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Title: Marguerite de Valois
Author: Dumas, Alexandre, 1802-1870
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 "Marguerite de Valois" ***

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      MARGUERITE DE
    VALOIS BY ALEXANDRE
       DUMAS....

    NEW YORK, THOMAS Y.
    CROWELL & COMPANY,
       PUBLISHERS

     COPYRIGHT, 1900,
  BY THOMAS Y. CROWELL & CO.



CONTENTS.


CHAPTER                                                             PAGE

      I. MONSIEUR DE GUISE'S LATIN                                     1

     II. THE QUEEN OF NAVARRE'S BEDCHAMBER.                           13

    III. THE POET-KING                                                25

     IV. THE EVENING OF THE 24TH OF AUGUST, 1572                      36

      V. OF THE LOUVRE IN PARTICULAR, AND OF VIRTUE IN GENERAL        44

     VI. THE DEBT PAID                                                53

    VII. THE NIGHT OF THE 24TH OF AUGUST, 1572                        64

   VIII. THE MASSACRE                                                 78

     IX. THE MURDERERS                                                89

      X. DEATH, MASS, OR THE BASTILLE                                102

     XI. THE HAWTHORN OF THE CEMETERY OF THE INNOCENTS               114

    XII. MUTUAL CONFIDENCES                                          125

   XIII. HOW THERE ARE KEYS WHICH OPEN DOORS THEY ARE NOT MEANT FOR  132

    XIV. THE SECOND MARRIAGE NIGHT                                   142

    XV. WHAT WOMAN WILLS, GOD WILLS                                  150

   XVI. A DEAD ENEMY'S BODY ALWAYS SMELLS SWEET                      164

   XVII. MAÎTRE AMBROISE PARÉ'S CONFRÈRE                             176

  XVIII. THE GHOSTS                                                  183

    XIX. THE ABODE OF MAÎTRE RÉNÉ, PERFUMER TO THE QUEEN MOTHER      193

     XX. THE BLACK HENS                                              204

    XXI. MADAME DE SAUVE'S APARTMENT                                 210

   XXII. "SIRE, YOU SHALL BE KING"                                   219

  XXIII. A NEW CONVERT                                               224

   XXIV. THE RUE TIZON AND THE RUE CLOCHE PERCÉE                     236

    XXV. THE CHERRY-COLORED CLOAK                                    248

   XXVI. MARGARITA                                                   257

  XXVII. THE HAND OF GOD                                             263

 XXVIII. THE LETTER FROM ROME                                        268

   XXIX. THE DEPARTURE                                               274

    XXX. MAUREVEL                                                    280

   XXXI. THE HUNT                                                    284

  XXXII. FRATERNITY                                                  293

 XXXIII. THE GRATITUDE OF KING CHARLES IX                            300

  XXXIV. MAN PROPOSES BUT GOD DISPOSES                               306

   XXXV. A NIGHT OF KINGS                                            316

  XXXVI. THE ANAGRAM                                                 324

 XXXVII. THE RETURN TO THE LOUVRE                                    329

XXXVIII. THE GIRDLE OF THE QUEEN MOTHER                              340

  XXXIX. PROJECTS OF REVENGE                                         348

     XL. THE ATRIDES                                                 362

    XLI. THE HOROSCOPE                                               372

   XLII. CONFIDENCES                                                 379

  XLIII. THE AMBASSADORS                                             389

   XLIV. ORESTES AND PYLADES                                         395

    XLV. ORTHON                                                      404

   XLVI. THE INN OF LA BELLE ÉTOILE                                  415

  XLVII. DE MOUY DE SAINT PHALE                                      423

 XLVIII. TWO HEADS FOR ONE CROWN                                     430

   XLIX. THE TREATISE ON HUNTING                                     441

     L. HAWKING                                                      448

    LI. THE PAVILION OF FRANÇOIS I                                   456

   LII. THE EXAMINATION                                              464

  LIII. ACTÉON                                                       473

   LIV. THE FOREST OF VINCENNES                                      479

    LV. THE FIGURE OF WAX                                            486

   LVI. THE INVISIBLE BUCKLERS                                       497

  LVII. THE JUDGES                                                   503

 LVIII. THE TORTURE OF THE BOOT                                      512

   LIX. THE CHAPEL                                                   520

    LX. THE PLACE SAINT JEAN EN GRÈVE                                525

   LXI. THE HEADSMAN'S TOWER                                         530

  LXII. THE SWEAT OF BLOOD                                           538

 LXIII. THE DONJON OF THE PRISON OF VINCENNES                        542

  LXIV. THE REGENCY                                                  547

  LXV. THE KING IS DEAD! LONG LIVE THE KING!                         551

 LXVI. EPILOGUE                                                      556



MARGUERITE DE VALOIS.



CHAPTER I.

MONSIEUR DE GUISE'S LATIN.


On Monday, the 18th of August, 1572, there was a splendid festival at
the Louvre.

The ordinarily gloomy windows of the ancient royal residence were
brilliantly lighted, and the squares and streets adjacent, usually so
solitary after Saint Germain l'Auxerrois had struck the hour of nine,
were crowded with people, although it was past midnight.

The vast, threatening, eager, turbulent throng resembled, in the
darkness, a black and tumbling sea, each billow of which makes a roaring
breaker; this sea, flowing through the Rue des Fossés Saint Germain and
the Rue de l'Astruce and covering the quay, surged against the base of
the walls of the Louvre, and, in its refluent tide, against the Hôtel de
Bourbon, which faced it on the other side.

In spite of the royal festival, and perhaps even because of the royal
festival, there was something threatening in the appearance of the
people, for no doubt was felt that this imposing ceremony which called
them there as spectators, was only the prelude to another in which they
would participate a week later as invited guests and amuse themselves
with all their hearts.

The court was celebrating the marriage of Madame Marguerite de Valois,
daughter of Henry II. and sister of King Charles IX., with Henry de
Bourbon, King of Navarre. In truth, that very morning, on a stage
erected at the entrance to Notre-Dame, the Cardinal de Bourbon had
united the young couple with the usual ceremonial observed at the
marriages of the royal daughters of France.

This marriage had astonished every one, and occasioned much surmise to
certain persons who saw clearer than others. They found it difficult to
understand the union of two parties who hated each other so thoroughly
as did, at this moment, the Protestant party and the Catholic party; and
they wondered how the young Prince de Condé could forgive the Duc
d'Anjou, the King's brother, for the death of his father, assassinated
at Jarnac by Montesquiou. They asked how the young Duc de Guise could
pardon Admiral de Coligny for the death of his father, assassinated at
Orléans by Poltrot de Méré.

Moreover, Jeanne de Navarre, the weak Antoine de Bourbon's courageous
wife, who had conducted her son Henry to the royal marriage awaiting
him, had died scarcely two months before, and singular reports had been
spread abroad as to her sudden death. It was everywhere whispered, and
in some places said aloud, that she had discovered some terrible secret;
and that Catharine de Médicis, fearing its disclosure, had poisoned her
with perfumed gloves, which had been made by a man named Réné, a
Florentine deeply skilled in such matters. This report was the more
widely spread and believed when, after this great queen's death, at her
son's request, two celebrated physicians, one of whom was the famous
Ambroise Paré, were instructed to open and examine the body, but not the
skull. As Jeanne de Navarre had been poisoned by a perfume, only the
brain could show any trace of the crime (the one part excluded from
dissection). We say crime, for no one doubted that a crime had been
committed.

This was not all. King Charles in particular had, with a persistency
almost approaching obstinacy, urged this marriage, which not only
reëstablished peace in his kingdom, but also attracted to Paris the
principal Huguenots of France. As the two betrothed belonged one to the
Catholic religion and the other to the reformed religion, they had been
obliged to obtain a dispensation from Gregory XIII., who then filled the
papal chair. The dispensation was slow in coming, and the delay had
caused the late Queen of Navarre great uneasiness. She one day expressed
to Charles IX. her fears lest the dispensation should not arrive; to
which the King replied:

"Have no anxiety, my dear aunt. I honor you more than I do the Pope,
and I love my sister more than I fear him. I am not a Huguenot, neither
am I a blockhead; and if the Pope makes a fool of himself, I will myself
take Margot by the hand, and have her married to your son in some
Protestant meeting-house!"

This speech was soon spread from the Louvre through the city, and, while
it greatly rejoiced the Huguenots, had given the Catholics something to
think about; they asked one another, in a whisper, if the King was
really betraying them or was only playing a comedy which some fine
morning or evening might have an unexpected ending.

Charles IX.'s conduct toward Admiral de Coligny, who for five or six
years had been so bitterly opposed to the King, appeared particularly
inexplicable; after having put on his head a price of a hundred and
fifty thousand golden crowns, the King now swore by him, called him his
father, and declared openly that he should in future confide the conduct
of the war to him alone. To such a pitch was this carried that Catharine
de Médicis herself, who until then had controlled the young prince's
actions, will, and even desires, seemed to be growing really uneasy, and
not without reason; for, in a moment of confidence, Charles IX. had said
to the admiral, in reference to the war in Flanders,

"My father, there is one other thing against which we must be on our
guard--that is, that the queen, my mother, who likes to poke her nose
everywhere, as you well know, shall learn nothing of this undertaking;
we must keep it so quiet that she will not have a suspicion of it, or
being such a mischief-maker as I know she is, she would spoil all."

Now, wise and experienced as he was, Coligny had not been able to keep
such an absolute secret; and, though he had come to Paris with great
suspicions, and albeit at his departure from Chatillon a peasant woman
had thrown herself at his feet, crying, "Ah! sir, our good master, do
not go to Paris, for if you do, you will die--you and all who are with
you!"--these suspicions were gradually lulled in his heart, and so it
was with Téligny, his son-in-law, to whom the King was especially kind
and attentive, calling him his brother, as he called the admiral his
father, and addressing him with the familiar "thou," as he did his best
friends.

The Huguenots, excepting some few morose and suspicious spirits, were
therefore completely reassured. The death of the Queen of Navarre passed
as having been caused by pleurisy, and the spacious apartments of the
Louvre were filled with all those gallant Protestants to whom the
marriage of their young chief, Henry, promised an unexpected return of
good fortune. Admiral Coligny, La Rochefoucault, the young Prince de
Condé, Téligny,--in short, all the leaders of the party,--were
triumphant when they saw so powerful at the Louvre and so welcome in
Paris those whom, three months before, King Charles and Queen Catharine
would have hanged on gibbets higher than those of assassins.

The Maréchal de Montmorency was the only one who was missing among all
his brothers, for no promise could move him, no specious appearances
deceive him, and he remained secluded in his château de l'Isle Adam,
offering as his excuse for not appearing the grief which he still felt
for his father, the Constable Anne de Montmorency, who had been killed
at the battle of Saint Denis by a pistol-shot fired by Robert Stuart.
But as this had taken place more than three years before, and as
sensitiveness was a virtue little practised at that time, this unduly
protracted mourning was interpreted just as people cared to interpret
it.

However, everything seemed to show that the Maréchal de Montmorency was
mistaken. The King, the Queen, the Duc d'Anjou, and the Duc d'Alençon
did the honors of the royal festival with all courtesy and kindness.

The Duc d'Anjou received from the Huguenots themselves well-deserved
compliments on the two battles of Jarnac and Montcontour, which he had
gained before he was eighteen years of age, more precocious in that than
either Cæsar or Alexander, to whom they compared him, of course placing
the conquerors of Pharsalia and the Issus as inferior to the living
prince. The Duc d'Alençon looked on, with his bland, false smile, while
Queen Catharine, radiant with joy and overflowing with honeyed phrases,
congratulated Prince Henry de Condé on his recent marriage with Marie de
Clèves; even the Messieurs de Guise themselves smiled on the formidable
enemies of their house, and the Duc de Mayenne discoursed with M. de
Tavannes and the admiral on the impending war, which was now more than
ever threatened against Philippe II.

In the midst of these groups a young man of about nineteen years of age
was walking to and fro, his head a little on one side, his ear open to
all that was said. He had a keen eye, black hair cut very close, thick
eyebrows, a nose hooked like an eagle's, a sneering smile, and a growing
mustache and beard. This young man, who by his reckless daring had first
attracted attention at the battle of Arnay-le-Duc and was the recipient
of numberless compliments, was the dearly beloved pupil of Coligny and
the hero of the day. Three months before--that is to say, when his
mother was still living--he was called the Prince de Béarn, now he was
called the King of Navarre, afterwards he was known as Henry IV.

From time to time a swift and gloomy cloud passed over his brow;
unquestionably it was at the thought that scarce had two months elapsed
since his mother's death, and he, less than any one, doubted that she
had been poisoned. But the cloud was transitory, and disappeared like a
fleeting shadow, for they who spoke to him, they who congratulated him,
they who elbowed him, were the very ones who had assassinated the brave
Jeanne d'Albret.

Some paces distant from the King of Navarre, almost as pensive, almost
as gloomy as the king pretended to be joyous and open-hearted, was the
young Duc de Guise, conversing with Téligny. More fortunate than the
Béarnais, at two-and-twenty he had almost attained the reputation of his
father, François, the great Duc de Guise. He was an elegant gentleman,
very tall, with a noble and haughty look, and gifted with that natural
majesty which caused it to be said that in comparison with him other
princes seemed to belong to the people. Young as he was, the Catholics
looked up to him as the chief of their party, as the Huguenots saw
theirs in Henry of Navarre, whose portrait we have just drawn. At first
he had borne the title of Prince de Joinville, and at the siege of
Orléans had fought his first battle under his father, who died in his
arms, denouncing Admiral Coligny as his assassin. The young duke then,
like Hannibal, took a solemn oath to avenge his father's death on the
admiral and his family, and to pursue the foes to his religion without
truce or respite, promising God to be his destroying angel on earth
until the last heretic should be exterminated. So with deep astonishment
the people saw this prince, usually so faithful to his word, offering
his hand to those whom he had sworn to hold as his eternal enemies, and
talking familiarly with the son-in-law of the man whose death he had
promised to his dying father.

But as we have said, this was an evening of astonishments.

Indeed, an observer privileged to be present at this festival, endowed
with the knowledge of the future which is fortunately hidden from men,
and with that power of reading men's hearts which unfortunately belongs
only to God, would have certainly enjoyed the strangest spectacle to be
found in all the annals of the melancholy human comedy.

But this observer who was absent from the inner courts of the Louvre was
to be found in the streets gazing with flashing eyes and breaking out
into loud threats; this observer was the people, who, with its
marvellous instinct made keener by hatred, watched from afar the shadows
of its implacable enemies and translated the impressions they made with
as great clearness as an inquisitive person can do before the windows of
a hermetically sealed ball-room. The music intoxicates and governs the
dancers, but the inquisitive person sees only the movement and laughs at
the puppet jumping about without reason, because the inquisitive person
hears no music.

The music that intoxicated the Huguenots was the voice of their pride.

The gleams which caught the eyes of the Parisians that midnight were the
lightning flashes of their hatred illuminating the future.

And meantime everything was still festive within, and a murmur softer
and more flattering than ever was at this moment pervading the Louvre,
for the youthful bride, having laid aside her toilet of ceremony, her
long mantle and flowing veil, had just returned to the ball-room,
accompanied by the lovely Duchesse de Nevers, her most intimate friend,
and led by her brother, Charles IX., who presented her to the principal
guests.

The bride was the daughter of Henry II., was the pearl of the crown of
France, was MARGUERITE DE VALOIS, whom in his familiar tenderness for
her King Charles IX. always called "_ma soeur Margot_," "my sister
Margot."

Assuredly never was any welcome, however flattering, more richly
deserved than that which the new Queen of Navarre was at this moment
receiving. Marguerite at this period was scarcely twenty, and she was
already the object of all the poets' eulogies, some of whom compared her
to Aurora, others to Cytherea; she was, in truth, a beauty without rival
in that court in which Catharine de Médicis had assembled the loveliest
women she could find, to make of them her sirens.

Marguerite had black hair and a brilliant complexion; a voluptuous eye,
veiled by long lashes; delicate coral lips; a slender neck; a graceful,
opulent figure, and concealed in a satin slipper a tiny foot. The
French, who possessed her, were proud to see such a lovely flower
flourishing in their soil, and foreigners who passed through France
returned home dazzled with her beauty if they had but seen her, and
amazed at her knowledge if they had discoursed with her; for Marguerite
was not only the loveliest, she was also the most erudite woman of her
time, and every one was quoting the remark of an Italian scholar who had
been presented to her, and who, after having conversed with her for an
hour in Italian, Spanish, Latin, and Greek, had gone away saying:

"To see the court without seeing Marguerite de Valois is to see neither
France nor the court."

Thus addresses to King Charles IX. and the Queen of Navarre were not
wanting. It is well known that the Huguenots were great hands at
addresses. Many allusions to the past, many hints as to the future, were
adroitly slipped into these harangues; but to all such allusions and
speeches the King replied, with his pale lips and artificial smiles:

"In giving my sister Margot to Henry of Navarre, I give my sister to all
the Protestants of the kingdom."

This phrase assured some and made others smile, for it had really a
double sense: the one paternal, with which Charles IX. would not load
his mind; the other insulting to the bride, to her husband, and also to
him who said it, for it recalled some scandalous rumors with which the
chroniclers of the court had already found means to smirch the nuptial
robe of Marguerite de Valois.

However, M. de Guise was conversing, as we have said, with Téligny; but
he did not pay to the conversation such sustained attention but that he
turned away somewhat, from time to time, to cast a glance at the group
of ladies, in the centre of whom glittered the Queen of Navarre. When
the princess's eye thus met that of the young duke, a cloud seemed to
over-spread that lovely brow, around which stars of diamonds formed a
tremulous halo, and some agitating thought might be divined in her
restless and impatient manner.

The Princess Claude, Marguerite's eldest sister, who had been for some
years married to the Duc de Lorraine, had observed this uneasiness, and
was going up to her to inquire the cause, when all stood aside at the
approach of the queen mother, who came forward, leaning on the arm of
the young Prince de Condé, and the princess was thus suddenly separated
from her sister. There was a general movement, by which the Duc de Guise
profited to approach Madame de Nevers, his sister-in-law, and
Marguerite.

Madame de Lorraine, who had not lost sight of her sister, then remarked,
instead of the cloud which she had before observed on her forehead, a
burning blush come into her cheeks. The duke approached still nearer,
and when he was within two steps of Marguerite, she appeared rather to
feel than see his presence, and turned round, making a violent effort
over herself in order to give her features an appearance of calmness and
indifference. The duke, then respectfully bowing, murmured in a low
tone,

"_Ipse attuli._"

That meant: "I have brought it, or brought it myself."

Marguerite returned the young duke's bow, and as she straightened
herself, replied, in the same tone,

"_Noctu pro more._"

That meant: "To-night, as usual."

These soft words, absorbed by the enormous collar which the princess
wore, as in the bell of a speaking-trumpet, were heard only by the
person to whom they were addressed; but brief as had been the
conference, it doubtless composed all the young couple had to say, for
after this exchange of two words for three, they separated, Marguerite
more thoughtful and the duke with his brow less clouded than when they
met. This little scene took place without the person most interested
appearing to remark it, for the King of Navarre had eyes but for one
lady, and she had around her a suite almost as numerous as that which
followed Marguerite de Valois. This was the beautiful Madame de Sauve.

Charlotte de Beaune Semblançay, granddaughter of the unfortunate
Semblançay, and wife of Simon de Fizes, Baron de Sauve, was one of the
ladies-in-waiting to Catharine de Médicis, and one of the most
redoubtable auxiliaries of this queen, who poured forth to her enemies
love-philtres when she dared not pour out Florentine poison. Delicately
fair, and by turns sparkling with vivacity or languishing in melancholy,
always ready for love and intrigue, the two great occupations which for
fifty years employed the court of the three succeeding kings,--a woman
in every acceptation of the word and in all the charm of the idea, from
the blue eye languishing or flashing with fire to the small rebellious
feet arched in their velvet slippers, Madame de Sauve had already for
some months taken complete possession of every faculty of the King of
Navarre, then beginning his career as a lover as well as a politician;
thus it was that Marguerite de Valois, a magnificent and royal beauty,
had not even excited admiration in her husband's heart; and what was
more strange, and astonished all the world, even from a soul so full of
darkness and mystery, Catharine de Médicis, while she prosecuted her
project of union between her daughter and the King of Navarre, had not
ceased to favor almost openly his amour with Madame de Sauve. But
despite this powerful aid, and despite the easy manners of the age, the
lovely Charlotte had hitherto resisted; and this resistance, unheard of,
incredible, unprecedented, even more than the beauty and wit of her who
resisted, had excited in the heart of the Béarnais a passion which,
unable to satisfy itself, had destroyed in the young king's heart all
timidity, pride, and even that carelessness, half philosophic, half
indolent, which formed the basis of his character.

Madame de Sauve had been only a few minutes in the ballroom; from spite
or grief she had at first resolved on not being present at her rival's
triumph, and under the pretext of an indisposition had allowed her
husband, who had been for five years secretary of state, to go alone to
the Louvre; but when Catharine de Médicis saw the baron without his
wife, she asked the cause that kept her dear Charlotte away, and when
she found that the indisposition was but slight, she wrote a few words
to her, which the lady hastened to obey. Henry, sad as he had at first
been at her absence, had yet breathed more freely when he saw M. de
Sauve enter alone; but just as he was about to pay some court to the
charming creature whom he was condemned, if not to love, at least to
treat as his wife, he unexpectedly saw Madame de Sauve arise from the
farther end of the gallery. He remained stationary on the spot, his eyes
fastened on the Circe who enthralled him as if by magic chains, and
instead of proceeding towards his wife, by a movement of hesitation
which betrayed more astonishment than alarm he advanced to meet Madame
de Sauve.

The courtiers, seeing the King of Navarre, whose inflammable heart they
knew, approach the beautiful Charlotte, had not the courage to prevent
their meeting, but drew aside complaisantly; so that at the very moment
when Marguerite de Valois and Monsieur de Guise exchanged the few words
in Latin which we have noted above, Henry, having approached Madame de
Sauve, began, in very intelligible French, although with somewhat of a
Gascon accent, a conversation by no means so mysterious.

"Ah, _ma mie_!" he said, "you have, then, come at the very moment when
they assured me that you were ill, and I had lost all hope of seeing
you."

"Would your majesty perhaps wish me to believe that it had cost you
something to lose this hope?" replied Madame de Sauve.

"By Heaven! I believe it!" replied the Béarnais; "know you not that you
are my sun by day and my star by night? By my faith, I was in deepest
darkness till you appeared and suddenly illumined all."

"Then, monseigneur, I serve you a very ill turn."

"What do you mean, _ma mie_?" inquired Henry.

"I mean that he who is master of the handsomest woman in France should
only have one desire--that the light should disappear and give way to
darkness, for happiness awaits you in the darkness."

"You know, cruel one, that my happiness is in the hands of one woman
only, and that she laughs at poor Henry."

"Oh!" replied the baroness, "I believed, on the contrary, that it was
this person who was the sport and jest of the King of Navarre." Henry
was alarmed at this hostile attitude, and yet he bethought him that it
betrayed jealous spite, and that jealous spite is only the mask of love.

"Indeed, dear Charlotte, you reproach me very unjustly, and I do not
comprehend how so lovely a mouth can be so cruel. Do you suppose for a
moment that it is I who give myself in marriage? No, _ventre saint
gris_, it is not I!"

"It is I, perhaps," said the baroness, sharply,--if ever the voice of
the woman who loves us and reproaches us for not loving her can seem
sharp.

"With your lovely eyes have you not seen farther, baroness? No, no;
Henry of Navarre is not marrying Marguerite de Valois."

"And who, pray, is?"

"Why, by Heaven! it is the reformed religion marrying the pope--that's
all."

"No, no, I cannot be deceived by your jests. Monseigneur loves Madame
Marguerite. And can I blame you? Heaven forbid! She is beautiful enough
to be adored."

Henry reflected for a moment, and, as he reflected, a meaning smile
curled the corner of his lips.

"Baroness," said he, "you seem to be seeking a quarrel with me, but you
have no right to do so. What have you done to prevent me from marrying
Madame Marguerite? Nothing. On the contrary, you have always driven me
to despair."

"And well for me that I have, monseigneur," replied Madame de Sauve.

"How so?"

"Why, of course, because you are marrying another woman!"

"I marry her because you love me not."

"If I had loved you, sire, I must have died in an hour."

"In an hour? What do you mean? And of what death would you have died?"

"Of jealousy!--for in an hour the Queen of Navarre will send away her
women, and your majesty your gentlemen."

"Is that really the thought that is uppermost in your mind, _ma mie_?"

"I did not say so. I only say, that if I loved you it would be uppermost
in my mind most tormentingly."

"Very well," said Henry, at the height of joy on hearing this
confession, the first which she had made to him, "suppose the King of
Navarre should not send away his gentlemen this evening?"

"Sire," replied Madame de Sauve, looking at the king with astonishment
for once unfeigned, "you say things impossible and incredible."

"What must I do to make you believe them?"

"Give me a proof--and that proof you cannot give me."

"Yes, baroness, yes! By Saint Henry, I will give it you!" exclaimed the
king, gazing at the young woman with eyes hot with love.

"Oh, your majesty!" exclaimed the lovely Charlotte in an undertone and
with downcast eyes, "I do not understand--No! no, it is impossible for
you to turn your back on the happiness awaiting you."

"There are four Henrys in this room, my adorable!" replied the king,
"Henry de France, Henry de Condé, Henry de Guise, but there is only one
Henry of Navarre."

"Well?"

"Well; if this Henry of Navarre is with you all night"--

"All night!"

"Yes; will that be a certain proof to you that he is not with any
other?"

"Ah! if you do that, sire," cried Madame Sauve.

"On the honor of a gentleman I will do it!"

Madame de Sauve raised her great eyes dewy with voluptuous promises and
looked at the king, whose heart was filled with an intoxicating joy.

"And then," said Henry, "what will you say?"

"I will say," replied Charlotte, "that your majesty really loves me."

"_Ventre saint gris_! then you shall say it, baroness, for it is true."

"But how can you manage it?" murmured Madame de Sauve.

"Oh! by Heaven! baroness, have you not about you some waiting-woman,
some girl whom you can trust?"

"Yes, Dariole is so devoted to me that she would let herself be cut in
pieces for me; she is a real treasure."

"By Heaven! then say to her that I will make her fortune when I am King
of France, as the astrologers prophesy."

Charlotte smiled, for even at this period the Gascon reputation of the
Béarnais was already established with respect to his promises.

"Well, then, what do you want Dariole to do?"

"Little for her, a great deal for me. Your apartment is over mine?"

"Yes."

"Let her wait behind the door. I will knock gently three times; she will
open the door, and you will have the proof that I have promised you."

Madame de Sauve kept silence for several seconds, and then, as if she
had looked around her to observe if she were overheard, she fastened her
gaze for a moment on the group clustering around the queen mother; brief
as the moment was, it was sufficient for Catharine and her
lady-in-waiting to exchange a look.

"Oh, if I were inclined," said Madame de Sauve, with a siren's accent
that would have melted the wax in Ulysses' ears, "if I were inclined to
make your majesty tell a falsehood"--

"_Ma mie_, try"--

"Ah, _ma foi_! I confess I am tempted to do so."

"Give in! Women are never so strong as after they are defeated."

"Sire, I hold you to your promise for Dariole when you shall be King of
France."

Henry uttered an exclamation of joy.

At the precise moment when this cry escaped the lips of the Béarnais,
the Queen of Navarre was replying to the Duc de Guise:

"_Noctu pro more_--to-night as usual."

Then Henry turned away from Madame de Sauve as happy as the Duc de Guise
had been when he left Marguerite de Valois.

An hour after the double scene we have just related, King Charles and
the queen mother retired to their apartments. Almost immediately the
rooms began to empty; the galleries exhibited the bases of their marble
columns. The admiral and the Prince de Condé were escorted home by four
hundred Huguenot gentlemen through the middle of the crowd, which hooted
as they passed. Then Henry de Guise, with the Lorraine gentlemen and the
Catholics, left in their turn, greeted by cries of joy and plaudits of
the people.

But Marguerite de Valois, Henry de Navarre, and Madame de Sauve lived in
the Louvre.



CHAPTER II.

THE QUEEN OF NAVARRE'S BEDCHAMBER.


The Duc de Guise escorted his sister-in-law, the Duchess de Nevers, to
her hôtel in the Rue du Chaume, facing the Rue de Brac, and after he had
put her into the hands of her women, he went to his own apartment to
change his dress, put on a night cloak, and armed himself with one of
those short, keen poniards which are called "_foi de gentilhomme_," and
were worn without swords; but as he took it off the table on which it
lay, he perceived a small billet between the blade and the scabbard.

He opened it, and read as follows:

"_I hope M. de Guise will not return to the Louvre to-night; or if he
does, that he will at least take the precaution to arm himself with a
good coat of mail and a proved sword._"

"Aha!" said the duke, addressing his valet, "this is a singular warning,
Maître Robin. Now be kind enough to tell me who has been here during my
absence."

"Only one person, monseigneur."

"Who?"

"Monsieur du Gast."

"Aha! In fact, methinks I recognize the handwriting. And you are sure
that Du Gast came? You saw him?"

"More than that, monseigneur; I spoke with him."

"Very good; then I will follow his advice--my steel jacket and my
sword."

The valet, accustomed to these changes of costume, brought both. The
duke put on his jacket, which was made of rings of steel so fine that it
was scarcely thicker than velvet; he then drew on over his coat of mail
his small clothes and a doublet of gray and silver, his favorite colors,
put on a pair of long boots which reached to the middle of his thighs,
covered his head with a velvet toque unadorned with feathers or precious
stones, threw over his shoulders a dark-colored cloak, hung a dagger by
his side, handed his sword to a page, the only attendant he allowed to
accompany him, and took the way to the Louvre.

As he went down the steps of the hôtel, the watchman of Saint Germain
l'Auxerrois had just announced one o'clock in the morning.

Though the night was far gone and the streets at this time were very far
from safe, no accident befell the adventurous prince on the way, and
safe and sound he approached the colossal mass of the ancient Louvre,
all the lights of which had been extinguished one after the other, so
that it rose portentous in its silence and darkness.

In front of the royal château was a deep fosse, looking into which were
the chambers of most of the princes who inhabited the palace.
Marguerite's apartment was on the first floor. But this first floor,
easily accessible but for the fosse, was, in consequence of the depth to
which that was cut, thirty feet from the bottom of the wall, and
consequently out of the reach of robbers or lovers; nevertheless the Duc
de Guise approached it without hesitation.

At the same moment was heard the noise of a window which opened on the
ground floor. This window was grated, but a hand appeared, lifted out
one of the bars which had been loosened, and dropped from it a silken
lace.

"Is that you, Gillonne?" said the duke, in a low voice.

"Yes, monseigneur," replied a woman's voice, in a still lower tone.

"And Marguerite?"

"Is waiting for you."

"'T is well."

Hereupon the duke made a signal to his page, who, opening his cloak,
took out a small rope ladder. The prince fastened one end to the silk
lace, and Gillonne, drawing it up, tied it securely. Then the prince,
after having buckled his sword to his belt, ascended without accident.
When he had entered, the bar was replaced and the window closed, while
the page, having seen his master quietly enter the Louvre, to the
windows of which he had accompanied him twenty times in the same way,
laid himself down in his cloak on the grass of the fosse, beneath the
shadow of the wall.

The night was extremely dark, and large drops of warm rain were falling
from the heavy clouds charged with electric fluid.

The Duc de Guise followed his guide, who was no other than the daughter
of Jacques de Matignon, maréchal of France. She was the especial
confidante of Marguerite, who kept no secret from her; and it was said
that among the number of mysteries entrusted to her incorruptible
fidelity, there were some so terrible as to compel her to keep the
rest.

There was no light left either in the low rooms or in the corridors,
only from time to time a livid glare illuminated the dark apartments
with a vivid flash, which as instantly disappeared.

The duke, still guided by his conductress, who held his hand, reached a
staircase built in the thick wall, and opening by a secret and invisible
door into the antechamber of Marguerite's apartment.

In this antechamber, which like all the other lower rooms was perfectly
dark, Gillonne stopped.

"Have you brought what the queen requested?" she inquired, in a low
voice.

"Yes," replied the Duc de Guise; "but I will give it only to her majesty
in person."

"Come, then, and do not lose an instant!" said a voice from the
darkness, which made the duke start, for he recognized it as
Marguerite's.

At the same moment a curtain of violet velvet covered with golden
fleurs-de-lis was raised, and the duke made out the form of the queen,
who in her impatience had come to meet him.

"I am here, madame," he then said; and he passed the curtain, which fell
behind him. So Marguerite de Valois herself now became the prince's
guide, leading him into the room which, however, he knew already, while
Gillonne, standing at the door, had raised her finger to her lips and
reassured her royal mistress.

As if she understood the duke's jealous apprehensions, Marguerite led
him to the bedchamber, and there paused.

"Well," she said, "are you satisfied, duke?"

"Satisfied, madame?" was the reply, "and with what?"

"Of the proof I give you," retorted Marguerite, with a slight tone of
vexation in her voice, "that I belong to a man who, on the very night of
his marriage, makes me of such small importance that he does not even
come to thank me for the honor I have done him, not in selecting, but in
accepting him for my husband."

"Oh! madame," said the duke, sorrowfully, "be assured he will come if
you desire it."

"And do you say that, Henry?" cried Marguerite; "you, who better than
any know the contrary of what you say? If I had that desire, should I
have asked you to come to the Louvre?"

"You have asked me to come to the Louvre, Marguerite, because you are
anxious to destroy every vestige of our past, and because that past
lives not only in my memory, but in this silver casket which I bring to
you."

"Henry, shall I say one thing to you?" replied Marguerite, gazing
earnestly at the duke; "it is that you are more like a schoolboy than a
prince. I deny that I have loved you! I desire to quench a flame which
will die, perhaps, but the reflection of which will never die! For the
loves of persons of my rank illumine and frequently devour the whole
epoch contemporary with them. No, no, duke; you may keep the letters of
your Marguerite, and the casket she has given you. She asks but one of
these letters, and that only because it is as dangerous for you as for
herself."

"It is all yours," said the duke. "Take the one that you wish to
destroy."

Marguerite searched anxiously in the open casket, and with a tremulous
hand took, one after the other, a dozen letters, only the addresses of
which she examined, as if by merely glancing at these she could recall
to her memory what the letters themselves contained; but after a close
scrutiny she looked at the duke, pale and agitated.

"Sir," she said, "what I seek is not here. Can you have lost it, by any
accident? for if it should fall into the hands of"--

"What letter do you seek, madame?"

"That in which I told you to marry without delay."

"As an excuse for your infidelity?"

Marguerite shrugged her shoulders.

"No; but to save your life. The one in which I told you that the king,
seeing our love and my exertions to break off your proposed marriage
with the Infanta of Portugal, had sent for his brother, the Bastard of
Angoulême, and said to him, pointing to two swords, '_With this slay
Henry de Guise this night, or with the other I will slay thee in the
morning._' Where is that letter?"

"Here," said the duke, drawing it from his breast.

Marguerite almost snatched it from his hands, opened it anxiously,
assured herself that it was really the one she desired, uttered an
exclamation of joy, and applying the lighted candle to it, the flames
instantly consumed the paper; then, as if Marguerite feared that her
imprudent words might be read in the very ashes, she trampled them under
foot.

During all this the Duc de Guise had watched his mistress attentively.

"Well, Marguerite," he said, when she had finished, "are you satisfied
now?"

"Yes, for now that you have wedded the Princesse de Porcian, my brother
will forgive me your love; while he would never have pardoned me for
revealing a secret such as that which in my weakness for you I had not
the strength to conceal from you."

"True," replied De Guise, "then you loved me."

"And I love you still, Henry, as much--more than ever!"

"You"--

"I do; for never more than at this moment did I need a sincere and
devoted friend. Queen, I have no throne; wife, I have no husband!"

The young prince shook his head sorrowfully.

"I tell you, I repeat to you, Henri, that my husband not only does not
love me, but hates--despises me; indeed, it seems to me that your
presence in the chamber in which he ought to be is proof of this hatred,
this contempt."

"It is not yet late, Madame, and the King of Navarre requires time to
dismiss his gentlemen; if he has not already come, he will come soon."

"And I tell you," cried Marguerite, with increasing vexation,--"I tell
you that he will not come!"

"Madame!" exclaimed Gillonne, suddenly entering, "the King of Navarre is
just leaving his apartments!"

"Oh, I knew he would come!" exclaimed the Duc de Guise.

"Henri," said Marguerite, in a quick tone, and seizing the duke's
hand,--"Henri, you shall see if I am a woman of my word, and if I may be
relied on. Henri, enter that closet."

"Madame, allow me to go while there is yet time, for reflect that the
first mark of love you bestow on him, I shall quit the cabinet, and then
woe to him!"

"Are you mad? Go in--go in, I say, and I will be responsible for all;"
and she pushed the duke into the closet.

It was time. The door was scarcely closed behind the prince when the
King of Navarre, escorted by two pages, who carried eight torches of
yellow wax in two candelabra, appeared, smiling, on the threshold of the
chamber. Marguerite concealed her trouble, and made a low bow.

"You are not yet in bed, Madame," observed the Béarnais, with his frank
and joyous look. "Were you by chance waiting for me?"

"No, Monsieur," replied Marguerite; "for yesterday you repeated to me
that our marriage was a political alliance, and that you would never
thwart my wishes."

"Assuredly; but that is no reason why we should not confer a little
together. Gillonne, close the door, and leave us."

Marguerite, who was sitting, then rose and extended her hand, as if to
desire the pages to remain.

"Must I call your women?" inquired the king. "I will do so if such be
your desire, although I confess that for what I have to say to you I
should prefer our being alone;" and the King of Navarre advanced towards
the closet.

"No!" exclaimed Marguerite, hastily going before him,--"no! there is no
occasion for that; I am ready to hear you."

The Béarnais had learned what he desired to know; he threw a rapid and
penetrating glance towards the cabinet, as if in spite of the thick
curtain which hung before it, he would dive into its obscurity, and
then, turning his looks to his lovely wife, pale with terror, he said
with the utmost composure, "In that case, Madame, let us confer for a
few moments."

"As your Majesty pleases," said the young wife, falling into, rather
than sitting upon the seat which her husband pointed out to her.

The Béarnais placed himself beside her. "Madame," he continued,
"whatever many persons may have said, I think our marriage is a good
marriage. I stand well with you; you stand well with me."

"But--" said Marguerite, alarmed.

"Consequently, we ought," observed the King of Navarre, without seeming
to notice Marguerite's hesitation, "to act towards each other like good
allies, since we have to-day sworn alliance in the presence of God.
Don't you think so?"

"Unquestionably, Monsieur."

"I know, Madame, how great your penetration is; I know how the ground at
court is intersected with dangerous abysses. Now, I am young, and
although I never injured any one, I have a great many enemies. In which
camp, Madame, ought I to range her who bears my name, and who has vowed
her affection to me at the foot of the altar?"

"Monsieur, could you think--"

"I think nothing, Madame; I hope, and I am anxious to know that my hope
is well founded. It is quite certain that our marriage is merely a
pretext or a snare."

Marguerite started, for perhaps the same thought had occurred to her own
mind.

"Now, then, which of the two?" continued Henri de Navarre. "The king
hates me; the Duc d'Anjou hates me; the Duc d'Alençon hates me;
Catherine de Médicis hated my mother too much not to hate me."

"Oh, Monsieur, what are you saying?"

"The truth, madame," replied the king; "and in order that it may not be
supposed that I am deceived as to Monsieur de Mouy's assassination and
the poisoning of my mother, I wish that some one were here who could
hear me."

"Oh, sire," replied Marguerite, with an air as calm and smiling as she
could assume, "you know very well that there is no person here but you
and myself."

"It is for that very reason that I thus give vent to my thoughts; this
it is that emboldens me to declare that I am not deceived by the
caresses showered on me by the House of France or the House of
Lorraine."

"Sire, sire!" exclaimed Marguerite.

"Well, what is it, _ma mie_?" inquired Henry, smiling in his turn.

"Why, sire, such remarks are very dangerous."

"Not when we are alone," observed the king. "I was saying"--

Marguerite was evidently distressed; she desired to stop every word the
king uttered, but he continued, with his apparent good nature:

"I was telling you that I was threatened on all sides: threatened by the
King, threatened by the Duc d'Alençon, threatened by the Duc d'Anjou,
threatened by the queen mother, threatened by the Duc de Guise, by the
Duc de Mayenne, by the Cardinal de Lorraine--threatened, in fact, by
every one. One feels that instinctively, as you know, madame. Well,
against all these threats, which must soon become attacks, I can defend
myself by your aid, for you are beloved by all the persons who detest
me."

"I?" said Marguerite.

"Yes, you," replied Henry, with the utmost ease of manner; "yes, you are
beloved by King Charles, you are beloved" (he laid strong emphasis on
the word) "by the Duc d'Alençon, you are beloved by Queen Catharine, and
you are beloved by the Duc de Guise."

"Sire!" murmured Marguerite.

"Yes; and what is there astonishing in the fact that every one loves
you? All I have mentioned are your brothers or relatives. To love one's
brothers and relatives is to live according to God's heart."

"But what, then," asked Marguerite, greatly overcome, "what do you
mean?"

"What I have just said, that if you will be--I do not mean my love--but
my ally, I can brave everything; while, on the other hand, if you become
my enemy, I am lost."

"Oh, your enemy!--never, sir!" exclaimed Marguerite.

"And my love--never either?"

"Perhaps"--

"And my ally?"

"Most decidedly."

And Marguerite turned round and offered her hand to the king.

Henry took it, kissed it gallantly, and retaining it in his own, more
from a desire of investigation than from any sentiment of tenderness,
said:

"Very well, I believe you, madame, and accept the alliance. They married
us without our knowing each other--without our loving each other; they
married us without consulting us--us whom they united. We therefore owe
nothing to each other as man and wife; you see that I even go beyond
your wishes and confirm this evening what I said to you yesterday; but
we ally ourselves freely and without any compulsion. We ally ourselves,
as two loyal hearts who owe each other mutual protection should ally
themselves; 't is as such you understand it?"

"Yes, sir," said Marguerite, endeavoring to withdraw her hand.

"Well, then," continued the Béarnais, with his eyes fastened on the door
of the cabinet, "as the first proof of a frank alliance is the most
perfect confidence, I will now relate to you, madame, in all its
details, the plan I have formed in order that we may victoriously meet
and overcome all these enmities."

"Sire"--said Marguerite, in spite of herself turning her eyes toward the
closet, whilst the Béarnais, seeing his trick succeed, laughed in his
sleeve.

"This is what I mean to do," he continued, without appearing to remark
his young wife's nervousness, "I intend"--

"Sire," said Marguerite, rising hastily, and seizing the king's arm,
"allow me a little breath; my emotion--the heat--overpowers me."

And, in truth, Marguerite was as pale and trembling as if she was about
to fall on the carpet.

Henry went straight to a window some distance off, and opened it. This
window looked out on the river.

Marguerite followed him.

"Silence, sire,--silence, for your own sake!" she murmured.

"What, madame," said the Béarnais, with his peculiar smile, "did you not
tell me we were alone?"

"Yes, sire; but did you not hear me say that by the aid of a tube
introduced into the ceiling or the wall everything could be heard?"

"Well, madame, well," said the Béarnais, earnestly and in a low voice,
"it is true you do not love me, but you are, at least, honorable."

"What do you mean, sire?"

"I mean that if you were capable of betraying me, you would have allowed
me to go on, as I was betraying myself. You stopped me--I now know that
some one is concealed here--that you are an unfaithful wife, but a
faithful ally; and just now, I confess, I have more need of fidelity in
politics than in love."

"Sire!" replied Marguerite, confused.

"Good, good; we will talk of this hereafter," said Henry, "when we know
each other better."

Then, raising his voice--"Well," he continued, "do you breathe more
freely now, madame?"

"Yes, sire,--yes!"

"Well, then," said the Béarnais, "I will no longer intrude on you. I
owed you my respects, and some advances toward better acquaintance;
deign, then, to accept them, as they are offered, with all my heart.
Good-night, and happy slumbers!"

Marguerite raised her eyes, shining with gratitude, and offered her
husband her hand.

"It is agreed," she said.

"Political alliance, frank and loyal?" asked Henry.

"Frank and loyal," was the reply.

And the Béarnais went toward the door, followed by Marguerite's look as
if she were fascinated. Then, when the curtain had fallen between them
and the bedchamber:

"Thanks, Marguerite," he said, in a quick low tone, "thanks! You are a
true daughter of France. I leave you quite tranquil: lacking your love,
your friendship will not fail me. I rely on you, as you, on your side,
may rely on me. Adieu, madame."

And Henry kissed his wife's hand, and pressed it gently. Then with a
quick step he returned to his own apartment, saying to himself, in a low
voice, in the corridor:

"Who the devil is with her? Is it the King, or the Duc d'Anjou, or the
Duc d'Alençon, or the Duc de Guise? is it a brother or a lover? is it
both? I' faith, I am almost sorry now I asked the baroness for this
rendezvous; but, as my word is pledged, and Dariole is waiting for
me--no matter. Yet, _ventre saint gris_! this Margot, as my
brother-in-law, King Charles, calls her, is an adorable creature."

And with a step which betrayed a slight hesitation, Henry of Navarre
ascended the staircase which led to Madame de Sauve's apartments.

Marguerite had followed him with her eyes until he disappeared. Then
she returned to her chamber, and found the duke at the door of the
cabinet. The sight of him almost touched her with remorse.

The duke was grave, and his knitted brow bespoke bitter reflection.

"Marguerite is neutral to-day," he said; "in a week Marguerite will be
hostile."

"Ah! you have been listening?" said Marguerite.

"What else could I do in the cabinet?"

"And did you find that I behaved otherwise than the Queen of Navarre
should behave?"

"No; but differently from the way in which the mistress of the Duc de
Guise should behave."

"Sir," replied the queen, "I may not love my husband, but no one has the
right to require me to betray him. Tell me honestly: would you reveal
the secrets of the Princesse de Porcian, your wife?"

"Come, come, madame," answered the duke, shaking his head, "this is very
well; I see that you do not love me as in those days when you disclosed
to me the plot of the King against me and my party."

"The King was strong and you were weak; Henry is weak and you are
strong. You see I always play a consistent part."

"Only you pass from one camp to another."

"That was a right I acquired, sir, in saving your life."

"Good, madame; and as when lovers separate, they return all the gifts
that have passed between them, I will save your life, in my turn, if
ever the need arises, and we shall be quits."

And the duke bowed and left the room, nor did Marguerite attempt to
retain him.

In the antechamber he found Gillonne, who guided him to the window on
the ground floor, and in the fosse he found his page, with whom he
returned to the Hôtel de Guise.

Marguerite, in a dreamy mood, went to the opened window.

"What a marriage night!" she murmured to herself; "the husband flees
from me--the lover forsakes me!"

At that moment, coming from the Tour de Bois, and going up toward the
Moulin de la Monnaie, on the other side of the fosse passed a student,
his hand on his hip, and singing:

             "SONG.

    "Tell me why, O maiden fair,
    When I burn to bite thy hair,
      And to kiss thy rosy lips,
    And to touch thy lovely breast,
    Like a nun thou feign'st thee blest
      In the cloister's sad eclipse?

    "Who will win the precious prize
    Of thy brow, thy mouth, thine eyes--
      Of thy bosom sweet--what lover?
    Wilt thou all thy charms devote
    To grim Pluton when the boat
      Charon rows shall take thee over?

    "After thou hast sailed across,
    Loveliest, then wilt find but loss--
      All thy beauty will decay.
    When I die and meet thee there
    In the shades I'll never swear
      Thou wert once my mistress gay!

    "Therefore, darling, while we live,
    Change thy mind and tokens give--
      Kisses from thy honey mouth!
    Else when thou art like to die
    Thou 'lt repent thy cruelty,
      Filling all my life with drouth!"

Marguerite listened with a melancholy smile; then when the student's
voice was lost in the distance, she shut the window, and called Gillonne
to help her to prepare for bed.



CHAPTER III.

THE POET-KING.


The next day and those that followed were devoted to festivals, balls,
and tournaments.

The same amalgamation continued to take place between the two parties.
The caresses and compliments lavished were enough to turn the heads of
the most bigoted Huguenots. Père Cotton was to be seen dining and
carousing with the Baron de Courtaumer; the Duc de Guise went boating on
the Seine with the Prince de Condé. King Charles seemed to have laid
aside his usual melancholy, and could not get enough of the society of
his new brother-in-law, Henry. Moreover, the queen mother was so gay,
and so occupied with embroidery, ornaments, and plumes, that she could
not sleep.

The Huguenots, to some degree contaminated by this new Capua, began to
assume silken pourpoints, wear devices, and parade before certain
balconies, as if they were Catholics.

On every side there was such a reaction in favor of the Protestants that
it seemed as if the whole court was about to become Protestant; even the
admiral, in spite of his experience, was deceived, and was so carried
away that one evening he forgot for two whole hours to chew on his
toothpick, which he always used from two o'clock, at which time he
finished his dinner, until eight o'clock at night, when he sat down to
supper.

The evening on which the admiral thus unaccountably deviated from his
usual habit, King Charles IX. had invited Henry of Navarre and the Duc
de Guise to sup with him. After the repast he took them into his
chamber, and was busily explaining to them the ingenious mechanism of a
wolf-trap he had invented, when, interrupting himself,--

"Isn't the admiral coming to-night?" he asked. "Who has seen him to-day
and can tell me anything about him?"

"I have," said the King of Navarre; "and if your Majesty is anxious
about his health, I can reassure you, for I saw him this morning at six,
and this evening at seven o'clock."

"Aha!" replied the King, whose eyes were instantly fixed with a
searching expression on his brother-in-law; "for a new-married man,
Harry, you are very early."

"Yes, sire," answered the King of Navarre, "I wished to inquire of the
admiral, who knows everything, whether some gentlemen I am expecting are
on their way hither."

"More gentlemen! why, you had eight hundred on the day of your wedding,
and fresh ones join you every day. You are surely not going to invade
us?" said Charles IX., smiling.

The Duc de Guise frowned.

"Sire," returned the Béarnais, "a war with Flanders is spoken of, and I
am collecting round me all those gentlemen of my country and its
neighborhood whom I think can be useful to your Majesty."

The duke, calling to mind the pretended project Henry had mentioned to
Marguerite the day of their marriage, listened still more attentively.

"Well, well," replied the King, with his sinister smile, "the more the
better; let them all come, Henry. But who are these gentlemen?--brave
ones, I trust."

"I know not, sire, if my gentlemen will ever equal those of your
Majesty, or the Duc d'Anjou's, or the Duc de Guise's, but I know that
they will do their best."

"Do you expect many?"

"Ten or a dozen more."

"What are their names?"

"Sire, their names escape me, and with the exception of one, whom
Téligny recommended to me as a most accomplished gentleman, and whose
name is De la Mole, I cannot tell."

"De la Mole!" exclaimed the King, who was deeply skilled in the science
of genealogy; "is he not a Lerac de la Mole, a Provençal?"

"Exactly so, sire; you see I recruit even in Provence."

"And I," added the Duc de Guise, with a sarcastic smile, "go even
further than his majesty the King of Navarre, for I seek even in
Piedmont all the trusty Catholics I can find."

"Catholic or Huguenot," interrupted the King, "it little matters to me,
so they are brave."

The King's face while he uttered these words, which thus united
Catholics and Huguenots in his thoughts, bore such an expression of
indifference that the duke himself was surprised.

"Your Majesty is occupied with the Flemings," said the admiral, to whom
Charles had some days previously accorded the favor of entering without
being announced, and who had overheard the King's last words.

"Ah! here is my father the admiral!" cried Charles, opening his arms.
"We were speaking of war, of gentlemen, of brave men--and _he_ comes. It
is like the lodestone which attracts the iron. My brother-in-law of
Navarre and my cousin of Guise are expecting reinforcements for your
army. That was what we were talking about."

"And these reinforcements are on their way," said the admiral.

"Have you had news of them?" asked the Béarnais.

"Yes, my son, and particularly of M. de la Mole; he was at Orléans
yesterday, and will be in Paris to-morrow or the day after."

"The devil! You must be a sorcerer, admiral," said the Duc de Guise, "to
know what is taking place at thirty or forty leagues' distance. I should
like to know for a certainty what happened or is happening before
Orléans."

Coligny remained unmoved at this savage onslaught, which evidently
alluded to the death of François de Guise, the duke's father, killed
before Orléans by Poltrot de Méré, and not without a suspicion that the
admiral had advised the crime.

"Sir," replied he, coldly and with dignity, "I am a sorcerer whenever I
wish to know anything positively that concerns my own affairs or the
King's. My courier arrived an hour ago from Orléans, having travelled,
thanks to the post, thirty-two leagues in a day. As M. de la Mole has
only his own horse, he rides but ten leagues a day, and will not arrive
in Paris before the 24th. Here is all my magic."

"Bravo, my father, a clever answer!" cried Charles IX.; "teach these
young men that wisdom as well as age has whitened your hair and beard;
so now we will send them to talk of their tournaments and their
love-affairs and you and I will stay and talk of our wars. Good
councillors make good kings, my father. Leave us, gentlemen. I wish to
talk with the admiral."

The two young men took their departure; the King of Navarre first, then
the Duc de Guise; but outside the door they separated, after a formal
salute.

Coligny followed them with his eyes, not without anxiety, for he never
saw those two personified hatreds meet without a dread that some new
lightning flash would leap forth. Charles IX. saw what was passing in
his mind, and, going to him, laid his hand on his arm:

"Have no fear, my father; I am here to preserve peace and obedience. I
am really a king, now that my mother is no longer queen, and she is no
longer queen now that Coligny is my father."

"Oh, sire!" said the admiral, "Queen Catharine"--

"Is a marplot. Peace is impossible with her. These Italian Catholics are
furious, and will hear of nothing but extermination; now, for my part, I
not only wish to pacify, but I wish to put power into the hands of those
that profess the reformed religion. The others are too dissolute, and
scandalize me by their love affairs and their quarrels. Shall I speak
frankly to you?" continued Charles, redoubling in energy. "I mistrust
every one about me except my new friends. I suspect Tavannes's ambition.
Vieilleville cares only for good wine, and would betray his king for a
cask of Malvoisie; Montmorency thinks only of the chase, and spends all
his time among his dogs and falcons; the Comte de Retz is a Spaniard;
the De Guises are Lorraines. I think there are no true Frenchmen in
France, except myself, my brother-in-law of Navarre, and you; but I am
chained to the throne, and cannot command armies; it is as much as I can
do to hunt at my ease at Saint Germain or Rambouillet. My brother-in-law
of Navarre is too young and too inexperienced; besides, he seems to me
exactly like his father Antoine, ruined by women. There is but you, my
father, who can be called, at the same time, as brave as Cæsar and as
wise as Plato; so that I scarcely know what to do--keep you near me, as
my adviser, or send you to the army, as its general. If you act as my
counsellor, who will command? If you command, who will be my
counsellor?"

"Sire," said Coligny, "we must conquer first, and then take counsel
after the victory."

"That is your advice--so be it; Monday you shall leave for Flanders, and
I for Amboise."

"Your Majesty leaves Paris, then?"

"Yes; I am weary of this confusion, and of these fêtes. I am not a man
of action; I am a dreamer. I was not born to be a king; I was born to be
a poet. You shall form a council which shall govern while you are at
war, and provided my mother is not in it, all will go well. I have
already sent word to Ronsard to join me; and yonder, we two together,
far from all tumult, far from the world, far from evil men, under our
mighty trees on the banks of the river, with the murmur of brooks in
our ears, will talk about divine things, the only compensation which
there is in the world for the affairs of men. Wait! Hear these lines in
which I invite him to join me; I wrote them this morning."

Coligny smiled. Charles IX. rubbed his hand over his brow, yellow and
shining like ivory, and repeated in a kind of sing-song the following
couplets:

    "Ronsard, I am full sure that if you see me not,
    Your great King's voice by you will shortly be forgot.
    But as a slight reminder--know I still persevere
    In making skill of poesy my sole endeavor.
    And that is why I send to you this warm appeal,
    To fill your mind with new, enthusiastic zeal.

    "No longer then amuse yourself with home distractions;
    Past is the time for gardening and its attractions.
    Come, follow with your King, who loves you most of all,
    For that the sweet strong verses from your lips do fall.
    And if Ardoise shall not behold you shortly present,
    A mighty quarrel will break out and prove unpleasant!"

"Bravo! sire, bravo!" cried Coligny, "I am better versed in matters of
war than in matters of poetry, but it seems to me that those lines are
equal to the best, even written by Ronsard, or Dorat, or even Michel de
l'Hôpital, Chancellor of France."

"Ah! my father!" exclaimed Charles IX.; "would what you said were true!
For the title of poet, you see, is what I am ambitious, above all
things, to gain; and as I said a few days ago to my master in poetry:

    "'The art of making verse, if one were criticised,
    Should ever be above the art of reigning prized.
    The crowns that you and I upon our brows are wearing,
    I as the King receive, as poet you are sharing.
    Your lofty soul, enkindled by celestial beams,
    Flames of itself, while mine with borrowed glory gleams.
    If 'mid the gods I ask which has the better showing,
    Ronsard is their delight: I, but their image glowing.
    Your lyre, which ravishes with sounds so sweet and bold,
    Subdues men's minds, while I their bodies only hold!
    It makes you master, lifts you into lofty regions,
    Where even the haughty tyrant ne'er dared claim allegiance.'"

"Sire," said Coligny, "I was well aware that your Majesty conversed with
the Muses, but I did not know that you were their chief counsellor."

"After you, my father, after you. And in order that I may not be
disturbed in my relations with them, I wish to put you at the head of
everything. So listen: I must now go and reply to a new madrigal my dear
and illustrious poet has sent me. I cannot, therefore, give you the
documents necessary to make you acquainted with the question now
debating between Philip II. and myself. There is, besides, a plan of the
campaign drawn up by my ministers. I will find it all for you, and give
it to you to-morrow."

"At what time, sire?"

"At ten o'clock; and if by chance I am busy making verses, or in my
cabinet writing, well--you will come in just the same, and take all the
papers which you will find on the table in this red portfolio. The color
is remarkable, and you cannot mistake it. I am now going to write to
Ronsard."

"Adieu, sire!"

"Adieu, my father!"

"Your hand?"

"What, my hand? In my arms, in my heart, there is your place! Come, my
old soldier, come!"

And Charles IX., drawing Coligny toward him as he bowed, pressed his
lips to his white hair.

The admiral left the room, wiping away a tear.

Charles IX. followed him with his eyes as long as he could see, and
listened as long as he could catch a sound; then, when he could no
longer hear or see anything, he bent his head over toward his shoulder,
as his custom was, and slowly entered his armory.

This armory was the king's favorite apartment; there he took his
fencing-lessons with Pompée, and his poetry lessons with Ronsard. He had
gathered there a great collection of the most costly weapons he had been
able to find. The walls were hung with axes, shields, spears, halberds,
pistols, and muskets, and that day a famous armorer had brought him a
magnificent arquebuse, on the barrel of which were inlaid in silver
these four lines, composed by the royal poet himself:

    "_Pour maintenir la foy,_
    _Je suis belle et fidèle._
    _Aux ennemis du Roi,_
    _Je suis belle et cruelle._"[1]


Charles, as we have said, entered this room, and after having shut the
door by which he had entered, he raised the tapestry that masked a
passage leading into a little chamber, where a woman kneeling before a
_priedieu_ was saying her prayers.

As this movement was executed noiselessly, and the footsteps of the
king, deadened by the thick carpet, made no more noise than a phantom's,
the kneeling woman heard no sound, and continued to pray. Charles stood
for a moment pensively looking at her.

She was a woman of thirty-four or thirty-five years of age, whose
vigorous beauty was set off by the costume of the peasants of Caux. She
wore the high cap so much the fashion at the court of France during the
time of Isabel of Bavaria, and her red bodice was embroidered with gold,
like those of the _contadine_ of Nettuno and Sora. The apartment which
she had for nearly twenty years occupied was close to the King's
bed-chamber and presented a singular mixture of elegance and rusticity.
In equal measure the palace had encroached upon the cottage, and the
cottage upon the palace, so that the room combined the simplicity of the
peasant woman and the luxury of the court lady.

The _priedieu_ on which she knelt was of oak, marvellously carved,
covered with velvet and with gold fringes, while the Bible from which
she was reading (for she was of the reformed religion) was very old and
torn, like those found in the poorest cottages; now everything in the
room was typified by the _priedieu_ and the Bible.

"Eh, Madelon!" said the King.

The kneeling woman lifted her head smilingly at the well-known voice,
and rising from her knees,--

"Ah! it is you, my son," said she.

"Yes, nurse; come here."

Charles IX. let fall the curtain, and sat down on the arm of an
easy-chair. The nurse appeared.

"What do you want with me, Charlot?"

"Come near, and answer in a low tone."

The nurse approached him with a familiarity such as might come from that
maternal affection felt by a woman for her nursling, but attributed by
the pamphlets of the time to a source infinitely less pure.

"Here I am," said she; "speak!"

"Is the man I sent for come?"

"He has been here half an hour."

Charles rose, approached the window, looked to assure himself there were
no eavesdroppers, went to the door and looked out there also, shook the
dust from his trophies of arms, patted a large greyhound which followed
him wherever he went, stopping when he stopped and moving when he
moved,--then returning to his nurse:

"Very well, nurse, let him come in," said he.

The worthy woman disappeared by the same passage by which she had
entered, while the king went and leaned against a table on which were
scattered arms of every kind.

Scarcely had he done so when the portière was again lifted, and the
person whom he expected entered.

He was a man of about forty, his eyes gray and false, his nose curved
like the beak of a screech-owl, his cheek-bones prominent. His face
tried to look respectful, but all that he could do was to wear a
hypocritical smile on his lips blanched with fear.

Charles gently put his hand behind him, and grasped the butt of a
pistol of a new construction, that was discharged, not by a match, as
formerly, but by a flint brought in contact with a wheel of steel. He
fixed his dull eyes steadily on the newcomer; meantime he whistled, with
perfect precision and with remarkable sweetness, one of his favorite
hunting-airs.

After a pause of some minutes, during which the expression of the
stranger's face grew more and more discomposed,

"You are the person," said the King, "called François de Louvièrs
Maurevel?"

"Yes, sire."

"Captain of petardeers?"

"Yes, sire."

"I wanted to see you."

Maurevel made a low bow.

"You know," continued Charles, laying a stress on each word, "that I
love all my subjects equally?"

"I know," stammered Maurevel, "that your Majesty is the father of your
people."

"And that the Huguenots and Catholics are equally my children?"

Maurevel remained silent, but his agitation was manifest to the King's
piercing eyes, although the person whom he was addressing was almost
concealed in the darkness.

"Does this displease you," said the King, "you who have waged such a
bitter war on the Huguenots?"

Maurevel fell on his knees.

"Sire," stammered he, "believe that"--

"I believe," continued Charles, looking more and more keenly at
Maurevel, while his eyes, which at first had seemed like glass, now
became almost fiery, "I believe that you had a great desire at
Moncontour to kill the admiral, who has just left me; I believe you
missed your aim, and that then you entered the army of my brother, the
Duc d'Anjou; I believe that then you went for a second time over to the
prince's and there took service in the company of M. de Mouy de Saint
Phale"--

"Oh, sire!"

"A brave gentleman from Picardy"--

"Sire, sire!" cried Maurevel, "do not overwhelm me."

"He was a brave officer," continued Charles, whose features assumed an
aspect of almost ferocious cruelty, "who received you as if you had been
his son; fed you, lodged you, and clothed you."

Maurevel uttered a despairing sigh.

"You called him your father, I believe," continued the King, pitilessly,
"and a tender friendship existed between you and the young De Mouy, his
son."

Maurevel, still on his knees, bowed low, more and more crushed under the
indignation of the King, who stood immovable, like a statue whose lips
only are endowed with vitality.

"By the way," continued the King, "M. de Guise was to give you ten
thousand crowns if you killed the admiral--was he not?"

The assassin in consternation struck his forehead against the floor.

"As regards your worthy father, the Sieur de Mouy, you were one day
acting as his escort in a reconnaissance toward Chevreux. He dropped his
whip and dismounted to pick it up. You were alone with him; you took a
pistol from your holster, and while he was bending over, you shot him in
the back; then seeing he was dead--for you killed him on the spot--you
escaped on the horse he had given you. This is your history, I believe?"

And as Maurevel remained mute under this accusation, every circumstance
of which was true, Charles IX. began to whistle again, with the same
precision and melody, the same hunting-air.

"Now, then, murderer!" said he after a little, "do you know I have a
great mind to have you hanged?"

"Oh, your Majesty!" cried Maurevel.

"Young De Mouy entreated me to do so only yesterday, and I scarcely knew
what answer to make him, for his demand was perfectly just."

Maurevel clasped his hands.

"All the more just, because I am, as you say, the father of my people;
and because, as I answered you, now that I am reconciled to the
Huguenots, they are as much my children as the Catholics."

"Sire," said Maurevel, in despair, "my life is in your hands; do with it
what you will."

"You are quite right, and I would not give a groat for it."

"But, sire," asked the assassin, "is there no means of redeeming my
crime?"

"None that I know of; only if I were in your place--but thank God I am
not"--

"Well, sire, if you were in my place?" murmured Maurevel, his eyes fixed
on the King's lips.

"I think I could extricate myself," said the King.

Maurevel raised himself on one knee and one hand, fixing his eyes upon
Charles to make certain that he was not jesting.

"I am very fond of young De Mouy," said the King; "but I am equally fond
of my cousin De Guise; and if my cousin asked me to spare a man that the
other wanted me to hang, I confess I should be embarrassed; but for
policy as well as religion's sake I should comply with my cousin De
Guise's request, for De Mouy, brave captain though he be, is but a petty
personage compared with a prince of Lorraine."

During these words, Maurevel slowly rose, like a man whose life is
saved.

"In your critical situation it would be a very important thing to gain
my cousin De Guise's favor. So I am going to tell you what he said to me
last night."

Maurevel drew nearer.

"'Imagine, sire,' said he to me, 'that every morning, at ten o'clock, my
deadliest enemy passes down the Rue Saint Germain l'Auxerrois, on his
return from the Louvre. I see him from a barred window in the room of my
old preceptor, the Canon Pierre Piles, and I pray the devil to open the
earth and swallow him in its abysses.' Now, Maître Maurevel," continued
the King, "perhaps if you were the devil, or if for an instant you
should take his place, that would perhaps please my cousin De Guise."

Maurevel's infernal smile came back to his lips, though they were still
bloodless with terror, and he stammered out these words:

"But, sire, I cannot make the earth open."

"Yet you made it open wide enough for the worthy De Mouy, if I remember
correctly. After this you will tell me how with a pistol--have you not
that pistol still?"

"Forgive me, sire, I am a still better marksman with an arquebuse than a
pistol," replied Maurevel, now quite reassured.

"Pistol or arquebuse makes no difference," said the King; "I am sure my
cousin De Guise will not cavil over the choice of methods."

"But," said Maurevel, "I must have a weapon I can rely on, as, perhaps,
I shall have to fire from a long distance."

"I have ten arquebuses in this room," replied Charles IX., "with which I
can hit a crown-piece at a hundred and fifty paces--will you try one?"

"Most willingly, sire!" cried Maurevel, with the greatest joy, going in
the direction of one which was standing in a corner of the room. It was
the one which that day had been brought to the King.

"No, not that one," said the King, "not that one; I reserve that for
myself. Some day I am going to have a grand hunt and then I hope to use
it. Take any other you like."

Maurevel took one down from a trophy.

"And who is this enemy, sire?" asked the assassin.

"How should I know," replied Charles, withering the wretch with his
contemptuous look.

"I must ask M. de Guise, then," faltered Maurevel.

The King shrugged his shoulders.

"Do not ask," said he; "for M. de Guise will not answer. Do people
generally answer such questions? Those that do not wish to be hanged
must guess them."

"But how shall I know him?"

"I tell you he passes the Canon's house every morning at ten o'clock."

"But many pass that house. Would your Majesty deign to give me any
certain sign?"

"Oh, that is easy enough; to-morrow, for example, he will carry a red
morocco portfolio under his arm."

"That is sufficient, sire."

"You still have the fast horse M. de Mouy gave you?"

"Sire, I have one of the fleetest of horses."

"Oh, I am not in the least anxious about you; only it is as well to let
you know the monastery has a back door."

"Thanks, sire; pray Heaven for me!"

"Oh, a thousand devils! pray to Satan rather; for only by his aid can
you escape a halter."

"Adieu, sire."

"Adieu! By the way, M. de Maurevel, remember that if you are heard of
before ten to-morrow, or are _not_ heard of afterward, there is a
dungeon at the Louvre."

And Charles IX. calmly began to whistle, with more than usual precision,
his favorite air.



CHAPTER IV.

THE EVENING OF THE 24TH OF AUGUST, 1572.


Our readers have not forgotten that in the previous chapter we mentioned
a gentleman named De la Mole whom Henry of Navarre was anxiously
expecting.

This young gentleman, as the admiral had announced, entered Paris by the
gate of Saint Marcel the evening of the 24th of August, 1572; and
bestowing a contemptuous glance on the numerous hostelries that
displayed their picturesque signs on either side of him, he spurred his
steaming horse on into the heart of the city, and after having crossed
the Place Maubert, Le Petit Pont, the Pont Notre-Dame, and skirted the
quays, he stopped at the end of the Rue de Bresec, which we have since
corrupted into the Rue de l'Arbre Sec, and for the greater convenience
of our readers we will call by its modern name.

The name pleased him, no doubt, for he entered the street, and finding
on his left a large sheet-iron plate swinging, creaking on its hinges,
with an accompaniment of little bells, he stopped and read these words,
"_La Belle Étoile_," written on a scroll beneath the sign, which was a
most attractive one for a famished traveller, as it represented a fowl
roasting in the midst of a black sky, while a man in a red cloak held
out his hands and his purse toward this new-fangled constellation.

"Here," said the gentleman to himself, "is an inn that promises well,
and the landlord must be a most ingenious fellow. I have always heard
that the Rue de l'Arbre Sec was near the Louvre; and, provided that the
interior answers to the exterior, I shall be admirably lodged."

While the newcomer was thus indulging in this monologue another horseman
who had entered the street at the other end, that is to say, by the Rue
Saint-Honoré, stopped also to admire the sign of _La Belle Étoile_.

The gentleman whom we already know, at least by name, rode a white steed
of Spanish lineage and wore a black doublet ornamented with jet; his
cloak was of dark violet velvet; his boots were of black leather, and he
had a sword and poniard with hilts of chased steel.

Now if we pass from his costume to his features we shall conclude that
he was twenty-four or twenty-five years of age. His complexion was dark;
his eyes were blue; he had a delicate mustache and brilliant teeth which
seemed to light up his whole face when his exquisitely modelled lips
parted in a sweet and melancholy smile.

The contrast between him and the second traveller was very striking.
Beneath his cocked hat escaped a profusion of frizzled hair, red rather
than brown; beneath this mop of hair sparkled a pair of gray eyes which
at the slightest opposition grew so fierce that they seemed black; a
fair complexion, thin lips, a tawny mustache, and admirable teeth
completed the description of his face. Taken all in all, with his white
skin, lofty stature, and broad shoulders, he was indeed a _beau
cavalier_ in the ordinary acceptation of the term, and during the last
hour which he had employed in staring up at all the windows, under the
pretext of looking for signs, he had attracted the general attention of
women, while the men, though they may have felt inclined to laugh at his
scanty cloak, his tight-fitting small-clothes, and his old-fashioned
boots, checked their rising mirth with a most cordial _Dieu vous garde_,
after they had more attentively studied his face, which every moment
assumed a dozen different expressions, but never that good-natured one
characteristic of a bewildered provincial.

He it was who first addressed the other gentleman who, as I have said,
was gazing at the hostelry of _La Belle Étoile_.

"By Heaven! monsieur," said he, with that horrible mountain accent which
would instantly distinguish a native of Piedmont among a hundred
strangers, "we are close to the Louvre, are we not? At all events, I
think your choice is the same as mine, and I am highly flattered by it."

"Monsieur," replied the other, with a Provençal accent which rivalled
that of his companion, "I believe this inn is near the Louvre. However,
I am still deliberating whether or not I shall have the honor of sharing
your opinion. I am in a quandary."

"You have not yet decided, sir? Nevertheless, the house is attractive.
But perhaps, after all, I have been won over to it by your presence. Yet
you will grant that is a pretty painting?"

"Very! and it is for that very reason I mistrust it. Paris, I am told,
is full of sharpers, and you may be just as well tricked by a sign as by
anything else."

"By Heaven!" replied the Piedmontese, "I don't care a fig for their
tricks; and if the host does not serve me a chicken as well roasted as
the one on his sign, I will put him on the spit, nor will I let him off
till I have done him to a turn. Come, let us go in."

"You have decided me," said the Provençal, laughing; "precede me, I
beg."

"Oh, sir, on my soul I could not think of it, for I am only your most
obedient servant, the Comte Annibal de Coconnas."

"And I, monsieur, but the Comte Joseph Hyacinthe Boniface de Lerac de la
Mole, equally at your service."

"Since that is the case, let us go in together, arm in arm."

The result of this conciliatory proposition was that the two young men
got off their horses, threw the bridles to the ostler, linked arms,
adjusted their swords, and approached the door of the inn, where the
landlord was standing. But contrary to the custom of men of his
profession, the worthy proprietor seemed not to notice them, so busy was
he talking with a tall, sallow man, wrapped in a drab-colored cloak like
an owl buried in his feathers.

The two gentlemen were so near the landlord and his friend in the
drab-colored cloak that Coconnas, indignant that he and his companion
should be treated with such lack of consideration, touched the
landlord's sleeve.

He appeared suddenly to perceive them, and dismissed his friend with an
"_Au revoir!_ come soon and let me know the hour appointed."

"Well, _monsieur le drole_," said Coconnas, "do not you see we have
business with you?"

"I beg pardon, gentlemen," said the host; "I did not see you."

"Eh, by Heaven! then you ought to have seen us; and now that you do see
us, say, 'Monsieur le Comte,' and not merely 'Monsieur,' if you please."

La Mole stood by, leaving Coconnas, who seemed to have undertaken the
affair, to speak; but by the scowling on his face it was evident that he
was ready to come to his assistance when the moment of action should
present itself.

"Well, what is your pleasure, Monsieur le Comte?" asked the landlord, in
a quiet tone.

"Ah, that's better; is it not?" said Coconnas, turning to La Mole, who
nodded affirmatively. "Monsieur le Comte and myself, attracted by the
sign of your establishment, wish to sup and sleep here to-night."

"Gentlemen," said the host, "I am very sorry, but I have only one
chamber, and I am afraid that would not suit you."

"So much the better," said La Mole; "we will go and lodge somewhere
else."

"By no means," said Coconnas, "I shall stay here; my horse is tired. I
will have the room, since you will not."

"Ah! that is quite different," replied the host, with the same cool tone
of impertinence. "If there is only one of you I cannot lodge you at all,
then."

"By Heaven!" cried Coconnas, "here's a witty animal! Just now you could
not lodge us because we were two, and now you have not room for one. You
will not lodge us at all, then?"

"Since you take this high tone, gentlemen, I will answer you frankly."

"Answer, then; only answer quickly."

"Well, then, I should prefer not to have the honor of lodging you at
all."

"For what reason?" asked Coconnas, growing white with rage.

"Because you have no servants, and for one master's room full, I should
have two servants' rooms empty; so that, if I let you have the master's
room, I run the risk of not letting the others."

"Monsieur de la Mole," said Coconnas, "do you not think we ought to
massacre this fellow?"

"Decidedly," said La Mole, preparing himself, together with Coconnas, to
lay his whip over the landlord's back.

But the landlord contented himself with retreating a step or two,
despite this two-fold demonstration, which was not particularly
reassuring, considering that the two gentlemen appeared so full of
determination.

"It is easy to see," said he, in a tone of raillery, "that these
gentlemen are just from the provinces. At Paris it is no longer the
fashion to massacre innkeepers who refuse to let them rooms--only great
men are massacred nowadays and not the common people; and if you make
any disturbance, I will call my neighbors, and you shall be beaten
yourselves, and that would be an indignity for two such gentlemen."

"Why! he is laughing at us," cried Coconnas, in a rage.

"Grégoire, my arquebuse," said the host, with the same voice with which
he would have said, "Give these gentleman a chair."

"_Trippe del papa!_" cried Coconnas, drawing his sword; "warm up,
Monsieur de la Mole."

"No, no; for while we warm up, our supper will get cold."

"What, you think"--cried Coconnas.

"That Monsieur de la Belle Étoile is right; only he does not know how to
treat his guests, especially when they are gentlemen, for instead of
brutally saying, 'Gentlemen, I do not want you,' it would have been
better if he had said, 'Enter, gentlemen'--at the same time reserving to
himself the right to charge in his bill, master's room, so much;
servants' room, so much."

With these words, La Mole gently pushed by the landlord, who was just on
the point of taking his arquebuse, and entered with Coconnas.

"Well," said Coconnas, "I am sorry to sheathe my sword before I have
ascertained that it is as sharp as that rascal's larding-needle."

"Patience, my dear friend, patience," said La Mole. "All the inns in
Paris are full of gentlemen come to attend the King of Navarre's
marriage or attracted by the approaching war with Flanders; we should
not find another lodging; besides, perhaps it is the custom at Paris to
receive strangers in this manner."

"By Heaven! how patient you are, Monsieur de la Mole!" muttered
Coconnas, curling his red mustache with rage and hurling the lightning
of his eyes on the landlord. "But let the scoundrel take care; for if
his cooking be bad, if his bed be hard, his wine less than three years
in bottle, and his waiter be not as pliant as a reed"--

"There! there! my dear gentleman!" said the landlord, whetting his knife
on a strap, "you may make yourself easy; you are in the land of
Cocagne."

Then in a low tone he added:

"These are some Huguenots; traitors have grown so insolent since the
marriage of their Béarnais with Mademoiselle Margot!"

Then, with a smile that would have made his guests shudder had they seen
it:

"How strange it would be if I were just to have two Huguenots come to my
house, when"--

"Now, then," interrupted Coconnas, pointedly, "are we going to have any
supper?"

"Yes, as soon as you please, monsieur," returned the landlord, softened,
no doubt, by the last reflection.

"Well, then, the sooner the better," said Coconnas; and turning to La
Mole:

"Pray, Monsieur le Comte, while they are putting our room in order, tell
me, do you think Paris seems a gay city?"

"Faith! no," said La Mole. "All the faces I have seen looked scared or
forbidding; perhaps the Parisians also are afraid of the storm; see how
very black the sky is, and the air feels heavy."

"Tell me, count, are you not bound for the Louvre?"

"Yes! and you also, Monsieur de Coconnas."

"Well, let us go together."

"It is rather late to go out, is it not?" said La Mole.

"Early or late, I must go; my orders are peremptory--'Come instantly to
Paris, and report to the Duc de Guise without delay.'"

At the Duc de Guise's name the landlord drew nearer.

"I think the rascal is listening to us," said Coconnas, who, as a true
son of Piedmont, was very truculent, and could not forgive the
proprietor of _La Belle Étoile_ his rude reception of them.

"I am listening, gentlemen," replied he, taking off his cap; "but it is
to serve you. I heard the great duke's name mentioned, and I came
immediately. What can I do for you, gentlemen?"

"Aha! that name is magical, since it renders you so polite. Tell me,
maître,--what's your name?"

"Maître la Hurière," replied the host, bowing.

"Well, Maître la Hurière, do you think my arm is lighter than the Duc de
Guise's, who makes you so civil?"

"No, Monsieur le Comte, but it is not so long," replied La Hurière;
"besides," he added, "I must tell you that the great Henry is the idol
of us Parisians."

"Which Henry?" asked La Mole.

"It seems to me there is only one," replied the landlord.

"You are mistaken; there is another, whom I desire you do not speak ill
of, and that is Henry of Navarre; and then there is Henry de Condé, who
has his share of merit."

"I do not know them," said the landlord.

"But I do; and as I am on my way to the King of Navarre, I desire you
not to speak slightingly of him before me."

The landlord replied by merely touching his cap, and continued to lavish
his assiduities on Coconnas:

"So monsieur is going to see the great Duc de Guise? Monsieur is a very
fortunate gentleman; he has come, no doubt, for"--

"What?" asked Coconnas.

"For the festivity," replied the host, with a singular smile.

"You should say for the festivities," replied Coconnas; "for Paris, I
hear, runs riot with festivals; at least there is nothing talked about
but balls, festivals, and orgies. Does not every one find plenty of
amusement?"

"A moderate amount, but they will have more soon, I hope."

"But the marriage of his majesty the King of Navarre has brought a great
many people to Paris, has it not?" said La Mole.

"A great many Huguenots--yes," replied La Hurière, but suddenly changing
his tone:

"Pardon me, gentlemen," said he, "perhaps you are of that religion?"

"I," cried Coconnas, "I am as good a Catholic as the pope himself."

La Hurière looked at La Mole, but La Mole did not or would not
comprehend him.

"If you do not know the King of Navarre, Maître La Hurière," said La
Mole, "perhaps you know the admiral. I have heard he has some influence
at court, and as I have letters for him, perhaps you will tell me where
he lives, if his name does not take the skin off your lips."

"He _did_ live in the Rue de Béthizy down here at the right," replied
the landlord, with an inward satisfaction he could not conceal.

"He _did_ live?" exclaimed La Mole. "Has he changed his residence?"

"Yes--from this world, perhaps."

"What do you mean?" cried both the gentlemen together, "the admiral
removed from this world?"

"What, Monsieur de Coconnas," pursued the landlord, with a shrewd smile,
"are you a friend of the Duc de Guise, and do not know _that_?"

"Know what?"

"That the day before yesterday, as the admiral was passing along the
place Saint Germain l'Auxerrois before the house of the Canon Pierre
Piles, he was fired at"--

"And killed?" said La Mole.

"No; he had his arm broken and two fingers taken off; but it is hoped
the balls were poisoned."

"How, wretch!" cried La Mole; "hoped?"

"Believed, I mean," said the landlord, winking at Coconnas; "do not take
a word too seriously, it was a slip of the tongue."

And Maître La Hurière, turning his back on La Mole, poked out his tongue
at Coconnas in the most insulting way, accompanying this action with a
meaning wink.

"Really!" said Coconnas, joyfully.

"Really!" said La Mole, with sorrowful stupefaction.

"It is just as I have the honor of telling you, gentlemen," said the
landlord.

"In that case," said La Mole, "I must go instantly to the Louvre. Shall
I find the King of Navarre there?"

"Most likely, since he lives there."

"And I," said Coconnas, "must also go to the Louvre. Shall I find the
Duc de Guise there?"

"Most likely; for only a moment ago I saw him pass with two hundred
gentlemen."

"Come, then, Monsieur de Coconnas," said La Mole.

"I will follow you, sir," replied Coconnas.

"But your supper, gentlemen!" cried La Hurière.

"Ah," said La Mole, "I shall most likely sup with the King of Navarre."

"And I," said Coconnas, "with the Duc de Guise."

"And I," said the landlord, after having watched the two gentlemen on
their way to the Louvre, "I will go and burnish my sallet, put a match
to my arquebuse, and sharpen my partisan, for no one knows what may
happen."



CHAPTER V.

OF THE LOUVRE IN PARTICULAR, AND OF VIRTUE IN GENERAL.


The two young men, directed by the first person they met, went down the
Rue d'Averon, the Rue Saint Germain l'Auxerrois, and soon found
themselves before the Louvre, the towers of which were beginning to be
lost in the early shades of the gloaming.

"What is the matter with you?" asked Coconnas of La Mole, who, as they
came in sight of the old château, stopped and gazed, not without awe, on
the drawbridges, the narrow windows, and the pointed belfries, which
suddenly rose before his vision.

"I scarcely know," said La Mole; "my heart beats strangely. I am not
timid, but somehow this old palace seems so gloomy and terrible."

"Well, as for me, I don't know any reason for it," replied Coconnas,
"but I feel in excellent spirits. My dress is somewhat disordered," he
went on to say, glancing at his travelling costume, "but never mind, it
looks as if I had been riding. Besides, my instructions commanded
promptness and I shall be welcome because I shall have obeyed
punctually."

The two young men continued their way, each under the influence of the
feelings he had expressed.

There was a strong guard at the Louvre and the sentinels were doubled.
Our two cavaliers were somewhat embarrassed, therefore, but Coconnas,
who had noticed that the Duc de Guise's name acted like a talisman on
the Parisians, approached a sentinel, and making use of the
all-powerful name, asked if by means of it he might not be allowed to
enter.

The name seemed to produce its ordinary effect upon the soldier;
nevertheless he asked Coconnas if he had the countersign.

Coconnas was forced to confess he had not.

"Stand back, then," said the soldier.

At this moment a person who was talking with the officer of the guard
and who had overheard Coconnas ask leave to enter, broke off his
conversation and came to him.

"Vat do you vant with Monsieur dee Gouise?" asked he.

"I wish to see him," said Coconnas, smiling.

"Imbossible! the duke is mit the King."

"But I have a letter for him."

"Ah, you haf a ledder for him?"

"Yes, and I have come a long distance."

"Ah! you haf gome a long tistance?"

"I have come from Piedmont."

"Vell, vell! dat iss anodder ting. And vat iss your name?"

"The Comte Annibal de Coconnas."

"Goot! goot! kif me the ledder, Monsieur Annibal, kif it to me!"

"On my word," said La Mole to himself, "a very civil man. I hope I may
find one like him to conduct me to the King of Navarre."

"But kif me the ledder," said the German gentleman, holding out his hand
toward Coconnas, who hesitated.

"By Heaven!" replied the Piedmontese, distrustful like a half-Italian,
"I scarcely know whether I ought, as I have not the honor of knowing
you."

"I am Pesme; I'm addached to Monsir le Douque de Gouise."

"Pesme," murmured Coconnas; "I am not acquainted with that name."

"It is Monsieur de Besme, my dear sir," said the sentinel. "His
pronunciation misled you, that is all; you may safely give him your
letter, I'll answer for it."

"Ah! Monsieur de Besme!" cried Coconnas; "of course I know you! with the
greatest pleasure. Here is the letter. Pardon my hesitation; but
fidelity requires one to be careful."

"Goot, goot! dere iss no need of any egscuse," said Besme.

"Perhaps, sir," said La Mole, "you will be so kind as to the same for my
letter that you have done for my friend?"

"And vat iss your name, monsir?"

"The Comte Lerac de la Mole."

"Gount Lerag dee la Mole?"

"Yes."

"I don't know de name."

"It is not strange that I have not the honor of being known to you, sir,
for like the Comte de Coconnas I am only just arrived in Paris."

"Where do you gome from?"

"From Provence."

"Vit a ledder?"

"Yes."

"For Monsir dee Gouise?"

"No; for his majesty the King of Navarre."

"I do not pelong to de King of Navarre," said De Besme coldly, "and
derefore I gannot dake your ledder."

And turning on his heel, he entered the Louvre, bidding Coconnas follow
him.

La Mole was left alone.

At this moment a troop of cavaliers, about a hundred in number, came out
from the Louvre by a gate alongside that of which Besme and Coconnas had
entered.

"Aha!" said the sentinel to his comrade, "there are De Mouy and his
Huguenots! See how joyous they all are! The King has probably promised
them to put to death the assassin of the admiral; and as it was he who
murdered De Mouy's father, the son will kill two birds with one stone."

"Excuse me, my good fellow," interrupted La Mole, "did you not say that
officer is M. de Mouy?"

"Yes, sir."

"And that those with him are"--

"Are heretics--I said so."

"Thank you," said La Mole, affecting not to notice the scornful word
_parpaillots_, employed by the sentinel. "That was all I wished to
know;" and advancing to the chief of the cavaliers:

"Sir," said he, "I am told you are M. de Mouy."

"Yes, sir," returned the officer, courteously.

"Your name, well known among those of our faith, emboldens me to address
you, sir, to ask a special favor."

"What may that be, sir,--but first whom have I the honor of addressing?"

"The Comte Lerac de la Mole."

The young men bowed to each other.

"What can I do for you, sir?" asked De Mouy.

"Sir, I am just arrived from Aix, and bring a letter from M. d'Auriac,
Governor of Provence. This letter is directed to the King of Navarre and
contains important and pressing news. How can I give it to him? How can
I enter the Louvre?"

"Nothing is easier than to enter the Louvre, sir," replied De Mouy; "but
I fear the King of Navarre will be too busy to see you at this hour.
However, if you please, I will take you to his apartments, and then you
must manage for yourself."

"A thousand thanks!"

"Come, then," said De Mouy.

De Mouy dismounted, threw the reins to his lackey, stepped toward the
wicket, passed the sentinel, conducted La Mole into the château, and,
opening the door leading to the king's apartments:

"Enter, and inquire for yourself, sir," said he.

And saluting La Mole, he retired.

La Mole, left alone, looked round.

The ante-room was vacant. One of the inner doors was open. He advanced
a few paces and found himself in a passage.

He knocked and spoke, but no one answered. The profoundest silence
reigned in this part of the Louvre.

"What was told me about the stern etiquette of this place?" said he to
himself. "One may come and go in this palace as if it were a public
place."

Then he called again, but without obtaining any better result than
before.

"Well, let us walk straight on," thought he, "I must meet some one," and
he proceeded down the corridor, which grew darker and darker.

Suddenly the door opposite that by which he had entered opened, and two
pages appeared, lighting a lady of noble bearing and exquisite beauty.

The glare of the torches fell full on La Mole, who stood motionless.

The lady stopped also.

"What do you want, sir?" said she, in a voice which fell upon his ears
like exquisite music.

"Oh, madame," said La Mole, casting down his eyes, "pardon me; I have
just parted from M. de Mouy, who was so good as to conduct me here, and
I wish to see the King of Navarre."

"His majesty is not here, sir; he is with his brother-in-law. But, in
his absence, could you not say to the queen"--

"Oh, yes, madame," returned La Mole, "if I could obtain audience of
her."

"You have it already, sir."

"What?" cried La Mole.

"I am the Queen of Navarre."

La Mole made such a hasty movement of surprise and alarm that it caused
the queen to smile.

"Speak, sir," said Marguerite, "but speak quickly, for the queen mother
is waiting for me."

"Oh, madame, if the queen mother is waiting for you," said La Mole,
"suffer me to leave you, for just now it would be impossible for me to
speak to you. I am incapable of collecting my ideas. The sight of you
has dazzled me. I no longer think, I can only admire."

Marguerite advanced graciously toward the handsome young man, who,
without knowing it, was acting like a finished courtier.

"Recover yourself, sir," said she; "I will wait and they will wait for
me."

"Pardon me, madame," said La Mole, "if I did not salute your majesty at
first with all the respect which you have a right to expect from one of
your humblest servants, but"--

"You took me for one of my ladies?" said Marguerite.

"No, madame; but for the shade of the beautiful Diane de Poitiers, who
is said to haunt the Louvre."

"Come, sir," said Marguerite, "I see you will make your fortune at
court; you said you had a letter for the king, it was not needed, but no
matter! Where is it? I will give it to him--only make haste, I beg of
you."

In a twinkling La Mole threw open his doublet, and drew from his breast
a letter enveloped in silk.

Marguerite took the letter, and glanced at the writing.

"Are you not Monsieur de la Mole?" asked she.

"Yes, madame. Oh, _mon Dieu_! Can I hope my name is known to your
majesty?"

"I have heard the king, my husband, and the Duc d'Alençon, my brother,
speak of you. I know they expect you."

And in her corsage, glittering with embroidery and diamonds, she slipped
the letter which had just come from the young man's doublet and was
still warm from the vital heat of his body. La Mole eagerly watched
Marguerite's every movement.

"Now, sir," said she, "descend to the gallery below, and wait until some
one comes to you from the King of Navarre or the Duc d'Alençon. One of
my pages will show you the way."

And Marguerite, as she said these words, went on her way. La Mole drew
himself up close to the wall. But the passage was so narrow and the
Queen of Navarre's farthingale was so voluminous that her silken gown
brushed against the young man's clothes, while a penetrating perfume
hovered where she passed.

La Mole trembled all over and, feeling that he was in danger of falling,
he tried to find a support against the wall.

Marguerite disappeared like a vision.

"Are you coming, sir?" asked the page who was to conduct La Mole to the
lower gallery.

"Oh, yes--yes!" cried La Mole, joyfully; for as the page led him the
same way by which Marguerite had gone, he hoped that by making haste he
might see her again.

And in truth, as he reached the top of the staircase, he perceived her
below; and whether she heard his step or looked round by chance,
Marguerite raised her head, and La Mole saw her a second time.

"Oh," said he, as he followed the page, "she is not a mortal--she is a
goddess, and as Vergilius Maro says: '_Et vera incessu patuit dea._'"

"Well?" asked the page.

"Here I am," replied La Mole, "excuse me, here I am."

The page, preceding La Mole, descended a story lower, opened one door,
then another, and stopping,

"You are to wait here," said he.

La Mole entered the gallery, the door of which closed after him.

The gallery was vacant except for one gentleman, who was sauntering up
and down, and seemed also waiting for some one.

The evening was by this time beginning to scatter monstrous shadows from
the depths of the vaulted ceiling, and though the two gentlemen were not
twenty paces apart, it was impossible for either to recognize the
other's face.

La Mole drew nearer.

"By Heaven!" muttered he as soon as he was within a few feet of the
other, "here is Monsieur le Comte de Coconnas again!"

At the sound of footsteps Coconnas had already turned, and was staring
at La Mole with no less astonishment than the other showed.

"By Heaven!" cried he. "The devil take me but here is Monsieur de la
Mole! What am I doing? Swearing in the King's palace? Well, never mind;
it seems the King swears in a different way from mine, and even in
churches. Here we are at last, then, in the Louvre!"

"Yes; I suppose Monsieur de Besme introduced you?"

"Oh, he is a charming German. Who brought you in?"

"M. de Mouy--I told you the Huguenots had some interest at court. Have
you seen Monsieur de Guise?"

"No, not yet. Have you obtained your audience with the King of Navarre?"

"No, but I soon shall. I was brought here and told to wait."

"Ah, you will see there is some great supper under way and we shall be
placed side by side. What a strange chance! For two hours fortune has
joined us! But what is the matter? You seem ill at ease."

"I?" exclaimed La Mole, shivering, for in truth he was still dazzled by
the vision which had been vouchsafed him. "Oh, no, but the place in
which we are brings into my mind a throng of reflections."

"Philosophical ones, I suppose. Just the same as it is with me. When you
came in I was just going over in my mind all my tutor's recommendations.
Monsieur le Comte, are you acquainted with Plutarch?"

"Certainly I am!" exclaimed La Mole, smiling, "he is one of my favorite
authors."

"Very well," Coconnas went on gravely, "this great man does not seem to
me so far wrong when he compares the gifts of nature to brilliant but
ephemeral flowers, while he regards virtue as a balsamic plant of
imperishable perfume and sovereign efficacy for the healing of wounds."

"Do you know Greek, Monsieur de Coconnas?" said La Mole, gazing keenly
at his companion.

"No, I do not; but my tutor did, and he strongly advised me when I
should be at court to talk about virtue. 'That looks well,' he said. So
I assure you I am well fortified with it. By the way, are you hungry?"

"No."

"And yet you seemed anxious to taste the broiled fowl of _La Belle
Étoile_. As for me, I am dying of starvation!"

"Well, Monsieur de Coconnas, here is a fine chance for you to make use
of your arguments on virtue and to put your admiration for Plutarch to
the proof, for that great writer says somewhere: 'It is good to accustom
the soul to pain and the stomach to hunger'--'_Prepon esti tên men
psvchên odunê, ton de gastéra semó askeïn._'"

"Ah, indeed! So you know Greek?" exclaimed Coconnas in surprise.

"Faith, yes," replied La Mole, "my tutor taught me."

"By Heaven! count, your fortune is made if that is so; you will compose
poetry with Charles IX. and you will talk Greek with Queen Marguerite!"

"Not to reckon that I can still talk Gascon with the King of Navarre!"
added La Mole, laughing.

At this moment the door communicating with the King's apartment opened,
a step was heard, and a shade was seen approaching in the darkness. This
shade materialized into a body. This body belonged to Monsieur de Besme.

He scrutinized both gentlemen, so as to pick out the one he wanted, and
then motioned Coconnas to follow him.

Coconnas waved his hand to La Mole.

De Besme conducted Coconnas to the end of the gallery, opened a door,
and stood at the head of a staircase.

He looked cautiously round, then up and down.

"Monsir de Gogonnas," said he, "vere are you staying?"

"At _La Belle Étoile_, Rue de l'Arbre Sec."

"Goot, goot! dat is glose by. Go pack to your hodel gwick and
to-nide"--

He looked around him again.

"Well, to-night?"

"Vell, gome here mit a vite gross in your hat. De bassvord is 'Gouise.'
Hush! nod a vord."

"What time am I to come?"

"Ven you hear de dogsin."

"What's the dogsin?" asked Coconnas.

"Ja! de dogsin--pum! pum!"

"Oh! the tocsin!"

"Ja, vot elus tid I zay?"

"Good--I shall be here," said Coconnas.

And, saluting De Besme, he took his departure, asking himself:

"What the devil does he mean and why should the tocsin be rung? No
matter! I persist in my opinion: Monsieur de Besme is a charming
Tedesco--Why not wait for the Comte de la Mole? Ah faith, no! he will
probably be invited to supper with the King of Navarre."

And Coconnas set forth for the Rue de l'Arbre Sec, where the sign of _La
Belle Étoile_ like a lodestone attracted him.

Meantime a gallery door which led to the King of Navarre's apartment
opened, and a page approached Monsieur de la Mole.

"You are the Comte de la Mole?" said he.

"That is my name."

"Where do you lodge?"

"At _La Belle Étoile_, Rue de l'Arbre Sec."

"Good, that is close to the Louvre. Listen--his majesty the King of
Navarre has desired me to inform you that he cannot at present receive
you; perhaps he may send for you to-night; but if to-morrow morning you
have received no word, come to the Louvre."

"But supposing the sentinel refuse me admission."

"True: the countersign is 'Navarre;' that word will open all doors to
you."

"Thanks."

"Wait, my dear sir, I am ordered to escort you to the wicket gate for
fear you should get lost in the Louvre."

"By the way, how about Coconnas?" said La Mole to himself as soon as he
was fairly in the street. "Oh, he will remain to supper with the Duc de
Guise."

But as soon as he entered Maître la Hurière's the first thing La Mole
saw was Coconnas seated before a gigantic omelet.

"Oho!" cried Coconnas, laughing heartily, "I see you have no more dined
with the King of Navarre than I have supped with the Duc de Guise."

"Faith, no."

"Are you hungry now?"

"I believe I am."

"In spite of Plutarch?"

"Count," said La Mole, laughing, "Plutarch says in another place: 'Let
him that hath, share with him that hath not.' Are you willing for the
love of Plutarch to share your omelet with me? Then while we eat we will
converse on virtue!"

"Oh, faith, not on that subject," cried Coconnas. "It is all right when
one is at the Louvre and there is danger of eavesdroppers and one's
stomach is empty. Sit down and have something to eat with me."

"There, now I see that fate has decidedly made us inseparable. Are you
going to sleep here?"

"I have not the least idea."

"Nor I either."

"At any rate, I know where I shall spend the night."

"Where?"

"Wherever you do: that is settled."

And both burst out laughing and then set to work to do honor to Maître
la Hurière's omelet.



CHAPTER VI.

THE DEBT PAID.


Now if the reader is curious to know why Monsieur de la Mole was not
received by the King of Navarre, why Monsieur de Coconnas was not
permitted to see Monsieur de Guise, and lastly, why instead of eating
pheasants, partridges, and venison at the Louvre, both supped at the
hotel of the _Belle Étoile_ on an omelet, he must kindly accompany us to
the old palace of kings, and follow the queen, Marguerite of Navarre,
whom La Mole had lost from sight at the entrance of the grand gallery.

While Marguerite was descending the staircase, the duke, Henry de Guise,
whom she had not seen since the night of her marriage, was in the King's
closet. To this staircase which Marguerite was descending there was an
outlet. To the closet in which Monsieur de Guise was there was a door,
and this door and this outlet both led to a corridor, which corridor led
to the apartments of the queen mother, Catharine de Médicis.

Catharine de Médicis was alone, seated near a table, with her elbow
leaning on a prayer-book half open, and her head leaning on a hand still
remarkably beautiful,--by reason of the cosmetics with which she was
supplied by the Florentine Réné, who united the double duty of perfumer
and poisoner to the queen mother.

The widow of Henry II. was clothed in mourning, which she had not thrown
off since her husband's death. At this period she was about fifty-two or
fifty-three years of age, and owing to her stoutness and fair complexion
she preserved much of her early beauty.

Her rooms, like her dress, paraded her widowhood. Everything in them
bore the impress of bereavement: hangings, walls, and furniture were all
in mourning. Only above a kind of dais covering a throne, where at that
moment lay sleeping the little greyhound presented to the queen mother
by her son-in-law, Henry of Navarre, and bearing the mythological name
of Phoebe, was a painted rainbow surrounded by that Greek motto which
King François I. had given her: "_Phôs pherei ê de kai a'íthzên_;" which
may be translated:

"_He brings light and serenity._"

Suddenly, and at a moment when the queen mother appeared deeply plunged
in some thought which brought a half-hesitating smile to her
carmen-painted lips, a man opened the door, raised the tapestry, and
showed his pale face, saying:

"Everything is going badly."

Catharine raised her head and recognized the Duc de Guise.

"Why do you say 'Everything is going badly'?" she replied. "What do you
mean, Henry?"

"I mean that the King is more than ever taken with the accursed
Huguenots; and if we await his leave to execute the great enterprise, we
shall wait a very long time, and perhaps forever."

"Tell me what has happened," said Catharine, still preserving the
tranquillity of countenance habitual to her, yet to which, when occasion
served, she could give such different expressions.

"Why, just now, for the twentieth time, I asked his Majesty whether he
would still permit all those bravadoes which the gentlemen of the
reformed religion indulge in, since their admiral was wounded."

"And what did my son reply?" asked Catharine.

"He replied, 'Monsieur le Duc, you must necessarily be suspected by the
people as the author of the attempted assassination of my second father,
the admiral; defend yourself from the imputation as best you may. As to
me, I will defend myself properly, if I am insulted;' and then he turned
away to feed his dogs."

"And you made no attempt to retain him?"

"Certainly I did; but he replied to me, in that tone which you so well
know, and looking at me with the gaze peculiar to him, 'Monsieur le Duc,
my dogs are hungry; and they are not men, whom I can keep waiting.'
Whereupon I came straight to you."

"And you have done right," said the queen mother.

"But what is now to be done?"

"Try a last effort."

"And who will try it?"

"I will! Is the King alone?"

"No; M. de Tavannes is with him."

"Await me here; or, rather, follow me at a distance."

Catharine instantly rose and went to the chamber, where on Turkey
carpets and velvet cushions were the King's favorite greyhounds. On
perches ranged along the wall were two or three valuable falcons and a
small shrike, with which Charles IX. amused himself in bringing down the
little birds in the garden of the Louvre, and that of the Tuileries,
which they had just begun building.

On her way the queen mother put on a pale and anguished expression,
while down her cheeks rolled a last or rather a first tear.

She noiselessly approached Charles IX. as he was giving his dogs
fragments of cakes cut into equal portions.

"My son," said the queen, with a trembling in her voice so cleverly
affected that the King started.

"What is it, madame?" said Charles, turning round suddenly.

"My son," replied Catharine, "I would ask your leave to retire to one of
your châteaux, no matter which, so that it be as distant as possible
from Paris."

"And wherefore, madame?" inquired Charles IX., fixing on his mother that
glassy eye which, on certain occasions, became so penetrating.

"Because every day I receive new insults from persons of the new faith;
because to-day I hear that you have been threatened by the Protestants
even in your own Louvre, and I do not desire to be present at such
spectacles."

"But then, madame," replied Charles IX., with an expression full of
conviction, "an attempt has been made to kill their admiral. An infamous
murderer has already assassinated the brave M. de Mouy. _Mort de ma
vie_, mother, there must be justice in a kingdom!"

"Oh, be easy on that head, my son," said Catharine; "they will not fail
justice; for if you should refuse it, they will still have it in their
own way: on M. de Guise to-day, on me to-morrow, and yourself later."

"Oh, madame!" said Charles, allowing a first accent of doubt to show in
his voice, "do you think so?"

"Oh, my son," replied Catharine, giving way entirely to the violence of
her thoughts, "do you not see that it is no longer a question of
François de Guise's death or the admiral's, of the Protestant religion
or the Catholic religion, but simply of the substitution of Antoine de
Bourbon's son for the son of Henry the Second?"

"Come, come, mother, you are falling again into your usual
exaggeration," said the King.

"What, then, have you in mind, my son?"

"To wait, mother,--to wait. All human wisdom is in this single word. The
greatest, the strongest, the most skilful is he who knows how to wait."

"You may wait, then; I will not."

Catharine made a courtesy, and stepping towards the door, was about to
return to her apartment.

Charles IX. stopped her.

"Well, then, really, what is best to be done, mother?" he asked, "for
above all I am just, and I would have every one satisfied with me."

Catharine turned toward him.

"Come, count," she said to Tavannes, who was caressing the King's
shrike, "tell the King your opinion as to what should be done."

"Will your Majesty permit me?" inquired the count.

"Speak, Tavannes!--speak."

"What does your Majesty do when, in the chase, the wounded boar turns on
you?"

"By Heaven! monsieur, I wait for him, with firm foot," replied Charles,
"and stab him in the throat with my boar-spear."

"Simply that he may not hurt you," remarked Catharine.

"And to amuse myself," said the King, with a sigh which indicated
courage easily aroused even to ferocity; "but I should not amuse myself
killing my subjects; for, after all, the Huguenots are my subjects, as
well as the Catholics."

"Then, sire," said Catharine, "your subjects, the Huguenots, will do
like the wild boar who escapes the spear thrust into his throat: they
will bring down the throne."

"Nonsense! Do you really think so, madame?" said Charles IX., with an
air which denoted that he did not place great faith in his mother's
predictions.

"But have you not seen M. de Mouy and his party to-day?"

"Yes; I have seen them, for I have just left them. But what does he ask
for that is not just? He has requested that his father's murderer and
the admiral's assassin be put to death. Did we not punish M. de
Montgommery for the death of my father and your husband, although that
death was a simple accident?"

"Very well, sire," said Catharine, piqued, "let us say no more. Your
majesty is under the protection of that God who gives you strength,
wisdom, and confidence. But I, a poor woman whom God abandons, no doubt
on account of my sins, fear and yield."

And having said this, Catharine again courteseyed and left the room,
making a sign to the Duc de Guise, who had at that moment entered, to
remain in her place, and try a last effort.

Charles IX. followed his mother with his eye, but this time did not
recall her. He then began to caress his dogs, whistling a hunting-air.

He suddenly paused.

"My mother," said he, "is a royal spirit, and has scruples! Really, now,
it is a cool proposal, to kill off some dozens of Huguenots because they
come to demand justice! Is it not their right?"

"Some dozens!" murmured the Duc de Guise.

"Ah! are you here, sir?" said the King, pretending to see him for the
first time. "Yes, some dozens. A tolerable waste of life! Ah! if any one
came to me and said; 'Sire, you shall be rid of all your enemies at
once, and to-morrow there shall not remain one to reproach you with the
death of the others,' why, then, I do not say"--

"Well, sire?"

"Tavannes," said the King, "you will tire Margot; put her back on her
perch. It is no reason, because she bears the name of my sister, the
Queen of Navarre, that every one should caress her."

Tavannes put the hawk on her perch, and amused himself by curling and
uncurling a greyhound's ears.

"But, sire, if any one should say to your Majesty: 'Sire, your Majesty
shall be delivered from all your enemies to-morrow'?"

"And by the intercession of what saint would this miracle be wrought?"

"Sire, to-day is the 24th of August, and therefore it would be by the
interposition of Saint Bartholomew."

"A worthy saint," replied the King, "who allowed himself to be skinned
alive!"

"So much the better; the more he suffered, the more he ought to have
felt a desire for vengeance on his executioners."

"And will you, my cousin," said the King, "will you, with your pretty
little gold-hilted sword, slay ten thousand Huguenots between now and
to-morrow? Ha! ha! ha! _mort de ma vie!_ you are very amusing, Monsieur
de Guise!"

And the King burst into a loud laugh, but a laugh so forced that the
room echoed with its sinister sound.

"Sire, one word--and one only," continued the duke, shuddering in spite
of himself at the sound of that laugh, which had nothing human in
it,--"one signal, and all is ready. I have the Swiss and eleven hundred
gentlemen; I have the light horse and the citizens; your Majesty has
your guards, your friends, the Catholic nobility. We are twenty to one."

"Well, then, cousin, since you are so strong, why the devil do you come
to fill my ears with all this? Act without me--act"--

And the King turned again to his dogs.

Then the portière was raised, and Catharine reappeared.

"All goes well," she said to the duke; "urge him, and he will yield."

And the portière fell on Catharine, without Charles IX. seeing, or at
least appearing to see her.

"But yet," continued De Guise, "I must know if, in acting as I desire, I
shall act agreeably to your Majesty's views."

"Really, cousin Henry, you put the knife to my throat! But I shall live.
By Heaven! am I not the king?"

"No, not yet, sire; but, if you will, you shall be so to-morrow."

"Ah--what!" continued Charles, "you would kill the King of Navarre, the
Prince de Condé--in my Louvre--ah!"

Then he added, in a voice scarcely audible,--"Without the walls, I do
not say"--

"Sire," cried the duke, "they are going out this evening to join in a
revel with your brother, the Duc d'Alençon."

"Tavannes," said the King, with well-affected impatience, "do not you
see that you are teasing the dog? Here, Actéon,--come!"

And Charles IX. went out without waiting to hear more, and Tavannes and
the Duc de Guise were left almost as uncertain as before.

       *       *       *       *       *

Meantime another scene was passing in Catharine's apartment. After she
had given the Duc de Guise her counsel to remain firm, she returned to
her rooms, where she found assembled the persons who were usually
present when she went to bed.

Her face was now as full of joy as it had been downcast when she set
out. With her most agreeable manner she dismissed her women one by one
and her courtiers, and there remained only Madame Marguerite, who,
seated on a coffer near the open window, was looking at the sky,
absorbed in thought.

Two or three times, when she thus found herself alone with her daughter,
the queen mother opened her mouth to speak, but each time a gloomy
thought withheld the words ready to escape her lips.

Suddenly the portière was raised, and Henry of Navarre appeared.

The little greyhound, which was asleep on the throne, leaped up and
bounded towards him.

"You here, my son!" said Catharine, starting. "Do you sup in the Louvre
to-night?"

"No, madame," replied Henry, "we are going into the city to-night, with
Messieurs d'Alençon and De Condé. I almost expected to find them here
paying their court to you."

Catharine smiled.

"Go, gentlemen, go--men are so fortunate in being able to go about as
they please! Are they not, my daughter?"

"Yes," replied Marguerite, "liberty is so glorious, so sweet a thing."

"Does that imply that I restrict yours, madame?" inquired Henry, bowing
to his wife.

"No, sire; I do not complain for myself, but for women in general."

"Are you going to see the admiral, my son?" asked Catharine.

"Yes, possibly."

"Go, that will set a good example, and to-morrow you will give me news
of him."

"Then, madame, I will go, since you approve of this step."

"Oh," said Catharine, "my approval is nothing--But who goes there? Send
him away, send him away."

Henry started to go to the door to carry out Catharine's order; but at
the same instant the portière was raised and Madame de Sauve showed her
blond head.

"Madame," said she, "it is Réné, the perfumer, whom your majesty sent
for."

Catharine cast a glance as quick as lightning at Henry of Navarre.

The young prince turned slightly red and then fearfully pale. Indeed,
the name of his mother's assassin had been spoken; he felt that his face
betrayed his emotion, and he went and leaned against the bar of the
window.

The little greyhound growled.

At the same moment two persons entered--the one announced, and the other
having no need to be so.

The first was Réné, the perfumer, who approached Catharine with all the
servile obsequiousness of Florentine servants. He held in his hand a
box, which he opened, and all the compartments were seen filled with
powders and flasks.

The second was Madame de Lorraine, Marguerite's eldest sister. She
entered by a small secret door, which led from the King's closet, and,
all pale and trembling, and hoping not to be observed by Catharine, who
was examining, with Madame de Sauve, the contents of the box brought by
René, seated herself beside Marguerite, near whom the King of Navarre
was standing, with his hand on his brow, like one who tries to rouse
himself from some sudden shock.

At this instant Catharine turned round.

"Daughter," she said to Marguerite, "you may retire to your room. My
son, you may go and amuse yourself in the city."

Marguerite rose, and Henry turned half round.

Madame de Lorraine seized Marguerite's hand.

"Sister," she whispered, with great quickness, "in the name of the Duc
de Guise, who now saves you, as you saved him, do not go from here--do
not go to your apartments."

"Eh! what say you, Claude?" inquired Catharine, turning round.

"Nothing, mother."

"You were whispering to Marguerite."

"Simply to wish her good-night, and convey a greeting to her from the
Duchesse de Nevers."

"And where is that fair duchess?"

"At her brother-in-law's, M. de Guise's."

Catharine looked suspiciously at the women and frowning:

"Come here, Claude," said the queen mother.

Claude obeyed, and the queen seized her hand.

"What did you say to her, indiscreet girl that you are?" she murmured,
squeezing her daughter's wrist until she nearly shrieked with pain.

"Madame," said Henry to his wife, having lost nothing of the movements
of the queen, Claude, or Marguerite,--"madame, will you allow me the
honor of kissing your hand?"

Marguerite extended her trembling hand.

"What did she say to you?" whispered Henry, as he stooped to imprint a
kiss on her hand.

"Not to go out. In the name of Heaven, do not you go out either!"

This was like a flash; but by its light, swift as it was, Henry at once
detected a complete plot.

"This is not all," added Marguerite; "here is a letter, which a country
gentleman brought."

"Monsieur de la Mole?"

"Yes."

"Thank you," he said, taking the letter and putting it under his
doublet; and, passing in front of his bewildered wife, he placed his
hand on the shoulder of the Florentine.

"Well, Maître Réné!" he said, "and how go commercial affairs?"

"Pretty well, monseigneur,--pretty well," replied the poisoner, with his
perfidious smile.

"I should think so," said Henry, "with men who, like you, supply all the
crowned heads at home and abroad."

"Except the King of Navarre," replied the Florentine, impudently.

"_Ventre saint gris_, Maître Réné," replied the king, "you are right;
and yet my poor mother, who also bought of you, recommended you to me
with her dying breath. Come to me to-morrow, Maître Réné, or day after
to-morrow, and bring your best perfumes."

"That would not be a bad notion," said Catharine, smiling; "for it is
said"--

"That I need some perfumery," interrupted Henry, laughing; "who told you
that, mother? Was it Margot?"

"No, my son," replied Catharine, "it was Madame de Sauve."

At this moment the Duchesse de Lorraine, who in spite of all her efforts
could no longer contain herself, burst into loud sobs.

Henry did not even turn toward her.

"Sister, what is the matter?" cried Marguerite, darting toward Claude.

"Nothing," said Catharine, passing between the two young women,
"nothing; she has those nervous attacks, for which Mazille prescribes
aromatic preparations."

And again, and with still more force than before, she pressed her eldest
daughter's arm; then, turning toward the youngest:

"There, Margot," she said, "did you not hear me request you to retire to
your room? If that is not sufficient, I command you."

"Excuse me, madame," replied Marguerite, trembling and pale; "I wish
your majesty good-night."

"I hope your wishes may be heard. Good-night--good-night!"

Marguerite withdrew, staggering, and in vain seeking to meet her
husband's eyes, but he did not even turn toward her.

There was a moment's silence, during which Catharine remained with her
eyes fastened on the Duchess of Lorraine, who, without speaking, looked
at her mother with clasped hands.

Henry's back was still turned, but he was watching the scene in a
mirror, while seeming to curl his mustache with a pomade which Réné had
just given to him.

"And you, Henry," said Catharine, "are you still intending to go out?"

"Yes, that's true," exclaimed the king. "Faith, I was forgetting that
the Duc d'Alençon and the Prince de Condé are waiting for me! These are
admirable perfumes; they quite overpower one, and destroy one's memory.
Good evening, madame."

"Good evening! To-morrow you will perhaps bring me tidings of the
admiral."

"Without fail--Well, Phoebe, what is it?"

"Phoebe!" said the queen mother, impatiently.

"Call her, madame," said the Béarnais, "for she will not allow me to go
out."

The queen mother rose, took the little greyhound by the collar, and held
her while Henry left the apartment, with his features as calm and
smiling as if he did not feel in his heart that his life was in imminent
peril.

Behind him the little dog, set free by Catharine de Médicis, rushed to
try and overtake him, but the door was closed, and Phoebe could only
put her long nose under the tapestry and give a long and mournful howl.

"Now, Charlotte," said Catharine to Madame de Sauve, "go and find
Messieurs de Guise and Tavannes, who are in my oratory, and return with
them; then remain with the Duchess of Lorraine, who has the vapors."



CHAPTER VII.

THE NIGHT OF THE 24TH OF AUGUST, 1572.


When La Mole and Coconnas had finished their supper--and it was meagre
enough, for the fowls of _La Belle Étoile_ had their pin feathers singed
only on the sign--Coconnas whirled his chair around on one leg,
stretched out his feet, leaned one elbow on the table, and drinking a
last glass of wine, said:

"Do you mean to go to bed instantly, Monsieur de la Mole?"

"_Ma foi!_ I am very much inclined, for it is possible that I may be
called up in the night."

"And I, too," said Coconnas; "but it appears to me that, under the
circumstances, instead of going to bed and making those wait who are to
come to us, we should do better to call for cards and play a game. They
would then find us quite ready."

"I would willingly accept your proposal, sir, but I have very little
money for play. I have scarce a hundred gold crowns in my valise, for my
whole treasure. I rely on that with which to make my fortune!"

"A hundred gold crowns!" cried Coconnas, "and you complain? By Heaven! I
have but six!"

"Why," replied La Mole, "I saw you draw from your pocket a purse which
appeared not only full, but I should say bloated."

"Ah," said Coconnas, "that is to defray an old debt which I am compelled
to pay to an old friend of my father, whom I suspect to be, like
yourself, somewhat of a Huguenot. Yes, there are here a hundred rose
nobles," he added, slapping his pocket, "but these hundred rose nobles
belong to Maître Mercandon. My personal patrimony, as I tell you, is
limited to six crowns."

"How, then, can you play?"

"Why, it is because of that I wished to play. Besides, an idea occurs to
me."

"What is it?"

"We both came to Paris on the same errand."

"Yes."

"Each of us has a powerful protector."

"Yes."

"You rely on yours, as I rely on mine."

"Yes."

"Well, then, it occurred to me that we should play first for our money,
and afterwards for the first favor which came to us, either from the
court or from our mistress"--

"Really, a very ingenious idea," said La Mole, with a smile, "but I
confess I am not such a gamester as to risk my whole life on a card or a
turn of the dice; for the first favor which may come either to you or to
me will, in all probability, involve our whole life."

"Well, let us drop out of account the first favor from the court and
play for our mistress's first favor."

"I see only one objection to that," said La Mole.

"What objection?"

"I have no mistress!"

"Nor I either. But I expect to have one soon. Thank God! we are not cut
out to want one long!"

"Undoubtedly, as you say, you will have your wish, Monsieur de Coconnas,
but as I have not the same confidence in my love-star, I feel that it
would be robbery, I to pit my fortune against yours. But, if you will,
let us play until your six crowns be lost or doubled, and if lost, and
you desire to continue the game, you are a gentleman, and your word is
as good as gold."

"Well and good!" cried Coconnas, "that's the talk! You are right, sir, a
gentleman's word is as good as gold, especially when he has credit at
court. Thus, believe me, I did not risk too much when I proposed to play
for the first favor we might receive."

"Doubtless, and you might lose it, but I could not gain it; for, as I am
with the King of Navarre, I could not receive anything from the Duc de
Guise."

"Ah, the heretic!" muttered the landlord as he was at work polishing up
his old helmet, "I got on the right scent, did I?" And he stopped his
work long enough to cross himself piously.

"Well, then," continued Coconnas, shuffling the cards which the waiter
had just brought him, "you are of the"--

"Of the what?"

"Of the new religion."

"I?"

"Yes, you."

"Well, say that I am," said La Mole, with a smile, "have you anything
against us?"

"Oh! thank God, no! It is all the same to me. I hate Huguenotry with all
my heart, but I do not hate the Huguenots; besides, they are in fashion
just now."

"Yes," replied La Mole, smiling; "to wit, the shooting at the admiral
with an arquebuse; but supposing we have a game of arquebusades."

"Anything you please," said Coconnas, "provided I get to playing, it is
all the same to me."

"Well, let us play, then," said La Mole, picking up his cards and
arranging them in his hand.

"Yes, play ahead and with all confidence, for even if I were to lose a
hundred crowns of gold against yours I shall have the wherewithal to pay
you to-morrow morning."

"Then your fortune will come while you are asleep."

"No; I am going to find it."

"Where? Tell me and I'll go with you."

"At the Louvre."

"Are you going back there to-night?"

"Yes; to-night I have a private audience with the great Duc de Guise."

As soon as Coconnas began to speak about going to seek his fortune at
the Louvre, La Hurière stopped polishing his sallet and went and stood
behind La Mole's chair, so that Coconnas alone could see him, and made
signs to him, which the Piedmontese, absorbed in his game and the
conversation, did not notice.

"Well, it is miraculous," remarked La Mole; "and you were right when you
said that we were born under the same star. I have also an appointment
at the Louvre to-night, but not with the Duc de Guise; mine is with the
King of Navarre."

"Have you a pass-word?"

"Yes."

"A rallying sign?"

"No."

"Well, I have one, and my pass-word is"--

As the Piedmontese was saying these words, La Hurière made such an
expressive gesture that the indiscreet gentleman, who happened at that
instant to raise his head, paused petrified more by the action than by
the turn of the cards which had just caused him to lose three crowns.

La Mole looked around, but saw only his landlord standing behind him
with folded arms and wearing on his head the sallet which he had seen
him polishing the moment before.

"What is the matter, pray?" inquired La Mole of Coconnas.

Coconnas looked at the landlord and at his companion without answering,
for he could make nothing out of Maître La Hurière's redoubled gestures.

La Hurière saw that he must go to his aid:

"It is only that I am very fond of cards myself," said he, speaking
rapidly, "and I came closer to see the trick which made you gain, and
the gentleman saw me with my war helmet on, and as I am only a poor
bourgeois, it surprised him."

"You make a fine figure, indeed you do!" cried La Mole, with a burst of
laughter.

"Oh, sir," replied La Hurière with admirably pretended good nature and a
shrug of the shoulders expressive of his inferiority, "we poor fellows
are not very valiant and our appearance is not elegant. It is all right
for you fine gentlemen to wear glittering helmets and carry keen
rapiers, and provided we mount guard strictly"--

"Aha!" said La Mole, taking his turn at shuffling the cards. "So you
mount guard, do you?"

"_Eh, mon Dieu, oui, Monsieur le Comte!_ I am sergeant in a company of
citizen militia."

After having said this while La Mole was engaged in dealing the cards,
La Hurière withdrew, putting his finger on his lips as a sign of
discretion for Coconnas, who was more amazed than ever.

This signal for caution was doubtless the reason that he lost almost as
rapidly the second time as the first.

"Well," observed La Mole, "this makes exactly your six crowns. Will you
have your revenge on your future fortune?"

"Willingly," replied Coconnas.

"But before you begin, did you not say you had an appointment with the
Duc de Guise?"

Coconnas looked toward the kitchen, and saw the great eyes of La
Hurière, who was repeating his warning.

"Yes," he replied, "but it is not yet time. But now let us talk a little
about yourself, Monsieur de la Mole."

"We should do better, I think, by talking of the game, my dear Monsieur
de Coconnas; for unless I am very much mistaken, I am in a fair way of
gaining six more crowns."

"By Heaven! that is true! I always heard that the Huguenots had good
luck at cards. Devil take me if I haven't a good mind to turn Huguenot!"

La Hurière's eyes sparkled like two coals; but Coconnas, absorbed in his
game, did not notice them. "Do so, count, do so," said La Mole, "and
though the way in which the change came about is odd, you will be well
received among us."

Coconnas scratched his ear.

"If I were sure that your good luck came from that," he said, "I would;
for I really do not stickle so overwhelmingly for the mass, and as the
King does not think so much of it either"--

"Then it is such a beautiful religion," said La Mole; "so simple, so
pure"--

"And, moreover, it is in fashion," said Coconnas; "and, moreover, it
brings good luck at cards; for the devil take me if you do not hold all
the aces, and yet I have watched you closely, and you play very fairly;
you do not cheat; it must be the religion"--

"You owe me six crowns more," said La Mole, quietly.

"Ah, how you tempt me!" said Coconnas; "and if I am not satisfied with
Monsieur de Guise to-night"--

"Well?"

"Well, to-morrow I will ask you to present me to the King of Navarre
and, be assured, if once I become a Huguenot, I will out-Huguenot
Luther, Calvin, Melanchthon, and all the reformers on earth!"

"Hush!" said La Mole, "you will get into a quarrel with our host."

"Ah, that is true," said Coconnas, looking toward the kitchen; "but--no,
he is not listening; he is too much occupied at this moment."

"What is he doing, pray?" inquired La Mole, who could not see him from
where he was.

"He is talking with--devil take me! it is he!"

"Who?"

"Why, that night-bird with whom he was discoursing when we arrived. The
man in the yellow doublet and drab-colored cloak. By Heaven! how
earnestly he talks. Say, Maître La Hurière, are you engaged in
politics?"

But this time Maître La Hurière's answer was a gesture so energetic and
imperious that in spite of his love for the picture card Coconnas got up
and went to him.

"What is the matter with you?" asked La Mole.

"You wish wine, sir?" said La Hurière, seizing Coconnas' hand eagerly.
"You shall have it. Grégoire, wine for these gentlemen!"

Then he whispered in his ear:

"Silence, if you value your life, silence! And get rid of your
companion."

La Hurière was so pale, the sallow man so lugubrious, that Coconnas felt
a shiver run over him, and turning to La Mole said:

"My dear sir, I must beg you to excuse me. I have lost fifty crowns in
the turn of a hand. I am in bad luck to-night, and I fear I may get into
difficulties."

"Well, sir, as you please," replied La Mole; "besides, I shall not be
sorry to lie down for a time. Maître la Hurière!"

"Monsieur le Comte?"

"If any one comes for me from the King of Navarre, wake me; I shall be
dressed, and consequently ready."

"So shall I," said Coconnas; "and that I may not keep his highness
waiting, I will prepare the sign. Maître la Hurière, some white paper
and scissors!"

"Grégoire!" cried La Hurière, "white paper to write a letter on and
scissors to cut the envelope with."

"Ah!" said the Piedmontese to himself. "Something extraordinary is going
on here!"

"Good-night, Monsieur de Coconnas," said La Mole; "and you, landlord, be
so good as to light me to my room. Good luck, my friend!" and La Mole
disappeared up the winding staircase, followed by La Hurière.

Then the mysterious man, taking Coconnas by the arm, said to him,
speaking very rapidly:

"Sir, you have very nearly betrayed a secret on which depends the fate
of a kingdom. God saw fit to have you close your mouth in time. One word
more, and I should have brought you down with my arquebuse. Now we are
alone, fortunately; listen!"

"But who are you that you address me with this tone of authority?"

"Did you ever hear talk of the Sire de Maurevel?"

"The assassin of the admiral?"

"And of Captain de Mouy."

"Yes."

"Well, I am the Sire de Maurevel."

"Oho!" said Coconnas.

"Now listen to me!"

"By Heaven! I assure you I will listen!"

"Hush!" said Maurevel, putting his finger on his mouth.

Coconnas listened.

At that moment he heard the landlord close the door of a chamber, then
the door of a corridor, and bolt it. Then he rushed down the stairs to
join the two speakers.

He offered a chair to Coconnas, a chair to Maurevel, and took one for
himself.

"All is safe now, Monsieur de Maurevel," said he; "you may speak."

It was striking eleven o'clock at Saint Germain l'Auxerrois. Maurevel
counted each of the hammer-strokes as they sounded clear and melancholy
through the night, and when the last echo had died away in space he
turned to Coconnas, who was greatly mystified at seeing the precautions
taken by the two men. "Sir," he asked, "are you a good Catholic?"

"Why, I think I am," replied Coconnas.

"Sir," continued Maurevel, "are you devoted to the King?"

"Heart and soul! I even feel that you insult me, sir, in asking such a
question."

"We will not quarrel over that; only you are going to follow us."

"Whither?"

"That is of little consequence--put yourself in our hands; your fortune,
and perhaps your life, is at stake."

"I tell you, sir, that at midnight I have an appointment at the Louvre."

"That is where we are going."

"Monsieur de Guise is expecting me there."

"And us also."

"But I have a private pass-word," continued Coconnas, somewhat mortified
at sharing with the Sire de Maurevel and Maître La Hurière the honor of
his audience.

"So have we."

"But I have a sign of recognition."

Maurevel smiled.

Then he drew from beneath his doublet a handful of crosses in white
stuff, gave one to La Hurière, one to Coconnas, and took another for
himself. La Hurière fastened his to his helmet. Maurevel attached his to
the side of his hat.

"Ah," said Coconnas, amazed, "the appointment and the rallying pass-word
were for every one?"

"Yes, sir,--that is to say, for all good Catholics."

"Then there is a festival at the Louvre--some royal banquet, is there
not?" said Coconnas; "and it is desired to exclude those hounds of
Huguenots,--good, capital, excellent! They have been showing off too
long."

"Yes, there is to be a festival at the Louvre--a royal banquet; and the
Huguenots are invited; and moreover, they will be the heroes of the
festival, and will pay for the banquet, and if you will be one of us, we
will begin by going to invite their principal champion--their Gideon, as
they call him."

"The admiral!" cried Coconnas.

"Yes, the old Gaspard, whom I missed, like a fool, though I aimed at
him with the King's arquebuse."

"And this, my gentleman, is why I was polishing my sallet, sharpening my
sword, and putting an edge on my knives," said La Hurière, in a harsh
voice consonant with war.

At these words Coconnas shuddered and turned very pale, for he began to
understand.

"What, really," he exclaimed, "this festival--this banquet is a--you are
going"--

"You have been a long time guessing, sir," said Maurevel, "and it is
easy to see that you are not so weary of these insolent heretics as we
are."

"And you take on yourself," he said, "to go to the admiral's and to"--

Maurevel smiled, and drawing Coconnas to the window he said:

"Look there!--do you see, in the small square at the end of the street,
behind the church, a troop drawn up noiselessly in the shadow?"

"Yes."

"The men forming that troop have, like Maître la Hurière, and myself,
and yourself, a cross in their hats."

"Well?"

"Well, these men are a company of Swiss, from the smaller cantons,
commanded by Toquenot,--you know the men from the smaller cantons are
the King's cronies."

"Oho!" said Coconnas.

"Now look at that troop of horse passing along the Quay--do you
recognize their leader?"

"How can I recognize him?" asked Coconnas, with a shudder; "I reached
Paris only this evening."

"Well, then, he is the one with whom you have a rendezvous at the Louvre
at midnight. See, he is going to wait for you!"

"The Duc de Guise?"

"Himself! His escorts are Marcel, the ex-provost of the tradesmen, and
Jean Choron, the present provost. These two are going to summon their
companies, and here, down this street comes the captain of the quarter.
See what he will do!"

"He knocks at each door; but what is there on the doors at which he
knocks?"

"A white cross, young man, such as that which we have in our hats. In
days gone by they let God bear the burden of distinguishing his own;
now we have grown more civilized and we save him the bother."

"But at each house at which he knocks the door opens and from each house
armed citizens come out."

"He will knock here in turn, and we shall in turn go out."

"What," said Coconnas, "every one called out to go and kill one old
Huguenot? By Heaven! it is shameful! It is an affair of cut-throats, and
not of soldiers."

"Young man," replied Maurevel, "if the old are objectionable to you, you
may choose young ones--you will find plenty for all tastes. If you
despise daggers, use your sword, for the Huguenots are not the men to
allow their throats to be cut without defending themselves, and you know
that Huguenots, young or old, are tough."

"But are they all going to be killed, then?" cried Coconnas.

"All!"

"By the King's order?"

"By order of the King and Monsieur de Guise."

"And when?"

"When you hear the bell of Saint Germain l'Auxerrois."

"Oh! so that was why that amiable German attached to the Duc de
Guise--what is his name?"

"Monsieur de Besme."

"That is it. That is why Monsieur de Besme told me to hasten at the
first sound of the tocsin."

"So then you have seen Monsieur de Besme?"

"I have seen him and spoken to him."

"Where?"

"At the Louvre. He admitted me, gave me the pass-word, gave me"--

"Look there!"

"By Heaven!--there he is himself."

"Would you speak with him?"

"Why, really, I should not object."

Maurevel carefully opened the window; Besme was passing at the moment
with twenty soldiers.

"_Guise and Lorraine!_" said Maurevel.

Besme turned round, and perceiving that he himself was addressed, came
under the window.

"Oh, is it you, Monsir de Maurefel?"

"Yes, 'tis I; what are you looking for?"

"I am looking for de hostelry of de _Belle Étoile_, to find a Monsir
Gogonnas."

"Here I am, Monsieur de Besme," said the young man.

"Goot, goot; are you ready?"

"Yes--to do what?"

"Vatefer Monsieur de Maurefel may dell you, for he is a goot Gatolic."

"Do you hear?" inquired Maurevel.

"Yes," replied Coconnas, "but, Monsieur de Besme, where are you going?"

"I?" asked Monsieur de Besme, with a laugh.

"Yes, you."

"I am going to fire off a leedle wort at the admiral."

"Fire off two, if need be," said Maurevel, "and this time, if he gets up
at the first, do not let him get up at the second."

"Haf no vear, Monsir de Maurefel, haf no vear, und meanvile get dis
yoong mahn on de right drack."

"Don't worry about me: the Coconnas are regular bloodhounds, and I am a
chip off the old block."[2]

"Atieu."

"Go on!"

"Unt you?"

"Begin the hunt; we shall be at the death."

De Besme went on, and Maurevel closed the window.

"Did you hear, young man?" said Maurevel; "if you have any private
enemy, even if he is not altogether a Huguenot, you can put him on your
list, and he will pass with the others."

Coconnas, more bewildered than ever with what he saw and heard, looked
first at his landlord, who was assuming formidable attitudes, and then
at Maurevel, who quietly drew a paper from his pocket.

"Here's my list," said he; "three hundred. Let each good Catholic do
this night one-tenth part of the business I shall do, and to-morrow
there will not remain one single heretic in the kingdom."

"Hush!" said La Hurière.

"What is it?" inquired Coconnas and Maurevel together.

They heard the first pulsation from the bell in Saint Germain
l'Auxerrois.

"The signal!" exclaimed Maurevel. "The time is set forward! I was told
it was appointed at midnight--so much the better. When it concerns the
interest of God and the King, it is better for clocks to be fast than
slow!"

In reality they heard the church bell mournfully tolling.

Then a shot was fired, and almost instantly the light of several torches
blazed up like flashes of lightning in the Rue de l'Arbre Sec.

Coconnas passed his hand over his brow, which was damp with
perspiration.

"It has begun!" cried Maurevel. "Now to work--away!"

"One moment, one moment!" said the landlord. "Before we begin, let us
protect the camp, as we say in the army. I do not wish to have my wife
and children's throats cut while I am out. There is a Huguenot here."

"Monsieur de la Mole!" said Coconnas, starting.

"Yes, the heretic has thrown himself into the wolf's throat."

"What!" said Coconnas, "would you attack your guest?"

"I gave an extra edge to my rapier for his special benefit."

"Oho!" said the Piedmontese, frowning.

"I never yet killed anything but my rabbits, ducks, and chickens,"
replied the worthy inn-keeper, "and I do not know very well how to go to
work to kill a man; well, I will practise on him, and if I am clumsy, no
one will be there to laugh at me."

"By Heaven! it is hard," said Coconnas. "Monsieur de la Mole is my
companion; Monsieur de la Mole has supped with me; Monsieur de la Mole
has played with me"--

"Yes; but Monsieur de la Mole is a heretic," said Maurevel. "Monsieur de
la Mole is doomed; and if we do not kill him, others will."

"Not to say," added the host, "that he has won fifty crowns from you."

"True," said Coconnas; "but fairly, I am sure."

"Fairly or not, you must pay them, while, if I kill him, you are quits."

"Come, come!" cried Maurevel; "make haste, gentlemen, an arquebuse-shot,
a rapier-thrust, a blow with a mallet, a stroke with any weapon you
please; but get done with it if you wish to reach the admiral's in time
to help Monsieur de Guise as we promised."

Coconnas sighed.

"I'll make haste!" cried La Hurière, "wait for me."

"By Heaven!" cried Coconnas, "he will put the poor fellow to great
pain, and, perhaps, rob him. I must be present to finish him, if
requisite, and to prevent any one from touching his money."

And impelled by this happy thought, Coconnas followed La Hurière
upstairs, and soon overtook him, for according as the landlord went up,
doubtless as the effect of reflection, he slackened his pace.

As he reached the door, Coconnas still following, many gunshots were
discharged in the street. Instantly La Mole was heard to leap out of bed
and the flooring creaked under his feet.

"_Diable!_" muttered La Hurière, somewhat disconcerted; "that has
awakened him, I think."

"It looks like it," observed Coconnas.

"And he will defend himself."

"He is capable of it. Suppose, now, Maître la Hurière, he were to kill
you; that would be droll!"

"Hum, hum!" responded the landlord, but knowing himself to be armed with
a good arquebuse, he took courage and dashed the door in with a vigorous
kick.

La Mole, without his hat, but dressed, was entrenched behind his bed,
his sword between his teeth, and his pistols in his hands.

"Oho!" said Coconnas, his nostrils expanding as if he had been a wild
beast smelling blood, "this grows interesting, Maître la Hurière.
Forward!"

"Ah, you would assassinate me, it seems!" cried La Mole, with glaring
eyes; "and it is you, wretch!"

Maître la Hurière's reply to this was to take aim at the young man with
his arquebuse; but La Mole was on his guard, and as he fired, fell on
his knees, and the ball flew over his head.

"Help!" cried La Mole; "help, Monsieur de Coconnas!"

"Help, Monsieur de Maurevel!--help!" cried La Hurière.

"_Ma foi!_ Monsieur de la Mole," replied Coconnas, "all I can do in this
affair is not to join the attack against you. It seems all the Huguenots
are to be put to death to-night, in the King's name. Get out of it as
well as you can."

"Ah, traitors! assassins!--is it so? Well, then, take this!" and La
Mole, aiming in his turn, fired one of his pistols. La Hurière, who had
kept his eye on him, dodged to one side; but Coconnas, not anticipating
such a reply, stayed where he was, and the bullet grazed his shoulder.

"By Heaven!" he exclaimed, grinding his teeth; "I have it. Well, then,
let it be we two, since you will have it so!"

And drawing his rapier, he rushed on La Mole.

Had he been alone La Mole would, doubtless, have awaited his attack; but
Coconnas had La Hurière to aid him, who was reloading his gun, and
Maurevel, who, responding to the innkeeper's invitation, was rushing
up-stairs four steps at a time.

La Mole, therefore, dashed into a small closet, which he bolted inside.

"Ah, coward!" cried Coconnas, furious, and striking at the door with the
pommel of his sword; "wait! wait! and I will make as many holes in your
body as you have gained crowns of me to-night. I came up to prevent you
from suffering! Oh, I came up to prevent you from being robbed and you
pay me back by putting a bullet into my shoulder! Wait for me, coward,
wait!"

While this was going on, Maître la Hurière came up and with one blow
with the butt-end of his arquebuse smashed in the door.

Coconnas darted into the closet, but only bare walls met him. The closet
was empty and the window was open.

"He must have jumped out," said the landlord, "and as we are on the
fourth story, he is surely dead."

"Or he has escaped by the roof of the next house," said Coconnas,
putting his leg on the window-sill and preparing to follow him over this
narrow and slippery route; but Maurevel and La Hurière seized him and
drew him back into the room.

"Are you mad?" they both exclaimed at once; "you will kill yourself!"

"Bah!" said Coconnas, "I am a mountaineer, and used to climbing
glaciers; besides, when a man has once offended me, I would go up to
heaven or descend to hell with him, by whatever route he pleases. Let me
do as I wish."

"Well," said Maurevel, "he is either dead or a long way off by this
time. Come with us; and if he escape you, you will find a thousand
others to take his place."

"You are right," cried Coconnas. "Death to the Huguenots! I want
revenge, and the sooner the better."

And the three rushed down the staircase, like an avalanche.

"To the admiral's!" shouted Maurevel.

"To the admiral's!" echoed La Hurière.

"To the admiral's, then, if it must be so!" cried Coconnas in his turn.

And all three, leaving the _Belle Étoile_ in charge of Grégoire and the
other waiters, hastened toward the admiral's hôtel in the Rue de
Béthizy; a bright light and the report of fire-arms guided them in that
direction.

"Ah, who comes here?" cried Coconnas. "A man without his doublet or
scarf!"

"It is some one escaping," said Maurevel.

"Fire! fire!" said Coconnas; "you who have arquebuses."

"Faith, not I," replied Maurevel. "I keep my powder for better game."

"You, then, La Hurière!"

"Wait, wait!" said the innkeeper, taking aim.

"Oh, yes, wait," cried Coconnas, "and meantime he will escape."

And he rushed after the unhappy wretch, whom he soon overtook, as he was
wounded; but at the moment when, in order that he might not strike him
behind, he exclaimed, "Turn, will you! turn!" the report of an arquebuse
was heard, a bullet whistled by Coconnas's ears, and the fugitive rolled
over, like a hare in its swiftest flight struck by the shot of the
sportsman.

A cry of triumph was heard behind Coconnas. The Piedmontese turned round
and saw La Hurière brandishing his weapon.

"Ah," he exclaimed, "I have handselled this time at any rate."

"And only just missed making a hole quite through me."

"Be on your guard!--be on your guard!" cried La Hurière.

Coconnas sprung back. The wounded man had risen on his knee, and, eager
for revenge, was just on the point of stabbing him with his poniard,
when the landlord's warning put the Piedmontese on his guard.

"Ah, viper!" shouted Coconnas; and rushing at the wounded man, he thrust
his sword through him three times up to the hilt.

"And now," cried he, leaving the Huguenot in the agonies of death, "to
the admiral's!--to the admiral's!"

"Aha! my gentlemen," said Maurevel, "it seems to work."

"Faith! yes," replied Coconnas. "I do not know if it is the smell of
gunpowder makes me drunk, or the sight of blood excites me, but by
Heaven! I am thirsty for slaughter. It is like a battue of men. I have
as yet only had battues of bears and wolves, and on my honor, a battue
of men seems more amusing."

And the three went on their way.



CHAPTER VIII.

THE MASSACRE.


The hôtel occupied by the admiral, as we have said, was situated in the
Rue de Béthizy. It was a great mansion at the rear of a court and had
two wings giving on the street. A wall furnished with a large gate and
two small grilled doors stretched from wing to wing.

When our three Guisards reached the end of the Rue de Béthizy, which is
a continuation of the Rue des Fossés Saint Germain l'Auxerrois, they saw
the hôtel surrounded by Swiss, by soldiers, and by armed citizens; every
one had in his right hand either a sword or a pike or an arquebuse, and
some held in their left hands torches, shedding over the scene a fitful
and melancholy glare which, according as the throng moved, shifted along
the street, climbed the walls; or spread over that living sea where
every weapon cast its answering flash.

All around the hôtel and in the Rues Tirechappe, Étienne, and Bertin
Poirée the terrible work was proceeding. Long shouts were heard, there
was an incessant rattle of musketry, and from time to time some wretch,
half naked, pale, and drenched in blood, leaped like a hunted stag into
the circle of lugubrious light where a host of fiends seemed to be at
work.

In an instant Coconnas, Maurevel, and La Hurière, accredited by their
white crosses, and received with cries of welcome, were in the thickest
of this struggling, panting mob. Doubtless they would not have been able
to advance had not some of the throng recognized Maurevel and made way
for him. Coconnas and La Hurière followed him closely and the three
therefore contrived to get into the court-yard.

In the centre of this court-yard, the three doors of which had been
burst open, a man, around whom the assassins formed a respectful circle,
stood leaning on his drawn rapier, and eagerly looking up at a balcony
about fifteen feet above him, and extending in front of the principal
window of the hôtel.

This man stamped impatiently on the ground, and from time to time
questioned those that were nearest to him.

"Nothing yet!" murmured he. "No one!--he must have been warned and has
escaped. What do you think, Du Gast?"

"Impossible, monseigneur."

"Why? Did you not tell me that just before we arrived a man,
bare-headed, a drawn sword in his hand, came running, as if pursued,
knocked at the door, and was admitted?"

"Yes, monseigneur; but M. de Besme came up immediately, the gates were
shattered, and the hôtel was surrounded."

"The man went in sure enough, but he has not gone out."

"Why," said Coconnas to La Hurière, "if my eyes do not deceive me, I
see Monsieur de Guise."

"You do see him, sir. Yes; the great Henry de Guise is come in person to
watch for the admiral and serve him as he served the duke's father.
Every one has his day, and it is our turn now."

"Holà, Besme, holà!" cried the duke, in his powerful voice, "have you
not finished yet?"

And he struck his sword so forcibly against the stones that sparks flew
out.

At this instant shouts were heard in the hôtel--then several shots--then
a great shuffling of feet and a clashing of swords, and then all was
again silent.

The duke was about to rush into the house.

"Monseigneur, monseigneur!" said Du Gast, detaining him, "your dignity
commands you to wait here."

"You are right, Du Gast. I must stay here; but I am dying with
impatience and anxiety. If he were to escape me!"

Suddenly the noise of feet came nearer--the windows of the first floor
were lighted up with what seemed the reflection of a conflagration.

The window, to which the duke's eyes had been so many times lifted,
opened, or, rather, was shattered to pieces, and a man, his pale face
and white neck stained with blood, appeared on the balcony.

"Ah! at last, Besme!" cried the duke; "speak! speak!"

"Louk! louk!" replied the German coldly, and stooping down he lifted up
something which seemed like a heavy body.

"But where are the others?" asked the duke, impatiently, "where are the
others?"

"De udders are vinishing de udders!"

"And what have you done?"

"Vait! You shall peholt! Shtant pack a liddle."

The duke fell back a step.

At that instant the object Besme was dragging toward him with such
effort became visible.

It was the body of an old man.

He lifted it above the balcony, held it suspended an instant, and then
flung it down at his master's feet.

The heavy thud, the billows of blood spurting from the body and
spattering the pavement all around, filled even the duke himself with
horror; but this feeling lasted only an instant, and curiosity caused
every one to crowd forward, so that the glare of the torches flickered
on the victim's body.

They could see a white beard, a venerable face, and limbs contracted by
death.

"The admiral!" cried twenty voices, as instantaneously hushed.

"Yes, the admiral, here he is!" said the duke, approaching the corpse,
and contemplating it with silent ecstasy.

"The admiral! the admiral!" repeated the witnesses of this terrible
scene, crowding together and timidly approaching the old man, majestic
even in death.

"Ah, at last, Gaspard!" said the Duke de Guise, triumphantly. "Murderer
of my father! thus do I avenge him!"

And the duke dared to plant his foot on the breast of the Protestant
hero.

But instantly the dying warrior opened his eyes, his bleeding and
mutilated hand was clinched for the last time, and the admiral, though
without stirring, said to the duke in a sepulchral voice:

"Henry de Guise, some day the assassin's foot shall be felt on your
breast. I did not kill your father. A curse upon you."

The duke, pale, and trembling in spite of himself, felt a cold shudder
come over him. He passed his hand across his brow, as if to dispel the
fearful vision; when he dared again to glance at the admiral his eyes
were closed, his hand unclinched, and a stream of black blood was
flowing from the mouth which had just pronounced such terrible words.

The duke raised his sword with a gesture of desperate resolution.

"Vell, monsir, are you gondent?"

"Yes, my worthy friend, yes, for you have revenged"--

"The Dugue François, haf I not?"

"Our religion," replied Henry, in a solemn voice. "And now," he went on,
addressing the Swiss, the soldiers, and citizens who filled the court
and street, "to work, my friends, to work!"

"Good evening, M. de Besme," said Coconnas with a sort of admiration,
approaching the German, who still stood on the balcony, calmly wiping
his sword.

"So you settled him, did you?" cried La Hurière; "how did you manage
it?"

"Oh, zimbly, zimbly; he haf heerd de gommotion, he haf oben de door unt
I joost brick my rabier troo his potty. But I tink dey am gilling
Téligny now. I hear his gries!"

At that instant, in fact, several shrieks, apparently uttered by a woman
in distress, were heard; the windows of the long gallery which formed a
wing of the hotel were lighted up with a red glare; two men were seen
fleeing, pursued by a long line of assassins. An arquebuse-shot killed
one; the other, finding an open window directly in his way, without
stopping to look at the distance from the ground, sprang boldly into the
courtyard below, heeding not the enemies who awaited him there.

"Kill! kill!" cried the assassins, seeing their prey about to escape
them.

The fugitive picked up his sword, which as he stumbled had fallen from
his hand, dashed headlong through the soldiers, upset three or four, ran
one through the body, and amid the pistol-shots and curses of the
soldiers, rendered furious because they had missed him, darted like
lightning in front of Coconnas, who was waiting for him at the gate with
his poniard in his hand.

"Touched!" cried the Piedmontese, piercing his arm with his keen,
delicate blade.

"Coward!" replied the fugitive, striking his enemy in the face with the
flat of his weapon, for want of room to thrust at him with its point.

"A thousand devils!" cried Coconnas; "it's Monsieur de la Mole!"

"Monsieur de la Mole!" reëchoed La Hurière and Maurevel.

"He is the one who warned the admiral!" cried several soldiers.

"Kill him--kill him!" was shouted on all sides.

Coconnas, La Hurière, and a dozen soldiers rushed in pursuit of La Mole,
who, covered with blood, and having attained that state of exaltation
which is the last resource of human strength, dashed through the
streets, with no other guide than instinct. Behind him, the footsteps
and shouts of his enemies spurred him on and seemed to give him wings.
Occasionally a bullet would whistle by his ears and suddenly add new
swiftness to his flight just as it was beginning to slacken. He no
longer breathed; it was not breath, but a dull rattle, a hoarse panting,
that came from his chest. Perspiration and blood wet his locks and ran
together down his face.

His doublet soon became too oppressive for the beating of his heart and
he tore it off. Soon his sword became too heavy for his hand and he
flung it far away. Sometimes it seemed to him that the footsteps of his
pursuers were farther off and that he was about to escape them; but in
response to their shouts, other murderers who were along his path and
nearer to him left off their bloody occupations and started in pursuit
of him.

Suddenly he caught sight of the river flowing silently at his left; it
seemed to him that he should feel, like a stag at bay, an ineffable
pleasure in plunging into it, and only the supreme power of reason could
restrain him.

On his right was the Louvre, dark and motionless, but full of strange
and ominous sounds; soldiers on the drawbridge came and went, and
helmets and cuirasses glittered in the moonlight. La Mole thought of the
King of Navarre, as he had before thought of Coligny; they were his only
protectors. He collected all his strength, and inwardly vowing to abjure
his faith should he escape the massacre, by making a detour of a score
or two of yards he misled the mob pursuing him, darted straight for the
Louvre, leaped upon the drawbridge among the soldiers, received another
poniard stab which grazed his side, and despite the cries of
"Kill--kill!" which resounded on all sides, and the opposing weapons of
the sentinels, darted like an arrow through the court, into the
vestibule, mounted the staircase, then up two stories higher, recognized
a door, and leaning against it, struck it violently with his hands and
feet.

"Who is there?" asked a woman's voice.

"Oh, my God!" murmured La Mole; "they are coming, I hear them; 'tis
I--'tis I!"

"Who are you?" said the voice.

La Mole recollected the pass-word.

"Navarre--Navarre!" cried he.

The door instantly opened. La Mole, without thanking, without even
seeing Gillonne, dashed into the vestibule, then along a corridor,
through two or three chambers, until at last he entered a room lighted
by a lamp suspended from the ceiling.

Behind curtains of velvet with gold fleurs-de-lis, in a bed of carved
oak, a lady, half naked, leaning on her arm, stared at him with eyes
wide open with terror.

La Mole sprang toward her.

"Madame," cried he, "they are killing, they are butchering my
brothers--they seek to kill me, to butcher me also! Ah! you are the
queen--save me!"

And he threw himself at her feet, leaving on the carpet a large track of
blood.

At the sight of a man pale, exhausted, and bleeding at her feet, the
Queen of Navarre started up in terror, hid her face in her hands, and
called for help.

"Madame," cried La Mole, endeavoring to rise, "in the name of Heaven do
not call, for if you are heard I am lost! Assassins are in my
track--they are rushing up the stairs behind me. I hear them--there they
are! there they are!"

"Help!" cried the queen, beside herself, "help!"

"Ah!" said La Mole, despairingly, "you have killed me. To die by so
sweet a voice, so fair a hand! I did not think it possible."

At the same time the door flew open, and a troop of men, their faces
covered with blood and blackened with powder, their swords drawn, and
their pikes and arquebuses levelled, rushed into the apartment.

Coconnas was at their head--his red hair bristling, his pale blue eyes
extraordinarily dilated, his cheek cut open by La Mole's sword, which
had ploughed its bloody furrow there. Thus disfigured, the Piedmontese
was terrible to behold.

"By Heaven!" he cried, "there he is! there he is! Ah! this time we have
him at last!"

La Mole looked round him for a weapon, but in vain; he glanced at the
queen, and saw the deepest pity depicted in her face; then he felt that
she alone could save him; he threw his arms round her.

Coconnas advanced, and with the point of his long rapier again wounded
his enemy's shoulder, and the crimson drops of warm blood stained the
white and perfumed sheets of Marguerite's couch.

Marguerite saw the blood flow; she felt the shudder that ran through La
Mole's frame; she threw herself with him into the recess between the bed
and the wall. It was time, for La Mole, whose strength was exhausted,
was incapable of flight or resistance; he leaned his pallid head on
Marguerite's shoulder, and his hand convulsively seized and tore the
thin embroidered cambric which enveloped Marguerite's body in a billow
of gauze.

"Oh, madame," murmured he, in a dying voice, "save me."

He could say no more. A mist like the darkness of death came over his
eyes, his head sunk back, his arms fell at his side, his legs gave way,
and he sank on the floor, bathed in his blood, and dragging the queen
with him.

At this moment Coconnas, excited by the shouts, intoxicated by the sight
of blood, and exasperated by the long chase, advanced toward the recess;
in another instant his sword would have pierced La Mole's heart, and
perhaps Marguerite's also.

At the sight of the bare steel, and even more moved at such brutal
insolence, the daughter of kings drew herself up to her full stature and
uttered such a shriek of terror, indignation, and rage that the
Piedmontese stood petrified by an unknown feeling; and yet undoubtedly
had this scene been prolonged and no other actor taken part in it, his
feeling would have vanished like a morning snow under an April sun. But
suddenly a secret door in the wall opened, and a pale young man of
sixteen or seventeen, dressed in black and with his hair in disorder,
rushed in.

"Wait, sister!" he cried; "here I am, here I am!"

"François! François!" cried Marguerite; "help! help!"

"The Duc d'Alençon!" murmured La Hurière, grounding his arquebuse.

"By Heaven! a son of France!" growled Coconnas, drawing back.

The duke glanced round him. He saw Marguerite, dishevelled, more lovely
than ever, leaning against the wall, surrounded by men, fury in their
eyes, sweat on their foreheads, and foam in their mouths.

"Wretches!" cried he.

"Save me, brother!" shrieked Marguerite. "They are going to kill me!"

A flame flashed across the duke's pallid face.

He was unarmed, but sustained, no doubt, by the consciousness of his
rank, he advanced with clinched fists toward Coconnas and his
companions, who retreated, terrified at the lightning darting from his
eyes.

"Ha! and will you murder a son of France, too?" cried the duke. Then, as
they recoiled,--"Ho, there! captain of the guard! Hang every one of
these ruffians!"

More alarmed at the sight of this weaponless young man than he would
have been at the aspect of a regiment of reiters or lansquenets,
Coconnas had already reached the door. La Hurière was leaping downstairs
like a deer, and the soldiers were jostling and pushing one another in
the vestibule in their endeavors to escape, finding the door far too
small for their great desire to be outside it. Meantime Marguerite had
instinctively thrown the damask coverlid of her bed over La Mole, and
withdrawn from him.

When the last murderer had departed the Duc d'Alençon came back:

"Sister," he cried, seeing Marguerite all dabbled with blood, "are you
wounded?" And he sprang toward his sister with a solicitude which would
have done credit to his affection if he had not been charged with
harboring too deep an affection for a brother to entertain for a sister.

"No," said she; "I think not, or, if so, very slightly."

"But this blood," said the duke, running his trembling hands all over
Marguerite's body. "Where does it come from?"

"I know not," replied she; "one of those wretches laid his hand on me,
and perhaps he was wounded."

"What!" cried the duke, "he dared to touch my sister? Oh, if you had
only pointed him out to me, if you had told me which one it was, if I
knew where to find him"--

"Hush!" said Marguerite.

"And why?" asked François.

"Because if you were seen at this time of night in my room"--

"Can't a brother visit his sister, Marguerite?"

The queen gave the duke a look so keen and yet so threatening that the
young man drew back.

"Yes, yes, Marguerite," said he, "you are right, I will go to my room;
but you cannot remain alone this dreadful night. Shall I call Gillonne?"

"No, no! leave me, François--leave me. Go by the way you came!"

The young prince obeyed; and hardly had he disappeared when Marguerite,
hearing a sigh from behind her bed, hurriedly bolted the door of the
secret passage, and then hastening to the other entrance closed it in
the same way, just as a troop of archers and soldiers like a hurricane
dashed by in hot chase of some other Huguenot residents in the Louvre.

After glancing round to assure herself that she was really alone, she
again went to the "ruelle" of her bed, lifted the damask covering which
had concealed La Mole from the Duc d'Alençon, and drawing the apparently
lifeless body, by great exertion, into the middle of the room, and
finding that the victim still breathed, sat down, placed his head on her
knees, and sprinkled his face with water.

Then as the water cleared away the mask of blood, dust, and gunpowder
which had covered his face, Marguerite recognized the handsome cavalier
who, full of life and hope, had three or four hours before come to ask
her to look out for his interests with her protection and that of the
King of Navarre; and had gone away, dazzled by her beauty, leaving her
also impressed by his.

Marguerite uttered a cry of terror, for now what she felt for the
wounded man was more than mere pity--it was interest. He was no longer a
mere stranger: he was almost an acquaintance. By her care La Mole's fine
features soon reappeared, free from stain, but pale and distorted by
pain. A shudder ran through her whole frame as she tremblingly placed
her hand on his heart. It was still beating. Then she took a
smelling-bottle from the table, and applied it to his nostrils.

La Mole opened his eyes.

"Oh! _mon Dieu!_" murmured he; "where am I?"

"Saved!" said Marguerite. "Reassure yourself--you are saved."

La Mole turned his eyes on the queen, gazed earnestly for a moment, and
murmured,

"Oh, how beautiful you are!"

Then as if the vision were too much for him, he closed his lids and drew
a sigh.

Marguerite started. He had become still paler than before, if that were
possible, and for an instant that sigh was his last.

"Oh, my God! my God!" she ejaculated, "have pity on him!"

At this moment a violent knocking was heard at the door. Marguerite half
raised herself, still supporting La Mole.

"Who is there?" she cried.

"Madame, it is I--it is I," replied a woman's voice, "the Duchesse de
Nevers."

"Henriette!" cried Marguerite. "There is no danger; it is a friend of
mine! Do you hear, sir?"

La Mole with some effort got up on one knee.

"Try to support yourself while I go and open the door," said the queen.

La Mole rested his hand on the floor and succeeded in holding himself
upright.

Marguerite took one step toward the door, but suddenly stopped,
shivering with terror.

"Ah, you are not alone!" she said, hearing the clash of arms outside.

"No, I have twelve guards which my brother-in-law, Monsieur de Guise,
assigned me."

"Monsieur de Guise!" murmured La Mole. "The assassin--the assassin!"

"Silence!" said Marguerite. "Not a word!"

And she looked round to see where she could conceal the wounded man.

"A sword! a dagger!" muttered La Mole.

"To defend yourself--useless! Did you not hear? There are twelve of
them, and you are alone."

"Not to defend myself, but that I may not fall alive into their hands."

"No, no!" said Marguerite. "No, I will save you. Ah! this cabinet! Come!
come."

La Mole made an effort, and, supported by Marguerite, dragged himself to
the cabinet. Marguerite locked the door upon him, and hid the key in her
alms-purse.

"Not a cry, not a groan, not a sigh," whispered she, through the
panelling, "and you are saved."

Then hastily throwing a night-robe over her shoulders, she opened the
door for her friend, who tenderly embraced her.

"Ah!" cried Madame Nevers, "then nothing has happened to you, madame!"

"No, nothing at all," replied Marguerite, wrapping the mantle still more
closely round her to conceal the spots of blood on her peignoir.

"'Tis well. However, as Monsieur de Guise has given me twelve of his
guards to escort me to his hôtel, and as I do not need such a large
company, I am going to leave six with your majesty. Six of the duke's
guards are worth a regiment of the King's to-night."

Marguerite dared not refuse; she placed the soldiers in the corridor,
and embraced the duchess, who then returned to the Hôtel de Guise, where
she resided in her husband's absence.



CHAPTER IX.

THE MURDERERS.


Coconnas had not fled, he had retreated; La Hurière had not fled, he had
flown. The one had disappeared like a tiger, the other like a wolf.

The consequence was that La Hurière had already reached the Place Saint
Germain l'Auxerrois when Coconnas was only just leaving the Louvre.

La Hurière, finding himself alone with his arquebuse, while around him
men were running, bullets were whistling, and bodies were falling from
windows,--some whole, others dismembered,--began to be afraid and was
prudently thinking of returning to his tavern, but as he turned into the
Rue de l'Arbre Sec from the Rue d'Averon he fell in with a troop of
Swiss and light cavalry: it was the one commanded by Maurevel.

"Well," cried Maurevel, who had christened himself with the nickname of
King's Killer, "have you finished so soon? Are you going back to your
tavern, worthy landlord? And what the devil have you done with our
Piedmontese gentleman? No misfortune has happened to him? That would be
a shame, for he started out well."

"No, I think not," replied La Hurière; "I hope he will rejoin us!"

"Where have you been?"

"At the Louvre, and I must say we were very rudely treated there."

"By whom?"

"Monsieur le Duc d'Alençon. Isn't he interested in this affair?"

"Monseigneur le Duc d'Alençon is not interested in anything which does
not concern himself personally. Propose to treat his two older brothers
as Huguenots and he would be in it--provided only that the work should
be done without compromising him. But won't you go with these worthy
fellows, Maître La Hurière?"

"And where are they going?"

"Oh, _mon Dieu_! Rue Montorguen; there is a Huguenot minister there whom
I know; he has a wife and six children. These heretics are enormous
breeders; it will be interesting."

"And where are you going?"

"Oh, I have a little private business."

"Say, there! don't go off without me," said a voice which made Maurevel
start, "you know all the good places and I want to have my share."

"Ah! it is our Piedmontese," said Maurevel.

"Yes, it is Monsieur de Coconnas," said La Hurière; "I thought you were
following me."

"Hang it! you made off too swiftly for that; and besides I turned a
little to one side so as to fling into the river a frightful child who
was screaming, 'Down with the Papists! Long live the admiral!'
Unfortunately, I believe the little rascal knew how to swim. These
miserable heretics must be flung into the water like cats before their
eyes are opened if they are to be drowned at all."

"Ah! you say you are just from the Louvre; so your Huguenot took refuge
there, did he?" asked Maurevel.

"_Mon Dieu!_ yes."

"I gave him a pistol-shot at the moment when he was picking up his
sword in the admiral's court-yard, but I somehow or other missed him."

"Well, I did not miss him," added Coconnas; "I gave him such a thrust in
the back that my sword was wet five inches up the blade. Besides, I saw
him fall into the arms of Madame Marguerite, a pretty woman, by Heaven!
yet I confess I should not be sorry to hear he was really dead; the
vagabond is infernally spiteful, and capable of bearing me a grudge all
his life. But didn't you say you were bound somewhere?"

"Why, do you mean to go with me?"

"I do not like standing still, by Heaven! I have killed only three or
four as yet, and when I get cold my shoulder pains me. Forward!
forward!"

"Captain," said Maurevel to the commander of the troop, "give me three
men, and go and despatch your parson with the rest."

Three Swiss stepped forward and joined Maurevel. Nevertheless, the two
companies proceeded side by side till they reached the top of the Rue
Tirechappe; there the light horse and the Swiss took the Rue de la
Tonnellerie, while Maurevel, Coconnas, La Hurière, and his three men
were proceeding down the Rue Trousse Vache and entering the Rue Sainte
Avoye. "Where the devil are you taking us?" asked Coconnas, who was
beginning to be bored by this long march from which he could see no
results.

"I am taking you on an expedition at once brilliant and useful. Next to
the admiral, next to Téligny, next to the Huguenot princes, I could
offer you nothing better. So have patience, our business calls us to the
Rue du Chaume, and we shall be there in a second."

"Tell me," said Coconnas, "is not the Rue du Chaume near the Temple?"

"Yes, why?"

"Because an old creditor of our family lives there, one Lambert
Mercandon, to whom my father wished me to hand over a hundred rose
nobles I have in my pocket for that purpose."

"Well," replied Maurevel, "this is a good opportunity for paying it.
This is the day for settling old accounts. Is your Mercandon a
Huguenot?"

"Oho, I understand!" said Coconnas; "he must be"--

"Hush! here we are."

"What is that large hôtel, with its entrance in the street?"

"The Hôtel de Guise."

"Truly," returned Coconnas, "I should not have failed to come here, as I
am under the patronage of the great Henry. But, by Heaven! all is so
very quiet in this quarter, we scarcely hear any firing, and we might
fancy ourselves in the country. The devil fetch me but every one is
asleep!"

And indeed the Hôtel de Guise seemed as quiet as in ordinary times. All
the windows were closed, and a solitary light was burning behind the
blind of the principal window over the entrance which had attracted
Coconnas's attention as soon as they entered the street.

Just beyond the Hôtel de Guise, in other words, at the corner of the Rue
du Petit Chantier and the Rue des Quatre Fils, Maurevel halted.

"Here is the house of the man we want," said he.

"Of the man you want--that is to say"--observed La Hurière.

"Since you are with me we want him."

"What! that house which seems so sound asleep"--

"Exactly! La Hurière, now go and make practical use of the plausible
face which heaven, by some blunder, gave you, and knock at that house.
Hand your arquebuse to M. de Coconnas, who has been ogling it this last
half hour. If you are admitted, you must ask to speak to Seigneur de
Mouy."

"Aha!" exclaimed Coconnas, "now I understand--you also have a creditor
in the quarter of the Temple, it would seem."

"Exactly so!" responded Maurevel. "You will go up to him pretending to
be a Huguenot, and inform De Mouy of all that has taken place; he is
brave, and will come down."

"And once down?" asked La Hurière.

"Once down, I will beg of him to cross swords with me."

"On my soul, 'tis a fine gentleman's," said Coconnas, "and I propose to
do exactly the same thing with Lambert Mercandon; and if he is too old
to respond, I will try it with one of his sons or nephews."

La Hurière, without making any reply, went and knocked at the door, and
the sounds echoing in the silence of the night caused the doors of the
Hôtel de Guise to open, and several heads to make their appearance from
out them; it was evident that the hôtel was quiet after the manner of
citadels, that is to say, because it was filled with soldiers.

The heads were almost instantly withdrawn, as doubtless an inkling of
the matter in hand was divined.

"Does your Monsieur de Mouy live here?" inquired Coconnas, pointing to
the house at which La Hurière was still knocking.

"No, but his mistress does."

"By Heaven! how gallant you are, to give him an occasion to draw sword
in the presence of his lady-love! We shall be the judges of the field.
However, I should like very well to fight myself--my shoulder burns."

"And your face," added Maurevel, "is considerably damaged."

Coconnas uttered a kind of growl.

"By Heaven!" he said, "I hope he is dead; if I thought not, I would
return to the Louvre and finish him."

La Hurière still kept knocking.

Soon the window on the first floor opened, and a man appeared in the
balcony, in a nightcap and drawers, and unarmed.

"Who's there?" cried he.

Maurevel made a sign to the Swiss, who retreated into a corner, whilst
Coconnas stood close against the wall.

"Ah! Monsieur de Mouy!" said the innkeeper, in his blandest tones, "is
that you?"

"Yes; what then?"

"It is he!" said Maurevel, with a thrill of joy.

"Why, sir," continued La Hurière, "do you not know what is going on?
They are murdering the admiral, and massacring all of our religion.
Hasten to their assistance; come!"

"Ah!" exclaimed De Mouy, "I feared something was plotted for this night.
I ought not to have deserted my worthy comrades. I will come, my
friend,--wait for me."

And without closing the window, through which a frightened woman could
be heard uttering lamentations and tender entreaties, Monsieur de Mouy
got his doublet, his mantle, and his weapons.

"He is coming down! He is coming down!" muttered Maurevel, pale with
joy. "Attention, the rest of you!" he whispered to the Swiss.

Then taking the arquebuse from Coconnas he blew on the tinder to make
sure that it was still alight.

"Here, La Hurière," he added, addressing the innkeeper, who had rejoined
the main body of the company, "here, take your arquebuse!"

"By Heaven!" exclaimed Coconnas, "the moon is coming out of the clouds
to witness this beautiful fight. I would give a great deal if Lambert
Mercandon were here, to serve as Monsieur de Mouy's second."

"Wait, wait!" said Maurevel; "Monsieur de Mouy alone is equal to a dozen
men, and it is likely that we six shall have enough to do to despatch
him. Forward, my men!" continued Maurevel, making a sign to the Swiss to
stand by the door, in order to strike De Mouy as he came forth.

"Oho!" said Coconnas, as he watched these arrangements; "it appears that
this will not come off quite as I expected."

Already the noise made by De Mouy in withdrawing the bar was heard. The
Swiss had left their hiding-place to arrange themselves near the door,
Maurevel and La Hurière were going forward on tiptoe, and Coconnas with
a dying gleam of gentlemanly feeling was standing where he was, when the
young woman who had been for the moment utterly forgotten suddenly
appeared on the balcony and uttered a terrible shriek at the sight of
the Swiss, Maurevel, and La Hurière.

De Mouy, who had already half opened the door, paused.

"Come back! come back!" cried the young woman. "I see swords glitter,
and the match of an arquebuse--there is treachery!"

"Oho!" said the young man; "let us see, then, what all this means."

And he closed the door, replaced the bar, and went upstairs again.

Maurevel's order of battle was changed as soon as he saw that De Mouy
was not going to come out. The Swiss went and posted themselves at the
other corner of the street, and La Hurière, with his arquebuse in his
hand, waited till the enemy reappeared at the window.

He did not wait long. De Mouy came forward holding before him two
pistols of such respectable length that La Hurière, who was already
aiming, suddenly reflected that the Huguenot's bullets had no farther to
fly in reaching the street from the balcony than his had in reaching
the balcony.

"Assuredly," said he to himself, "I may kill this gentleman, but
likewise this gentleman may kill me in the same way."

Now as Maître La Hurière, an innkeeper by profession, was only
accidentally a soldier, this reflection determined him to retreat and
seek shelter in the corner of the Rue de Braque, far enough away to
cause him some difficulty in finding with a certain certainty,
especially at night, the line which a bullet from his arquebuse would
take in reaching De Mouy.

De Mouy cast a glance around him, and advanced cautiously like a man
preparing to fight a duel; but seeing nothing, he exclaimed:

"Why, it appears, my worthy informant, that you have forgotten your
arquebuse at my door! Here I am. What do you want with me?"

"Aha!" said Coconnas to himself; "he is certainly a brave fellow!"

"Well," continued De Mouy, "friends or enemies, whichever you are, do
you not see I am waiting?"

La Hurière kept silence, Maurevel made no reply, and the three Swiss
remained in covert.

Coconnas waited an instant; then, seeing that no one took part in the
conversation begun by La Hurière and continued by De Mouy, he left his
station, and advancing into the middle of the street, took off his hat
and said:

"Sir, we are not here for an assassination, as you seem to suppose, but
for a duel. I am here with one of your enemies, who was desirous of
meeting you to end gallantly an old controversy. Eh, by Heaven! come
forward, Monsieur de Maurevel, instead of turning your back. The
gentleman accepts."

"Maurevel!" cried De Mouy; "Maurevel, the assassin of my father!
Maurevel, the king's assassin! Ah, by Heaven! Yes, I accept."

And taking aim at Maurevel, who was about to knock at the Hôtel de Guise
to request a reinforcement, he sent a bullet through his hat.

At the noise of the report and Maurevel's shouts, the guard which had
escorted the Duchesse de Nevers came out, accompanied by three or four
gentlemen, followed by their pages, and approached the house of young De
Mouy's mistress.

A second pistol-shot, fired into the midst of the troop, killed the
soldier next to Maurevel; after which De Mouy, finding himself
weaponless, or at least with useless weapons, for his pistols had been
fired and his adversaries were beyond the reach of his sword, took
shelter behind the balcony gallery.

Meantime here and there windows began to be thrown open in the
neighborhood, and according to the pacific or bellicose dispositions of
their inhabitants, were barricaded or bristled with muskets and
arquebuses.

"Help! my worthy Mercandon," shouted De Mouy, beckoning to an elderly
man who, from a window which had just been thrown open in front of the
Hôtel de Guise, was trying to make out the cause of the confusion.

"Is it you who call, Sire de Mouy?" cried the old man: "are they
attacking you?"

"Me--you--all the Protestants; and wait--there is the proof!"

That moment De Mouy had seen La Hurière aim his arquebuse at him; it was
fired; but the young man had time to stoop, and the ball broke a window
above his head.

"Mercandon!" exclaimed Coconnas, who, in his delight at sight of this
fray, had forgotten his creditor, but was reminded of him by De Mouy's
apostrophe; "Mercandon, Rue du Chaume--that is it! Ah, he lives there!
Good! Each of us will settle accounts with our man."

And, while the people from the Hôtel de Guise were breaking in the doors
of De Mouy's house, and Maurevel, with a torch in his hand, was trying
to set it on fire--while now that the doors were once broken, there was
a fearful struggle with a single antagonist who at each rapier-thrust
brought down his foe--Coconnas tried, by the help of a paving-stone, to
break in Mercandon's door, and the latter, unmoved by this solitary
effort, was doing his best with his arquebuse out of his window.

And now all this dark and deserted quarter was lighted up, as if by open
day,--peopled like the interior of an ant-hive; for from the Hôtel de
Montmorency six or eight Huguenot gentlemen, with their servants and
friends, had just made a furious charge, and, supported by the firing
from the windows, were beginning to repulse Maurevel's and the De
Guises' force, who at length were driven back to the place whence they
had come.

Coconnas, who had not yet succeeded in smashing Mercandon's door, though
he was working at it with all his might, was caught in this sudden
retreat. Placing his back to the wall, and grasping his sword firmly, he
began not only to defend himself, but to attack his assailants, with
cries so terrible that they were heard above all the uproar. He struck
right and left, hitting friends and enemies, until a wide space was
cleared around him. As his rapier made a hole in some breast, and the
warm blood spurted over his hands and face, he, with dilated eye,
expanded nostrils, and clinched teeth, regained the ground lost, and
again approached the beleaguered house.

De Mouy, after a terrible combat in the staircase and hall, had finally
come out of the burning house like a true hero. In the midst of all the
struggle he had not ceased to cry, "Here, Maurevel!--Maurevel, where are
you?" insulting him by the most opprobrious epithets.

He at length appeared in the street, supporting on one arm his mistress,
half naked and nearly fainting, and holding a poniard between his teeth.
His sword, flaming by the sweeping action he gave it, traced circles of
white or red, according as the moon glittered on the blade or a flambeau
glared on its blood-stained brightness.

Maurevel had fled. La Hurière, driven back by De Mouy as far as
Coconnas, who did not recognize him, and received him at sword's point,
was begging for mercy on both sides. At this moment Mercandon perceived
him, and knew him, by his white scarf, to be one of the murderers. He
fired. La Hurière shrieked, threw up his arms, dropped his arquebuse,
and, after having vainly attempted to reach the wall, in order to
support himself, fell with his face flat on the earth.

De Mouy took advantage of this circumstance, turned down the Rue de
Paradis, and disappeared.

Such had been the resistance of the Huguenots that the De Guise party,
quite repulsed, had retired into their hôtel, fearing to be besieged and
taken in their own habitation.

Coconnas who, intoxicated with blood and tumult, had reached that degree
of excitement when, with the men of the south more especially, courage
changes into madness, had not seen or heard anything, and noticed only
that there was not such a roar in his ears, and that his hands and face
were a little dryer than they had been. Dropping the point of his sword,
he saw near him a man lying face downward in a red stream, and around
him burning houses.

It was a very short truce, for just as he was approaching this man, whom
he recognized as La Hurière, the door of the house he had in vain tried
to burst in, opened, and old Mercandon, followed by his son and two
nephews, rushed upon him.

"Here he is! here he is!" cried they all, with one voice.

Coconnas was in the middle of the street, and fearing to be surrounded
by these four men who assailed him at once, sprang backward with the
agility of one of the chamois which he had so often hunted in his native
mountains, and in an instant found himself with his back against the
wall of the Hôtel de Guise. Once at ease as to not being surprised from
behind he put himself in a posture of defence, and said, jestingly:

"Aha, father Mercandon, don't you know me?"

"Wretch!" cried the old Huguenot, "I know you well; you are engaged
against me--me, your father's friend and companion."

"And his creditor, are you not?"

"Yes; his creditor, as you say."

"Well, then," said Coconnas, "I have come to settle our accounts."

"Seize him, bind him!" said Mercandon to the young men who accompanied
him, and who at his bidding rushed toward the Piedmontese.

"One moment! one moment!" said Coconnas, laughing, "to seize a man you
must have a writ, and you have forgotten to secure one from the
provost."

And with these words he crossed his sword with the young man nearest to
him and at the first blow cut his wrist.

The wounded man retreated with a howl.

"That will do for one!" said Coconnas.

At the same moment the window under which Coconnas had sought shelter
opened noisily. He sprang to one side, fearing an attack from behind;
but instead of an enemy he saw a woman; instead of the enemy's weapon he
was prepared to encounter, a nosegay fell at his feet.

"Ah!" he said, "a woman!"

He saluted the lady with his sword, and stooped to pick up the bouquet.

"Be on your guard, brave Catholic!--be on your guard!" cried the lady.

Coconnas rose, but not before the second nephew's dagger had pierced his
cloak, and wounded his other shoulder.

The lady uttered a piercing shriek.

Coconnas thanked her, assured her by a gesture, and then made a pass,
which the nephew parried; but at the second thrust, his foot slipped in
the blood, and Coconnas, springing at him like a tiger-cat, drove his
sword through his breast.

"Good! good! brave cavalier!" exclaimed the lady of the Hôtel de Guise,
"good! I will send you succor."

"Do not give yourself any trouble about that, madame," was Coconnas's
reply; "rather look on to the end, if it interests you, and see how the
Comte Annibal de Coconnas settles the Huguenots."

At this moment old Mercandon's son aimed a pistol at close range to
Coconnas, and fired. The count fell on his knee. The lady at the window
shrieked again; but Coconnas rose instantly; he had knelt only to avoid
the bullet, which struck the wall about two feet beneath where the lady
was standing.

Almost at the same moment a cry of rage issued from the window of
Mercandon's house, and an old woman, who recognized Coconnas as a
Catholic, from his white scarf and cross, hurled a flower-pot at him,
which struck him above the knee.

"Capital!" said Coconnas; "one throws flowers at me and at the other,
flower-pots; if this goes on, they'll be tearing houses down!"

"Thanks, mother, thanks!" said the young man.

"Go on, wife, go on," said old Mercandon; "but take care of yourself."

"Wait, Monsieur de Coconnas, wait!" said the young woman of the Hôtel de
Guise, "I will have them shoot at the windows!"

"Ah! So it is a hell of women, is it?" said Coconnas. "Some of them for
me and the others against me! By Heaven! let us put an end to this!"

The scene in fact was much changed and was evidently approaching its
climax. Coconnas, who was wounded to be sure, but who had all the vigor
of his four and twenty years, was used to arms, and angered rather than
weakened by the three or four scratches he had received, now faced only
Mercandon and his son: Mercandon, an aged man between sixty and seventy;
his son, a youth of sixteen or eighteen, pale, fair-haired and slender,
had flung down his pistol which had been discharged and was therefore
useless, and was feebly brandishing a sword half as long as the
Piedmontese's. The father, armed only with an unloaded arquebuse and a
poniard, was calling for assistance. An old woman--the young man's
mother--in the opposite window held in her hand a piece of marble which
she was preparing to hurl.

Coconnas, excited on the one hand by threats, and on the other by
encouragements, proud of his two-fold victory, intoxicated with powder
and blood, lighted by the reflection of a burning house, elated by the
idea that he was fighting under the eyes of a woman whose beauty was as
superior as he was sure her rank was high,--Coconnas, like the last of
the Horatii, felt his strength redouble, and seeing the young man
falter, rushed on him and crossed his small weapon with his terrible and
bloody rapier. Two strokes sufficed to drive it out of its owner's
hands. Then Mercandon tried to drive Coconnas back, so that the
projectiles thrown from the window might be sure to strike him, but
Coconnas, to paralyze the double attack of the old man, who tried to
stab him with his dagger, and the mother of the young man, who was
endeavoring to break his skull with a stone she was ready to throw,
seized his adversary by the body, presenting him to all the blows, like
a shield, and well-nigh strangling him in his Herculean grasp.

"Help! help!" cried the young man; "he is crushing my chest--help!
help!"

And his voice grew faint in a low and choking groan.

Then Mercandon ceased to attack, and began to entreat.

"Mercy, mercy! Monsieur de Coconnas, have mercy!--he is my only child!"

"He is my son, my son!" cried the mother; "the hope of our old age! Do
not kill him, sir,--do not kill him!"

"Really," cried Coconnas, bursting into laughter, "not kill him! What,
pray, did he mean to do to me, with his sword and pistol?"

"Sir," said Mercandon, clasping his hands, "I have at home your father's
note of hand, I will give it back to you--I have ten thousand crowns of
gold, I will give them to you--I have our family jewels, they shall be
yours; but do not kill him--do not kill him!"

"And I have my love," said the lady in the Hôtel de Guise, in a low
tone, "and I promise it you."

Coconnas reflected a moment, and said suddenly:

"Are you a Huguenot?"

"Yes, I am," murmured the youth.

"Then you must die!" replied Coconnas, frowning and putting to his
adversary's breast his keen and glittering dagger.

"Die!" cried the old man; "my poor child die!"

And the mother's shriek resounded so pitifully and loud that for a
moment it shook the Piedmontese's firm resolution.

"Oh, Madame la Duchesse!" cried the father, turning toward the lady at
the Hôtel de Guise, "intercede for us, and every morning and evening you
shall be remembered in our prayers."

"Then let him be a convert," said the lady.

"I am a Protestant," said the boy.

"Then die!" exclaimed Coconnas, lifting his dagger; "die! since you will
not accept the life which those lovely lips offer to you."

Mercandon and his wife saw the blade of that deadly weapon gleam like
lightning above the head of their son.

"My son Olivier," shrieked his mother, "abjure, abjure!"

"Abjure, my dear boy!" cried Mercandon, going on his knees to Coconnas;
"do not leave us alone on the earth!"

"Abjure all together," said Coconnas; "for one _Credo_, three souls and
one life."

"I am willing," said the youth.

"We are willing!" cried Mercandon and his wife.

"On your knees, then," said Coconnas, "and let your son repeat after me,
word for word, the prayer I shall say."

The father obeyed first.

"I am ready," said the son, also kneeling.

Coconnas then began to repeat in Latin the words of the _Credo_. But
whether from chance or calculation, young Olivier knelt close to where
his sword had fallen. Scarcely did he see this weapon within his reach
than, not ceasing to repeat the words which Coconnas dictated, he
stretched out his hand to take it up. Coconnas watched the movement,
although he pretended not to see it; but at the moment when the young
man touched the handle of the sword with his fingers he rushed on him,
knocked him over, exclaiming, "Ah, traitor!" and plunged his dagger into
his throat.

The youth uttered one cry, raised himself convulsively on his knee, and
fell dead.

"Ah, ruffian!" shrieked Mercandon, "you slay us to rob us of the hundred
rose nobles you owe us."

"Faith! no," said Coconnas, "and the proof,"--and as he said these words
he flung at the old man's feet the purse which his father had given him
before his departure to pay his creditor,--"and the proof," he went on
to say, "is this money which I give you!"

"And here's your death!" cried the old woman from the window.

"Take care, M. de Coconnas, take care!" called out the lady at the Hôtel
de Guise.

But before Coconnas could turn his head to comply with this advice, or
get out of the way of the threat, a heavy mass came hissing through the
air, fell on the Piedmontese's hat, broke his sword, and prostrated him
on the pavement; he was overcome, crushed, so that he did not hear the
double cry of joy and distress which came from the right and left.

Mercandon instantly rushed, dagger in hand, on Coconnas, now bereft of
his senses; but at this moment the door of the Hôtel de Guise opened,
and the old man, seeing swords and partisans gleaming, fled, while the
lady he had called "Madame la Duchesse," her beauty terrible in the
light of the flames, dazzling with diamonds and other gems, leaned half
out of the window, in order to direct the newcomers, pointing her arm
toward Coconnas.

"There! there! in front of me--a gentleman in a red doublet.
There!--that is he--yes, that is he."



CHAPTER X.

DEATH, MASS, OR THE BASTILLE.


Marguerite, as we have said, had shut the door and returned to her
chamber. But as she entered, panting, she saw Gillonne, who,
terror-struck, was leaning against the door of the closet, staring at
the traces of blood on the bed, the furniture, and the carpet.

"Ah! madame!" she cried when she saw the queen. "Oh! madame! tell me, is
he dead?"

"Silence!" said Marguerite in that tone of voice which gives some
indication of the importance of the command.

Gillonne was silent.

Marguerite then took from her purse a tiny gilded key, opened the closet
door, and showed the young man to the servant. La Mole had succeeded in
getting to his feet and making his way to the window. A small poniard,
such as women at that time were in the habit of carrying, was at hand,
and when he heard the door opening he had seized it.

"Fear nothing, sir," said Marguerite; "for, on my soul, you are in
safety!"

La Mole sank on his knees.

"Oh, madame," he cried, "you are more than a queen--you are a goddess!"

"Do not agitate yourself, sir," said Marguerite, "your blood is still
flowing. Oh, look, Gillonne, how pale he is--let us see where you are
wounded."

"Madame," said La Mole, trying to fix on certain parts of his body the
pain which pervaded his whole frame, "I think I have a dagger-thrust in
my shoulder, another in my chest,--the other wounds are not worth
bothering about."

"We will see," said Marguerite. "Gillonne, bring me my balsam casket."

Gillonne obeyed, and returned holding in one hand a casket, and in the
other a silver-gilt ewer and some fine Holland linen.

"Help me to lift him, Gillonne," said Queen Marguerite; "for in
attempting to get up the poor gentleman has lost all his strength."

"But, madame," said La Mole, "I am wholly confused. Indeed, I cannot
allow"--

"But, sir, you will let us do for you, I think," said Marguerite. "When
we may save you, it would be a crime to let you die."

"Oh!" cried La Mole, "I would rather die than see you, the queen, stain
your hands with blood as unworthy as mine. Oh, never, never!"

And he drew back respectfully.

"Your blood, sir," replied Gillonne, with a smile, "has already stained
her majesty's bed and chamber."

Marguerite folded her mantle over her cambric peignoir, all bespattered
with small red spots. This movement, so expressive of feminine modesty,
caused La Mole to remember that he had held in his arms and pressed to
his heart this beautiful, beloved queen, and at the recollection a
fugitive glow of color came into his pallid cheeks.

"Madame," stammered La Mole, "can you not leave me to the care of the
surgeon?"

"Of a Catholic surgeon, perhaps," said the queen, with an expression
which La Mole understood and which made him shudder. "Do you not know,"
continued the queen in a voice and with a smile of incomparable
sweetness, "that we daughters of France are trained to know the
qualities of herbs and to make balsams? for our duty as women and as
queens has always been to soften pain. Therefore we are equal to the
best surgeons in the world; so our flatterers say! Has not my
reputation in this regard come to your ears? Come, Gillonne, let us to
work!"

La Mole again endeavored to resist; he repeated that he would rather die
than occasion the queen labor which, though begun in pity, might end in
disgust; but this exertion completely exhausted his strength, and
falling back, he fainted a second time.

Marguerite, then seizing the poniard which he had dropped, quickly cut
the lace of his doublet; while Gillonne, with another blade, ripped open
the sleeves.

Next Gillonne, with a cloth dipped in fresh water, stanched the blood
which escaped from his shoulder and breast, and Marguerite, with a
silver needle with a round point, probed the wounds with all the
delicacy and skill that Maître Ambroise Paré could have displayed in
such a case.

"A dangerous but not mortal wound, _acerrimum humeri vulnus, non autem
lethale_," murmured the lovely and learned lady-surgeon; "hand me the
salve, Gillonne, and get the lint ready."

Meantime Gillonne, to whom the queen had just given this new order, had
already dried and perfumed the young man's chest and arms, which were
like an antique model, as well as his shoulders, which fell gracefully
back; his neck shaded by thick, curling locks, and which seemed rather
to belong to a statue of Parian marble than the mangled frame of a dying
man.

"Poor young man!" whispered Gillonne, looking not so much at her work as
at the object of it.

"Is he not handsome?" said Marguerite, with royal frankness.

"Yes, madame; but it seems to me that instead of leaving him lying there
on the floor, we should lift him on this couch against which he is
leaning."

"Yes," said Marguerite, "you are right."

And the two women, bending over, uniting their strength, raised La Mole,
and laid him on a kind of great sofa in front of the window, which they
opened in order to give them fresh air.

This movement aroused La Mole, who drew a long sigh, and opening his
eyes, began to experience that indescribable sensation of well-being
which comes to a wounded man when on his return to consciousness he
finds coolness instead of burning heat, and the perfumes of balsams
instead of the nauseating odor of blood.

He muttered some disconnected words, to which Marguerite replied with a
smile, placing her finger on her lips.

At this moment several raps on the door were heard.

"Some one knocks at the secret passage," said Marguerite.

"Who can be coming, madame?" asked Gillonne, in a panic.

"I will go and see who it is," said Marguerite; "remain here, and do not
leave him for a single instant."

Marguerite went into the chamber, and closing the closet door, opened
that of the passage which led to the King's and queen mother's
apartments.

"Madame de Sauve!" she exclaimed, suddenly drawing back with an
expression which resembled hatred, if not terror, so true it is that a
woman never forgives another for taking from her even a man whom she
does not love,--"Madame de Sauve!"

"Yes, your majesty!" she replied, clasping her hands.

"You here, madame?" exclaimed Marguerite, more and more surprised, while
at the same time her voice grew more and more imperative.

Charlotte fell on her knees.

"Madame," she said, "pardon me! I know how guilty I am toward you; but
if you knew--the fault is not wholly mine; an express command of the
queen mother"--

"Rise!" said Marguerite, "and as I do not suppose you have come with the
intention of justifying yourself to me, tell me why you have come at
all."

"I have come, madame," said Charlotte, still on her knees, and with a
look of wild alarm, "I came to ask you if he were not here?"

"Here! who?--of whom are you speaking, madame? for I really do not
understand."

"Of the king!"

"Of the king? What, do you follow him to my apartments? You know very
well that he never comes here."

"Ah, madame!" continued the Baronne de Sauve, without replying to these
attacks, or even seeming to comprehend them, "ah, would to Heaven he
were here!"

"And why so?"

"Eh, _mon Dieu_! madame, because they are murdering the Huguenots, and
the King of Navarre is the chief of the Huguenots."

"Oh!" cried Marguerite, seizing Madame de Sauve by the hand, and
compelling her to rise; "ah! I had forgotten; besides, I did not think a
king could run the same dangers as other men."

"More, madame,--a thousand times more!" cried Charlotte.

"In fact, Madame de Lorraine had warned me; I had begged him not to
leave the Louvre. Has he done so?"

"No, no, madame, he is in the Louvre; but if he is not here"--

"He is not here!"

"Oh!" cried Madame de Sauve, with an outburst of agony, "then he is a
dead man, for the queen mother has sworn his destruction!"

"His destruction! ah," said Marguerite, "you terrify me--impossible!"

"Madame," replied Madame de Sauve, with that energy which passion alone
can give, "I tell you that no one knows where the King of Navarre is."

"And where is the queen mother?"

"The queen mother sent me to find Monsieur de Guise and Monsieur de
Tavannes, who were in her oratory, and then dismissed me. Then--pardon
me, madame--I went to my room and waited as usual."

"For my husband, I suppose."

"He did not come, madame. Then I sought for him everywhere and asked
every one for him. One soldier told me he thought he had seen him in the
midst of the guards who accompanied him, with his sword drawn in his
hand, some time before the massacre began, and the massacre has begun an
hour ago."

"Thanks, madame," said Marguerite; "and although perhaps the sentiment
which impels you is an additional offence toward me,--yet, again, I
thank you!"

"Oh, forgive me, madame!" she said, "and I will return to my apartments
stronger for your pardon, for I dare not follow you, even at a
distance."

Marguerite extended her hand to her.

"I will go to Queen Catharine," she said. "Return to your room. The King
of Navarre is under my protection; I have promised him my alliance and I
will be faithful to my promise."

"But suppose you cannot obtain access to the queen mother, madame?"

"Then I will go to my brother Charles, and I will speak to him."

"Go, madame, go," said Charlotte, leaving Marguerite room to pass, "and
may God guide your majesty!"

Marguerite darted down the corridor, but when she reached the end of it
she turned to make sure that Madame de Sauve was not lingering behind.
Madame de Sauve was following her.

The Queen of Navarre saw her go upstairs to her own apartment, and then
she herself went toward the queen's chamber.

All was changed here. Instead of the crowd of eager courtiers, who
usually opened their ranks before the queen and respectfully saluted
her, Marguerite met only guards with red partisans and garments stained
with blood, or gentlemen in torn cloaks,--their faces blackened with
powder, bearing orders and despatches,--some going in, others going out,
and all this movement back and forth made a great and terrible confusion
in the galleries.

Marguerite, however, went boldly on until she reached the queen mother's
antechamber. But this room was guarded by a double file of soldiers, who
allowed only those who had a certain countersign to enter. Marguerite in
vain tried to pass this living barrier; several times she saw the door
open and shut, and each time she saw Catharine, her youth restored by
action, as alert as if she were only twenty years of age, writing,
receiving letters, opening them, addressing a word to one, a smile to
another; and those on whom she smiled most graciously were those who
were the most covered with dust and blood.

Amid this vast tumult which reigned in the Louvre and filled it with
frightful clamors, could be heard the rattling of musketry more and more
insistently repeated.

"I shall never get to her," said Marguerite to herself after she had
made three ineffectual attempts to pass the halberdiers. "Rather than
waste my time here, I must go and find my brother."

At this moment M. de Guise passed; he had just informed the queen of the
murder of the admiral, and was returning to the butchery.

"Oh, Henry!" cried Marguerite, "where is the King of Navarre?"

The duke looked at her with a smile of astonishment, bowed, and without
any reply passed out with his guards.

Marguerite ran to a captain who was on the point of leaving the Louvre
and was engaged in having his men's arquebuses loaded.

"The King of Navarre!" she exclaimed; "sir, where is the King of
Navarre?"

"I do not know, madame," replied the captain, "I do not belong to his
majesty's guards."

"Ah, my dear Réné," said the queen, recognizing Catharine's perfumer,
"is that you?--you have just left my mother. Do you know what has become
of my husband?"

"His majesty the King of Navarre is no friend of mine, madame, you ought
to remember that. It is even said," he added, with a contraction of his
features more like a grimace than a smile, "it is even said that he
ventures to accuse me of having been the accomplice, with Madame
Catharine, in poisoning his mother."

"No, no!" cried Marguerite, "my good Réné, do not believe that!"

"Oh, it is of little consequence, madame!" said the perfumer; "neither
the King of Navarre nor his party is any longer to be feared!"

And he turned his back on Marguerite.

"Ah, Monsieur de Tavannes!" cried Marguerite, "one word, I beseech you!"

Tavannes, who was going by, stopped.

"Where is Henry of Navarre?"

"Faith," he replied, in a loud voice, "I believe he is somewhere in the
city with the Messieurs d'Alençon and de Condé."

And then he added, in a tone so low that the queen alone could hear:

"Your majesty, if you would see him,--to be in whose place I would give
my life,--go to the king's armory."

"Thanks, Tavannes, thanks!" said Marguerite, who, of all that Tavannes
had said, had heard only the chief direction; "thank you, I will go
there."

And she went on her way, murmuring:

"Oh, after all I promised him--after the way in which he behaved to me
when that ingrate, Henry de Guise, was concealed in the closet--I cannot
let him perish!"

And she knocked at the door of the King's apartments; but they were
encompassed within by two companies of guards.

"No one is admitted to the King," said the officer, coming forward.

"But I"--said Marguerite.

"The order is general."

"I, the Queen of Navarre!--I, his sister!"

"My orders admit of no exception, madame; I pray you to pardon me."

And the officer closed the door.

"Oh, he is lost!" exclaimed Marguerite, alarmed at the sight of all
those sinister faces, which even if they did not breathe vengeance,
expressed sternness of purpose. "Yes, yes! I comprehend all. I have been
used as a bait. I am the snare which has entrapped the Huguenots; but I
will enter, if I am killed in the attempt!"

And Marguerite ran like a mad creature through the corridors and
galleries, when suddenly, as she passed by a small door, she heard a
sweet song, almost melancholy, so monotonous it was. It was a
Calvinistic psalm, sung by a trembling voice in the next room.

"My brother the king's nurse--the good Madelon--she is there!" exclaimed
Marguerite. "God of the Christians, aid me now!"

And, full of hope, Marguerite knocked at the little door.

       *       *       *       *       *

Soon after the counsel which Marguerite had conveyed to him, after his
conversation with Réné, and after leaving the queen mother's chamber, in
spite of the efforts of the poor little Phoebe,--who like a good
genius tried to detain him,--Henry of Navarre had met several Catholic
gentlemen, who, under a pretext of doing him honor, had escorted him to
his apartments, where a score of Huguenots awaited him, who had rallied
round the young prince, and, having once rallied, would not leave
him--so strongly, for some hours, had the presentiment of that fatal
night weighed on the Louvre. They had remained there, without any one
attempting to disturb them. At last, at the first stroke of the bell of
Saint-Germain l'Auxerrois, which resounded through all hearts like a
funeral knell, Tavannes entered, and, in the midst of a death-like
silence, announced that King Charles IX. desired to speak to Henry.

It was useless to attempt resistance, and no one thought of it. They
heard the ceilings, galleries, and corridors creaking beneath the feet
of the assembled soldiers, who were in the court-yards, as well as in
the apartments, to the number of two thousand. Henry, after having taken
leave of his friends, whom he was never again to see, followed Tavannes,
who led him to a small gallery next the King's apartments, where he left
him alone, unarmed, and a prey to mistrust.

The King of Navarre counted here alone, minute by minute, two mortal
hours; listening, with increasing alarm, to the sound of the tocsin and
the discharge of fire-arms; seeing through a small window, by the light
of the flames and flambeaux, the refugees and their assassins pass;
understanding nothing of these shrieks of murder, these cries of
distress,--not even suspecting, in spite of his knowledge of Charles
IX., the queen mother, and the Duc de Guise, the horrible drama at this
moment enacting.

Henry had not physical courage, but he had better than that--he had
moral fortitude. Though he feared danger, yet he smiled at it and faced
it; but it was danger in the field of battle--danger in the open
air--danger in the eyes of all, and attended by the noisy harmony of
trumpets and the loud and vibrating beat of drums; but now he was
weaponless, alone, locked in, shut up in a semi-darkness where he could
scarcely see the enemy that might glide toward him, and the weapon that
might be raised to strike him.

These two hours were, perhaps, the most agonizing of his life.

In the hottest of the tumult, and as Henry was beginning to understand
that, in all probability, this was some organized massacre, a captain
came to him, and conducted the prince along a corridor to the King's
rooms. As they approached, the door opened and closed behind them as if
by magic. The captain then led Henry to the King, who was in his armory.

When they entered, the King was seated in a great arm-chair, his two
hands placed on the two arms of the seat, and his head falling on his
chest. At the noise made by their entrance Charles looked up, and Henry
observed the perspiration dropping from his brow like large beads.

"Good evening, Harry," said the young King, roughly. "La Chastre, leave
us."

The captain obeyed.

A gloomy silence ensued. Henry looked around him with uneasiness, and
saw that he was alone with the King.

Charles IX. suddenly arose.

"_Par la mordieu!_" said he, passing his hands through his light brown
hair, and wiping his brow at the same time, "you are glad to be with me,
are you not, Harry?"

"Certainly, sire," replied the King of Navarre, "I am always happy to be
with your Majesty."

"Happier than if you were down there, eh?" continued Charles, following
his own thoughts rather than replying to Henry's compliment.

"I do not understand, sire," replied Henry.

"Look out, then, and you will soon understand."

And with a quick movement Charles stepped or rather sprang to the
window, and drawing with him his brother-in-law, who became more and
more terror-stricken, he pointed to him the horrible outlines of the
assassins, who, on the deck of a boat, were cutting the throats or
drowning the victims brought them at every moment.

"In the name of Heaven," cried Henry; "what is going on to-night?"

"To-night, sir," replied Charles IX., "they are ridding me of all the
Huguenots. Look yonder, over the Hôtel de Bourbon, at the smoke and
flames: they are the smoke and flames of the admiral's house, which is
on fire. Do you see that body, which these good Catholics are drawing on
a torn mattress? It is the corpse of the admiral's son-in-law--the
carcass of your friend, Téligny."

"What means this?" cried the King of Navarre, seeking vainly by his side
for the hilt of his dagger, and trembling equally with shame and anger;
for he felt that he was at the same time laughed at and threatened.

"It means," cried Charles IX., becoming suddenly furious, and turning
frightfully pale, "it means that I will no longer have any Huguenots
about me. Do you hear me, Henry?--Am I King? Am I master?"

"But, your Majesty"--

"My Majesty kills and massacres at this moment all that is not Catholic;
it is my pleasure. Are you a Catholic?" exclaimed Charles, whose anger
was rising higher and higher, like an awful tide.

"Sire," replied Henry, "do you remember your own words, 'What matters
the religion of those who serve me well'?"

"Ha! ha! ha!" cried Charles, bursting into a ferocious laugh; "you ask
me if I remember my words, Henry! '_Verba volant_,' as my sister Margot
says; and had not all those"--and he pointed to the city with his
finger--"served me well, also? Were they not brave in battle, wise in
council, deeply devoted? They were all useful subjects--but they were
Huguenots, and I want none but Catholics."

Henry remained silent.

"Do you understand me now, Harry?" asked Charles.

"I understand, sire."

"Well?"

"Well, sire, I do not see why the King of Navarre should not do what so
many gentlemen and poor folk have done. For if they all die, poor
unfortunates, it is because the same terms have been proposed to them
which your Majesty proposes to me, and they have refused, as I refuse."

Charles seized the young prince's arm, and fixed on him a look the
vacancy of which suddenly changed into a fierce and savage scowl.

"What!" he said, "do you believe that I have taken the trouble to offer
the mass to those whose throats we are cutting yonder?"

"Sire," said Henry, disengaging his arm, "will you not die in the
religion of your fathers?"

"Yes, _par la mordieu_! and you?"

"Well, sire, I will do the same!" replied Henry.

Charles uttered a roar of rage and, with trembling hand, seized his
arquebuse, which lay on the table.

Henry, who stood leaning against the tapestry, with the perspiration on
his brow, and nevertheless, owing to his presence of mind, calm to all
appearance, followed every movement of the terrible king with the greedy
stupefaction of a bird fascinated by a serpent.

Charles cocked his arquebuse, and stamping with blind rage cried, as he
dazzled Henry's eyes with the polished barrel of the deadly gun:

"Will you accept the mass?"

Henry remained mute.

Charles IX. shook the vaults of the Louvre with the most terrible oath
that ever issued from the lips of man, and grew even more livid than
before.

"Death, mass, or the Bastille!" he cried, taking aim at the King of
Navarre.

"Oh, sire!" exclaimed Henry, "will you kill me--me, your brother?"

Henry thus, by his incomparable cleverness, which was one of the
strongest faculties of his organization, evaded the answer which Charles
IX. expected, for undoubtedly had his reply been in the negative Henry
had been a dead man.

As immediately after the climax of rage, reaction begins, Charles IX.
did not repeat the question he had addressed to the Prince of Navarre;
and after a moment's hesitation, during which he uttered a hoarse kind
of growl, he went back to the open window, and aimed at a man who was
running along the quay in front.

"I must kill some one!" cried Charles IX., ghastly as a corpse, his eyes
suffused with blood; and firing as he spoke, he struck the man who was
running.

Henry uttered a groan.

Then, animated by a frightful ardor, Charles loaded and fired his
arquebuse without cessation, uttering cries of joy every time his aim
was successful.

"It is all over with me!" said the King of Navarre to himself; "when he
sees no one else to kill, he will kill me!"

"Well," said a voice behind the princes, suddenly, "is it done?"

It was Catharine de Médicis, who had entered unobserved just as the King
was firing his last shot.

"No, thousand thunders of hell!" said the King, throwing his arquebuse
across the room. "No, the obstinate blockhead--he will not consent!"

Catharine made no reply. She turned her eyes slowly where Henry stood as
motionless as one of the figures of the tapestry against which he was
leaning. She then gave a glance at the King, which seemed to say:

"Then why he is alive?"

"He is alive, he is alive!" murmured Charles IX., who perfectly
understood the glance, and replied to it without hesitation,--"he is
alive--because he is my relative."

Catharine smiled.

Henry saw the smile, and realized that his struggle was to be with
Catharine.

"Madame," he said to her, "the whole thing comes from you, I see very
well, and my brother-in-law Charles is not to blame. You laid the plan
for drawing me into a snare. You made your daughter the bait which was
to destroy us all. You separated me from my wife that she might not see
me killed before her eyes"--

"Yes, but that shall not be!" cried another voice, breathless and
impassioned, which Henry instantly recognized and which made Charles
start with surprise and Catharine with rage.

"Marguerite!" exclaimed Henry.

"Margot!" said Charles IX.

"My daughter!" muttered Catharine.

"Sire," said Marguerite to Henry, "your last words were an accusation
against me, and you were both right and wrong,--right, for I am the
means by which they attempted to destroy you; wrong, for I did not know
that you were going to your destruction. I, sire, owe my own life to
chance--to my mother's forgetfulness, perhaps; but as soon as I learned
your danger I remembered my duty, and a wife's duty is to share her
husband's fortunes. If you are exiled, sire, I will follow you into
exile; if you are put into prison I will be your fellow-captive; if they
kill you, I will also die."

And she offered her husband her hand, which he eagerly seized, if not
with love, at least with gratitude.

"Oh, my poor Margot!" said Charles, "you had much better bid him become
a Catholic!"

"Sire," replied Marguerite, with that lofty dignity which was so natural
to her, "for your own sake do not ask any prince of your house to commit
a cowardly act."

Catharine darted a significant glance at Charles.

"Brother," cried Marguerite, who equally well with Charles IX.
understood Catharine's ominous pantomime, "my brother, remember! you
made him my husband!"

Charles IX., at bay between Catharine's commanding eyes and Marguerite's
supplicating look, as if between the two opposing principles of good and
evil, stood for an instant undecided; at last Ormazd won the day.

"In truth," said he, whispering in Catharine's ear, "Margot is right,
and Harry is my brother-in-law."

"Yes," replied Catharine in a similar whisper in her son's ear,
"yes--but supposing he were not?"



CHAPTER XI.

THE HAWTHORN OF THE CEMETERY OF THE INNOCENTS.


As soon as Marguerite reached her own apartments she tried in vain to
divine the words which Catharine de Médicis had whispered to Charles
IX., and which had cut short the terrible council of life and death
which was taking place.

She spent a part of the morning in attending to La Mole, and the rest in
trying to guess the enigma, which her mind could not discover.

The King of Navarre remained a prisoner in the Louvre, the persecution
of the Huguenots went on hotter than ever. The terrible night was
followed by a day of massacre still more horrible. No longer the bells
rang the tocsin, but _Te Deums_, and the echoes of these joyous notes,
resounding amid fire and slaughter, were perhaps even more lugubrious in
sunlight than had been the last night's knell sounding in darkness. This
was not all. A strange thing had happened: a hawthorn-tree, which had
blossomed in the spring, and which, as usual, had lost its odorous
flowers in the month of June, had blossomed again during the night, and
the Catholics, who saw a miracle in this event, spread the report of the
miracle far and wide, thus making God their accomplice; and with cross
and banners they marched in a procession to the Cemetery of the
Innocents, where this hawthorn-tree was blooming.

This method of acquiescence which Heaven seemed to show in the massacres
redoubled the ardor of the assassins, and while every street, every
square, every alley-way of the city continued to present a scene of
desolation, the Louvre had become the common tomb for all Protestants
who had been shut up there when the signal was given. The King of
Navarre, the Prince de Condé, and La Mole were the only survivors.

Assured as to La Mole, whose wounds, as she had declared the evening
before, were severe but not dangerous, Marguerite's mind was now
occupied with one single idea: that was to save her husband's life,
which was still threatened. No doubt the first sentiment which actuated
the wife was one of generous pity for a man for whom, as the Béarnais
himself had said, she had sworn, if not love, at least alliance; but
there was, beside, another sentiment not so pure, which had penetrated
the queen's heart.

Marguerite was ambitious, and had foreseen almost the certainty of
royalty in her marriage with Henry de Bourbon. Navarre, though beset on
one side by the kings of France and on the other by the kings of Spain,
who strip by strip had absorbed half of its territory, might become a
real kingdom with the French Huguenots for subjects, if only Henry de
Bourbon should fulfil the hopes which the courage shown by him on the
infrequent occasions vouchsafed him of drawing his sword had aroused.

Marguerite, with her keen, lofty intellect, foresaw and reckoned on all
this. So if she lost Henry she lost not only a husband, but a throne.

As she was absorbed in these reflections she heard some one knocking at
the door of the secret corridor. She started, for only three persons
came by that door,--the King, the queen mother, and the Duc d'Alençon.
She opened the closet door, made a gesture of silence to Gillonne and La
Mole, and then went to let her visitor in.

It was the Duc d'Alençon.

The young prince had not been seen since the night before. For a moment,
Marguerite had conceived the idea of asking his intercession for the
King of Navarre, but a terrible idea restrained her. The marriage had
taken place against his wishes. François detested Henry, and had evinced
his neutrality toward the Béarnais only because he was convinced that
Henry and his wife had remained strangers to each other. A mark of
interest shown by Marguerite in her husband might thrust one of the
three threatening poniards into his heart instead of turning it aside.
Marguerite, therefore, on perceiving the young prince, shuddered more
than she had shuddered at seeing the King or even the queen mother.
Nevertheless no one could have told by his appearance that anything
unusual was taking place either in the city or at the Louvre. He was
dressed with his usual elegance. His clothes and linen breathed of those
perfumes which Charles IX. despised, but of which the Duc d'Anjou and he
made continual use.

A practised eye like Marguerite's, however, could detect the fact that
in spite of his rather unusual pallor and in spite of a slight trembling
in his hands--delicate hands, as carefully treated as a lady's--he felt
a deep sense of joy in the bottom of his heart. His entrance was in no
wise different from usual. He went to his sister to kiss her, but
Marguerite, instead of offering him her cheek, as she would have done
had it been King Charles or the Duc d'Anjou, made a courtesy and allowed
him to kiss her forehead.

The Duc d'Alençon sighed and touched his bloodless lips to her brow.

Then taking a seat he began to tell his sister the sanguinary news of
the night, the admiral's lingering and terrible death, Téligny's
instantaneous death caused by a bullet. He took his time and emphasized
all the bloody details of that night, with that love of blood
characteristic of himself and his two brothers; Marguerite allowed him
to tell his story.

"You did not come to tell me this only, brother?" she then asked.

The Duc d'Alençon smiled.

"You have something else to say to me?"

"No," replied the duke; "I am waiting."

"Waiting! for what?"

"Have you not told me, dearest Marguerite," said the duke, drawing his
armchair close up to his sister's, "that your marriage with the King of
Navarre was contracted against your wishes?"

"Yes, no doubt. I did not know the Prince of Béarn when he was proposed
to me as a husband."

"And after you came to know him, did you not tell me that you felt no
love for him?"

"I told you so; it is true."

"Was it not your opinion that this marriage would make you unhappy?"

"My dear François," said Marguerite, "when a marriage is not the height
of happiness it is almost always the depth of wretchedness."

"Well, then, my dear Marguerite, as I said to you,--I am waiting."

"But what are you waiting for?"

"For you to display your joy!"

"What have I to be joyful for?"

"The unexpected chance which offers itself for you to resume your
liberty."

"My liberty?" replied Marguerite, who was determined to compel the
prince to express his whole thought.

"Yes; your liberty! You will now be separated from the King of Navarre."

"Separated!" said Marguerite, fastening her eyes on the young prince.

The Duc d'Alençon tried to endure his sister's look, but his eyes soon
avoided hers with embarrassment.

"Separated!" repeated Marguerite; "let us talk this over, brother, for I
should like to understand all you mean, and how you propose to separate
us."

"Why," murmured the duke, "Henry is a Huguenot."

"No doubt; but he made no secret of his religion, and that was known
when we were married."

"Yes; but since your marriage, sister," asked the duke, involuntarily
allowing a ray of joy to shine upon his face, "what has Henry been
doing?"

"Why, you know better than any one, François, for he has spent his days
almost constantly in your society, either hunting or playing mall or
tennis."

"Yes, his days, no doubt," replied the duke; "his days--but his nights?"

Marguerite was silent; it was now her turn to cast down her eyes.

"His nights," persisted the Duc d'Alençon, "his nights?"

"Well?" inquired Marguerite, feeling that it was requisite that she
should say something in reply.

"Well, he has been spending them with Madame de Sauve!"

"How do you know that?" exclaimed Marguerite.

"I know it because I have an interest in knowing it," replied the young
prince, growing pale and picking the embroidery of his sleeves.

Marguerite began to understand what Catharine had whispered to Charles,
but pretended to remain in ignorance.

"Why do you tell me this, brother?" she replied, with a well-affected
air of melancholy; "was it to remind me that no one here loves me or
takes my part, neither those whom nature gave me as protectors nor the
man whom the Church gave me as my husband?"

"You are unjust," said the Duc d'Alençon, drawing his armchair still
nearer to his sister, "I love you and protect you!"

"Brother," said Marguerite, looking at him sharply, "have you anything
to say to me from the queen mother?"

"I! you mistake, sister. I swear to you--what can make you think that?"

"What can make me think that?--why, because you are breaking off the
intimacy that binds you to my husband, because you are abandoning the
cause of the King of Navarre."

"The cause of the King of Navarre!" replied the Duc d'Alençon, wholly at
his wits' end.

"Yes, certainly. Now look here, François; let us speak frankly. You have
come to an agreement a score of times; you cannot raise yourself or even
hold your own except by mutual help. This alliance"--

"Has now become impossible, sister," interrupted the Duc d'Alençon.

"And why so?"

"Because the King has designs on your husband! Pardon me, when I said
_your husband_, I erred; I meant Henry of Navarre. Our mother has seen
through the whole thing. I entered into an alliance with the Huguenots
because I believed the Huguenots were in favor; but now they are killing
the Huguenots, and in another week there will not remain fifty in the
whole kingdom. I gave my hand to the King of Navarre because he
was--your husband; but now he is not your husband. What can you say to
that--you who are not only the loveliest woman in France, but have the
clearest head in the kingdom?"

"Why, I have this to say," replied Marguerite, "I know our brother
Charles; I saw him yesterday in one of those fits of frenzy, every one
of which shortens his life ten years. I have to say that unfortunately
these attacks are very frequent, and that thus, in all probability, our
brother Charles has not very long to live; and, finally, I have to say
that the King of Poland has just died, and the question of electing a
prince of the house of France in his stead is much discussed; and when
circumstances are thus, it is not the moment to abandon allies who, in
the moment of struggle, might support us with the strength of a nation
and the power of a kingdom."

"And you!" exclaimed the duke, "do you not act much more treasonably to
me in preferring a foreigner to your own brother?"

"Explain yourself, François! In what have I acted treasonably to you?"

"You yesterday begged the life of the King of Navarre from King
Charles."

"Well?" said Marguerite, with pretended innocence.

The duke rose hastily, paced round the chamber twice or thrice with a
bewildered air, then came back and took Marguerite's hand.

It was cold and unresponsive.

"Good-by, sister!" he said at last. "You will not understand me; do not,
therefore, complain of whatever misfortunes may happen to you."

Marguerite grew pale, but remained motionless in her place. She saw the
Duc d'Alençon go away, without making any attempt to detain him; but he
had scarcely more than disappeared down the corridor when he returned.

"Listen, Marguerite," he said, "I had forgotten to tell you one thing;
that is, that by this time to-morrow the King of Navarre will be dead."

Marguerite uttered a cry, for the idea that she was the instrument of
assassination caused in her a terror she could not subdue.

"And you will not prevent his death?" she said; "you will not save your
best and most faithful ally?"

"Since yesterday the King of Navarre is no longer my ally."

"Who is, pray?"

"Monsieur de Guise. By destroying the Huguenots, Monsieur de Guise has
become the king of the Catholics."

"And does a son of Henry II. recognize a duke of Lorraine as his king?"

"You are in a bad frame of mind, Marguerite, and you do not understand
anything."

"I confess that I try in vain to read your thoughts."

"Sister, you are of as good a house as the Princesse de Porcian; De
Guise is no more immortal than the King of Navarre. Now, then,
Marguerite, suppose three things, three possibilities: first, suppose
monsieur is chosen King of Poland; the second, that you loved me as I
love you; well, I am King of France, and you are--queen of the
Catholics."

Marguerite hid her face in her hands, overwhelmed at the depth of the
views of this youth, whom no one at court thought possessed of even
common understanding.

"But," she asked after a moment's silence, "I hope you are not jealous
of Monsieur le Duc de Guise as you were of the King of Navarre!"

"What is done is done," said the Duc d'Alençon, in a muffled voice, "and
if I had to be jealous of the Duc de Guise, well, then, I was!"

"There is only one thing that can prevent this capital plan from
succeeding, brother."

"And what is that?"

"That I no longer love the Duc de Guise."

"And whom, pray, do you love?"

"No one."

The Duc d'Alençon looked at Marguerite with the astonishment of a man
who takes his turn in failing to understand, and left the room, pressing
his icy hand on his forehead, which ached to bursting.

Marguerite remained alone and thoughtful; the situation was beginning to
take a clear and definite shape before her eyes; the King had permitted
Saint Bartholomew's, Queen Catharine and the Duc de Guise had put it
into execution. The Duc de Guise and the Duc d'Alençon were about to
join partnership so as to get the greatest possible advantage. The death
of the King of Navarre would be a natural result of this great
catastrophe. With the King of Navarre out of the way, his kingdom would
be seized upon, Marguerite would be left a throneless, impotent widow
with no other prospect before her than a nunnery, where she would not
even have the sad consolation of weeping for a consort who had never
been her husband.

She was still in the same position when Queen Catharine sent to ask if
she would not like to go with her and the whole court on a pious
visitation to the hawthorn of the Cemetery of the Innocents.
Marguerite's first impulse was to refuse to take part in this cavalcade.
But the thought that this excursion might possibly give her a chance to
learn something new about the King of Navarre's fate decided her to go.
So she sent word that if they would have a palfrey ready for her she
would willingly go with their majesties.

Five minutes later a page came to ask if she was ready to go down, for
the procession was preparing to start.

Marguerite warned Gillonne by a gesture to look after the wounded man
and so went downstairs.

The King, the queen mother, Tavannes, and the principal Catholics were
already mounted. Marguerite cast a rapid glance over the group, which
was composed of about a score of persons; the King of Navarre was not of
the party.

Madame de Sauve was there. Marguerite exchanged a glance with her, and
was convinced that her husband's mistress had something to tell her.

They rode down the Rue de l'Astruce and entered into the Rue Saint
Honoré. As the populace caught sight of the King, Queen Catharine, and
the principal Catholics they flocked together and followed the
procession like a rising tide, and shouts rent the air.

"_Vive le Roi!_"

"_Vive la Messe._"

"Death to the Huguenots!"

These acclamations were accompanied by the waving of ensanguined swords
and smoking arquebuses, which showed the part each had taken in the
awful work just accomplished.

When they reached the top of the Rue des Prouvelles they met some men
who were dragging a headless carcass. It was the admiral's. The men were
going to hang it by the feet at Montfaucon.

They entered the Cemetery des Saints Innocents by the gate facing the
Rue des Chaps, now known as the Rue des Déchargeurs; the clergy,
notified in advance of the visit of the King and the queen mother, were
waiting for their majesties to make them speeches.

Madame de Sauve took advantage of a moment when Catharine was listening
to one of the discourses to approach the Queen of Navarre, and beg leave
to kiss her hand. Marguerite extended her arm toward her, and Madame de
Sauve, as she kissed the queen's hand, slipped a tiny roll of paper up
her sleeve.

Madame de Sauve drew back quickly and with clever dissimulation; yet
Catharine perceived it, and turned round just as the maid of honor was
kissing Marguerite's hand.

The two women saw her glance, which penetrated them like a flash of
lightning, but both remained unmoved; only Madame de Sauve left
Marguerite and resumed her place near Catharine.

When Catharine had finished replying to the address which had just been
made to her she smiled and beckoned the Queen of Navarre to go to her.

"Eh, my daughter," said the queen mother, in her Italian patois, "so
you are on intimate terms with Madame de Sauve, are you?"

Marguerite smiled in turn, and gave to her lovely countenance the
bitterest expression she could, and replied:

"Yes, mother; the serpent came to bite my hand!"

"Aha!" replied Catharine, with a smile; "you are jealous, I think!"

"You are mistaken, madame," replied Marguerite; "I am no more jealous of
the King of Navarre than the King of Navarre is in love with me, but I
know how to distinguish my friends from my enemies. I like those that
like me, and detest those that hate me. Otherwise, madame, should I be
your daughter?"

Catharine smiled so as to make Marguerite understand that if she had had
any suspicion it had vanished.

Moreover, at that instant the arrival of other pilgrims attracted the
attention of the august throng.

The Duc de Guise came with a troop of gentlemen all warm still from
recent carnage. They escorted a richly decorated litter, which stopped
in front of the King.

"The Duchesse de Nevers!" cried Charles IX., "Ah! let that lovely robust
Catholic come and receive our compliments. Why, they tell me, cousin,
that from your own window you have been hunting Huguenots, and that you
killed one with a stone."

The Duchesse de Nevers blushed exceedingly red.

"Sire," she said in a low tone, and kneeling before the King, "on the
contrary, it was a wounded Catholic whom I had the good fortune to
rescue."

"Good--good, my cousin! there are two ways of serving me: one is by
exterminating my enemies, the other is by rescuing my friends. One does
what one can, and I am certain that if you could have done more you
would!"

While this was going on, the populace, seeing the harmony existing
between the house of Lorraine and Charles IX., shouted exultantly:

"_Vive le Roi!_"

"_Vive le Duc de Guise!_"

"_Vive la Messe!_"

"Do you return to the Louvre with us, Henriette?" inquired the queen
mother of the lovely duchess.

Marguerite touched her friend on the elbow, and she, understanding the
sign, replied:

"No, madame, unless your majesty desire it; for I have business in the
city with her majesty the Queen of Navarre."

"And what are you going to do together?" inquired Catharine.

"To see some very rare and curious Greek books found at an old
Protestant pastor's, and which have been taken to the Tower of Saint
Jacques la Boucherie," replied Marguerite.

"You would do much better to see the last Huguenots flung into the Seine
from the top of the Pont des Meuniers," said Charles IX.; "that is the
place for all good Frenchmen."

"We will go, if it be your Majesty's desire," replied the Duchesse de
Nevers.

Catharine cast a look of distrust on the two young women. Marguerite, on
the watch, remarked it, and turning round uneasily, looked about her.

This assumed or real anxiety did not escape Catharine.

"What are you looking for?"

"I am seeking--I do not see"--she replied.

"Whom are you seeking? Who is it you fail to see?"

"La Sauve," said Marguerite; "can she have returned to the Louvre?"

"Did I not say you were jealous?" said Catharine, in her daughter's ear.
"Oh, _bestia_! Come, come, Henriette," she added, shrugging her
shoulders, "begone, and take the Queen of Navarre with you."

Marguerite pretended to be still looking about her; then, turning to her
friend, she said in a whisper:

"Take me away quickly; I have something of the greatest importance to
say to you."

The duchess courtesied to the King and queen mother, and then, bowing
low before the Queen of Navarre:

"Will your majesty deign to come into my litter?"

"Willingly, only you will have to take me back to the Louvre."

"My litter, like my servants and myself, are at your majesty's orders."

Queen Marguerite entered the litter, while Catharine and her gentlemen
returned to the Louvre just as they had come. But during the route it
was observed that the queen mother kept talking to the King, pointing
several times to Madame de Sauve, and at each time the King laughed--as
Charles IX. laughed; that is, with a laugh more sinister than a threat.

As soon as Marguerite felt the litter in motion, and had no longer to
fear Catharine's searching eyes, she quickly drew from her sleeve Madame
de Sauve's note and read as follows:

     "_I have received orders to send to-night to the King of Navarre
     two keys; one is that of the room in which he is shut up, and the
     other is the key of my chamber; when once he has reached my
     apartment, I am enjoined to keep him there until six o'clock in the
     morning._

     "_Let your majesty reflect--let your majesty decide. Let your
     majesty esteem my life as nothing._"

"There is now no doubt," murmured Marguerite, "and the poor woman is the
tool of which they wish to make use to destroy us all. But we will see
if the Queen Margot, as my brother Charles calls me, is so easily to be
made a nun of."

"Tell me, whom is the letter from?" asked the Duchesse de Nevers.

"Ah, duchess, I have so many things to say to you!" replied Marguerite,
tearing the note into a thousand bits.



CHAPTER XII.

MUTUAL CONFIDENCES.


"And, first, where are we going?" asked Marguerite; "not to the Pont des
Meuniers, I suppose,--I have seen enough slaughter since yesterday, my
poor Henriette."

"I have taken the liberty to conduct your majesty"--

"First and foremost, my majesty requests you to forget my majesty--you
were taking me"--

"To the Hôtel de Guise, unless you decide otherwise."

"No, no, let us go there, Henriette; the Duc de Guise is not there, your
husband is not there."

"Oh, no," cried the duchess, her bright emerald eyes sparkling with joy;
"no, neither my husband, nor my brother-in-law, nor any one else. I am
free--free as air, free as a bird,--free, my queen! Do you understand
the happiness there is in that word? I go, I come, I command. Ah, poor
queen, you are not free--and so you sigh."

"You go, you come, you command. Is that all? Is that all the use of
liberty? You are happy with only freedom as an excuse!"

"Your majesty promised to tell me a secret."

"Again 'your majesty'! I shall be angry soon, Henriette. Have you
forgotten our agreement?"

"No; your respectful servant in public--in private, your madcap
confidante, is it not so, madame? Is it not so, Marguerite?"

"Yes, yes," said the queen, smiling.

"No family rivalry, no treachery in love; everything fair, open, and
aboveboard! An offensive and defensive alliance, for the sole purpose of
finding and, if we can, catching on the fly, that ephemeral thing called
happiness."

"Just so, duchess. Let us again seal the compact with a kiss."

And the two beautiful women, the one so pale, so full of melancholy, the
other so roseate, so fair, so animated, joined their lips as they had
united their thoughts.

"Tell me, what is there new?" asked the duchess, giving Marguerite an
eager, inquisitive look.

"Isn't everything new since day before yesterday?"

"Oh, I am speaking of love, not of politics. When we are as old as dame
Catharine we will take part in politics; but we are only twenty, my
pretty queen, and so let us talk about something else. Let me see! can
it be that you are really married?"

"To whom?" asked Marguerite, laughing.

"Ah! you reassure me, truly!"

"Well, Henriette, that which reassures you, alarms me. Duchess, I must
be married."

"When?"

"To-morrow."

"Oh, poor little friend! and is it necessary?"

"Absolutely."

"_Mordi_! as an acquaintance of mine says, this is very sad."

"And so you know some one who says _mordi_?" asked Marguerite, with a
smile.

"Yes."

"And who is this some one?"

"You keep asking me questions when I am talking to you. Finish and I
will begin."

"In two words, it is this: The King of Navarre is in love, and not with
me; I am not in love, but I do not want him, yet we must both of us
change, or seem to change, between now and to-morrow."

"Well, then, you change, and be very sure he will do the same."

"That is quite impossible, for I am less than ever inclined to change."

"Only with respect to your husband, I hope."

"Henriette, I have a scruple."

"A scruple! about what?"

"A religious one. Do you make any difference between Huguenots and
Catholics?"

"In politics?"

"Yes."

"Of course."

"And in love?"

"My dear girl, we women are such heathens that we admit every kind of
sect, and recognize many gods."

"In one, eh?"

"Yes," replied the duchess, her eyes sparkling; "he who is called
_Eros_, _Cupido_, _Amor_. He who has a quiver on his back, wings on his
shoulders, and a fillet over his eyes. _Mordi, vive la dévotion!_"

"You have a peculiar method of praying; you throw stones on the heads of
Huguenots."

"Let us do our duty and let people talk. Ah, Marguerite! how the finest
ideas, the noblest actions, are spoilt in passing through the mouths of
the vulgar!"

"The vulgar!--why, it was my brother Charles who congratulated you on
your exploits, wasn't it?"

"Your brother Charles is a mighty hunter blowing the horn all day, and
that makes him very thin. I reject his compliments; besides, I gave him
his answer--didn't you hear what I said?"

"No; you spoke so low."

"So much the better. I shall have more news to tell you. Now, then,
finish your story, Marguerite."

"I was going to say--to say"--

"Well?"

"I was going to say," continued the queen, laughing, "if the stone my
brother spoke of be a fact, I should resist."

"Ah!" cried Henriette, "so you have chosen a Huguenot, have you? Well,
to reassure your conscience, I promise you that I will choose one myself
on the first opportunity."

"Ah, so you have chosen a Catholic, have you?"

"_Mordi_!" replied the duchess.

"I see, I see."

"And what is this Huguenot of yours?"

"I did not choose him. The young man is nothing and probably never will
be anything to me."

"But what sort is he? You can tell me that; you know how curious I am
about these matters."

"A poor young fellow, beautiful as Benvenuto Cellini's Nisus,--and he
came and took refuge in my room."

"Oho!--of course without any suggestion on your part?"

"Poor fellow! Do not laugh so, Henriette; at this very moment he is
between life and death."

"He is ill, is he?"

"He is grievously wounded."

"A wounded Huguenot is very disagreeable, especially in these times; and
what have you done with this wounded Huguenot, who is not and never will
be anything to you?"

"He is in my closet; I am concealing him and I want to save him."

"He is handsome! he is young! he is wounded. You hide him in your
closet; you want to save him. This Huguenot of yours will be very
ungrateful if he is not too grateful."

"I am afraid he is already--much more so than I could wish."

"And this poor young man interests you?"

"From motives of humanity--that's all."

"Ah, humanity! my poor queen, that is the very virtue that is the ruin
of all of us women."

"Yes; and you understand: as the King, the Duc d'Alençon, my mother,
even my husband, may at any moment enter my room"--

"You want me to hide your little Huguenot as long as he is ill, on
condition I send him back to you when he is cured?"

"Scoffer!" said Marguerite, "no! I do not lay my plans so far in
advance; but if you could conceal the poor fellow,--if you could
preserve the life I have saved,--I confess I should be most grateful.
You are free at the Hôtel de Guise; you have neither brother-in-law nor
husband to spy on you or constrain you; besides, behind your room there
is a closet like mine into which no one is entitled to enter; so lend me
your closet for my Huguenot, and when he is cured open the cage and let
the bird fly away."

"There is only one difficulty, my dear queen: the cage is already
occupied."

"What, have _you_ also saved somebody?"

"That is exactly what I answered your brother with."

"Ah, I understand! that's why you spoke so low that I could not hear
you."

"Listen, Marguerite: it is an admirable story--is no less poetical and
romantic than yours. After I had left you six of my guards, I returned
with the rest to the Hôtel de Guise, and I was watching them pillage and
burn a house separated from my brother's palace only by the Rue des
Quatre Fils, when I heard the voices of men swearing and of women
crying. I went out on the balcony and the first thing I saw was a sword
flashing so brilliantly that it seemed to light up the whole scene. I
was filled with admiration for this fiery sword. I am fond of fine
things, you know! Then naturally enough I tried to distinguish the arm
wielding it and then the body to which the arm belonged. Amid
sword-thrusts and shouts I at last made out the man and I saw--a hero,
an Ajax Telamon. I heard a voice--the voice of a Stentor. My enthusiasm
awoke--I stood there panting, trembling at every blow aimed at him, at
every thrust he parried! That was a quarter hour of emotion such as I
had never before experienced, my queen; and never believed was possible
to experience. So there I was panting, holding my breath, trembling, and
voiceless, when all of a sudden my hero disappeared."

"How?"

"Struck down by a stone an old woman threw at him. Then, like Cyrus, I
found my voice, and screamed, 'Help! help!' my guards went out, lifted
him up, and bore him to the room which you want for your _protégé_."

"Alas, my dear Henriette, I can better understand this story because it
is so nearly my own."

"With this difference, queen, that as I am serving my King and my
religion, I have no reason to send Monsieur Annibal de Coconnas away."

"His name is Annibal de Coconnas!" said Marguerite, laughing.

"A terrible name, is it not? Well, he who bears it is worthy of it. What
a champion he is, by Heaven! and how he made the blood flow! Put on your
mask, my queen, for we are now at the palace."

"Why put on my mask?"

"Because I wish to show you my hero."

"Is he handsome?"

"He seemed magnificent to me during the conflict. To be sure, it was at
night and he was lighted up by the flames. This morning by daylight I
confess he seemed to me to have lost a little."

"So then my _protégé_ is rejected at the Hôtel de Guise. I am sorry for
it, for that is the last place where they would look for a Huguenot."

"Oh, no, your Huguenot shall come; I will have him brought this evening:
one shall sleep in the right-hand corner of the closet and the other in
the left."

"But when they recognize each other as Protestant and Catholic they will
fight."

"Oh, there is no danger. Monsieur de Coconnas has had a cut down the
face that prevents him from seeing very well; your Huguenot is wounded
in the chest so that he can't move; and, besides, you have only to tell
him to be silent on the subject of religion, and all will go well."

"So be it."

"It's a bargain; and now let us go in."

"Thanks," said Marguerite, pressing her friend's hand.

"Here, madame," said the duchess, "you are again 'your majesty;' suffer
me, then, to do the honors of the Hôtel de Guise fittingly for the Queen
of Navarre."

And the duchess, alighting from the litter, almost knelt on the ground
in helping Marguerite to step down; then pointing to the palace door
guarded by two sentinels, arquebuse in hand, she followed the queen at a
respectful distance, and this humble attitude she maintained as long as
she was in sight.

As soon as she reached her room, the duchess closed the door, and,
calling to her waiting-woman, a thorough Sicilian, said to her in
Italian,

"Mica, how is Monsieur le Comte?"

"Better and better," replied she.

"What is he doing?"

"At this moment, madame, he is taking some refreshment."

"It is always a good sign," said Marguerite, "when the appetite
returns."

"Ah, that is true. I forgot you were a pupil of Ambroise Paré. Leave us,
Mica."

"Why do you send her away?"

"That she may be on the watch."

Mica left the room.

"Now," said the duchess, "will you go in to see him, or shall I send for
him here?"

"Neither the one nor the other. I wish to see him without his seeing
me."

"What matters it? You have your mask."

"He may recognize me by my hair, my hands, a jewel."

"How cautious she is since she has been married, my pretty queen!"

Marguerite smiled.

"Well," continued the duchess, "I see only one way."

"What is that?"

"To look through the keyhole."

"Very well! take me to the door."

The duchess took Marguerite by the hand and led her to a door covered
with tapestry; then bending one knee, she applied her eye to the
keyhole.

"'Tis all right; he is sitting at table, with his face turned toward us;
come!"

The queen took her friend's place, and looked through the keyhole;
Coconnas, as the duchess had said, was sitting at a well-served table,
and, despite his wounds, was doing ample justice to the good things
before him.

"Ah, great heavens!" cried Marguerite, starting back.

"What is the matter?" asked the duchess in amazement.

"Impossible!--no!--yes!--on my soul, 'tis the very man!"

"Who?"

"Hush," said Marguerite, getting to her feet and seizing the duchess's
hand; "'tis the man who pursued my Huguenot into my room, and stabbed
him in my arms! Oh, Henriette, how fortunate he did not see me!"

"Well, then, you have seen him fighting; was he not handsome?"

"I do not know," said Marguerite, "for I was looking at the man he was
pursuing."

"What is his name?"

"You will not mention it before the count?"

"No, I give you my promise!"

"Lerac de la Mole."

"And what do you think of him now?"

"Of Monsieur de la Mole?"

"No, of Monsieur de Coconnas?"

"Faith!" said Marguerite, "I confess I think"--

She stopped.

"Come, come," said the duchess, "I see you are angry with him for having
wounded your Huguenot."

"Why, so far," said Marguerite, laughing, "my Huguenot owes him nothing;
the slash he gave him under his eye"--

"They are quits, then, and we can reconcile them. Send me your wounded
man."

"Not now--by and by."

"When?"

"When you have found yours another room."

"Which?"

Marguerite looked meaningly at her friend, who, after a moment's
silence, laughed.

"So be it," said the duchess; "alliance firmer than ever."

"Friendship ever sincere!"

"And the word, in case we need each other?"

"The triple name of your triple god, '_Eros, Cupido, Amor._'"

And the two princesses separated after one more kiss, and pressing each
other's hand for the twentieth time.



CHAPTER XIII.

HOW THERE ARE KEYS WHICH OPEN DOORS THEY ARE NOT MEANT FOR.


The Queen of Navarre on her return to the Louvre found Gillonne in great
excitement. Madame de Sauve had been there in her absence. She had
brought a key sent her by the queen mother. It was the key of the room
in which Henry was confined. It was evident that the queen mother for
some purpose of her own wished the Béarnais to spend that night in
Madame de Sauve's apartment.

Marguerite took the key and turned it over and over; she made Gillonne
repeat Madame de Sauve's every word, weighed them, letter by letter, in
her mind, and at length thought she detected Catharine's plan.

She took pen and ink, and wrote:

     "_Instead of going to Madame de Sauve to-night, come to the Queen
     of Navarre._"

                                       "_MARGUERITE._"


She rolled up the paper, put it in the hollow of the key, and ordered
Gillonne to slip the key under the king's door as soon as it was dark.

This first duty having been attended to, Marguerite thought of the
wounded man, closed all the doors, entered the closet, and, to her great
surprise, found La Mole dressed in all his clothes, torn and
blood-stained as they were.

On seeing her he strove to rise, but, still dizzy, could not stand, and
fell back upon the sofa which had served for his bed.

"What is the matter, sir?" asked Marguerite; "and why do you thus
disobey your physician's orders? I recommended you rest, and instead of
following my advice you do just the contrary."

"Oh, madame," said Gillonne, "it is not my fault; I have entreated
Monsieur le Comte not to commit this folly, but he declares that nothing
shall keep him any longer at the Louvre."

"Leave the Louvre!" said Marguerite, gazing with astonishment at the
young man, who cast down his eyes. "Why, it is impossible--you cannot
walk; you are pale and weak; your knees tremble. Only a few hours ago
the wound in your shoulder was still bleeding."

"Madame," said the young man, "as earnestly as I thanked your majesty
for having given me shelter, as earnestly do I pray you now to suffer me
to depart."

"I scarcely know what to call such a resolution," said Marguerite; "it
is worse than ingratitude."

"Oh," cried La Mole, clasping his hands, "think me not ungrateful; my
gratitude will cease only with my life."

"It will not last long, then," said Marguerite, moved at these words,
the sincerity of which it was impossible to doubt; "for your wounds will
open, and you will die from loss of blood, or you will be recognized for
a Huguenot and killed ere you have gone fifty yards in the street."

"Nevertheless I must leave the Louvre," murmured La Mole.

"Must," returned Marguerite, fixing her serene, inscrutable eyes upon
him; then turning rather pale she added, "ah, yes; forgive me, sir, I
understand; doubtless there is some one outside the Louvre who is
anxiously waiting for you. You are right, Monsieur de la Mole; it is
natural, and I understand it. Why didn't you say so at first? or
rather, why didn't I think of it myself? It is duty in the exercise of
hospitality to protect one's guest's affections as well as to cure his
wounds, and to care for the spirit just as one cares for the body."

"Alas, madame," said La Mole, "you are laboring under a strange mistake.
I am well nigh alone in the world, and altogether so in Paris, where no
one knows me. My assassin is the first man I have spoken to in this
city; your majesty the first woman who has spoken to me."

"Then," said Marguerite, "why would you go?"

"Because," replied La Mole, "last night you got no rest, and to-night"--

Marguerite blushed.

"Gillonne," said she, "it is already evening and time to deliver that
key."

Gillonne smiled, and left the room.

"But," continued Marguerite, "if you are alone in Paris, without
friends, what will you do?"

"Madame, I soon shall have friends enough, for while I was pursued I
thought of my mother, who was a Catholic; methought I saw her with a
cross in her hand gliding before me toward the Louvre, and I vowed that
if God should save my life I would embrace my mother's religion. Madame,
God did more than save my life, he sent me one of his angels to make me
love life."

"But you cannot walk; before you have gone a hundred steps you will
faint away."

"Madame, I have made the experiment in the closet, I walk slowly and
painfully, it is true; but let me get as far as the Place du Louvre;
once outside, let befall what will."

Marguerite leaned her head on her hand and sank into deep thought.

"And the King of Navarre," said she, significantly, "you no longer speak
of him? In changing your religion, have you also changed your desire to
enter his service?"

"Madame," replied La Mole, growing pale, "you have just hit upon the
actual reason of my departure. I know that the King of Navarre is
exposed to the greatest danger, and that all your majesty's influence as
a daughter of France will barely suffice to save his life."

"What do you mean, sir," exclaimed Marguerite, "and what danger do you
refer to?"

"Madame," replied La Mole, with some hesitation, "one can hear
everything from the closet where I am."

"'Tis true," said Marguerite to herself; "Monsieur de Guise told me so
before."

"Well," added she, aloud, "what did you hear?"

"In the first place, the conversation between your majesty and your
brother."

"With François?" said Marguerite, changing color.

"Yes, madame, with the Duc d'Alençon; and then after you went out I
heard what Gillonne and Madame de Sauve said."

"And these two conversations"--

"Yes, madame; married scarcely a week, you love your husband; your
husband will come, in his turn, in the same way that the Duc d'Alençon
and Madame de Sauve came. He will confide his secrets to you. Well,
then, I must not overhear them; I should be indiscreet--I cannot--I must
not--I will not be!"

By the tone in which La Mole uttered these last words, by the anxiety
expressed in his voice, by the embarrassment shown in his eyes,
Marguerite was enlightened as by a sudden revelation.

"Aha!" said she, "so you have heard everything that has been said in
this room?"

"Yes, madame."

These words were uttered in a sigh.

"And you wish to depart to-night, this evening, to avoid hearing any
more?"

"This moment, if it please your majesty to allow me to go."

"Poor fellow!" said Marguerite, with a strange accent of tender pity.

Astonished by such a gentle reply when he was expecting a rather
forcible outburst, La Mole timidly raised his head; his eyes met
Marguerite's and were riveted as by a magnetic power on their clear and
limpid depths.

"So then you feel you cannot keep a secret, Monsieur de la Mole?" said
Marguerite in a soft voice as she stood leaning on the back of her
chair, half hidden in the shadow of a thick tapestry and enjoying the
felicity of easily reading his frank and open soul while remaining
impenetrable herself.

"Madame," said La Mole, "I have a miserable disposition: I distrust
myself, and the happiness of another gives me pain."

"Whose happiness?" asked Marguerite, smiling. "Ah, yes--the King of
Navarre's! Poor Henry!"

"You see," cried La Mole, passionately, "he is happy."

"Happy?"

"Yes, for your majesty is sorry for him."

Marguerite crumpled up the silk of her purse and smoothed out the golden
fringe.

"So then you decline to see the King of Navarre?" said she; "you have
made up your mind; you are decided?"

"I fear I should be troublesome to his majesty just at the present
time."

"But the Duc d'Alençon, my brother?"

"Oh, no, madame!" cried La Mole, "the Duc d'Alençon even still less than
the King of Navarre."

"Why so?" asked Marguerite, so stirred that her voice trembled as she
spoke.

"Because, although I am already too bad a Huguenot to be a faithful
servant of the King of Navarre, I am not a sufficiently good Catholic to
be friends with the Duc d'Alençon and Monsieur de Guise."

This time Marguerite cast down her eyes, for she felt the very depths of
her heart stirred by what he said, and yet she could not have told
whether his reply was meant to give her joy or pain.

At this moment Gillonne came back. Marguerite asked her a question with
a glance; Gillonne's answer, also conveyed by her eyes, was in the
affirmative. She had succeeded in getting the key to the King of
Navarre.

Marguerite turned her eyes toward La Mole, who stood before her, his
head drooping on his breast, pale, like one suffering alike in mind and
in body.

"Monsieur de la Mole is proud," said she, "and I hesitate to make him a
proposition he will doubtless reject."

La Mole rose, took one step toward Marguerite, and was about to bow low
before her to signify that he was at her service; but an intense, keen,
burning pang forced the tears from his eyes, and conscious that he was
in danger of falling, he clutched a piece of tapestry and clung to it.

"Don't you see, sir," cried Marguerite, springing to him and supporting
him in her arms, "don't you see that you still need me?"

A scarcely perceptible movement passed over La Mole's lips.

"Oh, yes!" he whispered, "like the air I breathe, like the light I see!"

At this moment three knocks were heard at Marguerite's door.

"Do you hear, madame?" cried Gillonne, alarmed.

"Already!" exclaimed Marguerite.

"Shall I open?"

"Wait! perhaps it is the King of Navarre."

"Oh, madame!" cried La Mole, recalled to himself by these words, which
the queen had spoken in such a low tone that she hoped Gillonne only had
heard them, "on my knees I entreat you, let me depart. Yes, dead or
alive! madame, have pity on me! Oh! you do not answer. I will tell you
all, and then you will drive me away, I hope."

"Be silent," said Marguerite, who found an indescribable charm in the
young man's reproaches; "be silent."

"Madame," replied La Mole, who did not find that anger he expected in
the voice of the queen, "madame, I tell you again, everything is audible
in this closet. Oh, do not make me perish by tortures more cruel than
the executioner could inflict"--

"Silence! silence!" said Marguerite.

"Oh, madame, you are merciless! you will not hear me, you will not
understand me. Know, then, that I love you"--

"Silence! I tell you," interrupted Marguerite, placing on his mouth her
warm, perfumed hand, which he seized between both of his and pressed
eagerly to his lips.

"But"--he whispered.

"Be silent, child--who is this rebel that refuses to obey his queen?"

Then darting out of the closet, she shut the door and stood leaning
against the wall pressing her trembling hand to her heart, as if to
control it.

"Open, Gillonne."

Gillonne left the room, and an instant after, the fine, intellectual,
but rather anxious countenance of the King of Navarre appeared behind
the tapestry.

"You have sent for me, madame?"

"Yes, sire. Your majesty received my letter?"

"And not without some surprise, I confess," said Henry, looking round
with distrust, which, however, almost instantly vanished from his mind.

"And not without some apprehension," added Marguerite.

"I confess it, madame! But still, surrounded as I am by deadly enemies,
by friends still more dangerous, perhaps, than my open foes, I
recollected that one evening I had seen a noble generosity shining in
your eyes--'twas the night of our marriage; that one other evening I had
seen the star of courage beaming in them--'twas yesterday, the day fixed
for my death."

"Well, sire?" said Marguerite, smiling, while Henry seemed striving to
read her heart.

"Well, madame," returned the king, "thinking of these things, I said to
myself, as I read your letter bidding me come: 'Without friends, for he
is a disarmed prisoner, the King of Navarre has but one means of dying
nobly, of dying a death that will be recorded in history. It is to die
betrayed by his wife; and I am come'"--

"Sire," replied Marguerite, "you will change your tone when you learn
that all this is the work of a woman who loves you--and whom you love."

Henry started back at these words, and his keen gray eyes under their
black lashes were fixed on the queen with curiosity.

"Oh, reassure yourself, sire," said the queen, smiling; "I am not that
person."

"But, madame," said Henry, "you sent me this key, and this is your
writing."

"It is my writing, I confess; the letter came from me, but the key is a
different matter. Let it satisfy you to know that it has passed through
the hands of four women before it reached you."

"Of four women?" exclaimed Henry in astonishment.

"Yes," said Marguerite; "Queen Catharine's, Madame de Sauve's,
Gillonne's, and mine."

Henry pondered over this enigma.

"Now let us talk reasonably, sire," said Marguerite, "and above all let
us speak frankly. Common report has it that your majesty has consented
to abjure. Is it true?"

"That report is mistaken; I have not yet consented."

"But your mind is made up?"

"That is to say, I am deliberating. When one is twenty and almost a
king, _ventre saint gris_! there are many things well worth a mass."

"And among other things life, for instance!"

Henry could not repress a fleeting smile.

"You do not tell me your whole thought," said Marguerite.

"I have reservations for my allies, madame; and you know we are but
allies as yet; if indeed you were both my ally--and"--

"And your wife, sire?"

"Faith! yes, and my wife"--

"What then?"

"Why, then, it might be different, and I perhaps might resolve to remain
King of the Huguenots, as they call me. But as it is, I must be content
to live."

Marguerite looked at Henry in such a peculiar manner that it would have
awakened suspicion in a less acute mind than his.

"And are you quite sure of succeeding even in that?" she asked.

"Why, almost; but you know, in this world nothing is certain."

"It is true," replied Marguerite, "your majesty shows such moderation
and professes such disinterestedness, that after having renounced your
crown, after having renounced your religion, you will probably renounce
your alliance with a daughter of France; at least this is hoped for."

These words bore a significance which sent a thrill through Henry's
whole frame; but instantaneously repressing the emotion, he said:

"Deign to recollect, madame, that at this moment I am not my own master;
I shall therefore do what the King of France orders me. If I were
consulted the least in the world on this question, affecting as it does
my throne, my honor, and my life, rather than build my future on this
forced marriage of ours, I should prefer to enter a monastery or turn
gamekeeper."

This calm resignation, this renunciation of the world, alarmed
Marguerite. She thought perhaps this rupture of the marriage had been
agreed upon by Charles IX., Catharine, and the King of Navarre. Why
should she not be taken as a dupe or a victim? Because she was sister of
the one and daughter of the other? Experience had taught her that this
relationship gave her no ground on which to build her security.

So ambition was gnawing at this young woman's, or rather this young
queen's heart, and she was too far above vulgar frailties to be drawn
into any selfish meanness; in the case of every woman, however mediocre
she may be, when she loves her love has none of these petty trials, for
true love is also an ambition.

"Your majesty," said Marguerite, with a sort of mocking disdain, "has no
confidence in the star that shines over the head of every king!"

"Ah," said Henry, "I vainly look for mine now, I cannot see it; 'tis
hidden by the storm which now threatens me!"

"And suppose a woman's breath were to dispel this tempest, and make the
star reappear, brilliant as ever?"

"'Twere difficult."

"Do you deny the existence of this woman?"

"No, I deny her power."

"You mean her will?"

"I said her power, and I repeat, her power. A woman is powerful only
when love and interest are combined within her in equal degrees; if
either sentiment predominates, she is, like Achilles, vulnerable; now as
to this woman, if I mistake not, I cannot rely on her love."

Marguerite made no reply.

"Listen," said Henry; "at the last stroke of the bell of Saint Germain
l'Auxerrois you must have thought of regaining your liberty, sacrificed
for the purpose of destroying my followers. My concern was to save my
life: that was the most essential thing. We lose Navarre, indeed; but
what is that compared with your being enabled to speak aloud in your
room, which you dared not do when you had some one listening to you in
yonder closet?"

Deeply absorbed as she was in her thoughts, Marguerite could not refrain
from smiling. The king rose and prepared to seek his own apartment, for
it was some time after eleven, and every one at the Louvre was, or
seemed to be, asleep.

Henry took three steps toward the door, then suddenly stopped as if for
the first time recollecting the motive of his visit to the queen.

"By the way, madame," said he, "had you not something to communicate to
me? or did you desire to give me an opportunity of thanking you for the
reprieve which your brave presence in the King's armory brought me? In
truth it was just in time, madame; I cannot deny it, you appeared like a
goddess of antiquity, in the nick of time to save my life."

"Unfortunate man!" cried Marguerite, in a muffled voice, and seizing her
husband's arm, "do you not see that nothing is saved, neither your
liberty, your crown, nor your life? Infatuated madman! Poor madman! Did
you, then, see nothing in my letter but a rendezvous? Did you believe
that Marguerite, indignant at your coldness, desired reparation?"

"I confess, madame," said Henry in astonishment, "I confess"--

Marguerite shrugged her shoulders with an expression impossible to
describe.

At this instant a strange sound was heard, like a sharp insistent
scratching at the secret door.

Marguerite led the king toward the little door.

"Listen," said she.

"The queen mother is leaving her room," said a trembling voice outside,
which Henry instantly recognized as Madame de Sauve's.

"Where is she going?" asked Marguerite.

"She is coming to your majesty."

And then the rustling of a silk gown, growing fainter, showed that
Madame de Sauve was hastening rapidly away.

"Oho!" exclaimed Henry.

"I was sure of this," said Marguerite.

"And I," replied Henry, "feared it, and this is the proof of it."

And half opening his black velvet doublet, he showed the queen that he
had beneath it a shirt of mail, and a long Milan poniard, which
instantly glittered in his hand like a viper in the sun.

"As if you needed weapon and cuirass here!" cried Marguerite. "Quick,
quick, sire! conceal that dagger; 'tis the queen mother, indeed, but the
queen mother only."

"Yet"--

"Silence!--I hear her."

And putting her mouth close to Henry's ear, she whispered something
which the young king heard with attention mingled with astonishment.
Then he hid himself behind the curtains of the bed.

Meantime, with the quickness of a panther, Marguerite sprang to the
closet, where La Mole was waiting in a fever of excitement, opened the
door, found the young man, and pressing his hand in the
darkness--"Silence," said she, approaching her lips so near that he felt
her warm and balmy breath; "silence!"

Then returning to her chamber, she tore off her head-dress, cut the
laces of her dress with her poniard, and sprang into bed.

It was time--the key turned in the lock. Catharine had a key for every
door in the Louvre.

"Who is there?" cried Marguerite, as Catharine placed on guard at the
door the four gentlemen by whom she was attended.

And, as if frightened by this sudden intrusion into her chamber,
Marguerite sprang out from behind the curtains of her bed in a white
dressing-gown, and then recognizing Catharine, came to kiss her hand
with such well-feigned surprise that the wily Florentine herself could
not help being deceived by it.



CHAPTER XIV.

THE SECOND MARRIAGE NIGHT.


The queen mother cast a marvellously rapid glance around her. The velvet
slippers at the foot of the bed, Marguerite's clothes scattered over the
chairs, the way she rubbed her eyes as if to drive away her sleepiness,
all convinced Catharine that she had awakened her daughter.

Then she smiled as a woman does when she has succeeded in her plans, and
drawing up an easy chair, she said:

"Let us sit down, Marguerite, and talk."

"Madame, I am listening."

"It is time," said Catharine, slowly shutting her eyes in the
characteristic way of people who weigh each word or who deeply
dissimulate, "it is time, my daughter, that you should know how ardently
your brother and myself desire to see you happy."

This exordium for one who knew Catharine was alarming.

"What can she be about to say?" thought Marguerite.

"To be sure," continued La Florentine, "in giving you in marriage we
fulfilled one of those acts of policy frequently required by important
interests of those who govern; but I must confess, my poor child, that
we had no expectation that the indifference manifested by the King of
Navarre for one so young, so lovely, and so fascinating as yourself
would be so obstinate."

Marguerite arose, and folding her robe de chambre around her, courtesied
with ceremonious respect to her mother.

"I have heard to-night only," continued Catharine, "otherwise I should
have paid you an earlier visit, that your husband is far from showing
you those attentions you have a right to claim, not merely as a
beautiful woman, but as a princess of France."

Marguerite sighed, and Catharine, encouraged by this mute approval,
proceeded.

"In fact, that the King of Navarre is openly cohabiting one of my maids
of honor who is scandalously smitten with him, that he scorns the love
of the woman graciously given to him, is an insult to which we poor
powerful ones of the earth cannot apply a remedy, and yet the meanest
gentleman in our kingdom would avenge it by calling out his son-in-law
or having his son do so."

Marguerite dropped her head.

"For some time, my daughter," Catharine went on to say, "I have seen by
your reddened eyes, by your bitter sallies against La Sauve, that in
spite of your efforts your heart must show external signs of its
bleeding wound."

Marguerite trembled: a slight movement had shaken the curtains; but
fortunately Catharine did not notice it.

"This wound," said she with affectionate sweetness redoubled, "this
wound, my daughter, a mother's hand must cure. Those who with the
intention of securing your happiness have brought about your marriage,
and who in their anxiety about you notice that every night Henry of
Navarre goes to the wrong rooms; those who cannot allow a kinglet like
him to insult a woman of such beauty, of such high rank, and so worthy,
by scorning your person and neglecting his chances of posterity; those
who see that at the first favorable wind, this wild and insolent madcap
will turn against our family and expel you from his house--I say have
not they the right to secure your interests by entirely dividing them
from his, so that your future may be better suited to yourself and your
rank?"

"And yet, madame," replied Marguerite, "in spite of these observations
so replete with maternal love, and filling me with joy and pride, I am
bold enough to affirm to your majesty that the King of Navarre is my
husband."

Catharine started with rage, and drawing closer to Marguerite she said:

"He, your husband? Is it sufficient to make you husband and wife that
the Church has pronounced its blessing upon you? And is the marriage
consecration only in the words of the priest? He, your husband? Ah, my
daughter! if you were Madame de Sauve you might give me this reply. But
wholly contrary of what we expected of him since you granted Henry of
Navarre the honor of calling you his wife, he has given all your rights
to another woman, and at this very instant even," said Catharine,
raising her voice,--"this key opens the door of Madame de Sauve's
apartment--come with me and you will see"--

"Oh, not so loud, madame, not so loud, I beseech you!" said Marguerite,
"for not only are you mistaken, but"--

"Well?"

"Well, you will awaken my husband!"

As she said these words Marguerite arose with a perfectly voluptuous
grace, her white dress fluttering loosely around her, while the large
open sleeves displayed her bare and faultlessly modelled arm and truly
royal hand, and taking a rose-colored taper she held it near the bed,
and drawing back the curtain, and smiling significantly at her mother,
pointed to the haughty profile, the black locks, and the parted lips of
the King of Navarre, who, as he lay upon the disordered bed, seemed
buried in profound repose.

Pale, with haggard eyes, her body thrown back as if an abyss had opened
at her feet, Catharine uttered not a cry, but a hoarse bellow.

"You see, madame," said Marguerite, "you were misinformed."

Catharine looked first at Marguerite, then at Henry. In her active mind
she combined Marguerite's smile with the picture of that pale and dewy
brow, those eyes circled by dark-colored rings, and she bit her thin
lips in silent fury.

Marguerite allowed her mother for a moment to contemplate this picture,
which affected her like the head of Medusa. Then she dropped the curtain
and stepping on her tip-toes she came back to Catharine and sat down:

"You were saying, madame?"--

The Florentine for several seconds tried to fathom the young woman's
naïveté; but as if her keen glance had become blunted on Marguerite's
calmness, she exclaimed, "Nothing," and hastily left the room.

As soon as the sound of her departing footsteps had died away down the
long corridor, the bed-curtains opened a second time, and Henry, with
sparkling eyes, trembling hand, and panting breath, came out and knelt
at Marguerite's feet; he was dressed only in his short-clothes and his
coat of mail, so that Marguerite, seeing him in such an odd rig, could
not help laughing even while she was warmly shaking hands with him.

"Ah, madame! ah, Marguerite!" he cried, "how shall I ever repay you?"

And he covered her hand with kisses which gradually strayed higher up
along her arm.

"Sire," said she, gently retreating, "can you forget that a poor woman
to whom you owe your life is mourning and suffering on your account?
Madame de Sauve," added she, in a lower tone, "has forgotten her
jealousy in sending you to me; and to that sacrifice she may probably
have to add her life, for you know better than any one how terrible is
my mother's anger!"

Henry shuddered; and, rising, started to leave the room.

"Upon second thoughts," said Marguerite, with admirable coquetry, "I
have thought it all over and I see no cause for alarm. The key was given
to you without any directions, and it will be supposed that you granted
me the preference for to-night."

"And so I do, Marguerite! Consent but to forget"--

"Not so loud, sire, not so loud!" replied the queen, employing the same
words she had a few minutes before used to her mother; "any one in the
adjoining closet can hear you. And as I am not yet quite free, I will
ask you to speak in a lower tone."

"Oho!" said Henry, half smiling, half gloomily, "that's true! I was
forgetting that I am probably not the one destined to play the end of
this interesting scene! This closet"--

"Let me beg of your majesty to enter there," said Marguerite; "for I am
desirous of having the honor of presenting to you a worthy gentleman,
wounded during the massacre while making his way to the Louvre to
apprise your majesty of the danger with which you were threatened."

The queen went toward the door, and Henry followed her. She opened it,
and the king was thunderstruck at beholding a man in this cabinet, fated
to reveal such continued surprises.

But La Mole was still more surprised at thus unexpectedly finding
himself in the presence of Henry of Navarre. The result was that the
king cast an ironical glance on Marguerite, who bore it without
flinching.

"Sire," said she, "I am in dread lest this gentleman may be murdered
even here, in my very chamber; he is devoted to your majesty's service,
and for that reason I commend him to your royal protection."

"Sire," continued the young man, "I am the Comte Lerac de la Mole, whom
your majesty was expecting; I was recommended to you by that poor
Monsieur de Téligny, who was killed by my side."

"Aha!" replied Henry; "you are right, sir. The queen gave me his letter;
but have you not also a letter from the governor of Languedoc?"

"Yes, sire, and I was recommended to deliver it to your majesty as soon
as I arrived."

"Why did you not do so?"

"Sire, I hastened to the Louvre last evening, but your majesty was too
much occupied to give me audience."

"True!" answered the king; "but I should think you might have sent the
letter to me?"

"I had orders from Monsieur d'Auriac to give it to no one else but your
majesty, since it contained, he said, information so important that he
feared to entrust it to any ordinary messenger."

"The contents are, indeed, of a serious nature," said the king, when he
had received and read the letter; "advising my instant withdrawal from
the court of France, and retirement to Béarn. M. d'Auriac, although a
Catholic, was always a stanch friend of mine; and it is possible that,
acting as governor of a province, he got scent of what was in the wind
here. _Ventre saint gris_! monsieur! why was not this letter given to me
three days ago, instead of now?"

"Because, as I before assured your majesty, that using all the speed and
diligence in my power, it was wholly impossible to arrive before
yesterday."

"That is very unfortunate, very unfortunate," murmured the king; "we
should then have been in security, either at Rochelle or in some broad
plain surrounded by two or three thousand trusty horsemen."

"Sire, what is done is done," said Marguerite, in a low voice, "and
instead of wasting your time complaining over the past you must do the
best possible with the future."

"If you were in my place, madame," replied Henry, with his questioning
look, "you would still have hope, would you?"

"Certainly I should; I should consider myself as playing a game of three
points, of which I had lost only the first."

"Ah, madame," whispered Henry, "if I dared but hope that you would go
partners with me in the game"--

"If I had intended to side with your adversaries," replied Marguerite,
"I should scarcely have delayed so long."

"True!" replied Henry, "and I am ungrateful; and as you say, the past
may still be repaired."

"Alas! sire," said La Mole, "I wish your majesty every kind of good
fortune; but now the admiral is no more."

Over Henry's face passed that sly, peasant-like smile, which was not
understood at court until after he became King of France.

"But, madame," said the king, attentively observing La Mole, "this
gentleman cannot remain here without causing you considerable
inconvenience, and being himself subject to very unpleasant surprises.
What will you do with him?"

"Could we not remove him from the Louvre?" asked Marguerite, "for I
entirely agree with you!"

"It will be difficult."

"Then could not Monsieur de la Mole find accommodation in your majesty's
apartments?"

"Alas, madame! you speak as if I were still King of the Huguenots, and
had subjects to command. You are aware that I am half converted to the
Catholic faith and have no people at all."

Any one but Marguerite would have promptly answered: "He is a Catholic."

But the queen wished Henry himself to ask her to do the very thing she
was desirous of effecting; while La Mole, perceiving his protectress's
caution and not knowing where to set foot on the slippery ground of such
a dangerous court as that of France, remained perfectly silent.

"But what is this the governor says in his letter?" said Henry, again
casting his eyes over the missive he held in his hand. "He states that
your mother was a Catholic, and from that circumstance originates the
interest he felt in you."

"And what were you telling me, Monsieur le Comte," said Marguerite,
"respecting a vow you had formed to change your religion? I confess my
recollection on the subject is somewhat confused. Have the goodness to
assist me, M. de la Mole. Did not your conversation refer to something
of the nature the king appears to desire?"

"Alas! madame, what I did say was so coldly received by your majesty
that I did not dare"--

"Simply because it in no way concerned me," answered Marguerite. "But
explain yourself to the king--explain!"

"Well, what was the vow?" asked the king.

"Sire," said La Mole, "when pursued by assassins, myself unarmed, and
almost expiring from my two wounds, I fancied I beheld my mother's
spirit holding a cross in her hands and guiding me to the Louvre. Then I
vowed that if my life were preserved I would adopt the religion of my
mother, who had been permitted to leave her grave to direct me to a
place of safety during that horrible night. Heaven conducted me here,
sire. I find myself here under the protection of a princess of France
and of the King of Navarre; my life was miraculously saved, therefore I
must fulfil my vow. I am ready to become a Catholic."

Henry frowned. Sceptic that he was, he could well understand a change of
religion from motives of interest, but he distrusted abjuration through
faith.

"The king does not want to take charge of my _protégé_," thought
Marguerite.

La Mole still remained mute and awkward between the two opposing wills.
He felt, without being able to define why, that he was in a ridiculous
position. Marguerite's womanly tact came to his relief.

"Sire," said she, "we forget that the poor wounded gentleman has need of
repose. I myself am half asleep. Ah, see!"

La Mole did indeed turn pale; but it was at Marguerite's last words,
which he had interpreted according to his own ideas.

"Well, madame," answered Henry, "nothing can be simpler. Can we not
leave Monsieur de la Mole to take his repose."

The young man fixed a supplicating look on Marguerite, and, in spite of
the presence of the two majesties, sunk upon a chair, overcome with
fatigue and pain.

Marguerite understood all the love in his look, all the despair in his
weakness.

"Sire," said she, "your majesty is bound to confer on this young man,
who imperilled his life for his king, since he received his wounds while
coming hither to inform you of the admiral's death and Téligny's,--your
majesty is bound, I repeat, to confer on him an honor for which he will
be grateful all his life long."

"What is it, madame?" asked Henry. "Command me, I am ready."

"Monsieur de la Mole must sleep to-night at your majesty's feet, while
you, sire, can sleep on this couch. With the permission of my august
spouse," added Marguerite, smiling, "I will summon Gillonne and return
to bed, for I assure you I am not the least wearied of us three."

Henry had shrewd sense and a quick perception of things; friends and
enemies subsequently found fault with him for possessing too much of
both. He fully admitted that she who thus banished him from the nuptial
bed was well justified in so doing by the indifference he had himself
manifested toward her; and then, too, she had just repaid this
indifference by saving his life; he therefore allowed no self-love to
dictate his answer.

"Madame," said he, "if Monsieur de la Mole were able to come to my
quarters I would give him my own bed."

"Yes," replied Marguerite, "but your quarters just at the present time
would not be safe for either of you, and prudence dictates that your
majesty should remain here until morning."

Then without awaiting the king's reply she summoned Gillonne, and bade
her prepare the necessary cushions for the king, and to arrange a bed at
the king's feet for La Mole, who appeared so happy and contented with
the honor that one would have sworn he no longer felt his wounds.

Then Marguerite, courtesing low to the king, passed into her chamber,
the door of which was well furnished with bolts, and threw herself on
the bed.

"One thing is certain," said Marguerite to herself, "to-morrow Monsieur
de la Mole must have a protector at the Louvre; and he who, to-night,
sees and hears nothing, may change his mind to-morrow."

Then she called Gillonne, who was waiting to receive her last orders.

Gillonne came to her.

"Gillonne," said she in a whisper, "you must contrive to bring my
brother the Duc d'Alençon here to-morrow morning before eight o'clock."

It was just striking two at the Louvre.

La Mole for a few moments talked on political subjects with the king,
who gradually grew drowsy and was soon snoring.

La Mole might have slept as well as the king, but Marguerite was not
asleep; she kept turning from side to side in her bed, and the noise she
made disturbed the young man's ideas and sleep.

"He is very young," murmured Marguerite in her wakeful mood, "he is very
timid; perhaps--but we must see--perhaps it will be ridiculous. Yet he
has handsome eyes--and a good figure, and he is very charming; but if he
should not turn out to be brave!--He ran away!--He is renouncing his
faith! It is too bad--the dream began well. However, let things take
their course and entrust them to that madcap Henriette's triple god."

And toward daybreak Marguerite fell asleep, murmuring:

"_Eros, Cupido, Amor._"



CHAPTER XV.

WHAT WOMAN WILLS, GOD WILLS.


Marguerite was not mistaken: the wrath distilled in the depths of
Catharine's heart at sight of this comedy, the intrigue of which she
followed without being in any way able to change its denouement,
required a victim. So instead of going directly to her own room the
queen mother proceeded to that of her lady in waiting.

Madame de Sauve was in expectation of two visits--one she hoped to
receive from Henry, and the other she feared was in store for her from
the queen mother. As she lay in her bed only partially undressed, while
Dariole kept watch in the antechamber, she heard a key turn in the lock,
and then slowly approaching footsteps which would have seemed heavy if
they had not been deadened by thick rugs. She did not recognize Henry's
light, eager step; she suspected that Dariole was prevented from coming
to warn her, and so leaning on her elbow she waited with eye and ear
alert. The portière was lifted and the trembling young woman saw
Catharine de Médicis appear.

Catharine seemed calm; but Madame de Sauve, accustomed for two years to
study her, well knew what dark designs, and possibly cruel vengeance,
might be concealed beneath that apparent calm.

At sight of Catharine, Madame de Sauve was about to spring from her bed,
but Catharine signed to her to stay where she was; and poor Charlotte
was fixed to the spot, inwardly endeavoring to collect all the forces of
her soul to endure the storm which was silently gathering.

"Did you convey the key to the King of Navarre?" inquired Catharine,
without the tone of her voice betraying any change; and yet as she spoke
her lips grew paler and paler.

"I did, madame," answered Charlotte, in a voice which she vainly tried
to make as firm and assured as Catherine's was.

"And have you seen him?"

"Who?" asked Madame de Sauve.

"The King of Navarre."

"No, madame; but I am expecting him, and when I heard the key turn in
the lock, I firmly believed it was he."

At this answer, which indicated either perfect confidence or deep
dissimulation on Madame de Sauve's part, Catharine could not repress a
slight shiver. She clinched her short plump hand.

"And yet you knew perfectly well," said she with her evil smile, "you
knew perfectly well, Carlotta, that the King of Navarre would not come
to-night."

"I, madame? I knew that?" exclaimed Charlotte, with a tone of surprise
perfectly well assumed.

"Yes, you knew it!"

"If he does not come, he must be dead!" replied the young woman,
shuddering at the mere supposition.

What gave Charlotte the courage to lie so was the certainty that she
would suffer from a terrible vengeance if her little treason should be
discovered.

"But did you not write to the king, Carlotta mia?" inquired Catharine,
with the same cruel and silent laugh.

"No, madame," answered Charlotte, with well-assumed naïveté, "I cannot
recollect receiving your majesty's commands to do so."

A short silence followed, during which Catharine continued to gaze on
Madame de Sauve as the serpent looks at the bird it wishes to fascinate.

"You think you are pretty," said Catharine, "you think you are clever,
do you not?"

"No, madame," answered Charlotte; "I only know that sometimes your
majesty has been graciously pleased to commend both my personal
attractions and address."

"Well, then," said Catharine, growing eager and animated, "you were
mistaken if you think so, and I lied when I told you so; you are a
simpleton and hideous compared to my daughter Margot."

"Oh, madame," replied Charlotte, "that is a fact I will not even try to
deny--least of all in your presence."

"So, then, the King of Navarre prefers my daughter to you; a
circumstance, I presume, not to your wishes, and certainly not what we
agreed should be the case."

"Alas, madame," cried Charlotte, bursting into a torrent of tears which
now flowed from no feigned source, "if it be so, I can but say I am very
unfortunate!"

"It is so," said Catharine, darting the two-fold keenness of her eyes
like a double poniard into Madame de Sauve's heart.

"But who can make you believe that?" asked Charlotte.

"Go down to the Queen of Navarre's _pazza_, and you will find your lover
there!"

"Oh!" exclaimed Madame de Sauve.

Catharine shrugged her shoulders.

"Are you jealous, pray?" asked the queen mother.

"I?" exclaimed Madame de Sauve, recalling her fast-failing strength.

"Yes, you! I should like to see a Frenchwoman's jealousy."

"But," said Madame de Sauve, "how should your majesty expect me to be
jealous except out of vanity? I love the King of Navarre only as far as
your majesty's service requires it."

Catharine gazed at her for a moment with dreamy eyes.

"What you tell me may on the whole be true," she murmured.

"Your majesty reads my heart."

"And your heart is wholly devoted to me?"

"Command me, madame, and you shall judge for yourself."

"Well, then, Carlotta, since you are ready to sacrifice yourself in my
service, you must still continue for my sake to be in love with the King
of Navarre and, above all, to be very jealous,--jealous as an Italian
woman."

"But, madame," asked Charlotte, "how does an Italian woman show her
jealousy?"

"I will tell you," replied Catharine, and after nodding her head two or
three times she left the room as deliberately and noiselessly as she had
come in.

Charlotte, confused by the keen look of those eyes dilated like a cat's
or a panther's without thereby losing anything of their inscrutability,
allowed her to go without uttering a single word, without even letting
her breathing be heard, and she did not even take a respiration until
she heard the door close behind her and Dariole came to say that the
terrible apparition had departed.

"Dariole," said she, "draw up an armchair close to my bed and spend the
night in it. I beg you to do so, for I should not dare to stay alone."

Dariole obeyed; but in spite of the company of her faithful attendant,
who stayed near her, in spite of the light from the lamp which she
commanded to be left burning for the sake of greater tranquillity,
Madame de Sauve also did not fall asleep till daylight, so insistently
rang in her ears the metallic accent of Catharine's voice.

       *       *       *       *       *

Though Marguerite had not fallen asleep till daybreak she awoke at the
first blast of the trumpets, at the first barking of the dogs. She
instantly arose and began to put on a costume so negligent that it could
not fail to attract attention. Then she summoned her women, and had the
gentlemen ordinarily in attendance on the King of Navarre shown into her
antechamber, and finally opening the door which shut Henry and De la
Mole into the same room, she gave the count an affectionate glance and
addressing her husband she said:

"Come, sire, it is not sufficient to have made madame my mother believe
in what is not; it still remains for you to convince your whole court
that a perfect understanding exists between us. But make yourself quite
easy," added she, laughing, "and remember my words, rendered almost
solemn by the circumstances. To-day will be the last time that I shall
put your majesty to such a cruel test."

The King of Navarre smiled and ordered his gentlemen to be admitted.

Just as they were bowing to him he pretended suddenly to recollect
having left his mantle on the queen's bed and begged their excuse for
receiving them in such a way; then, taking his mantle from the hands of
Marguerite, who stood blushing by his side, he clasped it on his
shoulder. Next, turning to his gentlemen, he inquired what news there
was in the city and at court.

Marguerite was engaged in watching out of the corner of her eye the
imperceptible signs of astonishment betrayed by the gentlemen at
detecting this newly revealed intimacy between the king and queen of
Navarre, when an usher entered, followed by three or four gentlemen, and
announced the Duc d'Alençon.

To bring him there Gillonne had only to tell him that the king had spent
the night in the queen's room.

François rushed in so precipitately that he almost upset those who
preceded him. His first glance was for Henry; his next was for
Marguerite.

Henry replied with a courteous bow; Marguerite composed her features so
that they expressed the utmost serenity.

Then the duke cast a vague but scrutinizing look around the whole room:
he saw the two pillows placed at the head of the bed, the derangement of
its tapestried coverings, and the king's hat thrown on a chair.

He turned pale, but quickly recovering himself, he said:

"Does my royal brother Henry join this morning with the King in his game
of tennis?"

"Does his Majesty do me the honor to select me as his partner?" inquired
Henry, "or is it only a little attention on your part, my
brother-in-law?"

"His Majesty has not so said, certainly," replied the duke, somewhat
embarrassed; "but don't you generally play with him?"

Henry smiled, for so many and such serious events had occurred since he
last played with the King that he would not have been astonished to
learn that the King had changed his habitual companions at the game.

"I shall go there," said Henry, with a smile.

"Come," cried the duke.

"Are you going away?" inquired Marguerite.

"Yes, sister!"

"Are you in great haste?"

"In great haste."

"Might I venture to detain you for a few minutes?"

Such a request was so unusual coming from Marguerite that her brother
looked at her while her color came and went.

"What can she be going to say to him?" thought Henry, no less surprised
than the duke himself.

Marguerite, as if she had guessed her husband's thought, turned toward
him.

"Sire," said she, with a charming smile, "you may go back to his majesty
if it seem good to you, for the secret which I am going to reveal to my
brother is already known to you, for the reason that the request which I
made you yesterday in regard to this secret was as good as refused by
your majesty. I should not wish, therefore," continued Marguerite, "to
weary your majesty a second time by expressing in your presence a wish
which seemed to be disagreeable."

"What do you mean?" asked François, looking at both of them with
astonishment.

"Aha!" exclaimed Henry, flushing, with indignation, "I know what you
mean, madame. In truth, I regret that I am not free. But if I cannot
offer Monsieur de la Mole such hospitality as would be equivalent to an
assurance, I cannot do less than to recommend to my brother D'Alençon
the person _in whom you feel such a lively interest_. Perhaps," he
added, in order to give still more emphasis to the words italicized,
"perhaps my brother will discover some way whereby you will be permitted
to keep Monsieur de la Mole here near you--that would be better than
anything else, would it not, madame?"

"Come, come!" said Marguerite to herself, "the two together will do what
neither of them would do individually."

And she opened the closet door and invited the wounded young man to come
forth, saying to Henry as she did so:

"Your majesty must now explain to my brother why we are interested in
Monsieur de la Mole."

Henry, caught in the snare, briefly related to M. d'Alençon, half a
Protestant for the sake of opposition, as he himself was partly a
Catholic from prudence, the arrival of Monsieur de la Mole at Paris, and
how the young man had been severely wounded while bringing to him a
letter from M. d'Auriac.

When the duke turned round, La Mole had come out from the closet and was
standing before him.

François, at the sight of him, so handsome, so pale, and consequently
doubly captivating by reason of his good looks and his pallor, felt a
new sense of distrust spring up in the depths of his soul. Marguerite
held him both through jealousy and through pride.

"Brother," said Marguerite, "I will engage that this young gentleman
will be useful to whoever may employ him. Should you accept his
services, he will obtain a powerful protector, and you, a devoted
servitor. In such times as the present, brother," continued she, "we
cannot be too well surrounded by devoted friends; more especially,"
added she, lowering her voice so as to be heard by no one but the duke,
"when one is ambitious, and has the misfortune to be only third in the
succession to the throne."

Then she put her finger on her lip, to intimate to François that in
spite of the initiation she still kept secret an important part of her
idea.

"Perhaps," she added, "you may differ from Henry, in considering it not
befitting that this young gentleman should remain so immediately in the
vicinity of my apartments."

"Sister," replied François, eagerly, "if it meet your wishes, Monsieur
de la Mole shall, in half an hour, be installed in my quarters, where, I
think, he can have no cause to fear any danger. Let him love me and I
will love him."

François was untruthful, for already in the very depths of his heart he
detested La Mole.

"Well, well! So then I was not mistaken," said Marguerite to herself,
seeing the King of Navarre's scowling face. "Ah, I see that to lead you
two, one must lead the other."

Then finishing her thought:

"There! 'then you are doing well, Marguerite,' Henriette would say."

In fact, half an hour later La Mole, having been solemnly catechised by
Marguerite, kissed the hem of her gown and with an agility remarkable in
a wounded man was mounting the stairs that led to the Duc d'Alençon's
quarters.

       *       *       *       *       *

Two or three days passed, during which the excellent understanding
between Henry and his wife seemed to grow more and more firmly
established.

Henry had obtained permission not to make a public renunciation of his
religion; but he had formally recanted in the presence of the king's
confessor, and every morning he listened to the mass performed at the
Louvre. At night he made a show of going to his wife's rooms, entered by
the principal door, talked a few minutes with her, and then took his
departure by the small secret door, and went up to Madame de Sauve, who
had duly informed him of the queen mother's visit as well as the
unquestionable danger which threatened him. Warned on both sides, Henry
redoubled his watchfulness against the queen mother and felt all
distrust of her because little by little her face began to unbend, and
one morning Henry detected a friendly smile on her bloodless lips. That
day he had the greatest difficulty to bring himself to eat anything else
than eggs cooked by himself or to drink anything else than water which
his own eyes had seen dipped up from the Seine.

The massacres were still going on, but nevertheless were diminishing in
violence. There had been such a wholesale butchery of the Huguenots that
their number was greatly reduced. The larger part were dead; many had
fled; a few had remained in concealment. Occasionally a great outcry
arose in one district or another; it meant that one of these was
discovered. Then the execution was either private or public according as
the victim was driven into a corner or could escape. In such
circumstances it furnished great amusement for the neighborhood where
the affair took place; for instead of growing calmer as their enemies
were annihilated, the Catholics grew more and more ferocious; the fewer
the remaining victims, the more bloodthirsty they seemed in their
persecution of the rest.

Charles IX. had taken great pleasure in hunting the Huguenots, and when
he could no longer continue the chase himself he took delight in the
noise of others hunting them.

One day, returning from playing at mall, which with tennis and hunting
were his favorite amusements, he went to his mother's apartments in high
spirits, followed by his usual train of courtiers.

"Mother," he said, embracing the Florentine, who, observing his joy, was
already trying to detect its cause; "mother, good news! _Mort de tous
les diables!_ Do you know that the admiral's illustrious carcass which
it was said was lost has been found?"

"Aha!" said Catharine.

"Oh, heavens! yes. You thought as I did, mother, the dogs had eaten a
wedding dinner off him, but it was not so. My people, my dear people, my
good people, had a clever idea and have hung the admiral up at the
gibbet of Montfaucon.

    "_Du haut en bas Gaspard on a jété,_
    _Et puis de bas en haut on l'a monté_."[3]

"Well!" said Catharine.

"Well, good mother," replied Charles IX., "I have a strong desire to
see him again, dear old man, now I know he is really dead. It is very
fine weather and everything seems to be blooming to-day. The air is full
of life and perfume, and I feel better than I ever did. If you like,
mother, we will get on horseback and go to Montfaucon."

"Willingly, my son," said Catharine, "if I had not made an appointment
which I cannot defer; and beside, to pay a visit to a man of such
importance as the admiral, we should invite the whole court. It will be
an occasion for observers to make curious observations. We shall see who
comes and who stays away."

"Faith, you are right, mother, we will put it off till to-morrow; that
will be better, so send out your invitations and I will send mine; or
rather let us not invite any one. We will only say we are going, and
then every one will be free. Good-by, mother! I am going to play on the
horn."

"You will exhaust yourself, Charles, as Ambroise Paré is always telling
you, and he is right. It is too severe an exercise for you."

"Bah! bah! bah!" said Charles; "I wish I were sure nothing else would be
the cause of my death. I should then bury every one here, including
Harry, who will one day succeed us all, as Nostradamus prophesies."

Catharine frowned.

"My son," she said, "mistrust especially all things that appear
impossible, and meanwhile take care of yourself."

"Only two or three blasts to rejoice my dogs, poor things; they are
wearied to death with doing nothing. I ought to have let them loose on
the Huguenots; that would have done them good!"

And Charles IX. left his mother's room, went into his armory, took down
a horn, and played on it with a vigor that would have done honor to
Roland himself. It was difficult to understand how so weak a frame and
such pale lips could blow a blast so powerful.

Catharine, in truth, was awaiting some one as she had told her son. A
moment after he had left her, one of her women came and spoke to her in
a low voice. The queen smiled, rose, and saluting the persons who formed
her court, followed the messenger.

Réné the Florentine, the man to whom on the eve of Saint Bartholomew
the King of Navarre had given such a diplomatic reception, had just
entered her oratory.

"Ah, here you are, Réné," said Catharine, "I was impatiently waiting for
you."

Réné bowed.

"Did you receive the note I wrote you yesterday?"

"I had that honor."

"Did you make another trial, as I asked you to do, of the horoscope cast
by Ruggieri, and agreeing so well with the prophecy of Nostradamus,
which says that all my three sons shall reign? For several days past,
affairs have decidedly changed, Réné, and it has occurred to me that
possibly fate has become less threatening."

"Madame," replied Réné, shaking his head, "your majesty knows well that
affairs do not change fate; on the contrary, fate controls affairs."

"Still, you have tried the sacrifice again, have you not?"

"Yes, madame," replied Réné; "for it is my duty to obey you in all
things."

"Well--and the result?"

"Still the same, madame."

"What, the black lamb uttered its three cries?"

"Just the same as before, madame."

"The sign of three cruel deaths in my family," murmured Catharine.

"Alas!" said Réné.

"What then?"

"Then, madame, there was in its entrails that strange displacement of
the liver which we had already observed in the first two--it was wrong
side up!"

"A change of dynasty! Still--still--still the same!" muttered Catharine;
"yet we must fight against this, Réné," she added.

Réné shook his head.

"I have told your majesty," he said, "that fate rules."

"Is that your opinion?" asked Catharine.

"Yes, madame."

"Do you remember Jeanne d'Albret's horoscope?"

"Yes, madame."

"Repeat it to me, I have quite forgotten it."

"_Vives honorata_," said Réné, "_morieris reformidata, regina
amplificabere_."

"That means, I believe," said Catharine, "_Thou shalt live honored_--and
she lacked common necessaries, poor thing! _Thou shalt die feared_--and
we laughed at her. _Thou shalt be greater than thou hast been as a
queen_--and she is dead, and sleeps in a tomb on which we have not even
engraved her name."

"Madame, your majesty does not translate the _vives honorata_ rightly.
The Queen of Navarre lived honored; for all her life she enjoyed the
love of her children, the respect of her partisans; respect and love all
the more sincere in that she was poor."

"Yes," said Catharine, "I grant you the _vives honorata_; but _morieris
reformidata_: how will you explain that?"

"Nothing more easy: _Thou shalt die feared_."

"Well--did she die feared?"

"So much so that she would not have died had not your majesty feared
her. Then--_As a queen thou shalt be greater_; or, _Thou shalt be
greater than thou hast been as a queen_. This is equally true, madame;
for in exchange for a terrestrial crown she has doubtless, as a queen
and martyr, a celestial crown; and, besides, who knows what the future
may reserve for her posterity?"

Catharine was excessively superstitious; she was even more alarmed at
Réné's coolness than at the steadfastness of the auguries, and as in her
case any scrape was a chance for her boldly to master the situation, she
said suddenly to him, without any other transition than the working of
her own thoughts:

"Are any perfumes come from Italy?"

"Yes, madame."

"Send me a boxful."

"Of which?"

"Of the last, of those"--

Catharine stopped.

"Of those the Queen of Navarre was so fond of?" asked Réné.

"Exactly."

"I need not prepare them, for your majesty is now as skilful at them as
I am."

"You think so?" said Catharine. "They certainly succeed."

"Has your majesty anything more to say to me?" asked the perfumer.

"Nothing," replied Catharine, thoughtfully; "at least I think not, only
if there is any change in the sacrifices, let me know it in time. By the
way, let us leave the lambs, and try the hens."

"Alas, madame, I fear that in changing the victim we shall not change
the presages."

"Do as I tell you."

The perfumer bowed and left the apartment.

Catharine mused for a short time, then rose and returning to her
bedchamber, where her women awaited her, announced the pilgrimage to
Montfaucon for the morrow.

The news of this pleasure party caused great excitement in the palace
and great confusion in the city: the ladies prepared their most elegant
toilets; the gentlemen, their finest arms and steeds; the tradesmen
closed their shops, and the populace killed a few straggling Huguenots,
in order to furnish company for the dead admiral.

There was a tremendous hubbub all the evening and during a good part of
the night.

La Mole had spent a miserable day, and this miserable day had followed
three or four others equally miserable. Monsieur d'Alençon, to please
his sister, had installed him in his apartments, but had not seen him
since. He felt himself like a poor deserted child, deprived of the
tender care, the soothing attention of two women, the recollection of
one of whom occupied him perpetually. He had heard of her through the
surgeon Ambroise Paré, whom she had sent to him, but what he heard from
a man of fifty who was ignorant or pretended to be ignorant of the
interest felt by La Mole in everything appertaining to Marguerite was
very fragmentary and insufficient. Gillonne, indeed, had come once, of
her own accord, be it understood, to ask after him, and the visit was to
him like a sunbeam darting into a dungeon, and La Mole had remained
dazzled by it, and had expected a second visit, and yet two days passed
and she had not appeared.

As soon, therefore, as the convalescent heard of this magnificent
reunion of the whole court for the following day he sent to ask Monsieur
d'Alençon the favor of accompanying it.

The duke did not even inquire whether La Mole was able to bear the
fatigue, but merely answered:

"Capital! Let him have one of my horses."

That was all La Mole wanted. Maître Ambroise Paré came as usual to dress
his wounds, and La Mole explained to him the necessity he was under of
mounting on horseback, and begged him to put on the bandages with double
care.

The two wounds, both that on the breast and that on the shoulder, were
closed; the one on the shoulder only pained him. Both were rose-red in
color, which showed that they were in a fair way of healing. Maître
Ambroise Paré covered them with gummed taffetas, a remedy greatly in
vogue then, and promised La Mole that if he did not exert himself too
much everything would go well.

La Mole was at the height of joy. Save for a certain weakness caused by
loss of blood and a slight giddiness attributable to the same cause, he
felt as well as could be. Besides, doubtless Marguerite would be in the
party; he should see Marguerite again. And when he remembered what
benefit he had received from the sight of Gillonne, he had no doubt that
her mistress would have a still more efficacious influence upon him.

So La Mole spent a part of the money which he had received when he went
away from his family in the purchase of the most beautiful white satin
doublet and the finest embroidered mantle that could be furnished by a
fashionable tailor. The same tailor procured for him a pair of those
perfumed boots such as were worn at that period. The whole outfit was
brought to him in the morning only a half hour later than the time at
which La Mole had ordered it, so that he had not much fault to find.

He dressed himself quickly, looked in the glass, and found that he was
suitably attired, arranged, and perfumed. Then by walking up and down
the room several times, he assured himself that though it caused him
some sharp pangs, still the happiness which he felt in his heart would
render these physical inconveniences of no account. A cherry-colored
mantle of his own design, and cut rather longer than they were worn
then, proved to be very becoming to him.

While he was thus engaged in the Louvre, another scene, of a similar
kind, was going on at the Hôtel de Guise. A tall gentleman, with red
hair, was examining, before a glass, a reddish mark which went across
his face very disagreeably; he combed and perfumed his mustache, and
while he was perfuming it, he kept spreading over that unfortunate mark
which, in spite of all the cosmetics then in use, persisted in
reappearing, a three-fold layer of white and red; but as the application
was insufficient an idea came to him: a hot sun, an August sun, was
flashing its rays into the court-yard; he made his way down there, took
his hat in his hand, and with his nose in the air and his eyes closed,
he walked up and down for ten minutes, fully exposed to the devouring
flame which fell from heaven like a torrent. At the end of these ten
minutes, owing to the unexampled ardor of the sun, the gentleman's face
had acquired such a brilliant color that the red streak was now no more
in harmony with the rest than it had been, but in comparison seemed
yellow.

Nevertheless, the gentleman did not seem much dissatisfied with this
rainbow effect which he did his best to bring into accord with the rest
of his face by spreading a layer of vermilion over it, after which he
put on a magnificent suit which a tailor had brought to his room without
any commands from him. Thus attired, scented, and armed from head to
foot, he again went down into the court-yard and began to pat a large
black horse whose beauty would have been matchless but for a small cut,
like his own, made by a reiter's sabre in one of the last civil
conflicts.

Yet, enchanted with the good steed as he was with himself, the
gentleman, whom no doubt our readers have easily recognized, was on his
back a quarter of an hour before any of the others and making the
court-yard of the Hôtel de Guise resound with the whinnying of the
charger accompanied by exclamations of _mordi_, pronounced in every
variety of accent according as he compelled the horse to submit to this
authority. At the end of a moment the horse completely subdued,
recognized by his obedience and subjection his master's legitimate
control, but the victory had not been obtained without noise, and this
noise, which was perhaps the very thing our gentleman reckoned upon,
this noise had attracted to the windows a lady whom our queller of
horses saluted respectfully, and who smiled at him in the most agreeable
manner.

Five minutes later Madame de Nevers summoned her steward.

"Sir," said she, "has Monsieur le Comte Annibal de Coconnas been
furnished a suitable breakfast?"

"Yes, madame," replied the steward, "he ate this morning with a better
appetite than usual."

"Very well, sir," said the duchess.

Then addressing her first gentleman in waiting:

"Monsieur d'Arguzon," she said, "let us set out for the Louvre, and keep
an eye, I beg, on Monsieur le Comte Annibal de Coconnas, for he is
wounded, and consequently still weak; and I would not for all the world
any accident should happen to him. That would make the Huguenots laugh,
for they owe him a spite since the blessed night of Saint Bartholomew."

And Madame de Nevers, mounting her horse, went joyfully towards the
Louvre, which was the general rendezvous.

It was two o'clock in the afternoon as a file of cavaliers, overflowing
with gold, jewels, and magnificent garments, appeared in the Rue Saint
Denis, entering by the corner of the Cemetery of the Innocents and
stretching itself out in the sunlight between the two rows of gloomy
looking houses like an immense reptile with variegated rings.



CHAPTER XVI.

A DEAD ENEMY'S BODY ALWAYS SMELLS SWEET.


No brilliant company, however, could give any idea of this spectacle.
The rich and elegant silk dresses, bequeathed as a magnificent fashion
by François I. to his successors, had not yet been changed into those
formal and sombre vestments which came into fashion under Henry III.; so
that the costume of Charles IX., less rich, but perhaps more elegant
than those of preceding reigns, displayed its perfect harmony. In our
day no similar cortège could have any standard of comparison, for when
we wish magnificence of display we are reduced to mere symmetry and
uniform.

Pages, esquires, gentlemen of low degree, dogs and horses, following on
the flanks and in the rear, formed of the royal cortège an absolute
army. Behind this army came the populace, or rather the populace was
everywhere.

It followed, trooped alongside, and rushed ahead; there were shouts of
_Noel_ and _Haro_, for there were distinguishable in the procession many
Calvinists to hoot at, and the populace harbors resentment.

That morning Charles, in presence of Catharine and the Duc de Guise,
had, as a perfectly natural thing spoken before Henry of Navarre of
going to visit the gibbet of Montfaucon, or, rather, the admiral's
mutilated corpse which had been suspended from it. Henry's first impulse
had been to refuse to take part in this excursion. Catharine supposed he
would. At the first words in which he expressed his repugnance she
exchanged a glance and a smile with the Duc de Guise. Henry detected
them both, understood what they meant, and suddenly recovering his
presence of mind said:

"But why should I not go? I am a Catholic, and am bound to my new
religion."

Then addressing the King:

"Your Majesty may reckon on my company," he said; "and I shall be always
happy to accompany you wheresoever you may go."

And he threw a sweeping glance around, to see whose brows might be
frowning.

Perhaps of all that cortège, the person who was looked at with the
greatest curiosity was that motherless son, that kingless king, that
Huguenot turned Catholic. His long and marked countenance, his somewhat
vulgar figure, his familiarity with his inferiors, which he carried to a
degree almost derogatory to a king,--a familiarity acquired by the
mountaineer habits of his youth, and which he preserved till his
death,--marked him out to the spectators, some of whom cried:

"To mass, Harry, to mass!"

To which Henry replied:

"I attended it yesterday, to-day, and I shall attend it again to-morrow.
_Ventre saint gris!_ surely that is sufficient."

Marguerite was on horseback--so lovely, so fresh, so elegant that
admiration made a regular concert around her, though it must be
confessed that a few notes of it were addressed to her companion, the
Duchesse de Nevers, who had just joined her on a white horse so proud of
his burden that he kept tossing his head.

"Well, duchess!" said the Queen of Navarre, "what is there new?"

"Why, madame," replied the duchess, aloud, "I know of nothing."

Then in a lower tone:

"And what has become of the Huguenot?"

"I have found him a retreat almost safe," replied Marguerite. "And the
wholesale assassin, what have you done with him?"

"He wished to take part in the festivity, and so we mounted him on
Monsieur de Nevers' war-horse, a creature as big as an elephant. He is a
fearful cavalier. I allowed him to be present at the ceremony to-day, as
I felt that your Huguenot would be prudent enough to keep his chamber
and that there was no fear of their meeting."

"Oh, faith!" replied Marguerite, smiling, "if he were here, and he is
not here, I do not think a collision would take place. My Huguenot is
remarkably handsome, but nothing more--a dove, and not a hawk; he coos,
but does not bite. After all," she added, with a gesture impossible to
describe, and shrugging her shoulders slightly, "after all, perhaps our
King thought him a Huguenot while he is only a Brahmin, and his religion
forbids him to shed blood."

"But where, pray, is the Duc d'Alençon?" inquired Henriette; "I do not
see him."

"He will join us later; his eyes troubled him this morning and he was
inclined not to come, but as it is known that because he holds a
different opinion from Charles and his brother Henry he inclines toward
the Huguenots, he became convinced that the King might put a bad
interpretation on his absence and he changed his mind. There, hark!
people are gazing and shouting yonder; it must be that he is coming by
the Porte Montmartre."

"You are right; 'tis he; I recognize him. How elegant he looks to-day,"
said Henriette. "For some time he has taken particular pains with his
appearance; he must be in love. See how nice it is to be a prince of the
blood, he gallops over every one, they all draw on one side."

"Yes," said Marguerite, laughing, "he will ride over us. For Heaven's
sake draw your attendants to one side, duchess, for there is one of them
who will be killed if he does not give way."

"It is my hero!" cried the duchess; "look, only look!"

Coconnas had left his place to approach the Duchesse de Nevers, but just
as his horse was crossing the kind of exterior boulevard which separates
the street from the Faubourg Saint Denis, a cavalier of the Duc
d'Alençon's suite, trying in vain to rein in his excited horse, dashed
full against Coconnas. Coconnas, shaken by the collision, reeled on his
colossal mount, his hat nearly fell off; he put it on more firmly and
turned round furiously.

"Heavens!" said Marguerite, in a low tone, to her friend, "Monsieur de
la Mole!"

"That handsome, pale young man?" exclaimed the duchess, unable to
repress her first impression.

"Yes, yes; the very one who nearly upset your Piedmontese."

"Oh," said the duchess, "something terrible will happen! they look at
each other--recollect each other!"

Coconnas had indeed recognized La Mole, and in his surprise dropped his
bridle, for he believed he had killed his old companion, or at least put
him _hors de combat_ for some time. La Mole had also recognized
Coconnas, and he felt a fire mount up into his face. For some seconds,
which sufficed for the expression of all the sentiments these two men
harbored, they gazed at each other in a way which made the two women
shudder.

After which, La Mole, having looked about him, and doubtless seeing that
the place was ill chosen for an explanation, spurred his horse and
rejoined the Duc d'Alençon. Coconnas remained stationary for a moment,
twisting his mustache until the point almost entered his eye; then
seeing La Mole dash off without a word, he did the same.

"Ah, ha!" said Marguerite, with pain and contempt, "so I was not
mistaken--it is really too much;" and she bit her lips till the blood
came.

"He is very handsome," added the Duchesse de Nevers, with commiseration.

Just at this moment the Duc d'Alençon reached his place behind the King
and the queen mother, so that his suite, in following him, were obliged
to pass before Marguerite and the Duchesse de Nevers. La Mole, as he
rode before the two princesses, raised his hat, saluted the queen, and,
bowing to his horse's neck, remained uncovered until her majesty should
honor him with a look.

But Marguerite turned her head aside disdainfully.

La Mole, no doubt, comprehended the contemptuous expression of the
queen's features, and from pale he became livid, and that he might not
fall from his horse was compelled to hold on by the mane.

"Oh, oh!" said Henriette to the queen; "look, cruel that you are!--he is
going to faint."

"Good," said the queen, with a cruel smile; "that is the only thing we
need. Where are your salts?"

Madame de Nevers was mistaken. La Mole, with an effort, recovered
himself, and sitting erect on his horse took his place in the Duc
d'Alençon's suite.

Meantime they kept on their way and at length saw the lugubrious outline
of the gibbet, erected and first used by Enguerrand de Marigny. Never
before had it been so adorned.

The ushers and guards went forward and made a wide circle around the
enclosure. As they drew near, the crows perched on the gibbet flew away
with croakings of despair.

The gibbet erected at Montfaucon generally offered behind its posts a
shelter for the dogs that gathered there attracted by frequent prey, and
for philosophic bandits who came to ponder on the sad chances of
fortune.

That day at Montfaucon there were apparently neither dogs nor bandits.
The ushers and guards had scared away the dogs together with the crows,
and the bandits had mingled with the throng so as to make some of the
lucky hits which are the more cheerful vicissitudes of their profession.

The procession moved forward; the King and Catharine arrived first, then
came the Duc d'Anjou, Duc d'Alençon, the King of Navarre, Monsieur de
Guise, and their followers, then Madame Marguerite, the Duchesse de
Nevers, and all the women who composed what was called the queen's
flying squadron; then the pages, squires, attendants, and people--in all
ten thousand persons.

From the principal gibbet hung a misshapen mass, a black corpse stained
with coagulated blood and mud, whitened by layers of dust. The carcass
was headless, and it was hung by the legs, and the populace, ingenious
as it always is, had replaced the head with a bunch of straw, to which
was fastened a mask; and in the mouth of this mask some wag, knowing the
admiral's habit, had introduced a toothpick.

At once appalling and singular was the spectacle of all these elegant
lords and handsome ladies like a procession painted by Goya, riding
along in the midst of those blackened carcasses and gibbets, with their
long lean arms.

The noisier the exultation of the spectators, the more strikingly it
contrasted with the melancholy silence and cold insensibility of those
corpses--objects of ridicule which made even the jesters shudder.

Many could scarcely endure this horrible spectacle, and by his pallor
might be distinguished, in the centre of collected Huguenots, Henry,
who, great as was his power of self-control and the degree of
dissimulation conferred on him by Heaven, could no longer bear it.

He made as his excuse the strong stench which emanated from all those
human remains, and going to Charles, who, with Catharine, had stopped in
front of the admiral's dead body, he said:

"Sire, does not your Majesty find that this poor carcass smells so
strong that it is impossible to remain near it any longer?"

"Do you find it so, Harry?" inquired the King, his eyes sparkling with
ferocious joy.

"Yes, sire."

"Well, then, I am not of your opinion; a dead enemy's corpse always
smells sweet."

"Faith, sire," said Tavannes, "since your Majesty knew that we were
going to make a little call on the admiral, you should have invited
Pierre Ronsard, your teacher of poetry; he would have extemporized an
epitaph for the old Gaspard."

"There is no need of him for that," said Charles IX., after an instant's
thought:

    _"Ci-gît,--mais c'est mal entendu,_
      _Pour lui le mot est trop honnête,--_
    _Ici l'amiral est pendu_
      _Par les pieds, à faute de tête."_[4]

"Bravo! bravo!" cried the Catholic gentlemen in unison, while the
collected Huguenots scowled and kept silent, and Henry, as he was
talking with Marguerite and Madame de Nevers, pretended not to have
heard.

"Come, come, sir!" said Catharine, who, in spite of the perfumes with
which she was covered, began to be made ill by the odor. "Come, however
agreeable company may be, it must be left at last; let us therefore say
good-by to the admiral, and return to Paris."

She nodded ironically as when one takes leave of a friend, and, taking
the head of the column, turned to the road, while the cortège defiled
before Coligny's corpse.

The sun was sinking in the horizon.

The throng followed fast on their majesties so as to enjoy to the very
end all the splendors of the procession and the details of the
spectacle; the thieves followed the populace, so that in ten minutes
after the King's departure there was no person about the admiral's
mutilated carcass on which now blew the first breezes of the evening.

When we say no person, we err. A gentleman mounted on a black horse, and
who, doubtless, could not contemplate at his ease the black mutilated
trunk when it was honored by the presence of princes, had remained
behind, and was examining, in all their details, the bolts, stone
pillars, chains, and in fact the gibbet, which no doubt appeared to him
(but lately arrived in Paris, and ignorant of the perfection to which
things could be brought in the capital) the paragon of all that man
could invent in the way of awful ugliness.

We need hardly inform our friends that this man was M. Annibal de
Coconnas.

A woman's practised eye had vainly looked for him in the cavalcade and
had searched among the ranks without being able to find him.

Monsieur de Coconnas, as we have said, was standing ecstatically
contemplating Enguerrand de Marigny's work.

But this woman was not the only person who was trying to find Monsieur
de Coconnas. Another gentleman, noticeable for his white satin doublet
and gallant plume, after looking toward the front and on all sides,
bethought him to look back, and saw Coconnas's tall figure and the
silhouette of his gigantic horse standing out strongly against the sky
reddened by the last rays of the setting sun.

Then the gentleman in the white satin doublet turned out from the road
taken by the majority of the company, struck into a narrow footpath, and
describing a curve rode back toward the gibbet.

Almost at the same time the lady whom we have recognized as the Duchesse
de Nevers, just as we recognized the tall gentleman on the black horse
as Coconnas, rode alongside of Marguerite and said to her:

"We were both mistaken, Marguerite, for the Piedmontese has remained
behind and Monsieur de la Mole has gone back to meet him."

"By Heaven!" exclaimed Marguerite, laughing, "then something is going to
happen. Faith, I confess I should not be sorry to revise my opinion
about him."

Marguerite then turned her horse and witnessed the manoeuvre which we
have described La Mole as performing.

The two princesses left the procession; the opportunity was most
favorable: they were passing by a hedge-lined footpath which led up the
hill, and in doing so passed within thirty yards of the gibbet. Madame
de Nevers whispered a word in her captain's ear, Marguerite beckoned to
Gillonne, and the four turned into this cross path and went and hid
behind the shrubbery nearest to the place where the scene which they
evidently expected to witness was to take place. It was about thirty
yards, as we have already said, from the spot where Coconnas in a state
of ecstasy was gesticulating before the admiral.

Marguerite dismounted, Madame de Nevers and Gillonne did the same; the
captain then got down and took the bridles of the four horses. Thick
green furnished the three women a seat such as princesses often seek in
vain. The glade before them was so open that they would not miss the
slightest detail.

La Mole had accomplished his circuit. He rode up slowly and took his
stand behind Coconnas; then stretching out his hand tapped him on the
shoulder.

The Piedmontese turned round.

"Oh!" said he, "so it was not a dream! You are still alive!"

"Yes, sir," replied La Mole; "yes, I am still alive. It is no fault of
yours, but I am still alive."

"By Heaven! I know you again well enough," replied Coconnas, "in spite
of your pale face. You were redder than that the last time we met!"

"And I," said La Mole, "I also recognize you, in spite of that yellow
line across your face. You were paler than that when I made that mark
for you!"

Coconnas bit his lips, but, evidently resolved on continuing the
conversation in a tone of irony, he said:

"It is curious, is it not, Monsieur de la Mole, particularly for a
Huguenot, to be able to look at the admiral suspended from that iron
hook? And yet they say there are people extravagant enough to accuse us
of killing even small Huguenots, sucklings."

"Count," said La Mole, bowing, "I am no longer a Huguenot; I have the
happiness of being a Catholic!"

"Bah!" exclaimed Coconnas, bursting into loud laughter; "so you are a
convert, sir? Oh, that was clever of you!"

"Sir," replied La Mole, with the same seriousness and the same
politeness, "I made a vow to become a convert if I escaped the
massacre."

"Count," said the Piedmontese, "that was a very prudent vow, and I beg
to congratulate you. Perhaps you made still others?"

"Yes, I made a second," answered La Mole, patting his horse with entire
coolness.

"And what might that be?" inquired Coconnas.

"To hang you up there, by that small nail which seems to await you
beneath Monsieur de Coligny."

"What, as I am now?" asked Coconnas, "alive and merry?"

"No, sir; after I have passed my sword through your body!"

Coconnas became purple, and his eyes darted flames.

"Do you mean," said he in a bantering tone, "to that nail?"

"Yes," replied La Mole, "to that nail."

"You are not tall enough to do it, my little sir!"

"Then I'll get on your horse, my great man-slayer," replied La Mole.
"Ah, you believe, my dear Monsieur Annibal de Coconnas, that one may
with impunity assassinate people under the loyal and honorable excuse of
being a hundred to one, forsooth! But the day comes when a man finds his
man; and I believe that day has come now. I should very well like to
send a bullet through your ugly head; but, bah! I might miss you, for my
hand is still trembling from the traitorous wounds you inflicted upon
me."

"My ugly head!" shouted Coconnas, leaping down from his steed.
"Down--down from your horse, M. le Comte, and draw!"

And he drew his sword.

"I believe your Huguenot called Monsieur de Coconnas an 'ugly head,'"
whispered the Duchesse de Nevers. "Do you think he is bad looking?"

"He is charming," said Marguerite, laughing, "and I am compelled to
acknowledge that fury renders Monsieur de La Mole unjust; but hush! let
us watch!"

In fact, La Mole had dismounted from his horse with as much deliberation
as Coconnas had shown of precipitation; he had taken off his
cherry-colored cloak, laid it leisurely on the ground, drawn his sword,
and put himself on guard.

"Aïe!" he exclaimed, as he stretched out his arm.

"Ouf!" muttered Coconnas, as he moved his,--for both, as it will be
remembered, had been wounded in the shoulder and it hurt them when they
made any violent movement.

A burst of laughter, ill repressed, came from the clump of bushes. The
princesses could not quite contain themselves at the sight of their two
champions rubbing their omoplates and making up faces.

This burst of merriment reached the ears of the two gentlemen, who were
ignorant that they had witnesses; turning round, they beheld their
ladies.

La Mole resumed his guard as firm as an automaton, and Coconnas crossed
his blade with an emphatic "By Heaven!"

"Ah ça! now they will murder each other in real earnest, if we do not
interfere. There has been enough of this. Holá, gentlemen!--holá!" cried
Marguerite.

"Let them be! let them be!" said Henriette, who having seen Coconnas at
work, hoped in her heart that he would have as easy a victory over La
Mole as he had over Mercandon's son and two nephews.

"Oh, they are really beautiful so!" exclaimed Marguerite. "Look--they
seem to breathe fire!"

Indeed, the combat, begun with sarcasms and mutual insults, became
silent as soon as the champions had crossed their swords. Each
distrusted his own strength, and each, at every quick pass, was
compelled to restrain an expression of pain occasioned by his own
wounds. Nevertheless, with eyes fixed and burning, mouth half open, and
teeth clenched, La Mole advanced with short and firm steps toward his
adversary, who, seeing in him a most skilful swordsman, retreated step
by step. They both thus reached the edge of the ditch on the other side
of which were the spectators; then, as if his retreat had been only a
simple stratagem to draw nearer to his lady, Coconnas took his stand,
and as La Mole made his guard a little too wide, he made a thrust with
the quickness of lightning and instantly La Mole's white satin doublet
was stained with a spot of blood which kept growing larger.

"Courage!" cried the Duchesse de Nevers.

"Ah, poor La Mole!" exclaimed Marguerite, with a cry of distress.

La Mole heard this cry, darted at the queen one of those looks which
penetrate the heart even deeper than a sword-point, and taking advantage
of a false parade, thrust vigorously at his adversary.

This time the two women uttered two cries which seemed like one. The
point of La Mole's rapier had appeared, all covered with blood, behind
Coconnas's back.

Yet neither fell. Both remained erect, looking at each other with open
mouth, and feeling that on the slightest movement they must lose their
balance. At last the Piedmontese, more dangerously wounded than his
adversary, and feeling his senses forsaking him with his blood, fell on
La Mole, grasping him with one hand, while with the other he endeavored
to unsheath his poniard.

La Mole roused all his strength, raised his hand, and let fall the
pommel of his sword on Coconnas's forehead. Coconnas, stupefied by the
blow, fell, but in his fall drew down his adversary with him, and both
rolled into the ditch.

Then Marguerite and the Duchesse de Nevers, seeing that, dying as they
were, they were still struggling to destroy each other, hastened to
them, followed by the captain of the guards; but before they could
reach them the combatants' hands unloosened, their eyes closed, and
letting go their grasp of their weapons they stiffened in what seemed
like their final agony. A wide stream of blood bubbled round them.

"Oh, brave, brave La Mole!" cried Marguerite, unable any longer to
repress her admiration. "Ah! pardon me a thousand times for having a
moment doubted your courage."

And her eyes filled with tears.

"Alas! alas!" murmured the duchess, "gallant Annibal. Did you ever see
two such intrepid lions, madame?"

And she sobbed aloud.

"Heavens! what ugly thrusts," said the captain, endeavoring to stanch
the streams of blood. "Holá! you, there, come here as quickly as you
can--here, I say"--

He addressed a man who, seated on a kind of tumbril or cart painted red,
appeared in the evening mist singing this old song, which had doubtless
been suggested to him by the miracle of the Cemetery of the Innocents:

    "_Bel aubespin fleurissant_
        _Verdissant,_
    _Le long de ce beau rivage,_
    _Tu es vétu, jusqu'au bas_
        _Des longs bras_
    _D'une lambrusche sauvage._

    "_Le chantre rossignolet,_
        _Nouvelet,_
    _Courtisant sa bien-aimée_
    _Pour ses amours alléger_
        _Vient logerv
    _Tous les ans sous ta ramée._

    "_Or, vis, gentil aubespin_
        _Vis sans fin;_
    _Vis, sans que jamais tonnerre,_
    _Ou la cognée, ou les vents_
        _Ou le temps_
    _Te puissent ruer par._"...[5]

"Holá! hé!" shouted the captain a second time, "come when you are
called. Don't you see that these gentlemen need help?"

The carter, whose repulsive exterior and coarse face formed a singular
contrast with the sweet and sylvan song we have just quoted, stopped his
horse, got out, and bending over the two bodies said:

"These be terrible wounds, sure enough, but I have made worse in my
time."

"Who are you, pray?" inquired Marguerite, experiencing, in spite of
herself, a certain vague terror which she could not overcome.

"Madame," replied the man, bowing down to the ground, "I am Maître
Caboche, headsman to the provostry of Paris, and I have come to hang up
at the gibbet some companions for Monsieur the Admiral."

"Well! and I am the Queen of Navarre," replied Marguerite; "cast your
corpses down there, spread in your cart the housings of our horses, and
bring these two gentlemen softly behind us to the Louvre."



CHAPTER XVII.

MAÎTRE AMBROISE PARÉ'S CONFRÈRE.


The tumbril in which Coconnas and La Mole were laid started back toward
Paris, following in the shadow the guiding group. It stopped at the
Louvre, and the driver was amply rewarded. The wounded men were carried
to the Duc d'Alençon's quarters, and Maître Ambroise Paré was sent for.

When he arrived, neither of the two men had recovered consciousness.

La Mole was the least hurt of the two. The sword had struck him below
the right armpit, but without touching any vital parts. Coconnas was run
through the lungs, and the air that escaped from his wound made the
flame of a candle waver.

Ambroise Paré would not answer for Coconnas.

Madame de Nevers was in despair. Relying on Coconnas's strength,
courage, and skill, she had prevented Marguerite from interfering with
the duel. She would have had Coconnas taken to the Hôtel de Guise and
gladly bestowed on him a second time the care which she had already
lavished on his comfort, but her husband was likely to arrive from Rome
at any moment and find fault with the introduction of a strange man in
the domestic establishment.

To hide the cause of the wounds, Marguerite had had the two young men
brought to her brother's rooms, where one of them, to be sure, had
already been installed, by saying that they were two gentlemen who had
been thrown from their horses during the excursion, but the truth was
divulged by the captain, who, having witnessed the duel, could not help
expressing his admiration, and it was soon known at court that two new
_raffinés_[6] had burst into sudden fame. Attended by the same surgeon,
who divided his attentions between them, the two wounded men passed
through the different phases of convalescence arising from the greater
or less severity of their wounds. La Mole, who was less severely wounded
of the two, was the first to recover consciousness. A terrible fever had
taken possession of Coconnas and his return to life was attended by all
the symptoms of the most horrible delirium.

Though La Mole was confined in the same room with Coconnas, he had not,
when he came to himself, seen his companion, or if he saw him, he
betrayed no sign that he saw him. Coconnas, on the contrary, as soon as
he opened his eyes, fastened them on La Mole with an expression which
proved that the blood he had lost had not modified the passions of his
fiery temperament.

Coconnas thought he was dreaming, and that in this dream he saw the
enemy he imagined he had twice slain, only the dream was unduly
prolonged. After having observed La Mole laid, like himself, on a couch,
and his wounds dressed by the surgeon, he saw him rise up in bed, while
he himself was still confined to his by his fever, his weakness, and his
pain; he saw him get out of bed, then walk, first leaning on the
surgeon's arm, and then on a cane, and finally without assistance.

Coconnas, still delirious, viewed these different stages of his
companion's recovery with eyes sometimes dull, at others wandering, but
always threatening.

All this presented to the Piedmontese's fiery spirit a fearful mixture
of the fantastic and the real. For him La Mole was dead, wholly dead,
having been actually killed twice and not merely once, and yet he
recognized this same La Mole's ghost lying in a bed like his own; then,
as we have said, he saw this ghost get up, walk round, and, horrible to
relate, come toward his bed. This ghost, whom Coconnas would have wished
to avoid, even had it been in the depths of hell, came straight to him
and stopped beside his pillow, standing there and looking at him; there
was in his features a look of gentleness and compassion which Coconnas
took for the expression of hellish derision.

There arose in his mind, possibly more wounded than his body, an
insatiable thirst of vengeance. He was wholly occupied with one idea,
that of procuring some weapon, and with that weapon piercing the body or
the ghost of La Mole which so cruelly persecuted him. His clothes,
stained with blood, had been placed on a chair by his bed, but
afterwards removed, it being thought imprudent to leave them in his
sight; but his poniard still remained on the chair, for it was imagined
it would be some time before he would want to use it.

Coconnas saw the poniard; three nights while La Mole was slumbering he
strove to reach it; three nights his strength failed him, and he
fainted. At length, on the fourth night, he clutched it convulsively,
and groaning with the pain of the effort, hid the weapon beneath his
pillow.

The next day he saw something he had never deemed possible. La Mole's
ghost, which every day seemed to gain strength, while he, occupied with
the terrible dream, kept losing his in the eternal weaving of the scheme
which was to rid him of it,--La Mole's ghost, growing more and more
energetic, walked thoughtfully up and down the room three or four times,
then, after having put on his mantle, buckled on his sword, and put on a
broad-brimmed felt hat, opened the door and went out.

Coconnas breathed again. He thought that he was freed from his phantom.
For two or three hours his blood circulated more calmly and coolly in
his veins than it had done since the duel. La Mole's absence for one day
would have restored Coconnas to his senses; a week's absence would
perhaps have cured him; unfortunately, La Mole returned at the end of
two hours.

This reappearance of La Mole was like a poniard-stab for Coconnas; and
although La Mole did not return alone, Coconnas did not give a single
look at his companion.

And yet his companion was worth looking at.

He was a man of forty, short, thick-set, and vigorous, with black hair
which came to his eyebrows, and a black beard, which, contrary to the
fashion of the period, thickly covered the chin; but he seemed one who
cared little for the fashion.

He wore a leather jerkin, all covered with brown spots; red hose and
leggings, thick shoes coming above the ankle, a cap the same color as
his stockings, and a girdle, from which hung a large knife in a leather
sheaf, completed his attire.

This singular personage, whose presence in the Louvre seemed so
anomalous, threw his brown mantle on a chair and unceremoniously
approached Coconnas, whose eyes, as if fascinated, remained fixed upon
La Mole, who remained at some distance. He looked at the sick man, and
shaking his head, said to La Mole:

"You have waited till it was rather late, my dear gentleman."

"I could not get out sooner," said La Mole.

"Eh! Heavens! you should have sent for me."

"Whom had I to send?"

"True, I forgot where we are. I had told those ladies, but they would
not listen to me. If my prescriptions had been followed instead of those
of that ass, Ambroise Paré, you would by this time have been in a
condition to go in pursuit of adventures together, or exchange another
sword-thrust if such had been your good pleasure; but we shall see. Does
your friend listen to reason?"

"Scarcely."

"Hold out your tongue, my dear gentleman."

Coconnas thrust out his tongue to La Mole, making such a hideous grimace
that the practitioner shook his head a second time.

"Oho!" he muttered, "contraction of the muscles. There's no time to be
lost. This evening I will send you a potion ready prepared; you must
make him take it three times: once at midnight, once at one o'clock, and
once at two."

"Very well."

"But who will make him take it?"

"I will."

"You?"

"Yes."

"You give me your word?"

"On my honor."

"And if any physician should attempt to abstract the slightest portion
to analyze it and discover what its ingredients are"--

"I will spill it to the last drop."

"This also on your honor?"

"I swear it!"

"Whom shall I send you this potion by?"

"Any one you please."

"But my messenger"--

"Well?"

"How will he get to you?"

"That is easily managed. He will say that he comes from Monsieur Réné,
the perfumer."

"That Florentine who lives on the Pont Saint Michel?"

"Exactly. He is allowed to enter the Louvre at any hour, day or night."

The man smiled.

"In fact," said he, "the queen mother at least owes him that much. It is
understood, then; he will come from Maître Réné, the perfumer. I may
surely use his name for once: he has often enough practised my
profession without having taken his degree either."

"Then," said La Mole, "I may rely on you."

"You may."

"And about the payment?"

"Oh, we will arrange about that with the gentleman himself when he is
well again."

"You may be quite easy on that score, for I am sure he will pay you
generously."

"I believe you. And yet," he added with a strange smile, "as the people
with whom I have to do are not wont to be grateful, I should not be
surprised if when he is on his legs again he should forget or at least
not think to give a single thought to me."

"All right," said La Mole, smiling also, "in that case I should have to
jog his memory."

"Very well, we'll leave it so. In two hours you will receive the
medicine."

"Au revoir!"

"You said"--

"Au revoir."

The man smiled.

"It is always my custom," he added, "to say adieu! So adieu, Monsieur de
la Mole. In two hours you will have the potion. You understand, it must
be given at midnight--in three doses--at intervals of an hour."

So saying he took his departure, and La Mole was left alone with
Coconnas.

Coconnas had heard the whole conversation, but understood nothing of it;
a senseless babble of words, a senseless jangling of phrases, was all
that came to him. Of the whole interview he remembered nothing except
the word "midnight."

He continued to watch La Mole, who remained in the room, pacing
thoughtfully up and down.

The unknown doctor kept his word, and at the appointed time sent the
medicine, which La Mole placed on a small silver chafing-dish, and
having taken this precaution, went to bed.

This action on the part of La Mole gave Coconnas a little quietude. He
tried to shut his eyes, but his feverish slumbers were only a
continuation of his waking delirium. The same phantom which haunted him
by day came to disturb him by night; across his hot eyelids he still saw
La Mole as threatening as ever, and a voice kept repeating in his ear:
"Midnight, midnight, midnight!"

Suddenly the echoing note of a clock's bell awoke in the night and
struck twelve. Coconnas opened his blood-shot eyes; the fiery breath
from his breast scorched his dry lips, an unquenchable thirst devoured
his burning throat; the little night lamp was burning as usual, and its
dim light made thousands of phantoms dance before his wandering eyes.

And then a horrible vision--he saw La Mole get out of bed, and after
walking up and down the room two or three times, as the sparrow-hawk
flits before the little bird it is trying to fascinate, come toward him
with his fist clinched.

Coconnas seized his poniard and prepared to plunge it into his enemy.

La Mole kept coming nearer.

Coconnas muttered:

"Ah! here you are again! you are always here! Come on! You threaten me,
do you! you smile! Come, come, come! ah, you still keep coming nearer, a
step at a time! Come, come, and let me kill you."

And suiting the action to the word, just as La Mole bent down to him,
Coconnas flashed out the poniard from under the clothes; but the effort
he made in rising exhausted him, the weapon dropped from his hand, and
he fell back upon his pillow.

"There, there!" said La Mole, gently lifting his head; "drink this, my
poor fellow, for you are burning up."

It was really a cup La Mole presented to Coconnas, who in the wild
excitement of his delirium took it to be a threatening fist.

But at the nectarous sensation of this beneficent draught, soothing his
lips and cooling his throat, Coconnas's reason, or rather his instinct,
came back to him, a never before experienced feeling of comfort pervaded
his frame; he turned an intelligent look at La Mole, who was supporting
him in his arms, and smiling on him; and from those eyes, so lately
glowing with fury, a tear rolled down his burning cheek, which drank it
with avidity.

"_Mordi!_" whispered Coconnas, as he fell back on his bolster. "If I get
over this, Monsieur de la Mole, you shall be my friend."

"And you will get over it," said La Mole, "if you will drink the other
two cups, and have no more ugly dreams."

An hour afterward La Mole, assuming the duties of a nurse, and
scrupulously carrying out the unknown doctor's orders, rose again,
poured a second dose into the cup, and carried it to Coconnas, who
instead of waiting for him with his poniard, received him with open
arms, eagerly swallowed the potion, and calmly fell asleep.

The third cup had a no less marvellous effect. The sick man's breathing
became more regular, his stiff limbs relaxed, a gentle perspiration
diffused itself over his burning skin, and when Ambroise Paré visited
him the next morning, he smiled complacently, saying:

"I answer for Monsieur de Coconnas now; and this will not be one of the
least difficult cures I have effected."

This scene, half-dramatic, half-burlesque, and yet not lacking in a
certain poetic touch when Coconnas's fierce ways were taken into
consideration, resulted in the friendship which the two gentlemen had
begun at the Inn of the _Belle Étoile_, and which had been so violently
interrupted by the Saint Bartholomew night's occurrences, from that time
forth taking on a new vigor and soon surpassing that of Orestes and
Pylades by five sword-thrusts and one pistol-wound exchanged between
them.

At all events, wounds old and new, slight or serious, were at last in a
fair way of cure. La Mole, faithful to his duties as nurse, would not
forsake the sick-room until Coconnas was entirely well. As long as
weakness kept the invalid on the bed, he lifted him, and when he began
to improve he helped him to walk; in a word, he lavished on him all the
attentions suggested by his gentle and affectionate disposition, and
this care, together with the Piedmontese's natural vigor, brought about
a more rapid convalescence than would have been expected.

However, one and the same thought tormented both the young men. Each had
in his delirium apparently seen the woman he loved approach his couch,
and yet, certainly since they had recovered their senses, neither
Marguerite nor Madame de Nevers had entered the room. However, that was
perfectly comprehensible; the one, wife of the King of Navarre, the
other, the Duc de Guise's sister-in-law, could not have publicly shown
two simple gentlemen such a mark of evident interest, could they? No! La
Mole and Coconnas could not make any other reply to this question. But
still the absence of the ladies, tantamount perhaps to utter
forgetfulness, was not the less painful.

It is true the gentleman who had witnessed the duel had come several
times, as if of his own accord, to inquire after them; it is true
Gillonne had done the same; but La Mole had not ventured to speak to the
one concerning the queen; Coconnas had not ventured to speak to the
other of Madame de Nevers.



CHAPTER XVIII.

THE GHOSTS.


For some time each of the young men kept his secret confined to his own
heart. At last their reserve burst its barriers, and the thought which
had so long occupied them escaped their lips, and both cemented their
friendship by this final proof, without which there is no
friendship,--namely, perfect confidence.

They were both madly in love--one with a princess and the other with a
queen.

For these two poor suitors there was something frightful in the almost
insuperable distance separating them from the objects of their desires.

And yet hope is a sentiment so deeply rooted in man's heart that in
spite of the madness of their love they hoped!

They both, as they recovered from their illness, took great pains with
their personal appearance. Every man, even the most indifferent to
physical appearance, has, at certain times, mute interviews with his
looking-glass, signs of intelligence, after which he generally leaves
his confidant, quite satisfied with the interview. Now our two young men
were not persons whose mirrors were compelled to give them harsh advice.
La Mole, delicate, pale, and elegant, had the beauty of distinction;
Coconnas, powerful, large-framed, and fresh-colored, had the beauty of
strength. He had more, for his recent illness had been of advantage to
him. He had become thinner, grown paler, and the famous scar which had
formerly caused him so much anxiety from its prismatic relationship to
the rainbow had disappeared, giving promise, probably like the
post-diluvian phenomenon, of a long series of lovely days and calm
nights.

Moreover, the most delicate attentions continued to be lavished on the
two wounded men, and each of them on the day when he was well enough to
rise found a _robe-de-chambre_ on the easy-chair nearest his bed; on the
day when he was able to dress himself, a complete suit of clothes;
moreover, in the pocket of each doublet was a well-filled purse, which
they each kept, intending, of course, to return, in the proper time and
place, to the unknown protector who watched over them.

This unknown protector could not be the prince in whose quarters the two
young men resided, for the prince had not only never once paid them a
visit, but he had not even sent to make any inquiry after them.

A vague hope whispered to each heart that this unknown protector was the
woman he loved.

So the two wounded men awaited with intense impatience the moment when
they could go out. La Mole, stronger and sooner cured than Coconnas,
might have done so long before, but a kind of tacit convention bound him
to his friend. It was agreed between them that the first time they went
out they should make three calls:

The first should be upon the unknown doctor whose suave medicine had
brought such a remarkable improvement in the inflammation of Coconnas's
lungs.

The second to the dwelling of the defunct Maître La Hurière, where each
of them had left his portmanteau and horse.

The third to the Florentine Réné, who, uniting to his title of perfumer
that of magician, not only sold cosmetics and poisons, but also
concocted philters and delivered oracles.

At length, after two months passed in convalescence and confinement, the
long-looked-for day arrived.

We used the word "confinement;" the use of it is accurate because
several times in their impatience they had tried to hasten that day; but
each time a sentinel posted at the door had stopped their passage and
they had learned that they could not step out unless Maître Ambroise
Paré gave them their _exeat_.

Now, one day that clever surgeon, having come to the conclusion that the
two invalids were, if not completely cured, at least on the road to
complete recovery, gave them this _exeat_, and about two o'clock in the
afternoon on a fine day in autumn, such as Paris sometimes offers to her
astonished population, who have already laid up a store of resignation
for the winter, the two friends, arm in arm, set foot outside the
Louvre.

La Mole, finding to his great satisfaction, on an armchair, the famous
cherry-colored mantle which he had folded so carefully before the duel,
undertook to be Coconnas's guide, and Coconnas allowed himself to be
guided without resistance or reflection. He knew that his friend was
taking him to the unknown doctor's whose potion (not patented) had cured
him in a single night, when all of Master Ambroise Paré's drugs were
slowly killing him. He had divided the money in his purse into two
parts, and intended a hundred rose-nobles for the anonymous Esculapius
to whom his recovery was due. Coconnas was not afraid of death, but
Coconnas was not the less satisfied to be alive and well, and so, as we
see, he was intending to recompense his deliverer generously.

La Mole proceeded along the Rue de l'Astruce, the wide Rue Saint Honoré,
the Rue des Prouvelles, and soon found himself on the Place des Halles.
Near the ancient fountain, at the place which is at the present time
called the Carreau des Halles, was an octagon stone building, surmounted
by a vast wooden lantern, which was again surmounted by a pointed roof,
on the top of which was a weathercock. This wooden lantern had eight
openings, traversed, as that heraldic piece which they call the _fascis_
traverses the field of blazonry, by a kind of wooden wheel, which was
divided in the middle, in order to admit in the holes cut in it for that
purpose the head and hands of such sentenced person or persons as were
exposed at one or more of these eight openings.

This singular arrangement, which had nothing like it in the surrounding
buildings, was called the pillory.

An ill-constructed, irregular, crooked, one-eyed, limping house, the
roof spotted with moss like a leper's skin, had, like a toadstool,
sprung up at the foot of this species of tower.

This house was the executioner's.

A man was exposed, and was thrusting out his tongue at the passers-by;
he was one of the robbers who had been following his profession near the
gibbet of Montfaucon, and had by ill luck been arrested in the exercise
of his functions.

Coconnas believed that his friend had brought him to see this singular
spectacle, and he joined the crowd of sightseers who were replying to
the patient's grimaces by vociferations and gibes.

Coconnas was naturally cruel, and the sight very much amused him, only
he would have preferred that instead of gibes and vociferations they had
thrown stones at a convict so insolent as to thrust out his tongue at
the noble lords that condescended to visit him.

So when the moving lantern was turned on its base, in order to show the
culprit to another portion of the square, and the crowd followed,
Coconnas would have accompanied them, had not La Mole checked him,
saying, in a low tone:

"We did not come here for this."

"Well, what did we come for, then?" asked Coconnas.

"You will see," replied La Mole.

The two friends had got into the habit of addressing each other with the
familiar "thee" and "thou" ever since the morning of that famous night
when Coconnas had tried to thrust his poniard into La Mole's vitals. And
he led Coconnas directly to a small window in the house which abutted on
the tower; a man was leaning on the window-sill.

"Aha! here you are, gentlemen," said the man, raising his blood-red cap,
and showing his thick black hair, which came down to his eyebrows. "You
are welcome."

"Who is this man?" inquired Coconnas, endeavoring to recollect, for it
seemed to him he had seen that face during one of the crises of his
fever.

"Your preserver, my dear friend," replied La Mole; "he who brought to
you at the Louvre that refreshing drink which did you so much good."

"Oho!" said Coconnas; "in that case, my friend"--

And he held out his hand to him.

But the man, instead of returning the gesture, drew himself up and
withdrew from the two friends just the distance occupied by the curve of
his body.

"Sir!" he said to Coconnas, "thanks for the honor you wish to confer on
me, but it is probable that if you knew me you would not do so."

"Faith!" said Coconnas, "I declare that, even if you were the devil
himself, I am very greatly obliged to you, for if it had not been for
you I should be dead at this time."

"I am not exactly the devil," replied the man in the red cap; "but yet
persons are frequently found who would rather see the devil than me."

"Who are you, pray?" asked Coconnas.

"Sir," replied the man, "I am Maître Caboche, the executioner of the
provostry of Paris"--

"Ah"--said Coconnas, withdrawing his hand.

"You see!" said Maître Caboche.

"No, no; I will touch your hand, or may the devil fetch me! Hold it
out"--

"Really?"

"Wide as you can."

"Here it is."

"Open it--wider--wider!"

And Coconnas took from his pocket the handful of gold he had prepared
for his anonymous physician and placed it in the executioner's hand.

"I would rather have had your hand entirely and solely," said Maître
Caboche, shaking his head, "for I do not lack money, but I am in need
of hands to touch mine. Never mind. God bless you, my dear gentleman."

"So then, my friend," said Coconnas, looking at the executioner with
curiosity, "it is you who put men to the rack, who break them on the
wheel, quarter them, cut off heads, and break bones. Aha! I am very glad
to have made your acquaintance."

"Sir," said Maître Caboche, "I do not do all myself; just as you noble
gentlemen have your lackeys to do what you do not choose to do yourself,
so have I my assistants, who do the coarser work and despatch clownish
fellows. Only when, by chance, I have to do with folks of quality, like
you and your companion, for instance, ah! then it is another thing, and
I take a pride in doing everything myself, from first to last,--that is
to say, from the first putting of the _question_, to the decapitation."

In spite of himself, Coconnas felt a shudder pervade his veins, as if
the brutal wedge was pressing his leg--as if the edge of the axe was
against his neck.

La Mole, without being able to account for it, felt the same sensation.

But Coconnas overcame the emotion, of which he was ashamed, and desirous
of taking leave of Maître Caboche with a jest on his lips, said to him:

"Well, master, I hold you to your word, and when it is my turn to mount
Enguerrand de Marigny's gallows or Monsieur de Nemours's scaffold you
alone shall lay hands on me."

"I promise you."

"Then, this time here is my hand, as a pledge that I accept your
promise," said Coconnas.

And he offered the executioner his hand, which the latter touched
timidly with his own, although it was evident that he had a great desire
to grasp it warmly.

At this light touch Coconnas turned rather pale; but the same smile
lingered on his lips, while La Mole, ill at ease, and seeing the crowd
turn as the lantern did and come toward them, touched his cloak.

Coconnas, who in reality had as great a desire as La Mole to put an end
to this scene, which by the natural bent of his character he had delayed
longer than he would have wished, nodded to the executioner and went his
way.

"Faith!" said La Mole, when he and his companion had reached the Croix
du Trahoir, "I must confess we breathe more freely here than in the
Place des Halles."

"Decidedly," replied Coconnas; "but I am none the less glad at having
made Maître Caboche's acquaintance. It is well to have friends
everywhere."

"Even at the sign of the _Belle Étoile_," said La Mole, laughing.

"Oh! as for poor Maître La Hurière," said Coconnas, "he is dead and dead
again. I saw the arquebuse spitting flame, I heard the thump of the
bullet, which sounded as if it had struck against the great bell of
Notre-Dame, and I left him stretched out in the gutter with streams of
blood flowing from his nose and mouth. Taking it for granted that he is
a friend, he is a friend we shall have in the next world."

Thus chatting, the two young men entered the Rue de l'Arbre Sec and
proceeded toward the sign of the _Belle Étoile_, which was still
creaking in the same place, still presenting to the traveller its
astronomic hearth and its appetizing inscription. Coconnas and La Mole
expected to find the house in a desperate state, the widow in mourning,
and the little ones wearing crêpe on their arms; but to their great
astonishment they found the house in full swing of activity, Madame La
Hurière mightily resplendent, and the children gayer than ever.

"Oh, the faithless creature!" cried La Mole; "she must have married
again."

Then addressing the new Artémise:

"Madame," said he, "we are two gentlemen, acquaintances of poor Monsieur
La Hurière. We left here two horses and two portmanteaus which we have
come to claim."

"Gentlemen," replied the mistress of the house, after she had tried to
bring them to her recollection, "as I have not the honor of knowing you,
with your permission I will go and call my husband. Grégoire, ask your
master to come."

Grégoire stepped from the first kitchen, which was the general
pandemonium, into the second, which was the laboratory where Maître La
Hurière in his life-time had been in the habit of concocting the dishes
which he felt deserved to be prepared by his clever hands.

"The devil take me," muttered Coconnas, "if it does not make me feel
badly to see this house so gay when it ought to be so melancholy. Poor
La Hurière!"

"He tried to kill me," said La Mole, "but I pardon him with all my
heart."

La Mole had hardly uttered these words when a man appeared holding in
his hand a stew-pan, in the bottom of which he was browning some onions,
stirring them with a wooden spoon.

La Mole and Coconnas gave vent to a cry of amazement.

As they did so the man lifted his head and, replying by a similar cry,
dropped his stew-pan, retaining in his hand only his wooden spoon.

_In nomine Patris_," said the man, waving his spoon as he would have
done with a holy-water sprinkler, "_et Filii, et Spiritus sancti_"--

"Maître La Hurière!" exclaimed the two young men.

"Messieurs de Coconnas and de la Mole!" cried La Hurière.

"So you are not dead?" asked Coconnas.

"Why! can it be that you are alive?" asked the landlord.

"Nevertheless, I saw you fall," said Coconnas, "I heard the crash of the
bullet, which broke something in you, I don't know what. I left you
lying in the gutter, with blood streaming out of your nose, out of your
mouth, and even out of your eyes."

"All that is as true as the gospel, Monsieur de Coconnas. But the noise
you heard was the bullet striking against my sallat, on which
fortunately it flattened itself; but the blow was none the less severe,
and the proof of it," added La Hurière, lifting his cap and displaying a
pate as bald as a man's knee, "is that as you see I have not a spear of
hair left."

The two young men burst out laughing when they saw his grotesque
appearance.

"Aha! you laugh, do you?" said La Hurière, somewhat reassured, "you do
not come, then, with any evil intentions."

"Now tell us, Maître La Hurière, are you entirely cured of your
bellicose inclinations?"

"Faith, that I am, gentlemen; and now"--

"Well, and now"--

"Now I have vowed not to meddle with any other fire than that in my
kitchen."

"Bravo!" cried Coconnas, "see how prudent he is! Now," added the
Piedmontese, "we left in your stables two horses, and in your rooms two
portmanteaus."

"Oh, the devil!" replied the landlord, scratching his ear.

"Well?"

"Two horses, you say?"

"Yes, in your stable."

"And two portmanteaus?"

"Yes, in the rooms we had."

"The truth is, don't you see--you thought I was dead, didn't you?"

"Certainly we did."

"You will agree that as you were mistaken, I also might be."

"What? In believing that we also were dead? You were perfectly free."

"Now that's it. You see, as you died intestate," continued Maître La
Hurière.

"Go on"--

"I believed something, I was mistaken, I see it now"--

"Tell us, what was it you believed?"

"I believed that I might consider myself your heir."

"Oho!" exclaimed the two young men.

"Nevertheless, I could not be more grateful to find that you are alive,
gentlemen."

"So you sold our horses, did you?" asked Coconnas.

"Alas!" cried La Hurière.

"And our portmanteaus?" insisted La Mole.

"Oh! your portmanteaus? Oh, no," cried La Hurière, "only what was in
them."

"Now look here, La Mole," persisted Coconnas, "it seems to me that this
is a bold rascal; suppose we disembowel him!"

This threat seemed to have great effect on Maître La Hurière, who
stammered out these words:

"Well, gentlemen, I rather think the affair can be arranged."

"Listen!" said La Mole, "I am the one who has the greatest cause of
complaint against you."

"Certainly, Monsieur le Comte, for I recollect that in a moment of
madness I had the audacity to threaten you."

"Yes, with a bullet which flew only a couple of inches above my head."

"Do you think so?"

"I am certain of it."

"If you are certain of it, Monsieur de la Mole," said La Hurière,
picking up his stew-pan with an innocent air, "I am too thoroughly at
your service to give you the lie."

"Well," said La Mole, "as far as I am concerned I make no demand upon
you."

"What, my dear gentleman"--

"Except"--

"Aïe! aïe!" groaned La Hurière.

"Except a dinner for myself and my friends every time I find myself in
your neighborhood."

"How is this?" exclaimed La Hurière in an ecstasy. "I am at your
service, my dear gentleman; I am at your service."

"So it is a bargain, is it?"

"With all my heart--and you, Monsieur de Coconnas," continued the
landlord, "do you agree to the bargain?"

"Yes; but, like my friend, I must add one small condition."

"What is that?"

"That you restore to Monsieur de la Mole the fifty crowns which I owe
him, and which I put into your keeping."

"To me, sir? When was that?"

"A quarter of an hour before you sold my horse and my portmanteau."

La Hurière showed that he understood.

"Ah! I remember," said he; and he stepped toward a cupboard and took out
from it, one after the other, fifty crowns, which he brought to La Mole.

"Very well, sir," said that gentleman; "very well. Serve me an omelet.
The fifty crowns are for Grégoire."

"Oh!" cried La Hurière; "in truth, my dear gentlemen, you are genuine
princes, and you may count on me for life and for death."

"If that is so," said Coconnas, "make us the omelet we want, and spare
neither butter nor lard."

Then looking at the clock,

"Faith, you are right, La Mole," said he, "we still have three hours to
wait, and we may as well be here as anywhere else. All the more because,
if I am not mistaken, we are already half way to the Pont Saint Michel."

And the two young men went and sat down at table in the very same room
and at the very same place which they had occupied during that memorable
evening of the twenty-sixth of August, 1572, when Coconnas had proposed
to La Mole to play each against the other the first mistress which they
should have!

Let us grant for the honor of the morality of our two young men that
neither of them this evening had the least idea of making such a
proposition to his companion.



CHAPTER XIX.

THE ABODE OF MAÎTRE RÉNÉ, PERFUMER TO THE QUEEN MOTHER.


At the period of this history there existed in Paris, for passing from
one part of the city to another, but five bridges, some of stone and the
others of wood, and they all led to the Cité; there were le Pont des
Meuniers, le Pont au Change, le Pont Notre-Dame, le Petit Pont, and le
Pont Saint Michel.

In other places when there was need of crossing the river there were
ferries.

These five bridges were loaded with houses like the Pont Vecchio at
Florence at the present time. Of these five bridges, each of which has
its history, we shall now speak more particularly of the Pont Saint
Michel.

The Pont Saint Michel had been built of stone in 1373; in spite of its
apparent solidity, a freshet in the Seine undermined a part of it on the
thirty-first of January, 1408; in 1416 it had been rebuilt of wood; but
during the night of December 16, 1547, it was again carried away; about
1550, in other words twenty-two years anterior to the epoch which we
have reached, it was again built of wood, and though it needed repairs
it was regarded as solid enough.

In the midst of the houses which bordered the line of the bridge, facing
the small islet on which the Templers had been burnt, and where at the
present time the platform of the Pont Neuf rests, stood a wooden
panelled house over which a large roof impended like the lid of an
immense eye. At the only window, which opened on the first story, over
the window and door of the ground floor, hermetically sealed, shone a
reddish light, which attracted the attention of the passers-by to the
low, wide façade, painted blue, with rich gold mouldings. A kind of
frieze separating the ground floor from the first floor represented
groups of devils in the most grotesque postures imaginable; and a wide
scroll painted blue like the façade ran between the frieze and the
window, with this inscription: "RÉNÉ, FLORENTIN, PERFUMER DE SA MAJESTÉ
LA REINE MÈRE."

The door of this shop was, as we have said, well bolted; but it was
defended from nocturnal attacks better than by bolts by its occupant's
reputation, so redoubtable that the passengers over the bridge usually
described a curve which took them to the opposite row of houses, as if
they feared the very smell of the perfumes that might exhale through the
walls.

More than this, the right and left hand neighbors, doubtless fearing
that they might be compromised by the proximity, had, since Maître
Réné's occupancy of the house, taken their departure one after the other
so that the two houses next to Réné's were left empty and closed. Yet,
in spite of this solitude and desertedness, belated passers-by had
frequently seen, glittering through the crevices of the shutters of
these empty habitations, strange rays of light, and had felt certain
they heard strange noises like groans, which proved that some beings
frequented these abodes, although they did not know if they belonged to
this world or the other.

The result was that the tenants of the two buildings contiguous to the
two empty houses from time to time queried whether it would not be wise
in them to do as their neighbors had done.

It was, doubtless, owing to the privilege which the dread of him, widely
circulated, had procured for him, that Maître Réné had ventured to keep
up a light after the prescribed hour. No round or guard, moreover, would
have dared to molest him, a man doubly dear to her majesty as her
fellow-countryman and perfumer.

As we suppose that the reader, panoplied by the philosophical wisdom of
this century, no longer believes in magic or magicians, we will invite
him to accompany us into this dwelling which, at that epoch of
superstitious faith, shed around it such a profound terror.

The shop on the ground floor is dark and deserted after eight o'clock in
the evening--the hour at which it closes, not to open again until next
morning; there it is that the daily sale of perfumery, unguents, and
cosmetics of all kinds, such as a skilful chemist makes, takes place.
Two apprentices aid him in the retail business, but do not sleep in the
house; they lodge in the Rue de la Colandre.

In the evening they take their departure an instant before the shop
closes; in the morning they wait at the door until it opens.

This ground-floor shop is therefore dark and deserted, as we have said.

In this shop, which is large and deep, there are two doors, each leading
to a staircase. One of these staircases is in the wall itself and is
lateral, and the other is exterior and visible from the quay now called
the Quai des Augustins, and from the riverbank, now called the Quai des
Orfévres.

Both lead to the principal room on the first floor. This room is of the
same size as the ground floor, except that it is divided into two
compartments by tapestry suspended in the centre and parallel to the
bridge. At the end of the first compartment opens the door leading to
the exterior staircase. On the side face of the second opens the door of
the secret staircase. This door is invisible, being concealed by a large
carved cupboard fastened to it by iron cramps, and moving with it when
pushed open. Catharine alone, besides Réné, knows the secret of this
door, and by it she comes and departs; and with eye or ear placed
against the cupboard, in which are several small holes, she sees and
hears all that occurs in the chamber.

Two other doors, visible to all eyes, present themselves at the sides of
the second compartment. One opens into a small chamber lighted from the
roof, and having nothing in it but a large stove, some alembecs,
retorts, and crucibles: it is the alchemist's laboratory; the other
opens into a cell more singular than the rest of the apartment, for it
is not lighted at all--has neither carpet nor furniture, but only a kind
of stone altar.

The floor slopes from the centre to the ends, and from the ends to the
base of the wall is a kind of gutter ending in a funnel, through whose
orifice may be seen the dark waters of the Seine. On nails driven into
the walls are hung singular-shaped instruments, all keen or pointed with
points as fine as a needle and edges as sharp as a razor; some shine
like mirrors; others, on the contrary, are of a dull gray or murky blue.


In a corner are two black fowls struggling with each other and tied
together by the claws. This is the soothsayer's sanctuary.

Let us return to the middle chamber, that with two compartments.

Here the common herd of clients are introduced; here ibises from Egypt;
mummies, with gilded bands; the crocodile, yawning from the ceiling;
death's-heads, with eyeless sockets and loose teeth; and old musty
volumes, torn and rat-eaten, are presented to the visitor's eye in
pellmell confusion. Behind the curtain are phials, singularly shaped
boxes, and weird-looking vases; all this is lighted up by two small
silver lamps exactly alike, perhaps stolen from some altar of Santa
Maria Novella or the Church Dei Lervi of Florence; these, supplied with
perfumed oil, cast their yellow flames around the sombre vault from
which each hangs by three blackened chains.

Réné, alone, his arms crossed, is pacing up and down the second
compartment with long strides, and shaking his head. After a lengthened
and painful musing he pauses before an hour-glass:

"Ah! ah!" says he, "I forget to turn it; and perhaps the sand has all
run through a long time ago."

Then, looking at the moon as it struggled through a heavy black cloud
which seemed to hang over Notre-Dame, he said: "It is nine o'clock. If
she comes, she will come, as usual, in an hour or an hour and a half;
then there will be time for all."

At this moment a noise was heard on the bridge. Réné applied his ear to
the orifice of a long tube, the other end of which reached down the
street, terminating in a heraldic viper-head.

"No," he said, "it is neither _she_ nor _they_; it is men's footsteps,
and they stop at my door--they are coming here."

And three sharp knocks were heard at the door.

Réné hurried downstairs and put his ear against the door, without
opening it.

The three sharp blows were repeated.

"Who's there?" asked Maître Réné.

"Must we mention our names?" inquired a voice.

"It is indispensable," replied Réné.

"Well, then, I am the Comte Annibal de Coconnas," said the same voice.

"And I am the Comte Lerac de la Mole," said another voice, which had not
as yet been heard.

"Wait, wait, gentlemen, I am at your service."

And at the same moment Réné drew the bolts and, lifting the bars, opened
the door to the two young men locking it after him. Then, conducting
them by the exterior staircase, he introduced them into the second
compartment.

La Mole, as he entered, made the sign of the cross under his cloak. He
was pale, and his hand trembled without his being able to repress this
symptom of weakness.

Coconnas looked at everything, one after the other; and seeing the door
of the cell, was about to open it.

"Allow me to observe, my dear young gentleman," said Réné, in his deep
voice, and placing his hand on Coconnas's, "those that do me the honor
of a visit have access only to this part of the room."

"Oh, very well," replied Coconnas; "besides, I feel like sitting down."
And he took a seat.

There was unbroken silence for a moment--Maître Réné was waiting for one
or the other of the young men to open the conversation.

"Maître Réné," at length said Coconnas, "you are a skilful man, and I
pray you tell me if I shall always remain a sufferer from my wound--that
is, always experience this shortness of breath, which prevents me from
riding on horseback, using my sword, and eating larded omelettes?"

Réné put his ear to Coconnas's chest and listened attentively to the
play of the lungs.

"No, Monsieur le Comte," he replied, "you will get well."

"Really?"

"Yes, I assure you."

"Well, you fill me with delight."

There was silence once more.

"Is there nothing else you would desire to know, M. le Comte?"

"I wish to know," said Coconnas, "if I am really in love?"

"You are," replied Réné.

"How do you know?"

"Because you asked the question."

"By Heaven! you are right. But with whom?"

"With her who now, on every occasion, uses the oath you have just
uttered."

"Ah!" said Coconnas, amazed; "Maître Réné, you are a clever man! Now, La
Mole, it is your turn."

La Mole reddened, and seemed embarrassed.

"I, Monsieur Réné," he stammered, and speaking more firmly as he
proceeded, "do not care to ask you if I am in love, for I know that I
am, and I do not hide it from myself; but tell me, shall I be beloved in
return? for, in truth, all that at first seemed propitious now turns
against me."

"Perchance you have not done all you should do."

"What is there to do, sir, but to testify, by one's respect and devotion
to the lady of one's thoughts, that she is really and profoundly
beloved?"

"You know," replied Réné, "that these demonstrations are frequently very
meaningless."

"Then must I despair?"

"By no means; we must have recourse to science. In human nature there
are antipathies to be overcome--sympathies which may be forced. Iron is
not the lodestone; but by rubbing it with a lodestone we make it, in its
turn, attract iron."

"Yes, yes," muttered La Mole; "but I have an objection to all these
sorceries."

"Ah, then, if you have any such objections, you should not come here,"
answered Réné.

"Come, come, this is child's play!" interposed Coconnas. "Maître Réné,
can you show me the devil?"

"No, Monsieur le Comte."

"I'm sorry for that; for I had a word or two to say to him, and it might
have encouraged La Mole."

"Well, then, let it be so," said La Mole, "let us go to the point at
once. I have been told of figures modelled in wax to look like the
beloved object. Is that one way?"

"An infallible one."

"And there is nothing in the experiment likely to affect the life or
health of the person beloved?"

"Nothing."

"Let us try, then."

"Shall I make first trial?" said Coconnas.

"No," said La Mole, "since I have begun, I will go through to the end."

"Is your desire mighty, ardent, imperious to know what the obstacle is,
Monsieur de la Mole?"

"Oh," exclaimed La Mole, "I am dying with anxiety."

At this moment some one rapped lightly at the street door--so lightly
that no one but Maître Réné heard the noise, doubtless because he had
been expecting it.

Without any hesitation he went to the speaking-tube and put his ear to
the mouthpiece, at the same time asking La Mole several idle questions.
Then he added, suddenly:

"Now put all your energy into your wish, and call the person whom you
love."

La Mole knelt, as if about to address a divinity; and Réné, going into
the other compartment, went out noiselessly by the exterior staircase,
and an instant afterward light steps trod the floor of his shop.

When La Mole rose he beheld before him Maître Réné. The Florentine held
in his hand a small wax figure, very indifferently modelled; it wore a
crown and mantle.

"Do you desire to be always beloved by your royal mistress?" demanded
the perfumer.

"Yes, even if it cost me my life--even if my soul should be the
sacrifice!" replied La Mole.

"Very good," said the Florentine, taking with the ends of his fingers
some drops of water from a ewer and sprinkling them over the figure, at
the same time muttering certain Latin words.

La Mole shuddered, believing that some sacrilege was committed.

"What are you doing?" he asked.

"I am christening this figure with the name of Marguerite."

"What for?"

"To establish a sympathy."

La Mole opened his mouth to prevent his going any further, but a mocking
look from Coconnas stopped him.

Réné, who had noticed the impulse, waited. "Your absolute and undivided
will is necessary," he said.

"Go on," said La Mole.

Réné wrote on a small strip of red paper some cabalistic characters, put
it into the eye of a steel needle, and with the needle pierced the small
wax model in the heart.

Strange to say, at the orifice of the wound appeared a small drop of
blood; then he set fire to the paper.

The heat of the needle melted the wax around it and dried up the spot of
blood.

"Thus," said Réné, "by the power of sympathy, your love shall pierce and
burn the heart of the woman whom you love."

Coconnas, true to his repute as a bold thinker, laughed in his mustache,
and in a low tone jested; but La Mole, desperately in love and full of
superstition, felt a cold perspiration start from the roots of his hair.

"And now," continued Réné, "press your lips to the lips of the figure,
and say: 'Marguerite, I love thee! Come, Marguerite!'"

La Mole obeyed.

At this moment the door of the second chamber was heard to open, and
light steps approached. Coconnas, curious and incredulous, drew his
poniard, and fearing that if he raised the tapestry Réné would repeat
what he said about the door, he cut a hole in the thick curtain, and
applying his eye to the hole, uttered a cry of astonishment, to which
two women's voices responded.

"What is it?" exclaimed La Mole, nearly dropping the waxen figure, which
Réné caught from his hands.

"Why," replied Coconnas, "the Duchesse de Nevers and Madame Marguerite
are there!"

"There, now, you unbelievers!" replied Réné, with an austere smile; "do
you still doubt the force of sympathy?"

La Mole was petrified on seeing the queen; Coconnas was amazed at
beholding Madame de Nevers. One believed that Réné's sorceries had
evoked the phantom Marguerite; the other, seeing the door half open, by
which the lovely phantoms had entered, gave at once a worldly and
substantial explanation to the mystery.

While La Mole was crossing himself and sighing enough to split a rock,
Coconnas, who had taken time to indulge in philosophical questionings
and to drive away the foul fiend with the aid of that holy water
sprinkler called scepticism, having observed, through the hole in the
curtain, the astonishment shown by Madame de Nevers and Marguerite's
somewhat caustic smile, judged the moment to be decisive, and
understanding that a man may say in behalf of a friend what he cannot
say for himself, instead of going to Madame de Nevers, went straight to
Marguerite, and bending his knee, after the fashion of the great
Artaxerxes as represented in the farces of the day, cried, in a voice to
which the whistling of his wound added a peculiar accent not without
some power:

"Madame, this very moment, at the demand of my friend the Comte de la
Mole, Maître Réné was evoking your spirit; and to my great astonishment,
your spirit is accompanied with a body most dear to me, and which I
recommend to my friend. Shade of her majesty the Queen of Navarre, will
you desire the body of your companion to come to the other side of the
curtain?"

Marguerite began to laugh, and made a sign to Henriette, who passed to
the other side of the curtain.

"La Mole, my friend," continued Coconnas, "be as eloquent as
Demosthenes, as Cicero, as the Chancellor de l'Hôpital! and be assured
that my life will be imperilled if you do not persuade the body of
Madame de Nevers that I am her most devoted, most obedient, and most
faithful servant."

"But"--stammered La Mole.

"Do as I say! And you, Maître Réné, watch that we are not interrupted."

Réné did as Coconnas asked.

"By Heaven, monsieur," said Marguerite, "you are a clever man. I am
listening to you. What have you to say?"

"I have to say to you, madame, that the shadow of my friend--for he is a
shadow, and he proves it by not uttering a single little word--I say,
that this shadow begs me to use the faculty which material bodies
possess of speaking so as to be understood, and to say to you: Lovely
shadow, the gentleman thus disembodied has lost his whole body and all
his breath by the cruelty of your eyes. If this were really you, I
should ask Maître Réné to plunge me in some sulphurous pit rather than
use such language to the daughter of King Henry II., to the sister of
King Charles IX., to the wife of the King of Navarre. But shades are
freed from all earthly pride and they are never angry when men love
them. Therefore, pray your body, madame, to love the soul of this poor
La Mole a little--a soul in trouble, if ever there was one; a soul first
persecuted by friendship, which three times thrust into him several
inches of cold steel; a soul burnt by the fire of your eyes--fire a
thousand times more consuming than all the flames of hell. So have pity
on this poor soul! Love a little what was the handsome La Mole; and if
you no longer possess speech, ah! bestow a gesture, bestow a smile upon
him. My friend's soul is a very intelligent soul, and will comprehend
everything. Be kind to him, then; or, by Heaven! I will run my sword
through Réné's body in order that, by virtue of the power which he
possesses over spirits, he may force yours, which he has already so
opportunely evoked, to do all a shade so amiably disposed as yours
appears to be should do."

At this burst of eloquence delivered by Coconnas as he stood in front of
the queen like Æneas descending into Hades, Marguerite could not refrain
from a hearty burst of laughter, yet, preserving the silence which on
such an occasion may be the supposed characteristic of a royal shade,
she presented her hand to Coconnas. He took it daintily in his, and,
calling to La Mole, said:

"Shade of my friend, come hither instantly!"

La Mole, amazed, overcome, silently obeyed.

"'T is well," said Coconnas, taking him by the back of the head; "and
now bring the shadow of your handsome brown countenance into contact
with the white and vaporous hand before you."

And Coconnas, suiting the action to the word, raised the delicate hand
to La Mole's lips, and kept them for a moment respectfully united,
without the hand seeking to withdraw itself from the gentle pressure.

Marguerite had not ceased to smile, but Madame de Nevers did not smile
at all; she was still trembling at the unexpected appearance of the two
gentlemen. She was conscious that her awkwardness was increased by all
the fever of a growing jealousy, for it seemed to her that Coconnas
ought not thus to forget her affairs for those of others.

La Mole saw her eyebrows contracted, detected the flashing threat of her
eyes, and in spite of the intoxicating fever to which his delight was
insensibly urging him to succumb he realized the danger which his friend
was running and perceived what he should try to do to rescue him.

So rising and leaving Marguerite's hand in Coconnas's, he grasped the
Duchesse de Nevers's, and bending his knee he said:

"O loveliest--O most adorable of women--I speak of living women, and not
of shades!" and he turned a look and a smile to Marguerite; "allow a
soul released from its mortal envelope to repair the absence of a body
fully absorbed by material friendship. Monsieur de Coconnas, whom you
see, is only a man--a man of bold and hardy frame, of flesh handsome to
gaze upon perchance, but perishable, like all flesh. _Omnis caro fenum._
Although this gentleman keeps on from morning to night pouring into my
ears the most touching litanies about you, though you have seen him
distribute as heavy blows as were ever seen in wide France--this
champion, so full of eloquence in presence of a spirit, dares not
address a woman. That is why he has addressed the shade of the queen,
charging me to speak to your lovely body, and to tell you that he lays
at your feet his soul and heart; that he entreats from your divine eyes
a look in pity, from your rosy fingers a beckoning sign, and from your
musical and heavenly voice those words which men can never forget; if
not, he has supplicated another thing, and that is, in case he should
not soften you, you will run my sword--which is a real blade, for swords
have no shadows except in the sunshine--run my sword right through his
body for the second time, for he can live no longer if you do not
authorize him to live exclusively for you." All the verve and comical
exaggeration which Coconnas had put into his speech found their
counterpart in the tenderness, the intoxicating vigor, and the mock
humility which La Mole introduced into his supplication.

Henriette's eyes turned from La Mole, to whom she had listened till he
ended, and rested on Coconnas, to see if the expression of that
gentleman's countenance harmonized with his friend's ardent address. It
seemed that she was satisfied, for blushing, breathless, conquered, she
said to Coconnas, with a smile which disclosed a double row of pearls
enclosed in coral:

"Is this true?"

"By Heaven!" exclaimed Coconnas, fascinated by her look, "it is true,
indeed. Oh, yes, madame, it is true--true on your life--true on my
death!"

"Come with me, then," said Henriette, extending to him her hand, while
her eyes proclaimed the feelings of her heart.

Coconnas flung his velvet cap into the air and with one stride was at
the young woman's side, while La Mole, recalled to Marguerite by a
gesture, executed at the same time an amorous _chassez_ with his friend.

Réné appeared at the door in the background.

"Silence!" he exclaimed, in a voice which at once damped all the ardor
of the lovers; "silence!"

And they heard in the solid wall the sound of a key in a lock, and of a
door grating on its hinges.

"But," said Marguerite, haughtily, "I should think that no one has the
right to enter whilst we are here!"

"Not even the queen mother?" whispered Réné in her ear.

Marguerite instantly rushed out by the exterior staircase, leading La
Mole after her; Henriette and Coconnas almost arm-in-arm followed them,
all four taking flight, as fly at the first noise the birds seen
engaged in loving parley on the boughs of a flowering shrub.



CHAPTER XX.

THE BLACK HENS.


It was time the two couples disappeared! Catharine was putting the key
in the lock of the second door just as Coconnas and Madame de Nevers
stepped out of the house by the lower entrance, and Catharine as she
entered could hear the steps of the fugitives on the stairs.

She cast a searching glance around, and then fixing her suspicious eyes
on Réné, who stood motionless, bowing before her, said:

"Who was that?"

"Some lovers, who are satisfied with the assurance I gave them that they
are really in love."

"Never mind them," said Catharine, shrugging her shoulders; "is there no
one else here?"

"No one but your majesty and myself."

"Have you done what I ordered you?"

"About the two black hens?"

"Yes!"

"They are ready, madame."

"Ah," muttered Catharine, "if you were a Jew!"

"Why a Jew, madame?"

"Because you could then read the precious treatises which the Hebrews
have written about sacrifices. I have had one of them translated, and I
found that the Hebrews did not look for omens in the heart or liver as
the Romans did, but in the configuration of the brain, and in the shape
of the letters traced there by the all-powerful hand of destiny."

"Yes, madame; so I have heard from an old rabbi."

"There are," said Catharine, "characters thus marked that reveal all the
future. Only the Chaldean seers recommend"--

"Recommend--what?" asked Réné, seeing the queen hesitate.

"That the experiment shall be tried on the human brain, as more
developed and more nearly sympathizing with the wishes of the
consulter."

"Alas!" said Réné, "your majesty knows it is impossible."

"Difficult, at least," said Catharine; "if we had known this at Saint
Bartholomew's, what a rich harvest we might have had--The first
convict--but I will think of it. Meantime, let us do what we can. Is the
chamber of sacrifice prepared?"

"Yes, madame."

"Let us go there."

Réné lighted a taper made of strange substances, the odor of which, both
insidious and penetrating as well as nauseating and stupefying,
betokened the introduction of many elements; holding this taper up, he
preceded Catharine into the cell.

Catharine selected from amongst the sacrificial instruments a knife of
blue steel, while Réné took up one of the two fowls that were huddling
in one corner, with anxious, golden eyes.

"How shall we proceed?"

"We will examine the liver of the one and the brain of the other. If
these two experiments lead to the same result we must be convinced,
especially if these results coincide with those we got before."

"Which shall we begin with?"

"With the liver."

"Very well," said Réné, and he fastened the bird down to two rings
attached to the little altar, so that the creature, turned on its back,
could only struggle, without stirring from the spot.

Catharine opened its breast with a single stroke of her knife; the fowl
uttered three cries, and, after some convulsions, expired.

"Always three cries!" said Catharine; "three signs of death."

She then opened the body.

"And the liver inclining to the left, always to the left,--a triple
death, followed by a downfall. 'T is terrible, Réné."

"We must see, madame, whether the presages from the second will
correspond with those of the first."

Réné unfastened the body of the fowl from the altar and tossed it into a
corner; then he went to the other, which, foreseeing what its fate would
be by its companion's, tried to escape by running round the cell, and
finding itself pent up in a corner flew over Réné's head, and in its
flight extinguished the magic taper Catharine held.

"You see, Réné, thus shall our race be extinguished," said the queen;
"death shall breathe upon it, and destroy it from the face of the earth!
Yet three sons! three sons!" she murmured, sorrowfully.

Réné took from her the extinguished taper, and went into the adjoining
room to relight it.

On his return he saw the hen hiding its head in the tunnel.

"This time," said Catharine, "I will prevent the cries, for I will cut
off the head at once."

And accordingly, as soon as the hen was bound, Catharine, as she had
said, severed the head at a single blow; but in the last agony the beak
opened three times, and then closed forever.

"Do you see," said Catharine, terrified, "instead of three cries, three
sighs? Always three!--they will all three die. All these spirits before
they depart count and call three. Let us now see the prognostications in
the head."

She severed the bloodless comb from the head, carefully opened the
skull, and laying bare the lobes of the brain endeavored to trace a
letter formed in the bloody sinuosities made by the division of the
central pulp.

"Always so!" cried she, clasping her hands; "and this time clearer than
ever; see here!"

Réné approached.

"What is the letter?" asked Catharine.

"An H," replied Réné.

"How many times repeated?"

Réné counted.

"Four," said he.

"Ay, ay! I see it! that is to say, HENRY IV. Oh," she cried, flinging
the knife from her, "I am accursed in my posterity!"

She was terrible, that woman, pale as a corpse, lighted by the dismal
taper, and clasping her bloody hands.

"He will reign!" she exclaimed with a sigh of despair; "he will reign!"

"He will reign!" repeated Réné, plunged in meditation.

Nevertheless, the gloomy expression of Catharine's face soon disappeared
under the light of a thought which unfolded in the depths of her mind.

"Réné," said she, stretching out her hand toward the perfumer without
lifting her head from her breast, "Réné, is there not a terrible history
of a doctor at Perugia, who killed at once, by the aid of a pomade,[7]
his daughter and his daughter's lover?"

"Yes, madame."

"And this lover was"--

"Was King Ladislas, madame."

"Ah, yes!" murmured she; "have you any of the details of this story?"

"I have an old book which mentions it," replied Réné.

"Well, let us go into the other room, and you can show it me."

They left the cell, the door of which Réné closed after him.

"Has your majesty any other orders to give me concerning the
sacrifices?"

"No, Réné, I am for the present sufficiently convinced. We will wait
till we can secure the head of some criminal, and on the day of the
execution you must arrange with the hangman."

Réné bowed in token of obedience, then holding his candle up he let the
light fall on the shelves where his books stood, climbed on a chair,
took one down, and handed it to the queen.

Catharine opened it.

"What is this?" she asked; "'On the Method of Raising and Training
Tercels, Falcons, and Gerfalcons to be Courageous, Valiant, and always
ready for Flight.'"

"Ah! pardon me, madame, I made a mistake. That is a treatise on venery
written by a scientific man of Lucca for the famous Castruccio
Castracani. It stood next the other and was bound exactly like it. I
took down the wrong one. However, it is a very precious volume; there
are only three copies extant--one belongs to the library at Venice, the
other was bought by your grandfather Lorenzo and was offered by Pietro
de Médicis to King Charles VIII., when he visited Florence, and the
third you have in your hands."

"I venerate it," said Catharine, "because of its rarity, but as I do not
need it, I return it to you."

And she held out her right hand to Réné to receive the book which she
wished, while with her left hand she returned to him the one which she
had first taken.

This time Réné was not mistaken; it was the volume she wished. He
stepped down, turned the leaves for a moment, and gave it to her open.

Catharine went and sat down at a table. Réné placed the magic taper near
her and by the light of its bluish flame she read a few lines in an
undertone:

"Good!" said she, shutting the book; "that is all I wanted to know."

She rose from her seat, leaving the book on the table, but bearing away
the idea which had germinated in her mind and would ripen there.

Réné waited respectfully, taper in hand, until the queen, who seemed
about to retire, should give him fresh orders or ask fresh questions.

Catharine, with her head bent and her finger on her mouth, walked up and
down several times without speaking.

Then suddenly stopping before Réné, and fixing on him her eyes, round
and piercing like a hawk's:

"Confess you have made for her some love-philter," said she.

"For whom?" asked Réné, starting.

"La Sauve."

"I, madame?" said Réné; "never!"

"Never?"

"I swear it on my soul."

"There must be some magic in it, however, for he is desperately in love
with her, though he is not famous for his constancy."

"Who, madame?"

"He, Henry, the accursed,--he who is to succeed my three sons,--he who
shall one day be called Henry IV., and is yet the son of Jeanne
d'Albret."

And Catharine accompanied these words with a sigh which made Réné
shudder, for he thought of the famous gloves he had prepared by
Catharine's order for the Queen of Navarre.

"So he still runs after her, does he?" said Réné.

"He does," replied the queen.

"I thought that the King of Navarre was quite in love with his wife
now."

"A farce, Réné, a farce! I know not why, but every one is seeking to
deceive me. My daughter Marguerite is leagued against me; perhaps she,
too, is looking forward to the death of her brothers; perhaps she, too,
hopes to be Queen of France."

"Perhaps so," re-echoed Réné, falling back into his own reverie and
echoing Catharine's terrible suspicion.

"Ha! we shall see," said Catharine, going to the main door, for she
doubtless judged it useless to descend the secret stair, now that she
was sure that they were alone.

Réné preceded her, and in a few minutes they stood in the perfumer's
shop.

"You promised me some new kind of cosmetic for my hands and lips, Réné;
the winter is at hand and you know how sensitive my skin is to the
cold."

"I have already provided for this, madame; and I shall bring you some
to-morrow."

"You would not find me in before nine o'clock to-morrow evening; I shall
be occupied with my devotions during the day."

"I will be at the Louvre at nine o'clock, then, madame."

"Madame de Sauve has beautiful hands and beautiful lips," said Catharine
in a careless tone. "What pomade does she use?"

"For her hands?"

"Yes, for her hands first."

"Heliotrope."

"What for her lips?"

"She is going to try a new opiate of my invention. I was going to bring
your majesty a box of it at the same time."

Catharine mused an instant.

"She is certainly a very beautiful creature," said she, pursuing her
secret thoughts; "and the passion of the Béarnais for her is not strange
at all."

"And she is so devoted to your majesty," said Réné. "At least I should
think so."

Catharine smiled and shrugged her shoulders.

"When a woman loves, is she faithful to any one but her lover? You must
have given her some philter, Réné."

"I swear I have not, madame."

"Well, well; we'll say no more about it. Show me this new opiate you
spoke of, that is to make her lips fresher and rosier than ever."

Réné approached a shelf and showed Catharine six small boxes of the same
shape, _i.e._, round silver boxes ranged side by side.

"This is the only philter she ever asked me for," observed Réné; "it is
true, as your majesty says, I composed it expressly for her, for her
lips are so tender that the sun and wind affect them equally."

Catharine opened one of the boxes; it contained a most fascinating
carmine paste.

"Give me some paste for my hands, Réné," said she; "I will take it away
with me."

Réné took the taper, and went to seek, in a private compartment, what
the queen asked for. As he turned, he fancied that he saw the queen
quickly conceal a box under her mantle; he was, however, too familiar
with these little thefts of the queen mother to have the rudeness to
seem to perceive the movement; so wrapping the cosmetic she demanded in
a paper bag, ornamented with fleurs-de-lis:

"Here it is, madame," he said.

"Thanks, Réné," returned the queen; then, after a moment's silence: "Do
not give Madame de Sauve that paste for a week or ten days; I wish to
make the first trial of it myself."

And she prepared to go.

"Your majesty, do you desire me to accompany you?" asked Réné.

"Only to the end of the bridge," replied Catharine; "my gentlemen and my
litter wait for me there."

They left the house, and at the end of the Rue de la Barillerie four
gentlemen on horseback and a plain litter were waiting.

On his return Réné's first care was to count his boxes of opiates. One
was wanting.



CHAPTER XXI.

MADAME DE SAUVE'S APARTMENT.


Catharine was not deceived in her suspicions. Henry had resumed his
former habits and went every evening to Madame de Sauve's. At first he
accomplished this with the greatest secrecy; but gradually he grew
negligent and ceased to take any precautions, so that Catharine had no
trouble in finding out that while Marguerite was still nominally Queen
of Navarre, Madame de Sauve was the real queen.

At the beginning of this story we said a word or two about Madame de
Sauve's apartment; but the door opened by Dariole to the King of Navarre
closed hermetically behind him, so that these rooms, the scene of the
Béarnais's mysterious amours, are totally unknown to us. The quarters,
like those furnished by princes for their dependents in the palaces
occupied by them in order to have them within reach, were smaller and
less convenient than what she could have found in the city itself. As
the reader already knows, they were situated on the second floor of the
palace, almost immediately above those occupied by Henry himself. The
door opened into a corridor, the end of which was lighted by an arched
window with small leaded panes, so that even in the loveliest days of
the year only a dubious light filtered through. During the winter, after
three o'clock in the afternoon, it was necessary to light a lamp, but as
this contained no more oil than in summer, it went out by ten o'clock,
and thus, as soon as the winter days arrived, gave the two lovers the
greatest security.

A small antechamber, carpeted with yellow flowered damask; a
reception-room with hangings of blue velvet; a sleeping-room, the bed
adorned with twisted columns and rose-satin curtains, enshrining a
_ruelle_ ornamented with a looking-glass set in silver, and two
paintings representing the loves of Venus and Adonis,--such was the
residence, or as one would say nowadays the nest, of the lovely
lady-in-waiting to Queen Catharine de Médicis.

If one had looked sharply one would have found, opposite a toilet-table
provided with every accessory, a small door in a dark corner of this
room opening into a sort of oratory where, raised on two steps, stood a
_priedieu_. In this little chapel on the wall hung three or four
paintings, to the highest degree spiritual, as if to serve as a
corrective to the two mythological pictures which we mentioned. Among
these paintings were hung on gilded nails weapons such as women carried.

That evening, which was the one following the scenes which we have
described as taking place at Maître Réné's, Madame de Sauve, seated in
her bedroom on a couch, was telling Henry about her fears and her love,
and was giving him as a proof of her love the devotion which she had
shown on the famous night following Saint Bartholomew's, the night
which, it will be remembered, Henry spent in his wife's quarters.

Henry on his side was expressing his gratitude to her. Madame de Sauve
was charming that evening in her simple batiste wrapper; and Henry was
very grateful.

At the same time, as Henry was really in love, he was dreamy. Madame de
Sauve, who had come actually to love instead of pretending to love as
Catharine had commanded, kept gazing at Henry to see if his eyes were in
accord with his words.

"Come, now, Henry," she was saying, "be honest; that night which you
spent in the boudoir of her majesty the Queen of Navarre, with Monsieur
de la Mole at your feet, didn't you feel sorry that that worthy
gentleman was between you and the queen's bedroom?"

"Certainly I did, sweetheart," said Henry, "for the only way that I
could reach this room where I am so comfortable, where at this instant I
am so happy, was for me to pass through the queen's room."

Madame de Sauve smiled.

"And you have not been there since?"

"Only as I have told you."

"You will never go to her without informing me?"

"Never."

"Would you swear to it?"

"Certainly I would, if I were still a Huguenot, but"--

"But what?"

"But the Catholic religion, the dogmas of which I am now learning, teach
me that one must never take an oath."

"Gascon!" exclaimed Madame de Sauve, shaking her head.

"But now it is my turn, Charlotte," said Henry. "If I ask you some
questions, will you answer?"

"Certainly I will," replied the young woman, "I have nothing to hide
from you."

"Now look here, Charlotte," said the king, "explain to me just for once
how it came about that after the desperate resistance which you made to
me before my marriage, you became less cruel to me who am an awkward
Béarnais, an absurd provincial, a prince too poverty-stricken, indeed,
to keep the jewels of his crown polished."

"Henry," said Charlotte, "you are asking the explanation of the enigma
which the philosophers of all countries have been trying to determine
for the past three thousand years! Henry, never ask a woman why she
loves you; be satisfied with asking, 'Do you love me?'"

"Do you love me, Charlotte?" asked Henry.

"I love you," replied Madame de Sauve, with a fascinating smile,
dropping her pretty hand into her lover's.

Henry retained the hand.

"But," he went on to say, following out his thought, "supposing I have
guessed the word which the philosophers have been vainly trying to find
for three thousand years--at least as far as you are concerned,
Charlotte?"

Madame de Sauve blushed.

"You love me," pursued Henry, "consequently I have nothing else to ask
you and I consider myself the happiest man in the world. But you know
happiness is always accompanied by some lack. Adam, in the midst of
Eden, was not perfectly happy, and he bit into that miserable apple
which imposed upon us all that love for novelty that makes every one
spend his life in the search for something unknown. Tell me, my darling,
in order to help me to find mine, didn't Queen Catharine at first bid
you love me?"

"Henry," exclaimed Madame de Sauve, "speak lower when you speak of the
queen mother!"

"Oh!" exclaimed Henry, with a spontaneity and boldness which deceived
Madame de Sauve herself, "it was a good thing formerly to distrust her,
kind mother that she is, but then we were not on good terms; but now
that I am her daughter's husband"--

"Madame Marguerite's husband!" exclaimed Charlotte, flushing with
jealousy.

"Speak low in your turn," said Henry; "now that I am her daughter's
husband we are the best friends in the world. What was it they wanted?
For me to become a Catholic, so it seems. Well, grace has touched me,
and by the intercession of Saint Bartholomew I have become one. We live
together like brethren in a happy family--like good Christians."

"And Queen Marguerite?"

"Queen Marguerite?" repeated Henry; "oh, well, she is the link uniting
us."

"But, Henry, you said that the Queen of Navarre, as a reward for the
devotion I showed her, had been generous to me. If what you say is true,
if this generosity, for which I have cherished deep gratitude toward
her, is genuine, she is a connecting link easy to break. So you cannot
trust to this support, for you have not made your pretended intimacy
impose on any one."

"Still I do rest on it, and for three months it has been the bolster on
which I have slept."

"Then, Henry!" cried Madame de Sauve, "you have deceived me, and Madame
Marguerite is really your wife."

Henry smiled.

"There, Henry," said Madame de Sauve, "you have given me one of those
exasperating smiles which make me feel the cruel desire to scratch your
eyes out, king though you are."

"Then," said Henry, "I seem to be imposing now by means of this
pretended friendship, since there are moments when, king though I am,
you desire to scratch out my eyes, because you believe that it exists!"

"Henry! Henry!" said Madame de Sauve, "I believe that God himself does
not know what your thoughts are."

"My sweetheart," said Henry, "I think that Catharine first told you to
love me, next, that your heart told you the same thing, and that when
those two voices are speaking to you, you hear only your heart's. Now
here I am. I love you and love you with my whole heart, and that is the
very reason why if ever I should have secrets I should not confide them
to you,--for fear of compromising you, of course,--for the queen's
friendship is changeable, it is a mother-in-law's."

This was not what Charlotte expected; it seemed to her that the
thickening veil between her and her lover every time she tried to sound
the depths of his bottomless heart was assuming the consistency of a
wall, and was separating them from each other. So she felt the tears
springing to her eyes as he made this answer, and as it struck ten
o'clock just at that moment:

"Sire," said Charlotte, "it is my bed-time; my duties call me very early
to-morrow morning to the queen mother."

"So you drive me away to-night, do you, sweetheart?"

"Henry, I am sad. As I am sad, you would find me tedious and you would
not like me any more. You see that it is better for you to withdraw."

"Very good," said Henry, "I will withdraw if you insist upon it, only,
_ventre saint gris_! you must at least grant me the favor of staying for
your toilet."

"But Queen Marguerite, sire! won't you keep her waiting if you remain?"

"Charlotte," replied Henry, gravely, "it was agreed between us that we
should never mention the Queen of Navarre, but it seems to me that this
evening we have talked about nothing but her."

Madame de Sauve sighed; then she went and sat down before her
toilet-table. Henry took a chair, pulled it along toward the one that
served as his mistress's seat, and setting one knee on it while he
leaned on the back of the other, he said:

"Come, my good little Charlotte, let me see you make yourself beautiful,
and beautiful for me whatever you said. Heavens! What things! What
scent-bottles, what powders, what phials, what perfumery boxes!"

"It seems a good deal," said Charlotte, with a sigh, "and yet it is too
little, since with it all I have not as yet found the means of reigning
exclusively over your majesty's heart."

"There!" exclaimed Henry; "let us not fall back on politics! What is
that little fine delicate brush? Should it not be for painting the
eyebrows of my Olympian Jupiter?"

"Yes, sire," replied Madame de Sauve, "and you have guessed at the first
shot!"

"And that pretty little ivory rake?"

"'Tis for parting the hair!"

"And that charming little silver box with a chased cover?"

"Oh, that is something Réné sent, sire; 'tis the famous opiate which he
has been promising me so long--to make still sweeter the lips which your
majesty has been good enough sometimes to find rather sweet."

And Henry, as if to test what the charming woman said, touched his lips
to the ones which she was looking at so attentively in the mirror. Now
that they were returning to the field of coquetry, the cloud began to
lift from the baroness's brow. She took up the box which had thus been
explained, and was just going to show Henry how the vermilion salve was
used, when a sharp rap at the antechamber door startled the two lovers.

"Some one is knocking, madame," said Dariole, thrusting her head through
the opening of the portière.

"Go and find out who it is, and come back," said Madame de Sauve. Henry
and Charlotte looked at each other anxiously, and Henry was beginning to
think of retiring to the oratory, in which he had already more than once
taken refuge, when Dariole reappeared.

"Madame," said she, "it is Maître Réné, the perfumer."

At this name Henry frowned, and involuntarily bit his lips.

"Do you want me to refuse him admission?" asked Charlotte.

"No!" said Henry; "Maître Réné never does anything without having
previously thought about it. If he comes to you, it is because he has a
reason for coming."

"In that case, do you wish to hide?"

"I shall be careful not to," said Henry, "for Maître Réné knows
everything; therefore Maître Réné knows that I am here."

"But has not your majesty some reason for thinking his presence painful
to you?"

"I!" said Henry, making an effort, which in spite of his will-power he
could not wholly dissimulate. "I! none at all! we are rather cool to
each other, it is true; but since the night of Saint Bartholomew we have
been reconciled."

"Let him enter!" said Madame de Sauve to Dariole.

A moment later Réné appeared, and took in the whole room at a glance.

Madame de Sauve was still before her toilet-table.

Henry had resumed his place on the couch.

Charlotte was in the light, and Henry in the shadow.

"Madame," said Réné, with respectful familiarity, "I have come to offer
my apologies."

"For what, Réné?" asked Madame de Sauve, with that condescension which
pretty women always use towards the world of tradespeople who surround
them, and whose duty it is to make them more beautiful.

"Because long ago I promised to work for these pretty lips, and
because"--

"Because you did not keep your promise until to-day; is that it?" asked
Charlotte.

"Until to-day?" repeated Réné.

"Yes; it was only to-day, in fact, this evening, that I received the box
you sent me."

"Ah! indeed!" said Réné, looking strangely at the small opiate box on
Madame de Sauve's table, which was precisely like those he had in his
shop. "I thought so!" he murmured. "And you have used it?"

"No, not yet. I was just about to try it as you entered." Réné's face
assumed a dreamy expression which did not escape Henry. Indeed, very few
things escaped him.

"Well, Réné, what are you going to do now?" asked the king.

"I? Nothing, sire," said the perfumer, "I am humbly waiting until your
majesty speaks to me, before taking leave of Madame la Baronne."

"Come, now!" said Henry, smiling. "Do you need my word to know that it
is a pleasure to me to see you?"

Réné glanced around him, made a tour of the room as if to sound the
doors and the curtains with his eye and ear, then he stopped and
standing so that he could embrace at a glance both Madame de Sauve and
Henry:

"I do not know it," said he, thanks to that admirable instinct which
like a sixth sense guided him during the first part of his life in the
midst of impending dangers. Henry felt that at that moment something
strangely resembling a struggle was passing through the mind of the
perfumer, and turned towards him, still in the shadow, while the
Florentine's face was in the light.

"You here at this hour, Réné?" said he.

"Am I unfortunate enough to be in your majesty's way?" asked the
perfumer, stepping back.

"No, but I want to know one thing."

"What, sire?"

"Did you think you would find me here?"

"I was sure of it."

"You wanted me, then?"

"I am glad to have found you, at least."

"Have you something to say to me?" persisted Henry.

"Perhaps, sire!" replied Réné.

Charlotte blushed, for she feared that the revelation which the perfumer
seemed anxious to make might have something to do with her conduct
towards Henry. Therefore she acted as though, having been wholly
engrossed with her toilet, she had heard nothing, and interrupted the
conversation.

"Ah! really, Réné," said she, opening the opiate box, "you are a
delightful man. This cake is a marvellous color, and since you are here
I am going to honor you by experimenting with your new production."

She took the box in one hand, and with the other touched the tip of her
finger to the rose paste, which she was about to raise to her lips.

Réné gave a start.

The baroness smilingly lifted the opiate to her mouth.

Réné turned pale.

Still in the shadow, but with fixed and glowing eyes, Henry lost neither
the action of the one nor the shudder of the other.

Charlotte's hand had but a short distance to go before it would touch
her lips when Réné seized her arm, just as Henry rose to do so.

Henry fell back noiselessly on the couch.

"One moment, madame," said Réné, with a constrained smile, "you must not
use this opiate without special directions."

"Who will give me these directions?"

"I."

"When?"

"As soon as I have finished saying what I have to say to his Majesty the
King of Navarre."

Charlotte opened her eyes wide, understanding nothing of the mysterious
language about her, and sat with the opiate pot in one hand, gazing at
the tip of her finger, red with the rouge.

Henry rose, and moved by a thought which, like all those of the young
king, had two sides, one which seemed superficial, the other which was
deep, he took Charlotte's hand and red as it was, made as though to
raise it to his lips.

"One moment," said Réné, quickly, "one moment! Be kind enough, madame,
to rinse your lovely hands with this soap from Naples which I neglected
to send you at the same time as the rouge, and which I have the honor of
bringing you now."

Drawing from its silver wrapping a cake of green soap, he put it in a
vermilion basin, poured some water over it, and, with one knee on the
floor, offered it to Madame de Sauve.

"Why, really, Maître Réné, I no longer recognize you," said Henry, "you
are so gallant that you far outstrip every court fop."

"Oh, what a delicious perfume!" cried Charlotte, rubbing her beautiful
hands with the pearly foam made by the scented cake.

Réné performed his office of courtier to the end. He offered a napkin of
fine Frisian linen to Madame de Sauve, who dried her hands on it.

"Now," said the Florentine to Henry. "Let your mind be at rest,
monseigneur."

Charlotte gave her hand to Henry, who kissed it, and while she half
turned on her chair to listen to what Réné was about to say, the King of
Navarre returned to his couch, more convinced than ever that something
unusual was passing through the mind of the perfumer.

"Well?" asked Charlotte. The Florentine apparently made an effort to
collect all his strength, and then turned towards Henry.



CHAPTER XXII.

"SIRE, YOU SHALL BE KING."


"Sire," said Réné to Henry, "I have come to speak of something which has
been on my mind for some time."

"Perfumery?" said Henry, smiling.

"Well, yes, sire,--perfumery," replied Réné, with a singular nod of
acquiescence.

"Speak, I am listening to you. This is a subject which has always
interested me deeply."

Réné looked at Henry to try, in spite of his words, to read the
impenetrable thought; but seeing that it was perfectly impossible, he
continued:

"One of my friends, sire, has just arrived from Florence. This friend is
greatly interested in astrology."

"Yes," interrupted Henry, "I know that it is a passion with
Florentines."

"In company with the foremost students of the world he has read the
horoscopes of the chief gentlemen of Europe."

"Ah! ah!" exclaimed Henry.

"And as the house of Bourbon is at the head of the highest, descended as
it is from the Count of Clermont, the fifth son of Saint Louis, your
majesty must know that your horoscope has not been overlooked."

Henry listened still more attentively.

"Do you remember this horoscope?" said the King of Navarre, with a smile
which he strove to render indifferent.

"Oh!" replied Réné, shaking his head, "your horoscope is not one to be
forgotten."

"Indeed!" said Henry, ironically.

"Yes, sire; according to this horoscope your majesty is to have a most
brilliant destiny."

The young prince gave a lightning glance which was almost at once lost
under cover of indifference.

"Every Italian oracle is apt to flatter," said Henry; "but he who
flatters lies. Are there not those who have predicted that I would
command armies? I!" He burst out laughing. But an observer less occupied
with himself than Réné would have noticed and realized the effort of
this laugh.

"Sire," said Réné, coldly, "the horoscope tells better than that."

"Does it foretell that at the head of one of these armies I shall win
battles?"

"Better than that, sire."

"Well," said Henry; "you will see that I shall be conqueror!"

"Sire, you shall be king."

"Well! _Ventre saint gris_!" exclaimed Henry, repressing a violent
beating of his heart; "am I not that already?"

"Sire, my friend knows what he promises; not only will you be king, but
you will reign."

"In that case," said Henry, in the same mocking tone, "your friend must
have ten crowns of gold, must he not, Réné? for such a prophecy is very
ambitious, especially in times like these. Well, Réné, as I am not rich,
I will give your friend five now and five more when the prophecy is
fulfilled."

"Sire," said Madame de Sauve, "do not forget that you are already
pledged to Dariole, and do not overburden yourself with promises."

"Madame," said Henry, "I hope when this time comes that I shall be
treated as a king, and that they will be satisfied if I keep half of my
promises."

"Sire," said Réné, "I will continue."

"Oh, that is not all, then?" said Henry. "Well, if I am emperor, I will
give twice as much."

"Sire, my friend has returned from Florence with the horoscope, which he
renewed in Paris, and which always gives the same result; and he told me
a secret."

"A secret of interest to his majesty?" asked Charlotte, quickly.

"I think so," said the Florentine.

"He is searching for words," thought Henry, without in any way coming to
Réné's rescue. "Apparently the thing is difficult to tell."

"Speak, then," went on the Baroness de Sauve; "what is it about?"

"It is about all the rumors of poisoning," said the Florentine, weighing
each of his words separately, "it is about all the rumors of poisoning
which for some time have been circulated around court." A slight
movement of the nostrils of the King of Navarre was the only indication
of his increased attention at the sudden turn in the conversation.

"And your friend the Florentine," said Henry, "knows something about
this poisoning?"

"Yes, sire."

"How can you tell me a secret which is not yours, Réné, especially when
the secret is such an important one?" said Henry, in the most natural
tone he could assume.

"This friend has some advice to ask of your majesty."

"Of me?"

"What is there surprising in that, sire? Remember the old soldier of
Actium who, having a law-suit on hand, asked advice of Augustus."

"Augustus was a lawyer, Réné, and I am not."

"Sire, when my friend confided this secret to me, your majesty still
belonged to the Calvinist party, of which you were the chief head, and
of which Monsieur de Condé was the second."

"Well?" said Henry.

"This friend hoped that you would use your all-powerful influence over
Monsieur de Condé and beg him not to be hostile to him."

"Explain this to me, Réné, if you wish me to understand it," said Henry,
without betraying the least change in his face or voice.

"Sire, your majesty will understand at the first word. This friend knows
all the particulars of the attempt to poison Monseigneur de Condé."

"There has been an attempt to poison the Prince de Condé?" exclaimed
Henry with a well-assumed astonishment. "Ah, indeed, and when was this?"

Réné looked fixedly at the king, and replied merely by these words:

"A week ago, your majesty."

"Some enemy?" asked the king.

"Yes," replied Réné, "an enemy whom your majesty knows and who knows
your majesty."

"As a matter of fact," said Henry, "I think I have heard this mentioned,
but I am ignorant of the details which your friend has to reveal. Tell
them to me."

"Well, a perfumed apple was offered to the Prince of Condé. Fortunately,
however, when it was brought to him his physician was with him. He took
it from the hands of the messenger and smelled it to test its odor and
soundness. Two days later a gangrene swelling of the face, an
extravasation of the blood, a running sore which ate away his face, were
the price of his devotion or the result of his imprudence."

"Unfortunately," replied Henry, "being half Catholic already, I have
lost all influence over Monsieur de Condé. Your friend was wrong,
therefore, in addressing himself to me."

"It was not only in regard to the Prince de Condé that your majesty
could be of use to my friend, but in regard to the Prince de Porcian
also, the brother of the one who was poisoned."

"Ah!" exclaimed Charlotte, "do you know, Réné, that your stories partake
of the gruesome? You plead at a poor time. It is late, your conversation
is death-like. Really, your perfumes are worth more." Charlotte again
extended her hand towards the opiate box.

"Madame," said Réné, "before testing that, as you are about to do, hear
what cruel results wicked men can draw from it."

"Really, Réné," said the baroness, "you are funereal this evening."

Henry frowned, but he understood that Réné wished to reach a goal which
he did not yet see, and he resolved to push towards this end the
conversation which awakened in him such painful memories.

"And," he continued, "you knew the details of the poisoning of the
Prince de Porcian?"

"Yes," said he. "It is known that every night he left a lamp burning
near his bed; the oil was poisoned and he was asphyxiated."

Henry clinched his fingers, which were damp with perspiration.

"So," he murmured, "he whom you call your friend knows not only the
details of the poisoning, but the author of it?"

"Yes, and it is for this reason that he wished to ask you if you would
use over the Prince of Porcian the remains of that influence and have
the murderer pardoned for the death of his brother."

"Unfortunately," replied Henry, "still being half Huguenot, I have no
influence over Monsieur le Prince de Porcian; your friend therefore
would have done wrong in speaking to me."

"But what do you think of the intentions of Monsieur le Prince de Condé
and of Monsieur de Porcian?"

"How should I know their intentions, Réné? God, whom I may know, has not
given me the privilege of reading their hearts."

"Your majesty must ask yourself," said the Florentine calmly. "Is there
not in the life of your majesty some event so gloomy that it can serve
as a test of clemency, so painful that it is a touchstone for
generosity?"

These words were uttered in a tone which made Charlotte herself tremble.
It was an allusion so direct, so pointed, that the young woman turned
aside to hide her blush, and to avoid meeting Henry's eyes. Henry made a
supreme effort over himself; his forehead, which during the words of the
Florentine wore threatening lines, unbent, and he changed the dignified,
filial grief which tightened his heart into vague meditation.

"In my life," said he, "a gloomy circumstance--no, Réné, no; I remember
in my youth only folly and carelessness mingled with more or less cruel
necessity imposed on every one by the demands of nature and the proofs
of God."

Réné in turn became constrained as he glanced from Henry to Charlotte,
as though to rouse the one and hold back the other; for Charlotte had
returned to her toilet to hide the anxiety caused by their conversation,
and had again extended her hand towards the opiate box.

"But, sire, if you were the brother of the Prince of Porcian or the son
of the Prince of Condé, and if they had poisoned your brother or
assassinated your father"--Charlotte uttered a slight cry and raised the
opiate to her lips. Réné saw the gesture, but this time he stopped her
neither by word nor gesture; he merely exclaimed:

"In Heaven's name, sire, answer! Sire, if you were in their place what
would you do?"

Henry recovered himself. With trembling hand he wiped his forehead, on
which stood drops of cold perspiration, and rising to his full height,
replied in the midst of the silence which until then had held Réné and
Charlotte:

"If I were in their place, and if I were sure of being king, that is,
sure of representing God on earth, I would act like God, I should
pardon."

"Madame," cried Réné, snatching the opiate from the hands of Madame de
Sauve, "madame, give me back this box; my messenger boy, I see, has made
a mistake in it. To-morrow I will send you another."



CHAPTER XXIII.

A NEW CONVERT.


The following day there was to be a hunt in the forest of Saint Germain.

Henry had ordered a small Béarnais horse to be made ready for him; that
is, to be saddled and bridled at eight o'clock in the morning. He had
intended giving this horse to Madame de Sauve, but he wanted to try it
first. At a quarter before eight the horse was ready. On the stroke of
eight Henry came down to the court-yard. The horse, proud and fiery in
spite of its small size, pricked up its ears and pawed the ground. The
weather was cold and a light frost covered the pavement. Henry started
to cross the court-yard to the stables where the horse and the groom
were waiting, when a Swiss soldier whom he passed standing sentinel at
the gate presented arms and said:

"God keep his Majesty the King of Navarre."

At this wish and especially at the tone in which it was uttered the
Béarnais started.

He turned and stepped back.

"De Mouy!" he murmured.

"Yes, sire, De Mouy."

"What are you doing here?"

"Looking for you."

"Why are you looking for me?"

"I must speak to your majesty."

"Unfortunately," said the king, approaching him, "do you not know you
risk your head?"

"I know it."

"Well?"

"Well, I am here."

Henry turned slightly pale, for he knew that he shared the danger run by
this rash young man. He looked anxiously about him, and stepped back a
second time, no less quickly than he had done at first. He had seen the
Duc d'Alençon at a window.

At once changing his manner Henry took the musket from the hands of De
Mouy, standing, as we have said, sentinel, and while apparently
measuring it:

"De Mouy," said he, "it is certainly not without some very strong motive
that you have come to beard the lion in his den in this way?"

"No, sire, I have waited for you a week; only yesterday I heard that
your majesty was to try a horse this morning, and I took my position at
the gate of the Louvre."

"But how in this uniform?"

"The captain of the company is a Protestant and is one of my friends."

"Here is your musket; return to your duty of sentinel. We are watched.
As I come back I will try to say a word to you, but if I do not speak,
do not stop me. Adieu."

De Mouy resumed his measured walk, and Henry advanced towards the house.

"What is that pretty little animal?" asked the Duc d'Alençon from his
window.

"A horse I am going to try this morning," replied Henry.

"But that is not a horse for a man."

"Therefore it is intended for a beautiful woman."

"Take care, Henry; you are going to be indiscreet, for we shall see this
beautiful woman at the hunt; and if I do not know whose knight you are,
I shall at least know whose equerry you are."

"No, my lord, you will not know," said Henry, with his feigned
good-humor, "for this beautiful woman cannot go out this morning; she is
indisposed."

He sprang into the saddle.

"Ah, bah!" cried d'Alençon, laughing; "poor Madame de Sauve."

"François! François! it is you who are indiscreet."

"What is the matter with the beautiful Charlotte?" went on the Duc
d'Alençon.

"Why," replied Henry, spurring his horse to a gallop, and making him
describe a graceful curve; "why, I have no idea,--a heaviness in the
head, according to what Dariole tells me. A torpor of the whole body; in
short, general debility."

"And will this prevent you from joining us?" asked the duke.

"I? Why should it?" asked Henry. "You know that I dote on a hunt, and
that nothing could make me miss one."

"But you will miss this one, Henry," said the duke, after he had turned
and spoken for an instant with some one unnoticed by Henry, who
addressed François from the rear of the room, "for his Majesty tells me
that the hunt cannot take place."

"Bah!" said Henry, in the most disappointed tone imaginable. "Why not?"

"Very important letters from Monsieur de Nevers, it seems. There is a
council among the King, the queen mother, and my brother the Duc
d'Anjou."

"Ah! ah!" said Henry to himself, "could any news have come from Poland?"

Then aloud:

"In that case," he continued, "it is useless for me to run any further
risk on this frost. Good-by, brother!"

Pulling up his horse in front of De Mouy:

"My friend," said he, "call one of your comrades to finish your sentinel
duty for you. Help the groom ungirth my horse. Put the saddle over your
head and carry it to the saddler's; there is some embroidery to be done
on it, which there was not time to finish for to-day. You will bring an
answer to my apartments."

De Mouy hastened to obey, for the Duc d'Alençon had disappeared from his
window, and it was evident that he suspected something.

In fact, scarcely had De Mouy disappeared through the gate before the
Duc d'Alençon came in sight. A real Swiss was in De Mouy's place.
D'Alençon looked carefully at the new sentinel; then turning to Henry:

"This is not the man you were talking with just now, is it, brother?"

"The other is a young man who belongs to my household and whom I had
enter the Swiss guards. I have just given him a commission and he has
gone to carry it out."

"Ah!" said the duke, as if this reply sufficed. "And how is Marguerite?"

"I am going to ask her, brother."

"Have you not seen her since yesterday?"

"No. I went to her about eleven o'clock last night, but Gillonne told me
that she was tired and had gone to sleep."

"You will not find her in her room. She has gone out."

"Oh!" said Henry. "Very likely. She was to go to the _Convent de
l'Annonciade_."

There was no way of carrying the conversation further, as Henry had
seemingly made up his mind simply to answer. The two brothers-in-law
therefore departed, the Duc d'Alençon to go for news, he said, the King
of Navarre to return to his room.

Henry had been there scarcely five minutes when he heard a knock at the
door.

"Who is it?" he asked.

"Sire," replied a voice which Henry recognized as that of De Mouy, "it
is the answer from the saddler."

Henry, visibly moved, bade the young man enter and closed the door
behind him.

"Is it you, De Mouy?" said he; "I hoped that you would reflect."

"Sire," replied De Mouy, "I have reflected for three months; that is
long enough. Now it is time to act." Henry made a gesture of impatience.

"Fear nothing, sire, we are alone, and I will make haste, for time is
precious. Your majesty can tell in a word all that the events of the
year have lost to the cause of religion. Let us be clear, brief, and
frank."

"I am listening, my good De Mouy," replied Henry, seeing that it was
impossible for him to elude the explanation.

"Is it true that your majesty has abjured the Protestant religion?"

"It is true," said Henry.

"Yes, but is it with your lips or at heart?"

"One is always grateful to God when he saves our life," replied Henry,
turning the question as he had a habit of doing in such cases, "and God
has evidently saved me from this cruel danger."

"Sire," resumed De Mouy, "let us admit one thing."

"What?"

"That your abjuring is not a matter of conviction, but of calculation.
You have abjured so that the King would let you live, and not because
God has saved your life."

"Whatever the cause of my conversion, De Mouy," replied Henry, "I am
none the less a Catholic."

"Yes, but shall you always be one? The first chance you have for
resuming your freedom of life and of conscience, will you not resume it?
Well! this opportunity has presented itself. La Rochelle has revolted,
Roussillon and Béarn are merely waiting for one word before acting. In
Guyenne every one cries for war. Merely tell me if you were forced into
taking this step, and I will answer for the future."

"A gentleman of my birth is not forced, my dear De Mouy. That which I
have done, I have done voluntarily."

"But, sire," said the young man, his heart oppressed with this
resistance which he had not expected, "you do not remember that in
acting thus you abandon and betray us."

Henry was unmoved.

"Yes," went on De Mouy, "yes, you betray us, sire, for several of us, at
the risk of our lives, have come to save your honor and your liberty; we
are prepared to offer you a throne, sire; do you realize this? not only
liberty, but power; a throne of your own choice, for in two months you
could choose between Navarre and France."

"De Mouy," said Henry, covering his eyes, which in spite of himself had
emitted a flash at the above suggestion, "De Mouy, I am safe, I am a
Catholic, I am the husband of Marguerite, I am the brother of King
Charles, I am the son-in-law of my good mother Catharine. De Mouy, in
assuming these various positions, I have calculated their opportunities
and also their obligations."

"But, sire," said De Mouy, "what must one believe? I am told that your
marriage is not contracted, that at heart you are free, that the hatred
of Catharine"--

"Lies, lies," interrupted the Béarnais hastily. "Yes, you have been
shamefully deceived, my friend; this dear Marguerite is indeed my wife,
Catharine is really my mother, and King Charles IX. is the lord and
master of my life and of my heart."

De Mouy shuddered, and an almost scornful smile passed over his lips.

"In that case, sire," said he dropping his arms dejectedly, and trying
to fathom that soul filled with shadows, "this is the answer I am to
take back to my brothers,--I shall tell them that the King of Navarre
extends his hand and opens his heart to those who have cut our throats;
I shall tell them that he has become the flatterer of the queen mother
and the friend of Maurevel."

"My dear De Mouy," said Henry, "the King is coming out of the council
chamber, and I must go and find out from him the reasons for our having
had to give up so important a thing as a hunt. Adieu; imitate me, my
friend, give up politics, return to the King and attend mass."

Henry led or rather pushed into the antechamber the young man, whose
amazement was beginning to change into fury.

Scarcely was the door closed before, unable any longer to resist the
longing to avenge himself on something in defence of some one, De Mouy
twisted his hat between his hands, threw it upon the floor, and stamping
on it as a bull would stamp on the cloak of the matador:

"By Heaven!" he cried, "he is a wretched prince, and I have half a mind
to kill myself here in order to stain him forever with my blood."

"Hush, Monsieur de Mouy!" said a voice through a half-open door; "hush!
some one besides myself might hear you."

De Mouy turned quickly and perceived the Duc d'Alençon enveloped in a
cloak, advancing into the corridor with pale face, to make sure that he
and De Mouy were entirely alone.

"Monsieur le Duc d'Alençon," cried De Mouy, "I am lost!"

"On the contrary," murmured the prince, "perhaps you have found what you
are looking for, and the proof of this is that I do not want you to kill
yourself here as you had an idea of doing just now. Believe me, your
blood can in all probability be put to better use than to redden the
threshold of the King of Navarre."

At these words the duke threw back the door which he had been holding
half open.

"This chamber belongs to two of my gentlemen," said the duke. "No one
will interrupt us here. We can, therefore, talk freely. Come in,
monsieur."

"I, here, monseigneur!" cried the conspirator in amazement. He entered
the room, the door of which the Duc d'Alençon closed behind him no less
quickly than the King of Navarre had done.

De Mouy entered, furious, exasperated, cursing. But by degrees the cold
and steady glance of the young Duc François had the same effect on the
Huguenot captain as does the enchanted lake which dissipates
drunkenness.

"Monseigneur," said he, "if I understand correctly, your highness wishes
to speak to me."

"Yes, Monsieur de Mouy," replied François. "In spite of your disguise I
thought I recognized you, and when you presented arms to my brother
Henry, I recognized you perfectly. Well, De Mouy, so you are not pleased
with the King of Navarre?"

"Monseigneur!"

"Come, come! tell me frankly, unless you distrust me; perhaps I am one
of your friends."

"You, monseigneur?"

"Yes, I; so speak."

"I do not know what to say to your highness, monseigneur. The matter I
had to discuss with the King of Navarre concerned interests which your
highness would not comprehend. Moreover," added De Mouy with a manner
which he strove to render indifferent, "they were mere trifles."

"Trifles?" said the duke.

"Yes, monseigneur."

"Trifles, for which you felt you would risk your life by coming back to
the Louvre, where you know your head is worth its weight in gold. We are
not ignorant of the fact that you, as well as the King of Navarre and
the Prince de Condé, are one of the leaders of the Huguenots."

"If you think that, monseigneur, act towards me as the brother of King
Charles and the son of Queen Catharine should act."

"Why should you wish me to act in that way, when I have told you that I
am a friend of yours? Tell me the truth."

"Monseigneur," said De Mouy, "I swear to you"--

"Do not swear, monseigneur; the reformed church forbids the taking of
oaths, and especially of false oaths."

De Mouy frowned.

"I tell you I know all," continued the duke.

De Mouy was still silent.

"You doubt it?" said the prince with affected persistence. "Well, my
dear De Mouy, we shall have to be convinced. Come, now, you shall judge
if I am wrong. Did you or did you not propose to my brother-in-law
Henry, in his room just now," the duke pointed to the chamber of the
Béarnais, "your aid and that of your followers to reinstate him in his
kingdom of Navarre?"

De Mouy looked at the duke with a startled gaze.

"A proposition which he refused with terror."

De Mouy was still amazed.

"Did you then invoke your old friendship, the remembrance of a common
religion? Did you even hold out to the King of Navarre a very brilliant
hope, a hope so brilliant that he was dazzled by it--the hope of winning
the crown of France? Come, tell me; am I well informed? Is that what you
came to propose to the Béarnais?"

"Monseigneur!" cried De Mouy, "this is so true, that I now wonder if I
should not tell your royal highness that you have lied! to arouse in
this chamber a combat without mercy, and thus to make sure of the
extinction of this terrible secret by the death of both of us."

"Gently, my brave De Mouy, gently!" said the Duc d'Alençon without
changing countenance, or without taking the slightest notice of this
terrible threat.

"The secret will die better with us if we both live than if one of us
were to die. Listen to me, and stop pulling at the handle of your sword.
For the third time I say that you are with a friend. Now tell me, did
not the King of Navarre refuse everything you offered him?"

"Yes, monseigneur, and I admit it, because my avowal can compromise only
myself."

"On leaving his room did you not stamp on your hat, and cry out that he
was a cowardly prince, and unworthy of being your leader?"

"That is true, monseigneur, I said that."

"Ah! you did? you admit it at last?"

"Yes."

"And this is still your opinion?"

"More than ever, monseigneur."

"Well, am I, Monsieur de Mouy, I, the third son of Henry II., I, a son
of France, am I a good enough gentleman to command your soldiers? Come,
now; do you think me loyal enough for you to trust my word?"

"You, monseigneur! you, the leader of the Huguenots!"

"Why not? This is an epoch of conversions, you know. Henry has turned
Catholic; I can turn Protestant."

"Yes, no doubt, monseigneur; so I am waiting for you to explain to me"--

"Nothing is easier; and in two words I can tell you the policy of every
one. My brother Charles kills the Huguenots in order to reign more
freely. My brother of Anjou lets them be killed because he is to succeed
my brother Charles, and because, as you know, my brother Charles is
often ill. But with me it is entirely different. I shall never reign--at
least in France--as long as I have two elder brothers. The hatred of my
mother and of my two brothers more than the law of nature keeps me from
the throne. I have no claim to any family affection, any glory, or any
kingdom. Yet I have a heart as great as my elder brother's. Well, De
Mouy, I want to look about and with my sword cut a kingdom out of this
France they cover with blood. Now this is what I want, De Mouy, listen:
I want to be King of Navarre, not by birth but by election. And note
well that you have no objection to this system. I am not a usurper,
since my brother refuses your offers, and buries himself in his torpor,
and pretends aloud that this kingdom of Navarre is only a myth. With
Henry of Béarn you have nothing. With me, you have a sword and a name,
François d'Alençon, son of France, protector of all his companions or
all his accomplices, as you are pleased to call them. Well, what do you
say to this offer, Monsieur de Mouy?"

"I say that it dazzles me, monseigneur."

"De Mouy, De Mouy, we shall have many obstacles to overcome. Do not,
therefore, from the first be so exacting and so obstinate towards the
son of a king and the brother of a king who comes to you."

"Monseigneur, the matter would be already settled if my opinion were
the only one to be considered, but we have a council, and brilliant as
the offer may be, perhaps even on that very account the leaders of the
party will not consent to the plan unconditionally."

"That is another thing, and your answer comes from an honest heart and a
prudent mind. From the way I have just acted, De Mouy, you must have
recognized my honesty. Treat me, therefore, on your part as a man who is
esteemed, not as a man who is flattered. De Mouy, have I any chance?"

"On my word, monseigneur, since your highness wants me to give my
opinion, your highness has every chance, since the King of Navarre has
refused the offer I have just made him. But I tell you again,
monseigneur, I shall have to confer with our leaders."

"Do so, monsieur," replied d'Alençon. "But when shall I have an answer?"

De Mouy looked at the prince in silence. Then apparently coming to a
decision:

"Monseigneur," said he, "give me your hand. I must have the hand of a
son of France touch mine to make sure that I shall not be betrayed."

The duke not only extended his hand towards De Mouy, but grasped De
Mouy's and pressed it.

"Now, monseigneur, I am satisfied," said the young Huguenot. "If we were
betrayed I should say that you had nothing to do with it; otherwise,
monseigneur, however slightly you might be concerned in the treason, you
would be dishonored."

"Why do you say that to me, De Mouy, before telling me that you will
bring me the answer from your leaders?"

"Because, monseigneur, asking me when you would have your answer was the
same as asking me where are the leaders, and because if I said to you,
'This evening,' you would know that the chiefs were hiding in Paris." As
he uttered these words, with a gesture of mistrust, De Mouy fixed his
piercing glance on the false vacillating eyes of the young man.

"Well, well," said the duke, "you still have doubts, Monsieur de Mouy.
But I cannot expect entire confidence from you at first. You will
understand me better later. We shall be bound by common interests which
will rid you of all suspicion. You say this evening, then, Monsieur de
Mouy?"

"Yes, monseigneur, for time presses. Until this evening. But where shall
I see you, if you please?"

"At the Louvre, here in this room; does that suit you?"

"Is this occupied?" said De Mouy, glancing at the two beds opposite each
other.

"By two of my gentlemen, yes."

"Monseigneur, it seems to me imprudent to return to the Louvre."

"Why so?"

"Because if you have recognized me, others also may have as good eyes as
your highness, and may recognize me. However, I will return to the
Louvre if you will grant me what I am about to ask of you."

"What is that?"

"A passport."

"A passport from me found on you would ruin me and would not save you. I
can do nothing for you unless in the eyes of the world we are strangers
to each other; the slightest relation between us, noticed by my mother
or my brother, would cost me my life. You were therefore protected by my
interest for myself from the moment I compromised myself with the
others, as I am now compromising myself with you. Free in my sphere of
action, strong if I am unknown, so long as I myself remain impenetrable,
I will guarantee you everything. Do not forget this. Make a fresh appeal
to your courage, therefore. Try on my word of honor what you tried
without the word of honor of my brother. Come this evening to the
Louvre."

"But how do you wish me to come? I can not venture in these rooms in my
present uniform--it is for the vestibules and the courts. My own is
still more dangerous, since everyone knows me here, and since it in no
way disguises me."

"Therefore I will look--wait--I think that--yes, here it is."

The duke had looked around him, and his eyes stopped at La Mole's
clothes, thrown temporarily on the bed; that is, on the magnificent
cherry-colored cloak embroidered in gold, of which we have already
spoken; on a cap ornamented with a white plume surrounded by a rope of
gold and silver marguerites, and finally on a pearl-gray satin and gold
doublet.

"Do you see this cloak, this plume, and this doublet?" said the duke;
"they belong to Monsieur de la Mole, one of my gentlemen, a fop of the
highest type. The cloak was the rage at court, and when he wore it,
Monsieur de la Mole was recognized a hundred feet away. I will give you
the address of the tailor who made it for him. By paying him double what
it is worth, you will have one exactly like it by this evening. You will
remember the name of Monsieur de la Mole, will you not?"

Scarcely had the Duc d'Alençon finished making the suggestion, when a
step was heard approaching in the corridor, and a key was turned in the
lock.

"Who is that?" cried the duke, rushing to the door and drawing the bolt.

"By Heaven!" replied a voice from outside; "I find that a strange
question. Who are you yourself? This is pleasant! I return to my own
room, and am asked who I am!"

"Is it you, Monsieur de la Mole?"

"Yes, it is I, without a doubt. But who are you?"

While La Mole was expressing his surprise at finding his room occupied,
and while he was trying to discover its new occupant, the Duc d'Alençon
turned quickly, one hand on the lock, the other on the key.

"Do you know Monsieur de la Mole?" he asked of De Mouy.

"No, monseigneur."

"Does he know you?"

"I think not."

"In that case it will be all right. Appear to be looking out of the
window."

De Mouy obeyed in silence, for La Mole was beginning to grow impatient,
and was knocking on the door with all his might.

The Duc d'Alençon threw a last glance towards De Mouy, and seeing that
his back was turned, he opened the door.

"Monseigneur le Duc!" cried La Mole, stepping back in surprise. "Oh,
pardon, pardon, monseigneur!"

"It is nothing, monsieur; I needed your room to receive a visitor."

"Certainly, monseigneur, certainly. But allow me, I beg you, to take my
cloak and hat from the bed, for I lost both to-night on the quay of the
Grève, where I was attacked by robbers."

"In fact, monsieur," said the prince, smiling, himself handing to La
Mole the articles asked for, "you are very poorly accommodated here.
You have had an encounter with some very obstinate fellows, apparently!"

The duke handed to La Mole the cloak and the hat. The young man bowed
and withdrew to the antechamber to change his clothes, paying no
attention to what the duke was doing in his room; for it was an ordinary
occurrence at the Louvre for the rooms of the gentlemen to be used as
reception-rooms by the prince to whom the latter were attached.

De Mouy then approached the duke, and both listened for La Mole to
finish and go out; but when the latter had changed his clothes, he
himself saved them all further trouble by drawing near to the door.

"Pardon me, monseigneur," said he, "but did your highness meet the Count
de Coconnas on your way?"

"No, count, and yet he was at service this morning."

"In that case they will assassinate me," said La Mole to himself as he
went away.

The duke heard the noise of his retreating steps; then opening the door
and drawing De Mouy after him:

"Watch him going away," said he, "and try to copy his inimitable walk."

"I will do my best," replied De Mouy. "Unfortunately I am not a lady's
man, but a soldier."

"At all events I shall expect you in this corridor before midnight. If
the chamber of my gentlemen is free, I will receive you there; if not,
we will find another."

"Yes, monseigneur."

"Until this evening then, before midnight."

"Until this evening, before midnight."

"Ah! by the way, De Mouy, swing your right arm a good deal as you walk.
This is a peculiar trick of Monsieur de la Mole's."



CHAPTER XXIV.

THE RUE TIZON AND THE RUE CLOCHE PERCÉE.


La Mole hurriedly left the Louvre, and set out to search Paris for poor
Coconnas.

His first move was to repair to the Rue de l'Arbre Sec and to enter
Maître La Hurière's, for La Mole remembered that he had often repeated
to the Piedmontese a certain Latin motto which was meant to prove that
Love, Bacchus, and Ceres are gods absolutely necessary to us, and he
hoped that Coconnas, to follow up the Roman aphorism, had gone to the
_Belle Étoile_ after a night which must have been as full for his friend
as it had been for himself.

La Mole found nothing at La Hurière's except the reminder of the assumed
obligation. A breakfast which was offered with good grace was eagerly
accepted by our gentleman, in spite of his anxiety. His stomach calmed
in default of his mind, La Mole resumed his walk, ascending the bank of
the Seine like a husband searching for his drowned wife. On reaching the
quay of the Grève, he recognized the place where, as he had said to
Monsieur d'Alençon, he had been stopped during his nocturnal tramp three
or four hours before. This was no unusual thing in Paris, older by a
hundred years than that in which Boileau was awakened at the sound of a
ball piercing his window shutter. A bit of the plume from his hat
remained on the battle-field. The sentiment of possession is innate in
man. La Mole had ten plumes each more beautiful than the last, and yet
he stopped to pick up that one, or, rather, the sole fragment of what
remained of it, and was contemplating it with a pitiful air when he
heard the sound of heavy steps approaching, and rough voices ordering
him to stand aside. La Mole raised his head and perceived a litter
preceded by two pages and accompanied by an outrider. La Mole thought he
recognized the litter, and quickly stepped aside.

The young man was not mistaken.

"Monsieur de la Mole!" exclaimed a sweet voice from the litter, while a
hand as white and as smooth as satin drew back the curtains.

"Yes, madame, in person," replied La Mole bowing.

"Monsieur de la Mole with a plume in his hand," continued the lady in
the litter. "Are you in love, my dear monsieur, and are you recovering
lost traces?"

"Yes, madame," replied La Mole, "I am in love, and very much so. But
just now these are my own traces that I have found, although they are
not those for which I am searching. But will your majesty permit me to
inquire after your health?"

"It is excellent, monsieur; it seems to me that I have never been
better. This probably comes from the fact of my having spent the night
in retreat."

"Ah! in retreat!" said La Mole, looking at Marguerite strangely.

"Well, yes; what is there surprising in that?"

"May I, without indiscretion, ask you in what convent?"

"Certainly, monsieur, I make no mystery of it; in the convent of the
_Annonciade_. But what are you doing here with this startled air?"

"Madame, I too passed the night in retreat, and in the vicinity of the
same convent. This morning I am looking for my friend who has
disappeared, and in seeking him I came upon this plume."

"Whom does it belong to? Really, you frighten me about him; the place is
a bad one."

"Your majesty may be reassured; the plume belongs to me. I lost it here
about half-past five, as I was escaping from the hands of four bandits
who tried with all their might to murder me, or at least I think they
did."

Marguerite repressed a quick gesture of terror.

"Oh! tell me about it!" said she.

"Nothing is easier, madame. It was, as I have had the honor to tell your
majesty, about five o'clock in the morning."

"And you were already out at five o'clock in the morning?" interrupted
Marguerite.

"Your majesty will excuse me," said La Mole, "I had not yet returned."

"Ah! Monsieur de la Mole! you returned at five o'clock in the morning!"
said Marguerite with a smile which was fatal for every one, and which La
Mole was unfortunate enough to find adorable; "you returned so late, you
merited this punishment!"

"Therefore I do not complain, madame," said La Mole, bowing
respectfully, "and I should have been cut to pieces had I not considered
myself a hundred times more fortunate than I deserve to be. But I was
returning late, or early, as your majesty pleases, from that fortunate
house in which I had spent the night in retreat, when four cut-throats
rushed from the Rue de la Mortellerie and pursued me with indescribably
long knives. It is grotesque, is it not, madame? but it is true--I had
to run away, for I had forgotten my sword."

"Oh! I understand," said Marguerite, with an admirably naïve manner,
"and you have come back to find your sword?"

La Mole looked at Marguerite as though a suspicion flashed through his
mind.

"Madame, I would return to some place and very willingly too, since my
sword is an excellent blade, but I do not know where the house is."

"What, monsieur?" exclaimed Marguerite. "You do not know where the house
is in which you passed the night?"

"No, madame, and may Satan exterminate me if I have any idea!"

"Well this is strange! your story, then, is a romance?"

"A true romance, as you say, madame."

"Tell it to me."

"It is somewhat long."

"Never mind, I have time."

"And, above all, it is improbable."

"Never mind, no one could be more credulous than I."

"Does your majesty command me?"

"Why, yes; if necessary."

"In that case I obey. Last evening, having left two adorable women with
whom we had spent the evening on the Saint Michel bridge, we took supper
at Maître La Hurière's."

"In the first place," said Marguerite, perfectly naturally, "who is
Maître La Hurière?"

"Maître La Hurière, madame," said La Mole, again glancing at Marguerite
with the suspicion he had already felt, "Maître La Hurière is the host
of the inn of the _Belle Étoile_ in the Rue de l'Arbre Sec."

"Yes, I can see it from here. You were supping, then, at Maître La
Hurière's with your friend Coconnas, no doubt?"

"Yes, madame, with my friend Coconnas, when a man entered and handed us
each a note."

"Were they alike?" asked Marguerite.

"Exactly alike. They contained only a single line:

"'_You are awaited in the Rue Saint Antoine, opposite the Rue Saint
Jouy_.'"

"And had the note no signature?" asked Marguerite.

"No; only three words--three charming words which three times promised
the same thing, that is to say, a three-fold happiness."

"And what were these three words?"

"_Eros, Cupido, Amor_."

"In short, three sweet words; and did they fulfil what they promised?"

"Oh! more, madame, a hundred times more!" cried La Mole with enthusiasm.

"Continue. I am curious to know who was waiting for you in the Rue Saint
Antoine, opposite the Rue de Jouy."

"Two duennas, each with a handkerchief in her hand. They said we must
let them bandage our eyes. Your majesty may imagine that it was not a
difficult thing to have done. We bravely extended our necks. My guide
turned me to the left, my friend's guide turned him to the right, and we
were separated."

"And then?" continued Marguerite, who seemed determined to carry out the
investigation to the end.

"I do not know," said La Mole, "where his guide led my friend. To hell,
perhaps. As to myself, all I know is that mine led me to a place I
consider paradise."

"And whence, no doubt, your too great curiosity drove you?"

"Exactly, madame; you have the gift of divination. I waited,
impatiently, for daylight, that I might see where I was, when at
half-past four the same duenna returned, again bandaged my eyes, made me
promise not to try to raise my bandage, led me outside, accompanied me
for a hundred feet, made me again swear not to remove my bandage until I
had counted fifty more. I counted fifty, and found myself in the Rue
Saint Antoine, opposite the Rue de Jouy."

"And then"--

"Then, madame, I returned so happy that I paid no attention to the four
wretches, from whose clutches I had such difficulty in escaping. Now,
madame," continued La Mole, "in finding a piece of my plume here, my
heart trembled with joy, and I picked it up, promising myself to keep it
as a souvenir of this glad night. But in the midst of my happiness, one
thing troubles me; that is, what may have become of my companion."

"Has he not returned to the Louvre?"

"Alas! no, madame! I have searched everywhere, in the _Étoile d'Or_, on
the tennis courts, and in many other respectable places; but no Annibal,
and no Coconnas"--

As La Mole uttered these words he accompanied them with a gesture of
hopelessness, extended his arms and opened his cloak, underneath which
at various points his doublet was seen, the lining of which showed
through the rents like so many elegant slashes.

"Why, you were riddled through and through!" exclaimed Marguerite.

"Riddled is the word!" said La Mole, who was not sorry to turn to his
account the danger he had run. "See, madame, see!"

"Why did you not change your doublet at the Louvre, since you returned
there?" asked the queen.

"Ah!" said La Mole, "because some one was in my room."

"Some one in your room?" said Marguerite, whose eyes expressed the
greatest astonishment; "who was in your room?"

"His highness."

"Hush!" interrupted Marguerite.

The young man obeyed.

"_Qui ad lecticam meam stant?_" she asked La Mole.

"_Duo pueri et unus eques_."

"_Optime, barbari!_" said she. "_Dic, Moles, quem inveneris in biculo
tuo?_"

"_Franciscum ducem_."

"_Agentem?_"

"_Nescio quid_."

"_Quocum?_"

"_Cum ignoto._"[8]

"That is strange," said Marguerite. "So you were unable to find
Coconnas?" she continued, without evidently thinking of what she was
saying.

"So, madame, as I have had the honor of telling you, I am really dying
of anxiety."

"Well," said Marguerite, sighing, "I do not wish to detain you longer in
your search for him; I do not know why I think so, but he will find
himself! Never mind, however, go, in spite of this."

The queen laid a finger on her lips. But as beautiful Marguerite had
confided no secret, had made no avowal to La Mole, the young man
understood that this charming gesture, meaning only to impose silence on
him, must have another significance.

The procession resumed its march, and La Mole, intent on following out
his investigation, continued to ascend the quay as far as the Rue Long
Pont which led him to the Rue Saint Antoine.

Opposite the Rue Jouy he stopped. It was there that the previous evening
the two duennas had bandaged his eyes and those of Coconnas. He had
turned to the left, then he had counted twenty steps. He repeated this
and found himself opposite a house, or rather a wall, behind which rose
a house; in this wall was a door with a shed over it ornamented with
large nails and loop-holes.

The house was in the Rue Cloche Percée, a small narrow street beginning
in the Rue Saint Antoine and ending in the Rue Roi de Sicile.

"By Heaven!" cried La Mole, "it was here--I would swear to it--in
extending my hand, as I came out, I felt the nails in the door, then I
descended two steps. The man who ran by crying 'Help!' who was killed in
the Rue Roi de Sicile, passed just as I reached the first. Let us see,
now."

La Mole went to the door and knocked. The door opened and a mustached
janitor appeared.

"_Was ist das?_" (Who is that?) asked the janitor.

"Ah! ah!" said La Mole, "we are Swiss, apparently." "My friend," he
continued, assuming the most charming manner, "I want my sword which I
left in this house in which I spent the night."

"_Ich verstehe nicht_," (I do not understand,) replied the janitor.

"My sword," went on La Mole.

"_Ich verstehe nicht_," repeated the janitor.

"--which I left--my sword which I left"--

"_Ich verstehe nicht._"

"--in this house, in which I spent the night."

"_Gehe zum Teufel!_" (Go to the devil!) And he slammed the door in La
Mole's face.

"By Heaven!" cried La Mole, "if I had this sword I have just asked for,
I would gladly put it through that fellow's body. But I have not, and
this must wait for another day."

Thereupon La Mole continued his way to the Rue Roi de Sicile, took about
fifty steps to the right, then to the left again, and came to the Rue
Tizon, a little street running parallel with the Rue Cloche Percée, and
like it in every way. More than this, scarcely had he gone thirty steps
before he came upon the door with the large nails, with its shed and
loop-holes, the two steps and the wall. One would have said that the Rue
Cloche Percée had returned to see him pass by.

La Mole then reflected that he might have mistaken his right for his
left, and he knocked at this door, to make the same demand he had made
at the other. But this time he knocked in vain. The door was not opened.

Two or three times La Mole made the same trip, which naturally led him
to the idea that the house had two entrances, one on the Rue Cloche
Percée, the other on the Rue Tizon.

But this conclusion, logical as it was, did not bring him back his
sword, and did not tell him where his friend was. For an instant he
conceived the idea of buying another sword and cutting to pieces the
wretched janitor who so persistently refused to speak anything but
German, but he thought this porter belonged to Marguerite, and that if
Marguerite had chosen thus, it was because she had her reasons, and that
it might be disagreeable for her to be deprived of him.

Now La Mole would not have done anything disagreeable to Marguerite for
anything in the world.

Fearing to yield to this temptation he returned about two o'clock in the
afternoon to the Louvre.

As his room was not occupied this time he could enter it. The matter was
urgent enough as far as his doublet was concerned, which, as the queen
had already remarked to him, was considerably torn.

He therefore at once approached his bed to substitute the beautiful
pearl-gray doublet for the one he wore, when to his great surprise the
first thing he perceived near the pearl-gray doublet was the famous
sword which he had left in the Rue Cloche Percée.

La Mole took it and turned it over and over.

It was really his.

"Ah! ah!" said he, "is there some magic under all this?" Then with a
sigh, "Ah! if poor Coconnas could be found like my sword!"

Two or three hours after La Mole had ceased his circular tramp around
the small double house, the door on the Rue Tizon had opened. It was
about five o'clock in the evening, consequently night had closed in.

A woman wrapped in a long cloak trimmed with fur, accompanied by an
attendant, came out of the door which was held open by a duenna of
forty, and hurrying rapidly along to the Rue Roi de Sicile, knocked at a
small door of the Hôtel Argenson, which opened for her; she then left by
the main entrance of the same hôtel which opened on to the Vieille Rue
du Temple, went toward a small postern in the Hôtel de Guise, unlocked
it with a key which she carried in her pocket, and disappeared.

Half an hour later a young man with bandaged eyes left by the same door
of the small house, guided by a woman who led him to the corner of the
Rue Geoffroy Lasnier and La Mortellerie. There she asked him to count
fifty steps and then remove his bandage.

The young man carefully obeyed the order, and when he had counted fifty,
removed the handkerchief from his eyes.

"By Heaven!" cried he, looking around. "I'll be hanged if I know where I
am! Six o'clock!" he cried, as the clock of Notre-Dame struck, "and poor
La Mole, what can have become of him? Let us run to the Louvre, perhaps
they may have news of him there."

Coconnas hurriedly descended the Rue La Mortellerie, and reached the
gates of the Louvre in less time than it would have taken an ordinary
horse. As he went he jostled and knocked down the moving hedge of brave
bourgeois who were walking peacefully about the shops of the Place de
Baudoyer, and entered the palace.

There he questioned the Swiss and the sentinel. The former thought they
had seen Monsieur de la Mole enter that morning, but had not seen him go
out.

The sentinel had been there only an hour and a half and had seen
nothing.

He ran to his room and hastily threw open the door; but he found only
the torn doublet of La Mole on the bed, which increased his fears still
more.

Then he thought of La Hurière and hastened to the worthy inn of the
_Belle Étoile_. La Hurière had seen La Mole; La Mole had breakfasted
there. Coconnas was thus wholly reassured, and as he was very hungry he
ordered supper.

Coconnas was in the two moods necessary for a good supper--his mind was
relieved and his stomach was empty; therefore he supped so well that the
meal lasted till eight o'clock. Then strengthened by two bottles of
light wine from Anjou, of which he was very fond and which he tossed off
with a sensual enjoyment shown by winks of his eyes and repeated
smacking of his lips, he set out again in his search for La Mole,
accompanying it through the crowd by kicks and knocks of his feet in
proportion to the increasing friendship inspired in him by the comfort
which always follows a good meal.

That lasted one hour, during which time Coconnas searched every street
in the vicinity of the Quay of the Grève, the Port au Charbon, the Rue
Saint Antoine, and the Rues Tizon and Cloche Percée, to which he thought
his friend might have returned. Finally he bethought himself that there
was a place through which he had to pass, the gate of the Louvre, and he
resolved to wait at this gate until his return.

He was not more than a hundred steps from the Louvre, and had just put
on her feet a woman whose husband he had already overturned on the Place
Saint Germain l'Auxerrois, when in the distance he perceived before him
in the doubtful light of a great lantern near the drawbridge of the
Louvre the cherry-colored velvet cloak and the white plume of his
friend, who like a shadow was disappearing under the gate and returning
the sentinel's greeting.

The famous cherry-colored cloak was so well known to every one that he
could not be mistaken in it.

"Well! by Heaven!" cried Coconnas; "it is really he this time, and he is
returning. Well! well! La Mole, my friend! Plague it! Yet I have a good
voice. How does it happen that he does not hear me? Fortunately I have
as good legs as I have voice, so I will join him."

In this hope Coconnas set out as fast as he could, and reached the
Louvre in an instant, but, fast as he was, just as he stepped into the
court the red cloak, which seemed in haste also, disappeared in the
vestibule.

"Hi there! La Mole!" cried Coconnas, still hastening. "Wait for me. It
is I, Coconnas. What in the devil are you hurrying so for? Are you
running away?"

In fact the red cloak, as though it had wings, scaled the stairs rather
than mounted them.

"Ah! you will not hear me!" cried Coconnas. "I am angry with you! Are
you sorry? Well, the devil! I can run no further." It was from the foot
of the staircase that Coconnas hurled this final apostrophe to the
fugitive whom he gave up following with his feet, but whom he still
followed with his eyes through the screw of the stairway, and who had
reached Marguerite's chamber. Suddenly a woman came out of this room and
took the arm of the man Coconnas was following.

"Oh! oh!" said Coconnas, "that looked very much like Queen Marguerite.
He was expected. In that case it is different. I understand why he did
not answer me."

Crouching down by the banister he looked through the opening of the
stairway. Then after a few words in a low voice he saw the red cloak
follow the queen to her apartments.

"Good! good!" said Coconnas, "that is it. I was not mistaken. There are
moments when the presence of our best friend is necessary to us, and
dear La Mole has one of those moments."

And Coconnas ascending the stairs softly sat down on a velvet bench
which ornamented the landing place, and said to himself:

"Very well, instead of joining him I will wait--yes; but," he added, "I
think as he is with the Queen of Navarre I may have to wait long--it is
cold, by Heaven! Well! well! I can wait just as well in my room. He will
have to come there sometime."

Scarcely had he finished speaking, and started to carry out his
resolution, when a quick light step sounded above him, accompanied by a
snatch of song so familiar that Coconnas at once turned his head in the
direction of the step and the song. It was La Mole descending from the
upper story, where his room was. When he perceived Coconnas, he began to
descend the stairs four steps at a time, and this done he threw himself
into his arms.

"Oh, Heavens! is it you?" said Coconnas. "How the devil did you get
out?"

"By the Rue Cloche Percée, by Heavens!"

"No, I do not mean that house."

"What then?"

"The queen's apartment."

"The queen's apartment?"

"The Queen of Navarre."

"I have not been there."

"Come now!"

"My dear Annibal," said La Mole, "you are out of your head. I have come
from my room where I have been waiting for you for two hours."

"You have come from your room?"

"Yes."

"Was it not you I followed from the Place du Louvre?"

"When?"

"Just now."

"No."

"It was not you who disappeared under the gate ten minutes ago?"

"No."

"It was not you who just ascended the stairs as if you were pursued by a
legion of devils?"

"No."

"By Heaven!" cried Coconnas, "the wine of the _Belle Étoile_ is not poor
enough to have so completely turned my head. I tell you that I have just
seen your cherry-colored cloak and your white plume under the gate of
the Louvre, that I followed both to the foot of the stairway, and that
your cloak, your plume, everything, to your swinging arm, was expected
here by a lady whom I greatly suspect to be the Queen of Navarre, and
who led you through that door, which, unless I am mistaken, is that of
the beautiful Marguerite."

"By Heaven!" cried La Mole, growing pale, "could there be treason?"

"Very good!" said Coconnas, "swear as much as you please, but do not
tell me I am mistaken."

La Mole hesitated an instant, pressing his head between his hands,
deterred by respect and jealousy. His jealousy conquered him, however,
and he hastened to the door, at which he knocked with all his might.
This caused a somewhat unusual hubbub considering the dignity of the
place in which it occurred.

"We shall be arrested," said Coconnas, "but no matter, it is very funny.
Tell me, La Mole, are there ghosts in the Louvre?"

"I know nothing about it," said the young man as pale as the plume which
shaded his brow; "but I have always wanted to see one, and as the
opportunity presents itself I shall do my best to come face to face with
this one."

"I shall not prevent you," said Coconnas, "only knock a little less
fiercely if you do not wish to frighten it away."

La Mole, exasperated as he was, felt the justice of the remark, and
began to knock more gently.



CHAPTER XXV.

THE CHERRY-COLORED CLOAK.


Coconnas was not mistaken. The lady who had stopped the cavalier of the
cherry-colored cloak was indeed the Queen of Navarre. As to the
cavalier, our reader has already guessed, I presume, that he was no
other than brave De Mouy. Upon recognizing the Queen of Navarre the
young Huguenot realized that there was some mistake; but he dared not
speak, fearing a cry from Marguerite would betray him. He preferred to
let himself be led to her apartments, and when once there to say to his
beautiful guide:

"Silence for silence, madame."

Marguerite had gently pressed the arm of him whom in the semi-darkness
she had mistaken for La Mole, and leaning toward him whispered in Latin:

"_Sola sum; introito, carissime._"[9]

De Mouy without answering let her lead him along; but scarcely was the
door closed behind him and he found himself in the antechamber, which
was better lighted than the stairway, before Marguerite saw that he was
not La Mole.

Thereupon the cry which the cautious Huguenot had feared escaped
Marguerite; but fortunately there was no further danger from it.

"Monsieur de Mouy!" cried she, stepping back.

"In person, madame, and I beg your majesty to leave me free to continue
my way without mentioning my presence in the Louvre to any one."

"Oh! Monsieur de Mouy!" reiterated Marguerite, "I was mistaken, then!"

"Yes," said De Mouy, "I understand. Your majesty mistook me for the King
of Navarre. I am the same height, I wear the same white plume, and many,
no doubt in order to flatter me, say I have the same gait."

Marguerite looked closely at De Mouy.

"Do you understand Latin, Monsieur de Mouy?" she asked.

"I used to know it," replied the young man, "but I have forgotten it."

Marguerite smiled.

"Monsieur de Mouy," said she, "you may rely on my discretion. But as I
think I know the name of the one you are seeking in the Louvre, I will
offer my services to guide you directly to him."

"Excuse me, madame," said De Mouy, "I think you are mistaken, and that
you are completely ignorant of"--

"What!" exclaimed Marguerite, "are you not looking for the King of
Navarre?"

"Alas, madame," said De Mouy, "I regret to have to beg you especially to
conceal my presence in the Louvre from your husband, his majesty the
king."

"Listen, Monsieur de Mouy," said Marguerite in surprise, "I have
considered you until now one of the strongest leaders of the Huguenot
party, and one of the most faithful partisans of the king my husband. Am
I mistaken?"

"No, madame, for this very morning I was all that you say."

"And what has changed you since this morning?"

"Madame," said De Mouy, bowing, "kindly excuse me from answering, and do
me the favor to accept my homage."

De Mouy, respectful but firm, started towards the door.

Marguerite stopped him.

"But, monsieur," said she, "if I were to ask you for a word of
explanation, my word is good, it seems to me?"

"Madame," replied De Mouy, "I am obliged to keep silent, and this duty
must be very imperative for me not to have answered your majesty."

"But, monsieur"--

"Your majesty may ruin me, madame, but you cannot ask me to betray my
new friends."

"But the old ones, monsieur, have they too not some rights?"

"Those who have remained true, yes; those who not only have abandoned
us, but themselves as well, no."

Marguerite, thoughtful and anxious, would no doubt have answered by a
new question, had not Gillonne suddenly entered the apartment.

"The King of Navarre!" she cried.

"How is he coming?"

"By the secret corridor."

"Take monsieur out by the other."

"Impossible, madame. Listen."

"Some one is knocking?"

"Yes, at the door to which you wish me to take monsieur."

"Who is knocking?"

"I do not know."

"Go and see, and come back and tell me."

"Madame," said De Mouy, "might I venture to remark to your majesty that
if the King of Navarre sees me at this hour and in this costume in the
Louvre, I am lost?"

Marguerite seized De Mouy and pushed him towards the famous cabinet.

"Step in here, monsieur," said she; "you will be as safe and as well
protected as if you were in your own house; I give you my word of
honor."

De Mouy entered hastily. Scarcely was the door closed when Henry
appeared.

This time Marguerite had no anxiety to hide--she was merely gloomy, and
love was far from her thoughts.

As to Henry, he entered with that mistrust which in the most dangerous
moments caused him to notice the smallest details; whatever the
circumstances, Henry was an acute observer. Therefore he at once saw the
cloud on Marguerite's brow.

"You are busy, madame?" said he.

"I? Why, yes, sire, I was dreaming."

"You do well, madame. Dreaming is becoming to you. I too was dreaming;
but contrary to you who seek solitude, I have come on purpose to share
my dreams, with you." Marguerite gave the king a gesture of welcome, and
indicating an armchair to him, seated herself on a chair of sculptured
ebony, as delicate and as strong as steel. There was an instant's
silence; then Henry broke it.

"I remembered, madame," said he, "that my dreams as to the future
corresponded with yours in so far as although separated as husband and
wife, nevertheless we both desire to unite our fortune."

"That is true, sire."

"I think I understood you to say also that in all the plans I might make
toward our mutual rising, I would find in you not only a faithful but an
active ally."

"Yes, sire, and I ask only one thing, that in beginning the work as soon
as possible, you will give me the opportunity to begin also."

"I am glad to find you of this mind, madame, and I trust that you have
not for one instant doubted that I would lose sight of the plan I
resolved to carry out the very day when, thanks to your brave
intervention, I was almost sure of being safe."

"Monsieur, I think that your carelessness is nothing but a mask, and I
have faith not only in the predictions by the astrologers, but in your
good genius as well."

"What should you say, madame, if someone were to upset our plans and
threaten to reduce us to an ordinary position?"

"I should say that I was ready to fight with you, either openly or in
secret, against this someone, whoever he might be."

"Madame," continued Henry, "it is possible for you, is it not, to gain
immediate admission into the room of your brother, Monsieur d'Alençon?
You are in his confidence and he is very friendly to you; might I
venture to beg you to find out if he is at present holding a secret
conference with someone?"

Marguerite gave a start.

"With whom, monsieur?" she asked.

"With De Mouy."

"Why?" asked Marguerite, repressing her emotion.

"Because if such is the case, madame, farewell to all our projects, or
to all mine, at least."

"Sire, speak softly," said Marguerite, making a sign with her eyes and
lips, and pointing to the cabinet.

"Oh! oh!" said Henry, "still someone? Indeed, that cabinet is so often
occupied that it makes your room uninhabitable."

Marguerite smiled.

"Is it still Monsieur de la Mole?" asked Henry.

"No, sire, it is Monsieur de Mouy."

"He?" cried Henry with surprise mingled with joy. "He is not with the
Duc d'Alençon, then? Oh! have him come in, that I may talk to him."

Marguerite stepped to the cabinet, opened it, and taking De Mouy by the
hand led him without preamble to the King of Navarre.

"Ah! madame," said the young Huguenot, in a tone of reproach more sad
than bitter, "you have betrayed me in spite of your promise; that is
wrong. What should you do if I were to avenge myself by saying"--

"You will not avenge yourself, De Mouy," interrupted Henry, pressing the
young man's hand, "or at least you will listen to me first. Madame,"
continued Henry, turning to the queen, "be kind enough, I beg you, to
see that no one overhears us."

Scarcely had Henry uttered these words when Gillonne entered,
frightened, and whispered a few words to Marguerite, which caused the
latter to spring from her seat. While she hastened to the antechamber
with Gillonne, Henry, without troubling himself as to why she had left
the room, examined the bed, the side of it, as well as the draperies,
and sounded the wall with his fingers. As to Monsieur de Mouy,
frightened at all these preparations, he first of all made sure that his
sword was out of its sheath.

Leaving her sleeping-room, Marguerite hastened to the antechamber and
came face to face with La Mole, who in spite of all the protests of
Gillonne had forced his way into Marguerite's room.

Coconnas was behind him, ready to urge him forward or sustain a retreat.

"Ah! it is you, Monsieur la Mole!" cried the queen; "but what is the
matter, and why are you so pale and trembling?"

"Madame," said Gillonne, "Monsieur de la Mole knocked at the door so
that, in spite of your majesty's orders, I was forced to open it."

"What is the meaning of this?" said the queen, severely; "is this true,
Monsieur de la Mole?"

"Madame, I wanted to warn your majesty that a stranger, a robber
perhaps, had gained admittance to your rooms with my cloak and my hat."

"You are mad, monsieur," said Marguerite, "for I see your cloak on your
shoulders, and, God forgive me, I think I see your hat on your head,
even though you are speaking to a queen."

"Oh! pardon me, madame, pardon me!" cried La Mole, quickly uncovering;
"but God is my witness, it is not my respect which is lacking."

"No, it is your trust, is it not?" said the queen.

"What can you expect?" cried La Mole, "when a man is in your majesty's
rooms; when he gains admittance by assuming my clothes, and perhaps my
name, who knows"--

"A man!" cried Marguerite, softly pressing her poor lover's arm; "a man!
You are modest, Monsieur de la Mole. Look through the opening of the
portière and you will see two men."

Marguerite drew back the velvet portière embroidered in gold, and La
Mole saw Henry talking with the man in the cherry-colored cloak.
Coconnas, as though he himself were concerned, looked also, saw, and
recognized De Mouy. Both men stood amazed.

"Now that you are reassured, or at least now that I hope you are," said
Marguerite, "take your stand outside my door, and for your life, my dear
La Mole, let no one enter. If any one even approaches the stairs, warn
me." La Mole, weak and obedient as a child, withdrew, glancing at
Coconnas, who looked at him. Both found themselves outside without
having thoroughly recovered from their astonishment.

"De Mouy!" cried Coconnas.

"Henry!" murmured La Mole.

"De Mouy with your cherry-colored cloak, your white plume, and your
swinging arm."

"Ah!" went on La Mole, "the moment it is not a question of love, it is a
question of plot."

"By Heaven! here we are in the midst of politics," said Coconnas
grumbling. "Fortunately I do not see Madame de Nevers mixed up in it."

Marguerite returned and sat down by the two speakers. She had been gone
only a moment, but had made the most of her time. Gillonne, on guard in
the secret passage, and the two gentlemen on duty at the main entrance,
assured perfect safety for her.

"Madame," said Henry, "do you think it would be possible for us to be
overheard in any way?"

"Monsieur," said Marguerite, "the walls of this room are wadded, and a
double wainscoting deadens all sound."

"I depend on you," replied Henry smiling. Then turning to De Mouy:

"Now," said the king, in a low tone, as if in spite of the assurance of
Marguerite his fears were not wholly overcome, "what are you here for?"

"Here?" said De Mouy.

"Yes, here, in this room," repeated Henry.

"He had nothing to do here," said Marguerite; "I induced him to come."

"You?"

"I guessed everything."

"You see, De Mouy, we can discover what is going on."

"This morning," continued Marguerite, "Monsieur de Mouy was with Duc
François in the apartment of two of his gentlemen."

"You see, De Mouy," repeated Henry, "we know everything."

"That is true," said De Mouy.

"I was sure," said Henry, "that Monsieur d'Alençon had taken possession
of you."

"That is your fault, sire. Why did you so persistently refuse what I
offered you?"

"You refused!" exclaimed Marguerite. "The refusal I feared, then, was
real?"

"Madame," said Henry, shaking his head, "and you, my brave De Mouy,
really, you make me laugh with your exclamations. What! a man enters my
chamber, speaks to me of a throne, of a revolt, of a revolution, to me,
Henry, a prince tolerated provided that I eat humble pie, a Huguenot
spared on condition that I play the Catholic; and I am expected to
accept, when these propositions are made in a room without padding or
double wainscoting! _Ventre saint gris!_ You are either children or
fools!"

"But, sire, could not your majesty have left me some hope, if not by
word, at least by a gesture or sign?"

"What did my brother-in-law say to you, De Mouy?" asked Henry.

"Oh, sire, that is not my secret."

"Well, my God!" continued Henry, with a certain impatience at having to
deal with a man who so poorly understood his words. "I do not ask what
you proposed to him, I ask you merely if he listened to you, if he heard
you."

"He listened, sire, and he heard."

"He listened and he heard! You admit it yourself, De Mouy, tactless
conspirator that you are! Had I said one word you would have been lost,
for I did not know, I merely suspected that he was there, or if not he,
someone else, the Duc d'Anjou, Charles IX., or the queen mother, for
instance. You do not know the walls of the Louvre, De Mouy; it was for
them that the proverb was made which says that walls have ears; and
knowing these walls you expected me to speak! Well, well, De Mouy, you
pay a small compliment to the common sense of the King of Navarre, and I
am surprised that not esteeming him more highly you should have offered
him a crown."

"But, sire," said De Mouy, "could you not even while refusing this crown
have given me some sign? In that case I should not have considered
everything hopeless and lost."

"Well! _Ventre saint gris!_" exclaimed Henry, "if one can hear cannot
one see also? and is not one lost by a sign as much as by a word? See,
De Mouy," continued the king, looking around him, "at the present
moment, so near to you that my words do not reach beyond the circle of
our three chairs, I still fear I may be overheard when I say: De Mouy,
repeat your proposal to me."

"But, sire," cried De Mouy in despair, "I am now engaged with Monsieur
d'Alençon."

Marguerite angrily clasped and unclasped her beautiful hands.

"Then it is too late?" said she.

"On the contrary," murmured Henry, "know that even in this, God's hand
is visible. Continue your arrangement, De Mouy, for in Duc François lies
our safety. Do you suppose that the King of Navarre would guarantee
your heads? On the contrary, wretched man, I should have you all killed
to the last one, and on the least suspicion. But with a son of France it
is different. Secure proofs, De Mouy, ask for guarantees; but, stupid
that you are, you will be deeply involved, and one word will suffice for
you."

"Oh, sire, it was my despair at your having left us, believe me, which
threw me into the arms of the duke; it was also the fear of being
betrayed, for he kept our secret."

"Keep his, now, De Mouy; it rests with you. What does he wish? To leave
court? Furnish him with means to escape. Work for him, De Mouy, as if
you were working for me, turn the shield so that he may parry every blow
they aim at us. When it is time to flee, we will both flee. When it is
time to fight and reign, I will reign alone."

"Do not trust the duke," said Marguerite, "he is gloomy and acute,
without hatred as without love; ever ready to treat his friends like
enemies and his enemies like friends."

"And he is expecting you now, De Mouy?" said Henry.

"Yes, sire."

"Where?"

"In the apartment belonging to his two gentlemen."

"At what time?"

"Before midnight."

"It is not yet eleven o'clock," said Henry, "so you have lost no time;
now you may go, De Mouy."

"We have your word, monsieur?" said Marguerite.

"Come now, madame!" said Henry, with the confidence he knew so well how
to use with certain people and on certain occasions, "with Monsieur de
Mouy, such things are not even asked for."

"You are right, sire," replied the young man; "but I need your word, for
I shall have to tell the leaders that I have it. You are not a Catholic,
are you?"

Henry shrugged his shoulders.

"You do not renounce the kingdom of Navarre?"

"I renounce no kingdom, De Mouy, I merely reserve for myself the choice
of the best; that is, the one which shall best suit me and you."

"And if in the meantime your majesty should be arrested, you would
promise to reveal nothing even should they torture your royal majesty?"

"De Mouy, I swear that, before God."

"One further word, sire. How am I to see you in future?"

"After to-morrow you shall have a key to my room. You will come there,
De Mouy, as often as it may be necessary and when you please. It is for
the Duc d'Alençon to answer for your presence in the Louvre. In the
meantime, use the small stairway. I will show you the way. The queen
will have the cherry-colored cloak like yours come here--the one who was
in the antechamber just now. No one must notice any difference between
you, or know that there are two of you, De Mouy. Do you not agree with
me? And you, madame?" Henry looked at Marguerite and uttered the last
words with a smile.

"Yes," said she, without moving a feature; "for this Monsieur de la Mole
belongs to my brother, the duke."

"Well, madame, try to win him over to our side," said Henry, in perfect
seriousness. "Spare neither gold nor promises; I will put all my
treasures at his disposal."

"In that case," said Marguerite, with one of the smiles which belong
only to the women of Boccaccio, "since this is your wish, I will do my
best to second it."

"Very good, madame; and you, De Mouy, return to the duke, and make sure
of him."



CHAPTER XXVI.

MARGARITA.



During the conversation which we have just related, La Mole and Coconnas
mounted guard. La Mole somewhat chagrined, Coconnas somewhat anxious. La
Mole had had time to reflect, and in this he had been greatly aided by
Coconnas.

"What do you think of all this, my friend?" La Mole had asked of
Coconnas.

"I think," the Piedmontese had replied, "that there is some court
intrigue connected with it."

"And such being the case, are you disposed to play a part in it?"

"My dear fellow," replied Coconnas, "listen well to what I am going to
say to you and try and profit by it. In all these princely dealings, in
all royal affairs, we can and should be nothing but shadows. Where the
King of Navarre leaves a bit of his plume and the Duc d'Alençon a piece
of his cloak, we leave our lives. The queen has a fancy for you, and you
for her. Nothing is better. Lose your head in love, my dear fellow, but
not in politics."

That was wise council. Therefore it was heard by La Mole with the
melancholy of a man who feels that, placed between reason and madness,
it is madness he will follow.

"I have not a fancy for the queen, Annibal, I love her; and fortunately
or unfortunately I love her with all my heart. This is madness, you will
say. Well, I admit that I am mad. But you are wise, Coconnas, you ought
not to suffer for my foolishness and my misfortune. Go back to our
master and do not compromise yourself."

Coconnas pondered an instant. Then raising his head:

"My dear fellow," he replied, "all that you tell me is perfectly
reasonable; you are in love--act, therefore, like a lover. I am
ambitious, and being so, I think life is worth more to me than a woman's
kiss. When I risk my life, I make my own conditions. Try, so far as you
are concerned, my poor Medor, to make yours."

Whereupon Coconnas extended his hand to La Mole and withdrew, having
exchanged a final glance and a final smile with his friend.

About ten minutes after he left his post, the door opened, and
Marguerite, peering out cautiously, took La Mole by the hand and,
without uttering a word, drew him from the corridor into the furthest
corner of her room. She closed the door behind her with a care which
indicated the importance of the conversation she was about to have.

Once in her room she stopped, seated herself on her ebony chair, and
drawing La Mole to her, she clasped her hands over both of his.

"Now that we are alone," said she, "let us talk seriously, my very dear
friend."

"Seriously, madame," said La Mole.

"Or lovingly. Does that please you better? But there can be serious
things in love, and especially in the love of a queen."

"Then--let us talk of serious things; but on condition that your majesty
will not be vexed at the lighter things I have to say to you."

"I shall be vexed only at one thing, La Mole, and that is if you address
me as 'madame' or 'your majesty.' For you, my beloved, I am just
Marguerite."

"Yes, Marguerite! Yes, Margarita! Yes, my pearl!" cried the young man,
devouring the queen with his eyes.

"Yes, that is right," said Marguerite. "So you are jealous, my fine
gentleman?"

"Oh! unreasonably."

"Still?"

"Madly, Marguerite."

"Jealous of whom? Come!"

"Of everyone."

"But really?"

"Of the king first."

"I should think after what you had seen and heard you might be easy on
that point."

"Of this Monsieur de Mouy, whom I saw this morning for the first time,
and whom this evening I find so far advanced in his intimacy with you."

"Monsieur de Mouy?"

"Yes."

"Who gave you such ideas about Monsieur de Mouy?"

"Listen! I recognized him from his figure, from the color of his hair,
from a natural feeling of hatred. He is the one who was with Monsieur
d'Alençon this morning."

"Well, what connection has that with me?"

"Monsieur d'Alençon is your brother. It is said that you are very fond
of him. You may have confided to him a vague feeling of your heart, and,
according to the custom at court, he has aided your wish by admitting
Monsieur de Mouy to your apartment. Now, what I do not understand is
how I was fortunate enough to find the king here at the same time. But
in any case, madame, be frank with me. In default of other sentiment, a
love like mine has the right to demand frankness in return. See, I
prostrate myself at your feet. If what you have felt for me is but a
passing fancy, I will give you back your trust, your promise, your love;
I will give back to Monsieur d'Alençon his kind favors and my post of
gentleman, and I will go and seek death at the siege of La Rochelle, if
love does not kill me before I have gone as far as that."

Marguerite listened smilingly to these charming words, watching La
Mole's graceful gestures, then leaning her beautiful dreamy head on her
feverish hand:

"You love me?" she asked.

"Oh, madame! more than life, more than safety, more than all; but you,
you--you do not love me."

"Poor fool!" she murmured.

"Ah, yes, madame," cried La Mole, still at her feet, "I have told you I
was that."

"The chief thought of your life, then, is your love, dear La Mole!"

"It is the only thought, madame, the sole thought."

"Well, be it so; I will make of all the rest only an accessory to this
love. You love me; do you wish to remain near me?"

"My one prayer is that God will never take me from you."

"Well, you shall not leave me. I need you, La Mole."

"You need me? Does the sun need the glow-worm?"

"If I will tell you that I love you, would you be wholly devoted to me?"

"Ah! am I not that already, madame, and more than wholly?"

"Yes, but, God forgive me, you still doubt!"

"Oh! I am wrong, I am ungrateful, or, rather, as I have told you and
repeated to you, I am a fool. But why was Monsieur de Mouy with you this
evening? why did I see him this morning with Monsieur le Duc d'Alençon?
Why that cherry-colored cloak, that white plume, that affected imitation
of my gait? Ah! madame, it is not you whom I suspect, but your brother."

"Wretched man!" said Marguerite, "wretched man to suppose that Duc
François would push complacency so far as to introduce a wooer to his
sister's room! Mad enough to be jealous, and yet not to have guessed! Do
you know, La Mole, that the Duc d'Alençon would run you through with his
own sword if he knew that you were here, this evening, at my feet, and
that instead of sending you away I were saying to you: 'Stay here where
you are, La Mole; for I love you, my fine gentleman, do you hear? I love
you!' Ah, yes! he would certainly kill you."

"Great God!" cried La Mole, starting back and looking at Marguerite in
terror, "is it possible?"

"Everything is possible, my friend, in these times and at this court.
Now, one word; it was not for me that Monsieur de Mouy, in your cloak,
his face hidden under your hat, came to the Louvre. It was for Monsieur
d'Alençon. But I, thinking it was you, brought him here. He knows our
secret, La Mole, and must be carefully managed."

"I should prefer to kill him," said La Mole; "that is shorter and
surer."

"And I, my brave gentleman," said the queen, "I prefer him to live, and
for you to know everything, for not only is his life useful to us, but
it is necessary. Listen and weigh your words well before you answer. Do
you love me enough, La Mole, to be glad if I were really to become a
queen; that is, queen of a real kingdom?"

"Alas, madame, I love you enough to wish what you wish, even should this
desire ruin my whole life!"

"Well, do you want to aid me to realize this desire, which would make
you still happier?"

"Oh! I should lose you, madame," cried La Mole hiding his head in his
hands.

"No, on the contrary. Instead of being the first of my servants, you
would become the first of my subjects, that is all."

"Oh! no interest--no ambition, madame--do not sully the feeling I have
for you--the devotion, nothing but devotion!"

"Noble nature!" said Marguerite; "well, yes, I accept your devotion, and
I shall find out how to reward it."

She extended both her hands, and La Mole covered them with kisses.

"Well!" said she.

"Well, yes!" replied La Mole, "yes, Marguerite, I am beginning to
comprehend this vague project already talked of by us Huguenots before
the massacre of Saint Bartholomew, the scheme for the execution of which
I, like many another worthier than myself, was sent to Paris. You covet
this actual kingdom of Navarre which is to take the place of an
imaginary kingdom. King Henry drives you to it; De Mouy conspires with
you, does he not? But the Duc d'Alençon, what is he doing in it all?
Where is there a throne for him? I do not see. Now, is the Duc d'Alençon
sufficiently your--friend to aid you in all this without asking anything
in exchange for the danger he runs?"

"The duke, my friend, is conspiring on his own account. Let us leave him
to his illusions. His life answers for ours."

"But I, who belong to him, can I betray him?"

"Betray him! In what are you betraying him? What has he confided to you?
Is it not he who has betrayed you by giving your cloak and hat to De
Mouy as a means of gaining him admittance to his apartments? You belong
to him, you say! Were you not mine, my gentleman, before you were his?
Has he given you a greater proof of friendship than the proof of love
you have from me?"

La Mole arose, pale and completely overcome.

"Oh!" he murmured, "Coconnas was right, intrigue is enveloping me in its
folds. It will suffocate me."

"Well?" asked Marguerite.

"Well," said La Mole, "this is my answer: it is said, and I heard it at
the other end of France, where your illustrious name and your universal
reputation for beauty touched my heart like a vague desire for the
unknown,--it is said that sometimes you love, but that your love is
always fatal to those you love, so that death, jealous, no doubt, almost
always removes your lovers."

"La Mole!"

"Do not interrupt me, oh, my well-loved Margarita, for they add that you
preserve the hearts of these faithful friends in gold boxes[10], and
that occasionally you bestow a melancholy thought, a pious glance on the
sad remains. You sigh, my queen, your eyes droop; it is true. Well! make
me the dearest and the happiest of your favorites. You have pierced the
hearts of others, and you keep their hearts. You do more with me, you
expose my head. Well, Marguerite, swear to me before the image of the
God who has saved my life in this very place, swear to me, that if I die
for you, as a sad presentiment tells me I shall do, swear to me that you
will keep my head, which the hangman will separate from my body; and
that you will sometimes press your lips to it. Swear, Marguerite, and
the promise of such reward bestowed by my queen will make me silent,
and, if necessary, a traitor and a coward; this is being wholly devoted,
as your lover and your accomplice should be."

"Oh! what ghastly foolishness, dear heart!" said Marguerite. "Oh! fatal
thought, sweet love."

"Swear"--

"Swear?"

"Yes, on this silver chest with its cross. Swear."

"Well!" said Marguerite, "if--and God forbid!--your gloomy presentiment
is realized, my fine gentleman, on this cross I swear to you that you
shall be near me, living or dead, so long as I live; and if I am unable
to rescue you from the peril which comes to you through me, through me
alone, I will at least give to your poor soul the consolation for which
you ask, and which you will so well have deserved."

"One word more, Marguerite. I can die now. I shall not mind death; but I
can live, too, for we may succeed. The King of Navarre, king, you may be
queen, in which case he will take you away. This vow of separation
between you will some day be broken, and will do away with ours. Now,
Marguerite, my well-beloved Marguerite, with a word you have taken away
my every fear of death; now with a word keep up my courage concerning
life."

"Oh, fear nothing, I am yours, body and soul!" cried Marguerite, again
raising her hand to the cross on the little chest. "If I leave, you
follow, and if the king refuses to take you, then I shall not go."

"But you dare not resist!"

"My well-beloved Hyacinthe," said Marguerite, "you do not know Henry. At
present he is thinking of only one thing, that is, of being king. For
this he would sacrifice everything he owns, and, still more, what he
does not own. Now, adieu!"

"Madame," said La Mole, smiling, "are you going to send me away?"

"It is late," said Marguerite.

"No doubt; but where would you have me go? Monsieur de Mouy is in my
room with Monsieur le Duc d'Alençon."

"Ah! yes," said Marguerite, with a beautiful smile. "Besides, I have
still some things to tell you about this conspiracy."

From that night La Mole was no longer an ordinary favorite. He well
might carry his head high, for which, living or dead, so sweet a future
was in store.

And yet at times his weary brow was bent, his cheek grew pale, and deep
thoughts ploughed their furrows on the forehead of the young man, once
so light-hearted, now so happy!



CHAPTER XXVII.

THE HAND OF GOD.


On leaving Madame de Sauve Henry had said to her:

"Go to bed, Charlotte. Pretend that you are very ill, and on no account
see any one all day to-morrow."

Charlotte obeyed without questioning the reason for this suggestion from
the king. She was beginning to be accustomed to his eccentricities, as
we should call them to-day, or to his whims as they were then called.
Moreover, she knew that deep in his heart Henry hid secrets which he
told to no one, in his mind plans which he feared to reveal even in his
dreams; so that she carried out all his wishes, knowing that his most
peculiar ideas had an object.

Whereupon that evening she complained to Dariole of great heaviness in
her head, accompanied by dizziness. These were the symptoms which Henry
had suggested to her to feign.

The following day she pretended that she wanted to rise, but scarcely
had she put her foot on the floor when she said she felt a general
debility, and went back to bed.

This indisposition, which Henry had already announced to the Duc
d'Alençon, was the first news brought to Catharine when she calmly asked
why La Sauve was not present as usual at her levee.

"She is ill!" replied Madame de Lorraine, who was there.

"Ill!" repeated Catharine, without a muscle of her face betraying the
interest she took in the answer. "Some idle fatigue, perhaps."

"No, madame," replied the princess. "She complains of a severe headache
and of weakness which prevents her from walking." Catharine did not
answer. But, to hide her joy, she turned to the window, and perceiving
Henry, who was crossing the court after his conversation with De Mouy,
she rose the better to see him. Driven by that conscience which,
although invisible, always throbs in the deepest recesses of hearts most
hardened to crime:

"Does not my son Henry seem paler than usual this morning?" she asked
her captain of the guards.

There was nothing in the question. Henry was greatly troubled mentally;
but physically he was very strong.

By degrees those usually present at the queen's levee withdrew. Three or
four intimate ones remained longer than the others, but Catharine
impatiently dismissed them, saying that she wished to be alone. When the
last courtier had gone Catharine closed the door and going to a secret
closet hidden in one of the panels of her room she slid back a door in a
groove of wood and took out a book, the worn leaves of which showed
frequent use. Placing the volume on a table, she opened it to a
book-mark, then resting her elbow on the table and her head on one hand:

"That is it," murmured she, reading, "'headache, general weakness, pain
in the eyes, swelling of the palate.' As yet they have mentioned only
the pains in the head and weakness. But the other symptoms will not be
slow in forthcoming."

She continued:

"'Then the inflammation reaches the throat, extends to the stomach,
surrounds the heart like a circle of fire, and causes the brain to burst
like a thunderclap,'" she read on to herself. Then in a low voice:

"For the fever, six hours; for the general inflammation, twelve hours;
for the gangrene, twelve hours; for the suffering, six hours; in all
thirty-six hours. Now, suppose that the absorption is slow, and that
instead of thirty-six hours we have forty, even forty-eight, yes,
forty-eight hours should suffice. But Henry, how is it that he is still
up? Because he is a man, because he has a strong constitution, because
perhaps he drank after he kissed her, and wiped his lips after
drinking."

Catharine awaited the dinner hour with impatience.

Henry dined every day at the king's table. He came, he in turn
complained of pain in his head; he ate nothing, and withdrew immediately
after the meal, saying that having been awake a part of the previous
night, he felt a pressing need of sleep.

Catharine listened as his uncertain steps died away. Then she had him
followed. She was told that the King of Navarre had gone to Madame de
Sauve's apartments.

"Henry," said she to herself, "will this evening complete the work of
death which some unfortunate chance has left half finished."

The King of Navarre had indeed gone to Madame de Sauve's room, but it
was to tell her to continue playing her rôle.

The whole of the following morning Henry did not leave his chamber; nor
did he appear at dinner. Madame de Sauve, they said, was growing worse
and worse, and the report of Henry's illness, spread abroad by Catharine
herself, sped like one of those presentiments which hover in the air,
but which no one can explain.

Catharine was delighted. The previous morning she had sent Ambroise Paré
to help one of her favorite servants, who was ill at Saint Germain, so
it had to be one of her own men who was called in to see Madame de Sauve
and Henry. This man would say only what she wished him to say. If,
contrary to all expectation, some other doctor had been summoned, and if
some whisper concerning poison had frightened the court, in which so
many such reports had already been circulated, she counted greatly on
the rumor to arouse the jealousy of Marguerite regarding the various
loves of her husband. We remember she had spoken strongly of this
jealousy which had been apparent on various occasions; among others, on
the hawthorn walk, where, in the presence of several persons, she had
said to her daughter:

"So you are very jealous, Marguerite?" Therefore, with unruffled
features she waited for the door to open, when some pale, startled
servant would enter, crying:

"Your majesty, the King of Navarre has been hurt, and Madame de Sauve is
dead!" Four o'clock in the afternoon struck. Catharine finished her
luncheon in the aviary, where she was crumbling some bread for her rare
birds which she herself had raised. Although her face was calm and even
gloomy, as usual, her heart throbbed violently at the slightest sound.
Suddenly the door opened.

"Madame," said the captain of the guards, "the King of Navarre is"--

"Ill?" hastily interrupted Catharine.

"No, madame, thank God! His majesty seems to be wonderfully well."

"What is it, then?"

"The King of Navarre is here."

"What does he want?"

"He is bringing your majesty a rare kind of monkey."

Just then Henry entered holding in his hand a basket, in which was a
little monkey he was petting.

He entered smiling and seemed wholly absorbed in the dear little animal
he brought; but occupied as he appeared to be, he did not fail to give
his usual first glance around. This was sufficient for him under trying
circumstances. As to Catharine, she was very pale, of a pallor which
deepened as she saw that the cheeks of the young man were flushed with
the glow of health.

The queen mother was amazed at this turn of affairs. She accepted
Henry's gift mechanically, appeared agitated, complimented him on
looking so well, and added:

"I am all the more pleased to see you looking so, because I heard that
you were ill, and because, if I remember rightly, you yourself
complained of not feeling well, in my presence. But I understand now,"
she added, trying to smile, "it was an excuse so that you might be
free."

"No, I have really been very ill, madame," said Henry, "but a specific
used in our mountains, and which comes from my mother, has cured my
indisposition."

"Ah! you will give me the recipe, will you not, Henry?" said Catharine,
really smiling this time, but with an irony she could not disguise.

"Some counter-poison," she murmured. "We must look into this; but no,
seeing Madame de Sauve ill, it will be suspected. Indeed, I believe that
the hand of God is over this man."

Catharine waited impatiently for the night. Madame de Sauve did not
appear. At play she inquired for her, but was told that she was
suffering more and more.

All the evening she was restless, and everyone anxiously wondered what
were the thoughts which could move this face usually so calm.

At length everyone retired. Catharine had herself undressed and put to
bed by her ladies-in-waiting. Then when everyone had gone to sleep in
the Louvre, she rose, slipped on a long black dressing-gown, took a
lamp, chose from her keys the one which unlocked the door of Madame de
Sauve's apartments, and ascended the stairs to see her maid-of-honor.

Had Henry foreseen this visit? Was he busy in his own rooms? Was he
hiding somewhere? However this may have been, the young woman was alone.
Catharine opened the door cautiously, crossed the antechamber, entered
the reception-room, set her lamp on a table, for a night lamp was
burning near the sick woman, and glided like a shadow into the
sleeping-room. Dariole in a deep armchair was sleeping near the bed of
her mistress.

This bed was entirely shut in by curtains.

The respiration of the young woman was so light that for an instant
Catharine thought she was not breathing at all.

At length she heard a slight sigh, and with an evil joy she raised the
curtain in order to see for herself the effect of the terrible poison.
She trembled in advance at the sight of the livid pallor or the
devouring purple of the mortal fever she hoped for. But instead of this,
calm, with eyes hidden under their white lids, her mouth rosy and half
open, her moist cheek pressed gently against one of her gracefully
rounded arms, while the other arm, fresh and pearly, was thrown across
the crimson damask which served as counterpane, the beautiful young
woman lay sleeping with a smile still on her lips. No doubt some sweet
dream brought the smile to her lips, and to her cheek the flush of
health which nothing could disturb. Catharine could not refrain from
uttering a cry of surprise which roused Dariole for a moment. The queen
mother hastily stepped behind the curtains of the bed.

Dariole opened her eyes, but overcome with sleep, without even wondering
in her drowsy mind why she had wakened, the young girl dropped her heavy
lids and slept again.

Then Catharine came from behind the curtain, and glancing at the other
objects in the room, saw on a table a bottle of Spanish wine, some
fruit, pastry, and two glasses. Henry must have had supper with the
baroness, who apparently was as well as himself. Walking on tiptoe,
Catharine took up the small silver box that was partly empty. It was the
same or very similar to the one she had sent to Charlotte. She removed
from it a piece as large as a pearl on the point of a gold needle,
returned to her room, and gave it to the little ape which Henry had
brought her that evening. Attracted by the aromatic odor the animal
devoured it eagerly, and turning around in his basket, went to sleep.
Catharine waited a quarter of an hour.

"With half of what he has just eaten," said she, "my dog Brutus died,
swelling up instantly. Some one has played me a trick. Is it Réné?
Impossible. Then it is Henry. O fatality! It is very evident that since
he is to reign he cannot die. But perhaps the poison was not strong
enough. We shall see by trying steel."

And Catharine went to bed revolving in her mind a fresh idea which no
doubt was perfected the following day; for she called her captain of the
guards to her, gave him a letter, ordered him to take it to its address
and to deliver it only into the hands of the one for whom it was
intended. It was addressed to the Sire de Louvièrs de Maurevel, Captain
of the King's Petard Makers, Rue de la Cerisaie, near the Arsenal.



CHAPTER XXVIII.

THE LETTER FROM ROME.


Several days elapsed after the events we have just described, when one
morning a litter escorted by several gentlemen wearing the colors of
Monsieur de Guise entered the Louvre, and word was brought to the Queen
of Navarre that Madame la Duchesse de Nevers begged the honor of an
audience. Marguerite was receiving a call from Madame de Sauve. It was
the first time the beautiful baroness had been out since her pretended
illness. She knew that the queen had expressed to her husband great
anxiety on account of her indisposition, which for almost a week had
been court gossip, and she had come to thank her.

Marguerite congratulated her on her convalescence and on her good
fortune at having recovered so quickly from the strange malady, the
seriousness of which as a daughter of France she could not fail to
appreciate.

"I trust you will attend the hunt, already once postponed," said
Marguerite. "It is planned positively for to-morrow. For winter, the
weather is very mild. The sun has softened the earth, and the hunters
all say that the day will be fine."

"But, madame," said the baroness, "I do not know if I shall be strong
enough."

"Bah!" exclaimed Marguerite, "make an effort; moreover, since I am one
of the hunters, I have told the King to reserve a small Béarnese horse
which I was to ride, but which will carry you perfectly. Have you not
already heard of it?"

"Yes, madame, but I did not know that it was meant for your majesty. Had
I known that I should not have accepted it."

"From a feeling of pride, baroness?"

"No, madame, from a feeling of humility, on the contrary."

"Then you will come?"

"Your majesty overwhelms me with honor. I will come, since you command
me."

At that moment Madame la Duchesse de Nevers was announced. At this name
Marguerite gave a cry of such delight that the baroness understood that
the two women wanted to talk together. She rose to leave.

"Until to-morrow, then," said Marguerite.

"Until to-morrow, madame."

"By the way," continued Marguerite holding the baroness by the hand,
"you know that in public I hate you, for I am horribly jealous of you."

"But in private?" asked Madame de Sauve.

"Oh! in private, not only do I forgive you, but more than that, I thank
you."

"Then your majesty will permit me"--

Marguerite held out her hand, the baroness kissed it respectfully, made
a low courtesy and went out.

While Madame de Sauve ascended her stairway, bounding like a deer whose
tether has been broken, Madame de Nevers was exchanging a few formal
words with the queen, which gave time to the gentlemen who had
accompanied her to retire.

"Gillonne," cried Marguerite when the door was closed behind the last,
"Gillonne, see that no one interrupts us."

"Yes," said the duchess, "for we have matters of grave importance to
discuss."

Taking a chair she seated herself without ceremony in the best place
near the fire and in the sunlight, sure that no one would interrupt the
pleasant intimacy between herself and the Queen of Navarre.

"Well," said Marguerite, with a smile, "what about our famous
slaughterer?"

"My dear queen," said the duchess, "he is a mythological creature, upon
my word. He is incomparable, so far as his mind is concerned, and never
dries up. He makes witty remarks that would make a saint in her shrine
die of laughing. In other respects he is the maddest heathen who ever
walked in the skin of a Catholic! I dote on him! And you, what are you
doing with your Apollo?"

"Alas!" said Marguerite with a sigh.

"Oh, how that 'alas!' frightens me, dear queen! Is the gentle La Mole
too respectful or too sentimental? In that, I am forced to admit he
would be exactly the opposite of his friend Coconnas."

"Oh, no, he has his moments," said Marguerite, "but this 'alas!'
concerned only myself."

"What does it mean, then?"

"It means, dear duchess, that I am terribly afraid I am actually in
love."

"Really?"

"On my honor!"

"Oh! so much the better! What a merry life we can lead!" cried
Henriette. "To love a little is my dream; to love much, is yours. It is
so sweet, dear and learned queen, to rest the mind by the heart, is it
not? and to have the smile after the delirium. Ah, Marguerite, I have a
feeling that we are going to have a glorious year!"

"Do you think so?" said the queen. "I, on the contrary, do not know how
that may be; I see things through a veil. All these politics occupy me
so much. By the way, do you know if your Annibal is as devoted to my
brother as he seems to be? Find out for me. I must know."

"He, devoted to anybody or anything! It is easy to see that you do not
know him as I do. If he ever is devoted to anything it will be his
ambition, and that is all. If your brother is a man to make great
promises to him, well, he will be devoted to your brother; but let your
brother, son of France that he is, be careful not to break the promises
he makes him. If he does, my faith, look out for your brother!"

"Really?"

"It is just as I say. Truly, Marguerite, there are times when this tiger
whom I have tamed frightens me. The other day I said to him, 'Annibal,
be careful, do not deceive me, for if you do!'--I said it, however, with
my emerald eyes which prompted Ronsard's lines:

    "'_La Duchesse de Nevers,_[11]
        _Aux yeux verts,_
    _Qui, sous leur paupière blonde_
    _Lancent sur nous plus d'éclairs_
    _Que ne font vingt Jupiters_
        _Dans les airs_
    _Lorsque la tempête gronde._'"

"Well?"

"Well, I supposed he would answer me: 'I deceive you! I! never! etc.,
etc.' But do you know what he did answer?"

"No."

"Well, judge of the man! 'And you,' he replied, 'if you deceive me, you
take care too, for, princess that you are'--and as he said this he
threatened me not only with his eyes, but with his slender pointed
finger, with its nail cut like a steel lance, which he held before my
nose. At that moment, my poor queen, I confess he looked so fierce that
I trembled, and yet you know I am no coward."

"He threatened you, Henriette, he dared?"

"Well, I had threatened him! For that matter he was right. So you see he
is devoted up to a certain point, or rather to a very uncertain point."

"In that case we shall see," said Marguerite thoughtfully; "I will speak
to La Mole. Have you nothing else to tell me?"

"Yes; something most interesting for which I came. But, the idea, you
have told me more interesting things still. I have received news."

"From Rome?"

"Yes, through a courier from my husband."

"Ah! the Poland affair?"

"It is progressing beautifully, and probably in a day or two you will be
rid of your brother of Anjou."

"So the pope has ratified his election?"

"Yes, my dear."

"And you never told me!" cried Marguerite. "Well, quick, quick, the
details."

"Oh, mercy, I have none except those I have given you. But wait, I will
give you the letter from Monsieur de Nevers. Here it is. Oh, no, those
are some verses from Annibal, atrocious ones too, my poor Marguerite. He
can not write any other kind. But wait, here it is. No, it isn't, that
is a note of my own which I brought for you to have La Mole give him.
Ah! at last, here it is." And Madame de Nevers handed the letter to the
queen.

Marguerite opened it hastily and read it; but it told nothing more than
she had already learned from her friend.

"How did you receive this?" continued the queen.

"From a courier of my husband, who had orders to stop at the Hôtel de
Guise before going to the Louvre, and to deliver this letter to me
before delivering that of the King. I knew the importance my queen would
attach to this news, and I had written to Monsieur de Nevers to act
thus. He obeyed, you see; he is not like that monster of a Coconnas. Now
there is no one in the whole of Paris, except the King, you, and I, who
knows this news; except the man who followed our courier"--

"What man?"

"Oh! the horrid business! Imagine how tired, worn out, and dusty the
wretched messenger was when he arrived! He rode seven days, day and
night, without stopping an instant."

"But the man you spoke of just now?"

"Wait a minute. Constantly followed by a wild-looking fellow who had
relays like himself and who rode as far as he did for the four hundred
leagues, the poor courier constantly expected to be shot in his back.
Both reached the Saint Marcel gate at the same time, both galloped down
the Rue Mouffetard, both crossed the city. But at the end of the bridge
of Notre-Dame our courier turned to the right, while the other took the
road to the left by the Place du Châtelet, and sped along the quays by
the side of the Louvre, like an arrow from a bow."

"Thanks, my good Henriette, thanks!" cried Marguerite. "You are right;
that is very interesting news. By whom was the other courier sent? I
must know. So leave me until this evening. Rue Tizon, is it not? and the
hunt to-morrow. Do take a frisky horse, so that he will run away, and we
can be by ourselves. I will tell you this evening what is necessary for
you to try and find out from your Coconnas."

"You will not forget my letter?" said the duchess of Nevers smiling.

"No, no, do not worry; he shall have it, and at once."

Madame de Nevers left, and Marguerite immediately sent for Henry, who
came to her quickly. She gave him the letter from the Duc de Nevers.

"Oh! oh!" he exclaimed.

Then Marguerite told him about the second courier.

"Yes," said Henry; "I saw him enter the Louvre."

"Perhaps he was for the queen mother."

"No, I am sure of that, for I ventured to take my stand in the corridor,
and I saw no one pass."

"Then," said Marguerite, looking at her husband, "he must be"--

"For your brother D'Alençon, must he not?" said Henry.

"Yes; but how can we be sure?"

"Could not one of his two gentlemen be sent for?" said Henry,
carelessly, "and through him"--

"You are right," said Marguerite, put at her ease at her husband's
suggestion. "I will send for Monsieur de la Mole. Gillonne! Gillonne!"

The young girl appeared.

"I must speak at once with Monsieur de la Mole," said the queen. "Try to
find him and bring him here."

Gillonne disappeared. Henry seated himself before a table on which was a
German book containing engravings by Albert Durer, which he began to
examine with such close attention that when La Mole entered he did not
seem to hear him, and did not even raise his head.

On his side, the young man, seeing the king with Marguerite, stopped on
the threshold, silent from surprise and pale from anxiety.

Marguerite went to him.

"Monsieur de la Mole," said she, "can you tell me who is on guard to-day
at Monsieur d'Alençon's?"

"Coconnas, madame," said La Mole.

"Try to find out for me from him if he admitted to his master's room a
man covered with mud, who apparently had a long or hasty ride."

"Ah, madame, I fear he will not tell me; for several days he has been
very taciturn."

"Indeed! But by giving him this note, it seems to me that he will owe
you something in exchange."

"From the duchess! Oh, with this note I will try."

"Add," said Marguerite, lowering her voice, "that this note will serve
him as a means of gaining entrance this evening to the house you know
about."

"And I, madame," said La Mole, in a low tone, "what shall be mine?"

"Give your name. That will be enough."

"Give me the note, madame," said La Mole, with throbbing heart, "I will
bring back the answer."

He withdrew.

"We shall know to-morrow if the duke has been informed of the Poland
affair," said Marguerite calmly, turning to her husband.

"That Monsieur de la Mole is really a fine servant," said the Béarnais,
with his peculiar smile, "and, by Heaven! I will make his fortune!"



CHAPTER XXIX.

THE DEPARTURE.


When on the following day a beautiful sun, red but rayless, as is apt to
be the case on privileged days of winter, rose behind the hills of
Paris, everything had already been awake for two hours in the court of
the Louvre. A magnificent Barbary horse, nervous and spirited, with
limbs like those of a stag, on which the veins crossed one another like
network, pawed the ground, pricked up his ears and snorted, while
waiting for Charles IX. He was less impatient, however, than his master
who, detained by Catharine, had been stopped by her in the hall. She had
said she wished to speak to him on a matter of importance. Both were in
the corridor with the glass windows. Catharine was cold, pale, and quiet
as usual. Charles IX. fretted, bit his nails, and whipped his two
favorite dogs. The latter were covered with cuirasses of mail, so that
the snout of the wild boar should not harm them, and that they might be
able to encounter the terrible animal with impunity. A small scutcheon
with the arms of France had been stitched on their breasts similar to
those on the breasts of the pages, who, more than once, had envied the
privileges of these happy favorites.

"Pay attention, Charles," said Catharine, "no one but you and I knows as
yet of the expected arrival of these Polonais. But, God forgive me, the
King of Navarre acts as if he knew. In spite of his abjuration, which I
always mistrust, he is in communication with the Huguenots. Have you
noticed how often he has gone out the past few days? He has money, too,
he who has never had any. He buys horses, arms, and on rainy days he
practises fencing from morning until night."

"Well, my God, mother!" exclaimed Charles IX., impatiently, "do you
think he intends to kill me, or my brother D'Anjou? In that case he will
need a few more lessons, for yesterday I counted eleven buttonholes with
my foil on his doublet, which, however, had only six. And as to my
brother D'Anjou, you know that he fences as well if not better than I
do; at least so people say."

"Listen, Charles," continued Catharine, "and do not treat lightly what
your mother tells you. The ambassadors will arrive; well, you will see!
As soon as they are in Paris, Henry will do all he can to gain their
attention. He is insinuating, he is crafty; without mentioning his wife
who seconds him, I know not why, and will chat with them, and talk
Latin, Greek, Hungarian, and I know not what, to them! Oh, I tell you,
Charles,--and you know that I am not mistaken,--I tell you that there is
something on foot."

Just then the clock struck and Charles IX. stopped listening to his
mother to count the strokes.

"Good heavens! seven o'clock!" he exclaimed, "one hour before we get
off, that will make it eight; one hour to reach the meeting-place, and
to start again--we shall not be able to begin hunting before nine
o'clock. Really, mother, you make me lose a great deal of time! Down,
Risquetout! great Heavens! down, I say, you brigand!"

And a vigorous blow of the bloody whip on the mastiff's back brought a
howl of real pain from the poor beast, thoroughly astonished at
receiving punishment in exchange for a caress.

"Charles!" said Catharine, "listen to me, in God's name, and do not
leave to chance your fortune and that of France! The hunt, the hunt, the
hunt, you cry; why, you will have time enough to hunt when your work of
king is settled."

"Come now, mother!" exclaimed Charles, pale with impatience, "explain
quickly, for you bother me to death. Really, there are days when I
cannot comprehend you."

He stopped beating his whip against his boot.

Catharine thought that the time had come and that it should not be
passed by.

"My son," said she, "we have proof that De Mouy has returned to Paris.
Monsieur de Maurevel, whom you are well acquainted with, has seen him.
This can be only for the King of Navarre. That is enough, I trust, for
us to suspect him more than ever."

"Come, there you go again after my poor Henriot! You want me to have him
killed; do you not?"

"Oh, no."

"Exiled? But why can you not see that if he were exiled he would be much
more dangerous than he will ever be here, in the Louvre, under our eyes,
where he can do nothing without our knowing it at once?"

"Therefore I do not wish him exiled."

"What do you want, then? Tell me quickly!"

"I want him to be held in safe keeping while these Polonais are here;
in the Bastille, for instance."

"Ah! my faith, no!" cried Charles IX. "We are going to hunt the boar
this morning and Henry is one of my best men. Without him the fun would
be spoiled. By Heaven, mother! really, you do nothing but vex me."

"Why, my dear son, I did not say this morning. The ambassadors do not
arrive until to-morrow or the day after. Arrest him after your hunt,
this evening--to-night"--

"That is a different matter. Well, we will talk about it later and see.
After the hunt I will not refuse. Adieu! Come here, Risquetout! Is it
your turn to sulk now?"

"Charles," said Catharine, laying a detaining hand on his arm at the
risk of a fresh explosion which might result from this new delay, "I
think that the best thing to do is to sign the order for arrest at once,
even though it is not to be carried out until this evening or to-night."

"Sign, write an order, look up a seal for the parchment when they are
waiting for me to go hunting, I, who never keep anyone waiting! The
devil take the thought!"

"Why, no, I love you too dearly to delay you. I arranged everything
beforehand; step in here and see!"

And Catharine, as agile as if she were only twenty years old, pushed
open a door of her cabinet, and pointed to an ink-stand, pen, parchment,
the seal, and a lighted candle.

The king took the parchment and read it through hastily.

"_Order, etc., etc., to arrest and conduct to the Bastille our brother
Henry of Navarre._"

"Good, that is done!" he exclaimed, signing hurriedly. "Adieu, mother."

He hastened from the room, followed by his dogs, greatly pleased to have
gotten rid of Catharine so easily.

Charles IX. had been waited for with impatience, and as his promptness
in hunting matters was well known, every one wondered at the delay. So
when he finally appeared, the hunters welcomed him by shouts of "Long
live the King!" the outriders by a flourish of trumpets, the horses by
neighing, the dogs by barking. All this noise and hubbub brought a flush
to his pale cheeks, his heart swelled, and for a moment Charles was
young and happy.

The King scarcely took the time to salute the brilliant company gathered
in the court-yard. He nodded to the Duc d'Alençon, waved his hand to his
sister Marguerite, passed Henry without apparently seeing him, and
sprang upon the fiery Barbary horse, which started off at once. But
after curvetting around three or four times, he realized what sort of a
rider he had to deal with and quieted down. The trumpets again sounded,
and the King left the Louvre followed by the Duc d'Alençon, the King of
Navarre, Marguerite, Madame de Nevers, Madame de Sauve, Tavannes, and
the principal courtiers.

It goes without saying that La Mole and Coconnas were of the number.

As to the Duc d'Anjou, he had been at the siege of La Rochelle for three
months.

While waiting for the King, Henry had spoken to his wife, who in
returning his greeting had whispered,

"The courier from Rome was admitted by Monsieur de Coconnas himself to
the chamber of the Duc d'Alençon a quarter of an hour before the
messenger from the Duc de Nevers saw the King."

"Then he knows all," said Henry.

"He must know all," replied Marguerite; "but keep your eyes on him and
see how, in spite of his usual dissimulation, his eyes shine."

"_Ventre saint gris!_" murmured the Béarnais. "I should think they
would; he hunts triple game to-day: France, Poland, and Navarre, without
counting the wild boar."

He bowed to his wife, returned to his place, and calling one of his
servants whose ancestors had been in the service of his father for more
than a century, and whom he employed as ordinary messenger in his love
affairs:

"Orthon," said he, "take this key to the cousin of Madame de Sauve, who
you know lives with his mistress at the corner of the Rue des Quatre
Fils. Say to him that his cousin desires to speak to him this evening;
that he is to enter my room, and, in case I am not there, to wait for
me. If I am late, he is to lie down on my bed."

"Is there an answer, sire?"

"No, except to tell me if you find him. The key is for him alone, you
understand?"

"Yes, sire."

"Wait; do not start now, plague you! Before leaving Paris I will call
you to tighten my saddle-girths; in that way you will naturally have to
lag behind, and you can carry out your commission and join us at
Bondy."

The servant made a sign of obedience and rode away.

They set out by the Rue Saint Honoré, through the Rue Saint Denis, and
the Faubourg. At the Rue Saint Laurent the saddle-girths of the King of
Navarre became loose. Orthon rode up to him, and everything happened as
had been agreed on between him and his master, who followed the royal
procession along the Rue des Récollets, where his faithful servant
sought the Rue du Temple.

When Henry overtook the King, Charles was engaged in such an interesting
conversation with the Duc d'Alençon, on the subject of the weather, the
age of the wild boar which was a recluse, and as to where he had made
his lair, that he did not notice, or pretended he did not notice, that
Henry had lagged behind a moment.

In the meantime Marguerite had watched each countenance from afar and
thought she perceived a certain embarrassment in the eyes of her brother
every time she looked at him. Madame de Nevers was abandoning herself to
mad gayety, for Coconnas, supremely happy that day, was making
numberless jokes near her to make the ladies laugh.

As to La Mole he had already twice found an opportunity to kiss
Marguerite's white scarf with gold fringe, without the act, which was
carried out with the skill usual to lovers, having been seen by more
than three or four.

About a quarter-past eight they reached Bondy. The first thought of
Charles IX. was to find out if the wild boar had held out.

The boar was in his lair, and the outrider who had turned him aside
answered for him. A breakfast was ready. The King drank a glass of
Hungarian wine. Charles IX. invited the ladies to take seats at table,
and in his impatience to pass away the time set out to visit the kennels
and the roosts, giving orders not to unsaddle his horse, as he said he
had never had a better or a stronger mount.

While the King was taking this stroll, the Duc de Guise arrived. He was
armed for war rather than for hunting, and was accompanied by twenty or
thirty gentlemen equipped in like manner. He asked at once for the King,
joined him, and returned talking with him.

At exactly nine o'clock the King himself gave the signal to start, and
each one mounted and set out to the meet. During the ride Henry found
another opportunity to be near his wife.

"Well," said he, "do you know anything new?"

"No," replied Marguerite, "unless it is that my brother Charles looks
at you strangely."

"I have noticed it," said Henry.

"Have you taken precautions?"

"I have on a coat of mail, and at my side a good Spanish hunting knife,
as sharp as a razor, and as pointed as a needle. I could pierce pistols
with it."

"In that case," said Marguerite, "God protect you!"

The outrider in charge of the hunt made a sign. They had reached the
lair.



CHAPTER XXX.

MAUREVEL.


While all this careless, light-hearted youth, apparently so at least,
was scattering like a gilded whirlwind along the road to Bondy,
Catharine, still rolling up the precious parchment to which King Charles
had just affixed his signature, admitted into her room a man to whom, a
few days before, her captain of the guards had carried a letter,
addressed to Rue de la Cerisaie, near the Arsenal.

A broad silk band like a badge of mourning hid one of the man's eyes,
showing only the other eye, two prominent cheek-bones, and the curve of
a vulture's nose, while a grayish beard covered the lower part of his
face. He wore a long thick cloak, beneath which one might have imagined
a whole arsenal. Besides this, although it was not the custom of those
called to court, he wore at his side a long campaign sword, broad, and
with a double blade. One of his hands was hidden beneath his cloak, and
never left the handle of a long dagger.

"Ah! you here, monsieur?" said the queen seating herself; "you know that
I promised you after Saint Bartholomew, when you rendered us such signal
service, not to let you be idle. The opportunity has arisen, or rather I
have made it. Thank me, therefore."

"Madame, I humbly thank your majesty," replied the man with the black
bandage, in a reserved voice at once low and insolent.

"A fine opportunity; you will not find another such in your whole life.
Make the most of it, therefore."

"I am waiting, madame, only after the preamble, I fear"--

"That the commission may not be much? Are not those who wish to advance
fond of such commissions? The one of which I speak would be envied by
the Tavannes and even by the De Guises."

"Ah! madame," said the man, "believe me, I am at your majesty's orders,
whatever they may be."

"In that case, read," said Catharine.

She handed him the parchment. The man read it and grew pale.

"What!" he exclaimed, "an order to arrest the King of Navarre!"

"Well! what is there strange in that?"

"But a king, madame! Really, I think--I fear I am not of sufficiently
high rank."

"My confidence makes you the first gentleman of my court, Monsieur de
Maurevel," said Catharine.

"I thank your majesty," said the assassin so moved that he seemed to
hesitate.

"You will obey, then?"

"If your majesty orders it, is it not my duty?"

"Yes, I order it."

"Then I will obey."

"How shall you go to work?"

"Why, madame, I do not know, I should greatly like to be guided by your
majesty."

"You fear noise?"

"I admit it."

"Take a dozen sure men, if necessary."

"I understand, of course, that your majesty will permit me to do the
best I can for myself, and I am grateful to you for this; but where
shall I arrest the King of Navarre?"

"Where would it best please you to arrest him?"

"In some place in which I should be warranted in doing so, if possible,
even by his Majesty."

"Yes, I understand, in some royal palace; what do you say to the Louvre,
for instance?"

"Oh, if your majesty would permit it, that would be a great favor."

"You will arrest him, then, in the Louvre."

"In what part?"

"In his own room."

Maurevel bowed.

"When, madame?"

"This evening, or rather to-night."

"Very well, madame. Now, will your majesty deign to inform me on one
point?"

"On what point?"

"About the respect due to his position."

"Respect! position!" said Catharine, "why, then, you do not know,
monsieur, that the King of France owes respect to no one in his kingdom,
whoever he may be, recognizing no position as equal to his own?"

Maurevel bowed a second time.

"I insist on this point, however, madame, if your majesty will allow
me."

"I will, monsieur."

"If the king contests the authenticity of the order, which is not
probable, but"--

"On the contrary, monsieur, he is sure to do so."

"He will contest it?"

"Without a doubt."

"And consequently he will refuse to obey it?"

"I fear so."

"And he will resist?"

"Probably."

"Ah! the devil!" said Maurevel; "and in that case"--

"In what case?" said Catharine, not moving her eyes from him.

"Why, in case he resists, what is to be done?"

"What do you do when you are given an order from the King, that is, when
you represent the King, and when there is any resistance, Monsieur de
Maurevel?"

"Why, madame," said the sbirro, "when I am honored with such an order,
and when this order refers to a simple gentleman, I kill him."

"I told you, monsieur," said Catharine, "and I scarcely think that
sufficient time has elapsed for you to have forgotten it, that the King
of France recognizes no position in his kingdom, and that after him the
greatest are simple gentlemen."

Maurevel grew pale, for he was beginning to comprehend.

"Oh! oh!" he cried, "kill the King of Navarre?"

"Why, who is speaking of killing him? Where is the order to kill him?
The King wishes him taken to the Bastille, and the order contains
nothing more. If he lets himself be arrested, very good; but as he will
not let himself be arrested, as he will resist, as he will endeavor to
kill you"--

Maurevel grew paler.

"You will defend yourself," continued Catharine. "One cannot ask a brave
man like you to let himself be killed without defending himself; and in
defending yourself, what can you expect? You must let come what may. You
understand me, do you not?"

"Yes, madame; and yet"--

"Come, do you want me to write _dead or alive_ after the words _order to
arrest_?"

"I confess, madame, that that would do away with my scruples."

"Well, it must be done, of course, since you do not think the order can
be carried out without it."

And Catharine shrugged her shoulders, unrolled the parchment with one
hand, and wrote with the other: "_dead or alive_."

"Now," said she, "do you consider the order all right?"

"Yes, madame," replied Maurevel; "but I beg your majesty to leave the
carrying out of the entire affair to me."

"What have I said that will interfere with it?"

"Your majesty told me to take a dozen men."

"Yes, to make sure"--

"Well, I ask permission to take only six."

"Why so?"

"Because, madame, if anything happens to the prince, as it probably
will, it would be easy to excuse six men for having been afraid of
losing the prisoner, but no one would excuse a dozen guards for not
having let half of their number be killed before laying hands on
royalty."

"Fine royalty, in truth, which has no kingdom."

"Madame," said Maurevel, "it is not the kingdom which makes the king: it
is birth."

"Very well," said Catharine; "do as you please. Only I must warn you
that I do not wish you to leave the Louvre."

"But, madame, to get my men together?"

"Have you not a sort of sergeant whom you can charge with this duty?"

"I have my lackey, who not only is a faithful fellow, but who has even
occasionally aided me in this sort of thing."

"Send for him, and confer with him. You know the chamber hung with the
King's arms, do you not? Well, your breakfast shall be served there; and
from there you shall give your orders. The place will aid you to collect
your wits in case they are scattered. Then when my son returns from the
hunt, you are to go into my oratory, and wait until the time comes."

"But how are we to get into the room? Probably the king suspects
something, and he will shut himself up in it."

"I have a duplicate key to every door," said Catharine, "and the bolts
have been removed from Henry's room. Adieu, Monsieur de Maurevel, for a
while. I will have you taken to the King's armory. Ah! by the way!
remember that the order of a King must be carried out before anything
else. No excuse is admissible; a defeat, even a failure, would
compromise the honor of the King. It is a serious matter."

And Catharine, without giving Maurevel time to answer, called Monsieur
de Nancey, the captain of the guards, and ordered him to conduct
Maurevel to the king's armory.

"My God!" exclaimed Maurevel as he followed his guide, "I have risen to
the hierarchy of assassination; from a simple gentleman to a captain,
from a captain to an admiral, from an admiral to a king without a crown.
Who knows if I shall not some day be a king with a crown!"



CHAPTER XXXI.

THE HUNT.


The outrider who had turned aside the boar and who had told the King
that the animal had not left the place was not mistaken. Scarcely were
the bloodhounds put on the trail before it plunged into the thickets,
and from a cluster of thorn bushes drove out the boar which the outrider
had recognized by its track. It was a recluse; that is, the strangest
kind of animal.

It started straight ahead and crossed the road fifty feet from the King,
followed only by the bloodhound which had driven it back. The first
relay of dogs was at once let loose, twenty in number, which sprang
after it.

Hunting was Charles' chief passion. Scarcely had the animal crossed the
road before he started after it, followed by the Duc d'Alençon and
Henry, to whom a sign had indicated that he must not leave Charles.

The rest of the hunters followed the King.

At the time of which we are writing, the royal forests were far from
being what they are to-day, great parks intersected by carriage roads.
Then traffic was almost wanting. Kings had not yet conceived the idea of
being merchants, and of dividing their woods into fellings, copses, and
forests. The trees, planted, not by learned foresters, but by the hand
of God, who threw the grain to the will of the winds, were not arranged
in quincunxes, but grew as they pleased, as they do to-day in any
virginal forest of America. In short, a forest in those days was a den
of the wild boar, the stag, the wolf, and robbers; and a dozen paths
starting from one point starred that of Bondy, surrounded by a circular
road as the circle of a wheel surrounds its fellies.

To carry the comparison further, the nave would not be a bad
representation of the single point where the parties meet in the centre
of the wood, where the wandering hunters rally to start out again
towards the point where the lost animal again appears.

At the end of a quarter of an hour there happened what always happens in
such cases. Insurmountable obstacles rose in the path of the hunters,
the cries of the dogs were lost in the distance, and the King returned
to the meeting-place cursing and swearing as was his habit.

"Well, D'Alençon! Well, Henriot!" said he, "there you are, by Heaven, as
calm and unruffled as nuns following their abbess. That is not hunting.
Why, D'Alençon, you look as though you had just stepped out of a
band-box, and you are so saturated with perfumery that if you were to
pass between the boar and my dogs, you might put them off the scent. And
you, Henry, where is your spear, your musket? Let us see!"

"Sire," said Henry, "of what use is a musket? I know that your Majesty
likes to shoot the beast when the dogs have caught it. As to a spear, I
am clumsy enough with this weapon, which is not much used among our
mountains, where we hunt the bear with a simple dagger."

"By Heavens, Henry, when you return to your Pyrenees you will have to
send me a whole cartload of bears. It must be a pretty hunt that is
carried on at such close quarters with an animal which might strangle
us. Listen, I think I hear the dogs. No, I am mistaken." The King took
his horn and blew a blast; several horns answered him. Suddenly an
outrider appeared who blew another blast.

"The boar! the boar!" cried the King.

He galloped off, followed by the rest of the hunters who had rallied
round him.

The outrider was not mistaken. As the King advanced they began to hear
the barking of the pack, which consisted of more than sixty dogs, for
one after another they had let loose all the relays placed at the points
the boar had already passed. The King saw the boar again, and taking
advantage of a clump of high trees, he rushed after him, blowing his
horn with all his might.

For some time the princes followed him. But the King had such a strong
horse and was so carried away by his ardor, and he rode over such rough
roads and through such thick underbrush, that at first the ladies, then
the Duc de Guise and his gentlemen, and finally the two princes, were
forced to abandon him. Tavannes held out for a time longer, but at
length he too gave up.

Except Charles and a few outriders who, excited over a promised reward,
would not leave the King, everyone had gathered about the open space in
the centre of the wood. The two princes were together on a narrow path,
the Duc de Guise and his gentlemen had halted a hundred feet from them.
Further on were the ladies.

"Does it not really seem," said the Duc d'Alençon to Henry, indicating
by a wink the Duc de Guise, "that that man with his escort sheathed in
steel is the real king? Poor princes that we are, he does not even honor
us by a glance."

"Why should he treat us better than we treat our own relatives?" replied
Henry. "Why, brother, are not you and I prisoners at the court of
France, hostages from our party?"

Duc François started at these words, and looked at Henry as if to
provoke further explanation; but Henry had said more than he usually did
and was silent.

"What do you mean, Henry?" asked the Duc François, visibly annoyed that
his brother-in-law by stopping had left him to open the conversation.

"I say, brother," said Henry, "that all these men who are so well armed,
whose duty seems to be not to lose sight of us, look exactly like guards
preventing two people from running away."

"Running away? why? how?" asked D'Alençon, admirably successful in his
pretended surprise and innocence.

"You have a magnificent mount, François," said Henry, following out his
thoughts, while apparently changing the conversation. "I am sure he
could make seven leagues in an hour, and twenty between now and noon. It
is a fine day. And one feels like saying good-by. See the beautiful
cross-road. Does it not tempt you, François? As to me, my spurs burn
me."

François did not reply. But he first turned red and then white. Then he
bent his head, as if listening for sounds from the hunters.

"The news from Poland is having its effect," said Henry, "and my dear
brother-in-law has his plans. He would like me to escape, but I shall
not do so by myself."

Scarcely had this thought passed through his mind before several new
converts, who had come to court during the past two or three months,
galloped up and smiled pleasantly on the two princes. The Duc d'Alençon,
provoked by Henry's remarks, had but one word to say, one gesture to
make, and it was evident that thirty or forty horsemen, who at that
moment gathered around them as though to oppose the troop belonging to
Monsieur de Guise, favored his flight; but he turned aside his head,
and, raising his horn to his lips, he sounded the rally. But the
newcomers, as if they thought that the hesitation on the part of the Duc
d'Alençon was due to the presence of the followers of the De Guises, had
by degrees glided among them and the two princes, and had drawn
themselves up in echelons with a strategic skill which showed the usual
military disposition. In fact, to reach the Duc d'Alençon and the King
of Navarre it would have been necessary to pass through this company,
while, as far as eye could reach, a perfectly free road stretched out
before the brothers.

Suddenly from among the trees, ten feet from the King of Navarre,
another gentleman appeared, as yet unperceived by the two princes. Henry
was trying to think who he was, when the gentleman raised his hat and
Henry recognized him as the Vicomte de Turenne, one of the leaders of
the Protestant party, who was supposed to be in Poitou.

The vicomte even ventured to make a sign which clearly meant,

"Will you come?"

But having consulted the impassable face and dull eye of the Duc
d'Alençon, Henry turned his head two or three times over his shoulder as
if something was the matter with his neck or doublet.

This was a refusal. The vicomte understood it, put both spurs to his
horse and disappeared in the thicket. At that moment the pack was heard
approaching, then they saw the boar followed by the dogs cross the end
of the path where they were all gathered; then Charles IX., like an
infernal hunter, hatless, the horn at his mouth blowing enough to burst
his lungs; three or four outriders followed. Tavannes had disappeared.

"The King!" cried the Duc d'Alençon, and he rode after him.

Reassured by the presence of his good friends, Henry signed to them not
to leave, and advanced towards the ladies.

"Well!" said Marguerite, taking a few steps towards him.

"Well, madame," said Henry, "we are hunting the wild boar."

"Is that all?"

"Yes, the wind has changed since morning; but I believe you predicted
this."

"These changes of the wind are bad for hunting, are they not, monsieur?"
asked Marguerite.

"Yes," said Henry; "they sometimes upset all plans, which have to be
made over again." Just then the barking of the dogs began to be heard as
they rapidly approached, and a sort of noisy dust warned the hunters to
be on their guard. Each one raised his head and listened.

Almost immediately the boar appeared again, but instead of returning to
the woods, he followed the road that led directly to the open space
where were the ladies, the gentlemen paying court to them, and the
hunters who had given up the chase.

Behind the animal came thirty or forty great dogs, panting; then, twenty
feet behind them, King Charles without hat or cloak, his clothes torn by
the thorns, his face and hands covered with blood.

One or two outriders were with him.

The King stopped blowing his horn only to urge on his dogs, and stopped
urging on his dogs only to return to his horn. He saw no one. Had his
horse stumbled, he might have cried out as did Richard III.: "My kingdom
for a horse!" But the horse seemed as eager as his master. His feet did
not touch the ground, and his nostrils breathed forth fire. Boar, dogs,
and King passed like a dream.

"Halloo! halloo!" cried the King as he went by, raising the horn to his
bloody lips.

A few feet behind him came the Duc d'Alençon and two outriders. But the
horses of the others had given out or else they were lost.

Everyone started after the King, for it was evident that the boar would
soon be taken.

In fact, at the end of about ten minutes the animal left the path it had
been following, and sprang into the bushes; but reaching an open space,
it ran to a rock and faced the dogs.

At the shouts from Charles, who had followed it, everyone drew near.

They arrived at an interesting point in the chase. The boar seemed
determined to make a desperate defence. The dogs, excited by a run of
more than three hours, rushed on it with a fury which increased the
shouts and the oaths of the King.

All the hunters formed a circle, the King somewhat in advance, behind
him the Duc d'Alençon armed with a musket, and Henry, who had nothing
but his simple hunting knife.

The Duc d'Alençon unfastened his musket and lighted the match. Henry
moved his knife in its sheath.

As to the Duc de Guise, disdainful of all the details of hunting, he
stood somewhat apart from the others with his gentlemen. The women,
gathered together in a group, formed a counterpart to that of the duke.

Everyone who was anything of a hunter stood with eyes fixed on the
animal in anxious expectation.

To one side an outrider was endeavoring to restrain the King's two
mastiffs, which, encased in their coats of mail, were waiting to take
the boar by the ears, howling and jumping about in such a manner that
every instant one might think they would burst their chains.

The boar made a wonderful resistance. Attacked at once by forty or more
dogs, which enveloped it like a roaring tide, which covered it by their
motley carpet, which on all sides was striving to reach its skin,
wrinkled with bristles, at each blow of its snout it hurled a dog ten
feet in the air. The dogs fell back, torn to pieces, and, with entrails
dragging, at once returned to the fray. Charles, with hair on end,
bloodshot eyes, and inflated nostrils, leaned over the neck of his
dripping horse shouting furious "halloos!"

In less than ten minutes twenty dogs were out of the fight.

"The mastiffs!" cried Charles; "the mastiffs!"

At this shout the outrider opened the carbine-swivels of the leashes,
and the two bloodhounds rushed into the midst of the carnage,
overturning everything, scattering everything, making a way with their
coats of mail to the animal, which they seized by the ear.

The boar, knowing that it was caught, clinched its teeth both from rage
and pain.

"Bravo, Duredent! Bravo, Risquetout!" cried Charles. "Courage, dogs! A
spear! a spear!"

"Do you not want my musket?" said the Duc d'Alençon.

"No," cried the King, "no; one cannot feel a bullet when he shoots;
there is no fun in it; but one can feel a spear. A spear! a spear!"

They handed the King a hunting spear hardened by fire and armed with a
steel point.

"Take care, brother!" cried Marguerite.

"Come! come!" cried the Duchesse de Nevers. "Do not miss, sire. Give the
beast a good stab!"

"Be easy, duchess!" said Charles.

Couching his lance, he darted at the boar which, held by the two
bloodhounds, could not escape the blow. But at sight of the shining
lance it turned to one side, and the weapon, instead of sinking into its
breast, glided over its shoulder and blunted itself against the rock to
which the animal had run.

"A thousand devils!" cried the King. "I have missed him. A spear! a
spear!"

And bending back, as horsemen do when they are going to take a fence, he
hurled his useless lance from him.

An outrider advanced and offered him another.

But at that moment, as though it foresaw the fate which awaited it, and
which it wished to resist, by a violent effort the boar snatched its
torn ears from the teeth of the bloodhounds, and with eyes bloody,
protruding, hideous, its breath burning like the heat from a furnace,
with chattering teeth and lowered head it sprang at the King's horse.
Charles was too good a hunter not to have foreseen this. He turned his
horse, which began to rear, but he had miscalculated the pressure, and
the horse, too tightly reined in, or perhaps giving way to his fright,
fell over backwards. The spectators gave a terrible cry: the horse had
fallen, and the King's leg was under him.

"Your hand, sire, give me your hand," said Henry.

The King let go his horse's bridle, seized the saddle with his left
hand, and tried to draw out his hunting knife with his right; but the
knife, pressed into his belt by the weight of his body, would not come
from its sheath.

"The boar! the boar!" cried Charles; "it is on me, D'Alençon! on me!"

The horse, recovering himself as if he understood his master's danger,
stretched his muscles, and had already succeeded in getting up on its
three legs, when, at the cry from his brother, Henry saw the Duc
François grow frightfully pale and raise the musket to his shoulder,
but, instead of striking the boar, which was but two feet from the King,
the ball broke the knee of the horse, which fell down again, his nose
touching the ground. At that instant the boar, with its snout, tore
Charles's boot.

"Oh!" murmured D'Alençon with ashy lips, "I suppose that the Duc d'Anjou
is King of France, and that I am King of Poland."

The boar was about to attack Charles's leg, when suddenly the latter
felt someone raise his arm; then he saw the flash of a sharp-pointed
blade which was driven into the shoulder of the boar and disappeared up
to its guard, while a hand gloved in steel turned aside the head already
poked under his clothes.

As the horse had risen, Charles had succeeded in freeing his leg, and
now raising himself heavily, he saw that he was dripping with blood,
whereupon he became as pale as a corpse.

"Sire," said Henry, who still knelt holding the boar pierced to the
heart, "sire, it is nothing, I turned aside the teeth, and your Majesty
is not hurt."

Then he rose, let go the knife, and the boar fell back pouring forth
more blood from its mouth than from its wound.

Charles, surrounded by a breathless crowd, assailed by cries of terror
which would have dashed the greatest courage, was for a moment ready to
fall on the dying animal. But he recovered himself and, turning toward
the King of Navarre, he pressed his hand with a look in which shone the
first spark of feeling that had been roused in his heart for twenty-four
years.

"Thank you, Henriot!" said he.

"My poor brother!" cried D'Alençon, approaching Charles.

"Ah! it is you, D'Alençon, is it?" said the King. "Well, famous marksman
that you are, what became of your ball?"

"It must have flattened itself against the boar," said the duke.

"Well! my God!" exclaimed Henry, with admirably assumed surprise; "you
see, François, your bullet has broken the leg of his Majesty's horse.
That is strange!"

"What!" said the King; "is that true?"

"It is possible," said the duke terrified; "my hand shook so!"

"The fact is that for a clever marksman that was a strange thing to do,
François!" said Charles frowning. "A second time, Henriot, I thank you!"

"Gentlemen," continued the King, "let us return to Paris; I have had
enough of this."

Marguerite came up to congratulate Henry.

"Yes, indeed, Margot," said Charles, "congratulate him, and sincerely
too, for without him the King of France would be Henry III."

"Alas, madame," said the Béarnais, "Monsieur le Duc d'Anjou, who is
already my enemy, will be angrier than ever at me. But what can you
expect? One does what one can. Ask Monsieur d'Alençon."

And bowing, he drew his knife from the wild boar's body and dug it two
or three times into the earth to wipe off the blood.



PART II.



CHAPTER XXXII.

FRATERNITY.


In saving the life of Charles, Henry had done more than save the life of
a man,--he had prevented three kingdoms from changing sovereigns.

Had Charles IX. been killed, the Duc d'Anjou would have become King of
France, and the Duc d'Alençon in all probability would have been King of
Poland. As to Navarre, as Monsieur le Duc d'Anjou was the lover of
Madame de Condé, its crown would probably have paid to the husband the
complacency of his wife. Now in all this no good would have come to
Henry. He would have changed masters, that would have been all. Instead
of Charles IX. who tolerated him, he would have seen the Duc d'Anjou on
the throne of France, and being of one heart and mind with his mother
Catharine, the latter had sworn that he should die, and he would not
have failed to keep his oath. All these thoughts entered his mind when
the wild boar sprang at Charles IX., and we know that the result of his
rapid thinking was that his own life was attached to that of Charles IX.

Charles IX. had been saved by an act of devotion, the motive of which
the King could not fathom. But Marguerite had understood, and she had
admired that strange courage of Henry which, like flashes of lightning,
shone only in a storm.

Unfortunately it was not all to have escaped the kingdom of the Duc
d'Anjou. Henry had to make himself king. He had to dispute Navarre with
the Duc d'Alençon and with the Prince of Condé; above all he had to
leave the court where one walked only between two precipices, and go
away protected by a son of France.

As he returned from Bondy Henry pondered deeply on the situation. On
arriving at the Louvre his plan was formed. Without removing his
riding-boots, just as he was, covered with dust and blood, he betook
himself to the apartments of the Duc d'Alençon, whom he found striding
up and down in great agitation.

On perceiving him the prince gave a start of surprise.

"Yes," said Henry, taking him by both hands; "yes, I understand, my good
brother, you are angry because I was the first to call the King's
attention to the fact that your ball struck the leg of his horse instead
of the boar, as you intended it should. But what can you expect? I could
not prevent an exclamation of surprise. Besides, the King would have
noticed it, would he not?"

"No doubt, no doubt," murmured D'Alençon. "And yet I can think of it
only as an evil intention on your part to denounce me as you did, and
which, as you yourself saw, had no result except to make my brother
Charles suspect me, and to make hard feeling between us."

"We will return to this in a few moments. As to my good or evil
intentions regarding you, I have come to you on purpose that you may
judge them."

"Very good!" said D'Alençon with his customary reserve. "Speak, Henry, I
am listening."

"When I have spoken, François, you will readily see what my intentions
are, for the confidence I am going to place in you does away with all
reserve and prudence. And when I have told you, you will be able to ruin
me by a single word!"

"What is it?" said François, beginning to be anxious.

"And yet," continued Henry, "I have hesitated a long time to speak to
you of the thing which brings me here, especially after the way in which
you turned a deaf ear to-day."

"Really," said François, growing pale, "I do not know what you mean,
Henry."

"Brother, your interests are too dear to me not to tell you that the
Huguenots have made advances to me."

"Advances!" said D'Alençon. "What advances?"

"One of them, Monsieur de Mouy of Saint Phal, the son of the brave De
Mouy, assassinated by Maurevel, you know"--

"Yes."

"Well, he came at the risk of his life to show me that I was in
captivity."

"Ah! indeed! and what did you say to him?"

"Brother, you know that I love Charles dearly. He has saved my life,
and the queen mother has been like a real mother to me. So I refused all
the offers he made me."

"What were these offers?"

"The Huguenots want to reconstruct the throne of Navarre, and as in
reality this throne belongs to me by inheritance, they offered it to
me."

"Yes; and Monsieur de Mouy, instead of the consent he expected to ask
for, has received your relinquishment?"

"My formal relinquishment--even in writing. But since," continued Henry.

"You have repented, brother?" interrupted D'Alençon.

"No, I merely thought I noticed that Monsieur de Mouy had become
discontented with me, and was paying his visits elsewhere."

"Where?" asked François quickly.

"I do not know. At the Prince of Condé's perhaps."

"Yes, that might be," said the duke.

"Besides," went on Henry, "I have positive knowledge as to the leader he
has chosen."

François grew pale.

"But," continued Henry, "the Huguenots are divided among themselves, and
De Mouy, brave and loyal as he is, represents only one-half of the
party. Now this other half, which is not to be scorned, has not given up
the hope of having Henry of Navarre on the throne, who having hesitated
at first may have reflected since."

"You think this?"

"Oh, every day I receive proofs of it. The troops which joined us at the
hunt, did you notice of what men it was composed?"

"Yes, of converted gentlemen."

"Did you recognize the leader of the troop who signed to me?"

"Yes, it was the Vicomte de Turenne."

"Did you know what they wanted of me?"

"Yes, they proposed to you to escape."

"Then," said Henry to François, who was growing restless, "there is
evidently a second party which wants something else besides what
Monsieur de Mouy wants."

"A second party?"

"Yes, and a very powerful one, I tell you, so that in order to succeed
it is necessary to unite the two--Turenne and De Mouy. The conspiracy
progresses, the troops are ready, the signal alone is waited for. Now in
this supreme situation, which demands prompt solution on my part, I have
come to two decisions between which I am wavering. I have come to submit
these decisions to you as to a friend."

"Say rather as to a brother."

"Yes, as to a brother," went on Henry.

"Speak, then, I am listening."

"In the first place I ought to explain to you the condition of my mind,
my dear François. No desire, no ambition, no ability. I am an honest
country gentleman, poor, sensual, and timid. The career of conspirator
offers me indignities poorly compensated for even by the certain
prospect of a crown."

"Ah, brother," said François, "you do wrong. Sad indeed is the position
of a prince whose fortune is limited by the boundary of the paternal
estate or by a man in a career for honors! I do not believe, therefore,
in what you tell me."

"And yet what I tell you is so true, brother, that if I thought I had a
true friend, I would resign in his favor the power which this party
wishes to give me; but," he added with a sigh, "I have none."

"Perhaps you have. You probably are mistaken."

"No, _ventre saint gris_!" said Henry, "except yourself, brother, I see
no one who is attached to me; so that rather than let fail an attempt
which might bring to light some unworthy man, I truly prefer to inform
my brother the King of what is taking place. I will mention no names, I
will designate neither country nor date, but I will foretell the
catastrophe."

"Great God!" exclaimed D'Alençon unable to repress his terror, "what do
you mean? What! you, you, the sole hope of the party since the death of
the admiral; you, a converted Huguenot, a poor convert, or at least such
you were thought to be, you would raise the knife against your brothers!
Henry, Henry, by doing this, do you know that you would be delivering to
a second Saint Bartholomew all the Calvinists in the kingdom? Do you
know that Catharine is waiting for just such a chance to exterminate all
who have survived?"

And the duke trembling, his face spotted with red and white blotches,
pressed Henry's hand to beg him to give up this idea which would ruin
him.

"What!" said Henry, with an expression of perfect good-humor, "do you
think there would be so much trouble, François? With the King's word,
however, it seems to me that I should avoid it."

"The word of King Charles IX., Henry! Did not the admiral have it? Did
not Téligny have it? Did not you yourself have it? Oh, Henry, I tell you
if you do this, you will ruin us all. Not only them, but all who have
had direct or indirect relations with them."

Henry seemed to ponder an instant.

"If I were an important prince at court," said he, "I should act
differently. In your place, for instance, in your place, François, a son
of France, and probable heir to the crown"--

François shook his head ironically.

"In my place," said he, "what would you do?"

"In your place, brother," replied Henry, "I should place myself at the
head of the movement and direct it. My name and my credit should answer
to my conscience for the life of the rebellious, and I should derive
some benefit first for myself, then for the King, perhaps, from an
enterprise which otherwise might do the greatest injury to France."

D'Alençon listened to these words with a joy which caused every muscle
of his face to expand.

"Do you think," said he, "that this method is practicable and that it
would save us all the disasters you foresee?"

"I think so," said Henry. "The Huguenots love you. Your bearing is
modest, your position both high and interesting, and the kindness you
have always shown to those of the faith will incline them to serve you."

"But," said D'Alençon, "there is a division in the party. Will those who
want you want me?"

"I will undertake to bring them together by two means."

"What means?"

"First, by the confidence the leaders have in me; then by the fear that
your highness, knowing their names"--

"But who will tell me these names?"

"I, _ventre saint gris_!"

"You will do that?"

"Listen, François; as I told you, you are the only one I love at court,"
said Henry. "This, no doubt, is because you are persecuted like myself;
and then my wife, too, loves you with an affection which is
unequalled"--

François flushed with pleasure.

"Believe me, brother," continued Henry; "take this thing in hand, reign
in Navarre; and provided you keep a place at your table for me, and a
fine forest in which to hunt, I shall consider myself fortunate."

"Reign in Navarre!" said the duke; "but if"--

"If the Duc d'Anjou is chosen King of Poland; is that it? I will finish
your thought for you."

François looked at Henry with something like terror.

"Well, listen, François," continued Henry, "since nothing escapes you.
This is how I reason: If the Duc d'Anjou is chosen King of Poland, and
our brother Charles, God keep him! should happen to die, it is but two
hundred leagues from Pau to Paris, while it is four hundred from Paris
to Cracovie. So you would be here to receive the inheritance by the time
the King of Poland learned it was vacant. Then, if you are satisfied
with me, you could give me the kingdom of Navarre, which would
thenceforth be merely one of the jewels in your crown. In that way I
would accept it. The worst that could happen to you would be that you
would remain king there and bring up a race of kings by living with me
and my family, while here, what are you? a poor persecuted prince, a
poor third son of a king, the slave of two elder brothers, and one whom
a whim may send to the Bastille."

"Yes, yes," said François; "I know that very well, so well that I do not
see why you should give up this plan you propose to me. Is there no
throb there?"

And the Duc d'Alençon put his hand on his brother's heart.

"There are," said Henry, smiling, "burdens too heavy for some hands;
therefore I shall not try to raise this one; fear of fatigue is greater
than the desire of possession."

"So, Henry, you really renounce it?"

"I said so to De Mouy and I repeat it to you."

"But in such cases, my dear brother," said D'Alençon, "one does not say,
one proves."

Henry breathed like a pugilist who feels his enemy's back bending.

"I will prove it this evening," said he. "At nine o'clock we shall have
the names of the leaders and the plan of the undertaking. I have already
sent my renunciation to De Mouy."

François took Henry's hand and pressed it effusively between his own.

At that moment Catharine entered the Duc d'Alençon's rooms, unannounced,
as was her habit.

"Together!" said she, smiling; "two good brothers, truly!"

"I trust so, madame," said Henry, with great coolness, while the Duc
d'Alençon turned white from distress.

Henry stepped back to leave Catharine free to speak with her son.

The queen mother drew a magnificent jewel from her bag.

"This clasp comes from Florence," said she. "I will give it to you for
the belt of your sword."

Then in a low tone:

"If to-night you hear any noise in your good brother Henry's room, do
not stir."

François pressed his mother's hand, and said:

"Will you allow me to show Henry the beautiful gift you have just given
me?"

"You may do more. Give it to him in your name and in mine, for I have
ordered a second one just like it."

"You hear, Henry," said François, "my good mother brings me this jewel
and doubles its value by allowing me to give it to you."

Henry went into ecstasies over the beauty of the clasp, and was
enthusiastic in his thanks. When his delight had grown calmer:

"My son," said Catharine, "I feel somewhat indisposed and I am going to
bed; your brother Charles is greatly wearied from his fall and is going
to do the same. So we shall not have supper together this evening, but
each will be served in his own room. Oh, Henry, I forgot to congratulate
you on your bravery and quickness. You saved your king and your brother,
and you shall be rewarded for it."

"I am already rewarded, madame," replied Henry, bowing.

"By the feeling that you have done your duty?" replied Catharine. "That
is not enough, and Charles and I will do something to pay the debt we
owe you."

"Everything that comes to me from you and my good brother will be
welcome, madame."

Then he bowed and withdrew.

"Ah! brother François!" thought Henry as he left, "I am sure now of not
leaving alone, and the conspiracy which had a body has found a head and
a heart. Only let us look out for ourselves. Catharine gives me a
present, Catharine promises me a reward. There is some deviltry beneath
it all. I must confer this evening with Marguerite."



CHAPTER XXXIII.

THE GRATITUDE OF KING CHARLES IX.


Maurevel had spent a part of the day in the King's armory; but when it
was time for the hunters to return from the chase Catharine sent him
into her oratory with the guards who had joined him.

Charles IX., informed by his nurse on his arrival that a man had spent
part of the day in his room, was at first very angry that a stranger had
been admitted into his apartments. But his nurse described the man,
saying that he was the same one she herself had been ordered to admit
one evening, and the King realized that it was Maurevel. Then
remembering the order his mother had wrung from him that morning, he
understood everything.

"Oh, ho!" murmured Charles, "the same day on which he has saved my life.
The time is badly chosen."

He started to go to his mother, but one thought deterred him.

"By Heaven! If I mention this to her it will result in a never-ending
discussion. Better for us to act by ourselves.

"Nurse," said he, "lock every door, and say to Queen Elizabeth[12] that
I am suffering somewhat from the fall I have had, and that I shall sleep
alone to-night."

The nurse obeyed, and as it was not yet time for the execution of his
plan, Charles sat himself down to compose poetry. It was this occupation
which made the time pass most quickly for the King. Nine o'clock struck
before he thought it was more than seven. He counted the strokes of the
clock one by one, and at the last he rose.

"The devil!" said he, "it is just time." Taking his hat and cloak, he
left his room by a secret door he had had made in the wall, the
existence of which even Catharine herself was ignorant.

Charles went directly to Henry's apartments. On leaving the Duc
d'Alençon, the latter had gone to his room to change his clothes and had
left again at once.

"He probably has decided to take supper with Margot," said the King. "He
was very pleasant with her to-day, at least so it seemed to me."

He went to the queen's apartments. Marguerite had brought back with her
the Duchesse de Nevers, Coconnas, and La Mole, and was having a supper
of preserves and pastry with them.

Charles knocked at the hall door, which was opened by Gillonne. But at
sight of the King she was so frightened that she scarcely had sufficient
presence of mind to courtesy, and instead of running to inform her
mistress of the august visit she was to have, she let Charles enter
without other warning than the cry that had escaped her. The King
crossed the antechamber, and guided by the bursts of laughter advanced
towards the dining-room.

"Poor Henriot!" said he, "he is enjoying himself without a thought of
evil."

"It is I," said he, raising the portière and showing a smiling face.

Marguerite gave a terrible cry. Smiling as he was, his face appeared to
her like the face of Medusa. Seated opposite the door, she had
recognized him at once. The two men turned their backs to the King.

"Your Majesty!" cried the queen, rising in terror.

The three other guests felt their heads begin to swim; Coconnas alone
retained his self-possession. He rose also, but with such tactful
clumsiness that in doing so he upset the table, and with it the glass,
plate, and candles. Instantly there was complete darkness and the
silence of death.

"Run," said Coconnas to La Mole; "quick! quick!"

La Mole did not wait to be told twice. Springing to the side of the
wall, he began groping with his hands for the sleeping-room, that he
might hide in the cabinet that opened out of it and which he knew so
well. But as he stepped across the threshold he ran against a man who
had just entered by the secret corridor.

"What does all this mean?" asked Charles, in the darkness, in a tone
which was beginning to betray a formidable accent of impatience. "Am I
such a mar-joy that the sight of me causes all this confusion? Come,
Henriot! Henriot! where are you? Answer me."

"We are saved!" murmured Marguerite, seizing a hand which she took for
that of La Mole. "The King thinks my husband is one of our guests."

"And I shall let him think so, madame, you may be sure," said Henry,
answering the queen in the same tone.

"Great God!" cried Marguerite, hastily dropping the hand she held,
which was that of the King of Navarre.

"Silence!" said Henry.

"In the name of a thousand devils! why are you whispering in this way?"
cried Charles. "Henry, answer me; where are you?"

"Here, sire," said the King of Navarre.

"The devil!" said Coconnas, who was holding the Duchesse de Nevers in a
corner, "the plot thickens."

"In that case we are doubly lost," said Henriette.

Coconnas, brave to the point of rashness, had reflected that the candles
would have to be lighted sooner or later, and thinking the sooner the
better, he dropped the hand of Madame de Nevers, picked up a taper from
the midst of the débris, and going to a brazier blew on a piece of coal,
with which he at once made a light. The chamber was again illuminated.
Charles IX. glanced around inquiringly.

Henry was by the side of his wife, the Duchesse de Nevers was alone in a
corner, while Coconnas stood in the centre of the room, candle-stick in
hand, lighting up the whole scene.

"Excuse me, brother," said Marguerite, "we were not expecting you."

"So, as you may have perceived, your Majesty filled us with strange
terror," said Henriette.

"For my part," said Henry, who had surmised everything, "I think the
fear was so real that in rising I overturned the table."

Coconnas glanced at the King of Navarre as much as to say:

"Good! Here is a man who understands at once."

"What a frightful hubbub!" repeated Charles IX. "Your supper is ruined,
Henriot; come with me and you shall finish it elsewhere; I will carry
you off this evening."

"What, sire!" said Henry, "your Majesty will do me the honor?"

"Yes, my Majesty will do you the honor of taking you away from the
Louvre. Lend him to me, Margot, I will bring him back to you to-morrow
morning."

"Ah, brother," said Marguerite, "you do not need my permission for that;
you are master."

"Sire," said Henry, "I will get another cloak from my room, and will
return immediately."

"You do not need it, Henriot; the cloak you have is all right."

"But, sire," began the Béarnais.

"In the name of a thousand devils, I tell you not to go to your rooms!
Do you not hear what I say? Come along!"

"Yes, yes, go!" said Marguerite, suddenly pressing her husband's arm;
for a singular look from Charles had convinced her that something
unusual was going on.

"Here I am, sire," said Henry.

Charles looked at Coconnas, who was still carrying out his office of
torch-bearer by lighting the other candles.

"Who is this gentleman?" asked the King of Henry, eyeing the Piedmontese
from head to foot. "Is he Monsieur de la Mole?"

"Who has told him of La Mole?" asked Marguerite in a low tone.

"No, sire," replied Henry, "Monsieur de la Mole is not here, I regret to
say. Otherwise I should have the honor of presenting him to your Majesty
at the same time as Monsieur de Coconnas, his friend. They are perfectly
inseparable, and both are in the suite of Monsieur d'Alençon."

"Ah! ah! our famous marksman!" said Charles. "Good!" Then frowning:

"Is not this Monsieur de la Mole a Huguenot?" he asked.

"He is converted, sire, and I will answer for him as for myself."

"When you answer for any one, Henriot, after what you did to-day, I have
no further right to doubt him. But I should have liked to see this
Monsieur de la Mole. However, I can meet him another time."

Giving a last glance about the room, Charles embraced Marguerite, took
hold of the arm of the King of Navarre, and led him off.

At the gate of the Louvre Henry wanted to speak to some one.

"Come, come! pass out quickly, Henriot," said Charles. "When I tell you
that the air of the Louvre is not good for you this evening, the devil!
you must believe me!"

"_Ventre saint gris!_" murmured Henry; "and what will De Mouy do all
alone in my room? I trust the air which is not good for me may be no
worse for him!"

"Ah!" exclaimed the King, when Henry and he had crossed the drawbridge,
"does it suit you, Henry, to have the gentlemen of Monsieur d'Alençon
courting your wife?"

"How so, sire?"

"Truly, is not this Monsieur de Coconnas making eyes at Margot?"

"Who told you that?"

"Well," said the King, "I heard it."

"A mere joke, sire; Monsieur de Coconnas does make eyes at some one, but
it is at Madame de Nevers."

"Ah, bah."

"I can answer to your Majesty for what I tell you."

Charles burst into laughter.

"Well," said he, "let the Duc de Guise come to me again with his gossip,
and I will gently pull his mustache by telling him of the exploits of
his sister-in-law. But after all," said the King, thinking better of it,
"I do not know whether it was Monsieur de Coconnas or Monsieur de la
Mole he referred to."

"Neither the one more than the other, sire, and I can answer to you for
the feelings of my wife."

"Good, Henriot, good!" said the King. "I like you better now than the
way you were before. On my honor, you are such a good fellow that I
shall end by being unable to get along without you."

As he spoke the King gave a peculiar whistle, whereupon four gentlemen
who were waiting for him at the end of the Rue de Beauvais joined him.
The whole party set out towards the middle of the city.

Ten o'clock struck.

"Well!" said Marguerite, after the King and Henry had left, "shall we go
back to table?"

"Mercy, no!" cried the duchess, "I have been too badly frightened. Long
live the little house in the Rue Cloche Percée! No one can enter that
without regularly besieging it, and our good men have the right to use
their swords there. But what are you looking for under the furniture and
in the closets, Monsieur de Coconnas?"

"I am trying to find my friend La Mole," said the Piedmontese.

"Look in my room, monsieur," said Marguerite, "there is a certain
closet"--

"Very well," said Coconnas, "I will go there."

He entered the room.

"Well!" said a voice from the darkness; "where are we?"

"Oh! by Heaven! we have reached the dessert."

"And the King of Navarre?"

"He has seen nothing. He is a perfect husband, and I wish my wife had
one like him. But I fear she never will, even if she marries again."

"And King Charles?"

"Ah! the King. That is another thing. He has taken off the husband."

"Really?"

"It is as I tell you. Furthermore, he honored me by looking askance at
me when he discovered that I belonged to Monsieur d'Alençon, and cross
when he found out that I was your friend."

"You think, then, that he has heard me spoken of?"

"I fear that he has heard nothing very good of you. But that is not the
point. I believe these ladies have a pilgrimage to make to the Rue de
Roi de Sicile, and that we are to take them there."

"Why, that is impossible! You know that very well."

"How impossible?"

"We are on duty at his royal highness's."

"By Heavens, that is so; I always forget that we are ranked, and that
from the gentlemen we once were we have had the honor to pass into
valets."

Thereupon the two friends went and told the queen and the duchess the
necessity of their being present at least when Monsieur le Duc retired.

"Very well," said Madame de Nevers, "we will go by ourselves."

"Might we know where you are going?" asked Coconnas.

"Oh! you are too curious!" said the duchess. "_Quære et invenies._"

The young men bowed and went at once to Monsieur d'Alençon.

The duke seemed to be waiting for them in his cabinet.

"Ah! ah!" said he, "you are very late, gentlemen."

"It is scarcely ten o'clock, monseigneur," said Coconnas.

The duke drew out his watch.

"That is true," said he. "And yet every one has gone to sleep in the
Louvre."

"Yes, monsieur, but we are here at your orders. Must we admit into the
chamber of your highness the gentlemen who are with the King until he
retires?"

"On the contrary, go into the small reception-room and dismiss every
one."

The young men obeyed, carried out the order, which surprised no one,
because of the well-known character of the duke, and returned to him.

"Monseigneur," said Coconnas, "your highness will probably either go to
bed or work, will you not?"

"No, gentlemen; you may have leave of absence until to-morrow."

"Well, well," whispered Coconnas into La Mole's ear, "the court is going
to stay up all night, apparently. It will be devilishly pleasant. Let us
have our share of it."

And both young men descended the stairs four steps at a time, took their
cloaks and their night swords, and hastily left the Louvre after the two
ladies, whom they overtook at the corner of the Rue du Coq Saint Honoré.

Meanwhile the Duc d'Alençon, with open eyes and ears, locked himself in
his room to await the unexpected events he had been promised.



CHAPTER XXXIV.

MAN PROPOSES BUT GOD DISPOSES.


As the duke had said to the young men, the most profound silence
reigned in the Louvre.

Marguerite and Madame de Nevers had departed for the Rue Tizon. Coconnas
and La Mole had followed them. The King and Henry were knocking about
the city. The Duc d'Alençon was in his room vaguely and anxiously
waiting for the events which the queen mother had predicted. Catharine
had gone to bed, and Madame de Sauve, seated by her, was reading some
Italian stories which greatly amused the good queen. Catharine had not
been in such good humor for a long time. Having done justice to a
collation with her ladies in waiting, having consulted her physician and
arranged the daily accounts of her household, she had ordered prayers
for the success of a certain enterprise, which she said was of great
importance to the happiness of her children. Under certain circumstances
it was Catharine's habit--a habit, for that matter, wholly
Florentine--to have prayers and masses read the object of which was
known only to God and herself.

Finally she had seen Réné, and had chosen several novelties from among
her rich collection of perfumed bags.

"Let me know," said Catharine, "if my daughter the Queen of Navarre is
in her rooms; and if she is there, beg her to come to me."

The page to whom this order was given withdrew, and an instant later he
returned, accompanied by Gillonne.

"Well!" said the queen mother, "I asked for the mistress, not the
servant."

"Madame," said Gillonne, "I thought I ought to come myself and tell your
majesty that the Queen of Navarre has gone out with her friend the
Duchesse de Nevers"--

"Gone out at this hour!" exclaimed Catharine, frowning; "where can she
have gone?"

"To a lecture on chemistry," replied Gillonne, "which is to be held in
the Hôtel de Guise, in the pavilion occupied by Madame de Nevers."

"When will she return?" asked the queen mother.

"The lecture will last until late into the night," replied Gillonne, "so
that probably her majesty will stay with her friend until to-morrow
morning."

"The Queen of Navarre is happy," murmured Catharine; "she has friends
and she is queen; she wears a crown, is called your majesty, yet has no
subjects. She is happy indeed."

After this remark, which made her listeners smile inwardly:

"Well," murmured Catharine, "since she has gone out--for she has gone,
you say?"

"Half an hour ago, madame."

"Everything is for the best; you may go."

Gillonne bowed and left.

"Go on with your reading, Charlotte," said the queen.

Madame de Sauve continued. At the end of ten minutes Catharine
interrupted the story.

"Ah, by the way," said she, "have the guards dismissed from the
corridor."

This was the signal for which Maurevel was waiting. The order of the
queen mother was carried out, and Madame de Sauve went on with her
story. She had read for about a quarter of an hour without any
interruption, when a prolonged and terrible scream reached the royal
chamber and made the hair of those present stand on end.

The scream was followed by the sound of a pistol-shot.

"What is it?" said Catharine; "why do you stop reading, Carlotta?"

"Madame," said the young woman, turning pale, "did you not hear?"

"What?" asked Catharine.

"That cry."

"And that pistol-shot?" added the captain of the guards.

"A cry, a pistol-shot?" asked Catharine; "I heard nothing. Besides, is a
shout or a pistol-shot such a very unusual thing at the Louvre? Read,
read, Carlotta."

"But listen, madame," said the latter, while Monsieur de Nancey stood
up, his hand on his sword, but not daring to leave without permission
from the queen, "listen, I hear steps, curses."

"Shall I go and find out about it, madame?" said De Nancey.

"Not at all, monsieur, stay where you are," said Catharine, raising
herself on one hand to give more emphasis to her order. "Who, then,
would protect me in case of an alarm? It is only some drunken Swiss
fighting."

The calmness of the queen, contrasted with the terror on the faces of
all present, was so remarkable that, timid as she was, Madame de Sauve
fixed a questioning glance on the queen.

"Why, madame, I should think they were killing some one."

"Whom do you think they are killing?"

"The King of Navarre, madame; the noise comes from the direction of his
apartments."

"The fool!" murmured the queen, whose lips in spite of her self-control
were beginning to move strangely, for she was muttering a prayer; "the
fool sees her King of Navarre everywhere."

"My God! my God!" cried Madame de Sauve, falling back in her chair.

"It is over, it is over," said Catharine. "Captain," she continued,
turning to Monsieur de Nancey, "I hope if there is any scandal in the
palace you will have the guilty ones severely punished to-morrow. Go on
with your reading, Carlotta." And Catharine sank back on her pillow with
a calmness that greatly resembled weakness, for those present noticed
great drops of perspiration rolling down her face.

Madame de Sauve obeyed this formal order, but her eyes and her voice
were mere machines. Her thoughts wandered to other things which
represented a terrible danger hanging over a loved head. Finally, after
struggling on for several minutes, she became so oppressed between her
feelings and etiquette that her words became unintelligible, the book
fell from her hands, and she fainted.

Suddenly a louder noise was heard; a quick, heavy step fell on the
corridor, two pistol-shots shook the windows; and Catharine, astonished
at the interminable struggle, rose in terror, erect, pale, with dilating
eyes. As the captain of the guard was about to hurry out, she stopped
him, saying:

"Let every one remain here. I myself will go and see what is the
matter."

This is what was taking place, or rather what had taken place. That
morning De Mouy had received the key of Henry's room from the hands of
Orthon. In this key, which was piped, he had noticed a roll of paper. He
drew it out with a pin. It was the password of the Louvre for that
night.

Besides, Orthon had verbally transmitted to him the words of Henry,
asking De Mouy to come to the king at ten o'clock in the Louvre.

At half-past nine De Mouy put on a suit of armor, the strength of which
he had already more than once had occasion to test; over this he
buttoned a silk doublet, fastened on his sword, put his pistols in his
belt, and over everything threw the red cloak of La Mole.

We have seen how, before going back to his rooms, Henry had thought best
to pay a visit to Marguerite, and how he arrived by the secret stairway
just in time to run against La Mole in Marguerite's sleeping-room, and
to appear in the dining-room before the King. It was at that very moment
when, thanks to the password sent by Henry, and above all to the famous
red cloak, that De Mouy passed under the gate of the Louvre.

The young man went directly to the apartments of the King of Navarre,
imitating as well as he could, as was his habit, the gait of La Mole. He
found Orthon waiting for him in the antechamber.

"Sire de Mouy," said the mountaineer, "the king has gone out, but he
told me to admit you, and to tell you to wait for him. If he should be
late in returning, he wants you, you know, to lie down on his bed."

De Mouy entered without asking for further explanation, for what Orthon
had just told him was only the repetition of what he had already heard
that morning. In order to pass away the time he took a pen and ink and,
approaching a fine map of France which hung on the wall, he set to work
to count and determine the stopping-places between Paris and Pau. But
this was only the work of a quarter of an hour, and then De Mouy did not
know what to do.

He made two or three rounds of the room, rubbed his eyes, yawned, sat
down, got up, and sat down again. Finally, taking advantage of Henry's
invitation, and the familiarity which existed between princes and their
gentlemen, he placed his pistols and the lamp on a table, stretched
himself out on the great bed with the sombre hangings which furnished
the rear of the room, laid his sword by his side, and, sure of not being
surprised since a servant was in the adjoining room, he fell into a
pleasant sleep, the noise of which soon made the vast canopy ring with
its echoes. De Mouy snored like a regular old soldier, and in this he
could have vied with the King of Navarre himself.

It was then that six men, their swords in their hands and their knives
at their belts, glided silently into the corridor which communicated by
a small door with the apartments of Catharine and by a large one with
those of Henry.

One of the six men walked ahead of the others. Besides his bare sword
and his dagger, which was as strong as a hunting-knife, he carried his
faithful pistols fastened to his belt by silver hooks.

This man was Maurevel. Having reached Henry's door, he stopped.

"Are you perfectly sure that the sentinels are not in the corridor?" he
asked of the one who apparently commanded the little band.

"Not a single one is at his post," replied the lieutenant.

"Very good," said Maurevel. "Now there is nothing further except to find
out one thing--that is, if the man we are looking for is in his room."

"But," said the lieutenant, arresting the hand which Maurevel had laid
on the handle of the door, "but, captain, these apartments are those of
the King of Navarre."

"Who said they were not?" asked Maurevel.

The guards looked at one another in amazement, and the lieutenant
stepped back.

"What!" exclaimed he, "arrest some one at this hour, in the Louvre, and
in the apartments of the King of Navarre?"

"What should you say," said Maurevel, "were I to tell you that the one
you are about to arrest is the King of Navarre himself?"

"I should say, captain, that it is serious business and that without an
order signed by King Charles IX."--

"Read this," said Maurevel.

And drawing from his doublet the order which Catharine had given him he
handed it to the lieutenant.

"Very well," replied the latter after he had read it. "I have nothing
further to say."

"And you are ready?"

"I am ready."

"And you?" continued Maurevel, turning to the other five sbirros.

They all saluted respectfully.

"Listen to me, then, gentlemen," said Maurevel; "this is my plan: two of
you will remain at this door, two at the door of the sleeping-room, and
two will go with me."

"Afterwards?" said the lieutenant.

"Pay close attention to this: we are ordered to prevent the prisoner
from calling out, shouting, or resisting. Any infraction of this order
is to be punished by death."

"Well, well, he has full permission," said the lieutenant to the man
chosen by him to follow Maurevel into the king's room.

"Full," said Maurevel.

"Poor devil of the King of Navarre!" said one of the men. "It was
written above that he should not escape this."

"And here too," said Maurevel, taking Catharine's order from the hands
of the lieutenant and returning it to his breast.

Maurevel inserted the key Catharine had given him into the lock, and
leaving two men at the outer door, as had been agreed on, he entered the
antechamber with the four others.

"Ah! ah!" said Maurevel, hearing the noisy breathing of the sleeper, the
sound of which reached even as far as that, "it seems that we shall find
what we are looking for."

Orthon, thinking it was his master returning, at once started up and
found himself face to face with five armed men in the first chamber.

At sight of the sinister face of Maurevel, who was called the King's
Slayer, the faithful servant sprang back, and placing himself before the
second door:

"Who are you?" said he, "and what do you want?"

"In the King's name," replied Maurevel, "where is your master?"

"My master?"

"Yes, the King of Navarre."

"The King of Navarre is not in his room," said Orthon, barring the door
more than ever, "so you cannot enter."

"Excuses, lies!" said Maurevel. "Come, stand back!"

The Béarnais people are stubborn; this one growled like one of his own
mountain dogs, and far from being intimidated:

"You shall not enter," said he; "the king is out."

And he clung to the door.

Maurevel made a sign. The four men seized the stubborn servant, snatched
him from the door-sill to which he was clinging, and as he started to
open his mouth and cry out, Maurevel clapped a hand to his lips.

Orthon bit furiously at the assassin, who dropped his hand with a dull
cry, and brought down the handle of his sword on the head of the
servant. Orthon staggered and fell back, shouting, "Help! help! help!"

Then his voice died away. He had fainted.

The assassins stepped over his body, two stopped at the second door, and
two entered the sleeping-room with Maurevel.

In the glow of the lamp burning on the night table they saw the bed.

The curtains were drawn.

"Oh! oh!" said the lieutenant, "he has stopped snoring, apparently."

"Be quick!" cried Maurevel.

At this, a sharp cry, resembling the roar of a lion rather than a human
voice, came from behind the curtains, which were violently thrown back,
and a man appeared sitting there armed with a cuirass, his head covered
with a helmet which reached to his eyes. Two pistols were in his hand,
and his sword lay across his knees.

No sooner did Maurevel perceive this figure and recognize De Mouy than
he felt his hair rise on end; he became frightfully pale, foam sprang to
his lips, and he stepped back as if he had come face to face with a
ghost. Suddenly the armed figure rose and stepped forward as Maurevel
drew back, so that from the position of threatener, the latter now
became the one threatened, and _vice versa_.

"Ah, scoundrel!" cried De Mouy, in a dull voice, "so you have come to
murder me as you murdered my father!"

The two guards who had entered the room with Maurevel alone heard these
terrible words. As they were uttered a pistol was placed to Maurevel's
forehead. The latter sank to his knees just as De Mouy put his hand on
the trigger; the shot was fired and one of the guards who stood behind
him and whom he had unmasked by this movement dropped to the floor,
struck to the heart. At the same instant Maurevel fired back, but the
ball glanced off De Mouy's cuirass.

Then, measuring the distance, De Mouy sprang forward and with the edge
of his broadsword split open the head of the second guard, and turning
towards Maurevel crossed swords with him.

The struggle was brief but terrible. At the fourth pass Maurevel felt
the cold steel in his throat. He uttered a stifled cry and fell
backwards, upsetting the lamp, which went out in the fall.

At once De Mouy, strong and agile as one of Homer's heroes, took
advantage of the darkness and sprang, with head lowered, into the
antechamber, knocked down one guard, pushed aside the other, and shot
like an arrow between those at the outer door. He escaped two
pistol-shots, the balls of which grazed the wall of the corridor, and
from that moment was safe, for one loaded pistol still was left him,
besides the sword which had dealt such terrible blows.

For an instant he hesitated, undecided whether to go to Monsieur
d'Alençon's, the door of whose room he thought had just opened, or to
try and escape from the Louvre. He determined on the latter course,
continued on his way, slow at first, jumped ten steps at a time, and
reaching the gate uttered the two passwords and rushed on, shouting out:

"Go upstairs; there is murder going on by order of the King."

Taking advantage of the amazement produced on the sentinel by his words
and the sound of the pistol-shots, he ran on and disappeared in the Rue
du Coq without having received a scratch.

It was at this moment that Catharine stopped the captain of the guards,
saying:

"Stay here; I myself will go and see what is the matter."

"But, madame," replied the captain, "the danger your majesty runs
compels me to follow you."

"Stay here, monsieur," said Catharine, in a still more imperious tone,
"stay here. There is a more powerful protection around kings than the
human sword."

The captain remained where he was.

Taking a lamp, Catharine slipped her bare feet into a pair of velvet
slippers, left her room, and reaching the corridor, still full of smoke,
advanced as impassible and as cold as a shadow towards the apartments of
the King of Navarre.

Silence reigned supreme.

Catharine reached the door, crossed the threshold, and first saw Orthon,
who had fainted in the antechamber.

"Ah! ah!" said she, "here is the servant; further on we shall probably
find the master." She entered the second door.

Then her foot ran against a corpse; she lowered her lamp; it was the
guard who had had his head split open. He was quite dead.

A few feet further on the lieutenant, who had been struck by a bullet,
was drawing his last breath.

Finally, before the bed lay a man whose face was as pale as death and
who was bleeding from a double wound in his throat. He was clinching his
hands convulsively in his efforts to rise.

It was Maurevel.

Catharine shuddered. She saw the empty bed, she looked around the room
seeking in vain for the body she hoped to find among the three corpses.

Maurevel recognized Catharine. His eyes were horribly dilated and he
made a despairing gesture towards her.

"Well," said she in a whisper, "where is he? what has happened?
Unfortunate man! have you let him escape?"

Maurevel strove to speak, but an unintelligible sound came from his
throat, a bloody foam covered his lips, and he shook his head in sign of
inability and pain.

"Speak!" cried Catharine, "speak! if only one word!"

Maurevel pointed to his wound, again made several inarticulate gasps,
which ended in a hoarse rattle, and fainted.

Catharine looked around her. She was surrounded by the bodies of dead
and dying; blood flowed in every direction, and the silence of death
hovered over everything.

Once again she spoke to Maurevel, but failed to rouse him; he was not
only silent but motionless; a paper was in his doublet. It was the order
of arrest signed by the King. Catharine seized it and hid it in her
breast. Just then she heard a light step behind her, and turning, she
saw the Duc d'Alençon at the door. In spite of himself he had been drawn
thither by the noise, and the sight before him fascinated him.

"You here?" said she.

"Yes, madame. For God's sake what has happened?"

"Go back to your room, François; you will know soon enough."

D'Alençon was not as ignorant of the affair as Catharine supposed.

At the sound of the first steps in the corridor he had listened. Seeing
some men enter the apartments of the King of Navarre, and by connecting
this with some words Catharine had uttered, he had guessed what was
about to take place, and was rejoiced at having so dangerous an enemy
destroyed by a hand stronger than his own. Before long the noises of
pistol-shots and the rapid steps of a man running had attracted his
attention, and he had seen disappearing in the light space caused by the
opening of the door leading to the stairway the red cloak too well known
not to be recognized.

"De Mouy!" he cried, "De Mouy in the apartments of the King of Navarre!
Why, that is impossible! Can it be Monsieur de la Mole?"

He grew alarmed. Remembering that the young man had been recommended to
him by Marguerite herself, and wishing to make sure that it was he whom
he had just seen, he ascended hurriedly to the chamber of the two young
men. It was vacant. But in a corner he found the famous red cloak
hanging against the wall. His suspicions were confirmed. It was not La
Mole, but De Mouy. Pale and trembling lest the Huguenot should be
discovered, and would betray the secrets of the conspiracy, he rushed to
the gate of the Louvre. There he was told that the red cloak had escaped
safe and sound, shouting out as he passed that some one was being
murdered in the Louvre by order of the King.

"He is mistaken," murmured D'Alençon; "it is by order of the queen
mother."

Returning to the scene of combat, he found Catharine wandering like a
hyena among the dead.

At the order from his mother the young man returned to his rooms,
affecting calmness and obedience, in spite of the tumultuous thoughts
which were passing through his mind.

In despair at the failure of this new attempt, Catharine called the
captain of the guards, had the bodies removed, gave orders that
Maurevel, who was only wounded, be carried to his home, and told them
not to waken the King.

"Oh!" she murmured, as she returned to her rooms, her head sunk on her
bosom, "he has again escaped. The hand of God is over this man. He will
reign! he will reign!"

Entering her room, she passed her hand across her brow, and assumed an
ordinary smile.

"What was the matter, madame?" asked every one except Madame de Sauve,
who was too frightened to ask any questions.

"Nothing," replied Catharine; "a noise, that was all."

"Oh!" cried Madame de Sauve, suddenly pointing to the floor, "your
majesty says there is nothing the matter, and every one of your
majesty's steps leaves a trace of blood on the carpet!"



CHAPTER XXXV.

A NIGHT OF KINGS.


Charles IX. walked along with Henry leaning on his arm, followed by his
four gentlemen and preceded by two torch-bearers.

"When I leave the Louvre," said the poor King, "I feel a pleasure
similar to that which comes to me when I enter a beautiful forest. I
breathe, I live, I am free."

Henry smiled.

"In that case," said he, "your Majesty would be in your element among
the mountains of the Béarn."

"Yes, and I understand that you want to go back to them; but if you are
very anxious to do so, Henriot," added Charles, laughing, "my advice is
to be careful, for my mother Catharine loves you so dearly that it is
absolutely impossible for her to get along without you."

"What does your Majesty plan to do this evening?" asked Henry, changing
this dangerous conversation.

"I want to have you meet some one, Henriot, and you shall give me your
opinion."

"I am at your Majesty's orders."

"To the right! to the right! We will take the Rue des Barres."

The two kings, followed by their escort, had passed the Rue de la
Savonnerie, when in front of the Hôtel de Condé they saw two men,
wrapped in large cloaks, coming out of a secret door which one of them
noiselessly closed behind him.

"Oh! oh!" said the King to Henry, who as usual had seen everything, but
had not spoken, "this deserves attention."

"Why do you say that, sire?" asked the King of Navarre.

"It is not on your account, Henriot. You are sure of your wife," added
Charles with a smile; "but your cousin De Condé is not sure of his, or
if so, he is making a mistake, the devil!"

"But how do you know, sire, that it is Madame de Condé whom these
gentlemen have been visiting?"

"Instinct tells me. The fact that the men stood in the doorway without
moving until they saw us; then the cut of the shorter one's cloak--by
Heaven! that would be strange!"

"What?"

"Nothing. An idea I had, that is all; let us go on."

He walked up to the two men, who, seeing him, started to walk away.

"Hello, gentlemen!" cried the King; "stop!"

"Are you speaking to us?" asked a voice which made Charles and his
companion tremble.

"Well, Henriot," said Charles, "do you recognize the voice now?"

"Sire," said Henry, "if your brother the Duc d'Anjou was not at La
Rochelle, I would swear it was he speaking."

"Well," said Charles, "he is not at La Rochelle, that is all."

"But who is with him?"

"Do you not recognize his companion?"

"No, sire."

"Yet his figure is unmistakable. Wait, you shall see who he is--hello,
there! I tell you," cried the King, "do you not hear, by Heaven?"

"Are you the watch, that you order us to stop?" said the taller of the
two men, freeing his arm from the folds of his cloak.

"Pretend that we are the watch," said the King, "and stop when we tell
you to do so."

Leaning over to Henry's ear, he added:

"Now you will see the volcano send forth its fire."

"There are eight of you," said the taller of the two men, this time
showing not only his arm but his face, "but were you a hundred, pass
on!"

"Ah! ah! the Duc de Guise!" said Henry.

"Ah! our cousin from Lorraine," said the King; "at last you will meet!
How fortunate!"

"The King!" cried the duke.

At these words the other man covered himself with his cloak and stood
motionless, having first uncovered out of respect.

"Sire," said the Duc de Guise, "I have just been paying a visit to my
sister-in-law, Madame de Condé."

"Yes--and you brought one of your gentlemen with you? Which one?"

"Sire," replied the duke, "your Majesty does not know him."

"We will meet him, however," said the King.

Walking up to the other figure, he signed to one of the lackeys to bring
a torch.

"Pardon me, brother!" said the Duc d'Anjou, opening his cloak and bowing
with poorly disguised anger.

"Ah! ah! Henry, is it you? But no, it is not possible, I am mistaken--my
brother of Anjou would not have gone to see any one else before first
calling on me. He knows that for royal princes, returning to the
capital, Paris has but one entrance, the gate of the Louvre."

"Pardon me, sire," said the Duc d'Anjou; "I beg your Majesty to excuse
my thoughtlessness."

"Ah, yes!" replied the King, mockingly; "and what were you doing,
brother, at the Hôtel de Condé?"

"Why," said the King of Navarre in his sly way, "what your Majesty
intimated just now."

And leaning over to the King he ended his sentence in a burst of
laughter.

"What is it?" asked the Duc de Guise, haughtily; for like every one else
at court, he had a way of treating the poor King of Navarre very rudely,
"why should I not go and see my sister-in-law. Does not Monsieur le Duc
d'Alençon visit his?"

Henry flushed slightly.

"What sister-in-law?" asked Charles. "I know none except Queen
Elizabeth."

"Pardon, sire! it was your sister I should have said--Madame Marguerite,
whom we saw pass in her litter as we came by here half an hour ago. She
was accompanied by two courtiers who rode on either side of her."

"Indeed!" said Charles. "What do you say to that, Henry?"

"That the Queen of Navarre is perfectly free to go where she pleases,
but I doubt if she has left the Louvre."

"Well, I am sure she did," said the Duc de Guise.

"And I too," said the Duc d'Anjou, "from the fact that the litter
stopped in the Rue Cloche Percée."

"Your sister-in-law, not this one," said Henry, pointing to the Hôtel de
Condé, "but that one," turning in the direction of the Hôtel de Guise,
"must also be of the party, for we left them together, and, as you know,
they are inseparable."

"I do not know what your majesty means," replied the Duc de Guise.

"On the contrary," said the king, "nothing is simpler. That is why a
courtier was riding at either side of the litter."

"Well!" said the duke, "if there is any scandal concerning my
sisters-in-law, let us beg the King to withhold justice."

"Well, by Heaven," said Henry, "let us leave Madame de Condé and Madame
de Nevers; the King is not anxious about his sister--and I have
confidence in my wife."

"No, no," said Charles, "I want to make sure of it; but let us attend to
the matter ourselves. The litter stopped in the Rue Cloche Percée, you
say, cousin?"

"Yes, sire."

"Do you know the house?"

"Yes, sire."

"Well, let us go to it. And if in order to find out who is in it, it is
necessary to burn it down, we will burn it."

It was with this end in view, which was rather discouraging for the
tranquillity of those concerned, that the four chief lords of the
Christian world set out to the Rue Saint Antoine.

They reached the Rue Cloche Percée. Charles, who wished to work
privately, dismissed the gentlemen of his suite, saying that they might
have the rest of the night to themselves, but for them to be at the
Bastille with two horses at six o'clock in the morning.

There were only three houses in the Rue Cloche Percée. The search was
much less difficult as two of the buildings were perfectly willing to
open their doors. One of the houses faced the Rue Saint Antoine and the
other the Rue du Roi de Sicile.

As to the third house, that was a different matter. It was the one which
was guarded by the German janitor, and this janitor was not easily
managed. That night Paris seemed destined to offer memorable examples of
conjugal fidelity. In vain did Monsieur de Guise threaten in his purest
Saxon; in vain did Henry of Anjou offer a purse filled with gold; in
vain Charles went so far as to say that he was lieutenant of the watch;
the brave German paid attention neither to the statement, the offer, nor
the threats. Seeing that they insisted, and in a way that was becoming
importunate, he slipped the nose of a gun under the iron bars, a move
which brought forth bursts of laughter from three of the four visitors.
Henry of Navarre stood apart, as if the affair had no interest for him.
But as the weapon could not be turned between the bars, it was scarcely
dangerous for any except a blind man, who might stand directly in front
of it.

Seeing that the porter was neither to be intimidated, bribed, nor
persuaded, the Duc de Guise pretended to leave with his companions; but
the retreat did not last long. At the corner of the Rue Saint Antoine
the duke found what he sought. This was a rock similar in size to those
which three thousand years before had been moved by Ajax, son of
Telamon, and Diomed. The duke raised it to his shoulder and came back,
signing to his companions to follow. Just then the janitor, who had seen
those he took for malefactors depart, closed the door. But he had not
time to draw the bolts before the Duc de Guise took advantage of the
moment, and hurled his veritable living catapult against the door. The
lock broke, carrying away a portion of the wall to which it had been
fastened. The door sprang open, knocking down the German, who, in
falling, gave a terrible cry. This cry awakened the garrison, which
otherwise would have run great risk of being surprised.

At that moment La Mole and Marguerite were translating an idyl of
Theocritus, and Coconnas, pretending that he too was a Greek, was
drinking some strong wine from Syracuse with Henriette. The scientific
and bacchanalian conversation was violently interrupted.

La Mole and Coconnas at once extinguished the candles, and opening the
windows, sprang out on the balcony. Then perceiving four men in the
darkness, they set to work to hurl at them everything they had at hand,
in the meantime making a frightful noise with blows from the flat of
their swords, which, however, struck nothing but the wall. Charles, the
most infuriated of the besiegers, received a sharp blow on the shoulder,
the Duc d'Anjou a bowl full of orange and lemon marmalade, and the Duc
de Guise a leg of venison. Henry received nothing. He was downstairs
questioning the porter, whom Monsieur de Guise had strapped to the door,
and who continued to answer by his eternal "_Ich verstehe nicht._" The
women encouraged the besieged by handing them projectiles, which
succeeded one another like hailstones.

"The devil!" exclaimed Charles IX., as a table struck his head, driving
his hat over his eyes, "if they don't open the door pretty soon I will
have them all hanged."

"My brother!" whispered Marguerite to La Mole.

"The King!" cried the latter to Henriette.

"The King! the King!" repeated Henriette to Coconnas, who was dragging a
chest to the window, and who was trying to exterminate the Duc de Guise.
Without knowing who the latter was he was having a private struggle with
him.

"The King, I tell you," repeated Henriette.

Coconnas let go of the chest and looked up in amazement.

"The King?" said he.

"Yes, the King."

"Then let us hide."

"Yes. La Mole and Marguerite have already fled. Come!"

"Where?"

"Come, I tell you."

And seizing him by the hand, Henriette pushed Coconnas through the
secret door which connected with the adjoining house, and all four,
having locked this door behind them, escaped into the Rue Tizon.

"Oh! oh!" said Charles, "I think that the garrison has surrendered."

They waited a few minutes. No sound reached the besiegers.

"They are preparing some ruse," said the Duc de Guise.

"It is more likely that they have recognized my brother's voice and have
fled," said the Duc d'Anjou.

"They would have to pass by here," said Charles.

"Yes," said the Duc d'Anjou, "unless the house has two exits."

"Cousin," said the King, "take up your stone again and hurl it against
the other door as you did at this."

The duke thought it unnecessary to resort to such means, and as he had
noticed that the second door was not as solid as the first he broke it
down by a simple kick.

"The torches! the torches!" cried the King.

The lackeys approached. The torches were out, but the men had everything
necessary for relighting them. This was done. Charles IX. took one and
handed the other to the Duc d'Anjou.

The Duc de Guise entered first, sword in hand.

Henry brought up the rear.

They reached the first floor.

In the dining-room the table was set or rather upset, for it was the
supper which had furnished the projectiles. The candlesticks were
overturned, the furniture topsy-turvy, and everything which was not
silver plate lay in fragments.

They entered the reception-room, but found no more clue there than in
the other room as to the identity of the revellers. Some Greek and Latin
books and several musical instruments were all they saw.

The sleeping-room was more silent still. A night lamp burned in an
alabaster globe suspended from the ceiling; but it was evident that the
room had not been occupied.

"There is a second door," said the King.

"Very likely," said the Duc d'Anjou.

"But where is it?" asked the Duc de Guise.

They looked everywhere, but could not find it.

"Where is the janitor?" asked the King.

"I bound him to the gate," said the Duc de Guise.

"Ask him, cousin."

"He will not answer."

"Bah! we will have a dry fire built around his legs," said the King,
laughing, "then he will speak."

Henry glanced hurriedly out of the window.

"He is not there," said he.

"Who untied him?" asked the Duc de Guise, quickly.

"The devil!" exclaimed the King, "and we know nothing as yet."

"Well!" said Henry, "you see very clearly, sire, that there is nothing
to prove that my wife and Monsieur de Guise's sister-in-law have been
in this house."

"That is so," said Charles. "The Scriptures tell us that there are three
things which leave no trace--the bird in the air, the fish in the sea,
and the woman--no, I am wrong, the man, in"--

"So," interrupted Henry, "what we had better do is"--

"Yes," said Charles, "what we had better do is for me to look after my
bruise, for you, D'Anjou, to wipe off your orange marmalade, and for
you, De Guise, to get rid of the grease." Thereupon they left without
even troubling to close the door. Reaching the Rue Saint Antoine:

"Where are you bound for, gentlemen?" asked the King of the Duc d'Anjou
and the Duc de Guise.

"Sire, we are going to the house of Nantouillet, who is expecting my
Lorraine cousin and myself to supper. Will your Majesty come with us?"

"No, thanks, we are going in a different direction. Will you take one of
my torch-bearers?"

"Thank you, no, sire," said the Duc d'Anjou, hastily.

"Good; he is afraid I will spy on him," whispered Charles to the King of
Navarre.

Then taking the latter by the arm:

"Come, Henriot," said he, "I will take you to supper to-night."

"Are we not going back to the Louvre?" asked Henry.

"No, I tell you, you stupid! Come with me, since I tell you to come.
Come!"

And he dragged Henry down the Rue Geoffroy Lasnier.



CHAPTER XXXVI.

THE ANAGRAM.


The Rue Garnier sur l'Eau runs into the Rue Geoffroy Lasnier, and the
Rue des Barres lies at right angles to the former.

On the right, a short distance down the Rue de la Mortellerie, stands a
small house in the centre of a garden surrounded by a high wall, which
has but one entrance. Charles drew a key from his pocket and inserted
it into the lock. The gate was unbolted and immediately opened. Telling
Henry and the lackey bearing the torch to enter, the King closed and
locked the gate behind him.

Light came from one small window which Charles smilingly pointed out to
Henry.

"Sire, I do not understand," said the latter.

"But you will, Henriot."

The King of Navarre looked at Charles in amazement. His voice and his
face had assumed an expression of gentleness so different from usual
that Henry scarcely recognized him.

"Henriot," said the King, "I told you that when I left the Louvre I came
out of hell. When I enter here I am in paradise."

"Sire," said Henry, "I am happy that your Majesty has thought me worthy
of taking this trip to Heaven with you."

"The road thither is a narrow one," said the King, turning to a small
stairway, "but nothing can be compared to it."

"Who is the angel who guards the entrance to your Eden, sire?"

"You shall see," replied Charles IX.

Signing to Henry to follow him noiselessly, he opened first one door,
then another, and finally paused on a threshold.

"Look!" said he.

Henry approached and gazed on one of the most beautiful pictures he had
ever seen.

A young woman of eighteen or nineteen lay sleeping, her head resting on
the foot of a little bed in which a child was asleep. The woman held its
little feet close to her lips, while her long hair fell over her
shoulders like a flood of gold. It was like one of Albane's pictures of
the Virgin and the Child Jesus.

"Oh, sire," said the King of Navarre, "who is this lovely creature?"

"The angel of my paradise, Henriot, the only one who loves me."

Henry smiled.

"Yes," said Charles, "for she loved me before she knew I was King."

"And since she has known it?"

"Well, since she has known it," said Charles, with a smile which showed
that royalty sometimes weighed heavily on him, "since she has known it
she loves me still; so you may judge."

The King approached the woman softly and pressed a kiss as light as that
which a bee gives to a lily on her rosy cheek.

Yet, light as it was, she awakened at once.

"Charles!" she murmured, opening her eyes.

"You see," said the King, "she calls me Charles. The queen says 'sire'!"

"Oh!" cried the young woman, "you are not alone, my King."

"No, my sweet Marie, I wanted to bring you another king, happier than
myself because he has no crown; more unhappy than I because he has no
Marie Touchet. God makes compensation for everything."

"Sire, is it the King of Navarre?" asked Marie.

"Yes, my child; come here, Henriot." The King of Navarre drew near;
Charles took him by the hand.

"See this hand, Marie," said he, "it is the hand of a good brother and a
loyal friend. Were it not for this hand"--

"Well, sire?"

"Well, had it not been for this hand to-day, Marie, our child would have
no father."

Marie uttered a cry, fell on her knees, and seizing Henry's hand covered
it with kisses.

"Very good, Marie, very good," said Charles.

"What have you done to thank him, sire?"

"I have done for him what he did for me."

Henry looked at Charles in astonishment.

"Some day you will know what I mean, Henriot; meanwhile come here and
see." He approached the bed, on which the child still slept.

"Ah!" said he, "if this little fellow were in the Louvre instead of here
in this little house in the Rue des Barres, many things would be changed
for the present as well as for the future perhaps."[13]

"Sire," said Marie, "if your Majesty is willing, I prefer him to stay
here; he sleeps better."

"Let us not disturb his slumber, then," said the King; "it is so sweet
to sleep when one does not dream!"

"Well, sire," said Marie, pointing to a door opening out of the room.

"Yes, you are right, Marie," said Charles IX., "let us have supper."

"My well-beloved Charles," said Marie, "you will ask the king your
brother to excuse me, will you not?"

"Why?"

"For having dismissed our servants, sire," continued Marie, turning to
the King of Navarre; "you must know that Charles wants to be served by
me alone."

"_Ventre saint gris!_" said Henry, "I should think so!"

Both men entered the dining-room. The mother, anxious and careful, laid
a warm blanket over the little Charles, who, thanks to the sound sleep
of childhood, so envied by his father, had not wakened.

Marie rejoined them.

"There are only two covers!" said the King.

"Permit me," said Marie, "to serve your majesties."

"Now," said Charles, "this is where you cause me trouble, Henriot."

"How so, sire?"

"Did you not hear?"

"Forgive me, Charles, forgive me."

"Yes, I will forgive you. But sit here, near me, between us."

"I will obey," said Marie.

She brought a plate, sat down between the two kings, and served them.

"Is it not good, Henriot," said Charles, "to have one place in the world
in which one can eat and drink without needing any one to taste the
meats and wines beforehand?"

"Sire," said Henry, smiling, and by the smile replying to the constant
fear in his own mind, "believe me, I appreciate your happiness more than
any one."

"And tell her, Henriot, that in order for us to live happily, she must
not mingle in politics. Above all, she must not become acquainted with
my mother."

"Queen Catharine loves your Majesty so passionately that she would be
jealous of any other love," replied Henry, finding by a subterfuge the
means of avoiding the dangerous confidence of the King.

"Marie," said the latter, "I have brought you one of the finest and the
wittiest men I know. At court, you see, and this is saying a great deal,
he puts every one in the shade. I alone have clearly understood, not his
heart, perhaps, but his mind."

"Sire," said Henry, "I am sorry that in exaggerating the one as you do,
you mistrust the other."

"I exaggerate nothing, Henriot," said the King; "besides, you will be
known some day."

Then turning to the young woman:

"He makes delightful anagrams. Ask him to make one of your name. I will
answer that he will do it."

"Oh, what could you expect to find in the name of a poor girl like me?
What gentle thought could there be in the letters with which chance
spelled Marie Touchet?"

"Oh! the anagram from this name, sire," said Henry, "is so easy that
there is no great merit in finding it."

"Ah! ah! it is already found," said Charles. "You see--Marie."

Henry drew his tablets from the pocket of his doublet, tore out a paper,
and below the name _Marie Touchet_ wrote _Je charme tout_. Then he
handed the paper to the young woman.

"Truly," she cried, "it is impossible!"

"What has he found?" asked Charles.

"Sire, I dare not repeat it."

"Sire," said Henry, "in the name Marie Touchet there is, letter for
letter, by changing the 'i' into a 'j,' as is often done, _Je charme
tout_." (I charm all.)

"Yes," exclaimed Charles, "letter for letter. I want this to be your
motto, Marie, do you hear? Never was one better deserved. Thanks,
Henriot. Marie, I will give it to you written in diamonds."

The supper over, two o'clock struck from Notre-Dame.

"Now," said Charles, "in return for this compliment, Marie, you will
give the king an armchair, in which he can sleep until daybreak; but let
it be some distance from us, because he snores frightfully. Then if you
waken before I do, you will rouse me, for at six o'clock we have to be
at the Bastille. Good-night, Henriot. Make yourself as comfortable as
possible. But," he added, approaching the King of Navarre and laying his
hand on his shoulder, "for your life, Henry,--do you hear? for your
life,--do not leave here without me, especially to return to the
Louvre."

Henry had suspected too many things in what still remained unexplained
to him to disobey such advice. Charles IX. entered his room, and Henry,
the sturdy mountaineer, settled himself in an armchair, in which he soon
justified the precaution taken by his brother-in-law in keeping at a
distance.

At dawn he was awakened by Charles. As he had not undressed, it did not
take him long to finish his toilet. The King was more happy and smiling
than he ever was at the Louvre. The hours spent by him in that little
house in the Rue des Barres were his hours of sunshine.

Both men went out through the sleeping-room. The young woman was still
in bed. The child was asleep in its cradle. Both were smiling.

Charles looked at them for a moment with infinite tenderness.

Then turning to the King of Navarre:

"Henriot," said he, "if you ever hear what I did for you last night, or
if misfortune come to me, remember this child asleep in its cradle."

Then kissing both mother and child on the forehead, without giving Henry
time to question him:

"Good-by, my angels," said he, and went out.

Henry followed, deep in thought. The horses were waiting for them at the
Bastille, held by the gentlemen to whom Charles IX. had given the order.

Charles signed to Henry to mount, sprang into his own saddle, and riding
through the garden of the Arbalite, followed the outside highways.

"Where are we going?" asked Henry.

"We are going to see if the Duc d'Anjou returned for Madame de Condé
alone," replied Charles, "and if there is as much ambition as love in
his heart, which I greatly doubt."

Henry did not understand the answer, but followed Charles in silence.

They reached the Marais, and as from the shadow of the palisades they
could see all which at that time was called the Faubourg Saint Laurent,
Charles pointed out to Henry through the grayish mist of the morning
some men wrapped in great cloaks and wearing fur caps. They were on
horseback, and rode ahead of a wagon which was heavily laden. As they
drew near they became outlined more clearly, and one could see another
man in a long brown cloak, his face hidden by a French hat, riding and
talking with them.

"Ah! ah!" said Charles, smiling, "I thought so."

"Well, sire," said Henry, "if I am not mistaken, that rider in the brown
cloak is the Duc d'Anjou."

"Yes," said Charles IX. "Turn out a little, Henriot, I do not want him
to see us."

"But," asked Henry, "who are the men in gray cloaks with fur caps?"

"Those men," said Charles, "are Polish ambassadors, and in that wagon is
a crown. And now," said he, urging his horse to a gallop, and turning
into the road of the Porte du Temple, "come, Henriot, I have seen all
that I wanted to see."



CHAPTER XXXVII.

THE RETURN TO THE LOUVRE.


When Catharine thought that everything was over in the King of Navarre's
rooms, when the dead guards had been removed, when Maurevel had been
carried to her apartments, and the carpet had been cleaned, she
dismissed her women, for it was almost midnight, and strove to sleep.
But the shock had been too violent, and the disappointment too keen.

That detested Henry, constantly escaping her snares, which were usually
fatal, seemed protected by some invincible power which Catharine
persisted in calling chance, although in her heart of hearts a voice
told her that its true name was destiny. The thought that the report of
the new attempt in spreading throughout the Louvre and beyond the Louvre
would give a greater confidence than ever in the future to Henry and the
Huguenots exasperated her, and at that moment had chance, against which
she was so unfortunately struggling, delivered her enemy into her hands,
surely with the little Florentine dagger she wore at her belt she could
have thwarted that destiny so favorable to the King of Navarre.

The hours of the night, hours so long for one waiting and watching
struck one after another without Catharine's being able to close her
eyes. A whole world of new plans unrolled in her visionary mind during
those nocturnal hours. Finally at daybreak she rose, dressed herself,
and went to the apartments of Charles IX.

The guards, who were accustomed to see her go to the King at all hours
of the day and night, let her pass. She crossed the antechamber,
therefore, and reached the armory. But there she found the nurse of
Charles, who was awake.

"My son?" said the queen.

"Madame, he gave orders that no one was to be admitted to his room
before eight o'clock."

"This order was not for me, nurse."

"It was for every one, madame."

Catharine smiled.

"Yes, I know very well," said the nurse, "that no one has any right to
oppose your majesty; I therefore beg you to listen to the prayer of a
poor woman and to refrain from entering."

"Nurse, I must speak to my son."

"Madame, I will not open the door except on a formal order from your
majesty."

"Open, nurse," said Catharine, "I order you to open!"

At this voice, more respected and much more feared in the Louvre than
that of Charles himself, the nurse handed the key to Catharine, but the
queen had no need of it. She drew from her pocket her own key of the
room, and under its heavy pressure the door yielded.

The room was vacant, Charles's bed was untouched, and his greyhound
Actéon, asleep on the bear-skin that covered the step of the bed, rose
and came forward to lick the ivory hands of Catharine.

"Ah!" said the queen, frowning, "he is out! I will wait for him."

She seated herself, pensive and gloomy, at the window which overlooked
the court of the Louvre, and from which the chief entrance was visible.

For two hours she sat there, as motionless and pale as a marble statue,
when at length she perceived a troop of horsemen returning to the
Louvre, at whose head she recognized Charles and Henry of Navarre.

Then she understood all. Instead of arguing with her in regard to the
arrest of his brother-in-law, Charles had taken him away and so had
saved him.

"Blind, blind, blind!" she murmured. Then she waited. An instant later
footsteps were heard in the adjoining room, which was the armory.

"But, sire," Henry was saying, "now that we have returned to the Louvre,
tell me why you took me away and what is the service you have rendered
me."

"No, no, Henriot," replied Charles, laughing, "some day, perhaps, you
will find out; but for the present it must remain a mystery. Know only
that for the time being you have in all probability brought about a
fierce quarrel between my mother and me."

As he uttered these words, Charles raised the curtain and found himself
face to face with Catharine.

Behind him and above his shoulder rose the pale, anxious countenance of
the Béarnais.

"Ah! you here, madame?" said Charles IX., frowning.

"Yes, my son," said Catharine, "I want to speak to you."

"To me?"

"To you alone."

"Well, well," said Charles, turning to his brother-in-law, "since there
is no escape, the sooner the better."

"I will leave you, sire," said Henry.

"Yes, yes, leave us," replied Charles; "and as you are a Catholic,
Henriot, go and hear a mass for me while I stay for the sermon."

Henry bowed and withdrew.

Charles IX. went directly to the point.

"Well, madame," said he, trying to make a joke of the affair. "By
Heaven! you are waiting to scold me, are you not? I wickedly upset your
little plan. Well, the devil! I could not let the man who had just saved
my life be arrested and taken to the Bastille. Nor did I want to quarrel
with my mother. I am a good son. Moreover," he added in a low tone, "the
Lord punishes children who quarrel with their mothers. Witness my
brother François II. Forgive me, therefore, frankly, and confess that
the joke was a good one."

"Sire," said Catharine, "your Majesty is mistaken; it is not a joke."

"Yes, yes! and you will end by looking at it in that way, or the devil
take me!"

"Sire, by your blunder you have baffled a project which would have led
to an important discovery."

"Bah! a project. Are you embarrassed because of a baffled project,
mother? You can make twenty others, and in those,--well, I promise I
will second you."

"Now that you will second me it is too late, for he is warned and will
be on his guard."

"Well," said the King, "let us come to the point. What have you against
Henriot?"

"The fact that he conspires."

"Yes, I know that this is your constant accusation; but does not every
one conspire more or less in this charming royal household called the
Louvre?"

"But he conspires more than any one, and he is much more dangerous than
one imagines."

"A regular Lorenzino!" said Charles.

"Listen," said Catharine, becoming gloomy at mention of this name, which
reminded her of one of the bloodiest catastrophes in the history of
Florence. "Listen; there is a way of proving to me that I am wrong."

"What way, mother?"

"Ask Henry who was in his room last night."

"In his room last night?"

"Yes; and if he tells you"--

"Well?"

"Well, I shall be ready to admit that I have been mistaken."

"But in case it was a woman, we cannot ask."

"A woman?"

"Yes."

"A woman who killed two of your guards and perhaps mortally wounded
Monsieur de Maurevel!"

"Oh! oh!" said the King, "this is serious. Was there any bloodshed?"

"Three men were stretched on the floor."

"And the one who reduced them to this state?"

"Escaped safe and sound."

"By Gog and Magog!" exclaimed Charles, "he was a brave fellow, and you
are right, mother, I must know him."

"Well, I tell you in advance that you will not know him, at least not
through Henry."

"But through you, mother? The man did not escape without leaving some
trace, without your noticing some part of his clothing."

"Nothing was noticed except the very elegant red cloak which he wore."

"Ah! ah! a red cloak!" cried Charles. "I know only one at court
remarkable enough to attract attention."

"Exactly," said Catharine.

"Well?" demanded Charles.

"Well," said Catharine, "wait for me in your rooms, my son, and I will
go and see if my orders have been carried out."

Catharine left, and Charles, alone, began walking up and down
distractedly, whistling a hunting-song, one hand in his doublet, the
other hanging down, which his dog licked every time he paused.

As to Henry he had left his brother-in-law greatly disturbed, and
instead of going along the main corridor he had taken the small private
stairway, to which we have already referred more than once, and which
led to the second story. Scarcely had he ascended four steps before he
perceived a figure at the first landing. He stopped, raising his hand to
his dagger. But he soon saw it was a woman, who took hold of his hand
and said in a charming voice which he well knew:

"Thank God, sire, you are safe and sound. I was so afraid for you, but
no doubt God heard my prayer."

"What has happened?" said Henry.

"You will know when you reach your rooms. You need not worry over
Orthon. I have seen to him."

The young woman descended the stairs hastily, making Henry believe that
she had met him by chance.

"That is strange," said Henry to himself. "What is the matter? What has
happened to Orthon?"

Unfortunately, the question was not heard by Madame de Sauve, for the
latter had already disappeared.

Suddenly at the top of the stairs Henry perceived another figure, but
this time it was that of a man.

"Hush!" said the man.

"Ah! is it you, François?"

"Do not call me by my name."

"What has happened?"

"Return to your rooms and you will see, then slip into the corridor,
look carefully around to make sure that no one is spying on you, and
come to my apartments. The door will be ajar."

He, too, disappeared down the stairs, like the phantoms in a theatre who
glide through a trap door.

"_Ventre saint gris!_" murmured the Béarnais, "the puzzle continues; but
since the answer is in my rooms, let us go thither and find it."

However, it was not without emotion that Henry went on his way. He had
the sensitiveness and the superstition of youth. Everything was clearly
reflected on his mind, the surface of which was as smooth as a mirror,
and what he had just heard foretold trouble.

He reached the door of his rooms and listened. Not a sound. Besides,
since Charlotte had said to return to his apartments, it was evident
that there was nothing for him to fear by doing so. He glanced hurriedly
around the first room--it was vacant. Nothing showed that anything had
occurred.

"Orthon is not here," said he.

He passed on to the next room. There everything was explained.

In spite of the water which had been thrown on in bucketsful, great red
spots covered the floor. A piece of furniture was broken, the bed
curtains had been slashed by the sword, a Venetian mirror had been
shattered by a bullet; and a bloody hand which had left its terrible
imprint on the wall showed that this silent chamber had been the scene
of a frightful struggle. Henry embraced all these details at a glance,
and passing his hand across his forehead, now damp with perspiration,
murmured:

"Ah, I know now the service the King has rendered me. They came here to
assassinate me--and--ah! De Mouy! what have they done to De Mouy? The
wretches! They may have killed him!"

And as anxious to learn the news as the Duc d'Alençon was to tell it,
Henry threw a last mournful glance on the surrounding objects, hurried
from the room, reached the corridor, made sure that it was vacant, and
pushing open the half-closed door, which he carefully shut behind him,
he hurried to the Duc d'Alençon's.

The duke was waiting for him in the first room. Laying his finger on his
lips, he hastily took Henry's hand and drew him into a small round tower
which was completely isolated, and which consequently was out of range
of spies.

"Ah, brother," said he, "what a horrible night!"

"What happened?" asked Henry.

"They tried to arrest you."

"Me?"

"Yes, you."

"For what reason?"

"I do not know. Where were you?"

"The King took me into the city with him last night."

"Then he knew about it," said D'Alençon. "But since you were not in your
rooms, who was?"

"Was some one there?" asked Henry as if he were ignorant of the fact.

"Yes, a man. When I had heard the noise, I ran to help you; but it was
too late."

"Was the man arrested?" asked Henry, anxiously.

"No, he escaped, after he had wounded Maurevel dangerously and killed
two guards."

"Ah! brave De Mouy!" cried Henry.

"It was De Mouy, then?" said D'Alençon, quickly.

Henry saw that he had made a mistake.

"I presume so," said he, "for I had an appointment with him to discuss
your escape, and to tell him that I had yielded all my rights to the
throne of Navarre to you."

"If that is known," said D'Alençon, growing pale, "we are lost."

"Yes, for Maurevel will speak."

"Maurevel received a sword-thrust in his throat, and I found out from
the surgeon who dressed the wound that it would be a week before he
would utter a single word."

"A week! That is more than enough for De Mouy to escape."

"For that matter," said D'Alençon, "it might have been some one besides
Monsieur de Mouy."

"You think so?" said Henry.

"Yes, the man disappeared very quickly, and nothing but his red cloak
was seen."

"And a red cloak," said Henry, "is more apt to be worn by a courtier
than by a soldier. I should never suspect De Mouy in a red cloak."

"No, if any one were suspected," said D'Alençon, "it would be more apt
to be"--

He stopped.

"It would be more likely to be Monsieur de la Mole," said Henry.

"Certainly, since I myself, who saw the man running away, thought so for
an instant."

"You thought so? Why, it must have been Monsieur de la Mole, then."

"Does he know anything?" asked D'Alençon.

"Absolutely nothing; at least, nothing of importance."

"Brother," said the duke; "I really think now that it was he."

"The devil!" said Henry; "if it was, that will trouble the queen
greatly, for she is interested in him."

"Interested, you say?" said D'Alençon in amazement.

"Yes. Do you not remember, François, that it was your sister who
recommended him to you?"

"Yes," said the duke, in a dull voice; "so I tried to be agreeable to
him. The proof of this is that, fearing his red cloak might compromise
him, I went up to his rooms and took the cloak away."

"Oh! oh!" exclaimed Henry, "that was doubly prudent. And now I would not
bet, but I would swear, that it was he."

"Even in court?" asked François.

"Faith, yes," replied Henry. "He probably came to bring me some message
from Marguerite."

"If I were sure of being upheld by your testimony," said D'Alençon, "I
would almost accuse him."

"If you were to accuse him," replied Henry, "you understand, brother,
that I would not contradict you."

"But the queen?" said D'Alençon.

"Ah, yes, the queen."

"We must know what she would do."

"I will undertake to find out."

"Plague it, brother! she will do wrong to lie to us, for this affair
will make a glorious reputation of bravery for the young man, and which,
cannot have cost him dear either, for he probably bought it on credit.
Furthermore, it is true that he is well able to pay back both interest
and capital."

"Well, what can you expect?" said Henry; "in this base world one has
nothing for nothing!"

And bowing and smiling to D'Alençon, he cautiously thrust his head into
the corridor, and making sure that no one had been listening, he hurried
rapidly away, and disappeared down the private stairway which led to the
apartments of Marguerite.

As far as she was concerned, the Queen of Navarre was no less anxious
than her husband. The night's expedition sent against her and the
Duchesse de Nevers by the King, the Duc d'Anjou, the Duc de Guise, and
Henry, whom she had recognized, troubled her greatly. In all probability
there was nothing which could compromise her. The janitor unfastened
from the gate by La Mole and Coconnas had promised to be silent. But
four lords like those with whom two simple gentlemen, such as La Mole
and Coconnas, had coped, would not have gone out of their way by chance,
or without having had some reason for thus inconveniencing themselves.
Marguerite had returned at daybreak, having passed the rest of the
night with the Duchesse de Nevers. She had retired at once, but had been
unable to sleep, and had started at the slightest sound.

In the midst of this anxiety she heard some one knocking at the secret
door, and being informed that the visitor was Gillonne, she gave orders
to have her admitted.

Henry waited at the outer door. Nothing in his appearance showed the
wounded husband. His usual smile lay on his delicate lips, and not a
muscle of his face betrayed the terrible anxiety through which he had
just passed. He seemed to glance inquiringly at Marguerite to discover
if she would allow him to talk with her alone. Marguerite understood her
husband's look, and signed to Gillonne to withdraw.

"Madame," said Henry, "I know how deeply you are attached to your
friends, and I fear I bring you bad news."

"What is it, monsieur?" asked Marguerite.

"One of your dearest servants is at present greatly compromised."

"Which one?"

"The dear Count de la Mole."

"Monsieur le Comte de la Mole compromised! And why?"

"Because of the affair of last night."

In spite of her self-control Marguerite could not keep from blushing.

But she made an effort over herself.

"What affair?" she asked.

"What," said Henry, "did you not hear all the noise which was made in
the Louvre?"

"No, monsieur."

"I congratulate you, madame," said Henry, with charming simplicity.
"This proves that you are a sound sleeper."

"But what happened?"

"It seems that our good mother gave an order to Monsieur de Maurevel and
six of his men to arrest me."

"You, monsieur, you?"

"Yes, me."

"For what reason?"

"Ah, who can tell the reasons of a mind as subtle as that of your
mother? I suspect the reasons, but I do not know them positively."

"And you were not in your rooms?"

"No; I happened not to be. You have guessed rightly, madame, I was not.
Last evening the King asked me to go out with him. But, although I was
not in my rooms, some one else was."

"Who?"

"It seems that it was the Count de la Mole."

"The Count de la Mole!" exclaimed Marguerite, astonished.

"By Heavens! what a lively little fellow this man from the provinces
is!" continued Henry. "Do you know that he wounded Maurevel and killed
two guards?"

"Wounded Monsieur de Maurevel and killed two guards!--impossible!"

"What! You doubt his courage, madame?"

"No, but I say that Monsieur de la Mole could not have been in your
rooms."

"Why not?"

"Why, because--because"--said Marguerite, embarrassed, "because he was
elsewhere."

"Ah! If he can prove an alibi," said Henry, "that is different; he will
tell where he was, and the matter will be settled."

"Where was he?" said Marguerite, quickly.

"In all probability the day will not pass without his being arrested and
questioned. But unfortunately as there are proofs"--

"Proofs! what proofs?"

"The man who made this desperate defence wore a red cloak."

"But Monsieur de la Mole is not the only one who has a red cloak--I know
another man who has one."

"No doubt, and I too know one. But this is what will happen: if it was
not Monsieur de la Mole who was in my rooms, it must have been the other
man who wears a red cloak, like La Mole. Now, do you know who this other
man is?"

"Heavens!"

"There lies the danger. You, as well as myself, madame, have seen it.
Your emotion proves this. Let us now talk like two people who are
discussing the most desirable thing in the world--a throne; a most
precious gift--life. De Mouy arrested, we are ruined."

"Yes, I understand that."

"While Monsieur de la Mole compromises no one; at least you would not
suppose him capable of inventing a story such as, for instance, that he
was with some ladies--whom I know?"

"Monsieur," said Marguerite, "if you fear only that, you may be easy. He
will not say it."

"What!" said Henry, "would he remain silent if death were to be the
price of his silence?"

"He would remain silent, monsieur."

"You are sure of this?"

"I am sure."

"Then everything is for the best," said Henry, rising.

"You are going, monsieur?" asked Marguerite, quickly.

"Oh, my God, yes. This is all I had to say to you."

"And you are going"--

"To try and get out of the trouble we have been put to by this devil of
a man in the red cloak."

"Oh, my God! my God! the poor young man!" cried Marguerite, pitifully,
wringing her hands.

"Really," said Henry, as he went out, "this dear Monsieur de la Mole is
a faithful servant."



CHAPTER XXXVIII.

THE GIRDLE OF THE QUEEN MOTHER.


Charles entered his room, smiling and joking. But after a conversation
of ten minutes with his mother, one would have said that the latter had
given him her pallor and anger in exchange for the light-heartedness of
her son.

"Monsieur de la Mole," said Charles, "Monsieur de la Mole! Henry and the
Duc d'Alençon must be sent for. Henry, because this young man was a
Huguenot; the Duc d'Alençon, because he is in his service."

"Send for them if you wish, my son, but you will learn nothing. Henry
and François, I fear, are much more closely bound together than one
would suppose from appearances. To question them is to suspect them. I
think it would be better to wait for the slow but sure proof of time. If
you give the guilty ones time to breathe again, my son, if you let them
think they have escaped your vigilance, they will become bold and
triumphant, and will give you a better opportunity to punish them. Then
we shall know everything."

Charles walked up and down, undecided, gnawing his anger, as a horse
gnaws his bit, and pressing his clinched hand to his heart, which was
consumed by his one idea.

"No, no," said he, at length; "I will not wait. You do not know what it
is to wait, beset with suspicions as I am. Besides, every day these
courtiers become more insolent. Even last night did not two of them dare
to cope with us? If Monsieur de la Mole is innocent, very good; but I
should not be sorry to know where Monsieur de la Mole was last night,
while they were attacking my guards in the Louvre, and me in the Rue
Cloche Percée. So let the Duc d'Alençon be sent for, and afterwards
Henry. I will question them separately. You may remain, mother."

Catharine sat down. For a determined spirit such as hers was, every
incident turned by her powerful hand would lead her to her goal,
although it might seem to be leading away from it. From every blow there
would result noise and a spark. The noise would guide, the spark give
light.

The Duc d'Alençon entered. His previous conversation with Henry had
prepared him for this interview; therefore he was quite calm.

His replies were very exact. Warned by his mother to remain in his own
rooms, he was completely ignorant of the events of the night. But as his
apartments opened upon the same corridor as did those of the King of
Navarre, he had at first thought he heard a sound like that of a door
being broken in, then curses, then pistol-shots. Thereupon he had
ventured to push his door partly open, and had seen a man in a red cloak
running away.

Charles and his mother exchanged glances.

"In a red cloak?" said the King.

"In a red cloak," replied D'Alençon.

"And did you have any suspicions regarding this red cloak?"

D'Alençon rallied all his strength that he might lie as naturally as
possible.

"At first sight," said he, "I must confess to your Majesty that I
thought I recognized the red cloak of one of my gentlemen."

"What is the name of this gentleman?"

"Monsieur de la Mole."

"Why was not Monsieur de la Mole with you as his duty required him to
be?"

"I had given him leave of absence," said the duke.

"That is well; now you may go," said Charles.

The Duc d'Alençon started towards the door by which he had entered.

"Not that way," said Charles; "this way."

And he indicated the door opening into his nurse's room. Charles did not
want François and Henry to meet.

He did not know that they had already seen each other for an instant,
and that this instant had sufficed for the two brothers-in-law to agree
on their plans.

At a sign from Charles, Henry entered.

He did not wait for Charles to question him, however.

"Sire," said he, "your Majesty has done well to send for me, for I was
just coming to demand justice of you."

Charles frowned.

"Yes, justice," said Henry. "I will begin by thanking your Majesty for
having taken me with you last night; for, by doing this, I now know that
you saved my life. But what had I done that an attempt should be made to
assassinate me?"

"Not to assassinate," said Catharine, quickly, "but to arrest you."

"Well," said Henry, "even so. What crime have I committed to merit
arrest? If I am guilty I am as much so this morning as I was last
evening. Tell me my offence, sire."

Embarrassed as to what reply to make, Charles looked at his mother.

"My son," said Catharine, "you receive suspicious characters."

"Very good," said Henry, "and these suspicious characters compromise me;
is that it, madame?"

"Yes, Henry."

"Give me their names! Give me their names! Who are they? Let me see
them!"

"Really," said Charles, "Henriot has the right to demand an
explanation."

"And I do demand it!" said Henry, realizing the superiority of his
position and anxious to make the most of it. "I ask it from my good
brother Charles, and from my good mother Catharine. Since my marriage
with Marguerite have I not been a kind husband? ask Marguerite. A good
Catholic? ask my confessor. A good relative? ask those who were at the
hunt yesterday."

"Yes, that is true, Henriot," said the King; "but what can you do? They
claim that you conspire."

"Against whom?"

"Against me."

"Sire, if I had been conspiring against you, I had merely to let events
take their course, when your horse broke his knee and could not rise, or
when the furious boar turned on your Majesty."

"Well, the devil! mother, do you know that he is right?"

"But who was in your rooms last night?"

"Madame," said Henry, "in times when so few dare to answer for
themselves, I should never attempt to answer for others. I left my rooms
at seven o'clock in the evening, at ten o'clock my brother Charles took
me away, and I spent the night with him. I could not be with your
Majesty and know what was going on in my rooms at the same time."

"But," said Catharine, "it is none the less true that one of your men
killed two of his Majesty's guards and wounded Monsieur de Maurevel."

"One of my men?" said Henry. "What man, madame? Name him."

"Every one accuses Monsieur de la Mole."

"Monsieur de la Mole is not in my suite, madame; Monsieur de la Mole
belongs to Monsieur d'Alençon, to whom he was recommended by your
daughter."

"But," said Charles, "was it Monsieur de la Mole who was in your rooms,
Henriot?"

"How can you expect me to know, sire? I can say neither yes nor no.
Monsieur de la Mole is an exceptional servant, thoroughly devoted to the
Queen of Navarre. He often brings me messages, either from Marguerite,
to whom he is grateful for having recommended him to Monsieur le Duc
d'Alençon, or from Monsieur le Duc himself. I cannot say that it was not
Monsieur de la Mole"--

"It was he," said Catharine. "His red cloak was recognized."

"Has Monsieur de la Mole a red cloak, then?"

"Yes."

"And the man who so cleverly disposed of two of my guards and Monsieur
de Maurevel"--

"Had a red cloak?" asked Henry.

"Exactly," said Charles.

"I have nothing to say," said the Béarnais. "But in any case it seems to
me that instead of summoning me here, since I was not in my rooms, it is
Monsieur de la Mole, who, having been there, as you say, should be
questioned. But," said Henry, "I must observe one thing to your
Majesty."

"What is that?"

"This, that if I had seen an order signed by my King and had defended
myself instead of obeying this order, I should be guilty and should
deserve all sorts of punishment; but it was not I but some stranger whom
this order in no way concerned. There was an attempt made to arrest him
unjustly, he defended himself too well, perhaps, but he was in the
right."

"And yet"--murmured Catharine.

"Madame," said Henry, "was the order to arrest me?"

"Yes," said Catharine, "and his Majesty himself signed it."

"Was it an order to arrest any one found in my place in case I was not
there?"

"No," said Catharine.

"Well!" said Henry, "unless you prove that I was conspiring and that the
man who was in my rooms was conspiring with me, this man is innocent."

Then turning to Charles IX.:

"Sire," continued Henry, "I shall not leave the Louvre. At a simple word
from your Majesty I shall even be ready to enter any state prison you
may be pleased to suggest. But while waiting for the proof to the
contrary I have the right to call myself and I do call myself the very
faithful servant, subject, and brother of your Majesty."

And with a dignity hitherto unknown in him, Henry bowed to Charles and
withdrew.

"Bravo, Henriot!" said Charles, when the King of Navarre had left.

"Bravo! because he has defeated us?" said Catharine.

"Why should I not applaud? When we fence together and he touches me do I
not say 'bravo'? Mother, you are wrong to hate this boy as you do."

"My son," said Catharine, pressing the hand of Charles IX., "I do not
hate him, I fear him."

"Well, you are wrong, mother. Henriot is my friend, and as he said, had
he been conspiring against me he had only to let the wild boar alone."

"Yes," said Catharine, "so that Monsieur le Duc d'Anjou, his personal
enemy, might be King of France."

"Mother, whatever Henriot's motive in saving my life, the fact is that
he saved it, and, the devil! I do not want any harm to come to him. As
to Monsieur de la Mole, well, I will talk about him with my brother
D'Alençon, to whom he belongs."

This was Charles IX.'s way of dismissing his mother, who withdrew
endeavoring to fix her suspicions. On account of his unimportance,
Monsieur de la Mole did not answer to her needs.

Returning to her rooms, Catharine found Marguerite waiting for her.

"Ah! ah!" said she, "is it you, my daughter? I sent for you last
evening."

"I know it, madame, but I had gone out."

"And this morning?"

"This morning, madame, I have come to tell your majesty that you are
about to do a great wrong."

"What is that?"

"You are going to have Monsieur le Comte de la Mole arrested."

"You are mistaken, my daughter, I am going to have no one arrested. It
is the King, not I, who gives orders for arrests."

"Let us not quibble over the words, madame, when the circumstances are
serious. Monsieur de la Mole is going to be arrested, is he not?"

"Very likely."

"Accused of having been found in the chamber of the King of Navarre last
night, and of having killed two guards and wounded Monsieur de
Maurevel?"

"Such indeed is the crime they impute to him."

"They impute it to him wrongly, madame," said Marguerite; "Monsieur de
la Mole is not guilty."

"Monsieur de la Mole not guilty!" said Catharine, giving a start of joy,
and thinking that what Marguerite was about to tell her would throw
light on the subject.

"No," went on Marguerite, "he is not guilty, he cannot be so, for he was
not in the king's room."

"Where was he, then?"

"In my room, madame."

"In your room?"

"Yes, in my room."

At this avowal from a daughter of France, Catharine felt like hurling a
withering glance at Marguerite, but she merely crossed her arms on her
lap.

"And," said she after a moment's silence, "if Monsieur de la Mole is
arrested and questioned"--

"He will say where he was and with whom he was, mother," replied
Marguerite, although she felt sure of the contrary.

"Since this is so, you are right, my daughter; Monsieur de la Mole must
not be arrested."

Marguerite shivered. It seemed to her that there was something strange
and terrible in the way her mother uttered these words; but she had
nothing to say, for what she had come to ask for had been granted her.

"But," said Catharine, "if it was not Monsieur de la Mole who was in the
king's room, it was some one else!"

Marguerite was silent.

"Do you know who it was, my daughter?" said Catharine.

"No, mother," said Marguerite, in an unsteady voice.

"Come, do not be half confidential."

"I repeat, madame, that I do not know," replied Marguerite again,
growing pale in spite of herself.

"Well, well," said Catharine, carelessly, "we shall find out. Go now, my
daughter. You may rest assured that your mother will watch over your
honor."

Marguerite went out.

"Ah!" murmured Catharine, "they are in league. Henry and Marguerite are
working together. While the wife is silent, the husband is blind. Ah,
you are very clever, my children, and you think yourselves very strong.
But your strength is in your union and I will break you, one after the
other. Besides, the day will come when Maurevel can speak or write,
utter a name, or spell six letters, and then we shall know everything.
Yes, but in the meantime the guilty shall be in safe-keeping. The best
thing to do would be to separate them at once."

Thereupon Catharine set out for the apartments of her son, whom she
found holding a conference with D'Alençon.

"Ah! ah!" exclaimed Charles IX., frowning, "is it you, mother?"

"Why did you not say '_again_'? The word was in your mind, Charles."

"What is in my mind belongs to me, madame," said the King, in the rough
tone he sometimes used even when speaking to Catharine. "What do you
want of me? Tell me quickly."

"Well, you were right, my son," said Catharine to Charles, "and you,
D'Alençon, were wrong."

"In what respect, madame?" asked both princes.

"It was not Monsieur de la Mole who was in the apartments of the King of
Navarre."

"Ah! ah!" cried François, growing pale.

"Who was it, then?" asked Charles.

"We do not know yet, but we shall know when Maurevel is able to speak.
So let us drop the subject, which will soon be explained, and return to
Monsieur de la Mole."

"Well, what do you want of Monsieur de la Mole, mother, since he was not
in the rooms of the King of Navarre?"

"No," said Catharine, "he was not there, but he was with--the queen."

"With the queen!" cried Charles, bursting into a nervous laugh.

"With the queen," murmured D'Alençon, turning as pale as death.

"No, no," said Charles, "De Guise told me he had met Marguerite's
litter."

"Yes," said Catharine, "she has a house in town."

"In the Rue Cloche Percée!" cried the King.

"Oh! oh! this is too much," said D'Alençon, driving his nails into his
breast. "And to have had him recommended to me!"

"Ah! now that I think of it!" said the King, stopping suddenly, "it was
he who defended himself against us last night, and who hurled the silver
bowl at my head, the wretch!"

"Oh, yes!" repeated François, "the wretch!"

"You are right, my children," said Catharine, without appearing to
understand the feelings which incited both of her sons to speak. "You
are right, for a single indiscreet act of this gentleman might cause a
horrible scandal, and ruin a daughter of France. One moment of madness
would be enough for that."

"Or of vanity," said François.

"No doubt, no doubt," said Charles. "And yet we cannot bring the case
into court unless Henriot consents to appear as plaintiff."

"My son," said Catharine, placing her hand on Charles's shoulder in such
a way as to call the King's attention to what she was about to propose,
"listen to what I say. A crime has been committed, and there may be
scandal. But this sort of offence to royalty is not punished by judges
and hangmen. If you were simple gentlemen, I should have nothing to say
to you, for you are both brave, but you are princes, you cannot cross
swords with mere country squires. Think how you can avenge yourselves as
princes."

"The devil!" cried Charles, "you are right, mother, and I will consider
it."

"I will help you, brother," cried François.

"And I," said Catharine, unfastening the black silk girdle which was
wound three times about her waist, and the two tassels of which fell to
her knees. "I will retire, but I leave you this to represent me."

And she threw the girdle at the feet of the two princes.

"Ah! ah!" said Charles, "I understand."

"This girdle"--said D'Alençon, picking it up.

"Is punishment and silence," said Catharine, victorious; "but," she
added, "there would be no harm in mentioning this to Henry."

She withdrew.

"By Heaven!" said D'Alençon; "a good idea, and when Henry knows that his
wife has betrayed him--So," he added, turning to the King, "you will
adopt our mother's suggestion?"

"In every detail," said Charles, not doubting but that he would drive a
thousand daggers into D'Alençon's heart. "This will annoy Marguerite,
but it will delight Henriot."

Then, calling one of his guards, he ordered Henry summoned, but thinking
better of it:

"No, no," said he, "I will go for him myself. Do you, D'Alençon, inform
D'Anjou and De Guise."

Leaving his apartments, he ascended the private stairway to the second
floor, which led to Henry's chamber.



CHAPTER XXXIX.

PROJECTS OF REVENGE.


Henry took advantage of the respite afforded him by his well-sustained
examination to go to Madame de Sauve's. He found Orthon completely
recovered from his fainting-fit. But Orthon could tell him nothing,
except that some men had broken into the king's rooms, that the leader
had struck him with the handle of his sword, and that the blow had
stunned him. No one had troubled about Orthon. Catharine had seen that
he had fainted and had believed him to be dead.

As he had come to himself between the departure of the queen mother and
the arrival of the captain of the guards charged with clearing up the
room, he had taken refuge in Madame de Sauve's apartments.

Henry begged Charlotte to keep the young man until news came from De
Mouy, who would not fail to write him from his hiding-place. Then he
would send Orthon to carry his answer to De Mouy, and instead of one
devoted man he could count on two. This decided on, he returned to his
rooms and began further to consider matters, walking up and down the
while. Suddenly the door opened and the King appeared.

"Your Majesty!" cried Henry, rising to meet him.

"In person. Really, Henriot, you are a good fellow, and I love you more
and more."

"Sire," said Henry, "your Majesty overwhelms me."

"You have but one fault, Henriot."

"What is that? The one for which your Majesty has already reproached me
several times?" said Henry. "My preferring to hunt animals rather than
birds?"

"No, no, I am not referring to that, Henriot, I mean something else."

"If your Majesty will explain," said Henry, who saw from the smile on
Charles's lips that the King was in a good humor, "I will try and
correct it."

"It is this, that having such good eyes, you see no better than you do."

"Bah!" said Henry, "can I be short-sighted, then, sire, without knowing
it?"

"Worse than that, Henry, worse than that, you are blind."

"Ah, indeed," said the Béarnais, "but is it not when I shut my eyes that
this happens?"

"Well, yes!" said Charles, "you are perfectly capable of that. At all
events, I am going to open your eyes."

"God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light. Your Majesty is
the representative of God on earth. Therefore you can do here what God
does in heaven. Proceed; I am all attention."

"When De Guise said last night that your wife had just passed escorted
by a gallant you would not believe it."

"Sire," said Henry, "how could I believe that the sister of your Majesty
could commit an act of such imprudence?"

"When he told you that your wife had gone to the Rue Cloche Percée, you
would not believe that either!"

"How was I to suppose, sire, that a daughter of France would thus
publicly risk her reputation?"

"When we besieged the house in the Rue Cloche Percée, and when I had a
silver bowl hurled at my shoulder, D'Anjou some orange marmalade on his
head, and De Guise a haunch of venison in the face, you saw two women
and two men, did you not?"

"I saw nothing, sire. Does not your Majesty remember that I was
questioning the janitor?"

"Yes, but, by Heaven, I saw"--

"Ah, if your Majesty saw anything, that is a different thing."

"I saw two men and two women. Well, I know now beyond a doubt that one
of the women was Margot, and that one of the men was Monsieur de la
Mole."

"Well," said Henry, "if Monsieur de la Mole was in the Rue Cloche
Percée, he was not here."

"No," said Charles, "he was not here. But never mind who was here; we
shall know this as soon as that imbecile of a Maurevel is able to speak
or write. The point is that Margot is deceiving you."

"Bah!" said Henry; "do not believe such nonsense."

"When I tell you that you are more than near-sighted, that you are
blind, the devil! will you believe me just once, stupid? I tell you that
Margot is deceiving you, and that this evening we are going to strangle
her lover."

Henry gave a start of surprise, and looked at his brother-in-law in
amazement.

"Confess, Henry, that at heart you are not sorry. Margot will cry out
like a thousand Niobes; but, faith! so much the worse. I do not want you
to be made a fool of. If Condé is deceived by the Duc d'Anjou, I will
wink; Condé is my enemy. But you are my brother; more than this, you are
my friend."

"But, sire"--

"And I do not want you to be annoyed, and made a fool of. You have been
a quintain long enough for all these popinjays who come from the
provinces to gather our crumbs, and court our women. Let them come, or
rather let them come again. By Heaven! you have been deceived,
Henriot,--that might happen to any one,--but I swear, you shall have
shining satisfaction, and to-morrow they shall say: In the name of a
thousand devils! it seems that King Charles loves his brother Henriot,
for last night he had Monsieur de la Mole's tongue pulled out in a most
amusing manner."

"Is this really decided on, sire?" asked Henry.

"Decided on, determined on, arranged. The coxcomb will have no time to
plead his cause. The expedition will consist of myself, D'Anjou,
D'Alençon, and De Guise--a king, two sons of France, and a sovereign
prince, without counting you."

"How without counting me?"

"Why, you are to be one of us."

"I!"

"Yes, you! you shall stab the fellow in a royal manner, while the rest
of us strangle him."

"Sire," said Henry, "your kindness overpowers me; but how do you know"--

"Why, the devil! it seems that the fellow boasts of it. He goes
sometimes to your wife's apartments in the Louvre, sometimes to the Rue
Cloche Percée. They compose verses together. I should like to see the
stanzas that fop writes. Pastorales they are. They discuss Bion and
Moschus, and read first Daphne and then Corydon. Ah! take a good dagger
with you!"

"Sire," said Henry, "upon reflection"--

"What?"

"Your Majesty will see that I cannot join such an expedition. It seems
to me it would be inconvenient to be there in person. I am too much
interested in the affair to take any calm part in it. Your Majesty will
avenge the honor of your sister on a coxcomb who boasts of having
calumniated my wife; nothing is simpler, and Marguerite, whom I hold to
be innocent, sire, is in no way dishonored. But were I of the party, it
would be a different thing. My co-operation would convert an act of
justice into an act of revenge. It would no longer be an execution, but
an assassination. My wife would no longer be calumniated, but guilty."

"By Heaven, Henry, as I said just now to my mother, you speak words of
wisdom. You have a devilishly quick mind."

And Charles gazed complacently at his brother-in-law, who bowed in
return for the compliment.

"Nevertheless," added Charles, "you are willing to be rid of this
coxcomb, are you not?"

"Everything your Majesty does is well done," replied the King of
Navarre.

"Well, well, let me do your work for you. You may be sure it shall not
be the worse for it."

"I leave it to you, sire," said Henry.

"At what time does he usually go to your wife's room?"

"About nine o'clock."

"And he leaves?"

"Before I reach there, for I never see him."

"About"--

"About eleven."

"Very well. Come this evening at midnight. The deed will be done."

Charles pressed Henry's hand cordially, and renewing his vows of
friendship, left the apartment, whistling his favorite hunting-song.

"_Ventre saint gris!_" said the Béarnais, watching Charles, "either I am
greatly mistaken, or the queen mother is responsible for all this
deviltry. Truly, she does nothing but invent plots to make trouble
between my wife and myself. Such a pleasant household!"

And Henry began to laugh as he was in the habit of laughing when no one
could see or hear him.

About seven o'clock that evening a handsome young man, who had just
taken a bath, was finishing his toilet as he calmly moved about his
room, humming a little air, before a mirror in one of the rooms of the
Louvre. Near him another young man was sleeping, or rather lying on a
bed.

The one was our friend La Mole who, unconsciously, had been the object
of so much discussion all day; the other was his companion Coconnas.

The great storm had passed over him without his having heard the rumble
of the thunder or seen the lightning. He had returned at three o'clock
in the morning, had stayed in bed until three in the afternoon, half
asleep, half awake, building castles on that uncertain sand called the
future. Then he had risen, had spent an hour at a fashionable bath, had
dined at Maître La Hurière's, and returning to the Louvre had set
himself to finish his toilet before making his usual call on the queen.

"And you say you have dined?" asked Coconnas, yawning.

"Faith, yes, and I was hungry too."

"Why did you not take me with you, selfish man?"

"Faith, you were sleeping so soundly that I did not like to waken you.
But you shall sup with me instead. Be sure not to forget to ask Maître
La Hurière for some of that light wine from Anjou, which arrived a few
days ago."

"Is it good?"

"I merely tell you to ask for it."

"Where are you going?"

"Where am I going?" said La Mole, surprised that his friend should ask
him such a question; "I am going to pay my respects to the queen."

"Well," said Coconnas, "if I were going to dine in our little house in
the Rue Cloche Percée, I should have what was left over from yesterday.
There is a certain wine of Alicante which is most refreshing."

"It would be imprudent to go there, Annibal, my friend, after what
occurred last night. Besides, did we not promise that we would not go
back there alone? Hand me my cloak."

"That is so," said Coconnas, "I had forgotten. But where the devil is
your cloak? Ah! here it is."

"No, you have given me the black one, and it is the red one I want. The
queen likes me better in that."

"Ah, faith," said Coconnas, searching everywhere, "look for yourself, I
cannot find it."

"What!" said La Mole, "you cannot find it? Why, where can it be?"

"You probably sold it."

"Why, I have six crowns left."

"Well, take mine."

"Ah, yes,--a yellow cloak with a green doublet! I should look like a
popinjay!"

"Faith, you are over-particular, so wear what you please."

Having tossed everything topsy-turvy in his search, La Mole was
beginning to abuse the thieves who managed to enter even the Louvre,
when a page from the Duc d'Alençon appeared bringing the precious cloak
in question.

"Ah!" cried La Mole, "here it is at last!"

"Is this your cloak, monsieur?" said the page. "Yes; monseigneur sent
for it to decide a wager he made regarding its color."

"Oh!" said La Mole, "I asked for it only because I was going out, but
if his highness desires to keep it longer"--

"No, Monsieur le Comte, he is through with it."

The page left. La Mole fastened his cloak.

"Well," he went on, "what have you decided to do?"

"I do not know."

"Shall I find you here this evening?"

"How can I tell?"

"Do you not know what you are going to do for two hours?"

"I know well enough what I shall do, but I do not know what I may be
ordered to do."

"By the Duchesse de Nevers?"

"No, by the Duc d'Alençon."

"As a matter of fact," said La Mole, "I have noticed for some time that
he has been friendly to you."

"Yes," said Coconnas.

"Then your fortune is made," said La Mole, laughing.

"Poof!" said Coconnas. "He is only a younger brother!"

"Oh!" said La Mole, "he is so anxious to become the elder one that
perhaps Heaven will work some miracle in his favor."

"So you do not know where you will be this evening?"

"No."

"Go to the devil, then,--I mean good-by!"

"That La Mole is a terrible fellow," thought Coconnas, "always wanting
me to tell him where I am going to be! as if I knew. Besides, I believe
I am sleepy." And he threw himself on the bed again.

La Mole betook himself to the apartments of the queen. In the corridor
he met the Duc d'Alençon.

"Ah! you here, Monsieur la Mole?" said the prince.

"Yes, my lord," replied La Mole, bowing respectfully.

"Are you going away from the Louvre?"

"No, your highness. I am on my way to pay my respects to her Majesty the
Queen of Navarre."

"About what time shall you leave, Monsieur de la Mole?"

"Has monseigneur any orders for me?"

"No, not at present, but I shall want to speak to you this evening."

"About what time?"

"Between nine and ten."

"I shall do myself the honor of waiting on your highness at that time."

"Very good. I shall depend on you."

La Mole bowed and went on.

"There are times," said he, "when the duke is as pale as death. It is
very strange."

He knocked at the door of the queen's apartments. Gillonne, who
apparently was expecting him, led him to Marguerite.

The latter was occupied with some work which seemed to be wearying her
greatly. A paper covered with notes and a volume of Isocrates lay before
her. She signed to La Mole to let her finish a paragraph. Then, in a few
moments, she threw down her pen and invited the young man to sit beside
her. La Mole was radiant. Never had he been so handsome or so
light-hearted.

"Greek!" said he, glancing at the book. "A speech of Isocrates! What are
you doing with that? Ah! and Latin on this sheet of paper! _Ad Sarmatiæ
legatos reginæ Margaritæ concio!_ So you are going to harangue these
barbarians in Latin?"

"I must," said Marguerite, "since they do not speak French."

"But how can you write the answer before you have the speech?"

"A greater coquette than I would make you believe that this was
impromptu; but I cannot deceive you, my Hyacinthe: I was told the speech
in advance, and I am answering it."

"Are these ambassadors about to arrive?"

"Better still, they arrived this morning."

"Does any one know it?"

"They came incognito. Their formal arrival is planned for to-morrow
afternoon, I believe, and you will see," said Marguerite, with a little
satisfied air not wholly free from pedantry, "that what I have done this
evening is quite Ciceronian. But let us drop these important matters and
speak of what has happened to you."

"To me?"

"Yes."

"What has happened to me?"

"Ah! it is in vain you pretend to be brave, you look pale."

"Then it is from having slept too much. I am humbly sorry for it."

"Come, come, let us not play the braggart; I know everything."

"Have the kindness to inform me, then, my pearl, for I know nothing."

"Well, answer me frankly. What did the queen mother ask you?"

"Had she something to say to me?"

"What! Have you not seen her?"

"No."

"Nor King Charles?"

"No."

"Nor the King of Navarre?"

"No."

"But you have seen the Duc d'Alençon?"

"Yes, I met him just now in the corridor."

"What did he say to you?"

"That he had some orders to give me between nine and ten o'clock this
evening."

"Nothing else?"

"Nothing else."

"That is strange."

"But what is strange? Tell me."

"That nothing has been said to you."

"What has happened?"

"All day, unfortunately, you have been hanging over an abyss."

"I?"

"Yes, you."

"Why?"

"Well, listen. It seems that last night De Mouy was surprised in the
apartments of the King of Navarre, who was to have been arrested. De
Mouy killed three men, and escaped without anything about him having
been recognized except the famous red cloak."

"Well?"

"Well, this red cloak, which once deceived me, has thrown others besides
myself off the track. You have been suspected and even accused of this
triple murder. This morning they wanted to arrest, judge, and perhaps
convict you. Who knows? For in order to save yourself you would not have
told where you were, would you?"

"Tell where I was?" cried La Mole; "compromise you, my beautiful queen?
Oh! you are right. I should have died singing, to spare your sweet eyes
one tear."

"Alas!" said Marguerite, "my sweet eyes would have been filled with
many, many tears."

"But what caused the great storm to subside?"

"Guess."

"How can I tell?"

"There was only one way to prove that you were not in the king's room."

"And that was"--

"To tell where you were."

"Well?"

"Well, I told."

"Whom did you tell?"

"My mother."

"And Queen Catharine"--

"Queen Catharine knows that I love you."

"Oh, madame! after having done so much for me, you can demand anything
from your servant. Ah, Marguerite, truly, what you did was noble and
beautiful. My life is yours, Marguerite."

"I hope so, for I have snatched it from those who wanted to take it from
me. But now you are saved."

"And by you!" cried the young man; "by my adored queen!"

At that instant a sharp noise made them start. La Mole sprang back,
filled with a vague terror. Marguerite uttered a cry, and stood with her
eyes riveted on the broken glass of one of the window-panes.

Through this window a stone the size of an egg had entered and lay on
the floor.

La Mole saw the broken pane, and realized the cause of the noise.

"Who dared to do this?" he cried, springing to the window.

"One moment," said Marguerite. "It seems to me that something is tied
around the stone."

"Yes," said La Mole, "it looks like a piece of paper."

Marguerite went to the strange projectile and removed the thin sheet
which, folded like a narrow band, encircled the middle of the stone.

The paper was attached to a cord, which came through the broken window.

Marguerite unfolded the letter and read.

"Unfortunate man!" she cried, holding out the paper to La Mole, who
stood as pale and motionless as a statue of Terror.

With a heart filled with gloomy forebodings he read these words:

"_They are waiting for Monsieur de la Mole, with long swords, in the
corridor leading to the apartments of Monsieur d'Alençon. Perhaps he
would prefer to escape by this window and join Monsieur de Mouy at
Mantes_"--

"Well!" asked La Mole, after reading it, "are these swords longer than
mine?"

"No, but there may be ten against one."

"Who is the friend who has sent us this note?" asked La Mole.

Marguerite took it from the young man's hand and looked at it
attentively.

"The King of Navarre's handwriting!" she cried. "If he warns us, the
danger is great. Flee, La Mole, flee, I beg you."

"How?" asked La Mole.

"By this window. Does not the note refer to it?"

"Command, my queen, and I will leap from the window to obey you, if I
broke my head twenty times by the fall."

"Wait, wait," said Marguerite. "It seems to me that there is a weight
attached to this cord."

"Let us see," said La Mole.

Both drew up the cord, and with indescribable joy saw a ladder of hair
and silk at the end of it.

"Ah! you are saved," cried Marguerite.

"It is a miracle of heaven!"

"No, it is a gift from the King of Navarre."

"But suppose it were a snare?" said La Mole. "If this ladder were to
break under me? Madame, did you not acknowledge your love for me
to-day?"

Marguerite, whose joy had dissipated her grief, became ashy pale.

"You are right," said she, "that is possible."

She started to the door.

"What are you going to do?" cried La Mole.

"To find out if they are really waiting for you in the corridor."

"Never! never! For their anger to fall on you?"

"What can they do to a daughter of France? As a woman and a royal
princess I am doubly inviolable."

The queen uttered these words with so much dignity that La Mole
understood she ran no risk, and that he must let her do as she wished.

Marguerite put La Mole under the protection of Gillonne, leaving to him
to decide, according to circumstances, whether to run or await her
return, and started down the corridor. A side hall led to the library as
well as to several reception-rooms, and at the end led to the apartments
of the King, the queen mother, and to the small private stairway by
which one reached the apartments of the Duc d'Alençon and Henry.
Although it was scarcely nine o'clock, all the lights were extinguished,
and the corridor, except for the dim glimmer which came from the side
hall, was quite dark. The Queen of Navarre advanced boldly. When she had
gone about a third of the distance she heard whispering which sounded
mysterious and startling from an evident effort made to suppress it. It
ceased almost instantly, as if by order from some superior, and silence
was restored. The light, dim as it was, seemed to grow less. Marguerite
walked on directly into the face of the danger if danger there was. To
all appearances she was calm, although her clinched hands indicated a
violent nervous tension. As she approached, the intense silence
increased, while a shadow like that of a hand obscured the wavering and
uncertain light.

At the point where the transverse hall crossed the main corridor a man
sprang in front of the queen, uncovered a red candlestick, and cried
out:

"Here he is!"

Marguerite stood face to face with her brother Charles. Behind him, a
silken cord in hand, was the Duc d'Alençon. At the rear, in the
darkness, stood two figures side by side, reflecting no light other than
that of the drawn swords which they held in their hands. Marguerite saw
everything at a glance. Making a supreme effort, she said smilingly to
Charles:

"You mean, here _she_ is, sire!"

Charles recoiled. The others stood motionless.

"You, Margot!" said he. "Where are you going at this hour?"

"At this hour!" said Marguerite. "Is it so late?"

"I ask where you are going?"

"To find a book of Cicero's speeches, which I think I left at our
mother's."

"Without a light?"

"I supposed the corridor was lighted."

"Do you come from your own apartments?"

"Yes."

"What are you doing this evening?"

"Preparing my address for the Polish ambassadors. Is there not a council
to-morrow? and does not each one have to submit his address to your
Majesty?"

"Have you not some one helping you with this work?"

Marguerite summoned all her strength.

"Yes, brother," said she, "Monsieur de la Mole. He is very learned."

"So much so," said the Duc d'Alençon, "that I asked him when he had
finished with you, sister, to come and help me, for I am not as clever
as you are."

"And were you waiting for him?" asked Marguerite as naturally as
possible.

"Yes," said D'Alençon, impatiently.

"Then," said Marguerite, "I will send him to you, brother, for we have
finished my work."

"But your book?" said Charles.

"I will have Gillonne get it."

The two brothers exchanged a sign.

"Go," said Charles, "and we will continue our round."

"Your round!" said Marguerite; "whom are you looking for?"

"The little red man," said Charles. "Do you not know that there is a
little red man who is said to haunt the old Louvre? My brother D'Alençon
claims to have seen him, and we are looking for him."

"Good luck to you," said Marguerite, and she turned round. Glancing
behind her, she saw the four figures gather close to the wall as if in
conference. In an instant she had reached her own door.

"Open, Gillonne," said she, "open."

Gillonne obeyed.

Marguerite sprang into the room and found La Mole waiting for her, calm
and quiet, but with drawn sword.

"Flee," said she, "flee. Do not lose a second. They are waiting for you
in the corridor to kill you."

"You command me to do this?" said La Mole.

"I command it. We must part in order to see each other again."

While Marguerite had been away La Mole had made sure of the ladder at
the window. He now stepped out, but before placing his foot on the first
round he tenderly kissed the queen's hand.

"If the ladder is a trap and I should perish, Marguerite, remember your
promise."

"It was not a promise, La Mole, but an oath. Fear nothing. Adieu!"

And La Mole, thus encouraged, let himself slip down the ladder. At the
same instant there was a knock at the door.

Marguerite watched La Mole's perilous descent and did not turn away from
the window until she was sure he had reached the ground in safety.

"Madame," said Gillonne, "madame!"

"Well?" asked Marguerite.

"The King is knocking at the door."

"Open it."

Gillonne did so.

The four princes, impatient at waiting, no doubt, stood on the
threshold.

Charles entered.

Marguerite came forward, a smile on her lips.

The King cast a rapid glance around.

"Whom are you looking for, brother?" asked Marguerite.

"Why," said Charles, "I am looking--I am looking--why, the devil! I am
looking for Monsieur de la Mole."

"Monsieur de la Mole!"

"Yes; where is he?"

Marguerite took her brother by the hand and led him to the window.

Just then two horsemen were seen galloping away, around the wooden
tower. One of them unfastened his white satin scarf and waved it in the
darkness, as a sign of adieu. The two men were La Mole and Orthon.

Marguerite pointed them out to Charles.

"Well!" said the King, "what does this mean?"

"It means," replied Marguerite, "that Monsieur le Duc d'Alençon may put
his cord back into his pocket, and that Messieurs d'Anjou and de Guise
may sheathe their swords, for Monsieur de la Mole will not pass through
the corridor again to-night."



CHAPTER XL.

THE ATRIDES.


Since his return to Paris, Henry of Anjou had not seen his mother
Catharine alone, and, as every one knows, he was her favorite son.

This visit was not merely for the sake of etiquette, nor the carrying
out of a painful ceremony, but the accomplishment of a very sweet duty
for this son who, if he did not love his mother, was at least sure of
being tenderly loved by her.

Catharine loved this son best either because of his bravery, his
beauty,--for besides the mother, there was the woman in Catharine,--or
because, according to some scandalous chronicles, Henry of Anjou
reminded the Florentine of a certain happy epoch of secret love.

Catharine alone knew of the return of the Duc d'Anjou to Paris. Charles
IX. would have been ignorant of it had not chance led him to the Hôtel
de Condé just as his brother was leaving it. Charles had not expected
him until the following day, and Henry of Anjou had hoped to conceal
from him the two motives which had hastened his arrival by a day,
namely, his visit to the beautiful Marie of Clèves, princess of Condé,
and his conference with the Polish ambassadors.

It was this last reason, of the object of which Charles was uncertain,
which the Duc d'Anjou had to explain to his mother. And the reader,
ignorant on this point as was Henry of Navarre, will profit by the
explanation.

When the Duc d'Anjou, so long expected, entered his mother's rooms,
Catharine, usually so cold and formal, and who since the departure of
her favorite son had embraced with effusion no one but Coligny, who was
to be assassinated the following day, opened her arms to the child of
her love, and pressed him to her heart with a burst of maternal
affection most surprising in a heart already long grown cold.

Then pushing him from her she gazed at him and again drew him into her
arms.

"Ah, madame," said he, "since Heaven grants me the privilege of
embracing my mother in private, console me, for I am the most wretched
man alive."

"Oh, my God! my beloved child," cried Catharine, "what has happened to
you?"

"Nothing which you do not know, mother. I am in love. I am loved; but it
is this very love which is the cause of my unhappiness."

"Tell me about it, my son," said Catharine.

"Well, mother,--these ambassadors,--this departure"--

"Yes," said Catharine, "the ambassadors have arrived; the departure is
near at hand."

"It need not be near at hand, mother, but my brother hastens it. He
detests me. I am in his way, and he wants to rid himself of me."

Catharine smiled.

"By giving you a throne, poor, unhappy crowned head!"

"Oh, no, mother," said Henry in agony, "I do not wish to go away. I, a
son of France, brought up in the refinement of polite society, near the
best of mothers, loved by one of the dearest women in the world, must I
go among snows, to the ends of the earth, to die by inches among those
rough people who are intoxicated from morning until night, and who gauge
the capacity of their king by that of a cask, according to what he can
hold? No, mother, I do not want to go; I should die!"

"Come, Henry," said Catharine, pressing her son's hands, "come, is that
the real reason?"

Henry's eyes fell, as though even to his mother he did not dare to
confess what was in his heart.

"Is there no other reason?" asked Catharine; "less romantic, but more
rational, more political?"

"Mother, it is not my fault if this thought comes to me, and takes
stronger hold of me, perhaps, than it should; but did not you yourself
tell me that the horoscope of my brother Charles prophesied that he
would die young?"

"Yes," said Catharine, "but a horoscope may lie, my son. Indeed, I
myself hope that all horoscopes are not true."

"But his horoscope said this, did it not?"

"His horoscope spoke of a quarter of a century; but it did not say
whether it referred to his life or his reign."

"Well, mother, bring it about so that I can stay. My brother is almost
twenty-four. In one year the question will be settled."

Catharine pondered deeply.

"Yes," said she; "it would certainly be better if it could be so
arranged."

"Oh, imagine my despair, mother," cried Henry, "if I were to exchange
the crown of France for that of Poland! My being tormented there with
the idea that I might be reigning in the Louvre in the midst of this
elegant and lettered court, near the best mother in the world, whose
advice would spare me half my work and fatigue, who, accustomed to
bearing, with my father, a portion of the burden of the State, would
like to bear it with me too! Ah, mother, I should have been a great
king!"

"There! there! dear child," said Catharine, to whom this outlook had
always been a very sweet hope, "there! do not despair. Have you thought
of any way of arranging the matter?"

"Oh, yes, certainly, and that is why I came back two or three days
before I was expected, letting my brother Charles suppose that it was on
account of Madame de Condé. Then I have been with De Lasco, the chief
ambassador. I became acquainted with him, and did all I could in that
first interview to make him hate me. I hope I have succeeded."

"Ah, my dear child," said Catharine, "that is wrong. You must place the
interest of France above your petty dislikes."

"Mother, in case any accident happened to my brother, would it be to the
interest of France for the Duc d'Alençon or the King of Navarre to
reign?"

"Oh! the King of Navarre, never, never!" murmured Catharine, letting
anxiety cover her face with that veil of care which spread over it every
time this question arose.

"Faith," continued Henry, "my brother D'Alençon is not worth much more,
and is no fonder of you."

"Well," said Catharine, "what did Lasco say?"

"Even Lasco hesitated when I urged him to seek an audience. Oh, if he
could write to Poland and annul this election!"

"Folly, my son, madness! What a Diet has consecrated is sacred."

"But, mother, could not these Poles be prevailed on to accept my brother
in my stead?"

"It would be difficult, if not impossible," said Catharine.

"Never mind, try, make the attempt, speak to the King, mother. Ascribe
everything to my love for Madame de Condé; say that I am mad over her,
that I am losing my mind. He saw me coming out of the prince's hôtel
with De Guise, who did everything for me a friend could do."

"Yes, in order to help the League. You do not see this, but I do."

"Yes, mother, yes; but meanwhile I am making use of him. Should we not
be glad when a man serves us while serving himself?"

"And what did the King say when he met you?"

"He apparently believed what I told him, that love alone had brought me
back to Paris."

"But did he ask you what you did the rest of the night?"

"Yes, mother; but I had supper at Nantouillet's, where I made a
frightful riot, so that the report of it might get abroad and deceive
the King as to where I was."

"Then he is ignorant of your visit to Lasco?"

"Absolutely."

"Good, so much the better. I will try to influence him in your favor,
dear child. But you know no influence makes any impression on his coarse
nature."

"Oh, mother, mother, what happiness if I could stay! I would love you
even more than I do now if that were possible!"

"If you stay you will be sent to war."

"Oh, never mind! if only I do not have to leave France."

"You will be killed."

"Mother, one does not die from blows; one dies from grief, from
meanness. But Charles will not let me remain; he hates me."

"He is jealous of you, my beautiful conqueror, that is well known. Why
are you so brave and so fortunate? Why, at scarcely twenty years of age,
have you won battles like Alexander or Cæsar? But, in the meantime, do
not let your wishes be known to any one; pretend to be resigned, pay
your court to the King. To-day there is a private council to read and
discuss the speeches which are to be made at the ceremony. Act like the
King of Poland, and leave the rest to me. By the way, how about your
expedition of last night?"

"It failed, mother. The gallant was warned and escaped by the window."

"Well," said Catharine, "some day I shall know who this evil genius is
who upsets all my plans in this way. Meanwhile I suspect and--let him
beware!"

"So, mother"--said the Duc d'Anjou.

"Let me manage this affair."

She kissed Henry tenderly on his eyes and pushed him from the room.

Before long the princes of her household arrived at the rooms of the
queen. Charles was in a good humor, for the cleverness of his sister
Margot had pleased rather than vexed him. Moreover, he had nothing
against La Mole, and he had waited for him somewhat eagerly in the
corridor merely because it was a kind of hunt.

D'Alençon, on the contrary, was greatly preoccupied. The repulsion he
had always felt for La Mole had turned into hate the instant he knew
that La Mole was loved by his sister.

Marguerite possessed both a dreamy mind and a quick eye. She had to
remember as well as to watch.

The Polish deputies had sent a copy of the speeches which they were to
make.

Marguerite, to whom no more mention had been made of the affair of the
previous evening than as if it had never occurred, read the speeches,
and, except Charles, every one discussed what he would answer. Charles
let Marguerite reply as she pleased. As far as D'Alençon was concerned
he was very particular as to the choice of terms; but as to the
discourse of Henry of Anjou he seemed determined to attack it, and made
numerous corrections.

This council, without being in any way decisive, had greatly embittered
the feelings of those present.

Henry of Anjou, who had to rewrite nearly all his discourse, withdrew to
begin the task.

Marguerite, who had not heard of the King of Navarre since the injury he
had given to her window-pane, returned to her rooms, hoping to find him
there.

D'Alençon, who had read hesitation in the eyes of his brother of Anjou,
and who had surprised a meaning glance between him and his mother,
retired to ponder on what he regarded as a fresh plot. Charles was about
to go to his workshop to finish a boar-spear he was making for himself
when Catharine stopped him.

The King, who suspected that he was to meet some opposition to his will,
paused and looked at his mother closely.

"Well," he said, "what now?"

"A final word, sire, which we forgot, and yet it is of much importance:
what day shall we decide on for the public reception?"

"Ah, that is true," said the King, seating himself again. "Well, what
day would suit you?"

"I thought," replied Catharine, "from your Majesty's silence and
apparent forgetfulness, that there was some deep-laid plan."

"No," said Charles; "why so, mother?"

"Because," added Catharine, very gently, "it seems to me, my son, that
these Poles should not see us so eager after their crown."

"On the contrary, mother," said Charles, "it is they who are in haste.
They have come from Varsovia by forced marches. Honor for honor,
courtesy for courtesy."

"Your Majesty may be right in one sense; I am not curious. So your idea
is that the public reception should be held soon?"

"Faith, yes, mother; is this not your idea too?"

"You know that my ideas are only such as can further your glory. I will
tell you, therefore, that by this haste I fear you will be accused of
profiting very quickly by this opportunity to relieve the house of
France of the burdens your brother imposes on it, but which he certainly
returns in glory and devotion."

"Mother," said Charles, "on his departure from France I will endow my
brother so richly that no one will ever dare to think what you fear may
be said."

"Well," said Catharine, "I surrender, since you have such a ready reply
to each of my objections. But to receive this warlike people, who judge
of the power of the states by exterior signs, you must have a
considerable array of troops, and I do not think there are enough yet
assembled in the Isle de France."

"Pardon me, mother. I have foreseen this event, and am prepared for it.
I have recalled two battalions from Normandy and one from Guyenne; my
company of archers arrived yesterday from Brittany; the light horse,
scattered throughout Lorraine, will be in Paris in the course of the
day; and while it is supposed that I have scarcely four regiments at my
disposition, I have twenty thousand men ready to appear."

"Ah, ah!" said Catharine, surprised. "In that case only one thing is
lacking, but that can be procured."

"What is that?"

"Money. I believe that you are not furnished with an over-supply."

"On the contrary, madame, on the contrary," said Charles IX., "I have
fourteen hundred thousand crowns in the Bastille; my private estates
have yielded me during the last few days eight hundred thousand crowns,
which I have put in my cellar in the Louvre, and in case of need
Nantouillet holds three hundred thousand crowns at my disposal."

Catharine shivered. Until then she had known Charles to be violent and
passionate, but never provident.

"Well," said she, "your Majesty thinks of everything. That is fine; and
provided the tailors, the embroiderers, and the jewellers make haste,
your Majesty will be in a position to hold this audience within six
weeks."

"Six weeks!" exclaimed Charles. "Mother, the tailors, the embroiderers,
and the jewellers have been at work ever since we heard of my brother's
nomination. As a matter of fact, everything could be ready to-day, but,
at the latest, it will take only three or four days."

"Oh!" murmured Catharine; "you are in greater haste than I supposed, my
son."

"Honor for honor, I told you."

"Well, is it this honor done to the house of France which flatters you?"

"Certainly."

"And is your chief desire to see a son of France on the throne of
Poland?"

"Exactly."

"Then it is the event, the fact, and not the man, which is of interest
to you, and whoever reigns there"--

"No, no, mother, by Heaven! Let us keep to the point! The Poles have
made a good choice. They are a skilful and strong people! A military
people, a nation of soldiers, they choose a captain for their ruler.
That is logical, plague it! D'Anjou is just the man for them. The hero
of Jarnac and Montcontour fits them like a glove. Whom would you have me
send them? D'Alençon? a coward! He would give them a fine idea of the
Valois!--D'Alençon! He would run at the first bullet that whistled by
his ears, while Henry of Anjou is a fighter. Yes! his sword always in
his hand, he is ever pushing forward, on foot or horseback!--forward!
thrust! overpower! kill! Ah! my brother of Anjou is a man, a valiant
soldier, who will lead them to battle from morning until night, from one
year's end to the next. He is not a hard drinker, it is true; but he
will kill in cold blood. That is all. This dear Henry will be in his
element; there! quick! quick! to battle! Sound the trumpet and the drum!
Long live the king! Long live the conqueror! Long live the general! He
will be proclaimed _imperator_ three times a year. That will be fine for
the house of France, and for the honor of the Valois; he may be killed,
but, by Heaven, it will be a glorious death!"

Catharine shuddered. Her eyes flashed fire.

"Say that you wish to send Henry of Anjou away from you," she cried,
"say that you do not love your brother!"

"Ah! ah! ah!" cried Charles, bursting into a nervous laugh, "you have
guessed, have you, that I want to send him away? You have guessed that I
do not love him? And when did you reach this conclusion? Come! Love my
brother! Why should I love him? Ah! ah! ah! Do you want to make me
laugh?"

As he spoke, his pale cheeks grew flushed with a feverish glow.

"Does he love me? Do you love me? Has any one, except my dogs, and Marie
Touchet, and my nurse, ever loved me? No! I do not love my brother, I
love only myself. Do you hear? And I shall not prevent my brother from
doing as I do."

"Sire," said Catharine, growing excited on her part, "since you have
opened your heart to me I must open mine to you. You are acting like a
weak king, like an ill-advised monarch; you are sending away your second
brother, the natural support of the throne, who is in every way worthy
to succeed you if any accident happened, in which case your crown would
be left in jeopardy. As you said, D'Alençon is young, incapable, weak,
more than weak, cowardly! And the Béarnais rises up in the background,
you understand?"

"Well, the devil!" exclaimed Charles, "what does it matter to me what
happens when I am dead? The Béarnais rises behind my brother, you say!
By Heaven! so much the better! I said that I loved no one--I was
mistaken, I love Henriot. Yes, I love this good Henriot. He has a frank
manner, a warm handshake, while I see nothing but false looks around me,
and touch, only icy hands. He is incapable of treason towards me, I
swear. Besides, I owe him amends, poor boy! His mother was poisoned by
some members of my family, I am told. Moreover, I am well. But if I were
to be taken ill, I would call him, I should want him to stay with me, I
would take nothing except from him, and when I died I would make him
King of France and of Navarre. And by Heaven! instead of laughing at my
death as my brothers would do, he would weep, or at least he would
pretend to weep."

Had a thunderbolt fallen at Catharine's feet she would have been less
startled than at these words. She stood speechless, gazing at Charles
with haggard eyes. Then at the end of a few moments:

"Henry of Navarre!" she cried, "Henry of Navarre King of France to the
detriment of my children! Ah! Holy Virgin! we shall see! So this is why
you wish to send away my son?"

"Your son--and what am I, then? the son of a wolf, like Romulus?" cried
Charles, trembling with anger, his eyes shining as though they were on
fire. "Your son, you are right; the King of France is not your son, the
King of France has no brothers, the King of France has no mother, the
King of France has only subjects. The King of France has no need of
feelings, he has wishes. He can get on without being loved, but he shall
be obeyed."

"Sire, you have misunderstood my words. I called my son the one who was
going to leave me. I love him better just now because just now he is the
one I am most afraid I shall lose. Is it a crime for a mother to wish
that her child should not leave her?"

"And I, I tell you that he shall leave you. I tell you that he shall
leave France, that he shall go to Poland, and within two days, too, and
if you add one word he shall go to-morrow. Moreover, if you do not
smooth your brow, if you do not take that threatening look from your
eyes, I will strangle him this evening, as yesterday you yourself would
have strangled your daughter's lover. Only I shall not fail, as we
failed in regard to La Mole."

At the first threat Catharine's head fell; but she raised it again
almost immediately.

"Ah, poor child!" said she, "your brother would kill you. But do not
fear, your mother will protect you."

"Ah, you defy me!" cried Charles. "Well! by the blood of Christ, he
shall die, not this evening, not soon, but this very instant. Ah, a
weapon! a dagger! a knife! Ah!"

Having looked around in vain for what he wanted, Charles perceived the
little dagger his mother always wore at her belt, sprang toward it,
snatched it from its shagreen case encrusted with silver, and rushed
from the room to strike down Henry of Anjou wherever he might meet him.
But on reaching the hall, his strength, excited beyond human endurance,
suddenly left him. He put out his arm, dropped the sharp weapon, which
stuck point downwards into the wood, uttered a piercing cry, sank down,
and rolled over on the floor.

At the same instant a quantity of blood spurted forth from his mouth and
nose.

"Jesus!" said he. "They kill me! Help! help!"

Catharine, who had followed, saw him fall. For one instant she stood
motionless, watching him. Then recollecting herself, not because of any
maternal affection, but because of the awkwardness of the situation, she
called out:

"The King is ill! Help! help!"

At the cry a crowd of servants, officers, and courtiers gathered around
the young King. But ahead of them all a woman rushed out, pushed aside
the others, and raised Charles, who had grown as pale as death.

"They kill me, nurse, they kill me," murmured the King, covered with
perspiration and blood.

"They kill you, my Charles?" cried the good woman, glancing at the group
of faces with a look which reached even Catharine. "Who kills you?"

Charles heaved a feeble sigh, and fainted.

"Ah!" said the physician, Ambroise Paré, who was summoned at once, "ah!
the King is very ill!"

"Now, from necessity or compulsion," said the implacable Catharine to
herself, "he will have to grant a delay."

Whereupon she left the King to join her second son, who was in the
oratory, anxiously waiting to hear the result of an interview which was
of such importance to him.



CHAPTER XLI.

THE HOROSCOPE.


On leaving the oratory, in which she had just informed Henry all that
had occurred, Catharine found Réné in her chamber. It was the first time
that the queen and the astrologer had seen each other since the visit
the queen had made to his shop at the Pont Saint Michel. But the
previous evening she had written him, and Réné had brought the answer to
her note in person.

"Well," said the queen, "have you seen him?"

"Yes."

"How is he?"

"Somewhat better."

"Can he speak?"

"No, the sword traversed his larynx."

"I told you in that case to have him write."

"I tried. He collected all his strength, but his hand could trace only
two letters. They are almost illegible. Then he fainted. The jugular
vein was cut and the blood he lost has taken away all his strength."

"Have you seen the letters?"

"Here they are."

Réné drew a paper from his pocket and handed it to Catharine, who
hastily unfolded it.

"An _m_ and an _o_," said she. "Could it have been La Mole, and was all
that acting of Marguerite done to throw me off the track?"

"Madame," said Réné, "if I dared to express my opinion in a matter about
which your majesty hesitates to give yours I should say that I believe
Monsieur de la Mole is too much in love to be seriously interested in
politics."

"You think so?"

"Yes, and above all too much in love with the Queen of Navarre to serve
the King very devotedly; for there is no real love without jealousy."

"You think that he is very much in love, then?"

"I am sure of it."

"Has he been to you?"

"Yes."

"Did he ask you for some potion or philter?"

"No, we kept to the wax figure."

"Pierced to the heart?"

"To the heart."

"And this figure still exists?"

"Yes."

"Have you it?"

"It is in my rooms."

"It would be strange," said Catharine, "if these cabalistic preparations
really had the power attributed to them."

"Your majesty is a better judge of that than I."

"Is the Queen of Navarre in love with Monsieur de la Mole?"

"She loves him enough to ruin herself for him. Yesterday she saved him
from death at the risk of her honor and her life. You see, madame, and
yet you still doubt."

"Doubt what?"

"Science."

"Science also deceives me," said Catharine, looking steadily at Réné,
who bore her gaze without flinching.

"About what?"

"Oh! you know what I mean; unless, of course, it was the scholar and not
science."

"I do not know what you mean, madame," replied the Florentine.

"Réné, have your perfumes lost their odor?"

"No, madame, not when I use them; but it is possible that in passing
through the hands of others"--

Catharine smiled and shook her head.

"Your opiate has done wonders, Réné," said she; "Madame de Sauve's lips
are fresher and rosier than ever."

"It is not my opiate that is responsible for that, madame. The Baroness
de Sauve, using the privilege of every pretty woman to be capricious,
has said nothing more to me about this opiate, and after the suggestion
from your majesty I thought it best to send her no more of it. So that
all the boxes are still in my house just as you left them, with the
exception of one which disappeared, I know not how or why."

"That is well, Réné," said Catharine; "perhaps later we may return to
this. In the meantime, let us speak of the other matter."

"I am all attention, madame."

"What is necessary to gain an idea of the length of any one's life?"

"In the first place to know the day of his birth, his age, and under
what condition he first saw light."

"And then?"

"To have some of his blood and a lock of his hair."

"If I bring you some of his blood and a lock of his hair, if I tell you
the circumstance connected with his birth, the time, and his present
age, will you tell me the probable date of his death?"

"Yes, to within a few days."

"Very well; I have a lock of his hair and will get some of his blood."

"Was he born during the day or night?"

"At twenty-three minutes past five in the afternoon."

"Be at my room at five o'clock to-morrow. The experiment must be made at
the hour of his birth."

"Very well," said Catharine, "_we_ will be there."

Réné bowed, and withdrew without apparently noticing the "_we_ will be
there," which, however, contrary to her usual habit, indicated that
Catharine would not go alone.

The following morning at dawn Catharine went to her son's apartments. At
midnight she had sent to inquire after him, and had been told that
Maître Ambroise Paré was with him, ready to bleed him if the nervous
troubles continued.

Still starting up from his sleep, and still pale from loss of blood,
Charles dozed on the shoulder of his faithful nurse, who leaning against
the bed had not moved for three hours for fear of waking her dear child.

A slight foam appeared from time to time on the lips of the sick man,
and the nurse wiped it off with a fine embroidered linen handkerchief.
On the bed lay another handkerchief covered with great spots of blood.

For an instant Catharine thought she would take possession of the
handkerchief; but she feared that this blood mixed with the saliva would
be weak, and would not be efficacious. She asked the nurse if the doctor
had bled her son as he had said he would do. The nurse answered "Yes"
and that the flow of blood had been so great that Charles had fainted
twice. The queen mother, who, like all princesses in those days, had
some knowledge of medicine, asked to see the blood. Nothing was easier
to do, as the physician had ordered that the blood be kept in order that
he might examine it. It was in a basin in an adjoining closet. Catharine
went in to look at it, poured some into a small bottle which she had
brought for this purpose; and then came back, hiding in her pocket her
fingers, the tips of which otherwise would have betrayed her.

Just as she came back from the closet Charles opened his eyes and saw
his mother. Then remembering as in a dream all his bitter thoughts:

"Ah! is it you, madame?" said he. "Well, say to your well loved son, to
your Henry of Anjou, that it shall be to-morrow."

"My dear Charles," said Catharine, "it shall be just when you please. Be
quiet now and go to sleep."

As if yielding to this advice Charles closed his eyes; and Catharine,
who had spoken to him as one does to calm a sick person or a child, left
the room. But when he heard the door close Charles suddenly sat up, and
in a voice still weak from suffering, said:

"My chancellor! The seals! the court!--send for them all."

The nurse, with gentle insistence, laid the head of the King back on her
shoulder, and in order to put him to sleep strove to rock him as she
would have done a child.

"No, no, nurse, I cannot sleep any more. Call my attendants. I must work
this morning."

When Charles spoke in that way he was obeyed; and even the nurse, in
spite of the privileges allowed her by her foster-child, dared not
disobey. She sent for those whom the King wanted, and the council was
planned, not for the next day, which was out of the question, but for
five days from then.

At the hour agreed on, that is, at five o'clock, the queen mother and
the Duc d'Anjou repaired to the rooms of Réné, who, expecting their
visit, had everything ready for the mysterious seance. In the room to
the right, that is, in the chamber of sacrifices, a steel blade was
heating over a glowing brazier. From its fanciful arabesques this blade
was intended to represent the events of the destiny about which the
oracle was to be consulted. On the altar lay the Book of Fate, and
during the night, which had been very clear, Réné had studied the course
and the position of the stars.

Henry of Anjou entered first. He wore a wig, a mask concealed his face,
and a long cloak hid his figure. His mother followed. Had she not known
beforehand that the man who had preceded her was her son she never would
have recognized him. Catharine removed her mask; the Duc d'Anjou kept
his on.

"Did you make any observations last night?" asked Catharine.

"Yes, madame," said Réné; "and the answer of the stars has already told
me the past. The one you wish to know about, like every one born under
the sign of the Cancer, has a warm heart and great pride. He is
powerful. He has lived nearly a quarter of a century. He has until now
had glory and wealth. Is this so, madame?"

"Possibly," said Catharine.

"Have you a lock of his hair, and some of his blood?"

"Yes."

Catharine handed to the necromancer a lock of fair hair and a small
bottle filled with blood.

Réné took the flask, shook it thoroughly, so that the fibrine and water
would mix, and poured a large drop of it on the glowing steel. The
living liquid boiled for an instant, and then spread out into fantastic
figures.

"Oh, madame," cried Réné, "I see him twisting in awful agony. Hear how
he groans, how he calls for help! Do you see how everything around him
becomes blood? Do you see how about his death-bed great combats are
taking place? See, here are the lances; and look, there are the swords!"

"Will it be long before this happens?" asked Catharine, trembling from
an indescribable emotion and laying her hand on that of Henry of Anjou,
who in his eager curiosity was leaning over the brazier.

Réné approached the altar and repeated a cabalistic prayer, putting such
energy and conviction into the act that the veins of his temples
swelled, and caused the prophetic convulsions and nervous twinges from
which the ancient priestesses suffered before their tripods, and even on
their death-beds.

At length he rose and announced that everything was ready, took the
flask, still three-quarters full, in one hand, and in the other the lock
of hair. Then telling Catharine to open the book at random, and to read
the first words she looked at, he poured the rest of the blood on the
steel blade, and threw the hair into the brazier, pronouncing a
cabalistic sentence composed of Hebrew words which he himself did not
understand.

Instantly the Duc d'Anjou and Catharine saw a white figure appear on the
sword like that of a corpse wrapped in his shroud. Another figure, which
seemed that of a woman, was leaning over the first.

At the same time the hair caught fire and threw out a single flame,
clear, swift, and barbed like a fiery tongue.

"One year," cried Réné, "scarcely one year, and this man shall die. A
woman alone shall weep for him. But no, there at the end of the sword is
another woman, with a child in her arms."

Catharine looked at her son, and, mother though she was, seemed to ask
him who these two women were.

But Réné had scarcely finished speaking before the steel became white
and everything gradually disappeared from its surface. Then Catharine
opened the book and read the following lines in a voice which, in spite
of her effort at control, she could not keep from shaking:

    "_'Ains a peri cil que l'on redoutoit,_
    _Plus tôt, trop tôt, si prudence n'etoit.'_"[14]

A deep silence reigned for some moments.

"For the one whom you know," asked Catharine, "what are the signs for
this month?"

"As favorable as ever, madame; unless Providence interferes with his
destiny he will be fortunate. And yet"--

"And yet what?"

"One of the stars in his pleiad was covered with a black cloud while I
made my observations."

"Ah!" exclaimed Catharine, "a black cloud--there is some hope, then?"

"Of whom are you speaking, madame?" asked the Duc d'Anjou.

Catharine drew her son away from the light of the brazier and spoke to
him in a low tone.

Meanwhile Réné knelt down, and in the glow of the flame poured into his
hand the last drop of blood which had remained in the bottom of the
flask.

"Strange contradiction," said he, "which proves how little to be
depended on is the evidence of simple science practised by ordinary men!
To any one but myself, a physician, a scholar, even for Maître Ambroise
Paré, this blood would seem so pure, so healthy, so full of life and
animal spirits, that it would promise long years of life; and yet all
this vigor will soon disappear, all this life will be extinct within a
year!"

Catharine and Henry of Anjou had turned round and were listening.

The eyes of the prince glowed through his mask.

"Ah!" continued Réné, "the present alone is known to ordinary mortals;
while to us the past and the future are known."

"So," continued Catharine, "you still think he will die within the
year?"

"As surely as we are three living persons who some day will rest in our
coffins."

"Yet you said that the blood was pure and healthy, and that it indicated
a long life."

"Yes, if things followed their natural course. But might not an
accident"--

"Ah, yes, do you hear?" said Catharine to Henry, "an accident"--

"Alas!" said the latter, "all the more reason for my staying."

"Oh, think no more about that: it is not possible."

Then turning to Réné:

"Thanks," said the young man, disguising his voice, "thanks; take this
purse."

"Come, _count_," said Catharine, intentionally giving her son this title
to throw Réné off the track.

They left.

"Oh, mother, you see," said Henry, "an accident--and if an accident
should happen, I shall not be on hand; I shall be four hundred leagues
from you"--

"Four hundred leagues are accomplished in eight days, my son."

"Yes; but how do I know whether those Poles will let me come back? If I
could only wait, mother!"

"Who knows?" said Catharine; "might not this accident of which Réné
speaks be the one which since yesterday has laid the King on a bed of
pain? Listen, return by yourself, my child. I shall go back by the
private door of the monastery of the Augustines. My suite is waiting for
me in this convent. Go, now, Henry, go, and keep from irritating your
brother in case you see him."



CHAPTER XLII.

CONFIDENCES.


The first thing the Duc d'Anjou heard on arriving at the Louvre was that
the formal reception of the ambassadors was arranged for the fifth day
from that. The tailors and the jewellers were waiting for the prince
with magnificent clothes and superb jewels which the King had ordered
for him.

While the duke tried them on with an anger which brought the tears to
his eyes, Henry of Navarre was very gay in a magnificent collar of
emeralds, a sword with a gold handle, and a precious ring which Charles
had sent him that morning.

D'Alençon had just received a letter and had shut himself up in his own
room to read it.

As to Coconnas, he was searching every corner of the Louvre for his
friend.

In fact, as may easily be imagined, he had been somewhat surprised at
not seeing La Mole return that night, and by morning had begun to feel
some anxiety.

Consequently he had started out to find his friend. He began his search
at the Hôtel de la Belle Étoile, went from there to the Rue Cloche
Percée, from the Rue Cloche Percée to the Rue Tizon, from there to the
Pont Saint Michel, and finally from the Pont Saint Michel to the Louvre.
This search, so far as those who had been questioned were concerned, had
been carried on in a way so original and exacting (which may easily be
believed when one realizes the eccentric character of Coconnas) that it
had caused some explanations between him and three courtiers. These
explanations had ended, as was the fashion of the times, on the ground.
In these encounters Coconnas had been as conscientious as he usually was
in affairs of that kind, and had killed the first man and wounded the
two others, saying:

"Poor La Mole, he knew Latin so well!"

The last victim, who was the Baron de Boissey, said as he fell:

"Oh, for the love of Heaven, Coconnas, do vary a little and at least say
that he knew Greek!"

At last the report of the adventure in the corridor leaked out. Coconnas
was heartbroken over it; for an instant he thought that all these kings
and princes had killed his friend and thrown him into some dungeon.

He learned that D'Alençon had been of the party; and overlooking the
majesty which surrounded a prince of the blood, he went to him and
demanded an explanation as he would have done of a simple gentleman.

At first D'Alençon was inclined to thrust out of the door the
impertinent fellow who came and asked for an account of his actions. But
Coconnas spoke so curtly, his eyes flashed with such brightness, and the
affair of the three duels in less than twenty-four hours had raised the
Piedmontese so high, that D'Alençon reflected, and instead of yielding
to his first inclination, he answered the gentleman with a charming
smile:

"My dear Coconnas, it is true that the King was furious at receiving a
silver bowl on his shoulder, that the Duc d'Anjou was vexed at being hit
on the head by some orange marmalade, and the Duc de Guise humiliated at
having the breath knocked out of him by a haunch of venison, and so they
were all determined to kill Monsieur de la Mole. But a friend of your
friend's turned aside the blow. The party therefore failed in their
attempt. I give you my word as prince."

"Ah!" said Coconnas, breathing as hard as a pair of bellows. "By Heaven,
monseigneur, this is good news, and I should like to know this friend to
show him my gratitude."

Monsieur d'Alençon made no reply, but smiled more pleasantly than he had
yet done, implying to Coconnas that this friend was none other than the
prince himself.

"Well, monseigneur!" said Coconnas, "since you have gone so far as to
tell me the beginning of the story, crown your kindness by finishing it.
They tried to kill him, but failed, you say. Well, what happened then? I
am brave and can bear the news. Have they thrown him into some dungeon?
So much the better. It will make him more careful in future. He never
would listen to my advice; besides, we can get him out, by Heaven! Stone
does not baffle every one."

D'Alençon shook his head.

"The worst of all this, my brave Coconnas," said he, "is that your
friend disappeared after the affair, and no one knows where he went."

"By Heaven!" cried the Piedmontese, again growing pale, "had he gone to
hell I should at least have known where he is."

"Listen," said D'Alençon, who, although for different reasons, was as
anxious as Coconnas to know La Mole's whereabouts, "I will give you the
advice of a friend."

"Give it, my lord," said Coconnas, eagerly.

"Go to Queen Marguerite. She must know what has become of the friend you
mourn."

"I will confess to your highness," said Coconnas, "that I had thought of
going to her, but I scarcely dared. Madame Marguerite has a way of
making me feel somewhat uncomfortable at times, and besides this, I
feared that I might find her in tears. But since your highness assures
me that La Mole is not dead and that her majesty knows where he is I
will take heart and go to her."

"Do so, my friend," said François. "And when you find out where La Mole
is, let me know, for really I am as anxious as you are. But remember one
thing, Coconnas"--

"What?"

"Do not say you have come at my suggestion, for if you do you will learn
nothing."

"Monseigneur," said Coconnas, "since your highness recommends secrecy on
this point, I shall be as silent as a tench or as the queen mother."

"What a kind, good, generous prince he is!" murmured Coconnas as he set
out to find the Queen of Navarre.

Marguerite was expecting Coconnas, for the report of his despair had
reached her, and on hearing by what exploits his grief had showed itself
she almost forgave him for his somewhat rude treatment of her friend
Madame la Duchesse de Nevers, to whom he had not spoken for two or
three days, owing to some misunderstanding between them. Therefore as
soon as he was announced to the queen he was admitted.

Coconnas entered the room, unable to overcome the constraint which he
had mentioned to D'Alençon, and which he had always felt in the presence
of the queen. It was caused more by her superior intellect than by her
rank. But Marguerite received him with a smile which at once put him at
his ease.

"Ah, madame," said he, "give me back my friend, I beg you, or at least
tell me what has become of him, for without him I cannot live. Imagine
Euryalus without Nisus, Damon without Pythias, or Orestes without
Pylades, and pity my grief for the sake of one of the heroes I have just
mentioned, whose heart, I swear, was no more tender than mine."

Marguerite smiled, and having made Coconnas promise not to reveal the
secret, she told him of La Mole's escape from the window. As to his
hiding-place, insistent as were the prayers of the Piedmontese, she
preserved the strictest silence. This only half satisfied Coconnas, so
he resorted to diplomatic speeches of the highest order.

The result was that Marguerite saw clearly that the Duc d'Alençon was
partly the cause of the courtier's great desire to know what had become
of La Mole.

"Well," said the queen, "if you must know something definite about your
friend, ask King Henry of Navarre. He alone has the right to speak. As
to me, all I can tell you is that the friend for whom you are searching
is alive, and you may believe what I say."

"I believe one thing still more, madame," replied Coconnas; "that is,
that your beautiful eyes have not wept."

Thereupon, thinking that there was nothing to add to a remark which had
the double advantage of expressing his thought as well as the high
opinion he had of La Mole, Coconnas withdrew, pondering on a
reconciliation with Madame de Nevers, not on her account, but in order
that he might find out from her what he had been unable to learn from
Marguerite.

Deep griefs are abnormal conditions in which the mind shakes off the
yoke as soon as possible. The thought of leaving Marguerite had at first
broken La Mole's heart, and it was in order to save the reputation of
the queen rather than to preserve his own life that he had consented to
run away.

Therefore, the following evening he returned to Paris to see Marguerite
from her balcony. As if instinct told her of the young man's plan, the
queen spent the whole evening at her window. The result was that the
lovers met again with the indescribable delight which accompanies
forbidden pleasures. More than this, the melancholy and romantic
temperament of La Mole found a certain charm in the situation. But a man
really in love is happy only for the time being, while he sees or is
with the woman he loves. After he has left her he suffers. Anxious to
see Marguerite again, La Mole set himself busily to work to bring about
the event which would make it possible for him to be with her; namely,
the flight of the King of Navarre.

Marguerite on her part willingly gave herself up to the happiness of
being loved with so pure a devotion. Often she was angry with herself
for what she regarded as a weakness. Her strong mind despised the
poverty of ordinary love, insensible to the details which for tender
souls make it the sweetest, the most delicate, and the most desirable of
all pleasures. So she felt that the days, if not happily filled, were at
least happily ended. When, at about nine o'clock every evening, she
stepped out on her balcony in a white dressing-gown, she perceived in
the darkness of the quay a horseman whose hand was raised first to his
lips, then to his heart. Then a significant cough reminded the lover of
a cherished voice. Sometimes a note was thrown by a little hand, and in
the note was hidden some costly jewel, precious not on account of its
value, but because it had belonged to her who threw it; and this would
fall on the pavement a few feet from the young man. Then La Mole would
swoop down on it like a kite, press it to his heart, answer in the same
voice, while Marguerite stood at her balcony until the sound of the
horse's hoofs had died away in the darkness. The steed, ridden at full
speed when coming, on leaving seemed as if made of material as lifeless
as that of the famous horse which lost Troy.

This was why the queen was not anxious as to the fate of La Mole. But
fearing that he might be watched and followed she persistently refused
all interviews except these clandestine ones, which began immediately
after La Mole's flight and continued every evening until the time set
for the formal reception of the ambassadors, a reception which by the
express orders of Ambroise Paré, as we have seen, was postponed for
several days.

The evening before this reception, at about nine o'clock, when every one
in the Louvre was engaged in preparations for the following day,
Marguerite opened her window and stepped out upon her balcony. As she
did so, without waiting for her note, La Mole, in greater haste than
usual, threw his note which with his usual skill fell at the feet of his
royal mistress.

Marguerite realized that the missive contained something special, and
retired from the balcony to read it. The note consisted of two separate
sheets.

On the first page were these words:

"_Madame, I must speak to the King of Navarre. The matter is urgent. I
will wait._"

On the second page were these words:

     "_My lady and my queen, arrange so that I may give you one of the
     kisses I now send you. I will wait._"

Marguerite had scarcely finished the second part of the letter when she
heard the voice of Henry of Navarre, who with his usual caution had
knocked on the outer door, and was asking Gillonne if he might enter.

The queen at once separated the letter, put one of the sheets in her
robe, the other in her pocket, hurriedly closed the window, and stepped
to the door.

"Enter, sire," said she.

Notwithstanding the fact that Marguerite had been careful to close the
window quickly and gently, the sound had reached Henry, whose acute
senses, in the midst of people he greatly mistrusted, had almost
acquired the exquisite delicacy they attain in the savage. But the King
of Navarre was not one of those tyrants who forbid their wives from
taking the air and watching the stars.

Henry was as gracious and smiling as ever.

"Madame," said he, "while every one is rehearsing the coming ceremonial,
I thought I would come and have a little talk with you about my affairs,
which you still regard as yours, do you not?"

"Certainly, monsieur," replied Marguerite; "are not our interests one
and the same?"

"Yes, madame, and that is why I wanted to ask what you thought about
Monsieur le Duc d'Alençon's avoiding me so for the last few days. The
day before yesterday he even went to Saint Germain. Does it not mean
either that he is planning to leave by himself, for he is watched very
little, or that he is not going to leave at all? Give me your opinion,
madame, if you please. I confess it will be a great relief to me to tell
you mine."

"Your majesty is right in being anxious at my brother's silence. I have
been thinking about it all day, and my idea is that as circumstances
have changed he has changed with them."

"You mean, do you not, that seeing King Charles ill and the Duc d'Anjou
King of Poland he would not be averse to staying in Paris to keep watch
over the crown of France?"

"Exactly."

"Be it so. I ask nothing better than for him to remain," said Henry;
"only that will change our entire plan. To leave without him I shall
need three times the guarantees I should have asked for had I gone with
your brother, whose name and presence in the enterprise would have been
my safeguard. But what surprises me is that I have not heard from
Monsieur de Mouy. It is not like him to stay away so long. Have you had
any news of him, madame?"

"I, sire!" exclaimed Marguerite, in astonishment; "why, how could you
expect"--

"Why, by Heaven, my dear, nothing would be more natural. In order to
please me, you were kind enough to save the life of young La Mole,--he
must have reached Nantes,--and if one can get to a place he can easily
get away from it."

"Ah! this explains an enigma, the answer to which I could not make out,"
said Marguerite. "I had left my window open, and found, on coming back
to my room, a note on my floor."

"There now," said Henry.

"A note which at first I could not understand, and to which I attached
no importance whatsoever," continued Marguerite. "Perhaps I was wrong,
and that it comes from that quarter."

"That is possible," said Henry; "I might even say probable. Might I see
this note?"

"Certainly, sire," replied Marguerite, handing to the king the missive
she had put into her pocket. The king glanced at it.

"Is it not Monsieur de la Mole's handwriting?" said he.

"I do not know," replied Marguerite. "It looks to me like a
counterfeit."

"No matter, let us read it." And he read:

"_Madame, I must speak to the King of Navarre. The matter is urgent. I
will wait._"

"So!" said Henry--"you see, he says he will wait."

"Certainly I see that," said Marguerite. "But what would you expect?"

"Why! _ventre saint gris!_ I expect that he is waiting!"

"That he is waiting!" cried Marguerite, looking at her husband in
astonishment. "How can you say such a thing, sire? A man whom the King
tried to kill--a man who is watched, threatened--waiting, you say! Would
that be possible?--are the doors made for those who have been"--

"Obliged to escape by the window--you were going to say?"

"Yes, you have finished my sentence."

"Well, but if they know the way by the window, let them take it, since
it is perfectly impossible for them to enter by the door. It is very
simple."

"Do you think so?" said Marguerite, flushing with pleasure at the
thought of again being near La Mole.

"I am sure of it."

"But how could one reach the window?" asked the queen.

"Did you not keep the rope ladder I sent you? Where is your usual
foresight?"

"Yes, sire, I kept it," said Marguerite.

"In that case there will be no difficulty," said Henry.

"What does your majesty wish?"

"Why, it is very simple," said Henry. "Fasten it to your balcony and let
it hang down. If it is De Mouy who is waiting and he wants to mount it,
he will do so."

Without losing his gravity Henry took the candle to aid Marguerite in
her search for the ladder. They did not have to look long; it was in a
wardrobe in the famous closet.

"There it is," said Henry; "now, madame, if I am not asking too much,
fasten it to the balcony, I beg you."

"Why should I fasten it and not you, sire?" said Marguerite.

"Because the best conspirators are the most careful. Seeing a man might
perhaps frighten away our friend, you see." Marguerite smiled and tied
the ladder.

"There," said Henry, concealing himself in a corner of the room, "stand
so he can see you; now drop the ladder; good! I am sure that De Mouy
will climb up."

In fact, about ten minutes later a man, mad with joy, stepped over the
balcony, but seeing that the queen did not come to him, he hesitated a
moment. Instead of Marguerite it was Henry who stepped forward.

"Ah!" said he, graciously, "it is not De Mouy, but Monsieur de la Mole.
Good evening, Monsieur de la Mole. Come in, I beg you."

La Mole paused a moment, overwhelmed. Had he still been on the ladder
instead of on the balcony he might possibly have fallen backward.

"You wanted to speak to the King of Navarre on matters of importance,"
said Marguerite. "I have told him so and here he is."

Henry closed the window.

"I love you," said Marguerite, hastily pressing the young man's hand.

"Well, monsieur," said Henry, placing a chair for La Mole, "what is it?"

"This, sire," replied La Mole. "I have left Monsieur de Mouy at the city
gates. He desires to know if Maurevel has spoken, and if his presence in
your majesty's room is known."

"Not yet, but it will be before long; so we must make haste."

"That is my opinion, sire, and if to-morrow evening Monsieur d'Alençon
is ready to start, De Mouy will be at the Porte Saint Marcel with five
hundred men. These will take you to Fontainebleau. Then you can easily
reach Blois, Angoulême, and Bordeaux."

"Madame," said Henry, turning to his wife, "I can be ready by to-morrow;
can you?"

La Mole's eyes were anxiously fixed on those of Marguerite.

"You have my promise," said the queen. "Wherever you go, I will follow.
But you know Monsieur d'Alençon must leave at the same time. No half way
with him; either he serves us or he betrays us. If he hesitates we do
not stir."

"Does he know anything of this plan, Monsieur de la Mole?" asked Henry.

"He should have received a letter from Monsieur de Mouy several days
ago."

"Why," said Henry, "he said nothing to me about it!"

"Be careful, monsieur," said Marguerite, "be careful."

"I shall be on my guard, you may be sure. How can we get an answer to De
Mouy?"

"Do not worry, sire. On the right, on the left, of your majesty, visible
or invisible, he will be on hand to-morrow during the reception of the
ambassadors. One word in the address of the queen will suffice for him
to understand whether you consent or not, whether he must leave or wait
for you. If the Duc d'Alençon refuses, he asks but a fortnight to
reorganize everything in your name."

"Really," said Henry, "De Mouy is invaluable. Can you insert the
necessary words in your address, madame?"

"Nothing will be easier," replied Marguerite.

"Then I will see Monsieur d'Alençon to-morrow," said Henry. "Let de Mouy
be at his post ready to understand at a word."

"He will be there, sire."

"And, Monsieur de la Mole," said Henry, "take my answer to him. You
probably have a horse or a servant near by?"

"Orthon is waiting for me at the quay."

"Go back to him, monsieur. Oh, no, not by the window, which is good only
for an emergency. You might be seen, and as it would not be known that
you had taken this risk for me, it might compromise the queen."

"How shall I leave, sire?"

"Although you may not be able to enter the Louvre by yourself, you can
at least leave it with me, for I have the password. You have your cloak,
I have mine; we will put them on and can pass the gate without
difficulty. Besides, I shall be glad to give some special orders to
Orthon. Wait here while I go and see if there is any one in the
corridor."

With the most natural air possible Henry went out to investigate. La
Mole was left alone with the queen.

"Ah! when shall I see you again?" said he.

"To-morrow evening, if we leave. Otherwise some evening soon in the Rue
Cloche Percée."

"Monsieur de la Mole," said Henry, returning, "you can come; there is no
one here."

La Mole bowed respectfully to the queen.

"Give him your hand to kiss, madame," said Henry; "Monsieur de la Mole
is no ordinary servitor."

Marguerite obeyed.

"By the way," said Henry, "be sure and keep the rope ladder. It is a
valuable instrument for conspirators; and when we least expect it we may
need it. Come, Monsieur de la Mole."



CHAPTER XLIII.

THE AMBASSADORS.


The following day the entire population of Paris rushed towards the
Faubourg Saint Antoine, by which it had been decided that the Polish
ambassadors were to enter. A line of Swiss restrained the crowd, and a
regiment of horse protected the lords and the ladies of the court who
rode ahead of the procession.

Soon, near the Abbey Saint Antoine, a troop of cavaliers appeared,
dressed in red and yellow, with caps and furred mantles, and carrying
long curved sabres like Turkish cimeters.

The officers rode at the side of the lines.

Behind this troop came a second, clothed with Oriental magnificence.
They preceded the ambassadors, who, four in number, represented in a
gorgeous manner the most mythological of the chivalrous kingdoms of the
sixteenth century.

One of the ambassadors was the Bishop of Cracow. His costume was half
ecclesiastical, half military, resplendent with gold and precious
stones.

His white horse, with long mane and tail, walked with proud step and
seemed to breathe out fire from his nostrils. No one would have supposed
that for a month the noble animal had made fifteen leagues daily over
roads which the weather had rendered almost impassable.

Beside the bishop rode the Palatine Lasco, a powerful noble, closely
related to the royal family, as rich as a king and as proud.

Behind these two chief ambassadors, who were accompanied by two other
palatines of high rank, came a number of Polish lords, whose horses in
their harness of silk, studded with gold and precious stones, excited
the applause of the people. The French horsemen, in spite of their rich
apparel, were completely eclipsed by the newcomers, whom they scornfully
called barbarians.

Up to the last moment Catharine had hoped the reception would be
postponed on account of the King's illness. But when the day came, and
she saw Charles, as pale as a corpse, put on the gorgeous royal mantle,
she realized that apparently at least she must yield to his iron will,
and began to believe that after all the safest plan for Henry of Anjou
was to accept the magnificent exile to which he was condemned. With the
exception of the few words he had uttered when he opened his eyes as his
mother came out of the closet, Charles had not spoken to Catharine
since the scene which had brought about the illness to which he had
succumbed. Every one in the Louvre knew that there had been a dreadful
altercation between mother and son, but no one knew the cause of it, and
the boldest trembled before that coldness and silence, as birds tremble
before the calm which precedes a storm.

Everything had been prepared in the Louvre, not as though there were to
be a reception, but as if some funeral ceremony were to occur. Every one
had obeyed orders in a gloomy or passive manner. It was known that
Catharine had almost trembled, and consequently every one else trembled.

The large reception-hall of the palace had been prepared, and as such
ceremonies were usually public, the guards and the sentinels had
received orders to admit with the ambassadors as many people as the
apartments and the courts would hold. As for Paris, it presented the
same aspect that every large city presents under similar circumstances;
that is, confusion and curiosity. But had any one looked closely at the
population that day, he would have noticed, among the groups of honest
bourgeois with smiling faces, a considerable number of men in long
cloaks, who exchanged glances and signs when at a distance, and when
they met, a few rapid words in a low tone. These men seemed greatly
occupied with the procession, followed it closely, and appeared to
receive their orders from an old man, whose sharp black eyes, in spite
of his white beard and grayish eyebrows, showed a vigorous activity.
This old man, either by his own efforts or by those of his companions,
was among the first to gain admission to the Louvre, and, thanks to the
kindness of the Swiss guard, succeeded in finding a place behind the
ambassadors, opposite Marguerite and Henry of Navarre.

Henry, informed by La Mole that De Mouy would be present in some
disguise or other, looked round on all sides. At last his eyes
encountered those of the old man and held them.

A sign from De Mouy had dispelled all doubt. He was so changed that
Henry himself was doubtful whether this old man with the white beard
could be the intrepid Huguenot chief who five or six days before had
made so desperate a defence.

A word from Henry whispered into Marguerite's ear called the attention
of the queen to De Mouy. Then her beautiful eyes wandered around the
great hall in search of La Mole; but in vain--La Mole was not there.

The speeches began. The first was to the King. Lasco, in the name of the
Diet, asked him to consent that the crown of Poland be offered to a
prince of the house of France.

Charles's reply was short and to the point. He presented his brother,
the Duc d'Anjou, whose courage he praised highly to the Polish
ambassadors. He spoke in French, and an interpreter translated his reply
at the end of each sentence. While the interpreter was speaking, the
King was seen applying a handkerchief to his lips, and each time he
removed it, it was covered with blood. When Charles's reply was
finished, Lasco turned to the Duc d'Anjou, bowed, and began a Latin
address, in which he offered him the throne in the name of the Polish
nation.

The duke replied in the same language, and in a voice he strove in vain
to render firm, that he accepted with gratitude the honor which was
offered to him. While he spoke, Charles remained standing, with lips
compressed, and fixed on him eyes as calm and threatening as those of an
eagle.

When the duke had finished, Lasco took the crown of the Jagellos from
the red velvet cushion on which it rested, and while two Polish nobles
placed the royal mantle on the duke, he laid the crown in Charles's
hands.

Charles signed to his brother, the Duc d'Anjou knelt down before him,
and with his own hand the King placed the crown on his brother's head.
Then the two kings exchanged one of the most bitter kisses ever
exchanged between two brothers.

At once a herald cried:

"Alexander Edward Henry of France, Duc d'Anjou, is crowned King of
Poland. Long live the King of Poland!"

The entire assembly repeated the cry: "Long live the King of Poland!"
Then Lasco turned to Marguerite. The discourse of the beautiful queen
had been reserved for the last. Now, as it was a compliment accorded her
in order to display her brilliant talents, as they were called, every
one paid great attention to the reply, which was in Latin, and which, as
we have said, Marguerite had composed herself. Lascos's address was more
of a eulogy than an address. He had yielded, Sarmatian that he was, to
the admiration which the beautiful queen of Navarre inspired in every
one. He had borrowed his language from Ovid; his style was that of
Ronsard. He said that having left Varsovia in the middle of a very dark
night, neither he nor his companions would have been able to find their
way, had they not, like the Magi, been guided by two stars which became
more and more brilliant as they drew nearer to France, and which now
they recognized as the two beautiful eyes of the Queen of Navarre.
Finally, passing from the Gospel to the Koran, from Syria to Arabia,
from Nazareth to Mecca, he concluded by saying that he was quite
prepared to do what the ardent votaries of the prophet did. When they
were fortunate enough to see his tomb, they put out their eyes, feeling
that after they had looked at such a sight, nothing in the world was
worth being admired.

This address was loudly applauded by those who understood Latin because
they were of the same opinion as the orator, and by those who did not
understand it because they wished to appear as though they did.

Marguerite made a gracious courtesy to the gallant Sarmatian; then
fixing her eyes on De Mouy, began her reply in these words:

     "_Quod nunc hac in aulâ insperati adestis exultaremus, ego et
     conjux, nisi ideo immineret calamitas, scilicet non solum fratris
     sed etiam amici orbitas._"[15]

These words had a double meaning, and, while intended for De Mouy, were
apparently addressed to Henry of Anjou. The latter, therefore, bowed in
token of gratitude.

Charles did not remember having read this sentence in the address which
had been submitted to him some days before; but he attached no
importance to Marguerite's words, which he knew were merely
conventional. Besides, he understood Latin very imperfectly.

Marguerite continued:

     "_Adeo dolemur a te dividi ut tecum proficisci maluissemus. Sed
     idem fatum quo nunc sine ullâ morâ Lutetiâ cedere juberis, hac in
     urbe detinet. Proficiscere ergo, frater; proficiscere, amice;
     proficiscere sine nobis; proficiscentem sequuntur spes et desideria
     nostra._"[16]

It may easily be imagined that De Mouy listened with the closest
attention to these words which, although addressed to the ambassadors,
were intended for him alone. Two or three times Henry had glanced
indifferently over his shoulder to intimate to the young Huguenot that
D'Alençon had refused; but the act, which appeared involuntary, would
have been insufficient for De Mouy, had not Marguerite's words confirmed
it.

While looking at Marguerite and listening with his whole soul, his
piercing black eyes beneath their gray brows struck Catharine, who
started as if she had had a shock of electricity, and who did not remove
her eyes from him.

"What a strange face!" thought she, continuing to change her expression
according as the ceremony required it. "Who is this man who watches
Marguerite so attentively and whom Marguerite and Henry on their part
look at so earnestly?"

The Queen of Navarre went on with her address, which from that point was
a reply to the courtesies of the Polish ambassador. While Catharine was
racking her brain to discover the name of this fine old man the master
of ceremonies came up behind her and handed her a perfumed satin bag
containing a folded paper. She opened the bag, drew out the paper, and
read these words:

     "_By the aid of a cordial which I have just administered to him
     Maurevel has somewhat recovered his strength, and has succeeded in
     writing the name of the man who was in the apartment of the King of
     Navarre. This man was Monsieur de Mouy._"

"De Mouy!" thought the queen; "well, I felt it was he. But this old
man--ah! _cospetto!_--this old man is"--

She leaned toward the captain of the guard.

"Look, Monsieur de Nancey," said she, "but without attracting attention;
look at Lasco who is speaking. Behind him--do you see the old man with
the white beard, in the black velvet suit?"

"Yes, madame," replied the captain.

"Well, do not lose sight of him."

"The one to whom the King of Navarre made a sign just now?"

"Exactly. Station yourself at the door of the Louvre with ten men, and
when he comes out invite him in the King's name to dinner. If he
accepts, take him into some room in which you must keep him a prisoner.
If he resists, seize him, dead or alive."

Fortunately Henry, who had been paying but little attention to
Marguerite's address, was looking at Catharine, and had not lost a
single expression of her face. Seeing the eyes of the queen mother fixed
so earnestly on De Mouy, he grew uneasy; when he saw her give an order
to the captain of the guard he comprehended everything.

It was at this moment that he made the sign which had surprised Monsieur
de Nancey, and which meant, "You are discovered, save yourself!"

De Mouy understood this gesture, which was a fitting climax to the
portion of Marguerite's address intended for him. He did not delay an
instant, but mingled with the crowd and disappeared.

Henry, however, was not easy until Monsieur de Nancey had returned to
Catharine, and he saw from the frown on the queen mother's face that the
captain had not been in time.

The audience was over. Marguerite exchanged a few unofficial words with
Lasco.

The King staggered to his feet, bowed, and went out, leaning on the arm
of Ambroise Paré, who had not left him since his illness.

Catharine, pale with anger, and Henry, silent from disappointment,
followed.

As to the Duc d'Alençon, he had scarcely been noticed during the
ceremony, and not once had Charles, whose eyes had not left the Duc
d'Anjou, glanced at him.

The new King of Poland felt himself lost. Far from his mother, carried
away by those barbarians of the north, he was like Antæus, the son of
Terra, who lost his strength when lifted in the arms of Hercules. Once
beyond the frontier the Duc d'Anjou felt that he was forever excluded
from the throne of France.

Instead of following the King he retired to his mother's apartments.

He found her no less gloomy and preoccupied than himself, for she was
thinking of that fine mocking face she had not lost sight of during the
ceremony, of the Béarnais for whom destiny had seemed to make way,
sweeping aside kings, royal assassins, enemies, and obstacles.

Seeing her beloved son pale beneath his crown, and bent under his royal
mantle, clasping his beautiful hands in silence, and holding them out to
her piteously, Catharine rose and went to him.

"Oh, mother," cried the King of Poland, "I am condemned to die in
exile!"

"My son," said Catharine, "have you so soon forgotten Réné's prediction?
Do not worry, you will not have to stay there long."

"Mother, I entreat you," said the Duc d'Anjou, "if there is the
slightest hint, or the least suspicion, that the throne of France is to
be vacant, send me word."

"Do not worry, my son," said Catharine. "Until the day for which both of
us are waiting, there shall always be a horse saddled in my stable, and
in my antechamber a courier ready to set out for Poland."



CHAPTER XLIV.

ORESTES AND PYLADES.


Henry of Anjou having departed, peace and happiness seemed to have
returned to the Louvre, among this family of the Atrides.

Charles, forgetting his melancholy, recovered his vigorous health,
hunting with Henry, and on days when this was not possible discussing
hunting affairs with him, and reproaching him for only one thing, his
indifference to hawking, declaring that he would be faultless if he knew
how to snare falcons, gerfalcons, and hawks as well as he knew how to
hunt brocks and hounds.

Catharine had become a good mother again. Gentle to Charles and
D'Alençon, affectionate to Henry and Marguerite, gracious to Madame de
Nevers and Madame de Sauve; and under the pretext that it was in
obedience to an order from her that he had been wounded, she carried her
amiabilities so far as to visit Maurevel twice during his convalescence,
in his house in the Rue de la Cerisaie.

Marguerite continued to carry on her love affair after the Spanish
fashion.

Every evening she opened her window and by gestures and notes kept up
her correspondence with La Mole, while in each of his letters the young
man reminded his lovely queen of her promise of a few moments in the Rue
Cloche Percée as a reward for his exile.

Only one person was lonely and unhappy in the now calm and peaceful
Louvre.

This was our friend Count Annibal de Coconnas.

It was certainly something to know that La Mole was alive; it was much
to be the favorite of Madame de Nevers, the most charming and the most
whimsical of women. But all the pleasure of a meeting granted him by the
beautiful duchess, all the consolation offered by Marguerite as to the
fate of their common friend, did not compensate in the eyes of the
Piedmontese for one hour spent with La Mole at their friend La Hurière's
before a bottle of light wine, or for one of those midnight rambles
through that part of Paris in which an honest man ran the risk of
receiving rents in his flesh, his purse, or his clothes.

To the shame of humanity it must be said that Madame de Nevers bore with
impatience her rivalry with La Mole.

It was not that she hated the Provincial; on the contrary, carried away
by the irresistible instinct which, in spite of herself, makes every
woman a coquette with another woman's lover, especially when that woman
is her friend, she had not spared La Mole the flashes of her emerald
eyes, and Coconnas might have envied the frank handclasps and the
amiable acts done by the duchess in favor of his friend during those
days in which the star of the Piedmontese seemed growing dim in the sky
of his beautiful mistress; but Coconnas, who would have strangled
fifteen persons for a single glance from his lady, was so little jealous
of La Mole that he had often after some indiscretions of the duchess
whispered certain offers which had made the man from the Provinces
blush.

At this stage of affairs it happened that Henriette, who by the absence
of La Mole was deprived of all the enjoyment she had had from the
company of Coconnas, that is, his never-ending flow of spirits and fun,
came to Marguerite one day to beg her to do her this three-fold favor
without which the heart and the mind of Coconnas seemed to be slipping
away day by day.

Marguerite, always sympathetic and, besides, influenced by the prayers
of La Mole and the wishes of her own heart, arranged a meeting with
Henriette for the next day in the house with the double entrance, in
order to discuss these matters thoroughly and uninterruptedly.

Coconnas received with rather bad grace the note from Henriette, asking
him to be in the Rue Tizon at half-past nine.

Nevertheless he went to the place appointed, where he found Henriette,
who was provoked at having arrived first.

"Fie, Monsieur!" she cried, "it is very bad to make--I will not say a
princess--but a lady--wait in this way."

"Wait?" said Coconnas, "what an idea! I'll wager, on the contrary, that
we are ahead of time."

"I was."

"Well! and I too; it cannot be more than ten o'clock at the latest."

"Well! my note said half-past nine."

"Therefore I left the Louvre at nine o'clock. I am in the service of
Monsieur le Duc d'Alençon, be it said in passing, and for this reason I
shall be obliged to leave you in an hour."

"Which pleases you, no doubt?"

"No, indeed! considering the fact that Monsieur d'Alençon is an
ill-tempered and capricious master; moreover, if I am to be found fault
with, I prefer to have it done by pretty lips like yours rather than by
such sullen ones as his."

"Ah!" said the duchess, "that is a little better. You say, then, that
you left the Louvre at nine o'clock."

"Yes, and with every idea of coming directly here, when at the corner of
the Rue de Grenelle I saw a man who looked like La Mole."

"Good! La Mole again."

"Always, with or without permission."

"Brutal man!"

"Ah!" said Coconnas, "we are going to begin our complimentary speeches
again."

"Not at all; but finish your story."

"I was not the one who wanted to tell it. It was you who asked me why I
was late."

"Yes; was it my place to arrive first?"

"Well, you are not looking for any one."

"You are growing tiresome, my dear friend; but go on. At the corner of
the Rue de Grenelle you saw a man who looked like La Mole--But what is
that on your doublet--blood?"

"Yes, and here is more which was probably sprinkled over me as he fell."

"You had a fight?"

"I should think so."

"On account of your La Mole?"

"On whose account do you think I would fight? For a woman?"

"I thank you!"

"So I followed this man who had the impudence to look like my friend. I
joined him in the Rue Coquillière, I overtook him, and stared into his
face under the light from a shop. But it was not La Mole."

"Good! that was well done."

"Yes, but he did not think so. 'Monsieur,' said I to him, 'you are an
ass to take it upon yourself to resemble from afar my friend Monsieur de
la Mole, who is an accomplished cavalier; while on nearer view one can
easily perceive that you are nothing but a vagrant.' Whereupon he drew
his sword, and I mine. At the third pass he fell down, sprinkling me
with his blood."

"But you assisted him at least?"

"I was about to do so when a horseman rode by. Ah! this time, duchess, I
was sure that it was La Mole. Unfortunately he was galloping. I ran
after him as hard as I could, and those who collected around to see the
fight ran behind me. Now as I might easily have been mistaken for a
thief, followed as I was by all that rabble shouting at my heels, I was
obliged to turn back to scatter them, which made me lose a little time.
In the meanwhile the rider disappeared; I followed, inquired of every
one, gave the color of the horse; but it was useless; no one had noticed
him. At last, tired out from the chase, I came here."

"Tired of the chase!" said the duchess. "How flattering you are!"

"Listen, dear friend," said Coconnas, turning nonchalantly in his chair.
"You are going to bother me again on account of poor La Mole. Now, you
are wrong, for friendship, you see,--I wish I had his wit or knowledge,
I would then find some comparison which would make you understand how I
feel--friendship, you see, is a star, while love--love--wait! I have
it!--love is only a candle. You will tell me there are several
varieties"--

"Of love?"

"No! of candles, and that some are better than others. The rose, for
instance, is the best; but rose as it is, the candle burns out, while
the star shines forever. You will answer this by saying that when the
candle is burned out, another is put in its place."

"Monsieur de Coconnas, you are a goose."

"Indeed!"

"Monsieur de Coconnas, you are impertinent."

"Ah?"

"Monsieur de Coconnas, you are a scoundrel."

"Madame, I warn you that you will make me trebly regret La Mole."

"You no longer love me."

"On the contrary, duchess, you do not know it, but I idolize you. But I
can love and cherish and idolize you, and yet in my spare moments praise
my friend."

"So you call the time spent with me spare moments, do you?"

"What can you expect? Poor La Mole is constantly in my thoughts."

"You prefer him to me; that is shameful! and I detest you, Annibal! Why
not be frank, and tell me you prefer him to me? Annibal, I warn you of
one thing: if you prefer anything in the world to me"--

"Henriette, the loveliest of duchesses! For your own peace of mind,
believe me, do not ask such unwise questions. I love you more than any
woman, and I love La Mole more than any man."

"Well answered!" said a strange voice suddenly. A damask curtain was
raised in front of a great panel, which, sliding back into the wall,
opened a passage between the two rooms, and showed La Mole in the
doorway, like one of Titian's fine portraits in its gilded frame.

"La Mole!" exclaimed Coconnas, without paying any attention to
Marguerite or taking the time to thank her for the surprise she had
arranged for him; "La Mole, my friend, my dear La Mole!" and he rushed
into the arms of his friend, upsetting the armchair in which he had been
sitting and the table that stood in his way.

La Mole returned his embrace with effusion; then, turning to the
Duchesse de Nevers:

"Pardon me, madame, if the mention of my name has sometimes disturbed
your happiness." "Certainly," he added, glancing at Marguerite with a
look of ineffable tenderness, "it has not been my fault that I have not
seen you sooner."

"You see, Henriette," said Marguerite, "I have kept my word; here he
is!"

"Is it, then, to the prayers of Madame la Duchesse that I owe this
happiness?" asked La Mole.

"To her prayers alone," replied Marguerite.

Then, turning to La Mole, she continued:

"La Mole, I will allow you not to believe one word of what I say."

Meanwhile Coconnas pressed his friend to his heart over and over again,
walked round him a dozen times, and even held a candelabrum to his face
the better to see him; then suddenly turning, he knelt down before
Marguerite and kissed the hem of her robe.

"Ah! that is pleasant!" said the Duchesse de Nevers. "I suppose now you
will find me bearable."

"By Heaven!" cried Coconnas, "I shall find you as adorable as ever; only
now I can tell you so with a lighter heart, and were there any number of
Poles, Sarmatians, and other hyperborean barbarians present I should
make them all admit that you were the queen of beauties."

"Gently, gently, Coconnas," said La Mole, "Madame Marguerite is here!"

"Oh! I cannot help that," cried Coconnas, with the half-comic air which
belonged to him alone, "I still assert that Madame Henriette is the
queen of beauties and Madame Marguerite is the beauty of queens."

But whatever he might say or do, the Piedmontese, completely carried
away by the joy of having found his dear La Mole, had neither eyes nor
ears for any one but him.

"Come, my beautiful queen," said Madame de Nevers, "come, let us leave
these dear friends to chat awhile alone. They have a thousand things to
say to each other which would be interrupted by our conversation. It is
hard for us, but it is the only way, I am sure, to make Monsieur Annibal
perfectly sane. Do this for me, my queen! since I am foolish enough to
love this worthless fellow, as his friend La Mole calls him."

Marguerite whispered a few words to La Mole, who, anxious as he had been
to see his friend, would have been glad had the affection of Coconnas
for him been less exacting. Meanwhile Coconnas was endeavoring to bring
back a smile and a gentle word to Henriette's lips, a result which was
easily attained. Then the two women passed into the next room, where
supper was awaiting them.

The young men were alone. The first questions Coconnas asked his friend
were about that fatal evening which had almost cost him his life. As La
Mole proceeded in his story the Piedmontese, who, however, was not
easily moved, trembled in every limb.

"But why," said he, "instead of running about the country as you have
done, and causing me such uneasiness, did you not seek refuge with our
master? The duke who had defended you would have hidden you. I should
have been near you and my grief, although feigned, would nevertheless
have disturbed every simpleton at court."

"Our master!" said La Mole, in a low voice, "the Duc d'Alençon?"

"Yes. According to what he told me, I supposed it was to him you owed
your life."

"I owe my life to the King of Navarre," replied La Mole.

"Oh!" exclaimed Coconnas, "are you sure?"

"Beyond a doubt."

"Oh! what a good, kind king! But what part did the Duc d'Alençon play in
it all?"

"He held the rope to strangle me."

"By Heaven!" cried Coconnas, "are you sure of what you say, La Mole?
What! this pale-faced, pitiful-looking cur strangle my friend! Ah! by
Heaven, by to-morrow I will let him know what I think of him."

"Are you mad?"

"That is true, he would begin again. But what does it matter? Things
cannot go on like this."

"Come, come, Coconnas, calm yourself and try and remember that it is
half-past eleven o'clock and that you are on duty to-night."

"What do I care about my duty to him! Bah! Let him wait! My attendance!
I serve a man who has held a rope? You are joking! No! This is
providential; it is said that I should find you to leave you no more. I
shall stay here."

"Why, man alive, think what you are saying. You are not drunk, I hope."

"No, fortunately; if I were I would set fire to the Louvre."

"Come, Annibal," said La Mole, "be reasonable. Return to your duties.
Service is a sacred thing."

"Will you return with me?"

"Impossible."

"Are they still thinking of killing you?"

"I think not. I am of too little importance for them to have any plot on
hand about me. For an instant they wanted to kill me, but that was all.
The princes were on a frolic that night."

"What are you going to do, then?"

"Nothing; wander about or take a walk."

"Well, I will walk, too, and wander with you. That will be charming.
Then, if you are attacked, there will be two of us, and we will give
them no end of trouble. Let him come, your duke! I will pin him to the
wall like a butterfly!"

"But, at least, say that you are going to leave his service!"

"Yes, I am."

"In that case, tell him so."

"Well, that seems only right. I will do so. I will write to him."

"Write to him! That would be discourteous, Coconnas, to a prince of the
blood."

"Yes, of the blood! of the blood of my friend. Take care," cried
Coconnas, rolling his large, tragic eyes, "lest I trifle with points of
etiquette!"

"Probably," said La Mole to himself, "in a few days he will need neither
the prince nor any one else, for if he wants to come with us, we will
take him."

Thereupon Coconnas took the pen without further opposition from his
friend and hastily composed the following specimen of eloquence:

     "_Monseigneur: There can be no doubt but that your highness, versed
     as you are in the writings of all authors of antiquity, must know
     the touching story of Orestes and Pylades, who were two heroes
     celebrated for their misfortunes and their friendship. My friend La
     Mole is no less unfortunate than was Orestes, while I am no less
     tender than Pylades. At present he has affairs of importance which
     demand my aid. It is therefore impossible for me to leave him. So
     with the consent of your highness I will take a short vacation,
     determined as I am to attach myself to my friend's fortune,
     whithersoever it may lead me. It is with the deepest grief that I
     tear myself away from the service of your highness, but for this I
     trust I may obtain your pardon. I venture to subscribe myself with
     respect, my lord,_

       "_Your highness's very humble and very obedient servant_,

                    "_ANNIBAL, COMTE DE COCONNAS_,

                        "_The inseparable friend of Monsieur de la Mole._"

This masterpiece finished, Coconnas read it aloud to La Mole, who merely
shrugged his shoulders.

"Well! what do you say to it?" asked Coconnas, who had not seen the
shrug, or who had pretended not to see it.

"I say," replied La Mole, "that Monsieur d'Alençon will laugh at us."

"At us?"

"Both of us."

"That will be better, it seems to me, than to strangle each of us
separately."

"Bah!" said La Mole, laughing, "the one will not necessarily prevent the
other."

"Well! so much the worse. Come what may, I will send the letter
to-morrow morning. Where shall we sleep when we leave here?"

"At Maître la Hurière's, in that little room in which you tried to stab
me before we were Orestes and Pylades!"

"Very well, I will send my letter to the Louvre by our host."

Just then the panel moved.

"Well!" asked both princesses at once, "where are Orestes and Pylades?"

"By Heaven! madame," replied Coconnas, "Pylades and Orestes are dying of
hunger and love."

It was Maître la Hurière himself who, at nine o'clock the following
morning, carried to the Louvre the respectful missive of Count Annibal
de Coconnas.



CHAPTER XLV.

ORTHON.


After the refusal of the Duc d'Alençon, which left everything in peril,
even his life, Henry became more intimate with the prince than ever, if
that were possible. Catharine concluded from the intimacy that the two
princes not only understood each other perfectly, but also that they
were planning some mutual conspiracy. She questioned Marguerite on the
subject, but Marguerite was worthy of her mother, and the Queen of
Navarre, whose chief talent lay in avoiding explanations, parried her
mother's questions so cleverly that although replying to all she left
Catharine more mystified than ever.

The Florentine, therefore, had nothing to guide her except the spirit of
intrigue she had brought with her from Tuscany, the most interesting of
the small states of that period, and the feeling of hatred she had
imbibed from the court of France, which was more divided in its
interests and opinions than any court at that time.

She realized that a part of the strength of the Béarnais came from his
alliance with the Duc d'Alençon, and she determined to separate them.

From the moment she formed this resolution she beset her son with the
patience and the wiles of an angler, who, when he has dropped his bait
near the fish, unconsciously draws it in until his prey is caught.

François perceived this increase of affection on the part of his mother
and made advances to her. As for Henry, he pretended to see nothing, but
kept a closer watch on his ally than he had yet done.

Every one was waiting for some event.

During this state of things, one morning when the sun rose clear, giving
out that gentle warmth and sweet odor which announce a beautiful day, a
pale man, leaning on a cane, and walking with difficulty, came out of a
small house situated behind the arsenal, and walked slowly along the Rue
du Petit Muse.

At the Porte Saint Antoine he turned into the street which encircles the
moat of the Bastille like a marsh, left the boulevard on his left and
entered the Archery Garden, where the gatekeeper received him with every
mark of respect.

There was no one in the garden, which, as its name implies, belonged to
a particular society called the Taxopholites. Had there been any
strollers there the pale man would have merited their sympathy, for his
long mustache, his military step and bearing, though weakened by
suffering, sufficiently indicated that he was an officer who had been
recently wounded, and who was endeavoring to regain his strength by
moderate exercise in the open air.

Yet, strange to say, when the cloak opened in which, in spite of the
increasing heat, this apparently harmless man was wrapped, it displayed
a pair of long pistols suspended from the silver clasps of his belt.
This belt also sustained a dagger and a sword so enormously long that it
seemed almost impossible to be handled, and which, completing this
living arsenal, clattered against his shrunken and trembling legs.

As an additional precaution the lonely soldier glanced around at every
step as though to question each turn of the path, each bush and ditch.

Having entered the garden without being molested, the man reached a sort
of small arbor, facing the boulevard, from which it was separated by a
thick hedge and a small ditch which formed a double inclosure. He threw
himself upon a grassy bank within reach of a table on which the host of
the establishment, who combined with his duties as gatekeeper the
vocation of cook, at once placed a bottle of cordial.

The invalid had been there about ten minutes and had several times
raised the china cup to his lips, taking little sips of its contents,
when suddenly his countenance, in spite of its interesting pallor,
assumed a startled expression. From the Croix Faubin, along a path which
to-day is the Rue de Naples, he had perceived a cavalier, wrapped in a
great cloak, stop near the moat.

Not more than five minutes had elapsed, during which the man of the pale
face, whom the reader has perhaps already recognized as Maurevel, had
scarcely had time to recover from the emotion caused by his unexpected
presence, when the horseman was joined by a man in a close-fitting coat,
like that of a page, who came by the road which is since known as the
Rue des Fossés Saint Nicholas.

Hidden in his leafy arbor, Maurevel could easily see and hear
everything, and when it is known that the cavalier was De Mouy and the
young man in the tight-fitting cloak Orthon, one may imagine whether
Maurevel's eyes and ears were not on the alert.

Both men looked very carefully around. Maurevel held his breath.

"You may speak, monsieur," said Orthon, who being the younger was the
more confident; "no one can either see or hear us."

"That is well," said De Mouy, "you are to go to Madame de Sauve, and if
you find her in her rooms give her this note. If she is not there, you
will place it behind the mirror where the king is in the habit of
putting his letters. Then you will wait in the Louvre. If you receive an
answer, you will bring it you know where; if no reply is sent, you will
meet me this evening with a petronel at the spot I showed you, and from
which I have just come."

"Very well," said Orthon, "I understand."

"I will now leave you. I have much to do to-day. You need make no
haste--there is no use in it, for you do not need to reach the Louvre
until he is there, and I think he is taking a lesson in hawking this
morning. Now go, and show me what you can do. You have recovered, and
you apparently are going to thank Madame de Sauve for her kindness to
you during your illness. Now go, my boy."

Maurevel listened, his eyes fixed, his hair on end, his forehead covered
with perspiration. His first impulse had been to detach one of his
pistols from his belt and aim at De Mouy; but a movement of the latter
had opened his cloak and displayed a firm and solid cuirass. Therefore
in all probability the ball would flatten itself against this cuirass or
strike some part of the body wherein the wound would not be fatal.
Besides, he reflected that De Mouy, strong and well armed, would have an
advantage over him, wounded as he was. So with a sigh he drew back the
weapon which he had pointed at the Huguenot.

"How unfortunate," he murmured, "that I am unable to stretch him dead on
the spot, without other witness than that young varlet who would have
been such a good mark for my second ball!"

But Maurevel thought that the note given to Orthon and which he was to
deliver to Madame de Sauve might perhaps be of more importance than the
life of the Huguenot chief.

"Well!" said he, "you have escaped me again this morning; be it so.
To-morrow I will have my turn at you if I have to follow you into that
hell from which you have come to ruin me, unless I destroy you."

De Mouy raised his cloak over his face, and set out rapidly in the
direction of the Temple. Orthon took the road along the moat which led
to the banks of the river.

Then Maurevel, rising with more energy and vigor than he had dared to
hope for, regained the Rue de la Cerisaie, reached his home, ordered a
horse to be saddled, and weak as he was and at the risk of opening his
wounds again, set off at a gallop to the Rue Saint Antoine, reached the
quays, and entered the Louvre.

Five minutes after he had passed under the gate Catharine knew all that
had just taken place, and Maurevel had received the thousand golden
crowns promised him for the arrest of the King of Navarre.

"Oh!" said Catharine, "either I am mistaken or this De Mouy is the black
spot that was discovered by Réné in the horoscope of the accursed
Béarnais."

A quarter of an hour after Maurevel Orthon entered the Louvre, showed
himself as De Mouy had directed, and went to the apartments of Madame de
Sauve, after having spoken to several attendants of the palace.

Dariole was the only one in her mistress's rooms. Catharine had asked
the latter to write certain important letters, and she had been with the
queen for the last five minutes.

"No matter," said Orthon, "I will wait."

Taking advantage of his intimacy in the house, the young man went into
the sleeping-room of the baroness, and, having assured himself that he
was alone, he laid the note behind the mirror. Just as he was removing
his hand Catharine entered.

Orthon turned pale, for it seemed to him that the quick, searching
glance of the queen mother was first directed to the mirror.

"What are you doing here, my little man?" asked Catharine; "looking for
Madame de Sauve?"

"Yes, madame; it is a long time since I saw her, and if I delay any
longer in thanking her I fear she will think me ungrateful."

"You love this dear Charlotte very much, do you not?"

"With all my heart, madame!"

"And you are faithful, from what I hear."

"Your majesty will understand that this is very natural when you know
that Madame de Sauve took more care of me than I, being only an humble
servant, deserved."

"And upon what occasion did she bestow all this care on you?" asked
Catharine, pretending to be ignorant of what had happened to the youth.

"When I was wounded, madame."

"Ah, poor boy!" said Catharine, "you were wounded?"

"Yes, madame."

"When was that?"

"The night they tried to arrest the King of Navarre. I was so terrified
at sight of the soldiers that I called and shouted; and one of the men
gave me a blow on the head which knocked me senseless."

"Poor boy! And are you quite recovered now?"

"Yes, madame."

"So that you are trying to get back into the service of the King of
Navarre?"

"No, madame. When the King of Navarre learned that I had dared to resist
your majesty's order he dismissed me at once."

"Indeed!" said Catharine, in a tone full of interest; "well, I will see
to that affair. But if you are waiting for Madame de Sauve you will wait
in vain, for she is occupied in my apartments."

Whereupon, thinking that Orthon perhaps had not had time to hide his
note behind the mirror, Catharine stepped into the adjoining room in
order to give him the necessary opportunity.

But just as Orthon, anxious at the unexpected arrival of the queen
mother, was wondering whether her coming did not forebode some plot
against his master, he heard three gentle taps against the ceiling. This
was the signal which he himself was in the habit of giving his master in
case of danger when the latter was with Madame de Sauve and Orthon was
keeping guard.

He started at the sound; a light broke upon his mind; he fancied that
this time the warning had been given to him. Springing to the mirror, he
removed the note he had just placed there.

Through an opening in the tapestry Catharine had followed every movement
of the boy. She saw him dart to the mirror, but she did not know whether
it was to hide the note or take it away.

"Well!" murmured the impatient Florentine; "why does he not leave now?"

And she returned to the room smiling.

"Still here, my boy?" said she; "why, what do you want? Did I not tell
you that I would look after your fortune? When I say a thing you do not
doubt it, do you?"

"Oh, madame, God forbid!" replied Orthon.

And approaching the queen, he bent his knee, kissed the hem of her robe,
and at once withdrew.

As he went through the antechamber he saw the captain of the guards, who
was waiting for Catharine. The sight of this man, instead of allaying
his suspicions, augmented them.

On her part, no sooner had she seen the curtains fall behind Orthon than
Catharine sprang to the mirror. But in vain she sought behind it with
hands trembling with impatience. She found no note.

And yet she was sure that she had seen the boy approach the mirror. It
was to remove the note, therefore, and not to leave it. Fate had given
to her enemies a strength equal to her own.

A child had become a man the moment he fought with her.

She moved the mirror, looked behind it, tapped it; nothing was there!

"Oh! unhappy boy!" cried she, "I wished him no ill and now by removing
the note he hastens his destiny. Ho, there, Monsieur de Nancey!"

The vibrating tones of the queen mother rang through the salon and
penetrated into the anteroom, where, as we have said, Monsieur de Nancey
was waiting.

The captain of the guards hastened to the queen.

"Here I am, madame," said he, "what is your majesty's will?"

"Have you been in the antechamber?"

"Yes, madame."

"Did you see a young man, a child, pass through?"

"Just now."

"He cannot have gone far, can he?"

"Scarcely to the stairway."

"Call him back."

"What is his name?"

"Orthon. If he refuses to come bring him back by force; but do not
frighten him unless he resists. I must speak to him at once."

The captain of the guards hurriedly withdrew.

As he had said, Orthon was scarcely half way down the stairs, for he was
descending slowly, hoping to meet or see the King of Navarre or Madame
de Sauve somewhere.

He heard his name and gave a start.

His first impulse was to run, but with forethought beyond his years he
realized that by doing so all would be lost.

He stopped therefore.

"Who calls me?"

"I, Monsieur de Nancey," replied the captain of the guards, hurrying
down the stairs.

"But I am in haste," said Orthon.

"By order of her majesty the queen mother," said Monsieur de Nancey, as
he came up to him.

The youth wiped the perspiration from his brow and turned back.

The captain followed.

Catharine's first idea had been to stop the young man, have him
searched, and take possession of the note which she knew he had. She had
planned to accuse him of theft, and with this end in view she had
removed from the toilet table a diamond clasp which she was going to say
he had taken.

But on reflection she concluded that this would be dangerous, in that it
would arouse the boy's suspicions and he would inform his master, who
would then begin to mistrust something, and so her enemy would gain an
advantage over her.

She could, no doubt, have the young man taken to some dungeon, but the
rumor of the arrest, however secretly it might be done, would spread
through the Louvre, and the slightest inkling of it would put Henry on
his guard. However, she must have the note, for a note from Monsieur de
Mouy to the King of Navarre, a note sent with such precautions, surely
meant conspiracy.

She put back the clasp from where she had taken it.

"No, no," said she, "that would be the method of a guard; it is poor.
But for a note--which perhaps after all is not worth the trouble," she
continued, frowning, and speaking so low that she herself could scarcely
hear the sound of her words. "Well, it is not my fault, but his. Why did
not the little scoundrel put the note where he should have put it? I
must have this letter."

Just then Orthon entered.

Catharine's face wore such a terrible expression that the youth stopped
on the threshold pale as death. He was still too young to be perfect
master of himself.

"Madame," said he, "you have done me the honor of calling me back. In
what can I serve your majesty?"

Catharine's face lighted up as if a ray of sunlight had touched it.

"I called you back, my child," said she, "because your face pleases me,
and having promised to help you I am anxious to do so without delay. We
queens are sometimes accused of being forgetful. But this is not on
account of our hearts, but because our minds are filled with business.
Now I remembered that kings hold men's fortunes in their hands, and so I
called you back. Follow me, my child."

Monsieur de Nancey, who was taking the affair seriously, was greatly
surprised at Catharine's affectionate manner.

"Can you ride, my child?" asked Catharine.

"Yes, madame."

"Then come into my room. I want to give you a message to carry to Saint
Germain."

"I am at your majesty's command."

"Order a horse to be saddled, De Nancey."

Monsieur de Nancey disappeared.

"Come, boy," said Catharine, leading the way.

Orthon followed. The queen mother descended to the next floor, entered
the corridor in which were the apartments of the king and the Duc
d'Alençon, reached the winding staircase, again descended a flight of
stairs, and opened a door leading to a circular gallery to which none
but the king and herself possessed the key. Bidding Orthon pass in
first, she entered after him and locked the door. This gallery formed a
sort of rampart to a certain portion of the apartments of the king and
the queen mother, and, like the corridor of the castle of Saint Angelo
at Rome, or that of the Pitti Palace at Florence, was a safe place in
case of danger. The door locked, Catharine was alone with the young man
in the dark corridor. Each advanced a few steps, the queen leading the
way, Orthon following.

Suddenly Catharine turned and Orthon again saw on her face the same
sinister expression which he had seen on it a few minutes before. Her
eyes were as round as those of a cat or a panther and seemed to dart
forth fire in the darkness.

"Stop!" she cried.

Orthon felt a shiver run through him; a deathly cold like an icy cloak
seemed to fall from the ceiling. The floor felt like the covering of a
tomb. Catharine's glance was so sharp that it seemed to penetrate to the
very soul of the page. He recoiled and leaned against the wall,
trembling from head to foot.

"Where is the note you were charged to give to the King of Navarre?"

"The note?" stammered Orthon.

"Yes; which, if you did not find him, you were to place behind the
mirror?"

"I, madame," said Orthon, "I do not know what you mean."

"The note which De Mouy gave you an hour ago, behind the Archery
Garden."

"I have no note," said Orthon; "your majesty must be mistaken."

"You lie," said Catharine; "give me the note, and I will keep the
promise I made you."

"What promise, madame?"

"I will make your fortune."

"I have no note, madame," repeated the child.

Catharine ground her teeth; then assuming a smile:

"Give it to me," said she, "and you shall have a thousand golden
crowns."

"I have no note, madame."

"Two thousand crowns."

"Impossible; since I have no note, how can I give it to you?"

"Ten thousand crowns, Orthon."

Orthon, who saw the anger of the queen rising, felt that there was only
one way of saving his master, and that was to swallow the note. He put
his hand to his pocket, but Catharine guessed his intention and stopped
him.

"There, my child," said she, laughing, "you are certainly faithful. When
kings wish to attach a follower to them there is no harm in their making
sure of his trustworthiness. Here, take this purse as a first reward. Go
and carry your note to your master, and tell him that from to-day you
are in my service. You can get out without me by the door we entered. It
opens from within."

And giving the purse to the astonished youth Catharine walked on a few
steps and placed her hand against the wall.

But the young man stood still, hesitating. He could not believe that the
danger he had felt hovering over him was gone.

"Come, do not tremble so," said Catharine. "Have I not told you that you
were free to go, and that if you wish to come back your fortune is
made?"

"Thank you, madame," said Orthon. "Then you pardon me?"

"I do more, I reward you; you are a faithful bearer of notes, a gentle
messenger of love. But you forget your master is waiting for you."

"Ah! that is true," said the young man, springing towards the door.

But scarcely had he advanced three steps before the floor gave way
beneath his feet. He stumbled, extended both hands, gave a fearful cry,
and disappeared in the dungeon of the Louvre, the spring of which
Catharine had just touched.

"So," murmured the queen, "thanks to the fellow's obstinacy I shall have
to descend a hundred and fifty steps."

The queen mother returned to her apartments, lighted a dark lantern,
came back to the corridor, closed the spring, and opened the door of a
spiral staircase which seemed to lead to the bowels of the earth. Urged
on by the insatiable thirst of a curiosity which was but the minister of
her hatred, she reached an iron door which turned on its hinges and
admitted her to the depths of the dungeon. Bleeding, crushed, and
mutilated by a fall of a hundred feet or more, but still breathing, lay
poor Orthon.

Beyond the thick wall the waters of the Seine were heard roaring,
brought to the foot of the stairs by a subterranean channel.

Catharine entered the damp and unwholesome place, which during her reign
had witnessed many a fall similar to the one it had just seen, searched
the body, seized the letter, made sure that it was the one she desired,
then pushing aside the body with her foot she pressed a spring, the
bottom of the dungeon sank, and the corpse, carried down by its own
weight, disappeared in the direction of the river.

Closing the door again, Catharine ascended, shut herself in her closet,
and read the note, which contained these words:

     "_This evening at ten o'clock, Rue de l'Arbre Sec, Hôtel de la
     Belle Étoile. If you come send no reply; otherwise send back NO by
     the bearer._

                                  "_DE MOUY DE SAINT PHALE._"

As Catharine read this note a smile came to her lips. She was thinking
of the victory she was to gain, forgetting the price at which she had
bought it. But after all what was Orthon? A faithful, devoted follower,
a handsome young boy; that was all.

That, one may well imagine, would not for an instant have turned the
scales on which the fate of empires had been weighed.

The note read, Catharine at once went to Madame de Sauve's and placed it
behind the mirror.

As she came down she found the captain of the guards at the entrance of
the corridor.

"Madame," said Monsieur de Nancey, "according to your majesty's orders
the horse is ready."

"My dear baron," said Catharine, "we shall not need it. I have made the
boy speak, and he is really too stupid to be charged with the errand I
wanted to entrust to him. I thought he was a lackey, but he is nothing
but a groom at best. I gave him some money and dismissed him by the
private gate."

"But," said Monsieur de Nancey, "the errand?"

"The errand?" asked Catharine.

"The one on which he was to go to Saint Germain. Does your majesty wish
me to undertake it, or shall I have one of my men attend to it?"

"No, no," said Catharine, "this evening you and your men will have
something else to do."

Whereupon the queen mother returned to her room, hoping that evening to
hold in her hands the fate of the accursed King of Navarre.



CHAPTER XLVI.

THE INN OF LA BELLE ÉTOILE.


Two hours after the event we have described, no trace of which remained
on Catharine's face, Madame de Sauve, having finished her work for the
queen, returned to her own rooms. Henry followed her, and learning from
Dariole that Orthon had been there he went directly to the mirror and
found the note.

It was, as we have said, couched in these terms:

"_This evening at ten o'clock, Rue de l'Arbre Sec, Hôtel de la Belle
Étoile. If you come send no reply; otherwise send back NO by the
bearer._"

There was no address.

"Henry will not fail to keep the appointment," said Catharine, "for even
had he not wished to do so there is no longer a messenger to take back
his answer."

Catharine was not mistaken.

Henry inquired for Orthon. Dariole said that he had gone out with the
queen mother; but as the note had been found in its place, and as the
poor boy was known to be incapable of treason, Henry felt no anxiety.

He dined as usual at the table of the King, who joked him greatly on the
mistakes he had made while hawking that morning.

Henry made excuses for himself, saying that he came from the mountains
and not the plain, but he promised Charles to study the art. Catharine
was charming, and on leaving the table begged Marguerite to pass the
evening with her.

At eight o'clock Henry took two attendants, left by the Porte Saint
Honoré, made a long circuit, returned by the Tour de Bois, and crossing
the Seine at the ferry of Nesle, rode up the Rue Saint Jacques, where he
dismissed his gentlemen, as if he were going to keep some love
appointment. At the corner of the Rue des Mathurins he found a man on
horseback, wrapped in a cloak. He approached him.

"Mantes!" said the man.

"Pau!" replied the king.

The man at once dismounted. Henry put on his splashed mantle, mounted
the horse, which was covered with foam, returned by the Rue de la Harpe,
crossed the Pont Saint Michel, passed down the Rue Barthélemy, again
crossed the river at the Pont aux Meuniers, descended the quays, took
the Rue de l'Arbre Sec, and knocked at the door of Maître la Hurière's.

La Mole was in a room writing a long love-letter--to whom may easily be
imagined.

Coconnas was in the kitchen with La Hurière, watching half a dozen
partridges roasting, and disputing with his friend the host as to when
they should be removed from the spit. At this moment Henry knocked.
Grégoire opened the door and led the horse to the stable, while the
traveller entered, stamping on the floor as if to warm his benumbed
feet.

"Maître La Hurière," said La Mole, as he continued to write, "here is a
gentleman asking for you."

La Hurière advanced, looked at Henry from head to foot, and as his thick
cloth mantle did not inspire the innkeeper with very great veneration:

"Who are you?" he asked.

"Well, by Heaven!" said Henry, pointing to La Mole, "monsieur has just
told you; I am a gentleman from Gascony come to court."

"What do you want?"

"A room and supper."

"Humph!" said La Hurière, "have you a lackey?"

This was the question usually asked, as is well known.

"No," replied Henry, "but I hope to have one when I make my fortune."

"I do not let rooms to any one unless he has a lackey," said La Hurière.

"Even if I offered to pay you double for your supper?"

"Oh! you are very generous, worthy sir!" said La Hurière, looking
suspiciously at Henry.

"Not at all, but, hoping to pass the night in your hotel, which has been
highly recommended by a nobleman from my county who has been here, I
invited a friend to sup with me. Have you any good wine of Arbois?"

"I have some which is better than the King of Navarre drinks."

"Good! I will pay well for it. Ah! here is my friend."

Just then the door opened and a gentleman entered older by a few years
than the first, and dragging a long rapier at his side.

"Ah!" said he, "you are prompt, my young friend. For a man who has just
made two hundred leagues it is something to be so punctual."

"Is this your guest?" asked La Hurière.

"Yes," said the first, going up to the young man with the rapier and
shaking him by the hand, "we will have our supper now."

"Here or in your room?"

"Wherever you please."

"Maître," said La Mole to La Hurière, "rid us of these Huguenot fellows.
Coconnas and I cannot say a word before them."

"Carry the supper to room No. 2, on the third floor. Upstairs,
gentlemen."

The two travellers followed Grégoire, who preceded them with lights.

La Mole watched them until they had disappeared. Then turning round he
saw Coconnas, whose head was thrust out of the kitchen door. Two great
eyes and an open mouth gave to the latter's face a remarkable expression
of astonishment.

La Mole stepped up to him.

"By Heaven!" said Coconnas, "did you see?"

"What?"

"Those two gentlemen."

"Well?"

"I would swear that it was"--

"Who?"

"Why--the King of Navarre and the man in the red cloak."

"Swear if you will, but not too loud."

"Did you recognize them too?"

"Certainly."

"What are they here for?"

"Some love affair."

"You think so?"

"I am sure of it."

"La Mole, I prefer sword-thrusts to these love affairs. I would have
sworn a moment ago, now I will bet."

"What will you bet?"

"That there is some plot on hand."

"You are mad."

"I tell you"--

"I tell you that even if they are plotting it is their own affair."

"That is true. However," said Coconnas, "I no longer belong to Monsieur
d'Alençon. So let them do as they see fit."

As the partridges had apparently reached the state in which Coconnas
liked them, the Piedmontese, who counted on making the most of his
dinner of them, called Maître la Hurière to remove them from the spit.

Meantime Henry and De Mouy were installed in their chamber.

"Well, sire," said De Mouy, when Grégoire had set the table, "have you
seen Orthon?"

"No; but I found the note he left behind the mirror. The boy must have
become frightened, I suppose, for Queen Catharine came in while he was
there, so he went away without waiting for my answer."

"For a moment I felt somewhat anxious about him, as Dariole told me that
the queen mother had had a long talk with him."

"Oh! there is no danger. The boy is clever, and although the queen
mother knows his profession he will not let her find out much from him,
I am sure."

"But have you seen him, De Mouy?" asked Henry.

"No, but I expect to this evening. At midnight he is to come here for me
with a good petronel. He will tell me what happened as we walk along."

"And the man at the corner of the Rue des Mathurins?"

"What man?"

"The man who gave me his horse and cloak. Are you sure of him?"

"He is one of our most devoted followers. Besides, he neither knows your
majesty nor why he himself was there."

"Can we discuss our affairs without fear, then?"

"Certainly. Besides, La Mole is on the watch."

"Well, sire, what says Monsieur d'Alençon?"

"Monsieur d'Alençon will not go, De Mouy. He said so positively. The
election of D'Anjou to the throne of Poland and the king's illness have
changed his mind."

"So he is the one who spoiled our plan?"

"Yes."

"Has he betrayed us?"

"Not yet; but he will do so at the first opportunity."

"Coward! traitor! Why did he not answer my letters?"

"In order to have proofs against you, and none against himself.
Meantime, all is lost, is it not, De Mouy?"

"On the contrary, sire, all is won. You know that the whole party,
except the faction of the Prince de Condé, was for you, and used the
duke, with whom it seemed to have relations, only as a safeguard. Well,
since the day of the ceremony I have arranged so that everything is for
you. One hundred men were enough to escape with the Duc d'Alençon; I
have raised fifteen hundred. In one week they will be ready and drawn up
on the road to Pau. It will not be a flight but a retreat. Fifteen
hundred men will suffice, sire, will they not? Shall you feel safe with
such an army?"

Henry smiled and touched him on the shoulder.

"You know, De Mouy," said he, "and you alone know it, that Henry of
Navarre is not naturally such a coward as is supposed."

"Yes, I know that, sire; and I trust before long that all France will
know it too."

"But where one plots one must succeed. The first condition of success is
decision; and for decision to be rapid, frank, and to the point, one
must be sure of success."

"Well, sire, what days do you hunt?"

"Every week or ten days we either hunt or hawk."

"When did you hunt last?"

"To-day."

"Then a week or ten days from now you will hunt again?"

"No doubt; possibly before then."

"Listen, sire; everything seems perfectly quiet. The Duc d'Anjou has
left; no one thinks of him. The King is getting better every day. The
persecution against us has almost ceased. Play the amiable with the
queen mother and Monsieur d'Alençon; keep telling him that you cannot go
without him, and try to make him believe you, which is more difficult."

"Do not worry, he will believe me."

"Do you think he has such confidence in you?"

"No, God forbid, but he believes everything the queen says."

"And is the queen true to us?"

"Oh! I have proof of it. Besides, she is ambitious and is dying for this
far-off crown of Navarre."

"Well! three days before the hunt send me word where it will take
place--whether it is to be at Bondy, at Saint Germain, or at
Rambouillet. Monsieur de la Mole will ride ahead of you; follow him, and
ride fast. Once out of the forest if the queen mother wants you she will
have to run after you; and I trust that her Norman horses will not see
even the hoofs of our Barbary steeds and our Spanish ponies."

"Agreed, De Mouy."

"Have you any money, sire?"

Henry made the same grimace he made all his life at this question.

"Not much," said he; "but I think Margot has some."

"Well! whether it is yours or hers, bring as much as you can."

"And in the meantime what are you going to do?"

"Having paid some attention to your majesty's affairs, as you see, will
your majesty permit me to devote a little time to my own?"

"Certainly, De Mouy, certainly, but what are yours?"

"Yesterday Orthon told me (he is a very intelligent boy, whom I
recommend to your majesty) that he met that scoundrel of a Maurevel near
the arsenal, that thanks to Réné he has recovered, and that he was
warming himself in the sun like the snake that he is."

"Ah, yes, I understand," said Henry.

"Very good, then. You will be king some day, sire, and if you have
anything such as I have to avenge you can do so in a kingly way. I am a
soldier and must avenge myself like a soldier. So while all our little
affairs are being arranged, which will give that scoundrel five or six
days in which to recover more fully, I too shall take a stroll around
the arsenal, and I will pin him to the grass with four blows of my
rapier, after which I shall leave Paris with a lighter heart."

"Attend to your affairs, my friend, by all means," said the Béarnais.
"By the way, you are pleased with La Mole, are you not?"

"Yes; he is a charming fellow, devoted to you body and soul, sire, and
on whom you can depend as you can on me--brave"--

"And above all, discreet. So he must follow us to Navarre, De Mouy; once
there we will look about and see what we can do to recompense him."

As Henry concluded these words with a sly smile, the door opened or
rather was broken in, and the man they had just been praising appeared,
pale and agitated.

"Quick, sire," cried he; "quick, the house is surrounded."

"Surrounded!" cried Henry, rising; "by whom?"

"By the King's guards."

"Oh!" said De Mouy, drawing his pistols from his belt, "we are to have a
battle, apparently."

"Well," said La Mole, "you may well talk of pistols and battle, but what
can you do against fifty men?"

"He is right," said the king; "and if there were any means of escape"--

"There is one which has already been of use to me, and if your majesty
will follow me"--

"And De Mouy?"

"And De Mouy too if he wishes, but you must be quick."

Steps were heard on the stairs.

"It is too late," said Henry.

"Ah! if any one would only engage them for five minutes," cried La Mole,
"I would save the king."

"Save him, then, monsieur," said De Mouy; "I will look after them. Go,
sire, go."

"But what shall you do?"

"Do not fear, sire, but go."

And De Mouy began by hiding the king's plate, napkin, and goblet, so
that it might seem as though he had been alone at table.

"Come, sire, come," cried La Mole, seizing the king by the arm and
dragging him towards the stairway.

"De Mouy, my brave De Mouy!" exclaimed Henry, holding out his hand to
the young man.

De Mouy kissed the hand, pushed Henry from the room, and closed and
bolted the door after him.

"Yes, I understand," said Henry, "he will be caught, while we escape;
but who the devil can have betrayed us?"

"Come, sire, come. They are on the stairs."

In fact, the light of the torches was beginning to be seen on the wall,
while at the foot of the stairs sounds like the clanking of swords were
heard.

"Quick, quick, sire!" cried La Mole.

And, guiding the king in the darkness, he ascended two flights, pushed
open a door, which he locked behind him, and, opening the window of a
closet:

"Sire," said he, "is your majesty very much afraid of a walk across the
roofs?"

"I?" said Henry, "come, now; am I not a chamois hunter?"

"Well, your majesty must follow me. I know the way and will guide you."

"Go on," said Henry, "I will follow."

La Mole stepped out, went along the ledge, which formed a sort of
gutter, at the end of which they came to a depression between two roofs.
In this way they reached an open window leading to an empty garret.

"Sire," said La Mole, "here we are at the opening."

"Ah! so much the better," said Henry, wiping the perspiration from his
pale face.

"Now," said La Mole, "it will be easier: this garret opens on to a
stairway, the stairway leads to an alley, and the alley to the street. I
travelled the same road, sire, on a much more terrible night than this."

"Go on, go on," said Henry.

La Mole sprang through the open window, reached the unlocked door,
opened it, came to a winding stairway, and placing in the king's hand
the cord that served as a baluster:

"Come, sire," said he.

Half way down the stairs Henry stopped. He was before a window which
overlooked the courtyard of the _Belle Étoile_. On the opposite stairway
soldiers were seen running, some carrying swords, others torches.

Suddenly in the midst of a group the King of Navarre perceived De Mouy.
He had surrendered his sword and was quietly descending the stairs.

"Poor fellow," said Henry, "so brave and devoted!"

"Faith, sire," said La Mole, "your majesty is right. He certainly does
seem calm; and see, he even laughs! It must be that he is planning some
scheme, for you know he seldom laughs."

"And the young man who was with you?"

"Monsieur de Coconnas?" asked La Mole.

"Yes; what has become of him?"

"Oh! sire, I am not anxious about him. On seeing the soldiers he said
only one word to me: 'Do we risk anything?'

"'Our heads,' I answered.

"'Can you escape?'

"'I hope so.'

"'Well, I can too,' he replied. And I promise you he will! Sire, when
Coconnas is caught it will be because he wishes to be caught."

"Then," said Henry, "all is well. Let us try to get back to the Louvre."

"That will be easy enough, sire," said La Mole. "Let us wrap ourselves
in our cloaks and start. The street is full of people running to see the
commotion, and we shall be taken for spectators."

The gate was open and Henry and La Mole encountered no obstacle beyond
the crowds in the street.

They reached the Rue d'Avernon; but in passing by the Rue Poulies they
saw De Mouy and his escort cross the Place Saint Germain l'Auxerrois,
led by the captain of the guards, Monsieur de Nancey.

"Ah!" said Henry, "they are taking him to the Louvre, apparently. The
devil! the gates will be closed. They will take the names of all those
who enter, and if I am seen returning after him they will think I have
been with him."

"Well! but, sire," said La Mole, "enter some other way than by the
gate."

"How the devil do you mean?"

"Well, sire, there is the Queen of Navarre's window."

"_Ventre saint gris_, Monsieur de la Mole," said Henry, "you are right.
I never thought of that! But how can I attract the attention of the
queen?"

"Oh," said La Mole, bowing with an air of respectful gratitude, "your
majesty throws stones so well!"



CHAPTER XLVII.

DE MOUY DE SAINT PHALE.


This time Catharine had taken such precautions that she felt sure of her
object.

Consequently, about ten o'clock she sent away Marguerite, thoroughly
convinced, as was the case, that the Queen of Navarre was ignorant of
the plot against her husband, and went to the King, begging him not to
retire so early.

Mystified by the air of triumph which, in spite of her usual
dissimulation, appeared on his mother's face, Charles questioned
Catharine, who merely answered:

"I can say only one thing to your Majesty: that this evening you will be
freed from two of your bitterest enemies."

Charles raised his eyebrows like a man who says to himself:

"That is well; we shall see;" and whistling to his great boar-hound, who
came to him dragging his belly along the ground like a serpent to lay
his fine and intelligent head on his master's knee, he waited. At the
end of a few minutes, during which Catharine sat with eyes and ears
alert, a pistol-shot was heard in the courtyard of the Louvre.

"What is that noise?" asked Charles, frowning, while the hound sprang up
and pricked his ears.

"Nothing except a signal," said Catharine; "that is all."

"And what is the meaning of the signal?"

"It means that from this moment, sire, your one real enemy can no longer
injure you."

"Have they killed a man?" asked Charles, looking at his mother with that
look of command which signifies that assassination and mercy are two
inherent attributes of royal power.

"No, sire, they have only arrested two."

"Oh!" murmured Charles, "always hidden plots, always conspiracies around
the King. And yet, the devil! mother, I am grown up, and big enough to
look out for myself. I need neither leading-strings nor padded caps. Go
to Poland with your son Henry if you wish to reign; I tell you you are
wrong to play this kind of game here."

"My son," said Catharine, "this is the last time I shall meddle with
your affairs. But the enterprise in which you have always thwarted me
was begun long ago, and I have earnestly endeavored to prove to your
Majesty that I am right."

At that moment several men stopped in the outer hall and the butt-ends
of muskets were heard on the pavement. Almost at the same instant
Monsieur de Nancey begged an audience of the King.

"Let him enter," said Charles, hastily.

Monsieur de Nancey appeared, saluted the King, and turning to Catharine
said:

"Madame, your majesty's orders are executed; he is captured."

"What _he_?" cried Catharine, greatly troubled. "Have you arrested only
one?"

"He was alone, madame."

"Did he defend himself?"

"No, he was supping quietly in a room, and gave up his sword the moment
it was demanded."

"Who?" asked the King.

"You shall see," said Catharine. "Bring in the prisoner, Monsieur de
Nancey."

Five minutes later De Mouy was there.

"De Mouy!" cried the King; "what is the matter now, monsieur?"

"Well, sire," said De Mouy, with perfect composure, "if your Majesty
will allow me the liberty, I will ask the same of you."

"Instead of asking this question of the King," said Catharine, "have the
kindness, Monsieur de Mouy, to tell my son who was the man found in the
chamber of the King of Navarre a certain night, and who on that night
resisted the orders of his Majesty like the rebel that he is, killed two
guards, and wounded Monsieur de Maurevel?"

"Yes," said Charles, frowning, "do you know the name of that man,
Monsieur de Mouy?"

"Yes, sire; does your Majesty wish to hear it?"

"That will please me, I admit."

"Well, sire, he is called De Mouy de Saint Phale."

"It was you?"

"It was I."

Catharine, astonished at this audacity, recoiled a step.

"How did you dare resist the orders of the King?" asked Charles.

"In the first place, sire, I did not know that there was an order from
your Majesty; then I saw only one thing, or rather one man, Monsieur de
Maurevel, the assassin of my father and of the admiral. I remembered
that a year and a half ago, in the very room in which we now are, on the
evening of the 24th of August, your Majesty promised me to avenge us on
the murderer, and as since that time very grave events have occurred I
thought that in spite of himself the King had changed his mind. Seeing
Maurevel within reach, I believed Heaven had sent him to me. Your
Majesty knows the rest. Sire, I sprang upon him as upon an assassin and
fired at his men as I would have fired at bandits."

Charles made no reply. His friendship for Henry had for some time made
him look at many things in a different light from which he had at first
seen them, and more than once with terror.

In regard to Saint Bartholomew the queen mother had registered in her
memory remarks which had fallen from her son's lips and which resembled
remorse.

"But," observed Catharine, "what were you doing at that hour in the
apartments of the King of Navarre?"

"Oh!" replied De Mouy, "it is a long story, but if his Majesty has the
patience to listen"--

"Yes," said Charles; "speak, I wish to hear it."

"I will obey, sire," said De Mouy, bowing.

Catharine sat down, fixing an anxious look on the young chief.

"We are listening," said Charles. "Here, Actéon!"

The dog resumed the place he had occupied before the prisoner had been
admitted.

"Sire," said De Mouy, "I came to his majesty the King of Navarre as the
deputy of our brethren, your faithful subjects of the reformed
religion."

Catharine signed to Charles IX.

"Be quiet, mother," said the latter. "I do not lose a word. Go on,
Monsieur de Mouy, go on; why did you come?"

"To inform the King of Navarre," continued Monsieur de Mouy, "that his
abjuration had lost for him the confidence of the Huguenot party; but
that, nevertheless, in remembrance of his father, Antoine de Bourbon,
and especially on account of his mother, the courageous Jeanne d'Albret,
whose name is dear among us, the followers of the reformed religion owed
him this mark of deference, to beg him to desist from his claims to the
crown of Navarre."

"What did he say?" asked Catharine, unable in spite of her self-control
to receive this unexpected blow calmly.

"Ah! ah!" said Charles, "and yet this crown of Navarre, which without my
permission has been made to jump from head to head, seems to belong a
little to me."

"The Huguenots, sire, recognize better than any one the principle of
sovereignty to which your Majesty has just referred. Therefore they
hope to induce your Majesty to place the crown on a head that is dear to
you."

"To me!" said Charles; "on a head that is dear to me! The devil! what
head do you mean, monsieur? I do not understand."

"On the head of Monsieur le Duc d'Alençon."

Catharine became as pale as death, and gave De Mouy a flashing glance.

"Did my brother D'Alençon know this?"

"Yes, sire."

"And did he accept the crown?"

"Subject to the consent of your Majesty, to whom he referred us."

"Ah!" said Charles, "it is a crown which would suit our brother
D'Alençon wonderfully well. And I never thought of it! Thanks, De Mouy,
thanks! When you have such ideas you will always be welcome at the
Louvre."

"Sire, you would long since have been informed of this project had it
not been for that unfortunate affair of Maurevel's, which made me afraid
I had fallen into disgrace with your Majesty."

"Yes, but what did Henry say to this plan?" asked Catharine.

"The King of Navarre, madame, yielded to the desire of his brethren, and
his renunciation was ready."

"In that case," said Catharine, "you must have the renunciation."

"It happens that I have it with me, madame, signed by him and dated."

"Dated previous to the affair in the Louvre?" said Catharine.

"Yes, the evening before, I think."

De Mouy drew from his pocket an abdication in favor of the Duc
d'Alençon, written and signed in Henry's hand, and bearing the date
indicated.

"Faith, yes," said Charles, "and all is in due form."

"What did Henry demand in return for this renunciation?"

"Nothing, madame; the friendship of King Charles, he told us, would
amply repay him for the loss of a crown."

Catharine bit her lips in anger and wrung her beautiful hands.

"All this is perfectly correct, De Mouy," said the King.

"Then," said the queen mother, "if everything was settled between you
and the King of Navarre, what was the object of your interview with him
this evening?"

"I, madame! with the King of Navarre?" said De Mouy. "Monsieur de
Nancey, who arrested me, will bear witness that I was alone. Your
majesty can ask him."

"Monsieur de Nancey!" called the King.

The captain of the guards entered.

"Monsieur de Nancey," said Catharine, quickly, "was Monsieur de Mouy
entirely alone at the inn of the _Belle Étoile_?"

"In the room, yes, madame; in the hostelry, no."

"Ah!" said Catharine, "who was his companion?"

"I do not know if he was the companion of Monsieur de Mouy, madame, but
I know that a man escaped by a back door after having stretched two of
my men on the floor."

"And you recognized this gentleman, no doubt?"

"No, I did not, but my guards did."

"Who was he?" asked Charles IX.

"Monsieur le Comte Annibal de Coconnas."

"Annibal de Coconnas!" exclaimed the King, gloomy and thoughtful; "the
one who made such a terrible slaughter of the Huguenots during the
massacre of Saint Bartholomew?"

"Monsieur de Coconnas, a gentleman in the suite of Monsieur d'Alençon,"
said Monsieur de Nancey.

"Very good," said Charles IX. "You may go, Monsieur de Nancey, and
another time, remember one thing."

"What is it, sire?"

"That you are in my service, and that you are to obey no one but me."

Monsieur de Nancey withdrew backwards, bowing respectfully.

De Mouy smiled ironically at Catharine.

There was an instant's silence. The queen twisted the tassels of her
girdle; Charles caressed his dog.

"But what was your intention, monsieur?" continued Charles; "were you
acting violently?"

"Against whom, sire?"

"Why, against Henry, or François, or myself."

"Sire, we have the renunciation of your brother-in-law, the consent of
your brother; and, as I have had the honor of telling you, we were on
the point of soliciting your Majesty's sanction when that unfortunate
affair occurred at the Louvre."

"Well, mother," said Charles, "I see nothing wrong in all this. You were
right, Monsieur de Mouy, in asking for a king. Yes, Navarre may and
ought to be a separate kingdom. Moreover, it seems made expressly to
give to my brother D'Alençon, who has always had so great a desire for a
crown that when we wear ours he cannot keep his eyes off of it. The only
thing which stood in the way of this coronation was Henriot's rights;
but since Henriot voluntarily abdicates"--

"Voluntarily, sire."

"It seems that it is the will of God! Monsieur de Mouy, you are free to
return to your brethren, whom I have chastised somewhat roughly,
perhaps, but that is between God and myself. Tell them that since they
desire to have my brother d'Alençon for King of Navarre the King of
France accedes to their wishes. From this moment Navarre is a kingdom,
and its sovereign is called François. I ask only eight days for my
brother to leave Paris with the brilliancy and pomp befitting a king.
Now go, Monsieur de Mouy, go! Monsieur de Nancey, allow Monsieur de Mouy
to pass; he is free."

"Sire," said De Mouy, advancing a step, "will your Majesty permit me?"

"Yes," said the King, and he extended his hand to the young Huguenot.

De Mouy knelt and kissed the King's hand.

"By the way," said Charles, detaining him as he was about to rise, "did
you not demand from me justice on that scoundrel of a Maurevel?"

"Yes, sire."

"I do not know where he is, as he is hiding; but if you meet him, take
justice into your own hands. I authorize you to do this and gladly."

"Ah! sire," cried De Mouy, "your Majesty overwhelms me. Your Majesty may
rely on me. I have no idea where he is, but I will find him, you may
rest assured."

De Mouy respectfully saluted King Charles and Queen Catharine, and
withdrew without hindrance from the guards who had brought him thither.
He passed rapidly through the corridors, reached the gate, and once
outside hurried to Place Saint Germain l'Auxerrois, to the inn of the
_Belle Étoile_. Here he found his horse, thanks to which, three hours
after the scene we have just described, the young man breathed in safety
behind the walls of Mantes.

Catharine, consumed with rage, returned to her apartments, whence she
passed into those of Marguerite.

She found Henry there in his dressing-gown, apparently ready for bed.

"Satan!" she murmured, "aid a poor queen for whom God will do nothing
more!"



CHAPTER XLVIII.

TWO HEADS FOR ONE CROWN.


"Ask Monsieur d'Alençon to come to me," said Charles as he dismissed his
mother.

Monsieur de Nancey, in accordance with the remark of the King that
henceforth he was to obey him alone, hastened to the duke's apartments
and delivered word for word the order he had just received.

The Duc d'Alençon gave a start. He had always feared Charles, and now
more than ever since by conspiring he had reason to be afraid.

Nevertheless, he went to his brother in all haste.

Charles was standing up, whistling a hunting-song.

As he entered, the Duc d'Alençon caught from the glassy eye of the King
one of those bitter looks of hatred which he knew so well.

"Your Majesty has sent for me," said he. "Here I am; what does your
Majesty desire?"

"I desire to tell you, my good brother, that as a reward for the great
friendship you bear me I have decided to-day to do for you the thing you
most want."

"For me?"

"Yes, for you. Think what for some time you have been dreaming of,
without daring to ask it of me, and I will give it to you."

"Sire," said François, "I swear to you that I desire nothing but the
continued good health of the King."

"In that case you will be glad to know, D'Alençon, that the
indisposition I experienced at the time the Poles arrived has passed by.
Thanks to Henriot, I escaped a furious wild boar, which would have
ripped me open, and I am so well that I do not envy the most healthy man
in my kingdom. Without being an unkind brother you can, therefore, ask
for something besides the continuation of my health, which is
excellent."

"I want nothing, sire."

"Yes, yes, François," said Charles, impatiently, "you desire the crown
of Navarre, since you have had an understanding with Henriot and De
Mouy,--with the first, that he would abdicate; with the second, that he
would give it to you. Well! Henriot renounces it! De Mouy has told me of
your wish, and this crown for which you are ambitious"--

"Well?" asked D'Alençon in a trembling voice.

"Well, the devil! it is yours."

D'Alençon turned frightfully pale; then suddenly the blood rushed from
his heart, which almost burst, flowed to his face, and his cheeks became
suffused with a burning flush. The favor the King granted him at that
moment threw him into despair.

"But, sire," said he, trembling with emotion and trying in vain to
recover his self-possession, "I never desired and certainly never asked
for such a thing."

"That is possible," said the King, "for you are very discreet, brother;
but it has been desired and asked for you."

"Sire, I swear to you that never"--

"Do not swear."

"But, sire, are you going to exile me, then?"

"Do you call this exile, François? Plague it, you are hard to please!
What better do you hope for?"

D'Alençon bit his lips in despair.

"Faith!" continued Charles, affecting kindness, "I did not think you
were so popular, François, especially with the Huguenots. But they have
sought you, and I have to confess to myself that I was mistaken.
Besides, I could ask nothing better than to have one of my family--my
brother who loves me and who is incapable of betraying me--at the head
of a party which for thirty years has made war against us. This will
quell everything as if by enchantment, to say nothing of the fact that
we shall all be kings in the family. There will be no one except poor
Henriot who will be nothing but my friend. But he is not ambitious and
he shall take this title which no one else claims."

"Oh, sire! you are mistaken. I claim this title, and who has a better
right to it than I? Henry is only your brother by marriage. I am your
brother by blood, and more than this, my love--Sire, I beg you, keep me
near you."

"No, no, François," replied Charles; "that would be to your
unhappiness."

"How so?"

"For many reasons."

"But, sire, shall you ever find as faithful a companion as I am? From my
childhood I have never left your Majesty."

"I know that very well; and sometimes I have wished you farther away."

"What does your Majesty mean?"

"Nothing, nothing; I understand myself. Oh, what fine hunts you will
have there, François! How I envy you! Do you know that in those devilish
mountains they hunt the bear as here we do the wild boar? You will send
us all such magnificent skins! They hunt there with a dagger, you know;
they wait for the animal, excite him, irritate him; he advances towards
the hunter, and when within four feet of him he rises on his hind legs.
It is then that they plunge the steel into his heart as Henry did to the
boar at our last hunt. It is dangerous sport, but you are brave,
François, and the danger will be a real pleasure for you."

"Ah! your Majesty increases my grief, for I shall hunt with you no
more."

"By Heaven! so much the better!" said the King. "It helps neither of us
to hunt together."

"What does your Majesty mean?"

"That hunting with me causes you such pleasure and rouses in you such
emotion that you who are the personification of skill, you who with any
musket can bring down a magpie a hundred feet away, the last time we
hunted together failed at twenty paces to hit a wild boar; but with your
weapon, a weapon, too, with which you are familiar, you broke the leg of
my best horse. The devil, François, that makes one reflect, you know!"

"Oh! sire, pardon me, it was from emotion," said D'Alençon, who had
become livid.

"Yes," replied Charles, "I can well imagine what the emotion was; and it
is on account of this emotion that I realize all that it means when I
say to you: 'Believe me, François, when one has such emotions it is best
for us to hunt at a distance from each other. Think about it, brother,
not while you are with me, because I can see my presence troubles you,
but when you are alone, and you will see that I have every reason to
fear that in another hunt you might be seized with another emotion.
There is nothing like emotion for causing the hand to rise, and you
might kill the rider instead of the horse, the king instead of the
beast. Plague it, a bullet aimed too high or too low changes an entire
government. We have an example of this in our own family. When
Montgommery killed our father, Henry II., by accident--emotion,
perhaps--the blow placed our brother, François II., on the throne and
sent our father Henry to Saint Denis. So little is necessary for
Providence to effect much!"

The duke felt the perspiration running down his face at this attack, as
formidable as it was unforeseen.

It would have been impossible for the King to show more clearly that he
had surmised all. Veiling his anger under a jesting manner, Charles was
perhaps more terrible than as if he had let himself pour forth the lava
of hate which was consuming his heart; his vengeance seemed in
proportion to his rancor. As the one grew sharper, the other increased,
and for the first time D'Alençon felt remorse, or rather regret for
having meditated a crime which had not succeeded. He had sustained the
struggle as long as he could, but at this final blow he bent his head,
and Charles saw dawning in his eyes that devouring fire which in beings
of a tender nature ploughs the furrow from which spring tears.

But D'Alençon was one of those who weep only from anger. Charles fixed
on him his vulture gaze, watching the feelings which succeeded one
another across the face of the young man, and all those sensations
appeared to him as accurately, thanks to the deep study he had made of
his family as if the heart of the duke had been an open book.

He left him a moment, crushed, motionless, and mute; then in a voice
stamped with the firmness of hatred:

"Brother," said he, "we have declared to you our resolution; it is
immutable. You will go."

D'Alençon gave a start, but Charles did not appear to notice it, and
continued:

"I wish Navarre to be proud of having for king a brother of the King of
France. Gold, power, honor, all that belongs to your birth you shall
have, as your brother Henry had, and like him," he added, smiling, "you
will bless me from afar. But no matter, blessings know no distance."

"Sire"--

"Accept my decision, or rather, resign yourself. Once king, we shall
find a wife for you worthy of a son of France, and she, perhaps, may
bring you another throne."

"But," said the Duc d'Alençon, "your Majesty forgets your good friend
Henry."

"Henry! but I told you that he did not want the throne of Navarre! I
told you he had abdicated in favor of you! Henry is a jovial fellow, and
not a pale-face like you. He likes to laugh and amuse himself at his
ease, and not mope, as we who wear crowns are condemned to do."

D'Alençon heaved a sigh.

"Your Majesty orders me then to occupy myself"--

"No, not at all. Do not disturb yourself at all; I will arrange
everything; rely on me, as on a good brother. And now that everything is
settled, go. However, not a word of our conversation to your friends. I
will take measures to give publicity to the affair very soon. Go now,
François."

There was nothing further to be said, so the duke bowed and withdrew,
rage in his heart.

He was very anxious to find Henry and talk with him about all that had
just taken place; but he found only Catharine. As a matter of fact,
Henry wished to avoid the interview, whereas the latter sought for it.

On seeing Catharine the duke swallowed his anger and strove to smile.
Less fortunate than Henry of Anjou, it was not a mother he sought in
Catharine, but merely an ally. He began therefore by dissimulation, for
in order to make good alliances it is necessary for each party to be
somewhat deceived.

He met Catharine with a face on which there remained only a slight trace
of anxiety.

"Well, madame," said he, "here is great news; have you heard it?"

"I know that there is a plan on hand to make a king of you, monsieur."

"It is a great kindness on the part of my brother, madame."

"Is it not?"

"And I am almost tempted to believe that I owe a part of my gratitude to
you; for it was really you who advised Charles to make me the present of
a throne; it is to you I owe it. However, I will confess that, at heart,
it gives me pain thus to rob the King of Navarre."

"You love Henriot very much, apparently."

"Why, yes; we have been intimate for some time."

"Do you think he loves you as much as you love him?"

"I hope so, madame."

"Such a friendship is very edifying; do you know it? especially between
princes. Court friendships mean very little, François."

"Mother, you must remember we are not only friends, but almost
brothers."

Catharine smiled a strange smile.

"Ah," said she, "are there brothers among kings?"

"Oh! as to that, neither of us was a king, mother, when our intimacy
began. Moreover, we never expected to be kings; that is why we loved
each other."

"Yes, but things are changed."

"How changed?"

"Why, who can say now whether both of you will not be kings?"

From the nervous start of the duke and the flush which rose to his brow
Catharine saw that the arrow aimed by her had hit the mark.

"He?" said he, "Henriot king? And of what kingdom, mother?"

"One of the most magnificent kingdoms in Christendom, my son."

"Oh! mother," said D'Alençon, growing pale, "what are you saying?"

"What a good mother ought to say to her son, and what you have thought
of more than once, François."

"I?" said the duke; "I have thought of nothing, madame, I swear to you."

"I can well believe you, for your friend, your brother Henry, as you
call him, is, under his apparent frankness, a very clever and wily
person, who keeps his secrets better than you keep yours, François. For
instance, did he ever tell you that De Mouy was his man of business?"

As she spoke, Catharine turned a glance upon François as though it were
a dagger aimed at his very soul.

But the latter had but one virtue, or rather vice,--the art of
dissimulation; and he bore her look unflinchingly.

"De Mouy!" said he in surprise, as if it were the first time he had
heard the name mentioned in that connection.

"Yes, the Huguenot De Mouy de Saint Phale; the one who nearly killed
Monsieur de Maurevel, and who, secretly and in various disguises, is
running all over France and the capital, intriguing and raising an army
to support your brother Henry against your family."

Catharine, ignorant that on this point her son François knew as much if
not more than she, rose at these words and started majestically to leave
the room, but François detained her.

"Mother," said he, "another word, if you please. Since you deign to
initiate me into your politics, tell me how, with his feeble resources,
and being so slightly known, Henry could succeed in carrying on a war
serious enough to disturb my family?"

"Child," said the queen, smiling, "he is supported by perhaps more than
thirty thousand men; he has but to say the word and these thirty
thousand men will appear as suddenly as if they sprang from the ground;
and these thirty thousand men are Huguenots, remember, that is, the
bravest soldiers in the world, and then he has a protector whom you
neither could nor would conciliate."

"Who is that?"

"He has the King, the King, who loves him and who urges him on; the
King, who from jealousy of your brother of Poland, and from spite
against you, is looking about for a successor. But, blind man that you
are if you do not see it, he seeks somewhere else besides in his own
family."

"The King!--you think so, mother?"

"Have you not noticed how he loves Henriot, his Henriot?"

"Yes, mother, yes."

"And how he is repaid, for this same Henriot, forgetting that his
brother-in-law would have shot him at the massacre of Saint Bartholomew,
grovels to the earth like a dog which licks the hand that has beaten
him."

"Yes, yes," murmured François, "I have already noticed that Henry is
very humble with my brother Charles."

"Clever in trying to please him in everything."

"So much so that because of being always rallied by the King as to his
ignorance of hawking he has begun to study it; and yesterday, yes, it
was only yesterday, he asked me if I had not some books on that sport."

"Well," said Catharine, whose eyes sparkled as if an idea had suddenly
come to her, "what did you answer him?"

"That I would look in my library."

"Good," said Catharine, "he must have this book."

"But I looked, madame, and found nothing."

"I will find one--and you shall give it to him as though it came from
you."

"And what will come of this?"

"Have you confidence in me, D'Alençon?"

"Yes, mother."

"Will you obey me blindly so far as Henry is concerned? For whatever you
may have said you do not love him."

D'Alençon smiled.

"And I detest him," continued Catharine.

"Yes, I will obey you."

"Well, the day after to-morrow come here for the book; I will give it to
you, you shall take it to Henry, and"--

"And?"

"Leave the rest to Providence or to chance."

François knew his mother well enough to realize that she was not in the
habit of leaving to Providence or to chance the care of friendships or
hatreds. But he said nothing, and bowing like a man who accepts the
commission with which he is charged, he returned to his own apartments.

"What does she mean?" thought the young man as he mounted the stairs. "I
cannot see. But what I do understand in all this is that she acts like
our common enemy. Well, let her go ahead."

Meantime Marguerite, through La Mole, had received a letter from De Mouy
to the King of Navarre. As in politics the two illustrious allies had no
secrets, she opened the letter and read it.

The letter must have interested her, for, taking advantage of the
darkness which was beginning to overshadow the walls of the Louvre,
Marguerite at once hurried along the secret corridor, ascended the
winding stairway, and, having looked carefully about on all sides,
glided on like a shadow and disappeared within the antechamber of the
King of Navarre.

This room had been unguarded since the disappearance of Orthon.

This circumstance, of which we have not spoken since the reader learned
of the tragic fate of poor Orthon, had greatly troubled Henry. He had
spoken of it to Madame de Sauve and to his wife, but neither of them
knew any more about it than he did. Madame de Sauve had given him some
information from which it was perfectly clear to Henry's mind that the
poor boy had been a victim of some machination of the queen mother, and
that this was why he himself had been interrupted with De Mouy in the
inn of the _Belle Étoile_. Any other than Henry would have kept silence,
fearing to speak, but Henry calculated everything. He realized that his
silence would betray him. One does not as a rule lose one's servitor and
confidant thus, without making inquiries about him and looking for him.
So Henry asked and searched even in the presence of the King and the
queen mother, and of every one, from the sentinel who walked before the
gate of the Louvre to the captain of the guards, keeping watch in the
antechamber of the King; but all inquiry and search was in vain, and
Henry seemed so affected by the circumstance and so attached to the poor
absent servitor that he said he would not put another in his place until
he was perfectly sure that Orthon had disappeared forever.

So the antechamber, as we have said, was empty when Marguerite reached
it.

Light as were the steps of the queen, Henry heard them and turned round.

"You, madame!" he exclaimed.

"Yes," said Marguerite. "Quick! Read this!" and she handed him the open
letter.

It contained these lines:

     "_Sire: The moment has come for putting our plan of flight into
     execution. The day after to-morrow there will be hunting along the
     Seine, from Saint Germain to Maisons, that is, all along the
     forest._

     "_Go to the hunt, although it is hawking; wear a good coat of mail
     under your suit; take your best sword and ride the best horse in
     your stable. About noon, when the chase is at its height, and the
     King is galloping after the falcon, escape alone if you come alone;
     with the Queen of Navarre if the queen will follow you._

     "_Fifty of our men will be hidden in the Pavilion of François I.,
     of which we have the key; no one will know that they will be there,
     for they will have come at night, and the shutters will be closed._

     "_You will pass by the Alley of the Violettes, at the end of which
     I shall be watching; at the right of this alley in an open space
     will be Messieurs de la Mole and Coconnas, with two horses. These
     horses are intended to replace yours and that of her majesty the
     Queen of Navarre, if necessary._

                     "_Adieu, sire; be ready, as we shall be._"

"You will be," said Marguerite, uttering after sixteen hundred years the
same words that Cæsar spoke on the banks of the Rubicon.

"Be it so, madame," replied Henry; "I will not fail you."

"Now, sire, be a hero; it is not difficult. You have but to follow the
path that is indicated, and make a beautiful throne for me," said the
daughter of Henry II.

An imperceptible smile rose to the thin lips of the Béarnais. He kissed
Marguerite's hand, and went out to explore the corridor, whistling the
refrain of an old song:

    "_Cil qui mieux battit la muraille_
    _N'entra pas dedans le chasteau._"[17]

The precaution was wise, for just as he opened the door of his
sleeping-room the Duc d'Alençon opened that of his antechamber. Henry
motioned to Marguerite, and then, aloud, said:

"Ah! is it you, brother? Welcome."

At the sign from her husband the queen had understood everything, and
stepped hurriedly into a dressing-closet, in front of the door of which
hung a thick tapestry. The Duc d'Alençon entered with a timorous step
and looked around him.

"Are we alone, brother?" asked he in a whisper.

"Entirely. But what is the matter? You seem disturbed."

"We are discovered, Henry."

"How?--discovered?"

"Yes, De Mouy has been arrested."

"I know it."

"Well, De Mouy has told the King all."

"What has he told him?"

"He has told him that I desire the throne of Navarre, and that I have
conspired to obtain it."

"Ah, the stupid!" cried Henry, "so that now you are compromised, my poor
brother! How is it, then, that you have not been arrested?"

"I do not know. The King joked with me by pretending to offer me the
throne of Navarre. He hoped, no doubt, to draw some confession from me,
but I said nothing."

"And you did well, _ventre saint gris_!" said the Béarnais. "Stand firm,
for our lives depend on that."

"Yes," said François, "the position is unsafe, I know. That is why I
came to ask your advice, brother; what do you think I ought to do--run
or stay?"

"You must have seen the King, since he spoke to you?"

"Yes, of course."

"Well! you must have read his thoughts. So follow your inspiration."

"I prefer to remain," replied François.

Notwithstanding the fact that he was almost thorough master of himself,
Henry could not prevent a movement of joy from escaping him, and slight
as it was, François saw it.

"Remain, then," said Henry.

"But you?"

"Why!" replied Henry, "if you remain, I have no motive for leaving. I
was going only to follow you from devotion, in order not to be separated
from my brother."

"So," said D'Alençon, "there is an end to all our plans; you give up
without a struggle at the first stroke of ill luck?"

"I do not look upon it as a stroke of ill luck to remain here," said
Henry. "Thanks to my careless disposition, I am contented everywhere."

"Well, then," said D'Alençon, "we need say no more about it, only in
case you decide anything different let me know."

"By Heaven! I shall not fail to do that, you may be sure," replied
Henry. "Was it not agreed that we were to have no secrets from each
other?"

D'Alençon said no more, but withdrew, pondering, however; for at one
time he thought he had seen the tapestry in front of the closet move.

Scarcely was the duke gone when the curtain was raised and Marguerite
reappeared.

"What do you think of this visit?" asked Henry.

"That there is something new and important on hand."

"What do you think it is?"

"I do not know yet; but I will find out."

"In the meanwhile?"

"In the meanwhile do not fail to come to my room to-morrow evening."

"Indeed I will not fail, madame!" said Henry, gallantly kissing the hand
of his wife.

With the same caution she had used in coming Marguerite returned to her
own apartments.



CHAPTER XLIX.

THE TREATISE ON HUNTING.


Three days had elapsed since the events we have just related. Day was
beginning to dawn, but every one was already up and awake at the Louvre
as usual on hunting days, when the Duc d'Alençon entered the apartments
of the queen mother in answer to the invitation he had received.
Catharine was not in her bedroom; but she had left orders that if her
son came he was to wait for her.

At the end of a few minutes she came out of a private closet, to which
no one but herself had admission, and in which she carried on her
experiments in chemistry. As Catharine entered the room there came
either from the closet or from her clothes the penetrating odor of some
acrid perfume, and through the open door D'Alençon perceived a thick
vapor, as of some burnt aromatic substance, floating in the laboratory
like a white cloud.

The duke could not repress a glance of curiosity.

"Yes," said Catharine de Médicis, "I have been burning several old
parchments which gave out such an offensive smell that I put some
juniper into the brazier, hence this odor."

D'Alençon bowed.

"Well," said the queen, concealing under the wide sleeves of her
dressing-gown her hands, which here and there were stained with reddish
spots, "is there anything new since yesterday?"

"Nothing, mother."

"Have you seen Henry?"

"Yes."

"Does he still refuse to leave?"

"Absolutely."

"The knave!"

"What do you say, madame?"

"I say that he will go."

"You think so?"

"I am sure of it."

"Then he will escape us?"

"Yes," said Catharine.

"And shall you let him go?"

"Not only that, but I tell you he must go."

"I do not understand, mother."

"Listen well to what I am about to tell you, François. A very skilful
physician, the one who let me take the book on hunting which you are to
give him, has told me that the King of Navarre is on the point of being
attacked with consumption, one of those incurable diseases for which
science has no remedy. Now, you understand that if he has to die from
such a cruel malady it would be better for him to die away from us than
among us here at court."

"In fact," said the duke, "that would cause us too much pain."

"Especially your brother Charles," said Catharine; "whereas, if he dies
after having betrayed him the King will regard his death as a punishment
from Heaven."

"You are right, mother," said François in admiration, "he must leave.
But are you sure that he will?"

"All his plans are made. The meeting-place is in the forest of Saint
Germain. Fifty Huguenots are to escort him as far as Fontainebleau,
where five hundred others will await him."

"And," said D'Alençon, with a slight hesitation and visible pallor,
"will my sister Margot accompany him?"

"Yes," replied Catharine, "that is agreed on. But at Henry's death
Margot is to return to court a widow and free."

"And Henry will die, madame? Are you sure of this?"

"The physician who gave me the book assured me of it."

"Where is this book, madame?"

Catharine went slowly towards the mysterious closet, opened the door,
entered, and a moment later appeared with the book in her hand.

"Here it is," said she.

D'Alençon looked at the volume with a certain feeling of terror.

"What is this book, madame?" he asked, shuddering.

"I have already told you, my son. It is a treatise on the art of raising
and training falcons, gerfalcons, and hawks, written by a very learned
scholar for Lord Castruccio Castracani, tyrant of Lucca."

"What must I do with it?"

"Take it to your good friend Henriot, who you told me had asked you for
a treatise on the art of hunting. As he is going hawking to-day with the
King he will not fail to read some of it, in order to prove to Charles
that he has followed his advice and taken a lesson or two. The main
thing is to give it into Henry's own hands."

"Oh! I do not dare!" said D'Alençon, shuddering.

"Why not?" asked Catharine; "it is a book like any other except that it
has been packed away for so long that the leaves stick together. Do not
attempt to read it, François, for it can be read only by wetting the
finger and turning over each leaf, and this takes time and trouble."

"So that only a man who is very anxious to be instructed in the sport of
hawking would waste his time and go to this trouble?" asked D'Alençon.

"Exactly, my son; you understand."

"Oh!" said D'Alençon; "there is Henriot in the court-yard. Give me the
book, madame. I will take advantage of his absence and go to his room
with it. On his return he will find it."

"I should prefer you to give it to him yourself, François, that would be
surer."

"I have already said that I do not dare, madame," replied the duke.

"Very well; but at least put it where he can see it."

"Open? Is there any reason why it should not be open?"

"None."

"Then give it to me."

D'Alençon tremblingly took the book, which Catharine with a firm hand
held out to him.

"Take it," said the queen, "there is no danger--I touch it; besides, you
have gloves on."

This precaution was not enough for D'Alençon, who wrapped the volume in
his cloak.

"Make haste," said Catharine; "Henry may return at any moment."

"You are right, madame. I will go at once."

The duke went out, trembling with fright.

We have often introduced the reader into the apartments of the King of
Navarre, and he has been present at the events which have taken place in
them, events bright or gloomy, according to the smile or frown of the
protecting genius of the future king of France.

But perhaps never had these walls, stained with the blood of murders,
sprinkled with the wine of orgies, scented with the perfumes of
love,--perhaps never had this corner of the Louvre seen a paler face
than that of the Duc d'Alençon, as with book in hand he opened the door
of the bedchamber of the King of Navarre. And no one, as the duke had
expected, was in the room to question with curious or anxious glances
what he was about to do. The first rays of the morning sun alone were
lighting up the vacant chamber.

On the wall in readiness hung the sword which Monsieur de Mouy had
advised Henry to take with him. Some links of a coat of mail were
scattered on the floor. A well-filled purse and a small dagger lay on a
table, and some light ashes in the fireplace, joined to the other
evidence, clearly showed D'Alençon that the King of Navarre had put on
the shirt of mail, collected some money from his treasurer, and burned
all papers that might compromise him.

"My mother was not mistaken," said D'Alençon "the knave would have
betrayed me."

Doubtless this conviction gave added strength to the young man. He
sounded the corners of the room at a glance, raised the portieres, and
realizing from the loud noise in the court-yard below and the dense
silence in the apartments that no one was there to spy on him, he drew
the book from under his cloak, hastily laid it on the table, near the
purse, propping it up against a desk of sculptured oak; then drawing
back, he reached out his arm, and, with a hesitation which betrayed his
fears, with his gloved hand he opened the volume to an engraving of a
hunt. This done, D'Alençon again stepped back, and drawing off his glove
threw it into the still warm fire, which had just consumed the papers.
The supple leather crackled over the coals, twisted and flattened itself
out like the body of a great reptile, leaving nothing but a burned and
blackened lump.

D'Alençon waited until the flame had consumed the glove, then rolling up
the cloak which had been wrapped around the book, he put it under his
arm, and hastily returned to his own apartments. As he entered with
beating heart, he heard steps on the winding stairs, and not doubting
but that it was Henry he quickly closed his door. Then he stepped to the
window, but he could see only a part of the court-yard of the Louvre.
Henry was not there, however, and he felt convinced that it was the King
of Navarre who had just returned.

The duke sat down, opened a book, and tried to read. It was a history of
France from Pharamond to Henry II., for which, a few days after his
accession to the throne, Henry had given a license.

But the duke's thoughts were not on what he was reading; the fever of
expectation burned in his veins. His temples throbbed clear to his
brain, and as in a dream or some magnetic trance, it seemed to François
that he could see through the walls. His eyes appeared to probe into
Henry's chamber, in spite of the obstacles between.

In order to drive away the terrible object before his mind's eye the
duke strove to fix his attention on something besides the terrible book
opened on the oak desk; but in vain he looked at his weapons, his
ornaments; in vain he gazed a hundred times at the same spot on the
floor; every detail of the picture at which he had merely glanced
remained graven on his memory. It consisted of a gentleman on horseback
fulfilling the duties of a beater of hawking, throwing the bait, calling
to the falcon, and galloping through the deep grass of a swamp. Strong
as was the duke's will, his memory triumphed over it.

Then it was not only the book he saw, but the King of Navarre
approaching it, looking at the picture, trying to turn the pages,
finally wetting his thumb and forcing the leaves apart. At this sight,
fictitious and imaginary as it was, D'Alençon staggered and was forced
to lean one hand against a table, while with the other he covered his
eyes, as if by so doing he did not see more clearly than before the
vision he wished to escape. This vision was in his own thoughts.

Suddenly D'Alençon saw Henry cross the court; he stopped a few moments
before the men who were loading two mules with the provisions for the
chase--none other than the money and other things he wished to take with
him; then, having given his orders, he crossed the court diagonally and
advanced towards the door.

D'Alençon stood motionless. It was not Henry, then, who had mounted the
secret staircase. All the agony he had undergone during the last quarter
of an hour had been useless. What he thought was over or almost over was
only beginning.

François opened the door of his chamber, then holding it so he listened.
This time he could not be mistaken, it was Henry himself; he recognized
his step and the peculiar jingle of his spurs.

Henry's door opened and closed.

D'Alençon returned to his room and sank into an armchair.

"Good!" said he, "this is what is now taking place: he has passed
through the antechamber, the first room, the sleeping-room; then he
glances to see if his sword, his purse, his dagger are there; at last he
finds the book open on his table.

"'What book is this?' he asks himself. 'Who has brought it?'

"Then he draws nearer, sees the picture of the horseman calling his
falcon, wants to read, tries to turn the leaves."

A cold perspiration started to the brow of François.

"Will he call? Is the effect of the poison sudden? No, no, for my mother
said he would die of slow consumption."

This thought somewhat reassured him.

Ten minutes passed thus, a century of agony, dragging by second after
second, each supplying all that the imagination could invent in the way
of maddening terror, a world of visions.

D'Alençon could stand it no longer. He rose and crossed the antechamber,
which was beginning to fill with gentlemen.

"Good morning, gentlemen," said he, "I am going to the King."

And to distract his consuming anxiety, and perhaps to prepare an
_alibi_, D'Alençon descended to his brother's apartments. Why did he go
there? He did not know. What had he to say? Nothing! It was not Charles
he sought--it was Henry he fled.

He took the winding staircase and found the door of the King's
apartments half opened. The guards let the duke enter without
opposition. On hunting days there was neither etiquette nor orders.

François traversed successively the antechamber, the salon, and the
bedroom without meeting any one. He thought Charles must be in the
armory and opened the door leading thither.

The King was seated before a table, in a deep carved armchair. He had
his back to the door, and appeared to be absorbed in what he was doing.

The duke approached on tiptoe; Charles was reading.

"By Heaven!" cried he, suddenly, "this is a fine book. I had heard of
it, but I did not know it could be had in France."

D'Alençon listened and advanced a step.

"Cursed leaves!" said the King, wetting his thumb and applying it to the
pages; "it looks as though they had been stuck together on purpose to
conceal the wonders they contain from the eyes of man."

D'Alençon bounded forward. The book over which Charles was bending was
the one he had left in Henry's room. A dull cry broke from him.

"Ah, is it you, François?" said Charles, "you are welcome; come and see
the finest book on hunting which ever came from the pen of man."

D'Alençon's first impulse was to snatch the volume from the hands of his
brother; but an infernal thought restrained him; a frightful smile
passed over his pallid lips, and he rubbed his hand across his eyes like
a man dazed. Then recovering himself by degrees, but without moving:

"Sire," he asked, "how did this book come into your Majesty's
possession?"

"I went into Henriot's room this morning to see if he was ready; he was
not there, he was probably strolling about the kennels or the stables;
at any rate, instead of him I found this treasure, which I brought here
to read at my leisure."

And the King again moistened his thumb, and again turned over an
obstinate page.

"Sire," stammered D'Alençon, whose hair stood on end, and whose whole
body was seized with a terrible agony. "Sire, I came to tell you"--

"Let me finish this chapter, François," said Charles, "and then you
shall tell me anything you wish. I have read or rather devoured fifty
pages."

"He has tasted the poison twenty-five times," murmured François; "my
brother is a dead man!"

Then the thought came to him that there was a God in heaven who perhaps
after all was not chance.

With trembling hand the duke wiped away the cold perspiration which
stood in drops on his brow, and waited in silence, as his brother had
bade him do, until the chapter was finished.



CHAPTER L.

HAWKING.


Charles still read. In his curiosity he seemed to devour the pages, and
each page, as we have said, either because of the dampness to which it
had been exposed for so long or from some other cause, adhered to the
next.

With haggard eyes D'Alençon gazed at this terrible spectacle, the end of
which he alone could see.

"Oh!" he murmured, "what will happen? I shall go away, into exile, and
seek an imaginary throne, while at the first news of Charles's illness
Henry will return to some fortified town near the capital, and watch
this prey sent us by chance, able at a single stride to reach Paris; so
that before the King of Poland even hears the news of my brother's death
the dynasty will be changed. This cannot be!"

Such were the thoughts which dominated the first involuntary feeling of
horror that had urged François to warn Charles. It was the never-failing
fatality which seemed to preserve Henry and follow the Valois which the
duke was again going to try to thwart. In an instant his whole plan with
regard to Henry was altered. It was Charles and not Henry who had read
the poisoned book. Henry was to have gone, and gone condemned to die.
The moment fate had again saved him, Henry must remain; for Henry was
less to be feared in the Bastille or as prisoner at Vincennes than as
the King of Navarre at the head of thirty thousand men.

The Duc d'Alençon let Charles finish his chapter, and when the King had
raised his head:

"Brother," said the duke, "I have waited because your Majesty ordered me
to do so, but I regret it, because I have something of the greatest
importance to say to you."

"Go to the devil!" said Charles, whose cheeks were slowly turning a dull
red, either because he had been too much engrossed in his reading or
because the poison had begun to act. "Go to the devil! If you have come
to discuss that same subject again, you shall leave as did the King of
Poland. I rid myself of him, and I will do the same to you without
further talk about it."

"It is not about my leaving, brother, that I want to speak to you, but
about some one else who is going away. Your Majesty has touched me in my
most sensitive point, my love for you as a brother, my devotion to you
as a subject; and I hope to prove to you that I am no traitor."

"Well," said Charles, as he leaned his elbow on the book, crossed his
legs, and looked at D'Alençon like a man who is trying to be patient.
"Some fresh report, some accusation?"

"No, sire, a certainty, a plot, which my foolish scruples alone
prevented my revealing to you before."

"A plot?" said Charles, "well, let us hear about it."

"Sire," said François, "while your Majesty hawks near the river in the
plain of Vesinet the King of Navarre will escape to the forest of Saint
Germain, where a troop of friends will be waiting to flee with him."

"Ah, I knew it," said Charles, "another calumny against my poor Henry!
When will you be through with him?"

"Your Majesty need not wait long at least to find out whether or not
what I have just had the honor of telling you is a calumny."

"How so?"

"Because this evening our brother-in-law will be gone."

Charles rose.

"Listen," said he, "I will try for the last time to believe you; but I
warn you, both you and your mother, that it will be the last time."

Then raising his voice:

"Summon the King of Navarre!" he cried.

A guard started to obey, but François stopped him with a gesture.

"This is a poor way, brother, to learn anything," said he. "Henry will
deny, will give a signal, his accomplices will be warned and will
disappear. Then my mother and myself will be accused not only of being
visionary but of being calumniators."

"What do you want, then?"

"In the name of our brotherly love I ask your Majesty to listen to me,
in the name of my devotion, which you will realize, I want you to do
nothing hastily. Act so that the real culprit, who for two years has
been betraying your Majesty in will as well as in deed, may at last be
recognized as guilty by an infallible proof, and punished as he
deserves."

Charles did not answer, but going to a window raised it. The blood was
rushing to his head.

Then turning round quickly:

"Well!" said he, "what would you do? Speak, François."

"Sire," said D'Alençon, "I would surround the forest of Saint Germain
with three detachments of light horse, who at a given hour, eleven
o'clock, for instance, should start out and drive every one in the
forest to the Pavilion of Francis I., which I would, as if by chance,
have indicated as the meeting-place. Then I would spur on, as if
following my falcon, to the meeting-place, where Henry should be
captured with his companions."

"The idea is good," said the King; "summon the captain of the guards."

D'Alençon drew from his doublet a silver whistle, suspended from a gold
chain, and raised it to his lips.

De Nancey appeared.

Charles gave him some orders in a low tone.

Meanwhile Actéon, the great greyhound, had dragged a book from the
table, and was tossing it about the room, making great bounds after it.

Charles turned round and uttered a terrible oath. The book was the
precious treatise on hunting, of which there existed only three copies
in the world.

The punishment was proportionate to the offence.

Charles seized a whip and gave the dog three whistling blows.

Actéon uttered a howl, and fled under a table covered with a large cloth
which served him as a hiding-place.

Charles picked up the book and saw with joy that only one leaf was gone,
and that was not a page of the text, but an engraving. He placed the
volume carefully away on a shelf where Actéon could not reach it.
D'Alençon looked anxiously at him. Now that the book had fulfilled its
dread mission he would have liked to see it out of Charles's hands.

Six o'clock struck. It was time for the King to descend to the
court-yard, already filled with horses richly caparisoned, and elegantly
dressed ladies and gentlemen. The hunters held on their wrists their
hooded falcons; some outriders carried horns wound with scarfs, in case
the King, as sometimes happened, grew weary of hawking, and wished to
hunt a deer or a chamois.

Charles closed the door of his armory and descended. D'Alençon watched
each movement closely, and saw him put the key in his pocket.

As he went down the stairs Charles stopped and raised his hand to his
head.

The limbs of the Duc d'Alençon trembled no less than did those of the
King.

"It seems to me," said the duke, "that there is going to be a storm."

"A storm in January!" said Charles; "you are mad. No, I am dizzy, my
skin is dry, I am weak, that is all."

Then in a low tone:

"They will kill me," he murmured, "with their hatred and their plots."

But on reaching the court the fresh morning air, the shouts of the
hunters, the loud greetings of the hundred people gathered there,
produced their usual effect on Charles.

He breathed freely and happily. His first thought was for Henry, who was
beside Marguerite.

This excellent couple seemed to care so much for each other that they
were unable to be apart.

On perceiving Charles, Henry spurred his horse, and in three bounds was
beside him.

"Ah, ah!" said Charles, "you are mounted as if you were going to hunt
the stag, Henriot; but you know we are going hawking to-day."

Then without waiting for a reply:

"Forward, gentlemen, forward! we must be hunting by nine o'clock!" and
Charles frowned and spoke in an almost threatening tone.

Catharine was watching everything from a window, behind which a curtain
was drawn back, showing her pale face. She herself was dressed in black
and was hidden from view.

At the order from Charles all this gilded, embroidered, perfumed crowd,
with the King at its head, lengthened out to pass through the gate of
the Louvre, and swept like an avalanche along the road to Saint Germain,
amid the shouts of the people, who saluted the young King as he rode by,
thoughtful and pensive, on his white horse.

"What did he say to you?" asked Marguerite of Henry.

"He congratulated me on the speed of my horse."

"Was that all?"

"Yes."

"Then he suspects something."

"I fear so."

"Let us be cautious."

Henry's face lighted up with one of his beautiful smiles, which meant
especially to Marguerite, "Be easy, my love." As to Catharine, scarcely
had the cortège left the court of the Louvre before she dropped the
curtain.

But she had not failed to see one thing, namely, Henry's pallor, his
nervousness, and his low-toned conversation with Marguerite.

Henry was pale because, not having physical courage, his blood, under
all circumstances in which his life was at stake, instead of rushing to
his head, as is usually the case, flowed to his heart. He was nervous
because the manner in which he had been received by Charles, so
different from usual, had made a deep impression on him. Finally, he had
conferred with Marguerite because, as we know, the husband and wife had
formed, so far as politics were concerned, an alliance offensive and
defensive.

But Catharine had interpreted these facts differently.

"This time," she murmured, with her Florentine smile, "I think I may
rely on my dear Henriot."

Then to satisfy herself, having waited a quarter of an hour to give the
party time to leave Paris, she went out of her room, mounted the winding
staircase, and with the help of her pass-key opened the door of the
apartments of the King of Navarre. She searched, but in vain, for the
book. In vain she looked on every table, shelf, and in every closet;
nowhere could she find it.

"D'Alençon must have taken it away," said she, "that was wise."

And she descended to her own chamber, quite sure this time that her plan
would succeed.

The King went on towards Saint Germain, which he reached after a rapid
ride of an hour and a half. They did not ascend to the old castle, which
rose dark and majestic in the midst of the houses scattered over the
mountain. They crossed the wooden bridge, which at that time was
opposite the tree to-day called the "Sully Oak." Then they signed for
the boats adorned with flags which followed the hunting-party to aid the
King and his suite in crossing the river. This was done. Instantly all
the joyous procession, animated by such varied interests, again began to
move, led by the King, over the magnificent plain which stretched from
the wooded summit of Saint Germain, and which suddenly assumed the
appearance of a great carpet covered with people, dotted with a thousand
colors, and of which the river foaming along its banks seemed a silver
fringe.

Ahead of the King, still on his white horse and holding his favorite
falcon, rode the beaters, in their long green close-fitting coats and
high boots, calling now and then to the half dozen great dogs, and
beating, with their whips, the reeds which grew along the river banks.

At that moment the sun, until then hidden behind a cloud, suddenly burst
forth and lighted with one of its rays all that procession of gold, all
the ornaments, all the glowing eyes, and turned everything into a
torrent of flame. Then, as if it had waited for that moment so that the
sun might shine on its defeat, a heron rose from the midst of the reeds
with a prolonged and plaintiff cry.

"Haw! Haw!" cried Charles, unhooding his falcon and sending it after the
fugitive.

"Haw! Haw!" cried every voice to encourage the bird.

The falcon, dazzled for an instant by the light, turned, described a
circle, then suddenly perceiving the heron, dashed after it.

But the heron, like a prudent bird, had risen a hundred yards before the
beaters, and while the King had been unhooding his falcon, and while the
latter had been growing accustomed to the light, it had gained a
considerable height, so that by the time its enemy saw it, it had risen
more than five hundred feet, and finding in the higher zones the air
necessary for its powerful wings, continued to mount rapidly.

"Haw! Haw! Iron Beak!" cried Charles, cheering his falcon. "Show us that
you are a thoroughbred! Haw! Haw!"

As if it understood the words the noble bird rose like an arrow,
described a diagonal line, then a vertical one, as the heron had done,
and mounted higher as though it would soon disappear in the upper air.

"Ah! coward!" cried Charles, as if the fugitive could hear him, and,
spurring his horse, he followed the flight of the birds as far as he
could, his head thrown back so as not to lose sight of them for an
instant. "Ah! double coward! You run! My Iron Beak is a thoroughbred;
on! on! Haw, Iron Beak! Haw!"

The contest was growing exciting. The birds were beginning to approach
each other, or rather the falcon was nearing the heron. The only
question was which could rise the higher.

Fear had stronger wings than courage. The falcon passed under the heron,
and the latter, profiting by its advantage, dealt a blow with its long
beak.

The falcon, as though hit by a dagger, described three circles,
apparently overcome, and for an instant it looked as if the bird would
fall. But like a warrior, who when wounded rises more terrible than
before, it uttered a sharp and threatening cry, and went after the
heron. The latter, making the most of its advantage, had changed the
direction of its flight and turned toward the forest, trying this time
to gain in distance instead of in height, and so escape. But the falcon
was indeed a thoroughbred, with the eye of a gerfalcon.

It repeated the same manoeuvre, rose diagonally after the heron, which
gave two or three cries of distress and strove to rise perpendicularly
as at first.

At the end of a few seconds the two birds seemed again about to
disappear. The heron looked no larger than a lark, and the falcon was a
black speck which every moment grew smaller.

Neither Charles nor his suite any longer followed the flight of the
birds. Each one stopped, his eyes fixed on the clouds.

"Bravo! Bravo! Iron-beak!" cried Charles, suddenly. "See, see,
gentlemen, he is uppermost! Haw! haw!"

"Faith, I can see neither of them," said Henry.

"Nor I," said Marguerite.

"Well, but if you cannot see them, Henry, you can hear them," said
Charles, "at least the heron. Listen! listen! he asks quarter!"

Two or three plaintive cries were heard which a practised ear alone
could detect.

"Listen!" cried Charles, "and you will see them come down more quickly
than they went up."

As the King spoke, the two birds reappeared. They were still only two
black dots, but from the size of the dots the falcon seemed to be
uppermost.

"See! see!" cried Charles, "Iron Beak has him!"

The heron, outwitted by the bird of prey, no longer strove to defend
itself. It descended rapidly, constantly struck at by the falcon, and
answered only by its cries. Suddenly it folded its wings and dropped
like a stone; but its adversary did the same, and when the fugitive
again strove to resume its flight a last blow of the beak finished it;
it continued to fall, turning over and over, and as it touched the earth
the falcon swooped down and uttered a cry of victory which drowned the
cry of defeat of the vanquished.

"To the falcon! the falcon!" shouted Charles, spurring his horse to the
place where the birds had fallen. But suddenly he reined in his steed,
uttered a cry, dropped his bridle, and grasping his horse's mane with
one hand pressed the other to his stomach as though he would tear out
his very vitals.

All the courtiers hastened to him.

"It is nothing, nothing," said Charles, with inflamed face and haggard
eye; "it seemed as if a red-hot iron were passing through me just now;
but forward! it is nothing."

And Charles galloped on.

D'Alençon turned pale.

"What now?" asked Henry of Marguerite.

"I do not know," replied she; "but did you see? My brother was purple in
the face."

"He is not usually so," said Henry.

The courtiers glanced at one another in surprise and followed the King.

They arrived at the scene of combat. The falcon had already begun to
peck at the head of the heron.

Charles sprang from his horse to obtain a nearer view; but on alighting
he was obliged to seize hold of the saddle. The ground seemed to spin
under him. He felt very sleepy.

"Brother! Brother!" cried Marguerite; "what is the matter?"

"I feel," said Charles, "as Portia must have felt when she swallowed her
burning coals. I am burning up and my breath seems on fire."

Charles exhaled his breath and seemed surprised not to see fire issue
from his lips.

The falcon had been caught and hooded again, and every one had gathered
around the King.

"Why, what does it mean? Great Heavens! It cannot be anything, or if it
is it must be the sun which is affecting my head and blinding my eyes.
So on, on, to the hunt, gentlemen! There is a whole flight of herons.
Unhood the falcons, all of them, by Heaven! now for some sport!"

Instantly five or six falcons were unhooded and let loose. They rose in
the direction of the prey, while the entire party, the King at their
head, reached the bank of the river.

"Well! what do you say, madame?" asked Henry of Marguerite.

"That the moment is favorable, and that if the King does not look back
we can easily reach the forest from here."

Henry called the attendant who was carrying the heron, and while the
noisy, gilded avalanche swept along the road which to-day is a terrace
he remained behind as if to examine the dead bird.



CHAPTER LI.

THE PAVILION OF FRANÇOIS I.


Hawking was a beautiful sport as carried on by kings, when kings were
almost demi-gods, and when the chase was not only a pastime but an art.

Nevertheless we must leave the royal spectacle to enter a part of the
forest where the actors in the scene we have just described will soon
join us.

The Allée des Violettes was a long, leafy arcade and mossy retreat in
which, among lavender and heather, a startled hare now and then pricked
up its ears, and a wandering stag raised its head heavy with horns,
opened its nostrils, and listened. To the right of this alley was an
open space far enough from the road to be invisible, but not so far but
that the road could be seen from it.

In the middle of the clearing two men were lying on the grass. Under
them were travellers' cloaks, at their sides long swords, and near each
of them a musketoon (then called a petronel) with the muzzle turned from
them. In the richness of their costume they resembled the joyous
characters of the "Decameron;" on closer view, by the threatening aspect
of their weapons, they seemed like those forest robbers whom a hundred
years later Salvator Rosa painted from nature in his landscapes. One of
them was leaning on his hand and on one knee, listening as attentively
as the hare or deer we mentioned above.

"It seems to me," said this one, "that the hunt was very near us just
now. I heard the cries of the hunters cheering the falcon."

"And now," said the other, who seemed to await events with much more
philosophy than his companion, "now I hear nothing more; they must have
gone away. I told you this was a poor place from which to see anything.
We cannot be seen, it is true; but we cannot see, either."

"The devil! my dear Annibal," said the first speaker, "we had to put our
horses somewhere, as well as the mules, which, by the way, are so
heavily laden that I do not see how they can follow us. Now I know that
these old beeches and oaks are perfectly suited to this difficult task.
I should venture to say that far from blaming Monsieur de Mouy as you
are doing, I recognize in every detail of the enterprise he is directing
the common sense of a true conspirator."

"Good!" said the second gentleman, whom no doubt our reader has already
recognized as Coconnas; "good! that is the word! I expected it! I relied
on you for it! So we are conspiring?"

"We are not conspiring; we are serving the king and the queen."

"Who are conspiring and which amounts to the same for us."

"Coconnas, I have told you," said La Mole, "that I do not in the least
force you to follow me in this affair. I have undertaken it only because
of a particular sentiment, which you can neither feel nor share."

"Well, by Heaven! Who said that you were forcing me? In the first place,
I know of no one who could compel Coconnas, to do what he did not wish
to do; but do you suppose that I would let you go without following you,
especially when I see that you are going to the devil?"

"Annibal! Annibal!" said La Mole, "I think that I see her white palfrey
in the distance. Oh! it is strange how my heart throbs at the mere
thought of her coming!"

"Yes, it is strange," said Coconnas, yawning; "my heart does not throb
in the least."

"It is not she," said La Mole. "What can have happened? They were to be
here at noon, I thought."

"It happens that it is not noon," said Coconnas, "that is all, and,
apparently, we still have time to take a nap."

So saying, Coconnas stretched himself on his cloak like a man who is
about to add practice to precept; but as his ear touched the ground he
raised his finger and motioned La Mole to be silent.

"What is it?" asked the latter.

"Hush! this time I am sure I hear something."

"That is singular; I have listened, but I hear nothing."

"Nothing?"

"No."

"Well!" said Coconnas, rising and laying his hand on La Mole's arm,
"look at that deer."

"Where?"

"Yonder."

Coconnas pointed to the animal.

"Well?"

"Well, you will see."

La Mole watched the deer. With head bent forward as though about to
browse it listened without stirring. Soon it turned its head, covered
with magnificent branching horns, in the direction from which no doubt
the sound came. Then suddenly, without apparent cause, it disappeared
like a flash of lightning.

"Oh!" said La Mole, "I believe you are right, for the deer has fled."

"Because of that," said Coconnas, "it must have heard what you have not
heard."

In short, a faint, scarcely perceptible sound quivered vaguely through
the passes; to less practised ears it would have seemed like the breeze;
for the two men it was the far-off galloping of horses. In an instant La
Mole was on his feet.

"Here they are!" said he; "quick."

Coconnas rose, but more calmly. The energy of the Piedmontese seemed to
have passed into the heart of La Mole, while on the other hand the
indolence of the latter seemed to have taken possession of his friend.
One acted with enthusiasm; the other with reluctance. Soon a regular and
measured sound struck the ear of the two friends. The neighing of a
horse made the coursers they had tied ten paces away prick up their
ears, as through the alley there passed like a white shadow a woman who,
turning towards them, made a strange sign and disappeared.

"The queen!" they exclaimed together.

"What can it mean?" asked Coconnas.

"She made a sign," said La Mole, "which meant 'presently.'"

"She made a sign," said Coconnas, "which meant 'flee!'"

"The signal meant 'wait for me.'"

"The signal meant 'save yourself.'"

"Well," said La Mole, "let each act on his own conviction; you leave and
I will remain."

Coconnas shrugged his shoulders and lay down again.

At that moment in the opposite direction from that in which the queen
was going, but in the same alley, there passed at full speed a troop of
horsemen whom the two friends recognized as ardent, almost rabid
Protestants. Their steeds bounded like the locusts of which Job said,
'They came and went.'"

"The deuce! the affair is growing serious," said Coconnas, rising. "Let
us go to the pavilion of François I."

"No," said La Mole; "if we are discovered it will be towards the
pavilion that the attention of the King will be at first directed, since
that is the general meeting-place."

"You may be right, this time," grumbled Coconnas.

Scarcely had Coconnas uttered these words before a horseman passed among
the trees like a flash of lightning, and leaping ditches, bushes, and
all barriers reached the two gentlemen.

He held a pistol in each hand and with his knees alone guided his horse
in its furious chase.

"Monsieur de Mouy!" exclaimed Coconnas, uneasy and now more on the alert
than La Mole; "Monsieur de Mouy running away! Every one for himself,
then!"

"Quick! quick!" cried the Huguenot; "away! all is lost! I have come
around to tell you so. Away!"

As if he had not stopped to utter these words, he was gone almost before
they were spoken, and before La Mole and Coconnas realized their
meaning.

"And the queen?" cried La Mole.

But the young man's voice was lost in the distance; De Mouy was too far
away either to hear or to answer him.

Coconnas had speedily made up his mind. While La Mole stood motionless,
gazing after De Mouy, who had disappeared among the trees, he ran to the
horses, led them out, sprang on his own, and, throwing the bridle of the
other to La Mole, prepared to gallop off.

"Come! come!" cried he; "I repeat what De Mouy said: Let us be off! De
Mouy knows what he is doing. Come, La Mole, quick!"

"One moment," said La Mole; "we came here for something."

"Unless it is to be hanged," replied Coconnas, "I advise you to lose no
more time. I know you are going to parse some rhetoric, paraphrase the
word 'flee,' speak of Horace, who hurled his buckler, and Epaminondas,
who was brought back on his. But I tell you one thing, when Monsieur de
Mouy de Saint Phale flees all the world may run too."

"Monsieur de Mouy de Saint Phale," said La Mole, "was not charged to
carry off Queen Marguerite! Nor does Monsieur de Mouy de Saint Phale
love Queen Marguerite!"

"By Heaven! he is right if this love would make him do such foolish
things as you plan doing. May five hundred thousand devils from hell
take away the love which may cost two brave gentlemen their heads! By
Heaven! as King Charles says, we are conspiring, my dear fellow; and
when plans fail one must run. Mount! mount, La Mole!"

"Mount yourself, my dear fellow, I will not prevent you. I even urge you
to do so. Your life is more precious than mine. Defend it, therefore."

"You must say to me: 'Coconnas, let us be hanged together,' and not
'Coconnas, save yourself.'"

"Bah! my friend," replied La Mole, "the rope is made for clowns, not for
gentlemen like ourselves."

"I am beginning to think," said Coconnas, "that the precaution I took is
not bad."

"What precaution?"

"To have made friends with the hangman."

"You are sinister, my dear Coconnas."

"Well, what are we going to do?" cried the latter, impatiently.

"Set out and find the queen."

"Where?"

"I do not know--seek the king."

"Where?"

"I have not the least idea; but we must find him, and we two by
ourselves can do what fifty others neither could nor would dare to do."

"You appeal to my pride, Hyacinthe; that is a bad sign."

"Well! come; to horse and away!"

"A good suggestion!"

La Mole turned to seize the pommel of his saddle, but just as he put his
foot in the stirrup an imperious voice was heard:

"Halt there! surrender!"

At the same moment the figure of a man appeared behind an oak, then
another, then thirty. They were the light-horse, who, dismounted, had
glided on all fours in and out among the bushes, searching the forest.

"What did I tell you?" murmured Coconnas, in a low tone.

A dull groan was La Mole's only answer.

The light-horse were still thirty paces away from the two friends.

"Well!" continued the Piedmontese, in a loud tone, to the lieutenant of
the dragoons. "What is it, gentlemen?"

The lieutenant ordered his men to aim.

Coconnas continued under breath:

"Mount, La Mole, there is still time. Spring into your saddle as I have
seen you do hundreds of times, and let us be off."

Then turning to the light-horse:

"The devil, gentlemen, do not fire; you would kill friends."

Then to La Mole:

"Between the trees they cannot aim well; they will fire and miss us."

"Impossible," said La Mole, "we cannot take Marguerite's horse with us
or the two mules. They would compromise us, whereas by my replies I can
avert all suspicion. Go, my friend, go!"

"Gentlemen," said Coconnas, drawing his sword and raising it,
"gentlemen, we surrender."

The light-horse dropped their muskets.

"But first tell us why we must do so?"

"You must ask that of the King of Navarre."

"What crime have we committed?"

"Monsieur d'Alençon will inform you."

Coconnas and La Mole looked at each other. The name of their enemy at
such a moment did not greatly reassure them.

Yet neither of them made any resistance. Coconnas was asked to dismount,
a manoeuvre which he executed without a word. Then both were placed in
the centre of the light-horse and took the road to the pavilion.

"You always wanted to see the pavilion of François I.," said Coconnas to
La Mole, perceiving through the trees the walls of a beautiful Gothic
structure; "now it seems you will."

La Mole made no reply, but merely extended his hand to Coconnas.

By the side of this lovely pavilion, built in the time of Louis XII.,
and named after François I., because the latter always chose it as a
meeting-place when he hunted, was a kind of hut built for prickers,
partly hidden behind the muskets, halberds, and shining swords like an
ant-hill under a whitening harvest.

The prisoners were conducted to this hut.

We will now relate what had happened and so throw some light on the
situation, which looked very dark, especially for the two friends.

The Protestant gentlemen had assembled, as had been agreed on, in the
pavilion of François I., of which, as we know, De Mouy had the key.

Masters of the forest, or at least so they had believed, they had placed
sentinels here and there whom the light-horse, having exchanged their
white scarfs for red ones (a precaution due to the ingenious zeal of
Monsieur de Nancey), had surprised and carried away without a blow.

The light-horse had continued their search surrounding the pavilion; but
De Mouy, who, as we know, was waiting for the king at the end of the
Allée des Violettes, had perceived the red scarfs stealing along and had
instantly suspected them. He sprang to one side so as not to be seen,
and noticed that the vast circle was narrowing in such a way as to beat
the forest and surround the meeting-place. At the same time, at the end
of the principal alley, he had caught a glimpse of the white aigrettes
and the shining arquebuses of the King's bodyguard.

Finally he saw the King himself, while in the opposite direction he
perceived the King of Navarre.

Then with his hat he had made a sign of the cross, which was the signal
agreed on to indicate that all was lost.

At this signal the king had turned back and disappeared. De Mouy at once
dug the two wide rowels of his spurs into the sides of his horse and
galloped away, shouting as he went the words of warning which we have
mentioned, to La Mole and Coconnas.

Now the King, who had noticed the absence of Henry and Marguerite,
arrived, escorted by Monsieur d'Alençon, just as the two men came out of
the hut to which he had said that all those found, not only in the
pavilion but in the forest, were to be conducted.

D'Alençon, full of confidence, galloped close by the King, whose sharp
pains were augmenting his ill humor. Two or three times he had nearly
fainted and once he had vomited blood.

"Come," said he on arriving, "let us make haste; I want to return to the
Louvre. Bring out all these rascals from their hole. This is Saint
Blaise's day; he was cousin to Saint Bartholomew."

At these words of the King the entire mass of pikes and muskets began to
move, and one by one the Huguenots were forced out not only from the
forest and the pavilion but from the hut.

But the King of Navarre, Marguerite, and De Mouy were not there.

"Well," said the King, "where is Henry? Where is Margot? You promised
them to me, D'Alençon, and, by Heaven, they will have to be found!"

"Sire, we have not even seen the King and the Queen of Navarre."

"But here they are," said Madame de Nevers.

At that moment, at the end of an alley leading to the river, Henry and
Margot came in sight, both as calm as if nothing had happened; both with
their falcons on their wrists, riding lovingly side by side, so that as
they galloped along their horses, like themselves, seemed to be
caressing each other.

It was then that D'Alençon, furious, commanded the forest to be
searched, and that La Mole and Coconnas were found within their ivy
bower. They, too, in brotherly proximity entered the circle formed by
the guards; only, as they were not sovereigns, they could not assume so
calm a manner as Henry and Marguerite. La Mole was too pale and Coconnas
too red.



CHAPTER LII.

THE EXAMINATION.


The spectacle which struck the young men as they entered the circle,
although seen but for a few moments, was one never to be forgotten.

As we have said, Charles IX. had watched the gentlemen as the guards led
them one by one from the pricker's hut.

Both he and D'Alençon anxiously followed every movement, waiting to see
the King of Navarre come out. Both, however, were doomed to
disappointment. But it was not enough to know that the king was not
there, it was necessary to find out what had become of him.

Therefore when the young couple were seen approaching from the end of
the alley, D'Alençon turned pale, while Charles felt his heart grow
glad; he instinctively desired that everything his brother had forced
him to do should fall back on the duke.

"He will outwit us again," murmured François, growing still paler.

At that moment the King was seized with such violent pains that he
dropped his bridle, pressed both hands to his sides, and shrieked like a
madman.

Henry hastily approached him, but by the time he had traversed the few
hundred feet which separated them, Charles had recovered.

"Whence do you come, monsieur?" said the King, with a sternness that
frightened Marguerite.

"Why, from the hunt, brother," replied she.

"The hunt was along the river bank, and not in the forest."

"My falcon swooped down on a pheasant just as we stopped behind every
one to look at the heron."

"Where is the pheasant?"

"Here; a beautiful bird, is it not?"

And Henry, in perfect innocence, held up his bird of purple, blue, and
gold plumage.

"Ah!" said Charles, "and this pheasant caught, why did you not rejoin
me?"

"Because the bird had directed its flight towards the park, sire, and
when we returned to the river bank we saw you half a mile ahead of us,
riding towards the forest. We set out to gallop after you, therefore,
for being in your Majesty's hunting-party we did not wish to lose you."

"And were all these gentlemen invited also?" said Charles.

"What gentlemen?" asked Henry, casting an inquiring look about.

"Why, your Huguenots, by Heaven!" said Charles; "at all events if they
were invited it was not by me."

"No, sire," replied Henry, "but possibly Monsieur d'Alençon asked them."

"Monsieur d'Alençon? How so?"

"I?" said the duke.

"Why, yes, brother," said Henry; "did you not announce yesterday that
you were King of Navarre? The Huguenots who demanded you for their king
have come to thank you for having accepted the crown, and the King for
having given it. Is it not so, gentlemen?"

"Yes! yes!" cried twenty voices. "Long live the Duc d'Alençon! Long live
King Charles!"

"I am not king of the Huguenots," said François, white with anger; then,
glancing stealthily at Charles, "and I sincerely trust I never shall
be!"

"No matter!" said Charles, "but you must know, Henry, that I consider
all this very strange."

"Sire," said the King of Navarre, firmly, "God forgive me, but one would
say that I were undergoing an examination."

"And if I should tell you that you were, what would you answer?"

"That I am a king like yourself, sire," replied Henry, proudly, "for it
is not the crown but birth that makes royalty, and that I would gladly
answer any questions from my brother and my friend, but never from my
judge."

"And yet," murmured Charles, "I should really like to know for once in
my life how to act."

"Let Monsieur de Mouy be brought out," said D'Alençon, "and then you
will know. Monsieur de Mouy must be among the prisoners."

"Is Monsieur de Mouy here?" asked the King.

Henry felt a moment's anxiety and exchanged glances with Marguerite; but
his uneasiness was of short duration.

No voice replied.

"Monsieur de Mouy is not among the prisoners," said Monsieur de Nancey;
"some of our men think they saw him, but no one is sure of it."

D'Alençon uttered an oath.

"Well!" said Marguerite, pointing to La Mole and Coconnas, who had heard
all that had passed, and on whose intelligence she felt she could
depend, "there are two gentlemen in the service of Monsieur d'Alençon;
question them; they will answer."

The duke felt the blow.

"I had them arrested on purpose to prove that they do not belong to me,"
said he.

The King looked at the two friends and started on seeing La Mole again.

"Ah! that Provençal here?" said he.

Coconnas bowed graciously.

"What were you doing when you were arrested?" asked the King.

"Sire, we were planning deeds of war and of love."

"On horseback, armed to the teeth, ready for flight!"

"No, sire," said Coconnas; "your Majesty is misinformed. We were lying
under the shade of a beech tree--_sub tegmine fagi_."

"Ah! so you were lying under the shade of a beech tree?"

"And we might easily have escaped had we thought that in any way we had
roused your Majesty's anger. Now, gentlemen, on your honor as soldiers,"
continued Coconnas, turning to the light-horse, "do you not think that
had we so wished we could have escaped?"

"The fact is," said the lieutenant, "that these gentlemen did not even
attempt to run."

"Because their horses were too far away," said the Duc d'Alençon.

"I humbly beg monseigneur's pardon," said Coconnas; "but I was on mine,
and my friend the Comte Lerac de la Mole was holding his by the bridle."

"Is this true, gentlemen?" said the King.

"Yes, sire," replied the lieutenant; "on seeing us Monsieur de Coconnas
even dismounted."

Coconnas smiled in a way which signified, "You see, sire!"

"But the other horses, the mules, and the boxes with which they were
laden?" asked François.

"Well," said Coconnas, "are we stable boys? Send for the groom who had
charge of them."

"He is not here," exclaimed the duke, furious.

"Then he must have become frightened and run away," said Coconnas; "one
cannot expect a clown to have the manners of a gentleman."

"Always the same system," said D'Alençon, gnashing his teeth.
"Fortunately, sire, I told you that for some time these gentlemen have
not been in my service."

"I!" exclaimed Coconnas, "am I unfortunate enough no longer to belong to
your highness?"

"By Heaven! monsieur, you ought to know that better than any one, since
you yourself gave me your dismissal, in a letter so impertinent that,
thank God, I kept it, and fortunately have it with me."

"Oh!" exclaimed Coconnas, "I had hoped that your highness would forgive
me for a letter written under the first impulse of anger. I had been
told that your highness had tried to strangle my friend La Mole in one
of the corridors of the Louvre."

"What is he saying?" interrupted the King.

"At first I thought your highness was alone," continued Coconnas,
ingenuously, "but afterwards I learned that three others"--

"Silence!" exclaimed Charles; "we have heard enough. Henry," said he to
the King of Navarre, "your word not to try to escape."

"I give it to your Majesty, sire."

"Return to Paris with Monsieur de Nancey, and remain in your chamber
under arrest. You, gentlemen," continued he, addressing the two friends,
"give up your swords."

La Mole looked at Marguerite. She smiled. La Mole at once handed his
sword to the nearest officer. Coconnas did the same.

"Has Monsieur de Mouy been found?" asked the King.

"No, sire," said Monsieur de Nancey; "either he was not in the forest or
he escaped."

"So much the worse," said the King; "but let us return. I am cold and
dizzy."

"Sire, it is from anger, probably," said François.

"Possibly; but my eyes trouble me. Where are the prisoners? I cannot see
them. Is it night already? Oh! mercy! I am burning up! Help! Help!"

The unfortunate King dropped the bridle of his horse, stretched out his
arms, and fell backward. The courtiers, frightened at this second
attack, caught him as he fell.

François, standing apart, wiped the perspiration from his brow, for he
alone knew the cause of the trouble from which his brother was
suffering.

On the other side the King of Navarre, already under the guard of
Monsieur de Nancey, looked upon the scene with growing astonishment.

"Well! well!" murmured he, with that wonderful intuition which at times
made him seem inspired, "was I perhaps fortunate in having been stopped
in my flight?"

He glanced at Margot, whose great eyes, wide open with surprise, were
looking first at him and then at the King.

This time Charles was unconscious. A litter was brought and he was laid
on it. They covered him with a cloak, taken from the shoulders of one of
the courtiers. The procession silently set out in the direction of
Paris, whence that morning light-hearted conspirators and a happy King
had started forth, and to which now a dying King was returning,
surrounded by rebel prisoners.

Marguerite, who throughout all this had lost neither the control of her
mind nor body, gave her husband a look of intelligence; then, passing so
close to La Mole that the latter was able to catch the following two
Greek words, she said:

"_Me deide_," which meant, "Fear nothing."

"What did she say?" asked Coconnas.

"She told me to fear nothing," replied La Mole.

"So much the worse," murmured the Piedmontese, "so much the worse; that
means that it is not good for us to be here. Every time that word has
been said to me in an encouraging tone I have either received a bullet
or a sword-thrust in my body, or a flower pot on my head. 'Fear
nothing,' whether in Hebrew, Greek, Latin, or French, has always meant
for me: 'Take care!'"

"Forward, gentlemen!" said the lieutenant of the light-horse.

"Without being indiscreet, monsieur," said Coconnas, "may we know where
we are going?"

"To Vincennes, I think," said the lieutenant.

"I would rather go elsewhere," said Coconnas; "but one does not always
go just where one wishes."

On the way the King recovered consciousness and some strength.

At Nanterre he even wanted to ride, but this was not allowed.

"Summon Maître Ambroise Paré," said Charles, on reaching the Louvre.

He descended from his litter, ascended the stairs, leaning on the arm of
Tavannes, and entered his apartment, giving orders that no one be
allowed to follow him.

Every one had noticed that he seemed very grave. During the journey he
had been in a deep study, not addressing a word to any one, concerned
neither with conspiracy nor conspirators. It was evident that he was
occupied with his illness; a malady so sudden, so strange, so severe,
some of the symptoms of which had been noticed in his brother François
II. a short time before his death.

So the order to admit no one whomsoever to his rooms, except Maître
Paré, caused no surprise. It was well known that the prince was a
misanthrope. Charles entered his sleeping-room, seated himself in a
folding-chair, and leaned his head against the cushions. Then reflecting
that Maître Ambroise Paré might not be at home, and that there might be
some delay before he saw him, he decided to employ the intervening time.

He clapped his hands, thus summoning a guard.

"Say to the King of Navarre that I wish to speak with him," said
Charles.

The man bowed and withdrew.

Just then Charles's head fell back, a great weight seemed to oppress
him; his ideas grew confused; it was as if a sort of bloody vapor were
floating before his eyes; his mouth was dry, although he had already
swallowed a whole carafe of water.

While he was in this drowsy state the door opened and Henry appeared.
Monsieur de Nancey had followed him, but stopped in the antechamber.

The King of Navarre waited until the door was closed. Then he advanced.

"Sire," said he, "you sent for me; I am here."

The King started at the voice and mechanically extended his hand.

"Sire," said Henry, letting his arms hang at his side, "your Majesty
forgets that I am no longer your brother but your prisoner."

"Ah! that is true," said Charles. "Thank you for having reminded me of
it. Moreover, it seems to me that when we last spoke together you
promised to answer frankly what I might ask you."

"I am ready to keep my word, sire. Ask your questions."

The King poured some cold water into his hand and applied it to his
forehead.

"Tell me, Henry, how much truth is there in the accusation brought
against you by the Duc d'Alençon?"

"Only a little. It was Monsieur d'Alençon who was to have fled, and I
who was to have accompanied him."

"And why should you have gone with him? Are you dissatisfied with me,
Henry?"

"No, sire; on the contrary, I have only praise for your majesty; and
God, who reads our hearts, knows how deeply I love my brother and my
King."

"It seems to me," said Charles, "that it is not natural to flee from
those we love and who love us."

"I was not fleeing from those who love me; I was fleeing from those who
hate me. Will your Majesty permit me to speak openly?"

"Speak, monsieur."

"Those who hate me, sire, are Monsieur d'Alençon and the queen mother."

"As for Monsieur d'Alençon I will not answer; but the queen mother
overwhelms you with attentions."

"That is just why I mistrust her, sire. And I do well to do so."

"Mistrust her?"

"Her, or those about her. You know, sire, that the misfortune of kings
is not always that they are too little but that they are too well
served."

"Explain yourself; you promised to tell me everything."

"Your Majesty will see that I will do so."

"Continue."

"Your Majesty loves me, you have said."

"I loved you before your treason, Henry."

"Pretend that you still love me, sire."

"Very well."

"If you love me you must want me to live, do you not?"

"I should be wretched were any harm to befall you."

"Well, sire, twice your Majesty has just escaped being wretched."

"How so?"

"Twice Providence has saved my life. It is true that the second time
Providence assumed the features of your Majesty?"

"What form did it assume the first time?"

"That of a man who would be greatly surprised to see himself mistaken
for Providence; I mean Réné. You, sire, saved me from steel."

Charles frowned, for he remembered the night when he had taken Henry to
the Rue des Barres.

"And Réné?" said he.

"Réné saved me from poison."

"The deuce, Henriot, you have luck," said the King, trying to smile. But
a quick spasm of pain changed the effort into a nervous contraction of
the lips. "That is not his profession."

"Two miracles saved me, sire. A miracle of repentance on the part of the
Florentine, and a miracle of goodness on your part. Well! I will confess
to your Majesty that I am afraid Heaven will grow weary of working
miracles, and I tried to run away, because of the proverb: 'Heaven helps
those who help themselves.'"

"Why did you not tell me this sooner, Henriot?"

"Had I uttered these words yesterday I should have been a denunciator."

"And to-day?"

"To-day is different--I am accused and I am defending myself."

"Are you sure of the first attempt, Henriot?"

"As sure as I am of the second."

"And they tried to poison you?"

"Yes."

"With what?"

"With an opiate."

"How could they poison you with an opiate?"

"Why, sire, ask Réné; poisoning is done with gloves"--

Charles frowned; then by degrees his brow cleared.

"Yes," said he, as if speaking to himself. "It is the nature of wild
creatures to flee from death. Why, then, should not knowledge do what
instinct does?"

"Well, sire!" said Henry, "is your Majesty satisfied with my frankness,
and do you believe that I have told you everything?"

"Yes, Henriot, and you are a good fellow. Do you think that those who
hate you have grown weary, or will new attempts be made on your life?"

"Sire, every evening I am surprised to find myself still living."

"It is because they know I love you, Henriot, that they wish to kill
you. But do not worry. They shall be punished for their evil intentions.
Meanwhile you are free."

"Free to leave Paris, sire?" asked Henry.

"No; you well know that I cannot possibly do without you. In the name of
a thousand devils! I must have some one here who loves me."

"Then, sire, if your Majesty keep me with you, will you grant me a
favor"--

"What is it?"

"Not to keep me as a friend, but as a prisoner. Yes; does not your
Majesty see that it is your friendship for me that is my ruin?"

"Would you prefer my hatred?"

"Your apparent hatred, sire. It will save me. As soon as they think I am
in disgrace they will be less anxious for my death."

"Henriot," said Charles, "I know neither what you desire, nor what
object you seek; but if your wishes do not succeed, and if your object
is not accomplished, I shall be greatly surprised."

"I may, then, count on the severity of the King?"

"Yes."

"In that case I shall be less uneasy. Now what are your Majesty's
commands?"

"Return to your apartments, Henriot, I am in pain. I will see my dogs
and then go to bed."

"Sire," said Henry, "your Majesty ought to send for a physician. Your
trouble is perhaps more serious than you imagine."

"I have sent for Maître Ambroise Paré, Henriot."

"Then I shall retire more satisfied."

"Upon my soul," said the King, "I believe that of all my family you are
the only one who really loves me."

"Is this indeed your opinion, sire?"

"On the word of a gentleman."

"Then commend me to Monsieur de Nancey as a man your deep anger may not
allow to live a month. By this means you will have me many years to love
you."

"Monsieur de Nancey!" cried Charles.

The captain of the guards entered.

"I commit into your hands the most guilty man of my kingdom. You will
answer for him with your life."

Henry assumed an air of consternation, and followed Monsieur de Nancey.



CHAPTER LIII.

ACTÉON.


Charles, left alone, wondered greatly at not having seen either of his
favorites, his nurse Madeleine or his greyhound Actéon.

"Nurse must have gone to chant psalms with some Huguenot of her
acquaintance," said he to himself; "and Actéon is probably still angry
with me for the whipping I gave him this morning."

Charles took a candle and went into his nurse's room. The good woman was
not there. From her chamber a door opened into the armory, it may be
remembered. The King started towards this door, but as he did so he was
seized with one of those spasms he had already felt, and which seemed to
attack him suddenly. He felt as if his entrails were being run through
with a red-hot iron, and an unquenchable thirst consumed him. Seeing a
cup of milk on the table, he swallowed it at a gulp, and felt somewhat
relieved.

Taking the candle he had set down, he entered the armory.

To his great astonishment Actéon did not come to meet him. Had he been
shut up? If so, he would have known that his master had returned from
hunting, and would have barked.

Charles called and whistled, but no animal appeared. He advanced a few
steps, and as the light from the candle fell upon a corner of the room,
he perceived an inert something lying there on the floor.

"Why! hello, Actéon!" cried Charles. He whistled again, but the dog did
not stir. Charles hastened forward and touched him; the poor beast was
stiff and cold. From his throat, contracted by pain, several drops of
gall had fallen, mixed with foamy and bloody saliva. The dog had found
an old cap of his master's in the armory, and had died with his head
resting on this object, which represented a friend.

At the sight, which made him forget his own pain and restored all his
energy, rage boiled in Charles's veins. He would have cried out; but,
restrained as they are in their greatness, kings are not free to yield
to that first impulse which every man turns to the profit of his passion
or to his defence. Charles reflected that there had been some treason,
and was silent.

Then he knelt down before his dog and with experienced eye examined the
body. The eyes were glassy, the tongue red and covered with pustules. It
was a strange disease, and one which made Charles shudder. The King put
on his gloves, which he had taken off and slipped into his belt, opened
the livid lips of the dog to examine his teeth, and perceived in the
interstices some white-looking fragments clinging to the sharp points of
the molars. He took out these pieces, and saw that they were paper. Near
where the paper had been the swelling was greater, the gums were
swollen, and the skin looked as if it had been eaten by vitriol.

Charles gazed carefully around him. On the carpet lay two or three bits
of the paper similar to that which he had already recognized in the
dog's mouth. One of the pieces, larger than the others, showed the marks
of a woodcut. Charles's hair stood on end, for he recognized a fragment
of the picture which represented a gentleman hawking, and which Actéon
had torn from the treatise on hunting.

"Ah!" said he, turning pale; "the book was poisoned!"

Then, suddenly remembering:

"A thousand devils!" he exclaimed, "I touched every page with my finger,
and at every page I raised my finger to my lips. These fainting-spells,
these attacks of pain and vomiting! I am a dead man!"

For an instant Charles remained motionless under the weight of this
terrible thought. Then, rising with a dull groan, he hastened to the
door of the armory.

"Maître Réné!" he cried, "I want Maître Réné, the Florentine; send some
one as quickly as possible to the Pont Saint Michel and bring him to me!
He must be here within ten minutes. Let some one mount a horse and lead
another that he may come more quickly. If Maître Ambroise Paré arrives
have him wait."

A guard went instantly to carry out the King's commands.

"Oh!" murmured Charles, "if I have to put everybody to the torture, I
will know who gave this book to Henriot;" and with perspiration on his
brow, clenched hands, and heaving breast, he stood with his eyes fixed
on the body of his dead dog.

Ten minutes later the Florentine knocked timidly and not without some
anxiety at the door of the King's apartments. There are some consciences
to which the sky is never clear.

"Enter!" said Charles.

The perfumer appeared. Charles went towards him with imperious air and
compressed lip.

"Your Majesty sent for me," said Réné, trembling.

"You are a skilful chemist, are you not?"

"Sire"--

"And you know all that the cleverest doctors know?"

"Your Majesty exaggerates."

"No; my mother has told me so. Besides, I have confidence in you, and I
prefer to consult you rather than any one else. See," he continued,
pointing to the dog, "look at what this animal has between his teeth, I
beg you, and tell me of what he died."

While Réné, candle in hand, bent over the floor as much to hide his
emotion as to obey the King, Charles stood up, his eyes fixed on the
man, waiting with an impatience easy to understand for the reply which
was to be his sentence of death or his assurance of safety.

Réné drew a kind of scalpel from his pocket, opened it, and with the
point detached from the mouth of the greyhound the particles of paper
which adhered to the gums; then he looked long and attentively at the
humor and the blood which oozed from each wound.

"Sire," said he, trembling, "the symptoms are very bad."

Charles felt an icy shudder run through his veins to his very heart.

"Yes," said he, "the dog has been poisoned, has he not?"

"I fear so, sire."

"With what sort of poison?"

"With mineral poison, I think."

"Can you ascertain positively that he has been poisoned?"

"Yes, certainly, by opening and examining the stomach."

"Open it. I wish there to be no doubt."

"I must call some one to assist me."

"I will help you," said Charles.

"You, sire!"

"Yes. If he has been poisoned, what symptoms shall we find?"

"Red blotches and herborizations in the stomach."

"Come, then," said Charles, "begin."

With a stroke of the scalpel Réné opened the hound's body and with his
two hands removed the stomach, while Charles, one knee on the floor,
held the light with clenched and trembling hand.

"See, sire," said Réné; "here are evident marks. These are the red spots
I spoke of; as to these bloody veins, which seem like the roots of a
plant, they are what I meant by herborizations. I find here everything I
looked for."

"So the dog was poisoned?"

"Yes, sire."

"With mineral poison?"

"In all probability."

"And what symptoms would a man have who had inadvertently swallowed some
of the same poison?"

"Great pain in the head, internal burning as if he had swallowed hot
coals, pains in the bowels, and vomiting."

"Would he be thirsty?" asked Charles.

"Intensely thirsty."

"That is it! that is it!" murmured the King.

"Sire, I seek in vain for the motive for all these questions."

"Of what use to seek it? You need not know it. Answer my questions, that
is all."

"Yes, sire."

"What is the antidote to give a man who may have swallowed the same
substance as my dog?"

Réné reflected an instant.

"There are several mineral poisons," said he; "and before answering I
should like to know what you mean. Has your Majesty any idea of the way
in which your dog was poisoned?"

"Yes," said Charles; "he chewed the leaf of a book."

"The leaf of a book?"

"Yes."

"Has your Majesty this book?"

"Here it is," said Charles, and, taking the volume from the shelf where
he had placed it, he handed it to Réné.

The latter gave a start of surprise which did not escape the King.

"He ate a leaf of this book?" stammered Réné.

"Yes, this one," and Charles pointed to the torn page.

"Will you allow me to tear out another, sire?"

"Do so."

Réné tore out a leaf and held it over the candle. The paper caught fire,
filling the room with a strong smell of garlic.

"He has been poisoned with a preparation of arsenic," said he.

"You are sure?"

"As sure as if I had prepared it myself."

"And the antidote?"

Réné shook his head.

"What!" said Charles in a hoarse voice, "you know no remedy?"

"The best and most efficacious is the white of eggs beaten in milk;
but"--

"But what?"

"It must be administered at once; otherwise"--

"Otherwise?"

"Sire, it is a terrible poison," said Réné, again.

"Yet it does not kill immediately," said Charles.

"No, but it kills surely, no matter how long the time, though even this
may sometimes be calculated."

Charles leaned against the marble table.

"Now," said he, putting his hand on Réné's shoulder, "you know this
book?"

"I, sire?" said Réné, turning pale.

"Yes, you; on seeing it you betrayed yourself."

"Sire, I swear to you"--

"Réné," said Charles, "listen to me. You poisoned the Queen of Navarre
with gloves; you poisoned the Prince of Porcion with the smoke from a
lamp; you tried to poison Monsieur de Condé with a scented apple. Réné,
I will have your skin removed with red-hot pincers, bit by bit, if you
do not tell me to whom this book belongs."

The Florentine saw that he could not dally with the anger of Charles
IX., and resolved to be bold.

"If I tell the truth, sire, who will guarantee that I shall not be more
cruelly punished than if I keep silent?"

"I will."

"Will you give me your royal word?"

"On my honor as a gentleman your life shall be spared," said the King.

"The book belongs to me, then," said Réné.

"To you!" cried Charles, starting back and looking at the poisoner with
haggard eyes.

"Yes, to me."

"How did it leave your possession?"

"Her majesty the queen mother took it from my house."

"The queen mother!" exclaimed Charles.

"Yes."

"With what object?"

"With the intention, I think, of having it sent to the King of Navarre,
who had asked the Duc d'Alençon for a book of the kind in order to study
the art of hawking."

"Ah!" cried Charles, "that is it. I see it all. The book indeed was in
Henriot's room. There is a destiny about this and I submit to it."

At that moment Charles was seized with a violent fit of coughing,
followed by fresh pain in the bowels. He gave two or three stifled
cries, and fell back in his chair.

"What is the matter, sire?" asked Réné in a frightened voice.

"Nothing," said Charles, "except that I am thirsty. Give me something to
drink."

Réné filled a glass with water and with trembling hand gave it to
Charles, who swallowed it at a draught.

"Now," said he, taking a pen and dipping it into the ink, "write in this
book."

"What must I write?"

"What I am going to dictate to you:

"'_This book on hawking was given by me to the queen mother, Catharine
de Médicis._'"

Réné took the pen and wrote.

"Now sign your name."

The Florentine obeyed.

"You promised to save my life."

"I will keep my promise."

"But," said Réné, "the queen mother?"

"Oh!" said Charles, "I have nothing to do with her; if you are attacked
defend yourself."

"Sire, may I leave France, where I feel that my life is in danger?"

"I will reply to that in a fortnight."

"But, in the meantime"--

Charles frowned and placed his finger on his livid lips.

"You need not be afraid of me, sire."

And happy to have escaped so easily the Florentine bowed and withdrew.

Behind him the nurse appeared at the door of her room.

"What is the matter, my Charlot?" said she.

"Nurse, I have been walking in the dew, and have taken cold."

"You are very pale, Charlot."

"It is because I am so weak. Give me your arm, nurse, as far as my bed."

The nurse hastily came forward.

Charles leaned on her and reached his room.

"Now," said Charles, "I will put myself to bed."

"If Maître Ambroise Paré comes?"

"Tell him that I am better and that I do not need him."

"But, meanwhile, what will you take?"

"Oh! a very simple medicine," said Charles, "the whites of eggs beaten
in milk. By the way, nurse," he continued, "my poor Actéon is dead.
To-morrow morning he must be buried in a corner of the garden of the
Louvre. He was one of my best friends. I will have a tomb made for
him--if I have time."



CHAPTER LIV.

THE FOREST OF VINCENNES.


According to the order given by Charles IX., Henry was conducted that
same evening to Vincennes. Such was the name given at that time to the
famous castle of which to-day only a fragment remains, colossal enough,
however, to give an idea of its past grandeur.

The trip was made in a litter, on either side of which walked four
guards.

Monsieur de Nancey, bearing the order which was to open to Henry the
door of the protecting abode, walked first.

At the postern of the prison they stopped. Monsieur de Nancey dismounted
from his horse, opened the gate, which was closed with a padlock, and
respectfully asked the king to follow.

Henry obeyed without uttering a word. Any dwelling seemed to him safer
than the Louvre, and ten doors closed on him were at the same time ten
doors shut between him and Catharine de Médicis.

The royal prisoner crossed the drawbridge between two soldiers, passed
through the three doors on the ground floor and the three at the foot of
the staircase; then, still preceded by Monsieur de Nancey, he ascended
one flight. Arrived there, the captain of the guards, seeing that the
king was about to mount another flight, said to him:

"My lord, you are to stop here."

"Ah!" said Henry, pausing, "it seems that I am given the honors of the
first floor."

"Sire," replied Monsieur de Nancey, "you are treated like a crowned
head."

"The devil! the devil!" said Henry to himself, "two or three floors more
would in no way have humiliated me. I shall be too comfortable here; I
suspect something."

"Will your majesty follow me?" asked Monsieur de Nancey.

"_Ventre saint gris!_" said the King of Navarre, "you know very well,
monsieur, that it is not a question of what I will or will not do, but
of what my brother Charles orders. Did he command that I should follow
you?"

"Yes, sire."

"Then I will do so, monsieur."

They reached a sort of corridor at the end of which they came to a
good-sized room, with dark and gloomy looking walls. Henry gazed around
him with a glance not wholly free from anxiety.

"Where are we?" he asked.

"In the chamber of torture, my lord."

"Ah!" replied the king, looking at it more closely.

There was something of everything in this chamber--pitchers and wooden
horses for the torture by water; wedges and mallets for the torture of
the boot; besides stone benches nearly all around the room for the
wretches who awaited the torture. Above these benches, at the seats
themselves, and at their feet, were iron rings fastened into the walls,
without other symmetry than that of the torturing art. But their
proximity to the seats sufficiently indicated that they were there in
order to await the limbs of those who were to occupy them.

Henry walked on without a word, but not a single detail of all the
hideous apparatus which, so to speak, had stamped the history of
suffering on the walls escaped him.

The king was so taken up with the objects about him that he forgot to
look where he was going, and came to a sudden standstill.

"Ah!" said he, "what is that?"

And he pointed to a kind of ditch dug in the damp pavement which formed
the floor.

"That is the gutter, sire."

"Does it rain here, then?"

"Yes, sire, blood."

"Ah!" said Henry, "very good. Shall we not soon reach my apartment?"

"Yes, my lord, here it is," said a figure in the dark, which, as it drew
nearer, became clearer and more distinguishable.

Henry thought he recognized the voice, and advanced towards the figure.

"So it is you, Beaulieu," said he. "What the devil are you doing here?"

"Sire, I have just received my appointment as governor of the fortress
of Vincennes."

"Well, my dear friend, your initiation does you honor. A king for a
prisoner is not bad."

"Pardon me, sire," said Beaulieu, "but I have already had two
gentlemen."

"Who are they? But, pardon me, perhaps I am indiscreet. If so, assume
that I have said nothing."

"My lord, I have not been ordered to keep it secret. They are Monsieur
de la Mole and Monsieur de Coconnas."

"Ah! that is true. I saw them arrested. Poor gentlemen, and how do they
bear this misfortune?"

"Differently. One is gay, the other sad; one sings, the other groans."

"Which one groans?"

"Monsieur de la Mole, sire."

"Faith," said Henry, "I can understand more easily the one who groans
than the one who sings. After what I have seen the prison is not a very
lively place. On what floor are they?"

"High up; on the fourth."

Henry heaved a sigh. It was there that he wished to be.

"Come, Monsieur de Beaulieu," said he, "be good enough to show me my
room. I am in haste to see it, as I am greatly fatigued from the journey
we have just made."

"This is it, my lord," said Beaulieu, pointing to an open door.

"Number two," said Henry; "why not number one?"

"Because that is reserved, my lord."

"Ah! it seems, then, that you expect a prisoner of higher rank than I."

"I did not say, my lord, that it was a prisoner."

"Who is it, then?"

"I beg my lord not to insist, for by refusing to answer I should fail in
the obedience due him."

"Ah! that is another thing," said Henry.

And he became more pensive than before. Number one perplexed him,
apparently. The governor was assiduous in his attentions. With a
thousand apologies he installed Henry in his apartment, made every
excuse for the comforts he might lack, stationed two soldiers at the
door, and withdrew.

"Now," said the governor, addressing the turnkey, "let us go to the
others."

The turnkey walked ahead. They took the same road by which they had
come, passed through the chamber of torture, crossed the corridor, and
reached the stairway. Then, still following his guide, Monsieur de
Beaulieu ascended three flights. On reaching the fourth floor the
turnkey opened successively three doors, each ornamented with two locks
and three enormous bolts. He had scarcely touched the third door before
they heard a joyous voice exclaiming:

"By Heaven! open; if only to give us some air. Your stove is so warm
that I am stifled here."

And Coconnas, whom the reader has no doubt already recognized from his
favorite exclamation, bounded from where he stood to the door.

"One instant, my gentleman," said the turnkey, "I have not come to let
you out, but to let myself in, and the governor is with me."

"The governor!" said Coconnas, "what does he want?"

"To pay you a visit."

"He does me great honor," said Coconnas; "and he is welcome."

Monsieur de Beaulieu entered and at once dispelled the cordial smile of
Coconnas by one of those icy looks which belong to governors of
fortresses, to jailers, and to hangmen.

"Have you any money, monsieur?" he asked of the prisoner.

"I?" said Coconnas; "not a crown."

"Jewels?"

"I have a ring."

"Will you allow me to search you?"

"By Heaven!" cried Coconnas, reddening with anger, "you take much on
yourself, being in prison, and having me there also."

"We must suffer everything for the service of the King."

"So," said the Piedmontese, "those good fellows who rob on the Pont Neuf
are like you, then, in the service of the King. By Heavens! I was very
unjust, monsieur, for until now I have taken them for thieves."

"Good evening, monsieur," said Beaulieu. "Jailer, lock the door."

The governor went away, taking with him the ring, which was a beautiful
sapphire, given him by Madame de Nevers to remind him of the color of
her eyes.

"Now for the other," he said as he went out.

They crossed an empty chamber, and the game of three doors, six locks,
and nine bolts began anew.

The last door open, a sigh was the first sound that greeted the
visitors.

The apartment was more gloomy looking than the one Monsieur de Beaulieu
had just left. Four long narrow windows admitted a feeble light into
this mournful abode. Before these, iron bars were crossed in such a way
that the eye of the prisoner was arrested by a dark line and prevented
from catching even a glimpse of the sky. From each corner of the room
pointed arches met in the middle of the ceiling, where they spread out
in Gothic fashion.

La Mole was seated in a corner, and, in spite of the entrance of the
visitors, appeared to have heard nothing.

The governor paused on the threshold and looked for an instant at the
prisoner, who sat motionless, his head in his hands.

"Good evening, Monsieur de la Mole," said Beaulieu.

The young man slowly raised his head.

"Good evening, monsieur," said he.

"Monsieur," continued the governor, "I have come to search you."

"That is useless," said La Mole. "I will give you all I have."

"What have you?"

"About three hundred crowns, these jewels, and rings."

"Give them to me, monsieur," said the governor.

"Here they are."

La Mole turned out his pockets, took the rings from his finger, and the
clasp from his hat.

"Have you nothing more?"

"Not that I know of."

"And that silk cord around your neck, what may that be?" asked the
governor.

"Monsieur, that is not a jewel, but a relic."

"Give it to me."

"What! you demand it?"

"I am ordered to leave you only your clothes, and a relic is not an
article of clothing."

La Mole made a gesture of anger, which, in the midst of the dignified
and pained calm which distinguished him, seemed to impress the men
accustomed to stormy emotions.

But he immediately recovered his self-possession.

"Very well, monsieur," said he, "you shall see what you ask for."

Then, turning as if to approach the light, he unfastened the pretended
relic, which was none other than a medallion containing a portrait,
which he drew out and raised to his lips. Having kissed it several
times, he suddenly pretended to drop it as by accident, and placing the
heel of his boot on it he crushed it into a thousand pieces.

"Monsieur!" said the governor.

And he stooped down to see if he could not save the unknown object which
La Mole wished to hide from him; but the miniature was literally ground
to powder.

"The King wished for this jewel," said La Mole, "but he had no right to
the portrait it contained. Now, here is the medallion; you may take it."

"Monsieur," said Beaulieu, "I shall complain of you to the King."

And without taking leave of his prisoner by a single word he went out,
so angry that without waiting to preside over the task, he left to the
turnkey the care of closing the doors.

The jailer turned to leave, but seeing that Monsieur de Beaulieu had
already started down the stairs:

"Faith! monsieur," said he, turning back, "I did well to ask you to give
me the hundred crowns at once for which I am to allow you to speak to
your companion; for had you not done so the governor would have taken
them from you with the three hundred others, and my conscience would not
have allowed me to do anything for you; but as I was paid in advance, I
promised that you should see your friend. So come. An honest man keeps
his word. Only, if it is possible, for your sake as much as for mine, do
not talk politics."

La Mole left his apartment and found himself face to face with Coconnas,
who was walking up and down the flags of the intermediate room.

The two friends rushed into each other's arms.

The jailer pretended to wipe the corner of his eye, and then withdrew to
watch that the prisoners were not surprised, or rather that he himself
was not caught.

"Ah! here you are!" said Coconnas. "Well, has that dreadful governor
paid his visit to you?"

"Yes, as he did to you, I presume?"

"Did he remove everything?"

"And from you, too?"

"Ah! I had not much; only a ring from Henrietta, that was all."

"And money?"

"I gave all I had to the good jailer, so that he would arrange this
interview for us."

"Ah!" said La Mole, "it seems that he had something from both of us."

"Did you pay him too?"

"I gave him a hundred crowns."

"So much the better."

"One can do everything with money, and I trust that we shall not lack
for it."

"Do you know what has happened to us?"

"Perfectly; we have been betrayed."

"By that scoundrelly Duc d'Alençon. I should have been right to twist
his neck."

"Do you think our position serious?"

"I fear so."

"Then there is likelihood of the torture?"

"I will not hide from you the fact that I have already thought of it."

"What should you do in that case?"

"And you?"

"I should be silent," replied La Mole, with a feverish flush.

"Silent?" cried Coconnas.

"Yes, if I had the strength."

"Well," said Coconnas, "if they insult me in any such way I promise you
I will tell them a few things."

"What things?" asked La Mole, quickly.

"Oh, be easy--things which will prevent Monsieur d'Alençon from sleeping
for some time."

La Mole was about to reply when the jailer, who no doubt had heard some
noise, appeared, and pushing each prisoner into his respective cell,
locked the doors again.



CHAPTER LV.

THE FIGURE OF WAX.


For a week Charles was confined to his bed by a slow fever, interrupted
by violent attacks which resembled epileptic fits. During these attacks
he uttered shrieks which the guards, watching in his chamber, heard with
terror, and the echoes of which reached to the farthest corner of the
old Louvre, aroused so often by many a dreadful sound. Then, when these
attacks passed, Charles, completely exhausted, sank back with closed
eyes into the arms of his nurse.

To say that, each in his way, without communicating the feeling to the
other, for mother and son sought to avoid rather than to see each other,
to say that Catharine de Médicis and the Duc d'Alençon revolved sinister
thoughts in the depths of their hearts would be to say that in that nest
of vipers moved a hideous swarm.

Henry was shut up in his chamber in the prison; and at his own request
no one had been allowed to see him, not even Marguerite. In the eyes of
every one his imprisonment was an open disgrace. Catharine and
D'Alençon, thinking him lost, breathed once more, and Henry ate and
drank more calmly, hoping that he was forgotten.

At court no one suspected the cause of the King's illness. Maître
Ambroise Paré and Mazille, his colleague, thought it was inflammation of
the bowels, and had prescribed a regimen which aided the special drink
given by Réné. Charles received this, his only nourishment, three times
a day from the hands of his nurse.

La Mole and Coconnas were at Vincennes in closest confinement.
Marguerite and Madame de Nevers had made a dozen attempts to reach them,
or at least to send them a note, but without success. One morning
Charles felt somewhat better, and wished the court to assemble. This was
the usual custom in the morning, although for some time no levee had
taken place. The doors were accordingly thrown open, and it was easy to
see, from his pale cheeks, yellow forehead, and the feverish light in
his deep-sunken eyes, which were surrounded by dark circles, what
frightful ravages the unknown disease had made on the young monarch.

The royal chamber was soon filled with curious and interested courtiers.
Catharine, D'Alençon, and Marguerite had been informed that the King was
to hold an audience. Therefore all three entered, at short intervals,
one by one; Catharine calm, D'Alençon smiling, Marguerite dejected.
Catharine seated herself by the side of the bed without noticing the
look that Charles gave her as he saw her approach.

Monsieur d'Alençon stood at the foot.

Marguerite leaned against a table, and seeing the pale brow, the worn
features, and deep-sunken eyes of her brother, could not repress a sigh
and a tear.

Charles, whom nothing escaped, saw the tear and heard the sigh, and with
his head made a slight motion to Marguerite.

This sign, slight as it was, lighted the face of the poor Queen of
Navarre, to whom Henry had not had time or perhaps had not wished to say
anything.

She feared for her husband, she trembled for her lover. For herself she
had no fear; she knew La Mole well, and felt she could rely on him.

"Well, my dear son," said Catharine, "how do you feel?"

"Better, mother, better."

"What do your physicians say?"

"My physicians? They are clever doctors, mother," said Charles, bursting
into a laugh. "I take great pleasure, I admit, in hearing them discuss
my malady. Nurse, give me something to drink."

The nurse brought Charles a cup of his usual beverage.

"What do they order you to take, my son?"

"Oh! madame, who knows anything about their preparations?" said the
King, hastily swallowing the drink.

"What my brother needs," said François, "is to rise and get out into the
open air; hunting, of which he is so fond, would do him a great deal of
good."

"Yes," said Charles, with a smile, the meaning of which it was
impossible for the duke to understand, "and yet the last hunt did me
great harm."

Charles uttered these words in such a strange way that the conversation,
in which the others present had not taken part, stopped. Then the King
gave a slight nod of his head. The courtiers understood that the
audience was over, and withdrew one after another.

D'Alençon started to approach his brother, but some secret feeling
stopped him. He bowed and went out.

Marguerite seized the wasted hand her brother held out to her, pressed
it, and kissed it. Then she, in turn, withdrew.

"Dear Margot!" murmured Charles.

Catharine alone remained, keeping her place at the side of the bed.
Finding himself alone with her, Charles recoiled as if from a serpent.

Instructed by the words of Réné, perhaps still better by silence and
meditation, Charles no longer had even the happiness of doubt.

He knew perfectly to whom and to what to attribute his approaching
death.

So, when Catharine drew near to the bed and extended to him a hand as
cold as his glance, the King shuddered in fear.

"You have remained, madame?" said he.

"Yes, my son," replied Catharine, "I must speak to you on important
matters."

"Speak, madame," said Charles, again recoiling.

"Sire!" said the queen, "you said just now that your physicians were
great doctors!"

"And I say so again, madame."

"Yet what have they done during your illness?"

"Nothing, it is true--but if you had heard what they said--really,
madame, one might afford to be ill if only to listen to their learned
discussions."

"Well, my son, do you want me to tell you something?"

"What is it, mother?"

"I suspect that all these clever doctors know nothing whatever about
your malady."

"Indeed, madame!"

"They may, perhaps, see a result, but they are ignorant of the cause."

"That is possible," said Charles, not understanding what his mother was
aiming at.

"So that they treat the symptoms and not the ill itself."

"On my soul!" said Charles, astonished, "I believe you are right,
mother."

"Well, my son," said Catharine, "as it is good neither for my happiness
nor the welfare of the kingdom for you to be ill so long, and as your
mind might end by becoming affected, I assembled the most skilful
doctors."

"In the science of medicine, madame?"

"No, in a more profound science: that which helps not only the body but
the mind as well."

"Ah! a beautiful science, madame," said Charles, "and one which the
doctors are right in not teaching to crowned heads! Have your researches
had any result?" he continued.

"Yes."

"What was it?"

"That which I hoped for; I bring to your Majesty that which will cure
not only your body but your mind."

Charles shuddered. He thought that finding that he was still living his
mother had resolved to finish knowingly that which she had begun
unconsciously.

"Where is this remedy?" said he, rising on his elbow and looking at his
mother.

"In the disease itself," replied Catharine.

"Then where is that?"

"Listen to me, my son," said Catharine, "have you not sometimes heard it
said that there are secret enemies who in their revenge assassinate
their victim from a distance?"

"By steel or poison?" asked Charles, without once turning his eyes from
the impassible face of his mother.

"No, by a surer and much more terrible means," said Catharine.

"Explain yourself."

"My son," asked the Florentine, "do you believe in charms and magic?"

Charles repressed a smile of scorn and incredulity.

"Fully," said he.

"Well," said Catharine, quickly, "from magic comes all your suffering.
An enemy of your Majesty who would not have dared to attack you openly
has conspired in secret. He has directed against your Majesty a
conspiracy much more terrible in that he has no accomplices, and the
mysterious threads of which cannot be traced."

"Faith, no!" said Charles, aghast at such cunning.

"Think well, my son," said Catharine, "and recall to mind certain plans
for flight which would have assured impunity to the murderer."

"To the murderer!" cried Charles. "To the murderer, you say? Has there
been an attempt to kill me, mother?"

Catharine's changing eye rolled hypocritically under its wrinkled lid.

"Yes, my son; you doubt it, perhaps, but I know it for a certainty."

"I never doubt what you tell me, mother," replied the King, bitterly.
"How was the attempt made? I am anxious to know."

"By magic."

"Explain yourself, madame," said Charles, recalled by his loathing to
his rôle of observer.

"If the conspirator I mean, and one whom at heart your Majesty already
suspects, had succeeded in his plans, no one would have fathomed the
cause of your Majesty's sufferings. Fortunately, however, sire, your
brother watched over you."

"Which brother?"

"D'Alençon."

"Ah! yes, that is true; I always forget that I have a brother," murmured
Charles, laughing bitterly; "so you say, madame"--

"That fortunately he revealed the conspiracy. But while he,
inexperienced child that he is, sought only the traces of an ordinary
plot, the proofs of a young man's escapade, I sought for proofs of a
much more important deed; for I understand the reach of the guilty one's
mind."

"Ah! mother, one would say you were speaking of the King of Navarre,"
said Charles, anxious to see how far this Florentine dissimulation would
go.

Catharine hypocritically dropped her eyes.

"I have had him arrested and taken to Vincennes for his escapade,"
continued the King; "is he more guilty than I suspected, then?"

"Do you feel the fever that consumes you?" asked Catharine.

"Yes, certainly, madame," said Charles, frowning.

"Do you feel the fire that burns you internally?"

"Yes, madame," replied Charles, his brow darkening more and more.

"And the sharp pains in your head, which shoot from your eyes to your
brain like so many arrows?"

"Yes, madame. I feel all that. You describe my trouble perfectly!"

"Well! the explanation is very simple," said the Florentine. "See."

And she drew from under her cloak an object which she gave to the King.

It was a figure of yellow wax, about six inches high, clothed in a robe
covered with golden stars also of wax, like the figure; and over this a
royal mantle of the same material.

"Well," asked Charles, "what is this little statue?"

"See what it has on its head," said Catharine.

"A crown," replied Charles.

"And in the heart?"

"A needle."

"Well, sire, do you recognize yourself?"

"Myself?"

"Yes, you, with your crown and mantle?"

"Who made this figure?" asked Charles, whom this farce was beginning to
weary; "the King of Navarre, no doubt?"

"No, sire."

"No? then I do not understand you."

"I say _no_," replied Catharine, "because you asked the question
literally. I should have said _yes_ had you put it differently."

Charles made no answer. He was striving to penetrate all the thoughts of
that shadowy mind, which constantly closed before him just as he thought
himself ready to read it.

"Sire," continued Catharine, "this statue was found by the
Attorney-General Laguesle, in the apartment of the man who on the day
you last went hawking led a horse for the King of Navarre."

"Monsieur de la Mole?"

"Yes, and, if you please, look again at the needle in the heart, and see
what letter is written on the label attached to it."

"I see an 'M,'" said Charles.

"That means _mort_, death; it is the magic formula, sire. The maker thus
wrote his vow on the very wound he gave. Had he wished to make a
pretence at killing, as did the Duc de Bretagne for King Charles VI., he
would have driven the needle into the head and put an 'F' instead of an
'M.'"

"So," said Charles IX., "according to your idea, the person who seeks to
end my days is Monsieur de la Mole?"

"Yes, he is the dagger; but behind the dagger is the hand that directs
it."

"This then is the sole cause of my illness? the day the charm is
destroyed the malady will cease? But how go to work?" asked Charles,
"you must know, mother; but I, unlike you, who have spent your whole
life studying them, know nothing about charms and spells."

"The death of the conspirator destroys the charm, that is all. The day
the charm is destroyed your illness will cease," said Catharine.

"Indeed!" said Charles, with an air of surprise.

"Did you not know that?"

"Why! I am no sorcerer," said the King.

"Well, now," said Catharine, "your Majesty is convinced, are you not?"

"Certainly."

"Conviction has dispelled anxiety?"

"Completely."

"You do not say so out of complaisance?"

"No, mother! I say it from the bottom of my heart."

Catharine's face broke into smiles.

"Thank God!" she exclaimed, as if she believed in God.

"Yes, thank God!" repeated Charles, ironically; "I know now, as you do,
to whom to attribute my present condition, and consequently whom to
punish."

"And you will punish"--

"Monsieur de la Mole; did you not say that he was the guilty party?"

"I said that he was the instrument."

"Well," said Charles, "Monsieur de la Mole first; he is the most
important. All these attacks on me might arouse dangerous suspicions. It
is imperative that there be some light thrown on the matter and from
this light the truth may be discovered."

"So Monsieur de la Mole"--

"Suits me admirably as the guilty one; therefore I accept him. We will
begin with him; and if he has an accomplice, he shall speak."

"Yes," murmured Catharine, "and if he does not, we will make him. We
have infallible means for that."

Then rising:

"Will you permit the trial to begin, sire?"

"I desire it, madame," replied Charles, "and the sooner the better."

Catharine pressed the hand of her son without comprehending the nervous
grasp with which he returned it, and left the apartment without hearing
the sardonic laugh of the King, or the terrible oath which followed the
laugh.

Charles wondered if it were not dangerous to let this woman go thus, for
in a few hours she would have done so much that there would be no way of
stopping it.

As he watched the curtain fall after Catharine, he heard a light rustle
behind him, and turning he perceived Marguerite, who raised the drapery
before the corridor leading to his nurse's rooms.

Marguerite's pallor, her haggard eyes and oppressed breathing betrayed
the most violent emotion.

"Oh, sire! sire!" she exclaimed, rushing to her brother's bedside; "you
know that she lies."

"She? Who?" asked Charles.

"Listen, Charles, it is a terrible thing to accuse one's mother; but I
suspected that she remained with you to persecute them again. But, on my
life, on yours, on our souls, I tell you what she says is false!"

"To persecute them! Whom is she persecuting?"

Both had instinctively lowered their voices; it seemed as if they
themselves feared even to hear them.

"Henry, in the first place; your Henriot, who loves you, who is more
devoted to you than any one else."

"You think so, Margot?" said Charles.

"Oh! sire, I am sure of it."

"Well, so am I," said Charles.

"Then if you are sure of it, brother," said Marguerite, surprised, "why
did you have him arrested and taken to Vincennes?"

"Because he asked me to do so."

"He asked you, sire?"

"Yes, Henriot has singular ideas. Perhaps he is wrong, perhaps right; at
any rate, one of his ideas was that he would be safer in disgrace than
in favor, away from me at Vincennes instead of near me in the Louvre."

"Ah! I see," said Marguerite, "and is he safe there?"

"As safe as a man can be whose head Beaulieu answers for with his own."

"Oh! thank you, brother! so much for Henry. But"--

"But what?"

"There is another, sire, in whom perhaps I am wrong to be interested,
but"--

"Who is it?"

"Sire, spare me. I would scarcely dare name him to my brother, much less
to my King."

"Monsieur de la Mole, is it not?" said Charles.

"Alas!" said Marguerite, "you tried to kill him once, sire, and he
escaped from your royal vengeance only by a miracle."

"He was guilty of only one crime then, Marguerite; now he has committed
two."

"Sire, he is not guilty of the second."

"But," said Charles, "did you not hear what our good mother said, my
poor Margot?"

"Oh, I have already told you, Charles," said Marguerite, lowering her
voice, "that what she said was false."

"You do not know perhaps that a waxen figure has been found in Monsieur
de la Mole's rooms?"

"Yes, yes, brother, I know it."

"That this figure is pierced to the heart by a needle, and that it bears
a tag with an 'M' on it?"

"I know that, too."

"And that over the shoulders of the figure is a royal mantle, and that
on its head is a royal crown?"

"I know all that."

"Well! what have you to say to it?"

"This: that the figure with a royal cloak and a crown on its head is
that of a woman, and not that of a man."

"Bah!" said Charles, "and the needle in its heart?"

"Was a charm to make himself beloved by this woman, and not a charm to
kill a man."

"But the letter 'M'?"

"It does not mean _mort_, as the queen mother said."

"What does it mean, then?" asked Charles.

"It means--it means the name of the woman whom Monsieur de la Mole
loves."

"And what is the name of this woman?"

"_Marguerite_, brother!" cried the Queen of Navarre, falling on her
knees before the King's bed, taking his hand between both of hers, and
pressing her face to it, bathed in tears.

"Hush, sister!" said Charles, casting a sharp glance about him beneath
his frowning brow. "For just as you overheard a moment ago, we may now
be overheard again."

"What does it matter?" exclaimed Marguerite, raising her head, "if the
whole world were present to hear me, I would declare before it that it
is infamous to abuse the love of a gentleman by staining his reputation
with a suspicion of murder."

"Margot, suppose I were to tell you that I know as well as you do who it
is and who it is not?"

"Brother!"

"Suppose I were to tell you that Monsieur de la Mole is innocent?"

"You know this?"

"If I were to tell you that I know the real author of the crime?"

"The real author!" cried Marguerite; "has there been a crime committed,
then?"

"Yes; intentionally or unintentionally there has been a crime
committed."

"On you?"

"Yes."

"Impossible!"

"Impossible? Look at me, Margot."

The young woman looked at her brother and trembled, seeing him so pale.

"Margot, I have not three months to live!" said Charles.

"You, brother! you, Charles!" she cried.

"Margot, I am poisoned."

Marguerite screamed.

"Hush," said Charles. "It must be thought that I am dying by magic."

"Do you know who is guilty?"

"Yes."

"You said it was not La Mole?"

"No, it is not he."

"Nor Henry either, surely--great God! could it be"--

"Who?"

"My brother--D'Alençon?" murmured Marguerite.

"Perhaps."

"Or--or"--Marguerite lowered her voice as if frightened at what she was
going to say, "or--our mother?"

Charles was silent.

Marguerite looked at him, and read all that she asked in his eyes. Then
still on her knees she half fell over against a chair.

"Oh! my God! my God!" she whispered, "that is impossible."

"Impossible?" said Charles, with a strident laugh, "it is a pity Réné is
not here to tell you the story."

"Réné?"

"Yes; he would tell you that a woman to whom he dares refuse nothing
asked him for a book on hunting which was in his library; that a subtle
poison was poured on every page of this book; that the poison intended
for some one, I know not for whom, fell by a turn of chance, or by a
punishment of Heaven, on another. But in the absence of Réné if you wish
to see the book it is there in my closet, and written in the
Florentine's handwriting you will see that this volume, which still
contains the death of many among its pages, was given by him to his
fellow countrywoman."

"Hush, Charles, hush!" said Marguerite.

"Now you see that it must be supposed that I die of magic."

"But it is monstrous, monstrous! Pity! Pity! you know he is innocent."

"Yes, I know it, but he must be thought guilty. Let your lover die; it
is very little to do in order to save the honor of the house of France;
I myself shall die that the secret may die with me."

Marguerite bent her head, realizing that nothing could be obtained from
the King towards saving La Mole, and withdrew weeping, having no hope
except in her own resources.

Meantime Catharine, as Charles had divined, had lost not a minute, but
had written to the Attorney-General Laguesle a letter, every word of
which has been preserved by history and which throws a lurid light upon
the drama:

     "_Monsieur le Procureur: I have this evening been informed beyond a
     doubt that La Mole has committed sacrilege. Many evil things such
     as books and papers have been found in his apartments in Paris. I
     beg you to summon the chief president, and to inform him as early
     as possible of the affair of the waxen figure meant for the King,
     and which was pierced to the heart._

                                         "_CATHARINE._"[18]



CHAPTER LVI.

THE INVISIBLE BUCKLERS.


The day after that on which Catharine had written this letter the
governor entered Coconnas's cell with an imposing retinue consisting of
two halberdiers and four men in black gowns.

Coconnas was asked to descend to a room in which the Attorney Laguesle
and two judges waited to question him according to Catharine's
instructions.

During the week he had spent in prison Coconnas had reflected a great
deal. Besides that, he and La Mole were together for a few minutes each
day, through the kindness of their jailer, who, without saying anything
to them, had arranged this surprise, which in all probability they did
not owe to his philosophy alone,--besides, we say, La Mole and he had
agreed on the course they were to pursue, which was to persist in
absolute denial; and they were persuaded that with a little skill the
affair would take a more favorable turn; the charges were no greater
against them than against the others. Henry and Marguerite had made no
attempt at flight; they could not therefore be compromised in an affair
in which the chief ring-leaders were free. Coconnas did not know that
Henry was in the prison, and the complaisance of the jailer told him
that above his head hovered a certain protection which he called the
_invisible bucklers_.

Up to then the examination had been confined to the intentions of the
King of Navarre, his plans of flight, and the part the two friends had
played in them. To all these questions Coconnas had constantly replied
in a way more than vague and much more than adroit; he was ready still
to reply in the same way, and had prepared in advance all his little
repartees, when he suddenly found the object of the examination was
altered. It turned upon one or more visits to Réné, one or more waxen
figures made at the instigation of La Mole.

Prepared as he was, Coconnas believed that the accusation lost much of
its intensity, since it was no longer a question of having betrayed a
king but of having made a figure of a queen; and this figure not more
than ten inches high at the most. He, therefore, replied brightly that
neither he nor his friend had played with a doll for some time, and
noticed with pleasure that several times his answers made the judges
smile.

It had not yet been said in verse: "I have laughed, therefore am I
disarmed," but it had been said a great deal in prose. And Coconnas
thought that he had partly disarmed his judges because they had smiled.

His examination over, he went back to his cell, singing so merrily that
La Mole, for whom he was making all the noise, drew from it the happiest
auguries.

La Mole was brought down, and like Coconnas saw with astonishment that
the accusation had abandoned its first ground and had entered a new
field. He was questioned as to his visits to Réné. He replied that he
had gone to the Florentine only once. Then, if he had not ordered a
waxen figure. He replied that Réné had showed him such a figure ready
made. He was then asked if this figure did not represent a man. He
replied that it represented a woman. Then, if the object of the charm
was not to cause the death of the man. He replied that the purpose of
the charm was to cause himself to be beloved by the woman.

These questions were put in a hundred different forms, but La Mole
always replied in the same way. The judges looked at one another with a
certain indecision, not knowing what to say or do before such
simplicity, when a note brought to the Attorney-General solved the
difficulty.

     "_If the accused denies resort to the torture._

                              "_C._"

The attorney put the note into his pocket, smiled at La Mole, and
politely dismissed him.

La Mole returned to his cell almost as reassured, if not as joyous, as
Coconnas.

"I think everything is going well," said he.

An hour later he heard footsteps and saw a note slipped under his door,
without seeing the hand that did it. He took it up, thinking that in all
probability it came from the jailer?

Seeing it, a hope almost as acute as a disappointment sprang into his
heart; he hoped it was from Marguerite, from whom he had had no news
since he had been a prisoner.

He took it up with trembling hand, and almost died of joy as he looked
at the handwriting.

"_Courage!_" said the note. "_I am watching over you._"

"Ah! if she is watching," cried La Mole, covering with kisses the paper
which had touched a hand so dear, "if she is watching, I am saved."

In order for La Mole to comprehend the note and rely with Coconnas on
what the Piedmontese called his _invisible bucklers_ it is necessary for
us to conduct the reader to that small house, to that chamber in which
the reminders of so many scenes of intoxicating happiness, so many
half-evaporated perfumes, so many tender recollections, since become
agonizing, were breaking the heart of a woman half reclining on velvet
cushions.

"To be a queen, to be strong, young, rich, beautiful, and suffer what I
suffer!" cried this woman; "oh! it is impossible!"

Then in her agitation she rose, paced up and down, stopped suddenly,
pressed her burning forehead against the ice-cold marble, rose pale, her
face covered with tears, wrung her hands, and crying aloud fell back
again hopeless into a chair.

Suddenly the tapestry which separated the apartment of the Rue Cloche
Percée from that in the Rue Tizon was raised, and the Duchesse de Nevers
entered.

"Ah!" exclaimed Marguerite, "is it you? With what impatience I have
waited for you! Well! What news?"

"Bad news, my poor friend. Catharine herself is hurrying on the trial,
and at present is at Vincennes."

"And Réné?"

"Is arrested."

"Before you were able to speak to him?"

"Yes."

"And our prisoners?"

"I have news of them."

"From the jailer?"

"Yes."

"Well?"

"Well! They see each other every day. The day before yesterday they were
searched. La Mole broke your picture to atoms rather than give it up."

"Dear La Mole!"

"Annibal laughed in the face of the inquisitors."

"Worthy Annibal! What then?"

"This morning they were questioned as to the flight of the king, his
projects of rebellion in Navarre, and they said nothing."

"Oh! I knew they would keep silence; but silence will kill them as much
as if they spoke."

"Yes, but we must save them."

"Have you thought over our plan?"

"Since yesterday I have thought of nothing else."

"Well?"

"I have just come to terms with Beaulieu. Ah! my dear queen, what a hard
and greedy man! It will cost a man's life, and three hundred thousand
crowns."

"You say he is hard and greedy--and yet he asks only the life of a man
and three hundred thousand crowns. Why, that is nothing!"

"Nothing! Three hundred thousand crowns! Why, all your jewels and all
mine would not be enough."

"Oh! that is nothing. The King of Navarre will pay something, the Duc
d'Alençon will pay part, and my brother Charles will pay part, or if
not"--

"See! what nonsense you talk. I have the money."

"You?"

"Yes, I."

"How did you get it?"

"Ah! that is telling!"

"Is it a secret?"

"For every one except you."

"Oh, my God!" said Marguerite, smiling through her tears, "did you steal
it?"

"You shall judge."

"Well, let me."

"Do you remember that horrible Nantouillet?"

"The rich man, the usurer?"

"If you please."

"Well?"

"Well! One day seeing a certain blonde lady, with greenish eyes, pass
by, wearing three rubies, one over her forehead, the other two over her
temples, an arrangement which was very becoming to her, this rich man,
this usurer, cried out:

"'For three kisses in the place of those three rubies I will give you
three diamonds worth one hundred thousand crowns apiece!'"

"Well, Henriette?"

"Well, my dear, the diamonds appeared and are sold."

"Oh, Henriette! Henriette!" cried Marguerite.

"Well!" exclaimed the duchess in a bold tone at once innocent and
sublime, which sums up the age and the woman, "well, I love Annibal!"

"That is true," said Marguerite, smiling and blushing at the same time,
"you love him a very great deal, too much, perhaps."

And yet she pressed her friend's hand.

"So," continued Henriette, "thanks to our three diamonds, the three
hundred thousand crowns and the man are ready."

"The man? What man?"

"The man to be killed; you forget a man must be killed."

"Have you found the necessary man?"

"Yes."