be punished."
A terrible silence ensued. Then Pertinax said, "Pardon, monsieur! we are provincials, new to the court, and unaccustomed to politics."
"You should not have accepted your posts without weighing their duties."
"For the future we will be as mute as sepulchers, we swear to you."
"Good; but can you repair the evil you have done to-day?"
"We will try."
"It is impossible, I tell you."
"Then, for this time, pardon us."
"You live," continued De Loignac, "with a sort of license which I must repress. Those who find the terms too hard will return; I can easily replace them; but I warn you that justice will be done among us, secretly and expeditiously. Traitors will be punished with death on the spot."
Montcrabeau nearly fainted, and Pertinax grew paler than ever.
"I shall have," De Loignac continued, "for smaller offenses lighter punishments, as imprisonment, for instance. For this time, I spare the lives of M. de Montcrabeau and M. de Pincornay, because they probably acted in ignorance, and shall only enforce against them my third method of punishment—a fine. You have received one thousand livres apiece, gentlemen; you will each return one hundred."
"One hundred!" cried Pincornay; "Cap de Bious! I have not got them; I have spent them on my equipment."
"Sell your chain, then. But I have something else to add; I have remarked many signs of irritation between different members of your body, and each time a difference arises I wish the matter referred to me, and I alone shall have the power of allowing a duel to take place. Dueling is much in fashion now, but I do not wish, that, to follow the fashion, my company be constantly left imperfect. The first duel, therefore, that takes place without my permission will be punished with a rigorous imprisonment and a heavy fine. Now fifteen of you will place yourselves this evening at the foot of the staircase when his majesty receives, fifteen will keep without, and fifteen remain at home. Also, as you should have some chief, and I cannot be everywhere, I will each day name a chief for the fifteen, so that all shall learn to obey and command. At present I do not know the capacities of any one, but I shall watch and learn. Now, go, gentlemen; and M. de Montcrabeau and M. de Pincornay, you will remember that I expect your fines to be paid to-morrow."
They all retired except Ernanton, who lingered behind.
"Do you wish anything?" asked De Loignac.
"Yes, monsieur," said Ernanton, bowing; "it seems to me that you have forgotten to point out to us our duties. To be in the king's service has a glorious sound, doubtless, but I should wish to know in what this service consists?"
"That, monsieur, is a question to which I cannot reply."
"May I ask why, monsieur?"
"Because I, myself, am often ignorant in the morning of what I shall have to do in the evening."
"Monsieur, you are placed in such a high position that you must know much of which we are ignorant."
"You love the king, I suppose?"
"I do; and I ought to do so, as a subject and a gentleman."
"Well! that is the cardinal point by which to regulate your conduct."
"Very well, monsieur; but there is one point which disquiets me."
"What is it?"
"It is an essential condition."
"So I understand; but it is sometimes difficult for persons who are delicate on points of honor."
"That does not concern me, M. de Carmainges."
"But, monsieur, when an order displeases you—"
"I read the signature of M. d'Epernon, and that consoles me."
"And M. d'Epernon?"
"He reads the signature of his majesty, and consoles himself as I do."
"You are right, monsieur, and I am your humble servant;" and Ernanton was about to retire, when De Loignac stopped him.
"I will say to you," said he, "what I have not said to the others, for no one else has had the courage to speak to me thus."
"Perhaps," continued De Loignac, "a great personage will come to the Louvre this evening; if so, do not lose sight of him, and follow him when he leaves."
"Pardon me, monsieur; but that seems the work of a spy."
"Do you think so? It is possible; but look here"—and he drew out a paper which he presented to Ernanton, who read—
"'Have M. de Mayenne followed this evening, if he presents himself at the Louvre.—D'EPERNON.'"
"I will follow M. de Mayenne," said Ernanton, bowing.
M. de Mayenne, with whom they were so much occupied at the Louvre, set out from the Hotel Guise, booted and on horseback, as though he had just arrived. He was received by the king affectionately.
"Well, cousin," said he, "you have, then,
come to visit
"Yes, sire; I come in my brother's name and my own, to recall to your majesty that you have no more faithful subjects than ourselves."
"Mordieu!" said the king, "that is so well known that you might have spared yourself this trouble. You must have had some other motive."
"Sire, I feared that your regard for us might be shaken by the reports which our enemies circulate about us."
"What reports?" asked Henri.
"What!" cried Mayenne, rather disconcerted; "has not your majesty heard any reports unfavorable to us?"
"My cousin, know once for all that I allow no one to speak ill in my presence of the Guises."
"Well, sire, I do not regret my visit, since I have had the pleasure of finding my king so well disposed toward us; but I will allow that it was needless."
"Oh! there is always something to do in
"Yes, sire; but we have our business at
"What business, duke?"
"Your majesty's, sire."
"Ah! true; continue, Mayenne, to do as you have done; I know how to appreciate the conduct of my subjects."
The duke retired, smiling. The king rubbed his hands, and De Loignac made a sign to Ernanton, who spoke to his valet, and then followed M. de Mayenne. There was no fear of missing him, for the news of his arrival had spread, and some hundred leaguers had assembled to greet him.
As the duke reached his hotel, Ernanton saw a litter pierce through the crowd. De Mayenne approached it, and the curtains were opened, and Ernanton thought he recognized his former page. The litter disappeared under the gateway, and Mayenne followed; an instant after, M. de Mayneville appeared on the balcony, and thanked the Parisians in the duke's name, but begged them to disperse and go home.
All went away accordingly, except ten men, who had entered after the duke. These were the deputies of the League, who were sent to thank M. de Mayenne for his visit, and to beg that his brothers would come also. They had a number of plans, which only wanted the sanction and support of the chiefs. Bussy Leclerc came to announce that he had instructed the monks of three monasteries in the use of arms, and had enrolled 500 bourgeois in a regiment.
Lachapelle-Marteau had worked on the magistrates and had 200
black robes ready for councilors. Brigard had gained the merchants of the Rue
Lombards and the Rue St. Denis. Cruce could answer for the
When Mayenne had heard them all, he said, "I admire your strength, but I do not see the end you propose to yourselves."
Bussy Leclerc answered, "We want a change, and as we are the strongest—"
"But how will you arrive at this change?"
"It seems to me," replied Bussy, boldly, "that as the idea of the Union came from our chiefs, it is for them to point out its aim."
"You are perfectly right," said Mayenne, "but it is also for them to judge of the proper time for action. The troops of M. de Guise may be ready, but he does not give the signal until he thinks fit."
"But, monseigneur, we are impatient."
"To arrive at our end. We also have our plan."
"Ah! that is different; if you have your own plan, I say no more."
"Yes, monseigneur; but may we count on your aid?"
"Doubtless, if this plan be approved by my brother and myself."
"We believe it will."
"Let me hear it, then."
The leaguers looked at each other, then Marteau advanced.
"Monseigneur," said he, "we think the success of our plan certain. There are particular points where all the strength of the city lies—the great and the little Chatelet, the Hotel de Ville, the arsenal and the Louvre."
"It is true."
"All these are guarded, but could easily be surprised."
"I admit this also."
"The town itself, however, is defended outside, firstly, by the chevalier of the watch with his archers. We thought of seizing him in his house, which could be easily done, as it is a lonely place."
Mayenne shook his head. "However lonely," said he, "you cannot force a door and fire twenty shots without attracting attention."
"We have foreseen this objection, but one of the archers of the watch is on our side. In the middle of the night, two or three of us will go and knock at the door; the archer will open, and tell his chief that the king wishes to speak to him, which would not appear strange, as he is often sent for in this manner. Once the door is open, we will introduce ten men—sailors who lodge near—who will soon finish him."
"Yes, monseigneur. At the same time we will force the doors of the other functionaries who might take his place, such as M. d'O, M. de Chiverny, and M. le Procureur Laguesle. St. Bartholomew has taught us how to manage."
"This is all well, gentlemen; but you have not told me if you mean, at the same time, to force the doors of the Louvre—that strong and well-guarded fortress. Believe me, the king is not so easily taken as the chevalier of the watch."
"We have chosen four thousand men, who hate the king, for this undertaking."
"And you think that enough?"
"Doubtless; we shall be ten to one."
"Why, the Swiss are four thousand strong."
"Yes, but they are at Lagny, and that is eight leagues from Paris, and supposing they were to send for them, it would take two hours for the messenger to go on horseback, and eight for them to return on foot, so that they would just arrive in time to be stopped at the gates, and in a few hours we should be masters of Paris."
"Very good; but supposing all this accomplished, the watch disarmed, the authorities disappeared, and all obstacles removed, what do you mean to do?"
"Form a new government of honest people. As for ourselves, so long as our commerce is successful, and we have enough for our wives and children, we care for little else. Some among us might desire a command, and they should have it. We are not difficult to satisfy."
"I know you are all honest, and would not suffer a mixture in your ranks."
"No, no!" cried several voices.
"Now, M. Poulain," said the duke, "are there many idlers and bad people in the Ile de France?"
Nicholas Poulain, who had hitherto kept in the background, was now forced to advance. "Certainly, monseigneur, there are a great many," he replied.
"Could you guess at their number?"
"About four thousand thieves, three thousand or more beggars, and four or five hundred assassins."
"Well, there are at least eight thousand good-for-nothings; of what religion are they?"
Poulain laughed. "Of all, monseigneur; or, rather, of none; gold is their god, and blood their prophet."
"Yes; but their politics? Are they Valois, Leaguers, Navarrais, or what?"
"Monseigneur," said Cruce, "do not suppose that we mean to take these people for allies!"
"No, I do not suppose so; and that is what disturbs me."
"And why so, monseigneur?" they asked with surprise.
"Because as soon as there are no longer magistrates in
"Diable!" cried the deputies, looking at each other.
"I think this is a question for grave consideration, gentlemen," said the duke. "I will think it over, and endeavor to find the means of overcoming the difficulty; your interests, before our own, has ever been our maxim."
The deputies gave a murmur of approbation.
"Now, gentlemen, permit a man who has traveled twenty-four leagues on horseback in forty-eight hours to seek a little sleep."
"We humbly take our leave, monseigneur," said Brigard; "what day shall you fix for our next meeting?"
"As soon as possible, gentlemen; to-morrow, or the day after. Au revoir."
No sooner had he disappeared than a door opened, and a woman rushed in.
"The duchesse!" they cried.
"Yes, gentlemen; who comes to save you from your embarrassments. What the Hebrews could not do, Judith did; hope, then, gentlemen, for I also have my plan;" and she disappeared through the same door as her brother.
"Tudieu!" cried Bussy Leclerc; "I believe that is the man of the family."
"Oh!" murmured Nicholas Poulain, "I wish I were out of all this."
It was about ten o'clock in the evening when the deputies returned home. Nicholas Poulain remained behind the others, reflecting on the perplexing situation in which he found himself, and considering whether he should report all that he had heard to M. d'Epernon, when, in the middle of the Rue de la Pierre-au-Réal, he ran right against a Jacobin monk. They both began to swear, but, looking up, recognized each other.
"Brother Borromée!" cried Poulain.
"Nicholas Poulain!" exclaimed the monk.
"How are you?" asked Nicholas cautiously. "Where in the world were you running to in such a hurry at this time of night? Is the priory on fire?"
"No; I was going to the Duchesse de Montpensier's hotel, to speak to M. de Mayneville."
"And what for?"
"Oh! it is very simple," said Borromée, seeking for a specious answer; "the reverend prior was solicited by the duchesse to become her confessor; he accepted at the time, but since then he has had scruples, and has sent me to tell her not to rely upon him."
"Very good; but you are going away from the Hotel Guise."
"Exactly so; for I hear she is at the Hotel St. Denis, with her brother."
"Quite true; but why do you deceive me? It is not the treasurer who is sent with these sort of messages."
"But to a princess! Now do not detain me, or I shall miss her."
"She will return, you might have waited for her."
"True; but I shall not be sorry to see M. le Duc also."
"Oh! that is more like the truth, so go on. There is something new going on," thought Nicholas; "but why should I try to discover what it is?"
Meanwhile the brother and sister had been conversing together, and had settled that the king had no suspicions, and was therefore easy to attack. They also agreed that the first thing to be done was to organize the League more generally in the provinces, while the king abandoned his brother, who was the only enemy they had to fear, so long as Henri of Navarre occupied himself only with love affairs.
At this moment M. de Mayneville entered, and announced Borromée.
"Borromée! who is he?" cried the duke.
"The man whom you sent me from
"I remember; I told you he was both. But he was called Borroville."
"Yes, monseigneur; but now he is a monk, and Borromée."
"Borroville a monk! and why so?"
"That is our secret, monseigneur; you shall know hereafter, but now let us see him, for his visit disquiets me."
"Why, Borroville," cried the duke, laughing, as he entered; "what a disguise!"
"Yes, monseigneur, I am not much at my ease in this devil of a dress, I confess; but, as it is worn in the service of her highness, I do not complain."
"And what do you want so late?"
"I could not come sooner; I have all the priory on my hands."
"Well! now speak."
"M. le Duc, the king is sending succors to the Duc d'Anjou."
"Bah! we have heard that the last three years."
"Yes; but this time it is certain. At two o'clock this
morning, M. de Joyeuse set out for
"Oh! who told you that, Borroville?"
"I heard it from a man who is going to
"And who sends him?"
"The king, with a letter."
"What is his name?"
"Robert Briquet; he is a great friend of Gorenflot's."
"And an ambassador of the king's?"
"Yes; I am sure of it; for he sent one of our monks to the Louvre to fetch the letter."
"And he did not show you the letter?"
"The king did not give it to him; he sent it by his own messenger."
"We must have this letter."
"Certainly," said the duchess.
"How was it that this did not occur to you?" said Mayneville.
"I did think of it, and wished to send one of my men, who is a perfect Hercules, with M. Briquet, but he suspected, and dismissed him."
"You must go yourself."
"Because he knows me."
"As a monk, but not as captain, I hope."
"Ma foi! I do not know; he seems to know everything."
"What is he like?"
"He is tall—all nerves, muscles and bones; silent, but mocking."
"Ah! ah! and clever with his sword?"
"A long face?"
"And an old friend of the prior's?"
"Oh! I have a suspicion which I must have cleared up.
Borroville, you must go to
"But the priory?"
"Oh! you can invent some excuse to Gorenflot; he believes all you say," said Mayneville.
"You will tell my brother all you know about the mission of M. de Joyeuse."
"Oh! I charge myself with that," said Mayenne. "Let them saddle me a fresh horse, Mayneville." Then he murmured to himself, "Can he be still alive?"
After the departure of the young men, Chicot went on quietly; but as soon as they had disappeared in the valley, he stopped at the top of a hill and looked all round him; then, seeing no one, he seated himself, and commenced an examination. He had now two purses, for he perceived that the packet he had received contained money, besides the letter. It was quite a royal purse, embroidered with an "H" at each end.
"It is pretty," said Chicot, "no one could be more generous or more stupid. Decidedly I shall never make anything of the king. All that astonishes me is that he did not have the letter embroidered outside also. Now let me see how much money he has sent. One hundred crowns; just the sum I borrowed from Gorenflot. Ah! pardon, Henri, this is good. But the purse annoys me; if I were to keep it I should feel as if the very birds, as they flew over my head, would denounce me as a royal messenger."
So saying, he drew from his pocket Gorenflot's bag, emptied the king's money into it, then placed a stone in the purse, and threw it into the Orge, which flowed under the bridge at his feet.
"So much for myself—now for Henri," said Chicot; and he took up the letter, broke the seal with the utmost tranquillity, and sent the envelope into the river after the purse. "Now," said he, "let us read.
"'Dear brother, the deep love which you felt for our late dear brother and king, Charles IX., still clings to the Louvre and to my heart; it grieves me, therefore, to have to write to you about vexatious things. You are strong, however, against ill fortune, so that I do not hesitate to communicate these things to you—things which can only be told to a tried friend. Besides, I have an interest in warning you—the honor of my name and of your own, my brother. We resemble each other in one thing, that we are each surrounded with enemies. Chicot will explain to you.
"'M. de Turenne, your servant, causes daily scandal at your court; God forbid that I should interfere in your affairs, except where your honor is concerned; but your wife, whom to my regret I call my sister, should be more careful than she is of your honor. I advise you, therefore, to watch the communications of Margot with Turenne, that she does not bring shame on the house of Bourbon. Act as soon as you shall be sure of the fact, into which I pray you to inquire as soon as Chicot shall have explained to you my letter.
"'Those whom as brother and king I denounce to you, generally meet at a little chateau called Loignac, the pretext being generally the chase. This chateau is, besides, the focus for intrigues to which the Guises are not strangers, and you know the strange love with which my sister pursued Henri de Guise. I embrace you, and am ever ready to aid you in all, and for all; meanwhile aid yourself by the advice of Chicot, whom I send to you. Your affectionate,' etc.
"Age auctore Chicot," said Chicot, "here am
I, installed counselor of the king of
"Then, again," continued he, "this letter
will lead me into mischief if I meet a Spaniard, a Lorraine, a Béarnais, or a
Fleming curious enough to wish to know what brings me here, and I should be
very foolish not to remember that there is a chance of that. M. Borromée, above
all, I suspect may play me some trick. Besides, what did I seek in asking the
king for this mission? Tranquillity. And now I am going to embroil the king of
"Ma foi! but that is not much, for it is only worth living when you are young. But then I might as well have waited for the knife of M. de Mayenne. However, I will take precautions, and will translate this fine letter into Latin, and engrave it on my memory; then I will buy a horse, because from Juvisy to Pau I should have too often to put the right foot before the left if I walked—but first I will destroy this letter."
This he proceeded to do; tearing it into an infinite number of little pieces, sending some into the river, others into the air, and burying the rest in holes in the ground.
"Now let me think of my Latin theme," said he; and this study occupied him until he arrived at Corbeil, where he bestowed a glance at the cathedral, but fixed an earnest look at a traiteur's, whence came an appetizing smell of dinner. We will not describe either the dinner he made or the horse he bought; suffice it to say that the dinner was long and the horse was bad.
Chicot, with his little horse, which ought to have been a
big one to have carried him, after having slept at
Before going to bed, although the hotel had appeared almost empty, he locked the door and placed a heavy table and a chest of drawers against it. He then put his purse under his pillow, and repeated to himself three times over the translation of the king's letter. There was an extremely high wind blowing, and as it howled in the neighboring trees, it was with a feeling of great satisfaction that Chicot plunged into a very comfortable bed.
He had a lamp by his bedside, and he occupied himself for some time in reading a book which he had brought with him; but, although he liked the book, in reading the third chapter he fell asleep. The wind moaned about the house, sometimes like a child crying, and sometimes like a husband scolding his wife; and as Chicot slept, it seemed to him, in his dreams, that the tempest came nearer and nearer. All at once a sudden squall of invincible force broke locks and bolts—pushed the chest of drawers, which fell on the lamp, which it extinguished, and on the table, which it smashed.
Chicot had the faculty of waking quickly, and with all his
senses about him, so he jumped out of bed and got hold in an instant of his
purse and his sword. It was quite dark, but it seemed to him that the whole
room was being torn to pieces by the four winds of heaven; for the chairs were
falling, and the table breaking more and more under the weight of the drawers.
As he could do nothing against the gods of
At last he profited by a momentary cessation in the uproar to cry loudly, "Help! help!"
He made so much noise that it seemed to quiet the elements, as if Neptune had pronounced the famous Quos ego, and, after six or seven minutes, during which Eurus, Notus, Boreas and Aquilo seemed to beat a retreat, the host appeared with a lantern and enlightened the scene, which looked deplorably like a field of battle. The great chest of drawers was overturned on the broken table; the door was held only by one of its hinges, and the bolts were broken; three or four chairs were on the floor with their legs in the air, and, to crown all, the crockery, which had been on the table, lay in bits on the floor.
"This is a regular pandemonium," cried Chicot, recognizing his host.
"Oh! monsieur," cried the host, clasping his hands, "what has happened?"
"Are there demons lodging here?" asked Chicot.
"Oh! what weather," replied the host pathetically.
"But the bolts do not hold; this house must be made of card-board. I would rather go away;—I prefer the road."
"Oh! my poor furniture," sighed the host.
"But my clothes! where are they? They were on this chair."
"If they were there, they ought to be there still," replied the host.
"What! 'if they were there.' Do you think I came here yesterday in this costume?"
"Mon Dieu! monsieur," answered the host, with embarrassment, "I know you were clothed."
"It is lucky you confess it."
"The wind has dispersed everything."
"Ah! that is a reason."
"But, my friend, when the wind comes in it comes from outside, and it must have come in here if it made this destruction."
"Well, the wind in coming in here should have brought with it the clothes of others, instead of carrying mine out."
"So it should, and yet the contrary seems to have happened."
"But what is this? The wind must have walked in the mud, for here are footmarks on the floor." And Chicot pointed out the traces left by a muddy boot, on seeing which the host turned pale.
"Now, my friend," said Chicot, "I advise you to keep a watch over these winds which enter hotels, penetrate rooms by breaking doors, and retire, carrying away the clothes of the guests."
The host drew back toward the door. "You call me thief!" said he.
"You are responsible for my clothes, and they are gone—you will not deny that?"
"You insult me."
Chicot made a menacing gesture.
"Hola!" cried the host; "hola! help!"
Four men armed with sticks immediately appeared.
"Ah! here are the four winds," cried Chicot, making a thrust with his sword at one of them; but they all rapidly disappeared, not, however, before one of them had whispered something to the host.
"Your clothes shall be found," growled he.
"Well! that is all I ask."
They soon made their appearance, but visibly deteriorated.
"Ah! there are nails in your staircase; what a devil of a wind it was," said Chicot.
"Now you will go to bed again?" said the host.
"No, I thank you, I have slept enough; leave me your lantern and I will read."
Chicot replaced the chest of drawers against the door, dressed himself, got into bed again, and read till daybreak, when he asked for his horse, paid his bill, and went away, saying to himself—
"We shall see, to-night."
Chicot passed his morning in congratulating himself on the sang-froid and patience he had displayed through his night of trials.
"But," thought he, "they never take an old wolf twice in the same snare; therefore, it is nearly certain that they will invent some new devilry to practice on me to-day, so I must be on my guard."
The result of this reasoning was, that Chicot made a march that day worthy of being immortalized by Xenophon. Every tree, rising ground, or wall, served him for a point of observation. He also concluded on the road alliances, if not offensive, at least defensive. Four grocers from Paris, who were going to Orleans to order preserves, and to Limoges for dried fruits, allowed Chicot, who called himself a hosier from Bordeaux, returning home, to join their company, which was rendered more formidable by four clerks, who were following their masters. It was quite a little army, and scarcely less formidable in mind than in number, so warlike a spirit had the League introduced among the Parisian shopkeepers. At all events, three cowards together have less fear than one brave man alone. At last they reached Etampes, the town fixed on for supper and sleeping. They supped, and then each went to his room.
Chicot, who had not been sparing during the repast, either
of his fun, which amused his companions, or of the
But there arrived, during his first sleep, an event which the Sphynx himself, the diviner par excellence, could not have foreseen; but the devil was mixing himself up with Chicot's affairs, and he is more cunning than all the Sphynxes in the world.
About half-past nine a blow was struck on the door of the room where the clerks all slept. One of them opened in a very bad humor, and found himself face to face with the host.
"Gentlemen," said he, "I see with pleasure that you are sleeping all ready dressed, for I wish to render you a great service. Your masters grew very warm over politics at supper-time, and it seems that a sheriff of the town heard them and reported it. Now, as we are very loyal here, the mayor sent down the watch, and they have arrested your masters and carried them off. The prison is near the Hotel de Ville; go, my lads, your mules are ready for you, your masters will join you on the road."
The four clerks shook like hares, ran downstairs, jumped on
their mules, and took the road back to
Having seen them disappear, the host went to knock very gently at one of the doors in the corridor.
One of the merchants cried out in a loud voice, "Who is there?"
"Silence!" replied the host, "and come quietly to the door."
The merchant obeyed, but before opening, he said again—"Who are you?"
"Your host; do you not recognize my voice?"
"Mon Dieu! what is the matter?"
"Why, it seems you talked rather too freely at table, and the mayor has been informed by some spy, and has sent to arrest you. Luckily, I thought of showing them your clerks' room instead of yours, so that they are busy upstairs arresting them."
"Can this be true?"
"Pure and simple truth. Make haste, and escape while you can."
"But my companions?"
"Oh! I will tell them."
And while the merchant dressed, the host awakened the others, and very soon they all disappeared, walking on the points of their toes, that they might not be heard.
"That poor hosier!" said they; "it will all fall on him; but it is true he said the most."
Of course Chicot had received no warning. While the merchants were flying, he was sleeping peacefully.
The host now descended into the hall, where stood six armed men, one of whom seemed to command the others.
"Well?" said this one.
"I have obeyed your orders, monsieur."
"Your inn is deserted?"
"The person is not awakened?"
"You know in whose name we act, and what cause we serve: for you serve the same."
"Yes, certainly; therefore, I have sacrificed, to keep my oath, the money that these men would have spent at my house; for it is said in the oath, 'I will sacrifice my goods to the defense of the Catholic religion.'"
"'And my life,' you forget that," replied the officer.
"Oh! I have a wife and children."
"You must obey blindly what is ordered you."
"Oh! I will obey."
"Then go to bed, shut the doors, and whatever you see or hear, do not come out, even if your house is burning."
"Oh! I am ruined!"
"I am instructed to indemnify you; here are thirty crowns."
"My house estimated at thirty crowns!" cried the inn-keeper, piteously.
"We shall not break even a window; complainer that you are."
"Oh! what a champion of the Holy League."
The host went away and did as he was told. Then the officer ordered two men to place themselves under Chicot's window, while he himself, with the three others, mounted to his room.
"You know the order," said the officer. "If he opens and lets us search, and we find what we seek, we will not do him the least harm; but if the contrary happens, a good blow with a dagger; no pistol, you understand—besides, it is useless, being four against one."
The officer knocked.
"Who is there?" cried Chicot.
"Your friends the grocers, who have something important to tell you."
"Oh!" cried Chicot; "how last night's wine has strengthened your voice."
The officer lowered his voice, and said in an insinuating tone, "Open quickly, dear companion."
"Ventre de biche! I do not smell the grocery."
"Ah! you will not open?" cried the officer, impatiently. "Break open the door."
Chicot ran to the window, but saw below two naked swords shining.
"I am caught," said he.
"Ah! ah!" cried the officer, who had heard the noise of the window opening; "you fear the perilous leap, and you are right. Come, open!"
"Ma foi! no; the door is solid, and I shall get help when you make a noise." And he began to call for the merchants.
The officer laughed. "Fool!" cried he. "Do you think we have left you their help? Undeceive yourself; you are alone, so make up your mind to it. Go on, soldiers."
Chicot heard three blows struck on the door.
"They have three muskets," said he; "and below there are only two swords, and only fifteen feet to jump; I prefer the swords to the muskets."
And tying his bag to his belt, he got on the window-sill with his drawn sword. The two men below stood ready with their drawn swords, but, as Chicot guessed, on seeing him jump sword in hand, they drew back, intending to strike him as he came to the ground. Chicot alighted on his feet, and one of the men gave him a thrust immediately. Thanks, however, to Gorenflot's coat of mail, the blade broke like glass.
"He has armor!" cried the soldier.
"Pardieu!" said Chicot, cutting open his head with a blow of his sword.
The other began to cry out, thinking now only of defending himself, but, at the second pass, Chicot laid him by his comrade; so that when the door was burst open, the officer saw through the window his two sentinels lying in their blood, and Chicot running quietly away.
"He is a demon; he is steel proof!" cried he.
"Yes; but not ball-proof!" cried the soldiers.
"No firing; no noise; you will wake the city. We shall catch him to-morrow."
Chicot knew he was safe in the city of
Chicot vainly searched for his former companions, and then determined to stay for a time in the city; and even, after watching the officer and his men leave the town, had the audacity to return to the inn. There he found the host, who had not recovered from his terror, and who watched him saddling his horse as though he had been a phantom, and never even asked him for his money.
Then he went and finished his night in the public room at another inn, among all the drinkers, who were far from thinking that this tall unknown, who looked so smiling and gracious, had just killed two men.
At break of day he started again, but a prey to anxiety, for
although two attempts had failed, the third might be successful. He determined
when he reached
But as the road to
He came to the ground in such a position that his head was protected by the breast of his horse.
A cry of joy came from the troop, who, seeing him fall, believed him dead.
"I told you so," said a man, riding up, with a mask on his face; "you failed because you did not follow my orders. This time, here he is; search him, and if he moves, finish him."
Chicot was not a pious man, but at such a moment he remembered his God and murmured a fervent prayer.
Two men approached him sword in hand, and as he did not stir, came fearlessly forward; but instantly Chicot's dagger was in the throat of one, and his sword half buried in the side of the other.
"Ah! treason!" cried the chief, "he is not dead; charge your muskets."
"No, I am not dead," cried Chicot, attacking the speaker.
But two soldiers came to the rescue; Chicot turned and wounded one in the thigh.
"The muskets!" cried the chief.
"Before they are ready, you will be pierced through the heart," cried Chicot.
"Be firm, and I will aid you," cried a voice, which seemed to Chicot to come from heaven.
It was that of a fine young man, on a black horse. He had a pistol in each hand, and cried again to Chicot, "Stoop! morbleu, stoop!"
One pistol was fired, and a man rolled at Chicot's feet; then the second, and another man fell.
"Now we are two to two," cried Chicot; "generous young man, you take one, here is mine," and he rushed on the masked man, who defended himself as if used to arms.
The young man seized his opponent by the body, threw him down, and bound him with his belt. Chicot soon wounded his adversary, who was very corpulent, between the ribs; he fell, and Chicot, putting his foot on his sword to prevent him from using it, cut the strings of his mask.
"M. de Mayenne! ventre de biche, I thought so," said he.
The duke did not reply; he had fainted from the loss of blood and the weight of his fall. Chicot drew his dagger, and was about coolly to cut off his head, when his arm was seized by a grasp of iron, and a voice said:
"Stay! monsieur; one does not kill a fallen enemy."
"Young man," replied Chicot, "you have saved my life, and I thank you with all my heart; but accept a little lesson very useful in the time of moral degradation in which we live. When a man has been attacked three times in three days—when he has been each time in danger of death—when his enemies have, without provocation, fired four musket balls at him from behind—as they might have done to a mad dog—then, young man, he may do what I am about to do." And Chicot returned to his work.
But the young man stopped him again.
"You shall not do it, while I am here. You shall not shed more of that blood which is now issuing from the wound you hare already inflicted."
"Bah! do you know this wretch?"
"That wretch is M. le Duc de Mayenne, a prince equal in rank to many kings."
"All the more reason. And who are you?"
"He who has saved your life, monsieur."
"And who, if I do not deceive myself, brought me a letter from the king three days ago."
"Then you are in the king's service?"
"I have that honor."
"And yet you save M. de Mayenne? Permit me to tell you, monsieur, that that is not being a good servant."
"I think differently."
"Well, perhaps you are right. What is your name?"
"Ernanton de Carmainges."
"Well, M. Ernanton, what are we to do with this great carcase?"
"I will watch over M. de Mayenne, monsieur."
"And his follower, who is listening there?"
"The poor devil hears nothing; I have bound him too tightly, and he has fainted."
"M. de Carmainges, you have saved my life to-day, but you endanger it furiously for the future."
"I do my duty to-day; God will provide for the future."
"As you please, then, and I confess I dislike killing a defenseless man. Adieu, monsieur. But first, I will choose one of these horses."
"Take mine; I know what it can do."
"Oh! that is too generous."
"I have not so much need as you have to go quickly."
Chicot made no more compliments, but got on Ernanton's horse and disappeared.
Ernanton remained on the field of battle, much embarrassed what to do with the two men, who would shortly open their eyes. As he deliberated, he saw a wagon coming along, drawn by two oxen, and driven by a peasant. Ernanton went to the man and told him that a combat had taken place between the Huguenots and Catholics, that four had been killed, but that two were still living. The peasant, although desperately frightened, aided Ernanton to place first M. de Mayenne and then the soldier in the wagon. The four bodies remained.
"Monsieur," said the peasant, "were they Catholics or Huguenots?"
"Huguenots," said Ernanton, who had seen the peasant cross himself in his first terror.
"In that case there will be no harm in my searching them, will there?"
"None," replied Ernanton, who thought it as well that the peasant should do it, as the first passer-by. The man did not wait to be told twice, but turned out their pockets. It seemed that he was far from disappointed, for his face looked smiling when he had finished the operation, and he drove on his oxen at their quickest pace, in order to reach his home with his treasure.
It was in the stable of this excellent Catholic, on a bed of straw, that M. de Mayenne recovered his consciousness. He opened his eyes, and looked at the men and the things surrounding him with a surprise easy to imagine. Ernanton immediately dismissed the peasant.
"Who are you, monsieur?" asked Mayenne.
"Do you not recognize me?" said he.
"Yes, I do now; you are he who came to the assistance of my enemy."
"Yes, but I am he who prevented your enemy from killing you."
"That must be true, since I live; unless, indeed, he thought me dead."
"He went away knowing you to be alive."
"Then he thought my wound mortal."
"I do not know; but had I not opposed him, he would have given you one which certainly would have been so."
"But then, monsieur, why did you aid him in killing my men?"
"Nothing more simple, monsieur; and I am astonished that a gentleman, as you seem to be, does not understand my conduct. Chance brought me on your road, and I saw several men attacking one; I defended the one, but when this brave man—for whoever he may be, he is brave—when he remained alone with you, and would have decided the victory by your death, then I interfered to save you."
"You know me, then?" said Mayenne, with a scrutinizing glance.
"I had no need to know you, monsieur; you were a wounded man, that was enough."
"Be frank; you knew me?"
"It is strange, monsieur, that you will not understand me. It seems to me that it is equally ignoble to kill a defenseless man, as six men to attack one."
"There may be reasons for all things."
Ernanton bowed, but did not reply.
"Did you not see," continued Mayenne, "that I fought sword to sword with that man?"
"It is true."
"Besides, he is my most mortal enemy."
"I believe it, for he said the same thing of you."
"Do you think me dangerously wounded?"
"I have examined your wound, monsieur, and I think that, although it is serious, you are in no danger of death. I believe the sword slipped along the ribs, and did not penetrate the breast. Breathe, and I think you will find no pain in the lungs."
"It is true; but my men?"
"Are dead, all but one."
"Are they left on the road?"
"Have they been searched?"
"The peasant whom you must have seen on opening your eyes, and who is your host, searched them."
"What did he find?"
"I think not."
"Ah!" said Mayenne, with evident satisfaction. "But the living man; where is he?"
"In the barn, close by."
"Bring him to me, monsieur; and if you are a man of honor, promise me to ask him no questions."
"I am not curious, monsieur; and I wish to know no more of this affair than I know already."
The duke looked at him uneasily.
"Monsieur," said Ernanton, "will you charge some one else with the commission you have just given me?"
"I was wrong, monsieur, I acknowledge it; have the kindness to render me the service I ask of you."
Five minutes after, the soldier entered the stable. He uttered a cry on seeing the duke; but he put his finger on his lip, and the man was silent.
"Monsieur," said Mayenne to Ernanton, "my gratitude to you will be eternal; and, doubtless, some day we shall meet under more favorable circumstances. May I ask to whom I have the honor of speaking?"
"I am the Vicomte Ernanton de Carmainges, monsieur."
"You were going to Beaugency?"
"Then I have delayed you, and you cannot go on to-night."
"On the contrary, monsieur, I am about to start at once."—"For Beaugency?"
The duke appeared astonished.
"Pardon," said he; "but it is strange that going to Beaugency, and being stopped by an unforeseen circumstance, you should return without fulfilling the end of your journey."
"Nothing is more simple, monsieur; I was going to a rendezvous for a particular time, which I have lost by coming here with you; therefore I return."
"Oh! monsieur, will you not stay here with me for two
or three days? I will send this soldier to
"Then let the soldier remain with you, and I will send you a doctor."
"Do you know the name of my enemy?"
"What! you saved his life, and he did not tell you his name?"
"I did not ask him."
"You did not ask him?"
"I have saved your life also, monsieur; have I asked you your name? But, in exchange, you both know mine."
"I see, monsieur, there is nothing to be learned from you; you are as discreet as brave."
"I observe that you say that in a reproachful manner; but, on the contrary, you ought to be reassured, for a man who is discreet with one person will be so with another."
"You are right! your hand, M. de Carmainges."
Ernanton did quietly as he was asked.
"You have blamed my conduct, monsieur," said Mayenne; "but I cannot justify myself without revealing important secrets."
"You defend yourself, monsieur, when I do not accuse."
"Well! I will only say that I am a gentleman of good rank, and able to be of use to you."
"Say no more, monsieur; thanks to the master whom I serve, I have no need of assistance from any one."
"Your master, who is he?"
"I have asked no questions, monsieur."
"It is true."
"Besides, your wound begins to inflame; I advise you to talk less."
"You are right; but I want my surgeon."
"I am returning to
"M. de Carmainges, give me your word of honor that if I intrust you with a letter it shall be given to the person to whom it is addressed."
"I give it, monsieur."
"I believe you; I am sure I may trust you. I must tell you a part of my secret. I belong to the guards of Madame de Montpensier."
"Oh! I did not know she had guards."
"In these troublous times, monsieur, every one guards himself as well as he can, and the house of Guise being a princely one—"
"I asked for no explanation, monsieur."
"Well, I had a mission to
"Stopped by this wound, I must report to the duchesse the reason of my delay."
"Will you therefore put into her own hands the letter I am about to write?"
"I will seek for ink and paper."
"It is needless, my soldier will get my tablets."
He instructed the soldier to take them from his pocket, opened them by a spring, wrote some lines in pencil, and shut them again. It was impossible for any one who did not know the secret to open them without breaking them.
"Monsieur," said Ernanton, "in three days these tablets shall be delivered."
"Into her own hands?"
The duke, exhausted by talking, and by the effort of writing the letter, sank back on his straw.
"Monsieur," said the soldier, in a tone little in harmony with his dress, "you bound me very tight, it is true, but I shall regard my chains as bonds of friendship, and will prove it to you some day."
And he held out a hand whose whiteness Ernanton had already remarked.
"So be it," said he, smiling; "it seems I have gained two friends."
"Do not despise them; one has never too many."
"That is true," said Ernanton; and he left them.
Ernanton arrived at
"This is nice behavior, monsieur," said he; "five days and nights absent; and you whom I thought so well of."
"Monsieur, I did what I was told to do."
"What were you told to do?"
"To follow M. de Mayenne, and I have followed him."
"For five days and nights?"
"Then he has left
"He left that same evening, and that seemed to me suspicious."
"You are right, monsieur, go on."
Ernanton related clearly and energetically all that had taken place. When Ernanton mentioned the letter:
"You have it, monsieur?" asked De Loignac.
"Diable! that deserves attention; come with me, I beg of you."
Ernanton followed De Loignac to the courtyard of the Louvre.
All was preparing for the king's going out, and M. d'Epernon was seeing two new
horses tried, which had been sent from
De Loignac approached D'Epernon.
"Great news, M. le Duc," said he.
"What is it?" said D'Epernon, drawing to one side.
"M. de Carmainges has seen M. de Mayenne lying wounded
in a village beyond
"Yes, and more, he has written a letter to Madame de Montpensier, which M. de Carmainges has in his pocket."
"Oh! oh! send M. de Carmainges to me."
"Here he is," said De Loignac, signing to Ernanton to advance.
"Well, monsieur, it seems you have a letter from M. de Mayenne."
"Addressed to Madame de Montpensier?"
"Give it to me," and the duke extended his hand.
"Pardon, monsieur, but did you ask me for the duke's letter?"
"You do not know that this letter was confided to me."
"What matters that?"
"It matters much, monsieur; I passed my word to the duke to give it to Madame la Duchesse herself."
"Do you belong to the king, or M. de Mayenne?"
"To the king."
"Well! the king wishes to see the letter."
"Monsieur, you are not the king."
"I think you forget to whom you speak, M. de Carmainges."
"I remember perfectly, monsieur, and that is why I refuse."
"M. de Carmainges, you forget your oath of fidelity."
"Monsieur, I have sworn fidelity only to one person, and that is the king; if he asks me for the letter, he must have it, but he is not here."
"M. de Carmainges," said the duke, growing very angry, "you are like the rest of the Gascons; blind in prosperity, your good fortune dazzles you, and the possession of a state secret is a weight too heavy for you to carry."
"The only thing I find heavy, monsieur, is the disgrace into which I seem likely to fall; not my fortune, which my refusal to obey you renders, I know, very precarious; but, no matter; I do what I ought to do, and no one, excepting the king, shall see this letter, but the person to whom it is addressed."
"De Loignac," cried D'Epernon, "place M. de Carmainges in arrest at once."
"It is certain that will prevent me from delivering the letter for a time, but once I come out—"
"If you never do come out?"
"I shall come out, monsieur; unless you have me assassinated. Yes, I shall come out, the walls are less strong than my will, and then—"
"I will speak to the king."
"To prison with him, and take away the letter," cried D'Epernon, beside himself with rage.
"No one shall touch it," cried Ernanton, starting back and drawing from his breast the tablet of M. de Mayenne, "for I will break it to pieces, since I can save it in no other way; M. de Mayenne will approve my conduct, and the king will pardon me."
The young man was about to execute his threat, when a touch arrested his arm. He turned and saw the king, who, coming down the staircase behind them, had heard the end of the discussion.
"What is the matter, gentlemen?" said he.
"Sire," cried D'Epernon, furiously, "this man, one of your Forty-five Guardsmen, of which he shall soon cease to form part, being sent by me to watch M. de Mayenne, in Paris, followed him to Orleans, and received from him a letter for Madame de Montpensier."
"You have received this letter?" asked the king of Ernanton.
"Yes, sire, but M. d'Epernon does not tell you under what circumstances."
"Well, where is this letter?"
"That is just the cause of the quarrel, sire. M. de Carmainges resolutely refuses to give it to me, and determines to carry it to its address."
Carmainges bent one knee before the king. "Sire," said he, "I am a poor gentleman, but a man of honor. I saved the life of your messenger, who was about to be assassinated by M. de Mayenne and six of his followers, for I arrived just in time to turn the fortune of the combat."
"And M. de Mayenne?"
"Was dangerously wounded."
"Your messenger, sire, who seemed to have a particular hatred of M. de Mayenne—"
The king smiled.
"Wished to kill his enemy; perhaps he had the right, but I thought that in my presence, whose sword belongs to your majesty, this vengeance became a political assassination, and—"
"Go on, monsieur."
"I saved the life of M. de Mayenne, as I had saved that of your messenger."
D'Epernon shrugged his shoulders with a scornful smile.
"Go on," said the king.
"M. de Mayenne, reduced to one companion, for the four others were killed, did not wish to separate from him, and, ignorant that I belonged to your majesty, confided to me a letter to his sister. I have this letter, sire, and here it is; I offer it to your majesty who has the right to dispose of it and of me. My honor is dear to me, sire, but I place it fearlessly in your hands."
Ernanton, so saying, held out the tablets to the king, who gently put them back.
"What did you say, D'Epernon?" said he; "M. de Carmainges is an honest man and a faithful servant?"
"What did I say, sire."
"Yes; I heard you pronounce the word 'prison.' Mordieu! on the contrary, when one meets a man like M. de Carmainges, it is reward we should speak of. A letter, duke, belongs only to the bearer and to the person to whom it is sent. You will deliver your letter, M. de Carmainges."
"But, sire," said D'Epernon, "think of what that letter may contain. Do not play at delicacy, when, perhaps, your majesty's life is concerned."
"You will deliver your letter, M. de Carmainges," said the king.
"Thanks, sire," said Carmainges, beginning to retire.
"Where do you take it?"
"To Madame la Duchesse de Montpensier, I believed I had had the honor of telling your majesty."
"I mean, to the Hotel Guise, St. Denis, or where?"
"I had no instructions on that subject, sire. I shall take the letter to the Hotel Guise, and there I shall learn where Madame de Montpensier is."
"And when you have found her?"
"I will deliver my letter."
"Just so. M. de Carmainges, have you promised anything else to M. de Mayenne than to deliver that letter to his sister?"
"No secrecy as to the place where you find her?"—"No, sire."
"Then I will impose only one condition on you."
"I am your majesty's servant."
"Deliver your letter, and then come to me at
"And you will tell me where you found the duchesse?"
"I will, sire."
"I ask no other confidences; remember."
"Sire, I promise."
"What imprudence, sire!" cried D'Epernon.
"There are men you cannot understand, duke. This one is loyal to Mayenne, he will be loyal to me."
"Toward you, sire, I shall be more than loyal—I shall be devoted," cried Ernanton.
"Now, D'Epernon, no more quarrels," said the king; "and you must at once pardon in this brave fellow what you looked upon as a want of loyalty, but which I regard as a proof of honesty."
"Sire," said Ernanton, "M. le Duc is too superior a man not to have discovered, through my disobedience (for which I confess my regret), my respect for him; only, before all things, I must do what I believe to be my duty."
"Parfandious!" said the duke, changing his expression like a mask, "this trial has done you honor, my dear Carmainges, and you are really a fine fellow—is he not, De Loignac? However, we gave him a good fright;" and the duke burst out laughing.
De Loignac did not answer; he could not lie like his illustrious chief.
"If it was a trial, so much the better," said the king, doubtfully; "but I counsel you not to try these experiments often; too many people would give way under them. Now, let us go, duke; you accompany me?"
"It was your majesty's order that I should ride by the door?"
"Yes; and who goes the other side?"
"A devoted servant of your majesty's, M. de St. Maline," said D'Epernon, glancing at Ernanton to see the effect of his words: but Ernanton remained unmoved.
The king, however, on seeing his horses, did not wish to be alone in the carriage, but desired D'Epernon to sit by him. De Loignac and St. Maline rode on each side, and an outrider in front. The king was, as usual, surrounded by dogs, and there was also a table in the carriage, covered with illuminated pictures, which the king cut out with wonderful skill, in spite of the movement of the carriage. He was just then occupied with the life of Magdalene, the sinner. The different pictures were labeled "Magdalene gives way to the sin of anger"—"Magdalene gives way to the sin of gluttony," and so on through the seven cardinal sins. The one that the king was occupied with, as they passed through the Porte St. Antoine, represented Magdalene giving way to anger.
The beautiful sinner, half-lying on cushions, and with no other covering than the magnificent hair with which she was afterward to wipe the feet of Jesus, was having a slave, who had broken a precious vase, thrown into a pond filled with lampreys, whose eager heads were protruding from the water: while on the other side, a woman, even less dressed than her mistress, as her hair was bound up, was being flogged, because she had, while dressing her mistress's head, pulled out some of those magnificent hairs, whose profusion might have rendered her more indulgent to such a fault. In the background were visible some dogs being whipped for having allowed beggars to pass quietly, and some cocks being murdered for having crowed too loudly in the morning.
On arriving at the Croix-Faubin, the king had finished this figure, and was passing to "Magdalene giving way to the sin of gluttony."
This represented a beautiful woman lying on one of those beds of purple and gold on which the ancients used to take their repasts; all that the Romans had most recherche in meat, in fish, and in fruit, dormice in honey, red mullets, lobsters from Stromboli, and pomegranates from Sicily, ornamented the table, while on the ground some dogs were disputing for a pheasant, while the air was full of birds, which had carried off from the table, figs, strawberries, and cherries. Magdalene held in her hand, filled with white liquor, one of those singularly-shaped glasses which Petronius has described in his feasts.
Fully occupied with this important work, the king merely raised his eyes as they passed by the convent of the Jacobins, from which vespers was sounding on every bell, and of which every window and door was closed.
But a hundred steps further on, an attentive observer would
have seen him throw a more curious glance on a fine-looking house on his left,
which, built in the midst of a charming garden, opened on the road. This house
was called Bel-Esbat, and, unlike the convent, had every window open with the
exception of one, before which hung a blind. As the king passed, this blind
moved perceptibly; Henri smiled at D'Epernon, and then fell to work on another
picture. This was the sin of luxury. The artist had represented this in such
glowing colors, and had painted the sin with so much courage and minuteness,
that we can only describe a small part of it, viz.:—that Magdalene's guardian
angel was flying back to heaven affrighted, and hiding his face in his hands.
All this occupied the king so much, that he never noticed an image of vanity
who rode by his carriage. It was a pity; for St. Maline was very happy and
proud on his horse, as he rode so near that he could hear the king say to his
dog, "Gently, M. Love, you get in my way;" or to M. le Duc d'Epernon,
"Duke, I believe these horses will break my neck." From time to time,
however, St. Maline glanced at De Loignac, who was too much accustomed to these
honors not to be indifferent to them; and he could not but feel the superiority
of his calm and modest demeanor, and even would try to imitate, for a few
minutes, until the thought would recur again, "I am seen and looked at,
and people say, 'Who is that happy gentleman who accompanies the king?'"
St. Maline's happiness seemed likely to last for a long time, for the horses,
covered with harness heavy with gold and embroidery, and imprisoned in shafts
like those of David's ark, did not advance rapidly. But as he was growing too
proud, something peculiarly annoying to him came to temper it down; he heard
the king pronounce the name of Ernanton, and not once, but two or three times.
St. Maline strained his attention to hear more, but some noise or movement
always prevented him. Either the king uttered some exclamation of regret at an
unlucky cut of the scissors, or one of the dogs began to bark. So that between
"You must work to-day," said he; "you shall sleep some other day; so get up, M. de St. Maline."
"I will not sleep for a fortnight, if necessary, monsieur."
"Oh! we shall not be so exacting as that."—"What must I do, monsieur?"
"Get on your horse and return to
"I am ready; my horse is standing saddled."
"Good; go then straight to the room of the Forty-five, and awaken every one; but excepting three, whom I will name to you, no one must know where he is going, nor what he is about to do."
"I will obey these instructions implicitly."
"Here then are some more; leave fourteen of these gentlemen at the Porte St. Antoine, fifteen others half way, and bring the rest here."
"Yes, monsieur; but at what hour must we leave
"When night falls."
"On horseback or on foot?"
"Fully; with daggers, pistols, and swords."
"Here are three letters; one for M. de Chalabre, one for M. de Biron, and one for yourself. M. de Chalabre will command the first party, M. de Biron the second, and yourself the third."
"These letters are only to be opened at six o'clock. M. de Chalabre will open his at the Porte St. Antoine, M. de Biron his at the Croix Faubin, and you yours on your return."
"Must we come quickly?"
"As quickly as possible, without creating suspicion.
Let each troop come out of
"Fourteen in the first troop, fifteen in the second, and fifteen in the third; it is evident they do not count Ernanton, and that he no longer forms part of the Forty-five," said St. Maline to himself when De Loignac was gone.
He fulfilled all his directions punctually. When he arrived
among the Forty-five, the greater number of them were already preparing for
their supper. Thus the noble Lardille de Chavantrade had prepared a dish of
mutton stewed with carrots and spices, after the method of
Pertinax de Montcrabeau, and the singular servant who spoke to him so familiarly, were preparing supper for themselves and six companions, who had each contributed six sous toward it; each one, in fact, was disposing according to his fancy of the money of his majesty Henri III. One might judge of the character of each man by the aspect of his little lodging. Some loved flowers, and displayed on their window-sills some fading rose or geranium; others had, like the king, a taste for pictures; others had introduced a niece or housekeeper; and M. d'Epernon had told M. de Loignac privately to shut his eyes on these things. At eight o'clock in winter, and ten in summer, they went to bed; but always leaving fifteen on guard. As, however, it was but half-past five when St. Maline entered, he found every one about, and, as we said, gastronomically inclined. But with one word he put an end to all this: "To horse, gentlemen," said he; and leaving them without another word, went to explain his orders to MM. de Biron and Chalabre. Some, while buckling on their belts and grasping their cuirasses, ate great mouthfuls, washed down by a draught of wine; and others, whose supper was less advanced, armed themselves with resignation. They called over the names, and only forty-four, including St. Maline, answered.
"M. Ernanton de Carmainges is missing," said De Chalabre, whose turn it was to exercise these functions. A profound joy filled the heart of St. Maline, and a smile played on his lips, a rare thing with this somber and envious man.
The forty-four therefore set off on their different routes.
It is needless to say that Ernanton, whom St. Maline thought
ruined, was, on the contrary, pursuing the course of his unexpected and
ascending fortunes. He had, of course, gone first to the Hotel Guise. There,
after having knocked at the great door and had it opened, he was only laughed
at when he asked for an interview with the duchess. Then, as he insisted, they
told him that he ought to know that her highness lived at
"I am grieved at her highness's absence," said he, "for I had a communication of great importance to deliver to her from the Duc de Mayenne."
"From the Duc de Mayenne! Who charged you to deliver it?"
"The duke himself."
"The duke! and where, pray? for he is not at
"I know that, as I met him on the road to
"On the road to
"Yes, and he there charged me with a message for Madame de Montpensier."
"A letter."—"Where is it?"
"Here," said Ernanton, striking his doublet.
"Will you let me see it?"
"Willingly." And Ernanton drew out the letter.
"What singular ink!" said the man.
"It is blood," said Ernanton, calmly.
The porter grew pale at these words, and at the idea that this blood belonged to M. de Mayenne. At this time, when there was great dearth of ink and abundance of blood spilled, it was not uncommon for lovers to write to their mistresses, or absent relations to their families, in this liquid.
"Monsieur," said the servant, "I do not know if you will find Madame de Montpensier in Paris or its environs; but go to a house in the Faubourg St. Antoine, called Bel-Esbat, which belongs to the duchesse; it is the first on the left hand going to Vincennes, after the convent of the Jacobins. You will be sure to find some one there in the service of the duchesse sufficiently in her confidence to be able to tell you where Madame la Duchesse is just now."
"Thank you," said Ernanton, who saw that the man either could or would say no more.
He found Bel-Esbat easily, and without more inquiries, rang, and the door opened.
"Enter," said a man, who then seemed to wait for some password, but as Ernanton did not give any, he asked him what he wanted.
"I wish to speak to Madame la Duchesse de Montpensier."
"And why do you come here for her?"
"Because the porter at the Hotel Guise sent me here."
"Madame la Duchesse is not here."
"That is unlucky, as it will prevent me from fulfilling the mission with which M. de Mayenne charged me."
"For Madame la Duchesse?"
"From M. le Duc de Mayenne?"
The valet reflected a moment. "Monsieur," said he, "I cannot answer; there is some one else whom I must consult. Please to wait."
"These people are well served," thought Ernanton. "Certainly, they must be dangerous people who think it necessary to hide themselves in this manner. One cannot enter a house of the Guises as you can the Louvre. I begin to think that it is not the true king of France whom I serve."
He looked round him; the courtyard was deserted, but all the doors of the stables were open, as if they expected some troop to enter and take up their quarters. He was interrupted by the return of the valet, followed by another.
"Leave me your horse, monsieur," said he, "and follow my comrade; you will find some one who can answer you much better than I can."
Ernanton followed the valet, and was shown into a little room, where a simply though elegantly dressed lady was seated at an embroidery frame.
"Here is the gentleman from M. de Mayenne, madame," said the servant.
She turned, and Ernanton uttered a cry of surprise.
"You, madame!" cried he, recognizing at once his page and the lady of the litter.
"You!" cried the lady in her turn, letting her work drop, and looking at Ernanton.
"Leave us," said she to the valet.
"You are of the household of Madame de Montpensier, madame?" said Ernanton.
"Yes; but you, monsieur, how do you bring here a message from the Duc de Mayenne?"
"Through unforeseen circumstances, which it would take too long to repeat," replied Ernanton, cautiously.
"Oh! you are discreet, monsieur," said the lady, smiling.
"Yes, madame, whenever it is right to be so."
"But I see no occasion for your discretion here; for, if you really bring a message from the person you say—Oh! do not look angry; if you really do, I say, it interests me sufficiently that, in remembrance of our acquaintance, short though it was, you should tell it to me."
The lady threw into these words all the caressing and seductive grace that a pretty woman can.
"Madame," replied Ernanton, "you cannot make me tell what I do not know."
"And still less what you will not tell."
"Madame, all my mission consists in delivering a letter to her highness."
"Well, then, give me the letter," said the lady, holding out her hand.
"Madame, I believed I had had the honor of telling you that this letter was addressed to the duchesse."
"But, as the duchesse is absent, and I represent her here, you may—"
"I cannot, madame."
"You distrust me, monsieur?"
"I ought to do so, madame; but," said the young man, with an expression there was no mistaking, "in spite of the mystery of your conduct, you have inspired me, I confess, with very different sentiments."
"Really," said the lady, coloring a little under Ernanton's ardent gaze.
"Take care, monsieur," said she, laughing, "you are making a declaration of love."
"Yes, madame; I do not know if I may ever see you again, and the opportunity is too precious for me to let it slip."
"Then, monsieur, I understand."
"That I love you, madame; that is easy to understand."
"No, but how you came here."
"Ah, pardon, madame, but now it is I who do not understand."
"I think that, wishing to see me again, you invented a pretext to get in."
"I, madame! you judge me ill. I was ignorant if I should ever see you again, and I hoped only from chance, which already had twice thrown me in your way; but invent a pretext I could never do. I am strange, perhaps; I do not think like all the world."
"Oh! you say you are in love, and you have scruples as to the manner of introducing yourself again to her you love. It is very fine, monsieur, but I partly guessed it."
"How, madame, if you please?"
"The other day you met me; I was in a litter, you recognized me, and you did not follow me."
"Madame, you are confessing you paid some attention to me."
"And why not? Surely the way in which we first met justified my putting my head out of my litter to look after you when you passed. But you galloped away, after uttering an 'Ah!' which made me tremble in my litter."
"I was forced to go away, madame."
"By your scruples?"
"No, madame, by my duty."
"Well!" said the lady, laughing, "I see that you are a reasonable, circumspect lover, who, above all things, fears to compromise himself."
"If you had inspired me with certain fears, there would be nothing astonishing in it. Is it customary that a woman should dress as a man, force the barriers, and come to see an unfortunate wretch drawn to pieces, using meanwhile all sorts of gesticulations perfectly incomprehensible?"
The lady grew rather pale, although she tried to smile.
Ernanton went on. "Is it natural also that this lady, after this strange announcement, fearful of being arrested, should fly as though she were a thief, although she is in the service of Madame de Montpensier, a powerful princess, although not much in favor at court?"
This time the lady smiled again, but ironically.
"You are not clear-sighted, monsieur, in spite of your pretension to be an observer: for, with a little sense, all that seems obscure to you would have been explained. Was it not very natural that Madame de Montpensier should be interested in the fate of M. de Salcede, in what he might be tempted to say, what true or false revelations he might utter to compromise the house of Lorraine? And if that was natural, monsieur, was it not also so, that this princess should send some one, some safe, intimate friend, to be present at the execution, and bring her all the details? Well, monsieur, this person was I. Now, do you think I could go in my woman's dress? Do you think I could remain indifferent to what was going on?"
"You are right, madame; and now I admire as much your logic and talent as I did before your beauty."
"Thank you, monsieur. And now that we know each other, and that everything is explained, give me the letter, since it does exist."
The unknown seemed trying not to grow angry. "Impossible?" repeated she.
"Yes, impossible; for I swore to M. de Mayenne to deliver it only to the duchesse herself."
"Say, rather," cried the lady, giving way to her irritation, "that you have no letter; that, in spite of your pretended scruples, it was a mere pretext for getting in here; that you wished to see me again, and that was all. Well, monsieur, you are satisfied; not only you have effected your entrance, but you have seen me, and have told me you adore me."
"In that, as in all the rest, I have told you truth, madame."
"Well, so be it, you adore me; you wished to see me, and you have seen me. I have procured you a pleasure in return for a service. We are quits. Adieu!"
"I will obey you, madame; since you send me away, I will go."
"Yes," cried she, now really angry, "but if you know me, I do not know you. You have too much advantage over me. Ah! you think you can enter, on some pretext, into the house of a princess, and go away and say, 'I succeeded in my perfidy.' Ah! monsieur, that is not the behavior of a gallant man."
"It seems to me, madame, that you are very hard on what would have been, after all, only a trick of love, if it had not been, as I have already told you, an affair of the greatest importance. I put aside all your injurious expressions, and I will forget all I might have said, affectionate or tender, since you are so badly disposed toward me. But I will not go out from here under the weight of your unworthy suspicions. I have a letter from the duke for Madame de Montpensier, and here it is; you can see the handwriting and the address."
Ernanton held out the letter to the lady, but without leaving go of it.
She cast her eyes on it, and cried, "His writing! Blood!"
Without replying, Ernanton put the letter back in his pocket, bowed low, and, very pale and bitterly hurt, turned to go. But she ran after him, and caught him by the skirt of his cloak.
"What is it, madame?" said he.
"For pity's sake, pardon me; has any accident happened to the duke?"
"You ask me to pardon you, only that you may read this letter, and I have already told you that no one shall read it but the duchesse."
"Ah! obstinate and stupid that you are," cried the duchess, with a fury mingled with majesty; "do you not recognize me?—or rather, could you not divine that I was the mistress?—and are these the eyes of a servant? I am the Duchesse de Montpensier; give me the letter."
"You are the duchesse!" cried Ernanton, starting back.
"Yes, I am. Give it to me; I want to know what has happened to my brother."
But instead of obeying, as the duchess expected, the young man, recovering from his first surprise, crossed his arms.
"How can I believe you, when you have already lied to me twice?"
The duchess's eyes shot forth fire at these words, but Ernanton stood firm.
"Ah! you doubt still—you want proofs!" cried she, tearing her lace ruffles with rage.
She darted toward the bell, and rang it furiously; a valet appeared.
"What does madame want?" said he.
She stamped her foot with rage. "Mayneville!" cried she, "I want Mayneville. Is he not here?"
"Let him come here."
The valet went, and, a minute after, Mayneville entered.
"Did you send for me, madame?" said he.
"Madame! And since when am I simply madame?" cried she angrily.
"Your highness!" said Mayneville, in surprise.
"Good!" said Ernanton, "I have now a gentleman before me, and if he has lied, I shall know what to do."
"You believe then, at last?" said the duchess.
"Yes, madame, I believe, and here is the letter;" and, bowing, the young man gave to Madame de Montpensier the letter so long disputed.
The duchess seized the letter, opened it, and read it eagerly, while various expressions passed over her face, like clouds over the sky. When she had finished, she gave it to Mayneville to read. It was as follows:
"MY SISTER—I tried to do myself the work I should have left to others, and I have been punished for it. I have received a sword wound from the fellow whom you know. The worst of it is, that he has killed five of my men, and among them Boularon and Desnoises, who are my best, after which he fled. I must tell you that he was aided by the bearer of this letter, a charming young man, as you may see. I recommend him to you; he is discretion itself.
"One merit which he will have, I presume, in your eyes, my dear sister, is having prevented my conqueror from killing me, as he much wished, having pulled off my mask when I had fainted, and recognized me.
"I recommend you, sister, to discover the name and profession of this discreet cavalier; for I suspect him, while he interests me. To my offers of service, he replied that the master whom he served let him want for nothing.
"I can tell you no more about him, but that he pretends not to know me. I suffer much, but believe my life is not in danger. Send me my surgeon at once; I am lying like a horse upon straw, the bearer will tell you where.
"Your affectionate brother,
When they had finished reading, the duchess and Mayneville looked at each other in astonishment. The duchess broke the silence first.
"To whom," said she, "do we owe the signal service that you have rendered us, monsieur?"
"To a man who, whenever he can, helps the weak against the strong."
"Will you give me some details, monsieur?"
Ernanton told all he had seen, and named the duke's place of retreat.
Madame de Montpensier and Mayneville listened with interest. When he had finished, the duchess said:
"May I hope, monsieur, that you will continue the work so well begun, and attach yourself to our house?"
These words, said in the gracious tone that the duchess knew so well how to use, were very flattering to Ernanton, after the avowal which he had made; but the young man, putting vanity aside, attributed them to simple curiosity.
He knew well that the king, in making it a condition that he should reveal the duchess's place of abode, had some object in view. Two interests contended within him—his love, that he might sacrifice; and his honor, which he could not. The temptation was all the stronger, that by avowing his position near the king, he should gain an enormous importance in the eyes of the duchess; and it was not a light consideration for a young man to be important in the eyes of the Duchesse de Montpensier. St. Maline would not have resisted a minute. All these thoughts rushed through Ernanton's mind, but ended by making him stronger than before.
"Madame," said he, "I have already had the honor of telling M. de Mayenne that I serve a good master, who treats me too well for me to desire to seek another."
"My brother tells me in his letter, monsieur, that you seemed not to recognize him. How, if, you did not know him, then, did you use his name to penetrate to me?"
"M. de Mayenne seemed to wish to preserve his incognito, madame; and I, therefore, did not think I ought to recognize him; and it might have been disagreeable for the peasants to know what an illustrious guest they were entertaining. Here there was no reason for secrecy; on the contrary, the name of M. de Mayenne opened the way to you; so I thought that here, as there, I acted rightly."
The duchess smiled, and said, "No one could extricate himself better from an embarrassing question: and you are, I must confess, a clever man."
"I see no cleverness in what I have had the honor of telling you, madame."
"Well, monsieur," said the duchess, impatiently, "I see clearly that you will tell nothing. You do not reflect that gratitude is a heavy burden for one of my house to bear; that you have twice rendered me a service, and that if I wished to know your name, or rather who you are—"
"I know, madame, you would learn it easily; but you would learn it from some one else, and I should have told nothing."
"He is always right," cried the duchess, with a look which gave Ernanton more pleasure than ever a look had done before. Therefore he asked no more, but like the gourmand who leaves the table when he thinks he has had the best bit, he bowed, and prepared to take leave.
"Then, monsieur, that is all you have to tell me?" asked the duchess.
"I have executed my commission, and it only remains for me to present my humble respects to your highness."
The duchess let him go, but when the door shut behind him, she stamped her foot impatiently.
"Mayneville," said she, "have that young man followed."
"Impossible, madame; all our household are out, I myself am waiting for the event. It is a bad day on which to do anything else than what we have decided to do."
"You are right, Mayneville; but afterward—"
"Oh! afterward, if you please, madame."
"Yes; for I suspect him, as my brother does."
"He is a brave fellow, at all events; and really we are lucky, a stranger coming to render us such a service."
"Nevertheless, Mayneville, have him watched. But night is falling, and Valois must be returning from Vincennes."
"Oh! we have time before us; it is not eight o'clock, and our men have not arrived."
"All have the word, have they not?"
"All."—"They are trustworthy?"
"How many do you expect?"
"Fifty; it is more than necessary, for besides them we have two hundred monks, as good as soldiers, if not better."
"As soon as our men have arrived, range your monks on the road."
"They are all ready, madame; they will intercept the way, our men will push the carriage toward them, the gates of the convent will be open, and will have but to close behind the carriage."
"Let us sup, then, Mayneville, it will pass the time. I am so impatient, I should like to push the hands of the clock."
"The hour will come; be easy."
"But our men?"
"They will be here; it is hardly eight."
"Mayneville, my poor brother asks for his surgeon; the best surgeon, the best cure for his wound, will be a lock of the Valois's shaved head, and the man who should carry him that present, Mayneville, would be sure to be welcome."
"In two hours, madame, that man shall set out to find our dear duke in his retreat; he who went out of Paris as a fugitive shall return triumphantly."
"One word more, Mayneville; are our friends in Paris warned?"
"What friends?"—"The leaguers."
"Heaven forbid, madame; to tell a bourgeois is to tell all Paris. Once the deed is done, and the prisoner safe in the cloister, we can defend ourselves against an army. Then we should risk nothing by crying from the roof of the convent, 'We have the Valois!'"
"You are both skillful and prudent, Mayneville. Do you know, though, that my responsibility is great, and that no woman will ever have conceived and executed such a project?"
"I know it, madame; therefore I counsel you in trembling."
"The monks will be armed under their robes?"
"Mind you kill those two fellows whom we saw pass, riding at the sides of the carriage, then we can describe what passes as pleases us best."
"Kill those poor devils, madame! do you think that necessary?"
"De Loignac! would he be a great loss?"
"He is a brave soldier."
"A parvenu, like that other ill-looking fellow who pranced on the left, with his fiery eyes and his black skin."
"Oh! that one I do not care so much about; I do not know him, and I agree with your highness in disliking his looks."
"Then you abandon him to me?" laughed the duchess.
"Oh! yes, madame. What I said was only for your renown, and the morality of the party that we represent."
"Good; Mayneville, I know you are a virtuous man, and I will sign you a certificate of it if you like. You need have nothing to do with it; they will defend the Valois and get killed. To you I recommend that young man."
"He who just left us; see if he be really gone, and if he be not some spy sent by our enemies."
Mayneville opened the window, and tried to look out.
"Oh! what a dark night," said he.
"An excellent night: the darker the better. Therefore, good courage, my captain."
"Yes, but we shall see nothing."
"God, whom we fight for, will see for us."
Mayneville, who did not seem quite so sure of the intervention of Providence in affairs of this nature, remained at the window looking out.
"Do you see any one?" asked the duchess.
"No, but I hear the tramp of horses."
"It is they; all goes well." And the duchess touched the famous pair of golden scissors at her side.
Ernanton went away with a full heart but a quiet conscience;
he had had the singular good fortune to declare his love to a princess, and to
get over the awkwardness which might have resulted from it by the important
conversation which followed. He had neither betrayed the king, M. de Mayenne,
nor himself. Therefore he was content, but he still wished for many things,
and, among others, a quick return to
"Oh!" said Ernanton, "robbers on the road, a
"Silence, if you please," said a voice that Ernanton thought he recognized. "Your sword, your arms; quick."
And one man seized the bridle of the horse, while another stripped him of his arms.
"Peste! what clever thieves!" said Ernanton. "At least, gentlemen, do me the favor to tell me—"
"Why it is M. de Carmainges!" said the man who had seized his sword.
"M. de Pincornay!" cried Ernanton. "Oh, fie; what a bad trade you have taken up."
"I said silence," cried the voice of the chief; "and take this man to the depot."
"But, M. de St. Maline, it is our companion, Ernanton de Carmainges."
"Ernanton here!" cried St. Maline, angrily; "what is he doing here?"
"Good-evening, gentlemen," said Carmainges; "I did not, I confess, expect to find so much good company."
"Diable!" growled St. Maline; "this is unforeseen."
"By me also, I assure you," said Ernanton, laughing.
"It is embarrassing; what were you doing here?"
"If I asked you that question, would you answer?"
"Then let me act as you would."
"Then you will not tell me?"
"Nor where you were going?"
Ernanton did not answer.
"Then, monsieur, since you do not explain, I must treat you like any other man."
"Do what you please, monsieur; only I warn you, you will have to answer for it."
"To M. de Loignac?"
"Higher than that."
"Well, I have my orders, and I shall send you to Vincennes."
"That is capital; it is just where I was going."
"It is lucky that this little journey pleases you so much."
Ernanton was then conducted by his companions to the courtyard of Vincennes. Here he found fifty disarmed cavaliers, who, looking pale and dispirited, and surrounded by fifty light horse, were deploring their bad fortune, and anticipating a disastrous ending to an enterprise so well planned. The Forty-five had taken all these men, either by force or cunning, as they had, for precaution, come to the rendezvous either singly, or two or three together at most. Now all this would have rejoiced Ernanton had he understood it, but he saw without understanding.
"Monsieur," said he to St. Maline, "I see that you were told of the importance of my mission, and that, fearing some accident for me, you were good enough to take the trouble to escort me here: now I will tell you that you were right; the king expects me, and I have important things to say to him. I will tell the king what you have done for his service."
St. Maline grew red and then pale; but he understood, being clever when not blinded by passion, that Ernanton spoke the truth, and that he was expected. There was no joking with MM. de Loignac and d'Epernon; therefore he said, "You are free, M. Ernanton; I am delighted to have been agreeable to you."
Ernanton waited for no more, but began to mount the staircase which led to the king's room. St. Maline followed him with his eyes, and saw De Loignac meet him on the stairs, and sign to him to come on. De Loignac then descended to see the captives with his own eyes, and pronounced the road perfectly safe and free for the king's return. He knew nothing of the Jacobin convent, and the artillery and musketry of the fathers. But D'Epernon did, being perfectly informed by Nicholas Poulain. Therefore, when De Loignac came and said to his chief, "Monsieur, the roads are free," D'Epernon replied:
"Very well, the king orders that the Forty-five guards form themselves into three compact bodies, one to go before and one on each side of the carriage, so that if there be any firing it may not reach the carriage."
"Very good!" said De Loignac, "only I do not see where firing is to come from."
"At the priory of the Jacobins, monsieur, they must draw close."
This dialogue was interrupted by the king, who descended the staircase, followed by several gentlemen, among whom St. Maline, with rage in his heart, recognized Ernanton.
"Gentlemen," said the king, "are my brave Forty-five all here?"
"Yes, sire," said D'Epernon, showing them.
"Have the orders been given?"
"Yes, sire, and will be followed."
"Let us go, then!"
The light horse were left in charge of the prisoners, and forbidden to address a word to them. The king got into his carriage with his naked sword by his side, and, as nine o'clock struck, they set off.
M. de Mayneville was still at his window, only he was infinitely less tranquil and hopeful, for none of his soldiers had appeared, and the only sound heard along the silent black road was now and then horses' feet on the road to Vincennes. When this occurred, Mayneville and the duchess vainly tried to see what was going on. At last Mayneville became so anxious that he sent off a man on horseback, telling him to inquire of the first body of cavaliers he met. The messenger did not return, so the duchess sent another, but neither reappeared.
"Our officer," said the duchess, always hopeful, "must have been afraid of not having sufficient force, and must have kept our men to help him; it is prudent, but it makes one anxious."
"Yes, very anxious," said Mayneville, whose eyes never quitted the horizon.
"Mayneville, what can have happened?"
"I will go myself, madame, and find out."
"Oh, no! I forbid that. Who would stay with me, who would know our friends, when the time comes? No, no, stay, Mayneville; one is naturally apprehensive when a secret of this importance is concerned, but, really, the plan was too well combined, and, above all, too secret, not to succeed."
"Nine o'clock!" replied Mayneville, rather to himself than to the duchess. "Well! here are the Jacobins coming-out of their convent, and ranging themselves along the walls."
"Listen!" cried the duchess. They began to hear from afar a noise like thunder.
"It is cavalry!" cried the duchess; "they are bringing him, we have him at last;" and she clapped her hands in the wildest joy.
"Yes," said Mayneville, "I hear a carriage and the gallop of horses."
And he cried out loudly, "Outside the walls, my brothers, outside!"
Immediately the gates of the priory opened, and a hundred armed monks marched out, with Borromée at their head, and they heard Gorenflot's voice crying, "Wait for me, wait for me; I must be at the head to receive his majesty."
"Go to the balcony, prior," cried Borromée, "and overlook us all."
"Ah! true; I forgot that I had chosen that place, but luckily you are here to remind me."
Borromée dispatched four monks to stand behind the prior, on the pretense of doing him honor.
Soon the road was illumined by a number of torches, thanks to which the duchess and Mayneville could see cuirasses and swords shining. Incapable of moderation, she cried—"Go down, Mayneville, and bring him to me."
"Yes, madame, but one thing disquiets me."
"What is it?"
"I do not hear the signal agreed on."
"What use is the signal, since they have him?"
"But they were to arrest him only here, before the priory."
"They must have found a good opportunity earlier."
"I do not see our officer."
"See that red plume."
"Ventrebleu! that red plume—"
"It is M. d'Epernon, sword in hand."
"They have left him his sword."
"Mordieu! he commands."
"Our people! There has been treason."
"Oh! madame; they are not our people."
"You are mad, Mayneville!"
But at that moment De Loignac, at the head of the first body of guards, cried, brandishing his large sword, "Vive le Roi!"
"Vive le Roi!" replied enthusiastically all the Forty-five, with their Gascon accent. The duchess grew pale and sank down almost fainting. Mayneville, somber, but resolute, drew his sword, not knowing but what the house was to be attacked. The cortege advanced, and had reached Bel-Esbat. Borromée came a little forward, and as De Loignac rode straight up to him, he immediately saw that all was lost, and determined on his part.
"Room for the king!" cried De Loignac. Gorenflot, delighted with the scene, extended his powerful arm and blessed the king from his balcony. Henri saw him, and bowed smilingly, and at this mark of favor Gorenflot gave out a "Vive le Roi!" with his stentorian voice. The rest, however, remained mute: they expected a different result from their two months' training. But Borromée, feeling certain from the absence of the duchess's troops of the fate of the enterprise, knew that to hesitate a moment was to be ruined, and he answered with a "Vive le Roi!" almost as sonorous as Gorenflot's. Then all the rest took it up.
"Thanks, reverend father, thanks," cried Henri; and then he passed the convent, where his course was to have terminated, like a whirlwind of fire, noise, and glory, leaving behind him Bel-Esbat in obscurity.
From her balcony, hidden by the golden scutcheon, behind which she was kneeling, the duchess saw and examined each face on which the light of the torches fell.
"Oh!" cried she, "look, Mayneville! That young man, my brother's messenger, is in the king's service! We are lost!"
"We must fly immediately, madame, now the Valois is conqueror."
"We have been betrayed; it must have been by that young man, he must have known all."
The king had already, with all his escort, entered the Porte St. Antoine, which had opened before him and shut behind him.
Chicot, to whom our readers will now permit us to return,
after his last adventure, went on as rapidly as possible. Between the duke and
him would now exist a mortal struggle, which would end only with life. Mayenne,
wounded in his body, and still more grievously in his self-love, would never
forgive him. Skillful in all mimicry, Chicot now pretended to be a great lord,
as he had before imitated a good bourgeois, and thus never prince was served
with more zeal than M. Chicot, when he had sold Ernanton's horse and had talked
for a quarter of an hour with the postmaster. Chicot, once in the saddle, was
determined not to stop until he reached a place of safety, and he went as
quickly as constant fresh relays of horses could manage. He himself seemed made
of iron, and, at the end of sixty leagues, accomplished in twenty hours, to
feel no fatigue. When, thanks to this rapidity, in three days he reached
Often he heard the sound of heavy wheels, and then saw coming along the wagon of the vintages, full of casks and of children with red faces. Sometimes an arquebuse from behind a hedge, or vines, or fig-trees, made him tremble for fear of an ambush, but it always turned out to be a hunter, followed by his great dogs, traversing the plain, plentiful in hares, to reach the mountain, equally full of partridges and heathcocks. Although the season was advanced, and Chicot had left Paris full of fog and hoar-frost, it was here warm and fine. The great trees, which had not yet entirely lost their leaves, which, indeed, in the south they never lose entirely, threw deep shadows from their reddening tops.
The Béarnais peasants, their caps over one ear, rode about on the little cheap horses of the country, which seem indefatigable, go twenty leagues at a stretch, and, never combed, never covered, give themselves a shake at the end of their journey, and go to graze on the first tuft of heath, their only and sufficing repast.
"Ventre de biche!" said Chicot; "I have never seen Gascony so rich. I confess the letter weighs on my mind, although I have translated it into Latin. However, I have never heard that Henriot, as Charles IX. called him, knew Latin; so I will give him a free French translation."
Chicot inquired, and was told that the king was at Nerac. He turned to the left to reach this place, and found the road full of people returning from the market at Condom. He learned, for Chicot, careful in answering the questions of others, was a great questioner himself, that the king of Navarre led a very joyous life, and was always changing from one love to another.
He formed the acquaintance of a young Catholic priest, a sheep-owner, and an officer, who had joined company on the road, and were traveling together. This chance association seemed to him to represent Navarre, learned, commercial, and military.
The officer recounted to him several sonnets which had been made on the loves of the king and the beautiful La Fosseuse, daughter of Rene de Montmorency, baron de Fosseux.
"Oh!" said Chicot; "in Paris, we believe that the king is mad about Mlle. de Rebours."
"Oh! that is at Pau."
"What! has the king a mistress in every town?"
"Very likely; I know that he was the lover of Mlle. de Dayelle, while I was in garrison at Castelnaudry."
"Oh! Mlle. Dayelle, a Greek, was she not?"
"Yes," said the priest; "a Cyprian."
"I am from Agen," said the merchant; "and I know that when the king was there he made love to Mlle. de Tignonville."
"Ventre de biche!" said Chicot; "he is a universal lover. But to return to Mlle. Dayelle; I knew her family."
"She was jealous and was always threatening; she had a pretty little poniard, which she used to keep on her work-table, and one day, the king went away and carried the poniard with him, saying that he did not wish any misfortune to happen to his successor."
"And Mlle. de Rebours?"
"Oh! they quarreled."
"Then La Fosseuse is the last?"
"Oh! mon Dieu! yes; the king is mad about her."
"But what does the queen say?"
"She carries her griefs to the foot of the crucifix," said the priest.
"Besides," said the officer, "she is ignorant of all these things."
"That is not possible," said Chicot.
"Because Nerac is not so large that it is easy to hide things there."
"As for that, there is a park there containing avenues
"And then the queen is much occupied."
"With whom, pray?"
"With God, monsieur," said the priest.
"Yes, the queen is religious."
"Religious! But there is no mass at the palace, is there?"
"No mass; do you take us for heathens? Learn, monsieur, that the king goes to church with his gentlemen, and the queen hears mass in her private chapel."
"Yes; and I, unworthy as I am, received two crowns for officiating there; I even preached a very good sermon on the text, 'God has separated the wheat from the chaff.' It is in the Bible, 'God will separate,' but as it is a long time since that was written, I supposed that the thing was done."
"And the king?"
"He heard it, and applauded."
"I must add," said the officer, "that they do something else than hear mass at the palace; they give good dinners—and the promenades! I do not believe in any place in France there are more mustaches shown than in the promenades at Nerac."
Chicot knew Queen Marguerite well, and he knew that if she was blind to these love affairs, it was when she had some motive for placing a bandage over her eyes.
"Ventre de biche!" said he, "these alleys of
Chicot entered Nerac in the evening, just at the time of the promenades which occupied the king so much. Chicot could see the simplicity of the royal manners by the ease with which he obtained an audience. A valet opened the door of a rustic-looking apartment bordered with flowers, above which was the king's antechamber and sitting-room. An officer or page ran to find the king, wherever he might be when any one wished for an audience, and he always came at the first invitation. Chicot was pleased with this; he judged the king to be open and candid, and he thought so still more when he saw the king coming up a winding walk bordered with laurels and roses, an old hat on his head, and dressed in a dark green doublet and gray boots, and with a cup and ball in his hand. He looked gay and happy, as though care never came near him.
"Who wants me?" said he to the page.
"A man who looks to me half courtier, half soldier."
Chicot heard these words, and advanced.
"It is I, sire."
"What! M. Chicot in Navarre! Ventre St. Gris! welcome, dear M. Chicot!"
"A thousand thanks, sire."
"Quite well? Ah, parbleu! we will drink together, I am quite delighted. Chicot, sit down there." And he pointed to a grass bank.
"Oh no, sire!"
"Have you come 200 leagues for me to leave you standing? No, no; sit down; one cannot talk standing."
"But, sire, respect—"
"Respect! here in Navarre! You are mad, my poor Chicot."
"No, sire, I am not mad, but I am an ambassador."
A slight frown contracted Henri's brow, but disappeared at once.
"Ambassador, from whom?"
"From Henri III. I come from Paris and the Louvre, sire."
"Oh! that is different. Come with me," said the king, rising, with a sigh.
"Page, take wine up to my room. Come, Chicot, I will conduct you."
Chicot followed the king, thinking, "How disagreeable! to come and trouble this honest man in his peace and his ignorance. Bah! he will be philosophical."
The king of
All these natural beauties interested Chicot less than the arrangements of the room, which was the ordinary sitting-room of Henri.
The king seated himself, with his constant smile, in a great armchair of leather with gilt nails, and Chicot, at his command, sat down on a stool similar in material. Henri looked at him smilingly, but with curiosity.
"You will think I am very curious, dear M. Chicot," began the king, "but I cannot help it. I have so long looked on you as dead, that in spite of the pleasure your resurrection causes me, I can hardly realize the idea. Why did you so suddenly disappear from this world?"
"Oh, sire!" said Chicot, with his usual freedom,
"you disappeared from
"I recognize by your ready wit that it is not to your ghost I am speaking." Then, more seriously, "But now we must leave wit and speak of business."
"If it does not too much fatigue your majesty, I am ready."
Henri's eyes kindled.
"Fatigue me! It is true I grow rusty here. I have to-day exercised my body much, but my mind little."
"Sire, I am glad of that; for, ambassador from a king, your relation and friend, I have a delicate commission to execute with your majesty."
"Speak quickly—you pique my curiosity."
"First, your letters of credit. I know it is needless, since you are the ambassador: but I must do my duty as king."
"Sire, I ask your majesty's pardon; but all the letters of credit that I had I have drowned in rivers, or scattered in the air."
"And why so?"
"Because one cannot travel charged with an embassy to Navarre as if you were going to buy cloth at Lyons; and if one has the dangerous honor of carrying royal letters, one runs a risk of carrying them only to the tomb."
"It is true," said Henri, "the roads are not very safe, and in Navarre we are reduced, for want of money, to trust to the honesty of the people; but they do not steal much."
"Oh, no, sire; they behave like lambs or angels, but that is only in Navarre; out of it one meets wolves and vultures around every prey. I was a prey, sire; so I had both."
"At all events, I am glad to see they did not eat you."
"Ventre de biche! sire, it was not their faults; they did their best, but they found me too tough, and could not get through my skin. But to return to my letter."
"Since you have none, dear M. Chicot, it seems to me useless to return to it."
"But I had one, sire, but I was forced to destroy it, for M. de Mayenne ran after me to steal it from me."
"Luckily he does not run fast. Is he still getting fatter?"
"Ventre de biche! not just now, I should think."
"Because, you understand, sire, he had the misfortune to catch me, and unfortunately got a sword wound."
"And the letter?"
"He had not a glimpse of it, thanks to my precautions."
"Bravo! your journey is interesting; you must tell me the details. But one thing disquiets me—if the letter was destroyed for M. de Mayenne, it is also destroyed for me. How, then, shall I know what my brother Henri wrote?"
"Sire, it exists in my memory."
"Sire, before destroying it I learned it by heart."
"An excellent idea, M. Chicot. You will recite it to me, will you not?"
"Word for word."
"Yes, sire, although I do not know the language, I have a good memory."
"I do not understand you; was my brother Henri's letter written in Latin?"
"Ah! sire, doubtless because Latin is an audacious language—a language which may say anything, and in which Persius and Juvenal have immortalized the follies and errors of kings."
"And of queens, sire."
The king began to frown.
"I mean emperors and empresses," continued Chicot.
"You know Latin, M. Chicot?"
"Yes and no, sire."
"You are lucky if it is 'yes,' for you have an immense advantage over me, who do not know it, but you—"
"They taught me to read it, sire, as well as Greek and Hebrew."
"You are a living book, M. Chicot."
"Your majesty has found the exact word—'a book.' They print something on my memory, they send me where they like, I arrive, I am read and understood."
"Or not understood."
"How so, sire?"
"Why, if one does not know the language in which you are printed."
"Oh, sire, kings know everything."
"That is what we tell the people, and what flatterers tell us."
"Then, sire, it is useless for me to recite to your majesty the letter which I learned by heart, since neither of us would understand it."
"Is Latin not very much like Italian?"
"So they say, sire."
"I believe so."
"Then let us try. I know a little Italian, and my Gascon patois is something like Spanish: perhaps I may understand Latin without ever having learned it."
"Your majesty orders me to repeat it, then?"
"I beg you, dear M. Chicot."
"Sincerus amo quo te prosequebatur germanus noster Carolus Nonus, functus nuper, colet usque regiam nostram et pectori meo pertinaciter adhoeret."
"If I am not mistaken," said Henri, interrupting, "they speak in this phrase of love, obstinacy, and of my brother, Charles IX."
"Very likely," said Chicot; "Latin is such a beautiful language, that all that might go in one sentence."
"Go on," said the king.
Chicot began again, and Henri listened with the utmost calm to all the passages about Turenne and his wife, only at the word "Turennius," he said:
"Does not 'Turennius' mean Turenne?"
"I think so, sire."
"And 'Margota' must be the pet name which my brothers gave to their sister Marguerite, my beloved wife."
"It is possible," said Chicot; and he continued his letter to the end without the king's face changing in the least.
"Is it finished?" asked Henri, when he stopped.
"It ought to be superb."
"I think so, also, sire."
"How unlucky that I only understood two words, 'Turennius' and 'Margota.'"
"An irreparable misfortune, sire, unless your majesty decides on having it translated by some one."
"Oh! no; you yourself, M. Chicot, who were so discreet in destroying the autograph, you would not counsel me to make this letter public?"
"But I think that the king's letter to you, recommended to me so carefully, and sent to your majesty by a private hand, must contain something important for your majesty to know."
"Yes, but to confide these important things to any one, I must have great confidence in him."
"Well, I have an idea. Go and find my wife. She is learned, and will understand it if you recite it to her; then she can explain it to me."
"That is an excellent plan."
"Is it not? Go."
"I will, sire."
"Mind not to alter a word of the letter."
"That would be impossible, sire. To do that I must know Latin."
"Go, then, my friend."
Chicot took leave and went, more puzzled with the king than ever.
The queen inhabited the other wing of the castle. The famous
avenue began at her very window, and her eyes rested only on grass and flowers.
A native poet (Marguerite, in the provinces as in
"She wishes," said he, "by all these agreeable sights to chase away painful souvenirs."
Daughter, sister, and wife of a king as she was, she had indeed suffered much. Her philosophy, although more boasted of than that of the king, was less solid; for it was due only to study, while his was natural. Therefore, stoical as she tried to be, time and grief had already begun to leave their marks on her countenance. Still she was remarkably beautiful. With her joyous yet sweet smile, her brilliant and yet soft eyes, Marguerite was still an adorable creature. She was idolized at Nerac, where she brought elegance, joy, and life. She, a Parisian princess, supported patiently a provincial life, and this alone was a virtue in the eyes of the inhabitants. Every one loved her, both as queen and as woman.
Full of hatred for her enemies, but patient that she might avenge herself better—feeling instinctively that under the mask of carelessness and long-suffering worn by Henri of Navarre he had a bad feeling toward her—she had accustomed herself to replace by poetry, and by the semblance of love, relations, husband, and friends.
No one, excepting Catherine de Medicis, Chicot, or some melancholy ghosts returned from the realms of death, could have told why Marguerite's cheeks were often so pale, why her eyes often filled with tears, or why her heart often betrayed its melancholy void. Marguerite had no more confidantes; she had been betrayed too often.
However, the bad feeling which she believed Henri to have for her was only an instinct, and came rather from the consciousness of her own faults than from his behavior. He treated her like a daughter of France, always spoke to her with respectful politeness, or grateful kindness, and was always the husband and friend.
When Chicot arrived at the place indicated to him by Henri, he found no one; Marguerite, they said, was at the end of the famous avenue. When he had gone about two-thirds down it, he saw at the end, in an arbor covered with jasmine, clematis, and broom, a group covered with ribbons, feathers, velvets, and swords. Perhaps all this finery was slightly old-fashioned, but for Nerac it was brilliant, and even Chicot, coming straight from Paris, was satisfied with the coup d'oeil. A page preceded Chicot.
"What do you want, D' Aubiac?" asked the queen, when she saw him.
"Madame, a gentleman from Paris, an envoy from the Louvre to the king of Navarre, and sent by his majesty to you, desires to speak to your majesty."
A sudden flush passed over Marguerite's face, and she turned quickly. Chicot was standing near; Marguerite quitted the circle, and waving an adieu to the company, advanced toward the Gascon.
"M. Chicot!" cried she in astonishment.
"Here I am at your majesty's feet," said he, "and find you ever good and beautiful, and queen here, as at the Louvre."
"It is a miracle to see you here, monsieur; they said you were dead."
"I pretended to be so."
"And what do you want with us, M. Chicot? Am I happy enough to be still remembered in France?"
"Oh, madame," said Chicot, smiling, "we do not forget queens of your age and your beauty. The king of France even writes on this subject to the king of Navarre."
Marguerite colored. "He writes?"
"And you have brought the letter?"
"I have not brought it, madame, for reasons that the king of Navarre will explain to you, but learned it by heart and repeated it."
"I understand. This letter was important, and you feared to lose it, or have it stolen."
"That is the truth, madame; but the letter was written in Latin."
"Oh, very well; you know I know Latin."
"And the king of Navarre, does he know it?"
"Dear M. Chicot, it is very difficult to find out what he does or does not know. If one can believe appearances, he knows very little of it, for he never seems to understand when I speak to any one in that language. Then you told him the purport of the letter?"
"It was to him it was addressed."
"And did he seem to understand?"
"Only two words."
"What were they?"
"Turennius et Margota."
"Turennius et Margota?"
"Yes; those two words were in the letter."
"Then what did he do?"
"He sent me to you, madame."
"Yes, saying that the letter contained things of too much importance to be confided to a stranger, and that it was better to take it to you, who were the most beautiful of learned ladies, and the most learned of beautiful ones."
"I will listen to you, M. Chicot, since such are the king's orders."
"Thank you, madame; where would you please it to be?"
"Come to my room."
Marguerite looked earnestly at Chicot, who, through pity for her, had let her have a glimpse of the truth. Perhaps she felt the need of a support, for she turned toward a gentleman in the group, and said: "M. de Turenne, your arm to the castle. Precede us, M. Chicot."
Marguerite's room was fashionably furnished; and tapestries, enamels, china, books and manuscripts in Greek, Latin and French covered all the tables; while birds in their cages, dogs on the carpet, formed a living world round Marguerite.
The queen was a woman to understand Epicurus, not in Greek only, but she occupied her life so well that from a thousand griefs she drew forth a pleasure.
Chicot was invited to sit down in a beautiful armchair of tapestry, representing a Cupid scattering a cloud of flowers; and a page, handsome and richly dressed, offered to him refreshment. He did not accept it, but as soon as the Vicomte de Turenne had left them, began to recite his letter. We already know this letter, having read it in French with Chicot, and therefore think it useless to follow the Latin translation. Chicot spoke with the worst accent possible, but Marguerite understood it perfectly, and could not hide her rage and indignation. She knew her brother's dislike to her, and her mind was divided between anger and fear. But as he concluded, she decided on her part.
"By the Holy Communion," said she, when Chicot had finished, "my brother writes well in Latin! What vehemence! what style! I should never have believed him capable of it. But do you not understand it, M. Chicot? I thought you were a good Latin scholar."
"Madame, I have forgotten it; all that I remember is that Latin has no article, that it has a vocative, and that the head belongs to the neuter gender."
"Really!" said some one, entering noiselessly and merrily. It was the king of Navarre. "The head is of the neuter gender, M. Chicot? Why is it not masculine?"
"Ah, sire, I do not know; it astonishes me as much as it does your majesty."
"It must be because it is sometimes the man, sometimes the woman that rules, according to their temperaments."
"That is an excellent reason, sire."
"I am glad to be a more profound philosopher than I thought—but to return to the letter. Madame, I burn to hear news from the court of France, and M. Chicot brings them to me in an unknown tongue."
"Do you not fear, sire, that the Latin is a bad prognostic?" said Chicot.
"M. Chicot is right, sire," said the queen.
"What!" said Henri, "does the letter contain anything disagreeable, and from your brother, who is so clever and polite?"
"Even when he had me insulted in my litter, as happened near Sens, when I left Paris to rejoin you, sire."
"When one has a brother whose own conduct is irreproachable," said Henri, in an indefinable tone between jest and earnest, "a brother a king, and very punctilious—"
"He ought to care for the true honor of his sister and of his house. I do not suppose, sire, that if your sister, Catherine d'Albret, occasioned some scandal, you would have it published by a captain of the guards."
"Oh! I am like a good-natured bourgeois, and not a king; but the letter, the letter; since it was addressed to me, I wish to know what it contains."
"It is a perfidious letter, sire."
"Oh! yes, and which contains more calumnies than are necessary to embroil a husband with his wife, and a friend with his friends."
"Oh! oh! embroil a husband with his wife; you and me then?"
Chicot was on thorns; he would have given much, hungry as he was, to be in bed without supper.
"The storm is about to burst," thought he.
"Sire," said Marguerite, "I much regret that your majesty has forgotten your Latin."
"Madame, of all the Latin I learned, I remember but one phrase—'Deus et virtus oeterna'—a singular assemblage of masculine, feminine, and neuter."
"Because, sire, if you did understand, you would see in the letter many compliments to me."
"But how could compliments embroil us, madame? For as long as your brother pays you compliments, I shall agree with him; if he speaks ill of you, I shall understand his policy."
"Ah! if he spoke ill of me, you would understand it?"
"Yes; he has reasons for embroiling us, which I know well."
"Well, then, sire, these compliments are only an insinuating prelude to calumnious accusations against your friends and mine."
"Come, ma mie, you have understood badly; let me hear if all this be in the letter."
Marguerite looked defiant.
"Do you want your followers or not, sire?" said she.
"Do I want them? what a question! What should I do without them, and reduced to my own resources?"
"Well, sire, the king wishes to detach your best servants from you."
"I defy him."
"Bravo, sire!" said Chicot.
"Yes," said Henri, with that apparent candor, with which to the end of his life he deceived people, "for my followers are attached to me through love, and not through interest; I have nothing to give them."
"You give them all your heart and your faith, sire; it is the best return a king can make his friends."
"Yes, ma mie, I shall not fail to do so till I find that they do not merit it."
"Well, sire, they wish to make you believe that they do not."
"Ah! but how?"
"I cannot tell you, sire, without compromising—" and she glanced at Chicot.
"Dear M. Chicot," said Henri, "pray wait for me in my room, the queen has something particular to say to me."
To get rid of a witness whom Marguerite believed to know more of Latin than he allowed was already a triumph, or at least a pledge of security for her; for alone with her husband she could give whatever translation of the Latin that she pleased.
Henri and his wife were then left tete-à-tete. He had on his face no appearance of disquietude or menace; decidedly he could not understand Latin.
"Monsieur," said Marguerite, "I wait for you to interrogate me."
"This letter preoccupies you much, ma mie; do not alarm yourself thus."
"Sire, because a king does not send a special messenger to another without some reason that he believes important."
"Well ma mie, let us leave it for the present; have you not something like a ball this evening?"
"Yes, sire," said Marguerite, astonished, "but that is not extraordinary; you know we dance nearly every evening."
"I have a great chase for to-morrow."
"Each our pleasure, sire; you love the chase, I the dance."
"Yes, ma mie, and there is no harm in that," said Henri, sighing.
"Certainly not; but your majesty sighed as you said it."
"Listen to me, madame; I am uneasy."
"About what, sire?"
"About a current report."
"A report; your majesty uneasy about a report?"
"What more simple; when this report may annoy you."
"Sire, I do not understand you."
"Have you heard nothing?"
Marguerite began to tremble. "I am the least curious woman in the world," said she, "I hear nothing but what is cried in my very ears. Besides, I think so little of reports, that I should not listen to them if I heard them."
"It is then your opinion, madame, that one should despise reports?"
"Absolutely, sire; particularly kings and queens."
"Why so, madame?"
"Because, as every one talks of us, we should have enough to do to listen to them all."
"Well, I believe you are right, ma mie, and I am about to furnish you with an excellent opportunity of exercising your philosophy."
Marguerite believed that the decisive moment had come, and rallied all her courage.
"So be it, sire," said she.
Henri began in the tone of a penitent who has some great sin to acknowledge.
"You know the great interest I take in Fosseuse?"
"Ah!" cried Marguerite, triumphantly, seeing he was not about to accuse her; "yes, yes; the little Fosseuse, your friend."
"My lady in waiting."—"Yes."
"Your passion—your love."
"Ah! you speak now just like one of the reports you were abusing just now."
"It is true, sire, and I ask your pardon," said Marguerite, smiling.
"Ma mie, you are right, public report often lies, and we sovereigns have great reason to establish this theory;" and he laughed ironically.
"Well; and Fosseuse?" said Marguerite.
"She is ill, ma mie, and the doctors do not understand her malady."
"That is strange, sire. Fosseuse, who you say is a pearl of purity, ought to allow the doctors to penetrate into the secret of her illness."
"Alas! it is not so."
"What!" cried the queen; "is she not a pearl of purity?"
"I mean that she persists in hiding the cause of her illness from the doctors."
"But to you, sire, her confidant, her father."
"I know nothing, or at least wish to know nothing."
"Then, sire," said Marguerite, who now believed that she had to confer instead of asking a pardon; "then, sire, I do not know what you want; and wait for you to explain."
"Well, then, ma mie, I will tell you. I wish you—but it is asking a great deal."
"Speak on, sire."
"To have the goodness to go to Fosseuse."
"I go to visit this girl whom every one says has the honor of being your mistress; a thing which you do not deny."
"Gently, gently, ma mie. On my word you will make a scandal with your exclamations; and really I believe that will rejoice the court of France, for in the letter from my brother-in-law that Chicot repeated to me, there was these words, 'Quotidie scandalurn,' which must mean 'daily scandal.' It is not necessary to know Latin to understand that: it is almost French."
"But, sire, to whom did these words apply?"
"Ah! that is what I want to know, but you, who know Latin, can help me to find out."
Marguerite colored up to her ears.
"Well, monsieur," said she, "you wish me to take a humiliating step for the sake of peace, and therefore I will comply."
"Thanks, ma mie, thanks."
"But what is the object of this visit?"
"It is very simple, madame."
"Still, you must tell me, for I am not clever enough to guess it."
"Well! you will find Fosseuse among the ladies of honor, sleeping in their room; and they, you know, are so curious and indiscreet that one cannot tell to what extremity Fosseuse may be reduced."
"But then she fears something," cried Marguerite, with a burst of anger and hatred; "she wishes to hide herself."
"I do not know; all I do know is, that she wishes to quit the room of the maids of honor."
"If she wishes to hide, let her not count on me. I may shut my eyes to certain things, but I will never be an accomplice," said Marguerite.
Henri seemed not to have heard, but he stood for a minute in a thoughtful attitude, and then said, "Margota cum Turennio. Ah! those were the names, madame—'Margota cum Turennio.'"
Marguerite grew crimson.
"Calumnies, sire!" cried she.
"What calumnies?" replied he, with the most natural air possible. "Do you find any calumny in it? It is a passage from my brother's letter—'Margota cum Turennio conveniunt in castello nomine Loignac!'—Decidedly I must get this letter translated."
"Leave this comedy, sire," said Marguerite, tremblingly, "and tell me at once what you want from me."
"Well, I wish, ma mie, that you should separate Fosseuse from the other girls, and send her a discreet doctor; your own, for example."
"Ah! I see what it is," cried the queen, "Fosseuse, the paragon, is near her accouchement."
"I do not say so, ma mie; it is you who affirm it."
"It is so, monsieur; your insinuating tone, your false humility, prove it to me. But there are sacrifices that no man should ask of his wife. Take care of Fosseuse yourself, sire; it is your business, and let the trouble fall on the guilty, not on the innocent."
"The guilty! Ah! that makes me think of the letter again."
"Guilty is 'nocens,' is it not?"
"Well, there was that word in the letter—'Margota cum Turennio, ambo nocentes, conveniunt in castello nomine Loignac.' Mon Dieu! how I regret that my knowledge is not as great as my memory is good."
"Ambo nocentes," repeated Marguerite, in a low voice, and turning very pale, "he understood it all."
"Margota cum Turennio, ambo nocentes," repeated Henri. "What the devil could my brother mean by 'ambo!' Ventre St. Gris, ma mie, it is astonishing that you who know Latin so well have not yet explained it to me. Ah! pardieu! there is 'Turennius' walking under your windows, and looking up as if he expected you. I will call to him to come up; he is very learned, and he will explain it to me."
"Sire, sire, be superior to all the calumniators of France."
"Oh! ma mie, it seems to me that people are not more indulgent in Navarre than in France; you, yourself, were very severe about poor Fosseuse just now."
"Yes; and yet we ought to be indulgent here, we lead such a happy life, you with your balls, and I with my chase."
"Yes, yes, sire; you are right; let us be indulgent."
"Oh! I was sure of your heart, ma mie."
"You know me well, sire."
"Yes. Then you will go and see Fosseuse?"
"And separate her from the others?"
"And send her your doctor?"
"And if, unluckily, what you say were true, and she had been weak, for women are frail—"
"Well, sire, I am a woman, and know the indulgence due to my sex."
"All! you know all things, ma mie; you are in truth a model of perfection, and I kiss your hands."
"But believe, sire, that it is for the love of you alone that I make this sacrifice."
"Oh! yes, ma mie, I know you well, madame, and my brother of France also, he who speaks so well of you in this letter, and adds, 'Fiat sanum exemplum statim, atque res certior eveniet.' Doubtless, ma mie, it is you who give this good example."
And Henri kissed the cold hand of Marguerite. Then, turning on the threshold of the door, he said:
"Say everything kind from me to Fosseuse, and do for her as you have promised me. I set off for the chase; perhaps I shall not see you till my return, perhaps never—these wolves are wicked beasts. Come, and let me embrace you, ma mie."
Then he embraced Marguerite, almost affectionately, and went out, leaving her stupefied with all she had heard.
The king rejoined Chicot, who was still agitated with fears as to the explanation.
"Well, Chicot," said Henri, "do you know what the queen says?"
"She pretends that your cursed Latin will disturb our peace."
"Oh! sire, forget it, and all will be at an end. It is not with a piece of spoken Latin as though it were written; the wind carries away the one, fire cannot sometimes destroy the other."
"I! I think of it no more."
"That is right."
"I have something else to do."
"Your majesty prefers amusing yourself."
"Oh! mon cher, here we do everything openly; love, war, and politics."
"The first more than the two last; do you not, sire?"
"Ma foi! yes; I confess it, my dear friend. This country is so fine, and its women so beautiful."
"Oh! sire, you forget the queen; can the Navarrese women be more pleasing and beautiful than she is? If they are, I compliment them."
"Ventre St. Gris, you are right, Chicot; and I, who forgot that you are an ambassador, and represent King Henri III., and that he is the brother of Marguerite, and that consequently, before you, I ought to place her before every one—but you must excuse my imprudence, I am not accustomed to ambassadors."
At this moment the door of the room opened, and D'Aubiac announced, "The ambassador from Spain."
Chicot gave a start which made the king smile.
"Ma foi!" said Henri, "that is a contradiction that I did not expect. And what the devil can he want here?"
"Yes," said Chicot, "what the devil does he want here?"
"We shall soon know; perhaps our Spanish neighbor has some frontier dispute to settle with us."
"I will retire," said Chicot. "This is doubtless a real ambassador from his majesty Philippe II., while I—"
"Open that library door, Chicot, and go in there."
"But from there I shall hear all, in spite of myself."
"Oh! Never mind; I have nothing to hide. Apropos; have you nothing more to say to me from your king?"
"Nothing at all, sire."
"Very well, then, you have nothing to do but to see and hear, like all other ambassadors, and the library will do excellently for that purpose. Look with all your eyes, and listen with all your ears, my dear Chicot. D'Aubiac, let the ambassador enter."
Chicot hastened to his place of concealment, and drew the tapestry close.
When the first preliminaries of etiquette were over, the ambassador said:
"Can I speak freely to your majesty?"
"You may, monsieur."
"Sire, I bring the answer from his Catholic majesty."
"An answer," thought Chicot; "then there was a question."
"An answer to what?" said Henri.
"To your proposals of last month."
"Ma foi! I am very forgetful! please to recall to me what they were."
"About the invasions of the Lorraine princes."
"Yes, I remember, particularly those of M. de Guise; go on, monsieur."
"Sire, the king, my master, although much begged to sign a treaty of alliance with Lorraine, prefers one with Navarre. I know my master's intentions with regard to you."
"May I also know them?"
"Sire, my master will refuse nothing to Navarre."
Chicot bit his fingers to convince himself that he was not dreaming.
"What can I ask then?" said Henri.
"Whatever your majesty pleases."
"If your majesty will speak openly and frankly?"
"Ventre St. Gris, it is embarrassing."
"Shall I tell you his majesty the king of Spain's proposal?"
"The king of France treats the queen of Navarre as an enemy, he repudiates her as a sister, and covers her with opprobrium. All this, but I beg your majesty's pardon for touching on so delicate a subject—"
"All this, then, is public."
"Well! monsieur, and what of all this?"
"It is consequently easy for your majesty to repudiate as a wife her whom her brother disclaims as a sister. This once done, the alliance between the king of Navarre and the king of Spain is concluded, and the king of Spain will give the infanta, his daughter, to your majesty, and he himself will marry Madame Catherine de Navarre, your majesty's sister."
A movement of pride shook Henri, while Chicot shuddered with terror. The one saw his star rising, radiant like the morning sun; the other saw the scepter of the Valois ready to decline and fall.
For an instant there was profound silence, and then Henri said:
"The proposal, monsieur, is magnificent, and crowns me with honor."
"His majesty," said the negotiator, who already calculated on an enthusiastic acceptance, "proposes only one condition."
"Ah! a condition! that is but just; let me hear it."
"In aiding your majesty against the Lorraine princes, that is to say, in opening to your majesty a way to the throne, my master desires to facilitate by your alliance the safety of Flanders, which the Duc d'Anjou is already attacking; your majesty will understand that it is pure preference on my master's part for you over the Lorraine princes, since MM. de Guise, his natural allies, as Catholic princes, make of themselves a party against the Duc d'Anjou in Flanders. Now, this is the only condition, which you must think reasonable. His majesty the king of Spain, allied to you by a double marriage, will help you to—" the ambassador seemed to seek for the right word, "to succeed to the king of France, and you will guarantee Flanders to him. I may then, now, knowing your majesty's wisdom, regard the negotiation as happily terminated."
Henri took two or three turns up and down the room.
"This, then," said he at last, "is the answer you were charged to bring me?"
"Nothing else, sire."
"Well! I refuse the offer of the king of Spain."
"You refuse the hand of the infanta!" cried the Spaniard, with a start, as though he had received a sudden wound.
"It would be a great honor, but I cannot think it a greater one than that of having married a daughter of France."
"No; but that alliance brought you nearly to the tomb, and this will bring you to the throne."
"An incomparable piece of good fortune, monsieur, I know; but I will never buy it with the blood and honor of my future subjects. What! monsieur. I draw the sword against the king of France, my brother-in-law, for the Spaniards; I arrest the standard of France in its career of glory; I kill brothers by brothers' hands; I bring the stranger into my country! No, monsieur; I asked the king of Spain for aid against the Guises, who wish to rob me of my inheritance, but not against the Duc d'Anjou, my brother-in-law; not against Henri III., my friend; not against my wife, sister of my king. You will aid the Guises, you will say, and lend them your support. Do so, and I will let loose on you and on them all the Protestants of Germany and France. The king of Spain wishes to reconquer Flanders, which is slipping from him; let him do what his father, Charles V., did, and ask a free passage to go and claim his title of first bourgeois of Ghent, and Henri III., I am certain, will grant it to him, as Francois I. did. I wish for the throne of France, says his Catholic majesty; it is possible, but I do not need him to aid me in getting it; I will do that for myself, once it is vacant, in spite of all the kings in the world. Adieu, then, monsieur. Tell my brother Philippe that I am grateful for his offers, but cannot believe for a moment that he thought me capable of accepting them. Adieu, monsieur."
"Take care, sire," said the ambassador; "the good understanding between two neighbors may be destroyed by a hasty word."
"Monsieur, my crown is so light that I should scarcely feel the difference if it slipped off; besides, I believe I can guard it. Therefore, once more adieu, monsieur, and tell the king your master that I have greater ambitions than he dreams of." And the Béarnais, becoming once more, not himself, but what he generally seemed to be, conducted the ambassador, with a courteous smile, to the door.
Chicot remained plunged in profound surprise. Henri lifted the tapestry, and, striking him on the shoulder, said:
"Well, M. Chicot, how do you think I managed?"
"Wonderfully, sire; and really, for a king who is not accustomed to ambassadors—"
"It is my brother Henri who sends me such ambassadors."
"How so, sire?"
"If he did not incessantly persecute his poor sister, others would not dream of it. Do you believe that if the king of Spain had not heard of the public insult offered to the queen, when a captain of the guards searched her litter, that he would have proposed to me to repudiate her?"
"I see with pleasure, sire," replied Chicot, "that all attempts will be useless, and that nothing can interrupt the harmony that exists between the queen and yourself."
"Oh, my friend, the interest they have in making us quarrel is too clear."
"I confess to you, sire, that I am not so penetrating as you are."
"Doubtless Henri would be delighted if I repudiated his sister."
"How so? Pray explain to me."
"You know they forgot to pay me my wife's dowry."
"I guessed as much, sire."
"This dowry was to consist of 300,000 golden crowns and some towns; among others, Cahors."
"A pretty town, mordieu!"
"I have claimed, not the money, but Cahors."
"Ventre de biche! sire, in your place, I should have done the same."
"And that is why—do you understand now?"
"No, indeed, sire."
"Why they wish me to quarrel with my wife and repudiate her. No wife, no dowry, no more 300,000 crowns, no Cahors. It is one way of eluding a promise, and Henri is clever in laying snares."
"You would much like to hold Cahors, sire?"
"Doubtless; for after all, what is my principality of Béarn? A poor little place, clipped by the avarice of my mother-in-law and brother-in-law."
"Cahors would be my rampart, the safeguard of my religion."
"Well, sire, go into mourning for Cahors; for, whether you break with Madame Marguerite or not, the king of France will never give it to you, and unless you take it—"
"Oh, I would soon take it, if it was not so strong, and, above all, if I did not hate war."
"Cahors is impregnable, sire."
"Oh! impregnable! But if I had an army, which I have not—"
"Listen, sire. We are not here to flatter each other. To take Cahors, which is held by M. de Vesin, one must be a Hannibal or a Cæsar; and your majesty—"
"Well?" said Henri, with a smile.
"Has just said, you do not like war."
Henri sighed, and his eyes flashed for a minute; then he said:
"It is true I have never drawn the sword, and perhaps never shall. I am a king of straw, a man of peace; but, by a singular contrast, I love to think of warlike things—that is in my blood. St. Louis, my ancestor, pious by education and gentle by nature, became on occasion a brave soldier and a skillful swordsman. Let us talk, if you please, of M. Vesin, who is a Cæsar and a Hannibal."
"Sire, pardon me if I have wounded or annoyed you. I spoke only of M. de Vesin to extinguish all hope in your heart. Cahors, you see, is so well guarded because it is the key of the south."
"Alas! I know it well. I wished so much to possess Cahors, that I told my poor mother to make it a sine quâ non of our marriage. See, I am speaking Latin now. Cahors, then, was my wife's dowry; they owe it to me—"
"Sire, to owe and pay—"
"Are two different things, I know. So your opinion is, that they will never pay me?"
"I fear not."
"They will be right, sire."
"Because you did not know your part of king; you should have got it at once."
"Do you not, then, remember the tocsin of St. Germain l'Auxerrois?" said Henri, bitterly. "It seems to me that a husband whom they try to murder on the night of his marriage might think less of his dowry than of his life."
"Yes; but since then, sire, we have had peace; and excuse me, sire, you should have profited by it, and, instead of making love, have negotiated. It is less amusing, I know, but more profitable. I speak, sire, as much for my king as for you. If Henri of France had a strong ally in Henri of Navarre, he would be stronger than any one; and if the Protestants and Catholics of France and Navarre would unite in a common political interest, they would make the rest of the world tremble."
"Oh, I do not pretend to make others tremble, so long as I do not tremble myself. But if I cannot get Cahors, then, and you think I cannot—"
"I think so, sire, for three reasons."
"Tell them to me, Chicot."
"Willingly. The first is that Cahors is a town of good produce, which Henri III. will like to keep for himself."
"That is not very honest."
"It is very royal, sire."
"Ah! it is royal to take what you like."
"Yes; that is called taking the lion's share, and the lion is the king of animals."
"I shall remember your lesson, Chicot. Now, your second reason."
"Oh! does my good mother still mix in politics?"
"Always; and she would rather see her daughter at Paris than at Nerac—near her than near you."
"You think so? Yet she does not love her daughter to distraction."
"No; but Madame Marguerite serves you as a hostage, sire."
"You are cunning, Chicot. Devil take me, if I thought of that! But you may be right; a daughter of France would be a hostage in case of need. Well, the third?"
"Between the Duc d'Anjou, who seeks to make a throne for himself in Flanders, between MM. de Guise, who wish for a crown, and shake that of France, and his majesty the king of Spain, who wishes for universal monarchy, you hold the balance and maintain a certain equilibrium."
"I, without weight?"
"Just so. If you became powerful, that is to say, heavy, you would turn the scale, and would be no longer a counterpoise, but a weight."
"Ah! I like that reason, and it is admirably argued. This is the explanation of my situation?"
"And I, who did not see all this, and went on hoping."
"Well, sire, I counsel you to cease to hope."
"Then I must do for this debt what I do for those of my farmers who cannot pay their rent; I put a P against their names."
"Which means paid."
"Put two P's, sire, and give a sigh."
"So be it, Chicot; you see I can live in Béarn, even without Cahors."
"I see that, and also that you are a wise and philosophical king. But what is that noise?"
"In the courtyard, I think."
"Look out of the window."
"Sire, there are below a dozen of poorly-clothed people."
"Ah! they are my poor," said the king, rising.
"Your majesty has poor?"
"Doubtless; does not God recommend charity? If I am not a Catholic, Chicot, I am a Christian."
"Come, Chicot, we will give alms together, and then go to supper."
"Sire, I follow you."
"Take that purse lying on the table, near my sword—do you see?"
They went down, but Henri seemed thoughtful and preoccupied. Chicot looked at him, and thought, "What the devil made me talk politics to this brave prince, and make him sad? Fool that I was!"
Once in the court, Henri approached the group of mendicants. There were a dozen men in different costumes. Henri took the purse from the hands of Chicot and made a sign, and then each man came forward and saluted Henri with an air of humility, which did not preclude a glance full of intelligence at the king. Henri replied by a motion of the head; then, putting his fingers into the purse, which Chicot held open, he took out a piece.
"Do you know that it is gold, sire?" said Chicot.
"Yes, my friend, I know."
"Peste! you are rich."
"Do you not see that each of these pieces serves for two? On the contrary, I am so poor that I am forced to cut my gold in two."
"It is true," said Chicot, with surprise: "they are half-pieces, with fantastic designs."
"Oh, I am like my brother Henri, who amuses himself in cutting out images: I amuse myself with clipping my ducats."
"Nevertheless, sire, it is an odd method of giving charity," said Chicot, who divined some hidden mystery.
"What would you do?"
"Instead of cutting the gold, I would give one piece between two."
"They would fight, and I should do harm instead of good."'
Henry then took one of the pieces, and, placing himself before the first beggar, looked at him inquiringly.
"Agen," said the man.
"How many?" asked Henri.
"Cahors;" and he gave him the piece and took a second.
The man bowed and withdrew.
The next advanced and said, "Auch."
"Three hundred and fifty."
"Cahors;" and he gave him his piece.
"Narbonne," said the third.
"Cahors;" and he gave him his piece.
"Montauban," said the fourth.
Each one in this way pronounced a name and a number, and received a piece of gold, and to each Henri replied, "Cahors."
This over, there were no pieces left in the purse.
"That is all, sire," said Chicot.
"Yes; I have finished."
"Sire, am I permitted to be curious?"
"Why not? Curiosity is natural."
"What did these beggars say, and what did you reply?"
"Indeed," continued Chicot, "all is mysterious here."
"Do you think so?"
"Yes; I have never seen alms given in that way."
"It is the custom at Nerac."
"A singular one, sire."
"No, nothing is more simple; each of those men came from a different city."
"Well, that I may not always give to the same, they each tell me the name of their town, so that I can distribute my benefits equally among all the unfortunates in my kingdom."
"Yes, sire; but why did you answer 'Cahors'?"
"Ah!" cried Henri, with a most natural air of surprise, "did I say 'Cahors'?"
"You think so?"
"I am sure of it."
"It must have been because we had been talking so much about it. I wish for it so much that I must have spoken of it without meaning to do so."
"Hum!" said Chicot, suspiciously, "and then there was something else."
"What! something else?"
"A number that each one pronounced, and which, added together, made more than eight thousand."
"Ah! as to that, Chicot, I did not understand it myself; unless, as the beggars are divided into corporations, they each named the number of members, which seems to me probable."
"Come and sup, my friend, nothing enlightens the mind like eating and drinking. Let us go to table, and you shall see that if my pistoles are cut, my bottles are full."
Then, passing his arm familiarly through Chicot's, the king went back to his room, where supper was served. Passing by the queen's room, he glanced at it, and saw no light.
"Page," said he, "is not her majesty at home?"
"Her majesty is gone to see Mademoiselle de Montmorency, who is ill."
"Ah! poor Fosseuse!" said Henri: "it is true, the queen has such a good heart. Come to supper, Chicot."
The repast was joyous. Henri seemed no longer to have any weight either on his heart or his mind, and he was an excellent companion. As for Chicot, he dissembled the uneasiness he had felt since the coming of the Spanish ambassador and the scene with the mendicants. He endeavored to drink little and keep cool, to observe everything; but this Henri would not allow. However, Chicot had a head of iron, and as for Henri, he said he could drink these wines of the country like milk.
"I envy you," said Chicot to the king; "your court is delightful, and your life pleasant."
"If my wife were here, Chicot, I would not say what I am about to say, but in her absence I will tell you that the best part of my life is that which you do not see."
"Ah! sire, they tell, indeed, fine tales of you."
Henri leaned back in his chair to laugh. "They say I reign more over my female than my male subjects, do they not?" said he.
"Yes, sire, and it astonishes me."
"Because, sire, you have much of that restless spirit which makes great kings."
"Ah, Chicot! you are wrong; I am lazy, and the proof of it is in my life. If I have a love to choose, I take the nearest; if a wine, the bottle close to my hand. To your health, Chicot."
"Sire, you do me honor," said Chicot, emptying his glass.
"Thus," continued the king, "what quarrels in my household!"
"Yes, I understand; all the ladies-in-waiting adore you, sire."
"They are my neighbors, Chicot."
"Then, sire, it might result from this, that if you lived at St. Denis instead of Nerac, the king might not live very tranquilly."
"The king! what do you say, Chicot? Do you think I am a Guise? I wish for Cahors, it is true, because it is near to me."
"Ventre de biche, sire, this ambition for things within the reach of your hand resembles much that of Cæsar Borgia, who gathered together a kingdom, city by city; saying that Italy was an artichoke to be eaten leaf by leaf."
"This Cæsar Borgia was not a bad politician, it seems to me, compere."
"No, but he was a very dangerous neighbor and a bad brother."
"Ah! would you compare me to the son of a pope—I, a Huguenot chief?"
"Sire, I compare you to no one."
"I believe he would be wrong who should liken you to any other than yourself. You are ambitious, sire."
"Here is a man determined to make me want something," cried Henri.
"God forbid, sire; I desire with all my heart, on the contrary, that your majesty should want nothing."
"Nothing calls you back to Paris, does it, Chicot?"
"Then you will pass some days with me?"
"If your majesty does me the honor to wish for my company, I ask no better than to give you a week."
"So be it; in a week you will know me like a brother. Drink, Chicot."
"Sire, I am no longer thirsty," said Chicot, who had given up all hopes of seeing the king take too much.
"Then, I will leave you; a man should not stay at table when he does nothing. Drink, I tell you."
"To sleep better. Do you like the chase, Chicot?"
"Not much, sire; and you?"
"Passionately; since I lived at the court of Charles IX."
"Why did your majesty do me the honor to ask me?"
"Because I hunt to-morrow, and thought to take you with me."
"Sire, it would be a great honor, but—"
"Oh! this chase will rejoice all eyes; besides, I am a good hunter, and I wish you to see me to advantage."
"Sire, I am at your orders."
"Good! then it is settled. Ah! here is a page to disturb us."
"Some important business, sire?"
"Business at table! You think you are still at the court of France, my dear Chicot. Learn one thing; at Nerac, when we have supped, we go to bed."
"But this page?"
"Well, cannot he come for anything but business?"
"Ah! I understand: and I will go to bed."
Chicot rose; the king did the same, and took his arm. This haste to send him away appeared suspicious to Chicot, and he determined not to leave the room if he could help it.
"Oh! oh!" said he, tottering, "it is astonishing, sire."
The king smiled. "What is astonishing?"
"Ventre de biche! my head turns; while I sat still, it was all very well, but when I rise—"
"Bah!" said Henri, "we only tasted the wine."
"You call that tasting, sire? You are a drinker, and I do you homage, as to my superior."
"Chicot, my friend," said Henri, endeavoring to make out by one of his keen glances if Chicot were really drunk or pretending, "the best thing you can do is to go to bed."
"Yes, sire; good-night."
"Yes, sire, you are right; the best thing Chicot can do is to go to bed." And he lay down on the floor.
Henri glanced toward the door, and then, approaching him, said, "You are so drunk, my poor Chicot, that you have taken my floor for your bed."
"Chicot does not mind little things."
"But I expect some one."
"For supper; yes, let us sup—" And Chicot made a fruitless effort to rise.
"Ventre St. Gris! how quickly you get drunk. But go along, mordieu! she is getting impatient."
"The lady I expect."
"A lady; why did you not say, Henriquet? Ah! pardon, I thought I was speaking—to the king of France. He has spoiled me, that good Henriquet. Ah! I will go."
"You are a gentleman, Chicot. Now go quickly."
"Adieu, sire; a good night to you."
"Adieu! and sleep well. You will find the page in the gallery, who will show you your room."
Chicot went out; but, after taking a few steps, returned just in time to see Henri let in—not a woman, but a man. Chicot put his eye to the large keyhole.
The man took off his hat, and Chicot saw the noble but severe face of Duplessis-Mornay, the rigid and vigilant counselor of Henri of Navarre.
"Ah!" thought Chicot, "this will annoy our lover more than I did."
But Henri's face showed only joy; and after locking the door, he sat down eagerly to examine some maps, plans, and letters, which his minister had brought him. The king then began to write and to mark the maps.
"Oh! this is the way Henri of Navarre makes love," thought Chicot.
At this moment he heard steps behind him, and fearful of being surprised, he turned hastily away, and, seeing the page, asked for his room.
"Come with me, if you please, monsieur," said D'Aubiac, "and I will conduct you."
Chicot began to understand the king of Navarre. Therefore, instead of going to sleep, he sat somber and thoughtful on his bed, while the moon shed its silver light over stream and meadows.
"Henri is a real king, and he conspires," thought Chicot. "All this palace, park, town—the whole province—is a focus of conspiracy. All the women make love, but it is political love; and all the men live in the hope of a future. Henri is clever, his talent borders on genius, and he is in communication with Spain, the land of deceit. Who knows if even his noble answer to the ambassador was not a farce, and if he did not warn the ambassador of it by some sign unknown to me? Henri has spies; those beggars were nothing more nor less than gentlemen in disguise. Those pieces of gold, so artistically cut, were pledges of recognition—rallying signs.
"Henri feigns to care for nothing but love and pleasure, and then passes his time working with Mornay, who never seems to sleep, and does not know what love means. Queen Marguerite has lovers, and the king knows it, and tolerates them, because he has need of them, or of her—perhaps of both. Happily, God, in giving him the genius for intrigue, did not add to it that of war; for they say he is afraid of the noise of musketry, and that when he was taken, when quite young, to battle, he could not stay more than a quarter of an hour in the saddle. It is lucky, for if he had the arm, as well as the head, this man might do anything.
"There is certainly the Duc de Guise, who has both, but
he has the disadvantage of being known as brave and skillful, so that every one
is on their guard against him, while no one fears the Béarnais. I alone have
seen through him. Well, having seen through him, I have no more to do here; so
while he works or sleeps, I will go quietly out of the city. There are not many
ambassadors, I think, who can boast of having fulfilled their mission in one
day, as I have. So I will leave Nerac, and gallop till I am in
Chicot, having taken his resolution, began to prepare his little packet. "How much time will it take me," thought he, as he did so, "to carry to the king the news of what I have seen and fear? Two days to arrive at a city whence the governor can send couriers; Cahors, for example, of which Henri of Navarre thinks so much. Once there, I can rest, for after all a man must rest some time. Come, then, Chicot, speed and sang froid. You thought you had accomplished your mission, and you are but half-way through it."
Chicot now extinguished the light, opened his door softly, and began to creep downstairs on tip-toe.
He went into an antechamber, but he had hardly gone four steps before he kicked against something. This something was D'Aubiac lying on a mat.
"Ah! good-evening, M. d'Aubiac," said Chicot, "but get out of the way a little, I beg; I want to go for a walk."
"Ah! but it is forbidden to walk by night near this castle."
"Because the king fears robbers, and the queen lovers."
"None but robbers or lovers want to walk at night, when they ought to be sleeping."
"However, dear M. d'Aubiac," said Chicot, with his most charming smile, "I am neither the one nor the other, but an ambassador, very tired from having talked Latin with the queen and supped with the king; let me go out then, my friend, for I want a walk."
"In the city, M. Chicot?"
"Oh no! in the gardens."
"Peste! that is still more forbidden than in the city."
"My little friend, you are very vigilant for your age. Have you nothing to occupy yourself with?"
"You neither gamble nor fall in love."
"To gamble one must have money, M. Chicot, and to be in love, one must find a lady."
"Assuredly," said Chicot, and feeling in his pocket he drew out ten pistoles and slipped them into the page's hand, saying, "Seek well in your memory, and I bet you will find some charming woman, to whom I beg you to make some presents with this."
"Oh, M. Chicot!" said the page, "it is easy to see that you come from the court of France; you have manners to which one can refuse nothing: go then, but make no noise."
Chicot went on; glided like a shadow into the corridor, and down the staircase, but at the bottom he found an officer sleeping on a chair, placed right against the door, so that it was impossible to pass.
"Ah! little wretch of a page," murmured Chicot, "you knew this."
Chicot looked round him to see if he could find no other way by which he could escape with the assistance of his long legs. At last he saw what he wanted: it was an arched window, of which the glass was broken. Chicot climbed up the wall with his accustomed skill, and without making more noise than a dry leaf in the autumn wind; but unluckily, the opening was not big enough, so when he had got his head and one shoulder through, and had taken away his foot from its resting place on the wall, he found himself hanging between heaven and earth, without being able either to advance or retreat.
He began then a series of efforts, of which the first result was to tear his doublet and scratch his skin. What rendered his position more difficult was his sword, of which the handle would not pass, making a hook by which Chicot hung on to the sash. He exerted all his strength, patience and industry, to unfasten the clasp of his shoulder-belt; but it was just on this clasp that his body leaned, therefore he was obliged to change his maneuver, and at last he succeeded in drawing his sword from its sheath and pushing it through one of the interstices; the sword therefore fell first on the flagstones, and Chicot now managed to get through after it. All this, however, was not done without noise, therefore Chicot, on rising, found himself face to face with a soldier. CHICOT, ON RISING, FOUND HIMSELF FACE TO FACE WITH A SOLDIER.
"Ah! mon Dieu! have you hurt yourself, M. Chicot?" said he.
Chicot was surprised, but said, "No, my friend, not at all."
"That is very lucky; there are not many people who could do such a thing."
"But how the devil did you know my name?"
"I saw you to-day at the palace, and asked who was the gentleman that was talking with the king."
"Well! I am in a hurry; allow me to pass."
"But no one goes out of the palace by night; those are my orders."
"But you see they do come out, since I am here."
"You must go back, M. Chicot."
"Oh! no."—"How! no?"
"Not by that way, at all events; it is too troublesome."
"If I were an officer instead of a soldier, I would ask you why you come out so; but that is not my business, which is only that you should go back again. Go in, therefore, M. Chicot, I beg you."
And the soldier said this in such a persuasive tone, that Chicot was touched. Consequently he put his hand in his pocket and drew out another ten pistoles.
"You must understand, my friend," said he, "that as I have torn my clothes in passing through once, I should make them still worse by going back again, and should have to go naked, which would be very indecent in a court where there are so many young and pretty women; let me go then to my tailor." And he put the money in his hand.
"Go quickly then, M. Chicot," said the man.
Chicot was in the street at last. The night was not favorable for flight, being bright and cloudless, and he regretted the foggy nights of Paris, where people might pass close to each other unseen. The unfortunate fugitive had no sooner turned the corner of the street than he met a patrol. He stopped of himself, thinking it would look suspicious to try and pass unseen.
"Oh, good-evening, M. Chicot!" said the chief; "shall we reconduct you to the palace? You seem as though you had lost your way."
"It is very strange," murmured Chicot, "every one knows me here." Then aloud, and as carelessly as he could, "No, cornet, I am not going to the palace."
"You are wrong, M. Chicot," replied the officer, gravely.
"Why so, monsieur?"
"Because a very severe edict forbids the inhabitants of Nerac to go out at night without permission and without a lantern."
"Excuse me, monsieur, but this edict cannot apply to me, who do not belong to Nerac."
"But you are at Nerac. Inhabitant means living at; now you cannot deny that you live at Nerac, since I see you here."
"You are logical, monsieur. Unluckily, I am in a hurry; make an exception to your rule, and let me pass, I beg."
"You will lose yourself, M. Chicot; Nerac is a strange town. Allow three of my men to conduct you to the palace."
"But I am not going there, I tell you."
"Where are you going, then?"
"I cannot sleep well at night, and then I always walk. Nerac is a charming city, and I wish to see it."
"My men shall conduct you where you please."
"Oh, monsieur, I would rather go alone."
"You will be assassinated."
"I have my sword."
"Ah, true; then you will be arrested for bearing arms."
Chicot, driven to despair, drew the officer aside, and said:
"Come, monsieur, you are young; you know what love is—an imperious tyrant."
"Doubtless, M. Chicot."
"Well, cornet, I have a certain lady to visit."
"In a certain place."
"Twenty-three years old."
"As the graces."
"I felicitate you, M. Chicot."
"Then you will let me pass?"
"It seems I must."
"And alone; I cannot compromise—"
"Of course not; pass on, M. Chicot."
"You are a gallant man, cornet. But how did you know me?"
"I saw you at the palace with the king. Apropos, which way are you going?"
"Toward the Porte of Agen. Am I not in the right road?"
"Yes, go straight on; I wish you success."
"Thank you;" and Chicot went on. But before he had taken a hundred steps he met the watch.
"Peste! this town is well guarded," thought Chicot.
"You cannot pass!" cried the provost, in a voice of thunder.
"But, monsieur, I want—"
"Ah, M. Chicot, is it you? In the streets in this cold?" asked the officer.
"Ah, decidedly! It must be a bet," thought Chicot; and, bowing, he tried to pass on.
"M. Chicot, take care!" said the provost.
"Take care of what?"
"You are going wrong; you are going toward the gates."
"Then I arrest you!"
"Not so, monsieur; you would be very wrong."
"Approach, monsieur, that your soldiers may not hear."
The man approached.
"The king has given me a commission for the lieutenant of the Porte of Agen."
"That astonishes you?"
"It ought not, since you know me."
"I know you from having seen you at the palace with the king."
Chicot stamped his foot impatiently. "That should prove to you that I possess the king's confidence."
"Doubtless; go on, M. Chicot, and execute your commission."
"Come," thought Chicot, "I advance slowly, but I do advance. Ventre de biche! here is a gate; it must be that of Agen; in five minutes I shall be out."
He arrived at the gate, which was guarded by a sentinel walking up and down, his musket on his shoulder.
"My friend, will you open the gate for me?" said Chicot.
"I cannot, M. Chicot," replied the man, "being only a private soldier."
"You also know me?" cried Chicot in a rage.
"I have that honor; I was on guard at the palace this morning, and saw you talking with the king."
"Well! my friend, the king has given me a very urgent message to convey to Agen; open the postern for me."
"I would with pleasure, but I have not the keys."
"And who has them?"
"The officer for the night."
"And where is he?"
The soldier rang a bell to wake his officer.
"What is it?" said he, passing his head through a window.
"Lieutenant, it is a gentleman who wants the gate opened."
"Ah! M. Chicot," cried the officer, "I will be down in a moment."
"What! does every one know me?" cried Chicot. "Nerac seems a lantern, and I the candle."
"Excuse me, monsieur," said the officer, approaching, "but I was asleep."
"Oh! monsieur, that is what night is made for; will you be good enough to open the door. Unluckily, I cannot sleep, for the king, whom you doubtless also saw me talking to—"
"Yes, I did, monsieur."
"Of course!" growled Chicot. "Well! the king has sent me on a commission to Agen; this is the right gate, is it not?"
"Yes, M. Chicot."
"Will you please to have it opened?"
"Of course. Anthenas, open the gate quickly for M. Chicot."
Chicot began to breathe; the door creaked on its hinges, and opened, and Chicot saw liberty through it.
"Adieu! monsieur," said he, advancing.
"Adieu! M. Chicot, a pleasant journey.—But stay, one moment; I have forgotten to ask for your pass," cried he, seizing Chicot by the sleeve to stop him.
"How! my pass?"
"Certainly, M. Chicot; you know what a pass is? You understand that no one can leave a town like Nerac without a pass, particularly when the king is in it."
"And who must sign this pass?"
"The king himself; so if he sent you he cannot have forgotten to give you a pass."
"Ah! you doubt that the king sent me?" cried Chicot, with flashing eyes, for he saw himself on the point of failing, and had a great mind to kill the officer and sentinel, and rush through the gate.
"I doubt nothing you tell me, but reflect that if the king gave you this commission—"
"In person, monsieur."
"All the more reason, then: if he knows you are going out, I shall have to give up your pass to-morrow morning to the governor."—"And who is he?"
"M. de Mornay, who does not jest with disobedience, M. Chicot."
Chicot put his hand to his sword, but another look showed him that the outside of the gate was defended by a guard who would have prevented his passing if he had killed the officer and sentinel.
"Well!" said Chicot to himself, with a sigh; "I have lost my game," and he turned back.
"Shall I give you an escort, M. Chicot?" said the officer.
"No, thank you."
Chicot retraced his steps, but he was not at the end of his griefs. He met the chief of the watch, who said, "What! have you finished your commission already, M. Chicot? Peste! how quick you are!"
A little further on the cornet cried to him, "Well, M. Chicot, what of the lady; are you content with Nerac?"
Finally, the soldier in the courtyard said, "Cordieu! M. Chicot, the tailor has not done his work well; you seem more torn than when you went out."
Chicot did not feel inclined to climb back through the window: but by chance, or rather by charity, the door was opened, and he returned into the palace. Here he saw the page, who said, "Dear M. Chicot, shall I give you the key to all this?"
"Yes, serpent," murmured Chicot.
"Well! the king loves you so much, he did not wish to lose you."
"And you knew, and never told me?"
"Oh! M. Chicot, impossible! It was a state secret."
"But I paid you, knave."
"Oh! dear M. Chicot, the secret was worth more than ten pistoles."
Chicot returned to his room in a rage.
When Marguerite left the king, she went at once to the apartments of the maids of honor, and performed her promise with regard to Fosseuse. When she returned, the king thanked her warmly, and then went up to Chicot's room, where he found him still asleep. Henri shook him to wake him. "Come, compere," said he, "get up, it is two in the morning."
"Ah! you make me a prisoner," cried Chicot; "I, an ambassador. Sire, you violate the rights of nations."
Henri began to laugh, and Chicot could not help joining him.
"You are mad," said Henri. "Why the devil did you want to go away from here, have you not been well treated?"
"Too well, ventre de biche! too well. It seems to me as if I were like a goose being fattened. Every one says to me, 'Pretty little Chicot, how gentle he is!' but they clip my wings, and shut the doors on me."
"Oh! reassure yourself, Chicot; you are not fat enough for my table."
"Sire, you seem very gay this morning; what is it?"
"I am always gay when I am setting off for the chase. Come, out of bed, compere."
"You want me, sire?"
"Yes; you shall be my historian."
"To count the shots?"
Chicot dressed murmuringly, while the king remained in the antechamber.
"My horse," cried Henri; "and tell M. de Mornay that I am ready."
"What! is M. de Mornay chief huntsman?" asked Chicot.
"M. de Mornay is everything here," replied Henri. "I am so poor, than I can afford but one man."
"Yes; but he is a good one."
Chicot found the preparations much less sumptuous than those of Henri III. A dozen or fifteen gentlemen only, among whom he recognized the Vicomte de Turenne, formed the whole suite. And as they were none of them rich, they all wore, instead of the usual hunting dress, their helmets and cuirasses, which made Chicot ask if the wolves in Gascony used muskets and artillery.
"No," said Henri; "but they are fierce beasts, who have claws and teeth, and draw hunters into places where they are likely to tear their clothes on the thorns, if they wear silk and velvet, or even cloth and buff, but not if they wear cuirasses."
"That is a reason, but not a good one, sire."
"What would you have? I have no other."
"Then I must be content with this."
"You had better."
"So be it."
"You are angry at being disturbed for this chase."
"Ma foi! yes."
"So you find fault?"
"Is it forbidden?"
"You understand, sire, I am no hunter, and have nothing to do, so I must amuse myself, while you are thinking of all the wolves that a dozen men are going to kill."
"Ah, yes, laugh away, Chicot; first it was the clothes, now the number of wolves."
"But I must say you are not indulgent, for Béarn is not as large as France; so the king goes there with two hundred huntsmen, I with a dozen, as you see."
"But," said Henri, "sometimes the country gentlemen, hearing I am going, quit their chateaux and join me, which sometimes makes up a good escort for me."
When they had ridden about half an hour—
"Look," said Henri to Chicot, "are not those cavaliers that I see there?"
Chicot looked and said, "Yes, sire, cavaliers, but not huntsmen."
"Because they are armed like Amadis or Rolando," replied Chicot.
"Ah! what matters the dress, my dear Chicot? you see we are not particular as to that."
"But I see at least two hundred men there."
"Ah! that is a good number."
Chicot began to feel very curious. He had really named too low a number, for the group before them consisted of two hundred men, who came silently and joined their party; each man was well armed and mounted, and they were led by a gentleman who came and kissed Henri's hand with much devotion.
They passed the river Gers, and then came on a second troop of one hundred men; the chief approached, and seemed to be making excuses for not bringing more men. Henri gave him his hand. They went on till they came to the Garonne; this they also passed, and about half a league on the other side, three hundred cavaliers, hidden in a pine forest, suddenly came in sight.
"Oh! monseigneur," said Chicot, "are not these enemies who have heard of your chase, and wish to oppose it?"
"No, my son, you are wrong; they are friends from Puzmirol."
"Mordieu! sire, you will have more men in your escort than trees in your forest."
"Chicot, I really believe the news of your arrival must have spread through the country, and all these people have come to welcome the ambassador from France."
Chicot saw he was being laughed at, and felt rather offended.
The day finished at Muroy, where the gentlemen of the country gave a grand supper to the king, of which Chicot took his part enthusiastically, as it had not been deemed necessary to stop on the road for anything so unimportant as dinner, and he had eaten nothing since he had left Nerac.
Henri had the best house in the town, half the troop slept within doors, the other half in the street where the king was.
"When are we to begin the hunt?" asked Chicot of Henri, as he was undressing.
"We are not yet in the territory of the wolves, my dear Chicot."
"And when shall we be?"
"Not so, sire; but you understand, one likes to know where one is going."
"You will know to-morrow; meanwhile, lie down there on those cushions on my left; here is Mornay snoring already at my right."
"Peste!" said Chicot, "he makes more noise asleep than awake."
"It is true he is not very talkative; but see him at the chase."
Day had partly appeared, when a great noise of horses awoke Chicot. They dressed, drank some spiced wine, and took other refreshment, and then Henri cried:
"To horse! gentlemen, we have a long day's work before us."
Chicot saw with astonishment that five hundred cavaliers had swelled the train during the night.
"Sire!" cried he, "you have an army."
"Wait!" replied Henri.
At Lauzerte, six hundred more men came and ranged themselves behind the cavaliers.
"Foot soldiers!" cried Chicot.
"Nothing but beaters," said the king.
Chicot frowned and spoke no more.
Twenty times his eyes turned toward the country, and the idea of flight presented itself to him. But Chicot had his guard of honor, doubtless as ambassador of the king of France, and so well was he recommended to this guard, that he could not make a movement that was not repeated by ten men.
This annoyed him, and he said so to the king.
"Diable!" said Henri, "it is your own fault; you tried to run away from Nerac, and I am afraid you will try it again."
"Sire, if I give my word as a gentleman not to do so?"
"That will do."
"Besides, I should be wrong to do so."
"Yes; for if I stay, I believe I shall see curious things."
"I am of your opinion, my dear Chicot."
At this moment they were going through the town of Montcuq, and four field-pieces took their place in the army.
"I return to my first idea," said Chicot, "that the wolves in this country are different from others, and are differently treated; with artillery, for instance."
"Ah!" said Henri, "it is a mania of the people of Montcuq. Since I gave them these four pieces they take them about everywhere."
"Well, sire, shall we arrive to-day?"
"To-morrow morning or evening?"
"Then," said Chicot, "it is at Cahors we are to hunt, is it not, sire?"
"On that side," replied Henri.
"But, sire, you who have infantry, cavalry, and artillery to hunt wolves with, should also have taken the royal standard, and then the honor to the wolves would have been complete."
"We have not forgotten it, Chicot, ventre St. Gris! only it is left in the case for fear of dirtying it. But if you wish to see it, and know under whose banner you march, you shall see it."
"No, no, it is useless; leave it where it is."
"Well, be easy, you will see it before long."
They passed the second night at Catus. Troops kept arriving all night.
"It is lucky we are not going on to Paris," said Chicot, "we should arrive with 100,000 men."
The next morning, by eight o'clock, they were before Cahors,
They found the city in a state of defense, M. de Vezin having heard rumors of the advance.
"Ah!" said the king, "he is warned; that is very annoying."
"We must lay siege in due form, sire," said Mornay; "we expect still about 2,000 men, and that is enough."
"Let us assemble the council and begin the trenches."
Chicot listened to all this in amazement. The pensive air of Henri alone reassured him, for it confirmed his suspicions that he was no warrior. He let every one speak, and said nothing. All at once he raised his head, and said in a commanding tone:
"Gentlemen, this is what we must do. We have 3,000 men, and you say you expect 2,000 more, Mornay?"
"That will make
"What do you mean, sire?" asked Mornay.
"My dear friend, we will go straight to the nearest gate. We shall find a fosse in our way, which we will cover with fascines; we may leave two hundred men on the road, but we shall reach the gate."
"Then we will break it down with petards and go in. It will not be difficult."
Chicot looked at Henri, astonished.
"Oh!" growled he, "perhaps he is a coward and a boaster."
"Let us not lose time, gentlemen," cried Henri. "Forward, and let all who love me follow."
Chicot approached Mornay.
"Well! M. le Comte," said he, "do you all want to be cut to pieces?"
"Oh! we take our chance."
"But the king will get killed."
"Bah! he has a good cuirass."
"But he will not be foolish enough to fight himself, I suppose?"
Mornay shrugged his shoulders and turned on his heel.
"After all, I like him better asleep than awake; he is more polite snoring than speaking," said Chicot.
The little army advanced near the town, then they breakfasted. The repast over, two hours were given for the officers and men to rest. Henri was very pale, and his hands trembled visibly, when at three o'clock in the afternoon the officers appeared under his tent.
"Gentlemen," said he, "we are here to take Cahors; therefore we must take it—by force. Do you understand? M. de Biron, who has sworn to hang every Huguenot, is only forty-five leagues from here, and doubtless a messenger is already dispatched to him by M. de Vezin. In four or five days he will be on us, and as he has 10,000 men with him, we should be taken between the city and him. Let us, then, take Cahors before he comes, that we may receive him well. Come, gentlemen, I will put myself at your head, and let the blows fall as thick as hail."
The men replied to this speech by enthusiastic cries.
"Well said," said Chicot to himself. "It was lucky he had not to speak with his hands, though, or he would have stammered finely. Let us see him at the work."
As they were setting off, the king said to Chicot:
"Pardon me, friend Chicot, I deceived you by talking of wolves, hunting, and such things, but you see Henri will not pay me his sister's dowry, and Margot cries out for her dear Cahors. One must do what one's wife wants, for peace' sake; therefore I am going to try and take Cahors."
"Why did she not ask you for the moon, sire, as you are such a complaisant husband?"
"I would have tried for it, Chicot, I love my dear Margot so much!"
"You will have quite enough to do with Cahors, and we shall see how you will get out of it."
"Ah! yes, the moment is critical and very disagreeable. Ah! I am not brave, and my nature revolts at every cannonade. Chicot, my friend, do not laugh too much at the poor Béarnais, your compatriot and friend. If I am afraid and you find it out, tell no one."
"If you are afraid?"
"Are you, then, afraid of being afraid?"
"But then, ventre de biche, why the devil do you undertake such a thing?"
"M. de Vezin is a terrible person."
"I know it well."
"Who gives quarter to no one."
"You think so, Chicot?"
"I am sure of it; red plume or white, he will not care, but cry, Fire!"
"You say that for my white feather, Chicot."
"Yes, sire, and as you are the only one who wears that color—"
"I would take it off."
"But I put it on that I might be recognized."
"Then you will keep it?"
"Yes, decidedly." And Henri trembled again as he said it.
"Come, sire," said Chicot, who did not understand this difference between words and gestures, "there is still time; do not commit a folly; you cannot mount on horseback in that state."
"Am I, then, very pale, Chicot?"
"As pale as death, sire."
At this moment the noise of cannon and a furious fire of musketry was heard; it was M. de Vezin's reply to the summons to surrender given by Mornay.
"Hem!" said Chicot, "what do you think of this music, sire?"
"It makes me cold in the marrow of my bones," replied Henri. "Here, my horse! my horse!" cried he.
Chicot looked and listened, unable to understand him. Henry mounted, and then said—
"Come, Chicot, get on horseback too; you are not a warrior, either, are you?"
"Well, come, we will be afraid together; come and see, my friend. A good horse here, for M. Chicot."
Henri set off at full gallop, and Chicot followed him. On arriving in front of his little army, Henri raised his visor, and cried:
"Out with the banner! out with the new banner!"
They drew forth the banner, which had the double scutcheon of Navarre and Bourbon; it was white, and had chains of gold on one side, and fleur-de-lis on the other.
Again the cannon from Cahors were fired, and the balls tore through a file of infantry near the king.
"Ventre St. Gris! did you see, Chicot?" said the king, whose teeth chattered.
"He will be ill," thought Chicot.
"Cursed body," murmured Henri, "ah! you fear, you tremble; wait till you have something to tremble for." And striking his spurs into his horse, he rushed onward before cavalry, infantry, and artillery, and arrived at a hundred feet from the place, red with the fire of the batteries which thundered from above. There, he kept his horse immovable for ten minutes, his face turned toward the gate of the city, and crying, "The fascines! ventre St. Gris! the fascines!"
Mornay had followed him, sword in hand, and then came Chicot; behind them the young Huguenot gentlemen, crying, "Vive Navarre!" and each with a fascine, which he threw in, and the fosse was soon filled. Then came the artillery, and with the loss of thirty men succeeded in placing their petards under the gate. The shot whistled like a whirlwind of iron round Henri's head, and twenty men fell in an instant before his eyes. "Forward!" cried he, and rushed on through the midst of the fire, and arrived just as the soldiers had fired the first petard. The gate was broken in two places; the second petard was lighted, and a new opening was made in the wood; but twenty arquebuses immediately passed through, vomiting balls on the soldiers and officers, and the men fell like mowed grass.
"Sire," cried Chicot, "in Heaven's name retire!"
Mornay said nothing; he was proud of his pupil, but from time to time he tried to place himself before him. Once Henri felt the damp on his brow, and a cloud pass over his eyes.
"Ah, cursed nature," cried he, "you shall not conquer me!" Then, jumping off his horse, "An ax!" cried he, and with a vigorous arm he struck down wood and iron. At last a beam gave way, and a part of the gate and a portion of the wall fell, and one hundred men rushed to the breach, crying, "Navarre! Navarre! Cahors is ours!" "AN AX!" CRIED HENRI, AND WITH A VIGOROUS ARM HE STRUCK DOWN WOOD AND IRON.
Chicot had not quitted the king; he was with him under the gate when he entered, one of the first, but at each discharge he saw him shudder and lower his head.
"Ventre St. Gris! did you ever see such a coward, Chicot?" said he.
"No, sire, I have never seen a coward like you."
The soldiers of M. de Vezin now tried to dislodge Henri and his advanced guards, who received them sword in hand; but the besieged were the strongest, and succeeded in forcing Henri and his troops back beyond the fosse.
"Ventre St. Gris!" cried the king, "I believe my flag retreats; I must carry it myself." And snatching it from the hands of those who held it, he was the first to rush forward again, half enveloped in its folds. The balls whistled round him, and pierced the flag with a hollow sound. A long hand-to-hand fight ensued, above all the uproar of which M. de Vezin's voice was heard crying, "Barricade the streets! let trenches be dug! and the houses garrisoned!"
"Oh!" cried M. de Turenne, "the siege of the city is over, Vezin." And as he spoke he fired at him and wounded him in the arm.
"You are wrong, Turenne," cried M. de Vezin, "there are twenty sieges in Cahors; so if one is over, there are nineteen to come."
M. de Vezin defended himself during five days and nights from street to street and from house to house. Luckily for the rising fortunes of Henri of Navarre, he had counted too much on the walls and garrison of Cahors, and had neglected to send to M. de Biron.
During these five days and nights, Henri commanded like a captain and fought like a soldier, slept with his head on a stone, and awoke sword in hand. Each day they conquered a street or a square, which each night the garrison tried to retake. On the fourth night the enemy seemed willing to give some rest to the Protestant army. Then it was Henri who attacked in his turn. He forced an intrenched position, but it cost him seven hundred men. M. de Turenne and nearly all the officers were wounded, but the king remained untouched. To the fear that he had felt at first, and which he had so heroically vanquished, succeeded a feverish restlessness, a rash audacity. All the fastenings of his armor were broken, as much by his own efforts as by the blows of the enemy. He struck so vigorously that he always killed his man. When this last post was forced, the king entered into the inclosure, followed by the eternal Chicot, who, silent and sad, had for five days seen growing at his sides the phantom of a monarchy destined to destroy that of the Valois.
"Well, Chicot, of what are you thinking?" said Henri to him.
"Sire, that you are a real king."
"And I, sire, that you are too imprudent," said Mornay, "to put up your vizor when they are firing at you from all sides."
As he spoke a dozen arquebuses were fired at them; one ball struck off a plume from Henri's helmet, his horse was killed by another, and Mornay's had his leg broken. The king fell, and there might have finished his career; but Chicot, whirling his sword round to keep off the nearest, helped Henri up and gave him his own horse, saying, "Sire, you will testify to the king of France that, if I drew the sword against him, I killed no one."—"Ventre St. Gris! you must be mine, Chicot!" cried Henri. "You shall live and die with me."
"Sire, I have but one service to follow—that of my king. His star diminishes, but I shall be faithful to his adverse fortunes. Let me serve and love him as long as I live, sire. I shall soon be alone with him; do not envy him his last servant."
"Chicot, you will be always dear to me, and, after Henri of France, you will have Henri of Navarre for a friend."
"Yes, sire," said Chicot simple, kissing his hand.
The siege was soon over after this. M. de Vezin was taken, and the garrison surrendered.
Then Henri dictated to Mornay a letter, which Chicot was to carry to the king of France. It was written in bad Latin, and finished with these words:
"Quod mihi dixisti profuit multum. Cognosco meos devotos; nosce tuos. Chicotos cætera expedit."
Which means, "What you told me was very useful. I know my faithful followers; know yours. Chicot will tell you the rest."
"And now, friend Chicot," said Henri,
"embrace me; but take care not to soil yourself, for, mordieu, I am as
bloody as a butcher. Take my ring, and adieu, Chicot; I keep you no longer,
The necessity of following Chicot to the end of his mission
has kept us a long time away from the Louvre. The king, after having passed so
bravely through his adventurous return from
At two o'clock every one slept in the Louvre. The next day, Henri took four bouillons in bed instead of two, and then sent for MM. de Villeguie and D'O to come to his room, to speak about a new financial edict. The queen received the order to dine alone, but it was added that in the evening the king would receive. All day he played with Love, saying, every time that the animal showed his white teeth, "Ah, rebel! you want to bite me also; you attack your king also; but you are conquered, M. Love—conquered, wretched leaguer—conquered." His secretaries of state were somewhat astonished at all this, particularly as he said nothing else, and signed everything without looking at it. At three o'clock in the afternoon he asked for D'Epernon. They replied that he was reviewing the light horse; then he inquired for De Loignac, but he also was absent. He asked for lunch, and, while he ate, had an edifying discourse read to him, which he interrupted by saying to the reader, "Was it not Plutarch who wrote the life of Sylla?"
"Yes, sire," said the reader, much astonished at being interrupted in his pious reading by this profane question.
"Do you remember that passage where the historian recounts how the dictator avoided death?"
The reader hesitated.
"Not precisely, sire; it is a long time since I read Plutarch."
At this moment, the Cardinal de Joyeuse was announced.
"Ah! here is a learned man, he will tell me at once!" cried the king.
"Sire," said the cardinal, "am I lucky enough to arrive apropos—it is a rare thing in this world."
"Ma foi! yes; you heard my question?"
"Your majesty asked, I think, in what manner, and when, Sylla narrowly escaped death?"
"Just so—can you answer me, cardinal?"
"Nothing more easy, sire."
"So much the better."
"Sylla, who had killed so many men, never risked his life but in combats; did your majesty mean in one of those?"
"Yes; in one in which I think I recollect he was very near death. Open a Plutarch, cardinal; there should be one there translated by Amyot, and read me the passage where he escaped the javelins of his enemies, thanks to the swiftness of his white horse."
"Sire, there is no need of opening Plutarch; the event took place in the combat with Telescrius the Samnite, and Lamponius the Lucanian."
"You are so learned, my dear cardinal."
"Your majesty is too good."
"Now explain to me how this Roman lion, who was so cruel, was never annoyed by his enemies."
"Sire, I will reply to your majesty in the words of this same Plutarch."
"Go on, Joyeuse."
"Carbon, the enemy of Sylla, said often, 'I have to fight at once a lion and a fox who inhabit the soul of Sylla, but it is the fox who gives me most trouble.'"
"Ah! it was the fox?"
"Plutarch says so, sire."
"And he is right, cardinal. But apropos of combats, have you any news of your brother?"
"Of which brother, sire? I have two."
"Of the Duc d'Arques, my friend."
"Not yet, sire."
"If M. d'Anjou, who always plays the fox, will only play the lion a little for once."
The cardinal did not reply, so Henri, signing to him to remain, dressed himself sumptuously, and passed into the room where the court waited for him. He entered, looking full of good humor, kissed the hands of his wife and mother, paid all sorts of compliments to the ladies, and even offered them sweetmeats.
"We were unquiet about your health, my son," said Catherine.
"You were wrong, madame; I have never been better."
"And to what happy influence do you owe this amelioration, my son?"
"To having laughed much, madame."
Every one looked astonished.
"Laughed! you can laugh much, my son; then you are very happy?"
"It is true, madame."
"And about what were you so much amused?"
"I must tell you, mother, that yesterday I went to Vincennes."
"I knew it."
"Oh! you knew it; well, my people told me, before my return, of an enemy's army whose muskets shone on the road."
"An enemy's army on the road to Vincennes?"
"In front of the Jacobins, near the house of our good cousin."
"Near Madame de Montpensier's?"
"Precisely so, near Bel-Esbat. I approached, bravely to give battle, and I perceived—"
"What, sire?" cried the queen, in alarm.
"Reassure yourself, madame, I perceived an entire priory of good monks, who presented arms to me with acclamations."
Every one laughed, and the king continued:
"Yes, you are right to laugh; I have in France more than ten thousand monks, of whom I can make, if necessary, ten thousand musketeers; then I will create a Grand-Master of the Tonsured Musketeers, and give the place to you, cardinal."
"Sire, I accept."
The ladies now, according to etiquette, rose, and, bowing to the king, retired. The queen followed with her ladies of honor. The queen-mother remained: the king's gayety was a mystery that she wished to fathom.
"Cardinal," said the king, "what has become of your brother, Du Bouchage?"
"I do not know, sire."
"How! you do not know?"
"No; I never see him, now."
A grave, sad voice from the end of the room said, "Here I am, sire."
"Ah! it is he," cried Henri. "Approach, comte; approach."
The young man obeyed.
"Mon Dieu!" cried the king, "he is no longer a man, but a shade."
"Sire, he works hard," said the cardinal, stupefied himself at the change in his brother during the last week. He was as pale as wax, and looked thin and wan.
"Come here, young man," said the king. "Thanks, cardinal, for your quotation from Plutarch; in a similar case I shall apply to you again."
The cardinal saw that Henri wished to be left alone with his brother, and took his leave.
There only remained the queen-mother, D'Epernon, and Du Bouchage. The king beckoned to the latter, and said:
"Why do you hide thus behind the ladies; do you not know it gives me pleasure to see you?"
"Your kind words do me honor, sire," said the young man, bowing.
"Then how is it that we never see you here now?"
"If your majesty has not seen me, it is because you have not deigned to cast an eye on the corner of the room. I am here every day regularly; I never have failed, and never will, as long as I can stand upright: it is a sacred duty to me."
"And is it that that makes you so sad?"
"Oh! your majesty cannot think so?"
"No, for you and your brother love me, and I love you. Apropos, do you know that poor Anne has written to me from Dieppe?"
"I did not, sire."
"Yes; but you know he did not like going?"
"He confided to me his regrets at leaving Paris."
"Yes; but do you know what he said? That there existed a man who would have regretted Paris much more; and that if I gave you this order you would die."
"He said yet more, for your brother talks fast when he is not sulky; he said that if I had given such an order you would have disobeyed it."
"Your majesty was right to place my death before my disobedience; it would have been a greater grief to me to disobey than to die, and yet I should have disobeyed."
"You are a little mad, I think, my poor comte," said Henri.
"I am quite so, I believe."
"Then the case is serious."
"What is it? tell me."
Joyeuse tried to smile. "A great king like you, sire, would not care for such confidences."
"Yes, Henri, yes; tell me. It will amuse me," said the king.
"Sire, you deceive yourself; there is nothing in my grief that could amuse a noble heart like yours."
The king took the young man's hand.
"Do not be angry, Du Bouchage," said he; "you know that your king also has known the griefs of an unrequited love."
"I know it, sire, formerly."
"Therefore, I feel for your sufferings."
"Your majesty is too good."
"Not so; but when I suffered what you suffer, no one could aid me, because no one was more powerful than myself, whereas I can aid you."
"And, consequently, hope soon for an end of your sorrows."
The young man shook his head.
"Du Bouchage, you shall be happy, or I am no longer king of France!" cried Henri.
"Happy! alas, sire, it is impossible," said the young man with a bitter smile.
"And why so?"
"Because my happiness is not of this world."
"Henri, your brother, when he went, recommended you to my friendship. I wish, since you consult neither the experience of your father, nor the wisdom of your brother the cardinal, to be an elder brother to you. Come, be confiding, and tell me all. I assure you, Du Bouchage, that for everything except death my power and love shall find you a remedy."
"Sire," replied the young man, falling at the king's feet, "do not confound me by the expression of a goodness to which I cannot reply. My misfortune is without remedy, for it is that which makes my only happiness."
"Du Bouchage, you are mad; you will kill yourself with fancies."
"I know it well, sire."
"But," cried the king, impatiently, "is it a marriage you wish for?"
"Sire, my wish is to inspire love. You see that the whole world is powerless to aid me in this; I alone can obtain it for myself."—"Then why despair?"
"Because I feel that I shall never inspire it."
"Try, try, my child; you are young and rich. Where is the woman that can resist at once beauty, youth and wealth? There are none, Du Bouchage."
"Sire, your goodness is great."
"If you wish to be discreet, and tell me nothing, do so; I will find out, and then act. You know what I have done for your brother, I will do as much for you; a hundred thousand crowns shall not stop me."
Du Bouchage seized the king's hand, and pressed his lips to it.
"May your majesty ask one day for my blood, and I will shed it to the last drop to show you how grateful I am for the protection that I refuse!"
Henri III. turned on his heel angrily.
"Really," said he, "these Joyeuses are more obstinate than a Valois. Here is one who will bring me every day his long face and eyes circled with black; that will be delightful."
"Oh! sire, I will smile so, when I am here, that every one shall think me the happiest of men."
"Yes, but I shall know the contrary, and that will sadden me."
"Does your majesty permit me to retire?" asked Du Bouchage.
"Go, my child, and try to be a man."
When he was gone the king approached D'Epernon, and said:
"Lavalette, have money distributed this evening to the Forty-five, and give them holiday for a night and a day to amuse themselves. By the mass! they saved me like Sylla's white horse."
"Saved?" said Catherine.
"Ah! ask D'Epernon."
"I ask you, my son."
"Well, madame, our dear cousin, the sister of your good friend M. de Guise—oh! do not deny it; you, know he is your good friend—laid an ambush for me."
"Yes, madame, and I narrowly escaped imprisonment or assassination."
"By M. de Guise?"
"You do not believe it?"
"I confess I do not."
"D'Epernon, my friend, relate the adventure to my mother. If I go on speaking, and she goes on shrugging her shoulders, I shall get angry, and that does not suit my health. Adieu, madame; cherish M. de Guise as much as you please, but I would advise them not to forget Salcede."
It was eight in the evening, and the house of Robert Briquet, solitary and sad-looking, formed a worthy companion to that mysterious house of which we have already spoken to our readers. One might have thought that these two houses were yawning in each other's face. Not far from there the noise of brass was heard, mingled with confused voices, vague murmurs, and squeaks.
It was probably this noise that attracted a young and handsome cavalier, with a violet cap, red plume, and gray mantle, who, after stopping for some minutes to hear this noise, went on slowly and pensively toward the house of Robert Briquet. Now this noise of brass was that of saucepans; these vague murmurs, those of pots boiling on fires and spits turned by dogs; those cries, those of M. Fournichon, host of the "Brave Chevalier," and of Madame Fournichon, who was preparing her rooms. When the young man with the violet hat had well looked at the fire, inhaled the smell of the fowls, and peeped through the curtains, he went away, then returned to recommence his examinations. He continued to walk up and down, but never passed Robert Briquet's house, which seemed to be the limit of his walk. Each time that he arrived at this limit he found there, like a sentinel, a young man about his own age, with a black cap, a white plume, and a violet cloak, who, with frowning brow and his hand on his sword, seemed to say, "Thou shalt go no further." But the other took twenty turns without observing this, so preoccupied was he. Certainly he saw a man walking up and down like himself: but, as he was too well dressed to be a robber, he never thought of disquieting himself about him. But the other, on the contrary, looked more and more black at each return of the red plume, till at last it attracted his attention, and he began to think that his presence there must be annoying to the other; and wondering for what reason, he looked first at Briquet's house, then at the one opposite, and seeing nothing, turned round and recommenced his walk from west to east. This continued for about five minutes, until, as they once again came face to face, the young man in the white plume walked straight up against the other, who, taken unawares, with difficulty saved himself from falling.
"Monsieur," cried he, "are you mad, or do you mean to insult me?"
"Monsieur, I wish to make you understand that you annoy me much. It seems to me that you might have seen that without my telling you."
"Not at all, monsieur; I never see what I do not wish to see."
"There are, however, certain things which would attract your attention, I hope, if they shone before your eyes;" and he drew his sword as he spoke, which glittered in the moonlight.
The red plume said quietly, "One would think, monsieur, that you had never drawn a sword before, you are in such a hurry to attack one who does not attack you."
"But who will defend himself, I hope."
"Why so?" replied the other smiling. "And what right have you to prevent me from walking in the street?"
"Why do you walk in this street?"
"Parbleu! because it pleases me."
"Ah! it pleases you."
"Doubtless; are you not also walking here? Have you a license from the king to keep to yourself the Rue de Bussy?"
"What is that to you?"
"A great deal, for I am a faithful subject of the king's, and would not disobey him."
"Ah! you laugh!"
"And you threaten."
"Heaven and earth! I tell you, you annoy me, monsieur, and that if you do not go away willingly I will make you."
"Oh! oh! we shall see that."
"Yes, we shall see."
"Monsieur, I have particular business here. Now, if you will have it, I will cross swords with you, but I will not go away."
"Monsieur, I am Comte Henri du Bouchage, brother of the Duc de Joyeuse. Once more, will you yield me the place, and go away?"
"Monsieur," replied the other, "I am the Vicomte Ernanton de Carmainges. You do not annoy me at all, and I do not ask you to go away."
Du Bouchage reflected a moment, and then put his sword back in its sheath.
"Excuse me, monsieur," said he; "I am half mad, being in love."
"And I also am in love, but I do not think myself mad for that."
Henri grew pale.
"You are in love!" said he.
"And you confess it?"
"Is it a crime?"
"But with some one in this street?"
"Yes, for the present."
"In Heaven's name tell me who it is!"
"Ah! M. du Bouchage, you have not reflected on what you are asking me; you know a gentleman cannot reveal a secret, of which only half belongs to him."
"It is true; pardon, M. de Carmainges; but, in truth, there is no one so unhappy as I am under heaven."
There was so much real grief and eloquent despair in these words, that Ernanton was profoundly touched.
"Oh! mon Dieu! I understand," said he; "you fear that we are rivals."
"Well; monsieur, I will be frank."
Joyeuse grew pale again.
"I," continued Ernanton, "have a rendezvous."
"In this street?"
"Yes; in very good writing."
"No; a man's."
"What do you mean?"
"What I say. I have an invitation to a rendezvous with a woman, written by a man; it seems she has a secretary."
"Ah! go on, monsieur."
"I cannot refuse you, monsieur. I will tell you the tenor of the note."
"You will see if it is like yours."
"Oh! monsieur, I have no rendezvous—no note."
Ernanton then drew out a little paper. "Here is the note, monsieur," said he; "it would be difficult to read it to you by this obscure light: but it is short, and I know it by heart, if you will trust to me."
"This is it, then: 'M. Ernanton, my secretary is charged by me to tell you that I have a great desire to talk with you for an hour; your merit has touched me.' I pass over another phrase still more flattering."
"Then you are waited for?"
"No; I wait, as you see."
"Are they to open the door to you?"
"No; to whistle three times from the window."
Henri, trembling all over, placed one hand on Ernanton's arm and with the other pointed to the opposite house.
"From there?" said he.
"Oh! no; from there," said Ernanton, pointing to the "Brave Chevalier."
Henri uttered a cry of joy. "Oh! a thousand thanks, monsieur," said he; "pardon my incivility—my folly. Alas! you know, for a man who really loves, there exists but one woman, and, seeing you always return to this house, I believed that it was here you were waited for."
"I have nothing to pardon, monsieur; for really I half-thought you had come on the same errand as myself."
"And you had the incredible patience to say nothing! Ah! you do not love, you do not love."
"Ma foi! I have no great rights as yet; and these great ladies are so capricious, and would, perhaps, enjoy playing me a trick."
"Oh! M. de Carmainges, you do not love as I do; and yet—"
"You are more happy."
"Ah! are they cruel in that house?"
"M. de Carmainges, for three months I have loved like a madman her who lives there, and I have not yet had the happiness of hearing the sound of her voice."
"Diable! you are not far advanced. But stay."
"What is it?"
"Did not some one whistle?"
"Indeed, I think I heard something."
A second whistle was now distinctly heard.
"M. le Comte," said Ernanton, "you will excuse me for taking leave, but I believe that is my signal."
A third whistle sounded.
"Go, monsieur," said Joyeuse; "and good luck to you."
Ernanton made off quickly, while Joyeuse began to walk back more gloomily than ever.
"Now for my accustomed task," said he; "let me knock as usual at this cursed door which never opens to me."
On arriving at the door of the house, poor Henri was seized by his usual hesitation.
"Courage!" said he to himself.
But before knocking, he looked once more behind him, and saw the bright light shining through the windows of the hotel.
"There," said he, "enter for love and joy, people who are invited almost without desiring; why have I not a tranquil and careless heart? Perhaps I might enter there also, instead of vainly trying here."
Ten o'clock struck. Henri lifted the knocker and struck once, then again.
"There," said he, listening, "there is the inner door opening, the stairs creaking, the sound of steps approaching, always the same thing."
And he knocked again.
"There," said he, "he peeps through the trellis-work, sees my pale face, and goes away, always without opening. Adieu, cruel house, until to-morrow."
And he turned to go; but scarcely had he taken two steps, when the key turned in the lock, and, to his profound surprise, the door opened, and a man stood bowing on the threshold. It was the same whom he had seen before.
"Good-evening, monsieur," said he, in a harsh voice, but whose sound appeared to Du Bouchage sweeter than the song of birds.
Henri joined his hands and trembled so that the servant put out a hand to save him from falling, with a visible expression of respectful pity.
"Come, monsieur," said he, "here I am: explain to me, I beg, what you want."
"I have loved so much," replied the young man; "my heart has beat so fast, that I hardly know if it still beats."
"Will it please you, monsieur, to sit down and talk to me?"
"Speak, then, monsieur, and tell me what you desire."
"My friend, you already know. Many times, you know, I have waited for you and surprised you at the turn of a street, and have offered you gold enough to enrich you, had you been the greediest of men; at other times I have threatened you, but you have never listened to me, and have always seen me suffer without seeming to pity me. To-day you tell me to speak—to express my wishes; what then has happened, mon Dieu?"
The servant sighed. He had evidently a pitying heart under a rough covering. Henry heard this sigh, and it encouraged him.
"You know," continued he, "that I love, and how I love; you have seen me pursue a woman and discover her, in spite of her efforts to fly me: but never in my greatest grief has a bitter word escaped me, or have I given heed to those violent thoughts which are born of despair and the fire of youth."
"It is true, monsieur; and in this my mistress renders you full justice."
"Could I not," continued Henri, "when you refused me admittance, have forced the door, as is done every day by some lad, tipsy, or in love? Then, if but for a minute, I should have seen this inexorable woman, and have spoken to her."
"It is true."
"And," continued the young count, sadly, "I am something in this world; my name is great as well as my fortune, the king himself protects me; just now he begged me to confide to him my griefs and to apply to him for aid."
"Ah!" said the servant, anxiously.
"I would not do it," continued Joyeuse; "no, no, I refused all, to come and pray at this door with clasped hands—a door which never yet opened to me."
"M. le Comte, you have indeed a noble heart, and worthy to be loved."
"Well, then, he whom you call worthy, to what do you condemn him? Every morning my page brings a letter; it is refused. Every evening I knock myself at the door, and I am disregarded. You let me suffer, despair, die in the street, without having the compassion for me that you would have for a dog that howled. Ah! this woman has no woman's heart, she does not love me. Well! one can no more tell one's heart to love than not to love. But you may pity the unfortunate who suffers, and give him a word of consolation—reach out your hand to save him from falling; but no, this woman cares not for my sufferings. Why does she not kill me, either with a refusal from her mouth, or some blow from a poniard? Dead, I should suffer no more."
"M. le Comte," replied the man, "the lady whom you accuse is, believe me, far from having the hard, insensible heart you think; she has seen you, and understood what you suffer, and feels for you the warmest sympathy."
"Oh! compassion, compassion!" cried the young man; "but may that heart of which you boast some day know love—love such as I feel, and may they offer her compassion in exchange; I shall be well avenged."
"M. le Comte, not to reply to love is no reason for never having loved. This woman has perhaps felt the passion more than ever you will—has perhaps loved as you can never love."
"When one loves like that, one loves forever," cried Henri, raising his eyes to heaven.
"Did I tell you that she loved no more?"
Henri uttered a doleful cry.
"She loves!" cried he. "Ah! mon Dieu!"
"Yes, she loves; but be not jealous of the man she loves, M. le Comte, for he is no more of this world. My mistress is a widow."
These words restored hope and life to the young man.
"Oh!" cried he, "she is a widow, and recently; the source of her tears will dry up in time. She is a widow, then she loves no one, or only a shadow—a name. Ah! she will love me. Oh! mon Dieu, all great griefs are calmed by time. When the widow of Mausole, who had sworn an eternal grief at her husband's tomb, had exhausted her tears, she was cured. Regrets are a malady, from which every one who survives comes out as strong as before."
The servant shook his head.
"This lady, M. le Comte, has also sworn eternal fidelity to death; but I know her, and she will keep her word better than the forgetful woman of whom you speak."
"I will wait ten years, if necessary; since she lives, I may hope."
"Oh! young man, do not reckon thus. She has lived, you say; yes, so she has, not a month, or a year, but seven years. You hope that she will console herself; never, M. le Comte, never. I swear it to you—I, who was but the servant of him who is dead, and yet I shall never be consoled."
"This man so much regretted, this husband—"
"It was not her husband, it was her lover, M. le Comte, and a woman like her whom you unluckily love has but one lover in her life."
"My friend," cried Joyeuse, "intercede for me."
"I! Listen, M. le Comte. Had I believed you capable of using violence toward my mistress, I would have killed you long ago with my own hand. If, on the contrary, I could have believed that she would love you, I think I should have killed her. Now, M. le Comte, I have said what I wished to say; do not seek to make me say more, for, on my honor—and although not a nobleman, my honor is worth something—I have told you all I can."
"I thank you," said he, "for having had compassion on my misfortunes; now I have decided."
"Then you will be calmer for the future. M. le Comte, you will go away, and leave us to ourselves?"
"Yes, be easy; I will go away, and forever."
"You mean to die?"
"Why not? I cannot live without her."
"M. le Comte, believe me, it is bad to die by your own hand."
"Therefore I shall not choose that death; but there is, for a young man like me, a death which has always been reckoned the best—that received in defending your king and country."
"If you suffer beyond your strength, if you owe nothing to those who survive you, if death on the field of battle is offered to you, die, M. le Comte; I should have done so long ago, had I not been condemned to live."
"Adieu, and thank you," replied Joyeuse.
"Au revoir in another world."
And he went away rapidly, throwing a heavy purse of gold at the feet of the servant.
The whistles which Ernanton had heard were really his signal. Thus, when the young man reached the door, he found Dame Fournichon on the threshold waiting for her customers with a smile, which made her resemble a mythological goddess painted by a Flemish painter, and in her large white hands she held a golden crown, which another hand, whiter and more delicate, had slipped in, in passing.
She stood before the door, so as to bar Ernanton's passage.
"What do you want?" said she to him.
"Were not three whistles given from one of those windows just now?"
"Well, they were to summon me."
"On your honor?"
"As a gentleman, Dame Fournichon."
"Enter, then, monsieur, enter."
And happy at having a client after her own heart, fit for the "Rose-tree of love," the hostess conducted Ernanton up the stairs herself. A little door, vulgarly painted, gave access to a sort of antechamber, which led to a room, furnished, decorated, and carpeted with rather more luxury than might have been expected in this remote corner of Paris; but this was Madame Fournichon's favorite room and she had exerted all her taste to embellish it.
When the young man entered the antechamber, he smelled a strong aromatic odor, the work, doubtless, of some susceptible person, who had thus tried to overcome the smell of cooking exhaled from the kitchen.
Ernanton, after opening the door, stopped for an instant to contemplate one of those elegant female figures which must always command attention, if not love. Reposing on cushions, enveloped in silk and velvet, this lady was occupied in burning in the candle the end of a little stick of aloes, over which she bent so as to inhale the full perfume. By the manner in which she threw the branch in the fire, and pulled her hood over her masked face, Ernanton perceived that she had heard him enter, but she did not turn.
"Madame," said the young man, "you sent for your humble servant—here he is."
"Ah! very well," said the lady; "sit down, I beg, M. Ernanton."
"Pardon, madame, but before anything I must thank you for the honor that you do me."
"Ah! that is civil, and you are right; but I presume you do not know whom you are thanking, M. de Carmainges."
"Madame, you have your face hidden by a mask and your hands by gloves; I cannot then recognize you—I can but guess."
"And you guess who I am?"
"Her whom my heart desires, whom my imagination paints, young, beautiful, powerful, and rich; too rich and too powerful for me to be able to believe that what has happened to me is real, and that I am not dreaming."
"Had you any trouble to enter here?" asked the lady, without replying directly to the words which had escaped from the full heart of Ernanton.
"No, madame; the admittance was easier than I could have thought."
"Yes, all is easy for a man; it is so different for a woman. What were you saying before, monsieur?" added she, carelessly, and pulling off her glove to show a beautiful hand, at once plump and taper.
"I said, madame, that without having seen your face, I know who you are, and without fear of making a mistake, may say that I love you."
"Then you are sure that I am her whom you expected to find here?"
"My heart tells me so."
"Then you know me?"
"Really! you, a provincial, only just-arrived, you already know the women of Paris?"
"In all Paris, madame, I know but one."
"And that is me?"
"I believe so."
"By what do you recognize me?"
"By your voice, your grace, and your beauty."
"My voice, perhaps; I cannot disguise it. My grace; I may appropriate the compliment; but as for my beauty, it is veiled."
"It was less so, madame, on the day when, to bring you into Paris, I held you so near to me that your breast touched my shoulders, and I felt your breath on my neck."
"Then, on the receipt of my letter, you guessed that it came from me?"
"Oh! no, madame, not for a moment; I believed I was the subject of some joke, or the victim of some error, and it is only during the last few minutes that, seeing you, touching you—" and he tried to take her hand, but she withdrew it.
"Enough!" said the lady; "the fact is, that I have committed a great folly."
"In what, madame?"
"In what? You say that you know me, and then ask."
"Oh! it is true, madame, that I am very insignificant and obscure near your highness."
"Mon Dieu! monsieur, pray be silent. Have you no sense?"
"What have I done?" cried Ernanton, frightened.
"You see me in a mask, and if I wear one, it is for disguise, and yet you call me your highness."
"Ah, pardon me, madame," said Ernanton, "but I believed in the discretion of these walls."
"It appears you are credulous."
"Alas! madame, I am in love."
"And you are convinced that I reciprocate this love?"
Ernanton rose piqued.
"No, madame," replied he.
"Then what do you believe?"
"I believe that you have something important to say to me, and that, not wishing to receive me at your hotel, or at Bel-Esbat, you preferred this isolated spot."
"You thought that?"—"Yes."
"And what do you think I could have to say to you?" asked the lady, rather anxiously.
"How can I tell? Perhaps something about M. de Mayenne."
"Had you not already told me all you knew of him?"
"Perhaps, then, some question about last night's event."
"What event? of what do you speak?" asked the lady, visibly agitated.
"Of the panic experienced by M. d'Epernon and the arrest of the Lorraine gentlemen."
"They arrested them?"
"Yes, those who were found on the road to Vincennes."
"Which is also the road to Soissons, where M. de Guise holds his garrison. Ah! M. Ernanton, you, who belong to the court, can tell me why they arrested these gentlemen."
"I belong to the court?"
"You know that, madame?"
"Ah! to find out your address, we were forced to make inquiries. But what resulted from all this?"
"Nothing, madame, to my knowledge."
"Then why did you think I should wish to speak of it?"
"I am wrong again, madame."
"From what place are you, monsieur?"
"What, you are a Gascon! and yet are not vain enough to suppose that when I saw you at the Porte St. Antoine, on the day of Salcede's execution, I liked your looks."
Ernanton reddened, and looked confused.
The lady went on. "That I met you in the street, and found you handsome."
Ernanton grew scarlet.
"That afterward, when you brought me a message from my brother, I liked you."
"Madame, I never thought so, I protest."
"Then you were wrong," said the lady, turning on him two eyes which flashed through her mask.
Ernanton clasped his hands.
"Madame, are you mocking me?" cried he.
"Ma foi! no. The truth is, that you pleased me."
"But you yourself dared to declare your love to me."
"But then I did not know who you were, madame; and now that I do know, I humbly ask your pardon."
"Oh!" cried the lady, "say all you think, or I shall regret having come."
Ernanton fell on his knees.
"Speak, madame, speak, that I may be sure this is not all a dream, and perhaps I shall dare to answer."
"So be it. Here are my projects for you," said the lady, gently pushing Ernanton back, while she arranged the folds of her dress; "I fancy you, but I do not yet know you. I am not in the habit of resisting my fancies; but I never commit follies. Had we been equals, I should have received you at my house, and studied you before I hinted at my feelings; but as that was impossible, I was driven to this interview; now you know what to do; be worthy of me, it is all I ask."
Ernanton exhausted himself in protestations.
"Oh! less warmth, M. de Carmainges, I beg; it is not worth while," replied she, carelessly. "Perhaps it was only your name that pleased me; perhaps it is a caprice, and will pass away. However, do not think yourself too far from perfection, and begin to despair. I hate perfect people, but I adore devoted ones; remember that."
Ernanton was beside himself. This haughty language and proud superiority, yet this frank declaration and abandon, terrified and yet delighted him. He seated himself near the proud and beautiful lady, and then tried to pass his arm behind the cushions on which she reclined.
"Monsieur," said she, "it appears you have heard, but not understood me. No familiarity, if you please; let us each remain in our places. Some day I shall give you the right to call me yours; but this right you have not yet."
Ernanton rose, pale and angry.
"Excuse me, madame," said he, "it seems I commit nothing but follies here; I am not yet accustomed to the habits of Paris. Among us in the provinces, 200 leagues off, when a woman says 'I love,' she loves, and does not hold herself aloof, or take pretexts for humiliating the man at her feet. It is your custom as a Parisian, and your right as a princess. I accept it, therefore, only I have not been accustomed to it. The habit, doubtless, will come in time."
"Ah! you are angry, I believe," said the duchess, haughtily.
"I am, madame, but it is against myself; for I have for you, madame, not a passing caprice, but a real love. It is your heart I seek to obtain, and therefore I am angry with myself for having compromised the respect that I owe you, and which I will only change into love when you command me. From this moment, madame, I await your orders."
"Come, come, do not exaggerate, M. de Carmainges; now you are all ice, after being all flame."
"It seems to me, however, madame—"
"A truce to politeness; I do not wish to play the princess. Here is my hand, take it; it is that of a simple woman."
Ernanton took this beautiful hand respectfully.
"Well, you do not kiss it!" cried the duchess; "are you mad, or have you sworn to put me in a passion?"
"But just now—"
"Just now I drew it away, while now I give it to you."
Ernanton kissed the hand, which was then withdrawn.
"Another lesson," said he. "Assuredly you will end by killing my passion. I may adore you on my knees; but I should have neither love nor confidence for you."
"Oh! I do not wish that, for you would be a sad lover, and it is not so that I like them. No, remain natural, be yourself, M. Ernanton, and nothing else. I have caprices. Oh! mon Dieu, you told me I was beautiful, and all beautiful women have them. Do not fear me; and when I say to the too impetuous Ernanton, 'Calm yourself,' let him consult my eyes and not my voice."
At these words she rose.
It was time, for the young man seized her in his arms, and his lips touched her mask; but through this mask her eyes darted such a flaming glance that he drew back.
"Well," said she, "we shall meet again. Decidedly you please me, M. de Carmainges." Ernanton bowed.
"When are you free?" asked she.
"Alas! very rarely, madame."
"Ah! your service is fatiguing, is it not?"
"That which you perform near the king. Are you not some kind of guard to his majesty?"
"I form part of a body of gentlemen, madame."
"That is what I mean. They are all Gascons, are they not?"
"How many are there? I forget."
"What a singular number!"
"I believe it was chance."
"And these forty-five gentlemen never quit the king, you say?"
"I did not say so, madame."
"Ah! I thought you did; at least, you said you had very little liberty."
"It is true, I have very little; because by day we are on service near the king, and at night we stay at the Louvre."
"In the evening?"
"What would have happened then this evening, if your duty had kept you? I, who waited for you, and should have been ignorant of the cause of your absence, should have thought my advances despised."
"Ah! madame, to see you I will risk all, I swear to you."
"It would be useless and absurd; I do not wish it."
"Do your duty; I will arrange, who am free and mistress of my time."
"What goodness, madame!"
"But you have not explained to me," said the duchess, with her insinuating smile, "how you happened to be free this evening, and how you came."
"This evening, madame, I was thinking of asking permission of De Loignac, our captain, who is very kind to me, when the order came to give a night's holiday to the Forty-five."
"And on what account was this leave given?"
"As recompense, I believe, madame, for a somewhat fatiguing service yesterday at Vincennes."
"Ah! very well."
"Therefore to this circumstance I owe the pleasure of seeing you to-night at my ease."
"Well! listen, Carmainges," said the duchess, with a gentle familiarity which filled the heart of the young man with joy; "this is what you must do, whenever you think you shall be at liberty—send a note here to the hostess, and every day I will send a man to inquire."
"Oh! mon Dieu! madame, you are too good!"
"What is that noise?" said the duchess, laying her hand on his arm.
Indeed, a noise of spurs, of voices, of doors shutting, and joyous exclamations, came from the room below, like the echo of an invasion. Ernanton looked out.
"It is my companions," said he, "who have come here to spend their holiday."
"But by what chance? just where we are."
"Because it is just here, madame, that we each had a rendezvous on our arrival, and on the happy day of their entry in Paris my friends conceived an affection for the wine and the cooking of M. Fournichon. But you, how did you come to choose this place?"
"I chose, and you will easily understand that, the most deserted part of Paris, a place near the river, where no one was likely to recognize me, or suspect that I could come; but, mon Dieu! how noisy your companions are."
Indeed, the noise was becoming a perfect storm, but all at once they heard a sound of footsteps on the little staircase which led to their room, and Madame Fournichon's voice, crying, from below, "M. de St. Maline, M. de St. Maline!"
"Well!" replied the young man.
"Do not go up there, I beg!"
"And why not, dear Madame Fournichon? is not all the house ours to-night?"—"Not the turrets."
"Bah! they are part of the house," cried five or six voices.
"No, they are not; they are private; do not disturb my lodgers."
"Do not disturb me, Madame Fournichon," replied St. Maline.
"For pity's sake!" cried Madame Fournichon.
"Madame," replied he, "it is midnight, and at nine all fires ought to be extinguished; there is a fire now in your turret, and I must see what disobedient subject is transgressing the king's edicts."
And St. Maline continued to advance, followed by several others.
"Mon Dieu! M. de Carmainges," cried the duchess, "will those people dare to enter here?"
"I am here, madame; have no fear."
"Oh! they are forcing the doors," cried she.
Indeed, St. Maline rushed so furiously against the door, that, being very slight, it was at once broken open.
Ernanton's first thought when he saw the door of the antechamber fly open was to blow out the light.
"M. de St. Maline," cried the hostess, "I warn you that the persons whom you are troubling are your friends."
"Well! all the more reason to present our compliments to them," cried Perducas de Pincornay, in a tipsy voice.
"And what friends are they? We will see!" cried St. Maline.
The good hostess, hoping to prevent a collision, glided among them, and whispered Ernanton's name in St. Maline's ear.
"Ernanton!" cried St. Maline, aloud, for whom this revelation was oil instead of water thrown on the fire, "that is not possible."—"And why so?"
"Oh! because Ernanton is a model of chastity and a melange of all the virtues. No, you must be wrong, Madame Fournichon; it cannot be Ernanton who is shut in there."
And he approached the second door, to treat it as he had done the first, when it was opened, and Ernanton appeared on the threshold, with a face which did not announce that patience was one of the virtues which, according to St. Maline, he possessed.
"By what right has M. de St. Maline broken down one door, and intends to break a second?" said he.
"Ah! it is he, really; it is Ernanton!" cried St. Maline. "I recognize his voice; but as to his person, devil take me if I can see it in this darkness."
"You do not reply to my question, monsieur," said Ernanton.
St. Maline began to laugh noisily, which reassured some of his comrades, who were thinking of retiring.
"I spoke; did you not hear me, M. de St. Maline?" said Ernanton.
"Yes, monsieur, perfectly."
"Then what have you to say?"
"We wished to know, my dear friend, if it was you up here."
"Well, monsieur, now you know it, leave me in peace."
"Cap de Bious! have you become a hermit?"
"As for that, monsieur, permit me to leave you in doubt."
"Ah! bah!" cried St. Maline, trying to enter, "are you really alone? you have no light."
"Gentlemen!" said Ernanton, "I know that you are half drunk, and I forgive you; but there is a limit even to the patience that one owes to men beside themselves; your joke is over, do me the favor to retire."
"Oh! oh! retire! how you speak!" said St. Maline.
"I speak so as you may not be deceived in my wishes, and I repeat, gentlemen, retire, I beg."
"Not before we have been admitted to the honor of saluting the person for whom you desert our company. M. de Montcrabeau," continued he, "go down and come back with a light."
"M. de Montcrabeau," cried Ernanton, "if you do that, remember it will be a personal offense to me."
"Good," replied St. Maline, "we have our oath, and M. de Carmainges is so strict that he will not infringe discipline; we cannot draw our swords against each other; therefore, a light, Montcrabeau, a light!"
Montcrabeau descended, and in five minutes returned with a light, which he offered to St. Maline.
"No, no," said he; "keep it; I may, perhaps, want both hands."
And he made a step forward.
"I take you all to witness," cried Ernanton, "that I am insulted without reason, and that in consequence"—and he drew his sword—"I will bury this sword in the breast of the first man who advances."
St. Maline, furious, was about to draw his sword also; but before he had time to do so, the point of Ernanton's was on his breast, and as he advanced a step, without Ernanton's moving his arm, St. Maline felt the iron on his flesh, and drew back furious, but Ernanton followed him, keeping the sword against his breast. St. Maline grew pale; if Ernanton had wished it, he could have pinned him to the wall, but he slowly withdrew his sword.
"You merit two deaths for your insolence," said he, "but the oath of which you spoke restrains me, and I will touch you no more; let me pass. Come, madame, I answer for your free passage."
Then appeared a woman, whose head was covered by a hood, and her face by a mask, and who took Ernanton's arm, tremblingly. St. Maline stood by, stifling with rage at his merited punishment. He drew his dagger as Ernanton passed by him. Did he mean to strike Ernanton, or only to do what he did? No one knew, but as they passed, his dagger cut through the silken hood of the duchess and severed the string of her mask, which fell to the ground. This movement was so rapid that in the half light no one saw or could prevent it. The duchess uttered a cry; St. Maline picked up the mask and returned it to her, looking now full in her uncovered face.
"Ah!" cried he, in an insolent tone, "it is the beautiful lady of the litter. Ernanton, you get on fast."
Ernanton stopped and half-drew his sword again; but the duchess drew him on, saying, "Come on, I beg you, M. Ernanton."
"We shall meet again, M. de St. Maline," said Ernanton, "and you shall pay for this, with the rest."
And he went on without meeting with any further opposition, and conducted the duchess to her litter, which was guarded by two servants. Arrived there and feeling herself in safety, she pressed Ernanton's hand, and said, "M. Ernanton, after what has just passed, after the insult which, in spite of your courage, you could not defend me from, and which might probably be renewed, we can come here no more; seek, I beg of you, some house in the neighborhood to sell or to let; before long you shall hear from me."
"Must I now take leave of you, madame?" said Ernanton, bowing in token of obedience to the flattering orders he had just received.
"Not yet, M. de Carmainges; follow my litter as far as the new bridge, lest that wretch who recognized in me the lady of the litter, but did not know me for what I am, should follow to find out my residence."
Ernanton obeyed, but no one watched them. When they arrived at the Pont Neuf, which then merited the name, as it was scarcely seven years since Ducerceau had built it, the duchess gave her hand to Ernanton, saying, "Now go, monsieur."
"May I dare to ask when I shall see you again, madame?"
"That depends on the length of time which you take in executing my commission, and your haste will be a proof to me of your desire to see me again."
"Oh, madame, I shall not be idle."
"Well, then, go, Ernanton."
"It is strange," thought the young man, as he retraced his steps; "I cannot doubt that she likes me, and yet she does not seem the least anxious as to whether or not I get killed by that brute of a St. Maline. But, poor woman, she was in great trouble, and the fear of being compromised is, particularly with princesses, the strongest of all sentiments."
Ernanton, however, could not forget the insult he had received, and he returned straight to the hotel. He was naturally decided to infringe all orders and oaths, and to finish with St. Maline; he felt in the humor to fight ten men, if necessary. This resolution sparkled in his eyes when he reached the door of the "Brave Chevalier." Madame Fournichon, who expected his return with anxiety, was standing trembling in the doorway. At the sight of Ernanton she wiped her eyes, as if she had been crying, and throwing her arms round the young man's neck, begged for his pardon, in spite of her husband's representations that, as she had done no wrong, she had nothing to be pardoned for. Ernanton assured her that he did not blame her at all—that it was only her wine that was in fault.
While this passed at the door, all the rest were at table, where they were warmly discussing the previous quarrel. Many frankly blamed St. Maline; others abstained, seeing the frowning brow of their comrade. They did not attack with any less enthusiasm the supper of M. Fournichon, but they discussed as they ate.
"As for me," said Hector de Bizan, "I know that M. de St. Maline was wrong, and that had I been Ernanton de Carmainges, M. de St. Maline would be at this moment stretched on the ground instead of sitting here."
St. Maline looked at him furiously.
"Oh, I mean what I say," continued he; "and stay, there is some one at the door who appears to agree with me."
All turned at this, and saw Ernanton standing in the doorway, looking very pale. He descended from the step, as the statue of the commander from his pedestal, and walked straight up to St. Maline, firmly, but quietly.
At this sight, several voices cried, "Come here, Ernanton; come this side, Carmainges; there is room here."
"Thank you," replied the young man; "but it is near M. de St. Maline that I wish to sit." St. Maline rose, and all eyes were fixed on him. But as he rose, his face changed its expression.
"I will make room for you, monsieur," said he, gently; "and in doing so address to you my frank and sincere apologies for my stupid aggression just now; I was drunk; forgive me."
This declaration did not satisfy Ernanton; but the cries of joy that proceeded from all the rest decided him to say no more, although a glance at St. Maline showed him that he was not to be trusted. St. Maline's glass was full, and he filled Ernanton's.
"Peace! peace!" cried all the voices.
Carmainges profited by the noise, and leaning toward St. Maline, with a smile on his lips, so that no one might suspect the sense of what he was saying, whispered:
"M. de St. Maline, this is the second time that you have insulted me without giving me satisfaction; take care, for at the third offense I will kill you like a dog."
And the two mortal enemies touched glasses as though they had been the best friends.
While the hotel of the "Brave Chevalier," the abode, apparently, of the most perfect concord, with closed doors and open cellars, showed through the openings of the shutters the light of its candles and the mirth of its guests, an unaccustomed movement took place in that mysterious house of which our readers have as yet only seen the outside.
The servant was going from one room to another, carrying packages which he placed in a trunk. These preparations over, he loaded a pistol, examined his poniard, then suspended it, by the aid of a ring, to the chain which served him for a belt, to which he attached besides a bunch of keys and a book of prayers bound in black leather.
While he was thus occupied, a step, light as that of a shadow, came up the staircase, and a woman, pale and phantom-like under the folds of her white veil, appeared at the door, and a voice, sad and sweet as the song of a bird in the wood, said: "Remy, are you ready?"
"Yes, madame, I only wait for your box."
"Do you think these boxes will go easily on our horses?"
"Oh! yes, madame, but if you have any fear, I can leave mine; I have all I want there."
"No, no, Remy, take all that you want for the journey. Oh! Remy! I long to be with my father; I have sad presentiments, and it seems an age since I saw him."
"And yet, madame, it is but three months; not a longer interval than usual."
"Remy, you are such a good doctor, and you yourself told me, the last time we quitted him, that he had not long to live."
"Yes, doubtless; but it was only a dread, not a prediction. Sometimes death seems to forget old men, and they live on as though by the habit of living; and often, besides, an old man is like a child, ill to-day and well to-morrow."
"Alas! Remy, like the child also, he is often well to-day and dead to-morrow."
Remy did not reply, for he had nothing really reassuring to say, and silence succeeded for some minutes.
"At what hour have you ordered the horses?" said the lady, at last.
"At two o'clock."
"And one has just struck."
"No one is watching outside?"
"Not even that unhappy young man?"
"Not even he."
And Remy sighed.
"You say that in a strange manner, Remy."
"Because he also has made a resolution."
"What is it?"
"To see us no more; at least, not to try to see us any more."
"And where is he going?"
"Where we are all going—to rest.".
"God give it him eternally," said the lady, in a cold voice, "and yet—"
"Yet what, madame?"
"Had he nothing to do here?"
"He had to love if he had been loved."
"A man of his name, rank, and age, should think of his future."
"You, madame, are of an age, rank, and name little inferior to his, and you do not look forward to a future."
"Yes, Remy, I do," cried she, with a sudden flashing of the eyes; "but listen! is that not the trot of a horse that I hear?"
"Yes, I think so."
"Can it be ours?"
"It is possible; but it is an hour too soon."
"It stops at the door, Remy."
Remy ran down and arrived just as three hurried blows were struck on the door.
"Who is there?" said he.
"I!" replied a trembling voice, "I, Grandchamp, the baron's valet."
"Ah! mon Dieu! Grandchamp, you at Paris! speak low! Whence do you come?"
"From Meridor. Alas, dear M. Remy!"
"Well," cried the lady from the top of the stairs, "are they our horses, Remy?"
"No, madame, it is not them. What is it, Grandchamp?"
"You do not guess?"
"Alas! I do; what will she do, poor lady."
"Remy," cried she again, "you are talking to some one?"
"I thought I knew the voice."
She now descended, saying:
"Who is there? Grandchamp?"
"Yes, madame, it is I," replied the old man sadly, uncovering his white head.
"Grandchamp! you! oh! mon Dieu! my presentiments were right; my father is dead?"
"Indeed, madame, Meridor has no longer a master."
Pale, but motionless and firmly, the lady listened; Remy went to her and took her hand softly.
"How did he die; tell me, my friend?" said she.
"Madame, M. le Baron, who could no longer leave his armchair, was struck a week ago by an attack of apoplexy. He muttered your name for the last time, then ceased to speak, and soon was no more."
Diana went up again without another word. Her room was on the first story, and looked only into a courtyard. The furniture was somber, but rich, the hangings, in Arras tapestry, represented the death of our Saviour, a prie-Dieu and stool in carved oak, a bed with twisted columns, and tapestries like the walls, were the sole ornaments of the room. Not a flower, no gilding, but in a frame of black was contained a portrait of a man, before which the lady now knelt down, with dry eyes, but a sad heart. She fixed on this picture a long look of indescribable love. It represented a young man about twenty-eight, lying half naked on a bed; from his wounded breast the blood still flowed, his right hand hung mutilated, and yet it still held a broken sword. His eyes were closed as though he were about to die, paleness and suffering gave to his face that divine character which the faces of mortals assume only at the moment of quitting life for eternity. Under the portrait, in letters red as blood, was written, "Aut Cæsar aut nihil." The lady extended her arm, and spoke as though it could hear her.
"I had begged thee to wait, although thy soul must have thirsted for vengeance; and as the dead see all, thou hast seen, my love, that I lived only not to kill my father, else I would have died after you; and then, you know, on your bleeding corpse I uttered a vow to give death for death, blood for blood, but I would not do it while the old man called me his innocent child. Thou hast waited, beloved, and now I am free: the last tie which bound me to earth is broken. I am all yours, and now I am free to come to you."
She rose on one knee, kissed the hand, and then went on: "I can weep no more—my tears have dried up in weeping over your tomb. In a few months I shall rejoin you, and you then will reply to me, dear shade, to whom I have spoken so often without reply." Diana then rose, and seating herself in her chair, muttered, "Poor father!" and then fell into a profound reverie. At last she called Remy.
The faithful servant soon appeared.
"Here I am, madame."
"My worthy friend, my brother—you, the last person who knows me on this earth—say adieu to me."
"Why so, madame?"
"Because the time has come for us to separate."
"Separate!" cried the young man. "What do you mean, madame?"
"Yes, Remy. My project of vengeance seemed to me noble and pure while there remained an obstacle between me and it, and I only contemplated it from afar off; but now that I approach the execution of it—now that the obstacle has disappeared—I do not draw back, but I do not wish to drag with me into crime a generous and pure soul like yours; therefore you must quit me, my friend."
Remy listened to the words of Diana with a somber look.
"Madame," replied he, "do you think you are speaking to a trembling old man? Madame, I am but twenty-six; and snatched as I was from the tomb, if I still live, it is for the accomplishment of some terrible action—to play an active part in the work of Providence. Never, then, separate your thoughts from mine, since we both have the same thoughts, sinister as they may be. Where you go, I will go; what you do I will aid in; or if, in spite of my prayers, you persist in dismissing me—"
"Oh!" murmured she, "dismiss you! What a word, Remy!"
"If you persist in that resolution," continued the young man, "I know what I have to do, and all for me will end with two blows from a poniard—one in the heart of him whom you know, and the other in your own."
"Remy! Remy!" cried Diana, "do not say that. The life of him you threaten does not belong to you—it is mine—I have paid for it dearly enough. I swear to you, Remy, that on the day on which I knelt beside the dead body of him"—and she pointed to the portrait—"on that day I approached my lips to that open wound, and the trembling lips seemed to say to me, 'Avenge me, Diana!—avenge me!'"
"Therefore, I repeat, vengeance is for me, and not for you; besides, for whom and through whom did he die? By me and through me."
"I must obey you, madame, for I also was left for dead. Who carried me away from the middle of the corpses with which that room was filled?—You. Who cured me of my wounds?—You. Who concealed me?—You always. Order, then, and I will obey, provided that you do not order me to leave you."
"So be it, Remy; you are right; nothing ought to separate us more."
Remy pointed to the portrait.
"Now, madame," said he, "he was killed by treason—it is by treason that he must be revenged. Ah! you do not know one thing—the hand of God is with us, for to-night I have found the secret of the 'Aqua tofana,' that poison of the Medicis and of Rene the Florentine."
"Come and see, madame."
"But where is Grandchamp?"
"The poor old man has come sixty leagues on horseback; he is tired out, and has fallen asleep on my bed."
"Come, then," said Diana; and she followed Remy.
Remy led the lady into a neighboring room; and pushing a spring which was hidden under a board in the floor, and which, opening, disclosed a straight dark staircase, gave his hand to Diana to help her to descend. Twenty steps of this staircase, or rather ladder, led into a dark and circular cave, whose only furniture was a stove with an immense hearth, a square table, two rush chairs, and a quantity of phials and iron boxes. In the stove a dying fire still gleamed, while a thick black smoke escaped through a pipe fastened into the wall. From a still placed on the hearth a few drops of a liquid, yellow as gold, was dropping into a thick white phial. Diana looked round her without astonishment or terror; the ordinary feelings of life seemed to be unknown to her who lived only in the tomb. Remy lighted a lamp, and then approached a well hollowed out in the cave, attached a bucket to a long cord, let it down into the well, and then drew it up full of a water as cold as ice and as clear as crystal.
"Approach, madame," said he.
Diana drew near. In the bucket he let fall a single drop of the liquid contained in the phial, and the entire mass of the water became instantaneously yellow; then the color evaporated, and the water in ten minutes became as clear as before.
Remy looked at her.
"Well?" said she.
"Well, madame," said he, "now dip in that water, which has neither smell nor color, a glove or a handkerchief; soak it in scented soap, pour some of it into the basin where you are about to wash your hands or face, and you will see, as was seen at the court of Charles IX., the flower kill by its perfume, the glove poison by its contact, the soap kill by its introduction into the pores of the skin. Pour a single drop of this pure oil on the wick of a lamp or candle, and for an hour the candle or lamp will exhale death, and burn at the same time like any other."
"You are sure of what you say, Remy?"
"All this I have tried. See these birds who can now neither drink nor eat; they have drunk of water like this. See this goat who has browsed on grass watered with this same water; he moves and totters; vainly now should we restore him to life and liberty; his life is forfeited, unless, indeed, nature should reveal to his instinct some of those antidotes to poison which animals know, although men do not."—"Can I see this phial, Remy?"
"Yes, madame, presently."
Remy then separated it from the still with infinite care, then corked it with soft wax, tied the top up in cloth, and then presented it to Diana.
She took it, held it up to the light, and, after looking at it, said:
"It will do; when the time arrives we will choose gloves, lamp, soap, or flowers, as convenient. Will the liquor keep in metal?"—"It eats it away."
"But then, perhaps, the bottle will break?"
"I think not—see the thickness of the crystal; besides, we can shut it up in a covering of gold."
"Listen, Remy! I hear horses; I think ours have arrived."
"Probably, madame, it is about the time; but I will go and send them away."
"Are they not useless?"
"Instead of going to Meridor, we will go into Flanders. Keep the horses."
"Ah! I understand!" and Remy's eyes gave forth a flash of sinister joy.
"But Grandchamp; what can we do with him?" said he.
"He has need of repose. He shall remain here, and sell this house, which we require no longer. But restore to liberty that unhappy animal, whom you were forced to torture. As you say, God may care for its recovery."
"This furnace, and these stills?"
"Leave them here."
"But these powders, essences, and acids?"
"Throw them in the fire, Remy."
"Go away, then, or put on this glass mask."
Then, taking similar precautions for himself, he blew up the fire again, poured in the powder, which went off in brilliant sparks, some green and some yellow; and the essences, which, instead of being consumed, mounted like serpents of fire into the pipe, with a noise like distant thunder.
"Now," said Remy, "if any one now discovers this cave, he will only think that an alchemist has been here, and though they still burn sorcerers, they respect alchemists."
"And besides," said the lady, "if they do burn us, provided I have only finished my task, I should not mind that sort of death more than any other."
At this moment they heard knocking.
"Here are our horses, madame," said Remy; "go up quickly, and I will close the trap-door."
Diana obeyed, and found Grandchamp, whom the noise had awakened, at the door.
The old man was not a little surprised to hear of his mistress's intended departure, who informed him of it without telling him where she was going.
"Grandchamp, my friend," said she, "Remy and I are going to accomplish a pilgrimage on which we have long determined; speak of this journey to none, and do not mention my name to any one."
"Oh! I promise you, madame," replied the old servant; "but we shall see you again?"
"Doubtless, Grandchamp; if not in this world, in the next. But, apropos, Grandchamp, this house is now useless to us."
Diana drew from a drawer a bundle of papers.
"Here are the title-deeds; let or sell this house; but if, in the course of a month, you do not find a purchaser, abandon it and return to Meridor."
"But if I find some one, how much am I to ask?"
"What you please, Grandchamp."
"Shall I take the money to Meridor?"
"Keep it for yourself, my good Grandchamp."
"What, madame, such a sum?"
"Yes, I owe it to you for your services; and I have my father's debts to pay as well as my own. Now, adieu!"
Then Diana went upstairs, cut the picture from the frame, rolled it up, and placed it in her trunk.
When Remy had tied the two trunks with leather thongs, and had glanced into the street to see that there were no lookers-on, he aided his mistress to mount.
"I believe, madame," said he, "that this is the last house in which we shall live so long."
"The last but one, Remy."
"And what will be the other?"
"The tomb, Remy."
Our readers must now permit us to leave the king at the Louvre, Henri of Navarre at Cahors, Chicot on the road, and Diana in the street, to go to Flanders to find M. le Duc d'Anjou, recently named Duc de Brabant, and to whose aid we have sent the great admiral of France—Anne, duc de Joyeuse.
At eighty leagues from Paris, toward the north, the sound of French voices was heard, and the French banner floated over a French camp on the banks of the Scheldt. It was night; the fires, disposed in an immense circle, bordered the stream, and were reflected in its deep waters.
From the top of the ramparts of the town the sentinels saw shining, by the bivouac fires, the muskets of the French army. This army was that of the Duc d'Anjou. What he had come to do there we must tell our readers; and although it may not be very amusing, yet we hope they will pardon it in consideration of the warning; so many people are dull without announcing it.
Those of our readers who have read "Chicot,"
already know the Duc d'Anjou, that jealous, egotistical, ambitious prince, and
who, born so near to the throne, had never been able to wait with resignation
until death offered him a free passage to it. Thus he had desired the throne of
He had seen his brother Henri embarrassed in his quarrel with the Guises, but had soon discovered that they had no other aim than that of substituting themselves for the Valois. He had then separated himself from them, although not without danger; besides, Henri III. had at last opened his eyes, and the duke exiled, or something like it, had retired to Amboise.
It was then that the Flemings opened their arms to him. Tired of Spanish rule, decimated by the Duc d'Alva, deceived by the false peace of John of Austria, who had profited by it to retake Namur and Charlemont, the Flemings had called in William of Nassau, prince of Orange, and had made him governor-general of Brabant. A few words about this man, who held so great a place in history, but who will only be named here.
William of Nassau was then about fifty. He was the son of William called the Old, and of Julienne de Stolberg, cousin of that Rene of Nassau killed at the siege of Dizier. He had from his youth been brought up in principles of reform, and had a full consciousness of the greatness of his mission. This mission, which he believed he had received from Heaven, and for which he died like a martyr, was to found the Republic of Holland, in which he was successful. When very young he had been called by Charles V. to his court. Charles was a good judge of men, and often the old emperor, who supported the heaviest burden ever borne by an imperial hand, consulted the child on the most delicate matters connected with the politics of Holland. The young man was scarcely twenty-four when Charles confided to him, in the absence of the famous Philibert Emanuel of Savoy, the command of the army in Flanders. William showed himself worthy of this high confidence: he held in check the Duc de Nevers and Coligny, two of the greatest captains of the time, and under their eyes fortified Philipville and Charlemont. On the day when Charles V. abdicated, it was on William of Nassau that he leaned to descend the steps of the throne, and he it was who was charged to carry to Ferdinand the imperial throne which Charles had resigned.
Then came Philippe II., and in spite of his father's recommendations to him to regard William as a brother, the latter soon found a great difference. This strengthened in his mind the great idea of freeing Holland and Flanders, which he might never have endeavored to carry into effect if the old emperor, his friend, had remained on the throne.
Holland, by his advice, demanded the dismissal of the foreign troops, and then began the bloody struggle of the Spaniards to retain the prey which was escaping from them, and then passed over this unhappy people the vice-royalty of Marguerite of Austria and the bloody consulship of the Duc d'Alva, and then was organized that struggle, at once political and religious, which began with the protest of the Hotel Culembourg, which demanded the abolition of the Inquisition in Holland, and when four hundred gentlemen, walking in pairs, carried to the foot of Marguerite's throne the general desire of the people, as summed up in that protest. At the sight of these gentlemen, so simply clothed, Barlaimont, one of the councilors of the duchess, uttered the word "Gueux," which, taken up by the Flemish gentlemen, so long designated the patriot party. From this time William began to play the part which made him one of the greatest political actors of the world. Constantly beaten by the overwhelming power of Philippe II., he constantly rose again, always stronger after his defeats—always organizing a new army to replace the scattered one, and always hailed as a liberator.
In the midst of these alternate moral triumphs and physical defeats, William learned at Mons the news of the massacre of St. Bartholomew. It was a terrible wound for Holland, and the Calvinist portion of Flanders lost by it their natural allies, the Huguenots of France.
William retreated from Mons to the Rhine, and waited for events. Some of the Gueux was driven by a contrary wind into the port of Brille: and seeing no escape, and pushed by despair, took the city which was preparing to hang them.
This done, they chased away the Spanish garrison, and sent for the Prince of Orange. He came; and as he wished to strike a decisive blow, he published an ordonnance forbidding the Catholic religion in Holland, as the Protestant faith was forbidden in France.
At this manifesto war recommenced. The Duc d'Alva sent his own son Frederic against the revolters, who took from them Zutphen, Nardem, and Haarlem; but this check, far from discouraging them, seemed to give them new strength. All took up arms, from the Zuyderzee to the Scheldt. Spain began to tremble, recalled the Duc d'Alva, and sent as his successor Louis de Requesens, one of the conquerors at Lepanto.
Then began for William a new series of misfortunes—Ludovic and Henri of Nassau, who were bringing him aid, were surprised by one of the officers of Don Louis near Nimegue, defeated and killed; the Spaniards penetrated into Holland, besieged Leyden, and pillaged Antwerp.
All seemed desperate, when Heaven came once more to the aid of the infant Republic. Requesens died at Brussels.
Then all the provinces, united by a common interest, drew up and signed, on the 8th November, 1576, that is to say four days after the sack of Antwerp, the treaty known under the name of the Treaty of Ghent, by which they engaged to aid each other in delivering their country from the yoke of the Spaniards and other foreigners.
Don John reappeared, and with him the woes of Holland; for in less than two months Namur and Charlemont were taken. The Flemings replied, however, to these two checks by naming the Prince of Orange governor-general of Brabant.
Don John died in his turn, and Alexander Farnese succeeded him. He was a clever prince, charming in his manners, which were at once gentle and firm; a skillful politician, and a good general. Flanders trembled at hearing that soft Italian voice call her friend, instead of treating her as a rebel. William knew that Farnese would do more for Spain with his promises than the Duc d'Alva with his punishments. On the 29th January, 1579, he made the provinces sign the Treaty of Utrecht, which was the fundamental base of the rights of Holland. It was then that, fearing he should never be able to accomplish alone the freedom for which he had been fighting for fifteen years, he offered to the Duc d'Anjou the sovereignty of the country, on condition that he should respect their privileges and their liberty of conscience. This was a terrible blow to Philippe II., and he replied to it by putting a price of 25,000 crowns on the head of William. The States-General assembled at the Hague, then declared Philippe deposed from the sovereignty of Holland, and ordered that henceforth the oath of fidelity should be taken to them.
The Duc d'Anjou now entered Belgium, and was well received. Philippe's promise, however, bore its fruits; for in the midst of a fete, a pistol shot was heard; William fell, and was believed dead; but he recovered. The shot had been fired by Jean Jaureguy.
The Flemings then, on William's advice, elected Francois,
duc of Brabant, sovereign prince of
Francois advanced but slowly, however, in Flanders, for the
people were more than half afraid of him; he grew impatient, and determined to
lay siege to
The camp of the new Duke of Brabant was situated on the
banks of the
Indeed, many Calvinists assisted the duke, not from sympathy
for him, but in order to be as disagreeable as possible to Spain and to the
Catholics of France and England; they fought rather from self-love than from
conviction or devotion, and it was certain that, the campaign once over, they
would abandon their leader or impose conditions on him. With regard to these
conditions, the duke always gave them to understand that when the time came he
should be ready, and was constantly saying, "Henri of Navarre made himself
a Catholic, why should not I become a Huguenot?" On the opposite side, on
the contrary, there existed a perfect unity of feeling.
All at once they saw a fleet appear at the mouth of the
Scheldt, and they learned that this fleet was brought by the high admiral of
From their ramparts, the Antwerpians had every day the
spectacle of a dozen duels between Catholics and Protestants; and they threw
into the river as many dead as a combat might have cost the French. If the
While the council was held among his captains, the duke was lying on a couch and listening, not to the advice of the admiral, but to the whispers of Aurilly. This man, by his cowardly compliances, his base flatteries, and his continual assiduities, had secured the favor of the prince. With his lute, his love messages, and his exact information about all the persons and all the intrigues of the court—with his skillful maneuvers for drawing into the prince's net whatever prey he might wish for, he had made a large fortune, while he remained to all appearance the poor luteplayer. His influence was immense, because it was secret.
Joyeuse, seeing the duke talking to Aurilly, stopped short. The duke, who had, after all, been paying more attention than he seemed to do, asked him what was the matter. "Nothing, monseigneur; I am only waiting until your highness is at liberty to listen to me."
"Oh! but I do listen, M. de Joyeuse. Do you think I cannot listen to two people at once, when Cæsar dictated seven letters at a time?"
"Monseigneur," said Joyeuse, with a glance at the musician, "I am no singer to need an accompaniment when I speak."
"Very good, duke; be quiet, Aurilly. Then you disapprove of a coup de main on Antwerp?"—"Yes, monseigneur."
"I adopted this plan in council, however."
"Therefore, monseigneur, I speak with much hesitation, after so many distinguished captains."
And Joyeuse, courtier-like, bowed to all. Many voices were instantly raised to agree with the admiral.
"Comte de St. Aignan," said the prince to one of his bravest colonels, "you are not of the opinion of M. de Joyeuse?"
"Yes, monseigneur, I am."
"Oh! I thought as you made a grimace—"
Every one laughed but Joyeuse, who said, "If M. de St. Aignan generally gives his advice in that manner, it is not very polite, that is all."
"M. de Joyeuse," replied St. Aignan, "his highness is wrong to reproach me with an infirmity contracted in his service. At the taking of Cateau-Cambresis I received a blow on the head, and since that time my face is subject to nervous contractions, which occasion those grimaces of which his highness complains. This is not an excuse that I give you, M. de Joyeuse; it is an explanation," said the count, proudly.
"No, monsieur," said Joyeuse, "it is a reproach that you make, and you are right."
The blood mounted to the face of Duc Francois.
"And to whom is this reproach addressed?" said he.
"To me, probably, monseigneur."
"Why should St. Aignan reproach you, whom he does not know?"
"Because I believed for a moment that M. de St. Aignan cared so little for your highness as to counsel you to assault Antwerp."
"But," cried the prince, "I must settle my position in the country. I am Duke of Brabant and Count of Flanders, in name, and I must be so in reality. This William, who is gone I know not where, spoke to me of a kingdom. Where is this kingdom?—in Antwerp. Where is he?—probably in Antwerp also; therefore we must take Antwerp, and we shall know how we stand."
"Oh! monseigneur, you know it now, or you are, in truth, a worse politician than I thought you. Who counseled you to take Antwerp?—the Prince of Orange. Who disappeared at the moment of taking the field?—the Prince of Orange. Who, while he made your highness Duke of Brabant, reserved for himself the lieutenant-generalship of the duchy?—the Prince of Orange. Whose interest is it to ruin the Spaniards by you, and you by the Spaniards?—the Prince of Orange. Who will replace you, who will succeed, if he does not do so already?—the Prince of Orange? Oh! monseigneur, in following his counsels you have but annoyed the Flemings. Let a reverse come, and all those who do not dare to look you now in the face will run after you like those timid dogs who run after those who fly."
"What! you imagine that I can be beaten by wool-merchants and beer-drinkers?"
"These wool-merchants and these beer-drinkers have given plenty to do to Philippe de Valois, the Emperor Charles V., and Philippe II., who were three princes placed sufficiently high, monseigneur, for the comparison not to be disagreeable to you."
"Then you fear a repulse?"
"Yes, monseigneur, I do."
"You will not be there, M. de Joyeuse."
"Because you can hardly have such doubts of your own bravery as already to see yourself flying before the Flemings. In any case, reassure yourself, these prudent merchants have the habit, when they march to battle, of cumbering themselves with such heavy armor that they would never catch you if you did run."
"Monseigneur, I do not doubt my own courage. I shall be in the front, but I shall be beaten there, as the others who are behind will be."
"But your reasoning is not logical, M. de Joyeuse; you approve of my taking the lesser places."
"I approve of your taking those that do not defend themselves."
"And then I am to draw back from the great city because she talks of defending herself?"
"Better than to march on to destruction."
"Well, I will not retreat."
"Your highness must do as you like; and we are here to obey."
"Prove to me that I am wrong."
"Monseigneur, see the army of the Prince of Orange. It was yours, was it not? Well, instead of sitting down before Antwerp with you, it is in Antwerp, which is very different. William, you say, was your friend and counselor; and now you not only do not know where he is, but you believe him to be changed into an enemy. See the Flemings—when you arrived they were pleased to see you; now they shut their gates at your sight, and prepare their cannon at your approach, not less than if you were the Duc d'Alva. Well! I tell you, Flemings and Dutch, Antwerp and Orange, only wait for an opportunity to unite against you, and that opportunity will be when you order your artillery to fire."
"Well, we will fight at once Flemings and Dutch, Antwerp and Orange."
"No, monseigneur, we have but just men enough to attack Antwerp, supposing we have only the inhabitants to deal with; and while we are engaged in the assault, William will fall on us with his eternal eight or ten thousand men, always destroyed and always reappearing by the aid of which be has kept in check during ten or twelve years the Duc d'Alva, Requesens, and the Duc de Parma."
"Then you persist in thinking that we shall be beaten?"
"Well, it is easy for you to avoid it, M. de Joyeuse," said the prince angrily; "my brother sent you here to aid me, but I may dismiss you, saying that I do not need aid."
"Your highness may say so, but I would not retire on the eve of a battle."
"Well, my dear admiral," said the duke, trying to conciliate, "I may have been too jealous of the honor of my name, and wished too much to prove the superiority of the French army, and I may have been wrong. But the evil is done; we are before armed men—before men who now refuse what they themselves offered. Am I to yield to them? To-morrow they would begin to retake, bit by bit, what I have already conquered. No! the sword is drawn; let us strike, or they will strike first. That is my opinion."
"When your highness speaks thus," said Joyeuse, "I will say no more. I am here to obey you, and will do so with all my heart, whether you lead me to death or victory; and yet—but I will say no more."—"Speak."
"No, I have said enough."
"No, I wish to hear."
"In private then, if it please your highness."
All rose and retired to the other end of the spacious tent.
"Speak," said Francois.
"Monseigneur may care little for a check from Spain, a check which will render triumphant those drinkers of Flemish beer, or this double-faced Prince of Orange; but will you bear so patiently the laughter of M. de Guise?"
"What has M. de Guise to do with it?" said he.
"M. de Guise tried to have you assassinated, monseigneur; Salcede confessed it at the torture, and, if I mistake not, he plays a great part in all this, and he will be delighted to see you receive a check before Antwerp, or even perhaps to obtain, for nothing, that death of a son of France, for which he had promised to pay so dearly to Salcede. Read the history of Flanders, monseigneur, and you will see that the Flemings are in the habit of enriching their soil with the blood of princes, and of the best French warriors."
The duke shook his head.
"Well, Joyeuse," said he, "I will give, if it must be, the cursed joy to the Lorraines of seeing me dead, but not that of seeing me flying. I thirst for glory, Joyeuse; for alone of all my name, I have still my battles to win."
"You forget Cateau Cambresis, monseigneur."
"Compare that with Jarnac and Montcontour, Joyeuse." Then, turning to the others, who were standing far off, he said, "Gentlemen, the assault is still resolved on; the rain has ceased, the ground is good, we will make the attack this night." Joyeuse bowed.
"Will your highness give full directions? we wait for them," said he.
"You have eight vessels, without counting the admiral's ship, have you not, M. de Joyeuse?"
"You will force the line; the thing will be easy, the Antwerpians have only merchant vessels in the port; then you will bring them to bear upon the fort. Then, if the quay is defended, you will attempt a landing with your 1,500 men. Of the rest of the army I will make two columns: one commanded by M. de St. Aignan, the other by myself. Both will attempt an escalade by surprise, at the moment when the first cannon-shot is fired.
"The cavalry will remain in position, in case of a repulse, to protect the retreating columns. Of these three attacks, one must surely succeed. The first column which gains the ramparts will fire a rocket to let the others know."
"But one must think of everything, monseigneur," said Joyeuse; "and supposing all three attacks should fail?"
"Then we must gain the vessels under the protection of our batteries."
"Now, gentlemen, silence," said the duke;
"wake the sleeping troops, and embark; but let not a shot reveal our
design. You will be in the port, admiral, before the Antwerpians suspect your
intention. We shall go along the left bank, and shall arrive at the same time
as yourself. Go, gentlemen, and good courage; our former good luck will not
fail to follow us over the
The captains quitted the prince's tent, and gave their orders with the indicated precautions.
However, the Antwerpians did not quietly see the hostile
preparations of the Duc d'Anjou, and Joyeuse was not wrong in attributing to
them all the enmity possible.