Part 3 out of 4
"They are too strongly barred. We could not break out in the
time," he explained, with a groan.
I paused at that, crestfallen. But danger quickened my wits. In
a moment I had another plan, not so hopeful and more dangerous,
yet worth trying I thought, I told him of it, and he agreed to
it. As he nodded assent we emerged into a street, and I saw--for
the grey light of morning was beginning to penetrate between the
houses--that we were only a few yards from the gateway, and the
small door by which I had seen my brothers enter. Were they
still in the house? Were they safe? I had been away an hour at
Anxious as I was about them, I looked round me very keenly as we
flitted across the road, and knocked gently at the door. I
thought it so likely that we should be fallen upon here, that I
stood on my guard while we waited. But we were not molested.
The street, being at some distance from the centre of the
commotion, was still and empty, with no signs of life apparent
except the rows of heads poked through the windows--all
possessing eyes which watched us heedfully and in perfect
silence. Yes, the street was quite empty: except, ah! except,
for that lurking figure, which, even as I espied it, shot round a
distant angle of the wall, and was lost to sight.
"There!" I cried, reckless now who might hear me, "knock! knock
louder! never mind the noise. The alarm is given. A score of
people are watching us, and yonder spy has gone off to summon his
The truth was my anger was rising. I could bear no longer the
silent regards of all those eyes at the windows. I writhed under
them--cruel, pitiless eyes they were. I read in them a morbid
curiosity, a patient anticipation that drove me wild. Those men
and women gazing on us so stonily knew my companion's rank and
faith. They had watched him riding in and out daily, one of the
sights of their street, gay and gallant; and now with the same
eyes they were watching greedily for the butchers to come. The
very children took a fresh interest in him, as one doomed and
dying; and waited panting for the show to begin. So I read them.
"Knock!" I repeated angrily, losing all patience. Had I been
foolish in bringing him back to this part of the town where every
soul knew him? "Knock; we must get in, whether or no. They
cannot all have left the house!"
I kicked the door desperately, and my relief was great when it
opened. A servant with a pale face stood before me, his knees
visibly shaking. And behind him was Croisette.
I think we fell straightway into one another's arms.
"And Marie," I cried, "Marie?"
"Marie is within, and madame," he answered joyfully; "we are
together again and nothing matters, But oh, Anne, where have you
been? And what is the matter? Is it a great fire? Or is the
king dead? Or what is it?"
I told him. I hastily poured out some of the things which had
happened to me, and some which I feared were in store for others.
Naturally he was surprised and shocked by the latter, though his
fears had already been aroused. But his joy and relief, when he
heard the mystery of Louis de Pavannes' marriage explained, were
so great that they swallowed up all other feelings. He could not
say enough about it. He pictured Louis again and again as Kit's
lover, as our old friend, our companion; as true, staunch, brave
without fear, without reproach: and it was long before his eyes
ceased to sparkle, his tongue to run merrily, the colour to
mantle in his cheeks--long that is as time is counted by minutes.
But presently the remembrance of Louis' danger and our own
position returned more vividly. Our plan for rescuing him had
"No! no!" cried Croisette, stoutly. He would not hear of it.
He would not have it at any price. "No, we will not give up
hope! We will go shoulder to shoulder and find him. Louis is as
brave as a lion and as quick as a weasel. We will find him in
time yet. We will go when--I mean as soon as--"
He faltered, and paused. His sudden silence as he looked round
the empty forecourt in which we stood was eloquent. The cold
light, faint and uncertain yet, was stealing into the court,
disclosing a row of stables on either side, and a tiny porter's
hutch by the gates, and fronting us a noble house of four storys,
tall, grey, grim-looking.
I assented; gloomily however. "Yes," I said, "we will go when--"
And I too stopped. The same thought was in my mind. How could
we leave these people? How could we leave madame in her danger
and distress? How could we return her kindness by desertion? We
could not. No, not for Kit's sake. Because after all Louis, our
Louis, was a man, and must take his chance. He must take his
chance. But I groaned.
So that was settled. I had already explained our plan to
Croisette: and now as we waited he began to tell me a story, a
long, confused story about Madame d'O. I thought he was talking
for the sake of talking--to keep up our spirits--and I did not
attend much to him; so that he had not reached the gist of it, or
at least I had not grasped it, when a noise without stayed his
tongue. It was the tramp of footsteps, apparently of a large
party in the street. It forced him to break off, and promptly
drove us all to our posts.
But before we separated a slight figure, hardly noticeable in
that dim, uncertain light, passed me quickly, laying for an
instant a soft hand in mine as I stood waiting by the gates. I
have said I scarcely saw the figure, though I did see the kind
timid eyes, and the pale cheeks under the hood; but I bent over
the hand and kissed it, and felt, truth to tell, no more regret
nor doubt where our duty lay. But stood, waiting patiently.
THE HEAD OF ERASMUS.
Waiting, and waiting alone! The gates were almost down now. The
gang of ruffians without, reinforced each moment by volunteers
eager for plunder, rained blows unceasingly on hinge and socket;
and still hotter and faster through a dozen rifts in the timbers
came the fire of their threats and curses. Many grew tired, but
others replaced them. Tools broke, but they brought more and
worked with savage energy. They had shown at first a measure of
prudence; looking to be fired on, and to be resisted by men,
surprised, indeed, but desperate; and the bolder of them only had
advanced. But now they pressed round unchecked, meeting no
resistance. They would scarcely stand back to let the sledges
have swing; but hallooed and ran in on the creaking beams and
beat them with their fists, whenever the gates swayed under a
One stout iron bar still held its place. And this I watched as
if fascinated. I was alone in the empty courtyard, standing a
little aside, sheltered by one of the stone pillars from which
the gates hung. Behind me the door of the house stood ajar.
Candles, which the daylight rendered garish, still burned in the
rooms on the first floor, of which the tall narrow windows were
open. On the wide stone sill of one of these stood Croisette, a
boyish figure, looking silently down at me, his hand on the
latticed shutter. He looked pale, and I nodded and smiled at
him. I felt rather anger than fear myself; remembering, as the
fiendish cries half-deafened me, old tales of the Jacquerie and
its doings, and how we had trodden it out.
Suddenly the din and tumult flashed to a louder note; as when
hounds on the scent give tongue at sight. I turned quickly from
the house, recalled to a sense of the position and peril. The
iron bar was yielding to the pressure. Slowly the left wing of
the gate was sinking inwards. Through the widening chasm I
caught a glimpse of wild, grimy faces and bloodshot eyes, and
heard above the noise a sharp cry from Croisette--a cry of
terror. Then I turned and ran, with a defiant gesture and an
answering yell, right across the forecourt and up the steps to
I ran the faster for the sharp report of a pistol behind me, and
the whirr of a ball past my ear. But I was not scared by it:
and as my feet alighted with a bound on the topmost step, I
glanced back. The dogs were halfway across the court. I made a
bungling attempt to shut and lock the great door--failed in this;
and heard behind me a roar of coarse triumph. I waited for no
more. I darted up the oak staircase four steps at a time, and
rushed into the great drawing-room on my left, banging the door
The once splendid room was in a state of strange disorder. Some
of the rich tapestry had been hastily torn down. One window was
closed and shuttered; no doubt Croisette had done it. The other
two were open--as if there had not been time to close them--and
the cold light which they admitted contrasted in ghastly fashion
with the yellow rays of candles still burning in the sconces.
The furniture had been huddled aside or piled into a barricade, a
CHEVAUX DE FRISE of chairs and tables stretching across the width
of the room, its interstices stuffed with, and its weakness
partly screened by, the torn-down hangings. Behind this frail
defence their backs to a door which seemed to lead to an inner
room, stood Marie and Croisette, pale and defiant. The former
had a long pike; the latter levelled a heavy, bell-mouthed
arquebuse across the back of a chair, and blew up his match as I
entered. Both had in addition procured swords. I darted like a
rabbit through a little tunnel left on purpose for me in the
rampart, and took my stand by them.
"Is all right?" ejaculated Croisette turning to me nervously.
"All right, I think," I answered. I was breathless.
"You are not hurt?"
I had just time then to draw my sword before the assailants
streamed into the room, a dozen ruffians, reeking and tattered,
with flushed faces and greedy, staring eyes. Once inside,
however, suddenly--so suddenly that an idle spectator might have
found the change ludicrous--they came to a stop. Their wild
cries ceased, and tumbling over one another with curses and oaths
they halted, surveying us in muddled surprise; seeing what was
before them, and not liking it. Their leader appeared to be a
tall butcher with a pole-axe on his half-naked shoulder; but
there were among them two or three soldiers in the royal livery
and carrying pikes. They had looked for victims only, having met
with no resistance at the gate, and the foremost recoiled now on
finding themselves confronted by the muzzle of the arquebuse and
the lighted match.
I seized the occasion. I knew, indeed, that the pause presented
our only chance, and I sprang on a chair and waved my hand for
silence. The instinct of obedience for the moment asserted
itself; there was a stillness in the room.
"Beware!" I cried loudly--as loudly and confidently as I could,
considering that there was a quaver at my heart as I looked on
those savage faces, which met and yet avoided my eye. "Beware of
what you do! We are Catholics one and all like yourselves, and
good sons of the Church. Ay, and good subjects too! VIVE LE
ROI, gentlemen! God save the King! I say." And I struck the
barricade with my sword until the metal rang again. "God save
"Cry VIVE LA MESSE!" shouted one.
"Certainly, gentlemen!" I replied, with politeness. "With all
my heart. VIVE LA MESSE! VIVE LA MESSE!"
This took the butcher, who luckily was still sober, utterly
aback. He had never thought of this. He stared at us as if the
ox he had been about to fell had opened its mouth and spoken, and
grievously at a loss, he looked for help to his companions.
Later in the day, some Catholics were killed by the mob. But
their deaths as far as could be learned afterwards were due to
private feuds. Save in such cases--and they were few--the cry of
VIVE LA MESSE! always obtained at least a respite: more easily
of course in the earlier hours of the morning when the mob were
scarce at ease in their liberty to kill, while killing still
seemed murder, and men were not yet drunk with bloodshed.
I read the hesitation of the gang in their faces: and when one
asked roughly who we were, I replied with greater boldness, "I am
M. Anne de Caylus, nephew to the Vicomte de Caylus, Governor,
under the King, of Bayonne and the Landes!" This I said with
what majesty I could. "And these" I continued--"are my brothers.
You will harm us at your peril, gentlemen. The Vicomte, believe
me, will avenge every hair of our heads."
I can shut my eyes now and see the stupid wonder, the baulked
ferocity of those gaping faces. Dull and savage as the men were
they were impressed; they saw reason indeed, and all seemed going
well for us when some one in the rear shouted, "Cursed whelps!
Throw them over!"
I looked swiftly in the direction whence the voice came--the
darkest corner of the room the corner by the shuttered window. I
thought I made out a slender figure, cloaked and masked--a
woman's it might be but I could not be certain and beside it a
couple of sturdy fellows, who kept apart from the herd and well
behind their fugleman.
The speaker's courage arose no doubt from his position at the
back of the room, for the foremost of the assailants seemed less
determined. We were only three, and we must have gone down,
barricade and all, before a rush. But three are three. And an
arquebuse--Croisette's match burned splendidly--well loaded with
slugs is an ugly weapon at five paces, and makes nasty wounds,
besides scattering its charge famously. This, a good many of
them and the leaders in particular, seemed to recognise. We
might certainly take two or three lives: and life is valuable to
its owner when plunder is afoot. Besides most of them had common
sense enough to remember that there were scores of Huguenots
--genuine heretics--to be robbed for the killing, so why go out
of the way, they reasoned, to cut a Catholic throat, and perhaps
get into trouble. Why risk Montfaucon for a whim? and offend a
man of influence like the Vicomte de Caylus, for nothing!
Unfortunately at this crisis their original design was recalled
to their minds by the same voice behind, crying out, "Pavannes!
Where is Pavannes?"
"Ay!" shouted the butcher, grasping the idea, and at the same
time spitting on his hands and taking a fresh grip of the axe,
"Show us the heretic dog, and go! Let us at him."
"M. de Pavannes," I said coolly--but I could not take my eyes off
the shining blade of that man's axe, it was so very broad and
sharp--"is not here!"
"That is a lie! He is in that room behind you!" the prudent
gentleman in the background called out. "Give him up!"
"Ay, give him up!" echoed the man of the pole-axe almost good
humouredly, "or it will be the worse for you. Let us have at him
and get you gone!"
This with an air of much reason, while a growl as of a chained
beast ran through the crowd, mingled with cries of "A MORT LES
HUGUENOTS! VIVE LORRAINE!"--cries which seemed to show that all
did not approve of the indulgence offered us.
"Beware, gentlemen, beware," I urged, "I swear he is not here! I
swear it, do you hear?"
A howl of impatience and then a sudden movement of the crowd as
though the rush were coming warned me to temporize no longer.
"Stay! Stay!" I added hastily. "One minute! Hear me! You are
too many for us. Will you swear to let us go safe and untouched,
if we give you passage?"
A dozen voices shrieked assent. But I looked at the butcher
only. He seemed to be an honest man, out of his profession.
"Ay, I swear it!" he cried with a nod.
"By the Mass?"
"By the Mass."
I twitched Croisette's sleeve, and he tore the fuse from his
weapon, and flung the gun--too heavy to be of use to us longer--
to the ground. It was done in a moment. While the mob swept
over the barricade, and smashed the rich furniture of it in
wanton malice, we filed aside, and nimbly slipped under it one by
one. Then we hurried in single file to the end of the room, no
one taking much notice of us. All were pressing on, intent on
their prey. We gained the door as the butcher struck his first
blow on that which we had guarded--on that which we had given up.
We sprang down the stairs with bounding hearts, heard as we
reached the outer door the roar of many voices, but stayed not to
look behind--paused indeed for nothing. Fear, to speak candidly,
lent us wings. In three seconds we had leapt the prostrate
gates, and were in the street. A cripple, two or three dogs, a
knot of women looking timidly yet curiously in, a horse tethered
to the staple--we saw nothing else. No one stayed us. No one
raised a hand, and in another minute we had turned a corner, and
were out of sight of the house.
"They will take a gentleman's word another time," I said with a
quiet smile as I put up my sword.
"I would like to see her face at this moment,' Croisette replied.
"You saw Madame d'O?"
I shook my head, not answering. I was not sure, and I had a
queer, sickening dread of the subject. If I had seen her, I had
seen oh! it was too horrible, too unnatural! Her own sister!
Her own brother in-law!
I hastened to change the subject. "The Pavannes," I made shift
to say, "must have had five minutes' start."
"More," Croisette answered, "if Madame and he got away at once.
If all has gone well with them, and they have not been stopped in
the streets they should be at Mirepoix's by now. They seemed to
be pretty sure that he would take them in."
"Ah!" I sighed. "What fools we were to bring madame from that
place! If we had not meddled with her affairs we might have
reached Louis long ago our Louis, I mean."
"True," Croisette answered softly, "but remember that then we
should not have saved the other Louis as I trust we have. He
would still be in Pallavicini's hands. Come, Anne, let us think
it is all for the best," he added, his face shining with a steady
courage that shamed me. "To the rescue! Heaven will help us to
be in time yet!"
"Ay, to the rescue!" I replied, catching his spirit. "First to
the right, I think, second to the left, first on the right again.
That was the direction given us, was it not? The house opposite
a book-shop with the sign of the Head of Erasmus. Forward, boys!
We may do it yet."
But before I pursue our fortunes farther let me explain. The
room we had guarded so jealously was empty! The plan had been
mine and I was proud of it. For once Croisette had fallen into
his rightful place. My flight from the gate, the vain attempt to
close the house, the barricade before the inner door--these were
all designed to draw the assailants to one spot. Pavannes and
his wife--the latter hastily disguised as a boy--had hidden
behind the door of the hutch by the gates--the porter's hutch,
and had slipped out and fled in the first confusion of the
Even the servants, as we learned afterwards, who had hidden
themselves in the lower parts of the house got away in the same
manner, though some of them--they were but few in all were
stopped as Huguenots and killed before the day ended. I had the
more reason to hope that Pavannes and his wife would get clear
off, inasmuch as I had given the Duke's ring to him, thinking it
might serve him in a strait, and believing that we should have
little to fear ourselves once clear of his house; unless we
should meet the Vidame indeed.
We did not meet him as it turned out; but before we had traversed
a quarter of the distance we had to go we found that fears based
on reason were not the only terrors we had to resist. Pavannes'
house, where we had hitherto been, stood at some distance from
the centre of the blood-storm which was enwrapping unhappy Paris
that morning. It was several hundred paces from the Rue de
Bethisy where the Admiral lived, and what with this comparative
remoteness and the excitement of our own little drama, we had not
attended much to the fury of the bells, the shots and cries and
uproar which proclaimed the state of the city. We had not
pictured the scenes which were happening so near. Now in the
streets the truth broke upon us, and drove the blood from our
cheeks. A hundred yards, the turning of a corner, sufficed. We
who but yesterday left the country, who only a week before were
boys, careless as other boys, not recking of death at all, were
plunged now into the midst of horrors I cannot describe. And the
awful contrast between the sky above and the things about us!
Even now the lark was singing not far from us; the sunshine was
striking the topmost storeys of the houses; the fleecy clouds
were passing overhead, the freshness of a summer morning was--
Ah! where was it? Not here in the narrow lanes surely, that
echoed and re-echoed with shrieks and curses and frantic prayers:
in which bands of furious men rushed up and down, and where
archers of the guard and the more cruel rabble were breaking in
doors and windows, and hurrying with bloody weapons from house to
house, seeking, pursuing, and at last killing in some horrid
corner, some place of darkness--killing with blow on blow dealt
on writhing bodies! Not here, surely, where each minute a child,
a woman died silently, a man snarling like a wolf--happy if he
had snatched his weapon and got his back to the wall: where foul
corpses dammed the very blood that ran down the kennel, and
children--little children--played with them!
I was at Cahors in 1580 in the great street fight; and there
women were killed, I was with Chatillon nine years later, when he
rode through the Faubourgs of Paris, with this very day and his
father Coligny in his mind, and gave no quarter. I was at
Courtas and Ivry, and more than once have seen prisoners led out
to be piked in batches--ay, and by hundreds! But war is war, and
these were its victims, dying for the most part under God's
heaven with arms in their hands: not men and women fresh roused
from their sleep. I felt on those occasions no such horror, I
have never felt such burning pity and indignation as on the
morning I am describing, that long-past summer morning when I
first saw the sun shining on the streets of Paris. Croisette
clung to me, sick and white, shutting his eyes and ears, and
letting me guide him as I would. Marie strode along on the other
side of him, his lips closed, his eyes sinister. Once a soldier
of the guard whose blood-stained hands betrayed the work he had
done, came reeling--he was drunk, as were many of the butchers--
across our path, and I gave way a little. Marie did not, but
walked stolidly on as if he did not see him, as if the way were
clear, and there were no ugly thing in God's image blocking it.
Only his hand went as if by accident to the haft of his dagger.
The archer--fortunately for himself and for us too--reeled clear
of us. We escaped that danger. But to see women killed and pass
by--it was horrible! So horrible that if in those moments I had
had the wishing-cap, I would have asked but for five thousand
riders, and leave to charge with them through the streets of
Paris! I would have had the days of the Jacquerie back again,
and my men-at-arms behind me!
For ourselves, though the orgy was at its height when we passed,
we were not molested. We were stopped indeed three times--once
in each of the streets we traversed--by different bands of
murderers. But as we wore the same badges as themselves, and
cried "VIVE LA MESSE!" and gave our names, we were allowed to
proceed. I can give no idea of the confusion and uproar, and I
scarcely believe myself now that we saw some of the things we
witnessed. Once a man gaily dressed, and splendidly mounted,
dashed past us, waving his naked sword and crying in a frenzied
way "Bleed them! Bleed them! Bleed in May, as good to-day!"
and never ceased crying out the same words until he passed beyond
our hearing. Once we came upon the bodies of a father and two
sons, which lay piled together in the kennel; partly stripped
already. The youngest boy could not have been more than thirteen,
I mention this group, not as surpassing others in pathos, but
because it is well known now that this boy, Jacques Nompar de
Caumont, was not dead, but lives to-day, my friend the Marshal de
This reminds me too of the single act of kindness we were able to
perform. We found ourselves suddenly, on turning a corner, amid
a gang of seven or eight soldiers, who had stopped and surrounded
a handsome boy, apparently about fourteen. He wore a scholar's
gown, and had some books under his arm, to which he clung firmly
--though only perhaps by instinct--notwithstanding the furious
air of the men who were threatening him with death. They were
loudly demanding his name, as we paused opposite them. He either
could not or would not give it, but said several times in his
fright that he was going to the College of Burgundy. Was he a
Catholic? they cried. He was silent. With an oath the man who
had hold of his collar lifted up his pike, and naturally the lad
raised the books to guard his face. A cry broke from Croisette.
We rushed forward to stay the blow.
"See! see!" he exclaimed loudly, his voice arresting the man's
arm in the very act of falling. "He has a Mass Book! He has a
Mass Book! He is not a heretic! He is a Catholic!"
The fellow lowered his weapon, and sullenly snatched the books.
He looked at them stupidly with bloodshot wandering eyes, the red
cross on the vellum bindings, the only thing he understood. But
it was enough for him; he bid the boy begone, and released him
with a cuff and an oath.
Croisette was not satisfied with this, though I did not
understand his reason; only I saw him exchange a glance with the
lad. "Come, come!" he said lightly. "Give him his books! You
do not want them!"
But on that the men turned savagely upon us. They did not thank
us for the part we had already taken; and this they thought was
going too far. They were half drunk and quarrelsome, and being
two to one, and two over, began to flourish their weapons in our
faces. Mischief would certainly have been done, and very
quickly, had not an unexpected ally appeared on our side.
"Put up! put up!" this gentleman cried in a boisterous voice--
he was already in our midst. "What is all this about? What is
the use of fighting amongst ourselves, when there is many a bonny
throat to cut, and heaven to be gained by it! put up, I say!"
"Who are you?" they roared in chorus.
"The Duke of Guise!" he answered coolly. "Let the gentlemen go,
and be hanged to you, you rascals!"
The man's bearing was a stronger argument than his words, for I
am sure that a stouter or more reckless blade never swaggered in
church or street. I knew him instantly, and even the crew of
butchers seemed to see in him their master. They hung back a few
curses at him, but having nothing to gain they yielded. They
threw down the books with contempt--showing thereby their sense
of true religion; and trooped off roaring, "TUES! TUES! Aux
Huguenots!" at the top of their voices.
The newcomer thus left with us was Bure--Blaise Bure--the same
who only yesterday, though it seemed months and months back, had
lured us into Bezers' power. Since that moment we had not seen
him. Now he had wiped off part of the debt, and we looked at
him, uncertain whether to reproach him or no. He, however, was
not one whit abashed, but returned our regards with a not
"I bear no malice, young gentlemen," he said impudently.
"No, I should think not," I answered.
"And besides, we are quits now," the knave continued.
"You are very kind," I said.
"To be sure. You did me a good turn once," he answered, much to
my surprise. He seemed to be in earnest now. "You do not
remember it, young gentleman, but it was you and your brother
here"--he pointed to Croisette--"did it! And by the Pope and the
King of Spain I have not forgotten it!"
"I have," I said.
"What! You have forgotten spitting that fellow at Caylus ten
days ago? CA! SA! You remember. And very cleanly done, too!
A pretty stroke! Well, M. Anne, that was a clever fellow, a very
clever fellow. He thought so and I thought so, and what was more
to the purpose the most noble Raoul de Bezers thought so too.
He leered at me and I did understand. I understood that
unwittingly I had rid Blaise Bure of a rival. This accounted for
the respectful, almost the kindly way in which he had--well,
"That is all," he said. "If you want as much done for you, let
me know. For the present, gentlemen, farewell!"
He cocked his hat fiercely, and went off at speed the way we had
ourselves been going; humming as he went,
"Ce petit homme tant joli,
Qui toujours cause et toujours rit,
Qui toujours baise sa mignonne
Dieu gard' de mal ce petit homme!"
His reckless song came back to us on the summer breeze. We
watched him make a playful pass at a corpse which some one had
propped in ghastly fashion against a door--and miss it--and go on
whistling the same air--and then a corner hid him from view.
We lingered only a moment ourselves; merely to speak to the boy
we had befriended.
"Show the books if anyone challenges you," said Croisette to him
shrewdly. Croisette was so much of a boy himself, with his fair
hair like a halo about his white, excited face, that the picture
of the two, one advising the other, seemed to me a strangely
pretty one. "Show the books and point to the cross on them. And
Heaven send you safe to your college."
"I would like to know your name, if you please," said the boy.
His coolness and dignity struck me as admirable under the
circumstances. "I am Maximilian de Bethune, son of the Baron de
"Then," said Croisette briskly, "one good turn has deserved
another. Your father, yesterday, at Etampes--no it was the day
before, but we have not been in bed--warned us--"
He broke off suddenly; then cried, "Run! run!"
The boy needed no second warning indeed. He was off like the
wind down the street, for we had seen and so had he, the stealthy
approach of two or three prowling rascals on the look out for a
victim. They caught sight of him and were strongly inclined to
follow him; but we were their match in numbers. The street was
otherwise empty at the moment: and we showed them three
excellent reasons why they should give him a clear start.
His after adventures are well-known: for he, too, lives. He was
stopped twice after he left us. In each case he escaped by
showing his book of offices. On reaching the college the porter
refused to admit him, and he remained for some time in the open
street exposed to constant danger of losing his life, and knowing
not what to do. At length he induced the gatekeeper, by the
present of some small pieces of money, to call the principal of
the college, and this man humanely concealed him for three days.
The massacre being then at an end, two armed men in his father's
pay sought him out and restored him to his friends. So near was
France to losing her greatest minister, the Duke de Sully.
To return to ourselves. The lad out of sight, we instantly
resumed our purpose, and trying to shut our eyes and ears to the
cruelty, and ribaldry, and uproar through which we had still to
pass, we counted our turnings with a desperate exactness, intent
only on one thing--to reach Louis de Pavannes, to reach the house
opposite to the Head of Erasmus, as quickly as we could. We
presently entered a long, narrow street. At the end of it the
river was visible gleaming and sparkling in the sunlight. The
street was quiet; quiet and empty. There was no living soul to
be seen from end to end of it, only a prowling dog. The noise of
the tumult raging in other parts was softened here by distance
and the intervening houses. We seemed to be able to breathe more
"This should be our street," said Croisette.
I nodded. At the same moment I espied, half-way down it, the
sign we needed and pointed to it, But ah! were we in time? Or
too late? That was the question. By a single impulse we broke
into a run, and shot down the roadway at speed. A few yards
short of the Head of Erasmus we came, one by one, Croisette
first, to a full stop. A full stop!
The house opposite the bookseller's was sacked! gutted from top
to bottom. It was a tall house, immediately fronting the street,
and every window in it was broken. The door hung forlornly on
one hinge, glaring cracks in its surface showing where the axe
had splintered it. Fragments of glass and ware, hung out and
shattered in sheer wantonness, strewed the steps: and down one
corner of the latter a dark red stream trickled--to curdle by and
by in the gutter. Whence came the stream? Alas! there was
something more to be seen yet, something our eyes instinctively
sought last of all. The body of a man.
It lay on the threshold, the head hanging back, the wide glazed
eyes looking up to the summer sky whence the sweltering heat
would soon pour down upon it. We looked shuddering at the face.
It was that of a servant, a valet who had been with Louis at
Caylus. We recognised him at once for we had known and liked
him. He had carried our guns on the hills a dozen times, and
told us stories of the war. The blood crawled slowly from him.
He was dead.
Croisette began to shake all over. He clutched one of the
pillars, which bore up the porch, and pressed his face against
its cold surface, hiding his eyes from the sight. The worst had
come. In our hearts I think we had always fancied some accident
would save our friend, some stranger warn him.
"Oh, poor, poor Kit!" Croisette cried, bursting suddenly into
violent sobs. "Oh, Kit! Kit!"
HAU, HAU, HUGUENOTS!
His late Majesty, Henry the Fourth, I remember--than whom no
braver man wore sword, who loved danger indeed for its own sake,
and courted it as a mistress--could never sleep on the night
before an action. I have heard him say himself that it was so
before the fight at Arques. Croisette partook of this nature
too, being high-strung and apt to be easily over-wrought, but
never until the necessity for exertion had passed away: while
Marie and I, though not a whit stouter at a pinch, were slower to
feel and less easy to move--more Germanic in fact.
I name this here partly lest it should be thought after what I
have just told of Croisette that there was anything of the woman
about him--save the tenderness; and partly to show that we acted
at this crisis each after his manner. 'While Croisette turned
pale and trembled, and hid his eyes, I stood dazed, looking from
the desolate house to the face stiffening in the sunshine, and
back again; wondering, though I had seen scores of dead faces
since daybreak, and a plenitude of suffering in all dreadful
shapes, how Providence could let this happen to us. To us! In
his instincts man is as selfish as any animal that lives.
I saw nothing indeed of the dead face and dead house after the
first convincing glance. I saw instead with hot, hot eyes the
old castle at home, the green fields about the brook, and the
grey hills rising from them; and the terrace, and Kit coming to
meet us, Kit with white face and parted lips and avid eyes that
questioned us! And we with no comfort to give her, no lover to
bring back to her!
A faint noise behind as of a sign creaking in the wind, roused me
from this most painful reverie. I turned round, not quickly or
in surprise or fear. Rather in the same dull wonder. The upper
part of the bookseller's door was ajar. It was that I had heard
opened. An old woman was peering out at us.
As our eyes met, she made a slight movement to close the door
again. But I did not stir, and seeming to be reassured by a
second glance, she nodded to me in a stealthy fashion. I drew a
step nearer, listlessly. "Pst! Pst!" she whispered. Her
wrinkled old face, which was like a Normandy apple long kept, was
soft with pity as she looked at Croisette. "Pst!"
"Well!" I said, mechanically.
"Is he taken?" she muttered.
"Who taken?" I asked stupidly.
She nodded towards the forsaken house, and answered, "The young
lord who lodged there? Ah! sirs," she continued, "he looked gay
and handsome, if you'll believe me, as he came from the king's
court yester even! As bonny a sight in his satin coat, and his
ribbons, as my eyes ever saw! And to think that they should be
hunting him like a rat to-day!"
The woman's words were few and simple. But what a change they
made in my world! How my heart awoke from its stupor, and leapt
up with a new joy and a new-born hope! "Did he get away?" I
cried eagerly. "Did he escape, mother, then?"
"Ay, that. he did!" she replied quickly. "That poor fellow,
yonder--he lies quiet enough now God forgive him his heresy, say
I!--kept the door manfully while the gentleman got on the roof,
and ran right down the street on the tops of the houses, with
them firing and hooting at him: for all the world as if he had
been a squirrel and they a pack of boys with stones!"
"And he escaped?"
"Escaped!" she answered more slowly, shaking her old head in
doubt. "I do not know about that I fear they have got him by
now, gentlemen. I have been shivering and shaking up stairs with
my husband--he is in bed, good man, and the safest place for him
--the saints have mercy upon us! But I heard them go with their
shouting and gunpowder right along to the river, and I doubt they
will take him between this and the CHATELET! I doubt they will."
"How long ago was it, dame?" I cried.
"Oh! may be half an hour. Perhaps you are friends of his?" she
But I did not stay to answer her. I shook Croisette, who had not
heard a word of this, by the shoulder. There is a chance that he
has escaped!" I cried in his ear. Escaped, do you hear?" And I
told him hastily what she had said.
It was fine, indeed, and a sight, to see the blood rush to his
cheeks, and the tears dry in his eyes, and energy and decision
spring to life in every nerve and muscle of his face, "Then there
is hope?" he cried, grasping my arm. "Hope, Anne! Come! Come!
Do not let us lose another instant. If he be alive let us join
The old woman tried to detain us, but in vain. Nay, pitying us,
and fearing, I think, that we were rushing on our deaths, she
cast aside her caution, and called after us aloud. We took no
heed, running after Croisette, who had not waited for our answer,
as fast as young limbs could carry us down the street. The
exhaustion we had felt a moment before when all seemed lost be it
remembered that we had not been to bed or tasted food for many
hours--fell from us on the instant, and was clean gone and
forgotten in the joy of this respite. Louis was living and for
the moment had escaped.
Escaped! But for how long? We soon had our answer. The moment
we turned the corner by the river-side, the murmur of a multitude
not loud but continuous, struck our ears, even as the breeze off
the water swept our cheeks. Across the river lay the thousand
roofs of the Ile de la Cite, all sparkling in the sunshine. But
we swept to the right, thinking little of THAT sight, and checked
our speed on finding ourselves on the skirts of the crowd.
Before us was a bridge--the Pont au Change, I think--and at its
head on our side of the water stood the CHATELET, with its hoary
turrets and battlements. Between us and the latter, and backed
only by the river, was a great open space half-filled with
people, mostly silent and watchful, come together as to a show,
and betraying, at present at least, no desire to take an active
part in what was going on.
We hurriedly plunged into the throng, and soon caught the clue to
the quietness and the lack of movement which seemed to prevail,
and which at first sight had puzzled us. For a moment the
absence of the dreadful symptoms we had come to know so well--the
flying and pursuing, the random blows, the shrieks and curses and
batterings on doors, the tipsy yells, had reassured us. But the
relief was short-lived. The people before us were under control.
A tighter grip seemed to close upon our hearts as we discerned
this, for we knew that the wild fury of the populace, like the
rush of a bull, might have given some chance of escape--in this
case as in others. But this cold-blooded ordered search left
Every face about us was turned in the same direction; away from
the river and towards a block of old houses which stood opposite
to it. The space immediately in front of these was empty, the
people being kept back by a score or so of archers of the guard
set at intervals, and by as many horsemen, who kept riding up and
down, belabouring the bolder spirits with the flat of their
swords,and so preserving a line. At each extremity of this--more
noticeably on our left where the line curved round the angle of
the buildings--stood a handful of riders, seven in a group
perhaps. And alone in the middle of the space so kept clear,
walking his horse up and down and gazing at the houses rode a man
of great stature, booted and armed, the feather nodding in his
bonnet. I could not see his face, but I had no need to see it.
I knew him, and groaned aloud. It was Bezers!
I understood the scene better now. The horsemen, stern, bearded
Switzers for the most part, who eyed the rabble about them with
grim disdain, and were by no means chary of their blows, were all
in his colours and armed to the teeth. The order and discipline
were of his making: the revenge of his seeking. A grasp as of
steel had settled upon our friend, and I felt that his last
chance was gone. Louis de Pavannes might as well be lying on his
threshold with his dead servant by his side, as be in hiding
within that ring of ordered swords.
It was with despairing eyes we looked at the old wooden houses.
They seemed to be bowing themselves towards us, their upper
stories projected so far, they were so decrepit. Their roofs
were a wilderness of gutters and crooked gables, of tottering
chimneys and wooden pinnacles and rotting beams, Amongst these I
judged Kit's lover was hiding. Well, it was a good place for
hide and seek-with any other player than DEATH. In the ground
floors of the houses there were no windows and no doors; by
reason, I learned afterwards, of the frequent flooding of the
river. But a long wooden gallery raised on struts ran along the
front, rather more than the height of a man from the ground, and
access to this was gained by a wooden staircase at each end.
Above this first gallery was a second, and above that a line of
windows set between the gables. The block--it may have run for
seventy or eighty yards along the shore--contained four houses,
each with a door opening on to the lower gallery. I saw indeed
that but for the Vidame's precautions Louis might well have
escaped. Had the mob once poured helter-skelter into that
labyrinth of rooms and passages he might with luck have mingled
with them, unheeded and unrecognized, and effected his escape
when they retreated.
But now there were sentries on each gallery and more on the roof.
Whenever one of the latter moved or seemed to be looking inward--
where a search party, I understood, were at work--indeed, if he
did but turn his head, a thrill ran through the crowd and a
murmur arose, which once or twice swelled to a savage roar such
as earlier had made me tremble. When this happened the impulse
came, it seemed to me, from the farther end of the line. There
the rougher elements were collected, and there I more than once
saw Bezers' troopers in conflict with the mob. In that quarter
too a savage chant was presently struck up, the whole gathering
joining in and yelling with an indescribably appalling effect:
"Hau! Hau! Huguenots!
Faites place aux Papegots!"
in derision of the old song said to be popular amongst the
Protestants. But in the Huguenot version the last words were of
We had worked our way by this time to the front of the line, and
looking into one another's eyes, mutely asked a question; but not
even Croisette had an answer ready. There could be no answer but
one. What could we do? Nothing. We were too late. Too late
again! And yet how dreadful it was to stand still among the
cruel, thoughtless mob and see our friend, the touch of whose
hand we knew so well, done to death for their sport! Done to
death as the old woman had said like any rat, not a soul save
ourselves pitying him! Not a soul to turn sick at his cry of
agony, or shudder at the glance of his dying eyes. It was
"Ah, well," muttered a woman beside me to her companion--there
were many women in the crowd--"it is down with the Huguenots, say
I! It is Lorraine is the fine man! But after all yon is a bonny
fellow and a proper, Margot! I saw him leap from roof to roof
over Love Lane, as if the blessed saints had carried him. And him
"It is the black art," the other answered, crossing herself.
"Maybe it is! But he will need it all to give that big man the
slip to-day," replied the first speaker comfortably.
"That devil!" Margot exclaimed, pointing with a stealthy gesture
of hate at the Vidame. And then in a fierce whisper, with
inarticulate threats, she told a story of him, which made me
shudder. "He did! And she in religion too!" she concluded.
"May our Lady of Loretto reward him."
The tale might be true for aught I knew, horrible as it was! I
had heard similar ones attributing things almost as fiendish to
him, times and again; from that poor fellow lying dead on
Pavannes' doorstep for one, and from others besides. As the
Vidame in his pacing to and fro turned towards us, I gazed at him
fascinated by his grim visage and that story. His eye rested on
the crowd about us, and I trembled, lest even at that distance he
should recognise us.
And he did! I had forgotten his keenness of sight. His face
flashed suddenly into a grim smile. The tail of his eye resting
upon us, and seeming to forbid us to move, he gave some orders.
The colour fled from my face. To escape indeed was impossible,
for we were hemmed in by the press and could scarcely stir a
limb. Yet I did make one effort.
"Croisette!" I muttered he was the rearmost--"stoop down. He
may not have seen you. Stoop down, lad!"
But St. Croix was obstinate and would not stoop. Nay, when one
of the mounted men came, and roughly ordered us into the open, it
was Croisette who pushing past us stepped out first with a lordly
air. I, following him, saw that his lips were firmly compressed
and that there was an eager light in his eyes. As we emerged,
the crowd in our wake broke the line, and tried to pursue us;
either hostilely or through eagerness to see what it meant. But
a dozen blows of the long pikes drove them back, howling and
cursing to their places.
I expected to be taken to Bezers; and what would follow I could
not tell. But he did always it seemed what we least expected,
for he only scowled at us now, a grim mockery on his lip, and
cried, "See that they do not escape again! But do them no harm,
sirrah, until I have the batch of them!"
He turned one way, and I another, my heart swelling with rage.
Would he dare to harm us? Would even the Vidame dare to murder a
Caylus' nephew openly and in cold blood? I did not think so.
And yet--and yet--
Croisette interrupted the train of my thoughts. I found that he
was not following me. He had sprung away, and in a dozen strides
reached the Vidame's stirrup, and was clasping his knee when I
turned. I could not hear at the distance at which I stood, what
he said, and the horseman to whom Bezers had committed us spurred
between us. But I heard the Vidame's answer.
"No! no! no!" he cried with a ring of restrained fury in his
voice. "Let my plans alone! What do you know of them? And if
you speak to me again, M. St. Croix--I think that is your name,
boy--I will--no, I will not kill you. That might please you, you
are stubborn, I can see. But I will have you stripped and lashed
like the meanest of my scullions! Now go, and take care!"
Impatience, hate and wild passion flamed in his face for the
moment-transfiguring it. Croisette came back to us slowly,
white-lipped and quiet. "Never mind," I said bitterly. "The
third time may bring luck."
Not that I felt much indignation at the Vidame's insult, or any
anger with the lad for incurring it; as I had felt on that other
occasion. Life and death seemed to be everything on this
morning. Words had ceased to please and annoy, for what are
words to the sheep in the shambles? One man's life and one
woman's happiness outside ourselves we thought only of these now.
And some day I reflected Croisette might remember even with
pleasure that he had, as a drowning man clutching at straws,
stooped to a last prayer for them.
We were placed in the middle of a knot of troopers who closed the
line to the right. And presently Marie touched me. He was
gazing intently at the sentry on the roof of the third house from
us; the farthest but one. The man's back was to the parapet, and
he was gesticulating wildly.
"He sees him!" Marie muttered.
I nodded almost in apathy. But this passed away, and I started
involuntarily and shuddered, as a savage roar, breaking the
silence, rang along the front of the mob like a rolling volley of
firearms. What was it? A man posted at a window on the upper
gallery had dropped his pike's point, and was levelling it at
some one inside: we could see no more.
But those in front of the window could; they saw too much for the
Vidame's precautions, as a moment showed. He had not laid his
account with the frenzy of a rabble, the passions of a mob which
had tasted blood. I saw the line at its farther end waver
suddenly and toss to and fro. Then a hundred hands went up, and
confused angry cries rose with them. The troopers struck about
them, giving back slowly as they did so. But their efforts were
in vain. With a scream of triumph a wild torrent of people broke
through between them, leaving them stranded; and rushed in a
headlong cataract towards the steps. Bezers was close to us at
the time. "S'death!" he cried, swearing oaths which even his
sovereign could scarce have equalled. "They will snatch him from
me yet, the hell-hounds!"
He whirled his horse round and spurred him in a dozen bounds to
the stairs at our end of the gallery. There he leaped from him,
dropping the bridle recklessly; and bounding up three steps at a
time, he ran along the gallery. Half-a-dozen of the troopers
about us stayed only to fling their reins to one of their number,
and then followed, their great boots clattering on the planks.
My breath came fast and short, for I felt it was a crisis. It
was a race between the two parties, or rather between the Vidame
and the leaders of the mob. The latter had the shorter way to
go. But on the narrow steps they were carried off their feet by
the press behind them, and fell over and hampered one another and
lost time. The Vidame, free from this drawback, was some way
along the gallery before they had set foot on it.
How I prayed--amid a scene of the wildest uproar and excitement--
that the mob might be first! Let there be only a short conflict
between Bezers' men and the people, and in the confusion Pavannes
might yet escape. Hope awoke in the turmoil. Above the yells of
the crowd a score of deep voices about me thundered "a Wolf! a
Wolf!" And I too, lost my head, and drew my sword, and screamed
at the top of my voice, "a Caylus! a Caylus!" with the maddest.
Thousands of eyes besides mine were strained on the foremost
figures on either side. They met as it chanced precisely at the
door of the house. The mob leader was a slender man, I saw; a
priest apparently, though now he was girt with unpriestly
weapons, his skirts were tucked up, and his head was bare. So
much my first glance showed me. It was at the second look it was
when I saw the blood forsake his pale lowering face and leave it
whiter than ever, when horror sprang along with recognition to
his eyes, when borne along by the crowd behind he saw his
position and who was before him--it was only then when his mean
figure shrank, and he quailed and would have turned but could
not, that I recognized the Coadjutor.
I was silent now, my mouth agape. There are seconds which are
minutes; ay, and many minutes. A man may die, a man may come
into life in such a second. In one of these, it seemed to me,
those two men paused, face to face; though in fact a pause was
for one of them impossible. He was between--and I think he knew
it--the devil and the deep sea. Yet he seemed to pause, while
all, even that yelling crowd below, held their breath. The next
moment, glaring askance at one another like two dogs unevenly
coupled, he and Bezers shot shoulder to shoulder into the
doorway, and in another jot of time would have been out of sight.
But then, in that instant, I saw something happen. The Vidame's
hand flashed up above the priest's head, and the cross-hilt of
his sheathed sword crashed down with awful force, and still more
awful passion, on the other's tonsure! The wretch went down like
a log, without a word, without a cry! Amid a roar of rage from a
thousand throats, a roar that might have shaken the stoutest
heart, and blanched the swarthiest cheek, Bezers disappeared
It was then I saw the power of discipline and custom. Few as
were the troopers who had followed him--a mere handful--they fell
without hesitation on the foremost of the crowd, who were already
in confusion, stumbling and falling over their leader's body; and
hurled them back pell-mell along the gallery. The throng below
had no firearms, and could give no aid at the moment; the stage
was narrow; in two minutes the Vidame's people had swept it clear
of the crowd and were in possession of it. A tall fellow took up
the priest's body, dead or alive, I do not know which, and flung
it as if it had been a sack of corn over the rail. It fell with
a heavy thud on the ground. I heard a piercing scream that rose
above that babel--one shrill scream! and the mob closed round
and hid the thing.
If the rascals had had the wit to make at once for the right-hand
stairs, where we stood with two or three of Bezers' men who had
kept their saddles, I think they might easily have disposed of
us, encumbered as we were, by the horses; and then they could
have attacked the handful on the gallery on both flanks. But the
mob had no leaders, and no plan of operations. They seized
indeed two or three of the scattered troopers, and tearing them
from their horses, wreaked their passion upon them horribly. But
most of the Switzers escaped, thanks to the attention the mob
paid to the houses and what was going forward on the galleries;
and these, extricating themselves joined us one by one, so that
gradually a little ring of stern faces gathered about the stair-
foot. A moment's hesitation, and seeing no help for it, we
ranged ourselves with them; and, unchecked as unbidden, sprang on
three of the led horses.
All this passed more quickly than I can relate it: so that
before our feet were well in the stirrups a partial silence, then
a mightier roar of anger at once proclaimed and hailed the re-
appearance of the Vidame. Bigoted beyond belief were the mob of
Paris of that day, cruel, vengeful, and always athirst for blood;
and this man had killed not only their leader but a priest. He
had committed sacrilege! What would they do? I could just, by
stooping forward, command a side view of the gallery, and the
scene passing there was such that I forgot in it our own peril.
For surely in all his reckless life Bezers had never been so
emphatically the man for the situation--had never shown to such
advantage as at this moment when he stood confronting the sea of
faces, the sneer on his lip, a smile in his eyes; and looked down
unblenching, a figure of scorn, on the men who were literally
agape for his life. The calm defiance of his steadfast look
fascinated even me. Wonder and admiration for the time took the
place of dislike. I could scarcely believe that there was not
some atom of good in this man so fearless. And no face but one
no face I think in the world, but one--could have drawn my eyes
from him. But that one face was beside him. I clutched Marie's
arm, and pointed to the bareheaded figure at Bezers' right hand.
It was Louis himself: our Louis de Pavannes, But he was changed
indeed from the gay cavalier I remembered, and whom I had last
seen riding down the street at Caylus, smiling back at us, and
waving his adieux to his mistress! Beside the Vidame he had the
air of being slight, even short. The face which I had known so
bright and winning, was now white and set. His fair, curling
hair--scarce darker than Croisette's--hung dank, bedabbled with
blood which flowed from a wound in his head. His sword was gone;
his dress was torn and disordered and covered with dust. His
lips moved. But he held up his head, he bore himself bravely
with it all; so bravely, that I choked, and my heart seemed
bursting as I looked at him standing there forlorn and now
unarmed. I knew that Kit seeing him thus would gladly have died
with him; and I thanked God she did not see him. Yet there was a
quietness in his fortitude which made a great difference between
his air and that of Bezers. He lacked, as became one looking
unarmed on certain death, the sneer and smile of the giant beside
What was the Vidame about to do? I shuddered as I asked myself.
Not surrender him, not fling him bodily to the people? No not
that: I felt sure he would let no others share his vengeance
that his pride would not suffer that. And even while I wondered
the doubt was solved. I saw Bezers raise his hand in a peculiar
fashion. Simultaneously a cry rang sharply out above the tumult,
and down in headlong charge towards the farther steps came the
band of horsemen, who had got clear of the crowd on that side.
They were but ten or twelve, but under his eye they charged, as
if they had been a thousand. The rabble shrank from the
collision, and fled aside. Quick as thought the riders swerved;
and changing their course, galloped through the looser part of
the throng, and in a trice drew rein side by side with us, a
laugh and a jeer on their reckless lips.
It was neatly done: and while it was being done the Vidame and
his knot of men, with those who had been searching the building,
hurried down the gallery towards us, their rear cleared for the
moment by the troopers' feint. The dismounted men came bundling
down the steps, their eyes aglow with the war-fire, and got
horses as they could. Among them I lost sight of Louis, but
perceived him presently, pale and bewildered, mounted behind a
trooper. A man sprang up before each of us too, greeting our
appearance merely by a grunt of surprise. For it was no time to
ask or answer. The mob was recovering itself, and each moment
brought it reinforcements, while its fury was augmented by the
trick we had played it, and the prospect of our escape.
We were under forty, all told; and some men were riding double.
Bezers' eye glanced hastily over his array, and lit on us three.
He turned and gave some order to his lieutenant. The fellow
spurred his horse, a splendid grey, as powerful as his master's,
alongside of Croisette, threw his arm round the lad, and dragged
him dexterously on to his own crupper. I did not understand the
action, but I saw Croisette settle himself behind Blaise Bure--
for he it was--and supposed no harm was intended. The next
moment we had surged forward, and were swaying to and fro in the
midst of the crowd.
What ensued I cannot tell. The outlook, so far as I was
concerned, was limited to wildly plunging horses--we were in the
centre of the band and riders swaying in the saddle--with a
glimpse here and there of a fringe of white scowling faces and
tossing arms. Once, a lane opening, I saw the Vidame's charger
--he was in the van--stumble and fall among the crowd and heard a
great shout go up. But Bezers by a mighty effort lifted it to
its legs again. And once too, a minute later, those riding on my
right, swerved outwards, and I saw something I never afterwards
It was the body of the Coadjutor, lying face upwards, the eyes
open and the teeth bared in a last spasm. Prostrate on it lay a
woman, a young woman, with hair like red gold falling about her
neck, and skin like milk. I did not know whether she was alive
or dead; but I noticed that one arm stuck out stiffly and the
crowd flying before the sudden impact of the horses must have
passed over her, even if she had escaped the iron hoofs which
followed. Still in the fleeting glance I had of her as my horse
bounded aside, I saw no wound or disfigurement. Her one arm was
cast about the priest's breast; her face was hidden on it. But
for all that, I knew her--knew her, shuddering for the woman
whose badges I was even now wearing, whose gift I bore at my
side; and I remembered the priest's vaunt of a few hours before,
made in her presence, "There is no man in Paris shall thwart me
It had been a vain boast indeed! No hand in all that host of
thousands was more feeble than his now: for good or ill! No
brain more dull, no voice less heeded. A righteous retribution
indeed had overtaken him. He had died by the sword he had drawn
--died, a priest, by violence! The cross he had renounced had
crushed him. And all his schemes and thoughts, and no doubt they
had been many, had perished with him. It had come to this, only
this, the sum of the whole matter, that there was one wicked man
the less in Paris--one lump of breathless clay the more.
For her--the woman on his breast--what man can judge a woman,
knowing her? And not knowing her, how much less? For the
present I put her out of my mind, feeling for the moment faint
We were clear of the crowd, and clattering unmolested down a
paved street before I fully recovered from the shock which this
sight had caused me. Wonder whither we were going took its
place. To Bezers' house? My heart sank at the prospect if that
were so. Before I thought of an alternative, a gateway flanked
by huge round towers appeared before us, and we pulled up
suddenly, a confused jostling mass in the narrow way; while some
words passed between the Vidame and the Captain of the Guard. A
pause of several minutes followed; and then the gates rolled
slowly open, and two by two we passed under the arch. Those
gates might have belonged to a fortress or a prison, a dungeon or
a palace, for all I knew.
They led, however, to none of these, but to an open space, dirty
and littered with rubbish, marked by a hundred ruts and tracks,
and fringed with disorderly cabins and make-shift booths. And
beyond this--oh, ye gods! the joy of it--beyond this, which we
crossed at a rapid trot, lay the open country!
The transition and relief were so wonderful that I shall never
forget them. I gazed on the wide landscape before me, lying
quiet and peaceful in the sunlight, and could scarce believe in
my happiness. I drew the fresh air into my lungs, I threw up my
sheathed sword and caught it again in a frenzy of delight, while
the gloomy men about me smiled at my enthusiasm. I felt the
horse beneath me move once more like a thing of life. No
enchanter with his wand, not Merlin nor Virgil, could have made a
greater change in my world, than had the captain of the gate with
his simple key! Or so it seemed to me in the first moments of
freedom, and escape--of removal from those loathsome streets.
I looked back at Paris--at the cloud of smoke which hung over the
towers and roofs; and it seemed to me the canopy of hell itself.
I fancied that my head still rang with the cries and screams and
curses, the sounds of death. In very fact, I could hear the dull
reports of firearms near the Louvre, and the jangle of the bells.
Country-folk were congregated at the cross-roads, and in the
villages, listening and gazing; asking timid questions of the
more good-natured among us, and showing that the rumour of the
dreadful work doing in the town had somehow spread abroad. And
this though I learned afterwards that the keys of the city had
been taken the night before to the king, and that, except a party
with the Duke of Guise, who had left at eight in pursuit of
Montgomery and some of the Protestants--lodgers, happily for
themselves, in the Faubourg St. Germain--no one had left the town
While I am speaking of our departure from Paris, I may say what I
have to say of the dreadful excesses of those days, ay, and of
the following days; excesses of which France is now ashamed, and
for which she blushed even before the accession of his late
Majesty. I am sometimes asked, as one who witnessed them, what I
think, and I answer that it was not our country which was to
blame. A something besides Queen Catherine de' Medici had been
brought from Italy forty years before, a something invisible but
very powerful; a spirit of cruelty and treachery. In Italy it
had done small harm. But grafted on French daring and
recklessness, and the rougher and more soldierly manners of the
north, this spirit of intrigue proved capable of very dreadful
things. For a time, until it wore itself out, it was the curse
of France. Two Dukes of Guise, Francis and Henry, a cardinal of
Guise, the Prince of Conde, Admiral Coligny, King Henry the Third
all these the foremost men of their day--died by assassination
within little more than a quarter of a century, to say nothing of
the Prince of Orange, and King Henry the Great
Then mark--a most curious thing--the extreme youth of those who
were in this business. France, subject to the Queen-Mother, of
course, was ruled at the time by boys scarce out of their tutors'
hands. They were mere lads, hot-blooded, reckless nobles, ready
for any wild brawl, without forethought or prudence. Of the four
Frenchmen who it is thought took the leading parts, one, the
king, was twenty-two; Monsieur, his brother, was only twenty; the
Duke of Guise was twenty-one. Only the Marshal de Tavannes was
of mature age. For the other conspirators, for the Queen-Mother,
for her advisers Retz and Nevers and Birague, they were Italians;
and Italy may answer for them if Florence, Mantua and Milan care
to raise the glove.
To return to our journey. A league from the town we halted at a
large inn, and some of us dismounted. Horses were brought out to
fill the places of those lost or left behind, and Bure had food
served to us. We were famished and exhausted, and ate it
ravenously, as if we could never have enough.
The Vidame sat his horse apart, served by his page, I stole a
glance at him, and it struck me that even on his iron nature the
events of the night had made some impression. I read, or thought
I read, in his countenance, signs of emotions not quite in
accordance with what I knew of him--emotions strange and varied.
I could almost have sworn that as he looked at us a flicker of
kindliness lit up his stern and cruel gloom; I could almost have
sworn he smiled with a curious sadness. As for Louis, riding
with a squad who stood in a different part of the yard, he did
not see us; had not yet seen us at all. His side face, turned
towards me, was pale and sad, his manner preoccupied, his mien
rather sorrowful than downcast. He was thinking, I judged, as
much of the many brave men who had yesterday been his friends--
companions at board and play-table--as of his own fate. When we
presently, at a signal from Bure, took to the road again, I asked
no permission, but thrusting my horse forward, rode to his side
as he passed through the gateway.
A NIGHT OF SORROW.
He turned with a start at the sound of my voice, joy and
bewilderment--and no wonder--in his countenance. He had not
supposed us to be within a hundred leagues of him. And lo! here
we were, knee to knee, hand meeting hand in a long grasp, while
his eyes, to which tears sprang unbidden, dwelt on my face as
though they could read in it the features of his sweetheart.
Some one had furnished him with a hat, and enabled him to put his
dress in order, and wash his wound, which was very slight, and
these changes had improved his appearance; so that the shadow of
grief and despondency passing for a moment from him in the joy of
seeing me, he looked once more his former self: as he had looked
in the old days at Caylus on his return from hawking, or from
some boyish escapade among the hills. Only, alas! he wore no
"And now tell me all," he cried, after his first exclamation of
wonder had found vent. "How on earth do you come here? Here, of
all places, and by my side? Is all well at Caylus? Surely
Mademoiselle is not--"
"Mademoiselle is well! perfectly well! And thinking of you, I
swear!" I answered passionately. "For us," I went on, eager for
the moment to escape that subject--how could I talk of it in the
daylight and under strange eyes?--"Marie and Croisette are
behind, We left Caylus eight days ago. We reached Paris
yesterday evening. We have not been to bed! We have passed,
Louis, such a night as I never--"
He stopped me with a gesture. "Hush!" he said, raising his
hand. "Don't speak of it, Anne!" and I saw that the fate of his
friends was still too recent, the horror of his awakening to
those dreadful sights and sounds was still too vivid for him to
bear reference to them. Yet after riding for a time in silence--
though his lips moved--he asked me again what had brought us up.
"We came to warn you--of him," I answered, pointing to the
solitary, moody figure of the Vidame, who was riding ahead of the
party. "He--he said that Kit should never marry you, and
boasted of what he would do to you, and frightened her. So,
learning he was going to Paris, we followed him--to put you on
your guard, you know." And I briefly sketched our adventures,
and the strange circumstances and mistakes which had delayed us
hour after hour, through all that strange night, until the time
had gone by when we could do good.
His eyes glistened and his colour rose as I told the story. He
wrung my hand warmly, and looked back to smile at Marie and
Croisette. "It was like you!" he ejaculated with emotion. "It
was like her cousins! Brave, brave lads! The Vicomte will live
to be proud of you! Some day you will all do great things! I
"But oh, Louis!" I exclaimed sorrowfully, though my heart was
bounding with pride at his words, "if we had only been in time!
If we had only come to you two hours earlier!"
"You would have spoken to little purpose then, I fear," he
replied, shaking his head. "We were given over as a prey to the
enemy. Warnings? We had warnings in plenty. De Rosny warned
us, and we scoffed at him. The king's eye warned us, and we
trusted him. But--" and Louis' form dilated and his hand rose as
he went on, and I thought of his cousin's prediction--"it will
never be so again in France, Anne! Never! No man will after
this trust another! There will be no honour, no faith, no
quarter, and no peace! And for the Valois who has done this, the
sword will never depart from his house! I believe it! I do
How truly he spoke we know now. For two-and-twenty years after
that twenty-fourth of August, 1572, the sword was scarcely laid
aside in France for a single month. In the streets of Paris, at
Arques, and Coutras, and Ivry, blood flowed like water that the
blood of the St. Bartholomew might be forgotten--that blood
which, by the grace of God, Navarre saw fall from the dice box on
the eve of the massacre. The last of the Valois passed to the
vaults of St. Denis: and a greater king, the first of all
Frenchmen, alive or dead, the bravest, gayest, wisest of the
land, succeeded him: yet even he had to fall by the knife, in a
moment most unhappy for his country, before France, horror-
stricken, put away the treachery and evil from her.
Talking with Louis as we rode, it was not unnatural--nay, it was
the natural result of the situation--that I should avoid one
subject. Yet that subject was the uppermost in my thoughts.
What were the Vidame's intentions? What was the meaning of this
strange journey? What was to be Louis' fate? I shrank with good
reason from asking him these questions. There could be so little
room for hope, even after that smile which I had seen Bezers
smile, that I dared not dwell upon them. I should but torture
him and myself.
So it was he who first spoke about it. Not at that time, but
after sunset, when the dusk had fallen upon us, and found us
still plodding southward with tired horses; a link outwardly like
other links in the long chain of riders, toiling onwards. Then
he said suddenly, "Do you know whither we are going, Anne?"
I started, and found myself struggling with a strange confusion
before I could reply. "Home," I suggested at random.
"Home? No. And yet nearly home. To Cahors," he answered with
an odd quietude. "Your home, my boy, I shall never see again,
Nor Kit! Nor my own Kit!" It was the first time I had heard him
call her by the fond name we used ourselves. And the pathos in
his tone as of the past, not the present, as of pure memory--I
was very thankful that I could not in the dusk see his face
--shook my self-control. I wept. "Nay, my lad," he went on,
speaking softly and leaning from his saddle so that he could lay
his hand on my shoulder "we are all men together. We must be
brave. Tears cannot help us, so we should leave them to the--
I cried more passionately at that. Indeed his own voice quavered
over the last word. But in a moment he was talking to me coolly
and quietly. I had muttered something to the effect that the
Vidame would not dare--it would be too public.
"There is no question of daring in it," he replied. "And the
more public it is, the better he will like it. They have dared
to take thousands of lives since yesterday. There is no one to
call him to account since the king--our king forsooth!--has
declared every Huguenot an outlaw, to be killed wherever he be
met with. No, when Bezers disarmed me yonder," he pointed as he
spoke to his wound, "I looked of course for instant death. Anne!
I saw blood in his eyes! But he did not strike."
"Why not?" I asked in suspense.
"I can only guess," Louis answered with a sigh. "He told me that
my life was in his hands, but that he should take it at his own
time. Further that if I would not give my word to go with him
without trying to escape, he would throw me to those howling dogs
outside. I gave my word. We are on the road together. And oh,
Anne! yesterday, only yesterday, at this time I was riding home
with Teligny from the Louvre, where we had been playing at paume
with the king! And the world--the world was very fair."
"I saw you, or rather Croisette did," I muttered as his sorrow--
not for himself, but his friends--forced him to stop. "Yet how,
Louis, do you know that we are going to Cahors?"
"He told me, as we passed through the gates, that he was
appointed Lieutenant-Governor of Quercy to carry out the edict
against the religion. Do you not see, Anne?" my companion added
bitterly, "to kill me at once were too small a revenge for him!
He must torture me--or rather he would if he could--by the pains
Besides, my execution will so finely open his bed of justice.
Bah!" and Pavannes raised his head proudly, "I fear him not! I
fear him not a jot!"
For a moment he forgot Kit, the loss of his friends, his own
doom. He snapped his fingers in derision of his foe.
But my heart sank miserably. The Vidame's rage I remembered had
been directed rather against my cousin than her lover; and now by
the light of his threats I read Bezers' purpose more clearly than
Louis could. His aim was to punish the woman who had played with
him. To do so he was bringing her lover from Paris that he might
execute him--AFTER GIVING HER NOTICE! That was it: after giving
her notice, it might be in her very presence! He would lure her
to Cahors, and then--
I shuddered. I well might feel that a precipice was opening at
my feet. There was something in the plan so devilish, yet so
accordant with those stories I had heard of the Wolf, that I felt
no doubt of my insight. I read his evil mind, and saw in a
moment why he had troubled himself with us. He hoped to draw
Mademoiselle to Cahors by our means.
Of course I said nothing of this to Louis. I hid my feelings as
well as I could. But I vowed a great vow that at the eleventh
hour we would baulk the Vidame. Surely if all else failed we
could kill him, and, though we died ourselves, spare Kit this
ordeal. My tears were dried up as by a fire. My heart burned
with a great and noble rage: or so it seemed to me!
I do not think that there was ever any journey so strange as this
one of ours. We met with the same incidents which had pleased us
on the road to Paris. But their novelty was gone. Gone too were
the cosy chats with old rogues of landlords and good-natured
dames. We were travelling now in such force that our coming was
rather a terror to the innkeeper than a boon. How much the
Lieutenant-Governor of Quercy, going down to his province,
requisitioned in the king's name; and for how much he paid, we
could only judge from the gloomy looks which followed us as we
rode away each morning. Such looks were not solely due I fear to
the news from Paris, although for some time we were the first
bearers of the tidings.
Presently, on the third day of our journey I think, couriers from
the Court passed us: and henceforth forestalled us. One of
these messengers--who I learned from the talk about me was bound
for Cahors with letters for the Lieutenant-Governor and the
Count-Bishop--the Vidame interviewed and stopped. How it was
managed I do not know, but I fear the Count-Bishop never got his
letters, which I fancy would have given him some joint authority.
Certainly we left the messenger--a prudent fellow with a care for
his skin--in comfortable quarters at Limoges, whence I do not
doubt he presently returned to Paris at his leisure.
The strangeness of the journey however arose from none of these
things, but from the relations of our party to one another.
After the first day we four rode together, unmolested, so long as
we kept near the centre of the straggling cavalcade. The Vidame
always rode alone, and in front, brooding with bent head and
sombre face over his revenge, as I supposed. He would ride in
this fashion, speaking to no one and giving no orders, for a day
together. At times I came near to pitying him. He had loved Kit
in his masterful way, the way of one not wont to be thwarted, and
he had lost her--lost her, whatever might happen. He would get
nothing after all by his revenge. Nothing but ashes in the
mouth. And so I saw in softer moments something inexpressibly
melancholy in that solitary giant-figure pacing always alone.
He seldom spoke to us. More rarely to Louis. When he did, the
harshness of his voice and his cruel eyes betrayed the gloomy
hatred in which he held him. At meals he ate at one end of the
table: we four at the other, as three of us had done on that
first evening in Paris. And sometimes the covert looks, the grim
sneer he shot at his rival--his prisoner--made me shiver even in
the sunshine. Sometimes, on the other hand, when I took him
unawares, I found an expression on his face I could not read.
I told Croisette, but warily, my suspicions of his purpose. He
heard me, less astounded to all appearance than I had expected.
Presently I learned the reason. He had his own view. "Do you
not think it possible, Anne?" he suggested timidly--we were of
course alone at the time-- "that he thinks to make Louis resign
"Resign her!" I exclaimed obtusely. "How?"
"By giving him a choice--you understand?"
I did understand I saw it in a moment. I had been dull not to
see it before. Bezers might put it in this way: let M. de
Pavannes resign his mistress and live, or die and lose her.
"I see," I answered. "But Louis would not give her up. Not to
"He would lose her either way," Croisette answered in a low tone.
"That is not however the worst of it. Louis is in his power.
Suppose he thinks to make Kit the arbiter, Anne, and puts Louis
up to ransom, setting Kit for the price? And gives her the
option of accepting himself, and saving Louis' life; or refusing,
and leaving Louis to die?"
"St. Croix!" I exclaimed fiercely. "He would not be so base!"
And yet was not even this better than the blind vengeance I had
myself attributed to him?
"Perhaps not," Croisette answered, while he gazed onwards through
the twilight. We were at the time the foremost of the party save
the Vidame; and there was nothing to interrupt our view of his
gigantic figure as he moved on alone before us with bowed
shoulders. "Perhaps not," Croisette repeated thoughtfully.
"Sometimes I think we do not understand him; and that after all
there may be worse people in the world than Bezers."
I looked hard at the lad, for that was not what I had meant.
"Worse?" I said. "I do not think so. Hardly!"
"Yes, worse," he replied, shaking his head. "Do you remember
lying under the curtain in the box-bed at Mirepoix's?"
"Of course I do! Do you think I shall ever forget it?"
"And Madame d'O coming in?"
"With the Coadjutor?" I said with a shudder. "Yes."
"No, the second time," he answered, "when she came back alone.
It was pretty dark, you remember, and Madame de Pavannes was at
the window, and her sister did not see her?"
"Well, well, I remember," I said impatiently. I knew from the
tone of his voice that he had something to tell me about Madame
d'O, and I was not anxious to hear it. I shrank, as a wounded
man shrinks from the cautery, from hearing anything about that
woman; herself so beautiful, yet moving in an atmosphere of
suspicion and horror. Was it shame, or fear, or some chivalrous
feeling having its origin in that moment when I had fancied
myself her knight? I am not sure, for I had not made up my mind
even now whether I ought to pity or detest her; whether she had
made a tool of me, or I had been false to her.
"She came up to the bed, you remember, Anne?" Croisette went on.
"You were next to her. She saw you indistinctly, and took you
for her sister. And then I sprang from the bed."
"I know you did!" I exclaimed sharply. All this time I had
forgotten that grievance. "You nearly frightened her out of her
wits, St. Croix. I cannot think what possessed you--why you did
"To save your life, Anne" he answered solemnly, "and her from a
crime! an unutterable, an unnatural crime. She had come back to
I can hardly tell it you--to murder her sister. You start. You
do not believe me. It sounds too horrible. But I could see
better than you could. She was exactly between you and the
light. I saw the knife raised. I saw her wicked face! If I had
not startled her as I did, she would have stabbed you. She
dropped the knife on the floor, and I picked it up and have it.
I looked furtively, and turned away again, shivering. "Why," I
muttered, "why did she do it?"
"She had failed you know to get her sister back to Pavannes'
house, where she would have fallen an easy victim. Bezers, who
knew Madame d'O, prevented that. Then that fiend slipped back
with her knife; thinking that in the common butchery the crime
would be overlooked, and never investigated, and that Mirepoix
would be silent!"
I said nothing. I was stunned. Yet I believed the story. When
I went over the facts in my mind I found that a dozen things,
overlooked at the time and almost forgotten in the hurry of
events, sprang up to confirm it. M. de Pavannes'--the other M.
de Pavannes'--suspicions had been well founded. Worse than
Bezers was she? Ay! worse a hundred times. As much worse as
treachery ever is than violence; as the pitiless fraud of the
serpent is baser than the rage of the wolf.
"I thought," Croisette added softly, not looking at me, "when I
discovered that you had gone off with her, that I should never
see you again, Anne. I gave you up for lost. The happiest
moment of my life I think was when I saw you come back."
"Croisette," I whispered piteously, my cheeks burning, "let us
never speak of her again."
And we never did--for years. But how strange is life. She and
the wicked man with whom her fate seemed bound up had just
crossed our lives when their own were at the darkest. They
clashed with us, and, strangers and boys as we were, we ruined
them. I have often asked myself what would have happened to me
had I met her at some earlier and less stormy period--in the
brilliance of her beauty. And I find but one answer. I should
bitterly have rued the day. Providence was good to me. Such men
and such women, we may believe have ceased to exist now. They
flourished in those miserable days of war and divisions, and
passed away with them like the foul night-birds of the battle-
To return to our journey. In the morning sunshine one could not
but be cheerful, and think good things possible. The worst trial
I had came with each sunset. For then--we generally rode late
into the evening--Louis sought my side to talk to me of his
sweetheart. And how he would talk of her! How many thousand
messages he gave me for her! How often he recalled old days
among the hills, with each laugh and jest and incident, when we
five had been as children! Until I would wonder passionately,
the tears running down my face in the darkness, how he could--how
he could talk of her in that quiet voice which betrayed no
rebellion against fate, no cursing of Providence! How he could
plan for her and think of her when she should be alone!
Now I understand it. He was still labouring under the shock of
his friends' murder. He was still partially stunned. Death
seemed natural and familiar to him, as to one who had seen his
allies and companions perish without warning or preparation.
Death had come to be normal to him, life the exception; as I have
known it seem to a child brought face to face with a corpse for
the first time.
One afternoon a strange thing happened. We could see the
Auvergne hills at no great distance on our left--the Puy de Dome
above them--and we four were riding together. We had fallen--an
unusual thing--to the rear of the party. Our road at the moment
was a mere track running across moorland, sprinkled here and
there with gorse and brushwood. The main company had straggled
on out of sight. There were but half a dozen riders to be seen
an eighth of a league before us, a couple almost as far behind.
I looked every way with a sudden surging of the heart. For the
first time the possibility of flight occurred to me. The rough
Auvergne hills were within reach. Supposing we could get a lead
of a quarter of a league, we could hardly be caught before
darkness came and covered us. Why should we not put spurs to our
horses and ride off?
"Impossible!" said Pavannes quietly, when I spoke.
"Why?" I asked with warmth.
"Firstly," he replied, "because I have given my word to go with
the Vidame to Cahors."
My face flushed hotly. But I cried, "What of that? You were
taken by treachery! Your safe conduct was disregarded. Why
should you be scrupulous? Your enemies are not. This is folly?"
"I think not. Nay," Louis answered, shaking his head, "you would
not do it yourself in my place."
"I think I should," I stammered awkwardly.
"No, you would not, lad," he said smiling. "I know you too well.
But if I would do it, it is impossible." He turned in the saddle
and, shading his eyes with his hand from the level rays of the
sun, looked back intently. "It is as I thought," he continued.
"One of those men is riding grey Margot, which Bure said
yesterday was the fastest mare in the troop. And the man on her
is a light weight. The other fellow has that Norman bay horse we
were looking at this morning. It is a trap laid by Bezers, Anne.
If we turned aside a dozen yards, those two would be after us
like the wind."
"Do you mean," I cried, "that Bezers has drawn his men forward on
"Precisely; was Louis's answer. "That is the fact. Nothing
would please him better than to take my honour first, and my life
afterwards. But, thank God, only the one is in his power."
And when I came to look at the horsemen, immediately before us,
they confirmed Louis's view. They were the best mounted of the
party: all men of light weight too. One or other of them was
constantly looking back. As night fell they closed in upon us
with their usual care. When Bure joined us there was a gleam of
intelligence in his bold eyes, a flash of conscious trickery. He
knew that we had found him out, and cared nothing for it.
And the others cared nothing. But the thought that if left to
myself I should have fallen into the Vidame's cunning trap filled
me with new hatred towards him; such hatred and such fear--for
there was humiliation mingled with them--as I had scarcely felt
before. I brooded over this, barely noticing what passed in our
company for hours--nay, not until the next day when, towards
evening, the cry arose round me that we were within sight of
Cahors. Yes, there it lay below us, in its shallow basin,
surrounded by gentle hills. The domes of the cathedral, the
towers of the Vallandre Bridge, the bend of the Lot, where its
stream embraces the town--I knew them all. Our long journey was
And I had but one idea. I had some time before communicated to
Croisette the desperate design I had formed--to fall upon Bezers
and kill him in the midst of his men in the last resort. Now the
time had come if the thing was ever to be done: if we had not
left it too long already. And I looked about me. There was some
confusion and jostling as we halted on the brow of the hill,
while two men were despatched ahead to announce the governor's
arrival, and Bure, with half a dozen spears, rode out as an
The road where we stood was narrow, a shallow cutting winding
down the declivity of the hills. The horses were tired, It was a
bad time and place for my design, and only the coming night was
in my favour. But I was desperate.
Yet before I moved or gave a signal which nothing could recall, I
scanned the landscape eagerly, scrutinizing in turn the small,
rich plain below us, warmed by the last rays of the sun, the bare
hills here glowing, there dark, the scattered wood-clumps and
spinneys that filled the angles of the river, even the dusky line
of helm-oaks that crowned the ridge beyond--Caylus way. So near
our own country there might be help! If the messenger whom we
had despatched to the Vicomte before leaving home had reached
him, our uncle might have returned, and even be in Cahors to meet
But no party appeared in sight: and I saw no place where an
ambush could be lying. I remembered that no tidings of our
present plight or of what had happened could have reached the
Vicomte. The hope faded out of life as soon as despair had given
it birth. We must fend for ourselves and for Kit.
That was my justification. I leaned from my saddle towards
Croisette--I was riding by his side--and muttered, as I felt my
horse's head and settled myself firmly in the stirrups, "You
remember what I said? Are you ready?"
He looked at me in a startled way, with a face showing white in
the shadow: and from me to the one solitary figure seated like a
pillar a score of paces in front with no one between us and it.
"There need be but two of us," I muttered, loosening my sword.
"Shall it be you or Marie? The others must leap their horses out
of the road in the confusion, cross the river at the Arembal Ford
if they are not overtaken, and make for Caylus."
He hesitated. I do not know whether it had anything to do with
his hesitation that at that moment the cathedral bell in the town
below us began to ring slowly for Vespers. Yes, he hesitated.
He--a Caylus. Turning to him again, I repeated my question
impatiently. "Which shall it be? A moment, and we shall be
moving on, and it will be too late."
He laid his hand hurriedly on my bridle, and began a rambling
answer. Rambling as it was I gathered his meaning. It was
enough for me! I cut him short with one word of fiery
indignation, and turned to Marie and spoke quickly. "Will you,
then?" I said.
But Marie shook his head in perplexity, and answering little,
said the same. So it happened a second time.
Strange! Yet strange as it seemed, I was not greatly surprised.
Under other circumstances I should have been beside myself with
anger at the defection. Now I felt as if I had half expected it,
and without further words of reproach I dropped my head and gave
it up. I passed again into the stupor of endurance. The Vidame
was too strong for me. It was useless to fight against him. We
were under the spell. When the troop moved forward, I went with
them, silent and apathetic.
We passed through the gate of Cahors, and no doubt the scene was
worthy of note; but I had only a listless eye for it--much such
an eye as a man about to be broken on the wheel must have for
that curious instrument, supposing him never to have seen it
before. The whole population had come out to line the streets
through which we rode, and stood gazing, with scarcely veiled
looks of apprehension, at the procession of troopers and the
stern face of the new governor.
We dismounted passively in the courtyard of the castle, and were
for going in together, when Bure intervened. "M. de Pavannes,"
he said, pushing rather rudely between us, "will sup alone to-
night. For you, gentlemen, this way, if you please."
I went without remonstrance. What was the use? I was conscious
that the Vidame from the top of the stairs leading to the grand
entrance was watching us with a wolfish glare in his eyes. I
went quietly. But I heard Croisette urging something with
We were led through a low doorway to a room on the ground floor;
a place very like a cell. Were we took our meal in silence.
When it was over I flung myself on one of the beds prepared for
us, shrinking from my companions rather in misery than in
No explanation had passed between us. Still I knew that the
other two from time to time eyed me doubtfully. I feigned
therefore to be asleep, but I heard Bure enter to bid us good-
night--and see that we had not escaped. And I was conscious too
of the question Croisette put to him, "Does M. de Pavannes lie
alone to-night, Bure?"
"Not entirely," the captain answered with gloomy meaning. Indeed
he seemed in bad spirits himself, or tired. "The Vidame is
anxious for his soul's welfare, and sends a priest to him."
They sprang to their feet at that. But the light and its bearer,
who so far recovered himself as to chuckle at his master's pious
thought, had disappeared. They were left to pace the room, and
reproach themselves and curse the Vidame in an agony of late
repentance. Not even Marie could find a loop-hole of escape from
here. The door was double-locked; the windows so barred that a
cat could scarcely pass through them; the walls were of solid
Meanwhile I lay and feigned to sleep, and lay feigning through
long, long hours; though my heart like theirs throbbed in
response to the dull hammering that presently began without, and
not far from us, and lasted until daybreak. From our windows,
set low and facing a wall, we could see nothing. But we could
guess what the noise meant, the dull, earthy thuds when posts
were set in the ground, the brisk, wooden clattering when one
plank was laid to another. We could not see the progress of the
work, or hear the voices of the workmen, or catch the glare of
their lights. But we knew what they were doing. They were
raising the scaffold.
JOY IN THE MORNING.
I was too weary with riding to go entirely without sleep. And
moreover it is anxiety and the tremor of excitement which make
the pillow sleepless, not, heaven be thanked, sorrow. God made
man to lie awake and hope: but never to lie awake and grieve.
An hour or two before daybreak I fell asleep, utterly worn out.
When I awoke, the sun was high, and shining slantwise on our
window. The room was gay with the morning rays, and soft with
the morning freshness, and I lay a while, my cheek on my hand,
drinking in the cheerful influence as I had done many and many a
day in our room at Caylus. It was the touch of Marie's hand,
laid timidly on my arm, which roused me with a shock to
consciousness. The truth broke upon me. I remembered where we
were, and what was before us. "Will you get up, Anne?"
Croisette said. "The Vidame has sent for us."
I got to my feet, and buckled on my sword. Croisette was leaning
against the wall, pale and downcast. Bure filled the open
doorway, his feathered cap in his hand, a queer smile on his
face. "You are a good sleeper, young gentleman," he said. "You
should have a good conscience."
"Better than yours, no doubt!" I retorted, "or your master's."
He shrugged his shoulders, and, bidding us by a sign to follow
him, led the way through several gloomy passages. At the end of
these, a flight of stone steps leading upwards seemed to promise
something better; and true enough, the door at the top being
opened, the murmur of a crowd reached our ears, with a burst of
sunlight and warmth. We were in a lofty room, with walls in some
places painted, and elsewhere hung with tapestry; well lighted by
three old pointed windows reaching to the rush-covered floor.
The room was large, set here and there with stands of arms, and
had a dais with a raised carved chair at one end. The ceiling
was of blue, with gold stars set about it. Seeing this, I
remembered the place. I had been in it once, years ago, when I
had attended the Vicomte on a state visit to the governor. Ah!
that the Vicomte were here now!
I advanced to the middle window, which was open. Then I started
back, for outside was the scaffold built level with the floor,
and rush-covered like it! Two or three people were lounging on
it. My eyes sought Louis among the group, but in vain. He was
not there: and while I looked for him, I heard a noise behind
me, and he came in, guarded by four soldiers with pikes.
His face was pale and grave, but perfectly composed. There was a
wistful look in his eyes indeed, as if he were thinking of
something or some one far away--Kit's face on the sunny hills of
Quercy where he had ridden with her, perhaps; a look which seemed
to say that the doings here were nothing to him, and the parting
was yonder where she was. But his bearing was calm and
collected, his step firm and fearless. When he saw us, indeed
his face lightened a moment and he greeted us cheerfully, even
acknowledging Bure's salutation with dignity and good temper.
Croisette sprang towards him impulsively, and cried his name--
Croisette ever the first to speak. But before Louis could grasp
his hand, the door at the bottom of the hall was swung open, and
the Vidame came hurriedly in.
He was alone. He glanced round, his forbidding face, which was
somewhat flushed as if by haste, wearing a scowl. Then he saw
us, and, nodding haughtily, strode up the floor, his spurs
clanking heavily on the boards. We gave us no greeting, but by a
short word dismissed Bure and the soldiers to the lower end of
the room. And then he stood and looked at us four, but
principally at his rival; and looked, and looked with eyes of
smouldering hate. And there was a silence, a long silence, while
the murmur of the crowd came almost cheerfully through the
window, and the sparrows under the eaves chirped and twittered,
and the heart that throbbed least painfully was, I do believe,
Louis de Pavannes'!
At last Bezers broke the silence.
"M. de Pavannes!" he began, speaking hoarsely, yet concealing
all passion under a cynical smile and a mock politeness, "M. de
Pavannes, I hold the king's commission to put to death all the
Huguenots within my province of Quercy. Have you anything to
say, I beg, why I should not begin with you? Or do you wish to
return to the Church?"
Louis shrugged his shoulders as in contempt, and held his peace,
I saw his captor's great hands twitch convulsively at this, but
still the Vidame mastered himself, and when he spoke again he
spoke slowly. "Very well," he continued, taking no heed of us,
the silent witnesses of this strange struggle between the two
men, but eyeing Louis only. "You have wronged me more than any
man alive. Alive or dead! or dead! You have thwarted me, M. de
Pavannes, and taken from me the woman I loved. Six days ago I
might have killed you. I had it in my power. I had but to leave
you to the rabble, remember, and you would have been rotting at
Montfaucon to-day, M. de Pavannes."