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The Suitors of Yvonne by Raphael Sabatini

Part 3 out of 4

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let the boat drift we should be at Tours to-morrow, and from there it would
be easy to defy pursuit. We have enough money to reach Spain. What say
you, Monsieur?"

"Say, you rascal? Why, bend your back to the work and set me ashore by St.
Sulpice in a quarter of an hour, or I'll forget that you have been my
friend. Would you see me dishonoured?"

"Sooner than see you dead," he grumbled as he resumed his task.
Thereafter, whilst he rowed, Michelot entertained me with some quaint ideas
touching that which fine gentlemen call honour, and to what sorry passes it
was wont to bring them, concluding by thanking God that he was no gentleman
and had no honour to lead him into mischief.

At last, however, our journey came to an end, and I sprang ashore some five
hundred paces from the little chapel, and almost exactly opposite the
Château de Canaples. I stood for a moment gazing across the water at the
lighted windows of the château, wondering which of those eyes that looked
out upon the night might be that of Yvonne's chamber.

Then, bidding Michelot await me, or follow did I not return in half an
hour, I turned and moved away towards the chapel.

There is a clearing in front of the little white edifice--which rather than
a temple is but a monument to the martyr who is said to have perished on
that spot in the days before Clovis.

As I advanced into the centre of this open patch of ground, and stood clear
of the black silhouettes of the trees, cast about me by the moon, two men
appeared to detach themselves from the side wall of the chapel, and
advanced to meet me.

Albeit they were wrapped in their cloaks--uptilted behind by their
protruding scabbards--it was not difficult to tell the tall figure and
stately bearing of St. Auban and the mincing gait of Vilmorin.

I doffed my hat in a grave salutation, which was courteously returned.

"I trust, Messieurs, that I have not kept you waiting?"

"I was on the point of expressing that very hope, Monsieur," returned St.
Auban. "We have but arrived. Do you come alone?"

"As you perceive."

"Hum! M. le Vicomte, then, will act for both of us."

I bowed in token of my satisfaction, and without more ado cast aside my
cloak, pleased to see that the affair was to be conducted with decency and
politeness, as such matters should ever be conducted, albeit impoliteness
may have marked their origin.

The Marquis, having followed my example and divested himself of his cloak
and hat, unsheathed his rapier and delivered it to Vilmorin, who came
across with it to where I stood. When he was close to me I saw that he was
deadly pale; his teeth chattered, and the hand that held the weapon shook
as with a palsy.

"Mu--Monsieur," he stammered, "will it please you to lend me your sword
that I may mu-measure it?"

"What formalities!" I exclaimed with an amused smile, as I complied with
his request. "I am afraid you have caught a chill, Vicomte. The night air
is little suited to health so delicate."

He answered me with a baleful glance, as silently he took my sword and set
it--point to hilt--with St. Auban's. He appeared to have found some slight
difference in the length, for he took two steps away from me, holding the
weapons well in the light, where for a moment he surveyed them attentively.
His hands shook so that the blades clattered one against the other the
while. But, of a sudden, taking both rapiers by the hilt, he struck the
blades together with a ringing clash, then flung them both behind him as
far as he could contrive, leaving me thunderstruck with amazement, and
marvelling whether fear had robbed him of his wits.

Not until I perceived that the trees around me appeared to spring into life
did it occur to me that that clashing of blades was a signal, and that I
was trapped. With the realisation of it I was upon Vilmorin in a bound,
and with both hands I had caught the dog by the throat before he thought of
flight. The violence of my onslaught bore him to the ground, and I, not to
release my choking grip, went with him.

For a moment we lay together where we had fallen, his slender body twisting
and writhing under me, his swelling face upturned and his protruding,
horror-stricken eyes gazing into mine that were fierce and pitiless.
Voices rang above me; someone stooped and strove to pluck me from my
victim; then below the left shoulder I felt a sting of pain, first cold
then hot, and I knew that I had been stabbed.

Again I felt the blade thrust in, lower down and driven deeper; then, as
the knife was for the second time withdrawn, and my flesh sucked at the
steel,--the pain of it sending a shudder through me,--the instinct of
preservation overcame the sweet lust to strangle Vilmorin. I let him go
and, staggering to my feet, I turned to face those murderers who struck a
defenceless man behind.

Swords gleamed around me: one, two, three, four, five, six, I counted, and
stood weak and dazed from loss of blood, gazing stupidly at the white
blades. Had I but had my sword I should have laid about me, and gone down
beneath their blows as befits a soldier. But the absence of that trusty
friend left me limp and helpless--cowed for the first time since I had
borne arms.

Of a sudden I became aware that St. Auban stood opposite to me, hand on
hip, surveying me with a malicious leer. As our eyes met--"So, master
meddler," quoth he mockingly, "you crow less lustily than is your wont."

"Hound!" I gasped, choking with rage, "if you are a man, if there be a
spark of pride or honour left in your lying, cowardly soul, order your
assassins to give me my sword, and, wounded though I be, I'll fight with
you this duel that you lured me here to fight."

He laughed harshly.

"I told you but this morning, Master de Luynes, that a St. Auban does not
fight men of your stamp. You forced a rendezvous upon me; you shall reap
the consequences."

Despite the weakness arising from loss of blood, I sprang towards him,
beside myself with fury. But ere I had covered half the distance that lay
between us my arms were gripped from behind, and in my spent condition I
was held there, powerless, at the Marquis's mercy. He came slowly forward
until we were but some two feet apart. For a second he stood leering at
me, then, raising his hand, he struck me--struck a man whose arms another
held!--full upon the face. Passion for the moment lent me strength, and in
that moment I had wrenched my right arm free and returned his blow with

With an oath he got out a dagger that hung from his baldrick.

"Sang du Christ! Take that, you dog!" he snarled, burying the blade in my
breast as he spoke.

"My God! You are murdering me!" I gasped.

"Have you discovered it? What penetration!" he retorted, and those about
him laughed at his indecent jest!

He made a sign, and the man who had held me withdrew his hands. I
staggered forward, deprived of his support, then a crashing blow took me
across the head.

I swayed for an instant, and with arms upheld I clutched at the air, as if
I sought, by hanging to it, to save myself from falling; then the moon
appeared to go dark, a noise as of the sea beating upon its shore filled my
ears, and I seemed to be falling--falling--falling.

A voice that buzzed and vibrated oddly, growing more distant at each word,
reached me as I sank.

"Come," it said. "Fling that carrion into the river."

Then nothingness engulfed me.



Even as the blow which had plunged me into senselessness had imparted to me
the sinking sensation which I have feebly endeavoured to depict, so did the
first dim ray of returning consciousness bring with it the feeling that I
was again being buoyed upwards through the thick waters that had enveloped
me, to their surface, where intelligence and wakefulness awaited.

And as I felt myself borne up and up in that effortless ascension, my
senses awake and my reason still half-dormant, an exquisite sense of
languor pervaded my whole being. Presently meseemed that the surface was
gained at last, and an instinct impelled me to open my eyes upon the light,
of which, through closed lids, I had become conscious.

I beheld a fair-sized room superbly furnished, and flooded with amber
sunlight suggestive in itself of warmth and luxury, the vision of which
heightened the delicious torpor that held me in thrall. The bed I lay upon
was such, I told myself, as would not have disgraced a royal sleeper. It
was upheld by great pillars of black oak, carved with a score of fantastic
figures, and all around it, descending from the dome above, hung curtains
of rich damask, drawn back at the side that looked upon the window. Near
at hand stood a table laden with phials and such utensils as one sees by
the bedside of the wealthy sick. All this I beheld in a languid,
unreasoning fashion through my half-open lids, and albeit the luxury of the
room and the fine linen of my bed told me that this was neither my Paris
lodging in the Rue St. Antoine, nor yet my chamber at the hostelry of the
Lys de France, still I taxed not my brain with any questions touching my

I closed my eyes, and I must have slept again: when next I opened them a
burly figure stood in the deep bay of the latticed window, looking out
through the leaded panes.

I recognised the stalwart frame of Michelot, and at last I asked myself
where I might be. It did not seem to occur to me that I had but to call
him to receive an answer to that question. Instead, I closed my eyes
again, and essayed to think. But just then there came a gentle scratching
at the door, and I could hear Michelot tiptoeing across the room; next he
and the one he had admitted tiptoed back towards my bedside, and as they
came I caught a whisper in a voice that seemed to drag me to full

"How fares the poor invalid this morning?"

"The fever is gone, Mademoiselle, and he may wake at any moment; indeed, it
is strange that he should sleep so long."

"He will be the better for it when he does awaken. I will remain here
while you rest, Michelot. My poor fellow, you are almost as worn with your
vigils as he is with the fever."

"Pooh! I am strong enough, Mademoiselle," he answered. "I will get a
mouthful of food and return, for I would be by when he wakes."

Then their voices sank so low that as they withdrew I caught not what was
said. The door closed softly and for a space there was silence, broken at
last by a sigh above my head. With an answering sigh I opened wide my eyes
and feasted them upon the lovely face of Yvonne de Canaples, as she bent
over me with a look of tenderness and pity that at once recalled to me our
parting when I was arrested.

But suddenly meeting the stare of my gaze, she drew back with a half-
stifled cry, whose meaning my dull wits sought not to interpret, but
methought I caught from her lips the words, "Thank God!"

"Where am I, Mademoiselle?" I inquired, and the faintness of my voice
amazed me.

"You know me!" she exclaimed, as though the thing were a miracle. Then
coming forward again, and setting her cool, sweet hand upon my forehead,

"Hush," she murmured in the accents one might use to soothe a child. "You
are at Canaples, among friends. Now sleep."

"At Canaples!" I echoed. "How came I here? I am a prisoner, am I not?"

"A prisoner!" she exclaimed. "No, no, you are not a prisoner. You are
among friends."

"Did I then but dream that Montrésor arrested me yesterday on the road to
Meung? Ah! I recollect! M. de Montrésor gave me leave on parole to go to

Then, like an avalanche, remembrance swept down upon me, and my memory drew
a vivid picture of the happenings at St. Sulpice.

"My God!" I cried. "Am I not dead, then?" And I sought to struggle up
into a sitting posture, but that gentle hand upon my forehead restrained
and robbed me of all will that was not hers.

"Hush, Monsieur!" she said softly. "Lie still. By a miracle and the
faithfulness of Michelot you live. Be thankful, be content, and sleep."

"But my wounds, Mademoiselle?" I inquired feebly.

"They are healed."

"Healed?" quoth I, and in my amazement my voice sounded louder than it had
yet done since my awakening. "Healed! Three such wounds as I took last
night, to say naught of a broken head, healed?"

"'T was not last night, Monsieur."

"Not last night? Was it not last night that I went to Reaux?"

"It is nearly a month since that took place," she answered with a smile.
"For nearly a month have you lain unconscious upon that bed, with the angel
of Death at your pillow. You have fought and won a silent battle. Now
sleep, Monsieur, and ask no more questions until next you awaken, when
Michelot shall tell you all that took place."

She held a glass to my lips from which I drank gratefully, then, with the
submissiveness of a babe, I obeyed her and slept.

As she had promised, it was Michelot who greeted me when next I opened my
eyes, on the following day. There were tears in his eyes--eyes that had
looked grim and unmoved upon the horrors of the battlefield.

From him I learned how, after they had flung me into the river, deeming me
dead already, St. Auban and his men had made off. The swift stream swirled
me along towards the spot where, in the boat, Michelot awaited my return
all unconscious of what was taking place. He had heard the splash, and had
suddenly stood up, on the point of going ashore, when my body rose within a
few feet of him. He spoke of the agony of mind wherewith he had suddenly
stretched forth and clutched me by my doublet, fearing that I was indeed
dead. He had lifted me into the boat to find that my heart still beat and
that the blood flowed from my wounds. These he had there and then bound up
in the only rude fashion he was master of, and forthwith, thinking of
Andrea and the Chevalier de Canaples, who were my friends, and of
Mademoiselle, who was my debtor, also seeing that the château was the
nearest place, he had rowed straight across to Canaples, and there I had
lain during the four weeks that had elapsed, nursed by Mademoiselle,
Andrea, and himself, and thus won back to life.

Ah, Dieu! How good it was to know that someone there was still who cared
for worthless Gaston de Luynes a little--enough to watch beside him and
withhold his soul from the grim claws of Death.

"What of M. de St. Auban?" I inquired presently.

"He has not been seen since that night. Probably he feared that did he
come to Blois, the Chevalier would find means of punishing him for the
attempted abduction of Mademoiselle."

"Ah, then Andrea is safe?"

As if in answer to my question, the lad entered at that moment, and upon
seeing me sitting up, talking to Michelot, he uttered an exclamation of
joy, and hurried forward to my bedside.

"Gaston, dear friend!" he cried, as he took my hand--and a thin, withered
hand it was.

We talked long together,--we three,--and anon we were joined by the
Chevalier de Canaples, who offered me also, in his hesitating manner, his
felicitations. And with me they lingered until Yvonne came to drive them
with protestations from my bedside.

Such, in brief, was the manner of my resurrection. For a week or so I
still kept my chamber; then one day towards the middle of April, the
weather being warm and the sun bright, Michelot assisted me to don my
clothes, which hung strangely empty upon my gaunt, emaciated frame, and,
leaning heavily upon my faithful henchman, I made my way below.

In the salon I found the Chevalier de Canaples with Mesdemoiselles and
Andrea awaiting me, and the kindness wherewith they overwhelmed me, as I
sat propped up with pillows, was such that I asked myself again and again
if, indeed, I was that same Gaston de Luynes who but a little while ago had
held himself as destitute of friends as he was of fortune. I was the
pampered hero of the hour, and even little Geneviève had a sunny smile and
a kind word for me.

Thereafter my recovery progressed with great strides, and gradually, day by
day, I felt more like my old vigorous self. They were happy days, for
Mademoiselle was often at my side, and ever kind to me; so kind was she
that presently, as my strength grew, there fell a great cloud athwart my
happiness--the thought that soon I must leave Canaples never to return
there,--leave Mademoiselle's presence never to come into it again.

I was Monsieur de Montrésor's prisoner. I had learned that in common with
all others, save those at Canaples, he deemed me dead, and that, informed
of it by a message from St. Auban, he had returned to Paris on the day
following that of my journey to Reaux. Nevertheless, since I lived, he had
my parole, and it was my duty as soon as I had regained sufficient
strength, to journey to Paris and deliver myself into his hands.

Nearer and nearer drew the dreaded hour in which I felt that I must leave
Canaples. On the last day of April I essayed a fencing bout with Andrea,
and so strong and supple did I prove myself that I was forced to realise
that the time was come. On the morrow I would go.

As I was on the point of returning indoors with the foils under my arm,
Andrea called me back.

"Gaston, I have something of importance to say to you. Will you take a
turn with me down yonder by the river?"

There was a serious, almost nervous look on his comely face, which arrested
my attention. I dropped the foils, and taking his arm I went with him as
he bade me. We seated ourselves on the grass by the edge of the gurgling
waters, and he began:

"It is now two months since we came to Blois: I, to pay my court to the
wealthy Mademoiselle de Canaples; you, to watch over and protect me--nay,
you need not interrupt me. Michelot has told me what St. Auban sought
here, and the true motives of your journey to St. Sulpice. Never shall I
be able to sufficiently prove my gratitude to you, my poor Gaston. But
tell me, dear friend, you who from the outset saw how matters stood, why
did you not inform St. Auban that he had no cause to hunt me down since I
intended not to come between him and Yvonne?"

"Mon Dieu!" I exclaimed, "that little fair-haired coquette has--"

"Gaston," he interrupted, "you go too fast. I love Geneviève de Canaples.
I have loved her, I think, since the moment I beheld her in the inn at
Choisy, and, what is more, she loves me."

"So that--?" I asked with an ill-repressed sneer.

"We have plighted our troth, and with her father's sanction, or without it,
she will do me the honour to become my wife."

"Admirable!" I exclaimed. "And my Lord Cardinal?"

"May hang himself on his stole for aught I care."

"Ah! Truly a dutiful expression for a nephew who has thwarted his uncle's

"My uncle's plans are like himself, cold and selfish in their ambition."

"Andrea, Andrea! Whatever your uncle may be, to those of your blood, at
least, he was never selfish."

"Not selfish!" he cried. "Think you that he is enriching and contracting
great alliances for us because he loves us? No, no. Our uncle seeks to
gain our support and with it the support of those noble houses to which he
is allying us. The nobility opposes him, therefore he seeks to find
relatives among noblemen, so that he may weather the storm of which his
far-seeing eyes have already detected the first dim clouds. What to him
are my feelings, my inclinations, my affections? Things of no moment, to
be sacrificed so that I may serve him in the manner that will bring him the
most profit. Yet you call him not selfish! Were he not selfish, I should
go to him and say: 'I love Geneviève de Canaples. Create me Duke as you
would do, did I wed her sister, and the Chevalier de Canaples will not
withstand our union.' What think you would be his answer?"

"I have a shrewd idea what his answer would be," I replied slowly. "Also I
have a shrewd idea of what he will say when he learns in what manner you
have defied his wishes."

"He can but order me away from Court, or, at most, banish me from France."

"And then what will become of you--of you and your wife?"

"What is to become of us?" he cried in a tone that was almost that of
anger. "Think you that I am a pauper dependent upon my uncle's bounty? I
have an estate near Palermo, which, for all that it does not yield riches,
is yet sufficient to enable us to live with dignity and comfort. I have
told Geneviève, and she is content."

I looked at his flushed face and laughed.

"Well, well!" said I. "If you are resolved upon it, it is ended."

He appeared to meditate for a moment, then--"We have decided to be married
by the Curé of St. Innocent on the day after to-morrow."

"Crédieu!" I answered, with a whistle, "you have wasted no time in
determining your plans. Does Yvonne know of it?"

"We have dared tell nobody," he replied; and a moment later he added
hesitatingly, "You, I know, will not betray us."

"Do you know me so little that you doubt me on that score? Have no fear,
Andrea, I shall not speak. Besides, to-morrow, or the next day at latest,
I leave Canaples."

"You do not mean that you are returning to the Lys de France!"

"No. I am going farther than that. I am going to Paris."

"To Paris?"

"To Paris, to deliver myself up to M. de Montrésor, who gave me leave to go
to Reaux some seven weeks ago."

"But it is madness, Gaston!" he ejaculated.

"All virtue is madness in a world so sinful; nevertheless I go. In a
measure I am glad that things have fallen out with you as they have done,
for when the news goes abroad that you have married Geneviève de Canaples
and left the heiress free, your enemies will vanish, and you will have no
further need of me. New enemies you will have perchance, but in your
strife with them I could lend you no help, were I by."

He sat in silence casting pebbles into the stream, and watching the ripples
they made upon the face of the waters.

"Have you told Mademoiselle?" he asked at length.

"Not yet. I shall tell her to-day. You also, Andrea, must take her into
your confidence touching your approaching marriage. That she will prove a
good friend to you I am assured."

"But what reason shall I give form my secrecy?" he inquired, and inwardly I
smiled to see how the selfishness which love begets in us had caused him
already to forget my affairs, and how the thought of his own approaching
union effaced all thought of me and the doom to which I went.

"Give no reason," I answered. "Let Genevieve tell her of what you
contemplate, and if a reason she must have, let Geneviève bid her come to
me. This much will I do for you in the matter; indeed, Andrea, it is the
last service I am like to render you."

"Sh! Here comes the Chevalier. She shall be told to-day."



For all that I realised that this love of mine for Yvonne was as a child
still-born--a thing that had no existence save in the heart that had
begotten it--I rejoiced meanly at the thought that she was not destined to
become Andrea's wife. For since I understood that this woman--who to me
was like no other of her sex--was not for so poor a thing as Gaston de
Luynes, like the dog in the fable I wished that no other might possess her.
Inevitable it seemed that sooner or later one must come who would woo and
win her. But ere that befell, my Lord Cardinal would have meted out
justice to me--the justice of the rope meseemed--and I should not be by to
gnash my teeth in jealousy.

That evening, when the Chevalier de Canaples had gone to pay a visit to his
vineyard,--the thing that, next to himself, he loved most in this world,--
and whilst Geneviève and Andrea were vowing a deathless love to each other
in the rose garden, their favourite haunt when the Chevalier was absent, I
seized the opportunity for making my adieux to Yvonne.

We were leaning together upon the balustrade of the terrace, and our faces
were turned towards the river and the wooded shores beyond--a landscape
this that was as alive and beautiful now as it had been dead and grey when
first I came to Canaples two months ago.

Scarce were my first words spoken when she turned towards me, and
methought--but I was mad, I told myself--that there was a catch in her
voice as she exclaimed, "You are leaving us, Monsieur?"

"To-morrow morning I shall crave Monsieur your father's permission to quit

"But why, Monsieur? Have we not made you happy here?"

"So happy, Mademoiselle," I answered with fervour, "that at times it passes
my belief that I am indeed Gaston de Luynes. But go I must. My honour
demands of me this sacrifice."

And in answer to the look of astonishment that filled her wondrous eyes, I
told her what I had told Andrea touching my parole to Montrésor, and the
necessity of its redemption. As Andrea had done, she also dubbed it
madness, but her glance was, nevertheless, so full of admiration, that
methought to have earned it was worth the immolation of liberty--of life
perchance; who could say?

"Before I go, Mademoiselle," I pursued, looking straight before me as I
spoke, and dimly conscious that her glance was bent upon my face--"before I
go, I fain would thank you for all that you have done for me here. Your
care has saved my life, Mademoiselle; your kindness, methinks, has saved my
soul. For it seems to me that I am no longer the same man whom Michelot
fished out of the Loire that night two months ago. I would thank you,
Mademoiselle, for the happiness that has been mine during the past few
days--a happiness such as for years has not fallen to my lot. To another
and worthier man, the task of thanking you might be an easy one; but to me,
who know myself to be so far beneath you, the obligation is so overwhelming
that I know of no words to fitly express it."

"Monsieur, Monsieur, I beseech you! Already you have said overmuch."

"Nay, Mademoiselle; not half enough."

"Have you forgotten, then, what you did for me? Our trivial service to you
is but unseemly recompense. What other man would have come to my rescue as
you came, with such odds against you--and forgetting the affronting words
wherewith that very day I had met your warning? Tell me, Monsieur, who
would have done that?"

"Why, any man who deemed himself a gentleman, and who possessed such
knowledge as I had."

She laughed a laugh of unbelief.

"You are mistaken, sir," she answered. "The deed was worthy of one of
those preux chevaliers we read of, and I have never known but one man
capable of accomplishing it."

Those words and the tone wherein they were uttered set my brain on fire. I
turned towards her; our glances met, and her eyes--those eyes that but a
while ago had never looked on me without avowing the disdain wherein she
had held me--were now filled with a light of kindliness, of sympathy, of
tenderness that seemed more than I could endure.

Already my hand was thrust into the bosom of my doublet, and my fingers
were about to drag forth that little shred of green velvet that I had found
in the coppice on the day of her abduction, and that I had kept ever since
as one keeps the relic of a departed saint. Another moment and I should
have poured out the story of the mad, hopeless passion that filled my heart
to bursting, when of a sudden--"Yvonne, Yvonne!" came Geneviève's fresh
voice from the other end of the terrace. The spell of that moment was

Methought Mademoiselle made a little gesture of impatience as she answered
her sister's call; then, with a word of apology, she left me.

Half dazed by the emotions that had made sport of me, I leaned over the
balustrade, and with my elbows on the stone and my chin on my palms, I
stared stupidly before me, thanking God for having sent Geneviève in time
to save me from again earning Mademoiselle's scorn. For as I grew sober I
did not doubt that with scorn she would have met the wild words that
already trembled on my lips.

I laughed harshly and aloud, such a laugh as those in Hell may vent.
"Gaston, Gaston!" I muttered, "at thirty-two you are more a fool than ever
you were at twenty."

I told myself then that my fancy had vested her tone and look with a
kindliness far beyond that which they contained, and as I thought of how I
had deemed impatient the little gesture wherewith she had greeted
Geneviève's interruption I laughed again.

From the reverie into which, naturally enough, I lapsed, it was
Mademoiselle who aroused me. She stood beside me with an unrest of manner
so unusual in her, that straightway I guessed the substance of her talk
with Geneviève.

"So, Mademoiselle," I said, without waiting for her to speak, "you have
learned what is afoot?"

"I have," she answered. "That they love each other is no news to me. That
they intend to wed does not surprise me. But that they should contemplate
a secret marriage passes my comprehension."

I cleared my throat as men will when about to embark upon a perilous
subject with no starting-point determined.

"It is time, Mademoiselle," I began, "that you should learn the true cause
of M. de Mancini's presence at Canaples. It will enlighten you touching
his motives for a secret wedding. Had things fallen out as was intended by
those who planned his visit--Monsieur your father and my Lord Cardinal--it
is improbable that you would ever have heard that which it now becomes
necessary that I should tell you. I trust, Mademoiselle," I continued,
"that you will hear me in a neutral spirit, without permitting your
personal feelings to enter into your consideration of that which I shall

"So long a preface augurs anything but well," she interposed, looking
monstrous serious.

"Not ill, at least, I hope. Hear me then. Your father and his Eminence
are friends; the one has a daughter who is said to be very wealthy and whom
he, with fond ambition, desires to see wedded to a man who can give her an
illustrious name; the other possesses a nephew whom he can ennoble by the
highest title that a man may bear who is not a prince of the blood,--and
borne indeed by few who are not,--and whom he desires to see contract an
alliance that will bring him enough of riches to enable him to bear his
title with becoming dignity." I glanced at Mademoiselle, whose cheeks were
growing an ominous red.

"Well, Mademoiselle," I continued, "your father and Monseigneur de Mazarin
appear to have bared their heart's desire to each other, and M. de Mancini
was sent to Canaples to woo and win your father's elder daughter."

A long pause followed, during which she stood with face aflame, averted
eyes, and heaving bosom, betraying the feelings that stormed within her at
the disclosure of the bargain whereof she had been a part. At length--"Oh,
Monsieur!" she exclaimed in a choking voice, and clenching her shapely
hands, "to think--"

"I beseech you not to think, Mademoiselle," I interrupted calmly, for,
having taken the first plunge, I was now master of myself. "The ironical
little god, whom the ancients painted with bandaged eyes, has led M. de
Mancini by the nose in this matter, and things have gone awry for the
plotters. There, Mademoiselle, you have the reason for a clandestine
union. Did Monsieur your father guess how Andrea's affections have"--I
caught the word "miscarried" betimes, and substituted--"gone against his
wishes, his opposition is not a thing to be doubted."

"Are you sure there is no mistake?" she inquired after a pause. "Is all
this really true, Monsieur?"

"It is, indeed."

"But how comes it that my father has seen naught of what has been so plain
to me--that M. de Mancini was ever at my sister's side?"

"Your father, Mademoiselle, is much engrossed in his vineyard. Moreover,
when the Chevalier has been at hand he has been careful to show no greater
regard for the one than for the other of you. I instructed him in this
duplicity many weeks ago."

She looked at me for a moment.

"Oh, Monsieur," she cried passionately, "how deep is my humiliation! To
think that I was made a part of so vile a bargain! Oh, I am glad that M.
de Mancini has proved above the sordid task to which they set him--glad
that he will dupe the Cardinal and my father."

"So am not I, Mademoiselle," I exclaimed. She vouchsafed me a stare of
ineffable surprise.


"Diable!" I answered. "I am M. de Mancini's friend. It was to shield him
that I fought your brother; again, because of my attitude towards him was
it that I went perilously near assassination at Reaux. Enemies sprang up
about him when the Cardinal's matrimonial projects became known. Your
brother picked a quarrel with him, and when I had dealt with your brother,
St. Auban appeared, and after St. Auban there were others. When it is
known that he has played this trick upon 'Uncle Giulio' his enemies will
disappear; but, on the other hand, his prospects will all be blighted, and
for that I am sorry."

"So that was the motive of your duel with Eugène!"

"At last you learn it."

"And," she added in a curious voice, "you would have been better pleased
had M. de Mancini carried out his uncle's wishes?"

"It matters little what I would think, Mademoiselle," I answered guardedly,
for I could not read that curious tone of hers.

"Nevertheless, I am curious to hear your answer."

What answer could I make? The truth--that for all my fine talk, I was at
heart and in a sense right glad that she was not to become Andrea's wife--
would have seemed ungallant. Moreover, I must have added the explanation
that I desired to see her no man's wife, so that I might not seem to
contradict myself. Therefore--

"In truth, Mademoiselle," I answered, lying glibly, "it would have given me
more pleasure had Andrea chosen to obey his Eminence."

Her manner froze upon the instant.

"In the consideration of your friend's advancement," she replied, half
contemptuously, "you forget, M. de Luynes, to consider me. Am I, then, a
thing to be bartered into the hands of the first fortune-hunter who woos me
because he has been bidden so to do, and who is to marry me for political
purposes? Pshaw, M. de Luynes!" she added, with a scornful laugh, "after
all, I was a fool to expect aught else from--"

She checked herself abruptly, and a sudden access of mercy left the
stinging "you" unuttered. I stood by, dumb and sheepish, not understanding
how the words that I had deemed gallant could have brought this tempest
down upon my head. Before I could say aught that might have righted
matters, or perchance made them worse--"Since you leave Canaples to-
morrow," quoth she, "I will say 'Adieu,' Monsieur, for it is unlikely that
we shall meet again."

With a slight inclination of her head, and withholding her hand
intentionally, she moved away, whilst I stood, as only a fool or a statue
would stand, and watched her go.

Once she paused, and, indeed, half turned, whereupon hope knocked at my
heart again; but before I had admitted it, she had resumed her walk towards
the house. Hungrily I followed her graceful, lissom figure with my eyes
until she had crossed the threshold. Then, with a dull ache in my breast,
I flung myself upon a stone seat, and, addressing myself to the setting sun
for want of a better audience, I roundly cursed her sex for the knottiest
puzzle that had ever plagued the mind of man in the unravelling.



"Gaston," quoth Andrea next morning, "you will remain at Canaples until to-
morrow? You must, for to-morrow I am to be wed, and I would fain have your
good wishes ere you go."

"Nice hands, mine, to seek a benediction at," I grumbled.

"But you will remain? Come, Gaston, we have been good friends, you and I,
and who knows when next we shall meet? Believe me, I shall value your 'God
speed' above all others."

"Likely enough, since it will be the only one you'll hear."

But for all my sneers he was not to be put off. He talked and coaxed so
winningly that in the end--albeit I am a man not easily turned from the
course he has set himself--the affectionate pleading in his fresh young
voice and the affectionate look in his dark eyes won me to his way.

Forthwith I went in quest of the Chevalier, whom, at the indication of a
lackey, I discovered in the room it pleased him to call his study--that
same room into which we had been ushered on the day of our arrival at
Canaples. I told him that on the morrow I must set out for Paris, and
albeit he at first expressed a polite regret, yet when I had shown him how
my honour was involved in my speedy return thither, he did not urge me to
put off my departure.

"It grieves me, sir, that you must go, and I deeply regret the motive that
is taking you. Yet I hope that his Eminence, in recognition of the
services you have rendered his nephew, will see fit to forget what cause
for resentment he may have against you, and render you your liberty. If
you will give me leave, Monsieur, I will write to his Eminence in this
strain, and you shall be the bearer of my letter."

I thanked him, with a smile of deprecation, as I thought of the true cause
of Mazarin's resentment, which was precisely that of the plea upon which M.
de Canaples sought to obtain for me my liberation.

"And now, Monsieur," he pursued nervously, "touching Andrea and his visit
here, I would say a word to you who are his friend, and may haply know
something of his mind. It is over two months since he came here, and yet
the--er--affair which we had hoped to bring about seems no nearer its
conclusion than when first he came. Of late I have watched him and I have
watched Yvonne; they are certainly good friends, yet not even the frail
barrier of formality appears overcome betwixt them, and I am beginning to
fear that Andrea is not only lukewarm in this matter, but is forgetful of
his uncle's wishes and selfishly indifferent to Monseigneur's projects and
mine, which, as he well knows, are the reason of his sojourn at my château.
What think you of this, M. de Luynes?"

He shot a furtive glance at me as he spoke, and with his long, lean
forefinger he combed his beard in a nervous fashion.

I gave a short laugh to cover my embarrassment at the question.

"What do I think, Monsieur?" I echoed to gain time. Then, thinking that a
sententious answer would be the most fitting,--"Ma foi! Love is as the
spark that lies latent in flint and steel: for days and weeks these two may
be as close together as you please, and naught will come of it; but one
fine day, a hand--the hand of chance--will strike the one against the
other, and lo!--the spark is born!"

"You speak in parables, Monsieur," was his caustic comment.

"'T is in parables that all religions are preached," I returned, "and love,
methinks, is a great religion in this world."

"Love, sir, love!" he cried petulantly. "The word makes me sick! What has
love to do with this union? Love, sir, is a pretty theme for poets,
romancers, and fools. The imagination of such a sentiment--for it is a
sentiment that does not live save in the imagination--may serve to draw
peasants and other low­bred clods into wedlock. With such as we--with
gentlemen--it has naught to do. So let that be, Monsieur. Andrea de
Mancini came hither to wed my daughter."

"And I am certain, Monsieur," I answered stoutly, "that Andrea will wed
your daughter."

"You speak with confidence."

"I know Andrea well. Signs that may be hidden to you are clear to me, and
I have faith in my prophecy."

He looked at me, and fell a victim to my confidence of manner. The
petulancy died out of his face.

"Well, well! We will hope. My Lord Cardinal is to create him Duke, and he
will assume as title his wife's estate, becoming known to history as Andrea
de Mancini, Duke of Canaples. Thus shall a great house be founded that
will bear our name. You see the importance of it?"


"And how reasonable is my anxiety?"


"And you are in sympathy with me?"

"Pardieu! Why else did I go so near to killing your son?"

"True," he mused. Then suddenly he added, "Apropos, have you heard that
Eugène has become one of the leaders of these frondeur madmen?"

"Ah! Then he is quite recovered?"

"Unfortunately," he assented with a grimace, and thus our interview ended.

That day wore slowly to its close. I wandered hither and thither in the
château and the grounds, hungering throughout the long hours for a word
with Mademoiselle--a glimpse of her, at least.

But all day long she kept her chamber, the pretext being that she was beset
by a migraine. By accident I came upon her that evening, at last, in the
salon; yet my advent was the signal for her departure, and all the words
she had for me were:

"Still at Canaples, Monsieur? I thought you were to have left this
morning." She looked paler than her wont, and her eyes were somewhat red.

"I am remaining until to-morrow," said I awkwardly.

"Vraiement!" was all she answered, and she was gone.

Next morning the Chevalier and I breakfasted alone. Mademoiselle's
migraine was worse. Geneviève was nursing, so her maid brought word--
whilst Andrea had gone out an hour before and had not returned.

The Chevalier shot me an apologetic glance across the board.

"'T is a poor 'God speed' to you, M. de Luynes."

I made light of it and turned the conversation into an indifferent channel,
wherein it abided until, filling himself a bumper of Anjou, the Chevalier
solemnly drank to my safe journey and good fortune in Paris.

At that moment Andrea entered by the door abutting on the terrace balcony.
He was flushed, and his eyes sparkled with a joyous fever. Profuse was he
in his apologies, which, howbeit, were passing vague in character, and
which he brought to a close by pledging me as the Chevalier had done

As we rose, Geneviève appeared with the news that Yvonne was somewhat
better, adding that she had come to take leave of me. Her composure
surprised me gladly, for albeit in her eyes there was also a telltale
light, the lids, demurely downcast as was her wont, amply screened it from
the vulgar gaze.

Andrea would tell his father-in-law of the marriage later in the day; and
for all I am not a chicken-hearted man, still I had no stomach to be at
hand when the storm broke.

The moment having come for my departure, and Michelot awaiting me already
with the horses in the courtyard, M. de Canaples left us to seek the letter
which I was to carry to his Eminence. So soon as the door had closed upon
him, Andrea came forward, leading his bride by the hand, and asked me to
wish them happiness.

"With all my heart," I answered; "and if happiness be accorded you in a
measure with the fervency of my wishes then shall you, indeed, be happy.
Each of you I congratulate upon the companion in life you have chosen.
Cherish him, Mademoi--Madame, for he is loyal and true--and such are rare
in this world."

It is possible that I might have said more in this benign and fatherly
strain--for it seemed to me that this new role I had assumed suited me
wondrous well--but a shadow that drew our eyes towards the nearest window
interrupted me. And what we saw there drew a cry from Andrea, a shudder
from Geneviève, and from me a gasp that was half amazement, half dismay.
For, leaning upon the sill, surveying us with a sardonic, evil grin, we
beheld Eugène de Canaples, the man whom I had left with a sword-thrust
through his middle behind the Hôtel Vendôme two months ago. Whence was he
sprung, and why came he thus to his father's house?

He started as I faced him, for doubtless St. Auban had boasted to him that
he had killed me in a duel. For a moment he remained at the window, then
he disappeared, and we could hear the ring of his spurred heel as he walked
along the balcony towards the door.

And simultaneously came the quick, hurrying steps of the Chevalier de
Canaples, as he crossed the hall, returning with the letter he had gone to

Geneviève shuddered again, and looked fearfully from one door to the other;
Andrea drew a sharp breath like a man in pain, whilst I rapped out an oath
to brace my nerves for the scene which we all three foresaw. Then in
silence we waited, some subtle instinct warning us of the disaster that

The steps on the balcony halted, and a second later those in the hall; and
then, as though the thing had been rehearsed and timed so that the
spectators might derive the utmost effect from it, the doors opened
together, and on the opposing thresholds, with the width of the room
betwixt them, stood father and son confronted.



Whilst a man might tell a dozen did those two remain motionless, the one
eyeing the other. But their bearing was as widely different as their
figures; Eugène's stalwart frame stood firm and erect, insolence in every
line of it, reflected perchance from the smile that lurked about the
corners of his thin­lipped mouth.

The hat, which he had not had the grace to doff, set jauntily upon his
straight black hair, the jerkin of leather which he wore, and the stout
sword which hung from the plainest of belts, all served to give him the air
of a ruffler, or tavern knight.

The Chevalier, on the other hand, stood as if turned to stone. From his
enervated fingers the letter fluttered to the ground, and on his pale, thin
face was to be read a displeasure mixed with fear.

At length, with an oath, the old man broke the silence.

"What seek you at Canaples?" he asked in a quivering voice, as he advanced
into the room. "Are you so dead to shame that you dare present yourself
with such effrontery? Off with your hat, sir!" he blazed, stamping his
foot, and going from pale to crimson. "Off with your hat, or Mortdieu,
I'll have you flung out of doors by my grooms."

This show of vehemence, as sudden as it was unexpected, drew from Eugène a
meek obedience that I had not looked for. Nevertheless, the young man's
lip curled as he uncovered.

"How fatherly is your greeting!" he sneered. The Chevalier's eyes flashed
a glance that lacked no venom at his son.

"What manner of greeting did you look for?" he returned hotly. "Did you
expect me to set a ring upon your finger, and have the fattened calf killed
in honour of your return? Sangdieu, sir! Have you come hither to show me
how a father should welcome the profligate son who has dishonoured his
name? Why are you here, unbidden? Answer me, sir!"

A deep flush overspread Eugène's cheeks.

"I had thought when I crossed the threshold that this was the Château de
Canaples, or else that my name was Canaples--I know not which. Clearly I
was mistaken, for here is a lady who has no word either of greeting or
intercession for me, and who, therefore, cannot be my sister, and yonder a
man whom I should never look to find in my father's house."

I took a step forward, a hot answer on my lips, when from the doorway at my
back came Yvonne's sweet voice.

"Eugène! You here?"

"As you see, Sister. Though had you delayed your coming 't is probable you
would no longer have found me, for your father welcomes me with oaths and
threatens me with his grooms."

She cast a reproachful glance upon the Chevalier, 'neath which the anger
seemed to die out of him; then she went forward with hands outstretched and
a sad smile upon her lips.

"Yvonne!" The Chevalier's voice rang out sharp and sudden.

She stopped.

"I forbid you to approach that man!"

For a moment she appeared to hesitate; then, leisurely pursuing her way,
she set her hands upon her brother's shoulders and embraced him.

The Chevalier swore through set teeth; Geneviève trembled, Andrea looked
askance, and I laughed softly at the Chevalier's discomfiture. Eugène
flung his hat and cloak into a corner and strode across the room to where
his father stood.

"And now, Monsieur, since I have travelled all the way from Paris to save
my house from a step that will bring it into the contempt of all France, I
shall not go until you have heard me."

The Chevalier shrugged his shoulders and made as if to turn away. Yvonne's
greeting of her brother appeared to have quenched the spark of spirit that
for a moment had glimmered in the little man's breast.

"Monsieur," cried Eugène, "believe me that what I have to say is of the
utmost consequence, and say it I will--whether before these strangers or in
your private ear shall be as you elect."

The old man glanced about him like one who seeks a way of escape. At
last--"If say it you must," he growled, "say it here and now. And when you
have said it, go."

Eugène scowled at me, and from me to Andrea. To pay him for that scowl, I
had it in my mind to stay; but, overcoming the clownish thought, I took
Andrea by the arm.

"Come, Andrea," I said, "we will take a turn outside while these family
matters are in discussion."

I had a shrewd idea what was the substance of Eugène's mission to
Canaples--to expostulate with his father touching the proposed marriage of
Yvonne to the Cardinal's nephew.

Nor was I wrong, for when, some moments later, the Chevalier recalled us
from the terrace, where we were strolling--"What think you he has come
hither to tell me?" he inquired as we entered. He pointed to his son as he
spoke, and passion shook his slender frame as the breeze shakes a leaf.
Mademoiselle and Geneviève sat hand in hand--Yvonne deadly pale, Geneviève

"What think you he has the effrontery to say? Têtedieu! it seems that he
has profited little by the lesson you read him in the horse-market about
meddling in matters which concern him not. He has come hither to tell me
that he will not permit his sister to wed the Cardinal's nephew; that he
will not have the estates of Canaples pass into the hands of a foreign
upstart. He, forsooth--he! he! he!" And at each utterance of the pronoun
he lunged with his forefinger in the direction of his son. "This he is not
ashamed to utter before Yvonne herself!"

"You compelled me to do so," cried Eugène angrily.

"I?" ejaculated the Chevalier. "Did I compel you to come hither with your
'I will' and 'I will not'? Who are you, that you should give laws at
Canaples? And he adds, sir," quoth the old knight excitedly, "that sooner
than allow this marriage to take place he will kill M. de Mancini."

"I shall be happy to afford him the opportunity!" shouted Andrea, bounding

Eugène looked up quickly and gave a short laugh. Thereupon followed a wild
hubbub; everyone rushed forward and everyone talked; even little Geneviève
--louder than all the rest.

"You shall not fight! You shall not fight!" she cried, and her voice was
so laden with command that all others grew silent and all eyes were turned
upon her.

"What affair is this of yours, little one?" quoth Eugène.

"'T is this," she answered, panting, "that you need fear no marriage 'twixt
my sister and Andrea."

In her eagerness she had cast caution to the winds of heaven. Her father
and brother stared askance at her; I gave an inward groan.

"Andrea!" echoed Eugène at last. "What is this man to you that you speak
thus of him?"

The girl flung herself upon her father's breast.

"Father," she sobbed, "dear father, forgive!"

The Chevalier's brow grew dark; roughly he seized her by the arms and,
holding her at arm's length, scanned her face.

"What must I forgive?" he inquired in a thick voice. "What is M. de
Mancini to you?"

Some sinister note in her father's voice caused the girl to grow of a
sudden calm and to assume a rigidity that reminded me of her sister.

"He is my husband!" she answered. And there was a note of pride--almost of
triumph--in her voice.

An awful silence followed the launching of that thunderbolt. Eugène stood
with open mouth, staring now at Geneviève, now at his father. Andrea set
his arm about his bride's waist, and her fair head was laid trustingly upon
his shoulder. The Chevalier's eyes rolled ominously. At length he spoke
in a dangerously calm voice.

"How long is it--how long have you been wed?"

"We were wed in Blois an hour ago," answered Geneviève.

Something that was like a grunt escaped the Chevalier, then his eye
fastened upon me, and his anger boiled up.

"You knew of this?" he asked, coming towards me.

"I knew of it."

"Then you lied to me yesterday."

I drew myself up, stiff as a broomstick.

"I do not understand," I answered coldly.

"Did you not give me your assurance that M. de Mancini would marry Yvonne?"

"I did not, Monsieur. I did but tell you that he would wed your daughter.
And, ma foi! your daughter he has wed."

"You have fooled me, scélérat!" he blazed out. "You, who have been
sheltered by--"

"Father!" Yvonne interrupted, taking his arm. "M. de Luynes has behaved no
worse than have I, or any one of us, in this matter."

"No!" he cried, and pointed to Andrea. "'T is you who have wrought this
infamy. Eugène," he exclaimed, turning of a sudden to his son, "you have a
sword; wipe out this shame."

"Shame!" echoed Geneviève. "Oh, father, where is the shame? If it were no
shame for Andrea to marry Yvonne, surely--"

"Silence!" he thundered. "Eugène--"

But Eugène answered him with a contemptuous laugh.

"You are quick enough to call upon my sword, now that things have not
fallen out as you would have them. Where are your grooms now, Monsieur?"

"Insolent hound!" cried his father indignantly. Then, letting fall his
arms with something that was near akin to a sob--"Is there no one left to
do aught but mock me?" he groaned.

But this weakness was no more than momentary.

"Out of my house, sir!" he blazed, turning upon Andrea, and for a moment
methought he would have struck him. "Out of my house--you and this wife of

"Father!" sobbed Geneviève, with hands outstretched in entreaty.

"Out of my house," he repeated, "and you also, M. de Luynes. Away with
you! Go with the master you have served so well." And, turning on his
heel, he strode towards the door.

"Father--dear father!" cried Geneviève, following him: he slammed the door
in her face for answer.

With a moan she sank down upon her knees, her frail body shaken by
convulsive sobs--Dieu! what a bridal morn was hers!

Andrea and Yvonne raised her and led her to a chair. Eugène watched them
with a cynical eye, then laughed brutally, and, gathering up his hat and
cloak, he moved towards the balcony door and vanished.

"Is M. de Luynes still there?" quoth Geneviève presently.

"I am here, Madame."

"You had best set out, Monsieur," she said. "We shall follow soon--very

I took Andrea aside and asked him whither it was his intention to take his
wife. He replied that they would go to Chambord, where they would remain
for some weeks in the hope that the Chevalier might relent sufficiently to
forgive them. Thereafter it was his purpose to take his bride home to his
Sicilian demesne.

Our farewells were soon spoken; yet none the less warm, for all its
brevity, was my leave-taking of Andrea, and our wishes for each other's
happiness were as fervent as the human heart can shape. We little thought
that we were not destined to meet again for years.

Yvonne's adieu was cold and formal--so cold and formal that it seemed to
rob the sunshine of its glory for me as I stepped out into the open air.

After all, what mattered it? I was a fool to have entertained a single
tender thought concerning her.



Scant cause is there for me to tarry over the details of my return to
Paris. A sad enough journey was it; as sad for my poor Michelot as for
myself, since he rode with one so dejected as I.

Things had gone ill, and I feared that when the Cardinal heard the story
things would go worse, for Mazarin was never a tolerant man, nor one to be
led by the gospel of mercy and forgiveness. For myself I foresaw the rope
--possibly even the wheel; and a hundred times a day I dubbed myself a fool
for obeying the voice of honour with such punctiliousness when so grim a
reward awaited me. What mood was on me--me, Gaston de Luynes, whose honour
had been long since besmirched and tattered until no outward semblance of
honour was left?

But swift in the footsteps of that question would come the answer--Yvonne.
Ay, truly enough, it was because in my heart I had dared to hold a
sentiment of love for her, the purest--nay, the only pure--thing my heart
had held for many a year, that I would set nothing vile to keep company
with that sentiment; that until my sun should set--and already it dropped
swiftly towards life's horizon--my actions should be the actions of such a
man as might win Yvonne's affections.

But let that be. This idle restrospective mood can interest you but
little; nor can you profit from it, unless, indeed, it be by noting how
holy and cleansing to the heart of man is the love--albeit unrequited--that
he bears a good woman.

As we drew near Meung--where we lay on that first night of our journey--a
light travelling chaise, going in the same direction, passed us at a
gallop. As it flashed by, I caught a glimpse of Eugène de Canaples's swart
face through the window. Whether the recognition was mutual I cannot say--
nor does it signify.

When we reached the Hôtel de la Couronne, half an hour later, we saw that
same chaise disappearing round a corner of the street, whilst through the
porte-cochère the hostler was leading a pair of horses, foam-flecked and
steaming with sweat.

Whither went Master Canaples at such a rate, and in a haste that caused him
to travel day and night? To a goal he little looked for--or rather, which,
in the madness of his headlong rush, he could not see. So I was to learn
ere long.

Next day I awoke betimes, and setting my window wide to let in the fresh,
clean-smelling air of that May morning I made shift to dress. Save for the
cackle of the poultry which had strayed into the courtyard, and the noisy
yawns and sleep-laden ejaculations of the stable-boy, who was drawing water
for the horses, all was still, for it had not yet gone five o'clock.

But of a sudden a door opened somewhere, and a step rang out, accompanied
by the jangle of spurs, and with it came a sharp, unpleasant voice calling
for its owner's horse. There was a familiar sound in those shrill accents
that caused me to thrust my head through the casement. But I was quick to
withdraw it, as I recognised in the gaily dressed little fellow below my
old friend Malpertuis.

I know not what impulse made me draw back so suddenly. The action was as
much the child of instinct as of the lately acquired habit of concealing my
face from the gaze of all who were likely to spread abroad the news that I
still lived.

From behind my curtains I watched Malpertuis ride out of the yard, saying,
in answer to a parting question of the landlord, who had come upon the
scene, that he would breakfast at Beaugency.

Then, as he rode down the street, he of a sudden raised his discordant
voice and sang to the accompaniment of his horse's hoofs. And the burden
of his song ran thus:

A frondeur wind
Got up to-day,
'Gainst Mazarin
It blows, they say.

I listened in amazement to his raven's voice.

Whither was he bound, I asked myself, and whence a haste that made him set
out fasting, with an anti-cardinalist ditty on his lips, and ride two
leagues to seek a breakfast in a village that did not hold an inn where a
dog might be housed in comfort?

Like Eugène de Canaples, he also travelled towards a goal that he little
dreamt of. And so albeit the one went south and the other north, these two
men were, between them, drawing together the thread of this narrative of
mine, as anon you shall learn.

We reached Paris at dusk three days later, and we went straight to my old
lodging in the Rue St. Antoine.

Coupri started and gasped upon beholding me, and not until I had cursed him
for a fool in a voice that was passing human would he believe that I was no
ghost. He too had heard the rumour of my death.

I dispatched Michelot to the Palais Royal, where--without permitting his
motive to transpire--he was to ascertain for me whether M. de Montrésor was
in Paris, whether he still dwelt at the Hôtel des Cloches, and at what hour
he could be found there.

Whilst he was away I went up to my room, and there I found a letter which
Coupri informed me had been left by a lackey a month ago--before the report
that I had been killed had reached Paris--and since lain forgotten. It was
a delicate note, to which still hung the ghost of a perfume; there were no
arms on the seal, but the writing I took to be that of my aunt, the
Duchesse de Chevreuse, and vaguely marvelling what motive she could have
had for communicating with me, I cut the silk.

It was, indeed, from the Duchesse, but it contained no more than a request
that I should visit her at her hôtel on the day following upon that on
which she had written, adding that she had pleasing news for me.

I thrust the note into my pocket with a sigh. Of what could it avail me
now to present myself at her hôtel? Her invitation was for a month ago.
Since then she would likely enough have heard the rumour that had been
current, and would have ceased to expect me.

I caught myself wondering whether the news might have caused her a pang of
regret, and somehow methought this possible. For of all my relatives,
Madame de Chevreuse was the only one--and she was but my aunt by marriage--
who of late years had shown me any kindness, or even recognition. I
marvelled what her pleasing news could be, and I concluded that probably
she had heard of my difficulties, and wished once again to help me out of
them. Well, my purse was hollow, indeed, at the moment, but I need not
trouble her, since I was going somewhere where purses are not needed--on a
journey to which no expenses are attached.

In my heart, nevertheless, I blessed the gracious lady, who, for all the
lies that the world may have told of her, was the kindest woman I had
known, and the best--save one other.

I was still musing when Michelot returned with the information that M. de
Montrésor was to be found at the Hôtel des Cloches, whither he had gone to
sup a few minutes before. Straightway I set out, bidding him attend me,
and, muffled in my cloak, I proceeded at a brisk pace to the Rue des Fosses
St. Germain, where the lieutenant's auberge was situated.

I left Michelot in the common-room, and, preceded by the plump little woman
who owned the house, I ascended to Montrésor's chamber. I found the young
soldier at table, and, fortunately, alone. He rose as I entered, and as
the hostess, retreating, closed the door, I doffed my hat, and letting fall
my cloak revealed myself. His lips parted, and I heard the hiss of an
indrawn breath as his astonished eyes fell upon my countenance. My laugh
dispelled his doubts that I might be other than flesh and blood--yet not
his doubts touching my identity. He caught up a taper and, coming forward,
he cast the light on my face for a moment, then setting the candle back
upon the table, he vented his surprise in an oath or two, which was natural
enough in one of his calling.

"'T is clear, Lieutenant," quoth I, as I detached my sword from the
baldrick, "that you believed me dead. Fate willed, however, that I should
be restored to life, and so soon as I had recovered sufficient strength to
undertake the journey to Paris, I set out. I arrived an hour ago, and here
I am, to redeem my word of honour, and surrender the sword and liberty
which you but lent me."

I placed my rapier on the table and waited for him to speak. Instead,
however, he continued to stare at me for some moments, and when at last he
did break the silence, it was to burst into a laugh that poured from his
throat in rich, mellow peals, as he lay back in his chair.

My wrath arose. Had I travelled from Blois, and done what I deemed the
most honourable deed of my life, to be laughed at for my pains by a foppish
young jackanapes of his Eminence's guards? Something of my displeasure
must he have seen reflected on my face, for of a sudden he checked his

"Forgive me, M. de Luynes," he gasped. "Pardieu, 't is no matter for
laughter, and albeit I laughed with more zest than courtesy, I give you my
word that my admiration for you vastly exceeds my amusement. M. de
Luynes," he added, rising and holding out his hand to me, "there are liars
in Paris who give you an evil name--men who laughed at me when they heard
that I had given you leave to go on parole to St. Sulpice des Reaux that
night, trusting to your word of honour that you would return if you lived.
His Eminence dubbed me a fool and went near to dismissing me from his
service, and yet I have now the proof that my confidence was not misplaced,
since even though you were believed to be dead, you did not hesitate to
bring me your sword."

"Monsieur, spare me!" I exclaimed, for in truth his compliments waxed as
irksome as had been his whilom merriment.

He continued, however, his laudatory address, and when it was at last
ended, and he paused exhausted alike in breath and brain, it was to take up
my sword and return it to me with my parole, pronouncing me a free man, and
advising me to let men continue to think me dead, and to withdraw from
France. He cut short my half-protesting thanks, and calling the hostess
bade her set another cover, whilst me he invited to share his supper. And
as we ate he again urged upon me the advice that I should go abroad.

"For by Heaven," he added, "Mazarin has been as a raging beast since the
news was brought him yesterday of his nephew's marriage."

"How?" I cried. "He has heard already?"

"He has, indeed; and should he learn that your flesh still walks the earth,
methinks it would go worse with you than it went even with Eugène de

In answer to the questions with which I excitedly plied him, I drew from
him the story of how Eugène had arrived the day before in Paris, and gone
straight to the Palais Royal. M. de Montrésor had been on guard in the
ante-chamber, and in virtue of an excitement noticeable in Canaples's
bearing, coupled with the ill-odour wherein already he was held by Mazarin,
the lieutenant's presence had been commanded in the Cardinal's closet
during the interview--for his Eminence was never like to acquire fame for

In his exultation at what had chanced, and at the manner in which Mazarin's
Château en Espagne had been dispelled, Canaples used little caution, or
even discretion, in what he said. In fact, from what Montrésor told me, I
gathered that the fool's eagerness to be the first to bear the tidings to
Mazarin sprang from a rash desire to gloat over the Cardinal's
discomfiture. He had told his story insolently--almost derisively--and
Mazarin's fury, driven beyond bounds already by what he had heard, became a
very tempest of passion 'neath the lash of Canaples's impertinences. And,
naturally enough, that tempest had burst upon the only head available--
Eugène de Canaples's--and the Cardinal had answered his jibes with interest
by calling upon Montrésor to arrest the fellow and bear him to the

When the astonished and sobered Canaples had indignantly asked upon what
charge he was being robbed of his liberty, the Cardinal had laughed at him,
and answered with his never-failing axiom that "He who sings, pays."

"You sang lustily enough just now," his Eminence had added, "and you shall
pay by lodging awhile in an oubliette of the Bastille, where you may lift
up your voice to sing the De profundis."

"Was my name not mentioned?" I anxiously inquired when Montrésor had

"Not once. You may depend that I should have remarked it. After I had
taken Canaples away, the Cardinal, I am told, sat down, and, still
trembling with rage, wrote a letter which he straightway dispatched to the
Chevalier Armand de Canaples, at Blois.

"No doubt," I mused, "he attributes much blame to me for what has come to

"Not a doubt of it. This morning he said to me that it was a pity your
wings had not been clipped before you left Paris, and that his misplaced
clemency had helped to bring him great misfortunes. You see, therefore, M.
de Luynes, that your sojourn in France will be attended with great peril.
I advise you to try Spain; 't is a martial country where a man of the sword
may find honourable and even profitable employment."

His counsel I deemed sound. But how follow it? Then of a sudden I
bethought me of Madame de Chevreuse's friendly letter. Doubtless she would
assist me once again, and in such an extremity as this. And with the
conception of the thought came the resolution to visit her on the morrow.
That formed, I gave myself up to the task of drinking M. de Montrésor under
the table with an abandon which had not been mine for months. In each
goblet that I drained, methought I saw Yvonne's sweet face floating on the
surface of the red Armagnac; it looked now sad, now reproachful, still I
drank on, and in each cup I pledged her.



It wanted an hour or so to noon next day as I drove across the Pont Neuf in
a closed carriage, and was borne down the Rue St. Dominique to the portals
of that splendid palace, facing the Jacobins, which bears the title of the
"Hôtel de Luynes," and over the portals of which is carved the escutcheon
of our house.

Michelot--in obedience to the orders I had given him--got down only to be
informed that Madame la Duchesse was in the country. The lackey who was
summoned did not know where the lady might be found, nor when she might
return to Paris. And so I was compelled to drive back almost despairingly
to the Rue St. Antoine, and there lie concealed, nursing my impatience,
until my aunt should return.

Daily I sent Michelot to the Hôtel de Luynes to make the same inquiry, and
to return daily with the same dispiriting reply--that there was no news of
Madame la Duchesse.

In this fashion some three weeks wore themselves out, during which period I
lay in my concealment, a prey to weariness unutterable. I might not
venture forth save at night, unless I wore a mask; and as masks were no
longer to be worn without attracting notice--as during the late king's
reign--I dared not indulge the practice.

Certainly my ennui was greatly relieved by the visits of Montrésor, which
grew very frequent, the lad appearing to have conceived a kindness for me;
and during those three weeks our fellowship at nights over a bottle or two
engendered naturally enough a friendship and an intimacy between us.

I had written to Andrea on the morrow of my return to Paris, to tell him
how kindly Montrésor had dealt with me, and some ten days later the
following letter was brought me by the lieutenant--to whom, for safety, it
had been forwarded:


I have no words wherewith to express my joy at the good news you send me,
which terminates the anxiety that has been mine since you left us on the
disastrous morning of our nuptials.

The uncertainty touching your fate, the fear that the worst might have
befallen you, and the realisation that I--for whom you have done so much--
might do naught for you in your hour of need, has been the one cloud to mar
the sunshine of my own bliss.

That cloud your letter has dispelled, and the knowledge of your safety
renders my happiness complete.

The Chevalier maintains his unforgiving mood, as no doubt doth also my Lord
Cardinal. But what to me are the frowns of either, so that my lady smile?
My little Geneviève is yet somewhat vexed in spirit at all this, but I am
teaching her to have faith in Time, the patron saint of all lovers who
follow not the course their parents set them. And so that time may be
allowed to intercede and appeal to the parent heart with the potent prayer
of a daughter's absence, I shall take my lady from Chambord some three days
hence. We shall travel by easy stages to Marseilles, and there take ship
for Palermo.

And so, dear, trusty friend, until we meet again, fare you well and may God
hold you safe from the wickedness of man, devil, and my Lord Cardinal.

For all that you have done for me, no words of mine can thank you, but
should you determine to quit this France of yours, and journey to Palermo
after me, you shall never want a roof to shelter you or a board to sit at,
so long as roof and board are owned by him who signs himself, in love at
least, your brother--


With a sigh I set the letter down. A sigh of love and gratitude it was; a
sigh also of regret for the bright, happy boy who had been the source alike
of my recent joys and sorrows, and whom methought I was not likely to see
again for many a day, since the peaceful vegetation of his Sicilian home
held little attraction for me, a man of action.

It was on the evening of the last Sunday in May, whilst the bell of the
Jesuits, close by, was tinkling out its summons to vespers, that Montrésor
burst suddenly into my room with the request that I should get my hat and
cloak and go with him to pay a visit. In reply to my questions--
"Monseigneur's letter to Armand de Canaples," he said, "has borne fruit
already. Come with me and you shall learn how."

He led me past the Bastille and up the Rue des Tournelles to the door of an
unpretentious house, upon which he knocked. We were admitted by an old
woman to whom Montrésor appeared to be known, for, after exchanging a word
or two with her, he himself led the way upstairs and opened the door of a
room for me.

By the melancholy light of a single taper burning upon the table I beheld a
fair-sized room containing a curtained bed.

My companion took up the candle, and stepping to the bedside, he drew apart
the curtains.

Lying there I beheld a man whose countenance, despite its pallor and the
bloody bandages about his brow, I recognised for that of the little
spitfire Malpertuis.

As the light fell upon his face, the little fellow opened his eyes, and
upon beholding me at his side he made a sudden movement which wrung from
him a cry of pain.

"Lie still, Monsieur," said Montrésor quietly.

But for all the lieutenant's remonstrances, he struggled up into a sitting
posture, requesting Montrésor to set the pillows at his back.

"Thank God you are here, M. de Luynes!" he said. "I learnt at Canaples
that you were not dead."

"You have been to Canaples?"

"I was a guest of the Chevalier for twelve days. I arrived there on the
day after your departure."

"You!" I ejaculated. "Pray what took you to Canaples?"

"What took me there?" he echoed, turning his feverish eyes upon me, almost
with fierceness. "The same motive that led me to join hands with that
ruffian St. Auban, when he spoke of waging war against Mancini; the same
motive that led me to break with him when I saw through his plans, and when
the abduction of Mademoiselle was on foot; the same motive that made me
come to you and tell you of the proposed abduction so that you might
interfere if you had the power, or cause others to do so if you had not."

I lay back in my chair and stared at him. Was this, then, another suitor
of Yvonne de Canaples, and were all men mad with love of her?

Presently he continued:

"When I heard that St. Auban was in Paris, having apparently abandoned all
hope in connection with Mademoiselle, I obtained a letter from M. de la
Rochefoucauld--who is an intimate friend of mine--and armed with this I set
out. As luck would have it I got embroiled in the streets of Blois with a
couple of cardinalist gentlemen, who chose to be offended by lampoon of the
Fronde that I was humming. I am not a patient man, and I am even
indiscreet in moments of choler. I ended by crying, "Down with Mazarin and
all his creatures," and I would of a certainty have had my throat slit, had
not a slight and elegant gentleman interposed, and, exercising a wonderful
influence over my assailants, extricated me from my predicament. This
gentleman was the Chevalier de Canaples. He was strangely enough in a mood
to be pleased by an anti-cardinalist ditty, for his rage against Andrea de
Mancini--which he took no pains to conceal--had extended already to the
Cardinal, and from morn till night he did little else but revile the whole
Italian brood--as he chose to dub the Cardinal's family."

I recognised the old knight's weak, vacillating character in this, a
creature of moods that, like the vane on a steeple, turns this way or that,
as the wind blows.

"I crave your patience, M. de Luynes," he continued, "and beg of you to
hear my story so that you may determine whether you will save the Canaples
from the danger that threatens them. I only ask that you dispatch a
reliable messenger to Blois. But hear me out first. In virtue as much of
La Rochefoucauld's letters as of the sentiments which the Chevalier heard
me express, I became the honoured guest at his château. Three days after
my arrival I sustained a shock by the unexpected appearance at Canaples of
St. Auban. The Chevalier, however, refused him admittance, and, baffled,
the Marquis was forced to withdraw. But he went no farther than Blois,
where he hired himself a room at the Lys de France. The Chevalier hated
him as a mad dog hates water--almost as much as he hated you. He spoke
often of you, and always bitterly."

Before I knew what I had said--

"And Mademoiselle?" I burst out. "Did she ever mention my name?"

Malpertuis looked up quickly at the question, and a wan smile flickered
round his lips.

"Once she spoke of you to me--pityingly, as one might speak of a dead man
whose life had not been good."

"Yes, yes," I broke in. "It matters little. Your story, M. Malpertuis."

"After I had been at the château ten days, we learnt that Eugène de
Canaples had been sent to the Bastille. The news came in a letter penned
by his Eminence himself--a bitter, viperish letter, with a covert threat in
every line. The Chevalier's anger went white hot as he read the
disappointed Cardinal's epistle. His Eminence accused Eugène of being a
frondeur; M. de Canaples, whose politics had grown sadly rusted in the
country, asked me the meaning of the word. I explained to him the petty
squabbles between Court and Parliament, in consequence of the extortionate
imposts and of Mazarin's avariciousness. I avowed myself a partisan of the
Fronde, and within three days the Chevalier--who but a little time before
had sought an alliance with the Cardinal's family--had become as rabid a
frondeur as M. de Gondi, as fierce an anti­cardinalist as M. de Beaufort.

"I humoured him in his new madness, with the result that ere long from
being a frondeur in heart, he thirsted to become a frondeur in deeds, and
he ended by begging me to bear a letter from him to the Coadjutor of Paris,
wherein he offered to place at M. de Gondi's disposal, towards the expenses
of the civil war which he believed to be imminent,--as, indeed, it is,--the
sum of sixty thousand livres.

"Now albeit I had gone to Canaples for purposes of my own, and not as an
agent of M. le Coadjuteur's, still for many reasons I saw fit to undertake
the Chevalier's commission. And so, bearing the letter in question, which
was hot and unguarded, and charged with endless treasonable matter, I set
out four days later for Paris, arriving here yesterday.

"I little knew that I had been followed by St. Auban. His suspicions must
have been awakened, I know not how, and clearly they were confirmed when I
stopped before the Coadjutor's house last night. I was about to mount the
steps, when of a sudden I was seized from behind by half a dozen hands and
dragged into a side street. I got free for a moment and attempted to
defend myself, but besides St. Auban there were two others. They broke my
sword and attempted to break my skull, in which they went perilously near
succeeding, as you see. Albeit half-swooning, I had yet sufficient
consciousness left to realise that my pockets were being emptied, and that
at last they had torn open my doublet and withdrawn the treasonable letter
from the breast of it.

"I was left bleeding in the kennel, and there I lay for nigh upon an hour
until a passer-by succoured me and carried out my request to be brought
hither and put to bed."

He ceased, and for some moments there was silence, broken only by the
wounded man's laboured breathing, which argued that his narrative had left
him fatigued. At last I sprang up.

"The Chevalier de Canaples must be warned," I exclaimed.

"'T is an ugly business," muttered Montrésor. "I'll wager a hundred that
Mazarin will hang the Chevalier if he catches him just now."

"He would not dare!" cried Malpertuis.

"Not dare?" echoed the lieutenant. "The man who imprisoned the Princes of
Condé and Conti, and the Duke of Beaufort, not dare hang a provincial
knight with never a friend at Court! Pah, Monsieur, you do not know
Cardinal Mazarin."

I realised to the full how likely Montrésor's prophecy was to be fulfilled,
and before I left Malpertuis I assured him that he had not poured his story
into the ears of an indifferent listener, and that I would straightway find
means of communicating with Canaples.



From the wounded man's bedside I wended my steps back to the Rue St.
Antoine, resolved to start for Blois that very night; and beside me walked
Montrésor, with bent head, like a man deep in thought.

At my door I paused to take my leave of the lieutenant, for I was in haste
to have my preparations made, and to be gone. But Montrésor appeared not
minded to be dismissed thus easily.

"What plan have you formed?" he asked.

"The only plan there is to form--to set out for Canaples at once."

"Hum!" he grunted, and again was silent. Then, suddenly throwing back his
head, "Par la mort Dieu!" he cried, "I care not what comes of it; I'll tell
you what I know. Lead the way to your chamber, M. de Luynes, and delay
your departure until you have heard me."

Surprised as much by his words as by the tone in which he uttered them,
which was that of a man who is angry with himself, I passively did as I was

Once within my little ante-chamber, he turned the key with his own hands,
and pointing to the door of my bedroom--"In there, Monsieur," quoth he, "we
shall be safe from listeners."

Deeper grew my astonishment at all this mystery, as we passed into the room

"Now, M. de Luynes," he cried, flinging down his hat, "for no apparent
reason I am about to commit treason; I am about to betray the hand that
pays me."

"If no reason exists, why do so evil a deed?" I inquired calmly. "I have
learnt during our association to wish you well, Montrésor; if by telling me
that which your tongue burns to tell, you shall have cause for shame, the
door is yonder. Go before harm is done, and leave me alone to fight my
battle out."

He stood up, and for a moment he seemed to waver, then dismissing his
doubts with an abrupt gesture, he sat down again.

"There is no wrong in what I do. Right is with you, M. de Luynes, and if I
break faith with the might I serve, it is because that might is an unjust
one; I do but betray the false to the true, and there can be little shame
in such an act. Moreover, I have a reason--but let that be."

He was silent for a moment, then he resumed:

"Most of that which you have learnt from Malpertuis to-night, I myself
could have told you. Yes; St. Auban has carried Canaples's letter to the
Cardinal already. I heard from his lips to-day--for I was present at the
interview--how the document had been wrested from Malpertuis. For your
sake, so that you might learn all he knew, I sought the fellow out, and
having found him in the Rue des Tournelles, I took you thither."

In a very fever of excitement I listened.

"To take up the thread of the story where Malpertuis left off, let me tell
you that St. Auban sought an audience with Mazarin this morning, and by
virtue of a note which he desired an usher to deliver to his Eminence, he
was admitted, the first of all the clients that for hours had thronged the
ante-room. As in the instance of the audience to Eugène de Canaples, so
upon this occasion did it chance that the Cardinal's fears touching St.
Auban's purpose had been roused, for he bade me stand behind the curtains
in his cabinet.

"The Marquis spoke bluntly enough, and with rude candour he stated that
since Mazarin had failed to bring the Canaples estates into his family by
marriage, he came to set before his Eminence a proof so utter of Canaples's
treason that it would enable him to snatch the estates by confiscation.
The Cardinal may have been staggered by St. Auban's bluntness, but his
avaricious instincts led him to stifle his feelings and bid the Marquis to
set this proof before him. But St. Auban had a bargain to drive--a
preposterous one methought. He demanded that in return for his delivering
into the hands of Mazarin the person of Armand de Canaples together with an
incontestable proof that the Chevalier was in league with the frondeurs,
and had offered to place a large sum of money at their disposal, he was to
receive as recompense the demesne of Canaples on the outskirts of Blois,
together with one third of the confiscated estates. At first Mazarin
gasped at his audacity, then laughed at him, whereupon St. Auban politely
craved his Eminence's permission to withdraw. This the Cardinal, however,
refused him, and bidding him remain, he sought to bargain with him. But
the Marquis replied that he was unversed in the ways of trade and barter,
and that he had no mind to enter into them. From bargaining the Cardinal
passed on to threatening and from threatening to whining, and so on until
the end--St. Auban preserving a firm demeanour--the comedy was played out
and Mazarin fell in with his proposal and his terms.

"Mille diables!" I cried. "And has St. Auban set out?"

"He starts to-morrow, and I go with him. When finally the Cardinal had
consented, the Marquis demanded and obtained from him a promise in writing,
signed and sealed by Mazarin, that he should receive a third of the
Canaples estates and the demesne on the outskirts of Blois, in exchange for
the body of Armand de Canaples, dead or alive, and a proof of treason
sufficient to warrant his arrest and the confiscation of his estates.
Next, seeing in what regard the Seigneur is held by the people of Blois,
and fearing that his arrest might be opposed by many of his adherents, the
Marquis has demanded a troop of twenty men. This Mazarin has also granted
him, entrusting the command of the troop to me, under St. Auban. Further,
the Marquis has stipulated that the greatest secrecy is to be observed, and
has expressed his purpose of going upon this enterprise disguised and
masked, for--as he rightly opines--when months hence he enters into
possession of the demesne of Canaples in the character of purchaser, did
the Blaisois recognise in him the man who sold the Chevalier, his life
would stand in hourly peril."

I heard him through patiently enough; yet when he stopped, my pent-up
feelings burst all bonds, and I resolved there and then to go in quest of
that Judas, St. Auban, and make an end of his plotting, for all time. But
Montrésor restrained me, showing me how futile such a course must prove,
and how I risked losing all chance of aiding those at Canaples.

He was right. First I must warn the Chevalier--afterwards I would deal
with St. Auban.

Someone knocked at that moment, and with the entrance of Michelot, my talk
with Montrésor came perforce to an end. For Michelot brought me the news
that for days I had been awaiting; Madame de Chevreuse had returned to
Paris at last.

But for Montrésor's remonstrances it is likely that I should have set out
forthwith to wait upon her. I permitted myself, however, to be persuaded
that the lateness of the hour would render my visit unwelcome, and so I
determined in the end--albeit grudgingly--to put off my departure for Blois
until the morrow.

Noon had but struck from Nôtre Dame, next day, as I mounted the steps of
the Hôtel de Luynes. My swagger, and that brave suit of pearl grey velvet
with its silver lace, bore me unchallenged past the gorgeous suisse, who
stood, majestic, in the doorway.

But, for the first mincing lackey I chanced upon, more was needed to gain
me an audience. And so, as I did not choose to speak my name, I drew a
ring from my finger and bade him bear it to the Duchesse.

He obeyed me in this, and presently returning, he bowed low and begged of
me to follow him, for, as I had thought, albeit Madame de Chevreuse might
not know to whom that ring belonged, yet the arms of Luynes carved upon the
stone had sufficed to ensure an interview.

I was ushered into a pretty boudoir, hung in blue and gold, which
overlooked the garden, and wherein, reclining upon a couch, with a book of
Bois Robert's verses in her white and slender hand, I found my beautiful

Of this famous lady, who was the cherished friend and more than sister of
Anne of Austria, much has been written; much that is good, and more--far
more--that is ill, for those who have a queen for friend shall never lack
for enemies. But those who have praised and those who have censured have
at least been at one touching her marvellous beauty. At the time whereof I
write it is not possible that she could be less than forty-six, and yet her
figure was slender and shapely and still endowed with the grace of
girlhood; her face delicate of tint, and little marked by time--or even by
the sufferings to which, in the late king's reign, Cardinal de Richelieu
had subjected her; her eyes were blue and peaceful as a summer sky; her
hair was the colour of ripe corn. He would be a hardy guesser who set her
age at so much as thirty.

My appearance she greeted by letting fall her book, and lifting up her
hands--the loveliest in France--she uttered a little cry of surprise.

"Is it really you, Gaston?" she asked.

Albeit it was growing wearisome to be thus greeted by all to whom I showed
myself, yet I studied courtesy in my reply, and then, 'neath the suasion of
her kindliness, I related all that had befallen me since first I had
journeyed to Blois, in Andrea de Mancini's company, withholding, however,
all allusions to my feelings towards Yvonne. Why betray them when they
were doomed to be stifled in the breast that begat them? But Madame de
Chevreuse had not been born a woman and lived six and forty years to no

"And this maid with as many suitors as Penelope, is she very beautiful?"
she inquired slyly.

"France does not hold her equal," I answered, falling like a simpleton into
the trap she had set me.

"This to me?" quoth she archly. "Fi donc, Gaston! Your evil ways have
taught you as little gallantry as dissimulation." And her merry ripple of
laughter showed me how in six words I had betrayed that which I had been at
such pains to hide.

But before I could, by protestations, plunge deeper than I stood already,
the Duchesse turned the conversation adroitly to the matter of that letter
of hers, wherein she had bidden me wait upon her.

A cousin of mine--one Marion de Luynes, who, like myself, had, through the
evil of his ways, become an outcast from his family--was lately dead.
Unlike me, however, he was no adventurous soldier of fortune, but a man of
peace, with an estate in Provence that had a rent-roll of five thousand
livres a year. On his death-bed he had cast about him for an heir,
unwilling that his estate should swell the fortunes of the family that in
life had disowned him. Into his ear some kindly angel had whispered my
name, and the memory that I shared with him the frowns of our house, and
that my plight must be passing pitiful, had set up a bond of sympathy
between us, which had led him to will his lands to me. Of Madame de
Chevreuse--who clearly was the patron saint of those of her first husband's
nephews who chanced to tread ungodly ways--my cousin Marion had besought
that she should see to the fulfilment of his last wishes.

My brain reeled beneath the first shock of that unlooked-for news. Already
I saw myself transformed from a needy adventurer into a gentleman of
fortune, and methought my road to Yvonne lay open, all obstacles removed.
But swiftly there followed the thought of my own position, and truly it
seemed that a cruel irony lay in the manner wherein things had fallen out,
since did I declare myself to be alive and claim the Provence estates, the
Cardinal's claws would be quick to seize me.

Thus much I told Madame de Chevreuse, but her answer cheered me, and said
much for my late cousin's prudence.

"Nay," she cried. "Marion was ever shrewd. Knowing that men who live by
the sword, as you have lived, are often wont to die by the sword,--and that
suddenly at times,--he has made provision that in the event of your being
dead his estates shall come to me, who have been the most indulgent of his
relatives. This, my dear Gaston, has already taken place, for we believed
you dead; and therein fortune has been kind to you, for now, while
receiving the revenues of your lands--which the world will look upon as
mine--I shall contrive that they reach you wherever you may be, until such
a time as you may elect to come to life again."

Now but for the respect in which I held her, I could have taken the pretty
Duchesse in my arms and kissed her.

Restraining myself, however, I contented myself by kissing her hand, and
told her of the journey I was going, then craved another boon of her. No
matter what the issue of that journey, and whether I went alone or
accompanied, I was determined to quit France and repair to Spain. There I
would abide until the Parliament, the Court, or the knife of some chance
assassin, or even Nature herself should strip Mazarin of his power.

Now, at the Court of Spain it was well known that my aunt's influence was
vast, and so, the boon I craved was that she should aid me to a position in
the Spanish service that would allow me during my exile to find occupation
and perchance renown. To this my aunt most graciously acceded, and when at
length I took my leave--with such gratitude in my heart that what words I
could think of seemed but clumsily to express it--I bore in the breast of
my doublet a letter to Don Juan de Cordova--a noble of great prominence at
the Spanish Court--and in the pocket of my haut-de-chausses a rouleau of
two hundred gold pistoles, as welcome as they were heavy.



An hour after I had quitted the Hôtel de Luynes, Michelot and I left Paris
by the barrier St. Michel and took the Orleans road. How different it
looked in the bright June sunshine, to the picture which it had presented
to our eyes on that February evening, four months ago, when last we had set
out upon that same journey!

Not only in nature had a change been wrought, but in my very self. My
journey then had been aimless, and I had scarcely known whither I was bound
nor had I fostered any great concern thereon. Now I rode in hot haste with
a determined purpose, a man of altered fortunes and altered character.

Into Choisy we clattered at a brisk pace, but at the sight of the inn of
the Connétable such memories surged up that I was forced to draw rein and
call for a cup of Anjou, which I drank in the saddle. Thereafter we rode
without interruption through Longjumeau, Arpajon, and Etrechy, and so well
did we use our horses that as night fell we reached Étampes.

From inquiries that Michelot had made on the road, we learned that no troop
such as that which rode with St. Auban had lately passed that way, so that
't was clear we were in front of them.

But scarce had we finished supper in the little room which I had hired at
the Gros Paon, when, from below, a stamping of hoofs, the jangle of arms,
and the shouts of many men told me that we were overtaken.

Clearly I did not burn with a desire to linger, but rather it seemed to me
that although night had closed in, black and moonless, we must set out
again, and push on to Monnerville, albeit our beasts were worn and the
distance a good three leagues.

With due precaution we effected our departure, and thereafter had a spur
been needed to speed us on our way that spur we had in the knowledge that

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