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    Chapter 15

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    Chapter 15
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    As the exertion of power is for the most part pleasing, so the exercise
    of that which a woman possesses over a man is especially pleasant. When
    in addition a risk of no ordinary kind has been run, and the happy issue
    has been barely expected--above all when the momentary gain seems an
    augury of final victory--it is impossible that a feeling akin to
    exultation should not arise in the mind, however black the horizon, and
    however distant the fair haven.

    The situation in which Count Hannibal left Mademoiselle de Vrillac will
    be remembered. She had prevailed over him; but in return he had bowed
    her to the earth, partly by subtle threats, and partly by sheer savagery.
    He had left her weeping, with the words "Madame de Tavannes" ringing doom
    in her ears, and the dark phantom of his will pointing onward to an
    inevitable future. Had she abandoned hope, it would have been natural.

    But the girl was of a spirit not long nor easily cowed; and Tavannes had
    not left her half an hour before the reflection, that so far the honours
    of the day were hers, rose up to console her. In spite of his power and
    her impotence, she had imposed her will upon his; she had established an
    influence over him, she had discovered a scruple which stayed him, and a
    limit beyond which he would not pass. In the result she might escape;
    for the conditions which he had accepted with an ill grace might prove
    beyond his fulfilling. She might escape! True, many in her place would
    have feared a worse fate and harsher handling. But there lay half the
    merit of her victory. It had left her not only in a better position, but
    with a new confidence in her power over her adversary. He would insist
    on the bargain struck between them; within its four corners she could
    look for no indulgence. But if the conditions proved to be beyond his
    power, she believed that he would spare her: with an ill grace, indeed,
    with such ferocity and coarse reviling as her woman's pride might
    scarcely support. But he would spare her.

    And if the worst befell her? She would still have the consolation of
    knowing that from the cataclysm which had overwhelmed her friends she had
    ransomed those most dear to her. Owing to the position of her chamber,
    she saw nothing of the excesses to which Paris gave itself up during the
    remainder of that day, and to which it returned with unabated zest on the
    following morning. But the Carlats and her women learned from the guards
    below what was passing; and quaking and cowering in their corners fixed
    frightened eyes on her, who was their stay and hope. How could she prove
    false to them? How doom them to perish, had there been no question of
    her lover?

    Of him she sat thinking by the hour together. She recalled with solemn
    tenderness the moment in which he had devoted himself to the death which
    came but halfway to seize them; nor was she slow to forgive his
    subsequent withdrawal, and his attempt to rescue her in spite of herself.
    She found the impulse to die glorious; the withdrawal--for the actor was
    her lover--a thing done for her, which he would not have done for
    himself, and which she quickly forgave him. The revulsion of feeling
    which had conquered her at the time, and led her to tear herself from
    him, no longer moved her much while all in his action that might have
    seemed in other eyes less than heroic, all in his conduct--in a crisis
    demanding the highest--that smacked of common or mean, vanished, for she
    still clung to him. Clung to him, not so much with the passion of the
    mature woman, as with the maiden and sentimental affection of one who has
    now no hope of possessing, and for whom love no longer spells life, but

    She had leisure for these musings, for she was left to herself all that
    day, and until late on the following day. Her own servants waited on
    her, and it was known that below stairs Count Hannibal's riders kept
    sullen ward behind barred doors and shuttered windows, refusing admission
    to all who came. Now and again echoes of the riot which filled the
    streets with bloodshed reached her ears: or word of the more striking
    occurrences was brought to her by Madame Carlat. And early on this
    second day, Monday, it was whispered that M. de Tavannes had not
    returned, and that the men below were growing uneasy.

    At last, when the suspense below and above was growing tense, it was
    broken. Footsteps and voices were heard ascending the stairs, the
    trampling and hubbub were followed by a heavy knock; perforce the door
    was opened. While Mademoiselle, who had risen, awaited with a beating
    heart she knew not what, a cowled father, in the dress of the monks of
    St. Magloire, stood on the threshold, and, crossing himself, muttered the
    words of benediction. He entered slowly.

    No sight could have been more dreadful to Mademoiselle; for it set at
    naught the conditions which she had so hardly exacted. What if Count
    Hannibal were behind, were even now mounting the stairs, prepared to
    force her to a marriage before this shaveling? Or ready to proceed, if
    she refused, to the last extremity? Sudden terror taking her by the
    throat choked her; her colour fled, her hand flew to her breast. Yet,
    before the door had closed on Bigot, she had recovered herself.

    "This intrusion is not by M. de Tavannes' orders!" she cried, stepping
    forward haughtily. "This person has no business here. How dare you
    admit him?"

    The Norman showed his bearded visage a moment at the door.

    "My lord's orders," he muttered sullenly. And he closed the door on

    She had a Huguenot's hatred of a cowl; and, in this crisis, her reasons
    for fearing it. Her eyes blazed with indignation.

    "Enough!" she cried, pointing, with a gesture of dismissal, to the door.
    "Go back to him who sent you! If he will insult me, let him do it to my
    face! If he will perjure himself, let him forswear himself in person.
    Or, if you come on your own account," she continued, flinging prudence to
    the winds, "as your brethren came to Philippa de Luns, to offer me the
    choice you offered her, I give you her answer! If I had thought of
    myself only, I had not lived so long! And rather than bear your presence
    or hear your arguments--"

    She came to a sudden, odd, quavering pause on the word; her lips remained
    parted, she swayed an instant on her feet. The next moment Madame
    Carlat, to whom the visitor had turned his shoulder, doubted her eyes,
    for Mademoiselle was in the monk's arms!

    "Clotilde! Clotilde!" he cried, and held her to him.

    For the monk was M. de Tignonville! Under the cowl was the lover with
    whom Mademoiselle's thoughts had been engaged. In this disguise, and
    armed with Tavannes' note to Madame St. Lo--which the guards below knew
    for Count Hannibal's hand, though they were unable to decipher the
    contents--he had found no difficulty in making his way to her.

    He had learned before he entered that Tavannes was abroad, and was aware,
    therefore, that he ran little risk. But his betrothed, who knew nothing
    of his adventures in the interval, saw in him one who came to her at the
    greatest risk, across unnumbered perils, through streets swimming with
    blood. And though she had never embraced him save in the crisis of the
    massacre, though she had never called him by his Christian name, in the
    joy of this meeting she abandoned herself to him, she clung to him
    weeping, she forgot for the time his defection, and thought only of him
    who had returned to her so gallantly, who brought into the room a breath
    of Poitou, and the sea, and the old days, and the old life; and at the
    sight of whom the horrors of the last two days fell from her--for the

    And Madame Carlat wept also, and in the room was a sound of weeping. The
    least moved was, for a certainty, M. de Tignonville himself, who, as we
    know, had gone through much that day. But even his heart swelled, partly
    with pride, partly with thankfulness that he had returned to one who
    loved him so well. Fate had been kinder to him than he deserved; but he
    need not confess that now. When he had brought off the _coup_ which he
    had in his mind, he would hasten to forget that he had entertained other

    Mademoiselle had been the first to be carried away; she was also the
    first to recover herself.

    "I had forgotten," she cried suddenly, "I had forgotten," and she wrested
    herself from his embrace with violence, and stood panting, her face
    white, her eyes affrighted. "I must not! And you--I had forgotten that
    too! To be here, Monsieur, is the worst office you can do me. You must
    go! Go, Monsieur, in mercy I beg of you, while it is possible. Every
    moment you are here, every moment you spend in this house, I shudder."

    "You need not fear for me," he said, in a tone of bravado. He did not

    "I fear for myself!" she answered. And then, wringing her hands, divided
    between her love for him and her fear for herself, "Oh, forgive me!" she
    said. "You do not know that he has promised to spare me, if he cannot
    produce you, and--and--a minister? He has granted me that; but I thought
    when you entered that he had gone back on his word, and sent a priest,
    and it maddened me! I could not bear to think that I had gained nothing.
    Now you understand, and you will pardon me, Monsieur? If he cannot
    produce you I am saved. Go then, leave me, I beg, without a moment's

    He laughed derisively as he turned back his cowl and squared his

    "All that is over!" he said, "over and done with, sweet! M. de Tavannes
    is at this moment a prisoner in the Arsenal. On my way hither I fell in
    with M. de Biron, and he told me. The Grand Master, who would have had
    me join his company, had been all night at Marshal Tavannes' hotel, where
    he had been detained longer than he expected. He stood pledged to
    release Count Hannibal on his return, but at my request he consented to
    hold him one hour, and to do also a little thing for me."

    The glow of hope which had transfigured her face faded slowly.

    "It will not help," she said, "if he find you here."

    "He will not! Nor you!"

    "How, Monsieur?"

    "In a few minutes," he explained--he could not hide his exultation, "a
    message will come from the Arsenal in the name of Tavannes, bidding the
    monk he sent to you bring you to him. A spoken message, corroborated by
    my presence, should suffice: '_Bid the monk who is now with
    Mademoiselle_,' it will run, '_bring her to me at the Arsenal, and let
    four pikes guard them hither_.' When I begged M. de Biron to do this, he
    laughed. 'I can do better,' he said. 'They shall bring one of Count
    Hannibal's gloves, which he left on my table. Always supposing my
    rascals have done him no harm, which God forbid, for I am answerable.'"

    Tignonville, delighted with the stratagem which the meeting with Biron
    had suggested, could see no flaw in it. She could, and though she heard
    him to the end, no second glow of hope softened the lines of her
    features. With a gesture full of dignity, which took in not only Madame
    Carlat and the waiting-woman who stood at the door, but the absent

    "And what of these?" she said. "What of these? You forget them,
    Monsieur. You do not think, you cannot have thought, that I would
    abandon them? That I would leave them to such mercy as he, defeated,
    might extend to them? No, you forgot them."

    He did not know what to answer, for the jealous eyes of the frightened
    waiting-woman, fierce with the fierceness of a hunted animal, were on
    him. The Carlat and she had heard, could hear. At last--

    "Better one than none!" he muttered, in a voice so low that if the
    servants caught his meaning it was but indistinctly. "I have to think of

    "And I of them," she answered firmly. "Nor is that all. Were they not
    here, it could not be. My word is passed--though a moment ago, Monsieur,
    in the joy of seeing you I forgot it. And how," she continued, "if I
    keep not my word, can I expect him to keep his? Or how, if I am ready to
    break the bond, on this happening which I never expected, can I hold him
    to conditions which he loves as little--as little as I love him?"

    Her voice dropped piteously on the last words; her eyes, craving her
    lover's pardon, sought his. But rage, not pity or admiration, was the
    feeling roused in Tignonville's breast. He stood staring at her, struck
    dumb by folly so immense. At last--

    "You cannot mean this," he blurted out. "You cannot mean, Mademoiselle,
    that you intend to stand on that! To keep a promise wrung from you by
    force, by treachery, in the midst of such horrors as he and his have
    brought upon us! It is inconceivable!"

    She shook her head. "I promised," she said.

    "You were forced to it."

    "But the promise saved our lives."

    "From murderers! From assassins!" he protested.

    She shook her head. "I cannot go back," she said firmly; "I cannot."

    "Then you are willing to marry him," he cried in ignoble anger. "That is
    it! Nay, you must wish to marry him! For, as for his conditions,
    Mademoiselle," the young man continued, with an insulting laugh, "you
    cannot think seriously of them. _He_ keep conditions and you in his
    power! He, Count Hannibal! But for the matter of that, and were he in
    the mind to keep them, what are they? There are plenty of ministers. I
    left one only this morning. I could lay my hand on one in five minutes.
    He has only to find one, therefore--and to find me!"

    "Yes, Monsieur," she cried, trembling with wounded pride, "it is for that
    reason I implore you to go. The sooner you leave me, the sooner you
    place yourself in a position of security, the happier for me! Every
    moment that you spend here, you endanger both yourself and me!"

    "If you will not be persuaded--"

    "I shall not be persuaded," she answered firmly, "and you do but"--alas!
    her pride began to break down, her voice to quiver, she looked piteously
    at him--"by staying here make it harder for me to--to--"

    "Hush!" cried Madame Carlat. "Hush!" And as they started and turned
    towards her--she was at the end of the chamber by the door, almost out of
    earshot--she raised a warning hand. "Listen!" she muttered, "some one
    has entered the house."

    "'Tis my messenger from Biron," Tignonville answered sullenly. And he
    drew his cowl over his face, and, hiding his hands in his sleeves, moved
    towards the door. But on the threshold he turned and held out his arms.
    He could not go thus. "Mademoiselle! Clotilde!" he cried with passion,
    "for the last time, listen to me, come with me. Be persuaded!"

    "Hush!" Madame Carlat interposed again, and turned a scared face on them.
    "It is no messenger! It is Tavannes himself: I know his voice." And she
    wrung her hands. "_Oh, mon Dieu, mon Dieu_, what are we to do?" she
    continued, panic-stricken. And she looked all ways about the room.
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