Chapter VII. A Young Knight-Errant.
 

I would gladly have left the two together, and gone straight into the house. I was eager now to discharge the errand on which I had come so far; and apart from this I had no liking for the priest or wish to overhear his talk. His anger, however, was so patent, and the rudeness with which he treated Madame d'O so pronounced that I felt I could not leave her with him unless she should dismiss me. So I stood patiently enough--and awkwardly enough too, I daresay--by the door while they talked on in subdued tones. Nevertheless, I felt heartily glad when at length, the discussion ending Madame came back to me. I offered her my arm to help her over the wooden foot of the side gate. She laid her hand on it, but she stood still.

"M. de Caylus," she said; and at that stopped. Naturally I looked at her, and our eyes met. Hers brown and beautiful, shining in the light of the lamp overhead looked into mine. Her lips were half parted, and one fair tress of hair had escaped from her hood. "M. de Caylus, will you do me a favour," she resumed, softly, "a favour for which I shall always be grateful?"

I sighed. "Madame," I said earnestly, for I felt the solemnity of the occasion, "I swear that in ten minutes, if the task I now have in hand be finished I will devote my life to your service. For the present--"

"Well, for the present? But it is the present I want, Master Discretion."

"I must see M. de Pavannes! I am pledged to it," I ejaculated.

"To see M. de Pavannes?"

"Yes."

I was conscious that she was looking at me with eyes of doubt, almost of suspicion.

"Why? Why?" she asked with evident surprise. "You have restored--and nearly frightened me to death in doing it--his wife to her home; what more do you want with him, most valiant knight- errant?"

"I must see him," I said firmly. I would have told her all and been thankful, but the priest was within hearing--or barely out of it; and I had seen too much pass between him and Bezers to be willing to say anything before him.

"You must see M. de Pavannes?" she repeated, gazing at me.

"I must," I replied with decision.

"Then you shall. That is exactly what I am going to help you to do," she exclaimed. "He is not here. That is what is the matter. He went out at nightfall seeking news of his wife, and crossed the river, the Coadjutor says, to the Faubourg St. Germain. Now it is of the utmost importance that he should return before morning--return here."

"But is he not here?" I said, finding all my calculations at fault. "You are sure of it, Madame?"

"Quite sure," she answered rapidly. "Your brothers will have by this time discovered the fact. Now, M. de Caylus, Pavannes must be brought here before morning, not only for his wife's sake-- though she will be wild with anxiety--but also--"

"I know," I said, eagerly interrupting her, "for his own too! There is a danger threatening him."

She turned swiftly, as if startled, and I turned, and we looked at the priest. I thought we understood one another. "There is," she answered softly, "and I would save him from that danger; but he will only be safe, as I happen to know, here! Here, you understand! He must be brought here before daybreak, M. de Caylus. He must! He must!" she exclaimed, her beautiful features hardening with the earnestness of her feelings. "And the Coadjutor cannot go. I cannot go. There is only one man who can save him, and that is yourself. There is, above all, not a moment to be lost."

My thoughts were in a whirl. Even as she spoke she began to walk back the way we had come, her hand on my arm; and I, doubtful, and in a confused way unwilling, went with her. I did not clearly understand the position. I would have wished to go in and confer with Marie and Croisette; but the juncture had occurred so quickly, and it might be that time was as valuable as she said, and--well, it was hard for me, a lad, to refuse her anything when she looked at me with appeal in her eyes. I did manage to stammer, "But I do not know Paris. I could not find my way, I am afraid, and it is night, Madame."

She released my arm and stopped. "Night!" she cried, with a scornful ring in her voice. "Night! I thought you were a man, not a boy! You are afraid!"

"Afraid," I said hotly; "we Cayluses are never afraid."

"Then I can tell you the way, if that be your only difficulty. We turn here. Now, come in with me a moment," she continued, "and I will give you something you will need--and your directions."

She had stopped at the door of a tall, narrow house, standing between larger ones in a street which appeared to me to be more airy and important than any I had yet seen. As she spoke, she rang the bell once, twice, thrice. The silvery tinkle had scarcely died away the third time before the door opened silently; I saw no one, but she drew me into a narrow hall or passage. A taper in an embossed holder was burning on a chest. She took it up,and telling me to follow her led the way lightly up the stairs, and into a room, half-parlour, half-bedroom-such a room as I, had never seen before. It was richly hung from ceiling to floor with blue silk, and lighted by the soft rays of lamps shaded by Venetian globes of delicate hues. The scent of cedar wood was in the air, and on the hearth in a velvet tray were some tiny puppies. A dainty disorder reigned everywhere. On one table a jewel-case stood open, on another lay some lace garments, two or three masks and a fan. A gemmed riding-whip and a silver-hilted poniard hung on the same peg. And, strangest of all, huddled away behind the door, I espied a plain, black- sheathed sword, and a man's gauntlets.

She did not wait a moment, but went at once to the jewel-case. She took from it a gold ring--a heavy seal ring. She held this out to me in the most matter-of-fact way--scarcely turning, in fact. "Put it on your finger," she said hurriedly. "If you are stopped by soldiers, or if they will not give you a boat to cross the river, say boldly that you are on the king's service. Call for the officer and show that ring. Play the man. Bid him stop you at his peril!"

I hastily muttered my thanks, and she as hastily took something from a drawer, and tore it into strips. Before I knew what she was doing she was on her knees by me, fastening a white band of linen round my left sleeve. Then she took my cap, and with the same precipitation fixed a fragment of the stuff in it, in the form of a rough cross.

"There," she said. "Now, listen, M. de Caylus. There is more afoot to-night than you know of. Those badges will help you across to St. Germain, but the moment you land tear them off: Tear them off, remember. They will help you no longer. You will come back by the same boat, and will not need them. If you are seen to wear them as you return, they will command no respect, but on the contrary will bring you--and perhaps me into trouble."

"I understand," I said, "but--"

"You must ask no questions," she retorted, waving one snowy finger before my eyes. "My knight-errant must have faith in me, as I have in him; or he would not be here at this time of night, and alone with me. But remember this also. When you meet Pavannes do not say you come from me. Keep that in your mind; I will explain the reason afterwards. Say merely that his wife is found, and is wild with anxiety about him. If you say anything as to his danger he may refuse to come. Men are obstinate."

I nodded a smiling assent, thinking I understood. At the same time I permitted myself in my own mind a little discretion. Pavannes was not a fool, and the name of the Vidame--but, however, I should see. I had more to say to him than she knew of. Meanwhile she explained very carefully the three turnings I had to take to reach the river, and the wharf where boats most commonly lay, and the name of the house in which I should find M. de Pavannes.

"He is at the Hotel de Bailli," she said. "And there, I think that is all."

"No, not all," I said hardily. "There is one thing I have not got. And that is a sword!"

She followed the direction of my eyes, started, and laughed--a little oddly. But she fetched the weapon. "Take it, and do not," she urged, "do not lose time. Do not mention me to Pavannes. Do not let the white badges be seen as you return. That is really all. And now good luck!" She gave me her hand to kiss. "Good luck, my knight-errant, good luck--and come back to me soon!"

She smiled divinely, as it seemed to me, as she said these last words, and the same smile followed me down stairs: for she leaned over the stair-head with one of the lamps in her hand, and directed me how to draw the bolts. I took one backward glance as I did so at the fair stooping figure above me, the shining eyes, and tiny outstretched hand, and then darting into the gloom I hurried on my way.

I was in a strange mood. A few minutes before I had been at Pavannes' door, at the end of our journey; on the verge of success. I had been within an ace, as I supposed at least, of executing my errand. I had held the cup of success in my hand. And it had slipped. Now the conflict had to be fought over again; the danger to be faced. It would have been no more than natural if I had felt the disappointment keenly: if I had almost despaired.

But it was otherwise--far otherwise. Never had my heart beat higher or more proudly than as I now hurried through the streets, avoiding such groups as were abroad in them, and intent only on observing the proper turnings. Never in any moment of triumph in after days, in love or war, did anything like the exhilaration, the energy, the spirit, of those minutes come back to me. I had a woman's badge in my cap--for the first time--the music of her voice in my ears. I had a magic ring on my finger: a talisman on my arm. My sword was at my side again. All round me lay a misty city of adventures, of danger and romance, full of the richest and most beautiful possibilities; a city of real witchery, such as I had read of in stories, through which those fairy gifts and my right hand should guide me safely. I did not even regret my brothers, or our separation. I was the eldest. It was fitting that the cream of the enterprise should be reserved for me, Anne de Caylus. And to what might it not lead? In fancy I saw myself already a duke and peer of France--already I held the baton.

Yet while I exulted boyishly, I did not forget what I was about. I kept my eyes open, and soon remarked that the number of people passing to and fro in the dark streets had much increased within the last half hour. The silence in which in groups or singly these figures stole by me was very striking. I heard no brawling, fighting or singing; yet if it were too late for these things, why were so many people up and about? I began to count presently, and found that at least half of those I met wore badges in their hats and on their arms, similar to mine, and that they all moved with a businesslike air, as if bound for some rendezvous.

I was not a fool, though I was young, and in some matters less quick than Croisette. The hints which had been dropped by so many had not been lost on me. "There is more afoot to-night than you know of!" Madame d'O had said. And having eyes as well as ears I fully believed it. Something was afoot. Something was going to happen in Paris before morning. But what, I wondered. Could it be that a rebellion was about to break out? If so I was on the king's service, and all was well. I might even be going-- and only eighteen--to make history! Or was it only a brawl on a great scale between two parties of nobles? I had heard of such things happening in Paris. Then--well I did not see how I could act in that case. I must be guided by events.

I did not imagine anything else which it could be. That is the truth, though it may need explanation. I was accustomed only to the milder religious differences, the more evenly balanced parties of Quercy, where the peace between the Catholics and Huguenots had been welcome to all save a very few. I could not gauge therefore the fanaticism of the Parisian populace, and lost count of the factor, which made possible that which was going to happen--was going to happen in Paris before daylight as surely as the sun was going to rise! I knew that the Huguenot nobles were present in the city in great numbers, but it did not occur to me that they could as a body be in danger. They were many and powerful, and as was said, in favour with the king. They were under the protection of the King of Navarre--France's brother- in-law of a week, and the Prince of Conde; and though these princes were young, Coligny the sagacious admiral was old, and not much the worse I had learned for his wound. He at least was high in royal favour, a trusted counsellor. Had not the king visited him on his sick-bed and sat by him for an hour together?

Surely, I thought, if there were danger, these men would know of it. And then the Huguenots' main enemy, Henri le Balafre, the splendid Duke of Guise, "our great man," and " Lorraine," as the crowd called him--he, it was rumoured, was in disgrace at court. In a word these things, to say nothing of the peaceful and joyous occasion which had brought the Huguenots to Paris, and which seemed to put treachery out of the question, were more than enough to prevent me forecasting the event.

If for a moment, indeed, as I hurried along towards the river, anything like the truth occurred to me, I put it from me. I say with pride I put it from me as a thing impossible. For God forbid--one may speak out the truth these forty years back--God forbid, say I, that all Frenchmen should bear the blood guiltiness which came of other than French brains, though French were the hands that did the work.

I was not greatly troubled by my forebodings therefore: and the state of exaltation to which Madame d'O's confidence had raised my spirits lasted until one of the narrow streets by the Louvre brought me suddenly within sight of the river. Here faint moonlight bursting momentarily through the clouds was shining on the placid surface of the water. The fresh air played upon, and cooled my temples. And this with the quiet scene so abruptly presented to me, gave check to my thoughts, and somewhat sobered me.

At some distance to my left I could distinguish in the middle of the river the pile of buildings which crowd the Ile de la Cite, and could follow the nearer arm of the stream as it swept landwards of these, closely hemmed in by houses, but unbroken as yet by the arches of the Pont Neuf which I have lived to see built. Not far from me on my right--indeed within a stone's throw--the bulky mass of the Louvre rose dark and shapeless against the sky. Only a narrow open space--the foreshore-- separated me from the water; beyond which I could see an irregular line of buildings, that no doubt formed the Faubourg St. Germain.

I had been told that I should find stairs leading down to the water, and boats moored at the foot of them, at this point. Accordingly I walked quickly across the open space to a spot, where I made out a couple of posts set up on the brink-- doubtless to mark the landing place.

I had not gone ten paces, however, out of the shadow, before I chanced to look round, and discerned with an unpleasant eerie feeling three figures detach themselves from it, and advance in a row behind me, so as the better to cut off my retreat. I was not to succeed in my enterprise too easily then. That was clear. Still I thought it better to act as if I had not seen my followers, and collecting myself, I walked as quickly as I could down to the steps. The three were by that time close upon me-- within striking distance almost. I turned abruptly and confronted them.

"Who are you, and what do you want?" I said, eyeing them warily, my hand on my sword.

They did not answer, but separated more widely so as to form a half-circle: and one of them whistled. On the instant a knot of men started out of the line of houses, and came quickly across the strip of light towards us.

The position seemed serious. If I could have run indeed--but I glanced round, and found escape in that fashion impossible. There were men crouching on the steps behind me, between me and the river. I had fallen into a trap. Indeed, there was nothing for it now but to do as Madame had bidden me, and play the man boldly. I had the words still ringing in my ears. I had enough of the excitement I had lately felt still bounding in my veins to give nerve and daring. I folded my arms and drew myself up.

"Knaves!" I said, with as much quiet contempt as I could muster, "you mistake me. You do not know whom you have to deal with. Get me a boat, and let two of you row me across. Hinder me, and your necks shall answer for it--or your backs!"

A laugh and an oath of derision formed the only response, and before I could add more, the larger group arrived, and joined the three.

"Who is it, Pierre?" asked one of these in a matter-of-fact way, which showed I had not fallen amongst mere thieves.

The speaker seemed to be the leader of the band. He had a feather in his bonnet, and I saw a steel corslet gleam under his cloak, when some one held up a lanthorn to examine me the better. His trunk-hose were striped with black, white, and green--the livery as I learned afterwards of Monsieur the King's brother, the Duke of Anjou, afterwards Henry the Third; then a close friend of the Duke of Guise, and later his murderer. The captain spoke with a foreign accent, and his complexion was dark to swarthiness. His eyes sparkled and flashed like black beads. It was easy to see that he was an Italian.

"A gallant young cock enough," the soldier who had whistled answered; "and not quite of the breed we expected." He held his lanthorn towards me and pointed to the white badge on my sleeve. "It strikes me we have caught a crow instead of a pigeon!"

"How comes this?" the Italian asked harshly, addressing me. "Who are you? And why do you wish to cross the river at this time of night, young sir?"

I acted on the inspiration of the moment. "Play the man boldly!" Madame had said. I would: and I did with a vengeance. I sprang forward and seizing the captain by the clasp of his cloak, shook him violently, and flung him off with all my force, so that he reeled. "Dog!" I exclaimed, advancing, as if I would seize him again. "Learn how to speak to your betters! Am I to be stopped by such sweepings as you? Hark ye, I am on the King's service!"

He fairly spluttered with rage. "More like the devil's!" he exclaimed, pronouncing his words abominably, and fumbling vainly for his weapon. "King's service or no service you do not insult Andrea Pallavicini!"

I could only vindicate my daring by greater daring, and I saw this even as, death staring me in the face, my heart seemed to stop. The man had his mouth open and his hand raised to give an order which would certainly have sent Anne de Caylus from the world, when I cried passionately--it was my last chance, and I never wished to live more strongly than at that moment--I cried passionately, "Andrea Pallavicini, if such be your name, look at that! Look at that!" I repeated, shaking my open hand with the ring on it before his face, "and then hinder me if you dare! To- morrow if you have quarterings enough, I will see to your quarrel! Now send me on my way, or your fate be on your own head! Disobey--ay, do but hesitate--and I will call on these very men of yours to cut you down!"

It was a bold throw, for I staked all on a talisman of which I did not know the value! To me it was the turn of a die, for I had had no leisure to look at the ring, and knew no more than a babe whose it was. But the venture was as happy as desperate.

Andrea Pallavicini's expression--no pleasant one at the best of times--changed on the instant. His face fell as he seized my hand, and peered at the ring long and intently. Then he cast a quick glance of suspicion at his men, of hatred at me. But I cared nothing for his glance, or his hatred. I saw already that he had made up his mind to obey the charm: and that for me was everything. "If you had shown that to me a little earlier, young sir, it would, maybe, have been better for both of us," he said, a surly menace in his voice. And cursing his men for their stupidity he ordered two of them to unmoor a boat.

Apparently the craft had been secured with more care than skill, for to loosen it seemed to be a work of time. Meanwhile I stood waiting in the midst of the group, anxious and yet exultant; an object of curiosity, and yet curious myself. I heard the guards whisper together, and caught such phrases as "It is the Duc d'Aumale."

"No, it is not D'Aumale. It is nothing like him."

"Well, he has the Duke's ring, fool!"

"The Duke's?"

"Ay."

"Then it is all right, God bless him!" This last was uttered with extreme fervour.

I was conscious too of being the object of many respectful glances; and had just bidden the men on the steps below me to be quick, when I discovered with alarm three figures moving across the open space towards us, and coming apparently from the same point from which Pallavicini and his men had emerged.

In a moment I foresaw danger. "Now be quick there!" I cried again. But scarcely had I spoken before I saw that it was impossible to get afloat before these others came up, and I prepared to stand my ground resolutely.

The first words, however, with which Pallavicini saluted the new- comers scattered my fears. "Well, what the foul fiend do you want?" he exclaimed rudely; and he rapped out half-a-dozen corpos before they could answer him. "What have you brought him here for, when I left him in the guard-house? Imbeciles!"

"Captain Pallavicini," interposed the midmost of the three, speaking with patience--he was a man of about thirty, dressed with some richness, though his clothes were now disordered as though by a struggle--"I have induced these good men to bring me down--"

"Then," cried the captain, brutally interrupting him, "you have lost your labour, Monsieur."

"You do not know me," replied the prisoner with sternness--a prisoner he seemed to be. "You do not understand that I am a friend of the Prince of Conde, and that--"

He would have said more, but the Italian again cut him short. "A fig for the Prince of Conde!" he cried; "I understand my duty. You may as well take things easily. You cannot cross, and you cannot go home, and you cannot have any explanation; except that it is the King's will! Explanation?" he grumbled, in a lower tone, "you will get it soon enough, I warrant! Before you want it!"

"But there is a boat going to cross," said the other, controlling his temper by an effort and speaking with dignity. "You told me that by the King's order no one could cross; and you arrested me because, having urgent need to visit St. Germain, I persisted. Now what does this mean, Captain Pallavicini? Others are crossing. I ask what this means?"

"Whatever you please, M. de Pavannes," the Italian retorted contemptuously. "Explain it for yourself!"

I started as the name struck my ear, and at once cried out in surprise, "M. de Pavannes!" Had I heard aright?

Apparently I had, for the prisoner turned to me with a bow. "Yes, sir," he said with dignity, "I am M. de Pavannes. I have not the honour of knowing you, but you seem to be a gentleman." He cast a withering glance at the captain as he said this. "Perhaps you will explain to me why this violence has been done to me. If you can, I shall consider it a favour; if not, pardon me."

I did not answer him at once, for a good reason--that every faculty I had was bent on a close scrutiny of the man himself. He was fair, and of a ruddy complexion. His beard was cut in the short pointed fashion of the court; and in these respects he bore a kind of likeness, a curious likeness, to Louis de Pavannes. But his figure was shorter and stouter. He was less martial in bearing, with more of the air of a scholar than a soldier. "You are related to M. Louis de Pavannes?" I said, my heart beginning to beat with an odd excitement. I think I foresaw already what was coming.

"I am Louis de Pavannes," he replied with impatience.

I stared at him in silence: thinking--thinking--thinking. And then I said slowly, "You have a cousin of the same name?"

"I have."

"He fell prisoner to the Vicomte de Caylus at Moncontour?"

"He did," he answered curtly. "But what of that, sir?"

Again I did not answer--at once. The murder was out. I remembered, in the dim fashion in which one remembers such things after the event, that I had heard Louis de Pavannes, when we first became acquainted with him, mention this cousin of the same name; the head of a younger branch. But our Louis living in Provence and the other in Normandy, the distance between their homes, and the troubles of the times had loosened a tie which their common religion might have strengthened. They had scarcely ever seen one another. As Louis had spoken of his namesake but once during his long stay with us, and I had not then foreseen the connection to be formed between our families, it was no wonder that in the course of months the chance word had passed out of my head, and I had clean forgotten the subject of it. Here however, he was before my eyes, and seeing him; I saw too what the discovery meant. It meant a most joyful thing! a most wonderful thing which I longed to tell Croisette and Marie. It meant that our Louis de Pavannes--my cheek burned for my want of faith in him--was no villain after all, but such a noble gentleman as we had always till this day thought him! It meant that he was no court gallant bent on breaking a country heart for sport, but Kit's own true lover! And--and it meant more--it meant that he was yet in danger, and still ignorant of the vow that unchained fiend Bezers had taken to have his life! In pursuing his namesake we had been led astray, how sadly I only knew now! And had indeed lost most precious time.

"Your wife, M. de Pavannes"--I began in haste, seeing the necessity of explaining matters with the utmost quickness. "Your wife is--"

"Ah, my wife!" he cried interrupting me, with anxiety in his tone. "What of her? You have seen her!"

"I have. She is safe at your house in the Rue de St. Merri."

"Thank Heaven for that!" he replied fervently. Before he could say more Captain Andrea interrupted us. I could see that his suspicions were aroused afresh. He pushed rudely between us, and addressing me said, "Now, young sir, your boat is ready."

"My boat?" I answered, while I rapidly considered the situation. Of course I did not want to cross the river now. No doubt Pavannes---this Pavannes--could guide me to Louis' address. "My boat?"

"Yes, it is waiting," the Italian replied, his black eyes roving from one to the other of us.

"Then let it wait!" I answered haughtily, speaking with an assumption of anger. "Plague upon you for interrupting us! I shall not cross the river now. This gentleman can give me the information I want. I shall take him back with me."

"To whom?"

"To whom? To those who sent me, sirrah!"

I thundered. "You do not seem to be much in the Duke's confidence, captain," I went on; "now take a word of advice from me! There is nothing: so easily cast off as an over-officious servant! He goes too far--and he goes like an old glove! An old glove," I repeated grimly, sneering in his face, "which saves the hand and suffers itself. Beware of too much zeal, Captain Pallavicini! It is a dangerous thing!"

He turned pale with anger at being thus treated by a beardless boy. But he faltered all the same. What I said was unpleasant, but the bravo knew it was true.

I saw the impression I had made, and I turned to the soldiers standing round.

"Bring here, my friends," I said, "M. de Pavannes' sword!"

One ran up to the guard house and brought it at once. They were townsfolk, burgher guards or such like, and for some reason betrayed so evident a respect for me, that I soberly believe they would have turned on their temporary leader at my bidding. Pavannes took his sword, and placed it under his arm. We both bowed ceremoniously to Pallavicini, who scowled in response; and slowly, for I was afraid to show any signs of haste, we walked across the moonlit space to the bottom of the street by which I had come. There the gloom swallowed us up at once. Pavannes touched my sleeve and stopped in the darkness.

"I beg to be allowed to thank you for your aid," he said with emotion, turning and facing me. "Whom have I the honour of addressing?"

"M. Anne de Caylus, a friend of your cousin," I replied.

"Indeed?" he said "well, I thank you most heartily," and we embraced with warmth.

"But I could have done little," I answered modestly, "on your behalf, if it had not been for this ring."

"And the virtue of the ring lies in--"

"In--I am sure I cannot say in what!" I confessed. And then, in the sympathy which the scene had naturally created between us, I forgot one portion of my lady's commands and I added impulsively, "All I know is that Madame d'O gave it me; and that it has done all, and more than all she said it would."

"Who gave it to you?" he asked, grasping my arm so tightly as to hurt me.

"Madame d'O," I repeated. It was too late to draw back now.

"That woman!" he ejaculated in a strange low whisper. "Is it possible? That woman gave it you?"

I wandered what on earth he meant, surprise, scorn and dislike were so blended in his tone. It even seemed to me that he drew off from me somewhat. "Yes, M. de Pavannes," I replied, offended and indignant, "It is so far possible that it is the truth; and more, I think you would not so speak of this lady if you knew all; and that it was through her your wife was to-day freed from those who were detaining her, and taken safely home!"

"Ha!" he cried eagerly. "Then where has my wife been?"

"At the house of Mirepoix, the glover," I answered coldly, "in the Rue Platriere. Do you know him? You do. Well, she was kept there a prisoner, until we helped her to escape an hour or so ago."

He did not seem to comprehend even then. I could see little of his face, but there was doubt and wonder in his tone when he spoke. "Mirepoix the glover," he murmured. "He is an honest man enough, though a Catholic. She was kept there! Who kept her there?"

"The Abbess of the Ursulines seems to have been at the bottom of it," I explained, fretting with impatience. This wonder was misplaced, I thought; and time was passing. "Madame d'O found out where she was," I continued, "and took her home, and then sent me to fetch you, hearing you had crossed the river. That is the story in brief."

"That woman sent you to fetch me?" he repeated again.

"Yes," I answered angrily. "She did, M. de Pavannes."

"Then," he said slowly, and with an air of solemn conviction which could not but impress me, "there is a trap laid for me! She is the worst, the most wicked, the vilest of women! If she sent you, this is a trap! And my wife has fallen into it already! Heaven help her--and me--if it be so!"