CHICOT THE JESTER [Abridged translation of "La dame de Monsoreau"]
BY ALEXANDRE DUMAS
THE WEDDING OF ST. LUC.
On the evening of a Sunday, in the year 1578, a splendid fete was given in the magnificent hotel just built opposite the Louvre, on the other side of the water, by the family of Montmorency, who, allied to the royalty of France, held themselves equal to princes. This fete was to celebrate the wedding of Francois d'Epinay de St. Luc, a great friend and favorite of the king, Henri III., with Jeanne de Crosse-Brissac, daughter of the marshal of that name.
The banquet had taken place at the Louvre, and the king, who had been with much difficulty induced to consent to the marriage, had appeared at it with a severe and grave countenance. His costume was in harmony with his face; he wore that suit of deep chestnut, in which Clouet described him at the wedding of Joyeuse; and this kind of royal specter, solemn and majestic, had chilled all the spectators, but above all the young bride, at whom he cast many angry glances. The reason of all this was known to everyone, but was one of those court secrets of which no one likes to speak.
Scarcely was the repast finished, when the king had risen abruptly, thereby forcing everyone to do the same. Then St. Luc approached him, and said: "Sire, will your majesty do me the honor to accept the fete, which I wish to give to you this evening at the Hotel Montmorency?" This was said in an imploring tone, but Henri, with a voice betraying both vexation and anger, had replied:
"Yes, monsieur, we will go, although you certainly do not merit this proof of friendship on our part."
Then Madame de St. Luc had humbly thanked the king, but he turned his back without replying.
"Is the king angry with you?" asked the young wife of her husband.
"I will explain it to you after, mon amie, when this anger shall have passed away."
"And will it pass away?"
Mademoiselle de Brissac was not yet sufficiently Madame de St. Luc to insist further; therefore she repressed her curiosity, promising herself to satisfy it at a more favorable time.
They were, therefore, expecting St. Luc at the Hotel Montmorency, at the moment in which our story commences. St. Luc had invited all the king's friends and all his own; the princes and their favorites, particularly those of the Duc d'Anjou. He was always in opposition to the king, but in a hidden manner, pushing forward those of his friends whom the example of La Mole and Coconnas had not cured. Of course, his favorites and those of the king lived in a state of antagonism, which brought on rencontres two or three times a month, in which it was rare that some one was not killed or badly wounded.
As for Catherine, she was at the height of her wishes; her favorite son was on the throne, and she reigned through him, while she pretended to care no more for the things of this world. St. Luc, very uneasy at the absence of all the royal family, tried to reassure his father-in-law, who was much distressed at this menacing absence. Convinced, like all the world, of the friendship of Henri for St. Luc, he had believed he was assuring the royal favor, and now this looked like a disgrace. St. Luc tried hard to inspire in them a security which he did not feel himself; and his friends, Maugiron, Schomberg, and Quelus, clothed in their most magnificent dresses, stiff in their splendid doublets, with enormous frills, added to his annoyance by their ironical lamentations.
"Eh! mon Dieu! my poor friend," said Jacques de Levis, Comte de Quelus, "I believe now that you are done for. The king is angry that you would not take his advice, and M. d'Anjou because you laughed at his nose."
"No, Quelus, the king does not come, because he has made a pilgrimage to the monks of the Bois de Vincennes; and the Duc d'Anjou is absent, because he is in love with some woman whom I have forgotten to invite."
"But," said Maugiron, "did you see the king's face at dinner? And as for the duke, if he could not come, his gentlemen might. There is not one here, not even Bussy."
"Oh! gentlemen," said the Duc de Brissac, in a despairing tone, "it looks like a complete disgrace. Mon Dieu! how can our house, always so devoted to his majesty, have displeased him?"
The young men received this speech with bursts of laughter, which did not tend to soothe the marquis. The young bride was also wondering how St. Luc could have displeased the king. All at once one of the doors opened and the king was announced.
"Ah!" cried the marshal, "now I fear nothing; if the Duc d'Anjou would but come, my satisfaction would be complete."
"And I," murmured St. Luc; "I have more fear of the king present than absent, for I fear he comes to play me some spiteful tricks."
But, nevertheless, he ran to meet the king, who had quitted at last his somber costume, and advanced resplendent in satin, feathers, and jewels. But at the instant he entered another door opened just opposite, and a second Henri III., clothed exactly like the first, appeared, so that the courtiers, who had run to meet the first, turned round at once to look at the second.
Henri III. saw the movement, and exclaimed:
"What is the matter, gentlemen?"
A burst of laughter was the reply. The king, not naturally patient, and less so that day than usual, frowned; but St. Luc approached, and said:
"Sire, it is Chicot, your jester, who is dressed exactly like your majesty, and is giving his hand to the ladies to kiss."
Henri laughed. Chicot enjoyed at his court a liberty similar to that enjoyed thirty years before by Triboulet at the court of Francois I., and forty years after by Longely at the court of Louis XIII. Chicot was not an ordinary jester. Before being Chicot he had been "De Chicot." He was a Gascon gentleman, who, ill-treated by M. de Mayenne on account of a rivalry in a love affair, in which Chicot had been victorious, had taken refuge at court, and prayed the king for his protection by telling him the truth.
"Eh, M. Chicot," said Henri, "two kings at a time are too much."
"Then," replied he, "let me continue to be one, and you play Duc d'Anjou; perhaps you will be taken for him, and learn something of his doings."
"So," said Henri, looking round him, "Anjou is not here."
"The more reason for you to replace him. It is settled, I am Henri, and you are Francois. I will play the king, while you dance and amuse yourself a little, poor king."
"You are right, Chicot, I will dance."
"Decidedly," thought De Brissac, "I was wrong to think the king angry; he is in an excellent humor."
Meanwhile St. Luc had approached his wife. She was not a beauty, but she had fine black eyes, white teeth, and a dazzling complexion.
"Monsieur," said she to her husband, "why did they say that the king was angry with me; he has done nothing but smile on me ever since he came?"
"You did not say so after dinner, dear Jeanne, for his look then frightened you."
"His majesty was, doubtless, out of humor then, but now—"
"Now, it is far worse; he smiles with closed lips. I would rather he showed me his teeth. Jeanne, my poor child, he is preparing for us some disagreeable surprise. Oh I do not look at me so tenderly, I beg; turn your back to me. Here is Maugiron coming; converse with him, and be amiable to him."
"That is a strange recommendation, monsieur."
But St. Luc left his wife full of astonishment, and went to pay his court to Chicot, who was playing his part with a most laughable majesty.
The king danced, but seemed never to lose sight of St. Luc. Sometimes he called him to repeat to him some pleasantry, which, whether droll or not, made St. Luc laugh heartily. Sometimes he offered him out of his comfit box sweetmeats and candied fruits, which St. Luc found excellent. If he disappeared for an instant, the king sent for him, and seemed not happy if he was out of his sight. All at once a voice rose above all the tumult.
"Oh!" said Henri, "I think I hear the voice of Chicot; do you hear, St. Luc?—the king is angry."
"Yes, sire, it sounds as though he were quarreling with some one."
"Go and see what it is, and come back and tell me."
As St. Luc approached he heard Chicot crying:
"I have made sumptuary laws, but if they are not enough I will make more; at least they shall be numerous, if they are not good. By the horn of Beelzebub, six pages, M. de Bussy, are too much."
And Chicot, swelling out his cheeks, and putting his hand to his side, imitated the king to the life.
"What does he say about Bussy?" asked the king, when St. Luc returned. St. Luc was about to reply, when the crowd opening, showed to him six pages, dressed in cloth of gold, covered with chains, and bearing on their breasts the arms of their masters, sparkling in jewels. Behind them came a young man, handsome and proud; who walked with his head raised and a haughty look, and whose simple dress of black velvet contrasted with the splendor of his pages. This was Bussy d'Amboise. Maugiron, Schomberg, and Quelus had drawn near to the king.
"See," said Maugiron, "here is the servant, but where is the master? Are you also in disgrace with him, St. Luc?"
"Why should he follow Bussy?" said Quelus.
"Do you not remember that when his majesty did M. de Bussy the honor to ask him if he wished to belong to him, he replied that, being of the House of Clermont, he followed no one, and belonged to himself."
The king frowned.
"Yes," said Maugiron, "whatever you say, he serves the Duc d'Anjou."
"Then it is because the duke is greater than the king."
No observation could have been more annoying to the king than this, for he detested the Duc d'Anjou. Thus, although he did not answer, he grew pale.
"Come, come, gentlemen," said St. Luc, trembling, "a little charity for my guests, if you please; do not spoil my wedding day."
"Yes," said the king, in a mocking tone; "do not spoil St. Luc's wedding-day."
"Oh!" said Schomberg, "is Bussy allied to the Brissacs?—since St. Luc defends him."
"He is neither my friend nor relation, but he is my guest," said St. Luc. The king gave an angry look. "Besides," he hastened to add, "I do not defend him the least in the world."
Bussy approached gravely behind his pages to salute the king, when Chicot cried:
"Oh, la! Bussy d'Amboise, Louis de Clermont, Comte de Bussy, do you not see the true Henri, do you not know the true king from the false? He to whom you are going is Chicot, my jester, at whom I so often laugh."
Bussy continued his way, and was about to bow before the king, when he said:
"Do you not hear, M. de Bussy, you are called?" and, amidst shouts of laughter from his minions, he turned his back to the young captain. Bussy reddened with anger, but he affected to take the king's remark seriously, and turning round towards Chicot:
"Ah! pardon, sire," said he, "there are kings who resemble jesters so much, that you will excuse me, I hope, for having taken a jester for a king."
"Hein," murmured Henri, "what does he say?"
"Nothing, sire," said St. Luc.
"Nevertheless, M. Bussy," said Chicot; "it was unpardonable."
"Sire, I was preoccupied."
"With your pages, monsieur," said Chicot; "you ruin yourself in pages, and, par la mordieu, it is infringing our prerogatives."
"How so? I beg your majesty to explain."
"Cloth of gold for them, while you a gentleman, a colonel, a Clermont, almost a prince, wear simple black velvet."
"Sire," said Bussy, turning towards the kings' minions, "as we live in a time when lackeys dress like princes, I think it good taste for princes to dress like lackeys."
And he returned to the young men in their splendid dress the impertinent smiles which they had bestowed on him a little before. They grew pale with fury, and seemed only to wait the king's permission to fall upon Bussy.
"Is it for me and mine that you say that?" asked Chicot, speaking like the king.
Three friends of Bussy's now drew near to him. These were Charles d'Antragues, Francois, Vicomte de Ribeirac, and Livarot. Seeing all this, St. Luc guessed that Bussy was sent by Monsieur to provoke a quarrel. He trembled more than ever, for he feared the combatants were about to take his house for a battle-field. He ran to Quelus, who already had his hand on his sword, and said, "In Heaven's name be moderate."
"Parbleu, he attacks you as well as us."
"Quelus, think of the Duc d'Anjou, who supports Bussy; you do not suppose I fear Bussy himself?"
"Eh! Mordieu, what need we fear; we belong to the king. If we get into peril for him he will help us."
"You, yes; but me," said St. Luc, piteously.
"Ah dame, why do you marry, knowing how jealous the king is in his friendships?"
"Good," thought St. Luc, "everyone for himself; and as I wish to live tranquil during the first fortnight of my marriage, I will make friends with M. Bussy." And he advanced towards him. After his impertinent speech, Bussy had looked round the room to see if any one would take notice of it. Seeing St. Luc approach, he thought he had found what he sought.
"Monsieur," said he, "is it to what I said just now, that I owe the honor of the conversation you appear to desire?"
"Of what you have just said, I heard nothing. No, I saw you, and wished to salute you, and thank you for the honor you have done me by your presence here."
Bussy, who knew the courage of St. Luc, understood at once that he considered the duties of a host paramount, and answered him politely.
Henri, who had seen the movement said, "Oh, oh! I fear there is mischief there; I cannot have St. Luc killed. Go and see, Quelus; no, you are too rash—you, Maugiron."
But St. Luc did not let him approach Bussy, but came to meet him and returned with him to the king.
"What have you been saying to that coxcomb?" asked the king.
"I said, good evening."
"Oh! was that all?"
St. Luc saw he was wrong. "I said, good evening; adding, that I would have the honor of saying good morning to-morrow."
"Ah! I suspected it."
"Will your majesty keep my secret?" said St. Luc.
"Oh! parbleu, if you could get rid of him without injury to yourself——"
The minions exchanged a rapid glance, which Henri III. seemed not to notice.
"For," continued he, "his insolence is too much."
"Yes, yes," said St. Luc, "but some day he will find his master."
"Oh!" said the king, "he manages the sword well. Why does he not get bit by some dog?" And he threw a spiteful glance on Bussy, who was walking about, laughing at all the king's friends.
"Corbleu!" cried Chicot, "do not be so rude to my friends, M. Bussy, for I draw the sword, though I am a king, as well as if I was a common man."
"If he continue such pleasantries, I will chastise Chicot, sire," said Maugiron.
"No, no, Maugiron, Chicot is a gentleman. Besides, it is not he who most deserves punishment, for it is not he who is most insolent."
This time there was no mistaking, and Quelus made signs to D'O and D'Epernon, who had been in a different part of the room, and had not heard what was going on. "Gentlemen," said Quelus, "come to the council; you, St. Luc, go and finish making your peace with the king."
St. Luc approached the king, while the others drew back into a window.
"Well," said D'Epernon, "what do you want? I was making love, and I warn you, if your recital be not interesting I shall be very angry."
"I wish to tell you that after the ball I set off for the chase."
"For what chase?"
"That of the wild boar."
"What possesses you to go, in this cold, to be killed in some thicket?"
"Never mind, I am going."
"No, with Maugiron and Schomberg. We hunt for the king."
"Ah! yes, I understand," said Maugiron and Schomberg.
"The king wishes a boar's head for breakfast to-morrow."
"With the neck dressed a l'Italienne," said Maugiron, alluding to the turn-down collar which Bussy wore in opposition to their ruffs.
"Ah, ah," said D'Epernon, "I understand."
"What is it?" asked D'O, "for I do not."
"Ah! look round you."
"Did any one laugh at us here?"
"Well, that is the wild boar the king wants."
"You think the king——"
"He asks for it."
"Well, then, so be it. But how do we hunt?"
"In ambush; it is the surest."
Bussy remarked the conference, and, not doubting that they were talking of him, approached, with his friends.
"Look, Antragues, look, Ribeirac," said he, "how they are grouped; it is quite touching; it might be Euryale and Nisus, Damon and Pythias, Castor and——. But where is Pollux?"
"Pollux is married, so that Castor is left alone."
"What can they be doing?"
"I bet they are inventing some new starch."
"No, gentlemen," said Quelus, "we are talking of the chase."
"Really, Signor Cupid," said Bussy; "it is very cold for that. It will chap your skin."
"Monsieur," replied Maugiron, politely, "we have warm gloves, and doublets lined with fur."
"Ah! that reassures me," said Bussy; "do you go soon?"
"In that case I must warn the king; what will he say to-morrow, if he finds his friends have caught cold?"
"Do not give yourself that trouble, monsieur," said Quelus, "his majesty knows it."
"Do you hunt larks?" asked Bussy, with an impertinent air.
"No, monsieur, we hunt the boar. We want a head. Will you hunt with us, M. Bussy?"
"No, really, I cannot. To-morrow I must go to the Duc d'Anjou for the reception of M. de Monsoreau, to whom monseigneur has just given the place of chief huntsman."
"Ah! To-night, I have a rendezvous in a mysterious house of the Faubourg St. Antoine."
"Ah! ah!" said D'Epernon, "is the Queen Margot here, incognito, M. de Bussy?"
"No, it is some one else."
"Who expects you in the Faubourg St. Antoine?"
"Just so, indeed I will ask your advice, M. de Quelus."
"Do so, although I am not a lawyer, I give very good advice."
"They say the streets of Paris are unsafe, and that is a lonely place. Which way do you counsel me to take?"
"Why, I advise you to take the ferry-boat at the Pre-aux-Clercs, get out at the corner, and follow the quay until you arrive at the great Chatelet, and then go through the Rue de la Tixanderie, until you reach the faubourg. Once at the corner of the Rue St. Antoine, if you pass the Hotel des Tournelles without accident, it is probable you will arrive safe and sound at your mysterious house."
"Thanks for your route, M. de Quelus, I shall be sure to follow it." And saluting the five friends, he went away.
As Bussy was crossing the last saloon where Madame de St. Luc was, her husband made a sign to her. She understood at once, and going up, stopped him.
"Oh! M. de Bussy," said she, "everyone is talking of a sonnet you have made."
"Against the king, madame?"
"No, in honor of the queen; do tell it to me."
"Willingly, madame," and, offering his arm to her, he went off, repeating it.
During this time, St. Luc drew softly near his friends, and heard Quelus say:
"The animal will not be difficult to follow; thus then, at the corner of the Hotel des Tournelles, opposite the Hotel St. Pol."
"With each a lackey?" asked D'Epernon.
"No, no, Nogaret, let us be alone, and keep our own secret, and do our own work. I hate him, but he is too much a gentleman for a lackey to touch."
"Shall we go out all six together?"
"All five if you please," said St. Luc.
"Ah! it is true, we forgot your wife."
They heard the king's voice calling St. Luc.
"Gentlemen," said he, "the king calls me. Good sport, au revoir."
And he left them, but instead of going straight to the king, he ran to where Bussy stood with his wife.
"Ah! monsieur, how hurried you seem," said Bussy. "Are you going also to join the chase; it would be a proof of your courage, but not of your gallantry."
"Monsieur, I was seeking you."
"And I was afraid you were gone. Dear Jeanne, tell your father to try and stop the king, whilst I say a few words tete-a-tete to M. Bussy." Jeanne went.
"I wish to say to you, monsieur," continued St. Luc, "that if you have any rendezvous to-night, you would do well to put it off, for the streets are not safe, and, above all, to avoid the Hotel des Tournelles, where there is a place where several men could hide. This is what I wished to say; I know you fear nothing, but reflect."
At this moment they heard Chicot's voice crying, "St. Luc, St. Luc, do not hide yourself, I am waiting for you to return to the Louvre."
"Here I am, sire," cried St. Luc, rushing forward. Near Chicot stood the king, to whom one page was giving his ermine mantle, and another a velvet mask lined with satin.
"Sire," said St. Luc, "I will have the honor of lighting your majesties to your litters."
"No," said Henri, "Chicot goes one way, and I another. My friends are good-for-nothings, who have run away and left me to return alone to the Louvre. I had counted on them, and you cannot let me go alone. You are a grave married man, and must take me back to the queen. Come, my friend, my litter is large enough for two."
Madame de St. Luc, who had heard this, tried to speak, and to tell her father that the king was carrying away her husband, but he, placing his fingers on his month, motioned her to be silent.
"I am ready, sire," said he, "to follow you."
When the king took leave, the others followed, and Jeanne was left alone. She entered her room, and knelt down before the image of a saint to pray, then sat down to wait for her husband's return. M. de Brissac sent six men to the Louvre to attend him back. But two hours after one of them returned, saying, that the Louvre was closed and that before closing, the captain of the watch had said, "It is useless to wait longer, no one will leave the Louvre to-night; his majesty is in bed."
The marshal carried this news to his daughter.
HOW IT IS NOT ALWAYS HE WHO OPENS THE DOOR, WHO ENTERS THE HOUSE.
The Porte St. Antoine was a kind of vault in stone, similar to our present Porte St. Denis, only it was attached by its left side to buildings adjacent to the Bastile. The space at the right, between the gate and the Hotel des Tournelles, was large and dark, little frequented by day, and quite solitary at night, for all passers-by took the side next to the fortress, so as to be in some degree under the protection of the sentinel. Of course, winter nights were still more feared than summer ones.
That on which the events which we have recounted, and are about to recount took place, was cold and black. Before the gate on the side of the city, was no house, but only high walls, those of the church of St. Paul, and of the Hotel des Tournelles. At the end of this wall was the niche of which St. Luc had spoken to Bussy. No lamps lighted this part of Paris at that epoch. In the nights when the moon charged herself with the lighting of the earth, the Bastile rose somber and majestic against the starry blue of the skies, but on dark nights, there seemed only a thickening of the shadows where it stood. On the night in question, a practised eye might have detected in the angle of the wall of the Tournelles several black shades, which moved enough to show that they belonged to poor devils of human bodies, who seemed to find it difficult to preserve their natural warmth as they. stood there. The sentinel from the Bastile; who could not see them on account of the darkness, could not hear them either, for they talked almost in whispers. However, the conversation did not want interest.
"This Bussy was right," said one; "it is a night such as we had at Warsaw, when Henri was King of Poland, and if this continues we shall freeze."
"Come, Maugiron, you complain like a woman," replied another: "it is not warm, I confess; but draw your mantle over your eyes, and put your hands in your pockets, and you will not feel it."
"Really, Schomberg," said a third, "it is easy to see you are German. As for me, my lips bleed, and my mustachios are stiff with ice."
"It is my hands," said a fourth; "on my honor, I would not swear I had any."
"You should have taken your mamma's muff, poor Quelus," said Schomberg.
"Eh! mon Dieu, have patience," said a fifth voice; "you will soon be complaining you are hot."
"I see some one coming through the Rue St. Paul," said Quelus.
"It cannot be him; he named another route."
"Might he not have suspected something, and changed it?"
"You do not know Bussy; where he said he should go, he would go, if he knew that Satan himself were barring his passage."
"However, here are two men coming."
"Ma foi! yes."
"Let us charge," said Schomberg.
"One moment," said D'Epernon; "do not let us kill good bourgeois, or poor women. Hold! they stop."
In fact, they had stopped, and looked as if undecided. "Oh, can they have seen us?"
"We can hardly see ourselves!"
"See, they turn to the left; they stop before a house they are seeking—they are trying to enter; they will escape us!"
"But it is not him, for he was going to the Faubourg St. Antoine."
"Oh! how do you know he told you right?"
At this supposition they all rushed out, sword in hand, towards the gentlemen.
One of the men had just introduced a key into the lock; the door had yielded and was about to open, when the noise of their assailants made them turn.
"What is this? Can it be against us, Aurilly?" said one.
"Ah, monseigneur," said the other, who had opened the door, "it looks like it. Will you name yourself, or keep incognito?"
"Armed men—an ambush!"
"Some jealous lover; I said the lady was too beautiful not to be watched."
"Let us enter quickly, Aurilly; we are safer within doors."
"Yes, monseigneur, if there are not enemies within; but how do you know——"
He had not time to finish. The young men rushed up; Quelus and Maugiron made for the door to prevent their entering, while Schomberg, D'O, and D'Epernon prepared to attack in front. But he who had been called monseigneur turned towards Quelus, who was in front, and crossing his arms proudly, said:
"You attack a son of France, M. Quelus!"
Quelus drew back, trembling, and thunderstruck.
"Monseigneur le Duc d'Anjou!" he cried.
"The Duc d'Anjou!" repeated the others.
"Well, gentlemen," cried the duke.
"Monseigneur," stammered D'Epernon, "it was a joke; forgive us."
"Monseigneur," said D'O, "we did not dream of meeting your highness here!"
"A joke!" said the duke; "you have an odd manner of joking, M. d'Epernon. Since it was not intended for me, whom did your jest menace?"
"Monseigneur," said Schomberg; "we saw St. Luc quit the Hotel Montmorency and come this way; it seemed strange to us, and we wished to see what took him out on his wedding night."
"M. de St. Luc—you took me for him?"
"M. de St. Luc is a head taller then I am."
"It is true, monseigneur; but he is just the height of M. Aurilly."
"And seeing a man put a key in a lock, we took him for the principal," added D'O.
"Monseigneur cannot suppose that we had the shadow of an ill-will towards him, even to disturb his pleasures?"
As he listened, the duke, by a skilful movement, had, little by little, quitted the door, followed by Aurilly, and was now at some distance off.
"My pleasures!" said he, angrily; "what makes you think I was seeking pleasure?"
"Ah, monseigneur, in any case pardon us, and let us retire," said Quelus.
"It is well; adieu, gentlemen; but first listen. I was going to consult the Jew Manasses, who reads the future; he lives, as you know, in Rue de la Tournelle. In passing, Aurilly saw you and took you for the watch, and we, therefore, tried to hide ourselves in a doorway. And now you know what to believe and say; it is needless to add, that I do not wish to be followed," and he turned away.
"Monseigneur," said Aurilly, "I am sure these men have bad intentions; it is near midnight, and this is a lonely quarter; let us return home, I beg."
"No, no; let us profit by their departure."
"Your highness is deceived; they have not gone, but have returned to their retreat: look in the angle of the Hotel des Tournelles."
Francois looked, and saw that Aurilly was right; it was evident that they waited for something, perhaps to see if the duke were really going to the Jew.
"Well, Monseigneur," continued Aurilly, "do you not think it will be more prudent to go home?"
"Mordieu! yet it is annoying to give up."
"Yes; but it can be put off. I told your highness that the house is taken for a year; we know the lady lodges on the first story. We have gained her maid, and have a key which opens the door: you may wait safely."
"You are sure that the door yielded?"
"Yes, at the third key I tried."
"Are you sure you shut it again?"
Aurilly did not feel sure, as he said, but he did not choose to admit it.
"Well, I will go; I shall return some other time." And the duke went away, promising to payoff the gentlemen for their interruption.
They had hardly disappeared, when the five companions saw approach a cavalier wrapped in a large cloak. The steps of his horse resounded on the frozen ground, and they went slowly and with precaution, for it was slippery.
"This time," said Quelus, "it is he."
"Impossible," said Maugiron.
"Because he is alone, and we left him with Livarot, Antragues, and Ribeirac, who would not have let him run such a risk."
"It is he, however; do you not recognize his insolent way of carrying his head?"
"Then," said D'O, "it is a snare."
"In any case, it is he; and so to arms!"
It was, indeed, Bussy, who came carelessly down the Rue St. Antoine, and followed the route given him by Quelus; he had, as we have seen, received the warning of St. Luc, and, in spite of it, had parted from his friends at the Hotel Montmorency. It was one of those bravadoes delighted in by the valiant colonel, who said of himself, "I am but a simple gentleman, but I bear in my breast the heart of all emperor; and when I read in Plutarch the exploits of the ancient Romans, I think there is not one that I could not imitate." And besides, he thought that St. Luc, who was not ordinarily one of his friends, merely wished to get him laughed at for his precautions; and Bussy feared ridicule more than danger.
He had, even in the eyes of his enemies, earned a reputation for courage, which could only be sustained by the rashest adventures. Therefore, alone, and armed only with a sword and poniard, he advanced towards the house where waited for him no person, but simply a letter, which the Queen of Navarre sent him every month on the same day, and which he, according to his promise to the beautiful Marguerite, went to fetch himself, alone, and at night.
When he arrived at the Rue St. Catherine, his active eye discerned in the shade the forms of his adversaries. He counted them: "Three, four, five," said he, "without counting the lackeys, who are doubtless within call. They think much of me, it seems; all these for one man. That brave St. Luc did not deceive me; and were his even the first sword to pierce me I would cry, 'Thanks for your warning, friend.'" So saying, he continued to advance, only his arm held his sword under his cloak, of which he had unfastened the clasp.
It was then that Quelus cried, "To arms."
"Ah, gentlemen," said Bussy, "it appears you wish to kill me: I am the wild boar you had to hunt. Well, gentlemen, the wild boar will rip up a few of you; I swear it to you, and I never break my word."
"Possibly," said Schomberg; "but it is not right, M. Bussy d'Amboise, that you should be on horseback and we on foot." And as he spoke, the arm of the young man, covered with white satin, which glistened in the moonlight, came from under his cloak, and Bussy felt his horse give way under him. Schomberg had, with an address peculiar to himself, pierced the horse's leg with a kind of cutlass, of which the blade was heavier than the handle and which had remained in the wound. The animal gave a shrill cry and fell on his knees. Bussy, always ready, jumped at once to the ground, sword in hand.
"Ah!" cried he, "my favorite horse, you shall pay for this." And as Schomberg approached incautiously, Bussy gave him a blow which broke his thigh. Schomberg uttered a cry.
"Well!" said Bussy, "have I kept my word? one already. It was the wrist of Bussy, and not his horse's leg, you should have cut."
In an instant, while Schomberg bound up his thigh with his handkerchief, Bussy presented the point of his long sword to his four other assailants, disdaining to cry for help, but retreating gradually, not to fly, but to gain a wall, against which to support himself, and prevent his being attacked behind, making all the while constant thrusts, and feeling sometimes that soft resistance of the flesh which showed that his blows had taken effect. Once he slipped for an instant. That instant sufficed for Quelus to give him a wound in the side.
"Touched," cried Quelus.
"Yes, in the doublet," said Bussy, who would not even acknowledge his hurt. And rushing on Quelus, with a vigorous effort, he made his sword fly from his hand. But he could not pursue his advantage, for D'O, D'Epernon, and Maugiron attacked him, with fresh fury. Schomberg had bound his wound, and Quelus picked up his sword. Bussy made a bound backwards, and reached the wall. There he stopped, strong as Achilles, and smiling at the tempest of blows which rained around him. All at once he felt a cloud pass over his eyes. He had forgotten his wound, but these symptoms of fainting recalled it to him.
"Ah, you falter!" cried Quelus.
"Judge of it!" cried Bussy. And with the hilt of his sword he struck him on the temple. Quelus fell under the blow. Then furious—wild, he rushed forward, uttering a terrible cry. D'O and D'Epernon drew back, Maugiron was raising Quelus, when Bussy broke his sword with his foot, and wounded the right arm of D'Epernon. For a moment he was conqueror, but Quelus recovered himself, and four swords flashed again. Bussy felt himself lost. He gathered all his strength to retreat once more step by step. Already the perspiration was cold on his brow, and the ringing in his ears and the cloud over his eyes warned him that his strength was giving way. He sought for the wall with his left hand; to his astonishment, it yielded. It was a door not quite closed. Then he regained hope and strength for a last effort. For a second his blows were rapid and violent. Then he let himself glide inside the door, and pushed it to with a violent blow. It shut, and Bussy was saved. He heard the furious blows of his enemies on the door, their cries of rage, and wrathful imprecations. Then, the ground seemed to fail under his feet, and the walls to move. He made a few steps forward, and fell on the steps of a staircase. He knew no more, but seemed to descend into the silence and obscurity of the tomb.
HOW IT IS SOMETIMES DIFFICULT TO DISTINGUISH A DREAM FROM THE REALITY.
Bussy had had time, before falling, to pass his handkerchief under his shirt, and to buckle the belt of his sword over it, so as to make a kind of bandage to the open wound whence the blood flowed, but he had already lost blood enough to make him faint. However, during his fainting fit, this is what Bussy saw, or thought he saw. He found himself in a room with furniture of carved wood, with a tapestry of figures, and a painted ceiling. These figures, in all possible attitudes, holding flowers, carrying arms, seemed to him to be stepping from the walls. Between the two windows a portrait of a lady was hung. He, fixed to his bed, lay regarding all this. All at once the lady of the portrait seemed to move, and an adorable creature, clothed in a long white robe, with fair hair falling over her shoulders, and with eyes black as jet, with long lashes, and with a skin under which he seemed to see the blood circulate, advanced toward the bed. This woman was so beautiful, that Bussy made a violent effort to rise and throw himself at her feet. But he seemed to be confined in there by bonds like those which keep the dead body in the tomb, while the soul mounts to the skies. This forced him to look at the bed on which he was lying, and it seemed to him one of those magnificent beds sculptured in the reign of Francis I., to which were suspended hangings of white damask, embroidered in gold.
At the sight of this woman, the people of the wall and ceiling ceased to occupy his attention; she was all to him, and he looked to see if she had left a vacancy in the frame. But suddenly she disappeared; and an opaque body interposed itself between her and Bussy, moving slowly, and stretching its arms out as though it were playing blindman's buff. Bussy felt in such a passion at this, that, had he been able, he would certainly have attacked this importunate vision; but as he made a vain effort, the newcomer spoke:
"Well," said he, "have I arrived at last?"
"Yes, monsieur," said a voice so sweet that it thrilled through Bussy, "and now you may take off your bandage." Bussy made an effort to see if the sweet voice belonged to the lady of the portrait, but it was useless. He only saw the pleasant face of a young man, who had just, as he was told, taken off his bandage, and was looking curiously about him.
"To the devil with this man," thought Bussy, and he tried to speak, but fruitlessly.
"Ah, I understand now," said the young man, approaching the bed; "you are wounded, are you not, my dear sir? Well, we will try to cure you."
"Is the wound mortal?" asked the sweet voice again, with a sad accent, which brought tears into the eyes of Bussy.
"I do not know yet, I am going to see; meanwhile, he has fainted."
This was all Bussy heard, he seemed to feel a red-hot iron in his side, and then lost all consciousness. Afterwards, it was impossible for Bussy to fix the duration of this insensibility.
When he woke, a cold wind blew over his face, and harsh voices sounded in his ears; he opened his eyes to see if it were the people of the tapestry speaking, and hoping to see the lady again, looked round him. But there was neither tapestry nor ceiling visible, and the portrait had also disappeared. He saw at his right only a man with a white apron spotted with blood; at his left, a monk, who was raising his head; and before him, an old woman mumbling her prayers. His wondering eyes next rested on a mass of stone before him, in which he recognized the Temple, and above that, the cold white sky, slightly tinted by the rising sun. He was in the street.
"Ah, thank you, good people," said he, "for the trouble you have taken in bringing me here. I wanted air, but you might have given it to me by opening the window, and I should have been better on my bed of white damask and gold than on the bare ground. But never mind, there is in my pocket, unless you have paid yourselves, which would have been prudent, some twenty golden crowns; take, my friends, take."
"But, my good gentleman," said the butcher, "we did not bring you here, but found you here as we passed."
"Ah, diable! and the young doctor, was he here?"
The bystanders looked at each other.
"It is the remains of delirium," said the monk. Then, turning to Bussy, "I think you would do well to confess," said he, "there was no doctor, poor young man; you were here alone, and as cold as death."
Bussy then remembered having received a sword stroke, glided his hand under his doublet, and felt his handkerchief in the same place, fixed over his wound by his sword-belt.
"It is singular," said he.
Already profiting by his permission, the lookers-on were dividing his purse.
"Now, my friends," said he, "will you take me to my hotel?"
"Ah, certainly," said the old woman, "poor dear young man, the butcher is strong, and then he has his horse, on which you can ride."
"Yes, my gentleman, my horse and I are at your service."
"Nevertheless, my son," said the monk, "I think you would do well to confess."
"What are you called?" asked Bussy.
"Well Brother Gorenflot, I trust my hour has not yet arrived and as I am cold, I wish to get quickly home and warm myself."
"What is your hotel called?"
"Hotel de Bussy."
"How!" cried all, "you belong to M. de Bussy?"
"I am M. de Bussy himself."
"Bussy," cried the butcher, "the brave Bussy, the scourge of the minions!" And raising him, he was quickly carried home, whilst the monk went away, murmuring, "If it was that Bussy, I do not wonder he would not confess!"
When he got home, Bussy sent for his usual doctor, who found the wound not dangerous.
"Tell me," said Bussy, "has it not been already dressed?"
"Ma foi," said the doctor, "I am not sure."
"And was it serious enough to make me delirious?"
"Ah!" thought Bussy, "was that tapestry, that frescoed ceiling, that bed, the portrait between the windows, the beautiful blonde woman with black eyes, the doctor blindfolded, was this all delirium? Is nothing true but my combat? Where did I fight? Ah, yes, I remember; near the Bastile, by the Rue St. Paul. I leaned against a door, and it opened; I shut it—and then I remember no more. Have I dreamed or not? And my horse! My horse must have been found dead on the place. Doctor, pray call some one."
The doctor called a valet. Bussy inquired, and heard that the animal, bleeding and mutilated, had dragged itself to the door of the hotel, and had been found there.
"It must have been a dream," thought he again: "how should a portrait come down from the wall and talk to a doctor with a bandage on his eyes? I am a fool; and yet when I remember she was so charming," and he began to describe her beauties, till he cried out, "It is impossible it should have been a dream; and yet I found myself in the street, and a monk kneeling by me. Doctor," said he, "shall have to keep the house a fortnight again for this scratch, as I did for the last?"
"We shall see; can you walk?"
"I seem to have quicksilver in my legs."
Bussy jumped out of bed, and walked quickly round his room.
"That will do," said the doctor, "provided that you do not go on horseback, or walk ten miles the first day."
"Capital! you are a doctor; however, I have seen another to-night. Yes, I saw him, and if ever I meet him, I should know him."
"I advise you not to seek for him, monsieur; one has always a little fever after a sword wound; you should know that, who have had a dozen."
"Ah, mon Dieu!" cried Bussy, struck with a new idea, "did my dream begin outside the door instead of inside? Was there no more a staircase and a passage, than there was a bed with white and gold damask, and a portrait? Perhaps those wretches, thinking me dead, carried me to the Temple, to divert suspicion, should any one have seen them hiding. Certainly, it must be so, and I have dreamed the rest. Mon Dieu! if they have procured for me this dream which torments me so, I swear to make an end of them all."
"My dear seigneur," said the doctor, "if you wish to get well, you must not agitate yourself thus."
"Except St. Luc," continued Bussy, without attending; "he acted as a friend, and my first visit shall be to him."
"Not before five this evening."
"If you wish it; but, I assure you, it is not going out and seeing people which will make me ill, but staying quietly at home."
"Well, it is possible; you are always a singular patient; act as you please, only I recommend you not to get another wound before this one is healed."
Bussy promised to do his best to avoid it, and, after dressing, called for his litter to take him to the Hotel Montmorency.
HOW MADAME DE ST. LUC HAD PASSED THE NIGHT.
Louis de Clermont, commonly called Bussy d'Amboise, was a perfect gentleman, and a very handsome man. Kings and princes had sought for his friendship; queens and princesses had lavished on him their sweetest smiles. He had succeeded La Mole in the affections of Queen Marguerite, who had committed for him so many follies, that even her husband, insensible so long, was moved at them; and the Duke Francois would never have pardoned him, had it not gained over Bussy to his interests, and once again he sacrificed all to his ambition. But in the midst of all his successes of war, ambition, and intrigue, he had remained insensible; and he who had never known fear, had never either known love.
When the servants of M. de St. Luc saw Bussy enter, they ran to tell M. de Brissac.
"Is M. de St. Luc at home?" asked Bussy.
"Where shall I find him?"
"I do not know, monsieur. We are all very anxious about him, for he has not returned since yesterday."
"It is true, monsieur."
"But Madame de St. Luc?"
"Oh, she is here."
"Tell her I shall be charmed if she will allow me to pay my respects to her."
Five minutes after, the messenger returned, saying Madame de St. Luc would be glad to see M. de Bussy.
When Bussy entered the room, Jeanne ran to meet him. She was very pale, and her jet black hair made her look more so; her eyes were red from her sleepless night, and there were traces of tears on her cheeks.
"You are welcome, M. de Bussy," said she, "in spite of the fears your presence awakens."
"What do you mean, madame? how can I cause you fear?"
"Ah! there was a meeting last night between you and M. de St. Luc? confess it."
"Between me and St. Luc!"
"Yes, he sent me away to speak to you; you belong to the Duc d'Anjou, he to the king. You have quarrelled—do not hide it from me. You must understand my anxiety. He went with the king, it is true—but afterwards?"
"Madame, this is marvelous. I expected you to ask after my wound——"
"He wounded you; he did fight, then?"
"No, madame; not with me at least; it was not he who wounded me. Indeed, he did all he could to save me. Did he not tell you so?"
"How could he tell me? I have not seen him."
"You have not seen him? Then your porter spoke the truth."
"I have not seen him since eleven last night."
"But where can he be?"
"I should rather ask you."
"Oh, pardieu, tell me about it, it is very droll."
The poor woman looked at him with astonishment.
"No, it is very sad, I mean. I have lost much blood, and scarcely know what I am saying. Tell me this lamentable story, madame."
Jeanne told all she knew; how the king had carried him off, the shutting of the doors of the Louvre, and the message of the guards.
"Ah! very well, I understand," said Bussy.
"How! you understand."
"Yes; his majesty took him to the Louvre and once there he could not come out again."
"And why not?"
"Ah! that is a state secret."
"But my father went to the Louvre, and I also, and the guards said they did not know what we meant."
"All the more reason that he should be there."
"You think so?"
"I am sure of it, and if you wish to be so also——"
"But if I go there, they win send me away, as they did before."
"Would you like to go in?"
"But if he is not there?"
"I tell you he is there. Come; but they will not let in the wife of St. Luc."
"You laugh at me, and it is very cruel in my distress."
"No, dear lady, listen. You are young, you are tall, and have black eyes; you are like my youngest page, who looked so well in the cloth of gold yesterday."
"Ah I what folly, M. Bussy," cried Jeanne, blushing.
"I have no other method but this. If you wish to see St. Luc——"
"Oh! I would give all the world to see him."
"Well, I promise that you shall without giving anything."
"I told you how."
"Well, I will do it; shall I send for the dress?"
"No, I will send you a new one I have at home; then you must join me this evening at the Rue St. Honore. and we will go together to the Louvre." Jeanne began to laugh, and gave her hand to Bussy.
"Pardon my suspicions," said she.
"Willingly," and taking leave he went home to prepare.
Bussy and Madame de St. Luc met at the appointed time; Jeanne looked beautiful in her disguise. At the end of the Rue St. Germain-l'Auxerrois they met a large party in which Bussy recognized the Duc d'Anjou and his train.
"Ah," said he, "we will make a triumphal entry into the Louvre."
"Eh! monseigneur," cried he to the duke.
The prince turned. "You, Bussy!" cried he joyfully, "I heard you were badly wounded, and I was going to your hotel."
"Ma foi, monseigneur, if I am not dead, it is thanks to no one but myself. You get me into nice situations; that ball at St. Luc's was a regular snare, and they have nearly drained all the blood out of my body."
"They shall pay for it, Bussy; they shall pay dearly."
"Yes, you say so," said Bussy, with his usual liberty, "and you will smile on the first you meet."
"Well! accompany me to the Louvre, and you shall see."
"What shall I see, monseigneur?"
"How I will speak to my brother."
"You promise me reparation?"
"I promise you shall be content. You hesitate still, I believe."
"Monseigneur, I know you so well."
"Come, I tell you."
"This is good for you," whispered Bussy to Jeanne. "There will be a quarrel between the brothers, and meanwhile you can find St. Luc."
"Well," said he to the prince, "I follow you; if I am insulted, at least I can always revenge myself."
And he took his place near the duke, while his page kept close to him.
"Revenge yourself; no, Bussy," said the prince, "I charge myself with it. I know your assassins," added he, in a low tone.
"What I your highness has taken the trouble to inquire?"
"I saw them."
"How so?" cried Bussy, astonished.
"Oh! I had business myself at the Porte St. Antoine. They barely missed killing me in your place. Ah! I did not know it was you they were waiting for, or else——"
"Had you this new page with you?" asked the prince, without finishing his sentence.
"No, I was alone, and you?"
"I had Aurilly with me; and why were you alone?"
"Because I wish to preserve my name of the brave Bussy."
"And they wounded you?"
"I do not wish to give them the pleasure of knowing it, but I had a severe wound in the side."
"Ah! the wretches; Aurilly said he was sure they were bent on mischief."
"How! you saw the ambush, you were with Aurilly, who uses his sword as well as his lute, you thought they had bad intentions, and you did not watch to give aid?"
"I did not know who they were waiting for."
"Mort diable! when you saw the king's friends, you might have known it was against some friends of yours. Now, as there is hardly any one but myself who has courage to be your friend, you might have guessed that it was I."
"Oh! perhaps you are right, my dear Bussy, but I did not think of all that."
When they entered, "Remember your promise," said Bussy, "I have some one to speak to."
"You leave me, Bussy?"
"Yes, I must, but if I hear a great noise I will come to you, so speak loud."
Then Bussy, followed by Jeanne, took a secret staircase, traversed two or three corridors, and arrived at an antechamber.
"Wait here for me," said he to Jeanne.
"Ah, mon Dieu! you leave me alone."
"I must, to provide for your entrance."
HOW MADAME DE ST. LUC PASSED THE SECOND NIGHT OF HER MARRIAGE.
Bussy went straight to the sleeping-room of the king. There were in it two beds of velvet and satin, pictures, relics, perfumed sachets from the East, and a collection of beautiful swords. Bussy knew the king was not there, as his brother had asked to see him, but he knew that there was next to it a little room which was occupied in turn by all the king's favorites, and which he now expected to find occupied by St. Luc, whom the king in his great affection had carried off from his wife. Bussy knocked at the antechamber common to the two rooms. The captain of the guards opened.
"M. de Bussy!" cried he.
"Yes, myself, dear M. de Nancey; the king wishes to speak to M. de St. Luc."
"Very well, tell M. de St. Luc the king wants him."
"What is he doing?"
"He is with Chicot, waiting for the king's return from his brother."
"Will you permit my page to wait here?"
"Enter, Jean," said Bussy, and he pointed to the embrasure of a window, where she went to hide herself. St. Luc entered, and M. de Nancey retired.
"What does the king want now?" cried St. Luc, angrily; "ah! it is you, M. de Bussy,"
"I, and before everything, let me thank you for the service you rendered me."
"Ah! it was quite natural; I could not bear to see a brave gentleman assassinated: I thought you killed."
"It did not want much to do it, but I got off with a wound, which I think I repaid with interest to Schomberg and D'Epernon. As for Quelus, he may thank the bones of his head: they are the hardest I ever knew."
"Ah! tell me about it, it will amuse me a little."
"I have no time now, I come for something else. You are ennuye——"
"And a prisoner?"
"Completely. The king pretends no one can amuse him but me. He is very good, for since yesterday I have made more grimaces than his ape, and been more rude than his jester."
"Well, it is my turn to render you a service: can I do it?"
"Yes, go to the Marshal de Brissac's, and reassure my poor little wife, who must be very uneasy, and must think my conduct very strange."
"What shall I say to her?"
"Morbleu! tell her what you see; that I am a prisoner, and that the king talks to me of friendship like Cicero, who wrote on it; and of virtue like Socrates, who practised it. It is in vain I tell him I am ungrateful for the first, and incredulous as to the last: he only repeats it over again."
"Is that all I can do for you?"
"Ah, mon Dieu! I fear so."
"Then it is done."
"I guessed all this, and told your wife so."
"And what did she say?"
"At first she would not believe; but I trust now," continued he, glancing towards the window, "she will yield to evidence. Ask me something more difficult."
"Then, bring here the griffin of Signor Astolfo, and let me mount en croupe, and go to my wife."
"A more simple thing would be to take the griffin to your wife and bring her here."
"To the Louvre, that would be droll."
"I should think so. Then you would be ennuye no longer?"
"Ma foi! no, but if this goes on much longer, I believe I shall kill myself."
"Well! shall I give you my page?"
"Yes, he is a wonderful lad."
"Thank you, but I detest pages."
"Bah! try him."
"Bussy, you mock me."
"Let me leave him."
"I tell you, you will like him."
"No, no, a hundred times, no."
"Hola, page, come here."
Jeanne came forward, blushing.
"Oh!" cried St. Luc, recognizing her, in astonishment.
"Well! shall I send him away?"
"No, no. Ah Bussy, I owe you an eternal friendship."
"Take care, you cannot be heard, but you can be seen."
"It is true," said St. Luc, retreating from his wife. Indeed, M. de Nancey was beginning to wonder what was going on, when a great noise was heard from the gallery.
"Ah! mon Dieu!" cried M. de Nancey, "there is the king quarreling with some one."
"I really think so," replied Bussy, affecting inquietude; "can it be with the Duc d'Anjou, who came with me?"
The captain of the guard went off in the direction of the gallery.
"Have I not managed well?" said Bussy to St. Luc.
"What is it?"
"M. d'Anjou and the king are quarrelling; I must go to them. You profit by the time to place in safety the page I have brought you; is it possible?"
"Oh, yes; luckily I declared I was ill and must keep my room."
"In that case, adieu, madame, and remember me in your prayers." And Bussy went off to the gallery, where the king, red with fury, swore to the duke, who was pale with anger, that in the scene of the preceding night Bussy was the aggressor.
"I affirm to you, sire," cried the duke, "that D'Epernon, Schomberg and Quelus were waiting for him at the Hotel des Tournelles."
"Who told you so?"
"I saw them with my own eyes."
"In that darkness! The night was pitch dark."
"I knew their voices."
"They spoke to you?"
"They did more, they took me for Bussy, and attacked me."
"And what were you doing there?"
"What does that matter to you?"
"I wish to know; I am curious to-day."
"I was going to Manasses."
"You go to Ruggieri, a poisoner."
"I go where I like: I am the king. Besides, as I said, Bussy was the aggressor."
"At St. Luc's ball."
"Bussy provoked five men? No, no, he is brave, but he is not mad."
"Par la mordieu! I tell you I heard him. Besides, he has wounded Schomberg in the thigh, D'Epernon in the arm, and half killed Quelus."
"Ah! really I did not know; I compliment him on it."
"I will make example of this brawler."
"And I, whom your friends attack, in his person and in my own, will know if I am your brother, and if——"
At this moment Bussy, dressed in pale-green satin, entered the room.
"Sire!" said he, "receive my humble respects."
"Pardieu! here he is," cried Henri.
"Your majesty, it seems, was doing me the honor of speaking of me."
"Yes, and I am glad to see that, in spite of what they told me, your look shows good health."
"Sire, blood drawn improves the complexion, so mine ought to be good this morning."
"Well, since they have wounded you, complain, and I will do you justice."
"I complain of nothing, sire."
Henri looked astonished. "What did you say?" said he to the duke.
"I said that Bussy had received a wound in his side."
"Is it true, Bussy?"
"The first prince of the blood would not lie, sire."
"And yet you do not complain?"
"I shall never complain, sire, until they cut off my right-hand, and prevent my revenging myself, and then I will try to do it with the left."
"Insolent," murmured Henri.
"Sire," said the duke, "do justice; we ask no better. Order an inquiry, name judges, and let it be proved who prepared the ambush and the intended murder."
Henri reddened. "No," said he, "I prefer this time to be ignorant where the wrong lies, and to pardon everyone. I wish these enemies to make peace, and I am sorry that Schomberg and D'Epernon are kept at home by their wounds. Say, M. d'Anjou, which do you call the most forward to fight of all my friends, as you say you saw them?"
"Sire, it was Quelus."
"Ma foi! yes," said Quelus, "his highness is right."
"Then," said Henri, "let MM. Bussy and Quelus make peace in the name of all."
"Oh! Oh!" said Quelus, "what does that mean, sire?"
"It means that you are to embrace here, before me." Quelus frowned.
"Ah, signor," cried Bussy, imitating a pantaloon, "will you not do me this favor?"
Even the king laughed. Then, approaching Quelus, Bussy threw his arms round his neck, saying, "The king wishes it."
"I hope it engages us to nothing," whispered Quelus.
"Be easy," answered Bussy, "we will meet soon."
Quelus drew back in a rage, and Bussy, making a pirouette, went out of the gallery.
LE PETIT COUCHER OF HENRI III.
After this scene, beginning in tragedy and ending in comedy, the king, still angry, went to his room, followed by Chicot, who asked for his supper.
"I am not hungry," said the king.
"It is possible, but I am."
The king did not seem to hear. He unclasped his cloak, took off his cap, and, advancing to the passage which led to St. Luc's room, said to Chicot, "Wait here for me till I return."
"Oh! do not be in a hurry," said Chicot. No sooner was the king gone, than Chicot opened the door and called "Hola!"
A valet came. "The king has changed his mind," said Chicot, "he wishes a good supper here for himself and St. Luc, above all, plenty of wine, and despatch."
The valet went to execute the orders, which he believed to be the king's. Henri meanwhile had passed into St. Luc's room. He found him in bed, having prayers read to him by an old servant who had followed him to the Louvre, and shared his captivity. In a corner, on an armchair, his head buried in his hands, slept the page.
"Who is that young man?" asked the king.
"Did not your majesty authorize me to send for a page."
"Well, I have profited by it."
"Does your majesty repent of having allowed me this little indulgence?"
"No, no, on the contrary, amuse yourself, my son. How are you?"
"Sire, I have a fever."
"Really, your face is red; let me feel your pulse, I am half a doctor."
St. Luc held out his hand with visible ill-humor.
"Oh!" said the king, "intermittent—agitated."
"Yes, sire, I am very ill."
"I will send you my doctor."
"Thank you, sire, but I hate Miron."
"I will watch you myself. You shall have a bed in my room, and we will talk all night."
"Oh!" cried St Luc, "you see me ill, and you want to keep me from sleeping. That is a singular way to treat your patient, doctor."
"But you cannot be left alone, suffering as you are."
"Sire, I have my page, Jean."
"But he sleeps."
"That is what I like best, then he will not disturb me."
"Well, come and assist at my going to bed."
"Then I shall be free to come back to bed?"
"Well, so be it. But I shall make a bad courtier, I assure you; I am dying with sleep."
"You shall yawn at your ease."
"Sire, if your majesty will leave me, I will be with you in five minutes."
"Well, then, five minutes, but no longer."
As soon as the door was shut, the page jumped up. "Ah! St. Luc," cried she, "you are going to leave me again. Mon Dieu! I shall die of fright here, if they discover me."
"My dear Jeanne, Gaspard here will protect you."
"Had I not better go back?"
"If you really wish it, Jeanne," said St. Luc, sadly, "you shall. But if you are as good as you are beautiful, if you have any feeling in your heart for me, you will wait here a little. I shall suffer so much from my head and nerves that the king will not long keep so sad a companion."
"Go, then," said Jeanne, "and I will wait."
"My dear Jeanne, you are adorable. Trust me to returns as soon as possible, Besides, I have an idea, which I will tell you when I return."
"An idea which will restore your liberty?"
"I hope so."
"Gaspard," said St. Luc, "prevent any one from entering here, and in a quarter of an hour lock the door, and bring me the key to the king's room. Then go home, and tell them not to be uneasy about Madame la Comtesse, and come back to-morrow."
Then St. Luc kissed his wife's hand, and went to the king, who was already growing impatient. Jeanne, alone and trembling, hid behind the curtains of the bed. When St. Luc entered he found the king amidst a perfect carpet of flowers, of which the stalks had been cut off-roses, jasmine, violets, and wall-flowers, in spite of the severe weather, formed an odorous carpet for Henry III. The chamber, of which the roof was painted, had in it two beds, one of which was so large as to occupy a third of the room. It was hung with gold and silk tapestry, representing mythological figures and the windows had curtains to match. From the center of the ceiling hung, suspended by a golden chain, a silver gilt lamp, in which burned a perfumed oil. At the side of the bed was a golden satyr, holding in his hand a candelabrum, containing four rose-color wax candles, also perfumed.
The king, with his naked feet resting on the flowers, was seated on a chair of ebony inlaid with gold; he had on his knees seven or eight young spaniels, who were licking his bands. Two servants were curling his hair, his mustachios, and beard, a third was covering his face with a kind of cream, which had a most delightful scent.
"Here," cried Chicot, "the grease and the combs, I will try them too."
"Chicot," said Henri, "your skin is too dry, and will use too much cream, and your beard is so hard, it will break my combs. Well, my son," said he, turning to St. Luc, "how is your head?"
St. Luc put his hand to his head and groaned.
"Imagine!" continued Henri, "I have seen Bussy d'Amboise."
"Bussy!" cried St. Luc, trembling.
"Yes, those fools! five of them attacked him, and let him escape. If you had been there, St. Luc——"
"I should probably have been like the others."
"Oh! no, I wager you are as good as Bussy. We will try to-morrow."
"Sire, I am too ill for anything."
Henri, hearing a singular noise, turned round, and saw Chicot eating up all the supper that had been brought for two.
"What the devil are you doing, M. Chicot?" cried Henri.
"Taking my cream internally, since you will not allow me to do it outwardly."
"Go and fetch my captain of the guards," said Henri.
"What for?" asked Chicot, emptying a porcelain cup of chocolate.
"To pass his sword through your body."
"Ah! let him come, we shall see!" cried Chicot, putting himself in such a comical attitude of defense that every one laughed.
"But I am hungry," cried the king; "and the wretch has eaten up all the supper."
"You are capricious, Henri; I offered you supper and you refused. However, your bouillon is left; I am no longer hungry, and I am going to bed."
"And I also," said St. Luc, "for I can stand no longer."
"Stay, St. Luc," said the king, "take these," and he offered him a handful of little dogs.
"To sleep with you; they will take your illness from you."
"Thanks, sire," said St. Luc, putting them back in their basket, "but I have no confidence in your receipt."
"I will come and visit you in the night, St. Luc."
"Pray do not, sire, you will only disturb me," and saluting the king, he went away. Chicot had already disappeared, and there only remained with the king the valets, who covered his face with a mask of fine cloth, plastered with the perfumed cream, in which were holes for the eyes, nose, and mouth; a cap of silk and silver fixed it on the forehead and ears. They next covered his arms with sleeves made of wadded silk, and then presented him with kid gloves, also greased inside.
These mysteries of the royal toilet finished, they presented to him his soup in a golden cup. Then Henri said a prayer, a short one that night, and went to bed.
When settled there, he ordered them to carry away the flowers, which were beginning to make the air sickly, and to open the window for a moment. Then the valet closed the doors and curtains, and called in Narcissus, the king's favorite dog, who, jumping on the bed, settled himself at once on the king's feet. The valet next put out the wax-lights, lowered the lamp, and went out softly.
Already, more tranquil and nonchalant than the lazy monks of his kingdom in their fat abbeys, the King of France no longer remembered that there was a France.—He slept.
Every noise was hushed, and one might have heard a bat fly in the somber corridors of the Louvre.
HOW, WITHOUT ANY ONE KNOWING WHY, THE KING WAS CONVERTED BEFORE THE NEXT DAY.
Three hours passed thus.
Suddenly, a terrible cry was heard, which came from the king's room.
All the lights in his room were out, and no sound was to be heard except this strange call of the king's. For it was he who had cried.
Soon was heard the noise of furniture falling, porcelain breaking, steps running about the room, and the barking of dogs-mingled with new cries. Almost instantly lights burned, swords shone in the galleries, and the heavy steps of the Guards were heard.
"To arms!" cried all, "the king calls."
And the captain of the guard, the colonel of the Swiss, and some attendants, rushed into the king's room with flambeaux.
Near an overturned chair, broken cups, and disordered bed, stood Henri, looking terrified and grotesque in his night-dress. His right hand was extended, trembling like a leaf in the wind, and his left held his sword, which he had seized mechanically.
He appeared dumb through terror, and all the spectators, not daring to break the silence, waited with the utmost anxiety.
Then appeared, half dressed and wrapped in a large cloak, the young queen, Louise de Lorraine, blonde and gentle, who led the life of a saint upon earth, and who had been awakened by her husband's cries.
"Sire," cried she, also trembling, "what is the matter? Mon Dieu! I heard your cries, and I came."
"It—it is nothing," said the king, without moving his eyes, which seemed to be looking up the air for some form invisible to all but him.
"But your majesty cried out; is your majesty suffering?" asked the queen.
Terror was so visibly painted on the king's countenance, that it began to gain on the others.
"Oh, sire!" cried the queen again, "in Heaven's name do not leave us in this suspense. Will you have a doctor?"
"A doctor, no," cried Henri, in the same tone, "the body is not ill, it is the mind; no doctor—a confessor."
Everyone looked round; nowhere was there to be seen any traces of what had so terrified the king. However, a confessor was sent for; Joseph Foulon, superior of the convent of St. Genevieve, was torn from his bed, to come to the king. With the confessor, the tumult ceased, and silence was reestablished; everyone conjectured and wondered—the king was confessing.
The next day the king rose early, and began to read prayers then he ordered all his friends to be sent for. They sent to St. Luc, but he was more suffering than ever. His sleep, or rather his lethargy, had been so profound, that he alone had heard nothing of the tumult in the night, although he slept so near. He begged to be left in bed. At this deplorable recital, Henri crossed himself, and sent him a doctor.
Then he ordered that all the scourges from the convent should be brought to him, and, going to his friends, distributed them, ordering them to scourge each other as hard as they could.
D'Epernon said that as his right arm was in a sling, and he could not return the blows he received, he ought to be exempt, but the king replied that that would only make it the more acceptable to God.
He himself set the example. He took off his doublet, waistcoat, and shirt, and struck himself like a martyr. Chicot tried to laugh, as usual, but was warned by a terrible look, that this was not the right time, and he was forced to take a scourge like the others.
All at once the king left the room, telling them to wait for him. Immediately the blows ceased, only Chicot continued to strike D'O, whom he hated, and D'O returned it as well as he could. It was a duel with whips.
The king went to the queen, gave her a pearl necklace worth 25,000 crowns, and kissed her, which he had not done for a year. Then he asked her to put off her royal ornaments and put on a sack.
Louise, always good, consented, but asked why her husband gave her a necklace, and yet made such a request.
"For my sins," replied he.
The queen said no more, for she knew, better than any one, how many he had to repent of.
Henri returned, which was a signal for the flagellation to recommence. In ten minutes the queen arrived, with her sack on her shoulders. Then tapers were distributed to all the court, and barefooted, through the snow, all the courtiers and fine ladies went to Montmartre, shivering. At five o'clock the promenade was over, the convents had received rich presents, the feet of all the court were swollen, and the backs of the courtiers sore. There had been tears, cries, prayers, incense, and psalms. Everyone had suffered, without knowing why the king, who danced the night before, scourged himself to-day. As for Chicot, he had escaped at the Porte Montmartre, and, with Brother Gorenflot, had entered a public-house, where he had eaten and drank. Then he had rejoined the procession and returned to the Louvre.
In the evening the king, fatigued with his fast and his exercise, ordered himself a light supper, had his shoulders washed, and then went to visit St. Luc.
"Ah!" cried he, "God has done well to render life so bitter."
"Why so, sire?"
"Because then man, instead of fearing death, longs for it."
"Speak for yourself, sire, I do not long for it at all."
"Listen, St. Luc, will you follow my example?"
"If I think it a good one."
"I will leave my throne, and you your wife, and we will enter a cloister. I will call myself Brother Henri——"
"Pardon, sire, if you do not care for your crown, of which you are tired, I care very much for my wife, whom I know so little. Therefore I refuse."
"Oh! you are better."
"Infinitely better, sire; I feel quite joyous, and disposed for happiness and pleasure."
"Poor St. Luc!" cried the king, clasping his hands.
"You should have asked me yesterday, sire, then I was ill and cross. I would have thrown myself into a well for a trifle. But this evening it is quite a different thing. I have passed a good night and a charming day. Mordieu, vive la joie!"
"You swear, St. Luc."
"Did I, sire? but I think you swear sometimes."
"I have sworn, St. Luc, but I shall swear no more."
"I cannot say that; I will not swear more than I can help, and God is merciful."
"You think he will pardon me?"
"Oh! I speak for myself, not for you, sire. You have sinned as a king, I as a private man, and we shall, I trust, be differently judged."
The king sighed. "St. Luc," said he, "will you pass the night in my room?"
"Why, what should we do?"
"We will light all the lamps, I will go to bed, and you shall read prayers to me."
"No, thank you, sire."
"You will not?"
"On no account."
"You abandon me, St. Luc!"
"No, I will stay with your majesty, if you will send for music and ladies, and have a dance."
"Oh, St. Luc, St. Luc!"
"I am wild to-night, sire, I want to dance and drink."
"St. Luc," said the king, solemnly, "do you ever dream?"
"You believe in dreams?"
"Dreams console for the reality. Last night I had a charming dream."
"What was it?"
"I dreamed that my wife——"
"You still think of your wife?"
"More than ever, sire; well, I dreamed that she, with her charming face—for she is pretty, sire——"
"So was Eve, who ruined us all."
"Well, my wife had procured wings and the form of a bird, and so, braving locks and bolts, she passed over the walls of the Louvre, and came to my window, crying, 'Open, St. Luc, open, my husband.'"
"And you opened?"
"I should think so."
"As you please, sire."
"Then you woke?"
"No, indeed, the dream was too charming; and I hope to-night to dream again; therefore I refuse your majesty's obliging offer. If I sit up, let me at least have something to pay me for losing my dream. If your majesty will do as I said——"
"Enough, St. Luc. I trust Heaven will send you a dream to-night which will lead you to repentance."
"I doubt it, sire, and I advise you to send away this libertine St. Luc, who is resolved not to amend."
"No, no, I hope, before to-morrow, grace will have touched you as it has me. Good night, I will pray for you."
HOW THE KING WAS AFRAID OF BEING AFRAID.
When the king left St. Luc, he found the court, according to his orders, in the great gallery. Then he gave D'O, D'Epernon and Schomberg an order to retire into the provinces, threatened Quelus and Maugiron to punish them if they quarreled anymore with Bussy, to whom he gave his hand to kiss, and then embraced his brother Francois.
As for the queen, he was prodigal in politeness to her.
When the usual time for retiring approached, the king seemed trying to retard it. At last ten o'clock struck.
"Come with me, Chicot," then said he, "good night, gentlemen."
"Good night, gentlemen," said Chicot, "we are going to bed. I want my barber, my hairdresser, my valet de chambre, and, above all, my cream."
"No," said the king, "I want none of them to-night; Lent is going to begin."
"I regret the cream," said Chicot.
The king and Chicot entered the room, which we already know.
"Ah ca! Henri," said Chicot, "I am the favorite to-night. Am I handsomer than that Cupid, Quelus?"
"Silence, Chicot, and you, gentlemen of the toilette, go out."
They obeyed, and the king and Chicot were left alone.
"Why do you send them away?" asked Chicot, "they have not greased us yet. Are you going to grease me with your own royal hand? It would be an act of humility."
"Let us pray," said Henri.
"Thank you, that is not amusing. If that be what you called me here for, I prefer to return to the bad company I have left. Adieu, my son. Good night."
"Stay," said the king.
"Oh! this is tyranny. You are a despot, a Phalaris, a Dionysius. All day you have made me tear the shoulders of my friends with cow-hide, and now we are to begin again. Do not let us do it, Henri, when there's but two, every blow tells."
"Hold your tongue, miserable chatterer, and think of repentance."
"I repent! And of what? Of being jester to a monk. Confiteor—I repent, mea culpa, it is a great sin."
"No sacrilege, wretch."
"Ah! I would rather he shut up in a cage with lions and apes, than with a mad king. Adieu, I am going."
The king locked the door.
"Henri, you look sinister; if you do not let me go, I will cry, I will call, I will break the window, I will kick down the door."
"Chicot," said the king, in a melancholy tone, "you abuse my sadness."
"Ah! I understand, you are afraid to be alone. Tyrants always are so. Take my long sword, and let me take the scabbard to my room."
At the word "afraid," Henri shuddered, and he looked nervously around, and seemed so agitated and grew so pale, that Chicot began to think him really ill, and said,—
"Come, my son, what is the matter, tell your troubles to your friend Chicot."
The king looked at him and said, "Yes, you are my friend, my only friend."
"There is," said Chicot, "the abbey of Valency vacant."
"Listen, Chicot, you are discreet."
"There is also that of Pithiviers, where they make such good pies."
"In spite of your buffooneries, you are a brave man."
"Then do not give me an abbey, give me a regiment."
"And even a wise one."
"Then do not give me a regiment, make me a counselor; but no, when I think of it, I should prefer a regiment, for I should be always forced to be of the king's opinion."
"Hold your tongue, Chicot, the terrible hour approaches."
"Ah! you are beginning again."
"You will hear."
"Wait, and the event will show you. Chicot, you are brave!"
"I boast of it, but I do not wish to try. Call your captain of the guard, your Swiss, and let me go away from this invisible danger."
"Chicot, I command you to stay."
"On my word, a nice master. I am afraid, I tell you. Help!"
"Well, drole, if I must, I will tell you all."
"Ah!" cried Chicot, drawing his sword, "once warned, I do not care; tell, my son, tell. Is it a crocodile? my sword is sharp, for I use it every week to cut my corns." And Chicot sat down in the armchair with his drawn sword between his legs.
"Last night," said Henri, "I slept——"
"And I also," said Chicot.
"Suddenly a breath swept over my face."
"It was the dog, who was hungry, and who licked your cream."
"I half woke, and felt my beard bristle with terror under my mask."
"Ah! you make me tremble deliciously."
"Then," continued the king, in a trembling voice, "then a voice sounded through the room, with a doleful vibration."
"The voice of the crocodile! I have read in Marco Polo, that the crocodile has a voice like the crying of children; but be easy, my son, for if it comes, we will kill it."
"'Listen! miserable sinner,' said the voice——"
"Oh! it spoke; then it was not a crocodile."
"'Miserable sinner,' said the voice, 'I am the angel of God.'"
"The angel of God!"
"Ah! Chicot, it was a frightful voice."
"Was it like the sound of a trumpet?"
"'Are you there?' continued the voice, 'do you hear, hardened sinner; are you determined to persevere in your iniquities?'"
"Ah, really; he said very much the same as other people, it seems to me."
"Then, Chicot, followed many other reproaches, which I assure you were most painful."
"But tell me what he said, that I may see if he was well informed?"
"Impious! do you doubt?"
"I? all that astonishes me is, that he waited so long to reproach you. So, my son, you were dreadfully afraid?"
"Oh, yes, the marrow seemed to dry in my bones."
"It is quite natural; on my word, I do not know what I should have done in your place. And then you called?"
"And they came?"
"And there was no one here?"
"It is frightful."
"So frightful, that I sent for my confessor."
"And he came?"
"Now, be frank, my son; tell the truth for once. What did he think of your revelation?"
"I should think so."
"He ordered me to repent, as the voice told me."
"Very well. There can be no harm in repenting. But what did he think of the vision?"
"That it was a miracle, and that I must think of it seriously. Therefore, this morning——"
"What have you done"
"I gave 100,000 livres to the Jesuits."
"And scourged myself and my friends."
"Perfect! but after?"
"Well, what do you think of it, Chicot? It is not to the jester I speak, but to the man of sense, to my friend."
"Ah, sire, I think your majesty had the nightmare."
"You think so?"
"Yes, it was a dream, which will not be renewed, unless your majesty thinks too much about it."
"A dream? No, Chicot, I was awake, my eyes were open."
"I sleep like that."
"Yes, but then you do not see, and I saw the moon shining through my windows, and its light on the amethyst in the hilt of my sword, which lay in that chair where you are."
"And the lamp?"
"Had gone out."
"A dream, my son."
"Why do you not believe, Chicot? It is said that God speaks to kings, when He wishes to effect some change on the earth."
"Yes, he speaks, but so low that they never hear Him."
"Well, do you know why I made you stay?—that you might hear as well as I."
"No one would believe me if I said I heard it."
"My friend, it is a secret which I confide to your known fidelity."
"Well, I accept. Perhaps it will also speak to me."
"Well, what must I do?"
"Go to bed, my son."
"Do you think that sitting up will keep it away?"
"Well, then, you remain."
"I said so."
"Well, then, I will go to bed."
"But you will not?"
"Certainly not, I will stay here."
"You will not go to sleep?"
"Oh, that I cannot promise; sleep is like fear, my son, a thing independent of will."
"You will try, at least?"
"Be easy; I will pinch myself. Besides, the voice would wake me."
"Do not joke about the voice."
"Well, well, go to bed."
The king sighed, looked round anxiously, and glided tremblingly into bed. Then Chicot established him in his chair, arranging round him the pillows and cushions.
"How do you feel, sire?" said he.
"Pretty well; and you?"
"Very well; good night, Henri."
"Good night, Chicot; do not go to sleep."
"Of course not," said Chicot, yawning fit to break his jaws.
And they both closed their eyes, the king to pretend to sleep, Chicot to sleep really.