List Of Contents | Contents of St. Martin's Summer, by Rafael Sabatini
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in her sweet, unthinking innocence to say again:

"I am truly sorry, Monsieur de Garnache, that our sojourn here is
coming to an end."

He was no coxcomb, and he set no false value on the words.  He
laughed for answer, as he rejoined:

"Not so am I, mademoiselle.  Nor shall I know peace of mind again
until this ill-omened chateau is a good three leagues or so behind
us.  Sh!  What was that?"

He came instantly to his feet, his face intent and serious.  He had
been sitting at his ease in an armchair, over the back of which he
had tossed the baldric from which his sword depended.  The clang of
the heavy door below, striking the wall as it was pushed open, had
reached his ears.

"Can it be time already?" asked mademoiselle; yet a panic took her,
and she blenched a little.

He shook his head.

"Impossible," said he; "it is not more than ten o'clock.  Unless
that fool Arsenio has blundered -" He stopped.  "Sh!" he whispered.
"Some one is coming here."

And suddenly he realized the peril that might lie in being found
thus in her company.  It alarmed him more than did the visit itself,
so unusual at this hour.  He saw that he had not time to reach the
guard-room; he would be caught in the act of coming forth, and that
might be interpreted by the Dowager or her son - if it should happen
to be one or the other of them - as a hurried act of flight such as
guilt might prompt.  Perhaps he exaggerated the risk; but their
fortunes at Condillac had reached a point where they must not be
jeopardized by any chance however slight.

"To your chamber, mademoiselle," he whispered fearfully, and he
pointed to the door of the inner room.  "Lock yourself in.  Quick!
Sh!"  And he signed frantically to her to go silently.

Swift and quietly as a mouse she glided from the room and softly
closed the door of her chamber and turned the key in a lock, which
Garnache had had the foresight to keep well oiled.  He breathed
more freely when it was done.

A step sounded in the guard-room.  He sank without a rustle into
the chair from which he had risen, rested his head against the back
of it, closed his eyes, opened his mouth, and dissembled sleep.

The steps came swiftly across the guard-room floor, soft, as of one
lightly shod; and Garnache wondered was it the mother or the son,
just as he wondered what this ill-come visitor might be seeking.

The door of the antechamber was pushed gently open it had stood
ajar - and under the lintel appeared the slender figure of Marius,
still in his brown velvet suit as Garnache last had seen him.  He
paused a moment to peer into the chamber.  Then he stepped forward,
frowning to behold "Battista" so cosily ensconced.

"Ola there!" he cried, and kicked the sentry's outstretched legs,
the more speedily to wake him.  "Is this the watch you keep?"

Garnache opened his eyes and stared a second dully at the disturber
of his feigned slumbers.  Then, as if being more fully awakened he
recognized his master, he heaved himself suddenly to his feet and

"Is this the watch you keep?" quoth Marius again, and Garnache,
scanning the youth's face with foolishly smiling eyes, noted the
flush on his cheek, the odd glitter in his handsome eyes, and even
caught a whiff of wine upon his breath.  Alarm grew in Garnache's
mind, but his face maintained its foolish vacancy, its inane smile.
He bowed again and, with a wave of the hands towards the inner

"La damigella a la," said he.

For all that Marius had no Italian he understood the drift of the
words, assisted as they were by the man's expressive gesture.  He
sneered cruelly.

"It would be an ugly thing for you, my ugly friend, if she were
not," he answered.  "Away with you.  I shall call you when I need
you."  And he pointed to the door.

Garnache experienced some dismay, some fear even.  He plied his
wits, and he determined that he had best seem to apprehend from his
gestures Marius's meaning; but apprehend it in part only, and go no
further than the other side of that door.

He bowed, therefore, for the third time, and with another of his
foolish grins he shuffled out of the chamber, pulling the door after
him, so that Marius should not see how near at hand he stayed.

Marius, without further heeding him, stepped to mademoiselle's door
and rapped on a panel with brisk knuckles.

"Who is there?" she inquired from within.

"It is I - Marius.  Open, I have something I must say to you."

"Will it not keep till morning?"

"I shall be gone by then," he answered impatiently, "and much
depends upon my seeing you ere I go.  So open.  Come!"

There followed a pause, and Garnache in the outer room set his teeth
and prayed she might not anger Marius.  He must be handled skillfully,
lest their flight should be frustrated at the last moment.  He
prayed, too, that there might be no need for his intervention.  That
would indeed be the end of all - a shipwreck within sight of harbour.
He promised himself that he would not lightly intervene.  For the
rest this news of Marius's intended departure filled him with a
desire to know something of the journey on which he was bound:

Slowly mademoiselle's door opened.  White and timid she appeared.

"What do you want, Marius?"

"Now and always and above all things the sight of you, Valerie,"
said he, and the flushed cheek, the glittering eye, and wine-laden
breath were as plain to her as they had been to Garnache, and they
filled her with a deeper terror.  Nevertheless she came forth at
his bidding.

"I see that you were not yet abed," said he.  "It is as well.  We
must have a talk."  He set a chair for her and begged her to be
seated; then he perched himself on the table, his hands gripping
the edges of it on either side of him, and he turned his eyes upon

"Valerie," he said slowly, "the Marquis de Condillac, my brother,
is at La Rochette."

"He is coming home!" she cried, clasping her hands and feigning
surprise in word and glance.

Marius shook his head and smiled grimly.

"No," said he.  "He is not coming home.  That is - not unless you
wish it."

"Not unless I wish it?   But naturally I wish it!"

"Then, Valerie, if you would have what you wish, so must I.  If
Florimond is ever to come to Condillac again, you must be my wife."

He leaned towards her now, supported by his elbow, so that his face
was close to hers, a deeper flush upon it, a brighter glitter in his
black eyes, his vinous breath enveloping and suffocating her.  She
shrank back, her hands locking themselves one in the other till the
knuckles showed white.

"What - what is it you mean?" she faltered.

"No more than I have said; no less.  If you love him well enough to
sacrifice yourself," and his lips curled sardonically at the word,
"then marry me and save him from his doom."

"What doom?" Her voice came mechanically, her lips seeming scarce
to move.

He swung down from the table and stood before her.

"I will tell you," he said, in a voice very full of promise.  "I
love you, Valerie, above all else on earth or, I think, in heaven;
and I'll not yield you to him.  Say 'No' to me now, and at daybreak
I start for La Rochette to win you from him at point of sword."

Despite her fears she could not repress a little smile of scorn.

"Is that all?" said she.  "Why, if you are so rash, it is yourself,
assuredly, will be slain."

He smiled tranquilly at that reflection upon his courage and his

"So might it befall if I went alone," said he.  She understood.
Her eyes dilated with horror, with loathing of him.  The angry words
that sprang to her lips were not to be denied.

"You cur, you cowardly assassin!" she blazed at him.  "I might have
guessed that in some such cutthroat manner would your vaunt of
winning me at the sword-point be accomplished."

She watched the colour fade from his cheeks, and the ugly, livid
hue that spread in its room to his very lips.  Yet it did not daunt
her.  She was on her feet, confronting him ere he had time to speak
again.  Her eyes flashed, and her arm pointed quivering to the door.

"Go!" she bade him, her voice harsh for once.  "Out of my sight!
Go!  Do your worst, so that you leave me.  I'll hold no traffic
with you."

"Will you not?" said he, through setting teeth, and suddenly he
caught the wrist of that outstretched arm.  But she saw nothing of
immediate danger.  The only danger that she knew was the danger that
threatened Florimond, and little did that matter since at midnight
she was to leave Condillac to reach La Rochette in time to warn her
betrothed.  The knowledge gave her confidence and an added courage.

"You have offered me your bargain," she told him.  "You have named
your price and you have heard my refusal.  Now go."

"Not yet awhile," said he, in a voice so odiously sweet that
Garnache caught his breath.

He drew her towards him.  Despite her wild struggles he held her
fast against his breast.  Do what she would, he rained his hot
kisses on her face and hair, till at last, freeing a hand, she smote
him with all her might across the face.

He let her go then.  He fell back with an oath, a patch of
fingermarks showing red on his white countenance.

"That blow has killed Florimond de Condillac, he told her viciously.
"He dies at noon to-morrow.  Ponder it, my pretty."

"I care not what you do so that you leave me," she answered
defiantly, restraining by a brave effort the tears of angry distress
that welled up from her stricken heart.  And no less stricken, no
less angry was Garnache where he listened.  It was by an effort that
he had restrained himself from bursting in upon them when Marius had
seized her.  The reflection that were he to do so all would
irretrievably be ruined alone had stayed him.

Marius eyed the girl a moment, his face distorted by the rage that
was in him.

"By God!" he swore, "if I cannot have your love, I'll give you cause
enough to hate me."

"Already have you done that most thoroughly," said she.  And Garnache
cursed this pertness of hers which was serving to dare him on.

The next moment there broke from her a startled cry.  Marius had
seized her again and was crushing her frail body in his arms.

"I shall kiss your lips before I go, ma mie," said he, his voice
thick now with a passion that was not all of anger.  And then, while
he still struggled to have his way with her, a pair of arms took him
about the waist like hoops of steel.

In his surprise he let her free, and in that moment he was swung
back and round and cast a good six paces down the room.

He came to a standstill by the table, at which he clutched to save
himself from falling, and turned bewildered, furious eyes upon
"Battista," by whom he now dimly realized that he had been assailed.

Garnache's senses had all left him in that moment when Valerie had
cried out.  He cast discretion to the winds; reason went out of him,
and only blind anger remained to drive him into immediate action.
And as suddenly as that flood of rage had leaped, as suddenly did it
ebb now that he found himself face to face with the outraged
Condillac and began to understand the magnitude of the folly he had

Everything was lost now, utterly and irretrievably - lost as a dozen
other fine emprises had been by his sudden and ungoverned frenzy.
God!  What a fool he was!  What a cursed, drivelling fool!  What,
after all, was a kiss or two, compared with all the evil that might
now result from his interference?  Haply Marius would have taken
them and departed, and at midnight they would have been free to go
from Condillac.

The future would not have been lacking in opportunities to seek out
and kill Marius for that insult.

Why could he not have left the matter to the future?  But now, with
Florimond to be murdered on the morrow at La Rochette, himself likely
to be murdered within the hour at Condillac, Valerie was at their
mercy utterly.

Wildly and vainly did he strive even then to cover up the foolish
thing that he had done.  He bowed apologetically to Marius; he
waved his hands and filled the air with Italian phrases, frenziedly
uttered, as if by the very vigour of them he sought to drive
explanation into his master's brain.  Marius watched and listened,
but his rage nowise abated; it grew, instead, as if that farrago of
a language he did not understand were but an added insult.  An oath
was all he uttered.  Then he swung round and caught Garnache's sword
from the chair beside him, where it still rested, and Garnache in
that moment cursed the oversight.  Whipping the long, keen blade
from its sheath, Marius bore down upon the rash meddler.

"Par Dieu!" he swore between his teeth.  "We'll see the colour of
your dirty blood, you that lay hands upon a gentleman."

But before he could send home the weapon, before Garnache could move
to defend himself, Valerie had slipped between them.  Marius looked
into her white, determined face, and was smitten with surprise.
What was this hind to her that she should interfere at the risk of
taking the sword herself?

Then a slow smile spread upon his face.  He was smarting still under
her disdain and resistance, as well as under a certain sense of the
discomfiture this fellow had put upon him.  He saw a way to hurt her,
to abase her pride, and cut her to the very soul with shame.

"You are singularly concerned in this man's life," said he, an
odious undercurrent of meaning in his voice.

"I would not have you murder him," she answered, "for doing no more
than madame your mother bade him."

"I make no doubt he has proved a very excellent guard," he sneered.

Even now all might have been well.  With that insult Marius might
consider that he had taken payment for the discomfiture he had
suffered.  He might have bethought him that, perhaps, as she said,
"Battista" had done no more than observe the orders he had received
 - a trifle excessively, maybe, yet faithfully nevertheless.
Thinking thus, he might even have been content to go his ways and
take his fill of vengeance by slaying Florimond upon the morrow.
But Garnache's rash temper, rising anew, tore that last flimsy
chance to shreds.

The insult that mademoiselle might overlook might even not have fully
understood - set him afire with indignation for her sake.  He forgot
his role, forgot even that he had no French.

"Mademoiselle," he cried, and she gasped in her affright at this
ruinous indiscretion, "I beg that you will stand aside."  His voice
was low and threatening, but his words were woefully distinct.

"Par la mort Dieu!" swore Marius, taken utterly aback.  "What may
your name be - you who hitherto have had no French?"

Almost thrusting mademoiselle.  aside, Garnache stood out to face
him, the flush of hot anger showing through the dye on his cheeks.

"My name," said he, "is Martin Marie Rigobert de Garnache, and my
business now to make an end of one at least of this obscene brood
of Condillac."

And, without more ado, he caught up a chair and held it before him
in readiness to receive the other's onslaught.

But Marius hung back an instant - at first in sheer surprise, later
in fear.  He had some knowledge of the fellow's methods.  Even the

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