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    Chapter 9

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    Chapter 9
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    UNSTABLE.

    And that troubled M. la Tribe no little, although he did not impart his
    thoughts to his companion. Instead they talked in whispers of the things
    which had happened; of the Admiral, of Teligny, whom all loved, of
    Rochefoucauld the accomplished, the King's friend; of the princes in the
    Louvre whom they gave up for lost, and of the Huguenot nobles on the
    farther side of the river, of whose safety there seemed some hope.
    Tignonville--he best knew why--said nothing of the fate of his betrothed,
    or of his own adventures in that connection. But each told the other how
    the alarm had reached him, and painted in broken words his reluctance to
    believe in treachery so black. Thence they passed to the future of the
    cause, and of that took views as opposite as light and darkness, as
    Papegot and Huguenot. The one was confident, the other in despair. And
    some time in the afternoon, worn out by the awful experiences of the last
    twelve hours, they fell asleep, their heads on their arms, the hay
    tickling their faces; and, with death stalking the lane beside them,
    slept soundly until after sundown.

    When they awoke hunger awoke with them, and urged on La Tribe's mind the
    question of the missing egg. It was not altogether the prick of appetite
    which troubled him, but regarding the hiding-place in which they lay as
    an ark of refuge providentially supplied, protected and victualled, he
    could not refrain from asking reverently what the deficiency meant. It
    was not as if one hen only had appeared; as if no farther prospect had
    been extended. But up to a certain point the message was clear. Then
    when the Hand of Providence had shown itself most plainly, and in a
    manner to melt the heart with awe and thankfulness, the message had been
    blurred. Seriously the Huguenot asked himself what it portended.

    To Tignonville, if he thought of it at all, the matter was the matter of
    an egg, and stopped there. An egg might alleviate the growing pangs of
    hunger; its non-appearance was a disappointment, but he traced the matter
    no farther. It must be confessed, too, that the haycart was to him only
    a haycart--and not an ark; and the sooner he was safely away from it the
    better he would be pleased. While La Tribe, lying snug and warm beside
    him, thanked God for a lot so different from that of such of his fellows
    as had escaped--whom he pictured crouching in dank cellars, or on roof-
    trees exposed to the heat by day and the dews by night--the young man
    grew more and more restive.

    Hunger pricked him, and the meanness of the part he had played moved him
    to action. About midnight, resisting the dissuasions of his companion,
    he would have sallied out in search of food if the passage of a turbulent
    crowd had not warned him that the work of murder was still proceeding. He
    curbed himself after that and lay until daylight. But, ill content with
    his own conduct, on fire when he thought of his betrothed, he was in no
    temper to bear hardship cheerfully or long; and gradually there rose
    before his mind the picture of Madame St. Lo's smiling face, and the fair
    hair which curled low on the white of her neck.

    He would, and he would not. Death that had stalked so near him preached
    its solemn sermon. But death and pleasure are never far apart; and at no
    time and nowhere have they jostled one another more familiarly than in
    that age, wherever the influence of Italy and Italian art and Italian
    hopelessness extended. Again, on the one side, La Tribe's example went
    for something with his comrade in misfortune; but in the other scale hung
    relief from discomfort, with the prospect of a woman's smiles and a
    woman's flatteries, of dainty dishes, luxury, and passion. If he went
    now, he went to her from the jaws of death, with the glamour of adventure
    and peril about him; and the very going into her presence was a lure.
    Moreover, if he had been willing while his betrothed was still his, why
    not now when he had lost her?

    It was this last reflection--and one other thing which came on a sudden
    into his mind--which turned the scale. About noon he sat up in the hay,
    and, abruptly and sullenly, "I'll lie here no longer," he said; and he
    dropped his legs over the side. "I shall go."

    The movement was so unexpected that La Tribe stared at him in silence.
    Then, "You will run a great risk, M. de Tignonville," he said gravely,
    "if you do. You may go as far under cover of night as the river, or you
    may reach one of the gates. But as to crossing the one or passing the
    other, I reckon it a thing impossible."

    "I shall not wait until night," Tignonville answered curtly, a ring of
    defiance in his tone. "I shall go now! I'll lie here no longer!"

    "Now?"

    "Yes, now."

    "You will be mad if you do," the other replied. He thought it the
    petulant outcry of youth tired of inaction; a protest, and nothing more.

    He was speedily undeceived. "Mad or not, I am going!" Tignonville
    retorted. And he slid to the ground, and from the covert of the hanging
    fringe of hay looked warily up and down the lane. "It is clear, I
    think," he said. "Good-bye." And with no more, without one upward
    glance or a gesture of the hand, with no further adieu or word of
    gratitude, he walked out into the lane, turned briskly to the left, and
    vanished.

    The minister uttered a cry of surprise, and made as if he would descend
    also.

    "Come back, sir!" he called, as loudly as he dared. "M. de Tignonville,
    come back! This is folly or worse!"

    But M. de Tignonville was gone.

    La Tribe listened a while, unable to believe it, and still expecting his
    return. At last, hearing nothing, he slid, greatly excited, to the
    ground and looked out. It was not until he had peered up and down the
    lane and made sure that it was empty that he could persuade himself that
    the other had gone for good. Then he climbed slowly and seriously to his
    place again, and sighed as he settled himself.

    "Unstable as water thou shalt not excel!" he muttered. "Now I know why
    there was only one egg."

    Meanwhile Tignonville, after putting a hundred yards between himself and
    his bedfellow, plunged into the first dark entry which presented itself.
    Hurriedly, and with a frowning face, he cut off his left sleeve from
    shoulder to wrist; and this act, by disclosing his linen, put him in
    possession of the white sleeve which he had once involuntarily donned,
    and once discarded. The white cross on the cap he could not assume, for
    he was bareheaded. But he had little doubt that the sleeve would
    suffice, and with a bold demeanour he made his way northward until he
    reached again the Rue Ferronerie.

    Excited groups were wandering up and down the street, and, fearing to
    traverse its crowded narrows, he went by lanes parallel with it as far as
    the Rue St. Denis, which he crossed. Everywhere he saw houses gutted and
    doors burst in, and traces of a cruelty and a fanaticism almost
    incredible. Near the Rue des Lombards he saw a dead child, stripped
    stark and hanged on the hook of a cobbler's shutter. A little farther on
    in the same street he stepped over the body of a handsome young woman,
    distinguished by the length and beauty of her hair. To obtain her
    bracelets, her captors had cut off her hands; afterwards--but God knows
    how long afterwards--a passer-by, more pitiful than his fellows, had put
    her out of her misery with a spit, which still remained plunged in her
    body.

    M. de Tignonville shuddered at the sight, and at others like it. He
    loathed the symbol he wore, and himself for wearing it; and more than
    once his better nature bade him return and play the nobler part. Once he
    did turn with that intention. But he had set his mind on comfort and
    pleasure, and the value of these things is raised, not lowered, by danger
    and uncertainty. Quickly his stoicism oozed away; he turned again.
    Barely avoiding the rush of a crowd of wretches who were bearing a
    swooning victim to the river, he hurried through the Rue des Lombards,
    and reached in safety the house beside the Golden Maid.

    He had no doubt now on which side of the Maid Madame St. Lo lived; the
    house was plain before him. He had only to knock. But in proportion as
    he approached his haven, his anxiety grew. To lose all, with all in his
    grasp, to fail upon the threshold, was a thing which bore no looking at;
    and it was with a nervous hand and eyes cast fearfully behind him that he
    plied the heavy iron knocker which adorned the door.

    He could not turn his gaze from a knot of ruffians, who were gathered
    under one of the tottering gables on the farther side of the street. They
    seemed to be watching him, and he fancied--though the distance rendered
    this impossible--that he could see suspicion growing in their eyes. At
    any moment they might cross the roadway, they might approach, they might
    challenge him. And at the thought he knocked and knocked again. Why did
    not the porter come?

    Ay, why? For now a score of contingencies came into the young man's mind
    and tortured him. Had Madame St. Lo withdrawn to safer quarters and
    closed the house? Or, good Catholic as she was, had she given way to
    panic, and determined to open to no one? Or was she ill? Or had she
    perished in the general disorder? Or--

    And then, even as the men began to slink towards him, his heart leapt. He
    heard a footstep heavy and slow move through the house. It came nearer
    and nearer. A moment, and an iron-grated Judas-hole in the door slid
    open, and a servant, an elderly man, sleek and respectable, looked out at
    him.

    Tignonville could scarcely speak for excitement. "Madame St. Lo?" he
    muttered tremulously. "I come to her from her cousin the Comte de
    Tavannes. Quick! quick! if you please. Open to me!"

    "Monsieur is alone?"

    "Yes! Yes!"

    The man nodded gravely and slid back the bolts. He allowed M. de
    Tignonville to enter, then with care he secured the door, and led the way
    across a small square court, paved with red tiles and enclosed by the
    house, but open above to the sunshine and the blue sky. A gallery which
    ran round the upper floor looked on this court, in which a great quiet
    reigned, broken only by the music of a fountain. A vine climbed on the
    wooden pillars which supported the gallery, and, aspiring higher,
    embraced the wide carved eaves, and even tapestried with green the three
    gables that on each side of the court broke the skyline. The grapes hung
    nearly ripe, and amid their clusters and the green lattice of their
    foliage Tignonville's gaze sought eagerly but in vain the laughing eyes
    and piquant face of his new mistress. For with the closing of the door,
    and the passing from him of the horrors of the streets, he had entered,
    as by magic, a new and smiling world; a world of tennis and roses, of
    tinkling voices and women's wiles, a world which smacked of Florence and
    the South, and love and life; a world which his late experiences had set
    so far away from him, his memory of it seemed a dream. Now, as he drank
    in its stillness and its fragrance, as he felt its safety and its luxury
    lap him round once more, he sighed. And with that breath he rid himself
    of much.

    The servant led him to a parlour, a cool shady room on the farther side
    of the tiny quadrangle, and, muttering something inaudible, withdrew. A
    moment later a frolicsome laugh, and the light flutter of a woman's skirt
    as she tripped across the court, brought the blood to his cheeks. He
    went a step nearer to the door, and his eyes grew bright.
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    Chapter 9
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