List Of Contents | Contents of St. Martin's Summer, by Rafael Sabatini
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Through that window must lie his way.  It was a good fifty feet
above the moat, he knew, and if he essayed to leap it, it must be
an even chance that he would be killed in leaping.  But the chance
of death was a certain one if he tarried where he was until others
came to support his present opponents.  And so he briskly determined
upon the lesser risk.

He remembered that the window was nailed down, as it had remained
since mademoiselle's pretended attempt at flight.  But surely that
should prove no formidable obstacle.

And now that his resolve was taken his tactics abruptly changed.
Hitherto he had been sparing of his movements, husbanding his
strength against the long battle that seemed promised him.  Suddenly
he assumed the offensive where hitherto he had but acted in
self-defence, and a most deadly offensive was it.  He plied his
cloak, untwisting it from his arm and flinging it over the head and
body of one of his assailants, so that he was enmeshed and blinded
by it.  Leaping to the fellow's flank, Garnache, with a terrific
kick, knocked his legs from under him so that he fell heavily.
Then, stooping suddenly, the Parisian ran his blade under the other
brave's guard and through the fellow's thigh.  The man cried out,
staggered, and then went down utterly disabled.

One swift downward thrust Garnache made at the mass that wriggled
under his cloak.  The activity of its wriggles increased in the next
few seconds, then ceased altogether.

Tressan felt wet from head to foot with a sweat provoked by horror
of what he saw.  The Dowager's lips were pouring forth a horrid
litany of guard-room oaths, and meanwhile Garnache had swung round
to meet Fortunio, the last of all who had stood with him.

The captain came on boldly, armed with sword and dagger, and in that
moment, feeling himself spent, Garnache bitterly repented having
relinquished his cloak.  Yet he made a stubborn fight, and whilst
they fenced and stamped about that room, Marius came to watch them,
staggering to his mother's side and leaning heavily upon Tressan's
shoulder.  The Marquise turned to him, her face livid to the lips.

"That man must be the very fiend," Garnache heard her tell her son.
"Run for help, Tressan, or, God knows, he may escape us yet.  Go for
men, or we shall have Fortunio killed as well.  Bid them bring

Tressan, moving like one bereft of wits, went her errand, while the
two men fought on, stamping and panting, circling and lunging, their
breath coming in gasps, their swords grinding and clashing till
sparks leapt from them.

The dust rose up to envelop and almost choke them, and more than
once they slipped in the blood with which the floor was spattered,
whilst presently Garnache barely recovered and saved himself from
stumbling over the body of one of his victims against which his
swiftly moving feet had hurtled.

And the Dowager, who watched the conflict and who knew something of
sword-play, realized that, tired though Garnache might be, unless
help came soon or some strange chance gave the captain the advantage,
Fortunio would be laid low with the others.

His circling had brought the Parisian round, so that his back was
now to the window, his face to the door of the bedchamber, where
mademoiselle still watched in ever-growing horror.  His right
shoulder was in line with the door of the antechamber, which madame
occupied, and he never saw her quit Marius's side and creep slyly
into the room to speed swiftly round behind him.

The only one from whom he thought that he might have cause to fear
treachery was the man whom he had dropped with a thigh wound, and
he was careful to keep beyond the reach of any sudden sword-thrust
from that fellow.

But if he did not see the woman's movements, mademoiselle saw them,
and the sight set her eyes dilating with a new fear.  She guessed
the Dowager's treacherous purpose.  And no sooner had she guessed
it than, with a choking sob, she told herself that what madame could
do that could she also.

Suddenly Garnache saw an opening; Fortunio's eyes, caught by the
Dowager's movements, strayed for a moment past his opponent, and the
thing would have been fatal to the captain but that in that moment,
as Garnache was on the point of lunging, he felt himself caught from
behind, his arms pinioned to his sides by a pair of slender ones
that twined themselves about him, and over his shoulder, the breath
of it fanning his hot cheek, came a vicious voice -

"Stab now, Fortunio!"

The captain asked nothing better.  He raised his weary sword-arm
and brought his point to the level of Garnache's breast, but in
that instant its weight became leaden.  Imitating the Marquise,
Valerie had been in time.  She seized Fortunio's half-lifted arm and
flung all her weight upon it.

The captain cursed her horridly in a frenzy of fear, for he saw that
did Garnache shake off the Marquise there would be an end of himself.
He sought to wrench himself free of her detaining grasp, and the
exertion brought him down, weary as he was, and with her weight
hanging to him.  He sank to his knees, and the girl, still clinging
valiantly, sank with him, calling to Garnache that she held the
captain fast.

Putting forth all his remaining strength, the Parisian twisted from
the Dowager's encircling grasp and hurled her from him with a
violence he nowise intended.

"Yours, madame, are the first woman's arms that ever Martin de
Garnache has known," said he.  "And never could embrace of beauty
have been less welcome."

Panting, he caught up one of the overturned chairs.  Holding it by
the back he made for the window.  He had dropped his sword, and he
called to mademoiselle to hold the captain yet an instant longer.
He swung his chair aloft and dashed it against the window.  There
was a thundering crash of shivered glass and a cool draught of that
November night came to sweeten the air that had been fouled by the
stamping of the fighters.

Again he swung up his chair and dashed it at the window, and yet
again, until no window remained, but a great, gaping opening with a
fringe of ragged glass and twisted leadwork.

In that moment Fortunio struggled to his feet, free of the girl, who
sank, almost in a swoon.  He sprang towards Garnache.  The Parisian
turned and flung his now shattered chair toward the advancing captain.
It dropped at his feet, and his flying shins struck against an edge
of it, bringing him, hurt and sprawling, to the ground.  Before he
could recover, a figure was flying through the open gap that lately
had been a window.

Mademoiselle sat up and screamed.

"You will be killed, Monsieur de Garnache!  Dear God, you will be
killed!" and the anguish in her voice was awful.

It was the last thing that reached the ears of Monsieur de Garnache
as he tumbled headlong through the darkness of the chill November



Fortunio and the Marquise reached the window side by side, and they
were in time to hear a dull splash in the waters fifty feet below
them.  There was a cloud over the little sickle of moon, and to their
eyes, fresh from the blaze of candle-light, the darkness was

"He is in the moat," cried the Marquise excitedly, and Valerie, who
sat on the floor whither she had slipped when Fortunio shook her off,
rocked herself in an agony of fear.

To the horrors about her - the huddled bodies lying so still upon
the floor, the bloody footprints everywhere, the shattered furniture,
and the groans of the man with the wounded thigh - to all this she
was insensible.  Garnache was dead, she told herself; he was surely
dead; and it seemed as if the very thought of it were killing, too,
a part of her own self.

Unconsciously she sobbed her fears aloud.  "He is dead," she moaned;
"he is dead."

The Marquise overheard that piteous cry, and turned to survey the
girl, her brows lifting, her lips parting in an astonishment that
for a second effaced the horrors of that night.  Suspicion spread
like an oil stain in her evil mind.  She stepped forward and caught
the girl by one of her limp arms.  Marius, paler than his stunning
had left him, leaned more heavily against the door-post, and looked
on with bloodshot eyes.  If ever maiden avowed the secret of her
heart, it seemed to him that Valerie avowed it then.

The Marquise shook her angrily.

"What was he to you, girl?  What was he to you?" she demanded shrilly.

And the girl, no more than half conscious of what she was saying,
made answer:

"The bravest gentleman, the noblest friend I have ever known."

Pah!  The Dowager dropped her arm and turned to issue a command to
Fortunio.  But already the fellow had departed.  His concern was
not with women, but with the man who had escaped him.  He must make
certain that the fall had killed Garnache.

Breathless and worn as he was, all spattered now with blood from the
scratch in his cheek, which lent him a terrific aspect, he dashed
from that shambles and across the guard-room.  He snatched up a
lighted lantern that had been left in the doorway and leapt down the
stairs and into the courtyard.  Here he came upon Monsieur de Tressan
with a half-dozen fellows at his heels, all more or less half clad,
but all very fully armed with swords and knives, and one or two with

Roughly, with little thought for the dignity of his high office, he
thrust the Lord Seneschal aside and turned the men.  Some he ordered
off to the stables to get horses, for if Garnache had survived his
leap and swum the moat, they must give chase.  Whatever betide, the
Parisian must not get away.  He feared the consequences of that as
much for himself as for Condillac.  Some five or six of the men he
bade follow him, and never pausing to answer any of Tressan's
fearful questions, he sped across the courtyard, through the kitchens
 - which was the nearest way - into the outer quadrangle.  Never
pausing to draw breath, spent though he was, he pursued his flight
under the great archway of the keep and across the drawbridge, the
raising of which had been that night postponed to await the Lord
Seneschal's departure.

Here on the bridge he paused and turned in a frenzy to scream to
his followers that they should fetch more torches.  Meanwhile he
snatched the only one at hand from the man-at-arms that carried it.

His men sprang into the guard-room of the keep, realizing from his
almost hysterical manner the urgent need for haste.  And while he
waited for them, standing there on the bridge, his torch held high,
he scanned by its lurid red light the water as far as eye could
reach on either side of him.

There was a faint movement on the dark, oily surface for all that no
wind stirred.  Not more than four or five minutes could have elapsed
since Garnache's leap, and it would seem as if the last ripple from
the disturbance of his plunge had not yet rolled itself out.  But
otherwise there was nothing here, nor did Fortunio expect aught.  The
window of the Northern Tower abutted on to the other side of the
chateau, and it was there he must look for traces of the fugitive or
for his body.

"Hasten!" he shouted over his shoulder.  "Follow me!"  And without
waiting for them he ran across the bridge and darted round the
building, his torch scattering a shower of sparks behind him on the
night, and sending little rills of blood-red light down the sword
which he still carried.

He gained the spot where Garnache must have fallen, and he stood
below the radiance that clove the night from the shattered window
fifty feet above, casting the light of his torch this way and that
over the black bosom of the moat.  Not a ripple moved now upon that
even, steely surface.  Voices sounded behind him, and with them a
great glare of ruddy light came to herald the arrival of his men.
He turned to them and pointed with his sword away from the chateau.

"Spread yourselves!" he shouted.  "Make search yonder.  He cannot
have gone far."

And they, but dimly realizing whom they sought, yet realizing that
they sought a man, dashed off and spread themselves as he had bidden
them, to search the stretch of meadowland, where ill must betide any
fugitive, since no cover offered.

Fortunio remained where he was at the edge of the moat.  He stooped,
and waving his torch along the ground he moved to the far angle of
the chateau, examining the soft, oozy clay.  It was impossible that
a man could have clambered out over that without leaving some
impression.  He reached the corner and found the clay intact; at
least, nowhere could he discover a mark of hands or a footprint set
as would be that of a man emerging from the water.

He retraced his steps and went back until he had reached the eastern
angle of the chateau, yet always with the same result.  He
straightened himself at last, and his manner was more calm; his
frenzied haste was gone, and deliberately he now raised his torch and
let its light shine again over the waters.  He pondered them a moment,
his dark eyes musing almost regretfully.

"Drowned!" he said aloud, and sheathed his sword.

>From the window overhead a voice hailed him.  He looked up and saw
the Dowager, and, behind her, the figure of her son.  Away in the
meadows the lights of his men's torches darted hither and thither
like playful jack-o'-lanterns.

"Have you got him, Fortunio?"

"Yes, madame," he answered with assurance.  "You may have his body
when you will.  He is underneath here."  And he pointed to the water.

They appeared to take his word for it, for they questioned him no
further.  The Marquise turned to mademoiselle, who was still sitting
on the floor.

"He is drowned, Valerie," she said slowly, watching the girl's face.

Valerie looked up.  Her eyes were very wide, and her lips moved for
a second.  Then she fell forward without a word.  This last horror,
treading on the heels of all those that already had assailed her,
proved too great a strain for her brave spirit.  She had swooned.

Tressan entered at that moment, full of questions as to what might
be toward, for he had understood nothing in the courtyard.  The
Marquise called to him to help her with the girl, Marius being still
too faint, and between them they bore her to her chamber, laid her
on the bed, and, withdrawing, closed the door upon her.  Then she
signed to Marius and the Seneschal.

"Come," she said; "let us go.  The sight and smell of the place are
turning me sick, although my stomach is strong enough to endure most

She took up one of the candle-branches to light them, and they went
below and made their way to the hall, where they found Marius's page,
Gaston, looking very pale and scared at the din that had filled the
chateau during the past half-hour or so.  With him was Marius's hound,
which the poor boy had kept by him for company and protection in that
dreadful time.

The Marquise spoke to him kindly, and she stooped to pat the dog's
glossy head.  Then she bade Gaston set wine for them, and when it
was fetched the three of them drank in brooding, gloomy silence.

The draught invigorated Marius, it cheered Tressan's drooping

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