A Gentleman of France

A Gentleman of France

第134章 AT MEUDON.(2)

The Cid had borne me by this time into the middle of the throng about the gateway,who,wondering to see a stranger of my appearance arrive without attendants,eyed me with a mixture of civility and forwardness.I recognised more than one man whom Ihad seen about the Court at St.Jean d'Angely six months before;but so great is the disguising power of handsome clothes and equipments that none of these knew me.I beckoned to the nearest,and asked him if the King of Navarre was in the Chateau.

'He has gone to see the King of France at St.Cloud,'the man answered,with something of wonder that anyone should be ignorant of so important a fact.'He is expected here in an hour.'

I thanked him,and calculating that I should still have time and to spare before the arrival of M.de Turenne,I dismounted,and taking the rein over my arm,began to walk up and down in the shade of the wall.Meanwhile the loiterers increased in numbers as the minutes passed.Men of better standing rode up,and,leaving their horses in charge of their lackeys,went into the Chateau.Officers in shining corslets,or with boots and scabbards dulled with dust,arrived and clattered in through the gates.A messenger galloped up with letters,and was instantly surrounded by a curious throng of questioners;who left him only to gather about the next comers,a knot of townsfolk,whose downcast visages and glances of apprehension seemed to betoken no pleasant or easy mission.

Watching many of these enter and disappear,while only the humbler sort remained to swell the crowd at the gate,I began to experience the discomfort and impatience which are the lot of the man who finds himself placed in a false position.I foresaw with clearness the injury I was about to do my cause by presenting myself to the king among the common herd;and yet I had no choice save to do this,for I dared not run the risk of entering,lest Ishould be required to give my name,and fail to see the King of Navarre at all.

As it was I came very near to being foiled in this way;for Ipresently recognised,and was recognised in turn,by a gentleman who rode up to the gates and,throwing his reins to a groom,dismounted with an air of immense gravity.This was M.Forget,the king's secretary,and the person to whom I had on a former occasion presented a petition.He looked at me with eyes of profound astonishment,and saluting me stiffly from a distance,seemed in two minds whether he should pass in or speak to me.On second thoughts,however,he came towards me,and again saluted me with a peculiarly dry and austere aspect.

'I believe,sir,I am speaking to M.de Marsac?'he said in a low voice,but not impolitely.

I replied in the affirmative.

'And that,I conclude,is your horse?'he continued,raising his cane,and pointing to the Cid,which I had fastened to a hook in the wall.

I replied again in the affirmative.

'Then take a word of advice,'he answered,screwing up his features,and speaking in a dry sort of way.'Get upon its back without an instant's delay,and put as many leagues between yourself and Meudon as horse and man may.'

'I am obliged to you,'I said,though I was greatly startled by his words.'And what if I do not take your advice?'

He shrugged his shoulders.'In that case look to yourself!'he retorted.'But you will look in vain!'

He turned on his heel,as he spoke,and in a moment was gone.Iwatched him enter the Chateau,and in the uncertainty which possessed me whether he was not gone--after salving his conscience by giving me warning--to order my instant arrest,Ifelt,and I doubt not I looked,as ill at ease for the time being as the group of trembling townsfolk who stood near me.

Reflecting that he should know his master's mind,I recalled with depressing clearness the repeated warnings the King of Navarre had given me that I must not look to him for reward or protection.I bethought me that I was here against his express orders:presuming on those very services which he had given me notice he should repudiate.I remembered that Rosny had always been in the same tale.And in fine I began to see that mademoiselle and I had together decided on a step which I should never have presumed to take on my own motion.

I had barely arrived at this conclusion when the trampling of hoofs and a sudden closing in of the crowd round the gate announced the King of Navarre's approach.With a sick heart Idrew nearer,feeling that the crisis was at hand;and in a moment he came in sight,riding beside an elderly man,plainly dressed and mounted,with whom he was carrying on an earnest conversation.A train of nobles and gentlemen,whose martial air and equipments made up for the absence of the gewgaws and glitter,to which my eyes had become accustomed at Blois,followed close on his heels.Henry himself wore a suit of white velvet,frayed in places and soiled by his armour;but his quick eye and eager,almost fierce,countenance could not fail to win and keep the attention of the least observant.He kept glancing from side to side as he came on;and that with so cheerful an air and a carriage so full at once of dignity and good-humour that no one could look on him and fail to see that here was a leader and a prince of men,temperate in victory and unsurpassed in defeat.

The crowd raising a cry of 'VIVE NAVARRE!'as he drew near,he bowed,with a sparkle in his eye.But when a few by the gate cried 'VIVENT LES ROIS!'he held up his hand for silence,and said in a loud,clear voice,'Not that,my friends.There is but one king in France.Let us say instead,"Vive le Roi!"'

Stanley John Weyman