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Title: Rose D'Albret - or Troublous Times.
Author: James, G. P. R. (George Payne Rainsford)
Language: English
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COLLECTION

OF

BRITISH AUTHORS.

VOL. LXV.

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

ROSE D'ALBRET BY JAMES.

IN ONE VOLUME.



TAUCHNITZ EDITION.

By the same Author,


MORLEY ERNSTEIN (WITH PORTRAIT)    1 vol.

FOREST DAYS                        1 vol.

THE FALSE HEIR                     1 vol.

ARABELLA STUART                    1 vol.

ARRAH NEIL                         1 vol.

AGINCOURT                          1 vol.

THE SMUGGLER                       1 vol.

THE STEP-MOTHER                    2 vols.

BEAUCHAMP                          1 vol.

HEIDELBERG                         1 vol.

THE GIPSY                          1 vol.

THE CASTLE OF EHRENSTEIN           1 vol.

DARNLEY                            1 vol.

RUSSELL                            2 vols.

THE CONVICT                        2 vols.

SIR THEODORE BROUGHTON             2 vols.



ROSE D'ALBRET

OR

TROUBLOUS TIMES.


BY

G. P. R. JAMES.



_COPYRIGHT EDITION_.



LEIPZIG
BERNHARD TAUCHNITZ
1844.



ROSE D'ALBRET;
OR
TROUBLOUS TIMES.



CHAPTER I.


Whatever effect the institution of chivalry might have upon the
manners and customs of the people of Europe; however much it might
mitigate the rudeness of the middle ages, and soften the character of
nations just emerging from barbarism, there was one point which it
left untouched by its softening influence, and which remained, till
within a few years of the present period, as a case of great hardship
upon those who are supposed to have benefited more particularly by the
rise of chivalrous feeling. Women, to whose defence the knights of old
devoted their swords: women, for whose honour and renown so many a
gallant champion has shed his blood: women, for whose love so many
wars have been kindled and so many deeds done, were, till within a
short period of the present day, mere slaves in those matters where
their own happiness was concerned. Their influence, it is true, might
be great over the heart and mind, but in person, at least till after
their marriage, they were simply bonds-women; they ruled without power
even over themselves, and had no authority whatsoever in those
transactions which were of the most importance to them.

Where parents were living--although even then it was thought scarcely
necessary to consult a young woman upon the disposal of her own
hand,--yet we may suppose that parental affection might occasionally
enable her to exercise some influence, however small, in the
acceptance or rejection of a lover. But where the parents were dead,
she had for many centuries, especially in France, no voice whatever in
the matter, and was consigned, often against her inclination, to the
arms of one whom perhaps she had never seen, whom she often regarded
with indifference, and often with hate. It is little to be wondered at
that such a state of things produced gross immorality. The first act
of a young woman's life, the act alone by which she obtained
comparative freedom, being one by which all the fine and delicate
sensibilities, planted by God in the female heart, were violated at
once,--it is little to be wondered at, I say, that the vows by which
men endeavoured to supply the place of principles, should be violated
likewise at the voice of inclination.

The fault, however, was in the feudal system; and the manner in which
lands were first acquired in Europe, produced regulations for their
transmission which generated the greatest social evils,--from the
consequences of which indeed we are not yet altogether free. Each
feoff was required to be held by a man who could do service to his
sovereign in the field; and, consequently, when any vassal or vavasor
died, leaving behind him one or more daughters, the law required that
the feoff should be managed by a guardian till such time as, by
marriage, the heiress or heiresses could present men to do homage for
their lands, and perform military service to the superior lord. Thus,
an heiress could not marry without her lord's approbation; and by the
constitutions of St. Louis it was enacted, that, even where a daughter
was left under the care of her mother, the lord might require security
that she should not form an alliance without his consent; and the good
king, in the rule which he lays down for the choice of a husband for a
ward, directs the guardian simply, if there be two or three who offer,
to take the richest.

As the feudal system declined in France, however, the power of the
lord over his vassals of course diminished, and long before the end of
the sixteenth century it was but little exercised by one nobleman over
another. In cases where large inheritances fell to daughters, their
marriages were made up in their own families; and though they
themselves had, in general, as little choice allowed them as ever, yet
their own relations were the persons who selected the future
companions of their life. Thus fathers, brothers, cousins, uncles,
aunts, had all far more to do with the marriage than the person whose
weal or woe was to be affected by it.

When a father died, however, leaving his daughter to the care of a
guardian, he transmitted to him the great power he himself possessed;
and if the young lady were the heiress of great wealth, it generally
happened that the person selected for her husband was a son or near
relation of her guardian. Very often, indeed, her hand was made a
matter of merchandise and sold to the best bidder, so that the
guardianship of an heiress was not unfrequently a profitable
speculation.

During the last half of the sixteenth century, indeed, almost all
these rules and regulations were broken through, in the midst of the
civil contentions which then existed in France; and we find several
instances, even in the highest ranks of society, of children marrying
against the will of their parents, when an opportunity was afforded
them of escaping parental rule. Such was the case with the daughter of
the Duke of Montpensier; but in this, as in many other instances,
religious differences had their share, and the principle of liberty,
which rose with the Protestant religion, affected even the relations
of domestic life. To guard against the opportunities thus afforded, by
the troubles of the times, for ladies to choose as they thought fit,
many very violent and tyrannical acts were committed; and, on the
other hand, where power could venture to outstep the law, shameful
breaches of right and justice took place to get possession of the
person of an heiress, who was looked upon and treated by all parties
merely as the chief title-deed of the estate. Thus the celebrated Duke
of Mayenne himself carried off by force out of Guienne, from the care
of her own mother, Mademoiselle de Caumont in order to marry her to
one of his own sons, though she had been already contracted to another
person from the very cradle.

Such a strange state of things was farther complicated by the rights
of the monarch to certain privileges of guardianship, known by the
name of _gardes nobles_, by which he was entitled, by himself or his
officers, to take into his charge the estates and persons of certain
orphans under age; and, according to the corrupt practices of the
times, the tutelage of the royal wards, in particular provinces, was
often made a matter of merchandise, and still more frequently was
bestowed upon unworthy persons, and obtained by the most corrupt
means.

To all these complicated and evil arrangements must be added another
custom of those times, which perhaps was devised for the purpose of
obviating some of the bad consequences of the existing state of
things. I allude to the habit of affiancing at a very early period.
Sometimes this engagement between the children of two noble houses was
confirmed by every ceremony which could render the act inviolable in
the eyes of the church and the eyes of the law: sometimes, however, a
less solemn compact was entered into by the parents, subject to
certain conditions, and these were frequently rescinded, changed, or
modified, according to circumstances. In many instances the heiress of
a noble house was left by a dying parent to the guardianship of a
friend, under contract to marry that friend's heir on arriving at a
fixed period of life; and in such circumstances, whatever might be her
inclination to break this engagement, when her reason or her heart led
her towards another union, she would have found it very difficult to
escape from the trammels imposed upon her, even to take shelter within
the walls of a convent.

It has seemed necessary to give these explanations in this
introductory chapter, that the reader may clearly understand the
circumstances of the parties in the following tale; and I shall only
farther add, that at the time when the history is supposed to
commence, a long period of strife and confusion had thrown the country
into a state of anarchy, in which law was daily set at defiance, even
for the pettiest objects; every evil passion found indulgence under
the shield of faction; the most violent, the most unjust, and the most
criminal proceedings took place in every part of the realm; might made
right throughout the country; and the bigoted priesthood were
generally found ready to assist in any dark plot or cunning scheme,
where the interests of their patrons might be served, or the objects
of their own order advanced.

At the same time, though tranquillity was in no degree recovered,
everything was tending to its restoration. Henry III. who had
sanctioned, instigated, or committed every sort of crime, had fallen
under the knife of the assassin. Henri Quatre was daily strengthening
his tottering throne by victory, clemency, and policy. The battle of
Arques had been fought and won, and the king, with a small but veteran
and gallant army, had advanced towards the capital and was besieging
the town of Dreux.



CHAPTER II.


On the confines of Normandy, towards that part of Maine which joins
the Orleanois, and nearly on a straight line between Mortagne and
Orleans, lies a track of wild common land, unfit for cultivation. It
is now covered with low bushes, stunted trees, gorse, fern, and
brushwood, though often presenting patches of short grass, which serve
as pasture-ground for the sheep and cattle of the neighbouring
villages, which are few and far between.

The extent of this somewhat dreary district is about five miles in one
direction and six in another, and it is broken by hill and dale, deep
pits and quarries, rushy pools and swamps, over which at night hovers
the will-o'-the-wisp, while every now and then a tall beech or wide
spreading oak attests the existence in former days of an extensive
forest, now only traditionary. On one of the hills towards Chartres
appear the ruins of an old castle, which, though not referable to any
very remote period, must have been a place of some strength, and below
is a little hamlet, with a small church, containing several curious
monuments, where knights are seen stretched in well sculptured armour,
and leaguers in starched ruffs and slashed pourpoints, lie recumbent
in grey stone.

Here, however, in times not very long gone, stretched one of those
forests for which France was once famous, though the woods had been
cut down some years before the Revolution, and, converted into gold,
had furnished many a luxurious banquet, or been spent in revelry and
ostentation. It never, indeed, was very extensive, when compared with
many of the forests that surrounded it, but still, towards the end of
the sixteenth century it possessed scenes of wild beauty rarely to be
met with, and some of the finest trees in the country. Through a
portion of the wood ran one of the many windings of the river Huisne;
and the ground being hilly, as I have said, from the principal
eminences, the winding course of that stream might be discovered for
several miles, while here and there many a château, or _maison forte_,
appeared in sight, filled with branches of the families of Sourdis,
Estrées, Chazeul, de Harault, Liancourt, and others.

One or two village spires also graced the scene, but the eye could
catch no town of any great magnitude, which was probably one of the
reasons why that district had suffered less severely during the wars
of the league than almost any other in France. Several causes,
however, had combined to obtain for it this happy immunity. No
Protestants were to be found in the immediate neighbourhood, and
though all the gentlemen possessing property on the banks of the river
were steady Catholics, yet they were in general attached to the cause
of order and loyalty, and, while withheld by a feeling of bigotry from
supporting in arms a monarch whom they considered a heretic, were
unwilling to give the slightest aid to a faction, which they well knew
had anything at heart but the maintenance of a religion which they
used as a pretext for rebellion.

Thus the tide of war had rolled up the valleys of the Seine and of the
Loire; Orleans had been a scene of strife and bloodshed; Alençon had
been taken and retaken more than once; Dreux and Chartres had seen
armies frequently under their walls; but the track I speak of, with
the country round for several miles, had escaped the scourge of civil
contention, and a truce, or convention, existed amongst the noblemen
of that part of the country, by virtue of which each enjoyed his own
in peace with his neighbours, and feared little the approach of
hostile armies, as the ground was unfavourable to military evolutions;
and nothing was to be obtained by marching through a country where no
wealthy cities afforded an object either to cupidity or ambition.

When any great event was imminent, indeed, and the fortunes of France
seemed to hang upon the result of an approaching battle, small bands
of armed men hurrying up to join this force or that, would cross the
district, carefully watched by the retainers of the different lords in
the vicinity of the forest in order to prevent any outrage, and often
the little village church would be thronged with soldiery, who in a
few days after left their bones upon some bloody field; or at other
times the wild hymns of the Huguenots would rise up at nightfall from
the woodlands, in a strain of strange and scarcely earthly harmony.
Then too, in the open field, the Calvinistic preacher would harangue
his stern and determined brethren in language full of fiery
enthusiasm, and often the Roman Catholic peasant would pause to
listen, and go away almost convinced that the traditions to which he
had so long clung were false and superstitious.

Few acts of violence, however, were heard of; and when any of the many
bands of plunderers, who taking advantage of the anarchy of the times,
scoured the country, pillaging and oppressing both parties alike,
appeared in the woods and fields, the gentry, making common cause
against them, soon drove them out to carry on their lawless trade
elsewhere. Some severe acts of retribution too had been practised on
those who were taken, and sometimes for weeks the old oaks were
decorated with the acorns of Tristan the Hermit, as a warning to
others of the same class to avoid the dangerous vicinity.

It was not wonderful, therefore, that, on a cold clear day, of the
frosty spring of the year 159-, a stout, homely man, about forty years
of age, dressed in a plain brown peasant's coat, with a black cloak
and large riding boots, should ride along upon a strong bay horse,
apparently quite at his ease, though night was not far distant. His
dress and his whole appearance bespoke him a farmer well to do in the
world; but farmers in those days were not above any of the acts
required by their calling; and over the crupper of the horse was
thrown a large sack of corn, either for sale or for provender.

I have said that the good peasant appeared quite at his ease, and so
indeed he was, utterly unconscious of danger; but that did not imply
that he went unprepared for defence, for those were times when such
precautions had become habitual with all men. The very labourer went
to the field with pike, or large knife, or arquebuse, if he could get
it, and the good man we speak of had a long, broad, straight sword,
with iron hilt and clasps, by his side, and two pistols at his
saddle-bow. He was a strong, and seemingly an active man, too,
though of no very bulky proportions, and somewhat short in stature;
and there was an air of determination and vigour about him which would
have made a single opponent think twice before he attacked him.
Moreover, his countenance displayed a good deal of cool self-possessed
_nonchalance_, if I may be permitted for once to use a foreign word,
which showed that he was not one to sell either his corn or his life
very cheap, and he rode his horse like one well accustomed to its
back, and who found no difficulty in managing it at his will.

The evening, though, as I have said, very cold, was beautifully clear;
the western sky was all gold and sunshine, the blades of grass, and
the leaves that still hung upon the branches--which, like the
ungrateful world, had cast off so many of their green companions in
the dull moment of adversity--were all white with frost, and the road,
though somewhat sandy in its materials, was as hard as adamant.

With a quick habitual motion of the eyes, the farmer glanced from
right to left, marking everything around him as he advanced, and once,
where the scene was more open and unencumbered with trees, halted for
an instant and looked round. He still showed the careless confidence
of his heart by humming from time to time snatches of a common song of
the day, and once or twice laughed lightly at some thoughts which were
passing in his own mind. His features were good, though somewhat too
strongly marked, his eyes bright, and clear, his complexion ruddy with
health and exposure, and his limbs well knit and strong from labour
and hard exercise.

At length the worthy man, trotting on at no very quick pace, began to
descend the side of one of the hills of the forest and entered a sort
of wild dell, where small broken spots of turf were interspersed with
clumps of younger trees, principally ashes and elms, while the older
tenants of the wood hung upon the slopes higher up. At the bottom was
a small stream of very clear water, flowing on towards the Huisne,
through water-cresses and other plants of the brook, but now nearly
frozen over, though towards the mid-course the quickness of the
current, and perhaps the depth from which the fountain rose at no
great distance, kept the water free from ice. A little wooden bridge
spanned it over, leaving room for two horses abreast, but the old and
congealed ruts at the side showed that the carts, which occasionally
came along the road, passed through the stream itself; and some
vehicle which had traversed the valley not long before had so far
broken away the frozen surface of the rivulet, that the traveller had
clear space to let his horse drink, before he crossed the bridge.

As he paused to do so, however, and slackened his rein for that
purpose, he gazed round, and his eyes were quickly attracted by the
sight of some objects not very pleasant to contemplate for a wayfarer
in those days. About two hundred yards farther down the stream sat a
party of some eight or nine men, with their horses tied by the foot,
and feeding on the frosty grass as well as they could. Though the
number was so small, a cornet, or ensign of a troop of cavalry, rested
against a tree, for the ground was too hard to plant it in the earth
in the usual manner; and the steel caps, corslets, and arms which each
man bore, plainly showed the farmer that one of the wandering bands of
soldiery, who were constantly marching hither and thither, to plunder
or to fight, as the case might be, was now before him.

From the force they seemed to muster, the good farmer at once
concluded that such an inefficient body was more likely to be engaged
in a marauding expedition than in a march to join either the army of
the King or the Duke of Mayenne; but the green and red scarfs which
they wore evinced that, when engaged in regular military operations,
it was to the party of the latter they were attached, though the
district in which they now were generally favoured the royal cause.

However, as he himself, whatever his private opinions might be, bore
no distinctive signs of either faction about him the traveller hoped
that he might be suffered to pass unmolested, especially as his dress
and appearance offered no great show of wealth; and, therefore,
without displaying the slightest concern or apprehension, he suffered
his horse to conclude his draught, and then was preparing to resume
his journey, when, after a brief consultation, one of the soldiers
advanced at a quick pace on foot, and planted himself on the opposite
side of the bridge, while another ran higher up the hill, and the rest
rose slowly from the ground, and began to untie their horses.

All these movements were remarked by the traveller; but still he
maintained his air of easy carelessness till the soldier who had
placed himself opposite advanced a step or two towards him,
exclaiming, in an impatient tone, as if irritated by his apathy, "_Qui
vive?_"

The farmer was not without his reply, however, though, to say "Long
live the king," which he might be inclined to do, would have been a
dangerous experiment, and he therefore replied, without the least
hesitation, "_Vive la France!_"

"Come, come, master peasant, that will not do," exclaimed the other,
advancing upon him, pistol in hand; "thou art some accursed _Politic!_
Are you for the Holy Union or Henry of Bourbon?"

"Nay, good Sir, do not be angry," replied the farmer; "I am a poor man
of no party. I have nothing to do with these matters at present, and
mind only my own concerns."

"If thou art of no party," said the soldier, "thou art an enemy to
both. So, get off thy horse; I have a fancy for him."

"Nay, I pray you," cried the other, "do not take my beast. How am I to
carry my corn?"

"We will save you that trouble," rejoined the soldier, with the
courtesy usual on such occasions; "and if you have any weight of gold
upon you, we will deliver you of that burden also. So, get off at
once, Master What's-your-name, or I will send you off with a
pistol-shot."

"My name is Chasseron," answered the peasant, "and a name well known
for wronging no man; but if I must get off and part with my poor
beast, I pray you help me down with the corn, for I cannot dismount
till it is away.--But if you will leave me the nag," he added, "I will
pay you his full value, if you will come to my place. He and I have
been old friends, and I would fain not part with him."

"Get down! get down!" cried the soldier impatiently. "Clumsy boor,
can't you dismount with a sack behind you?" and at the same moment he
came nearer and laid his hand upon the load.

The instant he did so, the farmer thrust his strong hand between his
cuirass and his neck, half strangling him with his large knuckles; and
with his right drawing a pistol from his saddle-bow, he brought the
muzzle close to his ear, exclaiming, "Now, master, I see you have some
command, by your scarf. So if the way be not cleared very speedily,
you shall go up or down as the case may be, without any brains in your
skull. I've got one life under my fist, and they can but take one in
return, so now we shall see how they love you. Don't struggle, or you
shall soon struggle no more; but turn round, tell them to get out of
the way, and then march on with me to the top of hill."

"I can't turn," said the soldier, in a rueful tone.

"Oh, then, I'll turn you," answered Chasseron with a laugh; and
without quitting his hold, he whirled his adversary round with
prodigious strength, lifting him nearly off the ground as he did so.
"Now drop your pistol," he continued. "Drop it this instant!"

The man did so; and, touching his horse gently with his heel, the
stout farmer put him into a slow walk, while several of the marauders
ran forward to see what was going on.

"Bid them back!" cried Chasseron, jogging his companion's head with
the muzzle of his weapon. "Bid them back, or you are a dead man,
without shrift."

"Keep off! keep off, Beauvois," cried his adversary. "Keep off, La
Motte, or by the Holy Virgin he will kill me!"

"That I will," muttered Chasseron heartily; and the soldiers halted
for an instant as if to consult. But your good companion of those days
was not very careful of a comrade's life; and it seemed to be soon
agreed that the insolence of the farmer was not to be tolerated out of
any consideration for the gentleman in his hands. There was,
therefore, some cocking of pistols and looking at pans, with various
other indications of coming strife.

Chasseron, however, continued to advance, dragging his captive along,
and keeping a watchful eye upon all the proceedings of the enemy,
while the poor fellow in his hands shouted again and again to the hard
ears of his companions to hold back for God's sake. They on their part
paid little attention to his petitions; and, in a moment or two,
several of the soldiers began to creep closer, in order to get within
pistol-shot, while the rest mounted their horses as if to make an
attack on the rear of the enemy. No sooner had the foremost of those
on foot reached a fitting distance, than he began to take a deliberate
aim at the horseman; but the latter, muttering to himself, "This is
unpleasant, Pardie!" turned suddenly towards him, withdrew the pistol
from the ear of the fellow whom he held, levelled it at the other, and
fired. The man went down in a moment, his weapon discharging itself in
the air as he fell.

At the same time the captive struggled hard in the hands of Chasseron,
and, by a sudden effort, grasped his dagger to stab him before he
could resist. But the farmer was still quicker in his movements, his
other pistol was drawn in an instant and once more at his friend's
head, and while two shots from the enemy passed close to him, one
grazing his arm, the other going through his hat, he exclaimed, "Throw
down the _dague_, or you are a dead man!"

The order was obeyed in an instant; but it was repeated with regard to
the sword, which was also cast to the ground at a word; and then to
the surprise of the Leaguer, he was instantly set free.

"Now," cried Chasseron, "I give you your life. Run back as hard as you
can to your comrades; and, if you have any command over them, bid them
leave off attacking a man, who never did them any harm."

His prisoner required not two biddings to take to his heels; and the
good farmer, setting spurs to his horse, galloped up the hill as hard
as he could go, while the men who had mounted pursued him, at full
speed, firing at him as he went, and the soldier, who had at first ran
on upon the road, cast himself in the way, prepared to stop his
advance.

As it was now a flight and pursuit, one moment was a matter of life
and death to the farmer; and as he rode on upon the enemy before him,
he leveled his remaining pistol and fired. Though now at full speed,
his aim was not less true than before; but the ball striking his
adversary's steel cap in an oblique direction, glanced off without
wounding him, and the soldier fired in turn without effect. Drawing
his sword, the farmer galloped on; but he had to do with a resolute
and powerful opponent in the man who barred the way; the others were
coming up at a furious pace, and the life of poor Master Chasseron was
in no light peril, when suddenly a party of four horsemen, well
mounted and armed, appeared on the top of the hill, riding quickly, as
if attracted by the report of the firearms.

Now they might be friends, or they might be enemies; but Chasseron
determined to look upon them as the former, till they proved
themselves otherwise; and, waving his hand towards them, he cried,
"Help! help! Hurrah!" and, as his antagonist in front turned to see
who they were, he let fall a blow on his cap, which brought him on his
knee. The farmer was obliged instantly to wheel, however, to defend
himself against those who followed; and with wonderful strength and
agility he crossed swords with one, threw his discharged pistol at the
face of another, knocking out some of his front teeth, and watched a
third, who was somewhat behind.

However unequal might be the combat, he maintained it gallantly, while
the appearance of the fresh party, now galloping down at full speed,
made his enemies hesitate in their operations. Nor was the cry of
"Vive le Roy!" which came from the advancing cavaliers, nor the sight
of the white scarfs with which they were decorated, calculated to
reassure the Leaguers. The men who had remained below on foot,
however, now rushed up; and, withdrawing from the attack upon the
farmer to meet the more honourable adversaries who were by this time
close upon them, they attempted to give some little array to their
front, and to recharge their pistols.

But before this could be done, the new comers were amongst them;
Chasseron turned to give his powerful aid; white scarfs and green were
mingled together in a moment; and, after a brief struggle, the
Leaguers were driven down into the valley with the loss of two of
their number. After attempting to make a stand at the bridge they were
put to flight; and springing from their horses, the men who had
mounted followed the example of those on foot, and took refuge in the
wood, whither the victors did not think fit to pursue them. As soon as
it was clear that resistance had ceased, the successful party halted
by the stream, surrounding the good peasant with whom the strife
began; while he, on his part, hat in hand, thanked them heartily for
his deliverance.

"Parbleu!" he exclaimed, "if you had not come up, Monsieur, I should
have lost my wheat and my money too. I had killed one of them, and
might have got the better of two more; but I do not think I could have
managed all the seven."

These words were addressed to a young gentleman apparently not more
than one or two and twenty years of age. His complexion was pale, but
clear; his eyes dark and thoughtful; his deep brown hair waving from
under his hat, for he wore no defensive arms, and his short beard
curling round his mouth and chin. All the features of his face were
remarkably fine and delicate, but the forehead was broad and high, and
the eyebrows strongly marked. His whole air, and the expression of his
countenance, were grave and thoughtful; and although he had led the
others in their charge with gallant determination, yet it had been
with calm coolness which displayed not the slightest sign of vehemence
or emotion. The quick-eyed farmer had remarked also that he had
contented himself with driving back the enemy, and defending his own
person, without striking at any one or using the pistols with which
his saddle-bow was garnished. In person he was tall and well made,
though neither much above the ordinary height, nor apparently
particularly robust. His carriage, however, was graceful; and he sat
his horse with ease and power, managing it during the combat as if
well accustomed to the tilt yard if not to the battle field, and
drawing it suddenly up by the side of the stream when he saw that the
other party had betaken themselves to the wood.

To the address of the good countryman he replied briefly, saying, "You
are very welcome, my good Sir; though I am not fond of such affairs,
nor much habituated to them. Neither are you, I should suppose; and
yet you seem to have defended yourself skilfully and vigorously.--Are
you not hurt?"

"Not a whit!" answered the farmer; "and as to defending myself, that's
an old trade of mine; I have borne arms in my day, though I have given
that occupation up for the present; but there is many a man in the
army remembers Michael Chasseron. I did not wish to hurt any one, if
they would have let me pass quietly; so what they have got is their
own fault. And now we may as well see to their baggage: there may be
curious things amongst it."

"That you may do if you like," replied the young gentleman; "neither I
nor my servants can have anything to do with plunder."

"Nor I either," answered the farmer; "I am always content with my own,
if I could but get it; but these good men may have other things upon
them besides gold and silver. Papers, young gentleman, papers which
may be serviceable to the King; and for those, by your good leave, I
will look, begging you to stand by me for a minute or two, lest our
friends come out from their hiding-holes again."

"Willingly, willingly," said his companion, "that is a laudable
object, and in that we will help you." Thus saying he dismounted
himself, and bidding two of his servants do the same, proceeded with
Chasseron to search the bodies of those who had fallen, three horses
which remained tied to a tree, and some baggage which had been left on
the ground where the Leaguers had been sitting.

In a small leather bag buckled on the back of one of the chargers was
found a packet of letters and papers regarding the movements of
various bodies of men, which the good farmer examined with a curious
eye. He then handed them to the young gentleman, who had come down to
his assistance, saying. "You had better take them to the King, Sir."

"Nay," replied the stranger, "take them yourself, my good friend; I am
not going to the camp; and if this intelligence be of importance you
may get rewarded."

The farmer shook his head, laughing. "His Majesty," he said, "has
scarcely money, I hear, to buy himself a dinner. But I will take them,
for if I don't go myself, I will ensure that he gets them; and now let
us look at that fellow I cut over the head upon the hill, if we leave
him there, he will be frozen to death tonight, and that would be
scarce christian."

On approaching the spot where the man lay, they found him still alive,
though bleeding and stunned by the blow he had received. After some
consultation they took him up and placed him across one of the
Leaguers' horses; and Chasseron then laid his hand upon his brow,
saying thoughtfully, "Where shall we take him? The nearest place is
Marzay, M. de Liancourt's château; but I don't rightly know whether
they will give me shelter there for the night; and this business has
stopped me so, that I shall not be able to get to Marolles before
dark."

"Oh I will answer for your welcome, my good friend," replied the young
gentleman, "I am going to Marzay myself; M. de Liancourt is my uncle."

"Well then, we will come along," replied the farmer, mounting his
horse again; and, the wounded man being given into the charge of one
of the gentleman's servants, they rode on up the hill, Chasseron
keeping in front with the leader of the party.

After they had gone about two hundred yards at a slow pace, the farmer
turned towards his companion, who had fallen into a silent reverie,
and looking in his face for a moment he said, "I could almost swear I
have seen you somewhere before; but yet I know that can't be, for it
is some fifteen years ago."

"I must have been a child then," replied the cavalier, "for I have yet
to see three-and-twenty."

"It was your father, I suppose," continued Chasseron, "he was then a
young man, and you are as like him as one leaf on a tree is to
another."

"What might be his name?" asked the stranger, with a faint smile;
"give me that, and I will soon tell you if it was my father."

"That is easily done," replied the farmer; "his name was Louis de la
Grange, Baron de Montigni. He was a good soldier, and a good man."

"You are right," said the young gentleman; "such was my father's name,
and such was his character; but he has been dead now more than ten
years."

"Ah so I heard," answered Chasseron; "we must all die, and the great
reaper generally takes the best ears, and leaves the worthless ones
standing. I am glad to see his son, however.--But how comes it, Sir,
that you are not with the King? Many a man younger than you fought at
Arques, I believe."

"That is not improbable," replied De Montigni; "but my uncle sent me
to Padua to study, and laid his injunctions on me to remain there.
Neither, to say the truth, did I feel much inclination to take part in
all this strife, at least so long as the present King was in arms
against his sovereign."

"Parbleu! I do not see how he could help it," cried Chasseron; "if he
could not believe the Catholic doctrines, and they held a dagger to
his throat and bade him swear he did believe them, he had but one
choice, either to tell a lie, or knock the dagger out of their hands."

"I do not blame him," replied the young nobleman, "and for that very
reason I felt unwilling either to take arms for my King or against
him. Besides, I have friends on both sides, am not very fond of
shedding blood, and, to tell the truth, my friend, I found better
society amongst the dead than amongst the living. I mea--"

"Oh, I understand what you mean," answered the farmer: "you mean you
loved your books better than hard blows."

The young gentleman's cheek grew somewhat red; "I am not afraid of
blows," he said, "and I think you have had no occasion to suppose so."

"Pardie, no!" replied Chasseron frankly; "and I should not blame you
if you were. I am a very peaceable man myself, when men will let me
alone; and I desire nothing but to enjoy my own in tranquillity; so if
you could find peace at Padua with Horace, and Cicero, and Virgil, you
were quite right to take it."

"You seem to know something of such studies," said the young Baron de
Montigni, with a smile.

"Oh yes," replied Chasseron: "I see you judge by externals alone, my
young friend; and because I am here a poor cultivator of the soil, you
think that I am a mere peasant; but I am of gentle blood like
yourself--hold my own land, what is left of it; and your friend Virgil
should have taught you that there is no degradation in agriculture; so
that, though I have for a time beaten my sword into a reaping-hook, I
am not a bit the worse gentleman for that."

"Nay, God forbid," replied the young gentleman, "I hold it one of the
most honourable employments a man can follow; but you must not censure
me for seeking occupation in my books, as you say, while you seek
occupation in your fields."

"There is some difference, however," replied Chasseron; "in living
with the dead as you say, you cut yourself off from doing good to the
living, which ought to be the great object of each man's life. You may
tell me, that amongst those great men, those sages of antiquity, you
can best learn how to live, and gain precepts to be applied to your
future conduct; but there is a danger in being too long a learner;
and, in studying precepts all your life, you may forget ever to apply
them. Each man has duties, and those of busy times like these are
active ones. One's king, one's country, one's friends, one's
relations, one's fellow-citizens, all have claims upon us which the
dead have not; and the exercise of our abilities affords lessons for
our conduct, to which all the maxims of philosophers and moralists are
but bubbles."

"Methinks," replied De Montigni, "that the cultivator of the soil is
not much more called into active life than the cultivator of letters."

"Your pardon, your pardon, worthy Sir," answered the farmer; "he is
always mingling with his fellow-creatures; he is ever ready to take
his part with the rest when need shall be; he is daily benefiting
mankind, and not spending his life in studying how; he is still
learning more, even while he is enacting much; and, by the practice of
what is right, he learns to do it well."

The young gentleman smiled gaily, but changed the subject, saying,
"Perhaps you are right; but now tell me, as you seem to have studied
all these things deeply, and most likely have lived with your eyes
open to all that has taken place, what has been doing here of late,
and what is the real state of France? for, but imperfect and maimed
accounts reach us in foreign lands, perverted by the prejudices of
men, and coloured by all the passions of the relators. Nor have I
indeed paid much attention to what I heard, till I was summoned back
by my uncle; for the only tidings that reached us, came through the
League, except once or twice, when some Royalists passed by Venice."

"Your question is a wide one," replied Chasseron, "and I should have
to write a history to tell you. It is but needful to say, that France
is growing tired of the League; men are recovering from the fever
which had driven them mad. The King, now with many, now with few, is
still gaining ground on his enemies; but his friends are sometimes
more mischievous to him than his foes. Half the Catholics serve him
coldly, intrigue in his very camp, his court, and at his table,
because he is a heretic. The Huguenots murmur and complain because he
is obliged to buy, bribe, and reward their adversaries. Both fight
well when there is a battle or a siege, but both are well inclined to
leave him when he is obliged to spend his time in those slow and
difficult movements, which are no less necessary in a campaign than
the combat or the storming party. In the meanwhile, fed with foreign
gold, supported by foreign troops, confederated with the implacable
enemies of the land, and slaughtering Frenchmen with the swords of the
Spaniard, the only hold which the League have upon the people of
France is the frail pretext of religion, the almost incurable anarchy
into which they have thrown the country, and the possession of a
number of towns and fortresses, lands, governments, and territories,
which those who have grasped them are unwilling to resign and know
they can only retain so long as this great serpent of the League
remains uncrushed."

"But let me hear," rejoined the young baron, "if you can tell me why,
when the King had Paris at his mercy, he did not make himself master
of it. If I have been informed aright, he could have taken it in an
hour?"

"Perhaps he might," replied Chasseron, "and yet he did not. I think it
was very foolish of him, for my part; but still there would have been
terrible bloodshed, many thousands of good citizens would have
perished, the capital would have been a scene of slaughter, violence,
and devastation, such as the world has seldom witnessed. After all,
perhaps it is as well for a King not to do all that a King can do; and
yet the Parisians deserved no great mercy at his hands. But he, poor
foolish man, chose rather to wander about fighting here and fighting
there, sleeping hard, sometimes half starved, and working day and
night, than take their beds from under these rebellious citizens, or
give their wives and daughters up to his soldiers."

"And he was right," cried De Montigni warmly, "and God will bless him
for it. If I am not much mistaken, that act will set him firmly on the
throne of France."

"Perhaps so," said the farmer, "but old soldiers get hardened to such
things, and men do marvel and grumble too, that when he could have
terminated this long and desolating war by one bold and severe stroke,
he should have hesitated for the sake of the most rebellious race in
France. There is much to be said on either side, and I am inclined to
think myself that the King was wrong, though I was of a different
opinion at the time."

"Indeed!" exclaimed his young companion, "what has made you change
your views so quickly then?"

"Thought," answered the farmer, "thought, which may be as often the
comrade of the soldier in the camp or on the march, or of the farmer
in the field, if he likes to seek it, as of the pale student over his
book. No man need be without thought; and the active man, the man of
life and movement, acquires often a power of rapid but no less certain
calculation, which the slow ponderer of the cabinet can never gain. I
now believe, Monsieur de Montigni, upon farther consideration, that
though there might have been much bloodshed in the streets of Paris,
had it been taken when it was besieged, though even the Catholic
soldiers would have been difficult to restrain, and the Huguenots
would have remembered St. Bartholomew, yet the amount of slaughter
will be greater,--nay, perhaps has been greater already, by the
protraction of the war, than if Henry had blown the gates open, and
led his army into the heart of the capital."

"It was an amiable weakness, if it was one," replied De Montigni; "but
see, what a splendid scene we are coming upon, while the evening sun
pours such a flood of purple over the grey waves of the wintry
forest."

"Ay, indeed, it is a lovely land, this France," said Chasseron, "and
rich as it is lovely, if men would but be content to enjoy the
bounties which God gives, without carving out for themselves miseries
and contentions which frustrate all the benevolent purposes of the
Most High. Who that looks over such a prospect as that would think
that, in every village and in every field, in the wood and in the
plain, is strife and bloodshed, anarchy and crime, sown by the
virulent passions and intolerant bigotry of those for whose especial
blessing such glories were created? Out upon it! it almost makes one a
misanthrope. However, there stands Marzay, not half a mile distant,
with people walking on the ramparts. Who may they be, I wonder?"

"I can divine without seeing their faces," answered the young baron;
"there are the garments of a lady, and a priest's robes, and a
pourpoint, on the gold lace of which the sun's setting rays are
glistening. They are sweet Rose d'Albret, daughter of the Count de
Marennes, who was killed at Poictiers, and good father Walter de la
Tremblade; and either my uncle De Liancourt or the good old commander,
or, more likely still, my cousin Chazeul."

"Well," rejoined Chasseron, after a short pause, "I trust to your
warranty, Monsieur de Montigni; for I am not very sure that my having
killed a Leaguer or two will be my best recommendation; no, nor,
_ventre saint gris_, your white scarf the surest passport to favour in
Marzay. Your uncle is one of those we call _Politics_, who are more
afraid to espouse openly a cause they know to be just, than the
Leaguers to uphold one they know to be unjust; and, as for Monsieur de
Chazeul, why he is one of the pillars of the Holy Union."

"I'll be your surety," replied De Montigni, who was beginning to take
no slight pleasure in the conversation of his frank companion. "They
shall give you a hearty welcome, or I will hardly take one for myself,
which they would not like; so never fear."

"Nay, I fear not," answered his companion, drily: and they accordingly
rode on towards the gates, which lay straight before them.

De Montigni, however, fell into a fit of deep musing as they
approached, and bent his eyes stedfastly upon the ground, though the
persons who were walking on the ramparts above stopped as he drew
near, and a fair lady waved her hand as if in welcome.



CHAPTER III.


By the reader's good leave, we must go up for a moment or two to the
ramparts of the Château of Marzay, and introduce him to the party
there, before the new comers arrive. Nay, more, we must return for
nearly an hour, and listen to the conversation which was taking place
while all the events we have just narrated were occurring in the wood
that lay beneath the eyes of those upon the castle walls, though it
must be premised, that those events had been completely hidden from
their sight by the thin veil of forest boughs, as the various turns of
fate, upon which the fortunes of our whole future life depend, are
often going on close by us, concealed from our gaze, whether anxious
or unconscious, by the ripple of an idle current of trifling things
that affect us not permanently in any way.

The Baron de Montigni, though five or six years had elapsed since he
last saw any of the party there assembled, had, by his previous
knowledge of the circumstances, divined aright the names of the
persons of which it was composed. About an hour and a half before
sunset, a very beautiful girl of eighteen or nineteen had come forth
upon the walls for her afternoon walk, having on one hand a gentleman
dressed in the height of the extravagant fashions of the day, with a
high starched ruff, or _fraise_, as it was called, which made his head
look like that of John the Baptist in a charger, and with a slashed
and laced pourpoint of yellow velvet, stiffly embroidered with silver.
His shoes were of white satin, enriched with a rosette of yellow; and
in his girdle hung a small dagger knife, with a fretted hilt of gold,
while far behind hung his sword, as if put out of reach of his hand
lest he should use it too frequently. His beard was pointed, and
neatly trimmed; his hair curled, and turned back from his face; and on
the top of his head he wore a small velvet toque, with a single long
feather. In person he was tall, and not ungraceful, though somewhat
stiff; and his features were all good, though there was certainly
something in the disposition of them which gave a sinister and
unpleasant expression to his countenance. Perhaps this effect was
produced by the closeness of the eyes and the narrowness of the brows,
which produced a shrewd and confined look, though his face might
otherwise have been prepossessing.

Though dressed with such scrupulous care, his air and manner was not
that of a fop. It was not easy and unrestrained, indeed, but it was
bold and confident; and if one might judge--as we almost all do
judge--from manner and appearance, pride, rather than vanity, was his
prevailing folly; shrewd ambition, rather than levity, the
characteristic vice. Yet, as we shall see, he was not without
lightness, too; but it was often used in those days as a means to an
end, and covered too frequently intense selfishness under an air of
idle indifference.

On the other side of the young lady walked, to and fro with her upon
the rampart, a man considerably passed the middle age, dressed in the
habit of the clergy. His hair was almost white, though here and there
a streak of a darker hue showed that it had been once jet black. His
features were fine, though apparently worn with care and thought; and
the expression of his countenance was grave, calm, and almost stern.
His large dark eyes were, indeed, full of light, but it was not of
that kind which illuminates what is within for the gaze of others, but
it rather fell dazzling upon those who were his companions for the
time, searching the secrets of their hearts, and displaying none of
his own. His lips were thin and pale; his cheek delicate and hollow,
but with a slight tinge of red, which by its varying intensity, from
time to time gave the only indication to be obtained of strong
emotions in his bosom.

But we must speak of the lady, for truly she deserves some notice,
were it but for her beauty. There were, however, other things to be
remarked in her besides the fine and delicate features, the graceful
and rounded limbs, the bright complexion, the fair skin, the tangles
of her luxuriant dark brown hair, the heaving bosom, or the perfect
symmetry of the neck and shoulders. In the large, soft hazel eyes,
under their jetty fringes, on the warm arching lips, and in the dimple
of the cheek, shone forth a gay and bright spirit, which, perhaps,
under some circumstances might have been full of playful jest and
light-hearted merriment; but, as it was, the light was subdued and
shaded almost to sad thoughtfulness. It seemed as if cares and
anxieties, if not sorrows and misfortunes, had come upon her young; or
as if those with whom her early years had been spent, had laboured to
repress, rather than moderate, the joyous buoyancy of youth, and had
brought a cloud over the sunshine of girlhood.

It was not exactly so, indeed; but living in troublous times, when the
mind became familiar with great but tragic acts, and every day brought
some subject for deep and anxious thought, and passing her life in
comparative seclusion with people older than herself,--not very
wise nor very considerate, though not actually domineering and
austere,--her cheerfulness had been repressed, though not
extinguished, and a shade of sadness brought over her demeanour,
rendering it various and changeful like an April day. Her dress was
rich and tasteful, according to the fashion of the times, but more in
the style of the fair and unhappy queen of Scotland, than of the harsh
and masculine Elizabeth. There were no gaudy colours; indeed there was
no great display of embroidery; but the lace which waved over her fair
bosom and rose round her snowy neck, was of the finest and most costly
kind; and the black velvet of her dress was here and there looped with
pearls.

When first she came forth, by a door that led over a small bridge to
the inner parts of the dwelling, she paused at the edge of the wall
for a moment, and gazed over the scene around. Youth is generally more
fond of contemplating nature's handiwork than age. Mature life is
usually spent in dealing with man and man's acts; the face of nature
comes upon us then as an impression rather than a subject of
contemplation. To the young, it is full of interest and of wonder;
imagination robes it in her own garmenture of light, peoples each
shady dell, fills the forest with her own creations, and calls up in
each village or church or tower a wild and agitated throng of feelings
and sensations, of hopes and fears, all the beings of the fancy,
ephemeral though bright, confused though lively, impalpable though
vivid. Youth sees more than the landscape,--age, sees it as it is; the
one has its own sun-shine, to adorn all it looks upon; the other views
everything under the shady cloud.

Rose d'Albret stopped to gaze; then, notwithstanding the chilliness of
the wintry air, she turned her eyes to the east over the gray lines,
where the vanguard of the night was marching forward over the sky, and
then looked round to the west, where the rear of day was all
glittering with golden light. What made her sigh? what made her fix
her eyes upon a thin white film of mist that rose up from the deeper
parts of the forest, like the smoke of a heath-burner's fire? Who can
say? who can trace along the magic chain of association, link by link,
and tell how the objects within her sight connected themselves in her
mind with her own situation, and made her remember that she had much
to regret?

"You are thoughtful to-night, Rose," said the Marquis de Chazeul.

"And may a woman never be thoughtful, Chazeul?" asked Rose d'Albret.
"If such be your creed, pray seek another wife, for you will often
find me so, I assure you."

"Nay," replied Chazeul, "I would not disappoint you so for the world,
sweet Rose; it would break your little heart if I were to take you at
your word."

"No, indeed," replied the young lady, with perfect calmness; "you are
quite mistaken, Chazeul, my heart is not so easily broken; and, as for
disappointment, it would be none at all; I am in that happy state,
that, whatever be the event, I can bear it with calmness."

"Or at all events, with affected indifference," replied her companion,
a little nettled, "is it not so, Rose?"

"Not at all," she answered; "you never saw me affect anything that I
did not feel. Here is father Walter, who has known me as long and
better than yourself, can witness for me. Did you ever see me pretend
to anything that is not real, Monsieur de la Tremblade?"

"Never, my dear child," replied the priest; "and I should think
Monsieur de Chazeul should be very well content to see you willing to
give your hand to him according to your guardian's commands. In the
first place, it shows that obedient disposition, on which so much of a
husband's happiness depends; and in the next place, it leaves him the
sweet task of teaching you to love him."

"That is, if he can," said Rose d'Albret, with a smile; "but do you
know, my good father," she continued, "I would draw another inference
from the facts, which is simply this, that it would be better for
Monsieur de Chazeul to give me longer time to learn that same lesson
of love, and not to press forward this same marriage so hastily."

"Nay, on my life," answered Chazeul, "it is Monsieur de Liancourt's
doing, not mine; but I will acknowledge, sweet Rose, that my eagerness
to possess so fair a flower may make me anxious to gather it without
delay, though my impatience may make me prick my fingers with the
thorns, as I have done just now."

"Well, I am in the hands of others," said Rose d'Albret; "I have
nothing to do but to obey; and doubtless, in hurrying this matter
forward, my guardian does what he thinks best for me."

"He may have many reasons, dear daughter," said the priest, "he is
old; times are troublesome and dangerous; none can tell what a day may
bring forth; and it is a part of his duty to see you married and under
the protection of a younger and more active man than himself, before
he is called to quit this busy scene."

"Oh, I think, good father, I could protect myself," replied Rose
d'Albret. "Those thorns my cousin De Chazeul talks of, would be quite
hedge enough, I should imagine,--but hark, there are guns in the
wood--and there again!"

All listened, and two or three more shots were distinctly heard.

"I thought we had a truce here?" said Rose d'Albret.

"True, amongst ourselves," answered the Marquis de Chazeul; "but we
cannot get others always to observe it; and 'tis not unlikely that
these are a party of Henry de Bourbon's heretic soldiers wandering
about, and committing some of their usual acts of violence and
plunder. He is now besieging Dreux, I find."

"Why, I have always heard," said Rose d'Albret, "that the King is
strict and scrupulous in restraining his soldiers from such excesses."

"The King?" exclaimed Chazeul, with his lip curling. "Pray call him
some other name, sweet Rose. He may be a king of heretics, but he is
no king of mine, nor of any other Catholics."

"Hush, hush!" cried Walter de la Tremblade, "you must not let Monsieur
de Liancourt hear you make such rash speeches. He acknowledges him as
King of right, though not in fact,--his religion being the only bar."

"And that an insurmountable one," said the Marquis; "if he were to
profess himself converted to-morrow, who would believe him? I am sure
not I."

"Nay, cousin," replied Rose d'Albret, "one who is so frank and free,
so true to all men, so strict a keeper of his word as the King is
reported to be, would never falsify the truth in that. Remember, too,
I am his humble cousin; for the counts of Marennes come from the same
stock as the old kings of Navarre."

"Ay, a hundred degrees removed," said Chazeul; "I have no fear, dear
Rose, of your blood being contaminated by his."

"Well, it matters not," replied Rose d'Albret, with a laugh; "I intend
to fall in love with him whenever I see him."

"It might be better," observed Chazeul, "to try that with your
husband."

"Oh no," cried his fair companion, gaily; "that would be quite
contrary to all rule, Chazeul, especially amongst the ladies and
gentlemen of the League. As far as I have heard, they have done away
with all such foolish old customs; and loyalty to their king, or love
between husband and wife are amongst the errors of the past, which
they quite repudiate." Chazeul bit his lip, and she went on, "I should
like to see this King, he is so gallant and so noble, I am sure I
should love him--is he very handsome, Monsieur de Chazeul?"

"I never saw him, Mademoiselle," answered the Marquis, somewhat
bitterly, "except at such a distance that one could discover nothing
but the white plume in his hat, and on his horse's head."

"I have seen him often, long ago," said the priest, "when he was a
mere youth, at the court of the Queen Mother; and then he was as
handsome a boy as ever my eyes lighted upon, with a skin so delicately
soft, and such a warm colour in his cheek, one would have thought him
little fitted for the rough, laborious, and perilous life he has since
led."

"Hark! there are guns again," exclaimed Rose d'Albret; and a sudden
cloud came over her brow. "I hope these people," she continued, after
a moment's pause, "are not attacking my cousin De Montigni."

"They will soon make an end of him if they do," said Chazeul; "at
least I should suppose so."

"You seem very indifferent to the matter," observed the lady quickly;
"why do you imagine so?"

"Simply because a book-read student, who has been passing the best
part of his life within the walls of a college, can be no match for
men of courage and of action," replied Chazeul.

"Fie," replied Rose d'Albret, warmly; "Louis de Montigni has as much
courage as any one. I can remember him before he went abroad, a wild
rash boy, who used to frighten me by the daring things he did. But if
you had any kindness in your nature, Chazeul, you would go out to help
him--in case it be he who is attacked. He must be on the road even
now; I wonder he is not arrived."

"I will go and speak with Monsieur de Liancourt about it," replied
Chazeul; and leaving the priest and the lady together, he retired for
a short time from the walls.

"Let us listen," said Rose d'Albret; and, leaning her arm upon the
stone-work, she turned her ear towards the wood, bending down her
bright eyes upon the ground, while the priest advanced, and standing
beside her gazed at her for a moment, and then looked out over the
country beyond.

During the whole conversation which had taken place, he had watched
her closely; and, well acquainted with her character from infancy, he
had read aright all that was passing in her mind. He saw that the
coldness which she displayed towards the man selected for her future
husband was no assumed indifference, none of the coquettish excitement
which many a woman learns too early to administer to the passion of a
favoured lover, none of that holding back which is intended to lead
forward; none of that reluctance which is affected but to be overcome.
He perceived clearly enough that she was indifferent to him, and
perhaps somewhat more; that she felt for him no respect--but little
esteem; and, though accustomed for some years to his society from time
to time, and habituated to look upon her marriage with him as an act
that was to be, that she now began to feel repugnance as the time
approached for performing the contract, which had been entered into by
others without her knowledge or consent. In short, he saw that, though
she would obey, it would be unwillingly.

The priest regretted that it was so; for he felt no slight affection
towards her, though, as too often happens, he was ready to do all he
could, from other considerations, to promote a sacrifice which might
destroy the happiness of one he loved almost as a child. The knowledge
that she was indifferent towards Chazeul might grieve him, but it did
not in the least induce him to pause in the course he had determined
to pursue; and he proceeded, after a few moments given to thought, to
draw forth her sentiments further, while, at the same time, he
endeavoured to work some change in her opinions.

"He is certainly very handsome," said the priest abruptly; "do you not
think so?"

"Who?" cried D'Albret, with a start. "Oh! Chazeul! Yes, perhaps he is;
and yet not handsome either."

"Indeed," said Walter de la Tremblade, "I think I never saw finer
features, or a more graceful form."

"No, not graceful, surely," said the young lady. "Well-proportioned,
perhaps, and his features are all good, it is true; but yet, father,
there is something that makes him not handsome."

"What?" asked the priest.

"Nay, I cannot well tell," answered Mademoiselle d'Albret; "perhaps it
is that his eyes are too close together--but I was thinking of De
Montigni, good father; I hope no mischance has befallen him."

"Oh! I trust not!" answered her companion. "And so, Rose, this is the
only fault you can find with your lover's beauty, that his eyes are
too close together! I can assure you, sweet lady, that the fair dames
of Paris do not perceive that defect, and that you may have some
trouble to keep the heart you have won."

"I wish--" said Rose d'Albret, but then she broke off suddenly,
leaving the sentence unconcluded, and beginning again afresh, she
added, "Heaven knows, good father, that I took no pains to win his
love; and perhaps the best way to retain it when I am his wife, if
ever that happens, will be to take no pains to keep it."

"It will then be a duty to take pains," answered the priest, somewhat
sternly; "we are not born, my daughter, in this life, to seek nothing
but our own pleasure and happiness. We are here to fulfil the
important tasks assigned us by the Almighty, and clearly pointed out
to us by the circumstances in which we are placed. To neglect them is
sinful, to perform them coldly is reprehensible; and it is our
greatest wisdom, as well as our strictest duty, to labour that our
inclinations may go hand in hand with the performance of that which
God has given us to do."

"Nay," said Rose, laying her hand gently on the sleeve of his gown,
"you speak severely, good father. I do not see how it is so clearly
pointed out that I should marry Nicholas de Chazeul; and I do wish
that the ceremony were not hurried in this way. However, if I do wed
him, depend upon it I shall follow your counsel, and do my best to
love him. At all events," she added, raising her head somewhat
proudly, "you may be sure, that under no circumstance will I forget
what is due to him and to myself. I may be an unhappy wife, but I will
never be a bad one."

"That I doubt not, that I doubt not," said the priest warmly; "but
what I wish to point out to you is, the way to happiness, daughter;
and depend upon it you can but find it in doing your duty cheerfully."

"I know it, my excellent friend," answered Rose, "and it shall be my
endeavour so to act; but I could much desire before I take a vow to
love any one, that I had some better means of knowing how far I can
fulfil it."

"Oh! if you have the will to do so," answered father Walter, "it may
easily be done."

"What!" she cried eagerly, "easy to love a man one cannot esteem or
respect! I say not that such is the case in the present instance,
father," she continued, seeing her companion fix his eyes upon her
with a look of surprise and inquiry; "I only state a case that might
be. Suppose I were to find him cold, selfish, heartless, cruel,
vicious, base, how should I love him then?"

"But Monsieur de Chazeul is none of these," rejoined the priest.

"I say not that he is," answered Rose d'Albret; "I only say he may be
for aught I know. I knew him not in youth; and in manhood I have seen
him twice or thrice a year in circles where all men wear a mask. I
would fain see him with his face bare, good father."

"Few women ever so see their lovers," rejoined the priest; "love is
the greatest of all hypocrites."

"Perhaps that is true," said Rose; "yet time, if a woman's eyes be
unblinded by her own feelings, does generally, soon or late, draw back
the covering of the heart, so far as to show her some of the features.
I have seen little: I would see more; for what I have seen makes me
doubt."

"Indeed!" exclaimed her companion, "what have you perceived to raise
suspicions? Some casual word, some slight jest, I warrant you; such as
he spoke just now about his cousin. Idle words, daughter! idle words,
upon which you must put no harsh interpretation."

"How often idle words betray the spirit within!" said Rose. "They are
the careless jailers which let the prisoner forth out of his secret
dungeon. They have cost many a king his crown, if history be true;
many a woman reputation, aye, and perhaps, many a lover his lady's
hand. But what I wish is to hear more than idle words, to see more
than a masked face; and, I do beseech you, aid me to delay this
marriage for a time. Why was I not told earlier? Why was all arranged
without my knowledge? Louis de Montigni has been summoned back more
than a month, and yet I have had but one week, one poor week, allowed
me to prepare my thoughts, to nerve my heart for the great change of
woman's existence. Marriage, to man, is but a pageant, a ball, a
festival. To us, it is one of the sole events. It is birth or death to
woman. I do beseech you, father, if you have ever loved me, if you
have watched over my youth, counselled me rightly, enlightened and
instructed my mind, led me on in honour, virtue, faith--I do beseech
you, aid me but to delay this ceremony. I feel not rightly here," and
she laid her hand upon her bosom.

"I cannot promise to do so, my sweet child," replied the priest. "The
marriage is decided; your guardian's word is given; and I cannot but
think it may be well for all, that the final seal be put to the
engagement as soon as may be."

"Do you?" said Mademoiselle d'Albret; but there she stopped, for at
that moment Chazeul appeared again at a little distance; and Walter de
la Tremblade advanced towards him. The next moment, however, she
murmured to herself, "They have gained him; and I am alone!"

A change came over her from that instant, and when, after speaking a
word together, the other two rejoined her, she was cheerful if not
gay.

"The Count declares it is some loose party stealing the deer," said
Chazeul, as he approached; "and thought it needless to send out to
see, as, in these days, when one can hardly secure the corn of one's
fields, or the fruits of one's vineyard, it were a vain hope to keep
the game of one's woods."

"Well, he knows best," replied Rose d'Albret; "and now, good cousin of
Chazeul, do tell me, what is to be the fate of France? How often is
your great friend the Duke to be defeated, before he succeeds in
crushing heresy, excluding the King from the throne, and putting some
one on that thorny seat instead?"

"He will be defeated, as you term it, no more, fair lady," answered
the Marquis; "for if report speaks true, he is even now marching
against Henry of Bourbon with a force that shall crush him and his
apostates, as men tread down an ants' nest."

"Indeed?" asked his fair companion; "then there will be a battle
soon?"

"Within three days, men think," replied Chazeul.

"And of course you will be present?" said Rose d'Albret.

But the colour rose in her lover's cheek while he replied, "Nay, I
cannot quit my bride and give up my bridal for any cause."

"True! men would say it was an ungallant gallantry," she replied; "and
yet ladies love heroic acts I have heard. God help us! We women, I
believe, but little know what we would have."

"That is very true," said the priest; "and, therefore, fair daughter,
it is wisely arranged that others should decide for them."

"Perhaps so," answered the lady; "but one thing is certain, they would
do so, whether it were better for us or not."

They then walked on once or twice along the whole range of the rampart
without speaking, each seemingly busy with thoughts which they did not
choose to utter; till at length the lady resumed the conversation on a
new theme: "Methinks, cousin of Chazeul, the court in its days of
splendour, must have been a gay place."

"It was, indeed," replied the Marquis, glad of a subject which enabled
him to speak more freely; "I know nought so brilliant on the face of
the earth as was the court of Henry of Valois, some five years before
his death; but I trust ere long we shall see a monarch who will hold
as bright a one, without displaying his weaknesses; and then I trust
Rose de Chazeul will shine amongst the very first in splendour, and in
beauty."

"I am determined," she answered, with a smile, "if ever I appear at
the court, to have a coronet of diamonds fashioned into roses, to bear
out my name."

"Oh trust to me," cried Chazeul, "trust to me, to find devices which
shall make you outshine the Queen."

"Ha! there come a party over the hills," cried Mademoiselle d'Albret.
"It is De Montigni, I am sure;" and running forward to the edge of the
rampart, she looked forth; but, as she did so, she murmured, "Do they
think to buy and sell me for a goldsmith's toy?"

Her two companions joined her in a moment; and, as the party
approached, she waved her hand as we have before related, gaily
beckoning her cousin. He did not raise his eyes, however; and with an
air of some mortification, she said, "He will not look up!"

"He is bashful," said Chazeul; "too much study makes but a timid
gentleman."

"So they say," replied Rose d'Albret; "but let us in and meet him at
all events."



CHAPTER IV.


There was an old hall in the Château de Marzay, very like many another
old hall in many parts both of France and England, some forty feet in
span, some seventy in length, arched over with a concave roof, nearly
semi-circular in the curve, and not at all unlike, with its rounded
ribs, the tilt of an enormous waggon. From the line where the vault
sprang from the walls, ten or twelve large beams projected, ornamented
at the ends with curiously carved and somewhat grotesque heads,
supporting each an upright, upon which the arches of the roof rested,
while diagonal beams gave additional strength to this sort of
permanent scaffolding. The floor, as was usual in such chambers, was
of polished tiles, alternately octangular and square; and seven large
windows, with very small panes set in lead, gave light to the
interior.

This hall was the favourite place, in all the castle, of its Lord,
Anthony Lefevre, Count de Liancourt, a gentleman allied to some of the
first families in France, who had served in former wars with tolerable
reputation, showing a greater lack of judgment than of courage; the
latter quality leading him into many dangers, from which he had been
saved, more by the skill and resolution of his friends and followers,
than his own discretion. Comparatively few of the vices of man do not
spring from his weaknesses. It is still the contest between the
stronger and the feebler parts of our nature which overthrows us; and
whether the passion be vanity or pride or avarice or ambition, or any
of all the host of minor fiends against which we pray, it is solely by
weakness of the higher qualities, placed to guard the heart in
opposition to them, that either or all gain the ascendancy. We do not
have a care to fortify the garrison betimes, as we might do, and the
enemy takes us by siege, or storm, or escalade.

The Count de Liancourt had been all his life a weak man, and the
passion which triumphed the most frequently over him was vanity; but
he had sufficient talent, which is very far from incompatible with
weakness, to conceal from the eyes of those who did not know him to
the very heart, the feebleness of his character. The suggestions of
other people he passed for the result of his own deliberations, and he
adhered to these adopted children with all the fondness of a parent.
Though naturally wavering and undecided, he had the skill to give a
colouring of moderation and prudence to that conduct which sprung from
hesitation; and, by adopting the reasonings of wiser men, he justified
that course which in him was the result of unreasonable doubts. But as
he was wanting in discrimination of justice, right, and propriety, it
not unfrequently happened that the very art with which he covered the
fact that he followed rather than led, turned to his discredit; and
acts by no means honourable to him were very generally ascribed to his
own cunning, which were in truth only attributable to his own
weakness. Without giving the whole history of his life, these facts
could not have been made manifest by any other means than by
description, and therefore I have thought fit to point out some
peculiarities in a character which would not probably have room to
develop itself.

He loved, I have said, that old hall, and would pass many an hour
there, either walking to and fro--apparently in deep thought, but in
reality more engaged in day-dreams than meditations--or in writing or
reading at a table in one of the windows, while ever and anon he
raised his eyes to the banners and ensigns which hung from the beams,
and contemplated with pleasure the long ancestral line of which they
were mementos.

In this hall he was found by his fair ward, Rose d'Albret, and her two
companions, on their return from the battlements; but the Lady had to
place her hand upon his arm before he roused himself from a book which
he seemed studying deeply.

"De Montigni has just arrived, my dear uncle," said Rose, as he looked
up; "we saw him from the walls."

"I am glad to hear it," replied the Count; "I knew no harm would
happen to him. Ah, here he comes!"

As he spoke, the young nobleman entered the hall, followed by the good
farmer Chasseron; and Monsieur de Liancourt advancing towards him,
opened his arms and embraced him with every mark of kindness.

"Welcome! welcome, my dear boy!" he said, in a somewhat pompous tone;
"welcome back to Marzay. You will find the old château just as it was,
though your uncle cannot boast of bearing his years as well, Louis.
Here are your gay cousin Chazeul and my fair ward Rose, all ready to
receive you, and wish you joy of your return. Why, you look somewhat
thin and pale!"

Chazeul embraced De Montigni also, and congratulated him upon his safe
arrival in his native land, adding, "You have been no great traveller,
I think, nevertheless, Louis. Padua has been your boundary, has it
not? And there, doubtless, you have made yourself a very learned man,
while we here have learned nothing but hard blows and rough campaigns.
By my faith, you have, I think, chosen the better part, at least the
happier one, though here is a fair reward for all one's labours. Sweet
Rose, do you not welcome your cousin?"

The cheek of Rose d'Albret grew somewhat red, partly through
indignation, partly through embarrassment. She saw clearly enough the
latent design of the Marquis de Chazeul in speaking of her as if she
were actually his; and she felt some anger at being called forward to
welcome the companion of her youth, as if she were not prompt to do
so, by a man who had shown such indifference to his safety. She came
forward gracefully, however, and held out her hand to De Montigni,
with a warm and kindly smile, saying, "Indeed I am very glad to see
you, Louis; but you would take no notice of me just now. I waved my
hand to you from the walls, to be the first to wish you joy on your
return, but you did not look up."

De Montigni coloured, and faltered for a moment, but then replied,
earnestly, "I saw you from a distance, and knew you at once; but as I
came near, a thousand memories of other days assailed me, Mademoiselle
d'Albret. Days long gone rose up before me, hopes vanished, pleasures
past away, regrets unavailing; and I could not but give myself up to
thought."

Rose asked herself what were the hopes, what the regrets, he spoke of;
and her heart beat, and her cheek grew somewhat pale. She looked
round, however; Chazeul was talking in a whisper with her guardian;
the priest was standing in the window; and she said, in a low voice,
"Do not call me Mademoiselle d'Albret, Louis. That is a cold name. It
used ever to be Rose, or cousin, in former days."

"Cousin you are not, except by courtesy," replied De Montigni, in the
same tone, "and I did not venture to call you Rose, now that you are
another's."

The colour came warmly into her cheek, but she cast down her eyes,
saying, in a tone scarcely audible, "I am not another's yet; and, if
ever I am, I shall then be your cousin really."

De Montigni knew little of the world, it is true; but yet when a woman
speaks of such matters, in so low a tone, to one for whom she
professes friendship, it shows at least a confidence in him, which is
near akin to deeper regard. He was embarrassed, however; and how many
opportunities does not embarrassment cause us to lose for ever! how
often does it make us seem the very reverse of what we are! The kind
appear harsh, the affectionate cold, the modest even impudent. He knew
not what to reply; and suddenly breaking off their private
conversation, though it might have lasted longer, for his uncle was
still talking eagerly with Chazeul, he turned to his companion
Chasseron, who, standing a step behind, had remained unnoticed,
watching with his clear and penetrating eyes all that was passing
before him, and drawing at once his own conclusions.

"My dear uncle," said the young nobleman, addressing Monsieur de
Liancourt, "here is a worthy gentleman to whom I have promised a
welcome for the night in your name. I found him in the wood about half
an hour ago, attacked by some six or seven marauders, two of whom he
had disabled before I came up."

"Ay, Sir," rejoined Chasseron, "and if you had not come up and fought
gallantly when you did come, the rest would have soon disabled me. To
your courage and skill I owe my life, _pardie!_"

"Indeed!" cried Rose d'Albret, with her cheek glowing and her eyes
turned somewhat reproachfully towards Chazeul, "I told you I was sure
Louis was attacked, and that the guns we heard were those of some of
these plunderers. I knew De Montigni was coming at that hour," she
added as a sort of explanation, "and thought it very likely that he
would meet with some lawless band in the wood."

"It was in my defence, fair Lady, that he fought," said Chasseron,
"and gallantly he did fight, too."

"And pray, Sir, who are you?" demanded Chazeul, with an angry spot
upon his cheek at hearing the praises of one whom he wished to believe
weak and timid.

"A very poor gentleman, Sir," replied Chasseron, "not many poorer in
the realm of France; and yet a gentleman. My name is Michael de
Chasseron; and in days of yore, I have seen many a well stricken
field; so that I am some judge of such matters, though now I have laid
aside that trade, and am, as you may see, but a cultivator of the
ground."

"Michael de Chasseron! I have heard the name," said Monsieur de
Liancourt; "at all events you are welcome, Sir; and such entertainment
as the Château of Marzay can afford you shall command."

Chasseron was expressing his thanks briefly, when a loud rough-toned
but hearty voice was heard without, exclaiming, "Where is he? where is
he? where is my dear boy?" and at the same moment an old man entered
the room, who had apparently, though not really, numbered more years
than Monsieur de Liancourt himself. He was dressed in a buff coat of
buckskin, laced with gold, with a high-standing collar, according to a
fashion passed away some fifteen or twenty years before, with no ruff
round his neck, but merely a plain linen cape turned back from his
grey beard and neck. Over his shoulders hung a riband, from which was
suspended the cross of a Commander of the order of St. John, and in
his hand he carried a stout staff, on which he leant as he advanced up
the hall, somewhat limping in his gait from an old wound in the leg. A
deep scar appeared on his brow, and a large hole on his right cheek,
mementos of former fields; and his whole frame seemed greatly
shattered by injuries and labours. His eye however was clear and
bright, his cheek warm and healthy, and his countenance frank and
smiling.

The instant he entered he paused, looked straight towards De Montigni,
and then stretched out his arms. The young man sprang to meet his
embrace, and the old commander held him for several moments to his
heart, unable apparently to speak from emotion. A tear rose in the eye
of Rose d'Albret as she witnessed the meeting, and for a moment she
turned away towards the window.

"Welcome, welcome, Louis," cried the old Commander de Liancourt,
"welcome back at length, my boy; but what the devil made thee stay
away so long? thou shouldst have been here years ago! 'Tis a bad
business, Louis, 'tis a bad business; but no matter for that, it can't
be helped. We are all fools at some time of our lives; one man when he
is young, another man when he is old. Heaven help us, man, how tall
thou art grown! and I'll warrant you, notwithstanding all they say of
your studies, can wield a sword or couch a lance with any one.
_Pardie_, I'll have thee run a tilt with Chazeul in the court-yard
to-morrow!" and dropping his voice, he added with a laugh, "break his
head for him, Louis; he is a coxcomb and a knave, though he be my
sister's son; but she's not much better, for that matter."

While he spoke, he held the young man by the hand, and eyed him all
over with a look of fond affection, seeming to attend but little to
what he said in reply, though De Montigni answered him in warm terms
of regard, and declared he looked in better health than when last he
saw him.

"Ay boy, ay," said the old commander, "rest and idleness have done
something for me; though if I could have mounted my horse, I would
have been in the field long ago; but this accursed wound still keeps
me out of the saddle, and I am no better than an old woman,--food for
worms--food for worms, Louis! This old carrion of mine is quite ready
for the earth, when it be God's will. But you must see old Estoc; he
bore your father's cornet at Jarnac; and the old villain does not know
you are come, or he would have been here long ago. Halloo there!
Estoc! Estoc!" and he made the hall ring with his shout.

"For heaven's sake, my good brother," said Monsieur de Liancourt, "do
not shake the walls of the château down. Some one tell Estoc that
Monsieur de Montigni is arrived."

"Monsieur de Montigni!" said the commander, imitating his brother's
tone. "Warm that, Louis!--cordial! Monsieur de Montigni! _Ventre saint
gris!_ have you quite forgot he is your nephew, brother? Your eldest
sister's son? Ah! poor Louise; if she could but see what I see!--Well,
'tis no matter, the grave is a sure shield against many a wound."

"Come, come, now brother," said Monsieur de Liancourt, somewhat
sharply, "your humour gets intolerable. Did you not promise that I
should have none of this?"

"Promise? No, not a bit of it," cried the old commander; "I always
keep my promises, Anthony; I wish others did as well. However, there
is no use of talking now. You must have it all your own way. You
always did; and a pretty affair you often made of it. Ah! here comes
Estoc.--Here he is, old comrade, here he is, with just the same face
he went away, only with a beard on it!"

These words were addressed to a tall, old, weather-beaten man, as thin
and as stiff as a lance, who advanced with great strides up the hall,
and taking the Baron de Montigni in his arms, gave him a great hug;
then suddenly letting him go, he said, "I could not help it, Sir,
indeed. Bless my heart, it seems as if you were little Louis still; do
you recollect how I used to teach you to ride, and to shoot, and to
play with sword and buckler?"

"Ay, that I do, Estoc," replied the young nobleman; "those lessons
have served me well, many a time since, and no longer ago than to-day.
But I must give my companion of this afternoon's adventure into your
charge, Estoc. Where is Monsieur de Chasseron?" he continued, looking
around.

"He left the room this moment, probably to see after his horse,"
observed father Walter, advancing from the window for the first time.

"I will go and find him," answered Estoc; "I passed some one in the
vestibule, but as it is growing grey, I scarcely saw him;" and he
turned abruptly to depart.

"Hark ye, Estoc," said the old commander, detaining him for a moment,
and speaking in a whisper, "come up to his room when he goes to change
his clothes. I must have some talk with him; the boy must know how he
stands here--do you understand?"

Estoc nodded his head, and took his departure without reply.

In the meantime the priest had held out his hand to the young Baron de
Montigni, saying, "Though the last to wish you joy on your return,
Sir, I do so sincerely, and trust you have fared well during your
absence."

"Ah! good father," exclaimed the young Baron, "in this dim light I did
not know you; but I am right glad to see you again, and have to thank
you for many a wise counsel and much good instruction, by which I hope
I have not failed to profit. Have you been well since last we parted?"

"As well as I could wish to be," replied the priest; "not that I am
sure that high health is as great a blessing as men think. Like wealth
and many another of this world's gifts, it sometimes leads us to
forget our dependence on the Giver."

"I trust not to a well-regulated mind," said De Montigni; "and I am
sure, to you it could be no source of evil."

The old man looked down and shut his teeth fast together; and Monsieur
de Liancourt, wishing to bring a scene which was not altogether
pleasing to him to a close as speedily as possible, told De Montigni
that the evening meal would be ready in half an hour, so that he had
but time to change his riding-dress.

The young nobleman lingered for a few moments, however, conversing
with those around, and marking many things which the actors therein
little knew that he observed. Chazeul had kept close to the side of
Rose d'Albret since his conversation with the Count had come to an
end, and thrice he had endeavoured to engage her attention to himself,
but in vain. At this moment, however, he said with some degree of
irritation in his tone, "You seem very much occupied, sweet Rose."

"So I am, Monsieur de Chazeul," she answered aloud, "and interested
too.--Are you not so?"

"Oh, certainly," he replied, "these receptions are always interesting
ceremonies."

"Not to those, with whom they are ceremonies," said Rose d'Albret; and
while Chazeul bit his lip, and his brow contracted moodily, she turned
to speak with father Walter de la Tremblade.

De Montigni was conversing, in the meantime with his two uncles; but
he had heard all, and marked particularly the words "Monsieur de
Chazeul;" and whatever other effect might be produced upon him, the
immediate result was to throw him into a fit of thought, and make him
answer some of Monsieur de Liancourt's questions at random.

"What are you thinking about, Louis?" cried the old commander; "my
brother asks when you left Padua; and you say, five years."

"He is tired and exhausted," said Monsieur de Liancourt; "he had
better go and take off these heavy boots, cool his head and hands in
some fresh water, and come down to supper, where we will refresh him
with a good cup of wine."

"I am tired," said the young nobleman, "for I have ridden more than
twenty leagues to-day, so that I will take your advice, my good uncle,
and find my way down to the supper-hall when I hear the trumpet."

Thus saying, he retired, passing through the vestibule, where in one
of the deep windows he saw his old friend Estoc, still busily talking
to the good farmer Chasseron. De Montigni did not stop, however, but
merely said, as he passed by, "Take care of him, Estoc, and seek him
out a comfortable room."

"That I will, Sir," replied Estoc, and continued his conversation.

The first meeting between the two who now stood together in the
window, had been somewhat curious. On quitting the hall, the old
soldier had entered the vestibule with his usual wide and hasty
strides; and, as that side of the château was turned from the sun, so
that it was darker than most other parts of the house, he might not
have seen the man he came in search of, who was seated on a bench near
the window, had not his attention been called by a voice pronouncing
the word, 'Estoc.'

Turning quickly round he advanced towards him, and gazed in his face,
saying, "You seem to know me, Sir, and methinks I have seen you
before."

"You have, my good friend," replied Chasseron; "we have met twice; do
you not remember Michael Chasseron?"

"I remember Peter Chasseron, right will," replied the old soldier; "he
took me prisoner at St. Jean, and treated me right kindly; but you are
not the same," and while he spoke he continued to examine the
countenance of his companion with great attention.

"And when he had taken you," replied the farmer, "he brought you to
the person who was in command of the troop. That was his brother. I am
the same. Do you recollect me now?"

Estoc gazed at him again, and then answered in a significant tone, "I
think I do; but it is twelve years ago, and you were a young man then.
Come into the window and let me look at you."

"I am the same I tell you," replied Chasseron, moving into the window;
"there, take as good a look as you like."

Estoc did not fail to do so; then cast down his eyes, and bit the side
of his hand with his teeth. "Well," he said, at length, "you are a
bold man to venture here, all things considered. Do you not know that
we are all Catholics in this place, and Monsieur de Chazeul one of the
foremost of the League, who would think no more of putting you to
death, be the result what it would, than of sitting down to his
supper?"

"Parbleu! I know it right well," replied Chasseron; "and that is the
reason I waited for you here. I am sure that you are not one who would
betray me, and as for your leader, the good commander, I would put my
life in his hands without the slightest fear."

"That you might, that you might," said the old soldier; "and it will
be better to tell him too. But do none of these people know you? Some
of them must have seen you. Why, the very name of Chasseron, if they
had recollected, was enough to make the Marquis cut your throat. He
would no more hesitate to roast a Huguenot alive in that court-yard,
than to kill a stag or a wolf;" and, as he spoke, he looked over his
shoulder to see that no one was coming.

"He would need two or three to help him," replied Chasseron; "and I
felt sure that, if I trusted to the young Baron's word, I should find
those within who would take the part of honour. But none of these men
have seen me for years; and when they did, 'twas but for a moment. You
know in those days I came and went like the lightning. As for the name
of Chasseron, it has long been forgotten too.--But hark ye, Estoc, you
love this young Lord it seems? Now it is for his sake that I have come
hither; not for a night's lodging, which I could obtain where I chose.
I have heard at C[oe]uvres that they are playing him false here; and
that there are plans afoot for doing him wrong in several ways.
Perhaps I may aid him, if I know the facts; and I would fain do so for
his good father's memory. He was as high and honourable a gentleman as
any in France. Though adversaries, we were not enemies, and I owed him
something too for courtesies shown when, God help me, there were few
to show them."

"Ah! I wish my poor Lord could hear those words," cried Estoc. "But
you are right, Sir, you are right. They are playing poor Louis false.
Wait a bit, and you shall hear more in the course of the evening; and
if you can help him, though I doubt it, God will bless you, were you
twenty times a heretic."

"Parbleu! you must be speedy with your tidings, Master Estoc," said
Chasseron, "for I must be away before nine tomorrow. I have got my
wheat to dispose of," he added; "a weighty matter in my new trade."

The old soldier laughed. "I should think, Sir, you would make but a
poor farmer," he replied; "but you shall have all my news this very
night. Ha! here comes the young Lord. As soon as he is gone by, I will
tell the good old commander that you are in the house; and you shall
see him yourself in his room."

Before Chasseron could reply, De Montigni passed through the
vestibule, as I have before described; but the moment he was gone the
old soldier added, "We are to talk with the poor lad while he is
dressing, and if I can so manage it, you shall be called to take a
part; if not, I will find the means ere night be over. Here come the
rest--let them pass, and then wait for me. I will be back with you in
a minute."

As he spoke, all those whom we have seen conversing in the hall passed
through the vestibule, with the exception of Rose d'Albret, who
retired by another door, leading direct to her own apartment. The good
old commander, supporting himself on his stick, was the last that
appeared, with his eyes bent down upon the ground, and his lips
muttering disconnected sentences to himself. In the semi-darkness that
now reigned, no one took any notice of Chasseron or his companion; but
the moment that his old leader had reached the opposite door, Estoc
followed, and taking his hand familiarly, put it through his own arm,
as if to assist his on his way; but at the same time he bent his head
and seemed to whisper. The old commander suddenly stopped gazing in
his face, and then hurried on at a quicker pace than before, in
evident agitation.

In less than two minutes, Estoc returned, saying in a low voice,
"Come, Sir, come! he is wild to see you;" and, with a quick step,
Chasseron followed him from the room.



CHAPTER V.


Louis De Montigni was in hope of a brief period of repose and
solitude; repose not so much of the body as of the mind; solitude in
which he might, to use the fine expression of Holy Writ, "Commune with
his own heart and be still." He had much need of it; for the last half
hour had exhausted him more than all the fatigues of the day. It had
been one of greater emotion than he knew, or would admit; and what is
there more wearing than emotion? He imagined that he felt pained and
grieved, only at finding, on his coming back to a place which had long
been his home, that he was half a stranger, his place in its
familiarity usurped by another, and he himself looked upon, not as the
returned son of the house, but as one to be observed and marked by
those now in possession. But in reality and truth, there were deeper
sources of anxiety and sorrow below; though it must always be full of
anguish to a young and inexperienced heart to find for the first time
the emptiness of professions, the hollowness of half the friendships
to which we trusted, the selfishness of the many, the baseness of
some, the instability of others, the falsehood, even, of the near and
dear--to discover that a few short years, a few short hours, perhaps,
will shake us loose from hearts in which we fancied ourselves rooted
so that tempests would not teams out. Yet there are more painful
things than even these every-day lessons of the world's constitution;
things that, blighting at once hope and confidence, extinguishing the
lamp of the future, and clouding the moonlight of memory, dispose us
to lay down the weary head upon any pillow for repose--even if it be
that of the grave.

He would not show all that he felt; he wished to show no part of it;
and he was anxious, most anxious, to have a short space, in which, by
his own power over his own mind, he might repress all external
appearances of disappointment and regret, and so school his heart,
that not the slightest token of what was passing therein might show
itself in his outward demeanour.

With this purpose, and in this hope, he took his way up one of the
narrow wooden staircases in the château, towards the apartments which
had been formerly apportioned to him, and which he had been informed
were again prepared for his reception. He entered the well-remembered
ante-room, and looked round. Everything was just as he left it;
the very chairs and tables were the same, and seemed in the same
position. He wished that it had been otherwise; he would have been
glad to see gilding and tinsel, and new decorations, rather than the
well-remembered old oak panelling, the huge chimney, with the iron
dogs to support the wood, and the tall-backed, uncomfortable chairs.
It made him feel that man alone was changed. It was full of memories
which he wished not to indulge. He went on quickly into the room
beyond, taking up the lamp which stood upon the table in the
ante-chamber; but there it was just the same. His servants, thinking
he would stay longer in the hall, had spread out some of his apparel
in haste, and had gone to greet their fellows in the offices; but even
the sight of the various things he had brought with him from a foreign
land were painful to him. They brought the thought of peaceful days,
brightened by occasional dreams of happiness to come, of expectations
which in truth he had been in no haste to realize till it was too
late, of vague aspirations, which, like some shrubs that produce a
long succession of ephemeral blossoms, had died as they bloomed, but
flowered again everyday.

Casting himself into a seat, he leaned his head upon his hand, and for
a minute or two gave himself up to thought. "'Tis strange," he said to
himself; "I knew not how deeply I should feel this, till I came near
these gates. The apprehension was less than the reality. Scarcely an
hour ago, I could have talked calmly of all; could have jested on it,
as any indifferent thing. But to feel it is very, very different." He
mused for a moment, then raised his eyes and gazed about the room.
Some one had placed an ebony crucifix upon a small table at the side,
with the figure of the dying Saviour in ivory standing boldly out from
the black background of the cross. It was the only change that had
taken place, and yet it struck him with melancholy, rather than
consolatory feelings.

"I must conquer this," he thought. "What right have I to repine at
another's happiness?" But ere he could give further way to his
reflections, he heard a step in the ante-room; and rising, he cast off
his cloak, and unlooped his collar, as if engaged in preparing for the
evening meal.

The moment after his uncle, the Count de Liancourt, entered with an
air of assumed cheerfulness, which Montigni saw at a glance, only
covered some anxiety.

"Well, Louis," he said, "all, you see, is just as you left it."

"All in these rooms appears to be so, Sir," he replied; and then
feeling that there was more point in the words than he wished to give
them, he added, "But a good many changes seem to have been made in the
rest of the house."

"Few, very few," answered Monsieur de Liancourt; "and most of those I
had long intended. The others are but preparations for the wedding."

His nephew was silent, and the Count paused for want of that
assistance which a single word might have given. At that moment one of
the young nobleman's servants appeared, and began to arrange his
apparel; but the Count, resolved to pursue the purpose for which he
had come, gave an impatient "Pshaw!" and then added, "Send him away,
Louis; he can come again in a quarter of an hour."

The man withdrew at a sign; and De Montigni, turning to his uncle with
a grave and self-possessed tone, which somewhat surprised and
embarrassed one who had been always accustomed to think of him as a
boy, inquired, "Have you anything of importance to say, Sir?" adding,
"if you have, I could wish you would reserve it till to-morrow; when
less fatigued I shall be able to hear it with better attention and a
clearer mind."

"Oh, no! nothing--nothing particular, Louis," said his uncle, who had
seated himself; "only we were speaking of Chazeul's marriage. I trust
you think it is a good arrangement?"

"To anything that may promote Mademoiselle's d'Albret's happiness, I
cannot of course object," replied De Montigni gravely, and there he
stopped.

Another embarrassing pause succeeded, and then the Count went on,
saying, "It is a matter I have long determined on. The union of the
houses of Chazeul and De Marennes must at once strike every one as an
alliance much to be desired. The important family thus raised up must,
in the present troubled state of the country, gain great influence,
and may be of great service to the state; and as to private and family
considerations, they all tend strongly to the same point; and
therefore, after mature consideration, I resolved that it should take
place."

De Montigni made no answer; and before his uncle, who was not at all
well pleased with his silence, could find words to go on, a heavy step
was heard in the ante-room, and the good old commander opened the
door. The old man's eyes were somewhat red, as if they had had recent
tears in them; but when he saw his brother, a look of surprise and
disappointment came into his countenance, and he drew back a step,
saying, "I did not know you were here, Anthony. I will not disturb
you."

"Oh no, my dear uncle!" cried De Montigni; "Monsieur de Liancourt says
he has nothing important to say. Pray come in. You must not take the
trouble of coming up that long stair for nothing."

"No, no, Louis," replied the commander, "some other time--to-morrow,
or the next day we will have our chat. Anthony's nothings are often
the most important things he has to do;" and thus saying, he retired
and closed the door.

"How peevish he grows!" said the Count. "However, Louis, I am glad to
find you approve of your cousin's marriage with my fair ward; and--"

"Nay, Sir," interrupted De Montigni, "I neither approve nor disapprove
of a matter in which I have no say, and have never been consulted.
Whatever Mademoiselle d'Albret thinks best for her happiness, must
have my best wishes for its result."

"Well, well, that is the same thing," cried his uncle, somewhat
sharply; "of course she thinks it will be for her happiness; and I am
sure of it, which is of more importance. Rose is a very good, amiable
girl, and will always be able to find happiness in the line of duty;
and I am not one to deceive myself as to what is best for those
committed to my care. It has been my anxious contemplation for many a
year, how to promote the interests and comfort of the three persons
who seem especially placed under my guidance and direction, Rose,
yourself, and Chazeul. He being of an eager, active, and worldly
disposition, is best fitted for struggling with these hard and
contentious times, and therefore in the distribution of the property
of my family, which is large enough to satisfy all, I intend to assign
him all the territorial possessions at my death. On you who are of a
studious, calm, and thoughtful character, I intend to bestow at once
all the rich benefices which are held by the house of Liancourt. They
are equal in revenues to the land, and, with your own hereditary
property, will form a princely income. Then the bishopric of Sens must
necessarily soon fall in, for my uncle who holds it is in his
eightieth year. To it, will be easily attached the hat of a cardinal,
as has indeed been generally done; and thus one of the highest
dignities in the world will be secured to you."

He spoke volubly and eagerly, to get over as fast as possible the
announcement of the dispositions he thought fit to make, without
interruption; and he then added with an air of dignified satisfaction,
"Thus you see, my dear Louis, I have in every respect considered your
happiness and your fortune, and nothing remains but to sign the papers
which confirm this arrangement."

But though the Count thought himself both just and generous, and felt
himself taking an elevated position towards his nephew, Louis de
Montigni saw the matter in a somewhat different light. "Rose
d'Albret," he thought, "the whole inheritance of Marennes, all the
estates of Liancourt added to those of Chazeul! This is certainly the
lion's portion, yet would I give up every part therein right willingly
but one."

He remained silent, however, with his head leaning on his hand,
and his eyes fixed upon the table, till his uncle exclaimed
impatiently, "You make no answer, Louis. Is it possible that you are
dissatisfied--ungrateful?"

"No, my dear uncle!" replied the young nobleman. "But this is a very
important question; and I told you that I would fain have some repose
before I discussed such things! I repeat it, that I could much wish to
have some time for consideration and thought, before I make any
answer, farther than that I thank you deeply for all the care and
kindness which you have always bestowed upon me."

"Methinks," said his uncle in a tone of displeasure, "that one
moment's reflection were enough to show you the propriety of that
which is proposed, and to induce you to sign at once the papers
necessary to confirm such a well-considered arrangement."

"Nay, Sir," answered De Montigni, "it might be so, if only the
disposition of your property were concerned."

"And pray what is there more?" asked the Count angrily; "what have I
pretended to dispose of, in which I have no right to dictate? I
suppose you will not deny, that I am authorized to bestow the hand of
my ward where I think proper? What is there else that I dispose of,
that is not my own?"

"Of me, my dear uncle," replied De Montigni. "If I understand you
right, I must enter the church. Though some men hold bishoprics
without such a process, according to the evil practices of these
corrupt days, such cannot be the case long: nor were I one to follow
such an iniquitous course. All these benefices by right ought to be
held by an ecclesiastic; and I will never hold them but as one.
Indeed, what you have said of my studious and thoughtful habits, shows
that you know such must be the case. The church, therefore, is to be
my destiny under this plan; but surely such a step requires somewhat
more than _a moment's consideration_. It is a question I have never
contemplated: it never entered my thoughts. I came hither prepared to
throw off my somewhat long-indulged inactivity, to take a part in what
is passing in my native land, after due deliberation and inquiry to
draw the sword rather than to put on the gown. Nay, more, I should
have done so long ago, had you yourself not urged me strongly, in
every letter but your last, to remain at Padua and continue my
studies, without entering into a strife where family is ranged against
family, and brother takes arms against brother."

"And why did I do so?" asked Monsieur de Liancourt. "Simply because I
have long determined on what I have this night announced. Is the rich
bishopric, so long in my family, to be lost--to be thrown away for a
whim? No, no, Louis. It was that you might be qualified to hold it,
and disposed by habit to receive it, that made me wish you to stay
where you were."

"If you had announced your wishes, Sir, before, I should have been
better prepared to fulfil them," replied his nephew; "as it is I must
have time. There may be men who look upon these things lightly, who
could take upon them the solemn vows which bind them to the highest
and holiest duties, without care or consideration. They may be right,
or they may be wrong; they may be men who, from the course of their
life and the habits of their thought, are fully prepared for such a
decision, though conscious of its great importance: or they may be
those who, never intending to fulfil the obligations of any station in
which they are placed, look upon all indifferently. I am in neither of
these conditions; I have never considered the subject; I have prepared
my mind for other things; but if I do consent, it will be with the
determination to act up to the calling I assume, and be an
ecclesiastic in spirit and in heart, as well as in name."

"Oh, if it be only conscientious considerations that withhold you,"
said his uncle, "those will be soon satisfied by good father Walter.
He shall speak with you this very night. You know him, and esteem
him."

"Much," replied De Montigni, "and will gladly converse with him for an
hour or two alone on this subject."

"Why not at once," asked his uncle; "I can call him in a minute, his
chamber is but at the end of the passage."

As he spoke, however, the sound of a trumpet, as was then common in
France, announced the hour of supper; and feeling that he could not
press the subject further, Monsieur de Liancourt added, "Well, well,
afterwards will do; and I doubt not that to-morrow I shall find you
quite determined, and willing to sign the papers, and accept the
benefices, which shall be made over to you immediately."

"What are these papers, Sir," asked De Montigni, without giving any
reply upon the subject of his willingness.

"Oh, nothing but common forms," replied his uncle, "I cannot explain
them all to you just now, for supper is served. Come, De Montigni."

"I am not quite ready yet," answered the young Baron, "pray do not
wait for me; I will join you in a few minutes."

His uncle accordingly left him; but instead of proceeding to change
his dress, De Montigni covered his eyes with his hands, and gave
himself up for a few minutes to bitter and anxious thought. Oh how
many wild and tumultuous feelings passed through his bosom during that
short space of time! and all were sad and painful. The contemplation
of the future, the memory of the past, the consideration of the
present, regret, apprehension, indecision, were all present to his
mind at once; and, for some time, thought seemed one strange chaos of
indistinct and gloomy forms, from which at length rose up one image
more painful than all the rest. His mind rested upon Rose d'Albret,
and upon the idea of losing her for ever. Remembrance brought her back
as the companion of his boyhood; he recollected how she had shared his
sports, how she had ridden by his side through the scenes around, how
she had taken part in his pleasures and his fancies, how she had
soothed him under any of the petty griefs of youth, how she had turned
from him anger and reproof, when in the gay light-heartedness of early
years he had offended the irritable gravity of age. She had always
loved him he thought, and he had always loved her, with the tender and
unselfish love of years when passion is unknown. He had ever thought
her beautiful,--most beautiful; but it was the kindness, the
affection, in her radiant eyes that gave them double light to him; and
now he had seen her in the full loveliness of womanly perfection, he
had beheld the same looks bent upon him from a face which might well
inspire more ardent feelings; and yet he was even now to see her given
to another,--now, at the very moment when he had most learnt to long
for her himself. Often he had fancied in his boyish dreams that, at
some future period she would be his own; that their mutual lives,
through maturity and age, would pass in the same happy confidence, in
the same warm affection, which had brightened their childhood. He
almost believed that some one had told him so, that she had been
originally destined for him; and, as his mind rested upon that
thought, his disappointment became the more bitter.

What was to be his future life then? to be cut off from all the joys
of domestic life; to embrace that cold and stern profession which, in
his church, excluded those who adopted it from all the warm relations
of husband and father; to pass his days in the dull routine of formal
services, or in the petty intrigues and artful man[oe]uvres which have
too often disgraced the Roman hierarchy; to cast from him at once all
the dreams and aspirations of young and energetic manhood; and, before
his hair was grey, to clothe his mind with the chilly garmenture of
age. He shrunk from the thought; but, when he recollected that Rose
d'Albret was to be the wife of another, it seemed to him a matter of
small moment how his after days were to be passed.

Such were some of his thoughts, and only some; for there were many,
many more; and yet they occupied but a very few minutes. It was not
one by one they came, but appeared before him like a hostile army,
stretching out at once on every side wherever his eye was turned.
Nevertheless he could have gone on for hours, and yet not have
exhausted all the bitter subjects of contemplation presented to him.

Most likely, indeed, he would have gone on much longer, had not
one of his servants presented himself to assist him in dressing; and
starting up from his sorrowful reveries, he hastened to cast off his
travel-stained garments, and in a few minutes descended to the hall,
where the rest of the party were assembled to supper.

A place was reserved for him between the count and the old commander.
On the right hand of the latter sat father Walter, and on the opposite
side were Chazeul and Mademoiselle d'Albret. Two or three of the
retainers of the house, who bore the rank of gentlemen, filled up the
rest of the table, with Chasseron and Estoc at the bottom. It was on
the countenance of Rose d'Albret, however, that the eyes of De
Montigni rested, as with a slow step he entered the hall. She was
looking thoughtfully down, with a pale cheek and a grave brow; and she
did not look up till he had taken his seat, when she did so with a
start, as if suddenly wakened from her reverie.

Monsieur de Liancourt made an effort to receive him with a cheerful
and unembarrassed air, laughed and talked more than was necessary, but
yet was evidently occupied with other thoughts, and not altogether
well pleased. Chazeul tried hard to engage his fair companion in a
low-toned conversation, but, failing there, turned to his cousin De
Montigni, and by the sort of bantering persiflage which has been
common in all ages to small wits, sought to show his own superiority
as a man of the world, at the expense of his relation's inexperience.
But the extent of De Montigni's information, his knowledge of other
scenes and other lands, the higher tone of his mind, and, above all,
that calmness which is often generated by deep and powerful feelings,
even when they are those of sadness and disappointment, set the
haughty and supercilious jests of the Leaguer at nought; and he often
rebuked him with a quick and cutting reply, which made the old
commander laugh, and once called a smile even upon the grave lips of
father Walter.

Rose seemed greatly busied with her own thoughts, and attended little
to what was passing, though once indeed she raised her eyes to De
Montigni's face with a slight smile, while he administered some
wholesome chastisement to the jeering spirit of his cousin; and when
he went on in a few brief sentences to point out that there were
higher things in life, than those on which Chazeul seemed to set such
store, her eyes brightened, her look became full of interest and
pleasure; and then she suddenly withdrew her gaze from his face, and
fell into deeper thought than before.

There were one or two persons present who marked all this, and knew
that the two cousins were rivals in heart, though not openly; and they
easily judged, that the contrast was unfavourable to him who seemed
the successful lover. Amongst these, there were some who wished to
prolong it; but the priest took the first opportunity of stopping any
further comparison, by given thanks after meat, as soon as possible,
and rising to depart.

In the little confusion which always takes place at the conclusion of
a meal, the old commander drew De Montigni aside and whispered, "I
will come up and see you directly, Louis, if you will go up to your
own room."

"The Count is going to send Monsieur de la Tremblade to me," replied
the young nobleman, in the same tone; "will he interrupt you?"

"Yes, yes, diabolically," replied the old soldier; "get rid of him as
soon as you can, Louis. I will set a watch, to see when he leaves you,
and come immediately after, for I must and will speak with you
to-night, let who will try to prevent it. Mind, be upon your guard
with him," he added, "promise nothing, engage yourself to nothing.
Have I your word, that you will not, till you have spoken with me?"

"You have, my dear uncle," replied De Montigni; and at the same moment
the priest approached, and laying his hand upon the young Baron's arm,
he said "Monsieur de Liancourt tells me, you desire to speak with me."

"He wished me to have some conversation with you, my good Father,"
replied De Montigni, "and I shall be most happy when you are at
leisure."

"This moment, if you please," rejoined the priest; and they left the
hall together, the young nobleman perceiving as he did so, that the
eyes of Rose d'Albret were fixed upon him, with an eager and somewhat
anxious gaze.



CHAPTER VI.


Nothing was said, either by De Montigni or father Walter till they
reached the chamber of the former, where, closing the door, the young
nobleman placed a seat for his reverend companion, and asked him if
Monsieur de Liancourt had held any communication with him upon the
subject on which they were about to speak?

"A few words were all that passed," replied father Walter, in a mild,
though grave tone; "but they were sufficient to show me that the
matter on which you wish to consult me is one in regard to which your
uncle and myself have often conferred before."

"Nay," replied De Montigni; "the Count has not put the business on its
right footing: let us settle that first, my good father. I did not
desire to consult you, but he declared that you would easily remove
from my mind the strong objections which I entertain to pledging
myself for any consideration to enter the church without much
deliberation, and a considerable time for thought. I expressed myself
most willing to hear all you could say upon the subject, though I much
doubted, from a knowledge of my own character, that you would succeed
in removing my scruples, and, from a knowledge of yours, that you
would even make the attempt."

"You were perfectly right, my son," replied the priest, after a
moment's pause; "my arguments could but tend to show that the
profession which your uncle wishes you to embrace is the highest, as
it is the holiest, to which man can dedicate himself; but I fear much,
that very consideration would tend rather to induce you to pause long,
and to think well before you took upon yourself such high duties and
responsibilities, than to hurry you on, as is the case with so many,
into a rash, I might almost call it an impious, intrusion into a
sacred calling, which should be approached with reverence, and not
without the full concurrence of the heart."

De Montigni smiled, well pleased. Various circumstances, all
apparently small, but weighty in their sum, had induced him to imagine
that father Walter de la Tremblade was one of those who had consulted
together to frustrate his hopes, and disappoint his wishes; but the
calm and reasonable answer which he now made removed the suspicion.
Whether he deceived himself or not may be seen hereafter.

"I am happy to find, my dear father," he said, "that your good and
disinterested opinion confirms my own, as it will give me strength and
confidence in my determination."

"Of all the many wise maxims which have come down to us, confirmed by
the experience of ages," replied the priest, "one of the surest is,
'Do nothing rashly;' and if applicable to the common affairs of life,
it is still more so to points where the whole of our future existence,
here and hereafter, is affected. You are right, my son, to pause and
deliberate; but before I give any advice beyond the general opinion
which I have expressed, let me hear all the circumstances, the doubts,
and considerations that affect you; and you shall then have my best
counsel which may, perhaps, be valuable, as that of a man long
accustomed to consider and, with God's aid, to decide upon questions,
in which the consciences of those very dear to him, as members of his
flock, are concerned. Tell me what are your doubts--what are your
difficulties; and if I can I will resolve them."

"My doubts, good father," replied Louis de Montigni, "are simply
whether I am fitted, either by inclination or by character, for the
profession my uncle would put upon me. No mention was ever made of
such a plan till this very night; and now, fatigued in body and
somewhat agitated in mind, I am asked to decide at once, upon a
question of such vital importance to myself."

"That is wrong--that is all very wrong," answered the priest. "You
must have time--it is absolutely necessary. Yet," he continued, after
a moment's pause, "I cannot help thinking there must be some mistake.
I am sure Monsieur de Liancourt did not intend to urge such a speedy
decision upon that point. Perhaps it was your acquiescence alone in
the disposal of his property that he required. You are well aware that
the benefices may be held by one who is not in the church; and his
conferring them on you, while he is himself living will prevent any
cavil which might be raised in the distracted state of the country,
with regard to your obtaining them, if they were merely destined for
you at his death. I do not mean," he added in a grave tone, "to
pronounce any opinion upon the propriety of laymen holding such
property. That is not a question for me to decide."

"But it is one for me to consider in accepting them," said De
Montigni; "and I scruple not to acknowledge that I hold the corrupt
practice in horror and reprobation."

"I must not deny that I think you are right," replied father Walter;
"but yet your refusal to accept this portion of his property, would
greatly embarrass and grieve your uncle. All the arrangements being
concluded for Monsieur de Chazeul's marriage with Mademoiselle
d'Albret, your rejection of the share assigned to you, would prove a
serious inconvenience to all parties; and I am sure you would not wish
to throw any impediment in the way of her happiness, or your cousin's
either."

"And does her happiness so entirely depend upon this marriage?" asked
the young nobleman bitterly.

"Undoubtedly!" replied the priest, with an air of surprise at the very
question.

"Then my course will be easy!" exclaimed De Montigni. "I will never do
ought to give her one uneasy moment."

"That is noble, and generous, and like yourself!" said Walter de la
Tremblade, holding out his hand to him. "I was quite sure that you
would never hesitate at any personal sacrifice for the happiness of
those you love. What course, then, do you intend to pursue?"

De Montigni, however, remembered the promise he had made to his uncle,
and he replied, "Of that I must think; all I can say at present is,
that no wish of Rose d'Albret's shall ever be thwarted by me. First,
in order to form a judgment of my future conduct, I would fain know
all the circumstances of the case; and, my good father, as you have
thus far dealt frankly with me, I would fain ask you a few questions,
hoping for clear information."

"I will give you the best that I possess, my son," replied the priest.
"But you must recollect that I am not a man of the world, and meddle
little with things that are not brought absolutely under my notice."

"Well, then, to begin with matters that you do understand," said De
Montigni; "if I accept these benefices, and sign the papers my uncle
wishes me to sign, do I in any degree bind myself either to enter the
church, or to hold preferment which I think should be reserved for
ecclesiastics?"

"Not in the least, my son," answered father Walter, "nothing can bind
you to the church but vows made to the church; and as to the benefices
you can give them all away next day; at no greater risk than being
called by some, an enthusiastic fool."

"That is soon met," said the young nobleman; "but if this be so, what
is the need of my signing any papers at all?"

The priest paused for a moment in thought; but then answered, looking
suddenly up, "It is simply because, as your uncle's nearest relation
you have a claim to his property, either the entire estate or a
moiety, I know not well which. The benefices he can bestow where he
likes, and he gives them to you as an equivalent to the other,
thinking that, if the bishopric can be obtained for you, as doubtless
it might be if you so liked, the advantages would be at least equal."

"My uncle did not tell me this!" replied De Montigni, with an air of
mortification. "My uncle did not tell me this!"

"Perhaps he thought you knew it already," rejoined father Walter; "or,
perhaps, he did not remember how generous and self-denying you have
always shown yourself."

"He should have dealt openly with me," said the young man in a
mournful tone, "He should have dealt openly with me."

He then thought for a few minutes, while the priest watched the
varying expressions that came over his countenance with an inquiring
and interested eye, reading them as they rose. Perhaps he did not
altogether interpret them aright, though the true Roman Catholic
priest, who, following the rule of his order, strictly excludes from
his breast half the passions that affect other men, learns to trace
their workings in others with a skill which those who suffer them
cannot acquire. He stands as a spectator of the most critical part in
the busy game of life, and sees the cards in either hand, and judges
where they are played well or ill.

At length the young nobleman said aloud, "So then I have some real
power in this matter; and they would have concealed it from me. A
somewhat dangerous course!"

"Perhaps such was not the view, my son," answered father Walter, "the
matter could not be concealed from you long, as, if you read the
papers, you must have seen what they contained."

"I am not sure of that, good father," rejoined De Montigni; "they
might calculate upon my not reading them at all, or that their
contents veiling their meaning in the profuse words of the law, would
afford me no clue to my own rights. However, all this must be inquired
into. I will now know the truth, wholly and entirely."

"I trust," said the priest gravely, "that you will in no degree
forfeit that character of frank and generous disinterestedness which
you gained in youth. It is a jewel, my son, inestimable from its
rarity. Come, Louis, let me tell your uncle that you will sign the
papers."

The young man gazed in his face intently; but father Walter returned
the look with calm and unflinching firmness, and then added, "I am no
party to any deceit, if any have been committed."

"I believe you, father," replied De Montigni, "for it is you who have
unveiled the deceit; but as for the rest, I will make no rash promise.
I will know the whole clearly, before I act or promise to act; I will
know what are my own rights, and their full extent; I will know the
motives of others, their conduct, and its causes."

The priest smiled, and shook his head; "You lay out labour for many a
long day, my son," he said, "if you propose to penetrate into the
secrets of any human heart; and in the mean time you stop a union
desired by all, to wait upon your caprice. Look into your own bosom,
Louis, and inquire there, whether the motives of such a conduct may
not have a source in passions you will not like to own; disappointment
or some chimerical dreams, jealousy of another's happiness, or
revengeful feelings for imaginary injury."

"No, no, no!" replied De Montigni, "my conduct shall be influenced by
none of these; and whatever my motives are, they shall be made clear
in the eyes of all."

"Well before you act," continued the priest, "ask yourself, if what
your uncle proposes is at all unfair. In the division of his property
he assigns you more than the simple half, though perhaps not the
moiety you might like the best. There is no great injustice in this;
there is nothing to move anger or suspicion; and yet you are evidently
somewhat heated, and nourish doubts of those that love you, which you
have no just reason to entertain."

"Father, you are mistaken," answered De Montigni, "I am aught but
angry; my heart feels too cold and chilled for anything so warm.
Suspicion may be there--would it had never entered--but who can help
it? When once a concealment or deceit has been practised in matters
where all should be fair and open as the day, can confidence be ever
restored? no more than you can restore the white bloom to the grape or
to the plum which you have once pressed in your hand. I will think of
this, good father, I will think of it all well. No man can reproach me
for examining closely into that in which I have so great an interest;
no man shall have to reproach me for the manner in which I act when I
have examined. But let me put a picture before your eyes ere you go,
in order that you may see what necessarily presents itself to my eyes.
It is of an uncle and two nephews; the one the son of an elder sister,
the other of a younger; the first possessed of moderate estates, but a
claim, it seems, to his uncle's property; the other possessed of
larger estates already, but, if I judge rightly, without that claim.
The one is sent by his uncle and guardian to foreign country to study:
the other remains upon the spot. At the end of five years they meet
again, and the uncle proposes a plan which he declares to be
equitable. To the son of his eldest sister, who has been absent so
long, he offers certain benefices, and proposes that he shall enter
the church. To the son of the younger, who has remained upon the spot,
he gives the whole of his estates, the hand of his fair ward, and the
large property which she inherits. Do not suppose, father, I can shut
my eyes to such things; do not suppose that I can do aught but feel
them bitterly. Mark me, however, I say not that I will reject this
arrangement, even if I have power to do so; I say not that I will
throw the least impediment in the way of views and plans which were
formed without my concurrence and without my knowledge; but I do say,
that I will consider, and examine, and ponder, before I in any way
sanction a proceeding, by which I am destined to be, in every sense, a
loser."

"I thought," replied the priest, mildly, "that you had already
determined not to do anything which could impede the union of
Mademoiselle d'Albret with the man of her choice; that you would not
frustrate her wishes, or delay her happiness?"

"Nor will I," answered De Montigni; "but I must be well assured in the
first place of the conduct which she herself wishes to pursue."

Father Walter shook his head gravely, saying, "My son, my son, I fear
you are deceiving yourself. I am not aware whether your knowledge of
women be much or little, whether in studious seclusion you have passed
your time without mingling with the general world, or whether you have
frequented the gay society of Italy, and gained an insight into the
female heart as it there appears. But do not deceive yourself into a
belief, because Mademoiselle d'Albret sometimes speaks coldly to your
cousin, affects an occasional indifference, ay, or even adds a harsh
word towards him--do not believe, I say, that she does not love him. I
have always seen that women, circumstanced as she is, from the very
modesty of their nature, assume such disguises to conceal the warmer
feelings of their heart; and the men with whom they are most free,
familiar, ay, and perhaps, affectionate, have the least cause to
suppose that they entertain any serious attachment to them,--for where
such exists, it always brings diffidence and some reserve along with
it."

De Montigni mused. There was truth, he thought, in what the old man
said--it might be, indeed, that he was right. True, in her youth Rose
d'Albret was frank, open, and unreserved, her loves and her dislikes
were plainly shown. But yet she might be changed. Womanhood and
passion might have brought with them reserve, concealment, art. Who
could say what in the space of five years might have been effected,
and what the girl of fourteen might have become?

"Probably, you are right, good father," he replied; "I know but little
of woman or woman's arts; but still I am not deceiving myself. All I
propose is to pause and consider all things, this as well as any of
the rest, in fact, to use your own maxim, and 'do nothing rashly.' As
I conclude you will see my uncle tonight, and report to him the result
of our conference, pray tell him my resolution, such as it is, and
explain to him in terms that will give him no offence, but yet convey
my full meaning, that in my determination to consider before I act, I
am too firm to be shaken. I find that I have somewhat too long
suffered my conduct to be dictated by others, and I do so no more,
whatsoever be the result."

"Can you not enable me, Monsieur de Montigni," asked the priest, "to
fix some term for your consideration? As your uncle will have to shape
his conduct, as he may judge expedient to meet yours, it might be as
well to name a time for your decision."

"That I cannot do," replied De Montigni; "at least not tonight. At all
events it shall not be long before I do decide. Small time will
suffice me, if no means be taken to impede me in judging for myself;
if there be, those who employ them must be answerable for the delay. I
will now be satisfied on all point--I will see the whole case clearly
before I judge. Whenever I do so see it, my course will be determined
in an hour. And now, good father," he continued, perceiving that the
priest was about to reply, "I would fain discuss this subject with you
no more, at least, tonight, though most happy to hear you upon any
other, if you have aught else to say."

"Nothing, my son," replied father Walter, rising; "pray remember that
the discussion has not been of my seeking. I never thrust myself upon
the confidence of any one, happy to give advice or assistance where it
is required, but never obtruding it, except at the sacred call of
duty; and so, my son, good night and benedicite."

Thus saying, he slowly quitted the room, and walked deliberately down
the stairs across a low-roofed hall, where several servants sat, and
then mounting another staircase with a quicker step, found his way to
the apartments of the Count de Liancourt. That gentleman, half
undressed, was sitting in his dressing-gown conversing with Chazeul,
and both eagerly turned to the priest as he entered, demanding, "Well,
what does he say? how did you find him disposed?"

Walter de la Tremblade sat down in a vacant chair, and then looking
from the one to the other, he said, "I found him firmer, sterner than
could be expected from his character or his years. I fear, my son,"
addressing Monsieur de Liancourt, "that your policy has somewhat run
awry. If instead of calling him back you had written to him the plain
and straightforward state of the case, telling him that the marriage
of Mademoiselle d'Albret with Monsieur de Chazeul here, depended upon
the renunciation of his claim to your estates, and begging him to send
you his procuration instantly for the purpose of making that
renunciation, he would have done so at once."

"Pshaw," cried Chazeul, "you must think him a greater fool than even I
do, to suppose that if he were told those facts he would give up his
chance of beauty, grace, and the united estates of Liancourt and
Marennes."

"He is no fool," replied the priest, "but one of those with whom it is
better to tell the whole truth, and engage his generosity and
enthusiasm on your side, than suffer him to discover, not only the
facts you would conceal, but that you have endeavoured to conceal
them. Better to tell him the truth, Monsieur de Chazeul, than to let
him find it out; and allow me to say, he has found out one half
already, and will find out the rest ere long."

"_Ventre bleu!_ what has he discovered?" demanded Monsieur de
Liancourt. "This is an affair indeed."

"He is right well informed," answered the priest, "that the estates of
Liancourt are his at your death, in right of his mother."

Chazeul struck his hand vehemently upon the table, exclaiming, "Then
the game is up."

"Not exactly," replied the priest; "had he known it a month ago, it
would have been much better. Then at a distance, and without the means
of farther inquiry, he would, I am sure, have been easily induced to
make the renunciation, in consideration of the benefices, without
coming here at all."

"But he has been urging me for these two years," exclaimed Monsieur de
Liancourt, "to give my consent to his return. I had no power to refuse
him, and it was only by persuasions that I kept him there so long."

"Well, but the results, the results, Monsieur de la Tremblade,"
exclaimed Chazeul: "we will be guided by you. Tell us what conclusions
you have come to, and what course it will be best to follow."

"From my conference with him this night," replied the priest, "I see
exactly the state of his mind. In the first place I tell you he knows
much, and suspects more; he perceives that you have attempted to keep
him in the dark; and he is no weak studious boy, such as you believed.
He is as firm as a rock, and determined upon his course. You cannot,
and will not deceive him on any of the facts of the case; and at
present his reply is, that he is determined to take full time to
consider before he decides. There is one way, and only one way to act
upon his mind. If you can induce Mademoiselle d'Albret, to ask him to
make the renunciation for her sake, he will do it, without the
slightest hesitation. Get her but to say three words to that effect,
and he will sign the act to-morrow."

"Oh, then the whole matter is easy!" cried Chazeul. "I will induce her
to do that in a moment."

The priest looked at him with a somewhat cynical smile, and replied,
"You may not find so much facility as you expect, Monsieur. Ladies
have caprices; and perhaps you may not be able to make her to say the
exact words you wish."

"Oh, but I am sure I can!" replied Chazeul. "I know the pretty Rose
right well, with all her coquettish ways for goading on a lover's
passion, by airs of coldness and indifference; but she is not such a
fool as to be blind to the advantages of the most brilliant fortune
she can reach in France. With the united estates of Liancourt,
Marennes, and Chazeul, we take our seat amongst the highest of the
land. Did you not mark what she said to me today, about the splendours
of a court? Such hopes and expectations, once entering a woman's head,
never go out of it, good father."

The priest paused and mused with a slight smile curling his lip; but
at length he replied, "Doubtless you are more learned in women's
hearts than I am, Monsieur de Chazeul; you have had more to do with
them, though in the confessional we sometimes hear strange secrets.
However, if you will take my advice, you will not trust to your own
unassisted efforts, but send for your mother at once. She is within a
two hours' journey, and may easily be here, before noon to-morrow."

"Right, right, father," cried Monsieur de Liancourt, "we will not lose
a moment's time. Jacqueline's head is worth all ours put together. It
always was so; and poor Louise, when she was alive, was no match for
her at all. Let us not lose a moment, but send a messenger to her
to-night, so that she may set out the first thing to-morrow. See to
it, Chazeul, see to it; for I am tired, and going to bed. Choose some
stout fellow who will do the errand well. Let him avoid the wood, and
take the Chartres road; 'tis but half a league about."

"I will do it at once," said Chazeul, "for it is now near ten. But
still I am sure that I can persuade fair Rose to make the request,
before my mother comes; and so, goodnight, Sir."

Thus saying, he left the room, and father Walter only remained, to
shake his head with a doubtful air, and say, "He is too confident. God
send that he mars not all;" and he, too, left Monsieur de Liancourt to
seek repose.



CHAPTER VII.


In the Château of Marzay, on that night, as every day in the wide
world in which we live, care and anxiety, hope and expectation, the
selfish intrigue, the means of frustrating it, the dark design, the
events that are to bring it to light, were all going on side by side
at once, separated from each other by thin partitions which served to
conceal the proceedings of the various actors from each other, but not
from the eye of that overruling Providence who apportions success and
disappointment, joy and sorrow, reward and punishment, according to
his wise but inscrutable will.

Less than a hundred yards from the chamber of Monsieur de Liancourt,
Louis de Montigni sat after the priest left him, with his arms folded
on his chest, his head bent down, and his eyes fixed upon the ground.
He thought bitterly over much that had passed. The words which Walter
de la Tremblade had spoken concerning the heart of woman, still rung
in his ears; the probable causes of the peculiarities he had remarked
in the conduct of Rose d'Albret, still agitated his mind; and he asked
himself "Can she really love him? She who was clear-sighted, as well
as frank, thoughtful as well as gay, generous, kind, liberal, can she
love this man, who from youth till now has shown himself the same
selfish, bold, confident, cunning, and presuming being? She used to
see through him, and understand him when he came here as a youth, but
a few years older than myself. It may be so, and perhaps the priest is
right. If so, it were as well to renounce all without further
hesitation, not to let her or any one perceive the hopes that are to
be disappointed, the vain expectations that are to vanish at a breath,
nor to call down that pity which is always more or less mingled with
contempt, nor excite the scornful merriment of the winner in this
perilous game. No, that I will not do; and yet this is a hard and a
bitter act to require of me, which may well justify some doubt and
some delay. Hark! there is my uncle's foot, I shall now hear more. The
good old man has all his eyes open, where my interests and happiness
are concerned. From him I shall hear the pure truth, undisguised and
plain. I almost doubt that priest: yet he spoke fairly and candidly
too; but these men of the gown, dependent on great families, however
virtuous and right may be their inclinations, gain a bias towards the
views of their patrons, which often blinds their eyes to the plain
course of justice."

Such were the thoughts of the young Baron de Montigni, till at length
the old soldier Estoc threw open the door, and the commander limped
into the room.

"Now lock the door, Estoc!" cried the good knight, seating himself in
the chair which his nephew placed carefully for him; "lock the door,
we will have no more interruptions. I have a right to have my say too,
Louis. _Ventre saint gris_, to use the language of the Philistines, we
will have it out now, Louis."

"Most assuredly, Sir," replied the young nobleman; "I will suffer no
one to interrupt us. My uncle, the count, as once my guardian and my
eldest relative, might of course command my first attention; but now
that is over, you, my dear uncle, have the next claim upon me, and I
will not allow anyone to deprive me of the pleasure or the benefit of
hearing your conversation and advice."

"Well said, boy! Well said!" cried the old commander. "Do you hear
that, Estoc? He's no chicken now, eh? By my faith, Anthony will find
himself mistaken. I like that well. You are right, Louis, to say, you
_will not suffer_ any one to interrupt us. That's the true tone. I
have grown into a sort of some dependence here, thanks to my
infirmities. I let them have all their own way; but, parbleu, it will
not do, for they turn tyrants when they are over indulged."

"I have come here, my dear uncle," replied his nephew, "with all
reverence and respect for Monsieur de Liancourt. But my days of
pupilage are over. While I stay in his house my chamber is my own,
where I receive whom I like, when I like, and suffer not myself to be
interfered with, (so long as I observe the courtesies of life,) when I
am otherwise engaged. Whenever an attempt is made to restrain that
communication with others that I may choose to hold, I leave the
place, and take my lodging elsewhere."

"Right, right," cried the officer, "and if you go I will go with you,
Louis. But sit down, Estoc. We have much to talk about, my boy. I
trust you kept your word with me--I trust you promised nothing to the
priest. He is a good man in the main; but shrewd, Louis, shrewd as a
winter's night--pile up the fire, Estoc. You promised nothing, eh,
Louis?"

"Nothing, Sir," replied the young Baron. "I merely assured him, that
no consideration on earth would induce me to do ought that would
thwart the inclinations, or impede the happiness, of Mademoiselle
d'Albret, but that, for the decision of my conduct, I must have time
to consider, and that well."

"Ah no! I am sure you would not! Poor dear little Rose, God bless
her," cried the commander, "she deserves all tenderness. But if you
did what they want, you would mar her happiness too, boy. Now let me
hear what they sought of you. Then I will tell my tale."

De Montigni recapitulated, as well as he could, all that had passed
between himself, his uncle, and the priest. He knew he could trust to
those with whom he spoke; and he strove to give the words that had
been uttered as nearly as possible without change. He might indeed add
a running commentary of his own conclusions, but he falsified nothing,
he exaggerated nothing. As he proceeded, his good uncle leaned his
chin upon his stick, and listened without replying a word, though once
or twice he struck the point of the staff sharply on the floor.

Old Estoc, however, was not so patient or so taciturn; for more
than once, he uttered a quick oath, and murmured from time to time
"Pardie!--Morbleu!--Coquin!" in tones which showed that he was not at
all edified with the reported discourse of Monsieur de la Tremblade.

But when the young nobleman had done all, the good commander's
smothered fire broke forth in a blaze, "Curses upon them forever!" he
exclaimed; "now they wonder there are Huguenots, and yet to see a
Catholic priest playing knave and hypocrite in this way is enough to
make any honest man turn Turk! I am ashamed of my brother, Louis, I am
ashamed of my family, but I am still more ashamed of my religion. It's
not honest, my boy! It's not honest, if it suffers its clergy to go
playing such a double game, telling what suits them, and keeping back
what does not suit them to speak. Now you shall hear the plain truth.
You are heir of Liancourt, pure and undoubted. It was settled so long
since, and nothing but your own act can deprive you of the lands."

"I suspected that such was the case," replied the young nobleman, "as
soon as I saw such anxiety to induce me to sign papers in haste, and
without explanation."

"Suspected!" cried the old commander. "Why you should have known it
long ago, if there had been honest men amongst us. I made my
renunciation in poor Louise's favour--my sister--your mother,
boy--when she married your good father--God rest his soul--and I took
the Order of St. John. You are the heir, then, beyond all doubt; but
Jacqueline, your aunt, my sister--she's a devil if ever one was--has
never ceased working at my poor weak brother Anthony to deprive you of
your right."

"She never loved me, I know," replied De Montigni. "I remember when I
was a mere boy--"

"Loved you! that's not the point," exclaimed the commander. "She loves
you just as well as anything else that stands in her way. It is that
she loves herself, and loves herself in her son--the coxcomb! She has
set her mind upon seeing him wealthy and powerful. She always looked
upon money as the best of blessings. That is why she married old
Chazeul, a man she hated and despised, only that she might be richer
than her elder sister; and now this fellow has squandered half his
father's estate, she thinks to patch up a greater fortune still by
getting for him Marennes and Liancourt. The last she never can get if
you are not a fool, Louis, and the first she cannot get without she
gets the last."

"This seems to me a riddle, Sir," said De Montigni, thoughtfully. "I
understand that this marriage is fully settled, with the consent and
approbation of all parties; and surely the hand of Mademoiselle
d'Albret, with her hereditary property, must be an object well worth
striving for, even in the eyes of one who values wealth so much as my
aunt De Chazeul."

"Ay boy! ay!" cried the old commander, "so it would be, if she could
get it. But the contract between the good Count de Marennes and your
uncle is, that Rose is to marry his nephew, the subsisting heir of
Liancourt. No name is mentioned, lest the heir should die in the
meantime; but you were then, you are still, the subsisting heir of
Liancourt, in virtue of your mother's rights as eldest daughter of my
father, and my renunciation in her favour. If you put your hand to
that paper you are worse than Esau, for you not only sell your
birthright, but your bride, for a mess of pottage."

De Montigni started up and paced the room for a moment with his hand
clasped upon his forehead, and twice he muttered, "This is shameful!"
He was tempted, strongly tempted, let what would be the result, to
assert his rights at once; to claim his own without one consideration
of the feelings of others; to exact the utmost sum of his inheritance,
like a miser; to demand his bride willing or unwilling, under the
engagement of her father.

But better thoughts first came to withhold him, and, as he reflected,
difficulties appeared to impede him in such a course. The contract,
doubtless, was in the hands of Monsieur de Liancourt. How could he
prove it?--how establish his claim? The estates, indeed, he might
withhold; his opposition might delay the marriage. But then he asked
himself could he inflict sorrow and disappointment on Rose d'Albret;
could he dash from her lip the cup of hope and expectation? Most
likely she looked forward to her approaching marriage as a thing
decided beyond all chance of change. He had no substantial reason to
suppose that she felt repugnance to it. Her mind was probably made up;
her part taken; perhaps all the affections of her young heart engaged.
Was he to be the person to blight all her prospects--to disappoint all
her hopes? "No," he thought, "no!" and resuming his seat by his uncle,
he said, "This deceit used towards me, my dear Sir, is very bad. It
disgusts one with the world and human nature. Yet one consideration
will probably make me yield to all their wishes, and forbear from
exercising my rights, even now that I know them."

"Phoo! Too!" cried the commander, interrupting him. "The boy is mad!
Go, call our friend, Estoc. He must talk with him. There is a
gentleman here, Louis--by the bye, he came with yourself--whom I met
with once or twice in the old wars. He is as wise and good a man as
ever lived--bating a bit of heresy in his notions, though scarce half
a Huguenot either--a good soldier as any in France, and moreover a
very prudent and clever person--a very wise good man. Indeed--none
better. I have been talking with him a long time since supper all
about this affair, and you must take his advice, or at least listen to
it. Depend upon it, you will find it good."

At first sight De Montigni shrunk from the idea of exposing all his
feelings, nay, detailing all the particulars of his situation, to a
comparative stranger, like Chasseron, one too whom he looked upon as
an inferior. But before he could reply, Estoc had left the room; and,
as he thought further, he remembered so much of bold decision in the
man's character, so many traits of shrewd good sense in his
conversation, that he began to think the opinion of such a
person--totally independent of all passion and prejudice, knowing
little of any of the parties, and who had seen so much of what had
taken place upon his arrival--might be very useful as a corrective of
any erroneous views which he himself might have adopted. He was free
too, to accept his advice or to reject it; and he knew the good old
commander too well, not to be sure, that Chasseron must have borne a
high character in former days, to have obtained his confidence and
approbation, especially as a heretic--a sort of animal of which he was
by no means fond. He waited then patiently for the return of the old
soldier with his companion of the way, while his uncle, from time to
time, addressed to him a brief adjuration, "Not to be a fool, and
throw away fortune and happiness;" or, "Not to cast all the advantages
which God had given him, into the lap of those who had played so foul
a game, to wring them from him."

In a few minutes the door from the ante-room opened again; and
Chasseron entered, followed by Estoc. The old commander, in whom age
and infirmity could scarcely tame the eager but generous impetuosity
of disposition which had characterized him through life, rose up from
his chair to greet their new guest and begin the subject at once. But
Estoc thrust him down again, with unceremonious affection, saying,
"Sit down, Sir, sit down. You have been too much on your legs to-day
already. You will have your wound breaking out again, especially if
you tease yourself so. Monsieur de Chasseron knows all about it. But
there is more going on down below. Master Chazeul has just come down
from a conference in the Count's chamber, and has sent off Etienne on
horseback, to his mother, begging her to be here at an early hour
to-morrow."

"Ay, Jacqueline must have a finger in the affair!" cried the
commander; "and she will outwit us all, if we do not mind."

"I do not think so, Sir," replied Chasseron, who by this time was
seated between the old officer and his nephew. "It seems to me that
the matter is very simple. Monsieur de Montigni, this worthy gentleman
having known and heard something of me in times of yore, has thought
fit to tell me the situation in which you are placed, and to ask my
advice. I knew something of the facts before; for in the first place,
I was well acquainted with the good Count de Marennes; nay, poor as I
am, was somewhat related to him,--in a very distant degree, it is
true; but still he was not above acknowledging the connexion. In the
next place, as you may perhaps have remarked, I live with my eyes and
my ears open; and as I have been in this neighbourhood at least within
fifteen leagues for some time, I have heard a good deal of what is
going on. If therefore my counsel or assistance can do you any
service, command it; for I owe you a good turn for that which you
rendered me this morning. _Parbleu_, I should have been badly off if
you had not come up."

"You are very welcome, my good Sir," replied De Montigni; "and as my
uncle has told you the circumstances, there is no use of entering upon
them again. There are other things, however, to be taken into
consideration, which you cannot yet know; I mean my own particular
views and notions--"

"Ay!" cried the old commander, interrupting him, "the boy is fool
enough, Monsieur de Chasseron, to talk of yielding to the wishes of
these people, to think of abandoning all his rights, giving up to that
coxcomb Chazeul both bride and estates! What think you of that? of
letting them win the day by all their tricks and man[oe]uvres? He has
gone mad, I think! but _ventre bleu!_ it shall not be so; for I will
plead first myself. I renounced in favour of poor Louise, who had the
next right after me, not of Madame Jacqueline, who has got too much
already."

De Montigni coloured slightly at his uncle's words, but he replied
calmly and affectionately; "I have my own reasons, my dear Sir, if you
will but hear them. All the gifts of fortune are but as we estimate
them; I will not pretend that I am without ambition, still less that
to obtain the heart of Mademoiselle d'Albret I would not make any
sacrifice. But I do not court her hand without her heart; and no
consideration shall tempt me to cause her unhappiness by opposing her
marriage, if--and I have no reason to doubt it--she feels towards my
cousin of Chazeul, as a woman should feel towards the man on whom she
is about to bestow her hand."

"That, young gentleman, is the question," said Chasseron quickly,
while the old commander gave way to many a "Psha!" and other less
decent interjection. "You have been ill used; and, evidently with a
design of bringing about a marriage contrary to the previous contract
between the lady's father and your uncle, you have been kept at a
distance, in ignorance of all the facts, while opportunity has been
given to Monsieur de Chazeul to seek the lady's affections."

"To be sure!" cried the commander, "it was all done on purpose!"

"Under these circumstances!" continued Chasseron, without noticing the
interruption, "you would be perfectly justified in opposing the
marriage; and with the evidence of your uncle here, of the previous
contract, I do not scruple to say, it could not proceed. I applaud
your delicacy and generosity, however; but the utmost that could be
expected from the most noble-minded man would be, that you should
insist upon the delay of a year, with full opportunity of seeking to
change the lady's views, reserving to yourself the power to enforce or
renounce your rights, as you may find her affected."

"But Sir--but Sir!" cried the commander. Chasseron, however, waved his
hand, saying, "Hear me out, my good friend," and then continued, "This
would be the kind and generous course, even if you found that
Mademoiselle d'Albret was a willing party to this alliance. The first
question is, however, whether she be really so or not? How can you
tell, that she does not consent with reluctance? How do you know, that
she has not also been deceived? May she not have been taught to think,
that her marriage with your cousin is in accordance with her father's
designs? or even if no fraud has been played upon her, may she not
have yielded from obedience to her guardian, knowing the power of
those who hold, under the King, the _garde noble_ of a female orphan?
may she not even now, long for deliverance, and may she not bless you,
if you step in armed with power to save her? Nay, more," he added with
a smile, "may she not love you already?"

The colour rose warmly into De Montigni's cheek; and his heartbeat
quick; "Oh no, no," he cried, "I cannot hope such happiness. She was
young, very young, when I went; not yet fifteen. We always loved each
other, it is true; but as mere children."

"Love is a fruit that matures itself without the sunshine," replied
Chasseron in a meaning tone, and then added frankly, "in a word,
Monsieur de Montigni, I think it is so. I would not delude you with
false hopes and expectations. That would be a bad return for the
service you have rendered me; but I have known something of women, and
I have in this case watched the lady accurately; not a glance of her
eye has escaped me, not a varying shade of colour in her cheek. I
think she loves you, I think she has now discovered it; and that, if
you could see her at this moment, you would behold her weeping
bitterly in her chamber over her hard fate. I think all this; but of
one thing I am certain; if she have to-morrow to choose between you
and Chazeul, she will not hesitate one moment, and her hand is yours."

The sensations of Louis de Montigni at that moment would be impossible
to describe and difficult to conceive. Hope, joy, expectation, rose up
to struggle in his breast, with sorrow, doubt, and apprehension. He
dared not trust himself to the full tide of satisfaction and love. He
felt it impossible to believe that such happiness might be in store
for him; and, contrasted with the dark and bitter feelings which had
lately possessed him, the dream of happiness which now presented
itself, though one which he had more than once indulged before, seemed
too much for the lot of any mortal creature. A few moments'
reflection, however, showed him that even if all that Chasseron said
was true,--if the brightest hope of his heart were realized and the
love of Rose d'Albret were truly his, there were still difficulties
and dangers enough in the way, to mingle a full portion of bitter with
the cup of human joy. Obstacles innumerable presented themselves to
his imagination; and it seemed to his inexperienced mind almost
impossible to triumph over the impediments which might arise to bar
the path to happiness.

His uncle and Chasseron sat gazing at him for a few moments, while he
remained in silence, meditating over the present and the future. The
old commander could not comprehend his feelings; but Chasseron, with
clearer eyes, read as if in a book all the varied emotions of his
heart, as they were written on his changing countenance. He suffered
him then to reflect without interruption, till at length the young
nobleman replied, "God send that it may be as you suppose! If it be
so, Sir, the decision of my conduct will be easy, for nothing but the
belief that I should be wounding the feelings or opposing the
happiness of Mademoiselle d'Albret, could prevent me from putting in
my claim to her hand. But if I thought that she had one doubt or
hesitation in regard to this marriage, that her whole heart did not go
with it, that she only consented at the command of her guardian, and
not from her own inclination, I would preserve every right I have, for
her sake as well as for my own."

"Why, I tell you, boy, they have driven her," cried his uncle, "they
have coaxed, and laboured, and striven, for these last two years. They
have made her believe that my brother Anthony has the full and entire
disposal of her,--that she is but as his horse, or his ox, or any
other of his goods and chattels, which he can give or sell, or
exchange, at his will and pleasure."

"That error may be soon proved," exclaimed De Montigni.

"Nay," said Chasseron, before he proceeded, "perhaps not so easily as
you imagine. Depend upon it, these artful people, with power in their
hands, will take good care that you have no opportunity of speaking
with her alone, if they can help it. You have the means, however, of
driving them to it, if you use them skilfully. Let them think that
your decision entirely depends upon her--"

"I have told them so already," replied De Montigni.

"So far so good," continued Chasseron; "but keep to your text: refuse
to discuss the subject with them at all, till you have ascertained her
views. Demand an hour's private interview with her; and adhere firmly
to that condition. Let it take place also, in some spot where you
cannot be overheard--"

"The rampart is the only place," said Estoc; "on the west side there
are no windows, and I will plant myself at the door, so as to ensure
there be no interruption."

"There be it, then," said Chasseron; "and this once gained, the
decision of your fate is in your own hands. You may gain the day, too,
if you like; only remember, listen to no arguments, enter into no
conversation upon any part of the subject; but merely say that, when
Mademoiselle d'Albret, unconstrained and free, assures you fully, with
her own lips, in a private conference, that her happiness depends upon
your making this renunciation of your rights, you are ready to do so,
but not till then. Doubtless, they will tutor her,--doubtless,
they will endeavour to work upon her mind by every argument and
inducement--and many may be devised which we cannot foresee--but you,
on your part, must use your opportunity to the best advantage: press
her home with all the words of love and passion,--call to her mind the
days gone by, the scenes, the affections of childhood; show her how
shamefully you have been deceived; let her know the frauds which have
been put upon herself. Make her comprehend, that it was for you she
was destined by her father; and, if you will, let her know your
generous intentions; tell her that for her happiness you are ready to
sacrifice not only your rights and your inheritance, but even herself.
Then, Parbleu! if you do not win her, you are better without her."

The old commander rubbed his hands, exclaiming, "He will win her, he
will win her! Don't be afraid; she is quite ready to be won. She loves
him already, man,--she always has loved him; only the poor little soul
did not understand what it was."

"But suppose," said De Montigni in a musing tone, "suppose all this
takes place as we would have it: suppose I am blessed to the utmost of
my hopes and beyond my deserts, that I find her willing to be mine,
unwilling to be his, what is the next step to be taken?"

"Ay, that is the question," replied Chasseron, "and one not very easy
to resolve. I will give you my opinion, fairly, though it may be
wrong. However, you may follow it or not as you like. Bold measures
are fitted for dangerous circumstances; and deceit, such as has been
used towards you, will justify you in employing means which, were it
otherwise, I would not advise, and you ought not to follow. If you
find her disposed to give her hand to you, and you make open and
decided opposition to the scheme which they themselves have devised, a
thousand to one you will be driven out of the château, and all the
influence of her guardian even to compulsion itself, may perhaps be
used to force her into a marriage with your rival. In the present
condition of the country, it will be difficult to enforce your rights,
so long as she remains here; by no means difficult for them, in the
course of a year or two, to drive her, by persecution, into the arms
of a man she hates. I would advise you, then, all these things
considered, not to let them fully know, all that takes place between
you. Give no decided answer the moment your interview is over; but say
they shall know your resolution the following day. Take advantage of
the time; and, having gained her consent, and arranged your plan, fly
with her at once to the camp of the King. Beyond all doubt Henry, as
soon as he is informed of her father's intentions regarding you, will
bestow her hand upon you. He is a good-humoured man enough; frank and
free; and has a weakness for all love affairs. He will be glad enough,
too, to secure the support of the houses of De Montigni and Marennes
to his own cause; for at present he is a king without a kingdom; a
soldier without money; and, by my faith, too, a husband without a
wife. However, you need not fear his taking yours, for they do say he
is over head and ears in love just now with another person; otherwise
I would not answer for him."

De Montigni smiled: "You are no courtier, Monsieur Chasseron," he
said, "and your plan suits me well; but there may be difficulties in
the execution."

"Pooh, boy!--None, none," cried his uncle; "the business will be quite
easy. Here are old Estoc and I as full of stratagems as the Duchess of
Montpensier. We have had all our cunning bottled up for these ten
years, since I got that cursed wound; and we'll arrange between us a
plan for getting you all out of the château, so that no one shall know
anything about it, for eight hours at least. The King is besieging
Dreux they say; and you can soon reach his camp."

"But can I persuade Rose to consent?" asked De Montigni.

"To be sure, to be sure," answered the old commander; "when she sees
that there is nothing else for it, she won't hesitate. Besides, your
taking her off to the King's camp, is not as if you were running away
with her to marry her without any authority."

"Certainly not," said Chasseron; "remember to impress that upon her
mind: first, that it is according to her father's own disposition,
that she gives you her hand; secondly, that the King's right to the
guardianship of a noble ward, is paramount to that of your uncle, and
quite supersedes it."

"And you think," asked De Montigni, "that I may be perfectly sure of
Henry's conduct?"

"Perfectly," replied Chasseron.

"I will be answerable for that," said the commander in a grave and
emphatic tone. "I will pledge my honour, which was never yet forfeit,
that His Majesty shall bestow upon you the hand of Rose d'Albret, as
soon as you reach his camp, and all the circumstances are explained to
him."

"Well, then," said De Montigni, "my course is clear, and my conduct
decided. If the hopes that you have raised prove just, and that sweet
girl consents, we will fly as has been proposed. If not, and I am
disappointed, I will make the renunciation which is demanded of me,
raise my own retainers, join the King, and, fighting for my lawful
sovereign, will wed myself to honour as my only bride."

"I trust, Sir," said the good farmer, "you may ere long be able to
serve the Bearnois, as they call him, not only with your own
retainers, but with those of Marennes and Liancourt too."

"God send it--God send it!" cried the commander; "and I will get into
the saddle, too, if the devil were in my hip instead of a pistol ball.
Come along, Estoc; you and I will go and lay out a plan for carrying
off the lady, and I will let Louis know the result to-morrow by
daybreak:--But mind you do your part well, my boy. No shyness--no
diffidence--go right to the point at once. Tell her all about it, and
let her judge for herself.--Now, Monsieur de Chasseron, Estoc and I
will see you to your room," and thus saying, they took leave of De
Montigni, and retreated for the night.



CHAPTER VIII.


We must now give a space, a very short space indeed, to Rose d'Albret,
who, after speaking a few moments with her uncle, the priest, and
Chazeul, had retired to her own chamber in search of solitary
meditation. There, however, she found her maid waiting for her, it
having been her custom for some weeks, since Chazeul had taken up his
residence at the château, to quit the rest of the party as soon after
supper as possible.

"There, take off this stiff gown, Blanchette; give me a dressing gown,
undo and comb my hair; and then you may go and gossip with Monsieur de
Montigni's servants. They have just come from Italy, and will tell
you, I don't doubt, how much prettier the girls of France are than
those on the other side of the Alps. I will undress myself, when I
feel sleepy."

"Indeed, Mademoiselle, I don't want to gossip with them," said
Blanchette; "if I talk with anybody, it shall be with Alphonso,
Monsieur de Chazeul's head valet. He is a fine man, and a gay one,
like his master. Ay, indeed, Monsieur de Chazeul is something like a
man."

Rose d'Albret turned suddenly towards her, and fixed her eyes upon her
face, asking, "How much has he given you, Blanchette?"

"Lord, Mademoiselle!" cried the girl, turning crimson.

"Yes, Blanchette, I wish to know," said Rose; "tell me exactly how
much he has given you. These fine gentlemen think that a lady's heart
can never be won rightly without bribing her maid; and therefore, just
in proportion to the number of crowns you have received, I shall judge
that Monsieur de Chazeul values my love. I am quite serious, so mind
you reckon up exactly."

The girl evidently did not clearly see whether her mistress spoke
ironically or not, but the tone of Rose d'Albret was so serious, that
she inclined to the latter opinion, and answered hesitatingly, "Why of
course, Mademoiselle, he has given me some little presents at
different times, as all gentlemen do when they are in love."

"Little presents!" cried Rose in the same tone, "why then he values me
little. But count up, count up, Blanchette, how much altogether."

"Why, maybe, perhaps a hundred crowns in the whole, Mademoiselle,"
answered the maid.

"A hundred crowns!" cried Rose d'Albret, "I am worth more than that;
and I'll tell you what, Blanchette, you are a great fool if ever you
say a word in his favour again, unless he gives you treble as much. So
you look to it, undo my hair, and make haste."

The girl obeyed the orders she received, and then, by her mistress's
direction, left her. The moment she was gone, however, Rose shook her
head sadly, and burst into tears, exclaiming, "Alas, that they should
thus fill me with suspicion! I am bought and sold like the goods of a
market. No one comes near me that is not bribed or corrupted by some
means. I have nowhere to turn for advice or sympathy or consolation.
What is the meaning of all this? Am I to believe that it is poor Rose
d'Albret, he seeks? No, no, he would take other means to win love, if
love were all he wanted. But I will know, I will see into the bottom
of his heart before I give him my hand.--Give him my hand? Oh God! to
think that the day is coming so soon!--But I will have some better
insight; and if they use such art with me, surely I may be excused for
practising some with them."

Rose d'Albret leaned her head upon her hand, and thought long and
bitterly; but her mind was now pursuing another course; the image of
De Montigni had risen up before her. Nor would it be banished, though
she was afraid to look upon it steadily. "He is very little changed,"
she said to herself; "I can trace all the features of the boy in the
man. He has lost his gay, light-hearted laugh, however--his cheerful
look that spread light around him. He has grown grave and stern. Can
he have suffered? Disappointed love, perhaps, has done its sad work
upon his heart. Oh, that I could comfort him!"

She thought again, and other images seemed to present themselves; for,
after a moment's silent musing, she started up, crying "God forbid!
God forbid! Ah! what would come of it, if it were so? Ruin,
destruction, desolation to all perhaps!--Would I had resisted firmly
from the first! Yet I have promised nothing. I have been but passive
in the hands of others. I have heard my fate announced, and made no
answer.--'Tis a vain fancy after all. He hardly spoke to me, looked
cold and askance--perhaps he is offended--no not offended; grieved,
mortified, disappointed, perhaps. Heaven! where are my fancies leading
me? And yet I often thought when my eyes met his, that there was a
look of tenderness, almost of pity in his face, mournful yet
affectionate. Would that I knew what is passing in his heart! Yet what
would it avail?--I know not.--It might perhaps avail to save us both
from misery--or plunge us into greater. 'Tis useless to think of such
things; I will leave fate to take its course, and shape my own as
opportunity occurs. But I may at least strive to gain some knowledge
of this man's character and objects; and, if I do assume a spirit
different from my own to fathom the depth of his, surely it may be
forgiven when the cause is so powerful. I fear--I much fear that I am
wedding cold deceit, and treachery, and wretchedness. I will sooner
die first--sooner resign all I have, hide me in a convent, if needs
must be, and spend my life in prayer. But I will read his heart first.
Perhaps I do him wrong. His motives may be generous and noble for
aught I know; and yet I cannot but doubt it. If they were so, why such
shrewd steps to surround me by those who do nought but praise him?
There is a want of truth and nature in it, that brings suspicion
whether I will or not. De Montigni's very coldness has more of love in
it.--Poor De Montigni, what can have changed him so? I'll find some
means of speaking to him, and, if I can, will give him consolation. He
used to love me much when we were both young; and, if he have any deep
grief at his heart, it will sooth and comfort him to hear words of
sympathy from the lips of Rose d'Albret. I loved him, too, always; and
I could love him still--if it were right."

But there she paused, and would not think how much she might love him.
She was like a child who comes to the precipice's edge, peers over,
and runs away in haste, lest he should see the full danger, and, with
giddy brain, fall over.

"Hark," she continued, "there is Chazeul singing in the rooms below. I
will put out the light, and hie to bed. He is like the night-raven
that fancied himself a nightingale. But I can stop my ears;" and,
undressing hastily, she retired to bed: but sleep was far from her;
and, for many an hour, she lay revolving plans of what she would say
and do on the morrow. Still, thoughts she was afraid of, would
intrude; still, before she was aware of it, her fancy was busy with De
Montigni; still her repugnance to the union with Chazeul grew more and
more strong, and it was not till half the night was spent, that at
length she closed her eyes in sleep. She heard Blanchette come late
into the ante-room where the maid's bed was placed; she heard her
breathe hard soon after, in the dull sleep of selfish content; she
heard sound after sound in the château, indicating that all were
seeking repose; and at length, when every other noise was still, the
deep bell of the clock first striking one, then two. But the third
hour did not find her senses waking.

It was daylight the next morning, though it was her habit to rise
early, when her maid called her; and Rose at once perceived that there
was a tale behind the meaning look on the girl's face. "Well,
Blanchette," she said, "what is it? You have got something to tell.
Speak it quickly, girl, I do not love to wait."

"Ah seigneur! Mademoiselle," replied the maid, "I have heard such high
words just now in the hall between the Count, and Monsieur de Chazeul,
and Monsieur de Montigni."

The colour fled from the cheek of Rose d'Albret; but she strove hard
to ask in a calm and indifferent tone, what the dispute was about.

"That I cannot tell, Mademoiselle," replied the girl, who, like so
many people in her station, only gathered sufficient information to
alarm, but not enlighten; "All I know is, Monsieur de Liancourt looked
very angry, and spoke very high, and the Marquis too; and Monsieur de
Montigni replied coldly to my Lord, saying, 'I must hear that from her
own lips, Sir, with no one present to restrain her.' But when Monsieur
de Chazeul said something I did not hear, the Baron turned upon him
like a lion, and answered 'Silence, Sir! or I shall forget you are my
cousin. You have heard my answer. Be it as you like. I seek not the
conference you seem so afraid to grant, but without it, I sign away no
right that I possess;' and then the Marquis replied, with a scornful
air, 'you are mistaken, Sir; I fear no conference between a lady who
loves me and a boy like you. There is no great rivalry to dread. So,
to keep peace in the house, you shall have this interview, and that
right soon;' and then he turned round and came towards the door,
behind which I stood, and so I came away."

"Hark!" cried Rose d'Albret, "there is some one knocking at the
ante-chamber door, see who is there! Say I am not dressed, but will be
so soon."

"It is Monsieur de Chazeul, Mademoiselle," exclaimed the girl, after
going out and returning; "he bade me tell you that the weather has
grown warmer, the frost was gone, and the morning fair and sun-shiny,
if when you are dressed, you will join him on the ramparts, for he
wishes to speak with you."

Rose laid her hand upon her brow, thought for a moment, and then
exclaimed, "I will go. Quick, dress me, Blanchette. I will go."

Her toilet was concluded much sooner than usual; and in a short time,
avoiding the great hall, she was gliding along with a palpitating
heart and unsteady step, by a passage which led direct to the walls.
Before she opened the door between the house and the rampart, however,
Rose d'Albret paused and meditated for a moment, pressed her hand upon
her side as if to stop the beating within, and then saying, "So--so
shall it be," she went out.

Chazeul was walking away from her, towards the end; but he turned the
next moment, and as soon as he saw her, hastened his pace to meet her.
Rose advanced deliberately, but was not a little surprised, when, on
coming near, Chazeul threw his arms round her and attempted to press
his lips upon hers. She repelled him in a moment, with a look of
indignant scorn, but the next instant she calmed the expression of her
countenance, and said, "Nay, nay, Monsieur de Chazeul, you forget you
are not my husband yet, and never may be. So take no liberties, I beg,
or I go in this moment."

"And never may be!" cried Chazeul. "Oh, that is settled beyond all
power of recall, sweet Rose. I have your guardian's promise, signed
and sealed, dear lady, so that either Rose d'Albret is my wife or a
cloistered nun for life."

"Well, that is one alternative, at all events, Monsieur," she
answered; "not a very pleasant one indeed, nor one that I am likely to
adopt; but still, do not consider me as your wife, till I am so; and
take no liberties, if you would have me stay with you."

"Nay, this is but what all lovers take and grant," replied Chazeul;
"however, be it as you will for the present, sweet Rose."

"Lovers!" repeated Mademoiselle d'Albret, "pray put the matter on its
right footing, Chazeul. It is better that we should understand each
other clearly. This proposed alliance is what is called a _mariage de
convenance_. I look upon it as such; and so do you at your heart. I am
not one to love easily. Doubtless I shall love my husband, when he is
so; but in the mean time, all that either of us looks to, is a certain
change in our position for the better. I view the matter quite
reasonably; and so do you, though you think it right to affect a
little passion. Not that I am insensible to the advantage of having a
handsome husband of reputation and distinction; nor you to that of
having a pretty and well dressed wife; but, as the principal question,
there are higher points involved than mere inclination. Deal with me
therefore candidly, Chazeul, and do not make the unnecessary attempt
to deceive me with a show of passion that has nothing to do with the
affair."

Had Rose d'Albret assumed a warmer tone, Chazeul might at once have
suspected her; but her calm and reasoning manner was so consistent
with his own notions, that he aided to deceive himself; and judging
her cold, and incapable of any strong passion, felt more secure than
ever of the success of his schemes. "Well, Rose," he said, "I do love
you, whatever you may think; and so do you love me, I believe. But to
speak of these higher matters that you talk of: our marriage is
certainly, under every consideration, the best devised alliance of the
times. You know that the estates of Chazeul are very large, but still
not large enough to give me that power and influence which I might
obtain. The estates of Marennes are nearly equal; and therefore by my
marriage with you, according to your father's and your guardian's
wishes, I well nigh double my station and importance. But there is
something more, dear Rose, in favour of this marriage; my generous
uncle settles on me the whole estates of Liancourt, which add vast
weight to all the rest, so that no member of the Holy Union--ay,
hardly Mayenne himself--will be able to compete with me in wealth and
influence. Splendour and power are before us, Rose, such as princes
might envy; and there is but one difficulty."

"Ha! What is that?" cried his fair companion, in an eager tone.

"Why, it is this," replied the Marquis, with some slight hesitation,
"this boy, De Montigni, you know, has been sent for to sign the
contract and the necessary papers. My uncle generously offers him, as
his share of the inheritance, all the rich benefices at the disposal
of the house of Liancourt. He may hold them, all but the bishopric,
without entering the church; but if he chooses to take that
profession--and he is fit for nothing else--the bishopric can be
easily secured to him also, and then his portion will be even larger
in revenue than mine. It is necessary, however, in order to avoid
after-litigation, that he should sign a renunciation in regard to the
estates; but this he refuses to do till--"

"Offer him something more," cried Rose d'Albret, willing to try him
thoroughly; "give him the farm of Marcilly. You will scarcely miss it;
and it will serve to make matters easy."

"It is a rich farm," answered Chazeul, shaking his head; "but that is
not the question, Rose. He will not sign till he hears from your own
lips, that it is your wish he should."

"I will speak to him," said the young lady. "I will speak to him
directly."

"Nay, hear me first, sweet Rose," replied Chazeul. "Make your words
short with him. Merely say, that this marriage having been decided and
your hand promised to me, you are placed in a situation of great
embarrassment by his conduct."

"I can say that with truth," answered Rose d'Albret; "but then," she
added, "if I find he remains firm, may I not offer him Marcilly?"

"It is unnecessary," said Chazeul, with an impatient look; "for he has
given his word, and will not break it, to sign the papers, if you but
express a wish that he should."

"Oh, I cannot ask him," replied Rose d'Albret, "I cannot distinctly
ask him, Monsieur de Chazeul."

"And pray why not?" demanded Chazeul, in some surprise.

"Oh, for many reasons, which I should think you would see at once,"
answered Mademoiselle d'Albret. "In the first place, it would be
laying myself under an obligation which I may find it difficult to
acquit. All I can do is to tell him truly what I feel, to tell him the
embarrassment into which these events may cast me, and then to let him
deliver me from them if he will."

"Ah! here comes father Walter," said Chazeul; but the announcement
gave no pleasure to Rose d'Albret; for she felt that there would be
more difficulty in concealing, from his eyes, what were the real
feelings of her heart than from those of Chazeul, already blinded by
his own self-confidence.

Happily for her, however, father Walter had fixed upon his own course;
and trusting to the power which he had always possessed over her mind,
he thought to bind her not by promises, but by principles, forgetting
that when he himself favoured art and deceit, the slightest accident
might discover the whole, and free her from the bonds which he strove
to impose upon her. As he approached, he beckoned Chazeul apart,
saying, "I have a message for you, Monsieur de Chazeul.--Good morning,
my daughter, I would speak a word or two with you in a moment--now
Chazeul," he continued, when Rose had advanced a step or two, "what
has been done?"

"She does not exactly promise," said Chazeul, "but she owns that his
conduct places her in circumstances of great embarrassment, and says
she will tell him so--but I am sure she will do what we wish. However,
perhaps it might be better to wait till my mother comes, before we
grant him this interview."

"I do not know," replied the priest, thoughtfully; "if we do, it will
be impossible to prevent De Montigni from having in the meantime some
private conference with the good old commander, which he has not
obtained as yet, for the old man is not yet up, and the young one is
walking in the hall. But if they once meet to discuss this affair, the
fact will come out, that Mademoiselle d'Albret was really destined by
her father for your cousin. No one can tell what effect that may have
upon her, and therefore, it may be better to let their conference take
place before he knows it. Once get his signature, and the matter is
irrevocable. At present he is only vaguely aware that he has a claim
to the estates. He makes some merit, indeed, with her, of his
willingness, for her happiness, to resign his right, but that will not
at all counterbalance the impression we have produced on her mind
that, in marrying you, she is fulfilling the wishes of her parents,
and the engagements that they had made. We had every right, indeed, to
produce such an impression; for the moment that De Montigni renounces
the estates in your favour, you become the person pointed out in the
contract."

"Pshaw! never mind whether it is right or wrong," replied Chazeul; "so
that the end be gained. But I see what you mean: you are right, we
must get the interview over, before he gains further information.
Then, his word once given, he will not shrink from it. I am sure she
will do it, though she says that she cannot distinctly ask him to
consent, or lay herself under an obligation to him."

"That is all the better," replied the priest; "had she promised too
much I might have doubted, from what I saw last night; but now go you
to your uncle and make sure that there is no speech between De
Montigni and the commander; and I will confirm her in her intentions,
as I well know how. I will join you in ten minutes, and then you can
send De Montigni up here."

Thus saying, they parted; and, with his usual slow and deliberate
step, the priest advanced to the spot where Mademoiselle d'Albret was
walking thoughtfully along the battlements.

"There is a question I wish to ask you, good father," said Rose,
beginning the conversation herself, in order to guide it in the
direction she thought best; "and I beg you would answer me frankly. My
maid tells me, that she overheard high words this morning between De
Montigni and my guardian. What were they about?"

"Truly, daughter," replied the priest, well-pleased that she had
brought forward the subject at once, "I cannot tell you exactly what
took place, for I was not present. But I know that the conduct of
Monsieur de Montigni is giving the Count great pain, alienating his
affection from him, and, unless something is done to convince him how
wrong he is, I fear we shall have scenes of quarreling and confusion,
the curse of long and tedious lawsuits, ay, and perhaps, even
bloodshed."

"Indeed!" exclaimed Rose, with unaffected horror. "Ah! that is very
terrible. How can we stop it, good father?--What is the cause of all
this?"

The priest was well satisfied to see the immediate effect his words
produced. "No one can stop it, my dear child," he replied, "unless it
be yourself. I believe your entreaties would have more effect upon the
mind of Monsieur de Montigni than those of any one; and if you fail,
matters must take their course. But, at all events, if you exert
yourself to restore peace, you will have the blessed satisfaction of
having done your duty. The case is this, my child," he continued,
before Rose could reply: "You are bound to give your hand to Monsieur
de Chazeul, by all those obligations which must be most imperative
upon a woman of good feeling and good principles. Your uncle is bound,
also, by the tenor of his contract with your father, to secure to this
your future husband the estates of Liancourt; for that purpose, and to
avoid contentions and lawsuits, it is necessary that Monsieur de
Montigni should make a renunciation of any claims, real or imaginary,
to those estates. To take from him all cause for complaint, your
guardian has most generously consented to give him revenues, to an
equal amount, from other sources, and that immediately. But Monsieur
de Montigni resists, talks high and loud, and the only thing that
seems to have any effect upon him is, the thought of distressing you,
who were brought up with him as a sister."

Rose paused thoughtfully for a few moments, really moved and affected;
and the priest, who watched each change of her countenance with keen
and practised eyes, fully believed that he had gained the day. That
supposition was confirmed, when she said in a low and agitated voice,
"Send him to me, good father, send him to me!"

"I will, my dear daughter," answered the priest; "for I feel almost
sure that you will be able to persuade him to a nobler and more
generous line of conduct. I need use no exhortations to you, daughter,
to exert your greatest influence to restore peace in this family; but,
let me say, that for such an object you maybe well justified in
overstepping, in some degree, the bounds which a timid and delicate
woman generally prescribes to herself. For this high purpose, you may
well urge him more warmly and vehemently than you might otherwise
think reasonable and proper, and may hold out to him the inducement of
contributing to your happiness and peace, with a view to restore
tranquillity and comfort in a house where you have ever been treated
as a daughter."

"Send him to me, good father," repeated Rose d'Albret. "I know not
what I shall say or do, to effect the purpose desired; but in former
days De Montigni was always generous and self-denying; and if I can
restore peace without any act of injustice, no personal sacrifice on
my part will seem too much for me to make."

She spoke sincerely, with all her previous thoughts and feelings
thrown into confusion; and, with a pale cheek and trembling frame she
seated herself upon the parapet, and covered her eyes with her hand.

"I will send him this moment, my child," replied the priest, convinced
even by her visible agitation, that he had produced the effect he had
desired.

"Stay, stay a moment," said the fair girl in a faltering tone; "I am
troubled, father; let me recover myself for a moment."

"As long as you will," replied the priest; "but the sooner such a
painful scene is over the better."

"Now," said Rose d'Albret, after a short pause, "now, good father; and
let him be quick, for I fear my courage will fail."

"God's blessing go with your good work!" cried father Walter, and with
a low inclination of the head he retired.

At a rapid pace he sought the great hall, where he found Monsieur de
Liancourt seated at a table, and pretending to write a letter, though
the agitated shaking of his hand prevented him from tracing more than
one or two words in a minute. De Montigni was walking up and down on
the other side, with his arms crossed upon his chest, and his eyes
bent upon the ground; and Chazeul was standing, playing with the hilt
of his sword, near the door which led to the ramparts.

"All is right and safe," said the priest in a low voice to the Marquis
as he entered. "He has not seen the Commander?"

"No, no," whispered Chazeul; "but the old man must be down soon. He is
later than usual."

"The change of weather always affects his wounds," replied the priest;
"but the sooner this is over the better.--Monsieur de Montigni," he
continued, crossing the hall, "Mademoiselle d'Albret wishes to speak
with you on the ramparts."

"Very well," replied De Montigni, advancing towards the door. But
pausing in the midst of the hall, and drawing up his head proudly, he
added, gazing first at Monsieur de Liancourt, then at Chazeul,
"Remember, gentlemen, I am to have one hour unwatched, unlistened to,
unrestrained--ay, and uninterrupted; and if, in that time,
Mademoiselle d'Albret distinctly asks me to sign these papers, I will
do it before noon to-morrow. That is our compact."

"So be it," answered the Count; and Chazeul bent his head with a
sarcastic smile.



CHAPTER IX.


The heart of poor Rose d'Albret beat so fast as she sat upon the
battlements, leaning her head and arm upon the stone-work of one of
the embrasures, that she feared she would faint before De Montigni
appeared. She longed eagerly to think over all that had taken place
that morning, over her own sensations, over her past, over her future
conduct. But her ideas were all in wild confusion; and she could not
command her mind sufficiently to give them anything like order and
precision. In a few minutes, however, she heard a step; and looking
round towards the door which led across the drawbridge into the
château, she saw De Montigni advancing towards her with a quick pace.
She trembled to meet him, but yet as she gazed there was nothing stern
or harsh or cold in his countenance. It was somewhat grave, perhaps;
but still there was a light in his eyes, a look of hopefulness and
satisfaction. It was more like that of the youth, who had left her
five years before, than it had appeared since his return; and, as he
came near he held out his hand towards her, saying, "Rose!--dear
Rose!"

She could not resist the tone and the manner; but starting up at once,
she placed both her hands in his, while the warm blood of emotion
mounted up into her cheeks and forehead, and made her whole face one
glow. The next moment her eyes were drowned in tears; but De Montigni,
without noticing them, drew her arm through his, and led her towards
the further part of the rampart, while good old Estoc, with a heavy
sword by his side, appeared upon the flying bridge, and leaned over
the chains, looking into the space below.

"Dry your tears, dearest Rose," said De Montigni; "dry your tears, and
calm your heart, and listen with your whole mind to one who has always
loved you, as a boy, as a youth, as a man--one who is ready at your
slightest word to make any or every sacrifice, but to procure you one
moment's happiness."

"Oh, De Montigni!" exclaimed Rose d'Albret, "do not speak to me so
tenderly, do not speak to me so kindly, or any little calmness, any
little power over my mind that I may hope to possess, will be lost
altogether."

"Nay, that must not be, Rose," replied De Montigni; "I have need of
your full attention, dearest Rose, and I have not come here to agitate
or afflict you. I have sought this interview that we may understand
each other clearly and fully, or rather, that I may know and be quite
sure that, in anything I do, I am really consulting your wishes and
your happiness, and that you are not deceived, as I have been, in
regard to the circumstances of your position."

"Alas, De Montigni!" answered his fair companion, "I fear no
explanation can deliver me from the terrible embarrassment in which I
am placed. Indeed, indeed, I know not which way to turn or what to do.
I would give worlds, I would do anything, to restore peace to this
family, but I have no right to ask you to make sacrifices, I have no
right to injure or to distress you."

"Talk not of sacrifices, Rose," replied De Montigni in a mournful
tone; "talk not of sacrifices to me. I am ready to make any, _all_ for
your dear sake. You have nothing to do but to command, and I will
obey; but it is upon the sole condition that I know it to be for your
happiness; and first, Rose, let me beseech you to tell me, how you
conceive you stand regarding this marriage."

"I do not understand you," replied Mademoiselle d'Albret; "how do you
mean, De Montigni?"

"We have but an hour, Rose, for all that we have to say," answered De
Montigni, "therefore forgive me if I ask you plain and straightforward
questions upon subjects into which I have, perhaps, no right to
inquire; and answer me candidly and frankly--I know you will. First,
dearest Rose, is it love, or what you consider duty, that binds you to
Nicholas de Chazeul?"

"Duty, duty," replied Rose d'Albret eagerly; then placing her hand
upon her brow, she thought for an instant, and added with a melancholy
shake of the head, "Love? Ah, no! Alas, love has little to do with it,
on either side!"

"Then almost all my questions are answered, Rose," replied De
Montigni, taking her hand, and pressing it in his own.

"Nay, do not, do not, Louis," said his fair companion; "you agitate,
you alarm me. I must do my duty, De Montigni; I have promised to
endeavour to restore peace to this household. Remember, I must obey--I
must fulfil the engagement entered into by my father."

"Then, Rose d'Albret," replied the young nobleman, "you are the bride
of Louis de Montigni, and not of Nicholas de Chazeul: the bride of one
who has loved you from infancy, not of a cold and heartless villain,
who loves nothing but himself."

Rose d'Albret turned, withdrew her arm, and gazed upon him for a
moment in pale and speechless astonishment. The next moment her lips
too turned white, and she would have fallen had not her lover caught
her in his arms.

Poor De Montigni knew little of woman's heart, and could ill
distinguish between the effects of mere emotion and distress. He
carried rather than led her to the side of the wall, and seating her
in one of the embrasures, hastened to reassure her, as he thought.
"Listen to me, Rose, listen to me, dearest girl," he said; "De
Montigni is not about to take advantage of any circumstances of his
situation. It is for you, as I said just now, to command, and for me
to obey. I am ready at a word to renounce my inheritance, my rights,
my hopes--yes, Rose, even you yourself--if it be necessary for your
happiness--I forgive you for having deceived me but now. If you now
answer that you love this man, I am willing, ready to renounce all,
even my newly awakened joy, that you may be at peace. I shall soon
find repose on some field of battle."

"I have promised nothing," murmured Rose d'Albret to herself; "Thank
God, I have promised nothing! I have acquiesced in what they told me
was a duty--nothing more--Oh no, no, thank God, I have done no more;"
and she burst into a passionate flood of tears.

After a moment, however, she dried them suddenly and looked up. "What
was it you said, De Montigni?" she cried; "tell it me again! It seems
like a dream. Tell it me again. Surely you said I was not doomed to
wed Chazeul!"

Louis de Montigni gazed upon her with a look in which surprise, and
joy, and thankfulness gradually rose up like the increasing flame upon
an altar. "Oh, Rose," he said, "your words give me life. I did say you
were not doomed to wed Chazeul. Your fate depends upon your own
decision, and upon my actions, which your decision will rule. Listen
to me, dear one, and I will in a few short words explain all. We shall
have much to speak of afterwards, so mark well every point. My uncle,
the commander, will confirm all I say, if you doubt me."

"Doubt you, De Montigni? Doubt _you?_" asked Rose d'Albret, extending
her hand to him. "I'd sooner doubt myself. But speak, Louis, speak.
What have you to tell?"

"A brief tale, but a sad one," answered De Montigni. "In years long
gone, your guardian, the Count, being then married to your aunt, and
childless, the good old commander made a renunciation, on my father's
marriage, of all his claims to the estates of Liancourt in my mother's
favour. I became, therefore, the presumptive heir; and your good
father entered into a contract with my uncle, the Count, by which, in
case of his death, you were to become the ward of Monsieur de
Liancourt, and to wed the nephew to whom his estates naturally
descended. Since then, I find, the Count has been persuaded by some
persons--my aunt Jacqueline de Chazeul, I believe, and I fear the
priest also--to favour a scheme for substituting Chazeul in place of
myself. The particulars of the contract have been kept secret from you
and me. I have been sent afar till the whole plot was mature; you have
been taught to consider yourself as the promised bride of another. My
renunciation, however, was necessary, in order that, by rendering
Chazeul the heir of the estates of Liancourt, it might give validity
to your marriage with him, in the face of which stands my uncle's
contract with your father so long as the estates are entailed upon me.
For this purpose was I sent for from Italy, still kept in ignorance.
But I had never forgotten Rose d'Albret. I shrunk from signing away my
birthright without inquiry. Forgive me, Rose, forgive me, if I say I
would have done anything to obstruct--ay, even to delay for a day or
hour your marriage with another. Then came the priest to talk with me;
and from him--by a slip of the tongue I believe--I learned my claim to
the estates. In a private interview with my uncle, the commander, I
learned my whole rights, and the contract signed by your father. The
whole villanous scheme was in short exposed; and from others rather
than my own presumption, I learned to hope--what shall I say?--that
Rose d'Albret might as willingly unite her fate with the companion of
her girlhood, as with a man whom she must, when his fraud is all
discovered, in some degree condemn. Yet still, Rose, still, if your
heart leads you towards him, speak but the word! De Montigni is yours:
without you I am nothing--fortune, rank, hope, life itself, is an
empty bubble. All shall be resigned at your first bidding; and to know
I have made you happy by my own wretchedness, shall be the consolation
of my remaining days, the one sole light of a dark existence, the
friendly hand that closes my willing eyes in death. But if not--if you
have been but constrained by a cold sense of duty--if you can find
happiness with one who has always loved you--if you can give your
heart in return for passion such as you deserve--oh Rose, oh, my
beloved!"

He held out his arms to her as he spoke; the wall shaded them from
observation: he drew nearer, more near; and Rose d'Albret with a cheek
of crimson, and overflowing eyes, bent forward her head and sobbed
upon his bosom.

"Thou art mine! thou art mine! Thou dearest and best beloved," cried
De Montigni, clasping her to his heart. "But hark!" he exclaimed,
"there is the clock striking ten. We have but half an hour, Rose, to
settle all our plans. Thou art mine, however; and it shall be a strong
hand that tears thee from me."

"But, oh, De Montigni," exclaimed Rose d'Albret, withdrawing herself
from his arms and looking up with apprehension in her face, "How will
all this end? There will be strife--there may be bloodshed!"

"Fear not, dear one," answered her lover. "It is that which I would
fain avoid; and if Rose d'Albret will deign for the sake of De
Montigni, to overstep some cold proprieties, to trust herself entirely
to one in whom she has acknowledged she can confide, to fly to the
court of the King with her promised, her contracted husband, all
difficulties, all dangers will be at an end; and in our sovereign's
presence, with all the nobility of France to witness, we will pledge
our vows at the altar, let who will gainsay it."

"To fly!--Oh, Louis," cried Rose d'Albret; but the next moment she
bent down her eyes, placed her hand in his, and added in a low tone,
"But I am yours. Do with me what you will. I know you would not wrong
me."

"Not for the joy of heaven," answered De Montigni. "But it is the only
way, dear Rose, to avoid evils innumerable, strife, contention, and a
thousand black and terrible things hidden from us by the dark curtain
of the future. You must fly with me, dear Rose. You must fly with me
this very night."

"To-night!" said the young lady; "to-night, Louis?" but after a
moment's thought, she continued, "Yet it must be so, I believe.
To-morrow might be too late; and perhaps, they may not let me speak
with you again, Louis."

"If they discover the nature of our conversation most certainly they
will not," replied De Montigni; "but that we must conceal from them. I
am not one to teach you deceit, dear Rose. God forbid that you should
lose that bright candour which, to the mind, is what the hue of warm
health is to the face. But these people have dealt wrongfully with you
and me; to deliver you from their hands without long contention, there
is but one way open; and we are not bound to reveal our plans and
purposes, our views and feelings, to those who would misuse their
knowledge."

"But if they ask me?" said Rose d'Albret; "what can I do?--what can I
say?"

"Say as little as possible, my beloved," answered De Montigni. "Enter
into no particulars; merely tell them that you found me very resolute;
but add, that my decision must rest with myself, after what you have
said, and that you believe, upon due consideration of all the
circumstances, I will do what is right. Be sure too, dear Rose, that
you may safely say so; for I will do what is right to the utmost. Then
if they try to investigate more closely, boldly refuse to answer. Say
that, to tell them all the words which passed between us would be to
betray my confidence, and you will not do it. Let them not lead you on
from one thing to another, but keep your reply to as simple a
statement as possible."

"I will! I will!" replied Rose d'Albret; "I know the danger of
suffering them to entangle me in explanations or discussion."

"And particularly beware of the priest," added her lover. "He is not
honest, Rose, and has made himself their tool."

"I fear it is so," answered the young lady. "Even now he tried to
deceive me, and partly succeeded."

"Let him not do so again, dear one," said De Montigni; "but there is
another person of whom you must likewise have a care. I mean Madame de
Chazeul. She will be here soon, and though, perhaps, I judged harshly
of her while I was a boy, I find my good uncle, the commander, her own
brother, is but little more merciful to her character."

"If she be coming, I will hide myself," answered Rose. "Oh, she is a
horrible woman! I always avoid her; I always abhor her company. I
remember well things she has said that froze my blood. She scoffs at
the very thought of goodness and honour; and with her serpent-tongue
would have one believe, that no one is virtuous but in appearance; and
yet I have heard her as bitter against others for light faults, as if
she had none herself."

"She is treacherous too, as well malevolent, I find," replied De
Montigni; "therefore avoid her to-day as much as possible, dearest."

"I have a bad head-ach, Louis, with all this agitation," said Rose;
"but I am glad of it; for it will give me a fair excuse for lying down
again. Burdened with the secret now in my bosom, I would not spend a
day with that woman for the world. She would try all means, to make me
tell her everything that has passed or force me to a lie to conceal
it."

"Perhaps your plan may be the best," rejoined De Montigni; "but
remember, dear Rose, you will have to wake and rise an hour after
midnight, to fly with him who loves you."

"But how, Louis? how?" asked Mademoiselle d'Albret. "Remember in these
times the gates are guarded."

"All that is settled and laid out," replied her lover. "Only be ready,
dear one, to come with me at the hour I name. Bring little with you;
leave jewels, and clothes, and all behind. All I seek, all I desire,
is Rose herself; and though, perhaps, amidst these contentions, your
guardian may keep us long from our rights in your inheritance, yet De
Montigni has enough for himself and her he loves; and I do not think
that Rose will murmur at the want of splendour and high estate, if her
heart be satisfied with its choice."

Rose d'Albret gazed at him with a bright smile, for she could not but
contrast with pleasure, his thoughts with those of Chazeul. "I will be
ready, Louis," she said, "and I will own, a crust of bread, with one
who feels as you do, will be better to me than splendour and feasting
with another. But there is one difficulty, Louis," she added,
suddenly, while the smile passed away, and a look of apprehension took
its place. "What can I do with my maid Blanchette? I thought the girl
was honest and true, but these people have corrupted her. Every one
who approaches me seems to have been gained by some means; and, with
those who have not been so gained, they have long suffered me to have
no private conversation. Even with the good old commander himself,
since he returned hither from Paris, about two months ago, they have
not allowed me to speak for a moment without some one being present.
But Blanchette, what is to be done about Blanchette? She owned this
morning that she had received bribes from Chazeul to a considerable
extent."

De Montigni mused. "We must find some remedy, dear Rose," he replied
at length: "a person who has received one bribe will generally not
refuse another, and I must try to outbid Chazeul. But why should she
have any part in the affair? Why should she know it at all?"

"She sleeps in my ante-room," answered Rose d'Albret. "I cannot pass
out without her hearing me."

"There is the window, dearest Rose," said her lover; "it is but a few
feet above the wall; and we must try that, if other resources fail. At
all events, be at the window at one. I will come to speak to you
there, and tell you what is arranged. You must be quite ready,
however, dearest Rose; for our safety may depend upon a moment."

"My heart sinks when I think of it," replied Rose d'Albret. "But yet,
Louis--but yet, Louis," she answered, "I will not hesitate; for it is
the only way to escape from a fate, of which I now feel, for the first
lime, all the wretchedness:--but how shall I know when you are beneath
the window?"

"I will reach up and knock with the point of my sword," answered
De Montigni, "and then we must speak low, lest any one should
hear.--Hark! there are voices; the time, I suppose, is at an end.
Adieu! dearest Rose, adieu! Be ready--pray be ready; for I feel sure
that happiness will attend us. Nevertheless, let us now have grave and
serious countenances; for we must not let them see, that there are any
warmer feelings in our hearts."

"I shall not find it difficult to look grave, Louis," replied the
lady; "for it is a hard necessity that drives me to do that which I
do.--But, hark! they are surely quarreling there!"

"'Tis Estoc will not suffer Chazeul to pass, I dare say, answered De
Montigni.

"Go, Louis, go," cried Mademoiselle d'Albret; "for heaven's sake, do
not let them dispute.--Adieu! adieu!"

They were at this moment on a part of the walls which, running round
from the drawbridge we have mentioned, passed under a defence which
was called _the cavalier_, and was concealed by it from the windows of
the building, as well as from the bridge and the rest of the rampart.
De Montigni felt strongly inclined to press his fair companion to his
heart before he left her; but he wisely refrained, and looking up to
the top of _the cavalier_, he had cause to be satisfied with his own
self-command; for just above the parapet, he caught sight of part of a
man's head, evidently watching them.

Taking Rose's hand, then, he bent his head over it, whispering, "We
are watched, Rose;" adding aloud, "Farewell, then, Mademoiselle
d'Albret, I will consider all you have said," he took a step back,
bowed low, and retired along the wall.

When he came within sight of the bridge, he found that, as he had
supposed, the good old soldier had thrust himself right in the way of
Chazeul, and holding his sheathed sword in his left hand, seemed ready
to draw it if the other attempted to pass him. Chazeul was in the act
of turning to speak to some person behind; and De Montigni heard him
exclaim aloud, "Call Monsieur de Liancourt!"

The moment, however, that Estoc caught sight of the young Baron
advancing rapidly along the wall, he dropped the sword back into its
place, and suffered Chazeul to come forward. The cheek and brow of the
latter were fiery red, and his eye flashing with anger, as he
exclaimed,

"This is very modest and proper indeed, Monsieur de Montigni! Do you
forget that you are in your uncle's château, that you thus set a guard
upon his walls to prevent his family from passing?"

"To ensure, Sir, that they keep their word with me," said De Montigni.
"I am quite well aware that I have but little more right than yourself
to command in this place; however, do not let us quarrel, Chazeul," he
added with a serious air; "we have things of more serious consequence
to think of--at least I have."

"I dare say you have," replied Chazeul with a triumphant smile,
judging from his cousin's countenance that all things had gone
according to his own wishes. "Well, what is the result of your
conference?"

"Of that hereafter," answered De Montigni, passing on. "Nay, no words
at present, good Estoc," he continued; seeing the old soldier eying
Chazeul with an angry glance, "let the past be forgotten, if you would
not grieve me."

"But one warning first to this young gentleman," said Estoc; "Do not
use such words again to a French gentleman, Monsieur de Chazeul; for I
give you fair notice, that, if I be the one on whom you spend them, I
will send my sword through your body, as I have done to many a better
man than yourself before now."

"You might not find me quite tranquil under such an honour, Master
Estoc," replied Chazeul; "but I will take care that you shall be
chastised for your insolence, by those whom it may better become to
meddle with you:" and thus saying, he followed De Montigni over the
bridge and through the passage into the hall.

To say the truth, the heart of Louis de Montigni was not quite at
ease: for, how long he had been watched from _the cavalier_, and how
much of what he had said had been overheard, he could not tell. The
small part of the man's head which he had observed, did not enable him
to judge who it was that had been playing the eaves-dropper; and he
more feared the priest than any one else. But when he entered the hall
he found father Walter there, and his uncle absent; and, the moment
after, Monsieur de Liancourt himself appeared with an air of so much
satisfaction, that De Montigni's apprehensions of discovery were at an
end.

"Well, Louis," said the Count, "I trust you are satisfied, and that
you have made up your mind to yield all this idle resistance, and sign
the papers at last with a good grace."

"I have promised my reply before noon to-morrow," replied De Montigni
with a frown upon his brow; for he was not well pleased with the
pitiful art which had been used towards him. "Before I sign anything,
however, I must read the papers, and consider them well; it is but
fair to know, what I am asked to do."

"You are mightily long and deliberate, Monsieur de Montigni," said
Chazeul; "I understood that you were to make up your mind by what
Mademoiselle d'Albret thought fit to say. Now I will take it upon
myself to affirm, that she did ask you to sign them."

"You are wrong, Monsieur de Chazeul," replied his cousin, turning upon
him sternly, "she did not."

"You are too frank and noble, my son, I am sure," observed father
Walter, "to have recourse to an evasion; and we have every reason to
suppose that, if the young lady did not actually ask you to put your
hand to these documents, she did what was tantamount, and expressed
some wish that it should be so."

"I have every reason to think so too," said Monsieur de Liancourt;
"nay, indeed, I am sure of it. Come, Louis, be frank, and tell us what
she did say upon the subject."

De Montigni mused for a moment, and then replied, "Our conversation
was long, Sir, and I have neither will nor power to repeat it all; but
the only words which she used, that could at all bear the
interpretation you would give to them, were, as far as I can remember
them, these; that she would give worlds, she would do anything to
restore peace to the family, but that she had no right to ask me to
make sacrifices, or to injure or to distress me."

"I think nothing could be more plain," said father Walter; "surely, my
son, you cannot pretend to misunderstand her meaning?"

"I do not pretend to misunderstand her at all, good father," answered
the young nobleman; "and I am in no degree disposed to cavil or to
evade. I will not be hurried, however, in any of my proceedings. By
what Mademoiselle d'Albret judges best for her own happiness, I will
be guided; and, as I said before, ere noon to-morrow I shall be
prepared to act decidedly. In the meantime I require to see these
papers; and as, perhaps, it may be needful that I should have some one
with me to explain to me, while reading them, anything I do not
understand, I should wish uncle Michael, or father Walter here, or
both, to be present with me while I look over them."

"Oh, father Walter by all means!" cried Monsieur de Liancourt; "you
know my brother Michael, though as good a soldier as ever lived, is
nothing but a soldier. He does not understand these things at all."

"And I but little," rejoined the priest. "However, if Monsieur de
Montigni is content that I should be his fellow-student, I am most
willing to give him any explanation in my power."

"Madame de Chazeul is just coming into the court-yard, my lord," said
a servant, hurrying up the hall and addressing Monsieur de Liancourt.

"I must go down to receive her," exclaimed the Count. "Then it is
understood, De Montigni, that you will read the papers with father
Walter? Fix the hour yourself, and you shall have them."

Thus saying he hastened away; and, after a few minutes' more
conversation with the priest, De Montigni went in search of his uncle,
the commander, whom he found walking up and down the corridor. Father
Walter remained for an instant talking to Chazeul, but the old
commander had scarcely time to say to his nephew, "Well, boy, well, is
all settled?" and De Montigni to answer, "To my heart's content, my
dear uncle," when the step of Chazeul was heard approaching.

"Devil fly away with the fellow," said the old soldier: "when I found
that you were with our dear little Rose, I got out of his way, for
fear I should betray myself; and now here he comes again. Keep it
close, Louis, keep it close! No stratagem ever succeeded but with a
shut mouth.--Ah, Chazeul! are not you going to see your mother? She is
in the court they tell me."

"She will be here directly, Sir," replied Chazeul, "then I shall see
her;" and, attaching himself to their party, he remained for the
evident purpose of preventing any private communication between them.



CHAPTER X.


Those who have visited France in the present day, who have travelled
over that rich and fertile land from end to end, who have journeyed
through its least frequented districts, and examined into the nooks
and corners which are but little exposed to the eye of the ordinary
traveller, have yet, in general, but a very faint idea of the scene it
presented at the period of which we write. Yet were they to bring
history to aid their researches, from time to time, they would
discover such fragments of a former day as might enable them to call
up before their eyes a true picture of France during the wars of the
League, as a Buckland or a Sedgwick, from the teeth and bones of long
extinct animals, and from the leaves of trees that have decayed for
thousands of years, are enabled to raise up from the waves of time an
image of a by-gone world, and people it with monstrous things, such as
the eye of man probably never beheld in actual existence.

The whole country towards the end of the sixteenth century, torn with
factions, desolated by rapine, stained with bloodshed, knew nought of
commerce, manufactures, or arts, and even agriculture itself, on which
the daily support of the people depended, was accompanied with terror
and danger. Thus hamlets and villages, through wide districts of the
most fertile parts of France, were swept away or left vacant; the
houses of the farmer and the labourer had grown few, and were
sometimes defended with trenches and palisades against any of the
smaller bands that roved the country; the greater part of the
population was gathered into fortified cities; and the rest of the
kingdom was dotted with châteaux and maisons fortes, generally at a
considerable distance from each other, often in the hands of opposite
factions, and always prepared for stern resistance against the attack
of an enemy.

In the part of the country of which we have been writing, these
castles of the old feudal nobility were somewhat numerous; and we must
now beg leave to remove the reader for a time from the Château de
Marzay to that of Chazeul, which lay, as he has been already informed,
at no great distance. We must also go back to an early hour in the
morning of that day of which we have just been speaking, in order that
those who peruse these pages may be made acquainted with some events
which weave themselves into the web of the history as we proceed with
our task.

It was at an early hour then--perhaps a little before six o'clock;
and, though there was a certain degree of grey mingling with the
blackness over head, yet the light of a wintry morning had not
sufficiently dawned to enable any one to see within the various rooms
of the château. It was at this period that, in a small chamber,
plainly furnished, and somewhat high up in one of the many towers of
which the building consisted, there sat a very lovely girl, reading by
the light of a small lamp a number of old letters which seemed to
cause deep and painful emotions in her heart; for the tears streamed
rapidly down her cheeks, and almost drowned her sight, as she
continued that which seemed a sad and sorrowful task.

The eyes from which those drops poured so rapidly, were large and
black as jet, but soft and yet lustrous, even when swimming in the dew
of grief. Her hair too, and her fine eyebrows, were of the same inky
hue, but her skin was beautifully fair and clear, with a faint tinge
of the rose in the soft cheek. In years she might be somewhere between
eighteen and twenty, delicate in form, yet with limbs so well
proportioned and lines so exquisitely drawn by the pencil of the Great
Artist, that every movement displayed some new grace, whether when
leaning her head on her hand, she bent down over the page, or raised
her look suddenly to heaven, as if appealing on high for comfort or
for justice.

Her back as she sat was turned towards the door; and her whole soul
was evidently busy with the task before her--too busy as it proved;
for she heard no step upon the stairs; she heard no hand upon the
lock; she heard no movement in the room. She fancied that all in the
house, but her own sad self, were sleeping quietly till the break of
day. But it was not so; for as she bent over the pages, the door
behind her opened quietly and an elderly woman, dressed in the extreme
fashion of the day, though in a travelling costume, looked in, and
then paused suddenly on seeing the light and the figure I have
described. Her features were aquiline and strongly marked, her eyes
keen and sunk, her figure tall and upright, but upon the faded cheek,
even at that early hour, might be seen aglow of red, which, it needed
no very practised eye to discover, was laid on by another hand than
that of nature; and her eyebrows also betrayed a debt to art.

She paused as I have said for a moment at the door, then advanced with
noiseless step, the perfect silence of which was produced by the
slippers of fur which she wore to defend her feet in travelling from
the cold; and approaching the fair reader from behind, she stretched
forth her long, and somewhat meagre neck, and peered over her shoulder
at the papers on the table.

The next instant, she laid her large thin hand upon them with a firm
and heavy pressure; and the poor girl, starting up with a short
scream, stood before her, with face and lips as white as those of
death, eyes gazing with astonishment and fear, and limbs as motionless
as if she had been turned into stone.

"What is this, Helen de la Tremblade?" said the Marchioness de
Chazeul, in a sharp and ringing tone; "What is this, girl? Answer me
this moment."

"Oh, Madam, pardon me! pardon me!" cried the poor girl, falling at her
feet.

"Pardon you?" said the lady, with a bitter look; "I will first see
what I have to pardon;" and she began to gather up the letters.

"Oh no! no! no!" exclaimed the other, starting on her feet again, and
endeavouring to snatch them away. "You must not--no you must not!
Do with me what you will; but do not read those. They are mine,
Madam,--they are mine alone!"

But the Marchioness thrust her rudely back, till she reeled to the
other side of the room, at the same time crying, "How now, jade!
Yours? I will read every word. Sit down upon that stool, and move a
step if you dare.--But I will secure you!" and, first gathering up the
letters, she turned to the door, locked it, and walking back to the
table laid the key upon it, while she drew a seat facing the poor
culprit, and repeated, "Sit down, this instant!"

The unhappy girl obeyed, and covered her face, now crimson, with her
trembling hands; and Madame de Chazeul drawing the lamp nearer to her,
began to read the letter which lay at the top, commenting, as she
proceeded, in a low hoarse voice, like the croak of a raven towards
the approach of day. "Ha!" she said, as she went on, "Chazeul's hand!
Good! I might have divined this. 'Eternal love and passion!'--Fool!
There's nothing eternal but folly."

Farther on, however, she seemed to find matter which occupied her more
deeply; for her muttered words ceased, her brow put on a still heavier
frown, and her small black eyes flashed with double fierceness. "How?
how?" she cried, after nearly finishing the letter; "and is it so?
What need I  more? This is enough in conscience--Oh, base girl! But I
will see more--I will see more!" and she turned to another page.

When she had read some way farther, she laid the letter down again
upon the table, and gazed at it sternly for several moments, with
thoughts evidently busy afar; and then turning to the poor girl, who
sat with her face still covered with her hands, she said, "Come
hither!"

The girl obeyed with slow, trembling, and uncertain steps, not daring
to raise her eyes. When she was near, however, she once more sank upon
her knees before the harsh and heartless woman in whose power she was,
and lifted her hands as if in the act of supplication; but for several
moments her lips refused their office, and no sound of voice was
heard. At length when she did speak it was only to say, "Forgive me,
oh forgive me!"

"Perhaps I will," replied the Marchioness, in a somewhat softer tone,
though at the same time there was a lurking sneer at the corner of her
mouth that showed no very merciful sensations, "perhaps I will, if you
instantly make a full confession. Tell me how all this happened,
without disguise; and perhaps your shame may be yet concealed. Speak,
girl, speak."

"Oh, what can I say?" cried the unhappy girl, "you know all now; you
see the words he used, the promises he made; you know that I was left
entirely to his guidance. Often when you were away, he has been here
for weeks together; when you were here, he was always suffered to be
with me. Long I resisted--for two years; ever since my uncle placed me
with you, has he tempted, and urged, and vowed, and I refused. But I
was like a besieged city without assistance or support, and was driven
to yield at length, when perhaps deliverance was at hand."

"Without assistance and support, base girl!" cried Madame de Chazeul,
"why did you not tell me? and you should have soon had aid."

"Oh, lady!" replied Helen de la Tremblade, "I did tell you at first,
when his words were not so clear; and you scoffed and jeered at me
till I dared not say more; and, after that, I learned to love him.
Then, for his sake, I dared not speak."

"So it was my fault, was it?" said the Marchioness with a look of
haughty contempt. "Thus is it ever; when a fool commits a folly, it is
ever because somebody else did not counsel or help him. Was I the
guardian of your virtue, girl?"

"You should have been," replied Helen de la Tremblade, a momentary
spark of indignation rising in her breast as the worm was trampled on,
"you should have been, against your own son."

"Ha!" cried the Marchioness with a flashing eye; but then, restraining
herself, she demanded, "Who brought these letters? Who was the pander
to your guilt?"

"Nay, do not ask me that," said her unhappy companion; "be angry with
me, if you will; ask what you please about myself; but do not, do not
vent your wrath on others."

"Will you say?" cried the Marchioness, in a furious tone. "This
moment, will you say?"

"No, no!" answered Helen in a deprecatory tone, "I cannot, I will not.
He knew not what he brought."

"You will not!" repeated the Marchioness sternly, "you will not! Girl,
you shall! Are you not in my power?"

"You have no power to make me injure another," replied Helen
mournfully; "I have injured myself enough; your son has corrupted,
destroyed, betrayed me. With all these vows and promises written with
his own hand, he is now about to wed another, whom he has no right to
wed. Surely this is enough of misery; and I will not make my heart so
sad as it would be, were I to add the ruin of another to my own."

"Vows! promises! no right to wed her, base girl! I will soon show you
what are such promises!" and, snatching up the whole packet of
letters, she held them open to the flame of the lamp.

Contrary, perhaps, to the expectation of Madame de Chazeul, Helen de
la Tremblade made not the slightest effort to stop her in the act.
Whether it was that she felt her strength was not equal to contend
with the tall and masculine woman, who was thus taking from her the
only proof of those promises by which she had been betrayed, or
whether it was the apathy of utter despair that restrained her, I
cannot tell; but there she stood, motionless though not unmoved, with
her eyes now tearless though full of sorrow, with her lip quivering
but without a sound. Oh, who can tell the dark and terrible feelings
of the poor girl's heart at that moment when, to all the bitterness of
sin, and shame, and sorrow, and betrayed love, and disappointed hope
and blighted affection, she saw destroyed before her face every
evidence of the arts that had been used to deceive her, all that could
palliate, if not justify, her conduct?

The flame caught the letters in an instant; and with a resolute hand
the Marchioness held the papers till the fire nearly scorched her,
then cast the fragments on the tiled floor, and, as they were
consumed, turned with a bitter and a mocking laugh to the poor
culprit, exclaiming, "Now talk of vows and promises!"

"They are written in heaven, if not on earth," replied Helen de la
Tremblade, gazing at her with a degree of firmness that but enraged
her the more.

"Heaven!" she exclaimed in a contemptuous tone, "heaven! do you dare
to talk of heaven? Fool, if that is your resource, I will make you rue
your conduct, at least on earth!" Then advancing to the door, she
unlocked it, returned, and, grasping the poor girl by the arm, dragged
her after her, down the stairs and through the long corridors of the
château, to the outer hall.

Now came the bitterest moment of the whole for the unhappy victim. The
hall was filled with attendants prepared for a journey. There were
servants and armed men, the two maids of Madame de Chazeul, and a gay
page jesting with one of them. All eyes were fixed upon her as,
dragged on by the Marchioness, she was brought into the midst of them;
and oh, how thankful she would have been if the earth would but have
opened and swallowed her alive!

"Undo the door!" cried Madame de Chazeul. "There, throw it wide! Now,
strumpet, get thee forth, and carry your shame to any place where it
may be marketable!"

"Oh God!" cried Helen de la Tremblade, clasping her hands in agony,
"can it be possible? Have you--have you no pity?--At least let me take
that which belongs to me."

"Forth, wretch, forth!" cried the Marchioness, stamping her foot.
"Drive her out, drive her out, I say!"

No one stirred to obey the cruel order; but Helen turned and waved her
hand, roused into some firmness by the cruel treatment she met with.
"That shall not be needed, Madam," she said. "I go; and when you stand
at the awful judgment-seat of God, with all your sins upon your head;
when all that you have done through life comes up before you as a
picture, may you find a more merciful judge than you have proved to
me."

"Away with you, away with you!" cried the Marchioness, adding the
coarsest term of reprobation that in the French language can be
applied to woman. "It is ever thus with such wretches as you: when
detected in sin, they begin to cant. Away with you, I say; let us hear
no more of it!"

Helen turned, and walked slowly towards the door; but the page ran
after her, exclaiming, "Here is your veil, Mademoiselle; you left it
below last night."

Helen took it; but before she could thank him, the Marchioness strode
forward, and dealt him a box on the ear that cast him upon the ground,
exclaiming "who taught thee to meddle malapert?"

"Ah, poor boy!" cried Helen; and with the tears in her eyes, she
quitted the inhospitable doors, within which virtue and happiness had
been sacrificed for ever.

For some way, she walked along utterly unconscious where she went. We
must not say, she thought either of her situation at the time, of the
past, or of the future; for there was nothing like thought in her
mind. It was all despair; she asked not herself where she should go,
what should be her conduct, what place of refuge she should find, how
she should obtain even necessary food. The predominant sensation, if
any were predominant, was a wish to die; and any road which led her
from that hateful mansion was to her the same.

This troubled state continued for some minutes, till a small wood
concealed her from the castle; but still she walked on, or rather ran;
for her steps, under the impetuous course of her own feelings, grew
quicker each moment as she went. At length she heard the sound of
horses' feet and the grating roll of carriage wheels, and a vague
remembrance of having seen the heavy coach of Madame de Chazeul
standing prepared before the gates, made her believe that she was
pursued by that terrible woman, and, a sudden feeling of terror taking
possession of her, she darted in amongst the trees, and crouched
behind some brushwood.

There she could hear the whole train pass by; and as they wound on
down the hill, she saw the well-known colours and figures sweep slowly
on till, as they were beginning to rise on the opposite slope, they
came to a sudden halt, and a consultation seemed to take place. In a
few minutes two horsemen detached themselves from the rest, and passed
the wood in a gallop towards the château; but poor Helen remained in
her place of concealment; and, as she did so, the tumultuous agitation
of her heart and brain grew somewhat calmer, and a long and bitter
flood of tears brought thought along with it. But, oh how terrible was
reflection! how did she bemoan her own fatal folly! how desolate
seemed her heart! how hopeless--how utterly hopeless--seemed her
situation!

Where could she hide her head? she asked herself--where cover her
shame?--where conceal herself from the eyes of all men?--who would
help?--who would assist her?--who would speak one word of comfort, of
consolation, of sympathy? None, none. From the sympathy of the
virtuous and the good she had cut herself off for ever! Was she to
associate with the abandoned and profligate?--was evil to become her
good?--was moral death to bring her mere mortal life? Ah, no! she
would sooner die, she thought, a thousand-fold sooner die; and she
abhorred herself for her weakness past, more than many who think
themselves virtuous, would abhor themselves for actual crime.

"Why should I stay here?" she asked herself at length. "I am an
outcast--a beggar; my father and mother in the grave; my uncle's
face I dare not see; I have no one to seek--I have no road to choose;
the wide world is before me; I must trust myself to fate;" and
rising up, with the feeling of desolate despair taking possession of
her once more, she followed the path before her, then turned into
another, then wandered along a third, and thus went on for nearly an
hour-and-a-half, with several of the country people who passed her,
turning round to gaze in surprise at so fair and delicate a creature
straying abroad, with a vacant air and tear-stained countenance, at so
early an hour of the morning.

At length she felt weary; and with listless indifference to all that
might befal her, she seated herself on a stone, at the foot of a
wooden cross, which had been erected by some pious hand beneath a high
tree-covered bank, down which the snow, now melting under the first
warmth of spring, was slipping from time to time in large masses, or
sending forth a thousand small streams, which rendered the road almost
like the bed of a river.

Poor Helen heeded it not, however; she took no notice of the cold and
the wet. The bodily discomforts that she suffered had but little
effect upon her; and, if she perceived them at all, they came but as
things which recalled to her mind more forcibly the hopeless
desolation of her situation. Thus, after a few minutes' rest and
thought, she once more bent down her beautiful head upon her two fair
hands, and wept long and bitterly.

While she was thus sadly occupied, the sound of a horse's feet
striking the plashy ground at a quick pace came down the lane. She
gave it no attention, and the horseman dashed passed her, apparently
without noticing her. It was not so, however; and about a hundred
yards farther on he pulled in his rein, and turned back again. In
another minute he was by her side; and she heard a kind and
good-humoured voice exclaim, "What is the matter, young lady, has any
one injured you?"

Helen de la Tremblade looked up, and beheld in the person who
addressed her a man of a frank and open countenance. He was dressed in
a brown suit of a plain rough cloth, and seemed to be a substantial
countryman of about forty years of age, though his beard and moustache
was somewhat grey. There was a look of pleasant and intelligent
interest on his face, which might have brought back some hope to her
cold heart, for it spoke of sympathy; but she replied in a sad and
bitter tone, "Alas, I have injured myself," bursting into a fresh gush
of tears as the words of self-reproach passed her lips.

The man gazed at her for a moment in silence, seemingly puzzled by the
contrast between her dress and her apparent situation. At length he
exclaimed, "Parbleu! you cannot stay here, my poor girl. You seem a
young thing, and well nurtured; what can have brought you into this
state?"

"My own fault, as well as the cruelty of others," answered Helen de la
Tremblade.

"Well, we all have faults," replied the man, "God forgive us for them!
and as for the cruelty of others, we are none of us good enough to
afford to be severe, especially when errors are freely acknowledged.
But tell me, can I do anything to help you? I have little time; but I
cannot find in my heart to see a fair young thing like you left to
perish by the road-side."

"Oh!" cried Helen starting up; "if you would but give me shelter for a
single night, till I can think, till I can give my mind some order,
you might save me from destruction. Doubtless," she added, seeing him
pause as if in hesitation, "doubtless you have a home not far off;
doubtless you have wife and children,---daughters perhaps; and should
you hear my prayer, be sure God will bless and protect them, if ever
they fall into misery like me. I am not intentionally wicked, indeed;
weak I may be: nay, weak I am, but not vicious; no, not vicious,
whatever you may think."

"Pardie few of the fine dames of France can say that!" exclaimed the
horseman. "But the truth is, my poor young lady, my home is not very
near. But I would fain help you if I could. Where are your father and
mother? Better go home to them, and if you have offended them, try to
soften them with tears. They must have hard hearts if they resist."

"They are in the grave," answered the unhappy girl.

"And what is your name, poor thing?" inquired her companion.

She paused and hesitated; but the next moment she said, "Why should I
conceal the truth? my name is Helen de la Tremblade."

"What!" exclaimed the farmer, "the niece of the good priest at the
Château de Marzay?"

"The same," answered Helen with a mournful shake of the head.

"Then you have been residing with the old Marchioness de Chazeul,"
rejoined the other, adding, "at least the servants told me so."

"Till this morning," replied Helen with a sigh; "but I am now a
houseless outcast."

The horseman dismounted from his beast, and took her kindly by the
hand; "Alas, poor child," he said, "you have been, I fear, under a
hard ruler. I know something of this woman; if not personally, at
least by hearsay; and I can easily believe that she has been harsh and
unkind."

"But I was first in fault," answered Helen, interrupting him frankly,
"I deserved reproach, perhaps punishment, but oh, not so terrible as
this."

"Why, what was the cause?" asked the farmer. "Nay, then," he
proceeded, "as your cheek glows, I will ask no further questions. I
seek not to distress you, young lady, but to serve you; and if I can,
I will place you in security. You cannot--you must not remain here.
Heaven only knows what might happen to you. But how I am to get you
hence I cannot tell. I have not time to go back with you to Marzay,
and--"

"Not for existence," cried Helen de la Tremblade, "no, not, for all
that earth can give, would I set my foot within those walls."

"Ay, I forgot," rejoined the farmer, "she must be there by this time."

"Oh not for that--not for that alone," exclaimed the poor girl with a
shudder, "you do not know--you cannot tell all."

"Well," replied her companion, "perhaps you may think differently by
and by. But in the mean time, how am I to get you hence? I am going to
the village of St. André, some eight leagues distance, and have no
conveyance but the horse I ride. Stay," he continued, "I will go on a
short way, and see if I can find a cottage or farm-house where we can
hire horse or cart."

"Oh do not leave me," cried Helen, "you are the first who has spoken
kindly to me; and perhaps--perhaps if you go you may not return."

"I will, upon my honour," replied the farmer; and setting spurs to his
horse, he was away over the opposite hill in a few moments.

The time went heavily by with Helen de la Tremblade. She asked
herself, "Will not he too deceive me?" and when nearly twenty minutes
passed without her companion's return, her heart sank, and her eyes
once more filled with tears. It had seemed, while he was near her,
that she was not totally abandoned, that she had still some human
being to hold communion with, that she was not, as she had at first
believed, shut out from all sympathies. She knew not who he was, it is
true; she had no information of his name, his station, or his
character; but he had spoken kindly to her, he had shown feeling,
humanity, compassion; and perhaps it was that which had made her fancy
she had seen in his countenance all the higher and nobler qualities of
the mind and the heart. She longed for his return then; and in
counting the weary minutes and listening for every sound, she in some
degree forgot the oppressive weight of the past and future. At length,
tired with expectation, she rose and walked along the road to see if
he were coming; and, as so often happens, no sooner had she given way
to her impatience, than she saw his figure rising over the hill.

"I have got a man and horse with a pillion," he said, riding up to
her, "I cannot promise you, Mademoiselle de la Tremblade, any long or
sure protection, but I will engage to put you in a place of safety for
a night or two. During that time you will have the opportunity of
thinking over your future conduct. I am not a rich man, but, on the
contrary, a very poor one; yet you shall share what little I have in
my purse, as I must leave you to your own guidance towards nightfall;
and if you like to confide in me fully, when we stop three hours
hence, you will find that you have not misplaced your trust. Think of
it as we go; for I cannot speak with you of such things, while your
good squire is with you. Mayhap you might find worse people in whom to
place your confidence than Michael Chasseron."

Helen did not reply; for while he was yet speaking, an old peasant
with the horse which had been promised came in sight; but she mounted
gladly, and rode on beside the companion, whom she had known barely an
hour, with a heart relieved, though not at rest. As they went, too, he
spoke to her of many things, in plain and homely terms, but with wide
and various information, and with a winning kindness and consideration
for her sorrows, which made her feel, that all the world were not
harsh and bitter as those she had just left. She herself said little,
but she found herself constrained in gratitude to answer such
questions as he thought fit to ask; and, although he inquired nothing
directly regarding her situation, and she believed she told him
nothing, yet in fact, long before they reached their halting place he
had learned nearly all that he desired to know, not by her words, but
by his own conclusions.



CHAPTER XI.


The moment Helen de la Tremblade had quitted the château, Madame de
Chazeul entered the carriage which stood prepared for her in the
court, and accompanied by what she considered a sufficient guard, set
out upon her way towards the dwelling of her brother. Her thoughts,
however, were not of the pleasantest kind. At first, they were all in
confusion; but, through the turbid mass of her angry sensations, there
came an impression, a consciousness, that she had too much given way
to the violence of a disposition, originally irritable and passionate,
which all her cunning and art had not been able to bring effectually
under control. This perception grew stronger and more distinct as she
became cooler; but, for a time, she attempted to justify to herself
what she had done, on the score of policy. "If Rose d'Albret were to
hear of this," she said, "we should have new difficulties, and all my
well-laid schemes would be frustrated; so that it was necessary to get
the girl out of the château as quickly as possible. She will never
venture to go to her uncle's, surely! Oh no, she was ever timid and
frightened; she will hide away in some corner till she finds a new
lover."

This reasoning did not satisfy her, however. She saw there was danger
in the course she had pursued. She asked herself, what was she to say
to Walter de la Tremblade when he inquired after his niece, whom she
had taken some two years before, as what was then called, Demoiselle
de compagnie? Was she to tell him what had occurred. Was she to relate
her own conduct? Was she even to acknowledge that her son had seduced
the unhappy girl under her own roof, with opportunities afforded by
her own negligence, and not the best example, by her own conduct? If
such things came to his ears, what course would he pursue? Might he
not blast all her projects; destroy, even by a word, all, the glorious
fabric which she had been building up for her son's ambition? He was
not one who could be cajoled and cheated; he was not one who could be
overruled or thwarted. Art to art, and cunning to cunning, he was her
match; and she felt it. No, the matter must be concealed from him
entirely, at least till her schemes were all successful, and Rose
d'Albret was the wife of Nicholas de Chazeul. Then, she thought, he
might do his worst; the prize would be gained, the struggle
accomplished, and his power at an end.

Next came the question how this concealment was to be secured. If
Helen did not go to him at once--which the Marchioness little believed
she would--might she not write the tale which she would be afraid to
speak. That was not at all improbable. Nay, destitute as she had been
driven forth, it seemed certain that want would compel her to do so
immediately; and then the whole must be discovered.

As these thoughts presented themselves to her mind, she formed her
plan with her usual decision; and, bidding one of her women order the
coachman to stop, she called to the door of the vehicle, two of the
mounted men, who accompanied the carriage, and in whom she thought she
could rely, and directed them to return immediately to the château.

"Seek for the girl, Helen," she said, "you will soon find her; 'tis
not a quarter of an hour since she went. You can take some people on
foot with you, to hunt about in the neighbourhood. Carry her back home
immediately; and tell Mathurine to lock her up in her own room and
keep her upon bread and water till I return. I have been somewhat too
severe with her, though she must undergo some punishment. Away, as
hard as you can gallop, and mind you find her, or you shall repent it.
Here, Theodore, speak with all the people, and tell them, on their
lives, not to utter one word at the Château de Marzay of what has
taken place this morning. I and Mademoiselle de la Tremblade will soon
make it up again."

The man to whom she last spoke promised to obey, though, understanding
his mistress well, he clearly saw that she had some other end in view
than merely reconciling herself to her own conscience for her over
severity, and the carriage rolled on once more upon its way.

About four hours after, it reached the Château de Marzay, having met
with no farther impediments by the way than such as were presented by
roads naturally rough and uneven, which had become one mass of mud and
dirt from the united effects of a sudden thaw and long neglect. In the
court-yard of the mansion she was received by her brother, the Count
de Liancourt, who informed her, according to his version, of all that
had taken place in the château since the arrival of De Montigni. He
told her the truth, in fact, as he believed it; but nevertheless, he
gave her a completely false view of the whole affair; for it is ever
to be remarked and remembered that, of all the treacherous liars
against whom we have to guard in our course through life, our own
heart, with its whole host of subtleties and fallacies, its
prejudices, its vanities, and its self-delusions, is the most
dangerous. Men would rarely, if ever, be deceived if they did not aid
most strenuously to deceive themselves, and what is more curious
still, it often happens that when we are most busy in attempting to
put a fraud upon others, we are most actively cheating ourselves.
There is always a traitor in the council whenever we quit the
straightforward course of truth and rectitude.

Monsieur de Liancourt assured his sister, as she alighted from her
carriage, and walked up the staircase to the hall above, that the only
difficulty was with De Montigni, and that Rose d'Albret had used her
influence upon him to induce him to consent.

"Has she?" said the Marchioness, thoughtfully; "not very vigorously, I
should fancy."

"Oh yes, indeed," replied Monsieur de Liancourt; "for I watched their
parting from the cavalier, which was built at the time of the siege,
where I could see them, but they could not see me. It was as formal as
a court ceremony. He kissed her hand, and made her a low bow, and said
something which I did not exactly hear, but the last words were, 'I
will consider all you have said.'"

"So, then," said Madame de Chazeul, "Mademoiselle Rose hears reason at
last! But what is it that has done this? she always seemed as cold as
ice before, and barely willing."

"Oh! the fact is," replied the Count, "Rose was never without
ambition. I do not pretend to say she is in love with Chazeul; but he
took care to inform her of the high and splendid fate that would be
hers as his wife, and that was quite enough."

"It may be so," answered the Marchioness; "ambition is at the bottom
of every woman's heart; but yet if De Montigni were as handsome as
when he went away, I should have fancied that love and folly might
have had a hard struggle against ambition and good sense. I would not
have suffered them to have any private conversation, if I had been
here."

"It was the only way to get De Montigni to consent," rejoined Monsieur
de Liancourt; "besides, Chazeul has no cause to fear the comparison.
He is a man with knowledge of the world and of courts. The other is
still a boy, with no knowledge of anything but books and philosophy."

"Not the man to win a woman, indeed;" said Madame de Chazeul, with a
curl of the lip; "but we shall see."

As the last words were on her tongue, they entered the corridor where
De Montigni and Chazeul were walking up and down with the old
commander; and an amusing scene took place between the Marchioness and
the rest of the party. She had made up her mind as to the part which
she was to act towards her nephew; and the moment she saw him, she
exclaimed, with a joyous air, and holding out her open arms towards
him, "Ah, my dear Louis, welcome back to your native land! What a
truant you have been! How like he is to poor Louise!" and she embraced
him, apparently with all the tenderness of a mother.

The old commander growled a savage oath or two, and, when she turned
to him, looked her full in the face, saying, "He is like Louise; and
that is why I love him."

"Ah, Michael," said the Marchioness, "you always were a bear, and
always will be one. It is lucky you do not bite as well as growl."

"I may bite some day, if I am provoked," answered the commander.

"Ha! ha! ha!" cried Madame de Chazeul, laughing as heartily as if her
mind were free from all the weight of cunning schemes and violent
passions. "You see, Louis, he is just the same as ever. We have not
been able to tame him since you were gone. It is a sad, ferocious
beast--a bear. And so you have come to grace the wedding?"

"I hope so, Madam," replied De Montigni, gravely; but his thoughts
were busy with the question, of what should be his demeanour towards
the artful woman who was now before him; and, while she said a few
words to Chazeul, expressive of no particular affection towards him,
the young Baron made up his mind, to seem won by her manner, and to
attach himself as much as possible to her during the day, in order to
keep her from attacking Rose d'Albret, who, he feared, might not be so
well able to play her part against the Marchioness as himself.

Madame de Chazeul, however, was pertinacious too, and one of her first
inquiries was for Mademoiselle d'Albret.

"I will send and call her," answered Monsieur de Liancourt; "let us go
into the hall; perhaps she may be there."

They did not find her, however; and the servant he sent to summon her,
soon returned with the tidings, that the young lady had gone to bed
again with a bad headache.

"I will go and see her," said Madame de Chazeul. "Poor dear Rose, all
the agitation of these preparations is too much for her;" and she
moved towards the door leading to Mademoiselle d'Albret's apartments,
though the old commander exclaimed, in a surly tone, "You had better
let her alone! Your tongue, Jacqueline, never cured a headache, I am
sure."

The Marchioness, however, was stopped by the entrance of another
person with whom she had also to play her part; for just as she was
quitting the hall father Walter appeared, and advanced towards her.
Her face immediately assumed an air of friendly regard, and giving him
her hand, she said, "Good morning, father, how fares it with you? Our
dear Helen would have come with me, but she was somewhat indisposed.
Nothing of consequence, however; and perhaps she will join us
to-morrow, or at all events, on the day of the marriage." Then
suddenly breaking off, in order to avoid any further inquiries, on
that subject, she lowered her voice, and inquired, "How go things
here, father? De Montigni is restive, I find. Are you sure of
Rose?--quite sure, father? My brother, Anthony, continually blinds his
own eyes; but you see more clearly."

"I think there can be no doubt," replied the priest, "not that I
pretend to say that the lady loves your son; she regards the alliance
but as a family arrangement conducive to her interests, and the only
means of giving peace and quietness to the house. For these reasons
she has urged De Montigni to sign the renunciation and the contract,
and I think he will do it--nay, I feel certain he will. They would
hurry on the affair before your arrival, though I thought it would
have been better to wait. But from the course things have taken, no
harm has been done; and, perhaps it may be as well now, when you see
the lady, not to derange the impression which has been produced."

The Marchioness mused. "How comes it, good father," she asked, "that
Chazeul has not made himself loved? I fear he has been playing the
fool with other women; for he is not reputed to want success upon a
lady's heart, when he is inclined to try. I must give him some
lessons; do you think that any of his love affairs have come to this
girl's ears? That should be prevented till the marriage takes place."

"By all means," said the priest, "but I know of none from which there
is any danger."

"And I of but one," rejoined the Marchioness, "but I will take care to
keep that from her. One may be justified in using a little violence
for such an object."

"Assuredly," answered father Walter, "anything in short, but the
spilling of blood."

"Oh, Heaven forbid!" cried the Marchioness, "I bear the woman no ill
will for loving Chazeul; but if I were to have her carried off and
shut closely up for a few days, there could be no harm in that."

"It were the best means," replied father Walter, "unless her family be
sufficiently powerful to make dangerous resistance."

"There is no fear of that," answered Madame de Chazeul, with a quiet
smile; "but I will go and see Mademoiselle d'Albret."

Thus saying she quitted the hall, while father Walter advanced towards
the group of gentlemen at the other end, who had been conversing
together calmly enough during his interview with the Marchioness. That
lady, however, returned after a very brief absence, saying that Rose
d'Albret was trying to sleep; and, put upon a wrong track as she was,
both by her brother and the priest, she attached herself during the
rest of the morning to De Montigni, endeavouring by every artful
means, to possess herself of his whole views and intentions, and at
the same time to convince him, that he was giving pain to Rose
d'Albret by his hesitation in regard to the signature of the papers.

One of the reasons why the game of life is not unfrequently won by the
simple and the honest against all the arts of the politic and the
wily, is perhaps that, in this game, as in no other, the most skilful
and calculating can never tell what cards may be in the hands of the
adverse party. I say one of the reasons; for there are many, and
amongst them is the belief, from which cunning people can never free
themselves, that others are dealing with them in the same way that
they would deal, if their relative situations were reversed.

Madame de Chazeul, however, had studied De Montigni's character from
youth, and knew that he was generous and kindhearted. She, therefore,
like father Walter, endeavoured to work upon him, in the first
instance, through his affection for Rose d'Albret. She spoke of her
gently and tenderly, called her "poor Rose," and represented the
slight indisposition under which she was suffering, as entirely
proceeding from some agitation and vexation she had undergone in the
morning, affecting at the same time to be ignorant of the nature of
that agitation, but leaving him to draw his own conclusions.

De Montigni, as the reader knows, had the secret in his own keeping,
and internally mocked at all the policy which the Marchioness
displayed; for there is nothing so contemptible as discovered cunning.
He resolved, however, to turn back Madame de Chazeul's art upon
herself, and found even a pleasure in foiling her with her own
weapons.

"Well, my dear Madam," he answered, "I trust that, by this time
to-morrow, Rose will have no farther cause for anxiety on my account."

"Indeed, how so?" asked the Marchioness.

"Because by that time," replied De Montigni, "all will be positively
settled."

"And of course as Rose would wish," added the Marchioness,

"As far as I understand her wishes, it shall be so," said De Montigni;
"but I do not desire, Madam, what I say to you to be repeated; and now
will you tell me frankly, for I know you are well aware, what is the
value of these benefices which my uncle offers me?"

"At least equal to the value of the estates," replied Madame de
Chazeul: "more, indeed, if you take in the Abbey of Chizay in Poitou;
but that I believe was promised to good Monsieur de la Tremblade--not
exactly promised, perhaps; but I know he was led to expect it."

"No one shall break a promise for me," replied De Montigni with some
emphasis on the words. "They can be all held, I believe, without
taking the vows."

"Your uncle holds them," answered Madame de Chazeul, "and he has taken
no vows that I know of--unless it be, never to drink thin piquette
when he can get strong Burgundy, or to eat pork when he can find
venison."

De Montigni smiled, and was going on to stop the questions of the
Marchioness by inquiries of his own, when the summons to dinner was
heard, and the whole party descended to the hall below.

When the meal was over, father Walter put the young Baron in mind,
that they had to read over together the papers, in regard to which
there had been so much discussion. Although De Montigni much wished to
occupy Madame de Chazeul as far as possible during the day, he could
not well put off the engagement; and whispering to the old commander,
to watch her closely, he retired with the priest to his own chamber.
There, several long documents were spread out before him; and he
proceeded, with pen and ink at hand, to peruse the whole, clause by
clause, demanding minute and lengthened explanations as he went on,
and taking notes of every point of importance. Father Walter was
somewhat surprised at the calm and steady good sense he displayed;
and, though De Montigni expressed neither consent to nor dissent from
any of the items, was more and more convinced every moment, that the
young Baron had made up his mind, to accept the benefices and renounce
the estates.

In the meanwhile the Marchioness de Chazeul had drawn her son away
from the rest of the party below, and walking with him on the rampart,
was giving him those lessons of which she had spoken to the priest.
Not a word did she say of Helen de la Tremblade; nor a word of
reproach or reproof did she utter; but her conversation turned
entirely upon his demeanour towards Rose d'Albret.

"Ah Chazeul!" she said, after taking a turn backward and forward, in
the tone of one jesting with a friend, "thou art a silly lad, I fear,
and little knowest how to push thy fortune with womankind."

"Nay, my good mother, it is not thought so," replied Chazeul, drawing
up his head and smoothing his ruff; "I am no seeker after the fame of
such conquests, but I have some reason to believe they are not so
difficult as they are supposed to be."

"True," answered his mother, "doubtless with the light Parisian dame,
the gay lady who has known a thousand lovers, thou art a potent
assailant; but she is like a city which has been besieged and taken a
thousand times, till all the outworks and ramparts have been battered
down, and the place is right willing to surrender at the first sight
of artillery. With a maiden fortress, however, such as this fair Rose
d'Albret, thou art but a poor general, otherwise you would have gained
the citadel long ago."

"Meaning her heart; but how would you have had me conduct the siege,
dear mother?" asked her son, pursuing the simile she had used.

"By assault, Nicholas!" replied the Marchioness; "prayers, tears,
vows, daring, anything. Here neither wall, nor bastion, nor redoubt,
is to be gained but by vigorous attack. Women, who by experience have
not gained a knowledge of their own weakness, are always more resolute
in resistance than those who have learned that they cannot long hold
out when closely pressed. Storm and escalade are the only ways with
such castles, Chazeul; and if you were to pursue till doomsday your
cold and formal rules of siege, you would make no way, but find
defences grow up in proportion to the feebleness of the attack."

"Why, you would not surely have me treat Rose d'Albret as any common
woman of but light fame?" said Chazeul. "You are much mistaken,
mother, if you think that is the way to win her."

"Nay, I would have you treat her very differently, foolish boy,"
replied the Marchioness. "With a woman of light fame, as you call her
you may well trust to her to make at least half the advances. With a
young ignorant girl you must make them all yourself; for, be sure, she
will not. One or the other must be bold and daring; and the only
question is, on whose part it shall be. The practised dame will take
her share on herself, the inexperienced girl expects it all from you.
We all know in our hearts, Chazeul, that we do not dislike an
impetuous lover. Though we may chide, we easily forgive even very
grave offences, so that love be the excuse. The story of the Romans
and the Sabines was a good allegory of women's hearts; men must take
them by force if they would have them."

"Oh, her heart is mine sufficiently for all the purposes of wedded
life," replied her son. "I know her better than you, my good mother,
and am well aware that more things enter into the calculations of that
little brain than you imagine.--I would not spoil her," he continued,
"with too much devotion. You women grow exacting as you imagine you
have power; and I would have her think the tie she has upon me is not
too strong, lest she should one day think fit to use it strongly. It
is enough for me to know, that she sees clearly her own interest in a
marriage with myself. She will not expect, in a wedding of
convenience, all that court and exclusive attention which some brides
demand; and every little loverlike act will come with tenfold force."

"All very wise and very prudent, good youth," replied his mother, "if
you had no rival, no competitor in the game that you are playing; if
there were no obstacles, no difficulties in the way. But here our
great object is time and secure possession; and had you, by bold and
ardent eagerness, advanced your suit so that she had no escape from
marriage with you, we should have found both herself and De Montigni
more tractable, depend upon it."

"She is tractable enough," replied Chazeul, "it is De Montigni alone
that holds out; and she has done her best to persuade him, I am sure.
A rival, do you call him? but a pitiful rival to me! and as to
obstacles and difficulties, whatever have existed are swept away
already. She has done her best to persuade De Montigni to sign; and I
am sure he will do so."

"Well," said the Marchioness, "we shall see. I think he will, but do
not feel so sure. He was somewhat too smooth and courteous just now;
and I thought I saw a somewhat double meaning in his words, as if he
hoped still that Rose might raise up some impediment.--We must suffer
him to have no farther speech with her alone. It is a dangerous plan."

"There is no fear of Rose," replied Nicholas de Chazeul, peevishly.
"If it be anything like love on his part for her that you dread, it is
a vain fancy. Had you seen him meet her last night, you would have
been cured of such dreams. He was as cold as if we had imported a
statue from Italy, fresh cut in the stone; and not all Rose could do
would warm him."

"Ay, before others," rejoined the Marchioness, "but perhaps when alone
it might be different."

"No, no," said Chazeul, "my uncle watched them; and it was just the
same: all formal bows and stiff courtesies.--But who is this, comes
riding here?" he continued, gazing from the battlements. "A trumpet at
full speed, with a green scarf! News from Mayenne, upon my life! I
must go down and see."

Thus ended a conversation which has been repeated here with
reluctance; but it is as needful, in painting nature, to show the mind
and character of the bad as of the good, to display the thoughts and
reasonings of the wicked as of the virtuous. Neither does the portrait
of Madame de Chazeul serve little to exemplify the times in which she
lived. France was then full of such. Intrigue of every kind, amorous
and political, was then at its height, and most of the infamous and
daring deeds that were done, either for the gratification of private
passions, or for the attainment of great public objects, were
suggested by women.

The man who had been seen riding so sharply towards the château,
proved to be a trumpeter sent by the Duke of Nemours with letters to
Chazeul, notifying the march of the army of the League to relieve the
town of Dreux, closely besieged by the King, and calling upon him to
join it, with all his retainers, as a battle seemed inevitable. The
despatches spoke in glowing terms of the force under Mayenne. It was
nearly double in number, they said, to that which Henry of Bourbon
could bring to oppose it, and a glorious victory would soon be
achieved, in which all honourable men would long to take part.
Chazeul, however, sent an ambiguous answer; for he was not one to
sacrifice his private interests even to the triumph of his faction,
and he was resolved to possess the hand of Rose d'Albret, and to see
the estates of Liancourt and Marennes secured to himself, before he
quitted the Château of Marzay.

More than one hour elapsed before Louis de Montigni had terminated his
examination of the papers with the priest; and even then, with all
father Walter's skill, he could not extract from him any promise,
either direct or indirect, to sign them. To the eager questions of
Madame de Chazeul the priest could but reply, "I cannot tell what he
will do. I believe his mind is made up, to act as we could wish; but
his demeanour is certainly somewhat strange. He has taken notes of
everything, and remains pondering over them. Our only plan is to watch
the commander, and to cut them off from any private communication with
each other. Noon to-morrow will show us what we are to expect; and in
the mean time we must guide things as we can. Have you seen
Mademoiselle d'Albret?"

The Marchioness replied in the negative, and it was not till one hour
before sunset that Rose came forth from her chamber to breathe, for a
few minutes, the fresh air. She was pale, and evidently suffering; and
whenever Madame de Chazeul attempted to question her, she pleaded
indisposition as an excuse for talking little. She gazed forth from
the ramparts over the wide country which the château commanded, with a
feeling of dread, mingling strangely with hope and joy. The bright
sunshine of the first day of spring was glittering over the whole; but
on the verge of the southern sky was hanging a dark and heavy mass of
clouds, rising up in all sorts of fantastic forms; and Rose could not
help associating her own fate with the aspect of the day, and thinking
that the bright gleam of summer, which had come to her heart after a
long and chilling winter, might, perhaps, be soon blackened by storms,
the clouds of which were already within sight.

Soon after the party was joined by De Montigni; and the two lovers
strove hard to conceal their feelings under the appearance of cold
indifference; but Rose found the task so difficult that she remained
only a few moments after the young Baron's appearance, and then once
more retired to bed.

Madame de Chazeul remarked the whole; and suspicion rose up in her
mind. But the field of probability is wide and dim, so that her doubts
found no fixed point to rest upon; and she contented herself with
whispering to De Montigni, "Were I a man, I would not long give a lady
cause to fly me thus."

The young nobleman made no answer, but turned away, as if somewhat
offended; and this slight indication of temper was used by Madame de
Chazeul to deceive herself. "Were he not acting contrary to the girl's
wishes," she said to herself, "he would not take offence at my
supposing it."

The rest of the day passed without any occurrence of importance; and
the only points which Madame de Chazeul thought worthy of notice at
supper, were the absence of Estoc from the table, and that Louis de
Montigni confined his conversation almost altogether to father Walter,
with whom he talked a good deal in a low tone. She herself was tired
with early rising and a journey. The commander soon retired to rest;
and she followed without delay, as soon as she was certified by
private information, from one whom she had set to watch, that the good
old soldier was actually in his bed. Satisfied that all communication
between De Montigni and himself was at an end for the night, she laid
herself down to seek that repose which is unfortunately, but not
unnaturally, as often the portion of the hardened in vice, as of the
virtuous and the good.



CHAPTER XII.


I have said something of the same kind before; but I must repeat that,
unless it be in a mud cottage containing one room, and at the most two
individuals, it scarcely ever happens that there are not several, very
various scenes proceeding in the same house, at the same time; and
when the house is large, and the inhabitants many, these scenes are
multiplied and diversified even to infinity. Tragedy and comedy, broad
farce and startling romance, have each their separate chambers, and
their several actors; and while, in the halls of the Château of
Marzay, all the cunning drama of intrigue which we have described,
found a stage, the acts of many another play were being performed in
the chambers allotted to the servants.

Loud and uproarious merriment had its part; and, as is too frequently
the case, the vices and follies of their superiors were imitated by
the inferiors, presenting pictures too gross and unpleasant to be
given in this place. We must, however, turn away from the principal
personages of our tale, to notice some events which took place, during
the hour of supper, in a part of the château somewhat distant from
that in which Monsieur de Liancourt's family was assembled.

In a room not far from that of Mademoiselle d'Albret, with the door
ajar, a lamp upon the table, and a piece of embroidery in her hands,
sat Blanchette, the maid of our fair friend Rose. She paid but little
attention to her work indeed, though she affected to be very busily
employed, but her ear was turned frequently towards the passage,
apparently listening for every sound. At length it was gratified by
hearing a step; and the moment after, the valet of Monsieur de Chazeul
pushed open the door, and entering the room, closed it behind him. He
was a tall swaggering, debauched-looking personage, and into the
particulars of the first greetings between himself and Blanchette, I
shall beg leave not to enter. Suffice it to say, that they betokened a
degree of intimacy which Rose d'Albret had certainly not the slightest
idea existed between her maid and any other person.

After a while, however, the valet inquired, "Well now, tell me, my
pretty Blanchette, all that your mistress has been saying to you
to-day."

"Indeed, I shall not," replied the maid, with a shrug of the
shoulders. "I don't intend to tell you, or Monsieur de Chazeul,
anything more."

"Come, come, don't be silly," cried the man, "for I must soon get
back; now the caprices of you ladies," he continued, with an affected
air, "are very pretty and interesting in affairs of love, but very
troublesome in matters of business."

"Well, I shan't say anything more," said Blanchette, with a determined
air, "so there is no use of talking about it."

"Ah, ha, then," rejoined the valet, "I see how it is; your mistress
has told you not to tell."

"Indeed, she has not," answered Blanchette; "but she has taught me to
value myself more highly than your master does."

"How so?" demanded her companion; "I am sure my master values you as
highly as I should like to see him. What did she say to you about it?"

"Ah, I don't mind telling you that," said the maid. "She asked me last
night, when I was saying something in favour of Monsieur de Chazeul,
what he had given me; and, when I told her, she said she was worth
more than that, and that I was a great fool if ever I opened my mouth
about him again, unless I got three times as much."

"Upon my word the lady has some notion of life," cried the valet; "one
would think she had spent her whole days in Paris; and she is right
too, Blanchette, we servants should never put too low a value on
ourselves, for we have more in our power than people imagine. However,
I can promise you that when Monsieur de Chazeul is married to your
lady, you shall have three times as much; and in the meantime--"

"Ay, ay," replied Blanchette; "a fish in the plate is worth three in
the stream, Alphonso. Promises are made of wind, and it is very
difficult to convert them into anything else."

"Well, but listen to me," said the man. "I was just going to say, in
the meantime Monsieur le Marquis has sent you five and-twenty crowns.
Here they are," and he placed a little leathern bag in her hand; "now,
there's a dear, beautiful girl, tell me all your mistress has said to
you to-day, especially after her long talk with Monsieur de Montigni,
this morning."

"That is soon told," answered Blanchette, putting the money in one of
the pockets of her apron; "she said nothing at all, except that she
had got a headache, and would go to bed again."

"_Peste!_" cried the valet; "is that all the news that you can give?
Surely you have made out something more. What humour did she seem in?"

"Bad enough," replied Blanchette; "I think Monsieur de Montigni must
have done or said something to offend her, for I could see she had
been crying, and she was silent and dull, just as she is when she is
angry with me."

"I dare say he did," rejoined the valet; "for he is an obstinate colt,
and takes as long to drive where people want him, as an ass loaded
with sand--But hark, there is some one walking in the passage."

They listened, and a heavy step sounded along the corridor, advancing
in measured time from one end to the other, and then back again, like
that of a sentry keeping guard. It passed and repassed twice, not a
little to the annoyance of the two worthies shut up in the room
together. But at length the valet, who did not wish his absence to be
remarked and commented upon amongst the servants, declared, "Whoever
it is, I must go; but do you shut the door after me quickly,
Blanchette, then no one need know that you are here."

"I am afraid Mademoiselle will call every moment," answered the girl;
"but people must have time to take their supper, you know."

"I must go, upon my life," said the man, who took a great deal more
interest in his own position than in hers. "Now, Blanchette, I will
pop out as soon as he is passed; you close the door quick behind me,
and he will not see whence I come."

He accordingly waited till the steps sounded close to the door, and
then as soon as they had gone by, opened it, and went out as
noiselessly as possible. But his footfall did not escape the quick
ears of the old soldier, Estoc, who turning instantly, not only
perceived who it was, but also marked the room from which he came. He
said nothing, however; but, as soon as the valet had left the passage,
advanced at once to the door which had just been closed, and, opening
it without ceremony, went in. As may be supposed, this sudden
apparition troubled the maid a good deal; and, though an impudent and
unprincipled girl, she was not yet sufficiently veteran in vice to
keep her cheek from growing red, or her hands from shaking.

"Well, Mademoiselle Blanchette," said Estoc, "I thought I should find
you here."

"Indeed, Sir!" said Blanchette. "I generally sit here."

"Not always, Blanchette," replied Estoc; "but I saw your lover leave
you, and so I came in, just to give you a word of advice." Blanchette
coloured and bit her lip, but made no reply; and Estoc went on, "you
are in the wrong line, if you wish to make your fortune, Mademoiselle.
Now, if you will follow my counsel, you may do something for yourself.
Go up to Monsieur de Montigni's apartments about eleven o'clock
to-night, for he wants to speak with you."

"Lord! Monsieur Estoc," cried the girl; "I would not go up to any
gentleman's room at night for the world. I wonder how you could
propose such a thing!"

"Oh! I make no difficulty in proposing it," answered Estoc, "when you
make none in receiving a gentleman's valet at night.--But Monsieur de
Montigni only wants to speak with you on business, to ask you one or
two questions, and, perhaps, to make you a present of a couple of
hundred crowns."

"I am very much obliged to him, Sir," replied the girl, affecting a
cold and modest air; "but I would rather speak to him in the day, if
he has no objection."

"That can't well be, Blanchette," answered Estoc; "for Monsieur de
Montigni intends to go away to-morrow; and he will not have time
previous to his departure. Now, my good girl, remember you are in my
power, for don't you suppose that, if this business comes to the ears
of Mademoiselle d'Albret, you will stay in her service a minute
after."

"Well, I have done nothing that's wrong," replied the girl, boldly;
"and I don't care what any spy says of me, not I."

"Well, we understand each other," rejoined Estoc. "Give me an answer
in one word, will you come, or will you not? Your reply will decide
your own fate."

"Well, Sir, well," said Blanchette, who saw that the plan of outfacing
the old soldier would not succeed; "I will come if you will be there
too."

"Oh, that I certainly shall," replied Estoc; "for I have got some
papers to look over with Monsieur de Montigni--so I may tell him you
will come?"

"Yes, Sir," replied Blanchette, "I will;" and, with a significant nod
of the head, Estoc left the room.

Without going near the supper hall, he retired at once to the
apartments of De Montigni, where he waited for about half an hour,
till he was joined by the young nobleman, to whom he related all that
had taken place. "The girl is not to be depended upon," he added in
the end, "and I think it would be better when we have got her, to lock
her up here for the night."

"Nay," answered De Montigni, "that were a violent proceeding. I have
told my servant Joseph to watch her well, and we shall hear his
report. If I find that she has been holding any communication with
these people, since you saw her, we must devise some means to blind
her eyes. But, now Estoc, is all the rest prepared?"

"Everything," replied the old soldier. "I have the guard tonight; and
I have picked my men from those who will not fail us. Your servants
have their orders; and, were it needful, we could make all the rest
prisoners in the castle here; but that you would not like to do."

"Certainly not," replied De Montigni. "I think at present they have no
suspicion and I trust that we shall be able to execute our scheme
without either difficulty or strife. Be with me when this girl comes,
Estoc, and now go and take some refreshment; but above all things
caution my good uncle Michael to make no effort to see me to-night,
and to seek repose at his usual hour. Depend upon it there are
watchful eyes upon us; and, of all things, we most avoid suspicion."

While he was speaking, a sunburnt man who had accompanied him from
Italy, made his appearance, and bowing low with a smile, he said, "I
have watched and listened to some purpose, Monsieur le Baron. As soon
as supper was over, Mademoiselle Blanchette drew aside Alphonso, the
Marquis's valet, and whispered with him long in the corner of the
hall; I saw they were very eager, but could hear nothing; and as I was
resolved to know more, I crossed suddenly behind her back, just as the
man was saying 'I will wait for you at the bottom of the stairs.' I
could hear no more, for they both stopped."

"That is enough, that is enough," replied De Montigni, "we must remedy
this, Estoc; but I will have the whole plan ready, when you come
again."

At half past ten, Estoc was in the young nobleman's room; and at
eleven, Blanchette might be seen creeping stealthily up the stairs
with a lamp in her hand, while in the dark corridor below, concealed
in one of the recesses of the windows, stood Chazeul's valet, waiting
for her return. Almost all the rest of the household had retired to
bed; and the château remained perfectly silent for a quarter of an
hour, while the man continued his watch in darkness. At the end of
that time, however, Blanchette and her lamp were once more seen upon
the stairs; and, whispering to him as she passed, "Quick, quick, old
Estoc is coming down directly, he is now speaking to the Baron at the
door," she hastened on, through that passage, across the lower hall,
and up a short flight of steps towards the apartments of Chazeul. The
valet followed quickly, and introduced her into the dressing room of
his lord, who was waiting with some impatience for the intelligence
she was to bring.

"Well, well," he cried, as soon as she appeared, "what is it he
wishes, Blanchette? Let us hear all that took place."

"When first I came in," said Blanchette after a pause to take breath,
and a little coquettish panting and holding her hand upon her heart,
"Monsieur de Montigni spoke me very fair, and promised a great deal.
He said he knew that I was in your interest, Sir, and he did not wish
me to betray my trust, but that he was very anxious indeed to have an
hour's private conversation with Mademoiselle before noon to-morrow.
He asked me if she was yet asleep; and when I told him she was, and
had been so for these two hours, he turned to Estoc and said, 'that is
infortunate;' he then looked again to me, and calling me close to him,
he spoke almost in a whisper, saying, that if I would engage to get
him the interview early to-morrow, before the rest of the people are
stirring, he would give me two hundred crowns, and, as an earnest, put
these into my hand. He told me particularly to be very secret, and not
to say a word to any one, which of course I promised as much as he
could wish."

"You did quite right, you did quite right," replied Chazeul; "but did
he let you know what was his object in seeking this interview? He must
have said something more, for you were long with him."

"Oh, I asked him, noble Sir," replied the girl, "what I was to tell my
mistress, he wished to see her for; but he replied somewhat sharply,
that it was no business of mine; and then I said I was sure
Mademoiselle d'Albret would ask; but that if he did not like to say,
it was not my fault if he did not get the meeting he wanted; and then
he replied that if my mistress did inquire, I was to tell her he
wanted to hear more explicitly from her own lips what he had not time
fully to understand in the morning."

Chazeul laughed; "The poor youth writhes like an eel upon a spear," he
said; "he would fain make one more effort; but we will not let him.
Now mark me, Blanchette, not one word of this to your mistress. She
has been too much agitated to-day; and we must not have the same
scenes every morning. She made herself clearly enough understood for
any man of common sense; and by that Monsieur de Montigni must abide.
I will not forget you, Blanchette if you are faithful and discreet;
and it is no bad post, premiere demoiselle to the Marchioness of
Chazeul. So now, go to bed and sleep, and contrive to forget Monsieur
de Montigni's commission before to-morrow morning."

"That I will, Monsieur," replied Blanchette; and with a courtesy she
quitted the room.



CHAPTER XIII.


The moments which the maid Blanchette passed with De Montigni, and
afterwards with Chazeul, were full of anxiety to Rose d'Albret. She
lay in darkness, wakeful and expectant, listening for every sound to
give her some indication of the girl's return to the ante-chamber,
from which she had heard her distinctly go forth, without knowing the
cause. Imagination was busy with every painful possibility. She feared
that their whole scheme of flight might be discovered; she thought
that the maid might have conceived a suspicion from some little
preparations which she had made during the evening; she asked herself
what would be her fate if the execution of their design were
prevented. Would they, could they, compel her to unite herself to
Chazeul? and she now shrunk from the very idea with tenfold horror.
She would not do it, she thought; she would sooner die. She would seek
the protection of the cloister--anything, she would do anything,
rather than give her hand to one whom she equally disliked and
despised. Suddenly, in the midst of these feelings, a sensation of
wonder at their vehemence came over her; and she asked herself how it
was that her ideas upon the subject had been so suddenly and
completely changed.

She had till lately looked upon her marriage with Chazeul as a thing
arranged, and to which she would submit, not without some repugnance,
perhaps, but without that degree of horror and dislike which she now
experienced. At first she had been coldly indifferent; and afterwards
she had wished to put off the day of the sacrifice as long as
possible; but she now felt that a life of penury and daily labour,
would be comparative happiness to wedding Nicholas de Chazeul.

How had a single day made this strange difference? she inquired, and
then she thought of De Montigni; and, though no eye could see her, the
colour rose in her cheek, to feel how different were all her
sensations towards him, how willingly to him she would yield heart and
hand! But the secret of the change was discovered,--she loved, and
loved truly, and a new light had shone into her heart.

Quickly, however, her thoughts wandered back again to the present; and
once more she listened for Blanchette's return. Where could she have
gone? she asked herself; what could be her motive, if something were
not discovered? Her own heart was too pure to attribute to the girl
that conduct which, perhaps, if she had known all, would have been
first suspected; but as she raised herself on her arm, to give ear to
some distant noise, she heard the outer door of the ante-room open
again, and the step of the maid moving about in the neighbouring
chamber. With a beating heart, and in breathless silence, Rose marked
every sound, till at length a thin line of light, which crossed the
floor from the key-hole, was suddenly extinguished; and she heard the
girl take her place in bed. A few minutes after, the clock of the
château struck twelve, but Rose still lay quiet for some minutes in
order that the spy upon her actions might be asleep before she moved.

Blanchette, however, was one of the "dull weeds" that easily fasten
themselves on "Lethe's shore." Herself was all she thought of, all she
cared for; and, having provided to the best of her ability for the
success and prosperity of that well-loved person, she was soon in the
arms of slumber, undisturbed by any of the reproaches of conscience,
or the lighter tones of imagination. The heavy breathing of profound
and dreamless sleep was heard erelong; and, rising from her bed, Rose
d'Albret dressed herself as well as she could in the darkness, and
drew down the tapestry over the door between her room and that of the
maid, to prevent Blanchette from hearing any sound within.

She feared that she should not be ready in time; and she hastened all
her preparations eagerly, as much to withdraw her own thoughts from
fears and apprehensions, as to guard against being too late; but, as
so often happens, all was complete long before the hour; and for
nearly twenty minutes, she sat at a little distance from the window,
trembling with agitation and alarm.

She had now full time to give way to all the busy thoughts that
naturally sprang from her situation. She felt she loved--she trusted
she was beloved in return; but still to fly with De Montigni from all
other protection--to put herself entirely in his power--to cast
herself thus into his arms; it was rash, she thought; it was foolish.
Would he continue to love her? Might not his quickly-roused passion
die away as soon? Might he not be the first to think her rash
confidence in him, bold, almost immodest?

"No, no!" she answered, "he would not do so; he was too kind--too
generous. He always had been. Why should she think him changed in mind
and heart, in thought and feeling, since the bright days of his
boyhood, when she had loved him so well? Did he not tell her that he
had always loved her?--did he not promise to love her always?--and
when had he ever broken his word? No, no! It was but agitation and
weak terror made her doubt."

Even if there were a risk, she thought again, even if the dream of
happiness with Louis de Montigni, which had come with so sweet a
relief to her heart, were not to be fully realized, yet, when the only
alternative was to wed a man she now hated and contemned, could she
hesitate to give herself to one she loved? and again she answered,
"No! If death were the only other course, she would seek it, rather
than give her hand to Nicholas de Chazeul."

Her mind then turned to the dangers of the way; to the chance of being
stopped ere they could quit the castle; to the likelihood of being
discovered and frustrated; to the shame and confusion that must
follow. She pictured herself brought before Monsieur de Liancourt; she
called up the scornful looks of Chazeul and the sneering taunts of his
mother; and for a moment her heart sank as fancy painted the scene
with the vividness of reality. But then her spirit rose; "I would not
bear it," she said to herself. "I would own my love to one, and my
hatred to the other. I would call for a sight of the contract that my
father signed. I would refuse to wed this man--aye, even if they
dragged me to the altar. I would demand the protection of the good old
commander, and put myself under the guardianship of the law."

Poor girl, she little knew how powerless was the law in France at that
moment. "It is strange," she continued, turning to another line of
thought, "I have not heard the clock strike one; and yet it is long
since twelve. Can anything have gone wrong? It must have struck
without my hearing it.--How dark it is without! Not a star in the sky,
and the moon down! Those must be drops of rain I hear."

A moment after the heavy bell of the clock sounded upon her ear; and
she found how long tedious expectation can make one short hour. Rose
smiled at her own impatience, and said in her heart, "I must not let
Louis know how eagerly I have watched for him; and yet, why not? If he
be generous, as I think, to be so loved will but increase his own; and
if he be not, no arts will keep a wayward heart. Hark, there is a
sound!" and the next instant, something like the steel point of a
sword's scabbard, struck lightly against the window.

Rose opened it without noise, and asked in a low and trembling voice,
"Who is there?"

"'Tis I! 'tis I, my beloved," answered De Montigni, who was standing
on a ladder, which had been placed against the window. "All is ready
if you are. But, before you come, secure your maid in her own room. We
have turned the key without. She is not to be trusted; and it were
well to prevent her from giving the alarm to-morrow, till the last
moment."

"There is but a bolt," said Rose d'Albret, "and I fear I shall wake
her with the noise, for it is a very heavy one."

"Stay, dearest," replied her lover; "I will do it," and he sprang
lightly into the room.

"Oh, Louis," whispered Rose, as he held her for a moment to his heart,
"do not waste time."

"I will not," he answered. "Where is this bolt," and following Rose,
who led him on with a trembling hand, he drew back the tapestry and
felt for the bolt upon the door. Slowly and gently he pushed it
forward; but this was not accomplished without some noise, and the
heart of Rose d'Albret beat as if it would have burst through her
side. She could not even listen for the throbbing; but De Montigni
bent down his ear; and after a moment he whispered, "it is all safe,
she sleeps, my beloved. Now, Rose, now," and taking her hand in his,
he led her back towards the window.

He felt by the trembling of her hand, that she was greatly agitated;
and although, when he had first entered the room, he had given way, as
we have seen, for a single instant, to the warm emotions of his heart,
he would not now add by one rash caress to that which Rose already
underwent. When they reached the window, however, he drew the other
side of the casement farther back, to get out first and assist her in
descending. But the lady detained him a moment by the hand, asking in
a low voice, "And will you love me ever, Louis?"

"As from my earliest youth, so to my last hour, dear Rose," replied De
Montigni in the same low tone.

"And will you never judge me rash, imprudent, bold, De Montigni?"
again inquired the lady; "will you never reproach me, even in your own
secret heart, for listening to your persuasions? will you never think
it was immodest or unfeminine to quit the shelter of my guardian's
house, and give myself to you with this implicit confidence?"

"Never, dear Rose!" replied De Montigni; "banish such idle
apprehensions. I shall ever feel the deepest gratitude. I shall ever
feel respect for that decision which saves me the pain, the peril, and
the grief of bringing to account my nearest relations for a most
shameful attempt to violate the contract with your father, and to
defraud me of my own--for you are my own, Rose. You are plighted to me
from your infancy, and indeed, dear one, I have a right to demand, as
the only one entitled to your hand, that you should take the only
means by which it can be secured to me; and for your thus yielding
willingly and readily, my thanks, and love, and gratitude, are yours
for ever."

"Well, then, there is my hand, De Montigni," said Mademoiselle
d'Albret, "and I am yours. I do not doubt you, Louis,--I do not doubt
you; but in these things woman may well be timid; for her all is at
stake; and God knows those we play against are often cheats."

"Such am not I, dear Rose," replied her lover. "Come, my Rose, come!"
and stepping out of the window, he held his hands towards her, to
guide her in the descent.

Rose d'Albret closed her eyes, murmured a short prayer to God for
protection and assistance in the course before her; and, after pausing
one moment more, in lingering hesitation, she put her foot upon the
ladder, and descended gently, with De Montigni steadying her steps.
The height was not great, and the next minute her feet were upon the
ground between the old château and the walls that defended it. There
was no one below, for De Montigni had determined to come alone, in
order to avoid all bustle and confusion.

"Now, dear girl, now," he said, "the first step to freedom is taken.
Estoc is waiting for us on the walls; my horses are prepared without;
and in five minutes we shall be in liberty."

"But how shall we pass the gates?" asked Rose; "they are always
strictly guarded."

"We have placed men that can be depended upon," replied De Montigni,
"and the sally port at the south, is in the hands of Estoc. This way,
dearest, this way, to the bridge."

Their escape, however, was not destined to be effected so easily as
they supposed; for when they reached the spot where the flying bridge
which we have so often mentioned hung between the château and the
outer walls, De Montigni, on looking up, perceived through the dim air
of night that it was raised. There was a flight of stone steps, built
against the body of the château, from the sort of paved court in which
they were, to the door, that communicated with the bridge; and up
these De Montigni sprang in a moment leaving Rose d'Albret below. He
found, however, that the chain which suspended the bridge in the air,
was pad-locked; and, descending again with a noiseless step, he asked
his fair companion in a whisper "Who sleeps in the room on the right?"

"I do not know," replied Rose, "some of Monsieur de Chazeul's
servants, I believe."

"There are people talking within," replied De Montigni; "the bridge is
up, the chains padlocked; and, even if they were not, the noise of
letting it down would call attention. We must go round, dear Rose, to
the staircase in the wall."

Rose d'Albret trembled very much; for her agitation was already so
great, that any impediment made her heart sink with apprehension; but
leaning on De Montigni's arm, she hurried along with him, and soon
reached the staircase of which he had spoken, which in another minute
led them to the top of the wall.

"Sit here for a moment, dearest," said De Montigni, "while I find
Estoc, and do not raise your head above the parapet. He and I may pass
for the guards; but the veil and ruff do not well imitate the steel
cap and cuirass."

Rose silently did as he bade her, and gazed out, while he was gone,
through the neighbouring embrasure. The country through which she was
to pass lay before her; but it was all dark and indistinct, like the
wide land of the future in the journey of life. There was no star to
betoken hope in the sky above; thick clouds, like frowning fate,
covered the whole heaven; and though the few heavy drops of rain which
had fallen had ceased for the time, there were low sobbing gusts of
wind, which seemed to say, that they would soon commence again.

Sad and apprehensive, Rose d'Albret gazed over the scene, and with
curious eye strove to trace out the road along which she was to
travel, as one does so soften and so vainly in the mortal night which
surrounds us here below. Fortunately, however, she had not much time
for gloomy meditations. In less than two minutes De Montigni was by
her side again, accompanied by Estoc, who bent down and kissed her
hand, saying "Come, Mademoiselle, come, don't be frightened about the
bridge being up, that is done against those on the outside of the
wall, not those on the in. We will soon reach the sally port; but we
must cross the court first."

"But who are those that Monsieur de Montigni heard talking in the room
to the right of the bridge door?" asked Rose d'Albret in a whisper.

"On my body and life I do not know," replied Estoc; "some of Chazeul's
people, about no good, I'll warrant; but they'd better not come near
us, or I'll split their skulls and his too, if he meddles. This way,
Mademoiselle."

"Hush!" cried Rose drawing back, "there is a man coming along the
wall.--Oh Heaven! who can it be?"

"Nobody but Paul the sentinel," replied Estoc. "I placed him here on
guard, lady, and he knows his business.--Come!" and leading her on, he
passed close by the warder, who for his part, when they approached
turned his back to them, and gazed out over the country.

To witness such a thorough understanding between her companions and
the guards, restored some degree of confidence and hope to Rose
d'Albret; and, hurrying forward, they descended the stairs by which
she had mounted, chose the second archway in the body of the building,
and crossed the vacant court, where all was still and silent, except a
large eagle which was chained to a perch in the midst, and which,
disturbed in its reveries by their passing near, flapped its large
wings, and uttered a shrill cry. Taking through another archway on the
opposite side of the court, they threaded one or two of the passages
of the building, and soon reached a paved passage, or _coulisse_,
similar to that which ran between the château and the wall on the
northern side. As they walked along, Rose remarked that De Montigni
drew round to the side of Estoc, and whispered something in his ear.

"I do not know," replied the old soldier; "I placed him there not ten
minutes ago. Perhaps he is standing under the arch."

"I do not think it," said De Montigni; "there is no depth to hide him;
and I can see no one."

"My eyes are not so good as they were," answered Estoc; "but he may
have opened the door for aught we know, to have all ready."

"What is the matter?" asked Mademoiselle d'Albret, clinging to De
Montigni's arm; "what has gone amiss?"

"Nothing, dearest, nothing," replied De Montigni. "'Tis only that we
do not see the guard who was placed with the keys of the sally port.
He may, perhaps, have opened the door and gone in; or he may have
walked on to the end."

When they reached the low-browed door in the wall, however, which was
to give them exit from the Château of Marzay, they found no one there,
and the heavy iron-covered gate tightly locked. Swearing an oath or
two in an under tone, Estoc looked up and down the passage to see if
he could perceive the careless warder; but nothing was to be
discovered; and no sound or footfall gave notice that he was near.

"Stay," said the old soldier; "stay a moment here, I will go and see
for him. I cannot understand this at all. Yet there can be no danger,
lady, so do not be afraid; for if anything were discovered, we should
find people enough here."

"But if any one should come, while you are gone?" asked Rose d'Albret,
in a faltering tone.

"Why, then, you must hide yourselves amongst those passages opposite,"
replied the old soldier. "You know them well, both of you, for many a
hunt have I had after you amongst them, when you were children."

Notwithstanding all her apprehensions, Rose d'Albret could but smile,
as the old man's words brought up before her mind the picture of the
happy hours of childhood; and she laid her hand fondly on De
Montigni's arm, feeling that she did love him truly, and had loved him
longer than she once thought she had.

"Let us go at once, Louis," she said, "into what we used to call the
labyrinth; they would not find us easily there, and we can watch till
he comes back."

"Ay, ay," said Estoc; "go there, pretty lady. I will not be a minute,
for the man cannot be far off."

Thus saying he left them; and crossing the passage, they entered an
arch, a little way farther down, which communicated with some of the
inferior parts of the building but little used by the household, and
was traversed by narrow stone corridors, with innumerable staircases
to rooms above. Placing themselves under the shelter of the vault they
waited, listening to the old soldier's receding step; but the
momentary light which had come up in Rose d'Albret's mind, at his
allusion to former days, passed rapidly away as she stood there with
her lover, uncertain of what the next hour might bring forth.

The moment after, they heard the neigh of a horse beyond the walls,
and De Montigni, turning to her, whispered, "There is but a little
space between us and safety, Rose."

"Alas! it may be enough," replied Rose d'Albret, "to bar us from all
our hopes."

"Nay, nay," answered her lover; "take not such a gloomy view of it,
dear one; there are always small obstacles to every scheme; but these
will soon be removed, and all will go well."

"God grant it," said Rose d'Albret; but even as she spoke, she drew
back farther within the arch, saying, "Hush! there are figures upon
the wall."

"Stand, give the word," cried a sentinel above.

"I forget it," replied the voice of Chazeul; "but you know me, my
man?--You know Monsieur de Chazeul?"

"I know no one without the word," replied the soldier. "Stand off, or
you are a dead man!"

"Dare you be so insolent?" exclaimed Chazeul. "Who commands the guard
to-night?"

"I do my duty, Sir," replied the soldier; "so stand back, I say! It is
Monsieur de l'Estoc's guard."

"I thought so," replied Chazeul; "like master like man. Go, and call
him. Sir."

"Not I," answered the soldier; "I do not quit my post for any one. You
can call him yourself, if you want him."

"I will," replied Chazeul sternly; "and have you punished for your
insolence;" and, turning back along the wall, he proceeded to search
for Estoc.



CHAPTER XIV.


The small evils of life, against which, in the narrowness of our
views, and the idleness of our heart, we so often pray, as if they
were as hideous as unmasked sin, how often do they work for us the
greatest benefits in ways we never dreamt of!--how often do they even
forward us in the very course they seemed likely to obstruct! There is
not a hair of our head that is not numbered; there is not a sparrow
falls to the ground unmarked; so we were told by Him who is Truth; and
surely there is not an act or incident of our life that has not its
end and object in the great scheme of our being, and in the greater
scheme of universal nature. Pleasant is it, and sweet to contemplate,
for the eye of faith, that all is ruled and directed to its fixed
purpose by Almighty wisdom, and infinite goodness.

"He is gone!" whispered De Montigni to Rose d'Albret, as Chazeul
strode away. "You see it is fortunate, dear girl, that we did not find
the sally port open, or we should have been passing just at the moment
he was upon the walls above. He could not have stayed us, it is true,
for we have a large party in the castle; but it might have occasioned
strife, and that I would fain avoid."

"Oh yes, yes!" said Rose. "God grant that we may escape that,--but
hark! it is raining, Louis."

"That is unlucky," replied De Montigni. Yet, in truth, it was far from
unfortunate for the success of their scheme. The large drops which
began to descend in a heavy shower, soon changed the purpose of
Nicholas de Chazeul, who was lightly clothed, and somewhat careful of
his own person; and instead of seeking Estoc, as he had intended, he
hurried back to his own chamber, cast off his wet clothes, and retired
to bed, keeping his indignation for the following morning.

In the meanwhile Louis de Montigni and Rose d'Albret, remained for
some minutes longer under the archway; and, although apprehension and
anxiety had a large share in the fair Lady's feelings, it must not be
denied, that there were sweet and happy sensations too. With her arm
twined through that of her lover, with her hand clasped in his, she
felt all the joy, the thrilling and inexpressible joy of loving,
trusting, confiding; and she felt it too for the first time. All the
freshness of the young heart was there; that freshness which in all
things is the point of perfection,--the moment of expansion to the
flower; the hour of ripeness to the fruit, when colour, and beauty,
and scent, and flavour, and delight, are all at their full before one
petal has fallen or withered, before one tint has faded, before the
bloom has been brushed off, before the enjoyment has palled, or the
fine edge of sensation has been blunted. There are feelings in the
human heart, and they are the brightest of those which have any
reference to earth, which are like those small delicate flies, that
live but an hour in their beauty, and then pass away, unable to
sustain even the weight of the common air; and with Rose d'Albret that
was the moment of their existence. She had never before known what it
was to give the whole heart, to cling to another, as if in him she had
a second life; to look to him for all her future joy; to trust in him
for aid, protection and support; to fear for him more than for
herself; to believe, her best gift, was to render him happy. The world
in which she had lived, was a cold and dreary one; there had been no
heart which had sympathies with hers; no voice to reciprocate kind
words; no mind with which to exchange the thoughts that were busy in
her own. All who surrounded her were different from her in years, in
ideas, in feelings, in objects. It was a dark and shadowy state of
being, whose only light had been memory, memory of him who now stood
beside her till he himself had returned, like her morning star, and
the day of love had dawned upon her heart, driving the shades away,
and gilding even the clouds, that still hung over the sky.

Thus, though dread and apprehension still had some share in her
feelings, poor Rose d'Albret was not now without a bright portion of
happiness; and the gentle pressure of the hand, the mute caress, the
word of tenderness and comfort from her lover's lips, produced
sensations in her bosom which he did not know, which, perhaps man
never fully knows, in his dealings with woman.

At length there came a hurried tread, as if more than one person were
approaching, and De Montigni took a step forward before his fair
companion, and loosened his sword in the scabbard. The rain was
falling heavily; the night had become doubly dark; and he could only
distinguish the forms of two men advancing quickly along the
_coulisse_, without being able to discover who they were. One he
thought indeed was Estoc, but he was not sure, till at length the man
on the right hand paused opposite the sally port, and appeared to
unlock the door, while the other came on towards the spot where he
stood.

"It is Estoc, dear Rose," he said; "it is Estoc with the keys."

"Be sure, be sure!" whispered Rose, laying hand upon his arm; but the
next instant Estoc himself stood before them, saying, "Quick, Louis!
quick! there are more people stirring in the château than we wot of."

"Chazeul was on the walls but a moment ago," replied De Montigni, "but
the sentinel would not let him pass."

"I know, I know," replied Estoc. "I heard it all, but the rain has
driven him in, the white-livered knave.--You will get sadly wet, sweet
lady, I fear."

"Oh, I mind not a little rain," replied Rose d'Albret. "How often have
you seen me drenched in hunting! Estoc; and it will not hurt me more
now, that I am being hunted,--but what was the cause of the delay?"

"They had given the man the wrong key," replied Estoc, "and he knew
not how to get the right one, without betraying that there was
something secret going on,--the door is open now, however. Let us be
quick.--Hark! there is two!--Moments are precious."

"I am quite ready," said Rose; but De Montigni, before he suffered her
to issue forth into the rain, covered her as well as he could with his
cloak, though the short mantles of those days, afforded but a very
inefficient protection against a heavy shower. They then crossed the
passage, and gliding along under the wall, found the door of the sally
port open, and the guard holding it back.

"Ged bless you, Lady! God bless you, Sir," said the man as they
passed. And the prayer of a plain and honest heart for our welfare,
has always its effect in comforting, and reassuring.

Estoc led the way, along the stone-faced court, under the earthen
mound, which there defended the wall, across a little bridge over the
ditch, and through the gate beyond, which he unlocked to let them
pass. Beneath the shadow of the gate, and three or four old trees,
which grew beside it, stood a party of seven or eight men, with their
hands upon their horses' bridles, ready to mount in a moment. Two
other saddled horses were amongst them, and while De Montigni lifted
Rose d'Albret lightly from the ground, and mounted her securely, old
Estoc said, in a low voice, "It is your own limousin, Mademoiselle, so
you know his mouth, and he knows your hand."

"Thank you, thank you for your kindness, Estoc," replied the lady;
"these are moments never to be forgotten."

De Montigni pressed the old soldier in his arms; and then saying, "We
shall meet again soon, Estoc, I hope in the King's camp," he sprang
upon his horse's back, and laying his hand upon Rose's rein, to lead
her forward through the darkness, set out upon the road to Dreux.

Estoc turned back into the castle, closed the gates behind him, made a
turn upon the ramparts, listened for a few minutes till he could hear
no more the retreating sound of horses' feet, and then retiring to the
guard-room, under the principal gate, dried himself by the blazing
logs upon the hearth. In a few minutes, however, he gave some orders
to one of the soldiers, who was sitting near, and then stretching
himself upon a camp bedstead in the corner, was soon sound asleep.

Everything remained quiet in the château during the night. Unconscious
of what had taken place, those whose cunning schemes had been
frustrated, remained in the tranquil slumber of imaginary success,
dreaming of the coming day, and of seeing the seal put upon their
intrigues by the voluntary renunciation of De Montigni's right,
through which, not only the much coveted estates of Liancourt, but the
hand of Rose d'Albret, and the inheritance which that hand conveyed,
were, they thought, to be lost to him, for whom they were originally
intended.

The only person who slept but little, was the old commander De
Liancourt, who, partly on account of the pain of his wounds, and
partly from anxiety for his nephew's safety and success, lay tossing
on his bed till within an hour of morning, wondering if all had gone
right, and repeating, a thousand and a thousand times, "All is quiet!
They must have got off; otherwise, I should have heard something."

With the first dawn of day, some of the inferior servants began to
stir in the house. The scullions proceeded to their abhorred task of
scouring the brazen pots and kettles in the kitchen; the turnspit dog
waddled slowly from the hearth, the scene of his daily toil, where he
found warmth and repose during the night, to hide himself in some
corner from the eyes of the persecuting cook; and various other
drudges, well called _femmes de peine_, went through the different
halls and chambers, clearing off that dust which rise from the decay
of every earthly thing, and falls every hour--a memento, if we would
but see it, of the perishable nature of all here below--upon the
polish and the gilding with which we seek to cover all the coarse
materials from our eyes.

Soon the higher functionaries began to appear upon the scene; cooks,
and grooms of the chambers, and all the officers and attendants who,
in those days, thronged the house of a French nobleman; and then the
masters themselves. First, came father Walter, in his black garments,
pacing up and down the hall, and gazing, from time to time, out of the
high windows at the rainy sky. He was soon joined by Monsieur de
Chazeul, followed, shortly after, by the Count de Liancourt. These
three continued, stretching their limbs by a walk up and down the wide
pavement, for near half an hour, conversing over all that had taken
place the day before, and speculating upon the coming event. Chazeul
related to his two companions the intelligence he had received from
Blanchette on the preceding night, and the application which De
Montigni had made for another interview with Rose d'Albret.

"That was not right," said Monsieur de Liancourt. "One interview was
all he asked; that was granted, and he ought not to have sought more."

How boldly do we judge of what is right and wrong in the conduct of
others! how boldly do we censure and condemn, very often when we are
doing them the bitterest injustice! Monsieur de Liancourt totally
forgot, when he talked of right, that Louis de Montigni was really
entitled, not only to one interview with Rose d'Albret, but to every
hour of her time, to her hand, to her heart, to her fortune,--he
totally forgot it, I say, and thought that the schemes which he had so
long nurtured, the ideas which he had so long indulged, formed the
only standard by which to measure the conduct and the rights of
others. Do not let the reader suppose this unnatural. Let him look
around, he will find the same perversion of views in every country, in
every house, in every family; let him look within, he will find it
more or less in his own heart, whenever his own interests, wishes,
prejudices, or passions, are placed in opposition to the rights of
others.

At length, when about half an hour had passed, the Count began to
think it strange that his fair ward, who was always an early riser,
had not yet appeared, and asked if the others had seen anything of
her.

"No," replied Chazeul. "I suppose, as she cannot take her favourite
walk this rainy day, she keeps her own chamber, to be out of the way
of De Montigni."

The priest looked down and mused, for he entertained some doubts as to
Rose's feelings being exactly those which Chazeul's vanity led him to
suppose, though, it must be remarked, he had not the slightest
suspicion of the event which had just taken place.

"Have you seen Blanchette this morning?" inquired the Count.

"No," replied Chazeul; "but I will send my knave, Alphonso, to see
after her. It will but be courteous to inquire for her mistress's
health."

He was turning towards the door, when his mother entered, and asked at
once, "Where is Rose?"

"She has not appeared yet," replied Chazeul. "I am just going to
inquire after her, most noble dame."

"See, see yourself, Nicholas," cried the Marchioness, sharply. "One of
my girls tells me, that, passing by her door just now, she heard a
knocking, as if carpenters were at work. Is De Montigni absent, too?
Why, it is near the hour of mass!"

Chazeul left the room instantly, by the door which led direct along
the corridor, to the apartments of Rose d'Albret. All was still,
however; the noise which his mother mentioned had ceased; and it was
not till he came close to the ante-chamber that he thought he heard a
sound of moaning, as if some one was giving way to the expression of
pain or grief. He instantly knocked at the door, and called to
Blanchette, who demanded, in a voice half-drowned by tears, "Who is
there?"

"It is I," replied the Marquis. "What is the matter, Blanchette? Open
the door; let me in."

"I cannot," replied Blanchette; "the door is locked, and I can't get
out."

"How is your mistress?" asked Chazeul.

"I do not know," replied the girl.

"Well, go in and see, then," said the Marquis.

"I cannot," rejoined Blanchette again; "that door is fastened too."

A sudden suspicion of the truth flashed through the mind of Chazeul,
and he stood for a moment, stupified with surprise and anger. Then,
hastening back to the hall, he exclaimed, "Something is wrong! The
girl Blanchette is locked into her room.--We must force the door."

"To the window! to the window!" replied the Marchioness; and, hurrying
out to the flying bridge, they descended the stone steps into the
_coulisse_, Monsieur de Liancourt exclaiming,

"Quick! some one bring a ladder."

"There is no ladder needed, my wise brother," said Madame de Chazeul,
the moment after, pointing with her hand to the spot where, underneath
the window of Rose's chamber, might still be seen the instrument used
in her escape. "You will find one ready. Those who like to go on in
the rain, and see the nest of the flown bird, may go, I shall return
to the hall." And thus saying, she ascended the steps, while the rest
of the party hurried on.

By the ladder easy access was obtained to the room of Mademoiselle
d'Albret; and it is not necessary to detail the state in which it was
found. Rose, as the reader is aware, was no longer there; and all that
remained for those that sought her, was to liberate Blanchette, and
inquire when, how, and why, her mistress had fled.

The girl, however, could tell them nothing of the truth; and, though
she made up for the deficiency by telling plenty of falsehoods,
endeavouring, in the fear and agitation of the moment, to screen
herself from suspicions which were never directed towards her, yet her
information, of having heard her mistress move in her chamber about
three o'clock in the morning, without thinking anything of it, of
having visited her the last thing before she went to bed herself, and
seeing her soundly asleep in bed, together with sundry other fanciful
pieces of intelligence, proved not in the least satisfactory to the
hearers.

After much wonder, and some consideration, and a good deal of
examination in the apartments of Mademoiselle d'Albret, the party were
obliged to make their egress by the window again, the outer door being
locked and the key gone.

They found Madame de Chazeul in the hall, with an angry spot upon her
cheek, and her brow knit, while the old commander, dressed as if for a
journey, with his sword by his side, and the cross of his order round
his neck, sat upon a bench at one side of the hall, tapping his leg
deliberately with his staff.

"I am glad you are come, Count," said the Marchioness; "here is our
brother Michael evidently knows all about this infamous abduction; but
he will make no answer to my inquiries."

"Why, I told you I would not, Jacqueline, till Liancourt came,"
replied the Commander. "Now he is come, I will tell you all I know,
and also perform the task I took upon me yesterday."

"Well, Sir, well, be quick," replied the Count. "I have borne your
humours too long; and I will endure no tricks and treachery, depend
upon it."

The old soldier's cheek grew warm. "No tricks but your own, Sir," he
replied. "But we all know you are a tool in the hands of others, and
therefore to be forgiven, like all weak men, who make themselves the
instruments of knaves. Ay, you may stare, Jacqueline; but be good
enough to remember, I was never afraid of those black eyes, even when
the cheeks were round and soft, and am not more timid now, when they
are shrivelled and skinny. The simple matter of fact is this, Anthony,
you have all laid your heads together to deprive Louis de Montigni,
the son of our poor sister Louise, of the inheritance which I
renounced in her favour, and in favour of her children. I did not
renounce it in your favour, Madame Jacqueline; for you were always
able to take care of yourself, though Louise was mild and gentle, and
consequently continually kept down, and deprived of just estimation."

"And may I ask, Sir," said Monsieur de Liancourt, with a cold, and
haughty air, "what business it was of yours, if Monsieur de Montigni
choose to renounce also?"

"I don't know that," replied the old Commander; "he cannot renounce
without my returning to my rights. However, I would have made no noise
about that, if he had done so willingly, and with his eyes open. But I
did not choose to have him deceived, and so I was resolved he should
know all. The priest there, like an honest man, told him, that he had
some right to the estates, and I told him what."

The Marchioness turned a fierce look upon father Walter, who met it
with a calm and tranquil air, apparently in no degree taken by
surprise or annoyed.

"But I told him, moreover, my good brother," continued the Commander,
"that if he gave up the estates, he gave up his claim and right to the
hand of Mademoiselle d'Albret,--to our sweet Rose. It is right that
every one should know how he stands, and what he does, brother
Anthony; and as you did not tell him, I did. I told him the contract
was in his favour, not in that of yonder gentleman in ruffs and
ear-rings, inasmuch as it engaged for the marriage of the young lady
to the heir of Liancourt, which he is by my renunciation; and if he
had given up his claim, I would have married her myself; for then I
should be heir of Liancourt again. But as I am old, and somewhat
battered in the wars, and should limp a little in following a bride
through a ballroom, he thought fit to save me the trouble, and
consequently determined to hold his own."

"My son, my son, this is no jesting matter," said father Walter in a
grave tone; "I beseech you, what you have to speak, speak seriously."

"If I speak seriously, sir priest," replied the old soldier, "I may
have to say things not very palatable to many here present. But if it
must be, so it shall be. In a word, then, brother, he found that he
had been deceived, kept in ignorance, cajoled to part with rights
concealed from him. Had it been but the estates, he would have given
them up at a word, as I did; but he would not give up her he loved,
except at her own request. In this, too, he discovered, he had been
cheated. Instead of finding that she had freely and willingly promised
her hand to a man who possessed her heart, he learned that she too had
been misled into the belief that she was contracted to yonder
gentleman, and that she was about, unwillingly, to yield to what she
thought duty--poor thing!--without either loving, or having promised
at all."

"But she did promise," exclaimed Chazeul. "I call upon all here to
witness it."

"That's a lie!" answered the Commander sternly; "nor the first, good
nephew, by many! She never promised; for only two days ago I heard her
ask a short time to consider. You cannot deny it, priest."

"I cannot," said father Walter.

"Well then," continued the old officer, "he asked to see her alone, to
learn her own mind--"

"We did not know that he was going thus treacherously--" cried
Chazeul.

"To tell her the truth," interrupted the Commander; "or you would have
taken care to prevent it. But when he had enlightened her on those
subjects, and found that she very much preferred himself to you, he
suggested to her that, to save needless trouble, and dispute, it would
be better for her to take her departure at once with the husband of
her father's choice, and, placing themselves under the protection of
the King, demand his sanction to their immediate marriage. Ay, _the
King!_ nephew,--the King, father Walter--Henry the Fourth, King of
France and Navarre, who is so, and will be so whether it pleases you
or not!--But I forgot," he added, "the boy left a letter with me for
you brother Anthony. Ho! Estoc there, get me that letter, pray."

While this delectable conversation had been proceeding, Madame de
Chazeul had seated herself in the chair usually occupied by the Count,
and, leaning her head upon her hand, had seemed more busied with her
own thoughts than with anything that was going on around; but at the
mention of the letter, she raised her head, with a bitter sneer upon
her lip, asking, "Pray whose manufacture is the epistle? Is it an
extract from Cæsar's Commentaries by the Commander de Liancourt, or a
parody upon Ovid's Art of Love by Monsieur de Montigni?"

"Neither, Jacqueline," replied her brother, "but a good honest letter,
from a youth whom you have not been able to cheat, with all your
cunning. The letter,--the letter, Estoc," he continued, as his old
comrade put his head into the hall--Where is Louis's letter? You had
it.

"Oh ay! of course he had it," cried Chazeul, as the good soldier
advanced with a paper in his hand; and then turning round, the Marquis
whispered for an instant to the Count, who, after taking the letter
from the hands of Estoc, made him a sign to stay.

"You know of all this affair, Sir," said Monsieur de Liancourt, fixing
his eyes upon him, "and gave aid and encouragement."

"I saw them at the last moment," replied Estoc at once, "and had they
wanted encouragement would have given it to them; but they did not;
and as to aiding them, I had no commands to stop any one quitting the
castle."

"It was your duty, Sir, to stop any fugitives from authority," replied
the Count; "and I have a great mind to punish you."

"To do that you have no power, Sir," answered Estoc; "you forget I am
not your servant, Count of Liancourt, but a gentleman and a soldier,
though a poor one. I have, at the desire of my good old commander
here, aided you voluntarily to keep your château in these troublous
times; but I have taken no wage nor pay from you or yours; and, let me
tell you, he is a bold man that talks of punishing a French gentleman
that has done no wrong."

"Come, come, Anthony," cried the Commander, "no folly, if you please.
Estoc is my _guidon_; you have nought to do with him. If there be
fault, it is mine. I aided, I encouraged them; I told them to go, and
helped them to do it; and whoever says I had not a right to do so,
lies in his teeth!--But read the letter, brother o'mine; for you may
have something to say to it; and I am away this morning. My litter and
my men are ready in the court."

"And the sooner you go, Michael, the better," said Madame de Chazeul.

"Not at your bidding, Jacqueline," replied the Commander, while his
brother opened the letter and read it. "Ay, here comes your creature,
Blanchette. On my life, this has been a pretty honest scheme from the
beginning."

"What does he say?" inquired the Marchioness, as the Count read.

"Oh, hear it, hear it!" answered Monsieur de Liancourt: "you will then
see, how grateful he is for all the care and kindness I have bestowed
upon his youth;" and he proceeded to read as follows:


"Sir, my Uncle,

"Before this reaches your hands, I shall be far distant, feeling
myself compelled to take a step, which nothing but the desire of
avoiding that strife and contention which must ensue, were I to stay
and urge my rights in your house, would induce me to adopt. At the
same time it is necessary, for my own justification, that I should
give some explanation of my conduct. You were pleased on my arrival,
to ask for my signature to certain papers, which, on examination of
the documents themselves, and consultation with my uncle, the
Commander, and others, I found implied a renunciation of my clear
right to the estates of Liancourt, and the acceptance of certain
benefices as an equivalent. Had that been the only question, I would
not have scrupled to consent; but I found that by a contract between
you and the late Count de Marennes, made while I was considered
certain heir to those estates, the hand of Mademoiselle d'Albret was
promised to the person inheriting them. You had given me to understand
that the lady's inclination led her to an union with my cousin De
Chazeul; and had it been so, my love for her is too sincere, not to
have induced me at once to remove every obstacle that my prior claim
produced. But certain circumstances led me to believe that in this
there was an error; and I therefore required an interview with
Mademoiselle d'Albret, that both she and I, might know our real
situation, which, by your pardon, let me say, had been concealed from
both. I found, during that interview, that she had been deceived into
the belief that, in giving her hand to Monsieur de Chazeul, she was
only fulfilling her father's contract. When the truth, however, was
explained to her, I found that, far from desiring such an alliance, it
was most repugnant to her, and that, on the contrary, she was willing
to give her hand to him for whom it had been truly destined. We both
saw, that to urge my rights in person here, would necessarily produce
strife--nay, perhaps bloodshed; and we were well aware that it might
be unsafe for her to remain after I was gone, as there are too many
instances, in these days, of contracts forcibly violated, and
compulsion used to produce alliances neither prompted by inclination
nor justified by law. The course which had been pursued towards us for
the last five years, led us to apprehend that such might be the case
now; and to avoid such a result, Mademoiselle d'Albret consented to
accompany me to the court of his Majesty; where, under his sanction
and authority, I trust soon to fulfil with her the engagement between
her father and yourself. As soon as that is accomplished, being in
this matter moved by no sordid considerations, you will not find me
indisposed, in gratitude for the care and protection which you
bestowed on my early youth, to fulfil your wishes, whatever they may
be, in regard to the disposal of your property, even to the sacrifice
of what may be my own contingent rights. May God keep you in his holy
guard!

"Your nephew,

"Louis de Montigni."


The latter part of the letter was but little attended to by Madame de
Chazeul or her son, who were busily talking together in tones so low,
that but a word or two only was distinguishable even by the quick ears
of the priest, who stood near them.

"Impossible!" said Chazeul, in reply to something which his mother
appeared to have suggested: "we have not men enough. He has fifteen of
his own old soldiers here; and a number of the men of Liancourt would
take his part. I have but seven in the castle.--No, it is impossible."

The Countess muttered something in return, and then added, "Stay,
Chazeul: a better plan!" She then whispered a word or two, which
escaped all ears but those of her son, adding, "You see to it: bid him
come back at full speed when he has seen them housed. Send notice to
Nemours, too, and Mayenne; so you will have them in a net. In the
meantime, stop this farce as soon as possible. I have a word or two to
say to another personage:--Good father, I would fain speak with you,"
she continued aloud, addressing Walter de la Tremblade, "either before
or after mass."

"Which you please, daughter," replied Walter de la Tremblade; "we have
still half an hour."

"That will be enough," answered the Marchioness, rising: "and so,
good-day, good brother Michael. Like all fools who meddle with what
does not concern them, you will one day rue the mischief that you have
now made."

"Never, Jacqueline," replied the Commander. "I am not so famous for
scheming as you are; but, be you sure that, whatever you may be now
plotting, I will find means to put it out of joint with plain honesty
and truth, as I have done to-day. Farewell, brother Anthony," he
continued; "let us not part bad friends; for what I have done, has
been as much to save your honour as anything else."

He held out his hand as he spoke; but the Count put his behind his
back, saying, "My honour can take care of itself, Michael; and I do
not thank you for this insolent meddling."

"Poor man," said the Commander; and, turning abruptly away, he strode
out of the hall, followed by Estoc.



CHAPTER XV.


There are dull pauses in human life when the mind, however anxious it
may be to speed forward upon its active career, is forced by
circumstances to halt and deal with minor things; as a traveller on
foot, however eager he may be to hasten forward upon his way, is
sometimes obliged to stop and take a small stone out of his shoe, lest
it should impede the whole after part of his journey: and thus, though
we would willingly go on with those in whom we are more interested, we
must linger for a moment or two with the priest and Madame de Chazeul,
in order to proceed more rapidly when we have related some things
which, though not very entertaining, are absolutely necessary to the
right understanding of this history.

The lady led the way to her own chamber, with a step she intended to
be perfectly calm and tranquil, but which, by its occasional
irregularity and sharp jerking movement, betrayed the agitated and
angry feelings which she struggled to conceal. The priest followed,
with his still, even pace, his large dark eyes as usual bent down, and
not a trace of any emotion upon his countenance. He seemed, indeed,
like a moving statue, to the countenance of which the sculptor had
successfully endeavoured to give an expression of great thought, of
mind, and equanimity, but not of feeling or emotion.

When they reached the lady's chamber, the Marchioness de Chazeul took
a seat, and pointed to another, with a somewhat haughty wave of the
hand; but father Walter sat down deliberately, and crossing one foot
over the other, remained in an easy attitude waiting for Madame de
Chazeul to begin, as if totally unconscious that there were any angry
feelings in her bosom towards himself. He made no inquiry, even by a
look, in regard to the nature of the communication which he was about
to receive, but calmly bent his head a little forward as if to listen,
and waited for her to begin.

"Well, Monsieur de la Tremblade," said the lady at length, "so you
have thought fit to commence this system of sweet candour towards
Monsieur de Montigni, and to tell him that he has a right to the
estates."

"I always advocated candour, Madam," replied the priest; "and if my
advice had been followed, and the exact state of the case had been
told him in Italy, with a request that he would remove all obstacles,
he would have remained where he was, and you would not have been in
such an unpleasant situation at present."

"And therefore, I suppose, because people judged differently from
yourself," said the Marchioness, "you thought fit to spoil their
plans, when yours were not adopted."

"Not exactly," answered father Walter, perfectly unmoved; "I only
acted as was right and fitting on the occasion, I betrayed no secrets,
lady; I gave no further information than was merely necessary to
induce this young gentleman to do what was required of him. The very
act of renunciation itself bore upon its face, the acknowledgment that
he had rights; and I did not in any degree define them, but merely
said, that it was necessary he should sign the papers, to guard
against any legal contest hereafter."

"Pshaw!" cried Madame de Chazeul; "do you think I do not see your
motives, Walter de la Tremblade? You would fain have so managed, that
the greater part of the benefices, if not the whole, should fall into
your hands. You were not content with the Abbey of Chizay--not you!
You must have more: and now a fine business you have made of it, for
you have lost all to yourself and to us too."

The slightest possible glow passed over the cheek of Walter de la
Tremblade; but he replied, without the least alteration of tone, "You
are wrong in your suspicions, daughter; and they are unworthy of you
or me."

"Quite worthy of me," replied the Marchioness, "for I like to see to
the bottom of men's hearts. Now, I will answer for it, you persuaded
him that it was very improper for laymen to hold the property of the
church; you showed him, that he could not conscientiously keep these
benefices, if he got them, without taking the gown. Ha! have I touched
you? can you deny it, Sir?"

"Entirely," replied father Walter. "He stated such objections himself;
and it was not for me to argue against my conscience. I told him,
however, that it was a constant practice in France for men, not
ecclesiastics, to hold such benefices. The objections were his, not
mine, though how you came to learn they were ever made, I know not, as
his conduct turned upon very different feelings."

"How I came to learn!" exclaimed the Marchioness, with a scornful
smile; "because I know you both right well--by no other means, good
father. Oh! I understand the whole. Think you I have lived for fifty
years, with my eyes open, in this busy world, and do not know how a
calm, quiet priest, by a few soft, half-whispered words, can instil
doubts, and insinuate his own views into the mind of a weak-hearted
youth; how by a look, or even a faint denial of that which he seeks
most strongly to impress, he can produce the effect desired, when
seeming to oppose it."

"Madam, you are very learned in such arts," replied father Walter,
with a slight sarcastic curl of the lip.

"I am," answered the Marchioness, boldly, "and I know that father
Walter can make use of them as well as others. But there is such a
thing as overreaching one's self, Sir; and methinks you have done so
in this instance."

"Not in the least, daughter," replied the Priest. "I am quite
contented, if you are."

"But I am not!" cried the Marchioness, vehemently, "and I will have no
more of this. You think the game is lost; and, therefore, with the
cunning of your cloth, you bear it tranquilly. I know that it is not
so hopeless as you imagine; and for that reason I take the trouble of
telling you, that if I recover the false steps taken, I will not be
frustrated by you."

She spoke angrily and haughtily; and then, as if feeling that she had
given too much way to passion, she rose, went to the window, gazed out
for a moment, and played with the embroidery on her dress. Father
Walter in the meanwhile remained calm and silent: not that
thought--ay, and even passion, were less busy in his own bosom than in
hers; but he was more habituated to command his own sensations, and to
keep them, like those undercurrents of the sea which carry ships far
astray without producing a ripple on the surface, from showing, by any
outward sign, the course in which they were bent.

At length, the Marchioness returned, with a smoother brow and more
placable look. "Come, father Walter," she said, "we must not quarrel;
we are needful to each other. Let us act together, and, depend upon
it, the interests of both will be better served by so doing, than if
each pursued a course apart."

"I deny that I have ever acted otherwise, daughter," replied the
Priest. "I am glad to hear you have hopes of retrieving what has gone
wrong; and I will aid you to the very utmost of my power, not only to
wrest from Monsieur de Montigni the estates of Liancourt, but also to
unite Mademoiselle d'Albret to your son. There are a few things that I
would not undertake to accomplish this; but not from the motives you
imagine,--from very, very different reasons."

"What may they be?" inquired the Marchioness; "if you promote my
views, boldly and unhesitatingly, and I can aid yours, I will, without
scruple. What may they be, good father?"

"Listen, then, daughter," replied the Priest. "To an ecclesiastic of
the Holy Roman Catholic Church, there are objects far higher, far
nearer to his heart than any interests of his own. Indeed, rightly
speaking, we should have no interest but one, though human weakness
will occasionally have its share. When we enter into that body to
which I belong, we lose our identity, we become but part of a great
whole, we merge all our own passions, hopes, wishes, desires, all our
personal feelings and views, in those of the church, and for her
interests, as the highest object at which we can aim, we are justified
in taking means, and performing acts, which we should consider
culpable, were they undertaken for any individual end."

"Well, father," said the Marchioness, as he paused, "to what does this
tend?"

"To a very important point, daughter," replied the Priest. "This young
man, this De Montigni, boldly and straightforwardly acknowledges the
heretic, Henry de Bourbon, as King of France. 'Tis but the day before
yesterday, that, for the deliverance of the heretic named Chasseron, a
man who, I hear, made himself bitterly obnoxious during what is called
the Lover's War, he charged and put to death several good Catholics of
the League. One of them was brought in here severely wounded, and I
confessed him last night before his death. The youth is, even now,
gone to join his heretic monarch, excommunicated by the head of the
Christian church, and deprived by him of all right and title to the
allegiance of any but heretics like himself. Think you, lady, that a
priest of the true religion would willingly see estates and power in
the hands of such a one? No, daughter, no; and I believe that any
scheme would be justifiable to deprive him of the means of injuring
the church, of upholding heretics and infidels, and of overthrowing
all true religion in this realm. It is with great difficulty I have
kept your brother--whose wavering weakness in such things I need not
tell you--from acknowledging Henry of Bourbon; and, if his heir goes
over to that side, all my pains are lost. It has been for these causes
that I have joined heart and hand in endeavouring to bring about the
marriage between Mademoiselle d'Albret and Monsieur de Chazeul, one of
the brightest ornaments of the Holy Catholic Union; and you have done
me great wrong in supposing that any private interest, whatsoever,
would induce me to risk, even by a word, the great object I have in
view."

"Perhaps I have," replied the Marchioness; "but yet, father, it was
imprudent to let this youth know that he had any rights."

"Not at all," replied the Priest, somewhat sternly. "That fact could
not be concealed. The very papers showed it, and the attempt to keep
it back naturally produced suspicion and inquiry. If others had played
their part as well as I did, and had watched carefully to prevent all
communication between your brother Michael and his nephew, till De
Montigni had signed, no harm would have arisen; but my advice was ill
followed; they were suffered to meet in private--how, and when, I know
not; but five minutes was sufficient to do all the mischief. And now
it is necessary that I should know what you are about to do--what are
your hopes of retrieving this affair--and what scheme is to be
followed for the future."

"What would you advise yourself, father?" inquired the lady, willing
to test his sincerity.

"Methinks," answered the Priest, "there is but one course to be taken.
Lose not a moment longer in vain deliberation, surprise, and
recrimination, but raise all the men of Liancourt, and send them out
to overtake this runaway ward. A thousand things may occur to stop
her. Dispatch messengers to Mayenne, Nemours, Aumale, with information
of the circumstances. Tell them to cut her off from the King's camp
and send her back. Once here, we will find means to deal with her.
This is your only chance; but a clue to her course may be gained by
the road which the old Commander follows. Be you sure that he is going
to join them; and it is even not improbable, that they are waiting for
him, at no great distance."

"Give me your hand, father Walter," cried the Marchioness. "All that
you propose is already ordered; and, if we succeed by your assistance,
not only Chizay, but another abbey, richer still, shall show our
gratitude--"

The priest waved his hand, and she added, with a smile, "to enable you
to promote the true interests of the Roman Catholic religion."

Father Walter was about to reply; but at that moment one of the
Marchioness's women entered the room, saying, "Madam, here are
Theodore and one of the men you sent back to Chazeul, who wish to
speak with you directly."

Her mistress made her a sign to be silent, and father Walter,
observing her gesture, took his leave and retired.



CHAPTER XVI.


The night was as black as Acheron. The rain poured down in torrents.
The melting of the snow rendered the roads in the lower parts one mass
of mud and water, while the higher ground, where the temperature was
colder, afforded nothing but a slippery and uncertain footing for the
horses, over which they had the greatest difficulty in making their
way. There was no possibility of seeing more than four or five yards
in advance; the wind blew the falling deluge in the eyes of the whole
party; and the heart of Louis de Montigni sank, when he thought of all
that Rose d'Albret was exposed to for his sake. He strove to cheer
her, however, as she rode beside him; he guided and supported her
horse in all the more difficult parts of the way; and often he
expressed his fears and apprehensions regarding her, almost regretting
that any inducement had led him to bring her forth in such a night as
that.

Rose spoke little in return, for her heart was too full of manifold
sensations, her mind too busy with thought for many words; but all
that she did say was kind, and even cheerful; for she perceived
clearly his deep anxiety for her, and strove to lighten the load as
much as possible. She assured him that she did not mind the tempest,
that she was accustomed to endure such things frequently, that her
jennet was the most sure-footed beast on earth, that she doubted not
the sky would soon clear; and when she saw how he reproached himself
for all that she was enduring, she reassured him by expressing her joy
and thankfulness at having escaped from an union, which every moment's
thought rendered more odious in her eyes. Thus they rode on for nearly
an hour and an half, sometimes slowly, sometimes rapidly, according to
the nature of the ground: the horsemen who accompanied them, keeping
as close around them as possible, for even such a dark and stormy
night was not without dangers of another kind, from the state of
turbulent anarchy into which the country was plunged.

At length, however, the rain suddenly ceased; the air became hot and
sultry; the wind died away; and Rose, turning to her lover, exclaimed,
"I told you, Louis, it would be finer soon."

Almost as she spoke, a bright blaze flashed over the whole sky,
illuminating the prospect on every side, which had before been hidden
under the dark veil of night. The trees of the forest on the right,
the wide undulating country on the left, the village and the spire in
the distance, the valley into which they were descending in front,
were all seen for a single instant, as clearly as if the day had
suddenly dawned; while, across the very midst of the glare which
blazed over the whole heaven, was seen a thin and quivering line of
more intense light, beginning near the zenith, and ending apparently
at a tree, some two or three hundred yards in advance, several large
limbs of which, were seen falling to the earth, with a rending and a
crashing sound, just as the darkness swept over the sky again, and all
was night once more.

The horses started at the blaze; and Rose d'Albret covered her eyes
with her hand, while Louis de Montigni checked the speed at which they
were proceeding, saying, "We must go more slowly, dear Rose. This is
unfortunate indeed."

"It may be so, Louis," replied his fair companion, "but storm, and
tempest, and the fierce turbulence of such a night as this, are
nothing in my eyes, compared with the slow and lengthened misery of, a
home without affection, and the living death of, a marriage without
love."

"Look! look, Sir! look!" cried one of the men, pointing forward to the
sky: but the eyes of his master, and of all the party were already
fixed on the same spot, where, in the midst of the heaven, one of the
most extraordinary phenomena of nature was suddenly presented to them.
For a space of several degrees the clouds seemed to have rolled back,
and were seen piled up, in enormous masses on either hand, like the
scenes flanking a wide stage, while between them spread out an expanse
of pale whitish light, with a red wavy streak below, resembling a
plain which has caught the purple rays of the setting sun. On either
hand, from amongst the masses of vapour, appeared to dash forth bodies
of fiery combatants, horse and foot mingled together, rushing,
charging, overthrowing each other, now mixed in furious combat, now
separating for a moment, now chasing each other over the field. Again
and again the squadrons met, as if in deadly shock, and balls of fire,
as of some unearthly cannonade, crossed the sky in the midst of that
strange scene, till at length, while the fight seemed still going on,
the clouds once more rolled over the whole, and all returned to
darkness.[1]

"This is very strange," exclaimed Louis de Montigni: "I have heard of
such a thing; but I never believed it before."

"We shall have a battle soon, Sir," said one of the men. "I wish we
could have seen which party won the day."

"The King's, to be sure," replied another; "did you not see how he
drove them back?"

"And which do you call the King's?" asked the young Baron, smiling to
see how readily imagination had seized upon the strange sight they had
beheld, to turn it to the purposes of superstition.

"That on the right, Sir," answered the man. "The King has the right, I
am sure; and besides, I saw him in the front rank with a large plume
in his casque."

"My eyes were not so good," said De Montigni. "Did you ever see the
King, Hugh?"

"Not I, Sir," replied the attendant; "but I am certain that was he,
and his horse was as red as blood."

His master said nothing in return, but rode on slowly, conversing in a
low tone with Rose d'Albret, while from time to time the lightning
flashed across their path, but less vividly than before; and ere long
the rain began to fall again, and the thunder ceased.

Now came the most fatiguing part of the journey, for the narrow path
which they were following entered the hilly and wooded country about
Montlandon and Champrond en Gatine, and they were forced to climb and
descend continually, over a road on which the snow was but half melted
and the mud up to the fetlocks of their horses, while still the
torrents poured down from the sky, drenching their garments through
and through. The wind had totally ceased, but the air was more sultry
and close than ever; and both horses and riders suffered much from its
oppressive warmth.

Rose d'Albret became silent from fatigue, for the agitation of the
last twenty-four hours now had its full effect upon her; and fears
lest her bodily strength should give way, added to what she suffered.
There is a calm and persevering endurance which goes far; there is a
light-hearted and hopeful energy which carries one through innumerable
evils; but the greatest burden upon all exertion is the fear of
failing--if once we let apprehension take possession of us. Rose knew
that it is so, and she strove hard, for De Montigni's sake, to banish
all such alarm; but the time seemed very weary, the way interminably
long. She looked anxiously for the first, grey light of morning. More
than once--when at the bottom of a hill--she thought she saw some
streaks of light over the brow; and as often she was disappointed,
till at length, as they issued forth from a thick forest that then lay
between Marolles and the edge of La Beauce, her lover exclaimed
gladly, "There, there is the daylight, Rose;" and looking forward, she
perceived distinctly the faint hues of coming day stretching over the
eastern sky, and the dark walls and towers of the castle of Montlandon
on its wooded height, standing out in strong relief.

That castle offers now nothing but a picturesque ruin to the eye of
the passing traveller; but, at the time I speak of, it was inhabited;
and a beacon fire on one of the turrets, waning in lustre with the
rising light, told that its owner took part for one side or the other
in the civil war.

"If I remember right," said Louis de Montigni, speaking to the man who
acted as their guide, "that is Montlandon; cannot we get shelter
there?"

"No, Sir, oh no!" replied the soldier. "We must change the colour of
our scarfs if we do; for Monsieur de Montlandon is furious for the
Union, and a great friend of Monsieur de Chazeul's."

"That is unfortunate indeed," said De Montigni. "Alas! dear Rose, I
fear you are well nigh exhausted. Can you go on, my beloved?"

"Oh, yes!" answered Rose, in as cheerful a tone as she could assume;
"for another hour, Louis--or two, should it be needed."

"It will not be safe to stop, Mademoiselle, till we get to Les
Châtelets," observed the attendant, who was one of the old followers
of the good Commander de Liancourt, "and that is near three leagues;
but the road is better here in Beauce; and we can go faster in the
daylight. But we had better use speed, Sir, and pass this village and
Champrond before the people are awake, or we may find enemies."

"With all my heart," cried Rose d'Albret; "this slow travelling in the
darkness is more fatiguing far than a quick pace;" and putting their
horses into a brisk canter, they hurried through Montlandon, before
any of the cottage windows showed signs of waking life. When they
reached Champrond, however, a good many of the villagers were standing
out under the shelter of their doors. The greater part, indeed, seemed
more terrified at the sight of the body of horsemen, than desirous of
impeding their progress, and retreated into their houses as soon as
the white scarfs appeared. But one stout blacksmith stood before his
forge, and shouted as they passed, "What news from the armies?"

"The King has taken Dreux," replied one of the attendants, in the same
loud tone, "and is marching upon Chartres."

"Curses on the Maheutre!" cried the blacksmith, and retired grumbling
into his dwelling.

No opposition, however, was offered to their passage; and at a quick
pace they hurried on; but the anxious eye of De Montigni saw that
Rose's cheek was very pale, her fair head bent down, and the hand
which held her bridle resting on the pommel of the saddle, as if she
could hardly manage her reins.

"Ah, dearest girl," he said, "let us stop at the first cottage. You
are faint,--you are ill."

"No, no," she answered; "I can go on, Louis. I am somewhat tired, but
I can go on," and in about five minutes more their guide exclaimed,

"There is the Eure! We shall soon be safe!"

Such words of encouragement revived the poor girl's strength for a few
minutes longer, till a hamlet, containing some half dozen houses,
appeared a little to the left, and De Montigni, without further
question, turned his horse's head thither, sprang to the ground at the
door of the first cottage, and, throwing his arm round his fair
companion, lifted her from the saddle.

Rose leaned upon his bosom, for she could not support herself; and,
raising her in his arms, he carried her into the hut, where they found
a peasant and his young wife taking their early meal. The good people
of this place seemed to know little, or care little, of Royalists and
Leaguers. They were of the best party, the party of human nature; and
the young woman rose eagerly from the table, with expressions of
kindly compassion, to assist poor Rose d'Albret, laid her upon her own
bed, all dripping as she was, and insisted upon making her put on some
of her own apparel, while she dried the lady's wet garments at the
fire. Fatigue and exhaustion, however, were the greatest evils under
which Rose was suffering; and De Montigni eagerly asked for wine, as
her pale cheeks and bloodless lips showed him how faint she felt.

"Here is cyder," said the peasant, "but that is poor stuff for such a
lady; and wine we have none."

"Run, Victor, run down to the priest's," cried his wife; "you will get
wine there."

"Or at Master Leger's," answered the cottager; "he has better wine
than the priest."

"I will go myself," cried De Montigni. "Come with me, good man; and,
while we are gone, your wife can undress the lady and assist her to
bed. A few hours' repose will do her much good."

"I am better now, Louis," said Rose d'Albret, stretching out her hand
to him; "do not leave me long. I am afraid of some one coming while
you are gone."

"I will be but an instant, dearest Rose," replied her lover, "and in
the meanwhile our people shall remain round the house. You had better
take off your wet clothes, dear one;" and he added, with a faint
smile, "I have no title to be present at your toilette yet."

The colour came faintly into her cheeks again; and, once more
promising not to be many minutes absent, the young nobleman hurried
away with the peasant, closing the door behind him, and bidding the
attendants remain on guard before the house till he returned.

At the end of the little straggling hamlet stood a house with a
projecting pole, from which was suspended a withered bush, giving
clear indication that there was the place where village festivals,
marriages, and merry makings, usually were celebrated. Here some
tolerable wine was easily procured, and, hurrying back with it, De
Montigni was soon by the side of her he loved, who, now stretched on
the low bed of the good peasants, had already somewhat recovered the
rosy look of health, and spoke cheerfully to him of being soon able to
proceed.

But De Montigni did not feel so confident of Rose's powers, and
inquired anxiously of the peasants, whether any carriage or litter
could be procured in the neighbourhood. Nothing of the kind, however,
was to be heard of, and they assured him that to seek any conveyance
but a horse or a mule nearer than Chartres or Dreux, was quite out of
the question. He then proposed to construct a litter in haste, but
Rose would not hear of it, declaring, that in an hour's time she would
be quite ready to pursue her journey on horseback; and, indeed, she
seemed so eager to go on, and so fearful of being overtaken, that she
would fain have risen even before an hour was over, declaring that she
had had rest enough. De Montigni, however, persuaded her to remain for
half an hour longer; and, going out of the door with their young host,
he made some inquiries regarding the state of the country in the
neighbourhood, and the best road he could follow towards Dreux.

The replies he received were not altogether satisfactory. Several
large bodies of men, the peasant said, had passed through the village
the day before; but whether they were Royalists or Leaguers he could
not well tell, as he took no great heed of such things, and the
soldiers had passed on without stopping, even to drink. One corps had
taken up its quarters for the night, he heard, in a village about a
league and a half farther on; but every fact he mentioned showed the
young nobleman that it would be needful to use every precaution,
during their onward journey, in order to avoid falling into the hands
of the Leaguers. For this purpose, he determined to send forward one
of the attendants, with directions to keep about half a mile in
advance of the rest of the party, while another preceded them by about
three hundred yards, so that early intelligence might be obtained of
any approaching danger. A man, too, was left to follow at a little
distance behind, for the purpose of guarding against being overtaken
suddenly by any party of pursuers from the Château of Marzay, though
De Montigni had good hope that the speed with which they travelled,
had removed all risk of such an event.

Everything being prepared, all orders given, the horses refreshed and
fed, and Rose d'Albret dressed in the clothes which had been dried
before a large wood fire, she was once more placed upon the back of
her jennet, and, at a slower pace than before, they again set out upon
their journey, after De Montigni had amply paid for all that he had
taken. At a distance of about a mile from the village, the man who had
been thrown forward, returned to say, that the ropes of the ferry-boat
over the Eure had been cut by the soldiers, as they passed on the
preceding day, and that they must go further up the stream to seek a
ford.

The weather, however, had become somewhat finer. The rain had ceased,
except a few drops from a flying cloud, now and then. Rose looked and
spoke cheerfully, and seemed really to have recovered from the fatigue
she had undergone; the fear of being overtaken had grown fainter with
every league they had advanced; and though the Eure was somewhat
flooded by the rains that had fallen, they soon found a ford. The
marks of horses' feet showed that some persons had passed not long
before, and, causing the whole of his little troop to keep on the
left, in order to break the force of the water, De Montigni led over
the lady's jennet, without much difficulty, and gained the opposite
bank.

This obstacle overcome, they proceeded for half an hour more without
encountering any fresh impediment; and, giving way to hope and love,
they talked of future happiness and bright days to come, and gave way
to all the dreams that visit the young heart in the season of fancy
and expectation, and clothe the coming years with all the glittering
garments of imaginary joy. They were both too young, they were both
too inexperienced not to feel the heart rise the moment that danger
and apprehension ceased; and, to say truth, though Hope may be--as she
is often too justly called--an untiring deceiver, yet, even in the
midst of her false promises, she confers real and inestimable
benefits, giving us strength to endure and courage to go on, which
none of the truer and more substantial things of life can afford.

Thus the happy dreams in which Rose d'Albret and her lover indulged,
during that brief half hour, comforted and refreshed her more than the
repose she obtained at the cottage; but the pleasant moments were soon
interrupted. At the end of the time we have named, the man who was
farthest in advance rode back at speed to the one behind him, and,
taking his place, sent him back to tell De Montigni that a body of
some two hundred horse were moving over the country before them, in
the direction of Tremblay. The first soldier had halted; and, riding
up with the man who served them as guide, De Montigni asked him, with
some anxiety, if he had been seen. The reply was in the negative; and
a consultation was held as to what course should now be pursued, in
order to avoid encountering the party which he had observed. It was at
length determined to take the cross roads to the east, and, once more
the Eure, to endeavour to reach the King's camp at Dreux, from the
side of Paris.

"We shall have better roads there, Sir," said their guide, "and shall
run less risk; for the country about Hauteville, Poigny, Epernon, and
Maintenon generally holds for the King."

"It will lengthen the way," replied De Montigni; "and I fear for
Mademoiselle d'Albret."

"Oh, do not think of me, Louis," exclaimed Rose; "if it is a safer
road, it will seem to me a shorter one."

"Besides, Monsieur le Baron," rejoined the guide, "we can rest as long
as we like at Nogent Leroy, for it has always been loyal; and, though
little more than a village, it defended itself against the Chevalier
d'Aumale and three hundred of the League. We can reach it in less than
two hours."

"Then let us thither with all speed," answered De Montigni; "for there
we shall find safety and repose combined, dear Rose."

This plan was accordingly followed; and, in less than the time
mentioned Nogent Leroy was reached, without any further peril or
impediment. Though, as the guide had described it, the place was in
fact but a village, yet gates, and freshly erected barricades gave it
at that time the air of a town; and the marks of musket-balls, in the
wood-work of the palisade, showed that it had been fiercely attacked
and had shown a gallant resistance. The little party was stopped for a
moment at the barriers, but the white scarfs worn by De Montigni's
men, and the answer of "Vive le Roi!" to the "Qui vive?" of the guard,
soon obtained them admission; and, riding on down the street, they
reached a small but clean and neat looking inn, over the door of which
was written the usual inscription, "Lodging for man and horse."

The host came out to meet them, showed them into a room strewed with
rushes, called forth his wife in eager and imperative tones to wait
upon the lady, and began in the same breath to ask tidings of his
guests, and to communicate all the information which he himself
possessed. The intelligence he afforded indeed was much more important
than any that De Montigni could supply in return; for the very first
news he gave imported, that a battle might be expected every hour,
that the two armies must be within a few leagues of each other, and
that parties of Leaguers and Royalists were hurrying up from every
quarter to swell the ranks of Mayenne and the King.

These tidings somewhat startled De Montigni and his fair companion;
but the host, who was an eager Royalist, spoke so confidently of the
certain defeat of the League and the triumph of the King, that the
apprehension of fresh dangers and difficulties, which the intelligence
had at first produced, soon died away; and De Montigni, turning to her
he loved as soon as they were alone, pressed her hand in his, saying,
"God send the King good success, dear Rose: but even if it should be
otherwise, which I will not believe we can but pursue our flight
somewhat further, and the very hurry and confusion of such events will
serve to conceal us from the eyes of those we have most cause to
fear."

Rose indeed could scarcely view the matter so cheerfully; but she
would not show her apprehensions, and only asked what course her lover
would pursue, if it should be found that a battle had been fought and
lost by the King, before they reached his camp.

"That cannot well be, dear Rose," replied De Montigni; "for I trust we
shall reach his camp to-night. They say he has raised the siege of
Dreux, and is now at Annet. You can take three or four hours' rest
here, and yet reach that place before dark. We must do so, if
possible; for in case of success we shall then be free from danger:
and in case of reverse we shall have the means of judging in what
direction to turn our steps. If further flight should be necessary,
which heaven forbid! I know that my own dear Rose will not hesitate to
give me her hand at once, to remove all chance of separation; and I
would fain obtain the King's written sanction to our union, to obviate
all difficulties, before a battle takes place--the event of which is
always doubtful."

He held Rose's hand in his as he spoke; and, though she bent down her
eyes under his eager gaze, she gave no sign of hesitation or
reluctance. Yet he could not be satisfied without full consent; and he
asked, "Shall it not be so, dear Rose? Will you not be mine at once?"

"I am yours, De Montigni," replied Rose d'Albret in a low tone. "You
will never ask ought that is wrong, I am sure; so that I may well
promise to grant whatever you do ask. But I hope we shall find the
King, and that he will win the day, and then I may be yours openly and
happily, and not in flight, and dread, and concealment."



CHAPTER XVII.


It was once more night--dark, solemn, and sad: the country was a wide
undulating plain raised high above the course of the river, which
might be heard, swelled by the melting of the snows and the heavy
rains that had lately fallen, rushing on with a hoarse murmur through
its hollow banks. No hedge-rows, as in England, diversified the scene
by daylight, or gave, even in the obscurity of night, that appearance
of care and culture which always brings with it the idea of comfort.
On the contrary, all was bleak, wide, and desolate. The sight lost
itself in the dark expanse, except where part of a distant village
might be faintly seen by a sort of lurid glare that hung over it,
rising in black masses against the sky upon the right, with its tall
yet heavy spire towering above the rest, and where, towards the left,
an indefinite something, confused and vague, rested upon the horizon,
as if the rounded tops of trees bounded the plain in that direction.
Such was the scene through which Louis de Montigni travelled slowly
with Rose d'Albret on the night of the 15th. She was weary, exhausted,
anxious; and he, with his heart sinking on her account, looked forward
into the deep and sombre scene before him, seeking some object to give
hope of repose and shelter, but finding little to encourage or
console.

Suddenly a light flitted along by the side of the village, feeble and
small as a glow-worm's lamp: but still it raised expectation; and De
Montigni said in a low voice, "Surely, that must be St. André."

"Perhaps the King may not be there either, Louis," replied Rose in a
faint tone: "all these reports may be as false as that he was at
Annet. But, whatever be the case, De Montigni, I fear I must stop at
the first houses; for, to say truth, I can go no farther."

"I wish we had not quitted Annet, my beloved," exclaimed the young
nobleman; "but see, there are more lights. 'Tis this orchard that hid
them. Yes, yes! dear Rose, we are at length coming near the camp."

"Thank God!" replied Rose d'Albret: but she said no more; for with the
sense of relief which she experienced at the thought of finding repose
even for a night, were mingled manifold doubts and apprehensions
regarding the future, as well as all the complicated emotions which
might well thrill through a woman's heart, at the idea of presenting
herself before the many eyes of a strange court, under such
circumstances, and at such a moment.

As they advanced, and turned the low wall of a small farm, a new scene
broke upon their sight. The village, which was extensive, stretched
away to the right; and, amongst the gardens and orchards, a thousand
lights were to be seen, either passing along from one place to another
as officers and messengers sped from regiment to regiment, or fixed
though flickering in one place, where the soldiery had lighted fires
to keep themselves warm during the night and to dry their clothing,
wetted by the frequent showers which had diversified the day.

Sounds innumerable too met the ear as they came nearer,--first a faint
noise, then a mingled roar like the rushing of a torrent; and then
various noises began to detach themselves from the rest,--loud
laughter--the merry song--the solemn hymn--the hoarse shout--the word
of command--the call of one companion to another--the hammering of the
blacksmith's anvil--the groaning of the forge--the clash of steel, as
the armourers and farriers plied the busy stroke, repairing arms and
shoeing horses, and once or twice the shrill blast of the trumpet.

No challenge was given as they rode on, for the position of the enemy
was now exactly ascertained, and surprise was not expected; but one or
two of the officers advanced to the side of the road from the
neighbouring gardens, and gazed for an instant upon the passing troop,
to see if they recognised any friends amongst the new comers, as the
light of the watch-fire flashed upon their faces.

Notwithstanding fatigue, anxiety, and fear, Rose d'Albret could not
but feel the excitement of the scene. Sometimes guarded by palisades,
sometimes sheltered by the low walls, sometimes in the open field,
they passed innumerable groups of soldiers seated round their fires,
and just concluding their evening meal. Marks of toil and strife were
on the faces of all, whether of the gay Catholic or the stern and
rigid Huguenot; and no glittering coats of arms, no jewels and
embroidery were there, nothing but cold grey steel, and buff coats,
and caps rusty with long exposure to the rain, and scarred and
weather-beaten countenances, on which, however, sat an expression of
confidence and fearless preparation, which is often an omen of
success.

Round some of the fires the veterans were telling tales of former
wars, and victories long since achieved. At others, one selected for
his voice or skill, was singing; and, whether Papist or Protestant,
whether his song was the gay ballad of the day, or one of the
canticles of the Reformers, it still spoke the fearless expectation of
triumph.

At a slow pace, for the weary horses could hardly drag their limbs
along, De Montigni and the lady advanced till they reached the
entrance of the village; but here a guarded barricade opposed their
further progress; and, as they could not give the word, the soldiers
refused them admission.

"I am seeking the King," said the young nobleman; "send hither the
officer of the watch as fast as you can; for we are very weary and
must have repose."

Even as he spoke, a plain old man, whose dress betokened some rank in
the army, approached the barrier, and replied to the last words he had
uttered by saying, "Good faith, young gentleman! you will find no
lodging in St. André. Two thirds of us are obliged to sleep in the
streets. There is not a dog-kennel untenanted."

"It is not for myself, Sir, that I care," answered De Montigni, "but
for this lady, who in truth can go no further. At all events, I must
see the King, if you will kindly cause him to be informed that the
Baron de Montigni is here."

The old officer gazed in the face of Rose d'Albret with a look of
inquiry, not rude but compassionate; and after a moment's pause he
answered, "I think, Monsieur de Montigni, the King expected you. There
was a messenger arrived an hour ago from the Commander de Liancourt,
and your name was mentioned, I know; but I am sorry to say his Majesty
is not now in the village, and may not return for some hours. You will
find him about a league hence, placing the artillery.--But stay! I
will make inquiries: there may be some orders left for you. Here,
Jacques, run up to the King's quarters, and tell them that Monsieur de
Montigni is here. Ask what his Majesty said about him.--Ah, my poor
young lady, you look tired enough," he continued, as the soldier sped
away; "and yet I cannot ask you to alight and repose yourself, for
every cottage is filled to the door with soldiery--a rude scene for
such as you. I can give you some refreshment, however," he added
suddenly, as if the thought had only just struck him. "Here, D'Avesne,
D'Avesne! run in and get out some wine. In the pannier behind the
door, you will find a bottle of good old burgundy and a horn cup:
bring them hither, quick. There, stand back, good fellows! Did you
never see a tired party come in? They do not want your company."

The last words were addressed to three or four idlers who had
sauntered up, and, leaning their folded arms upon the barricade, were
staring rudely at Rose d'Albret and her companions. They now, however,
walked away with a laugh, which made the warm colour come back into
poor Rose's cheek, as she felt herself the object of scorn rather than
pity. The moment after, the man who had been sent for the wine
returned, and after much persuasion from De Montigni she took some,
though it tasted hot and burning to her parched lips rather than
refreshing. It seemed to revive her a little, however, when she had
swallowed it; and she saw that there would be need of all her
remaining strength: for the picture which imagination had painted of a
royal camp, and of immediate admission to the King's pavilion, and of
a brilliant circle of nobles forming his court, had by this time all
faded away; and she found sterner realities and more homely, but not
less painful annoyances in place.

It was nearly ten minutes before the man sent to the King's quarters
returned; and they seemed hours to Rose d'Albret; but when he did
come, he turned to his officer, saying, "They are to go to the farm at
Mainville; and the King will see Monsieur de Montigni to-morrow
morning. He is to wait there without stirring till he hears more."

"But where is Mainville?" asked De Montigni, almost in despair at the
idea of poor Rose having to travel further that night: "if it be
distant, we shall never reach it. The lady now, as you see, can hardly
sit her horse."

"'Tis half a league, down by the river," answered the old officer:
"but stay--we can help the lady. Have out the hand litter on which
they brought Jules de Sourdis from Dreux. Get out a party of bearers,
Jacques. We will soon manage that for you, young gentleman; and a
crown-piece will make the men go willingly. They will serve for
guides, too; for in this dark night you would never find it. But, in
the meantime, she had better dismount, and rest upon this bench. You
seem sadly weary, lady: have you come far?"

"Many leagues," replied Rose, as De Montigni sprang to the ground by
her side to lift her from her horse. "I thank you much for your
kindness, Sir," she continued, still addressing the old officer. "I do
not think I could ride another hour to save life itself."

Seated upon a bench by the side of the barricade, which had been
opened to give her admission, with the light of a large watch-fire,
and two resin torches casting a flickering glare over the figures of
the soldiery as they came and went, wearied, exhausted, faint, and
sick at heart, Rose d'Albret remained for several minutes with her
fair head bent down, and her hand dropping as if powerless by her
side. At length, however, a light seemed to come in her dark eyes, a
warm and well-pleased smile crossed her lip, and she raised her fair
face towards De Montigni, who stood beside her, with a look of renewed
hope and satisfaction which he did not comprehend.

The reader too may ask what it was that seemed so suddenly to revive
her? what it was that called up that expression of pleasure and
relief? It was not that she saw any friendly form. It was not that she
heard any well-known voice. The cause was in no external things, but
in her own mind. As she sat there, she had felt deeply and bitterly
all that was painful in her situation, with lassitude of limb and
sickening heart, fears, anxieties, and gloomy anticipations, which
every sight, and sound, and circumstance, tended but to increase. Her
thoughts and her sensations had been full of all that is sad and
depressing, when suddenly, she had asked herself, if she could recall
the last eight-and-forty hours, return to the mansion of her guardian,
lay her head on the pillow of luxury and ease, remove afar peril, and
difficulty, and terror, and weariness, become the promised wife of
Nicholas de Chazeul, and give up Louis de Montigni for ever, would she
do it? Her heart answered the question in a moment--no! Whatever she
might suffer, was light in comparison. All that she had undergone, all
that she endured, lost half its weight when she remembered that she
was free--that she was with him she loved; and looking up, as I have
said, in his face with a heart lightened and grateful, she felt that
to share poverty, sorrow, flight, exile, care, with him, would still
have joy enough to compensate for all.

De Montigni could not, of course, see what was passing in her mind;
but still there was a look of affection in her eyes which was not to
be mistaken, which told him that she was thinking of him, and that she
did not regret what she suffered on his account; and, bending down his
head, he spoke those words of tenderness and love which well repaid
her for her endurance and her sacrifices.

Shortly after the litter was brought forward, with four stout men to
bear it. It was apparently a rude and hastily contrived machine, in
which some wounded man had been brought from the siege of Dreux, with
a little sort of tilt over it to shelter him from the wet; but the
lower part, or couch, was thickly covered with dry hay, over which the
old officer cast his cloak; and De Montigni, placing Rose in it,
thanked their new friend warmly for his assistance; and, walking by
the lady's side, issued forth from the village of St. André, and was
soon once more wandering on in the darkness of the night.

The lights were speedily left behind, the glare of the watch-fires
faded, or were hidden one after the other by the windings of the road;
nothing but a faint reddish streak in the sky showed the position of
the village and the camp. The busy sounds of the army too died away
into an indistinct hum, like that of a swarm of bees, and then was
lost to the ear altogether; while the voice of the swollen Eure,
murmuring as it rushed along, was the only noise that broke upon the
ear of night.

The way grew narrower and narrower as they went along, so that it was
sometimes with difficulty that De Montigni kept by the litter. But yet
he would not leave the side of Rose d'Albret, cheering her from time
to time by words of affection and of hope, till at length he saw the
glistening of the water before him, as they descended the steep hill,
on the table land of which, the fields of Dreuy and Ivry are situated;
and in a moment after, a single light, apparently streaming from the
window of some house, showed him that they were approaching a human
habitation.

"That is Mainville, Sir," said one of the bearers. "Ah, you are well
off! for there are comfortable quarters there by the side of the ford:
but the King would suffer none of our people to lodge more than a
quarter of a league from the field, for fear the enemy should get
possession of his ground early in the morning. You late comers
sometimes get the best accommodation."

"Is the enemy so near, then?" asked De Montigni.

"Near!" cried the man, "why, we were two hours in presence this
afternoon; and everyone thought they would have begun the battle; but
none were engaged but the light horse, who had a short fight for the
bottom of the valley."

De Montigni mused for the rest of the way; for he loved not to be so
near a field of battle without taking part in it; and yet he had no
arms but the sword he wore, nor horses in a fit state to bear him
through a long day's fight.

A few minutes, however, brought them to the door of the farmhouse,
where they had to knock for some time before any one appeared to
answer them. The first sight of life within, was the head of a man,
protruded from a window above, with the faces of two women looking
over his shoulder.

"Who's there?" he cried; "is that the King?"

"No, no, Gros Jean!" replied one of the men, who had come with them
from St. André. "The King has something else to do than visit you at
this hour, even to see your pretty wife," and he added a loud laugh,
in which the farmer good-humouredly joined. "Come down, come down,
Gros Jean!" he continued; "these are the people his Majesty told you
he would quarter upon you--two regiments of horse and three companies
of infantry."

"Go along, buffoon," said the farmer; "the King never said he would
quarter anybody on me, but two or three ladies and gentlemen."

"Well, these are they," replied the soldier; "so come down and open
the door, or, on my life, we will break it down. We have got to fight
to-morrow, and cannot stand here talking all night. It's the Baron de
Montigni, I tell you, and his lady."

"Well, wait a minute," said the farmer, withdrawing his head; and in a
few moments they heard bolts and bars removed, and the door was
opened. There was still a little doubt and apprehension in the good
round countenance of the jolly farmer; but the sight of the litter,
with De Montigni standing beside it, clothed in the common riding
costume of the day, speedily took away his fears; and, calling forward
his wife and sister to welcome the lady, he showed every sort of
alacrity that could be desired in providing for the comfort of his
guests.

"Here is a room to sit in," he said, as De Montigni assisted Rose from
the litter, and drew her arm through his own, to give her support.
"Dear heart, lady, you seem tired enough, and as if you had been wet
through too. Take the light, wife, and show the gentlefolks the way."
Thus saying, he led them on into a good wide room, where he and his
farming men were wont to take their meals; and then, opening a door
which gave admission to another chamber, he said, "And here's your
bed-room, with as comfortable a bed as any in all Normandy."

"I shall keep watch in the hall, my good friend," replied De Montigni;
"but Mademoiselle d'Albret will go to repose, I dare say, directly;
for that is what she needs more than anything else, if these two
ladies will kindly give her their attendance. A bundle or two of
straw, thrown down in the corner there, will do for me and my men;
but, as there are seven of them, and hungry enough too, I doubt not,
by this time, you had better give them some wine and some provision.
Whatever I take," he added, in a significant tone, seeing that the
farmer was somewhat confounded at the number of his undesired guests,
"I will pay for on the spot."

Gros Jean, as the Royalist soldier had called him, scratched his round
head for a moment, and then replied, "I thought that you had been man
and wife, from the King's message; but, however, as he said ladies,
and there seems but one, there is another little room up stairs, and a
good bed too, which you had better have, Sir."

"No, no," replied De Montigni, "I will stay in the hall, if you will
give me some straw.--We will be your guard during the darkness,
dearest Rose," he added, pressing her hand in his, "so take a cup of
warm milk, if it can be procured, and lie down to rest for this night,
at least, in peace and security. I must go now to speak to these good
fellows without."

"Let me see you again for a moment, Louis, before I sleep," said Rose,
gazing in his face with an anxious look; "you will not be long
absent?"

"Not five minutes, my beloved," replied De Montigni; and, leaving her
with the farmer's wife and sister, he went out to speak with the men
who had carried the litter from St. André.

Let not the reader think, with the cold spirit of censure which is so
ready at all times to blame everything that is not customary in our
own times and in our own country, that there was aught unusual or
improper in the invitation which Rose d'Albret had given her lover to
visit her in her bed-chamber. In those days, though certainly not
purer than the present--and bad enough are both--the common
reception-room of a lady, especially in Paris, was that in which she
slept. Often before she quitted her chamber, too, in England, as well
as in France, the beauty of the hour received her train of admirers,
in her bed; and, every art of coquetry was displayed, to win or
increase admiration, as she lay in what was supposed to be the
toilette of the night, but which had often cost her and her maids more
than one hour of labour to arrange and render becoming. Such was not,
indeed, the custom of Rose d'Albret, but still the habits of the
country and the period would not have suffered her to feel that she
was committing the slightest impropriety in admitting her lover to her
room, even after she had retired to rest, nor would she have doubted
the safety of her honour in the hands of De Montigni, under any
circumstances of opportunity, or, of temptation. She knew him well,
with that knowledge of the heart which perhaps can only be acquired by
the intimacy of early youth, and she was certain that nothing on earth
would induce him to blemish the being he loved, were there no eye but
that of God to witness his actions.

The first task of De Montigni, when he had found the men who
accompanied him thither, was to reward them fully for the trouble that
they had taken. They had already removed the litter into the road;
and, after having given his own attendants orders to carry in the
little baggage they had brought, he drew the chief of the
litter-bearers aside, and questioned him eagerly as to the hour at
which the battle was expected to take place on the following day.

"Not before noon," replied the man, "for the Duke and his people have
retreated beyond Ivry, we hear; and that's a two leagues' march."

"Then I may have time to get horses and arms," said De Montigni
joyfully. "I must not be so near, my friend, without having some share
in this matter. Here is another crown for you, and if you can send me
down an armourer, and some of those men who generally follow camps
with horses for sale, they may find a good market."

"What arms do you want, Monsieur le Baron?" asked the soldier; "you
will not find them easily. One might get a casque and a cuirass for
yourself, with pistols, and such things, but I doubt your obtaining
much more."

"I must take what can be found," answered De Montigni. "I would fain,
indeed, arm my men, likewise; but, at all events, I will be present
myself, if I go in my pourpoint."

"A dangerous trick that, Monsieur de Montigni," said a voice near,
which the young nobleman thought he recognised; "but you must not try
that experiment. His Majesty monopolizes all such follies as that, and
suffers no one to fight in their pourpoints but himself."

"Ha! Monsieur de Chasseron," said De Montigni, "is that you?"

"It is, indeed," replied Chasseron. "I am here before you, you see;
and I will get you arms, if you want them; but in the meantime you
must do me a service.--Take up the litter, good fellow, and away," he
continued, turning abruptly to the man who had been speaking with De
Montigni; "I will see to what this young gentleman wants. No answer,
but away. Now, Monsieur le Baron--So you have arrived safe; you have
brought the lady with you, I suppose, by seeing the litter."

"I have," answered De Montigni; "but she is well nigh dead from
fatigue."

"'Tis a long way," said Chasseron; "but when I gave the advice, the
King was at Dreux, some seven leagues nearer."

"Even now," answered De Montigni, "I have not been able to see His
Majesty."

"What, he is absent?" said Chasseron; "ay, he is always running about.
Parbleu! I fear the enemy will catch him some day, if he does not get
wiser with years. However, you remain quiet where you are to-night;
the King shall have notice of your being here, for I have a few
friends at the court, and you shall hear from him to-morrow; in the
meantime, I will procure you what arms you need, though, good faith,
you must pay for them yourself, for I have spent all my money in his
Majesty's service, and have scarcely a cross left in my purse."

"That I am quite prepared to do," replied De Montigni; "but I could
have much wished to have seen the King to-night."

"That is impossible," cried Chasseron, in his usual rapid manner. "But
what do you want with him? I will get Monsieur de Biron to ask it for
you; he will see none but his generals after his return."

"I much wished," replied the young nobleman, in a lower tone, "to
obtain his Majesty's written sanction to my marriage with Mademoiselle
d'Albret; but, of course, he will need long explanations and proof of
the contract between her father and my uncle."

"Oh, I know not that," replied Chasseron; "he will be glad enough to
give her to a Royalist, rather than a Leaguer. At all events, we will
try for you. It's as well that, while you are thus wandering about
together, you should have the holy bond of matrimony round your necks,
if you must needs poke your heads into it; and who can tell what
to-morrow may bring forth? God's purposes are dark and wonderful," he
continued, in a more solemn tone. "We none of us know what is good for
ourselves or others. It may please Him, Most High, still further to
chastise this poor land of France, and even the King himself, for
aught we know, if raised by a great victory, might forget his former
character, and prove a scourge, instead of a blessing."

"Oh, no!" exclaimed De Montigni, vehemently, "never believe it. More
than forty years of noble and upright dealing with all men, of love
for his people, of generous forbearance, and high-hearted kindness,
may well be warrant to the most suspicious for his conduct in time to
come. Do not suspect him, Monsieur de Chasseron."

"I do not," replied the other, laying his hand emphatically on the
young man's arm; "but I say still, God only knows what is good and
what is evil for the land of France; and He it is who must decide the
fate of all to-morrow. However," he continued, "it is well you should
be prepared, and we will make the trial for you, whether it succeeds
or not. Good night; I must hasten back, for I have much to do."

He turned away as he spoke; but De Montigni stopped him, saying,
"There was some service you said I could render you."

"Ay, parbleu! I had forgot," replied Chasseron. "There is a young
lady, Monsieur de Montigni, who has been ill treated and injured by
those who ought to have protected her. She is here, in the midst of
the camp; and though, to say truth, I know little of her, yet I am
sure, she deserves not all that has fallen upon her. She has applied
to me for protection and assistance, but I am in no condition to give
her what she seeks, effectually. Were I to send her to the village,
ill tongues might fall upon us both unreasonably. There is no woman in
camp but your fair lady here, and love makes a man kind-hearted
towards others of the sex that has enthralled him. If then you would
give this girl protection, and aid, in case of need, I should feel
grateful, and you would do a good act towards one who, God help her,
has few to take her part. From injury I could protect her; from insult
and grief, it would need much time and attention, to defend her, were
she to take up her dwelling in the camp; and though woman may cling to
man as her support and stay, she has no true companionship but with
woman. Will you then beseech your sweet lady love to befriend her, and
let her pass the night in the farm?"

"Willingly," replied De Montigni; "but where is she?"

"Oh, at a cottage hard by, above," answered Chasseron; "she has been
there since last night; when we had a rougher journey than even you
have had. I will send her down immediately by some of my men, who are
there at the top of the hill. So once more, good night, and God speed
us all to-morrow."

Thus saying he turned away, and De Montigni trod back his steps to the
farm, musing over the request that had been made, and the promise he
had given. It was not that he doubted, it was not that he entertained
suspicions; his mind was too clear and free from that fatal
experience, which mingles the dark drop with the brightest cup of
life, to entertain one injurious thought; but the responsibility, the
care that already rested upon him, was enough to weigh him down. His
anxiety for her he loved, his longing desire to remain with her, never
to leave her, till she was placed in security, contending with his
strong and overpowering desire to be present at the struggle which was
approaching, surrounded him with difficulties enough; and now they
were to be increased by the presence of a third, placed under his
protection for the time, and demanding from any one of kindly and
courteous feeling equal care and attention. He could have wished it
otherwise: but still he felt that he could not have refused, and he
hastened back into the house to tell Rose d'Albret of what had
occurred, and to ask her countenance and sympathy for the stranger.

De Montigni found his men already in possession of the hall, with the
good farmer busily employed in placing food and drink before them,
encouraged to produce the best of his store by his young guest's
liberality towards the bearers of the litter; for nothing flies so
fast as the report of a generous spirit. He passed through them,
without notice, however, and knocking at the door of Mademoiselle
d'Albret's chamber, was at once admitted by the farmer's sister. De
Montigni's tale was soon told; and notwithstanding her weariness, Rose
listened with all that tender interest, which the heart of a kind and
gentle woman, unhardened by either the vicissitudes, or the vices of
the great world, is sure to feel in the misfortunes of a sister.

"Oh bring her hither whenever she comes," exclaimed the lady, as soon
as he had done. "Poor thing, she has suffered as well as we have, and
perhaps far more severely, Louis. I will keep my eyes open till I see
her, though they are heavy; but if I should be asleep, you must wake
me, De Montigni. Promise me that you will."

"If you wish it, dear one," replied her lover; "but these good people
will, I am sure, show her every kindness."

"No, no," answered Rose d'Albret, "I would not have her find a cold
reception for the world. Oh, De Montigni, what would I have given, as
we stood before the barrier at St. André, to have met a woman to speak
kindly to me, and tell me to take comfort?"

"Well, then, I will wake you, sweet, kind girl," said De Montigni;
"but I do not think she will be long; for he said she was hard by."

Perhaps the lover would fain have lingered beside his fair promised
bride; but after a few more words Chasseron withdrew into the hall,
and conversed for a short time with the people who had accompanied him
from Marzay. Scarcely five minutes passed ere the farmer, who had
remained with them, was summoned to the door, and returned the moment
after, with a fair and beautiful girl, in her first youth, who gazed
wildly round upon the strange faces as she entered. De Montigni,
however, instantly advanced towards her, and took her by the hand,
saying, "Do not be alarmed. We are all friends."

"Friends?" said the poor girl, "friends?"

"Yes, indeed," replied the young nobleman; "but come with me, there is
a lady in the next room, waiting anxiously to see you;" and he led her
on to the door. The good farmer's sister was still in the room of
Mademoiselle d'Albret; but Rose had by this time sought her couch,
though she had not yet fallen asleep; and when De Montigni and his
fair companion were admitted, she raised herself upon her arm and
gazed at the stranger for an instant, shading her eyes with her hand.
The next moment, with a look of utter astonishment, she exclaimed,
"Helen!--Helen de la Tremblade! Good heaven, dear Helen, can it be
you?"

The poor girl paused, trembled, wavered for a moment, as if she would
fain have retreated from the room; but then, running forward, she cast
herself upon her knees by the side of Rose's bed, and burying her face
in the clothes seemed to sob convulsively. Rose d'Albret cast her arm
round her tenderly; and De Montigni, seeing that there were deeper
sorrows in their fair visitor's bosom than he had imagined, withdrew
from the room, and closed the door. The farmer's sister followed in a
few minutes, and Helen de la Tremblade was left alone with Rose
d'Albret.



CHAPTER XVIII.


The morning was bright and beautiful; the heavy clouds of the
preceding days had passed away, leaving behind them nothing but a
few thin fleecy remnants, that were whirled over the blue sky from
time to time by the quick wind. It was a true spring day that dawned,
genial and soft; and, in the clump of trees by which one side of the
farm-house was shaded, the early birds were singing sweetly, rejoicing
in the blessings of God and the return of the bright season to the
earth.

De Montigni had watched the greater part of the night, and had not
closed his eyes till an hour before the break of day; but he then fell
into a heavy and profound slumber, which even the various noises of
the farm, the rising of his own attendants, the coming and going of
the farmer and his family, and the arrival of several people from the
village, bringing intelligence of the movements of the army, did not
disturb. He lay so calm and still, his servants would not wake him,
till at length a messenger from the King spurred quickly down to the
farm-house, delivered a sealed packet, addressed to the young Baron,
and rode back again without a moment's pause. It was then thought fit
to rouse him; and, starting up, as one of his followers shook him by
the arm, he passed his hand across his brow, exclaiming, "Good Heaven!
it was a dream!" Then taking the packet he opened it, and found a few
brief words in the handwriting of the King.


"Monsieur de Montigni," so the letter ran, "I am informed of your
arrival, and also that your uncle, the Commander de Liancourt, will be
here before ten o'clock with a small corps. He has orders to join you
at Mainville. Wait for his arrival, then come up by the road to St.
André" as far as the first turning, which will lead you to the plain.
There, as soon as you reach the army, fall into the light horse of the
Count d'Auvergne.

"I enclose you the paper which you requested by message last night.

"Your very best friend,

"HENRY."


There was a small slip of paper enclosed in the letter; and to it De
Montigni now turned, reading, with joy and satisfaction, the following
words:--

"Henry, by the grace of God King of France and Navarre. It having been
certified to us, upon good and sufficient authority, that, by contract
existing between the late Francis d'Albret, Count de Marennes, our
well-beloved cousin, and Anthony, Count of Liancourt, the hand of the
only daughter of the said Francis d'Albret was plighted, promised, and
engaged, to Louis, Baron de Montigni, and that the said parties are
now of an age, and willing to fulfil the said contract, We do by these
presents authorize the said parties, to proceed to the celebration of
their marriage, notwithstanding any let, hindrance, or protest, on the
part of any person, or persons, whatsoever, consenting to ratifying
and sanctioning the said marriage, by the power and authority in us
being.

(Signed,) "HENRY."
(And lower down,) "REVOL."


"Is Mademoiselle d'Albret awake?" asked De Montigni, eager to show the
precious document to her he loved.

"Oh yes, Sir," replied the man to whom he spoke; "she is awake and up
an hour ago; but she bade us not disturb you."

De Montigni hastened to the door and knocked. "Come in," said the
sweet voice of Rose d'Albret; and entering, he found her sitting with
her hand clasped in that of Helen de la Tremblade, who had passed the
night with her. She rose to meet him, and was immediately pressed to
his heart, while he whispered in her ear, "You are mine, dear Rose.
Here is all that was wanting to our immediate union," and he placed
the paper in her hand.

There was not less light in the eyes of Rose d'Albret than in those of
her lover, as she read the King's sanction to their marriage; but,
when she turned to the letter that accompanied it, her cheek grew
pale, and a tear trembled upon her eyelids.

"Oh, Louis! must you leave me so soon?" she cried, "and to battle?"

"Nay, dearest Rose," answered De Montigni, "you would not have me
avoid the path to honour and renown."

"No, Louis, no," she answered; "I will not say another word.--Ten
o'clock? That is very soon; 'tis past nine now."

"Indeed!" said De Montigni. "I have slept too long."

"Oh, no!" answered Rose. "I came and looked at you as you lay, and it
would have been cruel to rouse you from so calm a slumber."

"And yet I dreamed sad dreams, dear Rose," said her lover. "But what
is to be done?" he continued; "neither arms nor horses have arrived,
and our poor beasts are jaded with yesterday's fatigue."

"But you cannot go without arms," said Rose, rejoicing in the hope
that something might detain him from the perilous field; "your uncle
will never let you go unarmed.--Perhaps they will come soon; but in
the meantime take some refreshment, Louis. Run, dear Helen, run and
tell them to bring him some food."

Helen de la Tremblade had remained sitting at the table, with her hand
covering her eyes; but now, rising, she approached the door, pausing
however, with a glowing cheek, ere she went, to whisper something to
Rose d'Albret.

"Not for the world," replied Rose; "oh, no, Helen, do not suppose it,"
and her cheek too, grew red.

The breakfast was soon brought, and Louis de Montigni ate a few hasty
mouthfuls; but he was too much excited and too anxious to find any
long repose. More than once he rose and looked out; more than once he
questioned the farmer as to whether no one had come during the morning
to furnish him with arms. He asked eagerly, too, for intelligence from
St. André, and heard, with feelings of impatience and pain, that the
King had marched at an early hour to take up his position on the
ground he had chosen for his field of battle. He then sent out two of
his men to gain farther information, and to see if any horses could be
procured; but minute after minute passed by; the hour of ten arrived;
and every moment he expected to see the old Commander and his party at
the ford before the farm-house, before anything that he required could
be obtained. The men brought back word that the village was nearly
deserted, except by a few sick and wounded; but they had seen the army
of the King, they said, extending in a long line across the plain, and
they thought they had also perceived the heads of Mayenne's columns
advancing from the side of Ivry.

"Well, we must go as we are," said De Montigni; "we fought the other
day at Marzay without a scratch; and we shall ride lighter without
armour. Have everything ready to set out the moment my uncle appears.
Two of you, however, must stay with these ladies. You are all anxious
to go, I know, so choose by lot, and make haste, that all may be
ready."

The moments that thus passed were sad and terrible to poor Rose
d'Albret. She would not say a word to stay him; and yet she would have
given worlds, had it been possible without damage to his honour, to
have withheld him from the field. Each order that he gave, each
inquiry that he made, roused fresh fears and apprehensions in her
breast; and the words of tenderness and affection with which he strove
to cheer her, but rendered her more sad, while again and again she
asked herself, if she should ever hear that voice again.

Nor were the feelings of Helen de la Tremblade less painful, though
perhaps they were less anxious, as, seated near the window, she gazed
forth in sad and motionless meditation. To those who stood beside her,
all was risked upon that battle; but to her, the bright hopes of life,
which in their case were but chequered with fears that an hour might
sweep away, were gone for ever. Their words of love, their anxiety for
each other, all awoke painful thoughts and bitter memories; and over
all her contemplations, spread the dark cloud of self-reproach,
leaving not one bright spot in the future or the past.

Still minute after minute passed away, and no one appeared. The
impatience of De Montigni became extreme. "The battle will begin," he
thought, "and I shall be absent. Disgrace and shame will fall upon me.
Who will know of the King's commands? and men will say, I was within
half a league of a stricken field, and kept aloof. I cannot bear this
much longer. Ride out upon the top of the hill, Victor, towards the
side of Annet, and see if you can perceive my uncle coming.--But hark!
what is that?"

As he spoke the loud boom of a distant cannon struck upon the ear;
another and another succeeded, and then several shots still farther
off were heard replying to the former.

"It is begun," he said; "I can wait no more. Bring round my horse!
Dearest Rose, I must go to see what is taking place. I will be back
soon, my beloved," and he once more pressed her to his heart.

"But the King's commands," said Rose; "He told you to wait here for
your uncle. You ought not to go indeed, Louis."

"There must be some mistake," he answered, "and I cannot stay here
like a coward or a fool, while my King is fighting for his crown, and
the fate of France is in the balance. I will be back speedily,--I will
but see," and tearing himself away, he sprang upon his horse's back,
followed by those, upon whom the lot to accompany him had fallen, and
spurred up the hill at full speed. On the top he paused looking
towards Annet. The whole country was open before his sight; but no
body of men was to be seen, and hesitating no longer, he rode on till
the plain of Ivry lay before his eyes, covered with squadrons and
battalions of horse and foot, and presenting the wild, confused and
busy scene of a field of battle. When he was gone, Rose d'Albret
covered her eyes and for a few moments gave way to tears; but Helen de
la Tremblade came round to where she stood, and laid her hand timidly
upon her arm. Rose dashed away the drops from her eyes, at this mute
appeal, saying, "No, Helen, no I will not doubt it! It were wicked, it
were wrong, to think that God would so abandon us."

"Besides, lady," said Helen, "Monsieur de Montigni is good and noble;
you are virtuous and wise. Can such people ever be unhappy?"

"Ah, my poor Helen," replied Rose d'Albret, "you reproach yourself too
bitterly when the fault was his. Shamefully have you been used; and
though God forbid that I should say you have not done wrong, yet I can
well believe that, with such vows and promises, you fancied yourself
his wife as much as if the priest had joined your hands. Perhaps," she
added in her ignorance of man's nature, "perhaps, now that he has lost
the hope of obtaining my estates, which was all he sought, he may make
you his wife indeed, and deliver you from self-reproach."

"That he can never do," replied Helen de la Tremblade; "I feel that I
am a degraded being, lady, unworthy even of your kindness."

"Nay, do not call me lady," answered Mademoiselle d'Albret; "you used
to call me Rose, Helen, and you must do so still. But indeed, dear
Helen," she continued, willing to pass away heavy time, with any other
thoughts but those of what was taking place so near her, "but indeed,
I will trust you may still be happy; and one thing you must do for my
sake, you must tell your uncle all. He will give you absolution for
the past, and direction for the future."

"Ere this, he has been told," answered Helen, "told by that harsh and
cruel woman. She would never spare me that."

"Ay, but you know not how she may have told it," answered Rose
d'Albret. "Oh, she is false and deceitful, Helen, and may have cast
the whole blame and shame on you, when in truth, yours is but the
lighter share. See him, dear Helen, see him, and let him know the
whole. Shrink not from his reproaches; hear them with patience and
humility; but let him know the plain truth, just as you have told it
me; and he will forgive you, I am sure. Hark! there are the cannon
again. Oh Good, protect him!--Helen, I will go and pray."

"May I pray with you?" asked Helen de la Tremblade timidly.

"Come," said Rose taking her by the hand, "come let us raise our voice
to Him from whom all need, and all are sure to receive, forgiveness
and mercy if they seek it."

An hour passed by in anxious expectation. Oh, how long an hour may be
to those who watch, to those who with the faint sickening of the
heart, know that upon its events may hang the long misery of a
hopeless, cheerless, loveless life! It seemed as if it would never go;
and every device they used to make it speed the faster, seemed like
the ticking of a clock, marking the slowness of time's progress, not
accelerating its flight. Now they spoke of things past, hoping to lose
in retrospection, the sense of things present; now they talked of the
future, the wide indefinite blank, which to all men is a chasm that
the eye searches in vain. But still to the present, the overburdened
present, their minds and their words returned whether they would or
not. To the quick imagination of Rose d'Albret, all the horrors of the
battle-field presented themselves in more than even their real
terrors. She pictured the dead, the dying, and the wounded; the fierce
contention, the sanguinary triumph, the unsparing cruelty, loss,
flight, defeat; and though she laboured zealously with her own mind to
lead it to other themes, yet it was all in vain. She might speak of
anything, of everything but the battle, yet still her thoughts
wandered back to that overwhelming image, which, like some vaster
mountain in a hilly country, was ever seen towering over all the rest,
and presenting itself to contemplation, whenever the eyes were turned
from other objects.

Sometimes she would strive to speak calmly with Helen de la Tremblade,
upon what should be the poor girl's future conduct. Sometimes she
would inquire gently and tenderly into the past. But ever her mind
would come back again to the battle, and she would give way to all the
apprehension and anxiety she felt; would ask how the time went; would
call the good farmer, and demand intelligence; would send out one of
the attendants, to bring her any news that he could gather.

Half an hour more flew slowly away, and De Montigni did not return;
but then, quick spurring down the road, as if for life, came a small
party of horse. The farmer, who was upon the watch, suddenly closed
and barred the doors, and Rose saw from the window that, over their
dusty armour, they wore scarfs of green, a sign that they belonged to
the faction of the League. The worthy countryman called her and her
companion quickly from the lower story, put up the strong oaken
shutters, and bade them, if they needs must gaze, look from the rooms
above. But the cavaliers paused not even to notice the house as they
passed, and, hurrying on, plunged their horses into the stream, and
gained the other side.

"Surely the King has won the day?" said Rose; turning to the farmer,
"the Leaguers fly. Is it not so?"

"I know not, Mademoiselle," replied the peasant. "It often happens in
strifes like these that men run away before the battle is lost or won.
Their own corps may be defeated; but there may come many more to turn
the fight."

Even while he spoke a single horseman, with a scarf of white, rode
down more slowly on a wounded horse, looked up to the window, where
they stood, and cried aloud, "the King is killed," passing on without
further pause.

The heart of Rose d'Albret sank as she caught his words; but she grew
fainter still when she beheld upon the road, a party of four, one on
foot, leading a horse, on which sat a wounded man, with two others
supporting him. For an instant she fancied--for the imagination of
fear is as vivid and as false as that of hope,--that she recognized
the figure of De Montigni. The next moment, however, she saw that it
was an older and a heavier man, clothed in armour, and with the visor
of his casque closed; but with the white signal of the Bourbon party
thrown over his shoulder.

"Oh let us go and help him," she cried.

The farmer hesitated. "Do, do!" cried his wife.

"Well, quick, then!" said the man, and hurrying down, the door was
unbarred and opened; but still he held it in his hand ready to close
it in an instant, if he saw others following.

"What news? what news?" cried the peasant as the others came near.

"Victory! victory!" shouted one of the men: "Mayenne in full flight
and total rout!"

"And the King? and the King?" demanded the farmer.

"Master of the field; and following them like a thunderbolt, to Ivry,"
was the reply of one of those who rode beside the wounded man; "but
help us, here," he added; "he is sadly hurt."

They lifted their master from his horse at the gate, and were bearing
him in, while Rose d'Albret, who had come forth with the farmer and
his wife, gazed on him with looks of sympathy, when, suddenly, at full
speed, but waving joyfully his hat and plume, De Montigni appeared
upon the road above, followed by an attendant; and, giving way to all
she felt in that moment of exceeding happiness, she ran on to meet
him, and in an instant was in his arms.

"Oh, this has been a glorious day, dear Rose," he cried; "and the
crown of France is firm upon our monarch's brow. By his own right hand
he has won it; and God grant him life to wear it long."

Tears were the only reply that Rose could make; but the good farmer
tossed up his hat, and cried "Hurrah!"

"Whom have you here?" asked De Montigni, as his eyes fell upon the
group just arrived, who were now entering the farm, with the wounded
man borne in the midst. But, ere any one could answer, coming up the
road from the other side, as if seeking a ford across the stream, were
seen a body of some thirty horse, with a young and graceful man at
their head. The farm-house hid them from the young Baron and the lady
till they had passed the angle; but then the green scarfs mingled with
black, too plainly showed to what party they belonged. They rode fast,
but not at the headlong speed of fear; and, when they saw the marks of
a ford, the leader paused, marshalled his men to pass two and two, and
then looked round him with a calm deliberate air. His eyes instantly
lighted upon De Montigni his attendant and Rose d'Albret, for the
farmer had retreated into the house; and, exclaiming "Halt!" to those
who were passing the ford, the officer of the League spoke another
word or two to a gentleman near him.

De Montigni drew Rose rapidly to the door of the farm, and pushed it
violently with his hand; for by this time it was closed, and the good
farmer, seeing the arrival of the troop, had barred and bolted it as
before. In vain De Montigni looked about for a place of refuge: they
were shut in between the bank, the wall of the garden, and the ford;
and in an instant they were surrounded by the horsemen.

"Ha, ha! we shall not go without some prisoners at least," cried the
leader of the troop, "your sword, Sir, your sword--it is vain
contending."

De Montigni hesitated; but he was seized in a moment; and while Rose
clung in agony to his breast, his sword was snatched from his side,
and a pistol levelled at his head.

"Surrender, or die!" cried a fierce-looking man, who had sprung to the
ground beside him. "We have no time to waste upon Huguenots."

"We are no Huguenots," replied De Montigni, "but faithful Catholics,
though servants of the King. I surrender, as it needs must be so; but,
of course, you will let this lady retire into the house--you do not
make war upon women, I suppose."

"That depends upon circumstances," replied the leader, who had now
come up. "Your name, Sir?"

"The Baron de Montigni," replied the young nobleman.

"We are in luck," exclaimed the leader, turning to one of his
companions; "then this fair lady is Mademoiselle d'Albret?"

Rose only replied by her tears; and the leader continued, turning to
De Montigni, "Mount your horse, Sir, and follow! You are a prisoner of
war, and shall be treated as such. The lady shall be restored to those
from whose care you took her. No words; for time is short--Have you a
litter or a horse for the lady?"

"Her jennet is in the stable," replied De Montigni; "but she is too
much fatigued and weary to ride. If you have the spirit of a gentleman
and a knight, as you seem to be, you will not force her to do so."

"Weary or not weary," said the stranger, "she must come along. Quick,
bring out the jennet! Lose not a minute, or we shall have some of the
enemy upon us. Lady, it seems your friends have kindly shut the door
in your face, so that if you have goods and chattels within, they must
even remain where they are."

"You are discourteous, Sir," said De Montigni, "and abuse your
advantage."

"How now!" cried the leader, grasping his sword; but Rose held up her
hand in entreaty, exclaiming, "Nay, nay, De Montigni, say not a
word--I am ready to go. I trust this gentleman will use no needless
harshness. Here is the jennet: I will go directly."

The horseman looked down somewhat gloomily, murmuring, "Discourteous!
such a term was never used to Nemours before."

"Monsieur de Nemours," replied De Montigni, "I am free to say I
believe it never was; and I am sure, now I know you, it never was
deserved. You have lost a great battle, Sir, and some irritation may
be forgiven: but I beseech you, if it must be shown, let it fall upon
my head, and not upon this lady's."

"Fear not," said the Duke, turning to him frankly; "I must send her to
her guardian, as I have been required; but she shall be treated with
all kindness by the way; and in the meantime," he added aloud, "she is
under the protection of my honour. Quick, quick!" he continued, "see,
there are people coming down already. Stand to your arms, there.
Mount, Sir, mount."

Before De Montigni did so, however, he lifted Rose into the saddle,
and then sprung upon his horse, saying, "I will not detain you, my
Lord Duke; but you need not fear," he added, "those are but two or
three of my own servants."

"On!" cried Nemours to his soldiers; "steady through the ford."

"Which way, my lord?" asked the guidon of the party.

"Towards Chartres," answered the Duke, and the troop took their way
across the stream.



CHAPTER XIX.


The sight of pain and suffering, to which man's heart--even if it do
not become totally hard and obtuse by his own dealings with the rough
things of the world--grows less sensible every day as he advances in
life, is always matter of painful interest to woman. There is
something in her bosom that tells her it is her own destiny to suffer.
There are fine links of sympathy that bind her affections to the
sufferer, and not alone the general tenderness of her nature, to which
such feelings are commonly altogether ascribed. The words of a woman's
compassion are always different from those of a man's; they show that
she brings the pain she witnesses more home to her own heart. Man may
grieve for another's anguish; she sympathises with it; man feels for
the man, she actually shares his pain.

Helen de la Tremblade remained in the lower story of the house, even
after the shutters had been put up and the door closed by the farmer,
when the first party of fugitive Leaguers passed by. She took little
note of anything that followed, but sat meditating over her own fate,
with her head leaning on her hand, till the sound of a groan struck
her; but then starting up at once, she advanced towards the door of
the room, which led into a wide, long passage. There she found four
stout soldiers bearing in a wounded man; and though she could not see
his face, from his visor being down, the languid attitude in which he
lay, as his men carried him in their arms, showed her clearly that he
had received some terrible injuries. Self was forgotten in a moment;
her own sorrows, her own wrongs, the bitter regrets of the past, the
desolate despair of the future, were all swept away for the time,
and, clasping her hands, she exclaimed, "Alas! alas! he is dying, I
fear.--Bring him hither, bring him hither," she continued: "there is a
bed in this room," and she led the way through the hall to the
chamber, where she and Rose d'Albret had passed the preceding night.

Carrying him slowly forward, the soldiers laid the wounded man, still
in his dinted and dusty arms, upon the couch, and instantly began to
unfasten his cuirass, through, which a small hole, as if pierced by
the shot of an arquebuse, might be seen, stained at the edge with
blood; but he waved his hand saying, in a faint voice, "The casque,
the casque! take off the casque! Where is my nephew?--Where is
Louis?--He should be here."

"Ah," cried Helen de la Tremblade, "he went out to the battle not an
hour ago. Perhaps he too is wounded or dead."

"Mad-headed boy!" cried the old Commander as they removed his casque,
"he had no arms! Why did they let him go? Ha! Is not that Helen, the
priest's niece?"

"Yes," replied Helen approaching timidly and taking his hand, "it is
poor Helen de la Tremblade."

"Ay, I remember," said the old Commander; "but where is Rose? Where is
Rose d'Albret? She was with my nephew Louis."

"Oh, she is without, here," cried Helen; "I will call her directly,"
and away she ran, through the hall, into the passage, and to the door.
But she found it barred and bolted, and the Farmer bending down, with
his ear to the key-hole, striving to catch the sounds without.

"Where is Mademoiselle d'Albret?" asked Helen.

"Hush," he cried sternly, waving her back with his hand, and still
listening to the door. Helen listened too, but she could hear nothing
but the indistinct murmur of several voices speaking, mixed with the
sound of horses' feet trampling and stamping, as if brought to an
unwilling halt; but a moment or two after, some one spoke in a still
louder tone, crying, "To Chartres!" and then came the noise of a party
moving off, and the plashing sound of cavalry marching through the
ford.

"Where is Mademoiselle d'Albret?" repeated Helen, as the farmer raised
his head from the key-hole.

"Good faith, I cannot tell," replied he; "run up wife, run up to the
room above! and see what is going on without."

The farmer's wife did as he bade her, and the next instant her feet
were heard over head coming back from the window to the top of the
stairs. "Ah, heaven!" she cried in a loud voice, "they have carried
off the young lady, and Monsieur de Montigni, and his servant, and
all. You should not have shut the door, Jean. You are a cruel,
hard-hearted man. I heard them push it myself to get in; and now they
are prisoners; and no one can tell what will happen."

"Hold your tongue! You are a fool, wife," answered the farmer angrily.
"Do you think I was going to leave the house open for the Leaguers to
come in! We should have had the place pillaged, and all our throats
cut."

But the woman's tongue, as is sometimes the case with that peculiar
organ in the female head, was not to be silenced easily, and she
continued to abuse her husband, for excluding poor Rose d'Albret and
her lover, in no very measured terms, while Helen de la Tremblade, sad
and sorrowful, returned to the bed-side of the old commander to
communicate the painful intelligence she had just received.

"Where is Rose?" demanded the old officer as soon as he saw her; "why
does she not come?"

"Alas!" replied Helen, "a party of the League, just now sweeping by,
have taken her away with them."

The old man, who by this time had been stripped of his arms, and laid
in the bed, raised himself suddenly, and gazed in her face with a look
of grief and consternation. Then sinking back upon the pillow again,
he closed his eyes, but said not a word for several minutes. At length
one of his attendants coming forward inquired, if he had not better
ride away to St. André and seek for a surgeon.

"No," replied the old Commander abruptly, "'tis no use. This is my
last field, Marlot, and, the sooner I go, the better. I am fit for
nothing now. I could scarce sit my horse in the battle, though I did
drive my sword through that fellow on Aumale's right hand. But it's
all over; and I shall soon go, too. No use of being tortured by the
surgeons. I've had enough of them.--No; but I will tell you what you
shall do. Go and seek for Louis; though that is most likely vain,
also.--Why the fiend did he go to the field without arms? Yet, Ventre
Saint Gris! I love the boy for it too. But he never can have escaped
from that _mêlée_.--He is dead, so there is nothing worth living for."

Helen had refrained hitherto from telling him that his nephew was in
captivity, as well as Rose d'Albret, for fear of weighing him down, in
his weak state, under the load of misfortune; but now, seeing that his
apprehensions for his nephew's fate, had a more terrible effect, than
even the reality could produce, she said, "No, Sir, he is not dead.
They have carried him away too, with Mademoiselle d'Albret!"

"Ha! girl, ha! Are you not lying?" demanded the wounded man.

"No, indeed," replied Helen, "it is the truth. The farmer's wife saw
them a moment ago."

"Well, then, seek a surgeon," said the old man; "I will try to live,
though it is idle, I think.--Look for Estoc, too. Where saw you him
last?"

"He was in full pursuit with the Grand Prior, Sir," answered one of
the men.

"I saw him take the red standard of the Count of Mansveldt," replied
another.

"That's well, that's well," said the old commander, "take means to let
him know where I lie. Then bring a surgeon if you will. They shall do
with me what they like. Will you be my nurse, little Helen?" he
continued, extending his hand towards her.

"That I will, if I may," replied Helen kneeling by the bedside and
kissing the large bony hand he had held out.

"Well, get me a cloak or something," said the old man, "to cast over
my feet, for I feel very cold. Then come, sit down and talk to me; and
you fellows go away and get your dinner. It must be noon by this
time."

"'Tis one o'clock, Sir," answered one of the men.

"Get your dinner, get your dinner," cried the Commander.

"I have no heart to eat, Sir," said the one nearest to him, "seeing
you lying there."

"Poo!" exclaimed his master, "did you never see an old man die before?
I have seen many; and they will die, whether you eat your dinner or
not. Leave this young lady to tend me; dine, and, if you will, say a
paternoster for my sake. That's the best you can do to help me, though
you are good creatures, too, and love me well, I know,--as I love you.
But we must all part, and my march is laid out."

The men departed one by one, and Helen remained alone with the old
Commander de Liancourt, doing the best she could to tend and serve
him. He suffered her to examine his wound, for the good old chivalrous
custom which required that ladies should know something of leech-craft
had not yet passed away; but it was one beyond her skill. The ball of
an arquebuse or pistol, fired point blank at a short distance, had
pierced his chest on the right side, a little more than a hand's
breadth below the arm. Some blood had followed the wound, but not
much; and all hemorrhage had ceased. He declared that the only pain he
felt was, a burning sensation near the back.

"That's where the ball lies, Helen," he said; "I wish it had gone
through; for these things taking up their lodging in the body, often
make the house too hot to hold the proper tenant. However, God's will
be done. I never valued life a straw; and now, after having known it
sixty years, I certainly do not prize it more for the acquaintance.
'Tis an idle and a bitter world, fair lady, as I fear you have found
out by this time."

Helen shrunk and turned pale, as the old man seemed to allude to her
situation and his eye rested upon her face, she thought, with a look
of meaning. He said no more, however; and in a moment after the farmer
entered to offer his services to the wounded man, with whose rank he
was now acquainted, and to give him farther tidings which had just
arrived from the field--how the Swiss and French infantry had
surrendered without resistance, and all the standards and cannon had
fallen into the hands of the King.

The Commander cut him short, however, asking after his nephew, which
way they had taken him, how many the party numbered, and many another
questions, all of which the man might have answered without betraying
the fact that, to his own fears, was in some degree owing the capture
of Rose d'Albret and the young Baron de Montigni. We put our armour
where we are weak, however; and the first words of the farmer were in
his own defence, betraying at once all that had taken place. As the
wounded man heard him, and began to comprehend what had passed, his
cheek turned fiery red, and raising himself partly in bed, he bent his
eyes sternly upon him, and cursed him bitterly, calling him coward,
and knave, and telling him he knew not what he had done.

"Fool!" cried the Commander; "do you think they would have stayed to
plunder your pitiful house with the sword of the King at their heels?
Curses upon you, Sir! you have delivered a fair sweet lady to the
hands of her persecutors, as gallant a gentleman as any in France to
his knavish enemies. By the Lord that lives, I have a mind to make my
men take thee and drown thee in the river, poltroon!"

The farmer was irritated, as perhaps he might well be; and, but little
inclined to bear from another reproaches which he had endured quietly
from his wife, he was about to reply in angry terms, when Helen
interposed; and, with gentle firmness, which might perhaps not have
been expected from the tender and yielding disposition which she had
hitherto displayed, she led him from the room, and insisted upon his
making no reply.

She then turned all her efforts to calm and soothe the old Commander;
and so tenderly, so kindly, did she busy herself about him, that the
heart of the rough old soldier was moved, and he exclaimed, "Bless
thee, my child, thou art a sweet good girl; and I wish I could but
live to do thee some service. But it is in vain, Helen, it is all in
vain; not that I mind this burning pain; for that more or less follows
every wound, but 'tis the sudden failing of my strength. All power
seems gone; and, in an instant, I have become as if I were a child
again. I was lame and well nigh crippled with old wounds before;
for I never was in battle or combat but I was sure to receive some
injury--such was my ill-luck; but still in my hands and arms I was as
strong as ever, could bend a double crown between my thumbs, or break
the staff of a lance over my knee. Now it is a labour to me to lift my
hand to my head; and that has come all in a moment. This means death;
Helen, this means death!"

"Nay, perhaps not," replied Helen de la Tremblade. "The body is
strangely composed; and the ball may rest upon some sinew or some
nerve that gives strength; yet all may be well again."

The old man shook his head, but still he remained cheerful, often
talking of death, yet never seeming to look upon it with dread or
horror. In about an hour a surgeon arrived, examined and probed the
wound, and descanted learnedly upon its nature. But with him, the good
old Commander showed himself irritable and impatient, writhed under
his hand, declared he tortured him, and seemed to shrink more from
pain, than from death itself. The man of healing soon saw that he
could do but little. To Helen's anxious inquiries, however, he did not
give the most sincere answers, leaving her to hope, that the wound
might be cured, and saying, that he would come again at night. He
calculated indeed, that his patient would live over the next day, and
that there would be time enough for a priest to be summoned. That was
all that his conscience required; and he judged--perhaps kindly--that
it was useless to torment a sick man with the thoughts of death, for
many hours before the event took place.

During the whole of the rest of the day, Helen seldom, if ever,
quitted the bed-side of the Commander de Liancourt. Though careless of
life, inured by long habit to suffering, and even somewhat impatient
of anything that seemed like forced attention to his state, the old
warrior was not at all insensible to real kindness. He saw that she
sympathised with him, that she really felt for all he endured, that
she did her best to soothe and to allay, to comfort and support him.
He could not but see it; for though, ever and anon, the shadow of her
own fate would fall upon her again, and she would sit, for a moment or
two, in gloom and darkness, yet at his lightest word, at his least
movement, she was up and by his bed-side. The cup was always ready for
his lips, the pillow was constantly smoothed for his head, his wishes
seemed anticipated, his very thoughts answered, and even the burning
impatience of growing fever could not run before her promptitude. When
he obtained a moment of repose, she was calm and silent. When he
wished to speak, she was ready to answer, in sweet and quiet tones
that sounded pleasant to his ear; when his breathing became oppressed,
she was there to raise his head upon her soft arm, to open the window
for the air of spring to enter, and to bathe his fiery brow. To
another young and inexperienced being, the scene might have been
terrible, the task hard; but to her, it was all a relief. A share in
any sorrow, was lighter than the full burden of her own; and aught
that took her thoughts from herself, delivered her from a portion of
her anguish.

More than once, the old man gazed upon her fixedly for two or three
minutes, as if there was something that he wished to say, and yet did
not; more than once, he sent away his followers, who came and went
during the afternoon between his room and the next, as if he were
about to speak of something that lay at his heart; but still he
refrained, till, just as the light was beginning to fade, he turned
painfully in the bed, and murmured, "Helen."

The poor girl was by his side in a moment; and putting forth his now
burning hand, he took hers, continuing, "Helen, I wish to talk to you
about yourself before I go."

Helen trembled like an aspen leaf. Four-and-twenty hours before, in
the first agony of desolation and despair, she would have poured forth
her whole soul to any one who offered her a word of kindness and
sympathy; but a change had come over her since then; the power of
thought had returned, conscience and shame and remorse had made
themselves heard, over even the tumultuous voices of grief and
indignation and hopeless agony. The still, but all-pervading words of
self-reproach, filled her ear continually; and, in the blank
wilderness of existence, she saw but her own folly. She shrank then,
and trembled when he spoke of herself. There was no name but one that
he could have pronounced, which would have sounded more horrible to
her ears than her own.

"Oh not now, not now!" she cried, drawing back.

But the old man still held her hand in his, which seemed to scorch
her; and he went on, "Why not now, Helen? It will soon be too late.
The minutes are numbered, my poor girl. The hand upon the dial seems
to go slow, but it will soon point to the hour when this fire shall
have burned itself out, and nothing but the ashes will remain.--I have
learned something of your story, Helen, from the people who came with
my keen, harsh sister, Jacqueline.--Old Estoc heard it, and told it to
me; but I would know more,--I would know all--"

"Oh not now, not now!" cried Helen again; and, by a sudden movement of
anguish and terror, she drew her hand from him, and, with a gasping
sob, ran out of the room.

There was no one in the hall, and when she reached the middle, she
paused. "Shall I leave him?" she asked herself, "Leave him because he
means and speaks kindly--leave him because I cannot bear to hear my
own folly breathed,--leave him?--Oh no!" and with a movement as
sudden, but with a downcast eye and burning cheek, she returned, and
seated herself near in silence, gazing upon the ground.

"Helen," said the old Commander, "I have grieved you. Come hither, and
forgive me."

She sprang towards him, and, casting herself on her knees by the
bed-side, covered her aching eyes with her hands, exclaiming, "Oh, no,
no! It is I who need forgiveness; not you. Do not speak so kindly,
Sir, do not speak so gently; for it goes farther to break my heart,
than all your sister's harshness."

"Hush, hush!" said the old soldier, "Do not move me, there's a good
girl. But listen to me, Helen, for I wish you well, and you have been
tender and affectionate to me this day, when I have much needed it.--I
am a rough old man, Helen, and know not how to speak gently. But I
would fain talk to you about yourself, before I depart from this
place. Listen to me then, and do not think I mean anything but
kindness. I hear that my sister has been hard upon you,--driven you
out of her house,--given you harsh names.--Nay never shake so.--She is
a bitter woman, Helen, to all faults but her own; and I am sure if you
have any, they have been but too much gentleness.--Why, I remember you
as a little child in your good father's time.--There now, you weep! I
know not how to speak to you.--But never mind, I'll talk no more about
yourself. But whatever be your faults, Helen, take my advice. Go to
your uncle, tell him all. He will forgive you; for he is a good man at
heart, and loves you; and besides,--"

"Oh, no, no!" cried Helen, "I cannot go to him, for his look would
kill me.--Rose, so kind and good, so gentle to the faults of others,
she too, persuaded me to go to him: but you do not know him. He is
good and kind, and loves me well, it is true; but he is not
forgiving.--Besides, how can I go there? How can I see him without
meeting,--" and she gave a quick shudder, without concluding the
sentence.

"Ay," said the wounded man, "that must be thought of. But all this is
partly your uncle's own fault, Helen. I warned him when he put you
with my sister, that he was giving his dove to a vulture. I told him
it would be your ruin; but none of those people heeded the old
soldier. They followed their own plans, and thought plain truth,
foolishness.--Hark! do you not hear horses? It is good old Estoc, come
to see his dying leader."

The next moment, there was a knock at the chamber door, and before any
one could say, "Come in," it opened, and the tall bony figure of
Estoc, clothed in armour, such as was worn in that day, but with the
head-piece laid aside, appeared striding up with his wide steps to the
bed-side of the wounded Commander.

"How goes it, Sir?" he cried, "how goes it?"

"Fast, Estoc, fast!" answered the old knight. "I am glad you have
come, for there is much to talk about before I go. Helen, dear child,
run away for a while; and take some repose and refreshment, for you
have scarcely tasted aught since I have been here. She has been an
angel to me, Estoc,--like my own child."

"Thank you, Mademoiselle, thank you," cried Estoc, taking her hand and
kissing it, while she turned away her head, "God will bless you for
it!"

The tears rolled over Helen's cheeks; and, saying "Call me when you
want me, Sir," she left the room.

For more than an hour the old Commander de Liancourt and Estoc
remained together, while Helen, at the window of a room above, sat and
gazed out upon the sky, seeing the last rays of light fade away, and
the stars look forth one by one. "Ah!" she said to herself, as she
watched them, "other lights come in the heavens when the sun sets; but
there is none so bright as that which is gone. The moon, too, may rise
with her pale beams; but it is still night, shine she ever so
brightly."

At length the surgeon arrived and went in again. The next moment he
sent for Helen to aid him; but when she entered the old Commander's
room, she found that he would not suffer his wound to be meddled with.

"It is of no avail, master surgeon," he said; "I know I am dying. You
can do no good, and you do but torture me. Let the ball alone; it has
performed its work right well; you only make it angry with your
probes. Put on a cool cataplasm if you will, and tell me about what
hour will be the end; for I see in your face that you know what I say
is true. I would not go out of the world like a heathen; but the
church is the only surgeon for me."

The man of healing answered in a vague and doubtful manner, but
assured the old soldier that there was no immediate danger; and, after
some vain persuasions, to the end that he might once more examine the
wound minutely, he took his leave, after having applied what he
thought fit externally.

Helen was about to follow, and leave the Commander and his friend
together, once more; but the wounded man called her to him and bade
her stay. "Here is Estoc will be a friend to you, Helen, when I am
gone;" he said, "but listen to me, poor child, and do that which is
for your own good, and for that of others. I pressed you, a little
while ago, to go to your uncle for your own sake; but now I ask it for
the sake of those who were once dear to you. You used to love Rose
d'Albret--I think you do so still--"

"Oh! that I do," cried Helen, clasping her hand.

"Well, then," said the Commander, "her whole happiness, her future
welfare and peace may altogether depend upon your going to Marzay, and
with your own lips telling Walter de la Tremblade, all that has
happened to you."

"Then I will go directly," cried Helen, eagerly, though sadly, "I will
go directly, if I die the next moment. But does he not know the whole
already?"

"I think not," replied Estoc, who stood near. "I don't think Madame de
Chazeul has told him anything, for the good man, who spoke to me about
it, said she would kill him if she knew that he had mentioned
anything. But he thought you hardly treated, Mademoiselle, and wished
me to speak to the Commander about it, that the matter might be
inquired into."

Helen covered her face and sat and mused, till, at length, the wounded
man woke her from her painful dreams, whatever they were, by saying,
in a compassionate tone, "Ah! my poor girl, you suffer worse than I
do, for your pains are of the heart."

"I will go, Sir, I will go!" cried Helen; "though it is very bitter so
to do, yet I will go, if it can serve Mademoiselle d'Albret, even in
the very least."

"It may serve her much, young lady," said Estoc. "As this sad affair
has happened, and she has fallen into the hands of the Leaguers,
beyond all doubt they will send her to Marzay; and then the old story
will begin again, and no devilish scheme will be too bad, to drive her
to marry Monsieur de Chazeul."

"Oh, no, no, no!" cried Helen, vehemently; "he will betray her--he
will make her miserable, as he has made me. What right has he to marry
her?" she continued, with her brow contracted and a wild look coming
into her eyes. "Is he not married already? is he not contracted by
oaths that he cannot break?"

"Ay, but he will break them," replied Estoc.

"I rave, I rave!" said Helen, after a moment's pause; "he has broken
them already--every vow he made--every pledge he gave--every oath he
took! and at what should he hesitate? But how can I prevent this? What
can I do to avert it?"

"Much," answered the Commander. "Your uncle, Helen, has been one of
the prime movers in all this. Without him they could do little; for he
is a skilful and a scheming man, not moved by the same passions that
both prompt and embarrass them. What are his motives or his views, I
know not; but, _pardie_, right sure am I, when once he hears how you
have been treated, he will find means to frustrate all their plots,
and to save our dear Rose, by one means or another."

"Yes, yes, he will--he will," cried Helen; "I know he will, if it be
but in revenge. Oh! he never wants means to work his own will. My poor
father used to say, he had ruled all his family from infancy. But I
will go at all risks, at any cost.--Yet," she added, hanging her head,
"yet I could wish that it were possible for me to avoid that cruel and
hard-hearted man, whom I must see if I go there openly."

"Oh! that will be easily managed," said Estoc; "I will answer for
that, Mademoiselle; for I took care to ensure myself and my good
Commander here, the means of entering the Château of Marzay when we
liked. God forbid that I should use it wrongly! But I foresaw the time
might come, when, in justice to ourselves or others, we might need to
stand face to face with those who have been plotting so darkly against
people whose rights they should have protected."

"You are right, Estoc, you are right," said the old Commander, whose
voice was growing feeble, with the fatigue of speaking so much. "You
are right, my good friend. I thought not of that precaution, but it
was a wise one. Have you the key of the postern, then?"

"No," answered Estoc; "that would be missed; but I have a key to the
chapel, which, as no one uses that way in or out, will never be wanted
by any one but ourselves."

Helen raised her eyes and smiled, with the first look of satisfaction
that her countenance had borne, since she had been driven from the
Château of Chazeul. "That makes all easy," she said; "for, not only
can I enter by that means, but dear Rose d'Albret can come out; and
oh! what would I give to guide her back again to liberty and him she
loves?"

But Estoc shook his head. "That may not be so easy," he answered; "now
they are once upon their guard, they will watch her closely. She will
be henceforth a prisoner, indeed. Her only hope is in the priest,
Mademoiselle. Gain his aid for us, and we are secure."

"I will try," answered Helen, "I will try--But look," she continued,
touching Estoc's arm and speaking in a low voice, "Monsieur de
Liancourt seems weary, and asleep, I think."

Estoc bent down his head, and gazed in the sick man's face, by the
pale light of a lamp that stood upon the table. He almost feared, from
all that he had seen, that what Helen imagined slumber, was the repose
of death; but, as he leaned over him, he saw a red spot upon the
cheek, and heard the quick low breath come and go; and, turning to her
again, he whispered, "He sleeps; that is a good sign. I will sit with
him till he wakes."

"No, no," answered Helen; "leave me to watch him. You take some
repose; I neither want it, nor could obtain it."

Estoc accordingly left her, gaining the door as noiselessly as he
could. Then, clearing the hall of all the persons by whom it was now
crowded, he seated himself on a bench, ate some bread and drank some
wine; and leaning his head upon his hand, soon fell into slumber, with
that easy command over the drowsy god, which is often acquired by
those habituated to the labours and the dangers of the camp.

It was past one o'clock; and all the noises of the house were still.
The farmer and his family had retired to rest, the soldiers and
attendants were seeking slumber in the kitchen and the barn, when
Helen de la Tremblade opened the door between the sick man's chamber
and the hall, and called "Estoc! Estoc!"--"Monsieur de Liancourt is
awake," she added, as he started up, and then continued, in a lower
tone, "he is very ill--There is a terrible change--Come quick, come
quick!"

Estoc followed in haste; and, approaching the wounded man's side, he
saw too clearly the change she spoke of, that awful change which
precedes dissolution; that inexpressible dim shade, that cold
unearthly look, never, never to be mistaken. Fever may banish the rose
from the cheek; the eye may grow pale and glassy; the lip may lose its
red; and sickness, heavy sickness may take away all that is beautiful
in life; but yet, while there is a hope remaining, the countenance of
man never assumes that hue which death sends before him as his herald
on the way;--and there it was. To the eyes of Helen, it was strange
and terrible, and made her heart sink though she knew not all it
meant; but Estoc had seen it often, and knew it well; and whispering
to her, "This is death!" he took his old friend's hand in his.

"Ah, Estoc!" said Monsieur de Liancourt, "where is Helen?--Come
nearer, my kind nurse, let me see your face, for my eyes grow dim."

"Shall I send for a priest, Sir?" asked Helen.

"Not yet," said Monsieur de Liancourt, "for I have much to say. Bring
me my cross of St. John. Lay it on my breast, that I may die under the
standard of my salvation." Helen hurried to get it, where it lay with
the armour and clothes in which he had been dressed, and placed it
gently on his bosom a he told her. The old man gazed wistfully in her
face for an instant, and then said, "I am going, Helen--fast. If I had
lived, I would have been a father to you. Estoc, will you protect
her--defend her?--Do you promise me?"

"I do from my heart," replied Estoc. "As long as I live she shall
never want a home to receive her, or an arm to do her right."

"Kiss the cross!" said the old Commander; and, bending down, the good
soldier pressed his lips upon it, as it lay upon his dying leader's
bosom.

"So much for that," said the Commander. "When I am gone, Estoc, give
her all that I have brought with me.--You, I have provided for, long
ago.--See me buried as a soldier should be. Lay me before the altar at
Marzay, and bid the priest say masses for my soul.--Now give me the
papers that I may explain them well."

Estoc proceeded to the corner of the room in which the old commander's
garments had been laid down in a heap; and searched for some minutes
before he could discover the packet of papers for which he was
looking. He found it at length, and, turning round, approached the
bed-side where Helen de la Tremblade sat watching the wounded man. She
held his hand in hers, she gazed upon him eagerly with her beautiful
lips slightly open, showing the fine pearly teeth within; and, as the
light of the lamp fell upon her, she was certainly as fair a creature
as ever man beheld; but there was a look of anxious fear in her eyes
that startled Estoc, and made him hurry his pace. The eyes of the old
commander were closed, and Helen whispered, "He has had a terrible
shudder."

"Here are the papers, Sir," said Estoc.

The old man made no answer, but by a heavy sigh.

"Send for a priest, quick," cried Estoc; and Helen running hastily
from the room, woke one of the soldiers in the kitchen, and dispatched
him to the village in haste. When she returned to the chamber,
however, all was still: and, approaching with her light foot the
bed-side, she saw Estoc with his arms folded across his chest, and his
eyes, glistening with an unwonted tear, fixed upon the countenance of
his old friend and leader, from which all expression seemed to have
passed away. She listened, but could hear no breath. The lips were
motionless; the breast had ceased to heave; the hand, which he had
lately held in her own, had fallen languidly on the bed; the other, by
a last movement, had been brought to rest upon the cross which lay
upon his bosom. Life had passed away, apparently in an instant, and
the sufferings of the stout old soldier were at an end.

The moment after several of the men, who had been awakened by a voice
calling to one of them to seek a priest, crept into the room to see
their good leader once more before he died; and Estoc, brushing away
the moisture from his eyes with the back of his hand, turned towards
them, saying, "You may come forward.--You cannot disturb him now. He
is gone; and a better heart, a stouter hand, a kinder spirit, never
lived, my friends. Few there are like him left; and we at least never
shall see such another. God have mercy on his soul, and on ours too."

Thus saying, he knelt down, murmured a prayer, and kissed the hand,
still warm with the life that was departed. The soldiers did the same
one by one, and then carried the tidings to their fellows who where
still asleep. Starting up as they had lain down, they all ran hastily
into the room; and, of course, amongst the number, there were many
different ways of expressing their grief. Most of them, however, had
tears in their eyes, and one man wished aloud, that he knew the hand
that fired the shot.

"Fie," said Estoc, "it was the chance of battle. No soldier bears
revenge for anything done in fair fight. He has sent many to their
account, and now is sent himself; but by the grace of God his is no
heavy one, and he will find mercy for that."

There was a momentary pause, and then two or three of the soldiers
whispered together; after which one of them stepping forward, said,
"Will you lead us, Monsieur Estoc?"

"I am not a rich man, my friends," said the old soldier, "and cannot
pay you as the good commander did. What I have, however, you shall
freely share; and if you are willing to serve the King as you have
done this day, I will lead you willingly, in that cause.

"We will fight in none other," replied the man who spoke for the rest;
"and as for pay, we will take our chance, so that we have food and
arms."

"That we will always find," replied Estoc, "but we have a duty here to
perform before anything else. We must carry the corpse to Marzay, and
fulfil our dead leader's last commands; then we will seek the King;
and, if he cannot entertain us himself, we shall easily find some
banner under which to fight upon his side."



CHAPTER XX.


It was about two o'clock in the day, when the party of the Duke of
Nemours entered the little town of Maintenon; for that Prince hurried
along his prisoners at a rapid rate, although he was aware that, the
main body of fugitives from the field of Ivry having taken a different
direction, he was less likely to be pursued than if he had followed
the same course towards Mantes. As he approached Maintenon, indeed, he
somewhat slackened his speed, and gave orders for putting his men into
better order; and before he reached the gates he brought his own
horse, and those of the rest, to a walk, as if quietly marching
through the country.

All appearance of flight and apprehension was banished; and De
Montigni heard one of the soldiers, speaking to a citizen as they
entered, declare, that they had had a skirmish at Ivry, in which the
King had been defeated and driven back. A somewhat bitter smile curled
his lip; but he made no observation; and the good townsman shaking his
head with a doubtful look, replied.

"Ay, it may be so; but different tidings are about the place; and if
you have won a battle, why are you marching away from the field?"

"Why, Coquin?" replied the soldier readily, "because we are carrying
the tidings to Chartres, with orders to the governor to send out his
people and cut off the fugitives from Alençon."

Still the man looked unconvinced; but the soldier rode on after his
troop; and the Duke stopped in the town two hours to refresh his
horses. While there, he sent for the officer commanding in the place,
and held a long, private conversation with him, which afforded an
opportunity to De Montigni and Rose d'Albret to speak together
unnoticed, for the first time since their capture. The Duke had
ordered dinner to be prepared, and had courteously invited them to
partake of it, leaving them alone in the dining hall of the inn, while
he held his communication with the governor without. But though it was
a solace and a comfort to both of them, to be enabled to pour their
griefs and anxieties into each other's bosom, yet their conference was
a sad and fruitless one; for they could arrange no plan of action for
the future, they could extract no hope from the painful situation in
which they were placed. All they could do was to promise and repromise
faith and constancy to each other, and to wait for coming events, in
the hope of ultimate deliverance. De Montigni found no difficulty in
binding Rose to fly with him whenever the opportunity should offer;
and each vowed to the other to look upon their engagement as complete
and inviolable, whatever means might be employed to break it.

"Let us regard ourselves as wedded, dearest Rose," said De Montigni;
"and fear not for the result. The King is each day gaining advantages
over his enemy. This faction must soon be crushed, notwithstanding the
assistance it receives from Spain; my ransom will soon be agreed upon;
and should they attempt to detain my bride, I will deliver her, should
need be, with the strong hand. If bloodshed be the result, let Chazeul
answer for it. The fault is his, not mine."

"Oh! no, no!" cried Rose; "do nothing rashly, Louis. I am yours, will
be ever yours. Better to wait for months--ay, even for years, than dip
your hands in kindred blood.--But I will trust that there is no need
for such terrible deeds. When once the King's authority is at all
established, Monsieur de Liancourt will soon yield to it. He is not
one of those who will hold out to the last, in favour of a failing
cause. But, at all events," she added, as the door opened, "be the
time long or short, be the trial hard or light, I am yours for ever."

She knew not how hard that trial was to be.

As she spoke, the Duke of Nemours, with one or two of the gentlemen
attached to him, entered the room; and the meal which he had ordered
was soon after served. The irritation under which he had laboured, on
account of the loss of the battle, when first De Montigni and his fair
companion had fallen into his hands, had passed away; and towards Rose
d'Albret, at least, he had resumed all that courtesy for which he was
renowned. To De Montigni his demeanour was varying and uncertain;
never, indeed, returning to the harsh rudeness which he had at first
displayed, but sometimes cold and icy, sometimes gay and almost kind.
He was a Prince who had acquired, without much cause, a high
reputation throughout Europe, and De Montigni knew him by report to be
brave to a fault, generous to prodigality, and affecting a chivalrous
tone in his conduct and manners; but he was not aware of the faults,
which afterwards developed themselves so remarkably and caused the
Duke's ruin and his death,--selfishness, ambition, tyrannical
severity, and a wild vanity, that led him to overestimate in all
things his own abilities, and his own importance.

As they sat together at the table, for a time, the fairer points of
the Duke's character were alone exhibited to his prisoners. He
addressed De Montigni more than once, pressed Rose to partake of the
meal before them, spoke of the events of the battle, and even lauded
highly the skill and character of the King.--The young Baron deceived
himself into the belief that these external signs of a high and noble
nature, might be the genuine indications of the heart; and he resolved
to cast himself upon his generosity, to explain to him the
circumstances in which he stood, and to beseech him to refrain, at
least for a short period, from placing Mademoiselle d'Albret in the
power of those who were but too likely to misuse the opportunity. As
if to check him in such purposes, almost the next moment, Nemours
resumed towards him his haughty and overbearing manner; and thus he
went on from time to time; at one moment appearing to forget that De
Montigni was an adversary and a prisoner, and the next treating him
almost as if he were a condemned criminal.

After the space of repose I have mentioned, the march towards Chartres
was resumed, but the pace at which they proceeded was now slow; and
before they reached that fair old town, the sun set in cloudless
splendor, and the stars looked out in the sky. Weary, silent, anxious,
and distressed, Rose d'Albret rode on, replying to the frequent
attentions of Nemours with but a monosyllable, till at length they
reached the gates, where they where detained during a few minutes; for
the news of the defeat of Ivry had already reached the city, and all
was anxious precaution to guard against surprise. At length the party
was admitted; torches were procured at the Corps de Garde; and by
their red and gloomy light, flashing upon the tall houses with their
manifold small windows, the cavalcade wound on, through the narrow
streets, towards the castle.

Intelligence of the arrival of the Duke of Nemours, had been sent on
to the governor from the gates; and the outer court of the citadel was
filled with gentlemen and officers when the party entered. Nemours
dismounted from his horse as soon as he had given the word to halt;
and, advancing to a stern-looking, middle-aged man, who seemed to be
the chief of those present, he embraced him, saying,

"Well, Monsieur de la Bourdasières, I have come to you sooner than I
expected. We have been badly served at Ivry; and the foreign troops
have once more betrayed our confidence. However, I bring two prisoners
with me--or at least one," he added, "for the lady is not a prisoner,
and of her I will speak to you by and by, if you will have the
goodness now to place her for the time under the protection of Madame
de la Bourdasières."

The governor seemed to ask a question, which De Montigni did not hear;
but Nemours replied, immediately, "Oh, yes, of the highest. It is
Mademoiselle d'Albret, the daughter of the late Count de Marennes."

"Right willingly," replied the governor. "We will give her what poor
entertainment we can;" and advancing with Nemours to the side of
Rose's jennet, he assisted her to dismount, saying, "my wife will be
most happy to entertain you, Mademoiselle d'Albret."

Rose turned an anxious look towards De Montigni, who sprang from his
horse, and approaching her before any one could interfere, took her
hand, saying, "I am rejoiced to find you placed under such protection,
dearest Rose."

The governor turned a grave and inquiring look towards him; but De
Montigni added, loud enough for all to hear, "Do not fear. The
contract for our marriage, between your father and my uncle, cannot be
broken, let them do what they will."

"Come, come, enough of this, Sir!" said the Duke of Nemours; and the
governor, taking Rose by the hand, led her away into the castle.

"Monsieur de Nemours," said the young nobleman, as soon as she was
gone, "I am your prisoner; and I cannot blame you for seizing the
momentary advantage you had obtained, to make me so. I know the
reputation of the Duke of Nemours too well to suppose, that he will
show any want of courtesy toward one placed in such a situation; I,
therefore, demand to be put to ransom, and that without farther delay,
according to the common customs and usages of war."

Nemours gazed at him, for an instant, from head to foot, and then,
turning on his heel, replied, "I will consider of it, Sir."

A sharp reply was springing to De Montigni's lips; but he repressed
it, recollecting how much the fate of himself and one most dear to
him, might depend upon the man to whom he was speaking. The colour
came in his cheek, however; and he bit his lip to keep down the anger
which could scarcely be suppressed, while Nemours, calling one of his
gentlemen to him, gave some directions in a low tone.

"Take a parole from his servant," he said aloud, in conclusion, "and
let him have free ingress and egress to wait upon his master. As to
the chamber, speak with some of the people of Monsieur de la
Bourdasières about it;" and then, turning round to De Montigni again,
he added, "we shall meet to-morrow, Sir; in the mean time, good
night."

Thus saying, he walked away and entered the castle, marshalled by some
of the officers of the governor. De Montigni remained for a moment or
two, while the followers of Nemours and the people assembled in the
court conversed together round about him, in regard to the events of
the day, and many an anxious inquiry was addressed to those who had
shared in the battle, as to the course which it had taken, and the
results which it was likely to produce. Each man answered according to
his particular character and disposition. Some made light of it;
asserted that it could scarcely be called a battle lost; that Mayenne
was at the head of nearly as many men as ever; and that, though the
enemy did possess the field, they had paid dearly for it. Others, more
sincere, or more alarmed, acknowledged, that at last it had been a
complete rout, that each had fled as best he could, and that the King
was pursuing Mayenne, sword in hand, towards Mantes. Others contented
themselves with a significant shrug of the shoulders, or a simple
exclamation of anger and mortification; but, upon the whole, the
governor's officers easily divined that a great victory had been won
by the Royalists,--a terrible defeat sustained by their own party.

At length, the gentleman to whom Nemours had last spoken, and who had
been conversing with another man at some distance, advanced towards De
Montigni, saying, "Now, Monsieur le Baron, if you will follow me and
Monsieur de la Haye, we will show you to your chamber.--Come hither,"
he continued, beckoning to De Montigni's servant who had been taken
with him; "you can wait upon your master till he is ransomed, so you
will see where he lodges;" and, leading the way with the officer to
whom he had been speaking, he conducted the young nobleman into the
castle. Following the walls which in those days were extensive, he
approached a small detached building, which seemed to be used as a
house of refreshment for the soldiery, or what we should, in the
present day, call the canteen.

The lower story was thronged with men drinking and talking; but,
walking through the passage, they reached a narrow and ill-constructed
stairs, which led to some rooms above. In one of these was found a
bed, a table, and a chair, all of the homeliest description. The
casements were not in the best state of repair, and no curtains were
there to keep out the glare of day or the winds of night. The walls
were in the rough primeval state in which the hands of the mason had
left them, and everything bore an aspect of misery and discomfort, not
very consoling to the eyes of the captive.

This, he was informed, was to be his abode while he remained in the
city of the Druids: and, well knowing that remonstrance was in vain,
he seated himself in the solitary chair, while the officer of Nemours
took the parole of his servant, and then, making a cold bow to the
prisoner, retired.

De Montigni remained in silence, with his head resting on his hand,
for a moment or two, while his follower gazed on him with a
disconsolate countenance; but, at length, the man ventured to
interrupt his master's reverie by saying, "This is a strange place to
put you in, Sir. Not very civil, _pardie_, though you be a prisoner."

"The place matters little, my good friend," answered the young
nobleman. "We slept in the Alps in worse abodes than this. It is the
being a prisoner that makes the lodging bad--and at such a time too!"
he added, with a bitter sigh, "when happiness was within my grasp;
when the cause of the King was victorious; when another minute would
have saved us both."

"'Twas unlucky indeed, Sir," said the servant. "They say fortune
changes every seven years; God forbid that ours should last as long,
for we have made a sad beginning in France. But, at all events, I will
try to render the place somewhat more comfortable for you, Sir. Money
will do anything in Chartres, as well as elsewhere."

"Would to Heaven it would get me out of it!" replied De Montigni. "He
will never dare refuse to put me to ransom, surely?"

"I do not know, Sir," rejoined the man. "I have heard that, in these
civil wars, they have done strange things; but, if he do, you must
make your escape, Sir; and, as I was saying just now, money can do
everything."

De Montigni shook his head, but he suffered the man to proceed as he
thought fit to give the chamber an air of greater comfort. A sconce
was brought up from below, to replace the solitary lamp which had been
left by the officer; a piece of tapestry was obtained from some other
quarter to cover the window; a bundle of rushes were found to strew
the floor; a white sheet was spread over the bed, to cover the
somewhat dirty furniture with which it had been previously decorated;
and, thanks to the proximity of the canteen, wine and provisions of
various kinds soon ornamented the table, which was covered with one of
those fine white cloths for which, Le Grand assures us, France was at
that time famous.

But, when the door opened and closed, De Montigni saw the figure of a
soldier, either passing to and fro, or leaning on his partizan; and he
felt bitterly that he was a prisoner, without power to alter the
course of events which were taking place around him, to the
destruction of all his hopes, to the frustration of those dreams of
joy in which he had indulged but a few hours before. With the usual
course of bitter and unavailing regret in a young and inexperienced
mind, he reproached himself for not having done every act that might
have averted the misfortune which had fallen upon him. He blamed
himself for having joined the battle, when he had no occasion to do
so; he forgot all the inducements and arguments to which his mind had
yielded when he left Rose in the farm at Mainville, in order to share
in the glories and the dangers of the field of Ivry. He next regretted
that, anxious to bear her the first tidings of success, he had hurried
back as soon as he saw the fight irretrievably turned against the
Leaguers, and acknowledged that he ought to have gone on with the King
in pursuit of the enemy.

He who knows by frequent trial the fallibility of human judgment, and
how often the best calculations are proved false by the unexpected
turns of fate, judges as surely as he can by the light of reason, acts
resolutely when his decision is formed, and leaves the rest to the
will of God, thanking Him who alone gives success, if his efforts
prove effectual, bowing, without self-condemnation, if disappointment
follows. But the young cannot do this; for it is the invariable fault
of youth to attribute too much to human powers. We only discover their
feebleness when we have tried them; and this is one of the first
lessons of earthly existence, the great school wherein we learn, or,
at least, may acquire, the knowledge that fits us for a higher state
of being. The world is a school, and we are but school-boys, and all
that we obtain is destined for another scene.

The night which De Montigni first passed as a prisoner, was without
repose, as it well might be. Had his busy thoughts permitted sleep to
visit his eyelids during the first five hours of the night, the noises
which rose up from below would have effectually banished the gentle
guest; but those sounds were hardly heard by the captive, and, long
after his servant had left him, he sat and mused; now reviewing the
past; now forming airy schemes for the future, destroyed as soon as
raised; now pondering over the bitter present with unavailing anger
and regret. Shortly after daylight, he was up and dressed; and, when
his servant again appeared, he sent him at once to the Duke of Nemours
to know when he would fix his ransom, according to the custom of the
day. The answer was cold and formal, "That Monsieur de Nemours would
see the Baron de Montigni in the course of the morning, and would then
inform him of his intentions."

This was all that the man had been able to obtain; and, for many
another impatient hour, De Montigni paced his narrow chamber, giving
way to every dark and painful imagination, till, at length, a step,
different from that of the guard at the door, was heard without, about
an hour after noon, and the voice of the Duke of Nemours was instantly
recognized by the prisoner, telling the soldier he might retire to the
room below.

They were words of good augury to the young nobleman, who mentally
said, "He comes to name my ransom;" and the impression was farther
confirmed by the cheerful and courteous countenance of the Duke, who
entered the moment after, more with the air of an old acquaintance
than a captor.

"Well, Monsieur de Montigni," he said, "how have you passed the night?
By heaven, they have assigned you but a paltry lodging here. 'Tis none
of my doings this. La Bourdasière should have known better."

"The lodging matters little, my Lord," answered De Montigni, "it is
the imprisonment that is painful;" and, resolved to follow the
determination he had formed the day before, and cast himself and Rose
upon the generosity of the Duke, he added. "Nor is it my own captivity
that is the most grievous to me. It is the imprisonment of the lady
you found with me."

"But she is not a prisoner, Monsieur de Montigni," replied Nemours;
"therein you have made a mistake."

"She is worse than a prisoner, my Lord Duke," said the young nobleman,
"if you send her back to the Château of Marzay.--Nay, hear me out, my
Lord. I have ever heard that the Duke of Nemours is the flower of the
French nobility for chivalrous generosity. His name has reached me
even in Italy, where I have so long sojourned, and if when I entered
France I had been asked on whom I would soonest rely for aid and
protection in any honourable enterprise, I should have answered, 'on
Monsieur de Nemours.' Now, my Lord, I will tell you the plain truth
regarding the situation of myself and Mademoiselle d'Albret, and if
your own heart will suffer you to send her back to the captivity in
which she is held at Marzay, I am much mistaken."

He then proceeded to relate the circumstances in which he had found
Rose on his return from Italy; the arts that had been employed to
deceive them both; and the recourse which they had had to flight as
the only means of delivering the lady from the position in which they
had placed her. Nemours listened with a varying countenance, but
without any interruption. At one moment De Montigni thought he was
touched; at another, a heavy frown came upon his brow; at another, a
look of impatience passed over his face, as if he were tired of the
tale; and when the young nobleman had ended, he replied in an
indifferent tone--"All very lamentable, Monsieur de Montigni; but
still, unless you were prepared to subscribe to the Holy Catholic
Union, I should not be justified in retaining Mademoiselle d'Albret
from her guardian. Even if you were, indeed, it would still be a
consideration whether the long services of Monsieur de Chazeul would
not require us to bestow the hand of the lady upon him, rather than
upon a fresh and uncertain convert."

"What!" exclaimed De Montigni, hastily, "the contract with her father,
her own inclination, and my undoubted right to count for nothing!"

"I am no lawyer," answered Nemours coldly; "I know no thing of
contracts. If you think yourself injured in regard to that matter, the
courts are open to you."

"Nay, nay, Monsieur de Nemours," cried De Montigni. "Do not, for your
own good name's sake, treat the matter in such a tone! Do not
sanction, by the approval of the Duke of Nemours, a line of conduct
which you must feel has been most base and dishonourable!"

The Duke coloured. "Well, Sir," he answered, "I will not sanction it.
If all the circumstances be as you say, wrong has been done. But I am
very sorry, I cannot help it now. A different statement of the affairs
has been made to me in letters from Chazeul; and, to end all in one
word, the lady is already far on her way towards Marzay."

De Montigni started and gazed on him with a stern and angry brow. "And
you have really done this thing?" he asked.

"I have," replied Nemours, returning his glance with one of equal
fire.

"Then, probably," said De Montigni, in a tone of bitter calmness,
"Monsieur de Nemours is prepared still farther to favour his friend's
honest and honourable proceedings by retaining the lady's affianced
husband in prison, and refusing to put him to ransom, as is customary
amongst gentleman in honourable warfare? Pray let me know my fate at
once."

"No, Sir," answered the Duke, "I do not intend to do any such thing. I
propose to set you free as soon as possible, either by exchange or
ransom, for the very purpose of suffering you to pursue your claims to
this lady's hand as you may think fit. There is one little
preliminary, indeed, but that is a trifle which will be soon
arranged."

"That is like the Duke of Nemours again," exclaimed De Montigni,
warmly. "What is the amount of ransom you demand?"

"Name it yourself, Monsieur de Montigni," replied Nemours.

"Will twenty thousand livres suffice?" asked the young Baron.

"Fully!" said Nemours.

"Then they shall be yours with as much speed as can be used," replied
De Montigni. "You will give me a messenger to my intendant at
Montigni, who has more than enough in his hands to discharge the sum
at once."

"Nay, I will do more," said Nemours, "I will set you free, to seek it
yourself, and send it when you can.--Your time may be valuable to you
just now; and heaven forbid that I should detain you."

"Now you are generous indeed, my Lord," answered De Montigni, "and my
best thanks and gratitude are yours for ever."

"There is, however, one little preliminary," continued Nemours, in a
somewhat dry tone; "which we must settle before you go."

"I suppose you mean a bond or engagement to pay the ransom?" said De
Montigni.

"Not so, my young friend," answered Nemours with a bitter smile. "You
will have the kindness to recollect, that yesterday on the pleasant
banks of the Eure, at a place I believe called the ford of Mainville,
you thought fit to charge me with want of courtesy towards a lady. Now
such charges should not be made lightly, and you have, moreover, by
your conduct since--though not exactly in the same words--implied that
you sustained that charge. The Duke of Nemours, Sir, lies under
imputation from no man living; and, therefore, waving the privileges
of his rank, as a Prince of a Sovereign house, he is ready to wipe it
out in your blood without farther delay."

"Ah, Monsieur de Nemours," said De Montigni, "can you so tarnish the
bright generosity you displayed just now, by--"

But Nemours waved his hand. "No more, Sir," he said, "no more!
Arguments on such subjects are vain. The man who submits to insult, is
a coward. You have heard what I have said. I pray you give me an
answer."

"Assuredly, my Lord," replied De Montigni, "I am happy that I have
some privileges too to wave, in order in some degree to put me on a
level with so high a Prince."

"Indeed, Sir!" said Nemours, in a tone of some surprise; "may I
inquire what they are?"

"Those of a prisoner, my Lord," answered the young Baron, calmly. "It
is an old law of honour and arms, that no prisoner or person under
ransom, can receive a challenge from any man, much less from his
captor. Nor is he bound to take the slightest notice of such an
invitation, the shame, if there be any insult or provocation given,
resting upon the giver." Nemours coloured; but De Montigni proceeded:
"This, my Lord Duke, is the privilege that I now wave, to gratify you;
but it is upon condition, that I name the terms and circumstances of
our combat."

"Assuredly," replied Nemours, "that you have a right to demand. What
are the terms?"

"Somewhat numerous, my Lord," replied De Montigni. After a moment's
thought, "First, that we fight without the town; next that our combat
be restricted to one pistol shot on each side; next, which is
absolutely necessary, my time being precious as you justly said but
now, that we be without seconds; for, as perhaps you are aware, I have
no friends in this town.[2] Moreover, taking you at your word, I will
request you in all courtesy to give me under your hand a passport to
come and go, in return for which, I will give you a bond for the
amount of the ransom, and by your permission, will send my servant,
who is with me, to bring it at once from Montigni."

"Agreed, agreed," cried Nemours, with a well-pleased air. "But you
have forgotten to name the time, Monsieur de Montigni. I am at your
disposal to-morrow, the next day, the day after,--the day following
that I must quit Chartres."

De Montigni smiled: "I hope to quit it to-day, Monsieur de Nemours,"
he replied. "It may take half-an-hour to have the ransom bond drawn;
as long, perhaps, for me to buy a pistol, for you know that I was
unarmed when you made me prisoner. Say half-an-hour more for any other
unexpected impediment; and then I am at your service."

De Nemours embraced him as if he had done him the greatest favour, for
such was the spirit of those times; and then calling to the guard from
below, he discharged him from his task, bidding him bring materials
for writing, as speedily as possible. "I will save you the trouble of
purchasing pistols, Monsieur de Montigni," he continued; "you shall
have one of mine; and there are no better in all France."

"You do me honour, Sir," replied De Montigni, "and I accept your offer
with gratitude; but you must name our place of meeting, as I am
unacquainted with this locality."

"There is a stone cross," said Nemours, "little more than a quarter of
a league from the Porte Drouaise: it is so far on your way; and there
is a convenient field hard by, where we can have room to turn our
horses. Yours is somewhat weary I fear from yesterday's exertions, but
mine is not less so, so that there will be no inequality."

Everything was soon arranged. The pistols were sent for, the ransom
bond drawn up, the passport given, the signature of La Bourdasière
obtained to it; and, as nearly three-quarters of an hour yet remained
of the appointed time, to which the Duke determined to be very
punctual, he ordered refreshments to be brought up into the chamber of
De Montigni, and there, talking gaily over a thousand indifferent
subjects, passed half-an-hour as if he were occupied by no thoughts
but those of peace and pleasure. De Montigni on his part did his best
to maintain the same tone, and played his part as well as might be;
but he was less accustomed to such transactions than his companion;
and his thoughts would revert from time to time to Rose d'Albret, and
a cloud of care would settle on his brow.

As time wore by, and the appointed hour approached, the Duke called to
the people below, and ordered his horse to be brought from the stables
of the castle. Then turning to De Montigni he added, "I think, as you
are not acquainted with the spot, it may be as well if I conduct you
thither myself; but in the first place, dispatch your servant on his
errand. I will take care that none of mine follow us; and your horse
can be brought round, after he is gone."

De Montigni made no objection, and the plan proposed was pursued.
Nemours left his young companion for a few minutes, to make the
arrangements necessary to guard against interruption; and, during the
time that he was thus left alone, De Montigni wrote a few hasty lines
to Rose d'Albret, telling her of the circumstances in which he was
placed, and bidding her farewell, if he should fall. The letter was
hardly sealed, when Nemours returned; and now that it was arranged
they were to go forth for the purpose of taking each others' lives in
deadly combat, he was all courtesy and urbanity, according to the
customs of the day; and, to have heard his words, or to have witnessed
his demeanour, one would have supposed that De Montigni was a dear and
intimate friend, or perhaps a younger brother. Each charged the pistol
of the other, each opened his pourpoint, to show that he had no
secret, or coat of mail beneath; and then, after some ceremonies as to
who should first descend the stairs, the Duke of Nemours led the way.
Mounting their horses, which they found, held by some of the soldiers,
at the door, they rode together towards the gates of the citadel.
Several of the gentlemen attached to the Duke of Nemours were
assembled near the bridge, and De Montigni thought that there were
somewhat grave and even angry looks upon their countenances, which
might indicate, that they were not quite so ignorant of the object of
his companion and himself, as they affected to be. A little further
on, at the outer gate, Monsieur de la Bourdasière came out of the
guard house, and approaching the horse of the Duke of Nemours, spoke
to him for a moment, in a low tone.

"Not if you value the friendship of Nemours," replied the Duke
sternly. "The man who interferes in the slightest degree, is my enemy
from that hour."

Thus saying he rode on; and passing the gates of Chartres, they
advanced for some way along the road to Dreux, till at length the
stone cross which the Duke had mentioned appeared in sight, and
dismounting from their horses they knelt before it, and prayed for
some moments in silence. Then mounting again, they took their way
across the plain, till they had lost sight of the cross, it being
considered, in those days, improper to commit murder in the
neighbourhood of that symbol of salvation, although, with the heart
full of every passion and every purpose condemned by Christ, they
would kneel and pray, as they passed under the cross of him, who died
to bring peace upon earth, good-will amongst men. Then choosing an
open field by the bank of the river, the Duke made his companion a low
bow, and wheeled his horse, saying, "Here, Monsieur de Montigni, we
shall have space enough. We fire as we pass; and mind your aim be
good!"

De Montigni bowed in return, and took his ground at the opposite side
of the field.



CHAPTER XXI.


The journey was long and tedious, the road heavy and bad, the coach
which had been procured at Chartres ponderous and cumbersome, and the
horses which had been placed in it unequal to drag its weight except
at a slow and lingering pace. Poor Rose d'Albret sat far back in the
vehicle, with her hands over her eyes, and the tears streaming fast
down her cheek as they passed through the gates of Chartres, and as
the last faint traces of the dream of happiness in which she had been
indulging, faded away, and left her a reality of misery, anxiety, and
care.

Tardy as was their progress, the feet of the horses seemed all too
quick in drawing her towards a scene in which she anticipated nothing
but distress of many kinds; reproach from those who themselves
deserved the bitterest censure, threats, importunity, persecution, and
that constant effort to deceive, which she knew would require on her
part continual watchfulness and a guard upon every word, and look, and
action. She could no longer hope to give way to one feeling of the
heart; the free spirit was to be chained down and bound; the candid
and the frank, was to put on reserve and policy; the trustful and the
confiding, was to assume doubt and suspicion: every bright quality of
her own mind was to be cast away for the time, as useless in the
warfare in which she was about to engage; and she was to be called
upon to take up the weapons of her adversaries, in order to meet them
upon equal terms. It was all bitters, in short; and Rose shrank from
the contemplation, and felt a sickening hopelessness of heart, to
which she had never given way before.

Then her thoughts turned to De Montigni; and for the first time she
felt to the full how much she loved him. Short as had been the time
that they had passed together since his return to France, those few
hours had been as much as years in binding heart to heart, so full had
they been of events, thoughts, and feelings; and now that she was
separated from him, she asked herself, what would be his fate;
meditated over all that he would suffer on her account, as well as the
weary weight of imprisonment; and, judging rightly of his sensations,
knew that his grief and anguish for her, would be the most painful
part of all he had to endure. She felt as if she were bound in
gratitude to repay his anxiety, by equal grief for him; and, instead
of endeavouring to console herself by listening to the voice of hope,
she added, I may say voluntarily, to her own sorrow, by dwelling upon
his.

Thus passed hour after hour, as they rolled slowly on, while the party
of horsemen who guarded her, urged the coachman to greater speed,
though, if her voice could have obtained a hearing, she would have
besought him to delay at every step, rather than hurry on to a place,
the very thought of which was horrible to her. The driver, however,
was not one to be moved in any degree by the exhortations of his
companions; and neither slower nor faster did he go, for all that
could be said to him. At the same dilatory pace he proceeded, paused
twice to water and to feed his horses, and seemed as deaf to the
apprehensions of the guard, lest they should be overtaken by any party
of the enemy, as to the threats which they held out of the anger of
the governor and the Duke of Nemours. Thus night fell just before they
reached a little town, not much more than half way to Marzay; and the
coachman, declaring that his horses could proceed no further that day,
pulled up at the door of what was then called a _Gîte_ or sleeping
place, and proceeded unceremoniously to detach the cattle from the
vehicle, giving no heed whatsoever, either to the questions or
remonstrance of an old man who was in command of the troop.

As nothing could be done but to remain where they were, Rose was led
to her bed-chamber, and told, in civil terms enough, that, by her
leave, they would proceed at daybreak on the following morning. The
old man paid every attention to her comfort, according to the orders
he had received; and even listened, while, encouraged by his courteous
manner, she ventured to remonstrate upon the conduct pursued towards
her, in carrying her against her will to a place so hateful to her. He
replied coldly, that the affair was none of his; he did but obey his
orders; and Rose soon found, by the strictness with which she was
watched, and by the placing of a guard at her chamber door, that the
hope of escaping, and flying on foot at any risk, was altogether vain.

The journey of the next day went on as that of the day just gone; and
it was evening when the sight of many well known objects, the wood
through which she had often ridden, the little chapel where she had
frequently stopped to pray, the hamlet, the church, the fountain, the
stream, all of which she recollected, showed her that they were within
a few miles of the place in which her youth had been spent. How
changed were now all her feelings, from those with which she had
wandered through the same scenes in girlhood! Where was now the
sunshine of the heart, which at once lighted up every object around?
Where was the interest with which imagination had invested all that
now seemed so dead and cold? Some light had gone out in life since she
was last there; and the visionary splendour had departed.

In about half an hour more, they came to the side of a hill, from
which the Château of Marzay was visible, at the distance of about a
mile. The evening sun was just setting, and casting long streams of
light and shadow over the undulating country below. The snow had
disappeared; the green herbage of the fields was seen; the brown
branches of the wood grew warm and glowing in the evening rays; the
river swollen with rain rushed on like a torrent of blood, reflecting
the glowing crimson of the west, and every window of the château
flashed back the bright beams of light, in lines almost too dazzling
for the eye. Round the summits of the towers, however, as they rose
above the eminence on which the castle was built, rolled a thin dull
cloud of leaden vapour, faintly tinged with red, on the side next to
the sun; and as the carriage moved slowly on, it descended lower and
lower over the building, rendering the lines and angles indistinct to
the eye, like the fate which awaited the poor girl who was journeying
thither. She gazed out eagerly towards it with a heavy sigh, and a
heart weighed down with the certainty of coming sorrow; and then
turning her eyes over the open ground below, she traced the road which
she had followed in her flight with De Montigni, and could have wept
to think how vain had proved all the hopes that bore her up through
the fatigues and discomforts of that journey.

Suddenly from behind a clump of trees, at the distance of about a
quarter of a mile, emerged slowly a figure on horse-back, bearing in
his hand what Rose at first imagined to be a lance. The next moment,
however, she perceived that it was a cross; and, at the same solemn
pace, following the first on foot, came six other men carrying
something like a litter on their shoulders. The light caught upon it,
however, as they began to ascend the slope towards the château, and
Rose saw the fluttering of a pall; several other persons followed,
likewise, on foot, and then a party of some fifteen or sixteen
horsemen, with lances lowered, and a pennon flickering in the wind.

"They are bearing back a dead body to the château, Mademoiselle," said
the old man, who was riding by the side of the carriage at the moment;
"likely some one who has fallen at Ivry. Perhaps we had better stop
and let them get before us. It is unlucky to go in with a corpse."

"Unlucky to go in at all," said Rose, sadly; "do as you will. Sir, I
am a captive, and have no authority in such matters."

The old man gave orders to halt; and the funeral procession of the
good old Commander de Liancourt, which was following a road that
formed an acute angle with the one they were themselves pursuing,
moved slowly on towards the château. When it had come within three or
four hundred yards of the gates, the Count de Liancourt, with his
nephew Chazeul, and a number of the soldiers and attendants, came
forth to meet it, preceded by father Walter, and two boys, belonging
to the chapel, dressed in their robes. The procession immediately
halted; and Estoc dismounting from his horse, advanced a few steps in
front to confer with the Count and his companions.

The loss of a brother, to a man in the decline of life, can never be a
matter of indifference, and Monsieur de Liancourt was evidently much
agitated; but there were other feelings in his bosom, besides those of
mere grief, and his manner was hesitating and embarrassed, as he
returned Estoc's grave salutation, and listened to the solemn words,

"I have brought back to you, Sir, the corpse of your brother, Michael
de Liancourt, Commander of the Order of St. John, who fell, gallantly
fighting for his King, on the glorious field between St. André and
Ivry; and I claim your permission to carry it into the chapel of the
château, according to his own request."

"I receive my poor brother's body at your hands, Monsieur Estoc,"
replied the Count, "and thank you for your letter of this morning; but
as you know we have few people in the castle, and many of us not
altogether holding the same opinions as yourself; you cannot, expect
us to suffer you to enter with such a body of armed men."

"We are armed, Sir Count," answered Estoc, "as soldiers carrying the
body of a soldier; but you know right well, we come in peace upon so
sad an errand. As soon as we have performed our duty, we will depart
in peace, if we are suffered to do so; but what we have undertaken we
will perform, and trust to meet with no opposition."

"This is foolishness, Sir," cried Chazeul, sharply; "you cannot expect
such permission, after all that has taken place; and, in one word, you
may enter yourself with any two or three, but no more shall have
admission."

Estoc's cheek grew red. "To you, young man," he replied, "I do not
speak, for you are not the lord of that château, and never will be;
but to you, Monsieur de Liancourt, I answer, we have all of us sworn
to lay the body of our old leader before the altar of the chapel of
Marzay, and we will do it. If you will give us admission, well; if
not, I will bear it back to the church in the village, there set it
down till we are joined by the men of Montigni, and then forcing my
way in at the point of the sword, will keep my oath, whoever tries to
stay me. You know old Estoc too well to believe that he will break his
word; so choose, and that quickly, for it is growing late."

But at this moment father Walter interposed, advancing with an air of
grave authority, and saying, "Cease, cease! in the name of decency and
Christian charity, cease! and in the presence of the dead, let us have
peace. My son," he continued, turning to the Count, "you will never, I
am sure, oppose Monsieur Estoc in carrying in the body of our poor
friend into the chapel according to his vow, if he pledge his word to
retire immediately after it be accomplished. You, Monsieur Estoc, will
never refuse to plight your word as a French gentleman, to re-tread
your steps as soon as you have laid the corpse before the altar,
without doing injury to any one, or interfering in any way with the
affairs of the castle."

"Most willingly, good father," replied Estoc; "I come but for one
purpose; and as soon as that is accomplished, I am more anxious than
any one to leave this place at once, for I have promised to lead these
good fellows back to join the King, and reap our share in the fruits
of this great victory."

"Then it is true that Henry won the battle?" asked Monsieur de
Liancourt.

"Ay, Sir!" answered Estoc, "most true--and a decisive battle it was.
The League is now, nothing but a name."

Chazeul smiled contemptuously; but the priest brought back the
discussion to the point, saying, "Monsieur de Liancourt, you have not
answered. I trust you will be satisfied with this promise."

The Count hesitated; but Estoc, turning towards him with a reproachful
look, demanded, "Have you known me so long, Monsieur de Liancourt, and
yet doubt my word? I promise you, Sir, to quit the castle with these
good men, as soon as I have laid that bier before the altar, and given
father Walter here the message which I have to deliver to him,
regarding the watching of the body and the masses for the soul."

"Well," said the Count, whose eyes had been turned for a moment to the
hill behind Estoc, "well, I consent on condition, Sir, that you
immediately retire to the village without meddling in any way with
what you may see within the castle. Do you promise as a man of
honour?"

"I do!" replied Estoc; "though I know not what you are afraid I should
interfere with. But as I come here for a fixed purpose, when that is
accomplished, I will go."

"Well, then, march on!" said the Count; "and we, as mourners for my
brother, will bring up the rear."

The order was accordingly given, and the funeral train was once more
put in motion. The party of the Count, with the exception of father
Walter, who remained in front, paused till the rest had passed, and
then fell in behind; but, on a word from Monsieur de Liancourt, one of
his attendants quitted the line, and at a quick pace sped up the hill
to the spot where the coach, containing poor Rose d'Albret, was still
standing. Had Estoc been aware of whom that vehicle contained, it
might have changed the fate of many an after day; but as yet he had
not perceived it at all; and following the corpse of his old leader
with a slow and heavy step, while a thousand memories of other days,
associated with the very building he was now entering, pressed sadly
on his mind, he ascended the slope with his eyes bent down upon the
ground, till the body passed the low arch of the gate, and he found
himself in the outer court, so long familiar to his footsteps.

The priest, in the meantime, sped on into the chapel, in order to
receive the body with the usual ceremonies; and, dismounting from
their horses, the soldiers who had followed the old commander to the
field of Ivry, soon thronged the space before the altar, with their
armed forms falling into fine but sombre groups, as the last faint
rays of the setting sun streamed through the stained glass window on
the western side, and cast their long shadows across the floor,
covered with many a monumental stone and inscription. The Count de
Liancourt and Chazeul stood behind, with their followers and
attendants; and even when the ceremony was over, they lingered still,
as if to see the old soldier and his comrades quit the chapel.

Estoc looked round more than once in the hope that they were gone.
Perhaps he wished to give way to the feelings of sorrow and regret
that were strong in his heart, without the presence of colder
witnesses. Perhaps he wished to have some private conversation with
the priest before he departed. But the Count and his companions
remained where they were; and finding that they had no intention of
retiring, he at length turned to the priest, saying, "Monsieur de la
Tremblade, I have now to ask you, on behalf of him who is gone, first,
to say one hundred masses for the repose of his soul."

The priest bowed his head, replying, "It shall be done right
willingly, my son."

And Estoc proceeded, "Secondly, to keep vigil this night and to-morrow
by the body, till the hour of matins."

"It is unusual, my son," answered the priest, "except in the case of
very high personages; but still, as you require it, it shall be done."

"I beseech you in charity to do so, father," replied Estoc: "and I
know that which you promise you will accomplish."

"Without fail," answered father Walter, and Estoc, turning from the
chapel led his men back into the court. The first object his eyes fell
upon was a carriage, apparently just arrived and surrounded by several
armed men, bearing the green scarfs of the League. The door of the
coach was open, and a lady in the act of alighting; and the next
moment Rose d'Albret held out her hands to the old soldier,
exclaiming, "Ah! good Estoc!"

Yielding to the first impulse, Estoc sprang forward towards her,
exclaiming, "Have they brought you here already, dear lady?"

"Much against my will," replied Mademoiselle d'Albret; but Chazeul and
the Count de Liancourt instantly interposed.

"You promised, Sir," exclaimed the latter, "to retire from the château
without interfering with anything that you might see or hear. Is this
the way you keep your word?"

"I will keep my word with you, Sir," answered Estoc, "better than you
have kept yours with this lady's father.--Alas! Mademoiselle
d'Albret," he continued, "I am bound to quit this place at once; and
all I can say is, that steadfast truth and firmness will prevail at
last, and so I must bid you farewell."

As he spoke, he kissed her hand and turned away; and Rose, yielding to
a violent burst of tears, suffered herself to be led into the building
by the Count de Liancourt, who remained silent till they reached the
hall, where the first object that presented itself to her eyes, in the
dim twilight that now reigned through the wide chamber, was the tall
harsh form of the Marchioness de Chazeul, advancing as if to meet her.
For a moment, Rose's heart sunk at the sight; but, the next instant,
she murmured to herself, "I must not give way. My task is one of
firmness, and I must not yield to any weakness like this."

"So, girl, so," cried Jacqueline de Chazeul, "all your fine plots have
proved of no avail! Was it not decent, delicate, and feminine, to fly
from your guardian's protection and cast yourself, unmarried, into the
arms of a man you scarcely know?"

"Scarcely know!" exclaimed Rose d'Albret; "whom do I know so well?
But, Madam, to fly with him was my only choice, in order to escape the
arts and persecutions which I was sure to encounter here. I believe
that I was justified by the contract of my father, which had been so
long concealed from me. I could trust to the honour of the man to whom
my father had engaged my hand; and I went to seek from the King that
protection and justice which I was not likely to meet with where I was
best entitled to except it."

"You have learned boldness enough, it seems, minion," replied Madame
de Chazeul, in a sharp tone, "and, if you think to justify yourself
here, by saying that it was to a heretic usurper you fled, to one
condemned and degraded by God and the apostolic church, from your
lawful guardian and the husband whom he has selected for you, you are
very much mistaken."

"To you, Madam, I seek not to justify myself at all," replied Rose; "I
have nought to do with you, nor you with me. To Monsieur de Liancourt,
when he thinks fit, I am ready, in private, to assign the motives of
my conduct, and to none else am I responsible."

"I will teach you that I have to do with you, pretty lady," replied
Madame de Chazeul. "Have you not deceived and ill-treated my son? and
you shall make him full atonement, before I quit this château."

"I have not ill-treated nor deceived him, Madam," replied Rose. "'Tis
he that has ill-treated and deceived me, and many others, too. He
cannot say that I ever affected to love him, that I ever did more than
yield a cold and unwilling acquiescence to that which he made me
believe, by a shameless falsehood, was my poor father's will. I
learned, at length, what that father's intentions really were; and
then, contempt and abhorrence of the deceiver took place of the
indifference I before felt towards him. He knows it well," she
continued, "that I am bound to him by no tie, no promise, no
engagement whatsoever. I was told that I must marry him--"

"And so you must, fair lady," exclaimed Madame de Chazeul, in a
mocking tone, "and so you must, and so you shall! Assure as my name is
Jacqueline de Chazeul, you shall be his wife before two suns set."

"Nay, nay, my dear mother," said Chazeul, who had been speaking to the
Count de Liancourt at a little distance, "you are too harsh, and too
unkind to Mademoiselle d'Albret. She will yield when she finds that it
must be so. She will also yield, when she finds she is mistaken about
this contract, and that, in reality, her father left it open for
Monsieur de Liancourt to bestow her hand on which of his nephews he
thought fit. I can assure you, Rose," he continued, in a soft, but
emphatic tone, "Monsieur de Marennes believed that my uncle, here,
could bequeath his estates to myself, if he chose it; and, therefore,
I might as well be meant by the contract as my cousin."

"Cease, Sir, cease," answered Rose; "it is vain to stain yourselves
with any more deceits. I now know the whole truth, that the good
Commander resigned his claims in favour of Madame de Montigni; that to
her son those claims appertained when my father signed the contract,
and, therefore, it was to him he pledged me. But I have something more
to say, and I beg you will mark it. Had you been even meant by the
contract, which you know right well you were not, nothing on earth
should ever make me give you my hand, now that I know some other of
your doings. I would rather, a thousand-fold, vow myself to the
seclusion of a convent, than pass my life with a man whom I can
neither respect, esteem, nor love."

"We will not give you the choice, minion," cried Madame de Chazeul;
"your fate is sealed and determined; you are to be his wife, if not by
fair means, then by force. This will bear no farther trifling,
Liancourt; you must exert your power over her, and compel her to do
what is right."

"I hope he will exert it," exclaimed Rose, "to protect me from those
who would do me wrong. Monsieur de Liancourt," she continued, "I have
always loved you well. You have ever been kind to me, till this last
sad occasion, when, persuaded by others, I am sure, rather than by
your own inclination, you have well nigh sacrificed my happiness and
peace. For my part, I have tried, from my young days, to show you the
affection of a daughter, and I would willingly show you the obedience
of one, were it possible; but in this instance, it is not so. My
father's contract I will fulfil, happy that my own inclinations and
the earliest affections of my heart go with it, but still more happy
that it saves me from wedding one with whom I could expect nothing but
misery. I beseech you, then, give me that protection which you
promised my father you would afford me; suffer me not to be injured
and insulted in your own house, even by your sister; and do not allow
me to be persecuted to break the engagement made between you and your
wife's brother. Rather, aid to maintain it to the utmost of your
power; and be my support and stay in this hour of difficulty and
distress."

"You ask much at my hands, Mademoiselle d'Albret," replied the Count,
coldly, "and yet do not offer much in return. You cannot suppose that
I approve of your quitting my house with Monsieur de Montigni; and
your claim to protection on my part, must be founded on your obedience
to my commands, which I trust you will now honour somewhat more than
you have lately done."

Rose turned away, with a sad look, and sickening sinking at her heart.
Every one was against her; and, though it was what she had expected,
yet it made her feel more deeply desolate and hopeless. To reply, she
saw was vain; and she felt that she could not much longer keep up the
firm and determined tone in which she had forced herself to speak; for
tears, at every other moment, were ready to betray the feelings that
she laboured to conceal. "I am weary," she said, abruptly, "and I
would fain retire to rest. By your leave, Monsieur de Liancourt, I
will seek my chamber."

"I will show you which is your chamber," said Madame de Chazeul, "for
you must not fancy that you are to tenant a room so easy of access.
Who can tell," she continued, in a jesting tone, "what gay gallants we
may have in the castle, who may be pleased to scale a lady's window,
when they know she is so ready to receive them?"

Rose could bear no more, and burst into a flood of tears.

"Hush, Jacqueline, hush!" said Monsieur de Liancourt; "I will show her
the room myself;" and, taking her hand, he led her away from the hall.



CHAPTER XXII.


For one moment--it could scarcely be more--the old Marchioness de
Chazeul gazed down upon the pavement of the hall after her brother had
left them; and then looking up, with the demon smile which was not
uncommon upon her countenance, when anything especially daring and
evil was working in her mind, she took her son's arm, and gazing in
his face, said in a low sarcastic tone, "Do you know, my son Nicholas,
you are but a fool after all?"

"Indeed, sweet mother?" said the worthy offspring of such a parent,
with a look of supercilious indifference; "I am glad to hear you think
so. Variety is charming in a family; and I have heard men say that you
are no fool. But may I know how I have merited the pleasant
appellation you so glibly bestow upon me? What have I done, said, or
thought, which deserves that ancient and honourable title?"

"You have thought that this girl can be won by civility, flattering,
coaxing, and tenderness," replied the Marchioness; "and therefore you
are a fool, as well as my weak brother, your uncle. It needs but a
glance of her eye; it needs but a word from her lip, to show that such
means are as vain as whistling to the wind. I tell you, Chazeul, and I
tell you true, that force--force--do you mark me? force is the only
engine you can employ against this haughty spirit. Ay, and it must be
applied quickly, if you would have your bride. She knows more than we
imagine--she knows all, that is clear. There is now no stopping in
midway. You must overleap all idle barriers; rend to pieces all
morsels of black and white parchment. You must render yourself the
only man she can marry; and all will be soon yours."

"But what course would you have me pursue, my most politic mother?"
asked Chazeul; "If one frightens and alarms her, she will only shrink
from me the more."

"Let her shrink," cried the Marchioness. "What matters her shrinking,
to you? Do not pretend to things you do not feel. She must be your
wife, Chazeul, shrinking or willingly; and which, matters not much,
either to you or me. She must be yours, I say; and as it is clear that
she will not with her consent, it must be without."

"But how? but how is this to be accomplished?" demanded her son. "Here
are a thousand obstacles, good lady. We must work through my uncle,
and you must see that it is vain to hope he will use any violent
means. How weakly he answered me this morning, when Nemours' trumpet
came!"

"We must act through some one else," answered the Marchioness. "He is
not to be trusted, but when he considers his rights invaded; and 'tis
useless to think of employing him. We must find another, and get him
to aid our plan."

"But what is that plan?" demanded the young nobleman. "Let me hear in
a word what is the purport of all these hints?--How is it to be done?"

"By various ways," replied Madame de Chazeul. "First and above all,
you must remove from this busy scene the man whom she fancies that she
loves."

"Remove him!" exclaimed Chazeul; "I know not how. He is surrounded by
people devoted to him. I should find some difficulty.--He is now in
the hands of Nemours too, who would not suffer it. The Duke is
scrupulous in such matters."

Such were the words of Chazeul. He expressed no surprise; he displayed
no horror at the proposal; but in those days such thoughts were
familiar to the minds of most men. In the preceding reign, private
assassination had been one of the means of war, so often really
committed by persons high in station and education, that rumour as
usual exceeded the truth, and no death took place with circumstances
at all out of the common course, without being attributed to the
agency of man. The revenge of individuals, the malignity of faction,
the policy of states, all took the same direction; and kings and
princes prompted and paid for dark deeds of blood, as well as the
corrupt minions of the court, and the vicious women with whom it was
thronged. Each day some murder had stained the records of the country,
and men had more cause to guard themselves against the covert enmity
of the rival in ambition or in love, than against the open wrath of
the acknowledged foe. So common, indeed, had such crimes become, that
circumstances were supposed to justify, and custom to palliate them;
and when they were discovered, no wonder or disgust was excited, and
multitudes who had taken no part in the deed itself, were found to
conceal, protect, and plead for the assassin. It was an age of crime.

Chazeul, then, and his mother discussed the means of removing De
Montigni from their path, as calmly as if they had been laying out
some party of pleasure; there was no hesitation, no repugnance, no
tragic movings of remorse. The difficulties were all that were
considered and how to obviate them. It was of everyday deeds and
events they spoke, and they conversed over them in an every-day tone.

"I do not see," replied the Marchioness, "why that should prevent the
business. His being in the hands of Nemours, but fastens him to one
spot, where he can always be reached."

"But there will be guards and people about him," said Chazeul, "who
would give him help. To accomplish it, we should need too many men, to
be able to introduce them quietly."

"Too many men!" cried his mother with a laugh; "why, you soldiers
always are thinking of violence, and swords, and daggers. You do not
fancy, do you, that I would have recourse to means so rough? Out
upon such coarse handy-work! One little cup of drink--one savoury
ragout--will do the deed better than bullet or steel, and put you in
possession of Liancourt as well as Marennes. But leave that to me, for
you seem unskilful in such matters. You must have both; and your task
must be with the girl--leave me the man. We must have no more
trifling, Chazeul, or secrets may come out which it were well to hide
till you have obtained all that you can desire. The girl must be yours
before two days have past--did you not mark her words?"

"I marked many of them," replied Chazeul; "they were well worthy of
notice.--But which do you mean?"

"Are you so dull?" asked his mother. "Did you not hear her say, that
you had deceived others as well as herself? and did not your own mind
read the comment?--Hark ye, boy! Did you ever see or know a person--a
sweet tender, delicate creature, called Helen de la Tremblade?"

Chazeul's cheek grew pale and then red; not from remorse; not from
shame; but from dread. It was dread, however, of only one human being.
All the world might have been made aware of his baseness, without
causing him a care or anxiety, if he could have kept it from his
mother. But he knew her well, the dark and fiendish nature of her
character, her remorseless seeking for her own ends, her vindictive
hatred of all those who offended her, and the little regard she had
for any tie, in pursuit of her own objects. Vanity, vice, and
intemperate passions, had not yet altogether quenched every natural
feeling in his heart; and some lingering affection for the unhappy
girl he had injured, made him apprehensive for her, more than for
himself. His mother might use the knowledge she had obtained, to drive
him in the course she thought fit, or to frustrate his purposes if he
opposed her, but she would do no more as far as he was concerned. The
result to Helen, however, might be death, or worse than death; and,
for a moment or two, he remained silent, considering how he should
act.

The keen eye of Madame de Chazeul was upon his countenance all the
time, marking every change of expression, and translating all she
marked; but after waiting his answer for some time, she demanded, "You
have heard of such a person, have you not?"

"Well," he replied somewhat impatiently, "what of her? What has
Mademoiselle d'Albret to do with Helen?"

"Ha, ha, ha," cried Madame de Chazeul, with a bitter laugh. "What has
she to do with Helen! Why, simply to tell Walter de la Tremblade, that
gay Nicholas de Chazeul has made a paramour of his niece, in order to
raise a devil that will soon send all our projects flying to the
wind.--You now see there is no time to be lost. The thing cannot long
be kept secret. This girl has got some inkling of the truth, and she
must be your wife before she can hint her suspicions to him, and he
inquire into the facts."

Chazeul paused, and thought for a moment, and then repeated his
mother's words. "The thing cannot long be kept secret!--why not?--What
have you done with her, my good mother?--Something assuredly; for
Helen would keep her own counsel.--You have not put her to death,
surely?"

"Not I," cried Madame de Chazeul. "I am not called upon to punish such
sins as that. It's only when people stand in the way, that wise men
put them to death. There, be satisfied,--be satisfied. I have done her
no harm; but, as I told you, the thing cannot long be concealed. Rose
d'Albret has obtained some intimation of it. Of that I am sure by her
manner. The old priest will wonder that his niece does not come
hither, for I told him she was ill, or I would have brought her; and
he will go to see her, so that I say, it cannot be long concealed. You
must use your time, therefore, busily."

Chazeul saw that his mother did not tell him all; but he was well
aware, that it was impossible to obtain the straightforward truth from
her, when she, wished to conceal it, and accordingly following the
bent which she gave to the conversation herself, he asked, "But
how--how am I to use my time busily and to good purpose? I, unaided,
cannot force Rose d'Albret to give me her hand. If my uncle would
assist vigorously, we might indeed succeed. But he is timid, as you
know, in action, however bold he may be in words; and depend upon it,
we shall need strong measures to induce her to yield."

"Ay, strong measures indeed," replied his mother, "but they may be
used without my brother's will or consent; and, if you manage matters
rightly, you may make the lady less positive than she is at present.
Hark ye, Chazeul, a word in your ear!" He bent down his head, and the
Marchioness whispered to him a few brief words.

"No, no!--Impossible," he cried; "utterly impossible! The maid sleeps
in the ante-chamber, the priest in the next room.--'Tis quite in
vain."

"Why, foolish boy," replied his mother, "I mean no violence--I mean no
wrong. You do not comprehend me. Do you not know, how much store she
sets upon virtue and reputation? She would never consent to carry to
Louis de Montigni, a sullied name. Let but her fame be in your hands;
let us but be able to prove that you have passed the night in her
chamber; and we shall have no more idle resistance. The girl
Blanchette will give you admittance, and be a witness also. Then keep
as still as death for an hour or two, leave something on the table--a
glove--a hat--anything in short, to mark that you have been there, and
to show her herself that it is so, without your telling her."

Chazeul paused and meditated. He thought the scheme not unlikely to
succeed; and yet he feared to undertake it. If discovered, he knew
that it would prove his ruin with his uncle; and he did not see how he
could bring it to work upon the mind of Rose herself, without
acknowledging the truth or more than the truth to Monsieur de
Liancourt. Just as he was about to reply, the Count himself returned
with father Walter; and one of the servants entered at the same time
to light the sconces in the hall. Madame de Chazeul held up her
finger; as a warning to be silent; and as soon as the attendant was
gone, the Marchioness turned to her brother, inquiring, "Well, what
have you done with this obstinate girl, Anthony?"

"In good faith, nothing," replied the Count; "she was more mild and
gentle than with you; and I left her weeping; but she is as firm as
ever."

"Well," said Madame de Chazeul, in an indifferent tone, "if she will
not by fair means, she must by force. We have every right to compel
her to do that which is good for her."

Monsieur de Liancourt shook his head doubtfully, saying, "I do not
know."

"Ah, my good brother," answered Madame de Chazeul in a bitter tone, "a
battle lost makes great difference with doubtful friends. What say
you, Monsieur de la Tremblade? Are you for giving up the Holy Catholic
Union, and bestowing the lands of Marennes and Liancourt upon a
supporter of the heretics?"

"Far from it, Madam," replied Walter de la Tremblade. "If anything,
this unfortunate defeat should make us more zealous, active, and
determined. The party of the League is the party of truth and
religion; and doubtless it will ultimately triumph. It should be our
part to promote it the more strenuously, as each new obstacle arises;
and I must say that, conscientiously, no guardian could bestow the
hand of his ward upon a man, who, like Monsieur de Montigni, has drawn
his sword against his religion."

"But that is a different thing," said Monsieur de Liancourt "from
forcing her to a marriage without her consent."

"Not altogether," answered the priest. "If you do not compel her to
wed the one, she will wed the other; and when she finds there is no
escape, most probably her resistance will give way."

Madame de Chazeul watched the countenance of father Walter while he
spoke, and listened, well satisfied, to words which showed her beyond
all doubt, that neither her own conduct towards his niece, nor that of
her son, was ever dreamt of by Walter de la Tremblade. "If we can
accomplish this marriage," she thought "within a few hours all will be
safe. He may rage then, as much as he will. It is amusing enough, to
make him aid in bringing about that, which he will wish undone, when
he knows the truth."

"What you say is very true, father," rejoined the Count, "but I see
not what means one can employ actually to force her. As she said to me
but now, we may drag her to the altar, but she will refuse the vow,
and protest against it in the face of God and man."

"Such things have taken place," said Walter de la Tremblade, "and yet
the ceremony has proceeded."

"But then, the contract," said Monsieur de Liancourt. "If she will not
sign it, how can we force her?"

"Oh, leave all that to me," cried Madame de Chazeul. "If you, brother,
will only promise not to interfere, except by exerting your authority
on behalf of your nephew, and laying your commands upon her to marry
him, I will do all the rest."

"But I fear your violence, my good sister," replied the Count.

Madame de Chazeul was about to answer, when a servant again entered
the hall; and Monsieur de Liancourt exclaimed impatiently, "what now?"

"A messenger is just arrived from Chartres, Sir," replied the man,
"with orders for Monsieur de Mottraye who escorted Mademoiselle Rose
back, to return without a moment's delay, as the town is menaced by
the King. He brings tidings, too, Sir, that a duel has been fought
between Monsieur de Montigni and my lord of Nemours."

"Nemours has killed him for a thousand crowns," cried Chazeul, as
joyfully as if De Montigni had shown himself his bitterest enemy
through life.

"What more? what more?" cried Monsieur de Liancourt; "which of them
fell?"

"He knew little about it, Sir," replied the servant, "for he came
away, before the matter had spread over the town."

"I will go and see him," exclaimed Chazeul. "Nemours has killed him
without doubt."

Thus saying, he hurried away, and was absent for several minutes,
during which time the Marchioness talked in a low voice to the priest.
But the Count remained standing in the middle of the room, with his
eyes bent down and his heart sad. He could not but recollect the days
that were passed. The boy whom he had brought up from early years, the
graces and high qualities he had displayed, and many a little act, and
many a little scene, forgotten till that moment, rose up reproachfully
before his eyes, and for the time filled him with grief, and with
remorse. The voice of conscience, which in its own hour will be heard,
told him that the deed was his, that, had he not attempted to injure
and deceive his sister's son, all the long train of dark and sad
events, which had filled the last few days, would not have happened,
that joy, and peace, and mutual love, and kindly affection might have
reigned, where strife and evil passion, violence and death, had been
introduced, as the black followers of fraud. His brother and his
nephew, both were gone in a few short days; and his heart told him,
that the virtuous and the good had been cut off, while the dishonest
and the vile remained!

It was but during a few minutes, however, that such thoughts oppressed
him; for vanity, his besetting sin, the besetting sin of so many, the
salve with which the devil medicates all the wounds of conscience was
soon brought to his relief. He was too vain to believe, for any length
of time, that he could do wrong, even though the warning angel of the
human heart thundered it in his ear. "Had De Montigni done as he was
asked," he thought, after he had mastered the first impression,
"nothing of this kind would have happened. It is all in consequence of
his own obstinacy. What a sad thing it is, that men will not be
persuaded to their own good!"

As these comforting reflections passed through his mind, Chazeul
re-entered the hall. "He is dead," he cried, "beyond all doubt he is
dead. The man himself saw Nemours come back into the city, alone and
uninjured."

"Well, then," said Madame de Chazeul, "we are saved all farther
trouble; for now you are the only heir. You had better go and tell her
the news, Chazeul. Perhaps it may deliver her from as great an
embarrassment as any one feels."

"Fie now, Jacqueline! Fie now!" cried the Count. "You know not her
heart or feelings."

"I know very well, my good brother," replied Madame de Chazeul, "that
women if they have said a thing, often adhere to it with the constancy
of a martyr, when they would give their right hand for a fair excuse
for changing; but vanity keeps them to the point, with a much firmer
sort of resolution than conviction can supply. Do not tell me about
her feelings! I know my own sex far better than you do; and I am sure
there is not one woman out often, who would not rejoice at the death
of her dearest friend, if it delivered her from a great
embarrassment."

"I find the church is merciful as well as wise, in imposing celibacy
upon its priesthood," said father Walter, with a cold sarcastic smile.
"But, indeed, I think it would be better, not to tell Mademoiselle
d'Albret to-night. She must be fatigued; her mind depressed with
disappointment and anxiety; and she should be allowed some time for
repose."

"No, father, no!" replied Madame de Chazeul. "She must know it
to-night, for the marriage shall take place to-morrow, or, at
farthest, the next day. Let her have to-night for grief--for I do not
say she will not weep--to-morrow her mind will be made up, and the
affair can proceed with decency."

"Will you tell her, father Walter?" said Monsieur de Liancourt.

"Nay," exclaimed the Marchioness, "why give him that trouble? I will
do it in a moment."

"No, Jacqueline, you shall not go," cried the Count. "You are too
harsh and fierce to bear such tidings.--Go, Father, go!--It is an
office of Christian charity."

"She is more likely to believe it from my lips, than yours, Madam,"
said father Walter, "and therefore I will undertake the task; but I
must be quick, for I have my watch to commence in the chapel."

"Let us hear how she bears it," said the Count de Liancourt. "I grieve
for the poor girl."

"Pshaw!" cried Jacqueline de Chazeul; and the priest quitted the hall,
leaving the Marchioness evidently uneasy.

A chamber had now been assigned to Rose d'Albret, higher in the
building than that which she had formerly tenanted, and next to the
room of father Walter himself. It opened first into an ante-chamber,
somewhat smaller than the other, and thence upon a large landing
place, separated from the stairs by a balustrade. The ante-room, as
before, was occupied by the maid Blanchette, who, well warned and
tutored, was kept as a spy upon all her mistress's actions; and, on
entering this little suite of apartments, the girl was the first
person whom father Walter encountered.

She was sitting at a table, knitting, with a sullen brow and pouting
lips; and, notwithstanding deep habitual reverence for the priest, she
seemed scarcely willing to answer him civilly, when he inquired, if he
could speak with her mistress.

"I cannot tell," replied the girl, rising for a moment, and resuming
her seat; "I really do not know what she is doing,--she does not want
my services, she says; she would rather be alone."

"Go and see, daughter!" said the priest. "Doubtless Mademoiselle
d'Albret is grieved and perhaps angry; but that does not exempt you
from respect and obedience towards her in all things, where other
duties do not require you to oppose her wishes."

"Indeed, father," answered the girl sullenly, "I cannot undertake all
this.--Here, I am told not to quit her ante-room, from the moment she
enters her chamber, till the moment she leaves it, which is making me
no better than a prisoner; and then, I am to be rated, and frowned
upon by the Lady, as if I had behaved very ill to her.--I don't see
why I should bear all this."

"Because you are ordered to do so," said the priest somewhat sternly:
but he added the next moment, "It will not be of long duration
however. Now go and tell her I am here, seeking to speak with her on a
matter of deep moment."

Before Blanchette could obey, however, the door of the ante-chamber
opened, and Madame de Chazeul entered, saying, "I have come to tell
her myself, good father. I can then better judge of her frame of mind;
and, as the Count tells me, you have to keep vigil by the body of my
poor old brother Michael, which I did not understand before, I will
not keep you."

"Nay," replied the priest, "I have time, and will never shrink from
doing my duty. This poor child will need consolation, and it must be
my task to give it to her, as far as my poor voice can do so."

The Marchioness was evidently not well pleased with this reply; and,
though she masked her embarrassment as well as she could, yet a
certain air of anxiety and uneasiness, did not escape the calm but
penetrating eye of Walter de la Tremblade. "She doubts me," bethought.
"She is one of those who have no confidence in any one. What must her
own heart be like!"

As he thus pondered, Blanchette returned, and bade him enter, which he
did, making way, however, for Madame de Chazeul to pass in first.

Rose had been weeping, but her eyes were now dry; and the usual mild
and gentle expression was upon her countenance, till her eye lighted
upon Madame de Chazeul; and then she turned away her head, with a look
of shuddering horror, which the Marchioness did not fail to mark,
though with less anger, than might perhaps have been expected. It was
her wish to overawe and to command, both at present and in future and
the age of wishing to be loved, had long passed by with her. Rose
however, soon added to the offence; for, turning towards Walter de la
Tremblade, she said, "The girl merely mentioned your name, father; and
I was willing and even glad to receive you; but the conversation which
has already taken place between this lady and myself, was not of such
a character as to make her society very desirable to me."

"You must have it, nevertheless, pretty minion," replied Madame de
Chazeul. "I know you are as ungrateful, as you are self-willed; but I
came to break to you a piece of news which has just arrived, and
which, as you must hear it sooner or later, we have thought fit to
communicate at once."

"The sooner it is communicated the better," answered Rose; "I beseech
you to make no delay; for I am anxious to retire to rest."

Madame de Chazeul turned towards the priest with a sign for him to
proceed; and father Walter taking up the tale, addressed Rose in a
gentle and a kindly tone, saying, "I fear, my poor daughter, what we
have to communicate may grieve you more than you expect; and I would
therefore have you prepare your mind, by thinking of how God tries all
men in this world, with various deep afflictions, making them
sometimes his chastisements for errors past, sometimes warnings
against future faults, often depriving us of those things most dear
which might prove snares to us, often frustrating our most anxious
desires, which, if we knew all, might in their gratification produce
misery, instead of joy."

Rose listened attentively, anxious to hear what was to come next; but
Madame de Chazeul waved her hand impatiently, exclaiming, "You are not
in the pulpit, my good father. Do you not see she is quite prepared
for anything you have to say? The truth is this, Mademoiselle
d'Albret, a messenger has just arrived from Chartres bringing orders
for the men who accompanied you, to return immediately, and with that
order they conveyed intelligence that a duel has been fought between
Monsieur de Nemours, and your late lover De Montigni, in which the
latter has met with the chastisement which his presumption deserved,
and has been killed on the spot."

Rose started up and clasped her hands, while her face grew pale as
ashes, and for a moment she seemed about to faint. The next instant,
however, she passed her hand across her brow, gazed for a moment
anxiously upon the ground, and then suddenly raised her head with a
smile full of scorn, while the blood came back into her cheek and lip,
exclaiming, "It is false! I know that it is false!"

"The poor creature is mad," said Madame de Chazeul. "You know it to be
false, when we know it to be true! You must have wonderfully clever
information. The man is in the château at this moment, who brought the
tidings from Chartres."

"Let me see him!" said Rose d'Albret.

Madame de Chazeul paused, and saw that, by mentioning the messenger,
she had committed a mistake; for it was her object to represent the
death of De Montigni as certain, and she was aware that her son had
run on to that inference, much more rapidly than the man's own account
might justify.

"No," she replied, "you shall not see him. I pledge my word that the
information is true. Here is father Walter ready to do the same.
Monsieur de Liancourt will tell you the like story. If you insult us
by doubting our word, it does not become us, to take any trouble to
convince you."

"Madam, I have been deceived in more than one thing already," replied
Rose, bending her head gravely; "and consequently, I do not lend my
mind easily to everything that is told me. Father Walter, I beseech
you, by your duty to God, by your sacred calling, as you shall answer
for it hereafter, to let me know, has this information truly arrived,
and is it certain?"

"That it has arrived, is beyond doubt," answered the priest, "but in
regard to the certainty or the particulars--not having spoken with the
messenger myself--I cannot say anything."

Rose waved her hand. "Enough," she said, "enough; I will beseech you
now to leave me.--Nay, I can endure no more to-night."

Madame de Chazeul was going to add something; but the priest laid his
hand upon her arm, saying, "Nay, Madam, let us not press upon her
hardly. Give her till to-morrow to think over it;" and he led the
Marchioness away, leaving poor Rose to her meditations.



CHAPTER XXIII.


The moment the priest and the Marchioness de Chazeul were gone, Rose
d'Albret cast herself down into her chair, and covered her eyes with
her hands. She would fain have shut out every sight and sound, in
order that she might bend the whole energies of her mind to
contemplation of that one question--were the dreadful tidings she had
heard, true or false? But the agitating beating of her heart, the
whirling confusion of her brain, prevented her for a long time, from
fixing her thoughts firmly upon all the different arguments for
believing or disbelieving the tale that had been told her. All was
wild, and vague, and indistinct. Apprehension at first was far more
powerful than hope; and, though reason pointed out many
improbabilities even in that part of the intelligence which, as the
reader knows, was absolutely true, yet she still dreaded the worst,
even while she resolved, if possible, to believe that all was false.

"Was it likely," she asked herself, "that so proud a prince as the
Duke of Nemours, should risk his life in single combat against his own
prisoner? Was it probable, that he, who had shown himself so haughty
towards De Montigni as scarcely to return him an answer, should place
himself in such a position as to be compelled to meet him in the
field? Was it not likely, most likely, that such a tale should be
invented by those who had already deceived her on other points, in
order to lead her the more easily to the objects they desired? Was it
not clear that it was so, from their refusal to produce the messenger?
Was not, in short, anything asserted by Jacqueline de Chazeul, more
likely to be false than true?"

Thus argued hope; but on the other side fear, though in fewer words,
spoke with a more powerful voice. "The priest had asserted that the
report had undoubtedly arrived. Would he venture to do so, after the
solemn adjuration she addressed to him, if he were not himself
convinced that what he said was true? Then, too, the pains he had
taken to prepare her mind for the tidings, showed care and
consideration for her; and, if the language he had used in so doing,
were but the preface to a falsehood, it must be blasphemous trifling
indeed. She suffered memory to run back over all the events lately
passed; she considered his conduct, she asked herself if he had ever
been guilty of deliberate falsehood? The answer was, no. He had
suffered others to do so; but he had not done it himself. Without
telling the exact truth, he had not uttered actual untruth. With that
species of art, which has acquired the name of a body of men famous
for employing it in all their dealings, he had made truth serve the
purposes of falsehood; and, by a jesuitical juggle, had countenanced
things that he knew to be untrue, without leaving those he deceived
any means of convicting him of a lie. But now he had boldly and
straightforwardly said, that the intelligence had certainly arrived.
There was no evading that, she thought; it must either be true or
false. She recollected, too, the fierce anger which De Montigni had
displayed when first made prisoner by Nemours, and the words and
glances which had passed between them in regard to herself. Might not
such a scene, she inquired, have been renewed, when her lover found
that she had been actually sent back without even being permitted
another interview with him? Might he not have used such language as
would compel a prince of fiery courage like Nemours to wave the
privileges of his rank, and meet him as had been reported. Nemours was
known to be daring, chivalrous, and of a character to carry the point
of honour to excess; and if they met, was not the result reported to
her, likely to take place."

Thus argued fear; and between his voice and that of hope, her mind was
left in that painful uncertainty, which is more wearing and agitating
to the human frame, than even grief itself. She was still busy with
these thoughts, when the door opened and the maid looked in; but Rose
waved her hand impatiently, exclaiming, "leave me, leave me, I do not
want you. You can go to bed."

The very sight of Blanchette, however, brought back to her mind all
the arts that had been practised upon her before, and made her once
more hope that this sad intelligence might be part of a similar plan.
"I will retire to bed;" she thought, "in the darkness and stillness of
the night, I can think over these things more quietly than now. The
sight of that girl is hateful to me. I will shut her out," but when
she looked round, she found that the lock of the door between her room
and the ante-chamber, had been removed.

"Ha!" she said, "am I to have no privacy? This is hard, indeed;" and,
sitting down, she wept, feeling that she was left alone to struggle
with all the arts and machinations of a number, amongst whom she had
no friend. Rising again, after a moment, she wiped away the tears,
murmuring to herself, "but they shall not conquer me. Even if he whom
I love be gone, and have left me in this cold-hearted world alone, I
can die and follow him; but I will never be the wife of that base and
hateful man, let the result be whatever it may." Thus saying, she
undressed without assistance, and retired to bed. But, for poor Rose
d'Albret, it was no couch of repose. The thorns of the pillow--busy
care, and sharp apprehension and bitter grief--banished all sleep from
her eyes; and hour after hour she lay turning in her mind the same
heavy thoughts which had burdened her since the visit of the priest
and Madame de Chazeul.

Daylight returned, at length; and, raising herself upon her arm, she
gazed round, as the faint grey stream of early morning poured through
the window, and showed the various objects in the room. Then came a
warmer tint, as the sun actually rose, and with it some of the
thoughts which usually accompany the rising day. How beautiful is the
revival of nature from her dark slumber in the arms of night! what an
image of the dawning of eternal life to the emancipated spirit after
the shadow of the grave! How good, how great, how wise, is the
Almighty Author of all, who plants in the seasons, and in the
elements, in the changes of the world, and in all the revolutions of
nature, the signs and symbols of his beneficence and his power, with
promises of love and blessing and protection! There was consolation
even in the pale beams of morning; but then came back the sad thought,
the bitter unanswerable question, to the mind of Rose d'Albret--"Do
the eyes of Louis de Montigni see, like mine, the return of dawning
day, or are they closed for ever in the tomb?" And rising from her bed
she knelt, and prayed, and wept, till the increasing sounds in the
house told her, that her oppressors were once more waking into active
life, and that she must prepare her mind to suffer and resist.

Oh, how most painful of all the many grievous tasks of life, is that
of resistance! and yet it is the unceasing lot of humanity; for this
is all a battle field, and at every point--within and without, against
ourselves and others, against circumstances, temptations, cares,
griefs, fears, pleasures, successes, triumphs, vanity, hope,
expectation, pride, disappointment, opposition, regret, and despair;
against man and fiends--it is all resistance; and he who would
ultimately win the garland of victory, must be armed and awake at
every moment of existence. From the moment when the foot of Adam first
trod the garden, until the now in which we stand against the foe, the
conflict has gone on; and happy are they who do resist.

Yet 'tis a weary and a terrible task, especially for those who buckle
on their armour for the first time; and poor Rose d'Albret felt her
heart sink as she prepared herself for it. But still, the thought of
him she loved, and her repugnance to the man who would have injured
him, nerved her for the effort; and again and again, she repeated,
"They shall never move me! My voice must speak the falsehood, my own
hand must sign my folly, my own heart must prove the traitor, ere they
can conquer."

Her knowledge, too, of those with whom she had to deal, was not a
little serviceable in guarding her against all arts. That knowledge
had come slowly, not by study or inquiry, but sinking in daily into
her mind, as act after act, and word after word, developed the
characters of the persons who now surrounded her.

"If they have doubts of De Montigni's fate," she argued, "they will
urge me to this abhorred marriage with Chazeul at once and
immediately; they will give me no time--they may even try threats, and
violence, and force. If they have no doubt they will be less
importunate; they will allow me to deliberate, to mourn. But, good
heaven, if they try force, what shall I do?--It matters not, I will
die first. But, by their course, I shall know whether the tale be true
or false; and if from their urgency I judge that it is false, I shall
gain strength from hope, and courage even from their cruelty. Poor
Helen de la Tremblade! They cannot make me as thou art--they cannot
add self-reproach to all I suffer, but by my own fault. Would that I
had not promised, never to tell her tale, till she herself thought
fit. I might perhaps find a friend, if I could do so, in the only one
who could well befriend me. She knew not how much her story might
serve me now; and I little thought that I should long to tell it for
my own safety, rather than for her comfort. But hark, there are people
speaking near! I will be dressed and prepared to meet them when they
come hither. Blanchette," she continued aloud, "Blanchette!"

The girl made her call several times, and then appeared with a dull
and sullen countenance; and Rose proceeding with her toilet, exchanged
but few words with one whom she had never either loved or esteemed,
and now despised.

When she was fully dressed she advanced towards the door, saying, "I
will go out upon the ramparts. Put the room in order against my
return."

But the girl planted herself in the way, and replied, "You cannot,
Mademoiselle. There are strict orders that you remain here, till the
Count or the Marchioness come for you."

There was a low suppressed laugh--a laugh of triumph in her
power--mingled with the girl's words, which was hard to bear; and Rose
felt at first inclined to resist, and then to weep; but she gave way
to neither temptation; and, after gazing at her for a minute, merely
replied, "What, I am a prisoner, then; and my own maid the gaoler? It
is well; but it will prove fruitless. Give me a book, I will read."

The girl inquired what book, and gave her mistress the pain--and she
well knew it was a pain,--to speak more than once before she chose to
comprehend.

At length, however, a book was brought; and poor Rose d'Albret,
placing herself near the window, strove to read with an unconcerned
air. But it was in vain she did so; the letters swam before her eyes:
her mind wandered to other things: her eye ran over the lines without
gathering their sense; and, ere she had mastered more than two or
three sentences, there was a step in the ante-room, a knock at the
door, and before she could say "Come in," Madame de Chazeul entered,
followed by Monsieur de Liancourt. The conflict, she saw, was about to
begin, and with an anxious gasp for breath, and a haggard eye, she
gazed upon them as they approached, unable to speak, though she strove
to do so.

"Be calm, Rose, be calm," said Monsieur de Liancourt, placing a seat
for his sister, and taking one himself. "I have come to you thus early
in the morning, because Madame de Chazeul and father Walter informed
me last night, that you entertained suspicions as to the reality of
the sad intelligence which we received last night, and I wish to
assure you with my own lips that there is no doubt--that I entertain
no doubt of the fact."

Rose wept but could not reply; and after a brief pause, the Count
proceeded: "Of course I feel deeply grieved that such a fate should
have overtaken my nephew; but I cannot help at the same time
remembering, that he has not lately acted as became him, nor shown
towards me that respect and gratitude which I trust I deserved at his
hands."

"Oh, Sir," cried Rose, waving her hand mournfully; "touch not the
memory of the dead--of one who was willing to show you every
reverence, although, perhaps, he might feel that he had been wronged
and deceived. To you," she continued, seeing the Count's lip quiver,
"to you he attributed it not, but to the counsels of others; and you
would have found no one more affectionate no one more willing to
testify, in every way, his regard and respect."

"Well, well," cried Madame de Chazeul, "there is no use of disputing
about such things. That is all past. The question before us is of the
present. You had something to say on that score, brother, I think?"

"Why, simply this," replied the Count, "that as my nephew Chazeul is
now, without dispute, my heir, he is also, without dispute, the person
indicated by the contract between myself and Monsieur de Marennes--as
your husband, Rose!" he added, in a slow emphatic tone.

Rose gazed down and was silent, for her heart beat so violently that
she had no power to reply. Had she calculated her whole conduct,
however, to obtain an insight into the views of her two companions,
nothing could have served her better than that silence, for Madame de
Chazeul observed, after a momentary pause, "I am happy to see you make
no objection, for no longer delay can be admitted,--indeed it is
impossible--for the presence of Chazeul is instantly required by the
Duke of Mayenne, and you must go with him as his wife."

"Make no objection!" said Rose.

But Madame de Chazeul cut her short, saying, "Ay, and it is well that
you do not, for it could have no effect if you did. Everything is
determined and prepared. The contract, as before drawn up, waits for
your signature, and the marriage must take place at once."

"He is not dead," murmured Rose to herself, with a sudden look of joy
passing over her countenance, which those who saw it could in no
degree comprehend; and the next moment, turning to Monsieur de
Liancourt, she said, "Sir, I will ask if this be decent and proper, in
the very first day of mourning for your nephew, for him to whom my
heart was given, and my hand promised, to propose that I should wed
another?"

"Urgent circumstances, Rose," answered the Count, "must justify what
would not otherwise be right. The necessity for Chazeul's immediate
departure compels us to this course, and I must insist that you make
no opposition."

"If Monsieur de Chazeul must depart," said Rose, "let him; he can
return at some future period, when a widowed heart may have somewhat
recovered from the wound it has received. But it shall not be said,
that Rose d'Albret gave her hand to another, before her tears were dry
for him to whom her faith was plighted."

"This is all vain folly," cried Madame de Chazeul; "my son will find
means to dry your tears, if that be all."

"He can but make them flow more bitterly," replied Rose d'Albret; "was
ever such a monstrous and cruel thing proposed! Oh, Sir," she
continued, turning to the Count, "will you, a man of honour and a
gentleman, a man of feeling, and of a kindly heart--will you
countenance the attempt to force me, the very day after I have heard
of poor Louis de Montigni's bloody death, to wed a man for whom I
never entertained aught but indifference?"

"Well, Rose, well," said the Count, rising; "I will give you another
day; that is all that I can allow; for my word is pledged that, before
noon to-morrow, you shall be Chazeul's wife. Nay, say no more, for I
will hear no more. Make up your mind to it in the meanwhile; for on
this point I am firm, and your conduct in secretly quitting my roof
for the purpose of thwarting all my designs and wishes for your
benefit, well justifies me in compelling your immediate obedience."

Thus saying he turned and left the room; but Madame de Chazeul
remained gazing upon her poor victim with a bitter, and almost
contemptuous look, which might well teach Rose to apprehend no very
happy life if wedded to her son.

"What is the meaning of all this, girl?" exclaimed the Marchioness, as
soon as the door had closed upon Monsieur de Liancourt; "you are
plotting some stratagem,--your delays have some end in view."

"None, Madam," answered Rose d'Albret. "The only object that I can
have in life is, to avoid a union with a man I despise and abhor."

"Despise and abhor!" exclaimed Jacqueline de Chazeul, in a mocking
tone; "pray may I ask how it happens that such passions have found
their way into your gentle breast?"

"His own deeds, which have come to my ears in spite of your
precautions, Madam," replied Rose, "have planted those feelings there,
never to be rooted out."

"What deeds?" demanded the Marchioness, sternly.

"Unhappily I have promised never to name them," answered Rose; "but
you know to what I allude right well; and you cannot doubt with what
eyes I must look upon your son."

"You must be his wife, notwithstanding," said Madame de Chazeul.

But Rose could bear no more. "Never!" she exclaimed; "never! Come what
may I will never be his wife. You may drag me to the altar, but not
even by silence will I seem to give consent. I will refuse the vow, I
will cast away the ring, I will call God to witness that I am not his
wife. This hand shall never sign the contract till it moulders in the
grave; and if death be the consequence, I will not do one act that can
make me his;" and overpowered by her own vehemence, as well as by the
many emotions in her bosom, she burst into a bitter flood of tears.

Madame de Chazeul gazed at her for a moment, while her whole face
worked with passion, which she could not find words to express; and
then shaking her hand at her, she exclaimed, in a low bitter tone,
"You shall!" and quitted the room.



CHAPTER XXIV.


When the Marchioness de Chazeul retired from Rose's chamber, she did
not seek the society of her brother; neither did she at first send for
her son, nor inquire for the priest. But, as she passed through the
ante-chamber, she beckoned to the maid Blanchette, who had quitted the
room, when she and the Count had entered it, and, with a sign to
follow, led the way to her own apartments. When there, she seated
herself before the mirror, and remained for several minutes in deep
thought. She was, as we have depicted her, rancorous and vindictive,
but at the same time ambitious and greedy. Nor was she less
pertinacious and resolute, than crafty and clear-sighted. No
difficulties repelled her, no obstacles were in her eyes
insurmountable, no means unjustifiable to attain her ends. Of true
religion she had none, though not a little bigotry, strange as such a
combination may appear; and, as was the case with many besides herself
in that day, she would often scoff at even Almighty power, and set at
nought Heaven's vengeance, yet as often give herself up to penance and
austerities, with all the devotion of a saint. But penance never
reached the point of interrupting her in the course she chose to
pursue. She would mortify her appetites, but not abandon her designs;
and, though her formal observance of the injunctions of her church,
might show some sort of superstitious dread, the only fear that seemed
to affect her in her dealings with the world, was the fear of failure.

It was that apprehension that now assailed her; but, as was always the
case with her, all that it produced was, fresh efforts to attain her
ends, greater exertions to overcome the obstacles that opposed her.
The high and firm resolution displayed by Rose d'Albret would have
been nothing in her eyes, had she possessed the sole command over her
brother's unhappy ward. Her declarations, she would have laughed to
scorn, and her remonstrances she would not have listened to. For
years, she had looked upon Rose as a creature that was but to be made
subservient to her purposes, the seal to the deed that was to transfer
the estates of Liancourt and Marennes to the house of Chazeul, and she
regarded even an expression of reluctance as a daring offence. But she
feared the effect of Rose's firmness on her brother; she knew him to
be weak and irresolute, easily swayed by persons of a firmer mind than
his own, violent and hasty by starts, but alarmed and intimidated by
resistance; and she doubted much, if Rose maintained her resolution
steadily, refused to go to the altar, or to sign the contract, that
Monsieur de Liancourt would use force to compel her, or pass over her
resistance and declare the marriage complete, contrary to her protest.
There was no scheme, however dark and criminal, that she would not
have followed to remove the resistance of her brother's ward; there
were no means that she would not have employed, as she herself
expressed it, to render a marriage with Chazeul necessary to her
honour. But she feared that she might be frustrated if she attempted
too daring a project, though that which had presented itself at one
time to her mind, had been shortly before carried through but too
successfully in another noble house in France, where the most
atrocious violence had been employed, to effect an object very similar
to her own.

But though fond of strong and decided measures, Madame de Chazeul was
always willing to employ cunning and tortuous means; and she saw no
method of ensuring success, but by pursuing the plan which she had
hinted to her son: and now, as she sat there revolving all the
circumstances in her mind, she applied herself to fit so neatly the
various parts of her scheme together, that no flaw might mar it in the
execution. Blanchette in the meantime stood before her, now bending
her eyes upon the ground, in assumed modesty and diffidence, now
raising them with a furtive glance, to the countenance of the
Marchioness, and striving, but vainly, to read on that dark and
puzzled page, that which was passing in the still darker and more
intricate heart.

At length Madame de Chazeul spoke, in a tone quiet and calm as if no
angry passion was a guest in her bosom, saying, "How did Mademoiselle
d'Albret pass the night, Blanchette? She seems weary and disturbed
this morning."

"I do not know, Madam," replied Blanchette. "She sent me away from her
quite crossly, and I saw her no more till this morning. Then she was
cross enough, Madam," continued the girl, "especially when I told her
she was not to leave the room till some one came for her."

"And who told you to do that?" exclaimed the Marchioness with a look
of surprise, "who told you to do that, I say?"

"Why you, Madam, ordered me to watch her closely every moment,"
answered Blanchette; "and so did the Count; and how was I to watch
her, if she were to go out, wandering all about the Château?"

"You are insolent, girl!" cried Madame de Chazeul, "and this is the
way by your impertinent domineering, that you turn the mind of
Mademoiselle d'Albret against her friends. You should have watched as
if you were not watching; you should have given information to my
brother, or myself, if she went out; and not have presumed to make
yourself her turnkey.--Who are you, that you should dare to dictate to
a lady like that, whether she should go forth or not?"

The maid replied not, but coloured highly and bit her lip, looking
down upon the ground with apparently no very placable endurance of the
reprimand, which probably she felt the more, as she was fully
conscious of having exceeded her orders, at the very time she did so,
for the purpose of gratifying her own spiteful nature.

"Well," continued Madame de Chazeul, recovering herself speedily, and
remembering that the girl's services might still be needful, "I dare
say, you did not err intentionally; but remember to do so no more. You
may watch Mademoiselle d'Albret closely, while she is in her chamber:
and, if she goes out of it, either give information instantly to
Monsieur de Liancourt, or come to me. It seems," she added in an
indifferent tone, "that the only person she is inclined to see is
Monsieur de Chazeul. I shall therefore trouble her no more. When he
comes, of course admit him, as the marriage is to take place
to-morrow, but no one else,--except indeed, father Walter de la
Tremblade," she continued after an instant's thought--"Monsieur de
Chazeul of course whenever he comes,--but no one else;--and remember,
Blanchette, have everything prepared to set out to-morrow, about
mid-day, both for your mistress and yourself, for you must all sleep
at Chartres to-morrow night, and the next day, on to Paris."

There is a dull and heavy looking sort of personage, amongst the
various classes of human beings, by whom the wit and clear-sightedness
of the shrewd and the cunning in human character, are more frequently
set completely at defiance than even by the politic and the artful.
The air of cold indifferent stupidity, which is natural to it, in
itself generates an idea of a slow and unexcitable spirit, and an
obtuse and inactive mind incapable of strong feelings except of a very
animal kind, which not unfrequently deceives the most penetrating. The
surface looks so much as if there were nothing below, that we rarely
take the trouble of ascertaining the depth and strength of the
currents that may be running underneath.

Of this character was the maid Blanchette. She gave no indication of
being offended at the censure of the Marchioness de Chazeul, except by
the momentary heightening of her colour; and the lady fancied that she
had effaced all trace of her harsh words, by holding out the idea of
her accompanying Rose to Paris. But it was not so. Blanchette was
always displeased with censure, even when, as a humble dependant, she
had no claim, but for services that could be performed by a dozen
others, as well as by herself; but, when she had grown a person of
importance in her own eyes, by being entrusted with a charge that no
one but herself could perform, she felt injured and indignant at the
slightest blame, and that of Madame de Chazeul had been neither very
gentle in manner nor very temperate in words. She only dropped a
profound courtesy then, without making any reply while the Marchioness
spoke, as if her little wit were busily engaged with other matters,
and she was prepared to receive and obey all orders communicated to
her without doubt or hesitation. But such a line of conduct was far
from her intention; deep and angry passion was at the bottom of her
heart; and she determined, if fortune prospered with her, to find some
means of retaliating, in act, if not in seeming, the bitter words of
the Marchioness, without spoiling her own prospects of advancement.
She listened then to the end without saying a word; but merely
courtesying from time to time, till at length as the lady finished,
she replied, "I will see to it all, Madam! Everything shall be quite
ready."

"Ay, see that it be," replied Madame de Chazeul. "And now, Blanchette,
send Monsieur de Chazeul to me if you can find him."

The maid retired, and the Marchioness remained turning in her mind the
next step to be taken. "Yes," she said, "we may trust the priest,--but
not too far. Rose will tell him nothing, thanks to her promise. I
wonder how she learned anything to tell.--Some letter from Helen
doubtless: or else that girl has made herself some friends in the camp
of the Bearnois; perhaps has got some new paramour.--I was a fool to
deal so harshly with her. What was it to me, if she chose to play the
harlot with the boy? My fear of her spoiling this marriage drove me
too far.--Yes we can trust the priest. I have had the castle gates too
strictly watched for any one to have brought him tidings without my
knowing it.--We must trust him, that is the worst--though I do think
he would go on, even if he knew all. But his chamber is too near, not
to make him a sharer of our plans.--These priests are but spies upon
us in our own châteaux. I wonder that we tolerate them. Yet they are
useful too, when they choose to be serviceable.--His zeal for the
league will keep him faithful."

Such were some of the half-muttered, half-silent thoughts of
Jacqueline de Chazeul, as she sat waiting for her son; but he kept her
not long in expectation, for he was anxious to hear the result of her
interview with Rose d'Albret; and, as soon as he did appear, the
Marchioness greeted him with a gay look, asking, "Well, Chazeul, have
you seen your uncle?"

"No!" he replied, "He has not come to the hall. What are your news?
What says the little prisoner?"

"Of that afterwards," answered the Marchioness, "First, the marriage
is to be to-morrow before noon. For that, your Uncle's word is
pledged, and we must see that he keeps it; for, if this obstinate girl
should still resist, he may be shaken. Now tell me, Chazeul, when did
her looks first begin to grow cold towards you?"

"They were never very warm," said Chazeul, "but they have been chilly
enough for the last ten days."

"Then it is so!" rejoined his mother as if speaking to herself; "that
chilliness makes me think that she may love you rather more than
less."

"Come, good mother, no riddles," exclaimed Chazeul, "we have no time
for solving them; nor am I an [OE]dipus. What is it that you mean?"

"I mean that jealousy has a share in this affair," answered
the Marchioness. "She has learned your folly with Helen de la
Tremblade.--Helen has written to her, or told her; for she saw her
about that time."

"I do not believe it," replied Chazeul, "I do not believe it in the
least;" and putting his hand to his brow, he thought for a moment,
murmuring, "No, no she would never--"

"But she has, foolish boy," cried Madame de Chazeul. "I know she has,
from what this wrong-headed girl said just now. Now mark me well,
Chazeul, if you will be guided by me in everything, you will succeed,
wed Rose d'Albret, and be one of the richest men in France,--ay,
second to none in wealth and power, except the princes of the blood.
But if you will not, you will lose her, and with her, not only her
estates, but all the wealth that has accumulated, since first she came
here as a child."

"Oh, my good mother, I am quite willing to follow your course of
policy," replied her son. "No one like a woman for managing a woman.
But let me hear first, what she said. Does she believe that De
Montigni is dead?"

"Yes she does," replied the Marchioness. "Your uncle convinced her of
that."

"Then she is mine according to the contract," said Chazeul. "What did
she say to that?"

"Why, at first, she seemed seeking to gain time," answered his mother,
"but afterwards, when your uncle was gone, she vowed vehemently, that
she would never wed you.--I think not the worse of your case for that,
as that is a vow which many a woman makes and breaks; but haste is the
thing in this case, and her spirit must be broken down ere noon
to-morrow, else we may have news, which will overthrow all that
we have done--De Montigni may not be dead after all,--he may be
wounded,--he may recover. Then what are we to do?--No, we must lose no
time."

"Well, well, but your plan," said Chazeul. "It seems that my little
sins are to be wiped out, the lady's good favour gained, her unruly
spirit broken in, and rendered tractable, all within four-and-twenty
hours!"

"And it can be done," answered Madame de Chazeul. "First then, we must
make it seem to the eyes of all men, that you are recovering her good
graces. You must appear together. You must hold conference with her,
and seem in her secrets and in her intimacy."

"'Tis telling me to pull down the moon," cried Chazeul, "or carry away
the gates of the castle on my back like Samson. How am I to do all
this? If she refuse me audience, withhold her presence, stay in her
chamber, and frown or weep whenever we meet?"

"Will it cost you so much to feign a little?" asked his mother.

"Perhaps not," replied Chazeul, "but what then? Put me on the track,
and I will follow it with any one; but I see not what it is I am to
feign."

"Several things," replied the Marchioness.

"First, kindly tenderness towards her, sorrow for her sorrow, sympathy
with her distress, anxiety for its alleviation. You may pretend even
to enter into her views of delay, affect not to wish to press her,
promise to speak to Monsieur de Liancourt on the subject, and with me,
and hold out the hope of gaining our consent to your joining the army
for a time, and not returning till some months have passed."

"But if she be so enraged against me," said Chazeul, "and if she have
discovered what you say she has, will she listen to all this?"

"Ay, but that must be one of the first things you soften down,"
replied the Marchioness, "an obstacle you must remove at once. You
must be a repentant sinner, Chazeul; make vague confession of many
faults; long to atone for them if circumstances would permit it; and
if you can get a tear into your eye, so much the better."

"I understand, I understand," said Chazeul laughing. "The tear, I fear
I could not manage; but all the rest I will undertake. I see my way
clearly now, but not whither it leads, my dear mother. What is to
result from all this? When I have persuaded her that I am penitent,
and the most humble creature of her will,--when I have shown myself
whispering in her ear, or walking in tender melancholy with her, side
by side, on the ramparts, what is to be done next?"

"Why, what I said before," replied the Marchioness. "Visit her chamber
in the night; leave something there to mark that you have been
present. I will have people to witness that you go in and come forth.
The girl Blanchette must be taught to swear, that it was with her
mistress's consent and wish. I will indoctrinate her well. Then,
to-morrow, early in the morning, I will visit our fair culprit full of
reproaches, tell her all the reports that have reached me, of her
light wantonness, if needful bring forth the witnesses, and show that,
for your honour, for hers, and for your uncle's, the marriage must
take place without delay. We shall have no more resistance then,
Chazeul; and if we have, the tale thus proved, will fix my brother in
his purpose of compelling her to yield; for we must keep our plan as
secret as death from Liancourt; and, if he sees you much together
during the day--if you can contrive to work a sudden change in her
demeanour towards you, he will be easily deceived."

Chazeul mused, and then added, "I will set about it instantly. But I
do wish that I had some good excuse for going to her now--something
that would make my coming acceptable. She was not in the hall, and may
not, perhaps, quit her room."

"Go to her, go to her!" cried the Marchioness. "She is not in the
hall, and will not be, unless you bring her forth. It happens luckily
that Blanchette, mistaking the order she received, made herself a
gaoler over her this morning, and kept the bird in the cage. You can
go and open the prison doors. Tell her how grieved you are to hear
that such cruelty has been exercised towards her; declare you will
never suffer it; cast all the blame on me and your uncle; make us as
stern and savage as you will, and show her she is free, by leading her
forth. You can enlarge upon the matter as you will; and having now the
cue, your own wit and knowledge of woman, must teach you to play your
part to a nicety.--For me," she continued, "I must first go sprinkle
my old brother Michael's body with holy water. I can do no less for
him, after all the sweet words he has given me through life; and then
I will talk with the priest, and make him share our plans, as much as
is needful."

"Is it not dangerous?" asked Chazeul. "I dread that man more than any
other. Calm and staid and thoughtful as he is on the outside, if ever
I saw human being full of strong passion, and eager fire within, it is
he; and if he hears aught of this affair with Helen, he will die or
frustrate our design."

"He shall not hear it, till all is accomplished," replied the
Marchioness. "I will take care of that. There is not a letter nor a
note, be it from some sick farmer's pretty wife, requiring consolation
from a kind confessor, that is not brought to me before it reaches his
hands. It has cost me more golden crowns, Chazeul, since I came into
this château, to secure good friends in the barbican, than would keep
a prince's household half a year. However, he must know our plans in
part, for fear he should discover them without being told. His consent
once given, binds him to our course; so leave that to me, and go you
upon your errand."

Without pausing to thank his mother for all her care, Chazeul hastened
away towards the apartments of Rose d'Albret. At the door of the
ante-chamber, however, he paused for a moment to consider his
proceedings, and then entered with a quick step, demanding in a loud
and hurried tone, as soon as he saw Blanchette, "Can I speak with your
mistress?"

"Oh, yes, Sir," cried the girl, with a low courtesy, and a sweet
smile; "you are to be admitted always."

Opening the door, she looked in; and seeing Rose gaze sadly from the
window, she threw it wider, exclaiming, without inquiry as to whether
the lady would receive her visitor or not, "Monsieur de Chazeul,
Mademoiselle."

Rose turned a quick and indignant look towards the door, and bowing
her head, demanded, "What is your pleasure, Sir?--This visit was
neither expected nor desired."

"I know it was not, Rose," he replied, assuming a mild and tender
tone, in which his voice sounded somewhat like that of De Montigni,
awakening memories in Rose's bosom, not the most favourable to
himself; "but I have just heard something that would not suffer me to
remain indifferent.--Shut the door, Blanchette," he added, turning to
the girl and speaking in a sterner manner.

"I learn from my mother with shame and anger, Mademoiselle d'Albret,"
he proceeded sadly, "that they are keeping you here as a sort of
prisoner; and I will not suffer such a thing for a moment; for, though
it is not my doing, it is on my account. Ill judging friends have done
me harm enough with you already. They shall do so no more. I will now
act upon my account, and try what the generosity and kindness which I
would always have striven to display, if I had been permitted, will do
with a heart which I am sure is not to be ruled by harshness."

Rose was surprised, but still not deceived; for she contrasted
instantly the new tone assumed towards her, with all that had gone
before. She recollected, too, Helen de la Tremblade, and what she had
heard from her; and the natural conclusion was, that this was fraud.
"I thank you, Sir," she said, "and I trust your actions will make good
your words. But what am I to conclude from that which you say
regarding my captivity here; for I am, indeed, no better than a
captive?"

"That it is at an end," answered Chazeul. "I told my mother instantly,
that I would not submit to it; and if it were persisted in, I
would quit the castle, to the ruin of all her wishes, of my own
fortunes--ay, and my dearest hopes."

"Hopes, Sir!" said Rose, "Hopes?--Well, I must not be ungrateful, and
I thank you for this act at least. Am I to consider myself at liberty
then, to quit my chamber? Am I to be no longer gaolered by my own
maid?"

"You are free as air," replied Chazeul. "Come this moment if you will,
and try; and let me see the man that dares prevent you. But ere we
go," he continued with the same soft tone in which he had at first
spoken, "forgive me for commenting, one moment, on a word you used
just now, or rather on the manner in which that word was spoken. It
was, hopes! You seem to think that I did not really hope to win you;
or perhaps mean that those hopes were more of your wealth, than your
person?"

"How can I think otherwise?" asked Rose, fixing her beautiful eyes
upon him. "Is there nothing in your heart, Monsieur de Chazeul, which
tells you that it is so?"

"No, on my life," he answered; "but I know what it is you mean, and
will admit that you have had good cause, to judge as you do. I _am_
ambitious, Rose d'Albret, and wealth with me is an object, as the
means of ambition. But there may be other feelings in my heart
besides, and there are."

"I doubt it not," replied the lady; "but what I doubt is. Sir, that
those feelings have ever been mine. Perhaps I doubt, moreover," she
added slowly, and with emphasis, "that Monsieur de Chazeul may not be
inclined to sacrifice the gentle and the better feelings and
affections of his heart, at the shrine of that devouring
God--ambition."

"It is that, I meant," replied Chazeul; "of that I wish to speak. I
know you think that I do not love you, that I have not loved you, that
I have loved others, that--"

"Nay, nay," cried Rose, waving her hand; "do not enter upon such
things, Sir. I cannot, must not hear them."

"You shall hear nothing that can offend you," replied Chazeul calmly.
"But in simple justice, you must listen to a word or two in my own
defence, as you have undoubtedly listened to accusations against me. I
do not say that you will exculpate me, even if I could tell you all
exactly as it occurred, which I cannot, which I ought not to do. You
would find me faulty, very faulty still. I acknowledge it. I do not,
even to myself, acquit myself: I have done wrong, much that is wrong;
and many a time when you have seen me grave and thoughtful, it has
been when I was meditating how I might make atonement. Yes," he added,
seeing a doubtful expression come over Rose's face; "and many a time
when I have seemed most light and gay, idle and heartless, it has been
but as a cloak to cover from myself and others the bitterness within."

"But how easy"--said Rose, "how easy to make atonement! how easy to do
justice!"

"Not so easy as you imagine," answered Chazeul; "for, in truth, it was
impossible. I am not attempting, remember always, to exculpate myself:
far from it. I acknowledge myself guilty; but some extenuation may be
found in many circumstances; in education at a libertine court, in the
habits and customs of the day, in the conduct of others, in
temptations that I will not give to your ear. Yet I have loved you,
and loved you truly; but I see the very mention of it offends you, and
therefore I will say no more upon this head. I have set free my heart,
and it is enough. Judge of me as you will--harshly if you be so
disposed; but still I must have the advantage of my confession in your
opinion, and that is something gained."

Chazeul dissembled well: there was a candor, a straightforwardness in
his tone which, notwithstanding all that Rose had seen and known,
could not but create a doubt of that insincerity which she had always
hitherto attributed to him. She could not help blaming, condemning,
disliking him; but still her feelings were softened towards him. There
seemed to shine out some good amongst the evil; there was something to
redeem all that was wrong--something to qualify the darker points of
his character. One, reason, perhaps, why women so often learn to love
men whose whole conduct they reprobate, is that, from glimpses of
higher qualities, they are brought, by the easy process of regret, to
pity those who give themselves up to unbridled passion, as its slaves
rather than its votaries. Not that Rose d'Albret could ever have loved
him. There was an innate repugnance between her nature and his, which
might slumber while no external circumstances called them into active
opposition, but which, when once roused, was sure to burst forth into
abhorrence on her side. She could be indifferent to him, she could
hate him, as their relative position brought them nearer or more
remotely in contact; but she could feel nothing like love. Yet he was
the first, the only one who since her return to the château had spoken
with even gentleness towards her; and in moments of danger and
distress, there is something that teaches the weaker part of the human
race to cling in some degree to anything that offers them support.

Nevertheless, she would not banish the doubts and suspicions which she
had such good cause to entertain; and she replied almost coldly, "My
opinion of you, Monsieur de Chazeul, must depend entirely upon your
own conduct towards me and others. You will acknowledge, doubtless,
that the demeanour of all within these walls towards me since my
return, has not been such as to conciliate any kindly feeling on my
part."

"It has been harsh and cruel," answered Chazeul, at once; "it has been
harsh to us both. No choice has been left, either to you or me."

Rose gazed on him in surprise, but he continued, "Do not misunderstand
me, Rose. As far as all the affections of the heart go, my choice, my
hopes, have long been fixed on one object alone. The choice I spoke
of, as what I would myself have desired, was between pressing you in
an unseemly manner on subjects repugnant to your whole feelings at
this moment, and leaving you to recover from past griefs, ere you are
urged to enter into new ties. It is not necessary to relate to you all
that has taken place between me and others. I seek not to cast blame
on any one; but believe me, if your heart has been outraged, your best
affections set at nought, it has not been with my will. Time will
clear your eyes of many clouds; and I would fain let time have its
effect. You will find, that I have not been so much to blame as you
have been led to believe; that matters have been represented to you as
certain, that were very doubtful; and that I have suffered some
wrong--at least, a bitter disappointment. I seek not to cast a
reproach upon the memory of him who is gone; for doubtless, he
believed all that he said; but he should have inquired farther, ere he
attempted to take from me that which I value more than any treasure of
the earth. Yet I would not myself now press you to a hasty decision
for the world. I know time will be my friend. If you be forced to give
me your hand at once, as they have determined you shall be, you will
only hate me. Give me time; and, if to win your love be hopeless, I
will at least win your esteem."

"Oh, Sir! if such be your sentiments," cried Rose, "why do you not
join your voice to mine to stop this hasty and indecent proceeding?
Why do you not use your influence to avert that terrible moment which
we both dread?"

"Because it is in vain," replied the hypocrite; "my influence I have
employed, but to no purpose. When my uncle offers me your hand
according to the contract, I must take it, or refuse it. Can I, Rose,
can I, feeling as I do towards you, choose the latter alternative? I
have already urged him not to force us to such a choice.--I will do it
again and again, if you but wish it. I will entreat, beseech him, to
pause, to wait but till my return from the army. But he has so firmly
determined to place our union beyond all doubt before I go, that I
fear it will be useless. Some vague doubt, some superstitious fear, of
what may take place from delay, seems to possess him; and my mother, I
regret to say, encourages him to persevere in his resolution. Yet I
will make every effort with both. Only but confide in me, Rose. Want
of clear and straightforward confidence between us, has caused too
much mischief already. Had you but told me your feelings towards me,
had you but informed me of your old affection to another, I might have
been grieved, I might have been angry, I might have given way to
bursts of rage, it is true; but still, thought would have calmed all
down; and much, much that is painful, would have been avoided. But of
that no more.--Nay, do not weep,--I came to console, and not to grieve
you.-Come, take the fresh air on the ramparts, before the trumpet
sounds; and tell me what you would have me do, and I will do it.-I
would fain see you use your liberty; for it has pained me to the heart
to know the indignity that has been offered you. As we walk, you can
speak freely to me; and if by any means I can work your peace, no
effort of mine shall be wanting."

His smooth and deceitful words were confirmed by the manner in which
he spoke them. He assumed the air of eager sincerity and truth with
wonderful skill; and it was impossible that Rose should not be, in
some degree, shaken in her opinion of him. But nevertheless, she was
not altogether deceived. Although she did not see the object to be
gained by this sudden change, yet it was too rapid not to startle and
surprise her; and there were also, in the whole piece of acting which
he now performed, those slight defects, which, good as it was, would
have immediately betrayed to an experienced eye, that it was art, not
nature, and which, even to Rose herself, all unacquainted as she was
with the ways of the world, suggested doubts and suspicions. She saw
that he turned quickly from many of the most important points he spoke
of, after briefly touching upon them, and had always an excuse ready
for not going deeply into any subject which might have most
embarrassed him. It was now, that he would not shock her delicacy;
now, that he did not wish to cast blame on others; now, that he did
not seek to exculpate or justify himself. In one or two instances
these evasions might have been admitted, but they were too frequent;
and he also insinuated far more than he said, and more than he might
have been able to prove.

It was not exactly that Rose d'Albret marked all these particulars
distinctly, but that she received from the whole, joined with her
previous knowledge of his character, an indefinite impression of
doubt, a fear that he might be trying to deceive her for some purpose
which she did not comprehend. Still, as I have said, her opinion of
his baseness was in some degree shaken; she thought that, perhaps, he
might have better qualities which had been crushed under the weight of
evil education and bad example, and which might have led him, had they
been cultivated and developed, to higher objects, and a nobler course.
He was too, as has before been remarked, the only one who seemed
inclined to treat her gently and kindly; and she shrunk from the
thought of repelling the first sympathy she had met with since her
return.

It was with such mingled feelings then, that she replied, "I am most
grateful for your kindness, Monsieur de Chazeul; but I must not
deceive you. I must not deceive myself. You must clearly understand
that my mind is fixed and resolute in the determination which I
expressed to your mother."

"I know not what that is," replied Chazeul, "for I am not acquainted
yet with all that has taken place this morning; but," he continued,
"you must not suppose that I came here to entrap you into any
engagements, from which you must naturally shrink. Indeed my sole
object, when I reached your door, was to relieve you from that painful
oppression under which you had been placed. I have been led farther
than I intended; but I could not make up my mind to neglect the
opportunity of removing, at least part of the prejudices which have
been created against me in some degree by my own foolish conduct, in
some degree perhaps by the representations of others. However, as I
said, I came here to entrap you to nothing; and whatever confidence
you may think proper to place in me, whatever you may require, or I
may do to promote your wishes, or to free you from persecution, such
as that which is now mistakenly carried on in my favour, compromises
you to nothing, binds you to nothing. Let it be understood between us,
that everything, on either side, remains unchanged--I loving you,
though perhaps hopeless of return--You retaining every feeling and
resolution which time, circumstances, and my future conduct, may not
change."

Rose shook her head gravely and mournfully, but Chazeul went on with a
slight alteration of tone, saying, "Come, Mademoiselle d'Albret, take
a turn upon the ramparts, and let us talk no more of such things. The
free air, and the sight of country round, will do you good; and, as
you get a little more calm, we may consult together as to what is to
be done to obviate those proceedings which we both wish to defer, at
least."

Rose did not reply, but suffered him to lead her forth, though not
without some reluctance. The maid Blanchette, who was in the
ante-room, gazed at them as they passed, with a look of some surprise;
but she said nothing, and they went out unobstructed.

Through the rest of the day Chazeul maintained the same conduct, and
kept up the same tone, frequently discussing with Rose d'Albret the
means which were to be taken to shake the determination of the Count
de Liancourt and Madame de Chazeul. Three times he went to speak with
them alone, upon the pretence of inducing them to change their
resolutions, and returned with a gloomy and dissatisfied air, saying,
"I can obtain no answer, but that to-morrow, before noon, our fate
must be decided."

What was really the matter of his conversation with his mother and the
count? Very different from that which he represented it. With his
mother he laughed merrily over the artifices which he practised. "Ah!
give me a woman," he cried, "for seeing into a woman's heart. I have
all along mistaken this girl's character. From her light indifference
and coquettish gaiety, I had thought to deal with her in the same way;
but now I find, that she is all sentiment and tenderness, forsooth. If
I had before possessed a clue to the little labyrinth of her heart, I
should have easily found my way in."

To the Count de Liancourt, he maintained a different tone; pointed out
the apparent terms of confidence which existed between Rose and
himself; represented her reluctance as, in the main, affected, and
merely assumed out of respect for what she considered propriety;
insinuated that she would be rather pleased than not, to be the
apparent victim of compulsion, in a matter where her own inclinations
and her respect for appearances were at variance; and he took care to
confirm the impression thus produced, by drawing from Rose replies in
a low voice, to whispered questions which he affected to wish withheld
from the ear of the Count. Thus passed by several hours at different
times of the day. But during the rest, Rose remained in her chamber,
plunged in deep reveries, and puzzled and doubtful reflections,
seeking some light in the maze that surrounded her, often looking to
the future with a shudder of dread, and often contemplating the past
with bitter tears, but still hearing a voice that whispered, "De
Montigni is not dead."



CHAPTER XXV.


Poor Rose d'Albret was like an inexperienced youth, playing for a high
stake against a numerous party of unprincipled gamblers. While Chazeul
was affecting to be her own partner in the game, his mother, as his
confederate, was employing all her art against her. During the whole
of that day, the Marchioness was busy in every part of the château,
preparing all means for the attainment of her object. Now, she was
dealing with her weak brother, now with the servants, now with the
priest; and it was with no cold and lifeless calculation that she
acted, but even with more interest than the mere promotion of her
son's views could have inspired. She was in her element; she loved the
exercise of her cunning; she took a delight in the act; it gave her
excitement, in which to her was life; for all her days had been passed
from very early years, either in the fine workings of intrigue, or in
stormy passions and the struggles of the mind. Such things were to her
as the strong spirit to the drunkard, or the dice to the gamester; and
she could not live without them. We shall only trace her course,
however, as far as this day is concerned, through one or two of her
proceedings; for that will be enough to show how she conducted the
whole. As soon as her son had left her in the morning, she proceeded
to the chapel of the castle, and there, according to the expression of
the day, gave holy water to the body of her brother. It may be asked
if the sight of the coffin and the pall, produced no effect upon her
mind; if the salutary thoughts of death, and the evidence, of how all
vast schemes and laborious efforts must terminate--of the great
consummation of earthly ambition--did not create doubt and hesitation,
awaken remorse, or excite repentance? Not in the least! Those were
strange and awful times, when the daily scenes of blood and death,
and the constant spectacle of vice and crime, seemed to have hardened
most hearts against all the great moral lessons which mortal fate
affords to the living and the light. They did not--perhaps they would
not--feel; and the most frenzied licentiousness, the most guilty
schemes, the most black and terrible crimes, had often, for witnesses,
the dead, for pretexts, religion, for a banner, the cross.

What she went to perform was but a ceremony; and as such she treated
it, without one thought but. "We must get the body buried before the
marriage, to-morrow.--No need to tell her anything about it."

She was turning to leave the chapel, when the priest entered, and
approached her with a slow and solemn step. "Ah! good father," cried
the Marchioness, as soon as she saw him, "I have been looking for you.
I wished to speak with you about the conduct of this obstinate girl.
She still holds out pertinaciously, and something must be done to
overcome her headstrong opposition. We have thought of--"

"Not here," replied the priest, interrupting her, "not here! This is a
solemn and a holy place, unfit for worldly discussions. Let us go
somewhere else, where we can talk over the affair more decently. The
lower hall was vacant as I passed through."

"Well, well," cried the Marchioness with a smile, not altogether free
from scorn, "There, as well as here."

"Better!" said the priest, leading the way back to the château itself.
When they had reached the lower hall, as a large stone paved chamber
on the ground floor was called, father Walter was the first to resume
the subject; saying, "I thought you would fail in persuading her.
Monsieur de Liancourt must use all his authority."

"You know him, father!" answered Madame de Chazeul. "It is upon such
occasions that he always fails his friends. Bold till the moment of
action comes, he is as timid as a hare when it is most necessary to
show firmness."

"Not when he can be made angry," replied the priest, "or when he can
be convinced that his own dignity is at stake."

"But on this point, neither of those cases can occur," said the
Marchioness. "She will weep and entreat, and then both his dignity and
his weakness will take her part. There is but one way before us," she
added, in a low and confidential tone, "and that is, to convince her,
that her own fame and reputation require her marriage with Chazeul."

"That may be difficult," answered father Walter thoughtfully; "but yet
with time it may be done. We may surround her with nets from which it
is barely possible for her to escape; and continual importunity does
much with woman, as you, lady--"

"Time! Time!" cried Madame de Chazeul impatiently, "but we have no
time. That is the very thing that is wanting. The marriage must take
place to-morrow, before noon--That is decided. It shall be if I live!"

"Nay, but why such haste?" asked the priest. "With no farther any
obstacle but a young lady's reluctance, it were well worth while, to
give up a few days to the task of vanquishing that."

The Marchioness gazed at him for a moment with a glance half angry,
half doubtful, and then repeated his words, "No obstacle!--Hark ye,
Walter de la Tremblade," and she whispered in his ear, "De Montigni is
alive and well!"

Father Walter heard the tidings with a calm sarcastic smile,
answering, "I thought so, my daughter. But were it not better to have
owned this to me, at once? Such want of trust in those on whose
prudence you can rely, has marred many a fair project, and will mar
many another. De Montigni lives!--Then you must be quick, indeed!--Not
that I bear the young man an ill will: not that I would injure him in
anything! but if we can by any means prevent it, he must not carry to
the heretic party he has espoused, such estates as would centre in his
person by his marriage with this lady. Now, Madam, what is your plan?
for you have one already contrived, I see."

The Marchioness laughed. "Did you ever know me without a plan?" she
asked; "but my present scheme is somewhat difficult to explain.
However, do you not think, good father, that things might be so
contrived, as to render, in a marvellous short time, a wedding with my
son Chazeul, a very good and expedient thing in the eyes of Rose
d'Albret herself?"

"What do you mean?" exclaimed the priest after a moment or two of
consideration. "You would use no violence? You would not--surely you
would not do her a bitter wrong!"

"Oh, no!" cried the Marchioness, "but simply by means and
contrivances, which I well know how to manage, make her believe that
her fair fame is lost, if she do not marry Chazeul. Luckily, he has a
goodly reputation as a bold and successful lover, and so the matter
will have every appearance of truth."

"But can you ever clear a fame once clouded?" asked the priest; "can
you remove the black plague-spot from the fair name which you have
stained? Alas! lady, in this world, every idle tongue, every vain,
licentious man, every rancorous woman, can blast the reputation of the
good and bright, even by a light word; but where is the power that can
restore it? Foul suspicion still whispers the disproved lie in the ear
of the credulous multitude, and human malice receives it with delight,
and propagates the scandal with busy pertinacity. Will you thus
destroy the good name of your son's wife?"

"Only to make her his wife!" replied Madame de Chazeul, "only to
herself;" and she proceeded to detail her plan, not sincerely, indeed,
not fully; for she was one of those who can deal in complete sincerity
with no one; but the priest knew her well, and gathered that which she
did not tell, from that which she did. His brow was doubtful and
gloomy, however, and he asked, "And yet no violence?"

"None, none!" cried Madame de Chazeul.

"Well," he said, after another long pause, "perhaps it is the only way
to obtain her acquiescence.--Yet I love not such plans; and am glad
that I myself am to play no part in the affair."

"But should you hear or see Chazeul," asked the Marchioness, "You will
take no notice?"

"I shall neither hear nor see him," replied the priest, "for I keep
vigil in the chapel by your brother's corpse, according to my promise,
until matins."

"That is fortunate!" cried Madame de Chazeul; and then she added, lest
he should put his own interpretation on her exclamation, "I mean, that
you will be thus freed from all personal knowledge of the business."

"True!" he answered, "true! and I would fain know as little of it as
possible.--I must now go and say mass, lady.--The Count, I trust, will
be present; though, to speak truth, this house is more like a Huguenot
dwelling, than that of a zealous Catholic, so sadly are the ordinances
of religion neglected.--But in the course of the morning, I will find
a moment to speak with him, and strive to confirm him in his
resolutions."

"Do, do, good father!" replied the Marchioness, and left him, not
altogether satisfied with herself for having given him any insight
into the scheme, of which she was now full.

Blanchette was the next person she practised on; but to her she
afforded no intimation of her intentions, leaving her son himself to
deal with the maid. But she prepared the way for him, by many an
artful hint of the necessity of Blanchette's pleasing him in
everything, both before and after his marriage with her mistress,
giving her to understand, that her fortunes depended entirely upon his
favour, and that if that were maintained, they were secure.

Blanchette listened, and promised to be most obedient; but she clearly
saw that there was some ulterior object, to be explained at an after
period; and she waited impatiently throughout the day, to learn what
it was, hoping to find in it a source of profit to herself. Towards
night, her friend, the confidential servant of Chazeul, called her to
his master's chamber, and she remained with him in close conference
for more than half an hour. When she came out, notwithstanding the
obtuseness of her mind, and the air of still greater dulness which she
somewhat affected, it was evident that the girl was a good deal
agitated and even alarmed. She went back with a hasty step to the room
in which she slept, stopped for a moment in the middle of the floor,
then turned and went out again and knocked at the door of the priest's
room, which, as we have before shown, was adjacent to that of her
mistress. There was no answer; and, hurrying down, she asked some of
the servants whom she met below, if they could tell her where Monsieur
de la Tremblade was to be found.

One replied that he was in his own chamber; but another exclaimed,
before Blanchette could tell the first that he was mistaken, "No, no,
Ma'mselle Blanchette, he is in the chapel," and the girl hurried
thither at once. Crossing herself with holy water from the bénitier at
the door, and making due genuflexions as she advanced, Blanchette
approached the altar, gazing with a look of distaste, and even fear,
at the bier of the old commander as she passed.

The priest was just concluding some one of the many services of the
Roman Catholic Church; and the girl waited till the last words died
away upon his lips, and then with lowly reverence drew nigh.

"What is it, Blanchette?" said Monsieur de la Tremblade; "you seem
alarmed and in haste."

"I want to know what I am to do, father," said Blanchette in a low
tone. "I am sure I do not know, whether I ought to consent to what
Monsieur de Chazeul wishes or not."

"Hush," said the priest. "Come into the confessional;" and, placing
himself within the old oak screen, he bent down his head, while
Blanchette kneeling on the other side of the partition, poured,
through the aperture, her tale into his ear.

The priest listened without surprise, as she told him that Monsieur de
Chazeul had required that admission should be given him to her
mistress's chamber, at an hour after midnight. "He assured me," the
girl said, "that it is with Mademoiselle d'Albret's consent, but that
she did not like to mention it to me; and he added, that I was not to
speak of it to her."

"That was not right, for, I believe, it is not true," replied the
priest. "But what you have to do, is to ask Madame de Chazeul, and
follow her directions."

"Oh, if I am to do that," cried the girl, "she bade me already do
everything that Monsieur de Chazeul told me; but I thought it right to
come and ask you, father, that I might be quite sure of what I was
about."

The priest paused and hesitated; but, after several minutes' thought,
he replied, "I know not the circumstances, my daughter.--Doubtless
Monsieur de Chazeul has no evil intentions." And thus saying, he rose
and quitted the confessional, leaving Blanchette to draw her own
deductions and follow her own course.

The girl paused and pondered thoughtfully for several moments; then
shrugging her shoulders, she murmured with a low laugh, "Well, if he
sees no harm in it, what business is it of mine?" and, with this
comfortable reflection, she returned slowly to the château.



CHAPTER XXVI.


It was near midnight; all was quiet in the château; sleep seemed to
have fallen upon all eyes but those of the sentries upon the walls.
The wind sighed amongst the towers and pinnacles; the old oak
panneling creaked; and every now and then the screech-owl whirled with
its shrill scream past the windows; but those were the only sounds
that disturbed the deep silence of night, while the priest, in the
chapel, watched the body of the dead man, according to his promise.
The building itself was dark and gloomy; the tapers on the altar cast
their rays but a little distance beyond the coffin; and the light
faded away gradually into the deep obscurity of the other parts of the
chapel, while the large cluster pillars and the rich, sculptured
groins of the arches, caught the beams faintly as they darted towards
the vaulted roof, or strove to penetrate the aisles. It was a solemn
scene, and might well fill the breast with thoughts high and grave.
There lay the dead: the dust ready for the earth, the spirit returned
to God who gave it. There stood the altar, raised for the worship of
that God, and bearing aloft in the full light, the symbol of the
salvation which was purchased by the blood of His Son. Death,
immortality, and redemption, were prominent and clear before the eye,
while all round was obscurity, like the misty darkness of mortal fate
which wraps us, in this strange world wherein we live.

Father Walter had watched through the preceding night, and had felt
less than he did at present; he had done it as a duty, as the mere
fulfilment of a promise. He was familiar with the deathbed, the
coffin, and grave; and as usual, they had lost much of their
impressiveness. But now for some reason,--perhaps that his own heart
was not well at ease,--he felt sensations of awe and gloom creep over
him. He knelt and murmured prayers before the altar; he went through
some of the ceremonial observances of his religion; but they now gave
him no relief. The words fell cold and meaningless from his lips; the
sign of the cross, the genuflexion, and the counted beads, seemed for
the first time all dull forms, having no reference to the heart.

Then he came forward and gazed upon the coffin; and memory recalled
many an event connected with him who now lay so still within. He had
known him for many years: he recollected him in his youth, and in his
prime, and memory ran back over the long chain of linked hours,
pausing here and there upon the brighter spots, till the natural
affections of the heart--which not even the cold philosophy of a
religion which bars its priesthood from all the more kindly
associations of human life, can ever totally extinguish--were
reawakened by the thoughts, and some of the fresh and generous
impulses of earlier years rose up, and brought a tear into his eye.

Again he knelt down and prayed; but it seemed that, in the act of
prayer, a voice from the cross above the altar reached his heart
mournfully and reproachfully. He thought it asked him if, in the
counsels he was giving, if in the deeds he was sanctioning, he was a
true follower of the guileless and holy Saviour, of the pure, the
true, the meek, who showed God to be truth and love, and falsehood,
deceit and wrong, to be the offspring of the arch-enemy. He covered
his face with his hands as if the All-seeing eye were more especially
upon him; and then starting up he murmured, "I wish I had taken no
part in this." With a quick and agitated step, he paced the nave of
the chapel; and, as he did so, half spoken words betrayed the
troublous anxiety of his soul.

"I wish I had not done it," he said. "Who can tell what may be the
result?--They are not to be trusted,--neither mother nor son,--dark,
dark and deceitful!--Even to me they cannot be sincere. De Montigni is
an angel of light compared to them.--Would to heaven he had not
embraced the party of the heretic!--and this poor girl, why should she
be tortured so? Can I not stop it even now?--He is to go thither at
one o'clock.--What may be the result?--No, no he will never dare!" and
with agitated pace, again he trod and retrod the whole length of the
chapel; and then, after pausing and gazing once more upon the coffin,
he suddenly turned, and opening the great door, issued out into the
court. Entering the house, he crossed the stone hall, passed through
the corridor beyond, and approached the foot of the staircase which
led to his own apartments, and those of Mademoiselle d'Albret. But
there he paused; and, laying his hand upon his brow, mused for several
minutes.

"No," he said at length, "No, not now. I will return at the very
time;--and yet I must not stop him," he added, after a moment's pause.
"It seems the only chance for insuring this vast property to the side
of the Holy Catholic League. That should be the first question; and
yet,--" he paused again, and with a slow step, stopping more than once
to consider, he found his way back to the hall, into which the
moonlight was streaming through the open door. On the steps he stood
for several minutes, gazing up towards the sky, where the faint
twinkling stars looked out, like angels' eyes watching the slumber of
the world. He thought they might be so, or, at least, that eyes as
clear and bright, though hidden from his view, might be even then
hanging over him, and all whom that place contained, and he exclaimed,
"Oh may they protect, as well as watch!" and, with a slow step, and
his looks bent upon the ground, he advanced once more to the door of
the chapel.

One side of the building rested against the outer wall which
surrounded the château; and the sentries passed it on their round
above. Thus, when the priest approached, he heard a step like that of
an armed man, but he did not look up at the sound, though it was not
unpleasant to his ear; for the feelings that were in his heart, and
the thoughts which were hurrying through his brain, rendered the
proximity of some human being in the dead hours of the night, rather a
relief to him than otherwise.

Passing on, however, at a very tardy pace he entered the chapel; and,
when he had reached the first column of the six which, on either side,
supported the roof, whether there was some noise which roused him from
his reverie, or whether there was one of those vague and undefined
impressions on his mind, which we sometimes receive without knowing
how, that he was no longer alone in that dark and gloomy place--he
suddenly paused and raised his eyes; when, between the coffin and the
altar, in the full light of the tapers which stood upon the latter, he
beheld a human figure, standing with the head bent down, and the hands
clasped together. It was that of a woman, young and apparently
beautiful, dressed in black garments, but with the head bare, and the
glossy hair reflecting the beams from the altar, so that for an
instant, to the dazzled eyes of the priest, there seemed a sort of
glory round her brow.

He started, and his heart beat quick as, for an instant, he gazed in
silent wonder; but his heart beat quicker still when, recovering from
his surprise, he recognized the beautiful form and features of Helen
de la Tremblade, his niece.

She had been to him as a child, from her earliest years. On her had
centred all the affections which he yet permitted to have any power
over him; and, as they were few and confined but to one object, they
were strong and vehement in proportion. So vehement, indeed, were
they, that at times they alarmed him. He fancied it almost sinful,
vowed for ever to the service of his God, so to love any mere mortal
creature. Often did he deny himself the delight of seeing her for
weeks and months together; and sometimes, when he did see her, he
would put a harsh restraint upon his tenderness, and seem cold and
stern, though at other times it would master him completely, and he
would give way to all the deep affection of his heart.

He gazed on her then, as she stood there, with surprise and alarm. He
had been told, that she was ill; and her face, as he looked upon it,
was deadly pale. She moved not, though she must have heard his step;
not a limb seemed agitated. He could not even see her bosom heave with
the breath of life. A cold thrill came over him, as with feelings
common to every one in that day, he asked himself, "Can it be her
spirit?--Helen," he said, "Helen!"

A convulsive sob was the only reply; but that was enough; and,
advancing with a rapid step, he passed the bier, and stood before her.

With her eyes still bent down upon the ground, with her hands still
clasped together, Helen sunk down upon her knees at his feet. The old
man stretched forth his arms to raise her, but she exclaimed
vehemently, "Do not touch me! Do not touch me! I am unworthy that a
hand so pure and holy should be laid upon me!"

Walter de la Tremblade recoiled for a moment, and gazed upon her with
a look of mute and stern inquiry; but then, moved and softened by all
the agitating feelings of that night, the full flood of tenderness and
affection swept every other emotion away; and casting his arms round
her, he pressed her to his bosom, crying, "Whatever be thy faults,
thou art my dead brother's child, thou art my own nurseling lamb, and
woe to any one who has injured thee!"



CHAPTER XXVII.


As nature in the colours with which her beautifying hand has adorned
the creation, for the glory of God, and the delight of his creatures,
has far excelled in richness, and brightness, and variety of hues, all
that the art of man can produce, merely leaving to his vain efforts
the task of falsely imitating her; so does she, in the real course of
events, far exceed in the marvellous and extraordinary, anything that
imagination can conceive. The boundless springs of human passions and
prejudices; the endless variety of human character; the infinite
combinations which man and circumstances may afford, are every day
offering more wonderful and striking scenes than the boldest poet
would venture to display. There is not a house in the land but has its
tragedy to tell; there is not a chamber that has not been stained by
bitter and passionate tears; there is hardly one human heart that has
not within itself its own tale of romance. But as it is the object of
this history, but to depict events very ordinary in the days to which
it relates--and as it is, indeed, the object of its author in all his
works, to keep to calm and quiet probabilities, in order, if possible,
to cure his fellow countrymen of that longing for over excitement,
that moral gin-drinking which has become a vice amongst us, and teach
them that there may be both pleasure and health in less stimulating
beverages; he is anxious to explain every event as it took place, and
to leave nothing to the charge of the marvellous.

The reader has already inquired, how happened it, that Helen de la
Tremblade, after taking the firm resolution of doing that which,
though bitterly painful to her own feelings, she considered a duty to
those who had shown her kindness and tenderness in her moment of
distress, did not present herself before her uncle, on the first night
of his solitary watching by the corpse of the old commander, De
Liancourt;--and, had I been reading the work, instead of writing it, I
should have asked the same question too. The answer is very simple,
but it requires some detail.

On the day following the battle of Ivry, hasty preparations were made
for conveying the body of the dead leader to Marzay. All those sad and
solemn preparations which are required by custom in consigning the
mortal dust to the earth from which it came: the coffin, the bier, and
the shroud, were to be made ready; and, whatever diligence was
employed, it was known that all this could not be complete before
evening. The soldiers who had followed the old leader to the field,
determined to take their turns in carrying him back to his last home;
and Helen, as has been said, resolved to accompany them; but still,
during the day, she showed some signs, as it seemed to Estoc, of
irresolution and doubt, and the good old warrior determined to speak a
word to her, for the purpose of removing her hesitation. She had not
quitted for more than a few brief moments the chamber of the dead man,
and the attachment which she displayed to even the inanimate remains
of his dead friend, deeply touched the heart of one who, for years,
had evinced towards the good old knight, that strong and pertinacious
love, so often found in the one-affectioned dog, so rarely in
many-motived man. Even had he not promised, he would still have been a
father to the poor girl, on account of her devotion to one who had
been a father to him; and, as he entered the chamber where she sat, he
strove to smooth his somewhat rough tone, in order to speak to her
tenderly.

"Come, young lady," he said, "you had better really go into the hall
and take some refreshment. We must all die, old and young; and, as the
gamblers say, every year that goes makes the odds stronger against us;
so there is no use sitting here, pining by yourself, and I hope we
shall be able to march in a couple of hours."

"So soon!" asked Helen.

"Ay," answered Estoc, "the sooner it is all over, the better, my dear.
I know it is painful to you to fulfil your promise, but I don't think
you will shrink from it."

"Oh! it is not that," cried Helen de la Tremblade; "my mind is made
up; and if it kill me, I will do it. But I did not want to go just
yet, for the first person who was kind to me, and took compassion upon
me, promised to come or send after the battle was over. He will think
me ungrateful if I go, without waiting to see him; and yet who can
tell whether he be dead or alive? I am sure he is not a man to shrink
from any danger, but rather to seek it; for the kindest-hearted are
always the bravest."

"That's very true," exclaimed Estoc. "I have marked that through a
struggle of fifty-four years with this good world.--But what is his
name, young lady? We have had accounts this morning of all the great
men killed and the wounded; so I can tell you if he be amongst them."

"Oh, he is a man of no great rank," answered Helen. "A very poor
French gentleman, he told me: his name is Chasseron."

"Oh, he is quite safe and well," answered Estoc, with a smile; "I know
him a little, too. But Monsieur de Chasseron is a very busy man, and
has many things upon his hands, just now. He is at Mantes with the
King, or at Rosni, some say. I wish to heaven I could see him myself,"
he continued, "for I think if he heard that Monsieur de Montigni and
Mademoiselle Rose had been taken by the enemy, he might give us some
help."

"Can I not go to him at Mantes?" cried Helen; "I could tell him all,
and be back very soon."

Estoc paused, and thought. "Not before we set out," he replied. "It's
along way to Mantes, my dear. If you do, you must join us by the way.
But how am I to get you thither, and back again?"

"Oh, I am a poor friendless creature," cried Helen de la Tremblade,
"it matters not what becomes of me. I do not think any one would
injure me, but that cruel woman; and she is far away."

"No, you are not friendless," exclaimed Estoc warmly; "and never shall
be while I live. No, I cannot let you go alone; but I can send two of
my old fellows with you, who will take care that no one does you
wrong. Perhaps there may be some bands too going down, and if I could
find any stout old leader whom I know, he would take care of you. I
will go up to the village and see; for it would be a great thing,
indeed, if you could let Monsieur de Chasseron know all that has
happened.--He might help us--he might help us, though I don't know if
he has the power."

"I am sure he will if he can," cried Helen; "for he has a kind and
generous heart, as I have good cause to say."

"Well, I will go, I will go," replied Estoc. "At all events, you shall
have two men to go with you. Old Jaunaye and Longeau, they shall be
the men. They are of the good old stuff, out of which we used to make
soldiers in my young days; none of the coxcombs that we have at
present. But, you get ready to go, and I will be back in half an hour.
My horse is saddled at the door."

Thus saying, he departed, and, in less time than he had mentioned,
returned, with an eager air, exclaiming, "Quick, quick, Mademoiselle
Helen; here is the band of the old Count de Ligones, just marching
this moment, and you can easily come up with them. I saw him and told
him, and he says he will take care of you. But you shall have Jaunaye
and the Longeau, to bring you across to us to-morrow. You can easily
catch us up, either at Tremblaye, or Châteauneuf, for we must needs go
slow. The men are ready."

"And so am I," answered Helen, "but how am I to find Monsieur de
Chasseron in all the bustle and confusion of the court?"

"True," said Estoc, thoughtfully; "you may have some trouble. I will
tell you what," he continued; "here, write down upon a piece of paper
the gentleman's name, and send it into Monsieur de Biron. He is an old
friend of Chasseron's, I think, and will bring him to you."

Pen and ink were soon procured, the name written down, and Helen
de la Tremblade covering herself with the thick veil which Rose
d'Albret had left behind--for she herself had been driven forth all
unprepared--went out, and with the assistance of Estoc, mounted a
pillion behind one of the men. After riding for about three miles,
they overtook the band of the Count de Ligones, an old soldier of near
seventy years of age. He was hearty and gay, however, and would fain
have entertained his fair companion for the rest of the way, with many
a jest, and many a tale; but Helen, as the reader may suppose,
remained grave and sad, answering his questions by a monosyllable, and
listening to his jokes without reply.

"You seem very silent, Mademoiselle," said the old gentleman, at
length; "I am afraid some misfortune has happened to you."

"I have lost a kind and generous friend in this last battle," cried
Helen de la Tremblade, "and have no heart to speak."

"Ah! poor thing," said the old man. "You are not a soldier to bear
these things lightly. We learn to weep for a friend one half hour, and
to laugh the next. When a man holds life by the tenure of a straw, he
soon gets to look upon the loss of it by others, as a matter of little
moment. Yet here I am, have reached seventy years of age, and have
been in twelve stricken battles, with at least a skirmish every week
for this last thirty years, and never got but one scratch upon the
face: yet I have seen many a blooming boy swept away in his very first
fight."

Thus he continued talking on, during the whole way, till they reached
the woods, which, at that time, skirted the banks of the Seine; and,
giving his men orders to halt at one of the neighbouring villages, he
rode on with Helen and her two companions, followed by a small party
of his own attendants, towards the Château of Rosni, in which they
found that the King had taken up his abode.

It was the bustle of a camp, rather than that of a court, that Helen
now found. Tents were pitched in the meadows; baggage-waggons
encumbered the ground, bodies of soldiers were moving here and there,
and parties of armed men with their steel caps laid aside, were seen
supping on the damp ground under the trees, by the light of the fires
which they kindled to keep off the exhalations of the night, now
drawing in around them. The great doors of the château were wide open,
the hall filled with people, and though the Count de Ligones acted as
her spokesman, and inquired of several whom they met, if they could
tell where Monsieur de Chasseron was to be found, whether in the
château, or in the village, she could get no satisfactory answer of
any kind; and, indeed, so busy did every one seem with his own
thoughts, or his own business, that very often no reply was returned
at all.

As every one seemed at liberty to come and go, however, the old Count,
more accustomed to such scenes than she, led her up the great
staircase into the corridor at the top. But, as they were turning to
the right, more at a venture than by choice, a guard placed himself
before them, saying,--"You cannot pass, Sir, without an order. These
are the King's apartments."

"Call a valet or an equerry," said Monsieur de Ligones.

The man obeyed; and, in a moment after, out came a tall good-looking
man, in military attire, who exclaimed at once, "Ah! Ligones, is that
you? You are to quarter your men at the farther end of the village.
There are two houses marked for you; but, good faith, you must make
them sleep as close as pigs in a sty. We only give them house room at
all, because we know that there is not a man under seventy amongst
them, and so take care of their old bones."

"Thanks, Aubigné, thanks," replied the Count; "but I want to see the
King, and--"

"You cannot see him just now," answered Aubigné, "for he has got D' O
and other vermin with him, and has for once lost his patience. I heard
him swearing like a Reiter, with all the language of Babylon come back
upon him in full force. I believe he will frighten them into
disgorging something; but whether or not sufficient to carry us to
Paris, I doubt. However, if you will wait half an hour, the fit of
blasphemy and finance, will have left him. May I ask what are your
commands, Madam? If your business be with the King, I must report it;
for he is always much more accessible to ladies than to gentlemen."

"No, Sir," said Helen, "I have not the honour of knowing his Majesty;
but I would fain speak for a moment with Monsieur de Chasseron."

"He is not here, that I know of," replied Aubigné. "I have not seen
him for some time."

"If you would give that paper to Marshal Biron," answered the young
lady, "and ask him to condescend to put down where Monsieur de
Chasseron is to be found, you would greatly oblige me."

"That I will do with pleasure," replied the equerry. "Let this lady
and gentleman pass," he continued, speaking to the guard; and then
adding, "I will keep you in the passage for a moment," he left them,
entering a room at the very farther end of the corridor. Within that
was another chamber, the door of which Aubigné opened gently; and
then stretching in his hand to a gentleman who sat nearest the end of
a long table, surrounded by a number of persons, he gave him the paper
he had received, saying, "Will you have the goodness to hand that up
to Monsieur de Biron, and ask him to put down for a young lady who
waits without, where that gentleman is to be found. You may tell the
King, if you like," he added, in a whisper; "that she is prodigiously
handsome."

He paused a moment, while the paper passed from hand to hand. Some who
received it, smiled; some passed it on in silence; but Henri Quatre
who sat at the head of the table, remarked what was taking place, and
exclaimed, "What is that?--What have you got there? Pardi, send it
up."

The command was immediately obeyed; and, at the same moment, Henri
nodding his head to Aubigné a little gravely, as if to reprove him for
the curiosity he seemed to evince, said, "You may go, companion."

The equerry retreated, and closed the door, without, however, quitting
the adjacent room; and Helen and Monsieur de Ligones remained standing
in the corridor for nearly a quarter of an hour, while numerous
attendants and officers passed them every minute. At the end of that
time, Aubigné again appeared; and, after informing the Count that he
could now speak with the King if he would go into the room at the end
of the passage, he turned to Helen, saying, "Follow me, Mademoiselle.
Monsieur de Chasseron is expected very soon; and you can wait for
him."

Helen thanked the old Count warmly for his courteous protection on the
road, and then prepared to accompany Aubigné; but Monsieur de Ligones
whispered with kind intentions in her ear, "I will tell your two men
to wait for you in the hall; and, as soon as your conference is over,
you had better ride away to Rolleboise or Bonnières, for this is not
the best place for a young creature like you. There are too many men
here, and too few women."

The blood came up into the poor girl's face; but she understood that
the old nobleman's meaning was good, and replying, "I will!" she
followed her conductor to a small cabinet but scantily furnished,
where Aubigné left her, and closed the door.

Seating herself by the table, Helen remained in anxious meditation for
more than half an hour, at the end of which time a number of steps
were heard in the corridor, and a tall stout man opened the door and
looked in. He withdrew again, immediately; and some ten minutes more
passed without anything occurring to disturb her reverie. Then,
however, the door again opened; and, to her infinite satisfaction, the
figure of Chasseron himself, in his worn doublet and heavy boots,
appeared, turning round his bead as he entered, and saying to some one
without, "Wait, here! I will return directly."

Helen sprang up to meet him with that look of gladness and confidence,
which is hard to resist; and, taking her hand, he exclaimed with a
good-humoured smile, "Ah! my little protégée!--Now, I warrant you
thought the grey beard had forgotten you; but such was not the case,
and you must have passed one of my men on the road. I have been so
busy I could not send before. But every one who cares for poor King
Henry, must be busy now; for no sooner does he gain one advantage than
his own people help the enemy to deprive him of the fruits of it.
Well, what news from St. André? Were the people with whom I left you
kind?"

"Oh! most kind," answered Helen de la Tremblade; "Mademoiselle
d'Albret is an old and generous friend--better alas! than I deserve;
but it is for her sake I have come hither, not my own."

"Ha! How is that?" asked Chasseron; "has anything happened? Are they
not married?--Pardi. I thought they would lose no time. Yet I saw the
young Baron in the field. He may have been wounded? He is not in the
list of killed."

He spoke so rapidly, that Helen had not time to answer anything he
said, before something new was uttered. When he paused, however, she
replied, "No! Oh, no! He is not killed; but he is a prisoner which
is--or may be worse."

"Parbleu! that is unfortunate!" cried her companion. "He was one of
those, I suppose, who ventured too rashly forward in the town of Ivry.
Yet I saw him not there; and I was not far behind myself."

"It was not there he was taken," answered Helen; and, as briefly as
possible--for she saw that Chasseron, though wishing to show her every
kindness, was in haste--she recapitulated all that had occurred on the
banks of Eure, since she had been placed in the farm-house.

The stout soldier shut his teeth, which were as white as snow, upon
his grizzled moustache; and then murmured, "They are unlucky folks!
Poor things! To Chartres, did you say? Ventre Saint Gris! something
must be done for them.--Well, well, that may be set to rights."

These words seemed more the out-pourings of what was passing in his
own mind, than addressed to his fair companion; but the moment after,
he turned to her, saying, "I have some small influence here; and I
will not fail to use it for Monsieur de Montigni. He once came to my
aid, fair lady, when life or death hung upon the event of a moment. He
has since served the King to the best of his ability, and the King
should show himself grateful. Doubtless he will, and he shall not fail
to know the facts. Then it will not be impossible to exchange, against
Monsieur de Montigni, some prisoner in his hands."

"But they fear the Duke of Nemours will send back Mademoiselle
d'Albret to Marzay," said Helen; "and then--and then--"

"What then?" asked Chasseron, quickly. "Oh! I see," he continued;
"They will force her into a wedding with Nicholas de Chazeul; as
dishonest a rogue as ever used the pretence of religion to cover base
designs. He shall not have her!--Pardi, he shall not have her if I
have any say in the matter."

Helen turned pale, and trembled, but she replied not; and her
companion added, after a moment's thought, "Well! that shall be cared
for, too, as far as I am able.--What was it you said about our good
old friend the Commander? Dead, did you say? Why, he fell not on the
field!"

"No," answered Helen in a subdued tone, "He died last night of his
wounds."

"God have his soul in guard!" cried the stout soldier. "He was a good
old man!--But now, my poor young lady, to tell truth--though I am
right glad to see you--yet your coming puzzles me not a little. I know
not what to do with you here. They say, pity is akin to love, but--"
He saw that Helen's cheek turned pale; and, he added quickly, "Nay, do
not fear; There's honour amongst thieves; and I am not one to take
advantage of misfortune--What I would say is simply, that I know not
how or where to lodge you here in honesty or safety. Then, too, where
the King goes I must go; and--"

"Nay, Sir," replied Helen, "Do not embarrass yourself, for me or my
fate. Deeply grateful am I for kindness to one who, when you found me,
was outcast, hopeless, and unfriended; but I am now no longer without
protection and support. Good Monsieur Estoc, whom I think you know,
sent me hither to tell you all that had occurred, hoping that your
influence with the King, or his ministers, might enable you to aid
Monsieur de Montigni and Mademoiselle d'Albret; but Monsieur Estoc
will protect me. He has promised to do so, and I am sure he will
perform it."

"Ay, good faith, that he will!" answered Chasseron, "and it is better
that he should than that I should. As to influence, Heaven knows, the
King, good man, can rarely be got to do what he ought; and, with his
ministers, I have none, alas! But what I can do, I will; and, in the
mean time, tell old Estoc, that you have seen Chasseron; and mayhap he
will be with him, with a score of lances, for a day's sport. Let him
give me speedy news of what is going on. I am here for a day or two,
it seems, and cannot get away, for my movements depend on greater men
than myself.--But to return to your own business--What do you do
next?"

"To-morrow I am to join Monsieur Estoc," replied Helen, "and go with
him to Marzay. They think," she added in a hesitating tone, "that I
maybe of service there to Mademoiselle d'Albret. To-night I propose to
go with the two men who came with me, to Rolleboise or Bonnières."

"Right! right!" replied Chasseron; "yet they are full of our
people.--Well, I will send some one with you, to secure you
protection.--And now," he continued in a lower and a gentler tone,
"when I first found you, I think you were but poorly supplied with
that, to which we are all, both great and small, obliged to bow our
heads, though it be an idol: I mean money. I am, it is true, very
poor; but--"

Helen waved her hand, bending her eyes to the ground, and colouring
deeply. Why she did so, the reader must ask of his own heart; but, as
her companion spoke, the words he had just before used, that "pity is
akin to love," rung in her ears again.

"I have enough," she said, "more than enough, thanks to the generosity
of poor Monsieur de Liancourt. Accept, Sir, my deepest, my most
heartfelt thanks. Had it not been for you, I should not have been, at
this hour, alive; and now I will keep you no longer, for I know you
are in haste."

"Yet stay a moment," said Chasseron. "I must send some one with you.
He shall be here directly. Now farewell."

He gazed on her for a moment--seemed to hesitate; and then, taking her
hand in his, raised it to his lips, kissed it, not warmly, though
tenderly, and, repeating the word "Farewell," turned to the door. When
his fingers were upon the latch, however, he looked round saying,
"Wait till somebody comes from me--He shall not be long;" and then,
opening the door, he left her once more alone.

Ere ten minutes were over, Helen was joined by an elderly man, in a
riding dress, who bowing low, said, "I have come from Monsieur de
Chasseron, Mademoiselle, and am to accompany you to Rolleboise."

Helen expressed her readiness to set out; and following her new guide
through the corridor and down the stairs, found the two old soldiers
who had accompanied her, waiting with some impatience and anxiety in
the hall. The whole party were soon on horseback; and, riding slowly
through the darkness, with the bright Seine glistening on their right,
reached Rolleboise in about three quarters of an hour. The little inn,
however, which, at that time, stood wedged in between the high banks
and the river, was filled to the doors; but at Bonnières, about two
miles farther, they found all quiet and tranquil; and the
accommodation which they wanted, was easily procured. Helen retired to
rest at once; and rising early the next morning to pursue her way,
found the man who had guided her from Rosni, waiting to see her
depart.

Nothing more occurred on her journey worthy of the reader's attention,
and I shall only therefore notice, that, at Châteauneuf, she found
that Estoc and the funeral procession of the old Commander had already
passed on towards Marzay. She was here obliged again to pause for the
night, and did not reach the village of Marzay, which lay at the
distance of about half a league from the château, till sunset on the
following day. She found Estoc waiting her arrival, full of anxiety on
many accounts; for some communication had naturally established
itself, between the people of the château and their old companions,
and many of the events which have been recorded in the preceding pages
had become known to the old soldier.

The news she brought him of her interview with Chasseron seemed to
interest him much. Its first effect, however, was to throw him into a
fit of meditation, and he made little or no comment, but by the words,
"He can do it if he will;--and yet I love not this rumour of the boy's
death. He is hot and quick; and there may be truth in it, though, I
think it is but one of their lies after all."

"Whose death?" cried Helen de la Tremblade, turning as pale as death,
"not Monsieur de Montigni's?"

"Ay, so they have spread abroad the report," replied Estoc, "but 'tis
a falsehood I believe, to drive poor Rose to do what they want. I
trust in heaven she will not believe it."

"And if she does," exclaimed Helen, "she will sooner die than take the
fate they offer her. Oh, no! it is one of that terrible woman's
frauds. But Rose will never consent."

"I trust not," answered Estoc in a doubtful tone. "But a report has
reached me, that they intend to force this marriage upon her to-morrow
morning, and our best hope of preventing it lies with you,
Mademoiselle Helen."

"I will go directly," said Helen, in a tone wonderfully calm. "I am
ready now."

"No, no," replied the old soldier, "not so, my dear; you must wait
till all the world's asleep, but your uncle. He watches all night in
the chapel. You too have need of rest and refreshment; and an hour
before midnight we will set out."

Helen took some food, and then lay down in the cottage, where a
chamber had been prepared for her; but sleep visited not her eyelids;
and her own thoughts were more wearisome than any corporeal exertion
could have been.



CHAPTER XXVIII.


We left Louis de Montigni on horseback, in a field near Chartres,
ready to exchange the deadly shot with one well practised in the use
of every weapon; and though we have given some indications of his
fate, we must, nevertheless now return to tell how that morning
passed. The Duke of Nemours was, as the reader is well aware, one of
the most distinguished members of the League, an enemy of the King,
and armed against the life of the young nobleman, who now faced him.
The customs of the day, too, rendered the death of an opponent in such
a combat, honourable rather than discreditable to the survivor. But,
notwithstanding all this, De Montigni had, from the first, felt great
reluctance, even to attempt to take the life of his antagonist, and in
the terms of duel which he had fixed, he had limited the number of
shots, not with any view to his own personal safety; for he was one of
those who do not easily apply the thought of danger to their own
heart; but in order not to be compelled to injure the Duke.

As soon as Nemours saw that he had placed himself, and had wheeled his
horse, he raised his hat and bowed, and then replacing it on his head,
took the large pistol with which he was armed, in his right hand, his
reins in the left, and striking his spurs into the horse's flank,
galloped forward to meet his adversary. He had no hesitation on his
part, he had no remorse; but De Montigni was equally calm and cool,
for his mind was also made up as to what he should do; and keeping a
wary eye upon the Duke, he likewise rode on, though at a slower pace.
Nearer and more near they came to each other, with the muzzles of
their pistols raised, till--at the distance of about twenty
paces--Nemours levelled his weapon straight at his opponent's head.
The next moment De Montigni followed his example, but reserved his
fire.

The Duke, in truth, did not intend to discharge his pistol at so great
a distance; but just at that spot, there was a narrow cut in the
field, made for the purposes of irrigation; and, seeing that he must
leap it, and thereby shake his hand, Nemours pulled the trigger at
once. At that very moment, however, the horse, seeing the little
ditch, was rising to the leap, and the Duke's aim was consequently
unsteady.

It was more just than might have been expected, indeed, for the ball
grazed De Montigni's cheek, and passed through his hat, which was
somewhat cast back from his brow. His face was covered with blood in
an instant, and he felt himself wounded; but the injury was too slight
to move him in any degree, and, without checking his speed, he rode on
upon the Duke with his pistol, levelled, producing it must be
acknowledged, no very pleasant sensations in his antagonist's bosom.
When, within three yards, he slightly turned his hand to the right,
and fired.

The ball flew at a considerable distance from Nemours; and the two
horses, carried on by their speed, passed each other before they could
be reined up. As they went by, however, the Duke exclaimed, "Ah! that
is not fair, Monsieur de Montigni."

The young nobleman pulled in the bridle as soon as possible, and
returned, inquiring, "What is not fair, my lord?"

"Come, come," said Nemours, as they met, "own you did not fire at me."

"Nay, my lord," replied De Montigni with a slight smile, "You have no
right to blame me for my bungling. I fired my pistol; that is enough,
though I will own, I am glad to see you uninjured."

"Well, Monsieur de Montigni," rejoined the Duke, "all I know is, that
if my horse had not risen to the leap before there was any need, you
would now be lying on that grass; and I am very sure that I saw you
turn your pistol to the right, or I might have been lying there
instead. Confess the fact; is it not so?"

"You must excuse me, Sir," replied De Montigni gravely. "I fired to
the best of my judgment; but whatever be your feelings towards me, I
am well satisfied that France will not have to reproach me with the
death of one of her most gallant Princes, nor the King for having
deprived him of one who, I trust, will one day be one of his most
faithful subjects. But I must stop this blood, for it is staining all
my collar. Had your shot been but two inches to the right, there would
have been no need of surgeons."

"I am glad it was not," said Nemours frankly; and, both having
dismounted, De Montigni took some of the water from the little cut in
the meadow, and washed away the gore from his face.

"Stay, stay," cried the Duke, producing some lint. "I have always some
of this about me when I go to the field; and it will soon staunch the
blood."

With his own hands he aided to dress the wound which he had made; and
they were still thus employed, when a man, dressed in peaceful attire
as it was considered in that day--though his apparel consisted of a
stout buff coat, a slouched hat, wide crimson breeches, a pair of
enormous jack boots, a sword and dagger--rode up, mounted on a strong
grey charger. Over his shoulders, suspended by a leathern strap, hung
a trumpet ornamented with a banner of the arms of France; and drawing
in his rein at the distance of about twenty yards from the two
gentlemen, as he was passing on towards the high road, he exclaimed,
"Ha, ha, Messieurs, it is a pity, I think, that I was not here some
ten minutes earlier. I could have sounded the charge."

"We have done very well without you, my good friend," replied the
Duke; "but you seem a trumpet from Henry of Bourbon. What is your
errand?"

"That I shall tell to those whom I am sent to," answered the
trumpeter.

"Pray who may they be?" demanded Nemours.

"Monsieur de la Bourdasière, and his Highness, the Duke of Nemours,"
answered the trumpeter. "I shall find them both in Chartres, I
suppose?"

"You won't find his Highness of Nemours," said the Duke, laughing;
"unless you wait till I come, my friend. But go on, I will soon follow
you."

"If you are the Duke," replied the trumpeter, "I may as well give you
my letter here, and you can con it over and make up your mind by the
way, for I must get back with all speed."

Thus saying, he dismounted from his horse, and led it forward by the
bridle towards the Duke, drawing forth a letter, at the same time,
from a pouch under his left arm. Nemours took it, cut the silk between
the two seals with his dagger, and read the contents.

"This is strange, enough, De Montigni," he said. "This epistle is all
about you, except, indeed, a few words which your King has been
pleased to add, regarding the advantages which I might obtain by
returning, as he terms it, to my allegiance."

"What is his Majesty pleased to say concerning me?" asked De Montigni.
"I should scarcely think he knew that I was a prisoner."

"Oh, good faith," exclaimed Nemours. "You are a man of much greater
consequence than you imagine. Here, he offers in exchange for your
humble self, our good friend, the Marquis de Megnelai, requiring,
however, at the same time, the liberty of the fair lady we sent off
this morning for Marzay."

"I will beseech you, my lord," replied De Montigni gravely, "not to
speak upon that subject, for it is a matter that I cannot easily
forgive."

"On my life," cried Nemours, holding out his hand to him frankly, "I
am sorry for it, De Montigni; but if it were to be done over again, I
should be obliged to do it, for I had pledged my word; and that cannot
be broken. I had letters from your cousin Chazeul, the day before the
battle, and assured him in return, that if Mademoiselle d'Albret fell
into my hands, she should be restored to her guardian. Otherwise, I
would not have done it; and now believe me, I love you all the better,
for having fought with you. Thus, as before, you are at full liberty
to go whithersoever you will; and I leave it to you and the King to
settle, whether you will take the exchange of Megnelai, or pay ransom
as before agreed. I would prefer the former, as the Marquis must not
say that I have neglected any opportunity to set him free; but perhaps
the King may not think fit to agree, as the lady cannot be restored
according to his demand."

"I should prefer paying my own ransom," replied De Montigni. "The
King's goodness is very great; and I can only attribute it to the
services of my good uncle, the Commander; but still I would not take
advantage of it, if it can be avoided."

"That as you please," replied Nemours; "but the best thing for you now
to do, is to return with me to Chartres, and then accompany this good
trumpeter back to the Bearnois' head-quarters. We shall not have to
detain him long."

De Montigni paused thoughtfully for a moment; but, before he could
reply, the King's trumpeter interposed, saying, "I have nothing to
take me on to Chartres, Monsieur de Nemours. I was commanded, if I did
not find you in the place, to give the letter to Monsieur de la
Bourdasière, and tell him to open it; but I have no letter absolutely
for him; and if you have settled matters with Monsieur here, I do not
see why I should not turn my bridle, and ride back."

"Well then, God speed you both," cried Nemours. "Offer my humble duty
to the King of Navarre; tell him, I will write myself in the course of
the day, but that, in the meantime, I only regret, my conscience will
not let me serve a monarch who has placed himself out of the pale of
the church; for a braver man, or a better general, does not live."

Thus saying, he put his foot in the stirrup, and sprang upon his
horse's back. Then turning to the young nobleman he continued, "Come,
shake hands, Monsieur de Montigni. We will part friends, though we met
enemies; and if you would take my advice, you would lose no time in
being under the walls of Marzay with a strong hand; for there is no
knowing what Maître Chazeul may do. He is playing a fine game with my
good kinsman Mayenne. We see it well enough; for, unless he had been
looking for his own advantage more than for the good of the League, he
would have been upon the field of Ivry, with all his forces, instead
of sending forty men under his bailli, which was but a mockery; and so
we should not object to see him humbled a little."

"I will take your advice, my lord," replied De Montigni; "but to say
truth, I am somewhat puzzled as to my movements. I have not been bred
up amongst all these scenes of strife, as you have, and know not how
or where to raise a body of men in a few hours, though I hear it is
done in France daily."

Nemours laughed. "Gold, gold! Monsieur de Montigni," he replied.
"Sides have been so frequently changed, and fortune, the fickle
goddess, has spun her wheel round so often, that half France knows not
what the other side is fighting for; and thus, I believe, there are at
least a hundred thousand men in this good country, who might be
enlisted by beat of drum for any cause under heaven, so that it bore
upon its banner the significant emblem of a crown piece. Every village
is full of them, and you have nothing to do, but to stuff your pockets
with testons, ride into the market place, and shout, 'Who will serve
De Montigni?' and you will have a score at least after your heels, in
half an hour, even if your first command should be, that they all turn
Turk!"

He spoke somewhat bitterly; but, though the young nobleman himself was
in no very gay mood, he could not help smiling at the picture--too
true a one--of the state of France.

"I will try what can be done," he replied; and, mounting his own
horse, he rode off with the trumpeter, in one direction, while Nemours
pursued his way back to Chartres.

At the gate of that city, a number of the gentlemen who had come
thither in attendance upon his own person, and several of the officers
of the garrison, were looking anxiously for his return; and, well
aware of the object for which he had gone forth, had horses ready
saddled to seek him in case he did not soon make his appearance.

"Well, my lord Duke, Well, Sir?" cried half a dozen voices as he rode
in amongst them, "you have killed him, I suppose?"

Nemours made no reply; but la Bourdasière, who was at their head,
pointed to the stains upon the Duke's hand and sleeve, and, with as
much quiet satisfaction as if they were talking of a boar-hunt,
exclaimed, "Ay, ay, he has had enough; that is clear. Your arm is all
over blood."

Nemours bent down his head to the governor, saying in a low voice, "He
is wounded, but not killed. However, the less we talk about it the
better, la Bourdasière; for he had my life in his hands, and did not
take it. If all that faction would but act as Henry of Navarre and
Louis de Montigni, we should soon have France turning heretic for
their sake. But, hark you; I have met with a trumpet from the King,
demanding this lad's exchange for De Megnelai. There are a few words
in the end of the letter, which make me suspect that Henry will not
march on at once to Paris, but that we may have him upon our hands
here, before many days be over. You must call in all your parties as
fast as possible, and send a messenger at once to Marzay after the
people who have gone with De Mottraye. Tell them to make no halt, but
to return immediately."

"I have got tidings of the same kind too," replied la Bourdasière,
"and I only waited your return to send; for I knew not if you had any
message for Monsieur de Chazeul."

"No," answered the Duke thoughtfully. "No: he is not to be depended
on; but dispatch your man as quickly as possible."

This whispered conversation, the blood upon Nemours' hand and sleeve,
and the fact of his having returned alone from the field, was quite
sufficient to give rise to the rumour of De Montigni's death, which
soon became current in Chartres. The truth was known indeed, before
nightfall; but long ere the report was corrected, the messenger was on
his way to Marzay, bearing the tidings as he had first heard them.



CHAPTER XXIX.


De Montigni rode on thoughtfully, for a few minutes, not a little
embarrassed how to act. To go to the King seemed absolutely necessary;
and yet he could not but feel, that every step he took was carrying
him farther and farther from the spot where he wished to be. To
present himself at Marzay without attendants or friends, he knew well,
from all the tales that had reached his ears, of the dark proceedings
which took place from time to time in the bosom of the noblest
families of France, might be a most dangerous experiment. Not that he
believed Monsieur de Liancourt would suffer him to receive injury, if
he could help it; but he doubted that the Count would be able to
prevent the schemes of others from taking effect; and he dreaded a
long imprisonment at that particular moment, almost as much as loss of
life. Yet every hour's delay ere he made some effort once more to free
Rose d'Albret, or, at least, to assert his claim to her hand, was
tedious and terrible to him. Turning at length, to the trumpeter who
rode on silently by his side, he inquired, "Well, my friend, where did
you leave the King?"

"At a place called Rosni, I think," replied the man; "not far from the
town of Mantes."

"You think!" said De Montigni; "are you not sure where you left him?"

"One cannot be sure of anything, in this world," replied the trumpeter
dryly; "but that was not what I meant. I intended to say, I think the
place is called Rosni, for I am a stranger in this part of the world.
France is a big country, Monsieur; and I come from a good distance on
the other side of Libourne, so I may well be forgiven for not having
got all these names by heart."

"What rumour did you hear of the King's movements?" asked De Montigni.

"The last noise I heard of his movements," answered the man, "was a
great deal of blowing of horns."

"And pray on what occasion was that?" demanded De Montigni.

"On the occasion of the King going out to hunt," was the reply. "His
Majesty having chased Mayenne, thought fit to run after a braver
beast, though it could scarcely run faster than the other."

"But was there no mention of going to Paris?" said the young nobleman.

"Why, good faith, everybody was talking of it, and nobody doing it,"
replied his dry companion; "but if you must needs know all, Sir, men
whispered in one another's ears that the King's pockets were empty,
and that his financiers kept them so on purpose."

"For what object?" demanded De Montigni.

"To put the money in their own pocket which they kept out of his,"
answered his companion. "Try the thing with your own farmers, Sir, and
you will find the same happen. You will get no money till you go to
fetch it that you may be sure of."

"I hope I shall," answered De Montigni, "for I have much need of it
just now."

"Ah, poor young gentleman," replied the trumpeter; "I am sorry for
you; for those who want money, and don't choose to go and fetch it,
will soon have to ride in holey boots. However, why should a subject
be better off than a king? I have seen our Henry before now, with a
hole in the elbow of his pourpoint; and many a time he has been glad
to dine off pumpkin soup and a lump of black bread."

"Poor fare, assuredly, for a Monarch," said De Montigni musing; "and
yet the want of money may produce worse disasters than that, my
friend,--especially where time is almost life."

"Assuredly, Sir," answered the trumpeter; "but perseverance comes to
the aid of all. I thought I never should have got to Chartres this
morning; for there are all sorts of bands roving the country, who have
no more respect for a trumpet or a flag of truce, than they have for
an old cheese, or a maid's modesty."

De Montigni remained silent for several minutes; but at length he
said, "I wish I could meet with one of those bands you speak of."

"By my faith and honour, Sir," replied his companion with a laugh,
"you may meet with one of them sooner than you would find pleasant.
They are as easy to be found as cow-slips in the spring, but not quite
so fragrant."

"They might answer my purpose, however," said the young Baron. "I
suppose they would take service with any one who would pay them?"

"Ay, that they would," rejoined the trumpeter; "though you might find
some honour amongst them too, notwithstanding all that Monsieur de
Nemours said just now. Your furious Leaguer--unless he were a
gentleman--would not sell himself to the King, for any money; and your
stiff Protestant would not go over to the League for gold and roast
meat. But there are plenty of birds between those two flights, who
care not a straw on which side they appear, so that they fight,
plunder, and get paid."

In such conversation De Montigni and his companion rode on for about
an hour and a half, the young nobleman every now and then falling into
a fit of thought, and revolving, with doubt and hesitation, the course
he had to pursue. Lose Rose d'Albret, he was resolved he would not,
without using every effort in his power; and yet he feared that, in
the lawless state to which France had been reduced by long years of
civil contention, she might be driven, if not to wed Chazeul--for that
he believed nothing would induce her to do--at least to take those
monastic vows which would place as impassable a barrier between them.
To his just claims, he knew a deaf ear would be turned by those who
had her in their hands; and no means seemed feasible to deliver her
but force; and yet his heart revolted at the idea of taking arms
against him by whom he had been nurtured and protected in his early
years, and of attacking the dwelling where all his young and happy
days had been passed. Yet "desperate evils," he thought, "require a
desperate remedy; and that which is refused to justice, must be
obtained by force." His mind then again reverted to the means; and, at
length, he settled upon the plan of endeavouring to join the band of
the Commander de Liancourt, of whose death it must be remembered he
was ignorant. He knew that his uncle had been upon the way to join the
King; and though he had not seen him in the fight of Ivry, the old
soldier might well have been there, he thought; for, in the hurry and
confusion of the field, and the disguise which the arms then worn
afforded, two brothers might stand within a few yards of each other,
without the slightest recognition taking place. As he thus meditated,
he turned to his companion and inquired, if he had been at the field
of Ivry.

"To be sure I was," replied the man; "and blew till I thought I should
have burst my cheeks. The first thing that made Mayenne's standard
begin to flap backwards and forwards, was the wind of my trumpet."

"Did you chance to hear of or see the old Commander de Liancourt?"
asked the young nobleman; "and if you did, can you tell me what has
become of him?"

"See him, I did not," said the man, "for he was boxed up in his arms
like a crab in his shell. But when he came up behind the Cornette
Blanche, I asked who he was, and they told me. As to what became of
him, I do not know, for I lost him in the battle."

"Did you hear anything, then, of one Monsieur de Chasseron?" asked De
Montigni.

"No," replied the man; "was he there? I knew his brother very well, if
that will do; he who was killed at Contras."

"No, that will not do," said De Montigni. "It was of a gentleman, who
was with the King the night before this last battle, I spoke."

"I did not see him," answered the trumpeter; and there the
conversation dropped; but scarcely had five minutes passed, before
three horsemen were seen riding towards them at a quick pace. "Now,"
cried the trumpeter, "you may have a chance of beginning your band.
Here come some folks who seem as if they were seeking employment."

"I think I have a chance, indeed," replied the young nobleman with a
smile, as he recognized one of his own servants, at the head of the
party. "If I mistake not, these men will join us at a word."

The next moment the horsemen rode up, and great was their joy to see
the young Baron again; for, besides the man who had been long with him
in Italy, were two of those who had accompanied him and Rose d'Albret
in their flight from Marzay. He now learned that, having heard of his
capture by the Duke of Nemours, and that he had been carried a
prisoner to Chartres, they were riding with all speed towards that
city, in order to offer him their services during his captivity.

But though De Montigni was certainly rejoiced at their coming, his
satisfaction was sadly clouded by the intelligence they brought of his
good uncle's death. Many a question did he ask, and many a long detail
did they give, of the scene which closed the preceding night at the
farm-house on the banks of the Eure; and amongst other facts which
were now communicated to him, was the intention of Estoc, as soon as
he could make his preparations, to carry the body of his dead leader
to the chapel at Marzay.

"He must wait some time before he can set out," added the servant,
"and, if we make haste, we may join him on the way; for I am sure,
Sir, you would like to be present at the good old knight's funeral."

"Undoubtedly," replied De Montigni, "on every account I should wish to
be there. Do you know what road Estoc will take?"

"I cannot tell, Sir," replied the man, "but I should think he would
not be able to march from St. André, before to-morrow morning."

"Then let us direct our course thither, with all speed," said De
Montigni. "Which road ought we to take?"

"We could not do better than follow the one we are upon," answered the
man who had served him as a guide towards Dreux. "A high road is
always better than a by-one, when we have nothing to fear; and the
country between this and Nogent Le Roy, is quite clear of the enemy."

"By my faith, I do not know that," replied the trumpeter. "I know I
was obliged to go round two miles, to get out of the way of a party
all decked out with crosses of Lorraine."

"Nonsense, nonsense," cried the servant; "if we did meet twenty or
thirty of them, they would run at the very sight of us. Every village
that we passed, was mounting the white scarf; and a flood of loyalty
has overflowed the land, which threatens to wash the League out of
France."

Without farther debate, De Montigni led the way on upon the road they
were travelling, anxious, if possible, to reach Aunet that night. But
mortal man is destined to meet with impediments in whatever course he
may pursue, and many were those which delayed the young nobleman in
his progress. The roads were heavy, his horse, and the horses of his
followers, wearied by marching during several preceding days; and it
was found necessary to halt for an hour at Nogent, in order to refresh
them.

It was a beautiful evening in the spring, however, when they once more
resumed their way; and the interval of their halt was not ill employed
by De Montigni, in writing a letter to the King, expressing his
gratitude for the monarch's condescension and kindness, informing him
of the motives which led him to Marzay, and promising to rejoin him,
accompanied by all the force he could muster, with as little delay as
possible. This epistle he placed in the hands of the trumpeter, who
was to quit them when they turned towards Annet; but, in the meantime,
the good man rode on by the young gentleman's side, entertaining him,
or at least striving to do so, by his quaint observations on all the
circumstances of the time.

Thus proceeding, they had advanced to a spot three or four miles from
Nogent, where they paused to consider of their further course on the
brow of a little eminence, from which two cross roads were seen
branching to the right and left. Although, as the servant had stated,
they had found the whole country rapidly resuming its loyalty, as a
consequence of the King's success, yet they had learned at Nogent,
that the town of Dreux still held out stiffly for the League; and that
to attempt the passage under its walls, might be dangerous.

The hill, on which they stood, commanded a wide view over the
undulating plain below; and clothing the side of the descent, was a
thick low wood already beginning to grow red with the first promise of
the spring. About a mile in advance, rose the tower of an old château,
even then partially decayed, and of which nothing is now to be found,
but one ruined wall rising on the top of a tree-covered mound, which
the reader, if he ever travels from Versailles to Dreux, towards the
hour of sunset, may see on his left hand, with the light streaming in
a long bright ray through the solitary window which time has spared.
When I saw it, all the building and the wood below were in deep
shadow, except where that solitary beam fell, lighting up one
particular track, like some sweet memory in the shady expanse of
past-by years.

A little way down the road, when the young Royalist and his followers
reached the brow of the hill, from behind a clump of trees which
projected somewhat further than the rest, rose a thin column of pale
bluish smoke; and the trumpeter, touching De Montigni's arm, pointed
it out to him, saying, "Now, Sir, if you wish to increase your band,
here's the opportunity. I will wager my trumpet against a cow-herd's
horn, that under those trees there is a party of good gentlemen
boiling their pot, and not knowing how to fill it to-morrow."

"The more I can gain, the better," replied De Montigni; "but I have
little time to spare. How many men had Monsieur Estoc with him?" he
continued, turning to his servant.

"Fifteen or twenty, I think," replied the man. "I did not count them,
but there could not well be less."

"We must have more," said De Montigni; "many more, if it be possible
to find them. Let us try what we can do here;" and, somewhat rashly
and inconsiderately, he rode down the hill, without further
examination. At the first sound of his horse's feet, the figure of a
man armed in cuirass and steel cap, came out from behind the trees, as
if on the watch; and the young nobleman could see him turn round and
speak to some persons behind; and when De Montigni had reached the
spot itself, he found four others seated round a fire, apparently
engaged in the very peaceable occupation of eating their soup out of a
large earthen pot, which stood amongst the ashes. The two parties were
equal in number; and the strangers showed no hostile colours, nor,
indeed, any alarm; so that De Montigni imagined there could be no risk
in pausing for a few moments to talk with them.

"Well, my men," he said, "you seem to be out of employ."

"No, Monsieur," replied one of them, "I think we are very well
employed. I wish we were sure of such good occupation to-morrow;" and
he laughed as he carried a spoonful of soup to his mouth.

"Perhaps I may be able to furnish it to you," rejoined De Montigni,
"if you are willing to take service with me."

The man gazed at him for a moment, and then ran his eye over the young
gentleman's companions, pausing for a little, at the figure of the
trumpeter, and the royal arms which hung upon his instrument of music.

"We are no way scrupulous, Sir," he said, "all that we require, is
good pay down on the day, and a gallant leader, not too particular."

"Good pay you shall have," replied De Montigni, "and that exactly
discharged. But I must have obedience to my commands, and no grumbling
at plenty of work."

"I see no reason why it should not be a bargain," rejoined the other;
"I suppose you are raising a band, Sir?"

"I am," answered De Montigni, "or rather I am seeking to add to a band
already raised, but somewhat scanty."

"How many have you got; and how many do you want?" was the next
question.

"I have about twenty at command," said the young nobleman, "and wish
to treble that number at the least."

"For whose service?" demanded another of the soldiers, rising, in
which action he was followed by the rest.

De Montigni paused for a moment, ere he replied, and then said, "For
my own in the first place, and then for the King's. But I should think
to you, my men, it would not make much difference on whose side you
fought, so that you exercise your calling."

"Perhaps not," answered the other; and, turning to his companions,
they all spoke together in a low tone for a minute or two. The one who
had taken the principal part in the conversation, then advanced closer
to De Montigni, inquiring what pay he would give them, if they agreed
to do as he wished. But his eye was upon their movements, for there
had been something in the tone in which the last few questions had
been asked, which seemed to him suspicious; and now perceiving that
the other four sauntered leisurely towards a tree, against which their
short lances or pikes had been resting, he turned towards his
followers, he exclaiming aloud, "Your hands upon your pistols!"

"Why, what are you afraid of?" asked the soldier, in a scoffing tone;
but at the same instant, De Montigni's servant shouted, "There are
horse upon the hill, Sir! Ride on, ride on!"

The young nobleman turned his rein; but the soldier who was before
him, made a sudden spring towards him, and endeavoured to seize his
bridle; while the four others cast themselves across the road with
their pikes levelled.

The young gentleman, however, was quicker than his antagonist. His
sword was out of the sheath in an instant; and before the man, crying
"Yield to the Holy League," could grasp his bridle, he dealt him a
blow upon the steel cap that made him stagger. A second brought him to
his knee; and a third would most likely have dispatched him; but there
was no time to be lost; a considerable body of cavalry were coming
down at a quick pace; and, heading his men, De Montigni charged the
pikemen on the road, who wavered a little at the sight of the
maltreatment their comrade had received. Had they stood firm, they
might have detained their opponents, till the horse from above had
joined them; but a pistol shot from one of the young Baron's
followers, stretched the foremost on the ground; and the others gave
way at once.

"Quick, Sir, quick!" cried the man who had guided De Montigni from
Marzay. "They have green scarfs! We must gallop for our lives!" and,
setting spurs to their horses, the whole party rode down the hill at
full speed.

It was now a complete flight and pursuit; for the cavalry from above
hurried on their horses, with voice and spur; and the royal trumpeter
put his instrument to his mouth, and blew a long loud blast, but
without ever pausing in his headlong speed. On, on the Royalist party
went riding for life and liberty; but the others came quicker still
behind them; and near the foot of the hill, the trumpeter's horse made
a false step, stumbled, and rolled over with his rider.

"Spur, Sir, spur!" cried the guide, seeing his leader inclined to
pause. "This way, this way! We shall distance them among the narrow
roads. They are too many to follow fast."

But De Montigni's horse was still fatigued; and the bad state of the
by-ways to the right, into which they now struck, made the beast
labour and stumble continually. As the man had supposed, a number of
the pursuers were quickly left behind; but still some ten or twelve
followed; and it soon became evident to the young Baron's party that
they must ere long be overtaken.

"We had better turn and fight it out," said De Montigni; "my horse is
failing. They cannot force us in this lane."

"No, no, Sir!" cried the guide, "let us on to the old château, at
least. If we find the gate open, we can make it good against them; and
they dare not stay long before it.--'Tis close at hand!"

"On, then!" cried De Montigni; and touching his charger with the spur
once more, they were soon at the foot of the little rise, not more
than a hundred yards in length, which led to the building.

Seeing their intention, the pursuers took to their fire-arms, and a
pistol-ball or two whizzed amongst them. One struck the guide upon the
shoulder; but he was covered with a good buff coat, and the distance
was too great for the shot to have any serious effect. The gates stood
wide open; the court-yard was covered with grass--the windows closed;
and, in a few minutes, the whole of the fugitives were in the court.

De Montigni sprang to the ground, and endeavoured to close the gates;
but a pile of rubbish had accumulated against them, and only one valve
would swing upon its hinges. Those who followed, were within fifty
yards when one of the men, who had ridden on up to the house,
exclaimed, "Here, Sir, here, this door is open;" and, casting loose
his rein, the young nobleman sprang across the court, up the steps,
and into the vacant and desolate hall, just as the enemy poured in
through the gates. Two of De Montigni's men led their horses up, and
into the building; but the third was so closely pursued, that he was
obliged to abandon his beast; and the heavy door was only just closed
when the Leaguers were on the steps.

"Quick! run round and see that every door and window is fast!"
exclaimed the young Baron to his little party: "On that depends our
safety;" and he himself setting the example, hurried from room to
room, and from passage to passage, while those without seemed to hold
a consultation together; and some hammered violently against the
wood-work with the but-end of their large pistols, and strove to force
the staples, by their united strength. Two doors at the back were
found open, but were soon secured; and though some of the windows were
not closed, and indeed, were without either their glass or frames, yet
they were too high from the ground to be reached from without, without
the aid of ladders.

In about five minutes, De Montigni and his men were once more
assembled in the hall, and their little council was soon held.

"They will never venture to stay long," cried one.

"And they cannot force us here without axes or hammers," exclaimed
another.

"We must not let them try," answered De Montigni, "who has got powder
and ball? My pistol is unloaded."

"I have," said one, "but it is a scanty stock;" and he approached his
horse, which stood panting with a drooping head and heavy eye in the
midst of the hall.

"I have a good supply," cried the servant. "Thanks to Monsieur Estoc.
He said I might want it;" and taking his master's pistol he charged it
with powder and ball.

"Now follow to the windows above," said De Montigni; "you Ralph, and
you Martin. Let the other stay here, and watch through that key-hole."

Thus saying, he led the way up the stairs--which entered, at the other
end of the hall--to the rooms above the doorway; the windows of which
were wide open and without any defence. The sill, however, was itself
breast high; and creeping, with his loaded pistol in his hand, towards
the casement which, he calculated, was immediately above the steps, De
Montigni looked out into the court. A greater number of the Leaguers
had by this time come up; and the open space contained at least twenty
men. In the centre of the court, was a group of five or six,
surrounding the poor trumpeter, who was remonstrating loudly against
the stopping of a flag of truce, but apparently in vain; for they had
stripped him of the pouch he carried under his arm, and one of them
was busily reading the very letter to the King, which De Montigni had
written at Nogent. Closer to the château, were several others; and
one, wearing a gay green scarf, was standing behind a man who, bending
down his head, was looking through the large key-hole of the door. The
young nobleman beckoned to his men, who had remained a step or two
behind, to come quietly up; and as they advanced, bending low to avoid
being seen, he whispered to them to follow his example; and then
singling out the Leaguer of the green scarf, he levelled his pistol
and fired.

The man instantly fell back, and rolled down the steps into the court,
and the two servants discharging their weapons at the same time, cast
the group in the centre into marvellous confusion, severely wounding
two of those who composed it.

De Montigni instantly retreated from the room to charge again; but, as
soon as he had reached the passage beyond, the man who had accompanied
him from Marzay, whispered in his ear, "Do you know who they are?
Pardi, that was a good shot of yours, Sir!--you knocked over the
Bailli de Chazeul. We shall have to fight for our lives, however, if
they know who you are; for doubtless orders have been sent to bring
you in, dead or alive."

"The Bailli de Chazeul!" repeated De Montigni in surprise. "Ay, I
remember Monsieur de Nemours mentioned he had been sent to Mayenne's
force. But we must act, not talk. I should be sorry to believe my
cousin would give any commands contrary to the rights of blood; but if
he have done so, the more need of gallant defence; and here we can
surely maintain ourselves till help arrives."

"Oh, yes!" answered the man in a confident tone; "they can neither
force nor starve us, while we have these good doors for our defence,
and two horses to eat."

Without further consultation, De Montigni returned to the window with
the same precautions as before; but he found that the whole party of
Leaguers had retired to the other side of the court, and were gathered
together round the wounded men. The air was now growing grey with
twilight; and even if he could have seen to take a just aim, the
distance was too great to afford a chance of doing any damage to the
enemy. The eyes of several of those below were turned towards the
windows; and, catching a glance of a man's head, raised somewhat above
the stone work, one of them exclaimed, "There! there!" loud enough for
the sound to reach his ears. The next thing he expected was a volley;
but the moment after a man advanced waving a white handkerchief, and
crying "Truce! truce!"

De Montigni was silent, till the Leaguer coming nearer demanded, "Is
the Baron de Montigni amongst you?--nay, we know he is!"

"Well," answered the young nobleman, raising his head, "what if he
be!"

"Then let him surrender to the Holy Catholic League," replied the man,
"and take quarter."

"If you be really of the Roman Catholic League," replied the young
nobleman, "you have nought to do but to retire; for Monsieur de
Montigni is furnished with a pass from the Duke of Nemours. But if you
be plunderers and marauders, as I strongly suspect, keep your
distance, for you cannot force us here, and the attempt will cost you
dear, as you must have learned by this time."

The man retired a step or two, and after consulting for a minute with
those behind, he again came forward, saying, "If you have got a pass,
Monsieur de Montigni, come down and show it."

"Will any three amongst you, being gentlemen, be hostages that the
pass shall be respected?" demanded De Montigni, "otherwise I open not
the doors."

"Mark you, Monsieur le Baron," cried another who seemed to be of a
superior rank, advancing from behind, and speaking in an angry tone.
"You had better surrender, for we are resolved to have you; and though
we have not tools to-night, we will watch you well, and force your
gates to-morrow morning. We will give you till day-break to consider;
but if you yield not with the first ray of the sun, we will pile up
the doors with faggots and burn you out."

"Long ere to-morrow morning our friends will be here," replied De
Montigni; "and you will be caught in your own trap. So do as you list
gentlemen, but think not to deceive us, for we will keep good watch
too."

"We know better, we know better," answered the last speaker. "The
Bearnois is at Mantes, his forces dispersing, and he himself going on
to Meulan. So we shall rest quiet enough, and to-morrow will see you
our prisoner, or roasted like an egg in the ashes. You have wounded
one of our best men, I fear, to death; and you shall not escape us;
but if you surrender to-night you shall have good quarter."

"That I will never," cried De Montigni; "and if one of you be wounded
to death, many another shall fall before you place the faggots that
you talk of; and so no more; for if you come nearer I will fire."

The spokesman of the Leaguers retiring slowly, seemed to consult for a
few minutes with the rest; and then, carrying away two in their arms,
while another walked supported by one of his companions, the whole
body retreated from the court; but by the remaining light they might
be seen to halt just beyond the walls; and one small party was
observed to detach itself to the right and a second to the left, as if
to guard the other sides of the building. A single horseman, too, rode
off in the direction of the hill from which they had come down in
pursuit; and it was evident that their present intention was to keep
their word of remaining before the château all night.



CHAPTER XXX.


When Helen de la Tremblade first entered the chapel by a private door
which led from a small room, called the sacristy, through the walls,
into the country beyond, and of which Estoc possessed a key, she found
the building vacant. There stood the coffin, covered with its pall;
there burnt the lights upon the altar; and a little further on the
pale flame of a votive lamp, dedicated by some of the deceased lords
of Liancourt to their patron saint, flickered before a little shrine,
and cast a faint gleam into the right-hand aisle.

Helen's heart beat, and her temples throbbed. Her breath came thick
and hard; and with difficulty her trembling limbs bore her forward.
She was resolute, however; her mind was made up, and prepared, and her
whole spirit nerved for the terrible task--the most terrible that
human being can perform--of confessing to one who has built up a
fabric of love and confidence, upon our virtue and our honour; a tale
of sin, and shame; and slowly, feebly, and unsteadily, but with strong
determination, she tottered forward till she reached the open space
between the coffin and the altar. Just as she did so, she heard a step
approaching the chapel across the court. She knew it was that of him
whom she sought, and her heart sunk at the sound. Clasping her hands
together, and bending her head, she murmured prayer upon prayer for
strength, for forgiveness; while the step came nearer and more near,
entered the chapel, advanced up the nave, suddenly paused, and
remained suspended for more than a minute.

"He sees me," thought Helen. "Oh, God! how shall I meet him?"

She dared not raise her head; her hands remained clasped in the same
position; her limbs lost all power; and she seemed for the moment
turned into stone.

At length she heard a voice. "Helen!" it cried, "Helen," and then came
the priest's step rapidly moving towards her. The rustle of his
garments told her he was near; for she dared not look up; and she sank
upon her knees at his feet. Then were poured forth the rapid words of
shame and contrition, which we have mentioned; and then came a
terrible pause, at the end of which she felt his arms around her, and
heard the words of still enduring love and tenderness, with which he
spoke. A wild and agonized sob burst from her bosom, and then the
overloaded heart relieved itself by tears.

The old man soothed and consoled his niece. He dried her eyes, he
pressed her to his bosom, he told her to be comforted, he promised her
forgiveness of all. He held out to her the high and merciful hopes
vouched by the word of God for every sinner that repents, and, in the
end he succeeded in tranquillizing her first emotions.

But Helen remembered the tale she had to tell. She recollected that
every minute might be precious; and when seeing her more calm, he
desired her to tell him all, she did so as rapidly and clearly, as the
natural feelings of her heart would admit. The narrative was mingled
with the tears and blushes of burning shame and bitter remorse and
agonizing self-condemnation, even while she related with simple truth,
the arts which had been used to mislead, and the promises which had
been held out but to destroy. She attempted not to palliate, for no
tongue could be more full of blame, than hers was of herself; but yet
her whole tale was in itself a palliation of her fault; and when she
came to the end, all that remained in the bosom of the priest, was
anger and indignation towards the woman who had so neglected innocence
committed to her charge, and towards the man who had so basely taken
advantage of that neglect to deceive a confiding heart, and stain a
pure and innocent spirit.

"The villain!" he cried, "the base deceitful villain. But even he is
less culpable than that dark demon his mother. If ever there was a
fiend in human flesh 'tis she!--She burnt the letters, then? She took
from you the only proofs of his treachery and his falsehood?"

"She did," said Helen. "She called me every odious name, which,
perhaps, I but too well deserved; and, in the midst of all her
servants, drove me forth, to perish, for aught she knew, unfriended
and alone."

"She shall have her punishment," replied Walter de la Tremblade in a
stern, resolute tone. "Ay, here as well as hereafter. All the letters
did you say?--all?"

"All I think," said Helen. "Nay," she added, "there may be one which I
placed in the book of Hours you gave me; and it may have escaped her
notice, though doubtless she has caused search to be made since I was
driven away. Yet, as the book is clasped, it might not be observed."

"What were its contents?" demanded the priest eagerly, with his keen
eye fixed upon her face, so that its light seemed to dazzle and
confuse her.

Helen lifted her hand to her head, and for a moment gazed into vacancy
with the effort to remember. "Yes," she said at length, "Yes, it was
the last but one he wrote me. He promised to love me ever.--He said he
would see me soon again.--He called me his wife."

"He did? He did?" cried the priest, with a look of triumph. "That
letter must be obtained, Helen!"

"But how?" demanded the poor girl with a mournful shake of the head;
"even if it still exists, they will not let me enter those doors
again."

"No," answered Walter de la Tremblade. "No, you never shall. But still
that letter must be obtained, if it be in being. Ay, and it shall be
too; and that before to-morrow morning. What is the hour? Near one,--I
had forgot, I had forgot. We have no time to lose! That accursed plot
is on the eve of execution. It must be frustrated;" and, pressing his
hand hard upon his brow, he fixed his eyes upon the pavement in deep
meditation. "Yes," he said at length, "that will do! Listen to me,
Helen. They had laid a scheme to drive Rose d'Albret, who always loved
you, into the arms of him who has betrayed you. They have persuaded
her that Louis de Montigni is dead; and they think by blasting her
reputation to leave her no choice but marriage with Chazeul."

"Oh, horrible!" cried Helen. "How base! how shameless!"

"It is worthy of its framer," replied the priest. "The maid is bribed
or frightened to give him this night--yes within a few minutes from
this time--to give him admission to her chamber."

"Oh! let me fly and tell her," cried Helen vehemently. "She must be
saved, she must be saved.--I will go to her, I will go to her!--I will
stay with her.--I will stab him first with my own hand!"

"Be calm, be calm," replied the priest; "there is no need of that. We
can frustrate him as easily, and more innocently. There is a door from
my chamber into hers. It is unlocked or can be speedily opened. By it
you can go to her and tell her all. Let her know that De Montigni is
living, that the rumour of his death was but a fraud. Tell her how
they are practising against her peace. Bid her be firm and constant,
and she shall have aid, when least she expects it. Stay with her if
you will--or rather bring her forth into my chamber. There she can
pass the night in security, and return with first dawn of morning. And
now let us hasten away, Helen, for this must be done, my child, before
the clock strikes one. I have to watch here; but to prevent this deed
is a higher duty, and I may well be spared for a few minutes. And
God's blessing be upon your endeavours."

Thus saying, he led her from the chapel, through the old hall and
the corridor beyond, and then up the stairs, feeling his way by the
hand-rope that ran along the wall. All was dark and silent; not a
sound stirred in the house; and nothing but a faint ray of the
moonlight, which shot across from a window halfway up the staircase,
gave them any light in their course.

Opening the door of his own chamber, as quietly as possible, the
priest led Helen in; and then striking a light, he showed her the door
which led to the apartments of Rose d'Albret. It was locked, but the
key was in the inside and easily turned; and, ere they opened it,
Walter de la Tremblade once more embraced his niece, saying, "I must
find another time to comfort thee, my poor child; but the best comfort
will be vengeance on those who have wronged thee. Now go, and make no
noise. Speak to her in a whisper. Bid her rise at once and follow
thee, if she regards her safety, and her honour. Then lock both these
doors, and rest in peace for this night. I will be with you early in
the morning; but I have much to do ere then."

Thus saying, he kissed her brow, and left her; and Helen opening the
door, but leaving the light upon the table, crept softly into the room
of Mademoiselle d'Albret. Poor Rose, wearied and exhausted with all
that she had lately gone through, had at length fallen into slumber.
The curtains of her bed were thrown back; and there she lay like a
beautiful statue on a tomb, her face pale with grief and weariness,
the bright eyes closed, the long black lashes resting on her cheek,
and one fair hand crossing her heaving bosom in all the languid
relaxation of sleep. The light streamed faintly in upon her from the
neighbouring chamber, and seemed to produce some effect upon her
slumbers; for a faint smile passed over her lip, as Helen stood for an
instant to gaze at her, and she murmured the word "Louis."

"She has happy dreams," said Helen to herself, "yet I must disturb
them;" and she laid her hand gently upon that of her friend.

Rose started up with a look of wild surprise, but Helen laid her
finger on her lips as a sign to be silent, and then whispered, "Rise
instantly, dearest Rose, and come with me into the next room. Be
quick, if you would save your honour and your peace! You know not what
they machinate against you."

Rose gazed at her for a moment in surprise, as if scarcely
comprehending what she meant: but then a sudden look of terror came
over her; and, rising without a word, she took some thin clothing, and
followed whither her companion led.

Helen drew the curtains close round the bed, and then guided the lady
to the priest's chamber. While passing the door, they heard a murmur,
as of low voices speaking in the ante-room, and Helen then turning the
key in the lock as silently as possible, pointed to an ebony crucifix,
with a small ivory figure of the dying Saviour nailed upon it, which
stood upon the table, rising above a skull. She led Rose d'Albret
towards it; and, kneeling down together, they prayed.

When they rose, Mademoiselle d'Albret would fain have asked
explanations, but Helen whispered to be silent; and making her lie
down in the priest's bed, she knelt by her side, drew the curtain
round to deaden the sound of her voice, and then, in a low murmur,
related all she had to tell. The first news that she gave were the
joyful tidings that De Montigni still lived; and Rose clasped her
hands gladly, giving thanks to God. But at Helen's farther
intelligence, horror and consternation took possession of her. "Oh,
heaven!" she said, "what will become of me, if they have recourse to
such means as this?--Where shall I find safety?"

"Fear not, fear not," replied Helen: "my uncle will devise means to
deliver you."

"Oh, let me fly, Helen," said Rose. "The door by which you came into
the chapel, may give me freedom."

Helen shook her head: "Not to-night," she said. "You might meet him in
the passages. As soon as he discovers you have left your room, there
will be search and inquiry. We must trust to him who brought me
hither: but Walter de la Tremblade is not a man to be frustrated by
any one. Leave it to him--he will deliver you."

No sound as yet had reached them from the neighbouring chamber,
although they had now quitted it nearly an hour; but the door was
thick and heavy, and deeply sunk in the wall. The next moment,
however, they heard voices speaking at the top of the stairs; and some
one said aloud, "Goodnight, Monsieur de Chazeul!"

Those simple words were followed by a meaning laugh; then some other
sounds not so distinct, and then all was silent again.

"You were right, dear Helen," said Rose d'Albret. "We should have been
stopped had I attempted to fly. But where will this end?--where will
this end?" and, turning her eyes to the pillow, she wept bitterly.

Helen tried to comfort her, though she herself needed consolation as
much; for who can tell what were all the varied sensations, each
painful, yet each different from the rest, which thronged her bosom on
that sad night? She felt, oh, how bitterly! that she had loved a
villain, deeper, blacker, more degraded than all his treachery to her
could have taught her to believe; and there is no agony so horrible as
when the cup of affection is first mingled with contempt and
abhorrence. She was not only neglected and cast off for another,--that
she could have borne, and wept or withered away in silence;--but she
found him for whom she had sacrificed all, using still baser arts than
those he had employed against herself, for sordid objects, and without
even the excuse of passion. She felt grief too, for Rose d'Albret, for
her who had been so tender and so kind towards herself; and dread,
lest, after all, the machinations of those who had the poor girl in
their toils, should prove successful, came like a cold dark cloud over
the dreary prospect of the future.

All these emotions were added to her own shame and remorse and
terrible disappointment; and, although Rose insisted that she should
lie down beside her, yet neither closed an eye; and the rest of the
night passed in long, though not uninterrupted, conversation. Often
they listened for sounds, often they paused to meditate over all the
painful circumstances that surrounded them; but still they turned to
discuss, with faint and sinking hearts, either the gloomy past or the
dark impenetrable time to come, which offered their eyes no tangible
hope to rest upon, but in fresh sorrow, resistance and endurance.

With the first ray of light, Rose d'Albret returned to her own
chamber, determined to follow to the least particular the advice of
the priest: but Helen remained in her uncle's room, in expectation of
his return. Minute after minute fled, however, without his coming. She
heard Rose call her maid, and voices speaking; she heard the sounds of
busy life spread through the château; she heard distant tones of a
hunting horn swell up from the woody country beyond. But still her
uncle did not appear; and Helen, in terror at the thought of new
calamity, watched for him in vain.



CHAPTER XXXI.


We must now return to Walter de la Tremblade, who closed the door of
the room where he had left his niece, and paused one moment to think.
"It must be risked," he said: "the boy owes me much--He will not dare
to doubt me;" and, without farther consideration, he again descended
the stairs. At the bottom he heard a step, and saw a light glimmering
through the door at the far end of the hall. "It is that base
villain!" he thought as he concealed himself behind one of the square
masses of masonry that supported the roof above. "He goes upon his
dark errand, like the silent withering frost of autumn, blighting all
the flowers it falls upon. Ah, monster!" he muttered between his
teeth, as he saw the Marquis pass not ten steps from him: and well was
it for Chazeul, well for himself, that there was no dagger under that
priest's robe.

Covered with a dressing-gown of embroidered silk, and bearing a lamp
in his hand, with a stealthy step and an eye looking eagerly forward,
as if agitated with the very scheme in which he was taking part,
Chazeul crossed the hall and approached the staircase. There was a
slight rustle of the priest's gown, and the other paused suddenly and
listened. All was still again; and he murmured, "It was the wind!" The
next instant the clock struck one, and with a smile the Marquis
mounted the stairs.

The moment he was gone, Walter de la Tremblade came forth again, and
with a quick step went on, through the stone hall, across the court,
and entered the chapel. There, with haste and agitation, he lighted a
lamp that stood in the sacristy, returned, shading the flame with his
hand, and, traversing the hall in another direction, passed through a
low arch and along a narrow passage, which led him to the foot of a
small staircase. Then taking two steps at a time, he mounted rapidly
to the highest story of the château, where two or three rooms were
seen on either hand. Through the key-hole of one streamed a light, and
voices were heard talking.

"Ay, there wait her witnesses," murmured the priest; and, proceeding
he turned into a passage on the left, and listened at a door. All was
still; and, setting down the lamp, he raised the latch and entered. It
was a low ill-furnished room, where slept the page, and one of the
servants of the Marchioness of Chazeul, in beds not large enough to
hold more than a single person. At the first pallet the priest
stopped; and shading his eyes with his hand, as if to concentrate the
little light that found its way in at the door, which he had left
open, he gazed upon the countenance of the sleeping man. Then, going
on, he touched the page gently with his hand. The boy slept soundly,
however, and the priest had to stir him once more before he woke. Then
whispering "Hush!" he added, "Get up, Philip. There is business for
you to do."

"Ah! what is it, father?" said the boy, rubbing his eyes, still heavy
with sleep: "is anything the matter?"

"Do not speak so loud," replied father Walter; "there is no need to
wake any one else. The Marchioness has chosen you to ride for
something that both she and I may have occasion to see; and you must
mount and away to Chazeul immediately, so as to be back before nine
to-morrow, when the burial of the old Commander de Liancourt is to
take place. Are you awake enough to understand me?"

"Oh, yes, yes," answered the page yawning, "I understand quite well. I
wish she had chosen another hour. At home, we can never count upon
half a night's sleep: she is as restless as the wind; and it is to be
the same thing here, it seems. But what am I to bring?"

"A certain precious book of Hours," replied the priest, "which has
been long in the family of La Tremblade. You will find it in the room
which my niece, Mademoiselle de la Tremblade, used to occupy." He
paused upon the words, to show the boy that he was aware of Helen's
absence from the Château of Chazeul, and then continued, "You will
know the book, if you should find others there, by its being covered
with crimson velvet, with silver clasps and studs. Bring it at once to
me; and let no one else see it."

"But will that old tiger of a gouvernante let me have it?" asked the
page: "she will not let one of us set foot in any room beyond the
hall."

"Then make her fetch it," said the priest. "Tell her your mistress
wants it; and let her refuse if she dare. Now, be quick. Cast on your
things, and join me in the chapel. I will order a horse to be saddled
in the mean time. But, make no noise. It is needless to wake any one;
and the Marchioness would have your going secret."

The page entertained no suspicion; and--while Walter de la Tremblade
hurried to the stable, woke a horse-boy and made him saddle a horse in
haste--he dressed himself as quickly as his drowsy state would admit;
and then, finding his way out of the room--not without stumbling over
the foot of his comrade's bed, and wondering he had not woke him--he
groped along the passage till he came to the room whence the light was
shining through the key-hole.

"Ay!" he thought, "those lads are still up, playing with the dice I
warrant. I should like to look in and give them a surprise; but I
cannot wait for that;" and he passed on, descended the stairs, and
crossed the court to the chapel.

No sooner had he quitted the room where he had lain, however, than his
companion, who had seemed so sound asleep, raised himself upon his arm
in bed, and asked himself, "What is all this, I wonder?--'Tis mighty
secret!--The book to be brought to him! Why not to her, if she wishes
to see it?--I should not be surprised if this were some trick of the
priest's own. If all the house were not asleep, I would go tell my
Lady. Perhaps she has not gone to rest yet; for she sits up mighty
late all by herself; and no one knows what she is doing. I had better
go! and yet she may not like to be disturbed, especially if she be
dealing with the Devil, as the peasants in the village say. Hark!
there are people up and about! I will go and tell her, if she be
waking. She can but say I am over zealous; and if it should prove all
a trick of the priest's, I may get a broad piece for my news."

These meditations, though short and connected here, were somewhat slow
and disjointed, as they really presented themselves, to the man's
mind, so that the page who had been sent to Chazeul was in the saddle
and away, before they had come to a conclusion, and his comrade had
begun to dress himself. When he had managed to get on the greater part
of his apparel, however, he approached the door, and like the lad who
had gone before, made some mental remarks upon the light which
streamed from the room tenanted by his fellow servants, and which was
now much more visible as the door by this time stood open, and the
rays poured full out into the passage. He looked in as he went by,
and, seeing the chamber vacant, took the lamp that stood upon the
table to light him on his way.

The apartments of Madame de Chazeul were quite at the other side of
the house, so that he was long in reaching them; for, in the mansions
of those days, the architects had displayed all their skill in
distributing the cubic space contained in any given building, into as
many stairs and passages as possible, so that its tenants, unless they
restrained themselves to one especial part, might never want exercise
in arriving at the rest.

The ante-room door was at length reached; and, tapping gently, for
fear of startling the inmates, the man was surprised to find his
summons answered instantly by one of the Marchioness's maids fully
dressed, but pale in the face with drowsiness, and heavy about the
eyes.

"Can I speak a moment with Madame?" asked the servant in a low voice.

"Oh yes, Pierre," replied the woman. "She expects some of you. I
thought you would never come."

The man began to fancy, he had made a mistake, and that Madame de
Chazeul had really sent the priest to the page: so that he would now
willingly have retreated; but the maid continued, "Come in! come in!"
and another who was sitting at a frame embroidering, rose and went to
the inner room to tell the Marchioness that "Pierre was come."

"Pierre!" cried Madame de Chazeul; "what has he to do with it? Bring
him in, however. This must be some other affair. What now, Pierre?"
she asked, fixing her keen vulture-like eyes upon him as he was
brought forward, and signing her maids to close the door: "What seek
you here so late?"

"Why, so please you, Madam," replied the servant, "I was not sure that
all was right, and thought it better to tell you what was going on,
because you once told me--"

The Marchioness waved her hand impatiently, exclaiming "What is it?
what is it? Cease your prefaces!--What brought you hither?"

"Why, Madam, father Walter, the priest," answered the servant, "stole
up just now to the room where the boy Philip and I are lodged. Not a
word did he say to me; but he woke Philip, and when I roused up at the
sound of voices, for I was but in a dog's sleep, I heard him give the
page a message from you, Madam."

"From me?" cried the Marchioness, her eye glowing like a coal with
anger and eagerness. "Well, what was the message?"

"That he was to ride instantly back to the château, Madam," replied
the man, who easily divined from his mistress's face that all was not
right; "and to bring hither, before nine to-morrow, a book of Hours
from the room Mademoiselle Helen used to occupy."

"Did he say that?" demanded the Marchioness vehemently. "Did he use
those exact words,--'that she used to occupy?'"

"Yes, Madam, just that," answered Pierre. "I marked that shrewdly, for
he said those words very slowly: and what made me think it altogether
strange was, that though he said you wanted to see the book, he told
Philip to bring it direct to him."

"Ha!" cried Madame de Chazeul; "So! Is it so?--Well. You have done
right, Pierre, and shall be rewarded. Come hither at daybreak
to-morrow; and now go sleep."

The man retired; and the moment he was gone, Madame de Chazeul started
up, and with a vehement gesture of the hand, exclaimed, "He knows it
all!--She has found means to write!--Ah, how subtle is he! Who would
have thought from that calm peaceful face he bore to-night, that such
rage and hatred, and thirst of revenge were in his bosom, as must be
there even now? We shall have plots on foot--some scheme to stop the
marriage. What can be in this book? Here, girl! Call Martin from the
foot of the other staircase, bid him run to the stable and bring the
boy Philip hither--by force if he come not quietly. Away! lose not a
minute lest he be gone!"

The girl departed; and the Marchioness went on with her own thoughts.
"What can be in the book? There is something beneath this!--Or has
that fool Pierre deceived himself, and knowing the girl is not
there, put words into the man's mouth? Yet why send at this hour
secretly?--why falsely use my name to sanction the order? No, no, he
knows it all, and must be cared for. There is but one way--secure him
till the marriage is over,--let my brother know nought of it,--and
then justify the deed by the result."

She sat down, and leaned her brow upon her hands, closing her eyes,
till the door again opened, and the maid re-entered, accompanied by
another of her men. "Well," she exclaimed, as soon as she saw him;
"Where is Philip?"

"He has been gone this half hour, Madam, the stable boys declare," was
the man's reply.

Madame de Chazeul let her hand fall heavily on the table; but suddenly
recovering herself she said, "Keep a watch upon the gates from five
to-morrow, till Philip returns. Then bring him at once to me,--let
him speak with no one; and hark you, Martin; you are a man of
execution,--Get ye gone, hussy! 'tis not for your ears. Come nearer,
Martin," and she whispered something as he bent down his head.

The man started back with a look of consternation, saying, "No, Madam!
not a priest! I cannot do that!"

"Fool! 'tis but for a few hours," exclaimed the Marchioness. "Hark
ye,--one hundred crowns! You shall keep him under your own ward, and
set him free five minutes after noon."

"Well, Madam, well!" answered the servant, after a moment's thought;
"but you must promise to get me absolution, cost what it may; for it
is no light matter laying hands upon one of the church,--and so good a
catholic too."

"Oh, absolution you shall have!" cried Madame de Chazeul; "from the
hands of a bishop, if that will satisfy you; and, if there be any
difficulty, you have nothing to do but to kill a heretic, and that
will make all even. Do you promise to obey?--Mark me, a hundred crowns
and absolution, cost what it may!"

"Well, Madam, well," he replied; "I will do it, this once; but you
must never ask me to meddle with a priest again."

"Poo!" cried the Marchioness, "'Tis for his own good. He will get
himself into trouble if it be not done,--and now away, Martin. See to
this other business first; and then lay hold of him. Do it gently you
know, quite gently, but firmly too; and be quick, good Martin, be
quick."

The man retired; but he grumbled as he went, and asked himself as he
descended the stairs, "Where will this woman end?--She will make one
damn one's-self some day, and she care nothing about it."

In the meantime Walter de la Tremblade had returned to the chapel with
a quick step, after seeing the page depart for Chazeul. His thoughts,
though commonly so calm and clear, were all in confusion and
agitation. The strong passions had obtained the mastery; and for a
time they revelled in their conquest. He thought of Helen--of the
being on whom the affections of his heart had all centred--of the only
one in all the world, the only earthly thing, on which he had suffered
his heart to rest, with the intense concentrated love which he had
withdrawn from all that most men hold dear. He thought of her stained
and disgraced, deceived, betrayed, abandoned; and oh! how the gust of
passion, like the blast of the hurricane, bent his spirit before it!
He thought of her betrayer--of him whom he had striven to raise, and
who had all the while been blasting the only flower left blooming for
him in the wilderness of life; and the thirst for vengeance took
possession of his whole heart. Of her too, he thought who--loaded with
every kind of iniquity, her married life stained with many a slander,
her whole soul foul with sin and wickedness--of her who had used him
as a tool for her purposes, and employed him to elevate the
treacherous villain who, like a serpent, stung the hand that fondled
it.--He thought of her driving forth, to perish, the dear unhappy
child, whom her own criminal neglect had aided to cast into
temptation, loading her with contumely and opprobrium exposing her
error to the rude eyes of menials, and branding her for ever with the
name of harlot; and oh! how he triumphed in the thought of
overthrowing all that woman's well laid schemes and cunning
contrivances, blasting her hopes and expectations, and mocking her in
the bitterness of disappointment!

He paused where Helen had stood between the coffin and the altar. He
gazed from the one to the other; and, as he did so, each seemed to
find a voice mournful, solemn, reproachful. They gradually wrought
a change in his feelings, they calmed in some degree the stormy
passion, they awakened higher, grander thoughts. They roused remorse,
they called to repentance. As he looked upon the bier of the good
old man so lately passed away, it was not alone the image of death,
and all the train of sad but chastening impressions--which spring
from the contemplation of mortality as from a well overflowing with
admonition--that pressed upon his attention; but the memory of that
old man's plain, straight-forward truth,--of the resistance he had
offered to the very schemes which he, Walter de la Tremblade, had
promoted to his own grief and regret, brought the lesson home to his
heart, and showed him the excellence of high, single-minded truth,
more strongly than the most laboured essay of preacher or of moralist.
Then again, when he turned towards the altar, and looked towards the
cross of Christ, and remembered the grand simplicity displayed, as an
example, by the Saviour of mankind, oh! how poor and vain, how sullied
and impure, how dark and criminal, seemed the highest effort of the
human intellect when used to mislead and to deceive! Truth, truth,
almighty, everlasting truth, seemed before him in all its God-like
radiance, and it overwhelmed him with shame and confusion.

We have seen him before, stand there and feel sensations somewhat
similar; but it was then merely as the glimmering streak of dawn,
showing where the day will be: and now it was the risen sun.--The
chastening hand of grief had swept away the darkness from his mind,
and all was terrible light.

As such thoughts rushed upon him: as the eye of heaven seemed to look
into his soul, detecting there vanity, pride, ambition, selfishness,
deceit, the higher qualities that were within him, bowed down his
heart in humiliation at the discovery of so much which he had never
dreamt of; and, kneeling before the altar, he poured out the anguish
of his soul in prayer.

He was still kneeling, when he heard steps in the chapel; but he
heeded not; and still he went on murmuring in a low tone the words of
penitence and supplication. The steps came nearer, and then paused;
but still, for several minutes, he remained bowed before the cross.
When he rose, however, he saw three of the servants of Madame de
Chazeul standing close to him; and he asked, "What do you seek, my
children?"

They all hesitated; but at length the man Martin, putting out his
hand, grasped the priest by the arm, saying, "We have orders, father
Walter, to put you in confinement for a time."

"Ha!" said father Walter, surprised, but calm. "By whose orders, my
son? I did not know that there was either bishop, cardinal, or
inquisitor here."

"No, nor is there," answered the man; "but our orders are from our
mistress; and we must obey them."

"To the ruin of your own souls," asked father Walter, "will any of you
dare to drag a priest from the altar?"

"We must do as we are bid, good father," replied the man: "the sin is
hers, if there be any."

"But the fire will be yours," replied the priest, "and her sin will
not deliver you."

"It is no use talking, Sir," continued the man; "we have sworn to do
it, and so we will. 'Tis but for a few hours; and you may choose where
we shall take you to. Shall it be to your own room?"

"No," answered father Walter, "no; if this act be needful to your
mistress, why not keep me here, where I have promised to stay till the
hour of matins? I shall be as safe here as any where else."

"No, no, that will not do," replied the man; "the chapel will be
wanted."

"Well, then, as near as possible," said the priest: "aggravate not
your offence, my son, by dragging the servant of God from his temple.
I will stay here in the sacristy. At all events, I shall be still
within the sacred precincts, and near the body I have promised to
watch."

The man hesitated; but father Walter, assuming a higher tone,
exclaimed, "If not--Stand back, while I pronounce upon you all, the
anathema you so well deserve, and deliver you over to perdition with
her who sent you."

"Stay, father, stay!" cried another of the men; "we will have none of
this, Martin Gournay. If the reverend father chooses the sacristy, we
will not have him thwarted. It is bad enough to do it at all. It must
not be made worse than it need."

"Bad enough, indeed!" replied the priest; "and heaven forgive you for
listening to the voice of man, rather than that of the church."

"Well, well," said Martin, "I do not care: let it be the sacristy. But
I must see that it is all safe;" and, opening the door, he went in,
followed by the priest and the other two men.

"Ah, there is a way out!" he cried. "I must have the key of that lock,
good father."

"There it hangs," replied father Walter with a smile: "make it all
sure. But, remember, that there is another key in the hands of the
church, which may lock the door of heaven against you, if you do not
repent."

The man Martin, however, tried the door which led out through the
walls into the country; and, finding it locked, he took the key from a
hook above, and ascertained that it fitted. Then, putting it into his
pocket, he turned to the priest, saying, "I am very sorry to do this,
father; but it is not with my will, and I must obey my orders. They
shall bring you some food and wine; and there is a lamp. At noon
to-morrow you shall be free."

Father Walter bent his head gravely; and the three men withdrew,
locking the sacristy door after them, and taking the key. The moment
they were gone, he rose from the seat in which he had placed himself,
and laughed with a bitter mocking tone.

"The fools!" he cried; "do they think I leave myself so
unprovided? I must be quick! Can she have discovered
Helen?--impossible--impossible!--I heard her lock the door! I must be
quick!--Yet, no! he spoke of sending food and wine. I will let them
return. They will come, if it be but to see that their prisoner is
safe. Perhaps, too, they may linger in the chapel," and he resumed his
seat; and, taking up a book of prayer, continued to read for several
minutes.

"Would they would come," he murmured at length. "Helen said, Estoc
would return for her at three, and it cannot be far short of that
hour."

But the tumultuous feelings which had been lately busy in his bosom,
had filled the last hour with so many thoughts, that time had lost all
power of measuring them; and the clock struck two, as the words were
on his lips. The next moment, the door leading to the chapel opened
suddenly, and the man Martin entered with a salver, bearing some food
and wine. His eye instantly glanced to the priest; but the quiet
attitude in which he sat, with the book upon his knee, satisfied the
servant that all was secure; and, placing the provisions on a table,
he was about to retire, when father Walter stopped him, saying, "Pray,
do you know--and, if so, may you tell me--what is the cause of this
conduct of Madame de Chazeul? I would be glad to think that, either
through some error, or at the instigation of some malevolent person,
she has committed this outrage, and not from mere caprice and wanton
passion."

"Oh, no, father!" replied the man: "but it seems you sent one of our
people to Chazeul for a book, in her name. I know not much about it:
but, I believe, Pierre went and told her what he had heard--so one of
the girls said."

"A mighty offence!" observed the priest gravely: "and a reasonable
cause for an act which she will repent to the last day of life. Heaven
grant she may not regret it even longer:" and, thus saying, he
commenced reading the book again.

"Why," rejoined the man, willing to justify his mistress, and, through
her, himself; "she feared, I fancy, that you were inclined to meddle
with some of her plans, and she is not fond of seeing them marred."

"God will mar them, if they be evil," replied the priest; "and no one
can mar them, if it be His will they should succeed. But, 'tis well,
my son, 'tis well: good night!"

"Goodnight, father," answered the servant, and left him, taking the
same precaution as before of turning the lock and withdrawing the key,
lest any one should open the door from the side of the chapel. Father
Walter instantly rose, and put his ear to a small round hole, like the
mouth of a tube, at the side of the door. The servant's steps were
distinctly heard passing down the nave of the chapel, and then
suddenly became faint as they issued forth into the court. The priest
listened for a moment longer; but no other sound was heard.



CHAPTER XXXII.


The morning broke clear and fair; a few light clouds indeed hung about
the eastern sky, but only sufficient to catch the rays of the rising
sun, and gather them together, in a more intense glow. But these were
soon dispersed; and the sky beamed, within five minutes after the
break of dawn, in clear and unclouded beauty. Those clouds, however,
were still hanging over the verge of heaven, and not above half the
disc of the orb of light showed itself above the horizon, when the
Marquis de Chazeul, full dressed, left his own apartments, and hurried
to those of his mother. As he went, the sound of a hunting horn was
borne upon the wind to his ear; and pausing for a moment, with all
that fierce, tenacious jealousy of the rights of the chase, which was
entertained by the old feudal nobles of France; he muttered, "It must
be a bold man, or well accompanied, to hunt so near the Château de
Marzay. This must be seen to;" and striding on, he entered his
mother's ante-room with very little respect for the half-completed
toilet of her maids.

The Marchioness was still in bed; but, according to the custom of the
day, she made no scruple of admitting any one who came in that
situation; and her son was speedily at her bed-side. "Well, Chazeul,"
she said, with a shrewd smile, "the thing is done, I find; but tell me
all about it. You did not disturb her I suppose?"

"No," answered Chazeul, "I found everything as still as death; and so
I left it. I might have been tempted, indeed, to look in between the
curtains, if I had had light enough to see my fair bride as she lay
slumbering. I was afraid she might wake too."

"No great matter if she had," replied Madame de Chazeul. "The priest
was not in his chamber; and the girl Blanchette would have been
discreet."

"I don't know that," replied Chazeul.

"You don't know what?" demanded the Marchioness.

"I don't know that you are right in either the one or the other,"
answered her son; "for, as I went in, I certainly heard a noise in the
next room, as if some one were locking the door, and there was a
light, too, came through the key-hole. Then, as to Blanchette, she
seemed to be seized with a sudden fit of perverseness. It cost me a
full hour and a hundred lies, to persuade her to do as she was bid."

"The hour's time was a loss," observed his sweet mother; "as to the
lies, that was no great expense. They are money easily coined. But I
will teach that girl obedience before I have done with her. The hussy!
it was but to enhance the price.--The priest in his room!--Ay, so he
might be. Now I recollect, he was wandering about at that hour. And
now, my dearly beloved son, between you and me, your absence for the
next two or three hours, might be more advantageous than your
presence. I have got to communicate your delinquency, you know, to my
good brother, De Liancourt--in other words to tell him--ay, and prove
to him too, that you have been seen creeping in and out of fair Rose's
chamber at midnight; and it is ten to one that his first indignation
falls upon you. That must have time to cool before you make your
appearance; and in the mean time there is plenty to be done."

"Oh, I can find occupation," replied Chazeul. "There are men hunting
in the forest; and I should much like to see who they maybe. I will
mount, and take some half dozen men with me, to reconnoitre; and if I
do not find them too strong, I will hunt them as fiercely as ever they
chased deer."

"Take care of ambuscades," cried the Marchioness. "No, no, Chazeul.
Better leave them alone till after the wedding. We have got other
things to do. We must have a priest to bury the dead, and marry the
living."

"How so?" exclaimed Chazeul, in some surprise; "is not father Walter
here?"

"Ay, he is here," answered the Marchioness, "but I suspect the good
man is not well enough to appear before noon."

She spoke with a meaning smile; and her son demanded, "What is it you
mean, mother of mine? There is something in your eye."

"Nothing but rheum," rejoined the Marchioness. "However, if you needs
must know, father Walter has discovered your folly with his niece
Helen.--That is all."

"Pardi!" exclaimed Chazeul, "What is to be done now?"

"Nothing,"' answered the Marchioness. "I have provided for him. He is
sick, you know. He is ill, and unable to leave his chamber till after
the wedding. Let that suffice, my son."

"It will suffice for me, my most sagacious mother," replied Chazeul;
"but will it suffice for others?"

"As I will manage it," said Madame de Chazeul. "At all events, it was
the only step to be taken, without making him sick indeed; and that I
had no time to consider. But it seems that, last night, after all the
world were sleeping, but you and I and half-a-dozen others, he thought
fit to send my page, Philip, to Chazeul, to bring a book of Hours
belonging to the girl Helen from her room, and in my name too.--What
is in it I know not; but I shall soon see. I trust, Chazeul, you have
not been fool enough to write anything in the book; but if you have,
that fire must prove your friend, and conceal your stupidity. The same
element has proved serviceable to you before; for never did a green
boy at college, put himself more completely in the power of an artful
courtesan, than you did, by your pastoral epistles, in the power of
Helen de la Tremblade. However, if they can decipher smoke and ashes,
they may prove the contract. If not, it is dissolved."

Nicholas de Chazeul winced under the infliction. He was not one to
bear easily the charge of folly even from his mother. Vice she might
have charged him with at will; sin, crime, he would easily have borne;
but weakness, foolishness, were accusations, against which all the
vanity of his heart took arms; and his cheek grew red, his brow heavy,
while he answered, "Perhaps not so stupid as you think, Madam. It was
necessary to keep the girl quiet. I wrote nothing in any book,
however; and perhaps, after all, you may yourself be deceived, and the
priest know nothing about it."

Madame de Chazeul shook her head, replying, "Too surely!--I have been
guilty of a folly as well as you, boy; and gave way to anger when I
should have dealt more patiently. What is done, however, is done; and
the only thing that remained, was, for me to cure one sharp act by
another.--But let us talk no more of these matters. There lies the
priest; and there he must lie till you are married. I will deal with
your uncle and sweet Mademoiselle Rose, and you must do your part."

"And pray, will your sagacity let me know what my part is to be?"
asked Chazeul; for be it remarked, that he always spoke in a somewhat
jesting and irreverent tone to his excellent parent, even while he was
most implicitly following her impulses.

"It is an easy one, my son," replied the Marchioness. "First you must
go down to the village, and engage the curé to come up hither for the
double duty that is to be performed. There is the old man to be
buried. That had better take place at nine; and then there is the
young man to be married, which must be done before noon. He will of
course speak of father Walter, and say, it is his office to bury or
marry all that die of the line of Liancourt; that he has special
rights and privileges in the Chapel of Marzay, with which none can
interfere, and more to the same purpose; but then you must put on a
sad and solemn face, and answer that the good father was to have
performed both ceremonies, but that this last night, by too much
watching prayer and fasting by the corpse, he has fallen grievously
ill, and has taken to his bed. Doubtless he will wish to see him when
he comes up here, between the funeral and the wedding; but father
Walter can get some refreshing sleep about that time; and 'twould be a
sin to wake him."

Chazeul laughed. "You are armed at all points, I see," he answered;
"but if, after all, Rose should show her refractory spirit at the
altar, it will then be matter of regret and difficulty too, that we
have not some one in our interest to go on quietly with the service,
without having very fine ears for objections."

"As to the regret," said the Marchioness, "that is soon swept away.
There was no way of avoiding what has been done. I know father Walter;
and with him, when once his interests are opposed to yours, there is
no way of dealing, but by force against wit. We are all very clever,
Chazeul; and by experience of the world, we gain a certain degree of
skill, like that of a village quacksalver; but a priest has a regular
education in outwitting all the world, and a diploma to do it. Then
for the difficulty, the curé is a good man--an excellent good man. Let
him speak to me; and I will give him such reasons for thinking it
best, Mademoiselle d'Albret should be your wife, that he will make you
one, whether she says 'yes' or 'no,' I warrant."

"Well, all this will but occupy a short space," answered Chazeul;
"and, therefore, if I am to be out of my uncle's way till his passion
be cooled, pray tell me by your cabalistic art, when I may calculate
that his vicinity will be safe; for I know not that I can play my part
with him as well as I did with our fair Rose yesterday."

"Ay! you did that well," rejoined his mother, with an approving nod;
"but you must not be back till near eleven; or if you be, you must
keep your chamber as if afraid to appear. When you do, you must be
mighty penitent, hear all his censure with deep humility, express your
in grief broken words and sentences, that mean more than they say;
never deny your crime, but plead temptation. That will be all easily
done, when the first storm has blown over, especially when you are
there ready to make the best atonement in your power, for any wrong
you may have done the lady's reputation. What can be expected more?
But there is one thing more to be considered. That old marauder,
Estoc, was still at the village yesterday. I like it not; I know not
what he wants: you must be on your guard! He may have designs we know
not of. He certainly aided De Montigni and Rose in their escape. He
may think Nicholas de Chazeul, a prize worth keeping in his hands,--a
comfortable hostage for her marriage with the boy he loves so well.
Before you venture into the village, send down and see if he be still
there, and if he be, have the curé brought up to you.--But go not too
near."

"Oh, I fear him not!" replied Chazeul; "he would never dare to draw a
sword against me, under the very walls of Marzay. No fear, no fear,
dear mother. But I will be cautious for the present. The men of
Chazeul must soon be back, if all their throats be not cut, as, by my
faith, I am tempted to think they must be, by their long stay; and
when they return, I will drive the old wolf out of his lair at the
lance's point. I have not forgotten him. But the delay of these men
puzzles me.--They had strict orders to return as soon as a battle was
lost or won."

"They may have been driven back with Mayenne across the Seine,"
replied Madame de Chazeul; "or towards Houdan and Versailles; and are
not able to force their way across. Besides, you know the Bailli loves
adventures, and is not un-fond of plunder. He may have some private
enterprise in hand."

Chazeul shut his lips close. "He shall pay for it, if he have
neglected my commands at a moment of need, for any scheme of his own,"
he said. "But I will go, good mother, and leave you to your devices.
Fear not for me; I will take good care;" and thus saying he left her
to pursue her tortuous plans to their consummation.

He himself was soon upon his horse's back, and down the slope; but ere
he lost sight of the protecting walls of the castle, he sent forward
one of the men who followed him, to inquire whether Estoc and his
party were still in the village, riding slowly on with the rest. The
attendant returned in about ten minutes, bringing intelligence that
the place was clear.

"Monsieur Estoc," he said, "marched this morning an hour before
daylight; having, it seems, received tidings in the night which
hurried his departure. The cottager whom I spoke with, told me that he
believed those tidings were, that some bands were coming up from the
side of Chartres."

"The Bailli and our own people, on my life!" replied Chazeul; "or he
would not have hurried away so soon. Which way did he go? I will have
him pursued if they arrive in time."

"Towards Mortagne," answered the servant; "at least, so the man said."

"Did you hear aught of these hunters?" demanded his master.

"They did not pass through the village, Sir," was the reply, "but they
were seen upon the edge of the wood by some of the people, and seemed
somewhat strong in numbers."

"Then we must be strong ourselves, before we deal with them," observed
his master, and rode on straight to the priest's house in the village.
He found the worthy curé at the door of his dwelling--a stout, round
faced, well-fed ecclesiastic; and, as so often happens in life, none
of the objections or difficulties, against which answers had been
prepared, were made. The priest merely expressed his sorrow that
father Walter, his reverend friend, was unwell; and, knowing that both
at funerals and marriages much good eating and drinking seldom failed
to take place, he agreed to perform both ceremonies with equal
pleasure.

Well was it for the Marquis de Chazeul, that Estoc was not aware of
his visit to the village; for the old soldier was not as far off as he
imagined; and had he known that such a prey was near, it might have
been long before the walls of Marzay had seen their lord's nephew
within them again.



CHAPTER XXXIII.


Satisfied that the presence of Helen de la Tremblade in the château,
had not been discovered, father Walter sat in the sacristy without any
effort to quit it, although as the reader must have divined, from his
words, it was in his power so to do, notwithstanding all the
precautions of Madame de Chazeul's servants to prevent him. I had well
nigh said that he sat there calmly; for the exterior was so tranquil
and still, that it was requisite to look into his heart ere one could
fancy that there was anything but repose within. Calm? Oh, no! There,
all was agitated and turbulent. The clear precision of his thoughts
indeed soon gained their ascendancy; and the plan was speedily laid
out for meeting the difficulties of the moment, for overcoming the
obstacles presented to him, for thwarting the schemes of his
adversaries. All confusion of mere idea was speedily swept away; but
much was still left behind: and that which did remain, was the tumult
of conflicting passions, the struggle between strong convictions and
habitual feelings.

All that had taken place within the last few hours, had worked an
extraordinary change in the sensations of Walter de la Tremblade. New
perceptions had forced themselves upon him, both in regard to his own
heart, and to the conduct and views of others. If I have at all
succeeded in conveying to the reader a just view of his character, it
must have been already made clear, that he was a man in whom strong
passions and great powers of mind, had been bowed down by the
influence of the peculiar religious doctrines of the church to which
he belonged--doctrines false and evil it is true--principles, which,
in many instances besides his own, prostituted the highest qualities
and most brilliant talents, to the support of an institution, raised
upon error, cemented by falsehood, covered over with crime; but still
his devotion had been sincere and strong. He had believed all that his
church told him; he had given up thought and judgment to her; his own
passions, desires, and feelings, had been fused into her purposes;
and, if they ever were individually brought into action, it was in the
course which she had fixed for them.

But as I have said, a change had now come over him; the deep well of
the heart's strongest emotions had been opened; the stream had gushed
forth in a torrent; and many of the delusions which had encumbered the
way of his understanding had been swept away. Many but not all. The
stern attachment to the church of Rome, and the blind submission to
all her dogmas, which had taught him to believe that those who
attempted to try her doctrines even by the words of Christ himself,
were worthy of nought but persecution and punishment, had been brought
into contest with his love for her on whom all his tenderest
affections had centred--for her whom he had looked upon from infancy
as his child; and they had given way. He felt that he had been led
wrong; he had learned, that ambition and the love of domination were
part of the creed of Rome, and that, in obeying her fiery dictates, he
had supported with his whole strength, the wicked and the base,
against the good and noble.--He had learned it by his own sorrows;
and, although perhaps he had in some degree perceived it before, and
had believed that it was only justifiable to do so, for the great
object of the defence of the church, the anguish of his heart now made
him comprehend that the dreadful dogma, "the end justifies the means,"
is always false, and that there is no truth but in the Apostle's own
words, "thou shalt not do evil that good may come of it."

Many another feeling, many another conclusion, on which we cannot
pause, rose in Walter de la Tremblade's heart and mind; and regret and
self-reproach, and the dread of being hurried by the torrent of
passions and circumstances into sin and crime, agitated him
dreadfully. The truth and fervour of his religious feelings remained
the same. Even his attachment to the church, in whose tenets he had
been educated, was unchanged, although he admitted that man's vices
and prejudices had obscured and perverted her real dogmas. By her he
was resolved to abide; but he determined at the same time, to remove
himself for ever from the temptations to evil, to which he had been
hitherto exposed; and the conclusion to which he came, in the end, was
expressed by words which he muttered to himself: "I will take no
farther part in this horrible strife; I will but frustrate the wicked
arts of this bad woman and her base son, and then, in some far and
rigid monastery, wear out the rest of life in prayer."

The time seemed short; for, of all the many terrible struggles that
take place within the breast of man, there is none so full of rapid
contention, as when the first convictions force themselves upon us,
that all our previous course has been one grand error; and when the
acts on which we have prided ourselves, the wisdom that has made us
vain, the vigour that has proved weakness, the prudence that we have
found folly, the penetration that has been but blindness, the meanness
of our ambition, and the darkness of our light, stand revealed in
their nakedness and deformity, under the bright beams of religious
truth. He could have gone on thinking thus for hours, and they would
have seemed but as a moment. The clock at length struck three; and the
bell was still vibrating, when the sound of an opening door was heard,
and then a step. The lock close upon his right hand, was then turned;
and the next instant Estoc stood before him.

"Ah! Monsieur de la Tremblade," said the old soldier, "are you here?
Have you seen your niece?"

"I have," answered Walter de la Tremblade, taking his hand and
pressing it with strong emotion in his own. "I have, and I know all.
Deeply, deeply, my old friend, do I thank you for your fatherly
kindness to my poor girl. God will bless you for it: God will reward
you, if not here, hereafter. I have no time, however, to offer you
thanks such as are your due."

"I want no thanks, good father," replied Estoc. "I promised the good
man who is dead there," and he pointed to the chapel, "to be a Father
to her; and as long as old Estoc lives, she shall never want an arm to
strike for her, and a home to receive her. Where is she? I hope you
have not been harsh with her--"

The priest shook his head with a melancholy smile. "Harsh with _her!_"
he said. "No, God forbid. She is with Mademoiselle d'Albret. But now
listen tome, Estoc, and let us take counsel together, regarding what
is to be done. You see me here a prisoner."

"Ha!" cried Estoc, "a prisoner? How is that?"

"I will tell you," answered the priest; "but understand, it is but a
prisoner in appearance. They think I am so, but that strong door,
though locked, and double locked, would melt away at my touch, as if
it were thin air. But there is much for you to learn; dark deeds are
going on within these walls, which must be prevented. First, however,
there is an enterprize which you must achieve, connected with my
confinement here. From Helen's words I discovered some two hours ago,
that there is, in a book of Hours lying in her chamber at Chazeul, the
only letter left unburnt by that incarnate fiend, Jacqueline de
Chazeul. If Helen's account be right, that letter amounts to what they
call in the French law, a promise,--_par paroles de future_, between
her and Nicholas de Chazeul--in itself an absolute bar to his marriage
with any one else. I instantly roused the page of the Marchioness, and
sent him off on horseback to bring the book."

"I saw him go," replied Estoc. "He passed me, as I lay waiting under
the bushes at the bottom of the hill."

"Then he is safe so far," replied the priest. "It seems, however, that
the man who lies in the same room, while pretending to be asleep,
overheard our words, and conveyed the tidings to his mistress. She
sent her men to place me in confinement, and will, beyond all doubt,
cause the boy to be brought to her on his return, and burn the paper.
You must undertake to stop him by the way, and to obtain that precious
document."

"That will be easily done," replied Estoc. "I will set about it
instantly."

"But there is more to be considered, much more," rejoined the priest.
"The boy must be instructed to carry the book on to his mistress,
after you have taken possession of the letter you will find amongst
its pages. He must be told to say nothing of his having been stopped,
but to give it to her quietly, as if he had but gone and returned; for
the only way to deal with that woman, is to conceal from her closely
your intentions and your power, or she will ever have ready a plan to
frustrate you."

"I may tell him," replied Estoc, "but will he obey?"

"I think he will," answered the priest. "I placed him with the
Marchioness. To me he owes his whole education. He has ever shown
himself attached with boyish devotion to my poor Helen; and she tells
me that, in the hour of her indignity and shame, he merited a blow
from his fierce mistress, by showing her an act of kindness. If he be
but told, that he must do this for the sake of Helen de la Tremblade,
I feel sure he will, at every risk."

"Write it down, write it down," said Estoc, dipping a pen in the ink
that stood upon the table, and holding it to the priest. "He will
believe your word sooner than mine."

Walter de la Tremblade took the pen and wrote--"Philip de Picheau, I
beseech you, if you have any regard for him who protected you in
childhood and in youth, or for your poor friend Helen de la Tremblade,
to give up the book which you are bringing, to Monsieur Estoc, whom
you have often seen and know well, to let him take from it that which
he thinks fit, and then to carry on the volume of Hours to Madame de
Chazeul, without telling her that you have been stopped by the way. I
beg of you also to follow entirely the directions of Monsieur Estoc,
if you would merit my regard and save Mademoiselle de la Tremblade
from deep grief--perhaps from death."

He signed his name, and gave the paper to Estoc, saying in a confident
tone, "He will do it."

"And how am I to act when I have got this letter?" asked Estoc.

"Ay, that is the question!" replied the priest. "As yet you do not
know all these people's intentions, and it is necessary that you
should be informed of all, in order that you should be prepared for
whatever it may be necessary to do. You are resolute and fearless, I
know, and have before now done much with small means and a strong
hand. You may be called upon before many hours are over, to use the
sword in defence of right and justice."

"That I am quite ready to do," replied Estoc. "It is but wiles and
cunning I fear, for there I am no match for your good Marchioness. But
let me hear, father, what are her plans and purposes?"

"These," answered Walter de la Tremblade: "Some of them, I have
already frustrated; but I know that, failing these, she will have
recourse to force to effect the marriage of her base son with
Mademoiselle d'Albret; for she has built up a scheme for his
aggrandizement, which nothing will make her abandon, but death. Even
perhaps his pre-contract with Helen, she will attempt to pass over by
bold authority;" and he proceeded succinctly to display to the eyes of
Estoc, the whole plans and purposes of Madame de Chazeul.

"But will Monsieur de Liancourt consent?" exclaimed Estoc. "He is
honest at heart--I believe on my life he wishes well."

"But he is weak," replied the priest; "weak as the water of the
stream, which may be turned by art whithersoever we will; yet when
bent in a particular course, and concentrated within a narrow channel,
moves mighty machines, and carries all before it. He is now entirely
in the hands of this woman. I am no longer near him to guide him and
to counteract her, and you will see that he will do her bidding, like
a servant or a dog."

"Force, against force, then," answered Estoc, "and I think myself well
justified in using the means I possess, to bring my men in hither. The
passage through the wall between the two doors will hold us all, for
we are not so many as I could wish; but I will be ready to appear at
the first sign."

"How many are you?" asked the priest.

"Seventeen," replied Estoc; "but there are stout men amongst us, well
trained to hard blows."

"There are eight and twenty in the château," answered Walter de la
Tremblade, "and some of them good men at arms too."

"That matters nothing," cried Estoc, "if we can get in unperceived.
Surprise doubles numbers. All the garrison could not act upon one
point. We should seize the principal avenues to the chapel before they
were aware; and the Count and Chazeul once prisoners, they might fret
their souls to dust without preventing me from liberating Mademoiselle
d'Albret. I could wish, indeed," he added thoughtfully, "to have had
enough to overawe all resistance; for I would rather, if it were
possible to avoid it, not stain the consecrated floor of the chapel
with Christian blood."

The priest mused for a moment or two, and then replied, "And so would
I. But theirs is the villany. Your enterprise is right and just. If
they draw the sword to carry out their own iniquitous schemes, theirs
is the crime and the sacrilege. I absolve you of all offence in doing
aught that may be necessary to prevent the act they meditate."

"It may be better in the hall," said Estoc in return, after a moment's
thought. "The contract must be signed there before the marriage, and
there the first scene of violence must take place. True, it is not so
easy to reach it, or to retreat from it, and we are there more open to
attack; but if I can contrive it I will. I must think over the means,
however, and I will be early here--as soon as I have got the letter
from the boy. If we can lodge ourselves in the passage before it is
full daylight, it will be better. The bushes give some shelter, it is
true; and they cannot prevent my entrance, so long as I possess the
key; but it were better to take them by surprise."

"Far better," replied the priest; "and I calculate that if he make
haste, the boy may be back here by five. It was not much past one when
he set out. Are you aware," he added laying his hand upon Estoc's arm,
and pointing to a door in the sacristy, behind which the priest's
vestments and various ornaments and relics were deposited, "Are you
aware, that through that closet lies a passage in the hollow of the
wall?"

"Oh, yes," replied Estoc, "it is necessary for the defence of the
chapel port; but still that would only lead us to the court, and we
should have to pass the Corps de Garde, go through the lower hall, and
mount the staircase. However, I will think it all over as I go, and
lay my plan. I know the château well, and every nook and corner. We
shall find means no doubt. I have taken a stronger place than this
with fewer men, and more to oppose us. Ere they should carry out their
scheme, I would blow in the gates with petards and force my way to the
hall sword in hand."

"I trust it will not be necessary," answered the priest. "Indeed I do
not believe that there will be aught like bloodshed. Monsieur de
Liancourt himself, I should think, would not suffer the sword to be
drawn, especially as his heart must tell him that it is in a bad
cause."

"Ay, and many of the good fellows here," replied Estoc, "would not
take part against us, especially to force poor Rose into a marriage
that she hates. Chazeul is little loved by any one; and the
Marchioness is hated even by her people. I have heard them speak of
her.--But now I will waste no more time. Farewell, Monsieur de la
Tremblade: I will be back as soon as I have got the paper."

"God give you success," answered the priest; and Estoc, retiring
through the door, closed it after him. Then issuing forth into the
country, he crept quietly away under cover of some bushes which
approached the walls, till upon the verge of the wood he found two of
his men waiting for him. With them he returned to the village, called
the rest of his little band together, paid the cottagers, whom he
roused from their slumbers, for the accommodation he had received, and
rode on towards Chazeul, giving out that it was not his intention to
return.

After proceeding for five miles on the way, to a spot which the boy
was obliged to pass on his road from the one château to the other, the
old soldier halted his men, and ordered them to feed their horses with
some corn which they had brought in their bags. A vigilant watch was
kept in the meantime upon the side of the high bare hill, down which
came the road from Chazeul, and at the foot of which wandered the
Huisne; but one half hour passed after another, and no one appeared.
All was still and silent, the stars twinkling out above, and the low
wind whispering through the yellow grass that covered the wide extend
of sloping land between them and a wood above. The road was scarcely
to be traced by the eye, except where its sandy banks, against the
deep back ground of the trees, marked the spot at which it issued
forth from the forest; but upon that point Estoc kept his eyes fixed
without seeing any dark object cross the lines, till the sky overhead
began to assume a reddish hue, and the light spread gradually around.
The day at length fully dawned, and the old soldier was giving his men
directions to scatter themselves along the edge of the wood, and close
round the boy as soon as he appeared, when the figure of some one on
horseback suddenly issued forth upon the side of the hill, and came
down at a quick pace, apparently not remarking that there was any one
below, till he was half way to the bottom of the descent. Then,
however, the boy suddenly pulled in his bridle rein, and seemed to
hesitate; but the next instant, instead of turning back to the wood,
he darted off to the left, with the intention of crossing the Huisne
farther up. Estoc, however, detached three of his men along the low
ground on the bank to cut him off there, while he rode up to deprive
him of his retreat into the wood, and the rest of the party swept over
the side of the hill in a semicircle, gradually drawing closer and
closer round the poor page, who doubled before them like a hare before
the hounds. At length he saw that the attempt to escape was vain, and
pulling in his horse, he stood still till Estoc rode up to him.

"Ah, Monsieur Estoc! is it you?" exclaimed the page with a glad smile,
when he saw who was his captor. "You have given me a terrible fright."

"More than needful, Philip," replied Estoc, "for we do not want to
hurt you. But, get off your horse, my good boy, and come hither apart
with me, for I have something to say to you."

The page did as he was directed; and Estoc, dismounting also, led him
a little on one side, demanding, "Have you got it?"

"Got what?" rejoined the page, with a shy look of affected
unconsciousness.

"Come, come--no more of that, Master Philip!" exclaimed Estoc: "I mean
the book, as you know well enough."

"Yes, I have got it," answered the boy: "but you must not take it from
me indeed, Estoc, for my mistress will be so angry."

"Let me look at it," said Estoc: "you shall have it back again, upon
my honour! Have you opened it?"

"No!" cried the page with a look of surprise; "is there anything in
it?"

"Yes, prayers, to be sure," replied the old soldier, satisfied by the
boy's countenance that he spoke the truth. "Come, let me look at
it--you shall have it back, I tell you."

The page drew slowly and unwillingly from a pouch under his arm, the
book with its velvet cover and silver clasps, and placed it in Estoc's
hand, saying, "You promise to give it back, mind."

"Ay!" answered the old soldier, "and I always keep promises;" and, as
he spoke, he unfastened with some difficulty the stiff clasps, which
seemed to be tightened in their hold by something swelling out the
bulk of the volume.

"Ha, ha! you have done what the old gouvernante could not do," cried
the boy.

"What, did she try to open it?" asked Estoc, turning over the pages.

"Ay, that she did, the nasty old wolf," replied the page; "and she
kept me for two hours waiting in the hall, because she did not choose
either to get up and fetch it, or let me. Ah! what have you got
there?"

"What I seek," answered Estoc, giving the boy back the book, and
putting a letter, which he had taken from between the leaves, in his
pocket. "Now, master Philip," he continued, "take the book on to your
mistress, and give it to her, without telling her that you have met
with any one, or that any one has looked into it."

"She will know that, without any telling," answered the boy in a
gloomy tone. "She will find out, in a minute, that the paper has been
taken out, and perhaps have me hanged for stealing it, as she did
Gabriel Houlot for robbing her of her gold bonbonnière, which was
under the pillow of the coach all the time."

"Fear not, fear not!" said Estoc; "she does not know that there was
anything in it: and it is to prevent her from knowing it, that I take
the paper."

"But father Walter knows," rejoined the boy; "and he will tell her."

"No, no, he will not," replied Estoc. "But, to satisfy you, read that,
if you can read."

"Oh, yes, I can!" said the page proudly; "good father Walter had me
taught to read:" and, taking the paper which the priest had written,
and which Estoc held out to him, he ran his eye over it rapidly. "Have
I any regard for her?" he cried, as he saw the words referring to
Helen, "Ah, that I have, poor thing! and would shed my blood to serve
her, if it would do her any good. The old woman may hang me, if she
likes; I will tell her nothing, the tiger!"

"That's a good youth," answered Estoc; "but, read it through."

"Well, what am I to do, Monsieur Estoc?" asked the page as he
concluded. "I always promised to obey good father Walter; and, as he
tells me to do what you direct me, I will do it. But, what does he
mean about saving Mademoiselle Helen from death?--Where is she?--What
has happened to her?"

Estoc paused thoughtfully for a moment; and the idea of telling the
page that Helen was in the Château de Marzay, and directing him to
help her, crossed his mind. The boy's regard for her, and his
willingness to serve her and obey the priest, were too evident to be
doubted; but discretion, seldom the quality of youth, was too likely
to be wanting. "The priest has means of communicating with Helen, by
the passage from the sacristy, he thought; and I suppose from what he
said, that he has another key of the door. But yet he might be
stopped. Most likely the Marchioness does not know where they have
placed him. She is not one to overlook such chances, and a thousand to
one, she has him removed when she wakes. Then the boy's wit might be
of service if he knew all. I will risk something. It cannot do much
harm.--Hark ye, Philip," he said aloud, "can you keep a secret without
either blabbing it behind the door to a soubrette, or carrying it
about in your face as plainly as if your tongue told it?"

"That I can," answered the page. "I have learned that in our house.
There have been secrets enough there within the last two years, I can
tell you."

"Well then," continued Estoc, "the truth is, that your companion in
your room, heard good father Walter tell you to go upon this errand.
He went directly and informed your mistress; and she, suspecting there
was something in the book which she wished father Walter not to have,
has caused him to be confined--locked up--so that he cannot stir."

"I will let him out," cried the boy eagerly.

"At all events be on the watch to serve him," replied the old soldier.
"You may in the course of this morning have an opportunity of
rendering him a great kindness, if you use your eyes and ears aright,
and be ready to do so whenever he asks you."

"That I will!" exclaimed the page; "but pray tell me, Estoc, where is
Mademoiselle Helen? What has become of her? I am sure you know more
than you say.--Oh, Madame treated her cruelly--terribly."

"She is well," answered Estoc in a grave tone, "and so far in safety,
that, if undiscovered, all will go right; but if she be once found by
her enemies, her life will be held by a poor tenure, against that bad
woman's malice."

The boy cast down his eyes and thought; then looking up, he cried,
"She is in the Château of Marzay!"

"Ha!" exclaimed the old soldier, "what makes you think that?"

"Why, whom should she fly to, but Monsieur de Chazeul?" asked the
page.

"Fly to him!" replied Estoc in a sharp tone. "She would fly from him
to the farthest part of the earth. She abhors him. She hates him. Poor
silly boy, you are mistaken."

The page looked puzzled. "He loved her once," he said in a meditative
tone, "and she him. Of that I am very sure; for I took the letters."

"Indeed!" exclaimed the other, "then you owe her some gratitude; for
she would not tell who brought them, for fear of injuring you, though
dear enough it cost her."

"Ah, sweet lady!" cried the boy, "that is so like her.--Poor
Mademoiselle Helen, I would die for her willingly," and the tears rose
in his young eyes.

"Well, then," said Estoc, "watch for the opportunity of proving how
you love her. You may find it soon also. Look well about you; mark
every word, and yet seem unconscious; be ready to obey her in an
instant: and above all remember, that, of all beings she has most
cause to hate and dread, it is Monsieur de Chazeul. There is no one
whom you can trust within the Château of Marzay, except father Walter,
but least of all Nicholas de Chazeul. Her life may depend upon you,
upon your prudence, upon your courage, and upon your quickness; and if
you be driven forth, as she was, for serving her, come to me, and I
will take you into my band, and make a soldier of you--I shall not be
far distant."

The boy clapped his hands gladly; but Estoc went on, "No more, my good
lad, at present. Go back to the château with all speed; say not a word
to any one of having seen me; but tell the Marchioness how the old
woman kept you before she would get the book."

"Stay, stay," cried the page; "I am not to know that Madame did not
send me; is it not so?"

"Certainly," replied Estoc; "you are to forget all that I have told
you, and only to remember that father Walter sent you for the book,
and that you have brought it. That is all.--Now to your horse's back
and away."

The boy obeyed at once, remounted, and rode off.

Estoc and his band soon followed; but at the distance of about a mile
and a half from Marzay, he gave the word to halt; and then turning to
his men he said, "We must take to the wood, my children.--Then for a
short council of war; and after that for action!" Thus speaking, he
himself dismounted, and led his horse through the brush-wood into the
forest, followed by all his companions; but scarcely had he reached
the thicket to which his steps were directed, when his ear was greeted
by a loud flourish of hunting horns at no great distance.



CHAPTER XXXIV.


There is a certain spirit of impatience which not unfrequently carries
a particular class of readers on to the end of this volume of a tale
like the present, before they have read the beginning; and another
spirit--an evil spirit certainly-which leads a second class to do no
more than skim gently but swiftly through the pages, catching glimpses
of the story here and there, sufficient to satisfy the mind as to the
facts, but to give nothing but indistinct notions of what is called
the plot itself, and no insight into the characters of the persons
brought upon the stage, no knowledge whatsoever of the work itself, in
any of its higher qualities. Formerly it was not so. People travelled
through a work, as through a country, remarking everything that was
curious and interesting by the way; the peculiarities of the people
that one met with, the beauty of the scenery displayed, the wit that
diversified the day, the moral reflections that suggested themselves
from the objects passed--somewhat amused, somewhat instructed,
somewhat improved. But this is an age of railroad, morally as well as
physically, and very little is thought of, but the end of the journey,
and the easiness of the coach. To get over the greatest possible space
in the shortest possible time, is the end and object of every man;
and, with books as with countries, we go through them at a pace of
forty miles an hour. Probably in time, this may work its own cure; and
as ere long nothing will be known of any land when thoroughly
railroaded, but the nearest and the farthest points, and a mile on
each side of the road, and nothing known of books but the beginning
and the end, and what a reviewer has pleased to say of the contents,
people may, in time, feel a curiosity to learn more, and take trips on
a post horse, or in a jaunting car, to see what is in the interior of
the country, or in the heart of the book. But railroad is the spirit
of the age; it is vain to strive against it; and if the truth must be
told, an author feels the same influence, and, as he approaches the
termination of his tale, is nearly as much inclined to hurry on to the
conclusion, to omit facts, to leap over difficulties, and to hasten
the catastrophe, as the reader. But this ought not to be; for then if
that time should ever return when books are really read, it might be
found out, that only half the story had been told, and that there was
a great deal unaccounted for.

I must therefore, very unwillingly, pause by the way, and ere I
proceed with all that was going on in the Château de Marzay and its
neighbourhood, go back to the old house of Maroles, where the reader
will recollect that we left the young Baron de Montigni, in no very
pleasant situation.

Too few in number to keep their assailants at a distance, if with
proper implements the enemy made a simultaneous attack upon two or
three of the different doors of the château, the little party, within,
saw no prospect before them but that of being forced to surrender on
the following morning, or dying sword in hand. The latter alternative
was certainly not a very pleasant one; but we must recollect, that it
seems much more terrible in our eyes, who are seldom called upon in
these days for such self-sacrifice, than it did to the eyes of men
accustomed daily to witness similar acts. De Montigni, however, had
still much to live for; the light of hope was still unextinguished
before him; the cup of life's joy had been scarcely tasted; and all
the bright and warm expectations of youth were leading him forward by
the hand. To close the pleasant journey so soon, entered not into his
thoughts; and yet perhaps he would sooner have died than yielded
himself to the power of Nicholas de Chazeul and that bad man's mother.
Of the former he knew little, for they had not met since his boyhood;
but yet De Montigni was as much convinced that Chazeul was faithless,
treacherous, and cruel, as if he could have seen all the innermost
winding of his heart; and, to trust himself a prisoner in his hands,
the young nobleman felt would be consigning himself to a fate much
worse than an honourable death in arms.

What was to be done was the question; and, in the little council which
he held with his attendants, every one gave his opinion, and advice
according to his character.

"We had better wait where we are," said one of them. "A thousand to
one they get frightened or tired before the morning, or that some
party of our own people comes up and forces them to decamp."

"We are off the high road," replied De Montigni, with a shake of the
head.

"If we could but send tidings to the King," said the man, "he would
soon deliver us."

"I wonder if we could not make our escape by the wood behind." joined
in the servant, who had accompanied the young nobleman from Italy.

"It is worth the trial at all events," replied De Montigni. "They can
but drive us back again, at the worst; and we might contrive to cut
our way through."

"If we had not lost the two horses," observed the guide, "it might be
done; but, as it is, we should soon be caught."

"The wood seems extensive," said De Montigni in return, "and we should
have a better chance of escape on foot than on horseback. They can but
follow the cart and bridle roads, while we could take the footpaths,
and even force a way across the brush-wood. It seems to me the only
feasible plan, and I will try it. We will leave the horses behind, and
an hour or two before daylight the attempt must be made. We may get
some sleep in the mean time. Two can lie down upon the floor, while
two keep watch, one on each side of the house, for the man whom we saw
them send away up the hill, may have been dispatched for tools, to
force the doors during the night. Thank heaven, there is a moon, so
that we can see their proceedings. But first, let us go round and
ascertain which door it will be best to use for our escape."

"We shall scarcely have light," replied the servant, "and we are not
likely to get lamps or candles here."

"Then, the sooner we go the better," said De Montigni; and, descending
to the hall where they found the other man on watch, they attempted to
grope their way about the château, but to no purpose; for, as we have
before said, all the windows on the lower story were strongly boarded
up, so that even the faint light, which still lingered in the sky,
could find no entrance.

A thought seemed suddenly to strike the guide, however. "I have a bit
of rope," he said, "at the back of my saddle. I always carry a piece
to tie a prisoner with. We can rub a little gunpowder into it, and
then set fire to it, with a pistol flint."

This plan was adopted, and though the light obtained was not the most
satisfactory, as may be well supposed, it served to guide them through
the long passage of the château; and, by observations from above as
well as below, they found a door which apparently led into a little
herb garden, surrounded by walls, bordered by the road on one side,
and by the forest on the other. The best reconnoissance that they
could make, both before and after the moon had risen, did not show
them any of the enemy on that side; though a party was to be seen
round a fire which they had kindled in front of the château, and
another upon one of the paths in the rear. They therefore determined
to avail themselves of this means of exit; and, while two of the men
lay down to rest, propping their heads with the saddles, which they
had taken off the horses, De Montigni himself, and the stout soldier
who had served him as guide from Marzay, kept watch at the front and
back of the house, perambulating the various rooms, from window to
window. Every now and then they met and conferred for a few moments,
though neither had anything to tell. All was still and silent, except,
indeed, when the wind wafted the voices from the enemy's watch-fire,
or when a distant clock was heard to chime the hour.

It was just after nine had struck, that De Montigni, meeting his
companion at the angle of the building, inquired "Is that the clock of
Houdan that we hear?"

"No, Sir," replied the man, "It is Maroles. But do you know I was just
thinking, that, if we try to escape, we had better do it at once, or
at least not very late, for the clock that reaches our ears, will
reach theirs too, and may put them in mind that there are axes and
saws to be procured at Maroles. Then by dividing their men, they might
break in without our being able to prevent them. In such a clear night
as this, the moon will give them quite light enough for their work."

"Or to see us make our escape," replied De Montigni.

"Ay, but in less than half an hour," said the man, "she will be round
on this side of the house; and then the whole shadow of the château
will be cast over the garden, and the door that leads to it."

"True, true," answered De Montigni, "but a doubt has arisen in my
mind, as to the escape by the garden. Shall we be able to get from it
into the wood?"

"There is a door," replied the guide, "I saw the mark of it plainly
upon the wall."

"But it may be locked," said De Montigni, "and I think we may conclude
it is so by these people having placed no one within."

"Oh dear no, Sir," answered the man, who, it must be remembered, was
an old soldier. "You do not know how many things are always overlooked
even in a regular siege, where there are all the wits of the army to
work. I do believe that, if those who are without a place did but
attend to all its points of weakness, as well as those within, there
is scarce a town in all France that would hold out three days. The
mistakes of the besiegers are at least as much in favour of a place,
as all its defences. But the best plan will be, for one of us to go
out first and see if the door can be opened, and then the rest to
follow. The lock must be in the inside, and it will be easily forced
with a dagger."

"That will take time," rejoined De Montigni, "but I fear there is no
resource; and so it must be done. We will wake these other two as soon
as the garden is in shadow, and then put our plan in execution."

It was somewhat longer than they expected ere the shadow of the
château was thrown completely over the little garden; and the clock
struck eleven, as De Montigni and his guide woke their two companions.
All that was necessary to carry with them, was taken from their
saddle-bags; the little store of ammunition, which they possessed, was
distributed equally amongst them; and, pistol in hand, they approached
the door and quietly unlocked it.

The rusty bolts made some noise and resistance ere they would suffer
themselves to be withdrawn; but, it would seem, that this attracted no
attention from those without, and the door was opened, showing them
the neglected garden, become quite a wilderness of weeds since last it
was trodden by the foot of man. It was now altogether in profound
shade, however; and, although the walls were not high, and they could
see the glare of one of the watch-fire of the enemy flashing upon the
branches of the trees, yet, being situated upon the same level as the
château, the garden was commanded by no spot in the neighbourhood, and
consequently they determined to go on to the gate together.

As De Montigni had suspected, the door was locked and the key gone.
The bolt, too, was firmly rusted in the staple, so that they could not
force it back; and the large nails which fastened the lock were
apparently clinched on the other side, and resisted every effort to
draw them. Nothing remained then, but either, to scale the wall, to
return to the château, or, by slow labour, to cut away the wood work
round the staple, and then force it out. The first plan was tried,
without success, for the wall was higher on the side of the wood than
on that of the road, and they consequently set to work to remove the
staple. It cost them near an hour to do so, and just as they had
succeeded, the sound of a horse's feet in the gallop met their ear.
Pausing to listen for a moment or two, the sounds were heard to come
nearer and nearer, and then rose up the buzz of several voices
speaking.

"Now or never," said De Montigni, pulling back the door, and the next
instant he stood under the branches of the wood. The men followed him
silently, and after one glance to the right, where, through the
leafless trees, they caught the faint glare of the fire upon the road,
they crept silently away to the left, taking the narrowest paths they
could find, and looking anxiously round on every side, in expectation
of seeing some party of the enemy. Ere they had proceeded far, they
heard a loud hollow sound, as of blows struck upon a door, and De
Montigni's servant whispered to his master "We must be quick, Sir, we
must be quick; for they have got axes, and are breaking in. Our flight
will soon be discovered."

De Montigni hurried on at a more rapid pace, and for near an hour
nothing indicated that they were pursued. At the end of that time,
however, the young nobleman began to suspect that the path they were
following led them round, and was conducting them back towards the
spot whence they had set out.

"I think so too," replied the guide to whom he expressed his doubts;
"the moon is travelling that way, and yet you see we have not got
further on the left."

"More on the right," said De Montigni which would be the case if we
were coming nearer to the château again. "Let us direct our course
from her. That must take us to the edge of the wood." The attempt was
more easy than the execution, for the paths were perplexed and
intricate, formed apparently for the purposes of the chase, or perhaps
by the beasts of the forest themselves, and, displayed little
consideration of the direct line from one spot to another. Thus very
often when they had followed one road, which led for some way in the
direction that they wished to pursue, it suddenly turned off to the
right or left, flanked by thick and tangled underwood, without any
fresh path presenting itself to enable them to pursue their course. In
this devious way they wandered on through the forest labyrinth, till
at length the sound of loud voices shouting, and horses galloping at
no great distance, showed them that their escape was discovered, and
that they were pursued. At this moment they were in a narrow tangled
path up which it was impossible for a horse to force its way, and the
guide putting his hand upon De Montigni's arm, whispered, "Halt here,
Sir, and let them pass us."

The advice was good, and De Montigni followed it. In a few moments the
sounds were lost again, and with cautious steps they resumed their
course towards the edge of the wood. The moon had now, however, gone
down behind the neighbouring hill, and looking up into the sky to see
if they could fix on any star, by which to guide themselves, they saw
a reddish light spreading overhead and increasing in intensity every
moment.

"Can it be yet dawn?" asked De Montigni.

"Oh no, Sir," replied the guide. "I don't know what that can be,
unless they have set fire to the château to give them light to look
for us."

"Just like Chazeul's people," said one of the others, "it is that
depend upon it; but here is the open country."

And so it proved, for they had now reached the further side of the
wood; and stretching out before them, lay a wide but gentle slope,
descending towards the valley of the Eure, over which the flames of
the castle shed a red and fearful light. Some trees, however,
advancing from the rest of the forest, which had once been more
extensive than it now was, promised them some shelter from the eyes of
their pursuers, while the spire of a small church was seen at the
distance of about a mile and a half; and, weary of wandering in the
wood, gliding for some way under its edge, they approached the
scattered trees, and began the descent into the valley.

Ere they had proceeded half a mile, however, the blast of a trumpet
sounded, and a party consisting of three horsemen was seen riding down
towards them. It was now evident that they were discovered, but still
the pursuers did not venture to approach too near. And, pistol in
hand, determined to sell their lives dearly, the little body of
fugitives hurried on towards the church, hoping to find some village
near, where they might obtain assistance or shelter. Still the trumpet
sounded, however; and, in a few minutes, another party was seen coming
rapidly round from the farther side of the wood, to join the cavaliers
who were keeping them in sight.

The flames of the castle could now be distinguished; but the fire was
evidently decreasing, so that they had still some hope of darkness
befriending them once more; but as the east opened upon their sight,
at the turn of the hill, the grey streaks of dawn were observed
depriving them of that chance. The church, too, which was now near at
hand, displayed no houses around it, and was little more than a chapel
in the open country, erected for the benefit of the neighbouring
peasantry. A deep wide porch, however, or rather gateway, with a stone
seat on either side, presented itself as they hurried on, and there De
Montigni determined to make a stand, sheltered, as his men must be on
three sides, from the attack of the enemy.

The party who pursued now amounted to twelve, and were at the distance
of somewhat less than two hundred yards; but the rest of the troop
were seen riding rapidly down the hill, and the others halted, ere
they made their attack, to let the whole force come up.

Suddenly the body in the rear, to the surprise of the young Baron and
his companions, halted, and one man at furious speed detached himself
from the rest, and, galloping down to those below, seemed to make some
announcement, which changed the whole course of their operations.
Instead of advancing against those whom they had so pertinaciously
pursued, every man turned his rein, and setting spurs to his horse's
flank sped up the hill towards his comrades.

"What can be the meaning of this?" exclaimed De Montigni.

"They see some party of our friends," replied the guide stepping
forward; and De Montigni advancing likewise, and turning his eyes
towards the Eure, perceived a confused group of forty or fifty persons
on horseback, followed by a number of others on foot, and some twenty
couple of dogs. They were advancing at a slow and tranquil pace, so
that the young nobleman and his followers had full time to contemplate
them. At their head, rode a gentleman in a common hunting dress, with
a large white plume in his hat, and a white scarf over his shoulder;
and, after gazing for a minute, the guide touched De Montigni on the
arm saying, "The white plume! the white plume!--It is the King!" and,
rushing out, he cast his hat up into the air exclaiming, "Vive le Roy!
Vive Henri Quatre!"



CHAPTER XXXV.


The moment her son had left her, Madame de Chazeul rose and began to
dress herself in haste; but although she grumbled at her sleepy maids
for their slowness, and called them by many an unpleasant name, which
indeed she was not a little accustomed to shower upon every one who
approached her, when her eager impatience prompted; yet the strong
spice of coquetry which remained with her, as a relic of former
passions, did not suffer her to conclude the arrangement of her dress
without the aid of the various cosmetics she was accustomed to employ,
and many a touch of that pigment which had obscured the real colour of
her skin for years. Thus, from the dawn of day, what between her
conversation with Chazeul, and her devotion to the toilet, at least an
hour and a half had passed away before she was ready habited, in deep
mourning, to appear in the hall of the castle.

"Now, call Martin to me," said the lady as soon as the whole structure
was complete; "be quick for once, jade. You will drive me mad this
morning, with your idle sloth."

"The boy Philip, Madam, is waiting in the ante-room," replied the
soubrette; "would you please to see him first, or Martin?"

"Why, in the name of Satan, did you not tell me he was here?" demanded
Madame de Chazeul. "Call him in, hussy."

"He has just come, Madam," said the girl, willing to justify herself;
"he put his head in as I went for the wimple."

But the Marchioness did not always confine the punishment of offences
to the tongue; and she pushed the girl rudely by the shoulder,
exclaiming, "Call him in, I say!"

The maid ran to the door, and shouted, "Philip, Philip! my lady says,
come in."

The boy instantly approached with the book in his hand, saying, "Here,
Madam, are the Hours. I suppose they are the right ones, for the old
woman would get them herself. I should have been back a long while
ago, but she kept me waiting in the hall, and--"

Snatching the book from him as he came near, the Marchioness
exclaimed, "Hold your tongue, little miscreant. How dare you go for
anything without my orders?"

"Why, Madam, you sent me orders to go," replied the page; "at least,
father Walter told me so."

"He is a liar, and you are another, I believe," cried the Marchioness,
struggling with the clasps, which for a moment or two resisted all her
efforts.

"Ah, Mathurine could not open it either," observed the page in a
natural tone.

"Did she try?" demanded his mistress turning upon him vehemently.

"Yes, that she did," was his reply, "for at least five minutes; but
she could not get it open."

"Perhaps you can do it," said Madame de Chazeul holding out the book
to him, and fixing her eye upon his face.

The boy took it, laid down his hat upon the floor, and laboured to
open the clasps with all his might,--at least, in appearance;--and the
Marchioness, satisfied with the trial to which she had put him, called
one of the maids, who, using less force and more skill, unclasped the
little volume in a minute.

"Here, give it me!" cried Madame de Chazeul not withdrawing her eyes
from the book for an instant; and as soon as the maid had delivered it
into her hand, she turned page after page, looking them all over, but
without finding aught written on any leaf but the name of Helen de la
Tremblade, in the hand of her uncle.

"What could he want with it?" she murmured; "perhaps I have deceived
myself.--Yet, no! The room she used to occupy!--so said the man. Here,
boy, what did father Walter say, when he sent you?"

"I do not well remember, Madam," answered the page, "for I was half
asleep. But I know he told me, you said I was to go, and that I must
get the book from Mademoiselle Helen's room."

"Did he say the room _she used_ to occupy?" demanded Madame de
Chazeul. "Answer me exactly."

"I cannot recollect, Madam," replied the boy. "He said her room; but I
did not take much heed as to the words."

"Fool!" cried the Marchioness looking fiercely at him; "you should
take heed of everything;" and then falling into thought again, she
murmured, "Well, he is better where he is. If he be there, he may rage
when the knot is tied, but cannot unloose it; if he were free he might
stop the tying. Get thee gone, boy; and remember, when any one tells
thee to go anywhere in my name, come to me and ask if they have
authority."

"What, in the night?" asked the page.

"Ay, in the night," replied his mistress; "if I can give them
directions, I can give thee an answer.--Now, girl, call Martin;" and
leaning on the table while the maid hastened to fulfil her orders, she
fell into a fit of meditation.

Many minutes did not elapse before the man she had sent for made his
appearance. And still preserving that haughty tone of hands, which is
so effectual with dependents, even when requiring evil actions at
their hands, until they find that all real power to injure or
disappoint is at an end, she demanded, "Well, is the priest safe?"

"Ay, Madam," answered the man; "I have done your will, though it be
against my conscience."

"Conscience!" cried Madame de Chazeul; "what have you to do with
conscience?--Is it not in a priest's keeping?" she added, seeing an
unpleasant shade come over the man's brow; "and can he not give you
absolution? This may cost a score more crowns than any other offence.
But it is purchasable, and I will pay the money. To kill a Cardinal is
a ruinous thing; but it can be absolved on a fair calculation of his
weight in gold. These candlesticks of the church can always be
replaced; and this is but a trifle. Methinks you will become a
Huguenot next, and fancy that the Pope has no power to absolve us. I
tell you what, Martin, if such were the case, many a fair lady and
gallant gentleman, in France, would be in a perilous case."

"I shall never turn Huguenot, Madam," replied the man gravely; "but,
as father Walter said, 'to drag a priest from the altar is more like
the act of a heretic than of a Christian man.'"

"Ay, so he said," exclaimed the Marchioness, "because he was the
person dragged; but on my honour he would have told a different story,
if he had ordered the thing to be done. But you shall have the money.
Here, Madelaine, bring me the casket.--Where have you put him?"

The man paused till one of the maids had brought in a small ebony and
ivory box, and the Marchioness de Chazeul had counted out into his
hand, a hundred small pieces of gold, upon which his fingers clenched
with zealous eagerness.

"Where have you put him?" demanded the lady again. "In the sacristy,
Madam," replied the servant. But at those words Madame de Chazeul
started from her chair like one possessed.

"In the sacristy?" she cried; "then on my soul, he is free by this
time! Do you know, that there is a way out through the walls?"

"Yes, Madam," answered Martin; "but that door is locked."

"And that," exclaimed the Marchioness, "through the vestiary and out
into the court?"

The man looked confounded, and after a moment's musing he replied,
"Ay, that is the way he got out."

"Out! out! Is he out?" screamed Madame de Chazeul. "He was out, but is
in again," rejoined the man. "René saw him, or his ghost, in the
court, and drove it back with his partizan. But as soon as he told me,
I went to the chapel and into the sacristy; and there I found the good
father seated where I left him, with the book on his knees."

"He takes it very easily," replied the Marchioness. "There is some new
plot afoot. He must be removed, Martin; no more wandering about the
castle till the marriage is over. On that marriage all depends. You
know you are promised a command in my son's cornet of horse."

"I did not know it, Madam," replied the man.

"Well, then, I promise," answered the Marchioness, "for your good
services this night. As soon as the marriage is over, Chazeul shall
confirm it. But the priest must be removed to the little chamber at
the foot of the great staircase. Have him away quick, before my
brother comes down,--the room where old Estoc slept, I mean.--How came
you to put him in the sacristy?"

"It was his own wish," said Martin; "you told me I might put him where
I liked, and keep him under my own ward: so I gave him his choice; and
he preferred the sacristy."

"Because he could get out!" cried the Marchioness: "that was his only
reason: and now, good Martin, hasten and remove him,--with all
gentleness, for he is a reverend man,--yet firmly too, for he is full
of arts and wiles, and will confound you with mere words. Listen not
to him, Martin; but tell him to come on without speaking, and lodge
him safely where I have told you. What is to be done had better be
done completely. The offence is committed, and we may as well make it
a secure one, as spoil the benefit by half doing. Go and remove him
quickly; and then, keep yourself ready to bear witness to what you saw
last night."

"Oh, I am quite ready for that," answered the man; "there I have but
to say what I saw, and that I can swear to. I took care to make all
sure, by speaking to monsieur when I met him."

"That was right, that was right, good Martin," said the Marchioness.
"You always show yourself a man of resolution and discernment. Now be
quick, and see that the door be fast locked."

It may be remarked, that she spoke to the man who now left her, in a
very different tone from that which she used to most of the others
whom she employed in the multifarious services required of her
domestics; but the truth is, that he was of a more bold, determined,
and vigorous cast of mind than the others. She had less hold upon him;
she feared him more; she doubted him more; and, from the minister who
holds the helm of state, down to the tradesman with his shopmen, we
all show more courtesy and smooth compliance, to those on whom we have
no sure hold, than to those on whom we have. It is force of character
that usually gains this reverence; and it is vain for any one to say,
I will acquire it; for the very necessity of seeking such an
ascendancy, is an everlasting bar to its attainment. The only thing
that can ever supply the place of that force of character, in
obtaining station and command over mankind's esteem, is the force of
principle. Every man can say, I will be virtuous and true, and, with
God's grace, he may be so. Then, sooner or later, honour must follow;
but he must never dream of being so, for that end; for if he do, the
touchstone of the world will soon prove the metal, wear through the
outside gilding, and show the baser stuff below.

Madame de Chazeul was, with this man, a different being from with the
rest, because she feared he might resist, and knew if he did so, it
would be with no weak and poor resistance. She spoke him fair, lured
him with rewards, flattered him; but she loved him less; and the
moment he had left her, she thought, "I must find some means to
dispose of him, after this affair is over. Yes, he shall have a
command in Chazeul's cornet. We will put him in the front of the
battle; and then a blow from before, or a shot from behind may finish
the affair.--Oh! David was a wise man."

After sitting before her table for a moment, to collect her thoughts,
and call to mind all the particulars of the plan which she had already
arranged, and which, like every other dark intrigue had become, as we
have seen, more and more complicated at each step she took, the
Marchioness rose and walked leisurely to the great hall. Her brother,
whom she expected to find, was not there; and after waiting for a
moment or two, her impatience persuaded her, that it would be better
to seek him in his own chamber, where they could not be interrupted.
She accordingly turned her steps thither, and knocked at the door,
though that ceremony was not perhaps necessary. It was a quick and
hasty knock, however, as if she had come thither on urgent business;
and the moment the Count's voice was heard, bidding her come in, she
entered with a countenance prepared for the occasion, bearing a
mingled expression of grief and bewilderment.

"Why, what is the matter, Jacqueline?" demanded the Count, as soon as
he saw her. "You look scared. What is the matter?"

"Nothing, nothing," she replied in a tone of affected indifference. "I
only wanted to know if you were ready; for we have much to do to-day.
I wished to inquire too, what Rose was saying to you last night, just
before she went to bed--for something has happened very strange."

"I do not recollect her saying anything particular," replied the
Count. "I said that, from what I saw during the day, I hoped she was
more inclined to do her duty, and give her hand to Chazeul; and, as
before, she replied, 'Never!'"

"Ay, but she must!" cried the Marchioness, "and that this the very day
too. The girl is a rank coquette, Liancourt, and only wishes to be
driven."

"No, no!" cried Monsieur de Liancourt. "Not so, Jacqueline, not so!--I
dare say she might be brought to love Chazeul in time; but now she
clearly does not like him, though yesterday she seemed to endure him,
yet it was no very cordial companionship. It did not promise much."

"More than you think or I am inclined to say," replied the
Marchioness. "But one thing I will add, that if you knew as much as I
do, you would be the first to force her without delay, into a marriage
which is necessary for your own honour as well as hers. Ah, you do not
know woman's heart, my good brother.--I say no more; but if you have
any regard for her reputation and for your own good name, let no
affected resistance have any effect."

"What do you mean, Jacqueline?" cried the Count, hurriedly throwing on
his cloak, "what is the signification of all those mysterious nods and
looks? If there be anything affecting my honour, let me hear it."

"No, no! you would rage and storm," answered the Marchioness, "and
perhaps do some rash act towards Chazeul or Rose. But you must
remember, women are strange perverse beings, brother, and you must
take them as you find them, forgive them all their little faults and
failings, and understand that a woman often refuses most vehemently,
that which she most desires; and as to such errors as these I talk of,
they are but too common."

"What is the meaning of all this?" cried the Count. "Come, Jacqueline,
come.--No more turning and winding. I must and will know what you
mean. No one has a right to speak of my honour being in danger,
without telling me how."

"But it is not in danger, Liancourt," replied the Marchioness with
apparent reluctance, "if the marriage takes place at once; and as for
the scandal, it can be hushed up. I will give the people money,--and,
after all, Chazeul may have had no wrong intent, nor Rose either. They
may only have wished to talk with each other for an hour or two in
private, when every one was in bed. You saw there were secret
conferences between them yesterday."

"Speak plain, woman; speak plain," exclaimed the Count, growing
irritated: "Talk with each other in private, when every one was in
bed! What do you mean?--where did they talk?"

"Why, if the truth must be told, in Rose's room," replied the
Marchioness. "It was imprudent, and the people who saw him come out,
and told me of it, were not sparing in what they said,--but I have no
doubt it was but imprudence."

"When did this happen?" cried the Count vehemently; "at what hour?"

"A little after two they saw him come out," answered the Marchioness,
"and he went there about one."

The Count cast himself into a chair, and rested his head upon his hand
for two or three minutes. Then starting up he exclaimed, "It is false!
I will never believe it.--This is one of your tricks, Jacqueline."

"What do you mean, Monsieur de Liancourt?" cried the Marchioness with
a frowning brow. "Do you mean to say, that I speak falsehood?--Nay,
then the matter is easily proved, and shall be proved. The people
whom,--as I told you I should,--I placed to watch that there might be
no more flights from the castle, must be called. I insist upon it,
since you accuse me of falsehood. They know my son; they know Rose
d'Albret's room.--Nay, more; we will have her maid. I have not seen
the girl myself, but you can question her. Perhaps she will not
acknowledge the truth; but you must make her. I cannot tell that
it was not herself Chazeul went to see,--for men have strange
fancies,--only she is as ugly as a sow. However, send for her first,
and let us hear what she says. Shall I go away and let you question
her alone?"

"No, no!" replied the Count. "Stay and hear. I cannot believe it!
There must be some mistake."

"Of that you can judge better than I can," answered the Marchioness,
who well knew how to manage her brother. "I don't want to lead you. I
know that's quite in vain, Anthony. You never would be led by any body
in your life; but, see all the people, hear what they say, and then
act as you may think fit."

"I will speak first with the maid," said the Count de Liancourt; and,
approaching a door which led down to one of his servant's rooms, he
called to the man, bidding him send Blanchette to him with all speed.

The girl made them wait for several minutes, during which time, Madame
de Chazeul improved her opportunity, in guiding her brother's mind
into the exact course that she desired. She took occasion to plead for
her son's pardon, in the tone of a supplicant, but was not at all
displeased to see, that Monsieur de Liancourt was highly indignant at
his nephew; as she argued thence the success of her own plans.

When Blanchette at length appeared, the Count called her to him in a
somewhat stern tone, saying, "Come hither, girl, and answer me truly.
Was there any one in Mademoiselle d'Albret's chamber last night? Don't
hesitate, but answer."

The girl did hesitate, however; for Madame de Chazeul had purposely
left her in the dark regarding her views and purposes, knowing very
well, that the more she faltered, and prevaricated, the stronger would
be Monsieur de Liancourt's conviction, that the tale which had been
told him was true.

"Dear me, Sir," said Blanchette at length, "who could be there?"

"Girl you are making up a falsehood," cried the Count. "I insist upon
your answering straightforwardly. Was Monsieur de Chazeul, or was he
not, with your mistress, between one and two o'clock this morning?"

Blanchette began to whimper; but at length, with many an excuse, and
many an explanation, she admitted that it was so.

"And how dare you, you base girl," exclaimed Madame de Chazeul,
joining in, "how dare you give admittance to any man into your
mistress's chamber in the middle of the night?"

"Why you told me, yourself Madam," replied Blanchette somewhat
saucily, "that I was to admit Monsieur de Chazeul, at any time, and to
do exactly what he told me."

"At any time during the day," replied Madame de Chazeul, in a tone of
indignation. "You could not suppose that I meant at night; and I never
expected that he would ask you to do what was wrong, or I certainly
should not have told you to obey him. However, for this very thing, I
will take care you shall be discharged. There shall be no such
convenient ladies about my son's wife."

The girl held down her head in sullen silence, very well
understanding, that she had done exactly what Madame de Chazeul
wished, though it suited her now to condemn it, and that she,
Blanchette, having been the tool, was destined to be the victim.

"Pray did Mademoiselle d'Albret direct you to admit Monsieur de
Chazeul?" asked the Count; and this time he got an eager and a rapid
answer, for Blanchette would have done a great deal at that moment, to
damage Madame de Chazeul's scheme, which she began to suspect.

"Oh no, Sir!" answered the girl, "and I am very sure she would be
excessively angry if she knew that he was there at all. I only let him
in, because Madame la Marquise told me to admit him at all times, and
to do exactly as he ordered me; and he would have fain persuaded me,
that mademoiselle had changed her mind and liked him; but I know
better than that, from what she said just as she was going to bed, and
from the way she prayed to God to be delivered from him; so that she
would be angry enough if she knew that I had admitted him. But he kept
mighty, still, and took care not to disturb her."

Madame de Chazeul's eyes had flashed fire while the girl spoke, and
she had given her many a threatening look to induce her to pause. But
Blanchette was not easily daunted by the lightning of the eyes; and
she went on to the end as fast as possible, without hesitation or
dismay.

"Ay, girl," cried the Marchioness at length, "now you have committed a
shameless and infamous act, and aided my son and your mistress in
soiling her own reputation for ever, you would fain represent the
culpability as not so great. But get thee gone; thou art unworthy of
more words. Get thee gone, and send my man Martin here. Tell him to
bring his comrade with him."

The girl, who was by nature saucy, as well as sullen, would willingly
have answered the Marchioness by telling her, to call her man herself,
if she wanted him; but she did not dare; and, in a few minutes after
she had quitted the room, the servant Martin and a comrade, whom he
had had with him during the preceding night, made their appearance.
The Count questioned them eagerly, and found that his nephew had
undoubtedly been in the chamber of Rose d'Albret for more than an hour
the preceding night. This was quite sufficient to work all the effect
that Madame de Chazeul desired. He gave way to bursts of furious rage,
calling his nephew a base villain who had dishonoured his house and
speaking of Rose in terms of the utmost violence, without ever
inquiring whether she was to blame or not.

"Where is your son, Jacqueline?" he cried, "where is this young
scoundrel?"

"He quitted the castle early," replied Madame de Chazeul, "fearing, I
fancy, that this affair would be found out, and then that the
consequences between him and you might be serious."

"Most likely to avoid marrying her whose fair name he has blasted,"
said Monsieur de Liancourt. "But he shall marry her! By the Lord that
lives, he shall marry her this very day!"

"There is no fear of him," replied Madame de Chazeul; "though there
may be, regarding your fair ward, brother; for depend upon it she will
deny the whole of this affair. The maid Blanchette will go and tell
her, that it is discovered; and then they will get up some story
between them, which they will expect us to believe. To make it look
like truth too, you may be very sure that Rose will affect to be more
opposed to the marriage than ever; and, if it were not necessary for
her reputation, it would be amusing enough not to press her."

"She shall wed him before the clock strikes noon," replied the Count.
"But where is your son, Jacqueline? Has he gone to Chazeul?--He must
be sent for."

"Oh, no," replied the Marchioness; "he has only gone down to the
village, to keep out of your way till you are a little cooler. You had
better leave him there till the hour of marriage approaches, and then
be as lenient with him as may be. I have already rated him severely."

"I _must_ speak to him, Jacqueline," replied her brother. "This is an
insult and an injury to me. What did he say, when you spoke to him?
Did he deny it?"

"No, not absolutely deny it," replied the Marchioness; "but he did as
all young men do under such circumstances. He said he had done no
harm; but had only gone to Rose's chamber because he wished to speak
with her in peace and quietness, which he had not been able to do
during the day. It was very likely true," she added, in a tone of mock
candour; "I don't think it at all unnatural."

"At all events it is ruin to her fame," replied the Count; "and we
must heal the wound as speedily as possible by their marriage. I will
go to her and tell her, that there must be no more delay--that I
expect her to be in the hall to sign the contract at eleven, and in
the chapel to take the vow immediately after. I will have no excuses;
it shall be done. I will go to her this moment, before I hear mass."

"No, let me see her first," replied Madame de Chazeul; "you accused me
of being harsh with her yesterday, I shall be more gentle than you
with her to-day. I will be firm with her, however, and let her know
that you are so too. She may make up her mind to it--about which there
will be less difficulty than you think--while you and I are at the
funeral, which we must get over first, in order not to have the dead
body in the chapel at the wedding. Poor father Walter was taken ill
last night while he was watching the corpse.--Did they tell you?"

"No," exclaimed the Count with a look of concern; "I will go and see
him."

"He is sleeping, and asked not to be disturbed," replied the
Marchioness; "so I sent down to the village for the Curé to attend to
the funeral; but I do hope that father Walter will be awake and well
enough to perform the marriage ceremony."

"I hope so too," replied the Count, "for if this girl makes any
resistance, we might have difficulties with the Curé."

"Oh, she will be more easily persuaded than you imagine," replied
Madame de Chazeul; "though of course she will affect reluctance, the
Curé will easily see that it is all pretence. The more furious it is,
the more will the affectation be apparent. So stay for me here, and I
will rejoin you directly." Thus saying, she left her weak brother,
who, during her absence, which was longer than he expected, worked
himself into greater fury than ever, and prepared his own mind, as his
sister could have wished, for any act of violence which might be
required.



CHAPTER XXXVI.


It was with a quick and agitated step that the girl Blanchette
returned to the room which served as her own bed-chamber and as the
ante-room to that of her mistress. It was the sort of pace that, had
she stopped for one moment, it must have been to stamp with rage; and,
when she reached a seat, she cast herself into it, and burst forth
into a violent fit of tears--passionate, not penitent; full of
virulent anger, not of sorrow or remorse. The same feelings were in
her heart, with which Macbeth exclaimed "For Banquo's issue have I
'filed my mind,"--feelings which lead to fresh crimes, rather than to
atonement for those that are gone.

"I shall be discharged, shall I?" asked the girl, "and all for doing
what she told me. I have heard of her ways. Fool that I was not to
believe it. I might have known, if I had not been as stupid as an owl,
that what she does to others, she would do to me. Oh that I could but
match her!--Well, I may perhaps--Now if I could get Mademoiselle out
of the château? But she will watch me.--Well, let her; I will watch
her.--The old hag is cunning enough, but there may be others as
shrewd;" and she dried her tears, and laughed at the thought of the
bitter sweet potion of revenge.

"I know her now," she continued, sometimes speaking to herself in low
murmurs, sometimes meditating in silence; "I know her now. Oh she can
feign and speak sweet, and promise all kinds of things. But she shall
not take me in any more. I can see well enough. Her game is nearly
played. If she wants any more help, she will be as smooth as oil; and
then, when all is done, I shall be kicked off to die on a dunghill,
for what she cares. But I have taken care of that. I have got as many
crowns as promises, and I will be caught by none of the latter any
more. Oh yes, she will soon come, and be very civil doubtless, if she
has anything for me to do; and tell me she was obliged to speak so
before her brother, but that it meant nothing. She shall see that I am
affronted, however; but not too much--no, not too much, for then she
might not trust me any farther, and I should miss my opportunity; for
vengeance I will have, one way or another."

With such sweet and innocent thoughts Blanchette entertained herself
for some time, till at length the door swung open, and Madame de
Chazeul walked in, with no signs of plausibility in her countenance.
The girl was sitting, with the handkerchief which had lately wiped
away her tears, upon her lap; and her whole face showed that she had
undergone no light emotions. The Marchioness did not stay to inquire,
of what sort they were, but jumped at the conclusion, that the dread
of losing her place, was the cause of the girl's agitation; and,
believing that, by that fear, she could rule her as she thought fit,
she was only careful to prevent her from thinking the post of
soubrette to the future Marchioness de Chazeul irretrievably gone.

"Why do you not rise, girl, when you see me?" she demanded in a
haughty tone.

"Why, I have done so much wrong, Madam," said the maid with a sullen
face, "in doing what I thought was your will and pleasure, that I am
sure I know not what to do, to give satisfaction."

"You must do better than you have done, if you would long keep your
place," replied the Marchioness; "but if you really thought you were
pleasing me, that makes a difference. An error may be forgiven;
disobedience not. Your mistress is up, I dare say."

"Oh yes, hours ago," answered Blanchette. "Shall I tell her you are
here, Madam?"

"No!" replied Madame de Chazeul, advancing towards the opposite door,
"we will have no farther ceremonies;" and, without giving any sign of
her approach, she walked straight in.

Rose d'Albret was seated as before, near the window: the favourite
spot of the prisoner, where he can see some part, if it be but a
glimpse of that free world which is no longer his; but when the
Marchioness entered, she started and rose. Madame de Chazeul had
gathered her face into a frown; and Rose, who felt in her heart a
deeper degree of indignation at the events of the last night, than at
all the injuries, deceits, and harshness which had been practised on
her before, gazed at her with a swelling heart and a firm
determination to tell her what she thought of all her conduct.

The Marchioness did not clearly understand that look; and it somewhat
puzzled her as to her course; but after a moments pause, she said, "I
have come, Mademoiselle d'Albret, to tell you, that at eleven the
contract is to be signed in the great hall; and, immediately after,
the marriage will take place in the chapel."

"Madam, you have already had my answer," replied Rose, "and I have
only to beg, that you will not insult me, even by naming your son's
name in my hearing. I have long disliked and despised him. I now abhor
and scorn him; and I would sooner give my hand to a beggar on the
road, than to one so utterly base and degraded."

"I should have thought," answered the Marchioness, with a bitter
sneer, "that, after what passed last night, your reluctance would have
quite vanished, and that Nicholas de Chazeul would have found in Rose
d'Albret a very willing--nay, perhaps, an over-willing bride;" and she
pointed, smiling sarcastically, to a man's glove that lay upon the
table.

"I had not remarked it," replied Rose, advancing to the table and
taking it up with a look of disgust.

"No, I suppose not," answered Madame de Chazeul. "Such little
oversights will occur in such circumstances, Mademoiselle."

"It was no oversight on his part, at least," said Rose, turning to the
open window; "the low-minded villain who left it here, knew well in
that respect, at least, what he was doing; but I treat it, and him,
and all his arts, with the same contempt," and she threw it out into
the court below.

"Weak, foolish, guilty girl!" cried the Marchioness. "Do not think to
escape thus.--Your fate is sealed; and within three hours you are his
wife, however unworthy to be so. For your own sake, for your own
reputation's sake, it must be so. However little care you yourself
take of your own fame, there are others bound to be more thoughtful,
and to use any or all means of saving you from the disgrace which
would fall upon you but for them."

"Madam, my reputation is in no danger," replied Rose; "happily,
neither you nor your son can affect that."

"Indeed!" said Madame de Chazeul, with an incredulous smile. "Perhaps
your high purity is not aware, that Monsieur de Chazeul was seen last
night, by two trustworthy persons, entering your chamber at one
o'clock, and quitting it somewhat after three; perhaps you are not
aware, that your maid has confessed she gave him admission to it."

"To this chamber; not to mine, Madam," answered Rose, with a look of
calm scorn. "Your admirable plan has failed, lady; and you cannot
drive me into an union with one so despicable as to take part in it,
even by the fear of calumny."

Madame de Chazeul gazed at her with rage struggling with surprise.
"You are wonderfully tranquil," she said, at length; "but still all
your calmness will not disprove to the good busy world what several
persons, independent of each other, know: that Monsieur de Chazeul
passed more than one hour in your chamber last night, and that your
maid admits the fact."

"I have better witnesses than my calmness, Madam," replied Rose
d'Albret, "who will be quite credible against your servants, planted
on purpose on the stairs, and my maid, bribed long ago to betray and
deceive her mistress; and they will prove that, warned of the base
scheme contrived against me, informed of all its particulars, I slept
undisturbed in another chamber; and that, if your son thought fit to
pass his time in this place, he passed it here alone."

"It is the priest!" muttered Madame de Chazeul. "I have not spoken
with him, since my return hither," said Rose, who caught the words not
intended for her ear.

"Who are your witnesses, then, girl?" exclaimed Madame de Chazeul. "I
do not believe you! The whole tale is false, invented but to screen
your own dishonour."

"My witnesses I will produce when need may be," answered Rose, "but
not to Madame de Chazeul alone; and, for the rest, you know right
well, which tale is false, and which is true. It is needless to argue
with one so well informed already. Moreover, remember, that no force
shall ever make me wed your son. My hand is promised by myself to him,
for whom my father destined it; and the well-devised story of his
death has failed, as well as the artful scheme that followed it. I now
know him to be living, as well, or, rather, better than you do; and
you may find that he is so when you least expect to see him."

The Marchioness turned red, and then pale, even through the paint upon
her face; but, for several moments, she made no reply, turning rapidly
in her mind every chance in the wide range of circumstances that could
have given to Rose the information she possessed. Be it remarked,
however, that she never doubted the truth of what that Lady said; for,
though the deceitful are ever suspicious, there is something in the
plain, straightforward simplicity of truth, which raises it, in
general, above doubt. Men may affect to disbelieve it, when it
militates against them, but in their heart they recognize it for what
it is.

"If the priest had not told her, who had?" Madame de Chazeul asked
herself. "Could it be the maid?" But then Blanchette had not been
informed of the whole plan. "Could it be one of the servants?" None
knew more than a part. "Could Chazeul have betrayed the secret to some
of his own people, who again had communicated it to Rose?" It was most
improbable. "Could De Montigni himself have returned, and made his way
into the château unperceived?" It might be so; but still her scheme
was unknown to him. She was in a maze, which, with all her quick wit,
she could not thread; and all that she could decide upon doing, was to
pursue her plan boldly, to exercise all her influence over her
brother's mind, to blind his eyes and overrule the better feelings of
his heart, and to watch warily for every accident, to guard against
any event, which might frustrate her design.

"It is all very well, Mademoiselle d'Albret," she said at length, in a
calmer but not less stern tone than she had hitherto employed, "to set
your simple assertions against facts unfortunately too well and widely
known. I shall be happy to hear, when you are my son's wife, the
proofs that you say you can give, that you did not commit the
imprudence, to call it no worse, of admitting him to your chamber in
secrecy and silence, at an hour past midnight. It will be a great
satisfaction to me, and I will take care that those who witnessed the
scene, and may otherwise spread the scandal abroad in the world, shall
be present to hear your exculpation.--But it must be as my son's wife,
for your guardian and myself have consulted, and have determined, that
it is absolutely necessary for your fame and respectability that you
should be united to him without delay. My brother, indeed, has sworn a
dreadful oath, that he will compel you to obey before noon; and you
well know when he has sworn--"

"Oh no, no!" cried Rose, now greatly agitated, "not sworn.--He would
never swear!"

"Ay, but he has!" answered Madame de Chazeul; "he has sworn by all he
holds sacred,--he has called down the vengeance of heaven on his
head,--he has taken the name of his God and his Saviour to witness,
that he will force you to follow his will, and relieve your name of
the stain that hangs upon it, by your marriage with Nicholas de
Chazeul."

Poor Rose d'Albret covered her eyes with her hands in terror and in
grief; for she well knew that Monsieur de Liancourt was one who would
consider such an oath, however rashly and intemperately spoken, as
full justification for violating every dictate of propriety, right,
and justice. Madame de Chazeul saw her agony, and enjoyed it; for
anger and wounded pride had their share in the bitter determination
which she had formed, to force the poor girl into the arms of her son;
and amongst the many images which a quick fancy brought before her
mind of future triumphs, was the prospect of mingling misery and care
with Rose's married life, and taking vengeance, for what she called
the disdain of the haughty girl, upon the unwilling bride. She sat
silent, then, and Rose remained with her fair face covered, hiding the
tears that would burst forth, and striving to smother the sobs that
struggled for free course.

Neither uttered a word for several minutes. The house, and the chamber
remained quite still; and then came a sound as of a key turning in a
door, and next a gentle tap close to the chair where Madame de Chazeul
was seated. Both Rose and the Marchioness started up, though with very
different feeling; Rose with terror and alarm, lest Helen should
discover herself; and the Marchioness with surprise, which did not at
all deprive her of her prompt decision, and ready wit. Ere
Mademoiselle d'Albret could utter a word, however, in the wild
confusion into which her thoughts had been thrown, her fierce
companion judging in a moment that the secret was about to be
disclosed, said in a low, but quick tone. "Come in!" The door from the
priest's room opened, and Helen de la Tremblade stood before them,
with a face calm and placid when she first appeared, but which became
glowing and agitated, as soon as she beheld her enemy.



CHAPTER XXXVII.


"Ha, ha, ha!" exclaimed Madame de Chazeul, bursting forth into a long
peal of laughter, "so the secret is discovered! So here is the
precious witness! So here is the wise intelligence bearer!--Strumpet,
how dare you show yourself in my presence?"

"Neither willingly not wittingly, have I done so, Madam," answered
Helen de la Tremblade, who had now recovered her self-possession, and
spoke in a much calmer and firmer tone than the Marchioness had ever
heard her assume; for, in the fire of adversity, she had gained
strength, and the loss of hope had carried with it the loss of all
those thrilling emotions, those vibrations of the heart, which shake
and agitate the mind also. Thus, though surprised at seeing the woman
who had so harshly used her, and whom,--in the long pause that had
taken place in the conversation with Rose d'Albret,--she had thought
gone from the chamber, she was nevertheless not confounded, and far
less dismayed than might have been expected, "Neither wittingly nor
willingly," she repeated, "but since it is so, it may be no better. I
am, Madam, as you have said, both the witness, and the intelligence
bearer; but happily not the only one."

"What minion, will you dare me?" cried Madame de Chazeul advancing a
step, as if she would have struck her.

"Have a care, lady," said Helen in a deep tone. "Remember, I am not a
servant, and no longer in any way under your authority, or, as you
once termed it, protection.--Protection! Oh, God, what protection! Our
position is different; and I bear not now, what I have borne before."

"On my life," exclaimed the Marchioness, "this is admirable! Where do
you stand, girl?--Is this my brother's house, or yours?"

"Your brother's, Madam, but not yours," replied Helen, "and I know
that brother too well, to doubt that he will do justice, when he knows
the truth. To him I am now going; and at his feet I will tell all,--my
own fault, and my own folly.--Ay, and your crimes, to me and to
others."

She took a step towards the door; but Madame de Chazeul cast herself
in the way, with a look of terrible fury. She well knew, that the poor
girl had the power, if she could but obtain a few moments' interview
with the Count, of overthrowing all that she had done with him, of
exposing her conduct, ruining her schemes, and blasting by a breath
all that she most desired to see bear fruit. The worm she had trampled
upon, had turned to sting, her, and her only safety was to crush it.

"Stand back, minion!" she cried in a stern tone; "back to your den,
this moment!"

"Nay, nay, Madam," cried Rose d'Albret interposing, "Helen has
suffered enough; you shall not make her suffer more here."

"Blanchette, Blanchette!" exclaimed the Marchioness aloud, without
heeding her, but still keeping between the door and her victim,
"Blanchette, Blanchette!"

The girl appeared and gazed in surprise upon a scene, in which she
found a new actor, whom she had thought far away. "Quick, call Martin,
and the other men from the bottom of the stairs," cried the
Marchioness. "Quick! not a moment!" and advancing again upon Helen,
she repeated, "Back to your den, serpent! Back to your den!"

"No!" cried Rose d'Albret taking her poor friend by the hand, "she
shall not be driven from my chamber, if she chooses to stay."

But Helen whispered, "By the other way!" and running back into the
priest's room, she turned the lock and hastened to seek exit by the
door at the top of the stairs.

She had, however, to deal with one quicker in every combination than
herself, and ere she could unlock it, and go out, Madame de Chazeul
was there before her, calling loudly, "Martin! Martin!" At the same
time, she laid her hand upon the small dagger, which, as was not
unfrequent with ladies in that day, she carried at her girdle. Helen,
resolved to make a great effort, would in all probability have
attempted to pass her at all risks; and blood would very likely have
been spilt; for the tiger in the heart of Jacqueline de Chazeul was
thoroughly roused and overbore every consideration even of danger. But
as the poor girl paused for a single instant, the heads of the man
Martin and another appeared on the stairs, and she saw that her escape
was cut off.

"Now, will you back?" exclaimed the Marchioness, with a triumphant
smile. "Oh, I am to be set at nought, am I?"

With a sinking heart and a slow step, Helen retreated into her uncle's
chamber; and Madame de Chazeul was following, when the voice of
Monsieur de Liancourt was heard below, exclaiming, "What is the
matter, Jacqueline? Is anything amiss?"

"Nothing! nothing," cried the Marchioness, "I will come and tell you
directly."

Helen sprang forward again; but the fierce woman caught her by the
shoulder, and threw her back headlong into the room, muttering in a
low bitter tone, "Back, minion, I say!--Stay on guard here, Martin,"
she continued; "let no one in or out. If my brother come, beg him
civilly to pause. I will return in an instant."

Thus saying she entered the chamber; where Helen, stunned and bruised
by the fall, still lay on the floor. Seizing her by the arm, Madame de
Chazeul dragged her further in and closed the door; then gazed on her
for a moment, while every terrible passion that can agitate the human
countenance, crossed the face turned towards poor Helen de la
Tremblade. The fingers of the Marchioness felt the hilt of her dagger,
and the spirit of Cain moved her heart strongly; but she refrained for
the moment, murmuring, "No, not blood--not blood." Then advancing to
the door leading to the adjoining room, she tried it, took out the
key; and hurrying across to the other, she went out by it, and locked
it likewise.

"Monsieur de Liancourt speaks, Madam," said the man Martin.

"I am coming! I am coming!" cried the Marchioness, and began to
descend.

"Shall I wait here?" asked the servant.

"No, all is safe now," rejoined his mistress, going on, "we shall want
you for other matters, my good Martin."

She hurried down without a moment's pause, endeavouring to smooth her
countenance, and to calm the vehement agitation of her thoughts as she
went; and although, in the latter effort, she was not altogether
successful, for her angry spirit when once moved, was long ere it
regained tranquillity; yet her face was smiling--though with a curl of
contempt hanging about the nostril and the corner of the lip--when she
met her brother just ascending to inquire the cause of the noise and
outcry which had reached his ear.

"What is the matter, Jacqueline?" cried Monsieur de Liancourt; "has
anything new gone wrong?"

"Nothing, nothing," replied the Marchioness; "something more amusing
than anything else. But I will tell you all about it after the
funeral. I think it will make you laugh to see, what tricks there are
in this world."

"But what is it? what is it?" asked the Count, whose mind, vacillating
and uncertain, was too much agitated by the course he was persuaded to
pursue against his better judgment, not to feel a movement of dread at
every new incident in the drama, whenever he fell back from a fit of
passionate vehemence, into his usual state of weak hesitation.

"Oh! I will tell you by and by," replied the Marchioness, who was
anxious to have a little time to arrange her plans, and to think over
the turn that she should give to all that had just taken place. "The
story is too good to be spoilt by relating bits of it; and the hour
appointed for the funeral is already past--hark! there is the bell.
All the people must be waiting in the hall; and we must go and put
poor old Michael in the vault, before we can talk of other things."

The Count suffered her to lead the way to that large hall in the
Château of Marzay, into which we first introduced the reader, when we
brought him to the house. There several of the principal members of
the household were assembled, under the guidance and direction of the
Count's major domo; and they had already begun, with the assistance of
the good priest of the village, to discuss some of the savoury
pasties, and rich old wines, which were spread out upon a table in the
midst of the room.

The worthy curé; looked somewhat mortified at the early arrival of the
two mourners, if we may so term the Count and his sister, for he had
got his plate loaded with a fresh supply of viands, and it was
understood that their appearance was to be the signal for beginning
the ceremony. Monsieur de Liancourt, however, courteously pressed him
to go on, and having a capacious mouth, and ready hand, the priest
brought his meal to a speedy conclusion. It may be a curious question,
whether the situation of that country is most unfortunate, where the
poverty of the clergy renders their appetites easy panders to
corruption; or that where their wealth tends to make them the slaves
of their own passions. To say the truth, it was a relief to the Count
to see the curé eat, for Monsieur de Liancourt's mind, more
impressible than that of his sister, shrunk from the solemn scene he
was about to witness. He felt higher and less worldly thoughts, which
he dreaded and disliked, crowding upon him against his will; and
certainly the very mundane appetite of the Priest, though it formed a
strange contrast with the functions he was about to exercise, was well
calculated to deprive the ceremony of part of its gloomy solemnity,
as, indeed, is the case with all eating and drinking on such sad
occasions.

The moment he had done, the worthy man started up, wiped his knife,
and put it in its case. Then turning to Monsieur de Liancourt, he
said, "Give me three minutes, Sir, to get everything in order in the
chapel, for as Monsieur de la Tremblade is ill, probably no
preparations are made."

"How is he?" asked Monsieur de Liancourt; "have you seen him, father?"

Before the curé could answer, Madame de Chazeul's servant, Martin, who
stood behind her, stepped forward, saying, "He is still asleep, Sir,
and begged particularly not to be roused till he awoke himself."

"Ay, let him sleep," said Madame de Chazeul, in a low and gloomy tone.
"He will have sorrow enough, poor man, when he awakes."

The Count looked at her in surprise; but she nodded her head
significantly; and the priest quitting the hall, hurried on to the
chapel.

The Count and his sister followed soon after, and the ceremonies of
the interment began. Impressive and terrible as they always are,
perhaps the peculiar forms and pomp of the Roman Church, add more to
them than to any other of the rites of religion. The Count felt them
much; the tears rose in his eyes, when he thought of his brother, the
companion of his boyhood, scarcely more than a year younger than
himself, who had passed through life in friendship and affection with
him, but had gone down to the grave in indignation and just
displeasure at his acts. He asked himself, too, how long it might be,
ere that vault, which now yawned in the midst of the chapel--with the
stone which marked its place, and bore the name and arms of De
Liancourt lying by the side of the gaping chasm,--would open for him
also; and he shrunk with dread from the sad answer. A few short
hours--a few short days--it could not be longer than a few short years;
and then, the dust to dust, and the spirit to God who gave it! Next
came the--what then? The terrible, what then? The dread account--the
secrets of the heart laid open--the judgment, the stern, the
irreversible, the unalterable decree, the doom for all eternity!

He wished it was over; he loved not such thoughts: he felt his soul
shaken within him. But the Roman Catholic Church affords so many
passages for escape from all those dark but gloomy convictions, which
the tomb and its awful lessons are calculated to produce upon the mind
of him who looks alone to Scripture for his guide--purgatory,
absolution by the lips of men as frail as ourselves, indulgences, the
intercession of saints, the masses for the dead--that Monsieur de
Liancourt soon found means of consolation. He looked to the
confessional. He thought that there he would find relief from the
burden. He vowed a hundred masses for his brother's soul; he
determined that he would dedicate a lamp to the virgin; and give a
candlestick to the altar of our Lady of Chartres; and half his sins
and errors vanished from his sight, when he remembered how easily the
past and the future might be atoned for.

Madame de Chazeul felt none of these things. She maintained a decent
gravity, indeed, but kept her eye fixed upon the countenance of her
brother, marking the varying emotions that passed over his
countenance, and calculating very accurately, the sources from which
they sprang in his mind. From time to time, she suffered her own
thoughts to revert to the conduct which she had to pursue; and her
insight into her brother's character, with the moving picture his face
displayed, aided her not a little in determining her course. Of the
rest of the things around her, she took little or no heed. It was but
a pageant in which she took a part; a procession in which she walked;
one of those ceremonies, in which, her state and station as a mortal
being, required her to share.

Too much, indeed, are we apt to go through all the strange and
instructive scenes of life, as if we were automata. Their lessons are
learned by rote, and not by heart; and oh! how much wiser, and how
much better, should we be, if out of everything that surrounds us, out
of each event affecting ourselves and others, lighted by the word of
God, we were to draw the high moral that is to be found in all his
doings! Who would dare to commit wrong, if he saw the hand of God
close to him in every event of existence?

All was, at length, concluded; the body deposited in its last home;
the priest returned to the altar; the labourer with his pickaxe, and
his trowel ready at the side of the vault, to close the coffin of the
good old Commander for ever from the light of day; and Monsieur de
Liancourt, offering his hand to his sister, led her out into the
court.

The spring sunshine was beaming brightly; a light bird, perched upon a
shrub that grew out of the wall, was caroling sweetly in the warm
air--the image of thoughtless life; and the Count felt relieved; for
it was all over, and his heavy thoughts were buried with his brother
in the tomb. Madame the Chazeul too felt relieved, though in another
manner, for she had dreaded the effect of what had just taken place
upon her brother's mind. It was done. The sad paraphernalia of the
funeral would soon be removed from the chapel; the decorations for the
marriage would take their place; and it seemed to her as if a step was
gained.

"Well, Jacqueline," said the Count, as they came forth: "what is it
you have to tell me?"

"It must be in private," replied the Marchioness, "for various
reasons, which you will soon see. Come to my apartments, where we
shan't be interrupted.--But first give orders about the marriage. We
cannot get any flowers but violets and snowdrops: but they must deck
the hall and the chapel out as well as they can. You are sure the
notary will be here?--tell them to have everything ready." She did
nothing without art, and even these ordinary words had their object.

The Count hesitated, but her ascendancy was complete; and, after a
short pause, he called some of his servants to him, gave several of
those orders, which his sister knew he would not be willing to recall,
for fear of betraying that weakness of resolution of which he was
internally conscious, and then accompanied the Marchioness to her
apartment.



CHAPTER XXXVIII.


It is very rarely, indeed, I believe, that human beings become, even
by long habit, so hardened in evil as to commit crimes deliberately,
without some shrinking reluctance, without some moments of hesitation
and dismay. The voice of conscience may be reduced to a whisper; but
still, if an interval of silence occurs in the tumult of the passions,
that whisper is heard. If unattended to for reformation of purpose, it
does, indeed, but serve to irritate the guilty mind to more culpable
excess; for conscience, by those who are resolute in wickedness, is
soon ranked amongst their enemies, as one of those to be overcome by
the more vehement opposition; and in its defiance they go beyond even
the point they at first desired, as a fierce and hard-mouthed horse
leaps much farther than is necessary to clear an opposing fence.

As Madame de Chazeul walked to her room with her brother, a momentary
glimpse, a vision as in a dream, a picture like the scene of a play,
presented itself to her all at once, of the complicated intrigue in
which she had involved herself, the difficulties which awaited her
whichever way she turned, the consequences of the deceits she had
practised, their ultimate exposure, and the contempt and suspicion
which might follow her after-life, from the discovery of all the
falsehoods she had told, and all the arts she had had recourse to.

For a single instant the question shot across her mind, like a flash
of lightning, "If men will so judge me, how will judge me, God?" But
that gleam of awful light she crushed out, in an instant, like a dying
spark in a mass of tinder; and to all the rest she had a ready, and to
her convincing, answer, "I shall have triumphed! That is enough!
Success is justification!"

Hers was the philosophy of a great modern usurper, applied to domestic
life; and the springs which moved her in many of her proceedings, were
not very different from his own.

The next consideration was the government of her brother; and step by
step, through the hall and up the stairs, the incredible rapidity of
thought brought her to new conclusions; not a footfall but had its
thousand questions and replies in her own breast, its examination of
plans and results, its calculations of character, its meditation of
weakness, and its application of the means to the end. Half a lifetime
was spent between the court and her own apartments--I mean thoughts
that would have filled half a lifetime better disposed; but when she
reached her own door, her mind was calm and clear; and she entered
with the full assurance of overruling all opposition, extinguishing
all suspicion, working out her own schemes, in despite of every
combination of circumstances against her, ay! and of taking revenge,
and closing the tomb over one of the chief sources of doubt and
anxiety for the future.

The large ante-room in which her maids slept was vacant, for they were
engaged with their mistress's dress in the chamber beyond; and with a
smiling countenance, as if all memory of the ceremony just past, had
left her on the staircase, she invited her brother with somewhat
formal courtesy to be seated, closed the door, and then began, without
waiting to be questioned.

"Well, Anthony," she said; "I thought _I_ knew every turn and wile of
a woman's heart.--I have a good right to know; for I do not think
there are many women who have dealt more in matters of policy, public
and private, than I have done;" she added these words in a tone of gay
candor, which she knew would not be without its effect. "But yet I
have found one to go beyond me: and, for a time, to overpower me--till
I discovered the truth. When I went from you to Rose d'Albret, I found
her in a high and haughty mood, ready to treat remonstrance with
contempt, and evidently wishing to be pressed, if not forced, so that
she might cast any blame in point of haste on us, and justify herself.
Her conduct and her tone provoked me,--foolishly I will allow, and I
did,--sillily enough--what I ought not to have done. I told her of the
discovery we have made, of Chazeul's visit to her chamber--which I
should have studiously avoided; but I was off my guard--"

"I do not see that," said Monsieur de Liancourt: "why should you have
avoided it? I should tell her the first thing, as the motive which
made me urge the marriage upon her."

"Ay! that is very well for you, brother," replied Madame de Chazeul,
"but you stood in a different position. You have a right, not only to
speak such truths, but to command the only conduct which can take away
the sting from them. I should have remembered that, for me to show I
knew the fact, would but irritate her to resistance and denial, and to
efforts for her exculpation, even to resistance, of the only remedy
for the evil situation in which she has placed herself; just as mad
people deny they are insane, and refuse the medicines which might
soothe their brains. In an instant, she had a story ready. She had not
slept in that room, she said; and gave me to understand that she had
passed the night in the adjoining chamber. Seeing the error I had
committed, I replied, that it might be so, but that the injury to her
reputation was the same, and that the only remedy for that was her
immediate marriage with my son."

"In which chamber did she say she slept?" demanded the Count.

But Madame de Chazeul did not wish to be brought to the point, and
replied, "I do not well know; there is one on the right, and one on
the left, you know. However, I told her that you took the same view
that I did; and that you had sworn, in the most solemn manner, she
should be Chazeul's wife before noon to-day."

"Did I swear?" asked Monsieur de Liancourt, in a low voice.

"As solemnly as ever man swore," replied the Marchioness; "you called
heaven to witness; you vowed a vow to God; and that seemed to move her
more than anything; indeed, it appeared that she was just going to
say, when she found you were so resolute, that she was prepared to
obey, when the door opened, and in walked,--who think you?"

"Nay, I cannot divine," said Monsieur de Liancourt; "not De Montigni?"

"No! no!" answered Madame de Chazeul; "it would take longer for a
ghost to travel post from Chartres; and he is dead beyond all doubt
No,--who but Helen de la Tremblade."

"Ah! poor little Helen! I shall be, glad to see her," cried the Count;
"she has not been here for three months or more; nay, it was in
October, well nigh six months, upon my life."

"And in those six months, what events have happened," exclaimed Madame
de Chazeul, "to blast all our regard for her, to show her the
veriest--but I will not give her the name she deserves. Suffice it, my
dear brother, that not long ere I came hither, I found, by letters I
discovered, that I had been nourishing a serpent in my house. I found
her base, unworthy--impure, ambitious, scheming.--Sickened and
indignant, I gave way, as I am too apt, to the fierce burst of
passion; for I can never conceal what I feel; and drove her out to
carry her schemes and vices elsewhere. But I speedily repented; and
sent out to seek her, intending to treat her kindly, and, if I could
not forgive her faults, to put her in the way of repentance and
atonement: but she had gone off at once; and has since come hither,
when, or how long ago, I know not. She has evidently been here in
secret, however, for some time, prompting Rose to all this resistance,
prejudicing her mind against Chazeul, whom the vain girl thought to
wed herself, and inspiring her with continual schemes for thwarting
our purposes. She had clearly heard all that had passed between me and
Mademoiselle d'Albret; and when she found Rose was beginning to yield,
as I showed her how resolute you are, forth she came to dare me,
thinking that she could frighten me by her influence over her uncle,
and her threats.--I believe she would have struck me had she dared;
but I taught her, I was not to be intimidated, laughed her menaces to
scorn, and gave her to understand that I would now expose all to you,
though I had hitherto carefully concealed her guilt and folly from all
ears--even from her uncle's. It was wonderful to see how the girl's
daring spirit was cowed before a little firmness, how she shrunk and
quailed. She would have fled, indeed, perhaps to brew new mischief;
but I resolved that should not be; and, like one of the men who tame
the Lions at the Louvre, I assumed a commanding tone, and ordered her
to retire into her uncle's chamber, fully resolved not to let her
forth till the marriage is over. It was then that she tried to run
past me; but I called loudly for my people, and finding it in vain to
resist, she obeyed, though sullenly and gloomily."

"To the priest's chamber!" said Monsieur de Liancourt. "Will not all
this rouse good father Walter? Why, there was noise enough to wake the
dead."

"Oh! no!" replied the Marchioness, who had foreseen that such a
question might be put, and was prepared with an answer. "It would have
roused him, certainly, if he had been in his own chamber; but he was
so faint and ill, with long watching, doubtless, fasting and prayer,
that the people who were with him took him first into the sacristy,
and then to a room on the ground floor, rather than carry him up
stairs. There he sleeps quietly, and, doubtless, will awake quite
refreshed and well. I only dread having to tell him this story of his
niece, for I do not think he knows it yet. She looks very ill, poor
wretch; and I should not wonder if her violent temper killed her; but,
if possible, I will still keep the matter secret from all but her
uncle."

"Do, do," replied the Count; "her violent temper! Why, she was the
most gentle and timid of creatures, Jacqueline."

"Ay, so she seemed," replied Madame de Chazeul; "but vice and ambition
have brought forth the natural character: and, if you had seen her
just now, you would not have said that she was gentle. I thought she
would have stabbed either me or herself; and yet, it made me laugh to
witness her impotent rage.--But, to return to Rose. She now knows her
fate fully: for, as soon as I told her you had sworn, it was easy to
see, that her knowledge of your firmness, showed her that your word
was quite irrevocable."

The Count looked gloomily down upon the ground; for he would fain have
shrunk from the task she put upon him; and yet, like all weak people,
endeavoured to assume the qualities that were imputed to him.

"Yes," he said; "having sworn it, I must do it; and it is certainly
necessary for her own reputation, after what you have told me, and
what the other people saw, that she should marry him at once. It must
be done--that is clear."

"Ay!" answered Madame de Chazeul; "whether she slept in her own
chamber or another. It is known, unfortunately, to so many people that
Chazeul, like a rash and foolish boy, passed a great part of the night
in her usual room that, for both their sakes, there must be no delay:
and, besides, your word must be kept, as it always is."

"Certainly," replied the Count, working himself up to the pitch
required; "and it shall be kept, by all I hold sacred."

The repetition of the oath was very pleasant to Madame de Chazeul, for
she knew that her brother would not now shrink from its execution; and
that, in order to guard against his own vacillation, he would assume
an air of violence and sternness, calculated to intimidate all
remonstrance, and overbear all opposition.

"Well, then, Anthony," she said, "as we have now but little time to
spare, I will go and make some change in my apparel; and, sending for
Rose's maid, Blanchette, give her orders for dressing her mistress in
something like bridal costume."

"Do you think I ought to go and formally inform her of my resolution?"
asked the Count.

"As you please," answered Madame de Chazeul; "and yet, perhaps, you
had better not. I have told her already; and, if she have no further
inducement to display a headstrong spirit, we shall find her less
obstinate at the time of the marriage. We shall have some affectation
of reluctance, beyond doubt: but it will be soon got over when she
finds you firm; and if you then go and bring her from her chamber, it
will be enough. You will thus have only one disagreeable scene instead
of two."

"The fewer the better," replied the Count. "But, where is
Chazeul?--has he returned yet?"

"No," answered the Marchioness, "I fancy he is afraid to meet you: but
I will send down to the village, and tell him to come up, if you will
promise not to be too angry."

"I must reproach him," said the Count, putting on a firm and dignified
air. "You must admit, Jacqueline, that he has been very much in the
wrong."

"Well, I know he has," answered the Marchioness. "But, however, his
fault will all be done away with by the marriage, and so there is no
use of saying too much about it."

"Ay, but I must say something," answered Monsieur de Liancourt.
"However, go and make your preparations, for it is now past ten; and,
immediately after the marriage, I will see Helen de la Tremblade
myself, and inquire into the whole case, that I may break the tidings
to poor father Walter.--'Tis very odd that she should become such as
you represent, for she was as sweet and gentle a girl as ever I saw."

Madame de Chazeul left him without reply and entered her bed-room,
while the Count retired by the other door. But, ere she reached the
dressing-table, she paused twice; and at length, after a few moments'
meditation, murmured to herself, "No, that must be prevented."



CHAPTER XXXIX.


When Madame de Chazeul entered the bed-room, she found the two maids
busily engaged in ornamenting a dress, which she had ordered them to
prepare against the marriage. It mingled, in a somewhat strange
manner, the colours of mourning and rejoicing; and the two girls were
tittering at some observations made by the page, who stood looking
over their work, and who had just said, "Why, if Madam put on that,
she will look like an old magpie." The boy's face was perfectly grave,
but the maids could not recover a demure look quite so easily; and
Madame de Chazeul, who was herself in deep and stern thoughts, gave
them a fierce glance, saying, "What are the fools laughing at? Go both
of you into the ante-room and let one tell the girl Blanchette to come
to me; and you, Philip, run down to the kitchen, and fetch me two
basins of soup. I am hungry," she added in a tone that she intended
him to remark; "and that poor girl must have some food too."

The boy hastened to obey, and the maid went to call Blanchette: but
the Countess remaining in her own chamber, opened a little bonbonnière
which she carried, and shook out a small quantity of a white powder
into a piece of paper, which she folded up carefully, but not indeed
completely, for one end was left open. This packet she concealed
between her first and second finger; and then, leaning her head upon
her hand, she meditated for a moment or two, turning her own dark
schemes in her mind, with some doubts and misgivings as to how she
should carry the next step she purposed to take, into execution.

"If I carry it to her myself," she thought, "she will doubt something,
and will not drink it. I'll send it by the maid Blanchette.--Yet,
perhaps, if she knows that it comes from me, the same suspicions may
arise: and I doubt that girl too. She has given me black looks and
saucy answers. No--I had better take it myself: or, stay--I will send
it by the page. He was always fond of her; and a light, thoughtless
boy like that, one can make say what one will. He will suspect
nothing, and the girl will not doubt him. Martin I dare not trust, for
the fool thinks his conscience sufficiently burdened already with the
imprisonment of the priest. He would not be so easily taken in either,
to believe that I had any very tender consideration for the hunger of
Helen de la Tremblade, any more than those two wenches in the
ante-room. All my people know too much--I must get some new ones; and,
if I can breed up this boy in perfect obedience, he may prove useful
hereafter."

As she was going on with these pleasant meditations, the girl
Blanchette presented herself and Madame de Chazeul, turning towards
her, asked in a calm and complaisant tone, "How long has Mademoiselle
de la Tremblade been here, Blanchette?"

"Really, Madam, I do not know," answered the maid; "I was not aware
that she was here at all, till I found her with you and Mademoiselle
d'Albret."

"Indeed!" exclaimed Madame de Chazeul with an air of surprise; "I
thought you had known all about it."

"Not I, Madam," said Blanchette; "but she can't have been there long,
or I could not have helped knowing. I think she must have come last
night, for I saw the door of the priest's room open just before
sunset, and I looked in. There was nobody there then: and I am sure
nobody slept in the room the night before; for he was in the chapel
all night himself, and the bed was untouched in the morning."

Before Madame de Chazeul could make any further observation, the page
entered the room, bearing the two basins of soup which he had been
commanded to bring; and his mistress ordered him to set them down on
the table before her, and retire. The boy did as she bade him, but
remained in the ante-room; and the Marchioness proceeded to talk
farther with Blanchette, changing the subject of her conversation,
however, to the approaching wedding, and the preparations for it,
which were necessary.

"You will not have much time, Blanchette," she said; "but still, you
must try to make your mistress's wedding dress look as gay as
possible."

"I will do the best I can, Madam," replied Blanchette; "but I doubt
very much whether she will put it on."

"Oh, nonsense," cried Madame de Chazeul. "She knows that Monsieur de
Liancourt has sworn that she shall marry the Marquis before noon
to-day; and she does not doubt that he will keep his word. She must,
therefore, have made up her mind to it by this time; and I dare say we
shall hear no more objections."

Blanchette shook her head, saying, "I think you will, Madam, as many
as ever."

"Well, then," exclaimed Madame de Chazeul, "force must be used; that's
all, for my brother will not break his oath for the whims of any girl
in Europe. Fetch me that mantle, Blanchette," she continued, "that one
which hangs by the wall there," and she pointed to a spot at the other
side of the room, where a cloak was hanging from a hook on the wall.
The direction was such that Blanchette, in going thither, must turn
her back to the table at which the Marchioness was seated. The girl
walked straight across to the spot, seemingly gazing at the crimson
silk mantle before her, but as she did so, she turned her eyes quietly
towards a small mirror that hung exactly opposite the fire-place. At
first it presented nothing to her view, but the wide open hearth, and
the curiously carved dogs, with some large pieces of wood burning upon
them. The next moment, however, her own figure crossing was reflected
from the glass, and then was seen, as the angle became greater, the
form of Madame de Chazeul, seated at the table with the two basins of
soup before her and with her right hand raised above one of them. She
was shaking in the powder which she held wrapt up in the paper between
her fingers; and Blanchette saw clearly the white substance fall into
the liquid. She took no notice, however; but in order to give the
Marchioness full time for what she was about, she affected to have
some difficulty in unfastening the garment she was sent to fetch from
the peg.

Madame de Chazeul turned round the next moment saying, "Untie the
string, untie the string! How clumsy you are!"

Following her directions, Blanchette easily got down the mantle and
returned with it to the lady's side, who began a long unnecessary
explanation as to how certain knots of riband were to be placed on
Mademoiselle d'Albret's dress, and Blanchette took out her scissors to
unfasten one of those from the cloak, in order that she might see
exactly how it was done,--affecting, to say the truth, a greater
degree of stupidity than was natural to her.

"There that will do," said Madame de Chazeul; "you must understand it
now. Oh, I forgot," she added aloud, "I must send something to
Mademoiselle de la Tremblade. She has had no breakfast, I suppose?
Here, Philip!"

The boy did not appear, and Blanchette still continued to fumble at
the bow upon the mantle, without offering to call the page.

There was a good deal of tremor in the Marchioness's manner: she was
agitated: her voice shook when she called; and at length rising, she
went to the door to give her orders to the boy. He was not there,
however; and the only person in the room was one of her women seated
near the farther window, whom she directed in quick and eager words to
call the page directly.

The whole of this proceeding occupied not a minute and a half; but the
moment that the Marchioness's back was turned, Blanchette with
dexterous rapidity, took the mantle between her teeth, and, employing
both hands, changed the relative positions of the two basins of soup,
but was busy at the knot again, with a dull face and a heavy unmeaning
eye, before Madame de Chazeul turned round. Not the slightest sound
had she made; and it was only a gentle undulation of the liquid in the
two cups which could have betrayed to any eye that they had been
moved. That, however, had nearly subsided before the Marchioness
returned to the table, and Blanchette soon received her dismissal,
with injunctions to make haste with what she had to do.

Scarcely was the girl gone when the boy Philip entered the room, and
Madame de Chazeul asked sharply, "Where have you been, Sir?"

"I went to get some breakfast, Madam," replied the boy, "for I was
very hungry, having ridden all night."

"There may be other people hungry as well as you are, young glutton,"
said the Marchioness; "however, here's a task for you, that I am sure
you will like. Do you know that Mademoiselle Helen is here?"

"No," cried the page with well-feigned astonishment; "is she, indeed?
Oh, I am so glad; and I am sure I hope you will forgive her, Madam,
for she is so good and so kind."

"Not yet," replied the Marchioness in a significant tone; "but I may
soon. In the mean time, I must not let her, for the world, know that I
take any interest in her; for she is locked into her room, and must
remain there till I think she is punished sufficiently. However, she
must not be without food, so carry her this basin of soup, as if you
had brought it for her yourself, without letting her know that I sent
it. She will take it kind of you; but you must not stop a minute with
her, and be sure to lock the door and bring me the key again directly.
If you were to let her get out, I would have you flayed alive."

"I will take care, that shall not be the case," replied the boy; and,
stretching out his hands, either from some suspicion or by accident,
he was about to lift the basin farthest from him, when Madame de
Chazeul thrust back his arm hastily, and laying her finger on the
other, exclaimed, "This, I told you, this. Don't you see I have taken
some of the other?"

The boy could not perceive that there was any difference in quantity
between the two; but the quick eagerness with which Madame de Chazeul
spoke, would have created doubts in his mind if there had been none
there before; and he determined at once, to warn Helen against
touching any food but that which he himself procured for her.

Madame de Chazeul then gave him the key; but she exacted a promise
from him, that he would lock the door with it, and bring it back
without suffering Helen to go out. "If she should try to master you,
and be too strong for you," said the Marchioness in a low voice, "use
your dagger."

"Oh! Madam," cried the boy with a look of horror.

"I mean, but to frighten her," replied Madame de Chazeul, "and at all
events call out loudly should such be the case. I will place some one
within hearing."

Carrying the soup in his hand, the page then left the room; and,
descending that flight of stairs, he passed through the passage below,
and ascended the others towards the priest's room. If Madame de
Chazeul had reflected upon all the circumstances, she would have
perceived that the boy was not altogether sincere with her; for he had
affected not to know that Helen was in the château; and yet, without
her ever telling him in what room the unhappy girl was confined, he
went away towards it directly. But the truth is, that, as usual, the
whole events of the morning had been talked over amongst the servants
in the hall; and he had heard the fact of Helen's appearance, and
where she was to be found.

The first sound of his step upon the stairs brought out Blanchette
from the neighbouring room. Her face was as pale as ashes, and her
limbs trembled, but she stopped the boy at the top of the stairs,
asking in a whisper, "Which of the two basins is that? The one on the
right or the other on the left?"

"The one on the right," replied the boy. "I am taking it to
Mademoiselle Helen. Do you know anything about it? You look very
white!"

Blanchette still held his arm, though she murmured, "That is right.
Well, however," she continued, as if speaking to herself, "it will be
better to be quite safe. Tell her not to take the soup, Philip; let
her throw it away; and you find means to give her food that you know
is--is--is wholesome."

"How?" demanded the boy. "How is that to be done?"

"Throw a ball of twine into the window from below," replied the girl.
"Then while they are all at the wedding, you can tie a basket to it,
and let her pull it up."

"Thank you, Blanchette," replied the boy with a nod, "I will do so.
But hark, I hear steps along the passage below; I must go on."

Blanchette instantly disappeared; and the boy, unlocking the door of
the priest's room, went in. He found Helen de la Tremblade gazing
eagerly towards him from the other side of the room, with a look of
terror in her eyes, like that of the wounded bird when approached by
the retriever. It was changed instantly to joy, however, when she saw
the boy, and she ran forward a few steps to meet him. But then the
poor girl stopped, and shook her head sadly, exclaiming, "Ah, Philip,
you should not have come. You do not know to what you expose yourself.
That woman will never forgive any one who shows a kindness to poor
Helen de la Tremblade."

"I know she will not, Ma'am'selle Helen," answered the page, setting
down the soup upon the table and kissing her hand; "but she sent me to
bring you that. But I have much to say to you, and am afraid to stay
more than a minute; and I have promised to lock the door too, and take
back the key."

"Oh, let me out, Philip! let me out!" exclaimed Helen clasping her
hands.

"I cannot! I cannot! even if I had not given my word," cried the boy.

"If I could but see my uncle for one minute," urged Helen, "it might
save many from destruction."

"Impossible now, dear lady," replied Philip, "there are her men at the
bottom of the stairs. Your uncle too is confined below--so I have
gathered from the talk of Martin and the rest; and I pledged my word
also, when she gave me the key; but I did not pledge my word not to
contrive to free you afterwards. So listen to me, and I will do it."

"Well, speak, speak," said Helen; "what have you to say? I know you
are a good kind boy, and wish me well."

"I would give my life to serve you," replied the page. "First, you
must not touch that soup. It is poisoned."

Helen shrunk back in horror, exclaiming, "Oh! wretched woman!"

"Next," continued Philip, "here is my dagger. It may be useful to you
in case of need; and besides," he added, significantly, "the locks are
all on the inside. The blade of the dagger would soon force them back.
But do not try it yet, for you will find people in every corner. In
half an hour the marriage contract is to be signed--"

"She will never sign it!" cried Helen vehemently. "She will never,
never sign it."

"They will use force," answered the boy; "but at all events they will
drag her to the hall, and to the chapel. If I can, I will come under
your window the moment they are all in the hall. Look out and speak to
me; but if I do not come within three minutes after you hear all quiet
in the next room, you can open the door easily with the dagger, and
get out. Your uncle is in the room on the left at the foot of the
great staircase--the little room with the low door. I am sure he is
there, for I have seen Martin and René go in there twice to-day. But,
if I can, I will fetch the key of his room, and--Hark! Was that some
one calling?"

"No, no!" cried Helen; "go on, go on Philip."

"And then when I come under the window," continued the boy, "I will
bring it with a basket of provisions, and throw you up a ball of
string, with which you can draw them all up, so keep the window wide
open that I may cast it in."

"Oh good, dear boy!" cried Helen.

"I met your friend, Monsieur Estoc," said the page, "this morning, as
I was coming back from Chazeul; and I promised him that I would do
whatever you or father Walter told me, if it cost me my life. So, you
think, dear lady, what I am to do, till you see me under the window,
and then tell me quickly, and I will do it, upon my honour."

As he spoke he retreated towards the door; and while opening it, he
said, pointing to the soup, "Mind you do not touch it! I was to tell
you that I brought it for you myself, out of kindness. They will
perhaps want me to do other such deeds; but I cannot, and I will not
for any one!"

The last few words were spoken vehemently, with the door open in his
hand; and when he had uttered them, he went out, closed, and locked
it. Then turning round to descend the stairs, he beheld Madame de
Chazeul standing a few steps down, with one of her men a little behind
her. The boy's heart sunk, fearing she might have heard too much; but
it had happened otherwise. All that had caught her ear was, "I cannot,
and will not for any one;" and as he approached she asked, "What was
it she wanted you to do, Philip?"

"To let her out," replied the boy readily.

Madame de Chazeul put her hand approvingly upon his shoulder, saying,
"You are a good lad--an excellent lad! That is the way I love to be
served; and if you behave so, you shall have more advancement than you
think of. There's a gold crown for you, Philip.--Did she take the
soup?"

"No," answered the page; "and I do not think she will till she is very
hungry; for she seemed afraid of something."

"Then she shall be hungry enough," muttered Madame de Chazeul. "But
come, Philip, give me the key."

The boy delivered it unwillingly, and his mistress proceeded, "Now
run, wash your face and hands, and put on your gay satin pourpoint as
quick as may be; for the marriage is to take place in ten minutes, and
I shall want all my people with me in the hall."

Philip thought to himself, "I will contrive to slip away, however,"
and proceeded to his own chamber, while Madame de Chazeul retired to
put the key by, and then sought her brother the Count, to speak with
him once more before the last trial of his resolution with Rose
d'Albret.

The Count was in a different frame of mind, however, from that in
which his sister expected to find him. He had employed the time during
her absence in working himself up to the necessary pitch of
determination, and had, as is not uncommon, gone even beyond the
point. He talked loud and high of the privileges and power of
guardians, and spoke angrily of those who ventured to oppose them.

"I have always understood, Jacqueline," he said, in a sharp tone, as
if the Marchioness herself had been one of those who sought to prevent
him from exercising his proper authority, "I have always understood,
that a guardian stands exactly in the position of a parent; and who
ever heard of a daughter daring to object to the man whom her father
has chosen for her?"

"Never that I have heard of," replied Madame de Chazeul; "nor of a
ward objecting either, when her guardian has provided for her a
suitable alliance."

"Never! never!" cried the Count vehemently. "I have suffered myself to
be set at nought by this girl too long, Jacqueline; and I will do it
no longer. Even if I had not sworn as I have. I would not suffer this
to go on another hour. The notary has arrived, and the contract is
drawn up correctly, except the names.--I will go to her at once.--I
have seen Chazeul, too, and spoken to him seriously on his conduct."

"What did he say?" demanded the Marchioness, with an eager look. "He
was penitent, I am sure."

"Yes," replied the Count. "I have nothing to find fault with in his
demeanour. He expressed his sorrow for what he had done, assured me
that he had never considered it in the light of an insult to me, and
that he had no bad intentions at all; but merely wished to speak to
Rose in private for a short time, to persuade her to yield calmly to
all our wishes this day, as he had every reason to believe, that her
inclinations were really not opposed to him, and he knew that, if she
did attempt to resist, it would give me pain."

"Persuasions are all in vain, my dear brother," said Madame de
Chazeul; "when a woman's vanity is engaged in a particular course, you
may argue till you expire without moving her. Firmness is the only
thing under such circumstances, and she will at her heart feel obliged
to you for forcing her to that, which she does not choose to admit
that she wishes. If I were you, I would neither attempt to use any
solicitations, nor listen to any replies, but assume at once the tone
of authority. Tell her that she must submit, and that you will not
suffer her to say one word, in regard to your right of disposing of
her hand as you think fit."

"Such is the course I intend to pursue," answered Monsieur de
Liancourt. "She has offended me enough by resisting my commands; and,
indeed, I do not propose to suffer anything further to be said upon
the subject. If she will not sign, I will put the pen in her hand, and
guide it by force over the paper. If she says 'no' at the altar, I
will say 'yes' for her. I will not be thwarted and conquered by the
obstinacy of my own ward, in my own château."

"Well then, go to her, Anthony," cried the Marchioness, who knew well
that, as long as this mood lasted, all was secure, and that any
opposition on the part of Rose would but drive him to violence, though
she had seen such fits in full force in the morning, and pass away
before nightfall. "I will wait for you in the hall," she added, "and
we will have as many of the people gathered together as possible, to
overawe her by the crowd."

"Few or many, it will be the same to me," replied the Count; "but yet,
the more the better; for I am quite firm and resolute, and am sure
that I have every right to do as I am doing. Therefore there cannot be
too many witnesses, and I care not who they may be. They shall see me
act the part that becomes me, without the slightest wavering or
hesitation, for there is nothing so contemptible as a man who
suffers himself to be influenced by a little resistance to his
authority.--Now, Jacqueline, let us proceed, for the sooner it is
done, the less painful will it be:" and thus saying he led the
Marchioness from the room.

She was now satisfied; for a few hours she could calculate upon her
brother's firmness; all those whom she feared were in her power; and
the moment of her triumph seemed at hand.



CHAPTER XL.


Parting with his sister at the bottom of the stairs which led up to
the apartments of Rose d'Albret and the priest, Monsieur de Liancourt
mounted in haste. It might be that, as he said, he was anxious to have
a painful scene over as speedily as possible; it might be that, like a
certain stage hero, of the name of Acres, he began to feel his courage
oozing out of the tips of his fingers. It were vain to deny that, ere
he came to the first landing, his heart beat quick and his breath
began to fail; but finding the man Martin sitting there in an idle
attitude, he found an excuse in that fact to pause for an instant,
asking his sister's servant, why he did not go and join the rest in
the hall, and ordering him to do so.

The man obeyed without reply; for, in the first place, he was tired of
his post; in the next place, he never knew how far any one was trusted
by the Marchioness, so that one indiscreet friend might do much
mischief by chattering to another; and, in the third place, he could
not well refuse or neglect to obey the orders of Monsieur de Liancourt
in his own house.

As soon as he was gone, the Count resumed the ascent, and, in a moment
or two, reached the door of the ante-room. He gave a gentle knock,
and, entering, found Blanchette sitting with a pale cheek, a clouded
countenance, and some piece of female apparel lying on her knee,
apparently scarcely touched.

"Well, Blanchette," he said, as he went into the room, "is your
mistress ready to accompany me?"

"I am sure, Sir," replied the maid, "I do not know. I got all her
things ready, and told her what Madame de Chazeul said; but she
answered me, as bold as a lion, that she would put on no other things
than her ordinary clothes, as the idea of forcing her to a ceremony
with a man she hates, was quite vain and foolish."

"She shall learn that it is not so," answered the Count, in a sharp
and angry tone; "whether dressed as becomes a bride, or like a
wandering vagrant as she returned hither, she shall be wedded this
day, if my name by De Liancourt. Go, tell her I am waiting for her."

The maid went into the inner chamber; and the Count could hear the
murmur of voices speaking for some moments; but yet Rose d'Albret did
not appear.

"She mocks me," he said, at length; "she will not even come forth to
speak with me. Then I must seek her," and, advancing to the door of
her chamber, he entered without ceremony.

Rose was seated at the very farthest part of the room, with her hands
clasped over her eyes, and the bitter tears rolling down her cheeks.
The moment she heard his step, however, she dried them hastily, rose
from her seat, and, advancing a step or two towards him, cast herself
at his feet, clasping his knees.

He felt his resolution begin to waver; but, making an effort, he
exclaimed, "How now! how now! No more of this! You know my
determination. I announced it to you the day before yesterday, I have
solemnly sworn to keep it; and I insist upon obedience."

"Hear me, hear me, Sir!" cried Rose; "if you have no pity, if you have
no regard for me, hear me for my father's sake, hear me for the memory
of your dead friend, and have some compassion on his child."

"It is no use hearing," answered the Count; "the matter is determined.
It is to be done. Rise, and follow me! I command, I insist."

"Not till you have heard me," answered Rose; "that, at least, I may
require. Would you, Monsieur de Liancourt, not only break your
contract with my father, by which my hand was promised to Louis de
Montigni--"

"Pshaw! that contract, if it referred to him at all, is at an end by
his death," cried Monsieur de Liancourt; "talk not to me of that any
more."

"But he lives, he lives!" exclaimed Rose, vehemently. "You have been
deceived, indeed you have, by the tale they invented to deceive me;
and I have more wrongs, more deceits to tell you of, from which I know
your noble mind will shrink with horror--schemes which none but the
basest of men could conceive or execute."

"It is all in vain, Rose, it is all in vain," answered the Count.
"Nothing you can say will make the least difference. I know all that
has taken place; Chazeul's folly, which has compromised your
character, and all the rest. But he is sorry for it, is willing to do
all that is right to justify your fame, by wedding you this moment,
and--"

"Is willing, you mean to say, Sir," cried Rose, "to profit by his
villany, to gain the very object he had in view, by the very means he
employed. Why did he come here, but to injure my reputation, with the
hope of forcing me to marry him, and inducing you to drive me to such
a course? But I heard it all beforehand and escaped the snare. Helen
de la Tremblade was sent by good father Walter to tell me of the base
treachery, to warn me of my danger, and show me the means of escaping
from it."

"She came here because she wants to marry him herself," replied the
Count. "Once more I say, Mademoiselle d'Albret, I command you, as your
guardian, to rise and follow me, without farther words, to give your
hand to Monsieur de Chazeul, for whom I have long destined you, and to
forget Louis de Montigni, who misled you to quit this house, and has
since paid for some other imprudence with his life."

"He is living! Indeed, indeed, he is living!" cried Rose "Give me but
an hour and a patient hearing, and I will show you, Sir, that he is
living, and that it is you who have been deceived, not I."

"Thank God! I am not so easily deceived Mademoiselle d'Albret,"
replied the Count. "I cannot grant your request. The contract lies
ready for signature; every one is waiting for you in the hall; they
cannot be disappointed; my word shall not be broken, and I insist that
this vain, this stupid, resistance cease instantly."

"The contract may lie there, Sir, for ever," replied Rose, rising and
seating herself again. "I will never sign it, so help me God! You
refuse to hear reason and truth; you listen to falsehood and wrong;
you may kill me, place me in a convent, do aught with me you like; but
make me the wife of Nicholas de Chazeul, of so base, so bad, so
contemptible a being, you never shall, while I have breath."

"Now listen to me, Rose d'Albret," replied the Count, advancing
angrily towards her. "I am your guardian; am I  not? You are my ward;
is it not so? By the power given me by the law, I have promised your
hand to Nicholas de Chazeul--"

"In violation of the contract from which your only power is derived,"
replied Rose. "That contract, in which you are named my guardian,
promises my hand to De Montigni."

"The girl will drive me mad!" exclaimed Monsieur de Liancourt. "Once
more I tell you he is dead; and if you refuse yourself to sign the
marriage contract, I will sign it for you. Rise, and come with me
without another word, or you will compel me to force you."

"Never!" answered Rose. "Louis de Montigni is not dead. I have offered
to prove it to you; but you will not even hear in what the proof
consists, although you know that, until he has resigned his claim to
the succession of De Liancourt, not even a doubt can exist that he is
the person specified in the contract."

The Count seemed not shaken--no not in the least--but embarrassed; for
his own doubts of De Montigni's death were strong upon the side of
Rose d'Albret; and the certainty that, if his nephew still lived, he
was committing a gross violation of the contract with her father, left
him but little to say in his own defence. He was not shaken, for he
had before made up his mind to overleap his own doubts upon that
score, to take advantage of the bare report which had reached him, in
order to justify the course to which he had been led by others, and
resolutely to believe that report true, in despite of all that could
be said to prove it false. The combat of weak people is with
themselves, more than with any external things. They wish to convince
themselves they are acting right, while they know they are acting
wrong; and their labours for that object are not light. But Monsieur
de Liancourt had no reply ready, no reason to assign for not listening
to the proofs Rose offered, and he paused, for a full minute, in
painful hesitation as to what he should say.

"This is all an artifice to gain time," he answered at length "and I
will not yield to it. It is ascertained, beyond all doubt, that Louis
de Montigni is no more, and has justly paid for insulting a prince
like the Duke of Nemours."

"Oh! Sir," cried Rose, in a tone of mingled indignation and grief,
"how can you suffer your own nature to be thus changed by the base
counsels of others, so to speak of your sister's son? He is not dead!
he will yet live to shame those who calumniate him. Were he indeed
laid in the tomb, I still say, nothing should ever lead me to marry
Nicholas de Chazeul; but, as long as Louis de Montigni lives, I shall
regard him as my husband. Show me that he is indeed, gone; and I am
willing to resign everything that this man really covets--my wealth,
my lands--and to retire to a life of seclusion and prayer; but I am
not willing, and never shall I be willing, to wed one whom I so much
despise and abhor."

"You will have no choice," replied the Count. "You shall be his wife
this day ere noon. These are all evasions and affectations.--I know
right well which way your mind inclines. You would save your credit,
Rose, appear reluctant, and only yield to force; but force shall not
be wanting, and perhaps more than you expect or like.--Yes, you may
weep!--We are prepared for such things; but you had better dry your
eyes; and, as you must appear before a large assembly of witnesses,
look your best."

"Sir, you are ungenerous and unkind," replied Rose d'Albret; "but I
know whence your impulses are derived; and shame upon them who fill a
noble mind with such base suspicions. Use what force you like; the
power has not yet appeared on earth that shall make my hand or my
tongue so belie my heart, as to promise aught like love, attachment,
or obedience, towards Nicholas de Chazeul."

"Oh, is it so?" exclaimed the Count. "This is carrying the matter too
far, Mademoiselle d'Albret. Will you, or will you not accompany me, in
obedience to my commands, quietly and decently?"

Rose was silent; her mind agitated with many conflicting thoughts. She
feared to yield the least point, lest it should be accepted as a
promise of farther compliance; and yet she naturally shrunk, with all
a woman's timidity, from driving those who oppressed her to have
recourse to violence.--She dreaded the moment when it was to begin;
she would fain have procrastinated: every minute seemed something
gained ere the actual struggle commenced.

She was silent; but, after waiting a few moments, the Count seized her
by the wrist, exclaiming, "Come, I insist.--Not one moment more!"

"Well, Sir, well," cried Rose d'Albret, trying to withdraw her hand,
"I will go with you to the hall: but remember, it is but to refuse
most resolutely to do that which would be equally against my duty and
my heart."

"Duty!" cried the Count with a scoff, unloosing her arm. "Talk not of
duty, after all that you have done! As to the course you intend to
pursue, be it what it may, mine is determined. We shall see what is
your conduct, and I will answer for it, I will match it.--Go on,
Mademoiselle. You know your way to the hall, I think."

With a slow step and trembling limbs, Rose d'Albret proceeded through
the ante-room, and down the stairs. She felt at every moment as if she
should faint, but yet, remembering that if such a weakness overcame
her, they might take advantage of her insensibility, to proceed
rapidly in whatever course they thought fit, she nerved her heart to
the best of her power, and paused for a moment before entering the
hall, to make one more appeal to the Count de Liancourt.

But he would not hear her speak, and throwing open the door violently,
he waved her to go in.

All seemed confusion, and dim indistinctness to her sight. There was a
crowd of faces, some of which appeared strange, and some familiar; but
they were almost all those of men. There was wine, and meat, and
laughter, and flowers, and everything the most dissonant to all the
feelings of her heart; while, through the whole mass of misty images
was seen, in terrible prominence, like some colossal statue in an
eastern temple, the tall rigid form, and stern sarcastic features of
Madame de Chazeul.

She was leaning upon a table just opposite the door; her complexion,
where not besmeared with rouge, was unusually pale; there was an
expression of weariness, and even of pain in her face. But when Rose
appeared, that harsh countenance lighted up with a look of scornful
triumph; and the poor girl's eyes grew dim, her head turned giddy with
the thought of all she was to encounter in that hall.



CHAPTER XLI.


Helen De La Tremblade sat alone in the priest's room; and sad and
terrible were the thoughts that crossed her mind. It may seem that to
have found one even out of many, though but a mere boy, sincerely
attached, and willing to risk all and sacrifice all, for her happiness
and deliverance, might well have brought, cheering consolation to her
heart. _He_ could have no concealed motive. _He_ had no dark treachery
to practise. There, in his young enthusiasm, he had stood before her,
a friend indeed. But what was the errand on which he had been
sent?--the errand which he had refused to fulfil?--To bear her
poison!--to consign her to the grave at the mandate of one who had
promised with specious and sweet-spoken words, to guard, protect,
cherish, watch over her.--To consign her to the dark and silent grave!
Such had been the command of the Marchioness de Chazeul, after having
neglected, abandoned, ill-treated her.

There were glimpses of some of the darkest realities of earth breaking
on the mind of one who had lived her youth as in a dream; and oh, how
cold, and more cold, grew her heart, as proof after proof was given of
what human beings can become, when Godless, and heartless, they give
themselves up to the mastery of strong passion. It was more than even
the kindness of the poor boy could compensate, though she had found
some relief in every word he spoke.

She sat and gazed upon the poisoned drink, with thoughts, almost
approaching to madness, flashing through her brain. She asked herself,
"Shall I drink it?--Then pain, and anguish, and remorse, and shame,
will be all over. I shall be delivered from all this weight, this
intolerable burden. I shall be free.-They cannot say I did it.--It is
no fault of mine. They sent it to me. They are murderers, not I.--Oh,
how I long to be at rest!--But Rose, dear, good Rose,--I must not
leave her to struggle on unaided. And yet it were a pleasant thing to
die; but for the terrible world beyond the grave.--Oh no, I must not,
dare not, die, with all my sins upon my head. I must have time for
penitence and prayer.--The boy said he would soon be here. I will
see," and opening the window, she looked down to the bottom of the
deep corridor, or passage, between the château and the walls.

There was nobody there, however. All was solitary; and even on the
ramparts, the scanty watch had dwindled away to nothing; every one who
dared, hurrying away to witness the gay wedding of Mademoiselle
d'Albret, and all making their own comments upon the decency and
propriety which their noble lord and master displayed in burying his
brother, and marrying his nephew on the selfsame morning.

The eye of Helen de la Tremblade ran along the wall towards the
chapel, in which she had found her uncle, on her first arrival, not
many hours before; and she examined every prominent point,
attentively. First came a large mass of masonry containing some of the
best rooms in the château, projecting from the rest of the building;
then appeared a round tower with a turret fastened to its side; and
then the roof of the chapel, built against the walls, was seen with
part of one window, peeping out from behind the tower. But all the way
down, neither on the walls, nor between them and the château, could
Helen descry any one.

As her eye strayed casually, however, to some low trees and bushes,
which ran down the slope in the neighbourhood of the chapel, she
thought she saw something move amongst the grey branches, but could
not distinguish what; and, as she was gazing more eagerly to trace the
object as it proceeded, she heard high tones speaking in the adjacent
room; and turned to listen. She recognized the voices of Monsieur de
Liancourt and Rose d'Albret; but she could not catch the words that
were uttered, though some of them were spoken loud and in apparent
anger.

"He has come to take her," said Helen to herself, "and she will not
go.--Oh, that I could aid her!"

Her first impulse was to approach nearer the door, in order to push
back the lock with the dagger which the boy had left with her; but
then she reflected, that singly, she could do nothing to prevent the
Count from dragging poor Rose to the altar.

"No!" she said, re-seating herself near the window, and a look of dark
and gloomy determination coming over her face. "No! I will let them
take her away--and then I will confront them all.--Ay, in the hall,
amidst menials and soldiers and friends; and they shall hear
truth.--Hark, how loud he speaks! He is threatening her.--Poor Rose!
'Tis all silent now--she must be gone!--Hark, the door bangs to!--They
have dragged her away. Now, boy, now; for I must follow soon."

She ran hastily to the window again, and gazed out. The page was not
yet there; and Helen hesitated whether to wait or hurry away to the
hall.

At that moment, the sound of a hunting horn reached her ear, and she
looked up from the passage between the walls, on which her eyes had
been bent, to the undulating country straight before her, beyond the
defences of the château. There was a large party of horsemen issuing
from the nearest wood, distant about half a mile; and Helen, with her
quick fancy cried, "It may be De Montigni!"

But just then, from the bushes beyond the chapel, a man on foot darted
forth, and ran round, as if he perceived her at the window. She
instantly recognized Estoc, and stretched her head farther forward, in
order that he might certainly see her. The old soldier paused
immediately opposite, and came as near to the wall as he could,
without losing sight of her; and then he raised his voice, and pointed
with his hand to the party of horsemen--still advancing.

But the distance rendered most of his words indistinct, and
Helen caught only the few last, "--The postern a little to your
right--before they can arrive; for they have barred us out by the
chapel," was all that she could distinguish.

"Then these are enemies coming," she thought; "and all depends upon
Estoc getting in first."

She tried to make him hear in vain; her weaker voice was lost in air;
but just as she was about to withdraw, force back the lock, run down
and open the postern, she saw the figure of the page coming round the
square tower. He had a heavy basket on his arm, and was proceeding,
with his eyes cast down, to wind up, with boyish habits, a quantity of
string upon a piece of wood; but Helen called aloud, "Philip! Philip!"

The boy looked up. "Run round, without a moment's delay," cried Helen,
"and open the first postern to the west; show yourself beyond, and you
will find Estoc.--Run, Philip, run, if you would save us all."

The boy threw down the basket, and sped forward as rapidly as
possible. Helen saw the postern unlocked and pushed open; and then
withdrawing from the window, she murmured, "Now then, to stop them
till help arrives! I will at least do that, if it cost my life or that
of others.--He said my uncle was in the room at the bottom of the
great staircase. Perhaps I can set him free too;" and, hastening to
the door which led out at once at the top of the stairs, she easily
forced back the lock with the well-tempered blade of the boy's
poniard, and threw it open. She started, however, on seeing the maid,
Blanchette, straight before her; but resolved to pass at all risks,
she grasped the dagger firmly in her hand, and gazed upon the girl's
countenance for an instant.

It was as pale as death; but Blanchette, seeing her thus pause and
look at her, exclaimed, "Pass on, Mademoiselle Helen--pass on to the
hall. You may see things there that you do not expect.--I wont stop
you.

"Woe to those who try!" vehemently cried Helen; and darting on without
another word, she descended that flight of stairs, and passed through
the corridor below. An old man met her as she went, but started back
as if she had been a spectre; and Helen hurried forward, reached the
foot of the great staircase, rushed towards the chamber, which the boy
had mentioned as her uncle's place of confinement.

The door was locked, and the key had been taken out; the lock too was
in the inside. Helen shook the door wildly, and exclaimed, "Are you
there? are you there?"

"I am," replied the voice of her uncle from within. "Is that you,
Helen?"

"Yes," cried the girl, "How can I let you out quickly?"

"Run up the passage," cried the priest, "and take the key out of the
last door on the right hand. It fits this lock."

Helen flew rather than ran, returned with the key, unlocked the door,
and threw it open.

"Quick, quick!" she cried. "There is not a minute to spare. They are
now forcing her to the marriage; but I will confront them all. I will
stop them or die!" and with her whole frame thrilling with excitement,
her eyes flashing with unnatural light, and the wildness almost of
insanity in her look, she darted away, up the great staircase, through
the corridor at the top, and reached the door of the hall. Before it,
stood the man Martin, who as soon as he beheld, her, exclaimed "Ah,
Mademoiselle Helen! you cannot pass here."

"Stand back, or I will stab you to the heart!" exclaimed Helen,
raising the dagger; and as he retreated a step to avoid the blow that
seemed ready to descend, she darted forward, and, before he could stop
her, was in the midst of the hall.



CHAPTER XLII.


All had been prepared in the great hall of the Château de Marzay for
the marriage of Rose d'Albret with Nicholas de Chazeul, as far as the
time and circumstances would admit. A few of such flowers, as the
early season of the year afforded, had been gathered to strew the
floor, or to form into nosegays. Various old banners and decorations
had been brought forth, to give an appearance of splendor and gaiety
to the scene; and if friends and relations had not been summoned to
honour the occasion, their places were filled up by the servants and
attendants of the family, dressed in their best attire. All Madame de
Chazeul's maids were there, all the women servants of the château,
with the sole exception of Blanchette, who, as the reader knows, had
remained in her mistress's apartments.

But the principal group in the room, was stationed near the table, in
the midst, on which lay the contract of marriage, neatly tied with
white riband, and surrounded by a chaplet of violets and snow-drops.
That group consisted of the young Marquis de Chazeul, dressed in all
the most extravagant finery of that extravagant day, of the
Marchioness his mother, and the notary public of the Holy Roman
Empire, who, called upon continually to deal with great people, was
conversing familiarly with his two companions, and giving them his
advice how to proceed in certain cases, which they had suggested for
his consideration.

When first Madame de Chazeul had entered the room, she was followed by
her page; but in the conversation which succeeded, between herself,
the notary, and her son, she did not remark that the boy slipped away
quietly and quitted the hall, without attracting the attention of any
one.

The reader will have the kindness to remember that, as I described
this hall at first, it might be entered by three different doors; the
one communicating with the great staircase, by means of a short
corridor with deep windows at the south end; another leading, by a
separate passage, to the apartments of the Count de Liancourt, and to
those which Rose d'Albret had formerly occupied; and the third on the
western side, giving exit to the walls, by the little flying bridge,
which we have more than once already mentioned.

As it was the door on the north by which Rose d'Albret and the Count
were expected to enter, the eyes of the whole party were turned, from
time to time, in that direction; but yet, for more than a quarter of
an hour after the Marchioness de Chazeul had entered, no one else
appeared; and she herself seemed to be, as probably she really was,
somewhat anxious and impatient of the long delay which took place.
Every one remarked that her face looked pale, notwithstanding her
rouge, and that a sort of sharp and irritable twitching about the
muscles of the mouth and nostril displayed itself in a manner which
none of them had ever seen before.

At the end of that quarter of an hour, she advanced to the table at
the further side of the hall, where various refreshments had been set
out, and drank a quantity of water and some wine. Then she sat down;
and then she rose again; and then advancing to her son, she whispered,
"How long they are! I fear your uncle has been fool enough to let her
argue with him, instead of stopping her at once."

"But just as she spoke, the door was thrown sharply open, and the
Count de Liancourt himself appeared, accompanied by poor Rose
d'Albret. She was as pale as death; and before she entered she paused,
and put her hand twice to her head, as if her brain grew giddy; but
Monsieur de Liancourt took her by the arm, not quite as gently as
might be, and led her into the hall. All parties made way, and formed
a circle round the table, on which the contract lay, leaving
sufficient space for the principal parties to advance and sign the
document.

"I am faint," said Rose, as the Count hurried on; "give me some
water."

"Give her some water, give her some water," cried the Count.
"Mademoiselle d'Albret is somewhat faint."

Chazeul instantly sprang to the other table, and fetched a cup of
water; but when he brought it, Rose put it aside, with a look of
disgust, replying, "Not from your hand!" and, seeming to recover
strength and courage from the effort, she took a step forward as if
towards the table.

The notary immediately advanced with the pen in his hand, saying, "The
contract has been read, Mademoiselle, by your guardian, Monsieur de
Liancourt, on your part, and by Monsieur de Chazeul on his own. It is,
therefore, doubtless, unnecessary to read it over to yourself, as they
are quite satisfied."

"Oh! quite unnecessary," cried the Count. "Point out where she is to
sign."

"Stay a moment," cried Rose d'Albret; "I told you, Sir, before I came
hither, that I did not intend to sign this paper--that nothing shall
ever induce me to sign it: and my only object in appearing here now,
is to protest before all these witnesses, that I will never be the
wife of Nicholas de Chazeul."

Looks of surprise passed round the greater part of the crowd; and many
of them whispered to their neighbour, inquiring what would be done
next, while Madame de Chazeul stepped forward with a flashing eye, and
a quivering lip to say something in a low tone to her brother, and
Nicholas de Chazeul, stretching out his tall form to its full height,
tossed back his head with a look of scornful indignation.

"What says Monsieur de Liancourt?" said the notary, who had received
his instructions from the Marchioness. "Does he admit of this protest?
for the lady, I conceive, must act by her guardian."

"No, I do not admit it," cried the Count. "I insist that the marriage
go forward. Is it competent for me to sign on her behalf?"

The notary hesitated. "No," he said, at length; "I think we must have
her signature."

"That you shall never have," replied Rose. "I would rather cut off my
hand."

"I would pass over ceremonies, Sir, if I were you," said the notary,
speaking to the Count in a whisper. "The lady's hand can be guided
over the paper."

"It shall be done," replied the Count; and Madame de Chazeul beckoned
up one of her men, saying in an under voice to her brother, "do it
suddenly, and it will be over before she is aware."

"In the first place," rejoined the notary, in the same tone, "to make
it all formally right, we had better inquire whether there be any one
who wishes to take act of opposition to the marriage.--You are sure of
all in the hall, I suppose?"

The Marchioness nodded her head; and the notary proceeded to demand,
in a louder voice, if there was any one who had any lawful cause of
opposition to the marriage, between Nicholas, Marquis de Chazeul, and
Rose Demoiselle d'Albret.

There was a sudden noise at the other side of the hall, even while he
was speaking, and the moment after he had ceased, a voice, sweet and
melancholy though clear and firm, exclaimed, "I have;" and, as the
crowd broke away, and turned towards the spot whence the sounds
issued, Helen de la Tremblade advanced, and stood directly opposite
the Marquis de Chazeul and his mother.

Chazeul turned first as red as fire, and then as pale as ashes; and
the Marchioness stood by his side, not with the rage and vehemence
which might have been supposed, not with the ready command of
resources and the power, as well as the will, to bear down opposition,
but with her teeth chattering, her face pale, her lips white, and her
limbs trembling.

"I feel ill," she said, "I feel ill.--I must have taken the wrong
cup.--Chazeul, I feel ill."

But none attended to her; for the notary had turned to Helen de la
Tremblade, and was inquiring in a formal but scornful tone, what were
the grounds of her opposition, when another voice was heard,
exclaiming "These!" and father Walter strode forward and took her by
the hand, holding forth an open letter, "These are the grounds of her
opposition," he said, "inasmuch as she is contracted with Monsieur de
Chazeul, _par paroles de future_."

The notary turned and looked to Monsieur de Liancourt, who exclaimed,
in a furious tone, "They are all in a conspiracy to stop the marriage.
I will have it go forward as I have sworn."

"You can pass over this objection, Sir," said the notary. "If it be at
all valid, it may be pleaded hereafter in nullification."

"Well, then, pass it over," cried the Count. "Will you sign,
Mademoiselle d'Albret?"

"Never!" answered Rose, firmly. "Never! so help me God!"

"Then thus I will make you," muttered Monsieur de Liancourt; and,
seizing her suddenly by the wrist, he dragged her forward to the
table; and while the man, René, stood behind to prevent her escape, he
placed the pen partly in her hand, partly held it in his own, and was
actually running it over the paper, before Rose was well aware of what
he was doing.

"I protest, in the name of God, and the Holy Catholic Church, against
this violent and outrageous act!" exclaimed Walter de la Tremblade,
lifting up his hands to Heaven.

"Hold!" cried a voice of thunder at the same moment; and, striding
forward through the crowd, a stout short man, with a grey beard and
hair, dressed in a plain suit of russet brown, advanced to the table,
and struck the pen out of Monsieur de Liancourt's hand, exclaiming,
"Hold! Hear a word or two first!--Parbleu! you make quick work of it!"

The Count laid his hand upon his sword, demanding fiercely, "Who are
you, insolent villain?"

"Why, this is that man, Chasseron," cried Chazeul. "What have you to
do with this affair, Sir?"

"Why, Ventre Saint Gris! I oppose the marriage," cried Chasseron, "as
the lady's cousin."

"Her cousin!" exclaimed Chazeul, bursting into a scornful laugh. "Who
ever heard of you before?"

"That will not avail, unless you can prove your relationship,"
exclaimed Monsieur de Liancourt, looking to the notary.

But that worthy officer was gazing down upon the ground somewhat pale
in the face; and Chasseron, in his bluff way, replied, "Will that not
do?--Pardi, then, this will!" and, drawing his sword, he laid it naked
upon the table. Then, taking up the contract of marriage, he tore it
to atoms.

Chazeul sprang towards him with fury in his countenance. But the
notary darted in between, holding up both his hands, and exclaiming,
"The King! the King!"

"The King!" cried Chazeul staggering back.

"The King!" exclaimed Monsieur de Liancourt, gazing upon him.

"The King! the King!" cried many voices in the hall; and at least one
half added, "Vive Henri Quatre!"

"Even so, my good friends," said Henry. "Monsieur de Liancourt, you
will excuse me for taking such liberties in your château. I have been
obliged to make it my halting-place this morning, with about a couple
of hundred of my friends, who have just been hunting with me in these
woods. But we shall all depart before night, and leave you in full
possession of your own again, as I came with no hostile intention, but
merely to do a little act of justice. And now, my fair cousin," he
continued, turning to Rose d'Albret, "you must prepare for a journey
to-night, for we intend to take you with us."

"My lord the King," said the Count de Liancourt, assuming a tone of
dignity for a last effort. "I have to beg that, whatever you do, you
would abstain from meddling with the arrangements of my family."

"Parbleu!" exclaimed Henry, "what would the man have? Without,
there!--Send in the captain of the guard and a file of soldiers.
Either as a friend or an enemy, Monsieur de Liancourt--either as a
good and obedient subject, or a rebel against his King!--You shall act
which character you please, and I will behave accordingly. In the mean
time, Sir, this lady is no longer your ward; for, let me tell you,
that you have attempted to violate the contract with her father, by
means--of which the less we say the better. It shall be my task to
carry that contract into execution. Ha! the guard!--Attach Monsieur de
Chazeul for high treason--But! what have we got here?" he continued,
looking to a spot a little behind the Count, where the servants of
Madame de Chazeul had placed her in a chair and gathered round her. "A
dead woman, I think!--By my life! my old acquaintance, Jacqueline de
Chazeul!"

"Good God, my mother!" exclaimed Chazeul darting towards her: but the
hand that he took was cold and inanimate; and, "the poisoned chalice"
she had prepared for others, had worked too certainly upon herself.

At first, it was supposed, she did but faint: but the truth was soon
ascertained; and when Chazeul rose from his knee, and turned round to
the rest of the party, he beheld what was to him a more painful sight
than even that on which he had been just gazing. It was Rose d'Albret
in the arms of Louis de Montigni: while Monsieur de Liancourt, with
all his assumed firmness gone, was apparently making amends to the
King by courtesy and explanation, for the tone which he had at first
assumed towards him.

But, in another part of the hall stood Helen de la Tremblade, with her
hand in that of her uncle, while her eyes were buried on the old man's
shoulder; and around,--at each door of the hall, and filling up the
whole of one side,--were seen the scarred and weather-beaten faces of
the veteran royalist soldiery, with their white scarfs over their
shoulders, and their naked swords in their hand.

Chazeul turned again to the form of his dead mother, and then once
more bent his eyes on Helen de la Tremblade. "It is the hand of God!"
he murmured. "It is the hand of God!" and then, as the captain of the
guard advanced to arrest him, he said, "Wait one moment," and strode
across the room towards the priest and his niece.

"Helen," he said in a low tone, "Helen, I have done you wrong.--I am
ready to make atonement.--Will you be my wife?"

"No!" cried Helen, turning round towards him, "No!--My fate is fixed.
The cloister is the only shelter for one whose heart has been trampled
on like mine."

"Nay, nay!" cried Henri Quatre stepping forward. "Remember, my fair
friend, penitence should be always accepted. Were it not so, how
should I ever find grace, as I yet hope to do?--Nay, suffer me to be
the mediator. Here, Monsieur de Chazeul," he continued, taking Helen's
hand, and placing it in that of the Marquis. "Take her: and if she
have loved you too well heretofore, it is a thousand chances to
one that you soon teach her to mend that fault, when you are her
husband.--However, you shall have fair room to try; for we must not
cage so promising a bridegroom. Captain, we shall not want your good
offices for the present."

The augury of the King was unhappily but too correct; and two years
had barely elapsed, when Helen, Marchioness of Chazeul, retired for
ever from the busy world, with the consent of her husband, to the
convent of a sisterhood of cloistered nuns.



FOOTNOTES

[Footnote 1: This phenomenon was seen distinctly by many persons in
both armies, immediately before the battle of Ivry, and was visible
over an extent of more than twenty leagues.]

[Footnote 2: The duel of one to one, without seconds or witnesses, was
not uncommon at this time in France, especially when men were of high
rank, and wished to void a serious quarrel without danger of
interruption. They often also took place on horseback with the pistol,
but Monsieur de Monteil is wrong in stating under the reign of Henry
IV., that it was a new custom to introduce seconds into duels. During
the reign of Charles IX. and Henry III., the practice of fighting with
a number of seconds who all took part in the affray, was general; and
in the famous challenge of Henry IV. himself, when King of Navarre, to
the Duke of Guise, he offered to figght him one to one, two to two, or
ten to ten.]



THE END.



PRINTING OFFICE OF THE PUBLISHER.





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