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    Chapter 12

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    Chapter 12
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    It is a strange thing that love--or passion, if the sudden fancy for
    Mademoiselle which had seized Count Hannibal be deemed unworthy of the
    higher name--should so entirely possess the souls of those who harbour it
    that the greatest events and the most astounding catastrophes, even
    measures which set their mark for all time on a nation, are to them of
    importance only so far as they affect the pursuit of the fair one.

    As Tavannes, after leaving Mademoiselle, rode through the paved lanes,
    beneath the gabled houses, and under the shadow of the Gothic spires of
    his day, he saw a score of sights, moving to pity, or wrath, or wonder.
    He saw Paris as a city sacked; a slaughter-house, where for a week a
    masque had moved to stately music; blood on the nailed doors and the
    close-set window bars; and at the corners of the ways strewn garments,
    broken weapons, the livid dead in heaps. But he saw all with eyes which
    in all and everywhere, among living and dead, sought only Tignonville;
    Tignonville first, and next a heretic minister, with enough of life in
    him to do his office.

    Probably it was to this that one man hunted through Paris owed his escape
    that day. He sprang from a narrow passage full in Tavannes' view, and,
    hair on end, his eyes starting from his head, ran blindly--as a hare will
    run when chased--along the street to meet Count Hannibal's company. The
    man's face was wet with the dews of death, his lungs seemed cracking, his
    breath hissed from him as he ran. His pursuers were hard on him, and,
    seeing him headed by Count Hannibal's party, yelled in triumph, holding
    him for dead. And dead he would have been within thirty seconds had
    Tavannes played his part. But his thoughts were elsewhere. Either he
    took the poor wretch for Tignonville, or for the minister on whom his
    mind was running; anyway he suffered him to slip under the belly of his
    horse; then, to make matters worse, he wheeled to follow him in so
    untimely and clumsy a fashion that his horse blocked the way and stopped
    the pursuers in their tracks. The quarry slipped into an alley and
    vanished. The hunters stood and blasphemed, and even for a moment seemed
    inclined to resent the mistake. But Tavannes smiled; a broader smile
    lightened the faces of the six iron-clad men behind him; and for some
    reason the gang of ruffians thought better of it and slunk aside.

    There are hard men, who feel scorn of the things which in the breasts of
    others excite pity. Tavannes' lip curled as he rode on through the
    streets, looking this way and that, and seeing what a King twenty-two
    years old had made of his capital. His lip curled most of all when he
    came, passing between the two tennis-courts, to the east gate of the
    Louvre, and found the entrance locked and guarded, and all communication
    between city and palace cut off. Such a proof of unkingly panic, in a
    crisis wrought by the King himself, astonished him less a few minutes
    later, when, the keys having been brought and the door opened, he entered
    the courtyard of the fortress.

    Within and about the door of the gatehouse some three-score archers and
    arquebusiers stood to their arms; not in array, but in disorderly groups,
    from which the babble of voices, of feverish laughter, and strained jests
    rose without ceasing. The weltering sun, of which the beams just topped
    the farther side of the quadrangle, fell slantwise on their armour, and
    heightened their exaggerated and restless movements. To a calm eye they
    seemed like men acting in a nightmare. Their fitful talk and disjointed
    gestures, their sweating brows and damp hair, no less than the sullen,
    brooding silence of one here and there, bespoke the abnormal and the
    terrible. There were livid faces among them, and twitching cheeks, and
    some who swallowed much; and some again who bared their crimson arms and
    bragged insanely of the part they had played. But perhaps the most
    striking thing was the thirst, the desire, the demand for news, and for
    fresh excitement. In the space of time it took him to pass through them,
    Count Hannibal heard a dozen rumours of what was passing in the city;
    that Montgomery and the gentlemen who had slept beyond the river had
    escaped on horseback in their shirts; that Guise had been shot in the
    pursuit; that he had captured the Vidame de Chartres and all the
    fugitives; that he had never left the city; that he was even then
    entering by the Porte de Bucy. Again that Biron had surrendered the
    Arsenal, that he had threatened to fire on the city, that he was dead,
    that with the Huguenots who had escaped he was marching on the Louvre,

    And then Tavannes passed out of the blinding sunshine, and out of earshot
    of their babble, and had plain in his sight across the quadrangle, the
    new facade, Italian, graceful, of the Renaissance; which rose in smiling
    contrast with the three dark Gothic sides that now, the central tower
    removed, frowned unimpeded at one another. But what was this which lay
    along the foot of the new Italian wall? This, round which some stood,
    gazing curiously, while others strewed fresh sand about it, or after long
    downward-looking glanced up to answer the question of a person at a

    Death; and over death--death in its most cruel aspect--a cloud of
    buzzing, whirling flies, and the smell, never to be forgotten, of much
    spilled blood. From a doorway hard by came shrill bursts of hysterical
    laughter; and with the laughter plumped out, even as Tavannes crossed the
    court, a young girl, thrust forth it seemed by her fellows, for she
    turned about and struggled as she came. Once outside she hung back,
    giggling and protesting, half willing, half unwilling; and meeting
    Tavannes' eye thrust her way in again with a whirl of her petticoats, and
    a shriek. But before he had taken four paces she was out again.

    He paused to see who she was, and his thoughts involuntarily went back to
    the woman he had left weeping in the upper room. Then he turned about
    again and stood to count the dead. He identified Piles, identified
    Pardaillan, identified Soubise--whose corpse the murderers had robbed of
    the last rag--and Touchet and St. Galais. He made his reckoning with an
    unmoved face, and with the same face stopped and stared, and moved from
    one to another; had he not seen the slaughter about "_le petit homme_" at
    Jarnac, and the dead of three pitched fields? But when a bystander,
    smirking obsequiously, passed him a jest on Soubise, and with his finger
    pointed the jest, he had the same hard unmoved face for the gibe as for
    the dead. And the jester shrank away, abashed and perplexed by his stare
    and his reticence.

    Halfway up the staircase to the great gallery or guard-room above, Count
    Hannibal found his brother, the Marshal, huddled together in drunken
    slumber on a seat in a recess. In the gallery to which he passed on
    without awakening him, a crowd of courtiers and ladies, with arquebusiers
    and captains of the quarters, walked to and fro, talking in whispers; or
    peeped over shoulders towards the inner end of the hall, where the
    querulous voice of the King rose now and again above the hum. As
    Tavannes moved that way, Nancay, in the act of passing out, booted and
    armed for the road, met him and almost jostled him.

    "Ah, well met, M. le Comte," he sneered, with as much hostility as he
    dared betray. "The King has asked for you twice."

    "I am going to him. And you? Whither in such a hurry, M. Nancay?"

    "To Chatillon."

    "On pleasant business?"

    "Enough that it is on the King's!" Nancay replied, with unexpected
    temper. "I hope that you may find yours as pleasant!" he added with a
    grin. And he went on.

    The gleam of malice in the man's eye warned Tavannes to pause. He looked
    round for some one who might be in the secret, saw the Provost of the
    Merchants, and approached him.

    "What's amiss, M. le Charron?" he asked. "Is not the affair going as it

    "'Tis about the Arsenal, M. le Comte," the Provost answered busily. "M.
    de Biron is harbouring the vermin there. He has lowered the portcullis
    and pointed his culverins over the gate and will not yield it or listen
    to reason. The King would bring him to terms, but no one will venture
    himself inside with the message. Rats in a trap, you know, bite hard,
    and care little whom they bite."

    "I begin to understand."

    "Precisely, M. le Comte. His Majesty would have sent M. de Nancay. But
    he elected to go to Chatillon, to seize the young brood there. The
    Admiral's children, you comprehend."

    "Whose teeth are not yet grown! He was wise."

    "To be sure, M. de Tavannes, to be sure. But the King was annoyed, and
    on top of that came a priest with complaints, and if I may make so bold
    as to advise you, you will not--"

    But Tavannes fancied that he had caught the gist of the difficulty, and
    with a nod he moved on; and so he missed the warning which the other had
    it in his mind to give. A moment and he reached the inner circle, and
    there halted, disconcerted, nay taken aback. For as soon as he showed
    his face, the King, who was pacing to and fro like a caged beast, before
    a table at which three clerks knelt on cushions, espied him, and stood
    still. With a glare of something like madness in his eyes, Charles
    raised his hand, and with a shaking finger singled him out.

    "So, by G-d, you are there!" he cried, with a volley of blasphemy. And
    he signed to those about Count Hannibal to stand away from him. "You are
    there, are you? And you are not afraid to show your face? I tell you,
    it's you and such as you bring us into contempt! so that it is said
    everywhere Guise does all and serves God, and we follow because we must!
    It's you, and such as you, are stumbling-blocks to our good folk of
    Paris! Are you traitor, sirrah?" he continued with passion, "or are you
    of our brother Alencon's opinions, that you traverse our orders to the
    damnation of your soul and our discredit? Are you traitor? Or are you
    heretic? Or what are you? God in heaven, will you answer me, man, or
    shall I send you where you will find your tongue?"

    "I know not of what your Majesty accuses me," Count Hannibal answered,
    with a scarcely perceptible shrug of the shoulders.

    "I? 'Tis not I," the King retorted. His hair hung damp on his brow, and
    he dried his hands continually; while his gestures had the ill-measured
    and eccentric violence of an epileptic. "Here, you! Speak, father, and
    confound him!"

    Then Tavannes discovered on the farther side of the circle the priest
    whom his brother had ridden down that morning. Father Pezelay's pale
    hatchet-face gleamed paler than ordinary; and a great bandage hid one
    temple and part of his face. But below the bandage the flame of his eyes
    was not lessened, nor the venom of his tongue. To the King he had
    come--for no other would deal with his violent opponent; to the King's
    presence! and, as he prepared to blast his adversary, now his chance was
    come, his long lean frame, in its narrow black cassock, seemed to grow
    longer, leaner, more baleful, more snake-like. He stood there a fitting
    representative of the dark fanaticism of Paris, which Charles and his
    successor--the last of a doomed line--alternately used as tool or feared
    as master; and to which the most debased and the most immoral of courts
    paid, in its sober hours, a vile and slavish homage. Even in the midst
    of the drunken, shameless courtiers--who stood, if they stood for
    anything, for that other influence of the day, the Renaissance--he was to
    be reckoned with; and Count Hannibal knew it. He knew that in the eyes
    not of Charles only, but of nine out of ten who listened to him, a priest
    was more sacred than a virgin, and a tonsure than all the virtues of
    spotless innocence.

    "Shall the King give with one hand and withdraw with the other?" the
    priest began, in a voice hoarse yet strident, a voice borne high above
    the crowd on the wings of passion. "Shall he spare of the best of the
    men and the maidens whom God hath doomed, whom the Church hath devoted,
    whom the King hath given? Is the King's hand shortened or his word
    annulled that a man does as he forbiddeth and leaves undone what he
    commandeth? Is God mocked? Woe, woe unto you," he continued, turning
    swiftly, arms uplifted, towards Tavannes, "who please yourself with the
    red and white of their maidens and take of the best of the spoil, sparing
    where the King's word is 'Spare not'! Who strike at Holy Church with the
    sword! Who--"

    "Answer, sirrah!" Charles cried, spurning the floor in his fury. He
    could not listen long to any man. "Is it so? Is it so? Do you do these

    Count Hannibal shrugged his shoulders and was about to answer, when a
    thick, drunken voice rose from the crowd behind him.

    "Is it what? Eh! Is it what?" it droned. And a figure with bloodshot
    eyes, disordered beard, and rich clothes awry, forced its way through the
    obsequious circle. It was Marshal Tavannes. "Eh, what? You'd beard the
    King, would you?" he hiccoughed truculently, his eyes on Father Pezelay,
    his hand on his sword. "Were you a priest ten times--"

    "Silence!" Charles cried, almost foaming with rage at this fresh
    interruption. "It's not he, fool! 'Tis your pestilent brother."

    "Who touches my brother touches Tavannes!" the Marshal answered with a
    menacing gesture. He was sober enough, it appeared, to hear what was
    said, but not to comprehend its drift; and this caused a titter, which
    immediately excited his rage. He turned and seized the nearest laugher
    by the ear. "Insolent!" he cried. "I will teach you to laugh when the
    King speaks! Puppy! Who laughs at his Majesty or touches my brother has
    to do with Tavannes!"

    The King, in a rage that almost deprived him of speech, stamped the floor

    "Idiot!" he cried. "Imbecile! Let the man go! 'Tis not he! 'Tis your
    heretic brother, I tell you! By all the Saints! By the body of--" and
    he poured forth a flood of oaths. "Will you listen to me and be silent!
    Will you--your brother--"

    "If he be not your Majesty's servant, I will kill him with this sword!"
    the irrepressible Marshal struck in. "As I have killed ten to-day! Ten!"
    And, staggering back, he only saved himself from falling by clutching
    Chicot about the neck.

    "Steady, my pretty Marechale!" the jester cried, chucking him under the
    chin with one hand, while with some difficulty he supported him with the
    other--for he, too, was far from sober--

    "Pretty Margot, toy with me,
    Maiden bashful--"

    "Silence!" Charles cried, darting forth his long arms in a fury of
    impatience. "God, have I killed every man of sense? Are you all gone
    mad? Silence! Do you hear? Silence! And let me hear what he has to
    say," with a movement towards Count Hannibal. "And look you, sirrah," he
    continued with a curse, "see that it be to the purpose!"

    "If it be a question of your Majesty's service," Tavannes answered, "and
    obedience to your Majesty's orders, I am deeper in it than he who stands
    there!" with a sign towards the priest. "I give my word for that. And I
    will prove it."

    "How, sir?" Charles cried. "How, how, how? How will you prove it?"

    "By doing for you, sire, what he will not do!" Tavannes answered
    scornfully. "Let him stand out, and if he will serve his Church as I
    will serve my King--"

    "Blaspheme not!" cried the priest.

    "Chatter not!" Tavannes retorted hardily, "but do! Better is he," he
    continued, "who takes a city than he who slays women! Nay, sire," he
    went on hurriedly, seeing the King start, "be not angry, but hear me! You
    would send to Biron, to the Arsenal? You seek a messenger, sire? Then
    let the good father be the man. Let him take your Majesty's will to
    Biron, and let him see the Grand Master face to face, and bring him to
    reason. Or, if he will not, I will! Let that be the test!"

    "Ay, ay!" cried Marshal de Tavannes, "you say well, brother! Let him!"

    "And if he will not, I will!" Tavannes repeated. "Let that be the test,

    The King wheeled suddenly to Father Pezelay. "You hear, father?" he
    said. "What say you?"

    The priest's face grew sallow, and more sallow. He knew that the walls
    of the Arsenal sheltered men whose hands no convention and no order of
    Biron's would keep from his throat, were the grim gate and frowning
    culverins once passed; men who had seen their women and children, their
    wives and sisters immolated at his word, and now asked naught but to
    stand face to face and eye to eye with him and tear him limb from limb
    before they died! The challenge, therefore, was one-sided and unfair;
    but for that very reason it shook him. The astuteness of the man who,
    taken by surprise, had conceived this snare filled him with dread. He
    dared not accept, and he scarcely dared to refuse the offer. And
    meantime the eyes of the courtiers, who grinned in their beards, were on
    him. At length he spoke, but it was in a voice which had lost its
    boldness and assurance.

    "It is not for me to clear myself," he cried, shrill and violent, "but
    for those who are accused, for those who have belied the King's word, and
    set at nought his Christian orders. For you, Count Hannibal, heretic, or
    no better than heretic, it is easy to say 'I go.' For you go but to your
    own, and your own will receive you!"

    "Then you will not go?" with a jeer.

    "At your command? No!" the priest shrieked with passion. "His Majesty
    knows whether I serve him."

    "I know," Charles cried, stamping his foot in a fury, "that you all serve
    me when it pleases you! That you are all sticks of the same faggot, wood
    of the same bundle, hell-babes in your own business, and sluggards in
    mine! You kill to-day and you'll lay it to me to-morrow! Ay, you will!
    you will!" he repeated frantically, and drove home the asseveration with
    a fearful oath. "The dead are as good servants as you! Foucauld was
    better! Foucauld? Foucauld? Ah, my God!"

    And abruptly in presence of them all, with the sacred name, which he so
    often defiled, on his lips, Charles turned, and covering his face burst
    into childish weeping; while a great silence fell on all--on Bussy with
    the blood of his cousin Resnel on his point, on Fervacques, the betrayer
    of his friend, on Chicot, the slayer of his rival, on Cocconnas the
    cruel--on men with hands unwashed from the slaughter, and on the
    shameless women who lined the walls; on all who used this sobbing man for
    their stepping-stone, and, to attain their ends and gain their purposes,
    trampled his dull soul in blood and mire.

    One looked at another in consternation. Fear grew in eyes that a moment
    before were bold; cheeks turned pale that a moment before were hectic. If
    _he_ changed as rapidly as this, if so little dependence could be placed
    on his moods or his resolutions, who was safe? Whose turn might it not
    be to-morrow? Or who might not be held accountable for the deeds done
    this day? Many, from whom remorse had seemed far distant a while before,
    shuddered and glanced behind them. It was as if the dead who lay stark
    without the doors, ay, and the countless dead of Paris, with whose
    shrieks the air was laden, had flocked in shadowy shape into the hall;
    and there, standing beside their murderers, had whispered with their cold
    breath in the living ears, "A reckoning! A reckoning! As I am, thou
    shalt be!"

    It was Count Hannibal who broke the spell and the silence, and with his
    hand on his brother's shoulder stood forward.

    "Nay, sire," he cried, in a voice which rang defiant in the roof, and
    seemed to challenge alike the living and the dead, "if all deny the deed,
    yet will not I! What we have done we have done! So be it! The dead are
    dead! So be it! For the rest, your Majesty has still one servant who
    will do your will, one soldier whose life is at your disposition! I have
    said I will go, and I go, sire. And you, churchman," he continued,
    turning in bitter scorn to the priest, "do you go too--to church! To
    church, shaveling! Go, watch and pray for us! Fast and flog for us!
    Whip those shoulders, whip them till the blood runs down! For it is all,
    it seems, you will do for your King!"

    Charles turned. "Silence, railer!" he said in a broken voice. "Sow no
    more troubles! Already," a shudder shook his tall ungainly form, "I see
    blood, blood, blood everywhere! Blood? Ah, God, shall I from this time
    see anything else? But there is no turning back. There is no undoing.
    So, do you go to Biron. And do you," he went on, sullenly addressing
    Marshal Tavannes, "take him and tell him what it is needful he should

    "'Tis done, sire!" the Marshal cried, with a hiccough. "Come, brother!"

    But when the two, the courtiers making quick way for them, had passed
    down the hall to the door, the Marshal tapped Hannibal's sleeve.

    "It was touch and go," he muttered; it was plain he had been more sober
    than he seemed. "Mind you, it does not do to thwart our little master in
    his fits! Remember that another time, or worse will come of it, brother.
    As it is, you came out of it finely and tripped that black devil's heels
    to a marvel! But you won't be so mad as to go to Biron?"

    "Yes," Count Hannibal answered coldly. "I shall go."

    "Better not! Better not!" the Marshal answered. "'Twill be easier to go
    in than to come out--with a whole throat! Have you taken wild cats in
    the hollow of a tree? The young first, and then the she-cat? Well, it
    will be that! Take my advice, brother. Have after Montgomery, if you
    please, ride with Nancay to Chatillon--he is mounting now--go where you
    please out of Paris, but don't go there! Biron hates us, hates me. And
    for the King, if he do not see you for a few days, 'twill blow over in a

    Count Hannibal shrugged his shoulders. "No," he said, "I shall go."

    The Marshal stared a moment. "Morbleu!" he said, "why? 'Tis not to
    please the King, I know. What do you think to find there, brother?"

    "A minister," Hannibal answered gently. "I want one with life in him,
    and they are scarce in the open. So I must to covert after him." And,
    twitching his sword-belt a little nearer to his hand, he passed across
    the court to the gate, and to his horses.

    The Marshal went back laughing, and, slapping his thigh as he entered the
    hall, jostled by accident a gentleman who was passing out.

    "What is it?" the Gascon cried hotly; for it was Chicot he had jostled.

    "Who touches my brother touches Tavannes!" the Marshal hiccoughed. And,
    smiting his thigh anew, he went off into another fit of laughter.
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