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The Suitors of Yvonne by Raphael Sabatini

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them that in half an hour, playing for beggarly crowns, he had lost twenty
pistoles. Next he lost his temper, and with an oath pitched the cubes into
the fire, swearing that they were toys for children and that I must grant
him his révanche with cards. The cards were furnished us, and with a
fortune that varied little we played lansquenet until long past midnight.
The fire died out in the grate, and the air grew chill, until at last, with
a violent sneeze, La Vrillière protested that he would play no more.

Cursing himself for the unluckiest being alive, the fool bade me good-
night, and left me seventy pistoles richer than when I had met him.



Despite the strenuous efforts which Andrea compelled us to put forth, we
did not again come up with Mesdemoiselles de Canaples, who in truth must
have travelled with greater speed than ladies are wont to.

This circumstance bred much discomfort in Andrea's bosom; for in it he read
that his Geneviève thought not of him as he of her, else, knowing that he
followed the same road, she would have retarded their progress so that he
might overtake them. Thus argued he when on the following night, which was
that of Friday, we lay at Orleans. But when towards noon on Saturday our
journey ended with our arrival at Blois, he went so far as to conclude that
she had hastened on expressly to avoid him. Now, from what I had seen of
Mademoiselle Yvonne, methought I might hazard a guess that she it was who
commanded in these--and haply, too, in other--matters, and that the manner
of their journey had been such as was best to her wishes.

With such an argument did I strive to appease Andrea's doubts; but all in
vain--which is indeed no matter for astonishment, for to reason with a man
in love is to reason with one who knows no reason.

After a brief halt at the Lys de France--at which hostelry I hired myself a
room--we set out for the Château de Canaples, which is situated on the left
bank of the Loire, at a distance of about half a league from Blois in the
direction of Tours.

We cut a brave enough figure as we rode down the Rue Vieille attended by
our servants, and many a rustic Blaisois stopped to gape at us, to nudge
his companion, and point us out, whispering the word "Paris."

I had donned my grey velvet doublet--deeming the occasion worthy of it--
whilst Andrea wore a handsome suit of black, with gold lace, which for
elegance it would have been difficult to surpass. An air of pensiveness
added interest to his handsome face and courtly figure, and methought that
Geneviève must be hard to please if she fell not a victim to his wooing.

We proceeded along the road bordering the Loire, a road of rare beauty at
any other season of the year, but now bare of foliage, grey, bleak, and
sullen as the clouds overhead, and as cold to the eye as was the sharp wind
to the flesh. As we rode I fell to thinking of what my reception at the
Château de Canaples was likely to be, and almost to regret that I had
permitted Andrea to persuade me to accompany him. Long ago I had known the
Chevalier de Canaples, and for all the disparity in our ages--for he
counted twice my years--we had been friends and comrades. That, however,
was ten years ago, in the old days when I owned something more than the
name of Luynes. To-day I appeared before him as a ruined adventurer, a
soldier of fortune, a ruffler, a duellist who had almost slain his son in a
brawl, whose details might be known to him, but not its origin. Seeing me
in the company of Andrea de Mancini he might--who could say?--even deem me
one of those parasites who cling to young men of fortune so that they may
live at their expense. That the daughter would have formed such a conceit
of me I was assured; it but remained to see with what countenance the
father would greet me.

From such speculations I was at length aroused by our arrival at the gates
of the Canaples park. Seeing them wide open, we rode between the two
massive columns of granite (each surmounted by a couchant lion holding the
escutcheon of the Canaples) and proceeded at an ambling pace up the avenue.
Through the naked trees the château became discernible--a brave old castle
that once had been the stronghold of a feudal race long dead. Grey it was,
and attuned, that day, to the rest of the grey landscape. But at its base
the ivy grew thick and green, and here and there long streaks of it crept
up almost to the battlements, whilst in one place it had gone higher yet
and clothed one of the quaint old turrets. A moat there had once been, but
this was now filled up and arranged into little mounds that became flower-
beds in summer.

Resigning our horses to the keeping of our servants, we followed the grave
maître d'hôtel who had received us. He led us across the spacious hall,
which had all the appearance of an armoury, and up the regal staircase of
polished oak on to a landing wide and lofty. Here, turning to the left, he
opened a door and desired us to give ourselves the trouble of awaiting the
Chevalier. We entered a handsome room, hung in costly Dutch tapestry, and
richly furnished, yet with a sobriety of colour almost puritanical. The
long windows overlooked a broad terrace, enclosed in a grey stone
balustrade, from which some half-dozen steps led to a garden below. Beyond
that ran the swift waters of the Loire, and beyond that again, in the
distance, we beheld the famous Château de Chambord, built in the days of
the first Francis.

I had but remarked these details when the door again opened, to admit a
short, slender man in whose black hair and beard the hand of time had
scattered but little of that white dust that marks its passage. His face
was pale, thin, and wrinkled, and his grey eyes had a nervous, restless
look that dwelt not long on anything. He was dressed in black, with simple
elegance, and his deep collar and ruffles were of the finest point.

"Welcome to Canaples, M. de Mancini!" he exclaimed, as he hurried forward,
with a smile so winning that his countenance appeared transfigured by it.
"Welcome most cordially! We had not hoped that you would arrive so soon,
but fortunately my daughters, to whom you appear to have been of service at
Choisy, warned me that you were journeying hither. Your apartments,
therefore, are prepared for you, and we hope that you will honour Canaples
by long remaining its guest."

Andrea thanked him becomingly.

"In truth," he added, "my departure from Paris was somewhat sudden, but I
have a letter here from Monseigneur my uncle, which explains the matter."

"No explanation is needed, my dear Andrea," replied the old nobleman,
abandoning the formalities that had marked his welcoming speech. "How left
you my Lord Cardinal?" he asked, as he took the letter.

"In excellent health, but somewhat harassed, I fear, by the affairs of

"Ah, yes, yes. But stay. You are not alone." And Canaples's grey eyes
shot an almost furtive glance of inquiry in my direction. A second glance
followed the first and the Chevalier's brows were knit. Then he came a
step nearer, scanning my face.

"Surely, surely, Monsieur," he exclaimed before Andrea had time to answer
him. "Were you not at Rocroi?"

"Your memory flatters me, Monsieur," I replied with a laugh. "I was indeed
at Rocroi--captain in the regiment of chévaux-légers whereof you were
Mestre de Champ."

"His name," said Andrea, "is Gaston de Luynes, my very dear friend,
counsellor, and, I might almost say, protector."

"Pardieu, yes! Gaston de Luynes!" he ejaculated, seizing my hand in an
affectionate grip. "But how have you fared since Rocroi was fought? For a
soldier of such promise, one might have predicted great things in ten

"Hélas, Monsieur! I was dismissed the service after Senlac."

"Dismissed the service!"

"Pah!" I laughed, not without bitterness, 't is a long story and an ugly
one, divided 'twixt the dice-box, the bottle, and the scabbard. Ten years
ago I was a promising young captain, ardent and ambitious; to-day I am a
broken ruffler, unrecognised by my family--a man without hope, without
ambition, almost without honour."

I know not what it was that impelled me to speak thus. Haply the wish that
since he must soon learn to what depths Gaston de Luynes had sunk, he
should at least learn it from my own lips at the outset.

He shuddered at my concluding words, and had not Andrea at that moment put
his arm affectionately upon my shoulder, and declared me the bravest fellow
and truest friend in all the world, it is possible that the Chevalier de
Canaples would have sought an excuse to be rid of me. Such men as he seek
not the acquaintance of such men as I.

To please Andrea was, however, of chief importance in his plans, and to
that motive I owe it that he pressed me to remain a guest at the château.
I declined the honour with the best grace I could command, determined that
whilst Andrea remained at Canaples I would lodge at the Lys de France in
Blois, independent and free to come or go as my fancy bade me. His
invitation that I should at least dine at Canaples I accepted; but with the
condition that he should repeat his invitation after he had heard something
that I wished to tell him. He assented with a puzzled look, and when
presently Andrea repaired to his apartments, and we were alone, I began.

"You have doubtlessly received news, Monsieur, of a certain affair in which
your son had recently the misfortune to be dangerously wounded?"

We were standing by the great marble fireplace, and Canaples was resting
one of his feet upon the huge brass andirons. He made a gesture of
impatience as I spoke.

"My son, sir, is a fool! A good-for-nothing fool! Oh, I have heard of
this affair, a vulgar tavern brawl, the fifth in which his name has been
involved and besmirched. I had news this morning by a courier dispatched
me by my friend St. Simon, who imagines that I am deeply concerned in that
young profligate. I learn that he is out of danger, and that in a month or
so, he will be about again and ready to disgrace the name of Canaples
afresh. But there, sir; I crave your pardon for the interruption."

I bowed, and when in answer to my questions he told me that he was in
ignorance of the details of the affair of which I spoke, I set about laying
those details before him. Beginning with the original provocation in the
Palais Royal and ending with the fight in the horse-market, I related the
whole story to him, but in an impersonal manner, and keeping my own name
out of my narrative. When I had done, Canaples muttered an oath of the
days of the fourth Henry.

"Ventre St. Gris! Does the dog carry his audacity so far as to dare come
betwixt me and my wishes, and to strive against them? He sought to kill
Mancini, eh? Would to Heaven he had died by the hand of this fellow who
shielded the lad!"

"Monsieur!" I cried, aghast at so unnatural an expression.

"Pah!" he cried harshly. "He is my son in name alone, filial he never

"Nevertheless, Monsieur, he is still your son, your heir."

"My heir? And what, pray, does he inherit? A title--a barren, landless
title! By his shameful conduct he alienated the affection of his uncle,
and his uncle has disinherited him in favour of Yvonne. 'T is she who will
be mistress of this château with its acres of land reaching from here to
Blois, and three times as far on the other side. My brother, sir, was the
rich Canaples, the owner of all this, and by his testament I am his heir
during my lifetime, the estates going to Yvonne at my death. So that you
see I have naught to leave; but if I had, not a dénier should go to my
worthless son!"

He spread his thin hands before the blaze, and for a moment there was
silence. Then I proceeded to tell him of the cabal which had been formed
against Mancini, and of the part played by St. Auban. At the mention of
that name he started as if I had stung him.

"What!" he thundered. "Is that ruffian also in the affair? Sangdieu! His
motives are not far to seek. He is a suitor--an unfavoured suitor--for the
hand of Yvonne, that seemingly still hopes. But you have not told me,
Monsieur, the name of this man who has stood betwixt Andrea and his

"Can you not guess, Monsieur?" quoth I, looking him squarely in the face.
"Did you not hear Andrea call me, even now, his protector."

"You? And with what motive, pray?"

"At first, as I have told you, because the Cardinal gave me no choice in
the matter touching your son. Since then my motive has lain in my
friendship for the boy. He has been kind and affectionate to one who has
known little kindness or affection in life. I seek to repay him by
advancing his interests and his happiness. That, Monsieur, is why I am
here to-day--to shield him from St. Auban and his fellows should they
appear again, as I believe they will."

The old man stood up and eyed me for a moment as steadily as his
vacillating glance would permit him, then he held out his hand.

"I trust, Monsieur," he said, "that you will do me the honour to dine with
us, and that whilst you are at Blois we shall see you at Canaples as often
as it may please you to cross its threshold."

I took his hand, but without enthusiasm, for I understood that his words
sprang from no warmth of heart for me, but merely from the fact that he
beheld in me a likely ally to his designs of raising his daughter to the
rank of Duchess.

Eugène de Canaples may have been a good-for-nothing knave; still, methought
his character scarce justified the callous indifference manifested by this
selfish, weak-minded old man towards his own son.

There was a knock at the door, and a lackey--the same Guilbert whom I had
seen at Choisy in Mademoiselle's company--appeared with the announcement
that the Chevalier was served.



In the spacious dining salon of the Château de Canaples I found the two
daughters of my host awaiting us--those same two ladies of the coach in
Place Vendôme and of the hostelry at Choisy, the dark and stately icicle,
Yvonne, and the fair, playful doll, Geneviève.

I bowed my best bow as the Chevalier presented me, and from the corner of
my eye, with inward malice, I watched them as I did so. Geneviève curtsied
with a puzzled air and a sidelong glance at her sister. Yvonne accorded me
the faintest, the coldest, inclination of her head, whilst her cheeks
assumed a colour that was unwonted.

"We have met before, I think, Monsieur," she said disdainfully.

"True, Mademoiselle--once," I answered, thinking only of the coach.

"Twice, Monsieur," she corrected, whereupon I recalled how she had
surprised me with my arm about the waist of the inn-keeper's daughter, and
had Heaven given me shame I might have blushed. But if sweet Yvonne
thought to bring Gaston de Luynes to task for profiting by the good things
which God's providence sent his way, she was led by vanity into a
prodigious error.

"Twice, indeed, Mademoiselle. But the service which you rendered me upon
the first occasion was so present to my mind just now that it eclipsed the
memory of our second meeting. I have ever since desired, Mademoiselle,
that an opportunity might be mine wherein to thank you for the preservation
of my life. I do so now, and at your service do I lay that life which you
preserved, and which is therefore as much yours as mine."

Strive as I might I could not rid my tone of an ironical inflection. I was
goaded to it by her attitude, by the scornful turn of her lip and the
disdainful glance of her grey eyes--she had her father's eyes, saving that
her gaze was as steadfast as his was furtive.

"What is this?" quoth Canaples. "You owe your life to my daughter? Pray
tell me of it."

"With all my heart," I made haste to answer before Mademoiselle could
speak. "A week ago, I disagreed upon a question of great delicacy with a
certain gentleman who shall be nameless. The obvious result attended our
disagreement, and we fought 'neath the eyes of a vast company of
spectators. Right was on my side, and the gentleman hurt himself upon my
sword. Well, sir, the crowd snarled at me as though it were my fault that
this had so befallen, and I flouted the crowd in answer. They were a
hundred opposed to one, and so confident did this circumstance render them
of their superiority, that for once those whelps displayed sufficient
valour to attack me. I fled, and as a coach chanced to come that way, I
clutched at the window and hung there. Within the coach there were two
ladies, and one of them, taking compassion upon me, invited me to enter and
thus rescued me. That lady, sir," I ended with a bow, "was Mademoiselle
your daughter."

In his eyes I read it that he had guessed the name of my nameless

The ladies were struck dumb by my apparent effrontery. Yvonne at last
recovered sufficiently to ask if my presence at the château arose from my
being attached to M. de Mancini. Now, "attached" is an unpleasant word. A
courtier is attached to the King; a soldier to the army; there is
humiliation in neither of these. But to a private gentleman, a man may be
only attached as his secretary, his valet, or, possibly, as his bravo.
Therein lay the sting of her carefully chosen word.

"I am M. de Mancini's friend," I answered with simple dignity.

For all reply she raised her eyebrows in token of surprise; Canaples looked
askance; I bit my lip, and an awkward silence followed, which, luckily, was
quickly ended by the appearance of Andrea.

The ladies received him graciously, and a faint blush might, to searching
eyes, have been perceived upon Geneviève's cheek.

There came a delicate exchange of compliments, after which we got to table,
and for my part I did ample justice to the viands.

I sat beside Geneviève, and vis-à-vis with Andrea, who occupied the place
of the honoured guest, at the host's right hand, with Yvonne beside him.
Me it concerned little where I sat, since the repast was all that I could
look for; not so the others. Andrea scowled at me because I was nearer to
Geneviève than he, and Yvonne frowned at me for other reasons. By
Geneviève I was utterly disregarded, and my endeavours to converse were
sorely unsuccessful--for one may not converse alone.

I clearly saw that Yvonne only awaited an opportunity to unmask me, and
denounce me to her father as the man who had sought his son's life.

This opportunity, however, came not until the moment of my departure from
the château, that evening. I was crossing the hail with the Chevalier de
Canaples, and we had stopped for a moment to admire a piece of old chain
armour of the days of the Crusaders. Andrea and Geneviève had preceded us,
and passed out through the open doorway, whilst Yvonne lingered upon the
threshold looking back.

"I trust, M. de Luynes," said Canaples, as we moved towards her, "that you
will remember my invitation, and that whilst you remain at Biois we shall
see you here as often as you may be pleased to come; indeed, I trust that
you will be a daily visitor."

Before I could utter a reply--"Father," exclaimed Mademoiselle, coming
forward, "do you know to whom you are offering the hospitality of

"Why that question, child? To M. de Luynes, M. de Mancini's friend."

"And the would-be murderer of Eugène," she added fiercely.

Canaples started.

"Surely such affairs are not for women to meddle with," he cried.
"Moreover, M. de Luynes has already given me all details of the affair."

Her eyes grew very wide at that.

"He has told you? Yet you invite him hither?" she exclaimed.

"M. de Luynes has naught wherewith to reproach himself, nor have I. Those
details which he has given me I may not impart to you; suffice it, however,
that I am satisfied that his conduct could not have been other than it was,
whereas that of my son reflects but little credit upon his name."

She stamped her foot, and her eyes, blazing with anger, passed from one to
the other of us.

"And you--you believe this man's story?"


"Possibly," I interposed, coolly, "Mademoiselle may have received some
false account of it that justifies her evident unbelief in what I may have
told you."

It is not easy to give a lie unless you can prove it a lie. I made her
realise this, and she bit her lip in vexation. Dame! What a pretty viper
I thought her at that moment!

"Let me add, Yvonne," said her father, "that M. de Luynes and I are old
comrades in arms." Then turning to me--"My daughter, sir, is but a child,
and therefore hasty to pass judgment upon matters beyond her understanding.
Forget this foolish outburst, and remember only my assurance of an ever
cordial welcome."

"With all my heart," I answered, after a moment's deliberation, during
which I had argued that for once I must stifle pride if I would serve

"Ough!" was all Mademoiselle's comment as she turned her back upon me.
Nevertheless, I bowed and flourished my beaver to her retreating figure.

Clearly Mademoiselle entertained for me exactly that degree of fondness
which a pious hermit feels for the devil, and if I might draw conclusions
from what evidences I had had of the strength of her character and the
weakness of her father's, our sojourn at Blois promised to afford me little
delectation. In fact, I foresaw many difficulties that might lead to
disaster should our Paris friends appear upon the scene--a contingency this
that seemed over-imminent.

It was not my wont, howbeit, to brood over the evils that the future might
hold, and to this I owe it that I slept soundly that night in my room at
the Lys de France.

It was a pleasant enough chamber on the first floor, overlooking the
street, and having an alcove attached to it which served for Michelot.

Next day I visited the Château de Canaples early in the afternoon. The
weather was milder, and the glow of the sun heralded at last the near
approach of spring and brightened wondrously a landscape that had yesterday
worn so forbidding a look.

This change it must have been that drew the ladies, and Andrea with them,
to walk in the park, where I came upon them as I rode up. Their laughter
rippled merrily and they appeared upon the best of terms until they espied
me. My advent was like a cloud that foretells a storm, and drove
Mesdemoiselles away, when they had accorded me a greeting that contained
scant graciousness.

All unruffled by this act, from which I gathered that Yvonne the strong had
tutored Geneviève the frail concerning me, I consigned my horse to a groom
of the château, and linked arms with Andrea.

"Well, boy," quoth I, "what progress?"

He smiled radiantly.

"My hopes are all surpassed. It exceeds belief that so poor a thing as I
should find favour in her eyes--what eyes, Gaston!" He broke off with a
sigh of rapture.

"Peste, you have lost no time. And so, already you know that you find
favour, eh! How know you that?"

"How? Need a man be told such things? There is an inexpressible--"

"My good Andrea, seek not to express it, therefore," I interrupted hastily.
"Let it suffice that the inexpressible exists, and makes you happy. His
Eminence will doubtless share your joy! Have you written to him?"

The mirth faded from the lad's face at the words, as the blossom fades
'neath the blighting touch of frost. What he said was so undutiful from a
nephew touching his uncle--particularly when that uncle is a prelate--that
I refrain from penning it.

We were joined just then by the Chevalier, and together we strolled round
to the rose-garden--now, alas! naught but black and naked bushes--and down
to the edge of the Loire, yellow and swollen by the recent rains.

"How lovely must be this place in summer," I mused, looking across the
water towards Chambord. "And, Dame," I cried, suddenly changing my
meditations, "what an ideal fencing ground is this even turf!"

"The swordsman's instinct," laughed Canaples.

And with that our talk shifted to swords, swordsmen, and sword-play, until
I suggested to Andrea that he should resume his practice, whereupon the
Chevalier offered to set a room at our disposal.

"Nay, if you will pardon me, Monsieur, 't is not a room we want," I
answered. "A room is well enough at the outset, but it is the common error
of fencing-masters to continue their tutoring on a wooden floor. It
results from this that when the neophyte handles a real sword, and defends
his life upon the turf, the ground has a new feeling; its elasticity or
even its slipperiness discomposes him, and sets him at a disadvantage."

He agreed with me, whilst Andrea expressed a wish to try the turf. Foils
were brought, and we whiled away best part of an half-hour. In the end,
the Chevalier, who had watched my play intently, offered to try a bout with
me. And so amazed was he with the result, that he had not done talking of
it when I left Canaples a few hours later--a homage this that earned me
some more than ordinarily unfriendly glances from Yvonne. No doubt since
the accomplishment was mine it became in her eyes characteristic of a bully
and a ruffler.

During the week that followed I visited the château with regularity, and
with equal regularity did Andrea receive his fencing lessons. The object
of his presence at Canaples, however, was being frustrated more and more
each day, so far as the Cardinal and the Chevalier were concerned.

He raved to me of Geneviève, the one perfect woman in all the world and
brought into it by a kind Providence for his own particular delectation.
In truth, love is like a rabid dog--whom it bites it renders mad; so open
grew his wooing, and so ardent, that one evening I thought well to take him
aside and caution him.

"My dear Andrea," said I, "if you will love Geneviève, you will, and
there's an end of it. But if you would not have the Chevalier pack you
back to Paris and the anger of my Lord Cardinal, be circumspect, and at
least when M. de Canaples is by divide your homage equally betwixt the two.
'T were well if you dissembled even a slight preference for Yvonne--she
will not be misled by it, seeing how unmistakable at all other seasons must
be your wooing of Geneviève."

He was forced to avow the wisdom of my counsel, and to be guided by it.

Nevertheless, I rode back to my hostelry in no pleasant frame of mind. It
was more than likely that a short shrift and a length of hemp would be the
acknowledgment I should anon receive from Mazarin for my participation in
the miscarriage of his desires.

I felt that disaster was on the wing. Call it a premonition; call it what
you will. I know but this; that as I rode into the courtyard of the Lys de
France, at dusk, the first man my eyes alighted on was the Marquis César de
St. Auban, and, in conversation with him, six of the most arrant-looking
ruffians that ever came out of Paris.



"I crave Monsieur's pardon, but there is a gentleman below who desires to
speak with you immediately."

"How does this gentleman call himself, M. l'Hote?"

"M. le Marquis de St. Auban," answered the landlord, still standing in the

It wanted an hour or so to noon on the day following that of St. Auban's
arrival at Blois, and I was on the point of setting out for the château on
an errand of warning.

It occurred to me to refuse to see the Marquis, but remembering betimes
that from your enemy's speech you may sometimes learn where to look for his
next attack, I thought better of it and bade my host admit him.

I strode over to the fire, and stirring the burning logs, I put my back to
the blaze, and waited.

Steps sounded on the stairs; there was the shuffling of the landlord's
slippered feet and the firm tread of my visitor, accompanied by the jingle
of spurs and the clank of his scabbard as it struck the balustrade. Then
my door was again opened, and St. Auban, as superbly dressed as ever, was

We bowed formally, as men bow who are about to cross swords, and whilst I
waited for him to speak, I noted that his face was pale and bore the
impress of suppressed anger.

"So, M. de Luynes, again we meet."

"By your seeking, M. le Marquis."

"You are not polite."

"You are not opportune."

He smiled dangerously.

"I learn, Monsieur, that you are a daily visitor at the Château de

"Well, sir, what of it?"

"This. I have been to Canaples this morning and, knowing that you will
learn anon, from that old dotard, what passed between us, I prefer that you
shall hear it first from me."

I bowed to conceal a smile.

"Thanks to you, M. de Luynes, I was ordered from the house. I--César de
St. Auban--have been ordered from the house of a provincial upstart!
Thanks to the calumnies which you poured into his ears."

"Calumnies! Was that the word?"

"I choose the word that suits me best," he answered, and the rage that was
in him at the affront he had suffered at the hands of the Chevalier de
Canaples was fast rising to the surface. "I warned you at Choisy of what
would befall. Your opposition and your alliance with M. de Mancini are
futile. You think to have gained a victory by winning over to your side an
old fool who will sacrifice his honour to see his daughter a duchess, but I
tell you, sir--"

"That you hope to see her a marchioness," I put in calmly. "You see, M. de
St. Auban, I have learned something since I came to Blois."

He grew livid with passion.

"You shall learn more ere you quit it, you meddler! You shall be taught to
keep that long nose of yours out of matters that concern you not."

I laughed.

"Loud threats!" I answered jeeringly.

"Never fear," he cried, "there is more to follow. To your cost shall you
learn it. By God, sir! do you think that I am to suffer a Sicilian
adventurer and a broken tavern ruffler to interfere with my designs?"

Still I kept my temper.

"So!" I said in a bantering tone. "You confess that you have designs.
Good! But what says the lady, eh? I am told that she is not yet
outrageously enamoured of you, for all your beauty!"

Beside himself with passion, his hand sought his sword. But the gesture
was spasmodic.

"Knave!" he snarled.

"Knave to me? Have a care, St. Auban, or I'll find you a shroud for a
wedding garment."

"Knave!" he repeated with a snarl. "What price are you paid by that boy?"

"Pardieu, St. Auban! You shall answer to me for this."

"Answer for it? To you!" And he laughed harshly. "You are mad, my
master. When did a St. Auban cross swords with a man of your stamp?"

"M. le Marquis," I said, with a calmness that came of a stupendous effort,
"at Choisy you sought my friendship with high-sounding talk of principles
that opposed you to the proposed alliance, twixt the houses of Mancini and
Canaples. Since then I have learned that your motives were purely
personal. From my discovery I hold you to be a liar."


"I have not yet done. You refuse to cross swords with me on the pretext
that you do not fight men of my stamp. I am no saint, sir, I confess. But
my sins cannot wash out my name--the name of a family accounted as good as
that of St. Auban, and one from which a Constable of France has sprung,
whereas yours has never yet bred aught but profligates and debauchees. You
are little better than I am, Marquis; indeed, you do many things that I
would not do, that I have never done. For instance, whilst refusing to
cross blades with me, who am a soldier and a man of the sword, you seek to
pick a fight with a beardless boy who hardly knows the use of a rapier, and
who--wittingly at least--has done you no wrong. Now, my master, you may
call me profligate, ruffler, gamester, duellist--what you will; but there
are two viler things you cannot dub me, and which, methinks, I have proven
you to be--liar and craven."

And as I spoke the burning words, I stood close up to him and tapped his
breast as if to drive the epithets into his very heart.

Rage he felt, indeed, and his distorted countenance was a sight fearful to

"Now, my master," I added, setting my arms akimbo and laughing brutally in
his face, "will you fight?"

For a moment he wavered, and surely meseemed that I had drawn him. Then:

"No," he cried passionately. "I will not do dishonour to my sword." And
turning he made for the door, leaving me baffled.

"Go, sir," I shouted, "but fame shall stalk fast behind you. Liar and
craven will I dub you throughout the whole of France."

He stopped 'neath the lintel, and faced me again.

"Fool," he sneered. "You'll need dispatch to spread my fame so far. By
this time to-morrow you'll be arrested. In three days you will be in the
Bastille, and there shall you lie until you rot to carrion."

"Loud threats again!" I laughed, hoping by the taunt to learn more.

"Loud perchance, but not empty. Learn that the Cardinal has knowledge of
your association with Mancini, and means to separate you. An officer of
the guards is on his way to Blois. He is at Meung by now. He bears a
warrant for your arrest and delivery to the governor of the Bastille.
Thereafter, none may say what will betide." And with a coarse burst of
laughter he left me, banging the door as he passed out.

For a moment I stood there stricken by his parting words. He had sought to
wound me, and in this he had succeeded. But at what cost to himself? In
his blind rage, the fool had shown me that which he should have zealously
concealed, and what to him was but a stinging threat was to me a timely
warning. I saw the necessity for immediate action. Two things must I do;
kill St. Auban first, then fly the Cardinal's warrant as best I could. I
cast about me for means to carry out the first of these intentions. My eye
fell upon my riding-whip, lying on a chair close to my hand, and the sight
of it brought me the idea I sought. Seizing it, I bounded out of the room
and down the stairs, three steps at a stride.

Along the corridor I sped and into the common-room, which at the moment was
tolerably full. As I entered by one door, the Marquis was within three
paces of the other, leading to the courtyard.

My whip in the air, I sprang after him; and he, hearing the rush of my
onslaught, turned, then uttered a cry of pain as I brought the lash
caressingly about his shoulders.

"Now, master craven," I shouted, "will that change your mind?"

With an almost inarticulate cry, he sought to draw there and then, but
those about flung themselves upon us, and held us apart--I, passive and
unresisting; the Marquis, bellowing, struggling, and foaming at the mouth.

"To meet you now would be to murder you, Marquis," I said coolly. "Send
your friends to me to appoint the time."

"Soit!" he cried, his eyes blazing with a hate unspeakable. "At eight to-
morrow morning I shall await you on the green behind the castle of Blois."

"At eight o'clock I shall be there," I answered. "And now, gentlemen, if
you will unhand me, I will return to my apartments."

They let me go, but with many a growl and angry look, for in their eyes I
was no more than a coarse aggressor, whilst their sympathy was all for St.



And so back to my room I went, my task accomplished, and so pleased was I
with what had passed that as I drew on my boots--preparing to set out to
Canaples--I laughed softly to myself.

St. Auban I would dispose of in the morning. As for the other members of
the cabal, I deemed neither Vilmorin nor Malpertuis sufficiently formidable
to inspire uneasiness. St. Auban gone, they too would vanish. There
remained then Eugène de Canaples. Him, however, methought no great evil
was to be feared from. In Paris he might be as loud-voiced as he pleased,
but in his father's château--from what I had learned--'t was unlikely he
would so much as show himself. Moreover, he was wounded, and before he had
sufficiently recovered to offer interference it was more than probable that
Andrea would have married one or the other of Mesdemoiselles de Canaples--
though I had a shrewd suspicion that it would be the wrong one, and there
again I feared trouble.

As I stood up, booted and ready to descend, there came a gentle tap at my
door, and, in answer to my "Enter," there stood before me a very dainty and
foppish figure. I stared hard at the effeminate face and the long fair
locks of my visitor, thinking that I had become the dupe of my eyes.

"M. de Vilmorin!" I murmured in astonishment, as he came forward, having
closed the door. "You here?"

In answer, he bowed and greeted me with cold ceremoniousness.

"I have been in Blois since yesterday, Monsieur."

"In truth I might have guessed it, Vicomte. Your visit flatters me, for,
of course, I take it, you are come to pay me your respects," I said
ironically. "A glass of wine, Vicomte?"

"A thousand thanks, Monsieur--no," he answered coldly in his mincing tones.
"It is concerning your affair with M. le Marquis de St. Auban that I am
come." And drawing forth a dainty kerchief, which filled the room with the
scent of ambregris, he tapped his lips with it affectedly.

"Do you come as friend or--in some other capacity?"

"I come as mediator."

"Mediator!" I echoed, and my brow grew dark. "Sdeath! Has St. Auban's
courage lasted just so long as the sting of my whip?"

He raised his eyebrows after a supercilious fashion that made me thirst to
strike the chair from under him.

"You misapprehend me; M. de St. Auban has no desire to avert the duel. On
the contrary, he will not rest until the affront you have put upon him be
washed out--"

"It will be, I'll answer for it."

"Your answer, sir, is characteristic of a fanfarron. He who promises most
does not always fulfil most."

I stared at him in amazement.

"Shall I promise you something, Vicomte? Mortdieu! If you seek to pick a
quarrel with me--"

"God forbid!" he ejaculated, turning colour. And his suddenly awakened
apprehensions swept aside the affectation that hitherto had marked his
speech and manner.

"Then, Monsieur, be brief and state the sum of this mediation."

"It is this, Monsieur. In the heat of the moment, M. le Marquis gave you,
in the hearing of half a score of people, an assignation for to-morrow
morning. News of the affair will spread rapidly through Blois, and it is
likely there will be no lack of spectators on the green to witness the
encounter. Therefore, as my friend thinks this will be as unpalatable to
you as it is to him, he has sent me to suggest a fresh rendezvous."

"Pooh, sir," I answered lightly. "I care not, for myself, who comes. I am
accustomed to a crowd. Still, since M. de St. Auban finds it discomposing,
let us arrange otherwise."

"There is yet another point. M. de St. Auban spoke to you, I believe, of
an officer who is coming hither charged with your arrest. It is probable
that he may reach Blois before morning, so that the Marquis thinks that to
make certain you might consent to meet him to-night."

"Ma foi. St. Auban is indeed in earnest then! Convey to him my
expressions of admiration at this suddenly awakened courage. Be good
enough, Vicomte, to name the rendezvous."

"Do you know the chapel of St. Sulpice des Reaux?"

"What! Beyond the Loire?"

"Precisely, Monsieur. About a league from Chambord by the river side."

"I can find the place."

"Will you meet us there at nine o'clock to­night?"

I looked askance at him.

"But why cross the river? This side affords many likely spots!"

"Very true, Monsieur. But the Marquis has business at Chambord this
evening, after which there will be no reason--indeed, it will inconvenience
him exceedingly--to return to Blois."

"What!" I cried, more and more astonished. "St. Auban is leaving Blois?"

"This evening, sir."

"But, voyons, Vicomte, why make an assignation in such a place and at
night, when at any hour of the day I can meet the Marquis on this side,
without suffering the inconvenience of crossing the river?"

"There will be a bright moon, well up by nine o'clock. Moreover, remember
that you cannot, as you say, meet St. Auban on this side at any time he may
appoint, since to-night or to-morrow the officer who is in search of you
will arrive."

I pondered for a moment. Then:

"M. le Vicomte," I said, "in this matter of ground 't is I who have the
first voice."

"How so?"

"Because the Marquis is the affronted one."

"Therefore he has a right to choose."

"A right, yes. But that is not enough. The necessity to fight is on his
side. His honour is hurt, not mine; I have whipped him; I am content. Now
let him come to me."

"Assuredly you will not be so ungenerous."

"I do not care about journeying to Reaux to afford him satisfaction."

"Does Monsieur fear anything?"

"Vicomte, you go too far!" I cried, my pride gaining the mastery. "Since
it is asked of me,--I will go."

"M. le Marquis will be grateful to you."

"A fig for his gratitude," I answered, whereupon the Vicomte shrugged his
narrow shoulders, and, his errand done, took his leave of me.

When he was gone I called Michelot, to tell him of the journey I must go
that night, so that he might hold himself in readiness.

"Why--if Monsieur will pardon me," quoth he, "do you go to meet the Marquis
de St. Auban at St. Sulpice des Reaux by night?"

"Precisely what I asked Vilmorin. The Marquis desires it, and--what will
you?--since I am going to kill the man, I can scarce do less than kill him
on a spot of his own choosing."

Michelot screwed up his face and scratched at his grey beard with his huge

"Does no suspicion of foul play cross your mind, Monsieur?" he inquired

"Shame on you, Michelot," I returned with some heat. "You do not yet
understand the ways of gentlemen. Think you that M. de St. Auban would
stoop to such a deed as that? He would be shamed for ever! Pooh, I would
as soon suspect my Lord Cardinal of stealing the chalices from Nôtre Dame.
Go, see to my horse. I am riding to Canaples."

As I rode out towards the château I fell to thinking, and my thoughts
turning to Vilmorin, I marvelled at the part he was playing in this little
comedy of a cabal against Andrea de Mancini. His tastes and instincts were
of the boudoir, the ante-chamber, and the table. He wore a sword because
it was so ordained by fashion, and because the hilt was convenient for the
display of a jewel or two. Certainly 't was not for utility that it hung
beside him, and no man had ever seen it drawn. Nature had made him the
most pitiable coward begotten. Why then should he involve himself in an
affair which promised bloodshed, and which must be attended by many a risk
for him? There was in all this some mystery that I could not fathom.

From the course into which they had slipped, my thoughts were diverted,
when I was within half a mile of the château, by the sight of a horseman
stationed, motionless, among the trees that bordered the road. It occurred
to me that men take not such a position without purpose--usually an evil
one. I slackened speed somewhat and rode on, watching him sharply. As I
came up, he walked his horse forward to meet me, and I beheld a man in the
uniform of the gardes du corps, in whom presently I recognised the little
sparrow Malpertuis, with whom I had exchanged witticisms at Choisy. He was
the one man wanting to complete the trinity that had come upon us at the
inn of the Connétable.

It flashed across my mind that he might be the officer charged with my
arrest, and that he had arrived sooner than had been expected. If so, it
was likely to go ill with him, for I was not minded to be taken until St.
Auban's soul sped hellwards.

He hailed me as I advanced, and indeed rode forward to meet me.

"You are come at last, M. de Luynes," was his greeting. "I have waited for
you this hour past."

"How knew you I should ride this way?"

"I learnt that you would visit Canaples before noon. Be good enough to
quit the road, and pass under those trees with me. I have something to say
to you, but it were not well that we should be seen together."

"For the sake of your character or mine, M. Malappris?"

"Malpertuis!" he snapped.

"Malpertuis," I corrected. "You were saying that we should not be seen

"St. Auban might hear of it."

"Ah! And therefore?"

"You shall learn." We were now under the trees, which albeit leafless yet
screened us partly from the road. He drew rein, and I followed his

"M. de Luynes," he began, "I am or was a member of the cabal formed against
Mazarin's aims in the matter of the marriage of Mademoiselle de Canaples to
his nephew. I joined hands with St. Auban, lured by his protestations that
it is not meet that such an heiress as Yvonne de Canaples should be forced
to marry a foreigner of no birth and less distinction, whilst France holds
so many noble suitors to her hand. This motive, by which I know that even
Eugène de Canaples was actuated, was, St. Auban gave me to understand, his
only one for embarking upon this business, as it was also Vilmorin's. Now,
M. de Luynes, I have to­day discovered that I had been duped by St. Auban
and his dupe, Vilmorin. St. Auban lied to me; another motive brings him
into the affair. He seeks himself, by any means that may present
themselves, to marry Yvonne--and her estates; whilst the girl, I am told,
loathes him beyond expression. Vilmorin again is actuated by no less a
purpose. And so, what think you these two knaves--this master knave and
his dupe--have determined? To carry off Mademoiselle by force!"

"Sangdieu!" I burst out, and would have added more, but his gesture
silenced me, and he continued:

"Vilmorin believes that St. Auban is helping him in this, whereas St. Auban
is but fooling him with ambiguous speeches until they have the lady safe.
Then might will assert itself, and St. Auban need but show his fangs to
drive the sneaking coward away from the prize he fondly dreams is to be

"When do these gentlemen propose to carry out their plan? Have they
determined that?" I inquired breathlessly.

"Aye, they have. They hope to accomplish it this very day. Mademoiselle
de Canaples has received a letter wherein she is asked to meet her
anonymous writer in the coppice yonder, at the Angelus this evening, if she
would learn news of great importance to her touching a conspiracy against
her father."

"Faugh!" I sneered. "'T is too poor a bait to lure her with."

"Say you so? Believe me that unless she be dissuaded she will comply with
the invitation, so cunningly was the letter couched. A closed carriage
will be waiting at this very spot. Into this St. Auban, Vilmorin, and
their bravos will thrust the girl, then away through Blois and beyond it,
for a mile or so, in the direction of Meung, thereby misleading any chance
pursuers. There they will quit the coach and take a boat that is to be in
waiting for them and which will bear them back with the stream to Chambord.
Thereafter, God pity the poor lady if they get thus far without mishap."

"Mort de ma vie!" I cried, slapping my thigh, "I understand!" And to
myself I thought of the assignation at St. Sulpice des Reaux, and the
reason for this, as also St. Auban's resolution to so suddenly quit Blois,
grew of a sudden clear to me. Also did I recall the riddle touching
Vilmorin's conduct which a few moments ago I had puzzled over, and of which
methought that I now held the solution.

"What do you understand?" asked Malpertuis.

"Something that was told me this morning," I made answer, then spoke of
gratitude, wherein he cut me short.

"I ask no thanks," he said curtly. "You owe me none. What I have done is
not for love of you or Mancini--for I love neither of you. It is done
because noblesse m'oblige. I told St. Auban that I would have no part in
this outrage. But that is not enough; I owe it to my honour to attempt the
frustration of so dastardly a plan. You, M. de Luynes, appear to be the
most likely person to encompass this, in the interests of your friend
Mancini; I leave the matter, therefore, in your hands. Good­day!"

And with this abrupt leave-taking, the little fellow doffed his hat to me,
and wheeling his horse he set spurs in its flanks, and was gone before a
word of mine could have stayed him.



"M. de Luynes is a wizard," quoth Andrea, laughing, in answer to something
that had been said.

It was afternoon. We had dined, and the bright sunshine and spring-like
mildness of the weather had lured us out upon the terrace. Yvonne and
Geneviève occupied the stone seat. Andrea had perched himself upon the
granite balustrade, and facing them he sat, swinging his shapely legs to
and fro as he chatted merrily, whilst on either side of him stood the
Chevalier de Canaples and I.

"If M. de Luynes be as great a wizard in other things as with the sword,
then, pardieu, he is a fearful magician," said Canaples.

I bowed, yet not so low but that I detected a sneer on Yvonne's lips.

"So, pretty lady," said I to myself, "we shall see if presently your lip
will curl when I show you something of my wizard's art."

And presently my chance came. M. de Canaples found reason to leave us, and
no sooner was he gone than Geneviève remembered that she had that day
discovered a budding leaf upon one of the rose bushes in the garden below.
Andrea naturally caused an argument by asserting that she was the victim of
her fancy, as it was by far too early in the year. By that means these two
found the plea they sought for quitting us, since neither could rest until
the other was convinced.

So down they went into that rose garden which methought was like to prove
their fool's paradise, and Yvonne and I were left alone. Then she also
rose, but as she was on the point of quitting me:

"Mademoiselle," I ventured, "will you honour me by remaining for a moment?
There is something that I would say to you."

With raised eyebrows she gave me a glance mingled with that
superciliousness which she was for ever bestowing upon me, and which, from
the monotony of it alone, grew irksome.

"What can you have to say to me, M. de Luynes?"

"Will you not be seated? I shall not long detain you, nevertheless--"

"If I stand, perchance you will be more brief. I am waiting, Monsieur."

I shrugged my shoulders rudely. Why, indeed, be courteous where so little
courtesy was met with?

"A little while ago, Mademoiselle, when M. de Mancini dubbed me a wizard
you were good enough to sneer. Now, a sneer, Mademoiselle, implies
unbelief, and I would convince you that you were wrong to disbelieve."

"If you have no other motive for detaining me, suffer me to depart," she
interrupted with some warmth. "Whether you be a wizard or not is of no
moment to me."

"And yet I dare swear that you will be of a different mind within five
minutes. A wizard is one who discloses things unknown to his fellow-men.
I am about to convince you that I can do this, and by convincing you I am
about to serve you."

"I seek neither conviction nor service at your hands," she answered.

"Your courtesy dumfounds me, Mademoiselle!"

"No less than does your insolence dumfound me," she retorted, with crimson
cheeks. "Do you forget, sir, that I know you for what you are--a gamester,
a libertine, a duellist, the murderer of my brother?"

"That your brother lives, Mademoiselle, is, methinks, sufficient proof that
I have not murdered him."

"You willed his death if you did not encompass it; so 't is all one. Do
you not understand that it is because my father receives you here, thanks
to M. de Mancini, your friend--a friendship easily understood from the
advantages you must derive from it--that I consent to endure your presence
and the insult of your glance? Is it not enough that I should do this, and
have you not wit enough to discern it, without adding to my shame by your
insolent call upon my courtesy?"

Her words cut me as no words that I ever heard, and, more than her words,
her tone of loathing and disgust unspeakable. For half that speech I
should have killed a man--indeed, I had killed men for less than half. And
yet, for all the passion that raged in my soul, I preserved upon my
countenance a smiling mask. That smile exhausted her patience and
increased her loathing, for with a contemptuous exclamation she turned

"Tarry but a moment, Mademoiselle," I cried, with a sudden note of command.
"Or, if you will go, go then; but take with you my assurance that before
nightfall you will weep bitterly for it."

My words arrested her. The mystery of them awakened her curiosity.

"You speak in riddles, Monsieur."

"Like a true wizard, Mademoiselle. You received a letter this morning in a
handwriting unknown, and bearing no signature."

She wheeled round and faced me again with a little gasp of astonishment.

"How know you that? Ah! I understand; you wrote it!"

"What shrewdness, Mademoiselle!" I laughed, ironically. "Come; think
again. What need have I to bid you meet me in the coppice yonder? May I
not speak freely with you here?"

"You know the purport of that letter?"

"I do, Mademoiselle, and I know more. I know that this hinted conspiracy
against your father is a trumped-up lie to lure you to the coppice."

"And for what purpose, pray?"

"An evil one,--your abduction. Shall I tell you who penned that note, and
who awaits you? The Marquis César de St. Auban."

She shuddered as I pronounced the name, then, looking me straight between
the eyes--"How come you to know these things?" she inquired.

"What does it signify, since I know them?"

"This, Monsieur, that unless I learn how, I can attach no credit to your
preposterous story."

"Not credit it!" I cried. "Let me assure you that I have spoken the truth;
let me swear it. Go to the coppice at the appointed time, and things will
fall out as I have predicted."

"Again, Monsieur, how know you this?" she persisted, as women will.

"I may not tell you."

We stood close together, and her clear grey eyes met mine, her lip curling
in disdain.

"You may not tell me? You need not. I can guess." And she tossed her
shapely head and laughed. "Seek some likelier story, Monsieur. Had you
not spoken of it, 't is likely I should have left the letter unheeded. But
your disinterested warning has determined me to go to this rendezvous.
Shall I tell you what I have guessed? That this conspiracy against my
father, the details of which you would not have me learn, is some evil of
your own devising. Ah! You change colour!" she cried, pointing to my
face. Then with a laugh of disdain she left me before I had sufficiently
recovered from my amazement to bid her stay.

"Ciel!" I cried, as I watched the tall, lissom figure vanish through the
portals of the château. "Did ever God create so crass and obstinate a
thing as woman?"

It occurred to me to tell Andrea, and bid him warn her. But then she would
guess that I had prompted him. Naught remained but to lay the matter
before the Chevalier de Canaples. Already I had informed him of my fracas
with St. Auban, and of the duel that was to be fought that night, and he,
in his turn, had given me the details of his stormy interview with the
Marquis, which had culminated in St. Auban's dismissal from Canaples. I
had not hitherto deemed it necessary to alarm him with the news imparted to
me by Malpertuis, imagining that did I inform Mademoiselle that would

Now, however, as I have said, no other course was left me but to tell him
of it. Accordingly, I went within and inquired of Guilbert, whom I met in
the hall, where I might find the Chevalier. He answered me that M. de
Canaples was not in the château. It was believed that he had gone with M.
Louis, the intendant of the estates, to visit the vineyards at Montcroix.

The news made me choke with impatience. Already it was close upon five
o'clock, and in another hour the sun would set and the Angelus would toll
the knell of Mademoiselle's preposterous suspicions, unless in the meantime
I had speech with Canaples, and led him to employ a father's authority to
keep his daughter indoors.

Fuming at the contretemps I called for my horse and set out at a brisk trot
for Montcroix. But my ride was fruitless. The vineyard peasants had not
seen the Chevalier for over a week.

Now, 'twixt Montcroix and the château there lies a good league, and to make
matters worse, as I galloped furiously back to Canaples, an evil chance led
me to mistake the way and pursue a track that brought me out on the very
banks of the river, with a strong belt of trees screening the château from
sight, and defying me to repair my error by going straight ahead.

I was forced to retrace my steps, and before I had regained the point where
I had gone astray a precious quarter of an hour was wasted, and the sun
already hung, a dull red globe, on the brink of the horizon.

Clenching my teeth, I tore at my horse's flanks, and with a bloody heel I
drove the maddened brute along at a pace that might have cost us both
dearly. I dashed, at last, into the quadrangle, and, throwing the reins to
a gaping groom, I sprang up the steps.

"Has the Chevalier returned?" I gasped breathlessly.

"Not yet, Monsieur," answered Guilbert with a tranquillity that made me
desire to strangle him. "Is Mademoiselle in the château?" was my next
question, mechanically asked.

"I saw her on the terrace some moments ago. She has not since come

Like one possessed I flew across the intervening room and out on to the
terrace. Geneviève and Andrea were walking there, deep in conversation.
At another time I might have cursed their lack of prudence. At the moment
I did not so much as remark it.

"Where is Mademoiselle de Canaples?" I burst out.

They gazed at me, as much astounded by my question and the abruptness of it
as by my apparent agitation.

Has anything happened?" inquired Geneviève, her blue eyes wide open.

"Yes--no; naught has happened. Tell me where she is. I must speak to

"She was here a while ago," said Andrea, "but she left us to stroll along
the river bank."

"How long is it since she left you?"

"A quarter of an hour, perhaps."

"Something has happened!" cried Geneviève, and added more, maybe, but I
waited not to hear.

Muttering curses as I ran--for 't was my way to curse where pious souls
might pray--I sped back to the quadrangle and my horse.

"Follow me," I shouted to the groom, "you and as many of your fellows as
you can find. Follow me at once--at once, mark you--to the coppice by the
river." And without waiting for his answer, I sent my horse thundering
down the avenue. The sun was gone, leaving naught but a roseate streak to
tell of its passage, and at that moment a distant bell tinkled forth the

With whip, spur, and imprecations I plied my steed, a prey to such
excitement as I had never known until that moment--not even in the carnage
of battle.

I had no plan. My mind was a chaos of thought without a single clear idea
to light it, and I never so much as bethought me that single-handled I was
about to attempt to wrest Yvonne from the hands of perchance half a dozen
men. To save time I did not far pursue the road, but, clearing a hedge, I
galloped ventre-à-terre across the meadow towards the little coppice by the
waterside. As I rode I saw no sign of any moving thing. No sound
disturbed the evening stillness save the dull thump of my horse's hoofs
upon the turf, and a great fear arose in my heart that I might come too

At last I reached the belt of trees, and my fears grew into certainty. The
place was deserted.

Then a fresh hope sprang up. Perchance, thinking of my warning, she had
seen the emptiness of her suspicions towards me, and had pursued that walk
of hers in another direction.

But when I had penetrated to the little open space within that cluster of
naked trees, I had proof overwhelming that the worst had befallen. Not
only on the moist ground was stamped the impress of struggling feet, but on
a branch I found a strip of torn green velvet, and, remembering the dress
she had worn that day, I understood to the full the significance of that
rag, and, understanding it, I groaned aloud.



Some precious moments did I waste standing with that green rag betwixt my
fingers, and I grew sick and numb in body and in mind. She was gone!
Carried off by a man I had reason to believe she hated, and whom God send
she might have no motive to hate more deeply hereafter!

The ugly thought swelled until it blotted out all others, and in its train
there came a fury upon me that drove me to do by instinct that which
earlier I should have done by reason. I climbed back into the saddle, and
away across the meadow I went, journeying at an angle with the road, my
horse's head turned in the direction of Blois. That road at last was
gained, and on I thundered at a stretched gallop, praying that my hard-used
beast might last until the town was reached.

Now, as I have already said, I am not a man who easily falls a prey to
excitement. It may have beset me in the heat of battle, when the fearsome
lust of blood and death makes of every man a raving maniac, thrilled with
mad joy at every stab he deals, and laughing with fierce passion at every
blow he takes, though in the taking of it his course be run. But, saving
at such wild times, never until then could I recall having been so little
master of myself. There was a fever in me; all hell was in my blood, and,
stranger still, and hitherto unknown at any season, there was a sickly fear
that mastered me, and drew out great beads of sweat upon my brow. Fear for
myself I have never known, for at no time has life so pampered me that the
thought of parting company with it concerned me greatly. Fear for another
I had not known till then--saving perchance the uneasiness that at times I
had felt touching Andrea--because never yet had I sufficiefltly cared.

Thus far my thoughts took me, as I rode, and where I have halted did they
halt, and stupidly I went over their ground again, like one who gropes for
something in the dark,--because never yet had I sufficiently cared--I had
never cared.

And then, ah Dieu! As I turned the thought over I understood, and,
understanding, I pursued the sentence where I had left off.

But, caring at last, I was sick with fear of what might befall the one I
cared for! There lay the reason of the frenzied excitement whereof I had
become the slave. That it was that had brought the moisture to my brow and
curses to my lips; that it was that had caused me instinctively to thrust
the rag of green velvet within my doublet.

Ciel! It was strange--aye, monstrous strange, and a right good jest for
fate to laugh at--that I, Gaston de Luynes, vile ruffler and worthless
spadassin, should have come to such a pass; I, whose forefinger had for the
past ten years uptilted the chin of every tavern wench I had chanced upon;
I, whose lips had never known the touch of other than the lips of these; I,
who had thought my heart long dead to tenderness and devotion, or to any
fondness save the animal one for my ignoble self. Yet there I rode as if
the Devil had me for a quarry,--panting, sweating, cursing, and well-nigh
sobbing with rage at a fear that I might come too late,--all because of a
proud lady who knew me for what I was and held me in contempt because of
her knowledge; all for a lady who had not the kindness for me that one
might spare a dog--who looked on me as something not good to see.

Since there was no one to whom I might tell my story that he might mock me,
I mocked myself--with a laugh that startled passers-by and which, coupled
with the crazy pace at which I dashed into Blois, caused them, I doubt not,
to think me mad. Nor were they wrong, for mad indeed I deemed myself.

That I trampled no one underfoot in my furious progress through the streets
is a miracle that passes my understanding.

In the courtyard of the Lys de France I drew rein at last with a tug that
brought my shuddering brute on to his haunches and sent those who stood
about flying into the shelter of the doorways.

"Another horse!" I shouted as I sprang to the ground. "Another horse at

Then as I turned to inquire for Michelot, I espied him leaning stolidly
against the porte­cochère.

"How long have you been there, Michelot?" I asked.

"Half an hour, mayhap."

"Saw you a closed carriage pass?"

"Ten minutes ago I saw one go by, followed by M. de St. Auban and a
gentleman who greatly resembled M. de Vilmorin, besides an escort of four
of the most villainous knaves--"

"That is the one," I broke in. "Quick, Michelot! Arm yourself and get
your horse; I have need of you. Come, knave, move yourself!"

At the end of a few minutes we set out at a sharp trot, leaving the curious
ones whom my loud-voiced commands had assembled, to speculate upon the
meaning of so much bustle. Once clear of the township we gave the reins to
our horses, and our trot became a gallop as we travelled along the road to
Meung, with the Loire on our right. And as we went I briefly told Michelot
what was afoot, interlarding my explanations with prayers that we might
come upon the kidnappers before they crossed the river, and curses at the
flying pace of our mounts, which to my anxious mind seemed slow.

At about a mile from Blois the road runs over an undulation of the ground
that is almost a hill. From the moment that I had left Canaples as the
Angelus was ringing, until the moment when our panting horses gained the
brow of that little eminence, only half an hour had sped. Still in that
half-hour the tints had all but faded from the sky, and the twilight
shadows grew thicker around us with every moment. Yet not so thick had
they become but that I could see a coach at a standstill in the hollow,
some three hundred yards beneath us, and, by it, half a dozen horses, of
which four were riderless and held by the two men who were still mounted.
Then, breathlessly scanning the field between the road and the river, I
espied five persons, half way across, and at the same distance from the
water that we were from the coach. Two men, whom I supposed to be St.
Auban and Vilmorin, were forcing along a woman, whose struggles, feeble
though they appeared--yet retarded their progress in some measure. Behind
them walked two others, musket on shoulder.

I pointed them out to Michelot with a soft cry of joy. We were in time!

Following with my eyes the course they appeared to be pursuing I saw by the
bank a boat, in which two men were waiting. Again I pointed, this time to
the boat.

"Over the hedge, Michelot!" I cried. "We must ride in a straight line for
the water and so intercept them. Follow me."

Over the hedge we went, and down the gentle slope at as round a pace as the
soft ground would with safety allow. I had reckoned upon being opposed to
six or even eight men, whereas there were but four, one of whom I knew was
hardly to be reckoned. Doubtless St. Auban had imagined himself safe from
pursuit when he left two of his bravos with the horses, probably to take
them on to Meung, and there cross with them and rejoin him. Two more, I
doubted not, were those seated at the oars.

I laughed to myself as I took in all this, but, even as I laughed, those in
the field stood still, and sent up a shout that told me we had been

"On, Michelot, on!" I shouted, spurring my horse forward. Then, in answer
to their master's call, the two ruffians who had been doing duty as grooms
came pounding into the field.

"Ride to meet them, Michelot!" I cried. Obediently he wheeled to the left,
and I caught the swish of his sword as it left the scabbard.

St. Auban was now hurrying towards the river with his party. Already they
were but fifty yards from the boat, and a hundred still lay between him and
me. Furiously I pressed onward, and presently but half the distance
separated us, whilst they were still some thirty yards from their goal.

Then his two bravos faced round to meet me, and one, standing some fifty
paces in ad­vance of the other, levelled his musket and fired. But in his
haste he aimed too high; the bullet carried away my hat, and before the
smoke had cleared I was upon him. I had drawn a pistol from my holster,
but it was not needed; my horse passed over him before he could save
himself from my fearful charge.

In the fast-fading light a second musket barrel shone, and I saw the second
ruffian taking aim at me with not a dozen yards between us. With the old
soldier's instinct I wrenched at the reins till I brought my horse on to
his haunches. It was high time, for simultaneously with my action the
fellow blazed at me, and the scream of pain that broke from my steed told
me that the poor brute had taken the bullet. With a bound that carried me
forward some six paces, the animal sank, quivering, to the ground. I
disengaged my feet from the stirrups as he fell, but the shock of it sent
me rolling on the ground, and the ruffian, seeing me fallen, sprang
forward, swinging his musket up above his head. I dodged the murderous
downward stroke, and as the stock buried itself close beside me in the soft
earth I rose on one knee and with a grim laugh I raised my pistol. I
brought the muzzle within a hand's breadth of his face, then fired and shot
him through the head. Perchance you'll say it was a murderous, cruel
stroke: mayhap it was, but at such seasons men stay not to unravel
niceties, but strike ere they themselves be stricken.

Leaping over the twitching corpse, I got out my sword and sprang after St.
Auban, who, with Vilmorin and Yvonne, careless of what might betide his
followers, was now within ten paces of the boat.

Pistol shots cracked behind me, and I wondered how Michelot was faring, but
dared not pause to look.

The twain in the boat stood up, wielding their great oars, and methought
them on the point of coming to their master's aid, in which case my battle
had truly been a lost one. But that craven Vilmorin did me good service
then, for with a cry of fear at my approach, he abandoned his hold of
Yvonne, whose struggles were keeping both the men back; thus freed, he fled
towards the boat, and jumping in, he shouted to the men in his shrill,
quavering voice, to put off. Albeit they disobeyed him contemptuously and
waited for the Marquis; still they did not leave the boat, fearing, no
doubt, that if they did so the coward would put off alone.

As for St. Auban, Vilmorin's flight left him unequal to the task of
dragging the girl along. She dug her heels into the ground, and, tug as he
might, for all that he set both hands to work, he could not move her. In
this plight I came upon him, and challenged him to stand and face me.

With a bunch of oaths he got out his sword, but in doing so he was forced
to remove one of his hands from the girl's arm. Seizing the opportunity
with a ready wit and courage seldom found in women of her quality, she
twisted herself from the grip of his left hand, and came staggering towards
me for protection, holding up her pinioned wrists. With my blade I severed
the cord, whereupon she plucked the gag from her mouth, and sank against my
side, her struggles having left her weak indeed.

As I set my arm about her waist to support her, my heart seemed to swell
within me, and strange melodies shaped themselves within my soul.

St. Auban bore down upon me with a raucous oath, but the glittering point
of my rapier danced before his eyes and drove him back again.

"To me, Vilmorin, you cowardly cur!" he shouted. "To me, you dogs!"

He let fly at them a volley of blood-curdling oaths, then, without waiting
to see if they obeyed him, he came at me again, and our swords met.

"Courage, Mademoiselle," I whispered, as a sigh that was almost a groan
escaped her. "Have no fear."

But that fight was not destined to be fought, for, as again we engaged,
there came the fall of running feet behind me. It flashed across my mind
that Michelot had been worsted, and that my back was about to be assailed.
But in St. Auban's face I saw, as in a mirror, that he who came was

"Mort de Christ!" snarled the Marquis, springing back beyond my reach.
"What can a man do with naught but fools and poltroons to serve him?
Faugh! We will continue our sword-play at St. Sulpice des Reaux to-night.
Au revoir, M. de Luynes!"

Turning, he sheathed his sword, and, running down to the river, bounded
into the boat, where I heard him reviling Vilmorin with every foul name he
could call to mind.

My blood was aflame, and I was not minded to wait for our meeting at Reaux.
Consigning Mademoiselle to the care of Michelot, who stood panting and
bleeding from a wound in his shoulder, I turned back to my dead horse, and
plucking the remaining pistol from the holster I ran down to the very edge
of the water. The boat was not ten yards from shore, and my action had
been unheeded by St. Auban, who was standing in the stern.

Kneeling I took careful aim at him, and as God lives, I would have saved
much trouble that was to follow had I been allowed to fire. But at that
moment a hand was laid upon my arm, and Yvonne's sweet voice murmured in my

"You have fought a brave and gallant fight, M. de Luynes, and you have done
a deed of which the knights of old might have been proud. Do not mar it by
an act of murder."

"Murder, Mademoiselle!" I gasped, letting my hand fall. "Surely there is
no murder in this!"

"A suspicion of it, I think, and so brave a man should have clean hands."



We did not long remain upon the field of battle. Indeed, if we lingered at
all it was but so that Mademoiselle might bandage Michelot's wound. And
whilst she did so, my stout henchman related to us how it had fared with
him, and how, having taken the two ruffians separately, he had been wounded
by the first, whom he repaid by splitting his skull, whereupon the second
one had discharged his pistol without effect, then made off towards the
road, whilst Michelot, remembering that I might need assistance, had let
him go.

"There, good Michelot," quoth Mademoiselle, completing her task, "I have
done what little I can. And now, M. de Luynes, let us go."

It was close upon seven o'clock, and night was at hand. Already the moon
was showing her large, full face above the tree-tops by Chambord, and
casting a silver streak athwart the stream. The plash of oars from the
Marquis's boat was waxing indistinct despite the stillness, whilst by the
eye the boat itself was no longer to be distinguished.

As I turned, my glance fell upon the bravo whom I had shot. He lay stiff
and stark upon his back, his sightless eyes wide open and staring
heavenwards, his face all blood-smeared and ghastly to behold.

Mademoiselle shuddered. "Let us go," she repeated in a faint whisper; her
eye had also fallen on that thing, and her voice was full of awe. She laid
her hand upon my sleeve and 'neath the suasion of her touch I moved away.

To our surprise and joy we found St. Auban's coach where we had left it,
with two saddled horses tethered close by. The others had doubtless been
taken by the coachman and the bravo who had escaped Michelot, both of whom
had fled. These animals we looked upon as the spoils of war, and
accordingly when we set out in the coach,--Mademoiselle having desired me
to ride beside her therein,--Michelot wielding the reins, it was with those
two horses tethered behind.

"Monsieur de Luynes," said my companion softly, "I fear that I have done
you a great injustice. Indeed, I know not how to crave your forgiveness,
how to thank you, or how to hide my shame at those words I spoke to you
this afternoon at Canaples."

"Not another word on that score, Mademoiselle!"

And to myself I thought of what recompense already had been mine. To me it
had been given to have her lean trustingly upon me, my arm about her waist,
whilst, sword in hand, I had fought for her. Dieu! Was that not something
to have lived for?--aye, and to have died for, methought.

"I deserved, Monsieur," she continued presently, "that you should have left
me to my fate for all the odious things I uttered when you warned me of my
peril,--for the manner in which I have treated you since your coming to

"You have but treated me, Mademoiselle, in the only manner in which you
could treat one so far beneath you, one who is utterly unworthy that you
should bestow a single regret upon him."

"You are strangely humble to-night, Monsieur. It is unwonted in you, and
for once you wrong yourself. You have not said that I am forgiven."

"I have naught to forgive."

"Hélas! you have--indeed you have!"

"Eh, bien!" quoth I, with a return of my old tone of banter, "I forgive

Thereafter we travelled on in silence for some little while, my heart full
of joy at being so near to her, and the friendliness which she evinced for
me, and my mind casting o'er my joyous heart a cloud of some indefinable
evil presage.

"You are a brave man, M. de Luynes," she murmured presently, "and I have
been taught that brave men are ever honourable and true."

"Had they who taught you that known Gaston de Luynes, they would have told
you instead that it is possible for a vile man to have the one redeeming
virtue of courage, even as it is possible for a liar to have a countenance
that is sweet and innocent."

"There speaks that humble mood you are affecting, and which sits upon you
as my father's clothes might do. Nay, Monsieur, I shall believe in my
first teaching, and be deaf to yours."

Again there was a spell of silence. At last--"I have been thinking,
Monsieur," she said, "of that other occasion on which you rode with me. I
remember that you said you had killed a man, and when I asked you why, you
said that you had done it because he sought to kill you. Was that the

"Assuredly, Mademoiselle. We fought a duel, and it is customary in a duel
for each to seek to kill the other."

"But why was this duel fought?" she cried, with some petulance.

"I fear me, Mademoiselle, that I may not answer you," I said, recalling the
exact motives, and thinking how futile appeared the quarrel which Eugène de
Canaples had sought with Andrea when viewed in the light of what had since

"Was the quarrel of your seeking?"

"In a measure it was, Mademoiselle."

"In a measure!" she echoed. Then persisting, as women will--"Will you not
tell me what this measure was?"

"Tenez, Mademoiselle," I answered in despair; "I will tell you just so much
as I may. Your brother had occasion to be opposed to certain projects that
were being formed in Paris by persons high in power around a beardless boy.
Himself of too small importance to dare wage war against those powerful
ones who would have crushed him, your brother sought to gain his ends by
sending a challenge to this boy. The lad was high-spirited and consented
to meet M. de Canaples, by whom he would assuredly have been murdered--'t
is the only word, Mademoiselle--had I not intervened as I did."

She was silent for a moment. Then--"I believe you, Monsieur," she said
simply. "You fought, then, to shield another--but why?"

"For three reasons, Mademoiselle. Firstly, those persons high in power
chose to think it my fault that the quarrel had arisen, and threatened to
hang me if the duel took place and the boy were harmed. Secondly, I myself
felt a kindness for the boy. Thirdly, because, whatever sins Heaven may
record against me, it has at least ever been my way to side against men
who, confident of their superiority, seek, with the cowardly courage of the
strong, to harm the weak. It is, Mademoiselle, the courage of the man who
knows no fear when he strikes a woman, yet who will shake with a palsy when
another man but threatens him."

"Why did you not tell me all this before?" she whispered, after a pause.
And methought I caught a quaver in her voice.

I laughed for answer, and she read my laugh aright; presently she pursued
her questions and asked me the name of the boy I had defended. But I
evaded her, telling her that she must need no further details to believe

"It is not that, Monsieur! I do believe you; I do indeed, but--"

"Hark, Mademoiselle!" I cried suddenly, as the clatter of many hoofs
sounded near at hand. "What is that?"

A shout rang out at that moment. "Halt! Who goes there?"

"Mon Dieu!" exclaimed Mademoiselle, drawing close up to me, and again the
voice sounded, this time more sinister.

"Halt, I say--in the King's name!"

The coach came to a standstill, and through the window I beheld the shadowy
forms of several mounted men, and the feeble glare of a lantern.

"Who travels in the carriage, knave?" came the voice again.

"Mademoiselle de Canaples," answered Michelot; then, like a fool, he must
needs add: "Have a care whom you knave, my master, if you would grow old."

"Pardieu! let us behold this Mademoiselle de Canaples who owns so fearful a
warrior for a coachman."

The door was flung rudely open, and the man bearing the lantern--whose rays
shone upon a uniform of the Cardinal's guards--confronted us.

With a chuckle he flashed the light in my face, then suddenly grew serious.

"Peste! Is it indeed you, M. de Luynes?" quoth he; adding, with stern
politeness, "It grieves me to disturb you, but I have a warrant for your

He was fumbling in his doublet as he spoke, and during the time I had
leisure to scan his countenance, recognising, to my surprise, a young
lieutenant of the guards who had but recently served with me, and with whom
I had been on terms almost of friendship. His words, "I have a warrant for
your arrest," came like a bolt from the blue to enlighten me, and to remind
me of what St. Auban had that morning told me, and which for the nonce I
had all but forgotten.

Upon hearing those same words, Yvonne, methought, grew pale, and her eyes
were bent upon me with a look of surprise and pity.

"Upon what charge am I arrested?" I enquired, with forced composure.

"My warrant mentions none, M. de Luynes. It is here." And he thrust
before me a paper, whose purport I could have read in its shape and seals.
Idly my eye ran along the words:

"By these presents I charge and empower my lieutenant, Jean de Montrésor,
to seize where'er he may be found, hold, and conduct to Paris the Sieur
Gaston de Luynes--"

And so further, until the Cardinal's signature ended the legal verbiage.

"In the King's name, M. de Luynes," said Montrésor, firmly yet
deferentially, "your sword!"

It would have been madness to do aught but comply with his request, and so
I surrendered my rapier, which he in his turn delivered to one of his
followers. Next I stepped down from the coach and turned to take leave of
Mademoiselle, whereupon Montrésor, thinking that peradventure matters were
as they appeared to be between us, and, being a man of fine feelings,
signed to his men to fall back, whilst he himself withdrew a few paces.

"Adieu, Mademoiselle!" I said simply. "I shall carry with me for
consolation the memory that I have been of service to you, and I shall
ever--during the little time that may be left me--be grateful to Heaven for
the opportunity that it has afforded me of causing you--perchance without
sufficient reason--to think better of me. Adieu, Mademoiselle! God guard

It was too dark to see her face, but my heart bounded with joy to catch in
her voice a quaver that argued, methought, regret for me.

"What does it mean, M. de Luynes? Why are they taking you?"

"Because I have displeased my Lord Cardinal, albeit, Mademoiselle, I swear
to you that I have no cause for shame at the reasons for which I am being

"My father is Monseigneur de Mazarin's friend," she cried. "He is also
yours. He shall exert for you what influence he possesses."

"'T were useless, Mademoiselle. Besides, what does it signify? Again,

She spoke no answering word, but silently held out her hand. Silently I
took it in mine, and for a moment I hesitated, thinking of what I was--of
what she was. At last, moved by some power that was greater than my will,
I stooped and pressed those shapely fingers to my lips. Then I stepped
suddenly back and closed the carriage door, oppressed by a feeling akin to
that of having done an evil deed.

"Have I your permission to say a word to my servant, M. le Lieutenant?" I

He bowed assent, whereat, stepping close up to the horror-stricken

"Drive straight to the Château de Canaples," I said in a low voice.
"Thereafter return to the Lys de France and there wait until you hear from
me. Here, take my purse; there are some fifty pistoles in it."

"Speak but the word, Monsieur," he growled, "and I'll pistol a couple of
these dogs."

"Pah! You grow childish," I laughed, "or can you not see that fellow's

"Pardieu! I'll risk his aim! I never yet saw one of these curs shoot

"No, no, obey me, Michelot. Think of Mademoiselle. Go! Adieu! If we
should not meet again, mon brave," I finished, as I seized his loyal hand,
"what few things of mine are at the hostelry shall belong to you, as well
as what may be left of this money. It is little enough payment, Michelot,
for all your faithfulness--"

"Monsieur, Monsieur!" he cried.

"Diable!" I muttered, "we are becoming women! Be off, you knave! Adieu!"

The peremptoriness of my tone ended our leave-taking and caused him to grip
his reins and bring down his whip. The coach moved on. A white face, on
which the moonlight fell, glanced at me from the window, then to my staring
eyes naught was left but the back of the retreating vehicle, with one of
the two saddle-horses that had been tethered to it still ambling in its

"M. de Montrésor," I said, thrusting my bullet-pierced hat upon my head, "I
am at your service."



At my captor's bidding I mounted the horse which they had untethered from
the carriage, and we started off along the road which the coach itself had
disappeared upon a moment before. But we travelled at a gentle trot,
which, after that evening's furious riding, was welcome to me.

With bitterness I reflected as I rode that the very moment at which
Mademoiselle de Canaples had brought herself to think better of me was like
to prove the last we should spend together. Yet not altogether bitter was
that reflection; for with it came also the consolation--whereof I had told
her--that I had not been taken before she had had cause to change her mind
concerning me.

That she should care for me was too preposterous an idea to be nourished,
and, indeed, it was better--much better--that M. de Montrésor had come
before I, grown sanguine as lovers will, had again earned her scorn by
showing her what my heart contained. Much better was it that I should pass
for ever out of her life--as, indeed, methought I was like to pass out of
all life--whilst I could leave in her mind a kind remembrance and a
grateful regret, free from the stain that a subsequent possible presumption
of mine might have cast o'er it.

Then my thoughts shifted to Andrea. St. Auban would hear of my removal,
and I cared not to think of what profit he might derive from it. To Yvonne
also his presence must hereafter be a menace, and in that wherein tonight
he had failed, he might, again, succeed. It was at this juncture of my
reverie that M. de Montrésor's pleasant young voice aroused me.

"You appear downcast, M. de Luynes."

"I, downcast!" I echoed, throwing back my head and laughing. "Nay. I was
but thinking.

"Believe me, M. de Luynes," he said kindly, "when I tell you that it
grieves me to be charged with this matter. I have done my best to capture
you. That was my duty. But I should have rejoiced had I failed with the
consciousness of having done all in my power."

"Thanks, Montrésor," I murmured, and silence followed.

"I have been thinking, Monsieur," he went on presently, "that possibly the
absence of your sword causes you discomfort."

"Eh? Discomfort? It does, most damnably!"

"Give me your parole d'honneur that you will attempt no escape, and not
only shall your sword be returned to you, but you shall travel to Paris
with all comfort and dignity."

Now, so amazed was I that I paused to stare at the officer who was young
enough to make such a proposal to a man of my reputation. He turned his
face towards me, and in the moonlight I could make out his questioning

"Eh, bien, Monsieur?"

"I am more than grateful to you, M. de Montrésor," I replied, "and I freely
give you my word of honour to seek no means of eluding you, nor to avail
myself of any that may be presented to me."

I said this loud enough for those behind to hear, so that no surprise was
evinced when the lieutenant bade the man who bore my sword return it to me.

If he who may chance to read these simple pages shall have gathered aught
of my character from their perusal, he will marvel, perchance, that I
should give the lieutenant my parole, instead rather of watching for an
opportunity to--at least--attempt an escape. Preeminent in my thoughts,
however, stood at that moment the necessity to remove St. Auban, and
methought that by acting as I did I saw a way by which, haply, I might
accomplish this. What might thereafter befall me seemed of little moment.

"M. de Montrésor," I said presently, "your kindness impels me to set a
further tax upon your generosity."

"That is, Monsieur?"

"Bid your men fall back a little, and I will tell you."

He made a sign to his troopers, and when the distance between us had been
sufficiently widened, I began:

"There is a man at present across the river, yonder, who has done me no
little injury, and with whom I have a rendezvous at nine o'clock to-night
at St. Sulpice des Reaux, where our swords are to determine the difference
between us. I crave, Monsieur, your permission to keep that appointment."

"Impossible!" he answered curtly.

I took a deep breath like a man who is about to jump an obstacle in his

"Why impossible, Monsieur?"

"Because you are a prisoner, and therefore no longer under obligation to
keep appointments."

"How would you feel, Montrésor, if, burning to be avenged upon a man who
had done you irreparable wrong, you were arrested an hour before the time
at which you were to meet this man, sword in hand, and your captor--whose
leave you craved to keep the assignation--answered you with the word

"Yes, yes, Monsieur," he replied impatiently. "But you forget my position.
Let us suppose that I allow you to go to St. Sulpice des Reaux. What if
you do not return?"

"You mistrust me?" I exclaimed, my hopes melting.

"You misapprehend me. I mean, what if you are killed?"

"I do not think that I shall be."

"Ah! But what if you are? What shall I say to my Lord Cardinal?"

"Dame! That I am dead, and that he is saved the trouble of hanging me.
The most he can want of me is my life. Let us suppose that you had come an
hour later. You would have been forced to wait until after the encounter,
and, did I fall, matters would be no different."

The young man fell to thinking, but I, knowing that it is not well to let
the young ponder overlong if you would bend them to your wishes, broke in
upon his reflections--"See, Montrésor, yonder are the lights of Blois; by
eight o'clock we shall be in the town. Come; grant me leave to cross the
Loire, and by ten o'clock, or half-past at the latest, I shall return to
sup with you or I shall be dead. I swear it."

"Were I in your position," he answered musingly, "I know how I would be
treated, and, pardieu! come what may I shall deal with you accordingly.
You may go to your assignation, M. de Luynes, and may God prosper you."

And thus it came to pass that shortly after eight o'clock, albeit a
prisoner, I rode into the courtyard of the Lys de France, and, alighting, I
stepped across the threshold of the inn, and strode up to a table at which
I had espied Michelot. He sat nursing a huge measure of wine, into the
depths of which he was gazing pensively, with an expression so glum upon
his weather-beaten countenance that it defies depicting. So deep was he in
his meditations, that albeit I stood by the table surveying him for a full
minute, he took no heed of me.

"Allons, Michelot!" I said at length. "Wake up."

He started up with a cry of amazement; surprise chased away the grief that
had been on his face, and a moment later joy unfeigned, and good to see,
took the place of surprise.

"You have escaped, Monsieur!" he cried, and albeit caution made him utter
the words beneath his breath, a shout seemed to lurk somewhere in the

Pressing his hand I sat down and briefly told him how matters stood, and
how I came to be for the moment free. And when I had done I bade him,
since his wound had not proved serious, to get his hat and cloak and go
with me to find a boat.

He obeyed me, and a quarter of an hour after we had quitted the hostelry he
was rowing me across the stream, whilst, wrapped in my cloak, I sat in the
stern, thinking of Yvonne.

"Monsieur," said Michelot, "observe how swift is the stream. If I were to

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