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    Chapter 11

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    Chapter 11
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    A BARGAIN.

    It is the wont of the sex to snatch at an ell where an inch is offered,
    and to press an advantage in circumstances in which a man, acknowledging
    the claims of generosity, scruples to ask for more. The habit, now
    ingrained, may have sprung from long dependence on the male, and is one
    which a hundred instances, from the time of Judith downwards, prove to be
    at its strongest where the need is greatest.

    When Mademoiselle de Vrillac came out of the hour-long swoon into which
    her lover's defection had cast her, the expectation of the worst was so
    strong upon her that she could not at once credit the respite which
    Madame Carlat hastened to announce. She could not believe that she still
    lay safe, in her own room above stairs; that she was in the care of her
    own servants, and that the chamber held no presence more hateful than
    that of the good woman who sat weeping beside her.

    As was to be expected, she came to herself sighing and shuddering,
    trembling with nervous exhaustion. She looked for _him_, as soon as she
    looked for any; and even when she had seen the door locked and double-
    locked, she doubted--doubted, and shook and hid herself in the hangings
    of the bed. The noise of the riot and rapine which prevailed in the
    city, and which reached the ear even in that locked room--and although
    the window, of paper, with an upper pane of glass, looked into a
    courtyard--was enough to drive the blood from a woman's cheeks. But it
    was fear of the house, not of the street, fear from within, not from
    without, which impelled the girl into the darkest corner and shook her
    wits. She could not believe that even this short respite was hers, until
    she had repeatedly heard the fact confirmed at Madame Carlat's mouth.

    "You are deceiving me!" she cried more than once. And each time she
    started up in fresh terror. "He never said that he would not return
    until to-morrow!"

    "He did, my lamb, he did!" the old woman answered with tears. "Would I
    deceive you?"

    "He said he would not return?"

    "He said he would not return until to-morrow. You had until to-morrow,
    he said."

    "And then?"

    "He would come and bring the priest with him," Madame Carlat replied
    sorrowfully.

    "The priest? To-morrow!" Mademoiselle cried. "The priest!" and she
    crouched anew with hot eyes behind the hangings of the bed, and,
    shivering, hid her face.

    But this for a time only. As soon as she had made certain of the
    respite, and that she had until the morrow, her courage rose, and with it
    the instinct of which mention has been made. Count Hannibal had granted
    a respite; short as it was, and no more than the barest humanity
    required, to grant one at all was not the act of the mere butcher who
    holds the trembling lamb, unresisting, in his hands. It was an act--no
    more, again be it said, than humanity required--and yet an act which
    bespoke an expectation of some return, of some correlative advantage. It
    was not in the part of the mere brigand. Something had been granted.
    Something short of the utmost in the captor's power had been exacted. He
    had shown that there were things he would not do.

    Then might not something more be won from him? A further delay, another
    point; something, no matter what, which could be turned to advantage?
    With the brigand it is not possible to bargain. But who gives a little
    may give more; who gives a day may give a week; who gives a week may give
    a month. And a month? Her heart leapt up. A month seemed a lifetime,
    an eternity, to her who had but until to-morrow!

    Yet there was one consideration which might have daunted a spirit less
    brave. To obtain aught from Tavannes it was needful to ask him, and to
    ask him it was needful to see him; and to see him _before_ that to-morrow
    which meant so much to her. It was necessary, in a word, to run some
    risk; but without risk the card could not be played, and she did not
    hesitate. It might turn out that she was wrong, that the man was not
    only pitiless and without bowels of mercy, but lacked also the shred of
    decency for which she gave him credit, and on which she counted. In that
    case, if she sent for him--but she would not consider that case.

    The position of the window, while it increased the women's safety,
    debarred them from all knowledge of what was going forward, except that
    which their ears afforded them. They had no means of judging whether
    Tavannes remained in the house or had sallied forth to play his part in
    the work of murder. Madame Carlat, indeed, had no desire to know
    anything. In that room above stairs, with the door double-locked, lay a
    hope of safety in the present, and of ultimate deliverance; there she had
    a respite from terror, as long as she kept the world outside. To her,
    therefore, the notion of sending for Tavannes, or communicating with him,
    came as a thunderbolt. Was her mistress mad? Did she wish to court her
    fate? To reach Tavannes they must apply to his riders, for Carlat and
    the men-servants were confined above. Those riders were grim, brutal
    men, who might resort to rudeness on their own account. And Madame,
    clinging in a paroxysm of terror to her mistress, suggested all manner of
    horrors, one on top of the other, until she increased her own terror
    tenfold. And yet, to do her justice, nothing that even her frenzied
    imagination suggested exceeded the things which the streets of Paris,
    fruitful mother of horrors, were witnessing at that very hour. As we now
    know.

    For it was noon--or a little more--of Sunday, August the twenty-fourth,
    "a holiday, and therefore the people could more conveniently find leisure
    to kill and plunder." From the bridges, and particularly from the stone
    bridge of Notre Dame--while they lay safe in that locked room, and
    Tignonville crouched in his haymow--Huguenots less fortunate were being
    cast, bound hand and foot, into the Seine. On the river bank Spire
    Niquet, the bookman, was being burnt over a slow fire, fed with his own
    books. In their houses, Ramus the scholar and Goujon the sculptor--than
    whom Paris has neither seen nor deserved a greater--were being butchered
    like sheep; and in the Valley of Misery, now the Quai de la Megisserie,
    seven hundred persons who had sought refuge in the prisons were being
    beaten to death with bludgeons. Nay, at this hour--a little sooner or a
    little later, what matters it?--M. de Tignonville's own cousin, Madame
    d'Yverne, the darling of the Louvre the day before, perished in the hands
    of the mob; and the sister of M. de Taverny, equally ill-fated, died in
    the same fashion, after being dragged through the streets.

    Madame Carlat, then, went not a whit beyond the mark in her argument. But
    Mademoiselle had made up her mind, and was not to be dissuaded.

    "If I am to be Monsieur's wife," she said with quivering nostrils, "shall
    I fear his servants?"

    And opening the door herself, for the others would not, she called. The
    man who answered was a Norman; and short of stature, and wrinkled and low-
    browed of feature, with a thatch of hair and a full beard, he seemed the
    embodiment of the women's apprehensions. Moreover, his _patois_ of the
    cider-land was little better than German to them; their southern, softer
    tongue was sheer Italian to him. But he seemed not ill-disposed, or
    Mademoiselle's air overawed him; and presently she made him understand,
    and with a nod he descended to carry her message.

    Then Mademoiselle's heart began to beat; and beat more quickly when she
    heard _his_ step--alas! she knew it already, knew it from all others--on
    the stairs. The table was set, the card must be played, to win or lose.
    It might be that with the low opinion he held of women he would think her
    reconciled to her lot; he would think this an overture, a step towards
    kinder treatment, one more proof of the inconstancy of the lower and the
    weaker sex, made to be men's playthings. And at that thought her eyes
    grew hot with rage. But if it were so, she must still put up with it.
    She must still put up with it! She had sent for him, and he was
    coming--he was at the door!

    He entered, and she breathed more freely. For once his face lacked the
    sneer, the look of smiling possession, which she had come to know and
    hate. It was grave, expectant, even suspicious; still harsh and dark,
    akin, as she now observed, to the low-browed, furrowed face of the rider
    who had summoned him. But the offensive look was gone, and she could
    breathe.

    He closed the door behind him, but he did not advance into the room.

    "At your pleasure, Mademoiselle?" he said simply. "You sent for me, I
    think."

    She was on her feet, standing before him with something of the
    submissiveness of Roxana before her conqueror.

    "I did," she said; and stopped at that, her hand to her side as if she
    could not continue. But presently in a low voice, "I have heard," she
    went on, "what you said, Monsieur, after I lost consciousness."

    "Yes?" he said; and was silent. Nor did he lose his watchful look.

    "I am obliged to you for your thought of me," she continued in a faint
    voice, "and I shall be still further obliged--I speak to you thus quickly
    and thus early--if you will grant me a somewhat longer time."

    "Do you mean--if I will postpone our marriage?"

    "Yes, Monsieur."

    "It is impossible!"

    "Do not say that," she cried, raising her voice impulsively. "I appeal
    to your generosity. And for a short, a very short, time only."

    "It is impossible," he answered quietly. "And for reasons, Mademoiselle.
    In the first place, I can more easily protect my wife. In the second, I
    am even now summoned to the Louvre, and should be on my way thither. By
    to-morrow evening, unless I am mistaken in the business on which I am
    required, I shall be on my way to a distant province with royal letters.
    It is essential that our marriage take place before I go."

    "Why?" she asked stubbornly.

    He shrugged his shoulders. "Why?" he repeated. "Can you ask,
    Mademoiselle, after the events of last night? Because, if you please, I
    do not wish to share the fate of M. de Tignonville. Because in these
    days life is uncertain, and death too certain. Because it was our turn
    last night, and it may be the turn of your friends--to-morrow night!"

    "Then some have escaped?" she cried.

    He smiled. "I am glad to find you so shrewd," he replied. "In an honest
    wife it is an excellent quality. Yes, Mademoiselle; one or two."

    "Who? Who? I pray you tell me."

    "M. de Montgomery, who slept beyond the river, for one; and the Vidame,
    and some with him. M. de Biron, whom I count a Huguenot, and who holds
    the Arsenal in the King's teeth, for another. And a few more. Enough,
    in a word, Mademoiselle, to keep us wakeful. It is impossible,
    therefore, for me to postpone the fulfilment of your promise."

    "A promise on conditions!" she retorted, in rage that she could win no
    more. And every line of her splendid figure, every tone of her voice
    flamed sudden, hot rebellion. "I do not go for nothing! You gave me the
    lives of all in the house, Monsieur! Of all!" she repeated with passion.
    "And all are not here! Before I marry you, you must show me M. de
    Tignonville alive and safe!"

    He shrugged his shoulders. "He has taken himself off," he said. "It is
    naught to me what happens to him now."

    "It is all to me!" she retorted.

    At that he glared at her, the veins of his forehead swelling suddenly.
    But after a seeming struggle with himself he put the insult by, perhaps
    for future reckoning and account.

    "I did what I could," he said sullenly. "Had I willed it he had died
    there and then in the room below. I gave him his life. If he has risked
    it anew and lost it, it is naught to me."

    "It was his life you gave me," she repeated stubbornly. "His life--and
    the others. But that is not all," she continued; "you promised me a
    minister."

    He nodded, smiling sourly to himself, as if this confirmed a suspicion he
    had entertained.

    "Or a priest," he said.

    "No, a minister."

    "If one could be obtained. If not, a priest."

    "No, it was to be at my will; and I will a minister! I will a minister!"
    she cried passionately. "Show me M. de Tignonville alive, and bring me a
    minister of my faith, and I will keep my promise, M. de Tavannes. Have
    no fear of that. But otherwise, I will not."

    "You will not?" he cried. "You will not?"

    "No!"

    "You will not marry me?"

    "No!"

    The moment she had said it fear seized her, and she could have fled from
    him, screaming. The flash of his eyes, the sudden passion of his face,
    burned themselves into her memory. She thought for a second that he
    would spring on her and strike her down. Yet though the women behind her
    held their breath, she faced him, and did not quail; and to that, she
    fancied, she owed it that he controlled himself.

    "You will not?" he repeated, as if he could not understand such
    resistance to his will--as if he could not credit his ears. "You will
    not?" But after that, when he had said it three times, he laughed; a
    laugh, however, with a snarl in it that chilled her blood.

    "You bargain, do you?" he said. "You will have the last tittle of the
    price, will you? And have thought of this and that to put me off, and to
    gain time until your lover, who is all to you, comes to save you? Oh,
    clever girl! clever! But have you thought where you stand--woman? Do
    you know that if I gave the word to my people they would treat you as the
    commonest baggage that tramps the Froidmantel? Do you know that it rests
    with me to save you, or to throw you to the wolves whose ravening you
    hear?" And he pointed to the window. "Minister? Priest?" he continued
    grimly. "_Mon Dieu_, Mademoiselle, I stand astonished at my moderation.
    You chatter to me of ministers and priests, and the one or the other,
    when it might be neither! When you are as much and as hopelessly in my
    power to-day as the wench in my kitchen! You! You flout me, and make
    terms with me! You!"

    And he came so near her with his dark harsh face, his tone rose so
    menacing on the last word, that her nerves, shattered before, gave way,
    and, unable to control herself, she flinched with a low cry, thinking he
    would strike her.

    He did not follow, nor move to follow; but he laughed a low laugh of
    content. And his eyes devoured her.

    "Ho! ho!" he said. "We are not so brave as we pretend to be, it seems.
    And yet you dared to chaffer with me? You thought to thwart me--Tavannes!
    _Mon Dieu_, Mademoiselle, to what did you trust? To what did you trust?
    Ay, and to what do you trust?"

    She knew that by the movement which fear had forced from her she had
    jeopardized everything. That she stood to lose all and more than all
    which she had thought to win by a bold front. A woman less brave, of a
    spirit less firm, would have given up the contest, and have been glad to
    escape so. But this woman, though her bloodless face showed that she
    knew what cause she had for fear, and though her heart was indeed sick
    with terror, held her ground at the point to which she had retreated. She
    played her last card.

    "To what do I trust?" she muttered with trembling lips.

    "Yes, Mademoiselle," he answered between his teeth. "To what do you
    trust--that you play with Tavannes?"

    "To his honour, Monsieur," she answered faintly. "And to your promise."

    He looked at her with his mocking smile. "And yet," he sneered, "you
    thought a moment ago that I should strike you. You thought that I should
    beat you! And now it is my honour and my promise! Oh, clever, clever,
    Mademoiselle! 'Tis so that women make fools of men. I knew that
    something of this kind was on foot when you sent for me, for I know women
    and their ways. But, let me tell you, it is an ill time to speak of
    honour when the streets are red! And of promises when the King's word is
    'No faith with a heretic!'"

    "Yet you will keep yours," she said bravely.

    He did not answer at once, and hope which was almost dead in her breast
    began to recover; nay, presently sprang up erect. For the man hesitated,
    it was evident; he brooded with a puckered brow and gloomy eyes; an
    observer might have fancied that he traced pain as well as doubt in his
    face. At last--

    "There is a thing," he said slowly and with a sort of glare at her,
    "which, it may be, you have not reckoned. You press me now, and will
    stand on your terms and your conditions, your _ifs_ and your _unlesses_!
    You will have the most from me, and the bargain and a little beside the
    bargain! But I would have you think if you are wise. Bethink you how it
    will be between us when you are my wife--if you press me so now,
    Mademoiselle. How will it sweeten things then? How will it soften them?
    And to what, I pray you, will you trust for fair treatment then, if you
    will be so against me now?"

    She shuddered. "To the mercy of my husband," she said in a low voice.
    And her chin sank on her breast.

    "You will be content to trust to that?" he answered grimly. And his tone
    and the lifting of his brow promised little clemency. "Bethink you! 'Tis
    your rights now, and your terms, Mademoiselle! And then it will be only
    my mercy--Madame."

    "I am content," she muttered faintly.

    "And the Lord have mercy on my soul, is what you would add," he retorted,
    "so much trust have you in my mercy! And you are right! You are right,
    since you have played this trick on me. But as you will. If you will
    have it so, have it so! You shall stand on your conditions now; you
    shall have your pennyweight and full advantage, and the rigour of the
    pact. But afterwards--afterwards, Madame de Tavannes--"

    He did not finish his sentence, for at the first word which granted her
    petition, Mademoiselle had sunk down on the low wooden window-seat beside
    which she stood, and, cowering into its farthest corner, her face hidden
    on her arms, had burst into violent weeping. Her hair, hastily knotted
    up in the hurry of the previous night, hung in a thick plait to the curve
    of her waist; the nape of her neck showed beside it milk-white. The man
    stood awhile contemplating her in silence, his gloomy eyes watching the
    pitiful movement of her shoulders, the convulsive heaving of her figure.
    But he did not offer to touch her, and at length he turned about. First
    one and then the other of her women quailed and shrank under his gaze; he
    seemed about to add something. But he did not speak. The sentence he
    had left unfinished, the long look he bent on the weeping girl as he
    turned from her, spoke more eloquently of the future than a score of
    orations.

    "_Afterwards, Madame de Tavannes_!"
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