List Of Contents | Contents of St. Martin's Summer, by Rafael Sabatini
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Valerie watched him agonizedly, leaning now against the wall, her
hands pressed across her bosom, as if to keep down its tempestuous
heaving.  Yet her anguish was tempered by a great wonder and a great
admiration of this man who could keep such calm eyes and such
smiling lips in the face of the dreadful odds by which he was beset,
in the face of the certain death that must ultimately reach him
before he was many minutes older.  And in her imagination she
conjured up a picture of him lying there torn by their angry swords
and drenched in blood, his life gone out of him, his brave spirit,
quenched for ever - and all for her unworthy sake.  Because she
little, worthless thing that she was - would not marry as they
listed, this fine, chivalrous soul was to be driven from its
stalwart body.

An agony of grief took her now, and she fell once more to those
awful sobs that awhile ago had shaken her.  She had refused to
marry Marius that Florimond's life should be spared, knowing that
before Marius could reach him she herself would have warned her
betrothed.  Yet even had that circumstance not existed, she was sure
that still she would have refused to do the will of Marius.  But
equally sure was she that she would not so refuse him were he now to
offer as the price of her compliance the life of Garnache, which she
accounted irrevocably doomed.

Suddenly his steady, soothing voice penetrated her anguished musings.

"Calm yourself, mademoiselle; all is far, from lost as yet."

She thought that he but spoke so to comfort her; she did not follow
the working of his warlike mind, concentrated entirely upon the
business of the moment, with little thought - or care, for that
matter - for what might betide anon.  Yet she made an effort to
repress her sobs.  She would be brave, if only to show herself
worthy of the companionship and friendship of so brave a man.

Across his barricade he peered into the outer room to ascertain with
what fresh opponents he might ht have to reckon, and he was surprised
to see but four men standing by Fortunio, whilst behind them among
the thicker shadows, he dimly made out a woman's figure and, beside
her, another man who was short and squat.

He bethought him that the hour, and the circumstance that most of
the mercenaries would be in their beds, accounted for the
reinforcement not being greater.

The woman moved forward, and he saw as he had suspected, that it
was the Dowager herself.  The squat figure beside her, moving with
her into the shaft of light that fell from the doorway Garnache
defended, revealed to him the features of Monsieur de Tressan.  If
any doubt he had still entertained concerning the Seneschal's
loyalty, that doubt was now dispelled.

And now the Dowager uttered a sudden cry of fear.  She had caught
sight of the fallen Marius, and she hurried to his side.  Tressan
sped after her and between them they raised the boy and helped him
to a chair, where he now sat, passing a heavy hand across his no
doubt aching brow.  Clearly he was recovering, from which Garnache
opined with regret that his blow had been too light.  The Dowager
turned to Fortunio, who had approached her, and her eyes seemed to
take fire at something that he told her.

"Garnache?" the Parisian heard her say, and he saw Fortunio jerk
his thumb in the direction of the barricade.

She appeared to forget her son; she stepped suddenly from his side,
and peered through the doorway at the stalwart figure of Garnache,
dimly to be seen through the pile of furniture that protected him
to the height of his breast.  No word said she to the Parisian.
She stood regarding him a moment with lips compressed and a white,
startled, angry face.  Then:

"It was by Marius's contrivance that he was placed sentry over the
girl," he heard her tell Fortunio, and he thought she sneered.

She looked at the two bodies on the floor, one almost at her feet,
the other just inside the doorway, now almost hidden in the shadows
of the table.  Then she issued her commands to the men, and fiercely
she bade them pull down that barricade and take the dog alive.

But before they could move to do her bidding, Garnache's voice rang
imperatively through the chamber.

"A word with you ere they begin, Monsieur de Tressan," he shouted,
and such was the note of command he assumed that the men stood
arrested, looking to the Dowager for fresh orders.  Tressan changed
colour, for all that there was surely naught to fear, and he fingered
his beard perplexedly, looking to the Marquise for direction.  She
flashed him a glance, lifted one shoulder disdainfully, and to the

"Fetch him out," said she, and she pointed to Garnache.  But again
Garnache stayed them.

"Monsieur de Tressan," he called impressively, " to your dying day
 - and that will be none so distant - shall you regret it if you do
not hear me."

The Seneschal was stirred by those words and the half-threat,
half-warning; they seemed to cover.  He paused a moment, and this
time his eyes avoided the Marquise's.  At last, taking a step

"Knave," said he, "I do not know you."

"You know me well enough.  You have heard my name.  I am Martin
Marie Rigobert de Garnache, Her Majesty's emissary into Dauphiny to
procure the enlargement of Mademoiselle de La Vauvraye from the
Chateau de Condillac, where she is detained by force and for the
serving of unscrupulous ends.  Now you know me and my quality."

The Dowager stamped her foot.

"Fetch him out!" she commanded harshly.

"Hear me first, Monsieur le Seneschal, or it will be the worse for
you."  And the Seneschal, moved by that confident promise of evil,
threw himself before the men-at-arms.

"A moment, I beseech you, Marquise," he cried, and the men, seeing
his earnestness and knowing his quality, stood undecided, buffeted
as they were between his will and the Marquise's.  "What have you
to say to me?" Tressan demanded, seeking to render arrogant his tone.

"This: That my servant knows where I am, and that should I fail
within a very few days to come forth safe and sound from Condillac
to rejoin him, he is to ride to Paris with certain letters I have
given him.  Those letters incriminate you to the full in this
infamous matter here at Condillac.  I have set forth in them how
you refused me help, how you ignored the Queen's commands of which
I was the bearer; and should it be proved, in addition, that
through your treachery and insubordination my life has been lost,
I promise you that nothing in all this world will save you from a

"Never listen, monsieur," cried the Dowager, seeing Tressan start
back like a man in sudden fear.  "It is no more than the ruse of a
desperate man."

"Heed me or not, at your choice," Garnache retorted, addressing
himself ever to Tressan.  "You have had your warning.  I little
thought to see you here to-night.  But seeing you confirms my worst
suspicions, and if I am to die, I can die easy in my conscience at
the thought that in sacrificing you to Her Majesty's wrath I have
certainly not sacrificed an innocent man."

"Madame - " the Seneschal began, turning to the Dowager.  But she
broke in impatiently upon his intended words, upon the prayer that
bubbled to his lips that she should pause a while ere she made an
end of this Parisian.

"Monsieur," said she, "you may bargain with him when he is taken.
We will have him alive.  Go in," she bade her men, her voice so
resolute now that none dared tarry longer.  "Fetch the knave out
 - alive."

Garnache smiled at mademoiselle as the words were uttered.

"They want me alive," said he.  "That is a hopeful state of things.
Bear up, child; I may need your help ere we are through."

"You shall find me ready, monsieur," she assured him for all her
tremors.  He looked at the pale face, composed now by an effort of
her will, and at the beautiful hazel eyes which strove to meet his
with calm and to reflect his smile, and he marvelled at her courage
as much as did she at his.

Then the assault began, and he could have laughed at the way in
which a couple of those cut-throats - neither wishing to have the
honour of meeting him singly - hindered each other by seeking to
attack him at once.

At last the Dowager commanded one of them to go in.  The fellow
came, and he was driven back by the sword that darted at him from
above the barricade.

There matters might have come to a deadlock, but that Fortunio came
forward with one of his men to repeat the tactics which had cost
him a life already.  His fellow went down on his knees, and drove
his sword under the table and through the frame of the chair, seeking
to prick Garnache in the legs.  Simultaneously the captain laid hold
of an arm of the chair above and sought to engage Garnache across
it.  The ruse succeeded to the extent of compelling the Parisian to
retreat.  The table seemed likely to be his undoing instead of
helping him.  He dropped like lightning to one knee, seeking to force
the fellow out from underneath.  But the obstacles which should have
hindered his assailants hindered Garnache even more at this juncture.
In that instant Fortunio whipped the chair from the table-top, and
flung it forward.  One of its legs caught Garnache on the sword arm,
deadening it for a second.  The sword fell from his hand, and Valerie
shrieked aloud, thinking the battle at an end.  But the next moment
he was on his feet, his rapier firmly gripped once more, for all
that his arm still felt a trifle numbed.  As seconds passed the
numbness wore away, but before that had taken place the table had
been thrust forward, and the man beneath it had made it impossible
for Garnache to hinder this.  Suddenly he called to Valerie.

"A cloak, mademoiselle!  Get me a cloak!" he begged.  And she,
stemming her fears once more, ran to do his bidding.

She caught up a cloak that lay on a chair by the door of her
bed-chamber, and brought it to him.  He twisted it twice round his
left arm, letting its folds hang loose, and advanced again to try
conclusions with the gentleman underneath.  He cast the garment so
that it enmeshed the sword when next it was advanced.  Stepping
briskly aside, he was up to the table, and his busy blade drove
back the man who assailed him across it.  He threw his weight
against it, and thrust it back till it was jammed hard once more
against the doorposts, leaving the chair at his very feet.  The
man beneath had recovered his sword by this, and again he sought
to use it.  That was the end of him.  Again Garnache enmeshed it,
kicked away the chair, or, rather, thrust it aside with his foot,
stooped suddenly, and driving his blade under the table felt it
sink into the body of his tormentor.

There was a groan and a spluttering cough, and then before Garnache
could recover he heard mademoiselle crying out to him to beware.
The table was thrust suddenly forward almost on top of him; its edge
caught his left shoulder, and sent him back a full yard, sprawling
upon the ground

To rise again, gasping for air - for the fall had shaken him - was
the work of an instant.  But in that instant Fortunio had thrust the
table clear of the doorway, and his men were pouring into the room.

They came at Garnache in a body, with wild shouts and fierce mockery,
and he hurriedly fell on guard and gave way before them until his
shoulders were against the wainscot and he had at least the assurance
that none could take him in the rear.  Three blades engaged his own.
Fortunio had come no farther than the doorway, where he stood his
torn cheek drenched in blood, watching the scene the Marquise beside
him, and Tressan standing just behind them, very pale and scared.

Yet Garnache's first thought even in that moment of dire peril was
for Valerie.  He would spare her the sight that must before many
moments be spread to view within that shambles.

"To your chamber, mademoiselle," he cried to her.  "You hinder me,"
he added by way of compelling her obedience.  She did his bidding,
but only in part.  No farther went she than the doorway of her room,
where she remained standing, watching the fray as earlier she had
stood and watched it from the door of the antechamber.

Suddenly she was moved by inspiration.  He had gained an advantage
before, by retreating through a doorway into an inner room.  Might
he not do the same again, and be in better case if he were to
retreat now to her own chamber?  Impulsively she called to him.

"In here, Monsieur de Garnache.  In here."

The Marquise looked across at her, and smiled in mockery.  Garnache
was too well occupied, she thought, to attempt any such rashness.
If he but dared remove his shoulders from the wall there would be a
speedier end to him than as things were.

Not so, however, thought Garnache.  The cloak twisted about his left
arm gave him some advantage, and he used it to the full.  He flicked
the slack of it in the face of one, and followed it up by stabbing
the fellow in the stomach before he could recover guard, whilst with
another wave of that cloak he enmeshed the sword that shot readily
into the opening he had left.

Madame cursed, and Fortunio echoed her imprecations.  The Seneschal
gasped, his fears lost in amazement at so much valour and dexterity.

Garnache swung away from the wall now, and set his back to
mademoiselle, determined to act upon her advice.  But even in that
moment he asked himself for the first time since the commencement
of that carnage - to what purpose?  His arms were growing heavy with
fatigue, his mouth was parched, and great beads of perspiration
stood upon his brow.  Soon he would be spent, and they would not
fail to take a very full advantage of it.

Hitherto his mind had been taken up with the battle only, and if he
had thought of retreating, it was but to the end that he might gain
a position of some vantage.  Now, conscious of his growing fatigue,
his thoughts turned them at last to the consideration of flight.
Was there no way out of it?  Must he kill every man in Condillac
before he could hope to escape?

Whimsically, and almost mechanically, he set himself, in his mind,
to count the men.  There were twenty mercenaries all told, excluding
Fortunio and himself.  On Arsenio he might rely not to attack him,
perhaps even to come to his assistance at the finish.  That left
nineteen.  Four he had already either killed outright or effectively
disabled; so that fifteen remained him.  The task of dealing with
those other fifteen was utterly beyond him.  Presently, no doubt,
the two now opposing him would be reinforced by others.  So that if
any possible way out existed, he had best set about finding it at

He wondered could he cut down these two, make an end of Fortunio,
and, running for it, attempt to escape through the postern before
the rest of the garrison had time to come up with him or guess his
purpose.  But the notion was too wild, its accomplishment too

He was fighting now with his back to mademoiselle and his face to
the tall window, through the leaded panes of which he caught the
distorted shape of a crescent moon.  Suddenly the idea came to him.

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