A Gentleman of France

第147章 'VIVE LE ROI!'(1)

He took his leave with those words.But his departure,which Ishould have hailed a few minutes before with joy,as a relief from embarrassment and humiliation,found me indifferent.The statement to which he had solemnly pledged himself in regard to the King of Navarre,that I could expect no further help from him,had prostrated me;dashing my hopes and spirits so completely that I remained rooted to the spot long after his step had ceased to sound on the stairs.If what he said was true,in the gloom which darkened alike my room and my prospects I could descry no glimmer of light.I knew His Majesty's weakness and vacillation too well to repose any confidence in him;if the King of Navarre also abandoned me,I was indeed without hope,as without resource.

I had stood some time with my mind painfully employed upon this problem,which my knowledge of M.de Turenne's strict honour in private matters did not allow me to dismiss lightly,when I heard another step on the stairs,and in a moment M.la Varenne opened the door.Finding me in the dark he muttered an apology for the remissness of the servants;which I accepted,seeing nothing else for it,in good part.

'We have been at sixes-and-sevens all day,and you have been forgotten,'he continued.'But you will have no reason to complain now.I am ordered to conduct you to His Majesty without delay.'

'To St.Cloud?'I exclaimed,greatly astonished.

'No,the king of France is here,'he answered.

'At Meudon?'

'To be sure.Why not?'

I expressed my wonder at his Majesty's rapid recovery.

'Pooh!'he answered roughly.'He is as well as he ever was.Iwill leave you my light.Be good enough to descend as soon as you are ready,for it is ill work keeping kings waiting.Oh!

and I had forgotten one thing,'he continued,returning when he had already reached the door.'My orders are to see that you do not hold converse with anyone until you have seen the king,M.de Marsac.You will kindly remember this if we are kept waiting in the antechamber.'

'Am I to be transported to--other custody?'I asked,my mind full of apprehension.

He shrugged his shoulders.'Possibly,'he replied.'I do not know.'

Of course there was nothing for it but to murmur that I was at the king's disposition;after which La Varenne retired,leaving me to put the best face on the matter I could.Naturally Iaugured anything but well of an interview weighted with such a condition;and this contributed still further to depress my spirits,already lowered by the long solitude in which I had passed the day.Fearing nothing,however,so much as suspense,Ihastened to do what I could to repair my costume,and then descended to the foot of the stairs,where I found my custodian awaiting me with a couple of servants,of whom one bore a link.

We went out side by side,and having barely a hundred yards to go,seemed in a moment to be passing through the gate of the Castle.I noticed that the entrance was very strongly guarded,but an instant's reflection served to remind me that this was not surprising after what had happened at St.Cloud.I remarked to M.la Varenne as we crossed the courtyard that I supposed Paris had surrendered;but he replied in the negative so curtly,and with so little consideration,that I forebore to ask any other questions;and the Chateau being small,we found ourselves almost at once in a long,narrow corridor,which appeared to serve as the antechamber.

It was brilliantly lighted and crowded from end to end,and almost from wall to wall,with a mob of courtiers;whose silence,no less than their keen and anxious looks,took me by surprise.

Here and there two or three,who had seized upon the embrasure of a window,talked together in a low tone;or a couple,who thought themselves sufficiently important to pace the narrow passage between the waiting lines,conversed in whispers as they walked.

But even these were swift to take alarm,and continually looked askance;while the general company stood at gaze,starting and looking up eagerly whenever the door swung open or a newcomer was announced.The strange silence which prevailed reminded me of nothing so much as of the Court at Blois on the night of the Duke of Mercoeur's desertion;but that stillness had brooded over empty chambers,this gave a peculiar air of strangeness to a room thronged in every part.

M.la Varenne,who was received by those about the door with silent politeness,drew me into the recess of a window;whence Iwas able to remark,among other things,that the Huguenots present almost outnumbered the king's immediate following.

Still,among those who were walking up and down,I noticed M.de Rambouillet,to whom at another time I should have hastened to pay my respects;with Marshal d'Aumont,Sancy,and Humieres.Nor had I more than noted the presence of these before the door of the chamber opened and added to their number Marshal Biron,who came out leaning on the arm of Crillon.The sight of these old enemies in combination was sufficient of itself to apprise me that some serious crisis was at hand;particularly as their progress through the crowd was watched,I observed,by a hundred curious and attentive eyes.

They disappeared at last through the outer door,and the assemblage turned as with one accord to see who came next.But nearly half an hour elapsed before the Chamber door,which all watched so studiously,again opened.This time it was to give passage to my late visitor,Turenne,who came out smiling,and leaning,to my great surprise,on the arm of M.de Rosny.

Stanley John Weyman