Read La Dame de Monsoreau Online
Authors: 1802-1870 Alexandre Dumas
Tags: #France -- History Henry III, 1574-1589 Fiction
" Oh, no ! could n't have understood ! when he saw me up to my neck in a vat, with a dagger at my throat!"
" Surely," said Maugiron, " he must have come to your help ? It 's a duty one gentleman owes to another."
" He ? He appeared to be too busy thinking of something else. He was flying as if he had wings; he scarcely touched the ground with his feet."
" And besides," said Maugiron, " he may not have recognized you, perhaps ? "
" As if that were likely ! "
" You were blue at the time, then ? "
" I should say I was ! "
" Oh, in that case we must excuse him," observed Henri; " for, to tell the truth, I did not know you myself, my poor Schomberg."
" Never mind," answered the young man, whose coolness on the occasion gave token of his German origin, " we '11 meet yet somewhere else than at the corner of the Rue Coquilliere, and when that day comes I won't be in a vat, either."
" As far as I am concerned," said D'Epernon, " it is the master I should like to chastise, not the lackey; I want to deal with Monseigneur le Due d'Aujou and not with Bussy."
" Yes, yes," cried Schomberg, " with the Due d'Anjou, who would kill us with ridicule before killing us with a dagger."
" With the Due d'Anjou, whose praises every one is singing in the streets. You heard them, sire," said Quelus and Maugiron together.
" The fact is that it is he who is now master over Paris, and not the King; you just take a walk in the streets, sire," said D'Epernon, " and you '11 see whether the people respect you a whit more than they do us."
" Ah ! my brother, niy brother !" muttered Henri, in a menacing tone.
" Oh, yes, sire," said Schomberg, " you cry often enough .-' my brother ! my brother!' but you never adopt any measures against this same brother, and yet I am as sure as I can be that this brother of yours is at the head of a conspiracy against you."
" Mordieu! it is just what I was saying to these gentlemen when you entered, D'Epernon," cried Henri, «but they answered me with a shrug and turned their backs on me."
"Sire," said Maugiron, "we answered with a shrug and turned our backs on you, not because you said there was a con-
spiracy, but because we saw you had no intention of crushing that conspiracy."
" And now," continued Quelus, « we turn round again and say to you : < Save us, sire, or rather, save yourself, for with our fall comes your death. To-morrow M. de Guise appears at the Louvre; to-morrow he will ask you to name a chief for the League; to-morrow you will name the Due d'Anjou as you have promised; and then, with the Due d'Anjou at the head of the League, that is to say, at the head of a hundred thousand Parisians, inflamed by the orgies of this night, the Due d'Anjou can do whatever he likes with you.' "
" Ah !" said Henri, " so then, if I make up my mind to take some decisive step, you are resolved to support me ? "
"Yes, sire," answered^ the young men in unison.
" Only, sire," said D'Epernon, " you must give me time to put on another cap, cloak, and doublet."
" We 're about the same height," answered Henri. " Pass into my wardrobe; my valet will furnish you with what you want."
" And you must give me time, sire, for a bath," said Schom-berg.
"Pass into my bathroom, Schomberg 5 my attendant will take care of you."
" Sire," said Schomberg, " we may be in hopes, then, that this insult will not remain unavenged ? "
Henri made a sign with his hand for silence, and dropping his head on his breast, appeared to be reflecting profoundly.
After a few moments, he said, « Quelus, find out if M. d'Anjou has returned to the Louvre."
Quelus passed out. D'Epernon and Schomberg waited for the answer of Quelus, their zeal revived to the highest point by the imminence of danger. It is not during a tempest but during a calm that sailors become mutinous.
" Sire," asked Maugiron, " is your Majesty, then, about to take the decisive step you mentioned ?"
" You '11 soon know," answered the King.
" M. le Due has not yet returned," said he.
" It is well," answered the King. " D'Epernon, go and change your clothes, and you, Schomberg, go and change your color. Do you, Quelus and Maugiron, go down to the window, and keep watch until my brother returns."
" Arid when he returns ? " asked Quelus.
" When he returns, order all the gates to be closed. Go."
" Bravo, sire! " said Quelus.
" Sire," said D'Epernon, " I will be back in ten minutes."
" I cannot tell when I shall be back," said Schoinberg. " It will depend on the nature of the dye."
" Come as soon as you can," answered Henri. " That is all I have to say to you."
" But will your Majesty remain alone ? " inquired Maugiron.
"'No, Maugiron, I remain with God, and am about to ask him to protect our enterprise."
" Pray to him earnestly, sire," said Quelus, " for I am beginning to believe he has an understanding with the devil to damn us all together in this world as well as in the next."
" Amen ! " said Maugiron.
The two young men who were ordered to stand on guard left by one door ; the two who were going to change their costumes passed out by another.
As soon as the King was alone, he went and knelt down on his prie-Dieu.
CHICOT IS MORE KING OF FRANCE THAN EVER.
THE hour of midnight struck. It was the hour at which the gates of the Louvre were ordinarily closed. But Henri had wisely calculated that the Due d'Anjou would not fail to sleep to-night in the Louvre. He would do so in order to weaken the suspicions the disorders of the evening must have naturally aroused in the mind of the King.
The King had,'therefore, ordered the gates to be kept open until one.
At a quarter past twelve Quelus came upstairs.
" Sire," said he, " the duke has returned."
" What is Maugiron doing ? "
" Watching to see whether the duke will go out again."
" There 7 s no danger of that."
" Then " — said Quelus, with a gesture that showed the King he thought the time for action had come.
" Then — let him go to bed quietly," answered Henri. " Who are with him ? "
" M. de Monsoreau and his ordinary gentlemen."
" And M. de Bussy ? "
" M. de Bussy was not with him."
"Good," said the King. It was a great relief to him to know his brother was deprived of his best sword.
" What are your Majesty's orders ? " asked Quelus.
" Tell D'Epernon and Schomberg to make haste and inform Monsoreau I desire to speak with him."
Quelus bowed, and fulfilled his commission with all the promptitude wherewith hatred and the desire of vengeance can inspire the human heart.
Five minutes later, D'Epernon and Schomberg entered, the one newly garbed, the other partially scrubbed clean of the dye, except here and there in little facial cavities, by the bathing attendant, who had assured him it would take several hot vapor baths to restore him to his pristine condition.
After the two minions came M. de Monsoreau.
" The captain of your Majesty's guard has just informed me that you did me the honor to command my presence," said the grand huntsman, bowing.
" Yes, monsieur," said Henri, " yes, when I was out walking this evening there was such a fine moon and the stars were so brilliant that it struck me we were going to have splendid weather to-morrow, just the sort needed for a glorious hunt. It is only midnight, M. le Comte; you will, then, start for Vincennes at once. Have a stag roused for me, as we '11 hunt to-morrow."
" But, sire," said Monsoreau, " I was under the impression that on to-morrow you had an appointment with Monseignetir I d'Anjou and M. de Guise for the purpose of naming a chief I of the League."
" And suppose I had, what follows, monsieur ? " said the King, in that haughty tone to which it was so hard to reply.
" I was — thinking — sire," stammered the count, " that, perhaps, there would be no time "-
" There is always time, monsieur, for him who knows how to make use of it, and for that very reason I now say to you : you have time to start to-night, provided you start at once ; you will have time to rouse a stag to-night and to have everything in readiness for ten to-morrow. Go, then, this very in-
stant! Quelus, Maugiron, see that the gate of the Louvre is opened for M. de Monsoreau, by iny order, by order of the King; and, when he is outside, see that it is shut, also by order of the King."
The grand huntsman retired in amazement.
" Is this a whim of the King ? " he asked the two young gei:-tlemen in the antechamber.
" Yes," they answered, curtly.
M. de Monsoreau saw there was nothing to be got by further inquiry, and he was silent.
" Oho! " he murmured, with a glance in the direction of the Due d'Anj ou's apartments, " all this makes it look as if a storm were brewing for his royal highness."
But to give the prince a hint of how matters stood was impossible ; Quelus stood on the right of the grand huntsman and Schomberg on his left. For a moment he believed the two minions had special orders in his regard and were holding him prisoner, and it was only when he heard the gate closing behind him that he was sure his suspicions were not well founded.
At the end of ten minutes Schomberg and Quelus were back with the King.
" Now," said the King, " perfect silence, and do you four follow me."
" Where are we going, sire ? " said the ever-cautious D'^pernon.
" Those w r ho come will learn," was the King's answer.
" Forward, then ! " said the four young men together.
The minions saw to their swords, fastened their cloaks, and followed the King, who, with a lantern in his hand, led them along the secret corridor we are so well acquainted with, and through which, on more than one occasion, we have seen the queen mother and King Charles IX. make their way to the apartments of their daughter and sister Margot, the same apartments that were now, as we have stated already, tenanted by the Due d'Anjou.
A valet do chambre was on duty in the corridor, but, before he had time to warn his master, Henri seized him by the hand and cautioned him to be silent. He then passed him over to his followers, who thrust him into a closet and locked the door on him.
Henri himself opened the door of the room in which the Due d'Anjou slept.
The duke had just gone to bed, his brain full of the ambitious dreams excited by the events of the past evening. He had heard his own name cheered to the skies, while that of the King had been hooted and insulted. Under the guidance of |the Due de Guise, he had seen himself and his gentlemen received in triumph by the people of Paris, while the King's gentlemen were hissed and reviled. Never before, during the course of a long career, secret plotting, timid conspiring, and subterranean intrigue, had he made such an advance in popularity, and, consequently, in hope.
He had just laid down a letter on the table. It was a letter brought to him by M. de Monsoreau from the Due de Guise, in which he was urged to let nothing hinder him from being present at the King's levee next morning.
The Due d'Anjou had no need of such advice ; he was only too anxious himself not to miss the hour of his triumph.
But his surprise was great when he saw the door in the secret lobby open, and his terror grew overwhelming when he perceived that it was the King who opened it.
Henri made a sign to his companions to remain on the threshold, and advanced toward the bed, grave, frowning, not uttering a word.
" Sire," stammered the duke, " the honor your Majesty does me is so unexpected "
" That it has frightened you, eh ? " said the King. " Yes, I can easily understand that. No, no, stay where you are, brother, do not rise."
" But, sire, only — permit me," answered the duke, trembling, and drawing to him the Due de Guise's letter, which he had just been reading.
" You were reading ? " inquired the King.
" Yes, sire."
" What you were reading must have been very interesting, since it kept you awake till such an advanced hour in the night ? "
" Oh, sire," answered the duke, with a haggard smile, " nothing very important — the little gossip of the evening."
" Oh, of course," said Henri, "I understand all that — the little gossip of the evening, a little message from Venus ; but no, I am mistaken; the little notes brought by Iris or Mercury are never sealed with such big seals as I see on that one."
The duke hid' the letter entirely away.
" What a discreet creature this dear Francois of mine is ! " exclaimed the King, with a smile so hideous that it was no wonder it terrified his brother.
However he made an effort and tried to regain a little self-confidence.
" Does your Majesty wish to say anything to me in private ? " asked the duke, who had just perceived the four gentlemen on the threshold and noticed that they were enjoying the opening of the scene.
" Whatever I might have to say in private, monsieur" answered the King, emphasizing the last word, which was the ceremonial title given to the brothers of the King of France, —" whatever I might have to say in private shall to-day be spoken before witnesses. Do you hear, gentlemen ? " he continued, turning to the four young men. " Listen attentively; the King permits you."
The duke raised his head.
" Sire," said he, with that malignant and venomous look which was the index of his serpent nature, " before insulting a man of my rank you should have refused to receive me as your guest in the Louvre; in the Hotel d'Anjou I should, at least, have had it in my power to answer you."
" Indeed! " said Henri, with his terrible irony ; " you forget, then, that wherever you are, you are my subject, and that wherever one of my subjects happens to be, he is in my house; for, thank God, I am the King ! King of the entire land ! "