In Paris, Bussy d’Ambois is a soldier and gentleman too poor to gain favor at the court. He meets Monsieur, brother of King Henry III, by appointment in a side street. Monsieur, chiding Bussy for his downcast countenance, reminds him that some of the greatest men in history have endured obscurity and exile before becoming renowned. Anxious to have ambitious and ruthless young men about him, Monsieur invites Bussy to be his man and to become a courtier. Later, Maffe, Monsieur’s steward, comes to Bussy and, seeing the wretched state he is in, gives him only one hundred crowns of the thousand that Monsieur sent Bussy. Bussy, perceiving that Maffe is a proud scoundrel and knowing Monsieur’s reputation for generosity, is able to talk Maffe out of the remaining nine hundred crowns. With the money in his possession, Bussy strikes Maffe in payment for his insubordination. Maffe hints that he will be avenged.
Monsieur introduces Bussy, dressed in fine new clothes, at court. As he is presented to various noble people of the court, he impresses them with his directness. The duke of Guise jealously notes that Bussy is being quite free with the duke’s wife, Elenor, and suggests that Bussy not be so forward. Bussy, in conduct unlike that expected of a courtier, answers Guise sharply. Although warned by Monsieur, Bussy persists in dallying pleasantly with Elenor. Having offended Guise, Bussy also bluntly incurs the enmity of three courtiers, Barrisor, l’Anou, and Pyrrhot.
In the duel that follows, the three courtiers and two of Bussy’s friends are killed; Bussy is the only survivor. He later goes to the court with Monsieur, who successfully wins a pardon for Bussy from King Henry. Bussy thanks the king and declares that he could not avoid defending his honor. Guise is deeply offended by the royal pardon Bussy receives.
Tamyra, Countess of Montsurry, meets Bussy and falls in love with him. At the same time, Monsieur, making every attempt to seduce the noblewoman, gives her a pearl necklace. Later, Tamyra enters a secret chamber in back of her bedchamber. A friar, in league with her, brings Bussy by a secret passageway to the chamber on the pretext that Bussy is to explain to Tamyra a false report that he killed Barrisor because the dead man was interested in the countess. The friar, after hinting of Tamyra’s love for Bussy and cautioning him to be discreet, leaves Bussy and Tamyra together.
After Tamyra’s passion for Bussy is consummated, she expresses a deep feeling of guilt and fears that she might be discovered. Bussy assures her that he will protect her from all dishonor. As he takes leave of her, again accompanied by the friar, she gives him the necklace Monsieur gave her. At daybreak, Montsurry returns home to find his wife awake and fully clothed. She explains that she was not able to sleep while he was away on business. When he asks her to come to bed with him, she begs off, saying that the friar does not approve of making love by daylight.
Bussy, having become a great favorite of the king, declares to the court that he will be the king’s own right arm in exposing sycophants, rascals, and any other unprincipled men in the realm. Grown heady with favor, he taunts Guise, who retorts that Bussy is the illegitimate son of a cardinal. The two men are ready to settle their grudge in a duel, but the king manages to...
(The entire section is 1382 words.)