"Yes, I do provoke you."
"Take the trouble to get over the wall; on the other side we shall be on neutral ground."
"What do I care!"
"I do; I do not want to kill you in your own house."
"Very well!" said Monsoreau, climbing over.
"Take care; pray do not hurt yourself, my dear count; those stones are loose," said St. Luc. Then he also got over.
HOW M. DE ST. LUC SHOWED M. DE MONSOREAU THE THRUST THAT THE KING HAD TAUGHT HIM.
"Are you ready?" cried Monsoreau.
"No; I have the sun in my eyes."
"Move then; I warn you I shall kill you."
"Shall you really? Well, man proposes, and God disposes. Look at that bed of poppies and dandelions."
"Well, I mean to lay you there." And he laughed as he drew his sword. Monsoreau began the combat furiously, but St. Luc parried his thrusts skilfully.
"Pardieu! M. de Monsoreau," said he, "you use your sword very well; you might kill any one but Bussy or me."
Monsoreau grew pale.
"As for me," continued St. Luc, "the king, who loves me, took the trouble to give me a great many lessons, and showed me, among other things, a thrust, which you shall see presently. I tell you, that you may have the pleasure of knowing you are killed by the king's method; it is very flattering." And then suddenly he rushed furiously on Monsoreau, who, half wild with rage as he was, parried five thrusts, but received the sixth full in his chest.
"Ah!" said St. Luc, "you will fall just where I told you," as Monsoreau sank down on the poppies. Then, wiping his sword, he stood quietly by, watching the changes which came over the face of the dying man.
"Ah, you have killed me!" cried Monsoreau.
"I intended to do so, but now I see you dying, devil take me if I am not sorry for what I have done. You are horribly jealous, it is true, but you were brave. Have you any last wish? If so, tell it to me; and, on the faith of a gentleman, it shall be executed. Are you thirsty? Shall I get you water?"
Monsoreau did not reply. He turned over with his face to the earth, biting the ground, and struggling in his blood. Then he tried to raise his head, but fell back with a groan.
"Come, he is dead; let me think no more about him. Ah! but that is not so easy, when you have killed a man." And jumping back over the wall, he went to the chateau. The first person he saw was Diana talking to his wife.
"How well she will look in black," thought he. Then, approaching them, "Pardon me," said he, "but may I say a few words to Jeanne?"
"Do so; I will go to my father,"
"What is it?" said Jeanne, when Diana was gone; "you look rather gloomy."
"What has happened?"
"Oh, mon Dieu! an accident."
"Not precisely to me, but to a person who was near me."
"Who was it?"
"The person I was walking with."
"M. de Monsoreau?"
"Alas! yes; poor dear man."
"What has happened to him?"
"I believe he is dead."
"Dead!" cried Jeanne, starting back in horror.
"He who was here just now talking——"
"Yes, that is just the cause of his death; he talked too much."
"St. Luc, you are hiding something from me!" cried Jeanne, seizing his hands.
"I! Nothing; not even the place where he lies."
"Where is it?"
"Down there behind the wall; just where Bussy used to tie his horse."
"It was you who killed him."
"Parbleu! that is not very difficult to discover."
"Unlucky that you are!"
"Ah, dear friend! he provoked me, insulted me, drew the sword first."
"It is dreadful! the poor man!"
"Good; I was sure of it; before a week is over he will be called St. Monsoreau."
"But you cannot stay here in the house of the man you have killed."
"So I thought at once, and that is why I came to ask you to get ready."
"He has not wounded you?"
"No, I am perfectly unhurt."
"Then, we will go."
"As quickly as possible, for you know the accident may be discovered at any moment."
"Then Diana is a widow."
"That is just what I thought of."
"After you killed him?"
"Well, I will go and tell her."
"Spare her feelings."
"Do not laugh. Meanwhile you get the horses saddled. But where shall we go?"
"But the king?"
"Oh! he will have forgotten everything by this time; besides, if there is to be war, as seems probable, he will be glad of me. But I must have pen and ink."
"To write to Bussy; I cannot leave Anjou without telling him why."
"No, of course not; you will find all that you require in my room." St. Luc went in, and wrote,—
"You will learn, by report, ere long, the accident which has happened to M. de Monsoreau; we had together, by the old copse, a discussion on broken-down walls and horses that go home alone. In the heat of the argument, he fell on a bed of poppies and dandelions so hard that he died there.
"Your friend for life, "St. Luc.
"P. S. As you may think this rather improbable, I must add that we had our swords in our hands. I set off at once for Paris to make peace with the king, Anjou not seeming to me very safe after what has occurred."
Ten minutes after a servant set off for Angers with this letter, while M. and Madame de St. Luc went out by another door, leaving Diana much grieved at their departure, and much embarrassed how to tell the baron what had occurred. She had turned away her eyes from St. Luc as he passed.
"That is the reward for serving your friends," said he to his wife; "decidedly all people are ungrateful excepting me."
IN WHICH WE SEE THE QUEEN-MOTHER ENTER THE TOWN OF ANGERS, BUT NOT TRIUMPHANTLY.
At the same time that M. de Monsoreau fell under the sword of St. Luc, a flourish of trumpets sounded at the closed gates of Angers. It was Catherine de Medicis, who arrived there with rather a large suite. They sent to tell Bussy, who rose from his bed, and went to the prince, who immediately got into his. Certainly the airs played by the trumpets were fine, but they had not the virtue of those which made the walls of Jericho fall, for the gates did not open. Catherine leaned out of her litter to show herself to the guards, hoping the sight of her would do more than the sound of the trumpets. They saw her, and saluted her courteously, but did not open the gates. Then she sent a gentleman to demand admittance, but they replied that Angers being in a state of war, the gates could not be opened without some necessary formalities. Catherine was furious. At last Bussy appeared, with five other gentlemen.
"Who is there?" cried he.
"It is her majesty the queen mother, who has come to visit Angers."
"Very well, go to the left, and about eighty steps off you will find the postern."
"A postern for her majesty!" cried the gentleman. But Bussy was no longer there to hear, he and his friends had ridden off towards the indicated spot.
"Did your majesty hear?" asked the gentleman.
"Oh! yes, monsieur, I heard; let us go there, if that be the only way to get in."
The cortege turned to the left, and the postern opened.
"Your majesty is welcome to Angers," said Bussy.
"Thank you, M. de Bussy," said the queen, descending from her litter, and advancing towards the little door. Bussy stopped her. "Take care, madame," said he, "the door is low, and you will hurt yourself."
"Must I then stoop?" replied she; "it is the first time I ever entered a city so."
Once through the gate she re-entered her litter to go to the palace, Bussy and his friends escorting her.
"Where is my son?" cried she; "why do I not see M. d'Anjou?"
"Monseigneur is ill, madame, or else your majesty cannot doubt that he would have come himself to do the honors of his city."
Catherine was sublime in hypocrisy.
"Ill—my poor child, ill!" cried she; "ah! let us hasten to him; is he well taken care of?"
"Yes, madame, we do our best."
"Does he suffer?"
"Horribly, he is subject to these sudden indispositions."
"It was sudden, then?"
"Mon Dieu! yes, madame."
When they arrived at the palace, Bussy ran up first to the duke.
"Here she is!" cried he.
"Is she furious?"
"Does she complain?"
"No, she does worse, she smiles."
"What do the people say?"
"They looked at her in mute terror; now, monseigneur, be careful."
"We stick to war?"
"Pardieu, ask one hundred to get ten, and with her you will only get five."
"Bah! you think me very weak. Are you all here? Where is Monsoreau?"
"I believe he is at Meridor."
"Her majesty the queen mother!" cried the usher at the door.
Catherine entered, looking pale. The duke made a movement to rise, but she threw herself into his arms and half stifled him with kisses. She did more—she wept.
"We must take care," said Antragues to Ribeirac, "each tear will be paid for by blood."
Catherine now sat down on the foot of the bed. At a sign from Bussy everyone went away but himself.
"Will you not go and look after my poor attendants, M. de Bussy? you who are at home here," said the queen.
It was impossible not to go, so he replied, "I am happy to please your majesty," and he also retired.
Catherine wished to discover whether her son were really ill or feigning. But he, worthy son of such a mother, played his part to perfection. She had wept, he had a fever. Catherine, deceived, thought him really ill, and hoped to have more influence over a mind weakened by suffering. She overwhelmed him with tenderness, embraced him, and wept so much that at last he asked her the reason.
"You have run so great a risk," replied she.
"In escaping from the Louvre, mother?"
"Those who aided you in this unlucky escape——"
"Were your most cruel enemies."
"She wishes to find out who it was," thought he.
"The King of Navarre," continued she, "the eternal scourge of our race——"
"Ah! she knows."
"He boasts of having gained much by it."
"That is impossible, for he had nothing to do with it; and if he had, I am quite safe, as you see. I have not seen the King of Navarre for two years."
"It was not only of danger I spoke!"
"Of what, then?" replied the duke, smiling, as he saw the tapestry shake behind the queen.
"The king's anger," said she, in a solemn voice; "the furious anger which menaces you——"
"This danger is something like the other, madame; he may be furious, but I am safe here."
"You believe so?"
"I am sure of it; your majesty has announced it to me yourself."
"Because if you had been charged only with menaces, you would not have come, and the king in that case would have hesitated to place such a hostage in my hands."
"A hostage! I!" cried she, terrified.
"A most sacred and venerable one," replied the duke, with a triumphant glance at the wall.
Catherine was baffled, but she did not know that Bussy was encouraging the duke by signs.
"My son," said she at length, "you are quite right; they are words of peace I bring to you."
"I listen, mother, and I think we shall now begin to understand each other."
LITTLE CAUSES AND GREAT EFFECTS.
Catherine had, as we have seen, had the worst of the argument. She was surprised, and began to wonder if her son were really as decided as he appeared to be, when a slight event changed the aspect of affairs. Bussy had been, as we said, encouraging the prince secretly at every word that he thought dangerous to his cause. Now his cause was war at any price, for he wished to stay in Anjou, watch M. de Monsoreau, and visit his wife. The duke feared Bussy, and was guided by him. Suddenly, however, Bussy felt himself pulled by his cloak; he turned and saw Remy, who drew him gently towards him.
"What is it, Remy?" said he impatiently. "Why disturb me at such a moment?"
"And for a letter you take me from this important conversation."
"It is from Meridor."
"Oh! thank you, my good Remy."
"Then I was not wrong?"
"Oh, no; where is it?"
"That is what made me think it of importance; the messenger would only give it to you yourself."
"Is he here?"
"Bring him in."
Remy opened the door, and a servant entered.
"Here is M. de Bussy," said Remy.
"Oh, I know him well," said the man, giving the letter.
"Did she give it to you?"
"No; M. de St. Luc."
As Bussy read, he grew first pale, then crimson. Remy dismissed the servant, and Bussy, with a bewildered look, held out the letter to him.
"See," said he, "what St. Luc has done for me."
"Well," said Remy, "this appears to me to be very good and St. Luc is a gallant fellow."
"It is incredible!" cried Bussy.
"Certainly; but that is nothing. Here is our position quite changed; I shall have a Comtesse de Bussy for a patient."
"Yes, she shall be my wife. So he is dead."
"So, you see, it is written."
"Oh, it seems like a dream, Remy. What! shall I see no more that specter, always coming between me and happiness? It cannot be true."
"It is true; read again, 'he died there.'"
"But Diana cannot stay at Meridor—I do not wish it; she must go where she will forget him."
"Paris will be best; people soon forget at Paris."
"You are right; we will return to the little house in the Rue des Tournelles, and she shall pass there her months of widowhood in obscurity."
"But to go to Paris you must have——"
"Peace in Anjou."
"True; oh, mon Dieu! what time lost."
"That means that you are going at once to Meridor."
"No, not I, but you; I must stay here; besides, she might not like my presence just now."
"How shall I see her? Shall I go to the castle?"
"No; go first to the old copse and see if she is there; if she is not then go to the castle."
"What shall I say to her?"
"Say that I am half mad." And pressing the young man's hand, he returned to his place behind the tapes try.
Catherine had been trying to regain her ground.
"My son," she had said, "it seemed to me that a mother and son could not fail to understand each other."
"Yet you see that happens sometimes."
"Never when she wishes it."
"When they wish it, you mean," said the duke, seeking a sign of approbation from Bussy for his boldness.
"But I wish it, my son, and am willing to make any sacrifices to attain peace."
"Yes, my dear child. What do you ask?—what do you demand? Speak."
"Oh, my mother!" said Francois, almost embarrassed at his own easy victory.
"Listen, my son. You do not wish to drown the kingdom in blood—it is not possible; you are neither a bad Frenchman nor a bad brother."
"My brother insulted me, madame, and I owe him nothing, either as my brother or king."
"But I, Francois—you cannot complain of me?"
"Yes, madame, you abandoned me."
"Ah! you wish to kill me. Well, a mother does not care to live to see her children murder each other!" cried Catherine, who wished very much to live.
"Oh, do not say that, madame, you tear my heart!" cried Francois, whose heart was not torn at all.
Catherine burst into tears. The duke took her hands, and tried to reassure her, not without uneasy glances towards the tapestry.
"But what do you want or ask for, mother? I will listen," said he.
"I wish you to return to Paris, dear child, to return to your brother's court, who will receive you with open arms."
"No, madame, it is not he whose arms are open to receive me—it is the Bastile."
"No; return, and on my honor, on my love as a mother, I solemnly swear that you shall be received by the king as though you were king and he the Duc d'Anjou."
The duke looked to the tapestry.
"Accept, my son; you will have honors, guards."
"Oh, madame, your son gave me guards—his four minions!"
"Do not reply so; you shall choose your own guards, and M. de. Bussy shall be their captain, if you like."
Again the duke glanced to the wall, and, to his surprise, saw Bussy smiling and applauding by every possible method.
"What is the meaning of this change?" thought the duke; "is it that he may be captain of my guards? Then must I accept?" said he aloud, as though talking to himself.
"Yes, yes!" signed Bussy, with head and hands.
"Quit Anjou, and return to Paris?"
"Yes!" signed Bussy, more decidedly than ever.
"Doubtless, dear child," said Catherine, "it is not disagreeable to return to Paris."
"Well, I will reflect," said the duke, who wished to consult with Bussy.
"I have won," thought Catherine.
They embraced once more, and separated.
HOW M. DE MONSOREAU OPENED AND SHUT HIS EYES, WHICH PROVED THAT HE WAS NOT DEAD.
Remy rode along, wondering in what humor he should find Diana, and what he should say to her. He had just arrived at the park wall, when his horse, which had been trotting, stopped so suddenly that, had he not been a good rider, he would have been thrown over his head. Remy, astonished, looked to see the cause, and saw before him a pool of blood, and a little further on, a body, lying against the wall. "It is Monsoreau!" cried he; "how strange! he lies dead there, and the blood is down here. Ah! there is the track; he must have crawled there, or rather that good M. de St. Luc leaned him up against the wall that the blood might not fly to his head. He died with his eyes open, too."
All at once Remy started back in horror; the two eyes, that he had seen open, shut again, and a paleness more livid than ever spread itself over the face of the defunct. Remy became almost as pale as M. de Monsoreau, but, as he was a doctor, he quickly recovered his presence of mind, and said to himself that if Monsoreau moved his eyes, it showed he was not dead. "And yet I have read," thought he, "of strange movements after death. This devil of a fellow frightens one even after death. Yes, his eyes are quite closed; there is one method of ascertaining whether he is dead or not, and that is to shove my sword into him, and if he does not move, he is certainly dead." And Remy was preparing for this charitable action, when suddenly the eyes opened again. Remy started back, and the perspiration rolled off his forehead as he murmured, "He is not dead; we are in a nice position. Yes, but if I kill him he will be dead." And he looked at Monsoreau, who seemed also to be looking at him earnestly.
"Oh!" cried Remy, "I cannot do it. God knows that if he were upright before me I would kill him with all my heart; but as he is now, helpless and three parts dead, it would be an infamy."
"Help!" murmured Monsoreau, "I am dying."
"Mordieu!" thought Remy, "my position is embarrassing. I am a doctor, and, as such, bound to succor my fellow-creatures when they suffer. It is true that Monsoreau is so ugly that he can scarcely be called a fellow-creature, still he is a man. Come, I must forget that I am the friend of M. de Bussy, and do my duty as a doctor."
"Help!" repeated the wounded man.
"Here I am," said Remy.
"Fetch me a priest and a doctor."
"The doctor is here, and perhaps he will dispense with the priest."
"Remy," said Monsoreau, "by what chance—"
Remy understood all the question might mean. This was no beaten road, and no one was likely to come without particular business.
"Pardieu!" he replied, "a mile or two off I met M. de St. Luc——"
"Ah! my murderer."
"And he said, 'Remy, go to the old copse, there you will find a man dead.'"
"Yes, he thought so; well, I came here and saw you."
"And now, tell me frankly, am I mortally wounded?"
"I will try to find out."
Remy approached him carefully, took off his cloak, his doublet and shirt. The sword had penetrated between the sixth and seventh ribs.
"Do you suffer much?"
"In my back, not in my chest."
"Ah, let me see; where?"
"Below the shoulder bone."
"The steel must have come against a bone." And he began to examine. "No, I am wrong," said he, "the sword came against nothing, but passed right through." Monsoreau fainted after this examination.
"Ah! that is all right," said Remy, "syncope, low pulse, cold in the hands and legs: Diable! the widowhood of Madame de Monsoreau will not last long, I fear."
At this moment a slight bloody foam rose to the lips of the wounded man.
Remy drew from his pocket his lancet case; then tearing off a strip from the patient's shirt, bound it round his arm.
"We shall see," said he, "if the blood flows. Ah, it does! and I believe that Madame de Monsoreau will not be a widow. Pardon, my dear M. de Bussy, but I am a doctor."
Presently the patient breathed, and opened his eyes.
"Oh!" stammered he, "I thought all was over."
"Not yet, my dear monsieur; it is even possible——"
"That I live!"
"Oh, mon Dieu! yes; but let me close the wound. Stop; do not move; nature at this moment is aiding my work. I make the blood flow, and she stops it. Ah! nature is a great doctor, my dear sir. Let me wipe your lips. See the bleeding has stopped already. Good; all goes well, or rather badly."
"No, not for you; but I know what I mean."
"You think I shall get well?"
"You are a singular doctor, M. Remy."
"Never mind, as long as I cure you," said he, rising.
"Do not abandon me," said the count.
"Ah! you talk too much. Diable! I ought to tell him to cry out."
"What do you mean?"
"Never mind; your wound is dressed. Now I will go to the castle and fetch assistance."
"And what must I do meanwhile?"
"Keep quite still; do not stir; breathe lightly, and try not to cough. Which is the nearest house?"
"The chateau de Meridor."
"Which is the way to it?" said Remy, affecting ignorance.
"Get over the wall, and you will find yourself in the park."
"Very well; I go."
"Thanks, generous man."
"Generous, indeed, if you only knew all."
He soon arrived at the chateau, where all the inhabitants were busy looking for the body of the count; for St. Luc had given them a wrong direction. Remy came among them like a thunderbolt, and was so eager to bring them to the rescue, that Diana looked at him with surprise, "I thought he was Bussy's friend," murmured she, as Remy disappeared, carrying with him a wheelbarrow, lint and water.
HOW M. LE DUC D'ANJOU WENT TO MERIDOR TO CONGRATULATE MADAME DE MONSOREAU ON THE DEATH OF HER HUSBAND, AND FOUND HIM THERE BEFORE HIM.
As soon as the duke left his mother, he hastened to Bussy to know the meaning of all his signs. Bussy, who was reading St. Luc's letter for the fifth time, received the prince with a gracious smile.
"How! monseigneur takes the trouble to come to my house to seek me."
"Yes mordieu, I want an explanation."
"Yes, from you."
"I listen, monseigneur."
"You tell me to steel myself against the suggestions of my mother, and to sustain the attack valiantly. I do so; and in the hottest of the fight you tell me to surrender."
"I gave you all those charges, monseigneur, because I was ignorant of the object for which your mother came; but now that I see that she has come to promote your highness's honor and glory——"
"How! what do you mean?"
"Doubtless: what does your highness want? To triumph over your enemies, do you not? For I do not believe, as some people say, that you wish to become King of France."
The duke looked sullen.
"Some might counsel you to it, but believe me they are your most cruel enemies. Consider for yourself, monseigneur; have you one hundred thousand men—ten millions of livres—alliance with foreigners—and, above all, would you turn against your king?"
"My king did not hesitate to turn against me."
"Ah! there you are right. Well! declare yourself—get crowned—take the title of King of France—and if you succeed, I ask no better; I should grow great with you."
"Who speaks of being king?" cried the duke, angrily; "you discuss a question which I have never proposed, even to myself."
"Well, then, that is settled. Let them give you a guard and five hundred thousand livres. Obtain, before peace is signed, a subsidy from Anjou, to carry on the war. Once you have it, you can keep it. So, we should have arms and money, and we could do——God knows what."
"But once they have me at Paris, they will laugh at me."
"Oh! impossible, monseigneur; did you not hear what the queen mother offered you?"
"She offered me many things."
"That disquiets you?"
"But, among other things, she offered you a company of guards, even if I commanded it."
"Yes, she offered that."
"Well, accept; I will be captain; Antragues and Livarot lieutenants; and Ribeirac ensign. Let us get up your company for you, and see if they dare to laugh at you then."
"Ma foi! I believe you are right, Bussy; I will think of it."
"Do so, monseigneur."
"What were you reading so attentively when I came in?"
"Oh! a letter, which interests you still more than me. Where the devil were my brains, that I did not show it to you?"
"What is it?"
"Sad news, monseigneur; Monsoreau is dead."
"What!" cried the duke, with a surprise which Bussy thought was a joyful one.
"M. de Monsoreau!"
"Mon Dieu! yes; are we not all mortal?"
"Yes; but so suddenly."
"Ah! but if you are killed?"
"Then, he was killed?"
"So it seems; and by St. Luc, with whom he quarreled."
"Oh, that dear St. Luc!"
"I did not think he was one of your highness's friends."
"Oh, he is my brother's, and, since we are to be reconciled, his friends are mine. But are you sure?"
"As sure as I can be. Here is a letter from St. Luc, announcing it; and I have sent Remy, my doctor, to present my condolences to the old baron."
"Oh, Monsoreau!" cried the prince, with his malignant smile.
"Why monseigneur, one would say you hated the poor count."
"No, it was you."
"Of course I did; did he not humiliate me through you?"
"You remember it still."
"But you, monseigneur, whose friend and tool he was——"
"Well, well, get my horse saddled, Bussy."
"To go to Meridor; I wish to pay a visit to Madame Monsoreau. I have been projecting one for some time, and I do not know why it has not taken place sooner."
"Now Monsoreau is dead," thought Bussy, "I do not care; I will protect Diana. I will go with him, and see her."
A quarter of an hour after, the prince, Bussy, and ten gentlemen rode to Meridor, with that pleasure which fine weather, turf, and youth always inspire in men on horseback.
The porter at the chateau came to ask the names of the visitors.
"The Duc d'Anjou," replied the prince.
The porter blew his horn, and soon windows were opened, and they heard the noise of bolts and bars as the door was unfastened, and the old baron appeared on the threshold, holding in his hand a bunch of keys. Immediately behind him stood a lady.
"Ah, there is the beautiful Diana!" cried the duke; "do you see her, Bussy?"
Diana, indeed, came out of the house, and behind her came a litter, on which lay Monsoreau, his eyes shining with fever and jealousy as he was carried along.
"What does this mean?" cried the duke to his companion, who had turned whiter than the handkerchief with which he was trying to hide his emotion.
"Long live the Duc d'Anjou!" cried Monsoreau, raising his hand in the air by a violent effort.
"Take care, you will hurt yourself," said a voice behind him. It was Remy.
Surprise does not last long at court, so, with a smile, the duke said, "Oh, my dear count, what a happy surprise! Do you know we heard you were dead?"
"Come near, monseigneur, and let me kiss your hand. Thank God, not only I am not dead, but I shall live; I hope to serve you with more ardor than ever."
As for Bussy, he felt stunned, and scarcely dared to look at Diana. This treasure, twice lost to him, belonged still to his rival.
"And you, M. de Bussy," said Monsoreau, "receive my thanks, for it is almost to you that I owe my life."
"To me!" stammered the young man, who thought the count was mocking him.
"Yes, indirectly, it is true, for here is my saviour," said he, turning to Remy, who would willingly have sunk into the earth. Then, in spite of his signs, which he took for precautions to himself, he recounted the care and skill which the young doctor had exhibited towards him.
The duke frowned, and Bussy looked thunders. The poor fellow raised his hands to heaven.
"I hear," continued the count, "that Remy one day found you dying, as he found me. It is a tie of friendship between us, M. de Bussy, and when Monsoreau loves, he loves well; it is true that when he hates, it is also with all his heart."
"Come, then," said the duke, getting off his horse, "deign, beautiful Diana, to do us the honors of the house, which we thought to find in grief, but which we find still the abode of joy. As for you, Monsoreau, rest—you require it."
"Monseigneur!" said the count, "it shall never be said that Monsoreau, while he lived, allowed another to do the honors of his house to you; my servants will carry me, and wherever you go, I shall follow."
Bussy approached Diana, and Monsoreau smiled; he took her hand, and he smiled again. It was only the duke he feared.
"Here is a great change, M. le Comte," said Diana.
"Alas! why is it not greater!"
THE INCONVENIENCE OF LARGE LITTERS AND NARROW DOORS.
Bussy did not quit Diana; the smiles of Monsoreau gave him a liberty which he was only too glad to make use of.
"Madame," said he to Diana, "I am in truth the most miserable of men. On the news of his death, I advised the prince to return to Paris, and to come to terms with his mother; he did so, and now you remain in Anjou."
"Oh, Louis," replied she, "we dare not say that we are unhappy; so many happy days, so many joys—do you forget them all?"
"I forget nothing, madame; on the contrary, I remember but too much, and that is why I suffer as I do at losing this happiness. What shall I do if I return to Paris, a hundred leagues from you? My heart sinks at the thought, Diana."
Diana looked at him, and saw so much grief in his eyes, that she said, "Well, if you go to Paris, I will go also."
"How! will you quit M. de Monsoreau?"
"No, he would not allow me to do so; he must come with us."
"Wounded, ill as he is? Impossible!"
"He will come, I tell you." And, leaving Bussy, she went to the prince. The count frowned dreadfully.
"Monseigneur," said she, "they say your highness is fond of flowers; if you will come with me, I will show you the most beautiful in Anjou."
The duke offered her his hand.
"Where are you about to take monseigneur?" asked Monsoreau uneasily.
"Into the greenhouse."
"Ah! well, carry me there."
"Ma foi!" thought Remy, "I was right not to kill him, for he will soon kill himself."
Diana smiled on Bussy, and said to him, in a low voice, "Do not let M. de Monsoreau suspect that you are about to leave Anjou, and I will manage all."
"Good!" said Bussy, and approaching the prince, he whispered, "Do not let Monsoreau know that we intend to make peace."
"Because he might tell the queen-mother, to make a friend of her."
"You suspect him, then?"
"Yes, I do."
"Well, so do I; I believe he only counterfeited death to deceive us."
"No, he really received a sword-thrust through his body, and but for that fool of a Remy, he would have died; I believe his soul must be glued to his body."
They arrived at the conservatory, and Diana continued to smile charmingly on the prince. He passed first, then Diana, and Monsoreau wished to follow, but it was impossible. His litter was too large to go through the door. At this sight he uttered a groan. Diana went on quietly, without looking at him, but Bussy, who understood her, said to him:
"It is useless to try, M. le Comte, your litter will not pass."
"Monseigneur!" cried Monsoreau, "do not go into that conservatory, some of the flowers exhale dangerous perfumes."
Then he fainted, and was carried to his room.
Bussy went to tell Diana what had happened, and she left the duke to go to the castle.
"Have we succeeded?" said Bussy to her as she passed.
"I hope so; do not go away without having seen Gertrude."
When Monsoreau opened his eyes again, he saw Diana standing at his bedside.
"Ah! it is you, madame," said he, "to-night we leave for Paris."
Remy cried out in horror, but Monsoreau paid no attention.
"Can you think of such a thing, with your wound?" said Diana, quietly.
"Madame, I would rather die than suffer, and were I to die on the road, we start to-night."
"As you please, monsieur."
"Then make your preparations."
"My preparations are soon made, but may I ask the reason of this sudden determination?"
"I will tell you, madame, when you have no more flowers to show to the prince, and when my doors are large enough to admit litters."
"But, madame——" said Remy.
"M. le Comte wishes it," replied she, "and my duty is to obey." And she left the room.
As the duke was making his adieux to the Baron de Meridor, Gertrude appeared, and said aloud to the duke that her mistress regretted that she could not have the honor of saying farewell to his highness; and softly to Bussy that Diana would set off for Paris that evening. As they went home again, the duke felt unwilling to leave Anjou now that Diana smiled on him. Therefore he said, "I have been reflecting, Bussy," said he.
"On what, monseigneur?"
"That it is not wise to give in at once to my mother."
"You are right, she thinks herself clever enough without that."
"But by dragging it on for a week, and giving fetes, and calling the liability around us, she will see how strong we are."
"Well reasoned, but still——"
"I will stay here a week; depend upon it I shall draw new concessions from the queen."
Bussy appeared to reflect. "Well, monseigneur," said he, "perhaps you are right, but the king, not knowing your intentions, may become annoyed; he is very irascible."
"You are right, but I shall send some one to the king to announce my return in a week."
"Yes, but that some one will run great risks."
"If I change my mind, you mean."
"Yes, and in spite of your promise, you would do so if you thought it your interest."
"Then they will send your messenger to the Bastile."
"I will give him a letter, and not let him know what he is carrying."
"On the contrary, give him no letter, and let him know."
"Then no one will go."
"Oh! I know some one."
"Yes, I like difficult negotiations."
"Bussy, my dear Bussy, if you will do that, I shall be eternally grateful."
Bussy smiled. The duke thought he hesitated.
"And I will give you ten thousand crowns for your journey," added he.
"Thanks, monseigneur, but these things cannot be paid for."
"Then you will go?"
"Whenever you like."
"The sooner the better."
"This evening if you wish it."
"You know I would do anything for your highness. I will go to-night; you stay here and enjoy yourself, and get me something good from the queen-mother."
"I will not forget."
Bussy then prepared to depart as soon as the signal arrived from Meridor. It did not come till the next morning, for the count had felt himself so feeble that he had been forced to take a night's rest. But early in the morning a messenger came to announce to Bussy that the count had set off for Paris in a litter, followed on horseback by Remy, Diana, and Gertrude. Bussy jumped on his horse, and took the same road.
WHAT TEMPER THE KING WAS IN WHEN ST. LUC REAPPEARED AT THE LOUVRE.
Since the departure of Catherine, Henri, however, confident in his ambassador, had thought only of arming himself against the attacks of his brother. He amused, or rather ennuyed, himself by drawing up long lists of proscriptions, in which were inscribed in alphabetical order all who had not shown themselves zealous for his cause. The lists became longer every day, and at the S—— and the L——, that is to say, twice over, was inscribed the name of M. de St. Luc. Chicot, in the midst of all this, was, little by little, and man by man, enrolling an army for his master. One evening Chicot entered the room where the king sat at supper.
"What is it?" asked the king.
"M. de St. Luc."
"M. de St. Luc?"
"At the Louvre?"
The king rose, red and agitated.
"What has he come for? The traitor!"
"He comes, I am sure, as deputy from the states of Anjou—as an envoy from my rebellious brother. He makes use of the rebellion as a safe conduct to come here and insult me."
"Or perhaps he comes to ask me for his property, of which I have kept back the revenues, which may have been rather an abuse of power, as, after all, he has committed no crime."
"Ah, you repeat eternally the same thing; mort de ma vie! you tire my patience out with your eternal 'Who knows?'"
"Eh! mordieu! do you think you are very amusing with your eternal questions?"
"At least you might reply something."
"And what should I reply? Do you take me for an ancient oracle? It is you who are tiresome with your foolish suppositions."
"Chicot, my friend, you see my grief and you laugh at me."
"Do not have any grief."
"But everyone betrays me."
"Who knows? Ventre de biche! who knows?"
Henri went down to his cabinet, where, at the news of his return, a number of gentlemen had assembled, who were looking at St. Luc with evident distrust and animosity. He, however, seemed quite unmoved by this. He had brought his wife with him also, and she was seated, wrapped in her traveling-cloak, when the king entered in an excited state.
"Ah, monsieur, you here!" he cried.
"Yes, sire," replied St. Luc.
"Really, your presence at the Louvre surprises me."
"Sire, I am only surprised that, under the circumstances, your majesty did not expect me."
"What do you mean, monsieur?"
"Sire, your majesty is in danger."
"Danger!" cried the courtiers.
"Yes, gentlemen, a real, serious danger, in which the king has need of the smallest as well as the greatest of those devoted to him; therefore I come to lay at his feet my humble services."
"Ah!" said Chicot, "you see, my son, that I was right to say, 'who knows.'"
Henri did not reply at once; he would not yield immediately. After a pause, he said, "Monsieur, you have only done your duty; your services are due to us."
"The services of all the king's subjects are due to him, I know, sire; but in these times many people forget to pay their debts. I, sire, come to pay mine, happy that your majesty will receive me among the number of your creditors."
"Then," said Henri, in a softer tone, "you return without any other motive than that which you state; without any mission, or safe-conduct?"
"Sire, I return simply and purely for that reason. Now, your majesty may throw me into the Bastile, or have me shot, but I shall have done my duty. Sire, Anjou is on fire; Touraine is about to revolt; Guienne is rising. M. le Duc d'Anjou is hard at work."
"He is well supported, is he not?"
"Sire, M. de Bussy, firm as he is, cannot make your brother brave."
"Ah! he trembles, then, the rebel."
"Let me go and shake St. Luc's hand," said Chicot, advancing.
The king followed him, and going up to his old favorite, and laying his hand on his shoulder, said,—
"You are welcome, St. Luc!"
"Ah! sire," cried St. Luc, kissing the king's hand, "I find again my beloved master."
"Yes, but you, my poor St. Luc, you have grown thin."
"It is with grief at having displeased your majesty," said a feminine voice. Now, although the voice was soft and respectful, Henri frowned, for it was as distasteful to him as the noise of thunder was to Augustus.
"Madame de St. Luc!" said he. "Ah! I forgot."
Jeanne threw herself at his feet.
"Rise, madame," said he, "I love all that bear the name of St. Luc." Jeanne took his hand and kissed it, but he withdrew it quickly.
"You must convert the king," said Chicot to the young woman, "you are pretty enough for it."
But Henri turned his back to her, and passing his arm round St. Luc's neck, said,—
"Then we have made peace, St. Luc?"
"Say rather, sire, that the pardon is granted."
"Madame!" said Chicot, "a good wife should not leave her husband," and he pushed her after the king and St. Luc.
IN WHICH WE MEET TWO IMPORTANT PERSONAGES WHOM WE HAVE LOST SIGHT OF FOR SOME TIME.
There are two of the personages mentioned in this story, about whom the reader has the right to ask for information. We mean an enormous monk, with thick eyebrows and large lips, whose neck was diminishing every day; and a large donkey whose sides were gradually swelling out like a balloon. The monk resembled a hogshead; and the ass was like a child's cradle, supported by four posts.
The one inhabited a cell at St. Genevieve, and the other the stable at the same convent. The one was called Gorenflot, and the other Panurge. Both were enjoying the most prosperous lot that ever fell to a monk and an ass.
The monks surrounded their illustrious brother with cares and attentions, and Pan urge fared well for his master's sake.
If a missionary arrived from foreign countries, or a secret legate from the Pope, they pointed out to him Brother Gorenflot, that double model of the church preaching and militant; they showed Gorenflot in all his glory, that is to say, in the midst of a feast, seated at a table in which a hollow had been cut on purpose for his sacred stomach, and they related with a noble pride that Gorenflot consumed the rations of eight ordinary monks. And when the newcomer had piously contemplated this spectacle, the prior would say, "See how he eats! And if you had but heard his sermon one famous night, in which he offered to devote himself for the triumph of the faith. It is a mouth which speaks like that of St. Chrysostom, and swallows like that of Gargantua."
Every time that any one spoke of the sermon, Gorenflot sighed and said:
"What a pity I did not write it!
"A man like you has no need to write," the prior would reply. "No, you speak from inspiration; you open your mouth, and the words of God flow from your lips."
"Do you think so?" sighed Gorenflot.
However, Gorenflot was not perfectly happy. He, who at first thought his banishment from the convent an immense misfortune, discovered in his exile infinite joys before unknown to him. He sighed for liberty; liberty with Chicot, the joyous companion, with Chicot, whom he loved without knowing why. Since his return to the convent, he had never been allowed to go out. He never attempted to combat this decision, but he grew sadder from day to day. The prior saw this, and at last said to him:
"My dear brother, no one can fight against his vocation; yours is to fight for the faith; go then, fulfil your mission, only watch well over your precious life, and return for the great day."
"What great day?"
"That of the Fete Dieu."
"Ita," replied Gorenflot; it was the only Latin word he knew, and used it on all occasions. "But give me some money to bestow in alms in a Christian manner."
"You have your text, have you not, dear brother?"
"Confide it to me."
"Willingly, but to you alone; it is this: 'The flail which threshes the corn.'"
"Oh, magnificent! sublime!" cried the prior.
"Now, my father, am I free?"
"Yes, my son, go and walk in the way of the Lord."
Gorenflot saddled Panurge, mounted him with the aid of two vigorous monks, and left the convent about seven in the evening. It was the same day on which St. Luc arrived at Paris from Meridor.
Gorenflot, having passed through the Rue St. Etienne, was going to have turned to the right, when suddenly Panurge stopped; a strong hand was laid on his croup.
"Who is there?" cried Gorenflot, in terror.
Gorenflot tried to turn, but he could not.
"What do you want?" said he.
"Will my venerable brother show me the way to the Corne d'Abondance?"
"Morbleu! it is M. Chicot," cried Gorenflot, joyfully.
"Just so; I was going to seek you at the convent, when I saw you come out, and followed you until we were alone. Ventre de biche! how thin you are!"
"But what are you carrying, M. Chicot?" said the monk, "you appear laden."
"It is some venison which I have stolen from the king."
"Dear M. Chicot! and under the other arm?"
"A bottle of Cyprus wine sent by a king to my king."
"Let me see!"
"It is my wine, and I love it much; do not you, brother?"
"Oh! oh!" cried Gorenflot, raising his eyes and hands to Heaven, and beginning to sing in a voice which shook the neighboring windows. It was the first time he had sung for a month.
DIANA'S SECOND JOURNEY TO PARIS.
Let us leave the two friends entering the Corne d'Abondance, and return to the litter of M. Monsoreau and to Bussy, who set out with the intention of following them. Not only is it not difficult for a cavalier well mounted to overtake foot travelers, but it is difficult not to pass them. This happened to Bussy.
It was the end of May, the heat was great, and about noon M. de Monsoreau wished to make a halt in a little wood, which was near the road, and as they had a horse laden with provisions, they remained there until the great heat of the day had gone by. During this time Bussy passed them, but he had not traveled, as we may imagine, without inquiring if a party on horseback, and a litter carried by peasants, had been seen. Until he had passed the village of Durtal, he had obtained the most satisfactory information, and, convinced that they were before him, had ridden on quickly. But he could see nothing of them, and suddenly all traces of them vanished, and on arriving at La Fleche he felt certain he must have passed them on the road. Then he remembered the little wood, and doubted not that they had been resting there when he passed. He installed himself at a little inn, which had the advantage of being opposite the principal hotel, where he doubted not that Monsoreau would stop; and he remained at the window watching. About four o'clock he saw a courier arrive, and half an hour afterwards the whole party. He waited till nine o'clock, and then he saw the courier set out again, and after him the litter, then Diana, Remy, and Gertrude on horseback. He mounted his horse and followed them, keeping them in sight. Monsoreau scarcely allowed Diana to move from his side, but kept calling her every instant. After a little while, Bussy gave a long, shrill whistle, with which he had been in the habit of calling his servants at his hotel. Remy recognized it in a moment. Diana started, and looked at the young man, who made an affirmative sign; then he came up to her and whispered:
"It is he!"
"Who is speaking to you, madame?" said Monsoreau.
"To me, monsieur?"
"Yes, I saw a shadow pass close to you, and heard a voice."
"It is M. Remy; are you also jealous of him?"
"No, but I like people to speak out, it amuses me."
"There are some things which cannot be said aloud before M. le Comte, however," said Gertrude, coming to the rescue.
"For two reasons; firstly, because some would not interest you, and some would interest you too much."
"And of which kind is what M. Remy has just whispered?"
"Of the latter."
"What did Remy say to you, madame?"
"I said, M. le Comte, that if you excite yourself so much, you will be dead before we have gone a third of the way."
Monsoreau grew deadly pale.
"He is expecting you behind," whispered Remy, again, "ride slowly, and he will overtake you."
Monsoreau, who heard a murmur, tried to rise and look back after Diana.
"Another movement like that, M. le Comte, and you will bring on the bleeding again," said Remy.
Diana turned and rode back a little way, while Remy walked by the litter to occupy the count. A few seconds after, Bussy was by her side.
"You see I follow you," said he, after their first embrace.
"Oh! I shall be happy, if I know you are always so near to me."
"But by day he will see us."
"No; by day you can ride afar off; it is only I who will see you, Louis. From the summit of some hill, at the turn of some road, your plume waving, your handkerchief fluttering in the breeze, would speak to me in your name, and tell me that you love me."
"Speak on, my beloved Diana; you do not know what music I find in your voice."
"And when we travel by night, which we shall often do, for Remy has told him that the freshness of the evening is good for his wounds, then, as this evening, from time to time, I will stay behind, and we will tell each other, with a rapid pressure of the hands, all our thoughts of each other during the day."
"Oh! I love you! I love you!" murmured Bussy. "Oh! to see you, to press your hand, Diana."
Suddenly they heard a voice which made them both tremble, Diana with fear, and Bussy with anger.
"Diana!" it cried, "where are you? Answer me."
"Oh! it is he! I had forgotten him," said Diana. "Sweet dream, frightful awaking."
"Listen, Diana; we are together. Say one word, and nothing can separate us more; Diana, let us fly! What prevents us? Before us is happiness and liberty. One word, and we go; one word, and lost to him, you belong to me forever."
"And my father?"
"When he shall know how I love you?"
"Oh! a father!"
"I will do nothing by violence, dear Diana; order, and I obey."
"It is our destiny, Bussy; but be strong, and you shall see if I know how to love."
"Must we then separate?"
"Comtesse!" cried the voice, "reply, or, if I kill myself in doing it, I will jump from this infernal litter."
"Adieu, Bussy, he will do as he says."
"You pity him?"
"Jealous!" said Diana, with an adorable smile.
Bussy let her go.
In a minute she was by the litter, and found the count half fainting.
"Ah!" cried he, "where were you, madame?"
"Where should I have been? Behind you."
"At my side, madame; do not leave me again."
From time to time this scene was renewed. They all hoped he would die with rage; but he did not die: on the contrary, at the end of ten days, when they arrived at Paris, he was decidedly better. During these ten days Diana had conquered all Bussy's pride, and had persuaded him to come and visit Monsoreau, who always showed him much friendship. Remy watched the husband and gave notes to the wife.
"Esculapius and Mercury," said he; "my functions accumulate."
HOW THE AMBASSADOR OF THE DUC D'ANJOU ARRIVED AT THE LOUVRE, AND THE RECEPTION HE MET WITH.
As neither Catherine nor the Duc d'Anjou reappeared at the Louvre, the dissension between the brothers became apparently every day more and more certain. The king thought, "No news, bad news." The minions added, "Francois, badly counseled, has detained the queen-mother."
Badly counseled. In these words were comprised all the policy of this singular reign, and the three preceding ones. Badly counseled was Charles IX. when he authorized the massacre of St. Bartholomew. Badly counseled was Francois II. when he ordered the massacre at Amboise. Badly counseled had been Henri II. when he burned so many heretics and conspirators. And now they dared not say, "Your brother has the family blood in his veins; he wishes, like the rest, to dethrone or poison; he would do to you what you did to your elder brother; what your elder brother did to his, what your mother has taught you to do to one another." Therefore they said, "Your brother is badly counseled."
Now, as only one person was able to counsel Francois, it was against Bussy that the cry was raised, which became every day more and more furious. At last the news was spread that the duke had sent an ambassador. At this the king grew pale with anger, and the minions swore that he should be cut to pieces, and a piece sent to all the provinces of France as a specimen of the king's anger. Chicot said nothing, but he reflected. Now the king thought much of Chicot's reflections, and he questioned him about them.
"Sire," replied he, "if your brother sends an ambassador, it is because he feels himself strong enough to do so; he who is prudence itself. Now, if he is strong, we must temporize with him. Let us respect his ambassador, and receive him with civility. That engages you to nothing. Do you remember how your brother embraced Admiral Coligny, who came as ambassador from the Huguenots?"
"Then you approve of the policy of my brother Charles?"
"Not so, but I cite a fact; and I say to you, do not hurt a poor devil of a herald, or ambassador; perhaps we may find the way to seize the master, the mover, the chief, the great Duc d'Anjou, with the three Guises; and if you can shut them up in a place safer than the Louvre, do it."
"That is not so bad."
"Then why do you let all your friends bellow so?"
"Yes; I would say, roar, if they could be taken for lions, but they are more like bearded apes."
"Chicot, they are my friends."
"Friends! I would lay any bet to make them all turn against you before to-morrow."
"Well, what do you advise?"
"To wait, my son. Half the wisdom of Solomon lies in that word. If an ambassador arrive, receive him courteously. And as to your brother, kill him if you can and like, but do not degrade him. He is a great knave, but he is a Valois; besides, he can do that well enough for himself."
"It is true, Chicot."
"One more lesson that you owe me. Now let me sleep, Henri; for the last week I have been engaged in fuddling a monk."
"A monk! the one of whom you have already spoken to me?"
"Just so. You promised him an abbey."
"Pardieu! it is the least you can do for him, after all be has done for you."
"He is then still devoted to me?"
"He adores you. Apropos, my son——"
"In three weeks it will be the Fete Dieu."
"Are we to have some pretty little procession?"
"I am the most Christian king, and it is my duty to set an example to my subjects."
"And you will, as usual, stop at the four great convents of Paris?"
"At St. Genevieve?"
"Yes, that is the second I stop at."
"Why do you ask?"
"Oh, nothing—I was curious. Now I know all I want, so good night, Henri!"
But just as Chicot prepared to leave, a great noise was heard.
"What is that noise?" said the king.
"It is ordained that I am not to sleep. Henri, you must get me a room in the town, or I must leave your service; the Louvre becomes insupportable."
At this moment the captain of the guards entered, saying, "Sire, it is an envoy from M. le Duc d'Anjou."
"With a suite?"
"No, sire, alone."
"Then you must receive him doubly well, Henri, for he is a brave fellow."
"Well," said the king, very pale, but trying to look calm, "let all my court assemble in the great hall."
WHICH IS ONLY THE END OF THE PRECEDING ONE.
Henri sat on his throne in the great hall, and around him was grouped an eager crowd. He looked pale and frowning.
"Sire," said Quelus to the king, "do you know the name of the ambassador?"
"No; but what does it matter?"
"Sire, it is M. de Bussy; the insult is doubled."
"I see no insult," said the king, with affected sang-froid.
"Let him enter," continued he. Bussy, with his hat in his hand, and his head erect, advanced straight to the king, and waited, with his usual look of pride, to be interrogated.
"You here, M. de Bussy!" said the king; "I thought you were in Anjou."
"Sire, I was, but you see I have quitted it."
"And what brings you here?"
"The desire of presenting my humble respects to your majesty."
The king and courtiers looked astonished; they expected a different answer.
"And nothing else?" said the king.
"I will add, sire, the orders I received from the Duc d'Anjou to join his respects to mine."
"And the duke said nothing else?"
"Only that he was on the point of returning with the queen-mother, and wished me to apprise your majesty of the return of one of your most faithful subjects."
The king was choked with surprise.
"Good morning, M. de Bussy," said Chicot.
Bussy turned, astonished to find a friend in that place.
"Good day, M. Chicot; I am delighted to see you."
"Is that all you have to say, M. de Bussy?" asked the king.
"Yes, sire; anything that remains to be said, will be said by the duke himself."
The king rose and went away, and Bussy continued to converse with Chicot, until the king called to him. As soon as Bussy was alone, Quelus approached him.
"Good morning, M. Quelus," said Bussy graciously; "may I have the honor of asking how you are?"
"Oh, mon Dieu! what is the matter?"
"Something annoys me infinitely."
"Something! And are you not powerful enough to get rid of it?"
"It is not something, but some one, that M. Quelus means," said Maugiron, advancing.
"And whom I advise him to get rid of," said Schomberg, coming forward on the other side.
"Ah, M. de Schomberg! I did not recognize you."
"Perhaps not; is my face still blue?"
"Not so; you are very pale. Are you not well?"
"Yes, it is with anger."
"Oh I then you have also some one who annoys you?"
"And I also," said Maugiron.
"Really, gentlemen, you all look very gloomy."
"You forget me," said D'Epernon, planting himself before Bussy.
"Pardon me, M. d'Epernon, you were behind the others, as usual, and I have so little the pleasure of knowing you, that it was not for me to speak first."
It was strange to see Bussy smiling and calm among those four furious faces, whose eyes spoke with so terrible an eloquence, that he must have been blind or stupid not to have understood their language.
But Bussy never lost his smile.
"It seems to me that there is an echo in this room," said he quietly.
"Look, gentlemen," said Quelus, "how provincial M. de Bussy has become; he has a beard, and no knot to his sword; he has black boots and a gray hat."
"It is an observation that I was just making to myself, my dear sir; seeing you so well dressed, I said to myself, 'How much harm a few weeks' absence does to a man; here am I, Louis de Clermont, forced to take a little Gascon gentleman as a model of taste.' But let me pass; you are so near to me that you tread on my feet, and I feel it in spite of my boots."
And turning away, he advanced towards St. Luc, whom he saw approaching.
"Incredible!" cried all the young men, "we insulted him; he took no notice."
"There is something in it," said Quelus.
"Well!" said the king, advancing, "what were you and M. de Bussy saying?"
"Do you wish to know what M. de Bussy said, sire?"
"Yes, I am curious."
"Well, I trod on his foot, and insulted him, and he said nothing."
"What, gentlemen," cried Henri, feigning anger, "you dared to insult a gentleman in the Louvre!"
"Alas! yes, sire, and he said nothing."
"Well! I am going to the queen."
As the king went out of the great door, St. Luc reentered by a side one, and advanced towards the four gentlemen.
"Pardon, M. Quelus," said he, "but do you still live in the Rue St. Honore?"
"Yes, my dear friend; why do you ask?"
"I have two words to say to you."
"And you, M. de Schomberg?"
"Rue Bethisy," said Schomberg, astonished.
"D'Epernon's address I know."
"Rue de Grenelle."
"You are my neighbor. And you, Maugiron?"
"Near the Louvre. But I begin to understand; you come from M. de Bussy."
"Never mind from whom I come; I have to speak to you, that is all."
"To all four of us?"
"Then if you cannot speak here, let us all go to Schomberg's; it is close by."
"So be it."
And the five gentlemen went out of the Louvre arm in arm.
HOW M. DE ST. LUC ACQUITTED HIMSELF OF THE COMMISSION GIVEN TO HIM BY BUSSY.
Let us leave St. Luc a little while in Schomberg's room, and see what had passed between him and Bussy.
Once out of the hall, St. Luc had stopped, and looked anxiously at his friend.
"Are you ill?" said he, "you are so pale; you look as though you were about to faint."
"No, I am only choking with anger."
"You do not surely mind those fellows?"
"You shall see."
"Come, Bussy, be calm."
"You are charming, really; be calm, indeed! if you had had half said to you that I have had, some one would have been dead before this."
"Well, what do you want?"
"You are my friend; you have already given me a terrible proof of it."
"Ah! my dear friend," said St. Luc, who believed Monsoreau dead and buried, "do not thank me, it is not worth while; certainly the thrust was a good one, and succeeded admirably, but it was the king who showed it me, when he kept me here a prisoner at the Louvre."
"Never mind Monsoreau; tell me about Diana. Was she pleased at last? Does she pardon me? When will the wedding take place?"
"Oh! my dear friend, we must wait till Monsoreau is dead."
"What!" cried St. Luc, starting back as though he had put his foot on a pointed nail.
"Yes; poppies are not such dangerous plants as you thought; he did not die from his fall on them, but is alive and more furious than ever."
"Yes, and he talks of nothing but vengeance, and of killing you on the first occasion."
"And I have announced his death to everyone; he will find his heirs in mourning. But he shall not give me the lie; I shall meet him again, and if he escapes me a second time——"
"Calm yourself, my dear St. Luc; really, I am better off than you would think; it is the duke whom he suspects, and of whom he is jealous. I am his dear Bussy—his precious friend. That is only natural, for it was that fool of a Remy who cured him.
"What an idiot he must have been!"
"He has an idea that, as an honest man and a doctor, it is his duty to cure people. However, Monsoreau says he owes his life to me, and confides his wife to my care."
"Ah! I understand that this makes you wait more patiently for his death. However, I am quite thunderstruck at the news."
"But, now, my friend, let us leave Monsoreau."
"Yes, let us enjoy life while he is still ill; but once he is well, I shall order myself a suit of mail, have new locks put on my doors, and you must ask the Duc d'Anjou if his mother has not given him some antidote against poison. Meanwhile, let us amuse ourselves."
"Well, my dear friend, you see you have only rendered me half a service."
"Do you wish me to finish it?"
"Yes, in another way."
"Are you great friends with those four gentlemen?"
"Ma foi! we are something like cats and dogs in the sun; as long as we an get the heat, we agree, but if one of us took the warmth from another, then I do not answer for the consequences."
"Well, will you go for me to M. Quelus, first?"
"And ask him what day it will please him that I should cut his throat, or he mine?"
"You do not mind it?"
"Not the least in the world. I will go at once if you wish it."
"One moment; as you go, just call on M. Schomberg and make him the same proposal."
"Schomberg too? Diable, how you go on! Well, as you wish."
"Then, my dear St. Luc, as you are so amiable, go also to M. Maugiron, and ask him to join the party."
"What, three! Bussy, you cannot mean it. I hope that is all."
"No; from him go to D'Epernon."
"Even so, my dear friend; I need not recommend to a man like you to proceed with courtesy and politeness towards these gentlemen. Let the thing be done in gallant fashion."
"You shall be content, my friend. What are your conditions?"
"I make none; I accept theirs."
"What they like."
"The day, place, and hour?"
"Whatever suits them."
"Oh! never mind such trifles, but do it quickly; I will walk in the little garden of the Luxembourg; you will find me there when you have executed your commission."
"You will wait, then?"
"It may be long."
"I have time."
We know how St. Luc found the four young men, and accompanied them to Schomberg's house. St. Luc remained in the ante-chamber, waiting until, according to the etiquette of the day, the four young men were installed in the saloon ready to receive him. Then an usher came and saluted St. Luc, who followed him to the threshold of the saloon, where he announced M. d'Espinay de St. Luc.
Schomberg then rose and saluted his visitor, who, to mark the character of the visit, instead of returning it, put on his hat. Schomberg then, turning towards Quelus, said,
"I have the honor to present to you M. Jacques de Levis, Comte de Quelus."
The two gentlemen bowed, and then the same ceremony was gone through with the others. This done, the four friends sat down, but St. Luc remained standing and said to Quelus,
"M. le Comte, you have insulted M. le Comte Louis de Clermont d'Amboise, Seigneur de Bussy, who presents to you his compliments, and calls you to single combat on any day and hour, and with such arms as may please you. Do you accept?"
"Certainly; M. de Bussy does me much honor."
"Your day and hour, M. le Comte?"
"To-morrow morning at seven o'clock."
"Rapier and dagger, if that suits M. de Bussy."
St. Luc bowed. Then he addressed the same questions to the others, and received the same answers.
"If we all choose the same day and hour, M. de Bussy will be rather embarrassed," said Schomberg.
"Certainly," replied St. Luc, "M. de Bussy may be embarrassed, but he says that the circumstance would not be new to him, as it has already happened at the Tournelles."
"And he would fight us all four?"
"Separately, or at once."
The four young men looked at each other; then Quelus, red with anger, said:
"It is very fine of M. de Bussy, but however little we may be worth, we can each do our own work; we will accept, therefore, the count's proposal, fighting separately, or rather, which will be still better, as we do not seek to assassinate a gallant man, chance shall decide which of us shall fight M. de Bussy."
"And the three others?"
"Oh! M. de Bussy has too many friends, and we too many enemies, for them to remain with folded arms. Do you agree to this, gentlemen?"
"Yes!" cried all.
"If MM. Ribeirac, Antragues, and Livarot would join the party, it would be complete."
"Gentlemen," said St. Luc, "I will transmit your desires to M. de Bussy, and I believe I may promise that he is too courteous not to agree to your wishes. It therefore only remains for me to thank you in his name."
Then he took his leave, after throwing his purse to the four lackeys, whom he found outside, to drink to their masters' healths.
IN WHAT RESPECT M. DE ST. LUC WAS MORE CIVILIZED THAN M. DE BUSSY, THE LESSONS WHICH HE GAVE HIM, AND THE USE WHICH M. DE BUSSY MADE OF THEM.
St. Luc returned, proud of having executed his commission so well. Bussy thanked him, but looked sad, which was not natural to him.
"Have I done badly?" said St. Luc.
"Ma foi, my dear friend, I only regret you did not say, 'at once.'"
"Why! what is the hurry?"
"I wish to die as soon as possible."
St. Luc looked at him in astonishment.
"Die! at your age, with your name, and Diana!"
"Yes, I shall kill them, I know, but I shall receive some good blow which will tranquilize me forever."
"What black ideas, Bussy!"
"A husband whom I thought dead, and who has returned to life; a wife who can scarcely quit the bedside of the pretended dying man. Not to see her, smile on her, touch her hand. Mon Dieu!——"
St. Luc interrupted him with a burst of laughter. "Oh!" cried he, "the innocent man. Why, no lover can be more fortunate than you."
"Prove that to me."
"You are the friend of M. de Monsoreau."
"Yes, I am ashamed to say, he calls me his friend."
"Well! be his friend."
"Oh! and abuse this title!"
"Is he really your friend?"
"He says so."
"No; for he makes you unhappy. Now the end of friendship is to make one another happy. At least, so his majesty says, and he is learned in friendship. So, if he makes you unhappy, he is not your friend; therefore you may treat him either as a stranger, and take his wife from him, or as an enemy, and kill him if he murmurs."
"In fact, I hate him. But do you, not think he loves me?"
"Diable! Take away his wife and see."
"I must continue to be a man of honor."
"And let Madame de Monsoreau cure her husband both physically and morally. For it is certain that if you get yourself killed, she will attach herself to the only man who remains to her."
"But," added St. Luc, "here is my wife; she always gives good advice. She has been picking herself a bouquet in the gardens of the queen-mother, and will be in a good humor. Listen to her; she speaks gold."
Jeanne arrived radiant, full of happiness and fun. Bussy saluted her in a friendly manner, and she held out her hand to him, saying, with a smile, "How go on the love affairs?"
"They are dying."
"They are wounded and fainting; perhaps you can restore them, Jeanne?"
"Let me see; show me the wound."
"In two words, this is it: M. de Bussy does not like smiling on M. de Monsoreau, and he thinks of retiring."
"And leaving Diana to him?"
"Oh! madame, St. Luc does not tell you that I wish to die."
"Poor Diana!" murmured Jeanne, "decidedly men are ungrateful."
"Good! this is the conclusion my wife draws."
"I, ungrateful!" cried Bussy, "because I fear to render my love vile, by practising a disgraceful hypocrisy?"
"Oh! monsieur, that is only a pretext. If you were really in love, you would fear but one thing—not to be loved in return."
"But, madame, there are sacrifices——"
"Not another word. Confess that you love Diana no longer; it will be more worthy of a gallant man."
Bussy grew pale.
"You do not dare to tell her; well, I will."
"You are rich, you men, with your sacrifices. And does she make none? What! expose herself to be massacred by that tiger of a Monsoreau, preserve her position only by employing a strength of will of which Samson or Hannibal would have been incapable. Oh! I swear, Diana is sublime, I could not do a quarter of what she does every day."
"Thank you!" said St. Luc.
"And he hesitates!" continued she, "he does not fall on his knees and say his mea culpa."
"You are right," said Bussy, "I am but a man, that is to say, an imperfect creature, inferior to the most commonplace woman."
"It is lucky you are convinced of it."
"What do you order me?"
"To go at once and pay it visit——"
"To M. de Monsoreau?"
"Who speaks of him?—to Diana."
"But he never leaves her."
"When you went so often to see Madame de Barbezieux, had she not always near her that great ape who bit you because he was jealous?"
Bussy began to laugh, and St. Luc and Jeanne followed his example.
"Madame," then said Bussy, "I am going to M. de Monsoreau's house; adieu."
He went there, and found the count in bed; he was delighted to see him, and told him that Remy promised that his wound would be cured in three weeks. Bussy recounted to him the commission with which he had been charged, and his visit to the court.
"The duke has still projects on foot, has he not?"
"I believe so."
"Do not compromise yourself for that bad man; I know him: he is perfidious, and will not hesitate to betray you."
"I know it."
"You are my friend, and I wish to put you on your guard."
"You must sleep after the dressing of your wound," said Remy.
"Yes, my dear doctor. My friend, take a turn in the garden with Madame de Monsoreau."
"I am at your orders," replied Bussy.
THE PRECAUTIONS OF M. DE MONSOREAU.
St. Luc was right, and Jeanne was right, and Bussy soon acknowledged it. As for Diana, she gave herself up to the two instincts that Figaro recognizes as inborn in mankind, to love and to deceive. M. de Monsoreau grew better and better. He had escaped from fever, thanks to the application of cold water, that new remedy which Providence had discovered to Ambrose Pare, when all at once he received a great shock at hearing of the arrival in Paris of the duke with the queen-mother. The day after his arrival, the duke, under the pretext of asking after him, presented himself at his hotel, and it was impossible to close his door against a prince who showed so much interest in him. M. de Monsoreau therefore was obliged to receive the prince, who was most amiable to him and to his wife. As soon as he was gone, M. de Monsoreau took Diana's arm, and in spite of Remy's remonstrances walked three times round his armchair; and, from his satisfied air, Diana was sure he was meditating on some project.
The next day the duke came again, and this time Monsoreau walked round his room. That evening Diana warned Bussy that her husband had certainly some project in his head. A few minutes after, when Bussy and Monsoreau were alone, "When I think," said Monsoreau, "that this prince, who smiles on me, is my mortal enemy, and tried to have me assassinated by M. de St. Luc——"
"Oh, assassinated! take care, M. le Comte. St. Luc is a gentleman, and you confess yourself that you provoked him, drew the sword first, and received your wound in fair fight."
"Certainly; but it is not the less true that he obeyed the wishes of M. d'Anjou."
"Listen! I know M. de St. Luc, and I can assure you he is devoted to the king, and hates the duke. If your wound had come from Antragues, Livarot, or Ribeirac, it might be so; but not from St. Luc."
"You do not know," replied Monsoreau, obstinate in his opinion. At last he was able to go down into the garden. "That will do," said he; "now we will move."
"Why move?" said Remy. "The air is good here, and there is plenty of amusement."
"Too much; M. d'Anjou fatigues me with his visits, and he always brings with him a crowd of gentlemen, and the noise of their spurs destroys my nerves."
"But where are you going?"
"I have ordered them to get ready my little house at the Tournelles."
Bussy and Diana exchanged a look of loving remembrance.
"What, that little place?" cried Remy, imprudently.
"What! do you know it?"
"Who does not know the houses of the chief huntsman? particularly I, who lived in the Rue Beautrellis."
"Yes, yes, I will go there. It is a fortress, and one can see from the window, three hundred yards off, who is coming to visit you, and avoid them if you like, particularly when you are well!"
Bussy bit his lips; he feared a time might come when Monsoreau might avoid him. Diana thought of the time when she had seen Bussy in that house, lying fainting on the bed.
"You cannot do it," said Remy.
"Why not, if you please, monsieur?"
"Because the chief huntsman of France must hold receptions—must keep valets and equipages. Let him have a palace for his dogs, if he likes, but not a dog-kennel for himself."
"It is true, but——"
"But I am the doctor of the mind as of the body; it is not your residence here that displeases you."
"That of madame; therefore send her away."
"Separate?" cried Monsoreau, fixing on Diana a look, more of anger than love.
"Then give up your place—send in your resignation. I believe it would be wise; if you do not do your duty, you will displease the king, and if you do——"
"I will do anything but quit the countess," said Monsoreau, with closely-shut teeth. As he spoke, they heard in the courtyard a noise of voices and horses' feet.
"The duke again!" cried he.
"Yes," said Remy.
Immediately after the prince entered, and Monsoreau saw his first glance given to Diana. He brought to her, as a present, one of those masterpieces, of which the artists of that day were in the habit of producing two or three in the course of a lifetime. It was a poniard, with a handle of chased gold. This handle was a smelling-bottle, and on the blade a chase was carved with admirable skill; horses, dogs, trees, game, and hunters, mingled together in an harmonious pele-mele, on this blade of azure and gold.
"Let me see," cried Monsoreau, who feared there was a note hidden in the handle.
The prince separated the two parts. "To you, who are a hunter," said he, "I give the blade: to the countess, the handle. Good-morning, Bussy, you are then a friend of the count's, now?"
Diana reddened, but Bussy said:
"Your highness forgets that you asked me to inquire after M. de Monsoreau."
"It is true."
The prince sat down, and began to talk to Diana. In a few minutes he said, "Count, it is dreadfully warm in your rooms. I see the countess is stifling. I will give her my arm for a turn in the garden."
The husband looked furious.
"Give me an arm," said he to Bussy, and he got up and followed his wife.
"Ah!" said the duke, "it seems you are better."
"Yes, monseigneur, and I hope soon to be able to accompany Madame de Monsoreau wherever she goes."
"Good; but meanwhile, do not fatigue yourself."
Monsoreau was obliged to sit down, but he kept them in view.
"Count," said he to Bussy, "will you be amiable enough to escort Madame de Monsoreau this evening to my house at the Tournelles?"
"You cannot do that, monsieur," said Remy.
"Because M. d'Anjou would never forgive you if you helped to play him such a trick."
Bussy was about to cry, "What do I care?" but a glance from Remy stopped him.
"Remy is right," said Monsoreau, "it would injure you; to-morrow I will go myself."
"You will lose your place."
"It is possible; but I shall keep my wife."
The next day they went to the old house; Diana took her old room, with the bed of white and gold damask. A corridor only separated it from that of the count. Bussy tore his hair with rage.
A VISIT TO THE HOUSE AT LES TOURNELLES.
The duke became more and more in love with Diana, as she seemed always to escape him, and with his love for her, his hatred of Monsoreau increased. On the other side he had not renounced his political hopes, but had recommenced his underhand machinations. The moment was favorable, for many wavering conspirators had been encouraged by the kind of triumph which the weakness of thy king, and the cunning of Catherine, had given to the duke; however, he no longer confided his projects to Bussy, and showed him only a hypocritical friendship. He was vaguely uneasy at seeing him at Monsoreau's house, and envious of the confidence that Monsoreau, so suspicious of himself, placed in him. He was frightened also at the joy and happiness which shone in Diana's face. He knew that flowers only bloom in the light of the sun, and women in that of love. She was visibly happy, and this annoyed him. Determined to use his power, both for love and vengeance, he thought it would be absurd to be stayed in this purpose by such ridiculous obstacles as the jealousy of a husband, and the repugnance of a wife. One day he ordered his equipages, intending to visit Monsoreau. He was told that he had moved to his house in the Rue St. Antoine.
"Let us go there," said he to Bussy. Soon the place was in commotion at the arrival of the twenty-four handsome cavaliers, each with two lackeys, who formed the prince's suite. Both Bussy and the prince knew the house well; they both went in, but while the prince entered the room, Bussy remained on the staircase. It resulted from this arrangement that the duke was received by Monsoreau alone, while Bussy was received by Diana, while Gertrude kept watch. Monsoreau, always pale, grew livid at sight of the prince.
"Monseigneur, here! really it is too much honor for my poor house!" cried he, with a visible irony.
The prince smiled. "Wherever a suffering friend goes, I follow him," replied he. "How are you?"
"Oh, much better; I can already walk about, and in a week I shall be quite well."
"Was it your doctor who prescribed for you the air of the Bastile?" asked the prince, with the most innocent air possible.
"Did you not like the Rue des Petits-Peres?"
"No, monseigneur; I had too much company there—they made too much noise."
"But you have no garden here."
"I did not like the garden."
The prince bit his lips. "Do you know, comte," said he, "that many people are asking the king for your place?"
"On what pretext, monseigneur?"
"They say you are dead."
"Monseigneur, you can answer for it that I am not."
"I answer for nothing; you bury yourself as though you were dead."
It was Monsoreau's turn to bite his lips.
"Well, then, I must lose my place," said he.
"Yes; there are things I prefer to it."
"You are very disinterested."
"It is my character, monseigneur."
"Then of course you will not mind the king's knowing your character?"
"Who will tell him?"
"Diable! if he asks me about you, I must repeat our conversation."
"Ma foi! monseigneur, if all they say in Paris were reported to the king, his two ears would not be enough to listen with."
"What do they say at Paris, monsieur?" asked the prince sharply.
Monsoreau tried to calm himself. "How should a poor invalid, as I am, know?" said he. "If the king is angry at seeing his work badly done, he is wrong."
"Because, doubtless, my accident proceeds, to some extent, from him."
"M. de St. Luc, who wounded me, is a dear friend of the king's. It was the king who taught him the thrust by which he wounded me, and it might have been the king who prompted him."
"You are right; but still the king is the king."
"Until he is so no longer."
The duke trembled. "Is not Madame de Monsoreau here?" said he.
"Monseigneur, she is ill, or she would have come to present her respects to you."
"Ill! poor woman! it must be grief at seeing you suffer."
"Yes, and the fatigue of moving."
"Let us hope it will be a short indisposition. You have so skilful a doctor."
"Yes, that dear Remy——"
"Why, he is Bussy's doctor."
"He has lent him to me."
"You are, then, great friends?"
"He is my best, I might say my only, friend."
As the duke raised the tapestry, he fancied he saw the skirt of a dress disappear into the next room, and immediately Bussy appeared at his post in the middle of the corridor. Suspicion grew stronger with the duke.
"We are going," said he to Bussy, who ran down-stairs without replying; while the duke, left alone, tried to penetrate the corridor where he had seen the silk dress vanish. But, turning, he saw that Monsoreau had followed, and was standing at the door.
"Your highness mistakes your way," said he.
"True," said the duke, "thank you." And he went down with rage in his heart. When he returned home, Aurilly glided into his room.
"Well," said the duke, "I am baffled by the husband!"
"And, perhaps, also by the lover, monseigneur."
"What do you say?"
"I hope your highness will pardon me—it was in your service."
"I pardon you in advance. Go on."
"After your highness had gone up-stairs, I watched under a shed in the courtyard."
"Ah! What did you see?"
"I saw a woman's dress; I saw this woman lean forward, and then I heard the sound of along and tender kiss."
"But who was the man?"
"I cannot recognize arms."
"No, but you might gloves."
"Indeed, it seemed to me——"
"That you recognized them?"
"It was only a guess."
"Well, monseigneur, they looked like the gloves of M. de Bussy."
"Buff, embroidered with gold, were they not?"
"Ah! Bussy! yes, it was Bussy. Oh, I was blind and yet not blind; but I could not believe in so much audacity."
"But your highness must not believe it too lightly; might there not have been a man hidden in her room?"
"Yes, doubtless, but Bussy, who was in the corridor, would have seen him."
"That is true."
"And then the gloves——"
"Yes, and besides the kiss, I heard——"
"Three words, 'Till to-morrow evening.'"
"Oh! mon Dieu!"
"So that, if you like, we can make sure."
"Aurilly, we will go."
"Your highness knows I am at your orders."
"Ah! Bussy, a traitor! Bussy, the honest man—Bussy, who does not wish me to be King of France;" and the duke, smiling with an infernal joy, dismissed Aurilly.
The duke kept Bussy near him all day, so as not to lose sight of his movements. Bussy did not care, so that he had his evenings free. At ten o'clock he wrapped himself in his cloak, and with a rope ladder under his arm went towards the Bastile. The duke, who did not know that he had a ladder, and could not believe in any one walking alone at night through the streets of Paris, thought Bussy would certainly call at his hotel for a horse and a servant, and lost ten minutes in preparations. During those ten minutes, Bussy, active and in love, had already gone three-fourths of the distance. He was lucky, as brave people generally are, and met with no accident by the way, and on arriving saw a light in the windows. It was the signal agreed on between him and Diana. He threw his ladder up to the balcony, it had six hooks to it, and was sure to fasten itself somewhere. At the noise, Diana put out her light and opened the window to fasten the ladder. The thing was done in a moment. Diana looked all around; the street seemed deserted. Then she signed to Bussy to mount, and he was up in five seconds. The moment was happily chosen, for while he got in at the window, M. de Monsoreau, after having listened patiently fur a quarter of an hour at his wife's door, descended the stairs painfully, leaning on the arm of a confidential valet, and it so happened that he opened the street-door just as the ladder was drawn up, and the window closed. He looked around, but the streets were deserted.
"You have been badly informed," said he to the servant.
"No, monsieur, I have just left the Hotel d'Anjou, and they told me that the duke had ordered two horses for this evening. But perhaps it was not to come here."
"Where else should he go?" said Monsoreau, with a somber air. He, like all jealous persons, thought the whole world had nothing to do but to torment him.
"Perhaps I should have done better to stay in her room," murmured he. "But they probably have signals for corresponding; she would have warned him of my presence, and I should have learned nothing. It is better to watch outside. Come, conduct me to the hiding-place, whence you say one can see everything."
About twenty-five steps from the door was an enormous heap of stones belonging to demolished houses, and serving for fortifications to the children of the neighborhood when they played at battles. In the midst was a space, which could contain two people. The valet spread a cloak, on which Monsoreau sat down, while his servant sat at his feet, with a loaded musket placed beside him. Diana had prudently drawn her thick curtains, so that scarcely a ray of light showed through, to betray that there was life in this gloomy house.
They had been watching about ten minutes, when two horses appeared at the end of the street. The valet pointed to them.
"I see," said Monsoreau.
The two men got off their horses, and tied them up at the corner of the Hotel des Tournelles.
"Monseigneur," said Aurilly, "I believe we have arrived too late; he must have gone straight from your hotel and must have entered."
"Perhaps so; but if we did not see him go in, we can see him come out."
"Yes, but when?"
"When we please."
"Would it be too curious to ask how you mean to manage?"
"Nothing is more easy; we have but to knock at the door, and ask after M. de Monsoreau. Our lover will be frightened at the noise, and as you enter the house he will come out at the window, and I, who am hidden outside, shall see him."
"What can he say? I am his friend, and was uneasy about him, as he looked so ill yesterday; nothing can be more simple."
"It is very ingenious, monseigneur."
"Do you hear what they say?" asked Monsoreau of his valet.
"No, monsieur, but we soon shall, for they are coming nearer."
"Monseigneur," said Aurilly, "here is a heap of stones which seems made on purpose for us."
"Yes, but wait a moment, perhaps we can see through the opening of the curtain." And they stood for some minutes trying to find a place to peep through. Meanwhile, Monsoreau was boiling with impatience, and his hand approached the musket.
"Oh! shall I suffer this?" murmured he, "shall I devour this affront also? No, my patience is worn out. Mordieu! that I can neither sleep, nor wake, nor even suffer quietly, because a shameful caprice has lodged in the idle brain of this miserable prince. No, I am not a complaisant valet; I am the Comte de Monsoreau, and if he comes near, on my word, I will blow his brains out. Light the match, Rene."
At this moment, just as the prince was about to seek his hiding-place, leaving his companion to knock at the door, Aurilly touched his arm.
"Well, monsieur, what is it?" asked the prince.
"Come away, monseigneur, come."
"Do you not see something shining there to the left?"
"I see a spark among that heap of stones."
"It is the match of a musket, or arquebuse."
"Ah! who the devil can be in ambush there?"
"Some friend or servant of Bussy's. Let us go and make a detour, and return another way. The servant will give the alarm, and we shall see Bussy come out of the window."
"You are right; come;" and they went to their horses.
"They are going," said the valet.
"Yes. Did you recognize them?"
"They seemed to me to be the prince and Aurilly."
"Just so. But I shall soon be more sure still."
"What will monsieur do?"
Meanwhile, the duke and Aurilly turned into the Rue St. Catherine, intending to return by the boulevard of the Bastile.
Monsoreau went in, and ordered his litter.
What the duke had foreseen happened. At the noise that Monsoreau made, Bussy took the alarm, the light was extinguished, the ladder fixed, and Bussy, to his great regret, was obliged to fly, like Romeo, but without having, like him, seen the sun rise and heard the lark sing. Just as he touched the ground, and Diana had thrown him the ladder, the duke and Aurilly arrived at the corner of the Bastile. They saw a shadow suspended from Diana's window, but this shadow disappeared almost instantaneously at the corner of the Rue St. Paul.
"Monsieur," said the valet to Monsoreau, "we shall wake up the household."
"What do I care?" cried Monsoreau, furiously. "I am master here, I believe, and I have at least the right to do what M. d'Anjou wished to do."
The litter was got ready, and, drawn by two stout horses, it was soon at the Hotel d'Anjou.
The duke and Aurilly had so recently come in that their horses were not unsaddled. Monsoreau, who had the entree, appeared on the threshold just as the duke, after having thrown his hat on a chair, was holding out his boots to a valet to pull off. A servant, preceding him by some steps, announced M. de Monsoreau. A thunderbolt breaking his windows, could not have astonished the prince more.
"M. de Monsoreau!" cried he, with an uneasiness he could not hide.
"Myself, monseigneur," replied he, trying to repress his emotion, but the effort he made over himself was so violent that his legs failed him, and he fell on to a chair which stood near.
"But you will kill yourself, my dear friend," said the duke; "you are so pale, you look as though you were going to faint."
"Oh, no; what I have to say to your highness is of too much importance; I may faint afterwards."
"Speak, then, my dear comte."
"Not before your people, I suppose."
The duke dismissed everyone.
"Your highness has just come in?" said Monsoreau.
"As you see, comte."
"It is very imprudent of your highness to go by night in the street."
"Who told you I had been in the streets?"
"The dust on your clothes."
"M. de Monsoreau, have you another employment besides that of chief huntsman?"
"Yes, that of spy, monseigneur; all the world follow that calling now, more or less, and I, like the rest."
"And what does this profession bring you, monsieur?"
"It is curious."
"Well, tell me what you have to say."
"I came for that."
"You permit me to sit down?" said the duke.
"No irony, monseigneur, towards an old and faithful servant, who comes at this hour and in this state to do you a service. If I sat down, on my honor, it was because I could not stand."
"A service! to do me a service?"
"Monseigneur, I come on the part of a great prince."
"From the king?"
"No; M. le Duc de Guise."
"Ah! that is quite a different thing. Approach, and speak low."
HOW M. LE DUC D'ANJOU SIGNED, AND AFTER HAVING SIGNED, SPOKE.
There was a moment's silence. Then the duke said: "Well, M. le Comte, what have you to say to me from the Duc de Guise?"
"They have written to you?"
"No; the duke writes no more since that strange disappearance of Nicholas David. They have come to Paris."
"MM. de Guise are at Paris?"
"I have not seen them."
"They are too prudent to expose themselves or your highness to any risk."
"And I was not told!"
"I tell you now."
"What have they come for?"
"They come, monseigneur, to the rendezvous you gave them."
"That I gave them!"
"Doubtless; on the day when your highness was arrested you received a letter from M. de Guise, and replied to it verbally, through me, that they were to come to Paris from the thirty-first of May to the second of June. It is now the thirty-first of May, and if your highness has forgotten them, they have not forgotten you."
Francois grew pale. So many events had passed since, that he had forgotten the rendezvous. "It is true," said he, at length, "but the relations which then existed between us exist no longer."
"If that be so, monseigneur, you would do well to tell them, for I believe they think differently."
"You, perhaps, think yourself free as regards them, but they feel bound to you."
"A snare, my dear comte, in which a man does not let himself be taken twice."
"And where was monseigneur taken in a snare?"
"Where? at the Louvre, mordieu."
"Was it the fault of MM. de Guise?"
"I do not say so, but they never assisted me to escape."
"It would have been difficult; they were flying themselves."
"It is true."
"But when you were in Anjou, did they not charge me to tell you that you could always count on them, as they on you, and that the day you marched on Paris, they would do the same?"
"It is true, but I did not march on Paris."
"You are here."
"Yes; but as my brother's ally."
"Monseigneur will permit me to observe that he is more than the ally of the Guises."
The duke bit his lips.
"And you say they charged you to announce their arrival to me?"
"They did me that honour."
"But they did not tell you the motive of their return?"
"They told me all, knowing me to be the confidant of your highness."
"Then they have projects. What are they?"
"The same always."
"And they think them practicable?"
"They look upon them as certain."
"And these projects have for an aim——"
The duke stopped, not daring to finish.
"To make you King of France; yes, monseigneur."
The duke felt the flush of joy mount to his face.
"But," said he "is the moment favorable?"
"Your wisdom must decide."
"Yes, the facts cannot be contradicted. The nomination of the king as head of the League was only a comedy, quickly seen through and appreciated. Now the reaction has commenced, and the entire state is rising against the tyranny of the king and his creatures. Sermons are a call to arms, and churches are places where they curse the king, instead of praying to God. The army trembles with impatience; the bourgeois league together; our emissaries bring in nothing but signatures and new adherents to the League. In a word, the king's reign touches on its close. Now, do you renounce your former projects?"