Read La Dame de Monsoreau Online

Authors: 1802-1870 Alexandre Dumas

Tags: #France -- History Henry III, 1574-1589 Fiction

La Dame de Monsoreau (8 page)

BOOK: La Dame de Monsoreau
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" Oh, no," answered Bussy, " that would only bring me misfortune. Well, after all, I belong to you, and, come what may, I know how, if insulted, to avenge myself."

And Bussy joined the prince, and his new page, following his master as closely as possible, kept immediately behind him.

" Avenge yourself ? No, no," said the prince, in reply to this threat of Bussy. " That shall be my concern, my brave gentleman. I take the office of avenging you on myself. Listen," he added in a low voice, " I know your assassins."

" Bah ! " retorted Bussy, " your Highness is n't likely to have taken the trouble of making inquiries."

" What is more, I saw them."

" Saw them ? " said Bussy, astonished.

" At a spot where I had some affair on hand myself — at the Porte Saint-Antoine; they met me and were near killing me in your place. Ah! I never imagined it was for you they were lying in wait, the brigands ! But for that "

" Well, but for that ? "

" Had you your new page with you ? " asked the prince, breaking off in his threat.

(< No, monseigneur, I was alone. And you, monseigneur ? " said Bussy.

" I was with Aurilly ; and why were you alone ? "

" Because having got the name of the < brave Bussy ' I want to keep it."

" And they wounded you ? " asked the prince, with his usual quickness in responding by a feint to a thrust aimed at him.

" Listen," said Bussy. " I do not wish to give them the joy of knowing it, but I have a neat little gash in my side."

"Ah, the wretches! " cried the prince. "Aurilly was right enough when he said they had evil designs."

"What!" said Bussy, "you saw the ambush? You were with Aurilly, who plays with the sword almost as well as he does with the lute! He told your Highness these men had bad designs, and you were two, and they were only five, and yet you never thought of staying and coming to my help ! "

" But what was to be done ? How was I to know the ambush was intended for you ? "

" Mort diable ! as Charles IX. used to say.. When you recognized King Henri's friends, you must surely have had some idea that they were on the look-out for some of your friends. Now, as there are few people except myself who have the courage to be your friends, it ought not to have been difficult for you to guess that I was their object."

" Yes, perhaps you 're right, my dear Bussy," said Francois ; " but I never thought of all that."

" Of a piece with the rest! " sighed Bussy, as if in these words he found all that was necessary to express what he thought of his master.

They arrived at the Louvre. The Due d'Anjou was received by the captain and gate-keepers at the wicket. The orders regulating the entrance were of the strictest; but it may be easily imagined these orders did not affect the next man in the realm to the King. The prince, then, was soon lost in the archway of the drawbridge with all his suite.

"Monseigneur," said Bussy, when they had reached the court of honor, " you can now have it out with the King, and remember the solemn promise you made me. I have to go to speak to a person."

"You're not leaving me, Bussy?" asked the prince, uneasily, for he had counted somewhat on the presence of this gentleman.

" I must, but do not let that trouble you. Rest assured that if I hear the slightest noise I shall be back. Shout, mon-seigneur, shout, mordieu ! shout so that I may hear you. If I don't hear you shouting, depend upon it I shall not return."

Then, profiting by the entrance of the prince into the grand hall, he slipped away, followed by Jeanne, into the other apartments.

Bussy knew the Louvre as well as his own hotel. After going up a private staircase and passing through two or three lonely corridors he reached a sort of antechamber.

" Wait for me here," said he to Jeanne.

" Good heavens ! you 're not going to. leave me by myself ? " exclaimed the young woman in terror.

"It can't be helped; I must prepare the way for your entrance."



BUSSY went straight to the armory of which Charles IX. used to be so fond. By a new arrangement it had been turned into a sleeping-room for Henri III., who had furnished it to suit his own fancy. Charles IX., the hunter-King, the blacksmith-King, the poet-King, had rilled this chamber with weapons, arquebuses, horns, manuscript, books, and griping-presses. Henri III. had furnished it with two beds in velvet and satin, licentious pictures, relics, scapularies blessed by the Pope, perfumed sachets from the East, and a collection of the finest fencing-swords that could be discovered.

Bussy knew well Henri could not be in this chamber, as his brother had asked for an audience in the gallery, but he knew also that, next to the King's bedroom, was the apartment of Charles IX.'s nurse, which had become that of Henri III.'s favorite. Now, as Henri III. was very fickle in his friendships, this apartment had been successively occupied by Saint-Megriri, Maugiron, D'O, D'Epernon, Quelus, and Schomberg, and was, in Bussy's opinion, likely to be occupied at the present moment by Saint-Luc, for whom the King, as we have seen, experienced so great a revival of affection that he had carried the young man off from his wife.

Henri III. was a strangely organized being, at once futile and profound, timid and brave; always bored, always restless, always a dreamer, he could not exist except in a continuous state of mental distraction; in the daytime, it was noise, gaming, physical exercises, mummeries, masquerades, intrigues ; at night, illuminations, gossip, prayer, or debauchery. In fact, Henri III. is almost the only personage of his character we find in the modern world. Henri III., an antique hermaphrodite, should have seen the light in some city of the Orient, amid a crowd of mutes, slaves, eunuchs, icoglans, philosophers, sophists, and his reign ought to have marked an era of effeminate debauchery and unknown follies between the times of Nero and Heliogabalus.

Now, Bussy, suspecting Saint-Luc was in the nurse's apartment, knocked at the ante-chamber common to both rooms.

The captain of the guards opened it.

" Monsieur de Bussy ! " cried the astonished officer.

" Yes, it is I, my dear M. de Nancey," said Bussy. " The King wants to speak to M. de Saint-Luc.' 7

" Very well," answered the captain, " some one inform M. de Saint-Luc that the King would speak with him."

Bussy flashed a glance at the page through the half-open door. Then, turning to M. de Nancey :

" But pray, what is my poor Saint-Luc doing at present ? " asked Bussy.

" Playing with Chicot, monsieur, and waiting for the return of the King, who is holding an audience with M. le Due d'Anjou."

" Would you be kind enough to allow my page to wait for me here ? " asked Bussy of the captain of the guards.

" With great pleasure."

" Come in, Jean," said Bussy to the young woman, and he pointed to the recess of a window, whither she went at once.

She had hardly taken her place there when Saint-Luc entered. M. de Nancey retired to a distance.

" What does the King want with me ? " said Saint-Luc, looking sour and morose. " Ah, it is you, M. de Bussy ? "

" Myself and no other, my dear Saint-Luc, and first of all "

He lowered his voice.

" — first of all, let me thank you for the service your rendered me."

" Oh, that was quite natural," said Saint-Luc; " it went against my grain to look on while a gallant gentleman like you was being assassinated. I was afraid you were killed."

" I was within an inch of it, but, in such a case, an inch is as good as a mile."

" What do you mean ? "

" Well, I got out of the trouble with a neat little sword-thrust, which I have repaid with interest, I think, to D'Eper-non and Schomberg. As for Quelus, he ought to bless the thickness of his skull. It is one of the hardest I ever encountered."

" Tell me all about it ; it will distract me," said Saint-Luc, yawning as if he would dislocate his jaws.

" I have n't time at present, my dear Saint-Luc. Besides, I came for quite a different object. You are rather bored here, I fancy."

"Royally bored; that tells everything.''

" Well, I have come to put a little life in you. What the devil! one good turn deserves another. 7 '

" You are right, and you are doing me as great a service, at least, as I have done you. Ennui is just as deadly as a sword-thrust ; it takes longer to finish you, but it 's surer."

" Poor Count ! " said Bussy, " you are a prisoner, then, as I suspected ? "

" The closest prisoner in the kingdom. The King pretends that no one amuses him as I do. The King is really very kind, for since yesterday I have made more grimaces at him than his monkey, and told him more unmannerly truths than his jester."

" Well, now, let us think a little ; is there nothing I can do for you ? You know I have just offered you my services."

" Certainly there is," said Saint-Luc ; " you might go to my house, or rather De Brissac's, and reassure my poor wife, who must be very uneasy and must undoubtedly regard my conduct as strange as it well could be."

« What shall I tell her ? "

" Oh, pardiea ! tell her what you have seen ; tell her I 'm a prisoner, a prisoner confined to the guard-room ; tell her that ever since yesterday the King has bee'n talking to me of friendship like Cicero, who wrote on it, and of virtue like Socrates, who practised it."

" And how do you answer him ? " asked Bussy, laughing.

" Morbleu ! I tell him that, as far as regards friendship, I am a bear, and, as far as regards virtue, I am a blackguard. All which does n't hinder him from repeating, ever and anon, with a sigh: ' Ah! Saint-Luc, is friendship, then but a chimera ? Ah! Saint-Luc, is virtue, then, but a name ? ' Only, after saying it in French, he says it again in Latin, and over again in Greek."

At this sally, the page, to whom Saint-Luc had so far not paid the slightest attention, burst out laughing.

" But what can you expect, my dear friend ? He hopes to touch your heart. Bis repetita placent; with the greater reason, ter. But is this all I can do for you ? "

" Yes, it is, egad! or, at least, I 'm afraid it is."

" Then, it has been done already."

" Done already ? How ? "

" I suspected what happened, and told your wife, the first thing."

" And what was her answer ? "

" She would not believe me. But," added Bussy, glancing at the window recess, " I expect she will, at last, be convinced by the actual evidence. Ask me, then, something else, something difficult, impossible even ; that is, the sort of thing I should like to accomplish."

" Then, dear Bussy, borrow for the nonce the gentle Knight Astolfo's hippogriff, and on its back fly to one of my windows ; then will I mount behind you and you shall waft me away to my wife. You shall be at perfect liberty, if your mind that way incline, to continue your journey to the moon afterward."

" My dear, I can do something far easier, I can bring the hippogriff to your wife and have your wife come and find you."

" Here ? "

" Yes, here."

" In the Louvre ? "

" In the Louvre even. Would not that be still more amusing?"

" Mordieu ! I should think so ! "

" You would not feel bored any longer ? "

"You may bet your life on it, I shouldn't."

" For you have been bored, you told me ? "

•' You ask Chicot. I have a horror of him, and proposed to exchange a few sword-thrusts with him. The rascal got so angry that it was enough to make one die with laughing. And yet, I did not move an eyebrow, I give you my word for it. But if this thing last, I shall kill him outright, to provide myself with some sort of recreation, or else get him to kill me."

" Plague take it man, don't play that game ! You know Chicot is no bungler with his tools. You would be a confounded sight more bored in your coffin than you are in your prison, depend upon it."

" Faith, I don't know about that."

" I say ! " laughed Bussy, " what if I were to give my page to you ? "

" To me ? "

" Yes ; he 's a wonderful lad."

" Thanks," said Saint-Luc, " pages are my abomination. The King offered to send for my favorite one, and I declined his offer. You can give him to the King, who is rearranging his household. With me it ? s different: as soon as I leave here, I

intend doing as they did at Chenonceanx at the time of the open-air festival — I '11 have none but women among my attendants, and, what's more, I '11 design their costumes."

" Pshaw ! " persisted Bussy ; " can't you give him a trial ? "

" Bussy," said Saint-Luc, annoyed, " this is no time for bantering me."

" You won't let me persuade you ? "

"No, I say!"

" When I tell you I know what you want ? "

" No, no, no, no, no a hundred times ! "

"Ho there! come hither, page."

" Mordieu ! " shouted Saint-Luc.

The page left the window, and came, blushing like a peony.

" Good heavens ! " gasped Saint-Luc, astounded at discovering Jeanne in Bussy's livery.

" Now," asked Bussy, " shall I send him away ? "

" No, no, vrai Dieu, no ! " cried Saint-Luc. " Ah, Bussy, Buss} 7 , the friendship I owe you shall be eternal! "

" Take care, Saint-Luc; though they can't hear you they can see 3 r ou."

" You 're right," said the latter, and, after advancing two steps to meet his wife, he took three steps backward. It was just as well he did so. M. de Nancey, astonished at the pantomime enacted before his eyes, was beginning to pay attention to the too expressive gestures of Saint-Luc, when a great noise, coming from the glass gallery, diverted him from his purpose.

BOOK: La Dame de Monsoreau
3.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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