List Of Contents | Contents of St. Martin's Summer, by Rafael Sabatini
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of profit.

He trudged on, reassured.  He had been a fool so to give way to
fear; as great a fool as he had been when The had laid hands on
Marius to quell his excessive amorousness.  Dieu!  Was he bewitched?
What ailed him?  Again he paused there in the night to think the
situation out.

A dozen thoughts, all centering about Valerie, came crowding in upon
his brain, till in the end a great burst of laughter - the laughter
of a madman almost, eerie and terrific as it rang upon the silent
night broke from his parted lips.  That brief moment of introspection
had revealed him to himself, and the revelation had fetched that
peal of mocking laughter from him.

He realized now, at last, that not because the Queen had ordered
him to procure Mademoiselle de La Vauvraye's enlargement had he
submitted to assume a filthy travesty, to set his neck in jeopardy,
to play the lackey and the spy.  It was because something in
Valerie's eyes, something in her pure, lily face had moved him to
it; and simultaneously had come the thought of the relation in which
she stood to that man at La Rochette whose life he now sought to
save for her, and it had stabbed him with a bitterness no misfortune,
no failure yet had brought him.

He trudged on, knowing himself for what he was a fool who, after
close upon forty years of a strenuous life in which no petticoat had
played a part, was come under the spell of a pair of innocent eyes
belonging to a child almost young enough to have been his daughter.

He despised himself a little for his weakness; he despised himself
for his apostasy from the faith that had governed his life - the
faith to keep himself immune from the folly to which womanhood had
driven so many a stout man.

And yet, mock himself, despise himself as he would, a great tenderness, a great desire grew
strong in his soul that night as he trudged on toward distant Voiron.  Mile after mile her image
kept him company, and once, when he had left Voreppe behind him, the greater portion of his
journey done, some devil whispered in his ear that he was weary; that he would be over-weary
on the morrow for any ride to La Rochette.  He had done all that mortal man could do; let him
rest to-morrow whilst Marius and Fortunio accomplished by Florimond what the fever had

A cold perspiration broke on him as he wrestled with that grim
temptation.  Valerie was his; she belonged to him by the right of
dangers shared; never had mother in her labours been nearer death
for the offspring's sake than had he for Valerie during the days
that were sped and the hours that were but gone.  She belonged to
him by the title of those dangers he had been through.  What had
Florimond done to establish his claim to her?  He had remained
absent during long years, a-warring in a foreign land.  With how
many banal loves might not the fellow in that time have strewn his
soldier's path!  Garnache knew well how close does Cupid stalk in
the wake of Mars, knew well the way of these gay soldiers and the
lightness of their loves.

Was, then, this fellow to come now and claim her, when perils were
past, when there was naught left to do but lead her to the altar?
Could he be worthy of such a pearl of womanhood, this laggard who,
because a fever touched him, sat him down in an inn within a few
hours' ride of her to rest him, as though the world held no such
woman as Valerie?

And she, herself, by what ties was she bound to him?  By the ties
of an old promise, given at an age when she knew not what love meant.
He had talked of it with her, and he knew how dispassionately she
awaited Florimond's return.  Florimond might be betrothed to her
 - her father and his had encompassed that between them - but no
lover of hers was he.

Thus far did his thoughts journey, and temptation gripped him ever
more and more strongly.  And then his manhood and his honour awoke
with a shudder, as awakens a man from an ugly dream.  What manner
of fool was he? he asked himself again.  Upon what presumptions
did he base his silly musings?  Did he suppose that even were there
no Florimond, it would be left for a harsh, war-worn old greybeard
such as he to awaken tenderness in the bosom of that child?  The
tenderness of friendship perhaps - she had confessed to that; but
the tenderness of her sweet love must be won by a younger, comelier

If love had indeed touched him at last, let him be worthy of it and
of her who inspired it.  Let him strain every sinew in her service,
asking no guerdon; let him save the life of the man to whom she was
affianced; let him save her from the clutches of the Marquise de
Condillac and her beautiful, unscrupulous son.

He put his folly from him and-went on, seeking to hold his mind to
the planning of his to-morrow's journey and its business.  He had
no means to know that at that very hour Valerie was on her knees by
her little white bed, in the Northern Tower of Condillac, praying
for the repose of the soul of Monsieur de Garnache - the bravest
gentleman, the noblest friend she had ever known.  For she accounted
him dead, and she thought with horror of his body lying in the slime
under the cold waters of the moat beneath the window of her
antechamber.  A change seemed to have come upon her.  Her soul was
numb, her courage seemed dead, and little care had she in that hour
of what might betide her now.

Florimond was coming, she remembered: coming to wed her.  Ah, well!
It mattered little, since Monsieur de Garnache was dead - as though
it could have mattered had he been living!

Three hours of his long striding brought Garnache at last to Voiron,
and the echo of his footsteps rang through the silent streets and
scared a stray cat or two that were preying out of doors.  There was
no watch in the little township and no lights, but by the moon's
faint glimmer Garnache sought the inn of the Beau Paon, and found
it at the end of a little wandering.  A gaudy peacock, with tail
spread wide, was the sign above the door on which he thumped and
kicked as if he would have beaten it down.

It opened after some delay, and a man, half clad, candle in hand, a
night-cap on his hoary locks, showed an angry face at the opening.

At sight of the gaunt, bedraggled figure that craved admittance,
the landlord would have shut the door again, fearing that he had to
do with some wild bandit from the hills.  But Garnache thrust his
foot in the way.

"There is a man named Rabecque, from Paris, lodging here.  I must
have instant speech with him," said he; and his words, together
with the crisp, commanding tones in which they were uttered, had
their effect upon the host.

Rabecque had been playing the great lord during the week he had
spent at Voiron, and had known how to command a certain deference
and regard.  That this tatterdemalion, with the haughty voice,
should demand to see him at that hour of the night, with such scant
unconcern of how far he might incommode the great Monsieur Rabecque,
earned for him too a certain measure of regard, though still alloyed
with some suspicion.

The landlord bade him enter.  He did not know whether Monsieur
Rabecque would forgive him for being disturbed; he could not say
whether Monsieur Rabecque would consent to see this visitor at such
an hour; very probably he would not.  Still, monsieur might enter.

Garnache cut him short before he had half done, announced his name
and bade him convey it to Rabecque.  The alacrity with which the
lackey stirred from his bed upon hearing who it was that had arrived
impressed the host not a little, but not half so much as it impressed
him presently to observe the deference with which this great Monsieur
Rabecque of Paris confronted the scarecrow below stairs when he was
brought into its presence.

"You are safe and sound, monsieur?" he cried, in deferential joy.

"Aye, by a miracle, mon fils," Garnache answered him, with a short
laugh.  "Help me to bed; then bring me a cup of spiced wine.  I have
swum a moat and done other wonders in these clothes."

The host and Rabecque bustled now to minister to his wants between
them, and when, jaded and worn, Garnache lay at last between
good-smelling sheets with the feeling in him that he was like to
sleep until the day of judgment, he issued his final orders.

"Awake me at daybreak, Rabecque," said he drowsily.  "We must be
stirring then.  Have horse ready and clothes for me.  I shall need
you to wash me clean and shave me and make me what I was before
your tricks and dyes turned me into what I have been this week and
more.  Take away the light.  At daybreak!  Don't let me sleep
beyond that as you value your place with me.  We shall have brisk
work to-morrow.  At - daybreak - Rabecque!"



It was noon of the next day when two horsemen gained the heights
above La Rochette and paused to breathe their nags and take a survey
of the little township in the plain at their feet.  One of these
was Monsieur de Garnache, the other was his man Rabecque.  But it
was no longer the travestied Garnache that Condillac had known as
"Battista" during the past days, it was that gentleman as he had been
when first he presented himself at the chateau.  Rabecque had shaved
him, and by means of certain unguents had cleansed his skin and hair
of the dyes with which he had earlier overlaid them.

That metamorphosis, of itself, was enough to set Garnache in a good
humour; he felt himself again, and the feeling gave him confidence.
His mustachios bristled as fiercely as of old, his skin was clear
and healthy, and his dark brown hair showed ashen at the temples.
He was becomingly arrayed in a suit of dark brown camlet, with rows
of close-set gold buttons running up his hanging sleeves; a leather
jerkin hid much of his finery, and his great boots encased his legs.
He wore a brown hat, with a tallish crown and a red feather, and
Rabecque carried his cloak for him, for the persistent Saint Martin's
summer rendered that day of November rather as one of early autumn.

A flood of sunshine descended from a cloudless sky to drench the
country at their feet, and all about them the trees preserved a
green that was but little touched by autumnal browning.

Awhile he paused there on the heights; then he gave his horse a
touch of the spur, and they started down the winding road that led
into La Rochette.  A half-hour later they were riding under the
porte cochere of the inn of the Black Boar.  Of the ostler who
hastened forward to take their reins Monsieur de Garnache inquired
if the Marquis de Condillac were lodged there.  He was answered in
the affirmative, and he got down at once from his horse.  Indeed,
but for the formality of the thing, he might have spared himself
the question, for lounging about the courtyard were a score of
stalwart weather-tanned fellows, whose air and accoutrements
proclaimed them soldiers.  It required little shrewdness to guess
in them the personal followers of the Marquis, the remainder of
the little troop that had followed the young seigneur to the wars
when, some three years ago, he had set out from Condillac.

Garnache gave orders for the horses to be cared for, and bade
Rabecque get himself fed in the common room.  Heralded by the host,
the Parisian then mounted the stairs to Monsieur de Condillac's

The landlord led the way to the inn's best room, turned the handle,
and, throwing wide the door, stood aside for Monsieur de Garnache
to enter.

>From within the chamber came the sounds of a scuffle, a man's soft
laugh, and a girl's softer intercession.

"Let me go, monsieur.  Of your pity, let me go.  Some one is coming."

"And what care I who comes?" answered a voice that seemed oppressed
by laughter.

Garnache strode into the chamber - spacious and handsomely furnished
as became the best room of the Auberge du Sanglier Noir - to find a
meal spread on the table, steaming with an odour promising of good
things, but neglected by the guest for the charms of the
serving-wench, whose waist he had imprisoned.  As Garnache's tall
figure loomed before him he let the girl go and turned a
half-laughing, half-startled face upon the intruder.

"Who the devil may you be?" he inquired, and a brown eye, rakish
and roving in its glance, played briskly over the Parisian, whilst
Garnache himself returned the compliment, and calmly surveyed this
florid gentleman of middle height with the fair hair and regular

The girl scurried by and darted from the room, dodging the smiting
hand which the host raised as she flew past him.  The Parisian felt
his gorge rising.  Was this the sort of fever that had kept Monsieur
le Marquis at La Rochette, whilst mademoiselle was suffering in
durance at Condillac?  His last night's jealous speculations touching
a man he did not know had leastways led him into no exaggeration.
He found just such a man as he had pictured - a lightly-loving,
pleasure-taking roysterer, with never a thought beyond the amusement
which the hour afforded him.

With curling lip Garnache bowed stiffly, and in a cold, formal voice
he announced himself.

"My name is Martin Marie Rigobert de Garnache.  I am an emissary
dispatched from Paris by her Majesty the Queen-mother to procure the
enlargement of Mademoiselle de La Vauvraye from the durance in which
she is held by madame your stepmother."

The pleasant gentleman's eyebrows went up; a smile that was almost
insolent broke on his face.

"That being so, monsieur, why the devil are you here?"

"I am here, monsieur," answered him Garnache, throwing back his
head, his nostrils quivering, "because you are not at Condillac."

The tone was truculent to the point of defiance, for despite the
firm resolve he had taken last night never again to let his temper
overmaster him, already Garnache's self-control was slipping away.

The Marquis noted the tone, and observed the man.  In their way he
liked both; in their way he disliked both.  But he clearly saw that
this peppery gentleman must be treated less cavalierly, or trouble
would come of it.  So he waved him gracefully to the table, where
a brace of flagons stood amid the steaming viands.

"You will dine with me, monsieur," said he, the utmost politeness
marking his utterance now.  "I take it that since you have come
here in quest of me you have something to tell me.  Shall we talk
as we eat?  I detest a lonely meal."

The florid gentleman's tone and manner were mollifying in the
extreme.  Garnache had risen early and ridden far; the smell of
the viands had quickened an appetite already very keen; moreover,
since he and this gentleman were to be allies, it was as well they
should not begin by quarrelling.

He bowed less stiffly, expressed his willingness and his thanks,
laid hat and whip and cloak aside, unbuckled and set down his sword,
and, that done, took at table the place which his host himself
prepared him.

Garnache took more careful stock of the Marquis now.  He found much
to like in his countenance.  It was frank and jovial; obviously
that of a sensualist, but, leastways, an honest sensualist.  He was

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