Part 1 out of 6
St. Martin's Summer
by Rafael Sabatini
Originally published in 1921
I. THE SENESCHAL OF DAUPHINY
II. MONSIEUR DE GARNACHE
III. THE DOWAGER'S COMPLIANCE
IV. THE CHATEAU DE CONDILLAC
V. MONSIEUR DE GARNACHE LOSES HIS TEMPER
VI. MONSIEUR DE GARNACHE KEEPS HIS TEMPER
VII. THE OPENING OF THE TRAP
VIII. THE CLOSING OF THE TRAP
IX. THE SENESCHAL'S ADVICE
X. THE RECRUIT
XI. VALERIE'S GAOLER
XII. A MATTER OF CONSCIENCE
XIII. THE COURIER
XIV. FLORIMOND'S LETTER
XV. THE CONFERENCE
XVI. THE UNEXPECTED
XVII. HOW MONSIEUR DE GARNACHE LEFT CONDILLAC
XVIII. IN THE MOAT
XIX. THROUGH THE NIGHT
XX. FLORIMOND DE CONDILLAC
XXI. THE GHOST IN THE CUPBOARD
XXII. THE OFFICES OF MOTHER CHURCH
XXIII. THE JUDGMENT OF GARNACHE
XXIV. SAINT MARTINS EVE
SAINT MARTIN'S SUMMER
THE SENESCHAL OF DAUPHINY
My Lord of Tressan, His Majesty's Seneschal of Dauphiny, sat at his
ease, his purple doublet all undone, to yield greater freedom to
his vast bulk, a yellow silken undergarment visible through the gap,
as is visible the flesh of some fruit that, swollen with
over-ripeness, has burst its skin.
His wig - imposed upon him by necessity, not fashion lay on the
table amid a confusion of dusty papers, and on his little fat nose,
round and red as a cherry at its end, rested the bridge of his
horn-rimmed spectacles. His bald head - so bald and shining that
it conveyed an unpleasant sense of nakedness, suggesting that its
uncovering had been an act of indelicacy on the owner's part -
rested on the back of his great chair, and hid from sight the gaudy
escutcheon wrought upon the crimson leather. His eyes were closed,
his mouth open, and whether from that mouth or from his nose - or,
perhaps, conflicting for issue between both - there came a snorting,
rumbling sound to proclaim that my Lord the Seneschal was hard at
work upon the King's business.
Yonder, at a meaner table, in an angle between two windows, a
pale-faced thread-bare secretary was performing for a yearly pittance
the duties for which my Lord the Seneschal was rewarded by emoluments
The air of that vast apartment was disturbed by the sounds of
Monsieur de Tressan's slumbers, the scratch and splutter of the
secretary's pen, and the occasional hiss and crackle of the logs
that burned in the great, cavern-like fireplace. Suddenly to these
another sound was added. With a rasp and rattle the heavy curtains
of blue velvet flecked with silver fleurs-de-lys were swept from
the doorway, and the master of Monsieur de Tressan's household, in
a well filled suit of black relieved by his heavy chain of office,
stepped pompously forward.
The secretary dropped his pen, and shot a frightened glance at his
slumbering master; then raised his hands above his head, and shook
them wildly at the head lackey.
"Sh!" he whispered tragically. "Doucement, Monsieur Anselme."
Anselme paused. He appreciated the gravity of the situation. His
bearing lost some of its dignity; his face underwent a change. Then
with a recovery of some part of his erstwhile resolution:
"Nevertheless, he must be awakened," he announced, but in an
undertone, as if afraid to do the thing he said must needs be done.
The horror in the secretary's eyes increased, but Anselme's reflected
none of it. It was a grave thing, he knew by former experience, to
arouse His Majesty's Seneschal of Dauphiny from his after-dinner
nap; but it was an almost graver thing to fail in obedience to that
black-eyed woman below who was demanding an audience.
Anselme realized that he was between the sword and the wall. He
was, however, a man of a deliberate habit that was begotten of
inherent indolence and nurtured among the good things that fell to
his share as master of the Tressan household. Thoughtfully he
caressed his tuft of red beard, puffed out his cheeks, and raised
his eyes to the ceiling in appeal or denunciation to the heaven
which he believed was somewhere beyond it.
"Nevertheless, he must be awakened," he repeated.
And then Fate came to his assistance. Somewhere in the house a door
banged like a cannon-shot. Perspiration broke upon the secretary's
brow. He sank limply back in his chair, giving himself up for lost.
Anselme started and bit the knuckle of his forefinger in a manner
suggesting an inarticulate imprecation.
My Lord the Seneschal moved. The noise of his slumbers culminated
in a sudden, choking grunt, and abruptly ceased. His eyelids rolled
slowly back, like an owl's, revealing pale blue eyes, which fixed
themselves first upon the ceiling, then upon Anselme. Instantly he
sat up, puffing and scowling, his hands shuffling his papers.
"A thousand devils! Anselme, why am I interrupted?" he grumbled
querulously, still half-asleep. "What the plague do you want? Have
you no thought for the King's affairs? Babylas" - this to his
secretary - "did I not tell you that I had much to do; that I must
not be disturbed?"
It was the great vanity of the life of this man, who did nothing,
to appear the busiest fellow in all France, and no audience - not
even that of his own lackeys - was too mean for him to take the
stage to in that predilect role.
"Monsieur le Comte," said Anselme, in tones of abject self-effacement,
"I had never dared intrude had the matter been of less urgency. But
Madame the Dowager of Condillac is below. She begs to see Your
At once there was a change. Tressan became wide-awake upon the
instant. His first act was to pass one hand over the wax-like
surface of his bald head, whilst his other snatched at his wig.
Then he heaved himself ponderously out of his great chair. He
donned his wig, awry in his haste, and lurched forward towards
Anselme, his fat fingers straining at his open doublet and drawing
"Madame la Douairiere here?" he cried. "Make fast these buttons,
rascal! Quick! Am I to receive a lady thus? Am I - ? Babylas,"
he snapped, interrupting himself and turning aside even as Anselme
put forth hands to do his bidding. "A mirror, from my closet!
The secretary was gone in a flash, and in a flash returned, even
as Anselme completed his master's toilet. But clearly Monsieur de
Tressan had awakened in a peevish humour, for no sooner were the
buttons of his doublet secured than with his own fingers he tore
them loose again, cursing his majordomo the while with vigour.
"You dog, Anselme, have you no sense of fitness, no discrimination?
Am I to appear in this garment of the mode of a half-century ago
before Madame la Marquise? Take it off; take it off, man! Get me
the coat that came last month from Paris - the yellow one with the
hanging sleeves and the gold buttons, and a sash - the crimson sash
I had from Taillemant. Can you move no quicker, animal? Are you
Anselme, thus enjoined, lent an unwonted alacrity to his movements,
waddling grotesquely like a hastening waterfowl. Between him and
the secretary they dressed my Lord the Seneschal, and decked him
out till he was fit to compare with a bird of paradise for
gorgeousness of colouring if not for harmony of hues and elegance
Babylas held the mirror, and Anselme adjusted the Seneschal's wig,
whilst Tressan himself twisted his black mustachios - how they kept
their colour was a mystery to his acquaintance - and combed the
tuft of beard that sprouted from one of his several chins.
He took a last look at his reflection, rehearsed a smile, and bade
Anselme introduce his visitor. He desired his secretary to go to
the devil, but, thinking better of it, he recalled him as he reached
the door. His cherished vanity craved expression.
"Wait!" said he. "There is a letter must be written. The King's
business may not suffer postponement - not for all the dowagers in
France. Sit down."
Babylas obeyed him. Tressan stood with his back to the open door.
His ears, strained to listen, had caught the swish of a woman's
gown. He cleared his throat, and. began to dictate:
"To Her Majesty the Queen-Regent - " He paused, and stood with
knitted brows, deep in thought. Then he ponderously repeated -
"To Her Majesty the Queen Regent - Have you got that?"
"Yes, Monsieur le Comte. 'To Her Majesty the Queen Regent.'"
There was a step, and a throat-clearing cough behind him.
"Monsieur de Tressan," said a woman's voice, a rich, melodious
voice, if haughty and arrogant of intonation.
On the instant he turned, advanced a step, and bowed.
"Your humblest servant, madame," said he, his hand upon his heart.
"This is an honour which - "
"Which necessity thrusts upon you," she broke in imperiously.
"Dismiss that fellow."
The secretary, pale and shy, had risen. His eyes dilated at the
woman's speech. He looked for a catastrophe as the natural result
of her taking such a tone with this man who was the terror of his
household and of all Grenoble. Instead, the Lord Seneschal's
meekness left him breathless with surprise.
"He is my secretary, madame. We were at work as you came. I was
on the point of inditing a letter to Her Majesty. The office of
Seneschal in a province such as Dauphiny is helas! - no sinecure."
He sighed like one whose brain is weary. "It leaves a man little
time even to eat or sleep."
"You will be needing a holiday, then," said she, with cool
insolence. "Take one for once, and let the King's business give
place for half an hour to mine."
The secretary's horror grew by leaps and bounds.
Surely the storm would burst at last about this audacious woman's
head. But the Lord Seneschal - usually so fiery and tempestuous -
did no more than make her another of his absurd bows.
"You anticipate, madame, the very words I was about to utter.
Babylas, vanish!" And he waved the scribbler doorwards with a
contemptuous hand. "Take your papers with you - into my closet
there. We will resume that letter to Her Majesty when madame shall
have left me."
The secretary gathered up his papers, his quills, and his inkhorn,
and went his way, accounting the end of the world at hand.
When the door had closed upon him, the Seneschal, with another bow
and a simper, placed a chair at his visitor's disposal. She looked
at the chair, then looked at the man much as she had looked at the
chair, and turning her back contemptuously on both, she sauntered
towards the fireplace. She stood before the blaze, with her whip
tucked under her arm, drawing off her stout riding-gloves. She was
a tall, splendidly proportioned woman, of a superb beauty of
countenance, for all that she was well past the spring of life.
In the waning light of that October afternoon none would have
guessed her age to be so much as thirty, though in the sunlight
you might have set it at a little more. But in no light at all
would you have guessed the truth, that her next would be her
forty-second birthday. Her face was pale, of an ivory pallor that
gleamed in sharp contrast with the ebony of her lustrous hair.
Under the long lashes of low lids a pair of eyes black and insolent
set off the haughty lines of her scarlet lips. Her nose was thin
and straight, her neck an ivory pillar splendidly upright upon her
She was dressed for riding, in a gown of sapphire velvet, handsomely
laced in gold across the stomacher, and surmounted at the neck,
where it was cut low and square, by the starched band of fine linen
which in France was already replacing the more elaborate ruff. On
her head, over a linen coif, she wore a tall-crowned grey beaver,
swathed with a scarf of blue and gold.
Standing by the hearth, one foot on the stone kerb, one elbow leaning
lightly on the overmantel, she proceeded leisurely to remove her
The Seneschal observed her with eyes that held an odd mixture of
furtiveness and admiration, his fingers - plump, indolent-looking
stumps - plucking at his beard.
"Did you but know, Marquise, with what joy, with what a - "
"I will imagine it, whatever it may be," she broke in, with that
brusque arrogance that marked her bearing. "The time for flowers
of rhetoric is not now. There is trouble coming, man; trouble,
Up went the Seneschal's brows; his eyes grew wider.
"Trouble?" quoth he. And, having opened his mouth to give exit to
that single word, open he left it.
She laughed lazily, her lip curling, her face twisting oddly, and
mechanically she began to draw on again the glove she had drawn off.
"By your face I see how well you understand me," she sneered. "The
trouble concerns Mademoiselle de La Vauvraye."
"From Paris - does it come from Court?" His voice was sunk.
She nodded. "You are a miracle of intuition today, Tressan."
He thrust his tiny tuft of beard between his teeth - a trick he had
when perplexed or thoughtful. "Ah!" he exclaimed at last, and it
sounded like an indrawn breath of apprehension. "Tell me more."
"What more is there to tell? You have the epitome of the story."
"But what is the nature of the trouble? What form does it take,
and by whom are you advised of it?"
"A friend in Paris sent me word, and his messenger did his work
well, else had Monsieur de Garnache been here before him, and I
had not so much as had the mercy of this forewarning."
"Garnache?" quoth the Count. "Who is Garnache?"
"The emissary of the Queen-Regent. He has been dispatched hither
by her to see that Mademoiselle de La Vauvraye has justice and
Tressan fell suddenly to groaning and wringing his hands a pathetic
figure had it been less absurd.
"I warned you, madame! I warned you how it would end," he cried.
"I told you - "
"Oh, I remember the things you told me," she cut in, scorn in her
voice. "You may spare yourself their repetition. What is done is
done, and I'll not - I would not - have it undone. Queen-Regent
or no Queen-Regent, I am mistress at Condillac; my word is the only
law we know, and I intend that so it shall continue."
Tressan looked at her in surprise. This unreasoning, feminine
obstinacy so wrought upon him that he permitted himself a smile and
a lapse into irony and banter.
"Parfaitement," said he, spreading his hands, and bowing. "Why
speak of trouble, then?"
She beat her whip impatiently against her gown, her eyes staring
into the fire. "Because, my attitude being such as it is, trouble
will there be."
The Seneschal shrugged his shoulders, and moved a step towards her.
He was cast down to think that he might have spared himself the
trouble of donning his beautiful yellow doublet from Paris. She
had eyes for no finery that afternoon. He was cast down, too, to
think how things might go with him when this trouble came. It
entered his thoughts that he had lain long on a bed of roses in
this pleasant corner of Dauphiny, and he was smitten now with fear
lest of the roses he should find nothing remaining but the thorns.
"How came the Queen-Regent to hear of - of mademoiselle's - ah -
situation?" he inquired.
The Marquise swung round upon him in a passion.
"The girl found a dog of a traitor to bear a letter for her. That
is enough. If ever chance or fate should bring him my way, by God!
he shall hang without shrift."
Then she put her anger from her; put from her, too, the insolence
and scorn with which so lavishly she had addressed him hitherto.
Instead she assumed a suppliant air, her beautiful eyes meltingly
set upon his face.
"Tressan," said she in her altered voice, "I am beset by enemies.
But you will not forsake me? You will stand by me to the end - will
you not, my friend? I can count upon you, at least?"
"In all things, madame," he answered, under the spell of her gaze.
"What force does this man Garnache bring with him? Have you
"He brings none," she answered, triumph in her glance.
"None?" he echoed, horror in his. "None? Then - then - "
He tossed his arms to heaven, and stood a limp and shaken thing.
She leaned forward, and regarded him stricken in surprise.
"Diable! What ails you?" she snapped. "Could I have given you
"If you could have given me worse, I cannot think what it might have
been," he groaned. Then, as if smitten by a sudden notion that
flashed a gleam of hope into this terrifying darkness that was
settling down upon him, he suddenly looked up. "You mean to resist
him?" he inquired.
She stared at him a second, then laughed, a thought unpleasantly.
"Pish! But you are mad," she scorned him. "Do you need ask if I
intend to resist - I, with the strongest castle in Dauphiny? By
God! sir, if you need to hear me say it, hear me then say that I
shall resist him and as many as the Queen may send after him, for
as long as one stone of Condillac shall stand upon another."
The Seneschal blew out his lips, and fell once more to the chewing
of his beard.
"What did you mean when you said I could have given you no worse
news than that of his coming alone?" she questioned suddenly.
"Madame," said he, "if this man comes without force, and you resist
the orders of which he is the bearer, what think you will betide?"
"He will appeal to you for the men he needs that he may batter down
my walls," she answered calmly.
He looked at her incredulously. "You realize it?" he ejaculated.
"You realize it?"
"What is there in it that should puzzle a babe?"
Her callousness was like a gust of wind upon the living embers of
his fears. It blew them into a blaze of wrath, sudden and terrific
as that of such a man at bay could be. He advanced upon her with
the rolling gait of the obese, his cheeks purple, his arms waving
wildly, his dyed mustachios bristling.
"And what of me, madame?" he spluttered. "What of me? Am I to be
ruined, gaoled, and hanged, maybe, for refusing him men? - for that
is what is in your mind. Am I to make myself an outlaw? Am I, who
have been Lord Seneschal of Dauphiny these fifteen years, to end
my days in degradation in the cause of a woman's matrimonial
projects for a simpering school-girl? Seigneur du Ciel!" he roared,
"I think you are gone mad - mad, mad! over this affair. You would
not think it too much to set the whole province in flames so that
you could have your way with this wretched child. But, Ventregris!
to ruin me - to - to - "
He fell silent for very want of words; just gaped and gasped, and
then, with hands folded upon his paunch, he set himself to pace the
Madame de Condillac stood watching him, her face composed, her
glance cold. She was like some stalwart oak, weathering with
unshaken front a hurricane. When he had done, she moved away from
the fireplace, and, beating her side gently with her whip, she
stepped to the door.
"Au revoir, Monsieur de Tressan," said she, mighty cool, her back
At that he halted in his feverish stride, stood still and threw up
his head. His anger went out, as a candle is extinguished by a
puff of wind. And in its place a new fear crept into his heart.
"Madame, madame!" he cried. "Wait! Hear me."
She paused, half-turned, and looked at him over her shoulder, scorn
in her glance, a sneer on her scarlet mouth, insolence in every
line of her.
"I think, monsieur, that I have heard a little more than enough,"
said she. "I am assured, at least, that in you I have but a
fair-weather friend, a poor lipserver."
"Ah, not that, madame," he cried, and his voice was stricken. "Say
not that. I would serve you as would none other in all this world
- you know it, Marquise; you know it."
She faced about, and confronted him, her smile a trifle broader, as
if amusement were now blending with her scorn.
"It is easy to protest. Easy to say, 'I will die for you,' so long
as the need for such a sacrifice be remote. But let me do no more
than ask a favour, and it is, 'What of my good name, madame? What
of my seneschalship? Am I to be gaoled or hanged to pleasure you?'
Faugh!" she ended, with a toss of her splendid head. "The world is
peopled with your kind, and I - alas! for a woman's intuitions -
had held you different from the rest."
Her words were to his soul as a sword of fire might have been to
his flesh. They scorched and shrivelled it. He saw himself as she
would have him see himself - a mean, contemptible craven; a coward
who made big talk in times of peace, but faced about and vanished
into hiding at the first sign of danger. He felt himself the
meanest, vilest thing a-crawl upon this sinful earth, and she - dear
God! - had thought him different from the ruck. She had held him in
high esteem, and behold, how short had he not fallen of all her
expectations! Shame and vanity combined to work a sudden, sharp
revulsion in his feelings.
"Marquise," he cried, "you say no more than what is just. But
punish me no further. I meant not what I said. I was beside
myself. Let me atone - let my future actions make amends for that
odious departure from my true self."
There was no scorn now in her smile; only an ineffable tenderness,
beholding which he felt it in his heart to hang if need be that
he might continue high in her regard. He sprang forward, and took
the hand she extended to him.
"I knew, Tressan," said she, "that you were not yourself, and that
when you bethought you of what you had said, my valiant, faithful
friend would not desert me."
He stooped over her hand, and slobbered kisses upon her
"Madame," said he, "you may count upon me. This fellow out of
Paris shall have no men from me, depend upon it."
She caught him by the shoulders, and held him so, before her. Her
face was radiant, alluring; and her eyes dwelt on his with a kindness
he had never seen there save in some wild daydream of his.
"I will not refuse a service you offer me so gallantly," said she.
"It were an ill thing to wound you by so refusing it."
"Marquise," he cried, "it is as nothing to what I would do did the
occasion serve. But when this thing 'tis done; when you have had
your way with Mademoiselle de La Vauvraye, and the nuptials shall
have been celebrated, then - dare I hope - ?"
He said no more in words, but his little blue eyes had an eloquence
that left nothing to mere speech.
Their glances met, she holding him always at arm's length by that
grip upon his shoulders, a grip that was firm and nervous.
In the Seneschal of Dauphiny, as she now gazed upon him, she beheld
a very toad of a man, and the soul of her shuddered at the sight of
him combining with the thing that he suggested. But her glance was
steady and her lips maintained their smile, just as if that ugliness
of his had been invested with some abstract beauty existing only to
her gaze; a little colour crept into her cheeks, and red being the
colour of love's livery, Tressan misread its meaning.
She nodded to him across the little distance of her outstretched
arms, then smothered a laugh that drove him crazed with hope, and
breaking from him she sped swiftly, shyly it almost seemed to him,
to the door.
There she paused a moment looking back at him with a coyness that
might have become a girl of half her years, yet which her splendid
beauty saved from being unbecoming even in her.
One adorable smile she gave him, and before he could advance to
hold the door for her, she had opened it and passed out.
MONSIEUR DE GARNACHE
To promise rashly, particularly where a woman is the suppliant,
and afterwards, if not positively to repent the promise, at least
to regret that one did not hedge it with a few conditions, is a
proceeding not uncommon to youth. In a man of advanced age, such
as Monsieur de Tressan, it never should have place; and, indeed,
it seldom has, unless that man has come again under the sway of the
influences by which youth, for good or ill, is governed.
Whilst the flush of his adoration was upon him, hot from the contact
of her presence, he knew no repentance, found room in his mind for
no regrets. He crossed to the window, and pressed his huge round
face to the pane, in a futile effort to watch her mount and ride
out of the courtyard with her little troop of attendants. Finding
that he might not - the window being placed too high - gratify his
wishes in that connection, he dropped into his chair, and sat in
the fast-deepening gloom, reviewing, fondly here, hurriedly there,
the interview that had but ended.
Thus night fell, and darkness settled down about him, relieved only
by the red glow of the logs smouldering on the hearth. In the gloom
inspiration visited him. He called for lights and Babylas. Both
came, and he dispatched the lackey that lighted the tapers to summon
Monsieur d'Aubran, the commander of the garrison of Grenoble.
In the interval before the soldier's coming he conferred with Babylas
concerning what he had in mind, but he found his secretary
singularly dull and unimaginative. So that, perforce, he must fall
back upon himself. He sat glum and thoughtful, his mind in
unproductive travail, until the captain was announced.
Still without any definite plan, he blundered headlong, nevertheless,
into the necessary first step towards the fulfilment of his purpose.
"Captain," said he, looking mighty grave, "I have cause to believe
that all is not as it should be in the hills in the district of
"Is there trouble, monsieur?" inquired the captain, startled.
"Maybe there is, maybe there is not," returned the Seneschal
mysteriously. "You shall have your full orders in the morning.
Meanwhile, make ready to repair to the neighbourhood of Montelimar
to-morrow with a couple of hundred men."
"A couple of hundred, monsieur!" exclaimed d'Aubran. "But that
will be to empty Grenoble of soldiers."
"What of it? We are not likely to require them here. Let your
orders for preparation go round tonight, so that your knaves may be
ready to set out betimes to-morrow. If you will be so good as to
wait upon me early you shall have your instructions."
Mystified, Monsieur d'Aubran departed on his errand, and my Lord
Seneschal went down to supper well pleased with the cunning device
by which he was to leave Grenoble without a garrison. It was an
astute way of escape from the awkward situation into which his
attachment to the interests of the dowager of Condillac was likely
to place him.
But when the morning came he was less pleased with the idea, chiefly
because he had been unable to invent any details that should lend
it the necessary colour, and d'Aubran - worse luck - was an
intelligent officer who might evince a pardonable but embarrassing
curiosity. A leader of soldiers has a right to know something at
least of the enterprise upon which he leads them. By morning, too,
Tressan found that the intervening space of the night, since he had
seen Madame de Condillac, had cooled his ardour very considerably.
He had reached the incipient stages of regret of his rash promise.
When Captain d'Aubran was announced to him, he bade them ask him to
come again in an hour's time. From mere regrets he was passing now,
through dismay, into utter repentance of his promise. He sat in his
study, at his littered writing-table, his head in his hands, a
confusion of thoughts, a wild, frenzied striving after invention in
Thus Anselme found him when he thrust aside the portiere to announce
that a Monsieur de Garnache, from Paris, was below, demanding to see
the Lord Seneschal at once upon an affair of State.
Tressan's flesh trembled and his heart fainted. Then, suddenly,
desperately, he took his courage in both hands. He remembered who
he was and what he was the King's Lord Seneschal of the Province of
Dauphiny. Throughout that province, from the Rhone to the Alps,
his word was law, his name a terror to evildoers - and to some
others besides. Was he to blench and tremble at the mention of the
name of a Court lackey out of Paris, who brought him a message from
the Queen-Regent? Body of God! not he.
He heaved himself to his feet, warmed and heartened by the thought;
his eye sparkled, and there was a deeper flush than usual upon his
"Admit this Monsieur de Garnache," said he with a fine loftiness,
and in his heart he pondered what he would say and how he should
say it; how he should stand, how move, and how look. His roving
eye caught sight of his secretary. He remembered something - the
cherished pose of being a man plunged fathoms-deep in business.
Sharply he uttered his secretary's name.
Babylas raised his pale face; he knew what was coming; it had come
so many times before. But there was no vestige of a smile on his
drooping lips, no gleam of amusement in his patient eye. He thrust
aside the papers on which he was at work, and drew towards him a
fresh sheet on which to pen the letter which, he knew by experience,
Tressan was about to indite to the Queen-mother. For these purposes
Her Majesty was Tressan's only correspondent.
Then the door opened, the portiere was swept aside,, and Anselme
announced "Monsieur de Garnache."
Tressan turned as the newcomer stepped briskly into the room, and
bowed, hat in hand, its long crimson feather sweeping the ground,
then straightened himself and permitted the Seneschal to take his
Tressan beheld a man of a good height, broad to the waist and spare
thence to the ground, who at first glance appeared to be mainly clad
in leather. A buff jerkin fitted his body; below it there was a
glimpse of wine-coloured trunks, and hose of a slightly deeper hue,
which vanished immediately into a pair of huge thighboots of untanned
leather. A leather swordbelt, gold-embroidered at the edges, carried
a long steel-halted rapier in a leather scabbard chaped with steel.
The sleeves of his doublet which protruded from his leather casing
were of the same colour and material as his trunks. In one hand he
carried his broad black hat with its crimson feather, in the other a
little roll of parchment; and when he moved the creak of leather and
jingle of his spurs made pleasant music for a martial spirit.
Above all, this man's head, well set upon his shoulders, claimed some
attention. His nose was hooked and rather large, his eyes were blue,
bright as steel, and set a trifle wide. Above a thin-lapped,
delicate mouth his reddish mustachios, slightly streaked with grey,
stood out, bristling like a cat's. His hair was darker - almost
brown save at the temples, where age had faded it to an ashen colour.
In general his aspect was one of rugged strength.
The Seneschal, measuring him with an adversary's eye, misliked his
looks. But he bowed urbanely, washing his hands in the air, and
"Your servant, Monsieur de - ?"
"Garnache," came the other's crisp, metallic voice, and the name
had a sound as of an oath on his lips. "Martin Marie Rigobert de
Garnache. I come to you on an errand of Her Majesty's, as this my
warrant will apprise you." And he proffered the paper he held,
which Tressan accepted from his hand.
A change was visible in the wily Seneschal's fat countenance. Its
round expanse had expressed interrogation until now; but at the
Parisian's announcement that he was an emissary of the Queen's,
Tressan insinuated into it just that look of surprise and of
increased deference which would have been natural had he not already
been forewarned of Monsieur de Garnache's mission and identity.
He placed a chair at his visitor's disposal, himself resuming his
seat at his writing-table, and unfolding the paper Garnache had given
him. The newcomer seated himself, hitched his sword-belt round so
that he could lean both hands upon the hilt, and sat, stiff and
immovable, awaiting the Lord Seneschal's pleasure. From his desk
across the room the secretary, idly chewing the feathered end of
his goose-quill, took silent stock of the man from Paris, and
Tressan folded the paper carefully, and returned it to its owner.
It was no more than a formal credential, setting forth that Garnache
was travelling into Dauphiny on a State affair, and commanding
Monsieur de Tressan to give him every assistance he might require
in the performance of his errand.
"Parfaitement," purred the Lord Seneschal. "And now, monsieur, if
you will communicate to me the nature of your affair, you shall find
me entirely at your service."
"It goes without saying that you are acquainted with the Chateau de
Condillac?" began Garnache, plunging straight into business.
"Perfectly." The Seneschal leaned back, and was concerned to feel
his pulses throbbing a shade too quickly. But he controlled his
features, and maintained a placid, bland expression.
"You are perhaps acquainted with its inhabitants?"
"Intimate with them?"
The Seneschal pursed his lips, arched his brows, and slowly waved
his podgy hands, a combination of grimace and gesture that said
much or nothing. But reflecting that Monsieur de Tressan had a
tongue, Garnache apparently did not opine it worth his while to
set a strain upon his own imagination, for -
"Intimate with them?" he repeated, and this time there was a sharper
note in his voice.
Tressan leaned forward and brought his finger-tips together. His
voice was as urbane as it lay within its power to be.
"I understood that monsieur was proposing to state his business,
not to question mine."
Garnache sat back in his chair, and his eyes narrowed. He scented
opposition, and the greatest stumbling-block in Garnache's career
had been that he could never learn to brook opposition from any man.
That characteristic, evinced early in life, had all but been the
ruin of him. He was a man of high intellectual gifts, of military
skill and great resource; out of consideration for which had he
been chosen by Marie de Medicis to come upon this errand. But he
marred it all by a temper so ungovernable that in Paris there was
current a byword, "Explosive as Garnache."
Little did Tressan dream to what a cask of gunpowder he was applying
the match of his smug pertness. Nor did Garnache let him dream it
just yet. He controlled himself betimes, bethinking him that, after
all, there might be some reason in what this fat fellow said.
"You misapprehend my purpose, sir," said he, his lean brown hand
stroking his long chin. "I but sought to learn how far already you
may be informed of what is taking place up there, to the end that
I may spare myself the pains of citing facts with which already you
are acquainted. Still, monsieur, I am willing to proceed upon the
lines which would appear to be more agreeable to yourself.
"This, then, is the sum of the affair that brings me: The late
Marquis de Condillac left two sons. The elder, Florimond - who is
the present marquis, and who has been and still continues absent,
warring in Italy, since before his father's death - is the stepson
of the present Dowager, she being the mother of the younger son,
Marius de Condillac.
"Should you observe me to be anywhere at error, I beg, monsieur,
that you will have the complaisance to correct me."
The Seneschal bowed gravely, and Monsieur de Garnache continued:
"Now this younger son - I believe that he is in his twenty-first year
at present - has been something of a scapegrace."
"A scapegrace? Bon Dieu, no. That is a harsh name to give him.
A little indiscreet at times, a little rash, as is the way of youth."
He would have said more, but the man from Paris was of no mind to
waste time on quibbles.
"Very well," he snapped, cutting in. "We will say, a little
indiscreet. My errand is not concerned with Monsieur Marius's
morals or with his lack of them. These indiscretions which you
belittle appear to have been enough to have estranged him from his
father, a circumstance which but served the more to endear him to
his mother. I am told that she is a very handsome woman, and that
the boy favours her surprisingly."
"Ah!" sighed the Seneschal in a rapture. "A beautiful woman - a
noble, splendid woman.'
"Hum!" Garnache observed the ecstatic simper with a grim eye. Then
he proceeded with his story.
"The late marquis possessed in his neighbour, the also deceased
Monsieur de La Vauvraye, a very dear and valued friend. Monsieur
de La Vauvraye had an only child, a daughter, to inherit his very
considerable estates probably the wealthiest in all Dauphiny, so I
am informed. It was the dearest wish of his heart to transform what
had been a lifelong friendship in his own generation into a closer
relationship in the next - a wish that found a very ready echo in
the heart of Monsieur de Condillac. Florimond de Condillac was
sixteen years of age at the time, and Valerie de La Vauvraye
fourteen. For all their tender years, they were betrothed, and they
grew up to love each other and to look forward to the consummation
of the plans their fathers had laid for them."
"Monsieur, monsieur," the Seneschal protested, "how can you possibly
infer so much? How can you say that they loved each other? What
authority can you have for pretending to know what was in their
"The authority of Mademoiselle de La Vauvraye," was the unanswerable
rejoinder. "I am telling you, more or less, what she herself wrote
to the Queen."
"Ah! Well, well - proceed, monsieur."
"This marriage should render Florimond de Condillac the wealthiest
and most powerful gentleman in Dauphiny - one of the wealthiest in
France; and the idea of it pleased the old marquis, inasmuch as the
disparity there would be between the worldly possessions of his two
sons would serve to mark his disapproval of the younger. But before
settling down, Florimond signified a desire to see the world, as was
fit and proper and becoming in a young man who was later to assume
such wide responsibilities. His father, realizing the wisdom of
such a step, made but slight objection, and at the age of twenty
Florimond set out for the Italian wars. Two years afterwards, a
little over six months ago, his father died, and was followed to the
grave some weeks later by Monsieur de La Vauvraye. The latter, with
a want of foresight which has given rise to the present trouble,
misjudging the character of the Dowager of Condillac, entrusted to
her care his daughter Valerie pending Florimond's return, when the
nuptials would naturally be immediately celebrated. I am probably
telling you no more than you already know. But you owe the
infliction to your own unwillingness to answer my questions."
"No, no, monsieur; I assure you that in what you say there is much
that is entirely new to me."
"I rejoice to hear it, Monsieur de Tressan," said Garnache very
seriously, "for had you been in possession of all these facts, Her
Majesty might have a right to learn how it chanced that you had
nowise interfered in what is toward at Condillac.
"But to proceed: Madame de Condillac and her precious Benjamin -
this Marius - finding themselves, in Florimond's absence, masters
of the situation, have set about turning it to their own best
advantage. Mademoiselle de La Vauvraye, whilst being nominally
under their guardianship, finds herself practically gaoled by them,
and odious plans are set before her to marry Marius. Could the
Dowager but accomplish this, it would seem that she would not only
be assuring a future of ease and dignity for her son, but also be
giving vent to all her pent-up hatred of her stepson.
"Mademoiselle, however, withstands them, and in this she is aided
by a fortuitous circumstance which has arisen out of the overbearing
arrogance that appears to be madame's chief characteristic.
Condillac after the marquis's death had refused to pay tithes to
Mother Church and has flouted and insulted the Bishop. This prelate,
after finding remonstrance vain, has retorted by placing Condillac
under an Interdict, depriving all within it of the benefit of clergy.
Thus, they have been unable to find a priest to venture thither, so
that even had they willed to marry mademoiselle by force to Marius,
they lacked the actual means of doing so.
"Florimond continues absent. We have every reason to believe that
he has been left in ignorance of his father's death. Letters coming
from him from time to time prove that he was alive and well at least
until three months ago. A messenger has been dispatched to find him
and urge him to return home at once. But pending his arrival the
Queen has determined to take the necessary steps to ensure that
Mademoiselle de La Vauvraye shall be released from her captivity,
that she shall suffer no further molestation at the hands of Madame
de Condillac and her son - enfin, that she shall run no further risks.
"My errand, monsieur, is to acquaint you with these facts, and to
request you to proceed to Condillac and deliver thence Mademoiselle
de La Vauvraye, whom I am subsequently to escort to Paris and place
under Her Majesty's protection until such time as the new marquis
shall return to claim her."
Having concluded, Monsieur de Garnache sat back in his chair, and
threw one leg over the other, fixing his eyes upon the Seneschal's
face and awaiting his reply.
On that gross countenance before him he saw fall the shadow of
perplexity. Tressan was monstrous ill-at-ease, and his face lost
a good deal of its habitual plethora of colour. He sought to
"Does it not occur to you, monsieur, that perhaps too much
importance may have been attached to the word of this child - this
Mademoiselle de La Vauvraye?"
"Does it occur to you that such has been the case, that she has
overstated it?" counter-questioned Monsieur de Garnache.
"No, no. I do not say that. But - but - would it not be better -
more - ah - satisfactory to all concerned, if you yourself were to
go to Condillac, and deliver your message in person, demanding
The man from Paris looked at him a moment, then stood up suddenly,
and shifted the carriages of his sword back to their normal
position. His brows came together in a frown, from which the
Seneschal argued that his suggestion was not well received.
"Monsieur," said the Parisian very coldly, like a man who contains
a rising anger, "let me tell you that this is the first time in my
life that I have been concerned in anything that had to do with
women and I am close upon forty years of age. The task, I can
assure you, was little to my taste. I embarked upon it because,
being a soldier and having received my orders, I was in the
unfortunate position of being unable to help myself. But I intend,
monsieur, to adhere rigidly to the letter of these commands. Already
I have endured more than enough in the interests of this damsel. I
have ridden from Paris, and that means close upon a week in the
saddle - no little thing to a man who has acquired certain habits of
life and developed a taste for certain minor comforts which he is
very reluctant to forgo. I have fed and slept at inns, living on
the worst of fares and sleeping on the hardest, and hardly the
cleanest, of beds. Ventregris! Figure to yourself that last night
we lay at Luzan, in the only inn the place contained - a hovel,
Monsieur le Seneschal, a hovel in which I would not kennel a dog
His face flushed, and his voice rose as he dwelt upon the things
he had undergone.
"My servant and I slept in a dormitory'- a thousand devils! monsieur,
in a dormitory! Do you realize it? We had for company a drunken
vintner, a pedlar, a pilgrim on his way to Rome, and two peasant
women; and they sent us to bed without candles, for modesty's sake.
I ask you to conceive my feelings in such a case as that. I could
tell you more; but that as a sample of what I have undergone could
scarcely be surpassed."
"Truly-truly outrageous," sympathized the Seneschal; yet he grinned.
"I ask you -have I not suffered inconvenience enough already in the
service of Mademoiselle de La Vauvraye that you can blame me if I
refuse to go a single step further than my orders bid me?"
The Seneschal stared at him now in increasing dismay. Had his own
interests been less at issue he could have indulged his mirth at
the other's fiery indignation at the inconveniences he recited. As
it was, he had nothing to say; no thought or feeling other than what
concerned finding a way of escape from the net that seemed to be
closing in about him - how to seem to serve the Queen without turning
against the Dowager of Condillac; how to seem to serve the Dowager
without opposing the wishes of the Queen.
"A plague on the girl!" he growled, unconsciously uttering his
thoughts aloud. "The devil take her!"
Garnache smiled grimly. "That is a bond of sympathy between us,"
said he. "I have said those very words a hundred times - a thousand
times, indeed - between Paris and Grenoble. Yet I scarcely see that
you can damn her with as much justice as can I.
"But there, monsieur; all this is unprofitable. You have my message.
I shall spend the day at Grenoble, and take a well-earned rest. By
this time to-morrow I shall be ready to start upon my return journey.
I shall have then the honour to wait upon you again, to the end that
I may receive from you the charge of Mademoiselle de La Vauvraye. I
shall count upon your having her here, in readiness to set out with
me, by noon to-morrow."
He bowed, with a flourish of his plumed hat, and would with that have
taken his departure but that the Seneschal stayed him.
"Monsieur, monsieur," he cried, in piteous affright, "you do not know
the Dowager of Condillac."
"Why, no. What of it?"
"What of it? Did you know her, you would understand that she is not
the woman to be driven. I may order her in the Queen's name to
deliver up Mademoiselle de La Vauvraye. But she will withstand me."
"Withstand you?" echoed Garnache, frowning into the face of this
fat man, who had risen also, brought to his feet by excitement.
"Withstand you - you, the Lord Seneschal of Dauphiny? You are
amusing yourself at my expense."
"But I tell you that she will," the other insisted in a passion.
"You may look for the girl in vain tomorrow unless you go to
Condillac yourself and take her."
Garnache drew himself up and delivered his answer in a tone that
"You are the governor of the province, monsieur, and in this matter
you have in addition the Queen's particular authority - nay, her
commands are imposed upon you. Those commands, as interpreted by
me, you will execute in the manner I have indicated."
The Seneschal shrugged his shoulders, and chewed a second at his
"It is an easy thing for you to tell me what to do. Tell me, rather,
how to do it, how to overcome her opposition."
"You are very sure of opposition - strangely sure, monsieur," said
Garnache, looking him between the eyes. "In any case, you have
"And so has she, and the strongest castle in southern France - to
say nothing of the most cursed obstinacy in the world. What she
says, she does."
"And what the Queen says her loyal servants do," was Garnache's
rejoinder, in a withering tone. "I think there is nothing more to
be said, monsieur," he added. "By this time to-morrow I shall
expect to receive from you, here, the charge of Mademoiselle de La
Vauvraye. A demain, donc, Monsieur le Seneschal."
And with another bow the man from Paris drew himself erect, turned
on his heel, and went jingling and creaking from the room.
The Lord Seneschal sank back in his chair, and wondered to himself
whether to die might not prove an easy way out of the horrid
situation into which chance and his ill-starred tenderness for the
Dowager of Condillac had thrust him.
At his desk sat his secretary, who had been a witness of the
interview, lost in wonder almost as great as the Seneschal's own.
For an hour Tressan remained where he was, deep in thought and
gnawing at his beard. Then with a sudden burst of passion,
expressed in a round oath or two, he rose, and called for his horse
that he might ride to Condillac.
THE DOWAGER'S COMPLIANCE
Promptly at noon on the morrow Monsieur de Garnache presented
himself once more at the Seneschal's palace, and with him went
Rabecque, his body-servant, a lean, swarthy, sharp-faced man, a
trifle younger than his master.
Anselme, the obese master of the household, received them with
profound respect, and at once conducted Garnache to Monsieur de
On the stairs they met Captain d'Aubran, who was descending. The
captain was not in the best of humours. For four-and-twenty hours
he had kept two hundred of his men under arms, ready to march as
soon as he should receive his orders from the Lord Seneschal, yet
those instructions were not forthcoming. He had been to seek them
again that morning, only to be again put off.
Monsieur de Garnache had considerable doubt, born of his yesterday's
interview with the Seneschal, that Mademoiselle de La Vauvraye would
be delivered into his charge as he had stipulated. His relief was,
therefore, considerable, upon being ushered into Tressan's presence,
to find a lady in cloak and hat, dressed as for a journey, seated in
a chair by the great fireplace.
Tressan advanced to meet him, a smile of cordial welcome on his lips,
and they bowed to each other in formal greeting.
"You see, monsieur," said the Seneschal, waving a plump hand in the
direction of the lady, "that you have been obeyed. Here is your
Then to the lady: "This is Monsieur de Garnache," he announced, "of
whom I have already told you, who is to conduct you to Paris by order
of Her Majesty.
"And now, my good friends, however great the pleasure I derive from
your company, I care not how soon you set out, for I have some
prodigious arrears of work upon my hands."
Garnache bowed to the lady, who returned his greeting by an
inclination of the head, and his keen eyes played briskly over her.
She was a plump-faced, insipid child, with fair hair and pale blue
eyes, stolid and bovine in their expressionlessness.
"I am quite ready, monsieur," said she, rising as she spoke, and
gathering her cloak about her; and Garnache remarked that her voice
had the southern drawl, her words the faintest suggestion of a
patois. It was amazing how a lady born and bred could degenerate
in the rusticity of Dauphiny. Pigs and cows, he made no doubt, had
been her chief objectives. Yet, even so, he thought he might have
expected that she would have had more to say to him than just those
five words expressing her readiness to depart. He had looked for
some acknowledgment of satisfaction at his presence, some utterances
of gratitude either to himself or to the Queen-Regent for the
promptness with which she had been succoured. He was disappointed,
but he showed nothing of it, as with a simple inclination of the
"Good!" said he. "Since you are ready and Monsieur le Seneschal is
anxious to be rid of us, let us by all means be moving. You have a
long and tedious journey before you, mademoiselle."
"I - I am prepared for that," she faltered.
He stood aside, and bending from the waist he made a sweeping
gesture towards the door with the hand that held his hat. To the
invitation to precede him she readily responded, and, with a bow
to the Seneschal, she began to walk across the apartment.
Garnache's eyes, narrowing slightly, followed her, like points of
steel. Suddenly he shot a disturbing glance at Tressan's face, and
the corner of his wild-cat mustachios twitched. He stood erect, and
called her very sharply.
She stopped, and turned to face him, an incredible shyness seeming
to cause her to avoid his gaze.
"You have, no doubt, Monsieur le Seneschal's word for my identity.
But I think it is as well that you should satisfy yourself. Before
placing yourself entirely in my care, as you are about to do, you
would be well advised to assure yourself, that I am indeed Her
Majesty's emissary. Will you be good enough to glance at this?"
He drew forth as he spoke the letter in the queen's own hand, turned
it upside down, and so presented it to her. The Seneschal looked
on stolidly, a few paces distant.
"But certainly, mademoiselle, assure yourself that this gentleman
is no other than I have told you."
Thus enjoined, she took the letter; for a second her eyes met
Garnache's glittering gaze, and she shivered. Then she bent her
glance to the writing, and studied it a moment, what time the man
from Paris watched her closely.
Presently she handed it back to him.
"Thank you, monsieur," was all she said.
"You are satisfied that it is in order, mademoiselle?" he inquired,
and a note of mockery too subtle for her or the Seneschal ran
through his question.
"I am quite satisfied."
Garnache turned to Tressan. His eyes were smiling, but unpleasantly,
and in his voice when he spoke there was something akin to the
distant rumble that heralds an approaching storm.
"Mademoiselle," said he, "has received an eccentric education."
"Eh?" quoth Tressan, perplexed.
"I have heard tell, monsieur, of a people somewhere in the East who
read and write from right to left; but never yet have I heard tell
of any - particularly in France - so oddly schooled as to do their
reading upside down."
Tressan caught the drift of the other's meaning. He paled a little,
and sucked his lip, his eyes wandering to the girl, who stood in
stolid inapprehension of what was being said.
"Did she do that?" said he, and he scarcely knew what he was saying;
all that he realized was that it urged him to explain this thing.
"Mademoiselle's education has been neglected - a by no means uncommon
happening in these parts. She is sensitive of it; she seeks to hide
Then the storm broke about their heads. And it crashed and thundered
awfully in the next few minutes.
"O liar! O damned, audacious liar," roared Garnache uncompromisingly,
advancing a step upon the Seneschal, and shaking the parchment
threateningly in his very face, as though it were become a weapon of
offence. "Was it to hide the fact that she had not been taught to
write that she sent the Queen a letter pages-long? Who is this
woman?" And the finger he pointed at the girl quivered with the
rage that filled him at this trick they had thought to put upon him.
Tressan sought refuge in offended dignity. He drew himself up,
threw back his head, and looked the Parisian fiercely in the eye.
"Since you take this tone with me, monsieur -"
"I take with you - as with any man - the tone that to me seems best.
You miserable fool! As sure as you're a rogue this affair shall
cost you your position. You have waxed fat and sleek in your
seneschalship; this easy life in Dauphiny appears to have been well
suited to your health. But as your paunch has grown, so, of a
truth, have your brains dwindled, else had you never thought to
cheat me quite so easily.
"Am I some lout who has spent his days herding swine, think you,
that you could trick me into believing this creature to be
Mademoiselle de La Vauvraye - this creature with the mien of a
peasant, with a breath reeking of garlic like a third-rate
eating-house, and the walk of a woman who has never known footgear
until this moment? Tell me, sir, for what manner of fool did you
The Seneschal stood with blanched face and gaping mouth, his fire
all turned to ashes before the passion of this gaunt man.
Garnache paid no heed to him. He stepped to the girl, and roughly
raised her chin with his hand so that she was forced to look him in
"What is your name, wench?" he asked her.
"Margot," she blubbered, bursting into tears.
He dropped her chin, and turned away with a gesture of disgust.
"Get you gone," he bade her harshly. "Get you back to the kitchen
or the onion-field from which they took you."
And the girl, scarce believing her good fortune, departed with a
speed that bordered on the ludicrous. Tressan had naught to say,
no word to stay her with; pretence, he realized, was vain.
"Now, my Lord Seneschal," quoth Garnache, arms akimbo, feet planted
wide, and eyes upon the wretched man's countenance, "what may you
have to say to me?"
Tressan shifted his position; he avoided the other's glance; he was
visibly trembling, and when presently he spoke it was in faltering
"It - it - seems, monsieur, that - ah - that I have been the victim
of some imposture."
"It had rather seemed to me that the victim chosen was myself."
"Clearly we were both victims," the Seneschal rejoined. Then he
proceeded to explain. "I went to Condillac yesterday as you desired
me, and after a stormy interview with the Marquise I obtained from
her - as I believed - the person of Mademoiselle de La Vauvraye.
You see I was not myself acquainted with the lady."
Garnache looked at him. He did not believe him. He regretted
almost that he had not further questioned the girl. But, after all,
perhaps it might be easier and more expedient if he were to appear
to accept the Seneschal's statement. But he must provide against
"Monsieur le Seneschal," said he in calmer tones, putting his anger
from him, "at the best you are a blunderer and an ass, at the worst
a traitor. I will inquire no further at present; I'll not seek to
discriminate too finely."
"Monsieur, these insults - " began the Seneschal, summoning dignity
to his aid. But Garnache broke in:
"La, la! I speak in the Queen's name. If you have thought to aid
the Dowager of Condillac in this resistance of Her Majesty's mandate,
let me enjoin you, as you value your seneschalship - as you value
your very neck - to harbour that thought no longer.
"It seems that, after all, I must deal myself with the situation.
I must go myself to Condillac. If they should resist me, I shall
look to you for the necessary means to overcome that resistance.
"And bear you this in mind: I have chosen to leave it an open
question whether you were a party to the trick it has been sought
to put upon the Queen, through me, her representative. But it is
a question that I have it in my power to resolve at any moment - to
resolve as I choose. Unless, monsieur, I find you hereafter - as
I trust - actuated by the most unswerving loyalty, I shall resolve
that question by proclaiming you a traitor; and as a traitor I shall
arrest you and carry you to Paris. Monsieur le Seneschal, I have
the honour to give you good-day!"
When he was gone, Monsieur de Tressan flung off his wig, and mopped
the perspiration from his brow. He went white as snow and red as
fire by turns, as he paced the apartment in a frenzy. Never in the
fifteen years that were sped since he had been raised to the
governorship of the province had any man taken such a tone with him
and harangued him in such terms.
A liar and a traitor had he been called that morning, a knave and
a fool; he had been browbeaten and threatened; and he had swallowed
it all, and almost turned to lick the hand that administered the
dose. Dame! What manner of cur was he become? And the man who
had done all this - a vulgar upstart out of Paris, reeking of
leather and the barrack-room still lived!
Bloodshed was in his mind; murder beckoned him alluringly to take
her as his ally. But he put the thought from him, frenzied though
he might be. He must fight this knave with other weapons; frustrate
his mission, and send him back to Paris and the Queen's scorn,
beaten and empty-handed.
"Babylas's!" he shouted.
Immediately the secretary appeared.
"Have you given thought to the matter of Captain d'Aubran?" he
asked, his voice an impatient snarl.
"Yes, monsieur, I have pondered it all morning."
"Well? And what have you concluded?"
"Helas! monsieur, nothing."
Tressan smote the table before him a blow that shook some of the
dust out of the papers that cumbered it. "Ventregris! How am I
served? For what do I pay you, and feed you, and house you,
good-for-naught, if you are to fail me whenever I need the things
you call your brains? Have you no intelligence, no thought, no
imagination? Can you invent no plausible business, no likely
rising, no possible disturbances that shall justify my sending
Aubran and his men to Montelimar - to the very devil, if need be.
The secretary trembled in his every limb; his eyes shunned his
master's as his master's had shunned Garnache's awhile ago. The
Seneschal was enjoying himself. If he had been bullied and
browbeaten, here, at least, was one upon whom he, in his turn,
might taste the joys of bullying and browbeating.
"You lazy, miserable calf," he stormed, "I might be better served
by a wooden image. Go! It seems I must rely upon myself. It is
always so. Wait!" he thundered; for the secretary, only too glad
to obey his last order, had already reached the door. "Tell
Anselme to bid the Captain attend me here at once."
Babylas's bowed and went his errand.
A certain amount of his ill-humour vented, Tressan made an effort
to regain his self-control. He passed his handkerchief for the
last time over face and head, and resumed his wig.
When d'Aubran entered, the Seneschal was composed and in his wonted
habit of ponderous dignity. "Ah, d'Aubran," said he, "your men
"They have been ready these four-and-twenty hours, monsieur."
"Good. You are a brisk soldier, d'Aubran. You are a man to be
D'Aubran bowed. He was a tall, active young fellow with a pleasant
face and a pair of fine black eyes.
"Monsieur le Seneschal is very good."
With a wave of the hand the Seneschal belittled his own goodness.
"You will march out of Grenoble within the hour, Captain, and you
will lead your men to Montelimar. There you will quarter them, and
await my further orders. Babylas will give you a letter to the
authorities, charging them to find you suitable quarters. While
there, d'Aubran, and until my further orders reach you, you will
employ your time in probing the feeling in the hill district. You
"Imperfectly," d'Aubran confessed.
"You will understand better when you have been in Montelimar a week
or so. It may, of course, be a false alarm. Still, we must
safeguard the King's interests and be prepared. Perhaps we may
afterwards be charged with starting at shadows; but it is better to
be on the alert from the moment the shadow is perceived than to
wait until the substance itself has overwhelmed us."
It sounded so very much as if the Seneschal's words really had some
hidden meaning, that d'Aubran, if not content with going upon an
errand of which he knew so little, was, at least, reconciled to
obey the orders he received. He uttered words that conveyed some
such idea to Tressan's mind, and within a half-hour he was marching
out of Grenoble with beating drums, on his two days' journey to
THE CHATEAU DE CONDILLAC
As Captain d'Aubran and his troop were speeding westwards from
Grenoble, Monsieur de Garnache, ever attended by his man, rode
briskly in the opposite direction, towards the grey towers of
Condillac, that reared themselves towards the greyer sky above the
valley of the Isere. It was a chill, dull, autumnal day, with a
raw wind blowing from the Alps; its breath was damp, and foretold
of the rain that was likely to come anon, the rain with which the
clouds hanging low about the distant hills were pregnant.
But Monsieur de Garnache was totally insensible to his surroundings;
his mind was very busy with the interview from which he had come,
and the interview to which he was speeding. Once he permitted
himself a digression, that he might point a moral for the benefit
of his servant.
"You see, Rebecque, what a plague it is to have to do with women.
Are you sufficiently grateful to me for having quelled your
matrimonial ardour of two months ago? No, you are not. Grateful
you may be; sufficiently grateful, never; it would be impossible.
No gratitude could be commensurate with the benefit I conferred
upon you. Yet if you had married, and discovered for yourself
the troubles that come from too close an association with that sex
which some wag of old ironically called the weaker, and of which
contemporary fools with no sense of irony continue so to speak in
good faith, you could have blamed only yourself. You would have
shrugged your shoulders and made the best of it, realizing that no
other man had put this wrong upon you. But with me - thousand
devils! - it is very different. I am a man who, in one particular
at least, has chosen his way of life with care; I have seen to it
that I should walk a road unencumbered by any petticoat. What
happens? What comes of all my careful plans?
"Fate sends an infernal cut-throat to murder our good king - whose
soul God rest eternally! And since his son is of an age too
tender to wield the sceptre, the boy's mother does it in his name.
Thus, I, a soldier, being subject to the head of the State, find
myself, by no devising of my own, subject to a woman.
"In itself that is bad enough. Too bad, indeed - Ventregris! - too
bad. Yet Fate is not content. It must occur to this woman to
select me - me of all men - to journey into Dauphiny, and release
another woman from the clutches of yet a third. And to what shifts
are we not put, to what discomforts not subjected? You know them,
Rabecque, for you have shared them with me. But it begins to break
upon my mind that what we have endured may be as nothing to what
may lie before us. It is an ill thing to have to do with women.
Yet you, Rabecque, would have deserted me for one of them!"
Rabecque was silent. Maybe he was ashamed of himself; or maybe
that, not agreeing with his master, he had yet sufficient
appreciation of his position to be discreetly silent where his
opinions might be at variance. Thus Garnache was encouraged to
"And what is all this trouble about, which they have sent me to
set right? About a marriage. There is a girl wants to marry one
man, and a woman who wants to marry her to another. Ponder the
possibilities of tragedy in such a situation. Half this world's
upheavals have had their source in less. Yet you, Rabecque,
would have married!"
Necessity at last turned his discourse to other matters.
"Tell me, now," said he abruptly, in a different tone, "is there
hereabouts a ford?"
"There is a bridge up yonder, monsieur," returned the servant,
thankful to have the conversation changed.
They rode towards it in silence, Garnache's eyes set now upon the
grey pile that crowned the hillock, a half-mile away, on the
opposite bank of the stream. They crossed the bridge and rode up
the gently rising, bare, and rugged ground towards Condillac. The
place wore an entirely peaceful air, strong and massive though it
appeared. It was encircled by a ditch, but the drawbridge was
down, and the rust on its chains argued that long had it been so.
None coming to challenge them, the pair rode across the planks,
and the dull thud of their hooves started into activity some one
in the gatehouse.
A fellow rudely clad - a hybrid between man-at-arms and lackey - lounged on a musket to
confront them in the gateway. Monsieur de Garnache announced his name, adding that he came
to crave an audience of Madame la Marquise, and the man stood aside to admit him. Thus he
and Rabecque rode forward into the roughly paved courtyard.
>From several doorways other men emerged, some of martial bearing,
showing that the place was garrisoned to some extent. Garnache
took little heed of them. He flung his reins to the man whom he
had first addressed - the fellow had kept pace beside him - and
leapt nimbly to the ground, bidding Rabecque await him there.
The soldier lackey resigned the reins to Rabecque, and requested
Monsieur de Garnache to follow him. He led the way through a door
on the left, down a passage and across an anteroom, and ushered the
visitor finally into a spacious, gloomy hall, panelled in black oak
and lighted as much by the piled-up fire that flared on the noble
hearth as by the grey daylight that filtered through the tall
As they entered, a liver-coloured hound that lay stretched before
the fire growled lazily, and showed the whites of his eyes. Paying
little attention to the dog, Garnache looked about him. The
apartment was handsome beyond praise, in a sombre, noble fashion.
It was hung with pictures of departed Condillacs - some of them
rudely wrought enough - with trophies of ancient armour, and with
implements of the chase. In the centre stood an oblong table of
black oak, very richly carved about its massive legs, and in a
china bowl, on this, an armful of late roses filled the room with
their sweet fragrance.
Then Garnache espied a page on the window-seat, industriously
burnishing a cuirass. He pursued his task, indifferent to the
newcomer's advent, until the knave who had conducted thither the
Parisian called the boy and bade him go tell the Marquise that a
Monsieur de Garnache, with a message from the Queen-Regent, begged
The boy rose, and simultaneously, out of a great chair by the
hearth, whose tall back had hitherto concealed him, there rose
another figure. This was a stripling of some twenty summers -
twenty-one, in fact - of a pale, beautifully featured face, black
hair and fine black eyes, and very sumptuously clad in a suit of
shimmering silk whose colour shifted from green to purple as he
Monsieur de Garnache assumed that he was in the presence of Marius
de Condillac. He bowed a trifle stiffly, and was surprised to have
his bow returned with a graciousness that amounted almost to
"You are from Paris, monsieur?" said the young man, in a gentle,
pleasant voice. "I fear you have had indifferent weather for your
Garnache thought of other things besides the weather that he had
found indifferent, and he felt warmed almost to the point of anger
at the very recollection. But he bowed again, and answered amiably
The young man offered him a seat, assuring him that his mother would
not keep him waiting long. The page had already gone upon his errand.
Garnache took the proffered chair, and sank down with creak and
jingle to warm himself at the fire.
"From what you have said, I gather that you are Monsieur Marius de
Condillac," said he. "I, as you may have heard me announced by your
servant, am Martin Marie Rigobert de Garnache - at your service."
"We have heard of you, Monsieur de Garnache," said the youth as he
crossed his shapely legs of silken violet, and fingered the great
pearl that depended from his ear. "But we had thought that by now
you would be on your way to Paris."
"No doubt - with Margot," was the grim rejoinder.
But Marius either gathered no suggestion from its grimness, or did
not know the name Garnache uttered, for he continued:
"We understood that you were to escort Mademoiselle de La Vauvraye
to Paris, to place her under the tutelage of the Queen-Regent. I
will not conceal from you that we were chagrined at the reflection
cast upon Condillac; nevertheless, Her Majesty's word is law in
Dauphiny as much as it is in Paris."
"Quite as much, and I am relieved to hear you confess it," said
Garnache drily, and he scanned more closely the face of this young
man. He found cause to modify the excellent impression he had
received at first. Marius's eyebrows were finely pencilled, but
they arched a shade too much, and his eyes were set a trifle too
closely; the mouth, which had seemed beautiful at first, looked,
in addition, on this closer inspection, weak, sensual, and cruel.
There fell upon the momentary silence the sound of an opening door,
and both men rose simultaneously to their feet.
In the splendid woman that entered, Monsieur de Garnache saw a
wonderful likeness to the boy who stood beside him. She received
the emissary very graciously. Marius set a chair for her between
the two they had been occupying, and thus interchanging phrases of
agreeable greeting the three sat down about the hearth with every
show of the greatest amity.
A younger man might have been put out of countenance; the woman's
surpassing beauty, her charm of manner, her melodious voice, falling
on the ear soft and gentle as a caress, might have turned a man of
less firmness a little from his purpose, a little perhaps from his
loyalty and the duty that had brought him all the way from Paris.
But Monsieur de Garnache was to her thousand graces as insensible
as a man of stone. And he came to business briskly. He had no mind
to spend the day at her fireside in pleasant, meaningless talk.
"Madame," said he, "monsieur your son informs me that you have heard
of me and of the business that brings me into Dauphiny. I had not
looked for the honour of journeying quite so far as Condillac; but
since Monsieur de Tressan, whom I made my ambassador, appears to
have failed so signally, I am constrained to inflict my presence
"Inflict?" quoth she, with a pretty look of make-believe dismay.
"How harsh a word, monsieur!"
The smoothness of the implied compliment annoyed him.
"I will use any word you think more adequate, madame, if you will
suggest it," he answered tartly.
"There are a dozen I might suggest that would better fit the case
- and with more justice to yourself," she answered, with a smile
that revealed a gleam of white teeth behind her scarlet lips.
"Marcus, bid Benoit bring wine. Monsieur de Garnache will no doubt
be thirsting after his ride."
Garnache said nothing. Acknowledge the courtesy he would not;
refuse it he could not. So he sat, and waited for her to speak,
his eyes upon the fire.
Madame had already set herself a course. Keener witted than her
son, she had readily understood, upon Garnache's being announced to
her, that his visit meant the failure of the imposture by which she
had sought to be rid of him.
"I think, monsieur," she said presently, watching him from under
her lids, "that we have, all of us who are concerned in Mademoiselle
de La Vauvraye's affairs, been at cross-purposes. She is an
impetuous, impulsive child, and it happened that some little time
ago we had words - such things will happen in the most united
families. Whilst the heat of her foolish anger was upon her, she
wrote a letter to the Queen, in which she desired to be removed
from my tutelage. Since then, monsieur, she has come to repent her
of it. You, who no doubt understand a woman's mind - "
"Set out upon no such presumption, madame," he interrupted. "I
know as little of a woman's mind as any man who thinks he knows a
deal - and that is nothing."
She laughed as at an excellent jest, and Marius, overhearing
Garnache's retort as he was returning to resume his seat, joined
in her laugh.
"Paris is a fine whetstone for a man's wits," said he.
Garnache shrugged his shoulders.
"I take it, madame, that you wish me to understand that Mademoiselle
de La Vauvraye, repenting of her letter, desires no longer to repair
to Paris; desires, in fact, to remain here at Condillac in your
"You apprehend the position exactly, monsieur."
"To my mind," said he, "it presents few features difficult of
Marius's eyes flashed his mother a look of relief; but the Marquise,
who had an ear more finely trained, caught the vibration of a second
meaning in the emissary's words.
"All being as you say, madame," he continued, "will you tell me why,
instead of some message to this purport, you sent Monsieur de
Tressan back to me with a girl taken from some kitchen or barnyard,
whom it was sought to pass off upon me as Mademoiselle de La
The Marquise laughed, and her son, who had shown signs of
perturbation, taking his cue from her, laughed too.
"It was a jest, monsieur" - she told him, miserably conscious that
the explanation could sound no lamer.
"My compliments, madame, upon the humour that prevails in Dauphiny.
But your jest failed of its purpose. It did not amuse me, nor, so
far as I could discern, was Monsieur de Tressan greatly taken with
it. But all this is of little moment, madame," he continued.
"Since you tell me that Mademoiselle de La Vauvraye is content to
remain here, I am satisfied that it is so."
They were the very words that she desired to hear from him; yet his
manner of uttering them gave her little reassurance. The smile on
her lips was forced; her watchful eyes smiled not at all.
"Still," he continued, "you will be so good as to remember that I
am not my own master in this affair. Were that so, I should not
fail to relieve you at once of my unbidden presence."
"Oh, monsieur - "
"But, being the Queen's emissary, I have her orders to obey, and
those orders are to convey Mademoiselle de La Vauvraye to Paris.
They make no allowance for any change that may have occurred in
mademoiselle's inclinations. If the journey is now distasteful to
her, she has but her own rashness to blame in having sought it
herself. What imports is that she is bidden by the Queen to repair
to Paris; as a loyal subject she must obey the Queen's commands;
you, as a loyal subject, must see to it that she obeys them. So,
madame, I count upon your influence with mademoiselle to see that
she is ready to set out by noon to-morrow. One day already has
been wasted me by your - ah - jest, madame. The Queen likes her
ambassadors to be brisk."
The Dowager reclined in her chair, and bit her lip. This man was
too keen for her. She had no illusions. He had seen through her
as if she had been made of glass; he had penetrated her artifices
and detected her falsehoods. Yet feigning to believe her and them,
he had first neutralized her only weapons - other than offensive -
then used them for her own defeat. Marius it was who took up the
"Monsieur," he cried - and there was a frown drawing together his
fine brows - "what you suggest amounts to a tyranny on the Queen's
Garnache was on his feet, his chair grating the polished floor.
"Monsieur says?" quoth he, his glittering eye challenging the rash
boy to repeat his words.
But the Dowager intervened with a little trill of laughter.
"Bon Dieu! Marius, what are you saying? Foolish boy! And you,
Monsieur de Garnache, do not heed him, I beg you. We are so far
from Court in this little corner of Dauphiny, and my son has been
reared in so free an atmosphere that he is sometimes betrayed into
expressions whose impropriety he does not realize."
Garnache bowed in token of his perfect satisfaction, and at that
moment two servants entered bearing flagons and beakers, fruits and
sweetmeats, which they placed upon the table. The Dowager rose,
and went to do the honours of the board. The servants withdrew.
"You will taste our wine of Condillac, monsieur?"
He acquiesced, expressing thanks, and watched her fill a beaker for
him, one for herself, and another for her son. She brought him the
cup in her hands. He took it with a grave inclination of the head.
Then she proffered him the sweetmeats. To take one, he set down the
cup on the table, by which he had also come to stand. His left hand
was gloved and held his beaver and whip.
She nibbled, herself, at one of the comfits, and he followed her
example. The boy, a trifle sullen since the last words, stood on
the hearth with his back to the fire, his hands clasped behind him.
"Monsieur," she said, "do you think it would enable you to comply
with what I have signified to be not only our own wishes, but those
of Mademoiselle de La Vauvraye herself, if she were to state them
He looked up sharply, his lips parting in a smile that revealed his
strong white teeth.
"Are you proposing another of your jests, madame?"
She laughed outright. A wonderful assurance was hers, thought
Monsieur de Garnache. "Mon Dieu! no, monsieur," she cried. "If
you will, you may see the lady herself."
He took a turn in the apartment, idly, as does a man in thought.
"Very well," said he, at last. "I do not say that it will alter my
determination. But perhaps - yes, I should be glad of an opportunity
of the honour of making Mademoiselle de La Vauvraye's acquaintance.
But no impersonations, I beg, madame!" He said it half-laughingly,
taking his cue from her.
"You need have no fear of any."
She walked to the door, opened it, and called "Gaston!" In answer
came the page whom Garnache had found in the room when he was
"Desire Mademoiselle de La Vauvraye to come to us here at once,"
she bade the boy, and closed the door.
Garnache had been all eyes for some furtive sign, some whispered
word; but he had surprised neither.
His pacing had brought him to the opposite end of the board, where
stood the cup of wine madame had poured for Marius. His own,
Garnache, had left untouched. As if abstractedly, he now took up
the beaker, pledged madame with his glance, and drank. She watched
him, and suddenly a suspicion darted through her mind - a suspicion
that he suspected them.
Dieu! What a man was this! He took no chances. Madame reflected
that this augured ill for the success of the last resource upon
which, should all else fail, she was counting to keep mademoiselle
at Condillac. It seemed incredible that one so wary and watchful
should have committed the rashness of venturing alone into Condillac
without taking his precautions to ensure his ability to retreat.
In her heart she felt daunted by him. But in the matter of that
wine - the faintest of smiles hovered ion her lips, her eyebrows
went up a shade. Then she took up the cup that had been poured for
the Parisian, and bore it to her son.
"Marius, you are not drinking," said she. And seeing a command in
her eyes; he took the beaker from her hand and bore it to his lips,
emptying the half of it, whilst with the faintest smile of scorn the
Dowager swept Garnache a glance of protest, as of one repudiating
an unworthy challenge.
Then the door opened, and the eyes of all three were centred upon
the girl that entered.
MONSIEUR DE GARNACHE LOSES HIS TEMPER
You sent for me, madame," said the girl, seeming to hesitate upon
the threshold of the room, and her voice - a pleasant, boyish
contralto - was very cold and conveyed a suggestion of disdain.
The Marquise detected that inauspicious note, and was moved by it
to regret her already of having embarked upon so bold a game as to
confront Monsieur de Garnache with Valerie. It was a step she had
decided upon as a last means of convincing the Parisian of the truth
of her statement touching the change that had taken place in
mademoiselle's inclinations. And she had provided for it as soon
as she heard of Garnache's arrival by informing mademoiselle that
should she be sent for, she must tell the gentleman from Paris that
it was her wish to remain at Condillac. Mademoiselle had
incontinently refused, and madame, to win her compliance, had
resorted to threats.
"You will do as you consider best, of course," she had said, in a
voice that was ominously sweet. "But I promise you that if you do
otherwise than as I tell you, you shall be married before sunset to
Marius, whether you be willing or not. Monsieur de Garnache comes
alone, and if I so will it alone he shall depart or not at all. I
have men enough at Condillac to see my orders carried out, no matter
what they be.
"You may tell yourself that this fellow will return to help you.
Perhaps he will; but when he does, it will be too late so far as you
shall be concerned."
Terrified by that threat, Valerie had blenched, and had felt her
spirit deserting her.
"And if I comply, madame?" she had asked. "If I do as you wish, if
I tell this gentleman that I no longer desire to go to Paris - what
The Dowager's manner had become more affectionate. She had patted
the shrinking girl upon the shoulder. "In that case, Valerie, you
shall suffer no constraint; you shall continue here as you have done."
"And has there been no constraint hitherto?" had been the girl's
"Hardly, child," the Dowager had returned. "We have sought to
guide you to a wise choice - no more than that. Nor shall we do
more hereafter if you do my pleasure now and give this Monsieur de
Garnache the answer that I bid you. But if you fail me, remember
- you marry Marius before nightfall."
She had not waited for the girl to promise her compliance. She was
too clever a woman to show anxiety on that score. She left her with
that threat vibrating in her mind, confident that she would scare
the girl into obedience by the very assurance she exhibited that
Valerie would not dare to disobey.
But now, at the sound of that chill voice, at the sight of that calm,
resolved countenance, madame was regretting that she had not stayed
to receive the girl's promise before she made so very sure of her
She glanced anxiously at Garnache. His eyes were upon the girl. He
was remarking the slender, supple figure, moderately tall and looking
taller in its black gown of mourning; the oval face, a trifle pale
now from the agitation that stirred her, with its fine level brows,
its clear, hazel eyes, and its crown of lustrous brown hair rolled
back under the daintiest of white coifs. His glance dwelt
appreciatively on the slender nose, with its delicate nostrils, the
charming line of mouth and chin, the dazzling whiteness of her skin,
conspicuous not only in neck and face but in the long, slender hands
that were clasped before her.
These signs of breeding, everywhere proclaimed, left him content
that here was no imposture; the girl before him was, indeed, Valerie
de La Vauvraye.
At madame's invitation she came forward. Marius hastened to close
the door and to set a chair for her, his manner an admirable
suggestion of ardour restrained by deference.
She sat down with an outward calm under which none would have
suspected the full extent of her agitation, and she bent her eyes
upon the man whom the Queen had sent for her deliverance.
After all, Garnache's appearance was hardly suggestive of the role
of Perseus which had been thrust upon him. She saw a tall, spare
man, with prominent cheek-bones, a gaunt, high-bridged nose, very
fierce mustachios, and a pair of eyes that were as keen as
sword-blades and felt to her glance as penetrating. There was
little about him like to take a woman's fancy or claim more than a
moderate share of her attention, even when circumstances rendered
her as interested in him as was now Mademoiselle de La Vauvraye.
There fell a silence, broken at last by Marius, who leaned, a
supple, graceful figure, his elbow resting upon the summit of
"Monsieur de Garnache does us the injustice to find a difficulty
in believing that you no longer wish to leave us."
That was by no means what Garnache had implied; still, since it
really expressed his mind, he did not trouble to correct Marius.
Valerie said nothing, but her eyes travelled to madame's countenance,
where she found a frown. Garnache observed the silence, and drew
his own conclusions.
"So we have sent for you, Valerie," said the Dowager, taking up her
son's sentence, "that you may yourself assure Monsieur de Garnache
that it is so."
Her voice was stern; it bore to the girl's ears a subtle, unworded
repetition of the threat the Marquise had already voiced.
Mademoiselle caught it, and Garnache caught it too, although he
failed to interpret it as precisely as he would have liked.
The girl seemed to experience a difficulty in answering. Her eyes
roved to Garnache's, and fell away in affright before their glitter.
That man's glance seemed to read her very mind, she thought; and
suddenly the reflection that had terrified her became her hope. If
it were as she deemed it, what matter what she said? He would know
the truth, in spite of all.
"Yes, madame," she said at last, and her voice was wholly void of
expression. "Yes, monsieur, it is as madame says. It is my wish
to remain at Condillac."
>From the Dowager, standing a pace or two away from Garnache, came
the sound of a half-sigh. Garnache missed nothing. He caught the
sound, and accepted it as an expression of relief. The Marquise
stepped back a pace; idly, one might have thought; not so thought
Garnache. It had this advantage: that it enabled her to stand where
he might not watch her face without turning his head. He was content
that such was her motive. To defeat her object, to show her that he
had guessed it, he stepped back, too, also with that same idleness
of air, so that he was once more in line with her. And then he
spoke, addressing Valerie.
"Mademoiselle, that you should have written to the Queen in haste
is deplorable now that your views have undergone this change. I am
a stupid man, mademoiselle, just a blunt soldier with orders to
obey and no authority to think. My orders are to conduct you to
Paris. Your will was not taken into consideration. I know not how
the Queen would have me act, seeing your reluctance; it may be that
she would elect to leave you here, as you desire. But it is not
for me to arrogate to determine the Queen's mind. I can but be
guided by her orders, and those orders leave me no course but one
- to ask you, mademoiselle, to make ready immediately to go with
The look of relief that swept into Valerie's face, the little flush
of colour that warmed her cheeks, hitherto so pale, were all the
confirmation that he needed of what he suspected.
"But, monsieur," said Marius, "it must be plain to you that since
the Queen's orders are but a compliance with mademoiselle's wishes,
now that mademoiselle's wishes have altered, so too would Her
Majesty's commands alter to comply with them once more"
"That may be plain to you, monsieur; for me, unfortunately, there
are my orders for only guide," Garnache persisted. "Does not
mademoiselle herself agree with me?"
She was about to speak; her glance had looked eager, her lips had
parted. Then, of a sudden, the little colour faded from her cheeks
again, and she seemed stricken with a silence. Garnache's eyes,
directed in a sidelong glance to the Marquise's face, surprised
there a frown that had prompted that sudden change.
He half-turned, his manner changing suddenly to a freezing civility.
"Madame la Marquise," said he, "I beg with all deference to suggest
that I am not allowed the interview you promised me with Mademoiselle
de La Vauvraye."
The ominous coldness with which he had begun to speak had had a
disturbing effect upon the Dowager; the words he uttered, when she
had weighed them, brought an immense relief. It seemed, then, that
he but needed convincing that this was Mademoiselle de La Vauvraye.
This argued that for the rest he was satisfied.