Coconnas was not mistaken. The lady who had stopped the cavalier of the cherry-colored cloak was indeed the Queen of Navarre. As to the cavalier, our reader has already guessed, I presume, that he was no other than brave De Mouy. Upon recognizing the Queen of Navarre the young Huguenot realized that there was some mistake; but he dared not speak, fearing a cry from Marguerite would betray him. He preferred to let himself be led to her apartments, and when once there to say to his beautiful guide:
“Silence for silence, madame.”
Marguerite had gently pressed the arm of him whom in the semi-darkness she had mistaken for La Mole, and leaning toward him whispered in Latin:
“Sola sum; introito, carissime.”9
9 “I am alone; enter, my dear.”
De Mouy without answering let her lead him along; but scarcely was the door closed behind him and he found himself in the antechamber, which was better lighted than the stairway, before Marguerite saw that he was not La Mole.
Thereupon the cry which the cautious Huguenot had feared escaped Marguerite; but fortunately there was no further danger from it.
“Monsieur de Mouy!” cried she, stepping back.
“In person, madame, and I beg your majesty to leave me free to continue my way without mentioning my presence in the Louvre to any one.”
“Oh! Monsieur de Mouy!” reiterated Marguerite, “I was mistaken, then!”
“Yes,” said De Mouy, “I understand. Your majesty mistook me for the King of Navarre. I am the same height, I wear the same white plume, and many, no doubt in order to flatter me, say I have the same gait.”
Marguerite looked closely at De Mouy.
“Do you understand Latin, Monsieur de Mouy?” she asked.
“I used to know it,” replied the young man, “but I have forgotten it.”
“Monsieur de Mouy,” said she, “you may rely on my discretion. But as I think I know the name of the one you are seeking in the Louvre, I will offer my services to guide you directly to him.”
“Excuse me, madame,” said De Mouy, “I think you are mistaken, and that you are completely ignorant of”—
“What!” exclaimed Marguerite, “are you not looking for the King of Navarre?”
“Alas, madame,” said De Mouy, “I regret to have to beg you especially to conceal my presence in the Louvre from your husband, his majesty the king.”
“Listen, Monsieur de Mouy,” said Marguerite in surprise, “I have considered you until now one of the strongest leaders of the Huguenot party, and one of the most faithful partisans of the king my husband. Am I mistaken?”
“No, madame, for this very morning I was all that you say.”
“And what has changed you since this morning?”
“Madame,” said De Mouy, bowing, “kindly excuse me from answering, and do me the favor to accept my homage.”
De Mouy, respectful but firm, started towards the door.
Marguerite stopped him.
“But, monsieur,” said she, “if I were to ask you for a word of explanation, my word is good, it seems to me?”
“Madame,” replied De Mouy, “I am obliged to keep silent, and this duty must be very imperative for me not to have answered your majesty.”
“Your majesty may ruin me, madame, but you cannot ask me to betray my new friends.”
“But the old ones, monsieur, have they too not some rights?”
“Those who have remained true, yes; those who not only have abandoned us, but themselves as well, no.”
Marguerite, thoughtful and anxious, would no doubt have answered by a new question, had not Gillonne suddenly entered the apartment.
“The King of Navarre!” she cried.
“How is he coming?”
“By the secret corridor.”
“Take monsieur out by the other.”
“Impossible, madame. Listen.”
“Some one is knocking?”
“Yes, at the door to which you wish me to take monsieur.”
“Who is knocking?”
“I do not know.”
“Go and see, and come back and tell me.”
“Madame,” said De Mouy, “might I venture to remark to your majesty that if the King of Navarre sees me at this hour and in this costume in the Louvre, I am lost?”
Marguerite seized De Mouy and pushed him towards the famous cabinet.
“Step in here, monsieur,” said she; “you will be as safe and as well protected as if you were in your own house; I give you my word of honor.”
De Mouy entered hastily. Scarcely was the door closed when Henry appeared.
This time Marguerite had no anxiety to hide — she was merely gloomy, and love was far from her thoughts.
As to Henry, he entered with that mistrust which in the most dangerous moments caused him to notice the smallest details; whatever the circumstances, Henry was an acute observer. Therefore he at once saw the cloud on Marguerite’s brow.
“You are busy, madame?” said he.
“I? Why, yes, sire, I was dreaming.”
“You do well, madame. Dreaming is becoming to you. I too was dreaming; but contrary to you who seek solitude, I have come on purpose to share my dreams, with you.” Marguerite gave the king a gesture of welcome, and indicating an armchair to him, seated herself on a chair of sculptured ebony, as delicate and as strong as steel. There was an instant’s silence; then Henry broke it.
“I remembered, madame,” said he, “that my dreams as to the future corresponded with yours in so far as although separated as husband and wife, nevertheless we both desire to unite our fortune.”
“That is true, sire.”
“I think I understood you to say also that in all the plans I might make toward our mutual rising, I would find in you not only a faithful but an active ally.”
“Yes, sire, and I ask only one thing, that in beginning the work as soon as possible, you will give me the opportunity to begin also.”
“I am glad to find you of this mind, madame, and I trust that you have not for one instant doubted that I would lose sight of the plan I resolved to carry out the very day when, thanks to your brave intervention, I was almost sure of being safe.”
“Monsieur, I think that your carelessness is nothing but a mask, and I have faith not only in the predictions by the astrologers, but in your good genius as well.”
“What should you say, madame, if someone were to upset our plans and threaten to reduce us to an ordinary position?”
“I should say that I was ready to fight with you, either openly or in secret, against this someone, whoever he might be.”
“Madame,” continued Henry, “it is possible for you, is it not, to gain immediate admission into the room of your brother, Monsieur d’Alençon? You are in his confidence and he is very friendly to you; might I venture to beg you to find out if he is at present holding a secret conference with someone?”
Marguerite gave a start.
“With whom, monsieur?” she asked.
“With De Mouy.”
“Why?” asked Marguerite, repressing her emotion.
“Because if such is the case, madame, farewell to all our projects, or to all mine, at least.”
“Sire, speak softly,” said Marguerite, making a sign with her eyes and lips, and pointing to the cabinet.
“Oh! oh!” said Henry, “still someone? Indeed, that cabinet is so often occupied that it makes your room uninhabitable.”
“Is it still Monsieur de la Mole?” asked Henry.
“No, sire, it is Monsieur de Mouy.”
“He?” cried Henry with surprise mingled with joy. “He is not with the Duc d’Alençon, then? Oh! have him come in, that I may talk to him.”
Marguerite stepped to the cabinet, opened it, and taking De Mouy by the hand led him without preamble to the King of Navarre.
“Ah! madame,” said the young Huguenot, in a tone of reproach more sad than bitter, “you have betrayed me in spite of your promise; that is wrong. What should you do if I were to avenge myself by saying”—
“You will not avenge yourself, De Mouy,” interrupted Henry, pressing the young man’s hand, “or at least you will listen to me first. Madame,” continued Henry, turning to the queen, “be kind enough, I beg you, to see that no one overhears us.”
Scarcely had Henry uttered these words when Gillonne entered, frightened, and whispered a few words to Marguerite, which caused the latter to spring from her seat. While she hastened to the antechamber with Gillonne, Henry, without troubling himself as to why she had left the room, examined the bed, the side of it, as well as the draperies, and sounded the wall with his fingers. As to Monsieur de Mouy, frightened at all these preparations, he first of all made sure that his sword was out of its sheath.
Leaving her sleeping-room, Marguerite hastened to the antechamber and came face to face with La Mole, who in spite of all the protests of Gillonne had forced his way into Marguerite’s room.
Coconnas was behind him, ready to urge him forward or sustain a retreat.
“Ah! it is you, Monsieur la Mole!” cried the queen; “but what is the matter, and why are you so pale and trembling?”
“Madame,” said Gillonne, “Monsieur de la Mole knocked at the door so that, in spite of your majesty’s orders, I was forced to open it.”
“What is the meaning of this?” said the queen, severely; “is this true, Monsieur de la Mole?”
“Madame, I wanted to warn your majesty that a stranger, a robber perhaps, had gained admittance to your rooms with my cloak and my hat.”
“You are mad, monsieur,” said Marguerite, “for I see your cloak on your shoulders, and, God forgive me, I think I see your hat on your head, even though you are speaking to a queen.”
“Oh! pardon me, madame, pardon me!” cried La Mole, quickly uncovering; “but God is my witness, it is not my respect which is lacking.”
“No, it is your trust, is it not?” said the queen.
“What can you expect?” cried La Mole, “when a man is in your majesty’s rooms; when he gains admittance by assuming my clothes, and perhaps my name, who knows”—
“A man!” cried Marguerite, softly pressing her poor lover’s arm; “a man! You are modest, Monsieur de la Mole. Look through the opening of the portière and you will see two men.”
Marguerite drew back the velvet portière embroidered in gold, and La Mole saw Henry talking with the man in the cherry-colored cloak. Coconnas, as though he himself were concerned, looked also, saw, and recognized De Mouy. Both men stood amazed.
“Now that you are reassured, or at least now that I hope you are,” said Marguerite, “take your stand outside my door, and for your life, my dear La Mole, let no one enter. If any one even approaches the stairs, warn me.” La Mole, weak and obedient as a child, withdrew, glancing at Coconnas, who looked at him. Both found themselves outside without having thoroughly recovered from their astonishment.
“De Mouy!” cried Coconnas.
“Henry!” murmured La Mole.
“De Mouy with your cherry-colored cloak, your white plume, and your swinging arm.”
“Ah!” went on La Mole, “the moment it is not a question of love, it is a question of plot.”
“By Heaven! here we are in the midst of politics,” said Coconnas grumbling. “Fortunately I do not see Madame de Nevers mixed up in it.”
Marguerite returned and sat down by the two speakers. She had been gone only a moment, but had made the most of her time. Gillonne, on guard in the secret passage, and the two gentlemen on duty at the main entrance, assured perfect safety for her.
“Madame,” said Henry, “do you think it would be possible for us to be overheard in any way?”
“Monsieur,” said Marguerite, “the walls of this room are wadded, and a double wainscoting deadens all sound.”
“I depend on you,” replied Henry smiling. Then turning to De Mouy:
“Now,” said the king, in a low tone, as if in spite of the assurance of Marguerite his fears were not wholly overcome, “what are you here for?”
“Here?” said De Mouy.
“Yes, here, in this room,” repeated Henry.
“He had nothing to do here,” said Marguerite; “I induced him to come.”
“I guessed everything.”
“You see, De Mouy, we can discover what is going on.”
“This morning,” continued Marguerite, “Monsieur de Mouy was with Duc François in the apartment of two of his gentlemen.”
“You see, De Mouy,” repeated Henry, “we know everything.”
“That is true,” said De Mouy.
“I was sure,” said Henry, “that Monsieur d’Alençon had taken possession of you.”
“That is your fault, sire. Why did you so persistently refuse what I offered you?”
“You refused!” exclaimed Marguerite. “The refusal I feared, then, was real?”
“Madame,” said Henry, shaking his head, “and you, my brave De Mouy, really, you make me laugh with your exclamations. What! a man enters my chamber, speaks to me of a throne, of a revolt, of a revolution, to me, Henry, a prince tolerated provided that I eat humble pie, a Huguenot spared on condition that I play the Catholic; and I am expected to accept, when these propositions are made in a room without padding or double wainscoting! Ventre saint gris! You are either children or fools!”
“But, sire, could not your majesty have left me some hope, if not by word, at least by a gesture or sign?”
“What did my brother-inlaw say to you, De Mouy?” asked Henry.
“Oh, sire, that is not my secret.”
“Well, my God!” continued Henry, with a certain impatience at having to deal with a man who so poorly understood his words. “I do not ask what you proposed to him, I ask you merely if he listened to you, if he heard you.”
“He listened, sire, and he heard.”
“He listened and he heard! You admit it yourself, De Mouy, tactless conspirator that you are! Had I said one word you would have been lost, for I did not know, I merely suspected that he was there, or if not he, someone else, the Duc d’Anjou, Charles IX., or the queen mother, for instance. You do not know the walls of the Louvre, De Mouy; it was for them that the proverb was made which says that walls have ears; and knowing these walls you expected me to speak! Well, well, De Mouy, you pay a small compliment to the common sense of the King of Navarre, and I am surprised that not esteeming him more highly you should have offered him a crown.”
“But, sire,” said De Mouy, “could you not even while refusing this crown have given me some sign? In that case I should not have considered everything hopeless and lost.”
“Well! Ventre saint gris!” exclaimed Henry, “if one can hear cannot one see also? and is not one lost by a sign as much as by a word? See, De Mouy,” continued the king, looking around him, “at the present moment, so near to you that my words do not reach beyond the circle of our three chairs, I still fear I may be overheard when I say: De Mouy, repeat your proposal to me.”
“But, sire,” cried De Mouy in despair, “I am now engaged with Monsieur d’Alençon.”
Marguerite angrily clasped and unclasped her beautiful hands.
“Then it is too late?” said she.
“On the contrary,” murmured Henry, “know that even in this, God’s hand is visible. Continue your arrangement, De Mouy, for in Duc François lies our safety. Do you suppose that the King of Navarre would guarantee your heads? On the contrary, wretched man, I should have you all killed to the last one, and on the least suspicion. But with a son of France it is different. Secure proofs, De Mouy, ask for guarantees; but, stupid that you are, you will be deeply involved, and one word will suffice for you.”
“Oh, sire, it was my despair at your having left us, believe me, which threw me into the arms of the duke; it was also the fear of being betrayed, for he kept our secret.”
“Keep his, now, De Mouy; it rests with you. What does he wish? To leave court? Furnish him with means to escape. Work for him, De Mouy, as if you were working for me, turn the shield so that he may parry every blow they aim at us. When it is time to flee, we will both flee. When it is time to fight and reign, I will reign alone.”
“Do not trust the duke,” said Marguerite, “he is gloomy and acute, without hatred as without love; ever ready to treat his friends like enemies and his enemies like friends.”
“And he is expecting you now, De Mouy?” said Henry.
“In the apartment belonging to his two gentlemen.”
“At what time?”
“It is not yet eleven o’clock,” said Henry, “so you have lost no time; now you may go, De Mouy.”
“We have your word, monsieur?” said Marguerite.
“Come now, madame!” said Henry, with the confidence he knew so well how to use with certain people and on certain occasions, “with Monsieur de Mouy, such things are not even asked for.”
“You are right, sire,” replied the young man; “but I need your word, for I shall have to tell the leaders that I have it. You are not a Catholic, are you?”
Henry shrugged his shoulders.
“You do not renounce the kingdom of Navarre?”
“I renounce no kingdom, De Mouy, I merely reserve for myself the choice of the best; that is, the one which shall best suit me and you.”
“And if in the meantime your majesty should be arrested, you would promise to reveal nothing even should they torture your royal majesty?”
“De Mouy, I swear that, before God.”
“One further word, sire. How am I to see you in future?”
“After tomorrow you shall have a key to my room. You will come there, De Mouy, as often as it may be necessary and when you please. It is for the Duc d’Alençon to answer for your presence in the Louvre. In the meantime, use the small stairway. I will show you the way. The queen will have the cherry-colored cloak like yours come here — the one who was in the antechamber just now. No one must notice any difference between you, or know that there are two of you, De Mouy. Do you not agree with me? And you, madame?” Henry looked at Marguerite and uttered the last words with a smile.
“Yes,” said she, without moving a feature; “for this Monsieur de la Mole belongs to my brother, the duke.”
“Well, madame, try to win him over to our side,” said Henry, in perfect seriousness. “Spare neither gold nor promises; I will put all my treasures at his disposal.”
“In that case,” said Marguerite, with one of the smiles which belong only to the women of Boccaccio, “since this is your wish, I will do my best to second it.”
“Very good, madame; and you, De Mouy, return to the duke, and make sure of him.”
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:07