An Enemy To The King
Robert Neilson Stephens
Part 4 out of 6
She started to go into the inn, but I caught her by the hand and
"Mademoiselle," I said, gently, "the difference in our religions need not
forbid such words between us as I have spoken. I can understand how you
regard it as an insuperable barrier, but it is really a slight one,
easily removed, as it has been in many notable cases."
"Monsieur," she replied, resolutely, shaking her head, "I say again, we
must part. I am not to be urged or persuaded. The greatest kindness you
can do me is to go, or let me go, without more words."
"But, mademoiselle," I interposed, "it will be very difficult for you to
continue your flight across this border without a guide. Not to speak of
the danger from men, there is the chance of losing your way."
"The Sieur de la Tournoire will not refuse me his guidance," she said, in
a voice that seemed forced to an unwonted hardness.
"Then you will discard my protection, and accept his, a stranger's?"
"Yes, because he is a stranger,--thank God!"
What, I asked myself, was to be the end of this? Would she not, on
learning that La Tournoire was myself, all the more decidedly insist on
going her own way? Therefore, before disclosing myself to her, I must
accustom her to the view that a difference in religion ought not to
separate two who love each other. In order to do this, I must have time;
so I said:
"At least, mademoiselle, you will let me show you the way to Maury, and
present to you the Sieur de la Tournoire. That is little to ask."
"I have already accepted too much from you," she replied, hesitating.
"Then cancel the obligation by granting me this one favor."
"Very well, monsieur. But you will then go immediately?"
"From the moment when you first meet La Tournoire, he shall be your only
guide, unless you yourself choose another. In the meantime," I added, for
she had taken another step towards the inn, "grant me at least as much of
your society as you would bestow on an indifferent acquaintance, who
happened to be your fellow-traveler in this lonely place."
She gave a sigh which I took as meaning that the more we should see each
other, the harder the parting would be at last, but she said,
"We shall meet at supper, monsieur, and to-morrow, when you conduct me
on to Maury." Then she entered the inn, but stopped on the threshold,
and, casting on me a strangely wistful look, she added, "Great must be
the friendship between you and La Tournoire, that you can so confidently
assure his protection to those for whom you ask it."
"Oh, I have done much for him, and he cannot refuse me any request that
it is in his power to grant," I said, truly enough.
"Then," she went on, "the tie is one of obligation, rather than of great
"Yes. I have often been in a position to do him great services when no
one else was, and when he most needed them. As for my feeling of
friendship for him, I shall not even weep when he is dead."
"Suppose you should love a woman," she continued, with a strange
eagerness, "and there should come a time when you would have to choose
between your love for her, and your friendship for this man, which
"I would sacrifice La Tournoire for the woman I loved," I answered,
She looked at me steadily, and a hope seemed to dawn in her eyes, but in
a moment they darkened again; she sighed deeply, and she turned to ascend
to her chamber, while I stood there trying to deduce a meaning from her
strange speeches and conduct, which I finally put down to the
capaciousness of woman. I could understand the feeling that she ought to
part from a man who loved her and whom her religion forbade her to love
in return; but why she should seem pleased at the apparent lukewarmness
of my friendship for La Tournoire, whom she was willing to accept as her
guide, I could not guess. Since she intended to part from me, never to
see me again, what mattered it to her whether or not I was the intimate
of a proscribed ruffian? Yet she seemed glad to hear that I was not, but
this might be only seeming. I might not have read her face and tone
aright. Her inquiries might have been due to curiosity alone. So I
thought no more of them, and gave my mind instead to planning how she
might be made to ignore the difference between our religions, and to
revoke the edict banishing me from her side. It would be necessary that
she should be willing to remain at Maury, with a guard composed of some
of my men, while I, giving a pretext for delaying the flight and for the
absence of myself and the most of my company, should attempt the delivery
of her father from the château of Fleurier. It was my hope, though I
dared not yet breathe it, that I might bring her father and my company
back to Maury, and that all of us might then proceed to Guienne.
My meditations were interrupted by the return of Blaise from Maury, where
he had found all well and the men there joyous at the prospect of soon
rejoining the army in Guienne. A part of the company was absent on a
foraging raid. Two of the roofed chambers were rapidly being made
habitable for Mlle. de Varion, whom Blaise had announced to the men as a
When supper was ready in the kitchen, I sent Jeannotte to summon her
mistress. Mademoiselle came down from her chamber, her sweet face
betokening a brave attempt to bear up under the many woes that crushed
her,--the condition of her father, her own exile, the peril in which she
stood of the governor's reconsidering his order and sending to make her
prisoner, the seeming necessity of exchanging my guidance for that of a
stranger who had been painted to her in repulsive colors, and the other
unhappy elements of her situation.
"It is strange that the boy, Pierre, has not returned," I said, while we
sat at table.
Mademoiselle reddened. It then occurred to me that, in her abstraction,
she had not even noticed his absence, and that now it came on her as a
"Pardon me for speaking of it in such a way as to frighten you," I said.
"There is no cause for alarm. Not finding me on the road, he may have
turned into the woods to look for me, and so have lost his way. He would
surely be able to find the road again."
"I trust he will not come to any harm," replied mademoiselle, in a low
voice that seemed forced, as if she were concealing the fears that she
Jeannotte cast a sympathetic look at her mistress.
"Shall I go and look for him?" asked Hugo, showing in his face his
anxiety for his comrade.
"You would lose yourself, also," I said. "Mademoiselle, I shall go, for I
know all the hillocks and points of vantage from which he may be seen."
"Nay, monsieur, do not give yourself the trouble, I pray you."
But I rose from the table, to show that I was determined, and said:
"Blaise, I leave you as guard. Remember last night."
"I am not likely to forget," he growled, dropping his eyes before the
sharp glance of Jeannotte. "Mademoiselle need have no fears."
"But, monsieur," said mademoiselle. She was about to continue, but her
eye met Jeannotte's, and in the face of the maid was an expression as if
counselling silence. So mademoiselle said no more, but she followed me to
the door, and stood on the threshold.
"Monsieur," she said, "if you do not find him within a few minutes, I
entreat that you will not put yourself to further discomfort. See, it is
already nearly dark. If he be lost in the woods for the night, he can
doubtless find his way hither tomorrow."
"I shall not seek long, mademoiselle, for the reason that I would not be
long away from you."
At that moment, feeling under my foot something different from leaves or
earth, I stooped and found one of mademoiselle's gloves, which she had
dropped, probably, on first entering the inn. Remaining in my kneeling
posture and looking up at her sweet, sad face, I said:
"Whatever may come in the future, mademoiselle, circumstance has made me
your faithful chevalier for a day. Will you not give me some badge of
service that I may wear forever in memory of that sweet, though
"Keep what you have in your hand," she replied, in a low voice, and
pointed to her glove.
I rose, and fastened the glove on my hat, and said: "They shall find
it on me when I am dead, mademoiselle." Then I turned to go in search
"I shall go to my room now," she said, "and so, good-night, monsieur!"
I turned, and made to take her hand that I might kiss it, but she drew it
away, and then, standing on the threshold, she raised it as one does in
bestowing a _benedicite_, and said:
"God watch you through the night, monsieur!"
"And you forever, mademoiselle!" said I, but she had gone. For a moment
I stood looking up at her chamber window, thinking how it had come over
me again, as in the days of my youth, the longing to be near one woman.
Night was now coming on. In the deeper shades of the forest it was
already dark, but the sky was clear, and soon the moon would rise. Musing
as I went, I walked along the road that Pierre had first taken. The only
sounds that I heard were the ceaseless chirps and whirrs of the insects
of the bushes and trees.
When I had gone some distance, I bethought me of my heedlessness in
coming away from the inn without my sword. I had taken this off before
sitting down to eat, and at my departure my mind had been so taken up
with other matters that I had omitted to put it on. My dagger was with it
at the inn. At first I thought of returning for these weapons, but I
considered that I would not be away long, and that there was no
likelihood of my requiring weapon in these solitudes. So I continued on
my way towards a knoll whence I expected to get a good view of the road,
and thus, should Pierre be returning on that road, spare myself the labor
of plunging into the wood's depths and listening for the footsteps of his
horse or of himself.
I had walked several minutes in the increasing darkness, when there came
to my ears, from the shades at the right, the sound of a human snore.
Had the boy fatigued himself in trying to find the way, and fallen asleep
without knowledge of his nearness to the inn?
"Pierre!" I called. There was no answer.
I called again. Again there was no reply, but the snoring ceased. A third
time I called. My call was unheeded.
I turned into the wilds, and forced my way through dense undergrowth. At
a short distance from the road, I came on traces of the passage of some
one else. Following these, I arrived at last at a small open space,
where the absence of vegetation seemed due to some natural cause.
Sufficient of the day's failing light reached the clearing to show me
the figures of four men on the ground before me, three of them stretched
in slumber, the fourth sitting up. The last held a huge old two-handed
sword over his shoulder, ready to strike. The threatening attitude of
this giant made me take mechanically a step backward, and feel for my
sword. Alas, I was unarmed!
"So, my venturesome lackey, we meet again!" came a sarcastic voice from
the left, and some one darted between me and the four men, facing me with
It was the Vicomte de Berquin, and a triumphant smile was on his face.
Moved by the thought that mademoiselle's safety depended on me, I was
not ashamed, being unarmed, to turn about for immediate flight. But I had
no sooner shown my back to M. de Berquin, than I found myself face to
face with the scowling Barbemouche, who stood motionless, the point of
his sword not many inches from my breast.
HOW THE HERO GAVE HIS WORD AND KEPT IT
I stood still and reflected.
"You lack a weapon," said M. de Berquin, humorously. "I shall presently
give you mine, point first."
As I was still facing Barbemouche, I imagined the point of the Vicomte's
sword entering my back, and I will confess that I shivered.
"And I mine," growled Barbemouche. "Though you are a lackey and I a
gentleman, yet, by the grandmother of Beelzebub, I am glad to see you!"
"Indeed!" said I, whose only hope was to gain time for thought. "This is
a heartier welcome than a stranger might expect."
De Berquin laughed. Barbemouche said, "You are no stranger"
"Then you know me?" said I. "Who am I?"
"You are the answer to a prayer," said Barbemouche, with an ugly grin.
"You thought you fooled us finely last night, and that when you had made
a hole in my body you had done with me. But I got a look at you after the
mistake was discovered, and I vowed the virgin a dozen candles in return
for another meeting with you. And now she has sent you to me."
And he looked at me with such jubilant vindictiveness that I turned and
faced De Berquin, saying:
"Monsieur the Vicomte, I have made up my mind that your visage is more
pleasant to look on than that of your friend."
By this time, the other three rascals on the ground had been awakened by
the tall fellow, and the four had taken up their weapons and placed
themselves at the four sides of the open space, so that I could not make
a bolt in any direction. All the circumstances that made my life at that
time doubly precious rushed into my mind. On it depended the safety of
Mlle. de Varion, the rescue of her father, the expeditious return of my
brave company to our Henri's side, and certain valuable interests of our
Henri's cause. I will confess that it was for its use to mademoiselle,
rather than for its use to our Henri, that I most valued, at that moment,
the life which there was every chance of my speedily losing. In De
Berquin, and in Barbemouche as well, vengeance cried for my immediate
death. Moreover, my death would remove the chief obstacle to De Berquin's
having his will concerning Mlle. de Varion. For an instant, I thought he
might let me live that I might tell him her whereabouts, but I perceived
that my presence was indication to him that she was near at hand. He
could now rely on himself to find her. The opportunity of removing me
from his way was not to be risked by delay. It was true that I might
obtain respite by announcing myself as the Sieur de la Tournoire, for he
would wish to present me alive to the governor, if he could do so. The
governor and the Duke of Guise would desire to season their revenge on me
with torture, and to attempt the forcing from me of secrets of our party.
But to make myself known as La Tournoire was but to defer my death. The
life that I might thus prolong could not be of any further service to
mademoiselle or to Henri of Navarre. Still, I might so gain time. I might
escape; my men might rescue me. So, as a last resource, I would save my
life by disclosing myself; but I would defer this disclosure until the
last possible instant. De Berquin and Barbemouche were evidently in for
amusing themselves awhile at my expense. They would prolong matters for
their own pleasure and my own further humiliation. Meanwhile, an
unexpected means of eluding them might arise.
As for their presence there, I have always accounted for it on this
supposition: That, after their defeat on the previous night, they had
reunited in the woods, hidden themselves where they might observe our
departure from the inn in the morning, followed us at a distance into
the mountain forest, lost our track, and finally, knowing neither of
Godeau's inn nor of their nearness to the road, dismounted, and sought
afoot an open space in which to pass the night. Their horses were
probably not far away.
"Ha!" laughed De Berquin, in answer to my words and movement. "So you
don't share Barbemouche's own opinion of his beauty?"
An unctuous guffaw from the fat rascal, and a grim chuckle from gaunt
François, indicated that Barbemouche's ugliness was a favorite subject of
mirth with his comrades.
"The opinion of a dead lackey does not amount to much," gutturally
observed Barbemouche. Doubtless I should have felt the point of his
rapier between my shoulders but that he waited on the will of De Berquin.
His tone showed that he really had the high regard for his looks that De
Berquin's words had implied. It afterward became evident to me that the
ugliness of this burly rascal was equalled only by his vanity.
"Nor is a dead lackey half as useful as a living one can be," I said,
looking De Berquin straight in the eyes.
"_Par dieu_! I admit that you have been very useful against me, and that
is why I am going to kill you," replied De Berquin.
"Would it not be more worthy of a man of intellect, like the Vicomte de
Berquin, if I have been useful against him, to make me pay for it by
being useful for him?" I said, quietly, without having yet the least idea
of what service I should propose doing him in return for my life.
"Most interesting of lackeys, how might you be useful to me?" inquired De
Berquin, continuing his mood of sinister jocularity.
How, indeed? I asked myself. Aloud I answered slowly, in order to have
the more time to think:
"In your present enterprise, monsieur."
"The devil! What do you know of my present enterprise?" he asked,
I saw that I had at least awakened his interest in the idea that I might
be worth using alive.
"I will tell you," I answered, "if you will first ask this unpleasant
person behind me to step aside."
"Unpleasant person!" repeated Barbemouche, astonished at my audacity.
"You dog, do you speak in such terms of a gentleman?"
So he was under the delusion also that he possessed gentility.
"Stop, Gilles!" commanded De Berquin. "Go yonder, while I listen to this
amusing knave. Let him talk awhile before he dies."
Barbemouche sullenly went over to the side of François, and stood there
glowering at me. It was a relief to know that his sword-point was no
longer at my back.
"Now, rascal!" said De Berquin to me. "My present enterprise, and how you
can be useful to me in it?"
"In the first place, monsieur," I began, having no knowledge how I was to
finish, "you and your gallant company are doubtless tired, hungry, and
An assenting grunt from the tall fellow, and a look of keen interest on
the faces of all, showed that I had not spoken amiss.
"You are quite lost in these woods," I went on. "You do not know how near
you may be to any road or to any habitation, where you might have roof,
food, and drink. Heaven, in giving me the pleasure of meeting you, has
also done you the kindness of sending one who can guide you to these
blessings. That is the first service I can do you."
"Very well, you shall do it. I can kill you as well afterwards."
"But I will not do it unless I have your promise, on your honor as
gentlemen, to give me both my life and my liberty immediately."
"My very modest lackey, you greatly undervalue both your life and your
liberty, if you think you can buy them from me at so small a cost. No;
you offer too little. The pleasure of killing you far exceeds that of
having your guidance. Now that we have happily met you, we know that
there must be shelter, food, and drink somewhere near at hand. We can
find them for ourselves in as short a time, perhaps, as it would require
you to take us there. We shall doubtless have the happiness of meeting
there your very gallant master and the lady whom he protects with your
arm and sword. Having robbed him of his means of guarding his lovely
charge, I shall in fairness relieve him of the charge."
I perceived here the opportunity of learning whether it was under the
governor's orders, received through Montignac, that De Berquin pursued
mademoiselle while he came in quest of the Sieur de la Tournoire, or
whether it was on his own account.
"Your infatuation for this lady must be very great," I said, in a tone
too low for his four followers to distinguish my words, "to lead you to
force your presence on her."
"_My_ infatuation!" he repeated, and then he laughed. "My very knowing
lackey, if you were better informed of my affairs, you would know that an
infatuation for Mlle. de Varion is a luxury that I cannot at present
afford. A man who has lost his estates, his money, his king's favor, and
who has fled from his creditors in Paris to prey on the provinces, thinks
not of love, but of how to refill his pockets."
"Then it is not for love that you pursue Mile, de Varion?" I said. I
now believed, as I had first thought, that the governor had changed his
mind after ordering mademoiselle to leave the province, had decided to
hold her in durance, and had commissioned De Berquin to detain her, as
well as to hunt down me. But I put the question in order to get further
time for thought.
"For love, yes; but not for mine!" was the answer.
This startled me. "For that of M. de la Chatre?" I asked, quickly.
"You seem to be curious on this point," said De Berquin, derisively.
"If I am to die," I replied, "you can lose nothing by gratifying my
curiosity. If I am to live, I may be the better able to serve you if you
"I am not one to refuse the request of a man about to die," he said, with
a self-amused look. "It is not La Chatre, the superb, whose _amour_ I
have come into this cursed wilderness to serve."
"Then who--?" But I stopped at the beginning of the question, as a new
thought came to me. "The secretary!" I said.
"Montignac, the modest and meditative," replied De Berquin.
I might have thought it. What man of his age, however given to deep
study and secret ambition, could have been insensible to her beauty, her
grace, her gentleness? Such a youth as Montignac would pass a thousand
women indifferently, and at last perceive in Mlle. de Varion at first
glance the perfections that distinguished her from others of her sex.
Doubtless, to him, as to me, she embodied an ideal, a dream, of which he
had scarcely dared hope to find the realization. Seeing her at the inn,
he had been warmed by her charms at once. He had resolved to avail
himself of his power and of her helplessness. Her father in prison,
herself an exile without one powerful friend, she would be at his mercy.
Forbidden by his duties to leave the governor's side, he could charge De
Berquin, in giving the latter the governor's orders concerning myself,
with the additional task of securing the person of mademoiselle, that he
might woo her at his leisure and in his own way. The governor, ready
enough to frighten into an unwarranted exile a woman whose entreaties he
feared, would yet not be so ungallant as to give her to his secretary
for the asking. But Montignac might safely hold her prisoner, the
governor would think that she had left the province, there would be none
to rescue her. Such were the acts, designs, and thoughts that I
attributed to the reticent, far-seeing, resolute secretary. All passed
through my mind in a moment.
And now I feared for mademoiselle as I had not feared before. I never
feared a man, or two men at a time, who came with sword in hand; but how
is one to meet or even to perceive the blows aimed by men of thought and
power? Such as Montignac, inscrutable, patient, ingenious, strong enough
to conceal their own passions, which themselves are more intense and far
more lasting than the passions of a mere man of fighting, are not easily
turned aside from the quest of any object on which they have put their
desires. One against whom they have set themselves is never safe from
them while they live. Years do not make them either give up or forget.
Montignac, by reason of his influence over the governor, had vast
resources to employ. He could turn the machinery of government to his own
ends, and the trustful governor not suspect. In that slim youth,
smooth-faced, pale, repressed, grave, not always taking the trouble to
erase from his features the signs of his scorn for ordinary minds, a
scorn mingled with a sense of his own power and with a kind of derisive
mirth,--in this quiet student I beheld an antagonist more formidable than
any against whom I had ever been pitted. In thinking of him, I came at
once to regard De Berquin, who still stood facing me with ready sword,
and on his face the intention of killing me plainly written, as a very
inconsiderable opponent, even when backed by his four ruffians with
their varied collection of weapons.
If I was to save Mlle. de Varion from the designs of the far-reaching
secretary, it was time that I eluded the danger immediately
For a few moments after De Berquin uttered the speech last recorded, I
stood silent, my eyes meeting his.
"Come," he said, presently, impatiently giving several turns of his wrist
so that his sword-point described arcs in the air before my eyes. "We
wander from the subject. What service can you do me? Don't think you can
keep me talking until your party happens to come up. I intend to kill you
when I shall have counted twenty, unless before that time you make it
appear worth my while to let you live. One, two, three--"
His look showed that he had ceased to be amused at my situation. Alive, I
had begun to bore him. It was time to make sure of his vengeance. His men
stood on all sides to prevent my flight. At my least movement, he would
thrust his rapier deep into my body. He went on counting. What could I
offer him to make him stay his hand? Was there anything in the world that
he might desire which it would appear to be in my power to give him?
"Thirteen, fourteen, fifteen," he counted, taking exact note of the
distance between us.
As in a flash the idea came to me.
"Monsieur," I said, loudly, so as to be plainly heard above his own
voice, "let me go and I will deliver to you the Sieur de la Tournoire!"
He had reached nineteen in his count. He stopped there and stared at me.
"The Sieur de la Tournoire," he repeated, as if the idea of his taking
the Sieur de la Tournoire were a new one.
"You speak, monsieur," said I, quietly, "as if you had not come to these
hills for the purpose of catching him."
He looked at me with a kind of surprise, but said nothing in reply to my
remark. "It is natural," thought I, "for him not to disclose his purpose,
even when there is no use for him to conceal it."
"I take La Tournoire?" he said, presently, half to himself. He stood
thinking for a time, during which I supposed that he was considering the
propriety of his personally making the capture, in view of the plan that
I had overheard Montignac suggest to the governor, namely, that the spy
should merely lure La Tournoire into an ambush where the governor's
soldiers should make the seizure. The spy had doubtless received orders
strictly in accordance with this plan, La Tournoire being considered too
great game to be bagged by anything less than a company of soldiers.
"Why not?" said I. "Whoever does so will receive a good price in
addition to the gratitude of M. de la Chatre and that of the Duke of
Guise. Indeed, the feat might even win you back the King's favor, which
you say you have lost."
"But suppose Montignac has other plans for the capture of this highly
valued rebel?" said he.
"If he had," said I, thinking of the arrangement as to the ambush, "they
were made in the belief that La Tournoire was not to be taken by one man
with a few hired knaves. The captor of La Tournoire can afford to earn
Montignac's displeasure by deviating from his orders. Should you take
this Huguenot, you would be in a position to snap your fingers at
"But if it is in your power to give up La Tournoire, why do you not take
him and get the reward? Why have you not done so already?"
"For the very fact which puts it in my power to do so. I am of his party.
I am his trusted counsellor, lackey that I pretend to be."
"I have, from the first, thought you a most exceptional lackey. But if
you are of his party, and in his secrets, you must be a vile traitor to
give him up. That being the case, you would not hesitate to lie to me.
Indeed, even if it were not the case, you would not hesitate to lie to
me, to save yourself or to gain time."
"As to my being a vile traitor, a man will descend to much in order to
save his life. As to my readiness to lie to you, it seems to me that,
in the present situation, you are the one man to whom I cannot now
afford to lie. With your sword at my throat, it is much easier for me
to be a vile traitor to La Tournoire than to lie to you. Besides, I
have my own reasons for disliking him, notwithstanding that my cause
and his are the same."
"And how do you propose to give him up to me?"
"By merely bringing him face to face with you."
"_Par dieu_! A charming proposition! How do I know that you will not, in
pretending to betray him to me, really betray me to him? Suppose you do
bring him face to face with me, and his men are all around?"
"Only one of his men shall be present," I said, thinking of Blaise. "He
will not come without this one man. As for the others of his band, not
one shall be within a league."
"Himself and one man," said De Berquin, musingly. "That is to say, two
very able fighters."
"There are five of you."
"But this Tournoire is doubtless worth three men in a fight, and his man
will probably be worth two more. I don't think your offer sufficiently
attractive. I think I would do better to kill you. Certainly, there are
many reasons why you should die. If you should escape me now, as you are
one of La Tournoire's people, you would immediately go to him and tell
him of my presence here. I do not choose that he shall know as much about
me as you do."
"Can you suggest any amendment to my offer, so that it might be more
"If you could bring La Tournoire unarmed--"
"I will do that," I said.
De Berquin looked at me steadily for some time. At last he shook his
head and said:
"It is a fair bargain, as it now stands, but I see no way of your
carrying out your part without putting me in danger of your betraying
me. To find La Tournoire, you would have to leave us. Once out of our
sight, you would be free to ignore the contract, laugh at me for being
so easily gulled, and set La Tournoire and his men on me, which would
entirely spoil my plans. Every minute I see more and more the necessity
of killing you."
"But I shall find La Tournoire without going out of your sight," I said.
De Berquin again became thoughtful. Then he laughed.
"You mean that you would lead us up to his very den, where we should be
at the mercy of his men," he said.
"I have already said that, with one exception, none of his men shall be
within a league of where you are to meet him."
"I do not see how you are going to bring him so far from his men, if you
do not go for him."
"Leave that to me. I shall take you to a place where he will present
himself unarmed. Excepting the man who will be with him, not one of his
company shall be within a league."
"Where is the place?" asked De Berquin, still smiling ironically.
"Not far from here. It is a place where you can get also wine and food."
"And how am I to know that this place is not a trap into which you wish
to lead me?"
"You shall walk behind me with drawn sword and dagger. At the slightest
suspicious movement or speech that I make, you can easily kill me."
"That is true. Yet I might lose my own life the next moment. Who knows
but that you are merely seeking to sell your life as dearly as possible,
or but that you are aiming to gain time in the hope of some unexpected
"Monsieur," said I, "we both know that men cannot read the heart. You
cannot be sure whether or not I am lying. You indeed take the risk that I
wish to lead you where you will have to pay for my life with your own,
and that I am trying to gain time; but, at the same time, there is the
chance that I intend to keep my word, that I intend to present the Sieur
de la Tournoire unarmed, and a league away from all his men but one. Is
not that chance worth the risk? Have you not gambled, monsieur?"
From the shrug of De Berquin's shoulders, I knew that he had gambled, and
also that my argument had moved him. But another doubt darkened his face.
"And if you do bring an unarmed person before me, how shall I know that
it is La Tournoire?" said he.
"He shall tell you so himself."
"What man but La Tournoire would risk his life by declaring himself to be
that proscribed gentleman?"
"One of his followers might do so, if he thought that he might so throw
an enemy off La Tournoire's track."
"Then the possibility of my deceiving you on that point is but an
additional risk you run, in return for the chance of your bagging the
real game. Besides, I give you my word of honor that I will truly perform
all that I promise."
"The word of a lackey!" said De Berquin, derisively.
"Have you not yourself described me as an exceptional lackey?"
"Well, I love to take chances. And as you have given me your word, the
word of an exceptional lackey, I give you my word, the word of a
gentleman, that if you set La Tournoire unarmed before me, with but one
of his men at hand, I will give you your life and freedom. But stay! At
what time am I to have the pleasure of meeting him?"
"When we hear the stroke of eight from the tower of the church in
Clochonne. The wind this evening is from that direction. It is
"Agreed!" said De Berquin. "Jacques, give me your dagger. Now, Master
Lackey, lead the way. Follow, you rascals, and be ready to knock down any
person to whom I shall direct your attention."
And I turned and led the way to the road, followed closely by De Berquin,
who held his sword in one hand and the dagger in the other. I heard the
others fall in line, and tramp their way through the brush behind him.
Barbemouche must have been exceedingly surprised at his leader's
proceedings, for the conversation between De Berquin and myself had been
conducted in a tone too low for their ears.
When we reached the road, De Berquin ordered a halt. He then commanded
Barbemouche to walk at my left side, and François to walk at my right, De
Berquin retained his place behind me, and the other two rascals followed
him. In this order we proceeded towards the inn.
My object in leading my enemies to the inn was to set them drinking. As
long as the possibility of taking La Tournoire was before De Berquin,
there was little likelihood that he would seek to molest Mlle. de Varion.
In the first place, he could not take her from the vicinity while he
himself remained there awaiting the coming of La Tournoire. Secondly, he
would not court any violence during the time of waiting, lest he might
thereby risk his chance of taking La Tournoire. But it was necessary that
I should prevent his encountering Blaise or Hugo, for either one, on
seeing me conducted by him as I was, might make some demonstration that
would cause De Berquin to kill me immediately. I must contrive to keep my
enemies from entering the inn, and yet to have them plied with drink.
Therefore, I said, as we marched:
"Monsieur, we are approaching a kind of inn where there are to be
obtained the food and drink that I promised. But in the house are some
who are devoted to the Sieur de la Tournoire. They are not any of his
soldiers, nor such as are to be feared in a fight. But if they saw you
and your men, with me as a prisoner, they would certainly convey word to
La Tournoire or his band, and so it would be impossible for me to fulfil
my agreement. It is true that you would then kill me, but you would lose
La Tournoire, and have his followers soon on your heels. So it is best
that we stop at some distance from the inn. You and I can steal up to a
spot where I can quietly summon the hostess. She will do anything I ask.
She will, at my order, secretly bring food and wine to the place of
waiting, and will not betray our presence to those in the inn."
"It seems a good idea," said De Berquin; "but if you attempt to make a
fool of me--"
"You will, of course, instantly make a corpse of me, for you will be at
my side, and will hear every word that I speak to the hostess."
"Very well," he replied.
Having at last reached a little clearing by the roadside quite near the
inn, but hidden from it by trees, I gave the word to stop. De Berquin
ordered his men to remain here, sheathed his sword, clutched me by the
arm, and walked forward with me, his dagger held ready to be plunged into
my heart at the slightest cause.
I led him to the back of the inn, and we stood near the door of the
The gypsy was still playing, and every now and then there came an
exclamation of approval from Biaise. I peered through a corner of the
window. The clutch of De Berquin on my arm tightened as I did so. I saw
the gypsy man playing, Biaise and Hugo sitting with wine mugs before
them, aid Godeau by the fire asleep, the gypsy girl with her head on the
table, she also asleep, and Marianne removing platters from the table.
Jeannotte had doubtless gone up the ladder to her mistress.
Presently Marianne came out with some bones of a fowl, to throw
"Marianne," I called, softly. "Not a word! Come here and listen"
With some astonishment she obeyed. De Berquin now held his drawn dagger
under his cloak, and his clutch on my arm, though tight, might yet appear
to her that of a friend.
"Marianne," said I, "it is very important that no one within--no one,
remember--shall know that this gentleman is with me. I have a serious
matter to talk over with him at the clearing yonder, where four of his
people now wait. No one is to know of their presence any more than of
his. Bring plenty of wine to us there with what food you can get without
exciting the curiosity of those inside. Do you understand? But not a
word, even to me now."
She nodded her head, and went back into the kitchen. I knew that I could
rely on her. "Come, monsieur," I whispered to De Berquin, and we went
silently back to the clearing.
The four rascals were seated on the ground, conversing in low tones. De
Berquin and I sat down in the midst of the group. The fellows went on
talking, regardless of the presence of their leader, who gave no heed to
their babble, except occasionally by a gesture to caution Barbemouche to
lessen his volume of voice.
"I never knew an enterprise to run smoothly which had anything to do with
women," Barbemouche was saying. "Where men only are concerned, one knows
exactly what to do, and makes no mistakes."
"You have a prejudice against the sex," put in the foppish fellow.
"_Par dieu_! I ought not to have!" answered Barbemouche. "I owe them
too much for the many favors I've had from them. But they are
mystifying creatures. To mistake a maid for her mistress is nothing
remarkable. For that matter, I've known women of the lower orders who
had more airs than great ladies. I remember once, after having just
made an easy conquest of a countess, and become ennuied with her, I
turned my attention to the daughter of a pastry-cook in Paris. She dug
deep holes in my face for merely trying to kiss her. She had velvet
lips, that girl, but what claws!"
The gaunt rascal, whom they called François, heaved a pensive sigh, as if
this reminiscence awakened touching memories in him.
"And yet, to show the perversity of the sex," continued Barbemouche,
"that same day I saw another man kiss her, and she gave him back two
kisses for his one."
"Perhaps he was a handsome man," said the fat fellow, sagely.
"Yes," replied Barbemouche, ingenuously, "but no handsomer than I."
"At that time you were probably handsomer even than you are now," dryly
observed the gaunt man.
"You are right," said Barbemouche, "for I was young, and I did not have
this scar," and he thrust back the rim of his hat and laid his hand on
"In what fight with the watch did you get that?" inquired François.
"I got it as the Duke of Guise got his, fighting the enemies of the
church, though not in the same battle. I received mine that St.
Bartholomew's night when we made the streets of Paris flow with heretic
blood. A cursed Huguenot gave it me, but I gave him another to match
mine, and left him for the crowd to trample over."
I gave a start, recalling the incident of which I had so recently heard
the account, and which seemed the counterpart of this.
At this moment, Marianne appeared at the bend of the road. She carried
a huge wooden platter, on which were a bowl of mulled wine, some mugs,
and some cheese, bread, and scraps of cold meat. I afterward learned
that she had begun to prepare this wine some time before, thinking
that I and Blaise and the boys would want it after my return from my
search for Pierre. Knowing Blaise's capacity, she had made ready so
great a quantity.
Saying not a word, she set down the platter on the ground before me.
"That is well," I said. "Now go back to the inn and step often to the
door, so that I can easily summon you again without attracting the
attention of the others. And get more wine ready."
The woman nodded, and went back to the inn.
The four ruffians made an immediate onslaught on the platter. De Berquin
and François ignored the food, that they might the sooner dip their mugs
into the bowl of wine. The other three speedily disposed of all the
eatables, and then joined in the drinking. De Berquin, in order to grasp
his mug, had let my arm go, but he retained his dagger in his other hand,
and each of his followers used but one hand in eating or drinking,
holding a weapon in the other.
"Look you, rascals!" said De Berquin to his men, presently. "Be careful
to keep your wits about you!"
"Rascals!" repeated the tall fellow, his pride awakened by his second mug
of wine. "By the bones of my ancestors, it goes against me to be so often
Barbemouche saw an opportunity to retaliate for the fun that had been
made of his pretensions to beauty. "They whom the term fits," he growled,
"ought not to complain, if I endure it, who am a gentleman!"
Instantly the bearded giant was on his feet, with his huge sword poised
in the air.
"Rascal yourself twice over, and no gentleman!" he cried, quivering with
"What, you lank scarecrow!" said Barbemouche, rising in his turn, and
rushing to meet the other.
Their fat comrade now rose and thrust his sword between the two, for the
purpose of striking up their weapons. The fop ran behind a tree, to be
safe from the fracas.
At the instant when François was about to bring his great sword down on
Barbemouche, and the latter was about to puncture him somewhere near the
ribs, there came the sound of the Angelus, borne on the breeze from
Clochonne. The two antagonists stood as if transformed into statues,
their weapons in their respective positions of offence. Each in his way
moved his lips in his accustomed prayer until the sound of the distant
"Now, then, for your dirty blood!" roared Barbemouche, instantly resuming
But his fat comrade knocked aside Barbemouche's sword, and at the same
time pushed François out of striking distance.
"Gentlemen, gentlemen," cried the fat rascal, reproachfully, "would you
spoil this affair and rob me of my share of the pay? God knows we are all
gentlemen, and rascals, too!"
"Very well," said Barbemouche, relieved by his brief explosion of wrath,
"this matter can wait."
"I can wait as well as another man," said François, with dignity,
whereupon both men resumed their seats on the turf and their attentions
to the wine. The prudent Jacques returned to the circle, and De Berquin,
who during the squabble had employed himself entirely in holding me from
any attempt at escape, looked relieved.
The effect of the wine on him was to make him merry, so that he soon
invited me to join in the drinking, and I made a pretense of doing so.
When the bowl was empty, he went with me again to summon Marianne, which
we easily did, as she was standing at the door awaiting my reappearance.
She brought us another pot of wine, and left us as she had before done.
De Berquin became more and more gaily disposed. He put no limit to the
quantity imbibed by his men; yet he kept his eyes on me, and his dagger
dangerously near my breast.
When we heard the clock in Clochonne strike seven, he said to his men:
"Straighten up, you dogs! In another hour we shall have work to do."
Turning to me, he added, with a grin, "Either to chain that wild beast,
La Tournoire, or to send the most entertaining of valets to find out
whether all that they say of purgatory and hell is true."
But he soon became so lax under the influence of the wine that he did not
heed when the fat man and the ragged dandy dropped off to sleep and
mingled their snores with the murmurs of the forest insects. He began to
narrate his adventures, amatory, military, bibulous, and other.
Presently, for a jest, he drank the health of Henri of Navarre in return
for my drinking that of the Pope.
By this time Barbemouche and gaunt François had added their breathings to
the somnolent choir.
"You are a mighty drinker, monsieur," I said to De Berquin, admiringly,
at the same time refilling my own mug.
"Ask of the cabaret keepers of Paris whether the Vicomte de Berquin can
hold his share of the good red vine-juice!" he replied, jubilantly,
dipping his mug again into the pot.
I took a gulp from my mug and pretended to choke. In one of my
convulsive movements, I threw the contents of my mug into the eyes of De
Berquin. I followed it an instant later with the mug itself, and he fell
back on the grass, half-stunned. In the moment when his grasp of my arm
was relaxed, I slipped away from him, narrowly missing the wild dagger
stroke that he made at me. A second later and I was on my feet. My first
act was to possess the weapons of Barbemouche and François, these two
being nearest me. I then ran towards the inn, calling at the top of my
voice, "Blaise! To arms!"
Behind me I heard De Berquin, who had risen, kicking the prostrate bodies
of his men and crying:
"Up, you drunken dogs! We have been fooled! After him!"
Then I heard him running after me on the road, swearing terribly.
From the place where he had left his men, I could hear them confusedly
swearing and questioning one another, all having been rudely awakened
from sleep, two of them being unable to find their weapons, and none
knowing rightly what had occurred or exactly where their leader had gone.
Blaise came running out of the inn, with sword drawn. When he had
joined me, I stopped and turned to face De Berquin. He was before me
ere I had time to explain to Blaise. In his rage, he made a violent
thrust at me, which Blaise turned aside. De Berquin then leaped back,
to put himself on guard.
At that instant, the first stroke of eight came from the distant tower
"Filthy cur, you have lied to me!" cried De Berquin.
"Nay, monsieur," I answered, throwing from me the weapons of Barbemouche
and François, "I keep my word. I promised you La Tournoire unarmed.
And I stepped out from beside Blaise and stood with open arms.
"La Tournoire!" repeated De Berquin, taking a backward step and staring
at me with open mouth.
"La Tournoire!" came in a faint, horror-stricken voice from behind me.
I turned and beheld mademoiselle, who had come out from the inn on
hearing my call for Blaise. With her were Hugo and Jeannotte. Behind were
the inn-keepers and the gypsies. On mademoiselle's face, which was
lighted by a torch that Hugo carried, was a death-like pallor, and such a
look of horror, grief, and self-reproach, as I have never seen on any
other human countenance.
"Mademoiselle!" I cried, hastening to her side. "What is the matter?"
"'Tis but--surprise,--M. de la Tournoire!" she answered, weakly, raising
her hand feebly as if to keep me from approaching her, while her eyes,
which were fixed on mine as by a terrible fascination, seemed to be
starting from her head. An instant later, she fell in a swoon, and I was
just in time to save her from striking the ground and to pillow her head
on my arm.
As for De Berquin, he had made a rush at me, but Blaise had repulsed him
with such fury that, seeing no hope of being joined by his men, he soon
turned and fled.
I bore the senseless body of mademoiselle into the inn, vainly asking
myself why she had shown so profound a distress at my disclosure.
AT THE CHÂTEAU OF MAURY
Presently mademoiselle recovered from her faintness and went up to her
chamber, supported by Jeannotte. Her eyes met mine as she was about to
go, but she immediately dropped them, and seemed by an effort to repress
some kind of emotion.
With a heart saddened by the sight of mademoiselle's distress, I then
made arrangements for the night. I was to lie at the front door of the
inn, Blaise at the rear door, Hugo and the gypsies in the horse sheds,
Marianne in the chamber with mademoiselle and Jeannotte, old Godeau where
he chose. It happened that he chose a place before the smouldering fire
in the kitchen.
Any further attempt to find Pierre that night was out of the question. I
dared not leave the inn again, lest I should expose mademoiselle to
possible molestation, or myself to an encounter with those from whom I
had just escaped. Had mademoiselle's safety not depended on that of
myself and Blaise, I might have invited such an encounter for myself or
for him or for both, but I would not have her undergo the slightest risk
of losing her protectors.
I had little apprehension of seeing De Berquin or his men again that
night. Not that he would probably remember his promise to give me my life
and liberty in return for my bringing La Tournoire before him. Even that
promise, if still respected by him, did not affect him in regard to
mademoiselle. But he would consider that, though I was not accompanied by
any of my own men except Blaise, mademoiselle's boy, Hugo, would wield a
stout arm on our side. Unless he knew something of Pierre's
disappearance, he would count that active youth also with our forces. He
had doubtless taken in at a glance the group composed of Godeau, the
gypsies, and Marianne; and he would suppose that I could reckon on
assistance of one kind or another from some or all of these. Thus, having
no odds in his favor, and knowing that we would be on the alert, he would
be little likely to make any kind of demonstration against us. Moreover,
two of his men finding themselves without their weapons, and all of them
angry at the manner of their awakening, they would probably receive very
badly the curses that he would heap on them for their failure to come up
to his support. Their attitude would, for the rest of that night, be one
of mutiny. It was likely that he would retreat and meditate a new plan.
He would not feel safe in the immediate vicinity of the inn, for it
would occur to him that I might send one of my allies to my men with
orders to take him. So he would withdraw and either give up the
enterprise entirely or form a new design.
Now that he knew that I was La Tournoire, what would he do? Abandon his
mission, since my knowledge of him would put me on my guard against him,
and forbid his winning my confidence and betraying me in the way which, I
supposed, Montignac had dictated to him? It was not likely that such a
man, having found only one road by which he might regain the good things
he had lost, would be turned aside from that road. He would follow it to
success or death. Such men are too indolent to go about seeking
opportunities. Having found one, they will pursue it wherever it may
lead. Their fortunes are so desperate that they have only their lives to
lose, and they are so brave that they do not fear death. If they can gain
the stakes, so much the better. If not, little the worse. Meanwhile, they
are occupied in a way congenial to a man who loves adventure, who has
inherited the taste for danger, and finds a pleasurable excitement in
risking his life. Therefore I felt that De Berquin was not yet through
with me, but he would have to change his plan, and, until he should have
time to compose new measures, he would not trouble us.
As I lay in the silence, my thoughts turned from De Berquin to Mlle. de
Varion. Her demonstration on learning that I was La Tournoire was in
harmony with the manner in which she had previously questioned me
concerning my friendship for the bearer of that name. Grieved at the
thought that I was his friend, relieved at my assertion that I did not so
highly esteem him, she had shown the utmost horror on learning that I was
the man himself. Could this be due entirely to the impression conveyed by
a name to which the Catholics in Berry had attached so much dread? It was
natural that one should regard with some terror a man whose deeds had
been so exaggerated by vulgar report; but this fact did not explain the
intensity of mademoiselle's emotion at the moment of my disclosure. Yet
she had attributed that emotion entirely to surprise. Perhaps the
extraordinary manifestation of that surprise was due to her fatigued and
dejected condition. Or it might be, and I felt a delicious thrill at the
thought, that it was her concern for me, her fear that my life might be
the more imperilled by my relations with this proscribed man, that had
caused the distress accompanying her first inquiries. If this was true,
the discovery that I was no other than the man proscribed, and all the
more in danger, would naturally have profoundly affected her.
In the morning she came down from her loft, pale and showing a calmness
that seemed forced. To my greeting and my announcement that Pierre had
not returned, she replied, quietly:
"He is a faithful and honest boy, and I have prayed that no harm might
befall him. His disappearance must not be allowed to alter your plans, M.
de la Tournoire."
"I shall leave orders with Marianne and Godeau to conduct him to Maury,
should he return to this place, as he very probably will. If you do not
wish otherwise, we shall ride on to Maury this morning."
"I do not wish otherwise," she replied. After a moment's pause, she
added, "Alas, monsieur, your friend, M. de Launay, when be promised me
your guidance across the border, engaged you to a more tedious task than
you might have wished to undertake. I fear that I must ask for a delay at
Maury. You see what trouble your friend has brought you into,--waiting
until a poor woman, who has been overcome by fatigue, recovers her
"Ah, mademoiselle," I said, with delight, "you will then hold me to the
promise made for me by my friend?"
"What else can a helpless woman do?" she asked, with a pretty smile,
although there was a tremor in the voice.
I was overjoyed to be assured that she had accepted the situation. I had
promised that, on her becoming acquainted with La Tournoire, she should
have no other protector. This had meant to her, at the time when it was
spoken, that I should go from her. To me it had meant, of course, that I
should continue with her. I had feared that, on learning the truth, she
would banish me. She had said that we must part. But now, despite the
fact that the same barrier existed between me and her, whether I was La
Tournoire or De Launay, despite her horror on learning that I was the
former, she had abandoned her intention of parting from me. What had
caused this change of mind? Had she, now that I was known to her as La
Tournoire, ceased to entertain for me those feelings which she had, on
account of our difference in religion, sought by an immediate separation
to destroy? This was unlikely. La Tournoire or De Launay, I was the same
man. I chose a happier explanation,--none other than that, considering by
night, she had come to the conclusion that a religious difference was not
too great a barrier to be removed, and that La Tournoire was not a person
to be regarded with any horror. Though modesty might plead against her
continuing in the company of a man with whom she exchanged such feelings
as had so rapidly grown up between us, yet circumstance, most imperative
of all dictators, showed her no other course than to remain under my
guidance and protection. So I accounted for the decision which was to
keep us together for a few more days.
I was not sorry that she had asked for a delay at Maury. It relieved me
of the necessity of making a pretext for retarding her flight while I
should attempt the rescue of her father. The reason to be given for the
absence of myself and a party of my men need not be a strong one when
there was no apparent haste to continue the flight. I was still
determined to keep the attempt in her father's behalf a secret from her
if it should fail, and as a surprise for her if successful.
Inwardly jubilant with the hope inspired by her change of mind, I
hastened to give the innocent reasons for the concealment of my identity
from her. She listened with a changeless smile, keeping her eyes on mine.
Before she could answer, Marianne announced that breakfast was ready. No
further allusion was made to the matter, nor to her now abandoned
determination that we should part.
After breakfast, our party of five mounted our horses, and, led by
Blaise, forced our way through the high bushes that marked the beginning
of the hardly perceptible road to Maury. The two gypsies followed afoot,
for, knowing that I could rely on their fidelity and secrecy, I had bade
them come, that their music and tricks might amuse mademoiselle during
her stay at Maury.
It was a beautiful morning, and I considered that I had many reasons for
joy. Mademoiselle, too, seemed affected by the sweetness and jocundity of
the early day. She had evidently nerved herself, too, against her griefs.
She seemed to have summoned a large stock of resolution to the task of
facing her troubles without a tear. It appeared that she had banished
dejection by an effort of the will. All the time it was evident that her
manner was the result of a vigilant determination. I was, nevertheless,
glad to see a smile, a steadiness of look, a set lip, though they were
attained with premeditation. There was in her conversation, as we rode on
our slow and difficult way, something of the woman of the world. As we
had to go in single file, and so to speak loudly in order to be heard by
one another, our talk could not take on the themes and tones of
tenderness that I would have gladly given to it.
Presently from a bush at the side of the path a man sprang up, saluted,
and stood respectfully while we passed him. It was one of my men,
Maugert, on duty as sentry, for I kept men watching every approach to our
hiding-place night and day. They lay secreted among the brushwood, and
would observe an intruder long before the intruder could be aware of
their presence. A few minutes later we passed another of these faithful
sentinels, who rose out of his concealment to give me a look of welcome,
and soon afterward we rode through the ruined gate into the old
"Welcome to Maury!" said I to mademoiselle.
She looked up at the broken façade of the château, around at the trees
that environed the walls and in some places pushed their branches through
openings, then at some of my men, who had been mending their clothes or
tinkering at their weapons.
"I shall feel safe at Maury, monsieur," she said, quietly.
Thus Mlle. de Varion became my guest in that wilderness fastness. I gave
her the two chambers in best preservation, one of them being immediately
over the chief entrance and overlooking the courtyard. My own abode was
in the northern turret, looking down the steep wooded declivity that fell
to the road from Clochonne to Narjec. Hugo was to sleep outside her door.
My own men made their beds in the great hall and in certain sheltered
portions of the wings and outbuildings. They usually ate in this hall,
receiving their food on platters from the cook (happily the kitchen had
remained fit for use), and bearing it thither. It was arranged that Hugo
should carry the meals of mademoiselle and Jeannotte to mademoiselle's
It was more after our arrival than during our ride to Maury that
mademoiselle showed the fatigue of which she had spoken. It was evident
that she had reached a resting-place none too soon. Weakness was
manifest in all her movements as well as in the pallor of her cheeks.
Yet, though she languished thus, she did not keep all the time to her
chamber. Each morning she came down to walk about the courtyard, saying
that the air and sunshine--as much as found its way through the
overspreading branches of the trees--strengthened her. There was in one
corner of the yard an old stone bench, which, in good weather, was for a
great part of the afternoon half in sun and half in shade. Here she would
sit by the hour, changing her position as sunlight or shade became
preferable for the moment.
Morning or afternoon, I was never far from her. For I had had to defer
from day to day the first steps towards the projected deliverance of M.
de Varion. On our arrival I had found that some of the men on whose aid I
would most depend were away on a foraging expedition. Each hour I looked
for their return, but in vain. Their absence had now become so prolonged
as to be a cause of alarm. My anxiety about them, and my concern over
other matters, took up so much of my mind that little was left in which
to devise a plan for the rescue of the prisoner, and I would not make the
first move until the whole design should be complete.
As days passed, and mademoiselle's missing boy, Pierre, did not come, I
ceased to hope that we should ever see him again. Had he found his way
to the inn where he had left us, Marianne or Godeau would have brought
him to Maury immediately. It was useless to speculate as to what might
have become of him. He might have perished in the forest, or found his
way to Clochonne, or fallen in with De Berquin and suffered for having
been of our party. When his disappearance was mentioned, Jeannotte would
look at mademoiselle, and mademoiselle would say:
"Poor boy! I pray that no evil may have befallen him. He was fidelity
itself. He would die for me!"
But she did not give herself up to poignant sorrow on his account, or,
indeed, since the night at Godeau's inn, on account of anything. She
seemed to have set herself to bear her troubles in Spartan manner, and to
find in herself, perhaps with surprise, the strength to do so.
So the days passed, and still my plans in regard to her father remained
unformed, the men on whom I relied did not appear, and mademoiselle did
not speak of resuming her flight southward. There came no further sign of
the existence of De Berquin. From or of the outside world we heard
nothing, save occasionally, when the wind was in the right direction, the
faint sound of the bell of Clochonne. We seemed to dwell apart, in a
region of our own, an enchanted forest which none other might enter, a
place where we were forever safe from the strife of humanity, the touch
of war, the reach of the King's edicts, the power of provincial
governors, the vengeance of the great. The gypsies remained with us, and
sweetened the time with their songs and the music of their instruments.
My men treated mademoiselle with the utmost respect. I had caused them to
know that she was a refugee, a lady most precious in my esteem, one for
whose safety and happiness any other consideration must, should occasion
arise, be sacrificed. The weather was dry, sunny, and, for the time of
year, mild. It was like a sweet dream, and I, for one, had no premonition
of the awakening that was to come.
Often during that time I spoke of my love for her. I told her that, to
me, at least, religion was not so much as to drive me from the woman whom
I had so long sought in vain among the beauties of our Henri's court,
whom I had so long worshipped in the ideal, whom I had instantly
recognized as being the embodiment of that ideal, of whose presence I
could not endure to be deprived even in thought.
She would sit looking in my eyes while I told her these things. Sometimes
she would seem to yield to a kind of bliss in hearing them, to forget all
else than ourselves and my words. Then suddenly a look of anguish would
come on her features, she would rise and press her hands to her eyes, as
if to blot out the memory of my look, and say:
"Monsieur, you must not! You must not! You do not know! Oh, if you knew!"
And she would quickly glide away into the château, keeping her face
turned from me until she had disappeared.
I began to think that there might be another obstacle than that of our
difference in religion. Perhaps a promise to another or some vow! But I
swore to myself that, whatever the obstacle might be, I would remove
it. The only matter for present disposition was to get her consent to
my doing so.
She would soon return, composed and smiling, with no sign of wishing to
elude me. For the life of me, I could not long refrain from the subject
that had before so strangely put her to flight.
Sometimes when I talked in the strain of love, joy and pain would succeed
each other on her face, sometimes they would seem to be present at the
same moment. From the look of complete abandonment to happiness that
sometimes, though never for long, shone on her features, I felt that she
loved me, and that eventually her love would gain the victory. I
continually tried to elicit an expression of her feelings in words. Sweet
to me as was the frequent confession of her looks, I sought a confession
in speech also.
One afternoon, as we stood on a little spur that rose from the declivity
below the château, and whence through a small opening between trees could
be seen the river, the smiling plain, and afar the high-perched château
of Clochonne, I asked her:
"Why is it that when I speak of what most occupies my heart you become
silent or sorrowful, or go suddenly from me?"
With assumed lightness she replied:
"Can a woman explain her capricious doings any more than a man can
understand them? It is well known that we do unaccountable things."
Not heeding this evasion, I went on:
"I sometimes fear that you imagine some other barrier between us than the
one of religion. Is it that some other gentleman--?"
"Oh, no, monsieur!" she answered, quickly and earnestly, before I had
time to finish the question.
"Is there, then, some vow or girlish resolution?"
She shook her head negatively in reply, but would not give me any more
At last I said, abruptly, "Do you, then, wish me not to love you?"
She looked at me first as if she would answer yes, and then as if she
would answer no, and finally, after a sigh, she said:
"Can we cause things by wishing?"
Finally, as a last means of trying her, I said:
"Mademoiselle, I have been thinking that it might be better if I were to
go on alone to Guienne, and leave Blaise and my men to conduct you when
you are able to follow."
She regarded me strangely, first as if the suggestion were a welcome one,
then,--while her brow darkened, and a kind of mental anguish forced
itself into her expression,--as if the plan were not at all acceptable.
"But you will not do that, monsieur?" was all that she said.
I could but sigh in puzzlement, and abandon my attempt to make her tell
Sometimes I would suddenly turn my eyes towards her, and catch her
looking at me with mingled tenderness and pity, as a man condemned to die
might be looked on by the woman who loved him. At those times I thought
that she had some fear or foreboding that I might yet fall a victim to
the vengeance of those whom I had offended. Sometimes her look quite
startled me, for it contained, besides a world of grief and pity,
something of self-reproach. I then supposed that she blamed herself for
allowing her fatigue to delay me in my departure from the province.
But these demonstrations did not often escape her. She oftenest showed
the forced cheerfulness that I have already mentioned. The moments when
any kind of distress showed itself were exceptional, and many of them
were caused by the persistence with which I sought a response in words to
my declarations of love.
There came at last the afternoon--how well I remember it!--when we sat
together on the stone bench in the sunlit part of the old courtyard.
Through the interstices of the overspreading branches we could see a
perfectly clear blue sky. The slightest movement of air made the leaves
rustle sleepily, dreamily. Save the chirping of the birds, no other sound
emanated from the forest. The murmur of the river at the foot of the
wooded steep came up to us. In a corner of the yard the two gypsies lay
asleep. Some of my men were off on various employments. A few had gone
for game; others to fish. One of them, Frojac, was in Clochonne disguised
as a peasant, to keep a watch on the garrison there. The party of
foragers had not returned. Of the men at the château, those who were not
on guard were with Blaise Tripault in the great hall, where they had just
finished eating and drinking, Hugo had gone to the stables to feed
mademoiselle's horses. Jeannotte was asleep in her chamber. Mademoiselle
and I sat in silence, in the midst of a solitude, a remote tranquillity,
a dreamy repose that it was difficult to imagine as ever to be broken.
She seemed to yield to the benign influence of this enchanted place. She
leaned back restfully, closed her eyes, and smiled.
Suddenly there came from within the château the sound of my men singing.
Their rude, strong voices were low at first, but they rose in pitch and
volume as their song progressed. Mademoiselle ceased to smile, opened her
eyes, again took on the look of dark foreboding. The song had an ominous
ring. It was one of the Huguenot war hymns sung in the army of our Henri:
"With pricking of steel
Our foe we have sped,
We've peppered his heel
With pellets of lead,
And the battles we win are the gifts of the Lord,
Who pointeth our cannon and guideth our sword.
We fire and we charge and there's nothing can bar
When we fight in the track of the King of Navarre.
Then down, down, down with the Duke of Guise!
Death, death, death to our enemies!
And glory, we sing, to God and our King,
And death to the foes of Navarre!"
The melody was grim and stirring. The men's voices vibrated with war-like
wrath. They were impatient for battles, charges, the kind of fighting
that is done between great armies on the open field, when there is the
roar and smoke of cannon, the rattle of small firearms, the clash of
steel, the cries of captains, the shrieks and groans of wounded, the
plenteous spilling of blood. They were hungry for carnage.
"There is no cause to shudder, mademoiselle," said I, perceiving the
effect that the song had on her; "we are far away from fighting. There is
no danger here."
"There may be dangers of which you do not guess," she answered.
As if to verify her words, a sudden, sharp cry broke the stillness. It
came from the forest path by which we had arrived at the château. It was
the voice of one of my sentinels challenging a newcomer.
"It is I," came the reply. "I have important news for the captain."
"Oh, it is you, Marianne?" replied the man on guard. "I didn't know you
for an instant, you appeared so suddenly, without any noise."
I hastened to the gate and called, "Come, Marianne, what is it?"
She came up puffing and perspiring. So breathless was she that she had to
sit down on a bench in the courtyard before she could answer me.
"Oh, monsieur!" she said, when she had recovered some breath. "Look to
yourself! The governor of the province is at Clochonne!"
"The devil!" I said, and turned to see the effect of this news on
She was standing, trembling, as white as death, her one hand on the back
of the bench for support.
"Be not alarmed, mademoiselle," I said, "Clochonne is not Maury! They do
not know our hiding-place. How did you learn, Marianne, and what else do
Mademoiselle stood perfectly still and fixed her eyes on Marianne,
awaiting the latter's answers with apparently as much interest as I
"Godeau went to Clochonne this morning with some eggs to sell, and
learned that the governor arrived last night and occupies the château,"
"With how many men?" I asked.
"Godeau said that the courtyard of the château and the market-place of
the town were full of men-at-arms, but he did not wait to find out how
many there were. He knew what he would catch from me if he did not
immediately bring me the news, that I might let you know. So he came home
at once, and as soon as I had heard it I started for this place."
"I thank you, Marianne. You are the best of women. Yet it may not be on
our account that M. de la Chatre honors Clochonne with a visit."
It was, indeed, true that the governor would naturally visit his border
towns at a time when war might be expected soon to enter his province.
Yet I could not help thinking that his coming at this particular time had
something to do with his plan to capture me. I remembered what course
Montignac had advised him to take: to wait until his spy should have
located me and sent him word of my hiding-place, then to come to
Clochonne, whither the spy, on learning of his presence, should send him
the information that would enable him to lay an ambuscade for me. This
was a good plan, for a premature arrival of the governor at Clochonne
might give me time to flee before my whereabouts should be known to the
spy; but, knowing my exact whereabouts, La Chatre could first take
measures for cutting off my flight, and then risk nothing by coming to
Clochonne. Moreover, should the spy fail as to the ambush, the governor's
acquaintance with my whereabouts would serve him in a chase that he might
make with his soldiers. The ambush was but a device more likely to
succeed than an open search and attack. It was, if at all possible,
easier, and would cost the governor no lives.
Now, if the plan suggested by Montignac was being carried out, the
governor's arrival at Clochonne meant that his spy had sent him word of
my hiding-place. But could De Berquin have done so? He had previously
shown some skill in secret pursuit. Had he eluded the vigilance of my
sentinels, learned that we were at Maury, and sent one of his men to the
governor with the information? It was improbable, yet nothing occurs more
often than the improbable. So I asked Marianne:
"Have you seen anything of the five men who drank with me the night you
carried wine to us from the inn?"
"Not since that night, monsieur."
"And you have no more news than you have told me?"
"Nothing more, monsieur; so, if you please, I will hurry back, for
my old man is sure to have fallen asleep, and it would be a pity if
the governor's men should come by the forest road without being
seen. Be sure, if they come after I reach home, you shall know of it
in good time."
I bade her go, and turned to mademoiselle.
She was as pale as a white lily. As soon as my eye met hers, she said, in
a faint voice:
"I am going in, monsieur. I am tired. No, I can go alone. Do not be
concerned about me. I shall soon feel better."
And she went rapidly into the château, giving me no time in which to
assure her that there was no reason for immediate alarm.
I wished to consider Marianne's news before communicating it to any of my
men. I had to inquire of myself whether it called for any immediate
action on my part. So that my meditations might not be interrupted, I
left the château and walked into the forest.
For hours I considered the possible relations of the governor's arrival
to mademoiselle's safety and my own, to that of my men and our cause, and
to my intention of delivering M. de Varion from prison. But I could
arrive at no conclusion, for I knew neither the governor's intentions,
nor what information he had concerning me. There were so many
probabilities and so many possible combinations of them, that at last I
threw the whole matter from my mind, determining to await events. On the
way back to the château I reproached myself for having wasted so much
time in making useless guesses, for when I found myself at the gate it
was night, and the moon had risen.
I stopped at the entrance and stood still to listen to the voice of
Blaise, which rose in the courtyard in the words of a psalm. He sang it
with a gentleness the very reverse of the feeling his voice had expressed
in the war hymn a few hours earlier. From a sound that came between the
words now and then, I knew that he was engaged in one of his favorite
occupations, that of polishing his weapons.
Pleased to hear him singing in the moonlight, I stood at the gate, lest
by entering I might interrupt the psalm.
Presently, at the end of the stanza, I heard another voice from the
doorway of the château.
"Ah, Blaise," said Jeannotte, "it is the spirit of your mother that
controls you now."
He made no answer, nor did he resume his singing. Then I recalled that
for the past few days he had not shown his former susceptibility to the
maid's charms; he had, indeed, exhibited towards her a kind of
disapproving shyness. I had not attached any importance to this.
"Why do you not go on singing your psalm?" Jeannotte asked, coming
nearer to him.
His answer was a strange one. It was spoken with a kind of contemptuous
irony and searching interrogation. The words were:
"Mademoiselle's boy Pierre has not yet come back to us."
"What has that to do with your singing?" said Jeannotte. "We all know it
very well. Poor Pierre! To think that he may have been taken by Monsieur
"It is well that he did not know the place of our destination when he
went away," said Blaise, in the same insignificant tone, "else M. de
Berquin might torture the secret out of him, and carry it to the governor
of the province, for M. de Berquin knows now that my master is La
Tournoire. It would not be well for the boy, or any one else, to be the
means of the governor's learning La Tournoire's hiding-place!"
After which words, spoken with a kind of ominous menace, Blaise abruptly
left the girl, and strode around the corner of the château. The maid
stood still a few moments, then went into the château.
Completely mystified, I crossed the courtyard and called Blaise.
"M. de la Chatre is at Clochonne," I said, abruptly, as soon as he was
He stood still, returning my gaze. Presently he said:
"Do you think that he has learned where you are?"
"Through M. de Berquin?" I said, as if completing his question.
"Or any one else?" he said, in a low voice. "There was the boy who
disappeared, for instance."
"But he did not know our hiding-place when he left. He did not know how
near we then were to it. He did not then know that I was La Tournoire."
"But there was much talk of La Tournoire on the journey. Did you at any
time drop any hint of this place, and how it might be reached?"
"None that could have reached his ears. I told only Mlle. de Varion, and
we were quite alone when I did so."
Blaise looked at the ground in silence. After some time he gave a heavy
sigh, and, raising his eyes, said:
"Monsieur, I have been thinking of many things of late. Certain matters
have had a strange appearance. But,--well, perhaps my thoughts have been
absurd, and, in short, I have nothing to say about them except this,
monsieur, it is well to be on one's guard always against every one!"
I was about to ask him whether he meant that the boy Pierre had been
guilty of eavesdropping and treachery, and to reprove him for that
unworthy suspicion, when there was a noise at the gate. Looking thither,
I saw two of my men, Sabray and Roquelin, conducting into the courtyard
three starved-looking persons, who leaned wearily on one another's
shoulders, and seemed ready to drop with fatigue.
"We found these wretches in the woods," explained Sabray. "They are
Catholics, although that one tried to hide his cross and shouted, 'Down
with the mass!' when we told them to surrender in the name of the Sieur
de la Tournoire."
"It is true that I was a Catholic," whined the bedraggled fop who had
belonged to De Berquin's band of four; "but I was just about to abjure
when these men came up."
"I will abjure twice over, if it pleases monsieur," put in the tall
Spanish-looking ruffian. "Nothing would delight me more than to be a
Huguenot. By the windpipe of the Pope, for a flagon of wine I would
be a Jew!"
"And I a damned infidel Turk," wearily added their fat comrade, "for a
roast fowl, and a place to lay my miserable body!"
At this moment the fop's eyes fell on Blaise.
"Saint Marie!" he cried, falling to his knees. "We are dead men. It is
the big fellow we trussed up at the inn!"
"Belly of Beelzebub, so it is!" bellowed Blaise, pulling out his sword.
Turning to Jeannotte, who had just reappeared in the courtyard, he
roared: "It is now my father's spirit that controls me!"
Whereupon he fell to belaboring the three poor, weary, hungry, thirsty
rascals with the flat of his sword, till all of them yelled in concert.
They were too limp to resist or even to run, and he had his way with them
until Sabray and Roquelin howled with laughter. At last I ordered him to
stop, and to confine the men in a chamber, where they should be fed and
questioned. So they limped away moaning, driven like cattle by Blaise,
who promised them as they went that they should not be put to the trouble
of tying up honest people in the dark for some time to come. Jeannotte
followed, out of curiosity, as did Sabray and Roquelin.
Left alone in the courtyard, I sat on the stone bench, which was now in
part yellow with moonlight, and began to ponder. I could doubtless learn
from the three captives whether De Berquin had had any hand in the coming
of La Chatre to Clochonne. Anxious as I was to inform myself, I was yet
in no mood to question the men at that moment, preferring to wait and
hear the result of Blaise's interrogations.
While I was thinking, my arms folded and my eyes turned to the ground at
my feet, I suddenly heard a deep sigh very near me.
I looked up and saw Mademoiselle de Varion standing before me in the
moonlight. My gaze met hers, and in the delicious glow that her presence
sent through me I forgot all in the world but her.
HOW DE BERQUIN INVITED DEATH
"Mademoiselle!" I whispered, starting up and taking her hand.
She trembled slightly, and averted her look. But she did not draw
away her hand.
"You are still disturbed by Marianne's news," I said. "But you have
little more reason to fear when M. de la Chatre is at Clochonne than if
he were at the other end of the province."
"Yet I do fear, monsieur," she said, in a low tone, "for your sake."
"Then if you will fear," said I, "I take great happiness in knowing that
it is for me. But this is no place or time for fear. Look and listen. The
moonlight, the sounds of the forest, the song of the nightingale, all
speak of peace."
"The song of the nightingale may give place to the clash of swords and
the cries of combat," she replied. "And because you have delayed here
with me, you now risk the peril you are in."
"Peril is familiar company to me, mademoiselle," I said, gaily. "It
comes and it goes. It is a very welcome guest when it brings with it the
sweetest lady in the world."
Talking thus, I led her around the side of the château to the old garden
appertaining to it, a place now wild with all kinds of forest growth, its
former use indicated by a broken statue, a crumbling grotto, and in its
centre an old sun-dial overgrown with creepers. The path to the sun-dial
was again passable, thanks to my frequent visits to the spot since my
first arrival at Maury. It was up this path that we now went.
The moonlight and the presence of mademoiselle made the place a very
paradise to me. We two were alone in the garden. The moon spread beauty
over the broken walls of the château on one side, and the green
vegetation around us leaving some places in mysterious shade. The
sun-dial was all in light, and so was mademoiselle standing beside it. I
breathed sweet wild odors from the garden. From some part of the château
came the soft twang of the strings responding to the fingers of the
gypsy, I held the soft hand of mademoiselle. I raised it to my lips.
"I love you, I love you!" I whispered.
She made no answer, only looked at me with a kind of mingled grief and
joy, bliss embittered by despair.
"It cannot be," I went on, "that Heaven would permit so great a love to
find no response. Will you not answer me, mademoiselle?"
"What answer would you have?" she asked, in a perturbed voice.
"I would have love for love."
Her answer was arrested by the sound of the gypsy's voice, which at that
instant rose in an old song, that one in which a woman's love is likened
to a light or a fire. These are the first words:
"Bright as the sun, more quick to fade;
Fickle as marsh-lights prove;
Where brightest, casting deepest shade--
False flame of woman's love."
"Heed the song, monsieur," said mademoiselle, in the tone of one who
warns vaguely of a danger which dare not be disclosed openly.
"It is an old, old song," I answered. "The raving of some misanthrope of
"It has truth in it," she said.
"Nay, he judged all women from some bitter experience of his own. His
song ought to have died with him, ought to be shut up in the grave
wherein he lies, with his sins and his sorrows."
"Though the man is dead, the truth he sang is not. Heed it, monsieur, as
a warning from the dead to the living, a warning to all brave men who
unwarily trust in women!"
"I needed no song to warn me, mademoiselle," I said, thinking of Mile.
d'Arency and M. de Noyard. "I have in my own time seen something of the
treachery of which some women are capable."
"You have loved other women?" she said, quickly.
"Once I thought I loved one, until I learned what she was."
"What was she?" she asked, slowly, as if divining the answer, and
dreading to hear it.
"She was a tool of Catherine de Medici's," said I, speaking with all the
more contempt when I compared the guileful court beauty, Mile. d'Arency,
with the pure, sweet woman before me; "one of those creatures whom
Catherine called her Flying Squadron, and she betrayed a very honest
gentleman to his death."
"Betrayed him!" she repeated.
"Yes, by a pretended love tryst."
Mademoiselle trembled, and held out her hand to the dial for support.
Something in her attitude, something in the pose of her slender figure,
something in her white face, her deep, wide-open eyes, so appealed to my
love, to my impulse to protect her, that I clasped her in my arms, and
drew her close to me. She made no attempt to repulse me, and into her
eyes came the look of surrender and yielding.
"Ah, mademoiselle, Julie," I murmured, for she had told me her name,
"you do not shrink from me, your hand clings to mine, the look in
your eyes tells what your lips have refused to utter. The truth is
out, you love me!"
She closed her eyes, and let me cover her face with kisses.
Presently, still holding her hand in mine, I stepped to the other side
of the sun-dial, so that we stood with it between us, our hands
clasped over it.
"There needs no oath between us now," said I, "yet here let us vow by the
moonlight and the sunlight that mark the time on this old dial. I pledge
you here, on the symbol of time, to fidelity forever!"
"False flame of woman's love!"
came the song of the gypsy, before mademoiselle could answer.
The look of unresisting acquiescence faded from her face. She started
backward, drew her hand quickly from mine, and with the words, "Oh,
monsieur, monsieur!" glided swiftly from the garden and around the
château. In perplexity, I followed. When I reached the courtyard she was
not there. She had gone in, and to her chamber.
But I was happy. I felt that now she was mine. Her face, her attitude,
had spoken, if not her lips. As for her breaking away, I thought that due
to a last recurrence of her old scruples concerning the barrier between
us. I did not attribute it to the effect of the sudden intrusion of the
gypsy's song. It was by mere accident, I told myself, that her scruples
had returned at the moment of that intrusion. What was there in her love
that I need fear? She had told me to heed the song as a warning. I
considered this a mere device on her part to check the current of my
wooing. Her old scruples or her maidenly impulses might cause her to use
for that purpose any device that might occur. But, how long she might
postpone the final confession of surrender, it must come at last, for the
surrender itself was already made. Her heart was mine. What mattered it
now though the governor had come to Clochonne solely in quest of me? What
though he knew my hiding-place, discovered by the persistent De Berquin,
and its location by him communicated through Barbemouche? For, I said to
myself, if De Berquin had sent word to the governor, Barbemouche must
have been the messenger, for the three rascals now held at Maury could
not have been relied on, and they had the appearance of having wandered
in the forest several days.
I was just about to summon Blaise, that I might learn the result of his
interrogations, when I heard the voice of Maugert, who was lying in watch
by the forest path, call out:
"Who goes there?"
"We are friends," came the answer, quickly.
This voice also I knew, as well as Maugert's. It was that of De Berquin.
I ran to the gate and heard him tell Maugert, who covered him with an
arquebus, match lighted, that he was seeking the abode of the Sieur de la
Tournoire, for whom he had important news.
"Let him come, Maugert!" I called from the gate.
I stepped back into the courtyard. At that moment Blaise came out of the
château. Very soon De Berquin strode in through the gateway, followed by
the burly Barbemouche. Both looked wayworn and fatigued.
"Monsieur de la Tournoire," said De Berquin, saluting me with fine grace
and a pleasant air,--he never lost the ways of a gallant gentleman,--"I
have come here to do you a service."
So! thought I, does he really intend to seek my confidence and try to
betray me, after all? Admirable self-assurance!
I was about to answer, when Barbemouche put in;
"So you, whom it was in my power to kill a hundred times over that night,
are the very Tournoire whom I chased from one end of France to the other
eight years ago?" And he looked me over with a frank curiosity.
"Yes," I said, with a smile, "after you had destroyed the home of my
fathers. And at last you have found me."
"I was but the servant of the Duke of Guise then," said Barbemouche.
At this point Blaise, who, in all our experiences with De Berquin and his
henchmen, had not while sober come within hearing of Barbemouche's voice,
or within close sight of him, stepped up and said, coolly:
"Let me see the face that goes with that voice."
And he threw up the front of Barbemouche's hat with one hand, at the same
time raising the front of his own with the other. The two men regarded
each other for a moment.
"Praise to the God of Israel, we meet again!" cried Blaise, in a loud
voice, catching the other by the throat.
"Who are you?" demanded Barbemouche.
"The man on whom you left this mark,"--and Blaise pointed to his own
forehead,--"in Paris on St. Bartholomew's night thirteen years ago."
"Then I did not kill you?" muttered Barbemouche, glaring fiercely
"God had further use for me," said Blaise.
De Berquin and I both stepped aside, perceiving that here was a matter in
which neither of us was concerned. But we looked on with some interest,
deferring until its adjustment our own conversation.
"Then it was you who spoiled my appearance for the rest of my days!"
cried Barbemouche. "May you writhe in the flames of hell!"
And, being without sword or other weapon, he aimed a blow of the fist at
Blaise's head. Blaise, disdaining to use steel against an unarmed
antagonist, contented himself with dodging the blow and dragging
Barbemouche to a place where an opening in the courtyard wall overlooked
a steep, rocky descent which was for some distance without vegetation.
Here the two men grappled. There was some hard squeezing, some quick
bending either way, a final powerful forcing forward of the arms on the
part of Blaise, a last violent propulsion of the same arms, and
Barbemouche was thrown backward down the precipice. Blaise stood for a
time looking oven. We heard a series of dull concussions, a sound of the
flight of detached small stones, and then nothing.
"God giveth the battle to the strong!" said Blaise, and he came away from
De Berquin shrugged his shoulders, and turned again to me.
"As I said, monsieur," he began, "I have come here to do you a service."
"Indeed!" said I, coldly, choosing to assume indifference and ignorance.
"I knew not that I was in need of any."
"Your need of it is all the greater for that," said De Berquin, quietly.
"Monsieur, I would hinder some one from doing you a foul deed, though to
do so I must rob that person of your esteem."
"Speak clearly, M. de Berquin," said I, thinking that he was taking the
wrong way to get my confidence. "It is impossible that any one having my
esteem should need hindrance from a foul deed."
De Berquin stood perfectly still and looked me straight in the
"Is it a foul deed to betray a man into the hands of his enemies?"
"Yes," said I, thoughtfully, wondering that he should try to begin that
very act by accusing some one else of intending it.
"Then, monsieur," he went on, "look to yourself."
But I looked at him instead, with some amazement at the assurance with
which he continued to face me.
"And what man of my following would you accuse of intending to betray
me?" I asked.
"No man, monsieur," he said, still meeting my gaze steadily, and not
changing his attitude.
"No man?" I repeated, for a moment puzzled. "Oh, ho! The boy, Pierre,
perhaps, who left us while we were at the inn by the forest road! Well,
monsieur, you speak falsely. I would stake my arm on his loyalty."
"It is not to tell you of any boy that I have sought you these many days
in this wilderness," said De Berquin, all the time standing as motionless
as a statue, and speaking in a very low voice. "It is not a boy that has
come from M. de la Chatre, the governor of the province, to betray you."
"Not man nor boy," I said, curious now to learn what he was aiming at.
"What, then? Mademoiselle's maid, honest Jeannotte? You must take the
trouble to invent something else, M. de Berquin. You become amusing."
"Not the maid, monsieur," he replied, very quietly, putting a stress on
the word "maid," and facing me as boldly as ever.
Slowly it dawned on me what he meant. Slowly a tremendous indignation
grew in me against the man who dared to stand before me and make that
accusation. Yet I controlled myself, and merely answered in a tone as low
as his, but slowly drawing my sword:
"By God, you mean _her_!"
"Mlle. de Varion," he answered, never quailing.
Filled with a, great wrath, my powers of thought for the time paralyzed,
my mind capable of no perception, but that of mademoiselle's sweetness
and purity opposed to this horrible charge of black treason, I could
"Then the devil is no more the king of liars, unless you are the devil!
Come, Monsieur de Berquin, I will show you what I think of the service
you would do me!"
With drawn sword in hand, I walked across the courtyard and pointed to
the way leading around the side of the château to an open space in one
part of the garden. I knew that there we should not be interrupted.
As I waited for De Berquin to precede me, I chanced to look at
Blaise. A strange, thoughtful expression was on his face. He, too,
stood quite still.
De Berquin looked at my face for a moment longer, then seemed to realize
the hopelessness of his attempt to make me credit his accusation,
shrugged his shoulders and said, courteously:
"As you will, monsieur!"
And he walked before me around the side of the château to the bare
space in the garden. Blaise, having received no orders, did not presume
We took off our doublets and other encumbrances, De Berquin raising his
sheathed sword and very gracefully unsheathing by throwing the scabbard
off into the air, so that it fell some distance away in the garden.
Twice before that night it had been shown that I was the more skilful
swordsman, yet now he stood without the least sign of fear. If he had
formerly retreated, on being disarmed, it was from situations in which he
had figured ridiculously, and could not endure to remain before
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