The duke did not reply.
"Monseigneur knows that he may speak frankly to me."
"I think," said the duke, "that considering my brother has no children, that his health is uncertain, and that after him the crown will come naturally to me, there is no reason why I should compromise my name and my dignity, in a useless struggle, and try to take, with danger, what will come to me in due course."
"Your highness is in error; your brother's throne will only come to you if you take it. MM. de Guise cannot be kings themselves, but they will only allow to reign a king of their own making, a king whom they substitute for the reigning one. They count on your highness, but if you refuse, they will seek another."
"And who will dare to seat himself on the throne of Charlemagne?"
"A Bourbon instead of a Valois, monseigneur; a son of St, Louis, instead of a son of St. Louis."
"The king of Navarre?"
"Why not? He is young, and brave,"
"He is a Huguenot."
"Was he not converted at the St. Bartholomew?"
"Yes, and he abjured afterwards."
"Oh, monseigneur, what he did for his wife, he will do again for the crown."
"They think, then, that I will yield my rights without a struggle."
"The case is provided for."
"I will fight."
"They are men of war."
"I will put myself at the head of the League."
"They are the soul of it."
"I will join my brother."
"Your brother will be dead."
"I will call the kings of Europe to my aid."
"They will think twice before making war on a people."
"My party will stand by me."
"Your party, I believe, consists of M. de Bussy and myself."
"Then I am tied."
"Nearly so. You can do nothing without the Guises; with them, everything. Say the word, and you are king."
The duke walked about for a few minutes, in great agitation, then stopped, and said, "Go on, count."
"This, then, is the plan. In eight days the Fete Dieu will take place, and the king meditates on that day a great procession to the convents of Paris. There, the guards will remain at the door, the king will stop before each altar, kneel down, and say five paters and five aves."
"I know all that."
"He will go to St. Genevieve——"
"He will enter with a suite of five or six persons, and behind them, the doors will be closed."
"Your highness knows the monks who will do the honors of the Abbey to his majesty."
"They will be the same——"
"Who were there when your highness was crowned."
"They will dare to lay hands on the Lord's anointed?"
"Oh! to shave him, only."
"They will never dare to do that to a king."
"He will not be a king then."
"Have you never heard of a holy man who preaches sermons, and is going to perform miracles?"
"The one who wished to preach the League with his arquebuse on his shoulder?"
"Well! they will conduct the king into his cell; once there, he will be asked to sign his abdication, then, when he has signed, Madame de Montpensier will enter, scissors in hand. She wears them now, hanging to her side; they are charming scissors, made of gold, and admirably chased, to do him honor. You understand the rest. We announced to the people that the king, experiencing a holy repentance for his sins, has announced his intention of never more leaving the convent. If there are any who doubt, M. de Guise holds the army, M. le Cardinal the Church, and M. de Mayenne the bourgeois; and with these three powers you can make the people believe what you like."
"But they will accuse me of violence," said the duke.
"You need not be there."
"They will look on me as a usurper."
"Monseigneur forgets the abdication."
"The king will refuse."
"It seems that Brother Gorenflot is not only clever, but strong."
"The plan is then settled?"
"And they do not fear that I shall denounce it?"
"No, monseigneur; for in that case, they have another, not less sure."
"And this one?"
"I do not know; they thought me too much your friend to trust me with it."
"Well, I yield, count. What must I do?"
"Words are not enough."
"It is a folly to suppose I will ever consent to that."
"And why not?"
"If the conspiracy fail——"
"It is just in case it should, that they ask for your signature."
"Then they wish to shelter themselves behind my name?"
"Then I refuse."
"I cannot refuse?"
"Are you mad?"
"To refuse is to betray."
"Let them think as they like; at all events I will choose my own danger."
"Monseigneur, you choose badly."
"I will risk it," cried Francois, endeavoring to keep firm.
"For your own interest I advise you not to do so."
"But I shall compromise myself by signing."
"In refusing, you assassinate yourself."
"They would dare?" said he.
"They would dare anything, monseigneur. The conspirators have gone so far, that they must succeed at any cost."
The duke, with his usual indecision, felt terribly perplexed.
"I will sign," said he, at last.
"No, monseigneur; if you sign, it must be at once."
"But M. de Guise must draw up the agreement."
"It is already drawn-here it is;" and Monsoreau drew a paper from his pocket: it was a full adhesion to the scheme. The duke read it though, growing more and more pale as he did so.
"Here is the pen, monseigneur."
"Then I must sign?"
"If you wish to do so; no one forces you."
"Yes, they do, since they menace me with assassination."
"I do not menace you, monseigneur—I only warn you."
"Give me the pen."
And, snatching it eagerly, he signed the paper. Monsoreau watched him with an eye full of hatred and hope, and no sooner had the duke finished than, exclaiming "Ah!" he seized the paper, buttoned it into his doublet, and wrapped his cloak over it.
Francois looked at him with astonishment, for a flash of ferocious joy played over his face.
"And now, monseigneur, be prudent," said he.
"Do not run about the streets with Aurilly, as you did just now."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that, this evening, you pursued with your love a woman whom her husband adores, and whom he is jealous of, enough to kill any one who approaches her without permission."
"Is it of you and your wife that you are speaking?"
"Yes, monseigneur. I have married Diana de Meridor; she is mine, and no one shall have her while I live—not even a prince; I swear it by my name and on this poniard!" and he touched with his poniard the breast of the prince, who started back.
"Monsieur, you menace me!" cried Francois, pale with rage.
"No, monseigneur; once more, I say, I only warn you."
"That no one shall make love to my wife."
"And I warn you that you are too late, and that some one makes love to her already."
Monsoreau uttered a terrible cry. "Is it you?" cried he.
"You are mad, count!"
"No, I am not; prove your words."
"Who was hidden this evening, twenty steps from your door, with a musket?"
"Well, comte, during that time there was a man with your wife."
"You saw him go in?"
"I saw him come out."
"By the door?"
"No, by the window."
"Did you recognize him?"
"Name him, monseigneur, or I do not answer for myself."
The duke half smiled.
"M. le Comte," said he, "on my faith as a prince, on my soul, within a week I will tell you his name."
"You swear it."
"I swear it."
"Well, monseigneur, you have a week; but——" said he, touching the paper in his breast.
"Come back in eight days."
"Good! in eight days I shall have regained all my strength, ready for vengeance."
A PROMENADE AT THE TOURNELLES.
In course of time the Angevin gentlemen had returned to Paris, although not with much confidence. They knew too well the king, his brother, and mother, to hope that all would terminate in a family embrace. They returned, therefore, timidly, and glided into the town armed to the teeth, ready to fire on the least suspicion, and drew their swords fifty times before the Hotel d'Anjou on harmless bourgeois, who were guilty of no crime but of looking at them. They presented themselves at the Louvre, magnificently dressed in silk, velvet, and embroidery. Henri III. would not receive them; they waited vainly in the gallery. It was MM. Quelus, Maugiron, Schomberg, and D'Epernon who came to announce this news to them, with great politeness, and expressing all the regrets in the world.
"Ah, gentlemen," said Antragues, "the news is sad, but, coming from your mouths, it loses half its bitterness."
"Gentlemen," said Schomberg, "you are the flower of grace and courtesy. Would it please you to change the reception which you have missed into a little promenade?"
"Ah! gentlemen, we were about to propose it."
"Where shall we go?" said Quelus.
"I know a charming place near the Bastile," said Schomberg.
"We follow you, go on."
Then the eight gentlemen went out, arm in arm, talking gaily on different subjects, until Quelus said, "Here is a solitary place, with a good footing."
"Ma foi, yes."
"Well! we thought that you would one day accompany us here to meet M. de Bussy, who has invited us all here."
"It is true," said Bussy.
"Do you accept?" said Maugiron.
"Certainly; we rejoice at such an honor."
"That is well," said Schomberg; "shall we each choose an opponent?"
"No," said Bussy, "that is not fair; let us trust to chance, and the first one that is free can join the others."
"Let us draw lots then," said Quelus.
"One moment," said Bussy, "first let us settle the rules of the game."
"They are simple; we will fight till death ensues!"
"Yes, but how?"
"With sword and dagger."
"Oh, yes! on horseback one's movements are not so free."
"Then, on foot."
"The soonest possible."
"No," said D'Epernon, "I have a thousand things to settle and a will to make; I would rather wait five or six days."
"So be it."
"Then draw lots."
"One moment! divide the ground into four compartments, each for a pair."
"I propose for number one, the long square between the chestnuts; it is a fine place."
"But the sun? one would be turned to the east."
"No," said Bussy, "that is not fair;" and he proposed a new position, which was agreed to.
Schomberg and Ribeirac came first. They were the first pair; Quelus and Antragues the second; then Livarot and Maugiron the third. D'Epernon, who saw himself left to Bussy, grew very pale.
"Now, gentlemen," said Bussy, "until the day of the combat, let us be friends. Will you accept a dinner at the Hotel Bussy?"
All agreed, and returned with Bussy to his hotel, where a sumptuous banquet united them till morning.
IN WHICH CHICOT SLEEPS.
The movements of the young men had been remarked by the king and Chicot. The king walked up and down, waiting impatiently for his friends to return; but Chicot followed them at a distance, and saw enough to be satisfied of their intentions. When he returned to the house he found the king, walking up and down, muttering.
"Ah! my dear friend! do you know what has become of them?" cried Henri.
"Whom? your minions?"
"Alas! yes, my poor friends."
"They must lie very low by this time."
"Have they been killed?" cried Henri; "are they dead?"
"Dead I fear——"
"And you laugh, wretch?"
"Oh! my son, dead drunk."
"Oh! Chicot, how you terrified me. But why do you calumniate these gentlemen?"
"On the contrary, I praise them."
"Be serious, I beg; do you know that they went out with the Angevins?"
"Of course, I know it."
"What was the result?"
"What I tell you; that they are dead drunk."
"He is intoxicating them; he is a dangerous man."
"Chicot, for pity's sake——"
"Yes; Bussy has given a dinner to your friends; how do you like that?"
"Impossible! They are sworn enemies."
"Have you good legs?"
"What do you mean?"
"Will you go to the river?"
"I would go to the end of the world to see such a thing."
"Well! go only to the Hotel Bussy."
"Will you accompany me?"
"Thank you, I have just come from there."
"Oh! no; I, who have seen, do not need to be convinced. Go, my son, go. You disquiet yourself about your friends; you first pity them as if they were dead, and when you hear they are not dead, you are uneasy still——"
"You are intolerable, M. Chicot."
"Would you have preferred that they should each have had seven or eight wounds by a rapier?"
"I should like to be able to depend on my friends."
"Oh! ventre de biche, depend upon me; I am here, my son, only feed me. I want pheasant and truffles."
Henri and his only friend went to bed early, the king still sighing.
The next day, at the petite levee of the king, MM. Quelus, Schomberg, Maugiron, and D'Epernon presented themselves. Chicot still slept. The king jumped from his bed in a fury, and tearing off the perfumed mask from his face, cried, "Go out from here."
The young men looked at each other in wonder.
"But, sire, we wished to say to your majesty——"
"That you are no longer drunk, I suppose."
Chicot opened his eyes.
"Your majesty is in error," said Quelus, gravely.
"And yet I have not drunk the wine of Anjou."
"Oh! I understand," said Quelus, smiling.
"If your majesty will remain alone with us, we will tell you."
"I hate drunkards and traitors."
"Sire," cried three of the gentlemen.
"Patience, gentlemen," said Quelus, "his majesty has slept badly, and had unpleasant dreams. A few words will set all right."
"Speak then, but be brief."
"It is possible, sire, but difficult."
"Yes; one turns long round certain accusations."
"No, sire, we go straight to it," replied Quelus, looking again at Chicot and the usher, as though to reiterate his request that they might be left alone. The king signed to the usher to leave the room, but Chicot said, "Never mind me, I sleep like a top," and closing his eyes again, he began to snore with all his strength.
WHERE CHICOT WAKES.
"Your majesty," said Quelus, "knows only half the business, and that the least interesting half. Assuredly, we have all dined with M. de Bussy, and to the honor of his cook, be it said, dined well. There was, above all, a certain wine from Austria or Hungary, which really appeared to me marvelous. But during the repast, or rather after it, we had the most serious and interesting conversation concerning your majesty's affairs."
"You make the exordium very long."
"How talkative you are, Valois!" cried Chicot.
"Oh! oh! M. Gascon," said Henri, "if you do not sleep, you must leave the room."
"Pardieu, it is you who keep me from sleeping, your tongue clacks so fast."
Quelus, seeing it was impossible to speak seriously, shrugged his shoulders, and rose in anger.
"We were speaking of grave matters," said he.
"Yes," said D'Epernon, "if the lives of eight brave gentlemen are worth the trouble of your majesty's attention."
"What does it mean, my son?" said Henri, placing his hand on Quelus's shoulder.
"Well, sire, the result of our conversation was, that royalty is menaced—weakened, that is to say, that all the world is conspiring against you. Sire, you are a great king, but you have no horizon before you; the nobility have raised so many barriers before your eyes, that you can see nothing, if it be not the still higher barriers that the people have raised. When, sire, in battle one battalion places itself like a menacing wall before another, what happens? Cowards look behind them, and seeing an open space, they fly; the brave lower their heads and rush on."
"Well, then forward!" cried the king, "mordieu! am I not the first gentleman in my kingdom? Were they not great battles that I fought in my youth? Forward, then, gentlemen, and I will take the lead; it is my custom in the melee."
"Oh! yes, sire," cried the young men, with one voice.
"And," said Quelus, "against these ramparts which are closing round your majesty, four men will march, sure to be applauded by you, and glorified by posterity."
"What do you mean, Quelus?" cried the king, with eyes in which joy was tempered by solicitude; "who are these four men?"
"I, and these other gentlemen," replied Quelus, with pride; "we devote ourselves, sire."
"To your safety."
"Against your enemies."
"Private enmities of young men?"
"Oh! sire, that is the expression of vulgar prejudice; speak like a king, sire, not like a bourgeois. Do not profess to believe that Maugiron detests Antragues, that Schomberg dislikes Livarot, that D'Epernon is jealous of Bussy, and that I hate Ribeirac. Oh! no. They are all young, and agreeable, and might love each other like brothers: it is not, therefore, a rivalry between man and man, which places the swords in our hands; it is the quarrel of France with Anjou, the dispute as to the rights of the populace against the prerogatives of the king. We present ourselves as champions of royalty in those lists, where we shall be met by the champions of the League, and we came to say, 'Bless us, sire, smile on those who are going to die for you.' Your blessing will, perhaps, give us the victory, your smile will make us die happy."
Henri, overcome with emotion, opened his arms to Quelus and the others. He united them in his heart; and it was not a spectacle without interest, a picture without expression, but a scene in which manly courage was allied to softer emotions, sanctified by devotion. Chicot looked on, and his face, ordinarily indifferent or sarcastic, was not the least noble and eloquent of the six.
"Ah!" cried the king, "I am proud to-day, not of being King of France, but of being your friend; at the same time, as I know my own interests best, I will not accept a sacrifice, of which the result will deliver me up, if you fall, into the hands of my enemies. France is enough to make war on Anjou; I know my brother, the Guises, and the League, and have often conquered more dangerous foes."
"But, sire, soldiers do not reason thus, they never take ill luck into their calculations."
"Pardon me, Maugiron; a soldier may act blindly, but the captain reflects."
"Reflect, then, sire, and let us act, who are only soldiers," said Schomberg: "besides, I know no ill luck; I am always successful."
"Friend, friend," said the king, sadly, "I wish I could say as much. It is true, you are but twenty."
"Sire," said Quelus, "on what day shall we meet MM. Bussy, Livarot, Antragues and Ribeirac?"
"Never; I forbid it absolutely."
"Sire, excuse us, the rendezvous was arranged before the dinner, words were said which cannot be retracted."
"Excuse me, monsieur," said Henri, "the king absolves from oaths and promises by saying, 'I will, or I will not,' for the king is all-powerful. Tell these gentlemen, therefore, that I have menaced you with all my anger it you come to blows; and that you may not doubt it yourselves, I swear to exile you, if——"
"Stop! sire; do not swear; because, if for such a cause we have merited your anger, and this anger shows itself by exiling us, we will go into exile with joy, because, being no longer on your majesty's territories, we can then keep our promises, and meet our adversaries."
"If these gentlemen approach you within range of an arquebuse, I will throw them all into the Bastile."
"Sire, if you do so we will all go barefooted, and with cords round our necks, to M. Testu, the governor, and pray to be incarcerate with them."
"I will have them beheaded, then; I am king, I hope."
"We will cut our throats at the foot of their scaffold."
Henri kept silent for a long time; then, raising his eyes, said, "God will surely bless a cause defended by such noble hearts."
"Yes, they are noble hearts," said Chicot, rising; "do what they wish, and fix a day for their meeting. It is your duty, my son."
"Oh I mon Dieu! mon Dieu!" murmured Henri.
"Sire, we pray you," cried all the four gentlemen, bending their knees.
"Well! so be it. Let us trust that God will give us the victory. But let us prepare for the conflict in a Christian manner. If I had time, I would send all your swords to Rome, that the Pope might bless them. But we have the shrine of St. Genevieve, which contains most precious relics: let us fast, and do penance, and keep holy the great day of the Fete Dieu, and then the next day——"
"Ah! sire, thanks; that is in eight days!" cried the young men.
And they seized the hands of the king, who embraced them all once more, and, going into his oratory, melted into tears.
"Our cartel is ready," said Quelus, "we have but to add the day and hour. Write, Maugiron, the day after the Fete Dieu. Here is a table."
"It is done," said Maugiron, "now who will carry the letter?"
"I will, if you please," said Chicot, approaching, "but I wish to give you a piece of advice. His majesty speaks of fasts and macerations. That is all very well after the combat, but before, I prefer good nourishment, generous wine, and eight hours' sleep every night."
"Adieu, my little lions," replied the Gascon, "I go to the Hotel Bussy." He went three steps and returned, and said, "Apropos, do not quit the king during the Fete Dieu; do not go to the country, any of you, but stay by the Louvre. Now, I will do your commission."
THE FETE DIEU.
During these eight days events were preparing themselves, as a tempest gathers in the heavens during the calm days of summer. Monsoreau had an attack of fever for twenty-four hours, then he rallied, and began to watch, himself; but as he discovered no one, he became more than ever convinced of the hypocrisy of the Duc d'Anjou, and of his bad intentions with regard to Diana.
Bussy did not discontinue his visits by day, but, warned by Remy of this constant watchfulness, came no more at night to the window.
Chicot divided his time between the king, whom he watched like a child, and his friend Gorenflot, whom he had persuaded to return to his convent. He passed hours with him in his cell, always bringing with him large bottles in his pocket, and the report begin to be spread that Gorenflot had nearly persuaded him to turn monk.
As for the king, he gave constant lessons in fencing to his friends, teaching them new thrusts, and, above all, exercising D'Epernon, to whom fate had given so skilful an adversary, that he was visibly preoccupied by it.
Any one walking in the streets of Paris at certain hours, might have met the strange monks, of whom our first chapters furnished some description, and who resembled troopers more than monks. Then, to complete the picture, we must add that the Hotel de Guise had become at once mysterious and turbulent, the most peopled within and the most deserted without that can be imagined; that meetings were held every night in the great hall, and with all the blinds and windows hermetically closed, and that these meetings were preceded by dinners, to which none but men were invited, and which were presided over by Madame de Montpensier. Of all these meetings, however, important though they were, the police suspected nothing. On the morning of the great day, the weather was superb, and the flowers which filled the streets sent their perfumes through the air. Chicot, who for the last fortnight had slept in the king's room, woke him early; no one had yet entered the royal chamber.
"Oh, Chicot!" cried the king, "you have woke me from one of the sweetest dreams I ever had in my life."
"What was it, my son?"
"I dreamed that Quelus had run Antragues through the body, and was swimming in the blood of his adversary. Let us go and pray that my dream may be realized. Call, Chicot, call."
"What do you want?"
"My hair-cloth and my scourge."
"Would you not prefer a good breakfast?"
"Pagan, would you go to hear mass on the Fete Dieu with a full stomach?"
"Patience; it is scarcely eight o'clock, and you will have plenty of time to scourge yourself. Let us talk first. Converse with your friend; you will not repent it, Valois, on the faith of a Chicot."
"Well, talk; but be quick."
"How shall we divide our day, my son?"
"Into three parts."
"In honor of the Trinity; very well, let me hear these three parts."
"First, mass at St. Germain l'Auxerrois."
"Return to the Louvre, for a collation."
"Then, a procession of penitents through the streets, stopping at the principal convente of Paris, beginning at the Jacobine and finishing at St. Genevieve, where I have promised the prior to stay till to-morrow in the cell of a saint, who will pray for the success of our arms."
"I know him."
"So much the better; you shall accompany me, and we will pray together."
"Yes; make yourself easy."
"Then dress yourself, and come."
"Wait a little."
"I have more to ask."
"Be quick, then, for time passes."
"What is the court to do?"
"And your brother?"
"Will accompany me."
"The French guard wait for me at the Louvre, and the Swiss at the door of the Abbey."
"That will do; now I know all."
"Then I may call?"
Henri struck on his gong.
"The ceremony will be magnificent," said Chicot.
"God will accept our homage, I hope."
"But tell me, Henri, before any one comes in, have you nothing else to say to me?"
"No, I have given you all the details."
"Have you settled to sleep at St. Genevieve?"
"Well, my son, I do not like that part of the program."
"When we have dined I will tell you another plan that has occurred to me."
"Well, I consent."
"Whether you consent or not, it will be all the same thing."
"What do you mean?"
"Hush! here are your valets."
As he spoke, the ushers opened the door, and the barber, perfumer, and valet of the king entered, and commenced to execute upon his majesty one of those toilets which we have described elsewhere. When the king was dressing, the Duc d'Anjou was announced. He was accompanied by M. de Monsoreau, D'Epernon, and Aurilly. Henri, at the sight of Monsoreau, still pale and looking more frightful than ever, could not repress a movement of surprise.
"You have been wounded, comte, have you not?"
"At the chase, they told me."
"But you are better now?"
"I am well."
"Sire," said the duke, "would it please you that, after our devotions, M, de Monsoreau should go and prepare a chase for us in the woods of Compiegne?"
"But do you not know that to-morrow——"
He was going to say, "Four of your friends are to fight four of mine;" but he stopped, for he remembered that it was a secret.
"I know nothing" said the duke; "but if your majesty will inform me——"
"I meant that, as I am to pass the night at the Abbey of St. Genevieve, I should perhaps not be ready for to-morrow; but let the count go; if it be not to-morrow, it shall be the day after."
"You hear?" said the duke to Monsoreau.
At this moment Quelus and Schomberg entered. The king received them with open arms.
Monsoreau said softly to the duke, "You exile me, monseigneur."
"Is it not your duty to prepare the chase for the king?"
"I understand—this is the last of the eight days fixed by your highness, and you prefer sending me to Compiegne to keeping your promise."
"No, on the contrary; I keep my promise."
"Your departure will be publicly known."
"Well, do not go, but hide near your house; then, believing you gone, the man you wish to know will come; the rest concerns yourself: I engage for no more."
"Ah! if that be so——"
"You have my word."
"I have better than that, I have your signature."
"Oh, yes, mordieu! I know that."
Aurilly touched D'Epernon's arm and said, "It is done; Bussy will not fight to-morrow."
"I answer for it."
"Who will prevent it?"
"Never mind that."
"If it be so, my dear sorcerer, there are one thousand crowns for you."
"Gentlemen," said the king, who had finished his toilet, "to St. Germain l'Auxerrois."
"And from there to St. Genevieve?" asked the duke.
"Certainly," replied Henri, passing into the gallery where all his court were waiting for him.
WHICH WILL ELUCIDATE THE PREVIOUS CHAPTER.
The evening before M. de Monsoreau had returned to his home from the Hotel Guise, and had found Bussy there. Then, in his friendship for this brave gentleman, he had taken him aside, and said:
"Will you permit me to give you a piece of advice?"
"If I were you, I should leave Paris to-morrow."
"I! and why so?"
"All that I can tell you is, that your absence may save you from great embarrassment."
"Are you ignorant of what is to take place to-morrow?"
"On your honor?"
"On my word as a gentleman."
"M. d'Anjou has confided nothing to you?"
"Nothing; M. d'Anjou confides nothing to me beyond what all the world knows."
"Well! I, who am not the Duc d'Anjou, who love my friends for their own sakes, and not for mine, I will tell you, my dear count, that he is preparing for grave events to-morrow, and that the parting of Guise and Anjou meditate a stroke which may end in the fall of the king."
Bussy looked at M. de Monsoreau with suspicion, but his whole manner expressed so much sincerity that it was impossible to doubt him.
"Count," replied he, "my sword belongs to the Duc d'Anjou. The king, against whom I have done nothing, hates me, and has never let slip an occasion of doing or saying something wounding to me; and to-morrow I tell you—but you alone, remember—I am about to risk my life to humiliate Henri de Valois in the person of his favorites."
"Then you are resolved to risk all the consequences of your adherence to the duke?"
"You know where it may lead you?"
"I know where I will stop; whatever complaints I have against the king, I will never lift a hand against him; but I will let others do what they like, and I will follow M. d'Anjou to protect him in case of need."
"My dear comte," said Monsoreau, "the Duc d'Anjou is perfidious and a traitor; a coward, capable, from jealous or fear, of sacrificing his most faithful servant—his most devoted friend; abandon him, take a friend's counsel, pass the day in your little house at Vincennes, go where you like, except to the procession of the Fete Dieu."
"But why do you follow the duke yourself?"
"For reasons which concern my honor. I have need of him for a little while longer."
"Well! that is like me; for things which concern my honor I must follow the duke."
The Comte de Monsoreau pressed his hand, and they parted.
The next morning Monsoreau announced to his wife his approaching departure for Compiegne, and gave all the necessary orders. Diana heard the news with joy. She knew from her husband of the duel which was arranged between Bussy and D'Epernon, but had no fear for the result, and looked forward to it with pride. Bussy had presented himself in the morning to the Duc d'Anjou, who, seeing him so frank, loyal, and devoted, felt some remorse; but two things combated this return of good feeling—firstly, the great empire Bussy had over him, as every powerful mind has over a weak one, and which annoyed him; and, secondly, the love of Bussy for Diana, which awoke all the tortures of jealousy in his heart. Monsoreau, it was true, inspired him with equal dislike and fear, but he thought, "Either Bussy will accompany me and aid my triumph, and then if I triumph, I do not care for Monsoreau, or Bussy will abandon me, and then I owe him nothing, and I will abandon him in return."
When they were in the church, the duke saw Remy enter, and going up to his master, slide a note into his hand.
"It is from her," thought he; "she sends him word that her husband is leaving Paris."
Bussy put the note into his hat, opened, and read it, and the prince saw his face radiant with joy and love. The duke looked round; if Monsoreau had been there, perhaps he would not have had patience to wait till the evening to denounce Bussy.
The mass over, they returned to the Louvre, where a collation waited for the king in his room, and for his gentlemen in the gallery. On entering the Louvre, Bussy approached the duke.
"Pardon, monseigneur," said he, "but can I say two words to you?"
"Are you in a hurry?"
"Very much so."
"Will it not do during the procession? we shall walk side by side."
"Monseigneur must excuse me, but what I wished to ask is, that I need not accompany you."
"Monseigneur, to-morrow is a great day, and I would wish to retire to-day to my little house at Vincennes."
"Then you do not join the procession with the king and court?"
"No, monseigneur, if you will excuse me."
"Will you not rejoin me at St. Genevieve?"
"Monseigneur, I wish to have the whole day to myself."
"But if anything should occur when I have need of my friends?"
"As monseigneur would only want me to draw my sword against my king, it is a double reason for excusing myself," replied Bussy; "my sword is engaged against M. d'Epernon."
Monsoreau had told the duke the night before that he might reckon on Bussy; this change, therefore, must have been occasioned by Diana's note.
"Then," said the duke, "you abandon your chief and master?"
"Monseigneur, he who is about to risk his life in a bloody duel, as ours will be, has but one master, and it is to Him my last devotions will be paid."
"You know that I am playing for a throne, and you leave me."
"Monseigneur, I have worked enough for you; I will work again to-morrow, do not ask me for more than my life."
"It is well!" said the duke, in a hollow voice, "you are free; go, M. de Bussy."
Bussy, without caring for the prince's evident anger, ran down the staircase of the Louvre, and went rapidly to his own house.
The duke called Aurilly. "Well! he has condemned himself," said he.
"Does he not follow you?"
"He goes to the rendezvous?"
"Then it is for this evening?"
"Is M. de Monsoreau warned?"
"Of the rendezvous—yes; but not yet of the man."
"Then you have decided to sacrifice the count?"
"I have determined to revenge myself; I fear now but one thing."
"What is that?"
"That Monsoreau will trust to his strength, and that Bussy will escape him."
"Reassure yourself, monseigneur."
"Is M. de Bussy irrevocably condemned?"
"Yes, mordieu! A man who dictates to me—who takes away from me her whom I was seeking for—who is a sort of lion, of whom I am less the master than the keeper—yes, Aurilly, he is condemned without mercy."
"Well, then, be easy, for if he escape Monsoreau, he will not escape from another."
"And who is that?"
"Does your highness order me to name him?"
"Yes, I do."
"It is M. d'Epernon."
"D'Epernon! who was to fight him to-morrow?"
"How is that?"
Aurilly was about to reply, when the duke was summoned; for the king was at table, and had sent for his brother.
"You shall tell me during the procession," said the duke.
We will now tell our readers what had passed between Aurilly and D'Epernon. They had long known each other, for Aurilly had taught D'Epernon to play on the lute, and, as he was fond of music, they were often together. He called upon Aurilly to tell him of his approaching duel, which disquieted him not a little. Bravery was never one of D'Epernon's prominent qualities, and he looked on a duel with Bussy as certain death. When Aurilly heard it, he told D'Epernon that Bussy practised fencing every morning with an artist, lately arrived, who was said to have borrowed from all nations their best points, until he had become perfect. During this recital D'Epernon grew livid with terror.
"Ah! I am doomed," said he.
"But it is absurd to go out with a man who is sure to kill me."
"You should have thought of that before making the engagement."
"Peste! I will break the engagement."
"He is a fool who gives up his life willingly at twenty-five. But, now I think of it——"
"M. de Bussy is sure to kill me."
"I do not doubt it."
"Then it will not be a duel, but an assassination."
"And if it be, it is lawful to prevent an assassination by——"
"What prevents me, since he wishes to kill me, from killing him first?"
"Oh, mon Dieu! nothing; I thought of that myself."
"It is only natural."
"Only, instead of killing him with my own hands, I will leave it to others."
"That is to say, you will hire assassins?"
"Ma foi! yes, like M. de Guise for St. Megrim."
"It will cost you dear."
"I will give three thousand crowns."
"You will only get six men for that, when they know who they have to deal with."
"Are not six enough?"
"M. de Bussy would kill four before they touched him. Do you remember the fight in the Rue St. Antoine?"
"I will give six thousand; if I do the thing, I will take care he does not escape."
"Have you your men?"
"Oh, there are plenty of unoccupied men-soldiers of fortune."
"Very well; but take care."
"If they fail they will denounce you."
"I have the king to protect me."
"That will not hinder M. de Bussy from killing you."
"That is true."
"Should you like an auxiliary?"
"I should like anything which would aid me to get rid of him."
"Well, a certain enemy of your enemy is jealous."
"And he is now laying a snare for him?"
"But he wants money; with your six thousand crowns he will take care of your affair as well as his own. You do not wish the honor. of the thing to be yours, I suppose?"
"Mon Dieu! no; I only ask to remain in obscurity."
"Send your men, and he will use them."
"But I must know who it is."
"I will show you in the morning."
"At the Louvre."
"Then he is noble?"
"Aurilly, you shall have the six thousand crowns."
"Then it is settled?"
"At the Louvre, then?"
"Yes, at the Louvre."
We have seen in the preceding chapter how Aurilly said to D'Epernon, "Be easy, Bussy will not fight to-morrow."
As soon as the collation was over, the king had entered his room with Chicot, to put on his penitent's robe and had come out an instant after, with bare feet, a cord round his waist, and his hood over his face; the courtiers had made the same toilet. The weather was magnificent, and the pavements were strewn with flowers; an immense crowd lined the roads to the four places where the king was to stop. The clergy of St. Germain led the procession, and the Archbishop of Paris followed, carrying the holy sacrament; between them walked young boys, shaking censers, and young girls scattering roses. Then came the king, followed by his four friends, barefooted and frocked like himself.
The Duc d'Anjou followed in his ordinary dress, accompanied by his Angevins. Next came the principal courtiers, and then the bourgeois. It was one o'clock when they left the Louvre. Crillon and the French guards were about to follow, but the king signed to them to remain. It was near six in the evening before they arrived before the old abbey, where they saw the prior and the monks drawn up on the threshold to wait for his majesty. The Duc d'Anjou, a little before, had pleaded great fatigue, and had asked leave to retire to his hotel, which had been granted to him. His gentlemen had retired with him, as if to proclaim that they followed the duke and not the king, besides which, they did not wish to fatigue themselves before the morrow. At the door of the abbey the king dismissed his four favorites, that they also might take some repose. The archbishop also, who had eaten nothing since morning, was dropping with fatigue, so the king took pity on him and on the other priests and dismissed them all. Then, turning to the prior, Joseph Foulon, "Here I am, my father," said he; "I come, sinner as I am, to seek repose in your solitude."
The prior bowed, and the royal penitent mounted the steps of the abbey, striking his breast at each step, and the door was immediately closed behind him.
"We will first," said the prior, "conduct your majesty into the crypt, which we have ornamented in our best manner to do honor to the King of heaven and earth."
No sooner had the king passed through the somber arcade, lined with monks, and turned the corner which led to the chapel, than twenty hoods were thrown into the air, and eyes were seen brilliant with joy and triumph. Certainly, they were not monkish or peaceful faces displayed, but bristling mustaches and embrowned skins, many scarred by wounds, and by the side of the proudest of all, who displayed the most celebrated scar, stood a woman covered with a frock, and looking triumphant and happy. This woman, shaking a pair of golden scissors which hung by her side, cried:
"Ah! my brothers, at last we have the Valois!"
"Ma foi, sister, I believe so."
"Not yet," murmured the cardinal.
"Shall we have enough bourgeois guards to make head against Crillon and his guards?"
"We have better than bourgeois guards; and, believe me, there will not be a musket-shot exchanged."
"How so?" said the duchess. "I should have liked a little disturbance."
"Well, sister, you will be deprived of it. When the king is taken he will cry out, but no one will answer; then, by persuasion or by violence, but without showing ourselves, we shall make him sign his abdication. The news will soon spread through the city, and dispose in our favor both the bourgeois and the troops."
"The plan is good, and cannot fail," said the duchess. "It is rather brutal," said the Duc de Guise; "besides which, the king will refuse to sign the abdication. He is brave, and will rather die."
"Let him die, then."
"Not so," replied the duke, firmly. "I will mount the throne of a prince who abdicates and is despised, but not of an assassinated man who is pitied. Besides, in your plans you forget M. le Duc d'Anjou, who will claim the crown."
"Let him claim, mordieu!" said Mayenne; "he shall be comprised in his brother's act of abdication. He is in connection with the Huguenots, and is unworthy to reign."
"Are you sure of that?"
"Pardieu! did he not escape from the Louvre by the aid of the King of Navarre?"
"Then another clause in favor of our house shall follow; this clause shall make you lieutenant-general of the kingdom, from which to the throne is only a step."
"Yes, yes," said the cardinal, "all that is settled; but it is probable that the French guards, to make sure that the abdication is a genuine one, and above all, a voluntary one, will insist upon seeing the king, and will force the gates of the abbey if they are not admitted. Crillon does not understand joking, and he is just the man to say to the king, 'Sire, your life is in danger; but, before everything, let us save our honor.'"
"The general has taken his precautions. If it be necessary to sustain a siege, we have here eighty gentlemen, and I have distributed arms to a hundred monks. We could hold out for a month against the army; besides, in case of danger, we have the cave to fly to with our prey."
"What is the Duc d'Anjou doing?"
"In the hour of danger he has failed, as usual. He has gone home, no doubt, waiting for news of us, through Bussy or Monsoreau."
"Mon Dieu! he should have been here; not at home."
"You are wrong, brother," said the cardinal; "the people and the nobles would have seen in it a snare to entrap the family. As you said just now, we must, above all things, avoid playing the part of usurper. We must inherit. By leaving the Duc d'Anjou free, and the queen-mother independent, no one will have anything to accuse us of. If we acted otherwise, we should have against us Bussy, and a hundred other dangerous swords."
"Bah! Bussy is going to fight against the king's minions."
"Pardieu! he will kill them, and then he will join us," said the Duc de Guise; "he is a superior man, and one whom I much esteem, and I will make him general of the army in Italy, where war is sure to break out."
"And I," said the duchess, "if I become a widow, will marry him."
"Who is near the king?" asked the duke.
"The prior and Brother Gorenflot."
"Is he in the cell?"
"Oh no! he will look first at the crypt and the relics."
At this moment a bell sounded.
"The king is returning," said the Duc de Guise; "let us become monks again." And immediately the hoods covered ardent eyes and speaking scars, and twenty or thirty monks, conducted by the three brothers, went towards the crypt.
CHICOT THE FIRST.
The king visited the crypt, kissed the relics-often striking his breast, and murmuring the most doleful psalms. At last the prior said, "Sire, will it please you now to depose your earthly crown at the feet of the eternal king?"
"Let us go!" said the king.
They arrived at the cell, on the threshold of which stood Gorenflot, his eyes brilliant as carbuncles.
Henri entered. "Hic portus salutis!" murmured he.
"Yes," replied Foulon.
"Leave us!" said Gorenflot, with a majestic gesture; and immediately the door shut, and they were left alone.
"Here you are, then, Herod! pagan! Nebuchadnezzar!" cried Gorenflot, suddenly.
"Is it to me you speak, my brother?" cried the king, in surprise.
"Yes, to you. Can one accuse you of anything so bad, that it is not true?"
"Bah! you have no brother here. I have long been meditating a discourse, and now you shall have it. I divide it into three heads. First, you are a tyrant; second, you are a satyr; third, you are dethroned."
"Neither more or less. This abbey is not like Poland, and you cannot fly."
"Ah! a snare!"
"Oh, Valois, learn that a king is but a man."
"You are violent, my brother."
"Pardieu! do you think we imprison you to flatter you?"
"You abuse your religious calling."
"There is no religion."
"Oh, you are a saint, and say such things!"
"I have said it."
"You speak dreadfully, my brother."
"Come, no preaching; are you ready?"
"To do what?"
"To resign your crown; I am charged to demand it of you."
"You are committing a mortal sin."
"Oh! I have right of absolution, and I absolve myself in advance. Come, renounce, Brother Valois."
"The throne of France."
"Oh! then you shall die! Here is the prior returning. Decide!"
"I have my guards—my friends; they will defend me."
"Yes, but you will be killed first."
"Leave me at least a little time for reflection."
"Not an instant!"
"Your zeal carries you away, brother," said the prior, opening the door; and saying to the king, "Your request is granted," he shut it again.
Henri fell into a profound reverie. "I accept the sacrifice," he said, after the lapse of ten minutes.
"It is done—he accepts!" cried Gorenflot.
The king heard a murmur of joy and surprise.
"Read him the act," said a voice, and a monk passed a paper to Gorenflot.
Gorenflot read it to the king, who listened with his head buried in his hands.
"If I refuse to sign?" cried he, shedding tears.
"It will be doubly your ruin," said the Duc de Guise, from under his hood. "Look on yourself as dead to the world, and do not force your subjects to shed the blood of a man who has been their king."
"I will not be forced."
"I feared so," said the duke to his sister. Then, turning to his brother, "Let everyone arm and prepare," said he.
"For what?" cried the king, in a miserable tone.
The king's despair redoubled.
"Corbleu!" cried Gorenflot, "I hated you before, Valois, but now I despise you! Sign, or you shall perish by my hand!"
"Have patience," said the king; "let me pray to my divine Master for resignation."
"He wishes to reflect again," said Gorenflot.
"Give him till midnight," said the cardinal.
"Thanks, charitable Christian!" cried the king:
"His brain is weak," said the duke; "we serve France by dethroning him."
"I shall have great pleasure in clipping him!" said the duchess.
Suddenly a noise was heard outside, and soon they distinguished blows struck on the door of the abbey, and Mayenne went to see what it was. "My brothers," said he, "there is a troop of armed men outside."
"They have come to seek him," said the duchess.
"The more reason that he should sign quickly."
"Sign, Valois, sign!" roared Gorenflot.
"You gave me till midnight," said the king, piteously.
"Ah! you hoped to be rescued."
"He shall die if he does not sign!" cried the duchess. Gorenflot offered him the pen. The noise outside redoubled.
"A new troop!" cried a monk; "they are surrounding the abbey!"
"The Swiss," cried Foulon, "are advancing on the right!"
"Well, we will defend ourselves; with such a hostage in our hands, we need not surrender."
"He has signed!" cried Gorenflot, tearing the paper from Henri, who buried his face in his hands.
"Then you are king!" cried the cardinal to the duke; "take the precious paper."
The king overturned the little lamp which alone lighted the scene, but the duke already held the parchment.
"What shall we do?" said a monk. "Here is Crillon, with his guards, threatening to break in the doors!"
"In the king's name!" cried the powerful voice of Crillon.
"There is no king!" cried Gorenflot through the window.
"Who says that?" cried Crillon.
"Break in the doors, Monsieur Crillon!" said, from outside, a voice which made the hair of all the monks, real and pretended, stand on end.
"Yes, sire," replied Crillon, giving a tremendous blow with a hatchet on the door.
"What do you want?" said the prior, going to the window.
"Ah! it is you, M. Foulon," replied the same voice, "I want my jester, who is in one of your cells. I want Chicot, I am ennuye at the Louvre."
"And I have been much amused, my son," said Chicot, throwing off his hood, and pushing his way through the crowd of monks, who recoiled, with a cry of terror.
At this moment the Duc de Guise, advancing to a lamp, read the signature obtained with so much labor. It was "Chicot I."
"Chicot!" cried he; "thousand devils!"
"Let us fly!" said the cardinal, "we are lost."
"Ah!" cried Chicot, turning to Gorenflot, who was nearly fainting, and he began to strike him with the cord he had round his waist.
INTEREST AND CAPITAL.
As the king spoke and the conspirators listened, they passed from astonishment to terror. Chicot I. relinquished his role of apparent terror, threw back his hood, crossed his arms, and, while Gorenflot fled at his utmost speed, sustained, firm and smiling, the first shock. It was a terrible moment, for the gentlemen, furious at the mystification of which they had been the dupes, advanced menacingly on the Gascon. But this unarmed man, his breast covered only by his arms—this laughing face, stopped them still more than the remonstrance of the cardinal, who said to them that Chicot's death could serve no end, but, on the contrary, would be terribly avenged by the king, who was the jester's accomplice in this scene of terrible buffoonery.
The result was, that daggers and rapiers were lowered before Chicot, who continued to laugh in their faces.
However, the king's menaces and Crillon's blows became more vehement, and it was evident that the door could not long resist such an attack. Thus, after a moment's deliberation, the Duc de Guise gave the order for retreat. This order made Chicot smile, for, during his nights with Gorenflot, he had examined the cave and found out the door, of which he had informed the king, who had placed there Torquenot, lieutenant of the Swiss guards. It was then evident that the leaguers, one after another, were about to throw themselves into the trap. The cardinal made off first, followed by about twenty gentlemen. Then Chicot saw the duke pass with about the same number, and afterwards Mayenne. When Chicot saw him go he laughed outright. Ten minutes passed, during which he listened earnestly, thinking to hear the noise of the leaguers sent back into the cave, but to his astonishment, the sound continued to go further and further off. His laugh began to change into oaths. Time passed, and the leaguers did not return; had they seen that the door was guarded and found another way out? Chicot was about to rush from the cell, when all at once the door was obstructed by a mass which fell at his feet, and began to tear its hair.
"Ah! wretch that I am!" cried the monk. "Oh! my good M. Chicot, pardon me, pardon me!"
How did Gorenflot, who went first, return now alone? was the question that presented itself to Chicot's mind.
"Oh! my good M. Chicot!" he continued to cry, "pardon your unworthy friend, who repents at your knees."
"But how is it you have not fled with the others?"
"Because the Lord in His anger has struck me with obesity, and I could not pass where the others did. Oh! unlucky stomach! Oh! miserable paunch!" cried the monk, striking with his two hands the part he apostrophized. "Ah! why am not I thin like you, M. Chicot?"
Chicot understood nothing of the lamentations of the monk.
"But the others are flying, then?" cried he, in a voice of thunder.
"Pardieu! what should they do? Wait to be hung? Oh! unlucky paunch!"
"Silence, and answer me."
"Interrogate me, M. Chicot; you have the right."
"How are the others escaping?"
"As fast as they can."
"So I imagine; but where?"
"By the hole."
"Mordieu! what hole?"
"The hole in the cemetery cellar."
"Is that what you call the cave?"
"Oh! no; the door of that was guarded outside. The great cardinal, just as he was about to open it, heard a Swiss say, 'Mich dwistel,' which means, 'I am thirsty.'"
"Ventre de biche! so then they took another way?"
"Yes, dear M. Chicot, they are getting out through the cellar."
"How does that run?"
"From the crypt to the Porte St. Jacques."
"You lie; I should have seen them repass before this cell."
"No, dear M. Chicot; they thought they had not time for that, so they are creeping out through the air-hole."
"One which looks into the garden, and serves to light the cellar."
"So that you——"
"I was too big, and could not pass, and they drew me back by my legs, because I intercepted the way for the others."
"Then he who is bigger than you?"
"Oh! Holy Virgin, I promise you a dozen wax candles, if he also cannot pass."
The monk raised himself from the ground as quickly as he could.
"Now lead me to the hole."
"Where you wish."
"Go on, then, wretch."
Gorenflot went on as fast as he was able, while Chicot indulged himself by giving him a few blows with the cord. They traversed the corridor, and descended into the garden.
"Here! this way," said Gorenflot.
"Hold your tongue, and go on."
"There it is," and exhausted by his efforts, the monk sank on the grass, while Chicot, hearing groans, advanced, and saw something protruding through the hole. By the side of this something lay a frock and a sword. It was evident that the individual in the hole had taken off successively all the loose clothing which increased his size; and yet, like Gorenflot, he was making useless efforts to get through.
"Mordieu! ventrebleu! sangdien!" cried a stifled voice. "I would rather pass through the midst of the guards. Do not pull so hard, my friends; I shall come through gradually; I feel that I advance, not quickly, it is true, but I do advance."
"Ventre de biche!" murmured Chicot, "it is M. de Mayenne. Holy Virgin, you have gained your candles."
And he made a noise with his feet like some one running fast.
"They are coming," cried several voices from inside.
"All!" cried Chicot, as if out of breath, "it is you, miserable monk!"
"Say nothing, monseigneur!" murmured the voices, "he takes you for Gorenflot."
"Ah! it is you, heavy mass—pondus immobile; it is you, indigesta moles!"
And at each apostrophe, Chicot, arrived at last at his desired vengeance, let fall the cord with all the weight of his arm on the body before him.
"Silence!" whispered the voices again; "he takes you for Gorenflot."
Mayenne only uttered groans, and made immense efforts to get through.
"Ah! conspirator!" cried Chicot again; "ah! unworthy monk, this is for your drunkenness, this for idleness, this for anger, this for greediness, and this for all the vices you have."
"M. Chicot, have pity," whispered Gorenflot.
"And here, traitor, this is for your treason," continued Chicot.
"Ah! why did it not please God to substitute for your vulgar carcass the high and mighty shoulders of the Duc de Mayenue, to whom I owe a volley of blows, the interest of which has been accumulating for seven years!"
"Chicot!" cried the duke.
"Yes, Chicot, unworthy servant of the king, who wishes he had the hundred arms of Briareus for this occasion."
And he redoubled his blows with such violence, that the sufferer, making a tremendous effort, pushed himself through, and fell torn and bleeding into the arms of his friends. Chicot's last blow fell into empty space. He turned, and saw that the true Gorenflot had fainted with terror.
WHAT WAS PASSING NEAR THE BASTILE WHILE CHICOT WAS PAYING HIS DEBT TO Y. DE MAYENNE.
It was eleven at night, and the Duc d'Anjou was waiting impatiently at home for a messenger from the Duc le Guise. He walked restlessly up and down, looking every minute at the clock. All at once he heard a horse in the courtyard, and thinking it was the messenger, he ran to the window, but it was a groom leading up and down a horse which was waiting for its master, who almost immediately came out. It was Bussy, who, as captain of the duke's guards, came to give the password for the night. The duke, seeing this handsome and brave young man, of whom he had never had reason to complain, experienced an instant's remorse, but on his face he read so much joy, hope, and happiness, that all his jealousy returned. However, Bussy, ignorant that the duke was watching him, jumped into his saddle and rode off to his own hotel, where he gave his horse to the groom. There he saw Remy.
"Ah! you Remy?"
"Not yet in bed?"
"I have just come in. Indeed, since I have no longer a patient, it seems to me that the days have forty-eight hours."
"Are you ennuye?"
"I fear so."
"Then Gertrude is abandoned?"
"You grew tired?"
"Of being beaten. That was how her love showed itself."
"And does your heart not speak for her to-night?"
"Because I would have taken you with me."
"To the Bastile?"
"You are going there?"
"Is at Compiegne, preparing a chase for the king."
"Are you sure, monsieur?"
"The order was given publicly this morning."
"Ah, well; Jourdain, my sword."
"You have changed your mind?"
"I will accompany you to the door, for two reasons."
"What are they?"
"Firstly, lest you should meet any enemies." Bussy smiled.
"Oh! mon Dieu, I know you fear no one, and that Remy the doctor is but a poor companion; still, two men are not so likely to be attacked as one. Secondly, because I have a great deal of good advice to give you."
"Come, my dear Remy, come. We will speak of her; and next to the pleasure of seeing the woman you love, I know none greater than talking of her."
Bussy then took the arm of the young doctor, and they set off. Remy on the way tried hard to induce Bussy to return early, insisting that he would be more fit for his duel on the morrow.
Bussy smiled. "Fear nothing," said he.
"Ah! my dear master, to-morrow you ought to fight like Hercules against Antaus—like Theseus against the Minotaur—like Bayard—like something Homeric, gigantic, impossible; I wish people to speak of it in future times as the combat, par excellence, and in which you had not even received a scratch."
"Be easy, my dear Remy, you shall see wonders. This morning I put swords in the hands of four fencers, who during eight minutes could not touch me once, while I tore their doublets to pieces."
So conversing, they arrived in the Rue St. Antoine.
"Adieu! here we are," said Bussy.
"Shall I wait for you?"
"To make sure that you will return before two o'clock, and have at least five or six hours' sleep before your duel."
"If I give you my word?"
"Oh! that will be enough; Bussy's word is never doubted."
"You have it then."
"Then, adieu, monsieur."
Remy watched, and saw Bussy enter, not this time by the window, but boldly through the door, which Gertrude opened for him. Then Remy turned to go home; but he had only gone a few steps, when he saw coming towards him five armed men, wrapped in cloaks. When they arrived about ten yards from him, they said good night to each other, and four went off in different directions, while the fifth remained stationary.
"M. de St. Luc!" said Remy.
"Remy, in person. Is it an indiscretion to ask what your lordship does at this hour so far from the Louvre?"
"Ma foi! I am examining, by the king's order, the physiognomy of the city. He said to me, 'St. Luc, walk about the streets of Paris, and if you hear any one say I have abdicated, contradict him.'"
"And have you heard it?"
"Nowhere; and as it is just midnight, and I have met no one but M. de Monsoreau, I have dismissed my friends, and am about to return."
"M. de Monsoreau?"
"You met him?"
"With a troop of armed men; ten or twelve at least."
"He ought to be at Compiegne."
"He ought to be, but he is not."
"But the king's order?"
"Bah! who obeys the king?"
"Did he know you?"
"I believe so."
"You were but five?"
"My four friends and I."
"And he did not attack you?"
"On the contrary, he avoided me, which astonished me, as on seeing him, I expected a terrible battle."
"Where was he going?"
"To the Rue de la Tixanderie."
"Ah! mon Dieu!"
"M. de St. Luc, a great misfortune is about to happen."
"To M. de Bussy."
"Bussy! speak, Remy; I am his friend, you know."
"Oh! M. de Bussy thought him at Compiegne."
"And, profiting by his absence, is with Madame de Monsoreau."
"Do you not see? he has had suspicions, and has feigned to depart, that he might appear unexpectedly."
"Ah! it is the Duc d'Anjou's doing, I believe. Have you good lungs, Remy"
"Corbleu! like a blacksmith's bellows."
"Well! let us run. You know the house?"
"Go on then." And the young men set off like hunted deer.
"Is he much in advance of us?" said Remy.
"About a quarter of an hour."
"If we do but arrive in time!"
Bussy, himself without disquietude or hesitation, had been received by Diana without fear, for she believed herself sure of the absence of M. de Monsoreau. Never had this beautiful woman been more beautiful, nor Bussy more happy. She was moved, however, by fears for the morrow's combat, now so near, and she repeated to him, again and again, the anxiety she felt about it, and questioned him as to the arrangements he had made for flight. To conquer was not all; there was afterwards the king's anger to avoid, for it was not probable that he would ever pardon the death or defeat of his favorites.
"And then," said she, "are you not acknowledged to be the bravest man in France? Why make it a point of honor to augment your glory? You are already superior to other men, and you do not wish to please any other woman but me, Louis. Therefore, guard your life, or rather—for I think there is not a man in France capable of killing you, Louis—I should say, take care of wounds, for you may be wounded. Indeed, it was through a wound received in fighting with these same men, that I first made your acquaintance."
"Make yourself easy," said Bussy, smiling; "I will take care of my face—I shall not be disfigured."
"Oh, take care of yourself altogether. Think of the grief you would experience if you saw me brought home wounded and bleeding, and that I should feel the same grief on seeing your blood. Be prudent, my too courageous hero—that is all I ask. Act like the Roman of whom you read to me the other day: let your friends fight, aid the one who needs it most, but if three men—if two men attack you, fly; you can turn, like Horatius, and kill them one after another."
"Yes, my dear Diana."
"Oh, you reply without hearing me, Louis; you look at me, and do not listen."
"But I see you, and you are beautiful."
"Do not think of my beauty just now! Mon Dieu! it is your life I am speaking of. Stay, I will tell you something that will make you more prudent—I shall have the courage to witness this duel."
"I shall be there."
"No; listen. There is, in the room next to this, a window looking into a little court, but with a side-view of the Tournelles."
"Yes, I remember—the window from which I threw crumbs to the birds the other day."
"From there I can have a view of the ground; therefore, above all things, take care to stand so that I can see you; you will know that I am there, but do not look at me, lest your enemy should profit by it."
"And kill me, while I had my eyes fixed upon you. If I had to choose my death, Diana, that is the one I should prefer."
"Yes; but now you are not to die, but live."
"And I will live; therefore tranquilize yourself, Diana. Besides, I am well seconded—you do not know my friends; Antragues uses his sword as well as I do, Ribeirac is so steady on the ground that his eyes and his arms alone seem to be alive, and Livarot is as active as a tiger. Believe me, Diana, I wish there were more danger, for there would be more honor."
"Well, I believe you, and I smile and hope; but listen, and promise to obey me."
"Yes, if you do not tell me to leave."
"It is just what I am about to do. I appeal to your reason."
"Then you should not have made me mad."
"No nonsense, but obedience—that is the way to prove your love."
"Dear friend, you want a long sleep; go home."
"Yes, I am going to pray for you."
"Pray now, then."
As he spoke, a pane of the window flew into pieces, then the window itself, and three armed men appeared on the balcony while a fourth was climbing over. This one had his face covered with a mask, and held in his right hand a sword, and in his left a pistol.
Bussy remained paralyzed for a moment by the dreadful cry uttered by Diana at this sight. The masked man made a sign, and the three others advanced. Bussy put Diana back, and drew his sword.
"Come, my brave fellows!" said a sepulchral voice from under the mask; "he is already half-dead with fear."
"You are wrong," said Bussy; "I never feel fear."
Diana drew near him.
"Go back, Diana," said he. But she threw herself on his neck. "You will get me killed," said he; and she drew back.
"Ah!" said the masked man, "it is M. de Bussy, and I would not believe it, fool that I was! Really, what a good and excellent friend! He learns that the husband is absent, and has left his wife alone, and fears she may be afraid, so he comes to keep her company, although on the eve of a duel. I repeat, he is a good and excellent friend!"
"Ah! it is you, M. de Monsoreau!" said Bussy; "throw off your mask."
"I will," said he, doing so.
Diana uttered another cry; the comte was as pale as a corpse, but he smiled like a demon.
"Let us finish, monsieur," said Bussy; "it was very well for Homer's heroes, who were demigods, to talk before they fought; but I am a man—attack me, or let me pass."
Monsoreau replied by a laugh which made Diana shudder, but raised Bussy's anger.
"Let me pass!" cried he.
"Then, draw and have done; I wish to go home and I live far off."
During this time two other men mounted into the balcony.
"Two and four make six," said Bussy, "where are the others?"
"Waiting at the door."
Diana fell on her knees, and in spite of her efforts Bussy heard her sobs.
"My dear comte," said he, "you know I am a man of honor."
"Yes, you are, and madame is a faithful wife."
"Good, monsieur; you are severe, but, perhaps, it is deserved; only as I have a prior engagement with four gentlemen, I beg to be allowed to retire to-night, and I pledge my word, you shall find me again, when and where you will."
Monsoreau shrugged his shoulders.
"I swear to you, monsieur," said Bussy, "that when I have satisfied MM. Quelus, Schomberg, D'Epernon, and Maugiron, I shall be at your service. If they kill me, your vengeance will be satisfied, and if not——"
Monsoreau turned to his men. "On, my brave fellows," said he.
"Oh!" said Bussy, "I was wrong; it is not a duel, but an assassination."
"We were each deceived with regard to the other; but remember, monsieur, that the Duc d'Anjou will avenge me."
"It was he who sent me."
Instantaneously Bussy overturned the prie-Dieu, drew a table towards him, and threw a chair over all, so that in a second he had formed a kind of rampart between himself and his enemies. This movement had been so rapid, that the ball fired at him from the arquebuse only struck the prie-Dieu. Diana sobbed aloud. Bussy glanced at her, and then at his assailants, crying, "Come on, but take care, for my sword is sharp."
The men advanced, and one tried to seize the prie-Dieu, but before he reached it, Bussy's sword pierced his arm. The man uttered a cry, and fell back.
Bussy then heard rapid steps in the corridor, and thought he was surrounded. He flew to the door to lock it, but before he could reach it, it was opened, and two men rushed in.
"Ah! dear master!" cried a well-known voice, "are we in time?"
"And I?" cried a second voice, "it seems they are attempting assassination here."
"St. Luc!" cried Bussy, joyfully. "Ah! M. de Monsoreau, I think now you will do well to let us pass, for if you do not, we will pass over you."
"Three more men," cried Monsoreau. And they saw three new assailants appear on the balcony.
"They are an army," cried St. Luc.
"Oh! God protect him!" cried Diana.
"Wretch!" cried Monsoreau, and he advanced to strike her. Bussy saw the movement. Agile as a tiger, he bounded on him, and touched him in the throat; but the distance was too great, it was only a scratch. Five or six men rushed on Bussy, but one fell beneath the sword of St. Luc.
"Remy!" cried Bussy, "carry away Diana."
Monsoreau uttered a yell and snatched a pistol from one of the men.
Remy hesitated. "But you?" said he.
"Away! away! I confide her to you."
"Come, madame," said Remy.
"Never! I will never leave him."
Remy seized her in his arms.
"Bussy, help me! Bussy!" cried Diana. For any one who separated her from Bussy, seemed an enemy to her.
"Go," cried Bussy, "I will rejoin you."
At this moment Monsoreau fired, and Bussy saw Remy totter, and then fall, dragging Diana with him. Bussy uttered a cry, and turned.
"It is nothing, master," said Remy. "It was I who received the ball. She is safe."
As Bussy turned, three men threw themselves on him; St. Luc rushed forward, and one of them fell. The two others drew back.
"St. Luc," cried Bussy, "by her you love, save Diana."
"I am a man."
St. Luc rushed to Diana, seized her in his arms, and disappeared through the door.
"Here, my men, from the staircase," shouted Monsoreau.
"Ah! coward!" cried Bussy.
Monsoreau retreated behind his men. Bussy gave a back stroke and a thrust; with the first he cleft open a head, and with the second pierced a breast.
"That clears!" cried he.
"Fly, master!" cried Remy.
"Diana must save herself first," murmured he.
"Take care," cried Remy again, as four men rushed in through the door from the staircase. Bussy saw himself between two troops, but his only cry was, "Ah! Diana!"
Then, without losing a second, he rushed on the four men; and taken by surprise, two fell, one dead, one wounded.
Then, as Monsoreau advanced, he retreated again behind his rampart.
"Push the bolts, and turn the key," cried Monsoreau, "we have him now." During this time, by a great effort, Remy had dragged himself before Bussy, and added his body to the rampart.
There was an instant's pause. Bussy looked around him. Seven men lay stretched on the ground, but nine remained. And seeing these nine swords, and hearing Monsoreau encouraging them, this brave man, who had never known fear, saw plainly before him the image of death, beckoning him with its gloomy smile.
"I may kill five more," thought he, "but the other four will kill me. I have strength for ten minutes' more combat; in that ten minutes let me do what man never did before."
And rushing forward, he gave three thrusts, and three times he pierced the leather of a shoulder-belt, or the buff of a jacket, and three times a stream of blood followed.
During this time he had parried twenty blows with his left arm, and his cloak, which he had wrapped round it, was hacked to pieces.
The men changed their tactics; seeing two of their number fall and one retire, they renounced the sword, and some tried to strike with the butt-ends of their muskets, while others fired at him with pistols. He avoided the balls by jumping from side to side, or by stooping; for he seemed not only to see, hear, and act, but to divine every movement of his enemies, and appeared more than a man, or only man because he was mortal. Then he thought that to kill Monsoreau would be the best way to end the combat, and sought him with his eyes among his assailants, but he stood in the background, loading the pistols for his men. However, Bussy rushed forward, and found himself face to face with him. He, who held a loaded pistol, fired, and the ball, striking Bussy's sword, broke it off six inches from the handle.
"Disarmed!" cried Monsoreau.
Bussy drew back, picking up his broken blade, and in an instant it was fastened to the handle with a handkerchief; and the battle recommenced, presenting the extraordinary spectacle of a man almost without arms, but also almost without wounds, keeping six enemies at bay, and with ten corpses at his feet for a rampart. When the fight began again, Monsoreau commenced to draw away the bodies, lest Bussy should snatch a sword from one of them. Bussy was surrounded; the blade of his sword bent and shook in his hand, and fatigue began to render his arm heavy, when suddenly, one of the bodies raising itself, pushed a rapier into his hand. It was Remy's last act of devotion. Bussy uttered a cry of joy, and threw away his broken sword: at the same moment Monsoreau fired at Remy, and the ball entered his brain. This time he fell to rise no more.
Bussy uttered a cry. His strength seemed to return to him, and he whirled round his sword in a circle, cutting through a wrist at his right hand, and laying open a cheek at his left. Exhausted by the effort, he let his right arm fall for a moment, while with his left he tried to undraw the bolts behind him. During this second, he received a ball in his thigh, and two swords touched his side. But he had unfastened the bolt, and turned the key. Sublime with rage, he rushed on Monsoreau, and wounded him in the breast.
"Ah!" cried Bussy, "I begin to think I shall escape." The four men rushed on him, but they could not touch him, and were repulsed with blows. Monsoreau approached him twice more, and twice more was wounded. But three men seized hold of the handle of his sword, and tore it from him. He seized a stool of carved wood, and struck three blows with it, and knocked down two men; but it broke on the shoulder of the third, who sent his dagger into Bussy's breast.
Bussy seized him by the wrist, forced the dagger from him, and stabbed him to the heart. The last man jumped out of the window. Bussy made two steps to follow him, but Monsoreau, raising himself from the floor, where he was lying, wounded him in the leg with his dagger. The young man seized a sword which lay near, and plunged it so vigorously into his breast, that he pinned him to the floor.
"Ah!" cried Bussy, "I do not know if I shall live, but at least I shall have seen you die!"
Bussy dragged himself to the corridor, his wounds bleeding fearfully. He threw a last glance behind him. The moon was shining brilliantly, and its light penetrated this room inundated with blood, and illuminated the walls pierced by balls, and hacked by blows, and lighted up the pale faces of the dead, which even then seemed to preserve the fierce look of assassins.
Bussy, at the sight of this field of battle, peopled by him with slain, nearly dying as he was, experienced a feeling of pride. As he had intended, he had done what no man had done before him. There now remained to him only to fly.
But all was not over for the unfortunate young man. On arriving on the staircase, he saw arms shine in the courtyard; some one fired, and the ball pierced his shoulder. The court being guarded, he thought of the little window, where Diana had said she would sit to see the combat, and as quickly as he could he dragged himself there, and locked the door behind him; then he mounted the window with great difficulty, and measured the distance with his eyes, wondering if he could jump to the other side.
"Oh, I shall never have the strength!" cried he.
But at that moment he heard steps coming up the staircase; it was the second troop mounting. He collected all his strength, and made a spring; but his foot slipped, and he fell on the iron spikes, which caught his clothes, and he hung suspended.
He thought of his only friend.
"St. Luc!" cried he, "help! St. Luc!"
"Ah, it is you, M. de Bussy," answered a voice from behind some trees.
Bussy shuddered, for it was not the voice of St. Luc.
"St. Luc!" cried he again, "come to me! Diana is safe! I have killed Monsoreau!"
"Ah! Monsoreau is killed?" said the same voice.
"Yes." Then Bussy saw two men come out from behind the trees.
"Gentlemen," cried he, "in heaven's name, help an unfortunate nobleman, who may still escape if you aid him."
"What do you say, monseigneur?" said one.
"Imprudent!" said the other.
"Monseigneur," cried Bussy, who heard the conversation, "deliver me, and I will pardon you for betraying me."
"Do you hear?" said the duke.
"What do you order?"
"That you deliver him from his sufferings," said he, with a kind of laugh.
Bussy turned his head to look at the man who laughed at such a time, and at the same instant an arquebuse was discharged into his breast.
"Cursed assassin! oh, Diana!" murmured he, and fell back dead.
"Is he dead?" cried several men who, after forcing the door, appeared at the windows.
"Yes," said Aurilly. "But fly; remember that his highness the Duc d'Anjou was the friend and protector of M. de Bussy."
The men instantly made off, and when the sound of their steps was lost, the duke said, "Now, Aurilly, go up into the room and throw out of the window the body of Monsoreau."
Aurilly obeyed, and the blood fell over the clothes of the duke, who, however, raised the coat of the dead man, and drew out the paper which he had signed.
"This is all I wanted," said he; "so now let us go."
"Ma foi! I care no more for her. Untie her and St. Luc, and let them go."
"I shall not be king of France," murmured the duke, "but, at all events, I shall not be beheaded for high treason."
HOW BROTHER GORENFLOT FOUND HIMSELF MORE THAN EVER BETWEEN A GALLOWS AND AN ABBEY.
The guard placed to catch the conspirators got none of them; they all escaped, as we have seen; therefore, when Crillon at last broke open the door, he found the place deserted and empty. In vain they opened doors and windows; in vain the king cried, "Chicot!" No one answered.
"Can they have killed him?" said he. "Mordieu! if they have they shall pay for it!"
Chicot did not reply, because he was occupied in beating M. de Mayenne, which gave him so much pleasure that he neither heard nor saw what was passing. However, when the duke had disappeared, he heard and recognized the royal voice.
"Here, my son, here!" he cried, trying at the same time to raise Gorenflot, who, beginning to recover himself, cried, "Monsieur Chicot!"
"You are not dead, then?"
"My good M. Chicot, you will not give me up to my enemies?"
Gorenflot began to howl and wring his hands.
"I, who have had so many good dinners with you," continued Gorenflot; "I, who drank so well, that you always called me the king of the sponges; I, who loved so much the capons you used to order at the Corne d'Abondance, that I never left anything but the bones."
This climax appeared sublime to Chicot, and determined him to clemency.
"Here they are! Mon Dieu," cried Gorenflot, vainly trying to rise, "here they come, I am lost! Oh! good M. Chicot, help me!" and finding he could not rise, he threw himself with his face to the ground.
"Get up," said Chicot.
"Do you pardon me?"
"We shall see."
"You have beaten me so much."
Chicot laughed; the poor monk fancied he had received the blows given to Mayenne.
"You laugh, M. Chicot."
"I do, animal."
"Then I shall live?"
"You would not laugh if your Gorenflot was about to die."
"It does not depend upon me, but on the king; he alone has the power of life and death."
At this moment lights appeared, and a crowd of embroidered dresses and swords shining in the light of the torches.
"Ah! Chicot! my dear Chicot, how glad I am to see you," cried the king.
"You hear, good M. Chicot," whispered Gorenflot, "this great prince is glad to see you."
"Well! in his happiness he would not refuse you a favor; ask for my pardon."
"What! from Herod?"
"Oh! silence, dear M. Chicot."
"Well! sire, how many have you caught?" said Chicot, advancing.
"Confiteor," said Gorenflot.
"Not one," said Crillon, "the traitors must have found some opening unknown to us."
"It is probable."
"But you saw them?" said the king.
"You recognized them, no doubt?"
"Not recognized them?"
"That is to say, I recognized only one."
"Who was that?"
"M. de Mayenne."
"M. de Mayenne, to whom you owed——"
"Yes, sire; we are quits."
"Ah! tell me about that, Chicot."
"Afterwards, my son; now let us think of the present."
"Confiteor," repeated Gorenflot.
"Ah! you have made a prisoner," said Crillon, laying his large hand on the monk's shoulder.
Chicot was silent for a minute, leaving Gorenflot a prey to all the anguish of such profound terror that he nearly fainted again.
At last Chicot said, "Sire, look well at this monk."
"The preacher Gorenflot," cried Henri.
"Confiteor, confiteor," repeated he.
"Himself," said Chicot.
"Just so," interrupted Chicot.
Gorenflot shook with terror, for he heard the sounds of swords clashing.
"Wait," said Chicot, "the king must know all." And, taking him aside, "My son," said he, "thank God for having permitted this holy man to be born thirty-five years ago, for it is he who has saved us all."
"It was he who recounted to me the whole plot, from the alpha to the omega."
"About a week ago; so that if ever your majesty's enemies catch him he will be a dead man."
Gorenflot heard only the last words, "a dead man"; and he covered his face with his hands.
"Worthy man," said the king, casting a benevolent look on the mass of flesh before him, "we will cover him with our protection."
Gorenflot perceived the nature of the look, and began to feel relieved.
"You will do well, my king," said Chicot.
"What must we do with him?"
"I think that as long as he remains in Paris he will be in danger."
"If I gave him guards."
Gorenflot heard this proposition of Henri's. "Well!" thought he, "I shall get off with imprisonment; I prefer that to beating, if they only feed me well."
"Oh! no, that is needless," said Chicot, "if you will allow me to take him with me."
"Well! take him, and then return to the Louvre."
"Get up, reverend father," said Chicot.
"He mocks me," murmured Gorenflot.
"Get up, brute," whispered Chicot, giving him a sly kick.
"Ah! I have deserved it," cried Gorenflot.
"What does he say?" asked the king.
"Sire, he is thinking over all his fatigues and his tortures, and when I promised him your protection, he said, 'Oh! I have well merited that.'"
"Poor devil!" said the king, "take good care of him."
"Oh! be easy, sire, he will want for nothing with me."
"Oh! M. Chicot, dear M. Chicot," cried Gorenflot, "where am I to be taken to?"
"You will know soon. Meanwhile, monster of iniquity, thank his majesty."
"Thank him, I tell you."
"Sire," stammered Gorenflot, "since your gracious majesty——"
"Yes," interrupted Henri, "I know all you did for me, in your journey from Lyons, on the evening of the League, and again to-day. Be easy, you shall be recompensed according to your merits."
"Where is Panurge?" said Chicot.
"In the stable, poor beast."
"Well! go and fetch him, and return to me."
"Yes, M. Chicot."
And the monk went away as fast as he could, much astonished not to be followed by guards.
"Now, my son," said Chicot, "keep twenty men for your own escort, and send ten with M. Crillon to the Hotel d'Anjou and let them bring your-brother here."
"That he may not escape a second time."
"Did my brother——"
"Have you repented following my advice to-day?"
"No, par le mordieu."
"Then do what I tell you."
Henri gave the order to Crillon, who set off at once.
"And you?" said Henri.
"Oh! I am waiting for my saint."
"And you will rejoin me at the Louvre?"
"In an hour; go, my son."
Henri went; and Chicot, proceeding to the stables, met Gorenflot coming out on his ass. The poor devil had not an idea of endeavoring to escape from the fate that he thought awaited him.
"Come, come," said Chicot, "we are waited for." Gorenflot made no resistance, but he shed many tears.
WHERE CHICOT GUESSES WHY D'EPERNON HAD BLOOD ON HIS FEET AND NONE IN HIS CHEEKS.
The king, returning to the Louvre, found his friends peacefully asleep, except D'Epernon, whose bed was empty.
"Not come in yet; how imprudent," murmured the king to Chicot, who had also returned, and was standing with them by their beds. "The fool; having to fight to-morrow with a man like Bussy, and to take no more care than this. Let them seek M. d'Epernon," said he, going out of the room, and speaking to an usher.
"M. d'Epernon is just coming in, sire," replied the man.
Indeed, D'Epernon came softly along, thinking to glide unperceived to his room.
On seeing the king he looked confused.
"Ah! here you are at last," said Henri; "come here and look at your friends. They are wise! they understand the importance of the duel to-morrow; but you, instead of praying and sleeping like them, have been running about the streets. Corbleu; how pale you are! What will you look like to-morrow?"
D'Epernon was indeed pale, but at the king's remark he colored.
"Now go to bed," continued Henri, "and sleep if you can."
"Much time you will have. You are to fight at daybreak; and at this time of year the sun rises at four. It is now two; you have but two hours to sleep."
"Two hours well employed go a long way."
"You will sleep, then?"
"I do not believe it."
"Because you are agitated; you think of to-morrow."
"I will sleep, sire, if your majesty will only let me."
"That is just," said Chicot.
Indeed D'Epernon undressed and got into bed, with a calm and satisfied look, that seemed, both to the king and Chicot to augur well.
"He is as brave as a Casar," said the king.
"So brave that I do not understand it," said Chicot.
"See, he sleeps already."
Chicot approached the bed to look.
"Oh!" said he.
"What is it?"
"Look," and he pointed to D'Epernon's boots.
"He has been walking in blood."
"Can he be wounded?" said the king, anxiously.
"Bah! he would have told us; and, besides, unless he had been wounded like Achilles in the heel——"
"See, the sleeve of his doublet is also spotted. What can have happened to him?"
"Perhaps he has killed some one to keep his hand in."
"It is singular. Well, to-morrow, at least——"
"To-day, you mean."
"Well! to-day I shall be tranquil."
"Because those cursed Angevins will be killed."
"You think so, Henri?"
"I am sure of it; my friends are brave."
"I never heard that the Angevins were cowards."
"No, doubtless; but my friends are so strong; look at Schomberg's arm; what muscle!"
"Ah! if you saw Autragues's! Is that all that reassures you?"
"No; come, and I will show you something."
"In my room."
"And this something makes you confident of victory?"
"Wait, and let me take leave of them. Adieu, my good friends," murmured the king, as he stooped and imprinted a light kiss on each of their foreheads.
Chicot was not superstitious, but as he looked on, his imagination pictured a living man making his adieux to the dead.
"It is singular," thought he. "I never felt so before—poor fellows."
As soon as the king quitted the room, D'Epernon opened his eyes; and, jumping out of bed, began to efface, as well as he could, the spots of blood on his clothes. Then he went to bed again.
As for Henri, he conducted Chicot to his room, and opened a long ebony coffer lined with white satin.
"Look!" said he.
"Yes! but blessed swords, my dear friend."
"Blessed! by whom?"
"By our holy father the Pope, who granted me this favor. To send this box to Rome and back, cost me twenty horses and four men."
"Are they sharp?"
"Doubtless; but their great merit is that they are blessed."
"Yes, I know that; but still I should like to be sure they are sharp."
"Let us talk of something else."
"Well, be quick."
"You want to sleep?"
"No, to pray."
"In that case we will talk. Have you sent for M. d'Anjou?"
"Yes, he is waiting below."
"What are you going to do with him?"
"Throw him into the Bastile."
"That is very wise: only choose a dungeon that is deep and safe—such for example, as those which were occupied by the Constable de St. Paul, or Armagnac."
"Oh! be easy."
"I know where they sell good black velvet, my son."
"Chicot! he is my brother."
"Ah! true; the family mourning is violet. Shall you speak to him?"
"Yes, certainly, if only to show him that his plots are discovered."
"Do you disapprove?"
"In your place I should cut short the conversation, and double the imprisonment."
"Let them bring here the Duc d'Anjou," said the king.
A minute after the duke entered, very pale and disarmed. Crillon followed him.
"Where did you find him?" asked the king.
"Sire, his highness was not at home, but I took possession of his hotel in the king's name, and soon after he returned, and we arrested him without resistance."
"That is fortunate." Then, turning to the prince, he said, "Where were you, monsieur?"
"Wherever I was, sire, be sure it was on your business."
"I doubt it."
"Come, tell me where you were while your accomplices were being arrested."
"Yes; your accomplices."
"Sire, your majesty is making some mistake."
"Oh! this time you shall not escape me; your measure of crime is full."
"Sire, be moderate; there is certainly some one who slanders me to you."
"Wretch! you shall die of hunger in a cell of the Bastile!"
"I bow to your orders, whatever they may be."
"Hypocrite! But where were you?"
"Sire, I was serving your majesty, and working for the glory and tranquillity of your reign."
"Really! your audacity is great."
"Bah!" said Chicot, "tell us about it, my prince; it must be curious."
"Sire, I would tell your majesty, had you treated me as a brother, but as you have treated me as a criminal, I will let the event speak for itself."
Then, bowing profoundly to the king, he turned to Crillon and the other officers, and said, "Now, which of you gentlemen will conduct the first prince of the blood to the Bastile?"
Chicot had been reflecting, and a thought struck him.
"Ah!" murmured he, "I believe I guess now why M. d'Epernon had so much blood on his feet and so little in his cheeks."
THE MORNING OF THE COMBAT.
The king did not sleep all night, and very early in the morning he set off, accompanied by Chicot, to examine the ground where the combat was to take place.
"Quelus will be exposed to the sun," said he; "he will have it at his right, just in his only eye; whereas Maugiron, who has good eyes, will be in the shade. That is badly managed. As for Schomberg, his place is good; but Quelus, my poor Quelus!"
"Do not torment yourself so, my king, it is useless."
"And D'Epernon; I am really unjust not to think of him; he, who is to fight Bussy. Look at his place, Chicot, he who will have to give way constantly, for Bussy is like a tiger, he has a tree on his right and a ditch on his left."
"Bah!" said Chicot, "I am not concerned about D'Epernon."
"You are wrong; he will be killed."
"Not he; be sure he has taken precautions."
"He will not fight."
"Did you not hear what he said before going to bed?"
"That is just why I think he will not fight."
"Incredulous and distrustful!"
"I know my Gascon, Henri; but if you will take my advice, you will return to the Louvre."
"Do you think I can stay there during the combat?"
"I do not wish you not to love your friends, but I do wish you not to leave M. d'Anjou alone at the Louvre."
"Is not Crillon there?"
"Crillon is only a buffalo—a rhinoceros—a wild boar; while your brother is the serpent, whose strength lies in his cunning."
"You are right; I should have sent him to the Bastile."
When Chicot and the king entered, the young men were being dressed by their valets.
"Good morning, gentlemen," said he; "I find you all in good spirits, I hope?"
"Yes, sire," said Quelus.
"You look gloomy, Maugiron."
"Sire, I am superstitious, and I had bad dreams last night, so I am drinking a little wine to keep up my spirits."
"My friend, remember that dreams are the impressions of the previous day, and have no influence on the morrow."
"Yes, sire," said D'Epernon, "I also had bad dreams last night; but, in spite of that, my hand is steady and fit for action."
"Yes," said Chicot, "you dreamed you had blood on your boots; that is not a bad dream, for it signifies that you will be a conqueror, like Alexander or Casar."
"My friends," said Henri, "remember you fight only for honor; the past night has seated me firmly on my throne, therefore do not think of me; and, above all things, no false bravery; you wish to kill your enemies, not to die yourselves."
The gentlemen were now ready, and it only remained to take leave of their master.
"Do you go on horseback?" asked he.
"No, sire, on foot."
They each kissed his hand, and D'Epernon said, "Sire, bless my sword."
"Not so, D'Epernon; give tip your sword—I have a better one for each of you. Chicot, bring them here."
"No, sire, send your captain of the guards; I am but a Pagan, and they might lose their virtue by coming through my hands."
"What are these swords, sire?" said Schomberg.
"Italian swords, my son, forged at Milan."
"Now go, it is time," said the king, who could hardly control his emotion.
"Sire," said Quelus, "shall we not have your majesty's presence to encourage us?"
"No, that would not be right; you will be supposed to fight without any one being cognizant of it, and without my sanction. Let it appear to be the result of a private quarrel."
When they were gone, the king threw himself down in tears.
"Now," said Chicot, "I will go to see this duel, for I have an idea that something curious will happen with regard to D'Epernon." And he went off.
Henri shut himself up in his own room, first saying to Crillon, who knew what was to take place, "If we are conquerors, Crillon, come and tell me; if not, strike three blows on the door."
THE FRIENDS OF BUSSY.
The friends of the Duc d'Anjou had passed as good and tranquil a night as those of the king, although their master had not taken the same care of them. After a good supper, they had all retired to sleep at Antragues's house, which was nearest to the field of battle. Antragues, before supper, had gone to take leave of a little milliner whom he adored, Ribeirac had written to his mother, and Livarot had made his will. They were up early in the morning, and dressed themselves in red breeches and socks, that their enemies might not see their blood, and they had doublets of gray silk. They wore shoes without heels, and their pages carried their swords, that their arms might not be fatigued.