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THE GREY CLOAK

by

HAROLD MACGRATH

Author of _The Puppet Crown_

The Illustrations by Thomas Mitchell Peirce

Grosset and Dunlap
Publishers, New York

1903







[Frontispiece]





MAY


LIKE STEVENSON

SHE LOVES A STORY FOR THE STORY'S SAKE

SO I DEDICATE THIS BOOK TO HER

WHOSE BEAUTY I ADMIRE

AND WHOSE HEART AND MIND I LOVE

MY COUSIN

LILLIAN A. BALDWIN





CONTENTS


CHAPTER

I THE MAN IN THE CLOAK
II THE TOILET OF THE CHEVALIER
III THE MUTILATED HAND
IV AN AENEAS FOR AN ACHATES
V THE HORN OF PLENTY
VI AN ACHATES FOR AN AENEAS
VII THE PHILOSOPHY OF PERIGNY
VIII THE LAST ROUT
IX THE FIFTY PISTOLES
X THE MASQUERADING LADIES
XI THE JOURNEY TO QUEBEC
XII A BALLADE OF DOUBLE REFRAIN
XIII TEN THOUSAND LIVRES
XIV BRETON FINDS A MARKER
XV THE SUPPER
XVI THE POET EXPLAINS
XVII WHAT THE SHIP BRINGS
XVIII THE MASTER OF IRONIES
XIX A PAGE FROM MYTHOLOGY
XX A WARRANT OR A CONTRACT
XXI AN INGENIOUS IDEA
XXII MADAME FINDS A DROLL BOOK
XXIII A MARQUIS DONS HIS BALDRIC
XXIV A DISSERTATION ON CHARITY
XXV ORIOLES AND PREROGATIVES
XXVI THE STORY OF HIAWATHA
XXVII ONONDAGA
XXVIII THE FLASH FROM THE FLAME
XXIX A JOURNEY INTO THE HILLS
XXX BROTHER JACQUES' ABSOLVO TE
XXXI THE HUNTING HUT
XXXII A GALLANT POET
XXXIII HOW GABRIELLE DIANE LOVED
XXXIV ABSOLUTION OF PERIGNY
XXXV BROTHER!




NOTE

The author has taken a few liberties with the lives of various
historical personages who pass through these pages; but only for the
story's sake. He is also indebted to the Jesuit Relations, to Old
Paris, by Lady Jackson, and to Clark's History of Onondaga, the legend
of Hiawatha being taken from the last named volume.




THE GREY CLOAK


CHAPTER I

THE MAN IN THE CLOAK.

A man enveloped in a handsome grey cloak groped through a dark alley
which led into the fashionable district of the Rue de Béthisy. From
time to time he paused, with a hand to his ear, as if listening.
Satisfied that the alley was deserted save for his own presence, he
would proceed, hugging the walls. The cobbles were icy, and scarce a
moment passed in which he did not have to struggle to maintain his
balance. The door of a low tavern opened suddenly, sending a golden
shaft of light across the glistening pavement and casting a brilliant
patch on the opposite wall. With the light came sounds of laughter and
quarreling and ringing glasses. The man laid his hand on his sword,
swore softly, and stepped back out of the blinding glare. The flash of
light revealed a mask which left visible only the lower half of his
face. Men wearing masks were frequently subjected to embarrassing
questions; and this man was determined that no one should question him
to-night. He waited, hiding in the shadow.

Half a dozen guardsmen and musketeers reeled out. The host reviled
them for a pack of rogues. They cursed him, laughing, and went on, to
be swallowed up in the darkness beyond. The tavern door closed, and
once more the alley was hued with melting greys and purples. The man
in the cloak examined the strings of his mask, tilted his hat still
farther down over his eyes, and tested the looseness of his sword.

"The drunken fools!" he muttered, continuing. "Well for them they came
not this way."

When he entered the Rue de Béthisy, he stopped, searched up and down
the thoroughfare. Far away to his right he saw wavering torches, but
these receded and abruptly vanished round a corner of the Rue des
Fossés St-Germain l'Auxerrois. He was alone. A hundred yards to his
left, on the opposite side of the street, stood a gloomy but
magnificent hôtel, one of the few in this quarter that was surrounded
by a walled court. The hôtel was dark. So far as the man in the grey
cloak could see, not a light filled any window. There were two gates.
Toward the smaller of the two the man cautiously directed his steps.
He tried the latch. The gate opened noiselessly, signifying frequent
use.

"So far, so good!"

An indecisive moment passed, as though the man were nerving himself for
an ordeal of courage and cunning. With a gesture resigning himself to
whatever might befall, he entered the court, careful to observe that
the way out was no more intricate than the way in.

"Now for the ladder. If that is missing, it's horse and away to Spain,
or feel the edge of Monsieur Caboche. Will the lackey be true? False
or true, I must trust him. Bernouin would sell Mazarin for twenty
louis, and that is what I have paid. Monsieur le Comte's lackey. It
will be a clever trick. Mazarin will pay as many as ten thousand
livres for that paper. That fat fool of a Gaston, to conspire at his
age! Bah; what a muddled ass I was, in faith! I, to sign my name in
writing to a cabal! Only the devil knows what yonder old fool will do
with the paper. Let him become frightened, let that painted play-woman
coddle him; and it's the block for us all, all save Gaston and Condé
and Beaufort. Ah, Madame, Madame, loveliest in all France, 'twas your
beautiful eyes. For the joy of looking into them, I have soiled a
fresh quill, tumbled into a pit, played the fool! And a silver crown
against a golden louis, you know nothing about politics or intrigue,
nor that that old fool of a husband is making a decoy of your beauty.
But my head cleared this morning. That paper must be mine. First,
because it is a guaranty for my head, and second, because it is likely
to fatten my purse. It will be simple to erase my name and substitute
another's. And this cloak! My faith, it is a stroke. To the devil
with Gaston and Condé and Beaufort; their ambitions are nothing to me,
since my head is everything."

He tiptoed across the stone flags.

"Faith, this is a delicate operation; and the paper may be hidden
elsewhere into the bargain. We venture, we lose or we win; only this
is somewhat out of my line of work. Self-preservation is not theft;
let us ease our conscience with this sophism . . . Ha! the ladder.
Those twenty louis were well spent. This is droll, good heart. An
onlooker would swear that this is an assignation. Eh well, Romeo was a
sickly lover, and lopped about like a rose in a wind-storm. Mercutio
was the man!"

He had gained the side of the hôtel. From a window above came a faint
yellow haze such as might radiate from a single candle. This was the
signal that all was clear. The man tested the ladder, which was of
rope, and it withstood his weight. Very gently he began to climb,
stopping every three or four rounds and listening. The only noise came
from the armory where a parcel of mercenaries were moving about. Up,
up, round by round, till his fingers touched the damp cold stone of the
window ledge; the man raised himself, leaned toward the left, and
glanced obliquely into the room. It was deserted. A candle burned in
a small alcove. The man drew himself quickly into the room, which was
a kind of gallery facing the grand staircase. A sound coming from the
hall below caused the intruder to slip behind a curtain. A lackey was
unbarring the door. The man in the gallery wondered why.

"My very nerves have ears," he murmured. "If I were sure . . . to pay
madame a visit while she sleeps and dreams!" His hand grew tense
around the hilt of his sword. "No; let us play Iago rather than
Tarquinius; let ambition, rather than love, strike the key-note. Greed
was not born to wait. As yet I have robbed no man save at cards; and
as every noble cheats when he can, I can do no less. Neither have I
struck a man in the back. And I like not this night's business."

On the cold and silent night came ten solemn strokes from the clock of
St.-Germain l'Auxerrois. Then all was still again. The man came from
behind the curtain, his naked sword flashing evilly in the flickering
light. He took up the candle and walked coolly down the wide corridor.
The sureness of his step could have originated only in the perfect
knowledge of the topography of the hôtel. He paused before a door, his
ear to the keyhole.

"She sleeps! . . . and the wolf prowls without the door!" He mused
over the wayward path by which he had come into the presence of this
woman, who slept tranquilly beyond these panels of oak. He felt a glow
on his cheeks, a quickening of his pulse. To what lengths would he not
go for her sake? Sure of winning her love, yes, he would become great,
rise purified from the slough of loose living. He had never killed a
man dishonorably; he had won his duels by strength and dexterity alone.
He had never taken an advantage of a weakling; for many a man had
insulted him and still walked the earth, suffering only the slight
inconvenience of a bandaged arm or a tender cheek, and a fortnight or
so in bed. Condé had once said of him that there was not a more
courageous man in France; but he could not escape recalling Condé's
afterthought: that drink and reckless temper had kept him where he was.
There was in him a vein of madness which often burst forth in a blind
fury. It had come upon him in battle, and he had awakened many a time
to learn that he had been the hero of an exploit. He was not a
boaster; he was not a broken soldier. He was a man whose violent
temper had strewn his path with failures. . . . In love! Silently he
mocked himself. In love, he, the tried veteran, of a hundred
inconstancies! He smiled grimly beneath his mask. He passed on,
stealthily, till he reached a door guarded by two effigies of Francis
I. His sword accidentally touched the metal, and the soft clang
tingled every nerve in his body. He waited.



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