Chicot the Jester by Alexandre Dumas, Pere - HTML preview
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Chapter 24HOW REMY-LE-HAUDOUIN HAD, IN BUSSY'S ABSENCE, ESTABLISHED A COMMUNICATION WITH THE RUE ST. ANTOINE.
M. and Madame de St. Luc could hardly recover from their surprise. Bussy, holding secret interviews with M. de Méridor, and then setting off with him for Paris, appearing to take the lead in a matter which at first seemed strange and unknown to him, was to the young people an inexplicable phenomenon. In the morning the baron took leave of his guests, begging them to remain in the castle. Before Bussy left, however, he whispered a few words to Madame de St. Luc, which brought the color to her cheeks, and smiles to her eyes.
It was a long way from Méridor to Paris, especially for the old baron, covered with wounds from all his battles, and for his old horse, whom he called Jarnac. Bussy studied earnestly during the journey to find his way to the heart of the old man by his care and attentions, and without doubt he succeeded, for on the sixth morning, as they arrived at Paris, M. de Méridor said:"It is singular, count, but I feel less unquiet at the end than at the beginning of my journey." "Two hours more, M. le Baron, and you shall have judged me as I deserve." "Where are we going--to the Louvre?" "Let me first take you to my hotel, that you may refresh yourself a little, and be fit to see the person to whom I am leading you."
The count's people had been very much alarmed at his long absence, for he had set off without telling any one but Rémy. Thus their delight on seeing him again was great, and they all crowded round him with joyous exclamations. He thanked them, and then said, "Now assist this gentleman to dismount, and remember that I look upon him with more respect than a prince."When M. de Méridor had been shown to his room, and had had some refreshment, he asked if they should set out. "Soon, baron; and be easy--it will be a happiness for you as well as for us." "You speak in a language which I do not understand." Bussy smiled, and left the room to seek Rémy. "Well! dear Hippocrates!" said he, "is there anything new?" "Nothing; all goes well." "Then the husband has not returned?" "Yes, he has, but without success. It seems there is a father who is expected to turn up to make the dénouement." "Good," said Bussy, "but how do you know all this?"
"Why, monseigneur, as your absence made my position a sinecure, I thought I would try to make some little use of my time; so I took some books and a sword to a little room which I hired at the corner of the Rue St. Antoine, from whence I could see the house that you know.""Very good." "But as I feared, if I were constantly watching, to pass for a spy, I thought it better to fall in love." "In love?" "Oh yes, desperately with Gertrude; she is a fine girl, only two inches taller than myself, and who recounts, capitally." "Recounts?" "Yes; through her I know all that passes with her mistress. I thought you might not dislike to have communications with the house." "Rémy, you are a good genius, whom chance, or rather Providence, has placed in my way. Then you are received in the house?" "Last night I made my entrance on the points of my toes, by the door you know." "And how did you manage it?"
"Quite naturally. The day after you left, I waited at my door till the lady of my thoughts came out to buy provisions, which she does every morning. She recognized me, uttered a cry, and ran away.""Then?"
"Then I ran after her, but could hardly catch her, for she runs fast; but still, petticoats are always a little in the way. 'Mon Dieu!' cried she. 'Holy Virgin!' said I. 'The doctor!' 'The charming housekeeper.' She smiled, but said, 'You are mistaken, monsieur, I do not know you.' 'But I know you,' I replied, 'and for the last three days I have lived but for you, and I adore you so much, that I no longer live in the Rue Beautreillis, but at the corner of this street, and I changed my lodging only to see you pass in and out.'""So that now you are----" "As happy as a lover can be--with Gertrude." "Does she suspect you come from me?"
"Oh no, how should the poor doctor know a great lord like M. de Bussy. No, I said, 'And how is your young master?' 'What young master?' 'The one I cured.' 'He is not my master.' 'Oh! I thought, as he was in your mistress's bed----' 'Oh! no, poor young man! we have only seen him once since.' 'Do you know his name?' 'Oh! yes; he is the Seigneur de Bussy.' 'What! the brave Bussy?' 'Yes himself.' 'And your mistress?' 'Oh! she is married!' 'Yes, but still she may think sometimes of a handsome young man when she has seen him lying wounded in her bed.' 'Oh, to be frank, I do not say she does not think of him; we talk of him very often.' 'What do you say about him?' I asked. 'I recount all I hear about his prowess, and I have even taught her a little song about him, which she sings constantly.'" Bussy pressed the young man's hand; he felt supremely happy.
Chapter 25THE FATHER AND DAUGHTER.
On descending into the court, M. de Méridor found a fresh horse, which Bussy had had prepared for him; another waited for Bussy, and attended by Rémy, they started. As they went along, the baron could not but ask himself by what strange confidence he had accompanied, almost blindly, the friend of the prince to whom he owed all his misfortunes. Would it not have been better to have braved the Duc d'Anjou, and instead of following Bussy where it pleased him to lead, to have gone at once to the Louvre, and thrown himself at the feet of the king? What could the prince say to him? How could he console him? Could soft words heal his wound?When they stopped, "What," said the baron, "does the Duc d'Anjou live in this humble house?" "Not exactly, monsieur, but if it is not his dwelling, it is that of a lady whom he has loved."
A cloud passed over the face of the old gentleman. "Monsieur," said he, "we provincials are not used to the easy manners of Paris; they annoy us. It seems to me that if the Duc d'Anjou wishes to see the Baron de Méridor, it ought to be at his palace, and not at the house of one of his mistresses."
"Come, come, baron!" said Bussy, with his smile, which always carried conviction with it, "do not hazard false conjectures. On my honor, the lady who you are going to see is perfectly virtuous and worthy in all respects.""Who is she then?" "She is the wife of a friend of yours." "Really! but then, monsieur, why did you say the duke loved her?" "Because I always speak truth. But enter, and you shall see accomplished all I have promised you."
"Take care; I wept for my child, and you said, 'Console yourself, monsieur, the mercy of God is great;' to promise me a consolation to my grief was almost to promise me a miracle."
"Enter, monsieur," said Bussy, with his bright smile. Bussy went in first, and, running up to Gertrude, said, "Go and tell Madame de Monsoreau that M. de Bussy is here, and desires to speak to her. But," continued he, in a low voice, "not a word of the person who accompanies me.""Madame de Monsoreau!" said the old man in astonishment. But as he feebly mounted the staircase, he heard the voice of Diana crying,-- "M. de Bussy. Gertrude? Oh! let him come in!" "That voice!" cried the baron, stopping. "Oh! mon Dieu! mon Dieu!"
At that moment, as the baron tremblingly held on to the banister, and looked around him, he saw at the top of the staircase, Diana, smiling, and more beautiful that ever. At this sight the old man uttered a cry and would have fallen, had he not caught hold of Bussy, who stood by him."Diana alive! Diana, oh, my God!" "Mon Dieu! M. de Bussy!" cried Diana, running down, "what is the matter with my father?" "He thought you dead, madame, and he wept, as a father must weep for a daughter like you." "How!" cried Diana; "and no one undeceived him?" "No one." "No," cried the old man, recovering a little, "no one, not even M. de Bussy." "Ungrateful," said Bussy.
"Oh! yes! you are right; for this moment repays me for all my griefs. Oh! my Diana! my beloved Diana!" cried he, drawing his daughter to him with one hand, and extending the other to Bussy. But all at once he cried, "But you said I was to see Madame de Monsoreau. Where is she?""Alas! my father!" cried Diana. Bussy summoned up all his strength. "M. de Monsoreau is your son-in-law," he said. "What! my son-in-law! and every one--even you, Diana--left me in ignorance." "I feared to write, my father; he said my letters would fall into the hands of the prince. Besides, I thought you knew all."
"But why all these strange mysteries?" "Ah, yes, my father; why did M. de Monsoreau let you think me dead, and not let you know I was his wife?"The baron, overwhelmed, looked from Bussy to Diana. "M. de Monsoreau my son-in-law!" stammered he. "That cannot astonish you, father; did you not order me to marry him?" "Yes, if he saved you." "Well! he did save me," said Diana, sinking on to a chair, "not from misfortune, but from shame." "Then why did he let me think you dead? I, who wept for you so bitterly. Why did he let me die of despair, when a single word would have restored me?" "Oh! there is some hidden mystery," cried Diana; "my father, you will not leave me again; M. de Bussy, you will protect us."
"Alas! madame! it belongs to me no more to enter into your family secrets. Seeing the strange maneuvers of your husband, I wished to bring you a defender; you have your father, I retire.""He is right," said the old man, sadly. "M. de Monsoreau feared the Duc d'Anjou, and so does M. de Bussy."
Diana cast a glance at the young man. He smiled and said, "M. le Baron, excuse, I beg, the singular question I am about to ask; and you also, madame, for I wish to serve you. M. le Baron, ask Madame de Monsoreau if she be happy in the marriage which she has contracted in obedience to your orders."
Diana burst into tears for her only answer. The eyes of the baron filled also, for he began to fear that his friendship for M. de Monsoreau had tended to make his daughter unhappy."Now!" said Bussy, "is it true that you voluntarily promised him your daughter's hand?" "Yes, if he saved her." "And he did save her. Then, monsieur, I need not ask if you mean to keep your promise." "It is a law for all, and above all for gentlemen; you know that, M. de Bussy. My daughter must be his." "Ah!" cried Diana, "would I were dead!"
"Madame," said Bussy, "you see I was right, and that I can do no more here. M. le Baron gives you to M. de Monsoreau, and you yourself promised to marry him when you should see your father again safe and well."
"Ah! you tear my heart, M. de Bussy," cried Diana, approaching the young man; "my father does not know that I fear this man, that I hate him; my father sees in him only my saviour, and I think him my murderer.""Diana! Diana!" cried the baron, "he saved you."
"Yes," cried Bussy, "but if the danger were less great than you thought; what do we know? There is some mystery in all this, which I must clear up. But I protest to you, that if I had had the happiness to be in the place of M. de Monsoreau, I would have saved your young and beautiful daughter without exacting a price for it.""He loved her," said M. de Méridor, trying to excuse him. "And I, then----" cried Bussy; and, although he stopped, frightened at what he was about to say, Diana heard and understood. "Well!" cried she, reddening, "my brother, my friend, can you do nothing for me?" "But the Duc d'Anjou," said the baron. "I am not aware of those who fear the anger of princes," said Bussy; "and, besides, I believe the danger lies not with him, but with M. de Monsoreau." "But if the duke learns that Diana is alive, all is lost."
"I see," said Bussy, "you believe M. de Monsoreau more than me. Say no more; you refuse my aid; throw yourself, then, into the arms of the man who has already so well merited your confidence. Adieu, baron; adieu, madame, you will see me no more."
"Oh!" cried Diana, taking his hand. "Have you seen me waver for an instant; have you ever seen me soften towards him? No. I beg you, on my knees, M. de Bussy, not to abandon me."Bussy seized her hands, and all his anger melted away like snow before the sun.
"Then so be it, madame," said he; "I accept the mission, and in three days--for I must have time to go to Chartres to the prince--you shall see me again." Then, in a low tone to her, he said, "We are allied against this Monsoreau; remember that it was not he who brought you back to your father, and be faithful to me."
Chapter 26HOW BROTHER GORENFLOT AWOKE, AND THE RECEPTION HE MET WITH AT HIS CONVENT.
Chicot, after seeing with pleasure that Gorenflot still slept soundly, told M. Boutromet to retire and to take the light with him, charging him not to say anything of his absence. Now M. Boutromet, having remarked that, in all transactions between the monk and Chicot, it was the latter who paid, had a great deal of consideration for him, and promised all he wished. Then, by the light of the fire which still smouldered, he wrapped Gorenflot once more in his frock, which he accomplished without eliciting any other signs of wakefulness than a few grunts, and afterwards making a pillow of the tablecloth and napkins, lay down to sleep by his side. Daylight, when it came, succeeded in at last awakening Gorenflot, who sat up, and began to look about him, at the remains of their last night's repast, and at Chicot, who, although also awake, lay pretending to snore, while, in reality, he watched.
"Broad daylight!" said the monk. "Corbleu, I must have passed the night here. And the abbey! Oh, dear! How happy he is to sleep thus!" cried he, looking at Chicot. "Ah! he is not in my position," and he sighed. "Shall I wake him to ask for advice? No, no, he will laugh at me; I can surely invent a falsehood without him. But whatever I invent, it will be hard to escape punishment. It is not so much the imprisonment, it is the bread and water I mind. Ah! if! had but some money to bribe the brother jailer."
Chicot, hearing this, adroitly slipped his purse from his pocket and put it under him. This precaution was not useless, for Gorenflot, who had been looking about him, now approached his friend softly, and murmuring:
"Were he awake, he would not refuse me a crown, but his sleep is sacred, and I will take it," advanced, and began feeling his pockets. "It is singular," said he, "nothing in his pockets. Ah! in his hat, perhaps."While he searched there Chicot adroitly emptied out his money, and stuffed the empty purse into his breeches pocket.
"Nothing in the hat," said the monk. "Ah! I forgot," and thrusting in his hand, he drew from the pocket the empty purse. "Mon Dieu," cried he, "empty! and who will pay the bill?"
This thought terrified him so much that he got up and made instantly for the door, through which he quickly disappeared. As he approached the convent, his fears grew strong, and seeing a concourse of monks standing talking on the threshold, he felt inclined to fly. But some of them approached to meet him; he knew flight was hopeless, and resigned himself. The monks seemed at first to hesitate to speak to him, but at last one said:"Poor dear brother!" Gorenflot sighed, and raised his eyes to Heaven. "You know the prior waits for you?" "Ah! mon Dieu!" "Oh! yes; he ordered that you should be brought to him as soon as you came in."
"I feared it," said Gorenflot. And more dead than alive, he entered the convent, whose doors closed on him. They led him to the prior. Gorenflot did not dare to raise his eyes, finding himself alone with his justly irritated superior."Ah! it is you at last," said the abbé. "Reverend sir----" "What anxiety you have given me." "You are too good, my father," said Gorenflot, astonished at this indulgent tone. "You feared to come in after the scene of last night?" "I confess it." "Ah, dear brother, you have been very imprudent." "Let me explain, father." "There is no need of explanations; your sally----" "Oh! so much the better," thought Gorenflot.
"I understand it perfectly. A moment of enthusiasm carried you away; enthusiasm is a holy virtue, but virtues, exaggerated become almost vices, and the most honorable sentiments, when carried to excess, are reprehensible.""Pardon, my father," said Gorenflot, timidly, "but I do not understand. Of what sally do you speak?" "Of yours last night." "Out of the convent?" "No; in it. I am as good a Catholic as you, but your audacity frightened me." Gorenflot was puzzled. "Was I audacious?" asked he. "More than that--rash." "Alas! you must pardon me, my father. I will endeavor to correct myself." "Yes; but meanwhile, I fear the consequences for you and for all of us. Had it passed among ourselves, it would have been nothing." "How, is it known to others?" "Doubtless; you know well there were more than a hundred laymen listening to your discourse." "My discourse!" said Gorenflot, more and more astonished.
"I allow it was fine, and that the universal applause must have carried you on, but to propose to make a procession through the streets of Paris, with a helmet on your head and a partisan on your shoulder, appealing to all good Catholics, was rather too strong, you will allow." Gorenflot looked bewildered."Now," continued the prior, "this religious fervor, which burns so strongly in your heart, will injure you in Paris. I wish you therefore to go and expend it in the provinces." "An exile!" cried Gorenflot. "If you remain here, much worse may happen to you, my dear brother." "What?" "Perpetual imprisonment, or even death." Gorenflot grew frightfully pale; he could not understand how he had incurred all this by getting tipsy in an inn, and passing the night out of the convent.
"By submitting to this temporary exile, my dear brother, not only will you escape this danger, but you will plant the banner of our faith in the provinces, where such words are less dangerous than here, under the eyes of the king. Set off at once, then, brother; perhaps the archers are already out to arrest you.""The archers, I!" said Gorenflot. "I advise you to go at once." "It is easy to say 'go,' but how am I to live?"
"Oh! nothing more easy. You will find plenty of partisans who will let you want for nothing. But go, in Heaven's name, and do not come back till you are sent for." And the prior, after embracing him, pushed him to the door. There he found all the community waiting for him, to touch his hands or his robe."Adieu!" said one, embracing him, "you are a holy man; do not forget me in your prayers." "I, a holy man!" thought Gorenflot. "Adieu, brave champion of the faith," said another. "Adieu, martyr," said a third, "the light will soon come." Thus was he conducted to the outside of the convent, and as he went away he exclaimed, "Devil take me, but either they are all mad, or I am."
Chapter 27HOW BROTHER GORENFLOT REMAINED CONVINCED THAT HE WAS A SOMNAMBULIST, AND BITTERLY DEPLORED THIS INFIRMITY.
Until the day when this unmerited persecution fell on Brother Gorenflot, he had led a contemplative and easy life, diverting himself on occasions at the Corne d'Abondance, when he had gained a little money from the faithful. He was one of those monks for whom the world began at the prior of the convent, and finished at the cook. And now he was sent forth to seek for adventures. He had no money; so that when out of Paris and he heard eleven o'clock (the time for dinner at the convent) strike, he sat down in dejection. His first idea was to return to the convent, and ask to be put in confinement, instead of being sent in to exile, and even to submit to the discipline, provided they would insure him his repasts. His next was more reasonable. He would go to the Corne d'Abondance, send for Chicot, explain to him the lamentable situation into which he had helped to bring him, and obtain aid from this generous friend. He was sitting absorbed in these reflections, when he heard the sound of a horse's feet approaching. In great fear, he hid behind a tree until the traveler should have passed; but a new idea struck him. He would endeavor to obtain some money for his dinner. So he approached tremblingly, and said, "Monsieur, if five patera, and five aves for the success of your projects would be agreeable to you----""Gorenflot!" cried the cavalier. "M. Chicot!" "Where the devil are you going?" "I do not know. And you?" "Oh! I am going straight before me." "Very far?" "Till I stop. But you--what are you doing outside the barriers?" "Alas! M. Chicot! I am proscribed," said Gorenflot, with an enormous sigh. "What?" "Proscribed, I tell you. My brothers reject me from their bosom: I am anathematized, excommunicated." "Bah! what for?" "Listen, M. Chicot; you will not believe me, perhaps, but I do not know." "Perhaps you were met last night gadding about." "Do not joke; you know quite well what I was doing last night." "Yes, from eight till ten, but not from ten till three." "How, from ten till three?" "Yes, at ten you went out." "I?" "Yes, and I asked you where you were going." "And what did I say?" "That you were going to pronounce a discourse." "There was some truth in that," murmured Gorenflot. "Yes, and you even told me part of it; it was very long, and there were terrible things against the king in it." "Bah!" "So terrible, that I should not wonder if you were arrested for them." "M. Chicot, you open my eyes; did I seem quite awake when I spoke?" "I must say you seemed very strange; you looked like a man who talks in his sleep." "Yet, I feel sure I awoke this morning at the Corne d'Abondance." "Well, of course; you came in again at three o'clock. I know; you left the door open, and made me cold." "It is true, then?" "True! ask M. Boutromet."
"M. Boutromet?" "Yes, he opened to you on your return. And you were so full of pride when you came in, that I said to you,--'Fie, compère; pride does not become mortals, more especially monks.'""And of what was I proud?" "Of the success your discourse had met with, and the compliments paid to you by the Duc de Guise and M. de Mayenne." "Now I understand all." "That is lucky. Then you confess you went to the assembly; what did you call it? Oh! the Holy Union." Gorenflot groaned. "I am a somnambulist," he said. "What does that mean?" "It means, that with me mind is stronger than matter; so that while the body sleeps, the spirit wakes, and sometimes is so powerful that it forces the body to obey."
"Ah! compère, that sounds much like magic; if you are possessed, tell me so frankly; for, really a man who walks and makes discourses in his sleep in which he attacks the king is not natural. Vade retro, Satanas!""Then," cried Gorenflot, "you abandon me also. Ah! I could not have believed that of you." Chicot took pity on him. "What did you tell me just now?" said he. "I do not know; I feel half mad, and my stomach is empty." "You spoke of traveling." "Yes, the holy prior sends me." "Where to?" "Wherever I like." "I also am traveling, and will take you with me." Gorenflot looked bewildered. "Well! do you accept?" continued Chicot. "Accept! I should think so. But have you money to travel with?" "Look," said Chicot, drawing out his purse. Gorenflot jumped for joy. "How much?" said he. "One hundred and fifty pistoles." "And where are we going?" "You shall see." "When shall we breakfast?" "Immediately." "What shall I ride?" "Not my horse; you would kill it." "Then what must I do?" "Nothing more simple; I will buy you an ass." "You are my benefactor, M. Chicot. Let the ass be strong. Now, where do we breakfast?" "Here; look over this door and read." Gorenflot looked up, and saw, "Here eggs, ham, eel-pies, and white wine may be had!" At this sight, Gorenflot's whole face expanded with joy. "Now," said Chicot, "go and get your breakfast, while I go and look for an ass for you."
Chapter 28HOW BROTHER GORENFLOT TRAVELED UPON AN ASS, NAMED PANURGE, AND LEARNED MANY THINGS HE DID NOT KNOW BEFORE.
What made Chicot so indifferent to his own repast was, that he had already breakfasted plentifully. Therefore, he sat Gorenflot down to eggs and bacon, while he went among the peasants to look for an ass. He found a pacific creature, four years old, and something between an ass and a horse; gave twenty-two livres for it, and brought it to Gorenflot, who was enchanted at the sight of it, and christened it Panurge. Chicot, seeing by the look of the table that there would be no cruelty in staying his companion's repast, said,--"Come, now we must go on; at Mélun we will lunch." Gorenflot got up, merely saying, "At Mélun, at Mélun." They went on for about four leagues, then Gorenflot lay down on the grass to sleep, while Chicot began to calculate.
"One hundred and twenty leagues, at ten leagues a day, would take twelve days." It was as much as he could reasonably expect from the combined forces of a monk and an ass. But Chicot shook his head. "It will not do," he said, "if he wants to follow me, he must do fifteen."He pushed the monk to wake him, who, opening his eyes, said, "Are we at Mélun? I am hungry." "Not yet, compère, and that is why I woke you; we must get on; we go too slow, ventre de biche!"
"Oh, no, dear M. Chicot; it is so fatiguing to go fast. Besides, there is no hurry: am I not traveling for the propagation of the faith, and you for pleasure? Well, the slower we go, the better the faith will be propagated, and the more you will amuse yourself. My advice is to stay some days at Mélun, where they make excellent eel-pies. What do you say, M. Chicot?""I say, that my opinion is to go as fast as possible; not to lunch at Mélun, but only to sup at Monterau, to make up for lost time." Gorenflot looked at his companion as if he did not understand. "Come, let us get on," said Chicot. The monk sat still and groaned. "If you wish to stay behind and travel at your ease, you are welcome." "No, no!" cried Gorenflot, in terror; "no, no, M. Chicot; I love you too much to leave you!" "Then to your saddle at once."
Gorenflot got on his ass this time sideways, as a lady sits, saying it was more comfortable; but the fact was that, fearing they were to go faster, he wished to be able to hold on both by mane and tail.
Chicot began to trot, and the ass followed. The first moments were terrible for Gorenflot, but he managed to keep his seat. From time to time Chicot stood up in his stirrups and looked forward, then, not seeing what he looked for, redoubled his speed."What are you looking for, dear M. Chicot?" "Nothing; but we are not getting on." "Not getting on! we are trotting all the way." "Gallop then!" and he began to canter. Panurge again followed; Gorenflot was in agonies. "Oh, M. Chicot!" said he, as soon as he could speak, "do you call this traveling for pleasure? It does not amuse me at all." "On! on!" "It is dreadful!" "Stay behind then!" "Panurge can do no more; he is stopping." "Then adieu, compère!"
Gorenflot felt half inclined to reply in the same manner, but he remembered that the horse, whom he felt ready to curse, bore on his back a man with a hundred and fifty pistoles in his pocket, so he resigned himself, and beat his ass to make him gallop once more."I shall kill my poor Panurge!" cried he dolefully, thinking to move Chicot. "Well, kill him," said Chicot quietly, "and we will buy another."
All at once Chicot, on arriving at the top of a hill, reined in his horse suddenly. But the ass, having once taken it into his head to gallop, was not so easily stopped, and Gorenflot was forced to let himself slide off and hang on to the donkey with all his weight before he could stop him."Ah, M. Chicot!" cried he, "what does it all mean? First we must gallop fit to break our necks, and then we must stop short here!"
Chicot had hidden himself behind a rock, and was eagerly watching three men who, about two hundred yards in advance, were traveling on quietly on their mules, and he did not reply."I am tired and hungry!" continued Gorenflot angrily. "And so am I," said Chicot; "and at the first hotel we come to we will order a couple of fricasseed chickens, some ham, and a jug of their best wine." "Really, is it true this time?" "I promise you, compère." "Well, then, let us go and seek it. Come, Panurge, you shall have some dinner."
Chicot remounted his horse, and Gorenflot led his ass. The much-desired inn soon appeared, but, to the surprise of Gorenflot, Chicot caused him to make a detour and pass round the back. At the front door were standing the three travelers.
Chapter 29HOW BROTHER GORENFLOT CHANGED HIS ASS FOR A MULE, AND HIS MULE FOR A HORSE.
However, Gorenflot's troubles were near their end for that day, for after the detour they went on a mile, and then stopped at a rival hotel. Chicot took a room which looked on to the high-road, and ordered supper. But even while he was eating he was constantly on the watch. However, at ten o'clock, as he had seen nothing, he went to bed, first, however, ordering that the horse and the ass should be ready at daybreak."At daybreak?" uttered Gorenflot, with a deep sigh. "Yes; you must be used to getting up at that time." "Why so?" "For matins."
"I had an exemption from the superior." Chicot ordered Gorenflot's bed to be placed in his room. With daylight he was up and at the window, and before very long he saw three mules coming along. He ran to Gorenflot and shook him."Can I not have a moment's rest?" cried the monk, who had been sleeping for ten hours. "Be quick; get up and dress, for we are going." "But the breakfast?" "Is on the road to Monterau." "Where is Monterau?" "It is the city where we breakfast, that is enough for you. Now, I am going down to pay the bill, and if you are not ready in five minutes, I go without you."
A monk's toilet takes not long; however, Gorenflot took six minutes, and when he came down Chicot was starting. This day passed much like the former one, and by the third, Gorenflot was beginning to get accustomed to it, when towards the evening, Chicot lost all his gaiety. Since noon he had seen nothing of the three travelers; therefore he was in a very bad humor. They were off at daybreak and galloped till noon, but all in vain; no mules were visible. Chicot stopped at a turnpike, and asked the man if he had seen three travelers pass on mules.
"Not to-day," was the reply, "yesterday evening about seven."
"Listen, M. Chicot!" said Gorenflot, "my ass can do no more, even your horse is almost exhausted." Chicot looked, and saw, indeed, that the poor animals were trembling from head to foot."Well! brother," said he, "we must take a resolution. You must leave me." "Leave you; why?" "You go too slow." "Slow! why, we have galloped for five hours this morning." "That is not enough." "Well, then, let us go on; the quicker we go, the sooner we shall arrive, for I suppose we shall stop at last." "But our animals are exhausted." "What shall we do then?" "Leave them here, and take them as we come back." "Then how are we to proceed?" "We will buy mules."
"Very well," said Gorenflot with a sigh. Two mules were soon found, and they went so well that in the evening Chicot saw with joy those of the three travelers, standing at the door of a farrier's. But they were without harness, and both master and lackeys had disappeared. Chicot trembled. "Go," said he, to Gorenflot, "and ask if those mules are for sale, and where their owners are." Gorenflot went, and soon returned, saying that a gentleman had sold them, and had afterwards taken the road to Avignon."Alone?" "No, with a lackey." "And where is the other lackey?" "He went towards Lyons." "And how did they go on?" "On horses which they bought." "Of whom?" "Of a captain of troopers who was here, and they sold their mules to a dealer, who is trying to sell them again to those Franciscan monks whom you see there." "Well, take our two mules and go and offer them to the monks instead; they ought to give you the preference." "But, then, how shall we go on?" "On horseback, morbleu." "Diable!"
"Oh! a good rider like you. You will find me again on the Grand Place." Chicot was bargaining for some horses, when he saw the monk reappear, carrying the saddles and bridles of the mules."Oh! you have kept the harness?" "Yes." "And sold the mules?" "For ten pistoles each." "Which they paid you?" "Here is the money." "Ventre de biche! you are a great man, let us go on." "But I am thirsty." "Well, drink while I saddle the beasts, but not too much." "A bottle." "Very well."
Gorenflot drank two, and came to give the rest of the money back to Chicot, who felt half inclined to give it to him, but reflecting that if Gorenflot had money he would no longer be obedient, he refrained. They rode on, and the next evening Chicot came up with Nicolas David, still disguised as a lackey, and kept him in sight all the way to Lyons, whose gates they all three entered on the eighth day after their departure from Paris.
Chapter 30HOW CHICOT AND HIS COMPANION INSTALLED THEMSELVES AT THE HOTEL OF THE CROSS, AND HOW THEY WERE RECEIVED BY THE HOST.
Chicot watched Nicolas David into the principal hotel of the place, and then said to Gorenflot, "Go in and bargain for a private room, say that you expect your brother, then come out and wait about for me, and I will come in when it is dark, and you can bring me straight to my room. Do you understand?""Perfectly." "Choose a good room, as near as possible to that of the traveler who has just arrived; it must look on to the street, and on no account pronounce my name." Gorenflot acquitted himself marvelously of the commission. Their room was only separated by a partition from that of Nicolas David. "You deserve a recompense," said Chicot to him, "and you shall have sherry wine for supper." "I never got tipsy on that wine; it would be agreeable." "You shall to-night. But now ramble about the town." "But the supper?" "I shall be ready against your return; here is a crown meanwhile."
Gorenflot went off quite happy, and then Chicot made, with a gimlet, a hole in the partition at about the height of his eye. Through this, he could hear distinctly all that passed, and he could just see the host talking to Nicolas David, who was professing to have been sent on a mission by the king, to whom he professed great fidelity. The host did not reply, but Chicot fancied he could see an ironical smile on his lip whenever the king's name was mentioned."Is he a leaguer?" thought Chicot; "I will find out."
When the host left David he came to visit Chicot, who said, "Pray sit down, monsieur; and before we make a definitive arrangement, listen to my history. You saw me this morning with a monk?""Yes, monsieur." "Silence! that monk is proscribed." "What! is he a disguised Huguenot?"
Chicot took an offended air. "Huguenot, indeed! he is my relation, and I have no Huguenot relations. On the contrary, he is so fierce an enemy of the Huguenots, that he has fallen into disgrace with his majesty Henri III., who protects them, as you know."The host began to look interested. "Silence," said he. "Why, have you any of the king's people here?" "I fear so; there is a traveler in there." "Then we must fly at once, for proscribed, menaced----" "Where will you go?" "We have two or three addresses given to us by an innkeeper we know, M. la Hurière." "Do you know La Hurière?" "Yes, we made his acquaintance on the night of St. Bartholomew." "Well, I see you and your relation are holy people; I also know La Hurière. Then you say this monk----" "Had the imprudence to preach against the Huguenots, and with so much success that the king wanted to put him in prison." "And then?" "Ma foi, I carried him off." "And you did well." "M. de Guise offered to protect him." "What! the great Henri?" "Himself; but I feared civil war."
"If you are friends of M. de Guise, you know this;" and he made a sort of masonic sign by which the leaguers recognized each other.
Chicot, who had seen both this and the answer to it twenty times during that famous night, replied, "And you this?"
"Well! first he came disguised as a lackey, then he put on an advocate's dress, and I am sure he is no more an advocate than he is a lackey, for I saw a long rapier under his cloak. Then he avowed he had a mission from the king!""From Herod, as I call him." "Sardanapalus." "Bravo!" "Ah! I see we understand each other." "Then we are to remain here?" "I should think so." "Not a word about my relation." "Of course not." "Nor of me." "Oh, no! But hush! here is some one." "Oh, it is the worthy man himself!" The host turned to Gorenflot, and made a sign of the leaguers. Gorenflot was struck with terror and astonishment. "Reply, my brother," said Chicot; "he is a member." "Of what?" "Of the Holy Union," said Bernouillet, in a low tone. "You see all is safe; reply," said Chicot. Gorenflot replied, to the great joy of the innkeeper. "But," said Gorenflot, who did not like the conversation, "you promised me some sherry." "Sherry, Malaga, Alicant--every wine in my cellar is at your disposal." Gorenflot looked at Chicot in amazement.
For three following days Gorenflot got drunk, first on sherry, next on Malaga, then on Alicant; afterwards he declared he liked Burgundy best, and returned to that. Meanwhile, Chicot had never stirred from his room, and had constantly watched Nicolas David, who, having appointed to meet Pierre de Gondy at this inn, would not leave the house. On the morning of the sixth day he declared himself ill, and the next day worse. Bernouillet came joyfully to tell Chicot."What! do you think him in danger?" "High fever, my dear brother; he is delirious, and tried to strangle me and beat my servants. The doctors do not understand his complaint." "Have you seen him?" "Yes; I tell you he tried to strangle me." "How did he seem?" "Pale and furious, and constantly crying out." "What?" "Take care of the king! they want to hurt the king! Then he constantly says that he expects a man from Avignon, and wishes to see him before he dies."
As for Gorenflot, he grew visibly fatter every day, so much so, that he announced to Chicot with terror one day that the staircase was narrowing. Neither David, the League, nor religion occupied him; he thought of nothing but how to vary his dinner and wine, so that Bernouillet often exclaimed in astonishment, "To think that that man should be a torrent of eloquence!"
Chapter 31HOW THE MONK CONFESSED THE ADVOCATE, AND THE ADVOCATE THE MONK. At last M. Bernouillet came into Chicot's room, laughing immoderately. "He is dying," said he, "and the man has arrived from Avignon." "Have you seen him?" "Of course." "What is he like?" "Little and thin." "It is he," thought Chicot; and he said, "Tell me about his arrival."
"An hour ago I was in the kitchen, when I saw a great horse, ridden by a little man, stop before the door. 'Is M. Nicolas here?' asked he. 'Yes, monsieur,' said I. 'Tell him that the person he expects from Avignon is here.' 'Certainly, monsieur, but I must warn you that he is very ill.' 'All the more reason for doing my bidding at once.' 'But he has a malignant fever.' 'Oh, pray, then, be quick!' 'How! you persist?' 'I persist.' 'In spite of the danger!' 'In spite of everything I must see him.' So I took him to the room, and there he is now. Is it not odd?""Very droll." "I wish I could hear them." "Go in." "He forbade me to go in, saying he was going to confess." "Listen at the door."
Bernouillet went, and Chicot went also to his hole: but they spoke so low that he could hear nothing, and in a few minutes Gondy rose and took leave. Chicot ran to the window, and saw a lackey waiting with a horse, which M. de Gondy mounted and rode off."If he only has not carried off the genealogy. Never mind, I shall soon catch him if necessary; but I suspect it is left here. Where can Gorenflot be?" M. Bernouillet returned, saying, "He is gone." "The confessor?" "He is no more a confessor than I am." "Will you send me my brother as soon as he comes in." "Even if he be drunk?" "Whatever state he is in."
Bernouillet went, and Chicot remained in a state of indecision as to what to do, for he thought, "If David is really so ill, he may have sent on the despatches by Gondy." Presently he heard Gorenflot's voice, singing a drinking song as he came up the stairs."Silence, drunkard!" said Chicot. "Drunkard, indeed!" "Yes; but come here and speak seriously, if you can." "What is it now?" "It is, that you never think of the duties of your profession, that you wallow in greediness and drunkenness, and let religion go where it pleases." Gorenflot looked astonished. "I!" he gasped. "Yes, you; you are disgraceful to see; you are covered with mud; you have been drunk in the streets." "It is too true!" "If you go on so, I will abandon you." "Chicot, my friend, you will not do that? Am I very guilty?" "There are archers at Lyons." "Oh, pity! my dear protector, pity!" "Are you a Christian or not?" "I not a Christian!" "Then do not let a neighbor die without confession." "I am ready, but I must drink first, for I am thirsty." Chicot passed him a jug of water, which he emptied. "Now who am I to confess?" "Our unlucky neighbor who is dying." "Let them give him a pint of wine with honey in it." "He needs spiritual aid as well as temporal. Go to him." "Am I fit?" said Gorenflot, timidly. "Perfectly." "Then I will go." "Stay; I must tell you what to do." "Oh! I know." "You do not know what I wish." "What you wish?" "If you execute it well, I will give you one hundred pistoles to spend here." "What must I do?" "Listen; your robe gives you authority; in the name of God and the King, summon him to give up the papers he has just received from Avignon." "What for?" "To gain one hundred pistoles, stupid." "Ah! true; I go." "Wait a minute. He will tell you he has confessed."
"But if he has?" "Tell him he lies; that the man who has just left him is no confessor, but an intriguer like himself.""But he will be angry." "What does that matter, since he is dying?" "True." "Well; one way or the other, you must get hold of those papers." "If he refuses?" "Refuse him absolution, curse him, anathematize him----" "Oh, I will take them by force." "Good; and when you have got them, knock on the wall." "And if I cannot get them?" "Knock also." "Then, in any case I am to knock?" "Yes." Gorenflot went, and Chicot placed his ear to the hole in the wall. When Gorenflot entered, the sick man raised himself in his bed, and looked at him with wonder. "Good day, brother," said Gorenflot. "What do you want, my father?" murmured the sick man, in a feeble voice. "My son, I hear you are in danger, and I come to speak to you of your soul." "Thank you, but I think your care is needless; I feel better." "You think so?" "I am sure of it." "It is a ruse of Satan, who wishes you to die without confession." "Then he will be deceived, for I have just confessed." "To whom?" "To a worthy priest from Avignon." "He was not a priest." "Not!" "No." "How do you know?" "I knew him." "You knew the man who has just gone?" "Yes; and as you are not better, and this man was not a priest, you must confess." "Very well," replied the patient, in a stronger voice, "but I will chose to whom I will confess." "You will have no time to send for another priest, and I am here." "How! no time, when I tell you I am getting well?"
Gorenflot shook his head. "I tell you, my son, you are condemned by the doctors and by Providence; you may think it cruel to tell you so, but it is what we must all come to sooner or later. Confess, my son, confess.""But I assure you, father, that I feel much stronger." "A mistake, my son, the lamp flares up at the last, just before it goes out. Come, confess all your plots, your intrigues, and machinations!" "My intrigues and plots!" cried David, frightened at this singular monk, whom he did not know, but who seemed to know him so well. "Yes; and when you have told all that, give me up the papers, and perhaps God will let me absolve you." "What papers?" cried the sick man, in a voice as strong as though he were quite well. "The papers that the pretended priest brought you from Avignon."
"And who told you that he brought me papers?" cried the patient, putting one leg out of bed.
Gorenflot began to feel frightened, but he said firmly, "He who told me knew well what he was saying; give me the papers, or you shall have no absolution."
Gorenflot was strong, and he pushed David back so violently that he fell into the middle of the room. But he rose furious, and seizing a long sword, which hung on the wall behind his clothes, presented it to the throat of Gorenflot, who sank on a chair in terror."It is now your turn to confess," said he, "speak, or you die." "Oh!" cried Gorenflot, "then you are not ill--not dying." "It is not for you to question, but to answer." "To answer what?" "Who are you?" "You can see that." "Your name?" "Brother Gorenflot." "You are then a real monk?" "I should think so." "What brings you to Lyons?" "I am exiled." "What brought you to this inn?" "Chance." "How long have you been here?" "A fortnight." "Why did you watch me?" "I did not." "How did you know that I had the papers?" "Because I was told so." "Who told you?" "He who sent me here." "Who was that?" "I cannot tell you." "You must." "Oh! oh! I will cry out." "And I will kill." Gorenflot cried out, and a spot of blood appeared on the point of the sword. "His name?" cried David. "Oh! I can hold out no more." "Speak." "It was Chicot." "The king's jester!" "Himself." "And where is he?" "Here!" cried a voice, and Chicot appeared at the door with a drawn sword in his hand.
Chapter 32HOW CHICOT USED HIS SWORD.
Nicolas David, in recognizing him whom he knew to be his mortal enemy, could not repress a movement of terror, during which Gorenflot slipped a little to the side, crying out, "Help, friend! come to my aid!"
"Ah, Monsieur David, it is you!" said Chicot; "I am delighted to meet you again!" Then, turning to Gorenflot, he said, "My good Gorenflot, your presence as monk was very necessary just now, when we believed monsieur dying; but now that he is so well, it is with me he must deal; therefore, do me the favor to stand sentinel on the threshold, and prevent any one from coming in to interrupt our little conversation." Gorenflot, who asked no better than to go, was soon out of the room; but David, having now recovered from his surprise, and confident in his skill as a swordsman, stood waiting for Chicot, with his sword in his hand and a smile on his lips."Dress yourself, monsieur," said Chicot; "I do not wish to take any advantage of you. Do you know what I have come to seek in this room?" "The rest of the blows which I have owed you on account of the Duc de Mayenne, since that day when you jumped so quickly out of the window."
"No, monsieur; I know the number, and will return them. Be easy. What I have come for is a certain genealogy which M. Pierre de Gondy took to Avignon, without knowing what he carried, and, equally in ignorance, brought back to you just now."David turned pale. "What genealogy?" he said. "That of M. de Guise, who descends, as you know, in a direct line from Charlemagne." "Ah, you are a spy! I thought you only a buffoon." "Dear M. David, I will be both if you wish it: a spy to hang you, and a buffoon to laugh at it after." "To hang me!" "High and dry, monsieur; I hope you do not lay claim to be beheaded like a gentleman." "And how will you do it?" "Oh, very easily; I will relate the truth, for I must tell you, dear M. David, that I assisted last month at the meeting held in the convent of St. Geneviève." "You!"
"Yes; I was in the confessional in front of yours, and it was very uncomfortable there, especially as I was obliged to wait to go out until all was finished. Therefore I heard all, saw the coronation of M. d'Anjou, which was not very amusing; but then the genealogy was delightful.""Ah! you know about the genealogy?" cried David, biting his lips with anger.
"Yes, and I found it very ingenious, especially that part about the Salic law; only it is a misfortune to have so much intellect, one gets hung for it; therefore, feeling myself moved with tender pity for so ingenious a man, I said to myself, 'Shall I let this brave M. David be hung?' and I took the resolution of traveling with, or rather behind, you. I followed you, therefore, not without trouble, and at last we arrived at Lyons. I entered the hotel an hour after you, and have been in the adjoining room; look, there is only a partition between, and, as you may imagine, I did not travel all the way from Paris to Lyons to lose sight of you now. I pierced a little hole, through which I had the pleasure of watching you when I liked, and I confess I gave myself this pleasure several times a day. At last you fell ill; the host wished to get rid of you, but you were determined to wait here for M. de Gondy. I was duped by you at first, for you might really have been ill, so I sent you a brave monk, to excite you to repentance; but, hardened sinner that you are, you tried to kill him, forgetting the Scripture maxim, 'He who strikes with the sword shall perish with the sword.' Then I came to you, and said, 'We are old friends; let us arrange the matter.'""In what manner?"
"It would be a pity that such a man as you should disappear from the world; give up plots, trust me, break with the Guises, give me your papers, and, on the faith of a gentleman, I will make your peace with the king.""While, on the contrary, if I do not give them to you?"
"Ah! then, on the faith of a gentleman, I will kill you! But if you give them to me, all shall be forgotten. You do not believe me, perhaps, for your nature is bad, and you think my resentment can never be forgotten. But, although it is true that I hate you, I hate M. de Mayenne more; give me what will ruin him, and I will save you. And then, perhaps, you will not believe this either, for you love nothing; but I love the king, foolish and corrupted as he is, and I wish that he should reign tranquilly--which is impossible with the Mayennes and the genealogy of Nicolas David. Therefore, give me up the genealogy, and I promise to make your name and your fortune."David never moved. "Well," said Chicot, "I see all that I say to you is but wasted breath; therefore, I go to get you hanged. Adieu, M. David," and he stepped backwards towards the door. "And you think I shall let you go out," cried the advocate. "No, no, my fine spy; no, no, Chicot, my friend, those who know of the genealogy must die. Those who menace me must die."
"You put me quite at my ease; I hesitated only because I am sure to kill you. Crillon, the other day, taught me a particular thrust, only one, but that will suffice. Come, give me the papers, or I will kill you; and I will tell you how--I will pierce your throat just where you wished to bleed Gorenflot."
Chicot had hardly finished, when David rushed on him with a savage laugh. The two adversaries were nearly matched in height, but Chicot, who fenced nearly every day with the king, had become one of the most skilful swordsmen in the kingdom. David soon began to perceive this, and he retreated a step."Ah! ah!" said Chicot, "now you begin to understand. Once more; the papers." David, for answer, threw himself again upon Chicot, and a new combat ensued. At last Chicot called out,-- "Here is the thrust," and as he spoke, he thrust his rapier half through his throat.
David did not reply, but fell at Chicot's feet, pouring out a mouthful of blood. But by a natural movement he tried to drag himself towards his bed, so as to defend his secret to the last.
"Ah!" cried Chicot, "I thought you cunning, but I see you are a fool. I did not know where the papers were, and you have shown me----" and while David rolled in the agonies of death, he ran to the bed, raised the mattress, and found under it a roll of parchment. At the moment in which he unrolled it to see if it was the document he sought, David raised himself in a rage and then fell back dead. Chicot saw with joy that he held what he wanted. The Pope had written at the bottom, "Fiat ut voluit Deus; Deus jura hominum fecit." After placing it in his breast, he took the body of the advocate, who had died without losing more blood, the nature of the wound making him bleed inwardly, put it back in the bed, turned the face to the wall, and, opening the door, called Gorenflot."How pale you are!" said the monk, as he entered. "Yes, the last moments of that man caused me some emotion." "Then he is dead?" "Yes." "He was so well just now." "Too well; he swallowed something difficult of digestion, and died of it." "The wretch wanted to strangle me, a holy man, and he is punished for it." "Pardon him, you are a Christian." "I do, although he frightened me much." "You must do more; you must light the lamps, and say some prayers by his bed." "Why?" "That you may not be taken prisoner as his murderer." "I, a murderer! it was he who tried to murder me." "Mon Dieu! yes, and as he could not succeed, his rage made him break a blood-vessel. But till your innocence is established they might annoy you much." "I fear you are right."
"Then do what I tell you. Install yourself here, and recite all the prayers you know, or do not know; then, when evening comes, go out and call at the ironmonger's at the corner of the street. There you will find your horse; mount him, and take the road to Paris; at Villeneuve-le-Roi sell him, and take Panurge back.""Ah! that good Panurge; I shall be delighted to see him again. But how am I to live?" Chicot drew from his pocket a handful of crowns and put them into the large hand of the monk. "Generous man!" cried Gorenflot. "Let me stay with you at Lyons; I love Lyons." "But I do not stay here; I set off at once, and travel too rapidly for you to follow me." "So be it, then." Chicot installed the monk by the bed, and went downstairs to the host. "M. Bernouillet," said he, "a great event has taken place in your house." "What do you mean?" "The hateful royalist, the enemy of our religion upstairs, received to-day a messenger from Rome." "I know that: it was I who told you." "Well, our holy father, the Pope, had sent him to this conspirator, who, however, probably did not suspect for what purpose." "And why did he come?" "Go up-stairs, lift up the bedclothes, look at his neck, and you will see." "You frighten me." "I say no more. The Pope did you honor in choosing your house for the scene of his vengeance."
Then Chicot put ten crowns into the hand of the host, and went down to the stable to get out the horses. M. Bernouillet went up and found Gorenflot praying. He looked as directed, and found the wound."May every enemy of our religion die thus," said he to Gorenflot. "Amen," replied the monk. These events passed about the same time that Bussy brought the Baron de Méridor back to his daughter.
Chapter 33HOW THE DUC D'ANJOU LEARNED THAT DIANA WAS NOT DEAD.
The month of April had arrived. The great cathedral of Chartres was hung with white, and the king was standing barefooted in the nave. The religious ceremonies, which were for the purpose of praying for an heir to the throne of France, were just finishing, when Henri, in the midst of the general silence, heard what seemed to him a stifled laugh. He turned round to see if Chicot were there, for he thought no one else would have dared to laugh at such a time. It was not, however, Chicot who had laughed at the sight of the two chemises of the Holy Virgin which were said to have such a prolific power, and which were just being drawn from their golden box; but it was a cavalier who had just stopped at the door of the church, and who was making his way with his muddy boots through the crowd of courtiers in their penitents' robes and sacks. Seeing the king turn, he stopped for a moment, and Henri, irritated at seeing him arrive thus, threw an angry glance at him. The newcomer, however, continued to advance until he reached the velvet chair of M. le Duc d'Anjou, by which he knelt down. He, turning round, said, "Bussy!""Good morning, monseigneur." "Are you mad?" "Why so?" "To come here to see this nonsense." "Monseigneur, I wish to speak to you at once." "Where have you been for the last three weeks?" "That is just what I have to tell you." "Well, you must wait until we leave the church." "So much the worse." "Patience, here is the end." Indeed, the king was putting on one of these chemises, and the queen another. Then they all knelt down, and afterwards the king, taking off his holy tunic, left the church. "Now, monseigneur," said Bussy, "shall we go to your house?" "Yes, at once, if you have anything to tell me." "Plenty of things which you do not expect." When they were in the hotel the duke said, "Now sit down and tell me all; I feared you were dead." "Very likely, monseigneur." "You left me to look after my beautiful unknown. Who is this woman, and what am I to expect?" "You will reap what you have sown, monseigneur--plenty of shame." "What do you mean?" cried the duke. "What I said." "Explain yourself, monsieur; who is this woman?" "I thought you had recognized her." "Then it was her?" "Yes, monseigneur." "You saw her?" "Yes." "And she spoke to you?" "Certainly. Doubtless you had reason to think her dead, and you perhaps hoped she was so." The duke grew pale.
"Yes, monseigneur," continued Bussy, "although you pushed to despair a young girl of noble race, she escaped from death; but do not breathe yet, do not think yourself absolved, for, in preserving her life, she found a misfortune worse than death.""What is it? what has happened to her?" "Monseigneur, a man preserved her honor and saved her life, but he made her pay for this service so dearly that she regrets his having rendered it." "Finish."
"Well, monseigneur, Mademoiselle de Méridor, to escape becoming the mistress of the Duc d'Anjou, has thrown herself into the arms of a man whom she detests, and is now Madame de Monsoreau."At these words the blood rushed furiously into the duke's face. "Is this true?" said he. "Pardieu! I said it," said Bussy, haughtily.
"I did not mean that; I did not doubt your word, Bussy, I wondered only if it were possible that one of my gentlemen had had the audacity to interfere between me and a woman whom I honored with my love.""And why not?" "Then you would have done so?" "I would have done better; I would have warned you that your honor was being lost." "Listen, Bussy," said the prince, becoming calmer, "I do not justify myself, but M. de Monsoreau has been a traitor towards me." "Towards you?" "Yes, he knew my intentions." "And they were?" "To try and make Diana love me." "Love you!" "Yes, but in no case to use violence." "Those were your intentions?" said Bussy, with an ironical smile. "Certainly, and these intentions I preserved to the last, although M. de Monsoreau constantly combated them." "Monseigneur, what do you say! This man incited you to dishonor Diana?" "Yes." "By his counsels?" "By his letters. Would you like to see them?" "Oh! if I could believe that!" "You shall see." And the duke, opening a little cabinet, and taking out a letter, said, "Since you doubt your prince's words, read." Bussy took it and read,-- "MONSEIGNEUR,
"Be quite easy; the coup-de-main can be executed without risk, for the young person sets off this evening to pass a week with an aunt who lives at the château of Lude. I charge myself with it, and you need take no trouble as for the scruples of the young lady, be sure that they will vanish in the presence of your highness: meanwhile I act; and this evening she will be at the château of Beaugé."Your highness's respectful servant, "BRYAN DE MONSOREAU." "Well, what do you say, Bussy?" "I say that you are well served, monseigneur." "You mean betrayed." "Ah, true; I forgot the end." "The wretch! he made me believe in the death woman----" "Whom he stole from you; it is black enough." "How did he manage?"
"He made the father believe you the ravisher, and offered himself to rescue the lady, presented himself at the château of Beaugé with a letter from the Baron de Méridor, brought a boat to the windows, and carried away the prisoner; then shut her up in the house you know of, and by constantly working upon her fears, forced her to become his wife.""Is it not infamous?" "Only partly excused by your conduct, monseigneur." "Ah! Bussy, you shall see how I will revenge myself!" "Princes do not revenge themselves, they punish," said Bussy. "How can I punish him?" "By restoring happiness to Madame de Monsoreau." "But can I?" "Certainly." "How?" "By restoring her to liberty. The marriage was forced, therefore it is null." "You are right." "Get it set aside, then, and you will have acted like a gentleman and a prince." "Ah, ah!" said the prince, "what warmth! you are interested in it, Bussy." "I! not at all, except that I do not wish people to say that Louis de Clermont serves a perfidious prince and a man without honor." "Well, you shall see. But how to do it?" "Nothing more easy; make her father act." "But he is buried in Anjou." "Monseigneur, he is here in Paris." "At your house?"
"No, with his daughter. Speak to him, monseigneur, that he may see in you, not what he does now, an enemy, but a protector--that he who now curses your name may bless you.""And when can I see him?" "As soon as you return Paris." "Very well." "It is agreed, then?" "Yes." "On your word as a gentleman?" "On my faith as a prince." "And when do you return?" "This evening; will you accompany me?" "No, I go first; where shall I meet your highness?" "To-morrow; at the king's levee." "I will be there, monseigneur."
Bussy did not lose a moment, and the distance that took the duke fifteen hours to accomplish, sleeping in his litter, the young man, who returned to Paris, his heart beating with joy and love, did in five, to console the baron and Diana the sooner.
Chapter 34HOW CHICOT RETURNED TO THE LOUVRE, AND WAS RECEIVED BY THE KING HENRI III. All was quiet at the Louvre, for the king, fatigued with his pilgrimage, had not yet risen, when two men presented themselves together at the gates. "M. Chicot," cried the younger, "how are you this morning?" "Ah, M. de Bussy." "You come for the king's levee, monsieur?" "And you also, I presume?" "No; I come to see M. le Duc d'Anjou. You know I have not the honor of being a favorite of his majesty's." "The reproach is for the king, and not for you." "Do you come from far? I heard you were traveling." "Yes, I was hunting. And you?" "Yes, I have been in the provinces; and now will you be good enough to render me a service?" "I shall be delighted." "Well, you can penetrate into the Louvre, while I remain in the ante-chamber; will you tell the duke I am waiting for him?" "Why not come in with me?" "The king would not be pleased." "Bah!" "Diable! he has not accustomed me to his most gracious smiles." "Henceforth, for some time, all that will change." "Ah, ah! are you a necromancer, M. Chicot?" "Sometimes; come, take courage, and come in with me." They entered together; one went towards the apartments of the Duc d'Anjou, and the other to those of the king.
Henri was just awake, and had rung, and a crowd of valets and friends had rushed in; already the chicken broth and the spiced wine were served, when Chicot entered, and without saying a word, sat down to eat and drink."Par la mordieu!" cried the king, delighted, although he affected anger; "it is that knave of a Chicot, that fugitive, that vagabond!" "What is the matter, my son?" said Chicot, placing himself on the immense seat, embroidered with fleur-de-lis, on which the king was seated. "Here is my misfortune returned," said Henri; "for three weeks I have been so tranquil." "Bah! you always grumble. One would think you were one of your own subjects. Let me hear, Henriquet, how you have governed this kingdom in my absence." "Chicot!" "Have you hung any of your curled gentlemen? Ah! pardon, M. Quelus, I did not see you."
"Chicot, I shall be angry," said the king; but he ended by laughing, as he always did; so he went on: "But what has become of you? Do you know that I have had you sought for in all the bad parts of Paris?""Did you search the Louvre?" Just then M. de Monsoreau entered. "Ah! it is you, monsieur," said the king; "when shall we hunt again?" "When it shall please your majesty; I hear there are plenty of wild boars at St. Germain en Laye."
"The wild boar is dangerous," said Chicot; "King Charles IX., I remember, was nearly killed by one. And then spears are sharp also; is it not so, Henri? and do you know your chief huntsman must have met a wolf not long ago?""Why so?" "Because he has caught the likeness; it is striking." M. de Monsoreau grew pale, and turning to Chicot, said: "M. Chicot, I am not used to jesters, having lived little at court, and I warn you that before my king I do not like to be humiliated, above all when I speak of my duties." "Well, monsieur," said Chicot, "we are not like you, we court people laughed heartily at the last joke." "And what was that?" "Making you chief huntsman." Monsoreau looked daggers at Chicot. "Come, come," said Henri, "let us speak of something else." "Yes, let us speak of the merits of Nôtre Dame de Chartres." "Chicot, no impiety." "I impious! it is you, on the contrary; there were two chemises accustomed to be together, and you separated them. Join them together and a miracle may happen." This illusion to the estrangement of the king and queen made everyone laugh.
Monsoreau then whispered to Chicot, "Pray withdraw with me into that window, I wish to speak to you." When they were alone, he went on, "Now, M. Chicot, buffoon as you are, a gentleman forbids you; do you understand? forbids you to laugh at him, and to remember that others may finish what M. de Mayenne began.""Ah! you wish me to become your creditor, as I am his, and to give you the same place in my gratitude." "It seems to me that, among your creditors, you forget the principal." "Indeed, I have generally a good memory. Who may it be?" "M. Nicolas David." "Oh! you are wrong; he is paid." At this moment Bussy entered. "Monsieur," said he to the count, "M. le Duc d'Anjou desires to speak with you." "With me?" "With you, monsieur." "Do you accompany me?" "No, I go first, to tell the duke you are coming," and he rapidly disappeared. "Well?" said the duke. "He is coming." "And he suspects nothing?" "Nothing; but if he did, what matter? is he not your creature? Does he seem to you less guilty than he did yesterday?" "No, a hundred times more so." "He has carried off, by treason, a noble young girl, and married her equally treasonably; either he must ask for the dissolution of the marriage himself, or you must do it for him." "I have promised." "I have your word?" "You have." "Remember that they know and are anxiously waiting." "She shall be free, Bussy; I pledge my word."
Bussy kissed the hand which had signed so many false promises. As he did so, M. de Monsoreau entered, and Bussy went to the corridor, where were several other gentlemen. Here he had to wait as patiently as might be for the result of this interview, on which all his future happiness was at stake. He waited for some time, when suddenly the door of the duke's room opened, and the sound of M. de Monsoreau's voice made Bussy tremble, for it sounded almost joyful. Soon the voices approached, and Bussy could see M. de Monsoreau bowing and retiring, and he heard the duke say:"Adieu, my friend." "My friend!" murmured Bussy. Then Monsoreau said, "Your highness agrees with me that publicity is best?" "Yes, yes; an end to all mysteries." "Then this evening I will present her to the king." "Do so; I will prepare him."
"Gentlemen," then said Monsoreau, turning towards those in the corridor, "allow me to announce to you a secret; monseigneur permits me to make public my marriage with Mademoiselle Diana de Méridor, who has been my wife for more than a month, and whom I intend this evening to present to the court."
Bussy, who had been hidden behind a door, staggered, and almost fell at this unexpected blow. However, he darted a glance of contempt at the duke, towards whom he made a step, but he, in terror, shut his door, and Bussy heard the key turn in the lock. Feeling that if he stayed a moment longer he should betray before everyone the violence of his grief, he ran downstairs, got on his horse, and galloped to the Rue St. Antoine. The baron and Diana were eagerly waiting for him, and they saw him enter pale and trembling.
"Madame," cried he, "hate me, despise me; I believed I could do something and I can do nothing. Madame, you are now the recognized wife of M. de Monsoreau, and are to be presented this evening. I am a fool--a miserable dupe, or rather, as you said, M. le Baron, the duke is a coward and a villain."And leaving the father and daughter overcome with grief, he rushed wildly away.
Chapter 35WHAT PASSED BETWEEN M. DE MONSOREAU AND THE DUKE.
It is time to explain the duke's sudden change of intention with regard to M. de Monsoreau. When he first received him, it was with dispositions entirely favorable to Bussy's wishes."Your highness sent for me?" said Monsoreau.
"You have nothing to fear, you who have served me so well, and are so much attached to me. Often you have told me of the plots against me, have aided my enterprises forgetting your own interests, and exposing your life.""Your highness----" "Even lately, in this last unlucky adventure----" "What adventure, monseigneur?" "This carrying off of Mademoiselle de Méridor--poor young creature!" "Alas!" murmured Monsoreau. "You pity her, do you not?" said the duke. "Does not your highness?"
"I! you know how I have regretted this fatal caprice. And, indeed, it required all my friendship for you, and the remembrance of all your good services, to make me forget that without you I should not have carried off this young girl."Monsoreau felt the blow. "Monseigneur," said he, "your natural goodness leads you to exaggerate, you no more caused the death of this young girl than I did." "How so?" "You did not intend to use violence to Mademoiselle de Méridor." "Certainly not." "Then the intention absolves you; it is a misfortune, nothing more."
"And besides," said the duke, looking at him, "death has buried all in eternal silence." The tone of his voice and his look struck Monsoreau. "Monseigneur," said he, after a moment's pause, "shall I speak frankly to you?""Why should you hesitate?" said the prince, with astonishment mingled with hauteur. "Indeed, I do not know, but your highness has not thought fit to be frank with me." "Really!" cried the duke, with an angry laugh. "Monseigneur, I know what your highness meant to say to me." "Speak, then."
"Your highness wished to make me understand that perhaps Mademoiselle de Méridor was not dead, and that therefore those who believed themselves her murderers might be free from remorse."
"Oh, monsieur, you have taken your time before making this consoling reflection to me. You are a faithful servant, on my word; you saw me sad and afflicted, you heard me speak of the wretched dreams I had since the death of this woman, and you let me live thus, when even a doubt might have spared me so much suffering. How must I consider this conduct, monsieur?""Monseigneur, is your highness accusing me?" "Traitor!" cried the duke, "you have deceived me; you have taken from me this woman whom I loved----" Monsoreau turned pale, but did not lose his proud, calm look. "It is true," said he. "True, knave!" "Please to speak lower, monseigneur; your highness forgets, that you speak to a gentleman and an old servant." The duke laughed. "My excuse is," continued he, "that I loved Mademoiselle de Méridor ardently." "I, also," replied François, with dignity. "It is true, monseigneur; but she did not love you." "And she loved you?"
"Perhaps." "You lie! you know you lie! You used force as I did; only I, the master, failed, while you, the servant, succeeded by treason.""Monseigneur, I loved her." "What do I care?" "Monseigneur, take care. I loved her, and I am not a servant. My wife is mine, and no one can take her from me, not even the king. I wished to have her, and I took her." "You took her! Well! you shall give her up." "You are wrong, monseigneur. And do not call," continue he, stopping him, "for if you call once--if you do me a public injury----" "You shall give up this woman." "Give her up! she is my wife before God----"
"If she is your wife before God, you shall give her up before men. I know all, and I will break this marriage, I tell you. To-morrow, Mademoiselle de Méridor shall be restored to her father; you shall set off into the exile I impose on you; you shall have sold your place; these are my conditions, and take care, or I will break you as I break this glass." And he threw down violently a crystal cup."I will not give up my wife, I will not give up my place, and I will remain in France," replied Monsoreau. "You will not?"
"No, I will ask my pardon of the King of France--of the king anointed at the Abbey of St. Geneviève; and this new sovereign will not, I am sure, refuse the first request proffered to him." François grew deadly pale, and nearly fell."Well, well," stammered he, "this request, speak lower--I listen."
"I will speak humbly, as becomes the servant of your highness. A fatal love was the cause of all. Love is the most imperious of the passions. To make me forget that your highness had cast your eyes on Diana, I must have been no longer master of myself.""It was a treason."
"Do not overwhelm me, monseigneur; I saw you rich, young and happy, the first Christian prince in the world. For you are so, and between you and supreme rank there is now only a shadow easy to dispel. I saw all the splendor of your future, and, comparing your proud position with my humble one, I said, 'Leave to the prince his brilliant prospects and splendid projects, scarcely will he miss the pearl that I steal from his royal crown.'""Comte! comte!" "You pardon me, monseigneur, do you not?"
At this moment the duke raised his eyes, and saw Bussy's portrait on the wall. It seemed to exhort him to courage, and he said, "No, I cannot pardon you; it is not for myself that I hold out, it is because a father in mourning--a father unworthily deceived-cries out for his daughter; because a woman, forced to marry you, cries for vengeance against you; because, in a word, the first duty of a prince is justice."
"Monseigneur, if justice be a duty, gratitude is not less so; and a king should never forget those to whom he owes his crown. Now, monseigneur, you owe your crown to me.""Monsoreau!" cried the duke, in terror. "But I cling to those only who cling to me."
"I cannot--you are a gentleman, you know I cannot approve of what you have done. My dear count, this one more sacrifice; I will recompense you for it; I will give you all you ask.""Then your highness loves her still!" cried Monsoreau, pale with jealousy. "No, I swear I do not." "Then, why should I? I am a gentleman; who can enter into the secrets of my private life?" "But she does not love you." "What matter?" "Do this for me, Monsoreau." "I cannot." "Then----" commenced the duke, who was terribly perplexed. "Reflect, sire."
"You will denounce me?" "To the king dethroned for you, yes; for if my new king destroyed my honor and happiness, I would return to the old.""It is infamous." "True, sire; but I love enough to be infamous." "It is cowardly." "Yes, your majesty, but I love enough to be cowardly. Come, monseigneur, do something for the man who has served you so well." "What do you want?" "That you should pardon me." "I will." "That you should reconcile me with M. de Méridor." "I will try." "That you will sign my marriage contract with Mademoiselle de Méridor." "Yes," said the prince, in a hoarse voice. "And that you shall honor my wife with a smile when I shall present her to his majesty." "Yes; is that all?" "All, monseigneur." "You have my word." "And you shall keep the throne to which I have raised you.--There remains now, only," thought Monsoreau, "to find out who told the duke."
Chapter 36CHICOT AND THE KING.
That same evening M. de Monsoreau presented his wife in the queen's circle. Henri, tired, had gone to bed, but after sleeping three or four hours, he woke, and feeling no longer sleepy, proceeded to the room where Chicot slept, which was the one formerly occupied by St. Luc; Chicot slept soundly, and the king called him three times before he woke. At last he opened his eyes and cried out, "What is it?""Chicot, my friend, it is I." "You; who?" "I, Henri." "Decidedly, my son, the pheasants must have disagreed with you; I warned you at supper, but you would eat so much of them, as well as of those crabs." "No; I scarcely tasted them." "Then you are poisoned, perhaps. Ventre de biche! how pale you are!" "It is my mask," said the king. "Then you are not ill?" "No." "Then why wake me?" "Because I am annoyed." "Annoyed! if you wake a man at two o'clock in the morning, at least you should bring him a present. Have you anything for me?" "No; I come to talk to you." "That is not enough." "Chicot, M. de Morvilliers came here last evening." "What for?" "To ask for an audience. What can he want to say to me, Chicot?" "What! it is only to ask that, that you wake me?" "Chicot, you know he occupies himself with the police." "No; I did not know it." "Do you doubt his watchfulness?" "Yes, I do, and I have my reasons." "What are they?" "Will one suffice you?" "Yes, if it be good." "And you will leave me in peace afterwards?" "Certainly." "Well, one day--no, it was one evening, I beat you in the Rue Foidmentel; you had with you Quelus and Schomberg." "You beat me?" "Yes, all three of you." "How, it was you! wretch!" "I, myself," said Chicot, rubbing his hands, "do I not hit hard?" "Wretch!" "You confess, it was true?" "You know it is, villain." "Did you send for M. de Morvilliers the next day?" "You know I did, for you were there when he came." "And you told him the accident that had happened to one of your friends?" "Yes." "And you ordered him to find out the criminal?" "Yes." "Did he find him?" "No." "Well, then, go to bed, Henri; you see your police is bad." And, turning round, Chicot refused to say another word, and was soon snoring again.
The next day the council assembled. It consisted of Quelus, Maugiron, D'Epernon, and Schomberg. Chicot, seated at the head of the table, was making paper boats, and arranging them in a fleet. M. de Morvilliers was announced, and came in, looking grave."Am I," said he, "before your majesty's council?" "Yes, before my best friends; speak freely." "Well, sire, I have a terrible plot to denounce to your majesty." "A plot!" cried all. "Yes, your majesty." "Oh, is it a Spanish plot?" At this moment the Duc d'Anjou, who had been summoned to attend the council, entered. "My brother," said Henri, "M. de Morvilliers comes to announce a plot to us." The duke threw a suspicious glance round him. "Is it possible?" he said. "Alas, yes, monseigneur," said M. de Morvilliers. "Tell us all about it," said Chicot. "Yes," stammered the duke, "tell us all about it, monsieur." "I listen," said Henri. "Sire, for some time I have been watching some malcontents, but they were shopkeepers, or junior clerks, a few monks and students." "That is not much," said Chicot. "I know that malcontents always make use either of war or of religion." "Very sensible!" said the king.
"I put men on the watch, and at last I succeeded in persuading a man from the provosty of Paris to watch the preachers, who go about exciting the people against your majesty. They are prompted by a party hostile to your majesty, and this party I have studied, and now I know their hopes," added he, triumphantly. "I have men in my pay, greedy, it is true, who, for a good sum of money, promised to let me know of the first meeting of the conspirators.""Oh! never mind money, but let us hear the aim of this conspiracy." "Sire, they think of nothing less than a second St. Bartholomew." "Against whom?" "Against the Huguenots." "What have you paid for your secret?" said Chicot. "One hundred and sixty thousand livres." Chicot turned to the king, saying, "If you like, for one thousand crowns, I will tell you all the secrets of M. de Morvilliers." "Speak." "It is simply the League, instituted ten years ago; M. de Morvilliers has discovered what every Parisian knows as well as his _ave_." "Monsieur," interrupted the chancellor. "I speak the truth, and I will prove it," cried Chicot. "Tell me, then, their place of meeting." "Firstly, the public streets; secondly, the public streets." "M. Chicot is joking," said the chancellor; "tell me their rallying sign." "They are dressed like Parisians, and shake their legs when they walk." A burst of laughter followed this speech; then M. de Morvilliers said, "They have had one meeting-place which M. Chicot does not know of." "Where?" asked the king. "The Abbey of St. Geneviève." "Impossible!" murmured the duke. "It is true," said M. de Morvilliers, triumphantly. "What did they decide?" asked the king.
"That the Leaguers should choose chiefs, that every one should arm, that every province should receive a deputy from the conspirators, and that all the Huguenots cherished by his majesty (that was their expression)----"The king smiled. "Should be massacred on a given day." "Is that all?" said the duke. "No, monseigneur." "I should hope not," said Chicot; "if the king got only that for one hundred and sixty thousand livres, it would be a shame." "There are chiefs----" The Duc d'Anjou could not repress a start. "What!" cried Chicot, "a conspiracy that has chiefs! how wonderful! But we ought to have more than that for one hundred and sixty thousand livres." "Their names?" asked the king. "Firstly, a fanatic preacher; I gave ten thousand livres for his name." "Very well." "A monk called Gorenflot." "Poor devil!" said Chicot. "Gorenflot?" said the king, writing down the name; "afterwards----" "Oh!" said the chancellor, with hesitation, "that is all." And he looked round as if to say, "If your majesty were alone, you should hear more." "Speak, chancellor," said the king, "I have none but friends here." "Oh! sire, I hesitate to pronounce such powerful names." "Are they more powerful than I am?" cried the king. "No, sire; but one does not tell secrets in public." "Monsieur," said the Duc d'Anjou, "we will retire."
The king signed to the chancellor to approach him, and to the duke to remain. M. de Morvilliers had just bent over the king to whisper his communication, when a great clamor was heard in the court of the Louvre. The king jumped up, but Chicot, running to the window, called out, "It is M. de Guise entering the Louvre.""The Duc de Guise," stammered the Duc d'Anjou. "How strange that he should be in Paris," said the king, reading the truth in M. de Morvilliers' look. "Was it of him you were about to speak?" he asked. "Yes, sire; he presided over the meeting." "And the others?" "I know no more." "You need not write that name on your tablets! you will not forget it," whispered Chicot. The Duc de Guise advanced, smiling, to see the king.
Chapter 37WHAT M. DE GUISE CAME TO DO AT THE LOUVRE.
Behind M. de Guise there entered a great number of officers, courtiers, and gentlemen, and behind them a concourse of the people; an escort less brilliant, but more formidable, and it was their cries that had resounded as the duke entered the Louvre."Ah! it is you, my cousin," said the king; "what a noise you bring with you! Did I not hear the trumpets sound?"
"Sire, the trumpets sound in Paris only for the king, and in campaigns for the general. Here the trumpets would make too much noise for a subject; there they do not make enough for a prince."Henri bit his lips. "Have you arrived from the siege of La Charité only to-day?" "Only to-day, sire," replied the duke, with a heightened color. "Ma foi! your visit is a great honor to us." "Your majesty jests, no doubt. How can my visit honor him from whom all honor comes?"
"I mean, M. de Guise," replied Henri, "that every good Catholic is in the habit, on returning from a campaign, to visit God first in one of his temple's--the king only comes second. 'Honor God, serve the king,' you know, my cousin."
The heightened color of the duke became now still more distinct; and the king, happening to turn towards his brother, saw with astonishment, that he was as pale as the duke was red. He was struck by this emotion in each, but he said:
"At all events, duke, nothing equals my joy to see that you have escaped all the dangers of war, although you sought them, I was told in the rashest manner; but danger knows you and flies you."The duke bowed. "But I must beg you, my cousin, not to be so ambitious of mortal perils, for you put to shame sluggards like us, who sleep, eat, and invent new prayers."
"Yes, sire," replied the duke, "we know you to be a pious prince, and that no pleasure can make you forget the glory of God and the interests of the Church. That is why we have come with so much confidence to your majesty."
"With confidence! Do you not always come to me with confidence, my cousin?"
"Sire, the great concourse of people who followed me, blessing my name, honored me with this reception only because of my zeal to defend the Church. I have already had the honor of speaking to your majesty of an alliance between all true Catholics.""Yes, yes," said Chicot, "the League; ventre de biche, Henri, the League. By St. Bartholomew! how can you forget so splendid an idea, my son?" The duke cast a disdainful glance on Chicot, while d'Anjou, who stood by, as pale as death, tried by signs, to make the duke stop. "Look at your brother, Henri," whispered Chicot.
"Sire," continued the Duc de Guise, "the Catholics have indeed called this association the Holy League, and its aim is to fortify the throne against the Huguenots, its mortal enemies; but to form an association is not enough, and in a kingdom like France, several millions of men cannot assemble without the consent of the king.""Several millions!" cried Henri, almost with terror. "Several millions!" repeated Chicot; "a small number of malcontents, which may bring forth pretty results." "Sire," cried the duke, "I am astonished that your majesty allows me to be interrupted so often, when I am speaking on serious matters."
"Quite right," said Chicot; "silence there." "Several millions!" repeated the king; "and against these millions, how many Huguenots are there in my kingdom?""Four," said Chicot. This new sally made the king and his friends laugh, but the duke frowned, and his gentlemen murmured loudly. Henri, becoming once more serious, said, "Well, duke, what do you wish? To the point." "I wish, sire--for your popularity is dearer to me than my own--that your majesty should be superior to us in your zeal for religion--I wish you to choose a chief for the League." "Well!" said the king, to those who surrounded him, "what do you think of it, my friends?" Chicot, without saying a word, drew out a lion's skin from a corner, and threw himself on it. "What are you doing, Chicot?" asked the king. "Sire, they say that night brings good counsel; that must be because of sleep; therefore I am going to sleep, and to-morrow I will reply to my cousin Guise." The duke cast a furious glance on Chicot, who replied by a loud snore. "Well, sire!" said the duke, "what does your majesty say?" "I think that, as usual, you are in the right, my cousin; convoke, then, your principal leaguers, come at their head, and I will choose the chief." "When, sire?" "To-morrow." The Duc de Guise then took leave, and the Duc d'Anjou was about to do the same, when the king said,-- "Stay, my brother, I wish to speak to you."
Chapter 38CASTOR AND POLLUX.
The king dismissed all his favorites, and remained with his brother. The duke, who had managed to preserve a tolerably composed countenance throughout, believed himself unsuspected, and remained without fear."My brother," said Henri, after assuring himself that, with the exception of Chicot, no one remained in the room, "do you know that I am a very happy prince?" "Sire, if your majesty be really happy, it is a recompense from Heaven for your merits." "Yes, happy," continued the king, "for if great ideas do not come to me, they do to my subjects. It is a great idea which has occurred to my cousin Guise." The duke make a sign of assent, and Chicot opened his eyes to watch the king's face.
"Indeed," continued Henri, "to unite under one banner all the Catholics, to arm all France on this pretext from Calais to Languedoc, from Bretagne to Burgundy, so that I shall always have an army ready to march against England, Holland, or Spain, without alarming any of them--do you know, François, it is a magnificent idea?""Is it not, sire?" said the duke, delighted. "Yes, I confess I feel tempted to reward largely the author of this fine project." Chicot opened his eyes, but he shut them again, for he had seen on the face of the king one of his almost imperceptible smiles, and he was satisfied. "Yes," continued Henri, "I repeat such a project merits recompense, and I will do what I can for the author of this good work, for the work is begun--is it not, my brother?" The duke confessed that it was.
"Better and better; my subjects not only conceive these good ideas, but, in their anxiety to be of use to me, hasten to put them in execution. But I ask you, my dear François, if it be really to the Duc de Guise that I am indebted for this royal thought?""No, sire, it occurred to the Cardinal de Lorraine twenty years ago, only the St.
Bartholomew rendered it needless for the time."
"Ah! what a pity he is dead; but," continued Henri, with that air of frankness which made him the first comedian of the day, "his nephew has inherited it, and brought it to bear. What can I do for him?"
"Sire," said François, completely duped by his brother, "you exaggerate his merits. He has, as I say, but inherited the idea, and another man has given him great help in developing it.""His brother the cardinal?" "Doubtless he has been occupied with it, but I do not mean him." "Mayenne, then?" "Oh! sire, you do him too much honor." "True, how could any good ideas come to such a butcher? But to whom, then, am I to be grateful for aid to my cousin Guise?" "To me, sire."
"To you!" cried Henri, as if in astonishment. "How! when I saw all the world unchained against me, the preachers against my vices, the poets against my weaknesses, while my friends laughed at my powerlessness, and my situation was so harassing, that it gave me gray hairs every day: such an idea came to you, François--to you, whom I confess, for man is feeble and kings are blind, I did not always believe to be my friend! Ah! François, how guilty I have been." And Henri, moved even to tears, held out his hand to his brother.Chicot opened his eyes again.
"Oh!" continued Henri, "the idea is triumphant. Not being able to raise troops without raising an outcry, scarcely to walk, sleep, or love, without exciting ridicule, this idea gives me at once an army, money, friends, and repose. But my cousin spake of a chief?""Yes, doubtless."
"This chief, you understand, François, cannot be one of my favorites; none of them has at once the head and the heart necessary for so important a post. Quelus is brave, but is occupied only by his amours. Maugiron is also brave, but he thinks only of his toilette. Schomberg also, but he is not clever. D'Epernon is a valiant man, but he is a hypocrite, whom I could not trust, although I am friendly to him. But you know, François, that one of the heaviest taxes on a king is the necessity of dissimulation; therefore, when I can speak freely from my heart, as I do now, I breathe. Well, then, if my cousin Guise originated this idea, to the development of which you have assisted, the execution of it belongs to him.""What do you say, sire?" said François, uneasily. "I say, that to direct such a movement we must have a prince of high rank." "Sire, take care." "A good captain and a skilful negotiator." "The last particularly." "Well, is not M. de Guise all this?" "My brother, he is very powerful already." "Yes, doubtless; but his power makes my strength."
"He holds already the army and the bourgeois; the cardinal holds the Church, and Mayenne is their instrument; it is a great deal of power to be concentrated in one family.""It is true, François; I had thought of that." "If the Guises were French princes, their interest would be to aggrandize France." "Yes, but they are Lorraines." "Of a house always rival to yours."
"Yes, François; you have touched the sore. I did not think you so good a politician. Yes, there does not pass a day but one or other of these Guises, either by address or by force, carries away from me some particle of my power. Ah! François, if we had but had this explanation sooner, if I had been able to read your heart as I do now, certain of support in you, I might have resisted better, but now it is too late.""Why so?" "Because all combats fatigue me; therefore I must make him chief of the League." "You will be wrong, brother."
"But who could I name, François? who would accept this perilous post? Yes, perilous; for do you not see that he intended me to appoint him chief, and that, should I name any one else to the post, he would treat him as an enemy?"
"Name some one so powerful that, supported by you, he need not fear all the three Lorraine princes together."
Henri looked at the duke as if a veil had fallen from his eyes. "Surely you would never consent, brother! It is not you who could teach all these bourgeois their exercise, who could look over the discourses of the preachers, who, in case of battle, would play the butcher in the streets of Paris; for all this, one must be triple, like the duke, and have a right arm called Charles and a left called Louis. What! you would like all this? You, the first gentleman of our court! Mort de ma vie! how people change with the age!""Perhaps I would not do it for myself, brother, but I would do it for you." "Excellent brother!" said Henri, wiping away a tear which never existed. "Then," said the duke, "it would not displease you for me to assume this post?" "Displease me! On the contrary, it would charm me." François trembled with joy. "Oh! if your majesty thinks me worthy of this confidence." "Confidence! When you are the chief, what have I to fear? The League itself? That cannot be dangerous can it, François?" "Oh, sire?"
"No, for then you would not be chief, or at least, when you are chief, there will be no danger. But, François, the duke is doubtless certain of this appointment, and he will not lightly give way.""Sire, you grant me the command?" "Certainly." "And you wish me to have it?" "Particularly; but I dare not too much displease M. de Guise." "Oh, make yourself easy, sire; if that be the only obstacle, I pledge myself to arrange it." "When?" "At once." "Are you going to him? That will be doing him too much honor." "No, sire; he is waiting for me." "Where?" "In my room." "Your room! I heard the cries of the people as he left the Louvre." "Yes; but after going out at the great door he came back by the postern. The king had the right to the first visit, but I to the second." "Ah, brother, I thank you for keeping up our prerogative, which I had the weakness so often to abandon. Go, then, François, and do your best."
François bent down to kiss the king's hand, but he, opening his arms, gave him a warm embrace, and then the duke left the room to go to his interview with the Duc de Guise. The king, seeing his brother gone, gave an angry growl, and rapidly made his way through the secret corridor, until he reached a hiding-place whence he could distinctly hear the conversation between the two dukes.
"Ventre de biche!" cried Chicot, starting up, "how touching these family scenes are! For an instant I believed myself in Olympus, assisting at the reunion of Castor and Pollux after six months' separation."
Chapter 39IN WHICH IT IS PROVED THAT LISTENING IS THE BEST WAY TO HEAR.
The Duc d'Anjou was well aware that there were few rooms in the Louvre which were not built so that what was said in them could be heard from the outside; but, completely seduced by his brother's manner, he forgot to take any precautions."Why, monseigneur," said the Duc de Guise. "how pale you are!" "Visibly?" "Yes, to me." "The king saw nothing?" "I think not; but he retained you?" "Yes." "And what did he say, monseigneur?" "He approves the idea, but the more gigantic it appears, the more he hesitates to place a man like you at the head." "Then we are likely to fail." "I fear so, my dear duke; the League seems likely to fail." "Before it begins." At this moment Henri, hearing a noise, turned and saw Chicot by his side, listening also. "You followed me, Knave!" said he. "Hush, my son," said Chicot; "you prevent me from hearing." "Monseigneur," said the Duc de Guise, "it seems to me that in this case the king would have refused at once. Does he wish to dispossess me?" "I believe so." "Then he would ruin the enterprise?" "Yes; but I aided you with all my power." "How, monseigneur?" "In this--the king has left me almost master, to kill or reanimate the League." "How so?" cried the duke, with sparkling eyes. "Why, if, instead of dissolving the League, he named me chief----" "Ah!" cried the duke, while the blood mounted to his face.
"Ah! the dogs are going to fight over their bones," said Chicot; but to his surprise, and the king's, the Duc de Guise suddenly became calm, and exclaimed, in an almost joyful tone:"You are an adroit politician, monseigneur, if you did this." "Yes, I did; but I would not conclude anything without speaking to you." "Why so, monseigneur?" "Because I did not know what it would lead us to."
"Well, I will tell you, monseigneur, not to what it will lead us--that God alone knows--but how it will serve us. The League is a second army, and as I hold the first, and my brother the Church, nothing can resist us as long as we are united.""Without counting," said the Duc d'Anjou, "that I am heir presumptive to the throne." "True, but still calculate your bad chances." "I have done so a hundred times." "There is, first, the King of Navarre." "Oh! I do not mind him; he is entirely occupied by his amours with La Fosseuse."
"He, monseigneur, will dispute every inch with you; he watches you and your brother; he hungers for the throne. If any accident should happen to your brother, see if he will not be here with a bound from Pau to Paris.""An accident to my brother," repeated François. "Listen, Henri," said Chicot.
"Yes, monseigneur," said the Duc de Guise, "an accident. Accidents are not rare in your family; you know that, as well as I do. One prince is in good health, and all at once he falls ill of a lingering malady; another is counting on long years, when, perhaps, he has but a few hours to live.""Do you hear, Henri?" said Chicot, taking the hand of the king, who shuddered at what he heard.
"Yes, it is true," said the Duc d'Anjou, "the princes of my house are born under fatal influences; but my brother Henri is, thank God, strong and well; he supported formerly the fatigues of war, and now that his life is nothing but recreation--"
"Yes; but, monseigneur, remember one thing; these recreations are not always without danger. How did your father, Henri II., die, for example? He, who also had happily escaped the dangers of war. The wound by M. de Montgomery's lance was an accident. Then your poor brother, François, one would hardly call a pain in the ears an accident, and yet it was one; at least, I have often heard it said that this mortal malady was poured into his ear by some one well known.""Duke!" murmured François, reddening.
"Yes, monseigneur; the name of king has long brought misfortune with it. Look at Antoine de Bourbon, who died from a spot in the shoulder. Then there was Jeanne d'Albret, the mother of the Béarnais, who died from smelling a pair of perfumed gloves, an accident very unexpected although there were people who had great interest in this death. Then Charles IX., who died neither by the eye, the ear, nor the shoulder, but by the mouth----""What do you say?" cried François, starting back. "Yes, monseigneur, by the mouth. Those hunting books are very dangerous, of which the pages stick together, and can only be opened by wetting the finger constantly." "Duke! duke! I believe you invent crimes."
"Crimes! who speaks of crimes? I speak of accidents. Was it not also an accident that happened to Charles IX. at the chase? You know what chase I mean; that of the boar, where, intending to kill the wild boar, which had turned on your brother, you, who never before had missed your aim, did so then, and the king would have been killed, as he had fallen from his horse, had not Henri of Navarre slain the animal which you had missed.""But," said the Duc d'Anjou, trying to recover himself, "what interest could I have had in the death of Charles IX., when the next king would be Henri III.?" "Oh! monseigneur, there was already one throne vacant, that of Poland. The death of
Charles IX. would have left another, that of France; and even the kingdom of Poland might not have been despised. Besides, the death of Charles would have brought you a degree nearer the throne, and the next accident would have benefited you.""What do you conclude from all this, duke?" said the Duc d'Anjou. "Monseigneur, I conclude that each king has his accident, and that you are the inevitable accident of Henri III., particularly if you are chief of the League." "Then I am to accept?" "Oh! I beg you to do so." "And you?" "Oh! be easy; my men are ready, and to-night Paris will be curious." "What are they going to do in Paris to-night?" asked Henri. "Oh! how foolish you are, my friend; to-night they sign the League publicly." "It is well," said the Duc d'Anjou, "till this evening then." "Yes, till this evening," said Henri. "How!" said Chicot, "you will not risk going into the streets to-night?" "Yes, I shall." "You are wrong, Henri; remember the accidents." "Oh! I shall be well accompanied; will you come with me?"
"What! do you take me for a Huguenot? I shall go and sign the League ten times. However, Henri, you have a great advantage over your predecessors, in being warned, for you know your brother, do you not?""Yes, and, mordieu! before long he shall find it out."
Chapter 40THE EVENING OF THE LEAGUE.
Paris presented a fine sight, as through its then narrow streets thousands of people pressed towards the same point, for at eight o'clock in the evening, M. le Duc de Guise was to receive the signatures of the bourgeois to the League. A crowd of citizens, dressed in their best clothes, as for a fête, but fully armed, directed their steps towards the churches. What added to the noise and confusion was that large numbers of women, disdaining to stay at home on such a great day, had followed their husbands, and many had brought with them a whole batch of children. It was in the Rue de l'Arbre Sec that the crowd was the thickest. The streets were literally choked, and the crowd pressed tumultuously towards a bright light suspended below the sign of the Belle Etoile. On the threshold a man, with a cotton cap on his head and a naked sword in one hand and a register in the other, was crying out, "Come come, brave Catholics, enter the hotel of the Belle Etoile, where you will find good wine; come, to-night the good will be separated from the bad, and to-morrow morning the wheat will be known from the tares; come, gentlemen, you who can write, come and sign;--you who cannot write, come and tell your names to me, La Hurière; vive la messe!" A tall man elbowed his way through the crowd, and in letters half an inch high, wrote his name, 'Chicot.' Then, turning to La Hurière, he asked if he had not another register to sign. La Hurière did not understand raillery, and answered angrily. Chicot retorted, and a quarrel seemed approaching, when Chicot, feeling some one touch his arm, turned, and saw the king disguised as a simple bourgeois, and accompanied by Quelus and Maugiron, also disguised, and carrying an arquebuse on their shoulders."What!" cried the king, "good Catholics disputing among themselves; par la mordieu, it is a bad example."
"Do not mix yourself with what does not concern you," replied Chicot, without seeming to recognize him. But a new influx of the crowd distracted the attention of La Hurière, and separated the king and his companions from the hotel."Why are you here, sire?" said Chicot. "Do you think I have anything to fear?" "Eh! mon Dieu! in a crowd like this it is so easy for one man to put a knife into his neighbor, and who just utters an oath and gives up the ghost." "Have I been seen?" "I think not; but you will be if you stay longer. Go back to the Louvre, sire." "Oh! oh! what is this new outcry, and what are the people running for?"
Chicot looked, but could at first see nothing but a mass of people crying, howling, and pushing. At last the mass opened, and a monk, mounted on a donkey, appeared. The monk spoke and gesticulated, and the ass brayed."Ventre de biche!" cried Chicot, "listen to the preacher." "A preacher on a donkey!" cried Quelus. "Why not?" "He is Silenus," said Maugiron. "Which is the preacher?" said the king, "for they speak both at once." "The underneath one is the most eloquent," said Chicot, "but the one at the top speaks the best French; listen, Henri."
"My brethren," said the monk, "Paris is a superb city; Paris is the pride of France, and the Parisians a fine people." Then he began to sing, but the ass mingled his accompaniment so loudly that he was obliged to stop. The crowd burst out laughing."Hold your tongue, Panurge, hold your tongue," cried the monk, "you shall speak after, but let me speak first." The ass was quiet. "My brothers," continued the preacher, "the earth is a valley of grief, where man often pan quench his thirst only with his tears." "He is drunk," said the king. "I should think so." "I, who speak to you," continued the monk, "I am returning from exile like the Hebrews of old, and for eight days Panurge and I have been living on alms and privations." "Who is Panurge?" asked the king. "The superior of his convent, probably but let me listen."
"Who made me endure this? It was Herod; you know what Herod I speak of. I and Panurge have come from Villeneuve-le-Roi, in three days, to assist at this great solemnity; now we see, but we do not understand. What is passing, my brothers? Is it to-day that they depose Herod? Is it to-day that they put brother Henri in a convent?-Gentlemen," continued he, "I left Paris with two friends; Panurge, who is my ass, and Chicot, who is his majesty's jester. Can you tell me what has become of my friend Chicot?"Chicot made a grimace. "Oh," said the king, "he is your friend." Quelus and Maugiron burst out laughing. "He is handsome and respectable," continued the king. "It is Gorenflot, of whom M. de Morvilliers spoke to you." "The incendiary of St. Geneviève?" "Himself!" "Then I will have him hanged!" "Impossible!" "Why?" "He has no neck."
"My brothers," continued Gorenflot: "I am a true martyr, and it is my cause that they defend at this moment or, rather, that of all good Catholics. You do not know what is passing in the provinces, we have been obliged at Lyons to kill a Huguenot who preached revolt. While one of them remains in France, there will be no tranquillity for us. Let us exterminate them. To arms! to arms!"Several voices repeated, "To arms!" "Par la mordieu!" said the king, "make this fellow hold his tongue, or he will make a second St. Bartholomew!" "Wait," said Chicot, and with his stick he struck Gorenflot with all his force on the shoulders. "Murder!" cried the monk. "It is you!" cried Chicot. "Help me, M. Chicot, help me! The enemies of the faith wish to assassinate me, but I will not die without making my voice heard. Death to the Huguenots!"
"Will you hold your tongue?" cried Chicot. But at this moment a second blow fell on the shoulders of the monk with such force that he cried out with real pain. Chicot, astonished, looked round him, but saw nothing but the stick. The blow had been given by a man who had immediately disappeared in the crowd after administering this punishment."Who the devil could it have been?" thought Chicot, and he began to run after the man, who was gliding away, followed by only one companion.
Chapter 41THE RUE DE LA FERRONNERIE.
Chicot had good legs, and he would have made the best use of them to join the man who had beaten Gorenflot if he had not imagined that there might be danger in trying to recognize a man who so evidently wished to avoid it. He thought the best way not to seem to watch them was to pass them; so he ran on, and passed them at the corner of the Rue Tirechappe, and then hid himself at the end of the Rue des Bourdonnais. The two men went on, their hats slouched over their eyes, and their cloaks drawn up over their faces, with a quick and military step, until they reached the Rue de la Ferronnerie. There they stopped and looked round them. Chicot, who was still ahead, saw in the middle of the street, before a house so old that it looked falling to pieces, a litter, attached to which were two horses. The driver had fallen asleep, while a woman, apparently unquiet, was looking anxiously through the blind. Chicot hid himself behind a large atone wall, which served as stalls for the vegetable sellers on the days when the market was held in this street, and watched. Scarcely was he hidden, when he saw the two men approach the litter, one of whom, on seeing the driver asleep, uttered an impatient exclamation, while the other pushed him to awaken him. "Oh, they are compatriots!" thought Chicot. The lady now leaned out of the window, and Chicot saw that she was young, very pale, but very beautiful. The two men approached the litter, and the taller of the two took in both of his the little white hand which was stretched out to him."Well, ma mie," asked he, "how are you?" "I have been very anxious," replied she. "Why the devil did you bring madame to Paris?" said the other man rudely. "Ma foi! it is a malediction that you must always have a petticoat tacked to your doublet!" "Ah, dear Agrippa," replied the man who had spoken first, "it is so great a grief to part from one you love."
"On my soul, you make me swear to hear you talk! Did you come to Paris to make love? It seems to me that Béarn is large enough for your sentimental promenades, without continuing them in this Babylon, where you have nearly got us killed twenty times today. Go home, if you wish to make love, but, here, keep to your political intrigues, my master."
"Let him scold, ma mie, and never mind him; I think he would be ill if he did not." "But, at least, ventre St. Gris, as you say, get into the litter, and say your sweet things to madame; you will run less risk of being recognized there than in the open street.""You are right, Agrippa. Give me a place, ma mie, if you permit me to sit by your side." "Permit, sire; I desire it ardently," replied the lady.
"Sire!" murmured Chicot, who, carried away by an impulse, tried to raise his head, and knocked it against the stone wall. Meanwhile the happy lover profited by the permission given, and seated himself in the litter.
"Oh! how happy I am," he cried, without attending in the least to the impatience of his friend--"ventre St. Gris, this is a good day. Here are my good Parisians, who execrate me with all their souls, and would kill me if they could, working to smooth my way to the throne, and I have in my arms the woman I love. Where are we, D'Aubigné? when I am king, I will erect here a statue to the genius of the Béarnais.""The Béarn----" began Chicot, but he stopped, for he had given his head a second bump. "We are in the Rue de la Ferronnerie, sire," said D'Aubigné, "and it does not smell nice." "Get in then, Agrippa, and we will go on." "Ma foi, no, I will follow behind; I should annoy you, and, what is worse, you would annoy me." "Shut the door then, bear of Béarn, and do as you like." Then to the coachman he said, "Lavarrenne, you know where." The litter went slowly away, followed by D'Aubigné.
"Let me see," said Chicot, "must I tell Henri what I have seen? Why should I? two men and a woman, who hide themselves; it would be cowardly. I will not tell; that I know it myself is the important point, for is it not I who reign? His love was very pretty, but he loves too often, this dear Henri of Navarre. A year ago it was Madame de Sauve, and I suppose this was La Fosseuse. However, I love the Béarnais, for I believe some day he will do an ill turn to those dear Guises. Well! I have seen everyone to-day but the Duc d'Anjou; he alone is wanting to my list of princes. Where can my François III. be? Ventre de biche, I must look for the worthy monarch."
Chicot was not the only person who was seeking for the Duc d'Anjou, and unquiet at his absence. The Guises had also sought for him on all sides, but they were not more lucky than Chicot. M. d'Anjou was not the man to risk himself imprudently, and we shall see afterwards what precautions had kept him from his friends. Once Chicot thought he had found him in the Rue Bethisy; a numerous group was standing at the door of a winemerchant; and in this group Chicot recognized M. de Monsoreau and M. de Guise, and fancied that the Duc d'Anjou could not be far off. But he was wrong. MM. de Monsoreau and Guise were occupied in exciting still more an orator in his stammering eloquence. This orator was Gorenflot, recounting his journey to Lyons, and his duel in an inn with a dreadful Huguenot. M. de Guise was listening intently, for he began to fancy it had something to do with the silence of Nicolas David. Chicot was terrified; he felt sure that in another moment Gorenflot would pronounce his name, which would throw a fatal light on the mystery. Chicot in an instant cut the bridles of some of the horses that were fastened up, and giving them each a violent blow, sent them galloping among the crowd, which opened, and began to disperse in different directions. Chicot passed quickly through the groups, and approaching Gorenflot, took Panurge by the bridle and turned him round. The Duc de Guise was already separated from them by the rush of the people, and Chicot led off Gorenflot to a kind of cul-de-sac by the church of St. Germain l'Auxerrois."Ah! drunkard!" said he to him, "ah! traitor! you will then always prefer a bottle of wine to your friend.' "Ah! M. Chicot," stammered the monk. "What! I feed you, wretch, I give you drink, I fill your pockets and your stomach, and you betray me." "Ah! M. Chicot!" "You tell my secrets, wretch." "Dear friend." "Hold your tongue; you are but a sycophant, and deserve punishment."
And the monk, vigorous and strong, powerful as a bull, but overcome by wine and repentance, remained without defending himself in the hands of Chicot, who shook him like a balloon full of air."A punishment to me, to your friend, dear M. Chicot!" "Yes, to you," said Chicot, striking him over the shoulders with his stick. "Ah! if I were but fasting." "You would beat me, I suppose; I, your friend."
"My friend! and you treat me thus!" "He who loves well chastises well," said Chicot, redoubling his proofs of friendship. "Now," said he, "go and sleep at the Corne d'Abondance.""I can no longer see my way," cried the monk, from whose eyes tears were falling. "Ah!" said Chicot, "if you wept for the wine you have drunk! However, I will guide you." And taking the ass by the bridle, he led him to the hotel, where two men assisted Gorenflot to dismount, and led him up to the room which our readers already know. "It is done," said the host, returning. "He is in bed?" "Yes, and snoring."
"Very well. But as he will awake some day or other, remember that I do not wish that he should know how he came here; indeed, it will be better that he should not know that he has been out since the famous night when he made such a noise in the convent, and that he should believe that all that has passed since is a dream.""Very well, M. Chicot; but what has happened to the poor monk?" "A great misfortune. It appears that at Lyons he quarreled with an agent of M. de Mayenne's and killed him." "Oh! mon Dieu!" "So that M. de Mayenne has sworn that he will have him broken on the wheel." "Make yourself easy, monsieur; he shall not go out from here on any pretext." "Good. And now," said Chicot, as he went away, "I must find the Duc d'Anjou."
Chapter 42THE PRINCE AND THE FRIEND.
We may remember that the Duc de Guise had invited the Duc d'Anjou to meet him in the streets of Paris that evening. However, he determined not to go out of his palace unless he was well accompanied; therefore the duke went to seek his sword, which was Bussy d'Amboise. For the duke to make up his mind to this step he must have been very much afraid; for since his deception with regard to M. de Monsoreau he had not seen Bussy, and stood in great dread of him. Bussy, like all fine natures, felt sorrow more vividly than pleasure; for it is rare that a man intrepid in danger, cold and calm in the face of fire and sword, does not give way to grief more easily than a coward. Those from whom a woman can draw tears most easily are those most to be feared by other men. Bussy had seen Diana received at court as Comtesse de Monsoreau, and as such admitted by the queen into the circle of her maids of honor; he had seen a thousand curious eyes fixed on her unrivaled beauty. During the whole evening he had fastened his ardent gaze on her, who never raised her eyes to him, and he, unjust, like every man in love, never thought how she must have been suffering from not daring to meet his sympathizing glance.
"Oh," said he to himself, seeing that he waited uselessly for a look, "women have skill and audacity only when they want to deceive a guardian, a husband, or a mother; they are awkward and cowardly when they have simply a debt of gratitude to pay, they fear so much to seem to love--they attach so exaggerated a value to their least favor, that they do not mind breaking their lover's heart, if such be their humor. Diana might have said to me frankly, 'I thank you for what you have done for me, but I do not love you.' The blow would have killed or cured me. But no; she prefers letting me love her hopelessly; but she has gained nothing by it, for I no longer love her, I despise her."And he went away with rage in his heart.
"I am mad," thought he, "to torment myself about a person who disdains me. But why does she disdain me, or for whom? Not, surely, for that long, livid-looking skeleton, who, always by her side, covers her incessantly with his jealous glances. If I wished it, in a quarter of an hour I could hold him mute and cold under my knee with ten inches of steel in his heart, and if I cannot be loved, I could at least be terrible and hated. Oh, her hatred! Rather than her indifference. Yes, but to act thus would be to do what a Quelus or a Maugiron would do if they knew how to love. Better to resemble that hero of Plutarch whom I so much admired, the young Antiochus, dying of love and never avowing it, nor uttering a complaint. Am I not called the brave Bussy?"He went home, and threw himself on a chair. How long he remained there he did not know when a man approached him. "M. le Comte," said he, "you are in a fever." "Ah, is it you, Rémy?" "Yes, count. Go to bed,"
Bussy obeyed, and all the next day Rémy watched by him, with refreshing drinks for his body and kind words for his mind. But on the day after Bussy missed him. "Poor lad!" thought he, "he was tired and wanted air; and then doubtless Gertrude expected him; she is but a femme de chambre, but she loves, and a femme de chambre who loves is better than a queen who does not."
The day passed, and Rémy did not return. Bussy was angry and impatient. "Oh!" cried he, "I, who still believed in gratitude and friendship, will henceforth believe in nothing." Towards evening he heard voices in his ante-chamber, and a servant entered, saying, "It is Monseigneur the Duc d'Anjou.""Let him enter," said Bussy, frowning. The duke, on entering the room, which was without lights, said, "It is too dark here, Bussy." Bussy did not answer; disgust closed his mouth. "Are you really ill," said the duke, "that you do not answer?" "I am very ill." "Then that is why I have not seen you for two days?" "Yes, monseigneur." The prince, piqued at these short answers, began to examine the room. "You seem to me well lodged, Bussy," said he. Bussy did not reply.
"Bussy must be very ill," said the duke to an attendant who stood by, "why was not Miron called? The king's doctor is not too good for Bussy." When the servant was gone, "Are you in grief, Bussy?" said the duke."I do not know." The duke approached, becoming more and more gracious as he was rebuffed. "Come, speak frankly, Bussy," said he. "What am I to say, monseigneur?" "You are angry with me?" "I! for what? besides, it is no use to be angry with princes." The duke was silent. "But," said Bussy, "we are losing time in preambles; to the point, monseigneur. You have need of me, I suppose?" "Ah, M. de Bussy!" "Yes, doubtless; do you think I believe that you come here through friendship; you, who love no one?" "Oh, Bussy, to say such things to me!"
"Well, be quick, monseigneur, what do you want? When one serves a prince, and he dissimulates to the extent of calling you his friend, one must pay for the dissimulation by being ready to sacrifice everything, even life, if necessary."
The duke colored, but it was too dark to see it. "I wanted nothing of you, Bussy, and you deceive yourself in thinking my visit interested. I desire only, seeing the fine evening, and that all Paris is out to sign the League, that you should accompany me a little about the streets."Bussy looked at him. "Have you not Aurilly to go with you?" "A lute-player!"
"Ah, monseigneur, you do not mention all his qualities; I believed that he fulfilled other functions for you. Besides, you have a dozen other gentlemen; I hear them in the antechamber."At this moment the door opened. "Who is there?" said the duke, haughtily. "Who enters unannounced where I am?" "I, Rémy," replied the young man, without any embarrassment. "Who is Rémy?" "The doctor, monseigneur," said the young man. "And my friend," said Bussy. "You heard what monseigneur asks?" continued he, turning to Rémy. "Yes, that you should accompany him; but----" "But what?" said the duke. "But you cannot do it!" "And why so?" cried the duke. "Because it is too cold out of doors." "Too cold!" cried the duke, surprised that any one should oppose him. "Yes, too cold. Therefore I, who answer for M. Bussy's life to himself and to his friends, must forbid him to go out." And he pressed Bussy's hand in a significant manner. "Very well," said the duke, "if the risk be so great, he must stay." And he turned angrily to the door; but returning to the bed, he said, "Then you have decided not to come?" "Monseigneur, you hear that the doctor forbids me." "You ought to see Miron, he is a great doctor." "I prefer my friend." "Then adieu." "Adieu, monseigneur." No sooner was the duke gone than Rémy said, "Now, monsieur, get up at once, if you please." "What for?" "To come out with me. This room is too warm." "You said just now to the duke that it was too cold outside." "The temperature has changed since." "So that----" said Bussy, with curiosity. "So that now I am convinced that the air will do you good." "I do not understand."
"Do you understand the medicines I give you? Yet you take them. Come, get up; a walk with M. d'Anjou is dangerous, with me it is healthy. Have you lost confidence in me? If so, send me away."
"Well, as you wish it." Ana he rose, pale and trembling.
Chapter 43ETYMOLOGY OF THE RUE DE LA JUSSIENNE. Rémy took his patient by the arm, and led him by the Rue Coquillière down to the rampart. "It is strange," said Bussy, "you take me near the marsh of the Grange-Batelier, and call it healthy." "Oh, monsieur, a little patience; we are going to turn round the Rue Pagavin, and get into the Rue Montmartre--you will see what a fine street that is." "As if I do not know it." "Well, so much the better; I need not lose time in showing you its beauties, and I will lead you at once into a pretty little street." Indeed, after going a few steps down the Rue Montmartre, they turned to the right. "This," said Rémy, "is the Rue de la Gypecienne, or Egyptienne, which you like; often called by the people the Rue de la Gyssienne, or Jussienne." "Very likely; but where are we going?" "Do you see that little church?" said Rémy. "How nicely it is situated; I dare say you never remarked it before." "No, I did not know it." "Well, now that you have seen the exterior, enter and look at the windows--they are very curious."
There was such a pleased smile on the young man's face, that Bussy felt sure there must have been some other reason for making him enter than to look at the windows which it was too dark to see. The chapel was lighted, however, for service, and Rémy began examining a fresco of the Virgin Mary, which was a continual source of complaint to the women who frequented the church, as they said that it attracted the attention of the young shopkeepers away from them."You had some other object in bringing me here than that I should admire the St. Marie, had you not?" "Ma foi! no." "Then let us go." "Wait a moment; the service is finishing." "Now let us go," said Bussy; "they are moving;" and he walked to the door. "At least take some holy water."
Bussy obeyed, and Rémy making a sign to a woman who stood near, she advanced, and Bussy grew suddenly pale, for he recognized Gertrude. She saluted him and passed on, but behind her came a figure which, although closely veiled, made his heart beat fast. Rémy looked at him, and Bussy knew now why he had brought him to this church. Bussy followed the lady, and Rémy followed him. Gertrude had walked on before, until she came to an alley closed by a door. She opened it, and let her mistress pass. Bussy followed, and the two others disappeared.
It was half-past seven in the evening, and near the beginning of May; the air began to have the feeling of spring, and the leaves were beginning to unfold themselves. Bussy looked round him, and found himself in a little garden fifty feet square, surrounded by high walls covered with vines and moss. The first lilacs which had begun to open in the morning sun sent out their sweet emanations, and the young man felt tempted to think that so much perfume and warmth and life came to him only from the presence of the woman he loved so tenderly.
On a little wooden bench sat Diana, twisting in her fingers a sprig of wall-flower, which she had picked, without knowing what she did. As Bussy approached her, she raised her head, and said timidly, "M. le Comte, all deception would be unworthy of us; if you found me at the church of St. Marie l'Egyptienne, it was not chance that brought you there.""No, madame; Rémy took me out without my knowing where I was going, and I swear to you that I was ignorant----" "You do not understand me, monsieur, I know well that M. Rémy brought you there, by force, perhaps." "No, madame, not by force; I did not know that he was going to take me to see any one." "That is a harsh speech," said Diana, sadly, and with tears in her eyes. "Do you mean that had you known, you would not have come?" "Oh, madame!" "It would have been but just, monsieur; you did me a great service, and I have not thanked you. Pardon me, and receive all my thanks." "Madame----" Bussy stopped; he felt so overcome, that he had neither words nor ideas.
"But I wished to prove to you," continued Diana, "that I am not ungrateful, nor forgetful. It was I who begged M. Rémy to procure for me the honor of this interview; it was I who sought for it, forgive me if I have displeased you.""Oh, madame! you cannot think that."
"I know," continued Diana, who was the strongest, because she had prepared herself for this interview, "how much trouble you had in fulfilling my commission; I know all your delicacy; I know it and appreciate it, believe me. Judge, then, what I must have suffered from the idea that you would misunderstand the sentiments of my heart.""Madame, I have been ill for three days." "Oh! I know," cried Diana, with a rising color, "and I suffered more than you, for M. Rémy, he deceived me, no doubt; for he made me believe----" "That your forgetfulness caused it. Oh! it is true."
"Then I have been right to do as I have done; to see you, to thank you for your kindness, and to swear to you an eternal gratitude. Do you believe that I speak from the bottom of my heart?"Bussy shook his head sadly, and did not reply. "Do you doubt my words?" said Diana.
"Madame, those who feel a kindness for you, show it when they can. You knew I was at the palace the night of your presentation, you knew I was close to you, you must have felt my looks fixed on you, and you never raised your eyes to me, you never let me know by a word, a sign, or a gesture, that you were aware of my presence; but perhaps you did not recognize me, madame, you have only seen me twice." Diana replied with so sad a glance of reproach, that Bussy was moved by it."Pardon, madame," said he; "you are not an ordinary woman, and yet you act like them. This marriage----" "I was forced to conclude it." "Yes, but it was easy to break." "Impossible, on the contrary." "Did you not know that near you watched a devoted friend?" "Even that made me fear." "And you did not think of what my life would be, when you belonged to another. But perhaps you kept the name of Monsoreau from choice?" "Do you think so?" murmured Diana; "so much the better." And her eyes filled with tears. Bussy walked up and down in great agitation. "I am to become once more a stranger to you," said he. "Alas!" "Your silence says enough." "I can only speak by my silence." "At the Louvre you would not see me, and now you will not speak to me." "At the Louvre I was watched by M. de Monsoreau, and he is jealous." "Jealous! What does he want then? mon Dieu! whose happiness can he envy, when all the world is envying his?" "I tell you he is jealous; for the last two or three days he has seen some one wandering round our new abode." "Then you have quitted the Rue St. Antoine?" "How!" cried Diana thoughtlessly, "then it was not you?"
"Madame, since your marriage was publicly announced, since that evening at the Louvre, where you did not deign to look at me, I have been in bed, devoured by fever, so you see that your husband could not be jealous of me, at least."
"Well! M. le Comte, if it be true that you had any desire to see me, you must thank this unknown man; for knowing M. de Monsoreau as I know him, this man made me tremble for you, and I wished to see you and say to you, 'Do not expose yourself so, M. le Comte; do not make me more unhappy than I am.'""Reassure yourself, madame; it was not I."
"Now, let me finish what I have to say. In the fear of this man--whom I do not know, but whom M. de Monsoreau does perhaps--he exacts that I should leave Paris, so that," said Diana, holding out her hand to Bussy, "you may look upon this as our last meeting, M. le Comte. To-morrow we start for Méridor."
"You are going, madame?"
"There is no other way to reassure M. de Monsoreau; no other way for me to be at peace. Besides, I myself detest Paris, the world, the court, and the Louvre. I wish to be alone with my souvenirs of my happy past; perhaps a little of my former happiness will return to me there. My father will accompany me, and I shall find there M. and Madame de St. Luc, who expect me. Adieu, M. de Bussy."Bussy hid his face in his hands. "All is over for me," he murmured. "What do you say?" said Diana.
"I say, madame, that this man exiles you, that he takes from me the only hope left to me, that of breathing the same air as yourself, of seeing you sometimes, of touching your dress as you pass. Oh! this man is my mortal enemy, and if I perish for it, I will destroy him with my own hands.""Oh! M. le Comte!"
"The wretch; it is not enough for him that you are his wife: you, the most beautiful and most charming of creatures, but he is still jealous. Jealous! The devouring monster would absorb the whole world!""Oh! calm yourself, comte; mon Dieu; he is excusable, perhaps." "He is excusable! you defend him, madame?" "Oh! if you knew!" cried Diana, covering her face with her hands. "If I knew! Oh! madame, I know one thing; he who is your husband is wrong to think of the rest of the world." "But!" cried Diana, in a broken voice, "if you were wrong, M. le Comte, and if he were not."
And the young woman, touching with her cold hand the burning ones of Bussy, rose and fled among the somber alleys of the garden, seized Gertrude's arm and dragged her away, before Bussy, astonished and overwhelmed with delight, had time to stretch out his arms to retain her. He uttered a cry and tottered; Rémy arrived in time to catch him in his arms and make him sit down on the bench that Diana had just quitted.
Chapter 44HOW D'EPERNON HAD HIS DOUBLET TORN, AND HOW CHOMBERG WAS STAINED BLUE.
While M. la Hurière piled signature upon signature, while Chicot consigned Gorenflot to the Corne d'Abondance, while Bussy returned to life in the happy little garden full of perfume and love, the king, annoyed at all he had seen in the city, and furious against his brother, whom he had seen pass in the Rue St. Honoré, accompanied by MM. de Guise and Monsoreau, and followed by a whole train of gentlemen, re-entered the Louvre, accompanied by Maugiron and Quelus. He had gone out with all four of his friends, but, at some steps from the Louvre, Schomberg and D'Epernon had profited by the first crush to disappear, counting on some adventures in such a turbulent night. Before they had gone one hundred yards D'Epernon had passed his sword-sheath between the legs of a citizen who was running, and who tumbled down in consequence, and Schomberg had pulled the cap off the head of a young and pretty woman. But both had badly chosen their day for attacking these good Parisians, generally so patient; for a spirit of revolt was prevalent in the streets, and the bourgeois rose, crying out for aid, and the husband of the young woman launched his apprentices on Schomberg. He was brave; therefore he stopped, put his hand on his sword, and spoke in a high tone. D'Epernon was prudent; he fled.
Henri had entered his room at the Louvre, and, seated in his great armchair, was trembling with impatience, and seeking a good pretext for getting into a passion. Maugiron was playing with Narcissus, the large greyhound, and Quelus was sitting near."They go on!" cried Henri, "their plot advances; sometimes tigers, sometimes serpents; when they do not spring they glide."
"Oh, sire!" said Quelus, "are there not always plots in a kingdom? What the devil could all the sons, brothers, and cousins of kings do if they did not plot?" And Quelus irreverently turned his back to the king."Hear, Maugiron," said the king, "with what nonsense he tries to put me off." "Well, sire, look at Narcissus; he is a good dog, but when you pull his ears, he growls, and when you tread on his toes he bites." "Here is the other comparing me to my dog!"
"Not so, sire; I place Narcissus far above you, for he knows how to defend himself, and you do not." And he also turned his back.
"That is right," cried the king, "my good friends, for whom they accuse me of despoiling the kingdom, abandon me, insult me! Ah, Chicot! if you were here."
"I left him in the hands of a dyer whose wife's cap he had pulled off, and who, with his five or six apprentices, seemed likely to make him pass an unpleasant quarter of an hour."
"Par la mordieu! and where did you leave my poor Schomberg? I will go myself to his aid. They may say," continued he, looking at Maugiron and Quelus, "that my friends abandon me, but they shall never say that I abandon them.""Thanks, sire," said a voice behind Henri; "thanks, but here I am; I extricated myself without assistance; but, mein Gott! it was not without trouble." "It is Schomberg's voice," cried all, "but where the devil is he?" "Here I am," cried the voice; and indeed, in the corner of the room they saw something that looked not like a man but a shadow. "Schomberg," cried the king, "where do you come from, and why are you that color?" Indeed, Schomberg from head to foot was of a most beautiful blue. "Der Teufel!" cried he, "the wretches! It is not wonderful that the people ran after me." "But what is the matter?" "The matter is, that they dipped me in a vat, the knaves; I believed that it was only water, but it was indigo." "Oh, mordieu!" cried Quelus, bursting out laughing, "indigo is very dear; you must have carried away at least twenty crowns' worth of indigo." "I wish you had been in my place." "And you did not kill any one?" "I left my poniard somewhere, that is all I know, up to the hilt in a sheath of flesh; but in a second I was taken, carried off, dipped in the vat, and almost drowned." "And how did you get out of their hands?" "By committing a cowardice, sire." "What was that?" "Crying, 'Vive la Ligue!'" "That was like me; only they made me add, 'Vive le Duc d'Anjou!'" said D'Epernon. "And I also," cried Schomberg; "but that is not all." "What, my poor Schomberg, did they make you cry something else?" "No, that was enough, God knows; but just as I cried, 'Vive le Duc d'Anjou,' guess who passed." "How can I guess?" "Bussy; his cursed Bussy, who heard me." "He could not understand." "Parbleu! it was not difficult to understand. I had a poniard at my throat, and I was in a vat." "And he did not come to your rescue?" "It seemed as though he was in a dreadful hurry; he scarcely seemed to touch the ground." "Perhaps he did not recognize you, as you were blue." "Ah! very likely." "He would be excusable," said the king; "for, indeed, my poor Schomberg, I should hardly have known you myself." "Never mind; we shall meet some other time, when I am not in a vat." "Oh! as for me," said D'Epernon, "it is his master I should like to punish." "The Duc d'Anjou, whose praises they are singing all over Paris," said Quelus. "The fact is, that he is master of Paris to-night," said D'Epernon.
"Ah, my brother! my brother!" cried the king. "Ah! yes, sire; you cry, 'my brother,' but you do nothing against him; and yet it is clear to me that he is at the head of some plot." said Schomberg."Eh, mordieu! that is what I was saying just before you came in, to these gentlemen, and they replied by shrugging their shoulders and turning their backs." "Not because you said there was a plot, sire, but because you do nothing to suppress it."
"And, now," said Quelus, "we say, 'Save us,' sire; or rather, save yourself; to-morrow M. de Guise will come to the Louvre, and ask you to name a chief for the League; if you name M. d'Anjou, as you promised, he, at the head of one hundred thousand Parisians, excited by this night, can do what he likes.""Then," said Henri, "if I take a decisive step, you will support me?" "Yes, sire." "If, sire, you will only give me time to remodel my dress," said D'Epernon. "Go to my room, D'Epernon; my valet de chambre will give you what you want." "And I, sire, must have a bath," said Schomberg. "Go to my bath." "Then I may hope, sire, that my insult will not remain unavenged." Henri remained silent a moment, and then said, "Quelus, ask if M. d'Anjou has returned to the Louvre." Quelus went, but came back, and said that the duke had not yet returned. "Well, you, Quelus and Maugiron, go down and watch for his entrance." "And then?" "Have all the doors shut." "Bravo! sire." "I will be back in ten minutes, sire," said D'Epernon. "And my stay will depend on the quality of the dye," said Schomberg. "Come as soon as possible," said the king. The young men went out, and the king, left alone, kneeled down on his prie-Dieu.
Chapter 45CHICOT MORE THAN EVER KING OF FRANCE. The gates of the Louvre were generally closed at twelve, but the king gave orders that they should be left open on this night till one. At a quarter to one Quelus came up. "Sire," said he, "the duke has come in." "What is Maugiron doing?" "Watching that he does not go out again." "There is no danger." "Then----" "Let him go to bed quietly. Whom has he with him?" "M. de Monsoreau and his ordinary gentlemen." "And M. de Bussy?" "No; he is not there." "So much the better." "What are your orders, sire?" "Tell Schomberg and D'Epernon to be quick, and let M. de Monsoreau know that I wish to speak to him."
Five minutes after, Schomberg and D'Epernon entered; the former with only a slight blue tint left, which it would take several baths to eradicate, and the latter newly clothed. After them, M. de Monsoreau appeared. "The captain of the guards has just announced to me that your majesty did me the honor to send for me," said he.
"Yes, monsieur; when I was out this evening, I saw the stars so brilliant, and the moon so clear, that I thought it would be splendid weather for the chase to-morrow; so, M. le Comte, set off at once for Vincennes, and get a stag turned out ready for me.""But, sire, I thought that to-morrow your majesty had given a rendezvous to Monsieur le Duc d'Anjou and M. de Guise, in order to name a chief for the League." "Well, monsieur?" said the king haughtily. "Sire, there might not be time."
"There is always time, monsieur, for those who know how to employ it; that is why I tell you to set off at once, so that you may have all ready for to-morrow morning at ten. Quelus, Schomberg, have the door of the Louvre opened for M. de Monsoreau, and have it closed behind him."The chief huntsman retired in astonishment. "It is a whim of the king's," said he to the young men. "Yes." They watched him out, and then returned to the king. "Now," said Henri, "silence, and all four of you follow me." "Where are we going, sire?" said D'Epernon. "Those who follow will see."
The king took a lantern in his hand, and led the young men along the secret corridor, which led to his brother's rooms. A valet-de-chambre watched here; but before he had time to warn his master, Henri ordered him to be silent, and the young men pushed him into a room and locked the door.
Henri opened his brother's door. François had gone to bed full of dreams of ambition, which the events of the evening had nourished; he had heard his name exalted, and the king's abused. Conducted by the Duc de Guise, he had seen the Parisians open everywhere for him and his gentlemen, while those of the king were insulted and hooted. Never since the commencement of his career had he been so popular, and consequently so hopeful. He had placed on the table a letter from M. de Guise, which had been brought to him by M. de Monsoreau. His surprise and terror were great when he saw the secret door open, and still more when he recognized the king. Henri signed to his companions to remain on the threshold, and advanced to the bed, frowning, but silent."Sire," stammered the duke, "the honor that your majesty does me is so unlooked for---" "That it frightens you, does it not? But stay where you are, my brother; do not rise." "But, sire, only--permit me----" and he drew towards him the letter of M. de Guise. "You are reading?" asked the king. "Yes, sire." "Something interesting to keep you awake at this time of night?" "Oh, sire, nothing very important; the evening courier----" "Oh, yes, I understand--Courier of Venus; but no, I see I am wrong--they do not seal billet-doux with seals of that size." The duke hid the letter altogether. "How discreet this dear François is!" said the king, with a smile which frightened his brother. However, making an effort to recover himself, he said: "Did your majesty wish to say anything particular to me?" "What I have to say to you, monsieur, I wish to say before witnesses. Here, gentlemen," continued he, turning to the four young men, "listen to us; I order you."
"Sire," said the duke, with a glance full of rage and hatred, "before insulting a man of my rank, you should have refused me the hospitality of the Louvre; in the Hotel d'Anjou, at least, I should have been free to reply to you.""Really, you forget, then, that wherever you are, you are my subject; that I am the king, and that every house is mine." "Sire, I am at the Louvre, at my mother's." "And your mother is in my house. But to the point--give me that paper." "Which?" "That which you were reading, which was on your table, and which you hid when I came in." "Sire, reflect." "On what?" "On this, that you are making a request unworthy of a gentleman, and fit only for a police-officer." The king grew livid. "That letter, monsieur!"
"A woman's letter, sire." "There are some women's letters very good to see, and dangerous not to see--such as those our mother writes.""Brother!" "This letter, monsieur!" cried the king, stamping his foot, "or I will have it torn from you by my Swiss!"
The duke jumped out of bed, with the letter crumpled in his hand, evidently with the intention of approaching the fire. But Henri, divining his intention, placed himself between him and the fire."You would not treat your brother thus?" cried the duke.
"Not my brother, but my mortal enemy. Not my brother, but the Duc D'Anjou, who went all through Paris with M. de Guise, who tries to hide from me a letter from one of his accomplices, the Lorraine princes.""This time," said the duke, "your police are wrong." "I tell you I saw on the seal the three merlets of Lorraine. Give it to me, mordieu! or----"
Henri advanced towards his brother and laid his hand on his shoulder. François had no sooner felt the touch of his hand than, falling on his knees, he cried out, "Help! help! my brother is going to kill me."
These words, uttered in an accent of profound terror, startled the king and mitigated his rage. The idea passed quickly through his mind that in their family, as by a curse, brother had always assassinated brother."No, my brother," said he, "you are wrong; I do not wish to hurt you, but you cannot contend with me. I am the master, and if you did not know it before, you know it now." "Yes, my brother, I acknowledge it." "Very well, then give me that letter; the king orders it." The duke let it fall, and the king picked it up, but without reading it put it in his pocketbook. "Is that all?" said the duke, with his sinister glance.
"No, monsieur, you must keep your room until my suspicions with respect to you are completely dissipated. The room is commodious, and not much like a prison; stay here. You will have good company--at least, outside the door, for this night these four gentlemen will guard you; to-morrow they will be relieved by a guard of Swiss." "But, my friends--cannot I see them?""Who do you call your friends?" "M. de Monsoreau, M. de Ribeirac, M. Antragues, and M. de Bussy." "Oh, yes, he, of course." "Has he had the misfortune to displease your majesty?" "Yes." "When, sire?" "Always, but particularly to-night." "To-night! what did he do?" "Insulted me in the streets of Paris." "You?" "My followers, which is the same thing." "Bussy! you have been deceived, sire." "I know what I say." "Sire, M. de Bussy has not been out of his hotel for two days. He is at home, ill in bed, burning with fever." The king turned to Schomberg, who said, "If he had fever, at all events he had it in the Rue Coquillière." "Who told you he was there?" said the duke. "I saw him." "You saw Bussy out of doors?" "Yes, looking well and happy, and accompanied by his ordinary follower, that Rémy." "Then I do not understand it; I saw him in bed myself; he must have deceived me." "It is well; he will be punished with the rest," said the king. "If M. de Bussy went out alone after refusing to go out with me----"
"You hear, gentlemen, what my brother says. But we will talk of him another time; now I recommend my brother to your care; you will have the honor of serving as guard to a prince of the blood.""Oh! sire," said Quelus, "be satisfied; we know what we owe to M. le Duc." "It is well; adieu, gentlemen."
"Sire," cried the duke, "am I really a prisoner, are my friends not to visit me, and am I not to go out?" And the idea of the next day presented itself to his mind, when his presence would be so necessary to M. de Guise. "Sire," cried he again, "let me at least remain near your majesty; it is my place, and I can be as well guarded there as elsewhere. Sire, grant me this favor."
The king was about to yield to this request and say, "Yes," when his attention was attracted to the door, where a long body, with its arms, its head, and everything that it could move, was making signs to him to say "No." It was Chicot."No," said Henri to his brother; "you are very well here, and here you must stay." "Sire----" "It is my pleasure, and that is enough," said the king, haughtily. "I said I was the real King of France," murmured Chicot.
Chapter 46HOW CHICOT PAID A VISIT TO BUSSY, AND WHAT FOLLOWED. The next morning, about nine, Bussy was eating his breakfast, and talking with Rémy over the events of the previous day. "Rémy," said he, "did you not think you had seen somewhere that gentleman whom they were dipping in a vat in the Rue Coquillière?" "Yes, M. le Comte, but I cannot think of his name." "I ought to have helped him," said Bussy, "it is a duty one gentleman owes to another; but, really, Rémy, I was too much occupied with my own affairs." "But he must have recognized us, for we were our natural color, and it seemed to me that he rolled his eyes frightfully, and shook his fist at us." "Are you sure of that, Rémy? We must find out who it was; I cannot let such an insult pass." "Oh!" cried Rémy, "I know now who he was." "How so?" "I heard him swear." "I should think so; any one would have sworn in such a situation." "Yes, but he swore in German." "Bah!" "Yes, he said, 'Gott verdomme.'" "Then it was Schomberg?" "Himself, M. le Comte." "Then, my dear Rémy, get your salves ready." "Why so, monsieur?"
"Because, before long, you will have to apply them either to his skin or to mine." "You would not be so foolish as to get killed, now you are so well and so happy; St. Marie l'Egyptienne has cured you once, but she will get tired of working miracles for you."
"On the contrary, Rémy, you cannot tell how pleasant it feels to risk your life when you are happy. I assure you I never fought with a good heart when I had lost large sums at play, when things had gone wrong, or when I had anything to reproach myself with; but when my purse is full, my heart light, and my conscience clear, I go boldly to the field, for I am sure of my hand; it is then I am brilliant. I should fight well to-day, Rémy, for, thanks to you," said he, extending his hand to the young man, "I am very happy."
"Stay a moment, however; you will, I hope, deprive yourself of this pleasure. A beautiful lady of my acquaintance made me swear to keep you safe and sound, under pretext that your life belongs to her.""Good Rémy!"
"You call me good Rémy, because I brought you to see Madame de Monsoreau, but shall you call me so when you are separated from her? and unluckily the day approaches, if it be not come.""What do you mean?" "Do you not know that she is going to Anjou, and that I myself have the grief of being separated from Gertrude. Ah----" Bussy could not help smiling at the pretended grief of the young man. "You love her, then?" he said. "I should think so; you should see how she beats me." "And you let her do it?" "Oh! yes." "But to return to Diana, Rémy; when shall we set off?" "Ah! I expected that. On the latest possible day I should say." "Why so?" "Firstly, because it seems to me that M. le Duc d'Anjou will want you here."
"After?" "Because M. de Monsoreau, by a special blessing, does not suspect you in the least, and would suspect something immediately if he saw you disappear from Paris at the same time as his wife.""What do I care for that?"
"No; but I care. I charge myself with curing the sword strokes received in duels, for, as you manage your sword well, you never receive very serious ones; but not the blows given secretly by jealous husbands; they are animals, who, in such cases, strike hard.""Well I my dear friend, if it is my destiny to be killed by M. de Monsoreau." "Well!" "Well! he will kill me."
"And then, a week after, Madame de Monsoreau will be reconciled to her husband, which will dreadfully enrage your poor soul, which will see it from above or below, without being able to prevent it.""You are right, Rémy; I will live."
"Quite right; but that is not all, you must be charmingly polite to him; he is frightfully jealous of the Duc d'Anjou, who, while you were ill in bed, promenaded before the house with his Aurilly. Make advances, then, to this charming husband, and do not even ask him what has become of his wife, since you know quite well.""You are right, Rémy, I believe. Now I am no longer jealous of the bear, I will be civil to him." At this moment some one knocked at the door. "Who is there?" cried Bussy. "Monsieur," replied a page, "there is a gentleman below who wishes to speak to you." "To speak to me so early; who is it?" "A tall gentleman, dressed in green velvet." "Can it be Schomberg?" "He said a tall man." "True, then Monsoreau, perhaps; well, let him enter." After a minute the visitor entered. "M. Chicot!" cried Bussy. "Himself, M. le Comte." Rémy retired into another room, and then Chicot said, "Monsieur, I come to propose to you a little bargain." "Speak, monsieur," said Bussy, in great surprise. "What will you promise me if I render you a great service?" "That depends on the service, monsieur," replied Bussy, disdainfully. Chicot feigned not to remark this air of disdain. "Monsieur," said he, sitting down and crossing his long legs, "I remark that you do not ask me to sit down." The color mounted to Bussy's face. "Monsieur," continued Chicot, "have you heard of the League?" "I have heard much of it," said Bussy.
"Well, monsieur, you ought to know that it is an association of honest Christians, united for the purpose of religiously massacring their neighbors, the Huguenots. Are you of the League, monsieur? I am.""But--monsieur----" "Say only yes, or no." "Allow me to express my astonishment----" "I did myself the honor of asking you if you belonged to the League."
"M. Chicot, as I do not like questions whose import I do not understand, I beg you to change the conversation before I am forced to tell you that I do not like questioners. Come, M. Chicot, we have but a few minutes left."
"Well! in a few minutes one can say a great deal; however, I might have dispensed with asking you the question, as if you do not belong to the League now, you soon will, as M. d'Anjou does.""M. d'Anjou! Who told you that?"
"Himself, speaking to me in person, as the gentlemen of the law say, or rather write; for example, that dear M. Nicolas David, that star of the Forum Parisiense. Now you understand that as M. d'Anjou belongs to the League, you cannot help belonging to it also; you, who are his right arm. The League knows better than to accept a maimed chief.""Well, M. Chicot, what then?" "Why, if you do belong to it, or they think you are likely to do so, what has happened to his royal highness will certainly happen to you." "And what has happened to him?"
"Monsieur," said Chicot, rising and imitating M. de Bussy's manner of a little before, "I do not love questions, nor questioners, therefore I have a great mind to let them do to you what they have done to-night to the duke.""M. Chicot," said Bussy, with a smile, "speak, I beg of you; where is the duke?" "He is in prison?" "Where?"
"In his own room. Four of my good friends guard him. M. de Schomberg, who was dyed blue yesterday, as you know, since you passed during the operation; M. d'Epernon, who is yellow from the fright he had; M. de Quelus, who is red with anger; and M. de Maugiron, who is white with ennui; it is beautiful to see; not to speak of the duke, who is going green with terror, so that we shall have a perfect rainbow to delight our eyes.""Then, monsieur, you think my liberty in danger?" "Danger! monsieur; suppose that they are already on the way to arrest you." Bussy shuddered. "Do you like the Bastile, M. de Bussy? it is a good place for meditation, and M. Laurent Testu, the governor, keeps a good cook." "They would send me to the Bastile?"
"Ma foi! I ought to have in my pocket something like an order to conduct you there. Would you like to see it?" and Chicot drew from his pocket an order from the king in due form, to apprehend, wherever he might be, M. Louis de Clermont, Seigneur de Bussy. "Written very nicely by M. Quelus," continued Chicot."Then, monsieur," cried Bussy, "you are really rendering me a service?" "I think so; do you agree with me?" "Monsieur, I beg you to tell me why you do it; for you love the king, and he hates me." "M. le Comte, I save you; think what you please of my action. But do you forget that I asked for a recompense?" "Ah, true." "Well?" "Most willingly, monsieur." "Then some day you will do what I ask you?" "On my honor, if possible." "That is enough. Now mount your horse and disappear; I go to carry this order to those who are to use it." "Then you were not to arrest me yourself?" "I! for what do you take me?" "But I should abandon my master." "Have no scruples; he abandons you." "You are a gentleman, M. Chicot." Bussy called Rémy. To do him justice, he was listening at the door. "Rémy, our horses!" "They are saddled, monsieur." "Ah!" said Chicot, "this young man knows what he is about." Bussy thanked Chicot once more, and went down. "Where are we going?" said Rémy. "Well----" said Bussy, hesitating. "What do you say to Normandy?" said Chicot. "It is too near." "Flanders, then?" "Too far." "Anjou is a reasonable distance, monsieur," said Rémy. "Well, then, Anjou," said Bussy, coloring. "Adieu, monsieur!" said Chicot. "It is destiny," said Rémy, when he was gone. "Let us be quick, and perhaps we may overtake her," said Bussy.
Chapter 47THE CHESS OF M. CHICOT, AND THE CUP AND BALL OF M. QUELUS. Chicot returned joyfully to the Louvre. It was a great satisfaction to him to have saved a brave gentleman like Bussy.
M. de Guise, after having received in the morning the principal Leaguers, who came to bring him the registers filled with signatures, and after having made them all swear to recognize the chief that the king should appoint, went out to visit M. d'Anjou, whom he had lost sight of about ten the evening before. The duke found the prince's valet rather unquiet at his master's absence, but he imagined that he had slept at the Louvre.
The Due de Guise asked to speak to Aurilly, who was most likely to know where his master was. Aurilly came, but stated he had been separated from the prince the evening before by a pressure of the crowd, and had come to the Hôtel d'Anjou to wait for him, not knowing that his highness had intended to sleep at the Louvre. He added that he had just sent to the Louvre to inquire, and that a message had been returned that the duke was still asleep."Asleep at eleven o'clock! not likely. You ought to go to the Louvre, Aurilly."
"I did think of it, monseigneur, but I feared that this was only a tale invented to satisfy my messenger, and that the prince was seeking pleasure elsewhere, and might be annoyed at my seeking him.""Oh, no; the duke has too much sense to be pleasure-seeking on a day like this. Go to the Louvre; you will be sure to find him there." "I will if you wish it; but what shall I say to him?"
"Say that the convocation at the Louvre is fixed for two o'clock, and that it is necessary that we should have a conference first. It is not at the time when the king is about to choose a chief for the League that he should be sleeping.""Very well, monseigneur, I will beg his highness to come here." "And say that I am waiting impatiently for him. Meanwhile I will go and seek M. de Bussy." "But if I do not find his highness, what am I to do?"
"Then make no further search for him. In any event I shall be at the Louvre at a quarter before two."
Aurilly passed through the courtiers who crowded the Louvre, and made his way to the duke's apartments. At the door he found Chicot playing chess. Aurilly tried to pass, but Chicot, with his long legs blocked up the doorway. He was forced to touch him on the shoulder.
"Yes, it is my king who disquiets me; you must know, M. Aurilly, that at chess the king is a very insignificant person, who has no will, who can only go one step forward or back, or one to the right or left, while he is surrounded by active enemies, by knights who jump three squares at a time, by a crowd of pawns who surround him, so that if he be badly counseled he is a ruined king in no time, ma foi.""But, M. Chicot, how does it happen that you are studying this at the door of his royal highness' room?" "Because I am waiting for M. Quelus, who is in there." "Where?" "With his highness." "With his highness! What is he doing there? I did not think they were such friends." "Hush!" then he whispered in Aurilly's ear "he is come to ask pardon of the duke for a little quarrel they had yesterday."
"Really!" "It was the king who insisted on it; you know on what excellent terms the brothers are just now. The king would not suffer an impertinence of Quelus's to pass, and ordered him to apologize.""Really!" "Ah! M. Aurilly, I think that we are entering the golden age; the Louvre is about to become Arcadia, and the two brothers Arcades ambo."
Aurilly smiled, and passed into the ante-chamber, where he was courteously saluted by Quelus, between whose hands a superb cup and ball of ebony inlaid with ivory was making rapid evolutions."Bravo! M. Quelus," said Aurilly. "Ah! my dear M. Aurilly, when shall I play cup and ball as well as you play the lute?" "When you have studied your plaything as long as I have my instrument. But where is monseigneur? I thought you were with him." "I have an audience with him, but Schomberg comes first." "What! M. de Schomberg, also!" "Oh! mon Dieu; yes. The king settled all that. He is in the next room. Enter, M. Aurilly, and remind the prince that we are waiting for him."
Aurilly opened the second door and saw Schomberg reclining on a kind of couch, from which he amused himself by sending from a tube little balls of earth through a gold ring, suspended from the ceiling by a silk thread, while a favorite dog brought him back the balls as they fell."Ah! guten morgen, M. Aurilly, you see I am amusing myself while I wait for my audience." "But where is monseigneur?" "Oh! he is occupied in pardoning D'Epernon and Maugiron. But will you not enter, you who are privileged?" "Perhaps it would be indiscreet."
"Not at all; enter, M. Aurilly, enter." And he pushed him into the next room, where the astonished musician perceived D'Epernon before a mirror, occupied in stiffening his mustachios, while Maugiron, seated near the window, was cutting out engravings, by the side of which the bas-reliefs on the temple of Venus Aphrodite would have looked holy.
The duke, without his sword, was in his armchair between these two men, who only looked at him to watch his movements, and only spoke to him to say something disagreeable: seeing Aurilly, he got up to meet him."Take care monseigneur," said Maugiron, "you are stepping on my figures." "Mon Dieu!" cried the musician, "he insults my master!" "Dear M. Aurilly," said D'Epernon, still arranging his mustachois, "how are you?" "Be so kind as to bring me here your little dagger," said Maugiron. "Gentlemen, gentlemen, do you not remember where you are?" "Yes, yes, my dear Orpheus, that is why I ask for your dagger; you see M. le Duc has none." "Aurilly!" cried the duke, in a tone full of grief and rage, "do you not see that I am a prisoner?" "A prisoner! to whom?" "To my brother; you might know that by my jailers." "Oh! if I had but guessed it." "You would have brought your lute to amuse his highness," said a mocking voice behind them, "but I thought of it, and sent for it; here it is." "How does your chess go on, Chicot?" said D'Epernon. "I believe I shall save the king, but it is not without trouble. Come, M. Aurilly, give me your poniard in return for the lute; a fair exchange." The astonished musician obeyed. "There is one rat in the trap," said Quelus, who returned to his post in the antechamber, only exchanging his cup and ball for Schomberg's shooting tube. "It is amusing to vary one's pleasures," said Chicot; "so for a change I will go and sign the League."
Chapter 48THE RECEPTION OF THE CHIEFS OF THE LEAGUE.
The time for the great reception drew near. Paris, nearly as tumultuous as the evening before, had sent towards the Louvre its deputation of leaguers, its bodies of workmen, its sheriffs, its militia, and its constantly-increasing masses of spectators.
The king, on his throne in the great hall, was surrounded by his officers, his friends, his courtiers, and his family, waiting for all the corporations to defile before him, when M. de Monsoreau entered abruptly."Look, Henriquet," said Chicot, who was standing near the king. "At what?" "At your chief huntsman; pardieu, he is well worth it. See how pale and dirty he is!" Henri made a sign to M. de Monsoreau, who approached. "How is it that you are at the Louvre, monsieur? I thought you at Vincennes."
"Sire, the stag was turned off at seven o'clock this morning, but when noon came, and I had no news, I feared that some misfortune had happened to your majesty, and I returned.""Really!" "Sire, if I have done wrong, attribute it to an excess of devotion." "Yes, monsieur, and I appreciate it." "Now," said the count, hesitatingly, "if your majesty wishes me to return to Vincennes, as I am reassured----"
"No, no, stay; this chase was a fancy which came into our head, and which went as it came; do not go away, I want near me devoted subjects, and you have just classed yourself as such."Monsoreau bowed, and said, "Where does your majesty wish me to remain?" "Will you give him to me for half an hour?" said Chicot to the king, in a low voice.
"What for?" "To torment him a little. You owe me some compensation for obliging me to be present at this tiresome ceremony.""Well, take him." "Where does your majesty wish me to stand?" again asked M. de Monsoreau. "Where you like; go behind my armchair, that is where I put my friends."
"Come here," said Chicot, making room for M. de Monsoreau, "come and get the scent of these fellows. Here is game which can be tracked without a hound. Here are the shoemakers who pass, or rather, who have passed; then here are the tanners. Mort de ma vie! if you lose their scent, I will take away your place."M. de Monsoreau listened mechanically; he seemed preoccupied, and looked around him anxiously. "Do you know what your chief huntsman is hunting for now?" said Chicot, in an undertone, to the king. "No." "Your brother." "The game is not in sight." "Just ask him where his countess is." "What for?" "Just ask." "M. le Comte," said Henri, "what have you done with Madame de Monsoreau? I do not see her here."
The count started, but replied, "Sire, she is ill, the air of Paris did not agree with her; so having obtained leave from the queen, she set out last night, with her father, for Méridor.""Paris is not good for women in her situation," said Chicot. Monsoreau grew pale and looked furiously at him. "This poor countess!" continued Chicot, "she will die of ennui by the way."
"I said that she traveled with her father." "A father is very respectable, I allow, but not very amusing; and if she had only that worthy baron to amuse her it would be sad; but luckily----""What!" cried the count. "What?" "What do you mean by 'luckily'?" "Ah, it was an ellipsis I used." The count shrugged his shoulders. "Oh, but it was. Ask Henri, who is a man of letters." "Yes," said the king; "but what did your adverb mean?" "What adverb?" "'Luckily.'"
"'Luckily' means luckily. Luckily, then, there exist some of our friends, and very amusing ones, who, if they meet the countess, will amuse her, and as they are going the same way, it is probable they will. Oh, I see them from here; do you not, Henri; you, who are a man of imagination? There they go, on a good road, well mounted, and saying sweet things to Madame la Comtesse, which she likes very much, dear lady."M. de Monsoreau was furious, but he could not show it before the king; so he said as mildly as he could, "What, have you friends traveling to Anjou?" "Good; pretend to be mysterious." "I swear to you----" "Oh! you know they are there, although I saw you just now seeking for them mechanically among the crowd." "You saw me?" "Yes, you, the palest of all chief huntsmen, past, present, and future, from Nimrod to M. d'Aulefort, your predecessor." "M. Chicot!"
"The palest, I repeat." "Monsieur, will you return to the friends of whom you spoke, and be so good as to name them, if your super-abundant imagination will let you.""Seek, monsieur. Morbleu, it is your occupation to hunt out animals, witness the unlucky stag whom you deranged this morning, and who thought it very unkind of you. Seek." The eyes of M. de Monsoreau wandered anxiously again. "What!" cried he, seeing a vacant place by the king, "not the Duc d'Anjou?" "Taint! Taint! the beast is found." "He is gone to-day." "He is gone to-day, but it is possible that he set out last night. When did your brother disappear, Henri?" "Last night." "The duke gone!" murmured Monsoreau, paler than ever. "I do not say he is gone, I say only that he disappeared last night, and that his best friends do not know where he is," said the king. "Oh!" cried the count, "if I thought so----" "Well; what should you do? Besides, what harm if he does talk nonsense to Madame de Monsoreau? He is the gallant of the family, you know." "I am lost!" murmured the count, trying to go away. But Chicot detained him.
"Keep still; mordieu! you shake the king's chair. Mort de ma vie, your wife will be quite happy with the prince to talk to, and M. Aurilly to play the lute to her." Monsoreau trembled with anger."Quietly, monsieur," continued Chicot; "hide your joy, here is the business beginning; you should not show your feelings so openly; listen to the discourse of the king."
M. de Monsoreau was forced to keep quiet. M. de Guise entered and knelt before the king, not without throwing an uneasy glance of surprise on the vacant seat of M. d'Anjou. The king rose, and the heralds commanded silence.