McClure's Magazine/Volume 5/Number 1/The Governor of Guèret
THE GOVERNOR OF GUÈRET.
A STORY OF ADVENTURE.
By Stanley J. Weyman,
MY appointment to represent the king at the Assembly of Châtelherault had carried me in the month of July, 1605, into Poitou. Being there, and desirous of learning for myself whether the arrest of Auvergne had pacified his country to the extent described by the king's agents, I determined to take advantage of a vacation of the Assembly and venture as far in that direction as Guèret; though Henry, fearing lest the malcontents should make an attempt on my person in revenge for the death of Biron, had strictly charged me not to approach within twenty leagues of the Limousin.
I had with me for escort at Châtelherault a hundred horse; but, these seeming to be either too many or too few for the purpose, I took with me only ten picked men with Colet their captain, five servants heavily armed, and of my gentlemen Boisrueil and La Font. Parabère, to whom I opened my mind, consented to be my companion. I gave out that I was going to spend three days at Preuilly, to examine an estate there which I thought of buying, that I might have a residence in my government; and, having amused the curious with this statement, I got away at daybreak, and by an hour before noon was at Touron, where I stayed for dinner. That night we lay at a village, and the next day dined at St. Marcel. The second afternoon we reached Crozant.
Here I began to observe those signs of neglect and disorder which, at the close of the war, had been common in all parts of France, but in the more favored districts had been erased by a decade of peace. Briers and thorns choked the roads, which ran through morasses, between fields which the husbandman had resigned to tares and undergrowth. Ruined hamlets were common, and everywhere wolves and foxes and all kinds of game abounded. But that which roused my ire to the hottest was the state of the bridges, which in this country, where the fords are in winter impassable, had been allowed to fall into utter decay. On all sides I found the peasants oppressed, disheartened, and primed with tales of the king's severity, which those who had just cause to dread him had instilled into them. Bands of robbers committed daily excesses, and, in a word, no one thing was wanting to give the lie to the rose-colored reports with which Bareilles, the Governor of Guèret, had amused the Council.
I confess that, at sight and thought of these things—of this country so devoured, the king's authority so contemned, all evils laid at his door, all his profits diverted—my anger burned within me, and I said more to Parabère than was perhaps prudent, telling him, in particular, what I designed against Bareilles, of whose double-dealing I needed no further proof; by what means I proposed to lull his suspicions for the moment, since we must lie at Guèret, and how I would afterwards, on the first occasion, have him seized and punished.
I forgot, while I avowed these things, that one weakness of Parabère's character which rendered him unable to believe evil of anyone. Even of Bareilles, though the two were the merest acquaintances, he could only think indulgently, because, forsooth, he too was a Protestant. He began to defend him, therefore, and, seeing how the ground lay, after a time I let the matter drop.
Still I did not think that he had been serious in his plea, and that which happened on the following morning took me completely by surprise. We had left Crozant an hour, and I was considering whether, the road being bad, we should even now reach Guèret before night, when Parabère, who had made some excuse to ride forward, returned to me with signs of embarrassment in his manner.
"My friend," he said, "here is a message from Bareilles."
"How?" I exclaimed. "A message? For whom?"
"For you," he said; "the man is here.
"But how did Bareilles know that I was coming?" I asked.
Parabère's confusion furnished me with the answer before he spoke. "Do not be angry, my friend," he said. "I wanted to do Bareilles a good turn. I saw that you were enraged with him, and I thought that I could not help him better than by suggesting to him to come and meet you in a proper spirit, and make the explanations which I am sure that he has it in his power to make. Yesterday morning, therefore, I sent to him."
"And he is here?" I said dryly.
Parabère admitted with a blush that he was not. His messenger had found Bareilles on the point of starting against a band of plunderers who had ravaged the country for a twelvemonth. He had sent me the most civil messages, therefore—but he had not come. "However, he will be at Guèret to-morrow," Parabère added cheerfully.
"Will he?" I said.
"I will answer for it," he answered. "In the meantime, he has done what he can for our comfort."
"How?" I said.
"He bids us not to attempt the last three leagues to Guèret to-night; the road is too bad. But to stay at Saury, where there is a good inn, and to-morrow morning he will meet us there."
"If the brigands have not proved too much for him," I said.
"Yes," Parabère answered, with a simplicity almost supernatural. "To be sure."
After this, it was no use to say anything to him, though his officiousness would have justified the keenest reproaches. I swallowed my resentment, therefore, and we went on amicably enough, though the valley of the Crease, in its upper and wilder part, through which our road now wound, offered no objects of a kind to soften my anger against the governor. I saw enough of ruins, of blocked defiles, and overgrown roads; but of returning prosperity and growing crops, and the king's peace, I saw no sign—not so much as one dead robber.
About noon we alighted to eat a little at a wretched tavern by one of the innumerable fords. A solitary traveller who was here before us, and for a time kept aloof, wearing a grand and mysterious manner with a shabby coat, presently moved, edging himself up to me where I sat a little apart, eating with Parabère and my gentlemen.
"Sir," he said, on a sudden and without preface, "I see that you are the leader of this party."
As I was more plainly dressed than Parabère, and had been giving no orders, I wondered how he knew; but I answered, without any remark, "Well, sir, and what of that?"
"You are in great danger," he replied.
"I?" I said.
"Yes, sir; you!" he answered.
"You know me?"
He shrugged his shoulders. "Not I," he said, "but those who speak by me. Enough that you are in danger."
"From what?" I asked sceptically; while my companions stared, and the troopers and servants, who were just within hearing, listened open-mouthed.
"A one-eyed woman and a one-eyed house," he answered darkly. Then, before I could frame a question, he turned from me as abruptly as he had come, and mounting a sorry mare that stood near, stumbled away through the ford.
It required little wit to see that the man was an astrologer, and one whose predictions, if they had not profited his clients more than himself, had been ominous indeed. I was inclined, therefore, to make sport of him, knowing that the pretenders to that art are to the true men as ten to one. But his words, and particularly the fact that he had asked for nothing, had impressed my followers differently; so that they talked of nothing else while we ate, and could still be heard discussing him in the saddle. The wildness of the road and the gloomy aspect of the valley had doubtless some effect on their minds, which a thunder-storm that shortly afterwards overtook us and drenched us to the skin did not tend to lighten. I was glad to see the roofs of Saury before us; though, on a nearer approach, we found all the houses except the inn ruined and tenantless, and even that scorched and scarred, with the great gate that had once closed its courtyard prostrate in the road before it.
However, in view of the country we had come through, and the general desolation, we were thankful to find things no worse. The village stood at the entrance to a gorge, with the Creuse—here a fast-rushing stream—running at the back of the inn. The latter was of good size, stone-built and tiled, and at first seemed to be empty; but the servants presently unearthed a man and then a boy. Fires were lit, and the horses stabled; and a second room with a chimney being found, Parabère and I, with Colet and my gentlemen took possession of it, leaving the kitchen to my following.
I had had my boots removed, and was drying my clothes and expecting supper, when Boisrueil, who was beside me, uttered an exclamation of amazement.
"What is it?" I said.
He did not answer, and I followed his eyes. A woman had just entered the room with a bundle of sticks. She had one eye!
I confess that, for an instant, this staggered me; but a moment's thought reminded me that the astrologer had come from this inn to us, and I smiled at the credulity which would have built on a coincidence that was no coincidence. When the woman had retired again, therefore, I rallied Boisrueil on his timidity; but, though he admitted the correctness of my reasoning, I saw that he was not entirely convinced. He started whenever a shutter flapped, or the draughts, which searched the grim old building through and through, threatened to extinguish our lights. He hung cloaks over the windows—to obviate the latter inconvenience, he said—and was continually going out and coming back with gloomy looks. Parabère joined me in rallying him, which we did without mercy; but when I had occasion, after a while, to pass through the outer room, I found that he was not alone in his fears. The troopers sat moodily listening, or muttered together, while the cup passed round in silence. When I bade a man go on an errand to the stable, four went; and when I dropped a word to the woman who was attending to her pot, a dozen heads were stretched out to catch the answer.
Such a feeling—to which, in this instance, the murmur of the stream and the steady downpour of rain doubtless added something—is so contagious that I was not surprised to find Colet and La Font sinking under it. Only Parabère, in fact, rose quite superior to the notion, laughed at their fears, and drank to their better spirits; and, making the best of the situation, as became an old soldier, presently engaged me in tales of the war—fought again the siege of Laon, and buried men whose bodies had lain for ten years under the oaks at Fontaine Françoise.
Talk of this kind, which we still maintained after we had despatched our supper, was sufficiently engrossing to erase Boisrueil's fancies entirely from my mind. They were recalled by his sudden entrance, with Colet at his elbow, the faces of both full of importance. I saw that they had something to say, and asked what it was.
"We have been examining the back gate, Monsieur le Marquis," Colet said.
"It is barricaded, and cannot be opened," he answered.
"Well," I said again, "there is nothing wonderful in that. Anyone can see that there has been rough work here. The front gate was stormed, I suppose, and the back one left standing."
"But it is so barricaded that it is not possible to open it," he objected. "And the men have an idea——"
"Well?" I said, seeing that he hesitated.
"That this is a one-eyed house."
Parabère laughed loudly. "Of course it is!" he said. "That strolling rogue saw the gate as well as the woman, and made his profit of them."
"Pardon, sir!" Boisrueil answered bluntly. "That is just what he did not do!"
"Well," I said, silencing him by a gesture, "is that all?"
"No," he replied; "I have tasted the men's wine."
"And it is drugged?"
"No," he said. "On the contrary, it is a great deal too good for the price—or the house. And you ordered a litre apiece. Some have had two, and not asked twice for it!"
"Ho, ho!" I said, staring at him. "Are you sure of that?"
"Quite!" he said.
I was genuinely startled at last; but Parabère still made light of it. "What!" he said. "Are we a pack of nervous women, or one poor traveller in a solitary inn, that we see shadows and shake at them?"
"The inn is solitary enough," Boisrueil grumbled.
"But we are twenty swords!" Parabère retorted, opening his eyes wide. "Why, I have ridden all day in an enemy's country with less!"
"And been beaten with more at Craon."
"But, man alive, that was in a battle, and by an army!"
"Well, and there may be a battle and an army here," Boisrueil answered sulkily.
I was inclined to laugh at this as extravagance; but seeing that La Font and Colet sided with Boisrueil, I remembered that the latter was no coward, though a great gossip, and I thought better of it. Accordingly, resolving to look into the thing myself, I bade La Font fetch a couple of lanterns, and, when he had done so, went out with him and Boisrueil as if I had a mind to go round the horses before I retired. Parabère declined to accompany me, on the ground that he would not be at the pains of i t; and Colet I left in the kitchen to keep an eye on the man and woman.
There was no moon, rain was still falling, and the yard, crowded with steaming, shivering horses, was dreary enough where the lanterns displayed it; but, accustomed to such a sight, I made, without regarding it, for the gate, which a moment's examination showed to be barricaded, as they had described, with great beams and stones. In this there was nothing beyond the ordinary, one entrance to a house being in troublous times better than two; but Boisrueil bidding me kneel and look lower, I found, when I did so, that the soil under the beams—which did not touch the ground by some inches—was wet, and I began to understand. When he asked me at what hour rain had begun to fall, I answered two in the afternoon, and drew at once the inference at which he aimed—that the beams had been put there, and the gate barricaded, at some later hour.
"We reached here at six," he said; "it was done sometime between two and six, my lord; therefore to-day. To-day," he repeated in a low voice; "and by a dozen men at least. Fewer could not move those beams."
"And the object?"
"To prevent our escape."
"But who are they?" I said, looking at him.
"The woman knows," he answered.
"We must ask her, my lord."
I assented; and we went back into the house, where it would not have surprised me if we had found the wretches flown and the nest empty. But Colet had done his work too well. They were both there, and in a moment, at a signal from Boisrueil, were secured and pinioned. Parabère, hearing the scuffle, came out and would have remonstrated, but I silenced him with a sharp word; and, despatching La Font with a couple of discreet men to keep watch in the court that we might not be surprised, I bade one of the servants throw some fir-cones on the fire. These, blazing up, filled the squalid room in a moment with a glare of light, which revealed alike the livid faces of the two prisoners and the excited looks and dark countenances of my escort.
I bade them put the woman forward first, and addressed her sternly, telling her that I knew all, and that she would do well to confess, inasmuch as if she made a clean breast of the matter, I would grant her her life; and if she did not, she would be the first to die, since I would hang her were a single shot fired against the house.
The promise found her unmoved, but the threat, uttered in a tone which showed that I was in earnest, proved more effectual. With an ugly look, under which my men shrank as if her eye had power to scorch them, the hag said that she would confess, and, with impotent rage, admitted the truth of Boisrueil's surmises. The rearward gate had been barricaded that afternoon by the Great Band, who had had notice of our coming, and intended to attack us at midnight. I asked her how many they mustered.
"A hundred," she answered sullenly.
"Very well," I said. "And supposing that we do not wait for them, how shall we escape? By the road to Guèret?"
"Fifty lie in ambush on it."
"By the road by which we came?"
"The other fifty lie there."
"Across the river?"
"There is no ford."
"Then in the village? If we seize some other building?"
"The village is watched, and this house," she answered, with a sparkle of joy in her eye.
At that the position began to assume so serious an aspect that I turned to Parabère to take his advice. We numbered twenty in all, and were well armed; but five to one are large odds, and we had little ammunition, while, for all we knew, the house might be fired with ease from the outside. The roads north and south being occupied, and the river enclosing us on the west, there remained only one direction in which escape seemed possible; but, as we knew nothing of the country, and the brigands everything, the desperate idea of plunging into it blindly, at night, and with pursuers at our heels, was dismissed as soon as formed.
Parabère interrupted these calculations by drawing me aside into the room in which we had supped, where, after rallying me on the whimsical notion of the Grand Master of the Ordnance and Governor of the Bastile being besieged in a paltry inn, he confessed that he had been wrong, and that the adventure was likely to prove serious. "Ten to one this is the very band that Bareilles is pursuing," he said.
"Very likely," I answered bluntly; "but the question is, how are we to evade them. Are we to fight or fly?"
"Well, for fighting," he replied coolly, "the front gate lies in the road, there are no shutters to half the windows, the door is crazy, and there is a thatched penthouse against one wall."
"And no help nearer than Guèret."
"Three leagues," he assented. "And from that we are cut off. Fifty men in the gorge might hold it against five hundred. Better man the courtyard here than that, tether the horses in the gateway, and fight it out."
"Perhaps so," I said; and we looked at one another, hearing through the open door the men muttering and whispering in the kitchen, and above their voices the dull murmur of the stream, which seemed of a piece with the bleak night outside, the ruined hamlet, and the danger that lurked round us. Bitterly repenting the hardihood that had led me to expose myself to such risks in breach of the king's commandment, I found it difficult to direct my mind to the immediate question. So many reflections connected with my mission at Châtelherault and other affairs of state would intrude, that I seemed to be occupied rather with the results of my death at this juncture, and particularly the injury which it must inflict on the king's service, than with the question how I could escape.
However, Parabère soon recalled me to the point. "It is now ten o'clock," he said in a placid tone; "we have two hours."
"Yes," I answered; then, as if my mind had all the time been running in an undercurrent to the desired goal, I continued: "And we must make the most of them. We must remove the barricade, in the dark and quietly, from the rear to the front gate. Do you see? Then the moment they sound the attack in front we must slip out at the back, make a dash for the road, and through the gorge to Guèret."
"Good," Parabère assented, with the utmost coolness. "Why not? Let us do it."
We went in, and in a moment the orders were given, and, the men being charged to be silent and to make as little noise as possible over the work, we had every hope of accomplishing it undetected. To go out into the road and raise and replace the shattered gate would have been too bold a step. We contented ourselves, therefore, with removing four great baulks of timber from the one gate to the other, and placing them across the gap in such a manner that, being supported by large stones, they formed a pretty high barrier. To these, at Boisrueil's suggestion, were added three doors which we forced from their hinges in the house, and behind the whole, to cover our retreat the better, we tethered six sumpter horses in two lines.
It remained only to unbar the rear gate and see that it opened easily. This being done, as we had done all the rest, stealthily and in darkness, and by men who dared not speak above a whisper, I gave the word to hang the male prisoner and gag and bind the woman. Colet undertook these duties, and with a grim humor of his own hung the rascally host on the threshold where the brigands must run against him when they entered. Then I directed every man to saddle and bridle his nag and stand by it, and so we waited with what patience we might for the dénouement.
It seemed very long in coming, yet when it did, what with the restless movements of the horses and the melancholy murmur of the stream, it well-nigh took us by surprise. It was Boisrueil who touched my sleeve and made me aware of a low trampling on the road outside, a sound that had scarcely become clearly audible before it ceased. I judged that the moment was come, and passed the word in a whisper to open the gates. Unfortunately, they creaked, and I feared for a moment that I had been premature; but before they were more than ajar, a harsh whistle startled the silence, a flare blazed up on the road, and a voice cried to charge.
On the instant the ground shook under the assailants' rush, but the barricade, which doubtless took the rogues by surprise, brought them to a sudden stop, and gave us time to file out. The heavy rain which was falling served to cover our movements almost as well as the baggage horses which we had posted for the purpose; while we ran the less risk, inasmuch as the flare they had kindled lit up the upper part of the house, but left the courtyard in perfect darkness.
Naturally, once outside, we did not linger to see what happened, but, filing in a line and like ghosts up the bank of the stream, were glad to hit on the road a hundred and fifty paces away, where it entered the gorge. Here, where it was as dark as pitch, we whipped our horses into a canter and made a good pace for half a league, then, drawing rein, let our horses trot until the league was out. By that time we were through the gorge, and I gave the word to pull up, that we might listen and learn whether we were pursued. Before the order had quite brought us to a standstill, however, two figures on a sudden rose out of the darkness before us and barred the way. I was riding in the front rank, abreast of Parabère and La Font, and I had just time to lay my hand on a pistol when one of the figures spoke.
"Well, Monsieur le Capitaine, what luck?" he cried, advancing, and drawing rein to turn with us.
I saw his mistake, and, raising my hand to check those behind, muttered in my beard that all had gone well.
"You got the man?"
"Yes," I said, peering at him through the darkness.
"Good!" he answered. "Then now for Bareilles, supper, and a full purse; and afterwards, for me, the quietest corner of France! The king will make a fine outcry, and I do not trust one gov——"
In a flash Parabère had him by the throat, and dragged him in a grip of iron on to the withers of his horse. Still he managed to utter a cry, and the other rascal, taking the alarm, whipped his horse round, and in a second got a start of twenty paces. Colet, a light man and well mounted, was after him in a trice, and we heard them go ding-dong, ding-dong, through the darkness for a mile or more—as it seemed to us. Then a sharp scream came faintly down the wind.
"Good!" Parabère said cheerfully. "Let us be jogging." He had tied his prisoner neck and knees over the saddle before him.
"You heard what he said?" I muttered, as we moved on.
"Perfectly," he answered in the same tone.
"And you think?"
"I think, Grand Master," he replied dryly, "that the sooner you are out of La Marche and Bareilles's government, the longer you are likely to live."
I was quite of that opinion myself, having drawn the same inferences from the words the prisoner had uttered. But for the moment I had no alternative save to go on, and put a bold face on the matter; and accordingly I led the way forward at as fast a pace as the darkness and the jaded state of our horses permitted. Colet presently joined us, and half an hour later a bunch of lights which appeared on the side of a hill in front proclaimed that we were nearing Guèret. From this point, half a league across a rushy bottom and through a ford brought us to the gate, which opened before we summoned it. I had taken care to call to the van one of my men who knew the town; and he guided us quickly, no one challenging us, through a number of foul, narrow streets and under dark archways, among which a stranger must have gone astray. We reached at last a good-sized square, on one side of which—though the rest of the town lay buried in darkness— a large building, which I judged to be Bareilles's residence, exposed a dozen lighted windows to the street. Two or three figures lounged half-seen on the wide stone steps which led up to the entrance, and the rattle of dice, with a murmur of voices, came from the windows. Without a moment's hesitation I dismounted at the foot of the steps, and, bidding La Font and Boisrueil attend me, with three of the servants, I directed Colet to withdraw with the rest and the horses to the farther end of the square.
Dreading nothing so much as that I might lose the advantage of surprise, I put aside two of the men on the steps who would have questioned me, and strode boldly across the stone landing at the head of the flight. Here I found two doors facing me, and foresaw the possibility of error; but I was relieved from the burden of choosing by the sudden appearance at one of them of Bareilles himself. The place was lit only by an oil-lamp, and, for a reason best known to himself, he did not look directly at me, but stood with his head half-turned as he said: "Well, Martin, is it done?"
I heard the dicers hold their hands to catch the answer, and in the silence a bottle in some unsteady hand clinked against a glass. Through the half-open door behind him it was possible to see a long table, laid and glittering with steel and plate; and all seemed to wait.
Parabère broke the spell. "We are late!" he said in a ringing voice, which startled the governor as if it had been the voice of doom. "But we could not have found you better prepared, it seems. Do you always sup as late as this?"
For a moment the villain could not speak, but leaned against the doorpost, with his cheeks gone white and his jaw fallen, the most pitiable spectacle to be conceived. I affected to see nothing, however, but went by him easily, and into the room, drawing off my gauntlets as I entered. The dicers, from their seats beside a table on the hearth, gazed at me, turned to stone. I took up a glass, filled it, and drank it off. "Now I am better!" I said. "But this is not the warmest of welcomes. Monsieur de Bareilles."
He muttered something, looked fearfully from one to another of us, and, his hand shaking, filled a glass and pledged me. The wine gave him courage and impudence; he began to speak; and though his hurried sentences and excited manner must have betrayed him to the least suspicious, we pretended to see nothing, but rather to congratulate ourselves on his late hours and timely preparations. And certainly nothing could have seemed more cheerful in comparison with the squalid inn and miry road from which we came than this smiling feast, if death had not seemed to my eyes to lurk behind it.
"I thought it likely that you would lie at Saury," he said, with a ghastly smile.
"And yet made this preparation for us?" I answered, politely, yet letting a little of my real mind be seen. "Well, as a fact, Monsieur Bareilles, save for one thing we should have lain there."
"And that thing?" he asked, his tongue almost failing him as he put the question.
"The fact that you have a villain in your company," I answered.
"What?" he stammered.
"A villain, Monsieur le Capitaine Martin," I continued, sternly. "You sent him out this morning against the Great Band; instead, he took it upon him to lay a plot for me, from which I have only narrowly escaped."
"Yes, Monsieur de Bareilles, Martin!" I answered roundly, fixing him with my eyes; while Parabère went quietly to the door, and stood by it. "If I am not mistaken, I hear him at this moment dismounting below. Let us understand one another therefore. I propose to sup with you, but I shall not sit down until he hangs."
It would be useless for me to attempt to paint the mixture of horror, perplexity, and shame which distorted Bareilles's countenance as I spoke these words. While Parabère's attitude and my demeanor gave him clearly to understand that we suspected the truth, if we did not know it, our coolness and the very nature of my demand imposed upon his fears and led him to believe that we had a regiment at our call. He knew, too, that that which might be done in a ruined hamlet might not be done in the square at Guèret, and his knees trembled under him. He muttered that he did not understand; that we must be mistaken. What evidence had we?
"The best!" I answered, grimly. "If you wish to hear it, I will send for it; but witnesses have sometimes loose tongues, Monsieur Bareilles, and he may not stop at the Capitaine Martin."
He started and glared at me. From me his eyes passed to Parabère; then he shuddered, and looked down at the table. As he leaned against it, I heard the glasses tinkling softly. At last he muttered that the man must have a trial.
I shrugged my shoulders, and would have answered that that was his business; but at the moment a heavy step rang on the stone steps, the door was flung hastily open, and a dark-complexioned man came in with his hat on. The stranger was splashed to the chin, and his face wore an expression of savage annoyance; but this gave place, the instant he saw us, to one of intense surprise, while the words he had had on his lips died away, and he stood nonplussed. I turned to Monsieur de Bareilles. "Who is this?" I said, harshly.
"One of my lieutenants," he answered, in a stifled tone.
"Monsieur le Capitaine Martin?"
"The same," he answered.
"Very well," I replied. "You have heard my terms."
He stood clutching the table, and in the bright light of the candles that burned on it his face was horrible. Still he managed to speak. "Monsieur le Capitaine, call four men," he muttered.
"Monsieur?" the captain answered.
"Call four men—four of your men," Bareilles repeated with an effort.
The captain turned and went downstairs in amazement, returning immediately after with four troopers at his heels.
Bareilles's face was ghastly. "Take Monsieur le Capitaine's sword," he said to them.
The captain's jaw fell, and, stepping back a pace, he looked from one to another. But all were silent; he found every eye upon him, and, doubtful and taken by surprise, he unbuckled his sword and flung it with an oath upon the floor.
"To the garden with him!" Bareilles continued, hoarsely. "Quick! Take him! I will send you your orders."
They laid hands on the man mechanically, and, unnerved by the suddenness of the affair, the silence, and the presence of so many strangers—ignorant, too, what was doing or what was meant—he went unresisting. They marched him out heavily; the door closed behind them; we stood waiting. The glittering table, the lights, the arrested dicers, all the trivial preparations for a carouse that at another time must have given a cheerful aspect to the room, produced instead the most sombre impression. I waited, but, seeing that Bareilles did not move, I struck the table with my gauntlet. "The order!" I said, sharply; "the order!"
He slunk to a table in a corner where there was ink, and scrawled it. I took it from his hand, and, giving it to Boisrueil, "Take it," I said, "and the three men on the landing, and see the order carried out. When it is over, come and tell me."
He took the order and disappeared. La Font after him. I remained in the room with Parabère, Bareilles, and the dicers. The minutes passed slowly, no one speaking, Bareilles standing with his head sunk on his breast, and a look of utter despair on his countenance. At length Boisrueil and La Font returned. The former nodded.
"Very well," I said. "Then let us sup, gentlemen. Come, Monsieur de Bareilles, your place is at the head of the table. Parabère, sit here. Gentlemen, I have not the honor of knowing you, but here are places."
And we supped; but not all with the same appetite. Bareilles, silent, despairing, a prey to the bitterest remorse, sat low in his chair, and, if I read his face aright, had no thought but of vengeance. But, assured that by forcing him to that which must forever render him odious—and particularly among his inferiors—I had sapped his authority at the root, I took care only that he should not leave us. I directed Colet to unsaddle and bivouac in the garden, and myself lay all night with Parabère and Bareilles in the room in which we had supped, Boisrueil and La Font taking turns to keep the door.
To have betrayed too much haste to begone might have proved as dangerous as a long delay; and our horses needed rest. But an hour before noon next day I gave the order, and we mounted in the square, in the presence of a mixed mob of soldiers and townsfolk, whom it needed but a spark to kindle. I took care that that spark should be wanting, however; and to that end I compelled Bareilles to mount and ride with us as far as Saury. Here, where I found the inn burned and the woman murdered, I should have done no more than justice had I hung him as well; and I think that he half expected it. But reflecting that he had a score of relations in Poitou who might give trouble, and, besides, that his position called for some degree of consideration, I parted with him gravely, and hastened to put as many leagues between us as possible. That night we slept at Crozant, and the next at St. Gaultier.
It was chiefly in consequence of the observations I made during this journey that Henry, in the following October, marched into the Limousin with a considerable force, and received the submission of the governors. In the course of that expedition he put to death ten or twelve of the more disorderly, but Bareilles was not of them. He escaped a fate he richly deserved by flying betimes with Bassignac to Sedan. Of his ultimate fate I know nothing; but a week after my return to the Arsenal, a man called on me who turned out to be the astrologer. I gave him fifty crowns.