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Title: Henry of Guise; (Vol. I of 3) - or, The States of Blois
Author: James, G. P. R. (George Payne Rainsford), 1801-1860
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.

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Transcriber's Notes:

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     (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign)

   2. The diphthong oe is represented by [oe].



                           HENRY OF GUISE;


                         THE STATES OF BLOIS.

                               VOL. I.



                               London:
                     Printed by A. Spottiswoode,
                          New-Street-Square



                            HENRY OF GUISE



                         THE STATES OF BLOIS.



                                  BY



                         G. P. R. JAMES, ESQ.

                              AUTHOR OF

           "THE ROBBER," "THE GENTLEMAN OF THE OLD SCHOOL,"
                            ETC. ETC. ETC.



                          IN THREE VOLUMES.

                               VOL. I.



                               LONDON:

                             PRINTED FOR
               LONGMAN, ORME, BROWN, GREEN, & LONGMANS,
                           PATERNOSTER-ROW.

                                1839.



                             DEDICATION.
                          *   *   *   *   *



                                  TO


                            THE HONOURABLE


                            FRANCIS SCOTT



My dear Scott,

In dedicating to you the following work as the tribute of old
friendship, and of sincere and well founded esteem, allow me to add a
few words in explanation of the course I have pursued in the
composition. I do this, it is true, more for the public than for
yourself, as you were with me while it was in progress, and by your
good judgment confirmed my opinion of the mode in which the subject
ought to be treated.

The character of every person who plays a prominent part on the great
stage of the world is of course lauded by friends and decried by
adversaries at the time, and the mingled report comes down to after
ages. But the mists of prejudice are wafted away by the breath of
years. The character of the historian is considered in connexion with
those of the personages he has depicted; and allowances are made for
errors and wrong views on all sides: the greater facts remain, in
general, clear and distinct; and from these, together with those small
traits which are rather let fall accidentally than recorded, by
contemporaries, the estimate of history is formed.

There are some characters, however, which from various causes remain
obscure and doubtful through all time; and many which have points in
them that are never satisfactorily explained, producing acts which
cannot be accounted for; like those waters which have never been
fathomed, though we know not whether it be some under current that we
see not, or the profound depth itself, which prevents the plumbed line
from reaching the bottom. Amongst the many acts recorded in the annals
of the world, the motives for which have never been ascertained, one
of the most extraordinary is, that of Henry Duke of Guise, when, on
the 12th of May, 1588, the famous day of the barricades, he had the
crown of France within his grasp, and did not close his hand. Some
have called it weakness, some virtue, some moderation, some
indecision; and in fact, whatever view we take of it, there are points
in which it is opposed to the general character of the Duke.

In the account of this transaction, which I have given in the
following pages, I have rather attempted to narrate how the event took
place, than to put forth a theory regarding the motives. My own
opinion is, indeed, fixed, after diligent examination of every
contemporary account, that the motives were mixed. I do not believe
that the Duke's moderation proceeded from indecision, for I imagine
that he had decided from the first not to dethrone the King; but I do
believe that he might be, and was, much tempted to usurp the throne,
as the events of the day proceeded. Opportunity could not be without
its temptation to a bold and ambitious heart like his. Whether he
would have remained master of his own conduct, whether he would have
been able to struggle against his own desires and the wishes of the
people, whether he would have maintained his resolution to the end of
that day, had the King not escaped from Paris, is another question.
Suffice it that he resisted the temptation as long as the temptation
existed; and that he did so deliberately is proved, by his strictly
prohibiting the people from surrounding the royal residence, "lest it
should commit him too far." Upon this view of the case have I based my
narration.

In regard to the death of the Duke of Guise, I had but little
difficulty; for the event is so amply and minutely detailed by
contemporaries, that no doubt can exist in regard to any of the facts.
In the treatment of the story, however, I had to choose between two
courses. A French writer, or writer of the French school, in order to
concentrate the interest upon the Guise, would most likely have
brought into a prominent point of view his criminal passion for Madame
de Noirmoutier, and would have wrought it up with sentiment till the
feelings of the reader were enlisted in favour of herself and the
Duke.

I did not do this for two reasons. In the first place, it would have
been a violation of history to represent Madame de Noirmoutier as any
thing but a mere abandoned woman, as her amours with Henry IV. and
others clearly show. In the next place, I consider it an insult to
virtue to endeavour to excite interest for vice. It was necessary,
indeed, to introduce Madame de Noirmoutier, on account of the famous
warning which she gave to Guise on the night before his death; but I
have done so as briefly as possible for the reasons I have just
stated.

I have only farther to say, that I know there is a French work bearing
the same title, or very nearly the same title, as this. I have never
seen that work, nor read any review of it, nor heard any part of its
contents, and therefore have no idea whatsoever of how the story is
there conducted. Doubtless very differently, and, perhaps, much better
than in the following pages; but, nevertheless, I trust that the
public will extend to them the same indulgence which has been granted
to my other works, and for which I am most sincerely grateful.

To you, my dear Scott, I am also very grateful, for many a happy hour,
and many a pleasant day, and for many a trait which, in our mutual
intercourse, has given me the best view of human nature, and added one
to the few whom in this life we find to love and to respect. Accept,
then, this very slight testimony of such feelings, and believe me
ever,

                            Yours faithfully,

                                      G. P. R. James.



                           HENRY OF GUISE;

                                 OR,

                         THE STATES OF BLOIS.



                              CHAPTER I.


It was as dark and sombre a morning, the sky was as gloomy, the earth
as dry and parched, as earth, sky, and morning ever appear in the most
northern climates. A dull grey expanse of leaden cloud shut out the
blue heaven, a hard black frost pinched up the ground, the blades of
grass stood stiff and rugged on the frozen soil, and vague grey mists
lay in all the hollows of the ground. The forests, the manifold
forests that then spread over the fair land of France, showed nothing
but bare branches, except where here and there the yoke-elm or
tenacious beech retained in patches its red and withered leaves, while
beneath the trees again, the ground was thickly carpeted with the
fallen honours of the past summer, mingled with hoar frost and thin
snow. A chilliness more piercing than mere frost pervaded the air; and
the aspect of the whole scene was cheerless and melancholy.

Such was the aspect of the day, though the scene was in the south of
France, at a spot which we shall leave for the present nameless, when
at about seven o'clock in the morning--an hour in which, at that
period of the year, the sun's rays are weak and powerless--a tall,
strong, florid man of about four-and-thirty years of age was seen upon
the edge of a wide wood walking along cautiously step by step,
carefully bending down his eyes upon the withered leaves that strewed
his path, as if he had dropped something of value which he sought to
find.

The wood, as we have said, was extensive, covering several miles of
undulating ground, broken by rocks and dingles, and interspersed by
more than one piece of water. It contained various kinds of tree, as
well as various sorts of soil; but at the spot of which we now speak
the wood was low and thin, gradually increasing in volume as it rose
along the slope of the adjacent hill, till it grew into a tangled
thicket, from which rose a number of tall trees, waving their grey
branches sadly in the wintry air. On a distant eminence, rising far
above the wood itself, might be seen towers, and turrets, and
pinnacles, the abode of some of the lords of the land; and at the end
of a long glade, up which the man we have just mentioned was
cautiously stealing, as we have described, appeared a little cottage
with one or two curious outbuildings, not usually found attached to
the abodes of the agricultural population.

The features of this early wanderer in the woods were good, the
expression of his countenance frank; and though poring so intently
upon the ground as he passed, there was nevertheless an air of
habitual cheerfulness in his countenance, which broke out in the
frequent smile, either at something passing in his own thoughts, or at
something he observed amongst the withered leaves. He was dressed in a
plain suit of dark brownish grey, with a cap and feather on his head,
a sword by his side, and an immense winding horn slung under his left
arm; and though at the present moment he was without either horses or
dogs, his whole dress and appearance bespoke him one of the huntsmen
of some neighbouring lord.

After having walked on for about three or four hundred yards, he
suddenly stopped at some traces on the ground, turned into the wood,
which in a particular line seemed disturbed and broken, and following
the marks, which denoted that some large object of the chase had
passed that way, he reached the thicker part of the wood, where, to
use his own expression, he felt sure that the boar was lodged.

It would be useless and tedious to accompany him in all the
perquisitions that he made round the thicket, in order to ascertain
that the animal had not again issued forth from its woody covert. He
satisfied himself, however, completely, that such was not the case,
and then paused, musing for a moment or two, till he was roused from
his reverie by the distant sounds of human voices and of horses' feet,
coming from the side of the glade in which we have first displayed him
to the reader's eyes. He now hurried back as rapidly as possible, and
in a minute or two after stood uncovered in the midst of a gay and
glittering party, on which we must pause for a few minutes, ere we
proceed to describe the events of that morning.

There were about twenty persons present, but the greater number
consisted of various attendants attached to the household of all
French noblemen of that period, under the names of grooms, piqueurs,
valets de chiens, chefs de relais, &c. Three out of the group,
however, are worthy of greater attention, not alone because they were
higher in rank, but because with them we shall have to deal throughout
the course of this tale, while most of the others may well be
forgotten. The eldest of the three, bore the robe of an ecclesiastic,
though in his deportment, as he sat a spirited, and somewhat fretful
horse, he seemed fully as well suited to play the part of a gay
cavalier as that of a sober churchman.

His features were fine, though not strongly marked; the nose straight
and well cut; the chin rounded; the brow broad and high, and the mouth
well formed. But with all these traits of beauty, there were one or
two drawbacks, both in feature and expression, which rendered his
aspect by no means so prepossessing as it otherwise might have been.
The eyes, which were remarkably fine, large, dark, and powerful, were
sunk deep under the sharp cut, overhanging brow, looking keenly out
from below their long fringed lids, as if in ambush for each unguarded
glance or gesture of those with whom he conversed. The lips, though,
as we have said, well formed, closed tight over the teeth, which were
as white as snow, never suffering them to appear, except when actually
speaking. Even then those lips parted but little, and gave one the
idea of their being, as it were, the gates of imprisoned thoughts,
which opened no farther than was necessary to give egress to those
which they were forced to set at liberty. The nostril, though it was
finely shaped, was even stiller and more motionless than the lips. No
moment of eagerness, no excited passion of the bosom, made that
nostril expand, and if it ever moved at all, it was but when a slight
irrepressible sneer upon the lip drew it up with a scornful elevation,
not the less cutting because it was but slight.

The age of this personage at the time we speak of might be about
forty-five; and if one might judge by the clear paleness of his
complexion, a considerable portion of his life had been spent in
intense study. The marks of his age were visible, too, in his beard
and mustachios, which had once been of the deepest black, but were now
thickly grizzled with grey. No sign, however, of any loss of strength
or vigour was apparent; and though still and quiet in his demeanour,
he seemed not at all disinclined to show, by an occasional exercise of
strength or agility, that stillness and quietude were with him matters
of choice and not of necessity. He kept his horse a very small pace
behind those of his two younger companions; but he so contrived it
that this very act of deference should not have the slightest
appearance of humility in it, but should rather seem an expression of
what he owed to his own age and character rather than to their
superior rank.

The other two were both young men in the very early outset of life,
and were so nearly of the same age, that it was difficult to say which
was the elder. Both were extremely handsome, both were very powerfully
and gracefully formed; and the most extraordinary similarity of
features and of frame existed between them, so that it would have been
difficult to distinguish the one from the other, had it not been that
their complexions were entirely different. The one was dark, the other
fair: in one the hair curled over the brow in large masses, as glossy
as the wing of the raven; in the other, the same profuse and shining
hair existed, but of a nut brown, with every here and there a gleam as
if the sun shone upon it. The eyes of the one were dark, but flashing
and lustrous; the eyes of the other of a deep hazel, and in them there
mingled, with the bright bold glances of fearless courage, an
occasional expression of depth and tenderness of feeling, which
rendered the character of his countenance as different from that of
his brother as was his complexion.

Notwithstanding the great similarity that existed between them, they
were not, as may have been supposed, twins, the fairer of the two
being a year younger than his brother. They were both, indeed, as we
have said, in their early youth, but their youth was manly; and though
neither had yet seen three-and-twenty years, the form of each was
powerful and fully developed, and the slight pointed beard and
sweeping mustachio were as completely marked as the custom of the day
admitted.

On the characters of the two we shall not pause in this place, as they
will show themselves hereafter; and it is sufficient to say that there
was scarcely a little word, or action, or gesture, which did not more
or less display a strong and remarkable difference between the hearts
and minds of the two. During their whole life, hitherto,
notwithstanding this difference, they had lived in the utmost
friendship and regard, without even any of those occasional quarrels
which too often disturb the harmony of families. Perhaps the secret of
this might be that the elder brother had less opportunity of
domineering over the younger than generally existed in the noble
families of France, for their mother had been an heiress of great
possessions, and according to the tenour of her contract of marriage
with their father, her feofs and riches fell on her death to her
second son, leaving him, if any thing, more powerful and wealthy than
his elder brother.

The fortune of neither, however, though each was large, was of such
great extent as to place them amongst the few high and powerful
families who at that time struggled for domination in the land of
their birth. The territory of each could bring two or three hundred
soldiers into the field in case of need: the wealth of each sufficed
to place them in the next rank to the governor of the province which
they inhabited; but still their names stood not on the same list with
those of Epernon, Joyeuse, Montmorency, Guise, or Nemours; and,
contented hitherto with the station which they enjoyed, neither they
themselves, nor any of their ancestors, had striven to obtain for
their house a distinction which, in those times, was, perhaps, more
perilous than either desirable or honourable. Neither of them, indeed,
was without ambition, though that ambition was, of course, modified by
their several characters; but it had been controlled hitherto,
perhaps, less by the powers of their own reason than by the influence
of the personage who now accompanied them, and whom we have before
described.

Not distantly connected with them by the ties of blood, the Abbé de
Boisguerin had been called from Italy, where he had long resided, to
superintend their education shortly after their mother's death. His
own income, though not so small as that of many another scion of a
noble house in France, had, nevertheless, proved insufficient through
life to satisfy a man of expensive, though not very ostentatious,
tastes and habits; and the large emoluments, offered to him, together
with the prospects of advancement which the station proposed held out,
induced him without hesitation to quit his residence in Rome, and
revisit a country, the troublous state of which gave the prospect of
advancement to every daring and unscrupulous spirit.

It may seem strange to say, as we have said, that the influence of an
ambitious man had been directed to check their ambition: but he was
ambitious only for the attainment of certain ends. He valued not power
merely as power, but for that which power might command. Personal
gratification was his object, though the pursuit of that
gratification, as far as the objects of sense went, was also
restrained, like his ambition, by other qualities and feelings. Thus,
as an ambitious man, at the time we speak of, he was neither fierce
nor grasping; as an epicurean, he was not coarse nor insatiable; and
yet with all this apparent--nay, real, moderation--there lay within
his breast, unexcited and undeveloped, passions as strong and fierce,
desires as eager and as fiery, as ever burned within the heart of man.
He controlled them by skill and habit, he covered them, as it were,
with the dust and ashes of his profession, but it needed only an
accidental breath to blow them into a flame, which, in turn, would
have given fire to every other aspiration and effort of his mind.

He had found it in no degree difficult to obtain a complete ascendency
over the minds of the two young men he was called upon to govern.
Their father had plunged deeply, after his wife's death, into the wars
and troubles of the times, and he left his two sons entirely to the
care and direction of the Abbé de Boisguerin. Thus he had every
opportunity that he could desire; and he brought to the task most
extensive learning, which enabled him to direct in every thing the
inferior teachers. His manners were graceful, polished, and
captivating, his temper calm and unruffled: hiding his own thoughts
and feelings under an impenetrable veil, never alluding to his past
life or his future purposes, he skilfully, nay, almost imperceptibly,
made himself master of the confidence of others, and gained every
treasured secret of the hearts around him, without giving any
thing in exchange. His learning, his wisdom, his acuteness, his
impenetrability, won respect and reverence, and almost awe, from the
two youths yet in their boyhood: his courtesy, his kindness, his
consideration for the errors and the desires of their youth, gained
greatly upon their regard; and their admiration and love was increased
by some events which took place towards their seventeenth and
sixteenth years.

It happened that about that time their master of arms was teaching
them some of the exercises of the day in the tilt-yard of the castle;
while their governor, with his arms folded on his breast, stood
looking on. He usually, under such circumstances, refrained from
making any observations; but, thrown for a moment off his guard on the
present occasion, by what appeared to him an awkwardness on the part
of the master in teaching some evolution, he said courteously enough,
that he thought it might be executed better in another manner.

Conceited and rash, the master of arms replied with a show of
contempt. The Abbé then persisted; and the other, with a sneer, begged
that he might be experimentally shown the new method of the governor.
The churchman smiled slightly, threw off his gown, mounted one of the
horses with calm and quiet grace, and with scarcely a change of
feature, or any other appearance of unusual exertion, displayed his
own superiority in military exercises, and foiled the master of arms
with his own weapons. Ever after that, from time to time, he mingled
in the sports and pastimes of the young men, never losing sight of his
own dignity, but showing sufficient skill, address, and boldness to
make them look up to him in the new course to which their attention
was now directed by the customs of the age.

The Abbé de Boisguerin, however, did not suffer their whole attention
to be occupied by those military exercises, which formed the chief
subject of study with the young nobility of the day. He had caused
them at an earlier period to be instructed deeply in the more elegant
and graceful studies: he had endeavoured to implant in their minds a
fondness for letters, for poetry, for music. Drawing, too, and
painting, then rising into splendour from the darkness which had long
covered it, were pointed out to their attention, as objects of
admiration and interest for every fine and elevated mind; and while no
manly sport or science was omitted, the many moments of unfilled time
that then hung heavy on the hands of other youths in France were by
them filled up with occupations calculated to polish, to expand, and
to dignify their minds.

As far as this had gone, every thing that the Abbé de Boisguerin had
done was calculated to raise him in the esteem of his pupils; and
when, on the death of their father, they found that their preceptor
had been appointed to remain with them till the law placed their
conduct in their own hands, they both rejoiced equally and sincerely.

It may be asked, however, whether, of the two brothers, the Abbé had
himself a favourite, and whether he was better beloved by the one than
by the other? Still wise and cautious in all his proceedings, his
demeanour displayed no great predilection to either. No ordinary eye
could see: they themselves could not detect, by any outward sign, that
one possessed a particle more of his regard than the other, and both
were towards him equally attentive, affectionate, and respectful. But
there was one peculiarity in his method of dealing with them, and in
the effect that it produced upon either, which showed to himself, and
unwittingly showed to one, which was the character best calculated to
assimilate with his own.

It more than once happened, nay, indeed, it often happened, that in
order to induce them to arrive at the same conclusion with himself, or
to lead them to do that which their passions, prejudices, or
weaknesses made them unwilling to do, he would address himself, not
directly to their reason or to their heart, but to their vanity, their
pride, their prejudices: he would politically combat one error with
another: he would not exactly assail what he knew to be wrong, but
would undermine it; and when he had conquered, and they were satisfied
that he was right in the result, he would then point, with a degree of
smiling and good-humoured triumph, to the subtle means which he had
employed to lead them to his purpose.

The elder brother would sometimes be angry at having been so led; but
yet he took a certain pleasure in the skill with which it was done,
and more than once endeavoured to give the Abbé back art for art. He
strove to lead his younger brother by the same means, and more than
once succeeded. The younger, however, on his part, showed no anger at
having been led, if he were fully convinced that the object was right.
He never attempted, however, to practise the same; and as he grew up,
when any act of the kind was particularly remarkable in the Abbé, or
in his brother, it threw him into musings more serious than those
which he usually indulged in. If it diminished his regard for either,
he did not suffer that result to appear; and when he reached the
period at which his mother's estates were given into his own hands, he
eagerly besought the preceptor to remain with them, and insured to him
an income far beyond that which any thing but deep affection and
regard required him to bestow.

The interest of their father had before his death obtained for the
Abbé de Boisguerin the office of a bishopric; but the Abbé had
declined it--perhaps, as many another man has done, with more ambition
than moderation in the refusal--and he had continued to remain with
his pupils, increasing and extending his influence over them, up to
the moment at which we have placed them before the reader. He had
carefully withheld them, however; from mingling in that world of which
they as yet knew little or nothing, and in which his influence was
likely to be lost, looking forward to that period at which the
circumstances of the times should--as he saw they were likely to
do--render the support of the two young noblemen so indispensable to
some one of the great parties then struggling for supreme power, that
they might command any thing which he chose to dictate as the price of
adhesion.

Such was their state at the period which we have chosen for opening
this tale. But there was another point in their state which it may be
necessary to mark. They were not themselves at all aware of their
own characters and dispositions; nor was any one else, except the
clear-sighted and penetrating man who had dwelt so long with them; and
he could only guess, for all the world of passions within the bosoms
of each had as yet slumbered in their youthful idleness, like Samson
in the lap of Delilah; but they were speedily to be roused.

The dress of each requires but little comment, as it was the ordinary
hunting dress of the period, and was only remarkable for a good deal
of ornament, denoting, perhaps, a little taste for finery, which might
be passed over in youth. Of the two, perhaps the younger brother
displayed less gold and embroidery upon his green doublet and riding
coat. His boots, too, made, as usual, of untanned leather, displayed
no gold tassels at the sides; though his moderation in these respects
might be in some degree atoned by the length of the tall single
feather in his riding cap.

Such were the principal persons of the group which rode into the green
alley or glade that we have described in the wood; and the rest,
amounting to some twenty in number, comprised attendants of all sorts
in the glittering and many-coloured apparel of that time.



                              CHAP. II.


Did all that are hunted in this world--whether the chase be carried on
by care, or villany, or sorrow, by our own passions, or by the
malevolence of our fellow-men--did all that are hunted in this world
obtain as loud and clear an intimation that the pursuit is up and
stirring, as the wild boar which had been tracked to its covert then
had, we might have a better chance than this world generally affords
us of making our escape in time, or, at least, of preparing for
defence.

Much was the noise, great the gingling and the tramp, the whining of
impatient dogs, the chiding of surly foresters, the loud laugh and gay
jest of their masters, in the glen of the wood within three or four
hundred yards of the thicket in which the boar lay sleeping. He woke
not with the sounds, however, or, at all events, he noticed them not,
while the preparations went on for putting his easy life in the brown
forest to a close.

"Well, Gondrin," exclaimed the elder of the two brothers, Gaspar,
Marquis of Montsoreau--"Well, Gondrin, have you made sure of our
beast? is he lodged safely?"

"As safe as an ox in his stall," replied the huntsman, whom we have
seen tracking the steps of the wild boar over the crisp frost-covered
leaves of winter. "He has his lair in the thicket there, my Lord, and,
as near as I can guess, he is but a hundred yards in. If you go round
by the back of the cottage, and station two relays, one on the hill of
Dufay, and the other on the bank of the river by the bridge of
Neufbourg, you will have a glorious chase; for he can take no other
way but down the glen, and then crossing the high road by the river,
must run all the way up the valley, and stand at bay amongst the rocks
at the end."

"Beautifully arranged, Gondrin, beautifully arranged," cried the
younger brother, Charles of Montsoreau, Count of Logères; but his
elder brother instantly interrupted him, exclaiming, "But have you not
netted the thicket, Gondrin?"

"No, my Lord," replied the huntsman; "Count Charles said the other day
he loved to give the beasts a chance, and lodged as the boar is, you
would miss the run, for then he must turn at bay in the thicket and be
killed immediately."

"It matters not, it matters not," replied Gaspar de Montsoreau. "If
Charles like it, so let it be; and yet I love to see the huge beast
darting from side to side, and floundering in the nets he did not
think of. There is a pleasure in so circumventing him."

"It is not too late yet," said the fine rich musical voice of the Abbé
de Boisguerin. "The nets can be speedily brought, and the thicket
enclosed."

"Oh no," cried both brothers at once: "we have no such patience, you
know, good friend. Send down the relays, Gondrin, and let us begin the
sport at once."

"I will go round to the left of the thicket with my men," continued
the younger brother, "and will keep the hill-side as well as if there
were all the nets in the world. You, Gaspar, keep this side and the
little lane behind the cottage."

"And what shall I do?" demanded the Abbé with a smile. "I must not
show myself backward in your sports, Charles, so I will go with
Gondrin here, and some of the piqueurs, and force the grizzly monarch
of the forest in his hold."

The matter being thus determined, the relays were sent down, and the
parties separated for their several stations, Gondrin saying to his
younger lord as they went round, "If I sound one mot on my horn, sir,
the boar is making his rush towards you; if I sound two, he is taking
towards the Marquis; but if I sound three, be sure that he is going
down the valley, as I said, and must take to the rocks, for he has no
chance any other way but by the ford, which he won't take, unless hard
pressed."

"I will go straight round by the ford and turn him," replied his young
lord. "Then we make sure of him altogether, Gondrin."

Thus saying, he rode quickly on and took his station on the hill,
where an open space gave him room to plant his men around so as to
meet the boar at any point of the ascent, in case the beast turned in
that direction and endeavoured to plunge into the depths of the
forest.

Some time was allowed to elapse, in order to give the relays time to
reach their stations, and then, from the western side of the thicket,
were heard the cries and halloos of the huntsmen, as they themselves
plunged into the wood, and encouraged the dogs to attack the boar in
his lair. For a short space, the hounds themselves were mute; but, in
about five minutes, they seemed to have got upon the boar's scent, who
had moved onward, roused by the cries of the hunters, and a loud long
opening burst announced that they had come upon his track, A minute
afterwards, a single note was heard from the horn of the huntsman, and
the grey form of the boar glanced for a moment past one of the gaps in
the wood where the younger of the brothers had stationed himself; but
the beast plunged in again immediately, and a piercing yell from one
of the dogs seemed to show that he had passed through the midst of the
hounds, taking vengeance upon them as he went for disturbing his
quiet. Shortly after, the horn of Gondrin gave the signal that the
boar was rushing down the valley. Charles of Montsoreau paused to be
quite sure, but the three notes were sounded again after a moment's
silence, and, setting spurs to his horse, he galloped on like
lightning to interrupt the boar, and turn him at the ford. The loud
cries of the dogs in full chase were sufficient to show him that he
was right in the direction he had taken till he issued forth from the
wood, and after that he could see with his own eyes the whole scene of
the boar's flight, and the pursuit through the open country into which
the beast was now driven.

Galloping on with all the eagerness and impetuosity of youth, he made
at once for the ford; now catching wide views of the landscape as he
passed over the side of some open hill, now losing the whole again as
he plunged amidst the leafless vineyards or woods. The country around
was thus hidden from his sight, and he could see nothing but the dull
dry stems of the vines, in a low sloping hollow through which he
passed, or a few mottled patches of darker cloud upon the dull grey
sky overhead--when suddenly his ear caught the sound of distant
fire-arms, and he drew up his horse in no small surprise.

The situation of the country, indeed--the wars that were taking
place in almost every part of France--the general disorganisation
of society, which throughout almost the whole land changed the
peasant into the soldier, either for the purposes of plunder or
self-defence--might be supposed to have rendered such sounds not at
all unfamiliar to his ear; and, in truth, two years before he would
have shown no sign of astonishment to have heard a whole park of
artillery roaring in the direction from which he now heard the sound
of a few scattered shots. Since, then, however, the tide of warfare
had been turned in another direction. In the secluded spot in which he
dwelt, few visits from occasional marauders were to be apprehended:
the peasantry had returned to their labours, and no news of any kind
from the distant provinces had given reason to suppose that the
scourge of civil war was again likely to afflict that part of the
country. Some precautions, indeed, had been necessary to keep down
petty feuds and plundering excursions amongst some of the inferior
gentry and partisans in the neighbourhood; and the two young noblemen
had been called upon to practise some of the most important duties of
their station, in maintaining, as far as possible, peace and
tranquillity around them.

After pausing, then, for a moment, to listen, Charles of Montsoreau,
judging that the sounds he heard proceeded from some new infraction of
the law, rode on, determined, as soon as he had finished the
all-important business of the chase, to investigate the matter more
thoroughly, and to punish the aggressors. All these fine resolutions,
however, were changed in a moment; for almost as soon as they were
formed he emerged from the vineyard through which he had been passing,
entered upon the open side of the hill, and a scene was presented to
his eyes which excited other and somewhat more painful feelings in his
bosom.

Although the point on which he stood was not particularly high, the
view was extensive and uninterrupted by any very near object. The
valley through which the stream wound was about a mile and a half in
breadth, and five or six miles in length; along the whole extent of
which the high road was visible, with the exception of a few hundred
yards here and there, where a rock, or a peasant's house, or a
water-mill by the side of the stream, interrupted the view. At the
distance of somewhat more than half a mile lay the bridge over the
stream, and half way between it and the spot where the young gentleman
stood, appeared one of the large, heavy, wide-topped carriages of the
day, drawn by six horses, and driving along at a furious rate, as if
in full flight. The driver was lashing his horses with furious
eagerness; but ever and anon he turned his head to look behind towards
the bridge, where a scene appeared, which showed his anxiety to
quicken his pace to be not at all unnatural.

Half upon the bridge and half upon the road, on the nearer side of the
stream, appeared a very small body of horsemen, apparently not more
than seven or eight in number, contending fiercely with a larger body,
as if to give time for the persons in the carriage to escape; and from
that spot, rolling up in white wreaths amongst the yellow banks and
cold green wintry slopes of scanty herbage, curled the white smoke,
occasioned by the discharge of fire-arms. At the distance of about a
mile and a half beyond, again, was seen coming up, with headlong
speed, a still larger body of cavalry; and it was evident, that at the
rate with which the latter were advancing, the carriage and its
denizens, if such were the object of their pursuit, would not be very
long before they were overtaken.

It is a pleasant weakness in young and generous minds to seek in all
strifes the defence of the weaker, even when we do not know whether
the cause that we thus espouse be or be not the just one. Charles of
Montsoreau paused but for a moment, and then rode down towards the
carriage as fast as possible, followed by his attendants. The coachman
showed great unwillingness to stop; but he had no power of resisting
the command which he received to do so, and accordingly, as soon as it
was repeated, obeyed. But, at the same moment, the head of an elderly
lady, apparently of some rank, was thrust forth from between the
curtains of the vehicle, uttering various not very coherent sentences,
and displaying in every line and feature indubitable marks of great
fear and trepidation.

Brought up in the habit of chivalrous courtesy, the young nobleman
instantly raised his cap, and bowing low, asked if he could render her
any service. His words were few and simple, but there was great
encouragement in his air; and the lady replied, "Oh! for Heaven's
sake, do not stop us, young gentleman. We have been basely betrayed by
one of our servants into an ambush of the King of Navarre's reiters,
who seek to make us prisoners, and Heaven only knows what may become
of us if they succeed."

"If the reiters be those that are following you," said the young
nobleman, "there is no earthly possibility of your escaping them,
madam, except by taking refuge in the château of Montsoreau hard by. I
will give your coachman directions, and then go down and help to
disentangle your attendants, who seem to be contending gallantly with
superior numbers on the bridge."

"A thousand and a thousand thanks, young gentleman," replied the lady.
"But how," she added, with a look of uncertainty, "but how can we tell
that we shall be kindly received at Montsoreau, and shall not,
perhaps, be treated as prisoners there also?"

"By my promise, madam," replied the young gentleman with a smile, "I
am Charles of Montsoreau, the Marquis's brother: will you trust
yourself to my word?"

"Most willingly," she said; and turning to the coachman, the young
gentleman added, "Drive on with all speed till the road divides, then
take the left-hand road up the hill and through the wood; demand
admittance, in my name, at the castle, if I should not have come up in
time. But I shall have overtaken you before then. Now, speed on, and
spare not your beasts, for the way is not long, if you be diligent."

Thus saying, he again bowed low and rode on, and in a very few minutes
had reached the spot where the contention was taking place between the
party of light-armed servants attending upon the carriage and the
heavy armed reiters.

The young nobleman was not unwilling to signalise himself by any deed
of arms that might fall in his way; but on the present occasion no
great opportunity was afforded him, for the numbers he brought to the
assistance of the servants appeared so formidable in the eyes of the
other party who were already engaged in the fray, that they hastened
to draw back for the purpose of waiting in security the arrival of
their comrades; and the only event which took place worth noting was
the action of the commander of the reiters then present, who turned
deliberately as he retreated, and fired his pistol at the head of the
young nobleman with so true an aim as to send the bullet through his
hunting cap, within an inch of his head.

Under any other circumstances, Charles of Montsoreau would not have
failed to repay this sort of courtesy with something of the same kind;
but recollecting the situation of the persons in the carriage, he
showed more cool prudence than might have been expected from his
years; and telling an elderly man, who seemed the principal attendant
present, that the carriage was proceeding as fast as possible to the
shelter of the château of Montsoreau, he bade him ride after it with
all speed.

"You, Martin," he said, turning to one of his own followers, "gallop
up to the ford, cross it, seek out the hunt, which I can see no longer
in the field, and tell my brother what has happened, asking him to
hasten back to the castle with all speed. I shall wait here for a
time, to watch the movements of the reiters, and see that they do not
pursue you--so lose no time, but spur on speedily."

The man did as he was bid, and for about five minutes Charles of
Montsoreau kept his position upon the bridge, supported by nothing but
his own attendants. The servant whom he had despatched to his brother
reached the ford and crossed it, without any attempt on the part of
the reiters to interrupt him. He then galloped on in the direction of
the rocks, at full speed; and Charles of Montsoreau having seen him,
as far as he could judge, in safety, turned his horse, and rode after
the carriage and its followers.

In the mean time, while these events were taking place, on one side of
the valley the boar, following the plan that the huntsman Gondrin had
laid out for him, pursued the course of the stream, and though chased
by the dogs in full cry, paused not, and turned not, till at the
water-mill a fierce watch-dog rushed out upon him, and received in
return a wound from one of the beast's sharp tusks, which laid him
dying upon the road. This little incident did not stop the fierce
animal for an instant; but it seemed to confuse him, and made him turn
from the direct course he was pursuing sooner than he otherwise would
have done. He doubled once before the hounds almost like a hare, and
then darting up one of the narrow passes to the right, led hounds and
huntsmen a considerable distance from the spot where the chase first
commenced, before he was finally driven into the valley of rocks, from
which there was no outlet, and where he was, consequently, obliged to
stand at bay.

The way that he took led the main body of the huntsmen, with the young
lord of Montsoreau and the Abbé of Boisguerin, into a track, from
which the other side of the valley was not visible; and their own
eagerness, the cries of the numerous dogs, and the shouts and halloos
of the huntsmen, prevented them from hearing those sounds which had
attracted the attention of Charles of Montsoreau. When the Abbé and
the Marquis arrived, they found the noble boar already brought to bay
by the dogs, and defending himself stoutly against his enemy. Two of
the hounds were already sprawling in their blood beneath his feet, and
the Marquis sprang to the ground to put an end to the strife as soon
as possible.

Nothing extraordinary occurred to mark the event of the chase. The
boar, like one of those unfortunate men that we sometimes see in the
world, upon whom every sort of misfortune falls one after another,
torn by the dogs, assailed by the huntsmen, confused by the clamour,
was soon killed amongst them; and Gaspar, whose hand had performed the
actual deed, executed all the usual offices of the hunter upon that
occasion, and stepping out the boar's length, declared that it was one
of the finest brutes that he had ever slain.

"I wonder where Charles is," he exclaimed, as soon as the whole was
completed. "He must have missed us at the turn by the water-mill."

And thus saying, he gazed down the valley of rocks, through the
opening of which might be seen a part of the other valley, with the
wood from which the boar had been forced, and the grey towers of the
château of Montsoreau rising upon the hill beyond. A single horseman
appeared coming up the valley, at the distance of about half a mile;
but as the young marquis gazed in the direction of the castle, his eye
was suddenly attracted by a quick flash which seemed to dart from one
of the embrasures, and almost at the same instant a white cloud of
smoke enveloped the top of the principal tower. After a short
interval, the loud booming report of a cannon made itself heard, and
another, and another flash issued forth from the embrasures on the
side which commanded the road, while the cloud of smoke around the
castle grew deeper and more extensive; and the repeated roar of the
cannon gave notice to the country round that war had returned to
disturb the peace which had reigned in those valleys for the last two
years.

"What is the meaning of this?" exclaimed the Marquis, turning towards
the Abbé--"What can be the meaning of all this?"

"Why, simply," replied the Abbé, "I suppose some unexpected attack
upon the castle, and that your brother Charles has thrown himself into
it, and is firing upon the enemy. But, if I mistake not, this man
coming up at such speed is his piqueur Martin. He rides to us with
news, depend upon it."

The man soon conveyed to them his own tale, and added the information,
that, as far as he could judge from the backward looks that he had
cast as he rode along, the body of reiters who had followed in pursuit
of the carriage amounted at least to the number of two hundred. The
situation of the Marquis and his companions was now in some degree
embarrassing; for their party was far too small to afford a hope of
forcing their way into the château at once, if opposed by the superior
force which the man described. Measures were, therefore, immediately
taken, for calling the peasantry around to arms; and such was the
military and enterprising spirit of the day, that you would have
thought from the alacrity with which the pike was grasped, and the
steel-cap put on, that some joyful occasion called the good countrymen
forth from their homes, and not a matter of peril and strife.

In the course of about two hours, more than forty men had collected in
the valley of rocks; and with this small force, Gaspar de Montsoreau
prepared to force his way into the château, though the Abbé de
Boisguerin still remonstrated with him on the smallness of the number,
and advised him to wait for further support. As they were discussing
the matter, however, the huntsman Gondrin stepped forward, and, with a
low inclination of the head, addressed his lord.

"I think, sir," he said, "if you would let me guide you, I could bring
you through the wood to the postern under the rock, without these
German vagabonds catching the least sight of your march; and at that
postern, you know, defended by the guns of the château, you could defy
the whole world till the postern is opened."

"How do you propose to do it, Gondrin?" demanded the Abbé, scarcely
giving the young lord time to reply.

"Why, I mean," replied the man, "to go round under the hill to the
road between the deep banks, which would cover a whole troop of men at
arms, much less a small body, such as we have here. That leads us
straight into the wood behind my house; and then there is the path
which I always follow myself in coming up to the château. It never
leaves the covert of the wood till it reaches the postern, or at least
the little green that opens before it."

"Oh, Gondrin is right, Gondrin is right," exclaimed the young marquis.
"He is always sure of his way. Lead on, Gondrin: keep about twenty
yards in front, and we will follow as orderly as we can. But some one
bring along the boar! we must not leave the boar behind!"

The march was then commenced; and the only farther observation that
was made upon the proposed course proceeded from the Abbé de
Boisguerin, who said in a low voice to the young nobleman, "My only
reason for questioning Gondrin so closely was, that he has always
shown a much greater fondness for your brother than yourself, as you
must often have observed; and I thought he might lead us all into
greater peril than needful, in his zealous eagerness to succour
Charles."

The Marquis did not reply, but rode on thoughtfully; and yet, upon
words as light as those, have often been built up in this world
rancours and jealousies never afterwards extinguished. In the present
instance, indeed, and at the present moment, the effect went no
further than to make Gaspar of Montsoreau ask himself, "I wonder why
Gondrin should love my brother better than myself? and yet I have
remarked he does so."

As they marched on, the sound of the cannon was still heard from time
to time; but at length, as they entered the wood, it ceased, and was
heard no more. After threading the narrow path by which Gondrin led
them, they issued forth upon a green slope beneath an angle of the
rock on which the château stood. The chief road leading to the castle
was visible from that point; but no body of reiters was now to be seen
there; and the moment that they were perceived and recognised from the
battlements, glad shouts and gestures from the retainers on the walls
gave them to understand that the enemy had thought fit to abandon
their object, and retreat. Perhaps Gaspar of Montsoreau was not quite
satisfied that the defence should have been made and the enemy
frustrated by his younger brother; but his heart was still
sufficiently pure and upright to make him angry with himself on
detecting such sensations in his bosom.



                              CHAP. III.


Those who have never lived amongst strange and stirring events, those
who have never been accustomed to hourly danger, and to continual
change, form no idea of the ease with which the human mind reconciles
itself to the various rapid alternations of our fate, and how soon the
habit of enterprise, excitement and hazard, produces an appetite for
the very things that would seem abhorrent to our nature.

The incident of the appearance of the reiters in that part of the
country, of their attack upon the château of Montsoreau, and of the
absence of its lord at the moment, might have ended by the capture and
burning of the castle, and by the massacre of all within its walls.
But the moment that it was over, the Marquis and his train rode in,
and springing from his horse, he entered the hall, laughing gaily at
the perilous events just past. Finding no one there but some servants,
he next proceeded to a part of the building which was called the
Lady's Bower, where he was informed his brother now was, with the
guests who had so unexpectedly taken refuge in the château. He was
followed thither by the Abbé de Boisguerin, and on entering they found
a scene which--though of no very stirring character--we must attempt
to paint for the reader's eye.

The lady's bower was a large, lightsome chamber in one of those towers
of the château which was least likely to be exposed to the fire of
artillery in case of attack--for we must remember that every
nobleman's house in that day was built chiefly with a view to defence,
and was in fact a regular fortress, as far as the science of the time
could render it so. The windows of the bower looked over the most
abrupt part of the hill on which the castle stood, and, beyond that,
upon the wide woods, that, sweeping away down into the valley, covered
an extent of many miles of low and gently undulating ground, which
afforded no eminence whatsoever, within cannon shot, that was not
completely commanded by the castle itself. The bower had also the
advantage of being on the sunny side of the building, turned away from
the cold north, and from the east, and looking to the land of summer,
and to the point where the splendid sun went down after his daily
course. On the day that we have mentioned, indeed, the great
light-giver vouchsafed but few of his beams to the world below; but in
the huge fire-place of the lady's bower, which was furnished with its
comfortable seats all round, blazed up a pile of logs, giving heat
sufficient to the whole room, to compensate for the absence of the
sun.

At a little distance from the fire was collected a group of persons,
of which the graceful and dignified form of Charles of Montsoreau was
the first that caught the eye. He was standing with his hunting cap in
his hand--the long plume of which swept the floor--and was bending in
an attitude of much grace to speak with a lady who was seated in a
large arm-chair, and who, looking up in his face, was listening with
apparently great interest to all that he was saying. That lady,
however, was not the one who had spoken to him from the carriage. She,
indeed, sat near, while three or four female attendants, who had come
with her in the vehicle, stood behind. But the lady to whom Charles of
Montsoreau was speaking was altogether of a different age, and of a
different appearance.

She was apparently not above nineteen or twenty years of age, and
certainly very beautiful, although her beauty was not altogether of
that sparkling and brilliant kind which attracts attention at once.
The features, it is true, were all good; the skin fair, soft, and
delicate; the figure exquisitely formed, and full of grace; but there
were none of those brilliant contrasts of colouring that are
remarkable even at a distance. There was no flashing black eye, full
of fire and light; the colour on the cheek, though that cheek was not
pale, was pure and delicate; the hair was of a light glossy silken
brown, and the soft liquid hazel eyes, screened by their long lashes,
and fine cut eyelids, required to be seen near, and to be marked well,
before all the beautiful depth and fervour of their expression could
be fully perceived. There was one thing, however, which was seen at
once, which was the great loveliness of the mouth and lips, every
line of which spoke sweetness and gentleness, but not without
firmness--tenderness, in short, gaining rather than losing from
resolution. Those lips were altogether peculiar to the race and family
to which she was--not very remotely--related; and it was to their
peculiar form and expression, that was owing that ineffable smile
which is said to have borne no slight part in the charm that rendered
her nearest male relative at that moment all-powerful over the hearts
of men, made him, Henry of Guise, more a king in France than the
sovereign of the land--at least as far as the affections of the people
went--and which had added the crowning grace to the beauty of the
unfortunate Mary Stuart.

The dress in which this fair girl was clothed was that in which she
had been travelling, and consequently there was but little ornament of
any kind about it; and yet the blood of the princely Guises spoke out
in every movement and in every attitude, too plainly for any one to
have mistaken her for aught but what she was, had she been dressed
even in the garb of a peasant.

The elder lady, clothed altogether in black, with her grey hair drawn
back from the point of the black velvet curch with which her head was
covered, and an eager, somewhat restless, eye, presented no points
either of great interest or attraction, and appeared what, in fact,
she really was, a poor and distant relation of the young lady whom she
accompanied, willing to derive competence, importance, and dignity
from acting the part of companion to one above herself in worldly
advantages.

It frequently and naturally happens, that persons in such a situation
lose all native dignity of character, and become at once subservient
to those above them, and domineering to those below. This, indeed, is
not always the case; and when it is not, the great trial of the human
heart, which such circumstances inflict, but leaves the character of
those who endure it well, more bright and noble than they otherwise
would have appeared. But in the present instance, the result was the
more common one, and the old Marquise de Saulny, though possessing
several good qualities, presented, in general, a character but little
estimable. Talkative till she was repressed; loving to rule and direct
the household of the young lady to whom she was attached; excitable,
and somewhat tyrannical by nature, but subservient by habit and by
policy, she was often inclined to affect a degree of power and
authority over her fair companion, which the sweet girl herself but
rarely thought it worth while to oppose, but which, as soon as she did
oppose it, sunk into the most perfect submission and humility. Often,
too, she would make an effort to engross the whole conversation, and
in ordinary instances did so without any fear of rivalry from her less
loquacious companion; but whenever the young lady herself showed an
inclination to speak, Madame de Saulny was silent, or only conversed
with the inferior persons round about her in a low tone.

As we have said, it was by the side of the younger lady that Charles
of Montsoreau was now standing, giving her apparently an account of
the events that had just passed, while she, with her soft eyes turned
eagerly towards his face, listened to every word he uttered with deep
interest, and asked him manifold questions as he went on.

It would seem that Charles of Montsoreau had not been aware of the
return of his brother, for he started slightly at his appearance, and
the young lady turned her eyes towards the door with an inquiring
look, as the Marquis and the Abbé de Boisguerin entered.

"This is my brother, madam," said Charles of Montsoreau, taking a step
forward. "Gaspar, I have been acting as your lieutenant here during
your absence. The man I sent to you doubtless told you what had then
occurred; and although I knew not, when I offered these ladies in your
name the protection of your château, whom it was I had an opportunity
of thus slightly serving, I was quite sure that I only did what you
would have done if you had been present."

"Undoubtedly, my gallant brother," replied the Marquis--"you did all
that was right, and all that was chivalrous. For my own sake, I must
regret my absence at the moment when these events took place; but for
these ladies' sake I cannot regret it, for I know none who would
welcome them more warmly, or defend them more gallantly, than you,
Charles.--And so you have stood a siege and won a battle during my
absence, while I have only had the luck to kill a huge boar.--I hope,"
he added, advancing towards the younger lady, "I hope that you have
neither suffered great fear nor great inconvenience; and though it is
possible that these reiters will linger about in this neighbourhood
for some time to come, being now upon our guard, we shall soon have
men enough under arms to protect you against any further violence."

While he had been speaking the young lady had regarded him
attentively, but with a very different glance from that which she had
been giving to his brother. It seemed as if the events which had taken
place had rendered her familiar with the one, even in the short space
of time which their acquaintance had yet lasted, and she looked upon
him as a friend, while she gazed upon the other as a stranger. She
replied courteously, however, thanking him for the hospitality which
had been shown to them, and assuring him, that though she had
certainly been very much frightened while they were flying from the
pursuit of the reiters, yet she had lost all fear as soon as they were
within the walls of Montsoreau.

"You have forgot one thing, Charles," said the Abbé de Boisguerin,
advancing, "which is to present your brother and myself formally to
these ladies; for we, who were unfortunate enough to be absent on a
less pleasing occupation than that of giving them assistance, do not
yet know to whom you have been fortunate enough to afford protection."

Charles of Montsoreau coloured slightly, as he was reminded of his
omission, and then presented his brother and the Abbé to the Marquise
de Saulny and Mademoiselle de Clairvaut.

At the name of the latter, the brow of the Abbé de Boisguerin, which
had been somewhat contracted, expanded in a moment, and his lip
lighted up with a bright smile.

"If I am not mistaken," he said, bowing low to the younger lady,
"Mademoiselle de Clairvaut is niece of that most noble prince the Duke
of Guise."

"My mother was his niece," replied the young lady; "but I may boast
that his affection is not less for me than if I were myself his
niece--I may say his daughter."

"Well may any one be proud of his regard," replied the Abbé, "and
well, I feel sure, may the Duke of Guise also feel deep regard for
Mademoiselle de Clairvaut. But I trust that this young gentleman has
already taken care you should have some better entertainment than the
report of cannon. You have, I hope, had some refreshment."

"No," replied the young lady, with a smile, as she saw the colour
again come up into the cheek of Charles of Montsoreau at the implied
reproach; "no, he has been sufficiently occupied, till within the last
half hour, in defending us from the enemy, who seemed at one time, I
understand, resolved to storm the château; and since then, I have kept
him giving me answers to many foolish questions; so that he has had no
time to think of offering refreshment to any one--though I know, my
good Madame de Saulny, that fear always makes you hungry."

"Not such fear as we have had to-day, dear Marie," replied Madame de
Saulny. "It has been quite enough to-day to take away my appetite
altogether, till I heard that we were quite safe, and those hateful
reiters gone from before the gates. How I shall ever gain courage to
set out again I do not know."

"I only trust, dear madam," said Gaspar de Montsoreau, "I only trust
that your terror may last a long while, so that we may keep our two
fair prisoners within our château till such time as all the roads are
in perfect safety."

The colour came a little more deeply into the cheek of Marie de
Clairvaut.

"I think, indeed," she said, "that we ought to set off again as soon
as possible. We owe you many, many thanks, gentlemen, for the
protection you have already afforded, and the hospitality you are
willing to show. But as I am hastening by my uncle's direction to my
estates near Dreux, where I expect to meet him, I fear I must not
linger by the way. Some of our poor attendants, I understand, are
wounded; these we must leave to your kind care. But I hope it will be
found possible for us to proceed on our way before nightfall."

"You will pardon me, madam," said the Abbé de Boisguerin, "and my
young friends here will pardon me for taking the matter in some degree
out of their hands; but believe me, what you propose is perfectly
impossible. It would be madness to attempt it. I should hold myself,
as an ecclesiastic, deeply criminal, were I not at once to remonstrate
against such a proceeding. The whole country, between this and Dreux,
a space of more than two hundred miles, is filled with the bands of
the King of Navarre, especially the Germans, and other heretics in
his service. I take it for granted, that you have got a passport and
safe-conduct from some of his chief officers; but the conduct of the
reiters towards you this day must have shown you how little such
safe-conducts are respected by those bands of ruffians."

"Indeed," said Madame de Saulny, "you give us credit, sir, for more
prudence than we possess. We have neither passport nor safe-conduct
from any of the heretic leaders; for this young lady was so anxious to
obey the directions of her uncle at once, that she would stay for no
remonstrance."

"Now that we have her here, however, she must submit to be more
strictly ruled," said Charles of Montsoreau with a smile.

"Ay, but we have your promise that we should come and go in safety,
and without opposition," said Marie de Clairvaut in the same tone, and
likewise with a smile. "You surely will not shut the castle gates
against my departure."

"No, we will not do that," said his brother; "but we will reverse the
usual course, if you prove refractory, and turn you over from the
secular arm to the power of the church, fair lady. Our excellent
friend, the Abbé here, shall decide upon your fate, and I feel sure
that his decision will be ratified and confirmed by your princely
uncle."

"My judgment is soon pronounced," said the Abbé. "In the first place,
before you can or ought to stir a step from beyond these walls, you
must absolutely procure a safe-conduct from Henry of Navarre, or some
of his principal leaders. We will send off a messenger to obtain it;
and in the mean while a courier shall be also sent to his Highness the
Duke of Guise, to give him notice of where you are, and to have his
good will and pleasure in regard to your farther proceedings."

The young lady turned an inquiring glance upon her companion. It was a
look of much doubt and hesitation; but whatever might be her own
wishes upon the occasion--whether inclination led her to stay, or
feelings of propriety prompted her to go--her appealing eyes were
certainly turned to a personage whose mind was already made up as to
what was expedient to be done. Madame de Saulny loved not reiters at
all; the sound of their galloping hoofs in pursuit of the carriage,
the report of fire arms upon the bridge, the roaring of the cannon
from the castle, were all still ringing in her ears, and persuading
her, in a very loud and imperative voice, that on such a cold day, and
in such perilous circumstances, a warm comfortable mansion, good food,
good lodging, and good attendance, with the society of two handsome
young men, and an agreeable ecclesiastic, formed a whole infinitely
preferable to a dull high road in frosty weather, coarse lodging, bad
inns, dangerous driving, and fears at every turning.

"Now, my dear Mary," exclaimed Madame de Saulny, "you see that all my
opinions are fully confirmed by authority, which I trust you will pay
a little more attention to. This excellent gentleman has only said
what I said before, and if you persist in going, the consequences be
upon your head."

"My only fear," replied the young lady, "is that the duke should not
approve of my staying. But when the opinion of every one is against
me, of course I must yield."

"Do not be the least alarmed in regard to your uncle," replied the
Abbé; "he shall be fully informed that you were very desirous of
falling into the hands of the reiters; but that we would not permit
you to have your own way, and detained you here by force against your
own will."

"Under those circumstances, of course, I have no choice," said the
young lady, "but I will beg that no time may be lost in despatching
the messengers, so that I may not have to reproach myself with
unnecessary delay of any kind."

The Abbé and his two young friends assured her that no delay should be
used; and it now being settled, according to the wishes of all parties
but herself, that Mademoiselle de Clairvaut and her companions were to
remain at the castle of Montsoreau for some days, her two young hosts,
placed in a new but not unpleasant situation, busied themselves
eagerly to provide for her comfort, and to make her hours fly as
happily as possible. The first thing to be done was to give her and
her companions some refreshment. The best apartments of the castle
were allotted for her use; and although she could not help feeling
that her situation was somewhat strange; though it occasionally made
her heart beat with the apprehension of not doing what was right, and
caused the colour to come more deeply into her fair cheek when she
thought of it; yet Marie de Clairvaut, somewhat like a bird escaped
from a cage, felt, in the midst of timidity and apprehension, a joy in
her little day of liberty, and prepared to make herself as happy as
she could.



                              CHAP. IV.


The prudent plans and purposes of the most prudent and politic people
in this world are almost all contingent--contingent, in the first
place, upon circumstances, the great rulers of all earthly things,
and, in the second place, not less than the first, upon the
characters, thoughts, and feelings of the very persons who frame them.
Many a one may be tempted to tell us, that it must be a prudent man to
form prudent resolutions, and that such a prudent man will keep them;
but now the reverse of this common-place reasoning is directly the
case, and the most prudent determinations are but too often taken by
the most imprudent people, and violated without the slightest ceremony
or contrition. This is, indeed, almost universally the case; for
really prudent people have no need to make resolutions at all, and
those who make them have almost always some intimation in their own
mind that there is a likelihood of their being broken.

The case of Marie de Clairvaut was not exactly that of a person either
wanting in prudence or in firmness. She often considered thoughtfully
and long, regarding proprieties and improprieties before she
determined on any course of action; and, in the present instance, as
she sat by her solitary toilet-table in her own chamber, she revolved
in her mind her situation--the guest of two young and wealthy nobles;
and although she felt perfectly confident, both from their whole
demeanour and from the redoubted power and influence of her uncle,
that she would be treated with the most perfect courtesy, hospitality,
and kindness, she saw that she would have in some degree a difficult
task to perform, both in regard to them and to herself.

Though younger than either of them, Marie de Clairvaut had seen a
great deal more of the world; and from her own circumstances, and
those of her family, she had been called upon to consider subjects and
to deal with events, which rarely fall within the scope of a young, a
very young woman's reflections. We have said in the end of the last
chapter, that Marie de Clairvaut prepared to make herself as happy as
she could; and it was the feeling that she had given way somewhat
incautiously to such a design, during the first day that she had spent
within the walls of the château of Montsoreau that made her--as she
sat preparing to retire to rest--think seriously over her situation,
and, as we have said, frame her resolutions according to the result of
her reflections.

Some time was likely to elapse before she could hear from her uncle;
and in the mean while two great perils menaced her in her present
situation, as great and as probable, perhaps, as any that fancy
painted in regard to her falling into the hands of the reiters, though
certainly of a very different character. The first of these perils
was, that either of her two gay and gallant hosts should fall in love
with her. The days of chivalry were not then over--men did
occasionally fall in love with a lady and not with her wealth; and
there had been observable more than once, on the countenances of the
two brothers, various looks and expressions so strongly indicative of
admiration, that Marie, without any particular vanity, might well
suppose that warmer feelings still, might spring up in the track of
those which had risen already so rapidly.

The next great danger was one of a still more terrible character--it
was, that she herself might fall in love with one or other of the
brothers. Now there were various things which rendered this probable,
as well as various things which rendered it improbable. In the first
place, though of a gentle and affectionate disposition, she had never
yet seen any one whom she could really love; and though she had
mingled with courts and moved in scenes where those startling changes
were constantly taking place which try and ultimately use and wear
away the finer feelings of the human heart, yet her bosom had been
originally richly stored by God with warm, and kind, and generous
sensations; and all that she had seen of the world and its worldliness
had but tended to make her not only hate and detest it, but cling to
any thing that savoured of a fresher nature. She had lived enough in
courts and crowds to make her abhor them, but not enough to forget her
abhorrence; and she was now cast entirely into the society of two
beings as little like those courts and crowds as it was possible to
conceive: she was dependent upon them for amusement, support,
protection; and withal there was that touching knowledge that she was
admired and liked; which, to a generous and a feeling mind, is fully
as powerful--though acting in a different way--as to a vain and a
selfish one.

Had there been, in the simplicity and the want of knowledge of the
world which characterised the two brothers, any thing in the least
degree laughable or extravagant, there might have been no occasion for
fear; but such was not the case: their manners and their tone were in
the highest degree courteous, nay, courtly. They felt within
themselves the station in which they were born, the high education
which they had received, the superiority of their mental and corporeal
powers over most of those with whom they had ever been brought in
contact; and that feeling added a dignified and somewhat commanding
ease to the grace which nature had bestowed and education improved.

Marie de Clairvaut then considered all these things calmly and
deliberately, wisely making use of her own dispassionate judgment, so
long as she knew that judgment to be cool and unbiassed. The reader,
skilful in the human heart, perhaps may be inclined to ask, whether
there was or was not really some little indication, in her own heart,
of a liking and admiration for one of the two brothers, which caused
her to be thus circumspect and careful? All that we can answer is,
that she herself did not think so; but merely feeling that, placed in
an unusual situation, she was responsible to herself, and to them, and
to her uncle, for her conduct, she took the very first opportunity of
contemplating all the circumstances that surrounded her, in order to
shape her conduct by the dictates of reason. She took a strong
resolution, indeed, but that was the only indication of weakness that
she discovered.

In the first place, then, she resolved, on her own part, not to be
betrayed by any circumstances whatever into falling in love with
either the elder or the younger brother; and, in the next place, she
resolved to do all in her power, without acting insincerely in any
degree, or discourteously, to prevent either of them from falling in
love with her. Such a resolution implied that she was not to allow
herself to be so happy as she had at first hoped and expected to be;
but, nevertheless, she framed her purposes accordingly, and determined
that only so much of her time should be given to the two brothers as
kindness and lady-like courtesy required. She would not attempt to
assume a false character, for such a thing was quite contrary to the
frankness and sincerity of her nature. While she was with them she
would appear what she really was, but she would avoid, as far as
possible, all those occasions of intimacy and constant communication,
which her residence in their mansion, during troublous times, might
naturally produce.

Now, all this was very wise and very prudent and we have endeavoured
to show, that Marie de Clairvaut was not one of those people whose
prudent resolutions are taken from a consciousness, secret or avowed,
that prudence itself is wanting. Nevertheless, Marie de Clairvaut was
a girl of less than nineteen years of age, and no more mistress,
either of events, or of her own conduct and resolutions, under
particular circumstances, than if she had been fifty. She began her
plan, indeed, on the following morning, by pleading occupations of
various kinds as an excuse for remaining the greater part of the day
in her own apartments. But, alas! there were two enemies in her own
camp.

One was Madame de Saulny, who thought herself bound to remain with her
fair cousin, and yet had a very strong inclination for the more
extended society which the château afforded. The other was a still
more dangerous foe, namely, herself, who, to say sooth, found the time
pass uncommonly heavily, having with her on her journey neither books,
nor any other of those sources of occupation which might have helped
to while away the hours in the solitude of her own chamber. Having but
a fretful companion in the good marquise, and none of any interest
amongst her inferior followers, the first day wore away tediously,
and, if we may say the truth, the hours that she gave up in solitude
had the evil effect of making those that she spent with three
intelligent and highminded men appear far more delightful than they
might otherwise have done.

She found, also, that all three possessed accomplishments very rare
amongst the high nobility of that day; that the whole world of art and
nature, as far as it was then known, had been opened to their
inquiries: and not only did music, and song, and poetry, aid to make
the day pass pleasantly, but they also rendered the conversation that
occupied another portion of the time refined, and bright, and
comprehensive. They were not driven to talk of nothing but horses, or
armour, or the battlefield, or the chase, though such matters were not
altogether excluded; but, as must ever be the case, every subject
spoken of received a peculiar colour, a tone, a shade from the mind
and habitual feelings of the speaker. If Charles of Montsoreau spoke
of a horse, it was not in the terms of a horse-dealer, but it was
either as the sculptor, the painter, the poet, or the soldier: he
dwelt upon the beauty of its form, the docility of its nature, the
fiery energies which render it the most poetical object in the whole
inferior creation. If he talked of the chase, it was not alone of the
slaughter of stout boars, or the tearing down the antlered quarry; but
it was of the eager excitement of the scene; the rapid motion through
fair woods and bright prospects; the music of echo and the hounds; the
expectation, the strife, the slight portion of danger; of all, in
short, which makes the real difference between the hunter and the
butcher.

Marie de Clairvaut was not so much of a recluse the second day as the
first; and with music, and song, and conversation, such as we have
described, it passed as pleasantly as might be; but there were several
other little incidents which from time to time took place to vary any
monotony that might have been felt. A report of reiters having been
seen at a small distance reached the castle in the morning, and some
horsemen were sent out to ascertain the fact. Preparations of
different kinds were made for offering indomitable resistance in case
of any fresh attack by a larger force. The armoury was explored; and
while every sort of weapon needful for arming the peasantry was
brought forth, pikes, and arquebuses, and morions, Charles of
Montsoreau pointed out to Mademoiselle de Clairvaut many a curious old
relic of other days, to each of which some legend was attached--the
casque and hauberk of the crusader, the arms of some noble ancestor
slain on the bloody field of Poitiers, or still older and less
certain, the gigantic gauntlets of a follower of Hugh Capet, and the
mighty sword and horn of one of the paladins of the Great Charles.

Then came in the youthful peasantry to be enrolled--some called upon
as of right by their young lords, but many flocking with voluntary
readiness to the château at the first sound of war; then a tour of the
battlements was to be made, and Marie de Clairvaut, accompanied her
two young hosts round the towers and the walls, gazing from breastwork
and embrasure over as bright, but as curious, a scene, as it was
possible to conceive. The light mist which we have mentioned as
occupying the lower parts of the ground on the day before, had been
dispelled during the night by the severity of the frost; but it had
settled down upon all the branches and stems of the bare trees in
glittering crystals of white, which now reflected with dazzling
brilliancy the rays of the clear unclouded sun.

Perched, as was usually the custom at that time, upon one of the
highest points of the country round, even the windows of the castle
commanded a very extensive view: but from the tops of the higher
towers on which Marie de Clairvaut now stood, miles beyond miles were
extended beneath her eye on every side; and the whole shone bright and
clear in the sun's light, displaying a varied landscape of forest and
field, and hill and plain, all covered with the same glistening
frostwork, and only varied in hue by the deep shadows cast by the low
winter sun, and by the blue tints of the far distance, where the
distinction between field and forest was lost, and some high hills
bounded the prospect.

Though somewhat monotonous, there was much to admire; and Marie, and
those who accompanied her, stopped often to gaze and to comment on the
scene. It must be acknowledged, that Charles of Montsoreau kept not
far from her side as she walked on, and that, though his brother was
near her on the other hand, it was towards the younger that she
generally turned, either to hear what he said, or to make some
observations on the objects beneath her eyes. Throughout the course of
that day, indeed, she gave him much of her attention, perhaps a
greater share than his brother thought quite equitable; and certainly
had Marie been asked, when she retired to rest that night, which of
the two brothers was the most graceful, which sang, or spoke, or acted
most pleasingly, she would undoubtedly have fixed upon Charles.

Perhaps she might ask herself some questions on the subject; but her
heart was sufficiently free and at ease, to make her believe that
there could be no earthly harm in preferring the society of one in a
slight degree to that of the other, and of rendering justice, as she
considered it, to both. If there was, indeed, in her own mind the
slightest idea that any particular feeling of preference was growing
up in her bosom for Charles of Montsoreau, the only effect that it had
was, to make her think it was very natural such a thing should be the
case, as he had been the first to give her assistance and protection,
and to peril his life in her behalf. Though the elder was very
courteous, she thought, and very kind, and graceful, and agreeable, it
could not be expected that she should like him as well as the person
who had been actively interested in her defence; and thus she slept at
ease, imagining that both brothers were but mere common acquaintances,
who might never be thought of three times after she left them; though,
in comparing the one with the other, she was inclined to like the
younger better than the elder brother.

While the two young noblemen had been carried, by the most natural
feelings in the world, to bestow the chief share of their attention
upon the beautiful and interesting girl who had so suddenly and
strangely become an inmate of their dwelling, the Abbé de Boisguerin
had held more than one long and apparently interesting conversation
with the Marquise de Saulny. In those conversations--whether they took
place in the halls, or the armoury, or on the battlements while the
Marquise, with two of Marie's women, followed the young lady over the
château--the Abbé, as we have said, seemed to take considerable
interest: but still, from time to time, his eyes fixed upon the
graceful and beautiful form of Marie de Clairvaut, or gazed earnestly
upon the fair face as, beaming with the radiance of the heart, it
turned from one brother to the other at every interesting point of the
conversation. In the expression of his eyes, fine, intelligent, and
speaking as they were, there was something, perhaps, not altogether
pleasing--a look of admiration, indeed, but a look mingled with or
taking its meaning from, feelings, perhaps, not the most pure and
holy. It was more like the gratified admiration of a critic, than the
ordinary impression produced by beauty upon a fine mind.

However that might be, Madame de Saulny soon became aware, though she
was a woman and a French woman, that the Abbé de Boisguerin, in the
attentions which he paid her, was not actuated by any admiration of
her own personal charms; and as she was fond of such attentions, and
not very scrupulous as to any innocent means of attracting or holding
them, she made Marie de Clairvaut, her personal beauty, and the high
qualities of her mind and heart, one of the chief topics of her
conversation with a person whom she saw was already, in a great
degree, occupied with such subjects.

It may be asked, what were the real feelings of the Abbé de Boisguerin
himself? It will be fully time to dwell upon those feelings hereafter;
for at the time we speak of, if there were any feelings in his bosom
at all different from those which ordinarily occupied it, they were
yet but as seeds in which the first green bursting forth of the germ
was scarcely apparent, even to the closest inspection. It is true that
he sat up for more than two hours after the young lady herself and her
two noble hosts had all retired to rest. It is true that, with his
arms crossed upon his chest, he walked up and down the hall, in which
he was now left solitary, musing beneath the light of the untrimmed
lamps, and revolving many a strange fancy and shadowy imagination in
his own powerful mind. He felt that they were but fancies; but he told
himself that it is often from the storehouses of imagination that
strong minds draw the rich ore from which they manufacture splendid
realities. Ambition finds there her materials; love his gayest robes;
passion gains thence many a device for his own ends; and even science
and philosophy have often to thank imagination for many a grand
discovery, for many a bright thought and happy suggestion.

As he paced up and down that hall in silence and solitude, communing
with his own heart and his own mind, the consciousness of vast powers,
great courage, and mighty scope of intellect, became more distinct,
and clear, and potent in his own bosom. He asked himself, what, with
such a mind, he might not be, if, looking on the troublous times in
which he lived as a mere scene for his ambition, he were to plunge at
once into the contentions of the day, and, with the sole object of his
own aggrandisement in view, employ upon all things round him the
mastery of superior intellect. He asked himself this; and with that
thought, there might come up before his mind the thought of love
likewise, the thought of passions, which have so frequently gone hand
in hand with ambition, and of gratifications to be obtained by the
obtainment of power.

As he thought, he paused, casting down his eyes, and they accidentally
fell upon the sort of half clerical garments that he wore. He gazed
for a moment at his own dress, and then he murmured to himself, with a
meaning smile, "Thank Heaven! I have taken no vows but such as can be
thrown off as easily as this garment."



                               CHAP. V.


The luxury of the present age has perhaps made no greater progress
than in the cultivation of flowers, and in nothing, perhaps, has it
produced its usual effect, of depriving men of the sweet zest of
simplicity, more than in our enjoyment of those sweetest of the
earth's children. Heaven forbid that we should lose any of the many
bright and beautiful blossoms which have been added so abundantly to
our stock within the last few years: having possessed them, we cannot
lose them without pain; and, perhaps, in the very variety we receive a
compensation for the something that is lost. But yet there can be no
doubt that in the present day we do not feel the same keen pleasure
and enjoyment in our gardens thronging with ten thousand flowers which
men did in those old days, when few but the native plants of the soil
had yet received cultivation.

At the time that we are now speaking of, the attention of men in
general was first strongly turned in France to the cultivation of
their gardens; and Du Bellay, Bishop of Mans, was about that very
period importing from foreign countries multitudes of those plants
which are in general supposed to be indigenous to the country. One of
the first efforts in the art of gardening had been to multiply those
shrubs, which, though not, as generally supposed, indeciduous, retain
their leaves and their colouring through the colder parts of the year,
and cover the frozen limbs of winter with the green garmenture of the
spring. Amongst the next efforts that took place, were those directed
to the production of flowers and fruits at seasons of the year when
they are denied to us by the common course of nature; and any little
miracles of this sort, which from day to day were achieved, gave a
greater degree of pleasure than we can probably conceive at this time,
when such things are of daily occurrence.

In passing round the battlements of the castle, as we have described
in the last chapter, Marie de Clairvaut had remarked a considerable
garden within the walls of the château itself. She had seen the rows
of the neatly clipped yew, and the green holly, and she had thought
that she could discover here and there a flower, even in the midst of
that ungenial season of the year. How it happened, or why, matters
not, but upon the third morning of her stay, she woke at a far earlier
hour than usual, and rising, after a vain effort to sleep again, she
dressed herself without assistance; and believing that she should have
no other companion but the morning sun, she proceeded to seek her way
to the garden, with a feeling of pleasant expectation, which may seem
strange to us in the present day, but was then quite natural to one of
her disposition and habits. The garden was easily found, many of the
servants of the château were up and about; and one of them with haste
and care proceeded to open the gates, and unlock the doors, for the
fair lady, and usher her on her way.

It were needless to enter into any description of the garden; for few,
scanty, and poor were the flowers that it contained, even in its
brightest moments, compared with those now produced in the garden of a
cottage in England. At that season, too, every thing was frozen up,
and the more severe frost of the preceding nights had killed even
those hardy blossoms that seemed to dare the touch of their great
enemy, the winter.

It was enough, however, for Marie de Clairvaut, that the plentiful
rows of evergreens refreshed her eye; and she walked along the
straight alleys with a feeling of joyous refreshment, while the
hoar-frost upon the grass crackled under her feet, or, catching the
morning light upon the yews and hollies, melted into golden drops in
the cheerful sunshine.

She hoped for half an hour of that sort of solitude, when, though
there is no one near us, the heart is not solitary; when we hold
companionship with nature, and in a humble, though rejoicing spirit,
converse with God in his great works.

At such moments, dear, indeed, must be the person, sweet to our heart
must be our ordinary commune with them, harmonious must be their
sensations with every feeling of our bosom, if we find not their
coming upon us an interruption; if we can turn from the bright face of
nature to the dear aspect of human love, and feel the scene, and the
companionship, and ourselves, all attuned together.

Such we cannot say was the case with Marie de Clairvaut, when, on
hearing a step behind her, she turned and saw the young Marquis de
Montsoreau. She felt disappointed of her solitude; but, nevertheless,
she was far too courteous in her nature to suffer such sensations to
appear for a moment, and she returned his greeting with a kindly
smile, and listened to his words with that degree of pleasure which
the intention of being pleased is sure to carry with it. Gaspar de
Montsoreau talked to her of many things, and spoke on every subject so
gracefully, so clearly, and so pleasingly, that when memory brought
back the conversation which she was accustomed to hear in courts and
cities, it seemed to her a sort of miracle, that wit and talent, such
as those two brothers possessed, should have grown up like a beautiful
flower in a desert, so far removed from any ordinary means of
cultivation. She felt, too, that, on her return to Paris, a comparison
of the sort of communion which she now held in the country, with the
only kind of society which the capital could afford, would be very,
very detrimental to the latter.

The young marquis, after the first salutation of the morning,
commented on her early rising, and told her that both he and his
brother had been up even before sunrise.

"Some of our people roused us," he said, "with tidings of a large body
of armed men having encamped on the preceding night at the distance of
about seven leagues from Montsoreau." And he added, that his brother
had found it necessary to go forth with a small party of horse to
reconnoitre this force, and ascertain its purposes and destination. He
did not say, however--which he might have said--that other tidings,
regarding the movements of this body of men, had rendered it scarcely
necessary to pay any particular attention to them, and that it was
only in consequence of his pressing request that Charles of Montsoreau
had set out upon a distant expedition, which must keep him absent
during the greater part of the day from the side of Marie de
Clairvaut.

On their farther conversation we must not dwell, for we wish to hurry
forward as rapidly as possible towards more stirring events. Suffice
it to say, that it passed pleasantly enough to the fair girl herself,
and far more pleasantly, though also more dangerously, to Gaspar de
Montsoreau. He sat by her side, too, during the morning meal, while
the Abbé de Boisguerin occupied the chair on the other side, between
herself and Madame de Saulny. The Abbé spoke little during breakfast,
and left the conversation principally to the young marquis; but when
he did speak there was a depth, and a power, and a profoundness in his
words and thoughts, that struck Mademoiselle de Clairvaut much,
commanded her attention, and excited some feelings of admiration. But
it often happens, and happened in this case, that admiration is
excited without much pleasure, and also without much respect.

The mind of a pure and high-souled woman is the most terrible
touchstone which the conversation of any man can meet with. If there
be baser matter in it, however strong and specious may be the gilding,
that test is sure to discover it. We mistake greatly, I am sure, when
we think that the simplicity of innocence deprives us of the power of
detecting evil. We may know its existence, though we do not know its
particular nature, and our own purity, like Ithuriel's spear, detect
the demon under whatever shape he lurks.

Thus, while Marie de Clairvaut turned from time to time, struck and
surprised, towards the Abbé de Boisguerin, when he broke forth for a
moment with some sudden burst of eloquence, there came every now and
then upon her mind a doubt as to the sincerity of all he said--a doubt
of its being wholly true. That the great part was as true as it was
beautifully expressed, she did not doubt; but it seemed to her as if
there was frequently some small portion of what was doubtful, if not
of what was absolutely wrong, in what he said. She tried to detect
where it was, but in vain. It became a phantom as soon as ever she
strove to grasp it; and though at times she seemed to shrink from him
with doubts of his character, which she could not define nor account
for, at other times she reproached herself for such feelings; and
thinking of the two noble and high-spirited young men, whose education
he had conducted with so much skill, wisdom, and integrity, she felt
it difficult to believe that his own nature was any thing but upright,
noble, and just. She knew not, or recollected not, that the children
of darkness are, in their generation, wiser than the children of
light, and saw not that it had been the policy and first interest of
the Abbé de Boisguerin to acquit himself of the task he had undertaken
in the most careful and upright manner.

The greater part of the day passed over much as the preceding one had
done, with merely this difference, that the Marquis, aided by the
Abbé, persuaded his fair guest to wander forth for a short time beyond
the immediate walls of the château; assuring her, that as his brother
was out scouring the country, and the peasantry all round prepared to
bring intelligence to the castle rapidly, no danger could approach
without full time for escape and defence. The Marquis and the Abbé
accompanied her on either side, and a considerable train of servants
followed, so that Marie de Clairvaut felt herself in perfect security.

Nevertheless, the ramble did not seem so pleasing to her as it might
have been. Neither, to say the truth, did it appear to afford the
young nobleman himself the pleasure which he had anticipated. For the
first time, perhaps, in his life, the society and the conversation of
the Abbé de Boisguerin irritated and made him impatient. He himself
became often silent and moody; and after a time the Abbé seemed to
note his impatience, and divine the cause, for with one of his own
peculiar slight smiles, he betook himself to the side of the Marquise
de Saulny, and left Gaspar de Montsoreau to entertain his fair guest
without listeners or interruption.

The young lord's equanimity, however, had been overthrown; it was some
time ere he could regain it; and just as he was so doing, and the
conversation was becoming both more animated and more pleasing between
him and Marie de Clairvaut, his brother Charles was seen coming
rapidly over the hill, at the head of his gallant troop of horsemen,
with grace, and ease, and power in every line of his figure, the light
of high spirit and of chivalry breathing from every feature of his
face, and every movement of his person.

His keen eye instantly caught the party from the château, and turning
his horse that way, he sprang to the ground by Mademoiselle de
Clairvaut's side, and gave her the good morrow with frank and manly
courtesy. He said little of his expedition, except to laugh at the
unnecessary trouble he had taken, the band of men whom he had gone out
to reconnoitre proving to be a troop of Catholic soldiers, in the
service of the King of France. He showed no ill humour, however,
towards his brother, for having pressed him to undertake a useless
enterprise, when, undoubtedly, he would have preferred being by the
side of Marie de Clairvaut. But the smiles with which she received him
proved a sufficient recompense; and he now applied himself to make up
for lost time, by enjoying her conversation as much as possible during
the rest of the evening, without observing that his brother appeared
to be out of humour, and not very well satisfied with the attentions
that he paid her.

The first thing that at all roused him from this sort of
unconsciousness, was a sudden exclamation of the Marquis towards the
close of the evening, when he was performing some little act of
ceremonious courtesy towards their fair guest.

"Why, Charles," he exclaimed, "one would think that you were the Lord
of Montsoreau, you do the honours of the place so habitually."

Charles of Montsoreau had never heard such words from his brother's
lips before. He started, turned pale, and gazed with a silent glance
of inquiry in his brother's face. But he made no reply, and fell into
a fit of deep thought, which lasted till the party separated, and they
retired to rest.

Marie de Clairvaut had remarked those words also, and she felt pained
and grieved. She was not a person to believe, on the slightest
indication of her society being agreeable to any man she met with,
that he must be necessarily in the high road to become her lover. She
knew, she felt, that it was perfectly possible to be much pleased
with, to be fond of, to seek companionship with, a person of the other
sex, without one other feeling, without one other wish, than those
comprised within the simple name of friendship. She, therefore, did
not know, and would not fancy, that there was anything like love
towards herself springing up so soon in the bosom of Gaspar de
Montsoreau. But she did see, and saw evidently, that he sought to
monopolise her conversation and her society, and was displeased when
any one shared them with him. It made her uneasy to see this, for, to
say the truth, the conversation, the manners, the countenance, of his
younger brother, were all more pleasing to her--not that she felt the
slightest inclination to fall in love with Charles of Montsoreau, or
ever dreamt of such a thing. But, as we have before said, if she had a
preference, it was for him.

Nor was that preference a little increased by the manner in which he
bore his brother's conduct. He became more silent and thoughtful:
there was an air of melancholy, if not of sadness, came upon him from
the very moment Gaspar spoke those words, which struck Marie de
Clairvaut very much. He showed not, indeed, the slightest ill humour,
the slightest change of affection towards his brother. He seemed
mortified and grieved, but not in the least angry; and during the
ensuing days bore with a kindly dignity many a little mark of
irritation, on his brother's part, which evidently gave him pain.

"It is a sad thing to be a younger brother," thought Marie de
Clairvaut--"perhaps left entirely dependent upon the elder."

But that very night it happened that Madame de Saulny informed her
that Charles of Montsoreau was, in his own right, Count of Logères,
and considerably superior to his brother, both in power and wealth. It
need hardly be said that her esteem for himself, and her admiration of
his conduct, rose from a knowledge of the circumstances under which it
was displayed; and she could not help, by her manner and demeanour
towards him, marking how much she was pleased and interested. She gave
him no cause to believe, indeed, that the interest which she did feel
went beyond the point of simple friendship. But a very slight change
in her demeanour was sufficient to mark her feelings distinctly; for
her character and her habits of thought and feeling at that time were
peculiar, and affected, or we may say regulated, her whole behaviour
in society.

As yet, she knew not in the slightest degree what love is; and though,
in her heart, there were all the materials for strong, deep,
passionate attachment of the warmest and the most ardent kind, still
those materials had never been touched by any fire, and they lay cold
and inactive, so that she believed herself utterly incapable of so
loving any being upon earth, as man must be loved for happiness. From
a very early age she had made up her mind, when permitted, to enter a
convent; and though neither of her uncles would consent to her so
doing, yet she adhered to her resolution, and only delayed its
execution. She knew that at that time, and she believed it would ever
be so, that all her hopes and affections were turned towards a higher
Being; and these feelings in some degree against her will, gave a
degree of shrinking coldness to her demeanour when in the society of
men, which made the slightest warmth of manner remarkable. The
exquisite lines of Andrew Marvell upon the drop of dew might well have
been applied to her general demeanour in the world:--


             "See how the orient dew,
              Shed from the bosom of the morn
              Into the blowing roses,
              Yet careless of its mansion new
                  For the clear region where 'twas born,
              It in itself encloses,
              And in its little globe's extent
              Frames as it can its native element.
              How it the purple flower does slight!
                  Scarce touching where it lies,
                  But, gazing back upon the skies,
              Shines with a mournful light,
                  Like their own tear,
                  Because so long divided from the sphere.
              Restless it rolls and insecure,
              Trembling lest it grow impure,
              Till the warm sun pities its pain,
              And to the skies exhales it back again."


Notwithstanding the words of his brother, and the impatience which
Gaspar more than once displayed, Charles of Montsoreau changed his
conduct not in the slightest degree towards Marie de Clairvaut. He was
kind, attentive, courteous, evidently fond of her conversation and
society; and more than once, when he was seated at some distance,
while she was talking with others, she accidentally caught his eyes
fixed upon her with a calm, intense, and melancholy gaze, which
interested and even confused her.

The conduct of the elder brother, however, gave her some degree of
pain. He was always perfectly courteous and kind, indeed, but there
was a warmth and an eagerness in his manner which alarmed her. She was
afraid of fancying herself beloved when she was not; she was afraid of
having to reproach herself with vanity and idle conceit, and yet a
thousand times a day she wished she had not stayed at the château of
Montsoreau; for she saw evidently that she had been the cause of pain,
and she feared that she might be the cause of more. In one thing,
however, she could not well be mistaken, which was, that the Marquis
found frequent pretexts, and not the most ingenuous ones either, for
inducing his brother to absent himself from the château. Charles
yielded readily; but Marie de Clairvaut saw that it was not willingly;
and once, when he consented to go to a town at some distance, which
was proposed to him with scarcely any reasonable cause, she saw a
slight smile come upon his lips, but so sad, so melancholy, that it
made her heart ache.

In the mean while the weather had turned finer; the frost had
disappeared; some of the bright days which occasionally cheer the end
of February had come in; the country immediately around was
ascertained to be in a state of perfect tranquillity; and Marie
readily consented to ride and walk daily through the environs, knowing
that on these excursions, accompanied by her woman and Madame de
Saulny, she was thrown less into the society of Gaspar of Montsoreau
than while sitting alone at the château. On one occasion of this kind,
when the morning was peculiarly bright, and the day happy and genial,
it had been proposed to bring forth the falcons, who had not stirred
their wings for many a day, as several herons had been heard of by the
river since the thaw had come on.

An hour or two before the appointed time, however, intelligence was
brought to the castle, which proved afterwards to be fabricated, that
a neighbouring baron of small importance had gone over to the party of
the King of Navarre.

Gaspar of Montsoreau seized the pretext, and endeavoured to persuade
his brother to visit that part of the country, and ascertain the
facts. But, for once, Charles of Montsoreau positively refused, and
his air was so grave and stern, that his brother did not press it
farther.

Gaspar was out of temper, however, and he showed it; and finding that
Charles kept close to the bridle rein of Marie de Clairvaut, he
affected to ride at a distance, with a discontented air, giving
directions to the falconers, and venting his impatience in harsh and
angry words when any little accident or mistake took place. No heron
was found for nearly an hour; and he was in the act of declaring that
it was useless to try any farther, and they had better go back, when a
bird was started from the long reeds, and the jesses of the falcons
were slipped.

Marie de Clairvaut had been conversing throughout the morning with
Charles of Montsoreau--conversing on subjects and in a manner which
drew the ties of friendship and intimacy nearer round the heart--and
it so happened that the moment before the heron rose, she remarked, in
a low tone, "Your brother seems angry this morning; something seems to
have displeased him."

"Oh, dear lady," replied the young nobleman, "I pray you do not judge
of Gaspar by what you have seen within these last few days. I fear
that he is either ill, or more deeply grieved about something than he
suffers me to know. He is of a kindly, affectionate, and gentle
disposition, lady, and from childhood up to manhood, I can most
solemnly assure you, I never yet saw his temper ruffled as it seems
now."

Marie de Clairvaut raised her eyes to his face with a look full of
sweet approbation; and she said, "I wish you would just ride up to
him, and try to calm him. Why should he not come near us, and behave
as usual?"

Charles of Montsoreau turned instantly to obey, merely saying, "Keep a
tight rein on your horse, dear lady, till I come back, for he is
somewhat fiery."

He had just reached his brother's side when the heron took wing; and
Gaspar de Montsoreau glad of an opportunity of marking his discontent
towards his brother, spurred on his horse with an angry "Pshaw!" and
galloped after the falcons as fast as possible.

In an instant every bridle was let loose, every face turned towards
the sky, every horse at full speed. We must except, indeed, Charles of
Montsoreau, for his first thought was of Marie de Clairvaut. His mind
had been greatly depressed during the morning: he had thought much of
her; he had felt a vague impression that some accident would happen to
her; and though he had endeavoured to laugh at himself for giving way
to such a feeling, yet the feeling had remained so strongly as to make
him refuse to go upon the expedition which his brother had proposed to
him. He turned then his horse rapidly to the spot where he had left
her; but she was no longer there.

"The lady has gone on at full speed, Count Charles," cried the voice
of Gondrin, the huntsman: "That way, sir, that way, to the right. It
seems as if she knew the country well, and was sure the heron would
take back again to the river."

Charles of Montsoreau spurred on at full speed in the direction
pointed out; but, from the woody nature of the ground, it was some
time before he caught even a glance of the horse that bore the lady.
That glance was intercepted immediately by fresh trees and low bushes
of osiers, and all that he could see was, that there was nobody with
her, and that her horse was at full speed. The country was difficult,
the road dangerous from numerous breaks and cuts. To set off at such a
pace and alone, seemed to him unlike the calm, sweet character of
Mademoiselle de Clairvaut; and he heard, or fancied he heard, sounding
as from the path before him, a cry, lost in the whoops and halloos of
those who were following the flight of the birds along the stream.

The sport was forgotten in a moment: he spurred vehemently on upon the
road which Marie de Clairvaut had taken, while almost all the rest of
the people in the field crossed the stream by a bridge to the left,
and pursued the flight of the birds across a meadow round which the
river circled before it took a sharp turn to the right. All the more
eagerly did the young nobleman spur forward, knowing that about a
quarter of a mile in advance the path which he followed separated into
two, and that he might lose sight of the fair girl altogether if he
did not overtake her before she reached the point of separation.

When he arrived at it, however, she was not to be seen; but one glance
at the ground showed him the deep footmarks of the jennet following
the road to the right, which led far away from the point towards which
the heron seemed to have directed its flight, and to a dangerous part
of the river about a mile beyond. He now urged his horse on
vehemently--furiously.

The road wound in and out round the lower projections of the hill, and
through the thinner part of the forest that skirted its base; but
though he, who was generally tender and kind to every thing that fell
beneath his care, now dyed the rowels of his spurs in blood from his
horse's sides, he came not up with the swift jennet which carried
Mademoiselle de Clairvaut. He gradually caught the sound of its feet,
indeed; and the sound became more and more distinct, showing that he
gained upon it.

But this slight success in the headlong race which he was pursuing was
not enough to calm the mind of the young cavalier. It was now evident
that the horse, frightened by the whoop and halloo of the falconers,
had run away with its fair burden; and every step that they advanced
brought the horses and their riders nearer to a part of the river
which was only to be passed in the hottest and driest days of summer,
and then with difficulty.

Oh, how the heart of Charles of Montsoreau beat when, at the distance
of about a hundred yards from the brink of the river, the trees began
to break away, and left the ground somewhat more open. But before he
could see any thing distinctly but a figure passing like lightning
across the distant bolls of the trees, he heard a loud scream, and a
sudden plunge into the water, and then another loud shriek.

He galloped to the very brink, so that his horse's feet dashed the
stones from the top of the high bank into the water, and then he gazed
with a glance of agony upon the stream. The sleeve of a velvet robe
and a hawking-glove rose to the surface of the water.

He cast down the rein--he sprang from his horse--he plunged at once
from the bank into the stream--he dived at the spot where he had seen
the glove, and, in a moment, his arms were round the object of his
search. At that instant he would have given rank, and station, and all
his wide domains, to have felt her clasp him with that convulsive
grasp which sometimes proves fatal to both under such circumstances.

But she remained still and calm; and bearing her rapidly to the
surface, and then to the lower part of the bank, he laid her down upon
the turf, and gazed for an instant on her fair face. Oh, how deep, and
terrible, and indescribable was the pain that he felt at that moment.
Sensations that he knew not to be in his heart--that he did not--that
he would not before believe to exist therein--now rushed upon him, to
fill up the cup of agony and sorrow to the brim; and, kneeling beside
the form of the beautiful girl he had just borne from the dark tomb of
the waters, he unclasped her garments, he chafed her hands, he raised
her head, he did all that he could think of to recall her to
animation; and then, pressing her wildly to his bosom, while unwonted
tears came rapidly into his eyes, he called her by every tender and
endearing name, adding still, "She is dead! she is dead!"

As he did so, as she was pressed most closely and most fondly to his
heart, as her hand was clasped in his, as her head leaned upon his
shoulder, he thought he felt that hand press slightly on his own; he
thought he felt the pulse of life beat in her temples. He lifted his
head for a moment--her eyes were open and fixed upon him. The colour
was coming back into her cheek. She spoke not, she made no effort to
escape from the embrace in which he held her: but it was evident that
she marked his actions, and heard his words; and if any thing had been
wanting to tell her how dear she was to his heart, it would have been
the joy, the almost frantic joy, with which he beheld the signs of
returning consciousness. Eagerly, actively, however, he ceased not to
give her whatever assistance he could, and then bent over her again to
lift her in his arms, saying, "Forgive me, forgive me! But I will
carry you to a cottage not far off, where you can have better
tending."

She raised her arm, however, and took his hand kindly in hers, making
him a sign to bend down his head.

"A thousand thanks," she said in a low voice; "but I am not so ill as
you suppose. I foolishly fainted with terror when the horse plunged
over, and I remember nothing from that moment till just now. But I
feel I shall soon be better."

It was not a moment in which Charles of Montsoreau could put much
restraint upon himself, for joy succeeding terror had already
displayed so much of the real feelings of his heart, that any attempt
at concealment must have been vain. He gave not way, indeed, to the
same ebullitions of feeling which he had before suffered to appear,
while he thought her dead; but every word and every action told the
same tale. He gazed eagerly, tenderly, joyfully in her eyes; he chafed
the small hands in his own; he wrung out the water from the beautiful
hair; he smoothed it back from the fair forehead; and he did it all
with words of tenderness and affection, that could not be mistaken.
Thus kneeling by her side, he again besought her to let him carry her
to the nearest cottage; but she pointed to the small hunting horn
which hung at his side, asking, "Will not that bring some one?"

He was not called upon to use it, however, for before he could raise
it to his lips, the sound of a horse's feet was heard coming from the
same path which they themselves had pursued; and in a moment after,
the good forester Gondrin emerged from the wood, with no slight
anxiety on his frank and honest countenance. His young lord supporting
Marie de Clairvaut as she lay partly stretched upon the ground, partly
resting on his arm, with the count's horse cropping the herbage close
by, instantly caught his attention, and riding up with prompt and
unquestioning alacrity, he gave every assistance in his power, seeming
to comprehend the whole without any explanation. His own cloak and
doublet were instantly stripped off, to wrap the chilled limbs of the
fair girl who lay before him, and scarcely five words were spoken
between him and his master. They were: "Bourgeios' cottage is close
by, my lord: shall we carry her there?"--"Is it nearer than
Henriot's?"--"Oh, by a quarter of a mile."--"There, then, there."

But without suffering the forester to give him any assistance in
carrying her, the young lord raised Marie de Clairvaut in his arms,
and bore her on into the wood, looking down in her face from time to
time, with a smile, as if to tell her how easy and how joyful was the
task.

Gondrin followed, leading the horses; but as he came on, he asked, in
a low voice, "Where is the jennet. Sir?"

"Drowned, I fancy," replied Charles of Montsoreau--"drowned, and no
great loss, after such doings as to-day."

The cottage was soon gained, and there every assistance was procured
for Marie de Clairvaut, which was necessary to restore fully the
diminished powers of life. A sort of hand litter was speedily formed;
some of the peasantry procured as bearers; and, stretched thereon,
dressed in the coarse, but warm and dry habiliments of a country girl;
the beautiful child of the lordly house of Guise was borne back
towards the château of Montsoreau with him who had rescued her from a
watery grave, gazing down upon her, and thinking that she looked even
more lovely in that humble attire than in the garb of her own station.

As they approached the château, horns, and whoops, and shouts made
themselves heard; and it was evident that the absence of the young
lord and the fair guest had at length been remarked by other than the
careful eye of Gondrin. Horseman after horseman came up one by one,
and at length Gaspar himself appeared with Madame de Saulny and one of
Mademoiselle de Clairvaut's women, who had followed her mistress to
the field; but, as was common with women of all classes in those days,
had forgotten every thing but the falcons and their quarry, the moment
that the birds took wing.[1]


---------------------

[Footnote 1: So extraordinary and remarkable was the passion for
falconry amongst the women of that day, that Catherine de Medici
herself, engaged as she was in all the wiles of policy during her
whole life, found time to pursue this sport day after day, and had
courage enough to follow it after having not only received several
severe falls, but after having once broken her leg and once fractured
her skull, by the imprudent habit of galloping at full speed after the
birds, with the eyes fixed upon them, and inattentive to every thing
else. The moment that the falcons were flown, every thing on earth was
forgotten, and the most serious accidents were of daily occurrence.]

---------------------


A multitude of questions and exclamations now took place; and without
suffering the bearers of the litter to stop, Charles explained in few
words what had occurred, dwelling upon the peril which their fair
guest had been in, and merely adding, that he had been fortunate
enough to arrive in time to rescue her from the water.

The brow of Gaspar de Montsoreau grew as dark as night, and forgetting
that, in his ill humour, he had voluntarily quitted her side, he
muttered to himself, "There seems a fate in it, that he should render
her every service, and I none."

He sprang off from his horse, however, and walked forward on the other
side of the litter, addressing all sorts of courteous speeches to
Marie de Clairvaut, who was now well enough to reply. Madame de
Saulny, however, had no great difficulty in persuading her to retire
at once to bed: not that she felt any corporeal disability to sit up
through the rest of the day; but her mind had many matters for
contemplation, and she insisted upon being left quite alone, with no
farther attendance than that of one of her women stationed in the
ante-room.



                              CHAP. VI.


The windows were half closed, the room was silent, no sound reached
the ear of Marie de Clairvaut, but the sweet wintry song of a robin
perched upon the castle wall. Her first thoughts were of gratitude to
Heaven for her escape from death, her next, of gratitude to him who
had risked his life to save her. But after that came somewhat anxious
and troublous thoughts.

She recollected the moment when she woke to consciousness, and found
herself clasped in his arms, with his heart beating against her bosom,
with his cheek touching hers; she recollected that he had unclasped
the collar round her neck; that he had chafed and warmed her hands in
his; that he had dried her hair; that he had braided it back from her
forehead; that he had borne her in his arms close to his heart: she
recollected that her own hand, from the impulse of her heart, had
pressed his; and that she herself had felt happy while resting on his
bosom. As she thought of all these things, so different from any of
the ideas that usually filled her mind, the warm blood rose in her
cheek, though no one could see her; and turning round, she buried her
eyes in the pillow with feelings of ingenuous shame; and yet even then
the image of Charles of Montsoreau rose before her. She saw him, as
she had beheld him when first they met, galloping down to aid her
attendants in her defence; she saw him pointing the cannon of the
castle against her pursuers; she saw him bearing with calm dignity the
ill humour of his brother; she saw him, with passionate tenderness and
grief, bending over her, and weeping when he thought her dead. She saw
all this, and a consciousness came over her that there was no other
being on all the earth on whose bosom she could rest with such
happiness as on his.

Nor did love want the advocates of nature and reason to support his
cause. First came the thought of gratitude: she was grateful to God as
the great cause of her deliverance; but ought she not to be grateful
to him also, she asked herself, who was indeed--as every other human
being is--an agent in the hand of the Almighty, but who was carried
forward to that agency by every kindly, noble, and generous feeling,
the contempt of danger and of death, and all those sensations and
impulses which show most clearly the divinity that stirs within us?

In being grateful to him, she felt that she was grateful to God; and
it was easy for Marie de Clairvaut to believe that such gratitude
should only be bounded by the vast extent of the service rendered.

She did not exactly, in clear and distinct terms, ask herself whether
she could refuse to devote to him the life that he had saved; but her
heart answered the same question indirectly, and she thought that she
could have no right to refuse him any thing that he might choose to
ask as the recompense of the great benefit which he had conferred.

What might he not ask? was her next question; and then came back the
memory of every look which she had seen, of every word which she had
heard, at the moment when she was just recovering; and those memories
at once told her what he might and would seek as his guerdon. Was it
painful for her to think that he might even crave herself as the
boon?--Oh no! A week before, indeed, she would have shrunk from the
very idea with pain. The only alternative she could have seen would
have been to be miserable herself, or to make him miserable.

Now such feelings were all changed and gone; and Marie de
Clairvaut--having entertained those feelings sincerely, candidly, and
without the slightest affectation--might feel surprised, and, perhaps,
a little alarmed, at the change within herself; but she was by no
means one to cling with any degree of pride or vanity to thoughts and
purposes that were changed.

It is true that those thoughts and purposes had been changing
gradually towards Charles of Montsoreau. But it was the events of that
day which suddenly and strangely had completed the alteration. The
near approach of death--the plunge, as it were, into the jaws of the
grave, from which she had been rescued as by a miracle--had seemed to
waken in her new sensations towards all the warm relationships of
life, a clinging to her kindred beings of the world, a tenderer, a
nearer affection for the thrilling ties of human life.

Then again, as regarded her young deliverer, and that near
familiarity, from which the habit of her thoughts and the coldness of
a heart unenlightened by love, had made her hitherto shrink with
something more than maiden modesty:--in regard to these, her feelings
had been suddenly and entirely changed by the circumstances in which
she had been placed. It seemed as if to him, and for him, the first of
all those icy barriers had been broken down, and was cast away for
ever. She had been clasped in his arms--she had been pressed to his
bosom--the warmth of his breath seemed still to play upon her
cheek--her hand seemed still grasped in his; and when her mind
returned to those ideas, after more than an hour of solitary thought,
the memories--which at first had called the blood into her cheek, and
made her hide her eyes for shame--were sweet and consoling. She
thought that it was well to be thus--that it was well, as she could
not but consent out of mere gratitude, to be the wife of Charles of
Montsoreau if he sought her hand, that he should be the only man she
could have ever made up her mind to wed; and that she could wed him
with happiness.

Such was the character of the thoughts that occupied her during the
rest of the day. Her mind might, indeed, turn from time to time to her
relations of the lordly house of Guise, and she might inquire what
would be their opinion in regard to her marriage with the young Count
of Logères. The first time that she thus questioned herself, she was
somewhat startled to find that she entertained some apprehensions of
opposition, for those apprehensions showed her, more than aught else
had done before, how entirely changed her feelings were towards
Charles of Montsoreau. They made her feel that it was no longer a mere
cold consent she had to give to her marriage with him; but that it was
a hope and expectation which would be painful to lose.

The apprehensions themselves soon died away: she remembered the
anxiety of both the Duke of Guise and the Duke of Mayenne that she
should give her hand to some one, and she remembered, also, the half
angry, half jesting remonstrances of both on her declaring her
intention of entering a convent. She called to mind how they had urged
her, some eight months before, to make a choice, representing to her
that it was needful for their family to strengthen itself by every
possible tie, and promising in no degree to thwart her inclinations if
she chose one who would attach himself to them.

From the words of admiration and respect which she had more than once
heard Charles of Montsoreau employ in speaking of her uncles, she
doubted not that the only condition which they had made, would be
easily fulfilled in his case; and thus she lay in calm thought, her
fancy more busy than ever it had been before, and new but happy
feelings in her heart, agitating her, certainly, but gently and
sweetly. Glad visions, growing up one by one as she grew more familiar
with such contemplations, came up to gild the future days--visions of
peace, and home, and happiness--while the blessed blindness of our
mortal being shut out from her sight the pangs, the cares, the
horrors, the sorrows into which she was about to plunge.

She was like some traveller bewildered in a mountain mist, fancying
that he sees before him the clear road to bright and smiling lands,
when his footsteps are on the edge of the precipice that is to swallow
him up.

When she rose and left her chamber on the following morning, Marie de
Clairvaut was greeted with glad smiles from every one. Perhaps her
fair cheek was a little paler than ordinary, perhaps her bright eye
was softer and less lustrous: but the change proceeded not from the
consequences of either the fear or the danger she had undergone the
day before. The slight paleness of the cheek, the slight languor of
the eye, and the night without sleep, which gave rise to both, had a
sweeter cause in bright and happy thoughts which had shaken the soft
burden of slumber from her eyelids.

All present gazed upon her with interest. Madame de Saulny was loud in
her gratulations; Gaspar de Montsoreau himself showed a brow without a
cloud, and his brother smiled brightly with scarcely a shadow of
melancholy left upon his countenance. Her first act was to repeat the
thanks which she had given to the latter on the preceding day--to
repeat them warmly, tenderly, and enthusiastically; and Gaspar de
Montsoreau, who loved not to hear such words, or see such looks upon
her countenance, turned towards one of the windows, and spoke eagerly
with the Abbé de Boisguerin, while wise Madame de Saulny drew a few
steps back, and gave some orders to one of Marie's attendants.

"Do not thank me, sweet Marie," said Charles of Montsoreau, as soon as
he saw that he could speak unnoticed by any other ears but her own: "I
have not an opportunity of answering you now, as I ought to answer
you. After my return this evening I shall seek to be heard for a few
moments, for I have matter for your private ear."

He saw the warm blood coming up into her cheek, and her eyes cast
down, and he added, "I have to excuse part of my conduct yesterday--I
have to see if you will forgive me."

"Forgive you!" she exclaimed, raising her bright eyes to his, and
speaking eagerly, though low, "Oh, there is nothing in any part of
your conduct to forgive--every thing to be grateful for: whether your
devotion and courage in saving me from death--or your care and
tenderness," she added in a still lower voice, "after you had saved
me."

The eyes of Gaspar de Montsoreau were upon them both; he marked the
downcast look, the rising colour in Marie de Clairvaut's cheek; he
marked the sudden raising of her eyes, and the tender light with which
they looked in the face of her young deliverer. He marked the beaming
expression of joy and gratitude that came over his brother's
countenance, and it was scarcely possible for him to restrain the
fiery feelings in his own bosom, and prevent himself from rushing like
a madman between them. Two or three low deep-toned words from the
Abbé, however, recalled him to himself, and advancing with a graceful,
though a somewhat agitated air, he offered Mademoiselle de Clairvaut
his hand to conduct her to the hall where the morning meal was
prepared.

"We are somewhat earlier than usual this morning," he said, "because
my fair brother, with our noble and excellent friend the Abbé here,
have a long ride before them, to visit a relation who we hear is
sick."

"And do you not go yourself, my lord?" demanded Marie. "Pray let not
my being in the château act as any restraint upon you."

"Oh no," replied the Marquis; "it is as well that one of us should
remain here in these troublous times; and this relation, this Count de
Morly, is an old man in his eightieth year, who may well expect that
health should fail, ay, and life too."

"Ay," said Marie; "but I should think that at that period, when life
itself is fleeting away from us, and almost all the bright things of
this existence are gone, any signs of human friendship, and
tenderness, and affection, must be a thousand fold more dear and
cheering, more valuable in every way, than when the energetic powers
of life are at their full. Then we want few companionships, for we are
sufficient to ourselves: but in the winter of our age, close by the
icy tomb, the warmth of human affection is all that we have to cheer
us; the voice of friendship, like the song of a spring bird in the
chill months of the early year, must seem prophetic of a brighter
season, when the cold days of earth are passed, and all glad sounds
and happy sights shall be renewed in a fresh summer. Oh, the tongue of
youth and health, speaking friendly sounds to the ear of sickness and
age, must be the last, the brightest, the sweetest of all things which
can smooth the soul's passage to eternity!"

There was an implied reproof in the words of Marie de Clairvaut, which
was not pleasant to the ear of Gaspar de Montsoreau; but it did not in
any degree alter his purpose; and merely saying that, if possible, he
would go on the following day, he led his fair guest on to the hall,
and gladly saw the meal concluded, and his brother quit the table with
the Abbé to proceed upon their way.

As soon as they were gone, a burden seemed off his mind; he became
gay, and bright, and pleasing; and his conversation resumed its usual
tone. The stores of his mind once put forth, and there were sufficient
indications of kind and generous feelings to give his society that
charm without which all other attractions are poor--the charm of the
heart. Towards Marie de Clairvaut his manner assumed a warmth and a
tenderness which alarmed and pained her; and with the new insight into
her own heart, which she had obtained, she was enabled at once to
decide upon her conduct towards him. She remained in conversation,
indeed, for some time after breakfast, and though grave and serious,
was by no means repulsive: but anxious to avoid any private
communication whatsoever with the young Marquis, no sooner did she see
Madame de Saulny make some movement as if about to quit the room, than
putting her arm through that of her relation, she said, "Come, ma
bonne de Saulny, I want to have a long conversation with you, and
after that I think I shall lie down and rest for an hour or two, for I
am much fatigued."

Madame de Saulny accompanied her to her apartments, leaving the young
Marquis of Montsoreau standing in moody silence in the midst of the
hall; and when, some hours afterwards, he sent up to inquire if
Mademoiselle de Clairvaut would not go forth to see some game taken in
the nets, the reply given by one of her maids in the anteroom was,
that finding herself somewhat indisposed, she had lain down to rest,
and was asleep. At this answer he broke away with an expression of
bitter anger, and mounting his horse, rode out with a furious pace.

He had been gone about an hour and a half, when Marie came down into
the room which we have described as the lady's bower, accompanied by
Madame de Saulny, and employed herself in somewhat listless mood with
the various occupations of a lady of that day. For a short space she
plied the busy needle at the embroidery frame, and then took up the
lute and played and sang; but the music was broken, and came but by
fits and starts; and it was evident that impatient expectation marred
the power of present enjoyment or occupation. At length the clattering
of horses' feet was heard below, and fain would she have looked forth
from the window to ascertain which of the two brothers it was that had
returned. At length, however, there was a step upon the stairs, and
her beating heart decided the matter in a moment. It was Charles of
Montsoreau that entered: but he was deadly pale, and that apparently
from no temporary cause; for though he spoke calmly and tranquilly to
Marie de Clairvaut and Madame de Saulny, the colour did not return
into his cheek.

Marie, on her part, was anxious and agitated; she spoke low, for she
feared that her voice might tremble if she used a louder tone. Her eye
fell beneath that of her lover, and the colour came and went in her
cheek like light quivering on the wings of a bird; and yet she was the
first to propose that they should go forth together.

"Your brother is absent," she said, "and I understand sent up some
time ago, while I was asleep, to ask if I would go out to see some
game taken in the nets. Would it please you to go and join him?"

"Much," replied the young nobleman. "He is not far; I know where the
nets were to be laid."

"Then we will walk thither," she said: "I fear I shall be afraid of
horses for many a long day. Madame de Saulny, you will come with us,
will you not?"

But Madame de Saulny declined; and Charles of Montsoreau and Marie de
Clairvaut went forth, followed by two of her maids, and some other
attendants, at a respectful distance. The hearts of both beat even
painfully; and for some steps from the castle gates they proceeded in
silence, till at length she inquired how he had found the friend he
went to visit. The young nobleman replied that he feared he was dying;
and, after a few words more on that subject, the conversation again
dropped.

At length, as they descended the side of the hill, Charles of
Montsoreau lifted his eyes to the face of his fair companion, saying
in a low tone, "I told you this morning, Mademoiselle de Clairvaut,
that I should ask a few minutes' audience of you. Let me offer you my
arm--nay, be not agitated, I have nothing to say which should move
you. I have to apologise, as I told you, for some parts of my conduct
yesterday, and to ask you to forgive me."

"Oh, I told you," she replied, "and I tell you again, that there is
nothing to apologise for, nothing that I have to forgive; every thing
that I have to be grateful for, every thing that will make me thankful
to you through my whole life."

"Would that I could believe it were so!" replied Charles of
Montsoreau. "But I remember that in the first agony of thinking you
lost for ever, of thinking that bright spirit gone, that gentle heart
cold, that beautiful form inanimate for ever, I gave way to transports
of grief and sorrow, I spoke words, I used actions, that I neither
would have dared to speak or use towards you, if I had known that you
were then living and conscious. And yet I am sure, quite sure, that
you knew, and saw, and heard those words and actions; and I fear that
they may have offended you."

"Oh no, no, indeed!" replied Marie de Clairvaut, with her eyes bent
down, her hand trembling upon his arm, and the colour glowing bright
in her cheek--"Oh no, no, indeed! I did see, I did hear; but----"

In the course of that bright and beautiful thing called Love, very
often between two beings in every respect worthy of each other there
comes a moment when the very slightest touch of that pardonable
hypocrisy in woman, which, from a combination of many bright and
beautiful feelings, teaches her in some degree to veil or hide the
passion of her heart--when the slightest touch of that hypocrisy, I
say, at a moment when it should be all cast away together, and the
bosom of love laid bare to the eye of love--when the slightest touch
of that hypocrisy seals the misery of both for ever.

It was such a moment then with Charles of Montsoreau and Marie de
Clairvaut. She knew not all that was in his heart at that moment, she
could not know it; but she knew herself beloved, and might well have
acknowledged her love in return. Had she done so, had she acknowledged
that her own feelings towards him had rendered the caresses which he
bestowed upon what he thought her dead form easily pardonable, the
passionate grief for her death deeply touching to her heart--had she
done this, their course might have gone on in brightness. But she knew
not all that was in his heart at that moment, she could not know it;
and the first impulse was to give way to woman's habitual hypocrisy,
to cast a veil over the true feelings of her heart, and to hide the
timid love of her bosom till it was drawn forth by him.

"Oh no, no, indeed!" she said; "I did see, I did hear; but--I thought
it was but natural grief for one under your charge and protection that
you thought lost in so terrible a manner----"

She hesitated to go on; she feared that she spoke coldly; and she
thought of adding some word or two more which might take from the
chilliness of such an answer, and let her real feelings more truly
appear. Before she could collect herself to do so, however, Charles of
Montsoreau answered, with a deep sigh, "You thought it was but
natural, Mademoiselle de Clairvaut; you thought it was but natural;
and so, indeed----"

But as he spoke, his brother turned the angle of the little wood
through which they were proceeding down the hill, and came towards
them, followed by several of the huntsmen. There was a frown upon
his brow, a fire in his dark eye, which Charles of Montsoreau saw
and understood full well. But he met his brother calmly and
steadfastly--with deep and bitter grief in his heart, it is true, but
with grief which he had power over himself to conceal.

The angry feelings of the heart of Gaspar de Montsoreau were not so
easily repressed, and he spoke in a tone and manner well calculated to
produce angry words between himself and his brother.

"Why, how now, Charles!" he exclaimed; "are you back so soon? Where is
the Abbé? Montsoreau seems to possess greater attractions for you than
Morly."

"Of course," replied Charles of Montsoreau, calmly; "but even if it
did not, I should have returned in haste. The Abbé I left behind at
Morly, as he has no other occupation here."

"And you have pleasant occupation," rejoined his brother, with a tone
in which assumed courtesy but covered ill the intended sneer--"and you
have pleasant occupation as squire to this fairest of all fair
ladies."

"It is, indeed, so sweet to attend upon her," replied Charles, "that I
grieve I must lose the task so soon. In consideration of various
circumstances, my dear Gaspar, I find that it will be absolutely
necessary for me to proceed to Logères immediately. I have lingered
too long here already. My people will think that I neglect them; and I
have determined to set off by dawn to-morrow morning."

The first expression that came upon the countenance of Gaspar de
Montsoreau was undoubtedly that of satisfaction; but, with the pause
of a single instant, better feelings sprang up, and he grasped his
brother's hand with a look of real anxiety, exclaiming, "Good God,
Charles, at this season of the year! In this disturbed state of the
country! Remember, Logères is more than a hundred and fifty leagues
distant!"

"If this fair lady undertook as long a journey," replied Charles of
Montsoreau with a melancholy smile, "in still severer weather, merely
for the sake of doing what she thought was right, should I hesitate,
Gaspar? Fie; she will think us all a household of priests and friars,
who go not forth but when the sun shines, and think an easterly wind
excuse sufficient for not visiting the neighbouring village. I will
not diminish your garrison, either, very much, my dear brother. You
must give me Gondrin with me, as he comes originally from Logères;
but, besides him, I shall only take my own ordinary attendants, and I
will find means to fight my way through, depend upon it."

Gaspar de Montsoreau was easily reconciled to this arrangement. He
still raised some objections, indeed; but, when he looked at Marie de
Clairvaut, those objections became more and more faint in their tone,
and he could scarcely refrain from a gaiety so different from the
gloom of the morning, as to mark painfully how little he wished for
his brother's stay. Marie de Clairvaut returned to the château in
sadness and grief. She knew not, indeed, to the full extent, how much
the departure of Charles of Montsoreau was attributable to her own
words; but she felt that it was so, in some degree. She blamed herself
more bitterly than she even deserved; and, hastening to her own room,
she locked the door, and wept long and bitterly.

After some time, she was visited by Madame de Saulny, who pressed so
eagerly for admittance, that she could not refuse her. Tears were
still in her eyes, and traces of those she had shed fresh upon her
cheeks; but Marie would give no explanation; and it was not till about
an hour after, when the good marquise heard of Charles of Montsoreau's
intended departure for Logères, that she divined the cause of her
young relation's grief.

When she did so, Madame de Saulny felt that, in some degree, she
herself might have been instrumental in producing it. But it was one
good trait in the character of that lady, that, if she committed an
error, she was sorry for it with her whole heart, and sought to remedy
it. She loved Marie de Clairvaut deeply and truly; she grieved much to
see her grieve; but she hoped that there was no such great cause for
grief, and that the matter might be easily remedied.



                              CHAP. VII.


The conduct which, as we have seen, was pursued by Charles of
Montsoreau, had not been framed alone upon the supposition that his
love for Marie de Clairvaut was without return. That belief, indeed,
ultimately decided his determination; but a thousand other
considerations had previously led him up to a point, where it wanted
but one word to change the balance in either direction.

He had set out that morning for Morly full of hope and joy. He was
not, indeed, confident that he was beloved; but he was confident that
Marie de Clairvaut herself saw his affection, and had done nothing to
check it. From all that he knew of her himself--from all that he had
heard of her--from the casual conversation of Madame de Saulny, he was
very, very sure, that the conduct of Marie de Clairvaut would have
been quite different, if she had not felt a sufficient degree of
regard for him, to know that love might follow if he sought it. This
was quite enough to give him hope and happiness. He had, indeed,
remarked his brother's ill humour upon many occasions, and he had
attributed it justly to the disappointment of a desire to engross all
their fair guest's conversation; but he had not the slightest idea of
the eager and fiery passions that were rising up in the breast of
Gaspar of Montsoreau.

When he mounted his horse, then, to visit the old Count de Morly--one
who, though only distantly related to his family, had been his
father's dearest friend and wisest counsellor--Charles of Montsoreau
looked forward to his return in the evening, and to the audience he
had craved of Marie de Clairvaut, with a heart full of joyful
emotions, and with fear bearing a very small proportion to hope. There
was much happiness in his whole air; but it was thoughtful happiness,
and for two or three miles he rode on in silence.

His companion, the Abbé de Boisguerin, was silent too, and thoughtful,
and from time to time, as they rode along, he gazed upon his former
pupil with a look of contemplative earnestness, a slight frown upon
his calm, cold brow, and the thin nostril raised with something
between triumph and scorn in the expression. He said not a single word
till he saw that Charles of Montsoreau himself began to feel his own
silence strange, and looked round as if about to commence some
conversation. Then, however, the Abbé spoke.

"If you are awake, Charles," he said, "I should wish some conference
with you; if you are dreaming, dream on: Heaven forbid that I should
disturb you, for your visions seem pleasant ones."

"They were, dear friend," replied Charles, with a smile; "but I can
give them up for a time, in the hopes of their being realised."

"Visions are often realised," replied the Abbé.

"Indeed!" exclaimed Charles of Montsoreau; "you surely are jesting, my
sage friend. I thought to hear you reprove such idle fancies, and tell
me that visions, however specious, were seldom, if ever, realised."

"No, far from it," replied the Abbé: "the visions of a strong,
sensible, and reasoning mind like yours, Charles, are, on the
contrary, very often realised; for they are seldom formed but upon
some sufficient basis. But still I must have my lesson; and I will
tell you, my dear Charles, that the visions which we have formed upon
the best grounds, and which are consequently often realised in all
their parts, are not unfrequently those productive of the utmost
misery to ourselves, even when we thought them the most hopeful, the
most happy. It is, Charles, that a thousand other things mingle with
the realisation of our dreams, which in our dreams we dreamt not of,
turning as with a fairy's wand the pure gold to dross, rendering the
sweetness bitter, and changing wholesome food to poison. Look at that
distant hill--the Peak of Geran--how soft, and blue, and smooth, and
beautiful it looks, and yet you and I know that the small sharp stones
with which it is covered will cut, till they bleed, the feet of the
person who attempts to climb it. That soft blue mountain in the
distance, Charles, is as the vision of an eager mind, and the rough
impracticable stony side, as the realisation of the dream itself. I
would always ask every one who indulges in a vision--Have you
calculated beyond all question of doubt what may be the concomitant
pangs, sorrows, and evils that even probably will accompany the
realisation of that which you desire?--I would ask everyone this
question, Charles; and I now ask you."

"I should think, my dear friend," replied Charles of Montsoreau, "that
it would be utterly impossible for any one to answer such a question
in the affirmative. The very fallibility of our human nature would
prevent our doing so with truth. Good and evil must, of course, be
always mingled in this world; and all that we can do is to think
calmly, and endeavour to judge rationally, of that which is the best
for our ultimate happiness. We must prepare ourselves to take the
consequences, be they what they may. If you ask me the question you
have mentioned, I should at once reply--No, I have not calculated all
even of the probable evils which might attend the realisation of the
visions with which I was occupied, because my mind is not capable of
discovering one half of the chances attending any future event."

Charles spoke somewhat warmly; for there is always a degree of
bitterness to the confident mind of youth in any words that tend to
shadow the bright promises of hope, and to teach us by doctrine that
which we can only learn by experience, the fallacy of expectations,
the mingled nature of our best pleasures, the dust and ashes of human
enjoyment. The Abbé gazed upon his face for a moment ere he replied;
but then said, "I would put my question closer to you, Charles of
Montsoreau, and I will put it seriously. Have you calculated all the
self-evident evils that would attend the realisation of the visions
which you were pondering?"

"Why, my dear Abbé," replied Charles with a smile, "it would seem by
your serious aspect, that to-day you had turned prophet as well as
preacher, could divine my thoughts, and see their results."

"I can divine your thoughts, Charles, and do," replied the Abbé; "and
as it is a subject on which, however unwillingly, I must speak, I will
tell you at once what these thoughts were. The results are in the hand
of God, and in the hand of God alone. But I can and will show you some
of the probable results."

"Nay, then," replied Charles, seeing that the Abbé spoke quite
seriously, "such being the case, my dear Abbé, I need not tell you,
that if you speak to me with warning, as your words imply, I will
listen to you with every sort of deference. Speak, I beg you, and
speak freely. Though no longer your pupil in name, I will gladly be so
in reality. So now let me hear entirely what you have to say."

"Well, then, Charles," replied the Abbé, "what I have to say is this,
and simply this. Your visions were of Mademoiselle de Clairvaut. You
fancied that by the various services which you have rendered her you
have obtained a strong hold upon her regard, a claim even upon her
hand; that she showed a fondness for your society, a degree of
affection for your person, which promised you fair in every respect;
and, in fact, believing--and with some degree of justice--that you
yourself love her deeply, you saw every prospect of that love being
gratified by obtaining hers, and ultimately, perhaps, her hand. Now,
Charles, was this, or was this not, the matter in your thoughts? was
this the vision upon which your mind was bent? were not these the
prospects which you contemplated just now?"

"They were," replied Charles of Montsoreau; "I do not deny it."

"Well, then," replied the Abbé, "I will not now dwell for even a
single moment upon difficulties, obstacles, obstructions, upon the
pride of the race of Guise, upon the views of self-interest and
ambition, upon the probability of their treating your love for their
niece with contempt, and rejecting your proffered alliance with scorn.
I will not pause for a moment on such things; but I will speak of the
matter with which we began; namely, of the probable, the self-evident
evils which must attend the realisation of your hopes and wishes.
Charles of Montsoreau, have you thought of your brother?"

The blood came somewhat warmly up into Charles's countenance. "I have
thought of him," he replied, "most assuredly; but I have merely
thought, my excellent friend, that though he might have some degree of
admiration for Mademoiselle de Clairvaut, yet he has neither had the
opportunities, nor the occasion, if I may use the term, of feeling
towards her as I do. Fate has willed it that I should be the person to
aid her upon all occasions; fate has established between us links of
connection which do not exist between her and Gaspar."

"But fate has not willed it," replied the Abbé sternly, "that you
should love her a bit better than he does. On the contrary, Charles,
fate has willed that he should love her deeply, passionately,
strongly, with the whole intensity of feeling of which he is capable.
This has been the will of fate, Charles of Montsoreau, and let not the
selfishness of passion blind you. In your pursuit of Marie de
Clairvaut, you are the rival of your brother."

Charles of Montsoreau cast down his eyes as they rode along, and for
several minutes remained in deep silence. "You mean to say," he
replied at length, "that my brother is my rival, for I first loved
her, I first won her regard: he strives to snatch her from me, not I
from him, and why should I hesitate at the consequences? He must learn
to overcome his passion, a passion which is evidently not returned. I
go on with hope; and in love, thank God, at least, there is no elder
brother's right to bar us from success."

"If such be your thoughts and feelings, Charles," replied the Abbé, in
a slow and solemn manner, "I see no hope but strife, contention,
misery--perhaps bloodshed! between two brothers, who were born to
love, to succour, to support each other. And now they will draw their
swords upon each other for a woman's smile."

"Heaven forbid!" exclaimed Charles of Montsoreau. "Fear not that,
Abbé! My sword shall never be drawn against my brother, were he to
urge me to the utmost. But you view this matter too gravely, you
deceive yourself, I am sure. In the first place, though angry, and
mortified, and somewhat jealous, perhaps, that I have had
opportunities of serving Mademoiselle de Clairvaut, which he has not
obtained--though somewhat charmed with her beauty, and captivated with
her graces--I do not, I cannot, believe that Gaspar feels that love
towards her which cannot easily be conquered. He feels not, Abbé, as I
feel--he cannot feel as I feel towards her."

"Charles, you deceive yourself," replied the Abbé, "nay more, you
deceive yourself wilfully. Last night in the great hall, after you had
retired to rest, your brother walked up and down with me in a state
almost of frenzy. He told me how deeply, how passionately, he
loved her; he poured forth into the bosom which has been accustomed
to receive all his thoughts, his grief, his agony, his madness
itself--for I can call it nothing but madness. He spoke of you--of
you, the brother of his love, the being who has gone on nurtured with
him from infancy till now without one harsh word or angry feeling
between you--he spoke of you, I say, with hatred and abhorrence; he
longed to imbrue his hands in your blood; he called you the destroyer
of his peace, the obstacle of his happiness, the being who had driven
him to wretchedness and despair."

Charles of Montsoreau dropped the bridle on his horse's neck,
and covered his eyes with his hands. "This is very terrible!" he
said--"this is very terrible!"

"It is terrible," replied the Abbé--"it is very terrible, Charles; but
it is no less true. Your brother so mild, so kind-hearted as he was,
is now changed by his rivalry with you, is now full of the feelings of
a murderer, is now ready to become a second Cain, and slay his
brother, because his offering has not found favour in the sight of the
being he worships, as yours has done! Of all this you knew not, and
therefore you could not judge; but when I said you were deceiving
yourself wilfully, Charles, I said not so without cause. Think of what
your brother was, one bare fortnight ago--all gay, all cheerful, all
good-humoured, bearing contradiction with a smile, laughing at the
thought of care, putting you always in the first place before himself.
See what he is now, Charles, even when restrained by the eyes of many
upon him--moody, irritable, passionate, evidently abhorring the
brother he so lately loved. Can this entire change have come over a
man's nature, I ask you, this sad, this terrible, this blighting
change, without some strong and overpowering passion? and will you
tell me you do not see he loves, loves with all the intensity of an
eager, a warm, a fiery heart, loves passionately, loves to madness?"

Again Charles of Montsoreau bent his eyes down upon the ground, again
he remained silent for a considerable space of time; and in that
space, terrible was the conflict which went on within him. At length
he raised his eyes gravely, even sternly, to the face of the Abbé de
Boisguerin, and demanded, "Abbé, what would you have me do?"

"It is not for me to dictate, Charles," said the Abbé, in a sad and
solemn tone. "You are your own master, you are lord of princely lands
and great wealth, you are lord also of yourself. It is not for me to
say what you shall do. But I can tell you, Charles of Montsoreau, what
you would do if you were the same generous, noble, kind-hearted,
self-denying youth that was once under my charge. You would labour
zealously, constantly, firmly, to overcome a passion which can produce
nothing but misery."

"What!" exclaimed Charles of Montsoreau, "and see the woman I love
become the bride of my brother! What! witness their union, when she
loves me rather than him! Why is this to be put upon me, Abbé?--why,
when there is every right on my side, and none on his? Why am I to be
the sacrifice rather than Gaspar? Why do you address these words of
exhortation to me rather than to him?"

"In the first place," replied the Abbé, "what you fear--what you
seem most to fear, what it would be almost too much to demand from
you--never will, never can take place. Marie de Clairvaut will never
be your brother's bride. She loves him not; she rather dislikes him:
that is evident. You cannot suppose, Charles, that she will ever be
his. So I remove that from all consideration. You next ask me why I
put the hard task on you rather than him; why I exhort you rather than
him. I will tell you, Charles; because with you I believe exhortation
will have effect; with him it will have none. I have told you before,
this passion with him is a madness. He is more violent, he is less
generous, in his nature than you are, Charles; and if you would know
more, know that I have already exhorted him, and found my exhortations
vain. If you persist in your passion, if you, too, do not make a great
effort to conquer it, misery, agony, and bloodshed will be the
consequence. The despair, the death of him who hung at the same
bosom with yourself will lie heavy on your head. You, you will be
more to blame than he is; for you are acting with determinate reason
and forethought, when I tell you that his reason is gone. And,
moreover----"

"Then," exclaimed Charles of Montsoreau, interrupting him, "then I
ought to become a madman, too, to put myself in the right! Abbé, your
reasoning is not just; but I understand and feel your motives, though
I cannot admit your arguments--hear me, hear me out. Were my own
feelings and my own happiness alone concerned, I could--yes, I think I
could--sacrifice them all to my brother, if by so doing I thought I
could secure his peace. But, in the first place, you do not even hold
out to me the supposition that any sacrifice on my part would secure
his happiness; and, in the next place, I have to remember that there
is another whose feelings and whose comfort are to be considered. Much
may have passed between Mademoiselle de Clairvaut and myself to make
me sure that she knows my love, and to make me hope that she returns
it. And, if such be the case, I have no right to draw back a single
step, nor will I for any consideration upon earth. If I love her
without her loving me, I can struggle against my love, though I can
never overcome it; but if she love me too, I will trifle with her
happiness for no man upon earth--no, not my brother!"

The Abbé remained silent for a moment or two; and then replied,
"Charles, your hopes are deceiving you. Mademoiselle de Clairvaut's
feelings may be favourable to you, may be kindly; but, believe me," he
added, and a very slight appearance of a sneering smile hung about his
lip--"but, believe me, there is no chance of your injuring her
happiness by ceasing to seek her love. I speak from good authority,
Charles; as it is not two days ago, from Madame de Saulny's own
account, that Mademoiselle de Clairvaut declared her intention to be
stronger than ever of going into a convent. It is very natural, my
dear Charles, that you, knowing and feeling the passion in your own
breast, should think it equally evident to her. Very likely you may
have addressed to her words of passion and of love, displayed signs of
tenderness and affection, which you think fully sufficient to convince
her; and yet she may not have the slightest idea that your feelings
are any thing but those of common courtesy and kindness. You must
remember, that a pure and fine-minded woman shuns the very idea of any
man being in love with her, till his absolute assurance that such is
the case, leaves her no longer any room to doubt. Pure, modest, and
retiring, as Mademoiselle de Clairvaut is, such, depend upon it, are
her feelings; and be you perfectly sure that nothing you have done for
her has been construed by her in any other light than that of common
kindness and courtesy."

"I will soon know that," replied Charles of Montsoreau; "I will know
that this very night; and if I find that I have been deceiving myself,
I will make any sacrifice for my brother. I will quit the place; I
will stand in his way no longer; although you yourself," he added
bitterly, "give me no hope that, by any of the sacrifices you demand,
I shall contribute in the least to my brother's happiness."

"I think," replied the Abbé, "that you will contribute greatly to the
happiness of both; or, at all events, remove those causes of
dissension which would have made you both miserable. Your own
happiness, too, may be served in the end more than you imagine. The
obstacles to your brother's happiness will come from her, not from
you. He may grow wearied of a pursuit that he finds to be fruitless;
he may conquer a passion which he sees can never be returned. Your
generosity and forbearance may, in turn, have their natural effect
upon his heart; and he may learn to see with pleasure your union with
her who never could be his. Thus, in fact, by making a sacrifice, you
may make none; and by seeming to abandon, may win but the more
surely."

"No!" replied the young nobleman--"No, Abbé! I will do nothing by
halves. I will act upon no motives but straightforward ones. I believe
that Marie de Clairvaut knows, has seen, and returns my affection. If
she love me, if her happiness is implicated, nothing on earth shall
make me abandon her. I will love her, and seek her unto death. But if
I find that I have deceived myself; if I learn that she has not seen
and does not return my love, I will fly from her at once. To-morrow's
sunset shall see me far away; and then I will do every thing that lies
in my power to contribute to my brother's happiness. He shall be
forced to say that I have laboured for his gratification and my own
disappointment, though he has embittered his heart towards his
brother, and suffered passion to turn the milk of our mother into
gall. Let us ride on, Abbé, let us ride on: my determinations are
taken. It is better to know our fate at once. I shall stay but a short
time with the good Count de Morly; and I will then leave you with him,
and ride back with all speed."

"Nay, my dear Charles," replied the Abbé, "I will go back with you. I
cannot suffer you to tread a long road companioned by such painful
thoughts as I fear you will have."

"No, no," replied Charles of Montsoreau; "I would rather go alone. I
must deal with this business singly, Abbé; and, besides, some of us
should stay awhile with the good count. He is your cousin as well as
ours, you know; and, as he has no other relations, may leave you all
his wealth."

The Abbé turned quickly round, with an inquiring and half-angry look,
as if there was something in his own bosom told him that he might find
a sneer upon the countenance of his young companion. Such, however,
was not the case. All was clear and calm upon the face of Charles of
Montsoreau, except a melancholy smile, as if the motives which he
jestingly attributed to the Abbé were too absurd for any one to
believe he spoke in earnest. They conversed no more on a subject so
painful as that which they had already discussed, but rode on quickly
and in silence. Such had been the conversation which preceded the
interview between Charles of Montsoreau and Marie de Clairvaut.



                             CHAP. VIII.


It was in the grey of the dawn, that about ten horses were assembled
in the court-yard of the château of Montsoreau, on the following
morning. Six were saddled and bridled, as if for instant departure;
and the men who stood by the sides of those six were armed up to the
teeth. Steel-caps, then called salads, crowned the head of each; and
long swords slung high up on the hip, with the point of the scabbard
almost touching the ground, showed a preparation for desperate
resistance in case of attack; while the small pistols in the girdle
were accompanied by several others attached to the saddle, so as to
give every man an opportunity of firing five or six shots without the
necessity of pausing to reload.

The other four horses were burdened with various packages; and after
the whole had been assembled for a few minutes in the court-yard,
Charles of Montsoreau himself, accompanied by his brother and the Abbé
de Boisguerin, descended the steps from the great hall, while his own
strong charger was led forth, together with a spare horse to be led in
hand by one of the grooms.

The countenance of the young nobleman was pale as the day before, and
deep emotions were certainly busy in his bosom. But his aspect was
calm and collected; and he gazed round the château of his fathers,
from which he was going forth, perhaps for the last time, with an air
of grave and tranquil resolution, which contrasted strongly and
strangely with the agitation evident on the countenance of his
brother. He grasped the hand of the Abbé de Boisguerin in silence;
then spoke a few words, and made a few inquiries of his attendants;
and at length turning to his brother, extended his hand to him, fixing
his full eyes upon his countenance, and saying, "Farewell, Gaspar!"

The Marquis pressed his hand eagerly, but he did not speak, for he was
agitated in a very terrible degree; and his brother put his foot into
the stirrup, and slowly threw himself into the saddle, in a manner
very different from that light and buoyant one with which he usually
mounted his horse to go forth from the same walls.

As he was passing through the archway, however, something suddenly
seemed to strike him; and he turned his horse round to say to his
brother, "Remember my poor dog Lupo, and be kind to him, Gaspar," and
his eye ran for a moment over the upper windows, at one of which the
curtain was partly drawn back, though neither the hand that drew it,
nor the eyes which gazed from behind it, were visible to the sight of
those below.

Charles of Montsoreau turned his horse again, and rode through the
archway.--"God bless you, sir!" said the warder who stood near;--"God
prosper you, my noble young count," said the porter of the gates--and
in another minute Charles was riding away from his home.

At the bridge across the stream, the party which thus left the château
of Montsoreau found another horseman waiting to join them on their
way; no other than the blithe-looking forester, Gondrin, who, with all
his earthly goods enclosed in a large pack behind him, and mounted on
a powerful horse which had borne him many a mile in various forest
sports, looked not a whit the less cheerful--not a whit the more
depressed--at quitting the place which he had made his home for
several years, than he did upon going out in the morning to track the
footsteps of a boar or deer in the course of his usual occupations.

The truth is, that Gondrin was one of those men who are without
attachments absolutely local. There was far more of the dog than of
the cat in his nature. Where those he loved were, there was his home;
and if those he loved had not been with him, he would have felt a
stranger even in his birthplace. Our local attachments, indeed, are in
themselves almost all made up of associations; the pleasures that we
have tasted--the happy hours that we have known--the friends that we
have loved--the sports, the pastimes, the little incidents--ay, even
some of the pains of life are woven by memory and association into
ties to bind our affections to certain places. Our loves and our
friendships almost always derive the vigour of their bonds from the
present and the past together--the ties of local attachments are all
found in the past.

On the present occasion, Gondrin had with him the great object of his
love and admiration: his young lord, the Count of Logères. He had with
him, too, in the train of his master, more than one old companion of
his forest sports. Two of the under piqueurs were to follow him as
soon as safe-conducts could be obtained for them, with six dogs, which
were the special joy of his heart; so that--with the abatement of a
certain degree of anxiety regarding the temporal welfare of the
aforesaid hounds--Gondrin was as happy as he could be; and whether on
his horse's back, or reposing in the inn-kitchen, or resting by the
roadside, he considered himself just as much at home as in his cottage
under the castle of Montsoreau.

He bowed low to his lord as the young nobleman came up, and would have
spoken to him also with his usual frank cheerfulness, but Gondrin was
as shrewd an observer of men's faces as he was of beasts' footmarks;
and he saw on the countenance of Charles of Montsoreau such
indubitable traces of care and thought, that he judged it better to
fall back at once amongst his companions in the rear, whose gay voices
and merry laughter soon showed the effect of his presence.

Of his young lord, Gondrin had judged rightly, when he thought
that he was in no mood to be interrupted in pursuing the current of
his own ideas. The heart of Charles of Montsoreau was too sad
and sorrowful--too full of bitter memories--too full of dark
anticipations--to bear any interruption with patience. He had parted
from Marie de Clairvaut--he had parted from her probably for ever--he
had been disappointed in his hopes of love returned--he had
voluntarily sacrificed the chance of winning her--he had cast away the
bright and golden opportunity--he had cast away the delight of her
society--he had left behind him the home of his infancy, a place
filled with every sweet memory--he had parted, too, from his brother,
the object of all his early affections, and had parted from him with
feelings changed, and with a heart wounded and bleeding.

Yet on his way he was borne up by the consciousness of rectitude, and
by the vigour of high resolves. He had determined resolutely and
firmly, not only to put down in his bosom any vain hopes of ever
obtaining the hand of her he loved, but, as far as possible, to
conquer that affection--not only to leave his brother full opportunity
of striving for her hand himself, but to aid, as far as it was in his
power, by every exertion and by every thought, to remove all ordinary
difficulties from his brother's path. He had already laid out his
plans, he had already made up his mind to his course of action. He
would go to Logères, he thought; he would call out the numerous
retainers which were then at his disposal; he would take a part in the
strifes of the day; he would attach himself to the Princes of the
house of Guise; and he doubted not to be enabled to render such
service to their cause, as to obviate all opposition, on their part,
to the union of his brother with the daughter of one of the younger
branches of their family.

He hoped that it might be so; and he trusted that it might be so. He
could not, indeed, deceive himself into a belief that he could wish
Marie de Clairvaut to return his brother's love. That he could not do:
but if his brother won that love, he could at least contribute, he
thought, to his gaining her hand also; for there was something in his
bosom which told him--though they had never yet competed for any great
stake--that he possessed energies and powers which would enable him to
accomplish more, far more, than Gaspar could achieve in the eager
strife of the world.

Such were his views, and such his determinations; but it need hardly
be said, that in forming those views and determinations, there ran
through the whole web of his thoughts the dark and mournful threads of
disappointment, and care, and regret. He was gloomy then, and
melancholy; and though to all who approached him, he spoke
kindly--though he was ever considerate and thoughtful for their
comfort, he uttered not one word uncalled for, and ever fell back into
silent thought as soon as he had uttered any order or direction.

The scene through which he passed was certainly not one well
calculated to dissipate gloomy thoughts. After the first four or five
miles, it subsided into a flat watery country, with manifold streams
and marshes, and long rows of stunted osiers and low woods seen in dim
straight lines for many miles over the horizon, with nothing breaking
the continuity of brown but thin white mists rising up from the dells
and hollows, and looking cold, and sickly, and mysterious. The pale
grey overhanging sky vouchsafed but little light to the earth; and
though the sun at one period struggled to break through, his radiant
countenance looked wan and faint. The road itself was heavy and
tiresome for the horses, and relieved by nothing but an occasional
plashy meadow; while ever and anon a wild duck flapped heavily up from
the morass, or a snipe started away at the sound of the horses' feet
with a shrill, low cry.

Seldom, if ever, does it happen that the aspect of the scene through
which we pass has not some effect upon us. When deeply absorbed in our
own thoughts; when filled with grief, or care, or anxiety; or even
when occupied altogether with thoughts of joy and happiness to come,
we know not, we do not perceive the scene around us stealing into our
spirit, mingling with, and giving a colouring to, all our thoughts and
feelings, softening or deepening, rendering brighter or more dark, the
colouring of all our affections at the moment. But still it does so:
still every object that our eyes rest upon, every sound that greets
our ear, has its effect upon the mood of the moment; and the sadness
of Charles of Montsoreau, the dark disappointment, the bitter regret,
the withering of all his hopes, the casting behind him of his home and
all sweet associations, were rendered darker, more painful, more
terrible than they otherwise would have been, by the sky, which seemed
to frown back the frown of fate, and by the misty prospect, as dim, as
vague, as cheerless as the future of life appeared to his mind's eye.

At length, between ten and eleven o'clock, a little village presented
itself; but the population was few and scanty, while a sickly shade,
as if from the bad air of the place, pervaded more or less almost
every countenance, and bespoke the marshy nature of the soil. In the
middle of this little place, where in England would have been a
village green, was an old stone cross covered with lichens, and
exactly opposite to it, at the side, appeared a large stone building
with a bush over the door, and written above it, "The Inn for
Travellers on horseback.--Dinner at fourteen sols a head."

The horses and the servants wanted both rest and food, and Charles of
Montsoreau turned in thither. He himself, however, ate nothing, and
continued walking up and down before the door, musing bitterly of the
future. It mattered not to the innkeeper, indeed, whether the young
nobleman ate his viands or not; for though he had a certain pride
therein, he charged as much for each man that entered the doors,
whether they ate or not, as if they had consumed the best of his
larder; and though he would fain have bestowed the solace of his
company upon the young traveller, the manner of Charles of Montsoreau,
joined with a few words, soon showed him that his company would be
burdensome, and he wisely desisted.

Peace and quietness, however, were not to be the portion of Charles of
Montsoreau; for scarcely had the aubergiste left him to his own
reflections, when a number of gay sounds made themselves heard from
the other side of the village, and looking that way, the young count
saw a company of itinerant musicians, who, even in that time of war
and bloodshed, did not cease to practise their merry avocation,
wandering in gay dresses from city to city, sometimes exposed to
plunder and injury, but often strong enough and well enough armed to
defend themselves, or perhaps to pillage others.

To tell the truth, these traders in sweet sounds did not altogether
bear the very best of characters; and yet, in that time of discord and
tumult, when the greater part of men's time was given up to painful
thoughts of self-defence, or the fierce struggles of civil contention,
the wandering musicians were generally received with a glad heart to
every abode, and obtained payment of some kind, either in food or
money, for the temporary enjoyment they afforded.

The party which now approached consisted of two men, a woman, and a
boy. The two men were ferocious-looking persons enough, with dresses
of gay colours, embroidered with tinsel, and each bearing in his
girdle a dagger, the meretricious ornaments of which seemed adopted
for the purpose of persuading people that it was there only for show,
though in reality the sharp broad blade of highly tempered steel was
very well calculated to effect any murderous purpose. The woman had
once, perhaps, been pretty, and she now decked out charms, blighted
perhaps by vice as much as faded by time, with every ornament within
her reach. The boy, however, was the personage of the group certainly
the most interesting. He preceded his brethren along the street,
playing on a small pipe, from which he produced most exquisite sounds;
while a small spaniel dog ran on before him, and from time to time
stood upon his hind legs, much to the amusement of the children and
women that followed the musicians.

The truth is, the whole band had been lodging at the other end of the
village, in one of those little public houses called, in those days,
_Répues_; but hearing of the arrival of a body of gay cavaliers at the
larger inn, they were coming up in haste to see how many sous their
music could extract from the pockets of the troop. The two elder men
and the woman were pushing in at once into the auberge, without taking
any note of the young Count de Logères, whom they looked upon as a
mere idler at an inn-door; but the boy stopped, and, uncovering his
dark curly head, gazed for a moment in the count's face, with eyes
full of fire and intelligence.

He had scarcely paused a moment, however, when one of the men
returning, caught him violently by the arm, exclaiming, "What are you
lingering for, idle fool?" and struck him a blow upon the face with
the open hand, which left the print of his fingers upon the boy's
young cheek. The boy neither wept nor complained, but stood with his
hands by his sides, a dark and bitter frown upon his brow, and a
flashing fire in his eye, which showed that his passive calmness
proceeded from no want of indignant sensibility to the injury. The
blow might very likely have been repeated, had not the man's eye, at
that moment, fallen upon Charles of Montsoreau, and perceived in his
countenance a look of angry indignation, while his apparel and bearing
at once showed that he was superior to the party whom the musicians
had met with within.

"Come in, Ignati," cried the musician, with somewhat of a foreign
accent; "either play on your pipe to the gentleman here, or come and
help us to sing to the company within doors."

"I will not go in," said the boy, "unless you make me; but I will sing
the gentleman a song here, if he likes it."

"Ay, do, do," said the man; "sing him that Gaillard song with the
chorus."

"I am in no mood, my poor boy," said Charles of Montsoreau, "to take
pleasure in your music. My heart is too sad for your gay sounds. There
is something for you, however. Go in, and sing to the lighter hearts
within."

And giving him a small piece of money, he was turning away; but the
boy drew closer to him, and looking up in his face with a sweet and
kindly smile, pressed him to hear his music.

"Oh let me sing to you," he said, "let me sing to you, noble
gentleman. You don't know what music can do for a sad heart. It often
makes mine less heavy; and I will choose you a song, where even the
gay words are sad, so that they shall not be harsh to the most
sorrowful ear."

"Well, my good boy," replied the count, "if you must sing, let it be
so; but you must expect me to listen but lightly, for I have many
things to think of."

The boy instantly laid down his pipe on a bench by the door, and
lifting his two hands gracefully, which had before been clasped
together, he looked up for a minute to the sky, and then began his
song, as follows:--


                                SONG.

         Gué, gué, well-a-day!
       Dost thou remember brighter hours
         Shining upon thy happy way,
       Like morning sunshine upon dewy flowers?
            Oh, join my lay,
            And with me say,
         Gué, gué, well-a-day!

         Gué, gué, well-a-day!
       Has fortune's favour left thee
         (Ebbing fast away),
       Like stranded vessel by a summer sea?
            Oh, join my lay,
            And with me say,
         Gué, gué, well-a-day!

         Gué, gué, well-a-day!
       Have the eyes that once were smiling
         Now learnt to stray,
       Other hearts as fond as thine beguiling?
            Then join my lay,
            And with me say,
         Gué, gué, well-a-day!

         Gué, gué, well-a-day!
       Has love's blossom suffer'd blight
        'Neath misfortune grey,
       Like flow'rs in the frost of a wintry night?
            Oh, join my lay,
            And with me say,
         Gué, gué, well-a-day!


The boy's music had contrived to fix the attention of Charles of
Montsoreau, and awakened an unexpected interest in the fate of the
youth, who seemed capable, not only of the mere mechanical art of
singing the words of others, or, like a taught bird, whistling music
by rote, but of feeling every word and every tone that he uttered. As
the young nobleman looked from his face to that of the man whom he
accompanied, and who sat by his side on the bench at the door, gazing
at him with an affected smile upon his coarse assassin-like features,
he could not but think that it must be a hard fate for that poor,
sensitive-looking boy to wander on under the domination of a harsh
being like that, and he almost longed to deliver him from it. He gave
the boy some additional money, however, which made the man's eyes
gleam; and he was proceeding to ask some questions regarding the fate
and history of the whole party, when Gondrin and the rest of the
servants issued forth with the horses, and Charles of Montsoreau
prepared to mount.

"These are the vagabonds, my lord," said Gondrin, "who were up at the
castle gates on the day you saved Mademoiselle de Clairvaut from
drowning."

"I did not see them," replied Charles of Montsoreau with some
surprise--"I did not remark any one there."

"No," answered the boy with a light smile, "no, you were thinking too
much of some one else."

"You must have made speed to get here before me," said Charles of
Montsoreau.

"Ay, we go by paths, sir, that you cannot go on horseback," joined in
the man; "and we will be at the next inn gate before you to-night, if
you would like to hear the boy's music again."

"Perhaps I may," replied Charles of Montsoreau; "at all events, you
shan't go without reward."

"We will be there, we will be there," replied the man; and the Count
having ascertained that the reckoning was paid, rode on upon his way.

The little incident which had broken in upon the train of his
melancholy thoughts did not very long occupy his mind. "This must be a
shrewd boy," he thought, "to adapt his song so well to the
circumstances; for it is clearly from what he saw at the castle gates
that he judged of the nature of my feelings, and sang accordingly."

Thus thinking, he rode on, and his mind readily reverted to the darker
topics which had before occupied it. When he arrived at the sleeping
place, which were in those days called _Gîtes_, he found a large and
comfortable inn, such as was scarcely ever to be met with in any other
country but France in those days. He looked naturally for the band of
musicians at the door; but it seemed that they had either forgotten
their promise, or had not yet arrived; and the young count had entered
the hall and commenced his supper before there was a sign of their
approach.

The first thing that gave him any intimation of their coming was the
sound of voices speaking sharp and angrily in the Italian language;
and he thought he heard amongst them the tones of the boy uttering a
few, but indignant, words of remonstrance.

Rising from the table at which he sat, the young count approached the
window, and found that he was right in supposing the party of
musicians had arrived. The boy was standing in the midst, and the
woman, as well as the two men, were bending over him, talking to him
earnestly, with vehement grimaces on the countenance of each, while
the clenched fist of the elder man shaken unceasingly, though not
raised even so high as his own girdle, showed that some threats were
being used to the boy, in order, apparently, to drive him to
something, to do which he was unwilling. Although the window was on a
level with their heads, the count could not distinguish what they
said, for they were now speaking low, though still eagerly. They
raised their voices, indeed, almost to a scream, when they uttered
some wild Italian exclamation, but it was meaningless without the
context. At length, however, to the surprise of Charles of Montsoreau,
the boy seemed moved by a sudden fit of rage; and lifting the hand
which held his pipe, he dashed the instrument of music upon the
ground, shivering it to atoms, and exclaiming, "Never! never! I will
neither sing nor play a note!"

At that instant the elder man struck him a blow on the side of the
head, which knocked him at once down upon the road; and Charles of
Montsoreau opening the window, leaped out, and interfered, while
several of his attendants followed him from the supper room.

The faces of the Italians fell when they saw him; and there was a sort
of confused and guilty look about them, which might well have made any
one of a suspicious nature believe that they had been planning no very
good schemes, when the obstinacy of the boy had obstructed them.

"You treat this youth ill," said Charles of Montsoreau, frowning upon
the man who had struck him. "Are you his father?"

"No, the blessed Virgin be thanked!" exclaimed the Italian; "his name
is Carlo Ignatius Morone, though we call him Ignati. No, obstinate
little brute! he is no child of mine! I bought him of his mother to
sing and dance for us. A bad bargain I made of it too, for he does not
gain his own bread with his whims. His mother was a courtezan of
Genoa."

"She was not my mother!" cried the boy in an indignant tone. "My mother
was dead long before that. But whatever she was, Paulina Morone was
always kind to me; and she would never have sold me to you, if I had
not asked her, when she had no bread to eat herself, and had given me
the last crust she had to give."

"This is a sad history," said Charles of Montsoreau; "and as you say
the boy does not gain his own bread, you will, doubtless, be glad
enough to sell him to me, my good friend."

The man hesitated. "I don't know that exactly," he said, "noble lord.
The boy can sing well, if he likes it, as you know; and he can play
well both upon the pipe and the lute when he likes it and is not
obstinate; and he is as active as a Basque, and can dance better than
any one I ever saw. Would you like to see him dance, my lord? I'll
make him dance fast enough. That I can always do with a good stout
stick, though sing he won't unless he likes it."

"I wonder not at it," replied the count. "But you shall not make him
dance for me. What I wish to know is, will you sell him to me? You
said you had made a bad bargain, and that he did not gain his own
bread, much less repay you."

"Not here in the provinces, sir," replied the man. "But I am sure if I
took him to Paris, I could make a good sum by showing him to the lords
and ladies there. However, I will sell him, if I can make something by
him, sooner than be burdened with him any more."

"What do you demand?" said Charles of Montsoreau. "If you are
moderate, perhaps I may give it to you, for I like to hear the boy
sing."

"I will have," said the man, "I will have at least a hundred and fifty
crowns of gold, crowns of the sun, sir, remember, or I'll not part
with the boy."

"That is three times as much as you gave to the Morone," cried the
boy--"you know it is."

"Ay, little villain," answered the man; "but have I not brought you
from Italy since, and fed you for more than a year?"

"And spent a fortune in cudgels too upon him," said the woman.

Charles of Montsoreau gave her a glance of contempt, and then turned
his look towards the boy, whose eyes were full of tears. The sum that
was asked for him was, in fact, considerable, each gold crown being in
that day worth sixty sous, and the value of money itself, as compared
with produce, being about five times that which it is at present. But
the young nobleman, unaccustomed to traffic in human flesh, that most
odious and horrible of all the rites of Mammon, looked upon the sum to
be given as a mere trifle when compared with the boy's deliverance
from the hands into which he had fallen.

"You shall have the money," he said.--"Gondrin, bid Martin bring me
the leathern bag which he carries, and I will pay the sum
immediately."

The first sensation of the Italian was joy, at having over-reached the
young French nobleman, the second was equally natural to the people,
and the class to which he belonged, sorrow at not having contrived to
over-reach him to a greater extent. The money, however, being
produced, and the sum paid, the boy demanded and received from the
younger man, who carried a pack upon his shoulders, some little
articles of property belonging, he said, to himself.

"The boy is now yours, my Lord," said the Italian, looking wistfully
at the closing mouth of the bag; "but surely your Lordship will give
me another crown for the bargain's sake."

"I will tell you what I will give you," replied Charles of
Montsoreau:--"if you and your base companions do not take yourselves
out of the place as fast as your legs can carry you, I will order my
horsemen to flog you for a mile along the road with their stirrup
leathers."

The man put his hand, with a meaning look, to the gilded hilt of his
dagger; but, in an instant, one buffet from the hand of Charles of
Montsoreau replied to the mute sign, by laying him prostrate on the
ground. A loud laugh echoed from the inn door at this conclusion of
the scene; and starting on his feet again, the Italian and his
companions hurried away as fast as possible, the elder one only
pausing for a moment, at about a hundred yards' distance, to shake his
clenched fist at the young nobleman, with a meaning look.

"Come, my boy," said the Count, "come and get thee some supper. Thou
shalt be better treated at least with me than with them."

The boy caught his hand, and kissed it a thousand times, and the young
nobleman led him towards the house, asking him as they went, "What was
it they wished you to do when I came out to stop them from maltreating
you?"

"To sing and play to you, and engage all your thoughts," replied the
boy, "while they stole the jewel out of your hat, and put a piece of
glass in its place."



                              CHAP. IX.


The sweetest of all balms to a hurt mind is the doing a good action;
and with that for his consolation, Charles of Montsoreau retired to
rest, and, though he slept not well, certainly, he obtained more
repose than he had expected. On the following morning, he found--that
which we so often find--that things done for kindly and benevolent
purposes bear with them sources of recompense to ourselves which we
never calculated upon. The unfortunate boy whom he had delivered from
the hands of his persecutors on the preceding day, afforded the young
count a subject of interest and occupation, that withdrew his thoughts
from more painful themes, and gave him a degree of relief, which,
though merely temporary, was in itself a blessing.

The boy stood by his side while he took his breakfast, and looked so
full of joy, that Charles of Montsoreau could not help congratulating
himself upon what he had done, though he was not sufficiently ignorant
of the world to suppose that, for the sum of a hundred and fifty
crowns, he had bought himself a treasure of high qualities, such as
the best education can hardly bestow upon the best disposition.

He had made the boy over entirely to the care of Gondrin, and told the
shrewd huntsman to watch his disposition well, and let him know all
the peculiarities thereof. He was himself too much occupied with
gloomy thoughts, to investigate the matter fully; and, as the boy
stood by him, he confined his questions to some points of his former
history, and to the various accomplishments which he possessed.

To a question as to whether he could ride, the boy only replied with a
smile; and it appeared afterwards that, while with the Italians, the
whole of the first part of their journey through Italy and France had
been performed on horseback, till some acts of dishonesty, committed
in the town of Grenoble, forced them to fly on foot with all speed,
and leave their beasts behind them.

The purchase of a fresh horse for the boy, and of some suits of
clothes better fitted to a nobleman's page than the gay and mountebank
costume in which he had come to his new master, occupied a
considerable part of the morning; and by the time Charles of
Montsoreau issued forth to proceed upon his journey, the mists of the
early day had cleared away; the grey veil of clouds which had obscured
the sky during the preceding day had been scattered into small
feathery fragments by the sun and the wind; there was a feeling of
spring in the breath of the air, and a look of hope and joyfulness
upon all the world around.

As the boy Ignati stood by his master's stirrup for a moment before
they set out, he lifted his fine dark eyes to the countenance of the
young nobleman with a look of love and gratitude that was not to be
mistaken. It is true that a man may smile, and smile, and be a
villain; it is true that the language of looks may often be as false
as the words of the tongue; it is true that no human mode of
expression may not be poisoned by hypocrisy, and that even actions
themselves are often as false as looks and words. But there are
moments when the free soul bursts forth through all the bonds of habit
or of cunning, and sports, if it be but for a single instant, at
liberty; and in those times, though the words may still be false, or
at the best regulated with deliberate skill, yet there are momentary
expressions that cross the countenance--lights that beam up in the
eye--smiles that flutter round the lip--which betray the secret of the
heart's feelings, notwithstanding the most careful guard.

Charles of Montsoreau looked down, and laid his hand upon the boy's
head.

"You know, Ignati," he said, "that you are a freeman, and not a slave.
I paid your price to the Italians to give you liberty, and not to
purchase you myself; so you are free to come and to go, to stay with
me, or to leave me, as you like."

"I will go with you through the world," replied the boy; and though he
said no more, he said it in such a tone as to leave no doubt upon the
mind of Charles of Montsoreau that he was sincere for the time at
least.

The boy sprang into his saddle with alacrity and grace; and the first
horseman of the court of France could not have sat his horse with more
ease and vigour. His whole demeanour seemed changed from the former
day, as if slavery and the degrading trade to which he had been
previously bound had bowed down his spirit, and with it his corporeal
frame. There was a lightness, a joyous fire in his look, which spoke
the consciousness of freedom and of dawning hopes. Before, he had been
but a handsome, sullen boy; while, now, he looked older than before,
and all was quickness and activity.

The sky, we have said, was brighter, the day more cheerful, and the
scenery itself gradually assuming a finer and a bolder character.
Entering that hilly district which lies between Limoges and Tulle, the
road was constantly ascending or descending. Wide woods and moors,
broken by rocks and streams, were seen on either side; while now a
soft green meadow covered the slope, now a rich-coloured fallow field
showed traces of man's industrious hand. Here and there, too, a
cottage appeared, with its little garden and orchard round about it;
here and there a forge, while the castellated houses of many of the
small provincial nobility showed their glittering weathercocks above
the grey woods. The aspect of the whole scene was very peaceful; and
so, indeed, that part of the country was at the time; for no towns of
sufficient consequence were near to render it, though extremely
defensible, worth the while of any of the various parties which tore
the state to defend it against the rest. Through these scenes the
young count and his attendants rode on during the day, till they came
to their gîte for the night, at the pleasant-named town of St. Germain
les belles Filles.

When the young Count de Logères sat down to supper, with none but one
habitual attendant near him--while the rest of his train dined at a
table at the other end of the hall--his mind drew up the short summary
of what changes of feeling his heart had undergone, which we are
almost always inclined to make unconsciously, when we come to the end
of a day's journey.

It were vain to say that the scenes through which he had passed, or
the aspect of the day, or the occupation of his thoughts by the boy
that he had freed, had made his heart lighter; but they had, perhaps,
taught that heart to bear its load more firmly. He still thought of
Marie de Clairvaut with the intense passion of first, true, ardent
love. He felt but the more convinced, at every step he took away from
her, that that love would last throughout his being. He felt that,
without her, life was now a blank, void of the grand pointing interest
of existence--void of all sustaining power, but a knowledge of
rectitude, and a purpose of endurance. It was hard, far more hard, for
a young heart like his, that had seldom, if ever, tasted sorrow
before, or known affliction, to undergo at once the extinction of that
brightest of life's lights, the hope of mutual affection. We value not
our minor sorrows sufficiently: there are great ones to be endured by
every man on earth; and did not the lesser ones prepare us gently for
the burden, we should be crushed under the first mighty misfortune
that befall us. But Charles of Montsoreau had known few, so few, that
he felt, as it were, stunned and benumbed by the weight of grief that
now came upon him. He had been deprived of the belief that he
possessed the love of Marie de Clairvaut; he had abandoned the hope
and task of winning that love; and, at the same time, the deep, warm
confidence which he had ever till that moment possessed in his
brother's strong, unalterable affection, had been swept away too. He
could regard Gaspar de Montsoreau no longer as he had regarded him; he
could think of him no longer as he had thought; he could not respect
or esteem him as heretofore; and all the fraternal love that remained
in his bosom towards his brother, rendered him but the more sorrowful,
that his brother was less worthy than he thought.

He was sad and gloomy then, and that sadness was seen in every look
and action: he seemed scarcely to know what were the meats placed
before him, and only mechanically to taste of that which was next to
him. After he had eaten as much as was necessary to satisfy mere
nature, he leaned his head upon his hand, and fell into deep thought,
which was only interrupted by the low sweet voice of the boy, who had
come quietly up to his side, saying, "May I not sing to you, sir
count? I have seen a song prove better sauce to a poor meal than a
duke's kitchen could produce."

"It would not be so with me, Ignati," replied the Count. "You shall
not sing to me to-night, my good boy; but go to bed, and rest your
young limbs."

Though he refused him, yet the voluntary offer the boy had made came
sweetly; for, on the first sweep of disappointment's heavy wing, a
sort of misanthropy is cast upon us which we own not even to our own
hearts. We doubt, without our will, that there is such a thing as
affection, or gratitude, or kindly feeling, or generous sensibility
left upon earth; and it is sweet, and happy, and consoling when any
thing happens, however light or small, to show us feelingly that our
dark judgment of the world was wrong. He still refused the boy's
music, however, though kindly; for he was busy with his own thoughts,
and wished to pursue them undisturbed.

On the following morning he continued his journey: nor is it worth
while to follow him day by day, while, taking his way by Bourges and
Chalons, he approached the north-eastern frontier of France. The
journey was long and tedious, but it was accomplished without any
accident or interruption; and, indeed, till he approached near the
frontiers of Lorraine, the traces of the war which desolated France
were comparatively small. Commerce, indeed, there was little or none
throughout the land; but agriculture was pursued with less difficulty;
and in those districts where the strife was not actually going on, the
first return of spring saw the husbandman again in the field.

The neighbourhood of Troyes and Chalons, however, began to show
evident marks of the ravages of war: the fields were uncultivated; the
towns guarded with rigorous strictness; no tall ricks of corn were
seen near the farm-house; the cattle lowed not in the plains; the
shepherd turned anxiously round at every sound of a horse's steps;
and, in many places, the vineyards themselves showed the marks of
fire, and the vines were seen cut down and piled up for fuel. Wherever
the traveller stopped and inquired what was the cause of the
destruction he beheld, he was told that a body of reiters had pillaged
here, or a horde of Germans wasted there; and, although there were
some who ventured, in the angry indignation of their heart, to curse
both the house of Guise and the house of La Mark, and to express their
horror of all parties alike, yet it was evident that the chivalrous
spirit of the Guises, their gracious demeanour, and their heroic
actions against a foreign enemy, had in general won the love of the
people, so that they were greatly preferred to the Protestant princes
of Sedan, who had led an army of thirty thousand strangers to the
invasion of their native country.

Charles of Montsoreau learned all these tales as he passed; and at
each inn where he stopped he received some warning not to advance
rashly in this direction, or in that, lest he should meet with some of
the scattered bands who had turned their swords into reaping hooks in
a very different sense from the pacific one, and were gathering in a
harvest which they had not sown, from the fears and necessities of the
country.

Thus it happened in setting out from Chalons, the good aubergiste, who
had taken care to extract from the purse of the young nobleman as much
as could be obtained with any appearance of honesty, counselled him
strongly, instead of pursuing the high road towards Rheims, to follow
the way along the river towards Mareuil, and thence across the
country. "For," said he, "there is a band of at least fifty reiters
have been watching the Rheims' gate for the last ten days, and have
taken toll of every one that passed, be he citizen or gentleman. Your
train, too, is so scanty, young sir, that one sees evidently you come
from a quieter place. Why, no one here ever thinks of riding without
forty men at least; and the good Duke of Guise dare not go himself
from one château to another without a hundred salads at his back."

As Charles of Montsoreau was not by any means well satisfied with the
peculiar species of honesty of his host, he made no reply to his
counsels, but followed his former purpose, and took the high road. Ere
he had pursued it two miles, however, the merry huntsman Gondrin rode
up, with the boy Ignati by his side, and some eagerness on his
countenance.

"My Lord," he said, "the boy declares that he saw the gleaming of
spear-heads upon the side of the hill a mile on."

"Indeed, Ignati!" said the Count--"your eyes must be sharp. Point out
to me these spears; for I have seen nothing of them, though I have
been watching anxiously."

"I can't show them to you now, sir," replied the boy, "for they have
gone slowly behind the wood; but I saw them, believe me, and I am not
mistaken."

Even while he was speaking a peasant was seen coming along the road
upon an ass which he was beating forward to as fast a pace as the
brute's natural indocility would admit. The moment, however, that he
saw the count's troop drawn up in the midst of the road, he suddenly
paused in his course, with a look of some alarm, which did not seem at
all to subside upon the young nobleman riding up to him with Gondrin
and the boy, and insisting upon his stopping; for he was now
endeavouring to drive his beast into one of the by-paths through the
country.

He was soon re-assured, however; and no sooner did he find that the
party he had met with was not calculated to be an object of terror,
than he endeavoured to inspire the persons of whom it was composed
with the same fears which had taken possession of himself, informing
the young count that he had just himself passed the reiters, who,
though they had left him the vegetables that he was carrying in his
panniers to the market at Chalons, had taken from him all his poultry
and eggs. He magnified their number and their ferocity very greatly;
and as it was evident that they would not prove the most agreeable of
companions on the road he was about to travel, Charles of Montsoreau
obtained more correct information of the peasant as to the way to
Mareuil, and struck back again from the high road towards the course
of the Marne.

The circuit that he had made, however, and the time that had been lost
by one interruption or another, rendered it late before he reached the
village of Condé, and it was dark before he approached Mareuil. The
place was unfortified, and, as far as he could judge in passing
through the little narrow street by which he first entered it, had an
air of greater tranquillity and comfort than he had lately seen.

No house of public entertainment was apparent till he reached an open
part of the street, near the centre of the little town, where a large
stone building stood back from the rest, and displayed a wide front,
with windows few and far between, and a single large archway for a
door. Over this swung the sign of the inn, under a highly ornamented
and gilded grating of iron-work; and as soon as the feet of horses
were heard in the dusty open space before the building, mine host and
two of his palefreniers rushed forth to receive the new guests.

The night was clear, and the moon was up; and what between the
assistance of the fair planet and the host's lantern, a very
sufficient knowledge could be obtained in a moment of the persons of
the strangers. That knowledge seemed in some degree to surprise and
puzzle the landlord; and had Charles of Montsoreau remarked very
acutely, he would have perceived that some one else had been expected
in his place.

He noted not the demeanour of the landlord at all, however; but,
springing from his horse, entered the archway, and passed through a
door which stood ajar to the right, showing through the crevice a well
lighted room within. It was one of the large open halls of an old
French inn, the rafters low and black with smoke, the chimney wide and
stretching out far into the room, the andirons, on which were piled up
immense masses of wood, containing each more than one hundred weight
of iron, and the table in the midst fit to support viands for forty or
fifty people. The light which the young nobleman had seen proceeded
both from the fire which was blazing and crackling cheerfully, and
from two large sconces of polished brass hung in different parts of
the room.

The hall possessed at the moment of the Count's entrance only one
tenant, of whom he could see little more, than that he was dressed in
grey of the most ordinary kind. His hat was on, and differed a good
deal from the cap and feather then common at the court of France,
being tall in the crown, broad in the brim, and decorated by a single
cock's feather raising itself from the button on the right side. Large
untanned riding-boots were drawn up above his knees, a light sword was
by his side, as if he felt himself in perfect security; and he wore a
falling collar of lace over his doublet, instead of the ruff, which
was ordinary at that period. The buttons of the grey suit were of jet,
and on the middle finger of his right hand was a large seal ring, of
apparently coarse manufacture. He was sitting at one of the farther
corners of the table, with an inkhorn before him and a pen in his
hand, busily writing on a sheet of coarse paper, which had been
supplied to him by the host; so that looking at him as he sat, one
might very well have taken him for some public notary of a
neighbouring town, in not the best practice in the world.

Such, indeed, would have been the interpretation which Charles of
Montsoreau would have put upon his appearance, had it not been for the
somewhat Spanish cut of his hat, and the singular fashion of his
collar, which puzzled him a good deal; for, notwithstanding the
occupation of his mind with other thoughts, and the very ordinary
apparel of the stranger, there was something in his form and aspect
which attracted attention and excited curiosity in the young nobleman,
he neither knew why nor how.

As soon as he heard a step entering the room, the stranger turned
partially round and half rose from his seat; but a momentary glance
was sufficient to show him that the person who appeared was unknown to
him; and, turning towards the table again, he pursued his occupation.
The young count advanced slowly to the fire, and drawing a settle
near, stretched out his feet to warm himself, turning his back to the
stranger so as to avoid any air of scanning his proceedings. Gondrin
and the other attendants came and went, asking him questions and
directions as he thus sat; and from time to time the writer turned
round his head and examined their movements and appearance, but
without uttering a word. The aubergiste himself at length approached
the fireplace, in order, it seemed, to consult with the young
gentleman regarding his supper. There was but little, he said, in the
house, and at that late hour it was impossible to procure much more.
However, he would do his best, he added, and assured his new guest of
at least giving him good wine.

Charles of Montsoreau informed him that he was easily satisfied, and
doubted not that every thing would be good and abundant. But somewhat
to his surprise--for such things were not at all customary in that
day--the aubergiste proceeded to demand whether he would not prefer
having a chamber apart to sup in, rather than take his meal in the
common hall. He was in the act of replying in the negative, when the
voice of the stranger who was writing at the table made itself heard
for the first time, exclaiming, in an authoritative tone, "Pierre
Jean."

The innkeeper instantly flew to his side, and the other addressed him
in a low tone, to which the innkeeper replied almost in a whisper.

"As you will, Maître Henri, as you will," said the landlord in
conclusion. "But I think it very strange they have not come."

The other merely nodded his head in reply, and then folding up the
paper he had written, he put it in his pocket, and approached the fire
with an air of being quite at home. He was a man of about six or seven
and thirty years of age, and, as he now stood before Charles of
Montsoreau at his full height, appeared to the eyes of the young
nobleman one of the most powerful men he had ever beheld. His chest
was at once broad and deep, his limbs muscular and long, the head
small, the flanks thin, and the foot and hand well formed. Every
indication was there of great strength and great activity, and the
countenance also harmonised perfectly well with the figure, the broad
high forehead giving that air of a powerful and active mind which we
are all, whether physiognomists or not, inclined by nature to see in
the expanse which covers and seems to represent the great instrument
of the human intellect. He wore the mustachio somewhat long, and the
beard pointed, but small. The eyes were large and fine, the eyebrows
strongly marked, the nose was beautifully formed, displaying the wide
expansive nostril, generally reckoned a sign of generous feelings; and
though there was a cut upon his brow scarcely healed, and a deep scar
in his cheek of a more remote date, yet they did not at all detract
from the handsomeness of the countenance, which, notwithstanding the
plainness of his dress and appearance, was peculiarly striking and
attractive.

"This is a cold night, young gentleman," he said, as he approached the
fire, "and you ride out somewhat late for a traveller in these parts
of the world."

"Oh, I fear not the cold," replied Charles of Montsoreau; "and though
I certainly prefer not the night to travel in, yet, when I must betake
myself to it, I do so without much discomfort or hesitation."

"Ay; but there are other things sweep over this country besides the
wind," said the stranger, "things more cutting and more sharp, I can
assure you."

"Oh, against those I go pretty well prepared also," replied Charles of
Montsoreau; "every French gentleman is a soldier, you know; and we are
not unwilling or unable to make use of our arms when it may be
needful."

"You have served, I suppose," said the stranger, "perhaps at Coutras,
with the Duke of Joyeuse, or with Harry of Navarre and his Huguenots."

Charles of Montsoreau looked up with a smile. "If we begin talking of
where we served, and on what causes, good sir," he said, "we shall
have our worthy host, Pierre Jean, requiring us to give up our swords
into his safe keeping till we set out again, as indeed he is bound by
law to do."

"Oh, no fear, no fear," replied the stranger, laughing. "We shall not
quarrel and cut each other's throats, depend upon it. You are here, a
young lord, with, it seems to me, a dozen or two of attendants, and I
am alone, a poor Escribano, by name Maître Henri, as you just heard."

"And yet," replied Charles of Montsoreau, "the poor Escribano, I
should judge, had seen some service in his day, and that not very many
years ago either."

"Oh, you judge from that cut upon my forehead. That is but the scratch
of a cat."

"Well, then," answered Charles, "if you will tell me sincerely whether
that cat's claw was a reiter's estramaçon, or the spear of a De la
Mark, I will tell you whether I drew my sword at Coutras, and on what
part."

The stranger gazed at him for several moments, with an inquiring and
yet half laughing-glance.

"You are as keen," he said at length, "as a Gascon; perhaps, for aught
I know, as ambitious as a Guise, as hardy and obstinate as a La Mark,
and as politic and secret as a Brisson. The last, at least, I am sure
of; and I can tell you, my good youth, if I judge right, we are not
likely to part so soon as we both expected when you entered this
room."

"Perhaps not, Maître Henri," replied Charles of Montsoreau; "for, if I
judge rightly, and you are, as you say, alone, I am not likely to
leave you till I see you safe on the other side of Rheims. There lie a
strong body of reiters on the Chalons road; and there is one man in
France for whom I have much love and respect, but who is somewhat too
famous for exposing himself unnecessarily. I have but few men with me;
but, well led, and with a great purpose, those few may do much."

The expression which the stranger's countenance assumed, as he
listened to this speech, was strange and mingled. There was a smile
came upon it, as if half amused, half touched; and yet there was a
degree of doubt hung wavering upon his brow, while he first
scrutinised the countenance of his companion closely, and then,
casting down his eyes, fell into a deep fit of thought. After a short
pause, however, he replied,--"You fought at Coutras, sir, neither for
Henry of Navarre nor Anne of Joyeuse, that is clear. Am I not right?"

"Quite, Maître Henri," replied the young count, with an air of
indifference and a smile; "I fought neither for the heretics, because,
Heaven be praised, I am a good Catholic, nor for the minions, because
the hero of Jarnac and Montcoutour has passed away into a lover of pet
puppies and a pedant in cosmetics."

A sarcastic smile curled the lip of his companion while he spoke. "Two
good, wise, and sufficient reasons," he said, "such as a notary may
approve of. But tell me, young gentleman, have we ever met before?"

"Never," answered Charles of Montsoreau, "unless we met before we were
born. But, however, Maître Henri, to put an end to all doubts, that I
see are in your mind, my name is Charles of Montsoreau, Count of
Logères, whom you may have heard of, perhaps, though he has yet to
make a name in history, and hopes to do so with his sword."

The stranger instantly extended his hand to him, exclaiming, "Indeed,
young friend, indeed! How came you here? What brought you to this part
of the world?"

"I came for two purposes," replied Charles of Montsoreau. "In the
first place, it is long since I have seen Logères; my tenantry need my
presence; and it is time that I should take the management of those
estates out of the hands of underlings, and defend, protect, and
direct them myself."

While he spoke, several of his attendants returned to the room,
accompanied by the host, to make preparation for the visiter's supper,
and the stranger instantly resumed the position he had at first been
standing in, after he approached the fire, while Charles of Montsoreau
went on, taking a hint to be cautious from his companion's eyes. "In
the next place," he continued, "my second purpose was to visit the
good Duke of Guise, who, I understand, is at Soissons, or in that
neighbourhood."

"He was at Nancy but a week or two ago," replied the other; "but,
after all, you may very likely find him at Soissons, for he is
continually moving about the country; and there was a report not long
ago, that he was to hold a private conference one of these days with
Monsieur de Bellievre, sent on the part of the king. But there is
little trust in this Henry, and Heaven knows whether he will send or
not.--Shall we sup together, sir?"

"With all my heart," replied the young count, not a little to the
surprise of some of his attendants who were in the room, and who did
not at all comprehend how their lord, whom they were themselves
accustomed to treat with much reverence and respect, came to sit down
with a person of such plain apparel.

Their astonishment was not less when they beheld the young nobleman,
after supper had been placed upon the table, wait till the other was
seated, before he took his own place. The only one who seemed to
understand the whole was the boy Ignati, who said, in an under voice,
to Gondrin, "He has forgotten himself, master huntsman! Or is Maître
Henri gone for to-night?"

"And who is Maître Henri?" demanded Gondrin, in the same tone.

"I could tell, if I would," answered the boy, "but our lord knows him,
if you do not."

Before he had well ended, a servant, dressed like his master, in grey,
entered the room in haste, and placed a written paper in the hands of
Maître Henri, who read it with attention, and then bending over the
table towards Charles of Montsoreau, demanded, in a low tone, "How
many men have you with you, my young friend?"

"Only seven," replied Charles of Montsoreau, "besides myself and the
page. But they are all well-armed, resolute, and determined, and I,
the eighth, trust not to be behind any of them."

"Eleven!" said his companion, musing. "We should but muster eleven if
we were to set off this moment; for though we counted six amongst us
when I arrived, I have sent off three to a distance, and they cannot
be back ere the morning. No, we had better wait till daylight. I must
give them till twelve o'clock, too, to see if they will keep their
word with me: though, by these tidings, it seems to be broken
already.--Hark ye," he continued, speaking to the servant who had
brought him the paper, and who still stood beside his chair--"hark ye;
bend down your ear."

The man did as he was bidden; and, after whispering to him for several
minutes, the stranger added, in a louder tone, "If you go by Les
petites Loges, you will pass them. Tell him that fifty will do. I want
no more, and we must not leave any point weak."

After he had thus spoken, he tore off a bit of the paper he had
received, wrote a few words down upon it in a careless way, and tossed
it over to Charles of Montsoreau. Those words were, "Schelandre, who
you know is as brave as a lion and as cunning as a fox, is looking out
for me, with two squadrons, on the road by Hautvilliers. He has got
news of my coming by some means--very likely from Henry himself."

Charles turned an inquiring look upon his companion's face, as if to
ask, what is to be done? But the other glanced his eye over his
shoulder towards the attendants, and proceeded with his supper,
commenting upon the landlord's good cheer, praising his wine, and
laughing and talking gaily, as if there were no such thing as peril
upon the earth.



                               CHAP. X.


It was in the grey of the morning on the following day that a party of
horsemen, now amounting in all to the number of fifteen or sixteen,
was seen winding through the little wood, which at that time occupied
the ground in the neighbourhood of Chaumizy, a spot which in the
present day sends forth many an excellent bottle of sparkling wine, to
warm the hearts of many a distant potator.

To any eye which watched the progress of that party from a height--and
there was an eye which did so--the movements of the band might seem
complicated and curious,--now turning to the east, now winding to the
west--now marching on straight forward to the north. One thing,
however, was evident, that those horsemen affected by-paths and shady
roads, never crossing a hill where they could take their way through
the valley, never choosing the open ground where they could go through
the wood. Sometimes the eye which, as we have said, watched them from
the most elevated ground in the neighbourhood, lost them for several
minutes amongst the trees and vineyards, sometimes saw them emerge
when it least expected them, sometimes was baffled altogether in
regard to a conception of their onward course, by the strange turns
and windings which they took.

Nevertheless the band still continued to advance in its own way,
winding amidst the brown leafless woods, with Charles of Montsoreau
completely armed at its head; Gondrin, little less formidably equipped
by his side on the right hand, and the boy Ignati, now dressed
completely as a page, with pistols at his saddlebow, and a strong
dagger on his thigh, upon the left hand of the young nobleman. Then
came, mixed together, the attendants of the Count--all as we have
described them before, strongly armed;--two or three strangers of
military appearance, clothed in general in grey suits with a double
black cross observable on some parts of their garments; and two or
three hardy spirits from the little village of Mareuil, who had been
hired to swell the numbers of the Count's train, as they passed across
the dangerous part of the country between Chalons and Rheims.

Amongst the rest of the persons thus mixed together, might be observed
Maître Henri, dressed precisely as he had been the night before,
though most of the other personages in grey had contrived to purchase
in the village of Mareuil several pieces of defensive and offensive
armour, such as steel caps, called salads, breast plates, and the
large heavy swords then in use against cavalry, which, like the
attendants of Charles of Montsoreau, they bore naked in their hands.

Very few words were uttered as the band rode along: sometimes an order
was given in a low voice by the young count, sometimes, while the rest
continued to advance, he rode back, to speak to some one in the rear,
sometimes he addressed a few words to Gondrin or the page; but in
general all passed in silence.

"Are you sure you know your way?" he demanded at length of the boy
Ignati, on their suddenly taking a path which appeared more than
usually out of the direct course.

"As well as I know the lines on my own hand, sir," replied the boy in
the Italian language, which he had discovered that his master
understood. "I would rather lose my eyes than lead you or him a step
wrong."

"Who do you mean by him?" demanded Charles of Montsoreau, in the same
tongue.

"I mean him with the scar," replied the boy.

"Why, what is he to thee?" asked his master.

"Why, he is the only one in all the land," replied the boy, "that ever
was kind to me before yourself; and I remember seven months ago, when
they made me dance and sing at a great banquet in the town of Nancy,
he patted my head, and called me a good youth, and while all the rest
showered money into the box my master carried round, he gave me a
broad piece, and told me it was for myself. They took it from me
afterwards: but he did not know that."

"Then recollect him, and you know him?" demanded his master.

"Grey cloth and brown baize will not hide him from me," replied the
boy, with an intelligent smile, "though when I saw him, it was crimson
velvet and gold. The heart has its eyes, dear lord, as well as the
head, and the heart's eyes never forget."

"Well then, Ignati," replied the Count, "in case of any attack--which
we cannot be sure will not take place--you attach yourself to his
side, quit him not for a moment, serve him in every thing; but in the
very first place guide him on towards Rheims, by the safest paths that
you know."

"But must I leave you?" demanded the boy--"must I leave you in the
hands of the enemy?"

"Never mind me," replied his master--"I will defend myself, good
Ignati. Besides, they can scarcely be called my enemies, as I have
taken no service against them."

Just as he spoke, the band issued forth from the little by-path which
they had been pursuing, into one of the main roads through the wood,
and saw before them, at the distance of about a hundred yards, an old
grey stone cross, raised upon several steps, in the very centre of the
road, marking the spot where two ways crossed. When first they came
within sight of that memento of past years, the ground around it was
completely solitary: but before they reached it, five or six heavy
armed horsemen came at a quick pace up the road leading to the left
and planted themselves round the cross. The moment they reached it,
one of their party took off his steel cap, and waved it in the air,
looking at the same time down the road by which he had come, as if
giving a signal to some persons who followed him.

To the eyes of Charles of Montsoreau and his companions these
indications wanted no explanation, nor was any consultation necessary;
for it was evident that there was but one thing to be done, namely, to
endeavour to force a passage through this little advanced party of the
reiters before the main body could come up.

"Quick to the side of Maître Henri," exclaimed Charles of Montsoreau,
speaking to the page. "You, Gondrin, too, attach yourself to him.
Leave nothing undone to secure his escape; and now forward, my men!
Upon them!"

He turned one anxious glance round in the direction of his newly
acquired companion; but saw--with some surprise, perhaps--nothing but
a calm, unperturbed smile on his countenance. Maître Henri was quietly
drawing his sword from its sheath, and in answer to the anxious look
of Charles of Montsoreau, only gave a familiar nod, saying, "Go on!"

The young count's orders had been already given, and his horse was
instantly put into the gallop. The reiters on their part seemed to
require neither parley nor explanation any more than the young count;
and instantly separating into two parties, they occupied the road on
either side of the cross: he, who was evidently the commander, again
waving his steel cap in the same direction as before.

Charles of Montsoreau saw that all depended upon speed, and the prompt
execution of his commands; and, turning to the man who followed
immediately behind him, he exclaimed, without at all checking his pace
as he did so, "Pass round to the right of the cross with two others;
but where the passage is forced, attach yourself to drive back the men
on the left of the cross, up the road to the left; while I with the
rest bar that road against those that are coming up."

The man seemed to understand at a word; and in a moment more they were
at the spot where the two roads crossed. As he came up, Charles of
Montsoreau turned his head for an instant, and, to his great
satisfaction, saw that a large body of horse, which was coming down at
full speed, was still at a considerable distance.

That turning of his head, however, had nearly cost him his life; for
the three men immediately behind him, having been detached to the
other side, one of the reiters, emboldened by this circumstance,
spurred suddenly forward, and aimed a long heavy stroke at the head of
the young nobleman, which struck him upon the neck, and had it not
been for the goodness of his arms, must inevitably have killed him on
the spot. As it was, the blow made the count bend almost to his
saddle-bow: but it was only to raise himself again immediately, and to
return the blow with a force and vigour which cast the reiter headlong
from his horse.

At the same time the three men whom he had detached, passed round to
the right of the cross. The reiters, who were opposed to them on that
side, prepared to stop their progress; but as they were about to do
so, they perceived Gondrin, the page, and Maître Henri, with one of
his attendants, advancing at full speed a little further to the right.
This was enough to make them desist their opposition to the others,
and turn to close the path on that side, while the three followers of
Charles of Montsoreau, taking advantage of the space thus left,
wheeled upon the men on the left side of the cross, and drove them
back, trampling upon their fallen companion.

The young nobleman, as soon as he saw the success of this man[oe]uvre,
drew in his rein for a moment, in order to suffer it to be fully
executed, and the reiters to be driven back into the road up which
they had come. On the other hand, they, finding themselves decidedly
overmatched, suffered this to be accomplished with ease, and made the
best of their way back towards the larger body of their comrades, who
were now coming down at full speed to their support.

The moment that Charles of Montsoreau saw this accomplished, he turned
his head once more to Maître Henri, exclaiming, "On, on, with all
speed! I will insure you at least ten minutes:". and then, without
waiting for any answer, he brought the greater part of his men into
the road down which the chief body of the reiters was advancing, and
prepared, as best he might, to stand the coming shock, which was
certain to be tremendous.

In the mean while, Maître Henri, with Gondrin on one side, and the boy
on the other, had advanced at full speed towards the three reiters on
the right of the cross. One of the stranger's own attendants followed
only a step behind; but as they came up, a fierce-looking, powerful
man, from amongst their opponents, aimed his petronel right at the
head of Maître Henri, exclaiming, "I know thee! I know thee!" and was
in the very act of firing, when the page, making his horse spring
forward, endeavoured to grasp the muzzle of the piece.

He did not succeed entirely, but was enabled to turn the weapon in
some degree, so that the ball passed through the tall Spanish hat of
Maître Henri; and being fired from the higher ground on which the
cross stood, entered the head of the attendant who was coming up
behind, and killed him on the spot. The contest at that point was thus
rendered a very unequal one, there being but two men, and one of those
nearly unarmed, with a boy of fourteen or fifteen, opposed to three
strong and well-armed men.

As all knew, however, that the party headed by Charles of Montsoreau
could maintain the road but a very short time against the force coming
down upon him, the gain or loss of a minute was every thing to those
who were struggling on the right of the cross. The long heavy sword
usually borne by the reiter was but feebly opposed by the light weapon
of Maître Henri; but that light weapon was used with a degree of
skill, coolness, and presence of mind which made up for the disparity;
and, with the page still close to his side, he was driving back his
immediate opponent, warding off every sweep of his heavy blade,
pressing him so hard whenever he paused for a moment, as to prevent
him from snatching one of the pistols from his saddle-bow, and
gradually urging his own charger onward, till he had very nearly
cleared the road before him, when one of the other two reiters--who
had hitherto attached themselves to Gondrin, as the only completely
equipped man-at-arms of the opposite party--turned suddenly upon
Maître Henri, and assailed him on the right, while the other rapidly
recovered his ground upon the left.

Never, however, did skill, strength, and presence of mind, do so much
for one individual as they did for the man in grey. For a moment or
two he applied himself solely to the defensive, wheeling his horse
from the one to the other, as they attacked him with the most
extraordinary rapidity and skill,--now parrying one blow, now parrying
another, and still watching for an opportunity of resuming the
offensive. At length the reiter who was assailing him on his right
hand, seeing that their other companion had by this time been well
nigh mastered by Gondrin, determined to end all by killing the horse
of the man opposed to him, and with the bridle in his teeth, and his
sword in both hands, aimed a tremendous blow at the poor animal's
head; but Maître Henri instantly divining his intention, turned the
spur sharply into the horse's side, and reined him to the left at the
same time.

The noble animal, practised for years to comprehend the slightest
indication of its rider's will, instantly took a demivolte, as it was
called, to the left with a sharp spring. The reiter's sword descended
with tremendous force; but the object at which he had aimed was just
beyond his reach, and the weight of the sword, with the impetus he had
given the blow, nearly threw him from the saddle, making him bend down
to his saddle-bow. The opportunity was all that his opponent desired;
his horse was turned like lightning, and before the man could raise
himself, he received a severe wound in the back of the neck, which
made heaven and earth, and the whole scene around, swim dizzily before
his eyes.

The other reiter on the left, however, was upon the successful
swordsman in a moment. By this time his pistol was in his hand, and a
very slight movement brought the muzzle within a foot of Maître
Henri's bosom.

That advantage retained for one single second more might have changed
the destiny of many thousands of human beings; but at the very moment
that he was sure of his aim, and about to draw the trigger, a strong,
well-aimed, unhesitating blow from the hand of the page, drove the
dagger, with which he was armed, under the very arm which held the
pistol, between it and his corselet. So strong, so determined was that
blow, that the weapon entered to the very haft, and there remained,
fixed between the corselet and the brassard, so that the boy could not
withdraw it.

But that mattered not, the weapon had cut through many a vital part in
its passage; the sick faintness of death came upon the man's heart and
brain; the pistol and the reins dropped from his hands; and, after a
reeling attempt to keep the saddle, he fell headlong to the ground.

One glance of the eye had shown Maître Henri all that took place; and
without uttering a word, he continued the fight with his other
antagonist, taking advantage of the wound he had given him, and
pressing him so hard, that at length the horse, reined back upon the
slippery ground of the forest road, reared, and fell over with his
rider, crushing him under its weight.

By this time, though the space that had elapsed was very short,
Gondrin had so far got the better of his antagonist, that the man's
steel cap had fallen off under the repeated blows of the huntsman, and
a deep bleeding wound in the forehead showed that the protection of
the casque was not a little wanting. The sight of one of his
companions dead upon the ground, and of the horse falling over with
the other, did not give him any very great encouragement to pursue the
strife; and he was making the best of his way, closely pursued by
Gondrin, towards the branch of the road which led up to the right,
when the voice of Maître Henri attracted the huntsman's ear,
exclaiming, "Leave him, leave him! Let us make our way onward, with
all speed, now that the road is clear."

Gondrin certainly asked himself, "Is it fair and right to leave my
noble master thus?" But the orders of that master had been distinct,
and he obeyed at all risks, following Maître Henri, who galloped on
with a degree of speed which, to the eyes of the huntsman, seemed
somewhat unseemly. At the distance of about a mile and a half,
however, the road took a turn to the left; and, in a moment, a large
body of horse was before the eyes of the fugitives, advancing at a
somewhat quick pace towards the scene where the late contest had taken
place. On the left breast of each corselet appeared a double cross;
and, without drawing his rein for a moment, Maître Henri galloped up
towards them, while a loud shout of "The Duke! the Duke!" burst from
the ranks of the soldiery.

Few, however, were the words which the man in grey spoke. He wheeled
his horse at their head, bade Gondrin and the page get into the rear;
adding, "You have had fighting enough for to-day, my friends,"--and in
a moment the whole body was put to full speed, and advancing towards
the cross, in the heart of the wood.

They came but up in time, however; for Charles of Montsoreau, though
contending pertinaciously for every inch of ground, from a knowledge
of how needful was each moment to his companion, had been driven back
by superior numbers into the other road, and, though still keeping his
face to the enemy, and closing the path against them, was losing
ground rapidly.

In the first shock with the reiters, he had turned his head to
ascertain that there was no space left for the passage of the enemy,
and had beheld, to his surprise, that two or three of Maître Henri's
servants had remained with him, instead of following their master. In
answer to an exclamation expressive of his surprise, however, one of
the men merely replied, "It was his order;" and the fierceness of the
struggle that ensued left no room for farther inquiry.

The number of reiters amounted to at least fifty men; and had the
space been open, the young cavalier must have been overpowered in a
moment. But the arrival, nay, the very sight, of the strong body that
now came down to his assistance, changed in a moment the aspect of the
whole scene.

At a single word from the lips of Maître Henri, the lances of the
three first lines of his horsemen were levelled in an instant; the
reiters halted in mid-career; and Charles of Montsoreau, at once
comprehending what had occurred, opened the way, as far as possible,
by drawing his wounded and weary followers out of the road, and
plunging their horses, where they could, in amongst the trees. The
reiters wavered for a moment, as if hesitating whether to retreat at
once, or endeavour to make a stand; but so sudden and unexpected was
the appearance of the adverse horse, that nothing had been prepared
for retreat; and the commander found himself forced to maintain his
ground for a time, till the ranks that followed could be wheeled and
withdrawn.

In the mean time, with loud cries of "Lorraine! Lorraine[2]! A Guise!
a Guise!" the adverse cavalry came down; but the German horse could
not stand for a moment before the long lances of the men-at-arms, and
in a few minutes all was confusion, flight, and pursuit.


---------------------

[Footnote 2: The Duke of Guise was at this time employing several
bodies of troops levied in Lorraine, against the Princes of Sedan.]

---------------------


As soon as the cavalry of Lorraine had passed by, Charles of
Montsoreau drew his men out again from the wood, and, perfectly secure
from any further annoyance, began to count his loss, and to examine
into the state of the wounded men who had continued to fight on by his
side. He himself was bleeding from a sharp wound in the head, received
from so strong a blow of one of the reiter's heavy swords, that not
even his steel cap had been able to protect him. He had another wound,
also, from a pistol ball in the left arm; but it was very slight, and
had not prevented him from managing his horse with ease. Almost every
man about him was more or less wounded, and some severely, but only
two had been left on the ground from which he had been driven; and he
hastened on after the two parties still engaged in conflict, to see
for those who were thus missing.

Luckily, the reiters, in their retreat, had followed the straight road
behind them, instead of taking that by which they came; otherwise the
whole force of charging cavalry must have passed over the young
count's two followers.

One of them was still living, and afterwards recovered, though he was
at the time so severely wounded in the leg that he could not move from
the spot where he lay. The other was quite dead, a pistol ball having
passed through his head.

The road through the wood was now, for a minute or two, turned into an
hospital; and all that was possible was done to stanch the bleeding of
the wounds which had been received, and to put the men in a state to
pursue their onward journey towards Rheims. Nor were the wounded
reiters themselves neglected; for Charles of Montsoreau was not one to
forget, as soon as the eagerness of the actual strife was over, that
his adversaries were his fellow-men.

This had been scarcely completed, and the young count once more on
horseback again, when the sound of distant trumpets ringing merrily
through the wood gave notice that the horsemen of Lorraine were on
their return; and in a few minutes after a group of some six or seven
cavaliers, with Maître Henri at their head, appeared coming up the
road, followed at the distance of a couple of hundred yards by the
body of cavalry he had met with so opportunely. All was laughter and
merriment amongst the little group of officers; and, though Maître
Henri himself was not loud in his mirth, he came on smiling at the
jests and gibes of the others, and sometimes answering them in the
same strain, though with a manner somewhat chastened and stately.

At the distance of about twenty or five and twenty yards from the
young count, he held up his hand to the troops that followed,
pronouncing die word "Halt!" Then riding up with his group of
officers, he grasped Charles of Montsoreau warmly by the hand; and,
turning to those who followed, said, "Noble lords, to this gallant
gentleman, to his courage, skill, determination, and good faith, I owe
life or liberty. You are witnesses that, in the fullest manner, I
acknowledge the debt, and that in no manner will I fail to pay it,
when he chooses to call upon me."

"Your highness is too generous in your consideration of the service,"
replied Charles of Montsoreau. "I came from a distant part of France
to seek you, in order to offer you my poor services--perhaps somewhat
tardily--in your efforts to chase from the soil of our native country
bands of foreign adventurers who have no business to meddle with our
intestine quarrels. I found you likely to be surprised by accident by
one of those bands; and what could I do less than assist you to the
utmost of my power?"

"Our views of the extent of the service," replied the Duke of Guise,
with the bright smile of his house playing on his lip, "must be
somewhat different, I fear, my young friend. But now we have met, we
will not part speedily. You must be my guest, and go on with me, first
to Rheims, and then to Soissons, with all speed. There we will talk of
our future alliance; for the Count de Logères and the Duke of Guise
shall treat together as crown to crown, and nobody call it treason. I
have," he continued in a lower voice, but with a marked and meaning
smile--"I have to ask you many questions in regard to a fair child of
our house, who has, according to her letters and to yours, received
the same protection and defence at your hands which you have this day
afforded her uncle. Perhaps it may be on her account that you come to
seek me. Is it so, good friend?"

The words of the Duke--those words which, under other circumstances,
might have been the brightest and the dearest to the heart of Charles
of Montsoreau--now entered into his spirit like a sword. The beaming
smile of his race upon the lip of the princely Guise called up
before the eye of fancy in a moment the form of the beautiful and
beloved being on whose countenance he had first seen it. All his
tenderness--all his affection for her--all the deep, unchangeable
attachment of his heart--were felt at that moment more deeply, more
powerfully, than ever; but, at the same time, strong upon his mind,
came the bitter resolution he had taken to yield his hopes of
happiness, to cast away his chance, his most probable chance, of the
brightest joy that fancy could dream of, and to yield to the brother
who had ill-treated him all those advantages which he himself of right
possessed.

The blood fled from his cheek to his heart, as if to strengthen it
against the pains and against the temptations of that moment; and the
Duke of Guise, seeing him turn very pale, judged, perhaps, wrongly of
his feelings, and again grasped him by the hand, saying, "Fear not,
fear not, good friend. Come, let us on upon our way. I may meet with
tidings at Rheims to hasten my progress onwards."



                              CHAP. XI.


During the two days that followed the events recorded in the last few
pages, Charles of Montsoreau had scarcely any opportunity of speaking
with the Duke of Guise, without that multitude of listeners around,
which renders all conversation general and frequently insignificant.
It is true he dwelt in the same splendid hotel which served the Duke
for his residence in the city of Rheims; that he dined with him at the
same table; that he was present on every occasion when he received the
nobles who flocked around him. But the continual press of business of
various kinds, the constant coming and going of couriers from and to
Paris and Nancy; the writing of letters that seemed innumerable, and
the almost hourly consultations with different members of the clergy
and officers of the army, seemed to occupy the whole private time of
the Duke of Guise, and to leave him no space for either thought or
repose.

At length on the third morning, when the young nobleman had
breakfasted with the Duke in company with the Duke of Nemours, the
Baron d'Aussonville, the bailiff of St. Michael, and a number of other
gentlemen, with two or three ladies of the good town of Rheims--who
seemed not a little anxious to attract the attention of the
Duke--Guise, on rising to proceed to other business, drew his young
friend aside for a moment, and asked him some questions concerning the
wounded men. The Count replied that they all bade fair to recover; and
after a few words more, spoken in the same tone, and evidently
intended for the ears of those around, though apparently addressed to
him in private, the Duke dropped his voice nearly to a whisper,
saying, "I have much to talk with you about. Sup with me alone
to-night at nine o'clock, when I trust we shall have time to make all
our arrangements."

Charles of Montsoreau did not miss the hour; but descending from the
apartments which had been assigned to him, and which were immediately
over those of the Duke, he proceeded to the hall where he had usually
found him, but in which he now met with no one but a solitary
lute-player, a great favourite with the Duke of Guise. The musician
was now seated with his instrument in his hand, with one of his feet
raised upon the huge andirons of the fireplace, and his hands employed
in striking from time to time a few low and listless sounds from the
instrument that lay upon his knee. The man had thus been apparently
left solitary for some time; for no sooner did Charles of Montsoreau
appear, than, seizing him by one of the buttons of his doublet, he
began to tell him a long story, of not the most interesting kind, from
which the young count would willingly have delivered himself.

Perhaps the greatest art of human benevolence that can be conceived,
is that of listening with a tolerable appearance of satisfaction to a
tiresome tale; and Charles of Montsoreau, whose heart was really kind
and gentle, and who had not yet learned in the great wise school of
the world the lesson of treading upon the feelings of others, did his
best to seem interested, till one of the Duke's servants entered the
room, and, after a glance around, retired without any further
announcement. A moment or two after, while the young nobleman was
still in the sort of durance in which the lute-player held him, the
servant again made his appearance, and, walking straight up to him,
informed him that the Duke wished to speak with him in his cabinet.

"Show me the way," said the young nobleman, detaching his button from
the grasp of the musician--"show me the way, and I will come
directly."

"Oh, I will go with you, and show you the way," exclaimed the
lute-player: "I've no idea of staying here all by myself, as
melancholy as a rat in a rat-trap."

"His Highness particularly said," observed the servant in a dry tone,
"that he wished to converse with Monsieur de Logères alone."

The lute-player looked confounded and mortified; but Charles of
Montsoreau, not a little pleased to be rid of his company, followed
the attendant, and in a few moments was ushered into the Duke's
cabinet. It was a small but somewhat lengthened octangular room, lined
throughout with dark black oak, carved in the most exquisite manner.
From the centre of the ceiling hung a silver chain, bearing a large
lamp of the same material, with eight burners. At the further end of
the room was the fireplace, and in the midst a small table with two
covers and a number of dishes and cups of silver, some plain, some
jewelled at the rim.

The Duke himself was standing at the farther side with his back to the
fire, reading a letter by the light of a small lamp which shed its
rays over his shoulder; and certainly as he stood there, now dressed
in the magnificent costume of those days, partially reclining against
the projecting chimney, with the letter raised in his hand, the light
of the lamp streaming over his shoulder, but catching brightly upon
his cheek and lip, and on the rich brown beard and mustachio, with the
deep carved oak behind him, and a certain sort of gloomy splendour
round that part of the room, there probably never was any thing so
graceful, so princely, so dignified, as his whole appearance.

He folded up the letter as soon as Charles of Montsoreau's step
sounded in the cabinet, and banishing a slight frown which had been
upon his brow while reading, he advanced to the table with a smile
saying, "Our viands are getting cold, Monsieur le Comte."

"I went into the usual hall," replied the young nobleman, "not knowing
where to find your Highness, and fearful of intruding upon you."

"I should have told you, I should have told you, dear friend," replied
the Duke: "when I wish to have an hour in private for conversation
with any of my most confidential friends, I sup in my own cabinet,
which is the only place to which my worthy countrymen and
acquaintances will grant the right of sanctuary.--Now Martinez," he
continued, speaking to the servant, "uncover the dishes, put us down
some good wine, bring me in a _naquet_ to hold our dirty platters, and
then leave us."

"The attendant did as he was commanded, removed the tops of the
dishes, put several bottles of wine down by the side of the Duke, and
after bringing in a sort of buffet on a small scale, somewhat like
what we now call a dumb waiter, but which was then called by the name
of _naquet_, (though that word was only properly applied to the marker
of a tennis-court), he retired, shutting the door closely behind him.

"This is an hour of relief," said the Duke, as soon as the man was
gone; "for our business to-night, dear count, must of course be light
and easy to us both--light to you, because you have nothing to do but
to express your wishes and desires to Henry of Guise, and light to me,
as nothing can be more joyful to my heart than to show my gratitude
for the services that you have rendered me, and to express, in every
manner in my power, my esteem and regard for yourself, and my
admiration for your conduct."[3]


---------------------

[Footnote 3: Those who may be inclined to suppose such language
inconsistent with the character of the proud, ambitious politician,
which Guise is often represented to have been, need but read any of
his letters to Bassonpierre, or any other of his personal friends, to
see with what openhearted affection he dealt with them.]

---------------------


"Oh, my Lord," replied Charles of Montsoreau, "I thought you had
forgotten by this time to use such high-flown expressions towards me."

"Call them not high-flown, good friend," replied the Duke: "persons
situated as I am, dealing with and often obliged of sheer necessity to
excite the worst passions of our fellow-creatures, meet so rarely with
frank, disinterested service, that when it comes upon us in the sudden
way that yours has come upon me, without claim, without expectation,
without any previous notice, it strikes us as something both wonderful
and beautiful; and we admire, as we would the visit of an angel, that
which gives us a view of a fairer state of being than the one with
which our daily thoughts are familiar. Besides, if I must own the
truth, too, there was something in the frankness--some of my adulators
would call it the bluntness--with which you dealt with me in the
little inn at Mareuil, evidently knowing me all the time, but still
treating me as the comrade of an inn dining-room, which, as you may
suppose, struck me not a little. But a truce to all fine speeches: let
us begin our supper; and after doing justice to what Maître Lanecque
has set before us, we will discuss the matter further at our ease."

Although the cookery of that day, as exemplified in a small but
refined supper of the Duke of Guise, might well astonish, both from
its materials and its combinations, any of the culinary artists of the
present day, both the Duke and his young friend found it excellent,
and every thing was praised as it deserved. The wine also was of the
finest kind that could be procured, and the Duke was liberal of it;
but Charles of Montsoreau was not one to be tempted by any vintage to
drink more than was beneficial to him either corporeally or mentally;
and though the Duke of Guise drank more than himself, he pressed not
the ruby juice of the grape upon his young friend after he once saw
that it might become disagreeable to him.

Towards Charles of Montsoreau, indeed, he had none of those designs
which lead wily politicians sometimes to press the wine-cup upon a
tyro. He might, it is true, be somewhat surprised at the easy and
courtly grace with which a young nobleman, educated almost entirely in
the provinces, met and mingled with the highest and most stately in
the land; and he might, consequently, be a little inclined to see him
off his guard; but when he found that he was not disposed to take any
more, he abstained from asking him, and pursued the subject of their
former discourse, interrupted by various little remarks upon things of
an ordinary character, touching them, however, with grace and ease,
which raised them all, and made them harmonise with graver discourse.

"Now, Monsieur de Logères," he said, as soon as he had passed to his
young friend the dish at his end of the table with which they
commenced the meal, "tell me clearly and exactly what were your
motives and your views in coming hither from so far to seek me; for it
would seem that you have been acting entirely independently of your
brother. Speak to me, my good friend, without reserve of any kind, as
to a brother--as to a father, if you will--for I am old enough surely,
both in years and experience, to claim that title, though indeed it is
not I who have given you life, but you to whom I owe it."

"It is scarcely either needful or possible, my Lord," replied the
young count, "for me to tell your Highness more than I have already
told. In the first place, I came to see my lands of Logères, which, as
you well know, lie not above forty or fifty miles from this spot--a
long day's journey. I have only seen them once since the death of my
father. I have withdrawn but a small part of the revenues from the
improvement of the territory, and the encouragement of the peasantry;
and it is time that I should now see what is the state of the whole.
At the same time, I thought and believed that I had remained somewhat
too long a spectator of the contentions which distract my native land.
Now, my Lord Duke, I had to choose between three personages, the great
leaders of the present day--Henry of Navarre, Henry of France, and
Henry Duke of Guise, The first seemed to me out of the question,
though a gallant and a noble prince; for, waging war as he does, for
the advancement of heresy, it was not for me to draw my sword in such
a cause. Between the other two there could surely be no question; for
though I may not think your Highness always right in every thing that
you have done, yet as a gallant and a knightly leader, as one whom a
brave and true-hearted man may follow, there is none whom I know that
I could choose against yourself from one end of Europe to the other.
In attaching myself to you, too, I trust and am sure that I do not ill
serve my king; and, to say but the truth, I would far rather serve his
Majesty under another, than come within the reach of his perfumes and
cosmetics."

The Duke of Guise smiled, and leaning his arm upon the table, gazed
down for a moment or two in a meditative mood, not a little struck and
surprised at the calm and reasoning, but bold and straight-forward
frankness with which his young companion spoke. Perhaps, too, he
traced back into the past the various motives and views with which the
different distinguished men, who appeared as followers of the three
leaders mentioned, had chosen their party, and he might find none
amongst them all who were actuated by such feelings as the young man
before him. He was silent for several moments then; and the first
thing that roused him was the young count adding, to what he had said,
"Indeed, my Lord, this was my pure and simple motive."

"I doubt it not. Monsieur de Logères," replied the Duke, drawing
towards him another dish--"I doubt it not; and this is a pure and
simple salmi, and apparently as good a one as ever was cooked; but
still, if you were to ask Maître Lanecque to analyse it--try it, good
friend, you will find it an antidote against all the poisons and evils
of the inn at Mareuil, and other such pestiferous places--but, as I
was saying, if you were to ask Maître Lanecque to analyse this simple
salmi, you would find it composed of some hundreds of different things
besides the woodcock, which is the basis of the whole. All these
accessories are admirable in themselves, and contribute to make the
woodcock better. And thus it is in life. Every human motive is a
salmi, cooked by a skilful artist, for our own palates as well as
those that observe them. There is one grand and apparent cause of
action, which may be considered as the woodcock, but there are a
thousand minor motives, incentives, and inducements, the condiments,
the gravies, the truffles, the toast, which nobody ever thinks of
counting, which pass, in fact, under cover of the woodcock, and which,
nevertheless, all tend to make the salmi what it is. Now, I have no
doubt on earth, my dear young friend, that the great motive of your
coming hither was what you say; but were there not other motives
joined therewith--feelings, designs, views, and purposes of your own,
all mingling together, to aid and strengthen your original motive--in
fact, to make up the salmi?"

Charles of Montsoreau knew and felt that there were; for he could not
help remembering the real cause of his quitting his brother's dwelling
in such haste, and the resolutions then taken, which were still strong
within him, to be generous, even to the utmost extent of human
generosity, towards one who had been ungenerous to him. He now looked
down thoughtfully for a moment; but he was by nature far too frank and
open to conceal his thoughts from one who sought them in the way which
they were sought by the Duke of Guise.

"My Lord," he said, "if your Highness means to ask, whether there were
or were not private feelings which induced me at once to plunge into
contentions from which I had long withheld myself, and combined with
the general public motives which otherwise called upon me so to do, I
by no means deny that there were such feelings; and had it not been
for them--though I certainly think I should have joined your Highness
before many months were over--yet it might not have been so early or
so opportunely as it has turned out."

The Duke smiled frankly, and replied, "I thought so, Monsieur de
Logères. You are always candid and true, and you shall see at once, by
my next question, why I asked you this so particularly. Tell me, has
not a fair relation of mine, who has found a place of refuge in the
castle of Montsoreau--has she not something to do with the motives
that you speak of?"

"She has, my Lord," replied Charles of Montsoreau--"but not in the way
which I see you imagine."

The Duke laughed. "What!" he exclaimed,--"pretty Mistress Marie of
Clairvaut has, I suppose, been acting the prude with you, as usual,
and gave you warning, when it was too late, that she intended to
plunge herself into a convent. Take heart of grace, man--take heart of
grace. Though she has ever yet shown herself, in these affairs of
love, as cold as the top of the Vosges, and as hard as the
nether-millstone, yet she is always candid and true, poor girl; and in
two letters which have reached me from her hand, the one sent by your
own courier, the other arriving to-day, she speaks of you, and of your
services towards her, in terms that admit of no mistake. I do not mean
to say you know that you have won her heart, because her heart is not
one easily won, but I do most assuredly think that you may win it; and
if you do, as far as Henry of Guise's power goes, you win her too."

There is nothing so terrible on earth, as when some friendly hand
approaches to our lips the cup of joy, seeing not, knowing not, that
we must not, that we dare not, that we cannot drink, when accidental
words, perhaps most kindly spoken, present to the eye of fancy, in
colours more vivid than ever, the pictures that were once painted by
the hand of hope, after every fair reality that they represented is
done away, and nothing remains but the memory and the endurance.
Terrible, indeed, was the temptation of Charles of Montsoreau, and
terrible the struggle in his bosom. Not the arch-fiend himself could
exhort man to break high resolutions more powerfully, than did the
words spoken with the best intentions by the Duke of Guise. But
amongst those words were a few, which, by recalling to the mind of the
young nobleman most strongly the circumstances on which his
determination was founded, gave him strength to endure. Had the Duke
said that he knew her heart was won, those few words would have put
all his resolutions to an end; but he implied that her heart was not
won, and it was upon that persuasion that all his purposes had been
hitherto framed.

The Duke of Guise saw him once more turn very pale, and was not a
little puzzled to divine the cause. "Why do you not answer?" he
demanded, after pausing for a moment or two. "In consideration of a
vast service, I have spoken to you as I would to no other man under a
prince's dignity in Europe."

"And I am most grateful, my Lord," replied the Count; "but your
Highness has mistaken me. My pretensions to the hand of Mademoiselle
de Clairvaut are too small, too few to be thought of even by myself.
My brother, indeed, may have greater pretensions. Your Highness knows
that his estates in the south are considerable; that his race, though
certainly not equal to that of the princely house of Guise, is as old
and as pure as any in France; but he has a thousand high qualities
that you do not know. He is brave, skilful, with far more experience
than myself, faithful and true in his attachments, and even more
zealous and eager than I am in every thing he undertakes. Let any
little services of mine, my Lord, be attributed to him; let him also
serve and attach himself to your Highness; and let the sum of the
affection and zeal of both in your cause induce you to look favourably
upon his suit, even should he aspire to the hand of Mademoiselle de
Clairvaut."

"By my faith," exclaimed the Duke of Guise, pushing the glass of wine
which he was just about to drink away from him--"By my faith, this is
the most extraordinary piece of business, I think, I ever heard of!"
And he paused, thoughtfully gazing down upon the table. "You are a
strange youth," he continued, "and there is something under this which
I do not understand. But, be you sure, Maître Charles, that Maître
Henri will unriddle it. And now let me tell you something that you do
not know yourself. I have this very morning received an epistle from
your brother; an epistle which, though eloquent enough, well written,
clear, and masterly, yet I love not altogether. He tells me, that the
passports for my niece, from Henri of Navarre, have arrived; but that
he judges it best, seeing the troubled state of the country, to escort
her towards Soissons himself, with a sufficient band to protect her
against any attack. He speaks of you, too, as '_a brother of his_,'
and gives as a reason for delaying a day or two ere he sets out, that
you had taken with you on your journey some men from the castle, so
that it is necessary for him to increase his numbers ere he departs."

"That was hardly generous of him," said Charles of Montsoreau, calmly;
"for I took no more than my own immediate retainers, except, indeed,
the one man, Gondrin, whom your Highness knows, and who was born upon
my own lands of Logères."

"Oh, I know him well, indeed," replied the Duke, "and owe him much. We
will have him and the page in before we part, that I may thank them.
And so, Monsieur de Logères, you will let me do nothing for you."

"Say not so, my Lord," replied the Count, "I ask you much, when I ask
you for the honour and the pleasure of serving under you, and also
express the hope that you will always treat me and consider me as
now."

"Oh, such requests are easily granted," said the Duke: "you shall
command a company of my Albanians, and be ever near my person; but
still I shall consider that there is a debt to be paid, and shall
reserve the payment thereof for a year; and if you name not your own
boon by that time, I shall force my gratitude upon you. There is some
mystery in your conduct which at present I do not understand. But all
earthly mysteries disappear, my good young friend. When they
represented Time, they would have done well to put a torch in his hand
as well as a scythe, for he throws light upon all things. I will write
about the Albanian company this night."

"Your pardon, my Lord," replied Charles of Montsoreau--"but I would
fain serve you at the head of my own people. Give me but a month away
from you, and I will bring you a hundred steel-caps from Logères,
mounted, armed, and trained as well as any cavaliers in France. All
the tenantry are bred to arms there from their infancy, so that but a
short space will suffice."

"You are resolved to make me still more your debtor," said the Duke;
"and I will acknowledge, that at the present moment the assistance of
every brave and true-hearted man in France is needful to Henry of
Guise; for oh, my young friend, I have to deal with as wily a serpent
as ever was hatched in the Asiatic deserts. Were it but Henry of
Navarre I had to deal with, the contest in this country would soon be
settled, for as gallant a knight, and as noble a gentleman is he, as
ever lived; frank, generous, and true; and with our lances in our
hands and our helmets on our heads, we could decide the fate of France
between us in an hour. But when I have to deal with one who,
professing love and friendship, would poison the chalice, or arm the
assassin's hand against me; who, while he feigns to listen to my
counsel, deals secretly with every enemy of his state and of his
country; who betrays every secret that is intrusted to him as soon as
he finds an interest in so doing; and who only sinks from the activity
of evil-doing into voluptuous, effeminate, indecent repose;--when I
have to deal with such a man as that, I say, the support of every true
man in France is needful to me, to free my country from the evils that
afflict her--never forgetting my duty to the crown. Go, my young
friend, arm your vassals, bring to me every man that you can command,
and you shall find Henry of Lorraine as deeply grateful to you for
this new service as he is for that which is past. I will make no
further professions to you. What I have said already ought to be
enough to convince you, that with me, at least, neither the pride nor
the ambition, of which they unjustly accuse our race, can stand in the
way of gratitude. Now, however, let us have in your man Gondrin and
your little page. He speaks, it seems to me, with a foreign accent.
Where did you get him?"

As he spoke, the Duke rang a silver bell which stood by his side, and
gave orders to the servant who appeared to seek for the two attendants
of the young Count, and bring them before him. While he was absent,
Charles of Montsoreau gave him a full account of his accidental
meeting with the boy Ignati, and of his redeeming him from the hands
of the Italians. The tale seemed to interest the Duke not a little;
and, after musing for a moment, he said, "You see, my young friend,
how kindness and services always render men greedy. I would to heaven
that you would give me these two who have gone with me through such a
moment of peril. I feel as if that boy were destined again to do me
some great service."

"Take him, my Lord, with all my heart," replied Charles of Montsoreau,
"not that I put any great faith in such presentiments; but as I
redeemed the boy from these men only for his own good, far be it from
me to stay him in any way from advancement. Your Highness remembers,
however, that he is not noble, and therefore can scarcely be your
page."

"Oh, we set our foot upon such things now," replied the Duke--"the
service of the Guise shall make him noble. But here they are. Come
hither, good youth," he added, as the boy and Gondrin entered--"let me
look in your face: it seems to me as if I had seen you somewhere
before. Your look pleases me, and memory seems to bring it back with
pleasure. Where have I beheld you?"

The boy looked up in the Duke's face, with his colour slightly
heightened, but his manner calm and self-possessed. "You have seen me,
my Lord," he said, "in the good town of Nancy, in the palace of the
noble Duke of Lorraine, upon the night of a high festival, where many
a gallant lord and many a bright lady sat around you; and a poor
Italian boy was brought in to dance and sing before the high table at
which you feasted. The princes, and the nobles round, the beautiful
women, and the politic matrons, poured their money into the cap which
my hard taskmaster handed round; but the Duke of Guise alone called up
poor Ignati to his side, laid his hand upon his head, thanked him for
his music, and gave him a broad piece of gold for himself."

"I remember," said the Duke, thoughtfully, "I remember. Well, boy, by
that kind word, and that broad piece, it seems I have purchased
service that never was bought at so light a rate. My good Lord of
Logères, when the pistol of a reiter was within a foot of my breast,
his finger on the trigger, and my life apparently at his mercy, with
nothing but a grey doublet between, me and destruction, this boy
proved better to me than a breastplate of Milan steel, and, by driving
his dagger into the heart of my adversary, saved the life of Henry of
Guise, for whatever period God in his grace may grant it further. Will
you give me this youth, my Lord, to be my page?"

The young Count bowed his head in token of assent, and the Duke went
on. "What say you, boy? would you willingly serve me?"

The boy paused, and looked down, while the tears rose in his eyes.
Then, turning his look to Charles of Montsoreau, he said, "He has been
very kind to me!"

"Come, come, Ignati," said the young Count, "I will not have your heart
spoil your fortunes, my good youth. I took you for your own service,
not for mine; and though I like you well, and would willingly have you
with me, yet this is a noble offer, and must not be refused."

The boy then knelt down and kissed the Duke of Guise's hand, saying,
"I am your Highness's servant."

"So shalt thou be, Ignati," replied the Duke, with one of the bright
smiles of the Guise. "But I will tell thee what thou shalt do. Thou
shalt go with this young lord to his lands of Logères, and be my spy
upon all his actions and his thoughts. Then, if thou findest out that
thing on all the earth which he most wishes and desires to possess,
and bringest me the tidings thereof, thou shalt have a purse of broad
pieces for thy pains. When he comes back, thou shalt come to be of my
household; and, as I trust that he will be ever near me, thou mayest
find many a way of serving him also.--Now, good soldier," he
continued, turning to Gondrin, "you, too, have aided me well in a
moment of great need: what recompense shall the Duke of Guise offer
you? Will you take service with him, and he will care for your
fortunes?"

"I thank you, my Lord," replied Gondrin, bluntly. "But on this young
gentleman's lands was I born, his race have I served, his forest
sports have I tended through all my life, and I think I will not leave
him now, unless he dismount me out of his troop; and then, pardie! I
think I shall follow him on foot. What I did for your Highness was
done by his orders. I knew you but as Maître Henri, with a grey
doublet and a cock's feather, so that I deserve neither thanks nor
recompense, though I will gladly serve your Highness under him, if God
and the good Count so will it."

"Would that there were many such as thou art!" said the Duke of Guise,
thoughtfully. "There are few who will not quit old kindness for new
preferment. Here, my friend, take you that ring, in memory of Henry of
Guise. It is a diamond, for which the goldsmiths will give five
hundred crowns; but, should you ever want money, he who now gives it
will gladly give a thousand crowns for it back again."



                              CHAP. XII.


The rock which it meets with in its course turns the impetuous river
from the way it was pursuing, even when it comes down in all the fury
of the mountain torrent. The slight slope of a green hill, the rise of
a grassy bank at an after-period, bends the calm stream hither and
thither through the plains, offering the most beautiful image of the
effect of circumstances on the course of human life. Some streams also
become coloured by the earth they pass over, or mingle readily with
the waters that flow into theirs. But there are a few--and they are
always the mightiest and most profound--which retain their original
hue and character, receive the tribute of other streams, pass over
rocks and mountains, and through the midst of deep lakes, without the
Rhone losing its glossy blue in the bosom of Lake Leman, or the Rhine
mingling its clear stream with the waters of Constance or the current
of the Maine.

The firm and powerful mind may be affected in its operations by
circumstances, but not in its nature, and the depths of original
character remain unchanged from the beginning to the end of life. Even
strong feelings in such hearts, like objects cast upon a grand and
rapid river, are borne along with the current through all scenes and
circumstances, till with the waters themselves they plunge into the
ocean of eternity.

Neither by nature nor by the period of his life was Charles of
Montsoreau likely to retain and nourish long any light feelings of
disappointment, but such was not the case with deep sorrows or with
strong affections. His heart was of that firm and tenacious kind that
it lost not readily any thing once strongly impressed upon it. The
love of Marie de Clairvaut was one of those things never to be
forgotten; the sorrows by which that love had been followed were never
to be obliterated from his mind.

In the gay scenes of the sort of second court which the Duke of Guise
held for some days in the city of Rheims, Charles of Montsoreau
mingled without any apparent grief weighing upon his mind, or any dark
and gloomy memory seeming to oppress his spirit. He smiled with those
who smiled, he admired all that was fine, and bright, and beautiful;
and if he felt for a moment coming over him the deep melancholy with
which he had quitted his own home, and which had now concentrated
itself in his heart, he struggled against it and banished the outward
appearance of it speedily, deriving only from those deeper feelings
which lay concealed within, that degree of indifference towards the
pleasures and amusements of youth which is seldom obtained but by
experience. He forgot not Marie de Clairvaut, however--he forgot not
the painful task which he had imposed upon himself; but he gladly
occupied his immediate thoughts with the objects around him, and
remained for some days well pleased himself, and not un-noted by
others for his calm and graceful demeanour, amongst all the proud
nobles who now surrounded the princely Guise.

At length, however, all his attendants but two, whose wounds promised
a tedious convalescence, were sufficiently recovered to enable him to
pursue his journey to Logères; and he set out, with his train
increased by six or seven veteran soldiers, whom the Duke spared to
him, for the purpose of completing, as rapidly as possible, the
discipline and training of his own retainers. As the distance was not
far, and the Duke of Guise had given him more than one hint that no
time was to be lost, he resolved to accomplish the march in one day;
and, setting off early in the morning, approached Logères towards
sunset upon a short spring day.

It was a wild and wooded country, on the borders of the ancient
Ardennes, with the scene continually varying in minor points, but
never changing the character of rough, solitary nature, which that
part of France, and indeed many other parts, at that time displayed.
Here the ground was rocky and mountainous, shooting up into tall hills
covered with old woods; there, smooth and even, with the feet of the
primeval oaks carpeted with green turf. Then, again, came deep dells,
and banks, and ravines, and dingles, so thick that the boar could
scarcely force his way through the bushes; and then the trees fell
back, and left the wild stream wandering through green meadows, or
sporting amongst the masses of stone. If a village appeared, it was
perched high up above the road, as if afraid of the passing strangers;
if a cottage, it was nested in the brown wood, and scarcely to be
distinguished from the surrounding banks. The air was now as warm as
May, and all the sweet things that haunt the first dream of summer had
come forth: the birds were tuning their earliest songs; the flowers
were gathering round the roots of the trees, and the branches above
them were making an effort, though but faint, to cast away the brown
cloak of winter, and put on the green garmenture of the spring.

The evening sunshine was clear and smiling. Pouring from under a light
cloud, which covered a part of the sky, it streamed in amongst the
bolls and branches of the trees; it gilded the green turf, and danced
upon the yellow banks: and what between the wild music of the
blackbird, and the thrush, and the woodlark, the flowers upon the
ground, the balminess of the air, the spring sunshine, and the
peaceful scene, Charles of Montsoreau felt his sorrows softened; and
though not less deeply melancholy than before, yet owned the influence
of that season, which is so near akin to youth and hope, and rode on
with a vague, but sweet feeling, that brighter hours might come.

He had spent many a happy youthful day at Logères; and though he had
forgotten much, so that the charm of novelty was not altogether
wanting, he remembered enough to make his heart beat with the thrill
of memory, while many an object, once familiar to his eye, rose up, as
if to greet him on his return. At length, the road passing straight
over a ridge of rising-ground, showed him his own little village, in
the sweet valley below, with the château rising on a tall hill that
started up from the side of the little town, unconnected with any of
the other heights around. The clouds that were in the zenith at that
moment were pouring forth a light shower of spring rain; the sun was
shining bright near the edge of the horizon, catching on the
weathercocks, and turrets, and windows of the château; while spanning
over the castle and the village, and wavering on the face of the light
grey cloud above was seen the radiant bow of heaven, the pledge of
brightness for the days to come.

The young Count, as he paused for a moment to gaze, could hear gay
distant voices, borne on the wind, rising up from the village in the
valley. It was a cheerful sound; but, more than any thing else, it
recalled the former times, and wove between them and the present a
tissue of associations both sweet and melancholy. He thought of the
gallant father, by whose knee he had played in those very scenes in
other days; he thought of the mother, whose inheritance those lands
had been; he thought of the mutual love and harmony that had subsisted
between them all, and how death had taken two, and how disunion had
arisen between the two that remained. He thought of all this; and he
thought of how--if fate had willed it otherwise--he might have led a
happy bride to those glittering towers, have listened with her to the
glad voices of the rejoicing peasantry, and have pointed to the
sunshine that lit their dwelling, and the rainbow that waved across
their sky, as auguries of hope, and happiness, and mutual love. He
thought of all this, and how it was all in vain: and the tears filled
his eyes, as he rode on towards the dwelling before him.

The two servants, whom he had sent on the day before, had spread the
news, and given the probable hour of his coming; the street of the
village was thronged with people, in their holy-day attire; the old
grey cross, and the rude stone fountain, were decked with flowers; the
light-hearted peasantry echoed his name with shouts when he appeared,
and greetings and gratulations poured forth upon him: but the heart of
the young Count of Logères was sad. The face of nature reviving from
the wintry cold, the voices of the birds, the eloquence of sunshine
and of flowers, had soothed, and calmed, and inspirited his heart; but
the rejoicings of fellow-beings like himself--he knew not why, and he
was angry to feel it--made him even more melancholy than before.

The elders of the village, conscious of dignity, the Count's own
intendant, and the seneschal of his lands, came forward to greet him,
and conduct him on his way, while Gondrin lingered behind, shaking
hands with many an old friend, and inquiring after many an old
acquaintance, vaunting the high deeds and noble qualities of his lord,
and gladdening the hearts of the villagers with the promise of great
doings at Logères.

Such was Charles of Montsoreau's arrival on his own estates; but the
aspect of the interior of his dwelling again recalled bitter feelings
and manifold regrets. But we must pass over such things, and merely
notice briefly what followed after his arrival. Immediate inquiry
showed him a state of things which few lords who absent themselves
long from their own lands can ever hope to find:--his tenantry, his
vassals, were in general contented and happy; no one had been pressed
hard upon by his officers in his absence; no one brought forward any
accusation of extortion or oppression; and though there were many who
had their little petition to present, or their request to make for the
future, there was none who found occasion to complain of the past. At
the same time, he found that considerable sums, and a considerable
quantity of produce, had accumulated for his own use; that there were
large woods, the trees of which required to be thinned; that the wool
of many years yet remained to be sold; that some distant mines had
poured unexpected wealth into his coffers; and that, in fact, great
riches, which seemed still greater to an inexperienced eye, were
immediately at his command.

The secret of all this was, that those left in authority behind him
were all old tried and attached servants of his mother's house; and
the feudal system had that advantage at least, if it had no other,
that it created an identity of interests between a lord and his
servants, which nothing but blindness and folly could break through on
either part.

On speaking with the old seneschal in regard to the military capacity
and disposition of the people, the old man smiled at the question if
he could raise a hundred strong troopers within the ensuing month.

"The ringing, sir, of the old ban-cloque," he said, "which, thank God,
I have heard but once in my day, would bring double the number of
well-armed lads round your gate in an hour. They are only angry
because, in all the feuds that have lately fallen out, I would never
let them go to join either one party or another, if I could help it.
Your own orders upon that head were strict; and I certainly thought it
very wise, as long as they judged fit to leave us at peace here, to
avoid all occasion of bringing feuds upon ourselves. Some of the young
men stole away, indeed, whether I would or not, and took service with
the good Duke of Guise against the reiters. They have almost all come
back now; but the tales they bring of battles here and there, and
driving the Germans out of France like sheep, are not likely to make
those that remained more fond of home."

"I have no wish," replied the Count, "to drain the place of its
peasantry, good seneschal. A hundred men will be enough for my
purpose, and of those, none but such as are willing. I would rather,
of course, have those who have served already, if they are inclined to
serve again under their own lord's banner. And now let this be
arranged with all speed, for I have promised the Duke of Guise not to
delay a day longer than necessary."

No delay or obstruction of any kind was met with by the young Count in
his proceedings. Though neither very populous nor very productive,
except in wood and pasture, his territories were very extensive; and
no sooner were his wishes known, than many more volunteers flocked in
to serve beneath his banner than he was willing to receive. With the
old soldiers who accompanied him, and the aid of such of his peasantry
as had served before, whatever was wanting to the discipline of the
rest was soon accomplished. The providing them with arms and horses
occupied a some--what longer time; but every thing was in active
preparation, when, at the expiration of about a fortnight, a courier
from the Duke of Guise arrived at Logères, bearing a letter dated from
Soissons, and addressed to the young Count.

"I fear," the letter said, "that this will not find you in such a
state of preparation as to enable you to join me at once, at the
little town of Gonnesse, with all the men you promised. If you could,
however, advance at once towards that place, with whatever men you can
command at the moment, you might render the greatest of services to
Henry of Guise.

"It would be as well," he continued in a postscript, "if you could
cross the Aisne. My presence is required, with all speed, in the
neighbourhood of Paris. I have not fifty men with me; and,
notwithstanding the defeat of Auneau, I hear that a strong band of
reiters has been seen in the neighbourhood of La Ferté sous Jouarre.
If you can set off before night to-morrow, send me tidings that such
is the case by the messenger who bears this letter; but do not go
farther than Montigny before you hear more. God have you in his good
keeping.

                                  "Henry of Guise."


The consultation of Charles of Montsoreau with his seneschal was but
short. He well knew that the field is the place to make good soldiers,
and that but little more preparation was needful. He therefore caused
his band to pass before the courier of the duke, and bade him tell
that Prince what he saw, directing him to add, that he would, on the
following day, make his first march towards La Ferté with fifty men;
and that, in four days more, the rest would follow, if by any
possibility their arms could be prepared by that time. With this
message he mounted him afresh, and sent him back to Soissons.

A night of bustle and preparation succeeded, which left little time
for that indulgence of calm thought during which the heart broods over
its own griefs, and but increases them by contemplation. The first
day's march was performed without danger or difficulty; and, not a
little to the satisfaction of Charles of Montsoreau, the soldiers whom
he had raised, being bred amongst a rural population, demeaned
themselves peaceably and orderly amongst the inhabitants of the
village where they halted for the night, so that no complaint was
heard in the morning; and when they departed, many a villager was seen
shaking hands with, and bidding God speed, the acquaintance of the
evening before.

On the second day's march, which brought them to Grisolles, rumours
and reports of the band of reiters which the Duke of Guise had
mentioned began to reach their ears. The peasantry showed every sign
of rejoicing on their appearance; and as they rode through the various
villages, the young Count's horse was often surrounded by the
peasantry, giving him this report or that, and expressing a hope that
he had come to deliver them from the marauding strangers. On the third
day's march towards Montigny, more accurate information was obtained
concerning the real position and proceedings of the band of German
adventurers, who were represented as lying further down towards the
Marne, in the woods and hamlets about Gland and La Fern, intercepting
the passengers on the roads between Château Thierry, Epernay, and La
Ferté: the lower part of which latter town they were said to have
attacked and plundered. Manifold were the entreaties now addressed to
Charles of Montsoreau by the wealthy farmers and proprietors of that
rich tract of country to go at once against the marauders, and drive
them across the Marne. But he adhered firmly to his resolution of
obeying the Duke's orders; and after halting for some hours to refresh
his horses and men at Gandelu, he again began his march towards three
o'clock in the evening, expecting to arrive at Montigny before
nightfall.

On the whole of the road he had received no greater service from any
one than from the boy Ignati, whose light weight and arms did not
fatigue his horse so much as those of the other horsemen, and who was
constantly riding hither and thither through the country obtaining
intelligence, and bringing it rapidly to the young Count. He had left
the little village of Gandelu about a quarter of an hour before the
rest of the troop, and was not seen again for nearly an hour and a
half after it had recommenced its march. The Count had asked for him
more than once, and had become somewhat apprehensive regarding him,
when, as they were passing through the wood of Ampon, his anxiety
regarding the boy was not diminished by hearing a discharge of
fire-arms at some distance, but apparently in advance. He was relieved
on Ignati's account, however, in a moment after, by seeing him coming
at full speed through the wood in apparent excitement and alarm.

"Quick! quick, my Lord!" he cried: "down in the meadow there, the
Schwartz reiters have attacked a gallant little band just crossing a
small stream, and are driving them back towards the Marne. I saw some
ladies in a carriage, too; and they must have fallen by this time into
the hands of the enemy."

No further inducement was wanting to Charles of Montsoreau. Giving
orders to quicken his men's pace, he himself advanced at still greater
speed, till he reached the point where the road issued forth from the
wood upon the meadow, where he had at once before him, at the distance
of scarcely three hundred yards, the whole scene which the boy had
described, though it was, of course, somewhat changed in aspect during
the time which had since elapsed.

On the bank of the small stream which, flowing through a slight hollow
in the meadow, proceeded towards the Marne, was seen a party of some
thirty or forty horsemen, the greater part of them well armed, making
a gallant but ineffectual stand against a body of reiters nearly
double their number, which charged them on every side, and seemed
likely to overpower them in a few minutes. That, however, which struck
Charles of Montsoreau the most, was to see, in the very front of the
party who opposed the reiters, a man dressed in a clerical habit, who
seemed, with the utmost coolness, skill, and determination, to be
directing the movements of those around him, for the purpose of
extricating a heavy carriage which was embarrassed in the bed of the
rivulet.

The forms of the reiters passing here and there obscured the view of
his person from time to time; but Charles of Montsoreau felt sure that
his eyes could not deceive him, when they told him that there, in the
midst of the fight, was the form of his old preceptor, the Abbé de
Boisguerin. A moment after, he caught sight of his brother also, and
prepared, without the loss of an instant, to extricate the whole party
from their perilous situation.

The numbers which he brought were hardly sufficient to make his band,
even when united with that of his brother, equal numerically to that
of the reiters. But he knew that there was much in surprise; and,
though he did not exactly despise his enemy, yet he by no means looked
upon each reiter as a match for one of his own men at arms. His
troopers had followed him at all speed; and, the moment they came up,
his orders were given, the lances levelled, the spurs struck into
every horse's sides, and down the gentle slope they went, against the
flank of the enemy, with a speed and determination that proved for the
moment quite irresistible. The commander of the foreigners had
scarcely time to wheel a part of his force to receive the charge of
this new adversary, before the troops of Logères were upon him, and,
in a moment, he was driven down the stream for nearly fifty yards.

But the marauders had one great advantage over ordinary troops.
Accustomed to fight in small parties, and even hand to hand, they were
fully as much, if not more, in their element when their ranks were
broken than when they were in a compact mass, and Charles of
Montsoreau now found that the success of his first onset by no means
dispirited them; but that, superior in numbers to his own soldiery,
they met his troopers man to man, and that a body was even detached to
pursue the carriage, which by this time had been extricated; while
neither his brother nor the Abbé de Boisguerin, embarrassed in
protecting the unarmed persons of their own party, thought it needful
to give him the slightest assistance in his contention with the
reiters.

Under these circumstances, the only thing that appeared to be left for
him to do, was to keep his men in the most perfect order, and fall
gradually back, covering his brother's band, and sending to demand his
co-operation for their mutual benefit. The reiters, however, in the
mean time, made every effort to frustrate this purpose, which they at
once divined, and by repeated charges endeavoured to break his line,
and force him to fight after their own manner. In pursuing this plan,
however, they committed the oversight of making a part of their body
cross the stream in order to take him on the flank.

With a quickness of perception, which he generally displayed in times
of difficulty and danger, he had remarked, even while in the act of
charging the enemy, that the stream higher up grew deeper, and the
banks more steep. He now saw that, by falling back a little farther
than he had at first intended, he could deal with the Germans in
separate bodies, and in all probability rout them band by band.

To do so, however, obliged him to leave his brother's party, the
carriage, and those whom he knew it contained, to struggle unassisted
with the little force which had been detached from the reiters, as
well as they might, and for a moment he remained in a state of
suspense which almost lost him the advantage. The hour, however, was
late; the shades of evening were beginning to fall: one look to the
other side of the field showed him that the first attack of the
reiters on his brother's party had been repulsed, apparently with
considerable loss, and he accordingly took his resolution, and gave
orders to retreat slowly up the stream, preparing his men, however, to
charge again the moment that he found it expedient so to do.

The reiters, thinking him defeated and intimidated, pursued him
fiercely, and those on the right bank of the stream galloped quickly
on to cut him off from a retreat by the high road. But the others
immediately in front of him were surprised, and somewhat astounded, to
find that as soon as he perceived the stream was deep enough, and the
bank was high enough--if not to prevent the other body of reiters from
crossing, at all events to embarrass and to delay them--the order was
given to the French troopers to charge, and the young Count and his
band came down upon them with a shock which scattered them before him
in an instant.

He was now, in turn, superior to that party in numbers, and knowing
that not a moment was to be lost, he exerted every energy of mind and
body. With his own hand he struck the commander from his horse, and
urging on his men with all speed, drove a number of the scattered
parties over the banks into the stream. Some escaped unhurt to the
other side, but in many instances the horses fell, and rolled over
into the water with their riders; and in the mean time terrible havoc
was going on amongst those who remained upon the bank.

The pistols and musketoons of the German soldiery had been discharged
in the first contest with his brother; but the troops of Logères,
charging with the lance, had still their fire-arms loaded: and seeing
that the struggle with the sword might be protracted till the other
party came up, the young commander shouted loudly to his men to use
their fire-arms. His voice was heard even in the midst of the strife;
and now mingled as the two parties were with each other, the effect of
the pistol was terrible. A number of the enemy were killed and thrown
from their horses on the spot, a number were wounded, and unable to
continue the conflict, and the rest, seized with panic, were flying
amain, when the other band, seeing the error that had been committed,
endeavoured to repair it by crossing the stream and attacking Charles
of Montsoreau in the rear.

Though they succeeded in their first object, it was with difficulty
and in disorder, some choosing one place, some, not liking to venture
too far, seeking a safer passage; and heavily armed as were both
horses and men, the task was certainly one of great danger. In the
midst of the strife which he was carrying on, the young Count had not
failed to watch eagerly, from time to time, the movements of the party
on the other bank.

The body immediately opposed to him was by this time completely
routed, and in full flight; and wheeling his men to encounter the
other, he calmly brought them once more into good order, and led them
to the charge.

But the leader of the enemy in that part of the field seeing that he
had come too late, and that his men were in no condition to protract
the struggle with success, was wise enough not to attempt to play out
a losing game. Giving orders for instant retreat, he kept a firm face
to his adversary, till his men had recovered from the disorder of
crossing the water, and then marched firmly up the hill, facing round
every two or three minutes to receive the charge of the French
troopers, and not suffering his pace to be hurried, though he lost
several men as he went.

The sight, however, of a group of peasantry, watching the strife from
a part of the road above, seemed to strike the reiters, who probably
mistook them for a fresh band of soldiers, with panic and dismay.
Their leader lost all command over them; and though he was seen in
vain endeavouring to rally them, and keep them in their ranks, they
fled down the road at full speed, pursued by Charles of Montsoreau and
his band for some time, till the coming on of night rendered it
useless to protract the chase any farther.

The young officer then caused the recall to be sounded, and turned his
bridle rein towards the field where the skirmish had taken place, in
order both to ascertain what was the amount of his own loss, and to
give assistance to the wounded. He found a number of peasants on the
field; and though in all instances they were giving the tenderest care
and attention to the wounded troopers of Logères, there was too good
reason to suspect that the knife of the boor had been employed without
mercy to end the course of any of the wounded Germans who had fallen
into their hands. Only two were found alive upon the field, and it is
probable that they owed their lives to the return of Charles of
Montsoreau.

His own loss in persons actually killed was very slight, but a number
were severely wounded; and in order to gain some assistance for these
poor men, it was necessary, of course, to proceed to the nearest town.
On inquiring what that was, the peasantry replied that none was nearer
than La Ferté sous Jouarre, and thither the young Count bent his
steps, as soon as some litters and carriages could be procured to bear
the wounded men.



                             CHAP. XIII.


Night had fallen heavily over the world, ere Charles of Montsoreau and
his party approached the town of La Ferté: but the moon was coming out
heavily from behind the clouds, and cast a silvery radiance over all
that part of the sky which lay behind the heights of Jouarre, throwing
out a part of the towers and pinnacles of the old abbey in clear
relief, as they rose above the shoulder of the hill.

But there were other lights in the prospect of a different hue, which
not a little puzzled Charles of Montsoreau, as he rode on at the head
of his men. What seemed to be torches, by the red and heavy glare they
gave, were seen moving about fitfully amongst the banks and vineyards
on the heights, and, in a minute or two after, a horseman passed the
young Count at full speed.

He turned suddenly from the path, however, and plunged his horse down
the banks into the neighbouring meadow, as soon as he saw the body of
men at arms; but though the young Count judged it useless to pursue
him, the faint light that was in the sky was quite sufficient to
enable him to judge that he belonged to a part of the marauding band
which had been defeated in the morning. He concluded, naturally and
rightly, that he was one of those who had followed the party of his
brother Gaspar, and had probably pursued it towards Jouarre. A moment
or two after, the sound of coming horses again met his ear; and,
ordering some of his men to advance, and cut off the way into the
meadow, he halted the rest of the troop, and waited in listening
expectation.

At the end of a few minutes, three more horsemen appeared, and dashed
into the very midst of the ambush that the young Count had laid for
them.

"Halt, and surrender!" he cried in a loud tone, ordering his men at
the same time to close round them; and the reiters, for such indeed
they were, finding escape impossible, yielded without resistance. From
them Charles of Montsoreau found that his suspicions were true, and
that they formed part of the band which had pursued his brother
towards La Ferté. He could gain no further information, however, from
the men he had taken, except that the Marquis had effected his retreat
in safety, and that a large body of armed burghers, coming out from La
Ferté, had forced the reiters to fly with all speed.

Having given the prisoners in charge to those who would not lose sight
of them, Charles of Montsoreau resumed his march; and, as his band
approached La Ferté, their trumpet sang cheerily out in the clear
night, giving notice to the citizens of the arrival of a friendly
party.

The streets were now full of horses and people, the red light of the
torches flashing upon the eager and excited countenances of those who
had taken part in the affray; and, by the glare, Charles of Montsoreau
easily distinguished the chief inn, with a number of horses held
around the door, and a group of fifteen or sixteen persons gathered
together round one, in whom he at once recognised his brother.

Perhaps Charles of Montsoreau had not any cause to be more satisfied
with that brother's conduct during the eventful day which had just
passed, than he had been with that which preceded his departure from
Montsoreau. But fraternal affection was strong at his heart, and
halting his men in the market-place, he rode up with the page and two
or three others to gratulate his brother, and ask how he fared after
the perils he had undergone. He was surprised, however, as he came
near, to see a heavy cloud lowering on the Marquis's brow, and his
eyes rolling with an expression both fierce and anxious.

"So, Charles of Montsoreau," he exclaimed in a loud harsh tone, even
before his brother could dismount, "so you have come to render an
account of your conduct this day, I trust, and to explain away the
treachery which is but too evident."

The young Count heard him with surprise, as may be well supposed; but
he saw that he was under the excitement of some strong passion, and
instantly dismounting from his horse, he walked up to his brother
through the crowd, holding out his hand, and saying, "Gaspar, you are
under some mistake. How do you fare? You shall explain to me what is
the matter within."

But the Marquis put his hand angrily by, exclaiming, "I take no hand
stained with such treachery, even though it be my brother's. I care
not who sees or who hears. I suppose, sir, you have brought the Lady
with you, whom you have contrived to rescue once more, by first
leading her into danger, that you might then deliver her from it."

"I can hardly suppose you sane, Gaspar de Montsoreau," replied his
brother at length. "What danger have I led you or any one else into?
though you say true, when you say that I have delivered you, even when
you thought fit to give me no assistance. But I ask again, What danger
have I led you into, or any one else? What is it that you mean?"

"Pshaw!" exclaimed his brother, turning away with a look of contempt,
which was very hard to bear. "You had better bring the Lady into the
house, sir, and let her take some repose; and if she be not altogether
blinded, I will take care to explain to her how all this day's
brilliant achievements have been brought about."

"In the name of God, Gaspar of Montsoreau!" exclaimed his brother, at
length, "what is it that you mean? What Lady? Where is Mademoiselle de
Clairvaut? What madness has seized upon you now?"

Gaspar of Montsoreau took a step forward, till he almost touched his
brother, and demanded in a voice that was loud, but that trembled with
passion, "Did I not see your page, that very page who is holding your
horse now--that very page, who was pointed out to me by one that knows
him well, as your bought bondsman--did I not see him--can you deny
it?--did I not see him with the reiters at the moment that they
charged down the hill upon us? And then I saw him by your side five
minutes after, when you came pretending to assist us."

"The man's mad, or drunk!" said the boy aloud; but Charles of
Montsoreau turned upon him sharply, exclaiming, "Hush! Remember, sir,
he is my brother!"

"I am sorry that he is, sir," replied the boy. "He might see me
near the reiters, but he never saw me with them, for I had been
watching them for half an hour, concealed behind a great mass of
bushes, and not daring to stir for my very life, till I saw them
begin to ride down the hill, when I came out and galloped as fast as I
could to tell my noble Lord, and bring him up to attack them.--Out
upon it!--Pretending to help any one, when there is scarcely a man in
the troop unwounded!--Out upon it!--Pretending to attack the reiters,
when he has well nigh cut them to pieces, and not left two men
together of the whole band!"

The boy spoke loud and indignantly, and at the joyful news of the
marauders being cut to pieces, a glad shout burst from the town's
people, who had gathered round, listening with no small surprise to
the dispute between the two brothers.

"For Heaven's sake, Gaspar," said Charles of Montsoreau, "govern your
feelings for a few minutes. I am here on the service of the noble Duke
of Guise, and set out from Logères only three days ago. I had heard of
the reiters by the way, and determined to fight them if I met them.
The first moment that I saw or had any communication with them--on my
honour and on my soul!-was that when I ordered my men to level their
lances, and charge them in the flank. You have nothing to do but
either to look at the banks of the stream, where they lay by dozens,
to speak to the prisoners I have brought in, or to take one glance
into those litters and those carts that carry my own wounded, to show
you that it was no feigned strife, as you have wildly fancied, that
went on between us. And now believing this, and feeling that you have
done me wrong, tell me where is Mademoiselle de Clairvaut, for your
words alarm and agitate me concerning her? Where is she, Gaspar? I say
where is she?"

"I know not," said the Marquis, turning sullenly away, "I know not,
Charles. In the last charge of the reiters, which happened nearly at
night-fall, they drove us beyond the carriage, and I have seen no more
of her. The Abbé, however, was with her, and he has not come up
either; two or three of the men, too, were there."

"Bring up the prisoners," exclaimed Charles of Montsoreau, with a
degree of agony of mind that it is impossible to conceive. "These men
can give us information, for we took them on the road just now.--Bring
up those prisoners."

With their arms tied, and their heads uncovered, the three Germans,
who had endeavoured, as was customary with many of their bands, to
make themselves look as fierce and terrible as possible, by suffering
their hair and beards to grow in confused and tangled masses, were now
brought before the young commander; and gazing sternly upon them, he
said, "You are here not as fair and open enemies, but as plunderers
and marauders, after the generals who brought you here have retreated
from the land, and entered into a treaty with the King of this
country. Your only way, then, of obtaining any portion of mercy is, by
answering the questions I am going to ask you distinctly and truly;
for if I catch the slightest wavering or falsehood in your replies, I
will have you shot one by one within the next five minutes, as a just
punishment for the crimes that you have committed."

His words seemed to make little or no impression upon men accustomed
to the daily contemplation of death. They all seemed to understand
him, however, though it was with difficulty that they answered him in
his own language, mingling German with French, so as to render it
nearly unintelligible.

"We will tell you the truth to be sure," replied one of the men. "What
should we tell you a lie for? All that ought to be lied about you know
already; so we can do no harm by telling you the truth, and may do our
own throats harm by telling you a lie. Hundred thousand! Ask your
questions, and you shall have truth."

It was in vain, however, that Charles of Montsoreau questioned the man
sternly and strictly in regard to what had become of Marie de
Clairvaut, and those who were with her. It was evident that he knew
nothing. He admitted that they had driven the party of the Marquis
beyond the carriage, and had passed it themselves in the eagerness of
pursuit; but the sudden appearance of the armed burghers of La Ferté
had caused them, he said, to retreat in great haste, and in separate
parties. He and those who were with him had not taken the same road by
which they came, and had seen nothing of the carriage.

This information, though so scanty, afforded Charles of Montsoreau a
hope. "If the road," he exclaimed eagerly, "on which these men were
captured, is not the same on which the carriage was left, it may still
be there, and Mademoiselle de Clairvaut safe."

But his brother shook his head with an air of sullen grief and
despair. "No!" he said, "No, the carriage is not there! I have been
out myself to seek it, and have passed the spot. Not a trace of it was
to be seen, and I only returned when I heard your trumpets, believing
that you were bringing in your prize in triumph."

"You have learnt, Gaspar," said his brother, "I know not why or how,
to do me sad injustice. However, it is the duty of both of us not to
close an eye till we have discovered what has become of the young Lady
whom you undertook to conduct in safety till she was under the
protection of her relations."

"I see not how it is your duty, Charles," replied his brother,
sharply. "I, as you say, undertook to conduct her, and therefore it is
my duty; but you, it seems to me, have nothing to do with it."

"It is my duty, Gaspar," replied his brother, "as a gentleman, and as
a man of honour; and it is also my duty as an attached friend of the
Duke of Guise; so that I shall seek for her this very instant. Let us
both to horse again; let us obtain guides who know the country well.
You take one circuit, I will take another; and as there is now no
farther fear of any attack from the reiters, we can suffer the greater
part of our men to repose, and meeting here in the morning, report to
each other what we have done, and concert together what steps are
farther to be taken.--And oh, Gaspar," he continued, "let us, I
beseech you, let us act together in a brotherly spirit; do justice to
my motives and intentions, for they have been all what is kind and
brotherly towards yourself."

"Doubtless," said the Marquis of Montsoreau, with one of those bitter
sneers, which the determination of persisting in wrong too often
supplies to the uncandid and ungenerous: "doubtless your motives and
intentions were good and brotherly, when the first thing that you did
after learning from the Abbé de Boisguerin my feelings, wishes, and
hopes, was instantly to seek the Duke of Guise for the purpose of
prepossessing him in your favour, and against my suit."

"In this, as in all else, you do me wrong, Gaspar," replied his
brother; "and so you will find it when you see the Duke: but I
cannot pause to explain all this. We lose time, precious and
invaluable.--Gondrin, call out ten of our freshest and best mounted
men. Let surgeons be obtained immediately to dress the wounds of the
hurt, and tell Alain and Mortier to provide for the comfort and
refreshment of the rest, according to the orders I gave them as we
came along. Take this German with us, as a sure guide to show us the
spot where the carriage was last seen. If I might advise you, Gaspar,
you will go round under Jouarre, and stretch out till you reach
Montreuil. The carriage cannot have passed the Marne except by this
bridge, so that----"

"I shall follow my own plan, Charles of Montsoreau," said the Marquis
sullenly; "I want not an instructor as well as a rival in my younger
brother." And thus saying, he turned away to give his own orders to
some of those who surrounded him.

In the mean time his brother remounted his horse in haste; and,
followed by Gondrin, and the ten men who had been selected, he set out
upon his search. That search, however, proved utterly vain. No tidings
whatsoever of Marie de Clairvaut, or those who accompanied her, were
to be obtained; the peasantry, in terror of the reiters, had kept all
their cottages closed and defended as best they could; and, with few
if any of them, Charles of Montsoreau could open a communication, as
every door that they applied to was shut, and in general nothing but
sullen silence was returned to his application for admittance or
information. In the few instances where the sound of his voice,
speaking in the French tongue, obtained for him any answer, the reply
was still the same, that they had kept all closed, from fear of the
reiters, and had neither seen nor heard of any one passing since
nightfall.

With horses and men wearied and exhausted by their fruitless search,
and with his own brow aching, and his heart sad and anxious, Charles
of Montsoreau returned towards daybreak to the town of La Ferté. His
brother, he found, had arrived some time before him, and had retired
to rest without waiting for his arrival. The young nobleman argued
from that fact, that though the Marquis had not absolutely brought
back the carriage with him to La Ferté, he must have obtained some
satisfactory intelligence concerning it; and, unbuckling his arms,
without, however, casting off the dress he wore beneath, he cast
himself down to rest in the apartment which had been prepared for him.

Though much fatigued, however, and with a mind and body both exhausted
by all the events and anxieties of the day, sleep refused to visit his
eyelids. His busy thoughts turned to every painful theme that memory
could supply from the past, or despondency call up out of the future;
and finding that it was in vain to seek repose at that moment, he
approached the deep casement, threw open the window, and gazed out
into the market-square, which lay directly beneath his apartments.

The morning was advancing brightly; the spring sunshine sparkling
down the principal street, through an opening in which the Marne was
seen flowing gaily on, with the open country rising up behind. The
little market-cross was surrounded by the carts and litters in which
he had brought in the wounded men, and some of the early townsmen
were already seen walking hither and thither, while peasants and
country-women in gay dresses came in one by one, now driving a horse
or an ass loaded with the produce of their farms, now bearing the
whole of their little store in a basket on their shoulders or their
arm. Most of them paused to consider and to comment upon the array of
vehicles round the cross, talking in a low voice, as if fearful of
breaking the stillness of the morning hour. The scene was calm, and
quiet, and soothing; and feeling tranquilised after gazing at it for
some minutes, the young Count again turned to his couch, and wooed the
blessing of slumber not now in vain. He slept profoundly, and might
have gone on for many hours, had he not been awakened about nine
o'clock by the page Ignati pulling him by the arm.

"What is the matter, Ignati?" he cried, starting up. "You seem in
haste and agitated."

"Your brother is on horseback, and setting out," cried the boy; "and
he has learned tidings of the Lady, which will fit ill with your
wishes or those of the Duke."

"What tidings, Ignati?" exclaimed the young Count eagerly. "Quick boy,
do not keep me in suspense."

"See your brother, and he will tell you," said the boy. "If he does
not, I will. But, quick, or he will be away; run down at once, even as
you are."

Charles of Montsoreau hastened towards the door, dressed as he was in
the buff coat which he wore beneath his armour; and from the stairs
heard sounds that hastened all his movements. There was the trampling
of horses, and the noise of many tongues in the court-yard, but above
all the voice of his brother, ordering his men as if for instant
departure.

When he reached the foot of the staircase, which led into the great
court of the inn, he found that those sounds had not deceived him.
Gaspar de Montsoreau was on horseback, with his men drawn up in line
ready to depart; and a cart containing two or three wounded men, and
all the baggage which had not fallen into the hands of the reiters,
was in the act of issuing forth through the archway into the
marketplace. There was an air of eager and somewhat scornful triumph
on the face of the Marquis de Montsoreau; and, at the very moment of
the young Count's appearance, he was turning to speak with a
well-dressed cavalier by his side, whom his brother had never before
beheld.

As soon as the eyes of the two brothers met, the Marquis exclaimed
aloud, in a scoffing tone, addressing his new companion, "Ha, Monsieur
de Colombel! By Heaven here comes my good young brother of Logères!
We must put spurs to our horses and ride quick, for he has taken
service, it seems, with the Duke of Guise--commands a band of stout
men-at-arms, enough to overpower us here--and may think fit to
arrest us on the spot, if he finds that we are not of the same
party as himself. He is not one to be stopped by brotherly love or
consideration, I can assure you."

"Nay!" replied the cavalier whom he addressed, speaking with a courtly
but significant smile, "the Duke of Guise is King Henry's dear friend
and faithful cousin, and professes every sort of reverence for the
crown of France."

The whole of this was spoken, as Charles of Montsoreau advanced
towards them, with an evident intention that he should hear it; but he
took not the slightest notice, and walking up calmly to the side of
his brother's horse, he said, "This is not kind of you, Gaspar, to
quit the place thus early, without giving me an opportunity of
explaining to you things which you have misinterpreted and taken
amiss."

"As you said to me last night, Charles," replied his brother, "I have
not time for long explanations now; every minute is precious and
invaluable. You can write to me if you have any thing to explain."

"You will inform me at least then," said his brother, "whether you
have obtained any news of Mademoiselle de Clairvaut, and where she
is."

"I am in haste! I am in haste, good brother!" replied the Marquis,
"and can only wait to tell you that she is in safe hands and well,
which must be enough to satisfy you."

"Not quite," answered Charles of Montsoreau. "As I am now upon my way
to meet the Duke of Guise, and shall most likely reach him before you
do, it will be but courteous of you to send him some fuller
information regarding a Lady so nearly connected with himself."

"If you do not reach him before I do," replied his brother with a grim
smile, "you and he will be long parted from each other, my good
brother; and as to Mademoiselle de Clairvaut, she is in safe hands,
and will be well taken care of. Fare you well, my brother. Now march,
my men!" And without waiting for any other reply, he shook his bridle
and rode out of the court.

The patience of Charles of Montsoreau was nearly at an end, and he
paused, gazing upon the ground for a minute or two, before he could
overcome the pain and indignation that he felt. He then turned to his
own chamber again, beckoning to the boy Ignati, who was still upon the
stairs, to follow him thither.

"Now, Ignati," he said, "What is the meaning of all this? You have
probably heard all that has passed. Give me what information you can,
without loss of time."

"This is all that I know," replied the boy; "but it is enough.
Mademoiselle de Clairvaut, the Lady whom you were asking about last
night, has met with a party of the King's troops which had been sent
against the reiters, and has by them been carried to Château Thiery,
whence she sent that cavalier whom you saw with your brother, to tell
him what had become of her. All those facts I heard the cavalier
himself relate: but from the page he brought with him, who was in the
room, or at least at the door, when his master and the Marquis were
speaking, I gathered, that this Monsieur de Colombel--by the advice of
some priest who accompanied Mademoiselle de Clairvaut, I know not
whom--has persuaded your brother to join the party of the King,
telling him that Henry would certainly hold Mademoiselle de Clairvaut
as a hostage for the Duke's good conduct, and would most likely bestow
her upon any one he thought fit."

Charles of Montsoreau pressed his hand firmly upon his brow for two or
three minutes. He had been learning for some time those dark and
painful lessons of human nature which come so bitterly to a noble
and a generous heart, when first the world, the contentions of
self-interest, and the strife of passion, teaches us how few, how very
few, there are who have any thought or motive in all their actions but
the mean ungenerous ones of self--those bitter lessons which fix upon
mature life the sad, the dark, the horrible companionship of doubt and
suspicion.

"Can I," he muttered, speaking to himself, "can I have been mistaken
in the Abbé de Boisguerin? Can I have trusted, and believed, and
reverenced, where neither trust, nor belief, nor reverence was
due?--It cannot be! No, it cannot be!" And after thinking again over
all that the page had said, he added aloud, "The King's troops at
Château Thiery!--The Duke at Gonesse!--We must lose no time, but get
to Montigny as speedily as possible."



                       END OF THE FIRST VOLUME.



                               London:
                     Printed by A. Spottiswoode,
                          New-Street-Square.





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