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An Enemy To The King by Robert Neilson Stephens

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AN ENEMY TO THE KING

From the recently discovered memoirs of the Sieur de la Tournoire

By Robert Neilson Stephens

Author of "The Continental Dragoon," "The Road to Paris," "Philip
Winwood," etc.

1897

CONTENTS.

I. TWO ENCOUNTERS BY NIGHT
II. LOVE-MAKING AT SHORT ACQUAINTANCE
III. THE STRANGE REQUEST OF MLLE. D'ARENCY
IV. HOW LA TOURNOIRE WAS ENLIGHTENED IN THE DARK
V. HOW LA TOURNOIRE ESCAPED FROM PARIS
VI. HOW HE FLED SOUTHWARD
VII. HOW HE ANNOYED MONSIEUR DE LA CHATRE
VIII. A SWEET LADY IN DISTRESS
IX. THE FOUR RASCALS
X. A DISAPPEARANCE
XI. HOW THE HERO GAVE HIS WORD AND KEPT IT
XII. AT THE CHÂTEAU OF MAURY
XIII. HOW DE BERQUIN INVITED DEATH
XIV. "GOD GRANT I DO NOT FIND YOU FALSE"
XV. TO CLOCHONNE, AFTER MADEMOISELLE!
XVI. BEHIND THE CURTAINS
XVII. SWORD AND DAGGER
XVIII. THE RIDE TOWARDS GUIENNE

AN ENEMY TO THE KING

CHAPTER I.

TWO ENCOUNTERS BY NIGHT

Hitherto I have written with the sword, after the fashion of greater men,
and requiring no secretary. I now take up the quill to set forth,
correctly, certain incidents which, having been noised about, stand in
danger of being inaccurately reported by some imitator of Brantome and De
l'Estoile. If all the world is to know of this matter, let it know
thereof rightly.

It was early in January, in the year 1578, that I first set out for
Paris. My mother had died when I was twelve years old, and my father had
followed her a year later. It was his last wish that I, his only child,
should remain at the château, in Anjou, continuing my studies until the
end of my twenty-first year. He had chosen that I should learn manners as
best I could at home, not as page in some great household or as gentleman
in the retinue of some high personage. "A De Launay shall have no master
but God and the King," he said. Reverently I had fulfilled his
injunctions, holding my young impulses in leash. I passed the time in
sword practice with our old steward, Michel, who had followed my father
in the wars under Coligny, in hunting in our little patch of woods,
reading the Latin authors in the flowery garden of the château, or in my
favorite chamber,--that one at the top of the new tower which had been
built in the reign of Henri II. to replace the original black tower from
which the earliest De Launay of note got the title of Sieur de la
Tournoire. All this while I was holding in curb my impatient desires. So
almost resistless are the forces that impel the young heart, that there
must have been a hard struggle within me had I had to wait even a month
longer for the birthday which finally set me free to go what ways I
chose. I rose early on that cold but sunlit January day, mad with
eagerness to be off and away into the great world that at last lay open
to me. Poor old Michel was sad that I had decided to go alone. But the
only servant whom I would have taken with me was the only one to whom I
would entrust the house of my fathers in my absence,--old Michel himself.
I thought the others too rustic. My few tenants would have made awkward
lackeys in peace, sorry soldiers in war.

Michel had my portmanteau fastened on my horse, which had been brought
out into the courtyard, and then he stood by me while I took my last
breakfast in La Tournoire; and, in my haste to be off, I would have
eaten little had he not pressed much upon me, reminding me how many
leagues I would have to ride before meeting a good inn on the Paris
road. He was sad, poor old Michel, at my going, and yet he partook of
some of my own eagerness. At last I had forced down my unwilling throat
food enough to satisfy even old Michel's solicitude. He girded on me the
finest of the swords that my father had left, placed over my violet
velvet doublet the new cloak I had bought for the occasion, handed me my
new hat with its showy plumes, and stood aside for me to pass out. In
the pocket of my red breeches was a purse holding enough golden crowns
to ease my path for some time to come. I cast one last look around the
old hall and, trying to check the rapidity of my breath, and the rising
of the lump in my throat, strode out to the court-yard, breathed the
fresh air with a new ecstasy, mounted the steaming horse, gave Michel my
hand for a moment, and, purposely avoiding meeting his eyes, spoke a
last kind word to the old man. After acknowledging the farewells of the
other servants, who stood in line trying to look joyous, I started my
horse with a little jerk of the rein, and was borne swiftly through the
porte, over the bridge, and out into the world. Behind me was the home
of my fathers and my childhood; before me was Paris. It was a fine,
bracing winter morning, and I was twenty-one. A good horse was under me,
a sword was at my side, there was money in my pocket. Will I ever feel
again as I did that morning?

Some have stupidly wondered why, being a Huguenot born and bred, I did
not, when free to leave La Tournoire, go at once to offer my sword to
Henri of Navarre or to some other leader of our party. This is easily
answered. If I was a Huguenot, I was also a man of twenty-one; and the
latter much more than the former. Paris was the centre of the world.
There was the court, there were the adventures to be had, there must one
go to see the whole of life; there would I meet men and make conquests of
women. There awaited me the pleasures of which I had known only by
report, there the advancement, the triumphs in personal quarrels; and,
above all else, the great love affair of my dreams. Who that is a man and
twenty-one has not such dreams? And who that is a man and seventy would
have been without them? Youth and folly go together, each sweetening the
other. The greatest fool, I think, is he who would have gone through life
entirely without folly. What then mattered religion to me? Or what
mattered the rivalry of parties, except as they might serve my own
personal ambitions and desires? Youth was ebullient in me. The longing to
penetrate the unknown made inaction intolerable to me. I must rush into
the whirlpool; I must be in the very midst of things; I longed for
gaiety, for mystery, for contest; I must sing, drink, fight, make love.
It is true that there would have been some outlet for my energies in camp
life, but no gratification for my finer tastes, no luxury, no such
pleasures as Paris afforded,--little diversity, no elating sense of being
at the core of events, no opportunities for love-making. In Paris were
the pretty women. The last circumstance alone would have decided me.

I had reached twenty-one without having been deeply in love. I had, of
course, had transient periods of inclination towards more than one of the
demoiselles in the neighborhood of La Tournoire; but these demoiselles
had rapidly become insipid to me. As I grew older, I found it less easy
to be attracted by young ladies whom I had known from childhood up. I had
none the less the desire to be in love; but the woman whom I should love
must be new to me, a mystery, something to fathom and yet unfathomable.
She must be a world, inexhaustible, always retaining the charm of the
partly unknown. I had high aspirations. No pretty maid, however low in
station, was unworthy a kiss and some flattery; but the real _affaire
d'amour_ of my life must have no elements but magnificent ones. She must
be some great lady of the court, and our passion must be attended by
circumstances of mystery, danger, everything to complicate it and raise
it to an epic height. Such was the amour I had determined to find in
Paris. Remember, you who read this, that I am disclosing the inmost
dreams of a man of twenty-one. Such dreams are appropriate to that age;
it is only when they are associated with middle age that they become
ridiculous; and when thoughts of amatory conquest are found in common
with gray hairs, they are loathsome. If I seem to have given my mind
largely up to fancies of love, consider that I was then at the age when
such fancies rather adorn than deface. Indeed, a young man without
thoughts of love is as much an anomaly as is an older man who gives
himself up to them.

I looked back once at La Tournoire, when I reached the top of the hill
that would, in another minute, shut it from my view. I saw old Michel
standing at the porte. I waved my hand to him, and turned to proceed on
my way. Soon the lump in my throat melted away, the moisture left my
eyes, and only the future concerned me. Every object that came into
sight, every tree along the roadside, now interested me. I passed several
travellers, some of whom seemed to envy me my indifference to the cold
weather, my look of joyous content.

About noon I overtook, just where the road left a wood and turned to
cross a bridge, a small cavalcade consisting of an erect, handsome
gentleman of middle age, and several armed lackeys. The gentleman wore a
black velvet doublet, and his attire, from his snowy ruff to his black
boots, was in the best condition. He had a frank, manly countenance that
invited address. At the turn of the road he saw me, and, taking me in at
a glance, he fell behind his lackeys that I might come up to him. He
greeted me courteously, and after he had spoken of the weather and the
promise of the sky, he mentioned, incidentally, that he was going to
Paris. I told him my own destination, and we came to talking of the
court. I perceived, from his remarks, that he was well acquainted there.
There was some talk of the quarrels between the King's favorites and
those of his brother, the Duke of Anjou; of the latter's sulkiness over
his treatment at the hands of the King; of the probabilities for and
against Anjou's leaving Paris and putting himself at the head of the
malcontent and Huguenot parties; of the friendship between Anjou and his
sister Marguerite, who remained at the Court of France while her husband,
Henri of Navarre, held his mimic Huguenot court in Béarn. Presently, the
name of the Duke of Guise came up.

Now we Huguenots held, and still hold, Henri de Guise to have been a
chief instigator of the event of St. Bartholomew's Night, in 1572.
Always I had in my mind the picture of Coligny, under whom my father had
fought, lying dead in his own courtyard, in the Rue de Bethizy, his
murder done under the direction of that same Henri, his body thrown from
his window into the court at Henri's orders, and there spurned by
Henri's foot. I had heard, too, of this illustrious duke's open
continuance of his amour with Marguerite, queen of our leader, Henri of
Navarre. When I spoke of him to the gentleman at whose side I rode, I
put no restraint on my tongue.

"The Duke of Guise!" I said. "All that I ever wish to say of him can
be very quickly spoken. If, as you Catholics believe, God has an
earthly representative in the Pope, then I think the devil has one in
Henri de Guise."

The gentleman was quiet for a moment, and looked very sober. Then he
said gravely:

"All men have their faults, monsieur. The difference between men is that
some have no virtues to compensate for their vices."

"If Henri de Guise has any virtues," I replied, "he wears a mask over
them; and he conceals them more effectually than he hides his
predilection for assassination, his amours, and his design to rule France
through the Holy League of which he is the real head."

The gentleman turned very red, and darted at me a glance of anger. Then
restraining himself, he answered in a very low tone:

"Monsieur, the subject can be discussed by us in only one way, or not
at all. You are young, and it would be too pitiful for you to be cut
off before you have even seen Paris. Doubtless, you are impatient to
arrive there. It would be well, then, if you rode on a little faster.
It is my intention to proceed at a much slower pace than will be
agreeable to you."

And he reined in his horse.

I reined in mine likewise. I was boiling with wrath at his superior tone,
and his consideration for my youth, but I imitated his coolness as well
as I could.

"Monsieur," said I, "whether or not I ever see Paris is not a matter to
concern you. I cannot allow you to consider my youth. You wish to be
obliging; then consider that nothing in the world would be a greater
favor to me than an opportunity to maintain with my sword my opinion of
Henri de Guise."

The man smiled gently, and replied without passion:

"Then, as we certainly are not going to fight, let my refusal be, not on
account of your youth, but on account of my necessity of reaching Paris
without accident."

His horse stood still. His lackeys also had stopped their horses, which
stood pawing and snorting at a respectful distance. It was an awkward
moment for me. I could not stand there trying to persuade a perfectly
serene man to fight. So with an abrupt pull of the rein I started my
horse, mechanically applied the spur, and galloped off. A few minutes
later I was out of sight of this singularly self-controlled gentleman,
who resented my description of the Duke of Guise. I was annoyed for some
time to think that he had had the better of the occurrence; and I gave
myself up for an hour to the unprofitable occupation of mentally
reenacting the scene in a manner more creditable to myself.

"I may meet him in Paris some day," I said to myself, "and find an
occasion to right myself in his estimation. He shall not let my youth
intercede for me again."

Then I wished that I had learned his name, that I might, on reaching
Paris, have found out more about him. Having in his suite no gentlemen,
but several lackeys, he was, doubtless, not himself an important
personage, but a follower of one. Not wishing to meet him again until
circumstances should have changed, I passed the next inn to which I came,
guessing that he would stop there. He must have done so, for he did not
come up with me that day, or at any time during my journey.

It was at sunset on a clear, cold evening that, without further
adventure, I rode into Paris through the Porte St. Michel, and stared,
as I proceeded along the Rue de la Harpe, at the crowds of people
hurrying in either direction in each of the narrow, crooked streets,
each person so absorbed in his own errand, and so used to the throng and
the noise, that he paid no heed to the animation that so interested and
stirred me. The rays of the setting sun lighted up the towers of the
colleges and abbeys at my right, while those at my left stood black
against the purple and yellow sky. I rode on and on, not wishing to stop
at an inn until I should have seen more of the panorama that so charmed
me. At last I reached the left bank of the Seine, and saw before me the
little Isle of the City, the sunlit towers of Notre Dame rising above
the wilderness of turrets and spires surrounding them. I crossed the
Pont St. Michel, stopping for a moment to look westward towards the Tour
de Nesle, and then eastward to the Tournelle, thus covering, in two
glances, the river bank of the University through which I had just come.
Emerging from the bridge, I followed the Rue de la Barillerie across the
Isle of the City, finding everywhere the same bustle, the same coming
and going of citizens, priests, students, and beggars, all alert, yet
not to be surprised by any spectacle that might arise before them.
Reaching the right arm of the Seine, I stopped again, this time on the
Pont-au-Change, and embraced, in a sweeping look from left to right, the
river bank of the town, the Paris of the court and the palaces, of the
markets and of trade, the Paris in which I hoped to find a splendid
future, the Paris into which, after taking this comprehensive view from
the towers of the Louvre and the Tour de Bois away leftward, to the Tour
de Billy away right ward, I urged my horse with a jubilant heart. It was
a quite dark Paris by the time I plunged into it. The Rue St. Denis,
along which I rode, was beginning to be lighted here and there by stray
rays from windows. The still narrower streets, that ran, like crooked
corridors in a great château, from the large thoroughfare, seemed to be
altogether dark.

But, dark as the city had become, I had determined to explore some of it
that night, so charming was its novelty, so inviting to me were its
countless streets, leading to who knows what? I stopped at a large inn in
the Rue St. Denis, saw my tired horse well cared for by an hostler, who
seemed amazed at my rustic solicitude for details, had my portmanteau
deposited in a clean, white-washed chamber, overlooking the street, ate a
supper such as only a Paris innkeeper can serve and a ravenous youth from
the country can devour, and went forth afoot, after curfew, into the now
entirely dark and no longer crowded street, to find what might befall me.

It had grown colder at nightfall, and I had to draw my cloak closely
around me. A wind had come up, too, and the few people whom I met were
walking with head thrust forward, the better to resist the breeze when it
should oppose them. Some were attended by armed servants bearing
lanterns. The sign-boards, that hung from the projecting stories of the
tall houses, swung as the wind swayed, and there was a continual sound of
creaking. Clouds had risen, and the moon was obscured much of the time,
so that when I looked down some of the narrower streets I could not see
whether they ended within a short distance, turned out of sight, or
continued far in the same direction. Being accustomed to the country
roads, the squares of smaller towns, and the wide avenues of the little
park at La Tournoire, I was at first surprised at the narrowness of the
streets. Across one of them lay a drunken man, peacefully snoring. His
head touched the house on one side of the street, and his feet pressed
the wall on the opposite side. It surprised me to find so many of the
streets no wider than this. But there was more breathing room wherever
two streets crossed and where several of them opened into some great
place. The crookedness and curvature of the streets constantly tempted me
to seek what might be beyond, around the corner, or the bend; and
whenever I sought, I found still other corners or bends hiding the
unknown, and luring me to investigate.

I had started westward from the inn, intending to proceed towards the
Louvre. But presently, having turned aside from one irregular street
into another, I did not know what was the direction in which I went.
The only noises that I heard were those caused by the wind, excepting
when now and then came suddenly a burst of loud talk, mingled mirth and
jangling, as quickly shut off, when the door of some cabaret opened and
closed. When I heard footsteps on the uneven pebble pavement of the
street, and saw approaching me out of the gloom some cloaked
pedestrian, I mechanically gripped the handle of my sword, and kept a
wary eye on the stranger,--knowing that in passing each other we must
almost touch elbows. His own suspicious and cautious demeanor and
motions reflected mine.

At night, in the narrow streets of a great town, there exists in every
footfall heard, every human figure seen emerging from the darkness, the
possibility of an encounter, an adventure, something unexpected. So, to
the night roamer, every human sound or sight has an unwonted interest.

As I followed the turning of one of the narrowest streets, the darkness,
some distance ahead of me, was suddenly cleft by a stream of light from a
window that was quickly opened in the second story of a tall house on the
right-hand side of the way. Then the window was darkened by the form of a
man coming from the chamber within. At his appearance into view I stood
still. Resting for a moment on his knees on the window-ledge, he lowered
first one leg, then the other, then his body, and presently he was
hanging by his hands over the street. Then the face of a woman appeared
in the window, and as the man remained there, suspended, he looked up at
her inquiringly.

"It is well," she said, in a low tone; "but be quick. We are just in
time." And she stood ready to close the window as soon as he should be
out of the way.

"Good night, adorable," he replied, and dropped to the street. The
lady immediately closed the window, not even waiting to see how the
man had alighted.

Had she waited to see that, she would have seen him, in lurching over to
prevent his sword from striking the ground, lose his balance on a
detached paving-stone, and fall heavily on his right arm.

"_Peste_!" he hissed, as he slowly scrambled to his feet. "I have
broken my arm!"

With his right arm hanging stiff by his side, and clutching its elbow
with his left hand, as if in great pain, he hastened away from the spot,
not having noticed me. I followed him.

After a second turn, the street crossed another. In the middle of the
open space at the junction, there stood a cross, as could be seen by the
moonlight that now came through an interval in the procession of
wind-driven clouds.

Just as the man with the hurt arm, who was slender, and had a dandified
walk, entered this open space, a gust of wind came into it with him; and
there came, also, from the other street, a robust gentleman of medium
height, holding his head high and walking briskly. Caught by the gust of
wind, my gentleman from the second story window ran precipitantly into
the other. The robust man was not sent backward an inch. He took the
shock of meeting with the firmness of an unyielding wall, so that the
slender gentleman rebounded. Each man uttered a brief oath, and grasped
his sword, the slender one forgetting the condition of his arm.

"Oh, it is you," said the robust man, in a virile voice, of which the
tone was now purposely offensive. "The wind blows fragile articles into
one's face to-night."

"It blows gentlemen into muck-heaps," responded the other, quickly.

The hearty gentleman gave a loud laugh, meant to aggravate the other's
anger, and then said:

"We do not need seconds, M. de Quelus," putting into his utterance of the
other's name a world of insult.

"Come on, then, M. Bussy d'Amboise," replied the other, pronouncing the
name only that he might, in return, hiss out the final syllable as if it
were the word for something filthy.

Both whipped out their swords, M. de Quelus now seemingly unconscious of
the pain in his arm.

I looked on from the shadow in which I had stopped, not having followed
De Quelus into the little open space. My interest in the encounter was
naturally the greater for having learned the names of the antagonists. At
La Tournoire I had heard enough of the court to know that the Marquis de
Quelus was the chief of the King's effeminate chamberlains, whom he
called his minions, and that Bussy d'Amboise was the most redoubtable of
the rufflers attached to the King's discontented brother, the Duke of
Anjou; and that between the dainty gentlemen of the King and the bullying
swordsmen of the Duke, there was continual feud.

Bussy d'Amboise, disdaining even to remove his cloak, of which he quickly
gathered the end under his left arm, made two steps and a thrust at De
Quelus. The latter made what parade he could for a moment, so that Bussy
stepped back to try a feint. De Quelus, trying to raise his sword a
trifle higher, uttered an ejaculation of pain, and then dropped the
point. Bussy had already begun the motion of a lunge, which it was too
late to arrest, even if he had discovered that the other's arm was
injured and had disdained to profit by such an advantage. De Quelus would
have been pierced through had not I leaped forward with drawn sword and,
by a quick thrust, happened to strike Bussy's blade and make it diverge
from its course.

De Quelus jumped back on his side, as Bussy did on his. Both regarded me
with astonishment.

"Oh, ho, an ambush!" cried Bussy. "Then come on, all of you, messieurs of
the daubed face and painted beard! I shall not even call my servants, who
wait at the next corner."

And he made a lunge at me, which I diverted by a parry made on instinct,
not having had time to bring my mind to the direction of matters. Bussy
then stood back on guard.

"You lie," said De Quelus, vainly trying to find sufficient strength
in his arm to lift his sword. "I was alone. My servants are as near
as yours, yet I have not called. As for this gentleman, I never saw
him before."

"That is true," I said, keeping up my guard, while Bussy stood with his
back to the cross, his brows knit in his effort to make out my features.

"Oh, very well," said Bussy. "I do not recognize him, but he is evidently
a gentleman in search of a quarrel, and I am disposed to be
accommodating."

He attacked me again, and I surprised myself, vastly, by being able to
resist the onslaughts of this, the most formidable swordsman at the
court of France. But I dared not hope for final victory. It did not even
occur to me as possible that I might survive this fight. The best for
which I hoped was that I might not be among the easiest victims of this
famous sword.

"Monsieur," said De Quelus, while Bussy and I kept it up, with offence
on his part, defence on mine, "I am sorry that I cannot intervene to
save your life. My arm has been hurt in a fall, and I cannot even hold
up my sword."

"I know that," I replied. "That is why I interfered."

"The devil!" cried Bussy. "Much as I detest you, M. de Quelus, you know I
would not have attacked you had I known that. But this gentleman, at
least, has nothing the matter with his arm."

And he came for me again.

Nothing the matter with my arm! Actually a compliment upon my
sword-handling from the most invincible fighter, whether in formal duel
or sudden quarrel, in France! I liked the generosity which impelled him
to acknowledge me a worthy antagonist, as much as I resented his
overbearing insolence; and I began to think there was a chance for me.

For the first time, I now assumed the offensive, and with such suddenness
that Bussy fell back, out of sheer surprise. He had forgotten about the
cross that stood in the centre of the place, and, in leaping backward, he
struck this cross heavily with his sword wrist. His glove did not save
him from being jarred and bruised; and, for a moment, he relaxed his firm
grasp of his sword, and before he could renew his clutch I could have
destroyed his guard and ended the matter; but I dropped my point instead.

Bussy looked at me in amazement, and then dropped his.

"Absurd, monsieur! You might very fairly have used your advantage.
Now you have spoiled everything. We can't go on fighting, for I would
not give you another such opening, nor would I kill a man who gives
me my life."

"As you will, monsieur," said I. "I am glad not to be killed, for what
is the use of having fought Bussy d'Amboise if one may not live to
boast of it?"

He seemed pleased in his self-esteem, and sheathed his sword. "I am
destined not to fight to-night," he answered. "One adversary turns out to
have a damaged arm, which would make it a disgrace to kill him, and the
other puts me under obligation for my life. But, M. de Quelus, your arm
will recover."

"I hope so, if for only one reason," replied Quelus.

Bussy d'Amboise then bowed to me, and strode on his way. He was joined at
the next crossing of streets by four lackeys, who had been waiting in
shadow. All had swords and pistols, and one bore a lantern, which had
been concealed beneath his cloak.

De Quelus, having looked after him with an angry frown, now turned to me,
and spoke with affability:

"Monsieur, had you not observed the condition of my arm, I should have
resented your aid. But as it is, I owe you my life no less than he owes
you his, and it may be that I can do more than merely acknowledge the
obligation."

I saw here the opportunity for which a man might wait months, and I was
not such a fool as to lose it through pride.

"Monsieur," I said, "I am Ernanton de Launay, Sieur de la Tournoire. I
arrived in Paris to-day, from Anjou, with the desire of enlisting in the
French Guards."

De Quelus smiled. "You desire very little for a gentleman, and one who
can handle a sword so well."

"I know that, but I do not bring any letters, and I am not one who could
expect the favor of a court appointment. I am a Huguenot."

"A Huguenot?" said De Quelus. "And yet you come to Paris?"

"I prefer to serve the King of France. He is at present on good terms
with the Huguenots, is he not?"

"Yes,--at least, he is not at war with them. Well, gentlemen like you are
not to be wasted, even though Huguenots. Attach yourself to Duret's
company of the guards for the present, and who knows when you may win a
vacant captaincy? I will bring you to the attention of the King. Can you
be, to-morrow at eleven o'clock, at the principal gate of the Louvre?"

"Yes, monsieur."

"Very well. I will speak to Captain Duret, also, about you."

He looked at my active figure, neither tall nor short, neither broad nor
too thin, observed the length of my arm, and remembered that I had made
so respectable a showing with the sword against Bussy, I could see that
he was thinking, "It is well to have in one's debt as many such strong
and honest young gentlemen as can be had. Even a Huguenot may be useful
in these days."

Then, when so many leaders contended, every man was desirous of gaining
partisans. At court, wise people were scrupulous to repay obligations, in
the hope of securing future benefit. I divined De Quelus's motives, but
was none the less willing to profit by them as to the possible vacant
captaincy.

"Then I thank you, monsieur, and will keep the appointment," I said.

"You are alone," said De Quelus. "One does not know when one may have
one's throat cut for a sou, after dark in the streets of Paris. Will you
accept the escort of two of my servants? They are waiting for me in the
next street. One does not, you know, let one's servants wait too near
windows out of which one expects to drop," he added with a smile.

"I thank you, monsieur, but I have already fared so well alone to-night,
that I should fear to change my fortune by taking attendants."

"Then good night, monsieur. No, thank you. I can sheathe my own sword. My
arm has lost its numbness. _Parbleu_, I should like to meet Bussy
d'Amboise now."

And he strode away, leaving me standing by the cross.

I hesitated between returning to the inn, and resuming my exploration of
the streets. I decided to go back, lest I be shut out for the night.

I had made my way some distance, in the labyrinth of streets, when, on
reaching another junction of ways, I heard steps at some distance to the
left. Looking in that direction, I saw approaching a little procession
headed by two men servants, one of whom carried a lantern. I stepped back
into the street from which I had just emerged, that I might remain
unseen, until it should pass. Peering around the street corner, I saw
that behind the two servants came a lady, whose form indicated youth and
elegance, and who leaned on the arm of a stout woman, doubtless a
servant. Behind these two came another pair of lackeys.

The lady wore a mask, and although heavily cloaked, shivered in the
January wind, and walked as rapidly as she could. The four men had swords
and pistols, and were sturdy fellows, able to afford her good protection.

The two men in advance passed without seeing me, stepping easily over a
pool of muddy water that had collected in a depression in the street, and
had not yet had time to freeze.

When the lady reached this pool, she stopped at its brink and looked down
at it, with a little motion of consternation.

"I cannot step across this lake," she said, in a voice that was
low-pitched, rich, and full of charm to the ear. "We must skirt
its borders."

And she turned to walk a short distance up the street in which I stood.

"Not so, madame," I said, stepping forth and bowing. "The lake is a long
one, and you would have to go far out of your way. I will convey you
across in a moment, if you will allow me." And I held out my arms,
indicating my willingness to lift her across the pool.

The two servants in the rear now hastened up, ready to attack me, and
those ahead turned and came back, their hands on their weapons.

The lady looked at me through the eye-holes of her mask. Her lips and
chin being visible, she could not conceal a quizzical smile that came
at my offer.

"Why not?" she said, motioning her servants back.

I caught her up in my arms and lifted her over the puddle. She slid from
my grasp with a slight laugh.

I sought some pretext to prolong this meeting. "When I came out
to-night," I said, "I dared not hope for such happiness as this."

"Nor did the astrologer predict anything of the kind to me," she replied.
From this I knew the cause of her being in the street so late,--a secret
visit to some fortune-teller. Then she called to the stout woman, who was
looking for a place to step over the pool. "Come, Isa, in the name of
Heaven. You know that if the guard is changed--"

She stopped, but she had already betrayed herself. She meant the guard of
the palace, doubtless; and that her secret entrance, so long after the
closing of the gates, depended for its ease on the presence of some
officer with whom she had an understanding. She must be one of the ladies
attached to the royal household, and her nocturnal excursion, from the
Louvre, was evidently clandestine.

Isa now joined her mistress, and the latter, with a mere, "I thank you,
monsieur," turned and hastened on her way. Soon the footsteps of her
attendants died out of hearing.

I had not even seen her face, save the white, curved chin and the
delicate mouth. I had only beheld her lithe figure, felt its heaving as I
carried her, had my cold cheek warmed for a moment by her breath, heard
her provoking laugh and her voice, rich with vitality. Yet her charm had
caught me and remained with me. I could not, nor did I try to throw it
off. I was possessed by a craving to see her again, to know more of her.
Already I made this unknown the heroine of my prospective love affair. I
could soon find her, after gaining the entrée of the court; and I could
identify her by her voice as well as by her probable recognition of me.
Heaving a deep sigh, I left the place of our meeting and found my way
back to the inn. Thanks to the presence of some late drinkers, I got in
without much pounding on the door; and in my little white-washed chamber
I dreamt of soft eyes that glowed through the holes of a lady's mask.

CHAPTER II.

LOVE-MAKING AT SHORT ACQUAINTANCE

The next morning was bright, and not too cold. At eleven I approached the
great gate of the Louvre, wearing the bold demeanor of a man determined
not to be abashed, even by the presence of royalty. Yet within me there
was some slight trepidation lest I should, on first setting foot within
the precincts of a palace, betray my rustic bringing up.

Others were being admitted at the gate, and some were coming out, both
the King's council and the reception having been over for some time. A
page, who had been waiting just inside the court, came out as I
approached, and asked me if I were M. de Launay. Astonished, that he
should have so easily picked me out, I replied that I was. He then said
that he had come to conduct me to Monsieur the Marquis de Quelus, and I
followed him into the great courtyard of the Louvre.

Before me was the imposing façade of the palace. Around me was an
animated scene of well-dressed gentlemen coming and going, meeting one
another forming little groups for a moment's interchange of news or
inquiries, and as quickly breaking up. There were soldiers on guard,
officers on duty and off, courtiers in brilliant doublets, dazzling
ruffs, rich hose; gentlemen with gay plumes, costly cloaks, jewelled
sword-hilts. There were pages, strutting about with messages; lackeys,
belonging only to the greatest nobles or royal favorites. Everybody,
whether gentleman, soldier, household officer, priest, page, or valet,
went with an air of great consequence, with head high in air, every
step, expression, and attitude proclaiming a sense of vast superiority
to the rest of the world. It was as if people attached to the court were
an elevated race of beings; or as if the court were Olympus, and these
were gods and the servitors of gods, who, very properly, regarded
mortals with disdain. Each man, too, maintained not only this lofty air
as befitting one of the court, but also an aspect of individual
preciousness as towards his fellow divinities. There was, in many a face
or bearing, an expressed resentment, in advance, of any affront that
might be offered. The soldiers swaggered, the gentlemen showed
self-esteem in every motion. Nevertheless, there was much good nature
and courtesy in the salutations, fragments of conversation, and
exchanges of gossip. Leaving the sunlit courtyard behind, the page
showed me up a fine stairway, where some gentlemen tarried in little
parties, while others ascended or descended. We passed through large
galleries, the same animation continuing everywhere. I had no time, as
we passed, to examine the superb hangings and fanciful decorations of
the galleries in detail. The clothes of the courtiers, the brilliant
display of velvet, silk, furs, and the finest linen, of every known hue,
made a continually changing, moving panorama of color.

We approached, at last, a group extraordinarily radiant in attire. It was
composed of very young men, some of whom had hardly yet acquired the
beard required by the universal fashion. Even at a distance I could see
that their cheeks were painted, could note their affectation of feminine
attitudes, could smell the perfumes with which they had deluged their
bodies. These were some of the favorites of the King, and more of the
imitators of the favorites. No wonder that Bussy d'Amboise and the sturdy
gentlemen of the King's ungainly brother, Anjou, had a manly detestation
for these bedaubed effeminates, and sought opportunities to extirpate
them with the sword. Yet these dainty youths, one of whom was De Quelus,
who now came forward to meet me, were not cowards.

The young Marquis wore a slashed doublet of brown velvet and gold. His
silken hose were of a lighter tint of brown. His ruff was so enormous
that he had to keep the point of his beard thrust forward at an
elevation.

"I shall present you when the King passes," he said to me. "I have
already spoken a word to Captain Duret, to whom you will report
to-morrow. He will make a veteran of you in a quarter of an hour. The
King, by the way, knows of your family. He knows every family in France,
for that matter. I spoke of you to him at his rising this morning. He
said that your father was a Huguenot, and I told him that you also were
Protestant. You know enough of things in France to be aware that your
Protestantism stands a little in your way at court, just now; but things
may change before there is a vacant captaincy in the Guards."

People who have thought it bad enough that I should have gone to Paris,
instead of to the court of Henri of Navarre, have been astonished,
beyond expression, at my having desired to serve in the King's infantry,
which, in the event of another civil war, might be arrayed against the
army of our faith. But it must be borne in mind that I had this desire
at a time when none knew how the different armies might be placed
towards one another in the civil war, which everybody admitted must, at
some time or other, occur. I was one of the many who believed that the
Duke of Guise, using the newly formed Holy League as his instrument,
would aim for the throne of France; that King Henri III. would be
forced, in self-defence, to make an alliance with the Huguenot leaders;
and that, therefore, I, in fulfilling my ambition to be of this King's
own soldiers, with quarters in or near Paris in time of peace, would, at
the outbreak of civil war, find myself in line with the armies of our
faith, opposed to the common enemy, the great Catholic Guise faction. Of
the various predictions as to the future of France, I chose this one,
perhaps because it was the only one which permitted me to follow out my
wishes without outraging my sense of duty.

Before I could answer De Quelus, a voice said, "The King!" At the end of
the gallery, where two halberdiers and two ushers stood, a pair of
curtains had quickly parted, and out came a slender young man all velvet,
silk, gold, and jewels; with the legs and the walk of a woman; with face
painted like a courtesan's; a very slight beard on his chin, and a weak
growth of hair on his upper lip; with a look half brazen, half
shamefaced; with eyes half wistful, half malicious; his pear-shaped face
expressing some love of the beautiful, some wit, some cynicism, much
personal vanity, vicious inclinations and practices, restlessness, the
torture of secret self-reproach, a vague distress, a longing to escape
somewhere and be at peace.

He wore ear-rings, a necklace, bracelets, and a small jewelled velvet
cap; but he was without his famous basket of little dogs. This was Henri
III., and he was going to pray in one of the churches.

As he came down the gallery, he noticed De Quelus, from afar, and then
glanced at me. When he was before us, De Quelus made obeisance and
presented me. Before I could finish my bow, the King said:

"Ah, it was your sword that helped to preserve my chamberlain from the
ambush laid for him?" (From which it appeared that De Quelus had given
his own account of the previous night's occurrence.) "And you wish to
enlist in my regiment of French Guards? My faith, I have done well in
reestablishing that corps, if such brave young gentlemen are induced to
enter it. I'll wager you hope to earn a commission soon."

I could only reply: "Such a hope is beyond my deserts, sire."

It was indeed beyond them, for I had seen no military service; but it was
not beyond them for any other reason.

"Nothing is beyond the deserts of one whose sword is always loyal," said
the King, with intended significance, and passed on; his gentlemen
falling in behind him. De Quelus gave me directions as to my reporting,
on the morrow, to Captain Duret, and added, "Rely on me for any favor or
privilege that you may wish, and for access to the palace. You have only
to send me word." He then joined the following of the King.

I seemed now at liberty to remain in the Louvre as long as I might
choose, having once entered it. I thought I would look about, knowing
that if at any time I should be about to trespass on forbidden ground,
there would be guards to hinder me. I went first to a window overlooking
the court. I had no sooner turned my eyes down upon the splendid and
animated scene below, then I felt a touch on my elbow. Looking around, I
saw a familiar face,--that of M. de Rilly, another Anjou gentleman, whom
I had known before his coming to court. He was now one of the King's
equerries.

He was a sprightly man of about thirty, with none of the effeminacy that
marked so many of the officers of the King's household. Though not of my
religion, he made me heartily welcome, and undertook, at once, to
initiate me into the mysteries of the court. He was a loquacious,
open-minded man, who did not fear to express his thoughts, even in the
shadow of royalty itself.

Hearing some clatter in the direction whither the King had gone, I looked
after him. A short, compact young gentleman, plainly, but richly dressed,
slightly stooping, with a rather surly face, and an envious eye, was
coming towards the King. He wore riding-boots and a cloak, and behind
him came a troop of young men similarly attired. The foremost of them was
Bussy d'Amboise, expressing defiance in every line of his bold, square
countenance.

"Ah," said De Rilly, "there is the Duke of Anjou, who has been riding in
the faubourg."

I took a second look at the surly gentleman. At this moment he exchanged
glances with his brother, the King. The look of each was eloquent. The
King's said, "I hate you for being a disloyal brother and a fractious
subject; for conspiring to take away part of my kingdom; and who knows
but that you are secretly aiming at my throne and my life?" The younger
brother's look conveyed this much: "I hate you for your suspicions of me;
for your not obtaining for me in your court the respect due the son and
brother of a king; for encouraging your favorites to ridicule me. If I am
driven to rebel against you, it is your own fault."

The King received the Duke's perfunctory salutation indifferently, and
passed on. Anjou and his men turned into a gallery leading to his own
apartments.

"I see that everybody is following the King," I said.

"Yes, but not I," replied De Rilly. "I find it no more amusing to pray
when the King does than at any other time. I came here, this morning, to
catch a glimpse of one of the Queen's ladies, but her Majesty has a cold,
and my lady is in attendance."

"Which of the Queens has a cold?"

"Queen Louise, the King's wife. It is true, one may well ask which, when
there is mention of the Queen nowadays. The Queen of France is a small
factor when compared with the King's mother, Queen Catherine, or even
with his sister, the Queen of Navarre, whose name is on everyone's
tongue, on account of her love affairs, and of her suspected plots."

"What plots?"

"Some think she plots with the Duke of Guise, who cannot wait to rule
France until Catherine's sons are both dead,--but Catherine will make
him wait. Others believe that she plots with her Huguenot husband, the
King of Navarre, to join him; and that the King keeps her here virtually
a prisoner, lest her departure might be taken as a concession to the
Huguenots; and, lastly and chiefly, they aver that she plots with her
brother Anjou, to help him to join the Huguenots and malcontents as
their leader."

"This is very interesting, M. de Rilly; but, pardon me, is it safe to say
these things openly at court? I am fresh from the country, and anxious
not to blunder."

"It is safe for me, because I am nobody at all, and, moreover, I say
whatever is in my thoughts, and am looked upon as a rattlebrain, and not
taken seriously. But it would not be safe for some. There comes the Queen
of Navarre now. She and her ladies have been walking in their garden."

A number of ladies were entering the gallery from a side stairway.
Marguerite de Valois, who ought to have been with her husband, the King
of Navarre, at his little court at Nerac, remained instead at the court
of France, to be its greatest ornament. She was, alas, its greatest
scandal, also. But I admired her none the less for that, as she stood
there, erect among her women, full of color and grace. Vast possibilities
of mischief seemed buried in the depths of the big and brilliant eyes
which gave so much life to the small, round face.

While she stood still for one of her maids to detach from her ruff a
dead leaf that had dropped there during her walk, Bussy d'Amboise
returned from Anjou's apartment. He walked up to her with a conquering
air, bowed, and said something that made her laugh. Then he looked
around and saw me. He spoke to her again, in a low tone, and she cast
her fine eyes in my direction. She directed her ladies to fall back out
of hearing, and again conferred with Bussy. At the end of this he left
her, and strode over to me.

"Monsieur," he said, "the Queen of Navarre would like to know your name.
I do not remember to have heard it last night."

I told him my name, and he took me by the arm, led me to Marguerite, and
presented me, somewhat to my confusion, so rapidly was the thing done.

"You are a newcomer at court?" she said.

"I arrived in Paris only yesterday."

"And have taken service with--whom?"

"In the French Guards."

"We shall doubtless hear more of your skill with the sword," said
Marguerite.

"I knew not I had any," I replied, "until I found out that I could stand
up for a minute against the sword I met last night. Now I am glad to know
that I possess skill, that I may hold it ever at the service of your
Majesty as well as of the King."

This speech seemed to be exactly what Marguerite had desired of me, for
she smiled and said, "I shall not forget you, M. de la Tournoire," before
she turned away.

Bussy followed her, and I returned to De Rilly.

"Why should they pay any attention to me?" I said to him.

"No newcomer is too insignificant to be sought as an ally where there are
so many parties," he replied, indifferently. "Those two are with Anjou,
who may have use for as many adherents as he can get one of these days.
They say he is always meditating rebellion with the Huguenots or the
Politiques, or both, and I don't blame a prince who is so shabbily
treated at court."

"But what could a mere guardsman do, without friends or influence?
Besides, my military duties--"

"Will leave you plenty of time to get into other troubles, if you find
them amusing. How do you intend to pass the rest of the day?"

"I have no plans. I should like to see more of the Louvre on my first
visit; and, to tell the truth, I had hoped to find out more about a
certain lady who belongs to the court."

"What do you know of her?"

"Only that she has a beautiful figure and a pretty mouth and chin. She
wore a mask, but I should recognize her voice if I heard it again."

"I wish you better luck than I have had to-day."

Marguerite and her damsels had turned down a corridor leading to her
apartments. Bussy d'Amboise was disappearing down the stairs. There came,
from another direction, the lively chatter of women's voices, and there
appeared, at the head of the stairs up which Marguerite had come, another
group of ladies, all young and radiant but one. The exception was a
stout, self-possessed looking woman of middle age, dressed rather
sedately in dark satin. She had regular features, calm black eyes, an
unruffled expression, and an air of authority without arrogance.

"Queen Catherine and some of her Flying Squadron," said De Rilly, in
answer to my look of inquiry. "She has been taking the air after the
King's council. Her own council is a more serious matter, and lasts all
the time."

"Queen Catherine?" I exclaimed, incredulously, half refusing to see, in
that placid matron, the ceaseless plotter, the woman accused of poisoning
and all manner of bloodshed, whom the name represented.

"Catherine de Medici," said De Rilly, evidently finding it a pleasure to
instruct a newcomer as to the personages and mysteries of the court. "She
who preserves the royal power in France at this moment."

"She does not look as I have imagined her," I said.

"One would not suppose," said De Rilly, "that behind that serene
countenance goes on the mental activity necessary to keep the throne in
possession of her favorite son, who spends fortunes on his minions, taxes
his subjects to the utmost, and disgusts them with his eccentric piety
and peculiar vices."

"Dare one say such things in the very palace of that King?"

"Why not say what every one knows? It is what people say in hidden
places that is dangerous."

"I wonder what is passing in the Queen-mother's mind at this moment," I
said, as Catherine turned into the corridor leading to Anjou's
apartments.

In the light of subsequent events, I can now give a better answer to that
query than De Rilly, himself, could have given then. Catherine had to use
her wits to check the deep designs of Henri, Duke of Guise, who was
biding his time to claim the throne as the descendant of Charlemagne, and
was as beloved of the populace as Henri III. was odious to it. Thanks to
the rebellion of Huguenots and malcontents, Guise had been kept too busy
in the field to prosecute his political designs. As head of the Catholic
party, and heir to his father's great military reputation, he could not,
consistently, avoid the duties assigned him by the crown. That these
duties might not cease, Catherine found it to her interest that rebellion
should continue indefinitely. The Huguenot party, in its turn, was kept
by the Guise or Catholic party from assaults on the crown. In fine, while
both great factions were occupied with each other, neither could threaten
the King. This discord, on which she relied to keep her unpopular son
safe on his throne, was fomented by her in secret ways. She shifted from
side to side, as circumstances required. The parties must be maintained,
in order that discontent might vent itself in factional contest, and not
against the King. The King must belong to neither party, in order not to
be of the party that might be ultimately defeated; yet he must belong to
both parties, in order to be of the party that might ultimately triumph.
To the maintainance of this impossible situation was the genius of
Catherine de Medici successfully devoted for many years of universal
discontent and bloodshed.

Now the Duke of Guise had found a way to turn these circumstances to
account. Since the King of France could not hold down the Huguenots, the
Holy Catholic League, composed of Catholics of every class throughout the
most of France, would undertake the task. He foresaw that he, as leader
of the League, would earn from the Catholics a gratitude that would make
him the most powerful man in the kingdom. Catherine, too, saw this. To
neutralize this move, she caused the King to endorse the League and
appoint himself its head. The Huguenots must not take this as a step
against them; on the contrary, they must be led to regard it as a shrewd
measure to restrain the League. The King's first official edicts, after
assuming the leadership of the League, seemed to warrant this view. So
the King, in a final struggle against the Guise elements, might still
rely on the aid of the Huguenots. But the King still remained outside of
the League, although nominally its chief. Catherine saw that it was not
to be deluded from its real purpose. The only thing to do was to
conciliate the Duke of Guise into waiting. There was little likelihood of
either of her sons attaining middle age. The Duke of Guise, a splendid
specimen of physical manhood, would doubtless outlive them; he might be
induced to wait for their deaths. The rightful successor to the throne
would then be Henri of Navarre, head of the Bourbon family. But he was a
Huguenot; therefore Catherine affected to the Duke of Guise a great
desire that he should succeed her sons. The existing peace allowed the
Duke of Guise the leisure in which to be dangerous; so every means to
keep him quiet was taken.

Some of these things De Rilly told me, as we stood in the embrasure of a
window in the gallery, while Catherine visited her son, Anjou,--whose
discontent at court complicated the situation, for he might, at any time,
leave Paris and lead the Huguenots and malcontents in a rebellion which
would further discredit her family with the people, demonstrate anew the
King's incompetence, and give the League an opportunity.

"And does the Duke of Guise allow himself to be cajoled?" I asked De
Rilly.

"Who knows? He is a cautious man, anxious to make no false step. They
say he would be willing to wait for the death of the King, but that he is
ever being urged to immediate action by De Noyard."

"De Noyard?"

"One of Guise's followers; an obscure gentleman of very great virtue, who
has recently become Guise's most valued counsellor. He keeps Guise on his
guard against Catherine's wiles, they say, and discourages Guise's amour
with her daughter, Marguerite, which Catherine has an interest in
maintaining. Nobody is more _de trop_ to Catherine just at present, I
hear, than this same Philippe de Noyard. Ah! there he is now,--in the
courtyard, the tallest of the gentlemen who have just dismounted, and are
coming in this direction, with the Duke of Guise."

I looked out of the window, and at once recognized the Duke of Guise by
the great height of his slender but strong figure, the splendid bearing,
the fine oval face, with its small mustache, slight fringe of beard, and
its scar, and the truly manly and magnificent manner, of which report had
told us. He wore a doublet of cloth of silver, a black cloak of velvet,
and a black hat with the Lorraine cross on its front. The tallest man in
his following--Philippe de Noyard, of whom De Rilly had just been
speaking--was the gentleman whom I had met on the road to Paris, and who
had refused to fight me after resenting my opinion of the Duke of Guise.

He must have arrived in Paris close behind me.

I was watching Guise and his gentlemen as they crossed the court to enter
the palace, when suddenly I heard behind me the voice that had lingered
in my ears all the previous night. I turned hastily around, and saw a
group of Catherine's ladies, who stood around a fireplace, not having
followed the Queen-mother to Anjou's apartments.

"Who is the lady leaning against the tapestry?" I quickly asked De Rilly.

"The one with the indolent attitude, and the mocking smile?"

"Yes, the very beautiful one, with the big gray eyes. By heaven, her eyes
rival those of Marguerite, herself!"

"That is Mlle. d'Arency, a new recruit to Catherine's Flying Squadron."

Her face more than carried out the promise given by her chin and mouth.
It expressed to the eye all that the voice expressed to the ear.

She had not seen me yet. I had almost made up my mind to go boldly over
to her, when the Duke of Guise and his gentlemen entered the gallery. At
the same instant, Catherine reappeared on the arm of the Duke of Anjou.
The latter resigned her to the Duke of Guise, and went back to his
apartment, whereupon Catherine and Guise started for the further end of
the gallery, as if for private conversation. His manner was courteous,
but cold; hers calm and amiable.

"Ah, see!" whispered De Rilly to me. "What did I tell you?"

Catherine had cast a glance towards Guise's gentlemen. De Noyard, grave
and reserved, stood a little apart from the others. For an instant, a
look of profound displeasure, a deeply sinister look, interrupted the
composure of Catherine's features.

"You see that M. de Noyard does not have the effect on the Queen-mother
that a rose in her path would have," remarked De Rilly.

He did not notice what followed. But I observed it, although not till
long afterward did I see its significance. It was a mere exchange of
glances, and little did I read in it the secret which was destined to
have so vast an effect on my own life, to give my whole career its
course. It was no more than this: Catherine turned her glance, quickly,
from De Noyard to Mlle. d'Arency, who had already been observing her.
Mlle. d'Arency gave, in reply, an almost imperceptible smile of
understanding; then Catherine and Guise passed on.

Two looks, enduring not a moment; yet, had I known what was behind them,
my life would assuredly have run an entirely different course.

The gentlemen of the Duke of Guise now joined Catherine's ladies at the
fireplace. For a time, Mlle. d'Arency was thus lost to my sight; then the
group opened, and I saw her resting her great eyes, smilingly, on the
face of De Noyard, who was talking to her in a low tone, his gaze fixed
upon her with an expression of wistful adoration.

"The devil!" I muttered. "That man loves her."

"My faith!" said De Rilly, "one would think he was treading on your toes
in doing so; yet you do not even know her."

"She is the woman I have chosen to be in love with, nevertheless," I
said.

It seemed as if the Duke of Guise had come to the Louvre solely for a
word with the Queen-mother, for now he took his departure, followed by
his suite, while Catherine went to her own apartments. As De Noyard
passed out, he saw me. His face showed that he recognized me, and that he
wondered what I was doing in the palace. There was nothing of offence in
his look, only a slight curiosity.

De Rilly now expressed an intention of going out to take the air, but I
preferred to stay where I was; for Mile. d'Arency had remained in the
gallery, with some other of Catherine's ladies. So the loquacious equerry
went without me.

I formed a bold resolution. Quelling the trepidation that came with it, I
strode quickly over to Mlle. d'Arency, who still stood against the
tapestry as if she had been a figure in it but had come to life and
stepped out into the apartment.

Her large eyes fell on me, and opened slightly wider, showing at once
recognition and a not unpleasant surprise. I bowed very low, partly to
conceal the flush that I felt mounting to my face.

"Pardon me, Mile. d'Arency," I said, in a voice as steady as I could make
it. Then I looked at her and saw her features assuming an expression of
such coldness and astonishment that for some time neither my tongue nor
my mind could continue the speech, nor could I move a step in retreat.
All the while she kept her eyes upon me.

I drew a deep breath at last, and said in desperation:

"Doubtless I ought not to address you, being unknown to you, but if you
will permit me, I will go and bring M. de Rilly, who will present me."

Her face softened somewhat, and she looked amused. "You seem quite able
to present yourself," she said.

I was immensely relieved at this melting of the ice, just when I was
beginning to feel that I was becoming a spectacle.

"I am Ernanton de Launay, Sieur de la Tournoire," I said, and to fill up
the embarrassing pause that followed, I added, "and, being a Huguenot, I
am a nobody in Paris,--in fact, a mere volunteer in the French Guards."

"Well, Monsieur Guardsman, what do you wish to say to me?"

She was now in quite a pleasant, quizzical mood.

"I trust you do not expect me to say it in one word," I answered; and
then I lowered my voice, "or in a single interview."

"It does not matter how many interviews it requires, if it is
interesting," she answered nonchalantly.

"Alas!" I said. "I fear it is a story which many others have told you."

"An old story may seem new, when it comes from new lips."

"And when it is new to the lips that tell it, as mine is. Actually, I
have never before made a confession of love."

"Am I to understand that you are about to make one now?"

"Have I not already made it?" I said.

We now stood quite apart from all others in the gallery, unnoticed by
them; and our voices had fallen almost to a whisper.

She smiled, as if refusing to take my words seriously.

"If you have waited so long before making any confession of love
whatever," she said, "you have certainly made up for the delay by the
speed which you use in making your first."

"On the contrary, I have had my confession ready for a long time, as my
love has existed for a long time. I waited only to meet its object,--the
woman of whom I had formed the ideal in my mind."

She looked as if about to burst into a laugh; but she changed her mind,
and regarded me with a look of inquiry, as if she would read my heart.
The smile was still on her lips, yet she spoke gravely when she said:

"Monsieur, I cannot make you out. If you are as sincere as you are
original,--but I must go to the Queen-mother now. To-morrow afternoon, I
shall walk in the gardens of the Tuileries, if the weather is clear."

"But one moment, I beg! M. de Noyard,--he is in love with you, is he
not?"

Her face again took on its mocking look. "I have not asked him," she said
lightly. Then she regarded me with a new and peculiar expression, as if
some daring idea had come into her mind, some project which had to be
meditated upon before it might be safely breathed.

"You look at me strangely, mademoiselle."

"Oh, I merely wonder at your curiosity in regard to M. de Noyard."

"My curiosity is not in regard to his feelings, but in regard to yours."

"Monsieur," she said, with a very captivating air of reproach, "have I
not told you that I shall walk in the gardens of the Tuileries to-morrow
afternoon?"

And she glided away, leaving behind her the most delighted and conceited
young man, at that moment, in France.

CHAPTER III.

THE STRANGE REQUEST OF MLLE. D'ARENCY

I was disappointed in the interview that I had with Mlle. d'Arency in
the gardens of the Tuileries, the next day. I saw her for only a few
minutes, and then within sight of other of Catherine's ladies. Although
I lost nothing of the ground I had taken, neither did I gain anything
further. Afterward, at court receptions and _fêtes_, and, sometimes, in
the palace galleries, when she was off duty, I contrived to meet her.
She neither gave me opportunities nor avoided me. All the progress that
I made was in the measure of my infatuation for her. When I begged for a
meeting at which we might not be surrounded by half the court, she
smiled, and found some reason to prevent any such interview in the near
future. So, if I had carried things very far at our first meeting in the
Louvre, I now paid for my exceptional fortune by my inability to carry
them a step further.

Thus matters went for several days, during which the assertion of De
Rilly was proven true,--that my duties as a member of the French Guards
would leave me some time for pleasure. Thanks to De Quelus, and to his
enemy, Bussy d'Amboise, I made acquaintances both in the King's following
and in that of the King's brother, the Duke of Anjou. De Rilly made me
known to many who belonged to neither camp, and were none the worse for
that. Our company lodged in the Faubourg St. Honore, but I led the life
of a gentleman of pleasure, when off duty, and, as such, I had a private
lodging within the town, near the Louvre, more pretentious than the
whitewashed chamber in the Rue St. Denis. I drank often in cabarets,
became something of a swaggerer, and something of a fop,--though never
descending to the womanishness of the King's minions,--and did not allow
my great love affair, which I never mentioned save in terms of mystery,
to hinder me from the enjoyment of lesser amours of transient duration.
At this time everybody was talking of the feud between the King's
favorites and the followers of the Duke of Anjou. The King's minions
openly ridiculed Anjou for his ungainliness, which was all the greater
for his look of settled discontent and resentment. His faithful and
pugnacious Bussy retaliated by having his pages dress like the King's
minions,--with doublets of cloth of gold, stiff ruffs, and great
plumes,--and so attend him at the Twelfth Day _fêtes_. The minions, in
their turn, sought revenge on Bussy by attacking him, on the following
night, while he was returning from the Louvre to his lodgings. He eluded
them, and the next morning he accused M. de Grammont of having led the
ambuscade. De Quelus then proposed that all the King's gentlemen should
meet all those of the Duke in a grand encounter to the death. The Duke's
followers gladly accepted the challenge. Three hundred men on each side
would have fought, had not the King resolutely forbidden the duel. De
Quelus, that night, led a number of gentlemen in an attack on Bussy's
lodgings. Bussy and his followers made a stout resistance, the tumult
becoming so great that the Marechal de Montmorency called out the Scotch
Guard to clear the street in front of Bussy's house; and it was time.
Several gentlemen and servants were lying in their blood; and some of
these died of their wounds.

It was openly known, about the court, that the Duke of Anjou held the
King to be privy to these attacks on Bussy, and was frightfully enraged
thereby; and that the King, in constant fear of the Duke's departure to
join the Huguenots,--which event would show the King's inability to
prevent sedition even in the royal family, and would give the Guise party
another pretext to complain of his incompetence,--would forcibly obstruct
the Duke's going.

It was this state of affairs that made Catherine de Medici again take up
her abode in the Louvre, that she might be on the ground in the event of
a family outbreak, which was little less probable to occur at night than
in the daytime. She had lately lived part of the time in her new palace
of the Tuileries, and part of the time in her Hotel des Filles Repenties,
holding her council in either of these places, and going to the Louvre
daily for the signature of the King to the documents of her own
fabrication. At this time, Mlle. d'Arency was one of the ladies of the
Queen-mother's bedchamber, and so slept in the Louvre. What should I be
but such a fool as, when off duty, to pass certain hours of the night in
gazing up at the window of my lady's chamber, as if I were a lover in an
Italian novel! Again I must beg you to remember that I was only
twenty-one, and full of the most fantastic ideas. I had undertaken an
epic love affair, and I would omit none of the picturesque details that
example warranted.

Going, one evening in February, to take up my post opposite the Louvre, I
suddenly encountered a gentleman attended by two valets with torches. I
recognized him as De Noyard, who had twice or thrice seen me about the
palaces, but had never spoken to me. I was therefore surprised when, on
this occasion, he stopped and said to me, in a low and polite tone:

"Monsieur, I have seen you, once or twice, talking with M. Bussy
d'Amboise, and I believe that, if you are not one of his intimates, you,
at least, wish him no harm."

"You are right, monsieur," I said, quite mystified.

"I am no friend of his," continued M. de Noyard, in his cold,
dispassionate tone, "but he is a brave man, who fights openly, and, so
far, he is to be commended. I believe he will soon return from the
Tuileries, where he has been exercising one of the horses of the Duke of
Anjou. I have just come from there myself. On the way, I espied, without
seeming to see them, a number of the gentlemen of the King waiting behind
the pillars of the house with a colonnade, near the Porte St. Honore."

"One can guess what that means."

"So I thought. As for me, I have more important matters in view than
interfering with the quarrels of young hot-heads; but I think that there
is yet time for Bussy d'Amboise to be warned, before he starts to return
from the Tuileries."

"M. de Noyard, I thank you," I said, with a bow of genuine respect, and
in a moment I was hastening along the Rue St. Honore.

I understood, of course, the real reasons why De Noyard himself had not
gone back to warn Bussy. Firstly, those in ambush would probably have
noticed his turning back, suspected his purpose, and taken means to
defeat it. Secondly, he was a man from whom Bussy would have accepted
neither warning nor assistance; yet he was not pleased that any brave man
should be taken by surprise, and he gave me credit for a similar feeling.
I could not but like him, despite my hidden suspicion that there was
something between Mlle. d'Arency and him.

I approached the house with the colonnade, feigning carelessness, as if I
were returning to my military quarters in the faubourg. The Porte St.
Honore was still open, although the time set for its closing was past.

Suddenly a mounted figure appeared in the gateway, which, notwithstanding
the dusk, I knew, by the way the rider sat his horse, to be that of
Bussy. I was too late to warn him; I could only give my aid.

Three figures rushed out from beneath the supported upper story of the
house, and made for Bussy with drawn swords. With a loud oath he reined
back his horse on its haunches, and drew his own weapon, with which he
swept aside the two points presented at him from the left. One of the
three assailants had planted himself in front of the horse, to catch its
bridle, but saw himself now threatened by Bussy's sword, which moved with
the swiftness of lightning. This man thereupon fell back, but stood ready
to obstruct the forward movement of the horse, while one of the other
two ran around to Bussy's right, so that the rider might be attacked,
simultaneously on both sides.

This much I had time to see before drawing my sword and running up to
attack the man on the horseman's left, whom I suddenly recognized as De
Quelus. At the same instant I had a vague impression of a fourth
swordsman rushing out from the colonnade, and, before I could attain my
object, I felt a heavy blow at the base of my skull, which seemed
almost to separate my head from my neck, and I fell forward, into
darkness and oblivion.

I suppose that the man, running to intercept me, had found a thrust less
practicable than a blow with the hilt of a dagger.

When I again knew that I was alive, I turned over and sat up. Several
men--bourgeois, vagabonds, menials, and such--were standing around,
looking down at me and talking of the affray. I looked for Bussy and De
Quelus, but did not see either. At a little distance away was another
group, and people walked from that group to mine, and _vice versa._

"Where is M. Bussy?" I asked.

"Oho, this one is all right!" cried one, who might have been a clerk or a
student; "he asks questions. You wish to know about Bussy, eh? You ought
to have seen him gallop from the field without a scratch, while his
enemies pulled themselves together and took to their heels."

"What is that, over there?" I inquired, rising to my feet, and
discovering that I was not badly hurt.

"A dead man who was as much alive as any of us before he ran to help M.
Bussy. It is always the outside man who gets the worst of it, merely for
trying to be useful. There come the soldiers of the watch, after the
fight is over."

I walked over to the other group and knelt by the body on the ground. It
was that of a gentleman whom I had sometimes seen in Bussy's company. He
was indeed dead. The blood was already thickening about the hole that a
sword had made in his doublet.

The next day the whole court was talking of the wrath of the Duke of
Anjou at this assault upon his first gentleman-in-waiting. I was ashamed
of having profited by the influence of De Quelus, who, I found, had not
recognized me on the previous evening. Anjou's rage continued deep. He
showed it by absenting himself from the wedding of Saint-Luc, one of De
Quelus's companions in the King's favor and in the attack on Bussy.
Catherine, knowing how the King's authority was weakened by the squabbles
between him and his brother, took the Duke out to Vincennes for a walk in
the park and a dinner at the château, that his temper might cool. She
persuaded him to show a conciliatory spirit and attend the marriage ball
to be held that night in the great hall of the Louvre. This was more than
she could persuade Marguerite to do, who accompanied mother and son to
Vincennes, sharing the feelings of the Duke for three reasons,--her love
for him, her hatred for her brother, the King, and her friendship for
Bussy d'Amboise. It would have been well had the Duke been, like his
sister, proof against his mother's persuasion. For, when he arrived at
the ball, he was received by the King's gentlemen with derisive looks,
and one of them, smiling insolently in the Duke's piggish, pockmarked
face, said, "Doubtless you have come so late because the night is most
favorable to your appearance."

Suppose yourself in the Duke's place, and imagine his resentment. He
turned white and left the ball. Catherine must have had to use her utmost
powers to keep peace in the royal family the next day.

On the second morning after the ball, I heard, from De Rilly, that the
King had put his brother under arrest, and kept him guarded in the Duke's
own apartment, lest he should leave Paris and lead the rebellion which
the King had to fear, not only on its own account, but because of the
further disrepute into which it would bring him with his people. The
King, doubtless, soon saw, or was made to see, that this conduct towards
his brother--who had many supporters in France and was then affianced to
Queen Elizabeth of England--would earn only condemnation; for, on the day
after the arrest, he caused the court to assemble in Catherine's
apartments, and there De Quelus went ironically through the form of an
apology to the Duke, and a reconciliation with Bussy. The exaggerated
embrace which Bussy gave De Quelus made everybody laugh, and showed that
this peace-making was not to be taken seriously. Soon after it, Bussy
d'Amboise and several of his followers left Paris.

The next thing I saw, which had bearing on the difference between the
King and Monsieur his brother, was the procession of penitents in which
Monsieur accompanied the King through the streets, after the hollow
reconciliation. I could scarcely convince myself that the
sanctimonious-looking person, in coarse penitential robe, heading the
procession through the mire and over the stones of Paris, from shrine to
shrine, was the dainty King whom I had beheld in sumptuous raiment in the
gallery of the Louvre. The Duke of Anjou, who wore ordinary attire,
seemed to take to this mummery like a bear, ready to growl at any moment.
His demeanor was all that the King's gentlemen could have needed as a
subject for their quips and jokes.

Two evenings after this, I was drinking in the public room of an inn,
near my lodgings in the town, when a young gentleman named Malerain, who,
though not a Scot, was yet one of the Scotch bodyguard, sat down at my
table to share a bottle with me.

"More amusement at the palace," he said to me. "To think that, any one of
these nights, I may be compelled to use force against the person of the
King's brother, and that some day he may be King! I wonder if he will
then bear malice?"

"What is the new trouble at the Louvre?" I asked.

"It is only the old trouble. Monsieur has been muttering again, I
suppose, and this, with the fact that Bussy d'Amboise keeps so quiet
outside of Paris, has led the King to fear that Monsieur has planned to
escape to the country. At least, it has been ordered that every member of
the Duke's household, who does not have to attend at his retiring, must
leave the palace at night; and Messieurs de l'Archant, De Losses, and the
other captains, have received orders from the King that, if Monsieur
attempts to go out after dark, he must be stopped. Suppose it becomes my
duty to stop him? That will be pleasant, will it not? To make it worse, I
am devoted to a certain damsel who is devoted to Queen Marguerite, who is
devoted to Monsieur, her brother. And here I am inviting misfortune,
too, by drinking wine on the first Friday in Lent. I ought to have
followed the example of the King, who has been doing penance all day in
the chapel of the Hôtel de Bourbon."

"Let us hope that the King will be rewarded for his penance by the
submission of Monsieur. I, for one, hope that if Monsieur attempts to get
away, he will run across some Scotchman of the Guard who will not scruple
to impede a prince of France. For if he should lead a Huguenot army
against the King, I, as one of the Guards, might be called on to oppose
my fellow-Protestants."

"Oh, the Duke does not wish to join the Huguenots. All he desires is to
go to the Netherlands, where a throne awaits him if he will do a little
fighting for it."

"I fear he would rather revenge himself on the King for what he has had
to endure at court."

Presently Malerain left to go on duty at the Louvre, and soon I followed,
to take up my station in sight of the window where Mlle. d'Arency slept.
The night, which had set in, was very dark, and gusts of cold wind came
up from the Seine. The place where, in my infatuation and affectation, I
kept my lover's watch, was quite deserted. The Louvre loomed up gigantic
before me, the lights gleaming feebly in a few of its many windows,
serving less to relieve its sombre aspect than to suggest unknown, and,
perhaps, sinister doings within.

I laugh at myself now for having maintained those vigils by night beneath
a court lady's window; but you will presently see that, but for this
boyish folly, my body would have been sleeping in its grave these many
years past, and I should have never come to my greatest happiness.

Suddenly my attention was attracted to another window than that on which
I had fixed my gaze. This other window appertained to the apartments of
the King's sister, Queen Marguerite, and what caused me to transfer my
attention to it was the noise of its being opened. Then a head was thrust
out of it,--the small and graceful head of Marguerite herself. She looked
down at the moat beneath, and in either direction, and apparently saw no
one, I being quite in shadow; then she drew her head in.

Immediately a rope was let down into the moat, whose dry bed was about
five times a tall man's length below the window, which was on the second
story. Out of the window came a man of rather squat figure, who let
himself boldly and easily down the rope. As soon as he had reached the
bed of the moat, he was followed out of the window and down the rope by a
second man, who came bunglingly, as if in great trepidation. This person,
in his haste, let go the rope before he was quite down, but landed on
his feet. Then a third figure came out from the chamber and down the
cable, whereupon Marguerite's head again appeared in the opening, and I
could see the heads of two waiting-women behind her. But the Queen of
Navarre manifestly had no intention of following the three men. These now
clambered up the side of the moat, and the one who had been first down
turned and waved her a silent adieu, which she returned with a graceful
gesture of her partly bare arm. The three men then rapidly plunged into
one of the abutting streets and were gone. All this time I stood inactive
and unobserved.

Marguerite remained at the window to cast another look around. Suddenly,
from out the darkness at the base of the Louvre, as if risen from the
very earth at the bottom of the moat, sprang the figure of a man, who
started toward the guard-house as if his life depended on his speed.
Marguerite drew her head in at once with a movement of great alarm. An
instant later the rope was drawn up and the window closed.

Two conjectures came into my head, one after the other, each in a flash.
The one was that Marguerite had availed herself of the fraternal quarrel
that occupied the King's attention to plan an escape to her husband, King
Henri of Navarre, and that these three men had gone from a consultation
in her apartments to further the project. The other conjecture was that
they were but some of Monsieur's followers who had transgressed the new
rule, requiring their departure from the palace at nightfall, and had
taken this means of leaving to avoid discovery. If the former conjecture
embodied the truth, my sympathies were with the plot; for it little
pleased me that the wife of our Huguenot leader should remain at the
French court, a constant subject of scandalous gossip. If the second
guess was correct, I was glad of an opportunity to avert, even slight,
trouble from the wilful but charming head of Marguerite. In either case,
I might serve a beautiful woman, a queen, the wife of a Huguenot king.
Certainly, if that man, paid spy or accidental interloper, should reach
the guard-house with information that three men had left the Louvre by
stealth, the three men might be overtaken and imprisoned, and great
annoyance brought to Marguerite. All this occupied my mind but an
instant. Before the man had taken ten steps, I was after him.

He heard me coming, looked around, saw my hand already upon my
sword-hilt, and shouted, "The guard! Help!" I saw that, to avoid a
disclosure, I must silence him speedily; yet I dared not kill him, for he
might be somebody whose dead body found so near the palace would lead to
endless investigations, and in the end involve Marguerite, for suppose
that the King had set him to watch her? Therefore I called to him, "Stop
and face me, or I will split you as we run!"

The man turned at once, as if already feeling my sword-point entering his
back. Seeing that I had not even drawn that weapon, he, himself, drew a
dagger and raised it to strike. But I was too quick and too long of arm
for him. With my gloved fist I gave him a straight blow on the side of
the chin, and he dropped like a felled tree, at the very moat's edge,
over which I rolled him that he might recover in safety from the effects
of the shock.

I knew that, when he should awake, he would not dare inform the guard,
for the three men would then be far away, and he would have no evidence
to support his story. He would only put himself in danger of having
fabricated a false accusation against the King's sister.

I deemed it best to go from the vicinity of the Louvre at once, and I did
so, with a last wistful look at the windows behind which Mlle. d'Arency
might or might not be reposing. I did not reappear there until the next
morning. The first person I then met was Malerain, who was coming from
the church of St. Germain l'Auxerrois, where he had been making up for
previous neglect of devotions.

"Well," I said, as I stood before him, and twisted my up-shooting
mustaches, in unconscious imitation of him, "I trust you found your
quarter on duty last night an easy one. You must thank me for saving you
some labor."

"What do you mean?" he asked, with a look of sudden interest.

"Nothing, only that you might have been called on to give chase to some
flying bird or other, if I had not knocked down a rascal who was running
to inform the guard."

"And you saw the bird fly?" he said, with increasing astonishment.

"From an opening in that great cage," I replied, looking towards
the Louvre.

"Then I, for myself, am glad you knocked down the said rascal who would
have made falçons of us to bring the bird down. But be more cautious.
Suppose what you did should reach the ears of the King?"

"Why should the King concern himself?"

"Monsieur, is it possible that you don't know that the bird that flew
from the Louvre last night was the Duke of Anjou?"

It was now my turn to stare in astonishment.

"But," I said, "what use for him to leave the palace? There would be the
gates of Paris to pass."

"There is more than one way to cross the fortifications of Paris,
especially when one has such an ally as Bussy d'Amboise, free, to arrange
matters. Monsieur is at this moment certainly on his way to some
stronghold of his own. The King is mad with rage. Queen Marguerite is
looking innocent and astonished, but I'll wager she had a hand in this
evasion. My friend, I am under obligations to you!"

"How?"

"Why, since Queen Marguerite undoubtedly rejoices at her favorite
brother's escape, and you helped to make it good, she owes you gratitude.
So do all her maids, who, naturally, share in her feelings and benefit by
her joy. Now, that gratitude extends of course to your friends, of whom I
am one. Therefore a good turn is due me from one of those maids in
particular, and for that I am obliged to you!"

I laughed at this fantastic extension of a debt of gratitude.
"Doubtless," I said; "but since neither Marguerite nor the maid knows
anything about my share in the matter, I don't see how you are going to
collect the debt."

Malerain said nothing, but there was already that in his mind which,
absurd as it might seem at that time, was to save me when death should
rise threateningly about me on every side. It is a world in which much
comes from little.

I was somewhat agitated at realizing that I had been the means of aiding
an escape which might result in opposing the troops of the King to those
of certain Huguenot leaders; but this thought was suddenly driven from my
mind by a sight which caused me to leave Malerain abruptly, and make for
one of the streets that led from the Louvre to the midst of the town.

It was Mlle. d'Arency, mounted on a plumed horse, with tassellated
trappings, which was led by a young equerry who wore Catherine's colors,
and followed by two mounted lackeys in similar livery. Beside her rode
the stout, elderly woman who usually attended her. Mlle. d'Arency wore a
mask of black velvet, but that could not conceal her identity from eyes
to which every line of her pretty head, every motion of her graceful
person, had become familiar in actual contemplation and in dreams. Her
cloak and gown were, alike, of embroidered velvet of the color of red
wine, as was the velvet toque which sat perched on her dark brown hair.

I followed her at some distance, resolved to find an opportunity for a
seemingly accidental meeting. I supposed that she was going to visit some
of the shops,--perhaps for the Queen-mother, perhaps for herself.

She led me on and on, until I began to wonder what could be her
destination. She avoided the streets of fine shops, such as were
patronized by the court, skirted market-places, and continued, in a
general easterly direction, until she had crossed both the Rue St. Denis
and the Rue St. Martin. At last, turning out of the Rue St. Antoine, she
reached, by a little street lined with bakeries, a quiet square before a
small church, of which I never even learned the name. She and the stout
woman dismounted, and entered the church, leaving her male attendants
outside with the horse.

"Oho," I mused, stopping at the door of a pastry-cook's at the place
where the little street joined the square; "she chooses an obscure place
for her devotions. Evidently she prefers to mingle solitude with them, so
I must not disturb her."

I decided, therefore, to wait at the pastry-cook's till she should come
out, and then to encounter her as if by chance. I would have, at least, a
word in payment for having come so far afoot.

The pastry-cook must have been convinced of two things before Mlle.
d'Arency came out of church: first, that his fortune was made if this new
customer, myself, should only continue to patronize him; second, that
there existed, at least, one human stomach able to withstand unlimited
quantities of his wares.

I stood back in the shop, devouring one doughy invention after another,
with my ear alert for the sound of her horse's hoofs on the stones. At
last it occurred to me that she might have left the square by some other
street. I made for the door of the shop to look. As I did so, a man
rapidly passed the shop, going from the square towards the Rue St.
Antoine. Was not that figure known to me? I hastened to the street. My
first glance was towards the church. There stood her horse, and her three
attendants were walking up and down in the sunlight. Then I looked after
the man; I thought that the figure looked like that of De Noyard.

He disappeared into the Rue St. Antoine, having given me no opportunity
to see his face. I would have followed, to make sure, roused into an
intolerable jealousy at the idea of a secret meeting between Mlle.
d'Arency and him, but that I now heard the full melodious voice of the
lady herself. Looking around, I saw her on the steps of the church, with
her middle-aged companion. At that instant her eyes met mine.

I advanced, with an exaggerated bow, sweeping the stones of the street
with the plumes of my hat.

"So it is true!" I said, making no effort to control my agitation, and
restraining my voice only that the lackeys might not hear; "you love
that man!"

She looked at me steadily for a moment, and then said, "Do you mean M.
de Noyard?"

"Ah, you admit it!"

"I admit nothing. But if I did love him, what right would you have to
call me to account?"

"The right of a man who adores you, mademoiselle."

"That is no right at all. A man's right concerning a woman must be
derived from her own actions. But come inside the church, monsieur."

She made a gesture to her attendants, and reentered the church. I
followed her. We stood together before the font in the dim light.

"And now," she continued, facing me, "suppose I grant that I have so
acted as to give you a right to question me; what then? Is it my fault
that you have followed me this morning? Is it, then, any more my fault
that I have been followed, also, by M. de Noyard?"

"But he must have been here before you."

"What does that prove? A score of people in the Louvre knew yesterday
that I was coming to this church to-day."

"But so deserted a church,--so out of the way! Who would come here from
the Louvre but for a tryst?"

She smiled, indulgently. "Can a thing have no cause except the obvious
one?" she said. "I visit this church once every month, because, obscure
though it be, it is associated with certain events in the history of my
ancestors."

"But," I went on, though beginning to feel relieved, "if M. de Noyard was
thrusting his presence on you, why did he leave before you did?"

"Probably because he knew that I would not leave the church while he
remained to press his company upon me outside."

The low tones that we had to use, on account of our surroundings, gave
our conversation an air of confidence and secrecy that was delicious to
me; and now her voice fell even lower, when she added:

"I take the pains to explain these things to you, monsieur, because I do
not wish you to think that I have intrigues;" and she regarded me fixedly
with her large gray eyes, which in the dimness of the place were darker
and more lustrous than usual.

Delightfully thrilled at this, I made to take her hand and stoop to kiss
it, but stopped for a last doubt.

"Mademoiselle," I said, "I think you only the most adorable woman in the
world. But there is one thing which has cost me many a sleepless hour,
many a jealous surmise. If I could be reassured as to the nature of your
errand that night when I first saw you--"

"Oh!" she laughed, "I was coming from an astrologer's."

"But you were not coming from the direction of Ruggieri's house."

"There are many astrologers in Paris, besides Ruggieri. Although the
Queen-mother relies implicitly on him, one may sometimes get a more
pleasing prediction from another; or, another may be clear on a point on
which he is vague."

"But the hour--"

"I took the time when I was not on duty, and he kept me late. It was for
a friend that I visited the astrologer,--a friend who was required in the
palace all that evening. The astrologer had to be consulted that night,
as my friend wished to be guided in a course that she would have to take
the next morning. Now, Monsieur Curiosity, are you satisfied?"

This time I took her hand and pressed my lips upon it.

She was silent for a moment, noting the look of admiration on my face.
Then, quickly, and in little more than a whisper, she said:

"I have answered your questions, though not admitting your right to ask
them. Would you know how to gain that right?"

"Tell me!" I said, my heart beating rapidly with elation.

"Challenge M. de Noyard, and kill him!"

I stared in astonishment.

"Now you may know whether or not I love him," she added.

"But, mademoiselle,--why--"

"Ah, that is the one thing about which I must always refuse to be
questioned! I ask you this service. Will you grant it?"

"If he has given you offence," I said, "certainly I will seek him at
once."

"Not a word of me is to be said between you! He must not know that I have
spoken to you."

"But a man is not to be killed without reason."

"A pretext is easily invented."

"Certainly,--a pretext to hide the cause of a quarrel from the world. But
the real cause ought to be known to both antagonists."

"I shall not discuss what ought or ought not to be. I ask you, will you
fight this man and try to kill him? I request nothing unusual,--men are
killed every day in duels. You are a good swordsman; Bussy d'Amboise
himself has said so. Come! will you do this?" She looked up at me with a
slight frown of repressed petulance.

"If you will assure me that he has affronted you, and permit me to let
him know, privately, the cause of my quarrel."

"Oh!" she exclaimed, with irritation, "must a lady give a hundred reasons
when she requests a service of a gentleman?"

"One sufficient reason, when it is a service like this."

"Well, I shall give none. I desire his death,--few gentlemen would ask a
further reason."

"I had not thought you so cruel, mademoiselle, as to desire the death
of any man."

"God forbid that I should desire the death of any other man! So,
monsieur, I must understand that you refuse to serve me in this?"

Her contemptuous look made me sigh. "Can you not see, mademoiselle, that
to resolve deliberately and secretly on a man's death, and with
premeditation to create a pretext for a challenge, is little better than
assassination?"

"A fine excuse to avoid risking your life!"

Again I had to endure a look of profound scorn from her.

"Mademoiselle," I replied, patiently, "I would that you might see how
ready I am to fight when an affront is given me or some one needs a
defender."

"Oh!" she said, with an ironical smile. "Then to show yourself a lion
against De Noyard, you require only that he shall affront you, or that
some one shall need a defender against him! Suppose that _I_ should ever
be in such need?"

"You know that in your defence I would fight an army."

Her smile now lost its irony, and she assumed a look of conciliation,
which I was both surprised and rejoiced to behold.

"Well, monsieur, it is pleasant to know that, if you will not take the
offensive for me, you will, at least, act readily on the defensive if
the occasion comes."

Much relieved at the turn the conversation had taken, I now undertook to
continue it to my advantage. After some bantering, maintained with gaiety
on her part, she said that she must return to the Louvre. Then, as she
would not have me accompany her in the streets, I begged her to appoint
another meeting. She evaded my petition at first, but, when I took her
hand and refused to release it until she should grant my request, she
said, after a little submissive shrug of her shoulders:

"Very well. Follow me, at a distance, from this church, and observe a
house before which I shall stop for a moment as if to adjust my cloak. It
is a house that has been taken by a friend of mine, one of the
Queen-mother's ladies. I shall be there tomorrow afternoon."

"Alas! To-morrow I shall be on duty till six in the evening."

"Then come at seven. Knock three times on the street door." And with that
she slipped her hand from mine, and hastened lightly out of the church. I
stood alone by the font, delighted and bewildered. There was so much to
mystify me that I did not even search my mind for explanations. I thought
my happiness about to be attained, and left it for the future to
explain,--as it did!

CHAPTER IV.

HOW LA TOURNOIRE WAS ENLIGHTENED IN THE DARK

It was already dark when I started, on the evening appointed, for the
house indicated by Mlle. d'Arency. I went without attendance, as was my
custom, relying on my sword, my alertness of eye, and my nimbleness of
foot. I had engaged a lackey, for whose honesty De Rilly had vouched, but
he was now absent on a journey to La Tournoire, whither I had sent him
with a message to my old steward. I have often wondered at the good
fortune which preserved me from being waylaid, by thieving rascals, on my
peregrinations, by night, through Paris streets. About this very time
several gentlemen, who went well attended, were set upon and robbed
almost within sight of the quarters of the provost's watch; and some of
these lost their lives as well as the goods upon their persons. Yet I
went fearlessly, and was never even threatened with attack.

On the way to the house, I reviewed, for the hundredth time, the
conversation in the church. There were different conjectures to be made.
Mlle. d'Arency may have made that surprising request merely to convince
me that she did not love De Noyard, and intending, subsequently, to
withdraw it; or it may have sprung from a caprice, a desire to ascertain
how far I was at her bidding,--women have, thoughtlessly, set men such
tasks from mere vanity, lacking the sympathy to feel how precious to its
owner is any human life other than their own;--or she may have had some
substantial reason to desire his death, something to gain by it,
something to lose through his continuing to live. Perhaps she had
encouraged his love and had given him a promise from which his death
would be the means of release easiest to her,--for women will, sometimes,
to secure the smallest immunity for themselves, allow the greatest
calamities to others. This arises less from an active cruelty than from a
lack of imagination, an inability to suppose themselves in the places of
others. I soon felt the uselessness of searching, in my own mind, for the
motive of Mlle. d'Arency's desire, or pretence of desire, for the death
of De Noyard. What had passed between them I could not guess. So, after
the manner of youth, I gave up the question, satisfied with knowing that
I had before me an interview with a charming woman, and willing to wait
for disclosures until events should offer them.

The street in which the house was situated was entirely dark and
deserted when I stepped into it. The house was wider than its neighbors,
and each of its upper stories had two chambers overlooking the street. At
the window of one of these chambers, on the second story, a light shone.
It was the only light visible in any of the houses, all of which frowned
down menacingly; and hence it was like a beacon, a promise of cheer and
warmth in the midst of this black, cold Paris.

I knocked three times on the street door, as she had directed me.
Presently the wicket at the side of the door was opened, and a light was
held up to it, that my face might be seen by a pair of eyes that peered
out through the aperture. A moment later the bolts of the door were
drawn, and I was let in by the possessor of the eyes. This was the
elderly woman who always attended Mlle. d'Arency when the latter was
abroad from the palace. She had invariably shown complete indifference to
me, not appearing aware of my existence, and this time she said only:

"This way, monsieur."

Protecting the flame of her lamp with her hand, she led me forward to a
narrow staircase and we ascended, stopping at a landing on which opened
the second story chamber whose street window had shone with light. She
gave three knocks at the door of this chamber. At the last knock, her
lamp went out.

"Curse the wind!" she muttered.

So I stood with her, on the landing, in darkness, expecting the door in
front of me to open, immediately, and admit me to the lighted chamber.

Suddenly I heard a piercing scream from within the chamber. It was the
voice of Mlle. d'Arency.

"Help! Help!" she cried. "My God, he will kill me!"

This was followed by one long series of screams, and I could hear her
running about the chamber as though she were fleeing from a pursuer.

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