Project Gutenberg Australia
a treasure-trove of literature
treasure found hidden with no evidence of ownership




The Historical Nights' Entertainment, First Series
Rafael Sabatini



First Series



PREFACE

In approaching "The Historical Nights' Entertainment" I set myself
the task of reconstructing, in the fullest possible detail and
with all the colour available from surviving records, a group of
more or less famous events.  I would select for my purpose those
which were in themselves bizarre and resulting from the interplay
of human passions, and whilst relating each of these events in the
form of a story, I would compel that story scrupulously to follow
the actual, recorded facts without owing anything to fiction, and
I would draw upon my imagination, if at all, merely as one might
employ colour to fill in the outlines which history leaves grey,
taking care that my colour should be as true to nature as possible.
For dialogue I would depend upon such scraps of actual speech as
were chronicled in each case, amplifying it by translating into
terms of speech the paraphrases of contemporary chroniclers.

Such was the task I set myself.  I am aware that it has been
attempted once or twice already, beginning, perhaps, with the
"Crimes Celebres" of Alexandre Dumas.  I am not aware that the
attempt has ever succeeded.  This is not to say that I claim
success in the essays that follow.  How nearly I may have
approached success -judged by the standard I had set myself - how
far I may have fallen short, my readers will discern.  I am
conscious, however, of having in the main dutifully resisted the
temptation to take the easier road, to break away from restricting
fact for the sake of achieving a more intriguing narrative.  In one
instance, however, I have quite deliberately failed, and in some
others I have permitted myself certain speculations to resolve
mysteries of which no explanation has been discovered.  Of these it
is necessary that I should make a full confession.

My deliberate failure is "The Night of Nuptials."  I discovered an
allusion to the case of Charles the Bold and Sapphira Danvelt in
Macaulay's "History of England" - quoted from an old number of the
"Spectator" - whilst I was working upon the case of Lady Alice Lisle.
There a similar episode is mentioned as being related of Colonel
Kirke, but discredited because known for a story that has a trick
of springing up to attach itself to unscrupulous captains.  I set
out to track it to its source, and having found its first appearance
to be in connection with Charles the Bold's German captain Rhynsault,
I attempted to reconstruct the event as it might have happened,
setting it at least in surroundings of solid fact.

My most flagrant speculation occurs in "The Night of Hate."  But in
defence of it I can honestly say that it is at least no more flagrant
than the speculations on this subject that have become enshrined in
history as facts.  In other words, I claim for my reconstruction of
the circumstances attending the mysterious death of Giovanni Borgia,
Duke of Gandia, that it no more lacks historical authority than do
any other of the explanatory narratives adopted by history to assign
the guilt to Gandia's brother, Cesare Borgia.

In the "Cambridge Modern History" our most authoritative writers on
this epoch have definitely pronounced that there is no evidence
acceptable to historians to support the view current for four
centuries that Cesare Borgia was the murderer.

Elsewhere I have dealt with this at length.  Here let it suffice to
say that it was not until nine months after the deed that the name
of Cesare Borgia was first associated with it; that public opinion
had in the mean time assigned the guilt to a half-dozen others in
succession; that no motive for the crime is discoverable in the case
of Cesare; that the motives advanced will not bear examination, and
that they bear on the face of them the stamp of having been put
forward hastily to support an accusation unscrupulously political in
purpose; that the first men accused by the popular voice were the
Cardinal Vice-Chancellor Ascanio Sforza and his nephew Giovanni
Sforza, Tyrant of Pesaro; and, finally, that in Matarazzo's
"Chronicles of Perugia" there is a fairly detailed account of how
the murder was perpetrated by the latter.

Matarazzo, I confess, is worthy of no more credit than any other of
the contemporary reporters of common gossip.  But at least he is
worthy of no less.  And it is undeniable that in Sforza's case a
strong motive for the murder was not lacking.

My narrative in "The Night of Hate" is admittedly a purely
theoretical account of the crime.  But it is closely based upon all
the known facts of incidence and of character; and if there is
nothing in the surviving records that will absolutely support it,
neither is there anything that can absolutely refute it.

In "The Night of Masquerade" I am guilty of quite arbitrarily
discovering a reason to explain the mystery of Baron Bjelke's sudden
change from the devoted friend and servant of Gustavus III of Sweden
into his most bitter enemy.  That speculation is quite indefensible,
although affording a possible explanation of that mystery.  In the
case of "The Night of Kirk o' Field," on the other hand, I do not
think any apology is necessary for my reconstruction of the precise
manner in which Darnley met his death.  The event has long been
looked upon as one of the mysteries of history - the mystery lying
in the fact that whilst the house at Kirk o' Field was destroyed by
an explosion, Darnley's body was found at some distance away,
together with that of his page, bearing every evidence of death by
strangulation.  The explanation I adopt seems to me to owe little
to speculation.

In the story of Antonio Perez - "The Night of Betrayal" - I have
permitted myself fewer liberties with actual facts than might appear.
I have closely followed his own "Relacion," which, whilst admittedly
a piece of special pleading, must remain the most authoritative
document of the events with which it deals.  All that I have done
has been to reverse the values as Perez presents them, throwing the
personal elements into higher relief than the political ones, and
laying particular stress upon the matter of his relations with the
Princess of Eboli.  "The Night of Betrayal" is presented in the form
of a story within a story.  Of the containing story let me say that
whilst to some extent it is fictitious, it is by no means entirely so.
There is enough to justify most of it in the "Relaciori" itself.

The exceptions mentioned being made, I hope it may be found that I
have adhered rigorously to my purpose of owing nothing to invention
in my attempt to flesh and clothe these few bones of history.

I should add, perhaps, that where authorities differ as to motives,
where there is a conflict of evidence as to the facts themselves,
or where the facts admit of more than one interpretation, I have
permitted myself to be selective, and confined myself to a point
of view adopted at the outset.
                                                         R.  S.
LONDON, August, 19I7




CONTENTS

I.  THE NIGHT OF HOLYROOD
        The Murder of David Rizzio

II.  THE NIGHT OF KIRK O' FIELD
        The Murder of Darnley

III.  THE NIGHT OF BETRAYAL
        Antonio Perez and Philip II of Spain

IV.  THE NIGHT OF CHARITY
        The Case of the Lady Alice Lisle

V.  THE NIGHT OF MASSACRE
        The Story of the Saint Bartholomew

VI.  THE NIGHT OF WITCHCRAFT
        Louis XIV and Madame de Montespan

VII.  THE NIGHT OF GEMS
        The Affaire of the Queen's Necklace

VIII.  THE NIGHT OF TERROR
        The Drownings at Nantes under Carrier

IX.  THE NIGHT OF NUPTIALS
        Charles the Bold and Sapphira Danvelt

X.  THE NIGHT OF STRANGLERS
        Giovanna of Naples and Andreas of Hungary

XI.  THE NIGHT OF HATE
        The Murder of the Duke of Gandia

XII.  THE NIGHT OF ESCAPE
     Casanova's Escape from the Piombi

XIII.  THE NIGHT OF MASQUERADE
     The Assassination of Gustavus III of Sweden






THE HISTORICAL NIGHTS' ENTERTAINMENT






I.   THE NIGHT OF HOLYROOD
          The Murder of David Rizzio

The tragedy of my Lord Darnley's life lay in the fact that he was
a man born out of his proper station - a clown destined to kingship
by the accident of birth and fortune.  By the blood royal flowing
in his veins, he could, failing others, have claimed succession to
both the English and the Scottish thrones, whilst by his marriage
with Mary Stuart he made a definite attempt to possess himself of
that of Scotland.

The Queen of Scots, enamoured for a season of the clean-limbed grace
and almost feminine beauty ("ladyfaced," Melville had called him
once) of this "long lad of nineteen" who came a-wooing her, had soon
discovered, in matrimony, his vain, debauched, shiftless, and
cowardly nature.  She had married him in July of 1565, and by
Michaelmas she had come to know him for just a lovely husk of a man,
empty of heart or brain; and the knowledge transmuted affection into
contempt.

Her natural brother, the Earl of Murray, had opposed the marriage,
chiefly upon the grounds that Darnley was a Catholic, and with
Argyll, Chatellerault, Glencairn, and a host of other Protestant
lords, had risen in arms against his sovereign and her consort.  But
Mary had chased her rebel brother and his fellows over the border
into England, and by this very action, taken for the sake of her
worthless husband, she sowed the first seeds of discord between
herself and him.  It happened that stout service had been rendered
her in this affair by the arrogant border ruffian, the Earl of
Bothwell.  Partly to reward him, partly because of the confidence
with which he inspired her, she bestowed upon him the office of
Lieutenant-General of the East, Middle, and West Marches - an office
which Darnley had sought for his father, Lennox.  That was the first
and last concerted action of the royal couple.  Estrangement grew
thereafter between them, and, in a measure, as it grew so did
Darnley's kingship, hardly established as yet - for the Queen had
still to redeem her pre-nuptial promise to confer upon him the crown
matrimonial - begin to dwindle.

At first it had been "the King and Queen," or "His Majesty and Hers";
but by Christmas - five months after the wedding - Darnley was known
simply as "the Queen's husband," and in all documents the Queen's
name now took precedence of his, whilst coins bearing their two
heads, and the legend "Hen. et Maria," were called in and substituted
by a new coinage relegating him to the second place.

Deeply affronted, and seeking anywhere but in himself and his own
shortcomings the cause of the Queen's now manifest hostility, he
presently conceived that he had found it in the influence exerted
upon her by the Seigneur Davie - that Piedmontese, David Rizzio,
who had come to the Scottish Court some four years ago as a
starveling minstrel in the train of Monsieur de Morette, the
ambassador of Savoy.

It was Rizzio's skill upon the rebec that had first attracted Mary's
attention.  Later he had become her secretary for French affairs
 and the young Queen, reared amid the elegancies of the Court of
France, grew attached to him as to a fellow-exile in the uncouth
and turbulent land over which a harsh destiny ordained that she
should rule.  Using his opportunities and his subtle Italian
intelligence, he had advanced so rapidly that soon there was no man
in Scotland who stood higher with the Queen.  When Maitland of
Lethington was dismissed under suspicion of favouring the exiled
Protestant lords, the Seigneur Davie succeeded him as her secretary;
and now that Morton was under the same suspicion, it was openly said
that the Seigneur Davie would be made chancellor in his stead.

Thus the Seigneur Davie was become the most powerful man in Scotland,
and it is not to be dreamt that a dour, stiff-necked nobility would
suffer it without demur.  They intrigued against him, putting it
abroad, amongst other things, that this foreign upstart was an
emissary, of the Pope's, scheming to overthrow the Protestant
religion in Scotland.  But in the duel that followed their blunt
Scotch wits were no match for his Italian subtlety.  Intrigue as
they might his power remained unshaken.  And then, at last it began
to be whispered that he owed his high favour with the beautiful
young Queen to other than his secretarial abilities, so that Bedford
wrote to Cecil:

"What countenance the Queen shows David I will not write, for the
honour due to the person of a queen."

This bruit found credit - indeed, there have been ever since those
who have believed it - and, as it spread, it reached the ears of
Darnley.  Because it afforded him an explanation of the Queen's
hostility, since he was without the introspection that would have
discovered the true explanation in his own shortcomings, he flung
it as so much fuel upon the seething fires of his rancour, and
became the most implacable of those who sought the ruin of Rizzio.

He sent for Ruthven, the friend of Murray and the exiled lords -
exiled, remember, on Darnley's own account - and offered to procure
the reinstatement of those outlaws if they would avenge his honour
and make him King of Scots in something more than name.

Ruthven, sick of a mortal illness, having risen from a bed of pain
to come in answer to that summons, listened dourly to the frothing
speeches of that silly, lovely boy.

"No doubt you'll be right about yon fellow Davie," he agreed
sombrely, and purposely he added things that must have outraged
Darnley's every feeling as king and as husband.  Then he stated the
terms on which Darnley might count upon his aid.

"Early next month Parliament is to meet over the business of a Bill
of Attainder against Murray and his friends, declaring them by their
rebellion to have forfeited life, land, and goods.  Ye can see the
power with her o' this foreign fiddler, that it drives her so to
attaint her own brother.  Murray has ever hated Davie, knowing too
much of what lies 'twixt the Queen and him to her dishonour, and
Master Davie thinks so to make an end of Murray and his hatred."

Darnley clenched teeth and hands, tortured by the craftily
administered poison.

"What then? What is to do?" he cried,

Ruthven told him bluntly.

"That Bill must never pass.  Parliament must never meet to pass it.
You are Her Grace's husband and King of Scots."

"In name!" sneered Darnley bitterly.

"The name will serve," said Ruthven.  "In that name ye'll sign me a
bond of formal remission to Murray and his friends for all their
actions and quarrels, permitting their safe return to Scotland, and
charging the lieges to convoy them safely.  Do that and leave the
rest to us."

If Darnley hesitated at all, it was not because he perceived the
irony of the situation - that he himself, in secret opposition to
the Queen, should sign the pardon of those who had rebelled against
her precisely because she had taken him to husband.  He hesitated
because indecision was inherent in his nature.

"And then?" he asked at last.

Ruthven's blood-injected eyes considered him stonily out of a livid,
gleaming face.

"Then, whether you reign with her or without her, reign you shall
as King o' Scots.  I pledge myself to that, and I pledge those
others, so that we have the bond."

Darnley sat down to sign the death warrant of the Seigneur Davie.

It was the night of Saturday, the 9th of March,

 A fire of pine logs burned fragrantly on the hearth of the small
closet adjoining the Queen's chamber, suffusing it with a sense of
comfort, the greater by contrast with the cheerlessness out of doors,
where an easterly wind swept down from Arthur's Seat and moaned its
dismal way over a snowclad world.

The lovely, golden-headed young queen supped with a little company
of intimates: her natural sister, the Countess of Argyll, the
Commendator of Holyrood, Beaton, the Master of the Household, Arthur
Erskine, the Captain of the Guard, and one other - that, David Rizzio,
who from an errant minstrel had risen to this perilous eminence, a
man of a swarthy, ill-favoured countenance redeemed by the
intelligence that glowed in his dark eyes, and of a body so slight
and fragile as to seem almost misshapen.  His age was not above
thirty, yet indifferent health, early privation, and misfortune had
so set their mark upon him that he had all the appearance of a man
of fifty.  He was dressed with sombre magnificence, and a jewel of
great price smouldered upon the middle finger of one of his slender,
delicate hands.

Supper was at an end.  The Queen lounged on a long seat over against
the tapestried wall.  The Countess of Argyll, in a tall chair on the
Queen's left, sat with elbows on the table watching the Seigneur
Davie's fine fingers as they plucked softly at the strings of a
long-necked lute.  The talk, which, intimate and untrammelled, had
lately been of the child of which Her Majesty was to be delivered
some three months hence, was flagging now, and it was to fill the
gap that Rizzio had taken up the lute.

His harsh countenance was transfigured as he caressed the strings,
his soul absorbed in the theme of his inspiration.  Very softly -
indeed, no more than tentatively as yet - he was beginning one of
those wistful airs in which his spirit survives in Scotland to this
day, when suddenly the expectant hush was broken by a clash of
curtain-rings.  The tapestries that masked the door had been swept
aside, and on the threshold, unheralded, stood the tall, stripling
figure of the young King.

Darnley's appearance abruptly scattered the Italian's inspiration.
The melody broke off sharply on the single loud note of a string
too rudely plucked.

That and the silence that followed it irked them all, conveying a
sense that here something had been broken which never could be made
whole again.

Darnley shuffled forward.  His handsome face was pale save for the
two burning spots upon his cheekbones, and his eyes glittered
feveredly.  He had been drinking, so much was clear; and that he
should seek the Queen thus, who so seldom sought her sober, angered
those intimates who had come to share her well-founded dislike of
him.  King though he might be in name, into such contempt was he
fallen that not one of them rose in deference, whilst Mary herself
watched his approach with hostile, mistrusting eyes.

"What is it, my lord?" she asked him coldly, as he flung himself
down on the settle beside her.

He leered at her, put an arm about her waist, pulled her to him,
and kissed her oafishly.

None stirred.  All eyes were upon them, and all faces blank.  After
all, he was the King and she his wife.  And then upon the silence,
ominous as the very steps of doom, came a ponderous, clanking tread
from the ante-room beyond.  Again the curtains were thrust aside,
and the Countess of Argyll uttered a gasp of sudden fear at the
grim spectre she beheld there.  It was a figure armed as for a
tourney, in gleaming steel from head to foot, girt with a sword,
the right hand resting upon the hilt of the heavy dagger in the
girdle.  The helmet's vizor was raised, revealing the ghastly face
of Ruthven - so ghastly that it must have seemed the face of a dead
man but for the blazing life in the eyes that scanned the company.
Those questing eyes went round the table, settled upon Rizzio, and
seemed horribly to smile.

Startled, disquieted by this apparition, the Queen half rose,
Darnley's hindering arm still flung about her waist.

"What's this?" she cried, her voice sharp.

And then, as if she guessed intuitively what it might portend, she
considered her husband with pale-faced contempt.

"Judas!" she called him, flung away from his detaining arm, and
stood forth to confront that man in steel.  "What seek ye here, my
lord - and in this guise?" was her angry challenge.

Ruthven's burning eyes fell away before her glance.  He clanked
forward a step or two, flung out a mailed arm, and with a hand that
shook pointed to the Seigneur Davie, who stood blankly watching him.

"I seek yon man," he said gruffly.  "Let him come forth."

"He is here by my will," she told him, her anger mounting.  "And so
are not you - for which you shall be made to answer."

Then to Darnley, who sat hunched on the settle:

"What does this mean, sir?" she demanded.

"Why - how should I know? Why - why, nothing," he faltered foolishly.

"Pray God that you are right," said she, "for your own sake.  And
you," she continued, addressing Ruthven again and waving a hand in
imperious dismissal, "be you gone, and wait until I send for you,
which I promise you shall be right soon."

If she divined some of the evil of their purpose, if any fear
assailed her, yet she betrayed nothing of it.  She was finely
tempered steel.

But Ruthven, sullen and menacing, stood his ground.

"Let yon man come forth," he repeated.  "He has been here ower lang."

"Over long?" she echoed, betrayed by her quick resentment.

"Aye, ower lang for the good o' Scotland and your husband," was the
brutal answer.

Erskine, of her guards, leapt to his feet.

"Will you begone, sir?" he cried; and after him came Beaton and the
Commendator, both echoing the captain's threatening question.

A smile overspread Ruthven's livid face.  The heavy dagger flashed
from his belt.

"My affair is not with any o' ye, but if ye thrust yersels too close
upon my notice - "

The Queen stepped clear of the table to intervene, lest violence
should be done here in her presence.  Rizzio, who had risen, stood
now beside her, watching all with a white, startled face.  And then,
before more could be said, the curtains were torn away and half a
score of men, whose approach had passed unnoticed, poured into the
room.  First came Morton, the Chancellor, who was to be dispossessed
of the great seal in Rizzio's favour.  After him followed the brutal
Lindsay of the Byres, Kerr of Faudonside, black-browed Brunston,
red-headed Douglas, and a half-dozen others.

Confusion ensued; the three men of the Queen's household were
instantly surrounded and overpowered.  In the brief, sharp struggle
the table was overturned, and all would have been in darkness but
that as the table went over the Countess of Argyll had snatched up
the candle-branch, and stood now holding it aloft to light that
extraordinary scene.  Rizzio, to whom the sight of Morton had been
as the removal of his last illusion, flung himself upon his knees
before the Queen.  Frail and feeble of body, and never a man of his
hands, he was hopelessly unequal to the occasion.

"Justice, madame!" he cried.  "Faites justice!  Sauvez ma vie!"

Fearlessly, she stepped between him and the advancing horde of
murderers, making of her body a buckler for his protection.  White
of face, with heaving bosom and eyes like two glowing sapphires, she
confronted them.

"Back, on your lives!" she bade them.

But they were lost to all sense of reverence, even to all sense of
decency, in their blind rage against this foreign upstart who had
trampled their Scottish vanity in the dust.  George Douglas, without
regard for her condition either as queen or woman - and a woman
almost upon the threshold of motherhood - clapped a pistol to her
breast and roughly bade her stand aside.

Undaunted, she looked at him with eyes that froze his trigger-finger,
whilst behind her Rizzio grovelled in his terror, clutching her
petticoat.  Thus, until suddenly she was seized about the waist and
half dragged, half-lifted aside by Darnley, who at the same time
spurned Rizzio forward with his foot.

The murderers swooped down upon their prey.  Kerr of Faudonside
flung a noose about his body, and drew it tight with a jerk that
pulled the secretary from his knees.  Then he and Morton took the
rope between them, and so dragged their victim across the room
towards the door.  He struggled blindly as he went, vainly
clutching first at an overset chair, then at a leg of the table,
and screeching piteously the while to the Queen to save him.  And
Mary, trembling with passion, herself struggling in the arms of
Darnley, flung an angry warning after them.

"If Davie's blood be spilt, it shall be dear blood to some of you!
Remember that, sirs!"

But they were beyond control by now, hounds unleashed upon the
quarry of their hate.  Out of her presence Morton and Douglas
dragged him, the rest of the baying pack going after them.  They
dragged him, screeching still, across the ante-chamber to the head
of the great stairs, and there they fell on him all together, and
so wildly that they wounded one another in their fury to rend him
into pieces.  The tattered body, gushing blood from six-and-fifty
wounds, was hurled from top to bottom of the stairs, with a
gold-hilted dagger - Darnley's, in token of his participation in
the deed - still sticking in his breast.

Ruthven stood forward from the group, his reeking poniard clutched
in his right hand, a grin distorting his ghastly, vulturine face.
Then he stalked back alone into the royal presence, dragging his
feet a little, like a man who is weary.

He found the room much as he had left it, save that the Queen had
sunk back to her seat on the settle, and Darnley was now standing
over her, whilst her people were still hemmed about by his own men.
Without a "by your leave," he flung himself into a chair and called
hoarsely for a cup of wine.

Mary's white face frowned at him across the room.

"You shall yet drink the wine that I shall pour you for this night's
work, my lord, and for this insolence!  Who gave you leave to sit
before me?"

He waved a hand as if to dismiss the matter.  It may have seemed to
him frivolous to dwell upon such a trifle amid so much.

"It's no' frae lack o' respect, Your Grace," he growled, "but frae
lack o' strength.  I am ill, and I should ha' been abed but for what
was here to do."

"Ah!" She looked at him with cold repugnance.  "What have you done
with Davie?"

He shrugged, yet his eyes quailed before her own.

"He'll be out yonder," he answered, grimly evasive; and he took the
wine one of his followers proffered him.

"Go see," she bade the Countess.

And the Countess, setting the candle-branch upon the buffet, went
out, none attempting to hinder her.

Then, with narrowed eyes, the Queen watched Ruthven while he drank.

"It will be for the sake of Murray and his friends that you do this,"
she said slowly.  "Tell me, my lord, what great kindness is there
between Murray and you that, to save him from forfeiture, you run
the risk of being forfeited with him?"

"What I have done," he said, "I have done for others, and under a
bond that shall hold me scatheless."

"Under a bond?" said she, and now she looked up at Darnley, standing
ever at her side.  "And was the bond yours, my lord?"

"Mme?" He started back.  "I know naught of it."

But as he moved she saw something else.  She leaned forward, pointing
to the empty sheath at his girdle.

"Where is your dagger, my lord?" she asked him sharply.

"My dagger?  Ha!  How should I know?"

"But I shall know!" she threatened, as if she were not virtually a
prisoner in the hands of these violent men who had invaded her
palace and dragged Rizzio from her side.  "I shall not rest until
I know!"

The Countess came in, white to the lips, bearing in her eyes
something of the horror she had beheld.

"What is it?" Mary asked her, her voice suddenly hushed and
faltering.

"Madame-he is dead!  Murdered!" she announced.

The Queen looked at her, her face of marble.  Then her voice came
hushed and tense:

"Are - you sure?"

"Myself I saw his body, madame."

There was a long pause.  A low moan escaped the Queen, and her
lovely eyes were filled with tears; slowly these coursed down her
cheeks.  Something compelling in her grief hushed every voice, and
the craven husband at her side shivered as her glance fell upon him
once more.

"And is it so?" she said at length, considering him.  She dried her
eyes.  "Then farewell tears; I must study revenge."  She rose as if
with labour, and standing, clung a moment to the table's edge.  A
moment she looked at Ruthven, who sat glooming there, dagger in one
hand and empty wine-cup in the other; then her glance passed on,
and came to rest balefully on Darnley's face.  "You have had your
will, my lord," she said, "but consider well what I now say.
Consider and remember.  I shall never rest until I give you as sore
a heart as I have presently."

That said she staggered forward.  The Countess hastened to her, and
leaning upon her arm, Mary passed through the little door of the
closet into her chamber.

That night the common bell was rung, and Edinburgh roused in alarm.
Bothwell, Huntly, Atholl, and others who were at Holyrood when
Rizzio was murdered, finding it impossible to go to the Queen's
assistance, and fearing to share the secretary's fate - for the
palace was a-swarm with the murderers' men-at-arms - had escaped
by one of the windows.  The alarm they spread in Edinburgh brought
the provost and townsmen in arms to the palace by torchlight,
demanding to see the Queen, and refusing to depart until Darnley
had shown himself and assured them that all was well with the Queen
and with himself.  And what time Darnley gave them this reassurance
from a window of her room, Mary herself stood pale and taut amid
the brutal horde that on this alarm had violated the privacy of her
chamber, while the ruffianly Red Douglas flashed his dagger before
her eyes, swearing that if she made a sound they would cut her into
collops.

When at last they withdrew and left her to herself, they left her
no illusions as to her true condition.  She was a prisoner in her
own palace.  The ante-rooms and courts were thronged with the
soldiers of Morton and Ruthven, the palace itself was hemmed about,
and none might come or go save at the good pleasure of the murderers.

At last Darnley grasped the authority he had coveted.  He dictated
forthwith a proclamation which was read next morning at Edinburgh
Market Cross - commanding that the nobles who had assembled in
Edinburgh to compose the Parliament that was to pass the Bill of
Attainder should quit the city within three hours, under pain of
treason and forfeiture.

And meanwhile, with poor Rizzio's last cry of "justice!" still
ringing in her ears, Mary sat alone in her chamber, studying revenge
as she had promised.  So that life be spared her, justice, she vowed,
should be done - punishment not only for that barbarous deed, but
for the very manner of the doing of it, for all the insult to which
she had been subjected, for the monstrous violence done her feelings
and her very person, for the present detention and peril of which
she was full conscious.

Her anger was the more intense because she never permitted it to
diffuse itself over the several offenders.  Ruthven, who had
insulted her so grossly; Douglas, who had offered her personal
violence; the Laird of Faudonside, Morton, and all the others who
held her now a helpless prisoner, she hew for no more than the
instruments of Darnley.  It was against Darnley that all her rage
was concentrated.  She recalled in those bitter hours all that she
had suffered at his vile hands, and swore that at whatever cost to
herself he should yield a full atonement.

He sought her in the morning emboldened by the sovereign power he
was usurping confident that now that he showed himself master of
the situation she would not repine over what was done beyond recall,
but would submit to the inevitable, be reconciled with him, and
grant him, perforce - supported as he now was by the rebellious
lords - the crown matrimonial and the full kingly power he coveted.

But her reception of him broke that confidence into shards.

"You have done me such a Wrong," she told him in a voice of cold
hatred, that neither the recollection of our early friendship, nor
all the hope you can give me of the future, could ever make me
forget it.  Jamais!  Jamais je n'oublierai!" she added, and upon
that she dismissed him so imperiously that he went at once.

She sought a way to deal with him, groped blindly for it, being as
yet but half informed of what was taking place; and whilst she
groped, the thing she sought was suddenly thrust into her land.
Mary Beaton, one of the few attendants left her, brought her word
later that day that the Earl of Murray, with Rothes and some other
of the exiled lords, was in the palace.  The news brought revelation.
It flooded with light the tragic happening of the night before,
showed her how Darnley was building himself a party in the state.
It did more than that.  She recalled the erstwhile mutual hatred
and mistrust of Murray and Darnley, and saw how it might serve her
in this emergency.

Instantly she summoned Murray to her presence with the message that
she welcomed his return.  Yet, despite that message, he hardly
expected - considering what lay between them - the reception that
awaited him at her hands.

She rose to receive him, her lovely eyes suffused ,with tears.  She
embraced him, kissed him, and then, nestling to him, as if for
comfort, her cheek against his bearded face, she allowed her tears
to flow unchecked.

"I am punished," she sobbed - "oh, I am punished!  Had I kept you
at home, Murray, you would never have suffered men to entreat me as
I have been entreated."

Holding her to hint, he could but pat her shoulder, soothing her,
utterly taken aback, and deeply moved, too, by this display of an
affection for him that he had never hitherto suspected in her.

"Ah, mon Dieu, Jamie, how welcome you are to one in my sorrow!"
she continued.  "It is the fault of others that you have been so
long out of the country.  I but require of you that you be a good
subject to me, and you shall never find me other to you than you
deserve."

And he, shaken to the depths of his selfish soul by her tears, her
clinging caresses, and her protestations of affection, answered
with an oath and a sob that no better or more loyal and devoted
subject than himself could all Scotland yield her.

"And, as for this killing of Davie," he ended vehemently, "I swear
by my soul's salvation that I have had no part in it, nor any
knowledge of it until my return!"

"I know - I know!" she moaned.  "Should I make you welcome, else?
Be my friend, Jamie; be my friend!"

He swore it readily, for he was very greedy of power, and saw the
door of his return to it opening wider than he could have hoped.
Then he spoke of Darnley, begging her to receive him, and hear what
he might have to say, protesting that the King swore that he had
not desired the murder, and that the lords had carried the matter
out of his hands and much beyond all that he had intended.

Because it suited her deep purpose, Mary consented, feigning to be
persuaded.  She had realized that before she could deal with
Darnley, and the rebel lords who held her a prisoner, she must first
win free from Holyrood.

Darnley came.  He was sullen now, mindful of his recent treatment,
and in fear - notwithstanding Murray's reassurance - of further
similar rebuffs.  She announced herself ready to hear what he might
have to say, and she listened attentively while he spoke, her elbow
on the carved arm of her chair, her chin in her hand.  When he had
done, she sat long in thought, gazing out through the window at the
grey March sky.  At length she turned and looked at him.

"Do you pretend, my lord, to regret for what has passed?" she
challenged him.

"You tempt me to hypocrisy," he said.  "Yet I will be frank as at
an Easter shrift.  Since that fellow Davie fell into credit and
familiarity with Your Majesty, you no longer treated me nor
entertained me after your wonted fashion, nor would you ever bear
me company save this Davie were the third.  Can I pretend, then,
to regret that one who deprived me of what I prized most highly
upon earth should have been removed?  I cannot.  Yet I can and do
proclaim my innocence of any part or share in the deed that has
removed him."

She lowered her eyes an instant, then raised them again to meet
his own.

"You had commerce with these traitor lords," she reminded him.  "It
is by your decree that they are returned from exile.  What was your
aim in this?"

"To win back the things of which this fellow Davie had robbed me,
a share in the ruling and the crown matrimonial that was my right,
yet which you denied me.  That and no more.  I had not intended
that Davie should be slain.  I had not measured the depth of their
hatred of that upstart knave.  You see that I am frank with you."

"Aye, and I believe you," she lied slowly, considering him as she
spoke.  And he drew a breath of relief, suspecting nothing of her
deep guile.  "And do you know why I believe you?  Because you are
a fool."

"Madame!" he cried.

She rose, magnificently contemptuous.

"Must I prove it?  You say that the crown matrimonial which I denied
you is to be conferred on you by these lawless men?  Believing that,
you signed their pardon and recall from exile.  Ha!  You do not see,
my lord, that you are no more than their tool, their cat's-paw.  You
do not see that they use you but for their ends, and that when they
have done with you, they will serve you as they served poor Davie?
No, you see none of that, which is why I call you a fool, that need
a woman's wit to open wide your eyes."

She was so vehement that she forced upon his dull wits some of the
convictions she pretended were her own.  Yet, resisting those
convictions, he cried out that she was at fault.

"At fault?" She laughed.  "Let my memory inform your judgment.  When
these lords, with Murray at their head, protested against our
marriage, in what terms did they frame their protest?  They
complained that I had set over them without consulting them one who
had no title to it, whether by lineal descent of blood, by nature,
or by consent of the Estates.  Consider that! They added, remember
 - I repeat to you the very words they wrote and published - that
while they deemed it their duty to endure under me, they deemed it
intolerable to suffer under you."

She was flushed, and her eyes gleamed with excitement.  She clutched
his sleeve, and brought her face close to his own, looked deep and
compellingly into his eyes as she continued:

"Such was their proclamation, and they took arms against me to
enforce it, to pull you down from the place to which I had raised
you out of the dust.  Yet you can forget it, and in your purblind
folly turn to these very men to right the wrongs you fancy I have
done you.  Do you think that men, holding you in such esteem as
that, can keep any sort of faith with you?  Do you think these are
the men who are likely to fortify and maintain your title to the
crown?  Ask yourself, and answer for yourself."

He was white to the lips.  As much by her vehement pretence of
sincerity as by the apparently irrefragable logic of her arguments,
she forced conviction upon him.  This brought a loathly fear in its
train, and the gates of his heart stood ever wide to fear.  He
stepped aside to a chair, and sank into it, looking at her with
dilating eyes - a fool confronted with the likely fruits of his
folly.

"Then - then - why did they proffer me their help?  How can they
achieve their ends this way?"

"How?  Do you still ask?  Do you not see what a blind tool you
have been in their crafty hands?  In name at least you are king,
and your signature is binding upon my subjects.  Have you not
brought them back from exile by one royal decree, whilst by another
you have dispersed the Parliament that was assembled to attaint
them of treason?"

She stepped close up to him, and bending ,over him as he sat there,
crushed by realization, she lowered her voice.

"Pray God, my lord, that all their purpose with you is not yet
complete, else in their hands I do not think your life is to be
valued at an apple-paring.  You go the ways poor Davie went."

He sank his handsome head to his hands, and covered his face.  A
while he sat huddled there, she watching him with gleaming, crafty
eyes.  At length he rallied.  He looked up, tossing back the auburn
hair from his white brow, still fighting, though weakly, against
persuasion.  "It is not possible," he, cried.  "They could not!
They could not!"

She laughed, betwixt bitterness and sadness.

"Trust to that," she bade him.  "Yet look well at matters as they
are already.  I am a prisoner here in these men's hands.  They will
not let me go until their full purpose is accomplished - perhaps,"
she added wistfully, "perhaps not even then."

"Ah, not that!" he cried out.

"Even that," she answered firmly.  "But," and again she grew
vehement, "is it less so with you?  Are you less a prisoner than I?
D'ye think you will be suffered to come and go at will?"  She saw
the increase of fear in him, and then she struck boldly, setting
all upon the gamble of a guess.  "I am kept here until I shall have
been brought to such a state that I will add my signature to your
own and so pardon one and all for what is done."

His sudden start, the sudden quickening of his glance told her how
shrewdly she had struck home.  Fearlessly, then, sure of herself,
she continued.  "To that end they use you.  When you shall have
served it you will but cumber them.  When they shall have used
you to procure their security from me, then they will deal with
you as they have ever sought to deal with you - so that you trouble
them no more.  Ali, at last you understand!"

He came to his feet, his brow gleaming with sweat, his slender
hands nervously interlocked.

"Oh, God!" he cried in a stifled voice.

"Aye, you are in a trap, my lord.  Yourself you've sprung it."

And now you behold him broken by the terror she had so cunningly
evoked.  He flung himself upon his knees before her, and with
upturned face and hands that caught and clawed at her own, he
implored her pardon for the wrong that in his folly he had done
her in taking sides with her enemies.

She dissembled under a mask of gentleness the loathing that his
cowardice aroused in her.

"My enemies?" she echoed wistfully.  "Say rather your own enemies.
It was their enmity to you that drove them into exile.  In your
rashness you have recalled them, whilst at the same time you have
so bound my hands that I cannot now help you if I would."

"You can, Mary," he cried, "or else no one can.  Withhold the pardon
they will presently be seeking of you.  Refuse to sign any remission
of their deed."

"And leave them to force you to sign it, and so destroy us both,"
she answered.

He ranted then, invoking the saints of heaven, and imploring her
in their name - she who was so wise and strong - to discover some
way out of this tangle in which his madness had enmeshed them.

"What way is there short of flight?" she asked him.  "And how are
we to fly who are imprisoned here you as well as myself?  Alas,
Darnley, I fear our lives will end by paying the price of your
folly."

Thus she played upon his terrors, so that he would not be
dismissed until she had promised that she would consider and seek
some means of saving him, enjoining him meanwhile to keep strict
watch upon himself and see that he betrayed nothing of his
thoughts.

She left him to the chastening of a sleepless night, then sent for
him betimes on Monday morning, and bade him repair to the lords
and tell them that realizing herself a prisoner in their hands she
was disposed to make terms with them.  She would grant them pardon
for what was done if on their side they undertook to be loyal
henceforth and allowed her to resume her liberty.

The message startled him.  But the smile with which she followed
it was reassuring.

"There is something else you are to do," she said, "if we are to
turn the tables on these traitorous gentlemen.  Listen."  And she
added matter that begat fresh hope in Darnley's despairing soul.

He kissed her hands, lowly now and obedient as a hound that had
been whipped to heel, and went below to bear her message to the
lords.

Morton and Ruthven heard him out, but betrayed no eagerness to
seize the opportunity.

"All this is but words that we hear," growled Ruthven , who lay
stretched upon a couch, grimly suffering from the disease that
was, slowly eating up his life.

"She is guileful as the serpent," Morton added, "being bred up in
the Court of France.  She will make you follow her will and desire,
but she will not so lead us.  We hold her fast, and we do not let
her go without some good security of what shall follow."

"What security will satisfy you?" quoth Darnley.

Murray and Lindsay came in as he was speaking, and Morton told them
of the message that Darnley had brought.  Murray moved heavily
across to a window-seat, and sat down.  He cleared a windowpane with
his hand, and looked out upon the wintry landscape as if the matter
had no interest for him.  But Lindsay echoed what the other twain
had said already.

"We want a deal more than promises that need not be kept," he said.

Darnley looked from one to the other of them, seeing in their
uncompromising attitude a confirmation of what the Queen had told
him, and noting, too - as at another time he might not have noted
 - their utter lack of deference to himself, their King.

"Sirs," he said, "I vow you wrong Her Majesty.  I will stake my
life upon her honour."

"Why, so you may," sneered Ruthven, "but you'll not stake ours."

"Take what security you please, and I will subscribe it."

"Aye, but will the Queen?" wondered Morton.

"She will.  I have her word for it."

It took them the whole of that day to consider the terms of the
articles that would satisfy them.  Towards evening the document
was ready, and Morton and Ruthven representing all, accompanied by
Murray, and introduced by Darnley, came to the chamber to which Her
Majesty was confined by the guard they had set upon her.

She sat as if in state awaiting them, very lovely and very tearful,
knowing that woman's greatest strength is in her weakness, that
tears would serve her best by presenting her as if broken to their
will.

In outward submission they knelt before her to make the pretence
of suing for the pardon which they extorted by force of arms and
duress.  When each in his turn had made the brief pleading oration
he had prepared, she dried her eyes and controlled herself by
obvious effort.

"My lords," she said, in a voice that quivered and broke on every
other word, "when have ye ever found me blood-thirsty, or greedy
of your lands or goods that you must use me so, and take such means
with me?  Ye have set my authority at naught, and wrought sedition
in this realm.  Yet I forgive you all, that by this clemency I may
move you to a better love and loyalty.  I desire that all that is
passed may be buried in oblivion, so that you swear to me that in
the future you will stand my friends and serve me faithfully, who
am but a weak woman, and sorely need stout men to be my friends."

For a moment her utterance was checked by sobs.  Then she controlled
herself again by an effort so piteous to behold that even the
flinty-hearted Ruthven was moved to some compassion.

"Forgive this weakness in me, who am very weak, for very soon I am
to be brought to bed as you well know, and I am in no case to offer
resistance to any.  I have no more to say, my lords.  Since you
promise on your side that you will put all disloyalty behind you,
I pledge myself to remit and pardon all those that were banished
for their share in the late rising, and likewise to pardon those
that were concerned in the killing of Seigneur Davie.  All this
shall be as if it had never been.  I pray you, my lords, make your
own security in what sort you best please, and I will subscribe it."

Morton proffered her the document they had prepared.  She conned
it slowly, what time they watched her, pausing ever and anon to
brush aside the tears that blurred her vision.  At last she nodded
her lovely golden head.

"It is very well," she said.  "All is here as I would have it be
between us."  And she turned to Darnley.  "Give me pen and ink,
my lord."

Darnley dipped a quill and handed it to her.  She set the
parchment on the little pulpit at her side.  Then, as she bent to
sign, the pen fluttered from her fingers, and with a deep,
shuddering sigh she sank back in her chair, her eyes closed, her
face piteously white.

"The Queen is faint!" cried Murray, springing forward.

But she rallied instantly, smiling upon them wanly.

"It is naught; it is past," she said.  But even as she spoke she
put a hand to her brow.  "I am something dizzy.  My condition - "
She faltered on a trembling note of appeal that increased their
compassion, and aroused in them a shame of their own harshness.
"Leave this security with me.  I will subscribe it in the morning
 - indeed, as soon as I am sufficiently recovered."

They rose from their knees at her bidding, and Morton in the name
of all professed himself full satisfied, and deplored the affliction
they had caused her, for which in the future they should make her
their amends.

"I thank you," she answered simply.  "You have leave to go."

They departed well satisfied; and, counting the matter at an end,
they quitted the palace and rode to their various lodgings in
Edinburgh town, Murray going with Morton.

Anon to Maitland of Lethington, who had remained behind, came one
of the Queen's women to summon him to her presence.  He found her
disposing herself for bed, and was received by her with tearful
upbraidings.

"Sir," she said, "one of the conditions upon which I consented to
the will of their lordships was that an immediate term should be
set to the insulting state of imprisonment in which I am kept here.
Yet men-at-arms still guard the very door of my chamber, and my
very attendants are hindered in their comings and goings.  Do you
call this keeping faith with me?  Have I not granted all the
requests of the lords?"

Lethington, perceiving the justice of what she urged, withdrew
shamed and confused at once to remedy the matter by removing the
guards from the passage and the stairs and elsewhere, leaving none
but those who paced outside the palace.

It was a rashness he was bitterly to repent him on the morrow, when
it was discovered that in the night Mary had not only escaped, but
had taken Darnley with her.  Accompanied by him and a few attendants,
she had executed the plan in which earlier that day she had secured
her scared husband's cooperation.  At midnight they had made their
way along the now unguarded corridors, and descended to the vaults
of the palace, whence a secret passage communicated with the chapel.
Through this and across the graveyard where lay the newly buried
body of the Siegneur Davie - almost across the very grave itself
which stood near the chapel door they had won to the horses waiting
by Darnley's orders in the open.  And they had ridden so hard that
by five o'clock of that Tuesday morning they were in Dunbar.

In vain did the alarmed lords send a message after her to demand
her signature of the security upon which she had duped them into
counting prematurely.

Within a week they were in full flight before the army at the head
of which the prisoner who had slipped through their hands was
returning to destroy them.  Too late did they perceive the arts by
which she had fooled them, and seduced the shallow Darnley to
betray them.




II.    THE NIGHT OF KIRK O' FIELD
           The Murder of Darnley


Perhaps one of the greatest mistakes of a lifetime in which mistakes
were plentiful was the hesitancy of the Queen of Scots in executing
upon her husband Darnley the prompt vengeance she had sworn for the
murder of David Rizzio.

When Rizzio was slain, and she herself held captive by the murderers
in her Palace of Holyrood, whilst Darnley ruled as king, she had
simulated belief in her husband's innocence that she might use him
for her vengeful ends.

She had played so craftily upon his cowardly nature as to convince
him that Morton, Ruthven, and the other traitor lords with whom he
had leagued himself were at heart his own implacable enemies; that
they pretended friendship for him to make a tool of him, and that
when he had served their turn they would destroy him.

In his consequent terror he had betrayed his associates, assisting
her to trick them by a promise to sign an act of oblivion for what
was done.  Trusting to this the lords had relaxed their vigilance,
whereupon, accompanied by Darnley, she had escaped by night from
Holyrood.

Hope tempering at first the rage and chagrin in the hearts of the
lords she had duped, they had sent a messenger to her at Dunbar to
request of her the fulfilment of her promise to sign the document
of their security.

But Mary put off the messenger, and whilst the army she had summoned
was hastily assembling, she used her craft to divide the rebels
against themselves.

To her natural brother, the Earl of Murray, to Argyll, and to all
those who had been exiled for their rebellion at the time of her
marriage - and who knew not where they stood in the present turn of
events, since one of the objects of the murder had been to procure
their reinstatement - she sent an offer of complete pardon, on
condition that they should at once dissociate themselves from those
concerned in the death of the Seigneur Davie.

These terms they accepted thankfully, as well they might.  Thereupon,
finding themselves abandoned by all men - even by Darnley in whose
service they had engaged in the murder - Morton, Ruthven, and their
associates scattered and fled.

By the end of that month of March, Morton, Ruthven, Lindsay of the
Byres, George Douglas, and some sixty others were denounced as
rebels with forfeiture of life and goods, while one Thomas Scott,
who had been in command of the guards that had kept Her Majesty
prisoner at Holyrood, was hanged, drawn, and quartered at the
Market Cross.

News of this reached the fugitives to increase their desperate rage.
But what drove the iron into the soul of the arch-murderer Ruthven
was Darnley's solemn public declaration denying all knowledge of or
complicity in Rizzio's assassination; nor did it soothe his fury to
know that all Scotland rang with contemptuous laughter at that
impudent and cowardly perjury.  From his sick-bed at Newcastle,
whereon some six weeks later he was to breathe his last, the
forsaken wretch replied to it by sending the Queen the bond to
which he had demanded Darnley's signature before embarking upon
the business.

It was a damning document.  There above the plain signature and seal
of the King was the admission, not merely of complicity, but that
the thing was done by his express will and command, that the
responsibility was his own, and that he would hold the doers
scatheless from all consequences.

Mary could scarcely have hoped to be able to confront her worthless
husband with so complete a proof of his duplicity and baseness.
She sent for him, confounded him with the sight of that appalling
bond, made an end to the amity which for her own ends she had
pretended, and drove him out of her presence with a fury before
which he dared not linger.

You see him, then, crushed under his load of mortification,
realizing at last how he had been duped on every hand, first by the
lords for their own purpose, and then by the Queen for hers.  Her
contempt of him was now so manifest that it spread to all who served
him - for she made it plain that who showed him friendship earned
her deep displeasure - so that he was forced to withdraw from a
Court where his life was become impossible.  For a while he wandered
up and down a land where every door was shut in his face, where
every man of whatsoever party, traitor or true, despised him alike.
In the end, he took himself off to his father, Lennox, and at
Glasgow he sought what amusement he could with his dogs and his
hawks, and such odd vulgar rustic love-affairs as came his way.

It was in allowing him thus to go his ways, in leaving her vengeance
 - indeed, her justice - but half accomplished, that lay the
greatest of the Queen's mistakes.  Better for her had she taken
with Darnley the direct way that was her right.  Better for her,
if acting strongly then, she had banished or hanged him for his
part in the treason that had inspired the murder of Rizzio.
Unfortunately, a factor that served to quicken her abhorrence of
him served also to set a curb of caution upon the satisfaction
of it.

This factor that came so inopportunely into her life was her regard
for the arrogant, unscrupulous Earl of Bothwell.  Her hand was
stayed by fear that men should say that for Bothwell's sake she had
rid herself of a husband become troublesome.  That Bothwell had
been her friend in the hour when she had needed friends, and knew
not whom she might trust; that by his masterfulness he seemed a
man upon whom a woman might lean with confidence, may account for
the beginnings of the extraordinary influence he came so swiftly
to exercise over her, and the passion he awakened in her to such a
degree that she was unable to dissemble it.

Her regard for him, the more flagrant by contrast with her contempt
for Darnley, is betrayed in the will she made before her confinement
in the following June.  Whilst to Darnley she bequeathed nothing but
the red-enamelled diamond ring with which he had married her - "It
was with this that I was married," she wrote almost contemptuously.
"I leave it to the King who gave it me" - she appointed Bothwell to
the tutelage of her child in the event of her not surviving it, and
to the government of the realm.

The King came to visit her during her convalescence, and was scowled
upon by Murray and Argyll, who were at Holyrood, and most of all by
Bothwell, whose arrogance by now was such that he was become the
best-hated man in Scotland.  The Queen received him very coldly,
whilst using Bothwell more than cordially in his very presence, so
that he departed again in a deeper humiliation than before.

Then before the end of July there was her sudden visit to Bothwell
at Alloa, which gave rise to so much scandal.  Hearing of it,
Darnley followed in a vain attempt to assert his rights as king and
husband, only to be flouted and dismissed with the conviction that
his life was no longer safe in Scotland, and that he had best cross
the Border.  Yet, to his undoing, detained perhaps by the overweening
pride that is usually part of a fool's equipment, he did not act
upon that wise resolve.  He returned instead to his hawking and his
hunting, and was seldom seen at Court thereafter.

Even when in the following October, Mary lay at the point of death
at Jedburgh, Darnley came but to stay a day, and left her again
without any assurance that she would recover.  But then the facts
of her illness, and how it had been contracted, were not such as to
encourage kindness in him, even had he been inclined to kindness.

Bothwell had taken three wounds in a Border affray some weeks
before, and Mary, hearing of this and that he lay in grievous case
at Hermitage, had ridden thither in her fond solicitude - a distance
of thirty miles - and back again in the same day, thus contracting
a chill which had brought her to the very gates of death.

Darnley had not only heard of this, but he had found Bothwell at
Jedburgh, whither he had been borne in a litter, when in his turn
he had heard of how it was with Mary; and Bothwell had treated him
with more than the contempt which all men now showed him, but which
from none could wound him so deeply as from this man whom rumour
accounted Mary's lover.

Matters between husband and wife were thus come to a pass in which
they could not continue, as all men saw, and as she herself
confessed at Craigrnillar, whither she repaired, still weak in body,
towards the end of November.

Over a great fire that blazed in a vast chamber of the castle she
sat sick at heart and shivering, for all that her wasted body was
swathed in a long cloak of deepest purple reversed with ermine.  Her
face was thin and of a transparent pallor, her eyes great pools of
wistfulness amid the shadows which her illness had set about them.

"I do wish I could be dead!" she sighed.

Bothwell's eyes narrowed.  He was leaning on the back of her tall
chair, a long, virile figure with a hawk-nosed, bearded face that
was sternly handsome.  He thrust back the crisp dark hair that
clustered about his brow, and fetched a sigh.

"It was never my own death I wished when a man stood in my road to
aught I craved," he said, lowering his voice, for Maitland of
Lethington - now restored to his secretaryship - was writing at a
table across the room, and my Lord of Argyll was leaning over him.

She looked up at him suddenly, her eyes startled.

"What devil's counsel do you whisper?" she asked him.  And when he
would have answered, she raised a hand.  "No," she said.  "Not that
way."

"There is another," said Bothwell coolly.  He moved, came round,
and stood squarely upon the hearth, his back to the fire,
confronting her, nor did he further trouble to lower his voice.
"We have considered it already."

"What have you considered?"

Her voice was strained; fear and excitement blended in her face.

"How the shackles that fetter you might be broken.  Be not alarmed.
It was the virtuous Murray himself propounded it to Argyll and
Lethington - for the good of Scotland and yourself."  A sneer
flitted across his tanned face.  "Let them speak for themselves."
He raised his voice and called to them across the room.

They came at once, and the four made an odd group as they stood
there in the firelit gloom of that November day - the lovely young
Queen, so frail and wistful in her high-backed chair; the stalwart,
arrogant Bothwell, magnificent in a doublet of peach-coloured velvet
that tapered to a golden girdle; Argyll, portly and sober in a rich
suit of black; and Maitland of Lethington, lean and crafty of face,
in a long furred gown that flapped about his bony shanks.

It was to Lethington that Bothwell addressed himself.

"Her Grace is in a mood to hear how the Gordian knot of her marriage
might be unravelled," said he, grimly ironic.

Lethington raised his eyebrows, licked his thin lips, and rubbed his
bony hands one in the other.

"Unravelled?" he echoed with wondering stress.  "Unravelled?  Ha!"
His dark eyes flashed round at them.  "Better adopt Alexander's plan,
and cut it.  'Twill be more complete, and - and final."

"No, no!" she cried.  "I will not have you shed his blood."

"He himself was none so tender where another was concerned,"
Bothwell reminded her - as if the memory of Rizzio were dear to him.

"What he may have done does not weigh upon my conscience," was her
answer.

"He might," put in Argyll, "be convicted of treason for having
consented to Your Grace's retention in ward at Holyrood after
Rizzio's murder."

She considered an instant, then shook her head.

"It is too late.  It should have been done long since.  Now men
will say that it is but a pretext to be rid of him."  She looked up
at Bothwell, who remained standing immediately before her, between
her and the fire.  "You said that my Lord of Murray had discussed
this matter.  Was it in such terms as these?"

Bothwell laughed silently at the thought of the sly Murray rendering
himself a party to anything so direct and desperate.  It was
Lethington who answered her.

"My Lord Murray was for a divorce.  That would set Your Grace free,
and it might be obtained, he said, by tearing up the Pope's bull of
dispensation that permitted the marriage.  Yet, madame, although
Lord Murray would himself go no further, I have no cause to doubt
that were other means concerted, he would be content to look through
his fingers."

Her mind, however, did not seem to follow his speech beyond the
matter of the divorce.  A faint flush of eagerness stirred in her
pale cheeks.

"Ah, yes!" she cried.  "I, too, have thought of that - of this
divorce.  And God knows I do not want for grounds.  And it could be
obtained, you say, by tearing up this papal bull?"

"The marriage could be proclaimed void thereafter," Argyll explained.

She looked past Bothwell into the fire, and took her chin in her
hand.

"Yes," she said slowly, musingly, and again, "yes.  That were a
way.  That is the way."  And then suddenly she looked up, and they
saw doubt and dread in her eyes.  "But in that case - what of my
son?"

"Aye!" said Lethington grimly.  He shrugged his narrow shoulders,
parted his hands, and brought them together again.  "That's the
obstacle, as we perceived.  It would imperil his succession."

"It would make a bastard of him, you mean?" she cried, demanding
the full expansion of their thoughts.

"Indeed it would do no less," the secretary assented.

"So that," said Bothwell, softly, "we come back to Alexander's
method.  What the fingers may not unravel, the knife can sever."

She shivered, and drew her furred cloak the more closely about her.

Lethington leaned forward.  He spoke in kindly, soothing accents.

"Let us guide this matter among us, madame," he murmured, "and we'll
find means to rid Your Grace of this young fool, without hurt to
your honour or prejudice to your son.  And the Earl of Murray will
look the other way, provided you pardon Morton and his friends for
the killing they did in Darnley's service."

She looked from one to the other of them, scanning each face in
turn.  Then her eyes returned to a contemplation of the flaming
logs, and she spoke very softly.

"Do nothing by which a spot might be laid on my honour or
conscience," she said, with an odd deliberateness that seemed to
insist upon the strictly literal meaning of her words.  "Rather I
pray you let the matter rest until God remedy it."

Lethington looked at the other two, the other two looked at him.
He rubbed his hands softly.

"Trust to us, madame," he answered.  "We will so guide the matter
that Your Grace shall see nothing but what is good and approved
by Parliament."

She committed herself to no reply, and so they were content to
take their answer from her silence.  They went in quest of Huntly
and Sir James Balfour, and the five of them entered into a bond
for the destruction of him whom they named "the young fool and
proud tiranne," to be engaged in when Mary should have pardoned
Morton and his fellow-conspirators.

It was not until Christmas Eve that she signed this pardon of some
seventy fugitives, proscribed for their participation in the Rizzio
murder, towards whom she had hitherto shown herself so implacable.

The world saw in this no more than a deed of clemency and charity
befitting the solemn festival of good-will.  But the five who had
entered into that bond at Craigmillar Castle beheld in it more
accurately the fulfilment of her part of the suggested bargain,
the price she paid in advance to be rid of Darnley, the sign of
her full agreement that the knot which might not be unravelled
should be cut.

On that same day Her Grace went with Bothwell to Lord Drummond's,
where they abode for the best part of a week, and thence they
went on together to Tullibardine, the rash and open intimacy
between them giving nourishment to scandal.

At the same time Darnley quitted Stirling, where he had lately been
living in miserable conditions, ignored by the nobles, and even
stinted in his necessary expenses, deprived of his ordinary servants,
and his silver replaced by pewter.  The miserable youth reached
Glasgow deadly sick.  He had been taken ill on the way, and the
inevitable rumour was spread that he had been poisoned.  Later, when
it became known that his once lovely countenance was now blotched
and disfigured, it was realized that his illness was no more than
the inevitable result of the debauched life he led.

Conceiving himself on the point of death, Darnley wrote piteously
to the Queen; but she ignored his letters until she learnt that his
condition was improving, when at last (on January 29th) she went to
visit him at Glasgow.  It may well be that she nourished some hope
that nature would resolve the matter for her, and remove the need
for such desperate measures as had been concerted.  But seeing him
likely to recover, two things became necessary, to bring him to the
place that was suitable for the fulfilment of her designs, and to
simulate reconciliation with him, and even renewed and tender
affection, so that none might hereafter charge her with complicity
in what should follow.

I hope that in this I do her memory no injustice.  It is thus that
I read the sequel, nor can I read it in any other way.

She found him abed, with a piece of taffeta over his face to hide
its disfigurement, and she was so moved - as it seemed - by his
condition, that she fell on her knees beside him, and wept in the
presence of her attendants and his own; confessing penitence if
anything she had done in the past could have contributed to their
estrangement.  Thus reconciliation followed, and she used him
tenderly, grew solicitous concerning him, and vowed that as soon
as he could be moved, he must be taken to surroundings more
salubrious and more befitting the dignity of his station.

Gladly then he agreed to return with her to Holyrood.

"Not to Holyrood," she said.  "At least, not until your health is
mended, lest you should carry thither infection dangerous to your
little son."

"Whither then?" he asked her, and when she mentioned Craigmillar,
he started up in bed, so that the taffeta slipped from his face,
and it was with difficulty that she dissembled the loathing with
which the sight of its pustules inspired her.

"Craigmillar!" he cried.  "Then what I was told is true."

"What were you told?" quoth she, staring at him, brows knit, her
face blank.

A rumour had filtered through to him of the Craigmillar bond.  He
had been told that a letter drawn up there had been presented to
her for her signature, which she had refused.  Thus much he told
her, adding that he could not believe that she would do him any
hurt; and yet why did she desire to bear him to Craigmillar?

"You have been told lies," she answered him.  "I saw no such letter;
I subscribed none, nor was ever asked to subscribe any," which
indeed was literally true.  "To this I swear.  As for your going to
Craigmillar, you shall go whithersoever you please, yourself."

He sank back on his pillows, and his trembling subsided.

"I believe thee, Mary.  I believe thou'ld never do me any harm," he
repeated, "and if any other would," he added on a bombastic note,
"they shall buy it dear, unless they take me sleeping.  But I'll
never to Craigmillar."

"I have said you shall go where you please," she assured him again.

He considered.

"There is the house at Kirk o' Field.  It has a fine garden, and is
in a position that is deemed the healthiest about Edinburgh.  I need
good air; good air and baths have been prescribed me to cleanse me
of this plague.  Kirk o' Field will serve, if it be your pleasure."

She gave a ready consent, dispatched messengers ahead to prepare
the house, and to take from Holyrood certain furnishings that should
improve the interior, and render it as fitting as possible a
dwelling for a king.

Some days later they set out, his misgivings quieted by the
tenderness which she now showed him - particularly when witnesses
were at hand.

It was a tenderness that grew steadily during those twelve days in
which he lay in convalescence in the house at Kirk o' Field; she
was playful and coquettish with him as a maid with her lover, so
that nothing was talked of but the completeness of this
reconciliation, and the hope that it would lead to a peace within
the realm that would be a benefit to all.  Yet many there were who
marvelled at it, wondering whether the waywardness and caprice of
woman could account for so sudden a change from hatred to affection.

Darnley was lodged on the upper floor, in a room comfortably
furnished from the palace.  It was hung with six pieces of tapestry,
and the floor was partly covered by an Eastern carpet.  It contained,
besides the handsome bed - which once had belonged to the Queen's
mother - a couple of high chairs in purple velvet, a little table
with a green velvet cover, and some cushions in red.  By the side
of the bed stood the specially prepared bath that was part of the
cure which Darnley was undergoing.  It had for its incongruous lid
a door that had been lifted from its hinges.

Immediately underneath was a room that had been prepared for the
Queen, with a little bed of yellow and green damask, and a furred
coverlet.  The windows looked out upon the close, and the door
opened upon the passage leading to the garden.

Here the Queen slept on several of those nights of early February,
for indeed she was more often at Kirk o' Field than at Holy-rood,
and when she was not bearing Darnley company in his chamber, and
beguiling the tedium of his illness, she was to be seen walking in
the garden with Lady Reres, and from his bed he could hear her
sometimes singing as she sauntered there.

Never since the ephemeral season of their courtship had she been
on such fond terms with him, and all his fears of hostile designs
entertained against him by her immediate followers were stilled at
last.  Yet not for long.  Into his fool's paradise came Lord Robert
of Holyrood, with a warning that flung him into a sweat of panic.

The conspirators had hired a few trusted assistants to help them
carry out their plans, and a rumour had got abroad - in the
unaccountable way of rumours - that there was danger to the King.
It was of this rumour that Lord Robert brought him word, telling
him bluntly that unless he escaped quickly from this place, he would
leave his life there.  Yet when Darnley had repeated this to the
Queen, and the Queen indignantly had sent for Lord Robert and
demanded to know his meaning, his lordship denied that he had
uttered any such warning, protested that his words must have been
misunderstood - that they referred solely to the King's condition,
which demanded, he thought, different treatment and healthier air.

Knowing not what to believe, Darnley's uneasiness abode with him.
Yet, trusting Mary, and feeling secure so long as she was by his
side, he became more and more insistent upon her presence, more
and more fretful in her absence.  It was to quiet him that she
consented to sleep as often as might be at Kirk o' Field.  She
slept there on the Wednesday of that week, and again on Friday,
and she was to have done so yet again on that fateful Sunday,
February 9th, but that her servant Sebastien - one who had
accompanied her from France, and for whom she had a deep affection
 - was that day married, and Her Majesty had promised to be present
at the masque that night at Holyrood, in honour of his nuptials.

Nevertheless, she did not utterly neglect her husband on that
account.  She rode to Kirk o' Field early in the evening,
accompanied by Bothwell, Huntly, Argyll, and some others; and
leaving the lords at cards below to while away the time, she
repaired to Darnley, and sat beside his bed, soothing a spirit
oddly perturbed, as if with some premonition of what was brewing.

"Ye'll not leave me the night," he begged her once.

"Alas," she said, "I must!  Sebastien is being wed, and I have
promised to be present."

He sighed and shifted uneasily.

"Soon I shall be well, and then these foolish humours will cease to
haunt me.  But just now I cannot bear you from my sight.  When you
are with me I am at peace.  I know that all is well.  But when you
go I am filled with fears, lying helpless here."

"What should you fear?" she asked him.

"The hate that I know is alive against me."

"You are casting shadows to affright yourself," said she.

"What's that?" he cried, half raising himself in sudden alarm.
"Listen!"

>From the room below came faintly a sound of footsteps, accompanied
by a noise as of something being trundled.

"It will be my servants in my room - putting it to rights."

"To what purpose since you do not sleep there tonight?" he asked.
He raised his voice and called his page.

"Why, what will you do?" she asked him, steadying her own alarm.

He answered her by bidding the youth who had entered go see what
was doing in the room below.  The lad departed, and had he done his
errand faithfully, he would have found Bothwell's followers, Hay
and Hepburn, and the Queen's man, Nicholas Hubert better known as
French Paris - emptying a keg of gunpowder on the floor immediately
under the King's bed.  But it happened that in the passage he came
suddenly face to face with the splendid figure of Bothwell, cloaked
and hatted, and Bothwell asked him whither he went.

The boy told him.

"It is nothing," Bothwell said.  "They are moving Her Grace's bed
in accordance with her wishes."

And the lad, overborne by that commanding figure which so effectively
blocked his path, chose the line of lesser resistance.  He went back
to bear the King that message as if for himself he had seen what my
Lord Bothwell had but told him.

Darnley was pacified by the assurance, and the lad withdrew.

"Did I not tell you how it was?" quoth Mary.  "Is not my word enough?"

"Forgive the doubt," Darnley begged her.  "Indeed, there was no
doubt of you, who have shown me so much charity in my affliction."
He sighed, and looked at her with melancholy eyes.

"I would the past had been other than it has been between you and
me," he said.  "I was too young for kingship, I think.  In my green
youth I listened to false counsellors, and was quick to jealousy
and the follies it begets.  Then, when you cast me out and I
wandered friendless, a devil took possession of me.  Yet, if you
will but consent to bury all the past into oblivion, I will make
amends, and you shall find me worthier hereafter."

She rose, white to the lips, her bosom heaving under her long cloak.
She turned aside and stepped to the window.  She stood there, peering
out into the gloom of the close, her knees trembling under her.

"Why do you not answer me?" he cried.

"What answer do you need?" she said, and her voice shook.  "Are you
not answered already?" And then, breathlessly, she added: "It is
time to go, I think."

They heard a heavy step upon the stairs and the clank of a sword
against the rails.  The door opened, and Bothwell, wrapped in his
scarlet cloak, stood bending his tall shoulders under the low lintel.
His gleaming eyes, so oddly mocking in their glance, for all that
his face was set, fell upon Darnley, and with their look flung him
into an inward state of blending fear and rage.

"Your Grace," said Bothwell's deep voice, "it is close upon midnight."

He came no more than in time; it needed the sight of him with its
reminder of all that he meant to her to sustain a purpose that was
being sapped by pity.

"Very well," she said.  "I come."

Bothwell stood aside to give her egress and to invite it.  But the
King delayed her.

"A moment - a word!" he begged, and to Bothwell: "Give us leave
apart, sir!"

Yet, King though he might be, there was no ready obedience from the
arrogant Border lord, her lover.  It was to Mary that Bothwell
looked for commands, nor stirred until she signed to him to go.  And
even then he went no farther than the other side of the door, so
that he might be close at hand to fortify her should any weakness
assail her now in this supreme hour.

Darnley struggled up in bed, caught her hand, and pulled her to him.

"Do not leave me, Mary.  Do not leave me!" he implored her.

"Why, what is this?" she cried, but her voice lacked steadiness.
"Would you have me disappoint poor Sebastien, who loves me?"

"I see.  Sebastien is more to you than I?"

"Now this is folly.  Sebastien is my faithful servant."

"And am I less?  Do you not believe that my one aim henceforth will
be to serve you and faithfully?  Oh, forgive this weakness.  I am
full of evil foreboding to-night.  Go, then, if go you must, but
give me at least some assurance of your love, some pledge of it in
earnest that you will come again to-morrow nor part from me again."

She looked into the white, piteous young face that had once been so
lovely, and her soul faltered.  It needed the knowledge that
Bothwell waited just beyond the door, that he could overhear what
was being said, to strengthen her fearfully in her tragic purpose.

She has been censured most for what next she did.  Murray himself
spoke of it afterwards as the worst part of the business.  But it
is possible that she was concerned only at the moment to put an end
to a scene that was unnerving her, and that she took the readiest
means to it.

She drew a ring from her finger and slipped it on to one of his.

"Be this the pledge, then," she said; "and so content and rest
yourself."

With that she broke from him, white and scared, and reached the door.
Yet with her hand upon the latch she paused.  Looking at him she saw
that he was smiling, and perhaps horror of her betrayal of him
overwhelmed her.  It must be that she then desired to warn him, yet
with Bothwell within earshot she realized that any warning must
precipitate the tragedy, with direst consequences to Bothwell and
herself.

To conquer her weakness, she thought of David Rizzio, whom Darnley
had murdered almost at her feet, and whom this night was to avenge.
She thought of the Judas part that he had played in that affair,
and sought persuasion that it was fitting he should now be paid in
kind.  Yet, very woman that she was, failing to find any such
persuasion, she found instead in the very thought of Rizzio the
very means to convey her warning.

Standing tense and white by the door, regarding him with dilating
eyes, she spoke her last words to him.

"It would be just about this time last year that Davie was slain,"
she said, and on that passed out to the waiting Bothwell.

Once on the stairs she paused and set a hand upon the shoulder of
the stalwart Borderer.

"Must it be?  Oh, must it be?" she whispered fearfully.

She caught the flash of his eyes in the half gloom as he leaned
over her, his arm about her waist drawing her to him.

"Is it not just?  Is it not full merited?" he asked her.

"And yet I would that we did not profit by it," she complained.

"Shall we pity him on that account?" he asked, and laughed softly
and shortly.  "Come away," he added abruptly.  "They wait for you!"
And so, by the suasion of his arm and his imperious will, she was
swept onward along the road of her destiny.

Outside the horses were ready.  There was a little group of
gentlemen to escort her, and half a dozen servants with lighted
torches, whilst Lady Reres was in waiting.  A man stood forward to
assist her to mount, his face and hands so blackened by gunpowder
that for a moment she failed to recognize him.  She laughed
nervously when he named himself.

"Lord, Paris, how begrimed you are!" she cried; and, mounting,
rode away towards Holyrood with her torchbearers and attendants.

In the room above, Darnley lay considering her last words.  He
turned them over in his thoughts, assured by the tone she had
used and how she had looked that they contained some message.

"It would be just about this time last year that Davie was slain."

In themselves, those words were not strictly accurate.  It wanted
yet a month to the anniversary of Rizzio's death.  And why, at
parting, should she have reminded him of that which she had agreed
should be forgotten?  Instantly came the answer that she sought to
warn him that retribution was impending.  He thought again of the
rumours that he had heard of a bond signed at Craigmillar; he
recalled Lord Robert's warning to him, afterwards denied.

He recalled her words to himself at the time of Rizzio's death:
"Consider well what I now say.  Consider and remember.  I shall
never rest until I give you as sore a heart as I have presently."
And further, he remembered her cry at once agonized and fiercely
vengeful: "Jamais, jamais je n'oublierai."

His terrors mounted swiftly, to be quieted again at last when he
looked at the ring she had put upon his finger in pledge of her
renewed affection.  The past was dead and buried, surely.  Though
danger might threaten, she would guard him against it, setting her
love about him like a panoply of steel.  When she came to-morrow,
he would question her closely, and she should be more frank and
open with him, and tell him all.  Meanwhile, he would take his
precautions for to-night.

He sent his page to make fast all doors.  The youth went and did
as he was bidden, with the exception of the door that led to the
garden.  It had no bolts, and the key was missing; yet, seeing
his master's nervous, excited state, he forbore from any mention
of that circumstance when presently he returned to him.

Darnley requested a book of Psalms, that he might read himself to
sleep.  The page dozed in a chair, and so the hours passed; and at
last the King himself fell into a light slumber.  Out of this he
started suddenly at a little before two o'clock, and sat upright
in bed, alarmed without knowing why, listening with straining ears
and throbbing pulses.

He caught a repetition of the sound that had aroused him, a sound
akin to that which had drawn his attention earlier, when Mary had
been with him.  It came up faintly from the room immediately beneath:
her room.  Some one was moving there, he thought.  Then, as he
continued to listen, all became quiet again, save his fears, which
would not be quieted.  He extinguished the light, slipped from the
bed, and, crossing to the window, peered out into the close that
was faintly illumined by a moon in its first quarter.  A shadow
moved, he thought.  He watched with increasing panic for
confirmation, and presently saw that he had been right.  Not one,
but several shadows were shifting there among the trees.  Shadows
of men, they were, and as he peered, he saw one that went running
from the house across the lawn and joined the others, now clustered
together in a group.  What could be their purpose here?  In the
silence, he seemed to hear again the echo of Mary's last words to
him:

"It would be just about this time last year that Davie was slain."

In terror, he groped his way to the chair where the page slept and
shook the lad vigorously.

"Afoot, boy!" he said, in a hoarse whisper.  He had meant to shout
it, but his voice failed him, his windpipe clutched by panic.
"Afoot - we are beset by enemies!"

At once the youth was wide awake, and together the King just in his
shirt as he was - they made their way from the room in the dark,
groping their way, and so reached the windows at the back.  Darnley
opened one of these very softly, then sent the boy back for a sheet.
Making this fast, they descended by it to the garden, and started
towards the wall, intending to climb it, that they might reach the
open.

The boy led the way, and the King followed, his teeth chattering
as much from the cold as from the terror that possessed him.  And
then, quite suddenly, without the least warning, the ground, it
seemed to them, heaved under their feet, and they were flung
violently forward on their faces.  A great blaze rent the darkness
of the night, accompanied by the thunders of an explosion so
terrific that it seemed as if the whole world must have been
shattered by it.

For some instants the King and his page lay half stunned where they
had fallen, and well might it have been for them had they so
continued.  But Darnley, recovering, staggered to his feet, pulling
the boy up with him and supporting him.  Then, as he began to move,
he heard a soft whistle in the gloom behind him.  Over his shoulder
he looked towards the house, to behold a great, smoking gap now
yawning in it.  Through this gap he caught a glimpse of shadowy men
moving in the close beyond, and he realized that he had been seen.
The white shirt he wore had betrayed his presence to them.

With a stifled scream, he began to run towards the wall, the page
staggering after him.  Behind them now came the clank and thud of
a score of overtaking feet.  Soon they were surrounded.  The King
turned this way and that, desperately seeking a way out of the
murderous human ring that fenced them round.

"What d'ye seek?  What d'ye seek?" he screeched, in a pitiful
attempt to question with authority.

A tall man in a trailing cloak advanced and seized him.

"We seek thee, fool!" said the voice of Bothwell.

The kingliness that he had never known how to wear becomingly now
fell from him utterly.

"Mercy - mercy!" he cried.

"Such mercy as you had on David Rizzio!" answered the Border lord.

Darnley fell on his knees and sought to embrace the murderer's legs.
Bothwell stooped over him, seized the wretched man's shirt, and
pulled it from his shivering body; then, flinging the sleeves about
the royal neck, slipped one over the other and drew them tight,
nor relaxed his hold until the young man's struggles had entirely
ceased.

Four days later, Mary went to visit the body of her husband in the
chapel of Holyrood House, whither it had been conveyed, and there,
as a contemporary tells us, she looked upon it long, "not only
without grief, but with greedy eyes."  Thereafter it was buried
secretly in the night by Rizzio's side, so that murderer and victim
lay at peace together in the end.




III.   THE NIGHT OF BETRAYAL
            Antonio Perez and Philip II of Spain


You a Spaniard of Spain?" had been her taunt, dry and contemptuous.
"I do not believe it."

And upon that she had put spur to the great black horse that bore her
and had ridden off along the precipitous road by the river.

After her he had flung his answer on a note of laughter, bitter and
cynical as the laughter of the damned, laughter that expressed all
things but mirth.

"Oh, a Spaniard of Spain, indeed, Madame la Marquise.  Very much a
Spaniard of Spain, I assure you."

The great black horse and the woman in red flashed round a bend of
the rocky road and were eclipsed by a clump of larches.  The man
leaned heavily upon his ebony cane, sighed wearily, and grew
thoughtful.  Then, with a laugh and a shrug, he sat down in the
shade of the firs that bordered the road.  Behind him, crowning the
heights, loomed the brown castle built by Gaston Phoebus, Count of
Foix, two hundred years ago, and the Tower of Montauzet, its walls
scarred by the shots of the rebellious Biscayans.  Below him,
nourished by the snows that were dissolving under the sunshine of
early spring, sped the tumbling river; beyond this spread pasture
and arable land to the distant hills, and beyond those stood the
gigantic sharp-summited wall of the Pyrenees, its long ridge
dominated by the cloven cone of the snow clad Pic du Midi.  There
was in the sight of that great barrier, at once natural and
political, a sense of security for this fugitive from the perils
and the hatreds that lurked in Spain beyond.  Here in Bearn he was
a king's guest, enjoying the hospitality of the great Castle of Pau,
safe from the vindictive persecution of the mean tyrant who ruled
in Spain.  And here, at last, he was at peace, or would have been
but for the thought of this woman - this Marquise de Chantenac - who
had gone to such lengths in her endeavours to soften his exile that
her ultimate object could never have been in doubt to a coxcomb,
though it was in some doubt to Antonio Perez, who had been cured
for all time of Coxcombry by suffering and misfortune, to say
nothing of increasing age.  It was when he bethought him of that
age of his that he was chiefly intrigued by the amazing ardour of
this great lady of Bearn.  A dozen years ago - before misfortune
overtook him - he would have accepted her flagrant wooing as a
proper tribute.  For then he had been the handsome, wealthy, witty,
profligate Secretary of State to His Catholic Majesty King Philip II,
with a power in Spain second only to the King's, and sometimes even
greater.  In those days he would have welcomed her as her endowments
merited.  She was radiantly lovely, in the very noontide of her
resplendent youth, the well-born widow of a gentleman of Bearn.  And
it would not have lain within the strength or inclinations of Antonio
Perez, as he once had been, to have resisted the temptation that she
offered.  Ever avid of pleasure, he had denied himself no single cup
of it that favouring Fortune had proffered him.  It was, indeed,
because of this that he was fallen from his high estate; it was a
woman who had pulled him down in ruin, tumbling with him to her doom.
She, poor soul, was dead at last, which was the best that any lover
could have wished her.  But he lived on, embittered, vengeful, with
gall in his veins instead of blood.  He was the pale, faded shadow
of that arrogant, reckless, joyous Antonio Perez beloved of Fortune.
He was fifty, gaunt, hollow-eyed, and grey, half crippled by torture,
sickly from long years of incarceration.

What, he asked himself, sitting there, his eyes upon the eternal
snows of the barrier that shut out his past, was there left in him
to awaken love in such a woman as Madame de Chantenac?  Was it that
his tribulations stirred her pity, or that the fame of him which
rang through Europe shed upon his withering frame some of the
transfiguring radiance of romance?

It marked, indeed, the change in him that he should pause to
question, whose erstwhile habit had been blindly to accept the good
things tossed by Fortune into his lap.  But question he did,
pondering that parting taunt of hers to which, for emphasis, she
had given an odd redundancy - "You a Spaniard of Spain!"  Could her
meaning have been plainer?  Was not a Spaniard proverbially as quick
to love as to jealousy?  Was not Spain, that scented land of warmth
and colour, of cruelty and blood, of throbbing lutes under lattices
ajar, of mitred sinners doing public penance, that land where lust
and piety went hand in hand, where passion and penitence lay down
together - was not Spain the land of love's most fruitful growth?
And was not a Spaniard the very hierophant of love?

His thoughts swung with sudden yearning to his wife Juana and their
children, held in brutal captivity by Philip, who sought to slake
upon them some of the vindictiveness from which their husband and
father had at last escaped.  Not that Antonio Perez observed marital
fidelity more closely than any other Spaniard of his time, or of any
time.  But Antonio Perez was growing old, older than he thought,
older than his years.  He knew it.  Madame de Chantenac had proved
it to him.

She had reproached him with never coming to see her at Chantenac,
neglecting to return the too assiduous visits that she paid him
here at Pau.

"You are very beautiful, madame, and the world is very foul," he
had excused himself.  "Believe one who knows the world, to his
bitter cost.  Tongues will wag."

"And your Spanish pride will not suffer that clods may talk of you?"

"I am thinking of you, madame."

"Of me?" she had answered.  "Why, of me they talk already - talk
their fill.  I must pretend blindness to the leering eyes that watch
me each time I come to Pau; feign unconsciousness of the impertinent
glances of the captain of the castle there as I ride in."

"Then why do you come?" he had asked point-blank.  But before her
sudden change of countenance he had been quick to add: "Oh, madame,
I am full conscious of the charity that brings you, and I am deeply,
deeply grateful; but - "

"Charity?" she had interrupted sharply, on a laugh that was
self-mocking.  "Charity?"

"What else, madame?"

"Ask yourself," she had answered, reddening and averting her face
from his questioning eyes.

"Madame," he had faltered, "I dare not."

"Dare not?"

"Madame, how should I?  I am an old man, broken by sickness,
disheartened by misfortune, daunted by tribulation - a mere husk
cast aside by Fortune, whilst you are lovely as one of the angels
about the Throne of Heaven."

She had looked into the haggard face, into the scars of suffering
that seared it, and she had answered gently: "Tomorrow you shall
come to me at Chantenac, my friend."

"I am a Spaniard, for whom to-morrow never comes."

"But it will this time.  To-morrow I shall expect you."

He looked up at her sitting her great black horse beside which he
had been pacing.

"Better not, madame! Better not!" he had said.

And then he saw the eyes that had been tender grow charged with
scorn; then came her angry taunt:

"You a Spaniard of Spain!  I do not believe it!"

Oh, there was no doubt that he had angered her.  Women of her
temperament are quick to anger as to every emotion.  But he had not
wished to anger her.  God knows it was never the way of Antonio
Perez to anger lovely women - at least not in this fashion.  And it
was an ill return for her gentleness and attention to himself.
Considering this as he sat there now, he resolved that he must make
amends - the only amends it was possible to make.

An hour later, in one of the regal rooms of the castle, where he
enjoyed the hospitality of King Henri IV of France and Navarre, he
announced to that most faithful equerry, Gil de Mesa, his intention
of riding to Chantenac to-morrow.

"Is it prudent?" quoth Mesa, frowning.

"Most imprudent," answered Don Antonio.  "That is why I go."

And on the morrow he went, escorted by a single groom.  Gil de Mesa
had begged at first to be allowed to accompany him.  But for Gil he
had other work, of which the instructions he left were very full.
The distance was short - three miles along the Gave de Pau - and Don
Antonio covered it on a gently ambling mule, such as might have been
bred to bear some aged dignitary of Holy Church.

The lords of Chantenac were as noble, as proud, and as poor as most
great lords of Bearn.  Their lineage was long, their rent-rolls
short.  And the last marquis had suffered more from this dual
complaint than any of his forbears, and he had not at all improved
matters by a certain habit of gaming contracted in youth.  The
chateau bore abundant signs of it.  It was a burnt red pile standing
four-square on a little eminence, about the base of which the river
went winding turbulently; it was turreted at each of its four angles,
imposing in its way, but in a sad state of dilapidation and disrepair.

The interior, when Don Antonio reached it, was rather better; the
furnishings, though sparse, were massive and imposing; the tapestries
on the walls, if old, were rich and choice.  But everywhere the
ill-assorted marriage of pretentiousness and neediness was apparent.
The floors of hall and living-room were strewn with fresh-cut rushes,
an obsolescent custom which served here alike to save the heavy cost
of carpets and to lend the place an ancient baronial dignity.  Whilst
pretence was made of keeping state, the servitors were all old, and
insufficient in number to warrant the retention of the infirm
seneschal by whom Don Antonio was ceremoniously received.  A single
groom, aged and without livery, took charge at once of Don Antonio's
mule, his servant's horse, and the servant himself.

The seneschal, hobbling before him, conducted our Spaniard across
the great hall, gloomy and half denuded, through the main living-room
of the chateau into a smaller, more intimate apartment, holding some
trace of luxury, which he announced as madame's own room.  And there
he left him to await the coming of the chatelaine.

She, at least, showed none of the outward disrepair of her
surroundings.  She came to him sheathed in a gown of shimmering silk
that was of the golden brown of autumn tints, caught to her waist
by a slender girdle of hammered gold.  Eyes of deepest blue pondered
him questioningly, whilst red lips smiled their welcome.  "So you
have come in spite of all?" she greeted him.  "Be very welcome to
my poor house, Don Antonio."

And regally she proffered her hand to his homage.

He took it, observing the shapely, pointed fingers, the delicately
curving nails.  Reluctantly, almost, he admitted to himself how
complete was her beauty, how absolute her charm.  He sighed - a sigh
for that lost youth of his, perhaps - as he bowed from his fine,
lean height to press cold lips of formal duty on that hand.

"Your will, madame, was stronger than my prudence," said he.

"Prudence?" quoth she, and almost sneered.  "Since when has Antonio
Perez stooped to prudence?"

"Since paying the bitter price of imprudence.  You know my story?"

"A little.  I know, for instance, that you murdered Escovedo - all
the world knows that.  Is that the imprudence of which you speak?
I have heard it said that it was for love of a woman that you did
it."

"You have heard that, too?" he said.  He had paled a little.  "You
have heard a deal, Marquise.  I wonder would it amuse you to hear
more, to hear from my own lips this story of mine which all Europe
garbles?  Would it?"

There was a faint note of anxiety in his voice, a look faintly
anxious in his eyes.

She scanned him a moment gravely, almost inscrutably.  "What purpose
can it serve?" she asked; and her tone was forbidding - almost a
tone of fear.

"It will explain," he insisted.

"Explain what?"

"How it comes that I am not this moment prostrate at your feet; how
it happens that I am not on my knees to worship your heavenly beauty;
how I have contrived to remain insensible before a loveliness that
in happier times would have made me mad."

"Vive Dieu!" she murmured, half ironical.  "Perhaps that needs
explaining."

"How it became necessary," he pursued, never heeding the interruption,
"that yesterday you should proclaim your disbelief that I could be,
as you said, a Spaniard of Spain.  How it happens that Antonio Perez
has become incapable of any emotion but hate.  Will you hear the
story - all of it?"

He was leaning towards her, his white face held close to her own, a
smouldering fire in the dark, sunken eyes that now devoured her.

She shivered, and her own cheeks turned very pale.  Her lips were
faintly twisted as if in an effort to smile.

"My friend - if you insist," she consented.

"It is the purpose for which I came," he announced.

For a long moment each looked into the other's eyes with a singular
intentness that nothing here would seem to warrant.

At length she spoke.

"Come," she said, "you shall tell me."

And she waved him to a chair set in the embrasure of the mullioned
window that looked out over a tract of meadowland sweeping gently
down to the river.

Don Antonio sank into the chair, placing his hat and whip upon the
floor beside him.  The Marquise faced him, occupying the padded
window-seat, her back to the light, her countenance in shadow.

And here, in his own words, follows the story that he told her as
she herself set it down soon after.  Whilst more elaborate and
intimate in parts, it yet so closely agrees throughout with his own
famous "Relacion," that I do not hesitate to accept the assurance
she has left us that every word he uttered was burnt as if by an
acid upon her memory.


THE STORY OF ANTONIO PEREZ


As a love-story this is, I think, the saddest that ever was invented
by a romancer intent upon wringing tears from sympathetic hearts.
How sad it is you will realize when I tell you that daily I thank
God on my knees - for I still believe in God, despite what was
alleged against me by the inquisitors of Aragon - that she who
inspired this love of which I am to tell you is now in the peace of
death.  She died in exile at Pastrana a year ago.  Anne de Mendoza
was what you call in France a great parti.  She came of one of the
most illustrious families in Spain, and she was a great heiress.
So much all the world knew.  What the world forgot was that she was
a woman, with a woman's heart and mind, a woman's natural instincts
to select her mate.  There are fools who envy the noble and the
wealthy.  They are little to be envied, those poor pawns in the game
of statecraft, moved hither and thither at the will of players who
are themselves no better.  The human nature of them is a negligible
appendage to the names and rent-rolls that predetermine their place
upon the board of worldly ambition, a board befouled by blood, by
slobberings from the evil mouth of greed, and by infamy of every
kind.

So, because Anne was a daughter of the House of Mendoza, because
her endowments were great, they plucked her from her convent at the
age of thirteen years, knowing little more of life than the merest
babe, and they flung her into the arms of Ruy Gomez, Prince of Eboli,
who was old enough to have been her father.  But Eboli was a great
man in Spain, perhaps the greatest; he was, first Minister to
Philip II, and between his House and that of Mendoza an alliance
was desired.  To establish it that tender child was sacrificed
without ruth.  She discovered that life held nothing of all that
her maiden dreamings had foreseen; that it was a thing of horror
and greed and lovelessness and worse.  For there was much worse
to come.

Eboli brought his child-princess to Court.  He wore her lightly as
a ribbon or a glove, the insignificant appendage to the wealth and
powerful alliance he had acquired with her.  And at Court she came
under the eye of that pious satyr Philip.  The Catholic King is very
devout - perfervidly devout.  He prays, he fasts, he approaches the
sacraments, he does penance, all in proper season as prescribed by
Mother Church; he abominates sin and lack of faith - particularly
in others; he has drenched Flanders in blood that he might wash it
clean of the heresy of thinking differently from himself in
spiritual matters, and he would have done the same by England but
that God - Who cannot, after all, be quite of Philip's way of
thinking - willed otherwise.  All this he has done for the greater
honour and glory of his Maker, but he will not tolerate his Maker's
interference with his own minor pleasures of the flesh.  He is, as
you would say, a Spaniard of Spain.

This satyr's protruding eyes fell upon the lovely Princess of Eboli
 - for lovely she was, a very pearl among women.  I spare you
details.  Eboli was most loyal and submissive where his King was
concerned, most complacent and accommodating.  That was but logical,
and need not shock you at all.  To advance his worldly ambitions
had he taken Anne to wife; why should he scruple, then, to yield
her again that thus he might advance those ambitions further?

If poor Anne argued at all, she must have argued thus.  For the
rest, she was told that to be loved by the King was an overwhelming
honour, a matter for nightly prayers of thankfulness.  Philip was
something very exalted, hardly human in fact; almost, if not quite,
divine.  Who and what was Anne that she should dispute with those
who knew the world, and who placed these facts before her?  Never
in all her little life had she belonged to herself.  Always had she
been the property of somebody else, to be dealt with as her owner
might consider best.  If about the Court she saw some men more
nearly of her own age - though there were not many, for Philip's
Court was ever a gloomy, sparsely peopled place - she took it for
granted that such men were not for her.  This until I taught her
otherwise, which, however, was not yet a while.  Had I been at Court
in those days, I think I should have found the means, at whatever
cost, of preventing that infamy; for I know that I loved her from
the day I saw her.  But I was of no more than her own age, and I
had not yet been drawn into that whirlpool.

So she went to the arms of that rachitic prince, and she bore him
a son - for, as all the world knows, the Duke of Prastana owns
Philip for his father.  And Eboli increased in power and prosperity
and the favour of his master, and also, no doubt, in the contempt
of posterity.  There are times when the thought of posterity and
its vengeances is of great solace.

It would be some six years later when first I came to Court, brought
thither by my father, to enter the service of the Prince of Eboli
as one of his secretaries.  As I have told you, I loved the Princess
from the moment I beheld her.  From the gossip of the Court I pieced
together her story, and pitied her, and, pitying her, I loved her
the more.  Her beauty dazzled me, her charm enmeshed me, and she had
grown by now in worldly wisdom and mental attainments.  Yet I set a
mask upon my passion, and walked very circumspectly, for all that by
nature I was as reckless and profligate as all the world could ever
call me.  She was the wife of the puissant Secretary of State, the
mistress of the King.  Who was I to dispute their property to those
exalted ones?

And another consideration stayed me.  She seemed to love the King.
Young and lacking in wisdom, this amazed me.  In age he compared
favourably with her husband he was but thirteen years older than
herself - but in nothing else.  He was a weedy, unhealthy-looking
man, weakly of frame, rachitic, undersized, with spindle-shanks,
and a countenance that was almost grotesque, with its protruding
jaw, gaping mouth, great, doglike eyes, and yellow tuft of beard.
A great king, perhaps, this Philip, having so been born; but a
ridiculous man and an unspeakable lover.  And yet this incomparable
woman seemed to love him.

Let me pass on.  For ten years I nursed that love of mine in secret.
I was helped, perhaps, by the fact that in the mean time I had
married - oh, just as Eboli himself had married, an arrangement
dictated by worldly considerations - and no better, truer mate did
ever a man find than I in Juana Coello.  We had children and we
were happy, and for a season - for years, indeed - I began to think
that my unspoken passion for the Princess of Eboli was dead and done
with.  I saw her rarely now, and my activities increased with
increasing duties.  At twenty-six I was one of the Ministers of the
Crown, and one of the chief supporters of that party of which Eboli
was the leader in Spanish politics.  I sat in Philip's Council, and
I came under the spell of that taciturn, suspicious man, who,
utterly unlovable as he was, had yet an uncanny power of inspiring
devotion.  From the spell of it I never quite escaped until after
long years of persecution.  Yet the discovery that one by nature so
entirely antipathetic to me should have obtained such sway over my
mind helped me to understand Anne's attachment to him.

When Eboli died, in 1573, I had so advanced in ability and Royal
favour that I took his place as Secretary of State, thus becoming
all but the supreme ruler of Spain.  I do not believe that there
was ever in Spain a Minister so highly favoured by the reigning
Prince, so powerful as I became.  Not Eboli himself in his halcyon
days had been so deeply esteemed of Philip, or had wielded such
power as I now made my own.  All Europe knows it - for it was to me
all Europe addressed itself for affairs that concerned the Catholic
King.

And with my power came wealth - abundant, prodigious wealth.  I was
housed like a Prince of the blood, and no Prince of the blood ever
kept greater state than I, was ever more courted, fawned upon, or
t flattered.  And remember I was young, little more than thirty,
with all the strength and zest to enjoy my intoxicating eminence.
I was to my party what Eboli had been, though the nominal leader of
it remained Quiroga, Archbishop of Toledo.  On the other side was
the Duke of Alva with his following.

You must know that it was King Philip's way to encourage two rival
parties in the State, between which he shared his confidence and
sway.  Thus he stimulated emulation and enlightened his own views
in the opposing opinions that were placed before him.  But the
power of my party was absolute in those days, and Alva himself was
as the dust beneath our feet.

Such eminences, they say, are perilous.  Heads that are very highly
placed may at any moment be placed still higher - upon a pike.  I
am all but a living witness to the truth of that, and yet I wonder
would it so have fallen out with me had I mistrusted that slumbering
passion of mine for Anne.  I should have known that where such fires
have once been kindled in a man they never quite die out as long as
life endures.  Time and preoccupations may overlay them as with a
film of ashes, but more or less deeply down they smoulder on, and
the first breath will fan them into flame again.

It was at the King's request I went to see her in her fine Madrid
house opposite Santa Maria Mayor some months after her husband's
death.  There were certain matters of heritage to be cleared up,
and, having regard to her high rank, it was Philip's wish that I
 - who was by now Eboli's official successor - should wait on her
in person.

There were documents to be conned and signed, and the matter took
some days, for Eboli's possessions were not only considerable, but
scattered, and his widow displayed an acquired knowledge of affairs
and a natural wisdom that inspired her to probe deeply.  To my
undoing, she probed too deeply in one matter.  It concerned some
land - a little property - at Velez.  She had been attached to the
place, it seemed, and she missed all mention of it from the papers
that I brought her.  She asked the reason.

"It is disposed of," I told her.

"Disposed of!" quoth she.  "But by whom?"

"By the Prince, your husband, a little while before he died."

She looked up at me - she was seated at the wide, carved
writing-table, I standing by her side - as if expecting me to say
more.  As I left my utterance there, she frowned perplexedly.

"But what mystery is this?" she asked me.  "To whom has it gone?"

"To one Sancho Gordo."

"To Sancho Gordo?" The frown deepened.  "The washerwoman's son?
You will not tell me that he bought it?"

"I do not tell you so, madame.  It was a gift from the Prince, your
husband."

"A gift!" She laughed.  "To Sancho Gordo!  So the washerwoman's
child is Eboli's son!"

And again she laughed on a note of deep contempt.

"Madame!" I cried, appalled and full of pity, "I assure you that
you assume too much.  The Prince - "

"Let be," she interrupted me.  "Do you dream I care what rivals I
may have had, however lowly they may have been?  The Prince, my
husband, is dead, and that is very well.  He is much better dead,
Don Antonio.  The pity of it is that he ever lived, or else that I
was born a woman."

She was staring straight before her, her hands fallen to her lap,
her face set as if carved and lifeless, and her voice came hard as
the sound of one stone beating upon another.

"Do you dream what it can mean to have been so nurtured on
indignities that there is no anger left, no pride to wound by the
discovery of yet another nothing but cold, cold hate?  That, Don
Antonio, is my case.  You do not know what my life has been.  That
man - "

"He is dead, madame," I reminded her, out of pity.

"And damned, I hope," she answered me in that same cold, emotionless
voice.  "He deserves no less for all the wrongs he did to me, the
least of which was the great wrong of marrying me.  For advancement
he acquired me; for his advancement he bartered and used me and made
of me a thing of shame."

I was so overwhelmed with grief and love and pity that a groan
escaped me almost before I was aware of it.  She broke off short,
and stared at me in haughtiness.

"You presume to pity me, I think," she reproved me.  "It is my own
fault.  I was wrong to talk.  Women should suffer silently, that
they may preserve at least a mask of dignity.  Otherwise they incur
pity - and pity is very near contempt."

And then I lost my head.

"Not mine, not mine!" I cried, throwing out my arms; and though
that was all I said, there was such a ring in my choking voice that
she rose stiffly from her seat and stood tense and tall confronting
me, almost eye to eye, reproof in every line of her.

"Princess, forgive me!" I cried.  "It breaks my heart in pieces to
hear you utter things that have been in my mind these many years,
poisoning the devotion that I owed to the late Prince, poisoning
the very loyalty I owe my King.  You say I pity you.  If that were
so, none has the better right."

"Who gave it you?" she asked me, breathless.

"Heaven itself, I think," I answered recklessly.  "What you have
suffered, I have suffered for you.  When I came to Court the infamy
was a thing accomplished - all of it.  But I gathered it, and
gathering it, thanked Heaven I had been spared the pain and misery
of witnessing it, which must have been more than ever I could have
endured.  Yet when I saw you, when I watched you - your wistful
beauty, your incomparable grace - there was a time when the thought
to murder stirred darkly in my mind that I might at least avenge you."

She fell away before me, white to the very lips, her eyes dilating
as they regarded me.

"In God's name, why?" she asked me in a strangled voice.

"Because I loved you," I replied, "always, always, since the day I
saw you.  Unfortunately, that day was years too late, even had I
dared to hope - "

"Antonio!" Something in her voice drew my averted eyes.  Her lips
had parted, her eyes kindled into life, a flush was stirring in
her cheeks.

"And I never knew!  I never knew!" she faltered piteously.

I stared.

"Dear Heaven, why did you withhold a knowledge that would have
upheld me and enheartened me through all that I have suffered?
Once, long, long agog I hoped - "

"You hoped!"

"I hoped, Antonio - long, long ago."

We were in each other's arms, she weeping on my shoulder as if her
heart would burst, I almost mad with mingling joy and pain - and
as God lives there was more matter here for pain than joy.

We sat long together after that, and talked it out.  There was no
help for it.  It was too late on every count.  On her side there
was the King, most jealous of all men, whose chattel she was become;
on mine, there was my wife and children, and so deep and true was
my love for Anne that it awakened in me thoughts of the loyalty I
owed Juana, thoughts that had never troubled me hitherto in my
pleasure-loving life - and this not only as concerned Anne herself,
but as concerned all women.  There was something so ennobling and
sanctifying about our love that it changed at once the whole of my
life, the whole tenor of my ways.  I abandoned profligacy, and
became so staid and orderly in my conduct that I was scarcely
recognizable for the Antonio Perez whom the world had known hitherto.

We parted there that day with a resolve to put all this behind us;
to efface from our minds all memory of what had passed between us!
Poor fools were we to imagine we could resist the vortex of
circumstance which had caught us.  For three months we kept our
engagement scrupulously; and then, at last, resistance mutually
exhausted, we yielded each to the other, both to Fate.

But because we cherished our love we moved with caution.  I was
circumspect in my comings and goings, and such were the precautions
we observed, that for four years the world had little suspicion, and
certainly no knowledge, that I had inherited from the Prince of
Eboli more than his office as Secretary of State.  This secrecy was
necessary as long as Philip lived, for we were both fully aware of
what manner of vengeance we should have to reckon with did knowledge
of our relations reach the jealous King.  And I think that but for
Don John of Austria's affairs, and the intervention in them of the
Escovedo whom you say - whom the world says I murdered, all might
have been well to this day.

Escovedo had been, like myself, one of Eboli's secretaries in his
day, and it was this that won him after Eboli's death a place at
the Royal Council board.  It was but an inferior place, yet the
King remarked him for a man shrewd and able, who might one day have
his uses.

That day was not very long in coming, though the opportunity it
afforded Escovedo was scarcely such as, in his greedy, insatiable
ambition, he had hoped for.  Yet the opportunity, such as it was,
was afforded him by me, and had he used it properly it should have
carried him far, certainly much farther than his talent and
condition warranted.

It came about through Don John of Austria's dreams of sovereignty.
You will have heard - as who has not?  - so much of Don John, the
natural son of Charles V, that I need tell you little concerning
him.  In body and soul he was a very different man, indeed, from
his half-brother Philip of Spain.  As joyous as Philip was gloomy,
as open and frank as Philip was cloudy and suspicious, and as
beautiful as Philip was grotesque, Don John was the Bayard of our
day, the very mirror of all knightly graces.  To the victory of
Lepanto, which had made him illustrious as a soldier, he had added,
in '73 - the year of Eboli's death the conquest of Tunis, thereby
completing the triumph of Christianity over the Muslim in the
Mediterranean.  Success may have turned his head a little.  He
was young, you know, and an emperor's son.  He dreamt of an empire
for himself, of sovereignty, and of making Tunis the capital of
the kingdom he would found.

We learnt of this.  Indeed, Don John made little secret of his
intentions.  But they went not at all with Philip's views.  It was
far from his notions that Don John should go founding kingdoms of
his own.  His valour and talents were required to be employed for
the greater honour and glory of the Crown of Spain, and nothing
further.

Philip consulted me, who was by then the depositary of all his
secrets, the familiar of his inmost desires.  There was evidence
that Don John's ambitions were being fomented by his secretary,
who dreamt, no doubt, of his own aggrandizement in the
aggrandizement of his master.  Philip proposed the man's removal.

"That would be something," I agreed.  "But not enough.  He must be
replaced by a man of our own, a man loyal to Your Majesty, who will
not only seek to guide Don John in the course that he should follow,
but will keep close watch upon his projects, and warn you should
they threaten to neglect your interests the interests of Spain for
his own."

"And such a man?  Where shall we find him?"

I considered a moment, and bethought me of Escovedo.  He was able;
he had charm and an ingratiating manner; I believed him loyal, and
imagined that I could quicken that loyalty by showing him that
advancement would wait upon its observation; he could well be
spared from the Council, where, as I have said, he occupied a quite
inferior post; lastly, we were friends, and I was glad of the
opportunity to serve him, and place him on the road to better things.

All this I said to Philip, and so the matter was concluded.  But
Escovedo failed me.  His abilities and ingratiating manner endeared
him quickly to Don John, whilst himself he succumbed entirely, not
only to Don John of Austria's great personal charm, but also to Don
John's ambitious projects.  The road to advancement upon which I
had set him seemed to him long and toilsome by contrast with the
shorter cut that was offered by his new master's dreams.  He fell
as the earlier secretary had fallen, and more grievously, for he
was the more ambitious of the two, and from merely seconding Don
John's projects, it was not long before he spurred them on, not
long before he was dreaming dreams of his own for Don John to
realize.

>From Tunis, which had by now been recovered by the Turks, and any
hopes concerned with which King Philip had discouraged, the eyes of
Don John were set, at Escovedo's bidding, I believe, upon the crown
of England.

He had just been invited by Philip to make ready to take in hand
the affairs of Flanders, sadly disorganized under the incompetent
rule of Alva.  It occurred to him that if he were to issue
victoriously from that enterprise - and so far victory had waited
upon his every venture - if he were to succeed in restoring peace
and Spanish order in rebellious Flanders, he would then be able to
move against England with the Spanish troops under his command,
overthrow Elizabeth, deliver Mary Stuart from the captivity in which
she languished, and by marriage with her set the crown of England
on his brow.  To this great project he sought the support of Rome,
and Rome accorded it very readily being naturally hostile to the
heretic daughter of Anne Boleyn.

It was Escovedo himself who went as Don John's secret ambassador to
the Vatican in this affair Escovedo, who had been placed with Don
John to act as a curb on that young man's ambitions.  Nor did he
move with the prudence he should have observed.

Knowledge of what was brewing reached us from the Papal Nuncio in
Madrid, who came to see me one day in the matter.

"I have a dispatch from Rome," he announced, "in which His Holiness
instructs me to enjoin upon the King that the expedition against
England be now executed, and that he consider bestowing its crown
upon Don John of Austria for the greater honour and glory of Holy
Church."

I was thunderstruck.  The expedition against England, I knew, was
no new project.  Three years before a secret envoy from the Queen
of Scots, an Italian named Ridolfi, had come to propose to Philip
that, in concert with the Pope, he should reestablish the Catholic
faith in England and place Mary Stuart upon the throne.  It was a
scheme attractive to Philip, since it agreed at once with his policy
and his religion.  But it had been abandoned under the dissuasions
of Alva, who accounted that it would be too costly even if
successful.  Here it was again, emanating now directly from the
Holy See, but in a slightly altered form.

"Why Don John of Austria?" I asked him.

"A great soldier of the faith.  And the Queen of Scots must have a
husband."

"I should have thought that she had had husbands enough by now,"
said I.

"His Holiness does not appear to share that view," he answered
tartly.

"I wonder will the King," said I.

"The Catholic King is ever an obedient child of Mother Church," the
oily Nuncio reminded me, to reprove my doubt.

But I knew better - that the King's own policy was the measure of
his obedience.  This the Nuncio should learn for himself; for if
I knew anything of Philip's mind, I knew precisely how he would
welcome this proposal.

"Will you see the King now?" I suggested maliciously, anxious to
witness the humbling of his priestly arrogance.

"Not yet.  It is upon that I came to see you.  I am instructed
first to consult with one Escoda as to the manner in which this
matter shall be presented to His Majesty.  Who is Escoda?"

"I never heard of him," said I.  "Perhaps he comes from Rome."

"No, no.  Strange!" he muttered, frowning, and plucked a parchment
from his sleeve.  "It is here."  He peered slowly at the writing,
and slowly spelled out the name: "Juan de Escoda."

In a flash it came to me.

"Escovedo you mean," I cried,

"Yes, yes - Escovedo, to be sure," he agreed, having consulted the
writing once more.  "Where is he?"

"On his way to Madrid with Don John," I informed him.  "He is Don
John's secretary."

"I will do nothing, then, until he arrives," he said, and took his
leave.

Oh, monstrous indiscretion!  That dispatch from Rome so cunningly
and secretly contrived in cipher had yet contained no warning that
Escovedo's share in this should be concealed.  There are none so
imprudent as the sly.  I sought the King at once, and told him all
that I had learnt.  He was aghast.  Indeed, I never saw him more
near to anger.  For Philip of Spain was not the man to show wrath
or any other emotion.  He had a fish-like, cold, impenetrable
inscrutability.  True, his yellow skin grew yellower, his gaping
mouth gaped wider, his goggle eyes goggled more than usual.  Left
to himself, I think he would have disgraced Don John and banished
Escovedo there and then, as he did, indeed, suggest.  And I have
since had cause enough to wish to God that I had left him to
himself.

"Who will replace Don John in Flanders?" I asked him quietly.  He
stared at me.  "He is useful to you there.  Use him, Sire, to
your own ends."

"But they will press this English business."

"Acquiesce."

"Acquiesce?  Are you mad?"

"Seem to acquiesce.  Temporize.  Answer them, 'One thing at a time.'
Say, 'When the Flanders business is happily concluded, we will think
of England.'  Give them hope that success in Flanders will dispose
you to support the other project.  Thus you offer Don John an
incentive to succeed, yet commit yourself to nothing."

"And this dog Escovedo?"

"Is a dog who betrays himself by his bark.  We will listen for it."

And thus it was determined; thus was Don John suckled on the windy
pap of hope when presently he came to Court with Escovedo at his
heels.  Distended by that empty fare he went off to the Low
Countries, leaving Escovedo in Madrid to represent him, with secret
instructions to advance his plans.

Now Escovedo's talents were far inferior to my conception of them.

He was just a greedy schemer, without the wit to dissemble his
appetite or the patience necessary to secure attainment.

Affairs in Flanders went none too well, yet that did not set a curb
upon him.  He pressed his master's business upon the King with an
ardour amounting to disrespect, and disrespect was a thing the awful
majesty of Philip could never brook.  Escovedo complained of delays,
of indecision, and finally - in the summer of '76 - he wrote the
King a letter of fierce upbraidings, criticizing his policy in terms
that were contemptuous, and which entirely exasperated Philip.

It was in vain I strove to warn the fellow of whither he was
drifting; in vain I admonished and sought to curb his headlong
recklessness.  I have said that I had a friendship for him, and
because of that I took more pains, perhaps, than I should have taken
in another's case.

"Unless you put some judgment into that head of yours, my friend,
you will leave it in this business," I told him one day.

He flung into a passion at the admonition, heaped abuse upon me,
swore that it was I who thwarted him, I who opposed the fulfilment
of Don John's desires and fostered the dilatory policy of the King.

I left him after that to pursue his course, having no wish to
quarrel with this headstrong upstart; yet, liking him as I did, I
spared no endeavour to shield him from the consequences he provoked.
But that letter of his to Philip made the task a difficult one.
Philip showed it to me.

"If that man," he said, "had uttered to my face what he has dared
to write, I do not think I should have been able to contain myself
without visible change of countenance.  It is a sanguinary letter."

I set myself to calm him as best I could.

"The man is indiscreet, which has its advantage, for we always know
whither an indiscreet man is heading.  His zeal for his master
blinds him and makes him rash.  It is better, perhaps, than if he
were secretive and crafty."

With such arguments I appeased his wrath against the secretary.  But
I knew that his hatred of Escovedo, his thirst for Escovedo's blood,
dated from that moment in which Escovedo had forgotten the reverence
due to majesty.  I was glad when at last he took himself off to
Flanders to rejoin Don John.  But that was very far from setting a
term to his pestering.  The Flanders affair was going so badly that
the hopes of an English throne to follow were dwindling fast.
Something else must be devised against the worst, and now Don John
and Escovedo began to consider the acquisition of power in Spain
itself.  Their ambition aimed at giving Don John the standing of an
Infante.  Both of them wrote to me to advance this fresh project of
theirs, to work for their recall, so that they could ally themselves
with my party - the Archbishop's party - and ensure its continuing
supreme.  Escovedo wrote me a letter that was little better than an
attempt to bribe me.  The King was ageing, and the Prince was too
young to relieve him of the heavy duties of State.  Don John should
shoulder these, and in so doing Escovedo and myself should be
hoisted into greater power.

I carried all those letters to the King, and at his suggestion I
even pretended to lend an ear to these proposals that we might draw
from Escovedo a fuller betrayal of his real ultimate aims.  It was
dangerous, and I enjoined the King to move carefully.

"Be discreet," I warned him, "for if my artifice were discovered,
I should not be of any further use to you at all.  In my conscience
I am satisfied that in acting as I do I am performing no more than
my duty.  I require no theology other than my own to understand
that much."

"My theology," he answered me, "takes much the same view.  You would
have failed in your duty to God and me had you failed to enlighten
me on the score of this deception.  These things," he added in a
dull voice, "appal me."

So I wrote to Don John, urging him as one who counselled him for
his good, who had no interest but his own at heart, to remain in
Flanders until the work there should be satisfactorily completed.
He did so, since he was left no choice in the matter, but the
intrigues continued.  Later we saw how far he was from having
forsaken his dreams of England, when I discovered that he had
engaged the Pope to assist him with six thousand men and one
hundred and fifty thousand ducats when the time for that adventure
should be ripe.

And then, quite suddenly, entirely unheralded, Escovedo reappeared
in Madrid, having come to press Philip in person for reinforcements
that should enable Don John to finish the campaign.  He brought
news that there had been a fresh rupture of the patched-up peace,
that Don John had taken the field once more, and had forcibly made
himself master of Namur.  This was contrary to all the orders we
had sent, a direct overriding of Philip's wishes.  The King desired
peace in the Low Countries because he was in no case just then to
renew the war, and Escovedo's impudently couched demands completed
his exasperation.

"My will," he said, "is as naught before the ambitions of these two.
You sent my clear instructions to Escovedo, who was placed with Don
John that he might render him pliant to my wishes.  Instead, he
stiffens him in rebellion.  There must be an end to this man."

"Sire," I cried, "it may be they think to advance your interests."

"Heaven help me!" he cried.  "Did ever villain wear so transparent
a mask as this dog Escovedo?  To advance my interests - that will
be his tale, no doubt.  He will advance them where I do not wish
them advanced; he will advance them to my ruin; he will stake all
on a success in Flanders that shall be the preliminary to a descent
upon England in the interests of Don John.  I say there must be an
end to this man before he works more mischief."

Again I set myself to calm him, as I had so often done before, and
again I was the shield between Escovedo and the royal lightnings,
of whose menace to blot him out the fool had no suspicion.  For
months things hung there, until, in January of '78, when war had
been forced in earnest upon Spain by Elizabeth's support of the
Low Countries, Don John won the great victory of Gemblours.  This
somewhat raised the King's depression, somewhat dissipated his
overgrowing mistrust of his half-brother, and gave him patience to
read the letters in which Don John urged him to send money - to
throw wood on the fire whilst it was alight, or else resign himself
to the loss of Flanders for all time.  As it meant also resigning
himself to the loss of all hope of England for all time, Escovedo's
activities were just then increased a hundredfold.

"Send me money and Escovedo," was the burden of the almost daily
letters from Don John to me, and at my elbow was Escovedo,
perpetually pressing me to bend the King to his master's will.
Another matter on which he pressed me then was that I should obtain
for himself the governorship of the Castle of Mogro, which commands
the port of Santander, an ambition this which intrigued me deeply,
for I confess I could not fathom what it had to do with all the rest.

And then something else happened.  From the Spanish Ambassador at
the Louvre we learnt one day of a secret federation entered into
between Don John and the Guises, known as the Defence of the Two
Crowns.  Its object was as obscure as its title.  But it afforded
the last drop to the cup of Philip's mistrust.  This time it was
directly against Don John that he inveighed to me.  And to defend
Don John, in the interests of common justice, I was forced to place
the blame where it belonged.

"Nay, Sire," I assured him, "these ambitions are not Don John's.
With all his fevered dreams of greatness, Don John has ever been,
will ever be, loyal to his King."

"If you know anything of temptation," he answered me, "you should
know that there is a breaking-point to every man's resistance of
it.  How long will Don John remain loyal while Escovedo feeds his
disloyalty, adds daily to the weight of temptation the burden of
a fresh ambition?  I tell you, man, I feel safe no longer."  He
rose up before me, a blotch on his sallow face, his fingers tugging
nervously at the tuft of straw-coloured beard.  "I tell you some
blow is about to fall unless we avert it.  This man this fellow
Escovedo - must be dispatched before he can kill us."

I shrugged and affected carelessness to soothe him.

"A contemptible dreamer," I said.  "Pity him, Sire.  He has his uses.
To remove him would be to remove a channel through which we can
always obtain knowledge precisely of what is doing."

Again I prevailed, and there the matter hung a while.  But the King
was right, his fears were well inspired.  Escovedo, always impatient,
was becoming desperate under persistent frustration.  I reasoned
with him - was he not still my friend? - I held him off, urged
prudence and patience upon him, and generally sought to temporize.
I was as intent upon saving him from leaving his skin in this
business as I was, on the other hand, intent upon doing my duty
without pause or scruple to my King.  But the fool forced my hand.
A Court is a foul place always, even so attenuated a Court as that
which Philip of Spain encouraged.  Rumour thrives in it, scandal
blossoms luxuriantly in its fetid atmosphere.  And rumour and
scandal had been busy with the Princess of Eboli and me, though I
did not dream it.

We had been indiscreet, no doubt.  We had been seen together in
public too often.  We had gone to the play together more than once;
she had been present with me at a bull-fight on one occasion, and
it was matter of common gossip, as I was to learn, that I was a too
frequent visitor at her house.

Another visitor there was Escovedo when in Madrid.  Have I not said
that in his early days he had been one of Eboli's secretaries?  On
that account the house of Eboli remained open to him at all times.
The Princess liked him, was kindly disposed towards him, and
encouraged his visits.  We met there more than once.  One day we
left together, and that day the fool set spark to a train that led
straight to the mine on which, all unconsciously, he stood.

"A word of advice in season, Don Antonio," he said as we stepped
forth together.  "Do not go so often to visit the Princess."

I sought to pull my arm from his, but he dung to it and pinned it
to his side.

"Nay, now - nay, now!" he soothed me.  "Not so hot, my friend.
What the devil have I said to provoke resentment?  I advise you as
your friend."

"In future advise that other friend of yours, the devil," I answered
angrily, and pulled my arm away at last.  "Don Juan, you have
presumed, I think.  I did not seek your advice.  It is yourself that
stands in need of advice this moment more than any man in Spain."

"Lord of the World," he exclaimed in amiable protest, "listen to
him!  I speak because I owe friendship to the Princess.  Men whisper
of your comings and goings, I tell you.  And the King, you know
well, should he hear of this I am in danger of losing my only friend
at Court, and so - "

"Another word of this," I broke in fiercely, "now or at any other
time, and I'll skewer you like a rabbit!"

I had stopped.  My face was thrust within a hand's-breadth of his
own; I had tossed back my cloak, and my fingers clutched the hilt
of my sword.  He became grave.  His fine eyes - he had great,
sombre, liquid eyes, such as you'll scarcely ever see outside of
Spain - considered me thoughtfully a moment.  Then he laughed
lightly and fell back a pace.

"Pish!" said he.  "Saint James!  I am no rabbit for your skewering.
If it comes to skewers, I am a useful man of my hands, Antonio.
Come, man" - and again he took my arm - "if I presume, forgive it
out of the assurance that I am moved solely by interest and concern
for you.  We have been friends too long that I should be denied."

I had grown cool again, and I realized that perhaps my show of anger
had been imprudent.  So I relented now, and we went our ways
together without further show of ill-humour on my part, or further
advice on his.  But the matter did not end there.  Indeed, it but
began.  Going early in the afternoon of the morrow to visit Anne, I
found her in tears - tears, as I was to discover, of anger.

Escovedo had been to visit her before me, and he had dared to
reproach her on the same subject.

"You are talked about, you and Perez," he had informed her, "and
the thing may have evil consequences.  It is because I have eaten
our bread that I tell you this for your own good."

She had risen up in a great passion.

"You will leave my house, and never set foot in it again," she had
told him.  "You should learn that grooms and lackeys have no concern
in the conduct of great ladies.  It is because you have eaten my
bread that I tell you this for your own good."

It drove him out incontinently, but it left her in the condition in
which I was later to discover her.  I set myself to soothe her.  I
swore that Escovedo should be punished.  But she would not be
soothed.  She blamed herself for an unpardonable rashness.  She
should not have taken that tone with Escovedo.  He could avenge
himself by telling Philip, and if he told Philip, and Philip believed
him - as Philip would, being jealous and mistrustful beyond all men
 - my ruin must follow.  She had thought only of herself in
dismissing him in that high-handed manner.  Coming since to think
of me it was that she had fallen into this despair.  She clung to
me in tears.

"Forgive me, Antonio.  The fault is all mine - the fault of all.
Always have I known that this danger must overhang you as a penalty
for loving me.  Always I knew it, and, knowing it, I should have
been stronger.  I should have sent you from me at the first.  But I
was so starved of love from childhood till I met you.  I hungered
so for love - for your love, Antonio - that I had not the strength.
I was weak and selfish, and because I was ready and glad to pay the
price myself, whatever it should be and whenever asked, I did not
take thought enough for you."

"Take no thought now," I implored her, holding her close.

"I must.  I can't help it.  I have raised this peril for you.  He
will go to Philip."

"Not he; he dare not.  I am his only hope.  I am the ladder by which
he hopes to scale the heaven of his high ambition.  If he destroys
me, there is the kennel for himself.  He knows it."

"Do you say that to comfort me, or is it really true?"

"God's truth, sweetheart," I swore, and drew her closer.

She was comforted long before I left her.  But as I stepped out
into the street again a man accosted me.  Evidently he had been on
the watch, awaiting me.  He fell into step beside me almost before
I realized his presence.  It was Escovedo.

"So," he said, very sinister, "you'll not be warned."

"Nor will you," I answered, no whit less sinister myself.

It was broad daylight.  A pale March sunshine was beating down upon
the cobbled streets, and passers-by were plentiful.  There was no
fingering of hilts or talk of skewering on either side.  Nor must
I show any of the anger that was boiling in me.  My face was too
well known in Madrid streets, and a Secretary of State does not
parade emotions to the rabble.  So I walked stiff and dignified
amain, that dog in step with me the while.

"She will have told you what I have said to her," he murmured.

"And what she said to you.  It was less than your deserts."

"Groom and lackey, eh?" said he.  "And less than I deserve - a man
of my estate.  Oh, ho!  Groom and lackey!  Those are epithets to be
washed out in blood and tears."

"You rant," I said.

"Or else to be paid for - handsomely."  His tone was sly - so sly
that I answered nothing, for to answer a sly man is to assist him,
and my business was to let him betray the cause of this slyness.
Followed a spell of silence.  Then, "Do you know," said he, "that
several of her relatives are thinking seriously of killing you?"

"Many men have thought seriously of that - so seriously that they
never attempted it.  Antonio Perez is not easily murdered, Don Juan,
as you may discover."

It was a boast that I may claim to have since justified.

"Shall I tell you their names?" quoth he.

"If you want to ruin them."

"Ha!"  It was a short bark of a laugh.  "You talk glibly of ruining
 - but then you talk to a groom and lackey."  The epithets rankled
in his mind; they were poison to his blood, it seemed.  It takes a
woman to find words that burn and blister a man.  "Yet groom and
lackey that I am, I hold you both in the hollow of my hand.  If I
close that hand, it will be very bad for you, very bad for her.  If,
for instance, I were to tell King Philip that I have seen her in
your arms -"

"You dog!"

"I have - I swear to God I have, with these two eyes - at least
with one of them, applied to the keyhole half an hour ago.  Her
servants passed me in; a ducat or two well bestowed - you
understand?"

We had reached the door of my house.  I paused and turned to him.

"You will come in?" I invited.

"As the wolf said to the lamb, eh?  Well, why not?"  And we went in.

"You are well housed," he commented, his greedy, envious eyes
considering all the tokens of my wealth.  "It were a pity to lose
so much, I think.  The King is at the Escurial, I am told."

He was.  He had gone thither into retreat, that he might cleanse
his pious, murky soul against the coming of Eastertide.

"You would not, I am sure, compel me to undertake so tedious a
journey," said he.

"Will you put off this slyness and be plain?" I bade him.  "You
have some bargain in your mind.  Propound it."

He did, and left me aghast.

"You have temporized long enough, Perez," he began.  "You have been
hunting with the dogs and running with the stag.  There must be an
end to all that.  Stand by me now, and I will make you greater than
you are, greater than you could ever dream to be.  Oppose me, betray
me - for I am going to be very frank - and the King shall hear
things from me that will mean your ruin and hers.  You understand?"

Then came his demands.  First of all the command of the fortress of
Mogro for himself.  I must obtain him that at once.  Secondly, I
must see to it that Philip pledged himself to support Don John's
expedition against England and Elizabeth and to seat Don John upon
the throne with Mary Stuart for his wife.  These things must come
about, and quickly, or I perished.  Nor was that all.  Indeed, no
more than a beginning.  He opened out the vista of his dreams, that
having blackmailed me on the one hand, he might now bribe me on the
other.  Once England was theirs, he aimed at no less than a descent
upon Spain itself.  That was why he wanted Mogro to facilitate a
landing at Santander.  Thus, as the Christians had originally come
down from the mountains of the Asturias to drive the Moors from the
Peninsula, so should the forces of Don John descend again to
reconquer it for himself.

It was a madman's fancy utterly - fruit of a brain that ambition
had completely addled; and I do not believe that Don John had any
part in it or even knowledge of it.  Escovedo saw himself, perhaps,
upon the throne of one or the other of the two kingdoms as Don
John's vice-regent - for himself and for me, if I stood by him,
there was such power in store as no man ever dreamed of.  If I
refused, he would destroy me.

"And if I go straight to the Escurial and lay this project before
the King?" I asked him.

He smiled.

"You will force me to tell him that it is a lie invented to deliver
you from a man who can destroy you by the knowledge he possesses,
knowledge which I shall at once impart to Philip.  Think what that
will mean to you.  Think," he added very wickedly, "what it will
mean to her."

As I am a Christian, I believe that had it been but the consideration
of myself I would have flung him from my house upon the instant and
bade him do his worst.  But he was well advised to remind me of her.
Whatever Philip's punishment of me, it would be as nothing to his
punishment of that long-suffering woman who had betrayed him.  Oh,
I assure you it is a very evil, ill judged thing to have a king for
rival, particularly a fish-souled tyrant of King Philip's kind.

I was all limp with dread.  I passed a hand across my brow, and
found it chill and moist.

"I am in your hands, Escovedo," I confessed miserably.

"Say, rather, that we are partners.  Forget all else." He was eager,
joyous, believing all accomplished, such was his faith in my
influence with Philip.  "And now, Mogro for me, and England for Don
John.  About it with dispatch."

"The King is in retreat.  We must wait some days."

"Till Easter, then."  And he held out his hand.  I took it limply,
thus clenching the bargain of infamy between us.  What else was
there for me.  What, otherwise, was to become of Anne?

Oh, I may have been self-seeking and made the most of my position,
as was afterwards urged against me.  I may have been extortionate
and venal, and I may have taken regal bribes to expedite affairs.
But always was I loyal and devoted to the King.  Never once had I
been bribed to aught that ran counter to his interests; never until
now, when at a stroke I had sold my honour and pledged myself to
this betrayal of my trust.

Not in all Spain was there a more miserable man than I.  All night
I sat in the room where I was wont to work, and to my wife's
entreaties that I should take some rest I answered that the affairs
of Spain compelled attention.  And when morning found me haggard
and distraught came a courier from Philip with a letter.

"I have letters from Don John," he wrote, "more insistent than ever
in their tone.  He demands the instant dispatch of money and
Escovedo.  I have been thinking, and this letter confirms my every
fear.  I have cause to apprehend some stroke that may disturb the
public peace and ruin Don John himself if he is allowed to retain
Escovedo any longer in his service.  I am writing to Don John that
I will see to it that Escovedo is promptly dispatched as he requests.
Do you see him dispatched, then, in precise accordance with his
deserts, and this at once, before the villain kills us."

My skin bristled as I read.  Here was fatality itself at work.
Philip was at his old fears - and, Heaven knows, he was not without
justification of his intuitions, as I had learnt by now - that
Escovedo meditated the most desperate measures.  He was urging me
again, as he had urged me before, and more than once, to dispatch
this traitor whose restless existence so perpetually perturbed him.
I was not deceived as to the meaning he set upon that word
"dispatch."  I knew quite well the nature of the dispatch he bade
me contrive.

Conceive now my temptation.  Escovedo dead, I should be safe, and
Anne would be safe, and this without any such betrayal as was being
forced upon me.  And that death the King himself commanded a secret,
royal execution, such as his confessor Frey Diego de Chaves has
since defended as an expedient measure within the royal prerogative.
He had commanded it before quite unequivocally, but always I had
stood between Escovedo and the sword.  Was I to continue in that
attitude?  Could it humanly be expected of me in all the
circumstances again to seek to deflect the royal wrath from that
too daring head?  I was, after all, only a man, subject to the
temptations of the flesh, and there was a woman whom I loved better
than my own salvation to whose peace and happiness that fellow
Escovedo was become a menace.

If he lived, and for as long as he lived, she and I were to be as
slaves of his will, and I was to drag my honour and my loyalty
through the foul kennels of his disordered ambitions.  And the King
my master was bidding me clearly see to it that he died immediately.

I sat down and wrote at once, and the burden of my letter was: "Be
more explicit, Sire.  What manner of dispatch is it your will that
Escovedo should be given?"

On the morrow, which was Thursday of Holy Week, that note of mine
was returned to me, and on the margin of it, in Philip's own hand,
Escovedo's death-warrant.  "I mean that it would be well to hasten
the death of this rascal before some act of his should render it
too late; for he never rests, nor will anything turn him from his
usual ways.  Do it, then, and do it quickly, before he kills us."

There was no more to be said.  My instructions were clear and
definite.  Obedience alone remained.  I went about it.

Just as all my life I have been blessed with the staunchest friends,
so have I, too, been blessed with the most faithful servants.  And
of these none was more faithful than my steward, Diego Martinez,
unless, indeed, it be my equerry, Gil de Mesa, who to this day
follows my evil fortunes.  But Mesa at that time was as yet untried,
whilst in Diego I knew that I had a man devoted to me heart and
soul, a man who would allow himself to be torn limb from limb on
the rack on my behalf.

I placed the affair in Diego's hands.  I told him that I was acting
under orders from the King, and that the thing at issue was the
private execution of a dangerous traitor, who could not be brought
to trial lest there he should impeach of complicity one whose birth
and blood must be shielded from all scandal.  I bade him get what
men he required, and see the thing done with the least possible
delay.  And thereupon I instantly withdrew from Madrid and went to
Alcala.

Diego engaged five men to assist him in the task; these were a young
officer named Enriquez, a lackey named Rubio, the two Aragonese -
Mesa and Insausti - and another whose name was Bosque.  He clearly
meant to take no chances, but I incline to think that he overdid
precaution, and employed more hands than were necessary for the job.
However, the six of them lurked in waiting on three successive
nights for Escovedo near his house in the little square of Santiago.
At last, on the night of Easter Monday, March 31st, they caught him
and dispatched him.  He died almost before he realized himself
beset, from a sword-thrust with which Insausti transfixed him.  But
there were at least half a dozen wounds in the body when it was
found.  Diego, I have said, was a man who made quite certain.

No sooner was it done than they dispersed, whilst the lackey Rubio,
instantly quitting Madrid, brought me news of the deed to Alcala,
and the assurance that no arrests had been made.  But there was a
great ado in Madrid upon the morrow, as you may imagine, for it is
no everyday occurrence to find a royal secretary murdered in the
streets.

The alcaldes set out upon a rigorous search, and they began by
arresting and questioning all who attempted to leave the city.  On
the next day they harassed with their perquisitions all those who
let lodgings.  They were still at this work in the evening when I
returned to Madrid, brought back - as it would seem - from my
country rest by the news of this murder of my friend and colleague.
I bore myself as I should have done had I no knowledge of how the
thing had been contrived.  That was a necessity as imperative as
it was odious, and no part of it more odious than the visit of
condolence I was forced to pay to the Escovedo family, which I
found plunged in grief.

>From the very outset suspicion pointed its finger at me, although
there were no visible traces to connect me with the deed.  Rumour,
however, was astir, and as I had powerful friends, so, too, I had
the powerful enemies which envy must always be breeding for men in
high places such as mine.  Escovedo's wife mistrusted me, though
at first she seems equally to have suspected in this deed the hand
of the Duke of Alva, who was hostile to Don John and all his
creatures.  Very soon, as a result of this, came the Court alcalde
to visit and question me.  His stated object was in the hope that
I might give him information which would lead to the discovery of
the assassin; but his real object, rendered apparent by the
searching, insistent nature of his questions, was to lead me to
incriminate myself.  I presented a bold front.  I pretended to see
in this, perhaps, the work of the Flemish States.  I deplored - that
I might remind him of it - my absence from Madrid at the time.

He was followed by another high official, who came in simulated
friendship to warn me that certain rumours linking me with the deed
were in circulation, in reality to trap me into some admission, to
watch my countenance for some betraying sign.

I endured it stoutly, but inwardly I was shaken, as I wrote to
Philip, giving him full details of what had been said and what
answers I had returned, what bitter draughts I had been forced to
swallow.

He wrote in reply: "I find that you answered very well.  Continue
to be prudent.  They will tell you a thousand things, not for the
sake of telling them, but in the hope of drawing something out of
you.  The bitter draughts you mention are inevitable.  But use all
the dissimulation and address of which you are capable."

We corresponded daily after that, and I told him of every step I
took; how I kept my men about me, for fear that if they attempted
to leave Madrid they would be arrested, and how, finally, I
contrived their departure one by one, under conditions that placed
them beyond all suspicion.  Juan de Mesa set out for Aragon on a
mission concerned with the administration of some property of the
Princess of Eboli's.  Rubio, Insausti, and Enriquez were each given
an ensign's commission, bearing the King's own signature, and
ordered to join the armies in various parts of Italy; the first was
sent to Milan, the second to Sicily, and the last to Naples.  Bosque
went back to Aragon.  Thus all were placed beyond the reach of the
active justice of Castile, all save myself - and the King, who wrote
to me expressing his satisfaction that there had been no arrests.

But rumour continued to give tongue, and the burden of its tale was
that the murder had been my work, in complicity with the Princess
of Eboli.  How they came to drag her name into the affair I do not
know.  It may have been pure malice trading upon its knowledge of
the relations between us.  She may have lent colour to the charge
by her own precipitancy in denying it.  She announced indignantly
that she was being accused, almost before this had come to pass,
and as indignantly protested against the accusation, and threatened
those who dared to voice it.

The end of it all was that, a month later, the Escovedo family drew
up a memorial for the consideration of the King, in which they laid
the murder to my charge, and Philip consented to receive Don Pedro
de Escovedo - the dead man's son - and promised him that he would
consider the memorial, and that he would deliver up to justice
whomsoever he thought right.  He was embarrassed by these demands
of the Escovedos, my own danger, his duty as king, and his interests
as an accomplice, or, rather, as the originator of the deed.

The Escovedos were powerfully seconded by Vasquez, the Secretary of
the Council, a member of Alva's party, a secret enemy of my own,
consumed by jealousy of my power, and no longer fearing to disclose
himself and assail me since he believed himself possessed of the
means of ruining me.  He spoke darkly to the King of a woman
concerned in this business, without yet daring to mention Anne by
name, and urged him for the satisfaction of the State, where evil
rumours were abroad, to order an inquiry that should reveal the
truth of the affair.

It was Philip himself who informed me of what had passed, sneering
at the wildness of rumours that missed the truth so wildly, and when
I evinced distress at my position, he sought to reassure me; he even
wrote to me after I had left him: "As long as I live you have
nothing to fear.  Others may change, but I never change, as you
should know who know me."

That was a letter that epitomized many others written me in those
days to Madrid from the Escurial, whither he had returned.  And those
letters comforted me not only by their expressed assurances, but by
the greater assurance implicit in them of the King's good faith.  I
had by now a great mass of his notes dealing with the Escovedo
business, in almost every one of which he betrayed his own share as
the chief murderer, showing that I was no more than his dutiful
instrument in that execution.  With those letters in my power what
need I ever fear?  Not Philip himself would dare to betray me.

But I went now in a new dread - the dread of being myself murdered.
There were threats of it in the air.  The Escovedo family and their
partisans, who included all my enemies, and even some members of the
Eboli family, who considered that I had sullied the honour of their
name by my relations with Anne, talked openly of vengeance, so that
I was driven to surround myself by armed attendants whenever now I
went abroad.

I appealed again to Philip to protect me.  I even begged him to
permit me to retire from my Ministerial office, that thus the
clamant envy that inspired my persecution might be deprived of its
incentive.  Finally, I begged him to order me to stand my trial,
that thus, since I was confident that no evidence could be produced
against me, I should force an acquittal from the courts and lay
the matter to rest for all time.

"Go and see the President of Castile," he bade me.  "Tell him the
causes that led to the death of Escovedo, and then let him talk to
Don Pedro de Escovedo and to Vasquez, so as to induce them to
desist."

I did as I was bidden, and when the president, who was the Bishop
of Pati, had heard me, he sent for my two chief enemies.

"I have, Don Pedro," he said, "your memorial to the King in which
you accuse Don Antonio Perez of the murder of your father.  And I
am to assure you in the King's name that justice will be done upon
the murderer, whoever he may be, without regard to rank.  But I am
first to engage you to consider well what evidence you have to
justify your charge against a person of such consideration.  For
should your proofs be insufficient I warn you that matters are
likely to take a bad turn for yourself.  Finally, before you answer
me, let me add, upon my word as a priest, that Antonio Perez is as
innocent as I am."

It was the truth - the absolute truth, so far as it was known to
Philip and to the Bishop - for, indeed, I was no more than the
instrument of my master's will.

Don Pedro looked foolish, almost awed.  He was as a man who suddenly
becomes aware that he has missed stepping over the edge of a chasm
in which destruction awaited him.  He may have bethought him at last
that all his rantings had no better authority than suspicions which
no evidence could support.

"Sir," he faltered, "since you tell me this, I pledge you my word
on behalf of myself and my family to make no more mention of this
death against Don Antonio."

The Bishop swung then upon Vasquez, and his brow became furrowed
with contemptuous anger.

"As for you, sir, you have heard - which was more than your due, for
it is not your business by virtue of your office, nor have you any
obligations towards the deceased, such as excuse Don Pedro's
rashness, to pursue the murderers of Escovedo.  Your solicitude in
this matter brings you under a suspicion the more odious since you
are a priest.  I warn you, sir, to abstain, for this affair is
different far from anything that you imagine."

But envy is a fierce goad, a consuming, irresistible passion,
corroding wisdom and deaf to all prudent counsels.  Vasquez could
not abstain.  Ridden by his devil of spite and jealousy, he would
not pause until he had destroyed either himself or me.

Since Escovedo's immediate family now washed their hands of the
affair, Vasquez sought out more distant relatives of the murdered
man, and stirred them up until they went in their turn to pester
the courts, not only with accusations against myself, but with
accusations that now openly linked with mine the name of the
Princess of Eboli.

We were driven to the brink of despair, and in this Anne wrote to
Philip.  It was a madness.  She made too great haste to excuse
herself.  She demanded protection from Vasquez and the evil rumours
he was putting abroad, implored the King to make an example of men
who could push so far their daring and irreverence, and to punish
that Moorish dog Vasquez - I dare say there was Moorish blood in
the fellow's veins - as he deserved.

I think our ruin dated from that letter.  Philip sent for me to the
Escurial.  He wished to know more precisely what the accusations
were.  I told him, denying them.  Then he desired of the Princess
proof of what she alleged against Vasquez, and she had no difficulty
in satisfying him.  He seemed to believe our assurance that all was
lies.  Yet he did not move to punish Vasquez.  But then I knew that
sluggishness was his great characteristic.  "Time and I are one," he
would say when I pressed on matters.

After that it was open war in the Council between me and Vasquez.
The climax came when I was at the Escurial.  I had sent a servant
to Vasquez for certain State papers to be submitted to the King.
He brought them, and folded in them a fiercely denunciatory letter
full of insults and injuries, not the least of which was the
imputation that my blood was not clean, my caste not good.

In a passion I sought Philip, beside myself almost, trembling under
the insult.

"See, Sire, what this Moorish thief has dared to write me.  It
transcends all bearing.  Either you take satisfaction for me of
these insults or you permit me to take it for myself."

He appeared to share my indignation, promised to give me leave to
proceed against the man, but bade me first wait a while until
certain business in the competent hands of Vasquez should be
transacted.  But weeks grew into months, and nothing was done.  We
were in April of '79, a year after the murder, and I was grown so
uneasy, so sensitive to dangers about me, that I dared no longer
visit Anne.  And then Philip's confessor, Frey Diego de Chaves, came
to me one day with a request on the King's part that I should make
my peace with Vasquez.

"If he will retract," was my condition.  And Chaves went to see my
enemy.  What passed between them, what Vasquez may have told him,
what he may have added to those rumours of my relations with Anne,
I do not know.  But I know that from that date there was a change
in the King's attitude towards me, a change in the tone of the
letters that he sent me, and, this continuing, I wrote to him at
last releasing him from his promise to afford me satisfaction
against Vasquez, assuring him that since, himself, he could forgive
the injuries against us both, I could easily forgive those I had
received myself, and finally begging his permission to resign my
office and retire.

Anne had contributed to this.  She had sent for me, and in tears
had besought me to make my peace with Vasquez since the King desired
it, and this was no time in which to attempt resistance to his
wishes.  I remained with her some hours, comforting her, for she was
in the very depths of despair, persuaded that we were both ruined,
and inconsolable in the thought that the blame of this was all her
own.

It may be that I was watched, perhaps more closely than I imagined.
It may be that spies were close about us, set by the jealous Philip,
who desired confirmation or refutation of the things he had been
told, the rumours that were gnawing at his vitals.

I left her, little dreaming that I was never to see her again in this
life.  That night I was arrested at my house by the Court alcalde
upon an order from the King.  The paltry reason advanced was my
refusal to make my peace with Vasquez, and this when already the King
was in possession of my letter acknowledging my readiness to do so;
for the King was in Madrid, unknown to me.  He came, it seems, that
he might be present at another arrest effected that same night.  From
the porch of the Church of Santa Maria Mayor, he watched his alguazils
enter the house of the Princess of Eboli, bring her forth, bestow her
in a waiting carriage that was to bear her away to the fortress of
Pinto, to an imprisonment which was later exchanged for exile to
Pastrana lasting as long as life itself.

To sin against a Prince is worse, it seems, than to sin against God
Himself.  For God forgives, but princes, wounded in their vanity and
pride, know nothing of forgiveness.

I was kept for four months a prisoner by the alcalde, no charge
being preferred against me.  Then, because my health was suffering
grievously from confinement and the anxiety of suspense, I was moved
to my own house, and detained there for another eight months under
close guard.  My friends besought the King in vain either to restore
me to liberty or to bring me to trial.  He told them the affair was
of a nature very different from anything they deemed, and so evaded
all demands.

In the summer of 1580, Philip went to Lisbon to take formal
possession of the crown of Portugal, which he had inherited.  I sent
my wife to him to intercede for me.  But he refused to see her, and
so I was left to continue the victim of his vindictive lethargy.
After a year of this, upon my giving a formal promise to renounce all
hostility towards Vasquez, and never seek to do him harm in any way,
I was accorded some degree of liberty.  I was allowed to go out and
to receive visitors, but not to visit any one myself.

Followed a further pause.  Vasquez was now a man of power, for my
party had fallen with me, and his own had supplanted it in the royal
councils.  It was by his work that at last, in '84, I was brought
to trial upon a charge of corruption and misappropriation.  I knew
that my enemies had, meanwhile, become possessed of Enriquez, and
that he was ready to give evidence, that he was making no secret of
his share in the death of Escovedo, and that the King was being
pressed by the Escovedos to bring me to trial upon the charge of
murder.  Instead, the other charge alone was preferred.

It was urged against me that I had kept a greater state than any
grandee of Spain, that when I went abroad I did so with a retinue
befitting a prince, that I had sold my favour and accepted bribes
from foreign princes to guard their interests with the King of Spain.

They sentenced me to two years' imprisonment in a fortress, to be
followed by ten years of exile, and I was to make, within nine days,
restitution of some twenty million maravedis* - the alleged extent
of my misappropriations - besides some jewels and furniture which
I had received from the Princess of Eboli, and which I was now
ordered to deliver up to the heirs of the late Prince.

         *Ten thousand pounds, but with at least five times the
          present purchasing power of that sum.

Perquisitions had been made in my house, and my papers ransacked.
Well I knew what they had sought.  For the thought of the letters
that had passed between Philip and myself at the time of Escovedo's
death must now be troubling his peace of mind.  I had taken due
precautions when first I had seen the gathering clouds foreshadowing
this change of weather.  I had bestowed those papers safely in two
iron-bound chests which had been concealed away against the time
when I might need them to save my neck.  And because now he failed
to find what he sought - the evidence of his own share in the deed
and his present base duplicity - Philip dared not slip the leash
from those dogs who would be at my throat for the murder of Escovedo.
That was why he bade them proceed against me only on the lesser
charge of corruption.

I was taken to the fortress of Turruegano, and there they came to
demand of me the surrender of my papers which the alcalde had failed
to discover at my house.  I imagined the uneasiness of Philip in
dispatching those emissaries.  I almost laughed as I refused.  Those
papers were my buckler against worse befalling me than had befallen
already.  Even now, if too hard pressed, I might find the opportunity
of breaking my bonds by means of them.  I sometimes wonder why I
did not apply myself to that.  Yet there is small cause for wonder,
really.  From boyhood, almost, King Philip had been my master.
Loyalty to him was a habit that went to the very roots of my being.
I had served him without conscience and without scruple, and the
notion of betraying him, save as a very last and very desperate
resource, was inconceivable.  I do not think he ever knew the depth
and breadth of that loyalty of mine.

My refusal led those sons of dogs to attempt to frighten my wife
with threats of unmentionable horrors unless she delivered up the
papers I had secreted.  She and our children were threatened with
perpetual imprisonment on bread and water if she persisted in
refusing to surrender them.  But she held out against all threats,
and remained firm even under the oily persecution to the same end
of Philip's confessor, Frey Diego.  Finally, I was notified that,
in view of her stubbornness and my own, she and our children were
cast into prison, and that there they would remain until I saw fit
to become submissive to the royal will.

It is a subtle form of mental torture that will bid a man
contemplate the suffering for his sake to which those who are dear
to him are being subjected.

I raged and stormed before the officer who brought me this infamous
piece of news.  I gave vent to my impotent anger in blasphemous
expressions that were afterwards to be used against me.  The officer
was subtly sympathetic.

"I understand your grief, Don Antonio," he said.  "Believe me, I
feel for you - so much that I urge you to set an end to the
captivity of those dear ones who are innocent, who are suffering
for your sake."

"And so make an end of myself?" I asked him fiercely.

"Reflection may show that even that is your duty in the
circumstances."

I looked into his smug face, and I was within an ace of striking
him.  Then I controlled myself, and my will was snapped.

"Very well," I said.  "The papers shall be surrendered.  Let my
steward, Diego Martinez, come to me here, and he shall receive my
instructions to deliver the chests containing them to my wife, that
she in turn may deliver them to the King."

He withdrew, well pleased.  No doubt he would take great credit to
himself for this.  Within three days, such haste did they make, my
faithful steward stood before me in my prison at Turruegano.

You conceive the despair that had overwhelmed me after giving my
consent, the consciousness that it was my life I was surrendering
with those papers, - that without them I should be utterly
defenceless.  But in the three days that were sped I had been
thinking, and not quite in vain.

Martinez left me with precise instructions, as a result of which
those two iron-bound chests, locked and sealed, were delivered,
together with the keys, to the royal confessor.  Martinez was asked
what they contained.

"I do not know," he answered.  "My orders are merely to deliver
them."

I can conceive the King's relief and joy in his conviction that
thus had he drawn my teeth, that betide now what might, I could
never defend or justify myself.  The immediate sequel took me by
surprise.  We were at the end of '85, and my health was suffering
from my confinement and its privations.  And now my captivity was
mitigated.  My wife Juana even succeeded in obtaining permission
that I should be taken home to Madrid, and there for fourteen months
I enjoyed a half liberty, and received the visits of my old friends,
among whom were numbered most of the members of the Court.

I imagined at first that since my teeth were drawn the King despised
me, and intended nothing further.  But I was soon to be disillusioned
on that score.  It began with the arrest of Martinez on a charge of
complicity in the murder of Escovedo.  And then one day I was again
arrested, without warning, and carried off for a while to the fortress
of Pinto.  Thence I was brought back in close captivity to Madrid,
and there I learnt at last what had been stirring.

In the previous summer King Philip had gone into Aragon to preside
over the Cortes, and Vasquez, who had gone with him, had seized the
opportunity to examine the ensign Enriquez, who had, meanwhile,
denounced himself of complicity in the murder of Escovedo.  Enriquez
made a full confession - turned accuser under a promise of full
pardon for himself and charged Mesa, Rubio, and my steward Martinez
with complicity, denouncing Martinez as the ringleader of the
business.  The other two, Insausti and Bosque, were already dead.

Immediately Vasquez attempted to seize the survivors.  But Mesa had
gone to earth in Aragon, and Rubio was with him.  Martinez alone
remained, and him they seized and questioned.  He remained as cool
and master of himself as he was true and loyal to me.  Their threats
made no impression on him.  He maintained that the tale was all a
lie, begotten of spite, that I had been Escovedo's best friend, that
I had been greatly afflicted by his death, and that no man could have
done more than I to discover his real murderers.  They confronted
him with Enriquez, and the confrontation no whit disturbed him.  He
handled the traitor contemptuously as a perjured, suborned witness,
a false servant, a man who, as he proceeded to show, was a scoundrel
steeped in crime, whose word was utterly worthless, and who, no
doubt, had been bought to bring these charges against his sometime
master.

The situation, thanks to Martinez's stoutness, had reached a
deadlock.  Between the assertions of one man, who was revealed to
the judges for a worthless scoundrel, and the denials of the other,
against whom nothing was known, it was impossible for the court of
inquiry to reach any conclusion.  At least another witness must be
obtained.  And Vasquez laboured with all his might and arts and
wiles to draw Rubio out of Aragon into the clutches of the justice
of Castile.  But he laboured in vain, for I had secretly found the
means to instruct my trusty Mesa to retain the fellow where he was.

In this inconclusive state of things the months dragged on and my
captivity continued.  I wrote to Philip, imploring his mercy,
complaining of these unjust delays on the part of Vasquez, which
threatened to go on forever, and begging His Majesty to command the
conclusion of the affair.  That was in August of '8g.  You see how
time had sped.  All that came of my appeal was at first an increased
rigour of imprisonment, and then a visit from Vasquez to examine and
question me upon the testimony of Enriquez.  As you can imagine, the
attempt to lure me into self-betrayal was completely fruitless.  My
enemy withdrew, baffled, to go question my wife, but without any
better success.

Nevertheless, Vasquez proclaimed the charge established against
myself and Martinez, and allowed us ten days in which to prepare our
answer.  Immediately upon that Don Pedro de Escovedo lodged a formal
indictment against us, and I was put into irons.

To rebut the evidence of one single, tainted witness I produced six
witnesses of high repute, including the Secretary of the Council of
Aragon.  They testified for me that I was at Alcala at the time of
Escovedo's death, that I had always been Escovedo's friend, that I
was a good Christian incapable of such a deed, and that Enriquez
as an evil man whose word was worthless, a false witness inspired
by vengeance.

Thus, in spite of the ill-will of my judges and the hatred of my
enemies, it was impossible legally to condemn me upon the evidence.
There were documents enough in existence to have proved my part in
the affair; but not one of them dared the King produce, since they
would also show me to have been no more than his instrument.  And
so, desiring my death as it was now clear he did, he must sit
impotently brooding there with what patience he could command, like
a gigantic, evil spider into whose web I obstinately refused to
fling myself.

My hopes began to revive.  When at last the court announced that it
postponed judgment whilst fresh evidence was sought, there was an
outcry of indignation on all sides.  This was a tyrannical abuse of
power, men said; and I joined my voice to theirs to demand that
judgment be pronounced and my liberty restored to me, pointing out
that I had already languished years in captivity without any charge
against me - beyond that of corruption, which had been purged by
now - having been established.

Then at last the King stirred in his diabolical underground manner.
He sent his confessor to me in prison.  The friar was mild and benign.

"My poor friend," he said, "why do you allow yourself to suffer in
this fashion, when a word from you can set a term to it?  Confess
the deed without fear, since at the same time you can advance a
peremptory reason of State to justify it."

It was too obvious a trap.  Did I make confession, indeed, upon such
grounds, they would demand of me proof of what I asserted; and
meanwhile the documents to prove it had been extorted from me and
had passed into the King's possession.  In the result I should be
ruined completely as one who, to the crime of murder, added a wicked,
insidious falsehood touching the honour of his King.

But I said naught of this.  I met guile with guile.  "Alas!  I have
been tempted," I answered him.  "But I thank Heaven I have known even
in my extremity how to resist the temptation of such disloyalty.  I
cannot forget, Brother Diego, that amongst the letters from the King
was one that said, 'Be not troubled by anything your enemies may do
against you.  I shall not abandon you, and be sure their animosity
cannot prevail.  But you must understand that it must not be
discovered that this death took place by my order."'

"But if the King were to release you from that command?" he asked.

"When His Majesty in his goodness and generosity sends me a note
in his own hand to say, 'You may confess that it was by my express
order that you contrived the death of Escovedo,' then I shall
thankfully account myself absolved from the silence his service
imposes on me."

He looked at me narrowly.  He may have suspected that I saw through
the transparent device to ruin me, and that in a sense I mocked him
with my answer.

He withdrew, and for some days nothing further happened.  Then the
rigours of my captivity were still further increased.  I was allowed
to communicate with no one, and even the alguazil who guarded me was
forbidden, under pain of death, to speak to me.

And in January I was visited by Vasquez, who brought me a letter
from the King, not, indeed, addressed to me and in the terms I had
suggested, but to Vasquez himself, and it ran:

You may tell Antonio Perez from me, and, if necessary, show him this
letter, that he is aware of my knowledge of having ordered him to
put Escovedo to death and of the motives which he told me existed
for this measure; and that as it imports for the satisfaction of my
conscience that it be ascertained whether or not those motives were
sufficient, I order him to state them in the fullest detail, and to
advance proof of what he then alleged to me, which is not unknown
to yourself, since I have clearly imparted it to you.  When I shall
have seen his answers, and the reasons he advances, I shall give
order that such measures be taken as may befit.
                                                     I, THE KING

You see what a twist he had given to the facts.  It was I who had
urged the death of Escovedo; it was I who had advanced reasons which
he had considered sufficient, trusting to my word; and it was
because of this he had consented to give the order.  Let me confess
so much, let me prove it, and prove, too, that the motives I had
advanced were sound ones, or I must be destroyed.  That was all
clear.  And that false king held fast the two trunks of papers that
would have given the lie to this atrocious note of his, that would
have proved that again and again I had shielded Escovedo from the
death his king designed for him.

I looked into the face of my enemy, and there was a twisted smile
on my lips.

"What fresh trap is this?" I asked him.  "King Philip never wrote
that note."

"You should know his hand.  Look closer," he bade me harshly.

"I know his hand - none better.  But I claim, too, to know something
of his heart.  And I know that it is not the heart of a perjured
liar such as penned those lines."

That was as near as a man dared to go in expressing his true opinion
of a prince.

"For the rest," I said, "I do not understand it.  I know nothing of
the death of Escovedo.  I have nothing to add to what already I have
said in open court unless it be to protest against you, who are a
passionate, hostile judge."

Six times in the month that followed did Vasquez come to me,
accompanied now by a notary, to press me to confess.  At last, seeing
that no persuasions could bend my obstinacy, they resorted to other
measures.

"You will drive us to use the torture upon you so that we may loosen
your tongue!" snarled Vasquez fiercely, enraged by my obduracy.

I laughed at the threat.  I was a noble of Spain, by birth immune
from torture.  They dared not violate the law.  But they did dare.
There was no law, human or divine, the King was not prepared to
violate so that he might slake his vengeance upon the man who had
dared to love where he had loved.

They delivered me naked into the hands of the executioner, and I
underwent the question at the rope.  They warned me that if I lost
my life or the use of any of my limbs, it would be solely by my own
fault.  I advanced my nobility and the state of my health as
all-sufficient reasons why the torture should not be applied to me,
reminding them that for eleven years already I had suffered
persecution and detention, so that my vigour was all gone.

For the last time they summoned me to answer as the King desired.
And then, since I still refused, the executioner was recalled, he
crossed my arms upon my breast, bound them securely, thrust a long
rod beneath the cord, and, seizing one end of this in either hand,
gave the first turn.

I screamed.  I could not help it, enfeebled as I was.  But my spirit
being stouter than my flesh, I still refused to answer.  Not indeed,
until they had given the rope eight turns, not until it had sliced
through my muscles and crushed the bone of one of my arms, so that
to this day it remains of little use to me, did they conquer me.  I
had reached the limit of endurance.

"In Christ's name, release me!" I gasped.  "I will say anything you
wish."

Released at last, half swooning, smothered in blood, agonized by
pain, I confessed that it was myself had procured the death of
Escovedo for reasons of State and acting upon the orders of the King.
The notary made haste to write down my words, and, when I had done,
it was demanded of me that I should advance proof of the State
reasons which I had alleged.

Oh, I had never been under any delusion on that score, as I have
shown you.  The demand did not take me by surprise at all.  I was
waiting for it, knowing that my answer to it would pronounce my
doom.  But I delivered it none the less.

"My papers have been taken from me, and without them I can prove
nothing.  With them I could prove my words abundantly."

They left me then.  On the morrow, as I afterwards learnt, they read
my confession to my devoted Martinez, and the poor fellow, who
hitherto had remained staunch and silent under every test, seeing
that there was no further purpose to be served by silence, gave
them the confirmation they desired of Enriquez's accusation.

Meanwhile, I was very ill, in a raging fever as you may well conceive,
and in answer to my prayer my own doctor was permitted to visit me
in prison.  He announced that he found my case extremely grave, and
that I must perish unless I were relieved.  As a consequence, and
considering my weakness and the uselessness just then of both my arms,
one of which was broken, first a page of my own, then other servants,
and lastly my wife were allowed to come and tend me.

That was at the end of February.  By the middle of April my wounds
had healed, I had recovered the use of my limbs, though one remains
half maimed for life, and my condition had undergone a very
considerable improvement.  But of this I allowed no sign to show,
no suspicion even.  I continued to lie there day after day in a
state of complete collapse, so that whilst I was quickly gathering
strength it was believed by my gaolers that I was steadily sinking,
and that I should soon be dead.

My only hope, you see, lay now in evasion, and it was for this that
I was thus craftily preparing.  Once out of Castile I could deal
with Philip, and he should not find me as impotent, as toothless as
he believed.  But I go too fast.

One night at last, on April 20th, by when all measures had been
concerted, and Gil de Mesa awaited me outside with horses - the
whole having been contrived by my dear wife - I made the attempt.
My apparent condition had naturally led to carelessness in guarding
me.  Who would guard a helpless, dying man?  Soon after dark I rose,
donned over my own clothes a petticoat and a hooded cloak belonging
to my wife, and thus mufed walked out of my cell, past the guards,
and so out of the prison unchallenged.  I joined Gil de Mesa,
discarded my feminine disguise, mounted and set out with him upon
that ninety-mile journey into Aragon.

We reached Saragossa in safety, and there my first act was to
surrender myself to the Grand Justiciary of Aragon to stand my trial
for the murder of Escovedo with which I was charged.

It must have sent a shudder through the wicked Philip when he
received news of that.  A very stricken man he must have been, for
he must have suspected something of the truth, that if I dared,
after all the evidence amassed now against me, including my own
confession under torture, openly to seek a judgment, it was because
I must possess some unsuspected means of establishing all the truth
 - the truth that must make his own name stink in the nostrils of
the world.  And so it was.  Have you supposed that Antonio Perez,
who had spent his life in studying the underground methods of
burrowing statecraft, had allowed himself to be taken quite so
easily in their snare?  Have you imagined that when I sent for Diego
Martinez to come to me at Turruegano and instructed him touching
the surrender of those two chests of documents, that I did not also
instruct him carefully touching the abstraction in the first
instance of a few serviceable papers and the renewal of the seals
that should conceal the fact that he had tampered with the chests?
If you have thought that, you have done me less than justice.  There
had been so much correspondence between Philip and myself, so many
notes had passed touching the death of Escovedo, and there was that
habit of Philip's of writing his replies in marginal notes to my
own letters and so returning them, that it was unthinkable he should
have kept them all in his memory, and the abstraction of three or
four could not conceivably be detected by him.

Ever since then those few letters, of a most deeply incriminating
character, selected with great acumen by my steward, had secretly
remained in the possession of my wife.  Yet I had not dared produce
them in Castile, knowing that I should instantly have been deprived
of them, and with them of my last hope.  They remained concealed
against precisely such a time as this, when, beyond the immediate
reach of Philip's justice, I should startle the world and clear my
own character by their production.

You know the ancient privileges enjoyed by Aragon, privileges of
which the Aragonese are so jealous that a King of Castile may not
assume the title of King of Aragon until, bareheaded, he shall have
received from the Grand Justiciary of Aragon the following
admonition: "We, who are of equal worth and greater power than you,
constitute you our king on the condition that you respect our
privileges, and not otherwise."  And to that the king must solemnly
bind himself by oath, whose violation would raise in revolt against
him the very cobbles of the streets.  No king of Spain had ever yet
been found to dare violate the constitution and the fueros of
Aragon, the independence of their cortes, or parliament, composed
of the four orders of the State.  The Grand Justiciary's Court was
superior to any royally constituted tribunal in the kingdom; to that
court it was the privilege of any man to appeal for justice in any
cause; and there justice was measured out with a stern impartiality
that had not its like in any other State of Europe.

That was the tribunal to which I made surrender of my, person and
my cause.  There was an attempt on the part of Philip to seize me
and drag me back to Castile and his vengeance.  His officers broke
into the prison for that purpose, and already I was in their power,
when the men of the Justiciary, followed by an excited mob, which
threatened open rebellion at this violation of their ancient rights,
delivered me from their hands.

Baffled in this - and I can imagine his fury, which has since been
vented on the Aragonese - Philip sent his representatives and his
jurists to accuse me before the Court of the Grand Justiciary and
to conduct my prosecution.

The trial began, exciting the most profound interest, not only in
Aragon, but also in Castile, which, as I afterwards learnt, had
openly rejoiced at my escape.  It proceeded with the delays and
longueurs that are inseparable from the sluggish majesty of the law.
one of these pauses I wrote to Philip, inviting him to desist, and
to grant me the liberty to live out my days in peace with my family
in some remote corner of his kingdom.  I warned him that I was not
helpless before his persecution, as he imagined; that whilst I had
made surrender of two chests of papers, I yet retained enough
authentic documents - letters in his own hand - to make my innocence
and his guilt apparent in a startling degree, with very evil
consequences to himself.

His answer was to seize my wife and children and cast them into
prison, and then order the courts of Madrid to pronounce sentence
of death against me for the murder of Escovedo.  Such were the sops
with which he sought to quench his vindictive rage.

Thereupon the trial proceeded.  I prepared my long memorial of the
affair, supporting it with proofs in the shape of those letters I
had retained.  And then at last Philip of Spain took fright.  He was
warned by one of his representatives that there was little doubt I
should be acquitted on all counts, and, too late, he sought to save
his face by ordering the cessation of the prosecution he had
instructed.

He stated that since I had chosen a line of defence, to answer
which  - as it could be answered - it would be necessary to touch
upon matters of a secrecy that was inviolable, and to introduce
personages whose reputation and honour was of more consequence to
the State than the condemnation of Antonio Perez, he preferred to
renounce the prosecution before the tribunal of Aragon.  But he
added a certificate upon his royal word to the effect that my crimes
were greater than had ever been the crimes of any man, and that,
whilst he renounced the prosecution before the courts of Aragon, he
retained the right to demand of me an account of my actions before
any other tribunal at any future time.

My acquittal followed immediately.  And immediately again that was
succeeded by fresh charges against me on behalf of the King.  First
it was sought to prove that I had procured the death of two of my
servants - a charge which I easily dispersed by proving them to have
died natural deaths.  Then it was sought to prosecute me on the
charge of corruption, for which I had once already been prosecuted,
condemned, and punished.  Confidently I demanded my release, and
Philip must have ground his teeth in rage to see his prey escaping
him, to see himself the butt of scorn and contempt for the wrongs
that it became clear he had done me.

One weapon remained to him, and a terrible weapon this - the Holy
Office of the Inquisition, a court before which all temporal courts
must bow and quail.  He launched its power against me, and behold
me, in the moment when I accounted myself the victor in the unequal
contest, accused of the dread sin of heresy.  Words lightly weighed
 - uttered by me in prison under stress - had been zealously
gathered up y spies.

On one occasion I had exclaimed: "I think God sleeps where my
affairs are concerned, and I am in danger of losing my faith."  The
Holy Office held this to be a scandalous proposition, offensive to
pious ears.

Again, when I heard of the arrest of my wife and children I had
cried out in rage: "God sleeps!  God sleeps!  There cannot be a God!"

This they argued at length to be rank heresy, since it is man's
duty positively to believe, and who does not believe is an infidel.

Yet again it seems I had exclaimed: "Should things so come to pass,
I shall refuse to believe in God!"  This was accounted blasphemous,
scandalous, and not without suspicion of heresy.

Upon these grounds the Supreme Council of the Inquisition at Madrid
drew up its impeachment, and delivered it to the inquisitors of
Aragon at Saragossa.  These at once sent their familiars to demand
the surrender of me from the Grand Justiciary, in whose hands I
still remained.  The Grand Justiciary incontinently refused to
yield me up.

Thereupon the three Inquisitors drew up a peremptory demand,
addressed to the lieutenants of the Justiciary, summoning them by
virtue of holy obedience, under pain of greater excommunication, of
a fine in the case of each of them of one thousand ducats, and
other penalties to which they might later be condemned, to deliver
me up within three hours to the pursuivants of the Holy Office.

This was the end of the Justiciary's resistance.  He dared not
refuse a demand so framed, and surrender of me was duly made.  But
the news of what was doing had run abroad.  I had no lack of
friends, whom I instantly warned of what was afoot, and they had
seen to it that the knowledge spread in an inflammatory manner.
Saragossa began to stir at once.  Here was a thinly masked violation
of their ancient privileges.  If they suffered this precedent of
circumventing their rights, what was to become of their liberties
in future, who would be secure against an unjust persecution?  For
their sympathies were all with me throughout that trial.

I was scarcely in the prison of the Holy Office before the dread
cry of Contrafueros! was ringing through the streets of Saragossa,
summoning the citizens to arm and come forth in defence of their
inviolable rights.  They stormed the palace of the Grand Justiciary,
demanded that he should defend the fueros, to whose guardianship he
had been elected.  Receiving no satisfaction, they attacked the
palace of the Inquisition, clamouring insistently that I should
immediately be returned to the Justiciary's prison, whence I had so
unwarrantably been taken.

The Inquisitors remained firm a while, but the danger was increasing
hourly.  In the end they submitted, for the sake of their skins, and
considering, no doubt, a later vengeance for this outrage upon their
holy authority.  But it was not done until faggots had been stacked
against the Holy House, and the exasperated mob had threatened to
burn them out of it.

"Castilian hypocrites!" had been the insurgent roar.  "Surrender
your prisoner, or you shall be roasted in the fire in which you roast
so many!"

Blood was shed in the streets.  The King's representative died of
wounds that he received in the affray, whilst the Viceroy himself
was assailed and compelled to intervene and procure my deliverence.

For the moment I was out of danger.  But for the moment only.  There
was no question now of my enlargement.  The Grand Justiciary,
intimidated by what had taken place, by the precise expression of
the King's will, dared not set me at liberty.  And then the Holy
Office, under the direction of the King, went to work in that
subterranean way which it has made its own; legal quibbles were
raised to soothe the sensibilities of the Aragonese with respect to
my removal from the Justiciary's prison to that of the Holy Office.
Strong forces of troops were brought to Saragossa to overawe the
plebeian insolence, and so, by the following September, all the
preliminaries being concluded, the Inquisition came in force and in
form to take possession of me.

The mob looked on and murmured; but it was intimidated by the show
of ordered force; it had perhaps tired a little of the whole affair,
and did not see that it should shed its blood and lay up trouble
for itself for the sake of one who, after all, was of no account in
the affairs of Aragon.  I stood upon the threshold of my ruin.  All
my activities were to go unrewarded.  Doom awaited me.  And then the
unexpected happened.  The alguazil of the Holy Office was in the
very act of setting the gyves upon my legs when the first shot was
fired, followed almost at once by a fusillade.

It was Gil de Mesa, faithfullest servant that ever any man possessed.
He had raised an armed band, consisting of some Aragonese gentlemen
and their servants, and with this he fell like a thunderbolt upon
the Castilian men-at-arms and the familiars of the Inquisition.  The
alguazil fled, leaving me one leg free, the other burdened by the
gyve, and as he fled so fled all others, being thus taken unawares.
The Inquisitors scuttled to the nearest shelter; the Viceroy threw
himself into his house and barricaded the door.  There was no one
to guide, no one to direct.  The soldiery in these circumstances,
and accounting themselves overpowered, offered no resistance.  They,
too, fled before the fusillade and the hail of shot that descended
on them.

Before I realized what had happened, the iron had been struck from
my leg, I was mounted on a horse, and, with Gil at my side, I was
galloping out of Saragossa by the gate of Santa Engracia, and
breasting the slopes with little cause to fear pursuit just yet,
such was the disorder we had left behind.

And there, very briefly, you have the story of my sufferings and my
escapes.  Not entirely to be baulked, numerous arrests were made by
the Inquisitors in Saragossa when order was at last restored.  There
followed an auto-da-fe, the most horrible and vindictive of all
those horrors, in which many suffered for having displayed the
weakness of charity towards a persecuted man.  And, since my body
was no longer in their clutches, they none the less sentenced me to
death as contumaciously absent, and my effigy was burnt in the holy
fires they lighted, amongst the human candles which they offered up
for the greater honour and glory of a merciful God.  Let me say no
more, lest I blaspheme in earnest.

After months of wandering and hiding, Gil and I made our way here
into Navarre, where we remain the guests of Protestant King Henri IV,
who does not love King Philip any better since he has heard my story.

Still King Philip's vengeance does not sleep.  Twice has he sent
after me his assassins - since assassination is the only weapon now
remaining to him.  But his poor tools have each time been taken,
exposed to Philip's greater infamy and shame - and hanged as they
deserve who can so vilely serve so vile a master.  It has even been
sought to bribe my faithful Gil de Mesa into turning his hand
against me, and that attempt, too, has been given the fullest
publication.  Meanwhile, my death to-day could no longer avail
Philip very much.  My memorial is published throughout Europe for
all to read.  It has been avidly read until Philip of Spain has
earned the contempt of every upright man.  In his own dominions the
voice of execration has been raised against him.  One of his own
nobles has contemptuously announced that Spain under Philip has
become unsafe for any gentleman, and that a betrayal of a subject
by his king is without parallel in history.

That is some measure of vengeance.  But if I am spared I shall not
leave it there.  Henry of Navarre is on the point of turning Catholic
that his interests may be better served.  Elizabeth of England
remains.  In her dominions, where thrives the righteous hatred of
Philip and all the evil that he stands for, I shall find a welcome
and a channel for the activities that are to show him that Antonio
Perez lives.  I have sent him word that when he is weary of the
conflict he can signify his surrender by delivering from their
prison my wife and children, upon whom he seeks still to visit some
of the vengeance I have succeeded in eluding.  When he does that,
then will I hold my hand.  But not before.

"That, madame, is my story," said Don Antonio, after a pause, and
from narrowing eyes looked at the beauty who had heard him through.

Daylight had faded whilst the tale was telling.  Night was come, and
lights had long since been fetched, the curtains drawn over the long
windows that looked out across the parkland to the river.

Twice only had he paused in all that narrative.  Once when he had
described the avowal of his love for Anne, Princess of Eboli, when
a burst of sobs from her had come to interrupt him; again when a
curious bird-note had rung out upon the gathering dusk.  Then he
stopped to listen.

"Curious that," he had said - "an eagle's cry.  I have not heard it
these many months, not since I left the hills of Aragon."

Thereafter he had continued to the end.

Considering her now, his glance inscrutable, he said:

"You weep, madame.  Tell me, what is it that has moved you - the
contemplation of my sufferings, or of your own duplicity?"

She started up, very white, her eyes scared.

"I do not understand you.  What do you mean, sir?"

"I mean, madame, that God did not give you so much beauty that you
should use it in the decoying of an unfortunate, that you should
hire it at an assassin's fee to serve the crapulous King of Spain."

He rose and towered before her, a figure at once of anger, dignity,
and some compassion.

"So much ardour from youth and beauty to age and infirmity was in
itself suspicious.  The Catholic King has the guile of Satan, I
remembered.  I wondered, and hoped my suspicions might be unfounded.
Yet prudence made me test them, that the danger, if it existed,
should manifest itself and be destroyed.  So I came to tell you all
my story, so that if you did the thing I feared, you might come to
the knowledge of precisely what it was you did.  I have learnt whilst
here that what I suspected is - alas! quite true.  You were a lure,
a decoy sent to work my ruin, to draw me into a trap where daggers
waited for me.  Why did you do this?  What was the bribe that could
corrupt you, lovely lady?"

Sobs shook her.  Her will gave way before his melancholy sternness.

"I do not know by what wizardry you have discovered it!" she cried.
"It was true; but it is true no longer.  I knew not what I did.  By
that window, across the meadows, you can reach the river in safety."
She rose, controlling her emotion that she might instruct him.
"They wait for you in the enclosed garden."

He smiled wistfully.

"They waited, madame.  They wait no longer, unless it be for death.
That eagle's cry, thrice repeated, was the signal from my faithful
Gil, not only that the trap was discovered, but that those who baited
it were taken.  Suspecting what I did, I took my measures ere I came.
Antonio Perez, as I have told you, is not an easy man to murder.
Unlike Philip, I do not make war on women, and I have no reckoning
to present to you.  But I am curious, madame, to know what led you
to this baseness."

"I - I thought you evil, and - and they bribed me.  I was offered
ten thousand ducats for your head.  We are very poor, we Chantenacs,
and so I fell.  But, sir - sir" - she was on her knees to him now,
and she had caught his hand in hers- "poor as I am, all that I have
is yours to do with as you will, to help to avenge yourself upon
that Spanish monster.  Take what you will.  Take all I have."

His smile grew gentler.  Gently he raised her.

"Madame," he said, "I am myself a sinner, as I have shown you, a
man unequal to resisting temptation when it took me in its trammels.
Of all that you offer, I will take only the right to this kiss."

And bending, be bore her hand to his lips.

Then he went out to join Gil and his men, who waited in the
courtyard, guarding three prisoners they had taken.

Perez considered them by the light of the lantern that Gil held
aloft for him.

"One of you," he announced, "shall return to Castile and give tidings
to Philip, his master, that Antonio Perez leaves for England and the
Court of Elizabeth, to aid her, by his knowledge of the affairs of
Spain, in her measures against the Catholic King, and to continue
his holy work, which is to make the name of Philip II stink in the
nostrils of all honest men.  One of you I will spare for that
purpose.  You shall draw lots for it in the morning.  The other two
must hang."




IV.   THE NIGHT OF CHARITY

THE CASE OF THE LADY ALICE LISLE


0f all the cases tried in the course of that terrible circuit,
justly known as the Bloody Assizes, the only one that survives at
all in the popular memory is the case of the Lady Alice Lisle.  Her
advanced age, the fact that she was the first woman known in English
history to have suffered death for no worse an offence than that of
having exercised the feminine prerogative of mercy, and the further
fact that, even so, this offence - technical as it was - was never
fully proved against her, are all circumstances which have left
their indelible stamp of horror upon the public mind.  There is also
the further circumstance that hers was the first case tried in the
West by that terrible Chief Justice, Baron Jeffreys of Wem.

But the feature that renders her case peculiarly interesting to the
historical psychologist - and it is a feature that is in danger of
being overlooked - is that she cannot really be said to have suffered
for the technical offence for which she took her trial.  That was
the pretext rather than the cause.  In reality she was the innocent
victim of a relentless, undiscerning Nemesis.

The battle of Sedgemoor had been fought and lost by the Protestant
champion, James, Duke of Monmouth.  In the West, which had answered
the Duke's summons to revolt, there was established now a horrible
reign of terror reflecting the bigoted, pitiless, vindictive nature
of the King.  Faversham had left Colonel Percy Kirke in command at
Bridgwater, a ruthless ruffian, who at one time had commanded the
"Tangier garrison, and whose men were full worthy of their commander.
Kirke's Lambs they were called, in an irony provoked by the emblem
of the Paschal Lamb on the flag of this, the First Tangier Regiment,
originally levied to wage war upon the infidel.

>From Bridgwater Colonel Kirke made a horrible punitive progress to
Taunton, where he put up at the White Hart Inn.  Now, there was a
very solid signpost standing upon a triangular patch of green
before the door of the White Hart, and Colonel Kirke conceived
the quite facetious notion of converting this advertisement of
hospitality into a gallows - a signpost of temporal welfare into
a signpost of eternity.  So forth he fetched the prisoners he had
brought in chains from Bridgwater, and proceeded, without any form
of trial whatsoever, to string them up before the inn.  The story
runs that as they were hoisted to that improvised gibbet, Kirke
and his officers, standing at the windows, raised their glasses to
pledge their happy deliverance; then, when the victims began to
kick convulsively, Kirke would order the drums to strike up, so
that the gentlemen might have music for their better dancing.

The colonel, you see, was a humorist, as humour was then understood
upon the northern shores of Africa, where he had been schooled.

When, eventually, Colonel Kirke was recalled and reprimanded, it
was not because of his barbarities many of which transcend the
possibilities of decent print - but because of a lenity which this
venal gentleman began to display when he discovered that many of
his victims were willing to pay handsomely for mercy.

Meanwhile, under his reign of terror, men who had cause to fear the
terrible hand of the King's vengeance went into hiding wherever they
could.  Among those who escaped into Hampshire, thinking themselves
safer in a county that had not participated in the war, were a
dissenting parson named George Hicks, who had been in Monmouth's
army, and a lawyer named Richard Nelthorp, outlawed for participation
in the Rye House Plot.  In his desperate quest for shelter, Hicks
bethought him of the charitable Nonconformist lady of Moyle's Court,
the widow of that John Lisle who had been one of Cromwell's Lords
Commissioners of the Great Seal, and most active in bringing King
Charles I to justice.

John Lisle had fled to Switzerland at the Restoration; but Stuart
vengeance had followed him, set a price upon his head, and procured
his murder at Lausanne.  That was twenty years ago.  Since then his
lady, because she was known to have befriended and sheltered many
Royalists, and because she had some stout Tory friends to plead for
her, was allowed to remain in tranquil possession of her estates.
And there the Lady Alice Lisle - so called by courtesy, since
Cromwell's titles did not at law survive the Restoration - might
have ended her days in peace, but that it was written that those
who hated her - innocent and aged though she was - for the name she
bore, who included her in the rancour which had procured her
husband's assassination, were to be fully satisfied.  And the
instrument of fate was this parson Hicks.  He prevailed upon Dunne,
a baker of Warminster, and a Nonconformist, to convey to the Lady
Lisle his prayer for shelter.  With that message Dunne set out on
July 25th for Ellingham, a journey of some twenty miles.  He went
by way of Fovant and Chalk to Salisbury Plain.  But as he did not
know the way thence, he sought out a co-religionist named Barter,
who undertook, for a consideration, to go with him and direct him.

Together the pair came in the late afternoon of that Saturday to
the handsome house of Moyle's Court, and to my lady's steward, who
received them.  Dunne, who appears to have been silly and imprudent,
states that he is sent to know if my lady will entertain a minister
named Hicks.

Carpenter, the steward, a staid, elderly fellow, took fright at
once.  Although he may not have associated an absconding Presbyterian
parson with the late rebellion, he must have supposed at least that
he was one of those against whom there were warrants for preaching
in forbidden private meetings.  So to her ladyship above stairs
Carpenter conveyed a warning with the message.

But that slight, frail, homely lady of seventy, with kindly eyes of
a faded blue, smiled upon his fears.  She had sheltered fugitives
before - in the old days of the Commonwealth - and nothing but good
had ever come of it.  She would see this messenger.

With misgivings, Carpenter haled Dunne into her presence, and left
them alone together.  The impression conveyed by Dunne was that
Hicks was in hiding from the warrants that were out against all
Nonconformist preachers.  But when he mentioned that Hicks had a
companion, she desired to know his name.

"I do not know, my lady.  But I do not think he has been in the
army, either."

She considered a while.  But in the end pity conquered doubt in her
sweetly charitable soul.

"Very well," she said, "I will give them entertainment for a week.
Bring them on Tuesday after dark, and come by the back way through
the orchard, that they may not be seen."

And upon this she rose, and took up an ebony cane, herself to
reconduct him and to see to his entertainment before he left.  Not
until they came to the kitchen did she realize that he had a
companion.  At sight of Barter, who rose respectfully when she
entered, she checked, turned to Dunne, and whispered something,
to which his answer provoked from her a laugh.

Now Barter, intrigued by this whispering and laughing, of which he
deemed himself the object, questioned Dunne upon it as they rode
forth again together.

"She asked me if you knew aught of the business," replied Dunne;
"and I answered 'No."'

"Business, say'st thou?" quoth Barter.  "What business?"

"Sure, the business on which we came," Dunne evaded; and he laughed.

It was an answer that left Barter uneasy.  Nor was his mind set at
rest by the parting words with which Dunne accompanied the half-crown
for his services.

"This is but an earnest of what's to come if you will meet me here
on Tuesday to show me the way to Moyle's Court again.  I shall be
bringing two gentlemen with me - wealthy men, of a half-score
thousand pounds a year apiece.  I tell you there will be a fine
booty for my part, so fine that I shall never want for money again
all the days of my life.  And, so that you meet us here, you too
may count upon a handsome reward."

Consenting, Barter went his ways home.  But as he pondered Dunne's
silly speech, and marvelled that honest men should pay so
disproportionately for an honest service, he came to the reasonable
conclusion that he had to do with rebels.  This made him so uneasy
that he resolved at last to lodge information with the nearest
justice.

Now, it happened, by the irony of Fate, that the justice sought by
Barter was one Colonel Penruddock - the vindictive son of that
Penruddock whom the late John Lisle - whilst Lord President of the
High Court - had sentenced to death some thirty years ago for
participation in an unsuccessful Wiltshire rising against the
Commonwealth.

The colonel, a lean, stark man of forty-five, heard with interest
Barter's story.

"Art an honest fellow!" he commended him.  "What are the names of
these rogues?"

"The fellow named no names, sir."

"Well, well, we shall discover that for ourselves when we come to
take them at this trysting-place.  Whither do you say you are to
conduct them?"

"To Moyle's Court, sir, where my Lady Lisle is to give them
entertainment."

The colonel stared a moment; then a heavy smile came to light the
saturnine face under the heavy periwig.  Beyond that he gave no
sign of what was passing in his mind.

"You may go," he said slowly, at last.  "Be sure we shall be at the
tryst to take these rascals."

But the colonel did not keep his promise.  To Barter's surprise,
there were no soldiers at the tryst on Salisbury Plain on the
following Tuesday; and he was suffered to lead Dunne and the two
men with him the short, corpulent Mr. Hicks and the long, lean
Nelthorp - to Moyle's Court without interference.

The rich reward that Dunne had promised him amounted in actual fact
to five shillings, that he had from Nelthorpe at parting.  Puzzled
by Colonel Penruddock's failure to do his part, Barter went off at
once to the colonel's house to inform him that the pair were now at
Lady Lisle's.

"Why, that is very well," said the colonel, his smile more sinister
than ever.  "Trouble not yourself about that."

And Barter, the unreasoning instrument of Fate, was not to know that
the apprehending of a couple of traitorous Jack Presbyters was of
small account to Colonel Penruddock by comparison with the
satisfaction of the blood-feud between himself and the House of
Lisle.

Meanwhile the fugitives were being entertained at Moyle's Court,
and whilst they sat at supper in a room above-stairs, Dunne being
still of the party, my lady came in person to see that they had all
that they required, and stayed a little while in talk with them.
There was some mention of Monmouth and the battle of Sedgemoor,
which was natural, that being the topic of the hour.

My lady asked no questions at the time regarding Hicks's long, lean
companion.  But it occurred to her later that perhaps she should
know more about him.  Early next morning, therefore, she sent for
Hicks as he was in the act of sitting down to breakfast, and by her
direct questions elicited from him that this companion was that
Richard Nelthorp outlawed for his share in the Rye House Plot.  Not
only was the information alarming, but it gave her a sense that she
had not been dealt with fairly, as indeed she told him.

"You will see, sir," she concluded, "that you cannot bide here.  So
long as I thought it was on the score of Nonconformity alone that
you were suffering persecution, I was willing to take some risk in
hiding you.  But since your friend is what he is, the risk is greater
than I should be asked to face, for my own sake and for that of my
daughters.  Nor can I say that I have ever held plottings and civil
war in anything but abhorrence - as much in the old days as now.  I
am a loyal woman, and as a loyal woman I must bid you take your
friend hence as soon as your fast is broken."

The corpulent and swarthy Hicks stood dejectedly before her.  He
might have pleaded, but at that moment there came a loud knocking
at the gates below, and instantly Carpenter flung into the room
with a white, scared face and whirling gestures.

"Soldiers, my lady!" he panted in affright.  "We have been betrayed.
The presence of Mr. Hicks here is known.  What shall we do?  What
shall we do?"

She stood quite still, her countenance entirely unchanged, unless
it were to smile a little upon Carpenter's terror.  The mercy of her
nature rose dominant now.

"Why, we must hide these poor fellows as best we can," said she;
and Hicks flung down upon one knee to kiss her hand with
protestations that he would sooner be hanged than bring trouble
upon her house.

But she insisted, calm and self-contained; and Carpenter carried
Hicks away to bestow him, together with Dunne, in a hole in the
malt-house under a heap of sacking.  Nelthorp had already vanished
completely on his own initiative.

Meanwhile, the insistent knocking at the gate continued.  Came
shouted demands to open in the name of the King, until from a window
my lady's daughters looked out to challenge those who knocked.

Colonel Penruddock, who had come in person with the soldiers to raid
the house of his hereditary foe, stood forth to answer, very stiff
and brave in his scarlet coat and black plumed hat.

"You have rebels in the house," he announced, "and I require you
in the King's name to deliver them up to me."

And then, before they could answer him, came Carpenter to, unbar
the door, and admit them to the court.  Penruddock, standing
squarely before the steward, admonished him very sternly.

"Friend," said he, "you had best be ingenuous with me and discover
who are in your lady's house, for it is within my knowledge that
some strangers came hither last night."

The stricken Carpenter stood white-faced and trembling.

"Sir - sir -" he faltered.

But the colonel was impatient.

"Come, come, my friend.  Since I know they are here, there's an end
on't.  Show me where they are hid if you would save your own neck
from the halter."

It was enough for Carpenter.  The pair in the malthouse might have
eluded all search but for the steward's pusillanimity.  Incontinently,
he betrayed the hiding-place.

"But, sir, of your charity do not tell my mistress that I have told
you.  Pray, sir - "

Penruddock brushed him aside as if he had been a pestering fly, and
with his men went in, and straight to the spot where Hicks and Dunne
were lurking.  When he had taken them, he swung round on Carpenter,
who had followed.

"These be but two," he said, "and to my knowledge three rogues came
hither last night.  No shufing with me, rascal.  Where have you
bestowed the other?"

"I swear, as Heaven's my witness, I do not know where he is,"
protested the afflicted steward, truly enough.

Penruddock turned to his men.

"Make search," he bade them; and search was made in the ruthless
manner of such searches.

The brutal soldiers passed from room to room beating the wainscoting
with pike and musket-butts, splintering and smashing heedlessly.
Presses were burst open and their contents scattered; chests were
broken into and emptied, the searchers appropriating such objects
as took their fancy, with true military cynicism.  A mirror was
shattered, and some boards of the floor were torn up because a
sergeant conceived that the blows of his halbert rang hollow.

When the tumult was at its height, came her ladyship at last into
the room, where Colonel Penruddock stood watching the operations of
his men.  She stood in the doorway leaning upon her ebony cane, her
faded eyes considering the gaunt soldier with reproachful question.

"Sir," she asked him with gentle irony, masking her agitation, "has
my house been given over to pillage?"

He bowed, doffing his plumed hat with an almost excessive courtesy.

"To search, madame," he corrected her.  And added: "In the King's
name."

"The King," she answered, "may give you authority to search my
house, but not to plunder it.  Your men are robbing and destroying."

He shrugged.  It was the way of soldiers.  Fine manners, he
suggested, were not to be expected of their kind.  And he harangued
her upon the wrong she had done in harbouring rebels and giving
entertainment to the King's enemies.

"That is not true," said she.  "I know of no King's enemies."

He smiled darkly upon her from his great height.  She was so frail
a body and so old that surely it was not worth a man's while to
sacrifice her on the altar of revenge.  But not so thought Colonel
Penruddock.  Therefore he smiled.

"Two of them, a snivelling Jack Presbyter named Hicks and a rascal
named Dunne, are taken already.  Pray, madame, be so free and
ingenuous with me aye, and so kind to yourself - as if there be any
other person concealed in your house - and I am sure there is
somebody else - to deliver him up, and you shall come to no further
trouble."

She looked up at him, and returned him smile for smile.

"I know nothing," she said, "of what you tell me, or of what you
ask."

His countenance hardened.

"Then, mistress, the search must go on."

But a shout from the adjoining room announced that it was at an end.
Nelthorp had been discovered and dragged from the chimney into which
he had crept.

Almost exactly a month later - on August 27th the Lady Alice Lisle
was brought to the bar of the court-house at Winchester upon a
charge of high treason.

The indictment ran that secretly, wickedly, and traitorously she
did entertain, conceal, comfort, uphold, and maintain John Hicks,
knowing him to be a false traitor, against the duty of her allegiance
and against the peace of "our sovereign lord the King that now is."

Demurely dressed in grey, the little white-haired lady calmly faced
the Lord Chief Justice Jeffreys and the four judges of oyer and
terminer who sat with him, and confidently made her plea of "Not
Guilty."

It was inconceivable that Christian men should deal harshly with
her for a technical offence amounting to an act of Christian charity.
And the judge, sitting there in his robe of scarlet reversed with
ermine, looked a gentle, kindly man; his handsome, oval, youthful
face - Jeffreys was in his thirty-sixth year - set in the heavy
black periwig, was so pale that the mouth made a vivid line of
scarlet; and the eyes that now surveyed her were large and liquid
and compassionate, as it seemed to her.

She was not to know that the pallor which gave him so interesting
an air, and the dark stains which lent his eyes that gentle
wistfulness, were the advertisements at once of the debauch that
had kept him from his bed until after two o'clock that morning and
of the inexorable disease that slowly gnawed away his life and
enraged him out of all humanity.

And the confidence his gentle countenance inspired was confirmed
by the first words he had occasion to address to her.  She had
interrupted counsel to the Crown when, in his opening address to
the jury - composed of some of the most considerable gentlemen of
Hampshire - he seemed to imply that she had been in sympathy with
Monmouth's cause.  She was, of course, without counsel, and must
look herself to her defence.

"My lord," she cried, "I abhorred that rebellion as much as any
woman in the world!"

Jeffreys leaned forward with a restraining gesture.

"Look you, Mrs.  Lisle," he admonished her sweetly, "because we
must observe the common and usual methods of trial in your case I
must interrupt you now."  And upon that he promised that she should
be fully heard in her own defence at the proper time, and that
himself he would instruct her in the forms of law to her advantage.
He reassured her by reverent allusions to the great Judge of Heaven
and Earth, in whose sight they stood, that she should have justice.
"And as to what you say concerning yourself," he concluded, "I pray
God with all my heart you may be innocent."

He was benign and reassuring.  But she had the first taste of his
true quality in the examination of Dunne -- a most unwilling witness.

Reluctantly, under the pressure put upon him, did Dunne yield up the
tale of how he had conducted the two absconders to my lady's house
with her consent, and it was sought to prove that she was aware of
their connection with the rebellion.  The stubbornly evasive Dunne
was asked at last:

"Do you believe that she knew Mr. Hicks before?"

He returned the answer that already he had returned to many
questions of the sort.

"I cannot tell truly."

Jeffreys stirred in his scarlet robes, and his wistful eyes grew
terrible as they bent from under beetling brows upon the witness.

"Why," he asked, "dost thou think that she would entertain any one
she had no knowledge of merely upon thy message?  Mr. Dunne, Mr.
Dunne!  Have a care.  It may be more is known to me of this matter
than you think for."

"My lord, I speak nothing but the truth!" bleated the terrified
Dunne.

"I only bid you have a care," Jeffreys smiled; and his smile was
more terrible than his frown.  "Truth never wants a subterfuge; it
always loves to appear naked; it needs no enamel nor any covering.
But lying and snivelling and canting and Hicksing always appear in
masquerade.  Come, go on with your evidence."

But Dunne was reluctant to go on, and out of his reluctance he lied
foolishly, and pretended that both Hicks and Nelthorp were unknown
to him.  When pressed to say why he should have served two men whom
he had never seen before, he answered:

"All the reason that induced me to it was that they said they were
men in debt, and desired to be concealed for a while."

Then the thunder was heard in Jeffreys' voice.

"Dost thou believe that any one here believes thee?  Prithee, what
trade art thou?"

"My lord," stammered the unfortunate, "I - I am a baker by trade."

"And wilt thou bake thy bread at such easy rates?  Upon my word,
then, thou art very kind.  Prithee, tell me.  I believe thou dost
use to bake on Sundays, dost thou not?"

"No, my lord, I do not!" cried Dunne indignantly.

"Alackaday!  Art precise in that," sneered the judge.  "But thou
canst travel on Sundays to lead rogues into lurking-holes."

Later, when to implicate the prisoner, it was sought to draw from
Dunne a full account of the reception she had given his companions,
his terror under the bullying to which he was subjected made him
contradict himself more flagrantly than ever.  Jeffreys addressed
the jury.

"You see, gentlemen, what a precious fellow this is; a very pretty
tool to be employed upon such an errand; a knave that nobody would
trust for half a crown.  A Turk has more title to an eternity of
bliss than these pretenders to Christianity."

And as there was no more to be got from Dunne just then, he was
presently dismissed, and Barter's damning evidence was taken.
Thereafter the wretched Dunne was recalled, to be bullied by Jeffreys
in blasphemous terms that may not be printed here.

Barter had told the Court how my lady had come into the kitchen with
Dunne, and how, when he had afterwards questioned Dunne as to why
they had whispered and laughed together, Dunne told him she had asked
"If he knew aught of the business."  Jeffreys sought now to wring
from Dunne what was this business to which he had so mysteriously
alluded - this with the object of establishing Lady Lisle's knowledge
of Hicks's treason.

Dunne resisted more stubbornly than ever.  Jeffreys, exasperated -
since without the admission it would be difficult to convict her
ladyship --invited the jury to take notice of the strange, horrible
carriage of the fellow, and heaped abuse upon the snivelling, canting
sect of which he was a member.  Finally, he reminded Dunne of his
oath to tell the truth, and addressed him with a sort of loving
ferocity.

"What shall it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own
soul?" bellowed that terrible judge, his eyes aflame.  "Is not this
the voice of Scripture itself?  And wilt thou hazard so dear and
precious a thing as thy soul for a lie?  Thou wretch!  All the
mountains and hills of the world heaped upon one another will not
cover thee from the vengeance of the Great God for this transgression
of false-witness bearing."

"I cannot tell what to say, my lord," gasped Dunne.

In his rage to see all efforts vain, the judge's language became
that of the cockpit.  Recovering at last, he tried gentleness again,
and very elaborately invited Dunne, in my lady's own interest, to
tell him what was the business to which he had referred to Barter.

"She asked me whether I did not know that Hicks was a Nonconformist."

"That cannot be all.  There must be something more in it."

"Yes, my lord," Dunne protested, "it is all.  I know nothing more."

"Was there ever such an impudent rascal?" roared the judge.  "Dolt
think that, after all the pains I have been at to get an answer,
thou canst banter me with such sham stuff as this?  Hold the candle
to his brazen face, that we may see it clearly."

Dunne stood terrified and trembling under the glance of those
terrible eyes.

"My lord," he cried, "I am so baulked, I am cluttered out of my
senses."

Again he was put down whilst Colonel Penruddock gave his evidence
of the apprehension of the rebels.  When he had told how he found
Hicks and Dunne concealed under some stuff in the malt-house,
Dunne was brought back yet again, that Jeffreys might resume his
cross-examination.

"Dunne, how came you to hide yourself in the malthouse?"

"My lord," said Dunne foolishly, "I was frighted by the noise."

"Prithee, what needest thou be afraid of, for thou didst not know
Hicks nor Nelthorp; and my lady only asked thee whether Hicks were
a Nonconformist parson.  Surely, so very innocent a soul needed
no occasion to be afraid.  I doubt there was something in the case
of that business we were talking of before.  If we could but get
out of thee what it was."

But Dunne continued to evade.

"My lord, I heard a great noise in the house, and did not know what
it meant.  So I went and hid myself."

"It is very strange thou shouldst hide thyself for a little noise,
when thou knewest nothing of the business."

Again the witness, with a candle still held close to his nose,
complained that he was quite cluttered out of his senses, and did
not know what he was saying.

"But to tell the truth would not rob thee of any of thy senses, if
ever thou hadst any," Jeffreys told him angrily.  "But it would
seem that neither thou nor thy mistress, the prisoner, had any; for
she knew nothing of it either, though she had sent for them thither."

"My lord," cried her ladyship at that, "I hope I shall not be
condemned without being heard."

"No, God forbid, Mrs.  Lisle," he answered; and then viciously
flashed forth a hint of the true forces of Nemesis at work against
her.  "That was a sort of practice in your late husband's time -
you know very well what I mean - but God be thanked it is not so
now."

Came next the reluctant evidence of Carpenter and his wife, and
after that there was yet a fourth equally futile attempt to drag
from Dunne an admission that her ladyship was acquainted with
Hicks's share in the rebellion.  But if stupid, Dunne at least was
staunch, and so, with a wealth of valedictory invective, Jeffreys
dismissed him, and addressed at last the prisoner, inviting her to
speak in her own defence.

She rose to do so, fearlessly yet gently.

"My lord, what I have to say is this.  I knew of nobody's coming
to my house but Mr. Hicks, and for him I was informed that he did
abscond by reason of warrants that were out against him for
preaching in private meetings; for that reason I sent to him to
come by night.  But I had never heard that Nelthorp was to come
with him, nor what name Nelthorp had till after he had come to my
house.  I could die upon it.  As for Mr. Hicks, I did not in the
least suspect that he had been in the army, being a Presbyterian
minister that used to preach and not to fight."

"But I will tell you," Jeffreys interrupted her, "that there is not
one of those lying, snivelling, canting Presbyterian rascals but
one way or the other had a hand in the late horrid conspiracy and
rebellion."

"My lord, I abhorred both the principles and the practices of the
late rebellion," she protested; adding that if she had been tried
in London, my Lady Abergavenny and many other persons of quality
could have testified with what detestation she had spoken of the
rebellion, and that she had been in London until Monmouth had been
beheaded.

"If I had known the time of my trial in the country," she pursued,
"I could have had the testimony of those persons of honour for me.
But, my lord, I have been told, and so I thought it would have been,
that I should not have been tried for harbouring Mr. Hicks until he
should himself be convict as a traitor.  I did abhor those that were
in the plot and conspiracy against the King.  I know my duty to my
King better, and have always exercised it.  I defy anybody in the
world that ever knew contrary to come and give testimony."

His voice broke harshly upon the pause.  "Have you any more to say?"

"As to what they say to my denying Nelthorp to be in the house," she
resumed.  "I was in very great consternation and fear of the
soldiers, who were very rude and violent.  I beseech your lordship
to make that construction of it, and not harbour an ill opinion of
me because of those false reports that go about of me, relating to
my carriage towards the old King, that I was anyways consenting to
the death of King Charles I; for, my lord, that is as false as God
is true.  I was not out of my chamber all the day in which that king
was beheaded, and I believe I shed more tears for him than any other
woman then living.

"And I do repeat it, my lord, as I hope to attain salvation, I never
did know Nelthorp, nor did I know of anybody's coming but Mr. Hicks.
Him I knew to be a Nonconformist minister, and there being, as is
well known, warrants out to apprehend all Nonconformist ministers,
I was willing to give him shelter from these warrants, which I knew
was no treason."

"Have you any more to say for yourself?" he asked her.

"My lord," she was beginning, "I came but five days before this into
the country."

"Nay," he broke in, "I cannot tell when you came into the country,
nor I don't care.  It seems you came in time to harbour rebels."

She protested that if she would have ventured her life for anything,
it would have been to serve the King.

"But, though I could not fight for him myself, my son did; he was
actually in arms on the King's side in this business.  It was I that
bred him in loyalty and to fight for the King."

"Well, have you done?" he asked her brutally.

"Yes, my lord," she answered; and resumed her seat, trembling a
little from the exertion and emotion of her address.

His charge to the jury began.  It was very long, and the first half
of it was taken up with windy rhetoric in which the Almighty was
invoked at every turn.  It degenerated at one time into a sermon
upon the text of "render unto Caesar," inveighing against the
Presbyterian religion.  And the dull length of his lordship's
periods, combined with the monotone in which he spoke, lulled the
wearied lady at the bar into slumber.  She awakened with a start
when suddenly his fist crashed down and his voice rose in fierce
denunciation of the late rebellion.  But she was dozing again - so
calm and so little moved was she - before he had come to apply his
denunciations to her own case, and this in spite of all her protests
that she had held the rebellion in abhorrence.

It was all calculated to prejudice the minds of the jurymen before
he came to the facts and the law of the case.  And that charge of
his throughout, far from being a judicial summing-up, was a virulent
address for the prosecution, just as his bearing hitherto in
examining and cross-examining witnesses had been that of counsel
for the Crown.  The statement that she had made in her own defence
he utterly ignored, save in one particular, where he saw his
opportunity further to prejudice her case.

"I am sorry," he said, his face lengthening, "to remember something
that dropped even from the gentlewoman herself.  She pretends to
religion and loyalty very much - how greatly she wept at the death
of King Charles the Martyr - and owns her great obligations to the
late king and his royal brother.  And yet no sooner is one in the
grave than she forgets all gratitude and entertains those that were
rebels against his royal successor.

"I will not say," he continued with deliberate emphasis, "what hand
her husband had in the death of that blessed martyr; she has enough
to answer for her own guilt; and I must confess that it ought not,
one way or other, to make any ingredient into this case what she was
in former times."

But he had dragged it in, protesting that it should not influence
the case, yet coldly, calculatingly intending it to do so.  She was
the widow of a regicide, reason and to spare in the views of himself
and his royal master why she should be hounded to her death upon any
pretext.

Thereafter he reviewed the evidence against her, dwelt upon the
shuffling of Dunne, deduced that the reason for so much lying was
to conceal the damning truth - namely, that she knew Hicks for a
rebel when she gave him shelter, and thus became the partner of his
horrible guilt.  Upon that he charged them to find their verdict
"without any consideration of persons, but considering only the
truth."

Nevertheless, although his commands were clear, some of the jury
would seem to have feared the God whom Jeffreys invoked so
constantly.  One of them rose to ask him pertinently, in point of
law, whether it was treason to have harboured Hicks before the man
had been convicted of treason.

Curtly he answered them that beyond doubt it was, and upon that
assurance the jury withdrew, the Court settled down into an expectant
silence, and her ladyship dozed again in her chair.

The minutes passed.  It was growing late, and Jeffreys was eager to
be done with this prejudged affair, that he might dine in peace.
His voice broke the stillness of the court, protesting his angry
wonder at the need to deliberate in so plain a case.  He was
threatening to adjourn and let the jury lie by all night if they
did not bring in their verdict quickly.  When, at the end of a
half-hour, they returned, his fierce, impatient glance found them
ominously grave.

"My lord," said Mr. Whistler, the foreman, "we have to beg of your
lordship some directions before we can bring our verdict.  We have
some doubt upon us whether there be sufficient proof that she knew
Hicks to have been in the army."

Well might they doubt it, for there was no proof at all.  Yet he
never hesitated to answer them.

"There is as full proof as proof can be.  But you are judges of the
proof.  For my part, I thought there was no difficulty in it."

"My lord," the foreman insisted, "we are in some doubt about it."

"I cannot help your doubts," he said irritably.  "Was there not
proved a discourse of the battle and of the battle and of the army
at supper-time?"

"But, my lord, we are not satisfied that she had notice that Hicks
was in the army."

He glowered upon them in silence for a moment.  They deserved to
be themselves indicted for their slowness to perceive where lay
their duty to their king.

"I cannot tell what would satisfy you," he said; and sneered.  "Did
she not inquire of Dunne whether Hicks had been in the army?  And
when he told her he did not know, she did not say she would refuse
if he had been, but ordered him to come by night, by which it is
evident she suspected it."

He ignored, you see, her own complete explanation of that
circumstance.

"And when Hicks and Nelthorp came, did she not discourse with them
about the battle and the army?"  (As if that were not at the time
a common topic of discussion.)  "Come, come, gentlemen," he said,
with amazing impudence, "it is plain proof."

But Mr. Whistler was not yet satisfied.

"We do not remember, my lord, that it was proved that she asked any
such question."

That put him in a passion.

"Sure," he bellowed, "you do not remember anything that has passed.
Did not Dunne tell you there was such a discourse, and she was by?
But if there were no such proof, the circumstances and management
of the thing are as full proof as can be.  I wonder what it is you
doubt of!"

Mrs.  Lisle had risen.  There was a faint flush of excitement on her
grey old face.

"My lord, I hope - " she began, in trembling tones, to get no further.

"You must not speak now!" thundered her terrible judge; and thus
struck her silent.

The brief resistance to his formidable will was soon at an end.
Within a quarter of an hour the jury announced their verdict.  They
found her guilty.

"Gentlemen," said his lordship, "I did not think I should have
occasion to speak after your verdict, but, finding some hesitancy
and doubt among you, I cannot but say I wonder it should come about;
for I think, in my conscience, the evidence was as full and plain
as it could be, and if I had been among you, and she had been my
own mother, I should have found her guilty."

She was brought up for sentence on the morrow, together with several
others subsequently convicted.  Amid fresh invectives against the
religion she practised, he condemned her to be burned alive - which
was the proper punishment for high treason - ordering the sheriff
to prepare for her execution that same afternoon.

"But look you, Mrs. Lisle," he added, "we that are the judges shall
stay in town an hour or two.  You shall have pen, ink, and paper,
and if, in the mean time, you employ that pen, ink, and paper and
that hour or two well - you understand what I mean it may be that
you shall hear further from us in a deferring of this execution."

What was this meaning that he assumed she understood?  Jeffreys had
knowledge of Kirke's profitable traffic in the West, and it is known
that he spared no means of acquiring an estate suitable to his rank
which he did not possess by way of patrimony.  Thus cynically he
invited a bribe.

It is the only inference that explains the subsequent rancour he
displayed against her, aroused by her neglect to profit by his
suggestions.  The intercession of the divines of Winchester
procured her a week's reprieve, and in that week her puissant
friends in London, headed by the Earl of Abergavenny, petitioned
the King on her behalf.  Even Feversham, the victor of Sedgemoor,
begged her life of the King - bribed to it, as men say, by an offer
of a thousand pounds.  But the King withheld his mercy upon the
plea that he had promised Lord Jeffreys he would not reprieve her,
and the utmost clemency influential petitions could wring from
James II was that she should be beheaded instead of burned.

She suffered in the market-place of Winchester on September 2d.
Christian charity was all her sin, and for this her head was
demanded in atonement.  She yielded it with a gentle fortitude and
resolution.  In lieu of speech, she left with the sheriff a pathetic
document wherein she protests her innocence of all offence against
the King, and forgives her enemies specifically - the judge, who
prejudiced her case, and forgot that "the Court should be counsel
for the prisoner," and Colonel Penruddock, "though he told me he
could have taken those men before they came to my house."

Between those lines you may read the true reason why the Lady Alice
Lisle died.  She died to slake the cruelly vindictive thirst of
King James II on the one hand, and Colonel Penruddock on the other,
against her husband who had been dead for twenty years.




V.   THE NIGHT OF MASSACRE

THE STORY OF THE SAINT BARTHOLOMEW


There are elements of mystery about the massacre of Saint Bartholomew
over which, presumably, historians will continue to dispute as long
as histories are written.  Indeed, it is largely of their disputes
that the mystery is begotten.  Broadly speaking, these historians
may be divided into two schools - Catholic and anti-Catholic.  The
former have made it their business to show that the massacre was
purely a political affair, having no concern with religion; the
latter have been equally at pains to prove it purely an act of
religious persecution having no concern with politics.  Those who
adopt the latter point of view insist that the affair was long
premeditated, that it had its source in something concerted some
seven years earlier between Catherine of Medicis and the sinister
Duke of Alva.  And they would seem to suggest that Henry of Navarre,
the nominal head of the Protestant party, was brought to Paris to
wed Marguerite de Valois merely so that by this means the Protestant
nobles of the kingdom, coming to the capital for the wedding, should
be lured to their destruction.

It does not lie within the purview of the present narrative to enter
into a consideration of the arguments of the two schools, nor will
it be attempted.

But it may briefly be stated that the truth lies probably in a
middle course of reasoning - that the massacre was political in
conception and religious in execution; or, in other words, that
statecraft deliberately made use of fanaticism as of a tool; that
the massacre was brought about by a sudden determination begotten
of opportunity which is but another word for Chance.

Against the theory of premeditation the following cardinal facts
may be urged:

(a) The impossibility of guarding for seven years a secret that
several must have shared;

(b) The fact that neither Charles IX nor his mother Catherine were
in any sense bigoted Catholics, or even of a normal religious
sincerity.

(c) The lack of concerted action - so far as the kingdom generally
was concerned - in the execution of the massacre.

A subsidiary disproof lies in the attempted assassination of Coligny
two days before the massacre, an act which might, by putting the
Huguenots on their guard, have caused the miscarriage of the entire
plan - had it existed.

It must be borne in mind that for years France had been divided by
religious differences into two camps, and that civil war between
Catholic and Huguenot had ravaged and distracted the country.  At
the head of the Protestant party stood that fine soldier Gaspard
de Chatillon, Admiral de Coligny, virtually the Protestant King of
France, a man who raised armies, maintaining them by taxes levied
upon Protestant subjects, and treated with Charles IX as prince
with prince.  At the head of the Catholic party - the other
imperium in imperio - stood the Duke of Guise.  The third and
weakest party in the State, serving, as it seemed, little purpose
beyond that of holding the scales between the other turbulent two,
was the party of the King.

The motives and events that precipitated the massacre are set forth
in the narration of the King's brother, the Duke of Anjou
(afterwards Henri III).  It was made by him to Miron, his physician
and confidential servant in Cracow, when he ruled there later as
King of Poland, under circumstances which place it beyond suspicion
of being intended to serve ulterior aims.  For partial corroboration,
and for other details of the massacre itself, we have the narratives,
among others, of Sully, who was then a young man in the train of the
King of Navarre, and of Lusignan, a gentleman of the Admiral's
household.  We shall closely follow these in our reconstruction of
the event and its immediate causes.

The gay chatter of the gallants and ladies thronging the long
gallery of the Louvre sank and murmured into silence, and a movement
was made to yield a free passage to the King, who had suddenly made
his appearance leaning affectionately upon the shoulder of the
Admiral de Coligny.

The Duke of Anjou, a slender, graceful young man in a
gold-embroidered suit of violet, forgot the interest he was taking
in his beautiful hands to bend lower over the handsome Madame de
Nemours what time the unfriendly eyes of both were turned upon the
Admiral.

The King and the great Huguenot leader came slowly down the gallery,
an oddly contrasting pair.  Coligny would have been the taller by
a half-head but for his stoop, yet in spite of it there was energy
and military vigour in his carriage, just as there was a severe
dignity amounting to haughtiness in his scarred and wrinkled
countenance.  A bullet that had pierced his cheek and broken three
of his teeth at the battle of Moncontour had left a livid scar that
lost itself in his long white beard.  His forehead was high and
bald, and his eyes were of a steely keenness under their tufted
brows.  He was dressed with Calvinistic simplicity entirely in
black, and just as this contrasted with the King's suit of
sulphur-coloured satin, so did the gravity of his countenance
contrast with the stupidity of his sovereign's.

Charles IX, a slimly built young man in his twenty-fourth year, was
of a pallid, muddy complexion, with great, shifty, greenish eyes,
and a thick, pendulous nose.  The protruding upper lip of his long,
thin mouth gave him an oafish expression, which was increased by
his habit of carrying his head craned forward.

His nature was precisely what you would have expected from his
appearance - dull and gross.  He was chiefly distinguished among
men of birth for general obscenity of speech and morphological
inventiveness in blasphemy.

At the end of the gallery Coligny stooped to kiss the royal hand in
leave-taking.  With his other hand Charles patted the Admiral's
shoulder.

"Count me your friend," he said, "body and soul, heart and bowels,
even as I count you mine.  Fare you well, my father."

Coligny departed, and the King retraced his steps, walking quickly,
his head hunched between his shoulders, his baleful eyes looking
neither to left nor right.  As he passed out, the Duke of Anjou
quitted the side of Madame de Nemours, and went after him.  Then
at last the suspended chatter of the courtiers broke loose again.

The King was pacing his cabinet - a simple room furnished with a
medley of objects appertaining to study, to devotion, and to hunting.
A large picture of the Virgin hung from a wall flanked on either
side by an arquebus, and carrying a hunting-horn on one of its upper
corners.  A little alabaster holy-water font near the door, crowned
by a sprig of palm, seemed to serve as a receptacle for hawk-bells
and straps.  There was a writing-table of beautifully carved walnut
near the leaded window, littered with books and papers - a treatise
on hunting lay cheek by jowl with a Book of Hours; a string of
rosary beads and a dog-whip lay across an open copy of Ronsard's
verses.  The King was quite the vilest poetaster of his day.

Charles looked over his shoulder as his brother entered.  The scowl
on his face deepened when he saw who came, and with a grunt he
viciously kicked the liver-coloured hound that lay stretched at
his feet.  The hound fled yelping to a corner, the Duke checked,
startled, in his advance.

"Well?" growled the King.  "Well?  Am I never to have peace?  Am I
never to be alone?  What now?  Bowels of God!  What do you want?"

His green eyes smouldered, his right hand opened and closed on the
gold hilt of the dagger at his girdle:

Scared by the maniac ferocity of this reception, the young Duke
precipitately withdrew.

"It is nothing.  Another time, since I disturb you now."  He bowed
and vanished, followed by an evil, cackling laugh.

Anjou knew how little his brother loved him, and he confesses how
much he feared him in that moment.  But under his fear it is obvious
that there was lively resentment.  He went straight in quest of his
mother, whose darling he was, to bear her the tale of the King's
mood, and what he accounted, no doubt rightly, the cause of it.

"It is the work of that pestilential Huguenot admiral," he
announced, at the end of a long tirade, "It is always thus with him
after he has seen Coligny."

Catherine of Medicis considered.  She was a fat, comfortable woman,
with a thick nose, pinched lips, and sleepy eyes.

"Charles," she said at length, in her monotonous, emotionless voice,
"is a weathercock that turns with every wind that blows upon him.
You should know him by now."  And she yawned, so that one who did
not know her and her habit of perpetually yawning might have
supposed that she was but indifferently interested.

They were alone together in the intimate little tapestried room she
called her oratory.  She half sat, half reclined upon a couch of
rose brocade.  Anjou stood over by the window, his back to it, so
that his pale face was in shadow.  He considered his beautiful hands,
which he was reluctant to lower, lest the blood should flow into
them and mar their white perfection.

"The Admiral's influence over him is increasing," he complained,
"and he uses it to lessen our own."

"Do I not know it?" came her dull voice.

"It is time to end it," said Anjou passionately, "before he ends us.
Your influence grows weaker every day and the Admiral's stronger.
Charles begins to take sides with him against us.  We shall have
him a tool of the Huguenot party before all is done.  Ah, mon Dieu!
You should have seen him leaning upon the shoulder of that old
parpaillot, calling him 'my father,' and protesting himself his
devoted friend 'body and soul, heart and bowels,' in his own words.
And when I seek him afterwards, he scowls and snarls at me, and
fingers his dagger as if he would have it in my throat.  It is
plain to see upon what subject the old scoundrel entertained him."
And again he repeated, more fiercely than before: "It is time to
end it!"

"I know," she said, ever emotionless before so much emotion.  "And
it shall be ended.  The old assassin should have been hanged years
ago for guiding the hand that shot Francois de Guise.  Daily he
becomes a greater danger, to Charles, to ourselves, and to France.
He is embroiling us with Spain through this Huguenot army he is
raising to go and fight the battles of Calvinism in Flanders.  A
fine thing that.  Ah, per Dio!"  For a moment her voice was a
little warmed and quickened.  "Catholic France at war with Catholic
Spain for the sake of Huguenot Flanders!"  She laughed shortly.
Then her voice reverted to its habitual sleepy level.  "You are
right.  It is time to end it.  Coligny is the head of this
rebellious beast.  If we cut off the head, perhaps the beast will
perish.  We will consult the Duke of Guise."  She yawned again.
"Yes, the Duke of Guise will be ready to lend us his counsel and
his aid.  Decidedly we must get rid of the Admiral."

That was on Monday, August 18th of that year 1572, and such was the
firm purpose and energy of that fat and seemingly sluggish woman,
that within two days all necessary measures were taken, and
Maurevert, the assassin, was at his post in the house of Vilaine,
in the Cloisters of Saint-Germain l'Auxerrois, procured for the
purpose by Madame de Nemours, who bore the Admiral a mortal hatred.

It was not, however, until the following Friday that Maurevert was
given the opportunity of carrying out the task to which he had been
hired.  On that morning, as the Admiral was passing, accompanied
by a few gentlemen of his household, returning from the Louvre to
his house in the Rue Betisy, the assassin did his work.  There was
a sudden arquebusade from a first-floor window, and a bullet smashed
two fingers of the Admiral's right hand, and lodged itself in the
muscles of his left arm.

With his maimed and bleeding hand he pointed to the window whence
the shot had been fired, bidding his gentlemen to force a way into
the house and take the assassin.  But whilst they were breaking in
at the front, Maurevert was making his escape by the back, where a
horse waited for him, and, though pursued, he was never overtaken.

News of the event was instantly borne to the King.  It found him at
tennis with the Duke of Guise and the Admiral's son-in-law, Teligny.

"In this assassin's work, Sire," said the blunt gentleman whom
Coligny had sent, "the Admiral desires you to see the proof of the
worth of the agreement between himself and Monsieur de Guise that
followed upon the treaty of peace of Saint-Germain."

The Duke of Guise drew himself stiffly up, but said no word.  The
King, livid with rage, looked at him balefully a moment, then to
vent some of his fury he smashed his racket against the wall.

"God's Blood!" he cried, mouthing horribly.  "Am I then never to
have rest?"  He flung away the broken remnants of his racket, and
went out cursing.  Questioning the messenger further, he learnt
that the shot had been fired from the house of Vilaine, a sometime
tutor to the Duke of Guise, and that the horse upon which the
assassin had fled had been held for him by a groom in the Guise
livery.

Meanwhile the Duke and Monsieur de Teligny had gone their ways with
no word spoken between them - Guise to shut himself up in his hotel
and assemble his friends, Teligny to repair at once to his
father-in-law.

At two o'clock in the afternoon, in response to an urgent request
from the Admiral, the King went to visit him, accompanied by the
Queen-Mother, by his brothers Anjou and Alencon, and a number of
officers and courtiers.  The royal party saw nothing of the
excitement which had been prevailing in the city ever since the
morning's event, an excitement which subsided at their approach.
The King was gloomy, resentful, and silent, having so far refused
to discuss the matter with any one, denying audience even to his
mother.  Catherine and Anjou were vexed by the miscarriage of the
affair, anxious and no less silent than the King.

They found the Admiral awaiting them, calm and composed.  The
famous Ambroise Pare had amputated the two broken fingers, and had
dealt with the wound in the arm.  But although Coligny might be
considered to have escaped lightly, and not to be in any danger, a
rumour was abroad that the bullet was poisoned; and neither the
Admiral nor his people seem to have rejected the possibility.  One
suspects, indeed, that capital was made out of it.  It was felt,
perhaps, that thus should the Admiral maintain a greater influence
with the King.  For in any uncertainty as to whether Coligny would
live or die, the King's feelings must be more deeply stirred than
if he knew that the wound carried no peril to life.

Followed closely by his mother and his brothers, Charles swept
through the spacious ante-chamber, thronged now with grim-faced,
resentful Huguenot gentlemen, and so entered the room where Coligny
reclined upon a day bed near the window.  The Admiral made shift
to rise, but this the King hurried forward to prevent.

"Rest yourself, my dear father!" he cried, in accents of deep
concern.  "Heart of God!  What is this they have done to you?
Assure me, at least, that your life is safe, or, by the Mass, I'll - "

"I hold my life from God," the Admiral replied gravely, "and when He
requires it of me I will yield it up.  That is nothing."

"Nothing?  God's Blood! Nothing?  The hurt is yours, my father, but
the outrage mine; and I swear to you, by the Blood and the Death,
that I will take such a vengeance as shall never be forgotten!"

Thereupon he fell into such a storm of imprecation and blasphemy
that the Admiral, a sincerely devout, God-fearing heretic, shuddered
to hear him.

"Calm, Sire!" he begged at last, laying his sound hand upon the
King's velvet sleeve.  " Be calm and listen, for it is not to speak
of myself, of these wounds, or of the wrong done me, that I have
presumed to beg you to visit me.  This attempt to murder me is but
a sign of the evil that is stirring in France to sap your authority
and power.  But - "  He checked and looked at the three who stood
immediately behind the King.  "What I have to say is, if you will
deign to listen, for your private ear."

The King jerked round in a fashion peculiar to him; his every action
was abrupt and spasmodic.  He eyed his mother and brothers shiftily.
It was beyond his power to look any one directly in the face.

"Outside!" he commanded, waving an impatient hand almost in their
faces.  "Do you hear?  Leave me to talk with my father the Admiral."

The young dukes fell back at once, ever in dread of provoking the
horrible displays of passion that invariably followed upon any
resistance of his feeble will.  But the sluggish Catherine was not
so easily moved.

"Is Monsieur de Coligny strong enough, do you think, to treat of
affairs at present?  Consider his condition, I beg," she enjoined
in her level voice.

"I thank you for your consideration, madame," said the Admiral, the
ghost of an ironic smile about his lips.  "But I am strong enough,
thank God! And even though my strength were less than it is, it
would be more heavily taxed by the thought that I had neglected my
duty to His Majesty than it ever could be by the performance of that
duty."

"Ha!  You hear?" snapped the King.  "Go, then; go!"

They went, returning to the ante-chamber to wait until the audience
should conclude.  The three stood there in the embrasure of a window
that looked out upon the hot, sunlit courtyard.  There, as Anjou
himself tells us, they found themselves hemmed about by some two
hundred sullen, grim-faced gentlemen and officers of the Admiral's
party, who eyed them without dissembling their hostility, who
preserved a silence that was disturbed only by the murmurs of their
constant whisperings, and who moved to and fro before the royal
group utterly careless of the proper degree of deference and respect.

Isolated thus in that hostile throng, Catherine and her sons became
more and more uneasy, so that, as the Queen-Mother afterwards
confessed, she was never in any place where her tarrying was attended
by so much fear, or her departure thence by so much pleasure.

It was this fear that spurred her at last to put an end to that
secret conference in the room beyond.  She did it in characteristic
manner.  In the most complete outward composure, stifling a yawn as
she went, she moved deliberately across to the door, her sons
following, rapped shortly on the panel, and entered without waiting
to be bidden.

The King, who was standing by the Admiral's side, wheeled sharply
at the sound of the opening door.  His eyes blazed with sudden anger
when he beheld his mother, but she was the first to speak.

"My son," she said, "I am concerned for the poor Admiral.  He will
have the fever if you continue to permit him to weary himself with
affairs at present.  It is not to treat him as a friend to prolong
this interview.  Let business wait until he is recovered, which
will be the sooner if he is given rest at present."

Coligny stroked his white beard in silence, while the King flared
out, striding towards her:

"Par la Mort Dieu!  What is this sudden concern for the Admiral?"

"Not sudden, my son," she answered in her dull voice, her eyes
intent upon him, with something magnetic in their sleepy glance that
seemed to rob him of half his will.  "None knows more accurately
than I the Admiral's precise, value to France."

Anjou behind her may have smiled at that equivocal phrase.

"God's Bowels!  Am I King, or what am I?"

"It ill becomes a king to abuse the strength of a poor wounded
subject," she returned, her eyes ever regarding him steadily.
"Come, Charles.  Another day, when the Admiral shall have recovered
more fully, you may continue this discourse.  Come now."

His anger was subdued to mere sullenness, almost infantile in its
outward petulant expression.  He attempted to meet her glance, and
he was completely lost.

"Perhaps . . . Ah, Ventre Dieu, my mother is right!  Let the matter
rest, then, my father.  We will talk of it again as soon as you are
well."

He stepped up to the couch, and held out his hand.

Coligny took it, and his eyes looked up wistfully into the weak
young face of his King.

"I thank you, Sire, for coming and for hearing me.  Another day, if
I am spared, I may tell you more.  Meanwhile, bear well in mind what
I have said already.  I have no interests in this world but your
own, Sire."  And he kissed the royal hand in farewell.

Not until they were back in the Louvre did the Queen attempt to
break upon the King's gloomy abstraction, to learn - as learn she
must - the subject of the Admiral's confidential communication.

Accompanied by Anjou, she sought him in his cabinet, nor would she
be denied.  He sat at his writing-table, his head sunken between
his shoulders, his receding chin in his cupped palms.  He glared at
the pair as they entered, swore savagely, and demanded their
business with him.

Catherine sat down with massive calm.  Anjou remained standing
beside and slightly behind her, leaning upon the back of her tall
chair.

"My son," she said bluntly, "I have come to learn what passed
between you and Coligny."

"What passed?  What concern is that of yours?"

"All your concerns are mine," she answered tranquilly.  "I am your
mother."

"And I am your king!" he answered, banging the table.  "And I mean
to be king!"

"By the grace of God and the favour of Monsieur de Coligny," she
sneered, with unruffled calm.

"What's that?"  His mouth fell open, and his eyes stared.  A crimson
flush overspread his muddy complexion.  "What's that?"

Her dull glance met and held his own whilst calmly she repeated her
sneering words.

"And that is why I have come to you," she added.  "If you are unable
to rule without guidance, I must at least do what I can so that the
guidance shall not be that of a rebel, of one who guides you to the
end that he may master you."

"Master me!" he screamed.  He rose in his indignation and faced her.
But his glance, unable to support her steady eyes, faltered and fell
away.  Foul oaths poured from his royal lips.  "Master me!" he
repeated.

"Aye - master you," she answered him.  "Master you until the little
remnant of your authority shall have been sapped; until you are no
more than a puppet in the hands of the Huguenot party, a roi
faineant, a king of straw."

"By God, madame, were you not my mother - "

"It is because I am your mother that I seek to save you."

He looked at her again, but again his glance faltered.  He paced the
length of the room and back, mouthing and muttering.  Then he came
to stand, leaning on the prie-dieu, facing her.

"By God's Death, madame, since you demand to know what the Admiral
said, you shall.  You prove to me that what he told me was no more
than true.  He told me that a king is only recognized in France as
long as he is a power for good or ill over his subjects; that this
power, together with the management of all State affairs, is
slipping, by the crafty contrivances of yourself and Anjou there,
out of my hands into your own; that this power and authority which
you are both stealing from me may one day be used against me and my
kingdom.  And he bade me be on my guard against you both and take
my measures.  He gave me this counsel, madame, because he deemed it
his duty as one of my most loyal and faithful servants at the point
of death, and - "

"The shameless hypocrite!" her dull, contemptuous voice interrupted
him.  "At the point of death!  Two broken fingers and a flesh-wound
in the arm and he represents himself as in articulo mortis that he
may play upon you, and make you believe his lies."

Her stolidity of manner and her logic, ponderous and irresistible,
had their effect.  His big, green eyes seemed to dilate, his mouth
fell open.

"If - " he began, and checked, rapped out an oath, and checked again.
"Are they lies, madame?" he asked slowly.

She caught the straining note of hope in that question of his - a
hope founded upon vanity, the vanity to be king in fact, as well
as king in name.  She rose.

"To ask me that - me, your mother - is to insult me.  Come, Anjou."

And on that she departed, craftily, leaving her suggestion to prey
upon his mind.

But once alone in her oratory with Anjou, her habitual torpor was
sloughed away.  For once she quivered and crimsoned and raised her
voice, whilst for once her sleepy eyes kindled and flashed as she
inveighed against Coligny and the Huguenots.

For the moment, however, there was no more to be done.  The stroke
had failed; Coligny had survived the attempt upon his life, and
there was danger that on the recoil the blow might smite those who
had launched it.  But on the morrow, which was Saturday, things
suddenly assumed a very different complexion.

That great Catholic leader, the powerful, handsome Duke of Guise,
who, more than suspected of having inspired the attempted
assassination, had kept his hotel since yesterday, now sought the
Queen-Mother with news of what was happening in the city.  Armed
bands of Huguenot nobles were riding through the streets, clamouring:

"Death to the assassins of the Admiral!  Down with the Guisards!"

And, although a regiment of Gardes Francaises had been hastily
brought to Paris to keep order, the Duke feared grave trouble in
a city which the royal wedding had filled with Huguenot gentlemen
and their following.  Then, too, there were rumours that the
Huguenots were arming everywhere - rumours which, whether true or
not, were, under the circumstances, sufficiently natural and
probable to be taken seriously.

Leaving Guise in her oratory, and summoning her darling Anjou,
Catherine at once sought the King.  She may have believed the
rumours, and she may even have stated them as facts beyond dispute
so as to strengthen and establish her case against Gaspard de
Coligny.

"King Gaspard I," she told him, "is already taking his measures.
The Huguenots are arming; officers have been dispatched into the
provinces to levy troops.  The Admiral has ordered the raising of
ten thousand horse in Germany, and another ten thousand Swiss
mercenaries in the Cantons."

He stared at her vacuously.  Some such rumour had already reached
him, and he conceived that here was definite confirmation of it.

"You may determine now who are your friends, who your loyal servants,"
she told him.  "How is so much force to be resisted in the state in
which you find yourself?  The Catholics exhausted, and weary as they
are by a civil war in which their king was of little account to them,
are going to arm so as to offer what resistance they can without
depending upon you.  Thus, within your State you will have two great
parties under arms, neither of which can be called your own.  Unless
you stir yourself, and quickly, unless you choose now between friends
and foes, you will find yourself alone, isolated, in grave peril,
without authority or power."

He sank overwhelmed to a chair, and took his head in his hands,
cogitating.  When next he looked at her there was positive fear in
his great eyes, a fear evoked by contemplation of the picture which
her words had painted for him.

He looked from her to Anjou.

"What then?" he asked.  "What then?  How is the danger to be averted?"

"By a simple stroke of the sword," she answered calmly.  "Slice off
at a blow the head of this beast of rebellion, this hydra of heresy."

He huddled back, horror in his eyes.  His hands slid slowly along
the carved arms of his chair, and clenched the ends so tightly that
his knuckles looked like knobs of marble.

"Kill the Admiral?" he said slowly.

"The Admiral and the chief Huguenot leaders," she said, much in the
tone she might have used, were it a matter of wringing the necks of
a dozen capons.

"Ah, ca!  Par la Mort Dieu!"  He heaved himself up, raging.  "Thus
would your hatred of him be served.  Thus would you - "

Coolly she sliced into his foaming speech.

"Not I - not I!" she said.  "Do nothing upon my advice.  Summon your
Council.  Send for Tavannes, Biragues, Retz, and the others.  Consult
with them.  They are your friends; you trust and believe in them.
When they know the facts, see if their counsel will differ from your
mother's.  Send for them; they are in the Louvre now."

He looked at her a moment.

"Very well," he said; and reeled to the door, bawling hoarsely his
orders.

They came, one by one - the Marshal de Tavannes, the Duke of Retz,
the Duke of Nevers, the Chancellor de Biragues, and lastly the Duke
of Guise, upon whom the King scowled a jealous hatred that was now
fully alive.

The window, which overlooked the quay and the river, stood open to
admit what air might be stirring on that hot day of August.

Charles sat at his writing-table, sullen and moody, twining a string
of beads about his fingers.  Catherine occupied the chair over
beyond the table, Anjou sitting near her on a stool.  The others
stood respectfully awaiting that the King should make known his
wishes.  The shifty royal glance swept over them from under lowering
brows; then it rested almost in challenge upon his mother.

"Tell them," he bade her curtly.

She told them what already she had told her son, relating all now
with greater detail and circumstance.  For some moments nothing was
heard in that room but the steady drone of her unemotional voice.
When she had finished, she yawned and settled herself to hear what
might be answered.

"Well," snapped the King, "you have heard.  What do you advise?
Speak out!"

Nevers was the first to answer.

"There is no other way," he said stiffly, "but that which Her Majesty
advises.  The danger is grave.  If it is to be averted, action must
be prompt and effective."

Tavannes clasped his hands behind him and said much the same, as
did presently the Chancellor.

Twisting and untwisting his chaplet of beads about his long fingers,
his eyes averted, the King heard each in turn.  Then he looked up.
His glance, deliberately ignoring Guise, settled upon the Duke of
Retz, who held aloof.

"And you, Monsieur le Marechal, what is your counsel?"

Retz drew himself up, as if bracing himself to meet opposing forces.
He was a little pale, but quite composed.

"If there is a man whom I should hate," he said, "it is this Gaspard
de Coligny, who has defamed me and all my family by the foul
accusations he has put abroad.  But I will not," he added firmly,
"take vengeance upon my enemies at the expense of my king and master.
I cannot counsel a course so disastrous to Your Majesty and the
whole kingdom.  Did we act as we have been advised, Sire, can you
doubt that we should be taxed - and rightly taxed in view of the
treaty that has been signed - with perfidy and disloyalty?"

Dead silence followed that bombshell of opposition, coming from a
quarter whence it was least expected.  For Catherine and Anjou had
confidently counted upon the Duke's hatred of Coligny to ensure his
support of their designs.

A little colour crept into the pale cheeks of the King.  His glance
kindled out of its sullenness.  He was as one who sees sudden hope
amid despair.

"That is the truth," he said.  "Messieurs, and you, madame my mother,
you have heard the truth.  How do you like it?"

"Monsieur de Retz is deceived by an excess of loyalty," said Anjou
quickly.  "Because he bears a personal enmity to the Admiral, he
conceives that it would hurt his honour to speak otherwise.  It must
savour to him, as he has said, of using his king and master to avenge
his own personal wrongs.  We can respect Monsieur de Retz's view,
although we hold it mistaken."

"Will Monsieur de Retz tell us what other course lies open?" quoth
the bluff Tavannes.

"Some other course must be found," cried the King, rousing himself.
"It must be found, do you hear?  I will not have you touch the life
of my friend the Admiral.  I will not have it - by the Blood!"

A hubbub followed, all speaking at once, until the King banged the
table, and reminded them that his cabinet was not a fish-market.

"I say that there is no other way," Catherine insisted.  "There
cannot be two kings in France, nor can there be two parties.  For
your own safety's sake, and for the safety of your kingdom, I
beseech you so to contrive that in France there be but one party
with one head - yourself."

"Two kings in France?" he said.  "What two kings?"

"Yourself and Gaspard I - King Coligny, the King of the Huguenots."

"He is my subject - my faithful, loyal subject," the King protested,
but with less assurance.

"A subject who raises forces of his own, levies taxes of his own,
garrisons Huguenot cities," said Biragues.  "That is a very
dangerous type of subject, Sire."

"A subject who forces you into war with Protestant Flanders against
Catholic Spain," added the blunt Tavannes.

"Forces me?" roared the King, half rising, his eyes aflash.  "That
is a very daring word."

"It would be if the proof were absent.  Remember, Sire, his very
speech to you before you permitted him to embark upon preparations
for this war.  'Give us leave,' he said, 'to make war in Flanders,
or we shall be compelled to make war upon yourself.'"

The King winced and turned livid.  Sweat stood in beads upon his
brow.  He was touched in his most sensitive spot.  That speech of
Coligny's was of all things the one he most desired to forget.  He
twisted the chaplet so that the beads bit deeply into his fingers.

"Sire," Tavannes continued, "were I a king, and did a subject so
address me, I should have his head within the hour.  Yet worse has
happened since, worse is happening now.  The Huguenots are arming.
They ride arrogantly through the streets of your capital, stirring
up rebellion.  They are here in force, and the danger grows acute
and imminent."

Charles writhed before them.  He mopped his brow with a shaking
hand.

"The danger - yes.  I see that.  I admit the danger.  But Coligny - "

"Is it to be King Gaspard or King Charles?" rasped the voice of
Catherine.

The chaplet snapped suddenly in the King's fingers.  He sprang to
his feet, deathly pale.

"So be it!" he cried.  "Since it is necessary to kill the Admiral,
kill him, then.  Kill him!" he screamed, in a fury that seemed
aimed at those who forced this course upon him.  "Kill him - but
see to it also that at the same time you kill every Huguenot in
France, so that not one shall be left to reproach me.  Not one, do
you hear?  Take your measures and let the thing be done at once."
And on that, his face livid and twitching, his limbs shaking, he
flung out of the room and left them.

It was all the warrant they required, and they set to work at once
there in the King's own cabinet, where he had left them.  Guise,
who had hitherto been no more than a silent spectator, assumed now
the most active part.  Upon his own shoulders he took the charge
of seeing the Admiral done to death.

The remainder of the day and a portion of the evening were spent in
concerting ways and means.  They assured themselves of the Provost
of the merchants of Paris, of the officers of the Gardes Francaises
and the three thousand Swiss, of the Captains of the quarters
and other notoriously factious persons who could be trusted as
leaders.  By ten o'clock at night all preparations were made and it
was agreed that the ringing of the bell of Saint-Germain l'Auxerrois
for matins was to be the signal for the massacre.

A gentleman of the Admiral's household taking his way homeward that
night passed several men bearing sheaves of pikes upon their
shoulders, and never suspected whom these weapons were to arm.  He
met several small companies of soldiers marching quietly, their
weapons shouldered, their matches glowing, and still he suspected
nothing, whilst in one quarter he stopped to watch a man whose
behaviour seemed curious, and discovered that he was chalking a
white cross upon the doors of certain houses.

Meeting soon afterwards another man with a bundle of weapons on his
shoulder, the intrigued Huguenot gentleman asked him bluntly what
he carried and whither he went.

"It is for the divertissement at the Louvre tonight," he was answered.

But in the Louvre the Queen-Mother and the Catholic leaders, the
labours of preparation ended, were snatching a brief rest.  Between
two and three o'clock in the morning Catherine and Anjou repaired
again to the King's cabinet.  They found him waiting there, his face
haggard and his eyes fevered.

He had spent a part of the evening at billiards, and among the
players had been La Rochefoucauld, of whom he was fond, and who had
left him with a jest at eleven o'clock, little dreaming that it was
for the last time.

The three of them crossed to the window overlooking the river.  They
opened it, and peered out fearfully.  Even Catherine trembled now
that the hour approached.  The air was fresh and cool, swept clean
by the stirring breeze of the dawn, whose first ghostly gleams were
already in the sky.  Suddenly, somewhere near at hand, a pistol
cracked.  The noise affected them oddly.  The King fell into an ague
and his teeth chattered audibly.  Panic seized him.

"By the Blood, it shall not be!  It shall not be!" he cried suddenly.

He looked at his mother and his brother and they looked at him;
ghastly were the faces of all three, their eyes wide and staring
with horror.

Charles swore in his terror that he would cancel all commands.  And
since Catherine and Anjou made no attempt to hinder him, he
summoned an officer and bade him seek out the Duke of Guise at once
and command him to stay his hand.

The messenger eventually found the Duke in the courtyard of the
Admiral's house, standing over the Admiral's dead body, which his
assassins had flung down from the bedroom window.  Guise laughed,
and stirred the head of the corpse with his foot, answering that
the message came too late.  Even as he spoke the great bell of
Saint-Germain l'Auxerrois began to ring for matins.

The royal party huddled at that window of the Louvre heard it at
the same moment, and heard, as if in immediate answer, shots of
arquebus and pistol, cries and screams near at hand, and then,
gradually swelling from a murmur, the baying of the fierce multitude.
Other bells gave tongue, until from every steeple in Paris the alarm
rang out.  The red glow from thousands of torches flushed the heavens
with a rosy tint as of dawn, the air grew heavy with the smell of
pitch and resin.

The King, clutching the sill of the window, poured out a stream of
blasphemy from between his chattering teeth.  Then the hubbub rose
suddenly near at hand.  The neighbourhood of the Louvre was
populous with Huguenots, and into it now poured the excited Catholic
citizens and soldiers.  Soon the quay beneath the palace windows
presented the fiercest spectacle of any quarter, of Paris.

Half-clad men, women, and children fled screaming before the
assassins, until they were checked by the chains that everywhere
had been placed across the streets.  Some sought the river, hoping
to find a way of escape.  But with Satanic foresight, the boats
usually moored there had been conveyed to the other side.  Thus
some hundreds of Huguenots were brought to bay, and done to death
under the very eyes of the King who had unleashed this horror.
Doors were crashed open, flames rose to heaven, men and women were
shot down under the palace wall, bodies were flung from windows,
and on every side - in the words of D'Aubigne - the blood now
flowed, seeking the river.

The King watched a while, screams and curses pouring from his lips
to be lost in the horrible uproar.  He turned, perhaps to upbraid
his mother and his brother, but found that they were no longer at
his side.  Behind him in the room a page was crouching, watching
him with a white, horrified face.

Suddenly the King laughed - it was the fierce, hysterical laugh of
a madman.  His eyes fell on the arquebuses flanking the picture of
the Mother of Mercy.  He took one of them down, then caught the boy
by the collar of his doublet and dragged him forward to the window.

"Hither, and load for me!" he bade him, between peals of his
terrible laughter.  Then he levelled the weapon across the sill of
the window.  "Parpaillots!  Parpaillots!" he screamed.  "Kill!
Kill!" and he discharged the arquebus into a fleeing group of
Huguenots.

Five days later, the King - who by now had thrown the blame of the
whole affair, with its slaughter of some two thousand Huguenots,
upon the Guises and their hatred of Coligny - rode out to Montfaucon
to behold the decapitated body of the Admiral, which hung from the
gallows in chains.  A courtier of a poor but obtrusive wit leaned
towards him.

"The Admiral becomes noisome, I think," he said.

The King's green eyes considered him, his lips curling grimly.

"The body of a dead enemy always smells sweet," he said.




VI.   THE NIGHT OF WITCHCRAFT

LOUIS XIV AND MADAME DE MONTESPAN


If you scrape the rubbish-heap of servile, coeval flattery that
usually smothers the personality of a monarch, you will discover a
few kings who have been truly great; many who have achieved
greatness because they were wisely content to serve as masks for
the great intellects of their time; and, for the rest, some bad
kings, some foolish kings, and some ridiculous kings.  But in all
that royal gallery of history you will hardly find a more truly
absurd figure than that of the resplendent Roi Soleil, the Grand
Monarque, the Fourteenth Louis of France.

I am not aware that he has ever been laughed at; certainly never
to the extent which he deserves.  The flatterers of his day,
inevitable products of his reign, did their work so thoroughly that
even in secret they do not appear to have dared to utter - possibly
they did not even dare to think - the truth about him.  Their work
survives, and when you have assessed the monstrous flattery at its
true worth, swept it aside and come down to the real facts of his
life, you make the discovery that the proudest title their
sycophancy could bestow and his own fatuity accept - Le Roi Soleil,
the Sun-King - makes him what indeed he is: a king of opera bouffe.
There is about him at times something almost reminiscent of the
Court buffoons of a century before, who puffed themselves out with
mock pride, and aped a sort of sovereignty to excite laughter; with
this difference, however, that in his own case it was not intended
to be amusing.

A heartless voluptuary of mediocre intelligence, he contrived to
wrap himself in what Saint-Simon has called a "terrible majesty."
Hewas obsessed by the idea of the dignity, almost the divinity - of
kingship.  I cannot believe that he conceived himself human.  He
appears to have held that being king was very like being God, and
he duped the world by ceremonials of etiquette that were very
nearly sacramental.  We find him burdening the most simple and
personal acts of everyday life with a succession of rites of an
amazing complexity.  Thus, when he rose in the morning, princes of
the blood and the first gentlemen of France were in attendance: one
to present to him his stockings, another to proffer on bended knee
the royal garters, a third to perform the ceremony of handing him
his wig, and so on until the toilette of his plump, not unhandsome
person was complete.  You miss the incense, you feel that some
noble thurifer should have fumigated him at each stage.  Perhaps
he never thought of it.

The evil fruits of his reign - evil, that is to say, from the point
of view of his order, which was swept away as so much anachronistic
rubbish - did not come until a hundred years later.  In his own day
France was great, and this not because but in spite of him.  After
all, he was not the absolute ruler he conceived himself.  There were
such capable men as Colbert and Louvois at the King's side'; there
was the great genius of France which manifests itself when and as
it will, whatever the regime - and there was Madame de Montespan
to whose influence not a little of Louis's glory may be ascribed,
since the most splendid years of his reign were those between 1668
and 1678 when she was maitresse en titre and more than Queen of
France.  The women played a great part at the Court of Louis XIV,
and those upon whom he turned his dark eyes were in the main as wax
under the solar rays of the Sun-King.  But Madame de Montespan had
discovered the secret of reversing matters, so that in her hands it
was the King who became as wax for her modelling.  It is with this
secret - a page of the secret history of France that we are here
concerned.

Francoises Athenais de Tonnay-Charente had come to Court in 1660 as
a maid of honour to the Queen.  Of a wit and grace to match her
superb beauty, she was also of a perfervid piety, a daily
communicant, a model of virtue to all maids of honour.  This until
the Devil tempted her.  When that happened, she did not merely eat
an apple; she devoured an entire orchard.  Pride and ambition
brought about her downfall.  She shared the universal jealousy of
which Louise de la Valliere was a victim, and coveted the honours
and the splendour by which that unfortunate favourite was surrounded.

Not even her marriage with the Marquis de Montespan some three years
after her coming to Court sufficed to overcome the longings born of
her covetousness and ambition.  And then, when the Sun-King looked
with favour upon her opulent charms, when at last she saw the object
of her ambition within reach, that husband of hers went very near
to wrecking everything by his unreasonable behaviour.  This
preposterous marquis had the effrontery to dispute his wife with
Jupiter, was so purblind as not to appreciate the honour the Sun-King
proposed to do him.

In putting it thus, I but make myself the mouthpiece of the Court.

When Montespan began to make trouble by railing furiously against
the friendship of the King for his wife, his behaviour so amazed the
King's cousin, Mademoiselle de Montpensier, that she called him
"an extravagant and extraordinary man."  To his face she told him
that he must be mad to behave in this fashion; and so incredibly
distorted were his views, that he did not at all agree with her.
He provoked scenes with the King, in which he quoted Scripture,
made opposite allusions to King David which were in the very worst
taste, and even ventured to suggest that the Sun-King might have
to reckon with the judgment of God.  If he escaped a lettre de
cachet and a dungeon in the Bastille, it can only have been because
the King feared the further spread of a scandal injurious to the
sacrosanctity of his royal dignity.

The Marchioness fumed in private and sneered in public.  When
Mademoiselle de Montpensier suggested that for his safety's sake
she should control her husband's antics, she expressed her
bitterness.

"He and my parrot," she said, "amuse the Court to my shame."

In the end, finding that neither by upbraiding the King nor by
beating his wife could he prevail, Monsieur de Montespan resigned
himself after his own fashion.  He went into widower's mourning,
dressed his servants in black, and came ostentatiously to Court in
a mourning coach to take ceremonious leave of his friends.  It was
an affair that profoundly irritated the Sun-King, and very nearly
made him ridiculous.

Thereafter Montespan abandoned his wife to the King.  He withdrew
first to his country seat, and, later, from France, having
received more than a hint that Louis was intending to settle his
score with him.  By that time Madame de Montespan was firmly
established as maitresse en titre, and in January of 1669 she gave
birth to the Duke of Maine, the first of the seven children she
was to bear the King.  Parliament was to legitimize them all,
declaring them royal children of France, and the country was to
provide titles, dignities, and royal rent-rolls for them and their
heirs forever.  Do you wonder that there was a revolution a century
later, and that the people, grown weary of the parasitic anachronism
of royalty, should have risen to throw off the intolerable burden
it imposed upon them?

The splendour of Madame de Montespan in those days was something
the like of which had never been seen at the Court of France.  On
her estate of Clagny, near Versailles, stood now a magnificent
chateau.  Louis had begun by building a country villa, which
satisfied her not at all.

"That," she told him, "might do very well for an opera-girl";
whereupon the infatuated monarch had no alternative but to command
its demolition, and call in the famous architect, Mansard, to erect
in its place an ultraroyal residence.

At Versailles itself, whilst the long-suffering Queen had to be
content with ten rooms on the second floor, Madame de Montespan was
installed in twice that number on the first; and whilst a simple
page sufficed to carry the Queen's train at Court, nothing less than
the wife of a marshal of France must perform the same office for the
favourite.  She kept royal state as few queens have ever kept it.
She was assigned a troop of royal bodyguards for escort, and when
she travelled there was a never-ending train to follow her six-horse
coach, and officers of State came to receive her with royal honours
wherever she passed.

In her immeasurable pride she became a tyrant, even over the King
himself.

"Thunderous and triumphant," Madame de Sevigne describes her in
those days when the Sun-King was her utter and almost timid slave.

But constancy is not a Jovian virtue.  Jupiter grew restless, and
then, shaking off all restraint, plunged into inconstancy of the
most scandalous and flagrant kind.  It is doubtful if the history
of royal amours, with all its fecundity, can furnish a parallel.
Within a few months, Madame de Soubise, Mademoiselle de
Rochefort-Theobon, Madame de Louvigny, Madame de Ludres, and some
lesser ones passed in rapid succession through the furnace of the
Sun-King's affection - which is to say, through the royal bed -
and at last the Court was amazed to see the Widow Scarron, who had
been appointed governess to Madame de Montespan's royal children,
empanoplied in a dignity and ceremony that left no doubt on the
score of her true position at Court.

And so, after seven years of absolute sway in which homage had been
paid her almost in awe by noble and simple alike, Madame de
Montespan, neglected now by Louis, moved amid reflections of that
neglect, with arrogantly smiling lips and desperate rage in her
heart.  She sneered openly at the royal lack of taste, allowed her
barbed wit to make offensive sport with the ladies who supplanted
her; yet, ravaged by jealousy, she feared for herself the fate
which through her had overtaken La Valliere.

That fear was with her now as she sat in the window embrasure, hell
in her heart and a reflection of it in her eyes, as, fallen almost
to the rank of a spectator in that comedy wherein she was accustomed
to the leading part, she watched the shifting, chattering,
glittering crowd.  And as she watched, her line of vision was
crossed to her undoing by the slender, wellknit figure of de Vanens,
who, dressed from head to foot in black, detached sharply from that
dazzling throng.  His face was pale and saturnine, his eyes dark,
very level, and singularly piercing.  Thus his appearance served to
underline the peculiar fascination which he exerted, the rather
sinister appeal which he made to the imagination.

This young Provencal nobleman was known to dabble in magic, and
there were one or two dark passages in his past life of which more
than a whisper had gone abroad.  Of being a student of alchemy, a
"philosopher" - that is to say, a seeker after the philosopher's
stone, which was to effect the transmutation of metals - he made
no secret.  But if you taxed him with demoniacal practices he would
deny it, yet in a way that carried no conviction.

To this dangerous fellow Madame de Montespan now made appeal in her
desperate need.

Their eyes met as he was sauntering past, and with a lazy smile and
a languid wave of her fan she beckoned him to her side.

"They tell me, Vanens," said she, "that your philosophy succeeds
so well that you are transmuting copper into silver."

His piercing eyes surveyed her, narrowing; a smile flickered over
his thin lips.

"They tell you the truth," he said.  "I have cast a bar which has
been purchased as good silver by the Mint."

Her interest quickened.  "By the Mint!" she echoed, amazed.  "But,
then, my friend - "  She was breathless with excitement.  "It is
a miracle."

"No less," he admitted.  "But there is the greater miracle to come
 - the transmutation of base metal into gold."

"And you will perform it?"

"Let me but conquer the secret of solidifying mercury, and the rest
is naught.  I shall conquer it, and soon."

He spoke with easy confidence, a man stating something that he knew
beyond the possibility of doubt.  The Marquise became thoughtful.
She sighed.

"You are the master of deep secrets, Vanens.  Have you none that
will soften flinty hearts, make them responsive?"

He considered this woman whom Saint-Simon has called "beautiful as
the day," and his smile broadened.

"Look in your mirror for the alchemy needed there," he bade her.

Anger rippled across the perfect face.  She lowered

"I have looked - in vain.  Can you not help me, Vanens, you who
know so much?"

"A love-philtre?" said he, and hummed.  "Are you in earnest?"

"Do you mock me with that question? Is not my need proclaimed for
all to see?"

Vanens became grave.

"It is not an alchemy in which myself I dabble," he said slowly.
"But I am acquainted with those who do."

She clutched his wrist in her eagerness.

"I will pay well," she said.

"You will need to.  Such things are costly."  He glanced round to
see that none was listening, then bending nearer: "There is a
sorceress named La Voisin in the Rue de la Tannerie, well known as
a fortuneteller to many ladies of the Court, who at a word from me
will do your need."

La Montespan turned white.  The piety in which she had been reared
 - the habits of which clung to her despite the irregularity of her
life-made her recoil before the thing that she desired.  Sorcery
was of the Devil.  She told him so.  But Vanens laughed.

"So that it be effective .  .  ." said he with a shrug.

And then across the room floated a woman's trilling laugh.  She
looked in the direction of the sound and beheld the gorgeous figure
of the King bending - yet haughty and condescending even in
adoration - over handsome Madame de Ludres.  Pride and ambition
rose up in sudden fury to trample on religious feeling.  Let Vanens
take her to this witch of his, for be the aid what it might, she
must have it.

And so, one dark night late in the year, Louis de Vanens handed a
masked and muffled lady from a coach at the corner of the Rue de
la Tannerie, and conducted her to the house of La Voisin.

The door was opened for them by a young woman of some twenty years
of age - Marguerite Monvoisin, the daughter of the witch - who led
them upstairs to a room that was handsomely furnished and hung with
fantastic tapestry of red designs upon a black ground - designs that
took monstrous shapes in the flickering light of a cluster of
candles.  Black curtains parted, and from between them stepped a
short, plump woman, of a certain comeliness, with two round black
beads of eyes.  She was fantastically robed in a cloak of crimson
velvet, lined with costly furs and closely studded with double-headed
eagles in fine gold, which must have been worth a prince's ransom;
and she wore red shoes on each of which there was the same eagle
design in gold.

"Ah, Vanens!" she said familiarly.

He bowed.

"I bring you," he announced, "a lady who has need of your skill."

And he waved a hand towards the tall cloaked figure at his side.

La Voisin looked at the masked face.

"Velvet faces tell me little, Madame la Marquise," she said calmly.
"Nor, believe me, will the King look at a countenance that you
conceal from me."

Therewas an exclamation of surprise and anger from Madame de
Montespan.  She plucked off her mask.

"You knew me?"

"Can you wonder?" asked La Voisin, "since I have told you what you
carry concealed in your heart?"

Madame de Montespan was as credulous as only the very devout can be.

"Since that is so, since you know already what I seek, tell me can
you procure it me?" she asked in a fever of excitement.  "I will
pay well."

La Voisin smiled darkly.

"Obdurate, indeed, is the case that will not yield to such medicine
as mine," she said.  "Let me consider first what must be done.  In
a few days I shall bring you word.  But have you courage for a great
ordeal?"

"For any ordeal that will give me what I want."

"In a few days, then, you shall hear from me," said the witch, and
so dismissed the great lady.

Leaving a heavy purse behind her, as Vanens had instructed her, the
Marchioness departed with her escort.  And there, with that
initiation, as far as we can ascertain, ended Louis de Vanens's
connection with the affair.

At Clagny Madame de Montespan waited for three days in a fever of
impatience for the coming of the witch.  But when at last La Voisin
presented herself, the proposal that she had to make was one before
which the Marchioness recoiled in horror and some indignation.

The magic that La Voisin suggested involved a coadjutor, the Abbe
Guibourg, and the black mass to be celebrated by him.  Madame de
Montespan had heard something of these dread sacrificial rites to
Satan; sufficient to fill her with loathing and disgust of the
whitefaced, beady-eyed woman who dared to insult her by the
proposal.  She fumed and raged a while, and even went near to
striking La Voisin, who looked on with inscrutable face and stony,
almost contemptuous, indifference.  Before that impenetrable,
almost uncanny, calm, Madame de Montespan's fury at last abated.
Then the urgency of her need becoming paramount, she desired more
clearly to be told what would be expected of her.  What the witch
told her was more appalling than anything she could have imagined.
But La Voisin argued:

"Can anything be accomplished without cost?  Can anything be gained
in this life without payment of some kind?"

"But the price of this is monstrous!" Madame de Montespan protested.

"Measure it by the worldly advantages to be gained.  They are not
small, madame.  To enjoy boundless wealth, boundless power, and
boundless honour, to be more than queen - is not all this worth
some sacrifice?"

To Madame de Montespan it must have been worth any sacrifice in this
world or the next, since in the end she conquered her disgust, and
agreed to lend herself to this horror.

Three masses, she was told, would be necessary to ensure success,
and it was determined that they should be celebrated in the chapel
of the Chateau de Villebousin, where Guibourg had been almoner, to
which he had access, and which was at the time untenanted.

The chateau was a gloomy mediaeval fortress, blackened by age, and
standing, surrounded by a moat, in a lonely spot some two miles to
the south of Paris.  Thither on a dark, gusty night of March came
Madame de Montespan, accompanied by her confidential waiting-woman,
Mademoiselle Desceillets.  They left the coach to await them on the
Orleans road, and thence, escorted by a single male attendant, they
made their way by a rutted, sodden path towards the grim castle
looming faintly through the enveloping gloom.

The wind howled dismally about the crenellated turrets; and a row
of poplars, standing like black, phantasmal guardians of the evil
place, bent groaning before its fury.  From the running waters of
the moat, swollen by recent rains, came a gurgling sound that was
indescribably wicked.

Desocillets was frightened by the dark, the desolate loneliness and
eeriness of the place; but she dared utter no complaint as she
stumbled forward over the uneven ground, through the gloom and the
buffeting wind, compelled by the suasion of her mistress's imperious
will.  Thus, by a drawbridge spanning dark, oily waters, they came
into a vast courtyard and an atmosphere as of mildew.  A studded
door stood ajar, and through the gap, from a guiding beacon of
infamy, fell a rhomb of yellow light, suddenly obscured by a squat
female figure when the steps of the Marchioness and her companions
fell upon the stones of the yard.

It was La Voisin who stood on the threshold to receive her client.
In the stone-flagged hall behind her the light of a lantern revealed
her daughter, Marguerite Monvoisin, and a short, crafty-faced,
misshapen fellow in black homespun and a red wig - a magician named
Lesage, one of La Voisin's coadjutors, a rogue of some talent who
exploited the witches of Paris to his own profit.

Leaving Leroy - the Marchioness's male attendant below in this
fellow's company, La Voisin took up a candle and lighted Madame de
Montespan up the broad stone staircase, draughty and cold, to the
ante-room of the chapel on the floor above.  Mademoiselle
Desceillets followed closely and fearfully, and Marguerite Monvoisin
came last.

They entered the ante-room, a spacious chamber, bare of furniture
save for an oaken table in the middle, some faded and mildewed
tapestries, and a cane-backed settle of twisted walnut over against
the wall.  An alabaster lamp on the table made an island of light
in that place of gloom, and within the circle of its feeble rays
stood a gross old man of some seventy years of age in sacerdotal
garments of unusual design: the white alb worn over a greasy cassock
was studded with black fir-cones; the stole and maniple were of
black satin, with fir-cones wrought in yellow thread.

His inflamed countenance was of a revolting hideousness: his cheeks
were covered by a network of blue veins, his eyes squinted horribly,
his lips vanished inwards over toothless gums, and a fringe of white
hair hung in matted wisps from his high, bald crown.  This was the
infamous Abbe Guibourg, sacristan of Saint Denis, an ordained
priest who had consecrated himself to the service of the Devil.

He received the great lady with a low bow which, despite herself,
she acknowledged by a shudder.  She was very pale, and her eyes
were dilating and preternaturally bright.  Fear began to possess
her, yet she suffered herself to be ushered into the chapel, which
was dimly illumined by a couple of candles standing beside a basin
on a table.  The altar light had been extinguished.  Her maid would
have hung back, but that she feared to be parted from her mistress.
She passed in with her in the wake of Guibourg, and followed by La
Voisin, who closed the door, leaving her daughter in the ante-room.

Although she had never been a participant in any of the sorceries
practised by her mother, yet Marguerite was fully aware of their
extent, and more than guessed what horrors were taking place beyond
the closed doors of the chapel.  The very thought of them filled
her with loathing and disgust as she sat waiting, huddled in a
corner of the settle.  And yet when presently through the closed
doors came the drone of the voice of that unclean celebrant, to
blend with the whine of the wind in the chimney, Marguerite, urged
by a morbid curiosity she could not conquer, crept shuddering to
the door, which directly faced the altar, and going down on her
knees applied her eye to the keyhole.

What she saw may very well have appalled her considering the exalted
station of Madame de Montespan.  She beheld the white, sculptural
form of the royal favourite lying at full length supine upon the
altar, her arms outstretched, holding a lighted candle in each hand.
Immediately before her stood the Abbe Guibourg, his body screening
the chalice and its position from the eye of the watching girl.

She heard the whine of his voice pattering the Latin of the mass,
which he was reciting backwards from the last gospel; and
occasionally she heard responses muttered by her mother, who with
Mademoiselle Desceillets was beyond Marguerite's narrow range of
vision.

Apart from the interest lent to the proceedings by the presence of
the royal favourite the affair must have seemed now very stupid and
pointless to Marguerite, although she would certainly not have found
it so had she known enough Latin to understand the horrible
perversion of the Credo.  But when the Offertory was reached,
matters suddenly quickened.  In stealing away from the door, she
was no more than in time to avoid being caught spying by her mother,
who now issued from the chapel.

La Voisin crossed the ante-room briskly and went out.

Within a very few minutes she was back again, her approach now
heralded by the feeble, quavering squeals of a very young child.

Marguerite Monvoisin was sufficiently acquainted with the ghastly
rites to guess what was impending.  She was young, and herself a
mother.  She had her share of the maternal instinct alive in every
female animal - with the occasional exception of the human pervert
 - and the hoarse, plaintive cries of that young child chilled her
to the soul with horror.  She felt the skin roughening and
tightening upon her body, and a sense of physical sickness overcame
her.  That and the fear of her mother kept her stiff and frozen in
an angle of the settle until La Voisin had passed through and
reentered the chapel bearing that piteous bundle in her arms.

Then, when the door had closed again, the girl, horrified and
fascinated, sped back to watch.  She saw that unclean priest turn
and receive the child from La Voisin.  As it changed hands its
cries were stilled.

Guibourg faced the altar once more, that little wisp of humanity
that was but a few days old held now aloft, naked, in his criminal
hands.  His muttering, slobbering voice pronouncing the words of
that demoniac consecration reached the ears of the petrified girl
at the keyhole.

Ashtaroth, Asmodeus, Princes of Affection, I conjure you to
acknowledge the sacrifice I offer to you of this child for the
things I ask of you, which are that the King's love for me shall
be continued, and that honoured by princes and princesses nothing
shall be denied me of all that I may ask."

A sudden gust of wind smote and rattled the windows of the chapel
and the ante-room, as if the legions of hell had flung themselves
against the walls of the chateau.  There was a rush and clatter in
the chimney of the ante-room's vast, empty fireplace, and through
the din Marguerite, as her failing limbs sank under her and she
slithered down in a heap against the chapel door, seemed to hear a
burst of exultantly cruel satanic laughter.  With chattering teeth
and burning eyes she sat huddled, listening in terror.  The child
began to cry again, more violently, more piteously; then, quite
suddenly, there was a little choking cough, a gurgle, the chink of
metal against earthenware, and silence.

When some moments later the squat figure of La Voisin emerged from
the chapel, Marguerite was back in the shadows, hunched on the
settle to which she had crawled.  She saw that her mother now
carried a basin under her arm, and she did not need the evidence
of her eyes to inform her of the dreadful contents that the witch
was bearing away in it.

Meanwhile in the chapel the ineffably blasphemous rites proceeded.
To the warm human blood which had been caught in the consecrated
chalice, Guibourg had added, among other foulnesses, powdered
cantharides, the dust of desiccated moles, and the blood of bats.
By the addition of flour he had wrought the ingredients into an
ineffable paste, and over this, through the door, which La Voisin
had left ajar, Marguerite heard his voice pronouncing the dread
words of Transubstantiation.

Marguerite's horror mounted until it threatened to suffocate her.
It was as if some hellish miasma, released by Guibourg's monstrous
incantations, crept through to permeate and poison the air she
breathed.

It would be a half-hour later when Madame de Montespan at last came
out.  She was of a ghastly pallor, her limbs shook and trembled
under her as she stepped forth, and there was a wild horror in her
staring eyes.  Yet she contrived to carry herself almost defiantly
erect, and she spoke sharply to the half-swooning Desceillets, who
staggered after her.

She took her departure from that unholy place bearing with her the
host compounded of devilish ingredients which when dried and reduced
to powder was to be administered to the King to ensure the renewal
of his failing affection for her.

The Marchioness contrived that a creature of her own, an officer of
the buttery in her pay, should introduce it into the royal soup.
The immediate and not unnatural result was that the King was taken
violently ill, and Madame de Montespan's anxiety and suspense were
increased thereby.  On his recovery, however, it would seem that
the demoniac sacrament - thrice repeated by then - had not been in
vain.

The sequel, indeed, appeared to justify Madame de Montespan's faith
in sorcery, and to compensate her for all the horror to which in
her despair she had submitted.  Madame de Ludres found herself coldly
regarded by the convalescent King.  Very soon she was discarded, the
Widow Scarron neglected, and the fickle monarch was once more at the
feet of the lovely marchioness, her utter and devoted slave.

Thus was Madame de Montespan "thunderously triumphant" once more,
and established as firmly as 'ever in the Sun-King's favour.  Madame
de Sevigne, in speaking of this phase of their relations, dilates
upon the completeness of the reconciliation, and tells us that the
ardour of the first years seemed now to have returned.  And for two
whole years it continued thus.  Never before had Madame de
Montespan's sway been more absolute, no shadow came to trouble, the
serenity of her rule.

But it proved, after all, to be no more than the last flare of an
expiring fire that was definitely quenched at last, in 1679, by
Mademoiselle de Fontanges.  A maid of honour to madame, she was a
child of not more than eighteen years, fair and flaxen, with pink
cheeks and large, childish eyes; and it was for this doll that the
regal Montespan now found herself discarded.

Honours rained upon the new favourite.  Louis made her a duchess
with an income of twenty thousand livres, and deeply though this
may have disgusted his subjects, it disgusted Madame de Montespan
still more.  Blinded by rage she openly abused the new duchess, and
provoked a fairly public scene with Louis, in which she gave him
her true opinion of him with a disturbing frankness.

"You dishonour yourself," she informed him among other things.  "And
you betray your taste when you make love to a pink-and-white doll,
a little fool that has no more wit nor manners than if she were
painted on canvas!"  Then, with an increase of scorn, she delivered
herself of an unpardonable apostrophe: "You, a king, to accept the
inheritance of that chit's rustic lovers! "

He flushed and scowled upon her.

"That is an infamous falsehood!" he exclaimed.  "Madame, you are
unbearable!"  He was very angry, and it infuriated him the more that
she should stand so coldly mocking before an anger that could bow
the proudest heads in France.  "You have the pride of Satan, your
greed is insatiable, your domineering spirit utterly insufferable,
and you have the most false and poisonous tongue in the world!"

Her brutal answer bludgeoned that high divinity to earth.

"With all my imperfections," she sneered, "at least I do not smell
as badly as you do!"

It was an answer that extinguished her last chance.  It was fatal
to the dignity, to the "terrible majesty" of Louis.  It stripped
him of all divinity, and revealed him authoritatively as intensely
and even unpleasantly human.  It was beyond hope of pardon.

His face turned the colour of wax.  A glacial silence hung over the
agonized witnesses of that royal humiliation.  Then, without a word,
in a vain attempt to rescue the dignity she had so cruelly mauled,
he turned, his red heels clicked rapidly and unsteadily across the
polished floor, and he was gone.

When Madame de Montespan realized exactly what she had done, nothing
but rage remained to her - rage and its offspring, vindictiveness.
The Duchess of Fontanges must not enjoy her victory, nor must Louis
escape punishment for his faithlessness.  La Voisin should afford
her the means to accomplish this.  And so she goes once more to the
Rue de la Tannerie.

Now, the matter of Madame de Montespan's present needs was one in
which the witches were particularIy expert.  Were you troubled with
a rival, did your husband persist in surviving your affection for him,
did those from whom you had expectations cling obstinately and
inconsiderately to life, the witches by incantations and the use of
powders - in which arsenic was the dominant charm - could usually
put the matter right for you.  Indeed, so wide and general was the
practice of poisoning become, that the authorities, lately aroused
to the fact by the sensational revelations of the Marchioness de
Brinvilliers, had set up in this year 1670 the tribunal known as
the Chambre Ardente to inquire into the matter, and to conduct
prosecutions.

La Voisin promised help to the Marchioness.  She called in another
witch of horrible repute, named La Filastre, her coadjutor Lesage,
and two expert poisoners, Romani and Bertrand, who devised an
ingenious plot for the murder of the Duchess of Fontanges.  They
were to visit her, Romani as a cloth merchant, and Bertrand as his
servant, to offer her their wares, including some Grenoble gloves,
which were the most beautiful gloves in the world and unfailingly
irresistible to ladies.  These gloves they prepared in accordance
with certain magical recipes in such a way that the Duchess, after
wearing them, must die a lingering death in which there could be no
suspicion of poisoning.

The King was to be dealt with by means of a petition steeped in
similar powders, and should receive his death by taking it into his
hands.  La Voisin herself was to go to Saint-Germain to present
this petition on Monday, March 13th, one of those days on which,
according to ancient custom, all comers were admitted to the royal
presence.

Thus they disposed.  But Fate was already silently stalking La
Voisin.

It is to the fact that an obscure and vulgar woman had drunk one
glass of wine too many three months earlier that the King owed his
escape.

If you are interested in the almost grotesque disparity that can
lie between cause and effect, here is a subject for you.  Three
months earlier a tailor named Vigoureux, whose wife secretly
practised magic, had entertained a few friends to dinner, amongst
whom was an intimate of his wife's, named Marie Bosse.  This Marie
Bosse it was who drank that excessive glass of wine which, drowning
prudence, led her to boast of the famous trade she drove as a
fortune-teller to the nobility, and even to hint of something
further.

"Another three poisonings," she chuckled, "and I shall retire with
my fortune made!"

An attorney who was present pricked up his ears, bethought him of
the tales that were afloat, and gave information to the police.
The police set a trap for Marie Bosse, and she betrayed herself.
Later, under torture, she betrayed La Vigoureux.  La Vigoureux
betrayed others, and these others again.

The arrest of Marie Bosse was like knocking down the first of a row
of ninepins, but none could have suspected that the last of these
stood in the royal apartments.

On the day before she was to repair to Saint-Germain, La Voisin,
betrayed in her turn, received a surprise visit from the police -
who, of course, had no knowledge of the regicide their action was
thwarting - and she was carried off to the Chatelet.  Put to the
question, she revealed a great deal; but her terror of the horrible
punishment reserved for regicides prevented her to the day of her
death at the stake - in February of 1680 from saying a word of her
association with Madame de Montespan.

But there were others whom she betrayed under torture, and whose
arrest followed quickly upon her own, who had not her strength of
character.  Among these were La Filastre and the magician Lesage.
When it was found that these two corroborated each other in the
incredible things which they related, the Chambre Ardente took
fright.  La Reynie, who presided over it, laid the matter before
the King, and the King, horror-stricken by the discovery of the
revolting practices in which the mother of his children had been
engaged, suspended the sittings of the Chambre Ardente, and
commanded that no further proceedings should be taken against Lesage
and La Filastre, and none initiated against Romani, Bertrand, the
Abbe Guibourg, and the scores of other poisoners and magicians who
had been arrested, and who were acquainted with Madame de Montespan's
unholy traffic.

But it was not out of any desire to spare Madame de Montespan that
the King proceeded in this manner; he was concerned only to spare
himself and his royal dignity.  He feared above all things the
scandal and ridicule which must touch him as a result of publicity,
and because he feared it so much, he could impose no punishment
upon Madame de Montespan.

This he made known to her at the interview between them procured by
his minister Louvois, at about the time that the sittings of the
Chambre Ardente were suspended.

To this interview that proud, domineering woman came in dread, and
in tears and humility for once.  The King's bearing was cold and
hard.  Cold and hard were the words in which he declared the extent
of his knowledge of her infamy, words which revealed the loathing
and disgust this knowledge brought him.  If at first she was
terror-stricken, crushed under the indictment, yet she was never of
a temper to bear reproaches long.  Under his scorn her anger kindled
and her humility was sloughed.

"What then?" she cried at last, eyes aflash through lingering tears.
"Is the blame all mine?  If all this is true, it is no less true
that I was driven to it by my love for you and the despair to which
your heartlessness and infidelity reduced me.  To you," she
continued, gathering force at every word, "I sacrificed everything
 - my honour, a noble husband who loved me, all that a woman prizes.
And what did you give me in exchange?  Your cruel fickleness exposed
me to the low mockery of the lick-spittles of your Court.  Do you
wonder that I went mad, and that in my madness I sacrificed what
shreds of self-respect you had left me?  And now it seems I have
lost all but life.  Take that, too, if it be your pleasure.  Heaven
knows it has little value left for me!  But remember that in
striking me you strike the mother of your children - the legitimate
children of France.  Remember that!"

He remembered it.  Indeed, he was never in danger of forgetting it;
for she might have added that he would be striking also at himself
and at that royal dignity which was his religion.  And so that all
scandalous comment might be avoided she was actually allowed to
remain at Court, although no longer in her first-floor apartments;
and it was not until ten years later that she departed to withdraw
to the community of Saint Joseph.

But even in her disgrace this woman, secretly convicted among other
abominations of attempting to procure the poisoning of the King and
of her rival, enjoyed an annual pension of 1,200.000 livres; whilst
none dared proceed against those who shared her guilt - not even
the infamous Guibourg, the poisoners Romani and Bertrand, and La
Filastre - nor yet against some scores of associates of these, who
were known to live by sorcery and poisonings, and who might be
privy to the part played by Madame de Montespan in that horrible
night of magic at the Chateau de Villebousin.

The hot blast of revolution was needed to sweep France clean.




VI.   THE NIGHT OF WITCHCRAFT

LOUIS XIV AND MADAME DE MONTESPAN


If you scrape the rubbish-heap of servile, coeval flattery that
usually smothers the personality of a monarch, you will discover a
few kings who have been truly great; many who have achieved
greatness because they were wisely content to serve as masks for
the great intellects of their time; and, for the rest, some bad
kings, some foolish kings, and some ridiculous kings.  But in all
that royal gallery of history you will hardly find a more truly
absurd figure than that of the resplendent Roi Soleil, the Grand
Monarque, the Fourteenth Louis of France.

I am not aware that he has ever been laughed at; certainly never
to the extent which he deserves.  The flatterers of his day,
inevitable products of his reign, did their work so thoroughly that
even in secret they do not appear to have dared to utter - possibly
they did not even dare to think - the truth about him.  Their work
survives, and when you have assessed the monstrous flattery at its
true worth, swept it aside and come down to the real facts of his
life, you make the discovery that the proudest title their
sycophancy could bestow and his own fatuity accept - Le Roi Soleil,
the Sun-King - makes him what indeed he is: a king of opera bouffe.
There is about him at times something almost reminiscent of the
Court buffoons of a century before, who puffed themselves out with
mock pride, and aped a sort of sovereignty to excite laughter; with
this difference, however, that in his own case it was not intended
to be amusing.

A heartless voluptuary of mediocre intelligence, he contrived to
wrap himself in what Saint-Simon has called a "terrible majesty."
He was obsessed by the idea of the dignity, almost the divinity - of
kingship.  I cannot believe that he conceived himself human.  He
appears to have held that being king was very like being God, and
he duped the world by ceremonials of etiquette that were very
nearly sacramental.  We find him burdening the most simple and
personal acts of everyday life with a succession of rites of an
amazing complexity.  Thus, when he rose in the morning, princes of
the blood and the first gentlemen of France were in attendance: one
to present to him his stockings, another to proffer on bended knee
the royal garters, a third to perform the ceremony of handing him
his wig, and so on until the toilette of his plump, not unhandsome
person was complete.  You miss the incense, you feel that some
noble thurifer should have fumigated him at each stage.  Perhaps
he never thought of it.

The evil fruits of his reign - evil, that is to say, from the point
of view of his order, which was swept away as so much anachronistic
rubbish - did not come until a hundred years later.  In his own day
France was great, and this not because but in spite of him.  After
all, he was not the absolute ruler he conceived himself.  There were
such capable men as Colbert and Louvois at the King's side'; there
was the great genius of France which manifests itself when and as
it will, whatever the regime - and there was Madame de Montespan
to whose influence not a little of Louis's glory may be ascribed,
since the most splendid years of his reign were those between 1668
and 1678 when she was maitresse en titre and more than Queen of
France.  The women played a great part at the Court of Louis XIV,
and those upon whom he turned his dark eyes were in the main as wax
under the solar rays of the Sun-King.  But Madame de Montespan had
discovered the secret of reversing matters, so that in her hands it
was the King who became as wax for her modelling.  It is with this
secret - a page of the secret history of France that we are here
concerned.

Francoises Athenais de Tonnay-Charente had come to Court in 1660 as
a maid of honour to the Queen.  Of a wit and grace to match her
superb beauty, she was also of a perfervid piety, a daily
communicant, a model of virtue to all maids of honour.  This until
the Devil tempted her.  When that happened, she did not merely eat
an apple; she devoured an entire orchard.  Pride and ambition
brought about her downfall.  She shared the universal jealousy of
which Louise de la Valliere was a victim, and coveted the honours
and the splendour by which that unfortunate favourite was surrounded.

Not even her marriage with the Marquis de Montespan some three years
after her coming to Court sufficed to overcome the longings born of
her covetousness and ambition.  And then, when the Sun-King looked
with favour upon her opulent charms, when at last she saw the object
of her ambition within reach, that husband of hers went very near
to wrecking everything by his unreasonable behaviour.  This
preposterous marquis had the effrontery to dispute his wife with
Jupiter, was so purblind as not to appreciate the honour the Sun-King
proposed to do him.

In putting it thus, I but make myself the mouthpiece of the Court.

When Montespan began to make trouble by railing furiously against
the friendship of the King for his wife, his behaviour so amazed the
King's cousin, Mademoiselle de Montpensier, that she called him
"an extravagant and extraordinary man."  To his face she told him
that he must be mad to behave in this fashion; and so incredibly
distorted were his views, that he did not at all agree with her.
He provoked scenes with the King, in which he quoted Scripture,
made opposite allusions to King David which were in the very worst
taste, and even ventured to suggest that the Sun-King might have
to reckon with the judgment of God.  If he escaped a lettre de
cachet and a dungeon in the Bastille, it can only have been because
the King feared the further spread of a scandal injurious to the
sacrosanctity of his royal dignity.

The Marchioness fumed in private and sneered in public.  When
Mademoiselle de Montpensier suggested that for his safety's sake
she should control her husband's antics, she expressed her
bitterness.

"He and my parrot," she said, "amuse the Court to my shame."

In the end, finding that neither by upbraiding the King nor by
beating his wife could he prevail, Monsieur de Montespan resigned
himself after his own fashion.  He went into widower's mourning,
dressed his servants in black, and came ostentatiously to Court in
a mourning coach to take ceremonious leave of his friends.  It was
an affair that profoundly irritated the Sun-King, and very nearly
made him ridiculous.

Thereafter Montespan abandoned his wife to the King.  He withdrew
first to his country seat, and, later, from France, having
received more than a hint that Louis was intending to settle his
score with him.  By that time Madame de Montespan was firmly
established as maitresse en titre, and in January of 1669 she gave
birth to the Duke of Maine, the first of the seven children she
was to bear the King.  Parliament was to legitimize them all,
declaring them royal children of France, and the country was to
provide titles, dignities, and royal rent-rolls for them and their
heirs forever.  Do you wonder that there was a revolution a century
later, and that the people, grown weary of the parasitic anachronism
of royalty, should have risen to throw off the intolerable burden
it imposed upon them?

The splendour of Madame de Montespan in those days was something
the like of which had never been seen at the Court of France.  On
her estate of Clagny, near Versailles, stood now a magnificent
chateau.  Louis had begun by building a country villa, which
satisfied her not at all.

"That," she told him, "might do very well for an opera-girl";
whereupon the infatuated monarch had no alternative but to command
its demolition, and call in the famous architect, Mansard, to erect
in its place an ultra royal residence.

At Versailles itself, whilst the long-suffering Queen had to be
content with ten rooms on the second floor, Madame de Montespan was
installed in twice that number on the first; and whilst a simple
page sufficed to carry the Queen's train at Court, nothing less than
the wife of a marshal of France must perform the same office for the
favourite.  She kept royal state as few queens have ever kept it.
She was assigned a troop of royal bodyguards for escort, and when
she travelled there was a never-ending train to follow her six-horse
coach, and officers of State came to receive her with royal honours
wherever she passed.

In her immeasurable pride she became a tyrant, even over the King
himself.

"Thunderous and triumphant," Madame de Sevigne describes her in
those days when the Sun-King was her utter and almost timid slave.

But constancy is not a Jovian virtue.  Jupiter grew restless, and
then, shaking off all restraint, plunged into inconstancy of the
most scandalous and flagrant kind.  It is doubtful if the history
of royal amours, with all its fecundity, can furnish a parallel.
Within a few months, Madame de Soubise, Mademoiselle de
Rochefort-Theobon, Madame de Louvigny, Madame de Ludres, and some
lesser ones passed in rapid succession through the furnace of the
Sun-King's affection - which is to say, through the royal bed -
and at last the Court was amazed to see the Widow Scarron, who had
been appointed governess to Madame de Montespan's royal children,
empanoplied in a dignity and ceremony that left no doubt on the
score of her true position at Court.

And so, after seven years of absolute sway in which homage had been
paid her almost in awe by noble and simple alike, Madame de
Montespan, neglected now by Louis, moved amid reflections of that
neglect, with arrogantly smiling lips and desperate rage in her
heart.  She sneered openly at the royal lack of taste, allowed her
barbed wit to make offensive sport with the ladies who supplanted
her; yet, ravaged by jealousy, she feared for herself the fate
which through her had overtaken La Valliere.

That fear was with her now as she sat in the window embrasure, hell
in her heart and a reflection of it in her eyes, as, fallen almost
to the rank of a spectator in that comedy wherein she was accustomed
to the leading part, she watched the shifting, chattering,
glittering crowd.  And as she watched, her line of vision was
crossed to her undoing by the slender, well-knit figure of de Vanens,
who, dressed from head to foot in black, detached sharply from that
dazzling throng.  His face was pale and saturnine, his eyes dark,
very level, and singularly piercing.  Thus his appearance served to
underline the peculiar fascination which he exerted, the rather
sinister appeal which he made to the imagination.

This young Provencal nobleman was known to dabble in magic, and
there were one or two dark passages in his past life of which more
than a whisper had gone abroad.  Of being a student of alchemy, a
"philosopher" - that is to say, a seeker after the philosopher's
stone, which was to effect the transmutation of metals - he made
no secret.  But if you taxed him with demoniacal practices he would
deny it, yet in a way that carried no conviction.

To this dangerous fellow Madame de Montespan now made appeal in her
desperate need.

Their eyes met as he was sauntering past, and with a lazy smile and
a languid wave of her fan she beckoned him to her side.

"They tell me, Vanens," said she, "that your philosophy succeeds
so well that you are transmuting copper into silver."

His piercing eyes surveyed her, narrowing; a smile flickered over
his thin lips.

"They tell you the truth," he said.  "I have cast a bar which has
been purchased as good silver by the Mint."

Her interest quickened.  "By the Mint!" she echoed, amazed.  "But,
then, my friend - "  She was breathless with excitement.  "It is
a miracle."

"No less," he admitted.  "But there is the greater miracle to come
 - the transmutation of base metal into gold."

"And you will perform it?"

"Let me but conquer the secret of solidifying mercury, and the rest
is naught.  I shall conquer it, and soon."

He spoke with easy confidence, a man stating something that he knew
beyond the possibility of doubt.  The Marquise became thoughtful.
She sighed.

"You are the master of deep secrets, Vanens.  Have you none that
will soften flinty hearts, make them responsive?"

He considered this woman whom Saint-Simon has called "beautiful as
the day," and his smile broadened.

"Look in your mirror for the alchemy needed there," he bade her.

Anger rippled across the perfect face.  She lowered

"I have looked - in vain.  Can you not help me, Vanens, you who
know so much?"

"A love-philtre?" said he, and hummed.  "Are you in earnest?"

"Do you mock me with that question? Is not my need proclaimed for
all to see?"

Vanens became grave.

"It is not an alchemy in which myself I dabble," he said slowly.
"But I am acquainted with those who do."

She clutched his wrist in her eagerness.

"I will pay well," she said.

"You will need to.  Such things are costly."  He glanced round to
see that none was listening, then bending nearer: "There is a
sorceress named La Voisin in the Rue de la Tannerie, well known as
a fortuneteller to many ladies of the Court, who at a word from me
will do your need."

La Montespan turned white.  The piety in which she had been reared
 - the habits of which clung to her despite the irregularity of her
life-made her recoil before the thing that she desired.  Sorcery
was of the Devil.  She told him so.  But Vanens laughed.

"So that it be effective .  .  ." said he with a shrug.

And then across the room floated a woman's trilling laugh.  She
looked in the direction of the sound and beheld the gorgeous figure
of the King bending - yet haughty and condescending even in
adoration - over handsome Madame de Ludres.  Pride and ambition
rose up in sudden fury to trample on religious feeling.  Let Vanens
take her to this witch of his, for be the aid what it might, she
must have it.

And so, one dark night late in the year, Louis de Vanens handed a
masked and muffled lady from a coach at the corner of the Rue de
la Tannerie, and conducted her to the house of La Voisin.

The door was opened for them by a young woman of some twenty years
of age - Marguerite Monvoisin, the daughter of the witch - who led
them upstairs to a room that was handsomely furnished and hung with
fantastic tapestry of red designs upon a black ground - designs that
took monstrous shapes in the flickering light of a cluster of
candles.  Black curtains parted, and from between them stepped a
short, plump woman, of a certain comeliness, with two round black
beads of eyes.  She was fantastically robed in a cloak of crimson
velvet, lined with costly furs and closely studded with double-headed
eagles in fine gold, which must have been worth a prince's ransom;
and she wore red shoes on each of which there was the same eagle
design in gold.

"Ah, Vanens!" she said familiarly.

He bowed.

"I bring you," he announced, "a lady who has need of your skill."

And he waved a hand towards the tall cloaked figure at his side.

La Voisin looked at the masked face.

"Velvet faces tell me little, Madame la Marquise," she said calmly.
"Nor, believe me, will the King look at a countenance that you
conceal from me."

There was an exclamation of surprise and anger from Madame de
Montespan.  She plucked off her mask.

"You knew me?"

"Can you wonder?" asked La Voisin, "since I have told you what you
carry concealed in your heart?"

Madame de Montespan was as credulous as only the very devout can be.

"Since that is so, since you know already what I seek, tell me can
you procure it me?" she asked in a fever of excitement.  "I will
pay well."

La Voisin smiled darkly.

"Obdurate, indeed, is the case that will not yield to such medicine
as mine," she said.  "Let me consider first what must be done.  In
a few days I shall bring you word.  But have you courage for a great
ordeal?"

"For any ordeal that will give me what I want."

"In a few days, then, you shall hear from me," said the witch, and
so dismissed the great lady.

Leaving a heavy purse behind her, as Vanens had instructed her, the
Marchioness departed with her escort.  And there, with that
initiation, as far as we can ascertain, ended Louis de Vanens's
connection with the affair.

At Clagny Madame de Montespan waited for three days in a fever of
impatience for the coming of the witch.  But when at last La Voisin
presented herself, the proposal that she had to make was one before
which the Marchioness recoiled in horror and some indignation.

The magic that La Voisin suggested involved a coadjutor, the Abbe
Guibourg, and the black mass to be celebrated by him.  Madame de
Montespan had heard something of these dread sacrificial rites to
Satan; sufficient to fill her with loathing and disgust of the
white-faced, beady-eyed woman who dared to insult her by the
proposal.  She fumed and raged a while, and even went near to
striking La Voisin, who looked on with inscrutable face and stony,
almost contemptuous, indifference.  Before that impenetrable,
almost uncanny, calm, Madame de Montespan's fury at last abated.
Then the urgency of her need becoming paramount, she desired more
clearly to be told what would be expected of her.  What the witch
told her was more appalling than anything she could have imagined.
But La Voisin argued:

"Can anything be accomplished without cost?  Can anything be gained
in this life without payment of some kind?"

"But the price of this is monstrous!" Madame de Montespan protested.

"Measure it by the worldly advantages to be gained.  They are not
small, madame.  To enjoy boundless wealth, boundless power, and
boundless honour, to be more than queen - is not all this worth
some sacrifice?"

To Madame de Montespan it must have been worth any sacrifice in this
world or the next, since in the end she conquered her disgust, and
agreed to lend herself to this horror.

Three masses, she was told, would be necessary to ensure success,
and it was determined that they should be celebrated in the chapel
of the Chateau de Villebousin, where Guibourg had been almoner, to
which he had access, and which was at the time untenanted.

The chateau was a gloomy mediaeval fortress, blackened by age, and
standing, surrounded by a moat, in a lonely spot some two miles to
the south of Paris.  Thither on a dark, gusty night of March came
Madame de Montespan, accompanied by her confidential waiting-woman,
Mademoiselle Desoeillets.  They left the coach to await them on the
Orleans road, and thence, escorted by a single male attendant, they
made their way by a rutted, sodden path towards the grim castle
looming faintly through the enveloping gloom.

The wind howled dismally about the crenellated turrets; and a row
of poplars, standing like black, phantasmal guardians of the evil
place, bent groaning before its fury.  From the running waters of
the moat, swollen by recent rains, came a gurgling sound that was
indescribably wicked.

Desoeillets was frightened by the dark, the desolate loneliness and
eeriness of the place; but she dared utter no complaint as she
stumbled forward over the uneven ground, through the gloom and the
buffeting wind, compelled by the suasion of her mistress's imperious
will.  Thus, by a drawbridge spanning dark, oily waters, they came
into a vast courtyard and an atmosphere as of mildew.  A studded
door stood ajar, and through the gap, from a guiding beacon of
infamy, fell a rhomb of yellow light, suddenly obscured by a squat
female figure when the steps of the Marchioness and her companions
fell upon the stones of the yard.

It was La Voisin who stood on the threshold to receive her client.
In the stone-flagged hall behind her the light of a lantern revealed
her daughter, Marguerite Monvoisin, and a short, crafty-faced,
misshapen fellow in black homespun and a red wig - a magician named
Lesage, one of La Voisin's coadjutors, a rogue of some talent who
exploited the witches of Paris to his own profit.

Leaving Leroy - the Marchioness's male attendant below in this
fellow's company, La Voisin took up a candle and lighted Madame de
Montespan up the broad stone staircase, draughty and cold, to the
ante-room of the chapel on the floor above.  Mademoiselle
Desoeillets followed closely and fearfully, and Marguerite Monvoisin
came last.

They entered the ante-room, a spacious chamber, bare of furniture
save for an oaken table in the middle, some faded and mildewed
tapestries, and a cane-backed settle of twisted walnut over against
the wall.  An alabaster lamp on the table made an island of light
in that place of gloom, and within the circle of its feeble rays
stood a gross old man of some seventy years of age in sacerdotal
garments of unusual design: the white alb worn over a greasy cassock
was studded with black fir-cones; the stole and maniple were of
black satin, with fir-cones wrought in yellow thread.

His inflamed countenance was of a revolting hideousness: his cheeks
were covered by a network of blue veins, his eyes squinted horribly,
his lips vanished inwards over toothless gums, and a fringe of white
hair hung in matted wisps from his high, bald crown.  This was the
infamous Abbe Guibourg, sacristan of Saint Denis, an ordained
priest who had consecrated himself to the service of the Devil.

He received the great lady with a low bow which, despite herself,
she acknowledged by a shudder.  She was very pale, and her eyes
were dilating and preternaturally bright.  Fear began to possess
her, yet she suffered herself to be ushered into the chapel, which
was dimly illumined by a couple of candles standing beside a basin
on a table.  The altar light had been extinguished.  Her maid would
have hung back, but that she feared to be parted from her mistress.
She passed in with her in the wake of Guibourg, and followed by La
Voisin, who closed the door, leaving her daughter in the ante-room.

Although she had never been a participant in any of the sorceries
practised by her mother, yet Marguerite was fully aware of their
extent, and more than guessed what horrors were taking place beyond
the closed doors of the chapel.  The very thought of them filled
her with loathing and disgust as she sat waiting, huddled in a
corner of the settle.  And yet when presently through the closed
doors came the drone of the voice of that unclean celebrant, to
blend with the whine of the wind in the chimney, Marguerite, urged
by a morbid curiosity she could not conquer, crept shuddering to
the door, which directly faced the altar, and going down on her
knees applied her eye to the keyhole.

What she saw may very well have appalled her considering the exalted
station of Madame de Montespan.  She beheld the white, sculptural
form of the royal favourite lying at full length supine upon the
altar, her arms outstretched, holding a lighted candle in each hand.
Immediately before her stood the Abbe Guibourg, his body screening
the chalice and its position from the eye of the watching girl.

She heard the whine of his voice pattering the Latin of the mass,
which he was reciting backwards from the last gospel; and
occasionally she heard responses muttered by her mother, who with
Mademoiselle Desoeillets was beyond Marguerite's narrow range of
vision.

Apart from the interest lent to the proceedings by the presence of
the royal favourite the affair must have seemed now very stupid and
pointless to Marguerite, although she would certainly not have found
it so had she known enough Latin to understand the horrible
perversion of the Credo.  But when the Offertory was reached,
matters suddenly quickened.  In stealing away from the door, she
was no more than in time to avoid being caught spying by her mother,
who now issued from the chapel.

La Voisin crossed the ante-room briskly and went out.

Within a very few minutes she was back again, her approach now
heralded by the feeble, quavering squeals of a very young child.

Marguerite Monvoisin was sufficiently acquainted with the ghastly
rites to guess what was impending.  She was young, and herself a
mother.  She had her share of the maternal instinct alive in every
female animal - with the occasional exception of the human pervert
 - and the hoarse, plaintive cries of that young child chilled her
to the soul with horror.  She felt the skin roughening and
tightening upon her body, and a sense of physical sickness overcame
her.  That and the fear of her mother kept her stiff and frozen in
an angle of the settle until La Voisin had passed through and
reentered the chapel bearing that piteous bundle in her arms.

Then, when the door had closed again, the girl, horrified and
fascinated, sped back to watch.  She saw that unclean priest turn
and receive the child from La Voisin.  As it changed hands its
cries were stilled.

Guibourg faced the altar once more, that little wisp of humanity
that was but a few days old held now aloft, naked, in his criminal
hands.  His muttering, slobbering voice pronouncing the words of
that demoniac consecration reached the ears of the petrified girl
at the keyhole.

Ashtaroth, Asmodeus, Princes of Affection, I conjure you to
acknowledge the sacrifice I offer to you of this child for the
things I ask of you, which are that the King's love for me shall
be continued, and that honoured by princes and princesses nothing
shall be denied me of all that I may ask."

A sudden gust of wind smote and rattled the windows of the chapel
and the ante-room, as if the legions of hell had flung themselves
against the walls of the chateau.  There was a rush and clatter in
the chimney of the ante-room's vast, empty fireplace, and through
the din Marguerite, as her failing limbs sank under her and she
slithered down in a heap against the chapel door, seemed to hear a
burst of exultantly cruel satanic laughter.  With chattering teeth
and burning eyes she sat huddled, listening in terror.  The child
began to cry again, more violently, more piteously; then, quite
suddenly, there was a little choking cough, a gurgle, the chink of
metal against earthenware, and silence.

When some moments later the squat figure of La Voisin emerged from
the chapel, Marguerite was back in the shadows, hunched on the
settle to which she had crawled.  She saw that her mother now
carried a basin under her arm, and she did not need the evidence
of her eyes to inform her of the dreadful contents that the witch
was bearing away in it.

Meanwhile in the chapel the ineffably blasphemous rites proceeded.
To the warm human blood which had been caught in the consecrated
chalice, Guibourg had added, among other foulnesses, powdered
cantharides, the dust of desiccated moles, and the blood of bats.
By the addition of flour he had wrought the ingredients into an
ineffable paste, and over this, through the door, which La Voisin
had left ajar, Marguerite heard his voice pronouncing the dread
words of Transubstantiation.

Marguerite's horror mounted until it threatened to suffocate her.
It was as if some hellish miasma, released by Guibourg's monstrous
incantations, crept through to permeate and poison the air she
breathed.

It would be a half-hour later when Madame de Montespan at last came
out.  She was of a ghastly pallor, her limbs shook and trembled
under her as she stepped forth, and there was a wild horror in her
staring eyes.  Yet she contrived to carry herself almost defiantly
erect, and she spoke sharply to the half-swooning Desoeillets, who
staggered after her.

She took her departure from that unholy place bearing with her the
host compounded of devilish ingredients which when dried and reduced
to powder was to be administered to the King to ensure the renewal
of his failing affection for her.

The Marchioness contrived that a creature of her own, an officer of
the buttery in her pay, should introduce it into the royal soup.
The immediate and not unnatural result was that the King was taken
violently ill, and Madame de Montespan's anxiety and suspense were
increased thereby.  On his recovery, however, it would seem that
the demoniac sacrament - thrice repeated by then - had not been in
vain.

The sequel, indeed, appeared to justify Madame de Montespan's faith
in sorcery, and to compensate her for all the horror to which in
her despair she had submitted.  Madame de Ludres found herself coldly
regarded by the convalescent King.  Very soon she was discarded, the
Widow Scarron neglected, and the fickle monarch was once more at the
feet of the lovely marchioness, her utter and devoted slave.

Thus was Madame de Montespan "thunderously triumphant" once more,
and established as firmly as 'ever in the Sun-King's favour.  Madame
de Sevigne, in speaking of this phase of their relations, dilates
upon the completeness of the reconciliation, and tells us that the
ardour of the first years seemed now to have returned.  And for two
whole years it continued thus.  Never before had Madame de
Montespan's sway been more absolute, no shadow came to trouble, the
serenity of her rule.

But it proved, after all, to be no more than the last flare of an
expiring fire that was definitely quenched at last, in 1679, by
Mademoiselle de Fontanges.  A maid of honour to madame, she was a
child of not more than eighteen years, fair and flaxen, with pink
cheeks and large, childish eyes; and it was for this doll that the
regal Montespan now found herself discarded.

Honours rained upon the new favourite.  Louis made her a duchess
with an income of twenty thousand livres, and deeply though this
may have disgusted his subjects, it disgusted Madame de Montespan
still more.  Blinded by rage she openly abused the new duchess, and
provoked a fairly public scene with Louis, in which she gave him
her true opinion of him with a disturbing frankness.

"You dishonour yourself," she informed him among other things.  "And
you betray your taste when you make love to a pink-and-white doll,
a little fool that has no more wit nor manners than if she were
painted on canvas!"  Then, with an increase of scorn, she delivered
herself of an unpardonable apostrophe: "You, a king, to accept the
inheritance of that chit's rustic lovers! "

He flushed and scowled upon her.

"That is an infamous falsehood!" he exclaimed.  "Madame, you are
unbearable!"  He was very angry, and it infuriated him the more that
she should stand so coldly mocking before an anger that could bow
the proudest heads in France.  "You have the pride of Satan, your
greed is insatiable, your domineering spirit utterly insufferable,
and you have the most false and poisonous tongue in the world!"

Her brutal answer bludgeoned that high divinity to earth.

"With all my imperfections," she sneered, "at least I do not smell
as badly as you do!"

It was an answer that extinguished her last chance.  It was fatal
to the dignity, to the "terrible majesty" of Louis.  It stripped
him of all divinity, and revealed him authoritatively as intensely
and even unpleasantly human.  It was beyond hope of pardon.

His face turned the colour of wax.  A glacial silence hung over the
agonized witnesses of that royal humiliation.  Then, without a word,
in a vain attempt to rescue the dignity she had so cruelly mauled,
he turned, his red heels clicked rapidly and unsteadily across the
polished floor, and he was gone.

When Madame de Montespan realized exactly what she had done, nothing
but rage remained to her - rage and its offspring, vindictiveness.
The Duchess of Fontanges must not enjoy her victory, nor must Louis
escape punishment for his faithlessness.  La Voisin should afford
her the means to accomplish this.  And so she goes once more to the
Rue de la Tannerie.

Now, the matter of Madame de Montespan's present needs was one in
which the witches were particularly expert.  Were you troubled with
a rival, did your husband persist in surviving your affection for him,
did those from whom you had expectations cling obstinately and
inconsiderately to life, the witches by incantations and the use of
powders - in which arsenic was the dominant charm - could usually
put the matter right for you.  Indeed, so wide and general was the
practice of poisoning become, that the authorities, lately aroused
to the fact by the sensational revelations of the Marchioness de
Brinvilliers, had set up in this year 1670 the tribunal known as
the Chambre Ardente to inquire into the matter, and to conduct
prosecutions.

La Voisin promised help to the Marchioness.  She called in another
witch of horrible repute, named La Filastre, her coadjutor Lesage,
and two expert poisoners, Romani and Bertrand, who devised an
ingenious plot for the murder of the Duchess of Fontanges.  They
were to visit her, Romani as a cloth merchant, and Bertrand as his
servant, to offer her their wares, including some Grenoble gloves,
which were the most beautiful gloves in the world and unfailingly
irresistible to ladies.  These gloves they prepared in accordance
with certain magical recipes in such a way that the Duchess, after
wearing them, must die a lingering death in which there could be no
suspicion of poisoning.

The King was to be dealt with by means of a petition steeped in
similar powders, and should receive his death by taking it into his
hands.  La Voisin herself was to go to Saint-Germain to present
this petition on Monday, March 13th, one of those days on which,
according to ancient custom, all comers were admitted to the royal
presence.

Thus they disposed.  But Fate was already silently stalking La
Voisin.

It is to the fact that an obscure and vulgar woman had drunk one
glass of wine too many three months earlier that the King owed his
escape.

If you are interested in the almost grotesque disparity that can
lie between cause and effect, here is a subject for you.  Three
months earlier a tailor named Vigoureux, whose wife secretly
practised magic, had entertained a few friends to dinner, amongst
whom was an intimate of his wife's, named Marie Bosse.  This Marie
Bosse it was who drank that excessive glass of wine which, drowning
prudence, led her to boast of the famous trade she drove as a
fortune-teller to the nobility, and even to hint of something
further.

"Another three poisonings," she chuckled, "and I shall retire with
my fortune made!"

An attorney who was present pricked up his ears, bethought him of
the tales that were afloat, and gave information to the police.
The police set a trap for Marie Bosse, and she betrayed herself.
Later, under torture, she betrayed La Vigoureux.  La Vigoureux
betrayed others, and these others again.

The arrest of Marie Bosse was like knocking down the first of a row
of ninepins, but none could have suspected that the last of these
stood in the royal apartments.

On the day before she was to repair to Saint-Germain, La Voisin,
betrayed in her turn, received a surprise visit from the police -
who, of course, had no knowledge of the regicide their action was
thwarting - and she was carried off to the Chatelet.  Put to the
question, she revealed a great deal; but her terror of the horrible
punishment reserved for regicides prevented her to the day of her
death at the stake - in February of 1680 from saying a word of her
association with Madame de Montespan.

But there were others whom she betrayed under torture, and whose
arrest followed quickly upon her own, who had not her strength of
character.  Among these were La Filastre and the magician Lesage.
When it was found that these two corroborated each other in the
incredible things which they related, the Chambre Ardente took
fright.  La Reynie, who presided over it, laid the matter before
the King, and the King, horror-stricken by the discovery of the
revolting practices in which the mother of his children had been
engaged, suspended the sittings of the Chambre Ardente, and
commanded that no further proceedings should be taken against Lesage
and La Filastre, and none initiated against Romani, Bertrand, the
Abbe Guibourg, and the scores of other poisoners and magicians who
had been arrested, and who were acquainted with Madame de Montespan's
unholy traffic.

But it was not out of any desire to spare Madame de Montespan that
the King proceeded in this manner; he was concerned only to spare
himself and his royal dignity.  He feared above all things the
scandal and ridicule which must touch him as a result of publicity,
and because he feared it so much, he could impose no punishment
upon Madame de Montespan.

This he made known to her at the interview between them procured by
his minister Louvois, at about the time that the sittings of the
Chambre Ardente were suspended.

To this interview that proud, domineering woman came in dread, and
in tears and humility for once.  The King's bearing was cold and
hard.  Cold and hard were the words in which he declared the extent
of his knowledge of her infamy, words which revealed the loathing
and disgust this knowledge brought him.  If at first she was
terror-stricken, crushed under the indictment, yet she was never of
a temper to bear reproaches long.  Under his scorn her anger kindled
and her humility was sloughed.

"What then?" she cried at last, eyes aflash through lingering tears.
"Is the blame all mine?  If all this is true, it is no less true
that I was driven to it by my love for you and the despair to which
your heartlessness and infidelity reduced me.  To you," she
continued, gathering force at every word, "I sacrificed everything
 - my honour, a noble husband who loved me, all that a woman prizes.
And what did you give me in exchange?  Your cruel fickleness exposed
me to the low mockery of the lick-spittles of your Court.  Do you
wonder that I went mad, and that in my madness I sacrificed what
shreds of self-respect you had left me?  And now it seems I have
lost all but life.  Take that, too, if it be your pleasure.  Heaven
knows it has little value left for me!  But remember that in
striking me you strike the mother of your children - the legitimate
children of France.  Remember that!"

He remembered it.  Indeed, he was never in danger of forgetting it;
for she might have added that he would be striking also at himself
and at that royal dignity which was his religion.  And so that all
scandalous comment might be avoided she was actually allowed to
remain at Court, although no longer in her first-floor apartments;
and it was not until ten years later that she departed to withdraw
to the community of Saint Joseph.

But even in her disgrace this woman, secretly convicted among other
abominations of attempting to procure the poisoning of the King and
of her rival, enjoyed an annual pension of 1,200,000 livres; whilst
none dared proceed against those who shared her guilt - not even
the infamous Guibourg, the poisoners Romani and Bertrand, and La
Filastre - nor yet against some scores of associates of these, who
were known to live by sorcery and poisonings, and who might be
privy to the part played by Madame de Montespan in that horrible
night of magic at the Chateau de Villebousin.

The hot blast of revolution was needed to sweep France clean.




VII.   THE NIGHT OF GEMS

THE "AFFAIRS" OF THE QUEEN'S NECKLACE


Under the stars of a tepid, scented night of August of 1784, Prince
Louis de Rohan, Cardinal of Strasbourg, Grand Almoner of France,
made his way with quickened pulses through the Park of Versailles
to a momentous assignation in the Grove of Venus.

This illustrious member of an illustrious House, that derived from
both the royal lines of Valois and Bourbon, was a man in the prime
of life, of a fine height, still retaining something of the willowy
slenderness that had been his in youth, and of a gentle, almost
womanly beauty of countenance.

In a grey cloak and a round, grey hat with gold cords, followed
closely by two shadowy attendant figures, he stepped briskly amain,
eager to open those gates across the path of his ambition, locked
against him hitherto by the very hands from which he now went to
receive the key.

He deserves your sympathy, this elegant Cardinal-Prince, who had been
the victim of the malice and schemings of the relentless Austrian
Empress since the days when he represented the King of France at the
Court of Vienna.

The state he had kept there had been more than royal and royal in
the dazzling French manner, which was perturbing to a woman of
Marie Therese's solid German notions.  His hunting-parties, his
supper-parties, the fetes he gave upon every occasion, the worldly
inventiveness, the sumptuousness and reckless extravagance that
made each of these affairs seem like a supplement to "The Arabian
Nights' Entertainments," the sybaritic luxury of his surroundings,
the incredible prodigality of his expenditure, all served profoundly
to scandalize and embitter the Empress.

That a priest in gay, secular clothes should hunt the stag on
horseback filled her with horror at his levity; that he should flirt
discreetly with the noble ladies of Vienna made her despair of his
morals; whilst his personal elegance and irresistible charm were
proofs to her of a profligacy that perverted the Court over which
she ruled.

She laboured for the extinction of his pernicious brilliance, and
intrigued for his recall.  She made no attempt to conceal her
hostility, nor did she love him any the better because he met her
frigid haughtiness with an ironical urbanity that seemed ever to
put her in the wrong.  And then one day he permitted his wit to be
bitingly imprudent.

"Marie Therese," he wrote to D'Aiguillon, "holds in one hand a
handkerchief to receive her tears for the misfortunes of oppressed
Poland, and in the other a sword to continue its partition."

To say that in this witticism lay one of the causes of the French
Revolution may seem at first glance an outrageous overstatement.
Yet it is certain that, but for that imprudent phrase, the need
would never have arisen that sent Rohan across the Park of Versailles
on that August night to an assignation that in the sequel was to
place a terrible weapon in the hands of the Revolutionary party.

D'Aiguillon had published the gibe.  It had reached the ears of
Marie Antoinette, and from her it had travelled back to her mother
in Vienna.  It aroused in the Empress a resentment and a bitterness
that did not rest until the splendid Cardinal-Prince was recalled
from his embassy.  It did not rest even then.  By the ridicule to
which the gibe exposed her - and if you know Marie Therese at all,
you can imagine what that meant - it provoked a hostility that was
indefatigably to labour against him.

The Cardinal was ambitious, he had confidence in his talents and in
the driving force of his mighty family, and he looked to become
another Richelieu or Mazarin, the first Minister of the Crown, the
empurpled ruler of France, the guiding power behind the throne.  All
this he looked confidently to achieve; all this he might have
achieved but for the obstacle that Marie Therese's resentment flung
across his path.  The Empress saw to it that, through the person of
her daughter, her hatred should pursue him even into France.

Obedient ever to the iron will of her mother, sharing her mother's
resentment, Marie Antoinette exerted all her influence to thwart
this Cardinal whom her mother had taught her to regard as a
dangerous, unprincipled man.

On his return from Vienna bearing letters from Marie Therese to
Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, the Cardinal found himself coldly
received by the dull King, and discouraged from remaining at Court,
whilst the Queen refused to grant him so much as the audience
necessary for the delivery of these letters, desiring him to forward
them instead.

The chagrined Cardinal had no illusions.  He beheld here the hand
of Marie Therese controlling Marie Antoinette, and, through Marie
Antoinette, the King himself.  Worse followed.  He who had dreamt
himself another Richelieu could only with difficulty obtain the
promised position of Grand Almoner of France, and this solely as a
result of the powerful and insistent influence exerted by his family.

He perceived that if he was to succeed at all he must begin by
softening the rigorous attitude which the Queen maintained towards
him.  To that end he addressed himself.  But three successive letters
he wrote to the Queen remained unanswered.  Through other channels
persistently he begged for an audience that he might come in person
to express his regrets for the offending indiscretion.  But the Queen
remained unmoved, ruled ever by the Austrian Empress, who through
her daughter sought to guide the affairs of France.

Rohan was reduced to despair, and then in an evil hour his path was
crossed by Jeanne de la Motte de Valois, who enjoyed the reputation
of secretly possessing the friendship of the Queen, exerting a sort
of back-stair influence, and who lived on that reputation.

As a drowning man clutches at a straw, so the Cardinal-Prince Louis
de Rohan, Grand Almoner of France, Landgrave of Alsace, Commander
of the Order of the Holy Ghost, clutched at this faiseuse d'affaires
to help him in his desperate need.

Jeanne de la Motte de Valois - perhaps the most astounding
adventuress that ever lived by her wits and her beauty - had begun
life by begging her bread in the streets.  She laid claim to
left-handed descent from the royal line of Valois, and, her claim
supported by the Marchioness Boulainvilliers, who had befriended
her, she had obtained from the Crown a small pension, and had
married the unscrupulous Marc Antoine de la Motte, a young soldier
in the Burgundy regiment of the Gendarmerie.

Later, in the autumn of 1786, her protectress presented her to
Cardinal de Rohan.  His Eminence, interested in the lady's
extraordinary history, in her remarkable beauty, vivacity, and wit,
received the De la Mottes at his sumptuous chateau at Saverne, near
Strasbourg, heard her story in greater detail, promised his
protection, and as an earnest of his kindly intentions obtained for
her husband a captain's commission in the Dragoons.

Thereafter you see the De la Mottes in Paris and at Versailles,
hustled from lodging to lodging for failure to pay what they owe;
and finally installed in a house in the Rue Neuve Saint-Gilles.
There they kept a sort of state, spending lavishly, now the money
borrowed from the Cardinal, or upon the Cardinal's security; now
the proceeds of pawned goods that had been bought on credit, and of
other swindles practised upon those who were impressed by the lady's
name and lineage and the patronage of the great Cardinal which she
enjoyed.

To live on your wits is no easy matter.  It demands infinite address,
coolness, daring, and resource qualities which Madame de la Motte
possessed in the highest degree, so that, harassed and pressed by
creditors, she yet contrived to evade their attacks and to present
a calm and, therefore, confidence-inspiring front to the world.

The truth of Madame de la Motte de Valois's reputation for influence
at Court was never doubted.  There was nothing in the character of
Marie Antoinette to occasion such doubts.  Indiscreet in many things,
Her Majesty was most notoriously so in her attachments, as witness
her intimacy with Madame de Polignac and the Princesse de Lambelle.
And the public voice had magnified - as it will - those indiscretions
until it had torn her character into shreds.

The fame of the Countess Jeanne de Valois - as Madame de la Motte
now styled herself - increasing, she was employed as an intermediary
by place-seekers and people with suits to prefer, who gratefully
purchased her promises to interest herself on their behalf at Court.

And then into her web of intrigue blundered the Cardinal de Rohan,
who, as he confessed, "was completely blinded by his immense desire
to regain the good graces of the Queen."  She aroused fresh hope in
his despairing heart by protesting that, as some return for all the
favours she had received from him, she would not rest until she had
disposed the Queen more favourably towards him.

Later came assurances that the Queen's hostility was melting under
her persuasions, and at last she announced that she was authorized
by Her Majesty to invite him to submit the justification which so
long and so vainly he had sought permission to present.

Rohan, in a vertigo of satisfaction, indited his justification,
forwarded it to the Queen by the hand of the Countess, and some days
later received a note in the Queen's hand upon blue-edged paper
adorned by the lilies of France.

"I rejoice," wrote Marie Antoinette, "to find at last that you were
not in fault.  I cannot yet grant you the audience you desire, but
as soon as the circumstances allow of it I shall let you know.  Be
discreet."

Upon the advice of the Countess of Valois, His Eminence sent a reply
expressive of his deep gratitude and joy.

Thus began a correspondence between Queen and Cardinal which
continued regularly for a space of three months, growing gradually
more confidential and intimate.  As time passed his solicitations
of an audience became more pressing, until at last the Queen wrote
announcing that, actuated by esteem and affection for him who had
so long been kept in banishment, she herself desired the meeting.
But it must be secret.  An open audience would still be premature;
he had numerous enemies at Court, who, thus forewarned, might so
exert themselves against him as yet to ruin all.

To receive such a letter from a beautiful woman, and that woman a
queen whose glories her inaccessibility had magnified a thousandfold
in his imagination, must have all but turned the Cardinal's head.
The secrecy of the correspondence, culminating in a clandestine
meeting, seemed to establish between them an intimacy impossible
under other circumstances.

Into the warp of his ambition was now woven another, tenderly
romantic, though infinitely respectful, feeling.


You realize, I hope, the frame of mind in which the Cardinal-Prince
took his way through that luminous, fragrant summer night towards
the Grove of Venus.  He went to lay the cornerstone of the proud
edifice of his ambitions.  To him it was a night of nights - a night
of gems, he pronounced it, looking up into the jewelled vault of
heaven.  And in that phrase he was singularly prophetic.

By an avenue of boxwood and yoke-elm he entered into an open glade,
in the middle of which there was a circle where the intended statue
of Venus was never placed.  But if the cold marble effigy of a
goddess were absent, the warm, living figure of a queen stood, all
in shimmering white amid the gloom, awaiting him.

Rohan checked a moment, his breath arrested, his pulses quickened.
Then he sped forward, and, flinging off his wide-brimmed hat, he
prostrated himself to kiss the hem of her white cambric gown.
Something - a rose that she let fall - brushed lightly past his
cheek.  Reverently he recovered it, accounting it a tangible symbol
of her favour, and he looked up into the proud, lovely face - which,
although but dimly discernible, was yet unmistakable to him
protesting his gratitude and devotion.  He perceived that she was
trembling, and caught the quiver in the voice that answered him.

"You may hope that the past will be forgiven."

And then, before he could drink more deeply of this cup of delight,
came rapid steps to interrupt them.  A slender man, in whom the
Cardinal seemed to recognize the Queen's valet Desclaux, thrust
through the curtains of foliage into the grove.

"Quick, madame!" he exclaimed in agitation.  "Madame la Comtesse
and Mademoiselle d'Artois are approaching!"

The Queen was whirled away, and the Cardinal discreetly effaced
himself, his happiness tempered by chagrin at the interruption.

When, on the morrow, the Countess of Valois brought him a
blue-bordered note with Her Majesty's wishes that he should patiently
await a propitious season for his public restoration to royal favour,
he resigned himself with the most complete and satisfied submission.
Had he not the memory of her voice and the rose she had given him?
Soon afterwards came a blue-bordered note in which Marie Antoinette
advised him to withdraw to his Bishopric of Strasbourg until she
should judge that the desired season of :his reinstatement had
arrived.

Obediently Rohan withdrew.


It was in the following December that the Countess of Valois's good
offices at Court were solicited by a new client, and that she first
beheld the famous diamond necklace.

It had been made by the Court jewellers of the Rue Vendome - Bohmer
and Bassenge - and intended for the Countess du Barry.  On the
assembling of its component gems Bohmer had laboured for five years
and travelled all over Europe, with the result that he had achieved
not so much a necklace as a blaziing scarf of diamonds of a splendour
outrivalling any jewel that the world had ever seen.

Unfortunately, Bohmer was too long over the task.  Louis XV died
inopportunely, and the firm found itself with a necklace worth two
million livres on its hands.

Hopes were founded upon Marie Antoinette's reputed extravagance.  But
the price appalled her, while Louis XVI met the importunities of the
jeweller with the reply that the country needed a ship of war more
urgently than a necklace.

Thereafter Bohmer offered it in various Courts of Europe, but always
without success.  Things were becoming awkward.  The firm had borrowed
heavily to pay for the stones, and anxiety seems to have driven Bohmer
to the verge of desperation.  Again he offered the necklace to the
King, announcing himself ready to make terms, and to accept payment
in instalments; but again it was refused.

Bohmer now became that pest to society, the man with a grievance
that he must be venting everywhere.  On one occasion he so far
forgot himself as to intrude upon the Queen as she was walking in
the gardens of the Trianon.  Flinging himself upon his knees before
her, he protested with sobs that he was in despair, and that unless
she purchased the necklace he would go and drown himself.  His tears
left her unmoved to anything but scorn.

"Get up, Bohmer!" she bade him.  "I don't like such scenes.  I have
refused the necklace, and I don't want to hear of it again.  Instead
of drowning yourself, break it up and sell the diamonds separately."

He did neither one nor the other, but continued to air his grievance;
and among those who heard him was one Laporte, an impecunious visitor
at the house of the Countess of Valois.

Bohmer had said that he would pay a thousand louis to any one who
found him a purchaser for the necklace.  That was enough to stir the
needy Laporte.  He mentioned the matter to the Countess, and enlisted
her interest.  Then he told Bohmer of her great influence with the
Queen, and brought the jeweller to visit her with the necklace.

Dazzled by the fire of those gems, the Countess nevertheless
protested - but in an arch manner calculated to convince Bohmer of
the contrary - that she had no power to influence Her Majesty.  Yet
yielding with apparent reluctance to his importunities, she,
nevertheless, ended by promising to see what could be done.

On January 3d the Cardinal came back from Strasbourg.  Correspondence
with the Queen, through Madame de Valois, had continued during his
absence, and now, within a few days of his return, an opportunity
was to be afforded him of proving his readiness to serve Her Majesty,
and of placing her under a profound obligation to him.

The Countess brought him a letter from Marie Antoinette, in which
the Queen expressed her desire to acquire the necklace, but added
that, being without the requisite funds at the moment, it would be
necessary to settle the terms and arrange the instalments, which
should be paid at intervals of three months.  For this she required
an intermediary who in himself would be a sufficient guarantee to
the Bohmers, and she ended by inviting His Eminence to act on her
behalf.

That invitation the Cardinal, who had been waiting ever since the
meeting in the Grove of Venus for an opportunity of proving himself,
accepted with alacrity.

And so, on January 24th, the Countess drives up to the Grand Balcon,
the jewellers' shop in the Rue Vendome.  Her dark eyes sparkle, the
lovely, piquant face is wreathed in smiles.

"Messieurs," she greets the anxious partners, "I think I can promise
you that the necklace will very shortly be sold."

The jewellers gasp in the immensity of the hope her words arouse.

"The purchase," she goes on to inform them, "will be effected by a
very great nobleman."

Bassenge bursts into voluble gratitude.  She cuts it short.

"That nobleman is the Cardinal-Prince Louis de Rohan.  It is with
him that you will arrange the affair, and I advise you," she adds
in a confidential tone, "to take every precaution, especially in
the matter of the terms of payment that may be proposed to you.
That is all, I think, messieurs.  You will, of course, bear in mind
that it is no concern of mine, and that I do not so much as want my
name mentioned in connection with it."

"Perfectly, madame," splutters Bohmer, who is perspiring, although
the air is cold - "perfectly!  We understand, and we are profoundly
grateful.  If - "  His hands fumble nervously at a case.  "If you
would deign, madame, to accept this trifle as an earnest of our
indebtedness, we - "

There is a tinge of haughtiness in her manner as she interrupts him.

"You do not appear to understand, Bohmer, that the matter does not
at all concern me.  I have done nothing," she insists; then, melting
into smiles, "My only desire," she adds, "was to be of service to
you."

And upon that she departs, leaving them profoundly impressed by her
graciousness and still more by her refusal to accept a valuable jewel.

On the morrow the great nobleman she had heralded, the Cardinal
himself, alighted at the Grand Balcon, coming, on the Queen's behalf,
to see the necklace and settle the terms.  By the end of the week
the bargain was concluded.  The price was fixed at 1,600,000 livres,
which the Queen was to pay in four instalments extending over two
years, the first falling due on the following August 1st.

These terms the Cardinal embodied in a note which he forwarded to
Madame de la Motte, that they might be ratified by the Queen.

The Countess returned the note to him next day.

"Her Majesty is pleased and grateful," she announced, "and she
approves of all that you have done.  But she does not wish to sign
anything."

On that point, however, the Cardinal was insistent.  The magnitude
of the transaction demanded it, and he positively refused to move
further without Her Majesty's signature.

The Countess departed to return again on the last day of the month
with the document completed as the Cardinal required, bearing now
the signature "Marie Antoinette de France," and the terms marked
"approved" in the Queen's hand.

"The Queen," Madame de la Motte informed him, "is making this
purchase secretly, without the King's knowledge, and she particularly
begs that this note shall not leave Your Eminence's hands.  Do not,
therefore, allow any one to see it."

Rohan gave the required promise, but, not conceiving that the
Bohmers were included in it, he showed them the note and the Queen's
signature when they came to wait upon him with the necklace on the
morrow.

In the dusk of evening a closed carriage drew up at the door of
Madame de la Motte Valois's lodging on the Place Dauphine at
Versailles.  Rohan alighted, and went upstairs with a casket under
his arm.

Madame awaited him in a white-panelled, indifferently lighted room,
to which there was an alcove with glass doors.

"You have brought the necklace?"

"It is here," he replied, tapping the box with his gloved hand.

"Her Majesty is expecting it to-night.  Her messenger should arrive
at any moment.  She will be pleased with Your Eminence."

"That is all that I can desire," he answered gravely; and sat down
in answer to her invitation, the precious casket on his knees.

Waiting thus, they talked desultorily for some moments.  At last
came steps upon the stairs.

"Quick!  The alcove!" she exclaimed.  "You must not be seen by Her
Majesty's messenger."

Rohan, with ready understanding, a miracle of discretion, effaced
himself into the alcove, through the glass doors of which he could
see what passed.

The door was opened by madame's maid with the announcement:

"From the Queen."

A tall, slender young man in black, the Queen's attendant of that
other night of gems - the night of the Grove of Venus - stepped
quickly into the room, bowed like a courtier to Madame de la Motte,
and presented a note.

Madame broke the seal, then begged the messenger to withdraw for a
moment.  When he had gone, she turned to the Cardinal, who stood
in the doorway of the alcove.

"That is Desclaux, Her Majesty's valet," she said; and held out to
him the note, which requested the delivery of the necklace to the
bearer.

A moment later the messenger was reintroduced to receive the casket
from the hands of Madame de la Motte.  Within five minutes the
Cardinal was in his carriage again, driving happily back to Paris
with his dreams of a queen's gratitude and confidence.

Two days later, meeting Bohmer at Versailles, the Cardinal suggested
to him that he should offer his thanks to the Queen for having
purchased the necklace.

Bohmer sought an opportunity for this in vain.  None offered.  It
was also in vain that he waited to hear that the Queen had worn
the necklace.  But he does not appear to have been anxious on that
score.  Moreover, the Queen's abstention was credibly explained by
Madame de la Motte to Laporte with the statement that Her Majesty
did not wish to wear the necklace until it was paid for.

With the same explanation she answered the Cardinal's inquiries in
the following July, when he returned from a three months' sojourn
in Strasbourg.

And she took the opportunity to represent to him that one of the
reasons why the Queen could not yet consider the necklace quite
her own was that she found the price too high.

"Indeed, she may be constrained to return it, after all, unless
the Bohmers are prepared to be reasonable."

If His Eminence was a little dismayed by this, at least any nascent
uneasiness was quieted.  He consented to see the jewellers in the
matter, and on July 10th - three weeks before the first instalment
was due - he presented himself at the Grand Balcon to convey the
Queen's wishes to the Bohmers.

Bohmer scarcely troubled to prevent disgust from showing on his
keen, swarthy countenance.  Had not his client been a queen and
her intermediary a cardinal, he would, no doubt, have afforded it
full expression.

"The price agreed upon was already greatly below the value of the
necklace," he grumbled.  "I should never have accepted it but for
the difficulties under which we have been placed by the purchase
of the stones - the money we owe and the interest we are forced to
pay.  A further reduction is impossible."

The handsome Cardinal was suave, courtly, regretful, but firm.  Since
that was the case, there would be no alternative but to return the
necklace.

Bohmer took fright.  The annulment of the sale would bring him face
to face with ruin.  Reluctantly, feeling that he was being imposed
upon, he reduced the price by two hundred thousand livres, and even
consented to write the Queen the following letter, whose epistolary
grace suggests the Cardinal's dictation:

MADAME, - We are happy to hazard the thought that our submission
with zeal and respect to the last arrangement proposed constitutes
a proof of our devotion and obedience to the orders of Your Majesty.
And we have genuine satisfaction in thinking that the most
beautiful set of diamonds in existence will serve to adorn the
greatest and best of queens.

Now it happened that Bohmer was about to deliver personally to the
Queen some jewels with which the King was presenting her on the
occasion of the baptism of his nephew.  He availed himself of that
opportunity, two days later, personally to hand his letter to Her
Majesty.  But chance brought the Comptroller-General into the room
before she had opened it, and as a result the jeweller departed
while the letter was, still unread.

Afterwards, in the presence of Madame de Campan, who relates the
matter in her memoirs, the Queen opened the note, pored over it a
while, and then, perhaps with vivid memories of Bohmer's threat of
suicide:

"Listen to what that madman Bohmer writes to me," she said, and
read the lines aloud.  "You guessed the riddles in the 'Mercure'
this morning.  I wonder could you guess me this one."

And, with a half-contemptuous shrug, she held the sheet in the flame
of one of the tapers that stood alight on the table for the purpose
of sealing letters.

"That man exists for my torment," she continued.  "He has always
some mad notion in his head, and must always be visiting it upon me.
When next you see him, pray convince him how little I care for
diamonds."

And there the matter was dismissed.

Days passed, and then a week before the instalment of 350,000 livres
was due, the Cardinal received a visit from Madame de la Motte on
the Queen's behalf.

"Her Majesty," madame announced, "seems embarrassed about the
instalment.  She does not wish to trouble you by writing about it.
But I have thought of a way by which you could render yourself
agreeable to her and, at the same time, set her mind at rest.  Could
you not raise a loan for the amount?"

Had not the Cardinal himself dictated to Bohmer a letter which
Bohmer himself had delivered to the Queen, he must inevitably have
suspected by now that all was not as it should be.  But, satisfied
as he was by that circumstance, he addressed himself to the matter
which Madame de la Motte proposed.  But, although Rohan was
extraordinarily wealthy, he had ever been correspondingly lavish.

Moreover, to complicate matters, there had been the bankruptcy of
his nephew, the Prince de Guimenee, whose debts had amounted to
some three million livres.  Characteristically, and for the sake
of the family honour, Rohan had taken the whole of this burden
upon his own shoulders.  Hence his resources were in a crippled
condition, and it was beyond his power to advance so considerable
a sum at such short notice.  Nor did he succeed in obtaining a
loan within the little time at his disposal.

His anxieties on this score were increased by a letter from the
Queen which Madame de la Motte brought him on July 30th, in which
Her Majesty wrote that the first instalment could not be paid until
October 1st; but that on that date a payment of seven hundred
thousand livres - half of the revised price -would unfailingly be
made.  Together with this letter, Madame de la Motte handed him
thirty thousand livres, interest on the instalment due, with which
to pacify the jewellers.

But the jewellers were not so easily to be pacified.  Bohmer, at the
end of his patience, definitely refused to grant the postponement
or to receive the thirty thousand livres other than as on account
of the instalment due.

The Cardinal departed in vexation.  Something must be done at once,
or his secret relations with the Queen would be disclosed, thus
precipitating a catastrophe and a scandal.  He summoned Madame de
la Motte, flung her into a panic with his news and sent her away
to see what she could do.  What she actually did would have
surprised him.  Realizing that a crisis had been reached calling
for bold measures, she sent for Bassenge, the milder of the two
partners.  He came to the Rue Neuve Saint-Gilles, protesting that
he was being abused.

"Abused?" quoth she, taking him up on the word.  "Abused, do you
say?" She laughed sharply.  "Say duped, my friend; for that is what
has happened to you.  You are the victim of a swindle."

Bassenge turned white; his prominent eyes bulged in his rather
pasty face.

"What are you saying, madame?" His voice was husky.

"The Queen's signature on the note in the Cardinal's possession
is a forgery."

"A forgery! The Queen's signature?  Oh, mon Dieu!"  He stared at
her, and his knees began to tremble.  "How do you know, madame?"

"I have seen it," she answered.

"But - but - "

His nerveless limbs succumbing under him, he sank without ceremony
to a chair that was opportunely near him.  With the same lack of
ceremony, mechanically, in a dazed manner, he mopped the sweat
that stood in beads on his brow, then raised his wig and mopped
his head.

"There is no need to waste emotion," said she composedly.  "The
Cardinal de Rohan is very rich.  You must look to him.  He will
pay you."

"Will he?"

Hope and doubt were blended in the question.

"What else?" she asked.  "Can you conceive that he will permit
such a scandal to burst about his name and the name of the Queen?"

Bassenge saw light.  The rights and wrongs of the case, and who
might be the guilty parties, were matters of very secondary
importance.  What mattered was that the firm should recover the
14,000,000 livres for which the necklace had been sold; and
Bassenge was quick to attach full value to the words of Madame
de la Motte.

Unfortunately for everybody concerned, including the jewellers
themselves, Bohmer's mind was less supple.  Panic-stricken by
Bassenge's report, he was all for the direct method.  There was
no persuading him to proceed cautiously, and to begin by visiting
the Cardinal.  He tore away to Versailles at once, intent upon
seeing the Queen.  But the Queen, as we know, had had enough of
Bohmer.  He had to content himself with pouring his mixture of
intercessions and demands into the ears of Madame de Campan.

"You have been swindled, Bohmer," said the Queen's lady promptly.
"Her Majesty never received the necklace."

Bohmer would not be convinced.  Disbelieving, and goaded to fury,
he returned to Bassenge.

Bassenge, however, though perturbed, retained his calm.  The
Cardinal, he insisted, was their security, and it was impossible
to doubt that the Cardinal would fulfil his obligations at all
costs, rather than be overwhelmed by a scandal.

And this, no doubt, is what would have happened but for that hasty
visit of Bohmer's to Versailles.  It ruined everything.  As a
result of it, Bohmer was summoned to wait instantly upon the Queen
in the mater of some paste buckles.

The Queen received the jeweller in private, and her greeting proved
that the paste buckles were a mere pretext.  She demanded to know
the meaning of his words to Madame de Campan.

Bohmer could not rid himself of the notion that he was being trifled
with.  Had he not written and himself delivered to the Queen a
letter in which he thanked her for purchasing the necklace, and had
not that letter remained unanswered - a silent admission that the
necklace was in her hands?  In his exasperation he became insolent.

"The meaning, madame?  The meaning is that I require payment for my
necklace, that the patience of my creditors is exhausted, and that
unless you order the money to be paid, I am a ruined man!"

Marie Antoinette considered him in cold, imperious anger.

"Are you daring to suggest that your necklace is in my possession?"

Bohmer was white to the lips, his hands worked nervously.

"Does Your Majesty deny it?"

"You are insolent!" she exclaimed.  "You will be good enough to
answer questions, not to ask them.  Answer me, then.  Do you suggest
that I have your necklace?"

But a desperate man is not easily intimidated.

"No, madame; I affirm it!  It was the Countess of Valois who - "

"Who is the Countess of Valois?"

That sudden question, sharply uttered, was a sword of doubt through
the heart of Bohmer's confidence.  He stared wide-eyed a moment at
the indignant lady before him, then collected himself, and made as
plain a tale as he could of the circumstances under which he had
parted with the necklace Madame de la Motte's intervention, the
mediation of the Cardinal de Rohan with Her Majesty's signed
approval of the terms, and the delivery of the necklace to His
Eminence for transmission to the Queen.

Marie Antoinette listened in increasing horror and anger.  A flush
crept into her pale cheeks.

"You will prepare and send me a written statement of what you have
just told me," she said.  "You have leave to go."

That interview took place on August 9th.  The 15th was the Feast of
the Assumption, and also the name-day of the Queen, therefore a
gala day at Court, bringing a concourse of nobility to Versailles.
Mass was to be celebrated in the royal chapel at ten o'clock, and
the celebrant, as by custom established for the occasion, was the
Grand Almoner of France, the Cardinal de Rohan.

But at ten o'clock a meeting was being held in the King's cabinet,
composed of the King and Queen, the Baron de Breteuil, and the
Keeper of the Seals, Miromesnil.  They were met, as they believed,
to decide upon a course of action in the matter of a diamond
necklace.  In reality, these puppets in the hands of destiny were
helping to decide the fate of the French monarchy.

The King, fat, heavy, and phlegmatic, sat in a gilded chair by an
ormolu-encrusted writing-table.  His bovine eyes were troubled.
Two wrinkles of vexation puckered the flesh above his great nose.
Beside, and slightly behind him, stood the Queen, white and
imperious, whilst facing them stood Monsieur de Breteuil, reading
aloud the statement which Bohmer had drawn up.

When he had done, there was a moment's utter silence.  Then the
King spoke, his voice almost plaintive.

"What is to be done, then? But what is to be done?"

It was the Queen who answered him, harshly and angrily.

"When the Roman purple and a princely title are but masks to cover
a swindler, there is only one thing to be done.  This swindler must
be exposed and punished."

"But," the King faltered, "we have not heard the Cardinal."

"Can you think that Bohmer, that any man, would dare to lie upon
such a matter?"

"But consider, madame, the Cardinal's rank and family," calmly
interposed the prudent Miromesnil; "consider the stir, the scandal
that must ensue if this matter is made public."

But the obedient daughter of Marie Therese, hating Rohan at her
mother's bidding and for her mother's sake, was impatient of any
such wise considerations.

"What shall the scandal signify to us?" she demanded.  The King
looked at Breteuil.

"And you, Baron? What is your view?"

Breteuil, Rohan's mortal enemy, raised his shoulders and flipped
the document.

"In the face of this, Sire, it seems to me that the only course is
to arrest the Cardinal."

"You believe, then - " began the King, and checked, leaving the
sentence unfinished.

But Breteuil had understood.

"I know that the Cardinal must be pressed for money," he said.
"Ever prodigal in his expenditure, he is further saddled with the
debts of the Prince de Guimenee."

"And you can believe," the King cried, "that a Prince of the House
of Rohan, however pressed for money, could -  Oh, it is unimaginable!"

"Yet has he not stolen my name?" the Queen cut in.  "Is he not proven
a common, stupid forger?"

"We have not heard him," the King reminded her gently.

"And His Eminence might be able to explain," ventured Miromesnil.
"It were certainly prudent to give him the opportunity."

Slowly the King nodded his great, powdered head.  "Go and find him.
Bring him at once!" he bade Breteuil; and Breteuil bowed and
departed.

Very soon he returned, and he held the door whilst the handsome
Cardinal, little dreaming what lay before him, serene and calm, a
commanding figure in his cassock of scarlet watered silk, rustled
forward into the royal presence, and so came face to face with the
Queen for the first time since that romantic night a year ago in
the Grove of Venus.

Abruptly the King launched his thunderbolt.

"Cousin," he asked, "what purchase is this of a diamond necklace
that you are said to have made in the Queen's name?"

King and Cardinal looked into each other's eyes, the King's
narrowing, the Cardinal's dilating, the King leaning forward in his
chair, elbows on the table, the Cardinal standing tense and suddenly
rigid.

Slowly the colour ebbed from Rohan's face, leaving it deathly pale.
His eyes sought the Queen, and found her contemptuous glance, her
curling lip.  Then at last his handsome head sank a little forward.

"Sire," he said unsteadily, "I see that I have been duped.  But I
have duped nobody."

"You have no reason to be troubled, then.  You need but to explain."

Explain!  That was precisely what he could not do.  Besides, what
was the nature of the explanation demanded of him?  Whilst he stood
stricken there, it was the Queen who solved this question.

"If, indeed, you have been duped," she said scornfully, her colour
high, her eyes like points of steel, "you have been self-duped.  But
even then it is beyond belief that self-deception could have urged
you to the lengths of passing yourself off as my intermediary - you,
who should know yourself to be the last man in France I should
employ, you to whom I have not spoken once in eight years."  Tears
of anger glistened in her eyes; her voice shrilled up.  "And yet,
since you have not denied it, since you put forward this pitiful
plea that you have been duped, we must believe the unbelievable."

Thus at a blow she shattered the fond hopes he had been cherishing
ever since the night of gems - of gems, forsooth! - in the Grove of
Venus; thus she laid his ambition in ruins about him, and left the
man himself half stunned.

Observing his disorder, the ponderous but kindly monarch rose.

"Come, my cousin," he said more gently, "collect yourself.  Sit
down here and write what you may have to say in answer."

And with that he passed into the library beyond, accompanied by the
Queen and the two Ministers.

Alone, Rohan staggered forward and sank nervelessly into the chair.
He took up a pen, pondered a moment, and began to write.  But he
did not yet see clear.  He could not yet grasp the extent to which
he had been deceived, could not yet believe that those treasured
notes from Marie Antoinette were forgeries, that it was not the
Queen who had met him in the Grove of Venus and given him the rose
whose faded petals kept those letters company in a portfolio of red
morocco.  But at least it was clear to him that, for the sake of
honour - the Queen's honour - he must assume it so; and in that
assumption he now penned his statement.

When it was completed, himself he bore it to the King in the
library.

Louis read it with frowning brows; then passed it to the Queen.

"Have you the necklace now?" he asked Rohan.

"Sir, I left it in the hands of this woman Valois."

"Where is this woman?"

"I do not know, Sire."

"And the letter of authority bearing the Queen's signature, which
the jewellers say you presented to them - where is that?"

"I have it, Sire.  I will place it before you.  It is only now that
I realize that it is a forgery."

"Only now!" exclaimed the Queen in scorn.

"Her Majesty's name has been compromised," said the King sternly.
"It must be cleared.  As King and as husband my duty is clear.
Your Eminence must submit to arrest."

Rohan fell back a step in stupefaction.  For disgrace and dismissal
he was prepared, but not for this.

"Arrest?" he whispered.  "Ah, wait, Sire.  The publicity!  The
scandal!  Think of that!  As for the necklace, I will pay for it
myself, and so pay for my credulous folly.  I beseech you, Sire,
to let the matter end here.  I implore it for my own sake, for the
sake of the Prince de Soubise and the name of Rohan, which would
be smirched unjustly and to no good purpose."

He spoke with warmth and force; and, without adding more, yet
conveyed an impression that much more could be said for the course
he urged.

The King hesitated, considering.  Noting this, the prudent,
far-seeing Miromesnil ventured to develop the arguments at which
Rohan had hinted, laying stress upon the desirability of avoiding
scandal.

Louis was nodding, convinced, when Marie Antoinette, unable longer
to contain her rancour, broke into opposition of those prudent
measures.

"This hideous affair must be disclosed," she insisted.  "It is due
to me that it should publicly be set right.  The Cardinal shall
tell the world how he came to suppose that, not having spoken to
him for eight years, I could have wished to make use of his services
in the purchase of this necklace."

She was in tears, and her weak, easily swayed husband accounted her
justified in her demand.  And so, to the great consternation of all
the world, Prince Louis de Rohan was arrested like a common thief.

A foolish, indiscreet, short-sighted woman had allowed her rancour
to override all other considerations - careless of consequences,
careless of injustice so that her resentment, glutted by her hatred
of the Cardinal, should be gratified.  The ungenerous act was
terribly to recoil upon her.  In tears and blood was she to expiate
her lack of charity; very soon she was to reap its bitter fruits.

Saint-Just, a very prominent counsellor of the Parliament, one of
the most advanced apostles of the new ideas that were to find full
fruition in the Revolution, expressed the popular feeling in the
matter.

"Great and joyful affair!  A cardinal and a queen implicated in a
forgery and a swindle!  Filth on the crosier and the sceptre!  What
a triumph for the ideas of liberty!"

At the trial that followed before Parliament, Madame de la Motte,
a man named Reteaux de Villette - who had forged the Queen's hand
and impersonated Desclaux and a Mademoiselle d'Oliva - who had used
her striking resemblance to Marie Antoinette to impersonate the
Queen in the Grove of Venus were found guilty and sentenced.  But
the necklace was not recovered.  It had been broken up, and some
of the diamonds were already sold; others were being sold in London
by Captain de la Motte, who had gone thither for the purpose, and
who prudently remained there.

The Cardinal was acquitted, amid intense public joy and acclamation,
which must have been gall and wormwood to the Queen.  His powerful
family, the clergy of France, and the very people, with whom he had
ever been popular, had all laboured strenuously to vindicate him.
And thus it befell that the one man the Queen had aimed at crushing
was the only person connected with the affair who came out of it
unhurt.  The Queen's animus against the Cardinal aroused against her
the animus of his friends of all classes.  Appalling libels of her
were circulated throughout Europe.  It was thought and argued that
she was more deeply implicated in the swindle than had transpired,
that Madame de la Motte was a scapegoat, that the Queen should have
stood her trial with the others, and that she was saved only by the
royalty that hedged her.

Conceive what a weapon this placed in the hands of the men of the
new ideas of liberty - men who were bent on proving the corruption
of a system they sought to destroy!

Marie Antoinette should have foreseen something of this.  She might
have done so had not her hatred blinded her, had she been less
intent upon seizing the opportunity at all costs to make Rohan pay
for his barbed witticism upon her mother.  She might have been
spared much had she but spared Rohan when the chance was hers.  As
it was, the malevolent echoes of the affair and of Saint-Just's
exultation were never out of her ears.  They followed her to her
trial eight years later before the revolutionary tribunal.  They
followed her to the very scaffold, of which they had undoubtedly
supplied a plank.




VIII,  THE NIGHT OF TERROR

THE DROWNINGS AT NANTES UNDER CARRIER


The Revolutionary Committee of the city of Nantes, reinforced by
some of the administrators of the district and a few members of the
People's Society, sat in the noble hall of the Cour des Comptes,
which still retained much of its pre-republican sumptuousness.  They
sat expectantly - Goullin, the attorney, president of the committee,
a frail, elegant valetudinarian, fierily eloquent; Grandmaison,
the fencing-master, who once had been a gentleman, fierce of eye
and inflamed of countenance; Minee, the sometime bishop, now
departmental president; Pierre Chaux, the bankrupt merchant; the
sans-culotte Forget, of the People's Society, an unclean, ill-kempt
ruffian; and some thirty others called like these from every walk
of life.

Lamps were lighted, and under their yellow glare the huddled company
 - for the month was December, and the air of the vast room was
chill and dank - looked anxious and ill at ease.

Suddenly the doors were thrown open by an usher; and his voice rang
loud in announcement -

"The Citizen Representative Carrier."

The great man came in, stepping quickly.  Of middle height, very
frail and delicate, his clay-colored face was long and thin, with
arched eyebrows, a high nose, and a loose, coarse mouth.  His deeply
sunken dark eyes glared fiercely, and wisps of dead-black hair,
which had escaped the confining ribbon of his queue, hung about his
livid brow.  He was wrapped in a riding-coat of bottle-green,
heavily lined with fur, the skirts reaching down to the tops of his
Hessian boots, and the enormous turned-up collar almost touching
the brim of his round hat.  Under the coat his waist was girt with
the tricolour of office, and there were gold rings in his ears.

Such at the age of five-and-thirty was Jean Baptiste Carrier,
Representative of the Convention with the Army of the West, the
attorney who once had been intended by devout parents for the
priesthood.  He had been a month in Nantes, sent thither to purge
the body politic.

He reached a chair placed in the focus of the gathering, which sat
in a semicircle.  Standing by it, one of his lean hands resting
upon the back, he surveyed them, disgust in his glance, a sneer
curling his lip, so terrible and brutal of aspect despite his
frailness that more than one of those stout fellows quailed now
before him.

Suddenly he broke into torrential speech, his voice shrill and harsh:

"I do not know by what fatality it happens, but happen it does, that
during the month that I have been in Nantes you have never ceased
to give me reason to complain of you.  I have summoned you to meet
me here that you may justify yourselves, if you can, for your
ineptitude!"  And he flung himself into the chair, drawing his
fur-lined coat about him.  "Let me hear from you!" he snapped.

Minee, the unfrocked bishop, preserving still a certain episcopal
portliness of figure, a certain episcopal oiliness of speech,
respectfully implored the representative to be more precise.

The invitation flung him into a passion.  His irascibility, indeed,
deserved to become a byword.

"Name of a name!" he shrilled, his sunken eyes ablaze, his face
convulsed.  "Is there a thing I can mention in this filthy city of
yours that is not wrong?  Everything is wrong!  You have failed in
your duty to provide adequately for the army of Vendee.  Angers
has fallen, and now the brigands are threatening Nantes itself.
There is abject want in the city, disease is rampant; people are
dying of hunger in the streets and of typhus in the prisons.  And
sacre nom! - you ask me to be precise!  I'll be precise in telling
you where lies the fault.  It lies in your lousy administration.
Do you call yourselves administrators?  You - "  He became
unprintable.  "I have come here to shake you out of your torpor,
and by -- I'll shake you out of it or I'll have the blasted heads
off the lot of you."

They shivered with chill fear under the wild glare of his sunken
eyes.

"Well?" he barked after a long pause.  "Are you all dumb as well
as idiots?"

It was the ruffian Forget who had the courage to answer him:

"I have told the People's Society that if the machine works badly
it is because the Citizen Carrier refuses to consult with the
administration."

"You told them that, did you, you -- liar?" screeched Carrier.
"Am I not here now to consult with you?  And should I not have
come before had you suggested it?  Instead, you have waited until,
of my own accord, I should come to tell you that your
administration is ruining Nantes."

Goullin, the eloquent and elegant Goullin, rose to soothe him:

"Citizen Representative, we admit the truth of all that you have
said.  There has been a misunderstanding.  We could not take it
upon ourselves to summon the august representative of the Sacred
People.  I We have awaited your own good pleasure, and now that
you have made this manifest, there is no reason why the machine
should not work effectively.  The evils of which you speak exist,
alas!  But they are not so deeply rooted that, working under your
guidance and advice, we cannot uproot them, rendering the soil
fertile once more of good under the beneficent fertilizing showers
of liberty."

Mollified, Carrier grunted approval.

"That is well said, Citizen Goullin.  The fertilizer needed by
the soil is blood - the bad blood of aristocrats and federalists,
and I can promise you, in the name of the august people, that it
shall be abundantly provided."

The assembly broke into applause, and his vanity melted to it.  He
stood up, expressed his gratification at being so completely
understood, opened his arms, and invited the departmental president,
Minee, to come down and receive the kiss of brotherhood.

Thereafter they passed to the consideration of measures of
improvement, of measures to combat famine and disease.  In Carrier's
view there was only one way of accomplishing this - the number of
mouths to be fed must be reduced, the diseased must be eliminated.
It was the direct, the radical, the heroic method.

That very day six prisoners in Le Bouffay had been sentenced to
death for attempting to escape.

"How do we know," he asked, "that those six include all the guilty?
How do we know that all in Le Bouffay do not share the guilt?  The
prisoners are riddled with disease, which spreads to the good
patriots of Nantes; they eat bread, which is scarce, whilst good
patriots starve.  We must have the heads off all those blasted
swine!"  He took fire at his own suggestion.  "Aye, that would be
a useful measure.  We'll deal with it at once.  Let some one fetch
the President of the Revolutionary Tribunal."

He was fetched - a man of good family and a lawyer, named Francois
Phelippes.

"Citizen President," Carrier greeted him, "the administration of
Nantes has been considering an important measure.  To-day you
sentenced to death six prisoners in Le Bouffay for attempting to
escape.  You are to postpone execution so as to include all the
Bouffay prisoners in the sentence."

Although an ardent revolutionary, Phelippes was a logically minded
man with a lawyer's reverence for the sacredness of legal form.
This command, issued with such cynical coldness, and repudiated by
none of those present, seemed to him as grotesque and ridiculous
as it was horrible.

"But that is impossible, Citizen Representative," said he.

"Impossible!" snarled Carrier.  "A fool's word.  The administration
desires you to understand that it is not impossible.  The sacred
will of the august people - "

Phelippes interrupted him without ceremony.

"There is no power in France that can countermand the execution of
a sentence of the law."

"No - no power!"

Carrier's loose mouth fell open.  He was too amazed to be angry.

"Moreover," Phelippes pursued calmly, "there is the fact that all
the other prisoners in Le Bouffay are innocent of the offence for
which the six are to die."

"What has that to do with it?" roared Carrier.  "Last year I rode
a she-ass that could argue better than you!  In the name of --, what
has that to do with it?"

But there were members of the assembly who thought with Phelippes,
and who, whilst lacking the courage to express themselves, yet
found courage to support another who so boldly expressed them.

Carrier sprang up quivering with rage before that opposition.  "It
seems to me," he snarled, "that there are more than the scoundrels
in Le Bouffay who need to be shortened by a head for the good of
the nation.  I tell you that you are slaying the commonweal by your
slowness and circumspection.  Let all the scoundrels perish!"

A handsome, vicious youngster named Robin made chorus.

"Patriots are without bread!  It is fitting that the scoundrels
should die, and not eat the bread of starving patriots."

Carrier shook his fist at the assembly.

"You hear, you --! I cannot pardon whom the law condemns."

It was an unfortunate word, and Phelippes fastened on it.

"That is the truth, Citizen Representative," said Phelippes.  "And
as for the prisoners in Le Bouffay, you will wait until the law
condemns them."

And without staying to hear more, he departed as firmly as he had
come, indifferent to the sudden uproar.

When he had gone, the Representative flung himself into his chair
again, biting his lip.

"There goes a fellow who will find his way to the guillotine in
time," he growled.

But he was glad to be rid of him, and would not have him brought
back.  He saw how the opposition of Phelippes had stiffened the
weaker opposition of some of those in the assembly.  If he was to
have his way he would contrive better without the legal-minded
President of the Revolutionary Tribunal.  And his way he had in
the end, though not until he had stormed and cursed and reviled the
few who dared to offer remonstrances to his plan of wholesale
slaughter.

When at last he took his departure, it was agreed that the assembly
should proceed to elect a jury which was to undertake the duty of
drawing up immediately a list of those confined in the prisons of
Nantes.  This list they were to deliver when ready to the committee,
which would know how to proceed, for Carrier had made his meaning
perfectly clear.  The first salutary measure necessary to combat
the evils besetting the city was to wipe out at once the inmates of
all the prisons in Nantes.

In the chill December dawn of the next day the committee - which
had sat all night under the presidency of Goullin forwarded a list
of some five hundred prisoners to General Boivin, the commandant
of the city of Nantes, together with an order to collect them
without a moment's delay, take them to L'Eperonniere, and there
have them shot.

But Boivin was a soldier, and a soldier is not a sans-culotte.  He
took the order to Phelippes, with the announcement that he had no
intention of obeying it.  Phelippes, to Boivin's amazement, agreed
with him.  He sent the order back to the committee, denouncing it
as flagrantly illegal, and reminding them that it was illegal to
remove any prisoner, no matter by whose order, without such an order
as might follow upon a decision of the Tribunal.

The committee, intimidated by this firmness on the part of the
President of the Revolutionary Tribunal, dared not insist, and
there the matter remained.

When Carrier learnt of it the things he said were less than ever
fit for publication.  He raved like a madman at the very thought
that a quibbling lawyer should stand in the very path of him, the
august representative of the Sacred People.

It had happened that fifty-three priests, who had been brought to
Nantes a few days before, were waiting in the sheds of the entrepot
for prison accommodation, so that their names did not yet appear
upon any of the prison registers.  As a solatium to his wounded
feelings, he ordered his friends of the Marat Company to get rid
of them.

Lamberty, the leader of the Marats, asked him how it should be done.

"How?" he croaked.  "Not so much mystery, my friend.  Fling the
swine into the water, and so let's be rid of them.  There will be
plenty of their kind left in France."

But he seems to have explained himself further, and what precisely
were his orders, and how they were obeyed, transpires from a letter
which he wrote to the Convention, stating that those fifty-three
wretched priests, "being confined in a boat on the Loire, were last
night swallowed up by the river."  And he added the apostrophe,
"What a revolutionary torrent is the Loire!"

The Convention had no illusions as to his real meaning; and when
Carrier heard that his letter had been applauded by the National
Assembly, he felt himself encouraged to break down all barriers of
mere legality that might obstruct his path.  And, after all, what
the Revolutionary Committee as a body - intimidated by Phelippes
 - dared not do could be done by his faithful and less punctilious
friends of the Marat Company.

This Marat Company, the police of the Revolutionary Committee,
enrolled from the scourings of Nantes' sans-culottism, and
captained by a ruffian named Fleury, had been called into being by
Carrier himself with the assistance of Goullin.

On the night of the 24th Frimaire of the year III (December 14, 1793,
old style), which was a Saturday, Fleury mustered some thirty of his
men, and took them to the Cour des Comptes, where they were awaited
by Goullin, Bachelier, Grandmaison, and some other members of the
committee entirely devoted to Carrier.  From these the Marats
received their formal instructions.

"Plague," Goullin informed them, "is raging in the gaols, and its
ravages must be arrested.  You will therefore proceed this evening
to the prison of Le Bouffay in order to take over the prisoners
whom you will march up to the Quay La Fosse, whence they will be
shipped to Belle Isle."


In a cell of that sordid old building known as Le Bouffay lay a
cocassier, an egg and poultry dealer, arrested some three years
before upon a charge of having stolen a horse, and since forgotten.
His own version was that a person of whom he knew very little had
entrusted him with the sale of the stolen animal in possession of
which he was discovered.

The story sounds familiar; it is the sort of story that must have
done duty many times; and it is probable that the cocassier was no
better than he should have been.  Nevertheless Fate selected him
to be one of her unconscious instruments.  His name was Leroy, and
we have his own word for it that he was a staunch patriot.  The
horse business was certainly in the best vein of sans-culottism.

Leroy was awakened about ten o'clock that night by sounds that were
very unusual in that sombre, sepulchral prison.  They were sounds
of unbridled revelry - snatches of ribald song, bursts of coarse,
reverberating laughter and they proceeded, as it seemed to him,
from the courtyard and the porter's lodge.

He crawled from the dank straw which served him for a bed, and
approached the door to listen.  Clearly the porter Laqueze was
entertaining friends and making unusually merry.  It was also to be
gathered that Laqueze's friends were getting very drunk.  What the
devil did it mean?

His curiosity was soon to be very fully gratified.  Came heavy steps
up the stone staircase, the clatter of sabots, the clank of weapons,
and through the grille of his door an increasing light began to beat.

Some one was singing the "Carmagnole" in drunken, discordant tones.
Keys rattled, bolts were drawn; doors were being flung open.  The
noise increased.  Above the general din he heard the detestable
voice of the turnkey.

"Come and see my birds in their cages.  Come and see my pretty birds."

Leroy began to have an uneasy premonition that the merrymaking
portended sinister things.

"Get up, all of you!" bawled the turnkey.  "Up and pack your traps.
You're to go on a voyage.  No laggards, now.  Up with you!"

The door of Leroy's cell was thrown open in its turn, and he found
himself confronting a group of drunken ruffians.  One of these - a
red-capped giant with long, black mustaches and a bundle of ropes
over one arm suddenly pounced upon him.  The cocassier was an active,
vigorous young man.  But, actuated by fear and discretion, he
permitted himself tamely to be led away.

Along the stone-flagged corridor he went, and on every hand beheld
his fellow-prisoners in the same plight, being similarly dragged
from their cells and similarly hurried below.  At the head of the
stairs one fellow, perfectly drunk, was holding a list, hiccupping
over names which he garbled ludicrously as he called them out.  He
was lighted in his task by a candle held by another who was no less
drunk.  The swaying pair seemed to inter-support one another
grotesquely.

Leroy suffered himself to be led down the stairs, and so came to
the porter's lodge, where he beheld a half-dozen Marats assembled
round a table, with bumpers of wine before them, bawling, singing,
cursing, and cracking lewd jests at the expense of each prisoner
as he entered.  The place was in a litter.  A lamp had been smashed,
and there was a puddle of wine on the floor from a bottle that had
been knocked over.  On a bench against the wall were ranged a number
of prisoners, others lay huddled on the floor, and all of them
were pinioned.

Two or three of the Marats lurched up to Leroy, and ran their hands
over him, turning out his pockets, and cursing him foully for their
emptiness.  He saw the same office performed upon others, and saw
them stripped of money, pocket-books, watches, rings, buckles, and
whatever else of value they happened to possess.  One man, a priest,
was even deprived of his shoes by a ruffian who was in want of
foot-gear.

As they were pinioning his wrists, Leroy looked up.  He confesses
that he was scared.

"What is this for?" he asked.  "Does it mean death?"

With an oath he was bidden to ask no questions.

"If I die," he assured them, "you will be killing a good republican."

A tall man with an inflamed countenance and fierce, black eyes, that
were somewhat vitreous, now leered down upon him.

"You babbling fool!  It's not your life, it's your property we want."

This was Grandmaison, the fencing-master, who once had been a
gentleman.  He had been supping with Carrier, and he had only just
arrived at Le Bouffay, accompanied by Goullin.  He found the work
behind time, and told them so.

"Leave that fellow now, Jolly.  He's fast enough.  Up and fetch the
rest.  It's time to be going . . . time to be going."

Flung aside now that he was pinioned, Leroy sat down on the floor
and looked about him.  Near him an elderly man was begging for a cup
of water.  They greeted the prayer with jeering laughter.

"Water! By Sainte Guillotine, he asks for water!"  The drunken
sans-culottes were intensely amused.  "Patience, my friend -
patience, and you shall drink your fill.  You shall drink from the
great cup."

Soon the porter's lodge was crowded with prisoners, and they were
overflowing into the passage.

Came Grandmaison cursing and swearing at the sluggishness of the
Marats, reminding them - as he had been reminding them for the last
hour - that it was time to be off, that the tide was on the ebb.

Stimulated by him, Jolly - the red-capped giant with the black
mustaches - and some others of the Marat Company, set themselves
to tie the prisoners into chains of twenty, further to ensure
against possible evasion.  They were driven into the chilly
courtyard, and there Grandmaison, followed by a fellow with a
lantern, passed along the ranks counting them.

The result infuriated him.

"A hundred and five!" he roared, and swore horribly.  "You have been
here nearly five hours, and in all that time you have managed to
truss up only a hundred and five.  Are we never to get through with
it?  I tell you the tide is ebbing.  It is time to be off."

Laqueze, the porter of Le Bouffay, with whose food and wine those
myrmidons of the committee had made so disgracefully free, came to
assure him that he had all who were in the prison.

"All?" cried Grandmaison, aghast.  "But according to the list there
should have been nearer two hundred."  And he raised his voice to
call: "Goullin!  Hola, Goullin!  Where the devil is Goullin?"

"The list," Laqueze told him, "was drawn up from the register.  But
you have not noted that many have died since they came - we have
had the fever here - and that a few are now in hospital."

"In hospital!  Bah! Go up, some of you, and fetch them.  We are
taking them somewhere where they will be cured."  And then he
hailed the elegant Goullin, who came up wrapped in a cloak.  "Here's
a fine bathing-party!" he grumbled.  "A rare hundred of these swine!"

Goullin turned to Laqueze.

"What have you done with the fifteen brigands I sent you this
evening?"

"But they only reached Nantes to-day," said Laqueze, who understood
nothing of these extraordinary proceedings.  "They have not yet
been registered, not even examined."

"I asked you what you have done with them?" snapped Goullin.

"They are upstairs."

"Then fetch them.  They are as good as any others."

With these, and a dozen or so dragged from sick-beds, the total was
made up to about a hundred and thirty.

The Marats, further reinforced now by half a company of National
Guards, set out from the prison towards five o'clock in the morning;
urging their victims along with blows and curses.

Our cocassier found himself bound wrist to wrist with a young
Capuchin brother, who stumbled along in patient resignation, his
head bowed, his lips moving as if he were in prayer.

"Can you guess what they are going to do with us?" murmured Leroy.

He caught the faint gleam of the Capuchin's eyes in the gloom.

"I do not know, brother.  Commend yourself to God, and so be prepared
for whatever may befall."

The answer was not very comforting to a man of Leroy's temperament.
He stumbled on, and they came now upon the Place du Bouffay, where
the red guillotine loomed in ghostly outline, and headed towards
the Quai Tourville.  Thence they were marched by the river the whole
length of the Quai La Fosse.  Fear spreading amongst them, some
clamours were raised, to be instantly silenced by blows and
assurances that they were to be shipped to Belle Isle, where they
were to be set to work to build a fort.

The cocassier thought this likely enough, and found it more
comforting than saying his prayers - a trick which he had long
since lost.

As they defiled along the quays, an occasional window was thrown
up, and an inquisitive head protruded, to be almost instantly
withdrawn again.

On the Cale Robin at last they were herded into a shed which opened
on to the water.  Here they found a large lighter alongside, and
they beheld in the lantern-light the silhouettes of a half-dozen
shipwrights busily at work upon it, whilst the place rang with the
blows of hammers and the scream of saws.

Some of those nearest the barge saw what was being done.  Two great
ports were being opened in the vessel's side, and over one of these
thus opened the shipwrights were nailing planks.  They observed that
these ports, which remained above the water-line now that the barge
was empty, would be well below it once she were laden, and conceiving
that they perceived at last the inhuman fate awaiting them, their
terror rose again.  They remembered snatches of conversation and
grim jests uttered by the Marats in Le Bouffay, which suddenly
became clear, and the alarm spreading amongst them, they writhed
and clamoured, screamed for mercy, cursed and raved.

Blows were showered upon them.  In vain was it sought to quiet them
again with that fable of a fort to be constructed on Belle Isle.
One of them in a frenzy of despair tore himself free of his bonds,
profited by a moment of confusion, and vanished so thoroughly that
Grandmaison and his men lost a quarter of an hour seeking him in
vain, and would have so spent the remainder of the night but for a
sharp word from a man in a greatcoat and a round hat who stood
looking on in conversation with Goullin.

"Get on, man!  Never mind that one!  We'll have him later.  It will
be daylight soon.  You've wasted time enough already."

It was Carrier.

He had come in person to see the execution of his orders, and at
his command Grandmaison now proceeded to the loading.  A ladder was
set against the side of the lighter by which the prisoners were to
descend.  The cords binding them in chains were now severed, and
they were left pinioned only by the wrists.  They were ordered to
embark.  But as they were slow to obey, and as some, indeed, hung
back wailing and interceding, he and Jolly took them by their
collars, thrust them to the edge, and bundled them neck and crop
down into the hold, recking nothing of broken limbs.  Finding this
method of embarkation more expeditious, the use of the ladder was
neglected thenceforth.

Among the last to be thus flung aboard was our cocassier Leroy.
He fell soft upon a heaving, writhing mass of humanity, which only
gradually shook down and sorted itself out on the bottom of the
lighter when the hatches overhead were being nailed down.  Yet by
an odd chance the young Capuchin and Leroy, who had been companions
in the chain, were not separated even now.  Amid the human welter
in that agitated place of darkness, the cries and wails that rang
around him, Leroy recognized the voice of the young friar exhorting
them to prayer.

They were in the stern of the vessel, against one of the sides, and
Leroy, who still kept a grip on the wits by which he had lived, bade
the Capuchin hold up his wrists.  Then he went nosing like a dog,
until at last he found them, and his strong teeth fastened upon the
cord that bound them, and began with infinite patience to gnaw it
through.

Meanwhile that floating coffin had left its moorings and was gliding
with the stream.  On the hatches sat Grandmaison, with Jolly and two
other Marats, howling the "Carmagnole" to drown the cries of the
wretches underneath, and beating time with their feet upon the deck.

Leroy's teeth worked on like a rat's until at last the cord was
severed.  Then, lest they should be parted in the general heaving
and shifting of that human mass, those teeth of his fastened upon
the Capuchin's sleeve.

"Take hold of me!" he commanded as distinctly as he could; and the
Capuchin gratefully obeyed.  "Now untie my wrists!"

The Capuchin's hands slid along Leroy's arms until they found his
hands, and there his fingers grew busy, groping at the knots.  It
was no easy matter to untie them in the dark, guided by sense of
touch alone.  But the friar was persistent and patient, and in the
end the last knot ran loose, and our cocassier was unpinioned.

It comforted him out of all proportion to the advantage.  At least
his hands were free for any emergency that might offer.  That he
depended in such a situation, and with no illusions as to what was
to happen, upon emergency, shows how tenacious he was of hope.

He had been released not a moment too soon.  Overhead, Grandmaison
and his men were no longer singing.  They were moving about.
Something bumped against the side of the vessel, near the bow,
obviously a boat, and voices came up from below the level of the
deck.  Then the lighter shuddered under a great blow upon the planks
of the forecastle port.  The cries in the hold redoubled.  Panting,
cursing, wailing men hurtled against Leroy, and almost crushed him
for a moment under their weight as the vessel heaved to starboard.
Came a succession of blows, not only on the port in the bow, but
also on that astern.  There was a cracking and rending of timbers,
and the water rushed in.

Then the happenings in that black darkness became indescribably
horrible.  In their frenzy not a few had torn themselves free of
their bonds.  These hurled themselves towards the open ports through
which the water was pouring.  They tore at the planks with desperate,
lacerated hands.  Some got their arms through, seeking convulsively
to widen the openings and so to gain an egress.  But outside in the
shipwrights' boat stood Grandmaison, the fencing-master, brandishing
a butcher's sword.

With derision and foul objurgations he slashed at protruding arms
and hands, thrust his sword again and again through the port into
that close-packed, weltering mass, until at last the shipwrights
backed away the boat to escape the suction of the sinking lighter.

The vessel, with its doomed freight of a hundred and thirty human
lives, settled down slowly by the head, and the wailing and cursing
was suddenly silenced as the icy waters of the Loire eddied over it
and raced on.

Caught in the swirl of water, Leroy had been carried up against the
deck of the lighter.  Instinctively he had clutched at a crossbeam.
The water raced over his head, and then, to his surprise, receded,
beat up once or twice as the lighter grounded, and finally settled
on a level with his shoulders.

He was quick to realize what had happened.  The lighter had gone
down by the head on a shallow.  Her stern remained slightly
protruding, so that in that part of her between the level of the
water and the deck there was a clear space of perhaps a foot or a
foot and a half.  Yet of the hundred and thirty doomed wretches on
board he was the only one who had profited by this extraordinary
chance.

Leroy hung on there; and thereafter for two hours, to use his own
expression, he floated upon corpses.  A man of less vigorous mettle,
moral and physical, could never have withstood the ordeal of a two
hours' immersion in the ice-cold water of that December morning.
Leroy clung on, and hoped.  I have said that he was tenacious of
hope.  And soon after daybreak he was justified of his confidence
in his luck.  As the first livid gleams of light began to suffuse
the water in which he floated, a creaking of rowlocks and a sound
of voices reached his ears.  A boat was passing down the river.

Leroy shouted, and his voice rang hollow and sepulchral on the
morning stillness.  The creak of oars ceased abruptly.  He shouted
again, and was answered.  The oars worked now at twice their former
speed.  The boat was alongside.  Blows of a grapnel tore at the
planking of the deck until there was a hole big enough to admit the
passage of his body.

He looked through the faint mist which he had feared never to see
again, heaved himself up with what remained him of strength until
his breast was on a level with the deck, and beheld two men in a
boat.

But, exhausted by the effort, his numbed limbs refused to support
him.  He sank back, and went overhead, fearing now, indeed, that
help had arrived too late.  But as he struggled to the surface the
bight of a rope smacked the water within the hold.  Convulsively
he clutched it, wound it about one arm, and bade them haul.

Thus they dragged him out and aboard their own craft, and put him
ashore at the nearest point willing out of humanity to do so much,
but daring to do no more when he had told them how he came where
they had found him.

Half naked, numbed through and through, with chattering teeth and
failing limbs, Leroy staggered into the guard-house at Chantenay.
Soldiers of the Blues stripped him of his sodden rags, wrapped him
in a blanket, thawed him outwardly before a fire and inwardly with
gruel, and then invited him to give an account of himself.

The story of the horse will have led you to suppose him a ready liar.
He drew now upon that gift of his, represented himself as a mariner
from Montoir, and told a harrowing tale of shipwreck.  Unfortunately,
he overdid it.  There was present a fellow who knew something of the
sea, and something of Montoir, to whom Leroy's tale did not ring
quite true.  To rid themselves of responsibility, the soldiers
carried him before the Revolutionary Committee of Nantes.

Even here all might have gone well with him, since there was no
member of that body with seacraft to penetrate his imposture.  But
as ill-chance would have it, one of the members sitting that day
was the black-mustached sans-culotte Jolly, the very man who had
dragged Leroy out of his cell last night and tied him up.

At sight of him Jolly's eyes bulged in his head.

"Where the devil have you come from?" he greeted him thunderously.

Leroy quailed.  Jolly's associates stared.  But Jolly explained to
them:

"He was of last night's bathing party.  And he has the impudence
to come before us like this.  Take him away and shove him back into
the water."

But Bachelier, a man who, next to the President Goullin, exerted
the greatest influence in the committee, was gifted with a sense
of humour worthy of the Revolution.  He went off into peals of
laughter as he surveyed the crestfallen cocassier, and, perhaps
because Leroy's situation amused him, he was disposed to be humane.

"No, no!" he said.  "Take him back to Le Bouffay for the present.
Let the Tribunal deal with him."

So back to Le Bouffay went Leroy, back to his dungeon, his fetid
straw and his bread and water, there to be forgotten again, as he
had been forgotten before, until Fate should need him.

It is to him that we owe most of the materials from which we are
able to reconstruct in detail that first of Carrier's drownings on
a grand scale, conceived as an expeditious means of ridding the
city of useless mouths, of easing the straitened circumstances
resulting from misgovernment.

Very soon it was followed by others, and, custom increasing Carrier's
audacity, these drownings - there were in all some twenty-three
noyades - ceased to be conducted in the secrecy of the night, or to
be confined to men.  They were made presently to include women - of
whom at one drowning alone, in Novose, three hundred perished under
the most revolting circumstances - and even little children.  Carrier
himself admitted that during the three months of his rule some three
thousand victims visited the national bathing-place, whilst other,
and no doubt more veracious, accounts treble that number of those
who received the National Baptism.

Soon these wholesale drownings had become an institution, a sort of
national spectacle that Carrier and his committee felt themselves
in duty bound to provide.

But at length a point was reached beyond which it seemed difficult
to continue them.  So expeditious was the measure, that soon the
obvious material was exhausted.  The prisons were empty.  Yet habits,
once contracted, are not easily relinquished.  Carrier would be
looking elsewhere for material, and there was no saying where he
might look, or who would be safe.  Soon the committee heard a rumour
that the Representative intended to depose it and to appoint a new
one, whereupon many of its members, who were conscious of
lukewarmness, began to grow uneasy.

Uneasy, too, became the members of the People's Society.  They had
sent a deputation to Carrier with suggestions for the better conduct
of the protracted campaign of La Vendee.  This was a sore point
with the Representative.  He received the patriots with the foulest
abuse, and had them flung downstairs by his secretaries.

Into this atmosphere of general mistrust and apprehension came the
most ridiculous Deus ex machina that ever was in the person of the
very young and very rash Marc Antoine Jullien.  His father, the
Deputy Jullien, was an intimate of Robespierre's, by whose influence
Marc Antoine was appointed to the office of Agent of the Committee
of Public Safety, and sent on a tour of inspection to report upon
public feeling and the conduct of the Convention's Representatives.

Arriving in Nantes at the end of January of '94, one of Marc
Antoine's first visits happened to be to the People's Society,
which was still quivering with rage at the indignities offered by
Carrier to its deputation.

Marc Antoine was shocked by what he heard, so shocked that instead
of going to visit the Representative on the morrow, he spent the
morning inditing a letter to Robespierre, in which he set forth in
detail the abuses of which Carrier was guilty, and the deplorable
state of misery in which he found the city of Nantes.

That night, as Marc Antoine was sinking into the peaceful slumber
of the man with duty done, he was rudely aroused by an officer and
a couple of men of the National Guard, who announced to him that
he was under arrest, and bade him rise and dress.

Marc Antoine flounced out of bed in a temper, and flaunted his
credentials.  The officer remained unmoved.  He was acting upon
orders from the Citizen Representative.

Still in a temper, Marc Antoine hurriedly dressed himself.  He would
soon show this Representative that it is not safe to trifle with
Agents of the Public Safety.  The Citizen Representative should hear
from him.  The officer, still unimpressed, bundled him into a waiting
carriage, and bore him away to the Maison Villetreux, on the island
where Carrier had his residence.

Carrier had gone to bed.  But he was awake, and he sat up promptly
when the young muscadin from Paris was roughly thrust into his room
by the soldiers.  The mere sight of the Representative sufficed to
evaporate Marc Antoine's anger, and with it his courage.

Carrier's pallor was of a grey-green from the rage that possessed
him.  His black eyes smouldered like those of an animal seen in the
gloom, and his tumbled black hair, fluttering about his moist brow,
increased the terrific aspect of his countenance.  Marc Antoine
shrank and was dumb.

"So," said Carrier, regarding him steadily, terribly, "you are the
thing that dares to denounce me to the Safety, that ventures to
find fault with my work!"  From under his pillow he drew Marc
Antoine's letter to Robespierre.  "Is this yours?"

At the sight of this violation of his correspondence with the
Incorruptible, Marc Antoine's indignation awoke, and revived his
courage.

"It is mine," he answered.  "By what right have you intercepted it?"

"By what right?" Carrier put a leg out of bed.  "So you question
my right, do you?  You have so imposed yourself upon folk that you
are given powers, and you come here to air them, by "

"You shall answer to the Citizen Robespierre for your conduct,"
Marc Antoine threatened him.

"Aha!"  Carrier revealed his teeth in a smile of ineffable
wickedness.  He slipped from the bed, and crouching slightly as if
about to spring, he pointed a lean finger at his captive.

"You are of those with whom it is dangerous to deal publicly, and
you presume upon that.  But you can be dealt with privily, and you
shall.  I have you, and, by -- , you shall not escape me, you -- !"

Marc Antoine looked into the Representative's face, and saw there
the wickedness of his intent.  He stiffened.  Nature had endowed
him with wits, and he used them now.

"Citizen Carrier," he said, "I understand.  I am to be murdered
to-night in the gloom and the silence.  But you shall perish after
me in daylight, and amid the execrations of the people.  You may
have intercepted my letters to my father and to Robespierre.  But
if I do not leave Nantes, my father will come to ask an account of
you, and you will end your life on the scaffold like the miserable
assassin that you are."

Of all that tirade, but one sentence had remained as if corroded
into the mind of Carrier.  "My letters to my father and to
Robespierre," the astute Marc Antoine had said.  And Marc Antoine
saw the Representative's mouth loosen, saw a glint of fear replace
the ferocity in his dark eyes.

What Marc Antoine intended to suggest had instantly leapt to
Carrier's mind - that there had been a second letter which his
agents had missed.  They should pay for that.  But, meanwhile, if
it were true, he dare not for his neck's sake go further in this
matter.  He may have suspected that it was not true.  But he had
no means of testing that suspicion.  Marc Antoine, you see, was
subtle.

"Your father?"growled the Representative.  "Who is your father?"

"The Deputy Jullien."

"What?"  Carrier straightened himself, affecting an immense
astonishment.  "You are the son of the Deputy Julien?"  He burst
into a laugh.  He came forward, holding out both his hands.  He
could be subtle, too, you see.  "My friend, why did you not say
so sooner?  See in what a ghastly mistake you have let me flounder.
I imagined you - of course, it was foolish of me - to be a
proscribed rascal from Angers, of the same name."

He had fallen upon Marc Antoine's neck, and was embracing him.

"Forgive me, my friend!" he besought him.  "Come and dine with me
to-morrow, and we will laugh over it together."

But Marc Antoine had no mind to dine with Carrier, although he
promised to do so readily enough.  Back at his inn, scarce
believing that he had got away alive, still sweating with terror
at the very thought of his near escape, he packed his valise,
and, by virtue of his commission, obtained post-horses at once.

On the morrow from Angers, safe beyond the reach of Carrier, he
wrote again to Robespierre, and this time also to his father.

"In Nantes," he wrote, "I found the old regime in its worst form."
He knew the jargon of Liberty, the tune that set the patriots
a-dancing.  "Carrier's insolent secretaries emulate the intolerable
haughtiness of a ci-devant minister's lackeys.  Carrier himself
lives surrounded by luxury, pampered by women 'and parasites,
keeping a harem and a court.  He tramples justice in the mud.  He
has had all those who filled the prisons flung untried into the
Loire.  The city of Nantes," he concluded, "needs saving.  The
Vendean revolt must be suppressed, and Carrier the slayer of Liberty
recalled."

The letter had its effect, and Carrier was recalled to Paris, but
not in disgrace.  Failing health was urged as the solicitous reason
for his retirement from the arduous duties of governing Nantes.

In the Convention his return made little stir, and even when early
in the following July he learnt that Bourbotte, his successor at
Nantes, had ordered the arrest of Goullin, Bachelier, Grandmaison,
and his other friends of the committee, on the score of the
drownings and the appropriation of national property confiscated
from emigres, he remained calm, satisfied that his own position was
unassailable.

But the members of the Committee of Nantes were sent to Paris for
trial, and their arrival there took place on that most memorable
date in the annals of the Revolution, the 10th Thermidor (July 29,
1794, O.S.), the day on which Robespierre fell and the floodgates
of vengeance upon the terrorists were flung open.

You have seen in the case of Marc Antoine Jullien how quick Carrier
could be to take a cue.  In a coach he followed the tumbril that
bore Robespierre to execution, radiant of countenance and shouting
with the loudest, "Death to the traitor!"  On the morrow from the
rostrum of the Convention, he passionately represented himself as
a victim of the fallen tyrant, cleverly turning to his own credit
the Marc Antoine affair, reminding the Convention how he had
himself been denounced to Robespierre.  He was greeted with applause
in that atmosphere of Thermidorean reaction.

But Nemesis was stalking him relentlessly if silently.

Among a batch of prisoners whom a chain of curious chances had
brought from Nantes to Paris was our old friend Leroy the cocassier,
required now as a witness against the members of the committee.

Having acquainted the court with the grounds of his arrest, and the
fact that for three years he had lain forgotten and without trial
in the pestilential prison of Le Bouffay, Leroy passed on to a
recital of his sufferings on that night of terror when he had gone
down the Loire in the doomed lighter.  He told his tale with an
artlessness that rendered it the more moving and convincing.  The
audience crowding the chamber of justice shuddered with horror,
and sobbed over the details of his torments, wept for joy over his
miraculous preservation.  At the close he was applauded on all
sides, which bewildered him a little, for he had never known
anything but abuse in all his chequered life.

And then, at the promptings of that spirit of reaction that was
abroad in those days when France was awakening from the nightmare
of terror, some one made there and then a collection on his behalf,
and came to thrust into his hands a great bundle of assignats and
bank bills, which to the humble cocassier represented almost a
fortune.  It was his turn to weep.

Then the crowd in the court which had heard his story shouted for
the head of Carrier.  The demand was taken up by the whole of Paris,
and finally his associates of the Convention handed him over to the
Revolutionary Tribunal.

He came before it on November 25th, and he could not find counsel
to defend him.  Six advocates named in succession by the President
refused to plead the cause of so inhuman a monster.  In a rage, at
last Carrier announced that he would defend himself.  He did.

He took the line that his business in Nantes had been chiefly
concerned with provisioning the Army of the West; that he had had
little to do with the policing of Nantes, which he left entirely to
the Revolutionary Committee; and that he had no knowledge of the
things said to have taken place.  But Goullin, Bachelier, and the
others were there to fling back the accusation in their endeavours
to save their own necks at the expense of his.

He was sentenced on the very anniversary of that terrible night on
which the men of the Marat Company broke into the prison of Le
Bouffay, and he was accompanied in the tumbril by Grandmaison the
pitiless, who was now filled with self-pity to such an extent that
he wept bitterly.

The crowd, which had hooted and insulted him from the Conciergerie
to the Place de Greve, fell suddenly silent as he mounted the
scaffold, his step firm, but his shoulders bowed, and his eyes upon
the ground.

Suddenly upon the silence, grotesquely, horribly merry, broke the
sound of a clarinet playing the "Ca ira!"

Jerking himself erect, Carrier turned and flung the last of his
terrible glances at the musician.

A moment later the knife fell with a thud, and a bleeding head
rolled into the basket, the eyes still staring, but powerless now
to inspire terror.

Upon the general silence broke an echo of the stroke.

"Vlan!" cried a voice.  "And there's a fine end to a great drowner!"

It was Leroy the cocassier.  The crowd took up the cry.




IX.   THE NIGHT OF NUPTIALS

CHARLES THE BOLD AND SAPPHIRA DANVELT


When Philip the Good succumbed at Bruges of an apoplexy in the early
part of the year 1467, the occasion was represented to the stout
folk of Flanders as a favourable one to break the Burgundian yoke
under which they laboured.  It was so represented by the agents of
that astute king, Louis XI, who ever preferred guile to the direct
and costly exertion of force.

Charles, surnamed the Bold (le Temeraire), the new Duke of Burgundy,
was of all the French King's enemies by far the most formidable and
menacing just then; and the wily King, who knew better than to
measure himself with a foe that was formidable, conceived a way to
embarrass the Duke and cripple his resources at the very outset of
his reign.  To this end did he send his agents into the Duke's Flemish
dominions, there to intrigue with the powerful and to stir up the
spirit of sedition that never did more than slumber in the hearts of
those turbulent burghers.

It was from the Belfry Tower of the populous, wealthy city of Ghent
 - then one of the most populous and wealthy cities of Europe - that
the call to arms first rang out, summoning the city's forty thousand
weavers to quit their looms and take up weapons - the sword, the
pike, and that arm so peculiarly Flemish, known as the goedendag.
>From Ghent the fierce flame of revolt spread rapidly to the valley
of the Meuse, and the scarcely less important city of Liege, where
the powerful guilds of armourers and leather workers proved as ready
for battle as the weavers of Ghent.

They made a brave enough show until Charles the Bold came face to
face with them at Saint-Trond, and smashed the mutinous burgher army
into shards, leaving them in their slaughtered thousands upon the
stricken field.

The Duke was very angry.  He felt that the Flemings had sought to
take a base advantage of him at a moment when it was supposed he
would not be equal to protecting his interests, and he intended to
brand it for all time upon their minds that it was not safe to take
such liberties with their liege lord.  Thus, when a dozen of the
most important burghers of Liege came out to him very humbly in
their shirts, with halters round their necks, to kneel in the dust
at his feet and offer him the keys of the city, he spurned the
offer with angry disdain.

"You shall be taught," he told them, "how little I require your
keys, and I hope that you will remember the lesson for your own
good."

On the morrow his pioneers began to smash a breach, twenty fathoms
wide, in one of the walls of the city, rolling the rubble into the
ditch to fill it up at the spot.  When the operation was complete,
Charles rode through the gap, as a conqueror, with vizor lowered
and lance on thigh at the head of his Burgundians, into his city
of Liege, whose fortifications he commanded should be permanently
demolished.

That was the end of the Flemish rising of 1467 against Duke Charles
the Bold of Burgundy.  The weavers returned to their looms, the
armourers to their forges, and the glove-makers and leather workers
to their shears.  Peace was restored; and to see that it was kept,
Charles appointed military governors of his confidence where he
deemed them necessary.

One of these was Claudius von Rhynsault, who had followed the Duke's
fortunes for some years now, a born leader of men, a fellow of
infinite address at arms and resource in battle, and of a bold,
reckless courage that nothing could ever daunt.  It was perhaps this
last quality that rendered him so esteemed of Charles, himself named
the Bold, whose view of courage was that it was a virtue so lofty
that in the nature of its possessor there could, perforce, be
nothing mean.

So now, to mark his esteem of this stalwart German, the Duke made
him Governor of the province of Zeeland, and dispatched him thither
to stamp out there any lingering sparks of revolt, and to rule it
in his name as ducal lieutenant.

Thus, upon a fair May morning, came Claud of Ryhnsault and his hardy
riders to the town of Middelburg, the capital of Zeeland, to take up
his residence at the Gravenhof in the main square, and thence to
dispense justice throughout that land of dykes in his master's
princely name.  This justice the German captain dispensed with
merciless rigour, conceiving that to be the proper way to uproot
rebellious tendencies.  It was inevitable that he should follow such
a course, impelled to it by a remorseless cruelty in his nature, of
which the Duke his master had seen no hint, else he might have
thought twice before making him Governor of Zeeland, for Charles
 - despite his rigour when treachery was to be punished - was a just
and humane prince.

Now, amongst those arrested and flung into Middelburg gaol as a
result of Rhynsault's ruthless perquisitions and inquisitions was
a wealthy young burgher named Philip Danvelt.  His arrest was
occasioned by a letter signed "Philip Danvelt" found in the house
of a marked rebel who had been first tortured and then hanged.  The
letter, of a date immediately preceding the late rising, promised
assistance in the shape of arms and money.

Brought before Rhynsault for examination, in a cheerless hall of
the Gravenhof, Danvelt's defence was a denial upon oath that he had
ever taken or offered to take any part in the rebellion.  Told of
the letter found, and of the date it bore, he laughed.  That letter
made everything very simple and clear.  At the date it bore he had
been away at Flushing marrying a wife, whom he had since brought
thence to Middelburg.  It was ludicrous, he urged, to suppose that
in such a season - of all seasons in a man's life - he should have
been concerned with rebellion or correspondence with rebels, and,
urging this, he laughed again.

Now, the German captain did not like burghers who laughed in his
presence.  It argued a lack of proper awe for the dignity of his
office and the importance of his person.  From his high seat at
the Judgment-board, flanked by clerks and hedged about by
men-at-arms, he scowled upon the flaxen-haired, fresh-complexioned
young burgher who bore himself so very easily.  He was a big,
handsome man, this Rhynsault, of perhaps some thirty years of age.
His thick hair was of a reddish brown, and his beardless face was
cast in bold lines and tanned by exposure to the colour of mahogany,
save where the pale line of a scar crossed his left cheek.

"Yet, I tell you, the letter bears your signature," he grumbled
sourly.

"My name, perhaps," smiled the amiable Danvelt, "but assuredly not
my signature."

"Herrgott!" swore the German captain.  "Is this a riddle?  What is
the difference?"

Feeling himself secure, that very foolish burgher ventured to be
mildly insolent.

"It is a riddle that the meanest of your clerks there can read for
you," said he.

The Governor's blue eyes gleamed like steel as they, fastened upon
Danvelt, his heavy jaw seemed to thrust itself forward, and a dull
flush crept into his cheeks.  Then he swore.

"Beim blute Gottes!" quoth he, "do you whet your trader's wit upon
me, scum?"

And to the waiting men-at-arms:

"Take him back to his dungeon," he commanded, "that in its quiet
he may study a proper carriage before he is next brought before us."

Danvelt was haled away to gaol again, to repent him of his pertness
and to reflect that, under the governorship of Claudius von Rhynsault,
it was not only the guilty who had need to go warily.

The Governor sat back in his chair with a grunt.  His secretary, on
his immediate right, leaned towards him.

"It were easy to test the truth of the man's assertion," said he.
"Let his servants and his wife attend and be questioned as to when
he was in Flushing and when married."

"Aye," growled von Rhynsault.  "Let it be done.  I don't doubt we
shall discover that the dog was lying."

But no such discovery was made when, on the morrow, Danvelt's
household and his wife stood before the Governor to answer his
questions.  Their replies most fully bore out the tale Danvelt had
told, and appeared in other ways to place it beyond all doubt that
he had taken no part, in deed or even in thought, in the rebellion
against the Duke of Burgundy.  His wife protested it solemnly and
piteously.

"To this I can swear, my lord," she concluded.  "I am sure no
evidence can be brought against him, who was ever loyal and ever
concerned with his affairs and with me at the time in question.
My lord" - she held out her hands towards the grim German, and her
lovely eyes gleamed with unshed tears of supplication - "I implore
you to believe me, and in default of witnesses against him to
restore my husband to me."

Rhynsault's blue eyes kindled now as they considered her, and his
full red lips slowly parted in the faintest and most inscrutable
of smiles.  She was very fair to look upon - of middle height and
most exquisite shape.  Her gown, of palest saffron, edged with fur,
high-waisted according to the mode, and fitted closely to the
gently swelling bust, was cut low to display the white perfection
of her neck.  Her softly rounded face looked absurdly childlike
under the tall-crowned hennin, from which a wispy veil floated
behind her as she moved.

In silence, then, for a spell, the German mercenary pondered her
with those slowly kindling eyes, that slowly spreading, indefinite
smile.  Then he stirred, and to his secretary he muttered shortly:

"The woman lies.  In private I may snare the truth from her."

He rose - a tall, massively imposing figure in a low-girdled tunic
of deep purple velvet, open at the breast, and gold-laced across a
white silken undervest.

"There is some evidence," he informed her gruffly.  "Come with me,
and you shall see it for yourself."

He led the way from that cheerless hall by a dark corridor to a
small snug room, richly hung and carpeted, where a servant waited.
He dismissed the fellow, and in the same breath bade her enter,
watching her the while from under lowered brows.  One of her women
had followed; but admittance was denied her.  Danvelt's wife must
enter his room alone.

Whilst she waited there, with scared eyes and fluttering bosom, he
went to take from an oaken coffer the letter signed "Philip Danvelt."
He folded the sheet so that the name only was to be read, and came
to thrust it under her eyes.

"What name is that?" he asked her gruffly.

Her answer was very prompt.

"It is my husband's, but not the writing - it is another hand; some
other Philip Danvelt; there will be others in Zeeland."

He laughed softly, looking at her ever with that odd intentness,
and under his gaze she shrank and cowered in terror; it spoke to her
of some nameless evil; the tepid air of the luxurious room was
stifling her.

"If I believed you, your husband would be delivered from his prison
 - from all danger; and he stands, I swear to you, in mortal peril."

"Ah, but you must believe me.  There are others who can bear witness."

"I care naught for others," he broke in, with harsh and arrogant
contempt.  Then he softened his voice to a lover's key.  "But I might
accept your word that this is not your husband's hand, even though
I did not believe you."

She did not understand, and so she could only stare at him with those
round, brown eyes of hers dilating, her lovely cheeks blanching with
horrid fear.

"Why, see," he said at length, with an easy, gruff good-humour, "I
place the life of Philip Danvelt in those fair hands to do with as
you please.  Surely, sweeting, you will not be so unkind as to
destroy it."

And as he spoke his face bent nearer to her own, his flaming eyes
devoured her, and his arm slipped softly, snake-like round her to
draw her to him.  But before it had closed its grip she had started
away, springing back in horror, an outcry already on her pale lips.

"One word," he admonished her sharply, "and it speaks your husband's
doom!"

"Oh, let me go, let me go!" she cried in anguish.

"And leave your husband in the hangman's hands?" he asked.

"Let me go!  Let me go!" was all that she could answer him,
expressing the only thought of which in that dread moment her mind
was capable.

That and the loathing on her face wounded his vanity for this beast
was vain.  His manner changed, and the abysmal brute in him was
revealed in the anger he displayed.  With foul imprecations he drove
her out.

Next day a messenger from the Governor waited upon her at her house
with a brief note to inform her that her husband would be hanged
upon the morrow.  Incredulity was succeeded by a numb, stony,
dry-eyed grief, in which she sat alone for hours - a woman entranced.
At last, towards dusk, she summoned a couple of her grooms to
attend and light her, and made her way, ever in that odd
somnambulistic state, to the gaol of Middelburg.  She announced
herself to the head gaoler as the wife of Philip Danvelt, lying
under sentence of death, and that she was come to take her last
leave of him.  It was not a thing to be denied, nor had the gaoler
any orders to deny it.

So she was ushered into the dank cell where Philip waited for his
doom, and by the yellow wheel of light of the lantern that hung
from the shallow vaulted ceiling she beheld the ghastly change
that the news of impending death had wrought in him.  No longer
was he the self-assured young burgher who, conscious of his
innocence and worldly importance, had used a certain careless
insolence with the Governor of Zeeland.  Here she beheld a man of
livid and distorted face, wild-eyed, his hair and garments in
disarray, suggesting the physical convulsions to which he had
yielded in his despair and rage.

"Sapphira!" he cried at sight of her.  A sigh of anguish and he
flung himself, shuddering and sobbing, upon her breast.  She put
her arms about him, soothed him gently, and drew him back to the
wooden chair from which he had leapt to greet her.

He took his head in his hands and poured out the fierce anguish of
his soul.  To die innocent as he was, to be the victim of an
arbitrary, unjust power!  And to perish at his age!

Hearing him rave, she shivered out of an agony of compassion and
also of some terror for herself.  She would that he found it less
hard to die.  And thinking this she thought further, and uttered
some of her thought aloud.

"I could have saved you, my poor Philip."

He started up, and showed her again that livid, distorted face of
his.

"What do you mean?" he asked hoarsely.  "You could have saved me,
do you say?  Then - then why - "

"Ah, but the price, my dear," she sobbed.

"Price?" quoth he in sudden, fierce contempt.  "What price is too
great to pay for life?  Does this Rhynsault want all our wealth,
then yield it to him yield it so that I may live - "

"Should I have hesitated had it been but that?" she interrupted.

And then she told him, whilst he sat there hunched and shuddering.

"The dog! The foul German dog!" he muttered through clenched teeth.

"So that you see, my dear," she pursued brokenly, "it was too great
a price.  Yourself, you could not have condoned it, or done aught
else but loathe me afterwards."

But he was not as stout-mettled as she deemed him, or else the
all-consuming thirst of life, youth's stark horror of death, made
him a temporizing craven in that hour.

"Who knows?" he answered.  "Certes, I do not.  But a thing so done,
a thing in which the will and mind have no part, resolves itself
perhaps into a sacrifice - "

He broke off there, perhaps from very shame.  After all he was a
man, and there are limits to what manhood will permit of one.

But those words of his sank deeply into her soul.  They rang again
and again in her ears as she took her anguished way home after the
agony of their farewells, and in the end they drove her out again
that very night to seek the Governor of Zeeland.

Rhynsault was at supper when she came, and without quitting the
table bade them usher her into his presence.  He found her very
white, but singularly calm and purposeful in her bearing.

"Well, mistress?"

"May I speak to you alone?"

Her voice was as steady as her glance.

He waved away the attendants, drank a deep draught from the cup at
his elbow, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, and sat back
in his tall chair to hear her.

"Yesterday," she said, "you made, or seemed to make, me a proposal."

He looked up at first in surprise, then with a faint smile on his
coarse, red mouth.  His glance had read her meaning clearly.

"Look you, mistress, here I am lord of life and death.  Yet in the
case of your husband I yield up that power to you.  Say but the word
and I sign the order for his gaol delivery at dawn."

"I have come to say that word," she informed him.

A moment he looked up at her, his smile broadening, a flush mounting
to his cheek-bones.  Then he rose and sent his chair crashing behind
him to the ground.

"Herrgott!" he grunted; and he gathered her slim, trembling body to
his massive gold-laced breast.


Soon after sunrise on the morrow she was beating at the gates of
Middelburg gaol, a paper clutched convulsively in her left hand.

She was admitted, and to the head gaoler she showed the paper that
she carried.

"An order from the Governor of Zeeland for the gaol delivery of
Philip Danvelt!" she announced almost hysterically.

The gaoler scanned the paper, then her face.  His lips tightened.

"Come this way," he said; and led her down a gloomy corridor to the
cell where yesterday she had seen her husband.

He threw wide the door, and Sapphira sprang in.

"Philip!" she cried, and checked as suddenly.

He lay supine and still upon the miserable pallet, his hands folded
upon his breast, his face waxen, his eyes staring glassily through
half-closed lids.

She sped to his side in a sudden chill of terror.  She fell on her
knees and touched him.

"Dead!" she screamed, and, kneeling, span round questioning to face
the gaoler in the doorway.  "Dead!"

"He was hanged at daybreak, mistress," said the gaoler gently.

She rocked a moment, moaning, then fell suddenly forward across her
husband's body in a swoon.

That evening she was again at the Gravenhof to see Rhynsault, and
again she was admitted - a haggard faced woman now, in whom there
was no trace of beauty left.  She came to stand before the Governor,
considered him in silence a moment with a loathing unutterable in
her glance, then launched into fierce recriminations of his broken
faith.

He heard her out, then shrugged and smiled indulgently.

"I performed no less than I promised," said he.  "I pledged my word
to Danvelt's gaol delivery, and was not my gaol delivery effective?
You could hardly suppose that I should allow it to be of such a
fashion as to interfere with our future happy meetings."

Before his leering glance she fled in terror, followed by the sound
of his bestial laugh.

For a week thereafter she kept her house and brooded.  Then one day
she sallied forth all dressed in deepest mourning and attended by a
train of servants, and, embarking upon a flat-bottomed barge, was
borne up the river Scheldt towards Antwerp.  Bruges was her ultimate
destination, of which she left no word behind her, and took the
longest way round to reach it.  From Antwerp her barge voyaged on
to Ghent, and thence by canal, drawn by four stout Flemish horses,
at last to the magnificent city where the Dukes of Burgundy kept
their Court.


Under the June sunshine the opulent city of Bruges hummed with
activity like the great human hive it was.  For Bruges at this date
was the market of the world, the very centre of the world's commerce,
the cosmopolis of the age.  Within its walls were established the
agencies of a score of foreign great trading companies, and the
ambassadors of no less a number of foreign Powers.  Here on a day
you might hear every language of civilization spoken in the broad
thoroughfares under the shadow of such imposing buildings as you
would not have found together in another city of Europe.  To the
harbour came the richly laden argosies from Venice and Genoa, from
Germany and the Baltic, from Constantinople and from England, and
in her thronged markets Lombard and Venetian, Levantine, Teuton,
and Saxon stood jostling one another to buy and sell.

It was past noon, and the great belfry above the Gothic Cloth Hall
in the Grande Place was casting a lengthening shadow athwart the
crowded square.  Above the Babel of voices sounded on a sudden the
note of a horn, and there was a cry of "The Duke!  The Duke!"
followed by a general scuttle of the multitude to leave a clear way
down the middle of the great square.

A gorgeous cavalcade some twoscore strong came into sight, advancing
at an amble, a ducal hunting party returning to the palace.  A hush
fell upon the burgher crowd as it pressed back respectfully to gaze;
and to the din of human voices succeeded now the clatter of hoofs
upon the kidney-stones of the square, the jangle of hawkbells, the
baying of hounds, and the occasional note of the horn that had
first brought warning of the Duke's approach.

It was a splendid iridescent company, flaunting in its apparel
every colour of the prism.  There were great lords in silks and
velvets of every hue, their legs encased in the finest skins of
Spain; there were great ladies, in tall, pointed hennins or bicorne
headdresses and floating veils, with embroidered gowns that swept
down below the bellies of their richly harnessed palfreys.  And
along the flanks of this cavalcade ran grooms and huntsmen in
green and leather, their jagged liripipes flung about their necks,
leading the leashed hounds.

The burghers craned their necks, and Levantine merchant argued with
Lombard trader upon an estimate of the wealth paraded thus before
them.  And then at last came the young Duke himself, in black, as
if to detach himself from the surrounding splendour.  He was of
middle stature, of a strong and supple build, with a lean, swarthy
face and lively eyes.  Beside him, on a white horse, rode a
dazzling youth dressed from head to foot in flame-coloured silk,
a peaked bonnet of black velvet set upon his lovely golden head,
a hooded falcon perched upon his left wrist, a tiny lute slung
behind him by a black ribbon.  He laughed as he rode, looking the
very incarnation of youth and gaiety.

The cavalcade passed slowly towards the Prinssenhof, the ducal
residence.  It had all but crossed the square when suddenly a voice
 - a woman's voice, high and tense - rang out.

"Justice, my Lord Duke of Burgundy! Justice, Lord Duke, for a
woman's wrongs!"

It startled the courtly riders, and for a moment chilled their
gaiety.  The scarlet youth at the Duke's side swung round in his
saddle to obtain a view of her who called so piteously, and he
beheld Sapphira Danvelt.

She was all in black, and black was the veil that hung from her
steeple head-dress, throwing into greater relief her pallid
loveliness which the youth's glance was quick to appraise.  He saw,
too, from her air and from the grooms attending her, that she was
a woman of some quality, and the tragic appeal of her smote home
in his gay, poetic soul.  He put forth a hand and clutched the
Duke's arm, and, as if yielding to this, the Duke reined up.

"What is it that you seek?" Charles asked her not unkindly, his
lively dark eyes playing over her.

"Justice!" was all she answered him very piteously, and yet with
a certain fierceness of insistence.

"None asks it of me in vain, I hope," he answered gravely.  "But I
do not dispense it from the saddle in the public street.  Follow us."

And he rode on.

She followed to the Prinssenhof with her grooms and her woman
Catherine.  There she was made to wait in a great hall, thronged
with grooms and men-at-arms and huntsmen, who were draining the
measure sent them by the Duke.  She stood apart, wrapped in her
tragic sorrow, and none molested her.  At last a chamberlain came
to summon her to the Duke's presence.

In a spacious, sparsely furnished room she found the Duke awaiting
her, wearing now a gown of black and gold that was trimmed with
rich fur.  He sat in a tall chair of oak and leather, and leaning
on the back of it lounged gracefully the lovely scarlet youth who
had ridden at his side.

Standing before him, with drooping eyes and folded hands, she told
her shameful story.  Darker and darker grew his brow as she proceeded
with it.  But it was the gloom of doubt rather than of anger.

"Rhynsault?" he cried when she had done.  "Rhynsault did this?"

There was incredulity in his voice and nothing else.

The youth behind him laughed softly, and shifted his attitude.

"You are surprised.  Yet what else was to be looked for in that
Teuton swine?  Me he never could deceive, for all his - "

"Be silent, Arnault," said the Duke sharply.  And to the woman: "It
is a grave, grave charge," he said, "against a man I trusted and
have esteemed, else I should not have placed him where he is.  What
proof have you?"

She proffered him a strip of parchment - the signed order for the
gaol delivery of Philip Danvelt.

"The gaoler of Middelburg will tell Your Grace that he was hanged
already when I presented this.  My woman Catherine, whom I have
with me, can testify to part.  And there are some other servants
who can bear witness to my husband's innocence.  Captain von
Rhynsault had ceased to doubt it."

He studied the parchment, and fell very grave and thoughtful.

"Where are you lodged?" he asked.

She told him.

"Wait there until I send for you again," he bade her.  "Leave this
order with me, and depend upon it, justice shall be done."

That evening, a messenger rode out to Middelburg to summon von
Rhynsault to Bruges, and the arrogant German came promptly and
confidently, knowing nothing of the reason, but conceiving naturally
that fresh honours were to be conferred upon him by a master who
loved stout-hearted servants.  And that Rhynsault was stout-hearted
he showed most of all when the Duke taxed him without warning with
the villainy he had wrought.

If he was surprised, he was not startled.  What was the life of a
Flemish burgher more or less?  What the honour of a Flemish wife?
These were not considerations to daunt a soldier, a valiant man of
war.  And because such was his dull mood - for he was dull, this
Rhynsault, as dull as he was brutish - he considered his sin too
venial to be denied.  And the Duke, who could be crafty, perceiving
that mood of his, and simulating almost an approval of it, drew the
German captain into self-betrayal.

"And so this Philip Danvelt may have been innocent?"

"He must have been, for we have since taken the guilty man of the
same name," said the German easily.  "It was unfortunate, but - "

"Unfortunate!"  The Duke's manner changed from silk to steel.  He
heaved himself out of his chair, and his dark eyes flamed.
"Unfortunate!  Is that all, you dog?"

"I conceived him guilty when I ordered him to be hanged," spluttered
the captain, greatly taken aback.

"Then, why this?  Answer me - why this?"

And under his nose the Duke thrust the order of gaol delivery
Rhynsault had signed.

The captain blenched, and fear entered his glance.  The thing was
becoming serious, it seemed.

"Is this the sort of justice you were sent to Middelburg to
administer in my name?  Is this how you dishonour me?  If you
conceived him guilty, why did you sign this and upon what terms?
Bah, I know the terms.  And having made such foul terms, why did
you not keep your part of the bargain, evil as it was?"

Rhynsault had nothing to say.  He was afraid, and he was angry too.
Here was a most unreasonable bother all about nothing, it seemed
to him.

"I - I sought to compromise between justice and - and - "

"And your own vile ends," the Duke concluded for him.  "By Heaven,
you German dog, I think I'll have you shortened by a head!"

"My lord!" It was a cry of protest.

"There is the woman you have so foully wronged, and so foully
swindled," said the Duke, watching him.  "What reparation will you
make to her?  What reparation can you make?  I can toss your filthy
head into her lap.  But will that repair the wrong?"

The captain suddenly saw light, and quite a pleasant light it was,
for he had found Sapphira most delectable.

"Why," he said slowly, and with all a fool's audacity, "having made
her a widow, I can make her a wife again.  I never thought to wive,
myself.  But if Your Grace thinks such reparation adequate, I will
afford it her."

The Duke checked in the very act of replying.  Again the expression
of his countenance changed.  He strode away, his head bowed in
thought; then slowly he returned.

"Be it so," he said.  "It is not much, but it is all that you can do,
and after a fashion it will mend the honour you have torn.  See that
you wed her within the week.  Should she not consent, it will be the
worse for you."

She would not have consented - she would have preferred death,
indeed - but for the insistence that the Duke used in private with
her.  And so, half convinced that it would in some sort repair her
honour, the poor woman suffered herself to be led, more dead than
living, to the altar in the Duke's private chapel, and there,
scarcely knowing what she did, she became the wife of Captain
Claudius von Rhynsault, the man she had most cause to loathe and
hate in all the world.

Rhynsault had ordered a great banquet to celebrate his nuptials,
for on the whole he was well satisfied with the issue of this
affair.  But as he left the altar, his half-swooning bride upon
his arm, the Duke in person tapped his shoulder.

"All is not yet done," he said.  "You are to come with me."

The bridal pair were conducted to the great hall of the Prinssenhof,
where there was a great gathering of the Court - to do honour to
his nuptials, thought the German captain.  At the broad table sat
two clerkly fellows with quills and parchments, and by this table
the Duke took his stand, Arnault beside him - in peacock-blue
to-day - and called for silence.

"Captain von Rhynsault," he said gravely and quietly, "what you have
done is well done; but it does not suffice.  In the circumstances
of this marriage, and after the revelation we have had of your ways
of thought and of honour, it is necessary to make provision against
the future.  It shall not be yours, save at grave cost, to repudiate
the wife you have now taken."

"There is no such intent - " began Rhynsault, who misliked this homily.

The Duke waved him into silence.

"You are interrupting me," he said sharply.  "You are a wealthy man,
Rhynsault, thanks to the favours I have heaped upon you ever since
the day when I picked you from your German kennel to set you where
you stand.  Here you will find a deed prepared.  It is in the form
of a will, whereby you bequeath everything of which you are to-day
possessed - and it is all set down - to your wife on your death, or
on the day on which you put her from you.  Your signature is
required to that."

The captain hesitated a moment.  This deed would fetter all his
future.  The Duke was unreasonable.  But under the steady, compelling
eyes of Charles he moved forward to the table, and accepted the quill
the clerk was proffering.  There was no alternative, he realized.
He was trapped.  Well, well!  He must make the best of it.  He
stooped from his great height, and signed in his great sprawling,
clumsy, soldier's hand.

The clerk dusted the document with pounce, and handed it to the Duke.
Charles cast an eye upon the signature, then taking the quill
himself, signed under it, then bore the document to the half-swooning
bride.

"Keep this secure," he bade her.  "It is your marriage-gift from me."

Rhynsault's eyes gleamed.  If his wife were to keep the deed, the
thing was none so desperate after all.  But the next moment he had
other things to think of.

"Give me your sword," the Duke requested.

Wondering, the German unsheathed the weapon, and proffered the hilt
to his master.  Charles took it, and a stern smile played about his
beardless mouth.  He grasped it, hilt in one hand and point in the
other.  Suddenly he bent his right knee, and, bearing sharply
downward with the flat of the weapon upon his thigh, snapped in into
two.

"So much for that dishonourable blade," he said, and cast the pieces
from him.  Then he flung out an arm to point to Rhynsault.  "Take
him out," he commanded; "let him have a priest, and half an hour in
which to make his soul, then set his head on a spear above the Cloth
Hall, that men may know the justice of Charles of Burgundy."

With the roar of a 'goaded bull the German attempted to fling
forward.  But men-at-arms, in steel and leather, who had come up
quietly behind him, seized him now.  Impotent in their coiling arms,
he was borne away to his doom, that thereby he might complete the
reparation of his hideous offence, and deliver Sapphira from the
bondage of a wedlock which Charles of Burgundy had never intended
her to endure.




X.  THE NIGHT OF STRANGLERS

GOVANNA OF NAPLES AND ANDREAS OF HUNGARY


Charles, Duke of Durazzo, was one of your super chess-players,
handling kings and queens, knights and prelates of flesh and blood
in the game that he played with Destiny upon the dark board of
Neapolitan politics.  And he had no illusions on the score of the
forfeit that would be claimed by his grim opponent in the event of
his own defeat.  He knew that his head was the stake he set upon
the board, and he knew, too, that defeat must inevitably follow
upon a single false move.  Yet he played boldly and craftily, as
you shall judge.

He made his first move in March of 1343, some three months after
the death of Robert of Anjou, King of Jerusalem and Sicily, as ran
the title of the ruler of Naples.  He found his opportunity amid
the appalling anarchy into which the kingdom was then plunged as a
result of a wrong and an ill judged attempt to right it.

Good King Robert the Wise had wrested the crown of Naples from his
elder brother, the King of Hungary, and had ruled as a usurper.
Perhaps to quiet his conscience, perhaps to ensure against future
strife between his own and his brother's descendants, he had
attempted to right the wrong by a marriage between his brother's
grandson Andreas and his own granddaughter Giovanna, a marriage
which had taken place ten years before, when Andreas was but seven
years of age and Giovanna five.

The aim had been thus to weld into one the two branches of the House
of Anjou.  Instead, the rivalry was to be rendered more acute than
ever, and King Robert's fear of some such result contributed to it
not a little.  On his deathbed he summoned the Princes of the Blood
 - the members of the Houses of Durazzo and Taranto - and the chief
nobles of the kingdom, demanding of them an oath of allegiance to
Giovanna, and himself appointing a Council of Regency to govern the
kingdom during her minority.

The consequence was that, against all that had been intended when
the marriage was contracted, Giovanna was now proclaimed queen in
her own right, and the government taken over in her name by the
appointed Council.  Instantly the Court of Naples was divided into
two camps, the party of the Queen, including the Neapolitan nobility,
and the party of Andreas of Hungary, consisting of the Hungarian
nobles forming his train and a few malcontent Neapolitan barons, and
guided by the sinister figure of Andreas's preceptor, Friar Robert.

This arrogant friar, of whom Petrarch has left us a vivid portrait,
a red-faced, red-bearded man, with a fringe of red hair about his
tonsure, short and squat of figure, dirty in his dress and habits,
yet imbued with the pride of Lucifer despite his rags, thrust
himself violently into the Council of Regency, demanding a voice in
the name of his pupil Andreas.  And the Council feared him, not
only on the score of his over-bearing personality, but also because
he was supported by the populace, which had accepted his general
filthiness as the outward sign of holiness.  His irruption occasioned
so much trouble and confusion that in the end the Pope intervened,
in his quality as Lord Paramount - Naples being a fief of Holy
Church - and appointed a legate to rule the kingdom during
Giovanna's minority.

The Hungarians, with Andreas's brother, King Ludwig of Hungary, at
their head, now appealed to the Papal Court of Avignon for a Bull
commanding the joint coronation of Andreas and Giovanna, which
would be tantamount to placing the government in the hands of
Andreas.  The Neapolitans, headed by the Princes of the Blood - who,
standing next in succession, had also their own interests to consider
clamoured that Giovanna alone should be crowned.

In this pass were the affairs of the kingdom when Charles of Durazzo,
who had stood watchful and aloof, carefully weighing the chances,
resolved at last to play that dangerous game of his.  He began by
the secret abduction of Maria of Anjou, his own cousin and Giovanna's
sister, a child of fourteen.  He kept her concealed for a month in
his palace, what time he obtained from the Pope, through the good
offices of his uncle the Cardinal of Perigord, a dispensation to
overcome the barrier of consanguinity.  That dispensation obtained,
Charles married the girl publicly under the eyes of all Naples,
and by the marriage - to which the bride seemed nowise unwilling
 - became, by virtue of his wife, next heir to the crown of Naples.

That was his opening move.  His next was to write to his obliging
uncle the Cardinal of Perigord, whose influence at Avignon was very
considerable, urging him to prevail upon Pope Clement VI not to
sign the Bull in favour of Andreas and the joint coronation.

Now, the high-handed action of Charles in marrying Maria of Anjou
had very naturally disposed Giovanna against him; further, it had
disposed against him those Princes of the Blood who were next in
the succession, and upon whom he had stolen a march by this
strengthening of his own claims.  It is inevitable to assume that
he had counted precisely upon this to afford him the pretext that
he sought - he, a Neapolitan prince - to ally himself with the
Hungarian intruder.

Under any other circumstances his advances must have been viewed
with suspicion by Andreas, and still more by the crafty Friar
Robert.  But, under the circumstances which his guile had created,
he was received with open arms by the Hungarian party, and his
defection from the Court of Giovanna was counted a victory by the
supporters of Andreas.  He protested his good-will towards Andreas,
and proclaimed his hatred of Giovanna's partisans, who poisoned her
mind against her husband.  He hunted and drank with Andreas - whose
life seems to have been largely made up of hunting and drinking -
and pandered generally to the rather gross tastes of this foreigner,
whom in his heart he despised for a barbarian.

>From being a boon companion, Charles very soon became a counsellor
to the young Prince, and the poisonous advice that he gave seemed
shrewd and good, even to Friar Robert.

"Meet hostility with hostility, ride ruthlessly upon your own way,
showing yourself confident of the decision in your favour that the
Pope must ultimately give.  For bear ever in your mind that you are
King of Naples, not by virtue of your marriage with Giovanna, but
in your own right, Giovanna being but the offspring of the usurping
branch."

The pale bovine eyes of Andreas would kindle into something like
intelligence, and a flush would warm his stolid countenance.  He
was a fair-haired young giant, white-skinned and well-featured, but
dull, looking, with cold, hard eyes suggesting the barbarian that
he was considered by the cultured Neapolitans, and that he certainly
looked by contrast with them.  Friar Robert supporting the Duke of
Durazzo's advice, Andreas did not hesitate to act upon it; of his
own authority he delivered prisoners from gaol, showered honours
upon his Hungarian followers and upon such Neapolitan barons as
Count Altamura, who was ill-viewed at Court, and generally set the
Queen at defiance.  The inevitable result, upon which again the
subtle Charles had counted, was to exasperate a group of her most
prominent nobles into plotting the ruin of Andreas.

It was a good beginning, and unfortunately Giovanna's own behaviour
afforded Charles the means of further speeding up his game.

The young Queen was under the governance of Filippa the Catanese,
an evil woman, greedy of power.  This Filippa, once a washerwoman,
had in her youth been chosen for her splendid health to be the
foster-mother of Giovanna's father.  Beloved of her foster-child,
she had become perpetually installed at Court, married to a wealthy
Moor named Cabane, who was raised to the dignity of Grand Seneschal
of the kingdom, whereby the sometime washerwoman found herself
elevated to the rank of one of the first ladies of Naples.  She must
have known how to adapt herself to her new circumstances, otherwise
she would hardly have been appointed, as she was upon the death of
her foster-son, governess to his infant daughters.  Later, to ensure
her hold upon the young Queen, and being utterly unscrupulous in her
greed of power, she had herself contrived that her son, Robert of
Cabane, became Giovanna's lover.

One of Giovanna's first acts upon her grandfather's death had been
to create this Robert Count of Evoli, and this notwithstanding that
in the mean time he had been succeeded in her favour by the handsome
young Bertrand d'Artois.  This was the group - the Catanese, her
son, and Bertrand - that, with the Princes of the Blood, governed
the Queen's party.

With what eyes Andreas may have looked upon all this we have no
means of determining.  Possibly, engrossed as he was with his hawks
and his hounds, he may have been stupidly blind to his own dishonour,
at least as far as Bertrand was concerned.  Another than Charles
might have chosen the crude course of opening his eyes to it.  But
Charles was too far-seeing.  Precipitancy was not one of his faults.
His next move must be dictated by the decision of Avignon regarding
the coronation.

This decision came in July of 1345, and it fell like a thunderbolt
upon the Court.  The Pope had pronounced in favour of Andreas by
granting the Bull for the joint coronation of Andreas and Giovanna.

This was check to Charles.  His uncle the Cardinal of Perigord had
done his utmost to oppose the measure, but he had been overborne in
the end by Ludwig of Hungary, who had settled the matter by the
powerful argument that he was himself the rightful heir to the crown
of Naples, and that he relinquished his claim in favour of his
younger brother.  He had backed the argument by the payment to the
Pope of the enormous sum, for those days, of one hundred thousand
gold crowns, and the issue, obscure hitherto, had immediately become
clear to the Papal Court.

It was check to Charles, as I have said.  But Charles braced himself,
and considered the counter-move that should give him the advantage.
He went to congratulate Andreas, and found him swollen with pride
and arrogance in his triumph.

"Be welcome, Charles," he hailed Durazzo.  "I am not the man to
forget those who have stood my friends whilst my power was undecided."

"For your own sake," said the smooth Charles, as he stepped back
from that brotherly embrace, "I trust you'll not forget those who
have been your enemies, and who, being desperate now, may take
desperate means to avert your coronation."

The pale eyes of the Hungarian glittered.

"Of whom do you speak?"

Charles smoothed his black beard thoughtfully, his dark eyes narrowed
and pensive.  There must be a victim, to strike fear into Giovanna's
friends and stir them to Charles's purposes.

"Why, first and foremost, I should place Giovanna's counsellor
Isernia, that man of law whose evil counsels have hurt your rights
as king.  Next come - "

But here Charles craftily paused and looked away, a man at fault.

"Next?" cried Andreas.  "Who next? Speak out!" The Duke shrugged.

"By the Passion, there is no lack of others.  You have enemies to
spare among the Queen's friends."

Andreas paled under his faint tan.  He flung back his crimson robe
as if he felt the heat, and stood forth, lithe as a wrestler, in
his close-fitting cote-hardie and hose of violet silk.

"No need, indeed, to name them," he said fiercely.

"None," Charles agreed.  "But the most dangerous is Isernia.  Whilst
he lives you walk amid swords.  His death may spread a panic that
will paralyze the others."

He would say no more, knowing that he had said enough to send
Andreas, scowling and sinister, to sow terror in hearts that guilt
must render uneasy now, amongst which hearts be sure that he
counted Giovanna's own.

Andreas took counsel with Friar Robert.  Touching Isernia, there
was evidence and to spare that he was dangerous, and so Isernia
fell on the morrow to an assassin's sword as he was in the very
act of leaving the Castel Nuovo, and it was Charles himself who
bore word of it to the Court, and so plunged it into consternation.

They walked in the cool of evening in the pleasant garden of the
Castel Nuovo, when Charles came upon them and touched the stalwart
shoulder of Bertrand d'Artois.  Bertrand the favourite eyed him
askance, mistrusting and disliking him for his association with
Andreas.

"The Hungarian boar," said Charles, "is sharpening his tusks now
that his authority is assured by the Holy Father."

"Who cares?" sneered Bertrand.

"Should you care if I added that already he has blooded them?"

Bertrand changed countenance.  The Duke explained himself.

"He has made a beginning upon Giacomo d' Isernia.  Ten minutes ago
he was stabbed to death within a stone's throw of the castle."  So
Charles unburdened himself of his news.  "A beginning, no more."

"My God!" said Bertrand.  "D' Isernia! Heaven rest him."  And
devoutly he crossed himself.

"Heaven will rest some more of you if you suffer Andreas of Hungary
to be its instrument," said Charles, his lips grimly twisted.

"Do you threaten?"

"Nay, man; be not so hot and foolish.  I warn.  I know his mood.
I know what he intends."

"You ever had his confidence," said Bertrand, sneering.

"Until this hour I had.  But there's an end to that.  I am a Prince
of Naples, and I'll not bend the knee to a barbarian.  He was well
enough to hunt with and drink with, so long as he was Duke of
Calabria with no prospect of being more.  But that he should become
my King, and that our lady Giovanna should be no more than a queen
consort - "  He made a gesture of ineffable disgust.

Bertrand's eyes kindled.  He gripped the other's arm, and drew him
along under a trellis of vines that formed a green cloister about
the walls.

"Why, here is great news for our Queen," he cried.  "It will rejoice
her, my lord, to know you are loyal to her."

"That is no matter," he replied.  "What matters is that you should
be warned - you, yourself in particular, and Evoli.  No doubt there
will be others, too.  But the Hungarian's confidences went no
further."

Bertrand had come to a standstill.  He stared at Charles, and slowly
the colour left his face.

"Me?" he said, a finger on his heart.

"Aye, you.  You will be the next.  But not until the crown is firmly
on his brow.  Then he will settle his score with the nobles of
Naples who have withstood him.  Listen," and Charles's voice sank
as if under the awful burden of his news; "a black banner of
vengeance is to precede him to his coronation.  And your name stands
at the head of the list of the proscribed.  Does it surprise you?
After all, he is a husband, and he has some knowledge of what lies
between the Queen and you - "

"Stop!"

"Pish!" Charles shrugged.  "What need for silence upon what all
Naples knows?  When have you and the Queen ever used discretion?
In your place I should not need a warning.  I should know what to
expect from a husband become king."

"The Queen must be told."

"Indeed, I think so, too.  It will come best from you.  Go tell her,
so that measures may be taken.  But go secretly and warily.  You
are safe until he wears the crown.  And above all - whatever you may
decide - do nothing here in Naples."

And on that he turned to depart, whilst Bertrand sped to Giovanna.
On the threshold of the garden Charles paused and looked back.  His
eyes sought and found the Queen, a tall, lissome girl of seventeen,
in a close-fitting, revealing gown of purple silk, the high, white
gorget outlining an oval face of a surpassing loveliness, crowned
by a wealth of copper-coloured hair.  She was standing in a stricken
attitude, looking up into the face of her lover, who was delivering
himself of his news.

Charles departed satisfied.

Three days later a man of the Queen's household, one Melazzo, who
was in Duke Charles's pay, brought him word that the seed he had
cast had fallen upon fertile soil.  A conspiracy to destroy the King
had been laid by Bertrand d'Artois, Robert of Cabane, Count of Evoli,
and the latter's brothers-in-law, Terlizzi and Morcone.  Melazzo
himself, for his notorious affection for the Queen, had been included
in this band, and also a man named Pace, who was body servant to
Andreas, and who, like Melazzo, was in Charles's pay.

Charles of Durazzo smiled gently to himself.  The game went
excellently well.

"The Court," he sad, "goes to Aversa for a month before the
coronation.  That would be a favourable season to their plan.  Advise
it so."

The date appointed for the coronation was September 20th.  A month
before - on August 20th - the Court removed itself from the heat and
reek of Naples to the cooler air of Aversa, there to spend the time
of waiting.  They were housed in the monastery of Saint Peter, which
had been converted as far as possible into a royal residence for
the occasion.

On the night of their arrival there the refectory of the monastery
was transfigured to accommodate the numerous noble and very jovial
company assembled there to sup.  The long, stone-flagged room, lofty
and with windows set very high, normally so bare and austere, was
hung now with tapestries, and the floor strewn with rushes that were
mingled with lemon verbena and other aromatic herbs.  Along the
lateral walls and across the end of the room that faced the double
doors were set the stone tables of the Spartan monks, on a shallow
dais that raised them above the level of the floor.  These tables
were gay now with the gleam of crystal and the glitter of gold and
silver plate.  Along one side of them, their backs to the walls,
sat the ladies and nobles of the Court.  The vaulted ceiling was
rudely frescoed to represent the open heavens - the work of a
brother whose brush was more devout than cunning - and there was
the inevitable cenacolo above the Abbot's table at the upper end of
the room.

At this table sat the royal party, the broad-shouldered Andreas of
Hungary, slightly asprawl, his golden mane somewhat tumbled now,
for he was drinking deeply in accordance with his barbarian habit;
ever and anon he would fling down a bone or a piece of meat to the
liver-coloured hounds that crouched expectant on the rushes of the
floor.

They had hunted that day in the neighbourhood of Capua, and Andreas
had acquitted himself well, and was in high good-humour, giving now
little thought to the sinister things that Charles of Durazzo had
lately whispered, laughing and jesting with the traitor Morcone at
his side.  Behind him in close attendance stood his servant Pace,
once a creature of Durazzo's.  The Queen sat on his right, making
but poor pretence to eat; her lovely young face was of a ghostly
pallor, her dark eyes were wide and staring.  Among the guests were
the black-browed Evoli and his brother-in-law, Terlizzi; Bertrand
of Artois and his father; Melazzo, that other creature of Charles's,
and Filippa the Catanese, handsome and arrogant, but oddly silent
to-night.

But Charles of Durazzo was not of the company.  It is not for the
player, himself, to become a piece upon the board.

He had caught a whisper that the thing he had so slyly prompted to
Bertrand d'Artois was to be done here at Aversa, and so Charles had
remained at Naples.  He had discovered very opportunely that his
wife was ailing, and he developed such concern for her that he could
not bring himself to leave her side.  He had excused himself to
Andreas with a thousand regrets, since what he most desired was to
enjoy with him the cool, clean air of Aversa and the pleasures of
the chase; and he had presented the young King at parting with the
best of all his falcons in earnest of affection and disappointment.

The night wore on, and at last, at a sign from the Queen, the ladies
rose and departed to their beds.  The men settled down again.  The
cellarers redoubled their activities, the flagons circulated more
briskly, and the noise they made must have disturbed the monks
entrenched in their cells against these earthly vanities.  The
laughter of Andreas grew louder and more vacuous, and when at last
he heaved himself up at midnight and departed to bed, that he might
take some rest against the morrow's hunt, he staggered a little in
his walk.

But there were other hunters there whose impatience could not keep
until the morrow, whose game was to be run to death that very night.
They waited - Bertrand d'Artois, Robert of Cabane, the Counts of
Terlizzi and Morcone, Melazzo and Andreas's body servant Pace - until
all those who lay at Aversa were deep in slumber.  Then at two
o'clock in the morning they made their stealthy way to the loggia
on the third floor, a long colonnaded gallery above the Abbot's
garden.  They paused a moment before the Queen's door which opened
upon this gallery, then crept on to that of the King's room at the
other end.  It was Pace who rapped sharply on the panels thrice
before he was answered by a sleepy growl from the other side.

"It is I - Pace - my lord," he announced.  "A courier has arrived
from Naples, from Friar Robert, with instant messages."

>From within there was a noisy yawn, a rustle, the sound of an
overturning stool, and, lastly, the rasp of a bolt being withdrawn.
The door opened, and in the faint light of the dawning day Andreas
appeared, drawing a furlined robe about his body, which was naked
of all but a shirt.

He saw no one but Pace.  The others had drawn aside into the shadows.
Unsuspecting, he stepped forth.

"Where is this messenger?"

The door through which he had come slammed suddenly behind him, and
he turned to see Melazzo in the act of bolting it with a dagger to
prevent any one from following that way - for the room had another
door opening upon the inner corridor.

Instead, Melazzo might have employed his dagger to stab Andreas
behind, and so have made an instant end.  But it happened to be
known that Andreas wore an amulet - a ring that his mother had
given him - which rendered him invulnerable to steel or poison.
And such was the credulity of his age, such the blind faith of those
men in the miraculous power of that charm, that none of them so much
as attempted to test it with a dagger.  It was for the same reason
that no recourse was had to the still easier method of disposing of
him by poison.  Accepting the amulet at its legendary value, the
conspirators had resolved that he must be strangled.

As he turned now they leapt upon him, and, taking him unawares, bore
him to the ground before he could realize what was happening.  Here
they grappled with him, and he with them.  He was endowed with the
strength of a young bull, and he made full use of it.  He rose,
beating them off, to be borne down again, bellowing the while for
help.  He smote out blindly, and stretched Morcone half senseless
with a blow of his great fist.

Seeing how difficult he proved to strangle, they must have cursed
that amulet of his.  He struggled to his knees again, then to his
feet, and, at last, with bleeding face, leaving tufts of his fair
hair in their murderous hands, he broke through and went bounding
down the loggia, screaming as he ran, until he came to his wife's
door.  Against that he hurled himself, calling her.

"Giovanna! Giovanna!  For the love of God crucified!  Open!  Open!
I am being murdered!"

>From within came no answer - utter silence.

"Giovanna! Giovanna!"  He beat frenziedly upon the door.

Still no answer, which yet was answer enough.

The stranglers, momentarily discomfited, scared, too, lest his cries
should rouse the convent, had stood hesitating after he broke from
them.  But now Bertrand d'Artois, realizing that too much had been
done already to admit of the business being left unfinished, sprang
upon him suddenly again.  Locked in each other's arms, those
wrestlers swayed and panted in the loggia for a moment, then with
a crash went down, Bertrand on top, Andreas striking his head against
the stone floor as he fell.  The Queen's lover pinned him there,
kneeling upon his breast.

"The rope!" he panted to the others who came up.

One of them threw him a coil of purple silk interwrought with gold
thread, in which a running noose had been tied.  Bertrand slipped it
over Andreas's head, drew it taut, and held it so, despite the man's
desperate, convulsive struggles.  The others came to his assistance.
Amongst them they lifted the writhing victim to the parapet of the
loggia, and flung him over; whilst Bertrand, Cabane, and Pace bore
upon the rope, arresting his fall, and keeping him suspended there
until he should be dead.  Melazzo and Morcone came to assist them,
and it was then that Cabane observed that Terlizzi held aloof, as if
filled with horror.

Peremptorily he called to him:

"Hither, and lend a hand!  The rope is long enough to afford you a
grip.  We want accomplices, not witnesses, Lord Count."

Terlizzi obeyed, and then the ensuing silence was broken suddenly
by screams from the floor below the screams of a woman who slept in
the room immediately underneath, who had awakened to behold in the
grey light of the breaking day the figure of a man kicking and
writhing at a rope's end before her window.

Yet a moment the startled stranglers kept their grip of the rope
until the struggles at the end of it had ceased; then they loosed
their hold and let the body go plunging down into the Abbot's garden.
Thereafter they scattered and fled, for people were stirring now in
the convent, aroused by the screams of the woman.

Thrice, so the story runs, came the monks to the Queen's door to
knock and demand her orders for the disposal of the body of her
husband without receiving any answer to their question.  It remained
still unanswered when later in the day she departed from Aversa in
a closed litter, and returned to Naples escorted by a company of
lances, and for lack of instructions the monks left the body in the
Abbot's garden, where it had fallen, until Charles of Durazzo came
to remove it two days later.

Ostentatiously he bore to Naples the murdered Prince - whose death
he had so subtly inspired - and in the cathedral before the
Hungarians, whom he had assembled, and in the presence of a vast
concourse of the people, he solemnly swore over the body vengeance
upon the murderers.

Having made a cat's-paw of Giovanna - through the person of her
lover, Bertrand d'Artois, and his confederate assassins - and thus
cleared away one of those who stood between himself and the throne,
he now sought to make a cat's-paw of justice to clear away the other.
Meanwhile, days grew into weeks and weeks into months, and no attempt
was made by the Queen to hunt out the murderers of her husband, no
inquiry instituted.  Bertrand d'Artois, it is true, had fled with
his father to their stronghold of Saint Agatha for safety.  But the
others - Cabane, Terlizzi, and Morcone - continued unabashed about
Giovanna's person at the Castel Nuovo.

Charles wrote to Ludwig of Hungary, and to the Pope, demanding that
justice should be done, and pointing out the neglect of all attempt
to perform it in the kingdom itself, and inviting them to construe
for themselves that neglect.  As a consequence, Clement VI issued,
on June 2d of the following year, a Bull, whereby Bertrand des Baux,
the Grand Justiciary of Naples, was commanded to hunt down and
punish the assassins, against whom - at the same time - the Pope
launched a second Bull, of excommunication.  But the Holy Father
accompanied his commands to Des Baux by a private note, wherein he
straitly enjoined the Grand Justiciary for reasons of State to
permit nothing to transpire that might reflect upon the Queen.

Des Baux set about his task at once, and inspired, no doubt, by
Charles, proceeded to the arrest of Melazzo and the servant Pace.
It was not for Charles to accuse the Queen or even any of her nobles,
whereby he might have aroused against himself the opposition of
those who were her loyal partisans.  Sufficient for him to point
out the two meanest of the conspirators, and depend upon the torture
to wring from them confessions that must gradually pull down the
rest, and in the end Giovanna herself.

Terlizzi, alive to his danger when he heard of the arrest of those
two, made a bold and desperate attempt to avert it.  Riding forth
with a band of followers, he attacked the escort that was bearing
Pace to prison.  The prisoner was seized, but not to be rescued.
All that Terlizzi wanted was his silence.  By his orders the
wretched man's tongue was torn out, whereupon he was abandoned once
more to his guards and his fate.

Had Terlizzi been able to carry out his intentions of performing
the like operation upon Melazzo, Charles might have been placed in
a difficult position.  So much, however, did not happen, and the
horrible deed upon Pace was in vain.  Put to the question, Melazzo
denounced Terlizzi, and together with him Cabane, Morcone, and the
others.  Further, his confession incriminated Filippa, the Catanese,
and her two daughters, the wives of Terlizzi and Morcone.  Of the
Queen, however, he said nothing, because, one of the lesser
conspirators, little more than a servant like Pace, he can have had
no knowledge of the Queen's complicity.

The arrest of the others followed instantly, and, sentenced to death,
they were publicly burned in the Square of Sant' Eligio, after
suffering all the brutal, unspeakable horrors of fourteenth-century
torture, which continued to the very scaffold, with the alleged
intention of inducing them to denounce any further accomplices.  But
though they writhed and fainted under the pincers of the executioners,
they confessed nothing.  Indeed, they preserved a silence which left
the people amazed, for the people lacked the explanation.  The Grand
Justiciary, Hugh des Baux, had seen to it that the Pope's injunctions
should be obeyed.  Lest the condemned should say too much, he had
taken the precaution of having their tongues fastened down with
fish-hooks.

Thus Charles was momentarily baulked, and he was further baulked by
the fact that Giovanna had taken a second husband, in her cousin,
Louis of Taranto.  Unless matters were to remain there and the game
end in a stalemate, bold measures were required, and those measures
Charles adopted.  He wrote to the King of Hungary now openly
accusing Giovanna of the murder, and pointing out the circumstances
that in themselves afforded corroboration of his charge.

Those circumstances Ludwig embodied in a fulminating letter which
he wrote to Giovanna in answer to her defence against the charge of
inaction in the matter of her late husband's murderers: "Giovanna,
thy antecedent disorderly life, thy retention of the exclusive power
in the kingdom, thy neglect of vengeance upon the murderers of thy
husband, thy having taken another husband, and thy very excuses
abundantly prove thy complicity in thy husband's death."

So far this was all as Charles of Durazzo could have desired it.
But there was more.  Ludwig was advancing now in arms to take
possession of the kingdom, of which, under all the circumstances,
he might consider himself the lawful heir, and the Princes of Italy
were affording him unhindered passage through their States.  This
was not at all to Charles's liking.  Indeed, unless he bestirred
himself, it might prove to be checkmate from an altogether unexpected
quarter, rendering vain all the masterly play with which he had
conducted the game so far.

It flustered him a little, and in his haste to counter it he
blundered.

Giovanna, alarmed at the rapid advance of Ludwig, summoned her
barons to her aid, and in that summons she included Charles,
realizing that at all costs he must be brought over to her side.
He went, listened, and finally sold himself for a good price the
title of Duke of Calabria, which made him heir to the kingdom.
He raised a powerful troop of lances, and marched upon Aquila,
which had already hoisted the Hungarian banner.

There it was that he discovered, and soon, his move to have been a
bad one.  News was brought to him that the Queen, taken with panic,
had fled to Provence, seeking sanctuary at Avignon.

Charles set about correcting his error without delay, and marched
out of Aquila to go and meet Ludwig that he might protest his
loyalty, and range himself under the invader's banner.

At Foligno, the King of Hungary was met by a papal legate, who in
the name of Pope Clement forbade him under pain of excommunication
to invade a fief of Holy Church.

"When I am master of Naples," answered Ludwig firmly, "I shall count
myself a feudatory of the Holy See.  Until then I render account to
none but God and my conscience."  And he pushed on, preceded by a
black banner of death, scattering in true Hungarian fashion murder,
rape, pillage, and arson through the smiling countryside, exacting
upon the whole land a terrible vengeance for the murder of his
brother.

Thus he came to Aversa, and there quartered himself and his
Hungarians upon that convent of Saint Peter where Andreas had been
strangled a year ago.  And it was here that he was joined by Charles,
who came protesting loyalty, and whom the King received with open
arms and a glad welcome, as was to be expected from a man who had
been Andreas's one true friend in that land of enemies.  Of Charles's
indiscreet escapade in the matter of Aquila nothing was said.  As
Charles had fully expected, it was condoned upon the score both of
the past and the present.

That night there was high feasting in that same refectory where
Andreas had feasted on the night when the stranglers watched him,
waiting, and Charles was the guest of honour.  In the morning Ludwig
was to pursue his march upon the city of Naples, and all were astir
betimes.

On the point of setting out, Ludwig turned to Charles.

"Before I go," he said, "I have a mind to visit the spot where my
brother died.

To Charles, no doubt, this seemed a morbid notion to be discouraged.
But Ludwig was insistent.

"Take me there," he bade the Duke,

"Indeed, I scarce know - I was not here, remember," Charles answered
him, rendered faintly uneasy, perhaps by a certain grimness in the
gaunt King's face, perhaps by the mutterings of his own conscience.

"I know that you were not; but surely you must know the place.  It
will be known to all the world in these parts.  Besides, was it not
yourself recovered the body?  Conduct me thither, then.

Perforce, then, Charles must do his will.  Arm-in-arm they mounted
the stairs to that sinister loggia, a half-dozen of Ludwig's
escorting officers following.

They stepped along the tessellated floor above the Abbot's garden,
flooded now with sunshine which drew the perfume from the roses
blooming there.

"Here the King slept," said Charles, "and yonder the Queen.
Somewhere here between the thing was done, and thence they hanged
him."

Ludwig, tall and grim, stood considering, chin in hand.  Suddenly
he wheeled upon the Duke who stood at his elbow.  His face had
undergone a change, and his lip curled so that he displayed his
strong teeth as a dog displays them when he snarls.

"Traitor!" he rasped.  "It is you - you who come smiling and fawning
upon me, and spurring me on to vengeance - who are to blame for what
happened here."

"I?" Charles fell back, changing colour, his legs trembling under
him.

"You!" the King answered him furiously.  "His death would never
have come about but for your intrigues to keep him out of the royal
power, to hinder his coronation."

"It is false!" cried Charles.  "False!  I swear it before God!"

"Perjured dog!  Do you deny that you sought the aid of your precious
uncle the Cardinal of Perigord to restrain the Pope from granting
the Bull required?"

"I do deny it.  The facts deny it.  The Bull was forthcoming."

"Then your denial but proves your guilt," the King answered him,
and from the leather pouch hanging from his belt, he pulled out a
parchment, and held it under the Duke's staring eyes.  It was the
letter he had written to the Cardinal of Perigord, enjoining him to
prevent the Pope from signing the Bull sanctioning Andreas's
coronation.

The King smiled terribly into that white, twitching face.

"Deny it now," he mocked him.  "Deny, too, that, bribed by the
title of Duke of Calabria, you turned to the service of the Queen,
to abandon it again for ours when you perceived your danger.  You
think to use us, traitor, as a stepping-stone to help you to mount
the throne - as you sought to use my brother even to the extent of
encompassing his murder."

"No, no!  I had no hand in that.  I was his friend - "

"Liar!"  Ludwig struck him across the mouth.

On the instant the officers of Ludwig laid hands upon the Duke,
fearing that the indignity might spur him to retaliation.

"You are very opportune," said Ludwig; and added coldly, "Dispatch
him."

Charles screamed a moment, even as Andreas had screamed on that same
spot, when he found himself staring into the fearful face of death.
Then the scream became a cough as a Hungarian sword went through him
from side to side.

They picked up his body from the tessellated floor of the loggia,
carried it to the parapet as Andreas's had been carried, and flung
it down into the Abbot's garden as Andreas's had been flung.  It lay
in a rosebush, dyeing the Abbot's roses a deeper red.

Never was justice more poetic.




XI.  THE NIGHT OF HATE

THE MURDER OF THE DUKE OF GANDIA


The Cardinal Vice-Chancellor took the packet proffered him by the
fair-haired, scarlet-liveried page, and turned it over, considering
it, the gentle, finely featured, almost ascetic face very thoughtful.

"It was brought, my lord, by a man in a mask, who will give no name.
 He waits below," said the scarlet stripling.

"A man in a mask, eh?  What mystery!"

The thoughtful brown eyes smiled, the fine hands broke the fragment
of wax.  A gold ring fell out and rolled some little way along the
black and purple Eastern rug.  The boy dived after it, and presented
it to his lordship.

The ring bore an escutcheon, and the Cardinal found graven upon this
escutcheon his own arms the Sforza lion and the flower of the quince.
Instantly those dark, thoughtful eyes of his grew keen as they
flashed upon the page.

"Did you see the device?" he asked, a hint of steel under the
silkiness of his voice.

"I saw nothing, my lord - a ring, no more.  I did not even look."

The Cardinal continued to ponder him for a long moment very
searchingly.

"Go - bring this man," he said at last; and the boy departed, soon
to reappear; holding aside the tapestry that masked the door to give
passage to a man of middle height wrapped in a black cloak, his face
under a shower of golden hair, covered from chin to brow by a black
visor.

At a sign from the Cardinal the page departed.  Then the man, coming
forward, let fall his cloak, revealing a rich dress of close-fitting
violet silk, sword and dagger hanging from his jewelled girdle; he
plucked away the mask, and disclosed the handsome, weak face of
Giovanni Sforza, Lord of Pesaro and Cotignola, the discarded husband
of Madonna Lucrezia, Pope Alexander's daughter.

The Cardinal considered his nephew gravely, without surprise.  He
had expected at first no more than a messenger from the owner of
that ring.  But at sight of his figure and long, fair hair he had
recognized Giovanni before the latter had removed his mask.

"I have always accounted you something mad," said the Cardinal
softly.  "But never mad enough for this.  What brings you to Rome?"

"Necessity, my lord," replied the young tyrant.  "The need to defend
my honour, which is about to be destroyed."

"And your life?" wondered his uncle.  "Has that ceased to be of
value?"

"Without honour it is nothing."

"A noble sentiment taught in every school.  But for practical
purposes - "  The Cardinal shrugged.

Giovanni, however, paid no heed.

"Did you think, my lord, that I should tamely submit to be a
derided, outcast husband, that I should take no vengeance upon,
that villainous Pope for having made me a thing of scorn, a byword
throughout Italy?"  Livid hate writhed in his fair young face.  "Did
you think I should, indeed, remain in Pesaro, whither I fled before
their threats to my life, and present no reckoning?"

"What is the reckoning you have in mind?" inquired his uncle,
faintly ironical.  "You'll not be intending to kill the Holy Father?"

"Kill him?" Giovanni laughed shortly, scornfully.  "Do the dead
suffer?"

"In hell, sometimes," said the Cardinal.

"Perhaps.  But I want to be sure.  I want sufferings that I can
witness, sufferings that I can employ as balsam for my own wounded
honour.  I shall strike, even as he has stricken me - at his soul,
not at his body.  I shall wound him where he is most sensitive."

Ascanio Sforza, towering tall and slender in his scarlet robes,
shook his head slowly.

"All this is madness - madness!  You were best away, best in Pesaro.
Indeed, you cannot safely show your face in Rome."

"That is why I go masked.  That is why I come to you, my lord, for
shelter here until - "

"Here?"  The Cardinal was instantly alert.  "Then you think I am
as mad as yourself.  Why, man, if so much as a whisper of your
presence in Rome got abroad, this is the first place where they
would look nor you.  If you will have your way, if you are so set
on the avenging of past wrongs and the preventing of future ones,
it is not for me, your kinsman, to withstand you.  But here in my
palace you cannot stay, for your own safety's sake.  That page who
brought you, now; I would not swear he did not see the arms upon
your ring.  I pray that he did not.  But if he did, your presence
is known here already."

Giovanni was perturbed.

"But if not here, where, then, in Rome should I be safe?"

"Nowhere, I think," answered the ironical Ascanio.  "Though perhaps
you might count yourself safe with Pico.  Your common hate of the
Holy Father should be a stout bond between you."

Fate prompted the suggestion.  Fate drove the Lord of Pesaro to act
upon it, and to seek out Antonio Maria Pico, Count of Mirandola, in
his palace by the river, where Pico, as Ascanio had foreseen, gave
him a cordial welcome.

There he abode almost in hiding until the end of May, seldom issuing
forth, and never without his mask - a matter this which excited no
comment, for masked faces were common in the streets of Rome in the
evening of the fifteenth century.  In talk with Pico he set forth
his intent, elaborating what already he had told the Cardinal
Vice-Chancellor.

"He is a father - this Father of Fathers," he said once.  "A tender,
loving father whose life is in his children, who lives through them
and for them.  Deprive him of them, and his life would become empty,
worthless, a living death.  There is Giovanni, who is as the apple
of his eye, whom he has created Duke of Gandia, Duke of Benevento,
Prince of Sessa, Lord of Teano, and more besides.  There is the
Cardinal of Valencia, there is Giuffredo, Prince of Squillace, and
there is my wife, Lucrezia, of whom he has robbed me.  There is, you
see, an ample heel to our Achilles.  The question is, where shall we
begin?"

"And also, how," Pico reminded him.

Fate was to answer both those questions, and that soon.

They went on June 1st - the Lord of Pesaro, with his host and his
host's daughter, Antonia - to spend the day at Pico's vineyard in
Trastevere.  At the moment of setting out to return to Rome in the
evening the Count was detained by his steward, newly returned from
a journey with matters to communicate to him.

He bade his guest, with his daughter and their attendants, to ride
on, saying that he himself would follow and overtake them.  But the
steward detained him longer than he had expected, so that, although
the company proceeded leisurely towards the city, Pico had not come
up with them when they reached the river.  In the narrow street
beyond the bridge the little escort found itself suddenly confronted
and thrust aside by a magnificent cavalcade of ladies and gallants,
hawk on wrist and followed by a pack of hounds.

Giovanni had eyes for one only in that gay company - a tall,
splendidly handsome man in green, a Plumed bonnet on his auburn head,
and a roguish, jovial eye, which, in its turn, saw nobody in that
moment but Madonna Antonia, reclining in her litter, the leather
curtains of which she had drawn back that she might converse with
Giovanni as they rode.

The Lord of Pesaro beheld the sudden kindling of his brother-in-law's
glance, for that handsome gallant was the Duke of Gandia, the Pope's
eldest son, the very apple of the Holy Father's eye.  He saw the
Duke's almost unconscious check upon his reins; saw him turn in the
saddle to stare boldly at Madonna Antonia until, grown conscious of
his regard, she crimsoned under it.  And when at last the litter had
moved on, he saw over his shoulder a mounted servant detach from the
Duke's side to follow them.  This fellow dogged their heels all the
way to the Parione Quarter, obviously with intent to discover for his
master where the beautiful lady of the litter might be housed.

Giovanni said naught of this to Pico when he returned a little later.
He was quick to perceive the opportunity that offered, but far from
sure that Pico would suffer his daughter to be used as a decoy; far,
indeed, from sure that he dared himself so employ her.  But on the
morrow, chancing to look from a window out of idle curiosity to see
what horse it was that was pacing in the street below, he beheld a
man in a rich cloak, in whom at once he recognized the Duke, and he
accounted that the dice of destiny had fallen.

Himself unseen by that horseman, Giovanni drew back quickly.  On the
spur of the moment, he acted with a subtlety worthy of long
premeditation.  Antonia and he were by an odd fatality alone together
in that chamber of the mezzanine.  He turned to her.

"An odd fellow rides below here, tarrying as if expectant.  I wonder
should you know who he is."

Obeying his suggestion, she rose - a tall, slim child of some
eighteen years, of a delicate, pale beauty, with dark, thoughtful
eyes and long, black tresses, interwoven with jewelled strands of
gold thread.  She rustled to the window and looked down upon that
cavalier; and, as she looked, scanning him intently, the Duke raised
his head.  Their eyes met, and she drew back with a little cry.

"What is it?" exclaimed Giovanni.

"It is that insolent fellow who stared at me last evening in the
street.  I would you had not bidden me look."

Now, whilst she had been gazing from the window, Giovanni, moving
softly behind her, had espied a bowl of roses on the ebony table in
the room's middle.  Swiftly and silently he had plucked a blossom,
which he now held behind his back.  As she turned from him again,
he sent it flying through the window; and whilst in his heart he
laughed with bitter hate and scorn as he thought of Gandia snatching
up that rose and treasuring it in his bosom, aloud he laughed at her
fears, derided them as idle.

That night, in his room, Giovanni practised penmanship assiduously,
armed with a model with which Antonia had innocently equipped him.
He went to bed well pleased, reflecting that as a man lives so does
he die.  Giovanni Borgia, Duke of Gandia, had been ever an amiable
profligate, a heedless voluptuary obeying no spur but that of his
own pleasure, which should drive him now to his destruction.
Giovanni Borgia, he considered further, was, as he had expressed it,
the very apple of his father's eye; and since, of his own accord,
the Duke had come to thrust his foolish head into the noose, the
Lord of Pesaro would make a sweet beginning to the avenging of his
wrongs by drawing it taut.

Next morning saw him at the Vatican, greatly daring, to deliver in
person his forgery to the Duke.  Suspicious of his mask, they asked
him who he was and whence he came.

"Say one who desires to remain unknown with a letter for the Duke
of Gandia which his magnificence will welcome."

Reluctantly, a chamberlain departed with his message.  Anon he was
conducted above to the magnificent apartments which Gandia occupied
during his sojourn there.

He found the Duke newly risen, and with him his brother, the
auburn-headed young Cardinal of Valencia, dressed in a close-fitting
suit of black, that displayed his lithe and gracefully athletic
proportions, and a cloak of scarlet silk to give a suggestion of
his ecclesiastical rank.

Giovanni bowed low, and, thickening his voice that it might not be
recognized, announced himself and his mission in one.

"From the lady of the rose," said he, proffering the letter.

Valencia stared a moment; then went off into a burst of laughter.
Gandia's face flamed and his eyes sparkled.  He snatched the letter,
broke its seal, and consumed its contents.  Then he flung away to a
table, took up a pen, and sat down to write; the tall Valencia
watching him with amused scorn a while, then crossing to his side
and setting a hand upon his shoulder.

"You will never learn," said the more subtle Cesare.  "You must
forever be leaving traces where traces are not to be desired."

Gandia looked up into that keen, handsome young face.

"You are right," he said; and crumpled the letter in his hand.

Then he looked at the messenger and hesitated.

"I am in Madonna's confidence," said the man in the mask.

Gandia rose.  "Then say - say that her letter has carried me to
Heaven; that I but await her commands to come in person to declare
myself.  But bid her hasten, for within two weeks from now I go to
Naples, and thence I may return straight to Spain."

"The opportunity shall be found, Magnificent.  Myself I shall bring
you word of it."

The Duke loaded him with thanks, and in his excessive gratitude
pressed upon him at parting a purse of fifty ducats, which Giovanni
flung into the Tiber some ten minutes later as he was crossing the
Bridge of Sant' Angelo on his homeward way.

The Lord of Pesaro proceeded without haste.  Delay and silence he
knew would make Gandia the more sharp-set, and your sharp-set,
impatient fellow is seldom cautious.  Meanwhile, Antonia had
mentioned to her father that princely stranger who had stared so
offendingly one evening, and who for an hour on the following
morning had haunted the street beneath her window.  Pico mentioned
it to Giovanni, whereupon Giovanni told him frankly who it was.

"It was that libertine brother-in-law of mine, the Duke of Gandia,"
he said.  "Had he persisted, I should have bidden you look to your
daughter.  As it is, no doubt he has other things to think of.  He
is preparing for his journey to Naples, to accompany his brother
Cesare, who goes as papal legate to crown Federigo of Aragon."

There he left the matter, and no more was heard of it until the night
of June 14th, the very eve of the departure of the Borgia princes
upon that mission.

Cloaked and masked, Giovanni took his way to the Vatican at dusk that
evening, and desired to have himself announced to the Duke.  But he
was met with the answer that the Duke was absent; that he had gone to
take leave of his mother and to sup at her villa in Trastevere.  His
return was not expected until late.

At first Giovanni feared that, in leaving the consummation of his
plot until the eleventh hour, he had left it too late.  In his
anxiety he at once set out on foot, as he was, for the villa of
Madonna Giovanna de Catanei.  He reached it towards ten o'clock
that night, to be informed that Gandia was there, at supper.  The
servant went to bear word to the Duke that a man in a mask was
asking to see him, a message which instantly flung Gandia into
agitation.  Excitedly he commanded that the man be brought to him
at once.

The Lord of Pesaro was conducted through the house and out into the
garden to an arbour of vine, where a rich table was spread in the
evening cool, lighted by alabaster lamps.  About this table Giovanni
found a noble company of his own relations by marriage.  There was
Gandia, who rose hurriedly at his approach, and came to meet him;
there was Cesare, Cardinal of Valencia, who was to go to Naples
to-morrow as papal legate, yet dressed tonight in cloth of gold,
with no trace of his churchly dignity about him; there was their
younger brother Giuffredo, Prince of Squillace, a handsome stripling,
flanked by his wife, the free-and-easy Donna Sancia of Aragon,
swarthy, coarse-featured, and fleshy, despite her youth; there was
Giovanni's sometime wife; the lovely, golden-headed Lucrezia, the
innocent cause of all this hate that festered in the Lord of Pesaro's
soul; there was their mother, the nobly handsome Giovanozza de
Catanei, from whom the Borgias derived their auburn heads; and there
was their cousin, Giovanni Borgia, Cardinal of Monreale, portly and
scarlet, at Madonna's side.

All turned to glance at this masked intruder who had the power so
oddly to excite their beloved Gandia.

"From the lady of the rose," Giovanni announced himself softly to
the Duke.

"Yes, yes," came the answer, feverishly impatient.  "Well, what is
your message?"

"To-night her father is from home.  She will expect your magnificence
at midnight."

Gandia drew a deep breath.

"By the Host!  You are no more than in time.  I had almost despaired,
my friend, my best of friends.  To-night!"  He pronounced the word
ecstatically.  "Wait you here.  Yourself you shall conduct me.
Meanwhile, go sup."

And beating his hands, he summoned attendants.

Came the steward and a couple of Moorish slaves in green turbans, to
whose care the Duke commanded his masked visitor.  But Giovanni
neither required nor desired their ministrations; he would not eat
nor drink, but contented himself with the patience of hatred to sit
for two long hours awaiting the pleasure of his foolish victim.

They left at last, a little before midnight the Duke, his brother
Cesare, his cousin Monreale, and a numerous attendance, his own
retinue and those of the two cardinals.  Thus they rode back to
Rome, the Borgias very gay, the man in the mask plodding along
beside them.

They came to the Rione de Ponte, where their ways were to separate,
and there, opposite the palace of the Cardinal Vice-Chancellor,
Gandia drew rein.  He announced to the others that he went no farther
with them, summoned a single groom to attend him, and bade the
remainder return to the Vatican and await him there.

There was a last jest and a laugh from Cesare as the cavalcade went
on towards the papal palace.  Then Gandia turned to the man in the
mask, bade him get up on the crupper of his horse, and so rode
slowly off in the direction of the Giudecca, the single attendant
he had retained trotting beside his stirrup.

Giovanni directed his brother-in-law, not to the main entrance of
the house, but to the garden gate, which opened upon a narrow alley.
Here they dismounted, flinging the reins to the groom, who was bidden
to wait.  Giovanni produced a key, unlocked the door, and ushered the
Duke into the gloom of the garden.  A stone staircase ran up to the
loggia on the mezzanine, and by this way was Gandia now conducted,
treading softly.  His guide went ahead.  He had provided himself with
yet another key, and so unlocked the door from the loggia which opened
upon the ante-room of Madonna Antonia.  He held the door for the Duke,
who hesitated, seeing all in darkness.

"In," Giovanni bade him.  "Tread softly.  Madonna waits for you."

Recklessly, then, that unsuspecting fellow stepped into the trap.

Giovanni followed, closed the door, and locked it.  The Duke,
standing with quickened pulses in that impenetrable blackness, found
himself suddenly embraced, not at all after the fond fashion he was
expecting.  A wrestler's arms enlaced his body, a sinewy leg coiled
itself snake-wise about one of his own, pulling it from under him.
As he crashed down under the weight of his unseen opponent, a great
voice boomed out:

"Lord of Mirandola!  To me!  Help!  Thieves!"

Suddenly a door opened.  Light flooded the gloom, and the writhing
Duke beheld a white vision of the girl whose beauty had been the
lure that had drawn him into this peril which, as yet, he scarcely
understood.  But looking up into the face of the man who grappled
with him, the man who held him there supine under his weight, he
began at last to understand, or, at least, to suspect, for the face
he saw, unmasked now, leering at him with hate unspeakable through
the cloud of golden hair that half met across it, was the face of
Giovanni Sforza, Lord of Pesaro, whom his family had so cruelly
wronged.  Giovanni Sforza's was the voice that now fiercely announced
his doom.

"You and yours have made me a thing of scorn and laughter.  Yourself
have laughed at me.  Go laugh in hell!"

A blade flashed up in Giovanni's hand.  Gandia threw up an arm to
fend his breast, and the blade buried itself in the muscles.  He
screamed with pain and terror.  The other laughed with hate and
triumph, and stabbed again, this time in the shoulder.

Antonia, from the threshold, watching in bewilderment and panic, sent
a piercing scream to ring through the house, and then the voice of
Giovanni, fierce yet exultant, called aloud:

"Pico!  Pico!  Lord of Mirandola!  Look to your daughter!"

Came steps and voice, more light, flooding now the chamber, and
through the mists gathering before his eyes the first-born of the
house of Borgia beheld hurrying men, half dressed, with weapons in
their hands.  But whether they came to kill or to save, they came
too late: Ten times Giovanni's blade had stabbed the Duke, yet,
hindered by the Duke's struggles and by the effort of holding him
there, he had been unable to find his heart, wherefore, as those
others entered now, he slashed his victim across the throat, and so
made an end.

He rose, covered with blood, so ghastly and terrific that Pico,
thinking him wounded, ran to him.  But Giovanni reassured him with
a laugh, and pointed with his dripping dagger.

"The blood is his - foul Borgia blood!"

At the name Pico started, and there was a movement as of fear from
the three grooms who followed him.  The Count looked down at that
splendid, blood-spattered figure lying there so still, its sightless
eyes staring up at the frescoed ceiling, so brave and so pitiful in
his gold-broidered suit of white satin, with the richly jewelled
girdle carrying gloves and purse and a jewelled dagger that had been
so useless in that extremity.

"Gandia" he cried; and looked at Giovanni with round eyes of fear
and amazement.  "How came he here?"

"How?"

With bloody hand Giovanni pointed to the open door of Antonia's
chamber.

"That was the lure, my lord.  Taking the air outside, I saw him
slinking hither, and took him for a thief, as, indeed, he was - a
thief of honour, like all his kind.  I followed, and - there he
lies."

"My God!" cried Pico.  And then hoarsely asked, "And Antonia?"

Giovanni dismissed the question abruptly.

"She saw, yet she knows nothing."

And then on another note:

"Up now, Pico!" he cried.  "Arouse the city, and let all men know
how Gandia died the death of a thief.  Let all men know this Borgia
brood for what it is."

"Are you mad?" cried Pico.  "Will I put my neck under the knife?"

"You took him here in the night, and yours was the right to kill.
You exercised it."

Pico looked long and searchingly into the other's face.  True, all
the appearances bore out the tale, as did, too, what had gone before
and had been the cause of Antonia's complaint to him.  Yet, knowing
what lay between Sforza and Borgia, it may have seemed to Pico too
extraordinary a coincidence that Giovanni should have been so ready
at hand to defend the honour of the House of Mirandola.  But he asked
no questions.  He was content in his philosophy to accept the event
and be thankful for it on every count.  But as for Giovanni's
suggestion that he should proclaim through Rome how he had exercised
his right to slay this Tarquin, the Lord of Mirandola had no mind to
adopt it.

"What is done is done," he said shortly, in a tone that conveyed much.
"Let it suffice us all.  It but remains now to be rid of this."

"You will keep silent?" cried Giovanni, plainly vexed.

"I am not a fool," said Pico gently.

Giovanni understood.  "And these your men?"

"Ate very faithful friends who will aid you now to efface all
traces."

And upon that he moved away, calling his daughter, whose absence
was intriguing him.  Receiving no answer, he entered her room, to
find her in a swoon across her bed.  She had fainted from sheer
horror at what she had seen.

Followed by the three servants bearing the body, Giovanni went down
across the garden very gently.  Approaching the gate, he bade them
wait, saying that he went to see that the coast was clear.  Then,
going forward alone, he opened the gate and called softly to the
waiting groom:

"Hither to me!"

Promptly the man surged before him in the gloom, and as promptly
Giovanni sank his dagger in the fellow's breast.  He deplored the
necessity for the deed, but it was unavoidable, and your
cinquecentist never shrank from anything that necessity imposed
upon him.  To let the lackey live would be to have the bargelli in
the house by morning.

The man sank with a half-uttered cry, and lay still.

Giovanni dragged him aside under the shelter of the wall, where the
others would not see him, then called softly to them to follow.

When the grooms emerged from Pico's garden, the Lord of Pesaro was
astride of the fine white horse on which Gandia had ridden to his
death.

"Put him across the crupper," he bade them.

And they so placed the body, the head dangling on one side, the
legs on the other.  And Giovanni reflected grimly how he had
reversed the order in which Gandia and he had ridden that same
horse an hour ago.

At a walk they proceeded down the lane towards the river, a groom
on each side to see that the burden on the crupper did not jolt
off, another going ahead to scout.  At the alley's mouth Giovanni
drew rein, and let the man emerge upon the river-bank and look to
right and left to make sure that there was no one about.

He saw no one.  Yet one there was who saw them Giorgio, the timber
merchant, who lay aboard his boat moored to the Schiavoni, and who,
three days later, testified to what he saw.  You know his testimony.
It has been repeated often - how he saw the man emerge from the
alley and look up and down, then retire, to emerge again, accompanied
now by the horseman with his burden, and the other two; how he saw
them take the body from the crupper of the horse, and, with a "one,
two, and three," fling it into the river; how he heard the horseman
ask them had they thrown it well into the middle, and their answer
of, "Yes my lord"; and finally, when asked why he had not come
earlier to report the matter, how he had answered that he had thought
nothing of it, having in his time seen more than a hundred bodies
flung into the Tiber at night.

Returned to the garden gate, Giovanni bade the men go in without him.
There was something yet that he must do.  When they had gone, he
dismounted, and went to the body of the groom which he had left under
the wall.  He must remove that too.  He cut one of the
stirrup-leathers from the saddle, and attaching one end of it to the
dead man's arm, mounted again, and dragged him thus - ready to leave
the body and ride off at the first alarm - some little way, until he
came to the Piazza della Giudecca.  Here, in the very heart of the
Jewish quarters, he left the body, and his movements hereafter are
a little obscure.  Perhaps he set out to return to Pico della
Mirandola's house, but becoming, as was natural, uneasy on the way,
fearing lest all traces should, after all, not have been effaced,
lest the Duke should be traced to that house, and himself, if found
there, dealt with summarily upon suspicion, he turned about, and went
off to seek sanctuary with his uncle, the Vice-Chancellor.

The Duke's horse, which he had ridden, he turned loose in the streets,
where it was found some hours later, and first gave occasion to
rumours of foul play.  The rumours growing, with the discovery of the
body of Gandia's groom, and search-parties of armed bargelli scouring
Rome, and the Giudecca in particular, in the course of the next two
days, forth at last came Giorgio, that boatman of the Schiavoni, with
the tale of what he had seen.  When the stricken Pope heard it, he
ordered the bed of the river to be dragged foot by foot, with the
result that the ill-starred Duke of Gandia was brought up in one of
the nets, whereupon the heartless Sanazzaro coined his terrible
epigram concerning that successor of Saint Peter, that Fisherman of
Men.

The people, looking about for him who had the greatest motive for
that deed, were quick to fasten the guilt upon Giovanni Sforza, who
by that time was far from Rome, riding hard for the shelter of his
tyranny of Pesaro; and the Cardinal Ascanio Sforza, who was also
mentioned, and who feared to be implicated, apprehensive ever lest
his page should have seen the betraying arms upon the ring of his
masked visitor - fled also, nor could be induced to return save
under a safe-conduct from the Holy Father, expressing conviction of
his innocence.

Later public rumour accused others; indeed, they accused in turn
every man who could have been a possible perpetrator, attributing
to some of them the most fantastic and incredible motives.  Once,
prompted no doubt by their knowledge of the libertine,
pleasure-loving nature of the dead Duke, rumour hit upon the
actual circumstances of the murder so closely, indeed, that the
Count of Mirandola's house was visited by the bargelli and subjected
to an examination, at which Pico violently rebelled, appealing
boldly to the Pope against insinuations that reflected upon the
honour of his daughter.

The mystery remained impenetrable, and the culprit was never brought
to justice.  We know that in slaying Gandia, Giovanni Sforza vented
a hatred whose object was not Gandia, but Gandia's father.  His aim
was to deal Pope Alexander the cruellest and most lingering of
wounds, and if he lacked the avenger's satisfaction of disclosing
himself, at least he did not lack assurance that his blow had stricken
home.  He heard - as all Italy heard - from that wayfarer on the
bridge of Sant' Angelo, how the Pope, in a paroxysm of grief at sight
of his son's body fished from the Tiber, had bellowed in his agony
like a tortured bull, so that his cries within the castle were heard
upon the bridge.  He learnt how the handsome, vigorous Pope staggered
into the consistory of the 19th of that same month with the mien and
gait of a palsied old man, and, in a voice broken with sobs,
proclaimed his bitter lament:

"Had we seven Papacies we would give them all to restore the Duke to
life."

He might have been content.  But he was not.  That deep hate of his
against those who had made him a thing of scorn was not so easily to
be slaked.  He waited, spying his opportunity for further hurt.  It
came a year later, when Gandia's brother, the ambitious Cesare
Borgia, divested himself of his cardinalitial robes and rank,
exchanging them for temporal dignities and the title of Duke of
Valentinois.  Then it was that he took up the deadly weapon of
calumny, putting it secretly about that Cesare was the murderer of
his brother, spurred to it by worldly ambition and by other motives
which involved the principal members of the family.

Men do not mount to Borgia heights without making enemies.  The evil
tale was taken up in all its foul trappings, and, upon no better
authority than the public voice, it was enshrined in chronicles by
every scribbler of the day.  And for four hundred years that lie has
held its place in history, the very cornerstone of all the execration
that has been heaped upon the name of Borgia.  Never was vengeance
more terrible, far-reaching, and abiding.  It is only in this
twentieth century of ours that dispassionate historians have nailed
upon the counter of truth the base coin of that accusation.




XII.   THE NIGHT OF ESCAPE

CASANOVA'S ESCAPE FROM THE PIOMBI


Patrician influence from without had procured Casanova's removal in
August of that year, 1756, from the loathsome cell he had occupied
for thirteen months in the Piombi - so called from the leaded roof
immediately above those prisons which are simply the garrets of the
Doge's palace.

That cell had been no better than a kennel seldom reached by the
light of day, and so shallow that it was impossible for a man of
his fine height to stand upright in it.  But his present prison was
comparatively spacious and it was airy and well-lighted by a barred
window, whence he could see the Lido.

Yet he was desperately chagrined at the change, for he had almost
completed his arrangements to break out of his former cell.  The
only ray of hope in his present despair came from the fact that the
implement to which he trusted was still in his possession, safely
concealed in the upholstery of the armchair that had been moved with
him into his present quarters.  That implement he had fashioned for
himself with infinite pains out of a door-bolt some twenty inches
long, which he had found discarded in a rubbish-heap in a corner of
the attic where he had been allowed to take his brief daily exercise.
Using as a whetstone a small slab of black marble, similarly
acquired, he had shaped that bolt into a sharp octagonal-pointed
chisel or spontoon.

It remained in his possession, but he saw no chance of using it now,
for the suspicions of Lorenzo, the gaoler, were aroused, and daily
a couple of archers came to sound the floors and walls.  True they
did not sound the ceiling, which was low and within reach.  But it
was obviously impossible to cut through the ceiling in such a manner
as to leave the progress of the work unseen.

Hence his despair of breaking out of a prison where he had spent
over a year without trial or prospect of a trial, and where he seemed
likely to spend the remainder of his days.  He did not even know
precisely why he had been arrested.  All that Giacomo Casanova knew
was that he was accounted a disturber of the public peace.  He was
notoriously a libertine, a gamester, and heavily in debt: also - and
this was more serious - he was accused of practising magic, as indeed
he had done, as a means of exploiting to his own profit the credulity
of simpletons of all degrees.  He would have explained to the
Inquisitors of State of the Most Serene Republic that the books of
magic found by their apparitors in his possession - "The Clavicula
of Solomon," the "Zecor-ben," and other kindred works - had been
collected by him as curious instances of human aberration.  But the
Inquisitors of State would not have believed him, for the Inquisitors
were among those who took magic seriously.  And, anyhow, they had
never asked him to explain, but had left him as if forgotten in that
abominable verminous cell under the leads, until his patrician
friend had obtained him the mercy of this transfer to better quarters.

This Casanova was a man of iron nerve and iron constitution.  Tall
and well-made, he was boldly handsome, with fine dark eyes and dark
brown hair.  In age he was barely one and twenty; but he looked
older, as well he might, for in his adventurer's way he had already
gathered more experience of life than most men gain in half a
century.

The same influence that had obtained him his change of cell had also
gained him latterly the privilege - and he esteemed it beyond all
else - of procuring himself books.  Desiring the works of Maffai,
he bade his gaoler purchase them out of the allowance made him by
the Inquisitors in accordance with the Venetian custom.  This
allowance was graduated to the social status of each prisoner.  But
the books being costly and any monthly surplus from his monthly
expenditure being usually the gaoler's perquisite, Lorenzo was
reluctant to indulge him.  He mentioned that there was a prisoner
above who was well equipped with books, and who, no doubt, would be
glad to lend in exchange.

Yielding to the suggestion, Casanova handed Lorenzo a copy of
Peteau's "Rationarium," and received next morning, in exchange,
the first volume of Wolf.  Within he found a sheet bearing in six
verses a paraphrase of Seneca's epigram, "Calamitosus est animus
futuri anxius."  Immediately he perceived he had stumbled upon a
means of corresponding with one who might be disposed to assist
him to break prison.

In reply, being a scholarly rascal (he had been educated for the
priesthood), he wrote six verses himself.  Having no pen, he cut
the long nail of his little finger to a point, and, splitting it,
supplied the want.  For ink he used the juice of mulberries.  In
addition to the verses, he wrote a list of the books in his
possession, which he placed at the disposal of his fellow-captive.
He concealed the written sheet in the spine of that vellum-bound
volume; and on the title-page, in warning of this, he wrote the
single Latin word "Latet."  Next morning he handed the book to
Lorenzo, telling him that he had read it, and requesting the
second volume.

That second volume came on the next day, and in the spine of it
a long letter, some sheets of paper, pens, and a pencil.  The
writer announced himself as one Marino Balbi, a patrician and a
monk, who had been four years in that prison, where he had since
been given a companion in misfortune, Count Andrea Asquino.

Thus began a regular and very full correspondence between the
prisoners, and soon Casanova - who had not lived on his wits for
nothing - was able to form a shrewd estimate of Balbi's character.
The monk's letters revealed it as compounded of sensuality,
stupidity, ingratitude, and indiscretion.

"In the world," says Casanova, "I should have had no commerce with
a fellow of his nature.  But in the Piombi I was obliged to make
capital out of everything that came under my hands."

The capital he desired to make in this instance was to ascertain
whether Balbi would be disposed to do for him what he could not do
for himself.  He wrote inquiring, and proposing flight.

Balbi replied that he and his companion would do anything possible
to make their escape from that abominable prison, but his lack of
resource made him add that he was convinced that nothing was
possible.

"All that you have to do," wrote Casanova in answer, "is to break
through the ceiling of my cell and get me out of this, then trust
to me to get you out of the Piombi.  If you are disposed to make
the attempt, I will supply you with the means, and show you the
way."

It was a characteristically bold reply, revealing to us the utter
gamester that he was in all things.

He knew that Balbi's cell was situated immediately under the leads,
and he hoped that once in it he should be able readily to find a way
through the roof.  That cell of Balbi's communicated with a narrow
corridor, no more than a shaft for light and air, which was
immediately above Casanova's prison.  And no sooner had Balbi
written, consenting, than Casanova explained what was to do.  Balbi
must break through the wall of his cell into the little corridor,
and there cut a round hole in the floor precisely as Casanova had
done in his former cell - until nothing but a shell of ceiling
remained - a shell that could be broken down by half a dozen blows
when the moment to escape should have arrived.

To begin with, he ordered Balbi to purchase himself two or three
dozen pictures of saints, with which to paper his walls, using as
many as might be necessary for a screen to hide the hole he would be
cutting.

When Balbi wrote that his walls were hung with pictures of saints,
it became a question of conveying the spontoon to him.  This was
difficult, and the monk's fatuous suggestions merely served further
to reveal his stupidity.  Finally Casanova's wits found the way.
He bade Lorenzo buy him an in-folio edition of the Bible which had
just been published, and it was into the spine of this enormous tome
that he packed the precious spontoon, and thus conveyed it to Balbi,
who immediately got to work.

This was at the commencement of October.  On the 8th of that month
Balbi wrote to Casanova that a whole night devoted to labour had
resulted merely in the displacing of a single brick, which so
discouraged the faint-hearted monk that he was for abandoning an
attempt whose only result must be to increase in the future the
rigour of their confinement.

Without hesitation, Casanova replied that he was assured of success
 - although he was far from having any grounds for any such
assurance.  He enjoined the monk to believe him, and to persevere,
confident that as he advanced he would find progress easier.  This
proved, indeed, to be the case, for soon Balbi found the brickwork
yielding so rapidly to his efforts that one morning, a week later,
Casanova heard three light taps above his head - the preconcerted
signal by which they were to assure themselves that their notions
of the topography of the prison were correct.

All that day he heard Balbi at work immediately above him, and again
on the morrow, when Balbi wrote that as the floor was of the
thickness of only two boards, he counted upon completing the job on
the next day, without piercing the ceiling.

But it would seem as if Fortune were intent upon making a mock of
Casanova, luring him to heights of hope, merely to cast him down
again into the depths of despair.  Just as upon the eve of breaking
out of his former cell mischance had thwarted him, so now, when
again he deemed himself upon the very threshold of liberty, came
mischance again to thwart him.

Early in the afternoon the sound of bolts being drawn outside froze
his very blood and checked his breathing.  Yet he had the presence
of mind to give the double knock that was the agreed alarm signal,
whereupon Balbi instantly desisted from his labours overhead.

Came Lorenzo with two archers, leading an ugly, lean little man of
between forty and fifty years of age, shabbily dressed and wearing
a round black wig, whom the tribunal had ordered should share
Casanova's prison for the present.  With apologies for leaving
such a scoundrel in Casanova's company, Lorenzo departed, and the
newcomer went down upon his knees, drew forth a chaplet, and began
to tell his beads.

Casanova surveyed this intruder at once with disgust and despair.
Presently his disgust was increased when the fellow, whose name
was Soradici, frankly avowed himself a spy in the service of the
Council of Ten, a calling which he warmly defended from the contempt
universally - but unjustly, according to himself - meted out to it.
He had been imprisoned for having failed in his duty on one occasion
through succumbing to a bribe.

Conceive Casanova's frame of mind - his uncertainty as to how long
this monster, as he calls him, might be left in his company, his
curbed impatience to regain his liberty, and his consciousness of
the horrible risk of discovery which delay entailed!  He wrote
to Balbi that night while the spy slept, and for the present their
operations were suspended.  But not for very long.  Soon Casanova's
wits resolved how to turn to account the weakness which he
discovered in Soradici.

The spy was devout to the point of bigoted, credulous superstition.
He spent long hours in prayer, and he talked freely of his special
devotion to the Blessed Virgin, and his ardent faith in miracles.

Casanova - the arch-humbug who had worked magic to delude the
credulous - determined there and then to work a miracle for Soradici.
Assuming an inspired air, he solemnly informed the spy one morning
that it had been revealed to him in a dream that Soradici's devotion
to the Rosary was about to be rewarded; that an angel was to be sent
from heaven to deliver him from prison, and that Casanova himself
would accompany him in his flight.

If Soradici doubted, conviction was soon to follow.  For Casanova
foretold the very hour at which the angel would come to break into
the prison, and at that hour precisely - Casanova having warned
Balbi - the noise made by the angel overhead flung Soradici into
an ecstasy of terror.

But when, at the end of four hours, the angel desisted from his
labours, Soradici was beset by doubts.  Casanova explained to him
that since angels invariably put on the garb of human flesh when
descending upon earth, they labour under human difficulties.  He
added the prophecy that the angel would return on the last day of
the month, the eve of All Saints'- two days later - and that he
would then conduct them out of captivity.

By this means Casanova ensured that no betrayal should be feared
from the thoroughly duped Soradici, who now spent the time in
praying, weeping, and talking of his sins and of the
inexhaustibility of divine grace.  To make doubly sure, Casanova
added the most terrible oath that if, by a word to the gaoler,
Soradici should presume to frustrate the divine intentions, he
would immediately strangle him with his own hands.

On October 31st Lorenzo paid his usual daily visit early in the
morning.  After his departure they waited some hours, Soradici
in expectant terror, Casanova in sheer impatience to be at work.
Promptly at noon fell heavy blows overhead, and then, in a cloud
of plaster and broken laths, the heavenly messenger descended
clumsily into Casanova's arms.

Soradici found this tall, gaunt, bearded figure, clad in a dirty
shirt and a pair of leather breeches, of a singularly unangelic
appearance; indeed, he looked far more like a devil.

When he produced a pair of scissors, so that the spy might cut
Casanova's beard, which, like the angel's, had grown in captivity,
Soradici ceased to have any illusions on the score of Balbi's
celestial nature.  Although still intrigued - since he could not
guess at the secret correspondence that had passed between Casanova
and Balbi - he perceived quite clearly that he had been fooled.

Leaving Soradici in the monk's care, Casanova hoisted himself
through the broken ceiling and gained Balbi's cell, where the sight
of Count Asquino dismayed him.  He found a middle-aged man of a
corpulence which must render it impossible for him to face the
athletic difficulties that lay before them; of this the Count
himself seemed already persuaded.

"If you think," was his greeting, as he shook Casanova's hand, "to
break through the roof and find a way down from the leads, I don't
see how you are to succeed without wings.  I have not the courage
to accompany you," he added, "I shall remain and pray for you."

Attempting no persuasions where they must have been idle, Casanova
passed out of the cell again, and approaching as nearly as possible
to the edge of the attic, he sat down where he could touch the roof
as it sloped immediately above his head.  With his spontoon he
tested the timbers, and found them so decayed that they almost
crumbled at the touch.  Assured thereby that the cutting of a hole
would be an easy matter, he at once returned to his cell, and there
he spent the ensuing four hours in preparing ropes.  He cut up
sheets, blankets, coverlets, and the very cover of his mattress,
knotting the strips together with the utmost care.  In the end he
found himself equipped with some two hundred yards of rope, which
should be ample for any purpose.

Having made a bundle of the fine taffeta suit in which he had been
arrested, his gay cloak of floss silk, some stockings, shirts, and
handkerchiefs, he and Balbi passed up to the other cell, compelling
Soradici to go with them.  Leaving the monk to make a parcel of his
belongings, Casanova went to tackle the roof.  By dusk he had made
a hole twice as large as was necessary, and had laid bare the lead
sheeting with which the roof was covered.  Unable, single-handed,
to raise one of the sheets, he called Balbi to his aid, and between
them, assisted by the spontoon, which Casanova inserted between the
edge of the sheet and the gutter, they at last succeeded in tearing
away the rivets.  Then by putting their shoulders to the lead they
bent it upwards until there was room to emerge, and a view of the
sky flooded by the vivid light of the crescent moon.

Not daring in that light to venture upon the roof, where they would
be seen, they must wait with what patience they could until midnight,
when the moon would have set.  So they returned to the cell where
they had left Soradici with Count Asquino.

>From Balbi, Casanova had learnt that Asquino, though well supplied
with money, was of an avaricious nature.  Nevertheless, since money
would be necessary, Casanova asked the Count for the loan of thirty
gold sequins.  Asquino answered him gently that, in the first place,
they would not need money to escape; that, in the second, he had a
numerous family; that, in the third, if Casanova perished the money
would be lost; and that, in the fourth, he had no money.

"My reply," writes Casanova, "lasted half an hour."

"Let me remind you," he said in concluding his exhortation, "of your
promise to pray for us, and let me ask you what sense there can be
in praying for the success of an enterprise to which you refuse to
contribute the most necessary means."

The old man was so far conquered by Casanova's eloquence that he
offered him two sequins, which Casanova accepted, since he was not
in case to refuse anything.

Thereafter, as they sat waiting for the moon to set, Casanova found
his earlier estimate of the monk's character confirmed.  Balbi now
broke into abusive reproaches.  He found that Casanova had acted in
bad faith by assuring him that he had formed a complete plan of
escape.  Had he suspected that this was a mere gambler's throw on
Casanova's part, he would never have laboured to get him out of his
cell.  The Count added his advice that they should abandon an
attempt foredoomed to failure, and, being concerned for the two
sequins with which he had so reluctantly parted, he argued the case
at great length.  Stifling his disgust, Casanova assured them that,
although it was impossible for him to afford them details of how
he intended to proceed, he was perfectly confident of success.

At half-past ten he sent Soradici -who had remained silent throughout
 - to report upon the night.  The spy brought word that in another
hour or so the moon would have set, but that a thick mist was rising,
which must render the leads very dangerous.

"So long as the mist isn't made of oil, I am content," said Casanova.
"Come, make a bundle of your cloak.  It is time we were moving."

But at this Soradici fell on his knees in the dark, seized Casanova's
hands, and begged to be left behind to pray for their safety, since
he would be sure to meet his death if he attempted to go with them.

Casanova assented readily, delighted to be rid of the fellow.  Then
in the dark he wrote as best he could a quite characteristic letter
to the Inquisitors of State, in which he took his leave of them,
telling them that since he had been fetched into the prison without
his wishes being consulted, they could not complain that he should
depart without consulting theirs.

The bundle containing Balbi's clothes, and another made up of half
the rope, he slung from the monk's neck, thereafter doing the same
in his own case.  Then, in their shirt-sleeves, their hats on their
heads, the pair of them started on their perilous journey, leaving
Count Asquino and Soradici to pray for them.

Casanova went first, on all fours, and thrusting the point of his
spontoon between the joints of the lead sheeting so as to obtain a
hold, he crawled slowly upwards.  To follow, Balbi took a grip of
Casanova's belt with his right hand, so that, in addition to making
his own way, Casanova was compelled to drag the weight of his
companion after him, and this up the sharp gradient of a roof
rendered slippery by the mist.

Midway in that laborious ascent, the monk called to him to stop.
He had dropped the bundle containing the clothes, and he hoped that
it had not rolled beyond the gutter, though he did not mention which
of them should retrieve it.  After the unreasonableness already
endured from this man, Casanova's exasperation was such in that
moment that, he confesses, he was tempted to kick him after this
bundle.  Controlling himself, however, he answered patiently that
the matter could not now be helped, and kept steadily amain.

At last the apex of the roof was reached, and they got astride of
it to breathe and to take a survey of their surroundings.  They
faced the several cupolas of the Church of Saint Mark, which is
connected with the ducal palace, being, in fact, no more than the
private chapel of the Doge.

They set down their bundles, and, of course, in the act of doing
so the wretched Balbi must lose his hat, and send it rolling down
the roof after the bundle he had already lost.  He cried out that
it was an evil omen.

"On the contrary," Casanova assured him patiently, "it is a sign
of divine protection; for if your bundle or your hat had happened
to roll to the left instead of the right it would have fallen into
the courtyard, where it would be seen by the guards, who must
conclude that some one is moving on the roof, and so, no doubt,
would have discovered us.  As it is your hat has followed your
bundle into the canal, where it can do no harm."

Thereupon, bidding the monk await his return, Casanova set off
alone on a voyage of discovery, keeping for the present astride
of the roof in his progress.  He spent a full hour wandering along
the vast roof, going to right and to left in his quest, but failing
completely to make any helpful discovery, or to find anything to
which he could attach a rope.  In the end it began to look as if,
after all, he must choose between returning to prison and flinging
himself from the roof into the canal.  He was almost in despair,
when in his wanderings his attention was caught by a dormer window
on the canal side, about two-thirds of the way down the slope of
the roof.  With infinite precaution he lowered himself down the
steep, slippery incline until he was astride of the little dormer
roof.  Leaning well forward, he discovered that a slender grating
barred the leaded panes of the window itself, and for a moment
this grating gave him pause.

Midnight boomed just then from the Church of Saint Mark, like a
reminder that but seven hours remained in which to conquer this and
further difficulties that might confront him, and in which to win
clear of that place, or else submit to a resumption of his
imprisonment under conditions, no doubt, a hundredfold more
rigorous.

Lying flat on his stomach, and hanging far over, so as to see what
he was doing, he worked one point of his spontoon into the sash of
the grating, and, levering outwards, he strained until at last it
came away completely in his hands.  After that it was an easy matter
to shatter the little latticed window.

Having accomplished so much, he turned, and, using his spontoon as
before, he crawled back to the summit of the roof, and made his way
rapidly along this to the spot where he had left Balbi.  The monk,
reduced by now to a state of blending despair, terror, and rage,
greeted Casanova in terms of the grossest abuse for having left
him there so long.

"I was waiting only for daylight," he concluded, "to return to
prison."

"What did you think had become of me?" asked Casanova.

"I imagined that you had tumbled off the roof."

"And is this abuse the expression of your joy at finding yourself
mistaken?"

"Where have you been all this time?" the monk counter-questioned
sullenly.

"Come with me and you shall see."

And taking up his bundle again, Casanova led his companion forward
until they were in line with the dormer.  There Casanova showed him
what he had done, and consulted him as to the means to be adopted
to enter the attic.  It would be too risky for them to allow
themselves to drop from the sill, since the height of the window
from the floor was unknown to them, and might be considerable.  It
would be easy for one of them to lower the other by means of the
rope.  But it was not apparent how, hereafter, the other was to
follow.  Thus reasoned Casanova.

"You had better lower me, anyhow," said Balbi, without hesitation;
for no doubt he was very tired of that slippery roof, on which a
single false step might have sent him to his account.  "Once I am
inside you can consider ways of following me."

That cold-blooded expression of the fellow's egoism put Casanova
in a rage for the second time since they had left their prison.
But, as before, he conquered it, and without uttering a word he
proceeded to unfasten the coil of rope.  Making one end of it
secure under Balbi's arms, he bade the monk lie prone upon the
roof, his feet pointing downwards, and then, paying out rope, he
lowered him to the dormer.  He then bade him get through the
window as far as the level of his waist, and wait thus, hanging
over and supporting himself upon the sill.  When he had obeyed,
Casanova followed, sliding carefully down to the roof of the
dormer.  Planting himself firmly, and taking the rope once more,
he bade Balbi to let himself go without fear, and so lowered him
to the floor - a height from the window, as it proved, of some
fifty feet.  This extinguished all Casanova's hopes of being able
to follow by allowing himself to drop from the sill.  He was
dismayed.  But the monk, happy to find himself at last off that
accursed roof, and out of all danger of breaking his neck, called
foolishly to Casanova to throw him the rope so that he might take
care of it.

"As may be imagined," says Casanova, "I was careful not to take
this idiotic advice."

Not knowing now what was to become of him unless he could discover
some other means than those at his command, he climbed back again
to the summit of the roof, and started off desperately upon another
voyage of discovery.  This time he succeeded better than before.
He found about a cupola a terrace which he had not earlier noticed,
and on this terrace a hod of plaster, a trowel, and a ladder some
seventy feet long.  He saw his difficulties solved.  He passed an
end of rope about one of the rungs, laid the ladder flat along the
slope of the roof, and then, still astride of the apex, he worked
his way back, dragging the ladder with him, until he was once more
on a level with the dormer.

But now the difficulty was how to get the ladder through the window,
and he had cause to repent having so hastily deprived himself of
his companion's assistance.  He had got the ladder into position,
and lowered it until one of its ends rested upon the dormer, whilst
the other projected some twenty feet beyond the edge of the roof.
He slid down to the dormer, and placing the ladder beside him, drew
it up so that he could reach the eighth rung.  To this rung he made
fast his rope, then lowered the ladder again until the upper end of
it was in line with the window through which he sought to introduce
it.  But he found it impossible to do so beyond the fifth rung, for
at this point the end of the ladder came in contact with the roof
inside, and could be pushed no farther until it was inclined
downward.  Now, the only possible way to accomplish this was by
raising the other end.

It occurred to him that he might, by so attaching the rope as to
bring the ladder across the window frame, lower himself hand over
hand to the floor of the attic.  But in so doing he must have left
the ladder there to show their pursuers in the morning, not merely
the way they had gone, but for all he knew at this stage, the place
where they might then be still in hiding.  Having come so far, at
so much risk and labour, he was determined to leave nothing to
chance.  To accomplish his object then, he made his way down to the
very edge of the roof, sliding carefully on his stomach until his
feet found support against the marble gutter, the ladder meanwhile
remaining hooked by one of its rungs to the sill of the dormer.

In that perilous position he lifted his end of the ladder a few
inches, and so contrived to thrust it another foot or so through
the window, whereby its weight was considerably diminished.  If he
could but get it another couple of feet farther in he was sure that
by returning to the dormer he would have been able to complete the
job.  In his anxiety to do this and to obtain the necessary
elevation, he raised himself upon his knees.

But in the very act of making the thrust he slipped, and, clutching
wildly as he went, he shot over the edge of the roof.  He found
himself hanging there, suspended above that terrific abyss by his
hands and his elbows, which had convulsively hooked themselves on
to the edge of the gutter, so that he had it on a level with his
breast.

It was a moment of dread the like of which he was never likely to
endure again in a life that was to know many perils and many
hairbreadth escapes.  He could not write of it nearly half a
century later without shuddering and growing sick with horror.

A moment he hung there gasping, then almost mechanically, guided
by the sheer instinct of self-preservation, he not merely attempted,
but actually succeeded in raising himself so as to bring his side
against the gutter.  Then continuing gradually to raise himself
until his waist was on a level with the edge, he threw the weight
of his trunk forward upon the roof, and slowly brought his right
leg up until he had obtained with his knee a further grip of the
gutter.  The rest was easy, and you may conceive him as he lay
there on the roof's edge, panting and shuddering for a moment to
regain his breath and nerve.

Meanwhile, the ladder, driven forward by the thrust that had so
nearly cost him his life, had penetrated another three feet
through the window, and hung there immovable.  Recovered, he
took up his spontoon, which he had placed in the gutter, and,
assisted by it, he climbed back to the dormer.  Almost without
further difficulty, he succeeded now in introducing the ladder
until, of its own weight, it swung down into position.

A moment later he had joined Balbi in the attic, and together
they groped about in it the dark, until finding presently a door,
they passed into another chamber, where they discovered furniture
by hurtling against it.  Guided by a faint glimmer of light,
Casanova made his way to one of the windows and opened it.  He
looked out upon a black abyss, and, having no knowledge of the
locality, and no inclination to adventure himself into unknown
regions, he immediately abandoned all idea of attempting to climb
down.  He closed the window again, and going back to the other
room, he lay down on the floor, with the bundle of ropes for a
pillow, to wait for dawn.

And so exhausted was he, not only by the efforts of the past
hours, and the terrible experience in which they had culminated,
but also because in the last two days he had scarcely eaten or
slept, that straightway, and greatly to Balbi's indignation and
disgust, he fell into a profound sleep.

He was aroused three and a half hours later by the clamours and
shakings of the exasperated monk.  Protesting that such a sleep at
such a time was a thing inconceivable, Balbi informed him that it
had just struck five.

It was still dark, but already there was a dim grey glimmer of
dawn by which objects could be faintly discerned.  Searching,
Casanova found another door opposite that of the chamber which
they had entered earlier.  It was locked, but the lock was a poor
one that yielded to half a dozen blows of the spontoon, and they
passed into a little room beyond which by an open door they came
into a long gallery lined with pigeon-holes stuffed with
parchments, which they conceived to be the archives.  At the end
of this gallery they found a short flight of stairs, and below
that yet another, which brought them to a glass door.  Opening
this, they entered a room which Casanova immediately identified
as the ducal chancellery.  Descent from one of its windows would
have been easy, but they would have found themselves in the
labyrinth of courts and alleys behind Saint Mark's, which would
not have suited them at all.

On a table Casanova found a stout bodkin with a long wooden handle,
the implement used by the secretaries for piercing parchments that
were to be joined by a cord bearing the leaden seals of the Republic.
He opened a desk, and rummaging in it, found a letter addressed to
the Proveditor of Corfu, advising a remittance of three thousand
sequins for the repair of the fortress.  He rummaged further,
seeking the three thousand sequins, which he would have appropriated
without the least scruple.  Unfortunately they were not there.

Quitting the desk, he crossed to the door, not merely to find it
locked, but to discover that it was not the kind of lock that would
yield to blows.  There was no way out but by battering away one of
the panels, and to this he addressed himself without hesitation,
assisted by Balbi, who had armed himself with the bodkin, but who
trembled fearfully at the noise of Casanova's blows.  There was
danger in this, but the danger must be braved, for time was slipping
away.  In half an hour they had broken down all the panel it was
possible to remove without the help of a saw.  The opening they
had made was at a height of five feet from the ground, and the
splintered woodwork armed it with a fearful array of jagged teeth.

They dragged a couple of stools to the door, and getting on to
these, Casanova bade Balbi go first.  The long, lean monk folded
his arms, and thrust head and shoulders through the hole; then
Casanova lifted him, first by the waist, then by the legs, and so
helped him through into the room beyond.  Casanova threw their
bundles after him, and then placing a third stool on top of the
other two, climbed on to it, and, being almost on a level with
the opening, was able to get through as far as his waist, when
Balbi took him in his arms and proceeded to drag him out.  But it
was done at the cost of torn breeches and lacerated legs, and
when he stood up in the room beyond he was bleeding freely from
the wounds which the jagged edges of the wood had dealt him.

After that they went down two staircases, and came out at last in
the gallery leading to the great doors at the head of that
magnificent flight of steps known as the Giant's Staircase.  But
these doors - the main entrance of the palace - were locked, and,
at a glance, Casanova saw that nothing short of a hatchet would
serve to open them.  There was no more to be done.

With a resignation that seemed to Balbi entirely cynical, Casanova
sat down on the floor.

"My task is ended," he announced.  "It is now for Heaven or Chance
to do the rest.  I don't know whether the palace cleaners will come
here to-day as it is All Saints', or to-morrow, which will be All
Souls'.  Should any one come, I shall run for it the moment the
door is opened, and you had best follow me.  If no one comes, I
shall not move from here, and if I die of hunger, so much the worse."

It was a speech that flung the monk into a passion.  In burning
terms he reviled Casanova, calling him a madman, a seducer, a
deceiver, a liar.  Casanova let him rave.  It was just striking six.
Precisely an hour had elapsed since they had left the attic.

Balbi, in his red flannel waistcoat and his puce-coloured leather
breeches, might have passed for a peasant; but Casanova, in torn
garments that were soaked in blood, presented an appearance that
was terrifying and suspicious.  This he proceeded to repair.
Tearing a handkerchief, he made shift to bandage his wounds, and
then from his bundle he took his fine taffeta summer suit, which
on a winter's day must render him ridiculous.

He dressed his thick, dark brown hair as best he could, drew on a
pair of white stockings, and donned three lace shirts one over
another.  His fine cloak of floss silk he gave to Balbi, who looked
for all the world as if he had stolen it.

Thus dressed, his fine hat laced with point of Spain on his head,
Casanova opened a window and looked out.  At once he was seen by
some idlers in the courtyard, who, amazed at his appearance there,
and conceiving that he must have been locked in by mistake on the
previous day, went off at once to advise the porter.  Meanwhile,
Casanova, vexed at having shown himself where he had not expected
any one, and little guessing how excellently this was to serve his
ends, left the window and went to sit beside the angry friar, who
greeted him with fresh revilings.

A sound of steps and a rattle of keys stemmed Balbi's reproaches
in full flow.  The lock groaned.

"Not a word," said Casanova to the monk, "but follow me."

Holding his spontoon ready., but concealed under his coat, he
stepped to the side of the door.  It opened, and the porter, who
had come alone and bareheaded, stared in stupefaction at the
strange apparition of Casanova.

Casanova took advantage of that paralyzing amazement.  Without
uttering a word, he stepped quickly across the threshold, and with
Balbi close upon his heels, he went down the Giant's Staircase in
a flash, crossed the little square, reached the canal, bundled Balbi
into the first gondola he found there, and jumped in after him.

"I want to go to Fusine, and quickly," he announced.  "Call another
oarsman."

All was ready, and in a moment the gondola was skimming the canal.
Dressed in his unseasonable suit, and accompanied by the still
more ridiculous figure of Balbi in his gaudy cloak and without a
hat, he imagined he would be taken for a charlatan or an astrologer.

The gondola slipped past the custom-house, and took the canal of
the Giudecca.  Halfway down this, Casanova put his head out of the
little cabin to address the gondolier in the poop.

"Do you think we shall reach Mestre in an hour?"

"Mestre?" quoth the gondolier.  "But you said Fusine."

"No, no, I said Mestre - at least, I intended to say Mestre."

And so the gondola was headed for Mestre by a gondolier who professed
himself ready to convey his excellency to England if he desired it.

The sun was rising, and the water assumed an opalescent hue.  It was
a delicious morning, Casanova tells us, and I suspect that never had
any morning seemed to that audacious, amiable rascal as delicious as
this upon which he regained his liberty, which no man ever valued
more highly.

In spirit he was already safely over the frontiers of the Most
Serene Republic, impatient to transfer his body thither, as he
shortly did, through vicissitudes that are a narrative in themselves,
and no part of this story of his escape from the Piombi and the
Venetian Inquisitors of State.




XIII.  THE NIGHT OF MASQUERADE

THE ASSASSINATION OF GUSTAVUS III OF SWEDEN


Baron Bjelke sprang from his carriage almost before it had come to
a standstill and without waiting for the footman to let down the
steps.  With a haste entirely foreign to a person of his station
and importance, he swept into the great vestibule of the palace,
and in a quivering voice flung a question at the first lackey he
encountered:

"Has His Majesty started yet?"

"Not yet, my lord."

The answer lessened his haste, but not his agitation.  He cast off
the heavy wolfskin pelisse in which he had been wrapped, and,
leaving it in the hands of the servant, went briskly up the grand
staircase, a tall, youthful figure, very graceful in the suit of
black he wore.

As he passed through a succession of ante-rooms on his way to the
private apartments of the King, those present observed the pallor
of his clean-cut face under the auburn tie-wig he affected, and the
feverish glow of eyes that took account of no one.  They could not
guess that Baron Bjelke, the King's secretary and favourite,
carried in his hands the life of his royal master, or its equivalent
in the shape of the secret of the plot to assassinate him.

In many ways Bjelke was no better than the other profligate minions
of the profligate Gustavus of Sweden.  But he had this advantage over
them, that his intellect was above their average.  He had detected
the first signs of the approach of that storm which the King himself
had so heedlessly provoked.  He knew, as much by reason as by
intuition, that, in these days when the neighbouring State of France
writhed in the throes of a terrific revolution against monarchic and
aristocratic tyranny, it was not safe for a king to persist in the
abuse of his parasitic power.  New ideas of socialism were in the
air.  They were spreading through Europe, and it was not only in
France that men accounted it an infamous anachronism that the great
mass of a community should toil and sweat and suffer for the benefit
of an insolent minority.

Already had there been trouble with the peasantry in Sweden, and
Bjelke had endangered his position as a royal favourite by presuming
to warn his master.  Gustavus III desired amusement, not wisdom,
from those about him.  He could not be brought to realize the
responsibilities which kingship imposes upon a man.  It has been
pretended that he was endowed with great gifts of mind.  He may have
been, though the thing has been pretended of so many princes that
one may be sceptical where evidence is lacking.  If he possessed
those gifts, he succeeded wonderfully in concealing them under a
nature that was frivolously gay, dissolute, and extravagant.

His extravagance forced him into monstrous extortions when only a
madman would have wasted in profligacy the wealth so cruelly wrung
from long-suffering subjects.  From extortion he was driven by his
desperate need of money into flagrant dishonesty.  At a stroke of
the pen he had reduced the value of the paper currency by one-third
 - a reduction so violent and sudden that, whilst it impoverished
many, it involved some in absolute ruin - and this that he might
gratify his appetite for magnificence and enrich the rapacious
favourites who shared his profligacy.

The unrest in the kingdom spread.  It was no longer a question of
the resentment of a more or less docile peasantry whose first
stirrings of revolt were easily quelled.  The lesser nobility of
Sweden were angered by a measure - following upon so many others
 - that bore peculiarly heavily upon themselves; and out of that
anger, fanned by one man - John Jacob Ankarstrom - who had felt the
vindictive spirit of royal injustice, flamed in secret the
conspiracy against the King's life which Bjelke had discovered.

He had discovered it by the perilous course of joining the
conspirators.  He had won their confidence, and they recognized that
his collaboration was rendered invaluable by the position he held
so near the King.  And in his subtle wisdom, at considerable danger
to himself, Bjelke had kept his counsel.  He had waited until now,
until the moment when the blow was about to fall, before making the
disclosure which should not only save Gustavus, but enable him to
cast a net in which all the plotters must be caught.  And he hoped
that when Gustavus perceived the narrowness of his escape, and the
reality of the dangers amid which he walked, he would consider the
wisdom of taking another course in future.

He had reached the door of the last ante-chamber, when a detaining
hand was laid upon his arm.  He found himself accosted by a page
 - the offspring of one of the noblest families in Sweden, and the
son of one of Bjelke's closest friends, a fair-haired, impudent boy
to whom the secretary permitted a certain familiarity.

"Are you on your way to the King, Baron?" the lad inquired.

"I am, Carl.  What is it?"

"A letter for His Majesty - a note fragrant as a midsummer rose -
which a servant has just delivered to me.  Will you take it?"

"Give it to me, impudence," said Bjelke, the ghost of a smile
lighting for a moment his white face.

He took the letter and passed on into the last antechamber, which
was empty of all but a single chamberlain-in-waiting.  This
chamberlain bowed respectfully to the Baron.

"His Majesty?" said Bjelke.

"He is dressing.  Shall I announce Your Excellency?"

"Pray do."

The chamberlain vanished, and Bjelke was left alone.  Waiting, he
stood there, idly fingering the scented note he had received from
the page.  As he turned it in his fingers the superscription came
uppermost, and he turned it no more.  His eyes lost their absorbed
look, their glance quickened into attention, a frown shaped itself
between them like a scar; his breathing, suspended a moment, was
renewed with a gasp.  He stepped aside to a table bearing a score
of candles clustered in a massive silver branch, and held the note
so that the light fell full upon the writing.

Standing thus, he passed a hand over his eyes and stared again, two
hectic spots burning now in his white cheeks.  Abruptly, disregarding
the superscription, his trembling fingers snapped the blank seal and
unfolded the letter addressed to his royal master.  He was still
reading when the chamberlain returned to announce that the King was
pleased to see the Baron at once.  He did not seem to hear the
announcement.  His attention was all upon the letter, his lips drawn
back from his teeth in a grin, and beads of perspiration glistening
upon his brow.

"His Majesty - " the chamberlain was beginning to repeat, when he
broke off suddenly.  "Your Excellency is ill?"

"Ill?"

Bjelke stared at him with glassy eyes.  He crumpled the letter in
his hand and stuffed one and the other into the pocket of his black
satin coat.  He attempted to laugh to reassure the startled
chamberlain, and achieved a ghastly grimace.

"I must not keep His Majesty waiting," he said thickly, and stumbled
on, leaving in the chamberlain's mind a suspicion that His Majesty's
secretary was not quite sober.

But Bjelke so far conquered his emotion that he was almost his usual
imperturbable self when he reached the royal dressing-room; indeed,
he no longer displayed even the agitation that had possessed him
when first he entered the palace.

Gustavus, a slight, handsome man of a good height, was standing
before a cheval-glass when Bjelke came in.  Francois, the priceless
valet His Majesty had brought back from his last pleasure-seeking
visit to pre-revolutionary Paris some five years ago, was standing
back judicially to consider the domino he had just placed upon the
royal shoulders.  Baron Armfelt whom the conspirators accused of
wielding the most sinister of all the sinister influences that
perverted the King's mind - dressed from head to foot in shimmering
white satin, lounged on a divan with all the easy familiarity
permitted to this most intimate of courtiers, the associate of all
royal follies.

Gustavus looked over his shoulder as he entered.

"Why, Bjelke," he exclaimed, "I thought you had gone into the
country!"

"I am at a loss," replied Bjelke, "to imagine what should have given
Your Majesty so mistaken an impression."  And he might have smiled
inwardly to observe how his words seemed to put Gustavus out of
countenance.

The King laughed, nevertheless, with an affectation of ease.

"I inferred it from your absence from Court on such a night.  What
has been keeping you?"  But, without waiting for an answer, he
fired another question.  "What do you say to my domino, Bjelke?"

It was a garment embroidered upon a black satin ground with tongues
of flame so cunningly wrought in mingling threads of scarlet and
gold that as he turned about now they flashed in the candlelight,
and seemed to leap like tongues of living fire.

"Your Majesty will have a great success," said Bjelke, and to
himself relished the full grimness of his joke.  For a terrible
joke it was, seeing that he no longer intended to discharge the
errand which had brought him in such haste to the palace.

"Faith, I deserve it!" was the flippant answer, and he turned again
to the mirror to adjust a patch on the left side of his chin.
"There is genius in this domino, and it is not the genius of
Francois, for the scheme of flames is my very own, the fruit of a
deal of thought and study."

There Gustavus uttered his whole character.  As a master of the
revels, or an opera impresario, this royal rake would have been a
complete success in life.  The pity of it was that the accident of
birth should have robed him in the royal purple.  Like many another
prince who has come to a violent end, he was born to the wrong
metier.

"I derived the notion," he continued, "from a sanbenito in a Goya
picture."

"An ominous garb," said Bjelke, smiling curiously.  "The garment of
the sinner on his way to penitential doom."

Armfelt cried out in a protest of mock horror, but Gustavus laughed
cynically.

"Oh, I confess that it would be most apt.  I had not thought of it."

His fingers sought a pomatum box, and in doing so displaced a
toilet-case of red morocco.  An oblong paper package fell from the
top of this and arrested the King's attention.

"Why, what is this?" He took it up - a letter bearing the
superscription:

To His MAJESTY THE KING
SECRET AND IMPORTANT

"What is this, Francois?" The royal voice was suddenly sharp.

The valet glided forward, whilst Armfelt rose from the divan and,
like Bjelke, attracted by the sudden change in the King's tone and
manner, drew near his master.

"How comes this letter here?"

The valet's face expressed complete amazement.  It must have been
placed there in his absence an hour ago, after he had made all
preparations for the royal toilette.  It was certainly not there
at the time, or he must have seen it.

With impatient fingers Gustavus snapped the seal and unfolded the
letter.  Awhile he stood reading, very still, his brows knit.

Then, with a contemptuous "Poof!" he handed it to his secretary.

At a glance Bjelke recognized the hand for that of Colonel Lillehorn,
one of the conspirators, whose courage had evidently failed him in
the eleventh hour.  He read:

SIRE, - Deign to heed the warning of one who, not being in your
service, nor solicitous of your favours, flatters not your crimes,
and yet desires to avert the danger threatening you.  There is a
plot to assassinate you which would by now have been executed but
for the countermanding of the ball at the opera last week.  What
was not done then will certainly be done to-night if you afford
the opportunity.  Remain at home and avoid balls and public
gatherings for the rest of the year; thus the fanaticism which
aims at your life will evaporate.

"Do you know the writing?" Gustavus asked.

Bjelke shrugged.  "The hand will be disguised, no doubt," he
evaded.

"But you will heed the warning, Sire?" exclaimed, Armfelt, who had
read over the secretary's shoulder, and whose face had paled in
reading.

Gustavus laughed contemptuously.  "Faith, if I were to heed every
scaremonger, I should get but little amusement out of life."

Yet he was angry, as his shifting colour showed.  The disrespectful
tone of the anonymous communication moved him more deeply than its
actual message.  He toyed a moment with a hair-ribbon, his nether
lip thrust out in thought.  At last he rapped out an oath of
vexation, and proffered the ribbon to his valet.

"My hair, Francois," said he, "and then we will be going."

"Going!"

It was an ejaculation of horror from Armfelt, whose face was now as
white as the ivory-coloured suit he wore.

"What else?  Am I to be intimidated out of my pleasures?"  Yet that
his heart was less stout than his words his very next question
showed.  "Apropos, Bjelke, what was the reason why you countermanded
the ball last week?"

"The councillors from Gefle claimed Your Majesty's immediate
attention," Bjelke reminded him.

"So you said at the time.  But the business seemed none so urgent
when we came to it.  There was no other reason in your mind - no
suspicion?"

His keen, dark blue eyes were fixed upon the pale masklike face of
the secretary.

That grave, almost stern countenance relaxed into a smile.

"I suspected no more than I suspect now," was his easy equivocation.
"And all that I suspect now is that some petty enemy is attempting
to scare Your Majesty."

"To scare me?" Gustavus flushed to the temples.  "Am I a man to be
scared?"

"Ah, but consider, Sire, and you, Bjelke," Armfelt was bleating.
"This may be a friendly warning.  In all humility, Sire, let me
suggest that you incur no risk; that you countermand the masquerade."

"And permit the insolent writer to boast that he frightened the King?"
sneered Bjelke.

"Faith, Baron, you are right.  The thing is written with intent to
make a mock of me."

"But if it were not so, Sire?" persisted the distressed Armfelt.
And volubly he argued now to impose caution, reminding the King of
his enemies, who might, indeed, be tempted to go the lengths of
which the anonymous writer spoke.  Gustavus listened, and was
impressed.

"If I took heed of every admonition," he said, "I might as well
become a monk at once.  And yet - "  He took his chin in his hand,
and stood thoughtful, obviously hesitating, his head bowed, his
straight, graceful figure motionless.

Thus until Bjelke, who now desired above all else the very thing he
had come hot-foot to avert, broke the silence to undo what Armfelt
had done.

"Sire," he said, "you may avoid both mockery and danger, and yet
attend the masquerade.  Be sure, if there is indeed a plot, the
assassins will be informed of the disguise you are to wear.  Give
me your flame-studded domino, and take a plain black one for
yourself."

Armfelt gasped at the audacity of the proposal,

but Gustavus gave no sign that he had heard.  He continued standing
in that tense attitude, his eyes vague and dreamy.  And as if to
show along what roads of thought his mind was travelling, he uttered
a single word a name - in a questioning voice scarce louder than a
whisper.

Ankarstrom?

Later again he was to think of Ankarstrom, to make inquiries
concerning him, which justifies us here in attempting to follow
those thoughts of his.  They took the road down which his conscience
pointed.  Above all Swedes he had cause to fear John Jacobi
Ankarstrom, for, foully as he had wronged many men in his time, he
had wronged none more deeply than that proud, high-minded nobleman.
He hated Ankarstrom as we must always hate those whom we have
wronged, and he hated him the more because he knew himself despised
by Ankarstrom with a cold and deadly contempt that at every turn
proclaimed itself.

That hatred was more than twenty years old.  It dated back to the
time when Gustavus had been a vicious youth, and Ankarstrom himself
a boy.  They were much of an age.  Gustavus had put upon his young
companion an infamous insult, which had been answered by a blow.
His youth and the admitted provocation alone had saved Ankarstrom
from the dread consequence of striking a Prince of the Royal Blood.
But they had not saved him from the vindictiveness of Gustavus.
He had kept his lust of vengeance warm, and very patiently had he
watched and waited for his opportunity to destroy the man, who had
struck him.

That chance had come four years ago - in 1788 - during the war with
Russia.  Ankarstrom commanded the forces defending the island of
Gothland.  These forces were inadequate for the task, nor was the
island in a proper state of defence, being destitute of forts.  To
have persevered in resistance might have been heroic, but it would
have been worse than futile, for not only would it have entailed
the massacre of the garrison, but it must have further subjected
the inhabitants to all the horrors of sack and pillage.

In the circumstances, Ankarstrom had conceived it his duty to
surrender to the superior force of Russia, thereby securing immunity
for the persons and property of the inhabitants.  In this the King
perceived his chance to indulge his hatred.  He caused Ankarstrom
to be arrested and accused of high treason, it being alleged against
him that he had advised the people of Gothland not to take up arms
against the Russians.  The royal agents found witnesses to bear
false evidence against Ankarstrom, with the result that he was
sentenced to twenty years' imprisonment in a fortress.  But the
sentence was never carried out.  Gustavus had gone too far, as he
was soon made aware.  The feelings against him which hitherto had
smouldered flamed out at this crowning act of injustice, and to
repair his error Gustavus made haste, not, indeed, to exonerate
Ankarstrom from the charges brought against him, but to pardon him
for his alleged offences.

When the Swedish nobleman was brought to Court to receive this
pardon, he used it as a weapon against the King whom he despised.

"My unjust judges," he announced in a ringing voice, the echoes of
which were carried to the ends of Sweden, "have never doubted in
their hearts my innocence of the charges brought against me, and
established by means of false witnesses.  The judgment pronounced
against me was unrighteous.  This exemption from it is my proper
due.  Yet I would rather perish through the enmity of the King than
live dishonoured by his clemency."

Gustavus had set his teeth in rage when those fierce words were
reported to him, and his rage had been increased when he was
informed of the cordial reception which everywhere awaited Ankarstrom
on his release.  He perceived how far he had overshot his mark, and
how, in seeking treacherously to hurt Ankarstrom, he had succeeded
only in hurting himself.  Nor had he appeased the general indignation
by his pardon.  True, the flame of revolt had been quelled.  But he had
no lack of evidence that the fire continued to burn steadily in secret,
and to eat its way further and further into the ranks of noble and
simple alike.

It is little wonder, then, that in this moment, with that warning
lying there before him, the name of Ankarstrom should be on his lips,
the thought of Ankarstrom, the fear of Ankarstrom, looming big in
his mind.  It was big enough to make him heed the warning.  He
dropped into a chair.

"I will not go," he said, and Bjelke saw that his face was white,
his hands shaking.

But when the secretary had repeated the proposal which had earlier
gone unheard, Gustavus caught at it with sudden avidity, and with
but little concern for the danger that Bjelke might be running.  He
sprang up, applauding it.  If a conspiracy there was, the
conspirators would thus be trapped; if there were no conspiracy,
then this attempt to frighten him should come to nothing; thus he
would be as safe from the mockery of his enemies as from their
knives.  Nor did Armfelt protest or make further attempts to
dissuade him from going.  In the circumstances proposed by Bjelke,
the risk would be Bjelke's, a matter which troubled Armfelt not at
all; indeed, he had no cause to love Bjelke, in whom he beheld a
formidable rival, and it would be to him no cause for tears if the
knife intended for the royal vitals should find its way into
Bjelke's instead.

So Baron Bjelke, arrayed in the domino copied from the penitential
sack, departed for the Opera House, leaving Gustavus to follow.
Yet, despite the measure of precaution, no sooner had the masked
King himself entered the crowded theatre, leaning upon the arm of
the Count of Essen, than he conceived that he beheld confirmation
of the warning, and regretted that he had not heeded it to the
extent of remaining absent.  For one of the first faces he beheld,
one of the few unmasked faces in that brilliantly lit salon, was
the face of Ankarstrom, and Ankarstrom appeared to be watching the
entrance.

Gustavus checked in his stride, a tremor ran through him, and he
stiffened in his sudden apprehension, for the sight of the tall
figure and haughty, resolute face of the nobleman he had wronged
was of more significance than at first might seem.  Ever since his
infamous trial Ankarstrom had been at pains to seize every occasion
of marking his contempt for his Prince.  Never did he fail upon the
King's appearance in any gathering of which he was a member to
withdraw immediately; and never once had he been known deliberately
to attend any function which was to be graced by the presence of
Gustavus.  How, then, came he here to this ball given by the King's
own command unless he came for the fell purpose of which the letter
had given warning?

The King's impulse was to withdraw immediately.  He was taken by a
curious, an almost unreasoning, fear that was quite foreign to him,
who, for all his faults, had never yet lacked courage.  But, even
as he hesitated, a figure swept past him in a domino flecked with
flames, surrounded by revellers of both sexes, and he remembered
that if Ankarstrom were bent on evil his attention would be held by
that figure before which the crowd fell back, and opened out
respectfully, believing it to be the King's.  Yet none the less it
was Gustavus himself that Ankarstrom continued to regard in such a
ay that the King had a feeling that his mask was made of glass.

And then quite suddenly, even as he was on the point of turning,
another wave of revellers swept frantically up, and in a moment
Gustavus and the Count of Essen were surrounded.  Another moment
and the buffeting crowd had separated him from his grand equerry.
He found himself alone in the centre of this knot of wild fellows
who, seeming to mistake him for one of themselves, forced him
onward with them in their career.  For a moment he attempted to
resist.  But as well might he have resisted a torrent.  Their rush
was not to be stemmed.  It almost swept him from his feet, and to
save himself he must perforce abandon himself to the impetus.  Thus
he was swirled away across the floor of the amphitheatre, helpless
as a swimmer in strong waters, and with the fear of the drowning
clutching now at his heart.

He had an impulse to unmask, proclaim himself, and compel the
respect that was his due.  But to do so might be to expose himself
to the very danger of whose presence he was now convinced.  His
only hope must lie in allowing himself to be borne passively along
until a chance opening allowed him to escape from these madmen.

The stage had been connected with the floor of the theatre by a
broad flight of wooden steps.  Up this flight he was carried by that
human wave.  But on the stage itself he found an anchorage at last
against one of the wings.  Breathing hard, he set his back to it,
waiting for the wave to sweep on and leave him.  Instead, it paused
and came to rest with him, and in that moment some one touched him
on the shoulder.  He turned his head, and looked into the set face
of Ankarstrom, who was close behind him.  Then a burning, rending
pain took him in his side, and he grew sick and dizzy.  The uproar
of voices became muffled; the lights were merged into a luminous
billow that swelled and shrank and then went out altogether.

The report of the pistol had been lost in the general din to all but
those who stood near the spot where it had been fired.  And these
found themselves suddenly borne backwards by the little crowd of
maskers that fell away from the figure lying prone and bleeding on
the stage.

Voices were raised, shouting "Fire! Fire!"  Thus the conspirators
sought to create confusion, that they might disperse and lose
themselves in the general crowd.  That confusion, however, was very
brief.  It was stemmed almost immediately by the Count of Essen,
who leapt up the steps to the stage with a premonition of what had
happened.  He stooped to rip away the mask from the face of the
victim, and, beholding, as he had feared, the livid countenance of
his King, he stood up, himself almost as pale.

"Murder has been done!" he roared.  "Let the doors be closed and
guarded, and let no one leave the theatre."  Instantly was his
bidding done by the officers of the guard.

Those of the King's household who were in attendance came forward
now to raise Gustavus, and help to bear him to a couch.  There
presently he recovered consciousness, whilst a physician was seeing
to his hurt, and as soon as he realized his condition his manner
became so calm that, himself, he took command of the situation.  He
issued orders that the gates of the city should be closed against
everybody, whilst himself apologizing to the Prussian minister who
was near him for issuing that inconvenient but necessary order.

"The gates shall remain closed for three days, sir," he announced.
"During that time you will not be able to correspond with your Court;
but your intelligence, when it goes, will be more certain, since by
that time it should be known whether I can survive or not."

His next order, delivered in a voice that was broken by his intense
suffering, was to the chamberlain Benzelstjerna, commanding that
all present should unmask and sign their names in a book before
being suffered to depart.  That done, he bade them bear him home on
the couch on which he had been placed that he might be spared the
agony of more movement than was necessary.

Thus his grenadiers bore him on their shoulders, lighted by torches,
through the streets that were now thronged, for the rumour had now
gone forth that the King was dead, and troops had been called out
to keep order.  Beside him walked Armfelt in his suit of shimmering
white satin, weeping at once for his King and for himself, for he
knew that he was of those who must fall with Gustavus.  And, knowing
this, there was bitter rage in his heart against the men who had
wrought this havoc, a rage that sharpened his wits to an unusual
acuteness.

At last the King was once more in his apartments awaiting the
physicians who were to pronounce his fate, and Armfelt kept him
company among others, revolving in his mind the terrible suspicion
he had formed.

Presently came Duke Charles, the King's brother, and Benzelstjerna
with the list of those who had been present at the ball.

"Tell me," he asked, before the list was read to him, "is the name
of Ankarstrom included in it?"

"He was the last to sign, Sire," replied the chamberlain.

The King smiled grimly.  "Tell Lillesparre to have him arrested and
questioned."

Armfelt flung forward.  "There is another who should be arrested,
too!" he cried fiercely.  And added, "Bjelke!"

"Bjelke?"

The King echoed the name almost in anger at the imputation.  Armfelt
spoke torrentially.  "It was he persuaded you to go against your own
judgment when you had the warning, and at last induced you to it by
offering to assume your own domino.  If the assassins sought the
King, how came they to pass over one who wore the King's domino, and
to penetrate your own disguise that was like a dozen others?
Because they were informed of the change.  But by whom - by whom?
Who was it knew?"

"My God!" groaned the unfortunate King, who had in his time broken
faith with so many, and was now to suffer the knowledge of this
broken faith in one whom he had trusted above all others.

Baron Bjelke was arrested an hour later, arrested in the very act
of entering his own home.  The men of Lillesparre's police had
preceded him thither to await his return.  He was quite calm when
they surged suddenly about him, laid hands upon him, and formally
pronounced him their prisoner.

"I suppose," he said, "it was to have been inferred.  Allow me to
take my leave of the Baroness, and I shall be at your disposal."

"My orders, Baron, are explicit," he was answered by the officer in
charge.  "I am not to suffer you out of my sight."

"How?  Am I to be denied so ordinary a boon?"  His voice quivered
with sudden anger and something else.

"Such are my orders, Baron."

Bjelke pleaded for five minutes' grace for that leavetaking.  But
the officer had his orders.  He was no more than a machine.  The
Baron raised his clenched hands in mute protest to the heavens,
then let them fall heavily.

"Very well," he said, and suffered them to thrust him back into his
carriage and carry him away to the waiting Lillesparre.

He found Armfelt in the office of the chief of the police, haranguing
Ankarstrom, who was already there under arrest.  The favourite broke
off as Bjelke was brought in.

"You were privy to this infamy, Bjelke," he cried.  "If the King
does not recover - "

"He will not recover."  It was the cold, passionless voice of
Ankarstrom that spoke.  "My pistol was loaded with rusty nails.  I
intended to make quite sure of ridding my country of that perjured
tyrant."

Armfelt stared at the prisoner a moment with furious, bloodshot eyes.
Then he broke into imprecations, stemmed only when Lillesparre
ordered Ankarstrom to be removed.  When he was gone, the chief of
police turned to Bjelke.

"It grieves me, Baron, that we should meet thus, and it is with
difficulty that I can believe what is alleged against you.  Baron
Armfelt is perhaps rendered hasty by his grief and righteous anger.
But I hope that you will be able to explain - at least to deny your
concern in this horrible deed."

Very tense and white stood Bjelke.

"I have an explanation that should satisfy you as a man of honour,"
he said quietly, "but not as chief of the police.  I joined this
conspiracy that I might master its scope and learn the intentions
of the plotters.  It was a desperate thing I did out of love and
loyalty to the King, and I succeeded.  I came to-night to the
palace with information which should not only have saved the King's
life, but would have enabled him to smother the conspiracy for all
time.  On the threshold of his room this letter for the King was
delivered into my hands.  Read it, Lillesparre, that you may know
precisely what manner of master you serve, that you may understand
how Gustavus of Sweden recompenses love and loyalty.  Read it, and
tell me how you would have acted in my place!"

And he flung the letter on to the writing-table at which sat
Lillesparre.

The chief of police took it up, began to read, turned back to the
superscription, then resumed his reading, a dull flush overspreading
his face.  Over his shoulder Armfelt, too, was reading.  But Bjelke
cared not.  Let all the world behold that advertisement of royal
infamy, that incriminating love-letter from Bjelke's wife to the
King who had dishonoured him.

Lillesparre was stricken dumb.  He dared not raise his eyes to meet
the glance of the prisoner.  But the shameless Armfelt sucked in a
breath of understanding.

"You admit your guilt, then?" he snarled.

"That I sent the monster to the masquerade, knowing that there the
blessed hand of Ankarstrom would give him his passport out of a
world he had befouled - yes."

"The rack shall make you yield the name of every one of the
conspirators."

"The rack!" Bjelke smiled disdainfully, and shrugged.  "Your men,
Lillesparre, were very prompt and very obdurate.  They would not
allow me to take leave of the Baroness, so that she has escaped me.
But I am not sure that it is not a fitter vengeance to let her live
and remember.  That letter may now be delivered to the King, for
whom it is intended.  Its fond messages may lighten the misery of
his remaining hours."

His face was contorted, with rage, thought Armfelt, who watched him,
but in reality with pain caused by the poison that was corroding
his vitals.  He had drained a little phial just before stepping into
the presence of Lillesparre, as they discovered upon inquiries made
after he had collapsed dead at their feet.

This caused them to bring back Ankarstrom, that he might be searched,
lest he, too, should take some similar way of escaping them.  When
he search was done, having discovered nothing, Lillesparre commanded
that he should not have knife or fork or metal comb, or anything
with which he might take his life.

"You need not fear that I shall seek to evade the sacrifice," he
assured them, his demeanour haughty, his eyes aglow with fanatic
zeal.  "It is the price I pay for having rid Nature of a monster
and my country of a false, perjured tyrant, and I pay it gladly."
As he ceased he smiled, and drew from the gold lace of his sleeve
a surgeon's lancet.  "This was supplied me against my need to open
a vein.  But the laws of God and man may require my death upon the
scaffold."

And, smiling, he placed the lancet on Lillesparre's table.

Upon his conviction execution followed, and it lasted three days -
from April 19th to 21 st - being attended by all the horrible and
gradual torturings reserved for regicides.  Yet possibly he did
not suffer more than his victim, whose agony had lasted for
thirteen days, and who perished miserably in the consciousness that
he deserved his fate, whilst Ankarstrom was uplifted and fortified
by his fanaticism.

The scaffold was erected on the Stora Torget, facing the Opera House
of Stockholm, where the assassination had taken place.  Thence the
dismembered remains of Ankarstrom were conveyed to the ordinary
gallows in the suburb of Sodermalm to be exhibited, the right hand
being nailed below the head.  Under this hand on the morrow was
found a tablet bearing the legend:

     Blessed the hand
     That saved the Fatherland.



THE END





This site is full of FREE ebooks - Project Gutenberg Australia