CHAPTER XI. THE KING’S TRAGEDY.
The night is come, no fears disturb
The sleep of innocence
They trust in kingly faith, and kingly oath.
They sleep, alas! they sleep
Go to the palace, wouldst thou know
How hideous night can be;
Eye is not closed in those accursed walls,
Nor heart is quiet there!
—Southey, BARTHOLOMEW’S EVE
‘Young gentlemen,’ said Sir Francis Walsingham, as he rose from dinner on the Saturday, ’are you bound for the palace this evening?’
‘I am, so please your Excellency,’ returned Berenger.
’I would have you both to understand that you must have a care of yourselves,’ said the Ambassador. ’The Admiral’s wound has justly caused much alarm, and I hear that the Protestants are going vapouring about in so noisy and incautious a manner, crying out for justice, that it is but too likely that the party of the Queen-mother and the Guise will be moved to strong measures.’
‘They will never dare lay a finger upon us!’ said Sidney.
‘In a terror-stricken fray men are no respecters of persons,’ replied Sir Francis. ’This house is, of course, inviolable; and, whatever the madness of the people, we have stout hearts enough here to enforce respect thereto; but I cannot answer even for an Englishman’s life beyond its precincts; and you, Ribaumont, whom I cannot even claim as my Queen’s subject—I greatly fear to trust you beyond its bounds.’
’I cannot help it, sir. Nay, with the most grateful thanks for all your goodness to me, I must pray you not to take either alarm or offence if I return not this night.’
‘No more, my friend,’ said Walsingham, quickly; ’let me know nothing of your purposes, but take care of yourself. I would you were safe at home again, though the desire may seem inhospitable. The sooner the better with whatever you have to do.’
‘Is the danger so imminent?’ asked Sidney.
’I know nothing, Philip. All I can tell is that, as I have read that dogs and cattle scent an earthquake in the air, so man and women seem to breathe a sense of danger in this city. And to me the graciousness with which the Huguenots have been of late treated wears a strangely suspicious air. Sudden and secret is the blow like to be, and we cannot be too much on our guard. Therefore remember, my young friends both, that your danger or death would fall heavily on those ye love and honour at home.’
So saying, he left the two youths, unwilling to seek further confidence, and Berenger held his last consultation with Sidney, to whom he gave directions for making full explanation to Walsingham in his absence, and expediting Mr. Adderley’s return to England. Osbert alone was to go to the Louvre with him, after having seen the five English grooms on board the little decked market-vessel on the Seine, which was to await