List Of Contents | Contents of St. Martin's Summer, by Rafael Sabatini
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"At least, I do not want for courage, Monsieur le Comte," she
answered him; "and I promise you that while I live - to handle a
sword if need be - no Paris men shall set foot in Condillac."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I do say so," answered Marius firmly.

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

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

"As how?" he asked.

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

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

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

Marius laughed, rose, and pushed back his chair.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"You flatter the Parisian," commented Marius.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Dowager laughed softly, as if to herself.

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

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

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

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

"This is foolishness, Valerie - "

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

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

Mademoiselle smiled in sorrow and some scorn.

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

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

"To ensure, no doubt, against any attempt of mine to win him to my
side, to induce him to aid me escape from this prison.  Oh, madame,
I tell you you do but waste time, and you punish me and harass
yourself to little purpose.  Had Marius been such a man as I might

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