In saying that the storm was rising
Count Hannibal had said no more than the truth.
A new mob had a minute before burst from the eastward
into the Rue St. Honore; and the roar of its thousand
voices swelled louder than the importunate clangour
of the bells.
Behind its moving masses the dawn
of a new day
Sunday, the 24th of August,
the feast of St. Bartholomew
over the Bastille, as if to aid the crowd in its cruel
The gabled streets, the lanes, and gothic
courts, the stifling wynds, where the work awaited
the workers, still lay in twilight; still the gleam
of the torches, falling on the house-fronts, heralded
the coming of the crowd.
But the dawn was growing,
the sun was about to rise.
Soon the day would
be here, giving up the lurking fugitive whom darkness,
more pitiful, had spared, and stamping with legality
the horrors that night had striven to hide.
And with day, with the full light,
killing would grow more easy, escape more hard.
Already they were killing on the bridge where the
rich goldsmiths lived, on the wharves, on the river.
They were killing at the Louvre, in the courtyard
under the King’s eyes, and below the windows
of the Medicis.
They were killing in St. Martin
and St. Denis and St. Antoine; wherever hate, or bigotry,
or private malice impelled the hand.
whole city went up a din of lamentation, and wrath,
, from the markets, from the
from every haunt of crime and misery, hordes of wretched
creatures poured forth; some to rob on their own account,
and where they listed, none gainsaying; more to join
themselves to one of the armed bands whose business
it was to go from street to street, and house to house,
quelling resistance, and executing through Paris the
high justice of the King.
It was one of these swollen bands
which had entered the street while Tavannes spoke;
nor could he have called to his aid a more powerful
As the deep “A bas!
rolled like thunder along the fronts of the houses,
as the more strident “Tuez!
drew nearer and nearer, and the lights of the oncoming
multitude began to flicker on the shuttered gables,
the fortitude of the servants gave way.
Carlat, shivering in every limb, burst into moaning;
the tiring-maid, Javette, flung herself in terror
at Mademoiselle’s knees, and, writhing herself
about them, shrieked to her to save her, only to save
One of the men moved forward on impulse,
as if he would close the shutters; and only old Carlat
remained silent, praying mutely with moving lips and
a stern, set face.
And Count Hannibal?
As the glare
of the links in the street grew brighter, and ousted
the sickly daylight, his form seemed to dilate.
He stilled the shrieking woman by a glance.
and quickly!” he said.
“For I can
only save my wife and her people!
the pinch is coming, and ’twill be no boy’s
A shot, a scream from the street,
a rush of racing feet before the window seconded his
And his breath came a little faster.
“Quick, before it be too late!
save life, or will you kill?”
She looked at her lover with eyes
of agony, dumbly questioning him.
But he made
no sign, and only Tavannes marked the look.
“Monsieur has done what he can
to save himself,” he said, with a sneer.
“He has donned the livery of the King’s
servants; he has said, ’Whoever perishes, I
will live!’ But
“Curse you!” the young
man cried, and, stung to madness, he tore the cross
from his cap and flung it on the ground.
his white sleeve and ripped it from shoulder to elbow.
Then, when it hung by the string only, he held his
“Curse you!” he cried
“I will not at your bidding!
I may save her yet!
“Fool!” Tavannes answered
his words were barely audible above the deafening
“Can you fight a thousand?
Look!” and seizing the other’s
wrist he pointed to the window.
The street glowed like a furnace in
the red light of torches, raised on poles above a
sea of heads; an endless sea of heads, and gaping faces,
and tossing arms which swept on and on, and on and
For a while it seemed that the torrent would
flow past them and would leave them safe.
came a check, a confused outcry, a surging this way
and that; the torches reeled to and fro, and finally,
with a dull roar of “Open!
the mob faced about to the house and the lighted window.
For a second it seemed that even Count
Hannibal’s iron nerves shook a little.
He stood between the sullen group that surrounded
the disordered table and the maddened rabble, that
gloated on the victims before they tore them to pieces.
Open!” the mob howled:
and a man dashed in the window with his pike.
In that crisis Mademoiselle’s
eyes met Tavannes’ for the fraction of a second.
She did not speak; nor, had she retained the power
to frame the words, would they have been audible.
But something she must have looked, and something
of import, though no other than he marked or understood
For in a flash he was at the window and his
hand was raised for silence.
“Back!” he thundered.
“Back, knaves!” And he whistled shrilly.
“Do what you will,” he went on in the
same tone, “but not here!
do you hear?”
But the crowd were not to be lightly
With a persistence brutal and unquestioning
they continued to howl, “Open!
while the man who had broken the window the moment
before, Jehan, the cripple with the hideous face,
seized the lead-work, and tore away a great piece of
Then, laying hold of a bar, he tried to drag
it out, setting one foot against the wall below.
Tavannes saw what he did, and his frame seemed to
dilate with the fury and violence of his character.
“Dogs!” he shouted, “must
I call out my riders and scatter you?
flog you through the streets with stirrup-leathers?
I am Tavannes; beware of me!
I have claws and
teeth and I bite!” he continued, the scorn in
his words exceeding even the rage of the crowd, at
which he flung them.
“Kill where you please,
rob where you please, but not where I am!
I will hang you by the heels on Montfaucon, man by
I will flay your backs.
I am Tavannes!”
But the mob, cowed for a moment by
the thunder of his voice, by his arrogance and recklessness,
showed at this that their patience was exhausted.
With a yell which drowned his tones they swayed forward;
a dozen thundered on the door, crying, “In the
King’s name!” As many more tore out the
remainder of the casement, seized the bars of the window,
and strove to pull them out or to climb between them.
Jehan, the cripple, with whom Tignonville had rubbed
elbows at the rendezvous, led the way.
Count Hannibal watched them a moment,
his harsh face bent down to them, his features plain
in the glare of the torches.
But when the cripple,
raised on the others’ shoulders, and emboldened
by his adversary’s inactivity, began to squeeze
himself through the bars, Tavannes raised a pistol,
which he had held unseen behind him, cocked it at leisure,
and levelled it at the foul face which leered close
The dwarf saw the weapon and tried to
retreat; but it was too late.
A flash, a scream,
and the wretch, shot through the throat, flung up his
hands, and fell back into the arms of a lean man in
black who had lent him his shoulder to ascend.
For a few seconds the smoke of the
pistol filled the window and the room.
was a cry that the Huguenots were escaping, that the
Huguenots were resisting, that it was a plot; and
some shouted to guard the back and some to watch the
roof, and some to be gone.
But when the fumes
cleared away, the mob saw, with stupor, that all was
as it had been.
Count Hannibal stood where he
had stood before, a grim smile on his lips.
“Who comes next?” he cried
in a tone of mockery.
“I have more pistols!”
And then with a sudden change to ferocity, “You
dogs!” he went on.
“You scum of
a filthy city, sweepings of the
Do you think to beard me?
Do you think to frighten
me or murder me?
I am Tavannes, and this is
my house, and were there a score of Huguenots in it,
you should not touch one, nor harm a hair of his head!
Begone, I say again, while you may!
and children, and kill them.
But not here!”
For an instant the mingled scorn and
brutality of his words silenced them.
the rear of the crowd came an answer
roar of an
The ball whizzed
past Count Hannibal’s head, and, splashing the
plaster from the wall within a pace of Tignonville,
dropped to the ground.
“Were you in my troop I would
dip your trigger-finger in boiling oil to teach you
But you weary me, dogs.
teach you a lesson, must I?” And he lifted a
pistol and levelled it.
The crowd did not know
whether it was the one he had discharged or another,
but they gave back with a sharp gasp.
must teach you, must I?” he continued with scorn.
“Here, Bigot, Badelon, drive me these blusterers!
Rid the street of them!
Not by word or look had he before
this betrayed that he had supports.
But as he
cried the name, a dozen men armed to the teeth, who
had stood motionless under the
, fell in a line on the right flank of
The surprise for those nearest them
With the flash of the pikes before
their eyes, with the cold steel in fancy between their
ribs, they fled every way, uncertain how many pursued,
or if any pursuit there was.
For a moment the
mob, which a few minutes before had seemed so formidable
that a regiment might have quailed before it, bade
fair to be routed by a dozen pikes.
And so, had all in the crowd been
what he termed them, the rabble and sweepings of the
streets, it would have been.
But in the heart
of it, and felt rather than seen, were a handful of
another kidney; Sorbonne students and fierce-eyed
priests, with three or four mounted archers, the nucleus
that, moving through the streets, had drawn together
And these with threats and curse
and gleaming eyes stood fast, even Tavannes’
dare-devils recoiling before the tonsure.
check thus caused allowed those who had budged a breathing
They rallied behind the black robes,
and began to stone the pikes; who in their turn withdrew
until they formed two groups, standing on their defence,
the one before the window, the other before the door.
Count Hannibal had watched the attack
and the check, as a man watches a play; with smiling
In the panic, the torches had been
dropped or extinguished, and now between the house
and the sullen crowd which hung back, yet grew moment
by moment more dangerous, the daylight fell cold on
the littered street and the cripple’s huddled
form prone in the gutter.
A priest raised on
the shoulders of the lean man in black began to harangue
the mob, and the dull roar of assent, the brandished
arms which greeted his appeal, had their effect on
They looked to the window,
and muttered among themselves.
It was plain that
they had no stomach for a fight with the Church, and
were anxious for the order to withdraw.
But Count Hannibal gave no order,
and, much as his people feared the cowls, they feared
Meanwhile the speaker’s eloquence
rose higher; he pointed with frenzied gestures to
The mob groaned, and suddenly a volley
of stones fell among the pikemen, whose
rattled under the shower.
The priest seized that
He sprang to the ground, and to the
He caught up his robe and waved his hand,
and the rabble, as if impelled by a single will, rolled
forward in a huge one-fronted thundering wave, before
which the two handfuls of pikemen
to strike, yet afraid to fly
away like straws upon the tide.
But against the solid walls and oak-barred
door of the house the wave beat, only to fall back
again, a broken, seething mass of brandished arms
and ravening faces.
One point alone was vulnerable,
the window, and there in the gap stood Tavannes.
Quick as thought he fired two pistols into the crowd;
then, while the smoke for a moment hid all, he whistled.
Whether the signal was a summons to
his men to fight their way back
were doing to the best of their power
he had resources still unseen, was not to be known.
For as the smoke began to rise, and while the rabble
before the window, cowed by the fall of two of their
number, were still pushing backward instead of forward,
there rose behind them strange sounds
and the clatter of hoofs, mingled with screams of
A second, and into the loose skirts of
the crowd came charging helter-skelter, pell-mell,
a score of galloping, shrieking, cursing horsemen,
attended by twice as many footmen, who clung to their
stirrups or to the tails of the horses, and yelled
and whooped, and struck in unison with the maddened
“On! on!” the foremost
shrieked, rolling in his saddle, and foaming at the
“Bleed in August, bleed in May!
Kill!” And he fired a pistol among the rabble,
who fled every way to escape his rearing, plunging
his followers, cutting the air with their swords, and
rolling to and fro on their horses in drunken emulation.
“Bleed in August, bleed in May!”
the leader, as the crowd which beset the house fled
every way before his reckless onset.
in August, bleed in May!”
The rabble fled, but not so quickly
but that one or two were ridden down, and this for
an instant checked the riders.
Before they could
!” cried Count
Hannibal from his window.
with a shout of laughter, “ride over them, dear
Make me a clean street for my wedding!”
the hero of Jarnac, was the leader of this wild orgy
that way, and strove to rein in his horse.
“What ails them?” he cried,
as the maddened animal reared upright, its iron hoofs
striking fire from the slippery pavement.
“They are rearing like thy Bayard!”
Count Hannibal answered.
“Whip them, whip
them for me!
“Who touches my brother, touches
Tavannes!” the Marshal replied, and spurred
his horse among the rabble, who had fled to the sides
of the street and now strove hard to efface themselves
against the walls.
“Begone, dogs; begone!”
he cried, still hunting them.
And then, “You
would bite, would you?” And snatching another
pistol from his boot, he fired it among them, careless
whom he hit.
you, does it!” he continued, as the wretches
“Who touches my brother,
Suddenly, from a doorway near at hand,
a sombre figure darted into the roadway, caught the
Marshal’s rein, and for a second checked his
for a priest it
was, Father Pezelay, the same who had addressed the
held up a warning hand.
“Halt!” he cried, with
“Halt, my lord!
is written, thou shalt not spare the Canaanitish woman.
’Tis not to spare the King has given command
and a sword, but to kill!
’Tis not to harbour,
but to smite!
“Then smite I will!” the
Marshal retorted, and with the butt of his pistol
struck the zealot down.
Then, with as much indifference
as he would have treated a Huguenot, he spurred his
horse over him, with a mad laugh at his jest.
“Who touches my brother, touches Tavannes!”
Bleed in August, bleed in May!”
“On!” shouted his followers,
striking about them in the same desperate fashion.
They were young nobles who had spent the night feasting
at the Palace, and, drunk with wine and mad with excitement,
had left the Louvre at daybreak to rouse the city.
A Jarnac!” they cried,
and some saluted Count Hannibal as they passed.
And so, shouting and spurring and following their
leader, they swept away down the now empty street,
carrying terror and a flame wherever their horses bore
them that morning.
Tavannes, his hands on the ledge of
the shattered window, leaned out laughing, and followed
them with his eyes.
A moment, and the mob was
gone, the street was empty; and one by one, with sheepish
faces, his pikemen emerged from the doorways and alleys
in which they had taken refuge.
about the three huddled forms which lay prone and
still in the gutter:
or, not three
For even as they approached them, one, the priest,
rose slowly and giddily to his feet.
a face bleeding, lean, and relentless towards the
window at which Tavannes stood.
the sign of the cross, and with uplifted hands, he
cursed him in bed and at board, by day and by night,
in walking, in riding, in standing, in the day of
battle, and at the hour of death.
fell back appalled, and hid their eyes; and those who
were of the north crossed themselves, and those who
came from the south bent two fingers horse-shoe fashion.
But Hannibal de Tavannes laughed; laughed in his
moustache, his teeth showing, and bade them move that
carrion to a distance, for it would smell when the
sun was high.
Then he turned his back on the
street, and looked into the room.