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    Chapter 3

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    Chapter 3
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    THE HOUSE NEXT THE GOLDEN MAID.

    We have it on record that before the Comte de la Rochefoucauld left the
    Louvre that night he received the strongest hints of the peril which
    threatened him; and at least one written warning was handed to him by a
    stranger in black, and by him in turn was communicated to the King of
    Navarre. We are told further that when he took his final leave, about
    the hour of eleven, he found the courtyard brilliantly lighted, and the
    three companies of guards--Swiss, Scotch, and French--drawn up in ranked
    array from the door of the great hall to the gate which opened on the
    street. But, the chronicler adds, neither this precaution, sinister as
    it appeared to some of his suite, nor the grave farewell which
    Rambouillet, from his post at the gate, took of one of his gentlemen,
    shook that chivalrous soul or sapped its generous confidence.

    M. de Tignonville was young and less versed in danger than the Governor
    of Rochelle; with him, had he seen so much, it might have been different.
    But he left the Louvre an hour earlier--at a time when the precincts of
    the palace, gloomy-seeming to us in the light cast by coming events, wore
    their wonted aspect. His thoughts, moreover, as he crossed the
    courtyard, were otherwise employed. So much so, indeed, that though he
    signed to his two servants to follow him, he seemed barely conscious what
    he was doing; nor did he shake off his reverie until he reached the
    corner of the Rue Baillet. Here the voices of the Swiss who stood on
    guard opposite Coligny's lodgings, at the end of the Rue Bethizy, could
    be plainly heard. They had kindled a fire in an iron basket set in the
    middle of the road, and knots of them were visible in the distance,
    moving to and fro about their piled arms.

    Tignonville paused before he came within the radius of the firelight,
    and, turning, bade his servants take their way home. "I shall follow,
    but I have business first," he added curtly.

    The elder of the two demurred. "The streets are not too safe," he said.
    "In two hours or less, my lord, it will be midnight. And then--"

    "Go, booby; do you think I am a child?" his master retorted angrily.
    "I've my sword and can use it. I shall not be long. And do you hear,
    men, keep a still tongue, will you?"

    The men, country fellows, obeyed reluctantly, and with a full intention
    of sneaking after him the moment he had turned his back. But he
    suspected them of this, and stood where he was until they had passed the
    fire, and could no longer detect his movements. Then he plunged quickly
    into the Rue Baillet, gained through it the Rue du Roule, and traversing
    that also, turned to the right into the Rue Ferronerie, the main
    thoroughfare, east and west, of Paris. Here he halted in front of the
    long, dark outer wall of the Cemetery of the Innocents, in which, across
    the tombstones and among the sepulchres of dead Paris, the living Paris
    of that day, bought and sold, walked, gossiped, and made love.

    About him things were to be seen that would have seemed stranger to him
    had he been less strange to the city. From the quarter of the markets
    north of him, a quarter which fenced in the cemetery on two sides, the
    same dull murmur proceeded, which Mademoiselle de Vrillac had remarked an
    hour earlier. The sky above the cemetery glowed with reflected light,
    the cause of which was not far to seek, for every window of the tall
    houses that overlooked it, and the huddle of booths about it, contributed
    a share of the illumination. At an hour late even for Paris, an hour
    when honest men should have been sunk in slumber, this strange brilliance
    did for a moment perplex him; but the past week had been so full of
    fetes, of masques and frolics, often devised on the moment and dependent
    on the King's whim, that he set this also down to such a cause, and
    wondered no more.

    The lights in the houses did not serve the purpose he had in his mind,
    but beside the closed gate of the cemetery, and between two stalls, was a
    votive lamp burning before an image of the Mother and Child. He crossed
    to this, and assuring himself by a glance to right and left that he stood
    in no danger from prowlers, he drew a note from his breast. It had been
    slipped into his hand in the gallery before he saw Mademoiselle to her
    lodging; it had been in his possession barely an hour. But brief as its
    contents were, and easily committed to memory, he had perused it thrice
    already.

    "At the house next the Golden Maid, Rue Cinq Diamants, an hour before
    midnight, you may find the door open should you desire to talk farther
    with C. St. L."

    As he read it for the fourth time the light of the lamp fell athwart his
    face; and even as his fine clothes had never seemed to fit him worse than
    when he faintly denied the imputations of gallantry launched at him by
    Nancay, so his features had never looked less handsome than they did now.
    The glow of vanity which warmed his cheek as he read the message, the
    smile of conceit which wreathed his lips, bespoke a nature not of the
    most noble; or the lamp did him less than justice. Presently he kissed
    the note, and hid it. He waited until the clock of St. Jacques struck
    the hour before midnight; and then moving forward, he turned to the right
    by way of the narrow neck leading to the Rue Lombard. He walked in the
    kennel here, his sword in his hand and his eyes looking to right and
    left; for the place was notorious for robberies. But though he saw more
    than one figure lurking in a doorway or under the arch that led to a
    passage, it vanished on his nearer approach. In less than a minute he
    reached the southern end of the street that bore the odd title of the
    Five Diamonds.

    Situate in the crowded quarter of the butchers, and almost in the shadow
    of their famous church, this street--which farther north was continued in
    the Rue Quimcampoix--presented in those days a not uncommon mingling of
    poverty and wealth. On one side of the street a row of lofty gabled
    houses, built under Francis the First, sheltered persons of good
    condition; on the other, divided from these by the width of the road and
    a reeking kennel, a row of peat-houses, the hovels of cobblers and
    sausage-makers, leaned against shapeless timber houses which tottered
    upwards in a medley of sagging roofs and bulging gutters. Tignonville
    was strange to the place, and nine nights out of ten he would have been
    at a disadvantage. But, thanks to the tapers that to-night shone in many
    windows, he made out enough to see that he need search only the one side;
    and with a beating heart he passed along the row of newer houses, looking
    eagerly for the sign of the Golden Maid.

    He found it at last; and then for a moment he stood puzzled. The note
    said, next door to the Golden Maid, but it did not say on which side. He
    scrutinised the nearer house, but he saw nothing to determine him; and he
    was proceeding to the farther, when he caught sight of two men, who,
    ambushed behind a horse-block on the opposite side of the roadway, seemed
    to be watching his movements. Their presence flurried him; but much to
    his relief his next glance at the houses showed him that the door of the
    farther one was unlatched. It stood slightly ajar, permitting a beam of
    light to escape into the street.

    He stepped quickly to it--the sooner he was within the house the
    better--pushed the door open and entered. As soon as he was inside he
    tried to close the entrance behind him, but he found he could not; the
    door would not shut. After a brief trial he abandoned the attempt and
    passed quickly on, through a bare lighted passage which led to the foot
    of a staircase, equally bare. He stood at this point an instant and
    listened, in the hope that Madame's maid would come to him. At first he
    heard nothing save his own breathing; then a gruff voice from above
    startled him.

    "This way, Monsieur," it said. "You are early, but not too soon!"

    So Madame trusted her footman! M. de Tignonville shrugged his shoulders;
    but after all, it was no affair of his, and he went up. Halfway to the
    top, however, he stood, an oath on his lips. Two men had entered by the
    open door below--even as he had entered! And as quietly!

    The imprudence of it! The imprudence of leaving the door so that it
    could not be closed! He turned, and descended to meet them, his teeth
    set, his hand on his sword, one conjecture after another whirling in his
    brain. Was he beset? Was it a trap? Was it a rival? Was it chance?
    Two steps he descended; and then the voice he had heard before cried
    again, but more imperatively--

    "No, Monsieur, this way! Did you not hear me? This way, and be quick,
    if you please. By-and-by there will be a crowd, and then the more we
    have dealt with the better!"

    He knew now that he had made a mistake, that he had entered the wrong
    house; and naturally his impulse was to continue his descent and secure
    his retreat. But the pause had brought the two men who had entered face
    to face with him, and they showed no signs of giving way. On the
    contrary.

    "The room is above, Monsieur," the foremost said, in a matter-of-fact
    tone, and with a slight salutation. "After you, if you please," and he
    signed to him to return.

    He was a burly man, grim and truculent in appearance, and his follower
    was like him. Tignonville hesitated, then turned and ascended. But as
    soon as he had reached the landing where they could pass him, he turned
    again.

    "I have made a mistake, I think," he said. "I have entered the wrong
    house."

    "Are you for the house next the Golden Maid, Monsieur?"

    "Yes."

    "Rue Cinq Diamants, Quarter of the Boucherie?"

    "Yes."

    "No mistake, then," the stout man replied firmly. "You are early, that
    is all. You have arms, I see. Maillard!"--to the person whose voice
    Tignonville had heard at the head of the stairs--"A white sleeve, and a
    cross for Monsieur's hat, and his name on the register. Come, make a
    beginning! Make a beginning, man."

    "To be sure, Monsieur. All is ready."

    "Then lose no time, I say. Here are others, also early in the good
    cause. Gentlemen, welcome! Welcome all who are for the true faith!
    Death to the heretics! 'Kill, and no quarter!' is the word to-night!"

    "Death to the heretics!" the last comers cried in chorus. "Kill and no
    quarter! At what hour, M. le Prevot?"

    "At daybreak," the Provost answered importantly. "But have no fear, the
    tocsin will sound. The King and our good man M. de Guise have all in
    hand. A white sleeve, a white cross, and a sharp knife shall rid Paris
    of the vermin! Gentlemen of the quarter, the word of the night is 'Kill,
    and no quarter! Death to the Huguenots!'"

    "Death! Death to the Huguenots! Kill, and no quarter!" A dozen--the
    room was beginning to fill--waved their weapons and echoed the cry.

    Tignonville had been fortunate enough to apprehend the position--and the
    peril in which he stood--before Maillard advanced to him bearing a white
    linen sleeve. In the instant of discovery his heart had stood a moment,
    the blood had left his cheeks; but with some faults, he was no coward,
    and he managed to hide his emotion. He held out his left arm, and
    suffered the beadle to pass the sleeve over it and to secure the white
    linen above the elbow. Then at a gesture he gave up his velvet cap, and
    saw it decorated with a white cross of the same material.

    "Now the register, Monsieur," Maillard continued briskly; and waving him
    in the direction of a clerk, who sat at the end of the long table, having
    a book and a ink-horn before him, he turned to the next comer.

    Tignonville would fain have avoided the ordeal of the register, but the
    clerk's eye was on him. He had been fortunate so far, but he knew that
    the least breath of suspicion would destroy him, and summoning his wits
    together he gave his name in a steady voice. "Anne Desmartins." It was
    his mother's maiden name, and the first that came into his mind.

    "Of Paris?"

    "Recently; by birth, of the Limousin."

    "Good, Monsieur," the clerk answered, writing in the name. And he turned
    to the next. "And you, my friend?"
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