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St. Martin's Summer by Rafael Sabatini

Part 5 out of 6

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almost hysterical manner the urgent need for haste. And while he
waited for them, standing there on the bridge, his torch held high,
he scanned by its lurid red light the water as far as eye could
reach on either side of him.

There was a faint movement on the dark, oily surface for all that no
wind stirred. Not more than four or five minutes could have elapsed
since Garnache's leap, and it would seem as if the last ripple from
the disturbance of his plunge had not yet rolled itself out. But
otherwise there was nothing here, nor did Fortunio expect aught. The
window of the Northern Tower abutted on to the other side of the
chateau, and it was there he must look for traces of the fugitive or
for his body.

"Hasten!" he shouted over his shoulder. "Follow me!" And without
waiting for them he ran across the bridge and darted round the
building, his torch scattering a shower of sparks behind him on the
night, and sending little rills of blood-red light down the sword
which he still carried.

He gained the spot where Garnache must have fallen, and he stood
below the radiance that clove the night from the shattered window
fifty feet above, casting the light of his torch this way and that
over the black bosom of the moat. Not a ripple moved now upon that
even, steely surface. Voices sounded behind him, and with them a
great glare of ruddy light came to herald the arrival of his men.
He turned to them and pointed with his sword away from the chateau.

"Spread yourselves!" he shouted. "Make search yonder. He cannot
have gone far."

And they, but dimly realizing whom they sought, yet realizing that
they sought a man, dashed off and spread themselves as he had bidden
them, to search the stretch of meadowland, where ill must betide any
fugitive, since no cover offered.

Fortunio remained where he was at the edge of the moat. He stooped,
and waving his torch along the ground he moved to the far angle of
the chateau, examining the soft, oozy clay. It was impossible that
a man could have clambered out over that without leaving some
impression. He reached the corner and found the clay intact; at
least, nowhere could he discover a mark of hands or a footprint set
as would be that of a man emerging from the water.

He retraced his steps and went back until he had reached the eastern
angle of the chateau, yet always with the same result. He
straightened himself at last, and his manner was more calm; his
frenzied haste was gone, and deliberately he now raised his torch and
let its light shine again over the waters. He pondered them a moment,
his dark eyes musing almost regretfully.

"Drowned!" he said aloud, and sheathed his sword.

>From the window overhead a voice hailed him. He looked up and saw
the Dowager, and, behind her, the figure of her son. Away in the
meadows the lights of his men's torches darted hither and thither
like playful jack-o'-lanterns.

"Have you got him, Fortunio?"

"Yes, madame," he answered with assurance. "You may have his body
when you will. He is underneath here." And he pointed to the water.

They appeared to take his word for it, for they questioned him no
further. The Marquise turned to mademoiselle, who was still sitting
on the floor.

"He is drowned, Valerie," she said slowly, watching the girl's face.

Valerie looked up. Her eyes were very wide, and her lips moved for
a second. Then she fell forward without a word. This last horror,
treading on the heels of all those that already had assailed her,
proved too great a strain for her brave spirit. She had swooned.

Tressan entered at that moment, full of questions as to what might
be toward, for he had understood nothing in the courtyard. The
Marquise called to him to help her with the girl, Marius being still
too faint, and between them they bore her to her chamber, laid her
on the bed, and, withdrawing, closed the door upon her. Then she
signed to Marius and the Seneschal.

"Come," she said; "let us go. The sight and smell of the place are
turning me sick, although my stomach is strong enough to endure most

She took up one of the candle-branches to light them, and they went
below and made their way to the hall, where they found Marius's page,
Gaston, looking very pale and scared at the din that had filled the
chateau during the past half-hour or so. With him was Marius's hound,
which the poor boy had kept by him for company and protection in that
dreadful time.

The Marquise spoke to him kindly, and she stooped to pat the dog's
glossy head. Then she bade Gaston set wine for them, and when it
was fetched the three of them drank in brooding, gloomy silence.

The draught invigorated Marius, it cheered Tressan's drooping
spirits, and it quenched the Dowager's thirst. The Seneschal turned
to her again with his unanswered questions touching the end of that
butchery above-stairs. She told him what Fortunio had said that
Garnache was drowned as a consequence of his mad leap from the window.

Into Tressan's mind there sprang the memory of the thing Garnache had
promised should befall him in such a case. It drove the colour from
his cheeks and brought great lines of fearful care into sharp relief
about his mouth and eyes.

"Madame, we are ruined!" he groaned.

"Tressan," she answered him contemptuously, "you are chicken-hearted.
Listen to me. Did he not say that he had left his man behind him
when he came to Condillac? Where think you that he left his man?"

"Maybe in Grenoble," answered the Seneschal, staring.

"Find out," she told him impressively, her eyes on his, and calm
as though they had never looked upon such sights as that very night
had offered them. "If not in Grenoble, certainly, at least,
somewhere in this Dauphiny of which you are the King's Lord
Seneschal. Turn the whole province inside out, man, but find the
fellow. Yours is the power to do it. Do it, then, and you will
have no consequences to fear. You have seen the man?"

"Ay, I have seen him. I remember him; and his name, I bethink me,
is Rabecque."

He took courage; his face looked less dejected.

"You overlook nothing, madame," he murmured. "You are truly
wonderful. I will start the search this very night. My men are
almost all at Montelimar awaiting my commands. I'll dispatch a
messenger with orders that they are to spread themselves throughout
Dauphiny upon this quest."

The door opened, and Fortunio entered. He was still unwashed and
terrible to look upon, all blood-bespattered. The sight of him drove
a shudder through Tressan. The Marquise grew solicitous.

"How is your wound, Fortunio?" was her first question.

He made a gesture that dismissed the matter.

"It is nothing. I am over full-blooded, and if I am scratched, I
bleed, without perceiving it, enough to drain another man."

"Here, drink, mon capitaine," she urged him, very friendly, filling
him a cup with her own hands. "And you, Marius?" she asked. "Are
you recovering strength?"

"I am well," answered Marius sullenly. His defeat that evening had
left him glum and morose. He felt that he had cut a sorry figure
in the affair, and his vanity was wounded. "I deplore I had so
little share in the fight," he muttered.

"The lustiest fight ever I or any man beheld," swore Fortunio.
"Dieu! But he was a fighter, that Monsieur de Garnache, and he
deserved a better end than drowning."

"You are quite sure that he is drowned?"

Fortunio replied by giving his reasons for that conclusion, and
they convinced both the Marquise and her son indeed they had never
deemed it possible that the Parisian could have survived that awful
leap. The Dowager looked at Marius, and from him to the captain.

"Do you think, you two, that you will be fit for tomorrow's business?"

"For myself," laughed Fortunio, "I am ready for it now."

"And I shall be when I have rested," answered Marius grimly.

"Then get you both to rest, you will be needing it," she bade them.

"And I, too, madame," said the Seneschal, bending over the, hand
she held out to him. "Good-night to you all." He would have added
a word to wish them luck in the morrow's venture; but for the life
of him he dared not. He turned, made another of his bows, and
rolled out of the room.

Five minutes later the drawbridge was being raised after his
departure, and Fortunio was issuing orders to the men he had recalled
from their futile search to go clear the guard-room and antechamber
of the Northern Tower, and to bear the dead to the chapel, which
must serve as a mortuary for the time. That done he went off to bed,
and soon after the lights were extinguished in Condillac; and save
for Arsenio, who was, on guard, sorely perturbed by all that had
befallen and marvelling at the rashness of his friend "Battista" -
for he had no full particulars of the business - the place was
wrapped in sleep.

Had they been less sure that Garnache was drowned, maybe they had
slumbered less tranquilly that night at Condillac. Fortunio had
been shrewd in his conclusions, yet a trifle hasty; for whilst, as
a matter of fact, he was correct is assuming that the Parisian had
not crawled out of the moat - neither at the point he had searched,
nor elsewhere - yet was he utterly wrong to assume him at the bottom
of it.

Garnache had gone through that window prepared to leap into another
- and, he hoped, a better world. He had spun round twice in the
air and shot feet foremost through the chill waters of the moat, and
down until his toes came in contact with a less yielding substance,
yet yielding nevertheless. Marvelling that he should have retained
until now his senses, he realized betimes that he was touching mud
- that he was really ankle deep in it. A vigorous, frantic kick
with both legs at once released him, and he felt himself slowly
re-ascending to the surface.

It has been often said that a drowning man in his struggles sees
his whole life mirrored before him. In the instants of Garnache's
ascent through the half stagnant waters of that moat he had reviewed
the entire situation and determined upon the course he should pursue.
When he reached the surface, he must see to it that he broke it
gently, for at the window above were sure to be watchers, looking to
see how he had fared. Madame, he remembered, had sent Tressan for
muskets. If he had returned with them and they should perceive him
from above, a bullet would be sent to dispose of him, and it were a
pity to be shot now after having come through so much.

His head broke the surface and emerged into the chill darkness of
the night. He took a deep breath of cold but very welcome air, and
moving his arms gently under water, he swam quietly, not to the edge
of the moat but to the chateau wall, close under which he thought
he would be secure from observation. He found by good fortune a
crevice between two stones; he did not see it, his fingers found it
for him as they groped along that granite surface. He clung there
a moment and pondered the situation. He heard voices above, and
looking up he saw the glare of light through the opening he had

And now he was surprised to feel new vigour running through him. He
had hurled himself from that window with scarce the power to leap,
bathed in perspiration and deeming his strength utterly spent. The
ice-cold waters of the moat had served, it would seem, to brace him,
to wash away his fatigue, and to renew his energies. His mind was
singularly clear and his senses rendered superacute, and he set
himself to consider what he had best do.

Swim to the edge of the moat and, clambering out, take to his legs
was naturally the first impulse. But, reflecting upon the open
nature of the ground, he realized that that must mean his ruin.
Presently they would come to see how he had fared, and failing to
find him in the water they would search the country round about. He
set himself in their place. He tried to think as they would think,
the better that he might realize how they would act, and then an
idea came to him that might be worth heeding. In any case his
situation was still very desperate; on that score he allowed himself
no illusions. That they would take his drowning for granted, and
never come to satisfy themselves, he was not optimist enough to

He abandoned his grip of the wall and began to swim gently toward
the eastern angle. If they came out, they must lower the bridge;
he would place himself so that in falling it should cover him and
screen him from their sight. He rounded the angle of the building,
and now the friendly cloud that had hung across the moon moved by,
and a faint, silver radiance was upon the water under his eyes. But
yonder, ahead of him, something black lay athwart the moat. At once
he knew it for the bridge. It was down. And he had the explanation
in that he remembered that the Lord Seneschal had not yet left
Condillac. It mattered little to him one way or the other. The
bridge was there, and he made the best of it.

A few swift, silent strokes brought him to it. He hesitated a moment
before venturing into the darkness underneath; then, bethinking him
that it was that or discovery, he passed under. He made for the
wall, and as he groped along he found a chain depending and reaching
down into the water. He caught at it with both hands and hung by it
to await events.

And now, for the first time that night, his pulses really quickened.
There in the dark he waited, and the moments that sped seemed very
long to him, and they were very anxious. He had no good sword
wherewith to defend himself were he attacked, no good, solid ground
on which to take his stand. If he were discovered, he was helpless,
at their mercy, to shoot, or take, or beat to death as best they
listed. And so he waited, his pulses throbbing, his breath coming
short and fast. The cold water that had invigorated him some minutes
ago was numbing him now, and seemed to be freezing his courage as it
froze the blood in his veins, the very marrow in his bones.

Presently his ears caught a rush of feet, a sound of voices, and
Fortunio's raised above the others. Heavy steps rang on the bridge
over his head, and the thud of their fall was like thunder to the
man beneath. A crimson splash of light fell on the moat on either
side of him. The fellow on the bridge had halted. Then the steps
went on. The light flared this way and that, and Garnache almost
trembled, expecting at every moment that its rays would penetrate
the spot where he was hanging and reveal him cowering there like a
frightened water-rat. But the man moved on, and his light flared no

Then others followed him. Garnache heard the sounds of their search.
So overwrought was he that there was a moment when he thought of
swimming to the edge and making across the country to the north while
they were hunting the meadows to the east; but he repressed the
impulse and stayed on. An eternity did it seem before those men
returned and marched once more over his head. A further eternity
was it until the clatter of hoofs on the courtyard stones and their
thunder on the planks above him brought him the news that Tressan
was riding home. He heard the hoofs quicken, and their loud rattle
on the road that led down to the Isere, a half-mile away; and then,
when the hoof-beats grew more distant, there came again the echo of
voices up above.

Was it not over yet? Dear God! would it never end? He felt that a
few moments more of this immersion and he should be done for utterly;
his numbness must rob him of the power to cross the moat.

Suddenly the first welcome sound he had heard that night came to his
ears. Chains creaked, hinges groaned, and the great black pall above
him began gradually to rise. Faster it went, till, at last, it fell
back into position, flat with the wall of the chateau, and such
little light as there was from the moon was beating down upon his
frozen face.

He let the chain go, and, with strokes swift and silent as he could
contrive, he crossed the water. He clambered up the bank, almost
bereft of strength. A moment he crouched there listening. Had he
moved too soon? Had he been incautious?

Nothing stirred behind him to confirm his fears. He crept softly
across the hard ground of the road where he had landed. Then, when
the yielding, silent turf was under his feet, he gave not another
thought for his numbness, but started to run as a man runs in a
nightmare, so little did the speed of his movements match the pace
of his desire to set a distance between himself and Condillac.



It wanted something over an hour to midnight when Monsieur de
Garnache started out in his sodden clothes to run from Condillac.
He bore away to the north, and continued running until he had
covered a mile or so, when perforce he must slacken his pace lest
presently he should have to give way to utter exhaustion. He
trudged on bravely thereafter, at a good, swinging pace, realizing
that in moving briskly lay his salvation from such ill effects as
might otherwise attend his too long immersion. His run had set a
pleasant glow upon his skin and seemed to have thawed the frozen
condition of his joints. Yet he could not disguise from himself
that he was sorely worn by that night's happenings, and that, if
he would reach his goal, he must carefully husband such strength
as yet remained him.

That goal of his was Voiron, some four leagues distant to the north,
where, at the inn of the Beau Paon, his man, Rabecque, should be
lodged, ready for his coming at any time. Once already, when
repairing to Condillac, he had travelled by that road, and it was
so direct that there seemed scant fear of his mistaking it. On he
plodded through the night, his way lighted for him by the crescent
moon, the air so still that, despite his wet garments, being warmed
as he was by his brisk movements, he never felt the cold of it.

He had overheard enough of what had been said by Marius to Valerie
to understand the business that was afoot for the morrow, and he
doubted him that he had not sufficiently injured the Dowager's son
to make him refrain from or adjourn his murderous ride across the
border into Savoy.

Garnache's purpose now was to reach Voiron, there to snatch a brief
rest, and then, equipped anew to set out with his man for La Rochette
and anticipate the fell plans of Marius and Fortunio.

He might have experienced elation at his almost miraculous escape
and at the circumstance that he was still at large to carry this
duel with the Condillacs to a fitting finish, were it not for the
reflection that but for his besetting sin of hastiness he might now
be travelling in dry garments toward La Rochette, with mademoiselle
beside him. Once again that rash temper of his had marred an
enterprise that was on the point of succeeding. And yet, even as
he regretted his rashness, rage stirred him again at the thought of
Marius crushing that slender shape against him and seeking to force
his odious kisses upon her pure, immaculate lips. And then the
thought of her, left behind at Condillac at the mercy of Marius and
that she-devil the Marquise, and the fears that of a sudden leapt
up in his mind, brought him to a standstill, as though he were
contemplating the incomparable folly of a return. He beat his hands
together for a moment in a frenzy of anguish; he threw back his head
and raised his eyes to the sky above with a burst of imprecations
on his lips. And then reflection brought him peace. No, no; they
dare offer her no hurt. To do so must irrevocably lose them La
Vauvraye; and it was their covetousness had made them villains.
Upon that covetousness did their villainy rest, and he need fear
from them no wanton ruthlessness that should endanger their chance
of profit.

He trudged on, reassured. He had been a fool so to give way to
fear; as great a fool as he had been when The had laid hands on
Marius to quell his excessive amorousness. Dieu! Was he bewitched?
What ailed him? Again he paused there in the night to think the
situation out.

A dozen thoughts, all centering about Valerie, came crowding in upon
his brain, till in the end a great burst of laughter - the laughter
of a madman almost, eerie and terrific as it rang upon the silent
night broke from his parted lips. That brief moment of introspection
had revealed him to himself, and the revelation had fetched that
peal of mocking laughter from him.

He realized now, at last, that not because the Queen had ordered
him to procure Mademoiselle de La Vauvraye's enlargement had he
submitted to assume a filthy travesty, to set his neck in jeopardy,
to play the lackey and the spy. It was because something in
Valerie's eyes, something in her pure, lily face had moved him to
it; and simultaneously had come the thought of the relation in which
she stood to that man at La Rochette whose life he now sought to
save for her, and it had stabbed him with a bitterness no misfortune,
no failure yet had brought him.

He trudged on, knowing himself for what he was a fool who, after
close upon forty years of a strenuous life in which no petticoat had
played a part, was come under the spell of a pair of innocent eyes
belonging to a child almost young enough to have been his daughter.

He despised himself a little for his weakness; he despised himself
for his apostasy from the faith that had governed his life - the
faith to keep himself immune from the folly to which womanhood had
driven so many a stout man.

And yet, mock himself, despise himself as he would, a great tenderness, a great desire grew
strong in his soul that night as he trudged on toward distant Voiron. Mile after mile her image
kept him company, and once, when he had left Voreppe behind him, the greater portion of his
journey done, some devil whispered in his ear that he was weary; that he would be over-weary
on the morrow for any ride to La Rochette. He had done all that mortal man could do; let him
rest to-morrow whilst Marius and Fortunio accomplished by Florimond what the fever had

A cold perspiration broke on him as he wrestled with that grim
temptation. Valerie was his; she belonged to him by the right of
dangers shared; never had mother in her labours been nearer death
for the offspring's sake than had he for Valerie during the days
that were sped and the hours that were but gone. She belonged to
him by the title of those dangers he had been through. What had
Florimond done to establish his claim to her? He had remained
absent during long years, a-warring in a foreign land. With how
many banal loves might not the fellow in that time have strewn his
soldier's path! Garnache knew well how close does Cupid stalk in
the wake of Mars, knew well the way of these gay soldiers and the
lightness of their loves.

Was, then, this fellow to come now and claim her, when perils were
past, when there was naught left to do but lead her to the altar?
Could he be worthy of such a pearl of womanhood, this laggard who,
because a fever touched him, sat him down in an inn within a few
hours' ride of her to rest him, as though the world held no such
woman as Valerie?

And she, herself, by what ties was she bound to him? By the ties
of an old promise, given at an age when she knew not what love meant.
He had talked of it with her, and he knew how dispassionately she
awaited Florimond's return. Florimond might be betrothed to her
- her father and his had encompassed that between them - but no
lover of hers was he.

Thus far did his thoughts journey, and temptation gripped him ever
more and more strongly. And then his manhood and his honour awoke
with a shudder, as awakens a man from an ugly dream. What manner
of fool was he? he asked himself again. Upon what presumptions
did he base his silly musings? Did he suppose that even were there
no Florimond, it would be left for a harsh, war-worn old greybeard
such as he to awaken tenderness in the bosom of that child? The
tenderness of friendship perhaps - she had confessed to that; but
the tenderness of her sweet love must be won by a younger, comelier

If love had indeed touched him at last, let him be worthy of it and
of her who inspired it. Let him strain every sinew in her service,
asking no guerdon; let him save the life of the man to whom she was
affianced; let him save her from the clutches of the Marquise de
Condillac and her beautiful, unscrupulous son.

He put his folly from him and-went on, seeking to hold his mind to
the planning of his to-morrow's journey and its business. He had
no means to know that at that very hour Valerie was on her knees by
her little white bed, in the Northern Tower of Condillac, praying
for the repose of the soul of Monsieur de Garnache - the bravest
gentleman, the noblest friend she had ever known. For she accounted
him dead, and she thought with horror of his body lying in the slime
under the cold waters of the moat beneath the window of her
antechamber. A change seemed to have come upon her. Her soul was
numb, her courage seemed dead, and little care had she in that hour
of what might betide her now.

Florimond was coming, she remembered: coming to wed her. Ah, well!
It mattered little, since Monsieur de Garnache was dead - as though
it could have mattered had he been living!

Three hours of his long striding brought Garnache at last to Voiron,
and the echo of his footsteps rang through the silent streets and
scared a stray cat or two that were preying out of doors. There was
no watch in the little township and no lights, but by the moon's
faint glimmer Garnache sought the inn of the Beau Paon, and found
it at the end of a little wandering. A gaudy peacock, with tail
spread wide, was the sign above the door on which he thumped and
kicked as if he would have beaten it down.

It opened after some delay, and a man, half clad, candle in hand, a
night-cap on his hoary locks, showed an angry face at the opening.

At sight of the gaunt, bedraggled figure that craved admittance,
the landlord would have shut the door again, fearing that he had to
do with some wild bandit from the hills. But Garnache thrust his
foot in the way.

"There is a man named Rabecque, from Paris, lodging here. I must
have instant speech with him," said he; and his words, together
with the crisp, commanding tones in which they were uttered, had
their effect upon the host.

Rabecque had been playing the great lord during the week he had
spent at Voiron, and had known how to command a certain deference
and regard. That this tatterdemalion, with the haughty voice,
should demand to see him at that hour of the night, with such scant
unconcern of how far he might incommode the great Monsieur Rabecque,
earned for him too a certain measure of regard, though still alloyed
with some suspicion.

The landlord bade him enter. He did not know whether Monsieur
Rabecque would forgive him for being disturbed; he could not say
whether Monsieur Rabecque would consent to see this visitor at such
an hour; very probably he would not. Still, monsieur might enter.

Garnache cut him short before he had half done, announced his name
and bade him convey it to Rabecque. The alacrity with which the
lackey stirred from his bed upon hearing who it was that had arrived
impressed the host not a little, but not half so much as it impressed
him presently to observe the deference with which this great Monsieur
Rabecque of Paris confronted the scarecrow below stairs when he was
brought into its presence.

"You are safe and sound, monsieur?" he cried, in deferential joy.

"Aye, by a miracle, mon fils," Garnache answered him, with a short
laugh. "Help me to bed; then bring me a cup of spiced wine. I have
swum a moat and done other wonders in these clothes."

The host and Rabecque bustled now to minister to his wants between
them, and when, jaded and worn, Garnache lay at last between
good-smelling sheets with the feeling in him that he was like to
sleep until the day of judgment, he issued his final orders.

"Awake me at daybreak, Rabecque," said he drowsily. "We must be
stirring then. Have horse ready and clothes for me. I shall need
you to wash me clean and shave me and make me what I was before
your tricks and dyes turned me into what I have been this week and
more. Take away the light. At daybreak! Don't let me sleep
beyond that as you value your place with me. We shall have brisk
work to-morrow. At - daybreak - Rabecque!"



It was noon of the next day when two horsemen gained the heights
above La Rochette and paused to breathe their nags and take a survey
of the little township in the plain at their feet. One of these
was Monsieur de Garnache, the other was his man Rabecque. But it
was no longer the travestied Garnache that Condillac had known as
"Battista" during the past days, it was that gentleman as he had been
when first he presented himself at the chateau. Rabecque had shaved
him, and by means of certain unguents had cleansed his skin and hair
of the dyes with which he had earlier overlaid them.

That metamorphosis, of itself, was enough to set Garnache in a good
humour; he felt himself again, and the feeling gave him confidence.
His mustachios bristled as fiercely as of old, his skin was clear
and healthy, and his dark brown hair showed ashen at the temples.
He was becomingly arrayed in a suit of dark brown camlet, with rows
of close-set gold buttons running up his hanging sleeves; a leather
jerkin hid much of his finery, and his great boots encased his legs.
He wore a brown hat, with a tallish crown and a red feather, and
Rabecque carried his cloak for him, for the persistent Saint Martin's
summer rendered that day of November rather as one of early autumn.

A flood of sunshine descended from a cloudless sky to drench the
country at their feet, and all about them the trees preserved a
green that was but little touched by autumnal browning.

Awhile he paused there on the heights; then he gave his horse a
touch of the spur, and they started down the winding road that led
into La Rochette. A half-hour later they were riding under the
porte cochere of the inn of the Black Boar. Of the ostler who
hastened forward to take their reins Monsieur de Garnache inquired
if the Marquis de Condillac were lodged there. He was answered in
the affirmative, and he got down at once from his horse. Indeed,
but for the formality of the thing, he might have spared himself
the question, for lounging about the courtyard were a score of
stalwart weather-tanned fellows, whose air and accoutrements
proclaimed them soldiers. It required little shrewdness to guess
in them the personal followers of the Marquis, the remainder of
the little troop that had followed the young seigneur to the wars
when, some three years ago, he had set out from Condillac.

Garnache gave orders for the horses to be cared for, and bade
Rabecque get himself fed in the common room. Heralded by the host,
the Parisian then mounted the stairs to Monsieur de Condillac's

The landlord led the way to the inn's best room, turned the handle,
and, throwing wide the door, stood aside for Monsieur de Garnache
to enter.

>From within the chamber came the sounds of a scuffle, a man's soft
laugh, and a girl's softer intercession.

"Let me go, monsieur. Of your pity, let me go. Some one is coming."

"And what care I who comes?" answered a voice that seemed oppressed
by laughter.

Garnache strode into the chamber - spacious and handsomely furnished
as became the best room of the Auberge du Sanglier Noir - to find a
meal spread on the table, steaming with an odour promising of good
things, but neglected by the guest for the charms of the
serving-wench, whose waist he had imprisoned. As Garnache's tall
figure loomed before him he let the girl go and turned a
half-laughing, half-startled face upon the intruder.

"Who the devil may you be?" he inquired, and a brown eye, rakish
and roving in its glance, played briskly over the Parisian, whilst
Garnache himself returned the compliment, and calmly surveyed this
florid gentleman of middle height with the fair hair and regular

The girl scurried by and darted from the room, dodging the smiting
hand which the host raised as she flew past him. The Parisian felt
his gorge rising. Was this the sort of fever that had kept Monsieur
le Marquis at La Rochette, whilst mademoiselle was suffering in
durance at Condillac? His last night's jealous speculations touching
a man he did not know had leastways led him into no exaggeration.
He found just such a man as he had pictured - a lightly-loving,
pleasure-taking roysterer, with never a thought beyond the amusement
which the hour afforded him.

With curling lip Garnache bowed stiffly, and in a cold, formal voice
he announced himself.

"My name is Martin Marie Rigobert de Garnache. I am an emissary
dispatched from Paris by her Majesty the Queen-mother to procure the
enlargement of Mademoiselle de La Vauvraye from the durance in which
she is held by madame your stepmother."

The pleasant gentleman's eyebrows went up; a smile that was almost
insolent broke on his face.

"That being so, monsieur, why the devil are you here?"

"I am here, monsieur," answered him Garnache, throwing back his
head, his nostrils quivering, "because you are not at Condillac."

The tone was truculent to the point of defiance, for despite the
firm resolve he had taken last night never again to let his temper
overmaster him, already Garnache's self-control was slipping away.

The Marquis noted the tone, and observed the man. In their way he
liked both; in their way he disliked both. But he clearly saw that
this peppery gentleman must be treated less cavalierly, or trouble
would come of it. So he waved him gracefully to the table, where
a brace of flagons stood amid the steaming viands.

"You will dine with me, monsieur," said he, the utmost politeness
marking his utterance now. "I take it that since you have come
here in quest of me you have something to tell me. Shall we talk
as we eat? I detest a lonely meal."

The florid gentleman's tone and manner were mollifying in the
extreme. Garnache had risen early and ridden far; the smell of
the viands had quickened an appetite already very keen; moreover,
since he and this gentleman were to be allies, it was as well they
should not begin by quarrelling.

He bowed less stiffly, expressed his willingness and his thanks,
laid hat and whip and cloak aside, unbuckled and set down his sword,
and, that done, took at table the place which his host himself
prepared him.

Garnache took more careful stock of the Marquis now. He found much
to like in his countenance. It was frank and jovial; obviously
that of a sensualist, but, leastways, an honest sensualist. He was
dressed in black, as became a man who mourned his father, yet with
a striking richness of material, whilst his broad collar of fine
point and the lace cuffs of his doublet were worth a fortune.

What time they ate Monsieur de Garnache told of his journey from
Paris and of his dealings with Tressan and his subsequent adventures
at Condillac. He dwelt passingly upon the manner in which they had
treated him, and found it difficult to choose words to express the
reason for his returning in disguise to play the knight-errant to
Valerie. He passed on to speak of last night's happenings and of
his escape. Throughout, the Marquis heard him with a grave
countenance and a sober, attentive glance, yet, when he had finished
a smile crept round the sensual lips.

"The letter that I had at Milan prepared me for some such trouble
as this," said he, and Garnache was amazed at the lightness of his
tone, just as he had been amazed to see the fellow keep his
countenance at the narrative of mademoiselle's position. "I guessed
that my beautiful stepmother intended me some such scurviness from
the circumstance of her having kept me in ignorance of my father's
death. But frankly, sir, your tale by far outstrips my wildest
imaginings. You have behaved very - very bravely in this affair.
You seem, in fact, to have taken a greater interest in Mademoiselle
de La Vauvraye's enlargement than the Queen could have a right to
expect of you." And he smiled, a world of suggestion in his eyes.
Garnache sat back in his chair and stared at the man.

"This levity, monsieur, on such a subject, leaves me thunderstruck,"
he said at last.

"Diable!" laughed the other. "You are too prone, after your trials;
to view its tragic rather than its comic side. Forgive me if I am
smitten only with the humour of the thing."

"The humour of the thing!" gurgled Garnache, his eyes starting from
his head. Then out leapt that temper of his like an eager hound
that has been suddenly unleashed. He brought down his clenched
hand upon the table, caught in passing a flagon, and sent it
crashing to the floor. If there was a table near at hand when his
temper went, he never failed to treat it so.

"Par la mort Dieu! monsieur, you see but the humour of it, do you?
And what of that poor child who is lying there, suffering this
incarceration because of her fidelity to a promise given you?"

The statement was hardly fully accurate. But it served its purpose.
The other's face became instantly, grave.

"Calm yourself, I beg, monsieur," he cried, raising a soothing hand.
"I have offended you somewhere; that is plain. There is something
here that I do not altogether understand. You say that Valerie
has suffered on account of a promise given me? To what are you

"They hold her a prisoner, monsieur, because they wish to wed her
to Marius," answered Garnache, striving hard to cool his anger.

"Parfaitement! That much I understood."

"Well, then, monsieur, is the rest not plain? Because she is
betrothed to you - " He paused. He saw, at last, that he was
stating something not altogether accurate. But the other took his
meaning there and then, lay back in his chair, and burst out

The blood hummed through Garnache's head as he tightened his lips
and watched this gentleman indulge his inexplicable mirth. Surely
Monsieur de Condillac was possessed of the keenest sense of humour
in all France. He laughed with a will, and Garnache sent up a
devout prayer that the laugh might choke him. The noise of it
filled the hostelry.

"Sir," said Garnache, with an ever-increasing tartness, "there is
a by-word has it 'Much laughter, little wit.' In confidence won,
is that your case, monsieur?"

The other looked at him soberly a moment, then went off again.

"Monsieur, monsieur!" he gasped, "you'll be the death of me. For
the love of Heaven look less fierce. Is it my fault that I must
laugh? The folly of it all is so colossal. Three years from home,
yet there is a woman keeps faithful and holds to a promise given
for her. Come, monsieur, you who have seen the world, you must
agree that there is in this something that is passing singular,
extravagantly amusing. My poor little Valerie!" he spluttered
through his half-checked mirth, "does she wait for me still? does
she count me still betrothed to her? And because of that, says
'No' to brother Marius! Death of my life! I shall die of it."

"I have a notion that you may, monsieur," rasped Garnache's voice,
and with it rasped Garnache's chair upon the boards. He had
risen, and he was confronting his merry host very fiercely, white
to the lips, his eyes aflame. There was no mistaking his attitude,
no mistaking his words.

"Eh?" gasped the other, recovering himself at last to envisage what
appeared to develop into a serious situation.

"Monsieur," said Garnache, his voice very cold, "do I understand
that you no longer intend to carry out your engagement and wed
Mademoiselle de La Vauvraye?"

A dull flush spread upon the Marquis's face. He rose too, and
across the table he confronted his guest, his mien haughty, his
eyes imperious.

"I thought, monsieur," said he, with a great dignity, "I thought
when I invited you to sit at my table that your business was to
serve me, however little I might be conscious of having merited
the honour. It seems instead that you are come hither to affront
me. You are my guest, monsieur. Let me beg that you will depart
before I resent a question on a matter which concerns myself alone."

The man was right, and Garnache was wrong. He had no title to take
up the affairs of Mademoiselle de La Vauvraye. But he was past
reason now, and he was not the man to brook haughtiness, however
courteously it might be cloaked. He eyed the Marquis's flushed
ace across the board, and his lip curled.

"Monsieur," said he, "I take your meaning very fully. Half a word
with me is as good as a whole sentence with another. You have
dubbed me in polite phrases an impertinent. That I am not; and I
resent the imputation."

"Oh, that!" said the Marquis, with a half-laugh and a shrug. "If
you resent it - " His smile and his gesture made the rest plain.

"Exactly, monsieur," was Garnache's answer. "But I do not fight
sick men."

Florimond's brows grew wrinkled, his eyes puzzled.

"Sick men!" he echoed. "Awhile ago, monsieur, you appeared to
cast a doubt upon my sanity. Is it a case of the drunkard who
thinks all the world drunk but himself?"

Garnache gazed at him. That doubt he had entertained grew now into
something like assurance.

"I know not whether it is the fever makes your tongue run so - "
he began, when the other broke in, a sudden light of understanding
in his eyes.

"You are at fault," he cried. "I have no fever."

"But then your letter to Condillac?" demanded Garnache, lost now
in utter amazement.

"What of it? I'll swear I never said I had a fever."

"I'll swear you did."

"You give me the lie, then?"

But Garnache waved his hands as if he implored the other, to have
done with giving and taking offence. There was some misunderstanding
somewhere, he realized, and sheer astonishment had cooled his anger.
His only aim now was to have this obscure thing made clear.

"No, no," he cried. "I am seeking enlightenment."

Florimond smiled.

"I may have said that we were detained by a fever; but I never said
the patient was myself."

"Who then? Who else?" cried Garnache.

"Why, now I understand, monsieur. But it is my wife who has the

"Your - !" Garnache dared not trust himself to utter the word.

"My wife, monsieur," the Marquis repeated. "The journey proved too
much for her, travelling at the rate she did."

A silence fell. Garnache's long chin sank on to his breast, and he
stood there, his eyes upon the tablecloth, his thoughts with the
poor innocent child who waited at Condillac, so full of trust and
faith and loyalty to this betrothed of hers who had come home with
a wife out of Italy.

And then, while he stood so and Florimond was regarding him
curiously, the door opened, and the host appeared.

"Monsieur le Marquis," said he, "there are two gentlemen below asking
to see you. One of them is Monsieur Marius de Condillac."

"Marius?" cried the Marquis, and he started round with a frown.

"Marius?" breathed Garnache, and then, realizing that the assassins
had followed so close upon his heels, he put all thoughts from his
mind other than that of the immediate business. He had, himself,
a score to settle with them. The time was now. He swung round on
his heel, and before he knew what he had said the words were out:

"Bring them up, Monsieur l'Hote."

Florimond looked at him in surprise.

"Oh, by all means, if monsieur wishes it," said he, with a fine

Garnache looked at him, then back at the hesitating host.

"You have heard," said he coolly. "Bring them up."

"Bien, monsieur," replied the host, withdrawing and closing the door
after him.

"Your interference in my affairs grows really droll, monsieur,"
said the Marquis tartly.

"When you shall have learned to what purpose I am interfering,
you'll find it, possibly, not quite so droll," was the answer, no
less tart. "We have but a moment, monsieur. Listen while I tell
you the nature of their errand."



Garnache had but a few minutes in which to unfold his story, and he
needed, in addition, a second or two in which to ponder the
situation as he now found it.

His first reflection was that Florimond, since he was now married,
might perhaps, instead of proving Valerie's saviour from Marius,
join forces with his brother in coercing her into this alliance with
him. But from what Valerie herself had told him he was inclined to
think more favourably of Florimond and to suppress such doubts as
these. Still he could incur no risks; is business was to serve
Valerie and Valerie only; to procure at all costs her permanent
liberation from the power of the Condillacs. To make sure of this
he must play upon Florimond's anger, letting him know that Marius
had journeyed to La Rochette for the purpose of murdering his
half-brother. That he but sought to murder him to the end that he
might be removed from his path to Valerie, was a circumstance that
need not too prominently be presented. Still, presented it must
be, for Florimond would require to know by what motive his brother
was impelled ere he could credit him capable of such villainy.

Succinctly, but tellingly, Garnache brought out the story of the
plot that had been laid for Florimond's assassination, and it joyed
him to see the anger rising in the Marquis's face and flashing from
his eyes.

"What reason have they for so damnable a deed?" he cried, between
incredulity and indignation.

"Their overweening ambition. Marius covets Mademoiselle de La
Vauvraye's estates."

"And to gain his ends he would not stop at murdering me? Is it,
indeed, the truth you tell me?"

"I pledge my honour for the truth of it," answered Garnache,
watching him closely. Florimond looked at him a moment. The steady
glance of those blue eyes and the steady tone of that crisp voice
scattered his last doubt.

"The villains!" cried the Marquis. "The fools!" he added. "For me,
Marius had been welcome to Valerie. He might have found in me an
ally to aid him in the urging of his suit. But now - " He raised
his clenched hand and shook it in the air, as if in promise of the
battle he would deliver.

"Good," said Garnache, reassured. "I hear their steps upon the
stairs. They must not find me with you."

A moment later the door opened, and Marius, very bravely arrayed,
entered the room, followed closely by Fortunio. Neither showed much
ill effects of last night's happenings, save for a long dark-brown
scar that ran athwart the captain's cheek, where Garnache's sword
had ploughed it.

They found Florimond seated quietly at table, and as they entered
he rose and came forward with a friendly smile to greet his brother.
His sense of humour was being excited; he was something of an actor,
and the role he had adopted in the comedy to be played gave him a
certain grim satisfaction. He would test for himself the truth of
what Monsieur de Garnache had told him concerning his brother's
intentions. Marius received his advances very coolly. He took his
brother's hand, submitted to his brother's kiss; but neither kiss
nor hand-pressure did he return. Florimond affected not to notice

"You are well, my dear Marius, I hope," said he, and thrusting him
out at arms' length, he held him by the shoulders and regarded him
critically. "Ma foi, but you are changed into a comely well-grown
man. And your mother - she is well, too, I trust."

"I thank you, Florimond, she is well," said Marius stiffly.

The Marquis took his hands from his brother's shoulders; his florid,
good-natured face smiling ever, as if this were the happiest moment
of his life.

"It is good to see France again, my dear Marius," he told his
brother. "I was a fool to have remained away so long. I am pining
to be at Condillac once more."

Marius eyeing him, looked in vain for signs of the fever. He had
expected to find a debilitated, emaciated man; instead, he saw a
very lusty, healthy, hearty fellow, full of good humour, and
seemingly full of strength. He began to like his purpose less,
despite such encouragement as he gathered from the support of
Fortunio. Still, it must be gone through with.

"You wrote us that you had the fever," he said, half inquiringly.

"Pooh! That is naught." And Florimond snapped a strong finger
against a stronger thumb. "But whom have you with you?" he asked,
and his eyes took the measure of Fortunio, standing a pace or two
behind his master.

Marius presented his bravo.

"This is Captain Fortunio, the commander of our garrison of

The Marquis nodded good-humouredly towards the captain.

"Captain Fortunio? He is well named for a soldier of fortune. My
brother, no doubt, will have family matters to tell me of. If you
will step below, Monsieur le Capitaine, and drink a health or so
while you wait, I shall be honoured."

The captain, nonplussed, looked at Marius, and Florimond surprised
the look. But Marius's manner became still chillier.

"Fortunio here," said he, and he half turned and let his hand fall
on the captain's shoulder, "is my very good friend. I have no
secrets from him."

The instant lift of Florimond's eyebrows was full of insolent,
supercilious disdain. Yet Marius did not fasten his quarrel upon
that. He had come to La Rochette resolved that any pretext would
serve his turn. But the sight of his brother so inflamed his
jealousy that he had now determined that the quarrel should be
picked on the actual ground in which it had its roots.

"Oh, as you will," said the Marquis coolly. "Perhaps your friend
will be seated, and you, too, my dear Marius." And he played the
host to them with a brisk charm. Setting chairs, he forced them to
sit, and pressed wine upon them.

Marius cast his hat and cloak on the chair where Garnache's had been
left. The Parisian's hat and cloak, he naturally assumed to belong
to his brother. The smashed flagon and the mess of wine upon the
floor he scarce observed, setting it down to some clumsiness, either
his brother's or a servant's. They both drank, Marius in silence,
the captain with a toast.

"Your good return, Monsieur le Marquis," said he, and Florimond
thanked him by an inclination of the head. Then, turning to Marius:

"And so," he said, "you have a garrison at Condillac. What the
devil has been taking place there? I have had some odd news of you.
It would almost seem as if you were setting up as rebels in our
quiet little corner of Dauphiny."

Marius shrugged his shoulders; his face suggested that he was

"Madame the Queen-Regent has seen fit to interfere in our concerns.
We Condillacs do not lightly brook interference."

Florimond showed his teeth in a pleasant smile.

"That is true, that is very true, Pardieu! But what warranted this
action of Her Majesty's?"

Marius felt that the time for deeds was come. This fatuous
conversation was but a futile waste of time. He set down his glass,
and sitting back in his chair he fixed his sullen black eyes full
upon his half-brother's smiling brown ones.

"I think we have exchanged compliments enough," said he, and Fortunio
wagged his head approvingly. There were too many men in the
courtyard for his liking, and the more time they waited, the more
likely were they to suffer interruption. Their aim must be to get
the thing done quickly, and then quickly to depart before an alarm
could be raised. "Our trouble at Condillac concerns Mademoiselle de
La Vauvraye."

Florimond started forward, with a ready assumption of lover-like

"No harm has come to her?" he cried. "Tell me that no harm has come
to her."

"Reassure yourself," answered Marius, with a sneer, a greyness that
was of jealous rage overspreading his face. "No harm has come to
her whatever. The trouble was that I sought to wed her, and she,
because she is betrothed to you, would have none of me. So we
brought her to Condillac, hoping always to persuade her. You will
remember that she was under my mother's tutelage. The girl, however,
could not be constrained. She suborned one of our men to bear a
letter to Paris for her, and in answer to it the Queen sent a
hot-headed, rash blunderer down to Dauphiny to procure her
liberation. He lies now at the bottom of the moat of Condillac."

Florimond's face had assumed a look of horror and indignation.

"Do you dare tell me this?" he cried.

"Dare?" answered Marius, with an ugly laugh. "Men enough have died
over this affair already. That fellow Garnache left some bodies on
our hands last night before he set out for another world himself.
You little dream how far my daring goes in this matter. I'll add
as many more as need be to the death roll that we have already,
before you set foot in Condillac."

"Ah!" said Florimond, as one upon whose mind a light breaks suddenly.
"So, that is the business on which you come to me. I doubted your
brotherliness, I must confess, my dear Marius. But tell me, brother
mine, what of our father's wishes in this matter? Have you no
respect for those?"

"What respect had you?" flashed back Marius, his voice now raised
in anger. "Was it like a lover to remain away for three years - to
let all that time go by without ever a word from you to your
betrothed? What have you done to make good your claim to her?"

"Nothing, I confess; yet - "

"Well, you shall do something now," exclaimed Marius, rising. "I
am here to afford you the opportunity. If you would still win
Mademoiselle de La Vauvraye, you shall win her from me - at point
of sword. Fortunio, see to the door."

"Wait, Marius!" cried Florimond, and he looked genuinely aghast.
"Do not forget that we are brothers, men of the same blood; that
my father was your father."

"I choose to remember rather that we are rivals," answered Marius,
and he drew his rapier. Fortunio turned the key in the lock.
Florimond gave his brother a long searching look, then with a sigh
he picked up his sword where it lay ready to his hand and
thoughtfully unsheathed it. Holding the hilt in one hand and the
blade in the other he stood, bending the weapon like a whip, whilst
again he searchingly regarded his brother.

"Hear me a moment," said he. "If you will force this unnatural
quarrel upon me, at least let the thing be decently done. Not here,
not in these cramped quarters, but out in the open let our meeting
take place. If the captain, there, will act for you, I'll find a
friend to do me the like service."

"We settle this matter here and now," Marius answered him, in a tone
of calm finality.

"But if I were to kill you - " Florimond began.

"Reassure yourself," said Marius with an ugly smile.

"Very well, then; either alternative will suit the case I wish to
put. If you were to kill me - it may be ranked as murder. The
irregularity of it could not be overlooked."

"The captain, here, will act for both of us."

"I am entirely at your service, gentlemen," replied Fortunio
pleasantly, bowing to each in turn.

Florimond considered him. "I do not like his looks," he objected.
"He may be the friend of your bosom, Marius; you may have no secrets
from him; but for my part, frankly, I should prefer the presence of
some friend of my own to keep his blade engaged."

The Marquis's manner was affable in the extreme. Now that it was
settled that they must fight, he appeared to have cast aside all
scruples based upon their consanguinity, and he discussed the affair
with the greatest bonhomie, as though he were disposing of a matter
of how they should sit down to table.

It gave them pause. The change was too abrupt. They did not like
it. It was as the calm that screens some surprise. Yet it was
impossible he should have been forewarned; impossible he could have
had word of how they proposed to deal with him.

Marius shrugged his shoulders.

"There is reason in what you say," he acknowledged; "but I am in
haste. I cannot wait while you go in search of a friend."

"Why then," he answered, with a careless laugh, "I must raise one
from the dead."

Both stared at him. Was he mad? Had the fever touched his brain?
Was that healthy colour but the brand of a malady that rendered
him delirious?

"Dieu! How you stare!" he continued, laughing in their faces.
"You shall see something to compensate you for your journey,
messieurs. I have learnt some odd tricks in Italy; they are a
curious people beyond the Alps. What did you say was the name of
the man the Queen had sent from Paris? - he who lies at the
bottom of the moat of Condillac?"

"Let there be an end to this jesting," growled Marius. "On guard,
Monsieur le Marquis!"

"Patience! patience!" Florimond implored him. "You shall have your
way with me, I promise you. But of your charity, messieurs, tell
me first the name of that man."

"It was Garnache," said Fortunio, "and if the information will serve
you, it was I who slew him."

"You?" cried Florimond. "Tell me of it, I beg you."

"Do you fool us?" questioned Marius in a rage that overmastered his
astonishment, his growing suspicion that here all was not quite as
it seemed.

"Fool you? But no. I do but wish to show you something that I
learned in Italy. Tell me how you slew him, Monsieur le Capitaine."

"I think we are wasting time," said the captain, angry too. He felt
that this smiling gentleman was deriding the pair of them; it crossed
his mind that for some purpose of his own the Marquis was seeking to
gain time. He drew his sword.

Florimond saw the act, watched it, and his eyes twinkled. Suddenly
Marius's sword shot out at him. He leapt back beyond the table, and
threw himself on guard, his lips still wreathed in their mysterious

"The time has come, messieurs," said he. "I should have preferred
to know more of how you slew that Monsieur de Garnache; but since you
deny me the information, I shall do my best without it. I'll try to
conjure up his ghost, to keep you entertained, Monsieur le Capitaine."
And then, raising his voice, his sword, engaging now his brother's:

"Ola, Monsieur de Garnache!" he cried. "To me!"

And then it seemed to those assassins that the Marquis had been
neither mad nor boastful when he had spoken of strange things he
had learned beyond the Alps, or else it was they themselves were
turned light-headed, for the doors of a cupboard at the far end of
the room flew open suddenly, and from between them stepped the
stalwart figure of Martin de Garnache, a grim smile lifting the
corners of his mustachios, a naked sword in his hand flashing back
the sunlight that flooded through the window.

They paused, aghast, and they turned ashen; and then in the mind of
each arose the same explanation of this phenomenon. This Garnache
wore the appearance of the man who had announced himself by that
name when he came to Condillac a fortnight ago. Then, the sallow,
black-haired knave who had last night proclaimed himself as Garnache
in disguise was some impostor. That was the conclusion they promptly
arrived at, and however greatly they might be dismayed by the
appearance of this ally of Florimond's, yet the conclusion heartened
them anew. But scarce had they arrived at it when Monsieur de
Garnache's crisp voice came swiftly to dispel it.

"Monsieur le Capitaine," it said, and Fortunio shivered at the sound,
for it was the voice he had heard but a few hours ago, "I welcome
the opportunity of resuming our last night's interrupted sword-play."
And he advanced deliberately.

Marius's sword had fallen away from his brother's, and the two
combatants stood pausing. Fortunio without more ado made for the
door. But Garnache crossed the intervening space in a bound.

"Turn!" he cried. "Turn, or I'll put my sword through your back.
The door shall serve you presently, but it is odds that it will
need a couple of men to bear you through it. Look to your dirty



A couple of hours after the engagement in the Marquis de Condillac's
apartments at the Sanglier Noir at La Rochette, Monsieur de Garnache,
attended only by Rabecque, rode briskly into France once more and
made for the little town of Cheylas, which is on the road that leads
down to the valley of the Isere and to Condillac. But not as far as
the township did he journey. On a hill, the slopes all cultivated
into an opulent vineyard, some two miles east of Cheylas, stood the
low, square grey building of the Convent of Saint Francis. Thither
did Monsieur de Garnache bend his horse's steps. Up the long white
road that crept zigzag through the Franciscans' vineyards rode the
Parisian and his servant under the welcome sunshine of that November

Garnache's face was gloomy and his eyes sad, for his thoughts were
all of Valerie, and he was prey to a hundred anxieties regarding

They gained the heights at last, and Rabecque got down to beat with
his whip upon the convent gates.

A lay-brother came to open, and in reply to Garnache's request that
he might have a word with the Father Abbot, invited him to enter.

Through the cloisters about the great quadrangle, where a couple of
monks, their habits girt high as their knees, were busy at gardeners'
work, Garnache followed his conductor, and up the steps to the
Abbot's chamber.

The master of the Convent' of Saint Francis of Cheylas a tall, lean
man with an ascetic face, prominent cheekbones, and a nose not
unlike Garnache's own - the nose of a man of action rather than of
prayer - bowed gravely to this stalwart stranger, and in courteous
accents begged to be informed in what he might serve him.

Hat in hand, Garnache took a step forward in that bare, scantily
furnished little room, permeated by the faint, waxlike odour that
is peculiar to the abode of conventuals. Without hesitation he
stated the reason of his visit.

"Father," said he, "a son of the house of Condillac met his end
this morning at La Rochette."

The monk's eyes seemed to quicken, as though his interest in the
outer world had suddenly revived.

"It is the Hand of God," he cried. "Their evil ways have provoked
at last the anger of Heaven. How did this unfortunate meet his

Garnache shrugged his shoulders.

"De mortuis nil nisi bonum," said he. His air was grave, his blue
eyes solemn, and the Abbot had little cause to suspect the
closeness with which that pair of eyes was watching him. He coloured
faintly at the implied rebuke, but he inclined his head as if
submissive to the correction, and waited for the other to proceed.

"There is the need, Father, to give his body burial," said Garnache

But at that the monk raised his head, and a deeper flush the flush
of anger - spread now upon his sallow cheeks. Garnache observed it,
and was glad.

"Why do you come to me?" he asked.

"Why?" echoed Garnache, and there was hesitancy now in his voice.
"Is not the burial of the dead enjoined by Mother Church? Is it
not a part of your sacred office?"

"You ask me this as you would challenge my reply," said the monk,
shaking his head. "It is as you say, but it is not within our
office to bury the impious dead, nor those who in life were
excommunicate and died without repentance."

"How can you assume he died without repentance?"

"I do not; but I assume he died without absolution, for there is no
priest who, knowing his name, would dare to shrive him, and if one
should do it in ignorance of his name and excommunication, why then
it is not done at all. Bid others bury this son of the house of
Condillac; it matters no more by what hands or in what ground he be
buried than if he were the horse he rode or the hound that followed

"The Church is very harsh, Father," said Garnache sternly.

"The Church is very just," the priest answered him, more sternly
still, a holy wrath kindling his sombre eyes.

"He was in life a powerful noble," said Garnache thoughtfully. "It
is but fitting that, being dead, honour and reverence should be
shown his body."

"Then let those who have themselves been honoured by the Condillacs
honour this dead Condillac now. The Church is not of that number,
monsieur. Since the late Marquis's death the house of Condillac
has been in rebellion against us; our priests have been maltreated,
our authority flouted; they paid no tithes, approached no sacraments.
Weary of their ungodliness the Church placed its ban upon them under
this ban it seems they die. My heart grieves for them; but - "

He spread his hands, long and almost transparent in their leanness,
and on his face a cloud of sorrow rested.

"Nevertheless, Father," said Garnache, "twenty brothers of Saint
Francis shall bear the body home to Condillac, and you yourself
shall head this grim procession."

"I?" The monk shrank back before him, and his figure seemed to grow
taller. "Who are you, sir, that say to me what I shall do, the
Church's law despite?"

Garnache took the Abbot by the sleeve of his rough habit and drew
him gently towards the window. There was a persuasive smile on his
lips and in his keen eyes which the monk, almost unconsciously,

"I will tell you," said Garnache, "and at the same time I shall
seek to turn you from your harsh purpose."

At the hour at which Monsieur de Garnache was seeking to persuade
the Abbot of Saint Francis of Cheylas to adopt a point of view more
kindly towards a dead man, Madame de Condillac was at dinner, and
with her was Valerie de La Vauvraye. Neither woman ate appreciably.
The one was oppressed by sorrow, the other by anxiety, and the
circumstance that they were both afflicted served perhaps to render
the Dowager gentler in her manner towards the girl.

She watched the pale face and troubled eyes of Valerie; she observed
the almost lifeless manner in which she came and went as she was
bidden, as though a part of her had ceased to exist, and that part
the part that matters most. It did cross her mind that in this
condition mademoiselle might the more readily be bent to their will,
but she dwelt not overlong upon that reflection. Rather was her
mood charitable, no doubt because she felt herself the need of
charity, the want of sympathy.

She was tormented by fears altogether disproportionate to their
cause. A hundred times she told herself that no ill could befall
Marius. Florimond was a sick man, and were he otherwise, there was
still Fortunio to stand by and see to it that the right sword
pierced the right heart, else would his pistoles be lost to him.

Nevertheless she was fretted by anxiety, and she waited impatiently
for news, fuming at the delay, yet knowing full well that news could
not yet reach her.

Once she reproved Valerie for her lack of appetite, and there was
in her voice a kindness Valerie had not heard for months - not since
the old Marquis died, nor did she hear it now, or, hearing it, she
did not heed it.

"You are not eating, child," the Dowager said, and her eyes were

Valerie looked up like one suddenly awakened; and in that moment
her eyes filled with tears. It was as if the Dowager's voice had
opened the floodgates of her sorrow and let out the tears that
hitherto had been repressed. The Marquise rose and waved the page
and an attendant lackey from the room. She crossed to Valerie's
side and put her arm about the girl's shoulder.

"What ails you, child?" she asked. For a moment the girl suffered
the caress; almost she seemed to nestle closer to the Dowager's
shoulder. Then, as if understanding had come to her suddenly, she
drew back and quietly disengaged herself from the other's arms. Her
tears ceased; the quiver passed from her lip.

"You are very good, madame," she said, with a coldness that rendered
the courteous words almost insulting, "but nothing ails me save a
wish to be alone."

"You have been alone too much of late," the Dowager answered,
persisting in her wish to show kindness to Valerie; for all that,
had she looked into her own heart, she might have been puzzled to
find a reason for her mood - unless the reason lay in her own
affliction of anxiety for Marius.

"Perhaps I have," said the girl, in the same cold, almost strained
voice. "It was not by my own contriving."

"Ah, but it was, child; indeed it was. Had you been reasonable you
had found us kinder. We had never treated you as we have done,
never made a prisoner of you."

Valerie looked up into the beautiful ivory-white face, with its
black eyes and singularly scarlet lips, and a wan smile raised the
corners of her gentle mouth.

"You had no right - none ever gave it you - to set constraint and
restraint upon me."

" I had - indeed, indeed I had," the Marquise answered her, in a
tone of sad protest. "Your father gave me such a right when he gave
me charge of you."

"Was it a part of your charge to seek to turn me from my loyalty to
Florimond, and endeavour to compel me by means gentle or ungentle
into marriage with Marius?"

"We thought Florimond dead; or, if not dead, then certainly unworthy
of you to leave you without news of him for years together. And if
he was not dead then, it is odds he will be dead by now." The words
slipped out almost unconsciously, and the Marquise bit her lip and
straightened herself, fearing an explosion. But none came. The
girl looked across the table at the fire that smouldered on the
hearth in need of being replenished.

"What do you mean, madame?" she asked; but her tone was listless,
apathetic, as of one who though uttering a question is incurious as
to what the answer may be.

"We had news some days ago that he was journeying homewards, but
that he was detained by fever at La Rochette. We have since heard
that his fever has grown so serious that there is little hope of
his recovery."

"And it was to solace his last moments that Monsieur Marius left
Condillac this morning?"

The Dowager looked sharply at the girl; but Valerie's face continued
averted, her gaze resting on the fire. Her tone suggested nothing
beyond a natural curiosity.

"Yes," said the Dowager.

"And lest his own efforts to help his brother out of this world
should prove insufficient he took Captain Fortunio with him?" said
Valerie, in the same indifferent voice.

"What do you mean?" the Marquise almost hissed into the girl's ear.

Valerie turned to her, a faint colour stirring in her white face.

"Just what I have said, madame. Would you know what I have prayed?
All night was I upon my knees from the moment that I recovered
consciousness, and my prayers were that Heaven might see fit to
let Florimond destroy your son. Not that I desire Florimond's
return, for I care not if I never set eyes on him again. There is
a curse upon this house, madame," the girl continued, rising from
her chair and speaking now with a greater animation, whilst the
Marquise recoiled a step, her face strangely altered and suddenly
gone grey, "and I have prayed that that curse might be worked out
upon that assassin, Marius. A fine husband, madame, you would
thrust upon the daughter of Gaston de La Vauvraye."

And turning, without waiting for an answer, she moved slowly down
the room, and took her way to her own desolate apartments, so full
of memories of him she mourned - of him, it seemed to her, she must
always mourn; of him who lay dead in the black waters of the moat
beneath her window.

Stricken with a sudden, inexplicable terror, the Dowager, who for
all her spirit was not without a certain superstition, felt her
knees loosen, and she sank limply into a chair. She was amazed at
the extent of Valerie's knowledge, and puzzled by it; she was
amazed, too, at the seeming apathy of Valerie for the danger in
which Florimond stood, and at her avowal that she did not care if
she never again beheld him. But such amazement as came to her was
whelmed fathoms-deep in her sudden fears for Marius. If he should
die! She grew cold at the thought, and she sat there, her hands
folded in her lap, her face grey. That mention of the curse the
Church had put upon them had frozen her quick blood and turned her
stout spirit to mere water.

At last she rose and went out into the open to inquire if no
messenger had yet arrived, for all that she knew there was not
yet time for any messenger to have reached the chateau. She mounted
the winding staircase of stone that led to the ramparts, and there
alone, in the November sunshine, she paced to and fro for hours,
waiting for news, straining her eyes to gaze up the valley of the
Isere, watching for the horseman that must come that way. Then,
as time sped on and the sun approached its setting and still no one
came, she bethought her that if harm had befallen Marius, none would
ride that night to Condillac. This very delay seemed pregnant with
news of disaster. And then she shook off her fears and tried to
comfort herself. There was not yet time. Besides, what had she to
fear for Marius? He was strong and quick, and Fortunio was by his
side. A man was surely dead by now at La Rochette; but that man
could not be Marius.

At last, in the distance, she espied a moving object, and down on
the silent air of eventide came the far-off rattle of a horse's hoofs.
Some one was riding, galloping that way. He was returned at last.
She leaned on the battlements, her breath coming in quick, short
gasps, and watched the horseman growing larger with every stride of
his horse.

A mist was rising from the river, and it dimmed the figure; and she
cursed the mist for heightening her anxiety, for straining further
her impatience. Then a new fear was begotten in her mind. Why came
one horseman only where two should have ridden? Who was it that
returned, and what had befallen his companion? God send, at least,
it might be Marius who rode thus, at such a breakneck pace.

At last she could make him out. He was close to the chateau now,
and she noticed that his right arm was bandaged and hanging in a
sling. And then a scream broke from her, and she bit her lip hard
to keep another in check, for she had seen the horseman's face, and
it was Fortunio's. Fortunio - and wounded! Then, assuredly, Marius
was dead!

She swayed where she stood. She set her hand on her bosom, above
her heart, as if she would have repressed the beating of the one,
the heaving of the other; her soul sickened, and her mind seemed to
turn numb, as she waited there for the news that should confirm her

The hoofs of his horse thundered over the planks of the drawbridge,
and came clatteringly to halt as he harshly drew rein in the
courtyard below. There was a sound of running feet and men sprang
to his assistance. Madame would have gone below to meet him; but
her limbs seemed to refuse their office. She leaned against one of
the merlons of the embattled parapet, her eyes on the spot where he
should emerge from the stairs, and thus she waited, her eyes
haggard, her face drawn.

He came at last, lurching in his walk, being overstiff from his
long ride. She took a step forward to meet him. Her lips parted.

"Well?" she asked him, and her voice sounded harsh and strained.
"How has the venture sped?"

"The only way it could," he answered. "As you would wish it."

At that she thought that she must faint. Het lungs seemed to writhe
for air, and she opened her lips and took long draughts of the
rising mist, never speaking for a moment or two until she had
sufficiently recovered from this tremendous revulsion from her

"Then, where is Marius?" she asked at last.

"He has remained behind to accompany the body home. They are
bringing it here."

"They?" she echoed. "Who are they?"

"The monks of Saint Francis of Cheylas," he answered.

A something in his tone, a something in his shifty eyes, a cloud
upon his fair and usually so ingenuous looking countenance aroused
her suspicions and gave her resurrected courage pause.

She caught him viciously by the arms, and forced his glance to meet
her own in the fading daylight.

"It is the truth you are telling me, Fortunio?" she snapped, and
her voice was half-angry, half-fearful.

He faced her now, his eyes bold. He raised a hand to lend emphasis
to his words.

"I swear, madame, by my salvation, that Monsieur Marius is sound
and well."

She was satisfied. She released his arm.

"Does he come to-night?" she asked.

"They will be here to-morrow, madame. I rode on to tell you so."

"An odd fancy, this of his. But" - and a sudden smile overspread
her face - "we may find a more useful purpose for one of these monks."

An hour ago she would willingly have set mademoiselle at liberty in
exchange for the assurance that Marius had been successful in the
business that had taken him over the border into Savoy. She would
have done it gladly, content that Marius should be heir to Condillac.
But now that Condillac was assured her son, she must have more for
him; her insatiable greed for his advancement and prosperity was
again upon her. Now, more than ever - now that Florimond was dead
- must she have La Vauvraye for Marius, and she thought that
mademoiselle would no longer be difficult to bend. The child had
fallen in love with that mad Garnache, and when a woman is crossed
in love, while her grief lasts it matters little to her where she
weds. Did she not know it out of the fund of her own bitter
experience? Was it not that - the compulsion her own father had
employed to make her find a mate in a man so much older than herself
as Condillac - that had warped her own nature, and done much to
make her what she was?

A lover she had had, and whilst he lived she had resisted them, and
stood out against this odious marriage that for convenience' sake
they forced upon her. He was killed in Paris in a duel, and when
the news of it came to her, she had folded her hands and let them
wed her to whom they listed.

Of just such a dejection of spirit had she observed the signs in
Valerie; let them profit by it while it lasted. They had been long
enough without Church ceremonies at Condillac. There should be two
to-morrow to make up for the empty time - a wedding and a burial.

She was going down the stairs, Fortunio a step behind her, when her
mind reverted to the happening at La Rochette.

"Was it well done?" she asked.

"It made some stir," said he. "The Marquis had men with him, and
had the affair taken place in France ill might have come of it."

"You shall give me a full account of it," said she, rightly thinking
that there was still something to be explained. Then she laughed
softly. "Yes, it was a lucky chance for us, his staying at La
Rochette. Florimond was born under an unlucky star, I think, and
you under a lucky one, Fortunio."

"I think so, too, as regards myself," he answered grimly, and he
thought of the sword that had ploughed his cheek last night and
pierced his sword-arm that morning, and he thanked such gods as
in his godlessness he owned for the luck that had kept that sword
from finding out his heart.



On the morrow, which was a Friday and the tenth of November - a date
to be hereafter graven on the memory of all concerned in the affairs
of Condillac - the Dowager rose betimes, and, for decency's sake,
having in mind the business of the day, she gowned herself in black.

Betimes, too, the Lord Seneschal rode out of Grenoble, attended by a
couple of grooms, and headed for Condillac, in doing which - little
though he suspected it - he was serving nobody's interests more
thoroughly than Monsieur de Garnache's.

Madame received him courteously. She was in a blithe - and happy
mood that morning - the reaction from her yesterday's distress of
mind. The world was full of promise, and all things had prospered
with her and Marius. Her boy was lord of Condillac; Florimond, whom
she had hated and who had stood in the way of her boy's advancement,
was dead and on his way to burial; Garnache, the man from Paris who
might have made trouble for them had he ridden home again with the
tale of their resistance, was silenced for all time, and the carp
in the moat would be feasting by now upon what was left of him;
Valerie de La Vauvraye was in a dejected frame of mind that augured
well for the success of the Dowager's plans concerning her, and by
noon at latest there would be priests at Condillac, and, if Marius
still wished to marry the obstinate baggage, there would be no
difficulty as to that.

It was a glorious morning, mild and sunny as an April day, as though
Nature took a hand in the Dowager's triumph and wished to make the
best of its wintry garb in honour of it.

The presence of this gross suitor of hers afforded her another
source of satisfaction. There would no longer be the necessity she
once had dreaded of listening to his suit for longer than it should
be her pleasure to be amused by him. But when Tressan spoke, he
struck the first note of discord in the perfect harmony which the
Dowager imagined existed.

"Madame," said he, "I am desolated that I am not a bearer of better
tidings. But for all that we have made the most diligent search,
the man Rabecque has not yet been apprehended. Still, we have not
abandoned hope," he added, by way of showing that there was a silver
lining to his cloud of danger.

For just a moment madame's brows were knitted. She had forgotten
Rabecque until now; but an instant's reflection assured her that in
forgetting him she had done him no more than such honour as he
deserved. She laughed, as she led the way down the garden steps
- the mildness of the day and the brightness of her mood had moved
her there to receive the Seneschal.

"From the sombreness of your tone one might fear your news to be of
the nature of some catastrophe. What shall it signify that Rabecque
eludes your men? He is but a lackey after all."

"True," said the Seneschal, very soberly; "but do not forget, I beg,
that he is the bearer of letters from one who is not a lackey."

The laughter went out of her face at that. Here was something that
had been lost sight of in the all-absorbing joy of other things.
In calling the forgotten Rabecque to mind she had but imagined that
it was no more than a matter of the tale he might tell - a tale not
difficult to refute, she thought. Her word should always weigh
against a lackey's. But that letter was a vastly different matter.

"He must be found, Tressan," she said sharply.

Tressan smiled uneasily, and chewed at his beard.

"No effort shall be spared," he promised her. "Of that you may be
very sure. The affairs of the province are at a standstill," he
added, that vanity of his for appearing a man of infinite business
rising even in an hour of such anxiety, for to himself, no less
than to her, was there danger should Rabecque ever reach his
destination with the papers Garnache had said he carried.

"The affairs of the province are at a standstill," he repeated,
"while all my energies are bent upon this quest. Should we fail to
have news of his capture in Dauphiny, we need not, nevertheless,
despond. I have sent men after him along the three roads that lead
to Paris. They are to spare neither money nor horses in picking up
his trail and effecting his capture. After all, I think we shall
have him."

"He is our only danger now," the Marquise answered, "for Florimond
is dead - of the fever," she added, with a sneering smile which
gave Tressan sensations as of cold water on his spine. "It were
an irony of fate if that miserable lackey were to reach Paris now
and spoil the triumph for which we have worked so hard."

"It were, indeed," Tressan agreed with her, "and we must see that
he does not."

"But if he does," she returned, "then we must stand together." And
with that she set her mind at ease once more, her mood that morning
being very optimistic.

"Always, I hope, Clotilde," he answered, and his little eyes leered
up out of the dimples of fat in which they were embedded. "I have
stood by you like a true friend in this affair; is it not so?"

"Indeed; do I deny it?" she answered half scornfully.

"As I shall stand by you always when the need arises. You are a
little in my debt concerning Monsieur de Garnache."

"I - I realize it," said she, and she felt again as if the sunshine
were gone from the day, the blitheness from her heart. She was
moved to bid him cease leering at her and to take himself and his
wooing to the devil. But she bethought her that the need for him
might not yet utterly be passed. Not only in the affair of Garnache
- in which he stood implicated as deeply as herself - might she
require his loyalty, but also in the matter of what had befallen
yesterday at La Rochette; for despite Fortunio's assurances that
things had gone smoothly, his tale hung none too convincingly
together; and whilst she did not entertain any serious fear of
subsequent trouble, yet it might be well not utterly to banish the
consideration of such a possibility, and to keep the Seneschal her
ally against it. So she told him now, with as much graciousness as
she could command, that she fully realized her debt, and when,
encouraged, he spoke of his reward, she smiled upon him as might a
girl smile upon too impetuous a wooer whose impetuosity she
deprecates yet cannot wholly withstand.

"I am a widow of six months," she reminded him, as she had reminded
him once before. Her widowhood was proving a most convenient refuge.
"It is not for me to listen to a suitor, however my foolish heart
may incline. Come to me in another six months' time."

"And you will wed me then?" he bleated.

By an effort her eyes smiled down upon him, although her face was
a trifle drawn.

"Have I not said that I will listen to no suitor? and what is that
but a suitor's question?"

He caught her hand; he would have fallen on his knees there and
then, at her feet, on the grass still wet with the night's mist,
but that he in time bethought him of how sadly his fine apparel
would be the sufferer.

"Yet I shall not sleep, I shall know no rest, no peace until you
have given me an answer. Just an answer is all I ask. I will set
a curb upon my impatience afterwards, and go through my period of
ah - probation without murmuring. Say that you, will marry me in
six months' time - at Easter, say."

She saw that an answer she must give, and so she gave him the answer
that he craved. And he - poor fool! - never caught the ring of her
voice, as false as the ring of a base coin; never guessed that in
promising she told herself it would be safe to break that promise
six months hence, when the need of him and his loyalty would be

A man approached them briskly from the chateau. He brought news
that a numerous company of monks was descending the valley of the
Isere towards Condillac. A faint excitement stirred her, and
accompanied by Tressan she retraced her steps and made for the
battlements, whence she might overlook their arrival.

As they went Tressan asked for an explanation of this cortege, and
she answered him with Fortunio's story of how things had sped
yesterday at La Rochette.

Up the steps leading to the battlements she went ahead of him, with
a youthful, eager haste that took no thought for the corpulence and
short-windedness of the following Seneschal. From the heights she
looked eastwards, shading her eyes from the light of the morning
sun, and surveyed the procession which with slow dignity paced down
the valley towards Condillac.

At its head walked the tall, lean figure of the Abbot of Saint
Francis of Cheylas, bearing on high a silvered crucifix that flashed
and scintillated in the sunlight. His cowl was thrown back,
revealing his pale, ascetic countenance and shaven head. Behind him
came a coffin covered by a black pall, and borne on the shoulders of
six black-robed, black cowled monks, and behind these again walked,
two by two, some fourteen cowled brothers of the order of Saint
Francis, their heads bowed, their arms folded, and their hands tucked
away in their capacious sleeves.

It was a numerous cortege, and as she watched its approach the
Marquise was moved to wonder by what arguments had the proud Abbot
been induced to do so much honour to a dead Condillac and bear his
body home to this excommunicated roof.

Behind the monks a closed carriage lumbered down the uneven mountain
way, and behind this rode four mounted grooms in the livery of
Condillac. Of Marius she saw nowhere any sign, and she inferred
him to be travelling in that vehicle, the attendant servants being
those of the dead Marquis.

In silence, with the Seneschal at her elbow, she watched the
procession advance until it was at the foot of the drawbridge. Then,
while the solemn rhythm of their feet sounded across the planks that
spanned the moat, she turned, and, signing to the Seneschal to
follow her, she went below to meet them. But when she reached the
courtyard she was surprised to find they had not paused, as surely
would have been seemly. Unbidden, the Abbot had gone forward through
the great doorway and down the gallery that led to the hall of
Condillac. Already, when she arrived below, the coffin and its
bearers had disappeared, and the last of the monks was passing from
sight in its wake. Leaning against the doorway through which they
were vanishing stood Fortunio, idly watching that procession and
thoughtfully stroking his mustachios. About the yard lounged a
dozen or so men-at-arms, practically all the garrison that was left
them since the fight with Garnache two nights ago.

After the last monk had disappeared, she still remained there,
expectantly; and when she saw that neither the carriage nor the
grooms made their appearance, she stepped up to Fortunio to inquire
into the reason of it.

"Surely Monsieur de Condillac rides in that coach," said she.

"Surely," Fortunio answered, himself looking puzzled. "I will go
seek the reason, madame. Meanwhile will you receive the Abbot?
The monks will have deposited their burden."

She composed her features into a fitting solemnity, and passed
briskly through to the hall, Tressan ever at her heels. Here she
found the coffin deposited on the table, its great black pall of
velvet, silver-edged, sweeping down to the floor. No fire had been
lighted that morning nor had the sun yet reached the windows, so
that the place wore a chill and gloomy air that was perhaps well
attuned to the purpose that it was being made to serve.

With a rare dignity, her head held high, she swept down the length
of that noble chamber towards the Abbot, who stood erect as a
pikestaff: at the tablehead, awaiting her. And well was it for
him that he was a man of austere habit of mind, else might her
majestic, incomparable beauty have softened his heart and melted
the harshness of his purpose.

He raised his hand when she was within a sword's length of him, and
with startling words, delivered in ringing tones, he broke the
ponderous silence.

"Wretched woman," he denounced her, "your sins have found you out.
Justice is to be done, and your neck shall be bent despite your
stubborn pride. Derider of priests, despoiler of purity, mocker
of Holy Church, your impious reign is at an end."

Tressan fell back aghast, his face blenching to the lips; for if
justice was at hand for her, as the Abbot said, then was justice at
hand for him as well. Where had their plans miscarried? What flaw
was there that hitherto she had not perceived? Thus he questioned
himself in his sudden panic.

But the Marquise was no sharer in his tremors. Her eyes opened a
trifle wider; a faint colour crept into her cheeks; but her only
emotions were of amazement and indignation. Was he mad, this
shaveling monk? That was the question that leapt into her mind,
the very question with which she coldly answered his outburst.

"For madness only," she thought fit to add, "could excuse such rash
temerity as yours."

"Not madness, madame," he answered, with chill haughtiness - "not
madness, but righteous indignation. You have defied the power of
Holy Church as you have defied the power of our sovereign lady,
and justice is upon you. We are here to present the reckoning, and
see its payment made in full."

She fancied he alluded to the body in the coffin - the body of her
stepson - and she could have laughed at his foolish conclusions
that she must account Florimond's death an act of justice upon her
for her impiety. But her rising anger left her no room for laughter.

"I thought, sir priest, you were come to bury the dead. But it
rather seems you are come to talk."

He looked at her long and sternly. Then he shook his head, and the
faintest shadow of a smile haunted his ascetic face.

"Not to talk, madame; oh, not to talk," he answered slowly. "But
to act, I have come, madame, to liberate from this shambles the
gentle lamb you hold here prisoned."

At that some of the colour left her cheeks; her eyes grew startled:
at last she began to realize that all was not as she had thought -
as she had been given to understand. - Still, she sought to hector
it, from very instinct.

"Vertudieu!" she thundered at him. "What mean you?"

Behind her Tressan's great plump knees were knocking one against
the other. Fool that he had been to come to Condillac that day,
and to be trapped thus in her company, a partner in her guilt.
This proud Abbot who stood there uttering denunciations had some
power behind him, else had he never dared to raise his voice in
Condillac within call of desperate men who would give little
thought to the sacredness, of his office.

"What mean you?" she repeated -- adding with a sinister smile, "in
your zeal, Sir Abbot, you are forgetting that my men are within call."

"So, madame, are mine," was his astounding answer, and he waved a
hand towards the array of monks, all standing with bowed heads and
folded arms.

At that her laughter rang. shrill through the chamber. "These poor
shavelings?" she questioned.

"Just these poor shavelings, madame," he answered, and he raised
his hand again and made a sign. And then an odd thing happened,

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