M. de Montsoreau, Lieutenant-Governor
of Saumur almost rose from his seat in his astonishment.
he cried, a hand on either arm of the chair.
The Magistrates stared, one and all.
“No letters?” they muttered.
And “No letters?” the Provost chimed in
Count Hannibal looked smiling round
the Council table.
He alone was unmoved.
“No,” he said.
“I bear none.”
M. de Montsoreau, who, travel-stained
and in his corselet, had the second place of honour
at the foot of the table, frowned.
he said, “my instructions from Monsieur were
to proceed to carry out his Majesty’s will in
co-operation with you, who, I understood, would bring
de par lé Roi
“I had letters,” Count
Hannibal answered negligently.
the way I mislaid them.”
“Mislaid them?” Montsoreau
cried, unable to believe his ears; while the smaller
dignitaries of the city, the magistrates and churchmen
who sat on either side of the table, gaped open-mouthed.
It was incredible!
It was unbelievable!
Mislay the King’s letters!
Who had ever
heard of such a thing?
“Yes, I mislaid them.
Lost them, if you
like it better.”
“But you jest!” the Lieutenant-Governor
retorted, moving uneasily in his chair.
a man more highly named for address than courage; and,
like most men skilled in finesse, he was prone to suspect
“You jest, surely, Monsieur!
Men do not lose his Majesty’s letters, by the
“When they contain his Majesty’s
will, no,” Tavannes answered, with a peculiar
“You imply, then?”
Count Hannibal shrugged his shoulders,
but had not answered when Bigot entered and handed
him his sweetmeat box; he paused to open it and select
He was long in selecting; but no change
of countenance led any of those at the table to suspect
that inside the lid of the box was a message
scrap of paper informing him that Montsoreau had left
fifty spears in the suburb without the Saumur gate,
besides those whom he had brought openly into the
Tavannes read the note slowly while he
seemed to be choosing his fruit.
“Imply?” he answered.
“I imply nothing, M. de Montsoreau.”
“But that sometimes his Majesty
finds it prudent to give orders which he does not
mean to be carried out.
There are things which
start up before the eye,” Tavannes continued,
negligently tapping the box on the table, “and
there are things which do not; sometimes the latter
are the more important.
You, better than I,
M. de Montsoreau, know that the King in the Gallery
at the Louvre is one, and in his closet is another.”
“And that being so
“You do not mean to carry the letters into effect?”
“Had I the letters, certainly,
I should be bound by them.
I took good care to lose them,” Tavannes added
“I am no fool.”
“However,” Count Hannibal
continued, with an airy gesture, “that is my
If you, M. de Montsoreau, feel inclined,
in spite of the absence of my letters, to carry yours
into effect, by all means do so
M. de Montsoreau breathed hard.
“And why,” he asked, half sulkily and
half ponderously, “after midnight only, M.
“Merely that I may be clear
of all suspicion of having lot or part in the matter,”
Count Hannibal answered pleasantly.
midnight of to-night by all means do as you please.
Until midnight, by your leave, we will be quiet.”
The Lieutenant-Governor moved doubtfully
in his chair, the fear
which Tavannes had
shrewdly instilled into his mind
might be disowned if he carried out his instructions,
struggling with his avarice and his self-importance.
He was rather crafty than bold; and such things had
been, he knew.
Little by little, and while he
sat gloomily debating, the notion of dealing with
one or two and holding the body of the Huguenots to
a notion which, in spite of everything,
was to bear good fruit for Angers
to form in his mind.
The plan suited him:
it left him free to face either way, and it would
fill his pockets more genteelly than would open robbery.
On the other hand, he would offend his brother and
the fanatical party, with whom he commonly acted.
They were looking to see him assert himself.
They were looking to hear him declare himself.
Harshly Count Hannibal’s voice
broke in on his thoughts; harshly, a something sinister
in its tone.
“Where is your brother?”
And it was evident that he had not
noted his absence until then.
Vicar of all people should be here!” he continued,
leaning forward and looking round the table.
His brow was stormy.
Lescot squirmed under his eye; Thuriot
turned pale and trembled.
It was one of the
canons of St.-Maurice, who at length took on himself
“His lordship requested, M.
,” he ventured, “that
you would excuse him.
“Is he ill?”
“Is he ill, sirrah?” Tavannes
And while all bowed before the lightning
of his eye, no man at the table knew what had roused
the sudden tempest.
But Bigot knew, who stood
by the door, and whose ear, keen as his master’s,
had caught the distant report of a musket shot.
“If he be not ill,” Tavannes continued,
rising and looking round the table in search of signs
of guilt, “and there be foul play here, and he
the player, the Bishop’s own hand shall not
By Heaven it shall not!
yours!” he continued, looking fiercely at Montsoreau.
“Nor your master’s!”
The Lieutenant-Governor sprang to
he stammered, “I do not understand this language!
Nor this heat, which may be real or not!
I say is, if there be foul play here
“If!” Tavannes retorted.
“At least, if there be, there be gibbets too!
And I see necks!” he added, leaning forward.
“Necks!” And then, with a look of flame,
“Let no man leave this table until I return,”
he cried, “or he will have to deal with me.
Nay,” he continued, changing his tone abruptly,
as the prudence, which never entirely left him
perhaps the remembrance of the other’s fifty
sobered him in the midst of his
rage, “I am hasty.
I mean not you, M. de
Ride where you will; ride with me,
if you will, and I will thank you.
until midnight Angers is mine!”
He was still speaking when he moved
from the table, and, leaving all staring after him,
strode down the room.
An instant he paused on
the threshold and looked back; then he passed out,
and clattered down the stone stairs.
and riders were waiting, but, his foot in the stirrup,
he stayed for a word with Bigot.
“Is it so?” he growled.
The Norman did not speak, but pointed
towards the Place
.-Croix, whence an
occasional shot made answer for him.
In those days the streets of the Black
City were narrow and crooked, overhung by timber houses,
and hampered by booths; nor could Tavannes from the
old Town Hall
But that he
He struck spurs to his horse, and,
followed by his ten horsemen, he clattered noisily
down the paved street.
A dozen groups hurrying
the same way sprang panic-stricken to the walls, or
saved themselves in doorways.
He was up with
them, he was beyond them!
Another hundred yards,
and he would see the Place.
And then, with a cry of rage, he drew
rein a little, discovering what was before him.
In the narrow gut of the way a great black banner,
borne on two poles, was lurching towards him.
It was moving in the van of a dark procession of
priests, who, with their attendants and a crowd of
devout, filled the street from wall to wall.
They were chanting one of the penitential psalms,
but not so loudly as to drown the uproar in the Place
They made no way, and Count Hannibal
swore furiously, suspecting treachery.
was no madman, and at the moment the least reflection
would have sent him about to seek another road.
Unfortunately, as he hesitated a man sprang with
a gesture of warning to his horse’s head and
seized it; and Tavannes, mistaking the motive of the
act, lost his self-control.
He struck the fellow
down, and, with a reckless word, rode headlong into
the procession, shouting to the black robes to make
way, make way!
A cry, nay, a shriek of horror,
answered him and rent the air.
And in a minute
the thing was done.
Too late, as the Bishop’s
Vicar, struck by his horse, fell screaming under its
too late, as the consecrated vessels
which he had been bearing rolled in the mud, Tavannes
saw that they bore the canopy and the Host!
He knew what he had done, then.
Before his horse’s iron shoes struck the ground
again, his face
even his face
lost its colour.
But he knew also that to hesitate
now, to pause now, was to be torn in pieces; for his
riders, seeing that which the banner had veiled from
him, had not followed him, and he was alone, in the
middle of brandished fists and weapons.
not a moment.
Drawing a pistol, he spurred onwards,
his horse plunging wildly among the shrieking priests;
and though a hundred hands, hands of acolytes, hands
of shaven monks, clutched at his bridle or gripped
his boot, he got clear of them.
with him the memory of one face seen an instant amid
the crowd, one face seen, to be ever remembered
face of Father Pezelay, white, evil, scarred, distorted
by wicked triumph.
Behind him, the thunder of “Sacrilege!
Sacrilege!” rose to Heaven, and men were gathering.
In front the crowd which skirmished about the inn
was less dense, and, ignorant of the thing that had
happened in the narrow street, made ready way for
him, the boldest recoiling before the look on his
Some who stood nearest to the inn, and
had begun to hurl stones at the window and to beat
on the doors
which had only the minute
before closed on Badelon and his prisoners
that he had his riders behind him; and these fled
But he knew better even than they the
value of time; he pushed his horse up to the gates,
and hammered them with his boot while be kept his
pistol-hand towards the Place and the cathedral, watching
for the transformation which he knew would come!
And come it did; on a sudden, in a
A white-faced monk, frenzy in his
eyes, appeared in the midst of the crowd.
stood and tore his garments before the people, and,
stooping, threw dust on his head.
A second and
a third followed his example; then from a thousand
throats the cry of “Sacrilege!
rolled up, while clerks flew wildly hither and thither
shrieking the tale, and priests denied the Sacraments
to Angers until it should purge itself of the evil
By that time Count Hannibal had saved
himself behind the great gates, by the skin of his
The gates had opened to him in time.
But none knew better than he that Angers had no gates
thick enough, nor walls of a height, to save him for
many hours from the storm he had let loose!