"On the contrary, madame, I know only that I fought and then fainted."
"It is useless to say," continued Diana, with a blush, "the interest that we took in the combat so unequal, but so valiantly sustained. Each blow drew from us a shudder, a cry, and a prayer. We saw your horse fall, and we thought you lost, but it was not so; the brave Bussy merited his reputation. At last, surrounded, menaced on all sides, you retreated like a lion, facing your foes, and came to lean against our door; the same idea came to both of us, to go down and open to you, and we ran towards the staircase; but we had barricaded the door, and it took us some minutes to move the furniture, and as we arrived on the stairs, we heard the door shut. We stopped, and looked at each other, wondering who had entered. Soon we heard steps, and a man appeared, who tottered, threw up his arms, and fell on the first step. It was evident that he was not pursued, but had put the door, so luckily left open by the duke, between hint and his adversaries. In any case we had nothing to fear; it was he who needed our help. Gertrude ran and fetched a lamp, and we found you had fainted, and carried you to the bed. Gertrude had heard of a wonderful cure made by a young doctor in the Rue Beautrellis, and she offered to go and fetch him. 'But,' said I, 'he might betray us.' 'I will take precautions' said she. She took money and the key, and I remained alone near you, and—praying for you."
"Alas!" said Bussy, "I did not know all my happiness, madame."
"In a quarter of an hour Gertrude returned, bringing the young doctor with his eyes bandaged."
"Yes, it was at that moment I recovered my senses and saw your portrait, and thought I saw you enter," said Bussy.
"I did so; my anxiety was stronger than my prudence. The doctor examined your wound and answered for your life."
"All that remained in my mind," said Bussy, "like a dream, and yet something told me," added he, laying his hand upon his heart, "that it was real."
"When the surgeon had dressed your wound, he drew from his pocket a little bottle containing a red liquor, of which he put some drops on your lips. He told me it was to counteract the fever and produce sleep, and said that the only thing then was to keep you quiet. Gertrude then bandaged his eyes again, and took him back to the Rue Beautrellis, but she fancied he counted the steps."
"He did so, madame."
"This supposition frightened us. We feared he would betray us, and we wished to get rid of every trace of the hospitality we had shown you. I gathered up my courage; it was two o'clock, and the streets were deserted; Gertrude was strong, and I aided her, and between us we carried you to the Temple. Luckily we met no one, but when we returned, I fainted with emotion."
"Oh! madame!" cried Bussy, "how can I ever repay you for what you have done for me?"
There was a moment's silence, and they heard the clock of St. Catherine's church strike. "Two o'clock," cried Diana, "and you here!"
"Oh! madame, do not send me away without telling me all. Suppose that God had given you a brother, and tell this brother what he can do for his sister."
"Alas! nothing now; it is too late."
"What happened the next day?" said Bussy; "what did you do on that day when I thought constantly of you, without feeling sure if you were not a vision of my delirium?"
"During that day, Gertrude went out, and met Aurilly. He was more pressing than ever. He said nothing of the night before, but asked for an interview for his master. Gertrude appeared to consent, but she asked until the Wednesday—that is to-day—to decide. Aurilly promised that his master would wait until then. That evening, M. de Monsoreau returned. We told him all, except about you.
"'Yes,' said he, 'I heard of all this. Then he has a key.' 'Can we not change the lock?' 'He will get another key.' 'Put on bolts? 'He will come with ten men and force the door. 'But the event which was to give you full power over him?' 'Is postponed indefinitely.' I stood in despair. 'Monsieur,' said I, 'the duke has promised to wait till Wednesday; I ask you to wait till Tuesday.' 'Tuesday evening I will be here, madame,' and without another word he went out. I followed him with my eyes, but instead of going away he stood in the corner by the Hotel des Tournelles, and seemed determined to watch me all night. Every proof of devotion he gave me was like a knife in my heart. The two days passed rapidly, but what I suffered it is impossible to describe. When Tuesday evening came, I felt exhausted, and all emotion seemed dead within me.
"Gertrude went to the window. 'Madame,' cried she, 'four men! I see four men! They approach, they open the door—they enter! It is, doubtless, the duke and his followers.' For an answer, I drew my poniard, and placed it near me on the table. 'See,' said I. An instant after, Gertrude returned, 'It is the count,' said she. He entered. 'Gertrude tells me,' said he, 'that you took me for the duke, and were ready to kill yourself.' It was the first time I had ever seen him moved. Gertrude was wrong to tell you,' said I. 'You know that I am not alone.' 'Gertrude saw four men.' 'You know who they are?' 'I presume one is a priest, and the others witnesses.' 'Then, you are ready to become my wife?' 'It was so agreed; only I stipulated that except in an urgent case, I would only marry you in the presence of my father.' 'I remember; but do you not think the case urgent?' 'Yes, and the priest may marry us, but, until I have seen my father, I will be your wife only in name.'
"The count frowned, and bit his lips. 'I do not wish to coerce you,' said he; 'you are free; but look here.' I went to the window, and saw a man wrapped in a cloak, who seemed trying to get into the house."
"Oh! mon dieu!" cried Bussy; "and this was yesterday?"
"Yes, about nine o'clock. Presently, another man, with a lantern, joined him. I thought it was the duke and his followers.
"'Now,' said, M de Monsoreau, 'shall I go or stay?' I hesitated a moment, in spite of my father's letter and of my given word, but those two men there——"
"Oh! unhappy that I am," cried Bussy, "it was I and Remy, the young doctor."
"You!" cried Diana.
"Yes, I; I, who, more and more convinced of the reality of my dream, sought for the house where I had been, and the woman, or rather angel, who had appeared to me. Oh! I am unfortunate. Then," continued he, after a pause, "you are his wife?"
There was a fresh silence.
"But," said Diana at last, "how did you enter this house?"
Bussy silently showed his key.
"A key! where did you get it?"
"Had not Gertrude promised the prince to enter tonight? He had seen M. de Monsoreau here, and also myself, and fearing a snare, sent me to find out."
"And you accepted this mission?"
"It was my only method of penetrating to you. Will you reproach me for having sought at once the greatest joy and the greatest grief of my life?"
"Yes, for it is better that you should see me no more, and forget me."
"No, madame; God has brought me to you, to deliver you from the toils in which your enemies have taken you. I vow my life to you. You wish for news of your father?"
"Oh, yes! for, in truth, I know not what has become of him."
"Well, I charge myself with finding out; only think of him who henceforth will live but for you."
"But this key?"
"This key I restore to you, for I will receive it only from your hands; but I pledge you my word as a gentleman, that never sister could trust in a brother more devoted and respectful."
"I trust to the word of the brave Bussy. Here, monsieur," and she gave back the key.
"Madame, in a fortnight we will know more;" and, saluting Diana with a respect mingled with love and sadness, Bussy took leave. Diana listened to his retreating steps with tears in her eyes.
HOW HENRI III. TRAVELED, AND HOW LONG IT TOOK HIM TO GET FROM PARIS TO FONTAINEBLEAU.
The sun, which shone four or five hours after the events which we have just recorded had taken place, saw, by his pale light, Henri III. set off for Fontainebleau, where a grand chase was projected. A crowd of gentlemen, mounted on good horses and wrapped in their fur cloaks, then a number of pages, after them lackey, and then Swiss, followed the royal litter. This litter, drawn by eight mules richly caparisoned, was a large machine, about fifteen feet long and eight wide, on four wheels, furnished inside with cushions and curtains of silk brocade. In difficult places they substituted for the mules an indefinite number of oxen.
This machine contained Henri III., his doctor, and his chaplain, Chicot, four of the king's favorites, a pair of large dogs, and a basket of little ones, which the king held on his knees, and which was suspended from his neck by a golden chain. From the roof hung a gilded cage containing turtle doves, quite white, with a black ring round their necks. Sometimes the collection was completed by the presence of two or three apes. Thus this litter was commonly termed the Noah's Ark.
Quelus and Maugiron employed themselves with plaiting ribbons, a favorite diversion of that time; and Chicot amused himself by making anagrams on the names of all the courtiers. Just as they passed the Place Maubert, Chicot rushed out of the litter, and went to kneel down before a house of good appearance.
"Oh!" cried the king, "if you kneel, let it be before the crucifix in the middle of the street, and not before the house. What do you mean by it?"
But Chicot, without attending, cried out in a loud voice:
"Mon Dieu! I recognize it, I shall always recognize it—the house where I suffered! I have never prayed for vengeance on M. de Mayenne, author of my martyrdom, nor on Nicholas David, his instrument. No; Chicot is patient, Chicot can wait, although it is now six years that this debt has been running on, and in seven years the interest is doubled. May, then, my patience last another year, so that instead of fifty blows of a stirrup-leather which I received in this house by the orders of this assassin of a Lorraine prince, and which drew a pint of blood, I may owe a hundred blows and two pints of blood! Amen, so be it!"
"Amen!" said the king.
Chicot then returned to the litter, amidst the wondering looks of the spectators.
"Why, Chicot, what does all this mean?" said the king.
"Sire, it means that Chicot is like the fox—that he licks the stones where his blood fell, until against those very stones he crushes the heads of those who spilt it."
"Sire, in that house lived a girl whom Chicot loved, a good and charming creature, and a lady. One evening when he went to see her, a certain prince, who had also fallen in love with her, had him seized and beaten, so that Chicot was forced to jump out of window; and as it was a miracle that he was not killed, each time he passes the house he kneels down and thanks God for his escape."
"You were, then, well beaten, my poor Chicot?"
"Yes, sire, and yet not as much as I wished."
"Why—for your sins?"
"No, for those of M. de Mayenne."
"Oh! I understand; your intention is to render to Casar——"
"Not to Casar, sire—Casar is the great general, the valiant warrior, the eldest brother, who wishes to be king of France. No, you must settle with him; pay your debts, and I will pay mine."
Henri did not like to hear his cousin of Guise spoken of, and this made him serious. It was three o'clock in the afternoon when they arrived at Juvisy and the great hotel of the "Cour de France."
Chicot, looking out of the litter, saw at the door of the hotel several men wrapped in cloaks. In the midst of them was a short, stout person, whose large hat almost covered his face. They went in quickly on seeing the litter, but not before the look of this person had had time to excite Chicot's attention. Therefore he jumped out, and asking a page for his horse, which was being led, let the royal litter go on to Essones, where the king was to sleep, while he remained behind, and, cautiously peeping in through a window, saw the men whom he had noticed sitting inside. He then entered the hotel, went into the opposite room, asked for a bottle of wine, and placed himself so that, although he could not be seen, no one could pass by without his seeing them.
"Ah!" said he to himself, "shall I be forced to make my payment sooner than I expected?"
Soon Chicot found that by keeping the door open he could both see into the room and hear what was said.
"Gentlemen," said the short fat man to his companions, "I think it is time to set out; the last lackey of the cortege is out of sight, and I believe now that the road is safe."
"Perfectly so, monseigneur," replied a voice which made Chicot tremble, and which came from the mouth of a person as tall as the other was short, as pale as he was red, and as obsequious as he was arrogant.
"Ah! M. Nicolas," said Chicot, "tu quoque, that is good. It will be odd if I let you slip this time!"
Then the short man came out, paid the bill, and, followed by the others, took the road to Paris. Chicot followed them at a distance. They entered by the Porte St. Antoine, and entered the Hotel Guise. Chicot waited outside a full hour, in spite of cold and hunger. At last the door reopened, but, instead of seven cavaliers wrapped in their cloaks, seven monks came out, with their hoods over their faces, and carrying immense rosaries.
"Oh!" said Chicot, "is, then, the Hotel Guise so embalmed in sanctity that wolves change into lambs only by entering it? This becomes more and more interesting."
And he followed the monks as he had followed the cavaliers, for he believed them to be the same. The monks passed over the bridge of Notre Dame, crossed the city and the petit pont, and went up the Rue St. Genevieve.
"Oh!" said Chicot, as he passed the house where he had kneeled in the morning, "are we returning to Fontainebleau? In that case I have made a round."
However, the monks stopped at the door of the Abbey of St. Genevieve, in the porch of which stood another monk, who examined everyone's hand.
"Why," said Chicot, "it seems that to be admitted to night into the abbey one must have clean hands!"
Then he saw, with astonishment, monks appear from every street leading to the abbey, some alone, some walking in pairs, but all coming to the abbey.
"Ah!" said Chicot, "is there a general chapter at the abbey to-night? I have never seen one, and I should like it much."
The monks entered, showing their hands, or something in them, and passed on.
"I should like to go also," thought Chicot; "but for that I want two things—a monk's robe, for I see no layman here, and then this mysterious thing which they show to the porter, for certainly they show something. Ah, Brother Gorenflot, if you were here!"
The monks continued to arrive, till it seemed as if half Paris had taken the frock.
"There must be something extraordinary to-night," thought Chicot. "I will go and find Gorenflot at the Corne d'Abondance; he will be at supper."
To the beautiful day had succeeded a beautiful evening, only, as the day had been cold, the evening was still colder. It was one of those frosts which make the lights in the windows of an hotel look doubly tempting. Chicot first entered the dining-room, and looked around him, but not finding there the man he sought for, went familiarly down to the kitchen. The master of the establishment was superintending a frying-pan full of whitings. At the sound of Chicot's step he turned.
"Ah! it is you, monsieur," said he, "good evening, and a good appetite to you."
"Thanks for the wish, but you know I cannot bear to eat alone."
"If necessary, monsieur, I will sup with you."
"Thanks, my dear host, but though I know you to be an excellent companion, I seek for some one else."
"Brother Gorenflot, perhaps?"
"Just so; has he begun supper?"
"No, not yet; but you must make haste nevertheless, for in five minutes he will have finished."
"Monsieur!" cried Chicot, striking his head.
"Monsieur, it is Friday, and the beginning of Lent."
"Well, and what then?" said Chicot, who did not hold a high opinion of Gorenflot's religious austerity.
Boutromet shrugged his shoulders. "Decidedly, something must be wrong," said Chicot, "five minutes for Gorenflot's supper! I am destined to see wonders to-day."
Chicot then advanced towards a small private room, pushed open the door, and saw within the worthy monk, who was turning negligently on his plate a small portion of spinach, which he tried to render more savory by the introduction into it of some cheese. Brother Gorenflot was about thirty-eight years of age and five feet high. However, what he wanted in height, he made up in breadth, measuring nearly three feet in diameter from shoulder to shoulder, which, as everyone knows, is equal to nine feet of circumference. Between these Herculean shoulders rose a neck of which the muscles stood out like cords. Unluckily this neck partook of the same proportions; it was short and thick, which at any great emotion might render Brother Gorenflot liable to apoplexy. But knowing this, perhaps, he never gave way to emotions, and was seldom so disturbed as he was when Chicot entered his room.
"Ah, my friend! what are you doing?" cried Chicot, looking at the vegetables and at a glass filled with water just colored with a few drops of wine.
"You see, my brother, I sup," replied Gorenflot in a powerful voice.
"You call that supper, Gorenflot! Herbs and cheese?"
"We are in the beginning of Lent, brother; we must think of our souls," replied Gorenflot, raising his eyes to heaven.
Chicot looked astounded; he had so often seen Gorenflot feast in a different manner during Lent.
"Our souls!" said he; "and what the devil have herbs and water to do with them?"
"We are forbidden to eat meat on Wednesdays and Fridays."
"But when did you breakfast?"
"I have not breakfasted, my brother," said the monk.
"Not breakfasted! Then what have you done?"
"Composed a discourse," said Gorenflot proudly.
"A discourse, and what for?"
"To deliver this evening at the abbey."
"That is odd."
"And I must be quick and go there, or perhaps my audience will grow impatient."
Chicot thought of the infinite number of monks he had seen going to the abbey, and wondered why Gorenflot, whom certainly he had never thought eloquent, had been chosen to preach before M. de Mayenne and the numerous assemblage. "When are you to preach?" said he.
"At half-past nine."
"Good; it is still a quarter to nine, you can give me a few minutes. Ventre de biche! we have not dined together for a week."
"It is not our fault, but I know that your duties keep you near our King Henry III., while my duties fill up my time."
"Yes, but it seems to me that is so much the more reason why we should be merry when we do meet."
"Yes, I am merry," said Gorenflot, with a piteous look, "but still I must leave you."
"At least, finish your supper."
Gorenflot looked at the spinach, and sighed, then at the water, and turned away his head.
"Do you remember," said Chicot, "the little dinner at the Porte Montmartre, where, while the king was scourging himself and others, we devoured a teal from the marshes of the Grauge-Bateliere, with a sauce made with crabs, and we drank that nice Burgundy wine; what do you call it?"
"It is a wine of my country, La Romanee."
"Yes, yes, it was the milk you sucked as a baby, worthy son of Noah."
"It was good," said Gorenflot, "but there is better."
"So says Claude Boutromet, who pretends that he has in his cellar fifty bottles to which that is paltry."
"It is true."
"True, and yet you drink that abominable red water. Fie!" And Chicot, taking the glass, threw the contents out of window.
"There is a time for all, my brother," said Gorenflot, "and wine is good when one has only to praise God after it, but water is better when one has a discourse to pronounce,"
"Opinions differ, for I, who have also a discourse to pronounce, am going to ask for a bottle of Romanee. What do you advise me to take with it, Gorenflot?"
"Not these herbs, they are not nice." Chicot, seizing the plate, threw it after the water, and then cried, "Maitre Claude."
The host appeared.
"M. Claude, bring me two bottles of your Romanee, which you call so good."
"Why two bottles," said Gorenflot, "as I do not drink it?"
"Oh! if you did I would have four or six, but if I drink alone, two will do for me."
"Indeed; two bottles are reasonable, and if you eat no meat with it, your confessor will have nothing to reproach you with."
"Oh, of course not; meat on a Friday in Lent!" And going to the larder, he drew out a fine capon.
"What are you doing, brother?" said Gorenflot, following his movements with interest.
"You see I am taking this carp."
"Carp!" cried Gorenflot.
"Yes, a carp," said Chicot, showing him the tempting bird.
"And since when has a carp had a beak?"
"A beak! do you see a beak? I only see a nose."
"Scales, my dear Gorenflot, you are drunk."
"Drunk! I, who have only eaten spinach and drunk water?"
"Well, your spinach has overloaded your stomach, and your water has mounted to your head."
"Parbleu! here is our host, he shall decide."
"So be it, but first let him uncork the wine."
M. Boutromet uncorked a bottle and gave a glass to Chicot. Chicot swallowed and smacked his lips.
"Ah!" said he, "I have a bad memory, I cannot remember if it be better or worse than that at Montmartre. Here, my brother, enlighten me," said he, giving a little to the monk, who was looking on with eager eyes.
Gorenflot took the glass, and drank slowly the liquor it contained.
"It is the same wine," said he, "but I had too little to tell whether it be better or worse."
"But I want to know, and if you had not a sermon to preach, I would beg you to drink a little more."
"If it will give you pleasure, my brother."
Chicot half filled the monk's glass. Gorenflot drank it with great gravity.
"I pronounce it better," said he.
"You flatter our host."
"A good drinker ought, at the first draught, to recognize the wine, at the second, the quality, and, at the third, the age."
"Oh! I should like to know the age of this wine."
"Give me a few drops more, and I will tell you."
Chicot filled his glass. He drank it off, and then said, "1561."
"Right," cried Claude Boutromet, "it was 1561."
"Brother Gorenflot," cried Chicot, "they have beatified men at Rome who were worth less than you."
"A little habit," said Gorenflot, modestly.
"And talent; for I flatter myself I have the habit, and I could not do it. But what are you about?"
"Going to my assembly."
"Without eating a piece of my carp?"
"Ah I true; you know still less of eating than drinking. M. Boutromet, what is the name of this animal?"
The innkeeper looked astonished. "A capon," said he.
"A capon!" cried Chicot, with an air of consternation.
"Yes, and a fine one."
"Well!" said Gorenflot, triumphantly.
"Well I it seems I was wrong, but as I wish to eat this capon, and yet not sin, be so kind, brother, as to throw a few drops of water upon it, and christen it a carp."
"Yes, I pray you, save me from mortal sin."
"So be it," cried Gorenflot, "but there is no water."
"Oh! the intention is all; baptize it with wine, my brother; the animal will be less Catholic but quite as good." And Chicot refilled the monk's glass. The first bottle was finished.
"In the name of Bacchus, Momus, and Comus, trinity of the great saint Pantagruel, I baptize thee, carp," said Gorenflot.
"Now," said Chicot, "to the health of the newly baptized; may it be cooked to perfection, and may M. Boutromet add to the excellent qualities which it has received from nature."
"To his health," cried Gorenflot, interrupting a hearty laugh to swallow his wine.
"M. Claude, put this carp at once on the spit, cover it with fresh butter, with shalots in it, and put some toast in the frying-pan, and serve it hot." Gorenflot approved with a motion of his head.
"Now, M. Boutromet, some sardines and a tunny fish, meanwhile; it is Lent, and I wish to make a maigre dinner. And let me have two more bottles of wine."
The smell of the cookery began to mount to the brain of the monk. Yet he made a last effort to rise.
"Then you leave me, after all?" said Chicot.
"I must," said Gorenflot, raising his eyes to heaven.
"It is very imprudent of you to go to pronounce a discourse fasting."
"Because your strength will fail you. Galen has said it. Pulmo hominis facile deficit."
"You see, then?"
"Luckily, I have zeal."
"Ah! but that is not enough; I advise you to eat some sardines, and drink a little of this nectar."
"A single sardine, then, and one glass." Chicot gave him the sardine, and passed him the bottle. He himself took care to keep sober.
"I feel myself less feeble," said Gorenflot.
"Oh! you must feel quite strong before you go, and so I advise you to eat the fins of the carp." And as they entered with the pullet, Chicot cut off a leg and thigh, which Gorenflot soon despatched.
"What a delicious fish!" said Gorenflot. Chicot cut off the other leg and gave it to Gorenflot, while he ate the wings.
"And famous wine," said he, uncorking another bottle.
Having once commenced, Gorenflot could not stop. His appetite was enormous; he finished the bird, and then called to Boutromet. "M. Claude," said he, "I am hungry; did you not offer me omelet just now?"
"Well, bring it."
"In five minutes."
"Ah!" said Gorenflot, "now I feel in force; if the omelet were here, I could eat it at a mouthful, and I swallow this wine at a gulp." And he swallowed a quarter of the third bottle.
"Ah! you were ill before."
"I was foolish, friend; that cursed discourse weighed on my mind; I have been thinking of it for days."
"It ought to be magnificent."
"Tell me some of it while we wait for the omelet."
"No, no; not a sermon at table."
"We have beautiful discourses at the court, I assure you."
"Ah! yes, he is a very virtuous man, our King Henri III."
"I do not know if he be virtuous; but I know that I have never seen anything there to make me blush."
At this moment M. Boutromet entered with the omelet and two more bottles.
"Bring it here," cried the monk, with a smile, which showed his thirty-two teeth.
"But, friend, I thought you had a discourse to pronounce."
"It is here," cried Gorenflot, striking his forehead.
"At half-past nine."
"I lied; it was ten."
"Ten! I thought the abbey shut at nine."
"Let it shut; I have a key."
"A key of the abbey!"
"Here, in my pocket."
"Impossible; I know the monastic rules. They would not give the key to a simple monk."
"Here it is," said Gorenflot, showing a piece of money.
"Oh, money! you corrupt the porter to go in when you please, wretched sinner! But what strange money!"
"An effigy of the heretic, with a hole through his heart."
"Yes, I see it is a tester of the Bearn king's, and here is a hole."
"A blow with a dagger. Death to the heretic. He who does it is sure of Paradise."
"He is not yet drunk enough;" so thought Chicot; and he filled his glass again.
"To the mass!" cried Gorenflot, drinking it off.
Chicot remembered the porter looking at the hands of the monks, and said—
"Then, if you show this to the porter——"
"As this wine into my stomach." And the monk absorbed a new dose.
"And you pronounce your discourse?"
"And I pronounce my discourse. I arrive—do you hear? The assembly is numerous and select. There are barons, counts, and dukes."
"And even princes?"
"And even princes. I enter humbly among the faithful of the Union——"
"The Union—what does that mean?"
"I enter; they call Brother Gorenflot, and I advance——"
At these words the monk rose. "And I advance," continued he, trying to do so, but at the first step he rolled on the floor.
"Bravo!" cried Chicot; "you advance, you salute the audience and say——"
"No, it is my friends who say, Brother Gorenflot—a fine name for a leaguer, is it not?"
"A leaguer," thought Chicot: "what truths is this wine going to bring out?"
"Then I begin." And the monk rose, and leaned against the wall.
"You begin," said Chicot, holding him up.
"I begin, 'My brothers, it is a good day for the faith, a very good day, my brothers; it is a very good day for the faith.'"
After this, as Chicot loosed his hold, Gorenflot fell full length again on the floor, and before many minutes a loud snoring was heard.
"Good," said Chicot, "he is in for twelve hours sleep. I can easily undress him."
He then untied the monk's robe, and pulled it off; then rolled Gorenflot in the tablecloth, and covered his head with a napkin, and hiding the monk's frock under his cloak, passed into the kitchen.
"M. Boutromet," said he, "here is for our supper, and for my horse; and pray do not wake the worthy Brother Gorenflot, who sleeps sound."
"No, no; be easy, M. Chicot."
Then Chicot ran to the rue St. Etienne, put on the monk's robe, took the tester in his hand, and at a quarter to ten presented himself, not without a beating heart, at the wicket of the Abbey St. Genevieve.
HOW CHICOT FOUND OUT THAT IT WAS EASIER TO GO IN THAN OUT OF THE ABBEY.
Chicot, from the cloak and other things under the monk's robe, looked much larger across the shoulders than usual. His beard was of the same color as Gorenflot's, and he had so often amused himself with mimicking the monk's voice and manner of speaking that he could do it perfectly. Now, everyone knows that the beard and the voice are the only things which are recognizable from under the depths of a monk's hood. Chicot exhibited his coin, and was admitted without difficulty, and then followed two other monks to the chapel of the convent. In this chapel, built in the eleventh century, the choir was raised nine or ten feet above the rest of the building, and you mounted into it by two lateral staircases, while an iron door between them led from the nave to the crypt, into which you had to descend again. In this choir there was a portrait of St. Genevieve, and on each side of the altar were statues of Clovis and Clotilda.
Three lamps only lighted the chapel, and the imperfect light gave a greater solemnity to the scene. Chicot was glad to find that he was not the last, for three monks entered after in gray robes, and placed themselves in front of the altar. Soon after, a little monk, doubtless a lad belonging to the choir, came and spoke to one of these monks, who then said, aloud,—
"We are now one hundred and thirty-six."
Then a great noise of bolts and bars announced that the door was being closed. The three monks were seated in armchairs, like judges. The one who had spoken before now rose and said—
"Brother Monsoreau, what news do you bring to the Union from the province of Anjou?"
Two things made Chicot start, the first was the voice of the speaker, the second the name of Monsoreau, known to the court only the last few days. A tall monk crossed the assembly, and placed himself in a large chair, behind the shadow of which Chicot had kept himself.
"My brothers," said a voice which Chicot recognized at once as that of the chief huntsman, "the news from Anjou is not satisfactory; not that we fail there in sympathy, but in representatives. The progress of the Union there had been confided to the Baron de Meridor, but he in despair at the recent death of his daughter, has, in his grief, neglected the affairs of the league, and we cannot at present count on him. As for myself, I bring three new adherents to the association. The council must judge whether these three, for whom I answer, as for myself, ought to be admitted into the Union."
A murmur of applause followed and as Monsoreau regained his seat,—"Brother la Huriere," cried the same monk, "tell us what you have done in the city of Paris."
A man now took the chair and said, "My brothers, you know I am devoted to the Catholic faith, and I have given proofs of this devotion on the great day of its triumph. Yes, my brothers, I glory in saying that I was one of the faithful of our great Henri de Guise, and that I followed his orders strictly. I have now noted all the heretics of the Quartier St. Germain l'Auxerrois, where I shall hold the hotel of the Belle-Etoile, at your service, my brothers. Now, although I no longer thirst for the blood of heretics as formerly, I do not delude myself as to the real object of the holy Union which we are forming. If I am not deceived, brothers, the extinction of private heretics is not all we aim at. We wish to be sure that we shall never be governed by a heretic prince. Now, my friends, what is our situation? Charles IX., who was zealous, died without children; Henri Ill. will probably do the same, and there remains only the Duc d'Anjou, who not only has no children either, but seems cold towards us."
"What makes you accuse the prince thus?" said the monk who always spoke.
"Because he has not joined us."
"Who tells you so, since there are new adherents?"
"It is true; I will wait; but after him, who is mortal, and has no children, to whom will the crown fall? To the most ferocious Huguenot that can be imagined, to a renegade, a Nebuchadnezzar?" Here the acclamations were tremendous.
"To Henri of Bearn," continued he, "against whom this association is chiefly directed—to Henri, who the people at Pau, or Tarbes, think is occupied with his love affairs, but who is in Paris!"
"In Paris! impossible!" cried many voices.
"He was here on the night when Madame de Sauve was assassinated, and perhaps is here still."
"Death to the Bearnais!" cried several.
"Yes, doubtless, and if he came to lodge at the Belle-Etoile, I answer for him; but he will not come. One does not catch a fox twice in the same hole. He will lodge with some friend, for he has friends. The important thing is to know them. Our union is holy, our league is loyal, consecrated and blessed by the Pope; therefore I demand that it be no longer kept secret, but that we go into the houses and canvass the citizens. Those who sign will be our friends, the others our enemies, and if a second St. Bartholomew come, which seems to the faithful to be more necessary daily, we shall know how to separate the good from the wicked."
Thunders of acclamation followed. When they were calm, the monk who always spoke said,—
"The proposition of Brother la Huriere, whom the union thanks for his zeal, will be taken into consideration by the superior council."
La Huriere bowed, amidst fresh applause.
"Ah! ah!" thought Chicot, "I begin to see clearly into all this. The Guises are forming a nice little party, and some fine morning Henri will find that he has nothing left, and will be politely invited to enter a monastery. But what will they do with the Duc d'Anjou?"
"Brother Gorenflot," then cried the monk.
No one replied.
"Brother Gorenflot," cried the little monk, in a voice which made Chicot start; for it sounded like a woman's. However, he rose, and speaking like the monk, said,—
"Here I am; I was plunged in profound meditation." He feared not to reply, for the members had been counted, and therefore the absence of a member would have provoked an examination. Therefore, without hesitation, he mounted the chair and began.
"My brothers, you know that I purvey for the convent, and have the right of entering every dwelling. I use this privilege for the good of religion. My brothers," continued he, remembering Gorenflot's beginning, "this day, which unites us, is a good one for the faith. Let us speak freely, my brothers, since we are in the house of God.
"What is the kingdom of France? A body. 'Omniscivitascorpus est.' What is the first requisite of a body? Good health. How do we preserve this? By prudent bleedings at times. Now it is evident that the enemies of our religion are too strong; we must therefore once more bleed that great body we call society. This is what is constantly said to me by the faithful, who give me ham, eggs, or money for the convent."
Several murmurs of approbation interrupted Chicot, then he went on.
"Some may object that the church abhors blood. But they do not say what blood, and I wager that it is not the blood of heretics it abhors. And then another argument; I said, 'the church;' but are we the church? Brother Monsoreau, who spoke so well just now, has, I doubt not, his huntsman's knife in his belt. Brother la Huriere manages the spit; I, myself, who speak to you—I, Jacques Gorenflot, have carried the musket in Champagne. It now remains to us to speak of our chiefs, of whom it seems to me, poor monk as I am, that there is something to say. Certainly, it is very well and prudent to come at night under a monk's robe, to hear Brother Gorenflot preach; but it appears to me that their duties do not stop there. So much prudence may make the Huguenots laugh. Let us play a part more worthy of the brave people we are. What do we want? The extinction of heresy. Well, that may be cried from the housetops, it seems to me. Why not march in holy procession, displaying our good cause, and our good partisans, but not like the thieves, who keep looking round them to see if the watch is coming. Who is the man who will set the example? Well, it is I, Jacques Gorenflot; I, unworthy brother of the order of St. Genevieve, poor and humble purveyor of the convent. It shall be I, who with a cuirass on my back, a helmet on my head, and a musket on my shoulder, will march at the head of all good Catholics who will follow me. This I would do, were it only to make those chiefs blush, who, while defending the Church, hide, as if their cause was a bad one."
This speech, which corresponded with the sentiments of many there, was received with shouts of applause; and the more so, as up to this time Gorenflot had never shown any enthusiasm for the cause. However, it was not the plan of the chiefs to let this enthusiasm proceed. One of the monks spoke to the lad, who cried in his silvery voice, "My brothers, it is time to retire; the sitting is over."
The monks rose, all determined to insist on the procession at the next meeting. Many approached the chair to felicitate the author of this brilliant speech; but Chicot, fearful of being recognized, threw himself on his knees and buried his head in his hands, as if in prayer. They respected his devotions, and went towards the door. However, Chicot had missed his chief aim. What had made him quit the king was the sight of M. de Mayenne and Nicolas David, on both of whom he had, as we know, vowed vengeance; and although the duke was too great a man to be attacked openly, Nicolas David was not, and Chicot was so good a swordsman as to feel sure of success if he could but meet him. He therefore began to watch each monk as he went out, and perceived to his terror that each, on going out, had to show some sign again. Gorenflot had told him how to get in, but not how to get out again.
HOW CHICOT, FORCED TO REMAIN IN THE ABBEY, SAW AND HEARD THINGS VERY DANGEROUS TO SEE AND HEAR.
Chicot hastened to get down from his chair, and to mix among the monks so as to discover, if possible, what signs they used. By peeping over their shoulders, he found out that it was a farthing, with a star cut in the middle. Our Gascon had plenty of farthings in his pocket, but unluckily none with a star in it. Of course, if when on coming to the door he was unable to produce the necessary signs, he would be suspected and examined. He gained the shade of a pillar, which stood at the corner of a confessional, and stood there wondering what he should do. An assistant cried, "Is everyone out, the doors are about to be shut."
No one answered; Chicot peeped out and saw the chapel empty, with the exception of the three monks, who still kept their seats in front of the choir.
"Provided they do not shut the windows, it is all I ask," thought Chicot.
"Let us examine," said the young lad to the porter. Then the porter lifted a taper, and, followed by the young lad, began to make the tour of the church. There was not a moment to lose. Chicot softly opened the door of the confessional, slipped in, and shut the door after him. They passed close by him, and he could see them through the spaces of the sculpture.
"Diable!" thought he, "he cannot stay here all night, and once they are gone, I will pile chairs upon benches, Pelion on Ossa, and get out of the window. Ah! yes, but when I have done that, I shall be, not in the street, but in the court. I believe it will be better to pass the night in the confessional; Gorenflot's robe is warm."
"Extinguish the lamps," now cried the lad; and the porter with an immense extinguisher put out the lamps, and left the church dark, except for the rays of the moon which shone through the windows. The clock struck twelve.
"Ventre de biche!" said Chicot, "Henri, if he were here, would be nicely frightened; but, luckily, I am less timid. Come, Chicot, my friend, good night and sleep well."
Then Chicot pushed the inside bolt, made himself as comfortable as he could, and shut his eyes. He was just falling asleep, when he was startled by a loud stroke on a copper bell, and at the same time the lamp in the choir was relighted, and showed the three monks still there.
"What can this mean?" thought Chicot, starting up. Brave as he was, Chicot was not exempt from superstitious fears. He made the sign of the cross, murmuring, "Vade retro, Satanas!" But as the lights did not go out at the holy sign, Chicot began to think he had to deal with real monks and real lights; but at this moment one of the flagstones of the choir raised itself slowly, and a monk appeared through the opening, after which the stone shut again. At this sight Chicot's hair stood on end, and he began to fear that all the priors and abbes of St. Genevieve, from Opsat, dead in 533, down to Pierre Boudin, predecessor of the present superior, were being resuscitated from their tombs, and were going to raise with their bony heads the stones of the choir. But this doubt did not last long.
"Brother Monsoreau," said one of the monks to him who had just made so strange an appearance.
"Yes, monseigneur," said he.
"Open the door that he may come to us."
Monsoreau descended to open the door between the staircases, and at the same time the monk in the middle lowered his hood, and showed the great scar, that noble sign by which the Parisians recognized their hero.
"The great Henri of Guise himself!" thought Chicot, "whom his very imbecile majesty believes occupied at the siege of La Charite. Ah! and he at the right is the Cardinal of Lorraine, and he at the left M. de Mayenne—a trinity not very holy, but very visible."
"Did you think he would come?" said La Balafre to his brothers.
"I was so sure of it, that I have under my cloak where-with to replace the holy vial."
And Chicot perceived, by the feeble light of the lamp, a silver gilt box, richly chased. Then about twenty monks, with their heads buried in immense hoods, came out of the crypt, and stationed themselves in the nave. A single one, conducted by M. de Monsoreau, mounted the staircase, and placed himself at the right of M. de Guise. Then M. de Guise spoke. "Friends," said he, "time is precious; therefore I go straight to the point. You have heard just now, in the first assembly, the complaints of some of our members, who tax with coldness the principal person among us, the prince nearest to the throne. The time is come to render justice to this prince; you shall hear and judge for yourselves whether your chiefs merit the reproach of coldness and apathy made by one of our brothers, the monk Gorenflot, whom we have not judged it prudent to admit into our secret."
At this name, pronounced in a tone which showed bad intentions towards the warlike monk, Chicot in his confessional could not help laughing quietly.
"Monsieur," said the duke, now turning towards the mysterious personages at his right, "the will of God appears to me manifest; for since you have consented to join us, it shows that what we do is well done. Now, your highness, we beg of you to lower your hood, that your faithful friends may see with their own eyes that you keep the promise which I made in your name, and which they hardly dared to believe."
The mysterious personage now lowered his hood, and Chicot saw the head of the Duc d'Anjou appear, so pale that, by the light of the lamp, it looked like that of a marble statue.
"Oh, oh!" thought Chicot, "the duke is not yet tired of playing for the crown with the heads of others!"
"Long live Monseigneur le Duc d'Anjou!" cried the assembly.
The duke grew paler than ever.
"Fear nothing, monseigneur," said Henri de Guise; our chapel is deaf, and its doors are well closed."
"My brothers," said the Comte de Monsoreau, "his highness wishes to address a few words to the assembly."
"Yes, yes!" cried they.
"Gentlemen," began he, in a voice so trembling that at first they could hardly distinguish his words, "I believe that God, who often seems insensible and deaf to the things of this world, keeps, on the contrary, His piercing eyes constantly on us, and only remains thus careless in appearance in order to remedy, by some great blow, the disorders caused by the foolish ambitions of men. I also have kept my eyes, if not on the world, at least on France. What have I seen there? The holy religion of Christ shaken to its foundation by those who sap all belief, under the pretext of drawing nearer to God, and my soul has been full of grief. In the midst of this grief, I heard that several noble and pious gentlemen, friends of our old faith, were trying to strengthen the tottering altar. I threw my eyes around me, and saw on one side the heretics, from whom I recoiled with horror; on the other side the elect, and I am come to throw myself into their arms. My brothers, here I am."
The applause and bravos resounded through the chapel. Then the cardinal, turning to the duke, said:
"You are amongst us of your own free will?"
"Of my free will, monsieur."
"Who instructed you in the holy mystery?"
"My friend, the Comte de Monsoreau, a man zealous for religion."
"Then," said the Duc de Guise, "as your highness has joined us, have the goodness to tell us what you intend to do for the league."
"I intend to serve the Catholic religion in all its extent."
"Ventre de biche!" thought Chicot, "why not propose this right out to the king? It would suit him excellently—processions, macerations, extirpation of heresy, fagots, and auto-da-fes! Go on, worthy brother of his majesty, noble imbecile, go on!"
And the duke, as if sensible of the encouragement, proceeded: "But the interests of religion are not the sole aim which you gentlemen propose. As for me, I see another; for when a gentleman has thought of what he owes to God, he then thinks of his country, and he asks himself if it really enjoys all the honor and prosperity which it ought to enjoy. I ask this about our France, and I see with grief that it does not. Indeed, the state is torn to pieces by different wills and tastes, one as powerful as the other. It is, I fear, to the feebleness of the head, which forgets that it ought to govern all for the good of its subjects, or only remembers this royal principle at capricious intervals, when the rare acts of energy are generally not for the good, but the ill of France, that we must attribute these evils. Whatever be the cause, the ill is a real one, although I accuse certain false friends of the king rather than the king himself. Therefore I join myself to those who by all means seek the extinction of heresy and the ruin of perfidious counselors."
This discourse appeared profoundly to interest the audience, who, throwing back their hoods, drew near to the duke.
"Monseigneur," said the Duc de Guise, "in thanking your royal highness for the words you have just uttered, I will add that you are surrounded by people devoted not only to the principles which you profess, but to the person of your highness; and if you have any doubt, the conclusion of this sitting will convince you."
"Monseigneur," said the cardinal, "if your highness still experiences any fear, the names of those who now surround you will, I hope, reassure you. Here is M. le Gouverneur d'Aunis, M. d'Antragues, M. de Ribeirac, and M. de Livarot, and gentlemen whom your highness doubtless knows to be as brave as loyal. Here are, besides, M. de Castillon, M. le Baron de Lusignan, MM. Cruce and Leclerc, all ready to march under the guidance of your highness, to the emancipation of religion and the throne. We shall, then, receive with gratitude the orders that you will give us."
Then M. de Mayenne said: "You are by your birth, and by your wisdom, monseigneur, the natural chief of the Holy Union, and we ought to learn from you what our conduct should be with regard to the false friends of his majesty of whom you just now spoke."
"Nothing more simple," replied the prince, with that feverish excitement which in weak natures supplies the place of courage to weak minds; "when venomous plants grow in a field, we root them up. The king is surrounded, not with friends, but with courtiers, who ruin him, and cause a perpetual scandal in France and all Christendom."
"It is true," said the Duc de Guise, in a gloomy tone.
"And," said the cardinal, "these courtiers prevent us, who are his majesty's true friends, from approaching him as we have the right to do by our birth and position."
"Let us, then," said M. de Mayenne, "leave the heretics to the vulgar leaguers; let us think of those who annoy and insult us, and who often fail in respect to the prince whom we honor, and who is our chief."
The Duc d'Anjou grew red.
"Let us destroy," continued Mayenne, "to the last man, that cursed race whom the king enriches, and let each of us charge ourselves with the life of one. We are thirty here; let us count."
"I," said D'Antragues, "charge myself with Quelus."
"I with Maugiron," said Livarot.
"And I with Schomberg," said Ribeirac.
"Good!" said the duke; "and there is Bussy, my brave Bussy, who will undertake some of them."
"And us!" cried the rest.
M. de Monsoreau now advanced. "Gentlemen," said he, "I claim an instant's silence. We are resolute men, and yet we fear to speak freely to each other; we are intelligent men, and yet we are deterred by foolish scruples. Come, gentlemen, a little courage, a little hardihood, a little frankness. It is not of the king's minions that we think; there does not lie our difficulty. What we really complain of is the royalty which we are under, and which is not acceptable to a French nobility; prayers and despotism, weakness and orgies, prodigality for fetes which make all Europe laugh, and parsimony for everything that regards the state and the arts. Such conduct is not weakness or ignorance—it is madness."
A dead silence followed this speech. Everyone trembled at the words which echoed his own thoughts. M. de Monsoreau went on.
"Must we live under a king, foolish, inert, and lazy, at a time when all other nations are active, and work gloriously, while we sleep? Gentlemen, pardon me for saying before a prince, who will perhaps blame my temerity (for he has the prejudices of family), that for four years we have been governed, not by a king, but by a monk."
At these words the explosion so skilfully prepared and as skilfully kept in check, burst out with violence.
"Down with the Valois!" they cried, "down with Brother Henri! Let us have for chief a gentleman, a knight, rather a tyrant than a monk."
"Gentlemen!" cried the Duc d'Anjou, hypocritically, "let me plead for my brother, who is led away. Let me hope that our wise remonstrances, that the efficacious intervention of the power of the League, will bring him back into the right path."
"Hiss, serpent, hiss," said Chicot to himself.
"Monseigneur," replied the Duc de Guise, "your highness has heard, perhaps rather too soon, but still you have heard, the true meaning of the association. No! we are not really thinking of a league against the Bearnais, nor of a league to support the Church, which will support itself: no, we think of raising the nobility of France from its abject condition. Too long we have been kept back by the respect we feel for your highness, by the love which we know you to have for your family. Now, all is revealed, monseigneur, and your highness will assist at the true sitting of the League. All that has passed is but preamble."
"What do you mean, M. le Duc?" asked the prince, his heart beating at once with alarm and ambition.
"Monseigneur, we are united here, not only to talk, but to act. To-day we choose a chief capable of honoring and enriching the nobility of France; and as it was the custom of the ancient Franks when they chose a chief to give him a present worthy of him, we offer a present to the chief whom we have chosen."
All hearts beat, and that of the prince most of any; yet he remained mute and motionless, betraying his emotion only by his paleness.
"Gentlemen," continued the duke, taking something from behind him, "here is the present that in your name I place at the feet of the prince."
"A crown!" cried the prince, scarcely able to stand, "a crown to me, gentlemen?"
"Long live Francois III.!" cried all the gentlemen, drawing their swords.
"I! I!" cried the Duke, trembling with joy and terror. "It is impossible! My brother still lives; he is the anointed of the Lord."
"We depose him," said the duke, "waiting for the time when God shall sanction, by his death, the election which we are about to make, or rather, till one of his subjects, tired of this inglorious reign, forestalls by poison or the dagger the justice of God."
"Gentlemen!" said the duke, feebly.
"Monseigneur," then said the cardinal, "to the scruple which you so nobly expressed just now, this is our answer. Henri III. was the anointed of the Lord, but we have deposed him; it is you who are going to be so. Here is a temple as venerable as that of Rheims; for here have reposed the relics of St Genevieve, patroness of Paris; here has been embalmed the body of Clovis, our first Christian king; well, monseigneur, in this holy temple, I, one of the princes of the Church, and who may reasonably hope to become one day its head, I tell you, monseigneur, that here, to replace the holy oil, is an oil sent by Pope Gregory XIII. Monseigneur, name your future archbishop of Rheims, name your constable, and in an instant, it is you who will be king, and your brother Henri, if he do not give you up the crown, will be the usurper. Child, light the altar."
Immediately, the lad, who was evidently waiting, came out, and presently fifty lights shone round the altar and choir.
Then was seen on the altar a miter glittering with precious stones, and a large sword ornamented with fleur-de-lis. It was the archbishop's miter and the constable's sword. At the same moment the organ began to play the Veni Creator. This sudden stroke, managed by the three Lorraine princes, and which the Duc d'Anjou himself did not expect, made a profound impression on the spectators. The courageous grew bolder than ever, and the weak grew strong. The Duc d'Anjou raised his head, and with a firmer step than might have been expected, walked to the altar, took the miter in the left hand and the sword in the right, presented one to the cardinal and the other to the duke. Unanimous applause followed this action.
"Now, gentlemen," said the prince to the others, "give your names to M. de Mayenne, grand Master of France, and the day when I ascend the throne, you shall have the cordon bleu."
"Mordieu!" thought Chicot, "what a pity I cannot give mine; I shall never have such another opportunity."
"Now to the altar, sire," said the cardinal.
"Monsieur de Monsoreau my colonel, MM. de Ribeirac and d'Antragues my captains, and M. Livarot, my lieutenant of the guards, take your places."
Each of those named took the posts which, at a real coronation, etiquette would have assigned to them. Meanwhile, the cardinal had passed behind the altar to put on his pontifical robes; soon he reappeared with the holy vial. Then the lad brought to him a Bible and a cross. The cardinal put the cross on the book and extended them towards the Duc d'Anjou, who put his hand on them, and said,—
"In the presence of God, I promise to my people to maintain and honor our holy religion as a Christian king should. And may God and His saints aid me!"
Then the Duc de Guise laid the sword before the altar, and the cardinal blessed it and gave it to the prince.
"Sire," said he, "take this sword, which is given to you with the blessing of God, that you may resist your enemies, and protect and defend the holy Church, which is confided to you. Take this sword that, with it, you may exercise justice, protect the widow and the orphan, repair disorders, so that, covering yourself with glory by all the virtues, you will be a blessing to your people."
Then the prince returned the sword to the Duc de Guise, and knelt down. The cardinal opened the gold box, and, with the point of a golden needle, drew out some holy oil; he then said two prayers, and taking the oil on his finger, traced with it a cross on the head of the prince, saying, "Ungo dein regem de oleo sanctificato, in nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti."
The lad wiped off the oil with an embroidered handkerchief. Then the cardinal took the crown, and, holding it over the head of the prince, said, "God crown thee with the crown of glory and justice." Then, placing it, "Receive this crown, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost."
All brandished their swords and cried, "Long live Francois III."
"Sire," said the cardinal, "you reign henceforth over France."
"Gentlemen," said the prince, "I shall never forget the names of the thirty gentlemen who first judged me worthy to reign over them; and now adieu, and may God have you in His holy keeping."
The Duc de Mayenne led away the new king, while the other two brothers exchanged an ironical smile.
HOW CHICOT LEARNED GENEALOGY.
When the Duc d'Anjou was gone, and had been followed by all the others, the three Guises entered the vestry. Chicot, thinking of course this was the end, got up to stretch his limbs, and then, as it was nearly two o'clock, once more disposed himself to sleep.
But to his great astonishment, the three brothers almost immediately came back again, only this time without their frocks. On seeing them appear, the lad burst into so hearty a fit of laughing, that Chicot could hardly help laughing also.
"Do not laugh so loud, sister," said the Duc de Mayenne, "they are hardly gone out, and might hear you."
As he spoke, the seeming lad threw back his hood, and displayed a head as charming and intelligent as wan ever painted by Leonardo da Vinci. Black eyes, full of fun, but which could assume an expression almost terrible in its seriousness, a little rosy month, and a round chin terminating the perfect oval of a rather pale face. It was Madame de Montpensier, a dangerous syren, who had the soul of a demon with the face of an angel.
"Ah, brother cardinal," cried she, "how well you acted the holy man! I was really afraid for a minute that you were serious; and he letting himself be greased and crowned. Oh, how horrid he looked with his crown on!"
"Never mind," said the duke, "we have got what we wanted, and Francois cannot now deny his share. Monsoreau, who doubtless had his own reasons for it, led the thing on well, and now he cannot abandon us, as he did La Mole and Coconnas."
Chicot saw that they had been laughing at M. d'Anjou, and as he detested him, would willingly have embraced them for it, always excepting M. de Mayenne, and giving his share to his sister.
"Let us return to business," said the cardinal, "is all well closed?"
"Oh, yes!" said the duchess, "but if you like I will go and see."
"Oh, no; you must be tired."
"No; it was too amusing."
"Mayenne, you say he is here?"
"I did not see him."
"No, he is hidden in a confessional."
These words startled Chicot fearfully.
"Then he has heard and seen all?" asked the duke.
"Never mind, he is one of us."
"Bring him here, Mayenne."
Mayenne descended the staircase and came straight to where Chicot was hiding. He was brave, but now his teeth chattered with terror. "Ah," thought he, trying to get out his sword from under his monk's frock, "at least I will kill him first!" The duke had already extended his hand to open the door, when Chicot heard the duchess say:
"Not there, Mayenne; in that confessional to the left."
"It was time," thought Chicot, as the duke turned away, "but who the devil can the other be?"
"Come out, M. David," said Mayenne, "we are alone."
"Here I am, monseigneur," said he, coming out.
"You have heard all?" asked the Duc de Guise.
"I have not lost a word, monseigneur."
"Then you can report it to the envoy of his Holiness Gregory XIII.?"
"Now, Mayenne tells me you have done wonders for us; let us see."
"I have done what I promised, monseigneur; that is to say, found a method of seating you, without opposition, on the throne of France!"
"They also!" thought Chicot; "everyone wants then to be King of France!"
Chicot was gay now, for he felt safe once more, and he had discovered a conspiracy by which he hoped to ruin his two enemies.
"To gain a legitimate right is everything," continued Nicolas David, "and I have discovered that you are the true heirs, and the Valois only a usurping branch."
"It is difficult to believe," said the duke, "that our house, however illustrious it may be, comes before the Valois."
"It is nevertheless proved, monseigneur," said David, drawing out a parchment. The duke took it.
"What is this?" said he.
"The genealogical tree of the house of Lorraine."
"Of which the root is?"
"Charlemagne!" cried the three brothers, with an air of incredulous satisfaction, "Impossible!"
"Wait, monseigneur; you may be sure I have not raised a point to which any one may give the lie. What you want is a long lawsuit, during which you can gain over, not the people, they are yours, but the parliament. See, then, monseigneur, here it is. Ranier, first Duc de Lorraine, contemporary with Charlemagne;—Guibert, his son;—Henri, son of Guibert——"
"But——" said the duke.
"A little patience, monseigneur. Bonne——"
"Yes," said the duke, "daughter of Ricin, second son of Ranier."
"Good; to whom married?"
"To Charles of Lorraine, son of Louis IV., King of France."
"Just so. Now add, 'brother of Lothaire, despoiled of the crown of France by the usurper, Hugh Capet.'"
"Oh! oh!" said the duke and the cardinal.
"Now, Charles of Lorraine inherited from his brother Lothaire. Now, the race of Lothaire is extinct, therefore you are the only true heirs of the throne."
"What do you say to that, brother?" cried the cardinal.
"I say, that unluckily there exists in France a law they call the Salic law, which destroys all our pretensions."
"I expected that objection, monseigneur," said David, but what is the first example of the Salic law?"
"The accession of Philippe de Valois, to the prejudice of Edward of England."
"What was the date of that accession?"
"1328," said the cardinal.
"That is to say, 341 years after the usurpation of Hugh Capet, 240 years after the extinction of the race of Lothaire. Then, for 240 years your ancestors had already had a right to the throne before the Salic law was invented. Now, everyone knows that the law cannot have any retrospective effect."
"You are a clever man, M. David," said the Duc de Guise.
"It is very ingenious," said the cardinal.
"It is very fine," said Mayenne.
"It is admirable," said the duchess; "then I am a princess royal. I will have no one less than the Emperor of Germany for a husband."
"Well; here are your 200 gold crowns which I promised you."
"And here are 200 others," said the cardinal, "for the new mission with which we are about to charge you."
"Speak, monseigneur, I am ready."
"We cannot commission you to carry this genealogy yourself to our holy Father, Gregory XIII."
"Alas! no; my will is good, but I am of too poor birth."
"Yes, it is a misfortune. We must therefore send Pierre de Gondy on this mission."
"Permit me to speak," said the duchess. "The Gondys are clever, no doubt, but ambitious, and not to be trusted."
"Oh! reassure yourself. Gondy shall take this, but mixed with other papers, and not knowing what he carries. The Pope will approve, or disapprove, silently, and Gondy will bring us back the answer, still in ignorance of what he brings. You, Nicolas David, shall wait for him at Chalons, Lyons, or Avignon, according to your instructions. Thus you alone will know our true secret."
Then the three brothers shook hands, embraced their sister, put on again their monk's robes, and disappeared. Behind them the porter drew the bolts, and then came in and extinguished the lights, and Chicot heard his retreating steps fainter and fainter, and all was silent.
"It seems now all is really over," thought Chicot, and he came out of the confessional. He had noticed in a corner a ladder destined to clean the windows. He felt about until he found it, for it was close to him, and by the light of the moon placed it against the window. He easily opened it, and striding across it and drawing the ladder to him with that force and address which either fear or joy always gives, he drew it from the inside to the outside. When he had descended, he hid the ladder in a hedge, which was planted at the bottom of the wall, jumped from tomb to tomb, until he reached the outside wall over which he clambered. Once in the street he breathed more freely; he had escaped with a few scratches from the place where he had several times felt his life in danger. He went straight to the Corne d'Abondance, at which he knocked. It was opened by Claude Boutromet himself, who knew him at once, although he went out dressed as a cavalier, and returned attired as a monk.
"Ah! is it you?" cried he.
Chicot gave him a crown, and asked for Gorenflot.
The host smiled, and said, "Look!"
Brother Gorenflot lay snoring just in the place where Chicot had left him.
HOW M. AND MADAME DE ST. LUC MET WITH A TRAVELING COMPANION.
The next morning, about the time when Gorenflot woke from his nap, warmly rolled in his frock, our reader, if he had been traveling on the road from Paris to Angers, might have seen a gentleman and his page, riding quietly side by side. These cavaliers had arrived at Chartres the evening before, with foaming horses, one of which had fallen with fatigue, as they stopped. They entered the inn, and half an hour after set out on fresh horses. Once in the country, still bare and cold, the taller of the two approached the other, and said, as he opened his arms: "Dear little wife, embrace me, for now we are safe."
Then Madame de St. Luc, leaning forward and opening her thick cloak, placed her arms round the young man's neck and gave him the long and tender kiss which he had asked for. They stayed the night in the little village of Courville four leagues only from Chartres, but which from its isolation seemed to them a secure retreat; and it was on the following morning that they were, as we said, pursuing their way. This day, as they were more easy in their minds, they traveled no longer like fugitives, but like schoolboys seeking for moss, for the first few early flowers, enjoying the sunshine and amused at everything."
"Morbleu!" cried St. Luc, at last, "how delightful it is to be free. Have you ever been free, Jeanne?"
"I?" cried she, laughing, "never; it is the first time I ever felt so. My father was suspicious, and my mother lazy. I never went out without a governess and two lackeys, so that I do not remember having run on the grass, since, when a laughing child, I ran in the woods of Meridor with my dear Diana, challenging her to race, and rushing through the branches. But you, dear St. Luc; you were free, at least?"
"Doubtless, a man."
"Never. Brought up with the Duc d'Anjou, taken by him to Poland, brought back to Paris, condemned never to leave him by the perpetual rule of etiquette; pursued, if I tried to go away, by that doleful voice, crying, 'St. Luc, my friend, I am ennuye, come and amuse me.' Free, with that stiff corset which strangled me, and that great ruff which scratched my neck! No, I have never been free till now, and I enjoy it."
"If they should catch us, and send us to the Bastile?"
"If they only put us there together, we can bear it."
"I do not think they would. But there is no fear, if you only knew Meridor, its great oaks, and its endless thickets, its rivers, its lakes, its flower-beds and lawns; and, then, in the midst of all, the queen of this kingdom, the beautiful, the good Diana. And I know she loves me still; she is not capricious in her friendships. Think of the happy life we shall lead there."
"Let us push on; I am in haste to get there," and they rode on, stayed the night at Mans, and then set off for Meridor. They had already reached the woods and thought themselves in safety, when they saw behind them a cavalier advancing at a rapid pace. St. Luc grew pale.
"Let us fly," said Jeanne.
"Yes; let us fly, for there is a plume on that hat which disquiets me; it is of a color much in vogue at the court, and he looks to me like an ambassador from our royal master."
But to fly was easier to say than to do; the trees grew so thickly that it was impossible to ride through them but slowly, and the soil was so sandy that the horses sank into it at every step. The cavalier gained upon them rapidly, and soon they heard his voice crying,—
"Eh, monsieur, do not run away; I bring you something you have lost."
"What does he say?" asked Jeanne.
"He says we have lost something."
"Eh! monsieur," cried the unknown, again, "you left a bracelet in the hotel at Courville. Diable! a lady's portrait; above all, that of Madame de Cosse. For the sake of that dear mamma, do not run away."
"I know that voice," said St. Luc.
"And then he speaks of my mother."
"It is Bussy!"
"The Comte de Bussy, our friend," and they reined up their horses.
"Good morning, madame," said Bussy, laughing, and giving her the bracelet.
"Have you come from the king to arrest us?"
"No, ma foi, I am not sufficiently his majesty's friend for such a mission. No, I found your bracelet at the hotel, which showed me that you preceded me on my way."
"Then," said St. Luc, "it is chance which brings you on our path."
"Chance, or rather Providence."
Every remaining shadow of suspicion vanished before the sincere smile and bright eyes of the handsome speaker.
"Then you are traveling?" asked Jeanne.
"But not like us?"
"I mean in disgrace. Where are you going?"
"Towards Angers, and you?"
"Ah! I should envy your happiness if envy were not so vile."
"Eh! M. de Bussy, marry, and you will be as happy as we are," said Jeanne; "it is so easy to be happy when you are loved."
"Ah! madame, everyone is not so fortunate as you."
"But you, the universal favorite."
"To be loved by everyone is as though you were loved by no one, madame."
"Well, let me marry you, and you will know the happiness you deny."
"I do not deny the happiness, only that it does not exist for me."
"Shall I marry you?"
"If you marry me according to your taste, no; if according to mine, yes."
"Are you in love with a woman whom you cannot marry?"
"Comte," said Bussy, "beg your wife not to plunge dagger in my heart."
"Take care, Bussy; you will make me think it is with her you are in love."
"If it were so, you will confess, at least, that I am a lover not much to be feared."
"True," said St. Luc, remembering how Bussy had brought him his wife. "But confess, your heart is occupied."
"I avow it."
"By a love, or by a caprice?" asked Jeanne.
"By a passion, madame."
"I will cure you."
"I do not believe it."
"I will marry you."
"I doubt it."
"And I will make you as happy as you ought to be."
"Alas! madame, my only happiness now is to be unhappy."
"I am very determined."
"And I also."
"Well, will you accompany us?"
"Where are you going?"
"To the chateau of Meridor."
The blood mounted to the cheeks of Bussy, and then he grew so pale, that his secret would certainly have been betrayed, had not Jeanne been looking at her husband with a smile. Bussy therefore had time to recover himself, and said,—
"Where is that?"
"It is the property of one of my best friends."
"One of your best friends, and—are they at home?"
"Doubtless," said Jeanne, who was completely ignorant of the events of the last two months; "but have you never heard of the Baron de Meridor, one of the richest noblemen in France, and of——"
"Of his daughter, Diana, the most beautiful girl possible?"
Bussy was filled with astonishment, asking himself by what singular happiness he found on the road people to talk to him of Diana de Meridor to echo the only thought which he had in his mind.
"Is this castle far off, madame?" asked he.
"About seven leagues, and we shall sleep there to-night; you will come, will you not?"
"Come, that is already a step towards the happiness I promised you."
"And the baron, what sort of a man is he?"
"A perfect gentleman, a preux chevalier, who, had he lived in King Arthur's time, would have had a place at his round table."
"And," said Bussy, steadying his voice, "to whom is his daughter married?"
"Would that be extraordinary?"
"Of course not, only I should have been the first to hear of it."
Bussy could not repress a sigh. "Then," said he, "you expect to find Mademoiselle de Meridor at the chateau with her father?"
"We trust so."
They rode on a long time in silence, and at last Jeanne cried:
"Ah! there are the turrets of the castle. Look, M. de Bussy, through that great leafless wood, which in a month, will be so beautiful; do you not see the roof?"
"Yes," said Bussy, with an emotion which astonished himself; "and is that the chateau of Meridor?"
And he thought of the poor prisoner shut up in the Rue St. Antoine.
THE OLD MAN.
Two hours after they reached the castle. Bussy had been debating within himself whether or not to confide to his friends what he knew about Diana. But there was much that he could tell to no one, and he feared their questions, and besides, he wished to enter Meridor as a stranger.
Madame de St. Luc was surprised, when the report sounded his horn to announce a visit, that Diana did not run as usual to meet them, but instead of her appeared an old man, bent and leaning on a stick, and his white hair flying in the wind. He crossed the drawbridge, followed by two great dogs, and when he drew quite near, said in a feeble voice,—
"Who is there, and who does a poor old man the honor to visit him?"
"It is I, Seigneur Augustin!" cried the laughing voice of the young woman.
But the baron, raising his head slowly, said, "You? I do not see. Who is it?"
"Oh, mon Dieu!" cried Jeanne, "do you not know me? It is true, my disguise——"
"Excuse me," said the old man, "but I can see little; the eyes of old men are not made for weeping, and if they weep too much, the tears burn them."
"Must I tell you my name? I am Madame de St. Luc."
"I do not know you."
"Ah! but my maiden name was Jeanne de Cosse-Brissac."
"Ah, mon Dieu!" cried the old man, trying to open the gate with his trembling hands. Jeanne, who did not understand this strange reception, still attributed it only to his declining faculties; but, seeing that he remembered her, jumped off her horse to embrace him, but as she did so she felt his cheek wet with tears.
"Come," said the old man, turning towards the house, without even noticing the others. The chateau had a strange sad look; all the blinds were down, and no one was visible.
"Is Diana unfortunately not at home?" asked Jeanne. The old man stopped, and looked at her with an almost terrified expression. "Diana!" said he. At this name the two dogs uttered a mournful howl. "Diana!" repeated the old man; "do you not, then, know?"
And his voice, trembling before, was extinguished in a sob.
"But what has happened?" cried Jeanne, clasping her hands.
"Diana is dead!" cried the old man, with a torrent of tears.
"Dead!" cried Jeanne, growing as pale as death.
"Dead," thought Bussy; "then he has let him also think her dead. Poor old man! how he will bless me some day!"
"Dead!" cried the old man again; "they killed her."
"Ah, my dear baron!" cried Jeanne, bursting into tears, and throwing her arms round the old man's neck.
"But," said he at last, "though desolate and empty, the old house is none the less hospitable. Enter."
Jeanne took the old man's arm, and they went into the dining-hall, where he sunk into his armchair. At last, he said, "You said you were married; which is your husband?"
M. de St. Luc advanced and bowed to the old man, who tried to smile as he saluted him; then, turning to Bussy, said, "And this gentleman?"
"He is our friend, M. Louis de Clermont, Comte de Bussy d'Amboise, gentleman of M. le Duc d'Anjou."
At these words the old man started up, threw a withering glance at Bussy, and then sank back with a groan.
"What is it?" said Jeanne.
"Does the baron know you, M. de Bussy?" asked St. Luc.
"It is the first time I ever had the honor of seeing M. de Meridor," said Bussy, who alone understood the effect which the name of the Duc d'Anjou had produced on the old man.
"Ah! you a gentleman of the Duc d'Anjou!" cried the baron, "of that monster, that demon, and you dare to avow it, and have the audacity to present yourself here!"
"Is he mad?" asked St. Luc of his wife.
"Grief must have turned his brain," replied she, in terror.
"Yes, that monster!" cried he again; "the assassin who killed my child! Ah, you do not know," continued he, taking Jeanne's hands; "but the duke killed my Diana, my child—he killed her!"
Tears stood in Bussy's eyes, and Jeanne said:
"Seigneur, were it so, which I do not understand, you cannot accuse M. de Bussy of this dreadful crime—he, who is the most noble and generous gentleman living. See, my good father, he weeps with us. Would he have come had he known how you would receive him? Ah, dear baron, tell us how this catastrophe happened."
"Then you did not know?" said the old man to Bussy.
"Eh, mon Dieu! no," cried Jeanne, "we none of us knew."
"My Diana is dead, and her best friend did not know it! Oh, it is true! I wrote to no one; it seemed to me that everything must die with her. Well, this prince, this disgrace to France, saw my Diana, and, finding her so beautiful, had her carried away to his castle of Beauge to dishonor her. But Diana, my noble and sainted Diana, chose death instead. She threw herself from the window into the lake, and they found nothing but her veil floating on the surface." And the old man finished with a burst of sobs which overwhelmed them all.
"Oh, comte," cried St. Luc, "you must abandon this infamous prince; a noble heart like yours cannot remain friendly to a ravisher and an assassin!"
But Bussy instead of replying to this, advanced to M. de Meridor.
"M. le Baron," said he, "will you grant me the honor of a private interview?"
"Listen to M. de Bussy, dear seigneur," said Jeanne; "you will see that he is good and may help you."
"Speak, monsieur," said the baron, trembling.
Bussy turned to St. Luc and his wife, and said:
"Will you permit me?"
The young couple went out, and then Bussy said: "M. le Baron, you have accused the prince whom I serve in terms which force me to ask for an explanation. Do not mistake the sense in which I speak; it is with the most profound sympathy, and the most earnest desire to soften your griefs, that I beg of you to recount to me the details of this dreadful event. Are you sure all hope is lost?"
"Monsieur, I had once a moment's hope. A noble gentleman, M. de Monsoreau, loved my poor daughter, and interested himself for her."
"M. de Monsoreau! Well, what was his conduct in all this!"
"Ah, generous; for Diana had refused his hand. He was the first to tell me of the infamous projects of the duke; he showed me how to baffle them, only asking, if he succeeded, for her hand. I gave my consent with joy; but alas! it was useless—he arrived too late—my poor Diana had saved herself by death!"
"And since then, what have you heard of him?"
"It is a month ago, and the poor gentleman has not dared to appear before me, having failed in his generous design."
"Well, monsieur," said Bussy, "I am charged by the Duc d'Anjou to bring you to Paris, where his highness desires to speak to you."
"I!" cried the baron, "I see this man! And what can the murderer have to say to me?"
"Who knows? To justify himself perhaps."
"No, M. de Bussy, no, I will not go to Paris; it would be too far away from where my child lies in her cold bed."
"M. le Baron," said Bussy firmly, "I have come expressly to take you to Paris, and it is my duty to do so."
"Well, I will go," cried the old man, trembling with anger; "but woe to those who bring me. The king will hear me, or, if he will not, I will appeal to all the gentlemen of France. Yes, M. de Bussy, I will accompany you."
"And I, M. le Baron," said Bussy, taking his hand, "recommend to you the patience and calm dignity of a Christian nobleman. God is merciful to noble hearts, and you know not what He reserves for you. I beg you also, while waiting for that day, not to count me among your enemies, for you do not know what I will do for you. Till to-morrow, then, baron, and early in the morning we will set off."
"I consent," replied the old baron, moved by Bussy's tone and words; "but meanwhile, friend or enemy, you are my guest, and I will show you to your room."
HOW REMY-LE-HAUDOUIN HAD, IN BUSSY'S ABSENCE, ESTABLISHED A COMMUNICATION WITH THE RUE ST. ANTOINE.
M. and Madame de St. Luc could hardly recover from their surprise. Bussy, holding secret interviews with M. de Meridor, and then setting off with him for Paris, appearing to take the lead in a matter which at first seemed strange and unknown to him, was to the young people an inexplicable phenomenon. In the morning the baron took leave of his guests, begging them to remain in the castle. Before Bussy left, however, he whispered a few words to Madame de St. Luc, which brought the color to her cheeks, and smiles to her eyes.
It was a long way from Meridor to Paris, especially for the old baron, covered with wounds from all his battles, and for his old horse, whom he called Jarnac. Bussy studied earnestly during the journey to find his way to the heart of the old man by his care and attentions, and without doubt he succeeded, for on the sixth morning, as they arrived at Paris, M. de Meridor said:
"It is singular, count, but I feel less unquiet at the end than at the beginning of my journey."
"Two hours more, M. le Baron, and you shall have judged me as I deserve."
"Where are we going—to the Louvre?"
"Let me first take you to my hotel, that you may refresh yourself a little, and be fit to see the person to whom I am leading you."
The count's people had been very much alarmed at his long absence, for he had set off without telling any one but Remy. Thus their delight on seeing him again was great, and they all crowded round him with joyous exclamations. He thanked them, and then said, "Now assist this gentleman to dismount, and remember that I look upon him with more respect than a prince."
When M. de Meridor had been shown to his room, and had had some refreshment, he asked if they should set out.
"Soon, baron; and be easy—it will be a happiness for you as well as for us."
"You speak in a language which I do not understand."
Bussy smiled, and left the room to seek Remy.
"Well! dear Hippocrates!" said he, "is there anything new?"
"Nothing; all goes well."
"Then the husband has not returned?"
"Yes, he has, but without success. It seems there is a father who is expected to turn up to make the denouement."
"Good," said Bussy, "but how do you know all this?"
"Why, monseigneur, as your absence made my position a sinecure, I thought I would try to make some little use of my time; so I took some books and a sword to a little room which I hired at the corner of the Rue St. Antoine, from whence I could see the house that you know."
"But as I feared, if I were constantly watching, to pass for a spy, I thought it better to fall in love."
"Oh yes, desperately with Gertrude; she is a fine girl, only two inches taller than myself, and who recounts, capitally."
"Yes; through her I know all that passes with her mistress. I thought you might not dislike to have communications with the house."
"Remy, you are a good genius, whom chance, or rather Providence, has placed in my way. Then you are received in the house?"
"Last night I made my entrance on the points of my toes, by the door you know."
"And how did you manage it?"
"Quite naturally. The day after you left, I waited at my door till the lady of my thoughts came out to buy provisions, which she does every morning. She recognized me, uttered a cry, and ran away."
"Then I ran after her, but could hardly catch her, for she runs fast; but still, petticoats are always a little in the way. 'Mon Dieu!' cried she. 'Holy Virgin!' said I. 'The doctor!' 'The charming housekeeper.' She smiled, but said, 'You are mistaken, monsieur, I do not know you.' 'But I know you,' I replied, 'and for the last three days I have lived but for you, and I adore you so much, that I no longer live in the Rue Beautreillis, but at the corner of this street, and I changed my lodging only to see you pass in and out.'"
"So that now you are——"
"As happy as a lover can be—with Gertrude."
"Does she suspect you come from me?"
"Oh no, how should the poor doctor know a great lord like M. de Bussy. No, I said, 'And how is your young master?' 'What young master?' 'The one I cured.' 'He is not my master.' 'Oh! I thought, as he was in your mistress's bed——' 'Oh! no, poor young man! we have only seen him once since.' 'Do you know his name?' 'Oh! yes; he is the Seigneur de Bussy.' 'What! the brave Bussy?' 'Yes himself.' 'And your mistress?' 'Oh! she is married!' 'Yes, but still she may think sometimes of a handsome young man when she has seen him lying wounded in her bed.' 'Oh, to be frank, I do not say she does not think of him; we talk of him very often.' 'What do you say about him?' I asked. 'I recount all I hear about his prowess, and I have even taught her a little song about him, which she sings constantly.'" Bussy pressed the young man's hand; he felt supremely happy.
THE FATHER AND DAUGHTER.
On descending into the court, M. de Meridor found a fresh horse, which Bussy had had prepared for him; another waited for Bussy, and attended by Remy, they started. As they went along, the baron could not but ask himself by what strange confidence he had accompanied, almost blindly, the friend of the prince to whom he owed all his misfortunes. Would it not have been better to have braved the Duc d'Anjou, and instead of following Bussy where it pleased him to lead, to have gone at once to the Louvre, and thrown himself at the feet of the king? What could the prince say to him? How could he console him? Could soft words heal his wound?
When they stopped, "What," said the baron, "does the Duc d'Anjou live in this humble house?"
"Not exactly, monsieur, but if it is not his dwelling, it is that of a lady whom he has loved."
A cloud passed over the face of the old gentleman. "Monsieur," said he, "we provincials are not used to the easy manners of Paris; they annoy us. It seems to me that if the Duc d'Anjou wishes to see the Baron de Meridor, it ought to be at his palace, and not at the house of one of his mistresses."
"Come, come, baron!" said Bussy, with his smile, which always carried conviction with it, "do not hazard false conjectures. On my honor, the lady who you are going to see is perfectly virtuous and worthy in all respects."
"Who is she then?"
"She is the wife of a friend of yours."
"Really! but then, monsieur, why did you say the duke loved her?"
"Because I always speak truth. But enter, and you shall see accomplished all I have promised you."
"Take care; I wept for my child, and you said, 'Console yourself, monsieur, the mercy of God is great;' to promise me a consolation to my grief was almost to promise me a miracle."
"Enter, monsieur," said Bussy, with his bright smile. Bussy went in first, and, running up to Gertrude, said, "Go and tell Madame de Monsoreau that M. de Bussy is here, and desires to speak to her. But," continued he, in a low voice, "not a word of the person who accompanies me."
"Madame de Monsoreau!" said the old man in astonishment. But as he feebly mounted the staircase, he heard the voice of Diana crying,—
"M. de Bussy. Gertrude? Oh! let him come in!"
"That voice!" cried the baron, stopping. "Oh! mon Dieu! mon Dieu!"
At that moment, as the baron tremblingly held on to the banister, and looked around him, he saw at the top of the staircase, Diana, smiling, and more beautiful that ever. At this sight the old man uttered a cry and would have fallen, had he not caught hold of Bussy, who stood by him.
"Diana alive! Diana, oh, my God!"
"Mon Dieu! M. de Bussy!" cried Diana, running down, "what is the matter with my father?"
"He thought you dead, madame, and he wept, as a father must weep for a daughter like you."
"How!" cried Diana; "and no one undeceived him?"
"No," cried the old man, recovering a little, "no one, not even M. de Bussy."
"Ungrateful," said Bussy.
"Oh! yes! you are right; for this moment repays me for all my griefs. Oh! my Diana! my beloved Diana!" cried he, drawing his daughter to him with one hand, and extending the other to Bussy. But all at once he cried, "But you said I was to see Madame de Monsoreau. Where is she?"