Aurilly glanced at the prince.
"Ma foi," said Maugiron, "I know one thing; that in the king's place I would not spare the high heads, which are always the most guilty. I would make an example of one or two—one, at all events."
"I think it would be well to revive the famous invention of sacks."
"What was that?"
"A royal fancy in the year 1550; they shut up a man in a sack, in company with three or four cats, and threw them into the water. The minute the cats felt the water they attacked the man, and there passed in the sack things which unluckily could never be seen."
"Really, Quelus, you are a well of science, and your conversation is most interesting."
"They could not apply this invention to the chiefs; they have the right to be beheaded; but to the small fry, I mean the favorites, squires, and lute-players."
"Gentlemen——" stammered Aurilly.
"Do not reply to them, Aurilly," said Francois, "it cannot be addressed to me." As he spoke the king appeared on the threshold. The duke rose. "Sire," cried he, "I appeal against the unworthy treatment I meet with from your followers."
Henri did not seem to hear. "Good morning, Quelus," said he kissing his favorite on both cheeks; "good morning, the sight of you rejoices my soul, and you, my poor Maugiron, how are you?"
"I am terribly ennuye, sire; when I undertook to guard your brother, I thought he was more amusing. Oh I the tiresome prince; are you sure he is the son of your father and mother?"
"Sire! you hear," cried the prince, "is it your wish that your brother should be insulted?"
"Silence, monsieur," said Henri, "I do not like my prisoners to complain."
"Prisoner, or not, I am your——"
"The title which you are about to invoke," interrupted the king, "is fatal to you. My brother guilty, is doubly guilty."
"But if he is not?"
"Of what crime?"
"Of having displeased me."
"Sire, have our family quarrels need of witnesses?"
"You are right, monsieur. My friends, let, me speak a little to my brother."
"I will take Aurilly," said Maugiron.
"Now we are alone, monsieur," said the king, when they were gone.
"I waited for this moment impatiently."
"And I also; ah, you want my crown, my worthy Eteocles; you made of the League a means, and of the throne an aim, and were consecrated in a corner of Paris, to be able to proclaim yourself to the Parisians shining with holy oil."
"Alas! your majesty will not let me speak."
"What for?—to lie, or to tell me things which I know already? But no, you would lie; for to confess what you have done, would be to confess that you merit death. You would lie, and I would spare you that shame."
"My brother, is it your intention to overwhelm me with outrages?"
"If what I say is an outrage, it is I who lie, and I ask no better. Speak then, I listen; tell me you are not disloyal, and at the same time unskilful."
"I do not know what your majesty means; you speak enigmas."
"Then I will explain my words; you have conspired against me, as formerly you conspired against my brother Charles, only then it was by the aid of Henri of Navarre, and now it is with the assistance of the Duc de Guise. It is true that formerly you crawled like a serpent; now you wish to spring like the lion; after perfidy, open force; after poison, the sword."
"Poison! what do you mean?" cried Francois, with flashing eyes.
"The poison with which you assassinated our brother Charles, which you destined for Henry of Navarre, your associate. That fatal poison is known; our mother has used it so often, which is doubtless the reason why you renounced it on this occasion, and preferred rather the part of captain of the League. But look me in the face, Francois, and learn that a man like you shall never kill me. A sword! Ah! I should like to see you here in this room alone with me, holding a sword. I have conquered you in cunning, and in a combat you would be killed. Dream no longer of struggling against me in any manner, for from this moment I act as king—as master—as despot; I shall watch you everywhere, follow you everywhere, and, at the least suspicion, I will throw you to the axe of my executioner. This is what I had to say to you in private, and I will order you to be left alone to-night to ponder over my words."
"Then, sire, for a suspicion, I have fallen into disgrace with you?"
"Say, under my justice."
"But, at least, sire, fix a term to my captivity, that I may know what to expect?"
"You will know when you hear your sentence read."
"Can I not see my mother?"
"What for? There were but three copies in the world of the famous hunting-book which killed my poor brother, and of the two others, one is in London and the other at Florence. Besides, I am not a Nimrod, like my poor brother; adieu, Francois."
"Gentlemen," said the king, opening the door, "the Duc d'Anjou has requested to be alone to-night to reflect on an answer he has to make to me to-morrow morning. Leave him then alone, except occasional visits of precaution. If he be troublesome, call me; I have the Bastile ready, and the governor, M. Laurent Testu, is the best man in the world to conquer ill tempers."
"Sire," cried Francois, trying a last effort, "remember I am your——"
"You were also the brother of Charles IX., I think."
"At least restore me to my friends."
"I deprive myself of mine to give them to you." And Henri shut the door, while the duke fell in despair into his armchair.
HOW PEOPLE DO NOT ALWAYS LOSE THEIR TIME BY SEARCHING EMPTY DRAWERS.
The scene which the duke had just had with the king made him regard his position as desperate. The minions had not allowed him to be ignorant of what had passed, and he had heard the people cry, "Vive le roi!" He felt himself abandoned by the other chiefs, who had themselves to save. In his quarrels with his brother Charles he had always had for confidants, or rather dupes, those two devoted men, Coconnas and La Mole, and, for the first time in his life, feeling himself alone and isolated, he felt a kind of remorse at having sacrificed them. During that time his sister Marguerite loved and consoled him. How had he recompensed her?
He had recently had near him a brave and valiant heart and sword—Bussy, the brave Bussy. And he had offended him to please Monsoreau, who had his secret, with which he always threatened him, and which was now known to the king. He had therefore quarreled with Bussy gratuitously, and, above all, uselessly, which as a great politician once said, "was more than a crime, it was a mistake!" How he would have rejoiced in his present situation, to know that Bussy was watching over him; Bussy the loyal, Bussy the universal favorite. It would have been probable liberty and certain vengeance.
But as we have said, Bussy, wounded to the heart, kept away from the prince, so the prisoner remained fifty feet above the ground, with the four favorites in the corridor, without counting the court full of Swiss. Besides this, one or other of the young men entered from time to time, and, without seeming even to notice the prince, went round the room, examined the doors and windows, looked under the beds and tables, and glanced at the curtains and sheets.
"Ma foi!" said Maugiron, after one of these visits, "I have done; I am not going to look after him any more to-night."
"Yes," said D'Epernon, "as long as we guard him, there is no need of going to look at him."
"And he is not handsome to look at," said Quelus.
"Still," said Schomberg, "I think we had better not relax our vigilance, for the devil is cunning."
"Yes, but not cunning enough to pass over the bodies of four men like us."
"That is true," said Quelus.
"Oh!" said Schomberg, "do you think, if he wants to fly, he will choose our corridor to come through? He would make a hole in the wall."
"Then he has the windows."
"Ah! the windows, bravo, Schomberg; would you jump forty-five feet?"
"I confess that forty-five feet——"
"Yes, and he who is lame, and heavy, and timid as——"
"You," said Schomberg.
"You know I fear nothing but phantoms—that is an affair of the nerves."
"The last phantom was," said Quelus, "that all those whom he had killed in duels appeared to him one night."
"However," said Maugiron, "I have read of wonderful escapes; with sheets, for instance."
"Ah! that is more sensible. I saw myself, at Bordeaux, a prisoner who escaped by the aid of his sheets."
"You see, then?"
"Yes, but he had his leg broken, and his neck, too; his sheets were thirty feet too short, and he had to jump, so that while his body escaped from prison, his soul escaped from his body."
"Besides," said Quelus, "if he escapes, we will follow him, and in catching him some mischief might happen to him."
So they dismissed the subject. They were perfectly right that the duke was not likely to attempt a perilous escape. From time to time his pale face was at the window which overlooked the fosses of the Louvre, beyond which was an open space about fifteen feet broad, and then the Seine rolled calm as a mirror. On the other side rose, like a giant, the tower of Nesle.
He had watched the sunset and the gradual extinction of all the lights. He had contemplated the beautiful spectacle of old Paris, with its roofs gilded by the last rays of the sun, and silvered by the first beams of the moon; then little by little he was seized with a great terror at seeing immense clouds roll over the sky and announce a storm. Among his other weaknesses, the Duc d'Anjou was afraid of thunder, and he would have given anything to have had his guardians with him again, even if they insulted him. He threw himself on his bed, but found it impossible to sleep. Then he began to swear, and break everything near him. It was a family failing, and they were accustomed to it at the Louvre. The young men had opened the door to see what the noise meant, and seeing that it was the duke amusing himself, they had shut it again, which redoubled his anger. He had just broken a chair, when a crashing of glass was heard at the window, and he felt a sharp blow on his thigh. His first idea was that he was wounded by some emissary of the king's.
"Ah! I am dead!" he cried, and fell on the carpet. But as he fell his hand came in contact with a larger and rougher substance than a ball.
"Oh! a stone," thought he, and feeling his leg, he found it uninjured. He picked up the stone and looked at it, and saw that it was wrapped in a piece of paper. Then the duke's ideas began to change. Might not this stone come from a friend as well as an enemy. He approached the light, cut the silk which tied the paper round the stone and read,—
"Are you tired of keeping your room? Do you love open air and liberty? Enter the little room where the Queen of Navarre hid your poor friend, M. de la Mole, open the cupboard, and, by displacing the lowest bracket, you will find a double bottom; in this there is a silk ladder; attach it yourself to the balcony, two vigorous arms will hold it at the bottom. A horse, swift as thought, will lead you to a safe place.
"A friend!" cried the prince; "oh! I did not know I had a friend. Who is this friend who thinks of me?" And the duke ran to the window, but could see no one.
"Can it be a snare?" thought he; "but first let me see if there is a double bottom and a ladder."
The duke then, leaving the light where it was for precaution, groped his way to the cabinet, which he knew so well. He opened it, felt for the bottom shelf, and, to his great joy, found what he looked for. As a thief escapes with his booty, the duke rushed into the next room with his prey. Ten o'clock struck; the duke thought of his hourly visitors, and hid his ladder under a cushion, on which he sat down. Indeed, five minutes had not passed before Maugiron appeared in a dressing-gown, with a sword in one hand and a light in the other. As he came in one of his friends said to him, "The bear is furious, he was breaking everything just now; take care he does not devour you, Maugiron."
Maugiron made his usual examination; he saw a broken window, but thought the duke had done it in his rage.
"Maugiron!" cried Schomberg, from outside, "are you already eaten that you do not speak? In that case, sigh, at least, that we may know and avenge you."
The duke trembled with impatience.
"No, no," said Maugiron, "on the contrary, my bear is quite conquered."
And so saying he went out and locked the door. When the key had ceased to turn in the lock the duke murmured,—
"Take care, gentlemen, or the duke will be too much for you."
VENTRE ST. GRIS.
Left alone, the duke, knowing he had at least an hour before him, drew out his ladder and carefully examined the fastenings.
"The ladder is good," said he, at length, "and will not break."
Then he unrolled it all, and counted thirty-eight rounds of fifteen inches each.
"The length is sufficient," said he, "there is nothing to fear on that point. Ah! but if it were some of those cursed minions who sent me to the ladder? If I attach it to the balcony they will let me do it, and while I am descending they will cut the cords. But, no; they could not be foolish enough to think I would fly without barricading the door, and I should have time to fly before they could force it. But what person in the world, except my sister herself, could know of a ladder hidden in her dressing-room? What friend of mine can it be?"
Suddenly an idea struck him, and he cried, "Bussy!"
Indeed, Bussy, whom so many ladies adored, Bussy was a hero to the Queen of Navarre, and his only true friend—was it Bussy? Everything made him think so. The duke, of course, did not know all his motives for being angry with him, for he did not know his love for Diana, and believed him to be too noble to think of resentment when his master was a prisoner. He approached the window again, and fancied he could see in the fog the indistinct forms of three horses and two men by the river. Two men. These must be Bussy and Remy. He then looked through the keyhole, and saw his four guardians; two were asleep, and two had inherited Chicot's chessboard and were playing. He extinguished his light.
Then he opened his window, and looked over the balcony; the gulf below him looked dreadful in the darkness, and he drew back. But air and liberty have an attraction so irresistible to a prisoner, that Francois, on withdrawing from the window, felt as if he were being stifled, and for an instant something like disgust of life and indifference to death passed through his mind. He fancied he was growing courageous, and, profiting by this moment of excitement, he seized the ladder, fixed it to the balcony, then barricaded the door as well as he could, and returned to the window. The darkness was now great, and the first growlings of the storm began to make themselves heard; a great cloud with silver fringes extended itself like a recumbent elephant from one side to the other of the river. A flash of lightning broke the immense cloud for a moment, and the prince fancied that he saw below him in the fosse the same figures he had imagined before. A horse neighed; there was no more doubt—he was waited for.
He shook the ladder to see if it was firm, then he put his leg over the balustrade and placed his foot on the first step. Nothing can describe the anguish of the prisoner at this moment, placed between a frail silk cord on the one hand and his brother's cruel menaces on the other. But as he stood there he felt the ladder stiffened; some one held it. Was it a friend or an enemy? Were they open arms or armed ones which waited for him? An irresistible terror seized him; he still held the balcony with his left hand, and made a movement to remount, when a very slight pull at the ladder came to him like a solicitation. He took courage, and tried the second step. The ladder was held as firm as a rock, and he found a steady support for his foot. He descended rapidly, almost gliding down, when all at once, instead of touching the earth, which he knew to be near, he felt himself seized in the arms of a man who whispered, "You are saved." Then he was carried along the fosse till they came to the end, when another man seized him by the collar and drew him up, and after having aided his companion in the same way, they ran to the river, where stood the horses. The prince knew he was at, the mercy of his saviours, so he jumped at once on a horse, and his companions did the same. The same voice now said, "Quick!" And they set off at a gallop.
"All goes well at present," thought the prince, "let us hope it will end so. Thanks, my brave Bussy," said he to his companion on the right, who was entirely covered with a large cloak.
"Quick!" replied the other.
They arrived thus at the great ditch of the Bastile, which they crossed on a bridge improvised by the Leaguers the night before. The three cavaliers rode towards Charenton, when all at once the man on the right entered the forest of Vincennes, saying only, "Come." The prince's horse neighed, and several others answered from the depths of the forest. Francois would have stopped if he could, for he feared they were taking him to an ambush, but it was too late, and in a few minutes he found himself in a small open space, where eight or ten men on horseback were drawn up.
"Oh! oh!" said the prince, "what does this mean, monsieur?"
"Ventre St. Gris! it means that we are saved."
"You! Henri!" cried the duke, stupefied, "you! my liberator?"
"Does that astonish you? Are we not related, Agrippa?" continued he, looking round for his companion.
"Here I am," said D'Aubigne.
"Are there two fresh horses, with which we can go a dozen leagues without stopping?"
"But where are you taking me, my cousin?"
"Where you like, only be quick, for the King of France has more horses than I have, and is rich enough to kill a dozen if he wishes to catch us."
"Really, then, I am free to go where I like?"
"Certainly, I wait your orders."
"Well, then, to Angers."
"To Angers; so be it, there you are at home."
"I! when we are in sight of Angers I shall leave you, and ride on to Navarre, where my good Margot expects me, and must be much ennuyee at my absence."
"But no one knew you were here?"
"I came to sell three diamonds of my wife's."
"Ah! very well."
"And also to know if this League was really going to ruin me."
"You see there is nothing in it."
"Thanks to you, no."
"How! thanks to me?"
"Certainly. If, instead of refusing to be chief of the League, when you knew it was directed against me, you had accepted, I was ruined. Therefore, when I heard that the king had punished your refusal with imprisonment, I swore to release you, and I have done so."
"Always so simple-minded," thought Francois, "really, it is easy to deceive him."
"Now for Anjou," thought the king. "Ah! M. de Guise, I send you a companion you do not want."
While Paris was in this ferment, Madame de Monsoreau, escorted by her father and two servants, pursued their way to Meridor. She began to enjoy her liberty, precious to those who have suffered. The azure of the sky, compared to that which hung always menacingly over the black towers of the Bastile, the trees already green, all appeared to her fresh and young, beautiful and new, as if she had really come out of the tomb where her father had believed her. He, the old baron, had grown young again. We will not attempt to describe their long journey, free from incidents. Several times the baron said to Diana,—
"Do not fear, my daughter."
"Were you not looking if M. de Monsoreau was following us?"
"Yes, it was true, I did look," replied she, with a sigh and another glance behind.
At last, on the eighth day, they reached the chateau of Meridor, and were received by Madame de St. Luc and her husband. Then began for these four people one of those existences of which every man has dreamed in reading Virgil or Theocritus. The baron and St. Luc hunted from morning till evening; you might have seen troops of dogs rushing from the hills in pursuit of some hare or fox, and startling Diana and Jeanne, as they sat side by side on the moss, under the shade of the trees.
"Recount to me," said Jeanne, "all that happened to you in the tomb, for you were dead to us. See, the hawthorn is shedding on us its last flowers, and the elders send out their perfume. Not a breath in the air, not a human being near us; recount, little sister."
"What can I say?"
"Tell me, are you happy? That beautiful eye often swimming in tears, the paleness of your cheeks, that mouth which tries a smile which it never finishes—Diana, you must have many things to tell me."
"You are, then, happy with M. de Monsoreau?"
"You see!" said Jeanne.
"With M. de Monsoreau! Why did you pronounce that name? why do you evoke that phantom in the midst of our woods, our flowers, our happiness?"
"You told me, I think," said Jeanne, "that M. de Bussy showed much interest in you."
Diana reddened, even to her round pretty ears.
"He is a charming creature," continued Jeanne, kissing Diana.
"It is folly," said Diana; "M. de Bussy thinks no more of Diana de Meridor."
"That is possible; but I believe he pleases Diana de Monsoreau a little."
"Do not say that."
"Does it displease you?"
"I tell you he thinks no more of me; and he does well—oh, I was cowardly."
"What do you say?"
"Now, Diana, do not cry, do not accuse yourself. You cowardly! you, my heroine! you were constrained."
"I believed it; I saw dangers, gulfs under my feet. Now, Jeanne, these dangers seem to me chimerical, these gulfs as if a child could cross them. I was cowardly, I tell you; oh, I had no time to reflect."
"You speak in enigmas."
"No," cried Diana, rising, "it was not my fault, it was his. The Duc d'Anjou was against him; but when one wishes a thing, when one loves, neither prince nor master should keep you back. See, Jeanne, if I loved——"
"Be calm, dear friend."
"I tell you, we were cowardly."
"'We!' of whom do you speak? That 'we' is eloquent, my dearest Diana."
"I mean my father and I; you did not think anything else, did you? My father is a nobleman—he might have spoken to the king; I am proud, and do not fear a man when I hate him. But he did not love me."
"You lie to yourself! you know the contrary, little hypocrite!"
"You may believe in love, Jeanne, you, whom M. de St. Luc married in spite of the king; you, whom he carried away from Paris; you, who pay him by your caresses for proscription and exile."
"And he thinks himself richly repaid."
"But I—reflect a little, do not be egotistical—I, whom that fiery young man pretended to love—I, who fixed the regards of that invincible Bussy, he who fears no one—I was alone with him in the cloister of l'Egyptienne—we were alone; but for Gertrude and Remy, our accomplices, he could have carried me off. At that moment I saw him suffering because of me; I saw his eyes languishing, his lips pale and parched with fever. If he had asked me to die to restore the brightness to his eyes, and the freshness to his lips, I should have died. Well, I went away, and he never tried to detain me. Wait still. He knew that I was leaving Paris, that I was returning to Meridor; he knew that M. de Monsoreau—I blush as I tell it—was only my husband in name; he knew that I traveled alone; and along the road, dear Jeanne, I kept turning, thinking I heard the gallop of his horse behind us. But no, it was only the echo of my own. I tell you he does not think of me. I am not worth a journey to Anjou while there are so many beautiful women at the court of France, whose smiles are worth a hundred confessions from the provincial, buried at Meridor. Do you understand now? Am I forgotten, despised——"
She had not finished when the foliage of the oak rustled, a quantity of mortar and moss fell from the old wall, and a man threw himself at the feet of Diana, who uttered an affrighted cry.
Jeanne ran away—she recognized him.
"Here I am!" cried Bussy, kissing the dress of Diana.
She too recognized him, and, overcome by this unexpected happiness, fell unconscious into the arms of him whom she had just accused of indifference.
BUSSY AND DIANA.
Faintings from love seldom last any length of time, nor are they very dangerous. Diana was not long in opening her eyes, and finding herself supported by Bussy.
"Oh!" murmured she, "it was shocking, count, to surprise us thus."
Bussy expected other words, men are so exacting, but Diana said no more, and, disengaging herself gently from his arms, ran to her friend, who, seeing her faint, had returned softly, and stood a little way off.
"Is it thus that you receive me, madame?"
"No, M. de Bussy, but——"
"Oh! no 'but,' madame," sighed Bussy, drawing near again.
"No, no, not on your knees!"
"Oh! let me pray to you an instant, thus!" cried the count. "I have so longed for this place."
"Yes, but to come to it, you jumped over the wall. Not only is it not suitable for a man of your rank, but it is very imprudent."
"If you had been seen?"
"Who could have seen me?"
"Our hunters, who, a quarter of an hour ago, passed by this wall."
"Do not be uneasy, madame, I hide myself too carefully to be seen."
"Hidden! really!" said Jeanne, "tell us how, M. de Bussy."
"Firstly, if I did not join you on the road, it was not my fault, I took one route and you another. You came by Rambouillet, and I by Chartres. And then judge if your poor Bussy be not in love; I did not dare to join you. It was not in the presence of your father and your servants that I wished to meet you again, for I did not desire to compromise you, so I made the journey stage by stage, devoured by impatience. At last you arrived. I had taken a lodging in the village, and, concealed behind the window, I saw you pass."
"Oh! mon Dieu! are you then at Angers under your own name?"
"For what do you take me? I am a traveling merchant; look at my costume, it is of a color much worn among drapers and goldsmiths. I have not been remarked."
"Bussy, the handsome Bussy, two days in a provincial town and not remarked; who would believe that at court?" said Jeanne.
"Continue, count," said Diana, blushing; "how do you come here from the town?"
"I have two horses of a chosen race; I leave the village on one, stopping to look at all the signs and writings, but when out of sight my horse takes to a gallop, which brings him the four miles in half an hour. Once in the wood of Meridor I ride to the park wall, but it is very long, for the park is large. Yesterday I explored this wall for more than four hours, climbing up here and there, hoping to see you. At last, when I was almost in despair, I saw you in the evening returning to the house; the two great dogs of the baron were jumping round you. When you had disappeared, I jumped over, and saw the marks on the grass where you had been sitting. I fancied you might have adopted this place, which is charming, during the heat of the sun, so I broke away some branches that I might know it again, and sighing, which hurts me dreadfully——"
"From want of habit," said Jeanne.
"I do not say no, madame; well, then, sighing, I retook my way to the town. I was very tired, I had torn my dress in climbing trees, but I had seen you, and I was happy."
"It is an admirable recital," said Jeanne, "and you have surmounted dreadful obstacles; it is quite heroic; but in your place I would have preserved my doublet, and above all, have taken care of my white hands. Look at yours, how frightful they are with scratches."
"Yes, but then I should not have seen her whom I came to see."
"On the contrary, I should have seen her better than you did."
"What would you have done then?"
"I would have gone straight to the Chateau de Meridor. M. le Baron would have pressed me in his arms, Madame de Monsoreau would have placed me by her at table, M. de St. Luc would have been delighted to see me, and his wife also. It was the simplest thing in the world, but lovers never think of what is straight before them."
Bussy smiled at Diana. "Oh, no," he said, "that would not have done for me."
"Then I no longer understand what good manners are."
"No," said Bussy, "I could not go to the castle; M. le Baron would watch his daughter."
"Good!" said Jeanne, "here is a lesson for me," and kissing Diana on the forehead, she ran away. Diana tried to stop her, but Bussy seized her hands, and she let her friend go. They remained alone.
"Have I not done well, madame," said Bussy, "and do you not approve?"
"I do not desire to feign," said Diana, "besides, it would be useless; you know I approve; but here must stop my indulgence; in calling for you as I did just now I was mad—I was guilty."
"Mon Dieu! What do you say?"
"Alas I count, the truth; I have a right to make M. de Monsoreau unhappy, to withhold from him my smiles and my love, but I have no right to bestow them on another: for, after all, he is my master."
"Now, you will let me speak, will you not?"
"Well! of all that you have just said, you do not find one word in your heart."
"Listen patiently; you have overwhelmed me with sophisms. The commonplaces of morality do not apply here; this man is your master, you say, but did you choose him? No; fate imposed him on you, and you submitted. Now, do you mean to suffer all your life the consequences, of this odious constraint? I will deliver you from it."
Diana tried to speak, but Bussy stopped her.
"Oh! I know what you are going to say; that if I provoke M. de Monsoreau and kill him, you will see me no more. So be it; I may die of grief, but you will live free and happy, and you may render happy some gallant man, who in his joy will sometimes bless my name, and cry, 'Thanks, Bussy, thanks, for having delivered us from that dreadful Monsoreau;' and you, yourself, Diana, who will not dare to thank me while living, will thank me dead."
Diana seized his hand.
"You have not yet implored me, Bussy; you begin with menaces."
"Menace you! oh! could I have such an intention, I, who love you so ardently, Diana. I know you love me; do not deny it, I know it, for you have avowed it. Here, on my knees before you, my hand on my heart, which has never lied, either from interest or from fear, I say to you, Diana, I love you, for my whole life. Diana, I swear to you, that if I die for you, it will be in adoring you. If you still say to me, 'go,' I will go without a sigh, or complaint, from this place where I am so happy, and I should say, 'this woman does not love me, and never will love me.' Then I should go away, and you would see me no more, but as my devotion for you is great, my desire to see you happy would survive the certainty that I could never be happy myself."
Bussy said this with so much emotion, and, at the same time firmness, that Diana felt sure that he would do all he said, and she cried,—
"Thanks, count, for you take from me all remorse by your threats."
Saying these words, she gave him her hand, which he kissed passionately. Then they heard the light steps of Jeanne, accompanied by a warning cough. Instinctively the clasped hands parted. Jeanne saw it.
"Pardon, my good friends, for disturbing you," said she, "but we must go in if we do not wish to be sent for. M. le Comte, regain, if you please, your excellent horse, and let us go to the house. See what you lose by your obstinacy, M. de Bussy, a dinner at the chateau, which is not to be despised by a man who has had a long ride, and has been climbing trees, without counting all the amusement we could have had, or the glances that might have passed. Come, Diana, come away."
Bussy looked at the two friends with a smile. Diana held out her hand to him.
"Is that all?" said he; "have you nothing to say?"
"Till to-morrow," replied she.
"To-morrow, and always."
Bussy uttered a joyful exclamation, pressed his lips to her hand, and ran off. Diana watched him till he was out of sight.
"Now!" said Jeanne, when he had disappeared, "will you talk to me a little?"
"Well! to-morrow I shall go to the chase with St. Luc and your father."
"What, you will leave me alone at the chateau!"
"Listen, dear friend; I also have my principles, and there are certain things that I cannot consent to do."
"Oh, Jeanne!" cried Diana, growing pale, "can you say such things to me?"
"Yes, I cannot continue thus."
"I thought you loved me, Jeanne. What cannot you continue?"
"Continue to prevent two poor lovers from talking to each other at their ease." Diana seized in her arms the laughing young woman.
"Listen!" said Jeanne, "there are the hunters calling us, and poor St. Luc is impatient."
HOW BUSSY WAS OFFERED THREE HUNDRED PISTOLES FOR HIS HORSE, AND PARTED WITH HIM FOR NOTHING.
The next day, Bussy left Angers before the most wakeful bourgeois had had their breakfast. He flew along the road, and Diana, mounted on a terrace in front of the castle, saw him coming, and went to meet him. The sun had scarcely risen over the great oaks, and the grass was still wet with dew, when she heard from afar, as she went along, the horn of St. Luc, which Jeanne incited him to sound. She arrived at the meeting-place just as Bussy appeared on the wall. The day passed like an hour. What had they to say? That they loved each other. What had they to wish for? They were together.
"Diana," said Bussy at length, "it seems to me as though my life had begun only to-day. You have shown me what it is to live."
"And I," replied she, "who not long ago would have willingly thrown myself into the arms of death, would now tremble to die and lose your love. But why do you not come to the castle? My father would be glad to see you, and M. de St. Luc is your friend."
"Alas, Diana, if I came once, I should be always there; all the province would know it, and if it came to the ears of that ogre, your husband, he would hasten here. You forbid me to deliver you from him——"
"Well, then, for the safety of our happiness, we must guard our secret. Madame de St. Luc knows it, and her husband soon will. I have written him a line this morning, asking him for an interview at Angers, and when he comes I will make him promise never to breathe a word of this. It is the more important, dear Diana, as doubtless they are seeking me everywhere. Things looked grave when I left Paris.
"You are right; and then my father is so scrupulous that, in spite of his love for me, he is capable of denouncing me to M. de Monsoreau."
"Let us hide ourselves well, then; I fear some evil spirit, jealous of our happiness."
"Say adieu to me, then; and do not ride so fast—your horse frightens me."
"Fear nothing; he knows the way, and is the gentlest and safest horse I ever rode. When I return to the city, buried in sweet thoughts, he takes the way without my touching the bridle."
At last the sound of the returning chase was heard, the horns playing an air agreed upon with Jeanne, and Bussy left. As he approached the city, he remarked that the time was approaching when the gates of the city would be closed. He was preparing to ride on quickly, when he heard behind him the gallop of horses. For a lover who wishes to remain concealed, as for a robber, everything seems a menace. Bussy asked himself whether he should ride on or draw up and let them pass, but their course was so rapid that they were up to him in a moment. There were two.
"Here is the city," said one, with a Gascon accent; "three hundred more blows with the whip, and one hundred with the spur; courage and vigor!"
"The beast has no more breath—he shivers and totters; he will not go on; and yet I would give a hundred horses to be in my city before nightfall."
"It is some Angers man out late," thought Bussy. "But look, the horse is falling; take care, monsieur," cried he; "quit your horse—he is about to fall."
Indeed, as he spoke the animal fell heavily on his side, shook his legs convulsively, then suddenly his breath stopped, his eyes grew dim, and he was dead.
"Monsieur!" cried the cavalier to Bussy, "three hundred pistoles for your horse!"
"Ah, mon Dieu!" cried Bussy, drawing near.
"Do you hear me, monsieur? I am in haste."
"Ah! my prince, take it for nothing," cried Bussy, who had recognized tae Duc d'Anjou.
At the same moment they heard the click of a pistol, which was cocked by the duke's companion.
"Stop, M. d'Aubigne," cried the duke, "it is Bussy, I believe."
"Oh! yes, my prince, it is I. But what, in Heaven's name are you doing, killing horses on the road at this hour?"
"Ah! is it M. de Bussy?" said D'Aubigne, "then you do not want me any more. Permit me to return to him who sent me?"
"Not without receiving my sincere thanks and the promise of a lasting friendship."
"I accept it, monseigneur, and will recall your words to you some day."
"M. D'Aubigne! I am in the clouds," murmured Bussy.
"Did you not know? As you are here, did you not expect me?" said the prince, with an air of suspicion which did not escape Bussy, who began to reflect that his secret residence in Anjou might seem very strange to the prince.
"I did better than expect you," said Bussy, "and as you wish to enter the town before the gates are closed, jump into the saddle, monseigneur."
The prince accepted, and Bussy mounted behind him, asking himself if this prince, dressed in black, were not the evil spirit sent already to disturb his happiness.
"Where do we go now, monseigneur?" said he, as they entered the city.
"To the castle. Let them hoist my banner and convoke the nobility of the district."
"Nothing more easy," said Bussy, full of surprise, but willing to be docile. The news was soon spread through the city that the duke had arrived, and a crowd soon collected.
"Gentlemen!" cried the duke, "I have come to throw myself into my good city of Angers. At Paris the most terrible dangers have menaced my life—I had lost even my liberty. I succeeded in escaping, thanks to some good friends, and now I am here I feel my tranquillity and my life assured."
The people cried, "Long live our seigneur."
"Now let me sup," said the prince, "I have had nothing since the morning."
The city was illuminated, guns were fired, the bells of the cathedral were rung, and the wind carried to Meridor the noisy joy of the good Angevins.
THE DIPLOMACY OF THE DUC D'ANJOU.
When the duke and Bussy were left alone, the duke said, "Let us talk."
Francois, who was very quick, had perceived that Bussy had made more advances to him than usual, therefore he judged that he was in some embarrassing situation, and that he might, by a little address, get an advantage over him. But Bussy had had time to prepare himself, and he was quite ready.
"Yes, let us talk, monseigneur," replied he.
"The last day I saw you, my poor Bussy, you were very ill."
"It is true, monseigneur, I was very ill, and it was almost a miracle that saved me."
"There was near you a doctor very devoted to you, for he growled at everyone who approached you."
"True, prince, Remy loves me."
"He kept you rigorously to your bed, did he not?"
"At which I was in a great rage, as your highness might have seen."
"But, if that were the case, why did you not send the doctor to the devil, and come out with me as I begged you to do? But as it was a grave affair, you were afraid to compromise yourself."
"Did you say I was afraid?"
"I did say so."
"Well, then, it was a lie!" said Bussy, jumping up from his chair; you lied to yourself, monseigneur, for you do not believe a single word of what you say. There are twenty scars on my body, which prove the contrary. I never knew fear, and, ma foi, I know people who cannot say the same."
"You have always unanswerable arguments, M. de Bussy," cried the duke, turning very pale; "when you are accused, you cry louder than your accuser, and then you think you are right."
"Oh! I am not always right, I know well, but I know on what occasions I am wrong."
"And what are they?"
"When I serve ungrateful people."
"Really, monsieur, I think you forget yourself," said the duke, with some dignity. Bussy moved towards the door, but the prince stopped him.
"Do you deny, monsieur," said he, "that after refusing to go out with me, you went out immediately after?"
"I deny nothing, monseigneur, but I will not be forced to confession."
"Tell me why you would not go out with me."
"I had business."
"I thought that when a gentleman was in the service of a prince, his principal business was that of the prince."
"And who does your business generally, monseigneur, if not I?"
"I do not say no; generally I find you faithful and devoted, and, I will say more, I excuse your bad humor."
"You are very good."
"Yes, for you had some reason to be angry."
"Ah! you confess it."
"Yes, I promised you the disgrace of M. de Monsoreau. It seems you hate him very much."
"I! not at all. I find him very ugly, and should have liked him away from court, not to have had to look at him. It seems, however, that you admire him, and there is no accounting for tastes."
"Well, then, as that was your sole excuse, you were doubly wrong to refuse to accompany me, and then to go out after, and commit follies."
"Follies! what did I do?"
"Doubtless, you do not like MM. d'Epernon and Schomberg, neither do I, but one must have some prudence. Kill them, and I should be grateful to you, but do not exasperate them."
"What did I do to them?"
"Why, you had D'Epernon stoned."
"Yes, so that his clothes were torn to pieces."
"Good! and what about M. Schomberg?"
"You will not deny that you had him dyed indigo color? When I saw him three hours after, he was still bright blue. Do you call that a joke?" And the prince laughed in spite of himself, and Bussy joined him.
"Then," said he, "they think it was I who played them these tricks!"
"Perhaps it was I."
"And you have the conscience to reproach a man who had such fine ideas."
"Well, I pardon you. But I have another complaint to make. What did you do to deliver me from my unlucky situation?"
"You see, I came to Anjou."
"It seems to me that you would have been more useful nearer."
"Ah! there we differ; I preferred coming to Anjou."
"Your caprice is a bad reason."
"But, if I came to gather your partisans?"
"Ah! that is different. What have you done?"
"I will explain that to you to-morrow; at present I must leave you."
"I have to see an important person."
"Oh, very well; but be prudent."
"Prudent! are we not the strongest here?"
"Never mind, risk nothing. Have you done much?"
"I have only been here two days."
"But you keep yourself concealed, I hope."
"I should think so. Look at my dress; am I in the habit of wearing cinnamon-colored clothes?"
"And where are you lodging?"
"Ah! I hope you will appreciate my devotion; in a tumble-down old house, near the ramparts. But you, my prince, how did you get out of the Louvre? How was it that I found you on the road, with M. d'Aubigne for a companion?"
"Because I have friends."
"Yes, friends that you do not know."
"Well, and who are they?"
"The King of Navarre and D'Aubigne, whom you saw."
"The King of Navarre! Ah! true, did you not conspire together?"
"I never conspired, M. de Bussy."
"No; ask poor La Mole and Coconnas."
"La Mole," said the prince, gloomily, "died for another crime than the one alleged against him."
"Well, never mind him. How the devil did you get out of the Louvre?"
"Through the window."
"That of my bedroom."
"Then you knew of the rope-ladder?"
"In the cupboard."
"Ah! it seems you knew it," cried the prince, turning pale.
"Oh! your highness knows I have sometimes had the happiness of entering that room."
"In the time of my sister Margot. Then you came in by the window?"
"As you came out. All that astonishes me is, that you knew of the ladder."
"It was not I who found it."
"I was told of it."
"By the King of Navarre."
"Ah! the King of Navarre knew of it; I should not have thought so. However, now you are here safe and sound, we will put Anjou in flames, and Bearn and Angoumois will catch the light, so we shall have a fine blaze."
"But did you not speak of a rendezvous?"
"It is true; the interest of the conversation was making me forget. Adieu, monseigneur."
"Do you take your horse?"
"If it will be useful to you, monseigneur, you may keep it, I have another."
"Well! I accept; we will settle that later."
The duke gave Bussy his hand, and they separated.
THE IDEAS OF THE DUC D'ANJOU.
Bussy returned home, but instead of St. Luc, whom he expected, he found only a letter fixing their meeting for the next day. About six in the morning St. Luc started, and rode straight to Bussy's house.
"Accept the hospitality of my poor hut, St. Luc," said Bussy, "I am encamped here."
"Yes, like a conqueror on the field of battle."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, dear Bussy, that my wife has no secrets from me, and has told me all. Receive my compliments, but, since you have sent for me, permit me to give you a piece of advice."
"Get rid as soon as possible of that abominable Monsoreau; no one at the court knows of your love for his wife, so when you marry the widow, no one will say you killed him on purpose."
"There is but one obstacle to this project, which presented itself to my mind, as to yours."
"What is it?"
"That I have sworn to Diana to respect the life of her husband, as long as he does not attack me."
"You were very wrong."
"Because if you do not take the initiative, he will discover you, and will kill you."
"I cannot break my oath to Diana. Besides, he who is now a monster in all eyes, would be thought an angel in his tomb."
"Therefore I do not advise you to kill him yourself."
"Oh, St. Luc, no assassins."
"Who spoke of assassins?"
"Of what then?"
"Nothing; an idea passed through my mind; I will tell you what it was at another time. I do not love this Monsoreau much more than you, although I have not the same reason to detest him, so let us speak of the wife instead of the husband."
Bussy smiled. "You are a capital companion, St Luc," said he, "and you may count on my friendship. Now my friendship consists of three things, my purse, my sword, and my life. Now, what about Diana?"
"I wished to ask if you were not coming to Meridor."
"My dear friend, I thank you, but you know my scruples."
"I know all. At Meridor you fear to meet Monsoreau, although he is eighty leagues off; fear to have to shake his hand, and it is hard to shake the hand of the man you wish to strangle; you fear to see him embrace Diana, and it is hard to see that of the woman you love."
"Ah! how well you understand!" cried Bussy, with rage; "but, my dear friend, did you not hear last night the noise of bells and guns?"
"Yes; and we wondered what it meant."
"It meant that the Duc d'Anjou arrived last night."
St. Luc jumped up. "The duke here! We heard he was imprisoned at the Louvre."
"That is just why he is now at Angers. He managed to escape through a window, and came here."
"Well, here is an excellent opportunity to revenge yourself for the king's persecutions. The prince has already a party, he will soon have troops, and we shall have something like a little civil war."
"And I reckoned on you to help us."
"Against the king?" said St. Luc, with sudden coldness.
"Not precisely against the king, but against those who fight against us."
"My dear Bussy, I came here for country air, not to fight against his majesty."
"But let me present you to monseigneur."
"Useless, my dear Bussy, I do not like Angers."
"My dear St. Luc, you will do me a great service by consenting; the duke asked me what I came here for, and, not being able to tell because of his own passion for Diana, I said that I had come to draw to his cause all the gentlemen in the Canton; I even told him I had a rendezvous with one this morning."
"Well! tell him you have seen the gentleman, and that he asks six months to consider. Listen, I will always help you to defend Diana, you shall help me to defend my wife. We will make a treaty for love, but not for politics."
"I see, I must yield to you, St. Luc, for you have the advantage over me. I want you, and you do not want me."
"On the contrary, it is I who claim your protection."
"Suppose the rebels besiege and sack Meridor."
The two friends laughed; then, as the duke had sent to inquire for Bussy, they separated with renewed promises of friendship, and charmed with each other.
Bussy went to the ducal palace, where already all the nobility of the provinces were arriving. He hastened to arrange an official reception, a repast and speeches, and having thus cut out some hours' occupation for the prince, mounted his other horse, and galloped to Meridor. The duke made some good speeches, and produced a great effect, giving himself out for a prince persecuted by the king on account of the love of the Parisians for him. When Bussy returned, it was four in the afternoon; he dismounted, and presented himself to the duke all covered with dust.
"Ah! my brave Bussy, you have been at work?"
"You see, monseigneur."
"You are very hot."
"I have ridden fast."
"Take care not to get ill again."
"There is no danger."
"Whence do you come?"
"From the environs. Is your highness content? have you had a numerous assemblage?"
"Yes, I am pretty well satisfied, but I missed some one."
"Your protege, the Baron de Meridor."
Bussy changed color.
"And yet we must not neglect him," continued the duke, "he is influential here."
"You think so?"
"I am sure of it. He was the correspondent of the League at Angers, chosen by M. de Guise, and the Guises choose their men well. He must come, Bussy."
"But if he does not come?"
"I will go to him."
"Oh, why not, certainly," cried Bussy, with flashing eyes, "a prince may do anything."
"Then you think he is still angry with me?"
"How should I know?"
"You have not seen him?"
"As one of the great men of the province, I thought——"
"I was not sufficiently fortunate in the former promises I made him to be in a hurry to present myself to him."
"Has he not attained his object?"
"He wanted his daughter to marry the count, and she has done so."
Bussy turned his back on the duke, who, at the same moment, moved towards another gentleman who entered the room. Bussy began to reflect on what the duke's projects were with regard to the baron—whether they were purely political, or whether he was still seeking to approach Diana; but he imagined that, embroiled with his brother, banished from the Louvre, and the chief of provincial insurrection, he had sufficiently grave interests at stake to outweigh his love fancies. He passed the night banqueting with the duke and the Angevin gentlemen, then in dancing with the Angevin ladies. It is needless to say that he was the admiration of the latter, and the hatred of the husbands, several of whom looked at him in a way which did not please him, so that, curling his mustachios, he invited three or four of them to take a walk with him by moonlight; but his reputation had preceded him, and they all declined.
At the door Bussy found a laughing face waiting for him, which he believed to be eighty leagues off.
"Ah," cried he joyfully, "it is you, Remy."
"I was going to write to you to join me."
"On my word."
"That is capital; I was afraid you would scold me."
"For coming without leave. But I heard that Monsieur le Duc d'Anjou had escaped, and had fled here. I knew you were here also, and I thought there might be civil war, and many holes made in skins, so I came."
"You did well, Remy; I wanted you."
"How is Gertrude, monsieur?"
"I will ask Diana the first time I see her."
"And, in return, every time I see her I will ask for news of Madame de Monsoreau."
"You are charming."
Meanwhile they had reached Bussy's lodging.
"Here is my palace; you must lodge as you can."
"It will not be difficult; I could sleep standing, I am so tired."
Bussy rose early the next morning, and went to the ducal palace, leaving word for Remy to follow him. The duke had prepared a list of important things to be done: firstly, a walk round the walls to examine the fortifications; secondly, a review of the inhabitants and their arms; thirdly, a visit to the arsenal; fourthly, correspondence.
"Ah!" cried the duke, "you already!"
"Ma foi! yes, monseigneur; I could not sleep, your highness's interests were so much on my mind. What shall we do this morning? Shall we hunt?"
"How!" said the duke, "you pretend to have been thinking all night of my interests, and the result of so much meditation is to propose to me a hunt!"
"True," said Bussy; "besides, we have no hounds."
"And no chief huntsman."
"Ah, ma foi! the chase would be more agreeable without him."
"Ah, I am not like you—I want him; he would have been very useful to us here."
"He has property here."
"He or his wife."
Bussy bit his lips.
"Meridor is only three leagues off, you know that," continued the duke, "you, who brought the old baron to me."
"Dame! I brought him because he hung on to my cloak. However, my protection did not do him much good."
"Listen," said the duke, "I have an idea."
"Diable!" said Bussy, who was always suspicious of the duke's ideas.
"Yes; it is that, if Monsoreau had the advantage over you at first, you shall have it now."
"What do you mean?"
"It is very simple; you know me, Bussy?"
"I have that misfortune."
"Think you I am the man to submit to an affront with impunity?"
"Explain yourself, monseigneur."
"Well, he stole the young girl I loved to make her his wife; now I will steal his wife!"
Bussy tried to smile, but made a grimace instead.
"Steal his wife!" stammered he.
"Nothing more easy, she is here, and you told me she hated her husband; therefore, without too much vanity, I may flatter myself she will give me the preference, if I promise her——"
"To get rid of her husband for her."
"You will do that?"
"You shall see. Meanwhile I will pay a visit to Meridor."
"You will dare?"
"You will present yourself before the old baron, whom you abandoned after promising me——"
"I have an excellent excuse to give him."
"Where the devil will you find it?"
"Oh! I will say to him, I did not break this marriage, because Monsoreau, who knew that you were one of the principal agents to the League, threatened to denounce you to the king."
"Has your highness invented that?"
"Then I understand."
"Yes, I shall make him believe that by marrying his daughter I saved his life."
"It is superb."
"Well! order the horses, and we will go to Meridor."
"Immediately, monseigneur." Bussy then went to the door, but turned back and said, "How many horses will your highness have?"
"Oh, four or five, what you like."
"If you leave it to me, I shall take a hundred."
"What for?" cried the prince, surprised.
"To have at least twenty-five I can rely on in case of attack."
"Yes, I have heard that there are thick woods in that neighborhood, and it would not surprise me if we fell into some ambush."
"Ah, do you think so?"
"Monseigneur knows that true courage does not exclude prudence; I will order one hundred and fifty."
And he moved towards the door.
"A moment," said the prince. "Do you think I am in safety at Angers?"
"Why, the town is not very strong, but well defended——"
"Yes, but it may be badly defended; however brave you are, you can be but in one place at a time."
"Then if I am not in safety here—and I am not if Bussy doubts——"
"I did not say I doubted."
"If I am not safe, I had better make myself so. I will go to the castle and entrench myself."
"You are right, monseigneur."
"And then another idea."
"The morning is fruitful."
"I will make the Meridors come here."
"Monseigneur, you are grand to-day. Now let us visit the castle."
Bussy went out while the prince was getting ready, and found Remy waiting. He wrote hastily a little note, picked a bunch of roses from the conservatory, rolled the note round the stems, went to the stable, brought out his horse, and, putting Remy on it, and giving him the bouquet, led him out of the city.
"Now," said he, "let Roland go; at the end of this road you will find the forest, in the forest a park, round the park a wall, and at that part of the wall where Roland stops, throw over this bouquet."
"He whom you expect does not come," said the note, "because he who was not expected has come, and is more menacing than ever, for he loves still. Take with the lips and the heart all that is invisible to the eyes in this paper."
In half an hour Remy reached his destination, carried by his horse, and threw over the bouquet; a little cry from the other side told him it had been received. Then Remy returned, in spite of his horse, which seemed much put out at losing its accustomed repast on the acorns. Remy joined Bussy as he was exploring a cave with the prince.
"Well," said he to his messenger, "what did you hear or see?"
"A wall, a cry, seven leagues," replied Remy laconically.
A FLIGHT OF ANGEVINS.
Bussy contrived to occupy the duke so well with his preparations for war during two days, that he found no time to think of Meridor, and from time to time, under pretext of examining the outer fortifications, jumped on Roland, and arrived at a certain wall, which he got over all the more quickly because each time he made some stone fall, and was, in fact, gradually making a breach.
Towards the end of the third day, as an enormous convoy of provisions was entering the city, the produce of a tax levied by the duke on his good Angevins, as M. d'Anjou, to make himself popular, was tasting the black bread and salt fish of the soldiers, they heard a great noise at one of the gates of the city, where a man, mounted on a white horse, had presented himself. Now Bussy had had himself named Captain-General of Anjou, and had established the most severe discipline in Angers; no one could go out of or enter the town without a password; all which had no other aim than to prevent the duke from sending a messenger to Meridor without his knowledge.
The man on the white horse had arrived at a furious gallop, and had attempted to enter, but had been stopped.
"I am Antragues," said he, "and desire to speak to the Duc d'Anjou."
"We do not know Antragues," they replied, "but as for seeing the duke, you shall be satisfied, for we shall arrest you, and conduct you to him."
"You are a nice fellow, truly, to talk of arresting Charles Balzac d'Antragues, Baron de Cuneo, and Comte de Graville."
"We will do so, however," replied the bourgeois, who had twenty men behind him.
"Wait a little, my good friends. You do not know the Parisians. Well, I will show you a specimen of what they can do."
"Let us arrest him!" cried the furious militia.
"Softly, my little lambs of Anjou; it is I who will have that pleasure."
"What does he say?" asked the bourgeois.
"He says that his horse has only gone ten leagues, and will ride over you all." And drawing his sword and swinging it furiously round, he cut off in his passage the blades of the nearest halberts, and in less than ten minutes fifteen or twenty of them were changed into broom-handles.
"Ah! this is very amusing!" cried he, laughing, and as he spoke stunning one of the bourgeois with a blow on the head with the flat of his sword. However, as more and more bourgeois crowded to the attack, and Antragues began to feel tired, he said, "Well, you are as brave as lions; I will bear witness to it; but, you see, you have nothing left but the handles of your halberts, and you do not know how to load your muskets. I had resolved to enter the city, but I did not know it was guarded by an army of Casars. I renounce my victory over you. Good evening, I am going away; only tell the prince that I came here expressly to see him."
However, the captain had managed to communicate the fire to the match of his musket, but just as he was raising it to his shoulder, Antragues gave him such a furious blow upon the fingers that he dropped it.
"Kill him! kill him!" cried several voices, "do not let him escape!"
"Ah!" said Antragues, "just now you would not let me come in, now you will not let me go out. Take care, that will change my tactics, and instead of the flat of my sword, I will use the point—instead of cutting the halberts, I will cut the wrists. Now, will you let me go?"
"No, no, he is tired, kill him!"
"Well, then, take care of your hands!"
Scarcely had he spoken when another cavalier appeared, riding furiously also, and who cried out as he approached:
"Antragues, what are you doing among all these bourgeois?"
"Livarot!" cried Antragues. "Mon Dieu, you are welcome; Montjoie and St. Denis, to the rescue!"
"I heard four hours ago that you were before me, and I have been trying to catch you. But what is the matter; do they want to massacre you?"
"Yes, they will neither let me in nor out."
"Gentlemen!" said Livarot, "will you please to step either to the right or left, and let us pass."
"They insult us! kill them!" cried the people.
"Oh! this is Angers' manners!" said Livarot, drawing his sword.
"Yes, you see; unluckily, there are so many of them."
"If there were but three of us!"
"And here is Ribeirac coming."
"Do you hear him?"
"I see him. Here, Ribeirac!"
"Are you fighting?" cried Ribeirac.
"Good morning, Livarot; good morning, Antragues."
"Let us charge them," said Antragues.
The bourgeois looked in stupefaction at this reinforcement that was about to join the attacking party.
"They are a regiment," said the captain of the militia.
"This is only the advanced guard," cried another.
"We are fathers of families, and our lives belong to our children," said others, and they all tried to fly, fighting with each other to get out of the way.
At this stage of the affair Bussy and the prince arrived, followed by twenty cavaliers, to ascertain the cause of the tumult. They were told that it was three incarnate devils from Paris who were making all the disturbance.
"Three men, Bussy; see who they are."
Bussy raised himself in his stirrups, and his quick eye soon recognized Livarot.
"Mort de ma vie, monseigneur," cried he, "they are our friends from Paris who are besieging us."
"No!" cried Livarot, "on the contrary, it is these people who are killing us."
"Down with your arms, knaves," cried the duke, "these are friends."
"Friends!" cried the bourgeois, "then they should have had the password; for we have been treating them like Pagans and they us like Turks."
Livarot, Antragues, and Ribeirac advanced in triumph to kiss the duke's hand.
"Monseigneur," said Bussy, "how many militia do you think there were here?"
"At least one hundred and fifty."
"You have not very famous soldiers, since three men beat them."
"True, but I shall have the three men who did beat them."
Thanks to the reinforcement which had arrived, M. le Duc d'Anjou could go where he pleased; he explored the ramparts of the surrounding country and castles. The Angevin gentlemen found liberty and amusement at the court of the duke, and the three friends were soon intimate with many of these nobles, especially those who had pretty wives. The general joy was at its height when twenty-two riding horses, thirty carriage horses, and forty mules, together with litters, carriages and wagons, arrived at Angers, all the property of the duke. We must allow that the saddles were not paid for, and that the coffers were empty, but still it made a magnificent effect. The duke's reputation for wealth was henceforward solidly established, and all the province remained convinced that he was rich enough to war against all Europe if need were, therefore they did not grudge the new tax which the prince imposed upon them. People never mind giving or lending to rich people, only to poor ones; therefore the worthy prince lived like a patriarch on all the fat of the land. Numerous cavaliers arrived to offer to him their adhesions, or their offers of service. One afternoon, however, about four o'clock, M. de Monsoreau arrived on horseback at the gates of Angers. He had ridden eighteen leagues that day; therefore his spurs were red, and his horse covered with foam, and half dead. They no longer made difficulties about letting strangers enter, therefore M. de Monsoreau went straight through the city to the palace, and asked for the duke.
"He is out reconnoitering," replied the sentinel.
"I do not know."
"Diable! What I have to say to him is very pressing."
"First put your horse in the stable, or he will fall."
"The advice is good; where are the stables?"
As he spoke a man approached and asked for his name. M. de Monsoreau gave it. The major-domo (for it was he) bowed respectfully, for the chief huntsman's name was well known in Anjou.
"Monsieur," said he, "please to enter and take some repose. Monseigneur has not been out more than ten minutes, and will not be back till eight o'clock."
"Eight o'clock! I cannot wait so long; I am the bearer of news which cannot be too soon known to his highness. Can I not have a horse and a guide?"
"There are plenty of horses, but a guide is a different thing, for his highness did not say where he was going."
"Well, I will take a fresh horse, and try to discover him."
"Probably you will hear where he has passed, monsieur."
"Do they ride fast?"
"Well, get me a horse then."
"Will monsieur come into the stables and choose one? they all belong to the duke." Monsoreau entered. Ten or twelve fine horses, quite fresh, were feeding from the manger, which was filled with grain.
Monsoreau looked over them, and then said, "I will take this bay."
"Is that his name?"
"Yes, and it is his highness's favorite horse. M. de Bussy gave him to the duke, and it is quite a chance that it is here to-day."
Ronald was soon saddled, and Monsoreau rode out of the stable.
"In which direction did they start?" asked he.
The man pointed it out.
"Ma foi!" said Monsoreau, "the horse seems to know the way."
Indeed, the animal set off without being urged, and went deliberately out of the city, took a short cut to the gate, and then began to accelerate his pace: Monsoreau let him go. He went along the boulevard, then turned into a shady lane, which cut across the country, passing gradually from a trot to a gallop.
"Oh!" thought Monsoreau, as they entered the woods, "one would say we were going to Meridor. Can his highness be there?" and his face grew black at the thought.
"Oh!" murmured he, "I who was going to see the prince, and putting off till to-morrow to see my wife; shall I see them both at the same time?"
The horse went on, turning always to the right.
"We cannot be far from the park," said he.
At that moment his horse neighed, and another answered him. In a minute Monsoreau saw a wall, and a horse tied to a neighboring tree.
"There is some one," thought he, turning pale.
WHAT M. DE MONSOREAU CAME TO ANNOUNCE.
As M. de Monsoreau approached, he remarked the dilapidation of the wall; it was almost in steps, and the brambles had been torn away, and were lying about. He looked at the horse standing there. The animal had a saddle-cloth embroidered in silver, and in one corner an F. and an A. There was no doubt, then, that it came from the prince's stables; the letters stood for Francois d'Anjou. The count's suspicions at this sight became real alarm; the duke had come here, and had come often, for, besides the horse waiting there, there was a second that knew the way. He tied up his horse near to the other, and began to scale the wall. It was an easy task; there were places for both feet and hands, and the branches of an oak-tree, which hung over, had been carefully cut away. Once up, he saw at the foot of a tree a blue mantilla and a black cloak, and not far off a man and woman, walking hand in hand, with their backs turned to the wall, and nearly hidden by the trees. Unluckily, with M. de Monsoreau's weight a stone fell from the wall on the crackling branches with a great noise.
At this noise the lovers must have turned and seen him, for the cry of a woman was heard, and a rustling of the branches as they ran away like startled deer. At this cry, Monsoreau felt cold drops on his forehead, for he recognized Diana's voice. Full of fury, he jumped over the wall, and with his drawn sword in his hand, tried to follow the fugitives, but they had disappeared, and, there was not a trace or a sound to guide him. He stopped, and considered that he was too much under the influence of passion to act with prudence against so powerful a rival. Then a sublime idea occurred to him; it was to climb back again over the wall, and carry off with his own the horse he had seen there. He retraced his steps to the wall and climbed up again; but on the other side no horse was to be seen; his idea was so good, that before it came to him it had come to his adversary. He uttered a howl of rage, clenching his fists, but started off at once on foot. In two hours and a half, he arrived at the gates of the city, dying with hunger and fatigue, but determined to interrogate every sentinel, and find out by what gate a man had entered with two horses. The first sentinel he applied to said that, about two hours before, a horse without a rider had passed through the gate, and had taken the road to the palace; he feared some accident must have happened to his rider. Monsoreau ground his teeth with passion, and went on to the castle. There he found great life and gaiety, windows lighted up, and animation everywhere. He went first to the stable, and found his horse in the stall he had taken him from; then, without changing his dress, he went to the dining-room. The prince and all his gentlemen were sitting round a table magnificently served and lighted. The duke, who had been told of his arrival, received him without surprise, and told him to sit down and sup with him.
"Monseigneur," replied he, "I am hungry, tired, and thirsty; but I will neither eat, drink, nor sit down till I have delivered my important message."
"You come from Paris?"
"Yes, in great haste."
Monsoreau advanced, with a smile on his lips and hatred In his heart, and said, "Monseigneur, your mother is advancing hastily to visit you."
The duke looked delighted. "It is well," said he; "M. de Monsoreau, I find you to-day, as ever, a faithful servant; let us continue our supper, gentlemen."
Monsoreau sat down with them, but gloomy and preoccupied. He still seemed to see the two figures among the trees, and to hear the cry of Diana.
"You are overcome with weariness," said the prince to him, "really, you had better go to bed."
"Yes," said Livarot, "or he will go to sleep in his chair."
"Pardon, monseigneur, I am tired out."
"Get tipsy," said Antragues; "there is nothing so good when you are tired. To your health, count!"
"You must give us some good hunts," said Ribeirac, "you know the country."
"You have horses and woods here," said Antragues.
"And a wife," added Livarot.
"We will hunt a boar, count," said the prince.
"Oh, yes, to-morrow!" cried the gentlemen.
"What do you say, Monsoreau?"
"I am always at your highness's orders, but I am too much fatigued to conduct a chase to-morrow; besides which, I must examine the woods."
"And we must leave him time to see his wife," cried the duke.
"Granted," cried the young men; "we give him twenty-four hours to do all he has to do."
"Yes, gentlemen, I promise to employ them well."
"Now go to bed," said the duke, and M. de Monsoreau bowed, and went out, very happy to escape.
HOW THE KING LEARNED THE FLIGHT OF HIS BELOVED BROTHER, AND WHAT FOLLOWED.
When Monsoreau had retired, the repast continued, and was more gay and joyous than ever.
"Now, Livarot," said the duke, "finish the recital of your flight from Paris, which Monsoreau interrupted."
Livarot began again, but as our title of historian gives us the privilege of knowing better than Livarot himself what had passed, we will substitute our recital for that of the young man.
Towards the middle of the night Henri III. was awoke by an unaccustomed noise in the palace. It was oaths, blows on the wall, rapid steps in the galleries, and, amidst all, these words continually sounding, "What will the king say?"
Henri sat up and called Chicot, who was asleep on the couch.
Chicot opened one eye.
"Ah, you were wrong to call me, Henri," said he; "I was dreaming that you had a son."
"To what? You say enough follies to me by day, without breaking in on my nights."
"But do you not hear?"
"Oh, oh! I do hear cries."
"Do you hear, 'What will the king say?'"
"It is one of two things—either your dog Narcissus is ill, or the Huguenots are taking their revenge for St. Bartholomew."
"Help me to dress."
"If you will first help me to get up."
"What a misfortune!" sounded from the antechamber.
"Shall we arm ourselves?" said the king.
"We had better go first and see what is the matter."
And almost immediately they went out by the secret door into the gallery. "I begin to guess," said Chicot; "your unlucky prisoner has hanged himself."
"Oh, no; it cannot be that."
"So much the worse."
"Come on;" and they entered the duke's chamber.
The window was open, and the ladder still hung from it. Henri grew as pale as death.
"Oh, my son, you are not so blase as I thought!" said Chicot.
"Escaped!" cried Henri, in such a thundering voice that all the gentlemen who were crowded round the window turned in terror. Schomberg tore his hair, Quelus and Maugiron struck themselves like madmen; as for D'Epernon, he had vanished. This sight calmed the king.
"Gently, my son," said he, laying hold of Maugiron.
"No! mordieu!" cried he, "I will kill myself!" and he knocked his head against the wall.
"Hola! help me to hold him."
"It would be an easier death to pass your sword through your body!" said Chicot.
"Quelus, my child," said the king, "you will be as blue as Schomberg when he came out of the indigo."
Quelus stopped, but Schomberg still continued to tear at his hair.
"Schomberg, Schomberg, a little reason, I beg."
"It is enough to drive one mad!"
"Indeed, it is a dreadful misfortune; there will be a civil war in my kingdom. Who did it—who furnished the ladder? Mordieu! I will hang all the city! Who was it? Ten thousand crowns to whoever will tell me his name, and one hundred thousand to whoever will bring him to me, dead or alive!"
"It must have been some Angevin," said Maugiron.
"Oh yes! we will kill all the Angevins!" cried Quelus. However, the king suddenly disappeared; he had thought of his mother, and, without saying a word, went to her. When he entered, she was half lying in a great armchair: She heard the news without answering.
"You say nothing, mother. Does not this flight seem to you criminal, and worthy of punishment?"
"My dear son, liberty is worth as much as a crown; and remember, I advised you to fly in order to gain a crown."
"My mother, he braves me—he outrages me!"
"No; he only saves himself."
"Ah! this is how you take my part."
"What do you mean, my son?"
"I mean that with age the feelings grow calm—that you do not love me as much as you used to do."
"You are wrong, my son," said Catherine coldly; "you are my beloved son, but he of whom you complain is also my son."
"Well, then, madame, I will go to find other counselors capable of feeling for me and of aiding me."
"Go, my son; and may God guide your counselors, for they will have need of it to aid you in this strait."
"Adieu, then, madame!"
"Adieu, Henri! I do not pretend to counsel you—you do not need me, I know—but beg your counselors to reflect well before they advise, and still more before they execute."
"Yes, madame, for the position is difficult."
"Very grave," replied she, raising her eyes to heaven.
"Have you any idea who it was that carried him off?" Catherine did not reply.
"I think it was the Angevins," continued the king.
Catherine smiled scornfully.
"You do not think so?"
"Do you, really?"
"Tell me what you think, madame."
"Why should I?"
"To enlighten me."
"Enlighten you! I am but a doting old woman, whose only influence lies in her prayers and repentance."
"No, mother; speak, you are the cleverest of us all."
"Useless; I have only ideas of the last century; at my age it is impossible I should give good counsel."
"Well, then, mother, refuse me your counsel, deprive me of your aid. In an hour I will hang all the Angevins in Paris."
"Hang all the Angevins!" cried Catherine, in amazement.
"Yes, hang, slay, massacre, burn; already, perhaps, my friends are out to begin the work."
"They will ruin themselves, and you with them."
"Blind! Will kings eternally have eyes, and not see?"
"Kings must avenge their injuries, it is but justice, and in this case all my subjects will rise to defend me."
"You are mad."
"You will make oceans of blood flow. The standard of revolt will soon be raised; and you will arm against you a host who never would rise for Francois."
"But if I do not revenge myself they will think I am afraid."
"Did any one ever think I was afraid? Besides, it was not the Angevins."
"Who was it then? it must have been my brother's friends."
"Your brother has no friends."
"But who was it then?"
"O! my son, you know you have never had but one; yours, mine, your brother Charles's; always the same."
"Henri of Navarre, you mean?"
"Yes, Henri of Navarre."
"He is not at Paris."
"Do you know who is at Paris, and who is not? No, you are all deaf and blind."
"Can it have been he?"
"My son, at every disappointment you meet with, at every misfortune that happens to you of which the author is unknown, do not seek or conjecture; it is useless. Cry out, it is Henri of Navarre, and you will be sure to be right. Strike on the side where he is, and you will be sure to strike right. Oh! that man, that man; he is the sword suspended over the head of the Valois."
"Then you think I should countermand my orders about the Angevins?"
"At once, without losing an instant. Hasten; perhaps you are already too late."
Henry flew out of the Louvre to find his friends, but found only Chicot drawing figures in the sand with a stone.
HOW, AS CHICOT AND THE QUEEN MOTHER WERE AGREED, THE KING BEGAN TO AGREE WITH THEM.
"Is this how you defend your king?" cried Henri.
"Yes, it is my manner, and I think it is a good one."
"I maintain it, and I will prove it."
"I am curious to hear this proof."
"It is easy; but first, we have committed a great folly."
"How so?" cried Henri, struck by the agreement between Chicot and his mother.
"Yes," replied Chicot, "your friends are crying through the city, 'Death to the Angevins!' and now that I reflect, it was never proved that they had anything to do with the affair. And your friends, crying thus through the city, will raise that nice little civil war of which MM. de Guise have so much need, and which they did not succeed in raising for themselves. Besides which, your friends may get killed, which would not displease me, I confess, but which would afflict you, or else they will chase all the Angevins from the city, which will please M. d'Anjou enormously."
"Do you think things are so bad?"
"Yes, it not worse."
"But all this does not explain what you do here, sitting on a stone."
"I am tracing a plan of all the provinces that your brother will raise against you, and the number of men each will furnish to the revolt."
"Chicot, Chicot, you are a bird of bad augury."
"The owl sings at night, my son, it is his hour. Now it is dark, Henri, so dark that one might take the day for the night, and I sing what you ought to hear. Look!"
"My geographical plan. Here is Anjou, something like a tartlet, you see; there your brother will take refuge. Anjou, well managed, as Monsoreau and Bussy will manage it, will alone furnish to your brother ten thousand combatants."
"Do you think so?"
"That is the minimum; let us pass to Guyenne; here it is, this figure like a calf walking on one leg. Of course, you will not be astonished to find discontent in Guyenne; it is an old focus for revolt, and will be enchanted to rise. They can furnish 8,000 soldiers; that is not much, but they are well trained. Then we have Bearn and Navarre; you see these two compartments, which look like an ape on the back of an elephant—they may furnish about 16,000. Let us count now—10,000 for Anjou, 8,000 for Guyenne, 16,000 for Bearn and Navarre; making a total of 34,000."
"You think, then, that the King of Navarre will join my brother?"
"I should think so."
"Do you believe that he had anything to do with my brother's escape?"
Chicot looked at him. "That is not your own idea, Henri."
"It is too clever, my son."
"Never mind whose idea it was; answer my question."
"Well! I heard a 'Ventre St. Gris' in the Rue de la Ferronnerie."
"You heard a 'Ventre St. Gris!' But it might not have been he."
"I saw him."
"You saw Henri of Navarre in Paris?"
"You saw my mortal enemy here, and did not tell me?"
"I am not a spy. Then there are the Guises; 20,000 or 25,000 men under the orders of the Duc de Guise will make up altogether a nice little army."
"But Henri of Navarre and the Duc de Guise are enemies."
"Which will not prevent them from uniting against you; they will be free to fight with each other when they have conquered you."
"You are right, Chicot, and my mother is right. I will call the Swiss."
"Oh, yes! Quelus has got them."
"My guards, then."
"Schomberg has them."
"My household at least."
"They have gone with Maugiron."
"Without my orders?"
"And when do you ever give orders, except, perhaps, to flagellate either your own skin, or that of others?—But about government.—Bah! allow me to observe that you have been a long time finding out that you rank seventh or eighth in this kingdom."
"Here they are!" cried the king, as three cavaliers approached, followed by a crowd of men on foot and on horseback.
"Schomberg! Quelus! come here," cried the king. They approached.
"I have been seeking you, and waiting for you impatiently. What have you done? Do not go away again without my permission."
"There is no more need," said Maugiron, who now approached, "since all is finished."
"All is finished?"
"Heaven be praised," said D'Epernon, appearing all at once, no one knew from whence.
"Then you have killed them?" cried the king; "well, at least the dead do not return."
"Oh! we had not that trouble; the cowards ran away, we had scarcely time to cross our swords with them."
Henri grew pale. "With whom?" said he.
"On the contrary, he killed a lackey of Quelus's."
"Oh!" murmured the king, "here is a civil war lighted up."
Quelus started. "It is true," said he.
"Ah" said Chicot. "You begin to perceive it, do you?"
"But, M. Chicot, you cried with us, 'Death to the Angevins!'"
"Oh! that is a different thing; I am a fool, and you are clever men."
"Come, peace, gentlemen; we shall have enough of war soon."
"What are your majesty's orders?"
"That you employ the same ardor in calming the people as you have done in exciting them, and that you bring back all the Swiss, my guards, and my household, and have the doors of the Louvre closed, so that perhaps tomorrow the bourgeois may take the whole thing for a sortie of drunken people."
The young men went off, and Henri returned to his mother.
"Well," said she, "what has passed?"
"All you foresaw, mother."
"They have escaped?"
"Is not that enough?"
"Is in tumult; but that is not what disquiets me."
"No, it is the provinces."
"Which will revolt."
"What shall you do?"
"I see but one thing."
"What is that?"
"To withdraw the army from La Charite, and march on Anjou."
"And M. de Guise?"
"Oh, I will arrest him if necessary."
"And you think violent measures will succeed?"
"What can I do, then?"
"Your plan will not do."
"Well, what is your idea?"
"Send an ambassador."
"To your brother."
"An ambassador to that traitor! You humiliate me, mother."
"This is not a moment to be proud."
"An ambassador will ask for peace?"
"Who will buy it if necessary."
"With what? mon Dieu!"
"If it were only to secure quietly, afterwards, those who have gone to make war on you."
"I would give much for that."
"Well, then, the end is worth the means."
"I believe you are right, mother; but whom shall I send?"
"Seek among your friends."
"My mother, I do not know a single man to whom I could confide such a mission."
"Confide it to a woman, then."
"My mother, would you consent?"
"My son, I am very old, and very weak, and death will perhaps await me on my return; but I will make this journey so rapidly that your brother and his friends will not have had time to learn their own power."
"Oh, my good mother!" cried Henri, kissing her hands, "you are my support, my benefactress!"
"That means that I am still Queen of France," murmured she.
IN WHICH IT IS PROVED THAT GRATITUDE WAS ONE OF ST. LUC'S VIRTUES.
The next morning, M. de Monsoreau rose early, and descended into the courtyard of the palace. He entered the stable, where Roland was in his place.
"Are the horses of monseigneur taught to return to their stable alone?" asked he of the man who stood there.
"No, M. le Comte."
"But Roland did so yesterday."
"Oh, he is remarkably intelligent."
"Has he ever done it before?"
"No, monsieur; he is generally ridden by the Duc d'Anjou, who is a good rider, and never gets thrown."
"I was not thrown," replied the count, "for I also am a good rider; no, I tied him to a tree while I entered a house, and at my return he had disappeared. I thought he had been stolen, or that some passer-by had played a bad joke by carrying him away; that was why I asked how he returned to the stable."
"He returned alone, as monsieur said just now."
"It is strange. Monseigneur often rides this horse, you say?"
"Nearly every day."
"His highness returned late last night?"
"About an hour before you."
"And what horse did he ride? was it a bay with a white star on his forehead?"
"No, monsieur, he rode Isolin, which you see here."
"And in the prince's escort is there any one who rides such a horse as I describe?"
"I know of no one."
"Well," said Monsoreau, impatiently, "saddle me Roland."
"Yes, are there any orders against it?"
"No; on the contrary, I was told to let you have any horse you pleased."
When Roland was saddled, Monsoreau said to the man, "What are your wages?"
"Twenty crowns, monsieur."
"Will you earn ten times that sum at once?"
"I ask no better. But how?"
"Find out who rode yesterday the horse I described."
"Ah, monsieur, what you ask is very difficult, there are so many gentlemen come here."
"Yes, but two hundred crowns are worth some trouble."
"Certainly, M. le Comte, and I will do my best to discover."
"That is right, and here are ten crowns to encourage you."
"Thanks, M. le Comte."
"Well, tell the prince I have gone to reconnoiter the wood for the chase."
As he spoke he heard steps behind him, and turned.
"Ah, M. de Bussy!" he cried.
"Why, M. le Comte, who would have thought of seeing you here!"
"And you, who they said was so ill."
"So I am; my doctor orders absolute rest, and for a week I have not left the city. Ah! you are going to ride Roland; I sold him to the duke, who is very fond of him."
"Yes, he is an excellent animal; I rode him yesterday."
"Which makes you wish for him again to-day?"
"You were speaking of a chase."
"Yes, the prince wishes for one."
"Whereabouts is it to be?"
"Near Meridor. Will you come with me?"
"No, thank you, I do not feel well."
"Oh!" cried a voice from behind, "there is M. de Bussy out without permission."
"Ah! there is my doctor scolding. Adieu, comte."
Bussy went away, and Monsoreau jumped into the saddle.
"What is the matter?" said Remy; "you look so pale, I believe you are really ill."
"Do you know where he is going?"
"Well, did you hope he would not?"
"Mon Dieu! what will happen, after what he saw yesterday?"
"Madame de Monsoreau will deny everything."
"But he saw her."
"She will say he did not."
"She will never have the courage."
"Oh, M. de Bussy, is it possible you do not know women better than that!"
"Remy, I feel very ill."
"So I see. Go home, and I will prescribe for you."
"A slice of fowl and ham, and some lobster."
"Oh, I am not hungry."
"The more reason I should order you to eat."
"Remy, I fear that that wretch will make a great scene at Meridor. I ought to have gone with him when he asked me."
"To sustain Diana."
"Oh, she will sustain herself. Besides, you ought not to be out; we agreed you were too ill."
"I could not help it, Remy, I was so unquiet."
Remy carried him off, and made him sit down to a good breakfast.
M. de Monsoreau wished to see if it were chance or habit that had led Roland to the park wall; therefore he left the bridle on his neck. Roland took precisely the same road as on the previous day, and before very long M. de Monsoreau found himself in the same spot as before. Only now the place was solitary, and no horse was there. The count climbed the wall again, but no one was to be seen; therefore, judging that it was useless to watch for people on their guard, he went on to the park gates. The baron, seeing his son-in-law coming over the drawbridge, advanced ceremoniously to meet him. Diana, seated under a magnificent sycamore, was reading poetry, while Gertrude was embroidering at her side. The count, seeing them, got off his horse, and approached them.
"Madame," said he, "will you grant me the favor of an interview?"
"What calm, or rather what perfidy!" thought the count.
"Do you do us the honor of remaining at the chat?" asked the baron.
"Yes, monsieur, until to-morrow, at least."
The baron went away to give orders, and Diana reseated herself, while Monsoreau took Gertrude's chair, and, with a look sufficient to intimidate most people, said:
"Madame, who was in the park with you yesterday?"
"At what time?" said Diana, in a firm voice.
"Near the copse."
"It must have been some one else, it was not I."
"It was you, madame."
"What do you know about it?"
"Tell me the man's name!" cried Monsoreau, furiously.
"The man who was walking with you."
"I cannot tell, if it was some other woman."
"It was you, I tell you."
"You are wrong, monsieur."
"How dare you deny it? I saw you."
"Yes, madame, myself. And there is no other lady here."
"You are wrong again; there is Jeanne de Brissac."
"Madame de St. Luc?"
"Yes, my friend."
"And M. de St. Luc?"
"Never leaves her; theirs was a love-match; you must have seen them."
"It was not them; it was you, with some man whom I do not know, but whom I will know, I swear. I heard your cry."
"When you are more reasonable, monsieur, I shall be ready to hear you; at present I will retire."
"No, madame, you shall stay."
"Monsieur, here are M. and Madame de St. Luc, I trust you will contain yourself."
Indeed, M. and Madame de St. Luc approached. She bowed to Monsoreau, and St. Luc gave him his hand; then, leaving his wife to Monsoreau, took Diana, and after a walk they returned, warned by the bell for dinner, which was early at Meridor, as the baron preserved the old customs. The conversation was general, and turned naturally on the Duc d'Anjou, and the movement his arrival had caused. Diana sat far from her husband, between St. Luc and the baron.
THE PROJECT OF M. DE ST. LUC.
When the repast was over, Monsoreau took St. Luc's arm and went out. "Do you know," said he, "that I am very happy to have found you here, for the solitude of Meridor frightened me."
"What, with your wife? As for me, with such a companion I should find a desert delightful."
"I do not say no, but still——"
"I am very glad to have met you here."
"Really, monsieur, you are very polite, for I cannot believe that you could possibly fear ennui with such a companion, and such a country."
"Bah! I pass half my life in the woods."
"The more reason for being fond of them, it seems to me. I know I shall be very sorry to leave them; unluckily, I fear I shall be forced to do so before long."
"Oh! monsieur, when is man the arbiter of his own destiny? He is like the leaf of the tree, which the wind blows about. You are very fortunate."
"To live amongst these splendid trees."
"Oh! I do not think I shall stay here long; I am not so fond of nature, and I fear these woods; I think they are not safe."
"Why? on account of their loneliness, do you mean?"
"No, not that, for I suppose you see friends here."
"Not a soul."
"Ah! really. How long is it since you had any visitor?"
"Not since I have been here."
"Not one gentleman from the court at Angers?"
"It is true."
"Then I am wrong."
"Perfectly; but why is not the park safe, are there bears here?"
"Perhaps. Tell me, monsieur, Madame de St. Luc seemed to me very pretty; is she not?"
"Does she often walk in the park?"
"Often; she adores the woods, like myself."
"And do you accompany her?"
"What the devil are you driving at?"
"Oh; mon Dieu, nothing; or, at least, a trifle."
"They told me——"
"You will not be angry?"
"I never am so."
"Besides, between husbands, these confidences are right; they told me a man had been seen wandering in the park."
"Who came for my wife?"
"Oh! I do not say that."
"You would be wrong not to tell me, my dear Monsoreau. Who saw him? pray tell me."
"Oh! to tell you the truth, I do not think it was for Madame de St. Luc that he came."
"For whom, then?"
"Ah! I fear it is for Diana."
"Oh! I should like that better."
"Certainly; you know we husbands are an egotistical set. Everyone for himself, and God for us all."
"The devil rather."
"Then you think a man entered here?"
"I think so."
"And I do more than think," said St. Luc, "for I saw him."
"You saw a man in the park?"
"With Madame de Monsoreau."
"Just here to the left." And as they had walked down to the old copse, St. Luc pointed out the spot where Bussy always came over.
"Ah!" continued he, "here is a wall in a bad state; I must warn the baron."
"Whom do you suspect?"
"Of climbing over here to talk to my wife." St. Luc seemed to reflect.
"Diable!" said he, "it could only have been——"
"Are you joking, M. de St. Luc?"
"Ma foi, no; when I was first married I did such things."
"Come! you are trying to put me off; but do not fear, I have courage. Help me to seek, you will do me an immense favor."
St. Luc shook his head. "It must have been you," said he.
"Do not jest, I beg of you; the thing is serious."
"Do you think so?"
"I am sure of it."
"Oh! and how does this man come?"
"I fear so; look at the marks in the wall."
"Well, I suspected it, but I always fancied it was you."
"But I tell you, no!"
"Oh, I believe you, my dear sir."
"It must have been some one else."
Monsoreau began to look black, but St. Luc preserved his easy nonchalance.
"I have an idea," said he.
"If it were——"
"The Duc d'Anjou."
"I thought so at first, but I have made inquiries, and it could not have been he."
"Oh! he is very cunning."
"Yes, but it was not he."
"I have another idea; if it was neither you nor the duke, it must have been I."
"You to come on horseback to the outside of the park, when you live inside!"
"Oh, mon Dieu! I am such a capricious being."
"You, who fled away when you saw me!"
"Oh! any one would do that."
"Then you were doing wrong," cried the count, no longer able to keep in his anger.
"I do not say so."
"You are mocking me," cried the count, growing very pale, "and have been doing so for a quarter of an hour."
"You are wrong, monsieur," said St. Luc, drawing out his watch, and looking steadily at him; "it has been twenty minutes."
"You insult me."
"And you insult me with your questions like a constable."
"Ah! now I see clearly."
"How wonderful, at ten o'clock in the morning. But what do you see?"
"I see that you act in concert with the traitor, the coward, whom I saw yesterday."
"I should think so; he is my friend."
"Then I will kill you in his place."
"Bah! in your own house, and without crying, gare. Ah! M. de Monsoreau, how badly you have been brought up, and how living among beasts spoils the manners."
"Do you not see that I am furious?" howled the count.
"Yes, indeed, I do see it, and it does not become you at all; you look frightful."
The count drew his sword.
"Ah!" said St. Luc, "you try to provoke me; you see I am perfectly calm."