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An Enemy To The King by Robert Neilson Stephens

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I stood for an instant, startled.

"Good God!" cried the old woman at my elbow. "An assassin! Her enemies
have planned it! Monsieur, save her life!"

And the dame began pounding on the door, as if to break into the room to
assist her mistress.

I needed no more than this example. Discovering that the door was
locked on the inside, and assuming that Mlle. d'Arency, in the flight
which she maintained around the room, could not get an opportunity to
draw the bolt, I threw my weight forward, and sent the door flying open
on its hinges.

To my astonishment, the chamber was in complete darkness. Mlle. d'Arency
had doubtless knocked the light over in her movements around the room.

She was still screaming at the top of her voice, and running from one
side to another. The whiteness of the robe she wore made it possible to
descry her in the absence of light.

I stood for a second, just inside the threshold, and drew my sword. At
first, I could not see by whom or what she was threatened; but I heard
heavy footsteps, as of some one following her in her wild course about
the place. Then I made out, vaguely, the figure of a man.

"Fear not, mademoiselle!" I cried.

"Oh, monsieur!" she screamed. "Save me! Save my life!"

I thrust my sword at the figure of the man. An ejaculation of pain told
me that it touched flesh. A second later, I heard a sword slide from its
scabbard, and felt the wind of a wild thrust in my direction.

At this moment, Mlle d'Arency appeared between me and the street window
of the room. There was enough light from the sky to enable her head and
shoulders to stand out darkly against the space of the window. Her head
was moving with the violent coming and going of her breath, and her
shoulders were drawn up in an attitude of the greatest fright. Is it any
wonder that I did not stop to ascertain who or what her assailant might
be, or how he had come there? I could make out only that the man in the
darkness was a large and heavy one, and wielded a swift blade. All other
thoughts were lost in the immediate necessity of dealing with him. The
extreme terror that she showed gave me a sense of his being a formidable
antagonist; the prompt response that he had given to my own thrust showed
that he was not to be quelled by a mere command. In fine, there was
nothing to do but fight him as best I could in the blackness; and I was
glad for so early an opportunity to show Mlle. d'Arency how ready I was
to do battle for her when I found her threatened with danger.

From the absence of any sound or other demonstration, except what was
made by Mlle. d'Arency and the man and myself, I knew that we three were
the only ones in the room. The elderly woman had not entered with me,--a
fact whose strangeness, in view of the great desire she had first evinced
to reach her mistress's side, did not occur to me until afterward.

I made another thrust at the man, but, despite the darkness, he parried
it with his sword; and a quick backward step was all that saved me from
his prompt reply. Angered at having to give ground in the presence of the
lady, I now attacked in turn, somewhat recklessly, but with such good
luck as to drive him back almost to the window. Mlle. d'Arency gave
another terrified scream when he came near her, and she ran past me
towards the door of the apartment. Both my antagonist and myself were
now beginning to have a clearer impression of each other's outlines, and
there was sharp sword-work between us by the window. As we stood there,
breathing rapidly with our exertion and excitement, I heard the door
close through which I had entered. I knew from this that Mlle. d'Arency
had left the chamber, and I was glad that she was out of danger. It was
natural that she should close the door, instinct impelling her to put any
possible barrier between her assailant and herself.

The man and myself were alone together to maintain the fight which,
having once entered, and being roused to the mood of contest, I had no
thought of discontinuing now that Mlle. d'Arency was out of immediate
danger. It had reached a place at which it could be terminated only by
the disarming, the death, or the disabling of one of us.

I gradually acquired the power of knowing all my opponent's movements,
despite the darkness. I supposed that he was equipped with dagger as well
as with sword, but as he made no move to draw the shorter weapon, I did
not have recourse to mine. Though I would not take an advantage over him,
even in the circumstances, yet I was not willing to be at a disadvantage.
Therefore, as he was not encumbered with cloak or mantle, I employed a
breathing moment to tear off my own cloak and throw it aside, not
choosing to use it on my left arm as a shield unless he had been
similarly guarded.

So we lunged and parried in the darkness, making no sound but by our
heavy breathing and an occasional ejaculation and the tramping of our
feet, the knocking of our bodies against unseen pieces of furniture, and
the clashing of our blades when they met. Each of us fenced cautiously at
times, and at times took chances recklessly.

Finally, in falling back, he came to a sudden stop against a table, and
the collision disturbed for an instant his control over his body. In that
instant I felt a soft resistance encounter my sword and yield to it. At
once, with a feeling of revulsion, I drew my sword out of the casing that
his flesh had provided, and stood back. Something wet and warm sprinkled
my face. The man gave a low moan and staggered sideways over towards the
window. Then he plunged forward on his face. I stooped beside him and
turned him over on his back, wetting my gloves with the blood that gushed
from his wound and soaked his doublet. At that moment a splash of
moonlight appeared on the floor, taking the shape of the window. His head
and shoulders lay in this illumined space. I sprang back in horror,
crying out his name:

"De Noyard! My God, it is you!"

"Yes, monsieur," he gasped, "it is De Noyard. I have been trapped. I
ought to have suspected."

"But I do not understand, monsieur. Surely you could not have attacked
Mlle, d'Arency?"

"Attacked her! I came here by her appointment!"

"But her cry for help?"

"It took me by complete surprise. There was a knock on the door--"

"Yes,--mine. I, too, came by her appointment!"

"Mademoiselle instantly put out the light and began to scream. I thought
that the knock frightened her; then that she was mad. I followed to calm
her. You entered; you know the rest."

"But what does it mean?"

"Can you not see?" he said, with growing faintness. "We have been
tricked,--I, by her pretense of love and by this appointment, to my
death; you, by a similar appointment and her screams, to make yourself my
slayer. I ought to have known! she belongs to Catherine, to the
Queen-mother. Alas, monsieur! easily fooled is he who loves a woman!"

Then I remembered what De Rilly had told me,--that De Noyard's counsels
to the Duke of Guise were an obstacle to Catherine's design of
conciliating that powerful leader, who aspired to the throne on which her
son was seated.

"No, no, monsieur!" I cried, unwilling to admit Mlle. d'Arency capable
of such a trick, or myself capable of being so duped. "It cannot be
that; if they had desired your death, they would have hired assassins to
waylay you."

Yet I knew that he was right. The strange request that Mlle. d'Arency had
made of me in the church was now explained.

A kind of smile appeared, for a moment, on De Noyard's face, struggling
with his expression of weakness and pain.

"Who would go to the expense of hiring assassins," he said, "when honest
gentlemen can be tricked into doing the work for nothing? Moreover, when
you hire assassins, you take the risk of their selling your secret to the
enemy. They are apt to leave traces, too, and the secret instigator of a
deed may defeat its object by being found out."

"Then I have to thank God that you are not dead. You will recover,
monsieur."

"I fear not, my son. I do not know how much blood I lose at every word I
speak. _Parbleu_! you have the art of making a mighty hole with that toy
of yours, monsieur!"

This man, so grave and severe in the usual affairs of life, could take on
a tone of pleasantry while enduring pain and facing death.

"Monsieur," I cried, in great distress, "you must not die. I will save
you. I shall go for a surgeon. Oh, my God, monsieur, tell me what to do
to save your life!"

"You will find my lackeys, two of them, at the cabaret at the next
corner. It is closed, but knock hard and call for Jacques. Send him to
me, and the other for a surgeon."

De Noyard was manifestly growing weaker, and he spoke with great
difficulty. Not daring to trust to any knowledge of my own as to
immediate or temporary treatment of his wound, I made the greatest haste
to follow his directions. I ran out of the chamber, down the stairs, and
out to the street, finding the doors neither locked nor barred, and
meeting no human being. Mlle. d'Arency and her companion had silently
disappeared.

I went, in my excitement, first to the wrong corner. Then, discovering my
blunder, I retraced my steps, and at last secured admittance to the place
where De Noyard's valets tarried.

To the man who opened the door, I said, "Are you Jacques, the serving-man
of Monsieur de Noyard?"

"I am nobody's serving man," was the reply, in a tone of indignation; but
a second man who had come to the door spoke up, "I am Jacques."

"Hallo, Monsieur de la Tournoire," came a voice from a group of men
seated at a table. "Come and join us, and show my friends how you
fellows of the French Guards can drink!"

It was De Rilly, very merry with wine.

"I cannot, De Rilly," I replied, stepping into the place. "I have very
important business elsewhere." Then I turned to Jacques and said,
quietly, "Go, at once, to your master, and send your comrade for a
surgeon to follow you there. Do you know the house in which he is?"

The servant made no answer, but turned pale. "Come!" he said to another
servant, who had joined him from an obscure corner of the place. The two
immediately lighted torches and left, from which fact I inferred that
Jacques knew where to find his master.

"What is all this mystery?" cried De Rilly, jovially, rising and coming
over to me, while the man who had opened the door, and who was evidently
the host, closed it and moved away. "Come, warm yourself with a bottle!
Why, my friend, you are as white as a ghost, and you look as if you had
been perspiring blood!"

"I must go, at once, De Rilly. It is a serious matter."

"Then hang me if I don't come, too!" he said, suddenly sobered, and he
grasped his cloak and sword. "That is, unless I should be _de trop_."

"Come. I thank you," I said; and we left the place together.

"Whose blood is it?" asked De Rilly, as we hurried along the narrow
street, back to the house.

"That of M. de Noyard."

"What? A duel?"

"A kind of duel,--a strange mistake!

"The devil! Won't the Queen-mother give thanks! And won't the Duke of
Guise be angry!"

"M. de Noyard is not dead yet. His wound may not be fatal."

I led the way into the house and up the steps to the apartment. It was
now lighted up by the torch which Jacques had brought. De Noyard was
still lying in the position in which he had been when I left him. The
servant stood beside him, looking down at his face, and holding the torch
so as to light up the features.

"How do you feel now, monsieur?" I asked, hastening forward.

There was no answer. The servant raised his eyes to me, and said, in a
tone of unnatural calmness, "Do you not see that he is dead, M. de la
Tournoire?"

Horror-stricken, I knelt beside the body. The heart no longer beat; the
face was still,--the eyes stared between unquivering lids, in the light
of the torch.

"Oh, my God! I have killed him!" I murmured.

"Come away. You can do nothing here," said De Rilly, quietly. He caught
me by the shoulder, and led me out of the room.

"Let us leave this neighborhood as soon as possible," he said, as we
descended the stairs. "It is most unfortunate that the valet knows your
name. He heard me speak it at the tavern, and he will certainly recall
also that I hailed you as one of the French Guards."

"Why is that unfortunate?" I asked, still deprived of thought by the
horror of having killed so honorable a gentleman, who had not harmed me.

"Because he can let the Duke of Guise know exactly on whom to seek
vengeance for the death of De Noyard."

"The Duke of Guise will seek vengeance?" I asked, mechanically, as we
emerged from that fatal house, and turned our backs upon it.

"Assuredly. He will demand your immediate punishment. You must bespeak
the King's pardon as soon as possible. That is necessary, to protect
oneself, when one has killed one's antagonist in a duel. The edicts still
forbid duels, and one may be made to pay for a victory with one's life,
if the victim's friends demand the enforcement of the law,--as in this
case the Duke of Guise surely will demand."

"M. de Quelus can, doubtless, get me the King's pardon," I said, turning
my mind from the past to the future, from regret to apprehension. The
necessity of considering my situation prevented me from contemplating, at
that time, the perfidy of Mlle. d'Arency, the blindness with which I had
let myself be deceived, or the tragic and humiliating termination of my
great love affair.

"If M. de Quelus is with you, you are safe from the authorities. You will
then have only to guard against assassination at the hands of Guise's
followers."

"I shall go to M. de Quelus early in the morning," I said.

"By all means. And you will not go near your lodgings until you have
assured your safety against arrest. You must reach the King before the
Duke can see him; for the Duke will not fail to hint that, in killing De
Noyard, you were the instrument of the King or of the Queen-mother. To
disprove that, the King would have to promise the Duke to give you over
to the authorities. And now that I think of it, you must make yourself
safe before the Queen-mother learns of this affair, for she will advise
the King to act in such a way that the Duke cannot accuse him of
protecting you. My friend, it suddenly occurs to me that you have got
into a rather deep hole!"

"De Rilly," I asked, with great concern, "do you think that I was the
instrument of Catherine de Medici in this?"

"Certainly not!" was the emphatic answer. "The fight was about a woman,
was it not?"

"A woman was the cause of it," I answered, with a heavy sigh. "But how do
you know?"

"To tell the truth," he said, "many people have been amused to see
you make soft eyes at a certain lady, and to see De Noyard do
likewise. Neither young men like you, nor older men like him, can
conceal these things."

Thus I saw that even De Rilly did not suspect the real truth, and this
showed me how deep was the design of which I had been the tool. Everybody
would lay the quarrel to rivalry in love. The presence of so manifest a
cause would prevent people from hitting on the truth. Mlle. d'Arency had
trusted to my youth, agility, and supposed skill to give me the victory
in that fight in the dark; and then to circumstances to disclose who had
done the deed. "It was De Noyard's jealous rival," everybody would say.
Having found a sufficient motive, no one would take the trouble to seek
the real source,--to trace the affair to the instigation of Catherine de
Medici. The alert mind of De Rilly, it is true, divining the equally keen
mind of the Duke of Guise, had predicted that Guise might pretend a
belief in such instigation, and so force the King to avenge De Noyard,
in self-vindication. Mlle. d'Arency well knew that I would not
incriminate a woman, even a perfidious one, and counted also on my
natural unwillingness to reveal myself as the dupe that I had been.
Moreover, it would not be possible for me to tell the truth in such a way
that it would appear probable. And what would I gain by telling the
truth? The fact would remain that I was the slayer of De Noyard, and, by
accusing the instigators, I would but compel them to demonstrate
non-complicity; which they could do only by clamoring for my punishment.
And how could I prove that things were not exactly as they had
appeared,--that the woman's screams were not genuine: that she was not
actually threatened by De Noyard? Clearly as I saw the truth, clearly as
De Noyard had seen it in his last moments, it could never be established
by evidence.

With bitter self-condemnation, and profound rancor against the woman
whose tool I had been, I realized what an excellent instrument she had
found for her purpose of ridding her mistress of an obstacle.

It was not certain that the King, himself, had been privy to his mother's
design of causing De Noyard's death. In such matters she often acted
without consulting him. Therefore, when De Quelus should present my case
to him as merely that of a duel over a love affair, Henri would perhaps
give me his assurances of safety, at once, and would hold himself bound
in honor to stand by them. All depended on securing these before
Catherine or the Duke of Guise should have an opportunity to influence
him to another course.

I felt, as I walked along with De Rilly, that, if I should obtain
immunity from the punishment prescribed by edict, I could rely on
myself for protection against any private revenge that the Duke of
Guise might plan.

De Rilly took me to a lodging in the Rue de L'Autruche, not far from my
own, which was in the Rue St. Honore. Letting myself be commanded
entirely by him, I went to bed, but not to sleep. I was anxious for
morning to come, that I might be off to the Louvre. I lay speculating on
the chances of my seeing De Quelus, and of his undertaking to obtain the
King's protection for me. Though appalled at what I had done, I had no
wish to die,--the youth in me cried for life; and the more I desired
life, the more fearful I became of failing to get De Quelus's
intercession.

I grew many years older in that night. In a single flash, I had beheld
things hitherto unknown to me: the perfidy of which a woman was capable,
the falseness of that self-confidence and vanity which may delude a man
into thinking himself the conqueror of a woman's heart, the danger of
going, carelessly, on in a suspicious matter without looking forward to
possible consequences. I saw the folly of thoughtlessness, of blind
self-confidence, of reckless trust in the honesty of others and the luck
of oneself. I had learned the necessity of caution, of foresight, of
suspicion; and perhaps I should have to pay for the lesson with my life.

Turning on the bed, watching the window for the dawn, giving in my mind a
hundred different forms to the account with which I should make De Quelus
acquainted with the matter, I passed the most of that night. At last, I
fell asleep, and dreamt that I had told De Quelus my story, and he had
brought me the King's pardon; again, that I was engaged in futile efforts
to approach him; again, that De Noyard had come to life. When De Rilly
awoke me, it was broad daylight.

I dressed, and so timed my movements as to reach the Louvre at the hour
when De Quelus would be about to officiate at the King's rising. De Rilly
left me at the gate, wishing me good fortune. He had to go to oversee the
labors of some grooms in the King's stables. One of the guards of the
gate sent De Quelus my message. I stood, in great suspense, awaiting the
answer, fearing at every moment to see the Duke of Guise ride into the
Place du Louvre on his way to crave an interview with the King.

At last a page came across the court with orders that I be admitted, and
I was soon waiting in a gallery outside the apartments of the
chamberlains. After a time that seemed very long, De Quelus came out to
me, with a look of inquiry on his face.

Ignoring the speech I had prepared for the occasion, I broke abruptly
into the matter.

"M. de Quelus," I said, "last night, in a sudden quarrel which arose out
of a mistake, I was so unfortunate as to kill M. de Noyard. It was
neither a duel nor a murder,--each of us seemed justified in attacking
the other."

De Quelus did not seem displeased to hear of De Noyard's death.

"What evidence is there against you?" he asked.

"That of M. de Noyard's servant, to whom I acknowledged that I had killed
his master. Other evidence may come up. What I have come to beg is your
intercession with the King--"

"I understand," he said, without much interest. "I shall bring up the
matter before the King leaves his bed."

"When may I expect to know?" I asked, not knowing whether to be reassured
or alarmed at his indifference.

"Wait outside the King's apartments. I am going there now," he replied.

I followed him, saw him pass into the King's suite, and had another
season of waiting. This was the longest and the most trying. I stood, now
tapping the floor with my foot, now watching the halberdiers at the
curtained door, while they glanced indifferently at me. Various officers
of the court, whose duty or privilege it was to attend the King's rising,
passed in, none heeding me or guessing that I waited there for the word
on which my life depended. I examined the tapestry over and over again,
noticing, particularly, the redoubtable expression of a horseman with
lance in rest, and wondering how he had ever emerged from the tower
behind him, of which the gateway was half his size.

A page came out of the doorway through which De Quelus had disappeared.
Did he bring word to me? No. He glanced at me casually, and passed on,
leaving the gallery at the other end. Presently he returned, preceding
Marguerite, the Queen of Navarre, whom he had gone to summon.

"More trouble in the royal family," I said to myself. The King must
have scented another plot, to have summoned his sister before the time
for the _petite levée_. I feared that this would hinder his
consideration of my case.

Suddenly a tall figure, wearing a doublet of cloth of silver, gray velvet
breeches, gray mantle, and gray silk stockings, strode rapidly through
the gallery, and curtly commanded the usher to announce him. While
awaiting the usher's return, he stood still, stroking now his light
mustaches, and now his fine, curly blonde beard, which was little more
than delicate down on his chin. As his glance roved over the gallery it
fell for a moment on me, but he did not know me, and his splendid blue
eyes turned quickly away. His face had a pride, a nobility, a subtlety
that I never saw united in another. He was four inches more than six feet
high, slender, and of perfect proportion, erect, commanding, and in the
flower of youth. How I admired him, though my heart sank at the sight of
him; for I knew he had come to demand my death! It was the Duke of Guise.
Presently the curtains parted, he passed in, and they fell behind him.

And now my heart beat like a hammer on an anvil. Had De Quelus
forgotten me?

Again the curtains parted. Marguerite came out, but this time entirely
alone. As soon as she had passed the halberdiers, her eyes fell on me,
but she gave no sign of recognition. When she came near me, she said,
in a low tone, audible to me alone, and without seeming to be aware of
my presence:

"Follow me. Make no sign,--your life depends on it!"

She passed on, and turned out of the gallery towards her own apartments.
For a moment I stood motionless; then, with a kind of instinctive sense
of what ought to be done, for all thought seemed paralyzed within me, I
made as if to return to the chamberlains' apartments, from which I had
come. Reaching the place where Marguerite's corridor turned off, I
pretended for an instant to be at a loss which way to go; then I turned
in the direction taken by Marguerite. If the halberdiers, at the entrance
to the King's apartments, saw me do this, they could but think I had made
a mistake, and it was not their duty to come after me. Should I seek to
intrude whither I had no right of entrance, I should encounter guards to
hinder me.

Marguerite had waited for me in the corridor, out of sight of the
halberdiers.

"Quickly, monsieur!" she said, and glided rapidly on. She led me boldly
to her own apartments and through two or three chambers, passing, on the
way, guards, pages, and ladies in waiting, before whom I had the wit to
assume the mien of one who was about to do some service for her, and had
come to receive instructions. So my entrance seemed to pass as nothing
remarkable. At last we entered a cabinet, where I was alone with her. She
opened the door of a small closet.

"Monsieur," she said, "conceal yourself in this closet until I return. I
am going to be present at the _petite levée_ of the King. Do not stir,
for they will soon be searching the palace, with orders for your arrest.
Had you not come after me, at once, two of the Scotch Guards would have
found you where you waited. I slipped out while they were listening to
the orders that my mother added to the King's."

I fell on my knee, within the closet.

"Madame," I said, trembling with gratitude, "you are more than a queen.
You are an angel of goodness."

"No; I am merely a woman who does not forget an obligation. I have heard,
from one of my maids, who heard it from a friend of yours, how you
knocked a too inquisitive person into the moat beneath my window. I had
to burn the rope that was used that night, but I have since procured
another, which may have to be put to a similar purpose!"

And, with a smile, she shut the closet door upon me.

CHAPTER V.

HOW LA TOURNOIRE ESCAPED FROM PARIS

I heard the key turn in the lock, and the Queen of Navarre leave the
cabinet. She took the key with her, so that a tiny beam of light came
through the keyhole, giving my dark hiding-place its only illumination.

I felt complete confidence both in Marguerite's show of willingness to
save me, and in her ability to do so. All I could do was to wait, and
leave my future in her hands.

After a long time, I heard steps in the cabinet outside the closet door,
the beam of light from the keyhole was cut off, the key turned again, the
door opened, and Marguerite again stood before me.

"Monsieur," she said, "that we may talk without danger, remain in the
closet. I will leave the door slightly ajar, thus, and will sit here,
near it, with my 'Book of Hours,' as if reading aloud to myself. Should
any one come, I can lock your door again and hide the key. Hark! be
silent, monsieur!"

And as she spoke, she shut the door, locked it, drew out the key, and
sat down. I listened to learn what had caused this act of precaution.

"Madame," I heard some one say, "M. de l'Archant desires, by order of the
King, to search your apartments for a man who is to be arrested, and who
is thought to have secreted himself somewhere in the palace."

"Let him enter." said Marguerite. My heart stood still. Then I heard her
say, in a tone of pleasantry:

"What, M. le Capitain, is there another St. Bartholomew, that people
choose my apartments for refuge?"

"This time it is not certain that the fugitive is here," replied Captain
de l'Archant, of the bodyguard. "He is known to have been in the palace
this morning, and no one answering his description has been seen to leave
by any of the gates. It was, indeed, a most sudden and mysterious
disappearance; and it is thought that he has run to cover in some chamber
or other. We are looking everywhere."

"Who is the man?" asked Marguerite, in a tone of indifference.

"M. de la Tournoire, of the French Guards."

"Very well. Look where you please. If he came into my apartments, he must
have done so while I attended the _petite levée_ of the King; otherwise I
should have seen him. What are you looking at? The door of that closet?
He could not have gone there without my knowledge. One of the maids
locked it the other day, and the key has disappeared." Whereupon, she
tried the door, herself, as if in proof of her assertion.

"Then he cannot be there," said De L'Archant, deceived by her manner; and
he took his leave.

For some minutes I heard nothing but the monotonous voice of Marguerite
as she read aloud to herself from her "Book of Hours."

Then she opened my door again. Through the tiny crack I saw a part
of her head.

"Monsieur," she said to me, keeping her eyes upon the book, and retaining
the same changeless tone of one reading aloud, "you see that you are
safe, for the present. No one in the palace, save one of my maids, is
aware that I know you or have reason to take the slightest interest in
you. Your entrance to my apartments was made so naturally and openly that
it left no impression on those who saw you come in. I have since sent
every one of those persons on some errand, so that all who might happen
to remember your coming here will suppose that you left during their
absence. It was well that I brought you here; had I merely told you to
leave the palace, immediately, you would not have known exactly how
matters stood, and you would have been arrested at your lodgings, or on
your way to your place of duty. By this time, orders have gone to the
city gates to prevent your leaving Paris. Before noon, not only the
body-guard, the Provost of the palace, and the French and Scotch Guards
will be on the lookout for you, but also the gendarmes of the Provost of
Paris. That is why we must be careful, and why stealth must be used in
conveying you out of Paris."

"They make a very important personage of me," I said, in a low tone.

"Hush! When you speak imitate my tone, exactly, and be silent the instant
I cough. Too many people are not to be trusted. That you may understand
me, you must know precisely how matters stand. This morning my mother
went to see the King in his chamber before he had risen. They discussed a
matter which required my presence, and I was sent for. After we had
finished our family council, my mother and I remained for a few words, in
private, with each other. While we were talking, M. de Quelus came in and
spoke for a while to the King. I heard the King reply, 'Certainly, as he
preserved you to me, my friend.' De Quelus was about to leave the King's
chamber, when the Duke of Guise was announced. De Quelus waited, out of
curiosity, I suppose. M. de Guise was admitted. He immediately told the
King that one of his gentlemen, M. de Noyard, had been killed by the
Sieur de la Tournoire, one of the French Guards. I became interested, for
I remembered your name as that of the gentleman who, according to my
maid, had stopped the spy from whom I had had so much to fear. I
recalled, also, that you had the esteem of my brother's faithful Bussy
d'Amboise. My mother immediately expressed the greatest horror at De
Noyard's death, with the greatest sympathy for M. de Guise; and she urged
the King to make an example of you."

I remembered, with a deep sigh, what De Rilly had told me,--that
Catherine, to prevent the Duke of Guise from laying the death of De
Noyard to her, would do her utmost to bring me to punishment.

"The King looked at De Quelus," continued Marguerite. "That gentleman,
seeing how things were, and, knowing that the King now wishes to seem
friendly to the Duke, promptly said, 'This is fortunate. La Tournoire is
now waiting for me in the red gallery; I suppose he wishes to beg my
intercession. His presumption will be properly punished when the guards
arrest him there.'"

I turned sick, at this revelation of treachery. This was the gentleman
who owed his life to me, and, in the first outburst of gratitude, had
promised to obtain for me a captaincy!

"The King," Marguerite went on, "at once ordered two of the Scotch Guards
to arrest you. All this time, I had been standing at the window, looking
out, as if paying no attention. My mother stopped the guards to give them
some additional direction. No one was watching me. I passed carelessly
out, and you know what followed. At the _petite levée_, I learned what
was thought of your disappearance,--that you had seen the Duke of Guise
enter the King's apartments, had guessed his purpose, and had
precipitately fled."

I did not dare tell his sister what I thought of a King who would,
without hesitation or question, offer up one of his guards as a sacrifice
to appease that King's greatest enemy.

"And now, monsieur," said Marguerite, still seeming to read from her
book, "the King and the Queen, my mother, will make every effort to have
you captured, lest it be thought that they are secretly protecting the
slayer of M. de Noyard. To convince you that you may rely on me,
thoroughly, I will confess that it is not solely gratitude for your
service the other night that induces me to help you,--although my
gratitude was great. I had seen the spy rise out of the moat and all
night I was in deadly fear that he had reached the guard-house and
prevented my brother's flight, or, at least, betrayed me. When I became
convinced that he had not done so, I thanked Heaven for the unknown
cause that had hindered him. So you may imagine, when my maid told me
that a friend of her lover's was that unknown cause, how I felt towards
that friend."

"Madame," I said, with emotion, "I ought to be content to die, having had
the happiness of eliciting your gratitude!"

"But I am not content that you should die, for I wish you to serve me
once more, this time as a messenger to my brother, the Duke of Anjou, who
is at Angers; to M. Bussy d'Amboise, who is with him; and to my husband,
the King of Navarre, who is at Nerac, in Gascony. Thus it is to my own
interest to procure your safe escape from Paris. And if you reach Nerac,
monsieur, you cannot do better than to stay there. The King of Navarre
will give you some post more worthy of you than that of a mere soldier,
which you hold here."

"I enlisted in the French Guards," I hastened to explain, "because I was
unknown, and a Huguenot, and could expect no higher beginning."

"For the very reason that you are a Huguenot, you can expect a great deal
from the King of Navarre. His kingdom is little more than a toy kingdom,
it is true, and his court is but the distant echo of the court of France,
but believe me, monsieur,"--and here Marguerite's voice indicated a
profound conviction,--"there is a future before my husband, the King of
Navarre! They do not know him. Moreover, Paris will never be a safe
place for you as long as the Duke of Guise lives. He does not forget!"

I knew that Marguerite had excellent means of knowing the Duke of Guise,
and I did not dispute her assertion. Moreover, I was now quite willing to
go from the city wherein I was to have achieved such great things. My
self-conceit had been shaken a little.

"But if every exit is watched, how can I leave Paris?" I asked.

"The exits were watched to prevent the going of my brother Anjou," said
Marguerite, "but he went. He crossed the Seine with his chamberlain,
Simier, and his valet, Cange, and went to the Abbey of St. Genevieve, of
which the gardens are bounded by the city wall. The Abbot Foulon was
secretly with us. M. Bussy had returned to Paris, and was waiting at the
Abbey for Monsieur. They left Paris by way of the Abbey garden. The Abbot
is a cautious soul, and to protect himself, in case of discovery, he had
M. Bussy tie him to a chair, and after Monsieur and Bussy had joined
their gentlemen, outside, and galloped off toward Angers, the Abbot came
to the Louvre, and informed the King of Monsieur's escape. Now I suppose
we shall have to make use of the same ingenious Foulon."

"You know what is best, madame," I said.

"But the Abbot of Saint Genevieve would not do for you, or even for me,
what he would do for my brother Anjou. If he knew who you were, he might
gladly seize an opportunity to offset, by giving you up, the suspicion
that he had a hand in my brother's escape."

"But if there is a suspicion of that, will they not watch the Abbey now,
on my account?"

"No; for you are not of my brother's party, and the Abbot would have no
reason for aiding you. The question is how to make him serve us in
this. I must now think and act, monsieur, and I shall have to lock you
up again."

She rose and did so, and again I was left to meditate. It is astonishing
how unconcerned I had come to feel, how reliant on the ingenuity of this
charming princess with the small head, the high, broad forehead, the
burning, black eyes the curly blonde hair, the quizzically discrete
expression of face.

After some hours, during which I learned, again, the value of patience,
the door was opened, and Marguerite thrust in some bread and cold meat,
which she had brought with her own hand. I took it in silence, and
stooped to kiss the hand, but it was too soon withdrawn, and the door
locked again.

When the door next opened, Marguerite stood before it with a candle in
her hand. I therefore knew that it was night. In her other hand, she held
four letters, three of them already sealed, the fourth open.

"I have made all arrangements," she said, quickly. "This letter is to the
Abbot Foulon. Read it."

She handed it to me, and held the candle for me while I read:

This gentleman bears private letters to Monsieur. As he was about to
depart with them, I learned that the King had been informed of his
intended mission, and had given orders for his arrest at the gate. I call
upon you to aid him to leave Paris, as you aided my brother Anjou. His
arrest would result in a disclosure of how that matter was conducted.

MARGUERITE.

I smiled, when I had finished reading the letter.

"That letter will frighten Brother Foulon into immediate action," said
Marguerite, "and he will be compelled to destroy it, as it incriminates
him. Take these others. You will first go to Angers, and deliver this to
the Duke of Anjou, this to M. de Bussy. Then proceed to Gascony with
this, for the King of Navarre."

"And I am to start?"

"To-night. I shall let you down into the moat, as Monsieur was let down.
You cannot cross the bridges of the Seine, lest you be stopped by guards
at the entrances; therefore I have employed, in this matter, the same boy
who served me the other night. Go immediately from the moat to that part
of the quay which lies east of the Hôtel de Bourbon. You will find him
waiting there in a boat. He will take you across the river to the Quay of
the Augustines, and from there you will go alone to the Abbey. When
Foulon knows that you come in my name, he will at once admit you. I am
sorry that there is not time to have a horse waiting for you outside the
fortifications."

"Alas, I must leave my own horse in Paris! I must go forth as a deserter
from the Guards!"

"It is better than going to the executioner," said Marguerite, gaily.
"For the last time, monsieur, become a bird in a cage. I am about to
retire. As soon as all my people are dismissed, and the palace is asleep,
I shall come for you."

The door closed again upon my prison of a day. I placed the letters
within my doublet, and looked to the fastening of my clothes, as a man
who prepares for a race or contest. I straightened myself up in my place
of concealment, and stood ready to attempt my flight from this Paris of
which the King had made a cage to hold me.

More waiting, and then came Marguerite, this time without a candle. She
stood in the darkness, in a white _robe de nuit_, like a ghost.

"Now, monsieur," she whispered.

I stepped forth without a word, and followed her through the cabinet into
a chamber which also dark. Three of Marguerite's maids stood there, in
silence, one near the door, the other two at the window. One of the
latter held a stout stick, to the middle of which was fastened a rope,
which dangled down to the floor and lay there in irregular coils. I saw
this by the little light that came through the window from the clouded
night sky.

Marguerite took the stick and held it across the window. It was longer
than the width of the window, and hence its ends overlapped the chamber
walls on either side.

"Are you ready, monsieur?" asked Marguerite, in a whisper.

"Ready, madame."

Still holding the stick in position with one hand, she opened the window
with the other, and looked out. She then drew in her head, and passed the
loose end of the rope out of the window. Then she looked at me, and stood
a little at one side, that I might have room to pass.

Summoning a bold heart, I mounted the window-ledge, got on my knees with
my face towards the chamber, caught the rope in both hands, lowered my
head, and kissed one of the hands of the Queen of Navarre; then, resting
my weight on my elbows, dropped my legs out of the window. Two more
movements took my body after them, and presently I saw before me only the
wall of the Louvre, and was descending the rope, hand after hand, the
weight of my body keeping the stick above in position.

When I was half-way down, I looked up. The wall of the palace seemed now
to lean over upon me, and now to draw back from me. Marguerite was gazing
down at me.

At last, looking down, I saw the earth near, and dropped. I cast another
glance upward. Marguerite was just drawing in her head, and immediately
the rope's end flew out of my reach.

"There's no going back the way I came!" I said, to myself, and strode
along the moat to find a place where I could most easily climb out of it.
Such a place I found, and I was soon in the street, alone, near where I
had been wont to watch under the window of Mlle. d'Arency. I took a last
look at the window of Marguerite's chamber. It was closed, and the rope
had disappeared. My safety was no longer in the hands of the Queen of
Navarre. She had pointed out the way for me, and had brought me thus far;
henceforth, I had to rely on myself.

I shivered in the cold. I had left my large cloak beside the dead body of
M. de Noyard the previous night, and had worn to the Louvre, in the
morning, only a light mantle by way of outer covering.

"Blessings on the night for being so dark, and maledictions on it for
being so cold!" I muttered, as I turned towards the river.

I had reached the Hôtel de Bourbon, when I heard, behind me, the sound
of footsteps in accord. I looked back. It was a body of several armed
men, two of them bearing torches.

Were they gendarmes of the watch, or were they guards of the King? What
were they doing on my track, and had they seen me?

Probably they had not seen me, for they did not increase their gait,
although they came steadily towards me. The torches, which illuminated
everything near them, served to blind them to what was at a distance
from them.

Fortunately, I had reached the end of the street, and so I turned
eastward and proceeded along the quay, high walls on one side of me, the
river on the other. It had been impossible for Marguerite to indicate to
me the exact place at which the boat was to be in waiting. I did not
think it best, therefore, to go to the edge of the quay and look for the
boat while the soldiers were in the vicinity. They might come upon the
quay at the moment of my embarking, and in that event, they would
certainly investigate. So I walked on along the quay.

Presently I knew, by the sound of their steps, that they, too, had
reached the quay, and that they had turned in the direction that I had
taken. I was still out of the range of their torchlight.

"How far will I be made to walk by these meddlesome archers?" I asked
myself, annoyed at this interruption, and considering it an incident of
ill omen. I looked ahead, to see whither my walking would lead me.

I saw another body of gendarmes, likewise lighted by torches, just
emerging from a street's end, some distance in front of me. They turned
and came towards me.

I stopped, feeling for an instant as if all my blood, all power of
motion, had left me. "Great God!" I thought, "I am caught between two
rows of teeth."

I must wait no longer to seek the boat. Would God grant that it might be
near, that I might reach it before either troop should see me?

I ran to the edge of the quay and looked over into the river. Of all the
boats that lay at rest there, not one in sight was unmoored, not one
contained a boatman!

The two bodies of men were approaching each other. In a few seconds the
two areas of torchlight would merge together. On one side were walls,
frowning and impenetrable; on the other was the river.

I took off my sword and dagger, on account of their weight, and dropped
them with their sheathes into the river. I started to undo the fastening
of my mantle, but the knot held; my fingers became clumsy, and time
pressed. So I gave up that attempt, threw away my hat, let myself over
the edge of the quay, and slid quietly into the icy water. I immediately
dived, and presently came to the surface at some distance from the
shore. I then swam for the middle of the river. God knows what powers
within me awoke to my necessity. I endured the cold, and found strength
to swim in spite of the clothes that impeded my movements and added
immensely to my weight.

Without looking back, I could tell, presently, from the talking on the
quay that the two detachments of gendarmes had met and were standing
still. Had either one descried me, there would have been loud or hurried
words, but there were none. After a while, during which I continued to
swim, the voices ceased, and I looked back. Two torches remained on the
quay. The others were moving away, along the river. I then made a guess,
which afterward was confirmed as truth. The boy sent by Marguerite had
been discovered in his boat, had been taken to the guard-house, and had
given such answers as led to the suspicion that he was waiting to aid
the flight of some one. The captain of the Guard, thinking so to catch
the person for whom the boatman waited, had sent two bodies of men out,
one to occupy the spot near which the boy had been found, the other to
patrol the river bank in search of questionable persons. I had arrived
on the quay in the interval between the boy's capture and the arrival
of the guards.

My first intention was to reach the left bank and proceed to the Abbey of
St. Genevieve. But it occurred to me that, although a boat could not pass
down the river, out of Paris, at night, because of the chain stretched
across the river from the Tour du Coin to the Tour de Nesle, yet a
swimmer might pass under or over that chain and then make, through the
faubourg outside the walls, for the open country. Neither Marguerite nor
I had thought of this way of leaving Paris, because of the seeming
impossibility of a man's surviving a swim through the icy Seine, and a
flight in wet clothes through the February night. Moreover, there was the
necessity of leaving my sword behind, and the danger of being seen by the
men on guard at the towers on either side of the river. But now that
necessity had driven me into the river, I chose this shorter route to
freedom, and swam with the current of the Seine. In front of me lay a
dark mass upon the water in the middle of the river. This was the barge
moored there to support the chain which stretched, from either side,
across the surface of the water, up the bank and to the Tour de Nesle on
the left side, and to the Tour du Coin on the right. I might pass either
to the right or to the left of this barge. Naturally, I chose to avoid
the side nearest the bank from which I had just fled, and to take the
left side, which lay in the shadow of the frowning Tour de Nesle.

By swimming close to the left bank of the river, I might pass the
boundary without diving under the chain, for the chain ascended obliquely
from the water to the tower, leaving a small part of the river's surface
entirely free. But this part was at the very foot of the tower, and if I
tried passage there I should probably attract the attention of the guard.
I was just looking ahead, to choose a spot midway between the barge and
the left bank, when suddenly the blackness went from the face of things,
a pale yellow light took its place, and I knew that the moon had come
from behind the clouds. A moment later, I heard a cry from the right bank
of the river, and knew that I was discovered. The shout came from the
soldiers whom I had so narrowly eluded.

I knew that it was a race for life now. The soldiers would know that any
man swimming the Seine on a February night was a man whom they ought to
stop. I did not look back,--the one thing to do was to pass the Tour de
Nesle before the guards there should be put on the alert by the cries
from the right bank. So on I swam, urging every muscle to its utmost.

Presently came the crack of an arquebus, and spattering sounds behind me
told me where the shot had struck the water. I turned to swim upon my
left side, and so I got a glimpse of the quay that I had left. By the
hurried movement of torches, I saw that the body that had gone to patrol
the river bank was returning to rejoin the other force. Of the latter,
several men were unmooring and manning a large boat. I turned on my back
to have a look at the sky. I saw that very soon a heavy mass of black
cloud would obscure the moon. At once I turned, and made towards the left
bank, as if not intending to pass the chain. I could hear the men in the
boat speaking rapidly at this, as if commenting on my change of course.
Again looking back, I saw that the boat had pushed off, and was making
towards that point on the left bank for which I seemed to be aiming. And
now I had something else to claim my attention: the sound of voices came
from the Tour de Nesle. I cast a glance thither. A troop of the watch was
out at last, having taken the alarm from the movements on the right bank.
This troop from the Tour de Nesle was moving towards the place for which
I seemed to be making; hence it was giving its attention solely to that
part of the left bank which was inside the fortifications. I felt a
thrill of exultation. The moon passed under the clouds. I changed my
course, and struck out for the chain. The light of the torches did not
reach me. Both the boat from the right bank and the watch from the Tour
de Nesle continued to move towards the same point. I approached the
chain, took a long breath, dived, felt the stifling embrace of the waters
for a season, rose to the surface, breathed the air of heaven again, and
cast a look behind. The chain stretched between me and the distant boat
and torches. I was out of Paris.

I swam on, past the mouth of the Paris moat, and then made for the left
bank. Exhaustion seized me as I laid hold of the earth, but I had
strength to clamber up. I fell into a sitting posture and rested my tired
arms and legs. What pains of cold and heat I felt I cannot describe.
Presently, with returning breath, came the strength to walk,--a strength
of which I would have to avail myself, not only that I might put distance
between myself and Paris, but also to keep my wet clothes from freezing.
I rose and started.

Choosing not to follow the left bank of the Seine, which was unknown
territory to me, I turned southeastward, in the hope of finding the road
by which I had entered Paris. To reach this, I had but to traverse the
Faubourg St. Germaine, along the line of the wall of Paris. I had already
gone some distance along the outer edge of the moat, with the sleeping
faubourg on my right, when I heard, behind me, the sound of men treading
a bridge. I looked back. The bridge was that which crossed the moat from
the Tour de Nesle.

Had the guards at last discovered my way of eluding pursuit, and was I
now being sought outside the walls? It appeared so, for, after crossing
the moat, the troop divided into two bodies, one of which went toward the
left bank below the chain, where I had landed, while the other came along
the moat after me. I began to run. The moon came out again.

"Look! he is there!" cried one of my pursuers. I heard their footsteps on
the frozen earth,--they, too, were running. But I had the advantage in
one respect: I had no weapons to impede me. The coming out of the moon
did not throw me into despair; it only increased my determination to make
good the escape I had carried so far. Though nature, herself, became the
ally of the King of France and the Duke of Guise against me, I would
elude them. I was filled with hate and resolution.

Suddenly, as I ran, it occurred to me that I was a fool to keep so near
the fortifications, for, at any of the gates, guards might emerge,
alarmed by the shouts of my pursuers; and even as I thought this, I
looked ahead and saw a number of halberdiers coming from the Porte St.
Germaine. My situation was now as it had been on the quay, with this
disadvantage, that I was seen by my enemies, and this advantage, that I
had a way of retreat open on my right; and I turned and sped along a
street of the Faubourg St. Germaine, towards the country.

It matters not how many pursue you, if you can run faster and longer
than the best of them all. Gradually, as I went, panting and plunging,
onward, heedless of every obstacle, I increased the distance between me
and the cries behind. Soon I was out of the faubourg, but I did not stop.
I do not know what ground I went over, save that I went southward, or
what village I presently went through, save that it was silent and
asleep. I came upon a good road, at last, and followed it, still running,
though a pain in my side warned me that soon I must halt. All my hunters
had abandoned the chase now but one. Every time I half turned for a
backward look, I saw this one coming after me. He had dropped his
weapons, and so had enabled himself to keep up the chase. Not being
weakened by a previous swim in the Seine, he was in better form than I,
and I knew that he would catch me in time. And what then? He was a large
fellow, but since the struggle must come, I would better let it come ere
I should be utterly exhausted. So I pretended to stagger and lurch
forward, and presently came to my knees and then prone upon the ground.
With a grunt of triumph, the man rushed up to me, caught me by the collar
of my doublet, and raised me from the ground. Hanging limp, and
apparently senseless, I put him quite off his guard.

"Stand up!" he cried. "Stomach of the Pope! Have I come so far only to
take a dead man back?"

While he was trying to make me stand, I suddenly gathered all my energy
into my right arm and gave him a quick blow in the pit of the stomach.
With a fearful howl, he let me go and fell upon his knees. A blow in the
face then made him drop as limp as I had pretended to be; and I resumed
my flight, this time at a more leisurely pace.

And now all my physical powers seemed to be leaving me. Pains racked my
head, and I seemed at one time to freeze and burn all over, at another
time to freeze in one part and burn in another. I ached in my muscles, my
bones, my stomach. At every step, I felt that it was vastly difficult to
take another, that it would be ineffably sweet to sink down upon the
earth and rest. Yet I knew that one taste of that sweetness meant death,
and I was determined not to lose a life that had been saved from so great
peril by so great effort. Despite all the soldiers at their command, the
King of France and the Duke of Guise should not have their will with me.
At last,--I know not how far from Paris,--I came to an inn. There were
still a few crowns in my pocket. Forgetting the danger from which I had
fled, not thinking that it might overtake me here, feeling only the need
of immediate shelter and rest, I pounded on the door until I got
admittance. I have never had any but the vaguest recollection of my
installation at that inn, so near to insensibility I was when I fell
against its door. I have a dim memory of having exchanged a few words
with a sleepy, stolid host; of being glad of the darkness of the night,
for it prevented him from noticing my wet, frozen, begrimed, bedraggled,
half-dead condition; of my bargaining for the sole occupancy of a room;
of his leading me up a winding stairway to a chamber; of my plunging from
the threshold to the bed as soon as the door was opened. I slept for
several hours. When I awoke, it was about noon, and I was very hungry and
thirsty. My clothes had dried upon me, and I essayed to put them into a
fairly presentable condition. I found within my doublet the four letters,
which had been first soaked and then stiffened. The now useless one
addressed to the Abbot Foulon, I destroyed; then I went down to the
kitchen, and saw, with relief, that it was empty. I ate and drank
hurriedly but ravenously. Again the fear of capture, the impulse to put
Paris further and further behind, awoke in me. I bought a peasant's cap
from the landlord, telling him that the wind had blown my hat into the
river the previous night, and set forth. It was my intention to walk to
La Tournoire, that my money might last. Afoot I could the better turn
from the road and conceal myself in woods or fields, at any intimation
of pursuit. At La Tournoire, I would newly equip myself with clothes,
weapons, horse, and money; and thence I would ride to Angers, and finally
away, southward, to Nerac.

It was a fine, sunlit day when I stepped from the inn to take the road
going southward. I had not gone four steps when I heard horses coming
from the north. I sought the shelter of a shed at the side of the inn.
There was a crack between two boards of this shed, through which I could
look. The horses came into sight, ten of them. The riders were
brown-faced men, all armed with swords and pistols, and most of them
having arquebusses slung over their backs. Their leader was a large,
broad, black-bearded man, with a very ugly red face, deeply scarred on
the forehead, and with fierce black eyes. He and his men rode up to the
inn, beat on the door, and, when the host came, ordered each a
stirrup-cup. When the landlord brought the wine, the leader asked him
some questions in a low tone. The landlord answered stupidly, shaking his
head, and the horsemen turned to resume their journey. Just as they did
so, there rode up, from the south, a merry-looking young cavalier
followed by two mounted servants. This newcomer gaily hailed the
ill-looking leader of the troop from the north with the words:

"Ah, M. Barbemouche, whither bound, with your back towards Paris?"

"For Anjou, M. de Berquin," growled the leader.

"What!" said the other, with a grin. "Have you left the Duke of Guise to
take service with the Duke of Anjou?"

"No, M. le Vicomte," said the leader. "It is neither for nor against the
Duke of Anjou that we go into his province. It is to catch a rascal who
may be now on the way to hide on his estate there, and whom my master,
the Duke of Guise, would like to see back in Paris."

"Indeed? Who is it that has given the Duke of Guise so great a desire for
his company?"

"The Sieur de la Tournoire," replied Barbemouche. "Have you met him on
the road?"

"I have never heard of him, before," said the young cavalier,
indifferently; and he rode on northward, while Barbemouche and his men
silently took the opposite direction.

He had never heard of me, as he said, nor I of him; yet he was to know
much of me at a time to come, was the Vicomte de Berquin; and so was
Barbemouche, the scowling man who was now riding towards Anjou in
search of me.

CHAPTER VI.

HOW HE FLED SOUTHWARD

When one is pursued, one's best course is to pursue the pursuer. So, when
M. Barbemouche and his troop of Guisards had gone some distance down the
road, I came forth from the shed and followed them, afoot, keeping well
to the roadside, ready to vanish, should any of them turn back. It was
evident that Barbemouche had little or no hope of catching me on the
road. His plan was to surprise me at my château, or to lie there in wait
for me. He had not shown any persistence in questioning the landlord. The
latter, through laziness or sheer stupidity, or a fear of incurring blame
for having sheltered a fugitive, had not given him any information that
might lead him to suspect that the man he was seeking was so near. So I
could follow, in comparative safety, into Anjou.

Their horses constantly increased the distance between the Guise
man-hunters and me, their desired prey. In a few hours they were out of
sight. Thus they would arrive at La Tournoire long before I could. Not
finding me there, they would probably put the servants under restraint,
and wait in ambush for me. Several days of such waiting, I said to
myself, would exhaust their patience; thereupon, they would give up the
hope of my seeking refuge at La Tournoire, and would return to their
master. My best course, therefore, would be to take my time on the road,
to be on the alert on coming near La Tournoire, and to lie in hiding
until I should be assured of their departure. In order to consume as much
time as I could, and to wear out the enemy's patience without putting my
own to the test, I decided to go first to Angers, deliver Marguerite's
letters to Monsieur and Bussy d'Amboise, and then make for La Tournoire.
Therefore, when, after a few days of walking, I came to LeMans, I did not
turn southward, towards La Tournoire, but followed the Sarthe
southwestward to Angers.

On this journey, I skirted Rambouillet, Anneau, and the other towns in my
way, and avoided large inns, for fear of coming up with the Guise party.
I made my money serve, too, by purchasing cheaply the hospitality of
farmers and woodmen. My youth had withstood well the experiences
attending my escape from Paris, and enabled me to fare on the coarse food
of the peasantry. There was plenty of healthy blood in my veins to keep
me warm. Outside of my doublet, my shoulders had no covering but the
light mantle, of which I was now glad that I had been unable to rid
myself in my swim down the Seine. People who saw me, with my rumpled
clothes and shapeless ruff and peasant's cap, probably took me for a
younger son who had endured hard fortune.

Such was my condition when I reached Angers and presented myself at the
gate of the château wherein the Duke of Anjou had taken residence. There
were many soldiers in and about the town, and horsemen were arriving and
departing. I might not easily have obtained audience of the Duke, had not
Bussy d'Amboise ridden up at the head of a small troop of horse, while I
was waiting at the gate. I called out his name, and he recognized me,
showing surprise at my appearance. I gave him his letter, and he had me
conducted to the Duke, who was striding up and down the hall of the
château. His mind was evidently preoccupied, perhaps already with fears
as to the outcome of his rebellious step, and he did not look at me when
he took the letter. His face brightened, though, when he saw the
inscription in Marguerite's handwriting, and he went, immediately, to a
window to read the letter. Bussy d'Amboise, who had dismounted and come
in with me, now beckoned me to follow him, and when we were outside, he
offered to supply me with a horse, money and arms, proposing that I enter
the service of the Duke of Anjou. But I told him that I was bound for
Gascony, and when he still offered me some equipment, I protested that I
would refurnish myself at my own château; so he let me go my way. I could
see that he was in haste to break the seal of Marguerite's letter.

I had gone two leagues or more northward from Angers, and was about to
turn eastward toward La Tournoire, when I saw a long and brilliant
cortege approaching from the direction of Paris. Several men-at-arms
were at the head, then came a magnificent litter, then a number of
mounted ladies and gentlemen, followed by a host of lackeys, a number of
mules with baggage, and another body of soldiers. This procession was
winding down the opposite hillside. The head of it was already crossing
the bridge over a stream that coursed through the valley toward the
Sarthe. Slowly it came along the yellow road, the soldiers and gentlemen
holding themselves erect on their reined-in horses, the ladies chatting
or laughing, and looking about the country, the wind stirring the plumes
and trappings, the sunlight sparkling on the armor and halberds of the
guards, the sword-hilts of the gentlemen, the jewels and rich stuffs
which shone in the attire of the riders. There were velvet cloaks and
gowns; satin and silk doublets, breeches, and hose; there were cloth of
gold and cloth of silver. Here and there the cavalcade passed clumps of
trees that lined the road, and it was then like pictures you have seen
in tapestry.

Concealment had lately become an instinctive act with me, and I now
sought refuge in the midst of some evergreen bushes, at a little distance
from the road, from which I could view the cavalcade as it passed. On it
came, the riders throwing back their shoulders as they filled their lungs
with the bracing country air. The day was a mild one for the time of
year, and the curtains of the litter were open. Inside sat a number of
ladies. With a start, I recognized two of the faces. One was Mlle.
d'Arency's; the other was the Queen-mother's. Mlle. d'Arency was
narrating something, with a derisive smile, to Catherine, who listened
with the slightest expression of amusement on her serene face.

Catherine was going to try to persuade her son, the Duke of Anjou, to
give up his insurrectionary designs and return to the court of his
brother. I guessed this much, as I lay hidden in the bushes, and I
heartily wished her failure. As for Mlle. d'Arency, I have no words for
the bitterness of my thoughts regarding her. I grated my teeth together
as I recalled how even circumstance itself had aided her. She could have
had no assurance that in the combat planned by her I should kill De
Noyard, or that he would not kill me, and yet what she had desired had
occurred. When the troop had passed, I arose and started for La
Tournoire. It seemed to me that a sufficient number of days had now
passed to tire the patience of Barbemouche, and that I might now visit my
château for the short time necessary.

Nevertheless, it was with great caution that I approached the
neighborhood in which all my life, until my departure for Paris, had been
passed. At each bend of the road, I stopped and listened before going on.
When I entered a piece of woods, I searched, with my eyes, each side of
the road ahead, for a possible ambush. When I approached the top of a
hill, it was with my ears on the alert for the sound of horsemen or of
human feet, and, when I reached the crest, I found some spot where, lying
on my stomach or crouching behind underbrush, I could survey the lowland
ahead. And so, meeting no indication of peril, treading familiar and
beloved ground, I at last reached the hill-top from which I would have my
long-expected view of La Tournoire. It was just sunset; with beating
heart, I hastened forward, risking something in my eagerness to look
again upon the home of my fathers. I gazed down, ready to feast my eyes
on the dear old tower, the peaceful garden, the--

And I saw only a smouldering pile of ruins, not one stone of my château
left upon another, save a part of the stables, before which, heeding the
desolation no more than crows are repelled by the sight of a dead body,
sat M. Barbemouche and two of his men throwing dice. Only one tree was
left in the garden, and from one of its limbs hung the body of a man,
through which a sword was thrust. By the white hair of the head, I knew
the body was that of old Michel.

So this was the beginning of the revenge of the Duke of Guise upon a poor
gentleman for having eluded him; thus he demonstrated that a follower of
his might not be slain with impunity. And the Duke must have had the
assurance of the King that this deed would be upheld; nay, probably the
King, in his design of currying favor with his powerful subject, had
previously sanctioned this act, or even suggested it, that the Duke might
have no ground for suspecting him of protecting me.

Grief at the sight of the home of my youth, the house of my ancestors,
laid low, gave way to rage at the powerful ones to whom that sight was
due,--the Duke who despoiled me, the King who had not protected me, the
Queen as whose unknowing tool I had made myself liable to this outrage.
As I stood on that hill-top, in the dusk, and looked down on the ruins of
my château, I declared myself, until death, the enemy to that Queen, that
Duke, and that King,--most of all to that King; for, having saved the
life of his favorite, having taken humble service in his Guards, and
having received from him a hinted promise of advancement, I had the
right to expect from him a protection such as he gave every day to
worthless brawlers.

At nightfall, I went to the hovel of a woodman, on whose fidelity I knew
I could depend. At my call, he opened the door of his little hut, and
received me with surprise and joy. With him was a peasant named
Frolichard.

"Then you are alive, monsieur?" cried the woodman, closing the door after
me, and making for me a seat on his rude bed.

"As you see," I replied. "I have come to pass the night in your hut.
To-morrow I shall be off for the south."

"Alas, you have seen what they have done! I knew nothing of it until
Michel was dead, and the servants came fleeing through the woods. They
have gone, I know not where, and the tenants, too. All but Frolichard. As
yet, the soldiers have not found this hut."

By questioning him, I learned that M. Barbemouche had denounced me as a
heretic and a traitor (I could see how my desertion from the French
Guards might be taken as implying intended rebellion and treason), and
had told Michel that my possessions were confiscated. What authority he
pretended to have, I could not learn. It was probably in wrath at not
finding me that he had caused the destruction of my château, to make
sure that it might not in any circumstances shelter me again.

I well knew that, whatever my rights might be, my safety lay far from La
Tournoire; and so did my means of retaliation.

"If I had but a horse and a sword left!" I said.

"There is a horse which I have been using, in my shed," replied the
forester; "and I made one of the servants leave here the swords that he
was carrying away in his flight. Moreover, he had filled a bag with
crowns from Michel's strong box. So you need not leave entirely
unprovided."

I thanked the faithful fellow as he brought forth the swords and the
little bag of gold pieces from under his bed, and then I lay down to
sleep. The peasant Frolichard was already dozing in a corner by the fire.

I was awakened suddenly by a shake of the shoulder. The woodman stood by
the bed, with every sign of alarm on his face.

"Monsieur," he whispered, "I fear you would best eat and begone. That
cursed rascal, Frolichard, left while I was asleep. I am sure that the
devil has been too much for him. He has probably gone to tell the
soldiers that you are here. Eat, monsieur!"

I sprang up, and saw that the forester had already prepared some
porridge for me.

"It is nearly dawn," he added, as I looked around I swallowed a few
mouthfuls of the porridge, and chose the better one of the swords. Then I
took up the little bag of golden crowns, and went out to mount horse. The
animal that the woodman held for me was a sorry one, the ugliest and
oldest of my stable.

Yet I rode blithely through the woods, happy to have again a horse
under me, and a sword at my side. I knew that the forester could take
care of himself as long as there should remain woods to hunt in or
streams to fish in.

When I reached, the road it was daylight. I made for the hill-top, and
stopped for a last look at my fields. I did not have to hesitate as to my
course. In my doublet was Marguerite's letter, to be borne to the King of
Navarre. Yet there was another reason why I should not attach myself to
the Duke of Anjou, although he was already in rebellion against the King:
the look on his face, when I saw him at Angers, had convinced me that he
would not hold out. Should Catherine not win him back to allegiance, his
own weakness would. I would place my hopes in the future of Henri of
Navarre. Nothing could, as yet, be predicted with assurance concerning
this Prince, who, being the head of the house of Bourbon, which
constituted the younger branch of the Royalty of France, was the highest,
by blood, of the really Huguenot leaders. Some, however, whispered that
there was more in him than appeared in his amours and his adventures of
the chase.

I was just about to turn my horse's head towards the south, when a man
came out of my half-ruined stable and looked up at me. Instantly he
called to some one in the stable, and two or three other soldiers came
out. I recognized the burly form of one of these as that of Barbemouche.
Another figure, a limp and cringing one, was that of Frolichard the
peasant. Barbemouche gave some orders, and two or three brought horses
out of the stable. I knew what all this meant.

I turned my horse, and galloped off towards the south. In a few moments I
heard the footfalls of galloping horses behind me. Again I was the object
of a chase.

When I had gone some distance, I looked back and saw my hunters coming,
ten of them, down the hillside behind me. But the morning was bracing,
and my horse had more life in him than at first sight appeared. I put
another hill behind me, but in time my followers appeared at its crest.
Now they gained on me, now I seemed to leave them further behind. All day
this race continued. I bore directly southward, and hence passed far east
of Angers. I soon made up my mind that M. Barbemouche was a man of
persistence. I did not stop anywhere for food or drink. Neither did M.
Barbemouche. I crossed the Loire at Saumur. So did he.

"Very well," I said. "If my horse only holds out, I will lead you all the
way to Gascony."

Once I let my horse eat and rest; twice I let him drink.

At nightfall, the sound of the hoofs behind me gradually died away. My
own beast was foaming and panting, so I reined in to a walk. Near Loudun,
I passed an inn whose look of comfort, I thought, would surely tempt my
tired pursuers to tarry, if, indeed, they should come so far. Some hours
later, coming to another and smaller inn, and hearing no sound of pursuit
behind me, I decided to stop for a few hours, or until the tramp of
horses' feet should disturb the silence of the night.

The inn kitchen, as I entered, was noisy with shouts and curses. One
might have expected to find a whole company of soldiers there, but to my
surprise, I saw only one man. This was a robust young fellow, with a big
round face, piercing gray eyes, fiercely up-sprouting red mustache, and a
double--pointed reddish beard. There was something irresistibly
pugnacious, and yet good-natured, in the florid face of this person. He
sat on a bench beside a table, forcibly detaining an inn maid with his
left arm, and holding a mug of wine in his right hand. Beside him, on the
bench, lay a sword, and in his belt was a pistol. He wore a brown cloth
doublet, brown breeches, and green hose.

"A thousand devils!" he roared, as I entered. "Must a fighting man stand
and beg for a kiss from a tavern wench? I don't believe in any of your
painted saints, wooden or ivory, but I swear by all of them, good-looking
girls are made to be hugged, and I was made to hug them! Here, you ten
times damned dog of a landlord, bring me another bottle of your filthy
wine, or I'll make a hole in your barrel of a body! Be quick, or I'll
roast you on your own spit, and burn down your stinking old inn!" At this
moment he saw me, as I stood in the doorway. "Come, monsieur!" he cried,
"I'm not fastidious, curse me, and you might drink with me if you were
the poxy old Pope himself! Here, wench, go and welcome the gentleman with
a kiss!" And he shoved the girl towards me and began to pound, in sheer
drunken turbulence, on the table with his mug.

I left the kitchen to this noisy guest, and took a room up-stairs, where
the landlord presently brought me light and supper.

I paid in advance for my night's lodging, and arranged to have access, at
any time during the night, to the shed in which was my horse, so that at
the least alarm I might make hasty flight. I opened my window, that the
sound of horses on the road might be audible to me from a distance.
Then, having eaten, I put out my light and lay down, in my clothes, ready
on occasion to rise and drop from the window, take horse, and be off.

From the kitchen, below, came frequent sounds emitted or caused by the
tipsy young Hercules in the brown doublet. Now he bellowed for wine, now
he thundered forth profanity, now he filled the place with the noise of
Gargantuan laughter; now he sang at the top or the depth of his big, full
voice; then could be heard the crash of furniture in collision. These
sounds continued until far into the night.

I had intended not to sleep, but to lie with ears alert. I could not yet
bring myself to feel that I was safe from pursuit. So used had I become
to a condition of flight, that I could not throw off the feeling of being
still pursued. And yet, I had hoped that Barbemouche would tire of the
chase. My plan had not been to confuse him as to my track, by taking
by-roads or skirting the towns, but merely to outrun him. Because I
wished to reach Nerac at the earliest possible moment, and because the
country was new to me and I desired not to lose my way, I had held to the
main road southward, being guided in direction by the sun or the stars.
Moreover, had I made detours, or skirted cities, Barbemouche might have
gone ahead by the main road and lain in wait further south for my coming
up, for Frolichard, the peasant, had heard me tell the woodman my
destination. So, in that first day's flight, I had trusted to the speed
of my horse, and now there was some reason to believe that Barbemouche
had abandoned pursuit, as the soldiers had done who chased me from Paris.
And yet, it seemed to me that this ugly Barbemouche was not one to give
up his chosen prey so soon.

Despite my intention, I feel asleep, and when I awoke it was daylight. I
sprang up and went cautiously down-stairs, sword in hand. But there was
no danger. Only the host and a servant were stirring in the inn. I made a
rapid breakfast, and went to see my horse fed. Before the shed, I saw the
young man who had made such drunken tumult in the kitchen the previous
night. He was just about to mount his horse; but there was now nothing of
the roysterer about his look or manner. He had restored neatness to his
attire, and his expression was sedate and humble, though strength and
sturdiness were as apparent in him as ever.

"A fine morning," I said, as the inn-servant brought out my own horse.

"Yes, monsieur," said the young man, in a very respectful tone. "A
sunrise like this is a gift from the good God."

"Yet you look pensive."

"It is because I know how little I deserve such mercy as to live on such
a day," answered the man, gravely; and he bowed politely, and rode
southward.

This devoutness and humility impressed me as being strangely out of
harmony with the profanity and turbulence of the night before, yet the
one seemed no less genuine than the other.

My horse fed, I mounted and rode after the sturdy youth.

Not far from Mirebeau, happening to turn my head towards the north, I
saw, in the distance, a group of horsemen approaching at a steady gallop.
From having looked back at this group many times during the preceding
day, I had stamped certain of its figures on my memory, and I now
recognized it as Barbemouche and his party.

"Another day of it," I said, to myself, and spurred my horse to a gallop.

An increase in their own pace told me that they in turn had
recognized me.

"This grows monotonous," I mused. "If there were only fewer of them, or
more of me, I would make a stand."

Presently I came up with the young man in the brown doublet. He stared at
me with a look of inquiry as I passed at such speed; then he looked back
and saw the distant horsemen coming on at equal speed. He appeared to
realize the situation at a glance. Without a word, he gave his own horse
a touch of the spur, with the manifest intention of keeping my company in
my flight.

"You have a good horse," I said to him, at the same time watching him out
of the corner of my eye, seeking some indication that might show whether,
on occasion, he would stand as my friend or my enemy.

"Better than yours, I fear, monsieur," he replied.

"Mine has been hard run," I said, lightly.

Presently he looked back, and said:

"Ah, the devil! Your friends, back there, are sending out an advance
guard. Three of them are making a race of it, to see which shall have the
honor of first joining you."

I looked back. It was true; three of them were bearing down with
great speed, evidently on fresh horses. Barbemouche remained back
with the rest.

I urged on my horse.

"It is useless, monsieur," said the young man at my side. "Your beast is
no match for theirs. Besides, you will not find a better place to make a
stand than the bridge yonder." And he pointed ahead to a bridge that
crossed a narrow stream that lay between high banks.

"What, face ten men?" I said.

"There are only three. The thing may be over before the others come up."

I laughed. "Well, admitting that, three against one--" I began.

"Oh, there will be two of us," replied the other.

My heart gave a joyous bound, but I said, "I cannot expect you to risk
your life in my quarrel."

And he answered, "By God! I myself have a quarrel with every man that
wears on his hat the white cross of the Guises!" His grey eyes flashed,
his face became red with wrath. "Let us stop, monsieur."

We stopped and turned our horses on the narrow bridge. We both drew sword
and waited. My new-found ally threw back his hat, and I saw across his
forehead a deep red scar, which I had not before noticed.

The three men rode up to the attack. They all stopped suddenly before
they reached the bridge.

"Give up your sword and come with us, monsieur," cried one of them to me.

I said nothing. "Go to hell!" roared my companion. And with that he
charged with the fury of a wild beast, riding between two of the
horsemen, and thrusting his sword through the eye and into the brain of
one before either could make the least show of defence. His horse coming
to a quick stop, he drew his weapon out of the slain man's head and
turned on the other. While there was some violent fencing between the
two, and while the dead man's horse reared, and so rid itself of its
bleeding burden, the third horseman urged his horse towards me. I turned
the point of his rapier, whereupon he immediately backed, and then came
for me again just as I charged on him. Each was too quick to meet the
other's steel with steel. His sword passed under my right arm and my
sword under his right arm, and we found ourselves linked together, arm to
arm. I saw him reach with his left hand for his dagger, and I grew sick
at the thought that I had no similar weapon with which to make matters
even. He plucked the dagger from his belt, and raised it to plunge it
into my back; but his wrist was caught in a clutch of iron. My man in the
brown doublet, in backing his horse to make another charge on his still
remaining opponent, had seen my antagonist's motion, and now, with a
twist of his vigorous fingers, caused the dagger to fall from a limp arm.
Then my comrade returned to meet his own enemy, and I was again on equal
terms with mine. We broke away from each other. I was the quicker to
right myself, and a moment later he fell sidewise from his horse, pierced
through the right lung.

I backed my horse to the middle of the bridge, and was joined by my
stalwart friend, who had done for his second man with a dagger thrust
in the side.

"Whew!" he panted, holding his dripping weapons on either side of him, so
as not to get any more blood on his clothes. Then a grin of satisfaction
appeared on his perspiring face, and he said:

"Three Guisards less to shout '_Vive la messe_.' It's a pity we haven't
time to exchange horses with these dead whelps of hell. But the others
are coming up, and we ought to rest awhile."

We sheathed our weapons and spurred on our horses, again southward.
Looking back, soon, we saw that the other pursuers, on coming up to their
dead comrades, had chosen first to look after the belongings of the
latter rather than to avenge their deaths. And while Barbemouche and his
men, of whom there were now six, tarried over the dead bodies, we made
such good speed that at last we were out of sight of them.

My first use of my returned breath was to thank my stalwart ally.

He received my gratitude with great modesty, said that the Lord had
guided his arm in the fight, and expressed himself with a humility that
was in complete contrast to the lion-like fury shown by him in the
combat. Judging him, from his phrases, to be a Huguenot, I asked whether
he was one, by birth, as I was.

"By birth, from my mother," he replied. "My father was a Catholic, and in
order to win my mother, he pretended to have joined the reformers. That
deceit was the least of his many rascally deeds. He was one of the chosen
instruments of the devil,--a violent, roystering cut-throat, but a good
soldier, as was shown in Italy and at St. Quentin, Calais, Jarnac, and
elsewhere. My mother, though only the daughter of an armorer's workman,
was, in goodness, an angel. I thank God that she sometimes has the upper
hand in me, although too often it is my father that prevails in me." He
sighed heavily, and looked remorseful.

In subsequent talk, as we rode, I learned that he was a soldier who had
learned war, when a boy, under Coligny. He had fought at his father's
side against Italians, Spanish, and English, and against his father in
civil war. His father had died of a knife-wound, received, not in battle,
but from a comrade in a quarrel about a woman, during the sacking of a
town. His mother, when the news of the fate of her unworthy spouse
reached the village where she lived, died of grief. The son was now
returning from that village, which was near Orleans, and whither he had
been on a visit to his relations, to Gascony, where he had been employed
as a soldier in the small army with which Henri of Navarre made shift to
garrison his towns.

I told him that I hoped to find a place in that little army.

"You do well, monsieur," said the young soldier, whose intelligence and
native dignity made him, despite his peasant origin, one with whom a
gentleman might converse. "Some day they will learn in France of what
stuff the little Bearnaise King is made. I have stood watching him when
he little supposed that a common soldier might take note of such things,
and I have seen on his face the sign of great intentions. More goes on
under that black hair than people guess at,--he can do more than drink
and hunt and make love and jest and swear."

He was in no haste to reach Gascony, he said, and so he intended to visit
a former comrade who dwelt in a village some leagues from my road. In the
afternoon, coming to the by-road which led to this place, he left me,
with the words:

"My name is Blaise Tripault, and should it happen that you ever enroll a
company for the King of Navarre--"

"The first name on my list shall be Blaise Tripault," I replied, smiling,
and rode on, alone.

Whenever I heard riders behind me, I looked back. At evening I reached an
eminence which gave a good view of the country through which I had
passed. Two groups of horsemen were visible. One of these consisted of
seven men. The chief figure was a burly one which I could not mistake,--
that of Barbemouche.

"_Peste_!" I muttered, frowning. "So they are following me into Poitou!
Am I never to have any rest?"

I took similar precautions that night to those which I had taken the
night before. The next day, about noon, emerging out of a valley, I saw
my pursuers on the top of the hill at my rear. Plainly, they intended to
follow me to the end of the earth. I hoped they would stop in Poitiers
and get drunk, but they tarried there no more than I. And so it was,
later, at Civray and at Angoulême.

Every day I got one or two glimpses of this persistent pack of hounds.
Every night I used like measures to make sudden flight possible. One
night the sound for which I kept my ears expectant reached them,--the
sound of horses' hoofs on the hard road. I dropped from the open window
of the inn at which I was, led out my horse from the shed, and made off,
southward. The noise made by their own horses prevented my pursuers from
hearing that made by mine. Presently the clatter abruptly ceased,
whereupon I knew that they had stopped at the inn which I had left. My
relief at this was offset by chagrin at a discovery made by me at the
same moment: I had left my bag of golden crowns in the inn chamber. I
dared not now go back for them. Well, Nerac could not be far away, now. I
had traversed a good part of Guienne. The Dordogne was behind me.

I was glad that I had taken better care of the letter from Marguerite to
her husband than I had taken of my crowns. Fortunately it had not left
my doublet. I felt that my future depended on the delivery of that
letter. There could be no doubt that Marguerite had recommended me in it
with a favor that would obtain for me both protection and employment from
the King of Navarre.

Daylight came, and with it hunger. I stopped at an inn, and was about to
dismount, when I remembered that I had no money.

I could do without food for a time, but my horse could not. I told the
landlord,--a short, heavy, square-faced, small-eyed man,--that I would,
later, send him payment for a breakfast. He looked at me with a
contempt that even a peasant dare show to a gentleman, when the
gentleman has no money.

"Very well, then," I said. "I will leave you security."

He looked more respectful at this, and made a quick examination of me
with his eyes.

"Unless you have some jewelry about you," he said, "your sword is the
only thing that I would accept."

"You clod," I exclaimed, in a rage. "I ought to give you my sword through
the body."

"A gentleman ought not to demand, for nothing, that which a poor man
makes his living by selling," answered the host, turning to go in.

I looked down at my horse, which had already shown an endurance beyond
its stock, and which now turned its eyes, hungrily, towards the inn
stable. At the same time I thought I heard the sound of hoofs, away
northward. After all, the delivery of the letter depended more on the
horse than on my sword, for one horse is more likely to beat seven horses
than one sword to beat seven swords.

To try whether it were possible, I made one movement, as if to hand over
the weapon. But my arm refused. As well try to pluck the heart out of my
body, and give it to the dog's keeping. Rather kill the man on his own
threshold and, like a brigand, help myself. But I chose to be merciful.

"Be quick, then," I said. "Bring me some wine, and feed my horse as it
stands here. I could take, for nothing, what you ask such high
security for."

"And I have three strong sons," said the innkeeper, impudently. But he
brought the wine, and ordered one of his sons to bring oats for the
horse. So we made our breakfast there, horse and man, standing before the
inn door. When the animal had licked up the last grain, I suddenly hurled
the heavy wine-mug at the innkeeper's head, wheeled my horse about, and
galloped off, shouting back to the half-stunned rascal, "Your three sons
must be swift, as well as strong, to take my sword." And I rode on,
southward.

"Will the Guisards follow me over this river, also?" I asked myself, as
I crossed the Garonne.

In the afternoon, I stopped for another look backward. There was not a
soul to be seen on the road.

"Adieu, M. Barbemouche!" I said. "I believe you have grown tired of
me at last."

At that instant a group appeared at the distant turn of the road. I
counted them. Seven! And they were coming on at the speed of the wind.

I patted my horse on his quivering neck. "Come, old comrade," I said.
"Now for one last, long race. In your legs lies my future."

He obeyed the spur, and his increased pace revealed a slight lameness,
which had not before been perceptible.

"We have only to reach some Gascon town," I said to him. "The soldiers
of the King of Navarre will protect the bearer of a letter to him from
their Queen."

I turned in my saddle, and looked back. They were gaining ground.

"They know that this is their last chance," I said. "We are near the
country held by the King of Navarre, and so they make a last effort
before giving up the chase. On, my staunch fellow! You shall have fine
trappings, and shall fare as well as your master, for this!"

The animal maintained its pace as if it understood; but it panted
heavily and foamed, its eyes took on a wild look, and its lameness
increased.

"They are coming nearer, there is no doubt of it!" I told myself. "Have I
escaped from the Louvre and from Paris, led my enemies a chase through
five provinces, to be taken when refuge is at last in sight? Shall
Marguerite's letter to Henri of Navarre fall into the hands of those who
wish him no good?"

Tears gushed from my eyes as I thought of the cruelty of destiny, which
had sustained me so far in order to betray me at the end. I took the
letter from my doublet, and held it ready to tear into pieces should I
indeed be caught. Although Marguerite was thought to have secrets with
the Duke of Guise, it was likely that she would not wish him to know what
she might write to her husband, whose political ally she always was.

And now my horse dropped its head lower at each bound forward. The seven
horses behind showed no sign of tiring.

"Thank God, I kept my sword! I can kill one of them, at least!"

I no longer looked back. Blindly forward I went, impelled only to defer
the end to the last possible moment. God knew what might yet intervene.

Suddenly my horse gave a snort of pain, stumbled blindly, and fell to his
knees. He slid forward a short distance, carried on by his impetus, and
then turned over on his side, and lay quivering. I had taken my feet from
the stirrups at his stumble, so that I now stood over his body.

I heard the loud clank of the hoofs behind. I stepped over the horse, and
drew my sword. A short distance ahead was a clump of scrubby pines; there
I would turn and make my stand.

Then was the time when I might have torn up the letter, had I not
suddenly forgotten my intention. I held it clutched in my hand,
mechanically, as I ran. I was conscious of only one thing,--that death
was bearing down on me. The sound of the horses' footfalls filled my
ears. Louder and louder came that sound, drowning even the quick panting
of my breath. Again came that aching in the side, that intolerable pain
which I had felt in my flight from Paris.

I pressed my hand to my side, and plunged forward. Suddenly the road
seemed to rise and strike me in the face. I had fallen prostrate, and now
lay half-stunned on the earth. I had just time to turn over on my back,
that I might face my pursuers, when the foremost horse came up.

"Well, my man," cried the rider, in a quick, nervous voice, as I looked
stupidly up at his short, sturdy figure, hooked nose, keen eyes, black
hair and beard, and shrewd, good-natured face, "did you think the devil
was after you, that you ran so hard? _Ventre Saint Gris_! You would make
an excellent courier."

"I am a courier," I answered, trying to rise. "I ran so fast that I might
soon reach Nerac with this letter for your majesty."

And I held the letter out to King Henri of Navarre.

CHAPTER VII.

HOW HE ANNOYED MONSIEUR DE LA CHATRE

I had never seen Henri of Navarre, before, but had often heard him
described, and no other man exactly fitted his description. His favorite
oath confirmed my recognition.

He took the letter, saying, "It looks as if it had been through fire
and flood"

"I had to swim the Seine with it," I said.

He read it, sitting on his horse in the middle of the road, I standing
beside the horse, the other six riders eyeing me curiously.

Having finished it, he looked at me with some interest and approval. "And
what made you run from us?" he asked.

"Sire, there were seven horsemen left in the party that has been chasing
me for some days past. Counting seven in your group, I too quickly
assumed that it was the same."

The King of Navarre laughed, and ordered one of the lackeys to give me
his horse and proceed afoot to the nearest town. When I was mounted, he
asked me to ride beside him.

"The speed at which you rode excited our curiosity," he explained, "and
that is why we gave chase."

I learned, later, that Henri and three of his gentlemen, with three
valets, had been inspecting the defences of one of his Gascon towns, and
were now returning to Nerac. He sometimes traversed those parts of his
French provinces where his authority as governor was recognized, without
any state, and often without a guard.

In reply to his questions, I said that I preferred a military position to
a civil one, but confessed my inexperience. He told me that I might serve
as ensign in one of his regiments, at Nerac, until I should acquire some
knowledge of military affairs, when he would give me a captain's
commission, and I might enlist a company.

I told him of the destruction of my château, and the loss of my money. He
thereupon required me to accept the horse on which I rode, and a purse
which one of the valets handed over to me. As he then beckoned one of his
gentlemen to his side, I fell back. We entered Nerac in the evening. As
soon as the gate was passed, the King and his followers turned towards
the château, and I took the main street to an inn.

The King of Navarre kept his promises. I had been ensign for only a few
months, stationed at Nerac, when he sent for me, and informed me that he
intended to augment his army, and that he would maintain a company of my
raising. He caused a captain's commission to be given to me before I left
the château. I walked thence, down the avenue of fine trees, which were
now in full leaf, before the château, debating with myself the
possibility of easily raising a company. When I reached the square before
the inn, I heard from within a human roar which had a familiar sound.
Entering, I found that it proceeded from the stentorian lungs of Blaise
Tripault, the young soldier who had aided my flight to Gascony by killing
two Guisards in my defence. He was sitting at a table, very drunk.

"Ah, Blaise Tripault," I cried, "I see that your father prevails
in you now!"

He recognized me, threw his bottle of wine out of the open window, and
made an attempt at sobriety.

"You have been long on the way to Nerac," I went on, "but you come just
in time to keep your promise. I enroll you first in the company which the
King has commissioned me to raise."

"I thank you, monsieur," he replied. "I will now go to bed, and will come
to you as soon as I am sober."

He was of great use to me in enlisting the company. He scoured the
country daily, and brought me recruits. When the roll was complete, I was
ordered to remain at Nerac for a time. Subsequently, I was sent to
garrison different towns, one after another, not only in Gascony and
parts of Guienne but also in Henri's principality of Béarn and his little
kingdom of Navarre.

I am proud to have had a share in the constant efforts made by Henri of
Navarre, while the world thought him given over entirely to gallantry at
his small but agreeable court, to increase his territory and his
resources against the time when he was to strike the great blows that no
one yet dreamed he was meditating. Thanks to the unwillingness, or
inability, of the King of France to put him in actual possession of his
governorship of Guienne, we had the pleasant task, now and then, of
wresting some town from the troops of the League or of Henri III. Our
Henri had to take by force the places ceded to him by the King of France
as Marguerite's dower, but still withheld from him. One of these was
Cahors, in the taking of which I fought for days in the streets, always
near our Henri, where the heart of the fighting was. It was there that
Blaise Tripault covered himself with glory and the blood of the enemy,
and was openly praised by the King.

But my life in the south had other pleasures besides those of fighting.
As Henri's was a miniature kingdom, so was his court, at cheerful Nerac
or sombre Pau, a miniature court; yet it had its pretty women and
gallant gentlemen. Gaiety visited us, too, from the greater world. When
the King of France and the Queen-mother thought it to their interest to
seem friendly to our Henri, they ordered Marguerite to Nerac. Catherine
herself came with her, bringing the Flying Squadron, that Henri and his
Huguenots might be seduced into the onesided treaties desired by her.
Catherine was one of the few, I think, who foresaw Henri's possible
future. Her astrologer, Cosmo Ruggieri, had predicted that he would
succeed her three sons to the throne of France, and I suppose she could
not endure the thought of this. Better a Guise than a Bourbon, the son
of Jeanne d'Albret. But our Henri might be useful to her as an
instrument to check the Duke of Guise in any attempted usurpation
during the life of her son. Therefore, Henri was to be cajoled while he
was being restrained. But he was not fooled into disadvantageous
compacts or concessions. All that he lost was a single town, which
Catherine caused to be attacked while he was at a fête; but he learned
of this at the fête, and retaliated by taking a town of the French
King's on the same night.

I was presented to Catherine while she was at Nerac. No allusion was made
to the circumstances which had caused my flight from Paris, or, indeed,
to my having ever been in Paris. Yet, from her scrutiny of my features, I
knew that she recalled those circumstances with my name. But Nerac was
not the place where it would serve her to concern herself about me. I
learned from one of Catherine's gentlemen that Mlle. d'Arency, who had
not come with her to Nerac, had wedded the Marquis de Pirillaume, who was
jealous and kept her on his estate in Dauphiny, away from the court. I
wished him joy of her.

When Catherine and her troop went back to the French court, leaving
Marguerite at Nerac, they could boast of a few Huguenot gentlemen won
over to their designs, but I was not one of the few. I do not say that I
did not amuse myself where charming women abounded, but I kept my heart
to myself. I had not resolved to become invulnerable to woman, but I had
determined that she by whom I would let myself be wounded should be one
vastly unlike any in Catherine's train. When I should find the woman pure
as beautiful, incapable of guile, I would love. "Somewhere in France," I
often said to myself, "that woman exists. I shall know her when I see
her." As in the former affair, I had my ideal already formed, and was
already in love, watching for the embodiment of that ideal to appear. But
this second ideal was different from the first. And it is time to tell
how at last I met her,--and how, for a while, the reality seemed worse
even than the first The death of the Duke of Anjou, after his
reconciliation with the King, his brother, and his failure to win the
crown he sought in the Netherlands, was a great event for us in Gascony.
It left our Henri of Navarre next in succession to the throne of France.
And our Henri was a sturdy man, while Henri III. seemed marked by destiny
to follow the three other sons of Catherine to an early grave. It
appeared that Marguerite monopolized all the longevity granted to the
family. But we knew that the Guises and their League would not let our
Huguenot Henri peacefully ascend his throne. Therefore, Henri's policy
was to strengthen himself against the time when the death of Henri III.
should leave the throne vacant for him. It was his interest also to
prevent a usurpation of that throne during the life of Henri III., for
such a usurpation would eventually exclude himself also. Thus
circumstance made him the natural ally of Henri III. It was, conversely,
the interest of the Guises to sow enmity between the two kings. The power
of the League in France, and particularly in Paris, was now so great that
Henri III. dared not oppose the wishes of the Duke of Guise. He was
reduced to devices for gaining time. And so, against his own interest, he
sanctioned the war which the League presently demanded against the
Huguenots,--a war which might do two things for the Duke of Guise:
destroy the next heir to the throne, and deprive the present King of his
chief resource against a usurpation. For the present, the Duke of Guise
cloaked his design by having the Pope proclaim the old Cardinal de
Bourbon heir to the throne, our Henri being declared ineligible on
account of heresy.

In the summer of 1585, the King of France issued anti-Huguenot edicts
required by the League. Governors of provinces were ordered to make it
uncomfortable for the "heretics." Several of them promptly obeyed,
arresting some Huguenots for remaining in their provinces, and arresting
others for trying to escape therefrom. By this time, Henri of Navarre had
gathered a sufficient army and acquired a sufficient number of towns to
hold his own in Guienne, and, indeed, throughout southwestern France. The
Prince de Condé also put a Huguenot army in the field. Pending the actual
opening of war, which the edicts of Henri III. foreshadowed, our Henri

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