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Title: In Kings' Byways
Author: Weyman, Stanley J.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "In Kings' Byways" ***

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IN KINGS' BYWAYS

BY
STANLEY J. WEYMAN
AUTHOR OF
"A GENTLEMAN OF FRANCE," "THE CASTLE INN," "COUNT HANNIBAL," ETC.

LONGMANS, GREEN, AND CO.
91 AND 93 FIFTH AVENUE, NEW YORK
1902

COPYRIGHT, 1902, BY
STANLEY J. WEYMAN

_All rights reserved._


       *       *       *       *       *


BY STANLEY J. WEYMAN

THE HOUSE OF THE WOLF. A Romance. With Frontispiece and Vignette. Crown
8vo, cloth, $1.25.

THE STORY OF FRANCIS CLUDDE. A Romance. With four Illustrations. Crown
8vo, $1.25.

A GENTLEMAN OF FRANCE. Being the Memoirs of Gaston de Bonne, Sieur de
Marsac. With Frontispiece and Vignette. Crown 8vo, cloth, $1.25.

UNDER THE RED ROBE. With twelve full-page Illustrations. Crown 8vo,
cloth, $1.25.

MY LADY ROTHA. A Romance of the Thirty Years' War. With eight
Illustrations. Crown 8vo, cloth, $1.25.

FROM THE MEMOIRS OF A MINISTER OF FRANCE. With thirty-six Illustrations.
Crown 8vo, cloth, $1.25.

SHREWSBURY. A Romance. With twenty-four Illustrations. Crown 8vo, $1.50.

THE RED COCKADE. A Novel. With 48 illustrations by R. Caton Woodville.
Crown 8vo, $1.50.

THE CASTLE INN. A Novel. With six full-page Illustrations by Walter
Appleton Clarke. Crown 8vo, $1.50.

SOPHIA. A Romance. With twelve full-page Illustrations. Crown 8vo,
$1.50.

New York: LONGMANS, GREEN, AND CO.


       *       *       *       *       *


[Illustration: A DAUGHTER OF THE GIRONDE

_Page 326_]



CONTENTS


PART I

                                                           PAGE

FLORE,                                                        1

CRILLON'S STAKE,                                             51

FOR THE CAUSE,                                               86

THE KING'S STRATAGEM,                                       131

THE HOUSE ON THE WALL,                                      152

HUNT THE OWLER,                                             177

THE TWO PAGES,                                              194


PART II

THE DIARY OF A STATESMAN

    EPISODE OF THE FOWL IN THE POT,                         213

    EPISODE OF THE BOXWOOD FIRE,                            238

    EPISODE OF THE SNOWBALL,                                266


PART III

KING TERROR

    A DAUGHTER OF THE GIRONDE,                              295

    IN THE NAME OF THE LAW,                                 329



PART I



IN KINGS' BYWAYS



FLORE

(1643)


It was about a month after my marriage--and third clerk to the most
noble the Bishop of Beauvais, and even admitted on occasions to write in
his presence and prepare his minutes, who should marry if I might
not?--it was about a month after my marriage, I say, that the
thunderbolt, to which I have referred, fell and shattered my fortunes. I
rose one morning--they were firing guns for the victory of Rocroy, I
remember, so that it must have been eight weeks or more after the death
of the late king, and the glorious rising of the Sun of France--and who
as happy as I? A summer morning, Monsieur, and bright, and I had all I
wished. The river as it sparkled and rippled against the piers of the
Pont Neuf far below, the wet roofs that twinkled under our garret
window, were not more brilliant than my lord the Bishop's fortunes: and
as is the squirrel so is the tail. Of a certainty, I was happy that
morning. I thought of the little hut under the pine wood at Gabas in
Béarn, where I was born, and of my father cobbling by the unglazed
window, his nightcap on his bald head, and his face plaistered where the
sherd had slipped; and I puffed out my cheeks to think that I had
climbed so high. High? How high might not a man climb, who had married
the daughter of the Queen's under-porter, and had sometimes the ear of
my lord, the Queen's minister--my lord of Beauvais in whom all men saw
the coming master of France! my lord whose stately presence beamed on a
world still chilled by the dead hand of Richelieu!

But that morning, that very morning, I was to learn that who climbs may
fall. I went below at the usual hour; at the usual hour Monseigneur
left, attended, for the Council; presently all the house was in an
uproar. My lord had returned, and called for Prosper. I fancied even
then that I caught something ominous in the sound of my name as it
passed from lip to lip; and nervously I made all haste to the chamber.
But fast as I went I did not go fast enough; one thrust me on this side,
another on that. The steward cursed me as he handed me on to the
head-clerk, who stormed at me; while the secretary waited for me at the
door, and, seizing me by the neck, ran me into the room. "In, rascal,
in!" he growled in my ear, "and I hope your skin may pay for it!"

Naturally by this time I was quaking: and Monseigneur's looks finished
me. He stood in the middle of the chamber, his plump handsome face pale
and sullen. And as he scowled at me, "Yes!" he said curtly, "that is the
fellow. What does he say?"

"Speak!" the head-clerk cried, seizing me by the ear and twisting it
until I fell on my knees. "Imbecile! But it is likely enough he did it
on purpose."

"Ay, and was bribed!" said the secretary.

"He should be hung up," the steward cried, truculently, "before he does
further mischief! And if my lord will give the word----"

"Silence!" the Bishop said, with a dark glance at me. "What does he
plead?"

The head-clerk twisted my ear until I screamed. "Ingrate!" he cried. "Do
you hear his Grace speak to you? Answer him aloud!"

"My lord," I cried piteously, "I do not know of what I am accused. And
besides, I have done nothing! Nothing!"

"Nothing!" half a dozen echoed. "Nothing!" the head-clerk added
brutally. "Nothing, and you add a cipher to the census of Paris!
Nothing, and your lying pen led my lord to state the population to be
five millions instead of five hundred thousand! Nothing, and you sent
his Grace's Highness to the Council to be corrected by low clerks and
people, and made a laughing-stock for the Cardinal, and----"

"Silence!" said the Bishop, fiercely. "Enough! Take him away, and----"

"Hang him!" cried the steward.

"No, fool, but have him to the courtyard, and let the grooms flog him
through the gates. And have a care you," he continued, addressing me,
"that I do not see your face again or it will be worse for you!"

I flung myself down and would have appealed against the sentence, but
the Bishop, who had suffered at the Council and whose ears still burned,
was pitiless. Before I could utter three words a dozen officious hands
plucked me up and thrust me to the door. Outside worse things awaited
me. A shower of kicks and cuffs and blows fell upon me; vainly
struggling and shrieking, and seeking still to gain his lordship's ear,
I was hustled along the passage to the courtyard, and there dragged amid
jeers and laughter to the fountain, and brutally flung in. When I
scrambled out, they thrust me back again and again: until, almost dead
with cold and rage, I was at last permitted to escape, only to be hunted
round the yard with stirrup-leathers that cut like knives, and drew a
scream at every stroke. I doubled like a hare; more than once I knocked
half a dozen down; but I was fast growing exhausted, when some one more
prudent or less cruel than his fellows, opened the gates before me, and
I darted into the street.

I was sobbing with rage and pain, dripping, ragged, and barefoot; for
some saving rogue had prudently drawn off my shoes in the scuffle. It
was a wonder that I was not fallen upon and chased through the streets.
Fortunately in the street opposite my lord's gates opened the mouth of a
little alley. I plunged into it, and in the first dark corner dropped
exhausted and lay sobbing and weeping on a heap of refuse. I who had
risen so happily a few hours before! I who had climbed so high! I who
had a wife new-married in my garret at home!

I do not know how long I lay there, now cursing the jealousy of the
clerks, who would have flayed me to save themselves, and now the cruelty
of the grooms who thought it fine sport to whip a scholar. But the first
tempest of passion had spent itself, when a woman--not the first whom my
plight had attracted, but the others had merely shrugged their shoulders
and passed on--paused before me. "What a white skin!" she cried, making
great eyes at me; and they had cut my clothes so that I was half bare to
her. And then, "You are not a street-prowler. How come you here, my lad,
in that guise?"

I was silent, and pretended to be sullen, being ashamed to meet her
gaze.

She stood a moment staring at me curiously. Then, "Better go home," she
said, shaking her head sedately, "or those who have robbed you may end
by worse. I doubt not this is what comes of raking and night-work. Go
home, my lad," she repeated, and went on her way.

Home! The word raised new thoughts, new hopes, new passions. I scrambled
to my feet. I had a home--the Bishop might deprive me of it: but I had
also a wife, from whom God only could separate me. I felt a sudden fire
run through me at the thought of her, and of all I had suffered since I
left her arms: and with new boldness I turned, and sore and aching as I
was, I stumbled back to the place of my shame.

The steward and two or three of his underlings were standing in the
gateway, and saw me approach; and began to jeer. The high grey front of
Monseigneur's hotel, three sides of a square, towered up behind them;
the steward in the opening sprawled his feet apart and set his hands to
his stout sides, and jeered at me. "Ha! ha! Here is the lame leper from
the Cour des Miracles!" he cried. "Have a care or he will give you the
itch!"

"Good sir, the swill-tub is open," cried another, mocking me. "Help
yourself!"

A third spat at me and bade me begone for a pig. The passers--there were
always a knot of gazers opposite my lord of Beauvais' palace in those
days, when we had the Queen's ear and bade fair to succeed
Richelieu--stayed to stare.

"I want my goods," I said, trembling.

"Your goods!" the steward answered, swelling out his brawny chest, and
smiling at me over it. "_Your_ goods, indeed! Begone, and be thankful
you have escaped so well."

"Give me my things--from my room," I said stubbornly; and I tried to
enter. "They are my own!"

He moved sideways so as to block the passage. "Your goods? They are
Monseigneur's," he said.

"My wife, then!"

He winked, the great beast. "Your wife?" he said. "Well, true; she is
not Monseigneur's. But she will do for me." And with a coarse laugh he
winked again at the crowd.

At that the pent-up rage which I had so long stemmed broke out. He stood
a head taller than I, and a foot wider; but with a scream I sprang at
his throat, and by the very surprise of the attack and his unwieldiness,
I got him down and beat his face with my fists. His fellows, as soon as
they recovered from their astonishment, tore me off, showing me no
mercy. But by that time I had so marked him that the blood poured down
his fat cheeks. He scrambled to his feet, panting and furious, his oaths
tripping over one another.

"To the Châtelet with him!" he cried, spitting out a tooth and staring
at me through the mud on his face. "He shall swing for this! He tried to
break in. I call you to witness he tried to break in!"

"Ay, to the Châtelet! To the Châtelet!" cried the crowd, siding with the
stronger party. He was my lord of Beauvais' steward; I was a
gutter-snipe and dangerous. A dozen hands held me tightly; yet not so
tightly, but that, a coach passing at that moment and driving us all to
the wall, I managed by a jerk--I was desperate by this time, and savage
as a wild-cat--to snatch myself loose. In a second I was speeding down
the Rue Bons Enfants with the hue and cry behind me.

I have said, I was desperate. In an hour the world was changed for me.
In an hour I had broken with every tradition of safe and modest and
clerkly life; and from a sleek scribe was become a ragged outlaw flying
through the streets. I saw the gallows, I felt the lash sink like molten
lead into the quivering back, still bleeding from the stirrup-leathers:
I forgot all but the danger. I lived only in my feet, and with them made
superhuman efforts. Fortunately the light was failing, and in the dusk I
distanced the pack by a dozen yards. I passed the corner of the Palais
Royal so swiftly that the Queen's Guards, though they ran out at the
alarm, were too late to intercept me. Thence I turned instinctively to
the left, and with the cry of pursuit in my ears strained towards the
old bridge, intending to cross to the Cité, where I knew all the lanes
and byways. But the bridge was alarmed, the Châtelet seemed to yawn for
me--they were just lighting the brazier in front of the gloomy pile--and
doubling back, while the air roared with shouts of warning and cries of
"Stop thief! Stop thief!"--I evaded my pursuers, and sped up the narrow
Rue Troussevache, with the hue and cry hard on my heels.

I had no plan now, no aim; only terror added wings to my feet. The end
of that street gained I darted blindly down another, and yet another;
with straining chest, and legs that began to fail, and always in my ears
the yells that rose round me as fresh pursuers joined in the chase.
Still I kept ahead, I was even gaining; with night thickening, I might
hope to escape, if I could baffle those who from time to time--but in a
half-hearted way, not knowing if I were armed--made an attempt to stop
me or trip me up.

Suddenly turning a corner--I had gained a quiet part where blind walls
lined an alley--I discovered a man running before me. At the same
instant the posse in pursuit quickened their pace in a last effort; I,
in answer, put forth my last strength, and in a dozen paces I came up
with the man. He turned to me, our eyes met as we ran abreast; desperate
myself, I read equal terror in his look, and before I could think what
it might mean, he bent himself sideways as he ran, and with a singular
movement flung a parcel he carried into my arms. Then wheeling abruptly
he plunged into a side-lane on his left.

It was done in a moment. Instinctively I caught the burden: but the
impetus with which he had passed it to me, sent me reeling to the
right, and the lane being narrow, I fell against the wall before I could
steady myself. As luck would have it, that which should have destroyed
me, was my salvation; I struck the wall where a door broke it, the door,
lightly latched, flew open under the impact, I fell inwards. I alighted,
in darkness, on my hands and knees, heard the stifled yelp of a dog, and
in a second, though I could see nothing, I was up and had the door
closed behind me.

Then I listened. Panting and breathless, I heard the hunt go raving
through the lane, and the noise die in the distance; until only the
beating of my heart broke the close silence of the darkness in which I
stood. When this had lasted a minute or two, I began to peer and wonder
where I was; and remembering the dog I had heard, I moved stealthily to
find the latch, and escape. As I did so, the bundle, to which through
all I had clung--instinctively, for I had not thought of it--moved in my
arms.

I almost dropped it; then I held it from me with a swift movement of
repulsion. It stirred again, it was warm. In a moment the truth flashed
upon me. It was a child!

Burning hot as I had been before, the sweat rose on me at the thought.
For I saw again the man's face of terror, and I guessed that he had
stolen the child, and I feared the worst. He had mistaken the rabble
hooting at my heels for the avengers of blood, and had been only too
thankful to rid himself of the damning fact, and escape.

And now I had it, and had as much, or more, to fear. For an instant the
impulse to lay the parcel down, and glide out, and so be clear of it,
was strong upon me. And that I think is what the ordinary clerk, being
no hero, nor bred like a soldier to risk his life, would have done. But
for one thing, I was desperate. I knew not, after this, whither to go or
where to save myself. For another thing my clerk's wits were already
busy, showing me how with luck I might use the occasion and avoid the
risk; how with luck I might discover the parents and without suffering
for the theft, restore the child. Beyond that I saw an opening vista of
pardon, employment and reward.

Suddenly, the dog whined again, close to me; and that decided me. I had
found the latch by this time, and warily I drew the door open. In a
moment I was in the lane, looking up and down. I saw nothing to alarm
me; darkness had completely fallen, no one was moving, the neighbourhood
seemed to be of the quietest. I made up my mind to take the bold course:
to return at all hazards to the Rue St. Honoré, seek my father-in-law at
the gates of the Palais Royal--where he had the night turn--and throw
the child and myself on his protection.

Without doubt it was the wisest course I could adopt. In those days the
streets of Paris, even in the district of the Louvre and Palais Royal,
were ill-lighted; a network of lanes and dark courts encroached on the
most fashionable parts, and favoured secret access to them, and I
foresaw no great difficulty, short of the moment when I must appear in
the lighted lodge and exhibit my rags. But my evil star was still above
the horizon. I had scarcely reached the end of the lane; I was still
hesitating there, uncertain which way to turn for the shortest course,
when a babel of voices broke on my ear, lights swept round a distant
corner, and I found myself threatened by a new danger. I did not wait to
consider. These people, with their torches and weapons, might have
naught to do with me. But my nerves were shaken, the streets of Paris
were full of terrors, every corner had a gallows for me--and I turned
and, fleeing back the way I had come, I made a hurried effort to find
the house which had sheltered me before. Failing, in one or two trials,
and seeing that the lights were steadily coming on that way, and that in
a moment I must be discovered, I sprang across the way, and dived into
the side-lane by which the child-stealer had vanished.

I had not taken ten steps before some object, unseen in the darkness,
tripped me up, and I fell headlong on the stones. In the fall my burden
rolled from my arms; instantly it was snatched up by a dark figure,
which rose as by magic beside me, and was gone into the gloom almost as
quickly. I got up gasping and limping, and flung a curse after the man;
but the lights already shone on the mouth of the lane in which I stood,
and I had no time to lose if I would not be detected. I set off running
down the passage, turned to the left at the end, and along a second
lane, thence passed into another and a wider road; nor did I stop until
I had left all signs and sounds of pursuit far behind me.

The place in which I came to a stand at last--too weak to run any
farther--was a piece of waste land, in the northern suburbs of the city.
High up on the left I could discern a light or two, piercing the gloom
of the sky; and I knew they shone from the wind-mills of Montmartre. In
every other direction lay darkness; desolation swept by the night wind;
silence broken only by the dismal howling of far-off watch-dogs. I might
have been ten miles from Paris: even as I was a thousand miles from the
man who had risen so happily that morning.

For very misery I sobbed aloud. I did not know exactly where I was; nor
had I known, had I the strength to return. Excitement had carried me
far, but suddenly I felt the weakness of exhaustion, and sick and aching
I craved only a hole in which to lie down and die. Fortunately at this
moment I met the wind, and caught the scent of new-mown hay: stumbling
forward a few steps with such strength as remained, I made out a low
building looming through the night. I staggered to it; I discovered that
it was a shed; and entering with my hands extended, I felt the hay under
my feet. With a sob of thankfulness I took two steps forward and sank
down; but instead of the soft couch I expected, I fell on the angular
body of a man, who with a savage curse rose and flung me off.

This at another time would have scared me to death; but I was so far
gone in wretchedness that I felt no fear and little surprise. I rolled
away without a word, and curling myself up at a distance of a few feet
from my fellow-lodger, fell in a minute fast asleep.

When I awoke, daylight, though the sun was not up, was beginning to
creep into the shed. I turned, every bone in my body ached: the weals of
the stirrup-leathers smarted and burned. I remembered yesterday's
doings, and groaned. Presently the hay beside me rustled, and over the
shoulder of the mass against which I lay I made out the face of a man,
peering curiously at me. I had not yet broken with every habit of
suspicion, nor could in a moment recollect that I had nothing but rags
to lose; and I gazed back spellbound. In silence which neither broke by
so much as a movement we waited gazing into one another's eyes; while
the light in the low-roofed hovel grew and grew, and minute by minute
brought out more clearly the other's features.

At length I knew him, and almost at the same moment he recognized me;
uttering an oath of rage, he rose up as if to spring at my throat. But
either because I did not recoil--being too deep-set in the hay to
move--or for some other reason, he only shook his claw-like fingers at
me, and held off. "Where is it, you dog?" he cried, finding his voice
with an effort. "Speak, or I will have your throat slit. Speak; do you
hear? What have you done with it?"

He was the man who had passed the child to me! I watched him heedfully,
and after a moment's hesitation I told him that it had been taken from
me, and I told him when and where.

"And you don't know the man who took it?" he screamed.

"Not from Adam," I said. "It was dark."

In his disappointment and rage, at receiving the answer, I thought again
that he would fall upon me: but he only choked and swore, and then stood
scowling, the picture of despair. Until, some new thought pricking him,
he threw up his arms and cried out afresh. "_Oh, mon dieu_, what a fool
I was!" he moaned. "What a craven I was! I had a fortune in my hands,
and, fool that I was, I threw it away!"

I thought bitterly of my own case--I was not much afraid of him now, for
I began to think that I understood him. "So had I, yesterday morning,"
I said, "a fortune. You are in no worse case than others."

"Yesterday morning!" he exclaimed. "No, last night. Then, if you like,
you had. But yesterday morning? Fortune and you, scarecrow? Go hang
yourself."

He looked gloomily at me for a moment with his arms crossed on his
chest, and his face darkly set. Then "Who are you?" he asked.

I told him. When he learned that the rabble that had alarmed him, had in
fact been pursuing me--so that his fright had been groundless--he broke
into fresh execrations: and these so violent that I began to feel a sort
of contempt for him, and even plucked up spirit to tell him that look as
disdainfully as he might at me, he seemed to be in no better case.

He looked at me askance at that. "Ay, as it turns out," he said grimly.
"In worse case, if you please. But see the difference, idiot. You are a
poor fool beaten from pillar to post; at all men's mercy, and naught to
get by it; while I played for a great stake. I have lost, it is true! I
have lost!" he continued, his voice rising almost to a yell, "and we are
both in the gutter. But if I had won--if I had won, man----"

He did not finish the sentence but flung himself down on his face in the
hay, and bit and tore it in his passion. A moment I viewed him with
contempt, and thought him a poor creature for a villain. Then the skirt
of his coat, curling over as he grovelled and writhed, disclosed
something that turned my thoughts into another channel. Crushed under
his leather girdle was a little cape, or a garment of that kind, of
velvet so lustrous that it shone in the dark place where I saw it, as
the eyes shine in a toad. Nor it only: before he rolled over and hid it
again, I espied embroidered on one corner of the velvet a stiff gold
crown!

It was with difficulty that I repressed a cry. Cold, damp, aching, I
felt the heat run through me like wine. A crown! A little purple cape!
And taken beyond doubt from the infant he had stolen last night! Then
last night--last night I had carried the King! I had carried the King of
France in my arms.

I no longer found it hard to understand the man's terror of yesterday;
or his grief and despair of this morning. He had indeed played for a
great stake; he had risked torture and the wheel; death in its most
horrible form. And that for which he had risked so much he had
lost!--lost!

I looked at him with new eyes, and a sort of wonder: and had scarcely
time to compose my face, when, the paroxysm of his fury spent, he rose,
and looking at me askance, to see how I took his actions, he asked me
sullenly whither I was going.

"To Monseigneur's," I said cunningly: had I answered, "To the Palais
Royal," he would have suspected me.

"To the Bishop's?"

"Where else?"

"To be beaten again?" he sneered.

I said nothing to that, but asked him whither he was going.

"God knows," he said. "God knows!"

But when I went out, he accompanied me; and we slunk silently, like the
pair of night-birds we were, through lanes and alleys until we were
fairly in town again. By that time the sun was up and the market people
were beginning to enter the city. Here and there eyes took curious note
of my disorder: and thinking of the company I was in, I trembled, and
wondered that the alarm was not abroad and the bells proclaiming us from
every tower. I was more than content, therefore, when my companion at
the back of the Temple halted before a small door in a blind wall. Over
against it stood another small door in the opposite wall.

"Do you stay here?" I said.

He swore churlishly. "What is that to you?" he said, looking up and
down. "Go your way, idiot."

I was glad to affect a like ill-humour, shrugged my shoulders, and
lounged on without looking back. But my brain was on fire. The King! The
four-year-old King! What was I to do? To whom to go with my knowledge?
And then--even then, while I paused hesitating, I heard steps running
behind me, and I turned to find him at my elbow. His face was pale, but
his eyes burned with eagerness, and his whole demeanour was changed.

"Stay!" he cried panting; and then seizing me peremptorily by the breast
of my shirt, "the man who tripped you up, fellow--you did not see him?"

"It was dark," I answered curtly. "I told you I did not know him from
Adam."

"But had he--" he gasped, "you heard him run away--was he lame?"

I could not repress an exclamation. "_Par dieu!_" I said. "Yes, I had
forgotten that. I think he was. I remember I heard his foot go
cluck--clack, cluck--clack as he ran."

His face became burning red, and he staggered. If ever man was near
dying from blood in his head, it was that man at that moment! But after
a while he drew a long breath, and got the better of it, nodded to me,
and turned away. I marked, however--for I stood a moment, watching--that
he did not go back to the door at which I had left him: but after
looking round once and espying me standing, he took a lane on the right
and disappeared.

But I knew or thought that I knew all now; and the moment he was out of
sight, I set off towards the Palais Royal like a hound let loose,
heeding neither those against whom I bumped in the straiter ways, nor
the danger I ran of recognition, nor the miserable aspect I wore in my
rags. I forgot all, save my news, even my own wretchedness; and never
halted or stayed to take breath until I crept panting into the doorway
of the lodge at the Palais, and met my father-in-law's look of disgust
and astonishment.

He was just off the night turn, and met me on the threshold. I saw
beyond him the grinning faces of the under-porters. But I had that to
tell which still upheld me. I threw up my hands.

"I know where they are!" I cried breathlessly. "I can take you to them!"

He gazed at me, dumb for the moment with surprise and rage; and
doubtless a less reputable son-in-law than I appeared, it would have
been hard to find in all Paris. Then his passion found vent. "Pig!" he
cried. "Jackal! Gutter-bird! Begone! I have heard about you! Begone! or
I will have you flayed!"

"But I know where they are! I know where they have him!" I protested.

His face underwent a startling change. He stepped forward with a
nimbleness wonderful in one of his bulk, and he caught me by the collar.
"What," he said, "have you seen the dog?"

"The dog?" I cried. "No, but I have seen the King! I have held him in my
arms! I know where he is."

He released me suddenly, and fell back a pace, looking at me so oddly
that I paused. "Say it again," he said slowly. "You have held the----"

"The King! The King!" I cried impatiently. "In these arms. Last night! I
know where they have him, or at least--where the robbers are."

His double chin fell, and his fat face lost colour. "Poor devil!" he
said, staring at me like one fascinated. "They have took his senses from
him."

"But--" I cried, advancing, "are you not going to do anything?"

He waved me off, and retreating a step, crossed himself. "Jacques!" he
said, speaking to one of the porters, but without taking his eyes off
me, "move him off! Move him off; do you hear, man? He is not safe!"

"But I tell you," I cried fiercely, "they have stolen the King! They
have stolen his Majesty, and I--have held him in my arms. And I
know----"

"There, there, be calm," he answered. "Be calm, my lad. They have stolen
the Queen's dog, that is true. But have it your own way if you like,
only go. Go from here, and quickly, or it will be the worse for you; for
here comes Monseigneur the Bishop to wait on her Majesty, and if he sees
you, you will suffer worse things. There, make way, make way!" he
continued, turning from me to the staring crowd that had assembled.
"Way, for Monseigneur the Bishop of Beauvais! Make way!"

As he spoke, the Bishop in his great coach turned heavily out of the
Rue St. Honoré, and the crowd attending him eddied about the Palace
entrance. I was hustled and swept out of the way, and fortunately
escaping notice, found myself a few minutes later crouching in a lane
that runs beside the church of St. Jacques. I was wolfing a crust of
bread, which one of the men with whom I had often talked in the lodge
had thrust into my hand. I ate it with tears: in all Paris, that day,
was no more miserable outcast. What had become of my little wife I knew
not; and I dared not show myself at the Bishop's to ask. My
father-in-law, I feared, was hardened against me, and at the best
thought me mad. I had no longer home or friend, and--this at the moment
cut most sharply--the gorgeous hopes in which I had indulged a few
moments before were as last year's snow! The King was not lost!

I crouched and shivered. In St. Antoine's, at the mouth of the lane, a
man was beating a drum preparatory to publishing a notice; and
presently his voice caught my attention in the middle of my
lamentations. I listened, at first idly, then with my mind.
"Oyez! Oyez!" he cried. "Whereas some evil person, having no fear
of God or of the law before his eyes, has impudently, feloniously,
and treasonably stolen from the Palais Royal, a spaniel, the property
of the Queen-Regent's most excellent Majesty, this is to say, that any
one--rumble--rumble--rumble"--here a passing coach drowned some
sentences--after which I caught--"five hundred crowns, the same to be
paid by Monseigneur the Bishop of Beauvais, President of the Council!"

"And glad to pay it," snarled a voice, quite close to me. I started and
looked up. Two men were talking at a grated window above my head. I
could not see their faces.

"Yet it is a high price for a dog," the other sneered.

"But low for a queen. Yet it will buy her. And this is Richelieu's
France!"

"Was!" the other said pithily. "Well, you know the proverb, my friend.
'A living dog is better than a dead lion.'"

"Ay," his companion rejoined, "but I have a fancy that _that_ dog's name
is spelt neither with an F for Flore--which was the whelp's name, was it
not?--nor a B for Beauvais; nor a C for Condé; but with an M----"

"For Mazarin!" the other answered sharply. "Yes, if he find the dog. But
Beauvais is in possession."

"Rocroy, a hit that counted for Condé shook him; you may be sure of
that."

"Still he is in possession."

"So is my shoe in possession of my foot," was the keen reply. "And
see--I take it off. Beauvais is tottering, I tell you; tottering. It
wants but a shove, and he falls."

I heard no more, for they moved from the window into the room; but they
left me a different man. It was not so much the hope of reward as the
desire for vengeance that urged me; my clerk's wits returned once more,
and in the very desperation of my affairs gave me the courage I
sometimes lacked. I recognized that I had not to do with a King, but a
dog; but that none the less that way lay revenge. And I rose up and
slunk again into the main street and passed through the crowd and up the
Rue St. Martin and by St. Merri, a dirty, ragged, barefoot rascal from
whom people drew their skirts; yes, all that, and the light of the sun
on it--all that, and yet vengeance itself in the body--the hand that
should yet drag my cruel master's _fauteuil_ from under him.

Once I halted, weighing the risks and whether I should take my knowledge
direct to the Cardinal and let him make what use he pleased of it. But I
knew nothing definite, and hardening my heart to do the work myself, I
went on, until I found again the alley between the blind walls where I
had left the dog-stealer. It was noon. The alley was empty, the
neighbouring lane at the back of the Filles Dieu towards St. Martin's
was empty. I looked this way and that and slowly went down to the door
at which the man had halted in his despair; but to which, as soon as he
knew that the game was not lost, he had been heedful not to return while
I watched him.

There, seeing all so quiet, with the green of a tree showing here and
there above the dead wall, I began to blench and wonder how I was to
take the next step. And for half an hour, I dare say, I sneaked to and
fro, now in sight of the door and now with my back to it; afraid to
advance, and ashamed to retreat. At length I came once more through the
alley, and, seeing how quiet and respectable it lay, with the upper part
of a house visible at intervals above the wall, I took heart of grace
and tried the door.

It was so firmly closed, that I despaired; and after looking to assure
myself that the attempt had not been observed, I was going to move away,
when I espied the edge of a key projecting from under the door. Still
all was quiet. A stealthy glance round, and I had out the key. To draw
back now was to write myself craven all my life; and with a shaking hand
I thrust the wards into the lock, turned them, and in another moment
stood on the other side of the door in a neat garden, speckled with
sunshine and shade, and where all lay silent.

I remained a full minute, flattened against the door, staring fearfully
at the high-fronted mansion that beyond the garden looked down on me
with twelve great eyes. But all remained quiet, and observing that the
windows were shuttered, I took courage to move, and slid under a tree
and breathed again.

Still I looked and listened, fearfully, for the silence seemed to watch
me; and the greenness and orderliness of the place frightened me. But
nothing happened, and everything I saw went to prove that the house was
empty. I grew bolder then, and sneaking from bush to bush, reached the
door and with a backward glance between courage and desperation tried
it.

It was locked, but I hardly noticed that; for, as my hand left the
latch, from some remote part of the house came the long-drawn whine of a
dog!

I stood, listening and turning hot and cold in the sunshine; and dared
not touch the latch again lest others should hear the noise. Instead, I
stole out of the doorway, and crept round the house and round the house
again, hunting for a back entrance. I found none; but at last, goaded by
the reflection that fortune would never again be so nearly within my
grasp, I marked a window on the first floor, and at the side of the
house; by which it seemed to me that I might enter. A mulberry-tree
stood by it, and it lacked bars; and other trees veiled the spot. To be
brief, in two minutes I had my knee on the sill, and, sweating with
terror--for I knew that if I were taken I should hang for a thief--I
forced in the casement, and dropped on the floor.

There I waited a while, listening. I was in a bare room, the door of
which stood ajar. Somewhere in the bowels of the house the dog whined
again--and again; otherwise all was still--deadly still. But I had
risked too much to stand now; and in the end, emboldened by the silence,
I crept out and stole along a passage, seeking the way to the lower
floor.

The passage was dark, and every board on which I stepped shrieked the
alarm. But I felt my way to the landing at the head of the stairs, and I
was about to descend, when some impulse, I know not what--perhaps a
shrinking from the dark parts below, to which I was about to trust
myself--moved me to open one of the shutters and peer out.

I did so, cautiously, and but a little--a few inches. I found myself
looking, not into the garden through which I had passed, but into the
one over the way, beyond the alley, and there on a scene so strange and
yet so apropos to my thoughts, that I paused, gaping.

On a plat of grass four men were standing, two and two; between them,
with nose upraised and scenting this way and that, moved a beautiful
curly-haired spaniel, in colour black and tan. The eyes of all four men
were riveted to the dog; which, as I looked, walked sedately first to
the one pair, and then, as if dissatisfied, to the other pair; and then
again stood midway and sniffed the air. The men were speaking, but I
could not catch even their voices, and I was reduced to drawing what
inferences I could from their appearance.

Of the two further from me, one was my rascally bed-fellow; the other
was a crooked villain, almost in rags, with a leg shorter than its
comrade, yet a face bold and even handsome. Of the nearer pair, who had
their backs to me, the shorter, dressed in black, wore the ordinary
aspect of a clerk, or confidential attendant; but when my eyes travelled
to his companion, they paused. He, it was plain to me, was the chief of
the party, for he alone stood covered; and though I could not see his
face nor more of his figure than that he was tall, portly, and of very
handsome presence, it chanced that as I looked he raised his hand to his
chin, and I caught on his thumb, which was white as a woman's, the
sparkle of a superb jewel.

That dazzled me, and the presence of the dog puzzled me; and I continued
to watch, forgetting myself. Presently the man again raised his hand,
and this time it seemed to me that an order was given, for the lame man
started into action, and moved briskly across the sward towards the wall
which bordered the garden on my side--and consequently towards the house
in which I stood. Before he had moved far my companion of the night
interposed; apparently he would have done the errand himself. But at a
word he stood sulkily and let the other proceed; who when he had all but
disappeared--on so little a thing my fortunes turned--below the level of
the intervening walls, looked up and caught sight of me at the window.

Apparently he gave the alarm; for in an instant the eyes of all four
were on me. I hung a moment in sheer surprise, too much taken aback to
retreat; then, as the lame man and his comrade sprang to the door in the
wall--with the evident intention of seizing me--I flung the shutter
close, and, cursing my curiosity, I fled down the stairs.

I had done better had I gone to the window by which I had entered, for
all below was dark; and at the foot of the staircase, I stood, unable,
in my panic, to remember the position of the door. A key grating in the
lock informed me of this, but too late. On the instant the door opened,
a flood of light entered, a cry warned me that I was detected. I turned
to reascend, but stumbled before I had mounted six steps, and as I tried
to rise, felt a weight fall on my back, and the clutch of long fingers
close about my throat. I screamed, as I felt the fingers close in a
grip, deadly, cold, and merciless--then in sheer terror I swooned.

When I recovered my senses, I found myself propped in a chair, and for a
time sat wondering, with an aching head, where I was. In front of me a
great door stood open, admitting a draught of summer air, and a flood of
sunshine that fell even to my feet. Through the doorway I looked on
grass and trees, and heard sparrows twitter, and the chirp of crickets;
and I found all so peaceful that my mind went no further, and it was
only after some minutes that I recognized with a sharp return of terror,
that turned me sick, that I was still in the hall of the empty house.
That brought back other things, and with a shudder I carried my hand to
my throat and tried to rise. A hand put me back, and a dry voice said in
my ear, "Be easy, Monsieur Prosper, be easy. You are quite safe. But I
am afraid that in our haste we have put you to some inconvenience."

I looked with a wry face at the speaker, and recognized him for one of
those I had seen in the garden. He had the air of a secretary or--as he
stood rubbing his smooth chin and looking down at me with a saturnine
smile--of a physician. I read in his eyes something cold and not too
human, yet it went no further. His manner was suave, and his voice, when
he spoke again, as well calculated to reassure as his words were to
surprise me.

"You are better now?" he said. "Yes, then I have to congratulate you on
a strange chance. Few men, Monsieur Prosper, few men, believe me, were
ever so lucky. You were lately I think in the service of Monseigneur the
Bishop of Beauvais, President of her Majesty's Council?"

I fancied that a faint note of irony lurked in his words--particularly
as he recited my late master's titles. I kept silence.

"And yesterday were dismissed," he continued easily, disregarding my
astonishment. "Well, to-day you shall be reinstated--and rewarded. Your
business here, I believe, was to recover her Majesty's dog, and earn the
reward?"

I remembered that the wretch whose fingermarks were still on my throat
might be within hearing, and I tried to utter a denial.

He waved it aside politely. "Just so," he said. "But I know your mind,
better than you do yourself. Well, the dog is in that closet; and on two
conditions it is at your service."

Amazed before, I stared at him now, in a stupor of astonishment.

"You are surprised?" he said. "Yet the case is of the simplest. We stole
the dog, and now have our reasons for restoring it; but we cannot do so
without incurring suspicion. You, on the other hand, who are known to
the Bishop, and did not steal it, may safely restore it. I need not say
that we divide the reward; that is one of the two conditions."

"And the other?" I stammered.

"That you refresh your memory as to the past," he answered lightly. "If
I have the tale rightly, you saw a man convey a dog to this house, an
empty house in the Montmartre Faubourg. You watched, and saw the man
leave, and followed him; he took the alarm, fled, and dropped in his
flight the dog's coat. I think I see it there. On that you hurried with
the coat to Monseigneur, and gave him the address of the house, and----"

"And the dog!" I exclaimed.

"No. Let Monseigneur come and find the dog for himself," he answered,
smiling. "In the closet."

I felt the blood tingle through all my limbs. "But if he comes, and does
not find it?" I cried.

The stranger shrugged his shoulders. "He will find it," he said coolly.
And slightly raising his voice, he called "Flore! Flore!" For answer a
dog whined behind a door, and scratched the panels, and whined again.

The stranger nodded, and his eyes sparkled as if he were pleased.
"There," he said, "you have it. It is there and will be there. And I
think that is all. Only keep two things in mind, my friend. For the
first, a person will claim our share of the reward at the proper time:
for the second, I would be careful not to tell Monseigneur the President
of the Council"--again that faint note of irony--"the true story, lest a
worse thing happen!" And the stranger, with a very ugly smile, touched
his throat.

"I will not!" I said, shuddering. "But----?"

"But what?"

"But I may not," I said faintly--I hated the Bishop--"I may not get
speech of Monseigneur. May I not then take the news to the Palais Royal
and--and let the Queen know directly? Or go with it to the Cardinal?"

"No, you may not!" he said, with a look and in a tone that sent a shiver
down my back. "The Cardinal? What has the Cardinal to do with it?
Understand! You must do precisely that and that only which I have told
you, and add not a jot nor a tittle to it!"

"I will do it," I muttered in haste. My spite against the Bishop was a
small thing beside my neck. And there was the reward!

"Good! Then--then, I think that is all," he answered, seeing in my face,
I think, that I was minded to be obedient. "And I may say farewell.
Until we meet again, adieu, Monsieur Prosper! Adieu, and remember!" And
setting on his hat with a polite gesture, he turned his back to me, went
out into the sunlight, passed to the left, and vanished. I heard the
garden door close with a crash, and then, silence--silence, broken only
by the faint whine of the dog, as it moved in its prison.

Was I alone? I waited awhile before I dared to move; and even when I
found courage to rise, I stood listening with a beating heart, expecting
a footfall on the stairs or that something--I knew not what--would rush
on me from the closed doors of this mysterious house. But the silence
endured. The sparrows outside twittered, the cricket renewed its chirp,
and at length, drawing courage from the sunlight, I moved forward and
lifted the dog's coat from the floor. I examined it: it was the one I
had seen in the possession of the man in the shed. Five minutes later I
was in the streets on my way to the Bishop's hotel, the parcel of velvet
tucked under my girdle.

I have since thought that I did not fully appreciate at the moment the
marvel that had happened to me. But by this time in truth I was nearly
light-headed. I went my way as a man moves in a dream, and even when I
found myself at the door of the hotel, whence I had been so cruelly
ejected, I felt none of those qualms which must have shaken me had I
been sensible. I did not even question how I should reach Monseigneur,
or get the news to him: which proves that we often delude ourselves with
vain fears, and climb obstacles where none exist. For, as it happened,
he was descending from his coach when I entered the yard, and though he
raised his gold-headed staff at sight of me, and in a fury bade the
servants put me out, I had the passion if not the wit to wave the velvet
coat in his face, and cry my errand before them all.

Heaven knows at that there was such a sudden pause and about-face as
must have made even the stolen dog laugh had it been there. Monseigneur
in high excitement bade them bring me in to him as soon as he was
shifted, the secretary whispered in my ear that he had a cloak that
would replace the one I had lost, a valet told me that my wife was gone
to her father's, a serving-man brought me food, and nudged me to
remember him, while others ran and fetched me shoes and a cap; and
all--all from the head-clerk, who was most insistent, downwards, would
know where the dog was, and how I came to know what I did.

But I had even then the sense to keep my secret, and would tell my story
only to the Bishop. He had me in, and heard it. In ten minutes he was in
his coach on his way to the Montmartre Faubourg, taking me with him.

His presence and the food they had given me while I waited had sobered
me somewhat; and I trembled as we went lest the man who had spared me on
terms so strange had some disappointment yet in store for me, lest the
closet be found empty. But a whine, that grew into a long and melancholy
howl, greeted us on the threshold of the room whither I led them; and
the closet door being forced, in a trice the dog was out and amongst us.

Monseigneur clapped his hands and swore freely. "_Dieu benisse!_" he
cried. "It is the dog, sure enough! Here, Flore! Flore!" And as the dog
jumped on us and licked his hand, he turned to me. "Lucky for you,
rascal!" he cried, in great good humour. "There shall be fifty crowns in
your pocket, and your desk again!"

I gasped. "But the reward, Monseigneur?" I stammered. "The five hundred
crowns?"

He bent his black eyebrows. "Reward? Reward, villain?" he thundered. "Do
I hear aright? Is it not enough that I spare you the gallows you richly
earned but yesterday by assaulting my servant? Reward? For what do I pay
you wages, do you think, except to do my work? Are you not my servant?
Go and hang yourself! Or rather," he continued grimly, "stir at your
peril. Look to him, Bonnivet, he is a rogue in grain; and bring him with
me to the Queen's ante-chamber, Her Majesty may desire to ask him
questions, and if he answer them well and handsomely, good! He shall
have the fifty crowns I promised him. If not--I shall know how to deal
with him."

At that, and the mean treachery of his conduct, I fell into my old rage
again, and even his servants looked oddly at him, until a sharp word
recalled them to their duty; on which they hustled me off with little
ceremony, and the less for that which they had before showed me. While
the Bishop, carrying the dog in his arms, mounted his coach and went by
the Rue St. Martin and the Lombards, they hurried me by short cuts and
byways to the Palais Royal, which we reached as his running footman came
in sight. The approach to the gate was blocked by a great crowd of
people, and for a moment I was fond enough to imagine that they had to
do with our affair--and I shrank back. But the steward, with a thrust of
his knee against my hip, which showed me that he had not forgotten my
assault upon him, urged me forward, and from what passed round me as we
pushed through the press, I gathered that a score of captured colours
had arrived from Flanders within the hour, and were about to be
presented to the Queen.

The courtyard confirmed this, for in the open part of it, and much
pressed upon by the curious who thronged the arcades, we found a troop
of horse, plumed and dusty and travel-stained, fresh from the Flanders
road. The officers who bore the trophies we overtook on the stairs near
the door of the ante-chamber. Burning with resentment as I was, and
strung to the last pitch of excitement, I none the less remember that I
thought it an odd time to push in with a dog; but Monseigneur the Bishop
did not seem to see this. Whether he took a certain pleasure in
belittling the war-party, to whom he was opposed in his politics, or
merely knew his ground well, he went on, thrusting the _militaires_
aside with little ceremony; and as every one was as quick to give place
to him, as he was to advance, in a moment we were in the ante-chamber.

I had never been admitted before, and from the doorway, where I paused
in Bonnivet's keeping, I viewed the scene with an interest that for the
first time overcame my sense of injustice. The long room hummed with
talk; a crowd of churchmen and pages, with a sprinkling of the lesser
nobility, many lawyers and some soldiers, filled it from end to end. In
one corner were a group of tradesmen bearing plate for the Queen's
inspection: in another stood a knot of suitors with petitions; while
everywhere men, whose eager faces and expectant eyes were their best
petitions, watched the farther door with quivering lips, or sighed when
it opened, and emitted merely a councillor or a marquis. Several times a
masked lady flitted through the crowd, with a bow here and the honour of
her taper fingers there. The windows were open, the summer air entered;
and the murmur of the throng without, mingling with the stir of talk
within, seemed to add to the light and colour of the room.

My lord of Beauvais, with his chaplain and his pages at his shoulder,
was making in his stately way towards the farther door, when he met M.
de Chateauneuf, and paused to speak. When he escaped from him a dozen
clients, whose obsequious bows rendered evasion impossible, still
delayed him. And I had grown cold, and hot again, and he was but halfway
on his progress up the crowded room, when the inner door opened, half a
dozen voices cried "The Queen! The Queen!" and an usher with a silver
wand passed down the room and ranked the company on either side--not
without some struggling, and once a fierce oath, and twice a smothered
outcry.

Of the bevy of ladies in attendance, only half a dozen entered; for a
few paces within the doorway the Queen-Mother stood still to receive my
patron, who had advanced to meet her. It seemed to me that she was not
best pleased to see him at that moment; her voice rang somewhat loud and
peevish as she said, "What, my lord! Is it you? I came to receive the
trophies from Rocroy, and did not expect to see you at this hour."

"I bring my own excuse, Madam," he answered, smiling and unabashed.
"Have I your Majesty's leave to present it?" he continued, with a smirk
and a low bow.

"I came to receive the colours," she retorted, still frowning. It seemed
to me that he presumed a trifle on his favour; and either knew his
ground particularly well, or was more obtuse than a clever man should
have been.

For he did not blench. "I bring your Majesty something as much to your
liking as the colours!" he replied.

Then I think she caught his meaning, for her proud Hapsburg face cleared
wonderfully, and she clapped her hands together with a gesture of
pleasure almost childish. "What!" she exclaimed. "Have you
found--Flore?"

"Yes, Madam," he said, smiling gallantly. He turned. "Bonnivet!" he
said.

But Bonnivet had watched his moment. Before the name fell clear of his
master's lips, he was beside him, and with bent knee laid the dog
tenderly at her Majesty's feet. She uttered a cry of joy and stooped to
caress it, her fair ringlets falling and hiding her face and her plump
white shoulders. On that I did not see exactly what happened; for her
ladies flocked round her, and all that reached me, where I stood by the
door, took the form of excited cries of "Flore! Flore!" "Oh, the
darling!" and the like. A few old men who stood nearest the wall and
farthest from the Queen raised their eyebrows, and the officers standing
with the colours by the door, wore fallen faces and glum looks; but
nine-tenths of the crowd seemed to be carried away by the Queen's
delight, and congratulated one another as warmly as if ten Rocroys had
been won.

At that moment, while I hung in suspense, expecting each moment to be
called forward, I heard a little stir at my elbow. Turning--I had
advanced some way into the room--I found myself with others pushed aside
to give place to a person of consequence who was entering; and I heard
several voices whisper, "Mazarin!" As I looked, he came in, and pausing
to speak to the foremost of the officers, gave me the opportunity--which
I had never enjoyed before--of viewing him near at hand. He bore a
certain likeness, to my lord of Beauvais, being tall and of a handsome
and portly figure. But it was such a likeness when I looked a second
time, as a jewelled lanthorn, lit within, bears to its vacant fellow.
And then in a moment it flashed upon me--though now he wore his
Cardinal's robes and then had been very simply dressed--that it was he
whose back I had seen, and whose dazzling thumb-ring had blinded me in
the garden near the Filles Dieu.

The thought had scarcely grown to a conviction before he passed by me,
apologizing almost humbly to those whom he displaced, and courteously to
all; and this, and perhaps also the fact that the mass of those present
belonged to my patron's party--who in the streets had the nick-name of
"The Importants"--so that they were not quick to make room for him,
rendered his progress so slow that, my name being called and everybody
hustling me forward, I came face to face with the Queen almost at the
moment that he did. And so I saw--though for a while I was too much
excited to understand--what passed.

Her Majesty, it seemed to me, did not look unkindly upon him. On the
contrary. But my lord of Beauvais was so full of his success, and so
uplifted by the presence of his many friends, that he had a mind to make
the most of his triumph and even to flaunt it in his rival's face. "Ha,
the Cardinal!" he cried; and before the Queen could speak, "I hope,"
with a bow and a simper, "that your Eminence has been as zealous in her
Majesty's service as I have been."

"As zealous, assuredly," the Cardinal replied meekly. "For my zeal I can
answer. But as effective? Alas, it is not given to all to vie with your
Lordship in affairs."

This answer--though I detected no smack of irony in the tone--did not
seem to please the Queen. "The Bishop has done me a great service. He
has recovered my dog," she said tartly.

"He is a happy man, and the happy must look to be envied," the Cardinal
answered glibly. "Your Majesty's dog----"

"Your Eminence never liked Flore!" the Queen exclaimed with feeling. And
she tossed her head, as I have seen quite common women do it in the
street.

"You do me a very great wrong, Madam!" the Cardinal answered, with the
look of a man much hurt. "If the dog were here--but it is not, I think."

"Your Eminence is for once at a loss!" the Bishop said, with a sneer;
and at a word from him one of the ladies came forward, nursing the dog
in her arms.

The Cardinal looked. "Umph," he said. He looked again, frowning.

I did not know then that, whether the Queen liked him or disliked him,
she ever took heed of his looks; and I started when she cried
pettishly----

"Well, sir, what now? What is it?"

The Cardinal pursed up his lips.

My lord the Bishop could bear it no longer.

"He will say presently," he cried, snorting with indignation, "that it
is not the dog! It is that his Eminence would say," with a sneer, "if he
dared!"

His Eminence shrugged his shoulders very slightly, and turned the palms
of his hands outwards. "Oh," he said, "if her Majesty is satisfied I
am."

"_M'dieu!_" the Queen cried, with a spirt of anger--"what do you mean?"
But she turned to the lady who held the dog, and took it from her. "It
_is_ the dog!" she said, her colour high. "Do you think that I do not
know my own dog?" she continued. And she set the dog on its feet. She
called it "Flore! Flore!" It turned to her and wagged its tail eagerly,
and jumped upon her skirts, and licked her hand.

"Poor Flore!" said the Cardinal. "Flore!" It went to him.

"Certainly its name is Flore," he said: yet he continued to scan it with
a puzzled eye. "It is the dog, I suppose. But it used to die at the word
of command, I think?"

"What it did, it will do!" Monseigneur de Beauvais cried scornfully.
"But I see that your Eminence was right in one thing you said."

The Cardinal bowed.

"That I should be envied!" the Bishop retorted, with a sneer. And he
glanced round the circle. There was a slight though general titter; a
great lady at the Queen's elbow laughed out.

"Flore," said the Queen, "die! Die, good dog. Do you hear, _m'dieu!_
die!"

But the dog only gazed into her Majesty's face with a spaniel's soft
affectionate eyes, and wagged its tail; and though she cried to it again
and again, and angrily, it made no attempt to obey. On that a deep-drawn
breath ran round the circle; one looked at another; and there were
raised eyebrows. A score of heads were thrust forward, and some who had
seemed merry enough the moment before looked grave as mutes now.

"It used to bark for France and growl for Spain," the Cardinal continued
in his softest voice. "One of the charmingest things, madam, I ever saw.
Perhaps if your Majesty would try----"

"France!" the Queen cried imperiously; and she stamped on the floor.
"France! France!"

But the dog only retreated, cowering and dismayed. From a distance it
wagged its tail pitifully.

"France!" cried the Queen, almost with passion. The dog cowered.

"I am afraid, my Lord, that it has lost its accomplishments--in your
company!" the Cardinal said, a faint smile curling his lips.

The Bishop dropped a smothered oath. "It _is_ the dog!" he cried
vehemently.

But the Queen turned to him sharply, her face crimson.

"I do not agree with you!" she replied. "It is like the dog, but it is
not the dog. And more, my Lord," she continued, with vehemence equal to
his own, "I should be glad if you would explain how you came into
possession of this dog. A dog so nearly resembling my dog--and yet not
my dog--could not be found in a moment nor without some foul
contrivance."

"It has forgotten its tricks," the Bishop said.

"Nonsense!" the Queen retorted.

A great many faces had grown grave by this time; I have said that the
room was filled for the most part with the Bishop's supporters. "At any
rate I know nothing about it!" he exclaimed, wiping his brow and
pointing to me. "I offered a reward, and that knave there found the
dog." Between anger and discomfiture he stammered.

"One of my Lord's servants, I think," the Cardinal said easily.

"Oh!" the Queen answered, with a world of meaning; and she looked at me
with eyes before which I quailed. "Is that true, fellow!" she said. "Are
you in my Lord's service?"

I stammered an affirmative.

"Then I wish to hear no more," she replied haughtily. "No, my Lord.
Enough!" she continued, raising her voice to drown his protestations. "I
do not care to know whether you were more sinned against than sinning;
or a greater fool than your creature is a knave. Pray take your animal
away. Doubtless in a very short time I should have discovered the cheat
for myself. I think I see a difference now. I am sure I do. But, as it
is, I am greatly indebted to his Eminence for his aid--and his
sagacity."

She brought out the last word with withering emphasis, and amid profound
silence. The Bishop, staggered and puzzled, but too wise to persist
longer in the dog's identity, still tried desperately to utter some word
of excuse; but the Queen, whose vanity had received a serious
wound--since she had not at once known her own pet--cut him short with a
curt and freezing dismissal, and immediately turning to the Cardinal,
she requested him to introduce to her the officers who had the colours
in charge.

It may be imagined how I felt, and what terrors I experienced during
this struggle; since it required no great wit to infer that the Bishop,
if defeated, would wreak his vengeance on me. Already a dozen who had
attended my Lord of Beauvais' _levée_ that morning were fawning on the
Cardinal; the Queen had turned her shoulder to him; a great lady over
whom he bent to hide his chagrin, talked to him indeed, but flippantly,
and with eyes half closed and but part of her attention. For all these
slights, and the defeat which they indicated, I foresaw that I should
pay with my life: and in a panic, seeing no hope but in escaping on the
instant before he took his measures, I slid back and strove to steal
away through the crowd.

I reached the door in safety, and even the head of the stairs. But
there a hand gripped my shoulder, and the steward thrust a face, white
with rage and dismay, into mine. "Not so fast, Master Plotter!" he
hissed in my ear. "You have ruined us, but if your neck does not pay for
this--if you are not lashed like a dog first and hung afterwards--I am a
Spaniard! If for this I do not----"

"By the Queen's command," said a quiet voice in my other ear; and a hand
fell on that shoulder also.

The steward glanced at his rival. "He is the Bishop's man!" he cried,
throwing out his chest; and he gripped me again.

"And the Bishop is the Queen's!" was the curt and pithy reply; and the
stranger, in whom I recognized the man who had delivered the dog's cape
to me, quietly put him by. "Her Majesty has committed this person to the
Cardinal's custody until inquiry be made into the truth of his story,
and the persons who are guilty be ascertained. In the mean time, if you
have any complaint to make you can make it to his Eminence."

After that there was no more to be said or done. The steward, baffled
and bursting with rage, fell back; and the stranger, directing me by a
gesture to attend him close, descended the stairs and crossing the
courtyard, entered St. Honoré. I was in a maze what I was to expect from
him; and overjoyed as I was at my present deliverance, had a sneaking
fear that I might be courting a worse fate in this inquiry; so grim and
secretive was my guide's face, and so much did that sombre dress--which
gave him somewhat of the character of an inquisitor--add to the weight
of his silence. However, when he had crossed St. Honoré and entered a
lane leading to the river, he halted and turned to me.

"There are twenty crowns," he said abruptly; and he placed a purse in my
hand. "Take them, and do exactly as I bid you, and all will be well. At
the Quai de Notre Dame you will find a market-boat starting for Rouen.
Go by it, and at the Ecce Homo in the Rue St. Eloi in that city you will
find your wife and a hundred crowns. Live there quietly, and in a month
apply for work at the Chancery; it will be given you. The rest lies with
you. I have known men," he continued, with a puzzling smile, "who
started at a desk in that Chancery and, being very silent men, able to
keep a secret--able to keep a secret, mark you--lived to rent one of the
great farms."

I tried to find words to thank him.

"There is no need," he said. "For what you have done, it is too much.
For what you have to do--rule the unruly member--it is no more than is
right."

And now I agree with him. Now--though his words came true to the letter,
and to-day I hold one of the great farms on a second term--I too think
that it was no more than was right. For if M. de Condé won Rocroy for
his side in the field, the Cardinal on that day won a victory no less
eminent at court; of which victory the check administered to M. de
Beauvais--who had nothing but a good presence, and collapsing like a
pricked bladder, became within a month the most discredited of men--was
the first movement. Within a month the heads of the Importants--so, I
have said, the Bishop's party were christened--were in prison or exiled
or purchased; and all France knew that it lay in a master's hand--knew
that the mantle of Richelieu, with a double portion of the royal favour,
had fallen on Mazarin's shoulders. I need scarcely add that, before that
fact became known to all--for such things do not become certainties in a
minute--his Eminence had been happy enough to find the true Flore and
restore it to her Majesty's arms.



CRILLON'S STAKE.


On a certain wet night, in the spring of the year 1587, the rain was
doing its utmost to sweeten the streets of old Paris: the kennels were
aflood with it, and the March wind, which caused the crowded sign-boards
to creak and groan on their bearings, and ever and anon closed a shutter
with the sound of a pistol-shot, blew the downpour in sheets into
exposed doorways, and drenched to the skin the few wayfarers who were
abroad. Here and there a stray dog, bent over a bone, slunk away at the
approach of a roisterer's footstep; more rarely a passenger, whose sober
or stealthy gait whispered of business rather than pleasure, moved
cowering from street to street, under such shelter as came in his way.

About two hours before midnight, a man issued somewhat suddenly from the
darkness about the head of the Pont du Change and turned the corner into
the Rue de St. Jacques la Boucherie, a street which ran parallel with
the Quays, about half a mile east of the Louvre. His heavy cloak
concealed his figure, but he made his way in the teeth of the wind with
the spring and vigour of youth; and arriving presently at a doorway,
which had the air of retiring modestly under a couple of steep dark
gables, and yet was rendered conspicuous by the light which shone
through the unglazed grating above it, he knocked sharply on the oak.
After a short delay the door slid open of itself and the man entered. He
showed none of a stranger's surprise at the invisibility of the porter,
but after staying to shut the door, he advanced along a short passage,
which was only partially closed at the further end by a high wooden
screen. Coasting round this he entered a large low-roofed room, lighted
in part by a dozen candles, in part by a fire which burned on a raised
iron plate in the corner.

The air was thick with wood smoke, but the occupants of the room, a
dozen men, seated, some at a long table, and some here and there in
pairs, seemed able to recognize the new-comer through it, and hailed his
appearance with a cry of welcome--a cry that had in it a ring of
derision. One man who stood near the fire, impatiently kicking the logs
with his spurred boots, turned, and seeing who it was moved towards him.
"Welcome, M. de Bazan," he said briskly; "so you have come to resume our
duel! I had given up hope of you."

"I am here," the new-comer answered. He spoke curtly, and as he did so
he took off his horseman's cloak and laid it aside. The action disclosed
a man scarcely twenty, moderately well dressed, and of slight though
supple figure. His face wore an air of determination singular in one so
young, and at variance with the quick suspicious glances with which he
took in the scene. He did not waste time in staring, however, but
quickly and with a business-like air he seated himself at a small wooden
table which stood in a warm corner of the hearth, and directly under a
brace of candles. Calling for a bottle of wine, he threw a bag of coin
on the table; at the same time he hitched forward his sword until the
pommel of the weapon lay across his left thigh; a sinister movement
which the debauched and reckless looks of some of his companions seemed
to justify. The man who had addressed him took his seat opposite, and
the two, making choice of a pair of dice-boxes, began to play.

They did not use the modern game of hazard, but simply cast the dice,
each taking it in turn to throw, and a nick counting as a drawn battle.
The two staked sums higher than were usual in the company about them,
and one by one, the other gamblers forsook their tables, and came and
stood round. As the game proceeded, the young stranger's face grew more
and more pale, his eyes more feverish. But he played in silence. Not so
his backers. A volley of oaths and exclamations almost as thick as the
wood smoke that in part shrouded the game, began to follow each cast of
the dice. The air, one moment still and broken only by the hollow rattle
of the dice in the box, rang the next instant with the fierce outburst
of a score of voices.

The place, known as Simon's, was a gaming-house of the second class:
frequented, as the shabby finery of some and the tarnished arms of
others seemed to prove, by the poorer courtiers and the dubious
adventurers who live upon the great. It was used in particular by the
Guise faction, at this time in power; for though Henry of Valois was
legal and nominal King of France, Henry of Guise, the head of the
League, and the darling of Paris, imposed his will alike upon the King
and the favourites. He enjoyed the substance of power; the King had no
choice but to submit to his policy. In secret Henry the Third resented
the position, and between his immediate servants and the arrogant
followers of the Guises there was bitter enmity.

As the game proceeded, a trifle showed that the young player was either
ignorant of politics, or belonged to a party rarely represented at
Simon's. For some time he and his opponent had enjoyed equal luck. Then
they doubled the stakes, and fortune immediately declared herself
against him; with wondrous quickness his bag grew lank and thin, the
pile at the other's elbow a swollen sliding heap. The perspiration began
to stand on the young man's face. His hand trembled as he shook out the
last coins left in the bag and shoved them forward amid a murmur half of
derision half of sympathy; for if he was a stranger from the
country--that was plain, and they had recognized it at his first
appearance among them three days before--at least he played bravely. His
opponent, whose sallow face betrayed neither joy nor triumph, counted
out an equal sum, and pushed it forward without a word. The young man
took up the box, and for the first time seemed to hesitate; it could be
seen that he had bitten his lip until it bled. "After you," he muttered
at last, withdrawing his hand. He shrank from throwing his last throw.

"It is your turn," the other replied impassively, "but as you will." He
shook the box, brought it down sharply on the table and raised it. "The
Duke!" he said with an oath--he had thrown the highest possible. "Twelve
is the game."

With a shiver the lad--he was little more than a lad, though in his
heart, perhaps, the greatest gambler present--dashed down his box. He
raised it. "The King!" he cried; "long life to him!" He had also thrown
twelve. His cheek flushed a rosy red, and with a player's superstitious
belief in his luck he regarded the check given to his opponent in the
light of a presage of victory. They threw again, and he won by two
points--nine to seven. Hurrah!

"King or Duke," the tall man answered, restraining by a look the
interruption which more than one of the bystanders seemed about to
offer, "the money is yours; take it."

"Let it lie," the young man answered joyously. His eyes sparkled. When
the other had pushed an equal amount into the middle of the table, he
threw again, and with confidence.

Alas! his throw was a deuce and an ace. The elder player threw four and
two. He swept up the pile. "Better late than never," he said. And
leaning back he looked about him with a grin of satisfaction.

The young man rose. The words which had betrayed that he was not of the
Duke's faction, had cost him the sympathy the spectators had before felt
for him; and no one spoke. It was something that they kept silence, that
they did not interfere with him. His face, pale in the light of the
candles which burned beside him, was a picture of despair. Suddenly, as
if he bethought him of something, he sat down again, and with a shaking
hand took from his neck a slender gold chain with a pendant ornament.
"Will you stake against this?" he murmured with dry lips.

"Against that, or your sword, or your body, or anything but your soul!"
the other answered with a reckless laugh. He took up the chain and
examined it. "I will set you thirty crowns against it!" he said.

They threw and the young man lost.

"I will stake ten crowns against your sword if you like," the victor
continued, eyeing the curiously chased pommel.

"No," the young man replied, stung by something in the elder's tone.
"That I may want. But I will set my life against yours!"

A chuckle went round. "Bravo!" cried half a dozen voices. One man in the
rear, whose business it was to enlist men in the Duke's guard, pressed
forward, scenting a recruit.

"Your life against mine! With these?" the winner answered, holding up
the dice.

"Yes, or as you please." He had not indeed meant with those: he had
spoken in the soreness of defeat, intending a challenge.

The other shook his head. "No," he said, "no. No man can say that Michel
Berthaud ever balked his player, but it is not a fair offer. You have
lost all, my friend, and I have won all. I am rich, you are poor. 'Tis
no fair stake. But I will tell you what I will do. I will set you your
gold chain and seventy crowns--against your life if you like."

A roar of laughter hailed the proposal. "A hundred!" cried several, "a
hundred!"

"Very well. The gold chain and a hundred. Be it so!"

"But my life?" the young man muttered, gazing at him in bewilderment.
"Of what use will it be to you, M. Berthaud?"

"That is my business," was the dry answer. "If you lose, it is forfeit
to me. That is all, and the long and the short of it. To be frank, I
have a service which I wish you to perform for me."

"And if I will not perform it?"

"Then I will take your word as a gentleman that you will kill yourself.
Observe, however, that if I win I shall allow you a choice, my friend."

He leaned back with that, meeting with a faint smile and half-lowered
eye-lids, the various looks bent on him. Some stared, some nodded secret
comprehension, some laughed outright, or nudged one another and
whispered. For four evenings they, the habitués of the place, had
watched this play duel go on, but they had not looked for an end so
abnormal as this. They had known men stake wives and mistresses, love
and honour, ay, their very clothes, and go home naked through the
streets; for the streets of Paris saw strange things in those days. But
life? Well, even that they had seen men stake in effect, once, twice, a
hundred times; but never in so many words, never on a wager as novel as
this. So with an amazement which no duel, fought as was the custom in
that day, three to three, or six to six, would have evoked, they
gathered round the little table under the candles and waited for the
issue.

The young man shivered. Then, "I accept," he said slowly. In effect he
was desperate, driven to his last straits. He had lost his all, the all
of a young man sent up to Paris to make his fortune, with a horse, his
sword, and a bag of crowns--the latter saved for him by a father's stern
frugality, a mother's tender self-denial. A week ago he had never seen a
game of chance. Then he had seen; the dice had fallen in his way, the
devil of play, cursed legacy of some long-forgotten ancestor, had awoke
within him, and this was the end. "I accept," he said slowly.

His opponent, still with his secretive smile, took up the caster. But a
short, sturdy man, who was standing at his elbow, and who wore the
colours of the Duke of Guise, intervened. "No, Michel," he said, with a
good-natured glance at the young player. "Let the lad choose his bones,
and throw first or last as he pleases."

"Right," said Berthaud, yawning. "It is no matter. My star is in the
ascendant to-night. He will not win."

The young man took up the box, shook it, hesitated, swallowed, and threw
seven!

Berthaud threw carelessly--seven!

Some shouted, some drew a deep breath, or whispered an oath. These wild
spirits, who had faced death often in one form or another, were still
children, and still in a new thing found a new pleasure.

"Your star may be in the ascendant," the man muttered who had intervened
before, "but it--well, it twinkles, Michel."

Berthaud did not answer. The young man made him a sign to throw. He
threw again--eight.

The young man threw with a hand that scarcely dared to let the dice go.
Seven! He had lost.

An outburst might have been expected, some cry of violence, of despair.
It did not come. And a murmur passed round the circle. "Berthaud will
recruit him," growled one. "A queer game," muttered another, and thought
hard. Nor did the men go back to their tables. They waited to see what
would follow, what would come of it. For the young man who had lost sat
staring at the table like one in a dream; until presently his opponent
reaching out a hand touched his sleeve. "Courage!" Berthaud said, a
flicker of triumph in his eye, "a word with you aside. No need of
despair, man. You have but to do what I ask, and you will see sixty
yet."

Obedient to his gesture the young man rose, and the other drawing him
aside began to talk to him in a low voice. The remaining players
loitering about the deserted table could not hear what was said; but one
or two by feigning to strike a sudden blow, seemed to pass on their
surmises to those round them. One thing was clear. The lad objected to
the proposal made, objected fiercely and with vehemence; and at last
submitted only with reluctance. Submit in the end, however, he did, for
after some minutes of this private talk he went to his cloak, and
avoiding, as it seemed, his fellows' eyes, put it on. Berthaud
accompanied him to the door, and the winner's last words were audible.
"That is all," he said; "succeed in what I impose, M. de Bazan, and I
cry quits, and you shall have fifty crowns for your pains. Fail, and you
will but be paying your debt. But you will not fail. Remember, half an
hour after midnight. And courage!"

The young man nodded sullenly, and drawing his cloak about his throat,
went through the passage to the street. The night was a little older
than when he had entered, otherwise it was unchanged. The rain was still
falling; the wind still buffeted the creaking shutters and the swinging
sign-boards. But the man? He had entered, thinking nothing of rain or
wind, thinking little even of the horse and furniture, and the good
clothes made under his mother's eye, which he had sacrificed to refill
his purse. The warmth of the play fever coursing through his veins had
clad him in proof against cold and damp and the depression of the gloomy
streets, even against the thought of home. And for the good horse, and
the laced shirts and the gold braid, the luck could not run against him
again! He would win all back, and the crowns to boot.

So he had thought as he went in. And now? He stood a moment in the dark,
narrow chasm of a street, and looked up, letting the rain cool his brow;
looked up, and, seeing a wrack of clouds moving swiftly across the slit
of stormy sky visible between the overhanging roofs, faced in a dull
amazement the fact that he who now stood in the darkness, bankrupt even
in life, was the same man who had entered Paris so rich in hope and
youth and life a week--only a week--before. He remembered--it was an odd
thing to occur to him when his thoughts should have been full of the
events of the last hour--a fault of which he had been guilty down there
in the country; and of which, taking advantage of a wrathful father's
offer to start him in Paris, he had left the weaker sinner to bear the
brunt. And it seemed to him that here was his punishment. The old grey
house at home, quaint and weather-beaten, rose before him. He saw his
mother's herb-garden, the great stackyard, and the dry moat, half filled
with blackberry bushes, in which he had played as a boy. And on him fell
a strange calm, between apathy and resignation. This, then, was his
punishment. He would bear it like a man. There should be no flinching a
second time, no putting the burden on others' shoulders, no self-sparing
at another's cost.

He started to walk briskly in the direction of the Louvre. But when he
had gained the corner of the open space in front of the palace, whence
he had a view of the main gate between the two tennis courts, he halted
and looked up and down as if he hesitated. A watch-fire smouldering and
sputtering in the rain was burning dully before the drawbridge; the
forms of one or two men, apparently sentinels, were dimly visible about
it. After standing in doubt more then a minute, Bazan glided quickly to
the porch of the church of St. Germain l'Auxerrois, and disappeared in
the angle between it and the cloisters.

He had been stationary in this position for some half-hour--in what
bitterness of spirit, combating what regrets and painful thoughts it is
possible only to imagine--when a slight commotion took place at the gate
which faced him. Two men came out in close converse, and stood a moment
looking up as if speaking of the weather. They separated then, and one
who even by that uncertain light could be seen to be a man of tall,
spare presence, came across the open space towards the end of the Rue
des Fosses, which passed beside the cloisters. He had just entered the
street, when Bazan, who had been closely watching his movements, stepped
from the shadow of the houses and touched his sleeve.

The tall man recoiled sharply as he turned. He laid his hand on his
sword and partly drew it. "Who are you?" he said, trying in the darkness
to make out the other's features.

"M. de Crillon, is it not?" the young man asked.

"Yes. And you, young sir?"

"My name is Claude de Bazan, but you do not know me, I have a word to
say to you."

"You have chosen an odd time, my friend."

"Some things are always timely," the young fellow answered, the
excitement under which he laboured and the occasion imparting a spice of
flippancy to his tone. "I come to warn you that your life is in danger.
Do not go alone, M. de Crillon, or pass this way at night! And whatever
you do, walk for the future in the middle of the street!"

"For the warning I am obliged to you," the tall man answered, his voice
cool and satirical, while his eyes continued to scan the other's
features. "But, I say again, you have chosen a strange time to give it,
young sir. Moreover, your name is new to me, and I do not know your
face."

"Nor need you," said Bazan.

"Ay, but I think I need, craving your pardon," replied the tall, spare
man with some sternness. "I am not wont to be scared by little things,
nor will I give any man the right to say that he has frightened me with
a lighted turnip."

"Will it convince you if I tell you that I came hither to kill you?" the
young man cried impetuously.

"Yes, if you will say also why you did not--at least try?" Crillon
answered drily.

Bazan had not meant to explain himself; he had proposed to give his
warning, and to go. But on the impulse of the moment, carried away by
his excitement, he spoke, and told the story, and Crillon, after
leading him aside, so that a building sheltered them from the rain,
listened. He listened, who knew all the dark plans, all the scandals,
all the jealousies, all the vile or frantic schemings of a court, that,
half French, half Italian, mingled so grimly force and fraud. Nay, when
all was told, when Bazan, passing lightly over the resolution he had
formed to warn the victim instead of attacking him, came suddenly and
lamely to a stop, he still for a time stood silent. At last, "And what
will you do now, my friend?" he asked.

"Go back," the young man answered.

"And then?"

"Pay my debt."

The courtier swore a great oath--it was his failing--and with sudden
violence he seized his companion by the arm, and hurried him into the
roadway, and along the street. "To Simon's!" he muttered. "To Simon's,
my friend. I know the place. I will cut that villain Berthaud's throat."

"But what shall I be the better of that?" the young man answered,
somewhat bitterly. "I have none the less lost, and must pay."

Crillon stopped short, the darkness hiding alike his face and his
feelings. "So!" he said slowly, "I did not think of that! No, I did not
think of that. But do you mean it? What, if I kill him?"

"I have played for my life, and lost," Bazan answered proudly. "I
promised, and I am a gentleman."

"Pheugh!" Crillon whistled. He swore again, and stood. He was a great
man, and full of expedients, but the position was novel. Yet, after a
minute's thought, he had an idea. He started off again, taking Bazan's
arm, and impelling him onwards, with the same haste and violence. "To
Simon's! to Simon's!" he cried as before. "Courage, my friend, I will
play him for you and win you: I will redeem you. After all, it is
simple, absolutely simple."

"He will not play for me," the young man answered despondently.
Nevertheless he suffered himself to be borne onwards. "What will you set
against me?"

"Anything, everything!" his new friend cried recklessly. "Myself, if
necessary. Courage, M. de Bazan, courage! What Crillon wills, Crillon
does. You do not know me yet, but I have taken a fancy to you, I
have!"--He swore a grisly oath. "And I will make you mine."

He gave the young man no time for further objection, but, holding him
firmly by the arm, he hurried him through the streets to the door below
the two gables. On this he knocked with the air of one who had been
there before, and to whom all doors opened. In the momentary pause
before it yielded Bazan spoke. "Will you not be in danger here?" he
asked, wondering much.

"It is a Guise house? True, it is. But there is danger everywhere. No
man dies more than once or before God wills it! And I am Crillon!"

The superb air with which he said this last prepared Bazan for what
followed. The moment the door was opened, Crillon pushed through the
doorway, and with an assured step strode down the passage. He turned the
corner of the screen and stood in the room; and, calmly smiling at the
group of startled, astonished faces which were turned on him, he drew
off his cloak and flung it over his left arm. His height at all times
made him a conspicuous figure; this night he was fresh from court. He
wore black and silver, the hilt of his long sword was jewelled, the
Order of the Holy Ghost glittered on his breast; and this fine array
seemed to render more shabby the pretentious finery of the third-rate
adventurers before him. He saluted them coolly. "It is a wet night,
gentlemen," he said.

Some of those who sat farthest off had risen, and all had drawn together
as sheep club at sight of the wolf. One of them answered sullenly that
it was.

"You think I intrude, gentlemen?" he returned, smiling pleasantly,
drinking in as homage the stir his entrance had caused. For he was vain.
"I want only an old friend, M. Michel Berthaud, who is here, I think?"

"And for what do you want him?" the tall dark player answered
defiantly; he alone of those present seemed in a degree a match for the
new-comer, though even his gloomy eyes fell before Crillon's easy stare.
"For what do you want me?"

"To propose a little game to you," Crillon answered: and he moved down
the room, apparently at his ease. "My friend here has told me of his
ill-luck. He is resolved to perform his bargain. But first, M. Berthaud,
I have a proposal to make to you. His life is yours. You have won it.
Well, I will set you five hundred crowns against it."

The scowl on Berthaud's face did not relax. "No," he said
contemptuously. "I will not play with you, M. de Crillon. Let the fool
die. What is he to you?"

"Nothing, and yet I have a fancy to win him," Crillon replied lightly.
"Come, I will stake a thousand crowns against him! A thousand crowns for
a life! _Mon Dieu_," he added, with a whimsical glance at Bazan, "but
you are dear, my friend!"

Indeed, half a score of faces shone with cupidity, and twice as many
bearded lips watered. A thousand crowns! A whole thousand crowns! But to
the surprise of most--a few knew their man--Berthaud shook his head.

"No," he said, "I will not play! I won his life, and I will have it."

"Fifteen hundred crowns. I will set that! Fifteen----"

"No!"

"Two thousand, then! Two thousand, man! And I will throw in my chain. It
is worth five hundred more."

"No! No! No!"

"Then, say what you will play for!" the great man roared, his face
swelling with rage. "Thousand devils and all tonsured! I have a mind to
win his life. What will you have against it?"

"Against it?"

"Ay!"

"Yours!" said M. Berthaud, very softly.

Bazan drew in his breath--sharply: otherwise the silence was so intense
that the fall of the wood-ashes from the dying fire could be heard. The
immense, the boundless audacity of the proposal made some smile and some
start. But none smiled so grimly as M. Michel Berthaud the challenger
and none started so little as M. de Crillon, the challenged.

"A high bid!" he said, lifting his chin with something almost of humour;
and then glancing round him, as a wolf might glance, if the sheep turned
on him. "You ask much, M. Berthaud."

"I will ask less then," replied Berthaud, with irony. "If I win, I will
give you his life. He shall go free whether you win or lose, M. de
Crillon."

"That is much!" with answering irony.

"Much or little----"

"It is understood?"

"It is," Berthaud rejoined with a sarcastic bow.

"Then I accept!" Crillon cried: and with a movement so brisk that some
recoiled, he sat down at the table. "I accept. Silence!" he continued,
turning sharply upon Bazan, whose cry of remonstrance rang above the
astonished murmur of the bystanders. "Silence, fool!" He struck the
table. "It is my will. Fear nothing! I am Crillon, and I do not lose."

There was a superb self-confidence in the man, an arrogance, a courage,
which more than anything else persuaded his hearers that he was in
earnest, that he was not jesting with them.

"The terms are quite understood," he proceeded, grimly. "If I win, we go
free, M. Berthaud. If I lose, M. de Bazan goes free, and I undertake on
the honor of a nobleman to kill myself before daylight. Shall I say
within six hours? I have affairs to settle!"

Probably no one in the room felt astonishment equal to that of Berthaud.
A faint colour tinged his sallow cheeks; a fierce gleam of joy flashed
in his eyes. But all he said was, "Yes, I am satisfied."

"Then throw!" said Crillon, and leaning forward he took a candle from a
neighbouring table, and placed it beside him. "My friend," he added,
speaking to Bazan with earnest gravity, "I advise you to be quiet. If
you do not we shall quarrel."

His smile was as easy, his manner as unembarrassed, his voice as steady,
as when he had entered the room. The old gamesters who stood round the
table, and had seen, with interest indeed and some pity, but with no
great emotion, a man play his last stake, saw this, saw a man stake his
life for a whim, with very different feelings; with astonishment, with
admiration, with a sense of inferiority that did not so much gall their
pride as awaken their interest. For the moment, the man who was above
death, who risked it for a fancy, a trifle, a momentary gratification,
was a demigod. "Throw!" repeated Crillon, heedless and apparently
unconscious of the stir round him: "Throw! but beware of that candle!
Your sleeve is in it."

It was; it was singeing. Berthaud moved the candle, and as if his
enemy's _sang froid_ wounded him, he threw savagely, dashing down the
dice on the table, and lifting the box with a gesture of defiance. He
swore a frightful oath: his face was livid. He had thrown aces only.

"So!" murmured his opponent quietly. "Is that all? A thousand crowns to
a hundred that I better that! Five hundred to a hundred that I double
it! Will no one take me? Then I throw. Courage, my friend. I am
Crillon!"

He threw; an ace and a deuce.

"I waste nothing," he said.

But few heard the words--his opponent perhaps and one or two others; for
from end to end the room rang and the oaken rafters shook with a great
cry of "Long live Crillon! the brave Crillon!"--a cry which rose from a
score of throats. Then and onwards till the day of his death, many years
later, he was known throughout France by no other name. The great king's
letter to him, "Hang yourself, brave Crillon. We have fought to-day, and
you were not there!" is not yet forgotten--nay, never will be
forgotten--in a land where, more than in other, the memories of the past
have been swept away.

He rose from the table, bowing grandly, superbly, arrogantly. "Adieu, M.
Berthaud--for the present," he said; and had he not seemed too proud to
threaten, a threat might have underlain his words. "Adieu, gentlemen,"
he continued, throwing on his cloak. "A good night to you, and equal
fortune. M. de Bazan, I will trouble you to accompany me? You have
exchanged, let me tell you, one taskmaster for another."

The young man's heart was too full for words, and making no attempt to
speak, or to thank his benefactor, before those who had seen the deed,
he followed him from the room. Crillon did not speak or halt until they
stood in the Rue des Fosses; nor even there, for after a momentary
hesitation he passed through it, and led the way to the middle of the
open space before the Louvre. Here he stopped, and touched his companion
on the breast. "Now," he said, "we can speak with freedom, my friend.
You wish to thank me? Do not. Listen to me instead. I have saved your
life, ay, that have I; but I hold it at my will? Say, is it not so?
Well, I, too, in my turn wish you to do something for me."

"Anything!" said the young man, passionately. The sight of the other's
strange daring had stirred his untried nature to its depths. "You have
but to ask and have."

"Very well," Crillon answered, gravely, "be it so. I take you at your
word. Though, mind you, M. de Bazan, 'tis no light thing I ask. It is
something," pausing, "from which I shrink myself."

"Then it is nothing you ask me to do," Bazan answered.

"Not so," the courtier replied, though he looked far from ill-pleased by
the compliment. "Listen. To-morrow the king sups at the house of Madame
de Sauves. I shall be with him. Her house is in the Rue de l'Arbre Sec,
two doors from the convent. Here are a hundred crowns. Dress yourself so
that you may appear as one of my gentlemen, and wait near the gates till
I come. Then follow me in, and at supper stand behind my chair, as the
others of my suite will stand."

"And is that all?" Bazan asked in astonishment.

"No, not quite," Crillon answered dryly. "The rest I will whisper in
your ear as I pass. Only do what I bid you boldly and faithfully, my
friend, and afterwards, if all be well, I will not forget you."

"I am yours! Do with me as you will!" Bazan protested.

But to mortals the unknown is ever terrible; and for twenty-four hours
Bazan had the unknown before him. What could that be from which Crillon
himself said that he shrank--a man so brave? It could not be death, for
that he had risked on the lightest, the flimsiest, the most fantastic
provocation. Then what could it be? Bazan turned the question in his
mind, turned it a hundred times that night, turned it a hundred times as
he went about his preparations next day. Turned it and turned it, but
instinctively, though no injunctions to that effect had been given him,
took care to show himself as little as possible in public, and
especially to shun all places where he might meet those who had been
present at that strange game at Simon's.

A quarter before nine on the next evening, saw him waiting with a
beating heart outside the house in the Rue de l'Arbre Sec. He formed one
of a crowd of lackeys, and linkboys, citizens, apprentices, and chance
passers who had been attracted to the spot by the lights and by the
guards in the royal livery, who already, though the king was not come,
kept the entrance to the courtyard. Bazan pushed himself with some
difficulty into the front rank, and there waited, scanning with feverish
eagerness every one who entered.

Time passed, and no Crillon appeared, though presently a great shouting
along the street proclaimed the approach of the Duke of Guise, and that
nobleman passed slowly in, noting with a falcon's eye the faces of the
bowing throng. He was a man of grand height and imperial front--a great
scar seeming to make the latter more formidable--his smile a trifle
supercilious, his eyes somewhat near one another; and under his glance
Bazan felt for the moment small and mean. A little later, from the talk
of those about him, the young man learned that the king was drawing
near, and Henry's coach, surrounded by a dozen of the Forty-five,
lumbered along the street. It was greeted with comparative coldness,
only those who stood under the guards' eyes performing a careless
salute.

Bazan was no Parisian, though for the present in Paris, and no Leaguer,
though a Roman Catholic; and he forgot his present errand in the
excitement of his rustic loyalty. Raising his bonnet, he cried loudly
_Vive le Roi!_--cried it more than once. There were six in the coach,
but Henry, whose pale meagre face with its almond eyes and scanty beard
permitted no mistake, remarked the salutation and the giver, and his
look cast the young man into a confusion which nearly cost him dearly;
for it was only as the guards closed round the coach that he perceived
Crillon sitting in the nearer boot. The moment he did see him he pushed
forward among the running footmen who followed the coach, and succeeded
in entering with it.

The courtyard, crowded with gentlemen, lackeys and torch-bearers, was a
scene of great confusion, and Bazan had no difficulty in approaching
Crillon and exchanging a sentence with him. That effected, so completely
was he confounded by the order whispered in his ear, that he observed
nothing more until he found himself in a long gallery, waiting with many
others attached to the great men's suites, while the magnificoes
themselves talked together at the upper end. By listening to the gossip
round him, he learned that one dark handsome man among the latter was
Alphonso d'Ornano, often called the Corsican Captain. A second was M.
d'O, the Governor of Paris; a third, the Count of Soissons. But he had
scarcely time to note these, or the novel and splendid scene in which he
stood, before the double doors at the end of the gallery were thrown
widely open, and amid a sudden hush the great courtiers passed into the
supper room in which the king, the Duke of Guise, and several ladies,
already stood or sat in their places, having entered by another door.
Bazan pressed in with the flock of attendant gentlemen, and seeing
Crillon preparing to sit down not far from the daïs and canopy which
marked the king's chair, he took his stand against the wall behind him.

If the words which Crillon had dropped into his ear had not occupied
three-fourths of his thoughts, Bazan would have felt a keener admiration
of the scene before him; which, as was natural, surpassed in luxury
anything the country lad had ever imagined. The room, panelled and
ceiled with cedar, was hung with blue velvet and lighted by a hundred
tapers. The table gleamed with fine napery and gold plate, with Palissy
ware and Cellini vases; and these, with the rich dresses and jewels and
fair shoulders of the ladies, combined to form a beautiful interior
which resounded with the babble of talk and laughter. It was hard to
detect danger lurking under these things, under the silk, within the
flashing, gleaming cups, behind smiling eyes; still harder to discern
below these fair appearances a peril from which a Crillon shrank.

But to Bazan, as he waited with tortured nerves, these things were
nothing. They were no more than fair flowers to the man who espies the
coils of a snake among the blossoms. Crillon's whisper had revealed all
to him--all, in one brief sentence; so that when he presently recognized
Michel Berthaud standing near the upper end of the table and on the
farther side of it, in attendance upon the Duke of Guise, he felt no
astonishment, but only a shrewd suspicion of the quarter from which the
danger might be expected.

The king, a man of thirty-seven, so effeminate in appearance that it was
hard to believe he had seen famous fields and once bidden fair to be a
great Captain, was nursing a dog on his lap, the while he listened with
a weary air to the whispers of the beautiful woman who sat next him.
Apparently he had a niggard ear even for her witcheries, and little
appetite save for the wine flask. Lassitude lived in his eyes, his long
thin fingers trembled. Bazan watched him drain his goblet of wine,
almost as soon as he sat down, and watched him, too, hold out the gold
cup to be filled again. The task was performed by an assiduous hand, and
for a moment the king poised the cup in his fingers, speaking to his
neighbour the while. Then he laid it down, but his hand did not quit its
neighbourhood.

The next moment the room rang with a cry of alarm and indignation, and
every face was turned one way. Bazan with unparalleled audacity had
stepped forward, had seized the sacred cup almost from the royal hand,
and drained it!

While some sprang from their seats, two or three seized the culprit and
held him fast. One more enthusiastic than the others or more keenly
sensitive to the outrage of which he had been guilty, aimed a fierce
blow at his breast with a poniard. The stroke was well meant, nay, was
well directed; but it was adroitly intercepted by M. de Crillon, who had
been among the first to rise. With a blow of his sheathed sword he sent
the dagger spinning towards the ceiling.

"Back!" he cried, in a voice of thunder, placing himself before the
culprit. "Stand back, I say! I will answer to the king for all!"

He cleared a space before him with his scabbard, and a quick signal
brought to his side the two guards at the nearest door, who were men of
his command. These, crossing their pikes before the prisoner, secured
him from immediate attack. By this time all in the room had risen save
the king, who appeared less moved than any by the incident. At this
point he raised his hand to procure silence.

"Is he mad?" he asked calmly. "What is it, Crillon?"

"I will satisfy your Grace," the courtier answered. But the next moment,
with a sudden change of tone, he cried loudly and rapidly, "Stop that
man, I beg you, d'Ornano! Stop him!"

The warning came too late. The Corsican sprang indeed to the door, but
the crowd impeded him; and the man to whom Crillon referred--the same
who had struck at Bazan, and who was no other than Berthaud--got to it
first, slipped out and was gone from sight, before those near the
entrance had recovered from their surprise.

"Follow him," Crillon cried loudly. "Seize him at all hazards! _Mort de
Dieu!_ He has outwitted us at last."

"His Majesty has asked, M. de Crillon," said one at the table, speaking
in the haughty, imperious tone of a man who never spoke unheeded, "what
is the meaning of all this? Perhaps you will kindly satisfy him."

"I will satisfy him," Crillon answered, grimly fixing his eyes on the
other's handsome face. "And you, too, M. de Guise. An attempt has been
made to poison my master. This young man, observing that a strange hand
poured the king's wine, has saved his Majesty's life by taking the
poison himself!"

Henry of Guise laughed scornfully. "A likely story!" he said.

"And in my house!" Madame de Sauves cried in the same tone. "His Majesty
will not believe that I----"

"I said nothing against Madame de Sauves," Crillon answered, with
firmness. "For the rest, let the king be judge. The issue is simple. If
the lad go scatheless, there was no poison in that cup and I am a liar.
If he suffer, then let the king say who lies!"

A close observer might have seen an uneasy expression flit across more
than one face, darken more than one pair of eyes. Crillon remained on
his guard facing the table, his eyes keenly vigilant. The Count of
Soissons, one of the younger Bourbons, had already stepped to the king's
side and taken place by his chair, his hand on his hilt. D'Ornano, who
had despatched two guards after Berthaud, openly drew his long sword and
placed himself on the other side of the daïs. Nor was suspicion confined
to their party. Half a dozen gentlemen had risen to their feet about the
Duke of Guise, who continued to sit with folded arms, content to smile.
He was aware that at the worst here in Paris he was safe; perhaps he was
innocent of harm or intent.

The main effect, however, of Crillon's last words was to draw many eyes,
and amongst them the king's, to the prisoner's face. Bazan was leaning
against the wall, the cup still in his grasp. As they turned with a
single movement towards him, his face began to grow a shade paler, a
spasm moved his lips, and after the interval of a moment the cup fell
from his hand to the ground. Thrusting himself with a convulsive
movement from the wall, he put out his hands and groped with them as if
he could no longer see; until, one of them meeting the pike of the
nearest guard, he tried to support himself by this. At the same time he
muttered hoarsely, "M. de Crillon, you saw it! We are--we are quits!"

He would have fallen on that, but the men caught him in their arms and
held him up, amid a murmur of horror; to many brave men death in this
special form is appalling. Here and there a woman shrieked; one fainted.
Meanwhile, the young man's face was becoming livid; his neck seemed to
stiffen, his eyes to protrude. The king looked at him and shuddered.
"Saint Denis!" he muttered, the perspiration standing on his brow, "what
an escape! What an escape! Can nothing be done for him?"

"I will try, Sire," Crillon answered, abandoning for the first time his
attitude of watchfulness. Drawing a small phial from his pocket, he
directed one of the guards to force open the lad's teeth, and then
himself poured the contents of the bottle between them.

"Good lad," he muttered to himself, "he has drained the cup. I bade him
drink only half. It would have been enough. But he is young and strong.
He may surmount it."

The rest looked on, some in curiosity, some in pity, some in secret
apprehension. It was the Duke of Guise who put into words the thoughts
of many. "Those," he said scornfully, "who find the antidote, may know
the poison, M. de Crillon."

"What do you mean, Duke?" Crillon replied passionately, as he sprang to
his feet. "That I was in this? That I know more than I have told of it?
If so, you lie, sir; and you know it!"

"I know it?" the Duke cried, his eyes aflame, his cheeks reddening.
Never had he heard such words. "Do you dare to insinuate--that I know
more of this plot than yourself--if plot there be?"

"Enough!" said the king, rising in great haste, and with a face which
betrayed his emotion. "Silence, gentlemen! silence! And you, my cousin,
not another word, I command you! Who poured out the wine?"

"A villain called Berthaud," Crillon answered promptly and fiercely,
"who was in attendance upon the Duke of Guise."

"He was not in attendance on me!" the duke answered, with spirit.

"Then on Madame de Sauves."

"I know nothing of him!" cried that lady, hysterically. "I never spoke
to the man in my life. I do not know him!"

"Enough!" the king said with decision; but the gloom on his brow grew
darker. "Enough. Until Berthaud is found, let no more be said. Cousin,"
he continued to the Count of Soissons, "you will see us home. D'Ornano,
we return at once, and you will accompany us. For M. de Crillon, we
commit to him the care of this young man, to whom we appear to be
indebted, and whose thought for us we shall not forget. Madame, I kiss
your hand."

Guise's salutation he acknowledged only by a grave bow. The last of the
Valois could at times exert himself, could at times play again the hero
of Jarnac and Montcontour, could even assume a dignity no whit less
than that of Guise. As he retired all bowed low to him, and the greater
part of the assemblage--even those who had not attended him to the
house--left in his train. In three minutes Crillon, a couple of inferior
officers, and a handful of guards alone remained round the young man.

"He will recover," Crillon said, speaking to the officer next him. "He
is young, and they did not dare to make the dose too strong. We shall
not, however, convict any one now, unless Berthaud speaks."

"Berthaud is dead."

"What?"

"As dead as Clovis," the lieutenant repeated calmly. "He is lying in the
passage, M. de Crillon."

"Who killed him?" cried Crillon, leaping up in a rage. "Who dared to
kill him? Not those fools of guards when they knew it was his evidence
we wanted."

"No, no," said the other coolly. "They found him dead not twenty paces
from the house. He was a doomed man when he passed through the door. You
understand, M. de Crillon? He knew too much to live."

"_Mort de Dieu!_" cried Crillon, raising his hands in admiration. "How
clever they are! Not a thing forgotten! Well, I will to the king and
tell him. It will put him on his guard. If I had not contrived to try
the draught there and then, I could not have convinced him; and if I had
not by a lucky hazard won this young man last night, I might have
whistled for one to try it! But I must go."

Yet he lingered a minute to see how the lad progressed. The convulsions
which had for a time racked Bazan's vigorous frame had ceased, and a
profuse perspiration was breaking out on his brow.

"Yes, he will recover," said Crillon again, and with greater confidence.

As if the words had reached Bazan's brain, he opened his eyes.

"I did it!" he muttered. "I did it. We are quits, M. de Crillon!"

"Not so!" cried the other, stooping impetuously and embracing him. "Not
quits! The balance is against me now, but I will redress it. Be easy;
your fortune is made, M. de Bazan. While James Berthon de Crillon lives
you shall not lack a friend!"

He kept his word. There can be little doubt that the Laurence de Bazan
who held high office under the Minister Sully, and in particular rose to
be Deputy Superintendent of the Finances in Guienne, was our young
Bazan. This being so, it is clear that he outlived by many years his
patron: for Crillon, "le brave Crillon," whose whim it was to dare
greatly, and on small occasion, died early in the seventeenth
century--in his bed--and lies under a famous stone in the Cathedral of
Avignon. Whereas we find Bazan still flourishing, and a person of
consequence at Court, when Richelieu came to the height of his power.
Nevertheless on him there remains no stone; only some sketch of the
above, and a crabbed note at the foot of a dusty page in a dark
library.



FOR THE CAUSE

I


Paris had never seemed to the eye more peaceful than on a certain
November evening in the year 1591: and this although many a one within
its walls resented the fineness of the night as a mockery, as a scoff
alike at the pain of some and the fury of others.

The moonlight fell on roofs and towers, on the bare open space of the
Place de Grève, and the dark mass of the Louvre, and only here and there
pierced, by chance, a narrow lane, to gleam on some foul secret of the
kennel. The Seine lay a silvery loop about the Ile de la Cité--a loop
cut on this side and that by the black shadows of the Pont au Change,
and the Petit Pont, and broken again westward by the outline of the New
Bridge, which was then in building.

The city itself lay in profound quiet in the depth of the shadow. From
time to time at one of the gates, or in the vaulted lodge of the
Châtelet, a sentinel challenged or an officer spoke. But the bell of St.
Germain l'Auxerrois, which had rung through hours of the past day, was
silent. The tumult which had leaped like flame from street to street
had subsided. Peaceful men breathed again in their houses, and women, if
they still cowered by the hearth, no longer laid trembling fingers on
their ears. For a time the red fury was over: and in the narrow
channels, where at noon the mob had seethed and roared, scarcely a stray
wayfarer could now be found.

A few however were abroad: and of these some, who chanced to be
threading the network of streets between the Châtelet and the Louvre,
heard behind them the footsteps of one in great haste. Turning, they saw
pass by them a youth, wearing a sword and a student's short cloak and
cap--apparently he was a member of the University. He was pale of face,
and for his part looked neither to right nor left: saw not one of them,
and seemed bent only on getting forward.

He slackened his pace however near the corner of the Rue de Tirchape,
where it shoots out of the Rue de Béthisy; and then turning the corner
impulsively, he caught his foot in some obstacle, and, plunging forward,
would have fallen, if he had not come against a man, who seemed to be
standing still in the shadow of the corner house.

"Hold up!" exclaimed this person, withstanding the shock better than
could have been expected, for he was neither tall nor bulky. "You should
have a pretty mistress, young man, if you go to her at this pace!"

The student did not answer--did not seem to hear. He staggered against
the wall, and stood propping himself up by it. His face, pale before,
was ghastly, as he glared, horror-struck, at something beyond the
speaker. The latter, after muttering angrily, "What the plague, then, do
you go dashing about the streets like a Shrove Tuesday ox for?" turned
also and glanced behind him.

But not at that to which the student's eyes were directed. The stranger
seemed constrained to look first and by preference at the long, low
casement of a house nearly opposite them. This window was on the first
floor, and projected somewhat over the roadway. There seemed to be no
light in the room within; but the moonlight reached it, and showed a
woman's head bent on the sill--a girl's head, if one might judge from
its wealth of hair. One white wrist gleamed amid the coil, but her face
was hidden on her arms and showed not. In the whole scene--in the
casement open at this inclement time, in the girl's attitude, in her
abandonment, there was something which stirred the nerves. It was only
after a long look that the stranger averted his eyes, and cast a casual
glance at a queer, dark object, which a few paces away swung above the
street, dimly outlined against the sky. It was clear that it was that
which had fascinated his companion.

"Umph!" he ejaculated in the tone of a man who should say "Is that all?"
And he turned to the youth again. "You seem taken aback, young man?" he
said. "Surely that is no such strange sight in Paris nowadays. What with
Leaguers hanging Politiques, and Politiques hanging Leaguers, and both
burning Huguenots, I thought a dead man was no longer a bogey to
frighten children with!"

"Hush, sir, in Heaven's name!" the young man exclaimed, shuddering at
his words. And then, with a gesture of despair, "He was my father!"

The stranger whistled. "He was your father, was he!" he replied more
gently. "I dare swear too that he was an honest man, since the Sixteen
have done this. There, steady, my friend. These are no times for
weeping. Be thankful that Le Clerc and his crew have spared your home,
and your--your sister. That is rare clemency in these days, and Heaven
only knows how long it may last. You wear a sword? Then shed no tears to
rust it. Time enough to weep, man, when there is blood to be washed from
the blade."

"You speak boldly," said the youth, checking his emotion somewhat, "but
had they hung your father before his own door----"

"Good man," said the stranger with a coolness that bordered on the
cynical, "he has been dead these twenty years."

"Then your mother?" the student suggested with the feeble persistence by
which weak minds show their consciousness of contact with stronger ones,
"you had then----"

"Hung them all as high as Haman!"

"Ay, but suppose there were among them some you could not hang,"
objected the youth, in a lower tone, while he eyed his companion
narrowly, "some of the clergy, you understand?"

"They had swung--though they had all been Popes of Rome," was the blunt
answer.

The young man shook his head, and drew off a pace. He scanned the
stranger curiously, keeping his back turned to the corpse the while; but
he failed by that light to make out much one way or the other. Scarcely
a moment too was allowed him before the murmur of voices and the clash
of weapons at the farther end of the street interrupted him. "The watch
are coming," he said roughly.

"You are right," his companion assented, "and the sooner we are within
doors the better."

It was noticeable that throughout their talk which had lasted some
minutes no sign of life had appeared in any of the neighbouring houses.
Scarce a light shone from doorway or window though it was as yet but
nine o'clock. In truth fear of the Sixteen and of the mob whom they
guided was overpowering Paris--was a terror crushing out men's lives.
While the provinces of France were divided between two opinions, and
half of them owned the Huguenot Henry the Fourth--now for two years the
rightful sovereign--Paris would have none of him. The fierce bigotry of
the lower classes, the presence of some thousands of Spanish soldiers,
and the ambition and talents of the Guise family combined at once to
keep the gates of Paris closed to him, and to overawe such of the
respectable citizens as from religious sympathy in rare cases, more
often out of a desire to see the re-establishment of law and order,
would have adopted his cause. The Politiques, or moderate party, who
were indifferent about religion as such, but believed that a strong
government could be formed only by a Romanist king, were almost
non-existent in Paris. And the events of the past day, the murder of
three magistrates and several lower officials--among them poor M.
Portail, whose body now decorated the Rue de Tirchape--had not reassured
the municipal mind. No wonder that men put out their lights early, and
were loth to go to their windows, when they might see a few feet from
the casement the swollen features of a harmless, honest man, but
yesterday going to and from his work like other men.

Young Portail stole to the door of the house and knocked hurriedly. As
he did so, he looked, with something like a shiver of apprehension, at
the window above his head. But the girl neither moved nor spoke, nor
betrayed any consciousness of his presence. She might have been dead. It
was a young man, about his own age or a little older, who, after
reconnoitring him from above, cautiously drew back the door. "Whom have
you with you?" he whispered, holding it ajar, and letting the end of a
stout club be seen.

"No one," Portail replied in the same cautious tone. And he would have
entered without more ado, and closed the door behind him had not his
late companion, who had followed him across the street like his shadow,
set his foot against it. "Nay, but you are forgetting me," he said
good-humouredly.

"Go your way! we have enough to do to protect ourselves," cried Portail,
brusquely.

"The more need of me," was the careless answer.

The watch were now but a few houses away, and the stranger seemed
determined. He could scarcely be kept out without a disturbance. With an
angry oath Felix Portail held the door for him to enter; and closed it
softly behind him. Then for a minute or so the three stood silent in the
darkness of the damp-smelling passage, while with a murmur of voices and
clash of weapons, and a ruddy glimmer piercing crack and keyhole, the
guard swept by.

"Have you a light?" Felix murmured, as the noise began to die away.

"In the back room," replied the young man who had admitted them. He
seemed to be a clerk or confidential servant. "But your sister," he
continued, "is distraught. She has sat at the window all day as you see
her now--sometimes looking at _it_. Oh, Felix," in a voice shaken by
tears, "this has been a dreadful day for this house!"

The young Portail assented by a groan. "And Susanne?" he asked.

"Is with Mistress Marie, terrified almost to death, poor child. She has
been crouching all day beside her, hiding her face in her gown. But
where were you?"

"At the Sorbonne," Felix replied, in a whisper.

"Ah!" the other exclaimed, something of hidden meaning in his tone. "I
would not tell her that, if I were you. I feared it was so. But let us
go upstairs."

They went up; the stranger following, with more than one stumble by the
way. At the head of the staircase the clerk opened a door and preceded
them into a low-roofed panelled room, plainly but solidly furnished, and
lighted by a small hanging lamp of silver. A round oak table on six
curiously turned legs stood in the middle, and on it some food was laid.
A high-backed chair, before which a sheep-skin rug was spread, and two
or three stools, made up, with a great oak chest, the furniture of the
room.

The stranger turned from scrutinizing his surroundings, and stood at
gaze. Another door had opened silently; he saw framed in the doorway and
relieved by the lamplight against the darkness of the outer room the
face and figure of a tall girl; doubtless the one whom he had seen at
the window. A moment she stood pointing at them with her hand, her face
white--and whiter in seeming by reason of the black hair which fell
round it; her eyes were dilated, the neckband of her dark red gown was
torn open that she might have air. "A Provençal!" the intruder murmured
to himself. "Beautiful and a tigress."

At any rate, for the moment, beside herself. "So you have come at last!"
she said, panting, glaring at Felix with scorn, passionate scorn in word
and gesture. "Where were you while these slaves of yours did your
bidding? At the Sorbonne with the black crows! Thinking out fresh work
for them? Or dallying with your Normandy sweetheart?"

"Hush!" he said, lowering his eyes, and visibly quailing before her.
"There is a stranger here."

"There have been many strangers here to-day!" she retorted with
undiminished bitterness. "Hush, you say? Nay, but I will not be silent
for you, for any! They may tear me limb from limb, but I will accuse
them of this murder before God's throne. Coward! Parricide! Do you think
I will ask mercy from them? Come, look on your work! See what the League
have done--your holy League!--while you sat plotting with the black
crows!"

She pointed into the dark room behind her, and the movement disclosed a
younger girl clinging to her skirts, and weeping silently. "Come here,
Susanne," Felix said; he had turned pale and red and shifted from one
foot to another, under the lash of the elder girl's scorn. "Your sister
is not herself. You do no good, Marie, staying in there. See, you are
both trembling with cold."

"With cold?" was the fierce rejoinder. "Then do you warm yourselves! Sit
down and eat and drink and be comfortable and forget him! But I will not
eat nor drink while he hangs there! Shame, Felix Portail! Shame! Have
you arms and hands, and will let your father hang before his own door?"

Her voice rang shrill to the last word audible far down the street; that
said, an awkward silence fell on the room. The stranger nodded twice,
almost as if he said, "Bravo!--Bravo." The two men of the house cast
doubtful glances at one another. At length the clerk spoke. "It is
impossible, mistress," he said gently. "Were he touched, the mob would
wreck the house to-morrow."

"A little bird whispered to me as I came through the streets,"--it was
the stranger who spoke--"that Mayenne and his riders would be in town
to-morrow. Then it seems to me that our friends of the Sorbonne will not
have matters altogether their own way--to wreck or to spare!"

The Sorbonne was the Theological College of Paris; at this time it was
the headquarters of the extreme Leaguers and the Sixteen. Mayenne and
D'Aumale, the Guise princes, more than once found it necessary to check
the excesses of the party.

Marie Portail looked for the first time at the speaker. He sat on the
edge of the chest, carelessly swinging one knee over the other; a man of
middle height, neither tall nor short, with well-bronzed cheeks, a
forehead broad and white, and an aquiline nose. He wore a beard and
moustaches, and his chin jutted out. His eyes were keen, but
good-humoured. Though spare he was sinewy; and an iron-hilted sword
propped against his thigh seemed made for use rather than show. The
upper part of his dress was of brown cloth, the lower of leather. A
weather-stained cloak, which he had taken off, lay on the chest beside
him.

"You are a man!" cried Marie, her eyes leaving him again. "But as for
these----"

"Stay, mistress!" the clerk broke in. "Your brother does but collect
himself. If the Duke of Mayenne returns to-morrow, as our friend here
says is likely--and I have heard the same myself--he will keep his men
in better order. That is true. And we might risk it if the watch would
leave us a clear street."

Felix nodded sullenly. "Shut the door," he said to his sister, the deep
gloom on his countenance in sharp contrast with the excitement she
betrayed. "There is no need to let the neighbours see us."

This time she obeyed him. Susanne too crept from her skirts, and threw
herself on her knees, hiding her face on a chair. "Ay," said Marie,
looking down at her with the first expression of tenderness the stranger
had noted in her. "Let her weep. Let children weep. But let men work."

"We want a ladder," the clerk said, in a low voice. "And the longest we
have is full three feet short."

"That is just half a man," remarked he who sat on the chest.

"What mean you?" Felix asked wonderingly.

"What I said."

"But there is nothing on which we can rest the ladder," the clerk urged.

"Then that is a whole man," quoth the stranger, curtly. "Perhaps two. I
told you you would have need of me." He looked from one to the other
with a smile--a careless, reckless, self-contented smile.

"You are a soldier," said Marie. And abruptly she fixed her eyes upon
him.

"At times," he replied, shrugging his shoulders.

"For which side?"

He shook his head. "For my own," he answered naïvely.

"A soldier of fortune?"

"At your service, mistress; now and ever."

The clerk struck in with impatience. "If we are to do this," he said,
"we had better set about it. I will fetch the ladder."

He went out, and the other men followed more slowly down the stairs;
leaving Marie still standing gazing into the darkness of the front
room--she had opened the door again--like one in a trance. Some odd
trait in the soldier led him, as he passed out, to lay his hand on the
hair of the kneeling child with a movement infinitely tender; infinitely
at variance with the harsh clatter with which his sword next moment rang
against the stairs as he descended.

The three men were going to do that which two for certain, and all
perhaps, knew to be perilous. One went to it in gloom, reluctance and
anger, as well as with sorrow at his heart. One bustled about nervously,
and looked often behind him as if to see Marie's pale face at the
window. And one strode out as to a ball, glancing up and down the dark
lane with an air of enjoyment, which not even the grim nature of his
task could suppress. The body was hanging from a bar which crossed the
street at a considerable height, and served as a stay between the gables
of two opposite houses, of which one was two doors only from the unhappy
Portail's. The mob, with a barbarity very common in those days, had hung
him on his own threshold.

The street, as the three moved into it, seemed empty and still. But it
was impossible to say how long it would remain so. Yet the soldier
loitered, staring about him, as one remembering things. "Did not the
Admiral live in this street?" he inquired.

"De Coligny? No. Round the corner in the Rue de Béthisy," replied the
clerk, brusquely. "But see! The ladder will not reach the bar--no, not
by four feet."

"Set it against the wall then--thus," said the soldier, and having done
it himself, he mounted a few steps. Then he seemed to bethink himself.
He jumped down again. "No," he exclaimed, peering sharply into the faces
of one and the other, "I do not know you. If any one comes, my friends,
and you leave the foot of the ladder, I shall be taken like a bird on a
limed twig. Do you ascend, Monsieur Felix."

The young man drew back. He was not without courage, or experience of
rough scenes. But the Louvre was close at hand, almost within earshot on
one side, the Châtelet was scarcely farther off on the other; and both
swarmed with soldiers and the armed scourings of the streets. At any
moment a troop of these might pass; and should they detect any one
interfering with King Mob's handiwork, he would certainly dangle in a
few minutes from that same handy lamp-iron. Felix knew this, and stood
at gaze. "I do not know you either," he muttered irresolutely, his hand
still on the ladder.

A smile of surprising humour played on the soldier's face. "Nay, but you
knew _him_!" he retorted, pointing upwards with his hand. "Trust me,
young sir," he added significantly, "I am less inclined to mount
now--than I was before."

The clerk intervened before Felix could resent the insult. "Steady," he
said; "I will go up and do it."

"Not so!" Felix rejoined, pushing him aside in turn. And he ran up the
ladder. But near the top he paused, and began to descend again. "I have
no knife," he said shamefacedly.

"Pshaw! Let me come!" cried the stranger. "I see you are both good
comrades. I trust you. Besides, I am more used to this ladder work than
you are, and time is everything."

He ran up as he spoke, and, standing on the highest round but one, he
grasped the bar above his head, and swung himself lightly up, so as to
gain a seat on it. With more caution he wormed himself along it until he
reached the rope. Fortunately there was a long coil of this about the
bar; and warning his companions in a whisper, he carefully, and with
such reverence as the time and place allowed, let down the body to them.
They received it in their arms; and had just loosened the noose from the
neck when an outburst of voices and the tramp of footsteps at the nearer
end of the street surprised them. For an instant the two stood in the
gloom, breathless, stricken still, confounded. Then with a single
impulse they lifted the body between them, and huddled blindly towards
the door of the Portails' house. It opened at their touch, they stumbled
in, and it fell to behind them. The foremost of the armed watch had been
within ten paces of them. The escape was narrow.

Yet they had escaped. But what next? What of their comrade? The moment
the door was closed behind them, one at least would have rushed out
again, ay, to certain death, so strongly had the soldier's trust
appealed to his honour. But they had the body in their arms; and by the
time it was laid on the stairs, a score of men had passed. The
opportunity was over. They could do nothing but listen. "Heaven help
him!" fell from the clerk's quivering lips. Pulling the door close, they
stood, looking each moment to hear a challenge, a shot, the clash of
swords. But no. They heard the party halt under the gallows, and pass
some brutal jest, and go on. And that was all.

They could scarcely believe their ears; no, nor their eyes, when a few
minutes later, the street being now quiet, they passed out, and stood in
it shuddering. For there swung the corpse dimly outlined above them!
There! Certainly there! The clerk seized his companion's arm and drew
him back. "It was the fiend!" he stammered. "See, your father is still
there! It was the fiend who helped us!"

But at that the figure they were watching became agitated; an instant
and it slid gently to the ground. It was the soldier. "O ye gods!" he
cried, bent double with silent laughter. "Saw you ever such a trick? How
I longed to kick, if it were but my toe at them, and I forbore! Fools!
Did man ever see a body hung in its sword? But it was a good trick, eh?"
he continued, appealing to them with a simple pride in his invention. "I
had the rope loose in my hand when they came, and I drew it twice round
my neck--and one arm trust me--and swung off gently. It is not every one
who would have thought of that, my children!"

It was odd. They shook with fear, and he with laughter. He did not seem
to give a thought to the danger he had escaped. Pride in his readiness
and a keen sense of the humorous side of the incident possessed him
entirely. At the very door of the house he still chuckled from time to
time; muttering between the ebullitions, "Ah, I must tell Diane! Diane
will be pleased--at that! It was good! Very good!"

Once in the house, however, he acted with more delicacy than might have
been imagined. He stood aside while the other two carried the body
upstairs; and while they were absent, he waited patiently in the bare
room below, which showed signs of occasional use as a stable. Here the
clerk Adrian presently found him, and murmured some apology. Mistress
Marie, he said, had fainted.

"A matter which afflicts you, my friend," the soldier replied with a
grimace, "about as much as your master's death. Pooh, man, do not look
fierce! Good luck to you and your suit. Only if--but this is no house
for gallantry to-night--I had spruced myself and taken a part, you had
had to look to your one ewe lamb, I warrant you!"

The clerk turned pale and red by turns. This man seemed to read his
thoughts as if he had indeed been the fiend. "What do you wish?" he
stammered.

"Only shelter until the early morning when the streets are most quiet;
and a direction to the Rue des Lombards."

"The Rue des Lombards?"

"Yes, why not?" But though the soldier still smiled, the lines of his
mouth hardened suddenly. "Why not to the Rue des Lombards?"

"I know no reason why you should not be going there," the clerk replied
boldly. "It was only that the street is near; and a friend of my late
master's lives in it."

"His name?"

The clerk started; the question was put so abruptly, and in a tone so
imperious, it struck him as it were a blow. "Nicholas Toussaint," he
answered involuntarily.

"Ay?" replied the other, raising his hand to his chin and glancing at
Adrian with a look that for all the world reminded him of an old print
of the eleventh Louis, which hung in a room at the Hotel de Ville--so
keen and astute was it. "Your master, young man, was of the moderate
party--a Politique?"

"He was."

"A good man and a Catholic? one who loved France? A Leaguer only in
name?" the other continued with vividness.

"Yes, that is so."

"But his son? He is a Leaguer out and out--one who would rise to fortune
on the flood tide of the mob? A Sorbonnist? The priests have got hold of
him? He would do to others as they have done to his father? A friend of
Le Clerc and Boucher? That is all so, is it not?"

Adrian nodded reluctantly. This strange man confounded and yet
fascinated him: this man so reckless and gay one moment, so wary the
next; exchanging in an instant the hail of a boon companion for the tone
of a noble.

"And is your young master also a friend of this Nicholas Toussaint?" was
the next question, slowly put.

"No," said Adrian, "he has been forbidden the house. M. Toussaint does
not approve of his opinions."

"That is so, is it?" the stranger rejoined with his former gaiety. "And
now enough: where will you lodge me until morning?"

"If my closet will serve you," Felix answered with a hesitation he would
not have felt a few minutes before, "it is at your will. I will bring
some food there at once, and will let you out if you please at five."
And Adrian added some simple directions, by following which his guest
might reach the Rue des Lombards without difficulty.

An hour later if the thoughts of those who lay sleepless under that roof
could have been traced, strange contrasts would have appeared. Was Felix
Portail thinking of his dead father, or of his sweetheart in the Rue des
Lombards, or of his schemes of ambition? Was he blaming the crew of whom
until to-day he had been one, or sullenly cursing those factious
Huguenots as the root of the mischief? Was Adrian thinking of his kind
master, or of his master's daughter? Was the guest dreaming of his
narrow escape? or revolving plans beside which Felix's were but the
schemes of a rat in a drain? Perhaps Marie alone--for Susanne slept a
child's sleep of exhaustion--had her thoughts fixed on him, who only a
few hours before had been the centre of the household.

But such is life in troubled times. Pleasure and pain come mingled, and
men snatch the former from the midst of the latter with a trembling joy,
a fierce eagerness: knowing that if they wait to go a pleasuring until
the sky be clear, they may wait until nightfall.

When Adrian called his guest at cock-crow the latter rose briskly and
followed him down to the door. "Well, young sir," he said, pausing an
instant on the threshold, as he wrapped his cloak round him and took his
sheathed sword in his hand, "I am obliged to you. When I can do you a
service, I will."

"You can do me one now," the clerk replied bluntly. "It is ill work
having to do with strangers in these days. You can tell me who you are,
and to which side you belong."

"Which side? I have told you--my own. And for the rest," the soldier
continued, "I will give you a hint." He brought his lips near to the
other's ear, and whispered, "Kiss Marie--for me!"

The clerk looked up aflame with anger and surprise; but the other was
far gone striding down the street. Yet Adrian received an answer to his
question. For as the stranger disappeared in the gloom, he turned his
head and broke with an audacity that took away the listener's breath
into a well-known air,

  "Hau! Hau! Papegots!
  Faites place aux Huguenots!"

and trilled it as merrily as if he had been in the streets of Rochelle.

"Death!" the clerk exclaimed, getting back into the house, and barring
the door in a panic. "I thought so. He is a Huguenot. But if he take his
neck out of Paris unstretched, he will have the fiend's own luck, and
the Béarnais' to boot!"


II

When the clerk had re-mounted the stairs, he heard voices in the back
room. Felix and Marie were in consultation. The girl was a different
being this morning. The fire and fury of the night had sunk to a still
misery; and even to her, for his sister's sake, it seemed over-dangerous
to stay in the house and confront the rage of the mob. Mayenne might not
after all return: and in that case the Sixteen would assuredly wreak
their spite on all, however young or helpless, who might have had to do
with the removal of the body. "You must seek shelter with some friend,"
Felix urged, "before the city is astir. I can go to the University. I
shall be safe there."

"Could you not take us with you?" Marie suggested meekly.

He shook his head, his face flushing. It was hard to confess that he had
power to destroy, but none to protect. "You had better go to Nicholas
Toussaint's," he said. "You will be safe there, and he will take you in,
though he will have naught to do with me."

Marie assented with a sigh, and rose to make ready. Some few valuables
were hidden or secured, some clothes taken; and then the little party of
four passed out into the street, leaving but one solemn tenant in their
home. The cold light of a November morning gave to the lane an air,
even in their eyes, of squalor and misery. The kennel running down the
middle was choked with nastiness, while here and there the upper stories
leaned forward so far as to obscure the light.

The fugitives regarded these things little after the first shivering
glance, but hurried on their road; Felix with his sword marching on one
side of the girls, and Adrian with his club walking on the other. A
skulking dog got out of their way. The song of a belated reveller drove
them for a time under an arch. But they fell in with nothing more
formidable, and in five minutes came safely to the high wooden gates of
the courtyard in front of Nicholas Toussaint's house.

To arouse him or his servants without disturbing the neighbourhood was
another matter. There was no bell; only a heavy iron clapper. Adrian
tried this cautiously, with little hope of being heard. To his joy the
hollow sound had scarcely ceased when footsteps were heard crossing the
court, and a small trap in one of the gates was opened. An elderly man
with high cheek bones and curly grey hair looked out. His eyes lighting
on the girls lost their harshness. "Marie Portail!" he exclaimed. "Ah!
poor thing, I pity you. I have heard all. I returned to the city last
night only, or I should have been with you. And Adrian?"

"We have come," said the young man, respectfully, "to beg shelter for
Mistress Marie and her sister. It is no longer safe for them to remain
in the Rue de Tirchape."

"I can well believe it," cried Toussaint, vigorously. "I do not know
where we are safe nowadays. But there," he added in a different tone,
"no doubt the Sixteen are acting for the best."

"You will take them in then?" said Adrian with gratitude.

But to his astonishment the citizen shook his head, while an awkward
embarrassment twisted his features. "It is impossible!" he said.

Adrian doubted if he had heard aright. Nicholas Toussaint was known for
a bold man; one whom the Sixteen disliked, and even suspected of
Huguenot leanings, but one too whom they had not yet dared to attack. He
was a dealer in Norman horses, and this both led him to employ many men,
reckless daring fellows, and made him in some degree necessary to the
army. Adrian had never doubted that he would shelter the daughter of his
old friend; and his surprise on receiving this rebuff was extreme.

"But, Monsieur Toussaint--" he urged--and his face reddened with
generous warmth as he stood forward. "My master is dead! Foully
murdered! He lies who says otherwise, though he be of the Sixteen! My
mistress has few friends to protect her, and those of small power. Will
you send her and the child from your door?"

"Hush, Adrian," the girl interposed, lifting her head proudly, yet
laying her hand on the clerk's sleeve with a touch of acknowledgment
that brought the blood in redoubled force to his cheeks. "Do not press
our friend overmuch. If he will not take us in from the streets, be sure
he has some good reason to offer."

But Toussaint was dumb. Shame--a shame augmented tenfold by the clerk's
fearlessness--was so clearly written on his face, that Adrian uttered
none of the reproaches which hung on his lips. It was Felix who came
forward, and cried contemptuously, "So you have grown strangely cautious
of a sudden, M. Toussaint?"

"Ha! I thought you were there, or thereabouts!" the horse-dealer
replied, regaining his composure at once, and eyeing him with strong
disfavour.

"But Felix and I," Adrian exclaimed eagerly, "will fend for ourselves."

Toussaint shook his head. "It is impossible," he said surlily. "Quite
impossible!"

"Then hear me!" Felix interposed with excitement. "You do not deceive
me. It is not because of your daughter that you have forbidden me the
house, and will not now protect my sister! It is because we shall learn
too much. It is because you have those under your roof, whom the crows
shall pick--yet! You, I will spare for Madeline's sake; but your spies I
will string up, every one of them by----" and he swore a frightful
oath, such as the Romanists used.

Toussaint's face betrayed both fear and anger. For an instant he seemed
to hesitate. Then exclaiming, "Begone, parricide! You would have killed
your own father!" he slammed the trapdoor, and was heard retreating up
the yard with a haste and clatter which indicated his uneasiness.

The four looked at one another. Daylight had fully come. The noise of
the altercation had drawn more than one sleepy face to the window. In a
short time the streets would be alive with people, and even a delay of a
few minutes might bring destruction. They thought of this; and moved
away slowly and reluctantly, Susanne clinging to Adrian's arm, while
Felix strode ahead scowling. But when they had placed a hundred yards or
so between themselves and Toussaint's gates, they stopped, a chill sense
of desolation upon them. Whither were they to go? Felix urged that they
should seek other friends and try them. But Marie declined. If Nicholas
Toussaint dared not take them in, no other of their friends would. She
had given up hope, and longed only to get back to their home, and the
still form, which it seemed to her she should never have deserted.

They were standing discussing this when a cry caused them to turn. A
girl was running hatless along the street; a girl tall and plump of
figure, with a creamy slightly freckled face, a glory of waving golden
hair upon her shoulders, and great grey eyes that could laugh and cry at
once, even as they were doing now. "My poor Marie," she exclaimed,
taking her in her arms; "my poor little one! Come back! You are to come
back at once!" Then disengaging herself, with a blushing cheek, she
allowed Felix to embrace her. But though that young gentleman made full
use of his permission, his face did not clear. "Your father has just
turned my sister from his door," he said bitterly, "as he turned me a
month ago."

She looked at him with a tender upward glance meant for him only.
"Hush!" she begged him. "Do not speak so of my father. And he has sent
to fetch them back. He says he cannot keep them himself, but if they
will come in and rest he will see them safely disposed. Will not that
do?"

"Excellently, Miss Madeline," Adrian cried with gratitude. "And we thank
your father a thousand times."

"Nay, but--" she said slyly--"that permission does not extend to you."

"What matter?"

"What matter if Marie be safe you mean," she replied demurely. "Well, I
would I had so gallant a--clerk," with a glance at her own handsome
lover. "But come, my father is waiting at the gate for us." And she
urged haste, notwithstanding which she and Felix were the last to turn.
When she at length ran after the others her cheeks betrayed her.

"I can see what you have been doing, girl," her father cried, meeting
her within the door. "For shame, hussy! Go to your room, and take your
friends with you." And he aimed a light blow at her, which she easily
evaded.

"They will need breakfast," she persisted. She had seen her lover, and
though the interview might have had its drawbacks--best known to
herself--she cared little for a blow in comparison with that.

"They will take it in your room," he retorted. "Come, pack, girl! Pack!
I will talk to you presently," he added, with meaning.

The Portails drew her away. To them her room was a haven of rest, where
they felt safe, and could pour out their grief, and let her pity and
indignation soothe them. The horror of the last twenty-four hours began
to fall from them. They seemed to themselves to be outcasts no longer.

In the afternoon Toussaint reappeared. "On with your hoods," he cried
briskly, his good humour re-established. "I and half a dozen stout lads
will see you to a place where you can lie snug for a week."

Marie asked timidly about her father's funeral. "I will see to it,
little one," he answered. "I will let the curate of St. Germain know.
He will do what is seemly--if the mob let him," he added to himself.

"But, father," cried Madeline, "where are you going to take them?"

"To Philip Boyer's."

"What!" the girl cried in much surprise. "His house is small and Philip
and his wife are old and feeble."

"True," answered Toussaint. "But his hutch is under the Duchess's roof.
There is a touch of _our great man_ about Madame. Mayenne the crowd
neither overmuch love, nor much fear. He will die in his bed. But with
his sister it is a word and a blow. The Sixteen will not touch aught
that is under her roof."

The Duchess de Montpensier was the sister of Henry Duke of Guise, Henry
the Scarred, _Our great man_, as the Parisians loved to call him. He had
been assassinated in the ante-chamber of Henry of Valois some two years
before this time; and she had become the soul of the League, having more
of the headstrong nature which had made him popular, than either of his
brothers, Mayenne or D'Aumale.

"I see," said Madeline, kissing the girls, "you are right, father."

"Impertinent baggage!" he cried. "To your prayers and your needle. And
see that while we are away you keep close, and do not venture into the
courtyard even."

She was not a nervous girl, and she was used to be alone; but the bare,
roomy house seemed lonely after her father and his party had set out.
She wandered to the kitchen where the two old women-servants were
preparing, with the aid of a turnspit, the early supper; there she
learned that only old Simon, the lame ostler, was left in the stables,
which stood on either side of the courtyard. This was not re-assuring
news: the more as Madeline knew her father might not return for another
hour. She went thence to the long eating-room on the first floor, which
ran the full depth of the house, and had one window looking to the back
as well as several facing the courtyard. Here she opened the door of the
stove, and let the cheery glow play upon her.

Presently she grew tired of this, too, and moved to the rearward window.
It looked upon a narrow lane, and a dead wall. Still, there was a chance
of seeing some one pass, some stranger; whereas the windows which looked
on the empty courtyard were no windows at all--to Madeline.

The girl had not long looked out before her pale complexion, which the
fire had scarcely warmed, grew hot. She started, and glanced nervously
into the room behind her; then looked out again. She had seen, standing
in a nook of the wall opposite her, a figure she knew well. It was that
of her lover, and he seemed to be watching the house. Timidly she waved
her hand to him, and he, after looking up and down the lane, advanced
to the window. He could do this safely, for it was the only window in
the Toussaints' house which looked that way.

"Are you alone?" he whispered, looking up at her.

She nodded.

"And my sisters? I am here to learn what has become of them."

"Have gone to Philip Boyer's. He lives in one of the cottages on the
left of the Duchess's court."

"Ah! And you? Where is your father?" he murmured.

"He has gone to take them. I am alone; and two minutes ago I was
melancholy," she added, with a smile that should have made him happy.

"I want to talk to you," he replied. "May I climb up if I can,
Madeline?"

She shook her head, which of course meant, no. And she said, "It is
impossible." But she smiled; and that meant, yes. Or so he took it.

There was a pipe which ran up the wall a couple of feet or so on one
side of the casement. Before she understood his plan, or that he was in
earnest, he had gripped this, and was halfway up to the window.

"Oh, take care," she cried. "Do not come, Felix. Do not come. My father
will never forgive you!" Woman-like she repented, when it was too late.
But he did not listen, he came on, and when his hand was stretched out
to grasp the sill, all her fear was lest he should fall. She seized his
wrist, and helped him in. Then she drew back. "You should not have done
it, Felix," she said, drawing back from him with reproof in her eyes.

"But I wanted to see you so much," he urged, "and the glimpse I had of
you this morning was nothing."

"Well, you may come to the stove and warm yourself--a moment. Oh! how
cold your hands are, my poor boy! But you must not stay. Indeed you must
not!" And she cast terrified glances at the door.

But stolen moments are sweet and apt to be long drawn out. She had a
great deal to say, and he had a great deal it seemed to ask--so much to
ask indeed, that gradually a dim sense that he was asking about other
things than herself--about her father and the ways of the house, and
what guests they had, came over her.

It chilled her. She drew away from him, and said, suddenly, "Oh, Felix!"
and looked at him.

Nothing more. But he understood her and coloured; and tried to ask, but
asked awkwardly, "What is the matter?"

"I know of what you are thinking," she said with grave sorrow. "And it
is base of you, it is cruel! You would use even me whom you love--to
ruin my friends!"

"Hush!" he answered, letting his gloomy passion have vent for the
moment, "they are not your friends, Madeline. See what they have done
for me. It is they, or the troubles they have set on foot, that have
killed my father!" And he swore--carried away by his mistaken
resentment--never again to spare a Huguenot save her father and one
other.

She trembled and tried to close her ears. Her father had told her a
hundred times that she could not be happy with a husband divided from
her by a gulf so wide. She had said to him that it was too late. She had
given Felix her heart and she was a woman. She could not take it back,
though she knew that nothing but unhappiness could come of the match.

"God forgive you!" she cried in that moment of strained insight; and
sank in her chair as though she would weep.

He fell on his knees beside her with words of endearment; for he had
conquered himself again. And she let him soothe her, and would gladly
have believed him. She had never loved him more than now, when she knew
the price she must pay for him. She closed her eyes--for the moment--to
that terrible future, that certain future; and he was holding her in his
arms, when without warning a heavy footstep began to ascend the stairs.

They sprang apart. If even then he had had presence of mind, he might
have reached the window. But he hesitated, looking in her startled
eyes, and waiting. "Is it your father?" he whispered.

She shook her head. "He cannot have returned. We should have heard the
gates opened. There is no one in the house," she murmured faintly,
listening while she spoke.

But still the footsteps came on: and stopped at the door. Felix looked
round him with eyes of despair. Close beside him, just behind the stove,
was the door of a closet. He took two strides, and before he or she had
thought of the consequences, he was in the closet. Softly he drew the
door to again; and she sank terrified on a chair, as the door of the
room opened.

He who came in was not her father but a man of thirty-five, a stranger
to her. A man with a projecting chin. His keen grey eyes wore at the
moment of his entrance an expression of boredom and petulance, but when
he caught sight of her, this passed, as a cloud from the sky. He came
across the floor smiling. "Pardon me," he said--but said it as if no
pardon were needed, "I found the stables--insupportably dull. I set out
on a voyage of discovery. I have found my America!" And he bowed in a
style which puzzled the frightened girl.

"You want to see my father?" she stammered, "He----"

"He has gone to the Duchess's. I know it. And very ill-natured it was of
him to leave me in the stable, instead of entrusting me to your care,
mistress. La Nouë," he continued, "is in the stable still, asleep on a
bundle of hay, and a pretty commotion there will be--when he finds I
have stolen away!"

Laughing with an easy carelessness that struck the citizen's daughter
with fresh astonishment, the stranger drew up the armchair, which was
commonly held sacred to M. Toussaint's use, and threw himself into it;
lazily disposing his booted feet in the glow which poured from the
stove, and looking across at his companion with admiration in his bold
eyes. At another time she might have been offended by the look: or she
might not. Women are variable. Now her fears lest Felix should be
discovered dulled her apprehension.

Yet the name of La Nouë had caught her ear. She knew it well, as all
France and the Low Countries knew it in those days, for the name of one
of the boldest and stanchest soldiers on the Huguenot side.

"La Nouë?" she murmured, misty suspicions beginning to take form in her
mind.

"Yes, pretty one," he replied, laughing. "La Nouë and no other. Does
Bras-de-fer pass for an ogre here in Paris that you tremble so at his
name? Let me----"

But whatever the proposition he was going to offer, it came to nothing.
The dull clash of the gates outside warned both of them that Nicholas
Toussaint and his party had returned. A moment later a hasty tread
sounded on the stairs; and an elderly man wearing a cloak burst in upon
them.

His eyes swept the room while his hand still held the door; and it was
clear that what he saw did not please him. He came forward stiffly, his
brows knitted. But he said nothing; he seemed uncertain and embarrassed.

"See!" the first comer said, looking quietly up at him, but not offering
to move. "Now what do you think of your ogre? And by the rood he looks
fierce enough to eat babes! There, old friend," he continued, speaking
to the elder man in a different tone, "spare your lecture. This is
Toussaint's daughter, and as staunch I will warrant as her father."

The old noble--he had but one arm, she saw--still looked at her with
disfavour. "Girls have sweethearts, sire," he said shrewdly.

For a moment--at that word--the room seemed to go round with her. Though
something more of reproach and playful defence passed between the two
men, she heard not a syllable of it. The consciousness that her lover
was listening to every word, and that from this moment La Nouë's life
was in his hands, numbed her brain. She sat helpless, hardly aware that
half a dozen men were entering, her father one of them. When a lamp was
called for--it was growing dark--she did not stir: and Toussaint, who
had not seen her, fetched it himself.

By the time he came back she had partly recovered her wits. She noted
that her father locked the door with care before he set the lamp on the
table. As its light fell on the harsh features of the men, a ray passed
between two of them, and struck her pale face. Her father saw her and
stared in astonishment.

"By heaven!" he cried. "What does the wench here?" No one answered; but
all turned and looked at her where she cowered back against the stove.
"Go, girl!" Toussaint cried, beside himself with passion. "Begone! and
presently I will deal with you!"

"Nay, stop!" La Nouë interposed. "Your daughter knows too much. We
cannot let her go thus."

"Knows too much? How?" and the citizen tossed his head like a bull
balked in his charge. "What does she know?"

"His majesty----"

"Nay, let his majesty speak for himself--for once," said the man with
the grey eyes; and even in her terror and confusion Madeline saw that
all turned to him with a single movement. "Mistress Toussaint did but
chat with La Nouë and myself, during her father's absence. True, she
knows us; or one of us. But if any be to blame it is I. Let her stay. I
will answer for her fidelity."

"Nay, but she is a woman, sire," some one objected.

"Ay, she is, good Poulain," and Henry turned to the speaker with a
singularly bright smile. "So we are safe; for there is no woman in
France would betray Henry of Bourbon!"

A laugh went round. Some one mentioned the Duchess.

"True!" said Henry, for Henry it was, he whom the Leaguers called the
Béarnais and the Politiques the King of Navarre, but whom later
generations have crowned as the first of French kings--Henry the Great.
"True! I had forgotten her. I must beware of her golden scissors. We
have two crowns already, and want not another of her making. But come,
let us to business without farther delay. Be seated, gentlemen; be
seated without ceremony: and while we consider whether our plans hold
good, Mistress Toussaint--" he paused and turned, to look kindly at the
terrified girl--"will play the sentry for us."

Madeline's presence within a few feet of their council-board was soon
forgotten by the eager men who sat round the table. And in a sense she
forgot them. She heard, it is true, their hopes and plans, of which the
chief, and that which brought them together to-day, was a scheme to
surprise Paris by introducing men hidden in carts laden with hay. She
heard how Henry and La Nouë had entered, and who had brought them in,
and how it was proposed to smuggle them out again; and many details of
men and means and horses; and who were loyal and who disaffected, and
who might be bought over, and at what price. She even took note of the
manner of each speaker as he leaned forward, and brought his face within
the circle of light, marking who were known to her before, substantial
citizens these, constant at mass and market; and who were strangers, men
fiercer looking, thinner, haughtier, more restless, with the stamp of
constant peril at the corners of their eyes, and swords some inches
longer than their neighbours'.

She saw and heard all this, and more, and reasoned dully on it. But all
the time her mind was paralysed by the numbing sense of one great evil
awaiting her, of something with which she must presently come face to
face, though her faculties had not grasped it yet. Men's lives! Ah, yes,
men's lives! The girl had been bred a Huguenot. She had been taught to
revere the men of the religion, the men whose names were household
words; and not the weakness of the cause, not even her lover's
influence, had sapped her loyalty to it.

Presently there was a stir about the table. Some of the men rose. "Then
that arrangement meets your views, sire?" said La Nouë.

"I think it is the better suggestion. Let it hold. I sleep to-night at
my good friend Mazeau's," the king answered, turning to the person he
named; "and leave to-morrow about noon by St. Martin's gate. That is
understood, is it? Then let it stand so."

He did not see--none of them saw--how the girl in the shadow by the
stove started; nor did they mark how the last trace of colour fled from
her cheeks. She was face to face with her fate now, and knew that her
own hand must work it out. The men were separating. Henry had risen and
was bidding farewell to one and another; until no more than four or five
beside Toussaint and La Nouë remained with him. Then he prepared himself
to go, and girt on his sword, talking earnestly the while. Still engaged
in low converse with one of the strangers, he walked slowly, lighted by
his host to the door; he had forgotten to take leave of the girl. In
another minute he and they would have disappeared in the passage, when a
hoarse sound escaped from Madeline's lips.

It was not so much a cry as a groan, but it was enough for men whose
nerves were strained to the breaking point. All--at the moment they had
their backs to her, their faces to the king--turned swiftly. "Ha!" Henry
cried on the instant, "I had forgotten my manners. I was leaving my most
faithful sentry without a word of thanks, or a keepsake by which to
remember Henry of France."

She had risen, and was supporting herself--but she swayed as she
stood--by the arm of the chair. Never had her lover been so dear to
her; never had his faults seemed so small, his love so precious. As the
king approached, the light fell on her face, on her agonized eyes, and
he stopped short. "Toussaint!" he cried sharply, "your daughter is ill.
Look to her!" But it was noticeable that he laid his hand on his sword.

"Stay!" she cried, the word ringing shrilly through the room. "You are
betrayed! There is some one--there!" she pointed to the closet--"who has
heard--all! All! Oh, sire, mercy! mercy!"

As the last words passed the girl's writhing lips she clutched at her
throat: she seemed to fight a moment for breath, for life: then with a
stifled shriek fell in a swoon to the ground.

A second's silence. Then a whistling sound as half a dozen swords were
snatched from the scabbards. The veteran La Nouë sprang to the door:
others ran to the windows and stood before them. Only Henry--after a
swift glance at Toussaint, who, pale and astonished, leaned over his
daughter--stood still, his fingers on his hilt. Another second of
suspense, and before any one spoke, the cupboard door swung slowly open,
and Felix Portail, pale to the lips, stood before them.

"What do you here?" cried Henry, restraining by a gesture those who
would have instantly flung themselves upon the spy.

"I came to see her," Felix said. He was quite calm, but a perspiration
cold as death stood on his brow, and his dilated eyes wandered from one
to another. "You surprised me. Toussaint knows--that I was her
sweetheart," he murmured.

"Ay, wretched man, you came to see her! And for what else?" Henry
replied, his eyes, as a rule, so kindly, bent on the other in a gaze
fixed and relentless.

A sudden visible quiver--as it were the agony of death--shot through
Portail's frame. He opened his mouth, but for a while no sound came. His
eyes sought the nearest sword with a horrid side-glance. "Kill me at
once," he gasped, "before she--before----"

He never finished the sentence. With an oath the nearest Huguenot lunged
at his breast, and fell back foiled by a blow from the king's hand.
"Back!" cried Henry, his eyes flashing as another sprang forward, and
would have done the work. "Will you trench on the King's justice in his
presence? Sheath your swords, all save the Sieur de la Nouë, and the
gentlemen who guard the windows!"

"He must die!" several voices cried; and two men still pressed forward
viciously.

"Think, sire! Think what you do," cried La Nouë himself, warning in his
voice. "He has in his hand the life of every man here! And they are your
men, risking all for the crown."

"True," Henry replied smiling; "but I ask no man to run a risk I will
not take myself."

A murmur of dissatisfaction burst forth. Several who had sheathed, drew
their swords again. "I have a wife and child!" cried one, bringing his
point to the thrust. "He dies!"

"He dies!" cried another following his example. And the two pressed
forward.

"He does not die!" exclaimed the King, his voice so ringing through the
room that all fell back once more; fell back not so much because it was
the king who spoke as in obedience to the voice which two years before
had rallied the flying squadrons at Arques, and years before that had
rung out hour after hour and day after day above the long street fight
of Cahors. "He does not die!" repeated Henry, looking from one to
another, with his chin thrust out, and his eyes glittering. "France
speaks, dare any contradict. Surely, my masters, there are no traitors
here!"

"Your majesty," said La Nouë after a moment's pause, "commands our
lives."

"Thanks, Francis," Henry replied, instantly changing his tone. "And now
hear me, gentlemen. Think you that it was a light thing in this girl to
give up her lover? She might have let us go to our doom, and we none the
wiser! Would you take her gift and make her no requital? That were not
just! That were not royal! That cannot the King of France do! And now
for you, sir"--he turned with another manner to Felix, who was leaning
half-fainting against the wall--"hearken to me. You shall go free. I,
who this morning played the son to your dead father, I give you your
life for your sweetheart's sake. For her sake be true. You shall go out
alive and safe into the streets of Paris, which five minutes ago you
little thought to see again. The girl you love has ransomed you: go
therefore and be worthy of her. Or if I am wrong, if you still will
betray me--still go! Go to be damned to all eternity! Go, to leave a
name that shall live for centuries--and stand for treachery!"

He spoke the last words with such scorn that a murmur of applause broke
out even among those stern men. He took instant advantage of it. "Now
go!" he said hurriedly. "You can take the girl with you. She has but
fainted. A kiss will bring her to life. Go, and, as you love, be
silent."

The man took up his burden and went, trembling; still unable to speak.
But no hand was now raised to stop him.

When he had disappeared, La Nouë turned to the king. "You will not now
sleep at Mazeau's, sire?"

Henry rubbed his chin. "Yes; let the plan stand," he answered after a
brief pause. "If he betray one, he shall betray all."

"But this is madness," La Nouë urged.

The King shook his head, and smiling, clapped the veteran on the
shoulder. "Not so," he said. "The man is no traitor: I say it. And you
have never met with a longer head than Henry's."

"Never," assented La Nouë bluntly, "save when there is a woman in it!"

       *       *       *       *       *

The curtain falls. The men have lived and are dead. La Nouë, the
Huguenot Bayard, now exists only in a dusty memoir and a page of Motley.
Madame de Montpensier is forgotten; all of her, save her golden
scissors. Mayenne, D'Aumale, a verse preserves their names. Only
Henry--the "good King," as generations of French peasants called
him--remains a living figure: his strength and weakness, his sins and
virtues, as well known, as thoroughly appreciated by thousands now as in
the days of his life.

It follows that we cannot hope to learn much of the fortunes of people
so insignificant--save for that moment when the fate of a nation hung on
their breath--as the Portails and Toussaints. We do know that Felix
proved worthy. For though the attack on Paris which was planned at
Toussaint's house, failed, it did not fail through treachery. And we
know that Felix married Madeline, and that Adrian won Marie: but no
more. Unless certain Portails now living in various parts of the world,
whose ancestors left France at the time of the Revocation of the Edict
of Nantes, are their descendants. And certainly it is curious that in
these families it is not rare to find the eldest son bearing the name of
Henry, and the second of Felix.



THE KING'S STRATAGEM


In the days when Henry the Fourth of France was as yet King of Navarre
only, and in that little kingdom of hills and woods which occupies the
south-western corner of the larger country, was with difficulty
supporting the Huguenot cause against the French court and the Catholic
League--in the days when every little moated town, from the Dordogne to
the Pyrenees, was a bone of contention between the young king and the
crafty queen-mother, Catherine de Medicis, a conference between these
warring personages took place in the picturesque town of La Réole. And
great was the fame of it.

La Réole still rises grey, time-worn, and half-ruined on a lofty cliff
above the broad green waters of the Garonne, forty odd miles from
Bordeaux. It is a small place now, but in the days of which we are
speaking it was important, strongly fortified, and guarded by a castle
which looked down on some hundreds of red-tiled roofs, rising in
terraces from the river. As the meeting-place of the two sovereigns it
was for the time as gay as Paris itself. Catherine had brought with her
a bevy of fair maids of honour, and trusted more perhaps in the effect
of their charms than in her own diplomacy. But the peaceful appearance
of the town was as delusive as the smooth bosom of the Gironde; for even
while every other house in its streets rang with music and silvery
laughter, each party was ready to fly to arms at a word if it saw that
any advantage could be gained thereby.

On an evening shortly before the end of the conference two men were
seated at play in a room, the deep-embrasured window of which looked
down from a considerable height upon the river. The hour was late; below
them the town lay silent. Outside, the moonlight fell bright and pure on
sleeping fields, on vineyards, and dark far-spreading woods. Within the
room a silver lamp suspended from the ceiling threw light upon the
table, but left the farther parts of the chamber in shadow. The walls
were hung with faded tapestry, and on a low bedstead in one corner lay a
handsome cloak, a sword, and one of the clumsy pistols of the period.
Across a high-backed chair lay another cloak and sword, and on the
window seat, beside a pair of saddle-bags, were strewn half a dozen
trifles such as soldiers carried from camp to camp--a silver comfit-box,
a jewelled dagger, a mask, a velvet cap.

The faces of the players, as they bent over the cards, were in shadow.
One--a slight, dark man of middle height, with a weak chin--and a mouth
that would have equally betrayed its weakness had it not been shaded by
a dark moustache--seemed, from the occasional oaths which he let drop,
to be losing heavily. Yet his opponent, a stouter and darker man, with a
sword-cut across his left temple, and the swaggering air that has at all
times marked the professional soldier, showed no signs of triumph or
elation. On the contrary, though he kept silence, or spoke only a formal
word or two, there was a gleam of anxiety and suppressed excitement in
his eyes; and more than once he looked keenly at his companion, as if to
judge of his feelings or to learn whether the time had come for some
experiment which he meditated. But for this, an observer looking in
through the window would have taken the two for that common
conjunction--the hawk and the pigeon.

At last the younger player threw down his cards with an exclamation.

"You have the luck of the evil one," he said, bitterly. "How much is
that?"

"Two thousand crowns," the other replied without emotion. "You will play
no more?"

"No! I wish to heaven I had never played at all!" was the answer. As he
spoke the loser rose, and moving to the window stood looking out. For a
few moments the elder man remained in his seat, gazing furtively at him;
at length he too rose, and, stepping softly to his companion, he touched
him on the shoulder. "Your pardon a moment, M. le Vicomte," he said.
"Am I right in concluding that the loss of this sum will inconvenience
you?"

"A thousand fiends!" the young gamester exclaimed, turning on him
wrathfully. "Is there any man whom the loss of two thousand crowns would
not inconvenience? As for me----"

"For you," the other continued smoothly, filling up the pause, "shall I
be wrong in supposing that it means something like ruin?"

"Well, sir, and if it does?" the young man retorted; and he drew himself
up, his cheek a shade paler with passion. "Depend upon it you shall be
paid. Do not be afraid of that!"

"Gently, gently, my friend," the winner answered, his patience in strong
contrast to the other's violence. "I had no intention of insulting you,
believe me. Those who play with the Vicomte de Noirterre are not wont to
doubt his honour. I spoke only in your own interest. It has occurred to
me, Vicomte, that the matter may be arranged at less cost to yourself."

"How?" was the curt question.

"May I speak freely?" The Vicomte shrugged his shoulders, and the other,
taking silence for consent, proceeded: "You, Vicomte, are governor of
Lusigny for the King of Navarre; I, of Créance, for the King of France.
Our towns lie but three leagues apart. Could I by any chance, say on one
of these fine nights, make myself master of Lusigny, it would be worth
more than two thousand crowns to me. Do you understand?"

"No," the young man answered slowly, "I do not."

"Think over what I have said, then," was the brief answer.

For a full minute there was silence in the room. The Vicomte gazed from
the window with knitted brows and compressed lips, while his companion,
seated near at hand, leant back in his chair, with an air of affected
carefulness. Outside, the rattle of arms and hum of voices told that the
watch were passing through the street. The church bell rang one o'clock.
Suddenly the Vicomte burst into a forced laugh, and, turning, took up
his cloak and sword. "The trap was well laid, M. le Capitaine," he said
almost jovially; "but I am still sober enough to take care of
myself--and of Lusigny. I wish you good night. You shall have your
money, do not fear."

"Still, I am afraid it will cost you dearly," the Captain answered, as
he rose and moved towards the door to open it for his guest. And then,
when his hand was already on the latch, he paused. "My lord," he said,
"what do you say to this, then? I will stake the two thousand crowns you
have lost to me, and another thousand to boot--against your town. Oh, no
one can hear us. If you win you go off a free man with my thousand. If
you lose, you put me in possession--one of these fine nights. Now, that
is an offer. What do you say to it? A single game to decide."

The younger man's face reddened. He turned; his eyes sought the table
and the cards; he stood irresolute. The temptation came at an
unfortunate moment; a moment when the excitement of play had given way
to depression, and he saw nothing outside the door, on the latch of
which his hand was laid, but the bleak reality of ruin. The temptation
to return, the thought that by a single hand he might set himself right
with the world, was too much for him. Slowly--he came back to the table.
"Confound you!" he said passionately. "I think you are the devil
himself!"

"Don't talk child's talk!" the other answered coldly, drawing back as
his victim advanced. "If you do not like the offer you need not take
it."

But the young man was a born gambler, and his fingers had already closed
on the cards. Picking them up idly he dropped them once, twice, thrice
on the table, his eyes gleaming with the play-fever. "If I win?" he said
doubtfully. "What then? Let us have it quite clearly."

"You carry away a thousand crowns," the Captain answered quietly. "If
you lose you contrive to leave one of the gates of Lusigny open for me
before next full moon. That is all."

"And what if I lose, and do not pay the forfeit?" the Vicomte asked,
laughing weakly.

"I trust to your honour," the Captain answered. And, strange as it may
seem, he knew his man. The young noble of the day might betray his cause
and his trust, but the debt of honour incurred at play was binding on
him.

"Well," said the Vicomte, with a deep breath, "I agree. Who is to deal?"

"As you will," the Captain replied, masking under an appearance of
indifference the excitement which darkened his cheek, and caused the
pulse in the old wound on his face to beat furiously.

"Then do you deal," said the Vicomte.

"With your permission," the Captain assented. And gathering the cards he
dealt them with a practised hand, and pushed his opponent's six across
to him.

The young man took up the hand and, as he sorted it, and looked from it
to his companion's face, he repressed a groan with difficulty. The
moonlight shining through the casement fell in silvery sheen on a few
feet of the floor. With the light something of the silence and coolness
of the night entered also, and appealed to him. For a few seconds he
hesitated. He made even as if he would have replaced the hand on the
table. But he had gone too far to retrace his steps with honour. It was
too late, and with a muttered word, which his dry lips refused to
articulate, he played the first card.

He took that trick and the next: they were secure.

"And now," said the Captain, who knew well where the pinch came. "What
next?"

The Vicomte compressed his lips. Two courses were open to him. By
adopting one he could almost for certain win one more trick: by the
other he might just possibly win two tricks. He was a gamester; he
adopted the latter course. In half a minute it was over. He had lost!

The winner nodded gravely. "The luck is with me still," he said, keeping
his eyes on the table that the light of triumph which had leapt into
them might not be seen. "When do you go back to your command, Vicomte?"

The unhappy man sat, as one stunned, his eyes on the painted cards which
had cost him so dearly. "The day after to-morrow," he muttered at last,
striving to collect himself.

"Then shall we say--the following evening?" the Captain asked
courteously.

The young man shivered. "As you will," he muttered.

"We quite understand one another," continued the winner, eyeing his man
watchfully, and speaking with more urgency. "I may depend on you, M. le
Vicomte, I presume--to keep your word?"

"The Noirterres have never been wanting to their word," the young
nobleman answered stung into passing passion. "If I live I will put
Lusigny into your hands, M. le Capitaine. Afterwards I will do my best
to recover it--in another way."

"I shall be most happy to meet you in that way," replied the Captain,
bowing lightly. And in one more minute, the door of his lodging had
closed on the other; and he was alone--alone with his triumph, his
ambition, his hopes for the future--alone with the greatness to which
his capture of Lusigny was to be the first step. He would enjoy that
greatness not a whit the less because fortune had hitherto dealt out to
him more blows than caresses, and he was still at forty, after a score
of years of roughest service, the governor of a paltry country town.

Meanwhile, in the darkness of the narrow streets, the Vicomte was making
his way to his lodgings in a state of despair difficult to describe,
impossible to exaggerate. Chilled, sobered, and affrighted he looked
back and saw how he had thrown for all and lost all, how he had saved
the dregs of his fortune at the expense of his loyalty, how he had seen
a way of escape--and lost it for ever! No wonder that as he trudged
through the mud and darkness of the sleeping town his breath came
quickly and his chest heaved, and he looked from side to side as a
hunted animal might look, uttering great sighs. Ah, if he could have
retraced the last three hours! If he could have undone that he had done!

In a fever, he entered his lodging, and securing the door behind him
stumbled up the stone stairs and entered his room. The impulse to
confide his misfortunes to some one was so strong upon him that he was
glad to see a dark form half sitting, half lying in a chair before the
dying embers of a wood fire. In those days a man's natural confidant was
his valet, the follower, half friend, half servant, who had been born on
his estate, who lay on a pallet at the foot of his bed, who carried his
_billets-doux_ and held his cloak at the duello, who rode near his
stirrup in fight and nursed him in illness, who not seldom advised him
in the choice of a wife, and lied in support of his suit.

The young Vicomte flung his cloak over a chair. "Get up, you rascal!" he
cried impatiently. "You pig, you dog!" he continued, with increasing
anger. "Sleeping there as though your master were not ruined by that
scoundrel of a Breton! Bah!" he added, gazing bitterly at his follower,
"you are of the _canaille_, and have neither honour to lose nor a town
to betray!"

The sleeping man moved in his chair but did not awake. The Vicomte, his
patience exhausted, snatched the bonnet from his head, and threw it on
the ground. "Will you listen?" he said. "Or go, if you choose look for
another master. I am ruined! Do you hear? Ruined, Gil! I have lost
all--money, land, Lusigny itself--at the cards!"

The man, roused at last, stooped with a sleepy movement, and picking up
his hat dusted it with his hand, then rose with a yawn to his feet.

"I am afraid, Vicomte," he said, in tones that, quiet as they were,
sounded like thunder in the young man's astonished and bewildered ears,
"I am afraid that if you have lost Lusigny--you have lost something
which was not yours to lose!"

As he spoke he struck the embers with his boot, and the fire, blazing
up, shone on his face. The Vicomte saw, with stupor, that the man before
him was not Gil at all--was indeed the last person in the world to whom
he should have betrayed himself. The astute smiling eyes, the aquiline
nose, the high forehead, and projecting chin, which the short beard and
moustache scarcely concealed, were only too well known to him. He
stepped back with a cry of despair. "Sir!" he said, and then his tongue
failed him. His arms dropped by his sides. He stood silent, pale,
convicted, his chin on his breast. The man to whom he had confessed his
treachery was the master whom he had agreed to betray.

"I had suspected something of this," Henry of Navarre continued, after a
lengthy pause, and with a tinge of irony in his tone. "Rosny told me
that that old fox, the Captain of Créance, was affecting your company
somewhat too much, M. le Vicomte, and I find that, as usual, his
suspicions were well-founded. What with a gentleman who shall be
nameless, who has bartered a ford and a castle for the favour of
Mademoiselle de Luynes, and yourself, and another I know of--I am blest
with some faithful followers, it seems! For shame! for shame, sir!" he
continued seating himself with dignity in the chair from which he had
risen, but turning it so that he confronted his host, "have you nothing
to say for yourself?"

The young noble stood with bowed head, his face white. This was ruin,
indeed, absolute, irremediable ruin. "Sir," he said at last, "your
Majesty has a right to my life, not to my honour."

"Your honour!" Henry exclaimed, biting contempt in his tone.

The young man started, and for a second his cheek flamed under the
well-deserved reproach; but he recovered himself. "My debt to your
Majesty," he said, "I am willing to pay."

"Since pay you must," Henry muttered softly.

"But I claim to pay also my debt to the Captain of Créance."

The King of Navarre stared. "Oh," he said. "So you would have me take
your worthless life, and give up Lusigny?"

"I am in your hands, sire."

"Pish, sir!" Henry replied in angry astonishment. "You talk like a
child. Such an offer, M. de Noirterre, is folly, and you know it. Now
listen to me. It was lucky for you that I came in to-night, intending to
question you. Your madness is known to me only, and I am willing to
overlook it. Do you hear? I am willing to pardon. Cheer up, therefore,
and be a man. You are young; I forgive you. This shall be between you
and me only," the young prince continued, his eyes softening as the
other's head sank lower, "and you need think no more of it until the day
when I shall say to you, 'Now, M. de Noirterre, for Navarre and for
Henry, strike!'"

He rose as the last words passed his lips, and held out his hand. The
Vicomte fell on one knee, and kissed it reverently, then sprang to his
feet again. "Sire," he said, his eyes shining, "you have punished me
heavily, more heavily than was needful. There is only one way in which I
can show my gratitude, and that is by ridding you of a servant who can
never again look your enemies in the face."

"What new folly is this?" Henry asked sternly. "Do you not understand
that I have forgiven you?"

"Therefore I cannot betray Lusigny, and I must acquit myself of my debt
to the Captain of Créance in the only way which remains," the young man
replied firmly. "Death is not so hard that I would not meet it twice
over rather than again betray my trust."

"This is midsummer madness!" said the King, hotly.

"Possibly," replied the Vicomte, without emotion; "yet of a kind to
which your Grace is not altogether a stranger."

The words appealed to that love of the fanciful and the chivalrous which
formed part of the young King's nature, and was one cause alike of his
weakness and his strength. In its more extravagant flights it gave
opportunity after opportunity to his enemies, in its nobler and saner
expressions it won victories which all his astuteness and diplomacy
could not have compassed. He stood now, looking with half-hidden
admiration at the man whom two minutes before he had despised.

"I think you are in jest," he said presently and with some scorn.

"No, sir," the young man answered, gravely. "In my country they have a
proverb about us. 'The Noirterres,' say they, 'have ever been bad
players but good payers.' I will not be the first to be worse than my
name!"

He spoke with so quiet a determination that the King was staggered, and
for a minute or two paced the room in silence, inwardly reviling the
obstinacy of this weak-kneed supporter, yet unable to withhold his
admiration from it. At length he stopped, with a low exclamation.

"Wait!" he cried. "I have it! _Ventre Saint Gris_, man, I have it!" His
eyes sparkled, and, with a gentle laugh, he hit the table a sounding
blow. "Ha! ha! I have it!" he repeated gaily.

The young noble gazed at him in surprise, half suspicious, half
incredulous. But when Henry in low, rapid tones had expounded his plan,
the young man's face underwent a change. Hope and life sprang into it.
The blood flew to his cheeks. His whole aspect softened. In a moment he
was on his knee, mumbling the prince's hand, his eyes moist with
gratitude. Nor was that all; the two talked long, the murmur of their
voices broken more than once by the ripple of laughter. When they at
length separated, and Henry, his face hidden by the folds of his cloak,
had stolen to his lodgings, where, no doubt, more than one watcher was
awaiting him with a mind full of anxious fears, the Vicomte threw open
his window and looked out on the night. The moon had set, but the stars
still shone peacefully in the dark canopy above. He remembered, his
throat choking with silent emotion, that he was looking towards his
home--the round towers among the walnut woods of Navarre which had been
in his family since the days of St. Louis, and which he had so lightly
risked. And he registered a vow in his heart that of all Henry's
servants he would henceforth be the most faithful.

Meanwhile the Captain of Créance was enjoying the sweets of his coming
triumph. He did not look out into the night, it is true--he was over old
for sentiment--but pacing up and down the room he planned and
calculated, considering how he might make the most of his success. He
was still comparatively young. He had years of strength before him. He
would rise high and higher. He would not easily be satisfied. The times
were troubled, opportunities were many, fools not few; bold men with
brains and hands were rare.

At the same time he knew that he could be sure of nothing until Lusigny
was actually in his possession; and he spent the next few days in
painful suspense. But no hitch occurred nor seemed likely. The Vicomte
made him the necessary communications; and men in his own pay informed
him of dispositions ordered by the governor of Lusigny which left him in
no doubt that the loser intended to pay his debt.

It was, therefore, with a heart already gay with anticipation that the
Captain rode out of Créance two hours before midnight on an evening
eight days later. The night was dark, but he knew his road well. He had
with him a powerful force, composed in part of thirty of his own
garrison, bold hardy fellows, and in part of six score horsemen, lent
him by the governor of Montauban. As the Vicomte had undertaken to
withdraw, under some pretence or other, one-half of his command and to
have one of the gates opened by a trusty hand, the Captain foresaw no
difficulty. He trotted along in excellent spirits, now stopping to scan
with approval the dark line of his troopers, now to bid them muffle the
jingle of their swords and corselets that nevertheless rang sweet music
in his ears. He looked for an easy victory; but it was not any slight
misadventure that would rob him of his prey. If necessary he would fight
and fight hard. Still, as his company wound along the river-side or
passed into the black shadow of the oak grove, which stands a mile to
the east of Lusigny, he did not expect that there would be much
fighting.

Treachery alone, he thought, could thwart him; and of treachery there
was no sign. The troopers had scarcely halted under the last clump of
trees before a figure detached itself from one of the largest trunks,
and advanced to the Captain's rein. The Captain saw with surprise that
it was the Vicomte himself. For a second he thought that something had
gone wrong, but the young noble's first words reassured him. "It is
arranged," M. de Noirterre whispered, as the Captain bent down to him.
"I have kept my word, and I think that there will be no resistance. The
planks for crossing the moat lie opposite the gate. Knock thrice at the
latter, and it will be opened. There are not fifty armed men in the
place."

"Good!" the Captain answered, in the same cautious tone. "But you----"

"I am believed to be elsewhere, and must be gone. I have far to ride to
night. Farewell."

"Till we meet again," the Captain answered; and without more he saw his
ally glide away and disappear in the darkness. A cautious word set the
troop in motion, and a very few minutes saw them standing on the edge
of the moat, the outline of the gateway tower looming above them, a
shade darker than the wrack of clouds which overhead raced silently
across the sky. A moment of suspense while one and another shivered--for
there is that in a night attack which touches the nerves of the
stoutest--and the planks were found, and as quietly as possible laid
across the moat. This was so skilfully done that it evoked no challenge
and the Captain crossing quickly with a few picked men, stood in the
twinkling of an eye under the shadow of the gateway. Still no sound was
heard save the hurried breathing of those at his elbow, the stealthy
tread of others crossing, the persistent voices of the frogs in the
water beneath. Cautiously he knocked three times and waited. The third
rap had scarcely sounded before the gate rolled silently open, and he
sprang in, followed by his men.

So far so good. A glance at the empty street and the porter's pale face
told him at once that the Vicomte had kept his word. But he was too old
a soldier to take anything for granted, and forming up his men as
quickly as they entered, he allowed no one to advance until all were
inside, and then, his trumpet sounding a wild note of defiance,
two-thirds of his force sprang forward in a compact body while the other
third remained to hold the gate. In a moment the town awoke to find
itself in the hands of the enemy.

As the Vicomte had promised, there was no resistance. In the small keep
a score of men did indeed run to arms, but only to lay their weapons
down without striking a blow when they became aware of the force opposed
to them. Their leader, sullenly acquiescing, gave up his sword and the
keys of the town to the victorious Captain; who, as he sat his horse in
the middle of the marketplace, giving his orders and sending off riders
with the news, already saw himself in fancy Governor of Angoulême and
Knight of the Holy Ghost.

As the red light of the torches fell on steel caps and polished
hauberks, on the serried ranks of pikemen, and the circle of whitefaced
townsfolks, the picturesque old square looked doubly picturesque and he
who sat in the midst, its master, doubly a hero. Every five minutes,
with a clatter of iron on the rough pavement and a shower of sparks, a
horseman sprang away to tell the news at Montauban or Cahors; and every
time that this occurred, the Captain, astride on his charger, felt a new
sense of power and triumph.

Suddenly the low murmur of voices about him was broken by a new sound,
the distant beat of hoofs, not departing but arriving, and coming each
moment nearer. It was but the tramp of a single horse, but there was
something in the sound which made the Captain prick his ears, and
secured for the arriving messenger a speedy passage through the crowd.
Even at the last the man did not spare his horse, but spurred through
the ranks to the Captain's very side, and then and then only sprang to
the ground. His face was pale, his eyes were bloodshot. His right arm
was bound up in bloodstained cloths. With an oath of amazement, the
Captain recognized the officer whom he had left in charge of Créance,
and he thundered, "What is this? What is it?"

"They have got Créance!" the man gasped, reeling as he spoke. "They have
got--Créance!"

"Who?" the Captain shrieked, his face purple with rage.

"The little man of Béarn! The King of Navarre! He assaulted it five
hundred strong an hour after you left, and had the gate down before we
could fire a dozen shots. We did what we could, but we were but one to
seven. I swear, Captain, that we did all we could. Look at this!"

Almost black in the face, the Captain swore another oath. It was not
only that he saw governorship and honours vanish like Will-o'-the-wisps,
but that he saw even more quickly that he had made himself the
laughing-stock of a kingdom! And that was the truth. To this day, among
the stories which the southern French love to tell of the prowess and
astuteness of their great Henry, there is no tradition more frequently
told, none more frequently made the subject of mirth, than that of the
famous exchange of Créance for Lusigny; of the move by which between
dawn and sunrise, without warning, without a word, he gave his opponents
mate.



THE HOUSE ON THE WALL


In the summer of 1706, two years after the second battle of Hochstett,
which Englishmen call Blenheim, in a world ringing with the names of
Marlborough and Eugene, Louis of Baden and Villars, Villeroy the
Incapable and Boufflers the Brave--a world, for us of later days, of
dark chaos, luridly lit by the flames of burning hamlets, and galloped
through by huge troopers wearing periwigs and thigh boots, and carrying
pistols two feet long in the barrel--one of the Austrian captains sat
down before the frontier town of Huymonde, in Spanish Flanders, and
prepared to take it.

Whereat Huymonde was not too greatly or too fearfully moved. A warm
town, of fat burghers and narrow streets, and oak wainscots that winked
in the firelight, and burnished flagons that caught the drinker's smile,
it was not to be lightly excited; and it had been besieged, heaven only
knows how many times before. Men made ready as for a long frost, took
count of wine and provisions, and hiding a portion of each under the
cellar floor, thanked God that they were not the garrison, and that
times were changed since the Thirty Years' War. These things done and
the siege formed, they folded their hands and let themselves slide into
the current of an idle life, flecked from time to time with bubbles of
excitement. When the Austrian guns rumbled without, and the smoke eddied
slowly over the walls, they stood in the streets, their hands in their
muffs, and gossiped not unpleasantly; when the cannon were silent they
smoked their long pipes on the ramparts, and measured the advance of the
trenches, and listened while the oldest inhabitant prosed of the sack by
Spinola in '24 and the winter siege of '41.

Whether the good townsfolk were as brave in private--when at home with
their wives, for instance--may be doubted; but this for certain, the
Burgomaster's trouble lay all with the women. Whether they had less
faith in the great Louis, Fourteenth of the name, King of France--who,
indeed, seemed in these days less superior to a world in arms than in
the dawn of his glory--or they found the oldest inhabitant's tales too
precisely to the point, they had a way of growing restive once a week,
besieged the good Burgomaster's house, and demanded--with a thousand
shrill and voluble tongues--immediate surrender on terms. Between
whiles, being busy with scrubbing and baking, and washing their
children, they were quiet enough. But as surely as Sunday came round,
and with it a clean house and leisure to chat with the neighbours, the
Burgomaster's hour came too, and with it the mob of women shaking
crooked fingers at him, and bursting his ears with their shrill abuse.
He was a bold man, but he began to dream at night of De Witt and his
fate--of which he knew, with many gruesome particulars; and, from a
stout and pompous burgher, he dwindled in six weeks to a lean and morose
old tyrant. Withal he had no choice, for at his shoulder lurked the
French Commandant, a resolute man with a wit of his own and a pet
curtain--between the Stadthaus bastion and the bastion of the Bronze
Horse, and very handy to the former--whereat he shot deserters and the
like on the smallest pretext.

Still, the Burgomaster, as he wiped his sallow face, and watched the
last of the women withdraw on the seventh Sunday of the Siege, began to
think that, rather than pass through this again, he would face even the
curtain and a volley; if he were sure that one volley would do it, and
no botching. The ordeal had been more severe than usual: his cheek still
twitched, and he leaned against his official table to belie his
trembling knees. He had been settling a change of billets, when the
viragos broke in on him, and only his clerk had been present; for his
council--and this he felt sorely--much bullied in old days, were
treating him to solitude and the monopoly of the burden. His clerk was
with him now; but affected to be busy with the papers on the table.
Perhaps he was scared too, and equally bent on hiding it; at any rate,
it was the Burgomaster who first discovered that they were not alone,
but that one woman still lingered. She had placed herself in a corner of
the oak seat that ran round the panelled room; and the stained glass of
the windows, blazoned with the arms of Huymonde and the Counts of
Flanders, cast a veil of tawny lights between her and the gazer; behind
which she seemed to lurk. The Burgomaster started, then remembered that
the danger was over for the time--he was not afraid of one woman; and in
a harsh voice he bade her follow her mates.

"Begone, wench!" he said. "And go to your prayers! That is women's work.
Leave these things to men."

The woman rose to her full height. "When men," she answered, in a voice
at which the Burgomaster started afresh, "hide themselves, it is time
women stood forward. Where is your son?"

The Burgomaster swore.

"Where is your son?" the woman repeated firmly.

The Burgomaster swore again, his sallow face grown purple: then he
looked at his clerk and signed to him to go. The clerk went, wondering
and gaping--for this was unusual--and the two were left together.

At that the Burgomaster found his voice. "You Jezebel!" he cried,
approaching the woman. "How dare you come here to make mischief? How
dare you lay your tongue to my son's name? Do you know, shameless one,
that if I were to give the word----"

But at that word the woman caught fire, blazed up, and outdid him in
rage. She was a middle-aged woman and spare, with a face naturally pale
and refined, and an air of pride that peeped even through the neat
poverty of her dress. But at that word she shook her hands in his face
and her eyes blazed.

"Shameless?" she retorted. "No, but shameful; and through whom? Through
your son, your villain, your craven of a son who hides now! Through your
base-born tradesman of a son who dare face neither woman nor man."

"Silence!" the Burgomaster cried. "Silence!"

She broke off, but only to throw her whole soul into one breathless cry.

"Will he marry her?" she panted; and she held out her hands to him, palm
uppermost. "Will he marry her? In a word."

"No," the Burgomaster answered grimly.

She flung up her arms.

"Then beware!" she cried wildly, and for the first time she raised her
voice to the pitch of those other shrews. "Beware! You and yours have
brought us to shame; but the end is not yet, the end is not yet! You do
not know us."

At that he rallied himself. "I may not know you yet," he said hardily,
and indeed brutally; "but I know this, that such things as these come,
woman, of people setting themselves up to be better than their
neighbours, when they are as poor as church mice. They come of slighting
honest fellows and setting caps at those above you. Your daughter--or
you, woman, if you like it better--set the trap, and you are caught in
it yourselves. That is all."

"You wretch!" she gasped. "And he--will not marry her?"

"Not while I live," he answered firmly.

"And that is your last word?"

"It is," he said. "My very last."

He was on his guard, prepared to defend himself even against actual
violence. For he knew what angry women were and of what they were
capable even against a Burgomaster. But after a tense pause of suspense,
during every moment of which he expected her to fall upon him, she said
only, "Where is he?"

"I shall not tell you," he answered. "Nor would it help you if you
knew!"

"And that is all?"

"That is all."

It was not their first interview. She had pled with him before, and
knelt and wept and abased herself before him. She had done all that the
love that tore her heartstrings--the love that made it so much more
difficult to see her child suffer than to suffer herself, the love that
every moment painted the bare room at home, and her daughter prostrate
there in shame and despair--she had done all that even love could
suggest. There was no room therefore for farther pleading, for farther
prayers; she had threatened, and she had failed. What, then, remained to
be done?

Nothing, the Burgomaster thought, as in a flash of triumph and relief he
watched her go, outfaced and defeated. Nothing; and he hugged himself on
the prudence that had despatched his son out of the way in time, and
rendered a match with that proud pauper brat impossible. Nothing; but to
the woman, as she went, it seemed that everything remained to be done.
As she left the little square with its tall slender gabled houses and
plunged into the narrow street that led to her house on the wall, the
story of her life in Huymonde spread itself before her in a string of
scenes that now--now alas! but never before--seemed to find their
natural sequence in this tragedy. Nine years before she had come to
Huymonde with her artist husband; but the great art of the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries was already dying or dead in Flanders, and with it
the artistic sense, and the honour once paid to it. Huymonde made delft
still, and pottery, but on old conventional lines, in an endless
repetition of old formal patterns, with no touch of genius or
appreciation. Trade, and a desire to win the florid ease, the sleek
comfort of the burgher, possessed the town wholly. The artist had found
himself a stranger in a strange land; had struggled on, despising and
despised, in the quaint house on the wall, at which he had snatched on
his first coming because it looked over the open country. There, after
seven years, he had slipped out of life, scarcely better known, and no
whit more highly appreciated than on the day of his arrival.

After that the story was of two women living _sola cum solâ_--one wholly
for the other--suspected, if not disliked, by their neighbours, and for
their part alien in all their thoughts and standards; since the artist's
widow could not forget that he had been the favourite pupil of Peter
Paul's old age, or that her father had counted quarterings. _Sola cum
solâ_, until one day the war began, and Huymonde set about looking to
its defences. Then a young man appeared on a certain evening to inspect
the House on the Wall, and see that the window, which looked out upon
the level country side, was safely and properly built up and
strengthened.

"You must have a sergeant and guard billeted here!" was his first sharp
word; and the widow had sighed at this invasion of their privacy, which
was also their poverty. But the young girl, standing sideways in that
very window, which was to be closed, had pouted her red lips and frowned
on the intruder, and the sergeant had not come, nor the guard. Instead
the young man had returned, at first weekly, then at shorter intervals,
to see that the window defences remained intact; and with his appearance
life in the House on the Wall had become a different thing. He was the
son of the Burgomaster of the town, he would be the richest man in the
town, his wife might repay with interest and advantage the dull bovine
scorn to which the city dames had treated her mother. The widow
permitted herself to hope. Her child was beautiful, with the creamy
fairness of Gueldres, and as pure as the sky. The young man was gay and
handsome; qualities which made their due impression on the elder woman's
heart, long unfamiliar with them. So, for more than a year he had had
the run of the house, he had been one of the family; and then one day he
had disappeared, and then one other day----

Oh, God of vengeance! She paused in the darkening street, as she thought
of it. Beside her a long window, warmly curtained, sent out a stream of
ruddy light. From the opposite house issued cheery voices and tinkling
laughter, and the steam of cooking. And before and behind, whichever way
she looked, firelight flashed through diamond panes and glowed in the
heart of green bottle-glass. Out in the street men shouldered past her,
talking blithely; and in distant kitchens cups clinked and ware
clattered, and every house--every house from garret to parlour, seemed
to her a home happy and gleeful. A home; and _her_ home! She stood at
the thought and cursed them; cursed them, and like the echo of her
whispered words the solemn boom of a cannon floated over the town.

A chance passer, seeing her stand thus, caught the whiteness of her
face, and thought her afraid. "Cheer up, mother!" he said over his
shoulder, "they are all bark and little bite!"

"I would they bit to the bone!" she cried in fury.

But luckily he was gone too far to hear or to understand; and, resuming
her course, she hurried on, her head bowed. A few minutes' walking
brought her to the foot of the stone steps that, in two parallel
flights, led up to the low-browed door of her house. There, as she set
her foot on the lowest stair, and wearily began the ascent, a man
advanced out of the darkness and touched her sleeve. For an instant she
thought it _the_ man, and she caught her breath and stepped back. But
his first word showed her her mistake.

"You live here?" he said abruptly. "Can I come in?"

In ordinary times his foreign accent and the glint of a pistol-barrel,
which caught her eye as he spoke, would have set her on her guard. But
to-night she had nothing to lose--nothing, it seemed to her, to hope.
She scarcely looked at the man. "As you please," she said dully. "What
do you want?"

"To speak to you."

"Come in then," she said.

She did not turn to him again until they stood together in the room
above, and the door was shut. Then she asked him a second time what he
wanted.

"Are we alone?" he returned, staring suspiciously about him.

"My daughter is above," she answered. "There is no one else in the
house."

"And you are poor?"

She shrugged her shoulders indifferently, and by a movement of her hands
seemed to put the room in evidence; one or two pictures, standing on
easels, and a few common painter's properties redeemed it from utter
bareness, utter misery, yet left it cold and faded.

Nevertheless, his next question took her by surprise. "What rent do you
pay?" he asked harshly.

"What rent?" she repeated, shaken out of her moodiness.

"Yes. How many crowns?"

"Twenty," she answered mechanically. What was his aim? What did he want?

"A year?"

"Yes, a year."

The man had a round shaven whitish face that sat in the circle of a
tightly tied Steinkirk cravat, like an ivory ball in a cup; and short
hair, that might on occasion line a periwig. Notwithstanding his pistol,
he had rather the air of a tradesman than a soldier until you met his
eyes, which flashed with a keen glitter that belied his smug face and
shaven cheeks. Those eyes caught the widow's eyes as he answered her,
and held them.

"Twenty crowns a year," he said. "Then listen. I will give you two
hundred crowns for this house--for one night."

"For this house for one night?" she repeated, thinking she had not heard
aright.

"For this house, for one night!" he answered.

Then she understood. She was quick-witted, she had lived long in the
house and knew it. Without more she knew that God or the devil had put
that which she sought into her hands; and her first impulse was to pure
joy. The thirst for vengeance welled up, hot and resistless. Now she
could be avenged on all; on the hard-hearted tyrant who had rejected her
prayer, on the sleek dames who would point the finger at her child, on
the smug town that had looked askance at her all these years--that had
set her beyond the pale of its dull grovelling pleasures, and shut her
up in that lonely House on the Wall! Now--now she had it in her hand to
take tenfold for one. Her face so shone at the thought that the man
watching her felt a touch of misgiving; though he was of the boldest or
he had not been there on that errand.

"When?" she said. "When?"

"To-morrow night," he answered. And then, leaning forward, and speaking
lightly but in a low voice, he went on, "It is a simple matter. All you
have to do is to find a lodging and begone from here by sunset, leaving
the door on the latch. No more; for the money it shall be paid to you,
half to-night and half the day after to-morrow."

"I want no money," she said.

"No money?" he exclaimed incredulously.

"No, no money," she answered, in a tone and with a look that silenced
him.

"But you will do it?" he said, almost with timidity.

"I will do it," she answered. "At sunset to-morrow you will find the
door on the latch and the house empty. After that see that you do your
part!"

His eyes lightened. "Have no fear," he said grimly. "But mark one thing,
mistress," he continued. "It is an odd thing to do for nothing."

"That is my business!" she cried, with a flash of rage.

He had been about to warn her that during the next twenty-four hours she
would be watched, and that on the least sign of a message passing
between her and those in authority the plot would be abandoned. But at
that look he held his peace, said curtly that it was a bargain then;
and in a twinkling he was gone, leaving her--leaving her alone with her
secret.

Yet for a time it was not of that or of her vengeance that she thought.
Her mind was busy with the years of solitude and estrangement she had
passed in that house and that room; with the depression that little by
little had sapped her husband's strength and hope, with the slow decay
of their goods, their cheerfulness, even the artistic joys that had at
first upheld them; with the aloofness that had doomed her and her child
to a dreary existence; with this last great wrong.

"Yes, let it be! let it be!" she cried. In fancy she saw the town lie
below her--as she had often seen it with the actual eye from the
ramparts--she saw the clustering mass of warm red roofs and walls, the
outlying towers, the church, the one long straight street; and with
outstretched arm she doomed it--doomed it with a vengeful sense of the
righteousness of the sentence.

Yet, strange to say, that which was uppermost in her mind and steeled
her soul and justified the worst, was not the last thing of which she
had to complain--her daughter's wrong--but the long years of loneliness,
the hundred, nay, the thousand, petty slights of the past, bearable at
the time and in detail, but intolerable in the retrospect now hope was
gone. She dwelt on these, and the thought of what was coming filled her
with a fearful joy. She thought of them, and took the lamp and passed
into the next room, and, throwing the light on the rough face of
brickwork that closed the great window, she eyed the cracks eagerly, and
scarcely kept her fingers from beginning the work. For she understood
the plot. One man working silently within, in darkness, could demolish
the wall in an hour; then a whistle, rope ladders, a line of men
ascending, and before midnight the house would vomit armed men, the
nearest gate would be seized, the town would lie at the mercy of the
enemy!

Presently she had to go to her daughter, but the current of her thoughts
kept the same course. The girl was sullen, and lay with her face to the
wall, and gave short answers, venting her misery after the common human
fashion on the one who loved her best. The mother bore it, not as before
with the patience that scorned even to upbraid, but grimly, setting down
each peevish word to the score that was so soon to be paid. She lay all
night beside her child, and in the small hours heard her weep and felt
the bed shake with her unhappiness, and carried the score farther; nay,
busied herself with it, so that day and the twittering of sparrows and
the booming of the early guns took her by surprise. Took her by
surprise, but worked no change in her thoughts.

She was so completely under the influence of the idea, that she felt no
fear; the chance of discovery, and the certainty that if discovered she
would be done to death without mercy, did not trouble her in the least.
She went about her ordinary tasks until late in the afternoon; then,
without preface or explanation, she told her daughter that she was going
out to seek a lodging.

The girl was profoundly astonished. "A lodging?" she cried, sitting up.
"For us?"

"Yes," the mother answered coldly. "For whom do you think?"

"And you will leave this house?"

"Yes."

"But when?"

"To-night."

"Leave this house--for a lodging--to-night?" the girl faltered. She
could not believe her ears. "Why? What has happened?"

Then the woman, in the fierceness of her mood, turned her arms against
her child. "Need you ask?" she cried bitterly. "Do you want to go on
living in this house--in this house, which was your father's? To go in
and out at this door, and meet our neighbours and talk with them on
these steps? To wait here--here, where every one knows you, for the
shame that will come? For the man who will never come?"

The girl sank back, shuddering and weeping. The woman covered her head
and went out, and presently returned; and in the grey of the evening,
which within the walls fell early, the two left the house, the elder
carrying a bundle of clothes, the younger whimpering and wondering.
Stupefied by the suddenness of the movement, and her mother's stern
purpose, she did not observe that they had left the door on the latch,
and the House on the Wall unguarded.

The people with whom they had found a lodging, a little room under the
sharply sloping tiles, knew them by name and sight--that in so small a
place was inevitable--but found nothing strange in the woman's reason
for moving; she said that at home the firing broke her daughter's rest.
The housewife indeed could sympathize with her, and did so. "I never go
to bed myself," she said roundly, "but I dream of those wretches sacking
the town, and look to awake with my throat cut."

"Tut--tut!" her husband answered angrily. "You will live to wag your
tongue and make mischief a score of years yet. And for the town being
sacked, there is small chance of that--in these days."

The elder of his new lodgers repeated his words. "Small chance of that?"
she said mechanically. "Is that so?"

The man looked at her with patronage. "Little or none," he said. "If we
have to cry Enough, we shall cry it in time, and on terms you may be
sure; and they will march in like gentlemen, and an end of it."

"But if it happen at night?" the woman asked curiously. She felt a
strange compulsion to put the question. "If they should take us by
surprise? What then?"

The man shrugged his shoulders. "Well, then, of course, things might be
different," he said. "But, sho! it won't happen. No fear!" he continued
hastily, and in a tone that belied his words. "And you, wife, get back
to your pots and leave this talking! You frighten yourself to death with
imaginings!"

The woman from the House on the Wall went upstairs to her garret. She
did not repent of what she had done; but a sense of its greatness began
to take hold of her, and whether she would or not, she found herself
waiting--waiting and watching for she alone knew what. Given a companion
less preoccupied with misery and she must have been suspected. But the
girl lay moodily on her bed, and the widow was at liberty to stand at
the window with her hands spread on the sill, and look, and listen, and
look, and listen, unwatched. She could not see the street, for below
their dormer the roof ran down steeply a yard or more to the eaves; but
she had full command of the opposite houses, and at one of the windows a
young girl was dressing herself. The woman watched her plait her fair
hair, looking sideways the while at a little mirror; and saw her put on
a poor necklace and remove it again and try a piece of ribbon.
Gradually the watcher became interested; from interest she passed to
speculation, and wondered with a slight shudder how this girl would fare
between that and morning. And then the girl looked up and met the
woman's eyes with the innocence of her own--and the woman fell back from
the window as if a hand had struck her.

She went no more after that to the window; but until it was quite dark
she sat in a chair with her hands on her lap, forcing herself to
quietude, as women will, where men would tramp the floor unceasingly.
When it was quite dark she trimmed and lit the lamp, and still she did
not repent. But she listened more and more closely, and with less
concealment. And the face of the girl preening herself at her poor
mirror returned again and again, and troubled her. She could contemplate
the fate of the town as a whole, and say, let it be! Ay, in God's name
let it be! But the one face seen at a window, the one case brought home
to her, clung to her mind, and pricked and pained her--dully.

By-and-by she heard the clock strike ten, and her daughter, turning
feverishly on the bed, asked her peevishly when she was going to lie
down. "Presently," she answered, "presently." And still she sat and
listened, and still the girl's face haunted her. She began to picture in
detail the thing for which she was waiting. She fancied that she could
hear the first alert, followed by single cries, these by a roar of
alarm, this by the wild rush of feet; then she heard the crashing
volley, the rattle of hoofs on the pavement, the whirl of the flight
through the streets, the shouts of "Germany! Germany!" as the troops
swept in triumphant! And then--ah, then!--she heard the things that
would follow, the crashing in of doors, the sudden glare of flames, the
screams of men driven to the wall, the yells of drunken Saxons, the
shrieks of women, the----

No more! No more! She could not bear it. With a shudder she stood erect,
and looked about her--wildly. The lamp burned low, her daughter was
asleep. With a swift movement the mother caught up a shawl that lay
beside the bed, and turned to the door.

Alas, too late. She had repented, but too late. With her hand on the
latch, her foot on the threshold, she stood, arrested by a low distant
cry that caught her ear, and swelled even as she listened to it, into a
roar of many voices rousing the town. What was it? Alas, she knew; she
knew, and cowered against the door whitefaced and shaking. A moment
passed, and the alarm, after sinking, rose again, and now there was no
doubt of its meaning. Shod feet pattered through the streets, windows
clattered up noisily; a wild medley of voices broke out, and again in a
few seconds was lost in the crashing sound of the very volley she had
foreheard!

From that moment it seemed to her that hell was broken loose in the
town; and she had loosed it! She could no longer, in the din that rose
from the street, distinguish one sound from another; but the crash of
distant cannon, the heavy tramp of feet near at hand, the screams and
cries and shouting, the blare of trumpets, all rose in a confused babel
of sounds that shook the very houses, and blanched the cheeks and drove
the blood to the heart. The woman, cowering against the door, covered
her ears, and groaned. Her horror at what she had done was so great,
that she did not heed what was passing near her, nor give a thought to
the child in the same room with her until the latter's voice struck her
ear, and she turned and found her daughter standing in the middle of the
floor, her hand to her breast, and her eyes wide. Then the mother awoke
in her again; with pallid shaking lips she cried to her to lie down--to
lie down, for there was no danger.

But the girl raised her hand for silence. "Hush!" she said. "I hear a
step! It is his! It is his! And he is coming to me! Mother, he is coming
to me!"

The mother imagined that terror had turned the girl's brain; it was
inconceivable that in that roar of sound a single step could make itself
heard, or be recognized. And she tried, in a voice that shook with
horror and remorse, to repeat her meaningless words of comfort. But
they died on her lips, died still-born, as the door flew open, and a man
rushed in, gazed an instant, then caught her child in his arms.

It was the Burgomaster's son!

The woman from the House on the Wall leaned an instant against the
door-post, gazing at them. Little by little as she looked the expression
in her eyes changed, and they took the cold, fixed, distant look of a
sleep-walker. A moment and she drew a shuddering breath, and turned and
went out, and, groping in the outside darkness for the balustrade, went
unfaltering into the street.

A part of the garrison happened to be retreating that way at the time. A
few were still turning to fire at intervals; but the greater number were
hurrying along with bent heads, keeping close to the houses, and intent
only on escaping. Reaching the middle of the roadway she stood there
like a rock, her face turned in the direction whence the fugitives were
hastening.

Presently she saw that for which she waited. In the reek of smoke about
the burning gate, towards which she looked--and the flames of which
filled the street with a smoky glare--the glitter of steel shone out;
and in a moment, rank on rank, a dense column of men appeared, marching
shoulder to shoulder. She watched them come nearer and nearer, filling
the street from wall to wall, until she could see the glare of their
eyes; then with a cry which was lost in the tumult she rushed on the
bayonets.

With eyes shut, with arms open to receive the thrust. But the man whom
she had singled out--for one she had singled out--dropped his point with
an oath, and dealt her a buffet with butt and elbow that flung her aside
unhurt. A second did the same, and a third, until, bandied from one to
another, she fell against the wall, breathless and dizzy, but unhurt.

The column swept on; and she rose. She had escaped--by a miracle, as it
seemed to her. But despair still held her, and the roar of a mine
exploding not far off, the stunning report of which was followed by
heartrending wails, drove her again on her fate. She had not far to
look, for hard on the foot followed a troop of dragoons. The horses,
excited by the fire and the explosion, were plunging in every direction;
and even as the crazed woman's eyes alighted on them one fell and threw
its rider. It seemed to her that she saw her doom; and, darting from the
wall, she flung herself before them.

What was one woman on such a night, in such an inferno? The torrent of
iron, remorseless, unchecked, thundered over her and drove on along the
street. It seemed impossible that she should have escaped. Yet when some
came to look to the fallen soldier--whose neck was broken--the woman
beside him rose unhurt and without a scratch, and staggered to the
wall. There she leaned one moment to recover her breath and shake off
her giddiness, and a second to think; then with a new expression on her
face, an expression between hope and fear, she took her way weakly along
the street. The first turning on the right, the second on the left
brought her unmolested--for the enemy were quelling the last resistance
in the Square--to the front of the House on the Wall. She looked up
eagerly and saw that the windows were dark; looked at the door, and by
the light of the distant fire saw that it was closed.

Still she scarcely dared to hope that the thing was true; that thing
which her miraculous escape had suggested to a mind almost unhinged. It
took her more than a minute to mount the steps and push the heavy door
open, and satisfy herself that in the outer room at least all was as she
had left it. A spark of fire still glowed on the hearth; she groped her
way to it, and blew it into a flame; and with shaking hands she lit a
spill of wood and waved it above her head, then held it.

Yes, here all was as she had left it. But in the farther room--_the_
room? What would she find there? She stared at the door and dared not
open it; then with a desperate hand tore it open, and stood on the
threshold.

Yes, and here! Here, too, all was as she had left it. She waved the
little brand above her head heedless of the sparks, waved it until it
flamed high and cast a light into every corner. But the searcher's eyes
sought only one thing, saw only one thing, and that was the mask of
brickwork that blocked the great window.

It was untouched! It was untouched! She had hoped as much for the last
five minutes; for everything, the closed door, the unchanged room had
pointed to it. Yet now that she was assured of it, and knew for certain
that she had not done the thing--that guilty as she had been in will,
not one life lost that night lay at her door, not one outrage, she fell
on her face and wept--wept, though it was the sweetest moment of her
life, prayed though she sought nothing but to thank God--prayed and wept
with childish cries of gratitude, until the light at her side went out
and left her in darkness, and through a rift in the masonry a single
star peered in at her.

In Huymonde there was wailing enough that night; ruin and loss, and a
broadcasting of lifelong sentences of penury. One fell to the
Burgomaster's lot; and had she still aught against him--but she had
not--the score was paid. And many prayed, and a few, when morning came,
and showed their roofs still standing, gave thanks. But to this woman
prostrate through the hours on the floor of the forsaken House on the
Wall, all that night was one long prayer and thanksgiving. For she had
passed through the fire, the smell of the singeing was on her garments,
and yet she was saved.



HUNT, THE OWLER

(1696)


Something more than two centuries ago--and just two years after Queen
Mary's death--when William the Third had been eight years on the throne,
and the pendulum of public sentiment, accelerated by the brusqueness of
his manners and no longer retarded by his consort's good nature, was
swinging surely and steadily to the Stuart side, the discovery of a
Jacobite plot to assassinate the King on his return from hunting set
back the balance with a shock which endured to the end of his reign.

It was the King's habit to go on Saturdays in his coach to Richmond
Park, returning to Kensington in the evening; and the scheme, laid bare,
was to fall upon him in a narrow lane leading from the river to Turnham
Green, where the miry nature of the ground rendered his progress slow.
For complicity in this plot nine persons, differing much in rank, from
Sir John Fenwick, who had been Colonel of King Charles's Life Guards, to
Keyes, a private in the Blues, suffered on the scaffold; and for a time
all England rang with it. The informers, Porter and Goodman, were viewed
with an abhorrence hardly less than that which the plot itself excited
in honest circles; and in this odium a man shared in some small degree,
who, though he had not been a party to the plot, had stooped, under the
stress of confinement and the fear of death, to give some evidence.

This was James Hunt, the Owler, or smuggler, a name forgotten now,
famous then. For years his house, in a lonely situation in the dreariest
part of Romney Marsh, had been the favourite house of call for Jacobites
bound for St. Germains or returning thence. At regular intervals, if
wind and tide served, a packet-boat ran between it and the French coast,
and between whiles the hiding-places in his rambling old house, which
had been originally contrived to hold runlets of Nantz and bales of
Lyons, lodged men whose faces were known in the Mall and St. James's,
and whose titles were not less real because for the nonce they wore
them, with their stars, in their pockets. Naturally, in the general
break-up consequent on the discovery of the Turnham Green plot, these
practices came to light, the lonely house in the marshes was entered,
and Hunt was himself seized and conveyed to London under a strong guard.
There he lay in the Marshalsea until, by discovering the names of
certain persons who had used his hiding-places, he was permitted to
ransom his life.

When all was told he was of no further use to the Government. He was
released, and one fine morning in September, '96, he walked out of his
prison a morose and lonely man. Resolute and daring by nature, but
accustomed to live in the open, with the sound of the lark in his ears,
it was only in the solitude of his cell that he had fallen below
himself. Now, under the open sky, he paid the penalty in a load of shame
and remorse. His feet carried him to the Jacobite house of call in
Maiden Lane, whither he had directed his nag to be sent; but on his
arrival at the inn his eye told him that the place was changed. The
ostler, who had been his slave, looked askance at him, the landlord,
once his obedient servant, turned his back. He was no longer Mr. Hunt,
of Romney, but Hunt the Approver, Hunt the Evidence. Flinging down a
crown and a curse he rode desperately out of the yard, and made haste to
leave London behind him.

But in the country it was little better. At inns on the Dover road,
where he had swaggered in old days the hero of a transparent mystery,
and only less admired than the famous Mr. Birkenhead, the Jacobite post,
whom even the Tower failed to confine--at these his reception was now
cold and formal; and presently the man's heart and hopes went forward
and settled hungrily on the two things left to him in this changed
world, his home in the marshes and his girl. His heart cried home! The
slighting looks of men who would have succumbed to a tithe of his
temptations, would not reach him there; there--he had a reason for
believing it--he would still read love and welcome in his child's eyes.

He was so far from having a turn for sentiment that the gibbet at
Dartford, though he had lain down and risen up for weeks under the
shadow of the gallows, caused him no qualms as he passed under it; nor
the man who hung in chains upon it. But when he rode up to the tavern at
the last stage short of Romney and saw Trot Eubank, the Romney
apothecary, loitering before the house, he drove an oath through his
closed teeth.

The man of drugs was too distant to hear it; nevertheless he smiled, and
not pleasantly. The apothecary had red cheeks and a black wig, and a
splayed face that promised heartiness. His small fishy eyes, however,
with a cast in them that was next door to a squint, belied the promise.
He came up to Hunt's stirrup and gave him joy of his freedom very
loudly. "And you will find all well at home," he continued. "All well
and hearty."

Hunt thanked him coldly, watered his horse, and drank a cup of ale with
the landlord; who looked at him pitifully, as at a man once admirable
and now fallen. Then he climbed into his saddle again and started
briskly. But he had not ridden a hundred paces before Eubank, on his old
white mare, was at his side. "My way is your way," said he.

Hunt grunted, and wondered how long that had been so; for New Romney,
where the apothecary lived, lay to the right. But he said nothing.

"They have quartered three soldiers on you," Eubank continued, squinting
out of the corner of one eye to mark the effect of his words, "and an
officer."

The smuggler checked his horse. "As if I had not done enough for them!"
he cried bitterly.

"Umph!" said the apothecary, drily, and with meaning. "The truth, the
whole truth, and nothing but the truth! Eh, Mr. Hunt?"

He spoke below his breath, but Hunt caught the words and turned on him,
his face blazing with rage. "You dirty tar-mixer!" he cried, flinging
caution to the winds. "What do you mean? And how dare you ride out to
meet me? If you have anything to say, say it, and begone."

"Softly, softly, Mr. Hunt," Eubank answered, his face a shade paler.
"You know what I mean. There was a name wanting in your evidence--in
your deposition. A name lacking, d'ye take me?"

"A name?"

"Ay, Mr. Fayle's. And Mr. Fayle is missing, too. But I don't think," the
apothecary continued cunningly, his eyes gazing far apart, "that he is
in France. I think that he is nearer Romney. And that is why they have
quartered three soldiers on you."

"You villain!" Hunt cried, his voice shaking with passion. "This is
your work." And he raised his heavy riding-whip, and made as if he would
ride the other down. The two were alone on the marsh.

But quick as thought Eubank lugged a pistol from his holster and
levelled it.

"Softly, Mr. Hunt," he said. "Softly! I warn you, if anything happens to
me, it is known who is with me. Besides, I mean you no harm."

"And no good," said the smuggler, between his teeth. "What do you want?"

"What I have always wanted," the other answered. "Is there any harm in
wanting a wife?" he added, a whine in his voice.

"Yes, when she does not want you," Hunt retorted.

"She will want me--when the other is out of the way," the apothecary
answered sullenly.

"Out of the way?"

"Ay; in France, or--there!"--and the apothecary nodded towards the
gibbet on Dymchurch Flat, which they were just approaching. "It is for
her to choose," he added softly. "This side or that!"

"How?"

"If she takes me, Fayle may go hang, or cross the water, or as you
please, so that he go far enough. But if she will have him----"

"Well?" Hunt said; for Eubank paused, squinting horribly.

"She will marry him there!" the apothecary answered, pointing to the
gibbet.

"Ay?"

"I know that he is here," Eubank continued, his voice low, "and he
cannot escape me. She has bubbled the soldiers; they do not know him.
And for aught I know he goes out and in, and no one is the wiser. And
the game may be played as long as you please. But from to-day I am
there."

"You!" Hunt cried.

"To be sure," Eubank answered, letting his ill-concealed triumph appear.
"At the farm. I am the officer. Ah, would you? Mr. Hunt, back! Back, or
I fire."

The smuggler, on the impulse of the moment, had gone near to striking
him down; in face of the pistol and common-sense he lowered his hand,
cursed him, and bade him keep his distance for the cur he was; and so
with the width of the track between them the two rode on, like dogs
ill-coupled, Eubank keeping a squinting watch on Hunt's movements, Hunt
with his face hard set, and a gleam of fear in his eyes.

A little later he spied his daughter waiting and watching for him, on
the dyke near the farm--a lissom, graceful figure, with wind-blown hair
and skirts, visible half a mile away. Possibly he wished then that he
had struck hard and once while the man and he were alone on the Marsh.
But it was too late. She was there, and in a moment the meeting so long
and tenderly anticipated was over, and the girl, gently disengaging
herself with wet cheeks from his arms, turned to his companion.

"You may go, Mr. Eubank," she said austerely. "We do not need you. My
father is at home now."

But the apothecary, cringing and smiling, faltered that he was--that he
was coming to the house.

The words were barely audible, for his courage, not his malice, failed
him under her eyes. At any rate she did not understand. "To our house?"
she said.

"Yes," he answered, mouthing nervously, and looking his meanest, in his
vain endeavour to appear at ease.

Still she did not comprehend, and she looked to her father for light.
"Mr. Eubank is quartered on us," he said grimly.

And then for certain he wished that he had closed with the man while
they were alone; and had taken the chance of what might follow, pistol
or no pistol. For he saw the healthy brown of sun and wind fade from her
cheeks, and her grey eyes dilate with sudden terror; and he read in
these signs the perfect confirmation of the misgiving he had begun to
entertain. He knew as certainly as if she had told him that Mr. Fayle,
of Fawlcourt, was hidden at the farm. And what was worse, that Eubank,
if he had eyes, could not fail to know it also.

It was a relief to all three when a soldier sauntered into sight,
mooning up the path from the farm, and civilly greeting the owner, said
something about drinking his health. No further words passed then
between them, but all moved together towards the house, each avoiding
the other's eyes. The threshold reached, there was a momentary pause,
the girl looking full at the intruder with a flame of passion in her
face, as if she defied him to enter. But Eubank's eyes were lowered, he
saw nothing, and with a smirk, and a poor show of making apology, he
went in.

Hunt thought of force, and weighed the odds in his mind. But fresh from
prison, under the ban of Government, and with a wholesome dread of the
Marshalsea, he shrank from the attempt. And matters, once they were in
the house, went so quietly, that he began to fancy that he had been
mistaken. For one thing, the girl sought no private word with him, was
obtrusively public, and once gripped the nettle danger in a way that
startled him. It was at the evening meal. Eubank, ill at ease and
suspicious, was stealing glances this way and that, his one eye on the
settle that screened the entrance, the other on the staircase door that
led to the upper floor. On a sudden she rose as if she must speak or
choke. "Mr. Eubank," she cried, "you are here to hunt down Mr. Fayle!
You think that he is in my room! My room! I read it in your eyes, you
cur! You traitor!"

"Hush!" Hunt said in warning. This was no open fight such as he had
dared a score of times; and the malice in the man's face frightened him.

"But, I will speak!" she cried, fighting with her passion. "He thinks
it, and he shall search! Go--go now I Leave your men here, sir, to
watch, and do you see for yourself that he is not there! And then leave
the house!"

He was not at all for going to search, and cringed and muttered an
apology; but she would have him, and as good as forced him. Then, when
he had searched as much as he pleased--and it was little, with her
burning eyes watching him from the doorway--she brought him down again
and bade him go. "Go!" she cried.

"I never thought that he was there," he said slyly, smiling at the
floor. And of course he did not go, and she could not make him; and the
desperate attempt failed as hopelessly as her father could have told her
it would.

The whole position was strange. The tall clock ticked in the corner of
the great warm panelled kitchen; where the fire shone cosily on delft
and pewter, and on the china dogs and Nankin idols that skippers,
bringing cargoes of Hollands and Mechlin, had given to the Owler's
daughter. Through the open window the belated bees could be heard among
the hollyhocks, and a frugal swallow hawked to and fro for flies. The
quiet that falls on a farm in the evening lay on everything.

But within was a difference. There, to say nothing of the soldiers, who,
irritated by Eubank's supervision, hung about the open windows listening
sullenly, the three never ceased to watch and observe one another, ready
to spring, ready to fall back at a sign. Of all, perhaps, Hunt was most
mystified. He knew that in the search which had attended his arrest the
premises had been ransacked from roof to cellar; that every locker and
hiding-place had been laid open and discovered; and that apart from this
Eubank, who had played jackal in many of his adventures, was familiar
with all, even the most secret. Where, then, was Fayle?

He learned only too soon. When it came to closing time, "Your woman is
not in," said one of the soldiers; and he looked at the girl.

"Woman?" said Eubank, with meaning; "I have seen no woman."

"She was here at midday," the man answered, without suspicion.

Perhaps the girl had been expecting it, for she did not blench, though
Eubank's eyes were on her face. "Then leave the door on the latch," she
said; and she added, with fine contempt, "If a wench has a lover you
need not tell the town!"

She went upstairs with that, and Hunt, who was tired and mystified and
in a poor humour--things at home promising to turn out as ill as matters
abroad, went to his den off the kitchen and shut himself in to sulk. For
the use of Eubank and the soldiers two pallets had been laid in a room
on the farther side of the kitchen if they chose to use them; but with
the door on the latch Hunt had a shrewd suspicion that they would sit up
and watch. They soon fell silent, however, and though the remembrance of
the events which had happened since he last lay there kept him long
waking, and in miserable mood, he heard neither voices nor movements.
For himself he was sick at heart thinking of the girl and her lover, and
furious at the treachery of the hound who pursued her. Nevertheless,
Nature would have its way, and he was in the act of sinking into slumber
when a cry which pierced the night and was followed by a discord of
voices, raised in sharp contention, brought him startled to his feet.

He had little doubt that Eubank and his men had seized Fayle in the act
of entering the house; and enraged, yet bitterly aware of his impotence,
he huddled on some clothes, and in a twinkling was out of his room. But
in the kitchen, of which the outer door stood wide open to the night,
was only Eubank; who, without his wig, and with a pistol poised in his
uncertain hand, had entrenched himself in the angle between the settle
and the hearth. The smuggler, seeing no one else, vented his wrath on
him.

"You dog!" he cried. "Are honest men to be kept awake by such as you?
What does this mean?"

"It means that we have got your fine son-in-law!" the other retorted
with venom. "And we are going to keep him. So your distance, if you
please. I know you of old, and if you come within a yard of me I will
put a ball into you. Now mark that!"

"You have got him?" said Hunt, restraining himself with difficulty.
"Where?"

"They are bringing him," Eubank answered. "You will see him soon
enough." And then, as one of the soldiers appeared in the doorway, "Have
you got him?" the apothecary cried eagerly.

"Ay, ay," the man said.

"But where is he?"

"Hughes and Lort are bringing him."

"Are they enough?" Eubank cried anxiously.

"Plenty," the soldier answered with some scorn. "He made no fight."

"I'll lay you caught him under her window?" Eubank returned, licking his
lips.

The man nodded; then stood twiddling his cap, and looking ashamed of
himself. For Kate Hunt had just appeared at the open staircase door,
and thence, raised a step above the floor, with a hand on each post, was
taking in the scene.

Eubank--who did not see her--chuckled. "I thought so," he said, with an
evil grin; and between his bald head and his vile triumph he looked as
ugly as sin itself. "I knew he would be there. She did not deceive me,
with her door on the latch!"

Pistol, or no pistol, Hunt nearly fell upon him. The owler only
refrained because he became aware of his daughter's presence, and to his
great bewilderment read in her face not horror or misery, but a strange
passionate relief. He turned from her--they were bringing in the
prisoner. It was no surprise to him when Eubank, with a howl of
consternation, stepped back almost into the fire. "You fools!" the
apothecary cried, all his malignity appearing in his face, "that is not
the man! That is not----"

"Mr. Fayle?" said the prisoner coolly. "No, it is not. And yet, Mr.
Eubank, I think you know me. Or, you should know me. You have seen me
often enough."

The apothecary stared, started, drew a deep breath of relief, and was
himself again. "Yes, I know you--Mr. Birkenhead," he said. "I have lost
Fayle, but I have won a thousand guineas. Lads!" he continued, raising
his voice almost to a scream, "we have shot at the pigeon and killed
the crow! We have killed the crow! It is Birkenhead, the Post--the
Jacobite Post! And there is a thousand guineas on his head!"

Hunt gathered himself together. "Mr. Birkenhead," he said, "we are two
to four, but say the word, and----"

"I'll say a word for you presently," the Jacobite answered with a quick
look of acknowledgment, "where we are going. But first, to show Mr.
Eubank that he is more lucky than he thinks, and has caught his pigeon
as well as his crow. Fayle," he continued, raising his voice, "come in!"

A gawky, long-limbed woman stalked in, smiling grimly at Eubank, but
with the tail of his eye on the girl in the doorway. Eubank drew back,
and the colour faded from his cheeks. He breathed hard, and the pistol
in his hand wavered. "Look here," he began. "Let us talk about this."

But the Jacobite raised his hand for silence. "Dewhurst!" he cried.

A tall, swarthy seaman, with a scarred cheek and a knitted nightcap,
stepped briskly in, a cutlass in his hand.

"Fawcus!"

Another entered, who but for the scar might have been his twin.

"Bonaventure! And Mr. Eubank," Birkenhead continued, lowering his voice
and speaking with treacherous civility, "let me warn you not to be too
free with that pistol, for these good fellows will assuredly put you on
the fire if any one is hurt. Is Bonaventure there? Yes. Moyreau? Yes.
Valentin? I am sure that you understand me, Mr. Eubank. You will be
careful."

But the warning was needless. As man after man filed in and formed up
before him--all armed to the teeth, and all wild, reckless fellows in
sea-boots, nightcaps, and tarry jerkins--Eubank's craven heart melted
within him. Setting his pistol down on the settle, he stood speechless,
sallow, shaking with fear, such fear as almost stays the heart, yet
leaves the brain working--leaves the man created in God's image to be
dragged out to his death, writhing and shrieking--a sight to haunt brave
men's memories.

He was spared that, yet came near to it. "Mr. Eubank," said Birkenhead
sternly, "you will come with me. I have a sloop at the old
landing-place, and before daylight we shall be in Calais roads. There is
a cell in the Bastille waiting for you, and I shall see you in it. I'll
hold you a hostage for Bernardi."

The wretch shrieked and fell on his knees and grovelled, crying for
mercy; but Birkenhead only answered, "Get up, man, get up; or must my
men prick you?" And then to the others, "Mr. Hunt," he continued, "you
too must come with us. But have no fear. Believe me you will be better
there than here, and shall be well reported. Mr. Fayle and your daughter
will come, of course. Tie the others and leave them. And hurry, men,
hurry. Bring your money, Mr. Hunt; King James has none too much of that.
I can give you ten minutes to pack, and then we must be moving lest they
take the alarm in Romney."

As a fact they took no alarm in Romney. But a shepherd, belated that
night with a sick ewe, saw a long line of lanthorns go bobbing across
the marsh to the sea, and went home and told his neighbours that Hunt
was at his old tricks again. One of them, knowing that the soldiers were
there, laughed in his face and went to see, and learning the truth
carried the story into Romney, whence it spread to London and brought
down a mob of horse and foot and messengers, and from one end of England
to the other the descent and the audacity of it were a nine days'
wonder. However, by that time the nest was cold and the birds long
flown, and Birkenhead, with one more plume in his crest, was preening
his feathers at St. Germains.



THE TWO PAGES

(1580)


Yes, I have seen changes. When I first served at court, whither I went
in the year 1579--seven years after the St. Bartholomew--the King
received all in his bedchamber, and there every evening played primero
with his intimates, until it was time to retire; Rosny and Biron, and
the great men of the day, standing, or sitting on chests round the
chamber. If he would be more private he had his cabinet; or, if the
matter were of prime importance, he would take his confidants to an open
space in the garden--such as the white-mulberry grove, encircled by the
canal at Fontainebleau; where, posting a Swiss guard who did not
understand French, at the only bridge that gave access to the place, he
could talk without reserve.

In those days the court rode, or if sick, went in litters. Coaches were
only coming into fashion, Henry, who feared nothing else, having so
invincible a distaste for them that he was wont to turn pale if the
coach in which he travelled swayed more than usual. Ladies, the Queen's
mother and her suite excepted, rode sideways on pads, their feet
supported by a little board; and side-saddles were rare. At great
banquets the fairest and noblest served the tables. We dined at ten in
the country and eleven in Paris; instead of at noon, as is the custom
now.

When the King lay alone, his favourite pages took it by turns to sleep
at his feet; the page on duty using a low truckle bed that in the
daytime fitted under the King's bed, and at night was drawn out. Not
seldom, however, and more often if the times were troublous, he would
invite one of his councillors to share his couch, and talk the night
through with him; a course which in these days might seem undignified.
Frequently he and the Queen received favourite courtiers before they
left their beds; particularly on New Year's morning it was the duty of
the Finance Minister to wait on them, and awaken them with a present of
medals struck for the purpose.

And I recall many other changes. But one thing, which some young sparks,
with a forwardness neither becoming in them nor respectful to me, have
ventured to suggest, even in my presence--that we who lived in the old
war time were a rougher breed and less dainty and chivalrous than the
Buckinghams and Bassompierres of to-day--I roundly deny. On the
contrary, I would have these to know that he who rode in the wars with
Henry of Guise--or against him--had for his example not only the
handsomest but the most courtly man of all times; and has nothing to
learn from a set of pert fellows who, unable to acquire the stately
courtesy that becomes a gentleman, are fain to air themselves in a
dandified-simpering trim of their own, with nought gallant about them
but their ribbons and furbelows.

That such are stouter than the men of my day, no one dare maintain. I
have seen Crillon, whom veterans called the brave; and I have talked
with La Nouë of the Iron Arm; for the rest, I can tell you of one--he
was a boy fourteen years old--known to me in my youth, who had it not in
him to fear.

He was page, along with me, to the King of Navarre; a year my junior,
and my rival. At riding, shooting and fencing he was the better; at
paume and tennis he always won. But naturally, being the elder, I had
the greater strength, and when the sharp sting of his wit provoked me, I
could drub him, and did so more than once. No extremity of defeat,
however, no, nor any severity of punishment could wring from Antoine a
word of submission; prostrate, with bleeding face, he was as ready to
fly at my throat as before I laid hand on him. And more, though I was
the senior, he was the life and soul and joy of the ante-chamber; the
first in mischief, the last in retreat; the first to cry a nick-name
after a burly priest who chanced to pass us as we lounged at the
gates--and the first to be whipped when it turned out that the King had
a mind to please the clergy.

It followed that from the first I viewed him with a strange mixture of
rivalry and affection; ready at one moment to quarrel with him and beat
him for a misword, and the next to let him beat me if it pleased him. At
this time the King of Navarre had his court sometimes at Montauban,
sometimes at Nerac; and there were rumours of a war between him and the
King of France; to be clear, it was this year, that in the hope of
maintaining the peace, the latter's mother, the Queen Catherine, came
with a glittering train of ladies to Nerac, and paid her court to our
King, and there were ball and pageants and gay doings by day and night.
But the Huguenots were not lightly taken in, and under this fair mask
suspected treachery, and not without reason; for one night, during a
ball, Catherine's friends seized a strong town, and but for Henry's
readiness--who took horse that moment and before daylight had surprised
a town of France to set against it--they would have gained the
advantage. So in the event Catherine did little, no one trusting her,
and in the end she returned to Paris wiser than she came; but for the
time the visit lasted the court gaieties continued, and there were
masques and dances, and the thought of war was seemingly far from the
minds of all.

Now in the room which was then the King's Chamber at Montauban, is a
window, at a great height from the ground, a very deep ravine, which is
one of the main defences of the city, lying below it. In the adjoining
ante-chamber is a similar window, and between the two is a projecting
buttress, and outside the sill of each is a stone ledge a foot wide,
which runs round the buttress. I do not know who first thought of it,
but one day when the King was absent and we pages were lounging in the
room--which was against the rules, since we should have been in the
ante-chamber--some one challenged Antoine to walk on the ledge round the
buttress, going out by the one window and returning by the other. I have
said that the ledge was but a foot wide, the depth below infinite. It
turned me sick only to look down and see the hawks hang and circle in
the gulf. Nevertheless, before any could speak, Antoine was outside the
casement poising himself on the airy ledge; a moment, and with his face
turned inwards to the wall, his slight figure outlined against the sky,
he began to edge his way round the buttress.

I called to him to come back; I expected each moment to see him reel and
fall; the others, too, stood staring with uneasy faces; for they had not
thought that he would do it. But he did not heed; an instant, and he
vanished round the buttress, and still we stood, and no one moved; no
one moved, until with a shout he showed himself at the other window, and
sprang down into the ante-chamber. His eyes were bright with the triumph
of it; his hair waved back from his brow as if the breeze from the gulf
still stirred it. He cried to me to do the feat in my turn, he pointed
his finger at me, dared me, and before them all he called me "Coward!
Coward!"

But I am not ashamed to confess a weakness I share with many men of
undoubted courage--I could never face a great height; and though I
burned with wrath and shame, and raged under his taunts, though I could
have confronted any other form of death, at his instigation, or I
thought I could, though I even went so far as to leap on the seat within
the window and stand--and stand irresolute--I stopped there. My head
turned, my skin crept. I could not do it. The victory was with Antoine;
he whom I had thrashed for some impertinence only the night before, now
held me up to scorn and drove me from the room with jeers and laughter.

None of the others had greater courage; none dared do the feat; but I
was the eldest and the biggest, and the iron entered into my heart. Day
after day for a week, whenever the chamber was empty, I crept to the
window and looked down and watched the kites hover and drop, and plumbed
the depth with my eyes. But only, to turn away--sick. I could not do it.
Resolve as I might at night, in the morning, on the window ledge, with
the giddy deep below me, I was a coward.

One evening, however, when the King was supping with M. de Roquelaure,
and I believed the chamber to be deserted, I chanced to go to the window
of the ante-chamber after nightfall. I stepped on the seat--that I had
done often before; but this time, looking down, I found that I no longer
quailed. The darkness veiled the ravine; to my astonishment I felt no
qualms. Moreover, I had had supper, my heart was high; and in a moment
it occurred to me that now--now in the dark I could do it, and regain my
pride.

I did not give myself time to think, but went straight out to the
gallery, where I found Antoine and two or three others teasing Mathurine
the woman-fool. My entrance was the signal for a taunt. "Ho, Miss White
Face! Come to borrow Mathurine's petticoats?" Antoine cried, standing
out and confronting me. "It is you, is it?"

"Yes," I answered sharply, meeting his eyes and speaking in a tone I had
not used for a week. "And if you do not mend your manners, Master
Antoine----"

"Go round the buttress!" he retorted with a grimace.

"I will!" I answered. "I will! And then----"

"You dare not!"

"Come!" I said; "come, and see! And when I have done it, my friend----"

I did not finish the sentence, but led the way back to the ante-chamber;
assuming a courage which, as a fact, was fast oozing from me. The cold
air that met me as I approached the open window sobered me still more;
but Antoine's jeers and my companions' incredulity stung me to the
necessary point, and at once I stepped on the ledge, and without giving
myself time to think, turned my face to the wall and began to edge
myself slowly along it; my heart in my mouth, my flesh creeping, as I
gradually realized where I was; every nerve in my body strung to
quivering point.

Certainly in the daylight I could not have done it. Even now, when the
depth over which I balanced myself was hidden by the darkness, and I had
only my fancy to conquer, I trembled, my knees shook, a bat skimming by
my ear almost caused me to fall; I was bathed in perspiration. The depth
drew me; I dared not for my life look into it. Yet I turned the corner
of the buttress in safety, and edged my way along its front, glueing
myself to the wall; and came at last, breathing hard, to the second
corner, and turned it, and saw with a gasp of relief the lights in the
chamber. A moment--a moment more, and I should be safe.

At that instant I heard something, and cast a wary eye backwards the way
I had come. I saw a shadowy form at my elbow, and I guessed that Antoine
was following me. With a shudder I hastened my steps to avoid him, and I
was already in the angle formed by the wall and buttress--whence I
could leap down into the chamber--when he called to me.

"Hist!" he cried softly. "Stop, man! the King is there! He has been
there all the time, I think."

I thought it only too likely, for I could see none of our comrades at
the window; and I heard men's deeper voices in the room. To go on,
therefore, and show myself was to be punished; and I paused and knelt
down in the angle where the ledge was wider. I recognized the King's
voice, and M. Gourdon's, and that of St. Martin, the captain of the
guard; I caught even their words, and presently, in a minute or two, and
against my will, I had surprised a secret--so great a secret that I
trembled almost as much as I had trembled at the outmost angle of the
buttress, hanging between earth and sky. For they were planning the
great assault on Cahors; for the first time I heard named those points
that are now household words; the walnut grove, and the three gates, and
the bridge, that fame and France will never forget. I heard all--the
night, the hour, the numbers to be engaged; and turned quaking to learn
what Antoine thought of it. Turned, but neither saw nor addressed him;
for he had gone back, and my eye, incautiously cast down, saw far, far
beneath me a torch and a little group of men--at the bottom of the void.
I became giddy at this sudden view of the abyss, wavered an instant, and
then with a cry of fear I chose the less pressing danger, and tumbled
forward into the room.

M. de Roquelaure had his point at my throat before I could rise; and I
had a vision of half a dozen men part risen, of half a dozen startled
faces all glaring at me. Fortunately M. de Rosny knew me and held the
other's arm. I was plucked up roughly, and set on my feet before the
King, who alone had kept his seat; and amid a shower of threats I was
bidden to explain my presence.

"You knave! I wish I had spitted you!" Roquelaure cried, with an oath,
when I had done so. "You heard all?"

"Yes, Monsieur."

They scowled at me between wrath and chagrin. "Friend Rosny, you were a
fool," M. de Roquelaure said with grimness.

"I think I was," the other answered. "But a flogging, a gag, and the
black hole will keep his tongue still as long as is needful."

Henry laughed. "I think we can do better than that!" he said, with a
glance of good nature. "Hark you, my lad; you are big enough to fight.
We will trust you, and you shall wear sword for the first time. But if
the surprise fail, if word of our coming go before us, we shall know
whom to blame, and you will have to reckon with M. de Rosny."

I fell on my knees and thanked him with tears; while Rosny and M. St.
Martin remonstrated. "Take my word for it, he will blurt it out!" said
the one; and the other, "You had better deliver him to me, sire."

"No," Henry said kindly. "I will trust him. He comes of a good stock; if
the oak bends, what tree shall we trust?"

"The oak bends fast enough, sire, when it is a sapling," Rosny retorted.

"In that case you shall apply _your_ sapling!" the King answered,
laughing. "Hark ye, my lad, will you be silent?"

I promised--with tears in my eyes; and with that, and a mind full of
amazement, I was dismissed, and left the presence, a grown man;
overjoyed that the greatest scrape of my life had turned out the
happiest; foreseeing honour, and rewards, and already scorning the other
pages as immeasurably beneath me. It was a full minute before I thought
of Antoine, and the chance that he, too, before he turned back, had
overheard the King's plan. Then I stood in the passage horrified--my
first impulse to return and tell the King. It came too late, however,
for in the mean time he and M. de Rosny had repaired to the closet, and
the others had withdrawn; and while I stood hesitating, Antoine slipped
out of the ante-chamber, and came to me on the stairs.

His first words went some way towards relieving me; they told me that he
had overheard something but not all; enough to know that the King
intended to surprise a place of strength, and a few details, but not the
name of the place. As soon as I understood this, and that I had nothing
to fear from him, I could not hide my triumph. When he declared his
intention of going with the expedition, I laughed at him.

"You!" I said. "You don't understand. This is not child's play!"

"And you will not tell me where it is?" he asked, raging.

"No! Go to your nurse and your pap-boat, child."

He flew at me at that like a mad cat, and I had to beat him until the
blood ran down his face before I could shake him off. Even then, and
while I thrust him out sobbing, he begged me to tell him--only to tell
him. Nor was that all. Through all the next day he haunted me and
persecuted me, now with prayers and now with threats; following me
everywhere with eyes of such hot longing that I marvelled at the
irrepressible spirit that shone in the lad.

Of course I told him nothing. Yet I was glad when the next day came, and
with it an announcement that Henry would visit M. de Gourdon and lie
that night at his house, four miles from Montauban, where the court then
was. Only eight gentlemen were invited to be of the party, with as many
ladies; the troop with a handful of servants riding out of the city
about five o'clock, and no one the wiser. No one saw anything odd in
the visit, nor in my being chosen to attend the King. But I knew; and I
was not surprised when we stopped at M. de Gourdon's only to sup, and
then getting to horse, rode through the night and the dusky oak woods,
by walled farms and hamlets, and under rustling poplars--rode many
leagues, and forded many streams. The night was hot, it was the month of
June; and it thundered continually, but with no rain. At this point and
that bands of men joined us, mysteriously, and in silence; until from
the hill with its bracken and walnut trees, we saw the lights of Cahors
below us, and the glimmer of the winding Lot, and heard the bells of the
city tolling midnight.

By this time, every road adding to our numbers, we were a great company;
and how we lay hidden through the early night in the walnut grove that
looks down on the river all men know; but not the qualms and eagerness
that by turns possessed me as I peered through the leaves at the distant
lights, nor the prayer I said that I might not shame my race, nor how my
heart beat when Henry, who was that day twenty-seven years old, gave the
order to advance in the voice of one going to a ball. Two men with a
petard--then a strange invention--led the way through the gloom,
attended by ten picked soldiers. After them came fifty of the King's
guards, and the King with two hundred foot; then the main body of a
thousand. We had the long bridge with its three gates to pass; and
beyond these obstacles, a city bitterly hostile, and occupied by a
garrison far outnumbering us. Never, indeed, did men enter on a more
forlorn or perilous enterprise.

I remember to this day how I felt as we advanced through the darkness,
and how long it seemed while we waited, huddled and silent, at the head
of the bridge, expecting the explosion of the petard, which had been
fixed to the first gate. At length it burst, filling the heavens with
flame; before the night closed down again on our pale faces, the leaders
were through the breach and past that gate, and charging madly over the
bridge, the leading companies all mingled together.

I had no fear now. If a friendly hand had not pulled me back, I should
have run on to the petard which drove in the second gate. As it was, I
passed through the second obstacle side by side with the King--but went
no farther. The garrison was awake now, and a withering fire from fifty
arquebuses swept the narrow bridge; those who were not struck stumbled
over the dying; the air was filled with groans and cries; a moment and
the very bravest recoiled, and sought safety behind the second gate,
where we stood in shelter.

The moment was critical, for now the whole city was aroused. Shouts of
triumph rose above the exploding of the guns; in every tower bells
jangled noisily, and on the summit of the last gateway on the bridge,
which from every loophole and window poured on us a deadly hail of
slugs, a beacon-fire blazed up, turning the black water below us to
blood.

I have said that the moment was critical--for France and for us. For a
few seconds all hung back. Then St. Martin sprang forward, and by his
side Captain Robert, who had fixed the first petard. They darted along
the bridge, but only to fall and lie groaning and helpless halfway over.
Henry made a movement as if to follow, but young M. de Rosny held him
back by force, while half a dozen soldiers made the attempt. Of these
four fell at once under the pitiless fire, and two crawled back wounded.
It seemed that a man must be more than mortal to pass that space; and
while one might count twenty no one moved.

Captain Robert lay scarcely fifteen paces from us, and by his side the
hammer, spike, and petard he had carried. He and they were visible in
the glow of ruddy light that poured down on the bridge. Suddenly, while
I stood panting and irresolute, longing, yet not daring--since I saw
older men hang back--suddenly a hand twitched my sleeve, and I turned to
find at my elbow, his hair streaming back from his brow, Antoine! The
lad's face and eyes flashed scorn at me. He waved his hand towards the
bridge.

"Coward!" he cried; and he struck me lightly on the cheek with his hand.
"Coward! Now follow me, if you dare!"

And, before any one could stay him, he darted from the shelter of the
gateway in which we stood; and raced on to the bridge. I heard a great
shout on our side, and the roar of a volley; but dully only, for,
enraged by the blow and the challenge, I followed him--I and a dozen
others. Some fell, but he ran on, and I after him. He snatched up the
petard and the hammer, I the spike. In a moment, as it seemed to me, we
were at the farther gate attaching the engine to it. I held the spike,
he hammered it; the smoke and the frowning archway, to some extent,
protected us from the fire of those above.

I often think of those few seconds with the pride and the garrulousness
of an old man. While they lasted we stood alone, separated from our
friends by the whole length of the third span of the bridge. For a few
seconds only indeed; then, with a yell of triumph, the remains of
Henry's "forlorn" rushed forward, and though many fell, enough came on.
In a trice eager hands took the engine from us, and secured the fuse
effectually and lit it, and bore us back--I was going to say, out of
danger; but alas! as a deafening crash and a blaze of light proclaimed
the way open and the last gate down, he who had done the deed, and
opened the way, fell across me, shot from a loophole! As the rain of
fragments from the gate fell hissing and splashing in the stream that
flowed below, and while the foot streamed over the bridge, and pressed
through the breach, Antoine gave a little gasp, and died on my knee.

The rest all men know; how through five days and nights we fought the
great street-fight of Cahors; how we took no rest, save against walls
and doorways, or in the courts of houses we had won; how we ate and
drank with hands smirched with blood, and then to it again; how we won
the city house by house, and foot by foot, until at last the white flag
waved from the great tower, and France awoke with a start to know that
in the young prince of pleasure, whom she had deemed a trifler, was born
the shrewdest statesman and the boldest soldier of all her royal line.

And Antoine? When I went, after many hours, to seek him, the horse had
crossed the bridge, and even his body was gone. How he had traced us,
how managed to come to the front so opportunely, whether without him the
star of Navarre would have risen so gloriously on that night of '80,
never to be forgotten, I cannot say. But when I hear men talk of Crillon
and courage--above all, when I hear them talk of the fops and ribboned
popinjays of to-day, with their loose breeches and their bell-mouthed
boots, I think of my comrade and rival who won Cahors for the King. And
I smile.



PART II



THE DIARY OF A STATESMAN


That which I am about to insert in this place may seem to some to be
trifling, and on a parity with the diverting story of M. Boisrosé, which
I have set down in an earlier part of my memoirs. But among the
calumnies of those who have not since the death of the late King ceased
to attack me, the statement that I kept from his Majesty things which
should have reached his ears, has had a prominent place; though a
thousand times refuted by my friends. I take in hand, therefore, to show
by this episode, curious in itself, the full knowledge of affairs which
the King had, and to prove that in many matters, which were never
permitted to become public, he took a personal share, worthy as much of
Haroun as of Alexander.

It was my custom, before I entered upon those negotiations with the
Prince of Condé which terminated in the recovery of the estate of
Villebon, where I now reside, to spend a part of the autumn and winter
at Rosny. On these occasions, I was in the habit of moving from Paris
with a considerable train, including not only my Swiss, pages, and
grooms, but the maids of honour and waiting-women of the Duchess. We
halted to take dinner at Poissy, and generally contrived to reach Rosny
towards nightfall, so as to sup by the light of flambeaux, in a manner
enjoyable enough, though devoid of that state which I have ever
maintained, and enjoined upon my children, as at once the privilege and
burden of rank.

At the time of which I speak, I had for my favourite charger the sorrel
horse which the Duke of Mercoeur presented to me with a view to my good
offices at the time of the King's entry into Paris; and which I honestly
transferred to his Majesty in accordance with a principle laid down in
another place. The King insisted on returning it to me, and for several
years I rode it on these annual visits to Rosny. What was more
remarkable was, that on each of these occasions it cast a shoe about the
middle of the afternoon, and always when we were within a short league
of the village of Aubergenville. Though I never had with me less than a
half a score of led horses, I had such an affection for the sorrel that
I preferred to wait until it was shod, rather than accommodate myself to
a nag of less easy paces; and would allow my household to precede me,
while I stayed behind with at most a guard or two, my valet, and a page.

The forge at Aubergenville was kept by a smith of some skill, a cheerful
fellow, whom I rewarded, in view rather of my position than his
services, with a gold piece. His joy at receiving what was to him the
income of three months was great, and never failed to reimburse me; in
addition to which I took some pleasure in unbending, and learning from
this simple peasant and loyal man, what the tax-payers were saying of me
and my reforms--a duty I felt I owed to the King my master.

As a man of breeding, it would ill become me to set down the homely
truths I thus learned. The conversations of the vulgar are little suited
to a nobleman's memoirs. But in this I distinguish between the Duke of
Sully and the King's minister; and it is in the latter capacity that I
relate what passed on these diverting occasions. "Ho! Simon," I would
say, encouraging the poor man as he came bowing before me. "How goes it,
my friend?"

"Badly," he would answer, "very badly until your lordship came this
way."

"And how was that, little man?"

"Ah, it is the roads!" he always replied, shaking his bald head as he
began to set about his business. "The roads since your lordship became
Surveyor-General, are so good, that not one horse in a hundred leaves
its shoe in a slough! And then there are so few highwaymen, that not one
robber's plates do I replace in a twelvemonth! That is where it is."

At this I was highly delighted. "Still, since I began to pass this way
times have not been so bad with you, Simon," I would answer.

Thereto he had one invariable reply. "No, thanks to St. Geneviéve and
your Lordship, whom we call in this village the poor man's friend, I
have a fowl in the pot."

This phrase so pleased me, that I repeated it to the king. It tickled
his fancy also, and for many years it was a common remark of that good
and great ruler, that he would fain live to see every peasant with a
fowl in his pot.

"But why," I remember, I once asked this honest fellow--it was on the
last occasion of the sorrel falling lame there--"do you thank St.
Geneviéve?"

"She is my patron saint," he answered.

"Then you are a Parisian?"

"Your lordship is always right."

"But does her saintship do you any good?" I asked curiously.

"By your lordship's leave. My wife prays to her, and she loosens the
nails in the sorrel's shoes."

"Then she pays off an old grudge," I answered. "There was a time when
Paris liked me little. But hark you, Master Smith! I am not sure 'tis
not an act of treason to conspire with Madame Geneviéve against the
comfort of the King's minister. What think you, you rascal? Can you pass
the justice-elm without a shiver?"

This threw the simple fellow into great fear, which the sight of the
livre of gold converted into joy. Leaving him still staring at his
fortune, I rode away. But when we had gone some little distance, the
aspect of his face, when I charged him with treason, or my own
unassisted discrimination, suggested a clue to the phenomenon.

"La Trape," I said to my valet--the same who was with me at
Cahors--"what is the name of the innkeeper at Poissy, at whose house we
are accustomed to dine?"

"Andrew, may it please your lordship."

"Ha! Ha! I thought so!" I exclaimed, smiting my thigh. "Simon and Andrew
his brother! Answer, knave; and if you have permitted me to be robbed
these many times, tremble for your ears! Is he not brother to the smith
at Aubergenville who has just shod my horse?"

La Trape professed to be ignorant on the point. But a groom who had
stayed with me, having sought my permission to speak, said it was so,
adding that Master Andrew had risen in the world through dealings in
hay, which he was wont to take into Paris and sell, and that he did not
now acknowledge, or see anything of his brother, the smith.

On receiving this confirmation of my suspicion, my vanity as well as my
love of justice led me to act with the promptitude which I have
exhibited in greater emergencies. I rated La Trape for his carelessness
in permitting this deception to be practised; and the main body of my
attendants being now in sight, I ordered him to take two Swiss and
arrest both brothers without delay. There remained three hours of
daylight, and I judged that by hard riding they might reach Rosny with
their prisoners before bedtime.

I spent some time, while still on the road, in considering what
punishment I should inflict on the culprits, and finally laid aside the
purpose I had at first conceived--of dealing severely with them--in
favour of a plan that I thought might offer me some amusement. For the
execution of this, I depended upon Maignan, my equerry, a man of lively
imagination, and the same who had, of his own motion, arranged and
carried out the triumphal procession in which I was borne to Rosny,
after the battle of Ivry. Before I sat down to supper, I gave him his
directions; and, as I had expected, news was brought to me, while I was
at table, that the prisoners were without.

On this, I informed the Duchess and the company--for, as was usual, a
number of my country neighbours had come to compliment me on my
return--that there was sport of a rare kind on foot; and we adjourned,
Maignan and four pages bearing lights before us, to that end of the
terrace which abuts on the linden avenue. Here a score of grooms,
holding aloft torches, had been arranged in a semicircle, so that they
enclosed an impromptu theatre, which was as light as in the day. On a
sloping bank at the end of the terrace, seats had been placed for those
who had supped at my table, while the rest of the company found such
places of vantage as they could, their number, indeed, amounting, with
my household, to two hundred persons. In the centre of the open space a
small forge-fire had been kindled, the red glow of which added much to
the strangeness of the scene; and on the anvil beside it were ranged a
number of horses' and donkeys' shoes, with a full complement of tools
used by smiths.

All being ready, I gave the word to bring in the prisoners; and,
escorted by La Trape and six of my guards, they were marched into the
arena. In their pale and terrified faces, and the shaking limbs which
scarce supported them, I read both the consciousness of guilt and the
apprehension of immediate punishment; it was plain that they expected
nothing less. I was very willing to play with their fears, and for some
time looked at them in silence, while all wondered with lively curiosity
what would ensue. In the end, I addressed them gravely, telling the
innkeeper that I knew well he had loosened each year a shoe of my horse,
in order that his brother might profit by the job of replacing it; and
then I proceeded to reprove the smith for the ingratitude which had led
him to return my bounty by the conception of so knavish a trick.

Upon this they confessed their guilt, and flinging themselves upon their
knees, with many tears, begged for mercy. After a decent interval I
permitted myself to be moved.

"Your lives shall be spared," I pronounced. "But punished you must be. I
ordain that Simon the smith fit, nail, and properly secure a pair of
iron shoes to Andrew's heels, and that then, Andrew, who by that time
will have learned somewhat of the smith's art, do the same to Simon. So
will you both be taught to avoid such tricks in the future."

It may well be imagined that a judgment so justly adapted to the offence
charmed all save the culprits; and in a hundred ways the pleasure of
those present was evinced: to such a degree indeed that Maignan had
difficulty in restoring gravity to the assemblage. This done, however,
Master Andrew was taken in hand, and his wooden shoes removed. The tools
of his trade were placed before Simon, but he cast glances so piteous,
first at his brother's feet, and then at the shoes, as again gave rise
to an amount of merriment that surpassed all, my pages in particular
well-nigh forgetting my presence, and rolling about in a manner
unpardonable at another time. However, I rebuked them, and was about to
order the sentence to be carried into effect, when the remembrance of
the many pleasant simplicities which the smith had uttered to me, acting
upon a natural disposition to mercy which the most calumnious of my
enemies have never questioned, induced me to give the prisoners a
chance of escape. "Listen," I said, "Simon and Andrew. Your sentence has
been pronounced and will be executed, unless you can avail yourself of
the condition I now offer. You shall have three minutes: if in that time
either of you can make a good joke, he shall go free. If not--let a man
attend to the bellows, La Trape!"

This charmed my neighbours, who were now well assured that I had not
promised them a novel entertainment without good grounds; for the
grimaces of the two knaves thus bidden to jest if they would save their
skins were so diverting they would have made a nun laugh. The two looked
at me with their eyes as wide as plates, and for the whole of the time
of grace never a word could they utter save howls for mercy. "Simon," I
said gravely, when the time was up, "have you a joke? No. Andrew, my
friend, have you a joke? No. Then----"

I was about to order the sentence to be carried out when the innkeeper
flung himself again upon his knees and cried out loudly--as much to my
astonishment as to the regret of the bystanders, who were bent on seeing
so strange a shoeing feat--"One word, my lord! One word! I can give you
no joke! But I can do a service, a service to the King! I can disclose a
plot, a wicked conspiracy against him!"

I need not say how greatly I was taken aback by this public
announcement. But I had been too long in the King's employment not to
have remarked how strangely things are brought to light; and on hearing
the man's words, which were followed by a stricken silence, I did not
fail to look sharply at the faces of such of those present as it was
possible to suspect. I failed, however, to observe any sign of confusion
or dismay, or anything more particular than such a statement was
calculated to produce. Doubting much whether the man was not playing
with me, I then addressed him sternly, warning him to beware lest in his
anxiety to save his heels by falsely accusing others, he lose his head.
For that, if his conspiracy should prove to be an invention of his own,
I should certainly consider it my duty to hang him.

He still persisted, however, in his story, and even added desperately,
"It is a plot, my lord, to assassinate you and the King on the same
day."

This statement went home; for I had good reason to know that at that
time the king had alienated many by his infatuation for Madame de
Verneuil; while I had to reckon with all whom my pursuit of his
interests injured in reality or appearance. Forthwith I directed that
the prisoners should be led in to the chamber adjoining my private
closet, and taking the precaution to call my guards about me, since I
knew not what attempt despair might not breed, I withdrew myself,
making such apologies to the company as the nature of the case
permitted.

I ordered Simon the smith to be first brought before me, and in the
presence of Maignan I severely examined him as to his knowledge of any
conspiracy. He denied, however, that he had heard of the matters
referred to by his brother, and persisted so firmly in the denial that I
was inclined to believe him. In the end he was removed and Andrew was
brought in. The innkeeper's demeanour was such as I have often observed
in intriguers brought suddenly to book. He averred the existence of the
conspiracy and that its objects were those which he had stated, and he
offered to give up his associates; but he conditioned that he should do
this in his own way, undertaking to conduct me and one other person--but
no more, lest the alarm should be given--to a place in Paris on the
following night, where we could hear the plotters state their plans and
designs. In this way only, he urged, could proof positive be obtained.

I was naturally startled by this proposal, and inclined to think it a
trap. But more leisurely consideration dispelled my fears. The innkeeper
had held no parley with any one save his guards, since his arrest, and
could neither have warned his accomplices, nor acquainted them with a
design the execution of which depended on his confession to me. In the
end, therefore, I accepted his terms--with a private reservation that I
would have help at hand; and before daybreak next morning I left Rosny,
which I had only seen by torchlight, with my prisoner and a select body
of Swiss. We entered Paris in the afternoon in three parties, with as
little parade as possible, and resorted to the Arsenal, whence, as soon
as evening fell, I made my way to the King.

A return so sudden and unexpected, was as great a surprise to the Court
as to Henry, and I was not slow to mark the discomposure which appeared
on more than one face as the crowd in the chamber fell back for me to
approach my master. Still, I was careful to remember that this might
arise from other causes than guilt. The King received me with his wonted
affection; and divining that I must have something important to
communicate, he withdrew with me to the farther end of the chamber,
where we were out of earshot of the Court. I related the story to his
Majesty, keeping back nothing.

He shook his head, saying merely, "The fish, to escape the frying-pan,
grandmaster, will jump into the fire. And human nature, save in our
case, who can trust one another, is akin to the fishy."

I was touched by the compliment, but not convinced. "You have not seen
the man, sire," I said. "And I have had that advantage."

"You believe him?"

"In part," I answered, with caution. "So far as to be assured that he
thinks to save his skin, which he can only save if he be telling the
truth. May I beg you, sire," I added, seeing the direction of his
glance, "not to look so fixedly at the Duke of Epernon? He grows
uneasy."

"'Conscience makes'--you know the rest."

"Nay, sire, with submission," I replied, "I will answer for him; if he
be not driven by apprehension to do something reckless."

"I am taking your warranty every day!" my master said, with the grace
which came so natural to him. "But now in this matter what would you
have me do?"

"Double your guards, sire, for to-night. That is all. I will answer for
the Bastille and the Arsenal; and holding these, we hold Paris."

But thereupon the king declared a decision, which I felt it to be my
duty to combat with all my influence. He had conceived the idea of being
the one to accompany me to the rendezvous. "I am tired of the dice," he
complained, "and sick of tennis, at which I know everybody's strength.
Madame de Verneuil is at Fontainebleau; the Queen is unwell. Oh, Sully,
I would the old days were back when we had Nèrac for our Paris, and knew
the saddle better than the armchair."

"The King belongs to his people."

"The fowl in the pot?" he replied. "To be sure. But time enough to think
of that to-morrow." And do what I would I could not turn him. In the
end, therefore, I took my leave of him as if for the night, and retired
leaving him at play with the Duke of Epernon. But an hour later, towards
eight o'clock, he made an excuse to withdraw to his closet, and met me
outside the eastern gate of the Louvre. He was masked, and had with him
only Coquet, the master of the household. I too had taken a mask and was
esquired by Maignan, under whose orders were four Swiss--whom I had
chosen because they spoke no French--and who had Andrew in charge. I
bade Maignan follow the innkeeper's directions, and we proceeded in two
parties through the streets in the direction of the Arsenal, until we
reached the mouth of an obscure lane near the gardens of St. Pol, so
narrow that the decrepit wooden houses shut out well-nigh all view of
the sky. Here the prisoner halted and called upon me to fulfil the terms
of my agreement. With misgiving I complied. I bade Maignan remain with
the Swiss at a distance of fifty paces--directing him to come up only if
I should whistle or give the alarm; then I myself, with the King and
Andrew, proceeded onward in the deep shadow of the houses. I kept my
hand on my pistol, which I had previously showed to the prisoner,
intimating that on the first sign of treachery I should blow his brains
out. However, in spite of this precaution, I felt uncomfortable to the
last degree. I blamed myself for allowing the King to expose himself to
this unnecessary danger; while the meanness of the quarter, the fetid
air, the darkness of the night which was cold and stormy, and the
uncertainty of the event lowered my spirits, and made every splash in
the kennel, or stumble on the reeking slippery pavements--matters over
which the King grew merry--seem no light troubles to me. We came at
length to a house which, as far as we could judge in the darkness,
seemed to be of rather greater pretensions than its fellows. Here, our
guide stopped, and whispered to us to mount some steps to a raised
wooden gallery, which intervened between the lane and the doorway. On
this, beside the door, a couple of unglazed windows looked forth. The
wooden lattice which covered one was sufficiently open to allow us to
see a large bare crazy room, lighted by a couple of rushlights.
Directing us to place ourselves close to this window, the innkeeper
knocked at the door in a peculiar fashion, entered, and appeared at once
in the lighted room, of which we had a view. Gazing through the window
we were surprised to find that the only person within save Andrew, was a
young woman, who, crouching over a smouldering fire, was crooning a
lullaby while she attended to a large black pot.

"Good evening, mistress!" the innkeeper said, advancing to the fire. He
masked well his nervousness: nevertheless, it was patent to us.

"Good evening, Master Andrew," she replied, looking up and nodding, but
showing no sign of surprise at his appearance. "Martin is away, but he
may return at any moment."

"To-night?"

"Yes."

"Is he still of the same mind?"

"Quite."

"Ah! That is so, is it. And what of Sully?" he continued, somewhat
hoarsely. "Is he to die also?"

"They have decided that he must," the girl answered gloomily.

On that, it may be believed that I listened; while the King by a nudge
in my side, seemed to rally me on the destiny so coolly arranged for me.
"Martin," the girl continued, before the chill sensation had ceased to
run down my back, "Martin says it is no good killing the other, unless
he goes too--they have worked so long together. But it vexes me sadly,
Master Andrew," she added, with a certain break in her voice. "Sadly it
vexes me. I could not sleep last night for thinking of it, and the risk
Martin runs. And I shall sleep less--when it is done."

"Pooh! pooh!" said that rascally innkeeper, and stirred the fire. "Think
less about it. Things will grow worse and worse, if they are let live.
The King has done harm enough already. And he grows old besides. And to
put off a step of this kind is dangerous. If a word got about--'tis
ruin."

"That is true!" the girl answered, gazing drearily at the pot. "And no
doubt the sooner the King is put out of the way the better. I do not say
a word for him. He must go. But 'tis Sully troubles me. He has done
nought, and though he may become as bad as the others--he may not. It is
that, and the risk Martin runs trouble me. 'Twould be death for him."

"Ay," said Andrew, cutting her short; "that's so." And they both looked
at the fire.

At this I took the liberty of gently touching the King; but, by a motion
of his finger, he enjoined silence. We stooped still farther forward so
as to better command the room. The girl was rocking herself to and fro
in evident anxiety, "If We killed the King," she said, "Martin declares
we should be no better off, as long as Sully lives. Both or neither, he
Says. Both or neither. He grew mad about it. Both or neither! But I do
not know. I cannot bear to think of it. It was a sad day When he brought
the Duke here, Master Andrew, and one I fear we shall rue as long as we
live!"

It was now the King's turn to be moved. He grasped my wrist so forcibly
that I restrained a cry with difficulty. "The Duke!" he whispered
harshly in my ear. "Then they are Epernon's tools! Where is your
warranty now, Rosny?"

I confess that I trembled. I knew well that the King, particular in
courtesies, never forgot to call his servants by their titles save in
two cases: when he indicated by the error, as once in Marshal Biron's
affair, his intention to promote or degrade; or when he was moved to the
depths of his nature and fell into an old habit. I did not dare to
reply, but I listened greedily for more information.

"When is it to be done?" the innkeeper asked, sinking his voice, and
glancing round as if he would call especial attention to this.

"That depends upon Master La Rivière," the girl answered. "To-morrow
night, I understand, if the physician can have the stuff ready."

I met the King's eyes, shining in the faint light, which, issuing from
the window, fell upon him. Of all things he hated treachery, and La
Rivière was his first physician. At this very time, as I well knew, he
was treating his Majesty for a slight derangement, which the King had
brought upon himself by his imprudence. This doctor had formerly been in
the employment of the Bouillon family, who had surrendered his services
to the King. Neither I nor his Majesty had trusted the Duke of Bouillon
for the last year past, so that we were not surprised by this hint that
he also was privy to the design.

Despite our anxiety not to miss a word, an approaching step warned us to
leave the window for a moment. More than once before we had done so to
escape the notice of a wayfarer passing up or down. But this time I had
a difficulty in inducing the King to adopt the precaution. Yet it was
well that I succeeded, for the person who came towards us did not pass,
but, mounting the steps, almost within touch of me, entered the house.

"The plot thickens," the King muttered. "Who is this?"

At the moment he asked I was racking my brain to remember. I have a good
eye and a trained memory for faces; and this was one I had seen several
times. The features were so familiar that I suspected the man of being a
courtier in disguise, for he was shabbily dressed; and I ran over the
names of several persons whom I knew to be Epernon's friends or agents.
But he was none of these, and, obeying the King's gesture, I bent myself
anew to the task of listening.

The girl looked up at the man's entrance, but did not rise. "You are
late, Martin," she said.

"A little," the new-comer answered. "How do you do, Master Andrew? What
news of Aubergenville?" And then, not without a trace of affection in
his tone, "What, still vexing, my girl?" he added, laying a hand on the
girl's shoulder. "You have too soft a heart for this business. I always
said so."

She sighed, but made no answer.

"You have made up your mind to it, I hear," said the innkeeper.

"That is it. Needs must when the devil drives!" the man replied
jauntily. He had a bold, reckless, determined air; yet in his face I
thought I saw still surviving some traces of a better spirit.

"The devil in this case was the Duke," quoth Andrew.

"Ay, curse him! I would I had cut the dog's liver out before he crossed
my threshold," cried the man, with passion. "But there, 'tis done! It is
too late to say that now. What has to be done, has to be done."

"How are you going about it? Poison, the mistress says. And it is
safest."

"Yes, she will have it so; but, if I had my way," the man continued
hardily, "I would out one of these nights and cut the dogs' throats
without more."

"You could never escape, Martin!" the girl cried, clasping her hands and
rising in excitement. "It would be hopeless. It would be throwing away
your own life. And besides, you promised me."

"Well, have it so. It is to be done your way, so there is an end," the
man answered wearily. "It is more expensive, that is all. Give me my
supper. The devil take the King, and Sully too! He will soon have them!"

Master Andrew rose on this, and I took his movement towards the door for
a signal to us to retire. He came out presently, after bidding the two
good night, and closed the door behind him. He found us standing in the
street waiting for him, and forthwith he fell on his knees in the mud
and looked up at me, the perspiration standing thick on his white face.
"My lord," he cried hoarsely, "I have earned my pardon!"

"If you go on," I said encouragingly, "as you have begun, have no fear."
And I whistled up the Swiss, and bade Maignan go in with them and arrest
the man and woman with as little disturbance as possible. While this was
being done we waited without, keeping a sharp eye upon the informer,
whose terror, I noted with suspicion, seemed to be increasing rather
than diminishing. He did not try to escape, however, and Maignan
presently came to tell us that he had executed the arrest without
difficulty or resistance.

The importance of arriving at the truth before Epernon and the greater
conspirators took the alarm was so vividly present to the minds both of
the King and myself, that we decided to examine the prisoners in the
house, rather than hazard the delay which the removal to a fit place
must occasion. Accordingly taking the precaution to post Coquet in the
street outside, and to plant a burly Swiss in the doorway, the King and
I entered. I removed my mask, as I did so, being aware of the necessity
of gaining the prisoners' confidence, but I begged the King to retain
his. As I had expected, the man immediately recognized me, and fell on
his knees. A nearer view confirmed the notion I had previously
entertained that his features were familiar to me, but I could not
remember his name. I thought this a good starting point for the
examination; and bidding Maignan withdraw, I assumed an air of mildness,
and asked the fellow his name.

"Martin only, please your lordship," he answered; adding "Once I sold
you two dogs, sir, for the chase; and to your lady a lapdog called
Ninette, no larger than her hand. 'Twas of three pounds weight and no
more."

I remembered the knave then, as a well-known dog dealer, who had been
much about the court in the reign of Henry the Third and later: and I
saw at once how convenient a tool he might be made since he could be
seen in converse with people of all ranks without arousing suspicion.
The man's face as he spoke expressed so much fear and surprise that I
determined to try what I had often found successful in the case of
greater criminals; to squeeze him for a confession, while still excited
by his arrest, and before he had had time to consider what his chances
of support at the hands of his confederates might be. I charged him
therefore to tell the whole truth as he hoped for the King's mercy. He
heard me, gazing at me piteously; but his only answer, to my surprise,
was that he had nothing to confess. Nothing! nothing, as he hoped for
mercy.

"Come! come!" I replied. "This will avail you nothing. If you do not
speak quickly, and to the point, we shall find means to compel you. Who
counselled you to attempt his Majesty's life?"

He stared at me, at that, so stupidly, and cried out with so real an
appearance of horror, "How? I attempt the King's life? God forbid!" that
I doubted we had before us a more dangerous rascal than I had thought;
and I hastened to bring him to the point.

"What then--" I cried, frowning--"of the stuff Master La Rivière is to
give you? To take the King's life? To-morrow night? Oh, we know
something I assure you. Bethink you quickly, and find your tongue if you
would have an easy death."

I expected to see his self-control break down at this proof of our
knowledge. But he only stared at me with the same look of bewilderment,
and I was about to bid them bring in the informer that I might see the
two front to front, when the female prisoner who had hitherto stood
beside him, weeping in such distress and terror as were to be expected
in a woman of that class, suddenly stopped her tears and lamentations.
It occurred to me that she might make a better witness. I turned to her,
but when I would have questioned her, she broke on the instant into
hysterics, screaming and laughing in the wildest manner.

From that, I remember, I learned nothing, though it greatly annoyed me.
But there was one present who did, and that was the King. He laid his
hand on my shoulder, gripping it with a force, that I read as a command
to be silent. "Where," he said to the man, "do you keep the King and
Sully and The Duke, my friend?"

"The King and Sully--with his lordship's leave--" the man said quickly,
but with a frightened glance at me--"are in the kennels at the back of
the house; but it is not safe to go near them. The King is raving mad,
and--and the other dog is sickening, I fear. The Duke we had to kill a
month back. He brought the disease here, and I have had such losses
through him as have nearly ruined me, please your lordship. And if the
tale that we have got the madness among the dogs, goes about----"

"Get up! Get up, man!" cried the King. And tearing off his mask he
stamped up and down the room, so torn by paroxysms of laughter that he
choked himself whenever he attempted to speak. I too now saw the
mistake, but I could not at first see it in the same light. Commanding
my choler as well as I could, I ordered one of the Swiss to fetch in the
innkeeper, but to admit no one else.

The knave fell on his knees as soon as he saw me, his cheeks shaking
like a jelly. "Mercy! mercy!" was all he could say.

"You have dared to play with _me_?" I whispered. "With me? With me?"

"You bade me joke!" he sobbed. "You bade me joke!"

I was about to say that it would be his last joke in this world, for my
anger was fully aroused, but the King intervened.

"Nay," he said, laying his hand on my shoulder, "it has been the most
glorious jest. He has joked indeed. I would not have missed it for a
kingdom! Not for a kingdom! I command you, Sully, to forgive him."

On which his Majesty strictly charged the three that they should not, on
peril of their lives, tell the story; his regard for me, when he had
laughed to satiety, proving strong enough to overcome his love of the
diverting. Nor to the best of my belief did they do so; being so
shrewdly scared when they recognized the King that I think they never
afterwards so much as spoke of the affair to one another. My master
further gave me his promise that he would not disclose the matter even
to Madame de Verneuil, or the Queen; and upon these representations he
induced me freely to forgive the innkeeper. I may seem to have dwelt
longer than I should on the amusing details of this conspiracy. But
alas! in twenty-one years of power, I investigated many, and this one
only--and one other--can I regard with satisfaction. The rest were so
many warnings and predictions of the fate which, despite all my care
and fidelity, was in store for the King, my master.

       *       *       *       *       *

Such were the reasons, which would have led me had I followed the
promptings of my own sagacity to oppose the return of the Jesuits. It
remains for me to add that these arguments lost their weight when set in
the balance against the safety of my beloved master. To this plea the
King himself for once condescended, and found those who were most
strenuous to dissuade him the least able to refute it; since the less a
man loved the Jesuits, the more ready he was to allow that the King's
life could not be safe while the edict against them remained in force.
The support which I gave to the King on this occasion exposed me to the
utmost odium of my co-religionists, and was in later times ill-requited
by the Order. But an incident which occurred while the matter was still
in debate, and which I now for the first time make public, proved the
wisdom of my conduct.

Fontainebleau was at this time in the hands of the builders, and the
King had gone to spend his Easter at Chantilly, whither Mademoiselle
d'Entragues had also repaired. During his absence I was seated one
morning in my library at the Arsenal, when I was informed that Father
Cotton, he who at Nancy had presented the petition of the Jesuits, and
who was now in Paris pursuing that business under a safe conduct,
craved leave to wait upon me. I was not surprised, for I had been before
this of some service to him. The pages of the Court while loitering
outside the Louvre, as their custom is, had insulted the father by
shouting after him, "Old Wool! Old Cotton!" in imitation of the Paris
street cry. For this the King at my instigation had caused them to be
whipped. I supposed that the Jesuit desired to thank me for this
support--given in truth out of regard to discipline rather than to him;
and I bade them admit him.

His first words uttered before my secretaries retired, indicated that
this was his errand; and for a few moments I listened to such
statements, and myself made such answers as became our positions. Then,
as he did not go, I conceived the notion that he had come with a further
purpose; and his manner, which seemed strangely lacking in ease,
considering that he was a man of skill and address, confirmed the
notion. I waited therefore with patience, and presently he named his
Majesty with some expressions of devotion to his person. "I trust," said
he, "that the air of Fontainebleau agrees with him, M. de Rosny."

"You mean, good father, of Chantilly?" I answered. "He is there."

"Ay, to be sure!" he rejoined. "I had forgotten. He is, to be sure, at
Chantilly."

He rose after that to depart, but was delayed by the raptures into
which he fell on the subject of the fire, which the weather being cold
for the time of year, I had caused to be lit. "It burns so brightly,"
said he, "that it must be of boxwood, M. de Rosny."

"Of boxwood?" I exclaimed, astonished.

"Ay, is it not?" he asked, looking at me with much simplicity.

"No!" I made answer rather peevishly. "Who ever heard of people burning
boxwood in Paris, father? In the south, perhaps."

He apologized for his ignorance on the ground of his southern birth, and
took his departure, leaving me in doubt as to the real purport of his
visit. I was, indeed, more troubled by the uncertainty I felt than
another less conversant with the methods of the Jesuits might have been;
for I knew that it was their habit to drop a word where they dared not
speak plainly, and I felt myself put on my mettle to interpret the
father's hint. My perplexities were increased by the belief that he
would not have intervened in a matter of small moment; hence the
conviction grew upon me that while I stood idle before the hearth, the
greatest interests might be at stake.

"Michel," I said at last, addressing the doyen of my secretaries, who
chanced to be a Provençal "have you ever seen a boxwood fire?"

He replied respectfully, but with some show of surprise, that he had
done so, but not often; adding that that wood was so valuable to the
turner that few people were extravagant enough to use it for fuel. I
assented, and felt the more certain that the Jesuit's remark held a
meaning. The only other clue I had consisted in the mistake he had made
as to the King's residence; and this might have dropped from him in
inadvertence. Yet I was inclined to think it intentional; and I
construed it as implying that the matter concerned the King personally.
Which the more alarmed me.

I passed the day in great perplexity; but towards evening, acting on a
sudden thought, I sent La Trape, my valet, a trusty fellow, who had
saved my life at Villefranche, to the Three Pigeons, a large inn in the
suburbs of Paris, at which travellers from north to south, who do not
wish to enter the city, are accustomed to change horses. Acquitting
himself of the commission with his usual adroitness, he returned with
the news that a traveller of rank had passed through three days before,
having sent in advance to order relays there and at Essonnes. La Trape
reported that the gentleman had remained in his coach, and that none of
the servants of the inn had seen his face. "But he had companions?" I
said. My mind had not failed to conceive a certain suspicion.

"Only one, your grace. The rest were servants."

"And that one?"

"A man in the yard fancied that he recognized M. de la Varenne."

"Ah!" I said. My agitation was indeed so great that, before giving reins
to it, I bade La Trape withdraw. I could scarcely believe that,
acquainted as the King was with the plots which the Catholics were daily
aiming at his life; and possessing such powerful enemies among the great
Protestants as Tremonelle and Bouillon--to say nothing of Mademoiselle
d'Entragues' half-brother, the Count of Auvergne, who hated him--I say,
I could hardly believe that with full knowledge of these facts his
Majesty had been so fool-hardy as to travel without guards to
Fontainebleau. And yet I now felt a certainty that this was the case.
The presence of La Varenne, the confidant of his intrigues, while it
informed me of the cause of the journey, convinced me that his Majesty
had given way to the sole weakness of his nature, and was bent on one of
those adventures of gallantry which had been more becoming in the Prince
of Béarn than in the King of France. Nor was I at a loss to guess the
object of his pursuit. It had been lately whispered in the Court that
the King had fallen in love with his mistress's younger sister, Susette
d'Entragues; whose home at Malesherbes lay but three leagues from
Fontainebleau, on the edge of the forest. This fact placed the King's
imprudence in a stronger light; for he had scarcely in France a more
dangerous enemy than her brother, Auvergne, nor had the immense sums
which he had settled on the elder sister satisfied the avarice or
conciliated the hostility of her father.

I saw that Father Cotton had known more than I had. But his motive in
speaking I found less easy to divine. It might be a wish to baulk this
new passion through my interference, while he exposed me to the risk of
his Majesty's anger. Or it might be the single desire to avert danger
from the King's person. At any rate, constant to my rule of preferring,
come what might, my master's interest to his favour, I sent for Maignan,
my equerry, and bade him have an equipage ready at dawn.

At that hour, next morning, attended only by La Trape, with a groom, a
page, and four Swiss, I started, giving out that I was bound for Sully
to inspect that demesne, which had formerly been the property of my
family, and of which the refusal had just been offered to me. Under
cover of this destination, I was enabled to reach La Ferté Alais
unsuspected. There, pretending that the motion of the coach fatigued me,
I mounted the led horse, without which I never travelled, and bidding La
Trape accompany me, I gave orders to the others to follow at their
leisure to Pithiviers, where I proposed to stay the night.

La Ferté Alais, on the borders of the forest, is some five leagues
westward of Fontainebleau and as far north of Malesherbes, with which
it is connected by a high-road. Having disclosed my intentions to La
Trape, I left this road and struck into a woodland path which promised
to conduct us in the right direction. But the luxuriance of the
undergrowth, and the huge chaos of grey rocks which cumber that part of
the forest, made it difficult to keep for any time in a straight line.
After being an hour in the saddle we concluded that we had lost our way,
and were confirmed in this, on reaching a clearing. In place of the
chateau we saw before us a small house, which La Trape presently
recognized as an inn, situate about a league and a half on the
Fontainebleau side of Malesherbes.

We had still ample time to reach the Chateau by nightfall, but before
proceeding farther it was necessary that our horses should have rest.
Dismounting I bade La Trape see the sorrel well baited. The inn was a
poor place; but having no choice, I entered it and found myself in a
large room better furnished with company than accommodation. Three men,
who appeared to be of those reckless blades who are commonly to be found
in the inns on the outskirts of Paris, and who come not unfrequently to
their ends at Montfaucon, were tippling and playing cards at a table
near the door. They looked up on my entrance, but refrained from
saluting me, which, as I was plainly dressed, and much travel-stained,
was excusable. By the fire, partaking of a coarse meal, sat a fourth
man of so singular an appearance that I must needs describe him. He was
of great height and extreme leanness, resembling a maypole rather than a
man. His face matched his form, for it was long and meagre, and
terminated in a small peaked beard, which like his hair and moustachios
was as white as snow. With all this his eyes glowed with something of
the fire of youth, and his brown complexion and sinewy hands seemed to
indicate robust health. He wore garments which had once been
fashionable, but now bore marks of much patching, and I remarked that
the point of his sword, which, as he sat, trailed on the stones behind
him, had worn its way through the scabbard. Notwithstanding these signs
of poverty he saluted me with the ease of a gentleman, and bade me with
some stiffness share his table and the fire. Accordingly I drew up, and
called for a bottle of the best wine, being minded to divert myself with
him.

I was little prepared, however, for the turn his conversation took, or
the tirade into which he presently broke; the object of which proved to
be no other than myself! I do not know that I have ever cut so whimsical
a figure as while I sat and heard my name loaded with reproaches; but
being certain that he did not know me I waited patiently, and soon
learned both who he was, and the grievance which he was about to lay
before the King. His name was Boisrosé. He had been the leader in that
gallant capture of Fécamp, which took place while I represented his
Majesty in Normandy, and his grievance was, that in the face of many
promises he had been deprived of the government of the place. "He leads
the King by the ear!" he cried loudly, and in an accent which marked him
for a Gascon. "That villain of a De Rosny! But I will shew him up! I
will trounce him! If the King will not, I will!" And with that he drew
the hilt of his long rapier to the front with a gesture so truculent
that the three bullies who had stopped to laugh resumed their game in
haste.

Notwithstanding his sentiments, I was pleased to meet with a man of so
singular a temper, whom I also knew to be courageous: and I was willing
to amuse myself further. "But," I said modestly, "I have had some
affairs with M. de Rosny, and I have never found him cheat me."

"Do not deceive yourself!" he cried, slapping the table. "He is a
rascal! There is no one he will not cheat!"

"Yet," I ventured to reply, "I have heard that in many respects he is
not a bad minister."

"He is a villain!" he repeated so loudly as to drown what I would have
added. "A villain, sir, a villain! Do not tell me otherwise! But rest
assured! I will make the King see him in his true colours! Rest content,
sir! I will trounce him! He has to do with Armand de Boisrosé!"

Seeing that he was not open to argument--for being opposed he grew
warm--I asked him by what channel he intended to approach the King, and
learned that here he felt a difficulty, since he had neither a friend at
Court, nor money to buy one. Certain that the narrative of our rencontre
and its sequel would amuse his Majesty, who loved a jest, I advised
Boisrosé to go boldly to the King, and speak to him; which, thanking me
as profusely as he had before reproached me, he avowed he would do. With
that I rose.

At the last moment, and as I was parting from him, it occurred to me to
try upon him the shibboleth which in Father Cotton's mouth had so
mystified me. "This fire burns brightly," I said, kicking the logs
together with my riding-boot. "It must be of boxwood."

"Of what, sir?" he asked politely.

"Of boxwood! Why not?" I replied in a louder tone.

"My certes!" he answered, staring at me. "They do not burn boxwood in
this country. Those are larch trimmings, as all the world knows, neither
more nor less!"

While he wondered at my ignorance, I was pleased to discover his; and so
far I had lost my pains. But it did not escape me that the three
gamesters had ceased to play, and were listening to our conversation.
Moreover as I moved to the door they followed me with their eyes: and
when I turned after riding a hundred yards I found that they had come to
the door and were gaping after us.

This did not hinder me remarking that a hound which had been lying
before the fire had come forth with us, and was now running in front,
now gambolling about the horses' legs. I supposed that when it had
accompanied us a certain way it would return; but it persisted, and
presently where the road forked I had occasion to notice its movements;
for choosing one of the paths it stood in the mouth of it, wagging its
tail and inviting us to take that road: and this it did so
pertinaciously and cheerfully that though the directions we had received
at the inn would have led us to prefer the other track, we followed the
dog as the more trustworthy guide.

We had gone from this point about four hundred paces forward, when La
Trape showed me that the path was growing narrow, and betrayed few signs
of being used. It seemed certain--though the dog still ran confidently
ahead--that we were again astray; and I was about to draw rein and
return when I saw that the undergrowth on the right of the path had
assumed the character of a thick hedge of box--a shrub common only in a
few parts of the forest. Though less prone than most men to put faith in
omens, I accepted this; and, notwithstanding that it wanted but an hour
of sunset, I rode on, remarking that with each turn in the woodland
path, the scrub on my left also gave place more and more to the sturdy
tree which had been in my mind all day. Finally, we found ourselves
passing through an alley of box--which no long time before had been
clipped and dressed. A final turn brought us into a _cul de sac_; and
there we were, in a kind of small arbour carpeted with turf, and so
perfectly hedged in as to afford no exit save by the entrance. Here the
dog placidly stood and wagged its tail, looking up at us.

I must confess that this termination of the adventure seemed so
surprising, and the evening light shining on the level walls of green
about us was so full of a solemn quiet, that I was not surprised to hear
La Trape mutter a prayer. For my part, assured that something more than
chance had brought me hither, I dismounted and spoke encouragement to
the hound. But it only leapt upon me. Then I walked round the tiny
enclosure, and presently I discovered, close to the hedge, three small
patches, where the grass was slightly beaten or trodden down. A second
glance told me more; I saw that at these places the hedge about three
feet from the ground was hacked and hollowed. I stooped, until my eyes
were level with the hole thus made, and discovered that I was looking
through a funnel skilfully cut in the wall of box. At my end the
opening was rather larger than a man's face; at the other end not as
large as the palm of the hand. The funnel rose gradually, so that I took
the farther extremity of it to be about seven feet from the ground, and
here it disclosed a feather dangling on a spray. From the light falling
strongly on this, I judged it to be not in the hedge, but a pace or two
from it on the hither side of another fence of box. On examining the
remaining loopholes, I discerned that they bore upon the same feather.

My own mind was at once made up, but I bade my valet go through the same
investigation, and then asked him whether he had ever seen an ambush of
this kind laid for game. He replied that the shot would pass over the
tallest stag, or aught but a man on horseback; and fortified by this, I
mounted without saying more, and we retraced our steps. The hound, which
had doubtless the habit, as some dogs have, of accompanying the first
person who held out the prospect of a walk, presently left us, and
without further adventure we reached the Chateau a little after sunset.

I expected to be received by the King with some displeasure, but it
chanced that a catarrh had kept him within doors all day; and unable to
hunt or visit his new flame, he had been at leisure, in this palace
without a court, to consider the imprudence he was committing. He
received me therefore with the laugh of a schoolboy detected in a petty
fault, and as I hastened to relate to him some of the things which M. de
Boisrosé had said of the Baron de Rosny, I soon had the gratification of
perceiving that my presence was not taken amiss. His Majesty gave orders
that bedding should be furnished for my pavilion, and that his household
should wait on me, and himself sent me from his table a couple of
chickens and a fine melon, bidding me to come to him when I had supped.

I did so, and found him alone in his closet awaiting me with impatience;
he had already divined that I had not made this journey merely to
reproach him. Before informing him, however, of my suspicions, I craved
leave to ask him one or two questions, and in particular whether he had
been in the habit of going to Malesherbes daily.

"Daily," he admitted with a grimace. "What more, Father Confessor?"

"By what road, sire?"

"I have hunted mornings, and visited Malesherbes at midday. I have
returned as a rule by the bridle-path, which passes the Rock of the
Serpents."

"Patience, sire, one moment," I said. "Does that path run anywhere
through a plantation of box?"

"It does," he answered, without hesitation. "About half a mile on this
side of the rock, it skirts Queen Catherine's maze."

Thereon I told the King without reserve all that had happened. He
listened with the air of seeming carelessness which he always assumed
when plots against his life were under discussion; but at the end he
embraced me again with tears in his eyes. "France is beholden to you!"
he said. "I have never had, nor shall have, such another servant as you,
Rosny! The three ruffians at the inn," he continued, "are, of course,
the tools, and the hound has been in the habit of accompanying them to
the spot. Yesterday, I remember, I walked by that place with the bridle
on my arm."

"By a special providence, sire," I said gravely.

"It is true," he answered, crossing himself, a thing I had never yet
known him do in private. "But, now, who is the craftsman who has
contrived this pretty plot? Tell me that, Grand Master."

On this point, however, though I had my suspicions, I begged leave to be
excused until I had slept upon it. "Heaven forbid," I said, "that I
should expose any man to your Majesty's resentment without cause. The
wrath of kings is the forerunner of death."

"I have not heard," the King answered dryly, "that the Duke of Bouillon
has called in a leech yet."

Before retiring, I learned that his Majesty had with him a score of
light horse, whom La Varenne had requisitioned from Melun; and that some
of these had each day awaited him at Malesherbes and ridden home behind
him. Further, that Henry had been in the habit of wearing, when riding
back in the evening, a purple cloak over his hunting-suit, a fact well
known, I felt sure, to the assassins, who, unseen and in perfect safety,
could fire at the exact moment when the cloak obscured the feather, and
could then make their escape, secured by the stout wall of box from
immediate pursuit.

I slept ill, and was aroused early by La Varenne coming to my bedside,
and bidding me hasten to the King. I did so, and found him already in
his boots and walking on the terrace with Coquet, his Master of the
Household, Vitry, La Varenne, and a gentleman unknown to me. On seeing
me he dismissed them, and while I was still a great way off, called out,
chiding me for my laziness: then taking me by the hand in the most
obliging manner, he made me walk up and down with him, while he told me
what further thoughts he had of this affair; and hiding nothing from me
even as he bade me speak to him whatever I thought without reserve, he
required to know whether I suspected that the Entragues family were
cognizant of this.

"I cannot say, sire," I answered prudently.

"But you suspect?"

"In your Majesty's cause I suspect all," I replied.

He sighed, and seeing that my eyes wandered to the group of gentlemen
who had betaken themselves to the terrace steps, and were thence
watching us, he asked me if I would answer for them. "For Vitry, who
sleeps at my feet when I lie alone? For Coquet?"

"For three of them, I will, sire," I answered firmly. "The fourth I do
not know."

"He is Auvergne's half-brother."

"M. Louis d'Entragues?" I muttered. "Lately returned, I think, from
service in Savoy? I do not know him, sire. To-morrow I may be able to
answer for him."

"And to-day? What am I to do to-day?"

I begged him to act as he had done each day since his arrival at
Fontainebleau, to hunt in the morning, to take his midday meal at
Malesherbes, to talk to all as if he had no suspicion: only on his
return to take any road save that which passed the Rock of the Serpents.

The King turning to rejoin the others, I found that their attention was
no longer directed to us, but to a singular figure which had made its
appearance on the skirts of the group, and had already thrown three out
of the four courtiers into a fit of laughter. The fourth, M.
d'Entragues, did not seem to be equally diverted with the stranger's
appearance; nor did I fail to notice, being at the moment quick to
perceive the slightest point of his conduct, that while the others were
nudging one another, his countenance, darkened by an Italian sun,
gloomed on the new-comer with an aspect of menace. On his side M. de
Boisrosé--for he it was, the grotesque fashion of his dress more
conspicuous than ever--stood eyeing the group with a mixture of
awkwardness and resentment; until made aware of his Majesty's approach
and of my presence in intimate converse with the King he stepped
joyfully forward, a look of relief displacing all others on his
countenance. "Ha! well met!" quoth the King in my ear. "It is your
friend of yesterday. Now we shall have sport. And 'twill cheer us. We
need it." And he pinched my arm.

As the old soldier approached with many low bows, the King spoke to him
graciously, and bade him say what he sought. It happened then as I had
expected. Boisrosé, after telling the King his name, turned to me and
humbly begged that I would explain his complaint; which I consented to
do, and did as follows: "This, sire," I said gravely, "is an old and
brave soldier; who formerly served your Majesty to good purpose in
Normandy, but has been cheated out of the recompense which he there
earned by the trickery and chicanery of one of your Majesty's
counsellors, the Baron de Rosny."

I could not continue, for the courtiers, on hearing this from my mouth,
and on discovering that the stranger's odd appearance was but a prelude
to the real diversion, could not restrain their laughter. The King,
concealing his own amusement, turned to them with an angry air and bade
them be silent; and the Gascon, encouraged by this and by the bold
manner in which I had stated his grievance, scowled at them famously.
"He alleges, sire," I continued, with the same gravity, "that the Baron
de Rosny, after promising him the government of Fécamp, bestowed it on
another, being bribed to do so, and has been guilty of many base acts
which make him unworthy of your Majesty's confidence. That, I think, is
your complaint, M. de Boisrosé?" I concluded, turning to the soldier;
whom my deep seriousness so misled that he took up the story, and
pouring out his wrongs did not fail to threaten to trounce me, or to add
with much fervour that I was a villain!

He might have said more, but the courtiers, perceiving that the King
broke at last into a smile, lost all control over themselves, and giving
vent to loud peals of laughter, clasped one another by the shoulders and
reeled to and fro in an ecstasy of enjoyment. The King gave way also and
laughed heartily, clapping me again and again on the back, so that in
fine there were only two serious faces to be seen, that of the poor
Boisrosé, who took all for lunatics, and my own. For my part I began to
think that perhaps the jest had been carried far enough.

My master presently saw this, and collecting himself, turned to the
amazed Gascon. "Your complaint is one," he said, "which should not be
lightly made. Do you know the Baron de Rosny?"

Boisrosé, more and more out of countenance, said he did not.

"Then," said the King, "I will give you an opportunity of becoming
acquainted with him. I shall refer your complaint to him, and he will
decide upon it. More!" he continued, raising his hand for silence as
Boisrosé, starting forward, would have appealed to him, "I will
introduce you to him now. This is the Baron de Rosny."

The old soldier glared at me for a moment with starting eye-balls, and a
dreadful despair seemed to settle on his face. He threw himself on his
knees before the King. "Then, sire," said he in a heartrending voice,
"am I ruined? My six children must starve, and my young wife die by the
roadside!"

"That," answered the King, gravely, "must be for the Baron de Rosny to
decide. I leave you to your audience."

He made a sign to the others, and, followed by them, walked slowly along
the terrace, the while Boisrosé, who had risen to his feet, stood
looking after him like one demented, muttering in a voice that went to
my heart that it was a cruel jest, and that he had bled for the King,
and the King made sport of him.

Presently I touched him on the arm. "Come, have you nothing to say to
me, M. de Boisrosé?" I asked quietly. "You are a brave soldier and have
done France service: why then need you fear? The Baron de Rosny is one
man, the King's minister is another. It is the latter who speaks to you
now. The office of Lieutenant Governor of Angoulême is vacant. It is
worth twelve thousand livres by the year. I appoint you to it."

He murmured with a white face that I mocked him and that he was going
mad; so that it was long before I could persuade him that I was in
earnest. When I at last succeeded, his gratitude knew no bounds, and he
thanked me again and again with the tears running down his face. "What I
have done for you," I said modestly, "is the reward of your bravery. I
ask only that you will not another time think that they who rule
kingdoms are as those gay popinjays yonder. Whom the King, believe me,
holds at their due value."

In a transport of delight he reiterated his offers of service, and
feeling sure that I had gained him completely I asked him on a sudden
where he had seen Louis d'Entragues before. In two words the truth came
out. He had seen him once only, on the previous day at the forest inn;
the courtier had halted at the door and spoken with the three bullies,
whom I had remarked there. I was not surprised, nay I had expected this,
D'Entragues' near kinship to the Count of Auvergne and the mingled
feelings with which I knew that the family regarded Henry preparing me
to imagine treachery. Moreover, the nature of the ambush was proof that
its author resided in the neighbourhood and was intimately acquainted
with the forest paths. I should have carried this information at once to
my master; but I learned that he had already started, and thus baffled
and believing that his affection for Mademoiselle d'Entragues, if not
for her sister, would lead him to act with undue leniency, I conceived a
plan of my own.

Two hours after noon, therefore, I set out, as if for a ride, attended
by La Trape only; but at some distance from the palace we were joined by
Boisrosé, whom I had bidden to be at that point well armed and mounted.
Thus reinforced--for the Gascon was still strong, and in courage a very
Crillon, I proceeded to Malesherbes by a circuitous route which brought
me within sight of the gates about the middle of the afternoon. I then
halted under cover of a little wood of chestnuts, and waited until I saw
the King, attended by several ladies and gentlemen, and followed by
eight troopers, issue from the chateau. His Majesty was walking, his
horse being led behind him; and seeing this I rode out and approached
the party as if I had that moment arrived to meet the King.

It would very ill become me to make idle reflections on the hollowness
of Court life: withal, seldom have I known it better exemplified than in
the scene then displayed before me. The sun was low, but its warm beams
falling aslant on the gay group at the gates and on the flowered
terraces and grey walls behind them seemed to present a picture at once
peaceful and joyous. Yet I knew that treachery and death were lurking in
the midst--even as between the parterres and the walls lay the dark
sluggish moat; and it was only by an effort that, as I rode up, I could
make answer to the thousand obliging things with which I was greeted and
of which not the least polite were said by M. d'Entragues and his son. I
took pains to observe Mademoiselle Susette, a beautiful girl still in
her teens, but noways comparable as it seemed to me, in expression and
vivacity to her famous sister. She was walking beside the King, her
hands full of flowers, and her face flushed with shy excitement. I came,
with little thought, to the conclusion that she, at least, knew nothing
of what was intended by her family; who, having made the one sister the
means of gratifying their avarice, were now baiting the trap of their
vengeance with the other. Having obtained what they needed, they were
ashamed of the means by which they had obtained it: and would fain
avenge their honour, while holding to that they had got by the sale of
it.

Henry parted from the maid at length, and mounted his horse amid a
ripple of laughter and compliments, D'Entragues holding the stirrup, and
his son the cloak. I observed that the latter, as I had expected, was
prepared to accompany us, which rendered my plan more feasible. Our road
lay for a league in the direction of the Rock of the Serpents, the track
which passed the latter--and was a trifle shorter--presently diverging
from it. For some distance we rode along in easy talk, but on
approaching the point of separation, the King looked at me with a
whimsical air, as though he would lay on me the burden of finding an
excuse for avoiding the shorter way. I had foreseen this and looked
round to ascertain the positions of our company. I found that La Varenne
and D'Entragues were close behind us, while the troopers with La Trape
and Boisrosé were a hundred paces farther to the rear, and Vitry and
Coquet had dropped out of sight. This being so, I suddenly reined in my
horse so as to back it into that of D'Entragues, and then wheeled round
on the latter, taking care to be between him and the King. "M. Louis
d'Entragues," I said, dropping the mask and addressing him in a low
voice but with the scorn which I felt and which he deserved. "Your plot
is known! If you would save your life confess to his Majesty here and
now all you know, and throw yourself on his mercy!"

I confess that I had failed to take into account the pitch to which his
nerves would be strung at such a time, and had expected to produce a
greater effect than followed my words. His hand went indeed to his
breast, but it was hard to say which seemed the more astounded, La
Varenne or he. And the manner in which he flung back my accusation,
lacked neither vigour nor the semblance of innocence. While Henry stood
puzzled, and not a little put out, La Varenne was appalled. I saw this,
that I had gone too far, or not far enough, and at once calling up unto
my face and form all the sternness in my power I bade the traitor remain
where he was. Then turning to his Majesty I craved leave to speak to him
apart.

He hesitated, looking from me to D'Entragues with an air of displeasure
which embraced us both, but in the end without permitting M. Louis to
speak he complied, and going aside with me bade me with coldness speak
out. As soon as I had repeated to him Boisrosé's words, his face
underwent a change--for he too had remarked the discomfiture which the
latter's appearance had caused D'Entragues in the morning. "The
villain!" he said. "I do not now think you precipitate! Arrest him, but
do him no harm!"

"If he resist, sire?" I asked.

"He will not," the King answered. "And in no case harm him! You
understand me?"

I bowed, having my own thoughts on the subject, and the King without
looking again at D'Entragues rode quickly away. M. Louis tried to follow
and cried after him, but I thrust my horse in the way, and bade him
consider himself a prisoner. At the same time I requested La Varenne,
with Vitry and Coquet, who had come up and were looking on like men
thunderstruck, to take four of the guards and follow the King.

"Then, sir, what do you intend to do with me?" D'Entragues asked. The
defiant air with which he looked from me to the men who remained barely
disguised his apprehensions.

"That depends, M. Louis," I replied, recurring to my usual tone of
politeness, "on your answers to three questions."

He shrugged his shoulders. "Ask them," he said.

"Do you deny that you have laid an ambush for the King in the road which
passes the Rock of the Serpents?"

"Absolutely."

"Or that you were yesterday at an inn near here in converse with three
men?"

"Absolutely."

"Do you deny that there is such an ambush laid?"

"At least I know naught of it!" he repeated with scorn. "'Tis an old
wife's story. I would stake my life on it."

"Enough," I answered slowly. "You have said you would stake your life on
it. You shall. The evening grows cold, and, as you are my prisoner, I
must have a care of you. Kindly put on this cloak, and precede me, M.
d'Entragues. We return to Fontainebleau by the Rock of the Serpents."

His eyes met mine; he read my thoughts, and for a second held his
breath. A cold shadow fell upon his sallow face, and then for an instant
I thought that he would resist. But the stern countenances of La Trape
and Boisrosé, who had ridden up to his rein and stood awaiting his
answer with their swords drawn, determined him. With a forced and
mirthless laugh he took the cloak. "It is new, I hope," he said, as he
threw it over his shoulders.

It was not, and I apologized, adding, however, that no one but the King
had worn it. On this he settled it about him; and having heard me
strictly charge the two guards, who followed with their arquebuses
ready, to fire on him if he tried to escape, he turned his horse's head
into the path and rode slowly along it, while we, in double file,
followed a few paces behind him.

The sun had set, and such light as remained fell cold between the trees.
The green of the sward had that pale look it puts on with the last rays,
or with the dawning. The crackling of a stick under a horse's hoof, or
the ring of a spur against a scabbard, were the only sounds which broke
the stillness of the wood as we proceeded. We had gone some way when M.
Louis halted, and, turning in his saddle, called to me. "M. de Rosny,"
he said--the light had so far failed that I could scarcely see his face,
"I have a meeting with the Vicomte de Matigny on Saturday about a little
matter of a lady's glove. Should anything prevent my appearance----"

"I will see that a proper explanation is given," I answered.

"Or, if M. d'Entragues will permit me," exclaimed the Gascon, who was
riding by my side, "I, M. de Boisrosé of St. Palais, will appear in his
place and make the Viscount de Caylus swallow the glove."

"Sir," said M. Louis, with politeness, and in a steady tone, "you are a
gentleman. I am obliged to you."

He waved his hand to me with a gesture which I long remembered, and,
giving his horse the rein, he went forward along the path at a brisk
walk. We followed, and I had just remarked that a plant of box was
beginning here and there to take the place of the usual undergrowth when
a sheet of flame leapt out through the dusk to meet us, and our horses
reared wildly. For an instant we were in confusion; then I saw that our
leader, M. Louis, had fallen headlong from his saddle, and lay on the
sward without word or cry. My men would have sprung forward before the
noise of the report had died away, and, having good horses, might
possibly have overtaken one of the assassins; but I restrained them.
Enough had been done. When La Trape dismounted and raised the fallen man
the latter was dead, his breast riddled by a dozen slugs.

Such were the circumstances, now for the first time made public, which
attended the discovery of this, the least known, yet one of the most
dangerous of the many plots which were directed against the life of my
master. The course which I adopted may be blamed by some, but it is
enough for me that, after the lapse of years, it is approved by my
conscience and by the course of events. For it was ever the misfortune
of that great king to treat those with leniency whom no indulgence could
win; and I bear with me to this day the bitter assurance that, had the
fate which overtook Louis d'Entragues in the wood between Malesherbes
and Fontainebleau embraced the whole of that family, the blow which, ten
years later, went to the heart of France would not have been struck.

       *       *       *       *       *

The slight indisposition from which the Queen suffered in the spring of
1602, and which was occasioned by a cold caught during her lying-in, by
diverting the King's attention from state matters, had the effect of
doubling the burden cast on me. Though the main threads of M. de Biron's
conspiracy were in our hands as early as the month of November of the
preceding year, and steps had been taken to sound the chief associates
by summoning them to court, an interval necessarily followed during
which we had all to fear; and this not only from the despair of the
guilty, but from the timidity of the innocent, who in a court filled
with cabals and rumours of intrigues might see no way to clear
themselves. Even the shows and interludes which followed the Dauphin's
birth, and made that Christmas remarkable, served only to amuse the
idle; they could not disperse the cloud which hung over the Louvre nor
divert those who on the one side or the other had aught to fear.

In connection with this period of suspense I recall an episode worthy, I
think, by reason of its oddity, to be set down here; where it may serve
for a preface to those more serious events attending the trial and
execution of M. de Biron, which I shall have to relate.

I had occasion, about the end of the month of January, to see M. du
Hallot. The weather was cold, and partly for that reason, partly out of
a desire to keep my visit, which had to do with the Biron disclosures,
from the general eye, I chose to go on foot. For the same reason I took
with me only two servants and a confidential page, the son of my friend
Arnaud. M. du Hallot, who lived at this time in a house in the Faubourg
St. Germain, not far from the College of France, detained me long, and
when I rose to leave insisted that I should take his coach, as snow had
begun to fall, and lay an inch deep in the streets. At first I was
unwilling to do this, but reflecting that such small services are highly
valued by those who render them, and attach men more surely than the
greatest bribes, I yielded, and, taking my place with some becoming
expressions, bade young Arnaud find his way home on foot.

The coach had nearly reached the south end of the Pont au Change, when a
number of youths ran past me, pelting one another with snowballs, and
shouting so lustily that I was at a loss which to admire more, the
silence of their feet or the loudness of their voices. Aware that lads
of that age are no respecters of persons, I was not surprised to see two
or three of them rush on to the bridge before us, and even continue
their Parthian warfare under the feet of the horses. The result,
however, was that the latter took fright at that part of the bridge
where the houses encroach most on the roadway; and but for the care of
the running footman, who hastened to their heads, might have done some
harm either to the coach or the passers-by.

As it was, we were brought to a stop while one of the wheels was
extricated from the kennel, in which it had become wedged. Smiling to
think what the King--who, strangely warned by Providence, was throughout
his life timid in a coach--would have said to this, I went to open the
curtains, and had effected this to some extent, when one of a crowd of
idlers who stood on the raised pavement deliberately lifted up his arm
and flung a snowball at me.

The missile flew wide of its mark by an inch or two only. That I was
amazed at such audacity goes without saying; but doubting of what it
might be the preclude--for the breakdown of the coach in that narrow
place, the haunt of rufflers and vagrants of every kind, might be part
of a concerted plan--I fell back into my place. The coach, as it
happened, moved on at that moment with a jerk; and before I had digested
the matter, or had time to mark the demeanour of the crowd, we were
clear of the bridge, and rolling under the Châtelet.

A smaller man might have stooped to punish, and to cook a sprat have
passed all Paris through the net. But remembering the days when I myself
attended the College of Burgundy, I set the freak to the credit of some
young student, and, shrugging my shoulders, dismissed it from my mind.
An instant later, however, observing that the fragments of the snowball
were melting on the seat and wetting the leather, I raised my hand to
brush them away. In doing so I discovered, to my surprise, a piece of
paper lying among the _débris_.

"Ho, ho!" said I to myself. "A strange snowball this! I have heard that
the apprentices put stones in theirs. But paper! Let me see what this
means."

The morsel, though moistened by the snow, remained intact. Unfolding it
with care--for already I began to discern that here was something out of
the common--I found written on the inner side, in a clerkly hand, the
words, "_Beware of Nicholas!_"

It will be remembered that Simon Nicholas was at this time secretary to
the King, and so high in his favour as to be admitted to the knowledge
of all but his most private affairs. Gay, and of a jovial wit, he was
able to commend himself to Henry by amusing him; while his years, for he
was over sixty, seemed warranty for his discretion, and at the same time
gave younger sinners a feeling of worth, since they might repent and he
had not done so. Often in contact with him, I had always found him equal
to his duties, and though too fond of the table, and of the good things
of this life, neither given to blabbing nor boasting. In a word, one for
whom I had more liking than respect.

A man in his position possesses opportunities for evil so stupendous
that as I read the warning I sat aghast. His office gave him at all
times that ready access to the King's person which is the aim of
conspirators against the lives of sovereigns; and short of the supreme
treachery he was master of secrets which Biron's associates would give
much to gain. When I add that I knew Nicholas to be a man of extravagant
habits and careless life, and one who, if rumour did not wrong him, had
lost much in that rearrangement of the finances which I had lately
effected, it will be seen that those words, "Beware of Nicholas," were
calculated to provoke me to the most profound thought.

Of the person who had conveyed the missive to my hands I had
unfortunately seen nothing; though I believed him to be a man, and
young. But the circumstances, which seemed to indicate the need of
secrecy, gave me a hint as to my conduct. Accordingly, I smoothed my
brow, and on the coach stopping at the Arsenal, I descended with my
usual face of preoccupation.

At the foot of the staircase my _maître-d'hotel_ met me.

"M. Nicholas, the King's secretary, is here," he said. "He has been
waiting your return an hour and more, my lord."

"Lay another cover," I answered, repressing the surprise I could not but
feel at a visit so strangely _à propos_. "Doubtless he has come to dine
with me."

Staying only to remove my cloak, I went upstairs with an air as easy as
possible, and, making my visitor some apologies for the inconvenience I
had caused him, I insisted he should sit down with me. This he was not
loth to do; though, as presently appeared, his errand was only to submit
to me a paper connected with the new tax of a penny in the shilling,
which it was his duty to lay before me.

I scolded him for the long period which had elapsed since his last
visit, and succeeded so well in setting him at his ease that he
presently began to rally me on my lack of appetite; for I could touch
nothing but a little game and a glass of water. Excusing myself as well
as I could, I encouraged him to continue the attack; and certainly, if
appetite waits on a good conscience, I had abundant evidence in his
behalf. He grew merry and talkative, and, telling me some free tales,
bore himself so naturally that I had begun to deem my suspicions
baseless, when a chance word gave me new grounds for entertaining them.

I was on the subject of my morning's employment. Knowing how easily
confidence begets confidence, and that in his position the matter could
not be long kept from him, I told him as a secret where I had been.

"I do not wish all the world to know, my friend," I said. "But you are a
discreet man, and it will go no farther. I am just from Du Hallot's."

He dropped his napkin and stooped to pick it up with a gesture so hasty
that it caught my attention and led me to watch him. More, although my
words seemed to call for an answer, he did not speak until he had taken
a deep draught of wine; and then he said only, "Indeed!" in a tone of
such indifference as might at another time have deceived me, but now was
patently assumed.

"Yes," I replied, affecting to be engaged with my plate: we were eating
nuts. "Doubtless you will be able to guess on what subject."

"I?" he said, as quick to answer as he had before been slow. "No, I
think not."

"La Fin," I said. "And his disclosures respecting M. de Biron's
friends."

"Ah!" he replied, shrugging his shoulders. He had contrived to regain
his composure, but I noticed that his hand shook, and I saw that he was
quite unable to chew the nut he had just put into his mouth. "They tell
me he accuses everybody," he continued, his eyes on his plate. "Even the
King is scarcely safe from him. But I have heard no particulars."

"They will be known by-and-by," I answered prudently. And after that I
did not think it wise to continue, lest I should give more than I got.
But as soon as he had finished, and we had washed our hands, I led him
to the closet looking on the river, where I was in the habit of working
with my secretaries. I sent them away and sat down with him to his
paper; but in the position in which I found myself, between suspicion
and perplexity, I gathered little or nothing from it; and had I found
another doing the King's service as negligently I had sent him about his
business. Nevertheless, I made some show of attention, and had reached
the schedule when something in the fairly written summary, which closed
the account, caught my eye. I bent more closely to it, and presently
making an occasion to carry the parchment into the next room, compared
it with the hand-writing on the scrap of paper I had found in the
snowball. A brief scrutiny proved that they were the work of the same
person!

I went back to M. Nicholas, and after attesting the accounts, and making
one or two notes, remarked in a careless way on the clearness of the
hand. "I am badly in need of a fourth secretary," I added. "Your scribe
might do for me."

It did not escape me that once again M. Nicholas looked uncomfortable.
His red face took a deeper tinge and his hand went nervously to his
pointed grey beard. "I do not think he would do for you," he muttered.

"What is his name?" I asked, purposely bending over the papers and
avoiding his eye.

"I have dismissed him," he rejoined curtly. "I do not know where he
could now be found."

"That is a pity. He writes well," I answered, as if it were nothing but
a whim that led me to pursue the subject. "And good clerks are scarce.
What was his name?"

"Felix," he said--reluctantly.

I had now all that I wanted. Accordingly I spoke of another matter, and
shortly afterwards Nicholas withdrew. He left me in much suspicion; so
that for nearly half an hour I walked up and down the room, unable to
decide whether I should treat the warning of the snowball with contempt,
as the work of a discharged servant; or on that very account attach the
more credit to it. By-and-by I remembered that the last sheet of the
roll I had audited bore date the previous day; whence it was clear that
Felix had been dismissed within the last twenty-four hours, and perhaps
after the delivery of his note to me. Such a coincidence, which seemed
no less pertinent than strange, opened a wide field for conjecture; and
the possibility that Nicholas had called on me to sound me and learn
what I knew occurring to my mind, brought me to a final determination to
seek out this Felix, and without the delay of an hour sift the matter to
the bottom.

Doubtless I shall seem to some to have acted precipitately, and built
much on small foundations. I answer that I had the life of the King my
master to guard, and in that cause dared neglect no precaution, however
trivial, nor any indication, however remote. Would that all my care and
vigilance had longer sufficed to preserve for France the life of that
great man! But God willed otherwise.

I sent word at once to La Font, my _valet-de-chambre_, the same who
persuaded me to my first marriage, to come to me; and directing him to
make secret inquiry where Felix, a clerk in the Chamber of Accounts,
lodged, bade him report to me on my return from the Great Hall, where,
it will be remembered, it was my custom to give audience after dinner to
all who had business with me. As it happened, I was detained that day,
and found him awaiting me. A man of few words, as soon as the door was
shut, "At the 'Three Half Moons,'" he said, "in the Faubourg St. Honoré,
my lord."

"That is near the Louvre," I answered. "Get me my cloak, and your own
also; and bring your pistols. I am for a walk, and you will accompany
me."

He was a good man, La Font, and devoted to my interests. "It will be
night in half an hour," he answered respectfully. "You will take some of
the Swiss?"

"In one word, no!" I rejoined. "We will go out by the stable entrance,
and until we return, I will bid Maignan keep the door, and admit no
one."

The crowd of those who daily left the Arsenal at nightfall happened to
be augmented on this occasion by a troop of my clients from Mantes;
tenants on the lands of Rosny, who had lingered after the hour of
audience to see the courts and garden. By mingling with these we passed
out unobserved; nor, once in the streets, where a thaw had set in, that
filled the kennel with water, was La Font long in bringing me to the
house I sought. It stood on the outskirts of the St. Honoré Faubourg, in
a quarter sufficiently respectable, and a street marked neither by
squalor nor ostentation--from one or other of which all desperate
enterprises take their rise. The house, which was high and narrow,
presented only two windows to the street, but the staircase was clean,
and it was impossible to cross the threshold without feeling a
prepossession in Felix's favour. Already I began to think that I had
come on a fool's errand.

"Which floor?" I asked La Font.

"The highest," he answered.

I went up softly and he followed me. Under the tiles I found a door, and
heard some one moving beyond it. Bidding La Font remain on guard, and
come to my aid only if I called him, I knocked boldly. A gentle voice
bade me enter, and I did so.

There was only one person in the room, a young woman with fair waving
hair, a pale freckled face, and blue eyes; who, seeing a cloaked
stranger instead of the neighbour she anticipated, stared at me in the
utmost wonder and in some alarm. The room, though poorly furnished, was
neat and clean; which, taken with the woman's complexion, left me in no
doubt as to her province. On the floor near the fire stood a cradle;
and in the window a cage with a singing bird completed the homely aspect
of this interior, which was such, indeed, as I would fain multiply by
thousands in every town of France.

A lamp, which the woman was in the act of lighting, enabled me to see
these details, and also discovered me to her. I asked politely if I
spoke to Madame Felix, the wife of M. Felix, of the Chamber of Accounts.

"I am Madame Felix," she answered, advancing slowly towards me. "My
husband is late. Do you come from him? It is not--bad news, Monsieur?"

The tone of anxiety in which she uttered the last question, and the
quickness with which she raised her lamp to scan my face, went to a
heart already softened by the sight of this young mother in her home. I
hastened to answer that I had no bad news, and wished to see her husband
on business connected with his employment.

"He is very late," she said, a shade of perplexity crossing her face. "I
have never known him so late before. Monsieur is unfortunate."

I replied that with her leave I would wait; on which she very readily
placed a stool for me, and sat down by the cradle. I remarked that
perhaps M. Nicholas had detained her husband: she answered that it might
be so, but that she had never known it happen before.

"M. Felix has evening employment?" I asked, after a moment's reflection.

She looked at me in some wonder. "No," she said. "He spends his evenings
with me, Monsieur. It is not much, for he is at work all day."

I bowed, and was preparing another question, when the sound of footsteps
ascending the stairs reached my ears, and led me to pause. Madame heard
the noise at the same moment and rose to her feet. "It is my husband,"
she said, looking towards the door with such a light in her eyes as
betrayed the sweetheart lingering in the wife. "I was afraid--I do not
know what I feared," she muttered to herself.

Proposing to have the advantage of seeing Felix before he saw me, I
pushed back my stool into the shadow, contriving to do this so
discreetly that the young woman noticed nothing. A moment later it
appeared that I might have spared my pains; for at sight of her husband,
and particularly of the lack-lustre eye and drooping head with which he
entered, she sprang forward with a cry of dismay, and, forgetting my
presence, appealed to him to know what was the matter.

He let himself fall on a stool, the first he reached, and, leaning his
elbows on the table in an attitude of dejection, he covered his face
with his hands. "What is it?" he said in a hollow tone. "We are ruined,
Margot. That is what it is. I have no more work. I am dismissed."

"Dismissed?" she ejaculated.

He nodded. "Nicholas discharged me this morning," he said, almost in a
whisper. He dared not speak louder, for he could not command his voice.

"Why?" she asked, as she leant over him, her hands busy about him. "What
had you done?"

"Nothing!" he answered with bitterness. "He has missed a place he
thought to get; and I must suffer for it."

"But did he say nothing? Did he give no reason?"

"Ay," he answered. "He said clerks were plentiful, and the King or I
must starve."

Hitherto I had witnessed the scene in silence, a prey to emotions so
various I will not attempt to describe them. But hearing the King's name
thus prostituted I started forward with a violence which made my
presence known. Felix, confounded by the sight of a stranger at his
elbow, rose from his seat, and retreating before me with alarm painted
on his countenance, he asked with a faltering tongue who I was.

I replied as gently as possible that I was a friend, anxious to assist
him. Notwithstanding that, seeing that I kept my cloak about my
face--for I was not willing to be recognized--he continued to look at me
with distrust.

"What is your will?" he said, raising the lamp much as his wife had
done, to see me the better.

"The answers to two or three questions," I replied. "Answer them truly,
and I promise you your troubles are at an end." So saying, I drew from
my pouch the scrap of paper which had come to me so strangely. "When did
you write this, my friend?" I continued, placing it before him.

He drew a deep breath at sight of it, and a look of comprehension
crossed his face. For a moment he hesitated. Then in a hurried manner he
said that he had never seen the paper.

"Come," I rejoined sternly, "look at it again. Let there be no mistake.
When did you write that, and why?"

Still he shook his head; and, though I pressed him, he continued so
stubborn in his denial that, but for the look I had seen on his face
when I produced the paper, and the strange coincidence of his dismissal,
I might have believed him. As it was, I saw nothing for it but to have
him arrested and brought to my house, where I did not doubt he would
tell the truth; and I was about to retire to give the order, when
something in a sidelong glance which he cast at his wife caught my eye,
and furnished me with a new idea. Acting on it, I affected to be
satisfied. I apologized for my intrusion on the ground of mistake; and,
withdrawing to the door, I asked him at the last moment to light me
downstairs.

Complying with a shaking hand, he went out before me, and had nearly
reached the foot of the staircase when I touched him on the shoulder.

"Now," I said, fixing him with my eyes, "your wife is no longer
listening, and you can tell me the truth. Who employed you to write
those words?"

Trembling so violently that he had to lean on the balustrade for
support, he told me.

"Madame Nicholas," he whispered.

"What?" I cried, recoiling. I had no doubt he was telling me the truth.
"The secretary's wife, do you mean? Be careful, man."

He nodded.

"When?" I asked suspiciously.

"Yesterday," he answered. "She is an old cat!" he continued, with a
grimace. "I hate her! But my wife is jealous, and would think all
things."

"And did you throw it into a coach," I said, "on the Pont du Change
to-day?"

"God forbid!" he replied, shrinking into himself again. "I wrote it for
her, and she took it away. She said it was a jest that she was playing.
That is all I know."

I saw that he spoke the truth, and after a few more words I dismissed
him, bidding him keep silence, and remain at home in case I needed him.
At the last, he plucked up spirit to ask who I was; but preferring to
keep that discovery for a day to come, when I might appear as the
benefactor of this little family, I told him only that I was one of the
King's servants, and so left him.

It will be believed that I found the information I had received little
to my mind. The longer I dwelt on it, the more serious seemed the
matter. While I could not imagine circumstances in which a woman would
be likely to inform against her husband without cause, I could recall
more than one conspiracy which had been frustrated by informers of that
class--sometimes out of regard for the persons against whom they
informed. Viewed in this light, the warning seemed to my mind
sufficiently alarming; but when I came also to consider the secrecy with
which Madame Nicholas had both prepared it and conveyed it to me, the
aspect of the case grew yet more formidable. In the result, I had not
passed through two streets before my mind was made up to lay the case
before the King, and be guided by the sagacity which was never wanting
to my gracious master.

An unexpected meeting which awaited me on my return to the Arsenal
confirmed me in this resolution and enabled me to carry it into effect.
We entered without difficulty, and duly found Maignan on guard at the
door of my apartments. But a glance at his face sufficed to show that
something was wrong; nor did it need the look of penitence which he
assumed on seeing us--a look so piteous that at another time it must
have diverted me--to convince me that he had infringed my orders.

"How now, sirrah?" I said, without waiting for him to speak. "What have
you been doing?"

"They would take no refusal, my lord," he answered plaintively, waving
his hand towards the door.

"What!" I cried sternly; for this was an instance of such direct
disobedience as I could scarce understand. "Did I not give you the
strictest orders to deny me to everybody?"

"They would take no refusal, my lord," he answered penitently, edging
away from me as he spoke.

"Who are they?" I asked, leaving the question of his punishment for
another season. "Speak, rascal, though it shall not save you."

"There are M. le Marquis de la Varenne, and M. de Vitry," he said
slowly, "and M. de Vic, and M. Erard the engineer, and M. de Fontange,
and----"

"Pardieu!" I cried, cutting him short in a rage; for he was going on
counting on his fingers in a manner the most provoking. "Have you let in
all Paris, dolt? Grace! that I should be served by a fool! Open the
door, and let me see them."

With that I was about to enter; when the door, which I had not perceived
to be ajar, was thrown widely open, and a laughing face thrust out. It
was the King's.

"Ha, ha! Grandmaster!" he cried, diverted by the success of his jest
and the change which doubtless came over my countenance. "Never was such
hospitality, I'll be sworn! But come, pardon this varlet. And now
embrace me, and tell me where you have been playing truant."

Saying these words with the charm which never failed him, and in his
time won more foes than his sword ever conquered, the King drew me into
my room, where I found De Vic, Vitry, Roquelaure, and the rest. They all
laughed heartily at my surprise; nor was Maignan, who was the author, it
will be remembered, of that whimsical procession to Rosny after the
battle of Ivry, which I have elsewhere described, far behind them; the
rascal knowing well that the King's presence covered all, and that in my
gratification at the honour paid me I should be certain to overlook his
impertinence.

Perceiving that this impromptu visit had no other object than to divert
Henry--though he was kind enough to say that he felt uneasy when he did
not see me often--I begged to know if he would honour me by staying to
sup; but this he would not do, though he consented to drink a cup of my
Arbois wine, and praised it highly. By-and-by I thought I saw that he
was willing to be alone with me; and as I had reason to desire this
myself, I made an opportunity. Sending for Arnaud and some of my
gentlemen, I committed my other guests to their care, and led the King
into my closet, where, after requesting his leave to speak on business,
I proceeded to unfold to him the adventure of the snowball, with all the
particulars which I have set down.

He listened attentively, drumming on the table with his fingers; nor did
he move or speak when I had done, but still continued in the same
attitude of thought. At last: "Grandmaster," he said, touching with his
hand the mark of the wound on his lip, "how long is it since Chastel's
attempt--when I got this?"

"Seven years last Christmas, sire," I answered, after a moment's
thought.

"And Barrière's?"

"That was the year before. Avenius' plot was that year too."

"And the Italian's from Milan, of whom the Capuchin Honorio warned us?"

"That was two years ago, sire."

"And how many more attempts have there been against my person?" he
continued, in a tone of extreme sadness. "Rosny, my friend, they must
succeed at last. No man can fight against his fate. The end is sure,
notwithstanding your fidelity and vigilance, and the love you bear me,
for which I love you, too. But Nicholas? Nicholas? And yet he has been
careless and distraught of late. I have noticed it; and a month back I
refused to give him an appointment, of which he wished to have the
sale."

I did not dare to speak, and for a time Henry too remained silent. At
length he rose with an air of resolution.

"We will clear up this matter within an hour!" he said. "I will send my
people back to the Louvre, and do you, Grandmaster, order half a dozen
Swiss to be ready to conduct us to this woman's house. When we have
heard her we shall know what to do."

I tried my utmost to dissuade him, pleading that his presence could not
be necessary, and might prove a hindrance; besides exposing his person
to a certain amount of risk. But he would not listen. When I saw,
therefore, that his mind was made up, and that as his spirits rose he
was inclined to welcome this expedition as a relief from the _ennui_
which at times troubled him, I reluctantly withdrew my opposition and
gave the necessary orders. The King dismissed his suite with a few
words, and in a short space we were on our way, under cover of darkness,
to the secretary's house.

He lived at this time in a court off the Rue St. Jacques, not far from
the church of that name; and the house being remote from the eyes and
observation of the street, seemed not unfit for secret and desperate
uses. Although we noted lights shining behind several of the barred
windows, the wintry night, the darkness of the court, and perhaps the
errand on which we came, imparted so gloomy an aspect to the place that
the King hitched forward his sword, and I begged him to permit the Swiss
to go on with us. This, however, he would not allow, and they were left
at the entrance to the court with orders to follow at a given signal.

On the steps the King, who, to disguise himself the better, had borrowed
one of my cloaks, stumbled and almost fell. This threw him into a fit of
laughter; for no sooner was he engaged in an adventure which promised
peril, than his spirits rose to such a degree as to make him the most
charming companion in danger man ever had. He was still shaking, and
pulling me to and fro in one of those boyish frolics which at times
swayed him, when a loud outcry inside the house startled us into
sobriety, and reminded us of the business which brought us thither.

Wondering what it might mean, I was for rapping on the door with my
hilt. But the King put me aside, and, by a happy instinct, tried the
latch. The door yielded to his hand, and gave us admittance.

We found ourselves in a gloomy hall, ill-lit, and hung with patched
arras. In one corner stood a group of servants. Of these some looked
scared and some amused, but all were so much taken up with the movements
of a harsh-faced woman, who was pacing the opposite side of the hall,
that they did not heed our entrance. A glance showed me that the woman
was Madame Nicholas; but I was still at a loss to guess what she was
doing or what was happening in the house.

I stood a moment, and then finding that in her excitement she took no
notice of us, I beckoned to one of the servants, and bade him tell his
mistress that a gentleman would speak with her. The man went with the
message; but she sent him off with a flea in his ear, and screamed at
him so violently that for a moment I thought she was mad. Then it
appeared that the object of her attention was a door at that side of the
hall; for, stopping suddenly in her walk, she went up to it, and struck
on it passionately and repeatedly with her hands.

"Come out!" she cried. "Come out, you villain! Your friends shall not
save you!"

Restraining the King, I went forward myself, and, saluting her, begged a
word with her apart, thinking that she would recognize me.

Her answer showed that she did not. "No!" she cried, waving me off, in
the utmost excitement. "No; you will not get me away! You will not! I
know your tricks. You are as bad one as the other, and shield one
another come what will!" Then turning again to the door, she continued,
"Come out! Do you hear! Come out! I will have no more of your intrigues
and your Hallots!"

I pricked up my ears at the name. "But, Madame," I said, "one moment."

"Begone!" she retorted, turning on me so wrathfully that I fairly
recoiled before her. "I shall stay here till I drop; but I will have him
out and expose him. There shall be an end of his precious plots and his
Hallots if I have to go to the King!"

Words so curiously _à propos_ could not but recall to my mind the
confusion into which the mention of Du Hallot had thrown the secretary
earlier in the day. And since they seemed also to be consistent with the
warning conveyed to me, they should have corroborated my suspicions. But
a sense of something unreal and fantastic, with which I could not
grapple, continued to puzzle me in the presence of this angry woman; and
it was with no great assurance that I said, "Do I understand then,
madame, that M. du Hallot is in that room?"

"Monsieur du Hallot?" she replied, in a tone that was almost a scream.
"No: but Madame du Hallot is, and he would be if he had taken the hint I
sent him! He would be! But I will have no more secrecy, and no more
plots. I have suffered enough, and now Madame shall suffer if she has
not forgotten how to blush. Are you coming out there?" she continued,
once more applying herself to the door, her face inflamed with passion.
"I shall stay! Oh, I shall stay, I assure you, until you do come. Until
morning if necessary!"

"But, Madame," I said, beginning to see daylight, and finding words with
difficulty--for already I heard in fancy the King's laughter, and
conjured up the quips and cranks with which he would pursue me--"your
warning did not perhaps reach M. du Hallot?"

"It reached his coach, at any rate," the scold retorted. "But another
time I will have no half measures. As for that," she continued, turning
on me suddenly with her arms akimbo, and the fiercest of airs, "I would
like to know what business it is of yours, Monsieur, whether it reached
him or not! I know you,--you are in league with my husband! You are here
to shelter him, and this Madame du Hallot who is within here! And with
whom he has been carrying on these three months! But----"

At that moment the door at last opened; and M. Nicholas, wearing an
aspect so meek and crestfallen that I hardly knew him, came out. He was
followed by a young woman plainly dressed, and looking almost as much
frightened as himself; in whom I had no difficulty in recognizing
Felix's wife.

"Why!" Madame Nicholas cried, her face falling. "This is not--who is
this? Who--" with increased vehemence--"is this baggage, I would like to
know? This shameless creature, that----"

"My dear," the secretary protested, spreading out his hands--fortunately
he had eyes only for his wife and did not see us--"this is one of your
ridiculous mistakes! It is, I assure you. This is the wife of a clerk
whom I dismissed to-day, and she has been with me begging me to
reinstate her husband. That is all. That is all, my dear, in truth it
is. You have made this dreadful outcry for nothing. I assure you----"

I heard no more, for, taking advantage of the obscurity of the hall, and
the preoccupation of the couple, I made for the door, and passing out
into the darkness, found myself in the embrace of the King; who, seizing
me about the neck, laughed on my shoulder until he cried, continually
adjuring me to laugh also, and ejaculating between the paroxysms, "Poor
du Hallot! Poor du Hallot!" With many things of the same nature, which
any one acquainted with court life may supply for himself.

I confess I did not on my part find it so easy to laugh: partly because
I am not of so gay a disposition as that great prince, and partly
because I cannot see the ludicrous side of events in which I myself take
part. But on the King assuring me that he would not betray the secret
even to La Varenne, I took comfort, and gradually reconciled myself to
an episode which, unlike the more serious events it now becomes my duty
to relate, had only one result, and that unimportant. I mean the
introduction to my service of the clerk Felix; who, proving worthy of
confidence, remained with me after the lamentable death of the King my
master, and is to-day one of those to whom I entrust the preparation of
these Memoirs.



PART III

KING TERROR



A DAUGHTER OF THE GIRONDE


In a room on the second floor of a house in the Rue Favart in Paris--a
large room scantily and untidily furnished--a man sat reading by the
light of an oil lamp. The hour was late, the night a July night in the
year 1794--year two of the Republic. The house already slumbered round
him; the sounds of Paris rose to his ears softened by night and
distance. Intent on his work, he looked up from time to time to make a
note; or, drawing the lamp a little nearer he trimmed its wick and set
it back. When this happened, the light falling strongly on his face, and
bringing into relief its harsh lines and rugged features, showed him to
be a man past middle life, grey-haired, severe, almost forbidding of
aspect.

Peaceful as his occupation seemed, there was something in the air of the
room which suggested change, even danger. The floor was littered with
packing cases and with books piled together at random. On the low
bedstead lay a travelling cloak; on the table, by the reader's hand, lay
a pistol and beside it one of the huge sabres which were then in
fashion. Nor were these signs without meaning. The man reading on, wrapt
and unconscious, in his upper room, merely followed his bent. He read
and reasoned, though in the great city round him the terror of the
Revolution was at its height; though the rattle of the drum had scarcely
ceased with nightfall, and the last tumbril was even now being wheeled
back into its shed.

For men grow strangely callous. The danger which impends daily and every
day ceases to be feared. Achille Mirande had seen the chiefs of his
party fall round him. He had seen Pétion and Barbaroux, Louvet and
Vergniaud die--the Girondins who had dreamed with him of a republic of
property, free and yet law-abiding. Nor had his experiences stopped
there. He had seen his foes perish also, the Hébertists first and later
the Dantonists. But for himself--death seemed to have passed him by.
Danger had become second nature; the very rumbling of the tumbrils
passing his house on the way to the guillotine had ceased to be anything
but annoying; until to-day, to avoid the interruption, he had left his
house in the Rue St. Honoré and established himself in this empty flat
in the little Rue Favart.

By-and-by he laid down the book he was reading and fell into deep
meditation. As he sat thus, alone and silent in the silent room, a
sound, which a keener ear would have noticed before, attracted his
attention. Startled in a degree by it, he roused himself; he looked
round. "A rat, I suppose," he muttered. Yet he continued to peer with
suspicion into the corner whence the sound had come, and presently he
heard it again. The next instant he sprang to his feet; phantom-like a
door in the panelled wall at the back of the room--a door in the wall
where there should have been no door--was swinging, nay, had swung open.
While he glared at it, hardly believing his senses, a man appeared
standing in the dark aperture.

The man was young and of middle height. Dazzled by the light, and
suffering apparently from weakness, he paused, leaning for support
against the doorway. His eyes were bright, his sunken cheeks told of
fever or famine. His clothes stained and dusty, and his unkempt hair,
added to the wildness of his appearance. For a moment he and the owner
of the room glared at one another in speechless wonder. Then a name
sprang to the lips of each.

"Monsieur Mirande!" the younger man muttered.

"De Bercy!" exclaimed the other.

The stranger said no more, but shaking with agitation walked to a chair
and sat down. Mirande, his face rigid with passion, stood in silence and
watched him do it. Then the Republican found his voice.

"You villain!" he cried, advancing a step, his manner menacing. "Was it
not enough that you stole into my house and robbed me of my daughter?
Was it not enough that you led her to forfeit her life in your plots and
then left her to die? Was not this enough, that you now come and insult
me by your presence?"

The young man raised his hand in deprecation, but seemed unable to
reply. Mirande, gazing pitilessly at him, presently read his silence
aright, and an expression of cruel joy altered his features.

"I understand," he said grimly. "I see all now. You have been in hiding
here. To be sure, your name has been on the list of suspects these three
months. And you all the time have been starving like a rat behind the
panels! Well, you shall have food and wine. You shall eat, you shall
drink. I would not for the world have you cheat the guillotine."

He went to a cupboard as he spoke, and, taking from it bread and wine,
he placed them before the other. The young man made a slight gesture, as
though he would have refused them; but his pale face flushed with desire
negatived the action, the momentary resistance of his pride gave way,
and he ate and drank, sparingly, yet with the craving of a man
half-famished.

"I have not tasted food for three days," he murmured presently, looking
up with a glance of apology. The wine had already done its work. He
looked a different man. His hand was steady, his cheeks wore a more
healthy colour. "M. Chareloi hid me here," he went on, "but a week ago I
heard a disturbance in the house, and coming out when all was quiet I
found it empty and locked. I fear he was arrested."

"He was guillotined five days ago," the Girondin replied with brutal
frankness.

"Why? For what?" the young man exclaimed.

"As a suspect," Mirande answered, shrugging his shoulders.

Bercy had partly risen from his chair. He sat down again, stunned.

"Things move quickly nowadays," Mirande continued, with a ferocious
smile. "To the Luxembourg, thence to the Conciergerie, thence to the
Place de la Revolution is a journey of three days at most; and the path
is well trodden. You will find yourself in good company, M. de Bercy."

"You will give me up?"

"Ay!" the Republican answered hoarsely. He had risen, and stood facing
his antagonist, his hands on the table, his face flushed and swollen.
"Ay, though you were my own son! What have you not done to me? You crept
like a snake into my house, and robbed me of my daughter!"

"I made her my wife!" the Vicomte answered, with calm pride.

"Ay, and then? After that act of mighty condescension you led her to
take part in your vile plot, and when she was discovered and arrested,
you left her to pay the penalty. You left her to die alone rather than
risk one hair of your miserable head!"

The young man sprang to his feet in sudden ungovernable excitement. "It
is false!" he cried. "False!"

"It is true!" Mirande retorted, striking the table so violently that the
room rang again and the flame of the lamp leapt up and for an instant
dyed the two angry faces with a lurid gleam.

"I say it is false!" the Vicomte replied sternly. "On the contrary,
being at Rheims when I heard that Corinne was arrested, I took horse on
the instant. I rode for Paris as a man rides for life. I was anxious to
give myself up in her place if I could save her in no other way. But at
Meaux, M. Mirande, I met your agent----"

"And went back to Rheims again and into hiding," the other continued,
with a bitter sneer, "after sending me, her father, the shameful message
that your duty to your race forbade the last of the Bercys to die for a
merchant's daughter."

"I sent that message, do you say? I? I?" the young man cried.

"Yes, you! Who else? You--sent it after hearing from me that if you
would surrender, the Committee of Safety would suffer her to escape! So
much my services had wrung from them--in vain. What? Do you deny that
you met my agent at night in the yard of the Three Kings at Meaux, M. le
Vicomte?"

"I met him," the young man answered firmly, though his frame was a-shake
with excitement. "But I did not send that message by him! Nor did he
give me such a message as you state. On the contrary, he told me that I
was too late, that my wife had suffered two days before; and that you
bade me save myself, if I could."

"Ay, she suffered," Mirande answered ironically. "But it was four days
later. And for the rest you tell me nothing but lies, and clumsy ones."

"What I tell you," the Vicomte rejoined, with a solemnity which at last
enforced the other's attention, "is as true as that I loved my wife and
would have died to save her. I swear it!"

M. Mirande passed his hand over his brow, and stood for a moment gazing
at his son-in-law. There was a new expression, an expression almost of
fear, in his eyes.

"Should you know the messenger again?" he asked at last.

"I do not think I should," the Vicomte answered. "He inquired for me by
the name upon which we had agreed. We were together for a few minutes
only, and the night was dark, the only light a distant lanthorn."

"Would he know you, do you think?"

"I cannot say."

M. Mirande shrugged his shoulders, and strode half a dozen times up and
down the room, his face dark with thought, with suspicion, with
uncertainty. At length he stopped before his son-in-law.

"Listen to me," he said, meeting and striving to read the young man's
eyes. "It is possible that what you say is true and that you are not the
coward I have thought you. In that case you shall have justice at my
hands. Before I give you up to the Committee of Safety, who will deal
shortly with you, I will resolve the doubt. Until I find the means to
solve it, you may stay here."

"Indeed?" cried the young man proudly. "But what if I am not willing to
be beholden to you?"

"Then you have your alternative!" Mirande answered coolly. "Come with me
to the nearest Guard House, and I will inform against you. After all, it
will be the shortest way. It was only that being a citizen, and not a
_ci-devant_, I wished to do justice--even to you."

The young man hesitated. He had spoken truly when he suggested that he
was unwilling to be beholden to Mirande. But the alternative meant
certain death.

"I will stop," he said, after a pause, shrugging his shoulders as he
accepted the strange offer made him. "Why should I not? It is your agent
who has lied, not I."

"We shall see," replied the other, without emotion. "There is one thing,
however, I must name to you. I know that you are a gallant among the
ladies, M, de Bercy. My daughter Claire, who was at the seminary when
you visited me before, is now at home. You will kindly restrict your
intercourse with her to the most formal limits. Unfortunately," he
continued, with a strange bitterness in his tone, "she is like her
sister, and the same arts that won the one, may win the other from the
path of duty."

"For shame, sir!" the young noble answered, his eyes sparkling with
indignation. "You insult, not me, but your dead daughter! Do you think
that I loved her for her fortune alone? Or that her very image,
untenanted by her soul, would satisfy me?"

"They were singularly alike," Mirande muttered with a grim shrug. "God
knows! At any rate you are warned."

The young man shot at him an angry glance, but said no more; and
Mirande, seeming to be satisfied that his condition was accepted,
dropped the subject and proceeded to show his guest where he might
sleep; for the latter felt a natural reluctance to return to his narrow
prison behind the wainscot. In a few minutes the light was extinguished
and the two men, thus strangely brought together again, lay a few feet
from one another; the mind of each turning in the stillness of the
night, to the link which had bound them, nay, which still bound them in
a forced and uncongenial union.

The Vicomte was aware that his host ran a certain risk in sheltering
him. The supremacy which Robespierre had won at this time, and the
desperate lengths to which he had gone, exposed all who were not of his
immediate following to a jealousy that had already hurried to the
guillotine the chiefs of half a dozen sections of the Republican party.
Mirande, as one of the few surviving Girondins and as a man still
possessing friends and influence was peculiarly obnoxious to suspicion.
The slightest accusation, the word of a servant, the hint of a rival,
would suffice to despatch him also along the path which so many trod
daily.

The Vicomte, therefore, on rising in the morning, proposed to withdraw
to his hiding-place. M. Mirande, however, a little to his guest's
surprise, would not hear of this; observing curtly that he could trust
his household, and that a change of name was all that safety required.
The younger man, whose anxiety was not on his own account only, would
have argued the point; but his host cut short the matter by opening the
door, and ushering the Vicomte, almost before the young man was aware,
into another room--a room, large and scantily furnished, but in other
respects in striking contrast to that which he had left. Here the tall,
narrow windows, three in number, were open; the sunlight poured in
through half-closed jalousies and fell in bars on the shining parquet,
and on a little table daintily laid for the morning meal and gay with
flowers. In the cooler and darker parts of the room stood high-backed
chairs littered with a dozen articles which spoke of a woman's presence;
here a fan and silk hood, there a half-mended glove. As the young man's
eyes fell on these, and he drank in the airy brightness and even luxury
of the room, he felt a strange pang of regret and misery. Such things
were no longer for him. Such prettinesses no longer formed part of his
life. And then he turned, and in an instant forgot his unhappiness and
his loss in the sight of a young girl who, seated a little aside, had
risen at his entrance and now stood facing him, her back to the light.

He had been warned; yet he stood thunderstruck, breathless, staring. His
eyes grew large, his jaw fell, the room for a moment went round with
him. The likeness of the woman before him to his dead wife was so
strong, so complete, so astonishing, that involuntarily, not knowing
what he did, he held out his hands.

"Corinne!" he muttered, his voice full of tears. "Corinne!"

The girl, who but for the ravages of ill-health would have been very
beautiful, did not answer; nevertheless she seemed scarcely less
affected by his sudden appearance and his strange address. She swayed on
her feet, and had she not grasped a chair would have fallen. A burning
flush for an instant lit up her wan cheek, to disappear at the first
sound of her father's voice. He had followed Bercy into the room, and
his tone was sharp with reproof and warning.

"Citizen Perrot," he said sternly, "this is my daughter Claire. Here is
your place. Be seated, if you please."

The Vicomte mechanically did as he was told without looking where he
sat. His hands shook, his brain was on fire. He had eyes only for the
girl; who was so wondrously, so completely, like his wife. She had taken
her seat with some timidity at the other side of the table, and if she
no longer betrayed the same emotion, her eyes were downcast, the colour
fluttered in her cheeks. It was in vain that Mirande shot angry glances
at her--and at him. The young man stared as one enchanted, seeing only
the white-robed figure seated between himself and the sunlight, that,
shining through her dark hair, found golden threads in it, and crowned
the face he knew so well with an aureole of brightness.

Gradually the spell fell from him. For as he looked, the girl's face
changed and hardened and grew older; grew sharper and whiter; and he
discerned the difference between Claire and Corinne. Corinne had never
looked at him, or at any one, after that fashion. With a sigh, yet with
eyes that often and involuntarily returned to the lode-star, he
recovered himself; and he made, or pretended to make, a meal. His
appetite, however, was gone, and he was thankful when his host rose and
put an end to the constrained sitting.

"You will excuse me," the Republican said, drawing out his watch and
looking at it. "I should be at M. Carnot's at this hour. These rooms,
however, are at your disposal, my friend; and if you want books, my
daughter will direct you where to find them. But--caution, remember!"

And with that, to the Vicomte's astonishment, M. Mirande departed,
leaving the two together. For a moment the young man sat, troubled and
perplexed, gazing at the floor. He had intercepted the glance of warning
which his host on leaving had aimed at his daughter; and with the
knowledge that he was suspected, with the brutally frank exhortation
addressed to himself fresh in his mind, to be left alone with the girl
surprised him beyond measure.

Presently he stole a look at her. She had passed to one of the windows,
and, having seated herself, was employed upon some needle-work. Her
attitude, the lines of her figure, the pose of her head, presented the
same abnormal maddening resemblance to his wife; and slowly, as if
fascinated, he moved nearer to her.

"Pardon me," he said at last, speaking almost in a whisper. "You are
very like your sister, mademoiselle."

She glanced quickly at him, her face wearing the hard, sharp look that
had slowly grown upon it. But she gave him no other answer.

He felt that he ought to leave her, but the spell was upon him and he
lingered.

"You have been ill, I fear," he said, after a long silence.

"Monsieur is right," she answered briefly. "The times are such that few
of us escape. Those are perhaps most happy," and as she paused on the
word she looked up at him, "who die with their beliefs unshattered,
before discovering the clay feet of their idols."

He started.

"Mademoiselle!" he cried almost fiercely, carried away by an intensely
painful thought. "My wife! Your sister? Answer me, answer me quickly, I
beg of you. They did not--they did not tell her that I--that I
refused----"

"That monsieur declined to save her?" Mademoiselle Claire answered
slowly, her great dark eyes looking into vacancy--into the depths of
gloomy memories. "Yes, they did. A woman, perhaps, would not have done
it; would not have borne to do it. But men are cruel--cruel! And after
all it helped her to die, you understand. It made it more easy."

He walked to the other end of the room, his face hidden in his hands.
And there his frame began to be racked by deep sobs. He tried to summon
up his pride, his courage, his manliness; but in vain. The thought that
the woman who had loved and trusted him, his young wife--his young wife
of a few months only--had died believing him a coward and an ingrate was
too bitter! Too bitter, the conviction that, mistaken as her belief was,
it could never be altered! Never be altered! She would never know!

A light touch on his arm recalled him to himself. He turned and found
Mademoiselle Claire at his elbow holding a glass of wine towards him.
Her lips were compressed, but her face wore a delicate flush, and her
eyes were changed and softened.

"Drink," she muttered hurriedly. "You are still weak; you have eaten
nothing."

He controlled himself by an effort and took the wine; and the girl,
moving away quickly, brought from the table a roll and, without again
meeting his eyes, laid it on a chair beside him. She was in the act of
regaining her place by the window, when the door opened somewhat
abruptly, and the young Vicomte, scarcely master of himself, turned and
discovered a man standing on the threshold.

The stranger stared at him and he at the stranger, while Mademoiselle
Claire, with eyes which on a sudden became keen and intent, seemed to
forget herself in gazing on both. The new-comer was taller than the
Vicomte and of about the same age; a thin, lithe man, with restless eyes
and dark, tumbled hair. He scanned the Vicomte with at least as much
disfavour as the latter, taken by surprise, spent on him; and he was the
first to speak.

"I thought that you were alone, mademoiselle," he said, frowning as he
advanced into the room and looked about him suspiciously.

"This is a friend of my father's," she answered, "He is staying with us,
M. Baudouin."

The explanation did not seem to improve matters in the young man's eyes.
He frowned still more gloomily.

"Monsieur is from the country?" he asked.

"No," the Vicomte answered. "I have been in Paris some months."

The stranger looked darkly down, toying with a book which lay at the
edge of the table. The girl waited awhile and then--

"Did you bring a message from my father?" she asked, a slight tinge of
impatience and hauteur in her manner.

"No, mademoiselle, I have not seen him this morning," he answered. And
his sullenness matched her impatience.

"Had you not better follow him then?" she said, with sharpness. "He is
at M. Carnot's. He may need you."

For a moment it was plain that M. Baudouin hesitated, but in the end he
made up his mind to obey, and bowing with exaggerated respect he left
the room.

The Vicomte thought that he could not do better than follow the other's
example, and he too withdrew. Crossing the lobby to the room which
communicated with his hiding-place he threw himself into a chair and
gave himself up to the most melancholy reflections. The singular
resemblance which Mademoiselle Claire bore to his wife must alone have
sufficed to fill him with vain longings and poignant regrets; but these
were now rendered a thousand times more bitter by the knowledge, so
cruelly conveyed to him, that his wife had died believing him a
heartless and faithless coward.

The return of M. Mirande later in the day, if it did not dispel these
gloomy thoughts, compelled him at any rate to conceal them. The evening
meal passed much as the morning one had passed; the host uttering a few
formal phrases, while the other two sat for the most part silent. The
Vicomte could not avert his eyes from his sister-in-law; and though he
no longer felt the violent emotions which her face had at first awakened
in him, he sat sad and unhappy. Her pale features reminded him of the
dead past: and at once tortured him with regret, and tantalized him with
the simulacrum of that which had been his. He could have cursed the
Heaven that had formed two beings so much alike.

In this way a week passed by, and little by little a vague discomfort
and restlessness began to characterize the attitude of his mind towards
her. He felt himself at once attracted by her beauty--as what man of his
years would not?--and repelled by the likeness that made of the feeling
a sacrilege. Meantime, whether he would or no, they were left
together--much together. M. Mirande went abroad each day and seemed
intent on public affairs. Each day, indeed, his look grew a trifle more
austere, and the shade on his brow grew deeper; but though it was
evident that the situation out-of-doors was growing more strained, the
storms which were agitating Paris and desolating so many homes affected
the little household in no other way. The Vicomte kept necessarily
within, spending most of his time in reading. Mademoiselle Claire also
went seldom abroad; and it followed that during the long July days when
the sunshine flooded the second floor, in the early mornings when the
sparrows perched on the open jalousies and twittered gaily, or in the
grey evenings, when the night fell slowly, they met from time to
time--met not infrequently. On such occasions the Vicomte noticed that
Baudouin was never far distant. The secretary, as a rule, put in an
appearance before the conversation had lasted ten minutes.

Bercy began to suspect the cause of this, and one day he happened upon a
discovery. He was sitting in M. Mirande's room, when the sound of a
raised voice made him lay down his book and listen. The voice seemed to
come from the parlour. Once he was assured of this, and that the
speaker, whose anger was apparent, was not Mirande, he took his steps.
He stole out upon the lobby, and found the parlour door as he had
suspected slightly ajar. Any scruples he might have entertained were
dispelled by the certainty that the speaker was Baudouin and that the
person whom he was addressing in harsh and vehement tones, was
Mademoiselle Claire. The Vicomte drew himself up behind the door and
listened.

"What would I have?" were the first words he caught. "Little enough,
heaven knows! Little enough! What have I ever asked except to be allowed
to serve? To gratify your least caprice. To be at your beck and call. To
fetch and carry while another basked in your smiles. That is all I asked
in the old days and I ask no more now. I am content to serve and wait
and hope. But I will have--no stranger come between us. Not again! Not
again!"

"You do not understand, M. Baudouin," the girl answered hurriedly.

"Do I not?" he cried. "Perhaps I did not understand last time. But this
time I do. I do! It had been well for you had I known more then!"

"Spare me," she said faintly, overcome apparently by some hidden meaning
in his words.

"That you may amuse yourself with this stranger?" he retorted. "No, I
have given way enough. It had been better, as I say, if I had not,
mademoiselle."

The stress he laid on the last word was unintelligible to the hidden
listener, who knew only that it veiled an insult and drew nearer to the
door. The girl remained silent and Baudouin presuming on this continued
in a tone still more aggressive, "Times are changed, mademoiselle,
changed in the last month. You, living out of the world, are ignorant of
what is passing, and your father is being left as completely behind.
Unless I make a mistake, in a little time you will need other and
stronger protection than his."

"Not while he lives," the girl answered, in a low tone.

Baudouin laughed. "The pitcher goes often to the well, but it is broken
at last," he said drily. "I would have you understand that, since you
may stand in need of my help, you would do well not to try me too far."

"M. Baudouin," the girl said abruptly--and her tone was changed, and the
listener, though he could not see her, could picture the challenge of
her startled eyes--"you have never spoken to me in this way before. You
have changed."

"So are the times. Those who were servants are now masters!"

"You will never be mine," the girl said firmly.

"We shall see!" he answered.

"We shall see!" cried an unexpected voice--that of the Vicomte, who
could bear it no longer. His eyes stern, his colour high, he flung the
door wide and entered. The secretary, startled, stepped back a pace. The
girl, who had been standing close to the door, turned, and seeing who it
was, uttered a low cry of thankfulness; in her relief she even stretched
out her hands as if she would grasp the new-comer's arm. The next
instant she drew back, a strange expression in her eyes.

"Now, sir," the young Vicomte continued, harshly, "you have to deal with
a man, and not with a woman whom you can terrify. I have overheard all,
and I warn you that on his return I shall repeat it word for word to M.
Mirande, who will know how to deal with you."

He expected that the threat would produce its effect, and that the
secretary taken in the act would resume his normal demeanour. But
Baudouin, his first surprise over, merely smiled. "Who are you, I
wonder," he replied grimly. "One in the Tallien-Barrère-Carnot
conspiracy, that's afoot, I suppose. If so, I need not----"

"You need suppose nothing!" the Vicomte retorted fiercely. "But leave
the room without words, you dog!"

"Thank you," said the secretary, smiling contemptuously. "But I would
have you remember that a living dog is better than a dead lion."

With that--and with little show of embarrassment or dismay--he went
out. As the door closed behind him a singular constraint fell upon the
two who were left. The Vicomte, with a grave face, paused by the table,
and stood listening to the sound of his retreating footsteps. The girl,
who had withdrawn to the farther end of the room, kept her face averted.
The Vicomte looked at her doubtfully--looked at her more than once.
"Mademoiselle," he ventured at last, his voice low and agitated, "I am
afraid he--I am afraid he means mischief."

"I fear so," she whispered without turning.

"Will you--shall I speak to your father?"

"It may be better," she answered--to the same tone.

He looked at her long at that, but she did not move; and with a gesture
as of farewell he turned and went softly away. Safe in his own room,
with the door shut, he stood in the middle of the floor thinking;
thinking not of the secretary nor of the danger with which Baudouin's
enmity threatened the house, but of the strange look which the girl's
face had worn on his first appearance at her side, the look of relief
and thankfulness which he had surprised in her eyes, the impulse of
confidence which had made her move towards him! He recalled them all,
and his brow grew hot, his hand trembled. He felt at once terror and
shame. When he heard M. Mirande's step on the stairs, he gave himself no
time for thought, but went hurriedly out on the lobby and called him
into the room. "M. Mirande," he said, "I have something to tell you. I
have two things to tell you."

The Republican looked at him, his inscrutable eyes betraying no
surprise. "What are they?" he asked, his tone almost phlegmatic.

"The man Baudouin has been here, addressing himself so rudely to your
daughter that I felt myself obliged to--to interfere."

"That is unlucky."

"It may be that he has your confidence," the young Vicomte continued,
"but, from the way in which he spoke of you, I doubt if you have his. He
seemed to me--a dangerous man, M. Baudouin."

"Did he use threats?" the Republican asked, a slight shade of anxiety in
his tone.

The Vicomte nodded.

"Did he mention any names?" M. Mirande continued, looking sharply at his
watch.

"Yes. Those of Carnot, Barrère--and I think, Tallien."

"Ah!" For a moment M. Mirande's impulse seemed to be to leave the room;
to leave it hurriedly, to go back perhaps whence he had come. But he
thought better of it, and after a pause he continued, "Had you not
something else to tell me?"

"I had," the young man answered, betraying, by his agitation, that he
had now come to the real purpose for which he had sought the interview.
"I wish to leave, M. Mirande. I wish to leave your house at once. I do
not know," he continued hurriedly, before the elder man could utter the
dry retort which was on his lips, "whether you had it in your mind to
try me by leaving me with your daughter, or whether I have only my own
weakness to thank. But I must go. I am ashamed of myself, I hate myself
for it; but I cannot be with her and not feel what I ought not to feel.
Understand me," the young man continued, his cheeks pale; "it is not by
reason of any charm of hers, but because she is so like--so like my
wife--because she seems a dozen times a day to be my wife, that my
memory is unfaithful to Corinne--that I dare not remain here another
day!"

He stopped abruptly. M. Mirande coughed.

"This is a strange confession," he said, after a long pause. "You have
said nothing to Claire?"

"Heaven forbid!"

"Then say nothing!" the Republican replied with curt decision. "As for
leaving this place to-day, it is impossible. A crisis is at hand; this
house is watched. You would be recognized and arrested before you passed
ten yards from the door. Moreover," he went on, seeming to ponder deeply
as he spoke, "if you are right about Baudouin--and I doubt now whether I
have been Wise to trust him--I see great and immediate danger before
me. Therefore, if you would not desert the sinking ship, you must
remain."

"I dare not," the young man muttered, shaking his head.

"What?" the old Girondin answered, his voice swelling, his eyes growing
bright. "You a noble, and you dare not? You a noble, and you cannot
govern yourself? Consider, M. le Vicomte! A few days may see me traverse
the road so many traverse every day; the road of the guillotine. Then my
daughter will be alone, defenceless, unprotected. I ask you--for I have
no one else to whom I can turn--to be her brother and her guardian. Do
you refuse?"

"You no longer distrust me?" the Vicomte muttered, his cheek hot.

"When you came to me a week ago," Mirande answered, "I did not foresee
this crisis, nor the present danger. If I had, I might have received you
differently. But, see you, what if this be the way in which I would try
you?" he continued with energy. "What if this be the atonement heaven
has assigned to you? In that case, do you accept, or do you refuse?"

"I accept," the Vicomte answered solemnly, carried away by the other's
burst of feeling. "I accept the charge."

M. Mirande smiled, but only for a moment. Quickly the light died out of
his face, leaving it stern and austere. His brow grew dark, and turning
with a sigh to his table, he signed to his companion to leave him, and
was presently immersed in figures and calculations.

The young man retired; on his side full of doubt and amazement, yet
lifted by the other's appeal to a higher level of will and purpose.
Confidence begets honour. Frankly as he had gone to the Girondin with
his confession, so frankly had the other received it. Now he felt that
it behoved him to deserve confidence. Henceforth Claire must be his
sister. But he knew that merely to call her sister was not all. He knew
enough of his own weakness to recognize the necessity of shunning
temptation, and during the next three days he was careful to avoid
conversation with the girl; who on her part seemed to observe nothing,
but went to and fro about her household duties.

And yet she did not go about them as usual, a keen observer would have
said. A subtle change had come over her. Alone in her room she sang to
herself low crooning songs of happiness. Her eyes, so carefully lowered
in the parlour, shone with a tender brightness, when no one saw them.
Her cheek had grown fuller, her colour stronger, her whole being
radiant. If she still went delicately when other's eyes were upon her,
it was rather in sympathy with the heavy air of fear and expectation
which pervaded the house, which pervaded the city, than in obedience to
her natural impulses.

On the third evening, M. Mirande, who had been abroad all day, came home
rather later than usual. The Vicomte and Claire were sitting in separate
rooms, but something ominous in the sound of his footstep as he mounted
the stairs, drew them both to the lobby to receive him. The evening
light, shining through the window behind them, fell full upon his face
and exaggerated its cold and grey severity. They waited for him in
silence, and he did not see them until he set his foot on the last step.
Then he pointed to his room, and, "Go in there, my children," he said
gravely.

The young man started. The girl blushed and trembled. They both obeyed.
M. Mirande's next act was equally surprising. Following them into the
room he proceeded to lock and bolt the door behind him; and then passing
quickly to the window he looked out. For a moment they stood behind him
in silence. After a pause the Vicomte spoke.

"What is it?" he said.

"The order for my arrest was signed an hour ago," the Girondin answered,
his eyes still glued to the window. "You are both included in it. Ah!
here they are!"

"Who?" the Vicomte asked with energy.

"Baudouin and three officers. However, the door is shut. It is strong,
and will gain us a few minutes."

"To what end?" The Vicomte spoke coldly. Mirande's conduct took him by
surprise, for resistance to arrest was rare during the Revolution. Such
men as Mirande, courageous, bigoted, devoted to an ideal, made a
point--unless they resorted to suicide--of submitting calmly to destiny
and the law.

The Girondin, however, had decided otherwise. Nor did he seem to be
aware of his companion's disapproval. He did not answer, but continued
to look out long after the tramp of heavy footsteps on the stairs had
drawn his daughter to his side. There was a loud summons without, "In
the name of the law!" but the three remained silent, standing close
together, the girl's white, scared face glimmering in the increasing
darkness of the room. The Vicomte a foot from her, could almost hear the
dull beating of her heart.

"Can nothing be done?" he muttered.

"We can do nothing but wait and be silent," the Republican answered
calmly. "They know we are here, but if we do not answer, they may pause
awhile before they attack the door. And every moment--is a moment
gained."

The Vicomte shrugged his shoulders, but acquiesced; and some minutes
elapsed--minutes which seemed hours to more than one of the
three--before the locksmith for whom the Commissary had sent, assailed
the door, and the almost empty house rang with the harsh sounds of his
hammer.

Crash! The door was open at last, letting into the room a flood of
light, and with the light three men who entered with levelled arms. The
foremost, an officer girt with a huge tricolour scarf, stopped abruptly,
his jaw dropping ludicrously as his eyes fell on the placid group before
him. "Citizen Achille Mirande?" he said interrogatively. "Yes? I am
empowered to arrest you in the name of the Committee of Safety; you,
your daughter also present I think--and a guest. This I presume is the
person?"

"It is," Mirande answered quietly. "Perhaps you will permit me to show
you where my papers are. They may be needed?"

"They will be needed," the Commissary replied, re-arranging his scarf,
which had been pulled awry. "You may certainly collect them under
surveillance."

"I can save M. Mirande the trouble," remarked a mocking voice in the
background. "I think I can lay my hand on any paper that may be
required."

"I do not doubt it, Baudouin," the Girondin answered placidly. "I take
it that I have to thank you for this?"

There was shame as well as triumph in the secretary's eyes as he came
forward. "You cannot say I did not warn you," he said, avoiding the look
of scorn which Claire--who stood by her father's side, her hand in
his--shot at him. "But you would go your way."

"And you, yours!" Mirande retorted. "An old way--Judas's. But hark you,
my friend! You seem to be prospering now. You have kicked down the
ladder by which you have risen. Yet it is in my power to wound you. See
you, do you know who this is?" and he pointed to the Vicomte who, with
his arms folded, was gazing haughtily at the Commissary and his
followers.

"A conspirator against the safety of the Republic--that is all I know,"
Baudouin answered sullenly.

"Possibly," said Mirande. "But not the less for that my son-in-law!"

"The Vicomte de Bercy!" Baudouin almost shouted. "It is false. I heard
of him but yesterday--at Nantes."

"You heard wrongly then!" Mirande answered with a cold sneer. "This is
the man whom you met at Meaux, and of whom you lied to me, saying--that
you might divide him effectually from my daughter--that he refused to
surrender himself to save her."

"It was true--what I told you," the secretary muttered, gazing at Bercy
with hatred.

"It was false!" cried the Girondin sternly. "Do I need evidence? I have
it. Whom shall I believe, you, who have betrayed me to-day, or he who
remained by my side in danger?"

"He could not escape," Baudouin said abruptly. His face was pale, the
perspiration stood on his brow. His jealous eyes glared askance at the
girl's face. Mirande had said rightly. He had yet the power to wound
this traitor.

"He did not attempt it," the Girondin answered. "And besides, I have
tried him as gold in the fire! Look you at this. Bercy!" As the name
rang through the room the speaker turned to the Vicomte and took his
hand, "My friend, I have deceived you. My daughter did not die. I
procured her pardon by the use of such influence as I possessed at that
time. But having done that, deluded by this villain's tale, I forced her
to renounce you and to take her maiden name."

For an instant there was silence in the room.

"She did not die?" the young man muttered, his eyes dilating. Then,
before an answer could be given, he plucked his hand from Mirande's
grasp and seizing him by the shoulder shook him to and fro.

"Where is she?" he cried hoarsely. "Speak, man, what have you done with
her? Where is she?"

"She is behind you."

Bercy turned. Claire was behind him. "Claire?" he cried. "Claire?"

The girl stood, her eyes slightly downcast, her arms hanging by her
sides. And then at the sound of the name uttered a second time, she
looked up, her eyes swimming with love and tears. "No, Corinne!" she
said simply. And then, in a voice which pierced the traitor's bosom as
with a sword, she continued, "Honoré, my husband! Forgive me! Forgive
me that I distrusted you! That I disowned you!"

He did not answer, but he opened his arms and took her into them and
held her there; while the father went to the window--perhaps to hide his
emotion, and the Commissary lifted up his hands in admiration genuine
and French of this moving scene. As for Baudouin, he bit his nails, his
face white with rage.

He cursed the delay. He would have cursed the police, had he dared, and
had not the tricolour scarf awed him. "Bah!" he exclaimed at last in
venomous tones, "a fine piece of play-acting, M. Mirande! And our
friends here have indulgently given you time for it. But it is over, and
the sequel will be less pleasant, I fear. He laughs best who laughs
last."

"That is true," Mirande answered soberly; and for an instant from his
place at the window, he looked into the room.

"In three days you will sneeze into the sack, my friends," Baudouin
continued with savage mockery. "Your married bliss, M. le Vicomte, will
last but a short time, I fear. As for mademoiselle, Sanson will prove
but a rough coiffeur, I doubt."

"Silence!" the Girondin cried; and his tone was strangely altered, his
voice vibrated strangely through the room. "Silence, you hound!" he
continued, turning from the window and walking into the middle of the
chamber, his figure drawn to its full height, his hand outstretched. "Be
still, and tremble for your own head. The warrant you bring is signed by
Maximilien Robespierre?"

"The Incorruptible," murmured the Commissary. And saluted.

"Corruptible or Incorruptible," Mirande rejoined, with a sneer, "he is
fallen! He is fallen! Within the last ten minutes he has been arrested
and lodged in the Tuileries!"

"You rave!" cried the officer. While Bercy and Corinne cast dazed
glances about them, and the other men stared in stupid wonder.

"I do not rave!" the Girondin answered, standing in the middle of the
room, the master of the situation. "I tell but the fact. Mark the three
lighted candles in yonder upper window. They are a signal that
Robespierre is arrested. Go, if you doubt me, and ask. Or--you need not.
Listen, listen!" With a gesture of command, he raised his hand, and all
stood silent. For an instant there seemed equal silence in the streets
below; but gradually as they listened there grew out of this silence a
distant hollow murmur, as of a great sea swelling higher and louder with
each moment. The face of more than one in the room lost its colour.

"The Faubourgs are rising," muttered the Commissary uneasily. "There is
something amiss."

"On the contrary," answered the Girondin quietly, "there is nothing
amiss, but things are in a fair way to be set straight. If you will
take my advice you will tear up that warrant, my friend. To-morrow it
will be more dangerous to you than to me. The Terror of these days is
over," he continued solemnly. "For those who have profited by it the
reckoning remains!"

M. Mirande was right. Abruptly as this narration ends, the Terror, so
famous in history, came to its end; and many a life held worthless a few
minutes before was saved. For twenty-four hours indeed the fate of
Robespierre and indirectly of our friends hung in the balance, all men
trembling and watching what would happen and who would prevail. Then he
fell, and the cruelty of his rule recoiled on his associates. What
became of Baudouin is not known for certain, though one tale alleges
that he was met and murdered by a company of Royalists near Nantes, and
another, that he was guillotined under another name with Fouquier
Tinville and his gang. Enough that he disappeared unmarked and
unregretted, along with many others of the baser and more obscure
adventurers of the time.

Of Bercy and Corinne, re-wedded under circumstances so strange and so
abnormal, we know only that their descendants, well versed in this
tradition of the family, still flourish on the Loire, and often and
often tell this tale under the walnut-trees on summer evenings. Nor are
there wanting to-day both a Corinne and a Claire.



IN THE NAME OF THE LAW!


On the moorland above the old grey village of Carhaix, in
Finistère--Finistère, the most westerly province of Brittany--stands a
cottage, built, as all the cottages in that country are, of rough-hewn
stones. It is a poor, rude place to-day, but it wore an aspect still
more rude and primitive a hundred years ago--on an August day in the
year 1793, when a man issued from the low doorway, and, shading his eyes
from the noonday sun, gazed long and fixedly in the direction of a
narrow rift which a few score paces away breaks the monotony of the
upland level. The man was tall and thin and unkempt, and his features,
which expressed a mixture of cunning and simplicity, matched his figure.
He gazed a while in silence, but at length he uttered a grunt of
satisfaction as the figure of a woman rose gradually into sight. She
came slowly towards him in a stooping posture, dragging behind her a
great load of straw, which completely hid the little sledge on which it
rested, and which was attached to her waist by a rope of twisted hay.

The figure of a woman--rather of a girl. As she drew nearer it could be
seen that her cheeks, though brown and sunburned, were as smooth as a
child's. She seemed to be still in her teens. Her head was bare, and her
short petticoats, of some coarse stuff, left visible bare feet thrust
into wooden shoes. She advanced with her head bent, and her shoulders
strained forward, her face dull and patient. Once, and once only, when
the man's eyes left her for a moment, she shot at him a look of scared
apprehension; and later, when she came abreast of him, her breath coming
and going with her exertions, he might have seen, had he looked closely,
that her strong brown limbs were trembling under her.

But the man noticed nothing in his impatience, and only chid her for her
slowness. "Where have you been dawdling, lazy-bones?" he cried.

She murmured, without halting, that the sun was hot.

"Sun hot!" he retorted. "Jeanne is lazy, that is it! _Mon Dieu_, that I
should have married a wife who is tired by noon! I had better have left
you to that never-do-well Pierre Bounat. But I have news for you, my
girl."

He lounged after her as he spoke, his low cunning face--the face of the
worst kind of French peasant--flickering with cruel pleasure, as he saw
how she winced at the name he had mentioned. She made him no answer,
however. Instead, she drew her load with increased vehemence towards one
of the two doors which led into the building. "Well, well, I will tell
you presently," he called after her. "Be quick and come to dinner."

He entered himself by the other door. The house was divided into two
chambers by a breast-high partition of wood. The one room served for
kitchen; the other, now half full of straw, was barn and granary,
fowl-house and dove-cote, all in one. "Be quick!" he called to her.
Standing in the house-room, he could see her head as she proceeded to
unload the straw.

After a few minutes she came in, her shoes clattering on the floor. The
perspiration stood in great beads on her forehead, and showed how little
she had deserved his reproach. She took her seat silently, avoiding his
eyes with some care; but he thought nothing of this. It was no new
thing. It pleased him, if anything.

He liked to be feared. "Well, my Jeanne," he said, in his gibing tone,
"are you longing for my news?"

The hand she extended towards the pitcher of cider, that, with black
bread and onions, made up their meal, shook a little; but she answered
simply, "If you please, Michel."

"Well, the Girondins have got the worst of it, my girl, and are flying
all over the country. That is the news. Your Pierre is among them, I
don't doubt, if he has not been killed already. I wish he would come
this way."

"Why?" she asked; and as she spoke looked up at last, a flash of light
in her grey eyes.

"Why?" he repeated, grinning across the table at her, "because he would
be worth five crowns to me. There is five crowns, I am told, on the head
of every Girondin who has been in arms, my girl. Five crowns! It is not
every day we can earn five crowns!"

The French Revolution, it will be understood, was at its height. The
more moderate and constitutional Republicans--the Girondins, as they
were called--worsted in Paris by the Jacobins and the mob, had lately
tried to raise the provinces against the capital, and to this end had
drawn together at Caen, near the border of Brittany. They had been
defeated, however, and the Jacobins, in this month of August, were
preparing to take a fearful vengeance at once on them and on the
Royalists. The Reign of Terror had begun. Even to such a boor as this,
sitting over his black bread, in his remote hovel, the Revolution had
come home, and, in common with many a thousand others, he wondered what
he could make of it.

The girl did not answer, even by the look of contempt to which he had
become accustomed, and for which he hated her, and for which he beat
her; and he repeated, "Five crowns! Ah, it is money, that is! _Mon
Dieu!_" Then, with a sudden exclamation, he sprang up. "What is that?"
he cried.

He had been sitting with his back to the barn, but he turned, as he
spoke, so as to face it. Something had startled him--a movement, a
rustling in the straw behind him. "What is that?" he asked again, his
hand on the table, his face lowering and watchful.

The girl had risen also; and, as the last word passed his lips, sprang
by him with a low cry, and aimed a frantic blow with her stool at
something he could not see, something low, on the floor.

"What is it?" he asked, recoiling.

"A rat!" she answered, breathless. And she aimed another blow at it.

"Where?" he asked sharply. "Where is it?" He snatched up his stool, too,
and at that moment a rat darted out of the straw, ran nimbly between his
legs, and plunged into a hole by the door. He flung the wooden stool
after it; but in vain. "It was a rat!" he said, as if until then he had
doubted it.

"Thank God!" she muttered. She was shaking all over.

He stared at her in stupid wonder. What did she mean? What had come to
her? "Have you had a sunstroke my girl?" he said suspiciously.

Her nut-brown face was a shade less brown than usual, but she met his
eyes boldly. "No," she said, "I am all right." And she added an
explanation that for the moment satisfied him. But he did not sit down
again, and when she went out he went out also. And though, as she
retired slowly to the rye fields and her work, she repeatedly looked
back at him, it was always to find his eyes fixed upon her. When this
had happened half a dozen times, a thought struck him. "How now?" he
muttered. "The rat ran out of the straw! Why?"

Nevertheless he continued to gaze after her, with a cunning look upon
his features, until she disappeared over the edge of the rift. Then he
crept back to the door of the barn, and stole in, exchanging the
sunlight for the cool darkness of the raftered building, across which a
dozen rays of light were shooting, laden with dancing motes. A pace or
two from the door he stood stock still until he had regained the use of
his eyes; then he began to peer round him. In a moment, far sooner than
he expected, he found what he sought. Half upon, and half hidden by, the
straw in the furthest corner, lay a young man, in the deep sleep of
utter exhaustion. His face, which bore traces of more than common
beauty, was white and pinched; his hair hung dank about his forehead.
His clothes were in rags; and his feet, bound up with pieces torn at
random from his blouse, were raw and bleeding. For a short time Michel
Tellier bent over him, noting these things with glistening eyes. Then
the peasant stole out again. "It is five crowns!" he muttered, blinking
in the sunlight. "Ha, ha! Five crowns!"

He looked round him cautiously, but could see no sign of his wife; and
after hesitating and pondering a minute or two, he took the path for
Carhaix, his native astuteness leading him to saunter at a slow pace
after his ordinary fashion. When he was gone the moorland about the
cottage lay still and deserted. Thrice, at intervals, the girl dragged
home her load of straw, but on each occasion she seemed to linger in the
barn no longer than was necessary. Michel's absence, though it was
unlooked-for, raised no suspicion in her breast, for he would frequently
go down to the village to spend the afternoon. The sun sank lower, and
the shadow of the great monolith, which, on the crest of the highest
point of the moor, at a distance of a mile, rose gaunt and black against
a roseate sky, grew longer and longer; and then, as twilight fell, the
two coming home met a few paces from the cottage. He asked some
questions about the work she had been doing, and she answered briefly.
Then, silent and uncommunicative, they went in together. The girl set
the bread and cider on the table, and going to the great black pot which
had been simmering all day upon the fire, poured some broth into two
pitchers. It did not escape Michel's frugal eye that she was careful to
leave a little broth in the bottom of the pot; and the fact induced a
new feeling in him--anger. When his wife invited him by a sign to the
meal, he went instead to the door, and fastened it. Then he moved to the
corner and picked up the wood-chopper, and armed with this he came back
to his seat.

The girl watched his movements first with surprise, then with secret
terror. The twilight was come, the cottage was almost dark, and she was
alone with him; or, if not alone, yet with no one near who could help
her. Nevertheless she met his grin of triumph bravely. "What is this?"
she said. "Why do you want that?"

"For the rat," he answered grimly, his eyes on hers.

Her heart sank. "The rat?" she echoed.

"Ay!"

"Why not--your stool?" she strove to murmur.

"Not for this rat," he answered cunningly. "It might not do, my girl.
Oh, I know what is to do," he continued, fingering the edge of the axe.
"I have been down to the village, and seen the mayor, and he is coming
up to fetch him." He nodded towards the partition, and she knew that her
secret was known.

"It is Pierre," she said, trembling violently, and turning first crimson
and then a dull sallow hue.

"I know it, Jeanne. It was excellent of you! Excellent! It is long since
you have done such a day's work."

"You will not give him up?" she gasped.

"My faith, I shall!" he answered, affecting, and perhaps really feeling,
wonder at her simplicity. "He is five crowns, my girl! You do not
understand. He is worth five crowns and the risk nothing at all."

If he had been angry, if he had shown anything of the fury of the
suspicious husband, if he had been about to do this out of jealousy or
revenge or passion she would have quailed before him, though she had
done him no wrong, save the wrong of mercy and pity. But his spirit was
too mean for the great passions; he felt only the mean and sordid
impulses, which to a woman are the most hateful. And instead of
quailing, she looked at him with flashing eyes. "I shall warn him," she
said.

"It will not help him," he answered, sitting still, and feeling anew the
edge of the hatchet with his fingers.

"It will help him," she retorted. "He shall go. He shall escape before
they come." She rose impetuously from her seat.

"I have locked the door!"

"Give me the key!" she panted. "Give me the key, I say!" She stood
before him, her trembling hands outstretched, her figure drawn to its
full height. Her look was such that he rose and retreated behind the
table, still retaining the hatchet in his grasp.

"Stand back!" he said sullenly. "You may awaken him, if you please, my
girl. It will not avail him. Do you not understand, fool, that he is
worth five crowns? Five crowns? And listen! It is too late now. They are
here!"

A blow fell on the door as he spoke, and he stepped towards it. But at
that, seeing the last chance leaving her, despair moved her, she threw
herself upon him; for a moment she wrestled with him like a wild-cat,
but in the end he prevailed; he flung her off, and, brandishing his
weapon in her face, kept her at bay. "You vixen!" he cried, retreating
to the door, with a pale cheek and his eyes still on her, for he was an
arrant coward. "You deserve to go to prison with him, you jade! I will
have you in the stocks for this! I'll have you jailed!"

She leaned against the wall where he had flung her, her white despairing
face seeming to shine in the darkness of the wretched room. Meanwhile
the continuous murmur of men's voices outside the door could be heard
mingled with the clatter of weapons; the summons for admission was
repeated, and again repeated, as if those without had no mind to be kept
waiting long.

"Patience! patience! I am opening!" he cried. Still keeping his face to
her, he unlocked the door and called on the men to enter. "He is in the
straw, M. le Maire!" he said, in a tone of triumph, his eyes still on
his wife. "Cursed Girondin! He will give you no trouble, I will answer
it! But first give me my five crowns, M. le Maire. My five crowns!"

He felt, craven as he was, so much fear of his wife that he did not turn
to see the men enter, and he was taken by surprise when a voice at his
elbow--a voice he did not know--answered, "Five crowns, my friend? For
what, may I ask?"

In his eagerness and greed he suspected nothing, but that on some
pretext or other they were trying to filch from him his dues. "For what?
For the Girondin!" he answered rapidly. Then at last he did turn and
found that half a dozen men had entered, that more were entering. But to
his astonishment, they were all strangers--men with stern, gloomy faces,
and armed to the teeth. There was something so formidable, indeed, in
their appearance that he stepped back, and his voice faltered as he
added: "But where is the mayor, gentlemen? I do not see him."

No one answered, but in silence the last of the men--they were eleven in
all--entered and bolted the door behind him. Michel Tellier peered at
them in the gloom with growing alarm, nay, with growing terror. In
return the tallest of the strangers, he who had entered first and seemed
to command the others, looked round him keenly. And it was he who at
length broke the silence. "So you have a Girondin here, have you?" he
said, his voice curiously sweet and sonorous.

"I was to have five crowns for him," Michel muttered dubiously.

"Oh!" and then, "Pétion," the spokesman continued to one of his
companions, "can you kindle a light? It strikes me that we have hit upon
a dark place."

The man addressed took something from his pouch. For a moment there was
silence, broken only by the sharp sound of the flint striking the steel.
Then a slow-growing glare lit up the dark interior, and disclosed the
group of cloaked strangers standing about the door, the light gleaming
back from their trailing sabres and great horse-pistols. Michel
trembled. He had never seen such men as these. True, they were wet and
travel-stained, and had the air of those who spend their nights in
ditches and under haystacks. But their pale, stern faces were set in
indomitable resolve. Their eyes glowed with a steady fire, and they trod
the mud floor as kings tread. Their leader was a man of majestic height
and stern beauty, and in his eyes alone there seemed to lurk a spark of
lighter fire, as if his spirit still rose above the task which had
sobered his companions. Michel noted all this in fear and bewilderment;
noted the white head yet the vigorous bearing of the man who had struck
the light; noted even the manner in which the light died away in the dim
recesses of the barn.

"And this Girondin--is he in hiding here?" the tall man asked.

"That is so," Michel answered. "But I had nothing to do with hiding him,
citizen. It was my wife hid him in the straw there."

"And you gave notice of his presence to the authorities?" the stranger
continued, raising his hand to repress some movement among his
followers.

"Certainly, or you would not be here," replied Michel, better satisfied
with himself.

The answer struck him, prostrated him, with an awful terror. "That does
not follow," the tall man rejoined coolly, "for we, we, also, are
Girondins!"

"You are? You?"

"Without doubt," the other answered, with majestic simplicity; "or there
are no such persons. This is Pétion of Paris, and this citizen Buzot.
Have you heard of Louvet? There he stands. For me, I am Barbaroux."

Michel's tongue remained glued to the roof of his mouth. He could not
utter a word. But another could. On the far side of the barrier a
rustling was heard, and while all turned to look--but with what
different feelings--the pale face of the youth over whom Michel had bent
in the afternoon appeared above the partition. A smile of joyful
recognition effaced for the time the lines of exhaustion. The young man,
clinging for support to the planks, uttered a cry of thankfulness. "It
is you! It is really you! You are safe!" he exclaimed. Love beamed in
his eyes.

"We are safe, all of us, Pierre," Barbaroux answered. "And now"--he
turned to Michel Tellier with thunder in his voice--"know that this man
whom you would have betrayed is our guide, whom we lost last night.
Speak, then, in your defence, if you can. Say what you have to say why
justice should not be done upon you, miserable caitiff, who would have
sold a man's life, as you would sell a sheep's, for a few pieces of
silver!"

The wretched peasant's knees trembled under him; the perspiration stood
upon his brow. He heard the voice as the voice of a judge or an
executioner. He looked in the stern eyes of the Girondins, and read only
anger, doom, vengeance. Then he caught in the silence the sound of his
wife weeping, for at Pierre's appearance she had broken into wild
sobbing; and on that he spoke out of the base instincts of his heart.
"He was her lover," he muttered. "I swear it, citizens."

"He lies!" the man at the barrier cried, his face transfigured with
rage. "I loved her once, it is true, but it was before her old father
sold her to this Judas. For what he would have you believe now, my
friends, it is false. I, too, swear it."

A murmur of execration broke from the group of Girondins. Barbaroux
repressed it by a gesture. "What do you say of this man?" he asked,
turning to them, his tone deep and solemn.

"He is not fit to live!" they answered with one voice.

The poor coward screamed as he heard the words, and, flinging himself on
the ground, he embraced Barbaroux's knees in a paroxysm of terror. But
the judge did not look at him. Barbaroux turned, instead, to Pierre
Bounat. "What do you say of him?" he asked.

"He is not fit to live," the young man answered solemnly, his breath
coming quick and fast.

"And you?" Barbaroux continued, turning and looking with eyes of fire at
the wife. And his voice was still more solemn.

A moment before she had ceased to weep, and had stood up listening and
gazing, awe and wonder in her face. Barbaroux had to repeat his question
before she answered. Then she said, "He is not fit to die."

There was silence for a moment, broken only by the entreaties, the
prayers, of the wretch on the floor. At last Barbaroux spoke. "She has
said rightly," he pronounced. "He shall live. They have put us out of
the law and set a price on our heads; but we will keep the law. He shall
live. Yet, hark you," the great orator continued, in tones which Michel
never forgot, "if a whisper escape you as to our presence here, or as to
our names, or if you wrong your wife from this time forth by word or
deed, the life she has saved shall pay for it.

"Remember!" he added, shaking Michel to and fro with a finger, "the arm
of Barbaroux of Marseilles is long, and though I be a hundred leagues
away, I shall know and I shall punish. So, beware! Now rise, and live!"

The miserable man cowered back to the wall, frightened to the core of
his heart. The Girondins conferred a while in whispers, two of their
number assisting Pierre to cross the barrier. Suddenly on their talk
there broke--and Michel trembled anew as he heard it--a loud knocking at
the door. All started and stood listening and waiting. A voice cried:
"Open! open! in the name of the law!"

"We have lingered too long," Barbaroux muttered. "I should have thought
of this. It is the Mayor of Carhaix come to apprehend our friend."

Again the Girondins conferred together. At last, seeming to arrive at a
conclusion, they ranged themselves on either side of the door, and one
of their number opened it. A short, stout man, girt with a tricolour
sash, and wearing a huge sword, entered with an air of authority.
Blinded by the gush of light he saw, at his first entrance, nothing out
of the common; he was followed by four men armed with muskets.

Their appearance produced an extraordinary effect on Michel Tellier. As
they crossed the threshold one by one, the peasant leaned forward, his
face flushed, his eyes gleaming; and he counted them. They were only
five. And the others were twelve. He fell back, and from that moment his
belief in the Girondins' power was clinched.

"In the name of the law!" the mayor panted. He was a little out of
breath. "Why did you not----" Then he stopped abruptly, his mouth
remaining open. He found himself surrounded by a group of grim, silent
mutes, with arms in their hands; and in a twinkling it flashed into his
mind that these were the eleven chiefs of the Girondins, whom he had
been warned to keep watch for, and to take. He had come to catch a
pigeon and had caught a crow. He turned pale and his eyes dropped. "Who
are--who are these gentlemen?" he stammered, in a tone suddenly and
ludicrously fallen.

"Some volunteers of Quimper, returning home," replied Barbaroux, with
ironical smoothness.

"You have your papers, citizens?" the mayor asked, mechanically; and he
took a step backwards towards the door, and looked over his shoulder.

"Here they are!" said Pétion rudely, thrusting a packet into his hands.
"They are in order."

The mayor took them, and longing only to see the outside of the door,
pretended to look through them, his little heart going pit-a-pat within
him. "They seem to be in order," he assented, feebly. "I need not
trouble you further, citizens. I came here under a misapprehension, I
find, and I wish you a good journey."

He knew, as he backed out, that he was cutting a poor figure. And he
would fain have made a more dignified retreat. But before these men,
fugitives and outlaws as they were, he felt, though he was Mayor of
Carhaix, almost as small a man as did Michel Tellier. These were the men
of the Revolution, nay, they were the Revolution. They had bearded
Capet, they had shattered the régime of centuries, they had pulled down
kings. There was Barbaroux, who had grappled with Marat; and Pétion, the
Mayor of the Bastille. The little Mayor of Carhaix knew greatness when
he saw it. He turned tail, and hurried back to his fireside, his
body-guard not a whit behind him in their desire to be gone.

Five minutes later the men he feared and envied came out also, and went
their way, passing in single file into the darkness which brooded over
the great monolith; beginning, brave hearts, another of the few stages
which still lay between them and the guillotine. Then in the cottage
there remained only Michel and Jeanne. She sat by the dying embers,
silent, and lost in thought. He leaned against the wall, his eyes roving
ceaselessly, but always when his gaze met hers it fell. Barbaroux had
conquered him. It was not until Jeanne had risen to close the door, and
he was alone, that he wrung his hands, and muttered: "Five crowns! Five
crowns gone and wasted!"


THE END


       *       *       *       *       *


UNDER THE RED ROBE.

A ROMANCE.

BY STANLEY J. WEYMAN,

AUTHOR OF "A GENTLEMAN OF FRANCE," "THE HOUSE OF THE WOLF," ETC.


With 12 Full-page Illustrations by R. Caton Woodville. 12mo, Linen
Cloth, Ornamental, $1.25.


"Mr. Weyman is a brave writer, who imagines fine things and describes
them splendidly. There is something to interest a healthy mind on every
page of his new Story. Its interest never flags, for his resource is
rich, and it is, moreover, the kind of a story that one cannot plainly
see the end of from Chapter I.... the story reveals a knowledge of
French character and French landscape that was surely never acquired at
second hand. The beginning is wonderfully interesting."--NEW YORK TIMES.

"As perfect a novel of the new school of fiction as 'Ivanhoe' or 'Henry
Esmond' was of theirs. Each later story has shown a marked advance in
strength and treatment, and in the last Mr. Weyman ... demonstrates that
he has no superior among living novelists.... There are but two
characters in the story--his art makes all other but unnoticed shadows
cast by them--and the attention is so keenly fixed upon one or both,
from the first word to the last, that we live in their thoughts and see
the drama unfolded through their eyes."--N. Y. WORLD.

"It was bold to take Richelieu and his time as a subject and thus to
challenge comparison with Dumas's immortal musketeers; but the result
justifies the boldness.... The plot is admirably clear and strong, the
diction singularly concise and telling, and the stirring events are so
managed as not to degenerate into sensationalism. Few better novels of
adventure than this have ever been written."--OUTLOOK, NEW YORK.

"A wonderfully brilliant and thrilling romance.... Mr. Weyman has a
positive talent for concise dramatic narration. Every phrase tells, and
the characters stand out with life-like distinctness. Some of the most
fascinating epochs in French history have been splendidly illuminated by
his novels, which are to be reckoned among the notable successes of
later nineteenth-century fiction. This story of 'Under the Red Robe' is
in its way one of the very best things he has done. It is illustrated
with rigor and appropriateness from twelve full-page designs by R. Caton
Woodville."--BOSTON BEACON.

"It is a skillfully drawn picture of the times, drawn in simple and
transparent English, and quivering with tense human feeling from the
first word to the last. It is not a book that can be laid down at the
middle of it. The reader once caught in its whirl can no more escape
from it than a ship from the maelstrom."--PICAYUNE, NEW ORLEANS.

"The 'red robe' refers to Cardinal Richelieu, in whose day the story is
laid. The descriptions of his court, his judicial machinations and
ministrations, his partial defeat, stand out from the book as vivid as
flame against a background of snow. For the rest, the book is clever and
interesting, and overflowing with heroic incident. Stanley Weyman is an
author who has apparently come to stay."--CHICAGO POST.

"In this story Mr. Weyman returns to the scene of his 'Gentleman of
France,' although his new heroes are of different mould. The book is
full of adventure and characterized by a deeper study of character than
its predecessor."--WASHINGTON POST.

"Mr. Weyman has quite topped his first success.... The author artfully
pursues the line on which his happy initial venture was laid. We have in
Berault, the hero, a more impressive Marsac; an accomplished duelist,
telling the tale of his own adventures, he first repels and finally
attracts us. He is at once the tool of Richelieu, and a man of honor.
Here is a noteworthy romance, full of thrilling incident set down by a
master-hand."--PHILADELPHIA PRESS.


       *       *       *       *       *


THE RED COCKADE.

A NOVEL OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION.

BY STANLEY J. WEYMAN,

AUTHOR OF "A GENTLEMAN OF FRANCE," "UNDER THE RED ROBE," "THE HOUSE OF
THE WOLF," "MY LADY ROTHA," ETC.


With 48 Illustrations by R. Caton Woodville. Crown 8vo, Cloth,
ornamental, $1.50.


"Deserves a place among the best historical fiction of the latter part
of this century. The gradual maddening of the people by agitators, the
rising of those who have revenges to feed, the burnings and the outrages
are described in a masterly way. The attack on the castle of St. Alais,
the hideous death of the steward, the looting of the great building, and
the escape of the young lovers--these incidents are told in that
breathless way which Weyman has made familiar in other stories. It is
only when one has finished the book and has gone back to reread certain
passages that the dramatic power and the sustained passion of these
scenes are clearly felt."--SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE.

"'The Red Cockade,' a story of the French Revolution, shows, in the
first place, careful study and deliberate, well-directed effort. Mr.
Weyman ... has caught the spirit of the times.... The book is brimful of
romantic incidents. It absorbs one's interest from the first page to the
last; it depicts human character with truth, and it causes the good and
brave to triumph. In a word, it is real romance."--SYRACUSE POST.

"We have in this novel a powerful but not an exaggerated study of the
spirit of the high born and the low born which centuries of aristocratic
tyranny and democratic suffering engendered in France. It is history
which we read here, and not romance, but history which is so perfectly
written, so veritable, that it blends with the romantic associations in
which it is set as naturally as the history in Shakespeare's plays
blends with the poetry which vitalizes and glorifies it."--MAIL AND
EXPRESS, NEW YORK.

"It will be scarcely more than its due to say that this will always rank
among Weyman's best work. In the troublous times of 1789 in France its
action is laid, and with marvellous skill the author has delineated the
most striking types of men and women who made the Revolution so
terrible."--NEW YORK WORLD.

"'The Red Cockade' is a novel of events, instinct with the spirit of the
eighteenth century and full of stirring romance. The tragic period of
the French Revolution forms a frame in which to set the adventures of
Adrien du Pont, Vicomte de Saux, and the part he plays in those days of
peril has a full measure of dramatic interest.... Mr. Weyman has
evidently studied the history of the revolution with a profound
realization of its intense tragedy."--DETROIT FREE PRESS.

"The action of the story is rapid and powerful. The Vicomte's struggle
with his own prejudices, his unhappy position in regard to his friends,
the perils he encounters, and the great bravery he shows in his devotion
to Denise are strikingly set forth, while the historical background is
made vivid and convincing--the frenzy caused by the fall of the Bastile,
the attacks of the mob, the defence and strategy of the nobility, all
being described with dramatic skill and verisimilitude. It is a
fascinating and absorbing tale, which carries the reader with it, and
impresses itself upon the mind as only a novel of unusual merit and
power can do."--BOSTON BEACON.

"The story gives a view of the times which is apart from the usual, and
marked with a fine study of history and of human conditions and impulse
on Mr. Weyman's part. Regarding his varied and well-chosen characters
one cares only to say that they are full of interest and admirably
portrayed.... It is one of the most spirited stories of the hour, and
one of the most delightfully freighted with suggestion."--CHICAGO
INTERIOR.

"With so striking a character for his hero, it is not wonderful that Mr.
Weyman has evolved a story that for ingenuity of plot and felicity of
treatment is equal to some of his best efforts.... 'The Red Cockade' is
one of the unmistakably strong historical romances of the
season."--BOSTON HERALD.

"We are greatly mistaken if the 'Red Cockade' does not take rank with
the very best book that Mr. Weyman has written."--SCOTSMAN.


       *       *       *       *       *


SOPHIA

BY STANLEY J. WEYMAN

AUTHOR OF "A GENTLEMAN OF FRANCE," "UNDER THE RED ROBE," ETC.


With 12 Illustrations by C. Hammond. Crown 8vo, cloth, ornamental,
$1.50.


"Mr. Weyman's new romance illustrates the types and manners of
fashionable London society in the year 1742. In everything that means
the revival of an historical atmosphere it is skilful, and, on the
whole, just. The characters also are well realized.... 'Sophia' is a
decidedly interesting novel.... The tale moves swiftly, hurrying on from
the town to the heath, from hatred to love, from imprisonment on bread
and water to diamonds ... and a dozen other things. Sophia, the heroine,
is a bundle of girlish foolishness and charms. 'Sophia,' the book, is a
bundle of more or less extraordinary episodes woven into a story in the
most beguiling manner."--NEW YORK TRIBUNE, April, 1900.

"It is a good, lively, melodramatic story of love and adventure ... it
is safe to say that nobody who reads the lively episode in the first
chapter will leave the book unfinished, because there is not a moment's
break in the swift and dramatic narrative until the last page.... The
dramatic sequence is nearly faultless."--TRIBUNE, CHICAGO.

"Sophia, with her mistakes, her adventures, and her final surrender;
Sophia moving among the eighteenth century world of fashion at Vauxhall;
Sophia flying through the country roads, pursued by an adventurer, and
Sophia captured by her husband, transport one so far from this
work-a-day life that the reader comes back surprised to find that this
prosaic world is still here after that too-brief excursion into the
realm of fancy."--NEW YORK COMMERCIAL ADVERTISER.

"The gem of the book is its description of the long coach-ride made by
Sophia to Sir Hervey's home in Sussex, the attempt made by highwaymen to
rob her, and her adventures at the paved ford and in the house made
silent by smallpox, where she took refuge. This section of the story is
almost as breathless as Smollett.... In the general firmness of touch,
and sureness of historic portrayal, the book deserves high
praise."--BUFFALO EXPRESS.

"'Sophia' contains, in its earlier part, a series of incidents that is,
we believe, the most ingenious yet planned by its author.... The
adventure develops and grows, the tension increases with each page, to
such an extent that the hackneyed adjective, 'breathless,' finds an
appropriate place."--NEW YORK MAIL AND EXPRESS.

"'Sophia,' his latest, is also one of his best. A delightful spirit of
adventure hangs about the story; something interesting happens in every
chapter. The admirable ease of style, the smooth and natural dialogue,
the perfect adjustment of events and sequences conceal all the usual
obtrusive mechanism, and hold the curiosity of the reader throughout the
development of an excellent plot and genuine people."--PUBLIC LEDGER,
PHILADELPHIA, PA.

"Those who read Mr. Stanley J. Weyman's 'Castle Inn' with delight, will
find in his 'Sophia' an equally brilliant performance, in which they are
introduced to another part of the Georgian era.... Mr. Weyman knows the
eighteenth century from top to bottom, and could any time be more
suitable for the writer of romance?... There is only one way to define
the subtle charm and distinction of this book, and that is to say that
it deserves a place on the book-shelf beside those dainty volumes in
which Mr. Austin Dobson has embalmed the very spirit of the period of
the hoop and the patch, the coffee-house, and the sedan chair. And could
Mr. Stanley Weyman ask for better company for his books than
that?"--EVENING SUN, NEW YORK.

"Contains what is probably the most ingenious and exciting situation
even he has ever invented."--BOOK BUYER, NEW YORK.


       *       *       *       *       *


THE CASTLE INN.

A ROMANCE.

BY STANLEY J. WEYMAN.

AUTHOR OF "A GENTLEMAN OF FRANCE," "UNDER THE RED ROBE," "SHREWSBURY,"
ETC., ETC.


With six full-page Illustrations by Walter Appleton Clark. Crown 8vo,
Cloth, ornamental, $1.50.


A tale which is full of old-world romance and adventure. It has a strong
flavor of the under life in England when George the Third was young,
when sign-posts served also as gibbets, when travel was by coach and
highwaymen were many, when men drank deep and played high. There are
plenty of stirring scenes along the way, plenty of treachery and
fighting at cross-purposes which lead to intricate and dramatic
situations. The heroine's charms recall Mlle. de Cocheforet in 'Under
the Red Robe,' and she proves herself a maid of spirit through all the
mishaps which befall her. One of the most notable things about 'The
Castle Inn' is the way in which Mr. Weyman has caught the spirit of the
age, and manages to imbue his readers with its feeling."--DETROIT FREE
PRESS.

" ... In 'The Castle Inn,' this master of romance tells a story of the
time of George III, in the third person.... A story of rapid action,
with a swinging succession of moving incidents that keep the reader
incessantly on the _qui vive_. It deals with human emotions with
directness and thoughtfulness."--THE PRESS, PHILA., PA.

" ... 'The Castle Inn' ... is so fresh and entertaining that it takes
one back to 'A Gentleman of France,' and other good things this author
did several years ago. Mr. Weyman, in looking about for an appropriate
setting for his romance, very wisely eschews scenes and people of
to-day, and chooses, instead, England a hundred and thirty years ago,
when George III. was on her throne, and living was a far more
picturesque business than it is now. Beautiful maidens could be
kidnapped then; daring lovers faced pistols and swords in behalf of
their sweethearts, and altogether the pace was a lively one. Mr. Weyman
knows how to use the attractive colorings to the best advantage
possible."--CHICAGO EVENING POST.

" ... a piece of work which is infinitely better than anything else
which he has accomplished. He has treated the eighteenth century, the
time of the elder Pitt, with a grasp and a sympathy that presage a
greater reputation for this novelist than he has enjoyed hitherto. The
story itself is worth the telling, but the great thing is the way it is
told."--NEW YORK SUN.

" ... he has a firm grasp of his period in this book, and revives the
atmosphere of the last century in England, with its shallow graces and
profound brutality, coherently and even with eloquence ... it is a most
interesting story, which should please the reader of romantic tastes and
sustain the author's reputation."--NEW YORK TRIBUNE.

"The characters in the book are all entertaining, and many of them are
droll, while a few, like the conscientious Mr. Fishwick, the attorney,
and the cringing parasite, Mr. Thomasson, are, in their own way,
masterpieces of character study. Take it all in all, 'The Castle Inn' is
in many ways the best work which has yet come from Mr. Weyman's
pen."--COMMERCIAL ADVERTISER, NEW YORK.

"Mr. Weyman has surpassed himself in 'The Castle Inn.' From cover to
cover the book teems with adventure and romance, and the love episode is
delicious. Julia will live as one of the most graceful heroines in the
literature of our time.... We get an excellent idea of the doings of
fashionable society in the time when George III. was young, and
altogether the volume can be heartily recommended as the best thing that
Weyman has done, and, in the opinion of one, at least, the most
fascinating book of the season."--HOME JOURNAL, NEW YORK.


       *       *       *       *       *


COUNT HANNIBAL

A ROMANCE OF THE COURT OF FRANCE

BY STANLEY J. WEYMAN

AUTHOR OF "A GENTLEMAN OF FRANCE," "UNDER THE RED ROBE," "THE CASTLE
INN," ETC., ETC.


With Frontispiece. Crown 8vo, cloth, ornamental, $1.50


"It is very seldom that one runs across a historical novel the plot of
which is so ably sustained, the characters so strongly drawn, the local
color or atmosphere so satisfactory.... 'Count Hannibal' is the
strongest and most interesting novel as yet written by this popular
author."--BOSTON TIMES.

"Stanley J. Weyman has had hundreds of imitators since he wrote 'A
Gentleman of France,' but no man has yet surpassed him. I know of no
book in the whole list of popular favorites that holds one's interest
more intensely or more continuously than 'Count Hannibal' does. And what
an insistent, throat-gripping interest it is!

What is the use of hoping for a decadence of the craze for historical
romances so long as the public is fed on books like this? Such a story
has zest for the most jaded palate; nay, it can hold the interest even
of a book reviewer. From the first page to the last there is not a
moment when one's desire to finish the book weakens. Along with the
ordinary interest of curiosity there goes that of a delightful and
unique love story involving no little skill in character
delineation."--RECORD-HERALD, CHICAGO.

"A spirited, tersely interesting and most vivid story of scenes and
incidents and portrayals of various characters that lived and fought and
bled in the lurid days that saw the massacre of St. Bartholomew.... This
is Mr. Weyman's most graphic and realistic novel."--PICAYUNE, NEW
ORLEANS.

"Mr. Weyman has surpassed himself in 'Count Hannibal.' The scene of the
story is laid chiefly in Paris, at the time of the massacre of St.
Bartholomew.... We are made to grasp the soul of Count Hannibal and are
tacitly asked to let its envelope take care of itself.... Never has Mr.
Weyman achieved, in fact, a higher degree of verisimilitude. Count
Hannibal may leave us breathless with his despotic methods, but he is
not abnormal; he is one of the Frenchmen who shared the temper which
made the St. Bartholomew, and he is intensely human too ... how the
tangle of events in which he and half a dozen others are involved is
straightened out we refrain from disclosing. The reader who once takes
up this book will want to find all this out for himself."--NEW YORK
TRIBUNE.

"A story in Mr. Weyman's best vein, with the crimson horror of St.
Bartholomew as an historical setting. 'Count Hannibal' is a worthy
companion of 'A Gentleman of France' and 'The Red Cockade,' and Mr.
Weyman's hand is as cunning as ever in fashioning a romance which will
send a thrill through the most jaded reader and keep even a reviewer
from his bed."--BOOKMAN, LONDON.

"The book is rapid, is absorbing, and the hero is a distinctly
interesting character in himself, apart from his deeds of
daring."--ATHENÆUM.

"Mr. Stanley Weyman's 'Count Hannibal' is fully worthy of his great
reputation--the style is brilliant, easy and clear; the invention of
subject and the turns of fortune in the story surprising; above all, the
subtle painting of a man and a woman's heart is done with inexhaustible
knowledge."--GUARDIAN.

"A picturesque and vigorous romance. The narrative will be followed with
breathless interest."--TIMES, LONDON.


LONGMANS, GREEN, & CO., 91-93 FIFTH AVENUE, NEW YORK.





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