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St. Martin's Summer by Rafael Sabatini

Part 3 out of 6

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to a standstill by the Seneschal's writing-table, immediately
opposite Tressan. His hand fell to his side, his eyes took on a
look of determination.

"As a last resource your good advice may guide me, Monsieur le
Seneschal," said he. "But first I'll see what can be done with
such men as you have here."

"But I have no men," answered Tressan, dismayed to see the failure
of his effort.

Garnache stared at him in an unbelief that was fast growing to
suspicion. "No men?" he echoed dully. "No men?"

"I might muster a score - no more than that."

"But, monsieur, it is within my knowledge that you have at least
two hundred. I saw at least some fifty drawn up in the courtyard
below here yesterday morning."

"I had them, monsieur," the Seneschal made haste to cry, his hands
upheld, his body leaning forward over his table. "I had them. But,
unfortunately, certain disturbances in the neighbourhood of
Montelimar have forced me to part with them. They were on the point
of setting out when you saw them."

Garnache looked at him a moment without speaking. Then, sharply:

"They must be recalled, monsieur," said he.

And now the Seneschal took refuge in a fine pretence of indignation.

"Recalled?" he cried, and besides indignation there was some horror
in his voice. "Recalled? And for what? That they may assist you
in obtaining charge of a wretched girl who is so headstrong as to
wish to marry other than her guardians have determined. A pretty
affair that, as God's my life! And for the adjustment of such a
family dispute as this, a whole province is to go to ruin, a
conflagration of rebellion is to spread unquenched? On my soul,
sir, I begin to think that this mission of yours has served to turn
your head. You begin to see it out of all proportion to its size."

"Monsieur, it may have turned my head, or it may not; but I shall
not be amazed if in the end it be the means of losing you yours.
Tell me now: What is the disturbance you speak of in Montelimar?"
That was a question all Tressan's ingenuity could not answer.

"What affair is it of yours?" he demanded. "Are you Seneschal of
Dauphiny, or am I? If I tell you that there is a disturbance, let
that suffice. In quelling it I do but attend to my own business.
Do you attend to yours - which seems to be that of meddling in
women's matters."

This was too much. There was such odious truth in it that the
iron sank deep into Garnache's soul. The very reflection that
such a business should indeed be his, was of itself enough to put
him in a rage, without having it cast in his teeth as Tressan had
none too delicately done.

He stormed and raged; he waved his arms and thumped the table, and
talked of cutting men to ribbons - among which men no doubt he
counted my Lord the Seneschal of Dauphiny. But from the storm of
fierce invective, of threats and promises with which he filled the
air, the Seneschal gathered with satisfaction the one clear
statement that he would take his advice.

"I'll do as you say," Garnache had ended. "I'll get me back to
Paris as fast as horse can carry me. When I return woe betide
Condillac! And I shall send my emissaries into the district of
Montelimar to inquire into these disturbances you tell of. Woe
betide you if they find the country quiet. You shall pay a heavy
price for having dispatched your soldiers thither to the end that
they might not be here to further the Queen's business."

With that he caught up his rain-sodden hat, flung it on his head,
and stalked out of the room, and, so, out of the Palace.

He left Grenoble next morning, and it was a very tame and
crestfallen Garnache who quitted the Auberge du Veau qui Tete and
rode out of the town to take the road to Paris. How they would
laugh at him at the Luxembourg! Not even an affair of this kind
was he fit to carry through; not even as a meddler in women's
matters as Tressan had called him - could he achieve success.
Rabecque, reflecting his master's mood - as becomes a good lackey
- rode silent and gloomy a pace or two in the rear.

By noon they had reached Voiron, and here, at a quiet hostelry,
they descended to pause awhile for rest and refreshment. It was a
chill, blustering day, and although the rain held off, the heavens
were black with the promise of more to come. There was a fire
burning in the general-room of the hostelry, and Garnache went to
warm him at its cheerful blaze. Moodily he stood there, one hand
on the high mantel shelf, one foot upon an andiron, his eyes upon
the flames.

He was disconsolately considering his position; considering how
utterly, how irrevocably he had failed; pondering the gibes he
would have to stomach on his return to Paris, the ridicule it
would incumb him to live down. It had been a fine thing to
breathe fire and blood and vengeance to Tressan yesterday, to tell
him of the great deeds he would perform on his return. It was odds
he never would return. They would send another in his place, if
indeed they sent at all. For, after all, before he could reach
Paris and the force required be in Dauphiny, a fortnight must
elapse, let them travel never so quickly. By that time they must
be singularly sluggish at Condillac if they did not so contrive
that no aid that came should come in time for mademoiselle, now that
they were warned that the Queen was stirring in the matter.

Oh! he had blundered it all most cursedly. Had he but kept his
temper yesterday at Grenoble; had he but had the wit to thwart their
plans, by preserving an unruffled front to insult, he might have won
through and carried mademoiselle out of their hands. As it was - !
he let his arms fall to his sides in his miserable despair.

"Your wine, monsieur," said Rabecque at his elbow. He turned, and
took the cup of mulled drink from his servant. The beverage warmed
him in body; but it would need a butt of it to thaw the misery from
his soul.

"Rabecque," he said with a pathetic grimness, "I think I am the most
cursed blunderer that ever was entrusted with an errand."

The thing so obsessed his mind that he must speak of it, if it be
only to his lackey. Rabecque's sharp face assumed a chastened look.
He sighed most dutifully. He sought for words of consolation. At

"At least, monsieur has made them fear him up there at Condillac,"
said he.

"Fear me?" laughed Garnache. "Pish! Deride me, you would say."

"Fear you, I repeat, monsieur. Else why are they at such pains
to strengthen the garrison?"

"Eh?" he questioned. But his tone was not greatly interested. "Are
they doing that? Are they strengthening it? How know you?"

"I had it from the ostler at the Veau qui Tete that a certain
Captain Fortunio - an Italian soldier of fortune who commands the
men at Condillac - was at the Auberge de France last night, offering
wine to whomsoever would drink with him, and paying for it out of
Madame la Marquise's purse. To such as accepted his hospitality he
talked of the glory of a military career, particularly a free-lance's;
and to those who showed interest in what he said he offered a pike
in his company."

"Enrolled he many, did you learn?"

"Not one, monsieur, the ostler told me; and it seems he spent the
evening watching him weave his spider's web. But the flies were
over-wary. They knew whence he came; they knew the business for
which he desired to enrol them - for a rumour had gone round that
Condillac was in rebellion against the Queen's commands - and there
were none so desperate at the Auberge de France as to risk their
necks by enlisting, no matter what the wage he offered."

Garnache shrugged his shoulders. "No matter," said he. "Get me
another cup of wine." But as Rabecque turned away to obey him there
came a sudden gleam into the eye of Monsieur de Garnache which
lightened the depression of his countenance.



In the great hall of the Chateau de Condillac sat the Dowager, her
son, and the Lord Seneschal, in conference.

It was early in the afternoon of the last Thursday in October,
exactly a week since Monsieur de Garnache all but broken-hearted at
the failure of his mission - had departed from Grenoble. They had
dined, and the table was still strewn with vessels and the fragments
of their meal, for the cloth had not yet been raised. But the three
of them had left the board - the Seneschal with all that reluctance
with which he was wont to part company with the table, no matter
how perturbed in spirit he might to - and they had come to group
themselves about the great open fireplace.

A shaft of pale October sunshine entering through the gules of an
escutcheon on the mullioned windows struck a scarlet light into
silver aid glass upon the forsaken board.

Madame was speaking. She was repeating words that she had uttered
at least twenty times a day during the past week.

"It was a madness to let that fellow go. Had we but put him and
his servant out of the way, we should be able now to sleep tranquil
in our beds. I know their ways at Court. They might have marvelled
a little at first that he should tarry so long upon his errand, that
he should send them no word of its progress; but presently, seeing
him no more, he would little by little have been forgotten, and with
him the affair in which the Queen has been so cursedly ready to

"As it is, the fellow will go back hot with the outrage put upon
him; there will be some fine talk of it in Paris; it will be spoken
of as treason, as defiance of the King's Majesty, as rebellion. The
Parliament may be moved to make outlaws of us, and the end of it
all - who shall foresee?"

"It is a long distance from Condillac to Paris, madame," said her
son, with a shrug.

"And you will find them none so ready to send soldiers all this way,
Marquise," the Seneschal comforted her.

"Bah! You make too sure of your security. You make too sure of what
they will do, what leave undone. Time will show, my friends; and,
mor-dieu! I am much at fault if you come not both to echo my regret
that we did not dispose of Monsieur de Garnache and his lackey when
we had then in our power."

Her eye fell with sinister promise upon Tressan, who shivered
slightly and spread his hands to the blaze, as though his shiver
had been of cold. But Marius did not so readily grow afraid.

"Madame," he said, "at the worst we can shut our gates and fling
defiance at them. We are well-manned, and Fortunio is seeking
fresh recruits."

"Seeking them, yes," she sneered. "For a week has the fellow been
spending money like water, addling the brains of half Grenoble with
the best wine at the Auberge de France, yet not a single recruit
has come in, so far."

Marius laughed. "Your pessimism leads you into rash conclusions,"
he cried. "You are wrong. One recruit has come in."

"One!" she echoed. "A thousand devils! A brave number that! A
fine return for the river of wine with which we have washed the
stomachs of Grenoble."

"Still, it is a beginning," ventured the Seneschal.

"Aye, and, no doubt, an ending," she flashed back at him. "And
what manner of fool may this one be, whose fortunes were so
desperate that he could throw them in with ours?"

"He is an Italian - a Piedmontese who has tramped across Savoy and
was on his way to Paris to make his fortune, when Fortunio caught
him and made it clear to him that his fortune was made for him at
Condillac. He is a lusty, stalwart fellow, speaking no word of
French, who was drawn to Fortunio by discovering in him a

Mockery flashed from the Dowager's beautiful eyes.

"In that you have the reason of his enrolling himself. He knew
no word of French, poor devil, so could not learn how rash his
venture was. Could we find more such men as this one it might
be well. But where shall we find them? Pish! my dear Marius,
matters are little mended, nor ever will be, for the mistake we
made in allowing Garnache to go his ways."

"Madame;" again ventured Tressan, "I think that you want for

"At least, I do not want for courage, Monsieur le Comte," she
answered him; "and I promise you that while I live - to handle a
sword if need be - no Paris men shall set foot in Condillac."

"Aye," grumbled Marius, "you can contemplate ,that, and it is all
you do contemplate. You will not see, madame that our position is
far from desperate; that, after all, there may be no need to resist
the King. It is three months since we had news of Florimond. Much
may happen in three months when a man is warring. It may well be
that he is dead."

"I wish I knew he was - and damned," she ,snapped, with a tightening
of her scarlet lips.

"Yes," agreed Marius, with a sigh, "that were an end to all our

"I'm none so sure. There is still mademoiselle, with her new-formed
friends in Paris - may a pestilence blight them all! There are
still the lands of La Vauvraye to lose. The only true end to our
troubles as they stand at present lies in your marrying this
headstrong baggage."

"That the step should be rendered impossible, you can but blame
yourself," Marius reminded her.

"How so?" she cried, turning sharply upon him.

"Had you kept friends with the Church, had you paid tithes and
saved us from this cursed Interdict, we should have no difficulty
in getting hither a priest, and settling the matter out of hand,
be Valerie willing or not."

She looked at him, scorn kindling in her glance. Then she swung
round to appeal to Tressan.

"You hear him, Count," said she. "There is a lover for you! He
would wed his mistress whether she love him or not - and he has
sworn to me that he loves the girl."

"How else should the thing be done since she opposes it?" asked
Marius, sulkily.

"How else? Do you ask me how else? God! Were I a man, and had
I your shape and face, there is no woman in the world should
withstand me if I set my heart on her. It is address you lack.
You are clumsy as a lout where a woman is concerned. Were I in
your place, I had taken her by storm three months ago, when first
she came to us. I had carried her out of Condillac, out of France,
over the border into Savoy, where there are no Interdicts to plague
you, and there I would have married her."

Marius frowned darkly, but before he could speak, Tressan was
insinuating a compliment to the Marquise.

"True, Marius," he said, with pursed lips. "Nature has been very
good to you in that she has made you the very counterpart of your
lady mother. You are as comely a gentleman as is to be found in
France - or out of it."

"Pish!" snapped Marius, too angered by the reflection cast upon his
address, to be flattered by their praises of his beauty. "It is an
easy thing to talk; an easy thing to set up arguments when we
consider but the half of a question. You forget, madame, that
Valerie is betrothed to Florimond and that she clings faithfully to
her betrothal."

"Vertudieu!" swore the Marquise, "and what is this betrothal, what
this faithfulness? She has not seen her betrothed for three years.
She was a child at the time of their fiancailles. Think you her
faithfulness to him is the constancy of a woman to her lover? Go
your ways, you foolish boy. It is but the constancy to a word, to
the wishes of her father. Think you constancy that has no other
base than that would stand between her and any man who - as you
might do, had you the address - could make her love him?"

"I do say so," answered Marius firmly.

She smiled the pitying smile of one equipped with superior knowledge
when confronted with an obstinate, uninformed mind.

"There is a droll arrogance about you, Marius," she told him,
quietly. "You, a fledgling, would teach me, a woman, the ways of
a woman's heart! It is a thing you may live to regret."

"As how?" he asked.

"Once already has mademoiselle contrived to corrupt one of our men,
and send him to Paris with a letter. Out of that has sprung our
present trouble. Another time she may do better. When she shall
have bribed another to assist her to escape; when she, herself,
shall have made off to the shelter of the Queen-mother, perhaps
you will regret that my counsel should have fallen upon barren

"It is to prevent any such attempt that we have placed her under
guard," said he. "You are forgetting that."

"Forgetting it? Not I. But what assurance have you that she will
not bribe her guard?"

Marius laughed, rose, and pushed back his chair.

"Madame," said he, "you are back at your contemplation of the worst
side of this affair; you are persisting in ccnsidering only how we
may be thwarted. But set your mind at rest. Gilles is her sentinel.
Every night he sleeps in her anteroom. He is Fortunio's most
trusted man. She will not corrupt him."

The Dowager smiled pensively, her eyes upon the fire. Suddenly she
raised them to his face. "Berthaud was none the less trusted. Yet,
with no more than a promise of reward at some future time should she
succeed in escaping from us, did she bribe him to carry her letter
to the Queen. What happened to Berthaud that may not happen to
Gilles? "

"You might change her sentry nightly," put in the Seneschal.

"Yes, if we knew whom we could trust; who would be above corruption.
As it is" - she shrugged her shoulders "that would be but to afford
her opportunities to bribe them one by one until they were all ready
to act in concert."

"Why need she any sentinel at all?" asked Tressan, with some show
of sense.

"To ward off possible traitors," she told him, and Marius smiled and
wagged his head.

"Madame is never done foreseeing the worst, monsieur."

"Which shows my wisdom. The men in our garrison are mercenaries,
all attached to us only because we pay them. They all know who she
is and what her wealth."

"Pity you have not a man who is deaf and dumb," said Tressan, half
in jest. But Marius looked up suddenly, his eyes serious.

"We have as good," said he. "There is the Italian knave Fortunio
enrolled yesterday, as I have told you. He knows neither her wealth
nor her identity; nor if he did could he enter into traffic with her,
for he knows no French, and she no Italian."

The Dowager clapped her hands. "The very man!" she cried.

But Marius, either from sheer perverseness, or because he did not
share her enthusiasm, made answer: "I have faith in Gilles."

"Yes," she mocked him, "and you had faith in Berthaud. Oh, if you
have faith in Gilles, let him remain; let no more be said."

The obstinate boy took her advice, and shifted the subject, speaking
to Tressan of some trivial business connected with the Seneschalship.

But madame, woman-like, returned to the matter whose abandoning she
had herself suggested. Marius, for all his affected disdain of it,
viewed it with a certain respect. And so in the end they sent for
the recruit.

Fortunio - who was no other than the man Garnache had known as
"Sanguinetti" - brought him, still clad in the clothes in which he
had come. He was a tall, limber fellow, with a very swarthy skin
and black, oily-looking hair that fell in short ringlets about his
ears and neck, and a black, drooping mustache which gave him a rather
hang-dog look. There was a thick stubble of beard of several days'
growth about his chin and face; his eyes were furtive in their
glances, but of a deep blue that contrasted oddly with his blackness
when he momentarily raised them.

He wore a tattered jerkin, and his legs, in default of stockings,
were swathed in soiled bandages and cross-gartered from ankle to knee.
He stood in a pair of wooden shoes, from one of which peeped forth
some wisps of straw, introduced, no doubt, to make the footgear fit.
He slouched and shuffled in his walk, and he was unspeakably dirty.
Nevertheless, he was girt with a sword in a ragged scabbard hanging
from a frayed and shabby belt of leather.

Madame scanned him with interest. The fastidious Marius eyed him
with disgust. The Seneschal peered at him curiously through
shortsighted eyes.

"I do not think I have ever seen a dirtier ruffian," said he.

"I like his nose," said madame quietly. "It is the nose of an
intrepid man."

"It reminds me of Garnache's," laughed the Seneschal.

"You flatter the Parisian," commented Marius.

The mercenary, meanwhile, stood blandly smiling at the party,
showing at least a fine array of teeth, and wearing the patient,
attentive air of one who realizes himself to be under discussion,
yet does not understand what is being said.

"A countryman of yours, Fortunio?" sneered Marius.

The captain, whose open, ingenuous countenance dissembled as
villainous a heart as ever beat in the breast of any man, disowned
the compatriotism with a smile.

"Hardly, monsieur," said he. "'Battista' is a Piedmontese."
Fortunio himself was a Venetian.

"Is he to be relied upon, think you?" asked madame. Fortunio
shrugged his shoulders and spread his hands. It was not his habit
to trust any man inordinately.

"He is an old soldier," said he. "He has trailed a pike in the
Neapolitan wars. I have cross-questioned him, and found his answers
bore out the truth of what he said."

"And what brings him to France?" asked Tressan. The captain smiled
again, and there came again that expressive shrug of his. "A little
over-ready with the steel," said he.

They told Fortunio that they proposed to place him sentry over
mademoiselle instead of Gilles, as the Italian's absolute lack of
French would ensure against corruption. The captain readily agreed
with them. It would be a wise step. The Italian fingered his
tattered hat, his eyes on the ground.

Suddenly madame spoke to him. She asked him for some account of
himself and whence he came, using the Italian tongue, of which she
had a passing knowledge. He followed her questions very attentively,
at times with apparent difficulty, his eyes on her face, his head
craned a little forward.

Now and then Fortunio had to intervene, to make plainer to this
ignorant Piedmontese mind the Marquise's questions. His answers
came in a deep, hoarse voice, slurred by the accent of Piedmont,
and madame - her knowledge of Italian being imperfect - had
frequently to have recourse to Fortunio to discover the meaning
of what he said.

At last she dismissed the pair of them, bidding the captain see that
he was washed and more fittingly clothed.

An hour later, after the Seneschal had taken his departure to ride
home to Grenoble, it was madame herself, accompanied by Marius and
Fortunio, who conducted Battista - such was the name the Italian
had given - to the apartments above, where mademoiselle was now
confined practically a prisoner.



My child, said the Dowager, and her eyes dwelt on Valerie with a
look of studied gentleness, "why will you not be reasonable?"

The constant reflection that Garnache was at large, making his way
back to Paris to stir up vengeance for the outrage put upon him,
was not without a certain chastening effect upon the Dowager. She
had a way of saying that she had as good a stomach for a fight as
any man in France, and a fight there should be if it came to it and
Garnache should return to assail Condillac. Yet a certain pondering
of the consequences, a certain counting of the cost - ordinarily
unusual to her nature led her to have recourse to persuasion and to
a gentleness no less unusual.

Valerie's eyes were raised to hers with a look that held more scorn
than wonder. They were standing in the antechamber of Valerie's
room. Yonder at his post lounged the recruit "Battista," looking a
trifle cleaner than when first he had been presented to the Marquise,
but still not clean enough for a lady's antechamber. He was leaning
stolidly against the sill of the window, his eyes on the distant
waters of the Isere, which shone a dull copper colour in the
afterglow of the October sunset. His face was vacant, his eyes
pensive, as he stood there undisturbed by the flow of a language he
did not understand.

Fortunio and Marius had departed, and the Marquise - played upon by
her unusual tremors - had remained behind for a last word with the
obstinate girl.

"In what, madame," asked Valerie, "does my conduct fall short of

The Dowager made a movement of impatience. If at every step she
were to be confronted by these questions, which had in them a savour
of challenge, she was wasting time in remaining.

"You are unreasonable, in this foolish clinging to a promise given
for you."

"Given by me, madame," the girl amended, knowing well to what
promise the Dowager referred.

"Given by you, then; but given at an age when you could not
understand the nature of it. They had no right to bind you so."

"If it is for any to question that right, it is for me," Valerie
made answer, her eyes ever meeting the Dowager's unflinchingly.
"And I am content to leave that right unquestioned. I am content
to fill the promise given. In honour I could not do less."

"Ah! In honour!" The Dowager sighed. Then she came a step nearer,
and her face grew sweetly wistful. "But your heart, child; what of
your heart?"

"My heart concerns myself. I am the betrothed of Florimond - that
is all that concerns the world and you. I respect and admire him
more than any living man, and I shall be proud to become his wife
when he returns, as his wife I shall become in spite of all that
you and your son may do."

The Dowager laughed softly, as if to herself.

"And if I tell you that Florimond is dead?"

"When you give me proof of that, I shall believe it," the girl
replied. The Marquise looked at her, her face manifesting no
offence at the almost insulting words.

"And if I were to lay that proof before you?" she inquired, sadly

Valerie's eyes opened a trifle wider, as if in apprehension. But
her answer was prompt and her voice steady. "It still could have
no effect upon my attitude towards your son."

"This is foolishness, Valerie - "

"In you it is, madame," the girl broke in; "a foolishness to think
you can constrain a girl, compel her affections, command her love,
by such means as you have employed towards me. You think that it
predisposes me to be wooed, that it opens my heart to your son, to
see myself gaoled that he may pay me his court."

"Gaoled, child? Who gaols you?" the Dowager cried, as if the most
surprising utterance had fallen tom Valerie's lips.

Mademoiselle smiled in sorrow and some scorn.

"Am I not gaoled, then?" she asked. "What call you this? What does
that fellow there? He is to lie outside my door at nights to see
that none holds communication with me. He is to go with me each
morning to the garden, when, by your gracious charity I take the
air. Sleeping and waking the man is ever within hearing of any word
that I may utter - "

"But if he has no French!" the Dowager protested.

"To ensure, no doubt, against any attempt of mine to win him to my
side, to induce him to aid me escape from this prison. Oh, madame,
I tell you you do but waste time, and you punish me and harass
yourself to little purpose. Had Marius been such a man as I might
have felt it in my nature to love which Heaven forbid! - these means
by which you have sought to bring that thing about could but have
resulted in making me hate him as I do."

The Dowager's fears were banished from her mind at that, and with
them went all thought of conciliating Valerie. Anger gleamed in her
eyes; the set of her lips grew suddenly sneering and cruel, so that
the beauty of her face but served to render it hateful the more.

"So that you hate him, ma mie?" a ripple of mockery on the current
of her voice, "and he a man such as any girl in France might be
proud to wed. Well, well, you are not to be constrained, you say."
And the Marquise's laugh was menacing and unpleasant. "Be not so
sure, mademoiselle. Be not so sure of that. It may well betide
that you shall come to beg upon your knees for this alliance with
a man whom you tell me that you hate. Be not so sure you cannot be

Their eyes met; both women were white to the lips, but it was
curbed passion in the one, and deadly fear in the other; for what
the Dowager's words left unsaid her eyes most eloquently conveyed.
The girl shrank back, her hands clenched, her lip caught in her

"There is a God in heaven, madame," she reminded the Marquise.

"Aye - in heaven," laughed the Marquise, turning to depart. She
paused by the door, which the Italian had sprung forward to open
for her.

"Marius shall take the air with you in the morning if it is fine.
Ponder meanwhile what I have said."

"Does this man remain here, madame?" inquired the girl, vainly
seeking to render her voice steady.

"In the outer anteroom is his place: but as the key of this room is
on his side of the door, he may enter here when he so pleases, or
when he thinks that he has reason to. If the sight of him displeases
you, you may lock yourself from it in your own chamber yonder."

The same she said in Italian to the man, who bowed impassively, and
followed the Dowager into the outer room, closing the door upon
mademoiselle. It was a chamber almost bare of furniture, save for
a table and chair which had been placed there, so that the gaoler
might take his meals.

The man followed the Marquise across the bare floor, their steps
resounding as they went, and he held the outer door for her.

Without another word she left him, and where he stood he could hear
her steps as she tripped down the winding staircase of stone. At
last the door of the courtyard closed with a bang, and the grating
of a key announced to the mercenary that he and his charge were both
imprisoned in that tower of the Chateau de Condillac.

Left alone in the anteroom, mademoiselle crossed to the window and
dropped limply into a chair. Her face was still very white, her
heart beating tumultuously, for the horrid threat that had been
conveyed in the Dowager's words had brought her her first thrill of
real fear since the beginning of this wooing-by-force three months
ago, a wooing which had become more insistent and less like a wooing
day by day, until it had culminated in her present helpless position.

She was a strong-souled, high-spirited girl, but tonight hope seemed
extinguished in her breast. Florimond, too, seemed to have abandoned
her. Either he had forgotten her, or he was dead, as the Dowager
said. Which might be the true state of things she did not greatly
care. The realization of how utterly she was in the power of Madame
de Condillac and her son, and the sudden chance discovery of how
unscrupulously that power might be wielded, filled her mind to the
exclusion of all else.

By the window she sat, watching, without heeding them, the fading
colours in the sky. She was abandoned to these monsters, and it
seemed they would devour her. She could hope for no help from
outside since they had as she believed - slain Monsieur de Garnache.
Her mind dwelt for a moment on that glimpse of rescue that had been
hers a week ago, upon the few hours of liberty which she had enjoyed,
but which only seemed now to increase the dark hopelessness of her

Again with the eyes of her mind she beheld that grim, stalwart
figure, saw his great nose, his greying hair, his fierce mustachios
and his stern, quick eyes. Again she heard the rasp of his metallic
voice with its brisk derision. She saw him in the hall below, his
foot upon the neck of that popinjay of Condillac daring them all to
draw a breath, should he forbid it; again in fancy she rode on the
withers of his horse at the gallop towards Grenoble. A sigh escaped
her. Surely that was the first man who was indeed a man she had ever
set eyes on since her father died. Had Garnache been spared, she
would have felt courage and she would have hoped, for there was
something about him that suggested energy and resource such as it is
good to lean upon in times of stress. Again she heard that brisk,
metallic voice: "Are you content, madame? Have you had fine deeds
enough for one day?"

And then, breaking in upon her musings came the very voice of her
day-dream, so suddenly, sounding so natural and lifelike that she
almost screamed, so startled was she.

"Mademoiselle," it said, "I beg that you'll not utterly lose heart.
I have come back to the thing Her Majesty bade me do, and I'll do
it, in spite of that tigress and her cub."

She sat still as a statue, scarce breathing, her eyes fixed upon
the violet sky. The voice had ceased, but still she sat on. Then
it was slowly borne in upon her that that was no dream-voice, no
trick of her overburdened mind. A voice, a living, actual voice
had uttered those words in this room, here at her elbow.

She turned, and again she almost screamed; for there, just behind
her, his glittering eyes fixed upon her with singular intentness,
stood the swarthy, black-haired Italian gaoler they had given her
because he had no French.

He had come up so quietly behind her that she had not heard his
approach, and he was leaning forward now, with an odd suggestion of
crouching in his attitude, like a beast about to spring. Yet his
gaze riveted hers as with a fascination. And so, while she looked,
his lips moved, and from them, in that same voice of her dreams,
came from this man who had no French, the words:

"Be not afraid, mademoiselle. I am that blunderer, Garnache, that
unworthy fool whose temper ruined what chance of saving you he had
a week ago."

She stared like one going mad.

"Garnache!" said she, m a husky whisper. "You Garnache?"

Yet the voice, she knew, was Garnache's and none other. It was a
voice not easily mistaken. And now, as she looked and looked, she
saw that the man's nose was Garnache's, though oddly stained, and
those keen eyes, they were Garnache's too. But the hair that had
been brown and flecked with grey was black; the reddish mustachios
that had bristled like a mountain cat's were black, too, and they
hung limp and hid from sight the fine lines of his mouth. A
hideous stubble of unshorn beard defaced his chin and face, and
altered its sharp outline; and the clear, healthy skin that she
remembered was now a dirty brown.

Suddenly the face smiled, and it was a smile that reassured her and
drove away the last doubt that she had. She was on her feet in an

"Monsieur, monsieur," was all that she could say; but her longing
was to fling her arms about the neck of this man, as she might have
flung them about the neck of a brother or a father, and sob out upon
his shoulder the sudden relief and revulsion that his presence

Garnache saw something of her agitation, and to relieve it he smiled
and began to tell her the circumstances of his return and his
presentation to Madame as a knave who had no French.

"Fortune was very good to me, mademoiselle," said he. "I had little
hope that such a face as mine could be disguised, but I take no
pride in what you see. It is the handiwork of Rabecque, the most
ingenious lackey that ever served a foolish master. It helped me
that having been ten years in Italy when I was younger, I acquired
the language so well as to be able to impose even upon Fortunio. In
that lay a circumstance which at once disarmed suspicion, and if I
stay not so long as it shall take the dye to wear from my hair and
beard and the staining from my face, I shall have little to fear."

"But, monsieur," she cried, "you have everything to fear!" And
alarm grew in her eyes.

But he laughed again for answer. "I have faith in my luck,
mademoiselle, and I think I am on the tide of it at present. I
little hoped when I made my way into Condillac in this array that
I should end, by virtue of my pretended ignorance of French, in
being appointed gaoler to you. I had some ado to keep the joy from
my eyes when I heard them planning it. It is a thing that has made
all else easy."

"But what can you do alone, monsieur?" she asked him; and there was
a note almost of petulance in her voice.

He moved to the window, and leaned his elbow on the sill. The light
was fast fading. "I know not yet. But I am here to contrive a
means. I shall think and watch."

"You know in what hourly peril I am placed," she cried, and suddenly
remembering that he must have overheard and understood the Dowager's
words, a sudden heat came to her cheeks to recede again and leave
them marble-pale. And she thanked Heaven that in the dusk and in
the shadow where she stood he could but ill make out her face.

"If you think that I have been rash in returning - "

"No, no, not rash, monsieur; noble and brave above all praise. I
would indeed I could tell you how noble and brave I account your

"It is as nothing to the bravery required to let Rabecque do this
hideous work upon a face for which I have ever entertained some
measure of respect."

He jested, sooner than enlighten her that it was his egregious pride
had fetched him back when he was but a few hours upon his journey
Pariswards, his inability to brook the ridicule that would be his
when he announced at the Luxembourg that failure had attended him.

"Ah, but what can you do alone?" she repeated.

"Give me at least a day or two to devise some means; let me look
round and take the measure of this gaol. Some way there must be.
I have not come so far and so successfully to be beaten now. Still,"
he continued, "if you think that I overrate my strength or my
resource, if you would sooner that I sought men and made an assault
upon Condillac, endeavouring to carry it and to let the Queen's will
prevail by force of arms, tell me so, and I am gone tomorrow."

"Whither would you go?" she cried, her voice strained with sudden

"I might seek help at Lyons or Moulins. I might find loyal soldiers
who would be willing to follow me by virtue of my warrant to levy
such help as I may require, if I but tell them that the help was
refused me in Grenoble. I am not sure that it would be so, for,
unfortunately, my warrant is for the Seneschal of Dauphiny only.
Still, I might make the attempt."

"No, no," she implored him, and in her eagerness to have him put
all thought of leaving her from his mind, she caught him by the arm
and raised a pleading face to his. "Do not leave me here, monsieur;
of your pity do not leave me alone amongst them. Think me a coward
if you will, monsieur: I am no less. They have made a coward of me."

He understood the thing she dreaded, and a great pity welled up
from his generous heart for this poor unfriended girl at the mercy
of the beautiful witch of Condillac and her beautiful rascally son.
He patted the hand that clutched his arm.

"I think, myself, that it will be best if I remain, now that I
have come so far," he said. "Let me ponder things. It may well
be that I shall devise some way."

"May Heaven inspire you, monsieur. I shall spend the night in
prayer, I think, imploring God and His saints to show you the way
you seek."

"Heaven, I think, should hear your prayers, mademoiselle," he
answered musingly, his glance upon the white, saintly face that
seemed to shine in the deepening gloom. Then, suddenly he
stirred and bent to listen.

"Sh! Some one is coming," he whispered. And he sped quickly from
her side and into the outer room, where he sank noiselessly on to
his chair as the steps ascended the stone staircase and a glow of
yellow light grew gradually in the doorway that opened on to it.



That he might inspire the more confidence in the Dowager and her
son Garnache organized and performed a little comedy at Condillac
a couple of nights after his appointment as mademoiselle's gaoler.
He gave an alarm at dead midnight, and when half-clad men, followed
presently by madame and Marian, rushed into the anteroom where he
stood, a very picture of the wildest excitement, he drew their
attention to two twisted sheets, tied end to end, hanging from the
window which overlooked the moat; and in answer to the marquise's
questions he informed her that he had been disturbed by sounds of
movements and upon entering the chamber he had discovered
mademoiselle making these preparations for departure.

Valerie, locked in the inner chamber, refused to come forth as the
Marquise bade her, but her voice reassured Madame de Condillac of
her presence, and so, since her attempt had failed, madame was
content to let her be.

"The little fool," she said, peering down from the window into the
night; "she would have been killed for certain. Her rope of sheets
does not reach more than a third of the way down. She would have
had over thirty feet to fall, and if that had not been enough to
finish her, she would of a certainty have, been drowned in the moat."

She signified her satisfaction with the faithful "Battista's"
vigilance by a present of some gold pieces in the morning, and
since the height of the window and the moat beneath it did not
appear sufficient obstacles to mademoiselle's attempts at effecting
her escape, the Dowager had the window nailed down. Thus, only by
breaking it could egress be obtained, and the breaking of it could
not be effected without such a noise as must arouse "Battista."

Under Garnache's instructions the comedy was carried a little
further. Mademoiselle affected for her gaoler a most unconquerable
aversion, and this she took pains to proclaim.

One morning, three days after her attempted escape, she was taking
the air in the garden of Condillac, "Battista," ever watchful, a
few paces behind her, when suddenly she was joined by Marius - a
splendid, graceful figure in a riding-suit of brown velvet and
biscuit-coloured hose, his points tipped with gold, his long boots
of the finest marroquin leather, his liver-coloured hound at his
heels. It was the last day of October, but the weather, from cold
and wet that it had been for the past fortnight, had taken on a
sudden improvement. The sun shone, the air was still and warm,
and but for the strewn leaves and the faint smell of decay with
which the breath of autumn is ever laden, one might have fancied
it a day of early spring.

It was not Valerie's wont to pause when Marius approached. Since
she might not prevent him from walking where he listed, she had long
since abandoned the futility of bidding him begone when he came near
her. But, at least, she had never stopped in her walk, never altered
its pace; she had suffered what she might not avoid, but she had worn
the outward air of suffering it with indifference. This morning,
however, she made a departure from her long habit. Not only did she
pause upon observing his approach, but she called to him as if she
would have him hasten to her side. And hasten he did, a new light
in his eyes that was mostly of surprise, but a little, also, of hope.

She was gracious to him for once, and gave him good morning in a
manner that bordered upon the pleasant. Wondering, he fell into
step beside her, and they paced together the yew-bordered terrace,
the ever-vigilant but discreet "Battista" following them, though
keeping now a few paces farther in the rear.

For a little while they appeared constrained, and their talk was of
the falling leaves and the grateful change that had so suddenly come
upon the weather. Suddenly she stopped and faced him.

"Will you do me a favour, Marius?" she asked. He halted too, and
turned to her, studying her gentle face, seeking to guess her mind
in the clear hazel eyes she raised to his. His eyebrows lifted
slightly with surprise. Nevertheless -

"There is in all the world, Valerie, nothing you could ask me that
I would not do," he protested.

She smiled wistfully. "How easy it is to utter words!" she sighed.

"Marry me," he answered, leaning towards her, his eyes devouring
her now, "and you shall find my words very quickly turned to deeds."

"Ah," said she, and her smile broadened and took on a scornful twist,
"you make conditions now. If I will marry you, there is nothing you
will not do for me; so that, conversely, I may take it that if I do
not marry you, there is nothing you will do. But in the meantime,
Marius, until I resolve me whether I will marry you or not, would
you not do a little thing that I might ask of you?"

"Until you resolve?" he cried, and his face flushed with the sudden
hope he gathered from those words. Hitherto there had been no
suggestion of a possible modification of attitude towards his suit.
It had been repulsion, definite and uncompromising. Again he studied
her face. Was she fooling him, this girl with the angel-innocence
of glance? The thought of such a possibility cooled him instantly.
"What is it you want of me?" he asked, his voice ungracious.

"Only a little thing, Marius." Her glance travelled back over her
shoulder to the tall, limber fellow in leather jerkin and with
cross-gartered legs who lounged a dozen steps behind them. "Rid
me of that ruffian's company," said she.

Marius looked back at "Battista," and from him to Valerie. Then
he smiled and made a slight movement with his shoulders.

"But to what end?" he asked, as one who pleadingly opposes an
argument that is unreasonable. "Another would replace him, and
there is little to choose among the men that garrison Condillac."

"Little, perhaps; but that little matters." Sure of her ground, and
gathering from his tone and manner that the more ardently she begged
this thing the less likely would it be that she should prevail, she
pursued her intercessions with a greater heat. "Oh," she cried, in
a pretended rage, "it is to insult me to give me that unclean knave
for perpetual company. I loathe and detest him. The very sight of
him is too much to endure."

"You exaggerate," said he coldly.

"I do not; indeed I do not," she rejoined, looking frankly,
pleadingly into his face. "You do not realize what it is to suffer
the insolent vigilance of such as he; to feel that your every step
is under surveillance; to feel his eyes ever upon you when you are
within his sight. Oh, it is insufferable!"

Suddenly he gripped her arm, his face within a hand's breadth of
her own, his words falling hot and quickly on her ear.

"It is yours to end it when you will, Valerie," he passionately
reminded her. "Give yourself into my keeping. Let it be mine to
watch over you henceforth. Let me - "

Abruptly he ceased. She had drawn back her head, her face was white
to the lips, and in her eyes, as they dwelt on his at such close
quarters, there appeared a look of terror, of loathing unutterable.
He saw it, and releasing her arm he fell back as if she had struck
him. The colour left his face too.

"Or is it," he muttered thickly, "that I inspire you, with much the
same feeling as does he?"

She stood before him with lowered eyelids, her bosom heaving still
from the agitation of fear his closeness had aroused in her. He
studied her in silence a moment, with narrowing eyes and tightening
lips. Then anger stirred in him, and quenched the sorrow with which
at first he had marked the signs of her repulsion. But anger in
Marius de Condillac was a cold and deadly emotion that vented itself
in no rantings, uttered no loud-voiced threats or denunciations,
prompted no waving of arms or plucking forth of weapons.

He stooped towards her again from his stately, graceful height. The
cruelty hidden in the beautiful lines of his mouth took instant
prominence in the smile that flickered round it.

"I think that Battista makes a very excellent watchdog," he said,
and you would have thought him amused, as if at the foolish
subterfuge of some little child. "You may be right to dislike him.
He knows no French, so that it may not be yours to pervert and bribe
him with promises of what you will do if he assists you to escape;
but you will see that this very quality which renders him detestable
to you renders him invaluable to us."

He laughed softly, as one well pleased with his own astuteness,
doffed his hat with a politeness almost exaggerated, and whistling
his dog he abruptly left her.

Thus were Marius and his mother - to whom he bore the tale of
Valerie's request - tricked further into reposing the very fullest
trust in the watchful, incorruptible" Battista." Realizing that
this would be so, Garnache now applied himself more unreservedly to
putting into effect the plans he had been maturing. And he went
about it with a zest that knew no flagging, with a relish that
nothing could impair. Not that it was other than usual for Garnache
to fling himself whole-heartedly into the conduct of any enterprise
he might have upon his hands; but he had come into this affair at
Condillac against his will; stress of circumstances it was had
driven him on, step by step, to take a personal hand in the actual
deliverance of Valerie.

It was vanity and pride that had turned him back when already he
was on the road to Paris; not without yet a further struggle would
he accept defeat. To this end had he been driven, for the first
time in his life, to the indignity of his foul disguise; and he,
whose methods had ever been direct, had been forced to have recourse
to the commonest of subterfuges. It was with anger in his heart
that he had proceeded to play the part he had assumed. He felt it
to be a thing unworthy of him, a thing that derogated from his
self-respect. Had he but had the justification of some high political
aim, he might have endured it with a better resignation; the
momentous end to be served might have sanctioned the ignoble means
adopted. But here was a task in itself almost as unworthy of him
s the methods by which he now set about accomplishing it. He was
to black his face and dye his beard and hair, stain his skin and
garb himself in filthy rags, for no better end than that he might
compass the enlargement of a girl from the captivity into which she
had been forced by a designing lady of Dauphiny. Was that a task
to set a soldier, a man of his years and birth and name? He had
revolted at it; yet that stubborn pride of his that would not brook
his return to Paris to confess himself defeated by a woman over
this woman's business, held him relentlessly to his distasteful

And gradually the distaste of it had melted. It had begun to fall
away five nights ago, when he had heard what passed between Madame
de Condillac and Valerie. A great pity for this girl, a great
indignation against those who would account no means too base to
achieve their ends with her, a proper realization of the indignities
she was suffering, caused him to shed some of his reluctance, some
of his sense of injury to himself.

His innate chivalry, that fine spirit of his which had ever prompted
him to defend the weak against the oppressor, stirred him now, and
stirred him to such purpose that, in the end, from taking up the
burden of his task reluctantly, he came to bear it zestfully and
almost gladly. He was rejoiced to discover himself equipped with
histrionic gifts of which he had had no suspicion hitherto, and it
delighted him to set them into activity.

Now it happened that at Condillac there was a fellow countryman of
"Battista's," a mercenary from Northern Italy, a rascal named
Arsenio, whom Fortunio had enlisted when first he began to increase
the garrison a month ago. Upon this fellow's honesty Garnache had
formed designs. He had closely observed him, and in Arsenio's
countenance he thought he detected a sufficiency of villainy to
augur well for the prosperity of any scheme of treachery that might
be suggested to him provided the reward were adequate.

Garnache went about sounding the man with a wiliness peculiarly his
own. Arsenio being his only compatriot at Condillac it was not
wonderful that in his few daily hours of relief from his gaoler's
duty "Battista" should seek out the fellow and sit in talk with him.
The pair became intimate, and intercourse between them grew more
free and unrestrained. Garnache waited, wishing to risk nothing by
precipitancy, and watched for his opportunity. It came on the
morrow of All Saints. On that Day of the Dead, Arsenio, whose
rearing had been that of a true son of Mother Church, was stirred
by the memory of his earthly mother, who had died some three years
before. He was silent and moody, and showed little responsiveness
to Garnache's jesting humour. Garnache, wondering what might be
toward in the fellow's mind, watched him closely.

Suddenly the little man - he was a short, bowlegged, sinewy fellow
- heaved a great sigh as he plucked idly at a weed that grew
between two stones of the inner courtyard, where they were seated
on the chapel steps.

"You are a dull comrade to-day, compatriot," said Garnache, clapping
him on the shoulder.

"It is the Day of the Dead," the fellow answered him, as though that
were an ample explanation. Garnache laughed.

"To those that are dead it no doubt is; so was yesterday, so will
to-morrow be. But to us who sit here it is the day of the living."

"You are a scoffer," the other reproached him, and his rascally face
was oddly grave. "You don't understand."

"Enlighten me, then. Convert me."

"It is the day when our thoughts turn naturally to the dead, and
mine are with my mother, who has lain in her grave these three
years. I am thinking of what she reared me and of what I am."

Garnache made a grimace which the other did not observe. He stared
at the little cut-throat, and there was some dismay in his glance.
What ailed the rogue? Was he about to repent him of his sins, and
to have done with villainy and treachery; was he minded to slit no
more gullets in the future, be faithful to the hand that paid him,
and lead a godlier life? Peste! That was a thing that would nowise
suit Monsieur de Garnache's ends just then. If Arsenio had a mind
to reform, let him postpone that reformation until Garnache should
have done with him. So he opened his lips and let out a deep guffaw
of mockery.

"We shall have you turning monk," said he, "a candidate for
canonization going barefoot, with flagellated back and shaven head.
No more wine, no more dice, no more wenches, no more - "

"Peace!" snapped the other.

"Say 'Pax,"' suggested Garnache, "'Pax tecum,' or `vobiscum.' It is
thus you will be saying it later."

"If my conscience pricks me, is it aught to you? Have you no
conscience of your own?"

"None. Men wax lean on it in this vale of tears. It is a thing
invented by the great to enable them to pursue the grinding and
oppression of the small. If your master pays you ill for the dirty
work you do for him and another comes along to offer you some rich
reward for an omission in that same service, you are warned that if
you let yourself be tempted, your conscience will plague you
afterwards. Pish! A clumsy, childish device that, to keep you

Arsenio looked up. Words that defamed the great were ever welcome
to him; arguments that showed him he was oppressed and imposed upon
sounded ever gratefully in his ears. He nodded his approval of
"Battista's" dictum.

"Body of Bacchus!" he swore, "you are right in that, compatriot.
But my case is different. I am thinking of the curse that Mother
Church has put upon this house. Yesterday was All Saints, and never
a Mass heard I. To-day is All Souls, and never a prayer may I offer
up in this place of sin for the rest of my mother's soul."

"How so?" quoth Garnache, looking in wonder at this religiously
minded cut-throat.

"How so? Is not the House of Condillac under excommunication, and
every man who stays in it of his own free will? Prayers and
Sacraments are alike forbidden here."

Garnache received a sudden inspiration. He leapt to his feet, his
face convulsed as if at the horror of learning of a hitherto
undreamt-of state of things. He never paused to give a moment's
consideration to the cut-throat's mind, so wonderfully constituted
as to enable him to break with impunity every one of the commandments
every day of the week for the matter of a louis d'or or two, and yet
be afflicted by qualms of conscience at living under a roof upon
which the Church had hurled her malediction.

"What are you saying, compatriot? What is it that you tell me?"

"The truth," said Arsenio, with a shrug. "Any man who wilfully
abides in the services of Condillac" - and instinctively he lowered
his voice lest the Captain or the Marquise should be within earshot
- , "is excommunicate."

"By the Host!" swore the false Piedmontese. "I am a Christian man
myself, Arsenio, and I have lived in ignorance of this thing?"

"That ignorance may be your excuse. But now that you know - "
Arsenio shrugged his shoulders.

"Now that I know, I, had best have a care of my soul and look about
me for other employment."

"Alas!" sighed Arsenio; "it is none so easy to find."

Garnache looked at him. Garnache began to have in his luck a still
greater faith than hitherto. He glanced stealthily around; then he
sat down again, so that his mouth was close to Arsenio's ear.

"The pay is beggarly here, yet I have refused a fortune offered me
by another that I might remain loyal to my masters at Condillac.
But this thing that you tell me alters everything. By the Host!

"A fortune?" sneered Arsenio.

"Aye, a fortune - at least, fifty pistoles. That is a fortune to
some of us."

Arsenio whistled. "Tell me more," said he.

Garnache rose with the air of one about to depart.

"I must think of it," said he, and he made shift to go. But the
other's hand fell with a clenching grip upon his arm.

"Of what must you think, fool?" said he. "Tell me this service you
have been offered. I have a conscience that upbraids me. If you
refuse these fifty pistoles, why should not I profit by your folly?"

"There would not be the need. Two men are required for the thing I
speak of, and there are fifty pistoles for each. If I decide to
undertake the task, I'll speak of you as a likely second."

He nodded gloomily to his companion, and shaking off his hold he set
out to cross the yard. But Arsenio was after him and had fastened
again upon his arm, detaining him.

"You fool!" said he; "you'd not refuse this fortune ?"

"It would mean treachery," whispered Garnache.

"That is bad," the other agreed, and his face fell. But remembering
what Garnache had said, he was quick to brighten again. "Is it to
these folk here at Condillac?" he asked. Garnache nodded. "And
they would pay - these people that seek our service would pay you
fifty pistoles?"

"They seek my service only, as yet. They might seek yours were I
to speak for you."

"And you will, compatriot. You will, will you not? We are comrades,
we are friends, and we are fellow-countrymen in a strange land. There
is nothing I would not do for you, Battista. Look, I would die for
you if there should come the need! Body of Bacchus! I would. I am
like that when I love a man."

Garnache patted his shoulder. "You are a good fellow, Arsenio."

"And you will speak for me?"

"But you do not know the nature of the service," said Garnache.
"You may refuse it when it is definitely offered you."

"Refuse fifty pistoles? I should deserve to be the pauper that I
am if such had been my habits. Be the service what it may, my
conscience pricks me for serving Condillac. Tell me how the fifty
pistoles are to be earned, and you may count upon me to put my hand
to anything."

Garnache was satisfied. But he told Arsenio no more that day,
beyond assuring him he would speak for him and let him know upon the
morrow. Nor on the morrow, when they returned to the subject at
Arsenio's eager demand, did Garnache tell him all, or even that the
service was mademoiselle's. Instead he pretended that it was some
one in Grenoble who needed two such men as they.

"Word has been brought me," he said mysteriously. "You must not
ask me how."

"But how the devil are we to reach Grenoble? The Captain will never
let us go," said Arsenio, in an ill-humour.

"On the night that you are of the watch, Arsenio, we will depart
together without asking the Captain's leave. You shall open the
postern when I come to join you here in the courtyard."

"But what of the man at the door yonder?" And he jerked his thumb
towards the tower where mademoiselle was a captive, and where at
night "Battista" was locked in with her. At the door leading to
the courtyard a sentry was always posted for greater security. That
door and that sentry were obstacles which Garnache saw the futility
of attempting to overcome without aid. That was why he had been
forced to enlist Arsenio's assistance.

"You must account for him, Arsenio," said he.

"Thus?" inquired Arsenio coolly, and he passed the edge of his hand
significantly across his throat. Garnache shook his head.

"No," said he; "there will be no need for that. A blow over the
head will suffice. Besides, it may be quieter. You will find the
key of the tower in his belt. When you hate felled him, get it and
unlock the door; then whistle for me. The rest will be easy."

"You are sure he has the key?"

"I have it from madame herself. They were forced to leave it with
him to provide for emergencies. Mademoiselle's attempted escape by
the window showed them the necessity for it." He did not add that
it was the implicit confidence they reposed in "Battista" himself
that had overcome their reluctance to leave the key with the sentry.

To seal the bargain, and in earnest of all the gold to come, Garnache
gave Arsenio a couple of gold louis as a loan to be repaid him when
their nameless employer should pay him his fifty pistoles in Grenoble.

The sight and touch of the gold convinced Arsenio that the thing was
no dream. He told Garnache that he believed he would be on guard-duty
on the night of the following Wednesday - this was Friday - and so for
Wednesday next they left the execution of their plans unless, meantime,
a change should be effected in the disposition of the sentries.



Monsieur de Garnache was pleased with the issue of his little affair
with Arsenio.

"Mademoiselle," he told Valerie that evening, "I was right to have
faith in my luck, right to believe that the tide of it is flowing.
All we need now is a little patience; everything has become easy."

It was the hour of supper. Valerie was at table in her anteroom,
and "Battista" was in attendance. It was an added duty they had
imposed upon him, for, since her attempt to escape, mademoiselle's
imprisonment had been rendered more rigorous than ever. No servant
of the chateau was allowed past the door of the outer anteroom, now
commonly spoken of as the guardroom of the tower. Valerie dined
daily in the salon with Madame de Condillac and Marius, but her
other meals were served her in her own apartments. The servants
who brought the meals from the kitchen delivered them to "Battista"
in the guardroom, and he it was who laid the cloth and waited upon
mademoiselle. At first this added duty had irritated him more than
all that he had so far endured. Had he Martin Marie Rigobert de
Garnache lived to discharge the duties of a lackey, to bear dishes
to a lady's table and to remain at hand to serve her? The very
thought had all but set him in a rage. But presently he grew
reconciled to it. It afforded him particular opportunities of being
in mademoiselle's presence and of conferring with her; and for the
sake of such an advantage he might well belittle the unsavoury part
of the affair.

A half-dozen candles burned in two gleaming silver sconces on the
table; in her tall-backed leather chair mademoiselle sat, and ate
and drank but little, while Garnache told her of the preparations
he had made.

"If my luck but holds until Wednesday next," he concluded, "you may
count upon being well out of Condillac. Arsenio does not dream that
you come with us, so that even should he change his mind, at least
we have no cause to fear a betrayal. But he will not change his
mind. The prospect of fifty pistoles has rendered it immutable."

She looked up at him with eyes brightened by hope and by the
encouragement to count upon success which she gathered from his

"You have contrived it marvellously well," she praised him. "If we
succeed - "

"Say when we succeed, mademoiselle," he laughingly corrected her.

"Very well, then - when we shall have succeeded in leaving Condillac,
whither am I to go?"

"Why, with me, to Paris, as was determined. My man awaits me at
Voiron with money and horses. No further obstacle shall rise to
hamper us once our backs are turned upon the ugly walls of Condillac.
The Queen shall make you welcome and keep you safe until Monsieur
Florimond comes to claim his bride."

She sipped her wine, then set down the glass and leaned her elbow
on the table, taking her chin in her fine white hand. "Madame tells
me that he is dead," said she, and Garnache was shocked at the
comparative calmness with which she said it. He looked at her
sharply from under his sooted brows. Was she, after all, he
wondered, no different from other women? Was she cold and
calculating, and had she as little heart as he had come to believe
was usual with her sex, that she could contemplate so calmly the
possibility of her lover being dead? He had thought her better,
more natural, more large-hearted and more pure. That had encouraged
him to stand by her in these straits of hers, no matter at what loss
of dignity to himself. It began to seem that his conclusions had
been wrong.

His silence caused her to look up, and in his face she read
something of what was passing in his thoughts. She smiled rather

"You are thinking me heartless, Monsieur de Garnache?"

"I am thinking you - womanly."

"The same thing, then, to your mind. Tell me, monsieur, do you
know much of women?"

"God forbid! I have found trouble enough in any life."

"And you pass judgment thus upon a sex with which you have no

"Not by acquaintance only is it that we come to knowledge. There
are ways of learning other than by the road of experience. One
may learn of dangers by watching others perish. It is the fool
who will be satisfied alone with the knowledge that comes to him
from what he undergoes himself."

"You are very wise, monsieur," said she demurely, so demurely that
he suspected her of laughing at him. "You were never wed?"

"Never, mademoiselle," he answered stiffly, "nor ever in any danger
of it."

"Must you, indeed, account it a danger?"

"A deadly peril, mademoiselle," said he; whereupon they both laughed.

She pushed back her chair and rose slowly. Slowly she passed from
the table and stepped towards the window. Turning she set her back
to it, and faced him.

"Monsieur de Garnache," said she, "you are a good man, a true and
noble gentleman. I would that you thought a little better of us.
All women are not contemptible, believe me. I will pray that you
may yet mate with one who will prove to you the truth of what I say."

He smiled gently, and shook his head.

"My child," said he, "I am not half the noble fellow you account me.
I have a stubborn pride that stands me at times in the stead of
virtue. It was pride brought me back here, for instance. I could
not brook the laughter that would greet me in Paris did I confess
that I was beaten by the Dowager of Condillac. I tell you this to
the end that, thinking less well of me, you may spare me prayers
which I should dread to see fulfilled. I have told you before,
mademoiselle, Heaven is likely to answer the prayers of such a heart
as yours."

"Yet but a moment back you deemed me heartless," she reminded him.

"You seemed so indifferent to the fate of Florimond de Condillac."

"I must have seemed, then, what I am not," she told him, "for I am
far from indifferent to Florimond's fate. The truth is, monsieur,
I do not believe Madame de Condillac. Knowing me to be under a
promise that naught can prevail upon me to break, she would have me
believe that nature has dissolved the obligation for me. She thinks
that were I persuaded of Florimond's death, I might turn an ear to
the wooing of Marius. But she is mistaken, utterly mistaken; and
so I sought to convince her. My father willed that I should wed
Florimond. Florimond's father had been his dearest friend. I
promised him that I would do his will, and by that promise I am
bound. But were Florimond indeed dead, and were I free to choose,
I should not choose Marius were he the only man in all the world."

Garnache moved nearer to her.

"You speak," said he, "as if you were indifferent in the matter of
wedding Florimond, whilst I understand that your letter to the
Queen professed you eager for the alliance. I may be impertinent,
but, frankly, your attitude puzzles me."

"I am not indifferent," she answered him, but calmly, without
enthusiasm. "Florimond and I were playmates, and as a little child
I loved him and admired him as I might have loved and admired a
brother perhaps. He is comely, honourable, and true. I believe he
would be the kindest husband ever woman had, and so I am content to
give my life into his keeping. What more can be needed?"

"Never ask me, mademoiselle; I am by no means an authority," said
he. "But you appear to have been well schooled in a most excellent
philosophy." And he laughed outright. She reddened under his

"It was thus my father taught me," said she, in quieter tones; "and
he was the wisest man I ever knew, just as he was the noblest and
the bravest."

Garnache bowed his head. "God rest his soul!" said he with
respectful fervour.

"Amen," the girl replied, and they fell silent.

Presently she returned to the subject of her betrothed.

"If Florimond is living, this prolonged absence, this lack of news
is very strange. It is three months since last we heard of him -
four months, indeed. Yet he must have been apprised of his father's
death, and that should have occasioned his return."

"Was he indeed apprised of it?" inquired Garnache. "Did you,
yourself, communicate the news to him?"

"I?" she cried. "But no, monsieur. We do not correspond."

"That is a pity," said Garnache, "for I believe that the knowledge
of the Marquis's death was kept from him by his stepmother."

"Mon Dieu!" she exclaimed, in horror. "Do you mean that he may
still be in ignorance of it?"

"Not that. A month ago a courier was dispatched to him by the
Queen-Mother. The last news of him some four months old, as you
have said - reported him at Milan in the service of Spain. Thither
was the courier sent to find him and to deliver him letters setting
forth what was toward at Condillac."

"A month ago?" she said. "And still we have no word. I am full of
fears for him, monsieur."

"And I," said Garnache, "am full of hope that we shall have news of
him at any moment."

That he was well justified of his hope was to be proven before they
were many days older. Meanwhile Garnache continued to play his part
of gaoler to the entire satisfaction and increased confidence of the
Condillacs, what time he waited patiently for the appointed night
when it should be his friend Arsenio's turn to take the guard.

On that fateful Wednesday "Battista" sought out - as had now become
his invariable custom - his compatriot as soon as the time of his
noontide rest was come, the hour at which they dined at Condillac.
He found Arsenio sunning himself in the outer courtyard, for it
seemed that year that as the winter approached the warmth increased.
Never could man remember such a Saint Martin's Summer as was this.

In so far as the matter of their impending flight was concerned,
"Battista" was as brief as he could be.

"Is all well?" he asked. "Shall you be on guard to-night?"

"Yes. It is my watch from sunset till dawn. At what hour shall we
be stirring?"

Garnache pondered a moment, stroking that firm chin of his, on which
the erstwhile stubble had now grown into a straggling, unkempt beard
- and it plagued him not a little, for a close observer might have
discovered that it was of a lighter colour at the roots. His hair,
too, was beginning to lose its glossy blackness. It was turning
dull, and presently, no doubt, it would begin to pale, so that it was
high time he spread his wings and took flight from Condillac.

"We had best wait until midnight. It will give them time to be
soundly in their slumbers. Though, should there be signs of any one
stirring even then, you had better wait till later. It were foolish
to risk having our going prevented for the sake of leaving a half-hour

"Depend upon me," Arsenio answered him. "When I open the door of
your tower I shall whistle to you. The key of the postern hangs on
the guardroom wall. I shall possess myself of that before I come."

"Good," said Garnache, "we understand each other."

And on that they might have parted there and then, but that there
happened in that moment a commotion at the gate. Men hurried from
the guardhouse, and Fortunio's voice sounded loud in command. A
horseman had galloped up to Condillac, walked his horse across the
bridge - which was raised only at night - and was knocking with the
butt of his whip an imperative summons upon the timbers of the gate.

By Fortunio's orders it was opened, and a man covered with dust,
astride a weary, foam-flecked horse, rode under the archway of the
keep into the first courtyard of the chateau.

Garnache eyed him in surprise and inquiry, and he read in the man's
appearance that he was a courier. The horseman had halted within a
few paces of the spot where "Battista" and his companion stood, and
seeing in the vilely clad Garnache a member of the Condillac
household, he flung him his reins, then got down stiffly from his

Fortunio, bristling with importance, his left hand on the hilt of
his rapier, the fingers of his right twirling at his long fair
mustachios, at once confronted him and craved his business.

"I am the bearer of letters for Madame the Dowager Marquise de
Condillac," was the reply; whereupon, with an arrogant nod, Fortunio
bade the fellow go with him, and issued an order that his horse
should be cared for.

Arsenio was speaking in Garnache's ear. The man's nature was
inquisitive, and he was indulging idle conjectures as to what might
be the news this courier brought. Garnache's mind, actuated by
very different motives, was engaged upon the same task, so much so
that not a word heard he of what his supposed compatriot was
whispering. Whence came this courier? Why had not that fool
Fortunio asked him, so that Garnache might have overheard his answer?
Was he from Paris and the Queen, or was he, perchance, from Italy
and Florimond? These were questions to which it imported him to
have the answers. He must know what letters the fellow brought.
The knowledge might guide him now; might even cause him to alter the
plans he had formed.

He stood in thought whilst, unheeded by him, Arsenio prattled at
his elbow. He bethought him of the old minstrel's gallery at the
end of the hall in which the Condillacs were dining and whither the
courier would be conducted. He knew the way to that gallery, for
he had made a very close study of the chateau against the time when
he might find himself in need of the knowledge.

With a hurried excuse to Arsenio he moved away, and, looking round
to see that he was unobserved, he was on the point of making his way
to the gallery when suddenly he checked himself. What went he there
to do? To play the spy? To become fellow to the lackey who listens
at keyholes? Ah, no! That was something no service could demand of
him. He might owe a duty to the Queen, but there was also a duty
that he owed himself, and this duty forbade him from going to such
extremes. Thus spake his Pride, and he mistook its voice for that
of Honour. Betide what might, it was not for Garnache to play the
eavesdropper. Not that, Pardieu!

And so he turned away, his desires in conflict with that pride of
his, and gloomily he paced the courtyard, Arsenio marvelling what
might have come to him. And well was it for him that pride should
have detained him; well would it seem as if his luck were indeed in
the ascendant and had prompted his pride to save him from a deadly
peril. For suddenly some one called "Battista!"

He heard, but for the moment, absorbed as he was in his own musings,
he overlooked the fact that it was the name to which he answered at

Not until it was repeated more loudly, and imperatively, did he turn
to see Fortunio beckoning him. With a sudden dread anxiety, he
stepped to the captain's side. Was he discovered? But Fortunio's
words set his doubts to rest at once.

"You are to re-conduct Mademoiselle de La Vauvraye to her apartments
at once."

Garnache bowed and followed the captain up the steps and into the
chateau that he might carry out the order; and as he went he
shrewdly guessed that it was the arrival of that courier had
occasioned the sudden removal of mademoiselle.

When they were alone together - he and she - in her anteroom in the
Northern Tower, she turned to him before he had time to question
her as he was intending.

"A courier has arrived," said she.

"I know; I saw him in the courtyard. Whence is he? Did you learn

"From Florimond." She was white with agitation.

"From the Marquis de Condillac?" he cried, and he knew not whether
to hope or fear. "From Italy?"

"No, monsieur. I do not think from Italy. From what was said I
gathered that Florimond is already on his way to Condillac. Oh, it
made a fine stir. It left them no more appetite for dinner, and
they seem to have thought it could have left me none for mine, for
they ordered my instant return to my apartments."

"Then you know nothing - save that the courier is from the Marquis?"

"Nothing; nor am I likely to," she answered, and her arms dropped
limply to her sides, her eyes looked entreatingly up into his gloomy

But Garnache could do no more than rap out an oath. Then he stood
still a moment, his eyes on the window, his chin in his hand,
brooding. His pride and his desire to know more of that courier's
message were fighting it out again in his mind, just as they fought
it out in the courtyard below. Suddenly his glance fell on her,
standing there, so sweet, so frail, and so disconsolate. For her
sake he must do the thing, repulsive though it might be.

"I must know more," he exclaimed. "I must learn Florimond's
whereabouts, if only that we may go to meet him when we leave
Condillac to-night."

"You have arranged definitely for that?"she asked, her face

"All is in readiness," he assured her. Then, lowering his voice
without apparent reason, and speaking quickly and intently, "I
must go find out what I can," he said. "There may be a risk, but
it is as nothing to the risk we run of blundering matters through
ignorance of what may be afoot. Should any one come - which is
unlikely, for all those interested will be in the hall until the
courier is dealt with - and should they inquire into my absence,
you are to know nothing of it since you have no Italian and I no
French. All that you will know will be that you believe I went
but a moment since to fetch water. You understand?"

She nodded.

"Then lock yourself in your chamber till I return."

He caught up a large earthenware vessel in which water was kept
for his own and mademoiselle's use, emptied it through the
guard-room window into the moat below, then left the room and made
his way down the steps to the courtyard.

He peered out. Not a soul was in sight. This inner courtyard
was little tenanted at that time of day, and the sentry at the
door of the tower was only placed there at nightfall. Alongside
this there stood another door, opening into a passage from which
access might be gained to any part of the chateau. Thrusting
behind that door the earthenware vessel that he carried, Garnache
sped swiftly down the corridor on his eavesdropping errand. Still
his mind was in conflict. At times he cursed his slowness, at
times his haste and readiness to undertake so dirty a business,
wishing all women at the devil since by the work of women was he
put to such a shift as this.



In the great hall of Condillac, where the Marquise, her son, and
Mademoiselle de La Vauvraye had been at dinner, a sudden confusion
had been spread by the arrival of that courier so soon as it was
known that he bore letters from Florimond, Marquis de Condillac.

Madame had risen hastily, fear and defiance blending in her face,
and she had at once commanded mademoiselle's withdrawal. Valerie
had wondered might there not be letters - or, leastways, messages
- for herself from her betrothed. But her pride had suppressed
the eager question that welled up to her lips. She would, too, have
questioned the courier concerning Florimond's health; she would have
asked him how the Marquis looked, and where the messenger had left
him. But of all this that she craved to know, nothing could she
bring herself to ask before the Marquise.

She rose in silence upon hearing the Dowager order Fortunio to
summon Battista that he might re-conduct mademoiselle to her
apartments, and she moved a few paces down the hall, towards the
door, in proud, submissive readiness to depart. Yet she could not
keep her eyes from the dust-stained courier, who, having flung his
hat and whip upon the floor, was now opening his wallet, the
Dowager standing before him to receive his papers.

Marius, affecting an insouciance he did not feel, remained at table,
his page behind his chair, his hound stretched at his feet; and he
now sipped his wine, now held it to the light that he might observe
the beauty of its deep red colour.

At last Fortunio returned, and mademoiselle took her departure, head
in the air and outwardly seeming nowise concerned in what was taking
place. With her went Fortunio. And the Marquise, who now held the
package she had received from the courier, bade the, page depart

When the three were at last alone, she paused before opening the
letter and turned again to the messenger. She made a brave figure
in the flood of sunlight that poured through the gules and azures
of the long blazoned windows, her tall, lissome figure clad in a
close-fitting robe of black velvet, her abundant glossy black hair
rolled back under its white coif, her black eyes and scarlet lips
detaching from the ivory of her face, in which no trace of emotion
showed, for all the anxiety that consumed her.

"Where left you the Marquis de Condillac?" she asked the fellow.

"At La Rochette, madame," the courier answered,' and his answer
brought Marius to his feet with an oath.

"So near?" he cried out. But the Dowager's glance remained calm
and untroubled.

"How does it happen that he did not hasten himself, to Condillac?"
she asked.

"I do not know, madame. I did not see Monsieur le Marquis. It
was his servant brought me that letter with orders to ride hither."

Marius approached his mother, his brow clouded.

"Let us see what he says," he suggested anxiously. But his mother
did not heed him. She stood balancing the package in her hand.

"Can you tell us, then, nothing of Monsieur le Marquis?"

"Nothing more than I have told you, madame."

She bade Marius call Fortunio, and then dismissed the courier,
bidding her captain see to his refreshment.

Then, alone at last with her son, she hastily tore the covering
from the letter, unfolded it and read. And Marius, moved by
anxiety, came to stand beside and just behind her, where he too
might read. The letter ran:

"MY VERY DEAR MARQUISE, - I do not doubt but that it will pleasure
you to hear that I am on my way home, and that but for a touch of
fever that has detained us here at La Rochette, I should be at
Condillac as soon as the messenger who is the bearer of these
presents. A courier from Paris found me a fortnight since in Milan,
with letters setting forth that my father had been dead six months,
and that it was considered expedient at Court that I should return
home forthwith to assume the administration of Condillac. I am
lost in wonder that a communication of this nature should have been
addressed to me from Paris instead of from you, as surely it must
have been your duty to advise me of my father's decease at the time
of that untoward event. I am cast down by grief at this evil news,
and the summons from Court has brought me in all haste from Milan.
The lack of news from Condillac has been for months a matter of
surprise to me. My father's death may be some explanation of this,
but scarcely explanation enough. However, madame, I count upon it
that you will be able to dispel such doubts as I am fostering. I
count too, upon being at Condillac by the end of week, but I beg
that neither you nor my dear Marius will allow this circumstance
to make any difference to yourselves, just as, although I am
returning to assume the government of Condillac as the Court has
suggested to me, I hope that yourself and my dear brother will
continue to make it your home for as long as it shall pleasure you.
So long shall it pleasure me.

"I am, my dear marquise, your very humble and very affectionate
servant and stepson,


When she had read to the end, the Dowager turned back and read aloud
the passage: "However, madame, I count upon it that you will be able
to dispel such doubts as I am fostering." She looked at her son,
who had shifted his position, so that he was now confronting her.

"He has his suspicions that all is not as it should be," sneered

"Yet his tone is amiable throughout. It cannot be that they said
too much in that letter from Paris." A little trill of bitter
laughter escaped her. "We are to continue to make this our home for
as long as it shall pleasure us. So long shall it pleasure him!"

Then, with a sudden seriousness, she folded the letter and, putting
her hands behind her, looked up into her son's face.

"Well?" she asked. "What are you going to do?"

"Strange that he makes no mention of Valerie" said Marius pensively.

"Pooh! A Condillac thinks lightly of his women. What are you going
to do?"

His handsome countenance, so marvellously like her own, was overcast.
He looked gloomily at his mother for a moment; then with a slight
twitch of the shoulders he turned and moved past her slowly in the
direction of the hearth. He leaned his elbow on the overmantel and
rested his brow against his clenched right hand, and stood so awhile
in moody thought. She watched him, a frown between her arrogant

"Aye, ponder it," said she. "He is at La Rochette, within a day's
ride, and only detained there by a touch of fever. In any case he
promises to be here by the end of the week. By Saturday, then,
Condillac will have passed out of our power; it will be lost to you
irretrievably. Will you lose La Vauvraye as well?"

He let his hand fall to his side, and turned, fully to face her.

"What can I do? What can we do?" he asked, a shade of petulance in
his question.

She stepped close up to him and rested her hand lightly upon his

"You have had three months in which to woo that girl, and you have
tarried sadly over it, Marius. You have now at most three days in
which to accomplish it. What will you do?"

"I have been maladroit perhaps," he said, with bitterness. "I have
been over-patient with her. I have counted too much upon the chance
of Florimond's being dead, as seemed from the utter lack of news of
him. Yet what could I do? Carry her off by force and compel at the
dagger's point some priest to marry us?"

She moved her hand from his shoulder and smiled, as if she derided
him and his heat.

"You want for invention, Marius," said she. "And yet I beg that
you will exert your mind, or Sunday next shall find us well-nigh
homeless. I'll take no charity from the Marquis de Condillac, nor,
I think, will you."

"If all fails," said he, "we have still your house in Touraine."

"My house?" she echoed, her voice shrill with scorn. "My hovel,
you would say. Could you abide there - in such a sty?"

"Vertudieu! If all else failed, we might be glad of it."

"Glad of it? Not I, for one. Yet all else will fail unless you
bestir yourself in the next three days. Condillac is as good as
lost to you already, since Florimond is upon the threshold. La
Vauvraye most certainly will be lost to you as well unless you make
haste to snatch it in the little moment that is left you."

"Can I achieve the impossible, madame?" he cried, and his impatience
waxed beneath this unreasonable insistence of his mother's.

"Who asks it of you?"

"Do not you, madame?"

"I? Pish! All that I urge is that you take Valerie across the
border into Savoy where you can find a priest to marry you, and get
it done this side of Saturday."

"And is not that the impossible? She will not go with me, as you
well know, madame."

There was a moment's silence. The Dowager shot him a glance; then
her eyes fell. Her bosom stirred as if some strange excitement
moved her. Fear and shame were her emotions; for a way she knew by
which mademoiselle might be induced to go with him - not only
willingly, but eagerly, she thought - to the altar. But she was his
mother, and even her harsh nature shuddered before the task of
instructing him in this vile thing. Why had the fool not wit enough
to see it for himself?

Observing her silence Marius smiled sardonically.

"You may well ponder it," said he. "It is an easy matter to tell me
what I should do. Tell me, rather, how it should be done."

His blindness stirred her anger, and her anger whelmed her hesitation.

"Were I in your place, Marius, I should find a way," said she, in a
voice utterly expressionless, her eyes averted ever from his own.

He scanned her curiously. Her agitation was plain to him, and it
puzzled him, as did the downcast glance of eyes usually so bold and
insolent in their gaze. Then he pondered her tone, so laden with
expression by its very expressionlessness, and suddenly a flood of
light broke upon his mind, revealing very clearly and hideously her
meaning. He caught his breath with a sudden gasp and blenched a
little. Then his lips tightened suddenly.

"In that case, madame," he said, after a pause, and speaking as if
he were still without revelation of her meaning, "I can but regret
that you are not in my place. For, as it is, I am thinking we shall
have to make the best of the hovel in Touraine."

She bit her lip in the intensity of her chagrin and shame. She was
no fool, nor did she imagine from his words that her meaning had
been lost upon him. She knew that he had understood, and that he
chose to pretend that he had not. She looked up suddenly, her dark
eyes blazing, a splash of colour in either cheek.

"Fool!" she snapped at him; "you lily-livered fool! Are you indeed
my son? Are you - by God! - that you talk so lightly of yielding?"
She advanced a step in his direction. "Through your cowardice you
may be content to spend your days in beggary; not so am I; nor shall
I be, so long as I have an arm and a voice. You may go hence if
your courage fails you outright; but I'll throw up the bridge and
entrench myself within these walls. Florimond de Condillac sets no
foot in here while I live; and if he should come within range of
musket-shot, it will be the worse for him."

"I think you are mad, madame - mad so to talk of resisting him, as
you are mad to call me coward. I'll leave you till you are come to
a more tranquil frame of mind." And turning upon his heel, his
face on fire from the lash of her contempt, he strode down the hall
and passed out, leaving her alone.

White again, with heaving bosom and clenched hands, she stood a
moment where he had left her, then dropped into a chair, and taking
her chin in her hand she rested her elbow on her knee. Thus she
remained, the firelight tinting her perfect profile, on which little
might be read of the storm that was raging in her soul. Another
woman in her place would have sought relief in tears, but tears came

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