The House of the Wolf
Part 2 out of 4
Perhaps all this was mere nervousness, the outcome of my
position. At any rate I felt no more of it when Croisette joined
me. We had our daggers, and that gave me some comfort. If we
could once gain entrance to the house opposite, we had only to
beg, or in the last resort force our way downstairs and out, and
then to hasten with what speed we might to Pavannes' dwelling.
Clearly it was a question of time only now; whether Bezers' band
or we should first reach it. And struck by this I whispered
Marie to be quick. He seemed to be long in coming.
He scrambled down hand over hand at last, and then I saw that he
had not lingered above for nothing. He had contrived after
getting out of the window to let down the shutter. And more he
had at some risk lengthened our rope, and made a double line of
it, so that it ran round a hinge of the shutter; and when he
stood beside us, he took it by one end and disengaged it. Good,
"Bravo!" I said softly, clapping him on the back. "Now they
will not know which way the birds have flown!"
So there we all were, one of us, I confess, trembling. We slid
easily enough along the beam to the opposite house. But once
there in a row one behind the other with our faces to the wall,
and the night air blowing slantwise--well I am nervous on a
height and I gasped. The window was a good six feet above the
beam, The casement--it was unglazed--was open, veiled by a thin
curtain, and alas! protected by three horizontal bars--stout
bars they looked.
Yet we were bound to get up, and to get in; and I was preparing
to rise to my feet on the giddy bridge as gingerly as I could,
when Marie crawled quickly over us, and swung himself up to the
narrow sill, much as I should mount a horse on the level. He
held out his foot to me, and making an effort I reached the same
dizzy perch. Croisette for the time remained below.
A narrow window-ledge sixty feet above the pavement, and three
bars to cling to! I cowered to my holdfasts, envying even
Croisette. My legs dangled airily, and the black chasm of the
street seemed to yawn for me. For a moment I turned sick. I
recovered from that to feel desperate. I remembered that go
forward we must, bars or no bars. We could not regain our old
prison if we would.
It was equally clear that we could not go forward if the inmates
should object. On that narrow perch even Marie was helpless.
The bars of the window were close together. A woman, a child,
could disengage our hands, and then--I turned sick again. I
thought of the cruel stones. I glued my face to the bars, and
pushing aside a corner of the curtain, looked in.
There was only one person in the room--a woman, who was moving
about fully dressed, late as it was. The room was a mere attic,
the counterpart of that we had left. A box-bed with a canopy
roughly nailed over it stood in a corner. A couple of chairs
were by the hearth, and all seemed to speak of poverty and
bareness. Yet the woman whom we saw was richly dressed, though
her silks and velvets were disordered. I saw a jewel gleam in
her hair, and others on her hands. When she turned her face
towards us--a wild, beautiful face, perplexed and tear-stained--I
knew her instantly for a gentlewoman, and when she walked hastily
to the door, and laid her hand upon it, and seemed to listen--
when she shook the latch and dropped her hands in despair and
went back to the hearth, I made another discovery I knew at once,
seeing her there, that we were likely but to change one prison
for another. Was every house in Paris then a dungeon? And did
each roof cover its tragedy?
"Madame!" I said, speaking softly, to attract her attention.
She started violently, not knowing whence the sound came, and
looked round, at the door first. Then she moved towards the
window, and with an affrighted gesture drew the curtain rapidly
Our eyes met. What if she screamed and aroused the house? What,
indeed? "Madame," I said again, speaking hurriedly, and striving
to reassure her by the softness of my voice, "we implore your
help! Unless you assist us we are lost."
"You! Who are you?" she cried, glaring at us wildly, her hand
to her head. And then she murmured to herself, "Mon Dieu! what
will become of me?"
"We have been imprisoned in the house opposite," I hastened to
explain, disjointedly I am afraid. "And we have escaped. We
cannot get back if we would. Unless you let us enter your room
and give us shelter--"
"We shall be dashed to pieces on the pavement," supplied Marie,
with perfect calmness--nay, with apparent enjoyment.
"Let you in here?" she answered, starting back in new terror;
"it is impossible."
She reminded me of our cousin, being, like her pale and dark-
haired. She wore her hair in a coronet, disordered now. But
though she was still beautiful, she was older than Kit, and
lacked her pliant grace. I saw all this, and judging her nature,
I spoke out of my despair. "Madame," I said piteously, "we are
only boys. Croisette! Come up!" Squeezing myself still more
tightly into my corner of the ledge, I made room for him between
us. "See, Madame," I cried, craftily, "will you not have pity on
St. Crois's boyish face and fair hair arrested her attention, as
I had expected. Her expression grew softer, and she murmured,
I caught at the opportunity. "We do but seek a passage through
your room," I said fervently. Good heavens, what had we not at
stake! What if she should remain obdurate? "We are in trouble
--in despair," I panted. "So, I believe, are you. We will help
you if you will first save us. We are boys, but we can fight for
"Whom am I to trust?" she exclaimed, with a shudder. "But
heaven forbid," she continued, her eyes on Croisette's face,
"that, wanting help, I should refuse to give it. Come in, if you
I poured out my thanks, and had forced my head between the bars
--at imminent risk of its remaining there--before the words were
well out of her mouth. But to enter was no easy task after all.
Croisette did, indeed, squeeze through at last, and then by force
pulled first one and then the other of us after him. But only
necessity and that chasm behind could have nerved us, I think, to
go through a process so painful. When I stood, at length on the
floor, I seemed to be one great abrasion from head to foot. And
before a lady, too!
But what a joy I felt, nevertheless. A fig for Bezers now. He
had called us boys; and we were boys. But he should yet find
that we could thwart him. It could be scarcely half-an-hour
after midnight; we might still be in time. I stretched myself
and trod the level door jubilantly, and then noticed, while doing
so, that our hostess had retreated to the door and was eyeing us
I advanced to her with my lowest bow--sadly missing my sword.
"Madame," I said, "I am M. Anne de Caylus, and these are my
brothers. And we are at your service."
"And I," she replied, smiling faintly--I do not know why--"am
Madame de Pavannes, I gratefully accept your offers of service."
"De Pavannes?" I exclaimed, amazed and overjoyed. Madame de
Pavannes! Why, she must be Louis' kinswoman! No doubt she could
tell us where he was lodged, and so rid our task of half its
difficulty. Could anything have fallen out more happily? "You
know then M. Louis de Pavannes?" I continued eagerly.
"Certainly," she answered, smiling with a rare shy sweetness this
time. "Very well indeed. He is my husband."
A PRIEST AND A WOMAN.
"He is my husband!"
The statement was made in the purest innocence; yet never, as may
well be imagined, did words fall with more stunning force. Not
one of us answered or, I believe, moved so much as a limb or an
eyelid. We only stared, wanting time to take in the astonishing
meaning of the words, and then more time to think what they meant
to us in particular.
Louis de Pavannes' wife! Louis de Pavannes married! If the
statement were true--and we could not doubt, looking in her face,
that at least she thought she was telling the truth--it meant
that we had been fooled indeed! That we had had this journey for
nothing, and run this risk for a villain. It meant that the
Louis de Pavannes who had won our boyish admiration was the
meanest, the vilest of court-gallants. That Mademoiselle de
Caylus had been his sport and plaything. And that we in trying
to be beforehand with Bezers had been striving to save a
scoundrel from his due. It meant all that, as soon as we grasped
it in the least.
"Madame," said Croisette gravely, after a pause so prolonged that
her smile faded pitifully from her face, scared by our strange
looks. "Your husband has been some time away from you? He only
returned, I think, a week or two ago?"
"That is so," she answered, naively, and our last hope vanished.
"But what of that? He was back with me again, and only
yesterday--only yesterday!" she continued, clasping her hands,
"we were so happy."
"And now, madame?"
She looked at me, not comprehending.
"I mean," I hastened to explain, "we do not understand how you
come to be here. And a prisoner." I was really thinking that
her story might throw some light upon ours.
"I do not know, myself," she said. "Yesterday, in the afternoon,
I paid a visit to the Abbess of the Ursulines."
"Pardon me," Croisette interposed quickly, "but are you not of
the new faith? A Huguenot?"
"Oh, yes," she answered eagerly. "But the Abbess is a very dear
friend of mine, and no bigot. Oh, nothing of that kind, I assure
you. When I am in Paris I visit her once a week. Yesterday,
when I left her, she begged me to call here and deliver a
"Then," I said, "you know this house?"
"Very well, indeed," she replied. "It is the sign of the 'Hand
and Glove,' one door out of the Rue Platriere. I have been in
Master Mirepoix's shop more than once before. I came here
yesterday to deliver the message, leaving my maid in the street,
and I was asked to come up stairs, and still up until I reached
this room. Asked to wait a moment, I began to think it strange
that I should be brought to so wretched a place, when I had
merely a message for Mirepoix's ear about some gauntlets. I
tried the door; I found it locked. Then I was terrified, and
made a noise."
We all nodded. We were busy building up theories--or it might be
one and the same theory--to explain this. "Yes," I said,
"Mirepoix came to me then. 'What does this mean?' I demanded.
He looked ashamed of himself, but he barred my way. 'Only this,'
he said at last, 'that your ladyship must remain here a few
hours--two days at most. No harm whatever is intended to you.
My wife will wait upon you, and when you leave us, all shall be
explained.' He would say no more, and it was in vain I asked him
if he did not take me for some one else; if he thought I was mad.
To all he answered, No. And when I dared him to detain me he
threatened force. Then I succumbed. I have been here since,
suspecting I know not what, but fearing everything."
"That is ended, madame," I answered, my hand on my breast, my
soul in arms for her. Here, unless I was mistaken, was one more
unhappy and more deeply wronged even than Kit; one too who owed
her misery to the same villain. "Were there nine glovers on the
stairs," I declared roundly, "we would take you out and take you
home! Where are your husband's apartments?"
"In the Rue de Saint Merri, close to the church. We have a house
"M. de Pavannes," I suggested cunningly, "is doubtless distracted
by your disappearance."
"Oh, surely," she answered with earnest simplicity, while the
tears sprang to her eyes. Her innocence--she had not the germ of
a suspicion--made me grind my teeth with wrath. Oh, the base
wretch! The miserable rascal! What did the women see, I
wondered--what had we all seen in this man, this Pavannes, that
won for him our hearts, when he had only a stone to give in
I drew Croisette and Marie aside, apparently to consider how we
might force the door. "What is the meaning of this?" I said
softly, glancing at the unfortunate lady. "What do you think,
I knew well what the answer would be.
"Think!" he cried with fiery impatience. "What can any one
think except that that villain Pavannes has himself planned his
wife's abduction? Of course it is so! His wife out of the way
he is free to follow up his intrigues at Caylus. He may then
marry Kit or--Curse him!"
"No," I said sternly, "cursing is no good. We must do something
more. And yet--we have promised Kit, you see, that we would save
him--we must keep our word. We must save him from Bezers at
But Croisette took up the thought with ardour. "From Bezers?"
he cried, his face aglow. "Ay, true! So we must! But then we
will draw lots, who shall fight him and kill him."
I extinguished him by a look. "We shall fight him in turn," I
said, "until one of us kill him. There you are right. But your
turn comes last. Lots indeed! We have no need of lots to learn
which is the eldest."
I was turning from him--having very properly crushed him--to look
for something which we could use to force the door, when he held
up his hand to arrest my attention. We listened, looking at one
another. Through the window came unmistakeable sounds of voices.
"They have discovered our flight," I said, my heart sinking.
Luckily we had had the forethought to draw the curtain across the
casement. Bezers' people could therefore, from their window, see
no more than ours, dimly lighted and indistinct. Yet they would
no doubt guess the way we had escaped, and hasten to cut off our
retreat below. For a moment I looked at the door of our room,
half-minded to attack it, and fight our way out, taking the
chance of reaching the street before Bezers' folk should have
recovered from their surprise and gone down. But then I looked
at Madame. How could we ensure her safety in the struggle?
While I hesitated the choice was taken from us. We heard voices
in the house below, and heavy feet on the stairs.
We were between two fires. I glanced irresolutely round the bare
garret, with its sloping roof, searching for a better weapon. I
had only my dagger. But in vain. I saw nothing that would
serve. "What will you do?" Madame de Pavannes murmured,
standing pale and trembling by the hearth, and looking from one
to another. Croisette plucked my sleeve before I could answer,
and pointed to the box-bed with its scanty curtains. "If they
see us in the room," he urged softly, "while they are half in and
half out, they will give the alarm. Let us hide ourselves
yonder. When they are inside--you understand?"
He laid his hand on his dagger. The muscles of the lad's face
grew tense. I did understand him. "Madame," I said quickly,
"you will not betray us?"
She shook her head. The colour returned to her cheek, and the
brightness to her eyes. She was a true woman. The sense that
she was protecting others deprived her of fear for herself.
The footsteps were on the topmost stair now, and a key was thrust
with a rasping sound into the lock. But before it could be
turned--it fortunately fitted ill--we three had jumped on the bed
and were crouching in a row at the head of it, where the curtains
of the alcove concealed, and only just concealed us, from any one
standing at the end of the room near the door.
I was the outermost, and through a chink could see what passed.
One, two, three people came in, and the door was closed behind
them. Three people, and one of them a woman! My heart--which
had been in my mouth--returned to its place, for the Vidame was
not one. I breathed freely; only I dared not communicate my
relief to the others, lest my voice should be heard. The first
to come in was the woman closely cloaked and hooded. Madame de
Pavannes cast on her a single doubtful glance, and then to my
astonishment threw herself into her arms, mingling her sobs with
little joyous cries of "Oh, Diane! oh, Diane!"
"My poor little one!" the newcomer exclaimed, soothing her with
tender touches on hair and shoulder. "You are safe now. Quite
"You have come to take me away?"
"Of course we have!" Diane answered cheerfully, still caressing
her. "We have come to take you to your husband. He has been
searching for you everywhere. He is distracted with grief,
"Poor Louis!" ejaculated the wife.
"Poor Louis, indeed!" the rescuer answered. "But you will see
him soon. We only learned at midnight where you were. You have
to thank M. le Coadjuteur here for that. He brought me the news,
and at once escorted me here to fetch you."
"And to restore one sister to another," said the priest silkily,
as he advanced a step. He was the very same priest whom I had
seen two hours before with Bezers, and had so greatly disliked!
I hated his pale face as much now as I had then. Even the errand
of good on which he had come could not blind me to his thin-
lipped mouth, to his mock humility and crafty eyes. "I have had
no task so pleasant for many days," added he, with every
appearance of a desire to propitiate.
But, seemingly, Madame de Pavannes had something of the same
feeling towards him which I had myself; for she started at the
sound of his voice, and disengaging herself from her sister's
arms--it seemed it was her sister--shrank back from the pair.
She bowed indeed in acknowledgment of his words. But there was
little gratitude in the movement, and less warmth. I saw the
sister's face--a brilliantly beautiful face it was--brighter eyes
and lips and more lovely auburn hair I have never seen--even Kit
would have been plain and dowdy beside her--I saw it harden
strangely. A moment before, the two had been in one another's
arms. Now they stood apart, somehow chilled and disillusionised.
The shadow of the priest had fallen upon them--had come between
At this crisis the fourth person present asserted himself.
Hitherto he had stood silent just within the door: a plain man,
plainly dressed, somewhat over sixty and grey-haired. He looked
disconcerted and embarrassed, and I took him for Mirepoix--
rightly as it turned out.
"I am sure," he now exclaimed, his voice trembling with anxiety,
or it might be with fear, "your ladyship will regret leaving
here! You will indeed! No harm would have happened to you.
Madame d'O does not know what she is doing, or she would not take
you away. She does not know what she is doing!" he repeated
"Madame d'O!" cried the beautiful Diane, her brown eyes darting
fire at the unlucky culprit, her voice full of angry disdain.
"How dare you--such as you--mention my name? Wretch!"
She flung the last word at him, and the priest took it up. "Ay,
wretch! Wretched man indeed!" he repeated slowly, stretching
out his long thin hand and laying it like the claw of some bird
of prey on the tradesman's shoulder, which flinched, I saw, under
the touch. "How dare you--such as you--meddle with matters of
the nobility? Matters that do not concern you? Trouble! I see
trouble hanging over this house, Mirepoix! Much trouble!"
The miserable fellow trembled visibly under the covert threat.
His face grew pale. His lips quivered. He seemed fascinated by
the priest's gaze. "I am a faithful son of the church," he
muttered; but his voice shook so that the words were scarcely
audible. "I am known to be such! None better known in Paris, M.
"Men are known by their works!" the priest retorted. "Now,
now," he continued, abruptly raising his voice, and lifting his
hand in a kind of exaltation, real or feigned, "is the appointed
time! And now is the day of salvation! and woe, Mirepoix, woe!
woe! to the backslider, and to him that putteth his hand to the
plough and looketh back to-night!"
The layman cowered and shrank before his fierce denunciation;
while Madame de Pavannes gazed from one to the other as if her
dislike for the priest were so great that seeing the two thus
quarrelling, she almost forgave Mirepoix his offence. "Mirepoix
said he could explain," she murmured irresolutely.
The Coadjutor fixed his baleful eyes on him. "Mirepoix," he said
grimly, "can explain nothing! Nothing! I dare him to explain!"
And certainly Mirepoix thus challenged was silent. "Come," the
priest continued peremptorily, turning to the lady who had
entered with him, "your sister must leave with us at once. We
have no time to lose."
"But what what does it mean!" Madame de Pavannes said, as though
she hesitated even now. "Is there danger still?"
"Danger!" the priest exclaimed, his form seeming to swell, and
the exaltation I had before read in his voice and manner again
asserting itself. "I put myself at your service, Madame, and
danger disappears! I am as God to-night with powers of life and
death! You do not understand me? Presently you shall. But you
are ready. We will go then. Out of the way, fellow!" he
thundered, advancing upon the door.
But Mirepoix, who had placed himself with his back to it, to my
astonishment did not give way. His full bourgeois face was pale;
yet peeping through my chink, I read in it a desperate
resolution. And oddly--very oddly, because I knew that, in
keeping Madame de Pavannes a prisoner, he must be in the wrong--I
sympathised with him. Low-bred trader, tool of Pavannes though
he was, I sympathised with him, when he said firmly:
"She shall not go!"
"I say she shall!" the priest shrieked, losing all control over
himself. " Fool! Madman! You know not what you do!" As the
words passed his lips, he made an adroit forward movement,
surprised the other, clutched him by the arms, and with a
strength I should never have thought lay in his meagre frame,
flung him some paces into the room. "Fool!" he hissed, shaking
his crooked fingers at him in malignant triumph. "There is no
man in Paris, do you hear--or woman either--shall thwart me to-
"Is that so? Indeed?"
The words, and the cold, cynical voice, were not those of
Mirepoix; they came from behind. The priest wheeled round, as if
he had been stabbed in the back. I clutched Croisette, and
arrested the cramped limb I was moving under cover of the noise.
The speaker was Bezers! He stood in the open door-way, his great
form filling it from post to post, the old gibing smile on his
face. We had been so taken up, actors and audience alike, with
the altercation, that no one had heard him ascend the stairs. He
still wore the black and silver suit, but it was half hidden now
under a dark riding cloak which just disclosed the glitter of his
weapons. He was booted and spurred and gloved as for a journey.
"Is that so?" he repeated mockingly, as his gaze rested in turn
on each of the four, and then travelled sharply round the room.
"So you will not be thwarted by any man in Paris, to-night, eh?
Have you considered, my dear Coadjutor, what a large number of
people there are in Paris? It would amuse me very greatly now--
and I'm sure it would the ladies too, who must pardon my abrupt
entrance--to see you put to the test; pitted against--shall we
say the Duke of Anjou? Or M. de Guise, our great man? Or the
Admiral? Say the Admiral foot to foot?"
Rage and fear--rage at the intrusion, fear of the intruder--
struggled in the priest's face. "How do you come here, and what
do you want?" he inquired hoarsely. If looks and tones could
kill, we three, trembling behind our flimsy screen, had been
freed at that moment from our enemy.
"I have come in search of the young birds whose necks you were
for stretching, my friend!" was Bezers' answer. "They have
vanished. Birds they must be, for unless they have come into
this house by that window, they have flown away with wings."
"They have not passed this way," the priest declared stoutly,
eager only to get rid of the other and I blessed him for the
words! "I have been here since I left you."
But the Vidame was not one to accept any man's statement. "Thank
you; I think I will see for myself," he answered coolly.
"Madame," he continued, speaking to Madame de Pavannes as he
passed her, "permit me."
He did not look at her, or see her emotion, or I think he must
have divined our presence. And happily the others did not
suspect her of knowing more than they did. He crossed the floor
at his leisure,and sauntered to the window, watched by them with
impatience. He drew aside the curtain, and tried each of the
bars, and peered through the opening both up and down, An oath
and an expression of wonder escaped him. The bars were standing,
and firm and strong; and it did not occur to him that we could
have passed between them. I am afraid to say how few inches they
As he turned, he cast a casual glance at the bed--at us; and
hesitated. He had the candle in his hand, having taken it to the
window the better to examine the bars; and it obscured his sight.
He did not see us. The three crouching forms, the strained white
faces, the starting eyes, that lurked in the shadow of the
curtain escaped him. The wild beating of our hearts did not
reach his ears. And it was well for him that it was so. If he
had come up to the bed I think that we should have killed him, I
know that we should have tried. All the blood in me had gone to
my head, and I saw him through a haze--larger than life. The
exact spot near the buckle of his cloak where I would strike him,
downwards and inwards, an inch above the collar-bone,--this only
I saw clearly. I could not have missed it. But he turned away,
his face darkening, and went back to the group near the door, and
never knew the risk he had run.
And we breathed again. The agony of suspense, which Bezers'
pause had created, passed away. But the night already seemed to
us as a week of nights. An age of experience, an aeon of
adventures cut us off--as we lay shaking behind the curtain--from
Caylus and its life. Paris had proved itself more treacherous
than we had even expected to find it. Everything and everyone
shifted, and wore one face one minute, and one another. We had
come to save Pavannes' life at the risk of our own; we found him
to be a villain! Here was Mirepoix owning himself a treacherous
wretch, a conspirator against a woman; we sympathised with him.
The priest had come upon a work of charity and rescue; we loathed
the sound of his voice, and shrank from him, we knew not why,
seeming only to read a dark secret, a gloomy threat in each
doubtful word he uttered. He was the strangest enigma of all.
Why did we fear him? Why did Madame de Pavannes, who apparently
had known him before, shudder at the touch of his hand? Why did
his shadow come even between her and her sister, and estrange
them? so that from the moment Pavannes' wife saw him standing by
Diane's side, she forgot that the latter had come to save, and
looked on her in doubt and sorrow, almost with repugnance.
We left the Vidame going back to the fireplace. He stooped to
set down the candle by the hearth. "They are not here," he said,
as he straightened himself again, and looked curiously at his
companions. He had apparently been too much taken up with the
pursuit to notice them before. "That is certain, so I have the
less time to lose," he continued. "But I would--yes, my dear
Coadjutor, I certainly would like to know before I go, what you
are doing here. Mirepoix--Mirepoix is an honest man. I did not
expect to find you in HIS house. And two ladies? Two! Fie,
Coadjutor. Ha! Madame d'O, is it? My dear lady," he continued,
addressing her in a whimsical tone, "do not start at the sound of
your own name! It would take a hundred hoods to hide your eyes,
or bleach your lips to the common colour; I should have known you
at once, had I looked at you. And your companion? Pheugh!"
He broke off, whistling softly. It was clear that he recognised
Madame de Pavannes, and recognised her with astonishment. The
bed creaked as I craned my neck to see what would follow. Even
the priest seemed to think that some explanation was necessary,
for he did not wait to be questioned.
"Madame de Pavannes," he said in a dry, husky voice, and without
looking up, "was spirited hither yesterday; and detained against
her will by this good man, who will have to answer for it.
Madame d'O discovered her whereabouts, and asked me to escort her
here without loss of time to enforce her sister's release."
"And her restoration to her distracted husband?"
"Just so," the priest assented, acquiring confidence, I thought.
"And Madame desires to go?"
"Surely! Why not?"
"Well," the Vidame drawled, his manner such as to bring the blood
to Madame de Pavannes' cheek, "it depends on the person who--to
use your phrase, M. le Coadjuteur--spirited her hither."
"And that," Madame herself retorted, raising her head, while her
voice quivered with indignation and anger, "was the Abbess of the
Ursulines. Your suspicions are base, worthy of you and unworthy
of me, M. le Vidame! Diane!" she continued sharply, taking her
sister's arm, and casting a disdainful glance at Bezers, "let us
go. I want to be with, my husband. I am stifled in this room."
"We are going, little one," Diane murmured reassuringly. But I
noticed that the speaker's animation, which had been as a soul to
her beauty when she entered the room, was gone. A strange
stillness was it fear of the Vidame? had taken its place.
"The Abbess of the Ursulines?" Bezers continued thoughtfully.
"SHE brought you here, did she?" There was surprise, genuine
surprise, in his voice. "A good soul, and, I think I have heard,
a friend of yours. Umph!"
"A very dear friend," Madame answered stiffly. "Now, Diane!"
"A dear friend! And she spirited you hither yesterday!"
commented the Vidame, with the air of one solving an anagram.
"And Mirepoix detained you; respectable Mirepoix, who is said to
have a well-filled stocking under his pallet, and stands well
with the bourgeoisie. He is in the plot. Then at a very late
hour, your affectionate sister, and my good friend the Coadjutor,
enter to save you. From what?"
No one spoke. The priest looked down, his cheek. livid with
"From what?" Bezers continued with grim playfulness. "There is
the mystery. From the clutches of this profligate Mirepoix, I
suppose. From the dangerous Mirepoix. Upon my honour," with a
sudden ring of resolution in his tone, "I think you are safer
here; I think you had better stay where you are, Madame, until
morning! And risk Mirepoix!"
"Oh, no! no!" Madame cried vehemently.
"Oh, yes! yes!" he replied. "What do you say, Coadjutor? Do
you not think so?"
The priest looked down sullenly. His voice shook as he murmured
in answer, "Madame will please herself. She has a character, M.
le Vidame. But if she prefer to stay here--well!"
"Oh, she has a character, has she?" rejoined the giant, his eyes
twinkling with evil mirth, "and she should go home with you, and
my old friend Madame d'O, to save it! That is it, is it? No,
no," he continued when he had had his silent laugh out, "Madame
de Pavannes will do very well here--very well here until morning.
We have work to do. Come. Let us go and do it."
"Do you mean it?" said the priest, starting and looking up with
a subtle challenge--almost a threat--in his tone.
"Yes, I do."
Their eyes met: and seeing their looks, I chuckled, nudging
Croisette. No fear of their discovering us now. I recalled the
old proverb which says that when thieves fall out, honest men
come by their own, and speculated on the chance of the priest
freeing us once for all from M. de Bezers.
But the two were ill-matched. The Vidame could have taken up the
other with one hand and dashed his head on the floor. And it did
not end there. I doubt if in craft the priest was his equal.
Behind a frank brutality Bezers--unless his reputation belied
him--concealed an Italian intellect. Under a cynical
recklessness he veiled a rare cunning and a constant suspicion;
enjoying in that respect a combination of apparently opposite
qualities, which I have known no other man to possess in an equal
degree, unless it might be his late majesty, Henry the Great. A
child would have suspected the priest; a veteran might have been
taken in by the Vidame.
And indeed the priest's eyes presently sank. "Our bargain is to
go for nothing?" he muttered sullenly.
"I know of no bargain," quoth the Vidame. "And I have no time to
lose, splitting hairs here. Set it down to what you like. Say
it is a whim of mine, a fad, a caprice. Only understand that
Madame de Pavannes stays. We go. And--" he added this, as a
sudden thought seemed to strike him, "though I would not
willingly use compulsion to a lady, I think Madame d'O had better
"You speak masterfully," the priest said with a sneer, forgetting
the tone he had himself used a few minutes before to Mirepoix.
"Just so. I have forty horsemen over the way," was the dry
answer. "for the moment, I am master of the legions, Coadjutor."
"That is true," Madame d'O said; so softly that I started. She
had scarcely spoken since Bezers' entrance. As she spoke now,
she shook back the hood from her face and disclosed the chestnut
hair clinging about her temples--deep blots of colour on the
abnormal whiteness of her skin, "That is true, M. de Bezers," she
said. "You have the legions. You have the power. But you will
not use it, I think, against an old friend. You will not do us
this hurt when I--But listen."
He would not. In the very middle of her appeal he cut her short
--brute that he was! "No Madame!" he burst out violently,
disregarding the beautiful face, the supplicating glance, that
might have moved a stone, "that is just what I will not do. I
will not listen! We know one another. Is not that enough?"
She looked at him fixedly. He returned her gaze, not smiling
now, but eyeing her with a curious watchfulness.
And after a long pause she turned from him. "Very well," she
said softly, and drew a deep, quivering breath, the sound of
which reached us. "Then let us go." And without--strangest
thing of all--bestowing a word or look on her sister, who was
weeping bitterly in a chair, she turned to the door and led the
way out, a shrug of her shoulders the last thing I marked.
The poor lady heard her departing step however,
and sprang up. It dawned upon her that she was being deserted.
"Diane! Diane!" she cried distractedly--and I had to put my
hand on Croisette to keep him quiet, there was such fear and pain
in her tone--"I will go! I will not be left behind in this
dreadful place! Do you hear? Come back to me, Diane!"
It made my blood run wildly. But Diane did not come back.
Strange! And Bezers too was unmoved. He stood between the poor
woman and the door, and by a gesture bid Mirepoix and the priest
pass out before him. "Madame," he said--and his voice, stern and
hard as ever, expressed no jot of compassion for her, rather such
an impatient contempt as a puling child might elicit--"you are
safe here. And here you will stop! Weep if you please," he
added cynically, "you will have fewer tears to shed to-morrow."
His last words--they certainly were odd ones--arrested her
attention. She checked her sobs, being frightened I think, and
looked up at him. Perhaps he had spoken with this in view, for
while she still stood at gaze, her hands pressed to her bosom, he
slipped quickly out and closed the door behind him. I heard a
muttering for an instant outside, and then the tramp of feet
descending the stairs. They were gone, and we were still
For Madame, she had clean forgotten our presence--of that I am
sure--and the chance of escape we might afford. On finding
herself alone she gazed a short time in alarmed silence at the
door, and then ran to the window and peered out, still trembling,
terrified, silent. So she remained a while.
She had not noticed that Bezers on going out had omitted to lock
the door behind him. I had. But I was unwilling to move
hastily. Some one might return to see to it before the Vidame
left the house. And besides the door was not over strong, and if
locked would be no obstacle to the three of us when we had only
Mirepoix to deal with. So I kept the others where they were by a
nudge and a pinch, and held my breath a moment, straining my ears
to catch the closing of the door below. I did not hear that.
But I did catch a sound that otherwise might have escaped me, but
which now riveted my eyes to the door of our room. Some one in
the silence, which followed the trampling on the stairs, had
cautiously laid a hand on the latch.
The light in the room was dim. Mirepoix had taken one of the
candles with him, and the other wanted snuffing. I could not see
whether the latch moved; whether or no it was rising. But
watching intently, I made out that the door was being opened--
slowly, noiselessly. I saw someone enter--a furtive gliding
For a moment I felt nervous--then I recognised the dark hooded
figure. It was only Madame d'O. Brave woman! She had evaded
the Vidame and slipped back to the rescue. Ha, ha! We would
defeat the Vidame yet! Things were going better!
But then something in her manner--as she stood holding the door
and peering into the room--something in her bearing startled and
frightened me. As she came forward her movements were so
stealthy that her footsteps made no sound. Her dark shadow,
moving ahead of her across the floor, was not more silent than
she. An undefined desire to make a noise, to give the alarm,
Half-way across the room she stopped to listen, and looked round,
startled herself, I think, by the silence. She could not see her
sister, whose figure was blurred by the outlines of the curtain;
and no doubt she was puzzled to think what had become of her.
The suspense which I felt, but did not understand, was so great
that at last I moved, and the bed creaked.
In a moment her face was turned our way, and she glided forwards,
her features still hidden by the hood of her cloak. She was
close to us now, bending over us. She raised her hand to her
head--to shade her eyes, as she looked more closely, I supposed,
and I was wondering whether she saw us--whether she took the
shapelessness in the shadow of the curtain for her sister, or
could not make it out--I was thinking how we could best apprise
her of our presence without alarming her--when Croisette dashed
my thoughts to the winds! Croisette, with a tremendous whoop and
a crash, bounded over me on to the floor!
She uttered a gasping cry--a cry of intense, awful fear. I have
the sound in my ears even now. With that she staggered back,
clutching the air. I heard the metallic clang and ring of
something falling on the floor. I heard an answering cry of
alarm from the window; and then Madame de Pavannes ran forward
and caught her in her arms.
It was strange to find the room lately so silent become at once
alive with whispering forms, as we came hastily to light. I
cursed Croisette for his folly, and was immeasurably angry with
him, but I had no time to waste words on him then. I hurried to
the door to guard it. I opened it a hand's breadth and listened.
All was quiet below; the house still. I took the key out of the
lock and put it in my pocket and went back. Marie and Croisette
were standing a little apart from Madame de Pavannes, who,
hanging over her sister, was by turns bathing her face and
explaining our presence.
In a very few minutes Madame d'O seemed to recover, and sat up.
The first shock of deadly terror had passed, but she was still
pale. She still trembled, and shrank from meeting our eyes,
though I saw her, when our attention was apparently directed
elsewhere, glance at one and another of us with a strange
intentness, a shuddering curiosity. No wonder, I thought. She
must have had a terrible fright--one that might have killed a
more timid woman!
"What on earth did you do that for!" I asked Croisette
presently, my anger certainly not decreasing the more I looked at
her beautiful face. "You might have killed her!"
In charity I supposed his nerves had failed him, for he could not
even now give me a straightforward answer. His only reply was,
"Let us get away! Let us get away from this horrible house!"
and this he kept repeating with a shudder as he moved restlessly
to and fro.
"With all my heart!" I answered, looking at him with some
contempt. "That is exactly what we are going to do!"
But all the same his words reminded me of something which in the
excitement of the scene I had momentarily forgotten, and that was
our duty. Pavannes must still be saved, though not for Kit;
rather to answer to us for his sins. But he must be saved! And
now that the road was open, every minute lost was reproach to us.
"Yes," I added roughly, my thoughts turned into a more rugged
channel, "you are right. This is no time for nursing. We must
be going. Madame de Pavannes," I went on, addressing myself to
her, "you know the way home from here--to your house!" "Oh,
yes," she cried.
"That is well," I answered. "Then we will start. Your sister is
sufficiently recovered now, I think. And we will not risk any
I did not tell her of her husband's danger, or that we suspected
him of wronging her, and being in fact the cause of her
detention. I wanted her services as a guide. That was the main
point, though I was glad to be able to put her in a place of
safety at the same time that we fulfilled our own mission.
She rose eagerly. "You are sure that we can get out?" she said.
"Sure," I replied with a brevity worthy of Bezers himself.
And I was right. We trooped down stairs, making as little noise
as possible; with the result that Mirepoix only took the alarm,
and came upon us when we were at the outer door, bungling with
the lock. Then I made short work of him, checking his scared
words of remonstrance by flashing my dagger before his eyes. I
induced him in the same fashion--he was fairly taken by surprise
--to undo the fastenings himself; and so, bidding him follow us
at his peril, we slipped out one by one. We softly closed the
door behind us. And lo! we were at last free--free and in the
streets of Paris, with the cool night air fanning our brows. A
church hard by tolled the hour of two; and the strokes were
echoed, before we had gone many steps along the ill-paved way, by
the solemn tones of the bell of Notre Dame.
We were free and in the streets, with a guide who knew the way.
If Bezers had not gone straight from us to his vengeance, we
might thwart him yet. I strode along quickly, Madame d'O by my
side the others a little way in front. Here and there an oil-
lamp, swinging from a pulley in the middle of the road, enabled
us to avoid some obstacle more foul than usual, or to leap over a
pool which had formed in the kennel. Even in my excitement, my
country-bred senses rebelled against the sights, and smells, the
noisome air and oppressive closeness of the streets.
The town was quiet, and very dark where the smoky lamps were not
hanging. Yet I wondered if it ever slept, for more than once we
had to stand aside to give passage to a party of men, hurrying
along with links and arms. Several times too, especially towards
the end of our walk, I was surprised by the flashing of bright
lights in a courtyard, the door of which stood half open to right
or left. Once I saw the glow of torches reflected ruddily in the
windows of a tall and splendid mansion, a little withdrawn from
the street. The source of the light was in the fore-court,
hidden from us by a low wall, but I caught the murmur of voices
and stir of many feet. Once a gate was stealthily opened and two
armed men looked out, the act and their manner of doing it,
reminding me on the instant of those who had peeped out to
inspect us some hours before in Bezers' house. And once, nay
twice, in the mouth of a narrow alley I discerned a knot of men
standing motionless in the gloom. There was an air of mystery
abroad, a feeling as of solemn stir and preparation going on
under cover of the darkness, which awed and unnerved me.
But I said nothing of this, and Madame d'O was equally silent.
Like most countrymen I was ready to believe in any exaggeration
of the city's late hours, the more as she made no remark. I
supposed--shaking off the momentary impression--that what I saw
was innocent and normal. Besides, I was thinking what I should
say to Pavannes when I saw him---in what terms I should warn him
of his peril, and cast his perfidy in his teeth. We had hurried
along in this way--and in absolute silence, save when some
obstacle or pitfall drew from us an exclamation--for about a
quarter of a mile, when my companion, turning into a slightly
wider street, slackened her speed, and indicated by a gesture
that we had arrived. A lamp hung over the porch, to which she
pointed, and showed the small side gate half open. We were close
behind the other three now. I saw Croisette stoop to enter and
as quickly fall back a pace. Why?
In a moment it flashed across my mind that we were too late that
the Vidame had been before us.
And yet how quiet it all was.
Then I breathed freely again. I saw that Croisette had only
stepped back to avoid some one who was coming out--the Coadjutor
in fact. The moment the entrance was clear, the lad shot in, and
the others after him, the priest taking no notice of them, nor
they of him.
I was for going in too, when I felt Madame d'O's hand tighten
suddenly on my arm, and then fall from it. Apprised of something
by this, I glanced at the priest's face, catching sight of it by
chance just as his eyes met hers. His face was white--nay it was
ugly with disappointment and rage, bitter snarling rage, that was
hardly human. He grasped her by the arm roughly and twisted her
round without ceremony, so as to draw her a few paces aside; yet
not so far that I could not hear what they said.
"He is not here!" he hissed. "Do you understand? He crossed
the river to the Faubourg St. Germain at nightfall--searching for
her. And he has not come back! He is on the other side of the
water, and midnight has struck this hour past!"
She stood silent for a moment as if she had received a blow--
silent and dismayed. Something serious had happened. I could
"He cannot recross the river now?" she said after a time. "The
"Shut!" he replied briefly. "The keys are at the Louvre."
"And the boats are on this side?"
"Every boat!" he answered, striking his one hand on the other
with violence. "Every boat! No one may cross until it is over."
"And the Faubourg St. Germain?" she said in a lower voice.
"There will be nothing done there. Nothing!"
A YOUNG KNIGHT-ERRANT.
I would gladly have left the two together, and gone straight into
the house. I was eager now to discharge the errand on which I
had come so far; and apart from this I had no liking for the
priest or wish to overhear his talk. His anger, however, was so
patent, and the rudeness with which he treated Madame d'O so
pronounced that I felt I could not leave her with him unless she
should dismiss me. So I stood patiently enough--and awkwardly
enough too, I daresay--by the door while they talked on in
subdued tones. Nevertheless, I felt heartily glad when at
length, the discussion ending Madame came back to me. I offered
her my arm to help her over the wooden foot of the side gate.
She laid her hand on it, but she stood still.
"M. de Caylus," she said; and at that stopped. Naturally I
looked at her, and our eyes met. Hers brown and beautiful,
shining in the light of the lamp overhead looked into mine. Her
lips were half parted, and one fair tress of hair had escaped
from her hood. "M. de Caylus, will you do me a favour," she
resumed, softly, "a favour for which I shall always be grateful?"
I sighed. "Madame," I said earnestly, for I felt the solemnity
of the occasion, "I swear that in ten minutes, if the task I now
have in hand be finished I will devote my life to your service.
For the present--"
"Well, for the present? But it is the present I want, Master
"I must see M. de Pavannes! I am pledged to it," I ejaculated.
"To see M. de Pavannes?"
I was conscious that she was looking at me with eyes of doubt,
almost of suspicion.
"Why? Why?" she asked with evident surprise. "You have
restored--and nearly frightened me to death in doing it--his wife
to her home; what more do you want with him, most valiant knight-
"I must see him," I said firmly. I would have told her all and
been thankful, but the priest was within hearing--or barely out
of it; and I had seen too much pass between him and Bezers to be
willing to say anything before him.
"You must see M. de Pavannes?" she repeated, gazing at me.
"I must," I replied with decision.
"Then you shall. That is exactly what I am going to help you to
do," she exclaimed. "He is not here. That is what is the
matter. He went out at nightfall seeking news of his wife, and
crossed the river, the Coadjutor says, to the Faubourg St.
Germain. Now it is of the utmost importance that he should
return before morning--return here."
"But is he not here?" I said, finding all my calculations at
fault. "You are sure of it, Madame?"
"Quite sure," she answered rapidly. "Your brothers will have by
this time discovered the fact. Now, M. de Caylus, Pavannes must
be brought here before morning, not only for his wife's sake--
though she will be wild with anxiety--but also--"
"I know," I said, eagerly interrupting her, "for his own too!
There is a danger threatening him."
She turned swiftly, as if startled, and I turned, and we looked
at the priest. I thought we understood one another. "There is,"
she answered softly, "and I would save him from that danger; but
he will only be safe, as I happen to know, here! Here, you
understand! He must be brought here before daybreak, M. de
Caylus. He must! He must!" she exclaimed, her beautiful
features hardening with the earnestness of her feelings. "And
the Coadjutor cannot go. I cannot go. There is only one man who
can save him, and that is yourself. There is, above all, not a
moment to be lost."
My thoughts were in a whirl. Even as she spoke she began to walk
back the way we had come, her hand on my arm; and I, doubtful,
and in a confused way unwilling, went with her. I did not
clearly understand the position. I would have wished to go in
and confer with Marie and Croisette; but the juncture had
occurred so quickly, and it might be that time was as valuable as
she said, and--well, it was hard for me, a lad, to refuse her
anything when she looked at me with appeal in her eyes. I did
manage to stammer, "But I do not know Paris. I could not find
my way, I am afraid, and it is night, Madame."
She released my arm and stopped. "Night!" she cried, with a
scornful ring in her voice. "Night! I thought you were a man,
not a boy! You are afraid!"
"Afraid," I said hotly; "we Cayluses are never afraid."
"Then I can tell you the way, if that be your only difficulty.
We turn here. Now, come in with me a moment," she continued,
"and I will give you something you will need--and your
She had stopped at the door of a tall, narrow house, standing
between larger ones in a street which appeared to me to be more
airy and important than any I had yet seen. As she spoke, she
rang the bell once, twice, thrice. The silvery tinkle had
scarcely died away the third time before the door opened
silently; I saw no one, but she drew me into a narrow hall or
passage. A taper in an embossed holder was burning on a chest.
She took it up,and telling me to follow her led the way lightly
up the stairs, and into a room, half-parlour, half-bedroom-such a
room as I, had never seen before. It was richly hung from
ceiling to floor with blue silk, and lighted by the soft rays of
lamps shaded by Venetian globes of delicate hues. The scent of
cedar wood was in the air, and on the hearth in a velvet tray
were some tiny puppies. A dainty disorder reigned everywhere.
On one table a jewel-case stood open, on another lay some lace
garments, two or three masks and a fan. A gemmed riding-whip and
a silver-hilted poniard hung on the same peg. And, strangest of
all, huddled away behind the door, I espied a plain, black-
sheathed sword, and a man's gauntlets.
She did not wait a moment, but went at once to the jewel-case.
She took from it a gold ring--a heavy seal ring. She held this
out to me in the most matter-of-fact way--scarcely turning, in
fact. "Put it on your finger," she said hurriedly. "If you are
stopped by soldiers, or if they will not give you a boat to cross
the river, say boldly that you are on the king's service. Call
for the officer and show that ring. Play the man. Bid him stop
you at his peril!"
I hastily muttered my thanks, and she as hastily took something
from a drawer, and tore it into strips. Before I knew what she
was doing she was on her knees by me, fastening a white band of
linen round my left sleeve. Then she took my cap, and with the
same precipitation fixed a fragment of the stuff in it, in the
form of a rough cross.
"There," she said. "Now, listen, M. de Caylus. There is more
afoot to-night than you know of. Those badges will help you
across to St. Germain, but the moment you land tear them off:
Tear them off, remember. They will help you no longer. You will
come back by the same boat, and will not need them. If you are
seen to wear them as you return, they will command no respect,
but on the contrary will bring you--and perhaps me into trouble."
"I understand," I said, "but--"
"You must ask no questions," she retorted, waving one snowy
finger before my eyes. "My knight-errant must have faith in me,
as I have in him; or he would not be here at this time of night,
and alone with me. But remember this also. When you meet
Pavannes do not say you come from me. Keep that in your mind; I
will explain the reason afterwards. Say merely that his wife is
found, and is wild with anxiety about him. If you say anything
as to his danger he may refuse to come. Men are obstinate."
I nodded a smiling assent, thinking I understood. At the same
time I permitted myself in my own mind a little discretion.
Pavannes was not a fool, and the name of the Vidame--but,
however, I should see. I had more to say to him than she knew
of. Meanwhile she explained very carefully the three turnings I
had to take to reach the river, and the wharf where boats most
commonly lay, and the name of the house in which I should find M.
"He is at the Hotel de Bailli," she said. "And there, I think
that is all."
"No, not all," I said hardily. "There is one thing I have not
got. And that is a sword!"
She followed the direction of my eyes, started, and laughed--a
little oddly. But she fetched the weapon. "Take it, and do
not," she urged, "do not lose time. Do not mention me to
Pavannes. Do not let the white badges be seen as you return.
That is really all. And now good luck!" She gave me her hand to
kiss. "Good luck, my knight-errant, good luck--and come back to
She smiled divinely, as it seemed to me, as she said these last
words, and the same smile followed me down stairs: for she
leaned over the stair-head with one of the lamps in her hand, and
directed me how to draw the bolts. I took one backward glance as
I did so at the fair stooping figure above me, the shining eyes,
and tiny outstretched hand, and then darting into the gloom I
hurried on my way.
I was in a strange mood. A few minutes before I had been at
Pavannes' door, at the end of our journey; on the verge of
success. I had been within an ace, as I supposed at least, of
executing my errand. I had held the cup of success in my hand.
And it had slipped. Now the conflict had to be fought over
again; the danger to be faced. It would have been no more than
natural if I had felt the disappointment keenly: if I had almost
But it was otherwise--far otherwise. Never had my heart beat
higher or more proudly than as I now hurried through the streets,
avoiding such groups as were abroad in them, and intent only on
observing the proper turnings. Never in any moment of triumph in
after days, in love or war, did anything like the exhilaration,
the energy, the spirit, of those minutes come back to me. I had
a woman's badge in my cap--for the first time--the music of her
voice in my ears. I had a magic ring on my finger: a talisman
on my arm. My sword was at my side again. All round me lay a
misty city of adventures, of danger and romance, full of the
richest and most beautiful possibilities; a city of real
witchery, such as I had read of in stories, through which those
fairy gifts and my right hand should guide me safely. I did not
even regret my brothers, or our separation. I was the eldest.
It was fitting that the cream of the enterprise should be
reserved for me, Anne de Caylus. And to what might it not lead?
In fancy I saw myself already a duke and peer of France--already
I held the baton.
Yet while I exulted boyishly, I did not forget what I was about.
I kept my eyes open, and soon remarked that the number of people
passing to and fro in the dark streets had much increased within
the last half hour. The silence in which in groups or singly
these figures stole by me was very striking. I heard no
brawling, fighting or singing; yet if it were too late for these
things, why were so many people up and about? I began to count
presently, and found that at least half of those I met wore
badges in their hats and on their arms, similar to mine, and that
they all moved with a businesslike air, as if bound for some
I was not a fool, though I was young, and in some matters less
quick than Croisette. The hints which had been dropped by so
many had not been lost on me. "There is more afoot to-night than
you know of!" Madame d'O had said. And having eyes as well as
ears I fully believed it. Something was afoot. Something was
going to happen in Paris before morning. But what, I wondered.
Could it be that a rebellion was about to break out? If so I was
on the king's service, and all was well. I might even be going--
and only eighteen--to make history! Or was it only a brawl on a
great scale between two parties of nobles? I had heard of such
things happening in Paris. Then--well I did not see how I could
act in that case. I must be guided by events.
I did not imagine anything else which it could be. That is the
truth, though it may need explanation. I was accustomed only to
the milder religious differences, the more evenly balanced
parties of Quercy, where the peace between the Catholics and
Huguenots had been welcome to all save a very few. I could not
gauge therefore the fanaticism of the Parisian populace, and lost
count of the factor, which made possible that which was going to
happen--was going to happen in Paris before daylight as surely as
the sun was going to rise! I knew that the Huguenot nobles were
present in the city in great numbers, but it did not occur to me
that they could as a body be in danger. They were many and
powerful, and as was said, in favour with the king. They were
under the protection of the King of Navarre--France's brother-
in-law of a week, and the Prince of Conde; and though these
princes were young, Coligny the sagacious admiral was old, and
not much the worse I had learned for his wound. He at least was
high in royal favour, a trusted counsellor. Had not the king
visited him on his sick-bed and sat by him for an hour together?
Surely, I thought, if there were danger, these men would know of
it. And then the Huguenots' main enemy, Henri le Balafre, the
splendid Duke of Guise, "our great man," and " Lorraine," as the
crowd called him--he, it was rumoured, was in disgrace at court.
In a word these things, to say nothing of the peaceful and joyous
occasion which had brought the Huguenots to Paris, and which
seemed to put treachery out of the question, were more than
enough to prevent me forecasting the event.
If for a moment, indeed, as I hurried along towards the river,
anything like the truth occurred to me, I put it from me. I say
with pride I put it from me as a thing impossible. For God
forbid--one may speak out the truth these forty years back--God
forbid, say I, that all Frenchmen should bear the blood
guiltiness which came of other than French brains, though French
were the hands that did the work.
I was not greatly troubled by my forebodings therefore: and the
state of exaltation to which Madame d'O's confidence had raised
my spirits lasted until one of the narrow streets by the Louvre
brought me suddenly within sight of the river. Here faint
moonlight bursting momentarily through the clouds was shining on
the placid surface of the water. The fresh air played upon, and
cooled my temples. And this with the quiet scene so abruptly
presented to me, gave check to my thoughts, and somewhat sobered
At some distance to my left I could distinguish in the middle of
the river the pile of buildings which crowd the Ile de la Cite,
and could follow the nearer arm of the stream as it swept
landwards of these, closely hemmed in by houses, but unbroken as
yet by the arches of the Pont Neuf which I have lived to see
built. Not far from me on my right--indeed within a stone's
throw--the bulky mass of the Louvre rose dark and shapeless
against the sky. Only a narrow open space--the foreshore--
separated me from the water; beyond which I could see an
irregular line of buildings, that no doubt formed the Faubourg
I had been told that I should find stairs leading down to the
water, and boats moored at the foot of them, at this point.
Accordingly I walked quickly across the open space to a spot,
where I made out a couple of posts set up on the brink--
doubtless to mark the landing place.
I had not gone ten paces, however, out of the shadow, before I
chanced to look round, and discerned with an unpleasant eerie
feeling three figures detach themselves from it, and advance in a
row behind me, so as the better to cut off my retreat. I was not
to succeed in my enterprise too easily then. That was clear.
Still I thought it better to act as if I had not seen my
followers, and collecting myself, I walked as quickly as I could
down to the steps. The three were by that time close upon me--
within striking distance almost. I turned abruptly and
"Who are you, and what do you want?" I said, eyeing them warily,
my hand on my sword.
They did not answer, but separated more widely so as to form a
half-circle: and one of them whistled. On the instant a knot of
men started out of the line of houses, and came quickly across
the strip of light towards us.
The position seemed serious. If I could have run indeed--but I
glanced round, and found escape in that fashion impossible.
There were men crouching on the steps behind me, between me and
the river. I had fallen into a trap. Indeed, there was nothing
for it now but to do as Madame had bidden me, and play the man
boldly. I had the words still ringing in my ears. I had enough
of the excitement I had lately felt still bounding in my veins to
give nerve and daring. I folded my arms and drew myself up.
"Knaves!" I said, with as much quiet contempt as I could muster,
"you mistake me. You do not know whom you have to deal with.
Get me a boat, and let two of you row me across. Hinder me, and
your necks shall answer for it--or your backs!"
A laugh and an oath of derision formed the only response, and
before I could add more, the larger group arrived, and joined the
"Who is it, Pierre?" asked one of these in a matter-of-fact way,
which showed I had not fallen amongst mere thieves.
The speaker seemed to be the leader of the band. He had a
feather in his bonnet, and I saw a steel corslet gleam under his
cloak, when some one held up a lanthorn to examine me the better.
His trunk-hose were striped with black, white, and green--the
livery as I learned afterwards of Monsieur the King's brother,
the Duke of Anjou, afterwards Henry the Third; then a close
friend of the Duke of Guise, and later his murderer. The captain
spoke with a foreign accent, and his complexion was dark to
swarthiness. His eyes sparkled and flashed like black beads. It
was easy to see that he was an Italian.
"A gallant young cock enough," the soldier who had whistled
answered; "and not quite of the breed we expected." He held his
lanthorn towards me and pointed to the white badge on my sleeve.
"It strikes me we have caught a crow instead of a pigeon!"
"How comes this?" the Italian asked harshly, addressing me.
"Who are you? And why do you wish to cross the river at this
time of night, young sir?"
I acted on the inspiration of the moment. "Play the man boldly!"
Madame had said. I would: and I did with a vengeance. I sprang
forward and seizing the captain by the clasp of his cloak, shook
him violently, and flung him off with all my force, so that he
reeled. "Dog!" I exclaimed, advancing, as if I would seize him
again. "Learn how to speak to your betters! Am I to be stopped
by such sweepings as you? Hark ye, I am on the King's service!"
He fairly spluttered with rage. "More like the devil's!" he
exclaimed, pronouncing his words abominably, and fumbling vainly
for his weapon. "King's service or no service you do not insult
I could only vindicate my daring by greater daring, and I saw
this even as, death staring me in the face, my heart seemed to
stop. The man had his mouth open and his hand raised to give an
order which would certainly have sent Anne de Caylus from the
world, when I cried passionately--it was my last chance, and I
never wished to live more strongly than at that moment--I cried
passionately, "Andrea Pallavicini, if such be your name, look at
that! Look at that!" I repeated, shaking my open hand with the
ring on it before his face, "and then hinder me if you dare! To-
morrow if you have quarterings enough, I will see to your
quarrel! Now send me on my way, or your fate be on your own
head! Disobey--ay, do but hesitate--and I will call on these
very men of yours to cut you down!"
It was a bold throw, for I staked all on a talisman of which I
did not know the value! To me it was the turn of a die, for I
had had no leisure to look at the ring, and knew no more than a
babe whose it was. But the venture was as happy as desperate.
Andrea Pallavicini's expression--no pleasant one at the best of
times--changed on the instant. His face fell as he seized my
hand, and peered at the ring long and intently. Then he cast a
quick glance of suspicion at his men, of hatred at me. But I
cared nothing for his glance, or his hatred. I saw already that
he had made up his mind to obey the charm: and that for me was
everything. "If you had shown that to me a little earlier, young
sir, it would, maybe, have been better for both of us," he said,
a surly menace in his voice. And cursing his men for their
stupidity he ordered two of them to unmoor a boat.
Apparently the craft had been secured with more care than skill,
for to loosen it seemed to be a work of time. Meanwhile I stood
waiting in the midst of the group, anxious and yet exultant; an
object of curiosity, and yet curious myself. I heard the guards
whisper together, and caught such phrases as "It is the Duc
"No, it is not D'Aumale. It is nothing like him."
"Well, he has the Duke's ring, fool!"
"Then it is all right, God bless him!" This last was uttered
with extreme fervour.
I was conscious too of being the object of many respectful
glances; and had just bidden the men on the steps below me to be
quick, when I discovered with alarm three figures moving across
the open space towards us, and coming apparently from the same
point from which Pallavicini and his men had emerged.
In a moment I foresaw danger. "Now be quick there!" I cried
again. But scarcely had I spoken before I saw that it was
impossible to get afloat before these others came up, and I
prepared to stand my ground resolutely.
The first words, however, with which Pallavicini saluted the new-
comers scattered my fears. "Well, what the foul fiend do you
want?" he exclaimed rudely; and he rapped out half-a-dozen
CORPOS before they could answer him. "What have you brought him
here for, when I left him in the guard-house? Imbeciles!"
"Captain Pallavicini," interposed the midmost of the three,
speaking with patience--he was a man of about thirty, dressed
with some richness, though his clothes were now disordered as
though by a struggle--"I have induced these good men to bring me
"Then," cried the captain, brutally interrupting him, "you have
lost your labour, Monsieur."
"You do not know me," replied the prisoner with sternness--a
prisoner he seemed to be. "You do not understand that I am a
friend of the Prince of Conde, and that--"
He would have said more, but the Italian again cut him short. "A
fig for the Prince of Conde!" he cried; "I understand my duty.
You may as well take things easily. You cannot cross, and you
cannot go home, and you cannot have any explanation; except that
it is the King's will! Explanation?" he grumbled, in a lower
tone, "you will get it soon enough, I warrant! Before you want
"But there is a boat going to cross," said the other, controlling
his temper by an effort and speaking with dignity. "You told me
that by the King's order no one could cross; and you arrested me
because, having urgent need to visit St. Germain, I persisted.
Now what does this mean, Captain Pallavicini? Others are
crossing. I ask what this means?"
"Whatever you please, M. de Pavannes," the Italian retorted
contemptuously. "Explain it for yourself!"
I started as the name struck my ear, and at once cried out in
surprise, "M. de Pavannes!" Had I heard aright?
Apparently I had, for the prisoner turned to me with a bow.
"Yes, sir," he said with dignity, "I am M. de Pavannes. I have
not the honour of knowing you, but you seem to be a gentleman."
He cast a withering glance at the captain as he said this.
"Perhaps you will explain to me why this violence has been done
to me. If you can, I shall consider it a favour; if not, pardon
I did not answer him at once, for a good reason--that every
faculty I had was bent on a close scrutiny of the man himself.
He was fair, and of a ruddy complexion. His beard was cut in the
short pointed fashion of the court; and in these respects he bore
a kind of likeness, a curious likeness, to Louis de Pavannes.
But his figure was shorter and stouter. He was less martial in
bearing, with more of the air of a scholar than a soldier. "You
are related to M. Louis de Pavannes?" I said, my heart beginning
to beat with an odd excitement. I think I foresaw already what
"I am Louis de Pavannes," he replied with impatience.
I stared at him in silence: thinking--thinking--thinking. And
then I said slowly, "You have a cousin of the same name?"
"He fell prisoner to the Vicomte de Caylus at Moncontour?"
"He did," he answered curtly. "But what of that, sir?"
Again I did not answer--at once. The murder was out. I
remembered, in the dim fashion in which one remembers such things
after the event, that I had heard Louis de Pavannes, when we
first became acquainted with him, mention this cousin of the same
name; the head of a younger branch. But our Louis living in
Provence and the other in Normandy, the distance between their
homes, and the troubles of the times had loosened a tie which
their common religion might have strengthened. They had scarcely
ever seen one another. As Louis had spoken of his namesake but
once during his long stay with us, and I had not then foreseen
the connection to be formed between our families, it was no
wonder that in the course of months the chance word had passed
out of my head, and I had clean forgotten the subject of it.
Here however, he was before my eyes, and seeing him; I saw too
what the discovery meant. It meant a most joyful thing! a most
wonderful thing which I longed to tell Croisette and Marie. It
meant that our Louis de Pavannes--my cheek burned for my want of
faith in him--was no villain after all, but such a noble
gentleman as we had always till this day thought him! It meant
that he was no court gallant bent on breaking a country heart for
sport, but Kit's own true lover! And--and it meant more--it
meant that he was yet in danger, and still ignorant of the vow
that unchained fiend Bezers had taken to have his life! In
pursuing his namesake we had been led astray, how sadly I only
knew now! And had indeed lost most precious time.
"Your wife, M. de Pavannes"--I began in haste, seeing the
necessity of explaining matters with the utmost quickness. "Your
"Ah, my wife!" he cried interrupting me, with anxiety in his
tone. "What of her? You have seen her!"
"I have. She is safe at your house in the Rue de St. Merri."
"Thank Heaven for that!" he replied fervently. Before he could
say more Captain Andrea interrupted us. I could see that his
suspicions were aroused afresh. He pushed rudely between us, and
addressing me said, "Now, young sir, your boat is ready."
"My boat?" I answered, while I rapidly considered the situation.
Of course I did not want to cross the river now. No doubt
Pavannes---this Pavannes--could guide me to Louis' address. "My
"Yes, it is waiting," the Italian replied, his black eyes roving
from one to the other of us.
"Then let it wait!" I answered haughtily, speaking with an
assumption of anger. "Plague upon you for interrupting us! I
shall not cross the river now. This gentleman can give me the
information I want. I shall take him back with me."
"To whom? To those who sent me, sirrah!"
I thundered. "You do not seem to be much in the Duke's
confidence, captain," I went on; "now take a word of advice from
me! There is nothing: so easily cast off as an over-officious
servant! He goes too far--and he goes like an old glove! An old
glove," I repeated grimly, sneering in his face, "which saves the
hand and suffers itself. Beware of too much zeal, Captain
Pallavicini! It is a dangerous thing!"
He turned pale with anger at being thus treated by a beardless
boy. But he faltered all the same. What I said was unpleasant,
but the bravo knew it was true.
I saw the impression I had made, and I turned to the soldiers
"Bring here, my friends," I said, "M. de Pavannes' sword!"
One ran up to the guard house and brought it at once. They were
townsfolk, burgher guards or such like, and for some reason
betrayed so evident a respect for me, that I soberly believe they
would have turned on their temporary leader at my bidding.
Pavannes took his sword, and placed it under his arm. We both
bowed ceremoniously to Pallavicini, who scowled in response; and
slowly, for I was afraid to show any signs of haste, we walked
across the moonlit space to the bottom of the street by which I
had come. There the gloom swallowed us up at once. Pavannes
touched my sleeve and stopped in the darkness.
"I beg to be allowed to thank you for your aid," he said with
emotion, turning and facing me. "Whom have I the honour of
"M. Anne de Caylus, a friend of your cousin," I replied.
"Indeed?" he said "well, I thank you most heartily," and we
embraced with warmth.
"But I could have done little," I answered modestly, "on your
behalf, if it had not been for this ring."
"And the virtue of the ring lies in--"
"In--I am sure I cannot say in what!" I confessed. And then, in
the sympathy which the scene had naturally created between us, I
forgot one portion of my lady's commands and I added impulsively,
"All I know is that Madame d'O gave it me; and that it has done
all, and more than all she said it would."
"Who gave it to you?" he asked, grasping my arm so tightly as to
"Madame d'O," I repeated. It was too late to draw back now.
"That woman!" he ejaculated in a strange low whisper. "Is it
possible? That woman gave it you?"
I wandered what on earth he meant, surprise, scorn and dislike
were so blended in his tone. It even seemed to me that he drew
off from me somewhat. "Yes, M. de Pavannes," I replied, offended
and indignant, "It is so far possible that it is the truth; and
more, I think you would not so speak of this lady if you knew
all; and that it was through her your wife was to-day freed from
those who were detaining her, and taken safely home!"
"Ha!" he cried eagerly. "Then where has my wife been?"
"At the house of Mirepoix, the glover," I answered coldly, "in
the Rue Platriere. Do you know him? You do. Well, she was kept
there a prisoner, until we helped her to escape an hour or so
He did not seem to comprehend even then. I could see little of
his face, but there was doubt and wonder in his tone when he
spoke. "Mirepoix the glover," he murmured. "He is an honest man
enough, though a Catholic. She was kept there! Who kept her
"The Abbess of the Ursulines seems to have been at the bottom of
it," I explained, fretting with impatience. This wonder was
misplaced, I thought; and time was passing. "Madame d'O found
out where she was," I continued, "and took her home, and then
sent me to fetch you, hearing you had crossed the river. That is
the story in brief."
"That woman sent you to fetch me?" he repeated again.
"Yes," I answered angrily. "She did, M. de Pavannes."
"Then," he said slowly, and with an air of solemn conviction
which could not but impress me, "there is a trap laid for me!
She is the worst, the most wicked, the vilest of women! If she
sent you, this is a trap! And my wife has fallen into it
already! Heaven help her--and me--if it be so!"
THE PARISIAN MATINS.
There are some statements for which it is impossible to be
prepared; statements so strong and so startling that it is
impossible to answer them except by action--by a blow. And this
of M. de Pavannes was one of these. If there had been any one
present, I think I should have given him the lie and drawn upon
him. But alone with him at midnight in the shadow near the
bottom of the Rue des Fosses, with no witnesses, with every
reason to feel friendly towards him, what was I to do?
As a fact, I did nothing. I stood, silent and stupefied, waiting
to hear more. He did not keep me long.
"She is my wife's sister," he continued grimly. "But I have no
reason to shield her on that account! Shield her? Had you lived
at court only a month I might shield her all I could, M. de
Caylus, it would avail nothing. Not Madame de Sauves is better
known. And I would not if I could! I know well, though my wife
will not believe it, that there is nothing so near Madame d'O's
heart as to get rid of her sister and me--of both of us--that she
may succeed to Madeleine's inheritance! Oh, yes, I had good
grounds for being nervous yesterday, when my wife did not
return," he added excitedly.
"But there at least you wrong Madame d'O!" I cried, shocked and
horrified by an accusation, which seemed so much more dreadful in
the silence and gloom--and withal so much less preposterous than
it might have seemed in the daylight. "There you certainly wrong
her! For shame! M. de Pavannes."
He came a step nearer, and laying a hand on my sleeve peered into
my face. "Did you see a priest with her?" he asked slowly. "A
man called the Coadjutor--a down-looking dog?"
I said--with a shiver of dread, a sudden revulsion of feeling,
born of his manner--that I had. And I explained the part the
priest had taken.
"Then," Pavannes rejoined, "I am right There IS a trap laid for
me. The Abbess of the Ursulines! She abduct my wife? Why, she
is her dearest friend, believe me. It is impossible. She would
be more likely to save her from danger than to--umph! wait a
minute." I did: I waited, dreading what he might discover,
until he muttered, checking himself--"Can that be it? Can it be
that the Abbess did know of some danger threatening us, and would
have put Madeleine in a safe retreat? I wonder!"
And I wondered; and then--well, thoughts are like gunpowder. The
least spark will fire a train. His words were few, but they
formed spark enough to raise such a flare in my brain as for a
moment blinded me, and shook me so that I trembled. The shock
over, I was left face to face with a possibility of wickedness
such as I could never have suspected of myself. I remembered
Mirepoix's distress and the priest's eagerness. I re-called the
gruff warning Bezers--even Bezers, and there was something very
odd in Bezers giving a warning!--had given Madame de Pavannes
when he told her that she would be better where she was. I
thought of the wakefulness which I had marked in the streets, the
silent hurrying to and fro, the signs of coming strife, and
contrasted these with the quietude and seeming safety of
Mirepoix's house; and I hastily asked Pavannes at what time he
had been arrested.
"About an hour before midnight," he answered.
"Then you know nothing of what is happening?" I replied quickly.
" Why, even while we are loitering here--but listen!"
And with all speed, stammering indeed in my haste and anxiety, I
told him what I had noticed in the streets, and the hints I had
heard, and I showed him the badges with which Madame had
His manner when he had heard me out frightened me still more. He
drew me on in a kind of fury to a house in the windows of which
some lighted candles had appeared not a minute before.
"The ring!" he cried, "let me see the ring! Whose is it?"
He held up my hand to this chance light and we looked at the
ring. It was a heavy gold signet, with one curious
characteristic: it had two facets. On one of these was engraved
the letter "H," and above it a crown. On the other was an eagle
with outstretched wings.
Pavannes let my hand drop and leaned against the wall in sudden
despair. "It is the Duke of Guise's," he muttered. "It is the
eagle of Lorraine."
"Ha!" said I softly, seeing light. The Duke was the idol then,
as later, of the Parisian populace, and I understood now why the
citizen soldiers had shown me such respect. They had taken me
for the Duke's envoy and confidant.
But I saw no farther. Pavannes did, and murmured bitterly, "We
may say our prayers, we Huguenots. That is our death-warrant.
To-morrow night there will not be one left in Paris, lad. Guise
has his father's death to avenge, and these cursed Parisians will
do his bidding like the wolves they are! The Baron de Rosny
warned us of this, word for word. I would to Heaven we had taken
"Stay!" I cried--he was going too fast for me--"stay!" His
monstrous conception, though it marched some way with my own
suspicions, outran them far! I saw no sufficient grounds for it.
"The King--the king would not permit such a thing, M. de
Pavannes," I argued.
"Boy, you are blind!" he rejoined impatiently, for now he saw
all and I nothing. "Yonder was the Duke of Anjou's captain--
Monsieur's officer, the follower of France's brother, mark you!
And HE--he obeyed the Duke's ring! The Duke has a free hand to-
night, and he hates us. And the river. Why are we not to cross
the river? The King indeed! The King has undone us. He has
sold us to his brother and the Guises. VA CHASSER L'IDOLE" for
the second time I heard the quaint phrase, which I learned
afterwards was an anagram of the King's name, Charles de Valois,
used by the Protestants as a password--"VA CHASSER L'IDOLE has
betrayed us! I remember the very words he used to the Admiral,
'Now we have got you here we shall not let you go so easily!'
Oh, the traitor! The wretched traitor!"
He leaned against the wall overcome by the horror of the
conviction which had burst upon him, and unnerved by the
imminence of the peril. At all times he was an unready man, I
fancy, more fit, courage apart, for the college than the field;
and now he gave way to despair. Perhaps the thought of his wife
unmanned him. Perhaps the excitement through which he had
already gone tended to stupefy him, or the suddenness of the
At any rate, I was the first to gather my wits together, and my
earliest impulse was to tear into two parts a white handkerchief
I had in my pouch, and fasten one to his sleeve, the other in his
hat, in rough imitation of the badges I wore myself.
It will appear from this that I no longer trusted Madame d'O. I
was not convinced, it is true, of her conscious guilt, still I
did not trust her entirely. "Do not wear them on your return,"
she had said and that was odd; although I could not yet believe
that she was such a siren as Father Pierre had warned us of,
telling tales from old poets. Yet I doubted, shuddering as I did
so. Her companionship with that vile priest, her strange
eagerness to secure Pavannes' return, her mysterious directions
to me, her anxiety to take her sister home--home, where she would
be exposed to danger, as being in a known Huguenot's house--
these things pointed to but one conclusion; still that one was so
horrible that I would not, even while I doubted and distrusted
her, I would not, I could not accept it. I put it from me, and
refused to believe it, although during the rest of that night it
kept coming back to me and knocking for admission at my brain.
All this flashed through my mind while I was fixing on Pavannes'
badges. Not that I lost time about it, for from the moment I
grasped the position as he conceived it, every minute we had
wasted on explanations seemed to me an hour. I reproached myself
for having forgotten even for an instant that which had brought
us to town--the rescue of Kit's lover. We had small chance now
of reaching him in time, misled as we had been by this miserable
mistake in identity. If my companion's fears were well founded,
Louis would fall in the general massacre of the Huguenots,
probably before we could reach him. If ill-founded, still we had
small reason to hope. Bezers' vengeance would not wait. I knew
him too well to think it. A Guise might spare his foe, but the
Vidame--the Vidame never! We had warned Madame de Pavannes it
was true; but that abnormal exercise of benevolence could only, I
cynically thought, have the more exasperated the devil within
him, which now would be ravening like a dog disappointed of its
I glanced up at the line of sky visible between the tall houses,
and lo! the dawn was coming. It wanted scarcely half-an-hour of
daylight, though down in the dark streets about us the night
still reigned. Yes, the morning was coming, bright and hopeful,
and the city was quiet. There were no signs, no sounds of riot
or disorder. Surely, I thought, surely Pavannes must be
mistaken. Either the plot had never existed, that was most
likely, or it had been abandoned, or perhaps--Crack!
A pistol shot! Short, sharp, ominous it rang out on the instant,
a solitary sound in the night! It was somewhere near us, and I
stopped. I had been speaking to my companion at the moment.
"Where was it?" I cried, looking behind me.
"Close to us. Near the Louvre," he answered, listening intently.
"See! See! Ah, heavens!" he continued in a voice of despair,
"it was a signal!"
It was. One, two, three! Before I could count so far, lights
sprang into brightness in the windows of nine out of ten houses
in the short street where we stood, as if lighted by a single
hand. Before too I could count as many more, or ask him what
this meant, before indeed, we could speak or stir from the spot,
or think what we should do, with a hurried clang and clash, as if
brought into motion by furious frenzied hands, a great bell just
above our heads began to boom and whirr! It hurled its notes
into space, it suddenly filled all the silence. It dashed its
harsh sounds down upon the trembling city, till the air heaved,
and the houses about us rocked. It made in an instant a
pandemonium of the quiet night.
We turned and hurried instinctively from the place, crouching and
amazed, looking upwards with bent shoulders and scared faces.
"What is it? What is it?" I cried, half in resentment; half in
terror. It deafened me.
"The bell of St. Germain l'Auxerrois!" he shouted in answer.
"The Church of the Louvre. It is as I said. We are doomed!"
"Doomed? No!" I replied fiercely, for my courage seemed to rise
again on the wave of sound and excitement as if rebounding from
the momentary shock. "Never! We wear the devil's livery, and he
will look after his own. Draw, man, and let him that stops us
look to himself. You know the way. Lead on!" I cried savagely.
He caught the infection and drew his sword. So we started
boldly, and the result justified my confidence. We looked, no
doubt, as like murderers as any who were abroad that night.
Moving in this desperate guise we hastened up that street and
into another--still pursued by the din and clangour of the bell
--and then a short distance along a third. We were not stopped
or addressed by anyone, though numbers, increasing each moment as
door after door opened, and we drew nearer to the heart of the
commotion, were hurrying in the same direction, side by side with
us; and though in front, where now and again lights gleamed on a
mass of weapons, or on white eager faces, filling some alley from
wall to wall, we heard the roar of voices rising and falling like
the murmur of an angry sea.
All was blurr, hurry, confusion, tumult. Yet I remember, as we
pressed onwards with the stream and part of it, certain sharp
outlines. I caught here and there a glimpse of a pale scared
face at a window, a half-clad form at a door, of the big,
wondering eyes of a child held up to see us pass, of a Christ at
a corner ruddy in the smoky glare of a link, of a woman armed,
and in man's clothes, who walked some distance side by side with
us, and led off a ribald song. I retain a memory of these
things: of brief bursts of light and long intervals of darkness,
and always, as we tramped forwards, my hand on Pavannes' sleeve,
of an ever-growing tumult in front--an ever-rising flood of
At last we came to a standstill where a side street ran out of
ours. Into this the hurrying throng tried to wheel, and, unable
to do so, halted, and pressed about the head of the street, which
was already full to overflowing; and so sought with hungry eyes
for places whence they might look down it. Pavannes and I
struggled only to get through the crowd--to get on; but the
efforts of those behind partly aiding and partly thwarting our
own, presently forced us to a position whence we could not avoid
seeing what was afoot.
The street--this side street was ablaze with light. From end to
end every gable, every hatchment was glowing, every window was
flickering in the glare of torches. It was paved too with faces
--human faces, yet scarcely human--all looking one way, all
looking upward; and the noise, as from time to time this immense
crowd groaned or howled in unison, like a wild beast in its fury,
was so appalling, that I clutched Pavannes' arm and clung to him
in momentary terror. I do not wonder now that I quailed, though
sometimes I have heard that sound since. For there is nothing in
the world so dreadful as that brute beast we call the CANAILLE,
when the chain is off and its cowardly soul is roused.
Near our end of the street a group of horsemen rising island-like
from the sea of heads, sat motionless in their saddles about a
gateway. They were silent, taking no notice of the rioting
fiends shouting at their girths, but watching in grim quiet what
was passing within the gates. They were handsomely dressed,
although some wore corslets over their satin coats or lace above
buff jerkins. I could even at that distance see the jewels gleam
in the bonnet of one who seemed to be their leader. He was in
the centre of the band, a very young man, perhaps twenty or
twenty-one, of most splendid presence, sitting his horse
superbly. He wore a grey riding-coat, and was a head taller than
any of his companions. There was pride in the very air with
which his horse bore him.
I did not need to ask Pavannes who he was. I KNEW that he was
the Duke of Guise, and that the house before which he stood was
Coligny's. I knew what was being done there. And in the same
moment I sickened with horror and rage. I had a vision of grey
hairs and blood and fury scarcely human, And I rebelled. I
battled with the rabble about me. I forced my way through them
tooth and nail after Pavannes, intent only on escaping, only on
getting away from there. And so we neither halted nor looked
back until we were clear of the crowd and had left the blaze of
light and the work doing by it some way behind us.
We found ourselves then in the mouth of an obscure alley which my
companion whispered would bring us to his house; and here we
paused to take breath and look back. The sky was red behind us,
the air full of the clash and din of the tocsin, and the flood of
sounds which poured from every tower and steeple. From the
eastward came the rattle of drums and random shots, and shrieks
of "A BAS COLIGNY!" "A BAS LES HUGUENOTS!" Meanwhile the city
was rising as one man, pale at this dread awakening. From every
window men and women, frightened by the uproar, were craning
their necks, asking or answering questions or hurriedly calling
for and kindling tapers. But as yet the general populace seemed
to be taking no active part in the disorder.
Pavannes raised his hat an instant as we stood in the shadow of
the houses. "The noblest man in France is dead," he said, softly
and reverently. "God rest his soul! They have had their way
with him and killed him like a dog. He was an old man and they
did not spare him! A noble, and they have called in the CANAILLE
to tear him. But be sure, my friend"--and as the speaker's tone
changed and grew full and proud, his form seemed to swell with
it--"be sure the cruel shall not live out half their days! No.
He that takes the knife shall perish by the knife! And go to his
own place! I shall not see it, but you will!"
His words made no great impression on me then. My hardihood was
returning. I was throbbing with fierce excitement, and tingling
for the fight. But years afterwards, when the two who stood
highest in the group about Coligny's threshold died, the one at
thirty-eight, the other at thirty-five--when Henry of Guise and
Henry of Valois died within six months of one another by the
assassin's knife--I remembered Pavannes' augury. And remembering
it, I read the ways of Providence, and saw that the very audacity
of which Guise took advantage to entrap Coligny led him too in
his turn to trip smiling and bowing, a comfit box in his hand and
the kisses of his mistress damp on his lips, into a king's
closet--a king's closet at Blois! Led him to lift the curtain--
ah! to lift the curtain, what Frenchman does not know the tale?
--behind which stood the Admiral!
To return to our own fortunes; after a hurried glance we resumed
our way, and sped through the alley, holding a brief consultation
as we went. Pavannes' first hasty instinct to seek shelter at
home began to lose its force, and he to consider whether his
return would not endanger his wife. The mob might be expected to
spare her, he argued. Her death would not benefit any private
foes if he escaped. He was for keeping away therefore. But I
would not agree to this. The priest's crew of desperadoes--
assuming Pavannes' suspicions to be correct--would wait some
time, no doubt, to give the master of the house a chance to
return, but would certainly attack sooner or later out of greed,
if from no other motive. Then the lady's fate would at the best
be uncertain. I was anxious myself to rejoin my brothers, and
take all future chances, whether of saving our Louis, or escaping
ourselves, with them. United we should be four good swords, and
might at least protect Madame de Pavannes to a place of safety,
if no opportunity of succouring Louis should present itself. We
had too the Duke's ring, and this might be of service at a pinch.
"No," I urged, "let us get together. We two will slip in at the
front gate, and bolt and bar it, and then we will all escape in a
body at the back, while they are forcing the gateway."
"There is no door at the back," he answered, shaking his head.
"There are windows?"
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