List Of Contents | Contents of St. Martin's Summer, by Rafael Sabatini
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"I have been maladroit perhaps," he said, with bitterness.  "I have
been over-patient with her.  I have counted too much upon the chance
of Florimond's being dead, as seemed from the utter lack of news of
him.  Yet what could I do?  Carry her off by force and compel at the
dagger's point some priest to marry us?"

She moved her hand from his shoulder and smiled, as if she derided
him and his heat.

"You want for invention, Marius," said she.  "And yet I beg that
you will exert your mind, or Sunday next shall find us well-nigh
homeless.  I'll take no charity from the Marquis de Condillac, nor,
I think, will you."

"If all fails," said he, "we have still your house in Touraine."

"My house?" she echoed, her voice shrill with scorn.  "My hovel,
you would say.  Could you abide there - in such a sty?"

"Vertudieu!  If all else failed, we might be glad of it."

"Glad of it?  Not I, for one.  Yet all else will fail unless you
bestir yourself in the next three days.  Condillac is as good as
lost to you already, since Florimond is upon the threshold.  La
Vauvraye most certainly will be lost to you as well unless you make
haste to snatch it in the little moment that is left you."

"Can I achieve the impossible, madame?" he cried, and his impatience
waxed beneath this unreasonable insistence of his mother's.

"Who asks it of you?"

"Do not you, madame?"

"I?  Pish!  All that I urge is that you take Valerie across the
border into Savoy where you can find a priest to marry you, and get
it done this side of Saturday."

"And is not that the impossible?  She will not go with me, as you
well know, madame."

There was a moment's silence.  The Dowager shot him a glance; then
her eyes fell.  Her bosom stirred as if some strange excitement
moved her.  Fear and shame were her emotions; for a way she knew by
which mademoiselle might be induced to go with him - not only
willingly, but eagerly, she thought - to the altar.  But she was his
mother, and even her harsh nature shuddered before the task of
instructing him in this vile thing.  Why had the fool not wit enough
to see it for himself?

Observing her silence Marius smiled sardonically.

"You may well ponder it," said he.  "It is an easy matter to tell me
what I should do.  Tell me, rather, how it should be done."

His blindness stirred her anger, and her anger whelmed her hesitation.

"Were I in your place, Marius, I should find a way," said she, in a
voice utterly expressionless, her eyes averted ever from his own.

He scanned her curiously.  Her agitation was plain to him, and it
puzzled him, as did the downcast glance of eyes usually so bold and
insolent in their gaze.  Then he pondered her tone, so laden with
expression by its very expressionlessness, and suddenly a flood of
light broke upon his mind, revealing very clearly and hideously her
meaning.  He caught his breath with a sudden gasp and blenched a
little.  Then his lips tightened suddenly.

"In that case, madame," he said, after a pause, and speaking as if
he were still without revelation of her meaning, "I can but regret
that you are not in my place.  For, as it is, I am thinking we shall
have to make the best of the hovel in Touraine."

She bit her lip in the intensity of her chagrin and shame.  She was
no fool, nor did she imagine from his words that her meaning had
been lost upon him.  She knew that he had understood, and that he
chose to pretend that he had not.  She looked up suddenly, her dark
eyes blazing, a splash of colour in either cheek.

"Fool!" she snapped at him; "you lily-livered fool!  Are you indeed
my son?  Are you - by God! - that you talk so lightly of yielding?"
She advanced a step in his direction.  "Through your cowardice you
may be content to spend your days in beggary; not so am I; nor shall
I be, so long as I have an arm and a voice.  You may go hence if
your courage fails you outright; but I'll throw up the bridge and
entrench myself within these walls.  Florimond de Condillac sets no
foot in here while I live; and if he should come within range of
musket-shot, it will be the worse for him."

"I think you are mad, madame - mad so to talk of resisting him, as
you are mad to call me coward.  I'll leave you till you are come to
a more tranquil frame of mind."  And turning upon his heel, his
face on fire from the lash of her contempt, he strode down the hall
and passed out, leaving her alone.

White again, with heaving bosom and clenched hands, she stood a
moment where he had left her, then dropped into a chair, and taking
her chin in her hand she rested her elbow on her knee.  Thus she
remained, the firelight tinting her perfect profile, on which little
might be read of the storm that was raging in her soul.  Another
woman in her place would have sought relief in tears, but tears came
rarely to the beautiful eyes of the Marquise de Condillac.

She sat there until the sun had passed from the windows behind her
and the corners of the room were lost in the quickening shadows.  At
last she was disturbed by the entrance of a lackey, who announced
that Monsieur le Comte de Tressan, Lord Seneschal of Dauphiny, was
come to Condillac.

She bade the fellow call help to clear the board, where still was
set their interrupted noontide meal, and then to admit the Seneschal.
With her back to the stirring, bustling servants she stood, pensively
regarding the flames, and a smile that was mocking rather than aught
else spread upon her face.

If all else failed her, she told herself, there would be no Touraine
hovel for her.  She could always be Comtesse de Tressan.  Let Marius
work out alone the punishment of his cowardice.

Away in the Northern Tower, where mademoiselle was lodged, she sat
in eager talk with Garnache, who had returned unobserved and
successful from his journey of espionage.

He had told her what from the conversation of Marius and his mother
he had learned touching the contents of that letter.  Florimond lay
as near as La Rochette, detained there by a touch of fever, but
promising to be at Condillac by the end of the week.  Since that
was so, Valerie opined there was no longer the need to put themselves
to the trouble of the escape they had planned.  Let them wait until
Florimond came.

But Garnache shook his head.  He had heard more; and for all that
he accounted her at present safe from Marius, yet he made no false
estimate of that supple gentleman's character, was not deluded by
his momentary show of niceness.  As the time of Florimond's
arrival grew nearer, he thought it very possible that Marius might
be rendered desperate.  There was grave danger in remaining.  He
said naught of this, yet he convinced mademoiselle that it were
best to go.

"Though there will no longer be the need of a toilsome journey as
far as Paris," he concluded.  "A four hours' ride to La Rochette,
and you may embrace your betrothed."

"Did he speak of me in his letter, know you, monsieur?" she

"I heard them say that he did not," Garnache replied.  "But it may
well be that he had good reason.  He may suspect more than he has

"In that case," she asked - and there was a wounded note in her voice
 - "Why should a touch of fever keep him at La Rochette?  Would a
touch of fever keep you from the woman you loved, monsieur, if you
knew, or even suspected, that she was in durance?"

"I do not know, mademoiselle.  I am an old man who has never loved,
and so it would be unfair of me to pass judgment upon lovers.  That
they think not as other folk is notorious; their minds are for the
time disordered."

Nevertheless he looked at her where she sat by the window, so gentle,
so lissome, so sweet, and so frail, and he had a shrewd notion that
were he Florimond de Condillac, whether he feared her in durance or
not, not the fever, nor the plague itself should keep him for the
best part of a week at La Rochette within easy ride of her.

She smiled gently at his words, and turned the conversation to the
matter that imported most.

"Tonight then, it is determined that we are to go?"

"At midnight or a little after.  Be in readiness, mademoiselle, and
do not keep me waiting when I rap upon your door.  Haste may be of

"You may count upon me, my friend," she answered him, and stirred
by a sudden impulse she held out her hand.  "You have been very
good to me, Monsieur de Garnache.  You have made life very different
for me since your coming.  I had it in my mind to blame you once
for your rashness in returning alone.  I was a little fool.  You
can never know the peace that has come to me from having you at
hand.  The fears, the terrors that possessed me before you came
have all been dispelled in this last week that you have been my
sentry in two senses."

He took the hand she held out to him, and looked down at her out of
his grimy, disfigured face, an odd tenderness stirring him.  He felt
as might have felt a father towards his daughter - at least, so
thought he then.

"Child," he answered her, "you overrate it.  I have done no less
than I could do, no more than any other would have done."

"Yet more than Florimond has done - and he my betrothed.  A touch
of fever was excuse enough to keep him at La Rochette, whilst the
peril of death did not suffice to deter you from coming hither."

"You forget, mademoiselle, that, maybe, he does not know your

"Maybe he does not," said she, with a half-sigh.  Then she looked
up into his face again.  "I am sad at the thought of going,
monsieur," she surprised him by saying.

"Sad?" he cried.  Then he laughed.  "But what can there be to
sadden you?"

"This, monsieur: that after to-night it is odds I shall never see
you more."  She said it without hesitation and without coquetry,
for her upbringing had been simple and natural in an atmosphere
different far from that in which had been reared the courtly women
he had known.  "You will return to Paris and the great world, and
I shall live out my life in this, little corner of Dauphiny.  You
will forget me in the, bustle of your career, monsieur; but I shall
always hold your memory very dear and very gratefully.  You are the
only friend I have ever known since my father died excepting
Florimond, though it is so long since I have seen him, and he never
came to me in times of stress as you have done."

"Mademoiselle," he answered, touched despite himself more touched
than he could have believed possible to his callous, world-worn
nature - "you make me very proud; you make me feel a little better
than I am, for if I have earned your regard and friendship, there
must be some good in old Garnache.  Believe me, mademoiselle, I too
shall not forget."

And thereafter they remained a spell in silence, she sitting by
the window, gazing out into the bright October sky, he standing by
her chair, thoughtfully considering her brown head so gracefully
set upon her little shoulders.  A feeling came to him that was odd
and unusual; he sought to interpret it, and he supposed it to mean
that he wished that at some time in the dim past he might have
married some woman who would have borne him for daughter such a
one as this.



The matter that brought Monsieur de Tressan to Condillac - and
brought him in most fearful haste - was the matter of the courier
who had that day arrived at the chateau.

News of it had reached the ears of my Lord Seneschal.  His mind had
been a prey to uneasiness concerning this business of rebellion in
which he had so rashly lent a hand, and he was anxious to know
whence came this courier and what news he brought.  But for all his
haste he had paused - remembering it was the Marquise he went to
visit - to don the gorgeous yellow suit with the hanging sleeves
which he had had from Paris, and the crimson sash he had bought at
Taillemant's, all in the very latest mode.

Thus arrayed, his wig well curled and a clump of it caught in ribbon
of flame-coloured silk on the left side, his sword hanging from belt
and carriages richly wrought with gold, and the general courtier-like
effect rather marred by the heavy riding-boots which he would have
liked to leave behind yet was constrained to wear, he presented
himself before the Dowager, hiding his anxiety in a melting smile,
and the latter in the profoundest of bows.

The graciousness of his reception overwhelmed him almost, for in his
supreme vanity he lacked the wit to see that this cordiality might
be dictated by no more than the need they had of him at Condillac.
A lackey placed a great chair for him by the fire that he might
warm himself after his evening ride, and the Dowager, having ordered
lights, sate herself opposite him with the hearth between them.

He simpered awhile and toyed with trivialities of speech before he
gave utterance to the matter that absorbed him.  Then, at last,
when they were alone, he loosed the question that was bubbling on
his lips.

"I hear a courier came to Condillac to-day."

For answer she told him what he sought to learn, whence came that
courier, and what the message that he brought.

"And so, Monsieur de Tressan," she ended, "my days at Condillac are

"Why so?" he asked, "since you say that Florimond has adopted
towards you a friendly tone.  Surely he would not drive his father's
widow hence?"

She smiled at the fire in a dreamy, pensive manner.

"No," said she, "he would not drive me hence.  He has offered me
the shelter of Condillac for as long as it may pleasure me to make
it my home."

"Excellent!" he exclaimed, rubbing his little fat hands and screwing
the little features of his huge red face into the grotesque
semblance of a smile.  "What need to talk of going, then?"

"What need?" she echoed, in a voice dull and concentrated.  "Do you
ask that, Tressan?  Do you think I should elect to live upon the
charity of this man?"

For all that the Lord Seneschal may have been dull-witted, yet he
had wit enough to penetrate to the very marrow of her meaning.

"You must hate Florimond very bitterly," said he.  She shrugged her

"I possess, I think, the faculty of feeling strongly.  I can love
well, monsieur, and I can hate well.  It is one or the other with
me.  And as cordially as I love my own son Marius, as cordially do
I detest this coxcomb Florimond."

She expressed no reasons for her hatred of her late husband's elder
son.  Hers were not reasons that could easily be put into words.
They were little reasons, trivial grains of offence which through
long years had accumulated into a mountain.  They had their
beginning in the foolish grievance that had its birth with her own
son, when she had realized that but for that rosy-cheeked,
well-grown boy borne to the Marquis by his first wife, Marius would
have been heir to Condillac.  Her love of her own child and her
ambitions for him, her keen desire to see him fill an exalted
position in the world, caused her a thousand times a day to wish
his half-brother dead.  Yet Florimond had flourished and grown, and
as he grew he manifested a character which, with all its

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