But here at Saint-Antoine Gate, a young man appears on horseback. He does not seem to be a Parisian, but rather a provincial. His clothes are dusty, a sign that he spent a lot of time in the saddle. As a proof there comes the sweat on his brown horse’s neck, and the white foam on his mouth. The fringes of the hat are wrinkled and flushed, and the face seems tired. His torn clothes hang in rags on his shoulders, which makes one think of a possible duel he attended on the road.
A young man ... let’s sketch his portrait:
Imagine Don Quixote at eighteen; Don Quixote with no armor, neither on his chest nor on his thighs, a Don Quixote dressed in a short coat of wool, the blue color of which had changed with time, beating when in purple, when in an azure like the sky. The prolonged face, the muscles of the jaws, another sign, after which you can distinguish a béarnais even when not wearing a beret: our youngster nevertheless wore a beret adorned with a wedge; eyes wide open and agile, vulturesque nose, but well done; too tall for a boy, too short for a man; a less experienced eye would have taken him as the son of a farmer who had gone on journey had he not seen the long sword hanging on the chest belt on his master’s thigh when he walked, or on the hunched hair of the horse when he was riding.
With a hand on the hip, a slick smile on his lips, he approached the officer who was on guard that night, and with a voice in which a pure béarnaise’s accent could be recongnised, he whispered something to the night guard. In response, he showed him a certain street, to which he straightened his horse and gallooped in the direction indicated.
But at the moment when he passed the corner of Saint-Honoré Street, his ears crossed the sound of swordplay. He tightened his hearing and saw a stalked horse, collapsing to the ground under a dash of dagger. The béarnais shifted his horse in the direction of the noise. The sword metal continued to sound in the night.
As soon as he passed the Jesuit monastery, he saw a group of people in the light of a lantern. Four of them wore the blue uniform of the Musketeers, very respected in those times. They held themselves in defense position next to each other. Three of them were riding, and the fourth horse was struggling three steps away with a dagger stuck in his neck. All four wore masks that completely hid their faces. In front of them, standing in attacking position, eight cardinal’s guards, and at their feet, two of their comrades, seriously injured or even dying.
In the moonlight, the fire of a pistol shot could be seen, followed by a detuning sound, and one of the horsemen fell on the pavement, groaning, proof that the fire had reached its goal. At the same moment, there was heard a scream and one of them called in the night the name “Louis!“.
This archery fire, pause in which the hearts grew alive for a new attack and a new defense, set off the start of a terrible slaughter. The one who had cried the name of the wounded turned back to the cardinal’s guard and saying, “You will pay for my friend’s wound,” he swung his sword into his chest with a sudden flurry. The three masked knights rushed to the attackers, uniting their voices and shouting unanimously:
-Long live the King!
To this cry, the unknown béarnais reacted unexpectedly. He pulled his sword out of his sheath, and repeating this cry with a triumphant voice, stepped into the gallop of the horse to help the Knights, and began to split punches to left and right. On this occasion, the three masked Knights intensified their battle, seeing that there came reinforcements.
The young man, who had fallen from his horse, struggled to stand up and pulled his dagger out of his sheath, tossed him to the nearest cardinalist, the one who, along with two comrades, attacked one of the Knights. As he threw it, he shouted:
-Long live the dauphine!, after which, exhausted and bleeding, he collapsed to the ground. At the sound of this cry, one of the Knights turned in surprise, with a faint expression on his face, murmuring:
-Thank you!, but he had to return immediately to avoid being hit in the back and strucked his sword in the chest of the attacker, shouting,
-For Louis! then, turning to another, he cried in the same voice,
-For Albert, and another guard crashed to the ground.
Only three of them stood, the Knight aimed one of them, and cried out triumphantly,
-For Rene! A second knight made two of those left fall and another jumped sword in hand to the last remaining on the battlefield, and straightening his sword against his chest, adressed one of the Knights:
-He’s yours, Amaury!
-Thank you, my good René; the knight answered, smiling under the mask, and addressing the guard,
-Monsieur de Pontoise, your sword! and he stretched out his hand gauntly. The cardinalist looked up at him, and said, breaking the sword :
-We’ll meet again, canaille.
At this insult, the one named René, made a threatening gesture that would have frightened even the most courageous , but the knight named Amaury stopped him, grabbing his hand and preventing him to accompany his gesture with deed.
After a majestic gesture of the mysterious young man, which meant that he was leaving him his life, and after René’s sword fell from his chest and hid itself again in the sheath, Pontoise fled away.
Amaury then ducked and kneeled down beside Louis, the wounded knight, who was still lying on the ground, and who, during the attack, had risen twice, trying to help his comrades, and twice crashing down, and bathing the shirt in blood. Amaury knelt down and took Louis’s hand, pressing it gently and encouragingly. He tore his sleeve from the right arm’s shirt, and revealed a deep, still bloody wound. He supported the knight so that his head could sit comfortably on his knees and, with a sudden movement, he removed the sleeve of the shirt from his own shoulder. He pulled the dagger out of his belt and scratched the shoulder. He leaned forward and dropped a few drops of his own blood into the wound of Louis. He stretched his hand over the wound, and murmured a few words with a low voice.
The young béarnais sat aside, wondering at this strange ritual. Amaury pulled the cape from his shoulders, wrapping it carefully around the wounded shoulder. He called Albert and René, who so furiously fought that evening, and helped them raise their wounded friend, which the cold air of the night at the contact with the open wound had made him faint. He took the hand that Rene had stretched out , and he rose to his feet, thanking him.
Then the Knights’ attention was directed to the béarnais , who, after having freed himself, and had no one to fight with, had retreated modestly, holding his horse, which he had found impatient and staring at the four brave knights. But the greatest attention was directed towards the mysterious Amaury, so brave, with such a noble attitude, and with such a strange look. Amaury then approached him and addressed him as follows:
-Gentleman, thank you for the service that you have offered by helping us. Be so kind as to accept this ring on our behalf as a sign of gratitude, and, pulling out the glove, revealed a white and neat hand. He took out a diamond ring from his little finger, and handed it to the béarnais, who took it from the hands of the knight and looked at it wonderfully. He came closer to the light of a lantern, to look at it better, and he saw with wonder that he had been given a jewel of great value, a diamond. But when he turned to thank, he found the street deserted. In vain he made his way around the houses, and scrutinized the narrow streets,he found no trace of the Masked Knights.
In this situation, and not having what to do in the street at midnight, he entered the first tavern he found in his path, and rent a room. Lying down, he again asked himself:
-What was that? ,and he fell asleep shortly afterwards, leaving no answer to the question that was so hard about it.