HOW THE ANGEL MADE A MISTAKE AND SPOKE TO CHICOT, THINKING IT WAS THE KING.
The king and Chicot remained thus for some time. All at once the king jumped up in his bed. Chicot woke at the noise.
"What is it?" asked he in a low voice.
"The breath on my face."
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.
"Hush! leave your bed quietly, and let me get in."
"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?"
"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 Conde, 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'Alencon, 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?"
"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 Cosse."
"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."
"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.
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 Cosse 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?"
"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."
HOW BUSSY WENT TO SEEK FOR THE REALITY OF HIS DREAM.
When Bussy returned home again, he was still thinking of his dream.
"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?"
"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?"
"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?"
"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."
"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 Remy-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."
"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?"
"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."
"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?"
"In a room hung with tapestry?"
"And a painted ceiling?"
"Yes, and between two windows——"
"Representing a woman about nineteen?"
"Blonde, and beautiful as an angel?"
"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. Remy, you are a charming doctor. Well, afterwards?"
"You fainted again. The voice asked me how you were."
"From a room at the side."
"So you did not see her?"
"And you replied?"
"That the wound was not dangerous, and in twenty-four hours would be well."
"She seemed pleased?"
"Charmed; for she cried, 'I am very glad of that.'"
"My dear M. Remy, I will make your fortune. Well?"
"That was all; I had no more to do; and the voice said, 'M. Remy——'"
"She knew your name?"
"Yes; 'M. Remy,' 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.'"
"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."
"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?"
"My dear M. Remy, it is too much delicacy; you have earned the money well, and may surely keep it."
"You think so?" said Remy, 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?"
"Ah, well! help me to find out, if it be possible."
"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."
"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, Remy, now there are two of us to work."
M. BRYAN DE MONSOREAU.
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 Remy how superior she was even to her portrait; but Remy, 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 Remy 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, Remy?"
"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 fete 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, Remy, 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, Remy, 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 Remy, 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 estortuaire [Footnote: The estortuaire 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."
"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."
"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 estortuaire 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——"
"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 Meridor, 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."
"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."
"It looks like it."
"True as the gospel; Marshal de Brissac told me so this morning."
"Well! it has served M. de Monsoreau——"
"Ah! I know now."
"The service that he rendered to the duke."
"Who? St. Luc?"
"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?"
"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."
"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 Meridor."
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?"
"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.
"Were you engaged on it the night when you saw the ambush laid for me?"
"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?"
"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."
"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!"
"You understand! one does not easily renounce such a woman."
"No, I feel for you."
"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?"
"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 to-morrow 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.
HOW BUSSY FOUND BOTH THE PORTRAIT AND THE ORIGINAL.
The chase terminated about four o'clock in the evening, and at five all the court returned to Paris. As they passed by the Bastile, the duke said to Bussy, "Look to the right, at that little wooden house with a statue of the Virgin before it; well, count four houses from that. It is the fifth you have to go to, just fronting the Rue St. Catherine."
"I see it; and look! at the sound of the trumpets announcing the king, all the windows are filled with gazers."
"Except the one I show you, where the curtains remain closed."
"But there is a corner lifted," said Bussy, with a beating heart.
"Yes, but we can see nothing. The lady is well guarded. However, that is the house."
When Bussy returned, he said to Remy, "Have you discovered the house?"
"Well, I believe I have been more lucky."
"How so, monsieur, have you been seeking?"
"I passed through the street."
"And you recognized the house?"
"Providence, my dear friend, has mysterious ways."
"Then you are sure?"
"Not sure, but I hope."
"And when shall I know if you are right?"
"Meanwhile, do you want me?"
"No, my dear Remy."
"Shall I not follow you?"
"Be prudent, monseigneur."
"Ah! the recommendation is useless, my prudence is well known."
Bussy dined like a man who does not know when he will sup, then, at eight o'clock, choosing the best of his swords, and attaching, in spite of the king's orders, a pair of pistols to his belt, went in his litter to the corner of the Rue St. Paul.
He easily recognized the house again, and then, wrapped in his cloak, hid at the corner of the street, determined to wait for two hours, and at the end of that time, if no one came, to act for himself. He had scarcely been there ten minutes, when he saw two cavaliers coming. One of them dismounted, gave his horse to the other, who was probably a lackey, and who went away with the horses, and advanced towards the house pointed out to Bussy, and, after glancing round to see if he were observed, opened the door and went in. Bussy waited two or three minutes, and then followed him. He advanced slowly and softly, found the staircase, and went up. In the corridor he stopped, for he heard a voice say, "Gertrude, tell your mistress that it is I, and that I must come in."
This was said in an imperious tone, and, a minute after, Bussy heard a woman's voice say:
"Pass into the drawing-room, Monsieur, and madame will come to you."
Then he heard the sound of a door shutting. He made a few steps silently, and extending his hand, felt a door; he went in, found a second in which was a key; he turned it, and entered the room tremblingly. The room in which he found himself was dark, except from the light shining from another. By this he could see two windows, hung with tapestry, which sent a thrill of joy through the young man's heart. On the ceiling he could faintly see the mythological figures; he extended his hand, and felt the sculptured bed. There was no more doubt, he was in the room where he had awakened the night of his wound.
Bussy hid behind the bed-curtains to listen. He heard in the adjoining room the impatient step of the unknown; from time to time he stopped, murmuring between his teeth, "Will she come?"
Presently a door opened, and the rustling of a silk dress struck on Bussy's ear. Then he heard a woman's voice, expressive at once of fear and disdain, saying:
"Here I am, monsieur, what do you want now?"
"Madame," replied the man, "I have the honor of telling you that, forced to set off to-morrow morning for Fontainebleau, I come to pass the night with you."
"Do you bring me news of my father?"
"Madame, listen to me——"
"Monsieur, you know what we agreed yesterday, when I consented to become your wife, that, before all things, either my father should come to Paris, or I should go to him."
"Madame, as soon as I return from Fontainebleau, I give you my word of honor, but meanwhile——"
"Oh! monsieur, do not close the door, it is useless; I will not pass a single night under the same roof with you until you bring me my father." And the lady, who spoke, thus, whistled through a silver whistle, which was then the manner of calling servants.
Immediately the door opened, and a young, vigorous-looking girl entered. As she went in, she left the door open, which threw a strong light into the room where Bussy was hid, and between the two windows he saw the portrait. Bussy now crept noiselessly along to where he could peep into the room. However carefully he moved, the floor creaked. At the noise the lady turned, she was the original of the portrait. The man, seeing her turn, turned also; it was M. de Monsoreau.
"Ah!" thought Bussy, "the white horse, the woman carried away, there is some terrible history."
Bussy, as we have said, could see them both; she, standing up, pale and disdainful. He, not pale, but livid, agitated his foot impatiently.
"Madame," said he, at last, "do not hope to continue with me this character of a persecuted woman; you are at Paris, in my house, and, still more, you are Comtesse de Monsoreau, that is to say, my Wife.
"If I am your wife, why refuse to conduct me to my father? Why continue to hide me from the eyes of the world?"
"You have forgotten the Duc d'Anjou, madame."
"You assured me that, once your wife, I should have no more to fear from him."
"That is to say——"
"You promised me that."
"But still, madame, I must take precautions."
"Well, monsieur, when you have taken them, return to me."
"Diana," said the count, who was growing visibly angry, "Diana, do not make a jest of this sacred tie."
"Act so, monsieur, that I can have confidence in the husband, and I will respect the marriage."
"Oh! this is too much!" cried the count. "I am in my own house, you are my wife, and this night you shall be mine."
Bussy put his hand on his sword-hilt, and made a step forward, but Diana did not give him time to appear.
"Stay," said she, drawing a poignard from her belt, "here is my answer." And rushing into the room where Bussy was, she shut the door and locked it, while Monsoreau exhausted himself in menaces and in blows on the door.
"If you break this door you will find me dead on the threshold."
"And be easy, madame, you shall be revenged," said Bussy.
Diana was about to utter a cry, but her fear of her husband was strong enough to restrain her. She remained pale and trembling, but mute.
M. de Monsoreau struck violently with his foot, but convinced that Diana would execute her menace, went out of the drawing-room, shutting the door violently behind him. Then they heard him going down the stairs.
"But you, monsieur," said Diana, turning to Bussy, "who are you, and how came you here?"
"Madame," said Bussy, opening the door, and kneeling before her, "I am the man whose life you preserved. You cannot think that I come to your house with any bad designs." As the light streamed in, Diana recognized him at once.
"Ah! you here, monsieur," cried she, clasping her hands, "you were here—you heard all?"
"Alas! yes, madame."
"But who are you? your name, monsieur?"
"Madame, I am Louis de Clermont, Comte de Bussy."
"Bussy! you are the brave Bussy!" cried Diana, filling with joy the heart of the young man. "Ah! Gertrude!" cried she, turning to her servant, who, hearing her mistress talking to some one, had entered in terror, "Gertrude, I have no more to fear, for from this time I place myself under the safeguard of the most noble and loyal gentleman in France." Then holding out her hand to Bussy.
"Rise, monsieur," said she, "I know who you are, now you must know who I am."
WHO DIANA WAS.
Bussy rose, bewildered at his own happiness, and entered with Diana into the room which M. de Monsoreau had just quitted. He looked at Diana with astonishment and admiration; he had not dared to hope that the woman whom he had sought for, would equal the woman of his dream, and now the reality surpassed all that he had taken for a caprice of his imagination. Diana was about nineteen, that is to say in the first eclat of that youth and beauty which gives the purest coloring to the flower, the finest flavor to the fruit. There was no mistaking the looks of Bussy; Diana felt herself admired. At last she broke the silence.
"Monsieur," said she, "you have told me who you are, but not how you came here."
"Madame, the cause of my presence here will come naturally out of the recital you have been good enough to promise me; I am sure of it, from some words of your conversation with M. de Monsoreau."
"I will tell you all, monsieur; your name has been sufficient to inspire me with full confidence, for I have always heard of it as of that of a man of honor, loyalty, and courage."
Bussy bowed, and Diana went on.
"I am the daughter of the Baron de Meridor—that is to say, the only heiress of one of the noblest and oldest names in Anjou."
"There was," said Bussy, "a Baron de Meridor, who, although he could have saved himself, came voluntarily and gave up his sword at the battle of Pavia, when he heard that the king was a prisoner, and begged to accompany Francis to Madrid, partook his captivity, and only quitted him to come to France and negotiate his ransom."
"It was my father, monsieur, and if ever you enter the great hall of the Chateau de Meridor you will see, given in memory of this devotion, the portrait of Francis I., painted by Leonardo da Vinci."
"Ah!" said Bussy, "in those times kings knew how to recompense their followers."
"On his return from Spain my father married. His two first children, sons, died. This was a great grief to the Baron de Meridor. When the king died, my father quitted the court, and shut himself with his wife in the Chateau de Meridor. It was there that I was born, ten years after the death of my brothers.
"Then all the love of the baron was concentrated on the child of his old age; his love for me was idolatry. Three years after my birth I lost my mother, and, too young to feel my loss, my smiles helped to console my father. As I was all to him, so was he also all to me. I attained my sixteenth year without dreaming of any other world than that of my sheep, my peacocks, my swans, and my doves, without imagining that this life would change, or wishing that it should.
"The castle of Meridor was surrounded by vast forests, belonging to the Duc d'Anjou; they were filled with deer and stags, whom no one thought of tormenting, and who had grown quite familiar to me; some of them would even come when I called them, and one, a doe, my favorite Daphne, my poor Daphne, would come and eat out of my hand.
"One spring I had missed her for a month, and was ready to weep for her as for a friend, when she reappeared with two little fawns. At first they were afraid of me, but seeing their mother caress me, they soon learned to do the same.
"About this time we heard that the Duc d'Anjou had sent a governor into the province, and that he was called the Comte de Monsoreau. A week passed, during which everyone spoke of the new governor. One morning the woods resounded with the sound of the horn, and the barking of dogs. I ran to the park, and arrived just in time to see Daphne, followed by her two fawns, pass like lightning, pursued by a pack of hounds. An instant after, mounted on a black horse, M. de Monsoreau flew past me.
"I cried out and implored pity for my poor protegee, but he did not hear me. Then I ran after him, hoping to meet either the count or some of his suite and determined to implore them to stop this chase, which pierced my heart. I ran for some time without knowing where, for I had lost sight of both dogs and hunters.
"Soon I could not even hear them, so I sat down at the foot of a tree, and began to cry. I had been there about a quarter of an hour, when I heard the chase again. The noise came nearer and nearer, and, darting forward, I saw my poor Daphne again; she had but one fawn with her now, the other had given way through fatigue. She herself was growing visibly tired, and the distance between her and the hounds was less than when I saw her first.
"As before, I exerted myself in vain to make myself heard. M. de Monsoreau saw nothing but the animal he was chasing; he passed more quickly that ever, with his horn to his mouth, which he was sounding loudly. Behind him two or three hunters animated the dogs with horn and voice. All passed me like a tempest, and disappeared in the forest. I was in despair, but I ran on once more and followed a path which I knew led to the castle of Beauge. belonging to the Duc d'Anjou, and which was about six miles from the castle of Meridor. It was not till I arrived there that I remembered that I was alone, and far from home.
"I confess that a vague terror seized me, and that then only I thought of the imprudence and folly of my conduct. I followed the border of the lake, intending to ask the gardener (who, when I had come there with my father, had often given me bouquets) to take me home, when all at once I heard the sound of the chase again. I remained motionless, listening, and I forgot all else. Nearly at the same moment the doe reappeared, coming out of the wood on the other side of the lake, but pursued so closely that she must be taken immediately. She was alone, her second fawn had fallen, but the sight of the water seemed to reanimate her, and she plunged in as if she would have come to me. At first she swam rapidly, and I looked at her with tears in my eyes, and almost as breathless as herself; insensibly her strength failed her, while the dogs seemed to grow more and more earnest in their pursuit. Soon some of them reached her, and, stopped by their bites, she ceased to advance. At this moment, M. de Monsoreau appeared at the border of the lake, and jumped off his horse. Then I collected all my strength to cry for pity, with clasped hands. It seemed to me that he saw me, and I cried again. He heard me, for he looked at me; then he ran towards a boat, entered it, and advanced rapidly towards the animal, who was fighting among the dogs. I did not doubt that, moved by my voice, he was hastening to bring her succor, when all at once I saw him draw his hunting knife, and plunge it into the neck of the poor animal. The blood flowed out, reddening the water at the lake, while the poor doe uttered a doleful cry, beat the water with her feet, reared up, and then fell back dead.
"I uttered a cry almost as doleful as hers, and fell fainting on the bank. When I came to myself again, I was in bed, in a room of the chateau of Beauge, and my father, who had been sent for, standing by me. As it was nothing but over-excitement, the next morning I was able to return home; although I suffered for three or four days. Then my father told me, that M. de Monsoreau, who had seen me, when I was carried to the castle, had come to ask after me; he had been much grieved when he heard that he had been the involuntary cause of my accident and begged to present his excuses to me, saying, that he could not be happy until he had his pardon from my own lips.
"It would have been ridiculous to refuse to see him, so, in spite of my repugnance, I granted his request. He came the next day; I felt that my behavior must have seemed strange, and I excused it on the ground of my affection for Daphne. The count swore twenty times, that had he known I had any interest in his victim, he would have spared her with pleasure; but his protestations did not convince me, nor remove the unfavorable impression I had formed of him. When he took leave, he asked my father's permission to come again. He had been born in Spain and educated at Madrid, and it was an attraction for my father to talk over the place where he had been so long a prisoner. Besides, the count was of good family, deputy-governor of the province, and a favorite, it was said, of the Due d'Anjou; my father had no motive for refusing his request, and it was granted. Alas! from this moment ceased, if not my happiness, at least my tranquillity. I soon perceived the impression I had made on the count; he began to come every day, and was full of attentions to my father, who showed the pleasure he took in his conversation, which was certainly that of a clever man.
"One morning my father entered my room with an air graver than usual, but still evidently joyful. 'My child,' said he, 'you always have said you did not wish to leave me.'
"'Oh! my father,' cried I, 'it is my dearest wish.'
"'Well, my Diana,' continued he, embracing me, 'it only depends now on yourself to have your wish realized.' I guessed what he was about to say, and grew dreadfully pale.
"'Diana, my child, what is the matter?' cried he.
"'M. de Monsoreau, is it not?' stammered I. 'Well?' said he, astonished. 'Oh! never, my father, if you have any pity for your daughter, never——'
"'Diana, my love,' said he, 'it is not pity I have for you, but idolatry; you know it; take a week to reflect, and if then——'
"'Oh! no, no,' cried I, 'it is useless; not a day, not a minute! No, no, no!' and I burst into tears. My father adored me, and he took me in his arms, and gave me his word that he would speak to me no more of this marriage.
"Indeed, a month passed, during which I neither heard of nor saw M. de Monsoreau. One morning we received an invitation to a grand fete which M. de Monsoreau was to give to the Duc d'Anjou, who was about to visit the province whose name he bore. To this was added a personal invitation from the prince, who had seen my father at court. My first impulse was to beg my father to refuse, but he feared to offend the prince, so we went. M. de Monsoreau received us as though nothing had passed, and behaved to me exactly as he did to the other ladies.
"Not so the duke. As soon as he saw me, he fixed his eyes on me, and scarcely ever removed them. I felt ill at ease under these looks, and begged my father to go home early. Three days after M. de Monsoreau came to Meridor; I saw him from the windows, and shut myself up in my own room. When he was gone, my father said nothing to me, but I thought he looked gloomy.
"Four days passed thus, when, as I was returning from a walk, the servants told me that M. de Monsoreau was with my father, who had asked for me several times, and had desired to be immediately informed of my return. Indeed, no sooner had I entered my room, than my father came to me.
"'My child,' said he, 'a motive which I cannot explain to you, forces me to separate myself from you for some days. Do not question me, but be sure that it is an urgent one, since it determines me to be a week, a fortnight, perhaps a month, without seeing you.' I trembled, I knew not why, but I fancied that the visits of M. de Monsoreau boded me no good.
"'Where am I to go, my father?' asked I.
"'To the chateau of Lude, to my sister, where you will be hidden from all eyes. You will go by night.' 'And do you not accompany me?' 'No, I must stay here, to ward off suspicion; even the servants must not know where you are going.' 'But then, who will take me there?' 'Two men whom I can trust.' 'Oh! mon Dieu! father,' I cried. The baron embraced me. 'It is necessary, my child,' said he.
"I knew my father's love for me so well that I said no more, only I asked that Gertrude, my nurse, should accompany me. My father quitted me, telling me to get ready.
"At eight o'clock (it was dark and cold, for it was the middle of winter) my father came for me. We descended quietly, crossed the garden, when he opened himself a little door leading to the forest, and there we found a litter waiting, and two men; my father spoke to them, then I got in, and Gertrude with me.
"My father embraced me once more, and we set off. I was ignorant what danger menaced me, and forced me to quit the castle of Meridor. I did not dare to question my conductors, whom I did not know. We went along quietly, and the motion of the litter at last sent me to sleep, when I was awoke by Gertrude, who, seizing my arm, cried out, 'Oh, mademoiselle, was is the matter?'
"I passed my head through the curtains. We were surrounded by six masked cavaliers, and our men, who had tried to defend me, were disarmed. He who appeared the chief of the masked men approached me, and said; 'Reassure yourself, mademoiselle, no harm will be done to you, but you must follow us.'
"'Where?' I asked. 'To a place,' he replied, 'where, far from having anything to complain of, you will be treated like a queen.' 'Oh! my father! my father!' I cried. 'Listen, mademoiselle,' said Gertrude, 'I know the environs, and I am strong; we may be able to escape.'
"'You must do as you will with us, gentlemen,' said I, 'we are but two poor women, and cannot defend ourselves.' One of the men then took the place of our conductor, and changed the direction of our litter."
Here Diana stopped a moment, as if overcome with emotion.
"Oh, continue, madame, continue," cried Bussy.
It was impossible for Diana not to see the interest she inspired in the young man; it was shown in his voice, his gestures, his looks. She smiled, and went on.
"We continued our journey for about three hours, then the litter stopped. I heard a door open, we went on, and I fancied we were crossing a drawbridge. I was not wrong, for, on looking out of the litter, I saw that we were in the courtyard of a castle. What castle was it? We did not know. Often, during the route, we had tried to discover where we were, but seemed to be in an endless forest. The door of our litter was opened, and the same man who had spoken to us before asked us to alight. I obeyed in silence. Two men from the castle had come to meet us with torches; they conducted us into a bedroom richly decorated, where a collation waited for us on a table sumptuously laid out.
"'You are at home here, madame,' said the same man, 'and the room for your servant is adjoining. When you wish for anything, you have but to strike with the knocker on this door, and some one, who will be constantly in the antechamber, will wait on you.' This apparent attention showed that we were guarded. Then the man bowed and went out, and we heard him lock the door behind him.
"Gertrude and I were alone. She was about to speak, but I signed her to be silent, for perhaps some one was listening. The door of the room which had been shown us as Gertrude's was open, and we went in to examine it. It was evidently the dressing-room to mine, and was also locked. We were prisoners. Gertrude approached me, and said in a low tone: 'Did demoiselle remark that we only mounted five steps after leaving the court?' 'Yes,' said I. 'Therefore we are on the ground floor.' 'Doubtless.' 'So that——' said she, pointing to the window. 'Yes, if they are not barred.' 'And if mademoiselle had courage.' 'Oh! yes, I have.'
"Gertrude then took a light, and approached the window. It opened easily, and was not barred; but we soon discovered the cause of this seeming negligence on the part of our captors. A lake lay below us, and we were guarded by ten feet of water better than by bolts and bars. But in looking out I discovered where we were. We were in the chateau of Beauge, where they had brought me on the death of my poor Daphne. This castle belonged to the Duc d'Anjou, and a sudden light was thrown upon our capture. We shut the window again, and I threw myself, dressed, on my bed, while Gertrude slept in a chair by my side. Twenty times during the night I woke, a prey to sudden terror; but nothing justified it, excepting the place where I found myself, for all seemed asleep in the castle, and no noise but the cry of the birds interrupted the silence of the night. Day appeared, but only to confirm my conviction that flight was impossible without external aid; and how could that reach us? About nine they came to take away the supper and bring breakfast. Gertrude questioned the servants, but they did not reply. Our morning passed in fruitless plans for escape, and yet we could see a boat fastened to the shore, with its oars in it. Could we only have reached that, we might have been safe.
"They brought us our dinner in the same way, put it down, and left us. In breaking my bread I found in it a little note. I opened it eagerly, and read, 'A friend watches over you. To-morrow you shall have news of him and of your father.' You can imagine my joy. The rest of the day passed in waiting and hoping. The second night passed as quietly as the first; then came the hour of breakfast, waited for impatiently, for I hoped to find another note. I was not wrong, it was as follows:—'The person who had you carried off will arrive at the castle of Beauge at ten o'clock this evening; but at nine, the friend who watches over you will be under your windows with a letter from your father, which will command the confidence you, perhaps, might not otherwise give. Burn this letter.
"I read and re-read this letter, then burned it as I was desired. The writing was unknown to me, and I did not know from whom it could have come. We lost ourselves in conjectures, and a hundred times during the morning we went to the window to see if we could see any one on the shores of the lake, but all was solitary. An hour after dinner, some one knocked at our door, and then entered. It was the man who had spoken to us before. I recognized his voice; he presented a letter to me.
"'Whom do you come from?' asked I. 'Will mademoiselle take the trouble to read, and she will see.' 'But I will not read this letter without knowing whom it comes from.' 'Mademoiselle can do as she pleases; my business is only to leave the letter,' and putting it down, he went away. 'What shall I do?' asked I of Gertrude. 'Read the letter, mademoiselle; it is better to know what to expect.' I opened and read."
Diana, at this moment, rose, opened a desk, and from a portfolio drew out the letter. Bussy glanced at the address and read, "To the beautiful Diana de Meridor."
Then looking at Diana, he said—
"It is the Duc d'Anjou's writing."
"Ah!" replied she, with a sigh, "then he did not deceive me."
Then, as Bussy hesitated to open the letter—
"Read," said she, "chance has initiated you into the most secret history of my life, and I wish to keep nothing from you."
Bussy obeyed and read—
"An unhappy prince, whom your divine beauty has struck to the heart, will come at ten o'clock to-night to apologize for his conduct towards you—conduct which he himself feels has no other excuse than the invincible love he entertains for you.
"Then this letter was really from the duke?" asked Diana.
"Alas! yes; it is his writing and his seal."
Diana sighed. "Can he be less guilty than I thought?" said she.
"Who, the prince?"
"No, M. de Monsoreau."
"Continue, madame, and we will judge the prince and the count."
"This letter, which I had then no idea of not believing genuine, rendered still more precious to me the intervention of the unknown friend who offered me aid in the name of my father; I had no hope but in him. Night arrived soon, for it was in the month of January, and we had still four or five hours to wait for the appointed time. It was a fine frosty night; the heavens were brilliant with stars, and the crescent moon lighted the country with its silver beams. We had no means of knowing the time, but we sat anxiously watching at Gertrude's window. At last we saw figures moving among the trees, and then distinctly heard the neighing of a horse.
"It is our friends,' said Gertrude. 'Or the prince,' replied I. 'The prince would not hide himself.' This reflection reassured me. A man now advanced alone: it seemed to us that he quitted another group who were left under the shade of the trees. As he advanced, my eyes made violent efforts to pierce the obscurity, and I thought I recognized first the tall figure, then the features, of M. de Monsoreau. I now feared almost as much the help as the danger. I remained mute, and drew back from the window. Arrived at the wall, he secured his boat, and I saw his head at our window. I could not repress a cry.
"'Ah, pardon,' said he, 'but I thought you expected me.' 'I expected some one, monsieur, but I did not know it was you.' A bitter smile passed over his face. 'Who else,' said he, 'except her father, watches over the honor of Diana de Meridor?' 'You told me, monsieur, in your letter, that you came in my father's name.' 'Yes, mademoiselle, and lest you should doubt it, here is a note from the baron,' and he gave me a paper. I read—
"'MY DEAR DIANA,—M. de Monsoreau can alone extricate you from your dangerous position, and this danger is immense. Trust, then, to him as to the best friend that Heaven can send to us. I will tell you later what from the bottom of my heart I wish you to do to acquit the debt we shall contract towards him,
"'Your father, who begs you to believe him, and to have pity on him, and on yourself,
"'BARON DE MERIDOR.'
"I knew nothing against M. de Monsoreau; my dislike to him was rather from instinct than reason. I had only to reproach him with the death of a doe, a very light crime for a hunter. I then turned towards him. 'Well?' said he. 'Monsieur, I have read my father's letter, it tells me you will take me from hence, but it does not tell me where you will take me.' 'Where the baron waits for you.' 'And where is that?' 'In the castle of Meridor.' 'Then I shall see my father?' 'In two hours.'
"'Ah I monsieur, if you speak truly——' I stopped. The count waited for the end of my sentence. 'Count on my gratitude,' said I in a trembling tone, for I knew what he might expect from my gratitude. 'Then, mademoiselle,' said he, 'you are ready to follow me?' I looked at Gertrude. 'Reflect that each minute that passes is most precious,' said he, 'I am nearly half an hour behind time now; it will soon be ten o'clock, and then the prince will be here.' 'Alas! yes.' 'Once he comes, I can do nothing for you but risk without hope that life which I now risk to save you.' 'Why did not my father come?' I asked. 'Your father is watched. They know every step he takes.' 'But you——' 'Oh! I am different; I am the prince's friend and confidant.' 'Then if you are his friend——' 'Yes, I betray him for you; it is true, as I told you just now, I am risking my life to save you.' This seemed so true, that although I still felt repugnance, I could not express it. 'I wait,' said the count, 'and stay; if you still doubt, look there.' I looked, and saw on the opposite shore a body of cavaliers advancing. 'It is the duke and his suite,' said he, 'in five minutes it will be too late.'
"I tried to rise, but my limbs failed me. Gertrude raised me in her arms and gave me to the count. I shuddered at his touch, but he held me fast and placed me in the boat. Gertrude followed without aid. Then I noticed that my veil had come off, and was floating on the water. I thought they would track us by it, and I cried, 'My veil; catch my veil.' The count looked at it and said, 'No, no, better leave it.' And seizing the oars, he rowed with all his strength. We had just reached the bank when we saw the windows of my room lighted up. 'Did I deceive you? Was it time?' said M. de Monsoreau. 'Oh I yes, yes,' cried I, 'you are really my saviour.'
"The lights seemed to be moving about from one room to the other. We heard voices, and a man entered who approached the open window, looked out, saw the floating veil, and uttered a cry. 'You see I did well to leave the veil,' said the count, 'the prince believes that to escape him you threw yourself into the lake.' I trembled at the man who had so instantaneously conceived this idea."
There was a moment's silence. Diana seemed almost overcome. Bussy was already vowing eternal vengeance against her enemies. She went on:
"Scarcely had we touched the shore, when seven or eight men ran to us. They were the count's people, and I thought I recognized among them the two men who had escorted me when I left Meridor. A squire held two horses, a black one for the count and a white one for me. The count helped me to mount, and then jumped on his own horse. Gertrude mounted en croupe behind one of the men, and we set off at full gallop. The count held the bridle of my horse. I said to him that I was a sufficiently good horsewoman to dispense with this, but he replied that the horse was inclined to run away. When we had gone about ten minutes, I heard Gertrude's voice calling to me, and turning, I saw that four of the men were taking her by a different path from that which we were following. 'Gertrude,' cried I, 'why does she not come with me?' 'It is an indispensable precaution,' said the count; 'if we are pursued we must leave two tracks, and they must be able to say in two places that they have seen a woman carried away by men. There is then a chance that M. d'Anjou may take a wrong road, and go after your servant instead of you.' Although specious, this reply did not satisfy me, but what could I do? Besides, the path which the count was following was the one which led to the Chateau de Meridor. In a quarter of an hour, at the rate at which we are going, we should have been at the castle, when all at once, when we came to a cross road which I knew well, the count, instead of following the road to the castle, turned to the left, and took a road which led away from it. I cried out, and in spite of our rapid pace had already my hand on the pommel in order to jump off, when the count, seizing me round the waist, drew me off my horse, and placed me on the saddle before him. This action was so rapid that I had only time to utter a cry. M. de Monsoreau put his hand on my mouth, and said, 'Mademoiselle, I swear to you, on my honor, that I only act by your father's orders, as I will prove to you at the first halt we make. If this proof appears to you insufficient, you shall then be free.' 'But, monsieur,' cried I, pushing away his hand, 'you told me you were taking me to my father!' 'Yes, I told you so, because I saw that you hesitated to follow me, and a moment's more hesitation would have ruined us both, as you know. Now, do you wish to kill your father? Will you march straight to your dishonor? If so, I will take you to Meridor.' 'You spoke of a proof that you acted in the name of my father.' 'Here it is,' said the baron, giving me a letter, 'keep it, and read it at the first stoppage. If, when you have read it, you wish to return to Meridor, you are free; but if you have any respect for your father's wishes you will not.' 'Then, monsieur,' I replied, 'let us reach quickly our stopping-place, for I wish to know if you speak the truth.' 'Remember, you follow me freely.' 'Yes, as freely as a young girl can who sees herself placed between her father's death and her own dishonor on the one hand, and on the other the obligation to trust herself to the word of a man whom she hardly knows.' 'Never mind, I follow you freely, monsieur, as you shall see if you will give me my horse again.' The count called to one of his men to dismount and give me his horse. 'The white mare cannot be far,' said he to the man; 'seek her in the forest and call her, she will come like a dog to her name or to a whistle; you can rejoin us at La Chatre.' I shuddered in spite of myself. La Chatre was ten leagues from Meridor, on the road to Paris. 'Monsieur,' said I, 'I accompany you, but at La Chatre we make our conditions.' 'Mademoiselle, at La Chatre you shall give me your orders.' At daybreak we arrived at La Chatre, but instead of entering the village we went by across-road to a lonely house. I stopped. 'Where are we going?' I asked. 'Mademoiselle,' said the count, 'I appeal to yourself. Can we, in flying from a prince next in power to the king, stop in an ordinary village inn, where the first person would denounce us?' 'Well,' said I, 'go on.' We resumed our way. We were expected, for a man had ridden on before to announce our arrival. A good fire burned in a decent room, and a bed was prepared. 'This is your room,' said the count, 'I will await your orders.' He went out and left me alone. My first thought was for my letter. Here it is, M. de Bussy; read."
Bussy took the, letter and read:
"MY BELOVED DIANA—As I do not doubt that, yielding to my prayer, you have followed the Comte de Monsoreau, he must have told you that you had the misfortune to please M. le Duc d'Anjou, and that it was this prince who had you forcibly carried away and taken to the castle of Beauge; judge by this violence of what the prince is capable, and with what you were menaced. Your dishonor I could not survive; but there is a means of escape—that of marrying our noble friend. Once Countess of Monsoreau, the count would protect his wife. My desire is, then, my darling daughter, that this marriage should take place as soon as possible, and if you consent, I give you my paternal benediction, and pray God to bestow upon you every treasure of happiness.
"Your father, who does not order, but entreats,
"BARON DE MERIDOR."
"Alas!" said Bussy, "if this letter be from your father, it is but too positive."
"I do not doubt its being from him, and yet I read it three times before deciding. At last I called the count. He entered at once; I had the letter in my hand. 'Well, have you read it?' said he. 'Yes,' I replied. 'Do you still doubt my devotion and respect?' 'This letter imposes belief on me, monsieur; but in case I yield to my father's wishes, what do you propose to do?' 'To take you to Paris, mademoiselle; that is the easiest place to hide you.' 'And my father?' 'As soon as there is no longer danger of compromising you, you know he will come to you wherever you are.' 'Well, monsieur, I am ready to accept your protection on the conditions you impose.'
"'I impose nothing, mademoiselle,' answered he, 'I simply offer you a method of safety.' 'Well, I will accept this safety on three conditions.' 'Speak, mademoiselle.' 'The first is, that Gertrude shall return to me.' She is here. 'The second is, that we travel separately to Paris.' 'I was about to propose it to you.' 'And the third is, that our marriage, unless I myself acknowledge some urgent necessity for it, shall only take place in presence of my father.' 'It is my earnest desire; I count on his benediction to draw upon us that of heaven.'
"I was in despair. I had hoped for some opposition to my wishes. 'Now, mademoiselle,' said he, 'allow me to give you some advice.' 'I listen, monsieur.' 'Only to travel by night.' 'Agreed.' 'To let me choose the route, and the places where you should stop. All my precautions will be taken with the sole aim of escaping the Duc d'Anjou.' 'I have no objection to make, monsieur.' 'Lastly, at Paris, to occupy the lodging I shall prepare for you, however simple and out of the way it may be.' 'I only ask to live hidden, monsieur, the more out of the way, the better it will suit me.' 'Then, as we are agreed on all points, mademoiselle, it only remains for me to present to you my humble respects, and to send to you your femme de chambre.' 'On my side! monsieur, be sure that if you keep all your promises, I will keep mine.' 'That is all I ask,' said the count, 'and the promise makes me the happiest of men.'
"With these words, he bowed and went out. Five minutes after, Gertrude entered. The joy of this good girl was great; she had believed herself separated from me forever. I told her all that had passed. As I finished, we heard the sound of a horse's hoofs. I ran to the window; it was M. de Monsoreau going away. He had fulfilled two articles of the treaty. We passed all the day in that little house, served by our hostess; in the evening the chief of our escort appeared, and asked me if I were ready. I said yes, and five minutes after, we set off. At the door I found my white mare. We traveled all night, and stopped at daybreak. I calculated we had gone about thirty-five miles, but my horse had a very easy pace, and on leaving the house a fur cloak had been thrown over me to protect me from the cold. It took us seven days to reach Paris in this manner, and I saw nothing of the count. We entered the city at night, and the first object I saw, after passing through the gate, was an immense monastery; then we crossed the river, and in ten minutes we were in the Place de la Bastile. Then a man who seemed to be waiting for us, advanced and said, 'It is here.' The chief of our escort jumped off his horse, and presented me his hand to dismount also. A door was open, and the staircase lighted by a lamp. 'Madame,' said the man to me, 'you are now at home. At this door finishes the mission I received; may I flatter myself I have fulfilled it according to your wishes?' 'Yes, monsieur,' said I, 'I have only thanks to give you. Offer them in my name to all your men; I would wish to reward them in a better manner, but I possess nothing.' 'Do not be uneasy about that, madame,' said he, 'they are largely recompensed.'
"Then the little troop went away, and we went up the stairs of our house, and found ourselves in a corridor. Three doors were open; we entered the middle one, and found ourselves in the room where we now stand. On opening the door of my bedroom, to my great astonishment I found my own portrait there. It was one which had hung at Meridor, and the count had doubtless begged it of my father. I trembled at this new proof that my father regarded me already as his wife.
"Nothing was wanting in the room; a fire burned in the grate, and a supper was ready in the sitting-room. I saw with satisfaction that it was laid for one only, and yet when Gertrude said, 'Well, mademoiselle, you see the count keeps his promises.'—'Alas! yes,' replied I with a sigh, for I should have preferred that by breaking his word he should have given me an excuse to break mine. After supper, we examined the house, but found no one in it. The next day Gertrude went out, and from her I learned that we were at the end of the Rue St. Antoine, near the Bastile. That evening, as we were sitting down to supper, some one knocked. I grew pale.
"'If it be the count?' asked Gertrude. 'You must open to him; he has kept his promises, and I must keep mine.' A moment after he entered. 'Well, madame,' said he, 'have I kept my word?' 'Yes, monsieur, and I thank you for it.' 'Then you will receive me?' said he, with an ironical smile. 'Enter, monsieur,' said I, 'have you any news?' 'Of what, madame?' 'Of my father, firstly?' 'I have not been to Meridor and have not seen the baron.' 'Then of Beauge, and the Duc d'Anjou?' 'I have been to Beauge, and have spoken to the duke.' 'What does he say?' 'He appears to doubt.' 'Of what?' 'Of your death.' 'But you confirmed it?' 'I did all I could.' 'Where is the duke?' I then asked. 'He returned to Paris yesterday. One does not like to stay in a place where one has the death of a woman to reproach one's self with.' 'Have you seen him in Paris?' 'I have just left him.' 'Did he speak of me?' 'I did not give him time; I spoke incessantly of a promise which he made to me.' 'What is it?' 'He promised me as a reward for services rendered to him, to make, me chief huntsman.' 'Ah, yes,' said I, thinking of my poor Daphne 'you are a terrible hunter, I know.' 'It is not for, that reason I obtain it, but the duke dare not be ungrateful to me.'
"'Can I write to my father?' said I. 'Doubtless; but your letters may be intercepted.' 'Am I forbidden to go out?' 'Nothing is forbidden; but I beg to point out to you that you may be followed.' 'At least I must go on Sunday to mass.' 'It would be better not; but if you do, I advise you to go to St. Catherine.' 'Where is that?' 'Just opposite you.' There was a silence. Then I said, 'When shall I see you again, monsieur?' 'When I have your permission to come.' 'Do you need it?' 'Certainly, as yet I am a stranger to you.' 'Monsieur,' said I, half frightened at this unnatural submission, 'you can return when you like, or when you think you have anything important to communicate.'
"'Thanks, madame,' said he, 'I will use your permission, but not abuse it. I know you do not love me, and I will not abuse a situation which forces you to receive me. You will, I trust, gradually become accustomed to the thought, and be willing, when the moment shall arrive, to become my wife.' 'Monsieur,' said I, 'I appreciate your delicacy and frankness. I will use the same frankness. I had a prejudice against you, which I trust that time will cure.' 'Permit me,' said he, 'to partake this anticipation and live in the hopes of that happy moment.' Then bowing respectfully, he went out."
"A strange man," said Bussy.
"Yes, is he not, monsieur? When he was gone I felt sadder and more frightened than ever. This icy respect, this ironical obedience, this repressed passion, which now and then showed itself in his voice, frightened me more than a will firmly expressed, and which I could have opposed, would have done. The next day was Sunday; I had never in my life missed divine service, so I took a thick veil and went to St. Catherine's, followed by Gertrude, and no one seemed to remark us.
"The next day the count came to announce to me that the duke had fulfilled his promise, and had obtained for him the place of chief huntsman, which had been promised to M. de St. Luc. A week passed thus: the count came twice to see me, and always preserved the same cold and submissive manner. The next Sunday I went again to the church. Imprudently, in the midst of my prayers, I raised my veil. I was praying earnestly for my father, when Gertrude touched me on the arm. I raised my head, and saw with terror M. le Duc d'Anjou leaning against the column, and looking earnestly at me. A man stood by him."
"It was Aurilly," said Bussy.
"Yes, that was the name that Gertrude told me afterwards. I drew my veil quickly over my face, but it was too late: he had seen me, and if he had not recognized me, at least my resemblance to her whom he believed dead had struck him. Uneasy, I left the church, but found him standing at the door and he offered to me the holy water as I passed. I feigned not to see him, and went on. We soon discovered that we were followed. Had I known anything of Paris, I would have attempted to lead them wrong, but I knew no more of it than from the church to the house, nor did I know any one of whom I could ask a quarter of an hour's hospitality; not a friend, and only one protector, whom I feared more than an enemy."
"Oh! mon Dieu!" cried Bussy, "why did not Heaven, or chance, throw me sooner in your path?"
Diana thanked the young man with a look.
"But pray go on," said Bussy, "I interrupt you, and yet I am dying to hear more."
"That evening M. de Monsoreau came. I did not know whether to tell him of what had happened, but he began, 'You asked me if you could go to mass, and I told you you were free, but that it would be better not to do so. You would not believe me: you went this morning to St. Catherine's, and by a fatality the prince was there and saw you.' 'It is true, monsieur; but I do not know if he recognized me.' 'Your face struck him; your resemblance to the woman he regrets appeared to him extraordinary, he followed you home, and made inquiries, but learned nothing, for no one knew anything.' 'Mon Dieu!' cried I. 'The duke is persevering,' said he. 'Oh! he will forget me, I hope.'
"'No one forgets you who has once seen you,' said he. 'I did all I could to forget you, and I have not succeeded.' And the first passionate look that I had seen flashed from the eyes of the count. I was more terrified by it than I had been by the sight of the prince. I remained mute. 'What will you do?' asked the count. 'Can I not change my abode—go to the other end of Paris, or, better still, return to Anjou?' 'It will be useless; the duke is a terrible bloodhound, and now he is on your track, he will follow you wherever you go till he finds you.' 'Oh! mon Dieu! you frighten me.' 'I tell you the simple truth.' 'Then what do you advise me to do?' 'Alas!' said he, with a bitter irony. 'I am a man of poor imagination. I had formed a plan, but it does not suit you; I can find no other.' 'But the danger is perhaps less pressing than you imagine.'
"'The future will show us, madame,' said the count, rising. 'I can but add that the Comtesse de Monsoreau would have the less to fear from the prince, as my new post places me under the direct protection of the court.' I only replied by a sigh. He smiled bitterly, and as he went down-stairs I heard him giving vent to oaths. The next day, when Gertrude went out, she was accosted by a young man whom she recognized as the one who had accompanied the prince, but she remained obstinately silent to all his questions. This meeting inspired me with profound terror; I feared that M. de Monsoreau would not come, and that they would invade the house in his absence. I sent for him, he came at once. I told him all about the young man, whom I described.
"'It was Aurilly;' he said, 'and what did Gertrude answer?' 'She did not answer at all.' 'She was wrong,' said he. 'Why?' 'We must gain time.' 'Time?' 'Yes, I am now dependent on the Duc d'Anjou; in a fortnight, in a week perhaps, he will be in my power. We must deceive him to get him to wait.' 'Mon Dieu!' 'Certainly; hope will make him patient. A complete refusal will push him to extremities.' 'Monsieur, write to my father; he will throw himself at the feet of the king. He will have pity on an old man.' 'That is according to the king's humor, and whether he be for the time friendly or hostile to the duke. Besides, it would take six days for a messenger to reach your father, and six days for him to come here. In twelve days, if we do not stop him, the duke will have done all he can do.'
"'And how to stop him?' I cried. A smile passed over the lips of M. de Monsoreau at this first appeal to his protection. 'Madame,' said he, 'will you permit me to pass two or three hours in your room? I may be seen going out, and would rather wait till dark.' I signed him to sit down. We conversed; he was clever and had traveled much, and at the end of the time I understood, better than I had ever done before, the influence he had obtained over my father. When it grew dark, he rose and took leave. Gertrude and I then approached the window, and could distinctly see two men examining the house. The next day, Gertrude, when she went out, found the same young man in the same place. He spoke to her again, and this time she answered him. On the following day she told him that I was the widow of a counselor, who, being poor, lived in retirement. He tried to learn more, but could extract nothing further from her. The next day, Aurilly, who seemed to doubt her story, spoke of Anjou, of Beauge, and Meridor. Gertrude declared these names to be perfectly unknown to her. Then he avowed that he came from the Duc d'Anjou, who had seen and fallen in love with me; then came magnificent offers for both of us, for her, if she would introduce the prince into my house, and for me, if I would receive him.
"Every evening M. de Monsoreau came, to hear what was going on, and remained from eight o'clock to midnight, and it was evident that his anxiety was great. On Saturday evening he arrived pale and agitated.
"'You must promise to receive the duke on Tuesday or Wednesday,' said he. 'Promise! and why?' 'Because he has made up his mind to come in, and he is just now on the best terms with the king; we have nothing to expect from him.' 'But before then will anything happen to help me?' 'I hope so. I expect from day to day the event which is to place the duke in my power. But tomorrow I must leave you, and must go to Monsoreau.' 'Must you?' cried I with a mixture of joy and terror. 'Yes, I have there a rendezvous which is indispensable to bring about the event of which I speak.' 'But if you fail, what are we to do?' 'What can I do against a prince, if I have no right to protect you, but yield to bad fortune?'
"'Oh! my father! my father!' cried I. The count looked at me. 'What have you to reproach me with?' said he. 'Nothing, on the contrary.' 'Have I not been a devoted friend, and as respectful as a brother?' 'You have behaved throughout like a gallant man.' 'Had I not your promise?' 'Yes.' 'Have I once recalled it to you?' 'No.' 'And yet you prefer to be the mistress of the duke, to being my wife?' 'I do not say so, monsieur.' 'Then decide.' 'I have decided.' 'To be Countess of Monsoreau?' 'Rather than mistress of the duke.' 'The alternative is flattering. But, meanwhile, let Gertrude gain time until Tuesday.' The next day Gertrude went out, but did not meet Aurilly. We felt more frightened at his absence than we had done at his presence. Night came, and we were full of terror. We were alone and feeble, and for the first time I felt my injustice to the count."
"Oh! madame!" cried Bussy, "do not be in a hurry to think so, his conduct conceals some mystery, I believe."
"All was quiet," continued Diana, "until eleven o'clock. Then five men came out of the Rue St Antoine, and hid themselves by the Hotel des Tournelles. We began to tremble; were they there for us? However, they remained quiet, and a quarter of an hour passed; then we saw two other men approach. By the moonlight Gertrude recognized Aurilly. 'Alas! mademoiselle; it is they,' cried she. 'Yes,' cried I, trembling, 'and the five others are to help them.' 'But they must force the door,' said Gertrude, 'perhaps the neighbors will come and help us.' 'Oh! no, they do not know us, and they will not fight against the duke. Alas! Gertrude, I fear we have no real defender but the count.' 'Well! then, why do you always refuse to marry him?' I sighed."
"The two men approached the window. We gently opened it a little way, and heard one say, 'Are you sure it is here?' 'Yes, monseigneur, quite sure,' said the other. 'It is the fifth house from the corner of the Rue St. Paul.' 'And you are sure of the key?' 'I took the pattern of the lock.' I seized Gertrude's arm in terror. 'And once inside' he went on, 'the servant will admit us; your highness has in your pocket a golden key as good as this one.' 'Open, then.' We heard the key turn in the lock but all at once the ambushed men rushed forward, crying, 'a mort! a mort!' I could not understand this, only I saw that unexpected help had come to us, and I fell on my knees, thanking Heaven. But the prince had only to name himself, when every sword went back into the scabbard, and every foot drew back."
"Yes, yes," said Bussy, "it was for me they came, not for the prince."
"However, this attack caused the prince to retire, and the five gentlemen went back to their hiding-place. It was evident that the danger was over for that night, but we were too unquiet to go to bed. Soon we saw a man on horseback appear, and then the five gentlemen immediately rushed on him. You know the rest, as the gentleman was yourself."