On the evening of a Sunday, in the year 1578, a splendid fête was given in the magnificent hotel just built opposite the Louvre, on the other side of the water, by the family of Montmorency, who, allied to the royalty of France, held themselves equal to princes. This fête was to celebrate the wedding of François d'Epinay de St. Luc, a great friend and favorite of the king, Henri III., with Jeanne de Crossé-Brissac, daughter of the marshal of that name.
The banquet had taken place at the Louvre, and the king, who had been with much difficulty induced to consent to the marriage, had appeared at it with a severe and grave countenance. His costume was in harmony with his face; he wore that suit of deep chestnut, in which Clouet described him at the wedding of Joyeuse; and this kind of royal specter, solemn and majestic, had chilled all the spectators, but above all the young bride, at whom he cast many angry glances. The reason of all this was known to everyone, but was one of those court secrets of which no one likes to speak.
Scarcely was the repast finished, when the king had risen abruptly, thereby forcing everyone to do the same. Then St. Luc approached him, and said: "Sire, will your majesty do me the honor to accept the fête, which I wish to give to you this evening at the Hôtel Montmorency?" This was said in an imploring tone, but Henri, with a voice betraying both vexation and anger, had replied:"Yes, monsieur, we will go, although you certainly do not merit this proof of friendship on our part." Then Madame de St. Luc had humbly thanked the king, but he turned his back without replying. "Is the king angry with you?" asked the young wife of her husband. "I will explain it to you after, mon amie, when this anger shall have passed away." "And will it pass away?"
"It must." Mademoiselle de Brissac was not yet sufficiently Madame de St. Luc to insist further; therefore she repressed her curiosity, promising herself to satisfy it at a more favorable time.
They were, therefore, expecting St. Luc at the Hôtel Montmorency, at the moment in which our story commences. St. Luc had invited all the king's friends and all his own; the princes and their favorites, particularly those of the Duc d'Anjou. He was always in opposition to the king, but in a hidden manner, pushing forward those of his friends whom the example of La Mole and Coconnas had not cured. Of course, his favorites and those of the king lived in a state of antagonism, which brought on rencontres two or three times a month, in which it was rare that some one was not killed or badly wounded.
As for Catherine, she was at the height of her wishes; her favorite son was on the throne, and she reigned through him, while she pretended to care no more for the things of this world. St. Luc, very uneasy at the absence of all the royal family, tried to reassure his father-in-law, who was much distressed at this menacing absence. Convinced, like all the world, of the friendship of Henri for St. Luc, he had believed he was assuring the royal favor, and now this looked like a disgrace. St. Luc tried hard to inspire in them a security which he did not feel himself; and his friends, Maugiron, Schomberg, and Quelus, clothed in their most magnificent dresses, stiff in their splendid doublets, with enormous frills, added to his annoyance by their ironical lamentations.
"Eh! mon Dieu! my poor friend," said Jacques de Levis, Comte de Quelus, "I believe now that you are done for. The king is angry that you would not take his advice, and M. d'Anjou because you laughed at his nose."
"No, Quelus, the king does not come, because he has made a pilgrimage to the monks of the Bois de Vincennes; and the Duc d'Anjou is absent, because he is in love with some woman whom I have forgotten to invite.""But," said Maugiron, "did you see the king's face at dinner? And as for the duke, if he could not come, his gentlemen might. There is not one here, not even Bussy."
"Oh! gentlemen," said the Duc de Brissac, in a despairing tone, "it looks like a complete disgrace. Mon Dieu! how can our house, always so devoted to his majesty, have displeased him?"
The young men received this speech with bursts of laughter, which did not tend to soothe the marquis. The young bride was also wondering how St. Luc could have displeased the king. All at once one of the doors opened and the king was announced.
"Ah!" cried the marshal, "now I fear nothing; if the Duc d'Anjou would but come, my satisfaction would be complete."
"And I," murmured St. Luc; "I have more fear of the king present than absent, for I fear he comes to play me some spiteful tricks."
But, nevertheless, he ran to meet the king, who had quitted at last his somber costume, and advanced resplendent in satin, feathers, and jewels. But at the instant he entered another door opened just opposite, and a second Henri III., clothed exactly like the first, appeared, so that the courtiers, who had run to meet the first, turned round at once to look at the second.Henri III. saw the movement, and exclaimed: "What is the matter, gentlemen?" A burst of laughter was the reply. The king, not naturally patient, and less so that day than usual, frowned; but St. Luc approached, and said: "Sire, it is Chicot, your jester, who is dressed exactly like your majesty, and is giving his hand to the ladies to kiss."
Henri laughed. Chicot enjoyed at his court a liberty similar to that enjoyed thirty years before by Triboulet at the court of François I., and forty years after by Longely at the court of Louis XIII. Chicot was not an ordinary jester. Before being Chicot he had been "De Chicot." He was a Gascon gentleman, who, ill-treated by M. de Mayenne on account of a rivalry in a love affair, in which Chicot had been victorious, had taken refuge at court, and prayed the king for his protection by telling him the truth."Eh, M. Chicot," said Henri, "two kings at a time are too much." "Then," replied he, "let me continue to be one, and you play Duc d'Anjou; perhaps you will be taken for him, and learn something of his doings." "So," said Henri, looking round him, "Anjou is not here." "The more reason for you to replace him. It is settled, I am Henri, and you are François. I will play the king, while you dance and amuse yourself a little, poor king." "You are right, Chicot, I will dance." "Decidedly," thought De Brissac, "I was wrong to think the king angry; he is in an excellent humor." Meanwhile St. Luc had approached his wife. She was not a beauty, but she had fine black eyes, white teeth, and a dazzling complexion. "Monsieur," said she to her husband, "why did they say that the king was angry with me; he has done nothing but smile on me ever since he came?" "You did not say so after dinner, dear Jeanne, for his look then frightened you." "His majesty was, doubtless, out of humor then, but now--"
"Now, it is far worse; he smiles with closed lips. I would rather he showed me his teeth. Jeanne, my poor child, he is preparing for us some disagreeable surprise. Oh I do not look at me so tenderly, I beg; turn your back to me. Here is Maugiron coming; converse with him, and be amiable to him.""That is a strange recommendation, monsieur." But St. Luc left his wife full of astonishment, and went to pay his court to Chicot, who was playing his part with a most laughable majesty.
The king danced, but seemed never to lose sight of St. Luc. Sometimes he called him to repeat to him some pleasantry, which, whether droll or not, made St. Luc laugh heartily. Sometimes he offered him out of his comfit box sweetmeats and candied fruits, which St. Luc found excellent. If he disappeared for an instant, the king sent for him, and seemed not happy if he was out of his sight. All at once a voice rose above all the tumult."Oh!" said Henri, "I think I hear the voice of Chicot; do you hear, St. Luc?--the king is angry." "Yes, sire, it sounds as though he were quarreling with some one." "Go and see what it is, and come back and tell me." As St. Luc approached he heard Chicot crying:
"I have made sumptuary laws, but if they are not enough I will make more; at least they shall be numerous, if they are not good. By the horn of Beelzebub, six pages, M. de Bussy, are too much."And Chicot, swelling out his cheeks, and putting his hand to his side, imitated the king to the life.
"What does he say about Bussy?" asked the king, when St. Luc returned. St. Luc was about to reply, when the crowd opening, showed to him six pages, dressed in cloth of gold, covered with chains, and bearing on their breasts the arms of their masters, sparkling in jewels. Behind them came a young man, handsome and proud; who walked with his head raised and a haughty look, and whose simple dress of black velvet contrasted with the splendor of his pages. This was Bussy d'Amboise. Maugiron, Schomberg, and Quelus had drawn near to the king.
"See," said Maugiron, "here is the servant, but where is the master? Are you also in disgrace with him, St. Luc?"
"Do you not remember that when his majesty did M. de Bussy the honor to ask him if he wished to belong to him, he replied that, being of the House of Clermont, he followed no one, and belonged to himself."The king frowned. "Yes," said Maugiron, "whatever you say, he serves the Duc d'Anjou." "Then it is because the duke is greater than the king." No observation could have been more annoying to the king than this, for he detested the Duc d'Anjou. Thus, although he did not answer, he grew pale. "Come, come, gentlemen," said St. Luc, trembling, "a little charity for my guests, if you please; do not spoil my wedding day." "Yes," said the king, in a mocking tone; "do not spoil St. Luc's wedding-day." "Oh!" said Schomberg, "is Bussy allied to the Brissacs?--since St. Luc defends him." "He is neither my friend nor relation, but he is my guest," said St. Luc. The king gave an angry look. "Besides," he hastened to add, "I do not defend him the least in the world." Bussy approached gravely behind his pages to salute the king, when Chicot cried:
"Oh, la! Bussy d'Amboise, Louis de Clermont, Comte de Bussy, do you not see the true Henri, do you not know the true king from the false? He to whom you are going is Chicot, my jester, at whom I so often laugh."Bussy continued his way, and was about to bow before the king, when he said:
"Do you not hear, M. de Bussy, you are called?" and, amidst shouts of laughter from his minions, he turned his back to the young captain. Bussy reddened with anger, but he affected to take the king's remark seriously, and turning round towards Chicot:"Ah! pardon, sire," said he, "there are kings who resemble jesters so much, that you will excuse me, I hope, for having taken a jester for a king." "Hein," murmured Henri, "what does he say?" "Nothing, sire," said St. Luc. "Nevertheless, M. Bussy," said Chicot; "it was unpardonable." "Sire, I was preoccupied." "With your pages, monsieur," said Chicot; "you ruin yourself in pages, and, par la mordieu, it is infringing our prerogatives." "How so? I beg your majesty to explain." "Cloth of gold for them, while you a gentleman, a colonel, a Clermont, almost a prince, wear simple black velvet." "Sire," said Bussy, turning towards the kings' minions, "as we live in a time when lackeys dress like princes, I think it good taste for princes to dress like lackeys."
And he returned to the young men in their splendid dress the impertinent smiles which they had bestowed on him a little before. They grew pale with fury, and seemed only to wait the king's permission to fall upon Bussy."Is it for me and mine that you say that?" asked Chicot, speaking like the king.
Three friends of Bussy's now drew near to him. These were Charles d'Antragues, François, Vicomte de Ribeirac, and Livarot. Seeing all this, St. Luc guessed that Bussy was sent by Monsieur to provoke a quarrel. He trembled more than ever, for he feared the combatants were about to take his house for a battle-field. He ran to Quelus, who already had his hand on his sword, and said, "In Heaven's name be moderate.""Parbleu, he attacks you as well as us." "Quelus, think of the Duc d'Anjou, who supports Bussy; you do not suppose I fear Bussy himself?" "Eh! Mordieu, what need we fear; we belong to the king. If we get into peril for him he will help us." "You, yes; but me," said St. Luc, piteously. "Ah dame, why do you marry, knowing how jealous the king is in his friendships?"
"Good," thought St. Luc, "everyone for himself; and as I wish to live tranquil during the first fortnight of my marriage, I will make friends with M. Bussy." And he advanced towards him. After his impertinent speech, Bussy had looked round the room to see if any one would take notice of it. Seeing St. Luc approach, he thought he had found what he sought.
"Monsieur," said he, "is it to what I said just now, that I owe the honor of the conversation you appear to desire?"
"Oh!" said the king, "he manages the sword well. Why does he not get bit by some dog?" And he threw a spiteful glance on Bussy, who was walking about, laughing at all the king's friends."Corbleu!" cried Chicot, "do not be so rude to my friends, M. Bussy, for I draw the sword, though I am a king, as well as if I was a common man." "If he continue such pleasantries, I will chastise Chicot, sire," said Maugiron. "No, no, Maugiron, Chicot is a gentleman. Besides, it is not he who most deserves punishment, for it is not he who is most insolent."
This time there was no mistaking, and Quelus made signs to D'O and D'Epernon, who had been in a different part of the room, and had not heard what was going on. "Gentlemen," said Quelus, "come to the council; you, St. Luc, go and finish making your peace with the king."St. Luc approached the king, while the others drew back into a window. "Well," said D'Epernon, "what do you want? I was making love, and I warn you, if your recital be not interesting I shall be very angry." "I wish to tell you that after the ball I set off for the chase." "For what chase?" "That of the wild boar." "What possesses you to go, in this cold, to be killed in some thicket?" "Never mind, I am going." "Alone?" "No, with Maugiron and Schomberg. We hunt for the king." "Ah! yes, I understand," said Maugiron and Schomberg. "The king wishes a boar's head for breakfast to-morrow." "With the neck dressed à l'Italienne," said Maugiron, alluding to the turn-down collar which Bussy wore in opposition to their ruffs. "Ah, ah," said D'Epernon, "I understand." "What is it?" asked D'O, "for I do not." "Ah! look round you." "Well!" "Did any one laugh at us here?" "Yes, Bussy." "Well, that is the wild boar the king wants." "You think the king----" "He asks for it." "Well, then, so be it. But how do we hunt?" "In ambush; it is the surest." Bussy remarked the conference, and, not doubting that they were talking of him, approached, with his friends. "Look, Antragues, look, Ribeirac," said he, "how they are grouped; it is quite touching; it might be Euryale and Nisus, Damon and Pythias, Castor and----. But where is Pollux?" "Pollux is married, so that Castor is left alone." "What can they be doing?" "I bet they are inventing some new starch." "No, gentlemen," said Quelus, "we are talking of the chase." "Really, Signor Cupid," said Bussy; "it is very cold for that. It will chap your skin." "Monsieur," replied Maugiron, politely, "we have warm gloves, and doublets lined with fur." "Ah! that reassures me," said Bussy; "do you go soon?" "To-night, perhaps." "In that case I must warn the king; what will he say to-morrow, if he finds his friends have caught cold?" "Do not give yourself that trouble, monsieur," said Quelus, "his majesty knows it." "Do you hunt larks?" asked Bussy, with an impertinent air. "No, monsieur, we hunt the boar. We want a head. Will you hunt with us, M. Bussy?" "No, really, I cannot. To-morrow I must go to the Duc d'Anjou for the reception of M. de Monsoreau, to whom monseigneur has just given the place of chief huntsman." "But, to-night?" "Ah! To-night, I have a rendezvous in a mysterious house of the Faubourg St. Antoine." "Ah! ah!" said D'Epernon, "is the Queen Margot here, incognito, M. de Bussy?" "No, it is some one else." "Who expects you in the Faubourg St. Antoine?" "Just so, indeed I will ask your advice, M. de Quelus." "Do so, although I am not a lawyer, I give very good advice." "They say the streets of Paris are unsafe, and that is a lonely place. Which way do you counsel me to take?"
"Why, I advise you to take the ferry-boat at the Pré-aux-Clercs, get out at the corner, and follow the quay until you arrive at the great Châtelet, and then go through the Rue de la Tixanderie, until you reach the faubourg. Once at the corner of the Rue St. Antoine, if you pass the Hôtel des Tournelles without accident, it is probable you will arrive safe and sound at your mysterious house.""Thanks for your route, M. de Quelus, I shall be sure to follow it." And saluting the five friends, he went away. As Bussy was crossing the last saloon where Madame de St. Luc was, her husband made a sign to her. She understood at once, and going up, stopped him. "Oh! M. de Bussy," said she, "everyone is talking of a sonnet you have made." "Against the king, madame?" "No, in honor of the queen; do tell it to me." "Willingly, madame," and, offering his arm to her, he went off, repeating it. During this time, St. Luc drew softly near his friends, and heard Quelus say: "The animal will not be difficult to follow; thus then, at the corner of the Hôtel des Tournelles, opposite the Hôtel St. Pol." "With each a lackey?" asked D'Epernon. "No, no, Nogaret, let us be alone, and keep our own secret, and do our own work. I hate him, but he is too much a gentleman for a lackey to touch." "Shall we go out all six together?" "All five if you please," said St. Luc. "Ah! it is true, we forgot your wife." They heard the king's voice calling St. Luc. "Gentlemen," said he, "the king calls me. Good sport, au revoir." And he left them, but instead of going straight to the king, he ran to where Bussy stood with his wife. "Ah! monsieur, how hurried you seem," said Bussy. "Are you going also to join the chase; it would be a proof of your courage, but not of your gallantry." "Monsieur, I was seeking you." "Really." "And I was afraid you were gone. Dear Jeanne, tell your father to try and stop the king, whilst I say a few words tête-à-tête to M. Bussy." Jeanne went.
"I wish to say to you, monsieur," continued St. Luc, "that if you have any rendezvous tonight, you would do well to put it off, for the streets are not safe, and, above all, to avoid the Hôtel des Tournelles, where there is a place where several men could hide. This is what I wished to say; I know you fear nothing, but reflect."At this moment they heard Chicot's voice crying, "St. Luc, St. Luc, do not hide yourself, I am waiting for you to return to the Louvre." "Here I am, sire," cried St. Luc, rushing forward. Near Chicot stood the king, to whom one page was giving his ermine mantle, and another a velvet mask lined with satin. "Sire," said St. Luc, "I will have the honor of lighting your majesties to your litters."
"No," said Henri, "Chicot goes one way, and I another. My friends are good-for-nothings, who have run away and left me to return alone to the Louvre. I had counted on them, and you cannot let me go alone. You are a grave married man, and must take me back to the queen. Come, my friend, my litter is large enough for two."
Madame de St. Luc, who had heard this, tried to speak, and to tell her father that the king was carrying away her husband, but he, placing his fingers on his month, motioned her to be silent.
"I am ready, sire," said he, "to follow you." When the king took leave, the others followed, and Jeanne was left alone. She entered her room, and knelt down before the image of a saint to pray, then sat down to wait for her husband's return. M. de Brissac sent six men to the Louvre to attend him back. But two hours after one of them returned, saying, that the Louvre was closed and that before closing, the captain of the watch had said, "It is useless to wait longer, no one will leave the Louvre to-night; his majesty is in bed."The marshal carried this news to his daughter.
The Porte St. Antoine was a kind of vault in stone, similar to our present Porte St. Denis, only it was attached by its left side to buildings adjacent to the Bastile. The space at the right, between the gate and the Hôtel des Tournelles, was large and dark, little frequented by day, and quite solitary at night, for all passers-by took the side next to the fortress, so as to be in some degree under the protection of the sentinel. Of course, winter nights were still more feared than summer ones.
That on which the events which we have recounted, and are about to recount took place, was cold and black. Before the gate on the side of the city, was no house, but only high walls, those of the church of St. Paul, and of the Hôtel des Tournelles. At the end of this wall was the niche of which St. Luc had spoken to Bussy. No lamps lighted this part of Paris at that epoch. In the nights when the moon charged herself with the lighting of the earth, the Bastile rose somber and majestic against the starry blue of the skies, but on dark nights, there seemed only a thickening of the shadows where it stood. On the night in question, a practised eye might have detected in the angle of the wall of the Tournelles several black shades, which moved enough to show that they belonged to poor devils of human bodies, who seemed to find it difficult to preserve their natural warmth as they. stood there. The sentinel from the Bastile; who could not see them on account of the darkness, could not hear them either, for they talked almost in whispers. However, the conversation did not want interest."This Bussy was right," said one; "it is a night such as we had at Warsaw, when Henri was King of Poland, and if this continues we shall freeze."
"Come, Maugiron, you complain like a woman," replied another: "it is not warm, I confess; but draw your mantle over your eyes, and put your hands in your pockets, and you will not feel it.""Really, Schomberg," said a third, "it is easy to see you are German. As for me, my lips bleed, and my mustachios are stiff with ice." "It is my hands," said a fourth; "on my honor, I would not swear I had any." "You should have taken your mamma's muff, poor Quelus," said Schomberg. "Eh! mon Dieu, have patience," said a fifth voice; "you will soon be complaining you are hot." "I see some one coming through the Rue St. Paul," said Quelus. "It cannot be him; he named another route." "Might he not have suspected something, and changed it?" "You do not know Bussy; where he said he should go, he would go, if he knew that Satan himself were barring his passage." "However, here are two men coming." "Ma foi! yes." "Let us charge," said Schomberg. "One moment," said D'Epernon; "do not let us kill good bourgeois, or poor women. Hold! they stop." In fact, they had stopped, and looked as if undecided. "Oh, can they have seen us?" "We can hardly see ourselves!" "See, they turn to the left; they stop before a house they are seeking--they are trying to enter; they will escape us!" "But it is not him, for he was going to the Faubourg St. Antoine." "Oh! how do you know he told you right?" At this supposition they all rushed out, sword in hand, towards the gentlemen. One of the men had just introduced a key into the lock; the door had yielded and was about to open, when the noise of their assailants made them turn. "What is this? Can it be against us, Aurilly?" said one. "Ah, monseigneur," said the other, who had opened the door, "it looks like it. Will you name yourself, or keep incognito?" "Armed men--an ambush!" "Some jealous lover; I said the lady was too beautiful not to be watched." "Let us enter quickly, Aurilly; we are safer within doors."
"Yes, monseigneur, if there are not enemies within; but how do you know----" He had not time to finish. The young men rushed up; Quelus and Maugiron made for the door to prevent their entering, while Schomberg, D'O, and D'Epernon prepared to attack in front. But he who had been called monseigneur turned towards Quelus, who was in front, and crossing his arms proudly, said:"You attack a son of France, M. Quelus!" Quelus drew back, trembling, and thunderstruck. "Monseigneur le Duc d'Anjou!" he cried. "The Duc d'Anjou!" repeated the others. "Well, gentlemen," cried the duke. "Monseigneur," stammered D'Epernon, "it was a joke; forgive us." "Monseigneur," said D'O, "we did not dream of meeting your highness here!" "A joke!" said the duke; "you have an odd manner of joking, M. d'Epernon. Since it was not intended for me, whom did your jest menace?"
"Monseigneur," said Schomberg; "we saw St. Luc quit the Hôtel Montmorency and come this way; it seemed strange to us, and we wished to see what took him out on his wedding night.""M. de St. Luc--you took me for him?" "Yes, monseigneur." "M. de St. Luc is a head taller then I am." "It is true, monseigneur; but he is just the height of M. Aurilly." "And seeing a man put a key in a lock, we took him for the principal," added D'O. "Monseigneur cannot suppose that we had the shadow of an ill-will towards him, even to disturb his pleasures?" As he listened, the duke, by a skilful movement, had, little by little, quitted the door, followed by Aurilly, and was now at some distance off. "My pleasures!" said he, angrily; "what makes you think I was seeking pleasure?"
"Ah, monseigneur, in any case pardon us, and let us retire," said Quelus. "It is well; adieu, gentlemen; but first listen. I was going to consult the Jew Manasses, who reads the future; he lives, as you know, in Rue de la Tournelle. In passing, Aurilly saw you and took you for the watch, and we, therefore, tried to hide ourselves in a doorway. And now you know what to believe and say; it is needless to add, that I do not wish to be followed," and he turned away."Monseigneur," said Aurilly, "I am sure these men have bad intentions; it is near midnight, and this is a lonely quarter; let us return home, I beg." "No, no; let us profit by their departure." "Your highness is deceived; they have not gone, but have returned to their retreat: look in the angle of the Hôtel des Tournelles." François looked, and saw that Aurilly was right; it was evident that they waited for something, perhaps to see if the duke were really going to the Jew. "Well, Monseigneur," continued Aurilly, "do you not think it will be more prudent to go home?" "Mordieu! yet it is annoying to give up."
"Yes; but it can be put off. I told your highness that the house is taken for a year; we know the lady lodges on the first story. We have gained her maid, and have a key which opens the door: you may wait safely.""You are sure that the door yielded?" "Yes, at the third key I tried." "Are you sure you shut it again?" "Yes, monseigneur." Aurilly did not feel sure, as he said, but he did not choose to admit it. "Well, I will go; I shall return some other time." And the duke went away, promising to payoff the gentlemen for their interruption.
They had hardly disappeared, when the five companions saw approach a cavalier wrapped in a large cloak. The steps of his horse resounded on the frozen ground, and they went slowly and with precaution, for it was slippery."This time," said Quelus, "it is he." "Impossible," said Maugiron. "Why?" "Because he is alone, and we left him with Livarot, Antragues, and Ribeirac, who would not have let him run such a risk." "It is he, however; do you not recognize his insolent way of carrying his head?" "Then," said D'O, "it is a snare." "In any case, it is he; and so to arms!"
It was, indeed, Bussy, who came carelessly down the Rue St. Antoine, and followed the route given him by Quelus; he had, as we have seen, received the warning of St. Luc, and, in spite of it, had parted from his friends at the Hôtel Montmorency. It was one of those bravadoes delighted in by the valiant colonel, who said of himself, "I am but a simple gentleman, but I bear in my breast the heart of all emperor; and when I read in Plutarch the exploits of the ancient Romans, I think there is not one that I could not imitate." And besides, he thought that St. Luc, who was not ordinarily one of his friends, merely wished to get him laughed at for his precautions; and Bussy feared ridicule more than danger.
He had, even in the eyes of his enemies, earned a reputation for courage, which could only be sustained by the rashest adventures. Therefore, alone, and armed only with a sword and poniard, he advanced towards the house where waited for him no person, but simply a letter, which the Queen of Navarre sent him every month on the same day, and which he, according to his promise to the beautiful Marguerite, went to fetch himself, alone, and at night.
When he arrived at the Rue St. Catherine, his active eye discerned in the shade the forms of his adversaries. He counted them: "Three, four, five," said he, "without counting the lackeys, who are doubtless within call. They think much of me, it seems; all these for one man. That brave St. Luc did not deceive me; and were his even the first sword to pierce me I would cry, 'Thanks for your warning, friend.'" So saying, he continued to advance, only his arm held his sword under his cloak, of which he had unfastened the clasp.It was then that Quelus cried, "To arms."
"Ah, gentlemen," said Bussy, "it appears you wish to kill me: I am the wild boar you had to hunt. Well, gentlemen, the wild boar will rip up a few of you; I swear it to you, and I never break my word."
"Possibly," said Schomberg; "but it is not right, M. Bussy d'Amboise, that you should be on horseback and we on foot." And as he spoke, the arm of the young man, covered with white satin, which glistened in the moonlight, came from under his cloak, and Bussy felt his horse give way under him. Schomberg had, with an address peculiar to himself, pierced the horse's leg with a kind of cutlass, of which the blade was heavier than the handle and which had remained in the wound. The animal gave a shrill cry and fell on his knees. Bussy, always ready, jumped at once to the ground, sword in hand.
"Ah!" cried he, "my favorite horse, you shall pay for this." And as Schomberg approached incautiously, Bussy gave him a blow which broke his thigh. Schomberg uttered a cry."Well!" said Bussy, "have I kept my word? one already. It was the wrist of Bussy, and not his horse's leg, you should have cut."
In an instant, while Schomberg bound up his thigh with his handkerchief, Bussy presented the point of his long sword to his four other assailants, disdaining to cry for help, but retreating gradually, not to fly, but to gain a wall, against which to support himself, and prevent his being attacked behind, making all the while constant thrusts, and feeling sometimes that soft resistance of the flesh which showed that his blows had taken effect. Once he slipped for an instant. That instant sufficed for Quelus to give him a wound in the side."Touched," cried Quelus.
"Yes, in the doublet," said Bussy, who would not even acknowledge his hurt. And rushing on Quelus, with a vigorous effort, he made his sword fly from his hand. But he could not pursue his advantage, for D'O, D'Epernon, and Maugiron attacked him, with fresh fury. Schomberg had bound his wound, and Quelus picked up his sword. Bussy made a bound backwards, and reached the wall. There he stopped, strong as Achilles, and smiling at the tempest of blows which rained around him. All at once he felt a cloud pass over his eyes. He had forgotten his wound, but these symptoms of fainting recalled it to him."Ah, you falter!" cried Quelus.
"Judge of it!" cried Bussy. And with the hilt of his sword he struck him on the temple. Quelus fell under the blow. Then furious--wild, he rushed forward, uttering a terrible cry. D'O and D'Epernon drew back, Maugiron was raising Quelus, when Bussy broke his sword with his foot, and wounded the right arm of D'Epernon. For a moment he was conqueror, but Quelus recovered himself, and four swords flashed again. Bussy felt himself lost. He gathered all his strength to retreat once more step by step. Already the perspiration was cold on his brow, and the ringing in his ears and the cloud over his eyes warned him that his strength was giving way. He sought for the wall with his left hand; to his astonishment, it yielded. It was a door not quite closed. Then he regained hope and strength for a last effort. For a second his blows were rapid and violent. Then he let himself glide inside the door, and pushed it to with a violent blow. It shut, and Bussy was saved. He heard the furious blows of his enemies on the door, their cries of rage, and wrathful imprecations. Then, the ground seemed to fail under his feet, and the walls to move. He made a few steps forward, and fell on the steps of a staircase. He knew no more, but seemed to descend into the silence and obscurity of the tomb.
Bussy had had time, before falling, to pass his handkerchief under his shirt, and to buckle the belt of his sword over it, so as to make a kind of bandage to the open wound whence the blood flowed, but he had already lost blood enough to make him faint. However, during his fainting fit, this is what Bussy saw, or thought he saw. He found himself in a room with furniture of carved wood, with a tapestry of figures, and a painted ceiling. These figures, in all possible attitudes, holding flowers, carrying arms, seemed to him to be stepping from the walls. Between the two windows a portrait of a lady was hung. He, fixed to his bed, lay regarding all this. All at once the lady of the portrait seemed to move, and an adorable creature, clothed in a long white robe, with fair hair falling over her shoulders, and with eyes black as jet, with long lashes, and with a skin under which he seemed to see the blood circulate, advanced toward the bed. This woman was so beautiful, that Bussy made a violent effort to rise and throw himself at her feet. But he seemed to be confined in there by bonds like those which keep the dead body in the tomb, while the soul mounts to the skies. This forced him to look at the bed on which he was lying, and it seemed to him one of those magnificent beds sculptured in the reign of Francis I., to which were suspended hangings of white damask, embroidered in gold.
At the sight of this woman, the people of the wall and ceiling ceased to occupy his attention; she was all to him, and he looked to see if she had left a vacancy in the frame. But suddenly she disappeared; and an opaque body interposed itself between her and Bussy, moving slowly, and stretching its arms out as though it were playing blindman's buff. Bussy felt in such a passion at this, that, had he been able, he would certainly have attacked this importunate vision; but as he made a vain effort, the newcomer spoke:"Well," said he, "have I arrived at last?"
"Yes, monsieur," said a voice so sweet that it thrilled through Bussy, "and now you may take off your bandage." Bussy made an effort to see if the sweet voice belonged to the lady of the portrait, but it was useless. He only saw the pleasant face of a young man, who had just, as he was told, taken off his bandage, and was looking curiously about him."To the devil with this man," thought Bussy, and he tried to speak, but fruitlessly.
"Ah, I understand now," said the young man, approaching the bed; "you are wounded, are you not, my dear sir? Well, we will try to cure you."
"Is the wound mortal?" asked the sweet voice again, with a sad accent, which brought tears into the eyes of Bussy.
This was all Bussy heard, he seemed to feel a red-hot iron in his side, and then lost all consciousness. Afterwards, it was impossible for Bussy to fix the duration of this insensibility.
When he woke, a cold wind blew over his face, and harsh voices sounded in his ears; he opened his eyes to see if it were the people of the tapestry speaking, and hoping to see the lady again, looked round him. But there was neither tapestry nor ceiling visible, and the portrait had also disappeared. He saw at his right only a man with a white apron spotted with blood; at his left, a monk, who was raising his head; and before him, an old woman mumbling her prayers. His wondering eyes next rested on a mass of stone before him, in which he recognized the Temple, and above that, the cold white sky, slightly tinted by the rising sun. He was in the street.
"Ah, thank you, good people," said he, "for the trouble you have taken in bringing me here. I wanted air, but you might have given it to me by opening the window, and I should have been better on my bed of white damask and gold than on the bare ground. But never mind, there is in my pocket, unless you have paid yourselves, which would have been prudent, some twenty golden crowns; take, my friends, take.""But, my good gentleman," said the butcher, "we did not bring you here, but found you here as we passed." "Ah, diable! and the young doctor, was he here?" The bystanders looked at each other.
"It is the remains of delirium," said the monk. Then, turning to Bussy, "I think you would do well to confess," said he, "there was no doctor, poor young man; you were here alone, and as cold as death."
Bussy then remembered having received a sword stroke, glided his hand under his doublet, and felt his handkerchief in the same place, fixed over his wound by his swordbelt."It is singular," said he. Already profiting by his permission, the lookers-on were dividing his purse.
"Now, my friends," said he, "will you take me to my hôtel?" "Ah, certainly," said the old woman, "poor dear young man, the butcher is strong, and then he has his horse, on which you can ride.""Yes, my gentleman, my horse and I are at your service." "Nevertheless, my son," said the monk, "I think you would do well to confess." "What are you called?" asked Bussy. "Brother Gorenflot." "Well Brother Gorenflot, I trust my hour has not yet arrived and as I am cold, I wish to get quickly home and warm myself." "What is your hotel called?" "Hôtel de Bussy." "How!" cried all, "you belong to M. de Bussy?" "I am M. de Bussy himself."
"Bussy," cried the butcher, "the brave Bussy, the scourge of the minions!" And raising him, he was quickly carried home, whilst the monk went away, murmuring, "If it was that Bussy, I do not wonder he would not confess!"When he got home, Bussy sent for his usual doctor, who found the wound not dangerous. "Tell me," said Bussy, "has it not been already dressed?" "Ma foi," said the doctor, "I am not sure." "And was it serious enough to make me delirious?" "Certainly."
"Ah!" thought Bussy, "was that tapestry, that frescoed ceiling, that bed, the portrait between the windows, the beautiful blonde woman with black eyes, the doctor blindfolded, was this all delirium? Is nothing true but my combat? Where did I fight? Ah, yes, I remember; near the Bastile, by the Rue St. Paul. I leaned against a door, and it opened; I shut it--and then I remember no more. Have I dreamed or not? And my horse! My horse must have been found dead on the place. Doctor, pray call some one."
The doctor called a valet. Bussy inquired, and heard that the animal, bleeding and mutilated, had dragged itself to the door of the hotel, and had been found there. "It must have been a dream," thought he again: "how should a portrait come down from the wall and talk to a doctor with a bandage on his eyes? I am a fool; and yet when I remember she was so charming," and he began to describe her beauties, till he cried out, "It is impossible it should have been a dream; and yet I found myself in the street, and a monk kneeling by me. Doctor," said he, "shall have to keep the house a fortnight again for this scratch, as I did for the last?""We shall see; can you walk?" "I seem to have quicksilver in my legs." "Try." Bussy jumped out of bed, and walked quickly round his room. "That will do," said the doctor, "provided that you do not go on horseback, or walk ten miles the first day." "Capital! you are a doctor; however, I have seen another to-night. Yes, I saw him, and if ever I meet him, I should know him." "I advise you not to seek for him, monsieur; one has always a little fever after a sword wound; you should know that, who have had a dozen."
"Ah, mon Dieu!" cried Bussy, struck with a new idea, "did my dream begin outside the door instead of inside? Was there no more a staircase and a passage, than there was a bed with white and gold damask, and a portrait? Perhaps those wretches, thinking me dead, carried me to the Temple, to divert suspicion, should any one have seen them hiding. Certainly, it must be so, and I have dreamed the rest. Mon Dieu! if they have procured for me this dream which torments me so, I swear to make an end of them all.""My dear seigneur," said the doctor, "if you wish to get well, you must not agitate yourself thus." "Except St. Luc," continued Bussy, without attending; "he acted as a friend, and my first visit shall be to him." "Not before five this evening." "If you wish it; but, I assure you, it is not going out and seeing people which will make me ill, but staying quietly at home."
"Well, it is possible; you are always a singular patient; act as you please, only I recommend you not to get another wound before this one is healed."
Bussy promised to do his best to avoid it, and, after dressing, called for his litter to take him to the Hôtel Montmorency.
Louis de Clermont, commonly called Bussy d'Amboise, was a perfect gentleman, and a very handsome man. Kings and princes had sought for his friendship; queens and princesses had lavished on him their sweetest smiles. He had succeeded La Mole in the affections of Queen Marguerite, who had committed for him so many follies, that even her husband, insensible so long, was moved at them; and the Duke François would never have pardoned him, had it not gained over Bussy to his interests, and once again he sacrificed all to his ambition. But in the midst of all his successes of war, ambition, and intrigue, he had remained insensible; and he who had never known fear, had never either known love.When the servants of M. de St. Luc saw Bussy enter, they ran to tell M. de Brissac. "Is M. de St. Luc at home?" asked Bussy. "No, monsieur." "Where shall I find him?" "I do not know, monsieur. We are all very anxious about him, for he has not returned since yesterday." "Nonsense." "It is true, monsieur." "But Madame de St. Luc?" "Oh, she is here." "Tell her I shall be charmed if she will allow me to pay my respects to her." Five minutes after, the messenger returned, saying Madame de St. Luc would be glad to see M. de Bussy.
When Bussy entered the room, Jeanne ran to meet him. She was very pale, and her jet black hair made her look more so; her eyes were red from her sleepless night, and there were traces of tears on her cheeks."You are welcome, M. de Bussy," said she, "in spite of the fears your presence awakens." "What do you mean, madame? how can I cause you fear?" "Ah! there was a meeting last night between you and M. de St. Luc? confess it." "Between me and St. Luc!"
"Yes, he sent me away to speak to you; you belong to the Duc d'Anjou, he to the king. You have quarrelled--do not hide it from me. You must understand my anxiety. He went with the king, it is true--but afterwards?""Madame, this is marvelous. I expected you to ask after my wound----" "He wounded you; he did fight, then?" "No, madame; not with me at least; it was not he who wounded me. Indeed, he did all he could to save me. Did he not tell you so?" "How could he tell me? I have not seen him." "You have not seen him? Then your porter spoke the truth." "I have not seen him since eleven last night." "But where can he be?" "I should rather ask you." "Oh, pardieu, tell me about it, it is very droll." The poor woman looked at him with astonishment. "No, it is very sad, I mean. I have lost much blood, and scarcely know what I am saying. Tell me this lamentable story, madame." Jeanne told all she knew; how the king had carried him off, the shutting of the doors of the Louvre, and the message of the guards. "Ah! very well, I understand," said Bussy. "How! you understand." "Yes; his majesty took him to the Louvre and once there he could not come out again." "And why not?"
"Ah! that is a state secret." "But my father went to the Louvre, and I also, and the guards said they did not know what we meant.""All the more reason that he should be there." "You think so?" "I am sure of it, and if you wish to be so also----" "How?" "By seeing." "Can I?" "Certainly." "But if I go there, they win send me away, as they did before." "Would you like to go in?" "But if he is not there?" "I tell you he is there. Come; but they will not let in the wife of St. Luc." "You laugh at me, and it is very cruel in my distress." "No, dear lady, listen. You are young, you are tall, and have black eyes; you are like my youngest page, who looked so well in the cloth of gold yesterday." "Ah I what folly, M. Bussy," cried Jeanne, blushing. "I have no other method but this. If you wish to see St. Luc----" "Oh! I would give all the world to see him." "Well, I promise that you shall without giving anything." "Oh, but----" "I told you how."
"Well, I will do it; shall I send for the dress?" "No, I will send you a new one I have at home; then you must join me this evening at the Rue St. Honoré. and we will go together to the Louvre." Jeanne began to laugh, and gave her hand to Bussy."Pardon my suspicions," said she. "Willingly," and taking leave he went home to prepare.
Bussy and Madame de St. Luc met at the appointed time; Jeanne looked beautiful in her disguise. At the end of the Rue St. Germain-l'Auxerrois they met a large party in which Bussy recognized the Duc d'Anjou and his train."Ah," said he, "we will make a triumphal entry into the Louvre." "Eh! monseigneur," cried he to the duke. The prince turned. "You, Bussy!" cried he joyfully, "I heard you were badly wounded, and I was going to your hotel."
"Ma foi, monseigneur, if I am not dead, it is thanks to no one but myself. You get me into nice situations; that ball at St. Luc's was a regular snare, and they have nearly drained all the blood out of my body.""They shall pay for it, Bussy; they shall pay dearly." "Yes, you say so," said Bussy, with his usual liberty, "and you will smile on the first you meet." "Well! accompany me to the Louvre, and you shall see." "What shall I see, monseigneur?" "How I will speak to my brother." "You promise me reparation?" "I promise you shall be content. You hesitate still, I believe." "Monseigneur, I know you so well." "Come, I tell you."
"This is good for you," whispered Bussy to Jeanne. "There will be a quarrel between the brothers, and meanwhile you can find St. Luc."
"Well," said he to the prince, "I follow you; if I am insulted, at least I can always revenge myself."
"Mort diable! when you saw the king's friends, you might have known it was against some friends of yours. Now, as there is hardly any one but myself who has courage to be your friend, you might have guessed that it was I."
"Oh! perhaps you are right, my dear Bussy, but I did not think of all that." When they entered, "Remember your promise," said Bussy, "I have some one to speak to.""You leave me, Bussy?" "Yes, I must, but if I hear a great noise I will come to you, so speak loud." Then Bussy, followed by Jeanne, took a secret staircase, traversed two or three corridors, and arrived at an antechamber. "Wait here for me," said he to Jeanne. "Ah, mon Dieu! you leave me alone." "I must, to provide for your entrance."
Bussy went straight to the sleeping-room of the king. There were in it two beds of velvet and satin, pictures, relics, perfumed sachets from the East, and a collection of beautiful swords. Bussy knew the king was not there, as his brother had asked to see him, but he knew that there was next to it a little room which was occupied in turn by all the king's favorites, and which he now expected to find occupied by St. Luc, whom the king in his great affection had carried off from his wife. Bussy knocked at the antechamber common to the two rooms. The captain of the guards opened."M. de Bussy!" cried he. "Yes, myself, dear M. de Nancey; the king wishes to speak to M. de St. Luc." "Very well, tell M. de St. Luc the king wants him." "What is he doing?" "He is with Chicot, waiting for the king's return from his brother." "Will you permit my page to wait here?" "Willingly, monsieur." "Enter, Jean," said Bussy, and he pointed to the embrasure of a window, where she went to hide herself. St. Luc entered, and M. de Nancey retired. "What does the king want now?" cried St. Luc, angrily; "ah! it is you, M. de Bussy," "I, and before everything, let me thank you for the service you rendered me." "Ah! it was quite natural; I could not bear to see a brave gentleman assassinated: I thought you killed."
"It did not want much to do it, but I got off with a wound, which I think I repaid with interest to Schomberg and D'Epernon. As for Quelus, he may thank the bones of his head: they are the hardest I ever knew.""Ah! tell me about it, it will amuse me a little." "I have no time now, I come for something else. You are ennuyé----" "To death." "And a prisoner?"
"Completely. The king pretends no one can amuse him but me. He is very good, for since yesterday I have made more grimaces than his ape, and been more rude than his jester.""Well, it is my turn to render you a service: can I do it?" "Yes, go to the Marshal de Brissac's, and reassure my poor little wife, who must be very uneasy, and must think my conduct very strange." "What shall I say to her?"
"Morbleu! tell her what you see; that I am a prisoner, and that the king talks to me of friendship like Cicero, who wrote on it; and of virtue like Socrates, who practised it. It is in vain I tell him I am ungrateful for the first, and incredulous as to the last: he only repeats it over again.""Is that all I can do for you?" "Ah, mon Dieu! I fear so." "Then it is done." "How so?" "I guessed all this, and told your wife so." "And what did she say?" "At first she would not believe; but I trust now," continued he, glancing towards the window, "she will yield to evidence. Ask me something more difficult." "Then, bring here the griffin of Signor Astolfo, and let me mount en croupe, and go to my wife." "A more simple thing would be to take the griffin to your wife and bring her here." "Here!" "Yes, here." "To the Louvre, that would be droll." "I should think so. Then you would be ennuyé no longer?" "Ma foi! no, but if this goes on much longer, I believe I shall kill myself." "Well! shall I give you my page?" "To me?" "Yes, he is a wonderful lad." "Thank you, but I detest pages." "Bah! try him." "Bussy, you mock me." "Let me leave him." "No." "I tell you, you will like him." "No, no, a hundred times, no." "Hola, page, come here." Jeanne came forward, blushing. "Oh!" cried St. Luc, recognizing her, in astonishment. "Well! shall I send him away?" "No, no. Ah Bussy, I owe you an eternal friendship." "Take care, you cannot be heard, but you can be seen." "It is true," said St. Luc, retreating from his wife. Indeed, M. de Nancey was beginning to wonder what was going on, when a great noise was heard from the gallery. "Ah! mon Dieu!" cried M. de Nancey, "there is the king quarreling with some one." "I really think so," replied Bussy, affecting inquietude; "can it be with the Duc d'Anjou, who came with me?" The captain of the guard went off in the direction of the gallery. "Have I not managed well?" said Bussy to St. Luc. "What is it?" "M. d'Anjou and the king are quarrelling; I must go to them. You profit by the time to place in safety the page I have brought you; is it possible?" "Oh, yes; luckily I declared I was ill and must keep my room."
"In that case, adieu, madame, and remember me in your prayers." And Bussy went off to the gallery, where the king, red with fury, swore to the duke, who was pale with anger, that in the scene of the preceding night Bussy was the aggressor."I affirm to you, sire," cried the duke, "that D'Epernon, Schomberg and Quelus were waiting for him at the Hôtel des Tournelles." "Who told you so?" "I saw them with my own eyes." "In that darkness! The night was pitch dark." "I knew their voices." "They spoke to you?" "They did more, they took me for Bussy, and attacked me." "You?" "Yes, I." "And what were you doing there?" "What does that matter to you?" "I wish to know; I am curious to-day." "I was going to Manasses." "A Jew?" "You go to Ruggieri, a poisoner." "I go where I like: I am the king. Besides, as I said, Bussy was the aggressor." "Where?" "At St. Luc's ball." "Bussy provoked five men? No, no, he is brave, but he is not mad." "Par la mordieu! I tell you I heard him. Besides, he has wounded Schomberg in the thigh, D'Epernon in the arm, and half killed Quelus." "Ah! really I did not know; I compliment him on it." "I will make example of this brawler." "And I, whom your friends attack, in his person and in my own, will know if I am your brother, and if----" At this moment Bussy, dressed in pale-green satin, entered the room. "Sire!" said he, "receive my humble respects." "Pardieu! here he is," cried Henri. "Your majesty, it seems, was doing me the honor of speaking of me." "Yes, and I am glad to see that, in spite of what they told me, your look shows good health." "Sire, blood drawn improves the complexion, so mine ought to be good this morning." "Well, since they have wounded you, complain, and I will do you justice." "I complain of nothing, sire." Henri looked astonished. "What did you say?" said he to the duke. "I said that Bussy had received a wound in his side." "Is it true, Bussy?" "The first prince of the blood would not lie, sire." "And yet you do not complain?" "I shall never complain, sire, until they cut off my right-hand, and prevent my revenging myself, and then I will try to do it with the left." "Insolent," murmured Henri. "Sire," said the duke, "do justice; we ask no better. Order an inquiry, name judges, and let it be proved who prepared the ambush and the intended murder."
Henri reddened. "No," said he, "I prefer this time to be ignorant where the wrong lies, and to pardon everyone. I wish these enemies to make peace, and I am sorry that Schomberg and D'Epernon are kept at home by their wounds. Say, M. d'Anjou, which do you call the most forward to fight of all my friends, as you say you saw them?""Sire, it was Quelus." "Ma foi! yes," said Quelus, "his highness is right." "Then," said Henri, "let MM. Bussy and Quelus make peace in the name of all." "Oh! Oh!" said Quelus, "what does that mean, sire?" "It means that you are to embrace here, before me." Quelus frowned. "Ah, signor," cried Bussy, imitating a pantaloon, "will you not do me this favor?" Even the king laughed. Then, approaching Quelus, Bussy threw his arms round his neck, saying, "The king wishes it." "I hope it engages us to nothing," whispered Quelus. "Be easy," answered Bussy, "we will meet soon." Quelus drew back in a rage, and Bussy, making a pirouette, went out of the gallery
The valet went to execute the orders, which he believed to be the king's. Henri meanwhile had passed into St. Luc's room. He found him in bed, having prayers read to him by an old servant who had followed him to the Louvre, and shared his captivity. In a corner, on an armchair, his head buried in his hands, slept the page."Who is that young man?" asked the king. "Did not your majesty authorize me to send for a page." "Yes, doubtless." "Well, I have profited by it." "Oh!" "Does your majesty repent of having allowed me this little indulgence?" "No, no, on the contrary, amuse yourself, my son. How are you?" "Sire, I have a fever." "Really, your face is red; let me feel your pulse, I am half a doctor." St. Luc held out his hand with visible ill-humor. "Oh!" said the king, "intermittent--agitated." "Yes, sire, I am very ill." "I will send you my doctor." "Thank you, sire, but I hate Miron." "I will watch you myself. You shall have a bed in my room, and we will talk all night." "Oh!" cried St Luc, "you see me ill, and you want to keep me from sleeping. That is a singular way to treat your patient, doctor." "But you cannot be left alone, suffering as you are." "Sire, I have my page, Jean." "But he sleeps." "That is what I like best, then he will not disturb me." "Well, come and assist at my going to bed." "Then I shall be free to come back to bed?" "Perfectly." "Well, so be it. But I shall make a bad courtier, I assure you; I am dying with sleep." "You shall yawn at your ease." "Sire, if your majesty will leave me, I will be with you in five minutes." "Well, then, five minutes, but no longer." As soon as the door was shut, the page jumped up. "Ah! St. Luc," cried she, "you are going to leave me again. Mon Dieu! I shall die of fright here, if they discover me." "My dear Jeanne, Gaspard here will protect you." "Had I not better go back?"
"If you really wish it, Jeanne," said St. Luc, sadly, "you shall. But if you are as good as you are beautiful, if you have any feeling in your heart for me, you will wait here a little. I shall suffer so much from my head and nerves that the king will not long keep so sad a companion."
"Go, then," said Jeanne, "and I will wait."
"Gaspard," said St. Luc, "prevent any one from entering here, and in a quarter of an hour lock the door, and bring me the key to the king's room. Then go home, and tell them not to be uneasy about Madame la Comtesse, and come back to-morrow."
Then St. Luc kissed his wife's hand, and went to the king, who was already growing impatient. Jeanne, alone and trembling, hid behind the curtains of the bed. When St. Luc entered he found the king amidst a perfect carpet of flowers, of which the stalks had been cut off-roses, jasmine, violets, and wall-flowers, in spite of the severe weather, formed an odorous carpet for Henry III. The chamber, of which the roof was painted, had in it two beds, one of which was so large as to occupy a third of the room. It was hung with gold and silk tapestry, representing mythological figures and the windows had curtains to match. From the center of the ceiling hung, suspended by a golden chain, a silver gilt lamp, in which burned a perfumed oil. At the side of the bed was a golden satyr, holding in his hand a candelabrum, containing four rose-color wax candles, also perfumed.
The king, with his naked feet resting on the flowers, was seated on a chair of ebony inlaid with gold; he had on his knees seven or eight young spaniels, who were licking his bands. Two servants were curling his hair, his mustachios, and beard, a third was covering his face with a kind of cream, which had a most delightful scent."Here," cried Chicot, "the grease and the combs, I will try them too."
"Chicot," said Henri, "your skin is too dry, and will use too much cream, and your beard is so hard, it will break my combs. Well, my son," said he, turning to St. Luc, "how is your head?"St. Luc put his hand to his head and groaned. "Imagine!" continued Henri, "I have seen Bussy d'Amboise." "Bussy!" cried St. Luc, trembling. "Yes, those fools! five of them attacked him, and let him escape. If you had been there, St. Luc----" "I should probably have been like the others." "Oh! no, I wager you are as good as Bussy. We will try to-morrow." "Sire, I am too ill for anything." Henri, hearing a singular noise, turned round, and saw Chicot eating up all the supper that had been brought for two. "What the devil are you doing, M. Chicot?" cried Henri. "Taking my cream internally, since you will not allow me to do it outwardly." "Go and fetch my captain of the guards," said Henri. "What for?" asked Chicot, emptying a porcelain cup of chocolate. "To pass his sword through your body." "Ah! let him come, we shall see!" cried Chicot, putting himself in such a comical attitude of defense that every one laughed. "But I am hungry," cried the king; "and the wretch has eaten up all the supper." "You are capricious, Henri; I offered you supper and you refused. However, your bouillon is left; I am no longer hungry, and I am going to bed." "And I also," said St. Luc, "for I can stand no longer." "Stay, St. Luc," said the king, "take these," and he offered him a handful of little dogs. "What for?" "To sleep with you; they will take your illness from you." "Thanks, sire," said St. Luc, putting them back in their basket, "but I have no confidence in your receipt." "I will come and visit you in the night, St. Luc."
"Pray do not, sire, you will only disturb me," and saluting the king, he went away. Chicot had already disappeared, and there only remained with the king the valets, who covered his face with a mask of fine cloth, plastered with the perfumed cream, in which were holes for the eyes, nose, and mouth; a cap of silk and silver fixed it on the forehead and ears. They next covered his arms with sleeves made of wadded silk, and then presented him with kid gloves, also greased inside.
These mysteries of the royal toilet finished, they presented to him his soup in a golden cup. Then Henri said a prayer, a short one that night, and went to bed.
When settled there, he ordered them to carry away the flowers, which were beginning to make the air sickly, and to open the window for a moment. Then the valet closed the doors and curtains, and called in Narcissus, the king's favorite dog, who, jumping on the bed, settled himself at once on the king's feet. The valet next put out the wax-lights, lowered the lamp, and went out softly.Already, more tranquil and nonchalant than the lazy monks of his kingdom in their fat abbeys, the King of France no longer remembered that there was a France.--He slept. Every noise was hushed, and one might have heard a bat fly in the somber corridors of the Louvre.
Soon was heard the noise of furniture falling, porcelain breaking, steps running about the room, and the barking of dogs-mingled with new cries. Almost instantly lights burned, swords shone in the galleries, and the heavy steps of the Guards were heard."To arms!" cried all, "the king calls." And the captain of the guard, the colonel of the Swiss, and some attendants, rushed into the king's room with flambeaux.
Near an overturned chair, broken cups, and disordered bed, stood Henri, looking terrified and grotesque in his night-dress. His right hand was extended, trembling like a leaf in the wind, and his left held his sword, which he had seized mechanically.He appeared dumb through terror, and all the spectators, not daring to break the silence, waited with the utmost anxiety.
Then appeared, half dressed and wrapped in a large cloak, the young queen, Louise de Lorraine, blonde and gentle, who led the life of a saint upon earth, and who had been awakened by her husband's cries."Sire," cried she, also trembling, "what is the matter? Mon Dieu! I heard your cries, and I came." "It--it is nothing," said the king, without moving his eyes, which seemed to be looking up the air for some form invisible to all but him. "But your majesty cried out; is your majesty suffering?" asked the queen.
Terror was so visibly painted on the king's countenance, that it began to gain on the others.
"Oh, sire!" cried the queen again, "in Heaven's name do not leave us in this suspense. Will you have a doctor?"
Everyone looked round; nowhere was there to be seen any traces of what had so terrified the king. However, a confessor was sent for; Joseph Foulon, superior of the convent of St. Généviève, was torn from his bed, to come to the king. With the confessor, the tumult ceased, and silence was reestablished; everyone conjectured and wondered--the king was confessing.
The next day the king rose early, and began to read prayers then he ordered all his friends to be sent for. They sent to St. Luc, but he was more suffering than ever. His sleep, or rather his lethargy, had been so profound, that he alone had heard nothing of the tumult in the night, although he slept so near. He begged to be left in bed. At this deplorable recital, Henri crossed himself, and sent him a doctor.
Then he ordered that all the scourges from the convent should be brought to him, and, going to his friends, distributed them, ordering them to scourge each other as hard as they could.
D'Epernon said that as his right arm was in a sling, and he could not return the blows he received, he ought to be exempt, but the king replied that that would only make it the more acceptable to God.
He himself set the example. He took off his doublet, waistcoat, and shirt, and struck himself like a martyr. Chicot tried to laugh, as usual, but was warned by a terrible look, that this was not the right time, and he was forced to take a scourge like the others.
All at once the king left the room, telling them to wait for him. Immediately the blows ceased, only Chicot continued to strike D'O, whom he hated, and D'O returned it as well as he could. It was a duel with whips.
The king went to the queen, gave her a pearl necklace worth 25,000 crowns, and kissed her, which he had not done for a year. Then he asked her to put off her royal ornaments and put on a sack.Louise, always good, consented, but asked why her husband gave her a necklace, and yet made such a request. "For my sins," replied he.
The queen said no more, for she knew, better than any one, how many he had to repent of.
Henri returned, which was a signal for the flagellation to recommence. In ten minutes the queen arrived, with her sack on her shoulders. Then tapers were distributed to all the court, and barefooted, through the snow, all the courtiers and fine ladies went to Montmartre, shivering. At five o'clock the promenade was over, the convents had received rich presents, the feet of all the court were swollen, and the backs of the courtiers sore. There had been tears, cries, prayers, incense, and psalms. Everyone had suffered, without knowing why the king, who danced the night before, scourged himself to-day. As for Chicot, he had escaped at the Porte Montmartre, and, with Brother Gorenflot, had entered a public-house, where he had eaten and drank. Then he had rejoined the procession and returned to the Louvre.
"You should have asked me yesterday, sire, then I was ill and cross. I would have thrown myself into a well for a trifle. But this evening it is quite a different thing. I have passed a good night and a charming day. Mordieu, vive la joie!""You swear, St. Luc." "Did I, sire? but I think you swear sometimes." "I have sworn, St. Luc, but I shall swear no more." "I cannot say that; I will not swear more than I can help, and God is merciful." "You think he will pardon me?" "Oh! I speak for myself, not for you, sire. You have sinned as a king, I as a private man, and we shall, I trust, be differently judged." The king sighed. "St. Luc," said he, "will you pass the night in my room?" "Why, what should we do?" "We will light all the lamps, I will go to bed, and you shall read prayers to me." "No, thank you, sire." "You will not?" "On no account." "You abandon me, St. Luc!" "No, I will stay with your majesty, if you will send for music and ladies, and have a dance." "Oh, St. Luc, St. Luc!" "I am wild to-night, sire, I want to dance and drink." "St. Luc," said the king, solemnly, "do you ever dream?" "Often, sire." "You believe in dreams?" "With reason." "How so?" "Dreams console for the reality. Last night I had a charming dream." "What was it?" "I dreamed that my wife----" "You still think of your wife?" "More than ever, sire; well, I dreamed that she, with her charming face--for she is pretty, sire----" "So was Eve, who ruined us all."
"Well, my wife had procured wings and the form of a bird, and so, braving locks and bolts, she passed over the walls of the Louvre, and came to my window, crying, 'Open, St. Luc, open, my husband.'""And you opened?" "I should think so." "Worldly." "As you please, sire." "Then you woke?"
"No, indeed, the dream was too charming; and I hope to-night to dream again; therefore I refuse your majesty's obliging offer. If I sit up, let me at least have something to pay me for losing my dream. If your majesty will do as I said----""Enough, St. Luc. I trust Heaven will send you a dream to-night which will lead you to repentance." "I doubt it, sire, and I advise you to send away this libertine St. Luc, who is resolved not to amend." "No, no, I hope, before to-morrow, grace will have touched you as it has me. Good night, I will pray for you."
When the king left St. Luc, he found the court, according to his orders, in the great gallery. Then he gave D'O, D'Epernon and Schomberg an order to retire into the provinces, threatened Quelus and Maugiron to punish them if they quarreled anymore with Bussy, to whom he gave his hand to kiss, and then embraced his brother François.As for the queen, he was prodigal in politeness to her. When the usual time for retiring approached, the king seemed trying to retard it. At last ten o'clock struck. "Come with me, Chicot," then said he, "good night, gentlemen." "Good night, gentlemen," said Chicot, "we are going to bed. I want my barber, my hairdresser, my valet de chambre, and, above all, my cream." "No," said the king, "I want none of them to-night; Lent is going to begin." "I regret the cream," said Chicot. The king and Chicot entered the room, which we already know. "Ah ça! Henri," said Chicot, "I am the favorite to-night. Am I handsomer than that Cupid, Quelus?" "Silence, Chicot, and you, gentlemen of the toilette, go out." They obeyed, and the king and Chicot were left alone. "Why do you send them away?" asked Chicot, "they have not greased us yet. Are you going to grease me with your own royal hand? It would be an act of humility." "Let us pray," said Henri. "Thank you, that is not amusing. If that be what you called me here for, I prefer to return to the bad company I have left. Adieu, my son. Good night."
"Stay," said the king. "Oh! this is tyranny. You are a despot, a Phalaris, a Dionysius. All day you have made me tear the shoulders of my friends with cow-hide, and now we are to begin again. Do not let us do it, Henri, when there's but two, every blow tells.""Hold your tongue, miserable chatterer, and think of repentance." "I repent! And of what? Of being jester to a monk. Confiteor--I repent, mea culpa, it is a great sin." "No sacrilege, wretch." "Ah! I would rather he shut up in a cage with lions and apes, than with a mad king. Adieu, I am going." The king locked the door. "Henri, you look sinister; if you do not let me go, I will cry, I will call, I will break the window, I will kick down the door." "Chicot," said the king, in a melancholy tone, "you abuse my sadness." "Ah! I understand, you are afraid to be alone. Tyrants always are so. Take my long sword, and let me take the scabbard to my room." At the word "afraid," Henri shuddered, and he looked nervously around, and seemed so agitated and grew so pale, that Chicot began to think him really ill, and said,-- "Come, my son, what is the matter, tell your troubles to your friend Chicot." The king looked at him and said, "Yes, you are my friend, my only friend." "There is," said Chicot, "the abbey of Valency vacant." "Listen, Chicot, you are discreet." "There is also that of Pithiviers, where they make such good pies." "In spite of your buffooneries, you are a brave man." "Then do not give me an abbey, give me a regiment." "And even a wise one." "Then do not give me a regiment, make me a counselor; but no, when I think of it, I should prefer a regiment, for I should be always forced to be of the king's opinion." "Hold your tongue, Chicot, the terrible hour approaches." "Ah! you are beginning again." "You will hear." "Hear what?" "Wait, and the event will show you. Chicot, you are brave!" "I boast of it, but I do not wish to try. Call your captain of the guard, your Swiss, and let me go away from this invisible danger." "Chicot, I command you to stay." "On my word, a nice master. I am afraid, I tell you. Help!" "Well, drôle, if I must, I will tell you all."
"Ah!" cried Chicot, drawing his sword, "once warned, I do not care; tell, my son, tell. Is it a crocodile? my sword is sharp, for I use it every week to cut my corns." And Chicot sat down in the armchair with his drawn sword between his legs."Last night," said Henri, "I slept----" "And I also," said Chicot. "Suddenly a breath swept over my face." "It was the dog, who was hungry, and who licked your cream." "I half woke, and felt my beard bristle with terror under my mask." "Ah! you make me tremble deliciously." "Then," continued the king, in a trembling voice, "then a voice sounded through the room, with a doleful vibration." "The voice of the crocodile! I have read in Marco Polo, that the crocodile has a voice like the crying of children; but be easy, my son, for if it comes, we will kill it." "'Listen! miserable sinner,' said the voice----" "Oh! it spoke; then it was not a crocodile." "'Miserable sinner,' said the voice, 'I am the angel of God.'" "The angel of God!" "Ah! Chicot, it was a frightful voice." "Was it like the sound of a trumpet?" "'Are you there?' continued the voice, 'do you hear, hardened sinner; are you determined to persevere in your iniquities?'" "Ah, really; he said very much the same as other people, it seems to me." "Then, Chicot, followed many other reproaches, which I assure you were most painful." "But tell me what he said, that I may see if he was well informed?" "Impious! do you doubt?" "I? all that astonishes me is, that he waited so long to reproach you. So, my son, you were dreadfully afraid?" "Oh, yes, the marrow seemed to dry in my bones." "It is quite natural; on my word, I do not know what I should have done in your place. And then you called?" "Yes." "And they came?" "Yes." "And there was no one here?" "No one." "It is frightful." "So frightful, that I sent for my confessor." "And he came?" "Immediately." "Now, be frank, my son; tell the truth for once. What did he think of your revelation?" "He shuddered." "I should think so." "He ordered me to repent, as the voice told me." "Very well. There can be no harm in repenting. But what did he think of the vision?" "That it was a miracle, and that I must think of it seriously. Therefore, this morning----" "What have you done" "I gave 100,000 livres to the Jesuits." "Very well." "And scourged myself and my friends." "Perfect! but after?" "Well, what do you think of it, Chicot? It is not to the jester I speak, but to the man of sense, to my friend." "Ah, sire, I think your majesty had the nightmare." "You think so?" "Yes, it was a dream, which will not be renewed, unless your majesty thinks too much about it." "A dream? No, Chicot, I was awake, my eyes were open." "I sleep like that." "Yes, but then you do not see, and I saw the moon shining through my windows, and its light on the amethyst in the hilt of my sword, which lay in that chair where you are." "And the lamp?" "Had gone out." "A dream, my son." "Why do you not believe, Chicot? It is said that God speaks to kings, when He wishes to effect some change on the earth." "Yes, he speaks, but so low that they never hear Him." "Well, do you know why I made you stay?--that you might hear as well as I." "No one would believe me if I said I heard it." "My friend, it is a secret which I confide to your known fidelity." "Well, I accept. Perhaps it will also speak to me." "Well, what must I do?" "Go to bed, my son." "But----" "Do you think that sitting up will keep it away?" "Well, then, you remain." "I said so." "Well, then, I will go to bed." "Good." "But you will not?" "Certainly not, I will stay here." "You will not go to sleep?" "Oh, that I cannot promise; sleep is like fear, my son, a thing independent of will." "You will try, at least?" "Be easy; I will pinch myself. Besides, the voice would wake me." "Do not joke about the voice." "Well, well, go to bed." The king sighed, looked round anxiously, and glided tremblingly into bed. Then Chicot established him in his chair, arranging round him the pillows and cushions. "How do you feel, sire?" said he. "Pretty well; and you?" "Very well; good night, Henri." "Good night, Chicot; do not go to sleep." "Of course not," said Chicot, yawning fit to break his jaws. And they both closed their eyes, the king to pretend to sleep, Chicot to sleep really.
As he spoke, one of the wax lights went out, then the other, and the rest followed. Then the lamp also went out, and the room was lighted only by the rays of the moon. At the same moment they heard a hollow voice, saying, apparently from the end of the room,--"Hardened sinner, art thou there?" "Yes," said Henri, with chattering teeth. "Oh!" thought Chicot, "that is a very hoarse voice to come from heaven; nevertheless, it is dreadful." "Do you hear?" asked the voice. "Yes, and I am bowed down to the earth." "Do you believe you obeyed me by all the exterior mummeries which you performed yesterday, without your heart being touched?" "Very well said," thought Chicot. He approached the king softly. "Do you believe now?" asked the king, with clasped hands. "Wait." "What for?" "Hush! leave your bed quietly, and let me get in." "Why?" "That the anger of the Lord may fall first on me." "Do you think He will spare me for that?" "Let us try," and he pushed the king gently out and got into his place. "Now, go to my chair, and leave all to me." Henri obeyed; he began to understand. "You do not reply," said the voice; "you are hardened in sin." "Oh! pardon! pardon!" cried Chicot, imitating the king's voice. Then he whispered to Henri, "It is droll that the angel does not know me." "What can it mean?" "Wait." "Wretch!" said the voice. "Yes, I confess," said Chicot; "I am a hardened sinner, a dreadful sinner." "Then acknowledge your crimes, and repent." "I acknowledge to have been a great traitor to my cousin Condé, whose wife I seduced." "Oh! hush," said the king, "that is so long ago."
"I acknowledge," continued Chicot, "to have been a great rogue to the Poles, who chose me for king, and whom I abandoned one night, carrying away the crown jewels. I repent of this.""Ah!" whispered Henri again: "that is all forgotten." "Hush! let me speak." "Go on," said the voice. "I acknowledge having stolen the crown from my brother D'Alençon, to whom it belonged of right, as I had formerly renounced it on accepting the crown of Poland." "Knave!" said the king. "Go on," said the voice. "I acknowledge having joined my mother, to chase from France my brother-in-law, the King of Navarre, after having destroyed all his friends." "Ah!" whispered the king, angrily. "Sire, do not let us offend God, by trying to hide what He knows as well as we do." "Leave politics," said the voice. "Ah!" cried Chicot, with a doleful voice, "is it my private life I am to speak of?" "Yes." "I acknowledge, then, that I am effeminate, idle, and hypocritical." "It is true." "I have ill-treated my wife--such a worthy woman." "One ought to love one's wife as one's self, and prefer her to all things," said the voice, angrily. "Ah!" cried Chicot, "then I have sinned deeply." "And you have made others sin by your example." "It is true." "Especially that poor St. Luc; and if you do not send him home to-morrow to his wife, there will be no pardon for you." "Ah!" said Chicot to the king, "the voice seems to be friendly to the house of Cossé." "And you must make him a duke, to recompense him for his forced stay." "Peste!" said Chicot; "the angel is much interested for M. de St. Luc." "Oh!" cried the king, without listening, "this voice from on high will kill me." "Voice from the side, you mean," said Chicot. "How I voice from the side?" "Yes; can you not hear that the voice comes from that wall, Henri?--the angel lodges in the Louvre."
"Blasphemer!" "Why, it is honorable for you; but you do not seem to recognize it. Go and visit him; he is only separated from you by that partition."A ray of the moon falling on Chicot's face, showed it to the king so laughing and amused, that he said, "What! you dare to laugh?" "Yes, and so will you in a minute. Be reasonable, and do as I tell you. Go and see if the angel be not in the next room." "But if he speak again?" "Well, I am here to answer. He is vastly credulous. For the last quarter of an hour I have been talking, and he has not recognized me. It is not clever!" Henri frowned. "I begin to believe you are right, Chicot," said he. "Go, then." Henri opened softly the door which led into the corridor. He had scarcely entered it, when he heard the voice redoubling its reproaches, and Chicot replying. "Yes," said the voice, "you are as inconstant as a woman, as soft as a Sybarite, as irreligious as a heathen." "Oh!" whined Chicot, "is it my fault if I have such a soft skin--such white hands--such a changeable mind? But from to-day I will alter--I will wear coarse linen----"
However, as Henri advanced, he found that Chicot's voice grew fainter, and the other louder, and that it seemed to come from St. Luc's room, in which he could see a light. He stooped down and peeped through the keyhole, and immediately grew pale with anger."Par la mordieu!" murmured he, "is it possible that they have dared to play such a trick?"
This is what he saw through the keyhole. St. Luc, in a dressing-gown, was roaring through a tube the words which he had found so dreadful, and beside him, leaning on his shoulder, was a lady in white, who every now and then took the tube from him, and called through something herself, while stifled bursts of laughter accompanied each sentence of Chicot's, who continued to answer in a doleful tone."Jeanne de Cossé in St. Luc's room! A hole in the wall! such a trick on me! Oh! they shall pay dearly for it!". And with a vigorous kick he burst open the door. Jeanne rushed behind the curtains to hide herself, while St. Luc, his face full of terror, fell on his knees before the king, who was pale with rage. "Ah!" cried Chicot, from the bed, "Ah! mercy!--Holy Virgin! I am dying!" Henri, seizing, in a transport of rage, the trumpet from the hands of St. Luc, raised it as if to strike. But St. Luc jumped up and cried-- "Sire, I am a gentleman; you have no right to strike me!"
Henri dashed the trumpet violently on the ground. Some one picked it up; it was Chicot, who, hearing the noise, judged that his presence was necessary as a mediator. He ran to the curtain, and, drawing out poor Jeanne, all trembling--"Oh!" said he, "Adam and Eve after the Fall. You send them away, Henri, do you not?" "Yes." "Then I will be the exterminating angel." And throwing himself between, the king and St. Luc, and waving the trumpet over the heads of the guilty couple, said-- "This is my Paradise, which you have lost by your disobedience; I forbid you to return to it." Then he whispered to St. Luc, who had his arm round his wife-- "If you have a good horse, kill it, but be twenty leagues from here before to-morrow."
"Morbleu!" said he, "it is impossible that a dream should have left such a vivid impression on my mind. I see it all so clearly;--the bed, the lady, the doctor. I must seek for it--surely I can find it again." Then Bussy, after having the bandage of his wound resettled by a valet, put on high boots, took his sword, wrapped himself in his cloak, and set off for the same place where he had been nearly murdered the night before, and nearly at the same hour.
He went in a litter to the Rue Roi-de-Sicile, then got out, and told his servants to wait for him. It was about nine in the evening, the curfew had sounded, and Paris was deserted. Bussy arrived at the Bastile, then he sought for the place where his horse had fallen, and thought he had found it; he next endeavored to repeat his movements of the night before, retreated to the wall, and examined every door to find the corner against which he had leaned, but all the doors seemed alike.
"Pardieu!" said he, "if I were to knock at each of these doors question all the lodgers, spend a thousand crowns to make valets and old women speak, I might learn what I want to know. There are fifty houses; it would take me at least five nights."As he spoke, he perceived a small and trembling light approaching.
This light advanced slowly, and irregularly, stopping occasionally, moving on again, and going first to the right, then to the left, then, for a minute, coming straight on, and again diverging. Bussy leaned against a door, and waited. The light continued to advance, and soon he could see a black figure, which, as it advanced, took the form of a man, holding a lantern in his left hand. He appeared to Bussy to belong to the honorable fraternity of drunkards, for nothing else seemed to explain the eccentric movements of the lantern. At last he slipped over a piece of ice, and fell. Bussy was about to come forward and offer his assistance, but the man and the lantern were quickly up again, and advanced directly towards him, when he saw, to his great surprise, that the man had a bandage over his eyes. "Well!" thought he, "it is a strange thing to play at blind man's buff with a lantern in your hand. Am I beginning to dream again? And, good heavens! he is talking to himself. If he be not drunk or mad, he is a mathematician."This last surmise was suggested by the words that Bussy heard.
"488, 489, 490," murmured the man, "it must be near here." And then he raised his bandage, and finding himself in front of a house, examined it attentively. "No, it is not this," he said. Then, putting back his bandage, he recommenced his walk and his calculations. "491, 492, 493, 494; I must be close." And he raised his bandage again, and, approaching the door next to that against which Bussy was standing, began again to examine."Hum!" said he, "it might, but all these doors are so alike." "The same reflection I have just made," thought Bussy. However, the mathematician now advanced to the next door, and going up to it, found himself face to face with Bussy. "Oh!" cried he, stepping back. "Oh!" cried Bussy. "It is not possible." "Yes; but it is extraordinary. You are the doctor?" "And you the gentleman?" "Just so." "Mon Dieu! how strange." "The doctor," continued Bussy, "who yesterday dressed a wound for a gentleman?" "Yes, in the right side." "Exactly so. You had a gentle, light, and skilful hand." "Ah, sir, I did not expect to find you here." "But what were you looking for?" "The house." "Then you do not know it?" "How should I? They brought me here with my eyes bandaged." "Then you really came here?" "Either to this house or the next." "Then I did not dream?" "Dream?" "I confess I feared it was all a dream." "Ah! I fancied there was some mystery." "A mystery which you must help me to unravel." "Willingly." "What is your name?"
"Monsieur, to such a question I ought, perhaps, to reply by looking fierce, and saying, 'Yours, monsieur, if you please; but you have a long sword, and I only a lancet; you seem to me a gentleman, and I cannot appear so to you, for I am wet and dirty. Therefore, I reply frankly: I am called Rémy-le-Haudouin.""Very well, monsieur; I thank you. I am Louis de Clermont, Comte de Bussy." "Bussy d'Amboise! the hero Bussy!" cried the young doctor, joyfully. "What, monsieur, you are that famous Bussy----?" "I am Bussy," replied he. "And now, wet and dirty as you are, will you satisfy my curiosity?"
"The fact is," said the young man, "that I shall be obliged, like Epaminondas the Theban, to stay two days at home, for I have but one doublet and trousers. But, pardon, you did me the honor to question me, I think?""Yes, monsieur, I asked you how you came to this house?" "M. le Comte, this is how it happened; I lodge in the Rue Beauheillis, 502 steps from here. I am a poor surgeon, not unskilful, I hope." "I can answer for that."
"And who has studied much, but without any patients. Seven or eight days ago, a man having received behind the Arsenal a stab with a knife, I sewed up the wound, and cured him. This made for me some reputation in the neighborhood, to which I attribute the happiness of having been last night awoke by a pretty voice.""A woman's?" "Yes, but, rustic as I am, I knew it to be the voice of a servant. I know them well." "And what did you do?" "I rose and opened my door, but scarcely had I done so, when two little hands, not very soft, but not very hard, put a bandage over my eyes, without saying anything." "'Oh!' she said, 'come, do not try to see where you are going, be discreet, here is your recompense;' and she placed in my hand a purse." "Ah! and what did you say?" "That I was ready to follow my charming conductress. I did not know if she were charming or not, but I thought that the epithet, even if exaggerated, could do no harm." "And you asked no more?" "I had often read these kinds of histories in books, and I had remarked that they always turned out well for the doctor. Therefore I followed, and I counted 498 paces." "Good; then this must be the door." "It cannot be far off, at all events, unless she led me by some detour, which I half suspect." "But did she pronounce no name?" "None." "But you remarked something?" "All that one could with one's fingers, a door with nails, then a passage, and then a staircase----" "On the left?" "Yes; and I counted the steps. Then I think we came to a corridor, for they opened three doors." "Well?" "Then I heard another voice, and that belonged to the mistress, I am sure; it was sweet and gentle." "Yes, yes, it was hers." "Good, it was hers." "I am sure of it." "Then they pushed me into the room where you were, and told me to take off my bandage, when I saw you----" "Where was I?" "On a bed." "A bed of white and gold damask?" "Yes." "In a room hung with tapestry?" "Just so." "And a painted ceiling?" "Yes, and between two windows----" "A portrait?" "Yes." "Representing a woman about nineteen?" "Yes." "Blonde, and beautiful as an angel?" "More beautiful." "Bravo! what did you do then?" "I dressed your wound." "And, ma foi! very well." "As well as I could." "Admirably! this morning it was nearly well."
"It is thanks to a balm I have composed, and which appears to me sovereign, for many times, not knowing who to practise upon, I have made wounds on myself, and they were always well in two or three days."
"My dear M. Rémy, you are a charming doctor. Well, afterwards?"
"Yes; 'M. Rémy,' said she, 'be a man of honor to the last; do not compromise a poor woman carried away by an excess of humanity. Take your bandage, and let them take you straight home.'""You promised?" "I gave my word." "And you kept it?" "As you see, for I am seeking now." "You are an honest man, and here is my hand," cried Bussy. "Monsieur, it will be an eternal glory for me to have touched the hand of Bussy d'Amboise. However, I have a scruple. There were ten pistoles in the purse."
"Well?" "It is too much for a man who charges five sous for his visits, when he does not give them gratis, and I was seeking the house----""To return the purse?" "Just so." "My dear M. Rémy, it is too much delicacy; you have earned the money well, and may surely keep it." "You think so?" said Rémy, well pleased. "But I also am in your debt; indeed, it was I who ought to have paid you, and not the lady. Come, give me your confidence. What do you do in Paris?" "What do I do? I do nothing; but I would if I had a connection."
"Well, that is just right; I will give you a patient. Will you have me? I am famous practise; for there is scarcely a day when I do not deface God's noblest work for others, or they for me. Will you undertake the care of all the holes I make in the skin of others or others in mine?""Ah, M. le Comte! this honor." "No; you are just the man I want. You shall come and live with me; you shall have your own rooms, and your own servants; accept, or you will really annoy me." "M. le Comte, I am so overjoyed, I cannot express it. I will work--I will make a connection----" "But, no, I tell you, I keep you for myself and my friends. Now, do you remember anything more?" "Nothing." "Ah, well! help me to find out, if it be possible." "I will." "And you, who are a man of observation, how do you account for it, that after being doctored by you, I found myself by the Temple, close to the ditch." "You!"
"Yes, I. Did you help to take me there?" "Certainly not, and I should have opposed it if they had consulted me; for the cold might have done you much harm.""Then I can tell nothing. Will you search a little more with me?" "I will if you wish it; but I much fear it will be useless for all these houses are alike." "Well, we must come again by day." "Yes; but then we shall be seen." "Then we must inquire." "We will, monseigneur." "And we shall unravel the mystery. Be sure, Rémy, now there are two of us to work."
It was more than joy, it was almost delirium, which agitated Bussy when he had acquired the certainty that the lady of his dream was a reality, and had, in fact, given him that generous hospitality of which he had preserved the vague remembrance in his heart. He would not let the young doctor go, but, dirty as he was, made him get into the litter with him; he feared that if he lost sight of him, he too would vanish like a dream. He would have liked to talk all night of the unknown lady, and explain to Rémy how superior she was even to her portrait; but Rémy, beginning his functions at once, insisted that he should go to bed: fatigue and pain gave the same counsel and these united powers carried the point.The next day, on awaking, he found Rémy at his bedside. The young man could hardly believe in his good fortune, and wanted to see Bussy again to be sure of it. "Well!" said he, "how are you, M. le Comte?" "Quite well, my dear Esculapius; and you, are you satisfied?" "So satisfied, my generous protector, that I would not change places with the king. But I now must see the wound."
"Look." And Bussy turned round for the young surgeon to take off the bandage. All looked well; the wound was nearly closed. Bussy, quite happy, had slept well, and sleep and happiness had aided the doctor."Well," said Bussy, "what do you say?" "I dare not tell you that you are nearly well, for fear you should send me back to the Rue Beauheillis, five hundred paces from the famous house." "Which we will find, will we not, Rémy?" "I should think so." "Well, my friend, look on yourself as one of the house, and to-day, while you move your things, let me go to the fête of the installation of the new chief huntsman." "Ah! you want to commit follies already." "No, I promise to be very reasonable." "But you must ride." "It is necessary." "Have you a horse with an easy pace? "I have four to choose from." "Well, take for to-day the one you would choose for the lady of the portrait you know."
"Know! Ah, Rémy, you have found the way to my heart forever; I feared you would prevent me from going to this chase, or rather this imitation of one, and all the ladies of the Court, and many from the City, will be admitted to it. Now, Rémy, this lady may be there. She certainly is not a simple bourgeoise--those tapestries, that bed, so much luxury as well as good taste, show a woman of quality, or, at least, a rich one. If I were to meet her there!""All is possible," replied Rémy, philosophically. "Except to find the house," sighed Bussy. "Or to penetrate when we have found it." "Oh! I have a method." "What is it?" "Get another sword wound." "Good; that gives me the hope that you will keep me." "Be easy, I feel as if I had known you for twenty years, and could not do without you." The handsome face of the young doctor grew radiant with joy. "Well, then," said he, "it is decided; you go to the chase to look for the lady, and I go to look for the house." "It will be curious if we each succeed."
There had been a great chase commanded in the Bois de Vincennes, for M. de Monsoreau to enter on his functions of chief huntsman. Most people had believed, from the scene of the day before, that the king would not attend, and much astonishment was expressed when it was announced that he had set off with his brother and all the court. The rendezvous was at the Point St. Louis. It was thus they named a cross-road where the martyr king used to sit under an oak-tree and administer justice. Everyone was therefore assembled here at nine o'clock, when the new officer, object of the general curiosity, unknown as he was to almost everyone, appeared on a magnificent black horse. All eyes turned towards him.
He was a man about thirty-five, tall, marked by the smallpox, and with a disagreeable expression. Dressed in a jacket of green cloth braided with silver, with a silver shoulder belt, on which the king's arms were embroidered in gold; on his head a cap with a long plume; in his left hand a spear, and in his right the éstortuaire [Footnote: The éstortuaire was a stick, which the chief huntsman presented to the king, to put aside the branches of the trees when he was going at full gallop.] destined for the king, M. de Monsoreau might look like a terrible warrior, but not certainly like a handsome cavalier.
"Fie! what an ugly figure you have brought us, monseigneur," said Bussy, to the Duc d'Anjou, "are these the sort of gentlemen that your favor seeks for out of the provinces? Certainly, one could hardly find such in Paris, which is nevertheless as well stocked with ugliness. They say that your highness made a great point of the king's appointing this man.""M. de Monsoreau has served me well, and I recompense him," replied the duke.
"Well said, monseigneur, it is rare for princes to be grateful; but if that be all, I also have served you well, and should wear the embroidered jacket more gracefully, I trust, than M. de Monsoreau. He has a red beard, I see also, which is an additional beauty.""I never knew that a man must be an Apollo, or Antinous, to fill an office at court." "You never heard it; astonishing!" "I consult the heart and not the face--the services rendered and promised." "Your highness will say I am very envious; but I search, and uselessly, I confess, to discover what service this Monsoreau can have rendered you." "You are too curious, Bussy," said the duke, angrily. "Just like princes," cried Bussy, with his ordinary freedom, "they ask you everything; but if you ask a question in return, you are too curious." "Well! go and ask M. de Monsoreau, himself." "Ah! you are right. He is but a simple gentleman, and if he do not reply, I shall know what to say." "What?" "Tell him he is impertinent." And, turning from the prince, Bussy approached M. de Monsoreau, who was in the midst of the circle. Bussy approached, gay and smiling, and his hat in his hand. "Pardon, monsieur, but you seem all alone. Is it that the favor which you enjoy has already made you enemies?" "I do not know, monsieur, but it is probable. But, may I ask, to what I owe the honor that you do me in invading my solitude?" "Ma foi, to the great admiration that M. le Duc d'Anjou has inspired in me for you." "How so?" "By recounting to me the exploit for which you were made chief huntsman."
M. de Monsoreau grew so frightfully pale, that the marks in his face looked like black spots on his yellow skin; at the same time he looked at Bussy in a manner that portended a violent storm. Bussy saw that he had done wrong; but he was not a man to draw back; on the contrary, he was one of those who generally repair an indiscretion by an impertinence."You say, monsieur," said Monsoreau, "that the Duke recounted to you my last exploit?" "Yes, monsieur, but I should much like to hear the story from your own lips." M. de Monsoreau clasped his dagger tighter in his hand, as though he longed to attack Bussy.
"Ma foi, monsieur," said he, "I was quite disposed to grant your request, and recognize your courtesy, but unfortunately here is the king arriving, so we must leave it for another time."
Indeed, the king, mounted on his favorite Spanish horse, advanced rapidly towards them. He loved handsome faces, and was therefore little pleased with that of M. de Monsoreau. However, he accepted, with a good grace, the éstortuaire which he presented to him, kneeling, according to custom. As soon as the king was armed, the chase commenced.
Bussy watched narrowly everyone that passed, looking for the original of the portrait, but in vain; there were pretty, even beautiful and charming women, but not the charming creature whom he sought for. He was reduced to conversation, and the company of his ordinary friends. Antragues, always laughing and talking, was a great amusement."We have a frightful chief huntsman," said he to Bussy, "do you not think so?" "I find him horrible; what a family it must be if his children are like him. Do you know his wife?" "He is not married." "How do you know?" "From Madame de Vendron, who finds him very handsome, and would willingly make him her fourth husband. See how she keeps near him." "What property has he?" "Oh! a great deal in Anjou." "Then he is rich?" "They say so, but that is all; he is not of very good birth. But see, there is M. le Duc d'Anjou calling to you." "Ah! ma foi, he must wait. I am curious about this man. I find him singular, I hardly know why. And such an odd name." "Oh! it comes from Mons Soricis; Livarot knows all about that.--Here, Livarot; this Monsoreau----" "Well." "Tell us what you know about him----" "Willingly. Firstly, I am afraid of him." "Good, that is what you think; now tell us what you know." "Listen. I was going home one night----" "It begins in a terrible manner."
"Pray let me finish. It was about six months ago, I was returning from my uncle D'Entragues, through the wood of Méridor, when all at once I heard a frightful cry, and I saw pass, with an empty saddle, a white horse, rushing through the wood. I rode on, and at the end of a long avenue, darkened by the approaching shades of night, I saw a man on a black horse; he seemed to fly. Then I heard again the same cry, and I distinguished before him on the saddle a woman, on whose mouth he had his hand. I had a gun in my hand--you know I aim well, and I should have killed him, but my gun missed fire."
"Well?" "I asked a woodcutter who this gentleman on the black horse was, and he said, 'M. de Monsoreau.'""Well," said Antragues, "it is not so uncommon to carry away a woman, is it, Bussy?" "No; but, at least, one might let them cry out." "And who was the woman?" "That I do not know; but he has a bad reputation," "Do you know anything else about him?" "No; but he is much feared by his tenantry. However, he is a good hunter, and will fill his post better than St. Luc would have done, for whom it was first destined." "Do you know where St. Luc is?" "No; is he still the king's prisoner?" "Not at all; he set off at one o'clock this morning to visit his country house with his wife." "Banished?" "It looks like it." "Impossible!" "True as the gospel; Marshal de Brissac told me so this morning." "Well! it has served M. de Monsoreau----" "Ah! I know now." "Know what?" "The service that he rendered to the duke." "Who? St. Luc?" "No; Monsoreau." "Really." "Yes, you shall see; come with me," and Bussy, followed by Livarot and Antragues, galloped after the Duc d'Anjou. "Ah, monseigneur," said he, "what a precious man M. de Monsoreau is." "Ah! really; then you spoke to him?" "Certainly." "And asked him what he had done for me?" "Certainly; that was all I spoke to him for." "And what did he say?" "He courteously confessed that he was your purveyor." "Of game?" "No; of women." "What do you mean, Bussy?" cried the duke angrily.
"I mean, monseigneur, that he carries away women for you on his great black horse, and that as they are ignorant of the honor reserved for them, he puts his hand on their mouths to prevent their crying out."The duke frowned, and ground his teeth with anger, grew pale, and galloped on so fast, that Bussy and his, companions were left in the rear. "Ah! ah! it seems that the joke is a good one," said Antragues. "And so much the better, that everyone does not seem to find it a joke," said Bussy. A moment after, they heard the duke's voice calling Bussy. He went, and found the duke laughing. "Oh!" said he, "it appears that what I said was droll." "I am not laughing at what you said." "So much the worse; I should have liked to have made a prince laugh, who hardly ever does so." "I laugh at your inventing a false story to find out the true one." "No, I told you the truth." "Well, then, as we are alone, tell me your little history. Where did it happen?" "In the wood of Méridor." The duke grew pale again, but did not speak.
"Decidedly," thought Bussy, "the duke is mixed up with that story. Pardieu! monseigneur," said he, "as M. de Monsoreau seems to have found the method of pleasing you so well, teach it to me."
"Pardieu! yes, Bussy, I will tell you how. Listen; I met, by chance, at church, a charming woman, and as some features of her face, which I only saw through a veil, recalled to me a lady whom I had much loved, I followed her, and found out where she lived. I have gained over her servant, and have a key of the house.""Well, monseigneur, all seems to go well for you." "But they say she is a great prude, although free, young, and beautiful." "Ah! you are romancing." "Well, you are brave, and love me?" "I have my days." "For being brave?" "No, for loving you." "Well, is this one of the days?" "I will try and make it one, if I can serve your highness." "Well, I want you to do for me what most people do for themselves." "Make love to her, to find out if she be a prude?" "No, find out if she has a lover. I want you to lay in wait and discover who the man is that visits her." "There is a man then?" "I fear so." "Lover, or husband?" "That is what I want to know." "And you want me to find out?" "If you will do me that great favor----" "You will make me the next chief huntsman." "I have never yet done anything for you." "Oh! you have discovered that at last." "Well, do you consent?" "To watch the lady?" "Yes." "Monseigneur, I confess I do not like the commission." "You offered to do me a service, and you draw back already!" "Because you want me to be a spy." "I ask you as a friend." "Monseigneur, this is a sort of thing that every man must do for himself, even if he be a prince." "Then you refuse?" "Ma foi! yes."
The duke frowned. "Well, I will go myself," said he, "and if I am killed or wounded, I shall say that I begged my friend Bussy to. undertake the task, and that for the first time he was prudent."
"Monseigneur, you said to me the other night, 'Bussy, I hate all those minions of the king's who are always laughing at and insulting us; go to this wedding of St. Luc's, pick a quarrel and try to get rid of them.' I went; they were five and I was alone. I defied them all; they laid wait for me, attacked me all together, and killed my horse, yet I wounded three of them. To-day you ask me to wrong a woman. Pardon, monseigneur, but that is past the service which a prince should exact from a gallant man, and I refuse.""So be it; I will do my work myself, or with Aurilly, as I have done already." "Oh!" said Bussy, with a sudden thought. "What?" "Were you engaged on it the night when you saw the ambush laid for me?" "Just so." "Then your beautiful unknown lives near the Bastile." "Opposite the Rue St. Catherine. It is a dangerous place, as you know." "Has your highness been there since?" "Yesterday." "And you saw?" "A man spying all about and who at last stopped at her door." "Was he alone?" "Yes, at first. Afterwards he was joined by another, with a lantern in his hand." "Ah!" "Then they began to talk together, and at last, tired of waiting, I went away. And before I venture into the house where I might be killed----" "You would like one of your friends to try it." "They would not have my enemies, nor run the same risk; and then they might report to me----" "In your place I would give up this woman." "No, she is too beautiful." "You said you hardly saw her." "I saw her enough to distinguish splendid blonde hair, magnificent eyes, and such a complexion!" "Ah! ah!" "You understand! one does not easily renounce such a woman." "No, I feel for you." "You jest." "No, on my word, and the proof is, that if you will give me my instructions, I will watch this evening." "You retract your decision?" "There is no one but the pope infallible; now tell me what I am to do." "You will have to hide a little way off, and if a man enter, follow him to find out who he is?" "But if, in entering, he close the door behind him?" "I told you I had a key." "Ah! true; then there is only one more thing to fear, that I should follow a wrong man to a wrong door." "You cannot mistake; this door is the door of an alley, and at the end of the alley there is a staircase; mount twelve steps, and you will be in a corridor." "How do you know all this, if you have never been in?" "Did I not tell you I had gained over the servant? She told me all." "Mon Dieu! how convenient it is to be a prince. I should have had to find out all for myself, which would have taken me an enormous time, and I might have failed after all." "Then you consent?" "Can I refuse your highness? But will you come with me to show me the house?" "Useless; as we return from the chase, we will make a detour, and pass through the Porte St. Antoine, and I will point it out to you." "Very well, and what am I to do to the man if he comes?" "Only follow him till you learn who he is. I leave to you your mode of action. And not a word to any one." "No, on my honor." "And you will go alone?"
"Quite." "Well, then, it is settled; I show you the door on our way home; then you come with me, and I give you the key." Bussy and the prince then rejoined the rest. The king was charmed with the manner in which M. de Monsoreau had conducted the chase."Monseigneur," then said M. de Monsoreau to the duke, "I owe my place and these compliments to you." "But you know that you must go to-night to Fontainebleau, where the king will hunt tomorrow and the day after." "I know, monseigneur; I am prepared to start to-night."
"Ah, M. de Monsoreau, there is no more rest for you," said Bussy, "you wished to be chief huntsman, and you are so, and now you will have at least fifty nights' rest less than other men. Luckily you are not married."At this joke, Monsoreau's face was covered once more with that hideous paleness which gave to him so sinister an aspect.