19. In A Net
After their return from hunting, they remained for another fortnight at Bearn; and then started, the countess and Francois to return home, and Philip to pay a visit to the Count de Valecourt, at his chateau in Dauphiny, in accordance with the promise he had given him to visit him on his return to France. Here he remained for a month. The count treated him with the warmest hospitality, and introduced him to all his friends as the saviour of his daughter.
Claire had grown much since he had seen her, when he had ridden over with her father to Landres, a year before. She was now nearly sixteen, and was fast growing into womanhood.
Philip was already acquainted with many of the nobles and gentry of Dauphiny who had joined the Admiral's army and, after leaving Valecourt, he stayed for a short time at several of their chateaux; and it was autumn before he joined Francois at Laville. The inhabited portion of the chateau had been enlarged and made more comfortable, for the king was still firm in his decision that peace should be preserved, and showed marked favour to the section of the court that opposed any persecution of the Huguenots. He had further shown his desire for the friendship of the Protestant powers by the negotiations that had been carried on for the marriage of the Duke of Anjou to Queen Elizabeth.
"I have news for you," Francois said. "The king has invited the Admiral to visit him. It has, of course, been a matter of great debate whether Coligny should trust himself at court, many of his friends strongly dissuading him; but he deems it best, in the interests of our religion, that he should accept the invitation; and he is going to set out next week for Blois, where the king now is with the court. He will take only a few of his friends with him. He is perfectly aware of the risk he runs but, to those who entreat him not to trust himself at court, he says his going there may be a benefit to the cause, and that his life is as nothing in the scale. However, he has declined the offers that have been made by many gentlemen to accompany him, and only three or four of his personal friends ride with him."
"No doubt he acts wisely, there," Philip said. "It would be well-nigh destruction to our cause, should anything befall him now; and the fewer of our leaders in Charles's hands, the less temptation to the court to seize them.
"But I do think it possible that good may come of Coligny, himself, going there. He exercises wonderful influence over all who come in contact with him, and he may be able to counterbalance the intrigues of the Catholic party, and confirm the king in his present good intentions towards us."
"I saw him two days ago, and offered to ride in his train," Francois said; "but he refused, decidedly, to let me.
"'The friends who will accompany me,' he said, 'have, like myself, well-nigh done their work. The future is for you and those who are young. I cannot dream that the king would do wrong to invited guests; but should aught happen, the blow shall fall upon none of those who should be the leaders of the next generation.'"
The news of the reception of the Admiral, at Blois, was anxiously awaited by the Huguenots of the west; and there was great joy when they heard that he had been received most graciously by the king, who had embraced him, and protested that he regarded it as one of the happiest days in his life; as he saw, in his return to his side, the end of trouble and an assurance of future tranquillity. Even Catharine de Medici received the Admiral with warmth. The king presented him, from his private purse, with the large sum of a hundred thousand livres; to make good some of the great losses he had suffered in the war. He also ordered that he should receive, for a year, the revenues of his brother the cardinal, who had lately died; and appointed him guardian of one of the great estates, during the minority of its heir--a post which brought with it considerable profits.
At Coligny's suggestion, Charles wrote to the Duke of Savoy interceding for the Waldenses, who were being persecuted cruelly for having assisted the Huguenots of France.
So angered were the Guises, by the favour with which the king treated the Admiral, that they retired from court; and the king was thus left entirely to the influence of Montmorency and Coligny. The ambassador of Spain, who was further angered by Charles granting interviews to Louis of Nassau, and by his holding out hopes to the Dutch of assistance in their struggle against Alva, also left France in deep dudgeon, and with threats of war.
The result was, naturally, to cause a better state of feeling throughout France. Persecutions everywhere ceased; and the Huguenots, for the first time for many years, were able to live in peace, and without fear of their neighbours.
The negotiations for the marriage between the Prince of Navarre and Marguerite de Valois continued. The prince was now eighteen and a half, and the princess twenty. The idea of a marriage between them was of old standing, for it had been proposed by Henry the Second, fifteen years before; but at the outbreak of the Huguenot troubles it had been dropped. Marshal Biron was sent by the king with the royal proposals to the Queen of Navarre, who was now at La Rochelle. The queen expressed her gratitude for the honour offered to her son, but prayed for time before giving a decided answer, in order that she might consult the ministers of her religion as to whether such a marriage might be entered into, by one of the Reformed religion.
The news of the proposed marriage, and also of the negotiations that had been opened for a marriage between Elizabeth of England and the Duc d'Alencon, created the greatest alarm throughout the Catholic world. A legate was sent to Charles by the pope, to protest against it. Sebastian, King of Portugal, who had refused the hand of Marguerite when it had before been offered to him, reopened negotiations for it; while Philip of Spain did all in his power to throw obstacles in the way of the match.
The ministers of the Reformed religion, consulted by the queen, considered that the marriage of Henry to Marguerite would be of vast benefit to the Huguenot cause; and declared that a mixed marriage was lawful. The English ambassador gave his strongest support to it, and the Queen of Navarre now entered upon the negotiations in earnest, and went to Blois for the purpose.
The differences were entirely religious ones, the court insisting that Henri, while living at Paris with his wife, should consent to be deprived of all means of worshipping according to his own religion; while Marguerite, while in Bearn, should be guaranteed permission to have mass celebrated there. The king would have been ready to waive both conditions; but Catherine who, after at first favouring the match, now threw every obstacle in its way, was opposed to any conclusion. She refused to permit the Queen of Navarre to have any interview with either Charles or Marguerite, unless she was also present; and hesitated at no falsehoods, however outrageous, in order to thwart the efforts of Jeanne and her friends.
The pious queen, however, was more troubled by the extreme and open profligacy of the court than by the political difficulties she encountered and, in her letters, implored her son to insist upon residing at Bearn with his wife, and on no account to take up his abode at Paris.
However, at last the difficulties were removed. The court abandoned its demand that Marguerite should be allowed to attend mass at Bearn; and the Queen of Navarre, on her part, consented that the marriage should take place at Paris, instead of at Bearn as she had before desired.
She then went to Paris to make preparations for the wedding. The great anxiety she had gone through told heavily upon her, and a few days after her arrival at the capital she was seized with a fever which, in a very short time, terminated her life; not without considerable suspicions being entertained that her illness and death had been caused by poison, administered by an agent of Catherine. She was, undoubtedly, one of the noblest women of her own or any other time. She was deeply religious, ready to incur all dangers for the sake of her faith, simple in her habits, pure in her life, unconquerable in spirit, calm and confident in defeat and danger, never doubting for a moment that God would give victory to his cause, and capable of communicating her enthusiasm to all around her--a Christian heroine, indeed. Her death was a terrible blow to the Reformed religion. She died on the 9th of June, and the marriage was, in consequence, deferred until August.
The Admiral had not been present at Blois during the negotiations for the marriage, for after remaining there for three weeks he had retired to his estate at Chatillon, where he occupied himself with the work of restoring his ruined chateau.
The Countess Amelie had accompanied the Queen of Navarre to Blois, and also to Paris, and had been with her at the time she died. She had sent a message to Francois and Philip to join her there, when she left Blois; accompanying her letter with a safe conduct signed by the king. On the road they were met by the news of the death of the Queen of Navarre. It was a severe blow to both of them, not only from the effect it would have upon the Huguenot cause, but from the affection they personally felt for her.
The king, being grievously harassed by the opposite counsels he received, and his doubts as to which of his advisers were honest, wrote to Coligny; begging him to come and aid him, with his counsel and support.
The Admiral received many letters imploring him not to go to Paris; where, even if the friendship of the king continued, he would be exposed to the danger of poison, to which, it was generally believed, his brothers and the Queen of Navarre had succumbed; but although fully aware of the danger of the step, he did not hesitate. To one of his advisers he wrote fearlessly:
"As a royal officer, I cannot in honour refuse to comply with the summons of the king; but will commit myself to the providence of Him who holds in His hands the hearts of kings and princes, and has numbered my years, nay, the very hairs of my head."
One reason of the king's desire for the counsels of the Admiral was that he had determined to carry out his advice, and that of Louis of Nassau, to assist the Protestants of Holland, and to embark in a struggle against the dangerous predominance of Spain. As a first step, he had already permitted Louis of Nassau to recruit secretly, in France, five hundred horse and a thousand infantry from among his Huguenot friends, and to advance with them into the Netherlands; and with these Louis had, on the 24th of May, captured Mons, the capital of Hainault.
The Huguenot leaders did their best to persuade Charles to follow up this stroke by declaring war against Spain; and the king would have done so, had it not been that Elizabeth of England, who had before urged him to this course, promising him her aid, now drew back with her usual vacillation; wishing nothing better than to see France and Spain engaged in hostilities from which she would, without trouble or expense, gain advantage. Meanwhile Catharine, Anjou and the Guise faction all did their best to counteract the influence of the Huguenots.
Elizabeth's crafty and hesitating policy was largely responsible for the terrible events that followed. Charles saw that she had been fooling him, both in reference to his course towards Spain and in her negotiations for a marriage with one or other of his brothers. These matters were taken advantage of by his Catholic advisers, and disposed him to doubt the wisdom of his having placed himself in the hands of the Huguenots.
While Elizabeth was hesitating, a blow came that confirmed the king in his doubts as to the prudence of the course he had taken. Alva laid siege to Mons. A Huguenot force of some three thousand men, led by the Sieur de Genlis, marched to its relief; but was surprised, and utterly routed, within a short distance of the town--1200 were killed on the field of battle, some 1900 fugitives were slain by the peasantry, barely a hundred reached Mons.
Coligny, who was preparing a much larger force for the assistance of Louis of Nassau, still strove to induce the king to throw himself heart and soul into the struggle against Spain; and even warned him that he would never be a true king, until he could free himself from his mother's control and the influence of his brother Anjou.
The queen mother, who had spies everywhere, was not long in learning that Coligny had given this advice, and her hatred against him was proportionately increased. She at once went in tears to Charles, and pointed out to him that it was to her counsel and aid, alone, that he had owed his success against the Huguenots; that they were now obtaining all the advantages for which they had fought, in vain; and that he was endangering the safety of his throne by angering Spain, relying only on the empty promises of the faithless Queen of England.
Charles, always weak and irresolute, succumbed at once to her tears and entreaties, and gave himself up altogether to her pernicious counsels.
After the death of the Queen of Navarre the countess travelled back to Laville, escorted by her son and Philip. The young men made no stay there, but returned at once to Paris where, now that Coligny was in the king's counsels, there was no ground for fear, and the approaching nuptials of the young King of Navarre would be attended by large numbers of his adherents. They took a lodging near that occupied by the Admiral.
De la Noue was not at court, he being shut up in Mons, having accompanied Louis of Nassau in his expedition. The court was in deep mourning for the Queen of Navarre, and there would be no public gaieties until the wedding. Among the Huguenot lords who had come to Paris were the Count de Valecourt and his daughter, who was now seventeen, and had several suitors for her hand among the young Huguenot nobles.
Francois and Philip were both presented to the king by the Admiral. Charles received them graciously and, learning that they had been stopping at Bearn with the Prince of Navarre, presented them to his sister Margaret.
"These gentlemen, Margot, are friends of the King of Navarre, and will be able to tell you more about him than these grave politicians can do."
The princess, who was one of the most beautiful women of her time, asked them many questions about her future husband, of whom she had seen so little since his childhood, and about the place where she was to live; and after that time, when they went to court with the Admiral, who on such occasions was always accompanied by a number of Huguenot gentlemen, the young princess always showed them marked friendliness.
As the time for the marriage approached, the king became more and more estranged from the Admiral. Queen Elizabeth, while professing her friendship for the Netherlands, had forbidden English volunteers to sail to the assistance of the Dutch; and had written to Alva offering, in token of her friendship, to hand over Flushing to the Spaniards. This proof of her duplicity, and of the impossibility of trusting her as an ally, was made the most of by Catherine; and she easily persuaded the weak-minded king that hostilities with the Spaniards would be fatal to him, and that, should he yield to the Admiral's entreaties, he would fall wholly into the power of the Huguenots. The change in the king's deportment was so visible that the Catholics did not conceal their exultation, while a feeling of uneasiness spread among some of the Huguenot gentlemen at Paris.
"What are you doing, Pierre!" Philip said one day, when he found his servant occupied in cleaning up the two pairs of heavy pistols they carried in their holsters.
"I am getting them ready for action, master. I always thought that the Huguenots were fools to put their heads into this cage; and the more I see of it, the less I like it."
"There can be no reason for uneasiness, Pierre. The king himself has, over and over, declared his determination to maintain the truce and, even did he harbour ill designs against us, he would not mar his sister's marriage by fresh steps against the Huguenots. What may follow, after we have all left Paris, I cannot say."
"Well, sir, I hope it may be all right, but since I got a sight of the king's face the other day, I have no faith in him; he looks like one worried until well nigh out of his senses--and no wonder. These weak men, when they become desperate, are capable of the most terrible actions. A month since he would have hung up his mother and Anjou, had they ventured to oppose him; and there is no saying, now, upon whom his wrath may fall.
"At any rate, sir, with your permission I mean to be prepared for the worst; and the first work is to clean these pistols."
"There can be no harm in that anyhow, Pierre, but I have no shadow of fear of any trouble occurring. The one thing I am afraid of is that the king will keep Coligny near him, so that if war should break out again, we shall not have him for our general. With the Queen of Navarre dead, the Admiral a prisoner here, and De la Noue a captive in the hands of Alva, we should fight under terrible disadvantages; especially as La Rochelle, La Charite, and Montauban have received royal governors, in accordance with the conditions of the peace."
"Well, we shall see, master. I shall feel more comfortable if I have got ready for the worst."
Although Philip laughed at the fears of Pierre, he was yet impressed by what he had said; for he had come to rely very much upon the shrewdness of observation of his follower. When, however, he went that evening to the Count de Valecourt's, he saw that there was no tinge of such feeling in the minds of the Huguenots present. The only face that had an unusual look was that of Claire. Apparently she was gayer than usual, and laughed and talked more than was her wont; but Philip saw that this mood was not a natural one, and felt sure that something had happened. Presently, when he passed near her, she made room for him on the settee beside her.
You have not heard the news, Monsieur Philip?
"You have not heard the news, Monsieur Philip?"
"No, mademoiselle, I have heard no particular news."
"I am glad of it. I would rather tell you myself. My father has, today, laid his commands on me to marry the Sieur de Pascal."
Philip could not trust himself to speak. He had never acknowledged to himself that he loved Claire de Valecourt; and had, over and over again, endeavoured to impress upon his mind the fact that it would be ridiculous for him even to think of her; for that her father would never dream of giving her, a rich heiress, and the last of one of the proudest families of Dauphiny, to a simple English gentleman.
As he did not speak, the girl went on after a pause.
"It is not my wish, Monsieur Philip; but French girls do not choose for themselves. My father stated his wishes to me three months ago, in Dauphiny. I then asked for a little time, and now he has told me that it is to be. He is wise and good, and I have nothing to say against the Sieur de Pascal; who, as you know, is our near neighbour, a brave gentleman, and one whom I have known since my childhood. It is only that I do not love him. I have told my father so, but he says that it is not to be expected that a young maid should love, until after marriage."
"And you have promised?" Philip asked.
"Yes, I have promised," she said simply. "It is the duty of a daughter to obey her father, especially when that father is as good and kind as mine has always been to me.
"There, he is beckoning to me;" and, rising, she crossed the room.
Philip, a few minutes later, took his departure quietly. Francois de Laville came in, an hour afterwards, to their lodgings.
"Well, Philip, I did not see you leave the count's. Did you hear the news before you left? The count announced it shortly after you had gone."
"His daughter told me herself," Philip said.
"I am sorry, Philip. I had thought, perhaps--but it is of no use talking of that, now."
"Not the least in the world, Francois. It is natural that her father should wish her to marry a noble of his own province. She has consented, and there is no more to be said.
"When is Henri to arrive? We are all to ride out to meet him, and to follow him into Paris. I hope that it will all pass off well."
"Why, of course it will. What is to prevent it? The wedding will be the grandest ever known in Paris. I hear that Henri brings with him seven hundred Huguenot gentlemen; and a hundred of us here will join him, under the Admiral. It will be a brave sight."
"I wish it was all over."
"Why, it is not often you are in low spirits, Philip. Is it the news that has upset you, or have you heard anything else?"
"No; but Pierre has been croaking and prophesying evil, and although I in no way agree with him, it has still made me uneasy."
"Why, what is there to fear?" Francois said, laughing. "Not the mob of Paris, surely. They would never venture to brave the king's anger by marring the nuptials by disorder; and if they did, methinks that eight hundred of us, with Coligny at our head, could cut our way through the mob of Paris from one end of the city to the other."
The entrance of the King of Navarre into Paris was, indeed, an imposing sight. Coligny with his train had joined him outside the town, and the Admiral rode on one side of the young king, and the Prince of Conde on the other. With them rode the Dukes of Anjou and Alencon, who had ridden out with a gay train of nobles to welcome Henri in the king's name, and escort him into the city. The Huguenots were still in mourning for the late queen; but the sumptuous materials of their dress, set off by their gold chains and ornaments, made a brave show even by the side of the gay costumes of the prince's party.
The betrothal took place at the Louvre on the 17th of August, and was followed by a supper and a ball. After the conclusion of the festivities Marguerite was, in accordance with the custom of the princesses of the blood, escorted by her brothers and a large retinue to the Bishops' Palace adjoining the Cathedral, to pass the night before her wedding there.
The ceremony upon the following day was a most gorgeous one. The king, his two brothers, Henri of Navarre, and Conde were all dressed alike in light yellow satin, embroidered with silver, and enriched with precious stones. Marguerite was in a violet velvet dress, embroidered with fleurs de lis, and she wore on her head a crown glittering with gems. The queen and the queen mother were dressed in cloth of gold.
Upon a lofty platform, in front of the Cathedral of Notre Dame, Henri of Navarre with his train of Protestant lords awaited the coming of the bride; who was escorted by the king, and all the members of his court. The ceremony was performed, in sight of an enormous concourse of people, by the Cardinal Bourbon, who used a form that had been previously agreed upon by both parties. Henri then led his bride into the cathedral; and afterwards, with his Protestant companions, retired to the Episcopal Palace while mass was being said. When this was over, the whole party sat down to dinner in the Episcopal Palace.
In the evening an entertainment was given, in the Louvre, to the notabilities of Paris; and after supper there was a masque of the most lavish magnificence. On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday there was a continuation of pageants and entertainments. During these festivities the king had shown marked courtesy to the Admiral and the Huguenot lords, and it seemed as if he had again emancipated himself from his mother's influence; and the hopes of the Protestants, that he would shortly declare war with Spain, were raised to the highest point.
Although the question was greatly debated at the time, and the belief that the massacre of the Protestants was deliberately planned long beforehand by the king and queen-mother is still generally entertained, the balance of evidence is strongly the other way. What dark thoughts may have passed through the scheming brain of Catharine de Medici none can say, but it would certainly appear that it was not until after the marriage of Henri and Marguerite that they took form. She was driven to bay. She saw that, in the event of a war with Spain, the Huguenots would become all powerful in France. Already the influence of the Admiral was greater than her own, and it had become a battle of life and death with her; for Coligny, in his fearless desire to do what was right, and for the service of France, was imprudent enough over and over again to warn the king against the evil influence of the queen mother and the Duke d'Anjou; and Charles, in his fits of temper, did not hesitate to divulge these counsels. The Duke d'Anjou and his mother, therefore, came to the conclusion that Coligny must be put out of the way.
The duke, afterwards, did not scruple to avow his share in the preparations for the massacre of Saint Bartholomew. The Duchess of Nemours, her son Henri of Guise, and her brother-in-law the Duc d'Aumale were taken into their counsels, and the plan was speedily settled.
Few as were the conspirators taken into the confidence of the queen mother, mysterious rumours of danger reached the ears of the Huguenots. Some of these, taking the alarm, left Paris and made for their estates; but by far the greater portion refused to believe that there could be danger to those whom the king had invited to be present upon such an occasion. In another week, Coligny would be leaving, having, as he hoped, brought the king entirely round to his views; and the vast majority of the Huguenot gentlemen resolved to stay until he left.
Pierre grew more and more serious. Francois had left the lodgings, being one of the Huguenot gentlemen whom Henri of Navarre had chosen to lodge with him at the Louvre.
"You are getting quite unbearable, Pierre, with your long face and your grim looks," Philip said to him on the Friday morning, half in joke and half in earnest. "Why, man, in another week we shall be out of Paris, and on our way south."
"I hope so, Monsieur Philip, with all my heart I hope so; but I feel just as I used to do when I was a boy living in the woods, and I saw a thundercloud working up overhead. I cannot tell you why I feel so. It is something in the air. I wish sir, oh, so much! that you would leave at once."
"That I cannot do, Pierre. I have no estates that demand my attention, no excuse whatever for going. I came here with my cousin, and shall leave with him."
"Well, sir, if it must be, it must."
"But what is that you fear, Pierre?"
"When one is in a town, sir, with Catharine de Medici, and her son Anjou, and the Guises, there is always something to fear. Guise is the idol of the mob of Paris, who have always shown themselves ready to attack the Huguenots. He has but to hold up his finger, and they would be swarming on us like bees."
"But there are troops in the town, Pierre, and the king would punish Paris heavily, were it to insult his guests."
"The king is a weathercock, and goes whichever way the wind blows, monsieur--today he is with the Admiral, tomorrow he may be with the Guises.
"At any rate, I have taken my precautions. I quite understand that, if the danger is foreseen, you will all rally round the Admiral and try to fight your way out of Paris. But if it comes suddenly there will be no time for this. At any hour the mob may come surging up the streets, shouting, as they have often shouted before, 'Death to the Huguenots!' Then, monsieur, fighting would not avail you. You would be unable to join your friends, and you would have to think first of your own life.
"I have been examining the house, and I find that from an upper window one can gain the roof. I got out yesterday evening, after it was dark, and found that I could easily make my way along. The tenth house from here is the one where the Count de Valecourt lodges, and it is easy to gain access to it by a window in the roof. There will be some of your friends there, at any rate. Or we can pass down through any of the intervening houses. In the three before we reach that of the count Huguenots are lodged. The others belong to Catholics, but it might be possible to pass down through them and to go into the street unobserved.
"I have bought for myself some rags, such as are worn by the lowest of the mob; and for you a monk's gown and hood. These I have placed securely against a chimney on our roof.
"I have also, monsieur," and Pierre's eyes twinkled, "bought the dress of a woman of the lower class, thinking that there might be some lady you might be desirous of saving."
"You frighten me, Pierre, with your roofs and your disguises," Philip said, looking with wonder at his follower. "Why, man, this is a nightmare of your own imagination."
"It may be so, master. If it is, no harm is done. I have laid out a few crowns uselessly, and there is an end of it. But if it should not be a nightmare, but a real positive danger, you would at least be prepared for it; and those few crowns may be the saving of our lives."
Philip walked up and down the room for some time.
"At any rate, Pierre, you have acted wisely. As you say, the cost is as nothing; and though my reason revolts against a belief in this nightmare of yours, I am not such a fool as to refuse to pay any attention to it. I know that you are no coward, and certainly not one to indulge in wild fancies.
"Let us go a step farther. Suppose that all this should turn out true, and that you, I, and--and some lady--are in disguise in the midst of a howling mob shouting, 'Death to the Huguenots!' What should we do next? Where should we go?
"It seems to me that your disguise for me is a badly chosen one. As a monk, how could I keep with you as a beggar, still less with a woman?"
"When I bought the monk's robe I had not thought of a woman, monsieur. That was an afterthought. But what you say is just. I must get you another disguise. You shall be dressed as a butcher, or a smith."
"Let it be a smith, by all means, Pierre. Besides, it would be safer. I would smear my face with dirt. I should get plenty on my hands from climbing over the roofs.
"Let us suppose ourselves, then, in the mob. What should we do next?"
"That would all depend, sir, whether the soldiers follow the Guises and take part with the mob in their rising. If so, Paris would be in a turmoil from end to end, and the gates closed. I have thought it all over, again and again; and while your worship has been attending the entertainments, I have been walking about Paris.
"If it is at night I should say we had best make for the river, take a boat and drift down; or else make for the walls, and lower ourselves by a rope from them. If it is in the day we could not do that; and I have found a hovel, at present untenanted, close to the walls, and we could wait there until night."
"You will end by making me believe this, Pierre," Philip said angrily, as he again walked up and down the room, with impatient steps. "If you had a shadow of foundation for what you say, even a rumour that you had picked up in the street, I would go straight to the Admiral. But how could I go and say:
"'My servant, who is a faithful fellow, has taken it into his head that there is danger from an attack on us by the mob.'
"What think you the Admiral would say to that? He would say that it was next door to treason to imagine such things, and that if men were to act upon such fancies as these, they would be fit only for hospitals for the insane. Moreover he would say that, even if you had evidence, even if you had something to show that treachery was meant, he would still, in the interest of France, stay at his post of duty."
At this moment the door opened, and Francois de Laville entered hurriedly.
"What is the matter, Francois?" Philip exclaimed, seeing that his cousin looked pale and agitated.
"Have you not heard the news?"
"I have heard nothing. I have not been out this morning."
"The Admiral has been shot."
Philip uttered an exclamation of horror.
"Not killed, Francois; not killed, I trust?"
"No; two balls were fired, one took off a finger of his right hand, and another has lodged in his left arm. He had just left the king, who was playing at tennis, and was walking homewards with two or three gentlemen, when an arquebus was fired from a house not far from his own. Two of the gentlemen with him assisted him home, while some of the others burst in the door of the house.
"They were too late. Only a woman and a manservant were found there. The assassin had fled by the back of the house, where a horse was standing in waiting. It is said that the house belongs to the old Duchess of Guise.
"It is half an hour since the news reached the palace, and you may imagine the consternation it excited. The king has shut himself up in his room. Navarre and Conde are in deep grief, for they both regard the Admiral almost as a father. As for the rest of us, we are furious.
"There is a report that the man who was seen galloping away from the house from which the shot was fired was that villain Maurevel, who so treacherously shot De Mouy, and was rewarded by the king for the deed. It is also said that a groom, in the livery of Guise, was holding the horse when the assassin issued out.
"Navarre and Conde have gone to Coligny. The king's surgeon is dressing his wounds."