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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"You exaggerate," said he coldly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Enlighten me, then.  Convert me."

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

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

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

"Peace!" snapped the other.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"A fortune?" sneered Arsenio.

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

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