He shrugged his shoulders. "What can I think, your Excellency?" he said. "What else was to be expected?"
"You take it for granted that M. de Saintonge is guilty?"
"The young man is gone," he answered pithily.
In spite of this, I thought the conclusion hasty, and contented myself with bidding him see St. Germain and charge him to be quiet; promising that, if necessary, the matter should be investigated and justice done. I still had good hopes that St. Mesmin's return would clear up the affair, and the whole turn out to be a freak on his part; but within a few hours tidings that Saintonge had taken steps to strengthen his house and was lying at home, refusing to show himself, placed a different and more serious aspect on the mystery. Before noon next day M. de Clan, whose interference surprised me not a little, was with me to support his son's petition; and at the King's LEVEE next day St. Germain accused his enemy to the King's face, and caused an angry and indecent scene in the chamber.
When a man is in trouble foes spring up, as the moisture rises through the stones before a thaw. I doubt if M. de Saintonge was not more completely surprised than any by the stir which ensued, and which was not confined to the St. Germains' friends, though they headed the accusers. All whom he had ever offended, and all who had ever offended him, clamoured for justice; while St. Mesmin's faults being forgotten and only his merits remembered, there were few who did not bow to the general indignation, which the young and gallant, who saw that at any moment his fate might be theirs, did all in their power to foment. Finally, the arrival of St. Mesmin the father, who came up almost broken- hearted, and would have flung himself at the King's feet on the first opportunity, roused the storm to the wildest pitch; so that, in the fear lest M. de Biron's friends should attempt something under cover of it, I saw the King and gave him my advice. This was to summon Saintonge, the St. Germains, and old St. Mesmin to his presence and effect a reconciliation; or, failing that, to refer the matter to the Parliament.
He agreed with me and chose to receive them next day at the Arsenal. I communicated his commands, and at the hour named we met, the King attended by Roquelaure and myself. But if I had flattered myself that the King's presence would secure a degree of moderation and reasonableness I was soon undeceived; for though M. de St. Mesmin had only his trembling head and his tears to urge, Clan and his son fell upon Saintonge with so much violence--to which he responded by a fierce and resentful sullenness equally dangerous--that I feared that blows would be struck even before the King's face. Lest this should happen and the worst traditions of old days of disorder be renewed, I interposed and managed at length to procure silence.
"For shame, gentlemen, for shame!" the King said, gnawing his moustachios after a fashion he had when in doubt. "I take Heaven to witness that I cannot say who is right! But this brawling does no good. The one fact we have is that St. Mesmin has disappeared."
"Yes, sire; and that M. de Saintonge predicted his disappearance," St. Germain cried, impulsively. "To the day and almost to the hour."
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