’The tocsin! The bell of St. Germain! Fire! No, a Huguenot rising! Fire! Oh, let us out! Let us out! The window! Where is the fire? Nowhere! See the lights! Hark, that was a shot! It was in the palace! A heretic rising! Ah! there was to be a slaughter of the heretics! I heard it whispered. Oh, let us out! Open the door!’
But nobody heard: nobody opened. There was one who stood without word or cry, close to the door—her eyes dilated, her cheek colourless, her whole person, soul and body alike, concentrated in that one impulse to spring forward the first moment the bolt should be drawn. But still the door remained fast shut!
CHAPTER XII. THE PALACE OF SLAUGHTER
A human shambles with blood-reeking floor. MISS SWANWICK, Esch. Agamemnon
The door was opened at last, but not till full daylight. It found Eustacie as ready to rush forth, past all resistance, as she had been the night before, and she was already in the doorway when her maid Veronique, her face swollen with weeping, caught her by the hands and implored her to turn back and listen.
And words about a rising of the Huguenots, a general destruction, corpses lying in the court, were already passing between the other maidens and the CONCIERGE. Eustacie turned upon her servant: ‘Veronique, what means it? Where is he?’
’Alas! alas! Ah! Mademoiselle, do but lie down! Woe is me! I saw it all! Lie down, and I will tell you.’
‘Tell! I will not move till you have told me where my husband is,’ said Eustacie, gazing with eyes that seemed to Veronique turned to stone.
’Ah! my lady—my dear lady! I was on the turn of the stairs, and saw all. The traitor—the Chevalier Narcisse—came on him, cloaked like you—and—shot him dead—with, oh, such cruel words of mockery! Oh! woe the day! Stay, stay, dear lady, the place is all blood—they are slaying them all—all the Huguenots! Will no one stop her?—Mademoiselle—ma’m’selle!—’
For Eustacie no sooner gathered the sense of Veronique’s words than she darted suddenly forwards, and was in a few seconds more at the foot of the stairs. There, indeed, lay a pool of dark gore, and almost in it Berenger’s black velvet cap, with the heron plume. Eustacie, with a low cry, snatched it up, continued her headlong course along the corridor, swiftly as a bird, Veronique following, and vainly shrieking to her to stop. Diane, appearing at the other end of the gallery, saw but for a moment the little figure, with the cloak gathered round her neck, and floating behind her, understood Veronique’s cry and joined in the chase across hall and gallery, where more stains were to be seen, even down to the marble stairs, every step slippery with blood. Others there were who saw and stood aghast, not understanding the apparition that flitted on so swiftly, never pausing till at the great door at the foot of the stairs she encountered a gigantic Scottish archer, armed to the teeth. She touched his arm, and standing with folder arms, looked up and said, ‘Good soldier, kill me! I am a Huguenots!’