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The Regent's Daughter
by Alexandre Dumas (Pere)
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"But," said Du Couedic, "there is the parliament of Bretagne."

"Yes, to look on, while we lose our heads."

There was only one of the four who smiled; that was Pontcalec.

"My friends," said he, "take courage. If Dubois be thirsty, so much the worse for Dubois. He will go mad, that is all; but this time I answer for it he shall not taste our blood."

And, indeed, from the beginning the task of the commission seemed difficult. No confessions, no proofs, no witnesses. Bretagne laughed in the commissioners' faces, and when she did not laugh, she threatened. The president dispatched a courier to Paris to explain the state of things, and get further instructions.

"Judge by their projects," said Dubois; "they may have done little, because they were prevented, but they intended much, and the intention in matters of rebellion is equivalent to the act."

Armed with this terrible weapon, the commission soon overthrew the hopes of the province. There was a terrible audience, in which the accused commenced with raillery and ended with accusation. On re-entering the prison, Pontcalec congratulated them on the truths they had told the judge.

"Nevertheless," said Montlouis, "it is a bad affair. Bretagne does not revolt."

"She waits our condemnation," said Talhouet.

"Then she will revolt somewhat late," said Montlouis.

"But our condemnation may not take place," said Pontcalec. "Say, frankly, we are guilty, but without proofs who will dare to sentence us? The commission?"

"No, not the commission, but Dubois."

"I have a great mind to do one thing," said Du Couedic.

"What?"

"At the first audience to cry, 'Bretagne to the rescue!' Each time we have seen faces of friends; we should be delivered or killed, but at least it would be decided. I should prefer death to this suspense."

"But why run the risk of being wounded by some satellite of justice?"

"Because such a wound might be healed; not so the wound the executioner would make."

"Oh!" said Pontcalec, "you will have no more to do with the executioner than I shall."

"Always the prediction," said Montlouis. "You know that I have no faith in it."

"You are wrong."

"This is sure, my friends," said Pontcalec. "We shall be exiled, we shall be forced to embark, and I shall be lost on the way. This is my fate. But yours may be different. Ask to go by a different vessel from me; or there is another chance. I may fall from the deck, or slip on the steps; at least, I shall die by the water. You know that is certain. I might be condemned to death, taken to the very scaffold, but if the scaffold were on dry ground I should be as easy as I am now."

His tone of confidence gave them courage. They even laughed at the rapidity with which the deliberations were carried on. They did not know that Dubois sent courier after courier from Paris to hasten them.

At length the commission declared themselves sufficiently enlightened, and retired to deliberate in secret session.

Never was there a more stormy discussion. History has penetrated the secrets of these deliberations, in which some of the least bold or least ambitious counselors revolted against the idea of condemning these gentlemen on presumptions which were supported solely by the intelligence transmitted to them by Dubois; but the majority were devoted to Dubois, and the committee came to abuse and quarrels, and almost to blows.

At the end of a sitting of eleven hours' duration, the majority declared their decision.

The commissioners associated sixteen others of the contumacious gentlemen with the four chiefs, and declared:

"That the accused, found guilty of criminal projects, of treason, and of felonious intentions, should be beheaded: those present, in person, those absent, in effigy. That the walls and fortifications of their castles should be demolished, their patents of nobility annuled, and their forests cut down to the height of nine feet."

An hour after the delivery of this sentence, an order was given to the usher to announce it to the prisoners.

The sentence had been given after the stormy sitting of which we have spoken, and in which the accused had experienced such lively marks of sympathy from the public. And so, having beaten the judges on all the counts of the indictment, never had they been so full of hope.

They were seated at supper in their common room, calling to mind all the details of the sitting, when suddenly the door opened, and in the shade appeared the pale and stern form of the usher.

The solemn apparition changed, on the instant, into anxious palpitations their pleasant conversation.

The usher advanced slowly, while the jailer remained at the door, and the barrels of muskets were seen shining in the gloom of the corridor.

"What is your will, sir?" asked Pontcalec, "and what signifies this deadly paraphernalia?"

"Gentlemen," said the usher, "I bear the sentence of the tribunal. On your knees and listen."

"How?" said Montlouis, "it is only sentences of death that must be heard kneeling."

"On your knees, gentlemen," replied the usher.

"Let the guilty and the base kneel," said Du Couedic; "we are gentlemen, and innocent. We will hear our sentences standing."

"As you will, gentlemen; but uncover yourselves, for I speak in the king's name."

Talhouet, who alone had his hat on, removed it. The four gentlemen stood erect and bare-headed, leaning on each other, with pale faces and a smile upon their lips.

The usher read the sentence through, uninterrupted by a murmur, or by a single gesture of surprise.

When he had finished—

"Why was I told," asked Pontcalec, "to declare the designs of Spain against France, and that I should be liberated? Spain was an enemy's country. I declared what I believed I knew of her projects; and, lo! I am condemned. Why is this? Is the commission, then, composed of cowards who spread snares for the accused?"

The usher made no answer.

"But," added Montlouis, "the regent spared all Paris, implicated in the conspiracy of Cellamare; not a drop of blood was shed. Yet those who wished to carry off the regent, perhaps to kill him, were at least as guilty as men against whom no serious accusations even could be made. Are we then chosen to pay for the indulgence shown to the capital?"

The usher made no reply.

"You forget one thing, Montlouis," said Du Couedic, "the old family hatred against Bretagne; and the regent, to make people believe that he belongs to the family, wishes to prove that he hates us. It is not we, personally, who are struck at; it is a province, which for three hundred years has claimed in vain its privileges and its rights, and which they wish to find guilty in order to have done with it forever."

The usher preserved a religious silence.

"Enough," said Talhouet, "we are condemned. 'Tis well. Now, have we, or have we not, the right of appeal?"

"No, gentlemen," said the usher.

"Then you can retire," said Couedic.

The usher bowed and withdrew, followed by his escort, and the prison door, heavy and clanging, closed once more upon the four gentlemen.

"Well!" said Montlouis, when they were again alone.

"Well, we are condemned," said Pontcalec. "I never said there would be no sentence; I only said it would not be carried into execution."

"I am of Pontcalec's opinion," said Talhouet. "What they have done is but to terrify the province and test its patience."

"Besides," said Du Couedic, "they will not execute us without the regent's ratification of the sentence. Now, without an extraordinary courier, it will take two days to reach Paris, one to examine into the affair, and two to return, altogether five days. We have, then, five days before us; and what may not happen in five days? The province will rise on hearing of our doom—"

Montlouis shook his head.

"Besides, there is Gaston," said Pontcalec, "whom you always forget."

"I am much afraid that Gaston has been arrested," said Montlouis. "I know Gaston, and were he at liberty, we should have heard of him ere now."

"Prophet of evil," said Talhouet, "at least you will not deny that we have some days before us."

"Who knows?" said Montlouis.

"And the waters?" said Pontcalec; "the waters? You always forget that I can only perish by the waters."

"Well, then, let us be seated again," said Du Couedic, "and a last glass to our healths."

"There is no more wine," said Montlouis; "'tis an evil omen."

"Bah! there is more in the cellar," said Pontcalec.

And he called the jailer.

The man, on entering, found the four friends at table; he looked at them in astonishment.

"Well, what is there new, Master Christopher?" said Pontcalec.

Christopher came from Guer, and had a particular respect for Pontcalec, whose uncle Crysogon had been his seigneur.

"Nothing but what you know," he replied.

"Then go and fetch some wine."

"They wish to deaden their feelings," said the jailer to himself; "poor gentlemen."

Montlouis alone heard Christopher's remark, and he smiled sadly.

An instant afterward they heard steps rapidly approaching their room.

The door opened, and Christopher reappeared without any bottle in his hand.

"Well," said Pontcalec, "where is the wine?"

"Good news," cried Christopher, without answering Pontcalec's inquiry, "good news, gentlemen."

"What?" said Montlouis, starting. "Is the regent—dead?"

"And Bretagne in revolt?" asked Du Couedic.

"No. I could not call that good news."

"Well, what is it then?" said Pontcalec.

"Monsieur de Chateauneuf has just ordered back to their barracks the hundred and fifty men who were under arms in the market-place, which had terrified everybody."

"Ah," said Montlouis, "I begin to believe it will not take place this evening."

At this moment the clock struck six.

"Well," said Pontcalec, "good news is no reason for our remaining thirsty; go and fetch our wine."

Christopher went out, and returned in ten minutes with a bottle.

The friends who were still at table filled their glasses.

"To Gaston's health," said Pontcalec, exchanging a meaning glance with his friends, to whom alone this toast was comprehensible.

And they emptied their glasses, all except Montlouis, who stopped as he was lifting his to his lips.

"Well, what is it?" said Pontcalec.

"The drum," said Montlouis, stretching out his hand in the direction where he heard the sound.

"Well," said Talhouet, "did you not hear what Christopher said? it is the troops returning."

"On the contrary, it is the troops going out; that is not a retreat, but the generale."

"The generale!" said Talhouet, "what on earth can that mean?"

"No good," said Montlouis, shaking his head.

"Christopher!" said Pontcalec, turning to the jailer.

"Yes, gentlemen, I will find out what it is," said he, "and be back in an instant."

He rushed out of the room, but not without carefully shutting the door behind him.

The four friends remained in anxious silence. After a lapse of ten minutes the door opened, and the jailer reappeared, pale with terror.

"A courier has just entered the castle court," said he; "he comes from Paris, he has delivered his dispatches, and immediately the guards were doubled, and the drums beat in all the barracks."

"Oh, oh," said Montlouis, "that concerns us."

"Some one is ascending the stairs," said the jailer, more pale and trembling than those to whom he spoke. In fact, they heard the butt ends of the muskets clanging on the stones of the corridor, and at the same time several voices were heard speaking hastily.

The door opened, and the usher reappeared.

"Gentlemen," said he, "how long do you desire to set your worldly affairs in order, and to undergo your sentence?"

A profound terror froze even the hearers.

"I desire," said Montlouis, "time for the sentence to reach Paris and return, approved by the regent."

"I," said Talhouet, "only desire the time necessary for the commission to repent of its iniquity."

"As for me," said Du Couedic, "I wish for time for the minister at Paris to commute the sentence into eight days' imprisonment, which we deserve for having acted somewhat thoughtlessly."

"And you," said the usher gravely, to Pontcalec, who was silent, "what do you ask?"

"I," said Pontcalec calmly, "I demand nothing."

"Then, gentlemen," said the usher, "this is the answer of the commission: you have two hours at your disposal to arrange your spiritual and temporal affairs; it is now half-past six, in two hours and a half you must be on the Place du Bouffay, where the execution will take place."

There was a profound silence; the bravest felt fear seizing the very roots of their hair.

The usher retired without any one having made any answer; only the condemned looked at each other, and pressed each other's hands.

They had two hours.

Two hours, in the ordinary course of life, seem sometimes an age, at others two hours are but a moment.

The priests arrived, after them the soldiers, then the executioners.

The situation was appalling. Pontcalec, alone, did not belie himself. Not that the others wanted courage, but they wanted hope; still Pontcalec reassured them by the calmness with which he addressed, not only the priests, but the executioners themselves.

They made the preparations for that terrible process called the toilet of the condemned. The four sufferers must proceed to the scaffold dressed in black cloaks, in order that in the eyes of the people, from whom they always feared some tumult, they might be confounded with the priests who exhorted them.

Then the question of tying their hands was discussed—an important question.

Pontcalec answered with his smile of sublime confidence.

"Oh, leave us at least our hands free; we will go without disturbance."

"That has nothing to do with us," replied the executioner who was attending to Pontcalec; "unless by special order, the rules are the same for all sufferers."

"And who gives these orders?" said Pontcalec, laughing, "the king?"

"No, marquis," answered the executioner, astonished by such unexampled presence of mind, "not the king, but our chief."

"And where is your chief?"

"That is he, talking with the jailer Christopher."

"Call him then," said Pontcalec.

"Ho, Monsieur Waters!" cried the executioner, "please to come this way; there is one of these gentlemen asking for you."

A thunderbolt falling in the midst of them would not have produced a more terrible effect upon the four gentlemen than did this name.

"What did you say?" cried Pontcalec, shaking with affright; "what did you say? What name did you pronounce?"

"Waters, our chief."

Pontcalec, pale and overcome, sank upon a chair, casting an unutterable glance upon his affrighted companions. No one around them understood this sudden despair, which so rapidly succeeded to so high a confidence.

"Well?" asked Montlouis, addressing Pontcalec in a tone of tender reproach.

"Yes, gentlemen, you were right," said Pontcalec; "but I also was right to believe in this prediction, for it will be accomplished, as the others were. Only this time I yield, and confess that we are lost."

And by a spontaneous movement the four gentlemen threw themselves into each other's arms with fervent prayers to Heaven.

"What do you order?" asked the executioner.

"It is useless to tie their hands if they will give their words of honor; they are soldiers and gentlemen."



CHAPTER XXXVII.

THE TRAGEDY OF NANTES.

Meanwhile Gaston posted along the road to Nantes, leaving behind him all postilions, whose place, then as now, was to hold the horses instead of urging them on.

He had already passed Sevres and Versailles, and on arriving at Rambouillet just at daybreak, he saw the innkeeper and some postilions gathered round a horse which had just been bled. The horse was lying stretched on its side, in the middle of the street, breathing with difficulty.

Gaston at first paid no attention to all this; but as he was mounting himself, he heard one of the by-standers say:

"If he goes on at that pace he will kill more than one between this and Nantes."

Gaston was on the point of starting, but struck by a sudden and terrible idea, he stopped and signed to the innkeeper to come to him.

The innkeeper approached.

"Who has passed by here?" asked Gaston, "going at such a pace as to have put that poor animal in such a state?"

"A courier of the minister's," answered the innkeeper.

"A courier of the minister's!" exclaimed Gaston, "and coming from Paris?"

"From Paris."

"How long has he passed, more or less?"

"About two hours."

Gaston uttered a low cry which was like a groan. He knew Dubois—Dubois, who had tricked him under the disguise of La Jonquiere. The good will of the minister recurred to his mind and frightened him. Why this courier dispatched post haste just two hours before himself?

"Oh! I was too happy," thought the young man, "and Helene was right when she told me she had a presentiment of some great misfortune. Oh, I will overtake this courier, and learn the message that he bears, or perish in the attempt."

And he shot off like an arrow.

But with all these doubts and interrogations he had lost ten minutes more, so that on arriving at the first post station he was still two hours behind. This time the courier's horse had held out, and it was Gaston's which was ready to drop. The inn-keeper tried to make some remarks, but Gaston dropped two or three louis and set off again at a gallop.

At the next posting-house he had gained a few minutes, and that was all. The courier who was before him had not slackened his pace. Gaston increased his own; but this frightful rapidity redoubled the young man's fever and mistrust.

"Oh!" said he, "I will arrive at the same time that he does, if I am unable to precede him." And he doubled his speed, and spurred on his horse, which, at every station, stopped dripping with blood and sweat, or tumbled down exhausted. At every station he learned that the courier had passed almost as swiftly as himself, but he always gained some few minutes, and that sustained his strength.

Those whom he passed upon the way, leaving them far behind, pitied, in spite of themselves, the beautiful young man, pale faced and haggard, who flew on thus, and took neither rest, nor food, dripping with sweat, despite the bitter cold, and whose parched lips could only frame the words: "A horse! a horse! quick, there, a horse!"

And, in fact, exhausted, with no strength but that supplied him by his heart, and maddened more and more by the rapidity of his course and the feeling of danger, Gaston felt his head turn, his temples throb, and the perspiration of his limbs was tinged with blood.

Choked by the thirst and dryness of his throat, at Ancenis he drank a glass of water: it was the first moment he had lost during sixteen hours, and yet the accursed courier was still an hour and a half in advance. In eighty leagues Gaston had only gained some forty or fifty minutes.

The night was drawing in rapidly, and Gaston, ever expecting to see some object appear on the horizon, tried to pierce the obscurity with his bloodshot glances; on he went, as in a dream, thinking he heard the ringing of bells, the roar of cannon, and the roll of drums. His brain was full of mournful strains and inauspicious sounds; he lived no longer as a man, but his fever kept him up, he flew as it were in the air.

On, and still on. About eight o'clock at night he perceived Nantes at length upon the horizon, like a dark mass from out the midst of which some scattered lights were shining starlike in the gloom.

He tried to breathe, and thinking his cravat was choking him, he tore it off and threw it on the road.

Thus, mounted on his black horse, wrapped in his black cloak, and long ago bareheaded (his hat had fallen off), Gaston was like some fiendish cavalier bound to the witches' Sabbath.

On reaching the gates of Nantes his horse stumbled, but Gaston did not lose his stirrups, pulled him up sharply, and driving the spurs into his sides, he made him recover himself.

The night was dark, no one appeared upon the ramparts, the very sentinels were hidden in the gloom, it seemed like a deserted city.

But as he passed the gate a sentinel said something which Gaston did not even hear.

He held on his way.

At the Rue du Chateau his horse stumbled and fell, this time to rise no more.

What mattered it to Gaston now?—he had arrived. On he went on foot—his limbs were strained and deadened, yet he felt no fatigue, he held the paper crumpled in his hand.

One thing, however, astonished him, and that was meeting no one in so populous a quarter.

As he advanced, however, he heard a sullen murmur coming from the Place de Bouffay, as he passed before a long street which led into that Place.

There was a sea of heads, lit up by flaring lights; but Gaston passed on—his business was at the castle—and the sight disappeared.

At last he saw the castle—he saw the door gaping wide before him. The sentinel on guard upon the drawbridge tried to stop him; but Gaston, his order in his hand, pushed him roughly aside and entered the inner door.

Men were talking, and one of them wiping his tears off as he talked.

Gaston understood it all.

"A reprieve!" he cried, "a re—"

The word died upon his lips; but the men had done better than hear, they had seen his despairing gesture.

"Go, go!" they cried, showing him the way, "go! and, perhaps you may yet arrive in time."

And they themselves dispersed in all directions. Gaston pursued his way; he traversed a corridor, then some empty rooms, then the great chamber, and then another corridor.

Far off, through the bars, by the torchlight, he perceived the great crowd of which he had caught a glimpse before.

He had passed right through the castle, and issued on a terrace; thence he perceived the esplanade, a scaffold, men, and all around the crowd.

Gaston tried to cry, but no one heard him, he waved his handkerchief, but no one saw him; another man mounts on the scaffold, and Gaston uttered a cry and threw himself down below.

He had leaped from the top of the rampart to the bottom. A sentinel tried to stop him, but he threw him down, and descended a sort of staircase which led down to the square, and at the bottom was a sort of barricade of wagons. Gaston bent down and glided between the wheels.

Beyond the barricade were all St. Simon's grenadiers—a living hedge; Gaston, with a desperate effort, broke through the line, and found himself inside the ring.

The soldiers, seeing a man, pale and breathless, with a paper in his hand, allowed him to pass.

All of a sudden he stopped, as if struck by lightning. Talhouet!—he saw him!—Talhouet kneeling on the scaffold!

"Stop! stop!" cried Gaston, with all the energy of despair.

But even as he spoke the sword of the executioner flashed like lightning—a dull and heavy blow followed—and a terrible shudder ran through all the crowd.

The young man's shriek was lost in the general cry arising from twenty thousand palpitating breasts at once.

He had arrived a moment too late—Talhouet was dead: and, as he lifted his eyes, he saw in the hand of the headsman the bleeding head of his friend—and then, in the nobility of his heart, he felt that, one being dead, they all should die. That not one of them would accept a pardon which arrived a head too late. He looked around him; Du Couedic mounted in his turn, clothed with his black mantle, bareheaded and bare-necked.

Gaston remembered that he also had a black mantle, and that his head and neck were bare, and he laughed convulsively.

He saw what remained for him to do, as one sees some wild landscape by the lightning's livid gleam—'tis awful, but grand.

Du Couedic bends down; but, as he bends, he cries—"See how they recompense the services of faithful soldiers!—see how you keep your promises, oh ye cowards of Bretagne!"

Two assistants force him on his knees; the sword of the executioner whirls round and gleams again, and Du Couedic lies beside Talhouet.

The executioner takes up the head; shows it to the people; and then places it at one corner of the scaffold, opposite that of Talhouet.

"Who next?" asks Waters.

"It matters little," answers a voice, "provided that Monsieur de Pontcalec be the last, according to his sentence."

"I, then," said Montlouis, "I." And he springs upon the scaffold. But there he stops, his hair bristling; at a window before him he has seen his wife and his children.

"Montlouis! Montlouis!" cries his wife, with the despairing accent of a breaking heart, "Montlouis! look at us!"

At the same moment all eyes were turned toward that window. Soldiers, citizens, priests, and executioners look the same way. Gaston profits by the deathlike silence which reigns around him—springs to the scaffold, and grasps the staircase—and mounts the first steps.

"My wife! my children!" cries Montlouis, wringing his hands in despair; "oh! go, have pity upon me!"

"Montlouis!" cries his wife, holding up afar the youngest of his sons, "Montlouis, bless your children, and one day, perhaps, one of them will avenge you."

"Adieu! my children, my blessing on you!" cries Montlouis, stretching his hands toward the window.

These mournful adieux pierce the night, and reverberate like a terrible echo in the hearts of the spectators.

"Enough," says Waters, "enough." Then turning to his assistants:

"Be quick!" says he, "or the people will not allow us to finish."

"Be easy," says Montlouis; "if the people should rescue me, I would not survive them."

And he pointed with his finger to the heads of his companions.

"Ah, I had estimated them rightly, then," cried Gaston, who heard these words, "Montlouis, martyr, pray for me."

Montlouis turned round, he seemed to have heard a well-known voice; but at the very moment the executioner seized him, and almost instantly a loud cry told Gaston that Montlouis was like the others, and that his turn was come.

He leaped up; in a moment he was on the top of the ladder, and he in his turn looked down from the abominable platform upon all that crowd. At three corners of the scaffold were the heads of Talhouet, Du Couedic, and Montlouis.

But there arose then a strange emotion in the people. The execution of Montlouis, attended by the circumstances we have narrated, had upset the crowd. All the square, heaving and uttering murmurs and imprecations, seemed to Gaston some vast sea with life in every wave. At this moment the idea flashed across him that he might be recognized, and that his name uttered by a single mouth might prevent his carrying out his intention. He fell on his knees, and laid his head himself upon the block.

"Adieu!" he murmured, "adieu, my friends, my tender, dear Helene; thy nuptial kiss has cost me my life, indeed, but not mine honor. Alas! those fifteen minutes wasted in thine arms will have struck down five heads. Adieu! Helene, adieu!"

The sword of the executioner gleamed.

"—And you, my friends, pardon me," added the young man.

The steel fell; the head rolled one way, and the body fell the other.

Then Waters raised the head and showed it to the people.

But then a mighty murmur rose from the crowd; no one had recognized Pontcalec.

The executioner mistook the meaning of this murmur; he placed Gaston's head at the empty corner, and with his foot pushing the body into the tumbril where those of his three companions awaited it, he leaned upon his sword, and cried aloud:

"Justice is done."

"And I, then," cried a voice of thunder, "am I to be forgotten?"

And Pontcalec, in his turn, leaped upon the scaffold.

"You!" cried Waters, recoiling as if he had seen a ghost. "You! who are you?"

"I," said Pontcalec; "come, I am ready."

"But," said the executioner trembling, and looking one after the other at the four corners of the scaffold—"but there are four heads already."

"I am the Baron de Pontcalec, do you hear; I am to die the last—and here I am."

"Count," said Waters, as pale as the baron, pointing with his sword to the four corners.

"Four heads!" exclaimed Pontcalec; "impossible." At this moment he recognized in one of the heads the pale and noble face of Gaston, which seemed to smile upon him even in death.

And he in his turn started back in terror.

"Oh, kill me then quickly!" he cried, groaning with impatience; "would you make me die a thousand times?"

During this interval, one of the commissioners had mounted the ladder, called by the chief executioner. He cast a glance upon Pontcalec.

"It is indeed the Baron de Pontcalec," said the commissioner; "perform your office."

"But," cried the executioner, "there are four heads there already."

"Well, then, his will make five; better too many than too few."

And the commissioner descended the steps, signing to the drums to beat.

Waters reeled upon the boards of his scaffold. The tumult increased. The horror was more than the crowd could bear. A long murmur ran along the square; the lights were put out; the soldiers, driven back, cried "To arms!" there was a moment of noise and confusion, and several voices exclaimed:

"Death to the commissioners! death to the executioners!" Then the guns of the fort, loaded with grape, were pointed toward the people.

"What shall I do?" asked Waters.

"Strike," answered the same voice which had always spoken.

Pontcalec threw himself on his knees; the assistants placed his head upon the block. Then the priests fled in horror, the soldiers trembled in the gloom, and Waters, as he struck, turned away his head lest he should see his victim. Ten minutes afterward the square was empty—the windows closed and dark. The artillery and the fusiliers, encamped around the demolished scaffold, looked in silence on the spots of blood that incarnadined the pavement.

The priests to whom the bodies were delivered recognized that there were indeed, as Waters had said, five bodies instead of four. One of the corpses still held a crumpled paper in his hand.

This paper was the pardon of the other four. Then only was all explained—and the devotion of Gaston, which he had confided to no one, was divined.

The priests wished to perform a mass, but the president, Chateauneuf, fearing some disturbance at Nantes, ordered it to be performed without pomp or ceremony.

The bodies were buried on the Wednesday before Easter. The people were not permitted to enter the chapel where the mutilated bodies reposed, the greater part of which, report says, the quick lime refused to destroy.

And this finished the tragedy of Nantes.



CHAPTER XXXVIII.

THE END.

A fortnight after the events we have just related, a queer carriage, the same which we saw arrive at Paris at the commencement of this history, went out at the same barrier by which it had entered, and proceeded along the road from Paris to Nantes. A young woman, pale and almost dying, was seated in it by the side of an Augustine nun, who uttered a sigh and wiped away a tear every time she looked at her companion.

A man on horseback was watching for the carriage a little beyond Rambouillet. He was wrapped in a large cloak which left nothing visible but his eyes.

Near him was another man also enveloped in a cloak.

When the carriage passed, he heaved a deep sigh, and two silent tears fell from his eyes.

"Adieu!" he murmured, "adieu all my joy, adieu my happiness; adieu Helene, my child, adieu!"

"Monseigneur," said the man beside him, "you must pay for being a great prince; and he who would govern others must first conquer himself. Be strong to the end, monseigneur, and posterity will say that you were great."

"Oh, I shall never forgive you," said the regent, with a sigh so deep it sounded like a groan; "for you have killed my happiness."

"Ah! yes—work for kings," said the companion of this sorrowful man, shrugging his shoulders. "'Noli fidere principibus terrae nec filiis eorum.'"

The two men remained there till the carriage had disappeared, and then returned to Paris.

Eight days afterward the carriage entered the porch of the Augustines at Clisson. On its arrival, all the convent pressed round the suffering traveler—poor floweret! broken by the rough winds of the world.

"Come, my child; come and live with us again," said the superior.

"Not live, my mother," said the young girl, "but die."

"Think only of the Lord, my child," said the good abbess.

"Yes, my mother! Our Lord, who died for the sins of men."

Helene returned to her little cell, from which she had been absent scarcely a month. Everything was still in its place, and exactly as she had left it. She went to the window—the lake was sleeping tranquil and sad, but the ice which had covered it had disappeared beneath the rain, and with it the snow, where, before departing, the young girl had seen the impression of Gaston's footsteps.

Spring came, and everything but Helene began to live once more. The trees around the little lake grew green, the large leaves of the water-lilies floated once more upon the surface, the reeds raised up their heads, and all the families of warbling birds came back to people them again.

Even the barred gate opened to let the sturdy gardener in.

Helene survived the summer, but in September she faded with the waning of the year, and died.

The very morning of her death, the superior received a letter from Paris by a courier. She carried it to the dying girl. It contained only these words:

"My mother—obtain from your daughter her pardon for the regent."

Helene, implored by the superior, grew paler than ever at that name, but she answered:

"Yes, my mother, I forgive him. But it is because I go to rejoin him whom he killed."

At four o'clock in the afternoon she breathed her last.

She asked to be buried at the spot where Gaston used to untie the boat with which he came to visit her; and her last wishes were complied with.

And there she sleeps beneath the sod, pure as the flowers that blossom over her grave: and like them, broken by the cruel gusts that sweep the delicate blossoms so mercilessly down, and wither them with a breath.

END OF "THE REGENT'S DAUGHTER."



[Transcriber's Note: The following typographical errors, present in the original text, have been corrected.

On page 439 and page 441, "Tahouet" was changed to "Talhouet".

On page 442, an extra quotation mark following "In Heaven's name" was removed.

On page 445, "this curiosty displeased him" was changed to "this curiosity displeased him".

On page 448, "My child, said he" was changed to "My child, said she".

On page 464, a comma following "said the other" was changed to a period.

On page 466, "a piece of twelve sons" was changed to "a piece of twelve sous".

On page 469, a period following "Talhouet" was changed to a comma.

On page 484, a quotation mark preceding "it is the Bastille" was removed.

On page 485, "I is the same person" was changed to "It is the same person", and "the pride of am empress" was changed to "the pride of an empress".

On page 489, the line "ties, "your language might suit a gen-" appeared between "to break all" and "the laws of the State"; it has been deleted.

On page 490, "not an easy thing to arrrange" was changed to "not an easy thing to arrange", and "naming the tribuual" was changed to "naming the tribunal".

On page 495, "said, an usher's voice" was changed to "said an usher's voice".

On page 501, "I knew thas he was called De Chanlay" was changed to "I knew that he was called De Chanlay".

On page 511, "I am here to arrest yon" was changed to "I am here to arrest you".

On page 512, "an annoynace and cause of alarm" was changed to "an annoyance and cause of alarm".

In the caption of the illustration following page 512, "ABBE BRIGAND" has been changed to "ABBE BRIGAUD".

On page 517, "reddening with pleasue" has been changed to "reddening with pleasure".

On page 525, "watching La Jouquiere intently" was changed to "watching La Jonquiere intently", and "fain illness" was changed to "feign illness".

On page 528, "went to the hole to Pompador" was changed to "went to the hole to Pompadour".

On page 535, "denounced—detrayed" was changed to "denounced—betrayed".

On page 543, "sad the captain" was changed to "said the captain".

On page 551, a quotation mark following "Gaston placed the point against his breast." was removed.

On page 561, "till an hour and a half in advance" was changed to "still an hour and a half in advance".]

THE END

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