Part 3 out of 7
That was the tribunal to which I made surrender of my, person and
my cause. There was an attempt on the part of Philip to seize me
and drag me back to Castile and his vengeance. His officers broke
into the prison for that purpose, and already I was in their power,
when the men of the Justiciary, followed by an excited mob, which
threatened open rebellion at this violation of their ancient rights,
delivered me from their hands.
Baffled in this - and I can imagine his fury, which has since been
vented on the Aragonese - Philip sent his representatives and his
jurists to accuse me before the Court of the Grand Justiciary and
to conduct my prosecution.
The trial began, exciting the most profound interest, not only in
Aragon, but also in Castile, which, as I afterwards learnt, had
openly rejoiced at my escape. It proceeded with the delays and
longueurs that are inseparable from the sluggish majesty of the law.
one of these pauses I wrote to Philip, inviting him to desist, and
to grant me the liberty to live out my days in peace with my family
in some remote corner of his kingdom. I warned him that I was not
helpless before his persecution, as he imagined; that whilst I had
made surrender of two chests of papers, I yet retained enough
authentic documents - letters in his own hand - to make my innocence
and his guilt apparent in a startling degree, with very evil
consequences to himself.
His answer was to seize my wife and children and cast them into
prison, and then order the courts of Madrid to pronounce sentence
of death against me for the murder of Escovedo. Such were the sops
with which he sought to quench his vindictive rage.
Thereupon the trial proceeded. I prepared my long memorial of the
affair, supporting it with proofs in the shape of those letters I
had retained. And then at last Philip of Spain took fright. He was
warned by one of his representatives that there was little doubt I
should be acquitted on all counts, and, too late, he sought to save
his face by ordering the cessation of the prosecution he had
He stated that since I had chosen a line of defence, to answer
which - as it could be answered - it would be necessary to touch
upon matters of a secrecy that was inviolable, and to introduce
personages whose reputation and honour was of more consequence to
the State than the condemnation of Antonio Perez, he preferred to
renounce the prosecution before the tribunal of Aragon. But he
added a certificate upon his royal word to the effect that my crimes
were greater than had ever been the crimes of any man, and that,
whilst he renounced the prosecution before the courts of Aragon, he
retained the right to demand of me an account of my actions before
any other tribunal at any future time.
My acquittal followed immediately. And immediately again that was
succeeded by fresh charges against me on behalf of the King. First
it was sought to prove that I had procured the death of two of my
servants - a charge which I easily dispersed by proving them to have
died natural deaths. Then it was sought to prosecute me on the
charge of corruption, for which I had once already been prosecuted,
condemned, and punished. Confidently I demanded my release, and
Philip must have ground his teeth in rage to see his prey escaping
him, to see himself the butt of scorn and contempt for the wrongs
that it became clear he had done me.
One weapon remained to him, and a terrible weapon this - the Holy
Office of the Inquisition, a court before which all temporal courts
must bow and quail. He launched its power against me, and behold
me, in the moment when I accounted myself the victor in the unequal
contest, accused of the dread sin of heresy. Words lightly weighed
- uttered by me in prison under stress - had been zealously
gathered up y spies.
On one occasion I had exclaimed: "I think God sleeps where my
affairs are concerned, and I am in danger of losing my faith." The
Holy Office held this to be a scandalous proposition, offensive to
Again, when I heard of the arrest of my wife and children I had
cried out in rage: "God sleeps! God sleeps! There cannot be a God!"
This they argued at length to be rank heresy, since it is man's
duty positively to believe, and who does not believe is an infidel.
Yet again it seems I had exclaimed: "Should things so come to pass,
I shall refuse to believe in God!" This was accounted blasphemous,
scandalous, and not without suspicion of heresy.
Upon these grounds the Supreme Council of the Inquisition at Madrid
drew up its impeachment, and delivered it to the inquisitors of
Aragon at Saragossa. These at once sent their familiars to demand
the surrender of me from the Grand Justiciary, in whose hands I
still remained. The Grand Justiciary incontinently refused to
yield me up.
Thereupon the three Inquisitors drew up a peremptory demand,
addressed to the lieutenants of the Justiciary, summoning them by
virtue of holy obedience, under pain of greater excommunication, of
a fine in the case of each of them of one thousand ducats, and
other penalties to which they might later be condemned, to deliver
me up within three hours to the pursuivants of the Holy Office.
This was the end of the Justiciary's resistance. He dared not
refuse a demand so framed, and surrender of me was duly made. But
the news of what was doing had run abroad. I had no lack of
friends, whom I instantly warned of what was afoot, and they had
seen to it that the knowledge spread in an inflammatory manner.
Saragossa began to stir at once. Here was a thinly masked violation
of their ancient privileges. If they suffered this precedent of
circumventing their rights, what was to become of their liberties
in future, who would be secure against an unjust persecution? For
their sympathies were all with me throughout that trial.
I was scarcely in the prison of the Holy Office before the dread
cry of Contrafueros! was ringing through the streets of Saragossa,
summoning the citizens to arm and come forth in defence of their
inviolable rights. They stormed the palace of the Grand Justiciary,
demanded that he should defend the fueros, to whose guardianship he
had been elected. Receiving no satisfaction, they attacked the
palace of the Inquisition, clamouring insistently that I should
immediately be returned to the Justiciary's prison, whence I had so
unwarrantably been taken.
The Inquisitors remained firm a while, but the danger was increasing
hourly. In the end they submitted, for the sake of their skins, and
considering, no doubt, a later vengeance for this outrage upon their
holy authority. But it was not done until faggots had been stacked
against the Holy House, and the exasperated mob had threatened to
burn them out of it.
"Castilian hypocrites!" had been the insurgent roar. "Surrender
your prisoner, or you shall be roasted in the fire in which you roast
Blood was shed in the streets. The King's representative died of
wounds that he received in the affray, whilst the Viceroy himself
was assailed and compelled to intervene and procure my deliverence.
For the moment I was out of danger. But for the moment only. There
was no question now of my enlargement. The Grand Justiciary,
intimidated by what had taken place, by the precise expression of
the King's will, dared not set me at liberty. And then the Holy
Office, under the direction of the King, went to work in that
subterranean way which it has made its own; legal quibbles were
raised to soothe the sensibilities of the Aragonese with respect to
my removal from the Justiciary's prison to that of the Holy Office.
Strong forces of troops were brought to Saragossa to overawe the
plebeian insolence, and so, by the following September, all the
preliminaries being concluded, the Inquisition came in force and in
form to take possession of me.
The mob looked on and murmured; but it was intimidated by the show
of ordered force; it had perhaps tired a little of the whole affair,
and did not see that it should shed its blood and lay up trouble
for itself for the sake of one who, after all, was of no account in
the affairs of Aragon. I stood upon the threshold of my ruin. All
my activities were to go unrewarded. Doom awaited me. And then the
unexpected happened. The alguazil of the Holy Office was in the
very act of setting the gyves upon my legs when the first shot was
fired, followed almost at once by a fusillade.
It was Gil de Mesa, faithfullest servant that ever any man possessed.
He had raised an armed band, consisting of some Aragonese gentlemen
and their servants, and with this he fell like a thunderbolt upon
the Castilian men-at-arms and the familiars of the Inquisition. The
alguazil fled, leaving me one leg free, the other burdened by the
gyve, and as he fled so fled all others, being thus taken unawares.
The Inquisitors scuttled to the nearest shelter; the Viceroy threw
himself into his house and barricaded the door. There was no one
to guide, no one to direct. The soldiery in these circumstances,
and accounting themselves overpowered, offered no resistance. They,
too, fled before the fusillade and the hail of shot that descended
Before I realized what had happened, the iron had been struck from
my leg, I was mounted on a horse, and, with Gil at my side, I was
galloping out of Saragossa by the gate of Santa Engracia, and
breasting the slopes with little cause to fear pursuit just yet,
such was the disorder we had left behind.
And there, very briefly, you have the story of my sufferings and my
escapes. Not entirely to be baulked, numerous arrests were made by
the Inquisitors in Saragossa when order was at last restored. There
followed an auto-da-fe, the most horrible and vindictive of all
those horrors, in which many suffered for having displayed the
weakness of charity towards a persecuted man. And, since my body
was no longer in their clutches, they none the less sentenced me to
death as contumaciously absent, and my effigy was burnt in the holy
fires they lighted, amongst the human candles which they offered up
for the greater honour and glory of a merciful God. Let me say no
more, lest I blaspheme in earnest.
After months of wandering and hiding, Gil and I made our way here
into Navarre, where we remain the guests of Protestant King Henri IV,
who does not love King Philip any better since he has heard my story.
Still King Philip's vengeance does not sleep. Twice has he sent
after me his assassins - since assassination is the only weapon now
remaining to him. But his poor tools have each time been taken,
exposed to Philip's greater infamy and shame - and hanged as they
deserve who can so vilely serve so vile a master. It has even been
sought to bribe my faithful Gil de Mesa into turning his hand
against me, and that attempt, too, has been given the fullest
publication. Meanwhile, my death to-day could no longer avail
Philip very much. My memorial is published throughout Europe for
all to read. It has been avidly read until Philip of Spain has
earned the contempt of every upright man. In his own dominions the
voice of execration has been raised against him. One of his own
nobles has contemptuously announced that Spain under Philip has
become unsafe for any gentleman, and that a betrayal of a subject
by his king is without parallel in history.
That is some measure of vengeance. But if I am spared I shall not
leave it there. Henry of Navarre is on the point of turning Catholic
that his interests may be better served. Elizabeth of England
remains. In her dominions, where thrives the righteous hatred of
Philip and all the evil that he stands for, I shall find a welcome
and a channel for the activities that are to show him that Antonio
Perez lives. I have sent him word that when he is weary of the
conflict he can signify his surrender by delivering from their
prison my wife and children, upon whom he seeks still to visit some
of the vengeance I have succeeded in eluding. When he does that,
then will I hold my hand. But not before.
"That, madame, is my story," said Don Antonio, after a pause, and
from narrowing eyes looked at the beauty who had heard him through.
Daylight had faded whilst the tale was telling. Night was come, and
lights had long since been fetched, the curtains drawn over the long
windows that looked out across the parkland to the river.
Twice only had he paused in all that narrative. Once when he had
described the avowal of his love for Anne, Princess of Eboli, when
a burst of sobs from her had come to interrupt him; again when a
curious bird-note had rung out upon the gathering dusk. Then he
stopped to listen.
"Curious that," he had said - "an eagle's cry. I have not heard it
these many months, not since I left the hills of Aragon."
Thereafter he had continued to the end.
Considering her now, his glance inscrutable, he said:
"You weep, madame. Tell me, what is it that has moved you - the
contemplation of my sufferings, or of your own duplicity?"
She started up, very white, her eyes scared.
"I do not understand you. What do you mean, sir?"
"I mean, madame, that God did not give you so much beauty that you
should use it in the decoying of an unfortunate, that you should
hire it at an assassin's fee to serve the crapulous King of Spain."
He rose and towered before her, a figure at once of anger, dignity,
and some compassion.
"So much ardour from youth and beauty to age and infirmity was in
itself suspicious. The Catholic King has the guile of Satan, I
remembered. I wondered, and hoped my suspicions might be unfounded.
Yet prudence made me test them, that the danger, if it existed,
should manifest itself and be destroyed. So I came to tell you all
my story, so that if you did the thing I feared, you might come to
the knowledge of precisely what it was you did. I have learnt whilst
here that what I suspected is - alas! quite true. You were a lure,
a decoy sent to work my ruin, to draw me into a trap where daggers
waited for me. Why did you do this? What was the bribe that could
corrupt you, lovely lady?"
Sobs shook her. Her will gave way before his melancholy sternness.
"I do not know by what wizardry you have discovered it!" she cried.
"It was true; but it is true no longer. I knew not what I did. By
that window, across the meadows, you can reach the river in safety."
She rose, controlling her emotion that she might instruct him.
"They wait for you in the enclosed garden."
He smiled wistfully.
"They waited, madame. They wait no longer, unless it be for death.
That eagle's cry, thrice repeated, was the signal from my faithful
Gil, not only that the trap was discovered, but that those who baited
it were taken. Suspecting what I did, I took my measures ere I came.
Antonio Perez, as I have told you, is not an easy man to murder.
Unlike Philip, I do not make war on women, and I have no reckoning
to present to you. But I am curious, madame, to know what led you
to this baseness."
"I - I thought you evil, and - and they bribed me. I was offered
ten thousand ducats for your head. We are very poor, we Chantenacs,
and so I fell. But, sir - sir" - she was on her knees to him now,
and she had caught his hand in hers- "poor as I am, all that I have
is yours to do with as you will, to help to avenge yourself upon
that Spanish monster. Take what you will. Take all I have."
His smile grew gentler. Gently he raised her.
"Madame," he said, "I am myself a sinner, as I have shown you, a
man unequal to resisting temptation when it took me in its trammels.
Of all that you offer, I will take only the right to this kiss."
And bending, be bore her hand to his lips.
Then he went out to join Gil and his men, who waited in the
courtyard, guarding three prisoners they had taken.
Perez considered them by the light of the lantern that Gil held
aloft for him.
"One of you," he announced, "shall return to Castile and give tidings
to Philip, his master, that Antonio Perez leaves for England and the
Court of Elizabeth, to aid her, by his knowledge of the affairs of
Spain, in her measures against the Catholic King, and to continue
his holy work, which is to make the name of Philip II stink in the
nostrils of all honest men. One of you I will spare for that
purpose. You shall draw lots for it in the morning. The other two
IV. THE NIGHT OF CHARITY
THE CASE OF THE LADY ALICE LISLE
0f all the cases tried in the course of that terrible circuit,
justly known as the Bloody Assizes, the only one that survives at
all in the popular memory is the case of the Lady Alice Lisle. Her
advanced age, the fact that she was the first woman known in English
history to have suffered death for no worse an offence than that of
having exercised the feminine prerogative of mercy, and the further
fact that, even so, this offence - technical as it was - was never
fully proved against her, are all circumstances which have left
their indelible stamp of horror upon the public mind. There is also
the further circumstance that hers was the first case tried in the
West by that terrible Chief Justice, Baron Jeffreys of Wem.
But the feature that renders her case peculiarly interesting to the
historical psychologist - and it is a feature that is in danger of
being overlooked - is that she cannot really be said to have suffered
for the technical offence for which she took her trial. That was
the pretext rather than the cause. In reality she was the innocent
victim of a relentless, undiscerning Nemesis.
The battle of Sedgemoor had been fought and lost by the Protestant
champion, James, Duke of Monmouth. In the West, which had answered
the Duke's summons to revolt, there was established now a horrible
reign of terror reflecting the bigoted, pitiless, vindictive nature
of the King. Faversham had left Colonel Percy Kirke in command at
Bridgwater, a ruthless ruffian, who at one time had commanded the
"Tangier garrison, and whose men were full worthy of their commander.
Kirke's Lambs they were called, in an irony provoked by the emblem
of the Paschal Lamb on the flag of this, the First Tangier Regiment,
originally levied to wage war upon the infidel.
>From Bridgwater Colonel Kirke made a horrible punitive progress to
Taunton, where he put up at the White Hart Inn. Now, there was a
very solid signpost standing upon a triangular patch of green
before the door of the White Hart, and Colonel Kirke conceived
the quite facetious notion of converting this advertisement of
hospitality into a gallows - a signpost of temporal welfare into
a signpost of eternity. So forth he fetched the prisoners he had
brought in chains from Bridgwater, and proceeded, without any form
of trial whatsoever, to string them up before the inn. The story
runs that as they were hoisted to that improvised gibbet, Kirke
and his officers, standing at the windows, raised their glasses to
pledge their happy deliverance; then, when the victims began to
kick convulsively, Kirke would order the drums to strike up, so
that the gentlemen might have music for their better dancing.
The colonel, you see, was a humorist, as humour was then understood
upon the northern shores of Africa, where he had been schooled.
When, eventually, Colonel Kirke was recalled and reprimanded, it
was not because of his barbarities many of which transcend the
possibilities of decent print - but because of a lenity which this
venal gentleman began to display when he discovered that many of
his victims were willing to pay handsomely for mercy.
Meanwhile, under his reign of terror, men who had cause to fear the
terrible hand of the King's vengeance went into hiding wherever they
could. Among those who escaped into Hampshire, thinking themselves
safer in a county that had not participated in the war, were a
dissenting parson named George Hicks, who had been in Monmouth's
army, and a lawyer named Richard Nelthorp, outlawed for participation
in the Rye House Plot. In his desperate quest for shelter, Hicks
bethought him of the charitable Nonconformist lady of Moyle's Court,
the widow of that John Lisle who had been one of Cromwell's Lords
Commissioners of the Great Seal, and most active in bringing King
Charles I to justice.
John Lisle had fled to Switzerland at the Restoration; but Stuart
vengeance had followed him, set a price upon his head, and procured
his murder at Lausanne. That was twenty years ago. Since then his
lady, because she was known to have befriended and sheltered many
Royalists, and because she had some stout Tory friends to plead for
her, was allowed to remain in tranquil possession of her estates.
And there the Lady Alice Lisle - so called by courtesy, since
Cromwell's titles did not at law survive the Restoration - might
have ended her days in peace, but that it was written that those
who hated her - innocent and aged though she was - for the name she
bore, who included her in the rancour which had procured her
husband's assassination, were to be fully satisfied. And the
instrument of fate was this parson Hicks. He prevailed upon Dunne,
a baker of Warminster, and a Nonconformist, to convey to the Lady
Lisle his prayer for shelter. With that message Dunne set out on
July 25th for Ellingham, a journey of some twenty miles. He went
by way of Fovant and Chalk to Salisbury Plain. But as he did not
know the way thence, he sought out a co-religionist named Barter,
who undertook, for a consideration, to go with him and direct him.
Together the pair came in the late afternoon of that Saturday to
the handsome house of Moyle's Court, and to my lady's steward, who
received them. Dunne, who appears to have been silly and imprudent,
states that he is sent to know if my lady will entertain a minister
Carpenter, the steward, a staid, elderly fellow, took fright at
once. Although he may not have associated an absconding Presbyterian
parson with the late rebellion, he must have supposed at least that
he was one of those against whom there were warrants for preaching
in forbidden private meetings. So to her ladyship above stairs
Carpenter conveyed a warning with the message.
But that slight, frail, homely lady of seventy, with kindly eyes of
a faded blue, smiled upon his fears. She had sheltered fugitives
before - in the old days of the Commonwealth - and nothing but good
had ever come of it. She would see this messenger.
With misgivings, Carpenter haled Dunne into her presence, and left
them alone together. The impression conveyed by Dunne was that
Hicks was in hiding from the warrants that were out against all
Nonconformist preachers. But when he mentioned that Hicks had a
companion, she desired to know his name.
"I do not know, my lady. But I do not think he has been in the
She considered a while. But in the end pity conquered doubt in her
sweetly charitable soul.
"Very well," she said, "I will give them entertainment for a week.
Bring them on Tuesday after dark, and come by the back way through
the orchard, that they may not be seen."
And upon this she rose, and took up an ebony cane, herself to
reconduct him and to see to his entertainment before he left. Not
until they came to the kitchen did she realize that he had a
companion. At sight of Barter, who rose respectfully when she
entered, she checked, turned to Dunne, and whispered something,
to which his answer provoked from her a laugh.
Now Barter, intrigued by this whispering and laughing, of which he
deemed himself the object, questioned Dunne upon it as they rode
forth again together.
"She asked me if you knew aught of the business," replied Dunne;
"and I answered 'No."'
"Business, say'st thou?" quoth Barter. "What business?"
"Sure, the business on which we came," Dunne evaded; and he laughed.
It was an answer that left Barter uneasy. Nor was his mind set at
rest by the parting words with which Dunne accompanied the half-crown
for his services.
"This is but an earnest of what's to come if you will meet me here
on Tuesday to show me the way to Moyle's Court again. I shall be
bringing two gentlemen with me - wealthy men, of a half-score
thousand pounds a year apiece. I tell you there will be a fine
booty for my part, so fine that I shall never want for money again
all the days of my life. And, so that you meet us here, you too
may count upon a handsome reward."
Consenting, Barter went his ways home. But as he pondered Dunne's
silly speech, and marvelled that honest men should pay so
disproportionately for an honest service, he came to the reasonable
conclusion that he had to do with rebels. This made him so uneasy
that he resolved at last to lodge information with the nearest
Now, it happened, by the irony of Fate, that the justice sought by
Barter was one Colonel Penruddock - the vindictive son of that
Penruddock whom the late John Lisle - whilst Lord President of the
High Court - had sentenced to death some thirty years ago for
participation in an unsuccessful Wiltshire rising against the
The colonel, a lean, stark man of forty-five, heard with interest
"Art an honest fellow!" he commended him. "What are the names of
"The fellow named no names, sir."
"Well, well, we shall discover that for ourselves when we come to
take them at this trysting-place. Whither do you say you are to
"To Moyle's Court, sir, where my Lady Lisle is to give them
The colonel stared a moment; then a heavy smile came to light the
saturnine face under the heavy periwig. Beyond that he gave no
sign of what was passing in his mind.
"You may go," he said slowly, at last. "Be sure we shall be at the
tryst to take these rascals."
But the colonel did not keep his promise. To Barter's surprise,
there were no soldiers at the tryst on Salisbury Plain on the
following Tuesday; and he was suffered to lead Dunne and the two
men with him the short, corpulent Mr. Hicks and the long, lean
Nelthorp - to Moyle's Court without interference.
The rich reward that Dunne had promised him amounted in actual fact
to five shillings, that he had from Nelthorpe at parting. Puzzled
by Colonel Penruddock's failure to do his part, Barter went off at
once to the colonel's house to inform him that the pair were now at
"Why, that is very well," said the colonel, his smile more sinister
than ever. "Trouble not yourself about that."
And Barter, the unreasoning instrument of Fate, was not to know that
the apprehending of a couple of traitorous Jack Presbyters was of
small account to Colonel Penruddock by comparison with the
satisfaction of the blood-feud between himself and the House of
Meanwhile the fugitives were being entertained at Moyle's Court,
and whilst they sat at supper in a room above-stairs, Dunne being
still of the party, my lady came in person to see that they had all
that they required, and stayed a little while in talk with them.
There was some mention of Monmouth and the battle of Sedgemoor,
which was natural, that being the topic of the hour.
My lady asked no questions at the time regarding Hicks's long, lean
companion. But it occurred to her later that perhaps she should
know more about him. Early next morning, therefore, she sent for
Hicks as he was in the act of sitting down to breakfast, and by her
direct questions elicited from him that this companion was that
Richard Nelthorp outlawed for his share in the Rye House Plot. Not
only was the information alarming, but it gave her a sense that she
had not been dealt with fairly, as indeed she told him.
"You will see, sir," she concluded, "that you cannot bide here. So
long as I thought it was on the score of Nonconformity alone that
you were suffering persecution, I was willing to take some risk in
hiding you. But since your friend is what he is, the risk is greater
than I should be asked to face, for my own sake and for that of my
daughters. Nor can I say that I have ever held plottings and civil
war in anything but abhorrence - as much in the old days as now. I
am a loyal woman, and as a loyal woman I must bid you take your
friend hence as soon as your fast is broken."
The corpulent and swarthy Hicks stood dejectedly before her. He
might have pleaded, but at that moment there came a loud knocking
at the gates below, and instantly Carpenter flung into the room
with a white, scared face and whirling gestures.
"Soldiers, my lady!" he panted in affright. "We have been betrayed.
The presence of Mr. Hicks here is known. What shall we do? What
shall we do?"
She stood quite still, her countenance entirely unchanged, unless
it were to smile a little upon Carpenter's terror. The mercy of her
nature rose dominant now.
"Why, we must hide these poor fellows as best we can," said she;
and Hicks flung down upon one knee to kiss her hand with
protestations that he would sooner be hanged than bring trouble
upon her house.
But she insisted, calm and self-contained; and Carpenter carried
Hicks away to bestow him, together with Dunne, in a hole in the
malt-house under a heap of sacking. Nelthorp had already vanished
completely on his own initiative.
Meanwhile, the insistent knocking at the gate continued. Came
shouted demands to open in the name of the King, until from a window
my lady's daughters looked out to challenge those who knocked.
Colonel Penruddock, who had come in person with the soldiers to raid
the house of his hereditary foe, stood forth to answer, very stiff
and brave in his scarlet coat and black plumed hat.
"You have rebels in the house," he announced, "and I require you
in the King's name to deliver them up to me."
And then, before they could answer him, came Carpenter to, unbar
the door, and admit them to the court. Penruddock, standing
squarely before the steward, admonished him very sternly.
"Friend," said he, "you had best be ingenuous with me and discover
who are in your lady's house, for it is within my knowledge that
some strangers came hither last night."
The stricken Carpenter stood white-faced and trembling.
"Sir - sir -" he faltered.
But the colonel was impatient.
"Come, come, my friend. Since I know they are here, there's an end
on't. Show me where they are hid if you would save your own neck
from the halter."
It was enough for Carpenter. The pair in the malthouse might have
eluded all search but for the steward's pusillanimity. Incontinently,
he betrayed the hiding-place.
"But, sir, of your charity do not tell my mistress that I have told
you. Pray, sir - "
Penruddock brushed him aside as if he had been a pestering fly, and
with his men went in, and straight to the spot where Hicks and Dunne
were lurking. When he had taken them, he swung round on Carpenter,
who had followed.
"These be but two," he said, "and to my knowledge three rogues came
hither last night. No shufing with me, rascal. Where have you
bestowed the other?"
"I swear, as Heaven's my witness, I do not know where he is,"
protested the afflicted steward, truly enough.
Penruddock turned to his men.
"Make search," he bade them; and search was made in the ruthless
manner of such searches.
The brutal soldiers passed from room to room beating the wainscoting
with pike and musket-butts, splintering and smashing heedlessly.
Presses were burst open and their contents scattered; chests were
broken into and emptied, the searchers appropriating such objects
as took their fancy, with true military cynicism. A mirror was
shattered, and some boards of the floor were torn up because a
sergeant conceived that the blows of his halbert rang hollow.
When the tumult was at its height, came her ladyship at last into
the room, where Colonel Penruddock stood watching the operations of
his men. She stood in the doorway leaning upon her ebony cane, her
faded eyes considering the gaunt soldier with reproachful question.
"Sir," she asked him with gentle irony, masking her agitation, "has
my house been given over to pillage?"
He bowed, doffing his plumed hat with an almost excessive courtesy.
"To search, madame," he corrected her. And added: "In the King's
"The King," she answered, "may give you authority to search my
house, but not to plunder it. Your men are robbing and destroying."
He shrugged. It was the way of soldiers. Fine manners, he
suggested, were not to be expected of their kind. And he harangued
her upon the wrong she had done in harbouring rebels and giving
entertainment to the King's enemies.
"That is not true," said she. "I know of no King's enemies."
He smiled darkly upon her from his great height. She was so frail
a body and so old that surely it was not worth a man's while to
sacrifice her on the altar of revenge. But not so thought Colonel
Penruddock. Therefore he smiled.
"Two of them, a snivelling Jack Presbyter named Hicks and a rascal
named Dunne, are taken already. Pray, madame, be so free and
ingenuous with me aye, and so kind to yourself - as if there be any
other person concealed in your house - and I am sure there is
somebody else - to deliver him up, and you shall come to no further
She looked up at him, and returned him smile for smile.
"I know nothing," she said, "of what you tell me, or of what you
His countenance hardened.
"Then, mistress, the search must go on."
But a shout from the adjoining room announced that it was at an end.
Nelthorp had been discovered and dragged from the chimney into which
he had crept.
Almost exactly a month later - on August 27th the Lady Alice Lisle
was brought to the bar of the court-house at Winchester upon a
charge of high treason.
The indictment ran that secretly, wickedly, and traitorously she
did entertain, conceal, comfort, uphold, and maintain John Hicks,
knowing him to be a false traitor, against the duty of her allegiance
and against the peace of "our sovereign lord the King that now is."
Demurely dressed in grey, the little white-haired lady calmly faced
the Lord Chief Justice Jeffreys and the four judges of oyer and
terminer who sat with him, and confidently made her plea of "Not
It was inconceivable that Christian men should deal harshly with
her for a technical offence amounting to an act of Christian charity.
And the judge, sitting there in his robe of scarlet reversed with
ermine, looked a gentle, kindly man; his handsome, oval, youthful
face - Jeffreys was in his thirty-sixth year - set in the heavy
black periwig, was so pale that the mouth made a vivid line of
scarlet; and the eyes that now surveyed her were large and liquid
and compassionate, as it seemed to her.
She was not to know that the pallor which gave him so interesting
an air, and the dark stains which lent his eyes that gentle
wistfulness, were the advertisements at once of the debauch that
had kept him from his bed until after two o'clock that morning and
of the inexorable disease that slowly gnawed away his life and
enraged him out of all humanity.
And the confidence his gentle countenance inspired was confirmed
by the first words he had occasion to address to her. She had
interrupted counsel to the Crown when, in his opening address to
the jury - composed of some of the most considerable gentlemen of
Hampshire - he seemed to imply that she had been in sympathy with
Monmouth's cause. She was, of course, without counsel, and must
look herself to her defence.
"My lord," she cried, "I abhorred that rebellion as much as any
woman in the world!"
Jeffreys leaned forward with a restraining gesture.
"Look you, Mrs. Lisle," he admonished her sweetly, "because we
must observe the common and usual methods of trial in your case I
must interrupt you now." And upon that he promised that she should
be fully heard in her own defence at the proper time, and that
himself he would instruct her in the forms of law to her advantage.
He reassured her by reverent allusions to the great Judge of Heaven
and Earth, in whose sight they stood, that she should have justice.
"And as to what you say concerning yourself," he concluded, "I pray
God with all my heart you may be innocent."
He was benign and reassuring. But she had the first taste of his
true quality in the examination of Dunne -- a most unwilling witness.
Reluctantly, under the pressure put upon him, did Dunne yield up the
tale of how he had conducted the two absconders to my lady's house
with her consent, and it was sought to prove that she was aware of
their connection with the rebellion. The stubbornly evasive Dunne
was asked at last:
"Do you believe that she knew Mr. Hicks before?"
He returned the answer that already he had returned to many
questions of the sort.
"I cannot tell truly."
Jeffreys stirred in his scarlet robes, and his wistful eyes grew
terrible as they bent from under beetling brows upon the witness.
"Why," he asked, "dost thou think that she would entertain any one
she had no knowledge of merely upon thy message? Mr. Dunne, Mr.
Dunne! Have a care. It may be more is known to me of this matter
than you think for."
"My lord, I speak nothing but the truth!" bleated the terrified
"I only bid you have a care," Jeffreys smiled; and his smile was
more terrible than his frown. "Truth never wants a subterfuge; it
always loves to appear naked; it needs no enamel nor any covering.
But lying and snivelling and canting and Hicksing always appear in
masquerade. Come, go on with your evidence."
But Dunne was reluctant to go on, and out of his reluctance he lied
foolishly, and pretended that both Hicks and Nelthorp were unknown
to him. When pressed to say why he should have served two men whom
he had never seen before, he answered:
"All the reason that induced me to it was that they said they were
men in debt, and desired to be concealed for a while."
Then the thunder was heard in Jeffreys' voice.
"Dost thou believe that any one here believes thee? Prithee, what
trade art thou?"
"My lord," stammered the unfortunate, "I - I am a baker by trade."
"And wilt thou bake thy bread at such easy rates? Upon my word,
then, thou art very kind. Prithee, tell me. I believe thou dost
use to bake on Sundays, dost thou not?"
"No, my lord, I do not!" cried Dunne indignantly.
"Alackaday! Art precise in that," sneered the judge. "But thou
canst travel on Sundays to lead rogues into lurking-holes."
Later, when to implicate the prisoner, it was sought to draw from
Dunne a full account of the reception she had given his companions,
his terror under the bullying to which he was subjected made him
contradict himself more flagrantly than ever. Jeffreys addressed
"You see, gentlemen, what a precious fellow this is; a very pretty
tool to be employed upon such an errand; a knave that nobody would
trust for half a crown. A Turk has more title to an eternity of
bliss than these pretenders to Christianity."
And as there was no more to be got from Dunne just then, he was
presently dismissed, and Barter's damning evidence was taken.
Thereafter the wretched Dunne was recalled, to be bullied by Jeffreys
in blasphemous terms that may not be printed here.
Barter had told the Court how my lady had come into the kitchen with
Dunne, and how, when he had afterwards questioned Dunne as to why
they had whispered and laughed together, Dunne told him she had asked
"If he knew aught of the business." Jeffreys sought now to wring
from Dunne what was this business to which he had so mysteriously
alluded - this with the object of establishing Lady Lisle's knowledge
of Hicks's treason.
Dunne resisted more stubbornly than ever. Jeffreys, exasperated -
since without the admission it would be difficult to convict her
ladyship --invited the jury to take notice of the strange, horrible
carriage of the fellow, and heaped abuse upon the snivelling, canting
sect of which he was a member. Finally, he reminded Dunne of his
oath to tell the truth, and addressed him with a sort of loving
"What shall it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own
soul?" bellowed that terrible judge, his eyes aflame. "Is not this
the voice of Scripture itself? And wilt thou hazard so dear and
precious a thing as thy soul for a lie? Thou wretch! All the
mountains and hills of the world heaped upon one another will not
cover thee from the vengeance of the Great God for this transgression
of false-witness bearing."
"I cannot tell what to say, my lord," gasped Dunne.
In his rage to see all efforts vain, the judge's language became
that of the cockpit. Recovering at last, he tried gentleness again,
and very elaborately invited Dunne, in my lady's own interest, to
tell him what was the business to which he had referred to Barter.
"She asked me whether I did not know that Hicks was a Nonconformist."
"That cannot be all. There must be something more in it."
"Yes, my lord," Dunne protested, "it is all. I know nothing more."
"Was there ever such an impudent rascal?" roared the judge. "Dolt
think that, after all the pains I have been at to get an answer,
thou canst banter me with such sham stuff as this? Hold the candle
to his brazen face, that we may see it clearly."
Dunne stood terrified and trembling under the glance of those
"My lord," he cried, "I am so baulked, I am cluttered out of my
Again he was put down whilst Colonel Penruddock gave his evidence
of the apprehension of the rebels. When he had told how he found
Hicks and Dunne concealed under some stuff in the malt-house,
Dunne was brought back yet again, that Jeffreys might resume his
"Dunne, how came you to hide yourself in the malthouse?"
"My lord," said Dunne foolishly, "I was frighted by the noise."
"Prithee, what needest thou be afraid of, for thou didst not know
Hicks nor Nelthorp; and my lady only asked thee whether Hicks were
a Nonconformist parson. Surely, so very innocent a soul needed
no occasion to be afraid. I doubt there was something in the case
of that business we were talking of before. If we could but get
out of thee what it was."
But Dunne continued to evade.
"My lord, I heard a great noise in the house, and did not know what
it meant. So I went and hid myself."
"It is very strange thou shouldst hide thyself for a little noise,
when thou knewest nothing of the business."
Again the witness, with a candle still held close to his nose,
complained that he was quite cluttered out of his senses, and did
not know what he was saying.
"But to tell the truth would not rob thee of any of thy senses, if
ever thou hadst any," Jeffreys told him angrily. "But it would
seem that neither thou nor thy mistress, the prisoner, had any; for
she knew nothing of it either, though she had sent for them thither."
"My lord," cried her ladyship at that, "I hope I shall not be
condemned without being heard."
"No, God forbid, Mrs. Lisle," he answered; and then viciously
flashed forth a hint of the true forces of Nemesis at work against
her. "That was a sort of practice in your late husband's time -
you know very well what I mean - but God be thanked it is not so
Came next the reluctant evidence of Carpenter and his wife, and
after that there was yet a fourth equally futile attempt to drag
from Dunne an admission that her ladyship was acquainted with
Hicks's share in the rebellion. But if stupid, Dunne at least was
staunch, and so, with a wealth of valedictory invective, Jeffreys
dismissed him, and addressed at last the prisoner, inviting her to
speak in her own defence.
She rose to do so, fearlessly yet gently.
"My lord, what I have to say is this. I knew of nobody's coming
to my house but Mr. Hicks, and for him I was informed that he did
abscond by reason of warrants that were out against him for
preaching in private meetings; for that reason I sent to him to
come by night. But I had never heard that Nelthorp was to come
with him, nor what name Nelthorp had till after he had come to my
house. I could die upon it. As for Mr. Hicks, I did not in the
least suspect that he had been in the army, being a Presbyterian
minister that used to preach and not to fight."
"But I will tell you," Jeffreys interrupted her, "that there is not
one of those lying, snivelling, canting Presbyterian rascals but
one way or the other had a hand in the late horrid conspiracy and
"My lord, I abhorred both the principles and the practices of the
late rebellion," she protested; adding that if she had been tried
in London, my Lady Abergavenny and many other persons of quality
could have testified with what detestation she had spoken of the
rebellion, and that she had been in London until Monmouth had been
"If I had known the time of my trial in the country," she pursued,
"I could have had the testimony of those persons of honour for me.
But, my lord, I have been told, and so I thought it would have been,
that I should not have been tried for harbouring Mr. Hicks until he
should himself be convict as a traitor. I did abhor those that were
in the plot and conspiracy against the King. I know my duty to my
King better, and have always exercised it. I defy anybody in the
world that ever knew contrary to come and give testimony."
His voice broke harshly upon the pause. "Have you any more to say?"
"As to what they say to my denying Nelthorp to be in the house," she
resumed. "I was in very great consternation and fear of the
soldiers, who were very rude and violent. I beseech your lordship
to make that construction of it, and not harbour an ill opinion of
me because of those false reports that go about of me, relating to
my carriage towards the old King, that I was anyways consenting to
the death of King Charles I; for, my lord, that is as false as God
is true. I was not out of my chamber all the day in which that king
was beheaded, and I believe I shed more tears for him than any other
woman then living.
"And I do repeat it, my lord, as I hope to attain salvation, I never
did know Nelthorp, nor did I know of anybody's coming but Mr. Hicks.
Him I knew to be a Nonconformist minister, and there being, as is
well known, warrants out to apprehend all Nonconformist ministers,
I was willing to give him shelter from these warrants, which I knew
was no treason."
"Have you any more to say for yourself?" he asked her.
"My lord," she was beginning, "I came but five days before this into
"Nay," he broke in, "I cannot tell when you came into the country,
nor I don't care. It seems you came in time to harbour rebels."
She protested that if she would have ventured her life for anything,
it would have been to serve the King.
"But, though I could not fight for him myself, my son did; he was
actually in arms on the King's side in this business. It was I that
bred him in loyalty and to fight for the King."
"Well, have you done?" he asked her brutally.
"Yes, my lord," she answered; and resumed her seat, trembling a
little from the exertion and emotion of her address.
His charge to the jury began. It was very long, and the first half
of it was taken up with windy rhetoric in which the Almighty was
invoked at every turn. It degenerated at one time into a sermon
upon the text of "render unto Caesar," inveighing against the
Presbyterian religion. And the dull length of his lordship's
periods, combined with the monotone in which he spoke, lulled the
wearied lady at the bar into slumber. She awakened with a start
when suddenly his fist crashed down and his voice rose in fierce
denunciation of the late rebellion. But she was dozing again - so
calm and so little moved was she - before he had come to apply his
denunciations to her own case, and this in spite of all her protests
that she had held the rebellion in abhorrence.
It was all calculated to prejudice the minds of the jurymen before
he came to the facts and the law of the case. And that charge of
his throughout, far from being a judicial summing-up, was a virulent
address for the prosecution, just as his bearing hitherto in
examining and cross-examining witnesses had been that of counsel
for the Crown. The statement that she had made in her own defence
he utterly ignored, save in one particular, where he saw his
opportunity further to prejudice her case.
"I am sorry," he said, his face lengthening, "to remember something
that dropped even from the gentlewoman herself. She pretends to
religion and loyalty very much - how greatly she wept at the death
of King Charles the Martyr - and owns her great obligations to the
late king and his royal brother. And yet no sooner is one in the
grave than she forgets all gratitude and entertains those that were
rebels against his royal successor.
"I will not say," he continued with deliberate emphasis, "what hand
her husband had in the death of that blessed martyr; she has enough
to answer for her own guilt; and I must confess that it ought not,
one way or other, to make any ingredient into this case what she was
in former times."
But he had dragged it in, protesting that it should not influence
the case, yet coldly, calculatingly intending it to do so. She was
the widow of a regicide, reason and to spare in the views of himself
and his royal master why she should be hounded to her death upon any
Thereafter he reviewed the evidence against her, dwelt upon the
shuffling of Dunne, deduced that the reason for so much lying was
to conceal the damning truth - namely, that she knew Hicks for a
rebel when she gave him shelter, and thus became the partner of his
horrible guilt. Upon that he charged them to find their verdict
"without any consideration of persons, but considering only the
Nevertheless, although his commands were clear, some of the jury
would seem to have feared the God whom Jeffreys invoked so
constantly. One of them rose to ask him pertinently, in point of
law, whether it was treason to have harboured Hicks before the man
had been convicted of treason.
Curtly he answered them that beyond doubt it was, and upon that
assurance the jury withdrew, the Court settled down into an expectant
silence, and her ladyship dozed again in her chair.
The minutes passed. It was growing late, and Jeffreys was eager to
be done with this prejudged affair, that he might dine in peace.
His voice broke the stillness of the court, protesting his angry
wonder at the need to deliberate in so plain a case. He was
threatening to adjourn and let the jury lie by all night if they
did not bring in their verdict quickly. When, at the end of a
half-hour, they returned, his fierce, impatient glance found them
"My lord," said Mr. Whistler, the foreman, "we have to beg of your
lordship some directions before we can bring our verdict. We have
some doubt upon us whether there be sufficient proof that she knew
Hicks to have been in the army."
Well might they doubt it, for there was no proof at all. Yet he
never hesitated to answer them.
"There is as full proof as proof can be. But you are judges of the
proof. For my part, I thought there was no difficulty in it."
"My lord," the foreman insisted, "we are in some doubt about it."
"I cannot help your doubts," he said irritably. "Was there not
proved a discourse of the battle and of the battle and of the army
"But, my lord, we are not satisfied that she had notice that Hicks
was in the army."
He glowered upon them in silence for a moment. They deserved to
be themselves indicted for their slowness to perceive where lay
their duty to their king.
"I cannot tell what would satisfy you," he said; and sneered. "Did
she not inquire of Dunne whether Hicks had been in the army? And
when he told her he did not know, she did not say she would refuse
if he had been, but ordered him to come by night, by which it is
evident she suspected it."
He ignored, you see, her own complete explanation of that
"And when Hicks and Nelthorp came, did she not discourse with them
about the battle and the army?" (As if that were not at the time
a common topic of discussion.) "Come, come, gentlemen," he said,
with amazing impudence, "it is plain proof."
But Mr. Whistler was not yet satisfied.
"We do not remember, my lord, that it was proved that she asked any
That put him in a passion.
"Sure," he bellowed, "you do not remember anything that has passed.
Did not Dunne tell you there was such a discourse, and she was by?
But if there were no such proof, the circumstances and management
of the thing are as full proof as can be. I wonder what it is you
Mrs. Lisle had risen. There was a faint flush of excitement on her
grey old face.
"My lord, I hope - " she began, in trembling tones, to get no further.
"You must not speak now!" thundered her terrible judge; and thus
struck her silent.
The brief resistance to his formidable will was soon at an end.
Within a quarter of an hour the jury announced their verdict. They
found her guilty.
"Gentlemen," said his lordship, "I did not think I should have
occasion to speak after your verdict, but, finding some hesitancy
and doubt among you, I cannot but say I wonder it should come about;
for I think, in my conscience, the evidence was as full and plain
as it could be, and if I had been among you, and she had been my
own mother, I should have found her guilty."
She was brought up for sentence on the morrow, together with several
others subsequently convicted. Amid fresh invectives against the
religion she practised, he condemned her to be burned alive - which
was the proper punishment for high treason - ordering the sheriff
to prepare for her execution that same afternoon.
"But look you, Mrs. Lisle," he added, "we that are the judges shall
stay in town an hour or two. You shall have pen, ink, and paper,
and if, in the mean time, you employ that pen, ink, and paper and
that hour or two well - you understand what I mean it may be that
you shall hear further from us in a deferring of this execution."
What was this meaning that he assumed she understood? Jeffreys had
knowledge of Kirke's profitable traffic in the West, and it is known
that he spared no means of acquiring an estate suitable to his rank
which he did not possess by way of patrimony. Thus cynically he
invited a bribe.
It is the only inference that explains the subsequent rancour he
displayed against her, aroused by her neglect to profit by his
suggestions. The intercession of the divines of Winchester
procured her a week's reprieve, and in that week her puissant
friends in London, headed by the Earl of Abergavenny, petitioned
the King on her behalf. Even Feversham, the victor of Sedgemoor,
begged her life of the King - bribed to it, as men say, by an offer
of a thousand pounds. But the King withheld his mercy upon the
plea that he had promised Lord Jeffreys he would not reprieve her,
and the utmost clemency influential petitions could wring from
James II was that she should be beheaded instead of burned.
She suffered in the market-place of Winchester on September 2d.
Christian charity was all her sin, and for this her head was
demanded in atonement. She yielded it with a gentle fortitude and
resolution. In lieu of speech, she left with the sheriff a pathetic
document wherein she protests her innocence of all offence against
the King, and forgives her enemies specifically - the judge, who
prejudiced her case, and forgot that "the Court should be counsel
for the prisoner," and Colonel Penruddock, "though he told me he
could have taken those men before they came to my house."
Between those lines you may read the true reason why the Lady Alice
Lisle died. She died to slake the cruelly vindictive thirst of
King James II on the one hand, and Colonel Penruddock on the other,
against her husband who had been dead for twenty years.
V. THE NIGHT OF MASSACRE
THE STORY OF THE SAINT BARTHOLOMEW
There are elements of mystery about the massacre of Saint Bartholomew
over which, presumably, historians will continue to dispute as long
as histories are written. Indeed, it is largely of their disputes
that the mystery is begotten. Broadly speaking, these historians
may be divided into two schools - Catholic and anti-Catholic. The
former have made it their business to show that the massacre was
purely a political affair, having no concern with religion; the
latter have been equally at pains to prove it purely an act of
religious persecution having no concern with politics. Those who
adopt the latter point of view insist that the affair was long
premeditated, that it had its source in something concerted some
seven years earlier between Catherine of Medicis and the sinister
Duke of Alva. And they would seem to suggest that Henry of Navarre,
the nominal head of the Protestant party, was brought to Paris to
wed Marguerite de Valois merely so that by this means the Protestant
nobles of the kingdom, coming to the capital for the wedding, should
be lured to their destruction.
It does not lie within the purview of the present narrative to enter
into a consideration of the arguments of the two schools, nor will
it be attempted.
But it may briefly be stated that the truth lies probably in a
middle course of reasoning - that the massacre was political in
conception and religious in execution; or, in other words, that
statecraft deliberately made use of fanaticism as of a tool; that
the massacre was brought about by a sudden determination begotten
of opportunity which is but another word for Chance.
Against the theory of premeditation the following cardinal facts
may be urged:
(a) The impossibility of guarding for seven years a secret that
several must have shared;
(b) The fact that neither Charles IX nor his mother Catherine were
in any sense bigoted Catholics, or even of a normal religious
(c) The lack of concerted action - so far as the kingdom generally
was concerned - in the execution of the massacre.
A subsidiary disproof lies in the attempted assassination of Coligny
two days before the massacre, an act which might, by putting the
Huguenots on their guard, have caused the miscarriage of the entire
plan - had it existed.
It must be borne in mind that for years France had been divided by
religious differences into two camps, and that civil war between
Catholic and Huguenot had ravaged and distracted the country. At
the head of the Protestant party stood that fine soldier Gaspard
de Chatillon, Admiral de Coligny, virtually the Protestant King of
France, a man who raised armies, maintaining them by taxes levied
upon Protestant subjects, and treated with Charles IX as prince
with prince. At the head of the Catholic party - the other
imperium in imperio - stood the Duke of Guise. The third and
weakest party in the State, serving, as it seemed, little purpose
beyond that of holding the scales between the other turbulent two,
was the party of the King.
The motives and events that precipitated the massacre are set forth
in the narration of the King's brother, the Duke of Anjou
(afterwards Henri III). It was made by him to Miron, his physician
and confidential servant in Cracow, when he ruled there later as
King of Poland, under circumstances which place it beyond suspicion
of being intended to serve ulterior aims. For partial corroboration,
and for other details of the massacre itself, we have the narratives,
among others, of Sully, who was then a young man in the train of the
King of Navarre, and of Lusignan, a gentleman of the Admiral's
household. We shall closely follow these in our reconstruction of
the event and its immediate causes.
The gay chatter of the gallants and ladies thronging the long
gallery of the Louvre sank and murmured into silence, and a movement
was made to yield a free passage to the King, who had suddenly made
his appearance leaning affectionately upon the shoulder of the
Admiral de Coligny.
The Duke of Anjou, a slender, graceful young man in a
gold-embroidered suit of violet, forgot the interest he was taking
in his beautiful hands to bend lower over the handsome Madame de
Nemours what time the unfriendly eyes of both were turned upon the
The King and the great Huguenot leader came slowly down the gallery,
an oddly contrasting pair. Coligny would have been the taller by
a half-head but for his stoop, yet in spite of it there was energy
and military vigour in his carriage, just as there was a severe
dignity amounting to haughtiness in his scarred and wrinkled
countenance. A bullet that had pierced his cheek and broken three
of his teeth at the battle of Moncontour had left a livid scar that
lost itself in his long white beard. His forehead was high and
bald, and his eyes were of a steely keenness under their tufted
brows. He was dressed with Calvinistic simplicity entirely in
black, and just as this contrasted with the King's suit of
sulphur-coloured satin, so did the gravity of his countenance
contrast with the stupidity of his sovereign's.
Charles IX, a slimly built young man in his twenty-fourth year, was
of a pallid, muddy complexion, with great, shifty, greenish eyes,
and a thick, pendulous nose. The protruding upper lip of his long,
thin mouth gave him an oafish expression, which was increased by
his habit of carrying his head craned forward.
His nature was precisely what you would have expected from his
appearance - dull and gross. He was chiefly distinguished among
men of birth for general obscenity of speech and morphological
inventiveness in blasphemy.
At the end of the gallery Coligny stooped to kiss the royal hand in
leave-taking. With his other hand Charles patted the Admiral's
"Count me your friend," he said, "body and soul, heart and bowels,
even as I count you mine. Fare you well, my father."
Coligny departed, and the King retraced his steps, walking quickly,
his head hunched between his shoulders, his baleful eyes looking
neither to left nor right. As he passed out, the Duke of Anjou
quitted the side of Madame de Nemours, and went after him. Then
at last the suspended chatter of the courtiers broke loose again.
The King was pacing his cabinet - a simple room furnished with a
medley of objects appertaining to study, to devotion, and to hunting.
A large picture of the Virgin hung from a wall flanked on either
side by an arquebus, and carrying a hunting-horn on one of its upper
corners. A little alabaster holy-water font near the door, crowned
by a sprig of palm, seemed to serve as a receptacle for hawk-bells
and straps. There was a writing-table of beautifully carved walnut
near the leaded window, littered with books and papers - a treatise
on hunting lay cheek by jowl with a Book of Hours; a string of
rosary beads and a dog-whip lay across an open copy of Ronsard's
verses. The King was quite the vilest poetaster of his day.
Charles looked over his shoulder as his brother entered. The scowl
on his face deepened when he saw who came, and with a grunt he
viciously kicked the liver-coloured hound that lay stretched at
his feet. The hound fled yelping to a corner, the Duke checked,
startled, in his advance.
"Well?" growled the King. "Well? Am I never to have peace? Am I
never to be alone? What now? Bowels of God! What do you want?"
His green eyes smouldered, his right hand opened and closed on the
gold hilt of the dagger at his girdle:
Scared by the maniac ferocity of this reception, the young Duke
"It is nothing. Another time, since I disturb you now." He bowed
and vanished, followed by an evil, cackling laugh.
Anjou knew how little his brother loved him, and he confesses how
much he feared him in that moment. But under his fear it is obvious
that there was lively resentment. He went straight in quest of his
mother, whose darling he was, to bear her the tale of the King's
mood, and what he accounted, no doubt rightly, the cause of it.
"It is the work of that pestilential Huguenot admiral," he
announced, at the end of a long tirade, "It is always thus with him
after he has seen Coligny."
Catherine of Medicis considered. She was a fat, comfortable woman,
with a thick nose, pinched lips, and sleepy eyes.
"Charles," she said at length, in her monotonous, emotionless voice,
"is a weathercock that turns with every wind that blows upon him.
You should know him by now." And she yawned, so that one who did
not know her and her habit of perpetually yawning might have
supposed that she was but indifferently interested.
They were alone together in the intimate little tapestried room she
called her oratory. She half sat, half reclined upon a couch of
rose brocade. Anjou stood over by the window, his back to it, so
that his pale face was in shadow. He considered his beautiful hands,
which he was reluctant to lower, lest the blood should flow into
them and mar their white perfection.
"The Admiral's influence over him is increasing," he complained,
"and he uses it to lessen our own."
"Do I not know it?" came her dull voice.
"It is time to end it," said Anjou passionately, "before he ends us.
Your influence grows weaker every day and the Admiral's stronger.
Charles begins to take sides with him against us. We shall have
him a tool of the Huguenot party before all is done. Ah, mon Dieu!
You should have seen him leaning upon the shoulder of that old
parpaillot, calling him 'my father,' and protesting himself his
devoted friend 'body and soul, heart and bowels,' in his own words.
And when I seek him afterwards, he scowls and snarls at me, and
fingers his dagger as if he would have it in my throat. It is
plain to see upon what subject the old scoundrel entertained him."
And again he repeated, more fiercely than before: "It is time to
"I know," she said, ever emotionless before so much emotion. "And
it shall be ended. The old assassin should have been hanged years
ago for guiding the hand that shot Francois de Guise. Daily he
becomes a greater danger, to Charles, to ourselves, and to France.
He is embroiling us with Spain through this Huguenot army he is
raising to go and fight the battles of Calvinism in Flanders. A
fine thing that. Ah, per Dio!" For a moment her voice was a
little warmed and quickened. "Catholic France at war with Catholic
Spain for the sake of Huguenot Flanders!" She laughed shortly.
Then her voice reverted to its habitual sleepy level. "You are
right. It is time to end it. Coligny is the head of this
rebellious beast. If we cut off the head, perhaps the beast will
perish. We will consult the Duke of Guise." She yawned again.
"Yes, the Duke of Guise will be ready to lend us his counsel and
his aid. Decidedly we must get rid of the Admiral."
That was on Monday, August 18th of that year 1572, and such was the
firm purpose and energy of that fat and seemingly sluggish woman,
that within two days all necessary measures were taken, and
Maurevert, the assassin, was at his post in the house of Vilaine,
in the Cloisters of Saint-Germain l'Auxerrois, procured for the
purpose by Madame de Nemours, who bore the Admiral a mortal hatred.
It was not, however, until the following Friday that Maurevert was
given the opportunity of carrying out the task to which he had been
hired. On that morning, as the Admiral was passing, accompanied
by a few gentlemen of his household, returning from the Louvre to
his house in the Rue Betisy, the assassin did his work. There was
a sudden arquebusade from a first-floor window, and a bullet smashed
two fingers of the Admiral's right hand, and lodged itself in the
muscles of his left arm.
With his maimed and bleeding hand he pointed to the window whence
the shot had been fired, bidding his gentlemen to force a way into
the house and take the assassin. But whilst they were breaking in
at the front, Maurevert was making his escape by the back, where a
horse waited for him, and, though pursued, he was never overtaken.
News of the event was instantly borne to the King. It found him at
tennis with the Duke of Guise and the Admiral's son-in-law, Teligny.
"In this assassin's work, Sire," said the blunt gentleman whom
Coligny had sent, "the Admiral desires you to see the proof of the
worth of the agreement between himself and Monsieur de Guise that
followed upon the treaty of peace of Saint-Germain."
The Duke of Guise drew himself stiffly up, but said no word. The
King, livid with rage, looked at him balefully a moment, then to
vent some of his fury he smashed his racket against the wall.
"God's Blood!" he cried, mouthing horribly. "Am I then never to
have rest?" He flung away the broken remnants of his racket, and
went out cursing. Questioning the messenger further, he learnt
that the shot had been fired from the house of Vilaine, a sometime
tutor to the Duke of Guise, and that the horse upon which the
assassin had fled had been held for him by a groom in the Guise
Meanwhile the Duke and Monsieur de Teligny had gone their ways with
no word spoken between them - Guise to shut himself up in his hotel
and assemble his friends, Teligny to repair at once to his
At two o'clock in the afternoon, in response to an urgent request
from the Admiral, the King went to visit him, accompanied by the
Queen-Mother, by his brothers Anjou and Alencon, and a number of
officers and courtiers. The royal party saw nothing of the
excitement which had been prevailing in the city ever since the
morning's event, an excitement which subsided at their approach.
The King was gloomy, resentful, and silent, having so far refused
to discuss the matter with any one, denying audience even to his
mother. Catherine and Anjou were vexed by the miscarriage of the
affair, anxious and no less silent than the King.
They found the Admiral awaiting them, calm and composed. The
famous Ambroise Pare had amputated the two broken fingers, and had
dealt with the wound in the arm. But although Coligny might be
considered to have escaped lightly, and not to be in any danger, a
rumour was abroad that the bullet was poisoned; and neither the
Admiral nor his people seem to have rejected the possibility. One
suspects, indeed, that capital was made out of it. It was felt,
perhaps, that thus should the Admiral maintain a greater influence
with the King. For in any uncertainty as to whether Coligny would
live or die, the King's feelings must be more deeply stirred than
if he knew that the wound carried no peril to life.
Followed closely by his mother and his brothers, Charles swept
through the spacious ante-chamber, thronged now with grim-faced,
resentful Huguenot gentlemen, and so entered the room where Coligny
reclined upon a day bed near the window. The Admiral made shift
to rise, but this the King hurried forward to prevent.
"Rest yourself, my dear father!" he cried, in accents of deep
concern. "Heart of God! What is this they have done to you?
Assure me, at least, that your life is safe, or, by the Mass, I'll - "
"I hold my life from God," the Admiral replied gravely, "and when He
requires it of me I will yield it up. That is nothing."
"Nothing? God's Blood! Nothing? The hurt is yours, my father, but
the outrage mine; and I swear to you, by the Blood and the Death,
that I will take such a vengeance as shall never be forgotten!"
Thereupon he fell into such a storm of imprecation and blasphemy
that the Admiral, a sincerely devout, God-fearing heretic, shuddered
to hear him.
"Calm, Sire!" he begged at last, laying his sound hand upon the
King's velvet sleeve. " Be calm and listen, for it is not to speak
of myself, of these wounds, or of the wrong done me, that I have
presumed to beg you to visit me. This attempt to murder me is but
a sign of the evil that is stirring in France to sap your authority
and power. But - " He checked and looked at the three who stood
immediately behind the King. "What I have to say is, if you will
deign to listen, for your private ear."
The King jerked round in a fashion peculiar to him; his every action
was abrupt and spasmodic. He eyed his mother and brothers shiftily.
It was beyond his power to look any one directly in the face.
"Outside!" he commanded, waving an impatient hand almost in their
faces. "Do you hear? Leave me to talk with my father the Admiral."
The young dukes fell back at once, ever in dread of provoking the
horrible displays of passion that invariably followed upon any
resistance of his feeble will. But the sluggish Catherine was not
so easily moved.
"Is Monsieur de Coligny strong enough, do you think, to treat of
affairs at present? Consider his condition, I beg," she enjoined
in her level voice.
"I thank you for your consideration, madame," said the Admiral, the
ghost of an ironic smile about his lips. "But I am strong enough,
thank God! And even though my strength were less than it is, it
would be more heavily taxed by the thought that I had neglected my
duty to His Majesty than it ever could be by the performance of that
"Ha! You hear?" snapped the King. "Go, then; go!"
They went, returning to the ante-chamber to wait until the audience
should conclude. The three stood there in the embrasure of a window
that looked out upon the hot, sunlit courtyard. There, as Anjou
himself tells us, they found themselves hemmed about by some two
hundred sullen, grim-faced gentlemen and officers of the Admiral's
party, who eyed them without dissembling their hostility, who
preserved a silence that was disturbed only by the murmurs of their
constant whisperings, and who moved to and fro before the royal
group utterly careless of the proper degree of deference and respect.
Isolated thus in that hostile throng, Catherine and her sons became
more and more uneasy, so that, as the Queen-Mother afterwards
confessed, she was never in any place where her tarrying was attended
by so much fear, or her departure thence by so much pleasure.
It was this fear that spurred her at last to put an end to that
secret conference in the room beyond. She did it in characteristic
manner. In the most complete outward composure, stifling a yawn as
she went, she moved deliberately across to the door, her sons
following, rapped shortly on the panel, and entered without waiting
to be bidden.
The King, who was standing by the Admiral's side, wheeled sharply
at the sound of the opening door. His eyes blazed with sudden anger
when he beheld his mother, but she was the first to speak.
"My son," she said, "I am concerned for the poor Admiral. He will
have the fever if you continue to permit him to weary himself with
affairs at present. It is not to treat him as a friend to prolong
this interview. Let business wait until he is recovered, which
will be the sooner if he is given rest at present."
Coligny stroked his white beard in silence, while the King flared
out, striding towards her:
"Par la Mort Dieu! What is this sudden concern for the Admiral?"
"Not sudden, my son," she answered in her dull voice, her eyes
intent upon him, with something magnetic in their sleepy glance that
seemed to rob him of half his will. "None knows more accurately
than I the Admiral's precise, value to France."
Anjou behind her may have smiled at that equivocal phrase.
"God's Bowels! Am I King, or what am I?"
"It ill becomes a king to abuse the strength of a poor wounded
subject," she returned, her eyes ever regarding him steadily.
"Come, Charles. Another day, when the Admiral shall have recovered
more fully, you may continue this discourse. Come now."
His anger was subdued to mere sullenness, almost infantile in its
outward petulant expression. He attempted to meet her glance, and
he was completely lost.
"Perhaps . . . Ah, Ventre Dieu, my mother is right! Let the matter
rest, then, my father. We will talk of it again as soon as you are
He stepped up to the couch, and held out his hand.
Coligny took it, and his eyes looked up wistfully into the weak
young face of his King.
"I thank you, Sire, for coming and for hearing me. Another day, if
I am spared, I may tell you more. Meanwhile, bear well in mind what
I have said already. I have no interests in this world but your
own, Sire." And he kissed the royal hand in farewell.
Not until they were back in the Louvre did the Queen attempt to
break upon the King's gloomy abstraction, to learn - as learn she
must - the subject of the Admiral's confidential communication.
Accompanied by Anjou, she sought him in his cabinet, nor would she
be denied. He sat at his writing-table, his head sunken between
his shoulders, his receding chin in his cupped palms. He glared at
the pair as they entered, swore savagely, and demanded their
business with him.
Catherine sat down with massive calm. Anjou remained standing
beside and slightly behind her, leaning upon the back of her tall
"My son," she said bluntly, "I have come to learn what passed
between you and Coligny."
"What passed? What concern is that of yours?"
"All your concerns are mine," she answered tranquilly. "I am your
"And I am your king!" he answered, banging the table. "And I mean
to be king!"
"By the grace of God and the favour of Monsieur de Coligny," she
sneered, with unruffled calm.
"What's that?" His mouth fell open, and his eyes stared. A crimson
flush overspread his muddy complexion. "What's that?"
Her dull glance met and held his own whilst calmly she repeated her
"And that is why I have come to you," she added. "If you are unable
to rule without guidance, I must at least do what I can so that the
guidance shall not be that of a rebel, of one who guides you to the
end that he may master you."
"Master me!" he screamed. He rose in his indignation and faced her.
But his glance, unable to support her steady eyes, faltered and fell
away. Foul oaths poured from his royal lips. "Master me!" he
"Aye - master you," she answered him. "Master you until the little
remnant of your authority shall have been sapped; until you are no
more than a puppet in the hands of the Huguenot party, a roi
faineant, a king of straw."
"By God, madame, were you not my mother - "
"It is because I am your mother that I seek to save you."
He looked at her again, but again his glance faltered. He paced the
length of the room and back, mouthing and muttering. Then he came
to stand, leaning on the prie-dieu, facing her.
"By God's Death, madame, since you demand to know what the Admiral
said, you shall. You prove to me that what he told me was no more
than true. He told me that a king is only recognized in France as
long as he is a power for good or ill over his subjects; that this
power, together with the management of all State affairs, is
slipping, by the crafty contrivances of yourself and Anjou there,
out of my hands into your own; that this power and authority which
you are both stealing from me may one day be used against me and my
kingdom. And he bade me be on my guard against you both and take
my measures. He gave me this counsel, madame, because he deemed it
his duty as one of my most loyal and faithful servants at the point
of death, and - "
"The shameless hypocrite!" her dull, contemptuous voice interrupted
him. "At the point of death! Two broken fingers and a flesh-wound
in the arm and he represents himself as in articulo mortis that he
may play upon you, and make you believe his lies."
Her stolidity of manner and her logic, ponderous and irresistible,
had their effect. His big, green eyes seemed to dilate, his mouth
"If - " he began, and checked, rapped out an oath, and checked again.
"Are they lies, madame?" he asked slowly.
She caught the straining note of hope in that question of his - a
hope founded upon vanity, the vanity to be king in fact, as well
as king in name. She rose.
"To ask me that - me, your mother - is to insult me. Come, Anjou."
And on that she departed, craftily, leaving her suggestion to prey
upon his mind.
But once alone in her oratory with Anjou, her habitual torpor was
sloughed away. For once she quivered and crimsoned and raised her
voice, whilst for once her sleepy eyes kindled and flashed as she
inveighed against Coligny and the Huguenots.
For the moment, however, there was no more to be done. The stroke
had failed; Coligny had survived the attempt upon his life, and
there was danger that on the recoil the blow might smite those who
had launched it. But on the morrow, which was Saturday, things
suddenly assumed a very different complexion.
That great Catholic leader, the powerful, handsome Duke of Guise,
who, more than suspected of having inspired the attempted
assassination, had kept his hotel since yesterday, now sought the
Queen-Mother with news of what was happening in the city. Armed
bands of Huguenot nobles were riding through the streets, clamouring:
"Death to the assassins of the Admiral! Down with the Guisards!"
And, although a regiment of Gardes Francaises had been hastily
brought to Paris to keep order, the Duke feared grave trouble in
a city which the royal wedding had filled with Huguenot gentlemen
and their following. Then, too, there were rumours that the
Huguenots were arming everywhere - rumours which, whether true or
not, were, under the circumstances, sufficiently natural and
probable to be taken seriously.
Leaving Guise in her oratory, and summoning her darling Anjou,
Catherine at once sought the King. She may have believed the
rumours, and she may even have stated them as facts beyond dispute
so as to strengthen and establish her case against Gaspard de
"King Gaspard I," she told him, "is already taking his measures.
The Huguenots are arming; officers have been dispatched into the
provinces to levy troops. The Admiral has ordered the raising of
ten thousand horse in Germany, and another ten thousand Swiss
mercenaries in the Cantons."
He stared at her vacuously. Some such rumour had already reached
him, and he conceived that here was definite confirmation of it.
"You may determine now who are your friends, who your loyal servants,"
she told him. "How is so much force to be resisted in the state in
which you find yourself? The Catholics exhausted, and weary as they
are by a civil war in which their king was of little account to them,
are going to arm so as to offer what resistance they can without
depending upon you. Thus, within your State you will have two great
parties under arms, neither of which can be called your own. Unless
you stir yourself, and quickly, unless you choose now between friends
and foes, you will find yourself alone, isolated, in grave peril,
without authority or power."
He sank overwhelmed to a chair, and took his head in his hands,
cogitating. When next he looked at her there was positive fear in
his great eyes, a fear evoked by contemplation of the picture which
her words had painted for him.
He looked from her to Anjou.
"What then?" he asked. "What then? How is the danger to be averted?"
"By a simple stroke of the sword," she answered calmly. "Slice off
at a blow the head of this beast of rebellion, this hydra of heresy."
He huddled back, horror in his eyes. His hands slid slowly along
the carved arms of his chair, and clenched the ends so tightly that
his knuckles looked like knobs of marble.
"Kill the Admiral?" he said slowly.
"The Admiral and the chief Huguenot leaders," she said, much in the
tone she might have used, were it a matter of wringing the necks of
a dozen capons.
"Ah, ca! Par la Mort Dieu!" He heaved himself up, raging. "Thus
would your hatred of him be served. Thus would you - "
Coolly she sliced into his foaming speech.
"Not I - not I!" she said. "Do nothing upon my advice. Summon your
Council. Send for Tavannes, Biragues, Retz, and the others. Consult
with them. They are your friends; you trust and believe in them.
When they know the facts, see if their counsel will differ from your
mother's. Send for them; they are in the Louvre now."
He looked at her a moment.
"Very well," he said; and reeled to the door, bawling hoarsely his
They came, one by one - the Marshal de Tavannes, the Duke of Retz,
the Duke of Nevers, the Chancellor de Biragues, and lastly the Duke
of Guise, upon whom the King scowled a jealous hatred that was now
The window, which overlooked the quay and the river, stood open to
admit what air might be stirring on that hot day of August.
Charles sat at his writing-table, sullen and moody, twining a string
of beads about his fingers. Catherine occupied the chair over
beyond the table, Anjou sitting near her on a stool. The others
stood respectfully awaiting that the King should make known his
wishes. The shifty royal glance swept over them from under lowering
brows; then it rested almost in challenge upon his mother.
"Tell them," he bade her curtly.
She told them what already she had told her son, relating all now
with greater detail and circumstance. For some moments nothing was
heard in that room but the steady drone of her unemotional voice.
When she had finished, she yawned and settled herself to hear what
might be answered.
"Well," snapped the King, "you have heard. What do you advise?
Nevers was the first to answer.
"There is no other way," he said stiffly, "but that which Her Majesty
advises. The danger is grave. If it is to be averted, action must
be prompt and effective."
Tavannes clasped his hands behind him and said much the same, as
did presently the Chancellor.
Twisting and untwisting his chaplet of beads about his long fingers,
his eyes averted, the King heard each in turn. Then he looked up.
His glance, deliberately ignoring Guise, settled upon the Duke of
Retz, who held aloof.
"And you, Monsieur le Marechal, what is your counsel?"
Retz drew himself up, as if bracing himself to meet opposing forces.
He was a little pale, but quite composed.
"If there is a man whom I should hate," he said, "it is this Gaspard
de Coligny, who has defamed me and all my family by the foul
accusations he has put abroad. But I will not," he added firmly,
"take vengeance upon my enemies at the expense of my king and master.
I cannot counsel a course so disastrous to Your Majesty and the
whole kingdom. Did we act as we have been advised, Sire, can you
doubt that we should be taxed - and rightly taxed in view of the
treaty that has been signed - with perfidy and disloyalty?"
Dead silence followed that bombshell of opposition, coming from a
quarter whence it was least expected. For Catherine and Anjou had
confidently counted upon the Duke's hatred of Coligny to ensure his
support of their designs.
A little colour crept into the pale cheeks of the King. His glance
kindled out of its sullenness. He was as one who sees sudden hope
"That is the truth," he said. "Messieurs, and you, madame my mother,
you have heard the truth. How do you like it?"
"Monsieur de Retz is deceived by an excess of loyalty," said Anjou
quickly. "Because he bears a personal enmity to the Admiral, he
conceives that it would hurt his honour to speak otherwise. It must
savour to him, as he has said, of using his king and master to avenge
his own personal wrongs. We can respect Monsieur de Retz's view,
although we hold it mistaken."
"Will Monsieur de Retz tell us what other course lies open?" quoth
the bluff Tavannes.
"Some other course must be found," cried the King, rousing himself.
"It must be found, do you hear? I will not have you touch the life
of my friend the Admiral. I will not have it - by the Blood!"
A hubbub followed, all speaking at once, until the King banged the
table, and reminded them that his cabinet was not a fish-market.
"I say that there is no other way," Catherine insisted. "There
cannot be two kings in France, nor can there be two parties. For
your own safety's sake, and for the safety of your kingdom, I
beseech you so to contrive that in France there be but one party
with one head - yourself."
"Two kings in France?" he said. "What two kings?"
"Yourself and Gaspard I - King Coligny, the King of the Huguenots."
"He is my subject - my faithful, loyal subject," the King protested,
but with less assurance.
"A subject who raises forces of his own, levies taxes of his own,
garrisons Huguenot cities," said Biragues. "That is a very
dangerous type of subject, Sire."
"A subject who forces you into war with Protestant Flanders against
Catholic Spain," added the blunt Tavannes.
"Forces me?" roared the King, half rising, his eyes aflash. "That
is a very daring word."
"It would be if the proof were absent. Remember, Sire, his very
speech to you before you permitted him to embark upon preparations
for this war. 'Give us leave,' he said, 'to make war in Flanders,
or we shall be compelled to make war upon yourself.'"
The King winced and turned livid. Sweat stood in beads upon his
brow. He was touched in his most sensitive spot. That speech of
Coligny's was of all things the one he most desired to forget. He
twisted the chaplet so that the beads bit deeply into his fingers.
"Sire," Tavannes continued, "were I a king, and did a subject so
address me, I should have his head within the hour. Yet worse has
happened since, worse is happening now. The Huguenots are arming.
They ride arrogantly through the streets of your capital, stirring
up rebellion. They are here in force, and the danger grows acute
Charles writhed before them. He mopped his brow with a shaking
"The danger - yes. I see that. I admit the danger. But Coligny - "
"Is it to be King Gaspard or King Charles?" rasped the voice of
The chaplet snapped suddenly in the King's fingers. He sprang to
his feet, deathly pale.
"So be it!" he cried. "Since it is necessary to kill the Admiral,
kill him, then. Kill him!" he screamed, in a fury that seemed
aimed at those who forced this course upon him. "Kill him - but
see to it also that at the same time you kill every Huguenot in
France, so that not one shall be left to reproach me. Not one, do
you hear? Take your measures and let the thing be done at once."
And on that, his face livid and twitching, his limbs shaking, he
flung out of the room and left them.
It was all the warrant they required, and they set to work at once
there in the King's own cabinet, where he had left them. Guise,
who had hitherto been no more than a silent spectator, assumed now
the most active part. Upon his own shoulders he took the charge
of seeing the Admiral done to death.
The remainder of the day and a portion of the evening were spent in
concerting ways and means. They assured themselves of the Provost
of the merchants of Paris, of the officers of the Gardes Francaises
and the three thousand Swiss, of the Captains of the quarters
and other notoriously factious persons who could be trusted as
leaders. By ten o'clock at night all preparations were made and it
was agreed that the ringing of the bell of Saint-Germain l'Auxerrois
for matins was to be the signal for the massacre.
A gentleman of the Admiral's household taking his way homeward that
night passed several men bearing sheaves of pikes upon their
shoulders, and never suspected whom these weapons were to arm. He
met several small companies of soldiers marching quietly, their
weapons shouldered, their matches glowing, and still he suspected
nothing, whilst in one quarter he stopped to watch a man whose
behaviour seemed curious, and discovered that he was chalking a
white cross upon the doors of certain houses.
Meeting soon afterwards another man with a bundle of weapons on his
shoulder, the intrigued Huguenot gentleman asked him bluntly what
he carried and whither he went.
"It is for the divertissement at the Louvre tonight," he was answered.
But in the Louvre the Queen-Mother and the Catholic leaders, the
labours of preparation ended, were snatching a brief rest. Between
two and three o'clock in the morning Catherine and Anjou repaired
again to the King's cabinet. They found him waiting there, his face
haggard and his eyes fevered.
He had spent a part of the evening at billiards, and among the
players had been La Rochefoucauld, of whom he was fond, and who had
left him with a jest at eleven o'clock, little dreaming that it was
for the last time.
The three of them crossed to the window overlooking the river. They
opened it, and peered out fearfully. Even Catherine trembled now
that the hour approached. The air was fresh and cool, swept clean
by the stirring breeze of the dawn, whose first ghostly gleams were
already in the sky. Suddenly, somewhere near at hand, a pistol
cracked. The noise affected them oddly. The King fell into an ague
and his teeth chattered audibly. Panic seized him.
"By the Blood, it shall not be! It shall not be!" he cried suddenly.
He looked at his mother and his brother and they looked at him;
ghastly were the faces of all three, their eyes wide and staring
Charles swore in his terror that he would cancel all commands. And
since Catherine and Anjou made no attempt to hinder him, he
summoned an officer and bade him seek out the Duke of Guise at once
and command him to stay his hand.
The messenger eventually found the Duke in the courtyard of the
Admiral's house, standing over the Admiral's dead body, which his
assassins had flung down from the bedroom window. Guise laughed,
and stirred the head of the corpse with his foot, answering that
the message came too late. Even as he spoke the great bell of
Saint-Germain l'Auxerrois began to ring for matins.
The royal party huddled at that window of the Louvre heard it at
the same moment, and heard, as if in immediate answer, shots of
arquebus and pistol, cries and screams near at hand, and then,
gradually swelling from a murmur, the baying of the fierce multitude.
Other bells gave tongue, until from every steeple in Paris the alarm
rang out. The red glow from thousands of torches flushed the heavens
with a rosy tint as of dawn, the air grew heavy with the smell of
pitch and resin.
The King, clutching the sill of the window, poured out a stream of
blasphemy from between his chattering teeth. Then the hubbub rose
suddenly near at hand. The neighbourhood of the Louvre was
populous with Huguenots, and into it now poured the excited Catholic
citizens and soldiers. Soon the quay beneath the palace windows
presented the fiercest spectacle of any quarter, of Paris.
Half-clad men, women, and children fled screaming before the
assassins, until they were checked by the chains that everywhere
had been placed across the streets. Some sought the river, hoping
to find a way of escape. But with Satanic foresight, the boats
usually moored there had been conveyed to the other side. Thus
some hundreds of Huguenots were brought to bay, and done to death