List Of Contents | Contents of St. Martin's Summer, by Rafael Sabatini
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attention.  His nose was hooked and rather large, his eyes were blue,
bright as steel, and set a trifle wide.  Above a thin-lapped,
delicate mouth his reddish mustachios, slightly streaked with grey,
stood out, bristling like a cat's.  His hair was darker - almost
brown save at the temples, where age had faded it to an ashen colour.
In general his aspect was one of rugged strength.

The Seneschal, measuring him with an adversary's eye, misliked his
looks.  But he bowed urbanely, washing his hands in the air, and

"Your servant, Monsieur de - ?"

"Garnache," came the other's crisp, metallic voice, and the name
had a sound as of an oath on his lips.  "Martin Marie Rigobert de
Garnache.  I come to you on an errand of Her Majesty's, as this my
warrant will apprise you."  And he proffered the paper he held,
which Tressan accepted from his hand.

A change was visible in the wily Seneschal's fat countenance.  Its
round expanse had expressed interrogation until now; but at the
Parisian's announcement that he was an emissary of the Queen's,
Tressan insinuated into it just that look of surprise and of
increased deference which would have been natural had he not already
been forewarned of Monsieur de Garnache's mission and identity.

He placed a chair at his visitor's disposal, himself resuming his
seat at his writing-table, and unfolding the paper Garnache had given
him.  The newcomer seated himself, hitched his sword-belt round so
that he could lean both hands upon the hilt, and sat, stiff and
immovable, awaiting the Lord Seneschal's pleasure.  From his desk
across the room the secretary, idly chewing the feathered end of
his goose-quill, took silent stock of the man from Paris, and

Tressan folded the paper carefully, and returned it to its owner.
It was no more than a formal credential, setting forth that Garnache
was travelling into Dauphiny on a State affair, and commanding
Monsieur de Tressan to give him every assistance he might require
in the performance of his errand.

"Parfaitement," purred the Lord Seneschal.  "And now, monsieur, if
you will communicate to me the nature of your affair, you shall find
me entirely at your service."

"It goes without saying that you are acquainted with the Chateau de
Condillac?" began Garnache, plunging straight into business.

"Perfectly."  The Seneschal leaned back, and was concerned to feel
his pulses throbbing a shade too quickly.  But he controlled his
features, and maintained a placid, bland expression.

"You are perhaps acquainted with its inhabitants?"


"Intimate with them?"

The Seneschal pursed his lips, arched his brows, and slowly waved
his podgy hands, a combination of grimace and gesture that said
much or nothing.  But reflecting that Monsieur de Tressan had a
tongue, Garnache apparently did not opine it worth his while to
set a strain upon his own imagination, for -

"Intimate with them?" he repeated, and this time there was a sharper
note in his voice.

Tressan leaned forward and brought his finger-tips together.  His
voice was as urbane as it lay within its power to be.

"I understood that monsieur was proposing to state his business,
not to question mine."

Garnache sat back in his chair, and his eyes narrowed.  He scented
opposition, and the greatest stumbling-block in Garnache's career
had been that he could never learn to brook opposition from any man.
That characteristic, evinced early in life, had all but been the
ruin of him.  He was a man of high intellectual gifts, of military
skill and great resource; out of consideration for which had he
been chosen by Marie de Medicis to come upon this errand.  But he
marred it all by a temper so ungovernable that in Paris there was
current a byword, "Explosive as Garnache."

Little did Tressan dream to what a cask of gunpowder he was applying
the match of his smug pertness.  Nor did Garnache let him dream it
just yet.  He controlled himself betimes, bethinking him that, after
all, there might be some reason in what this fat fellow said.

"You misapprehend my purpose, sir," said he, his lean brown hand
stroking his long chin.  "I but sought to learn how far already you
may be informed of what is taking place up there, to the end that
I may spare myself the pains of citing facts with which already you
are acquainted.  Still, monsieur, I am willing to proceed upon the
lines which would appear to be more agreeable to yourself.

"This, then, is the sum of the affair that brings me: The late
Marquis de Condillac left two sons.  The elder, Florimond - who is
the present marquis, and who has been and still continues absent,
warring in Italy, since before his father's death - is the stepson
of the present Dowager, she being the mother of the younger son,
Marius de Condillac.

"Should you observe me to be anywhere at error, I beg, monsieur,
that you will have the complaisance to correct me."

The Seneschal bowed gravely, and Monsieur de Garnache continued:

"Now this younger son - I believe that he is in his twenty-first year
at present - has been something of a scapegrace."

"A scapegrace?  Bon Dieu, no.  That is a harsh name to give him.
A little indiscreet at times, a little rash, as is the way of youth."

He would have said more, but the man from Paris was of no mind to
waste time on quibbles.

"Very well," he snapped, cutting in.  "We will say, a little
indiscreet.  My errand is not concerned with Monsieur Marius's
morals or with his lack of them.  These indiscretions which you
belittle appear to have been enough to have estranged him from his
father, a circumstance which but served the more to endear him to
his mother.  I am told that she is a very handsome woman, and that
the boy favours her surprisingly."

"Ah!" sighed the Seneschal in a rapture.  "A beautiful woman - a
noble, splendid woman.'

"Hum!"  Garnache observed the ecstatic simper with a grim eye.  Then
he proceeded with his story.

"The late marquis possessed in his neighbour, the also deceased
Monsieur de La Vauvraye, a very dear and valued friend.  Monsieur
de La Vauvraye had an only child, a daughter, to inherit his very
considerable estates probably the wealthiest in all Dauphiny, so I
am informed.  It was the dearest wish of his heart to transform what
had been a lifelong friendship in his own generation into a closer
relationship in the next - a wish that found a very ready echo in
the heart of Monsieur de Condillac.  Florimond de Condillac was
sixteen years of age at the time, and Valerie de La Vauvraye
fourteen.  For all their tender years, they were betrothed, and they
grew up to love each other and to look forward to the consummation
of the plans their fathers had laid for them."

"Monsieur, monsieur," the Seneschal protested, "how can you possibly
infer so much?  How can you say that they loved each other?  What
authority can you have for pretending to know what was in their
inmost hearts?"

"The authority of Mademoiselle de La Vauvraye," was the unanswerable
rejoinder.  "I am telling you, more or less, what she herself wrote
to the Queen."

"Ah!  Well, well - proceed, monsieur."

"This marriage should render Florimond de Condillac the wealthiest
and most powerful gentleman in Dauphiny - one of the wealthiest in
France; and the idea of it pleased the old marquis, inasmuch as the
disparity there would be between the worldly possessions of his two
sons would serve to mark his disapproval of the younger.  But before
settling down, Florimond signified a desire to see the world, as was
fit and proper and becoming in a young man who was later to assume
such wide responsibilities.  His father, realizing the wisdom of
such a step, made but slight objection, and at the age of twenty
Florimond set out for the Italian wars.  Two years afterwards, a
little over six months ago, his father died, and was followed to the
grave some weeks later by Monsieur de La Vauvraye.  The latter, with
a want of foresight which has given rise to the present trouble,
misjudging the character of the Dowager of Condillac, entrusted to
her care his daughter Valerie pending Florimond's return, when the
nuptials would naturally be immediately celebrated.  I am probably
telling you no more than you already know.  But you owe the
infliction to your own unwillingness to answer my questions."

"No, no, monsieur; I assure you that in what you say there is much
that is entirely new to me."

"I rejoice to hear it, Monsieur de Tressan," said Garnache very
seriously, "for had you been in possession of all these facts, Her
Majesty might have a right to learn how it chanced that you had
nowise interfered in what is toward at Condillac.

"But to proceed: Madame de Condillac and her precious Benjamin -
this Marius - finding themselves, in Florimond's absence, masters
of the situation, have set about turning it to their own best
advantage.  Mademoiselle de La Vauvraye, whilst being nominally
under their guardianship, finds herself practically gaoled by them,
and odious plans are set before her to marry Marius.  Could the
Dowager but accomplish this, it would seem that she would not only
be assuring a future of ease and dignity for her son, but also be
giving vent to all her pent-up hatred of her stepson.

"Mademoiselle, however, withstands them, and in this she is aided
by a fortuitous circumstance which has arisen out of the overbearing
arrogance that appears to be madame's chief characteristic.
Condillac after the marquis's death had refused to pay tithes to
Mother Church and has flouted and insulted the Bishop.  This prelate,
after finding remonstrance vain, has retorted by placing Condillac
under an Interdict, depriving all within it of the benefit of clergy.
Thus, they have been unable to find a priest to venture thither, so
that even had they willed to marry mademoiselle by force to Marius,
they lacked the actual means of doing so.

"Florimond continues absent.  We have every reason to believe that
he has been left in ignorance of his father's death.  Letters coming
from him from time to time prove that he was alive and well at least
until three months ago.  A messenger has been dispatched to find him
and urge him to return home at once.  But pending his arrival the
Queen has determined to take the necessary steps to ensure that
Mademoiselle de La Vauvraye shall be released from her captivity,
that she shall suffer no further molestation at the hands of Madame
de Condillac and her son - enfin, that she shall run no further risks.

"My errand, monsieur, is to acquaint you with these facts, and to
request you to proceed to Condillac and deliver thence Mademoiselle
de La Vauvraye, whom I am subsequently to escort to Paris and place
under Her Majesty's protection until such time as the new marquis
shall return to claim her."

Having concluded, Monsieur de Garnache sat back in his chair, and
threw one leg over the other, fixing his eyes upon the Seneschal's
face and awaiting his reply.

On that gross countenance before him he saw fall the shadow of
perplexity.  Tressan was monstrous ill-at-ease, and his face lost
a good deal of its habitual plethora of colour.  He sought to

"Does it not occur to you, monsieur, that perhaps too much
importance may have been attached to the word of this child - this
Mademoiselle de La Vauvraye?"

"Does it occur to you that such has been the case, that she has
overstated it?" counter-questioned Monsieur de Garnache.

"No, no.  I do not say that.  But - but - would it not be better -
more - ah - satisfactory to all concerned, if you yourself were to
go to Condillac, and deliver your message in person, demanding

The man from Paris looked at him a moment, then stood up suddenly,
and shifted the carriages of his sword back to their normal
position.  His brows came together in a frown, from which the
Seneschal argued that his suggestion was not well received.

"Monsieur," said the Parisian very coldly, like a man who contains
a rising anger, "let me tell you that this is the first time in my
life that I have been concerned in anything that had to do with
women and I am close upon forty years of age.  The task, I can
assure you, was little to my taste.  I embarked upon it because,
being a soldier and having received my orders, I was in the
unfortunate position of being unable to help myself.  But I intend,
monsieur, to adhere rigidly to the letter of these commands.  Already
I have endured more than enough in the interests of this damsel.  I
have ridden from Paris, and that means close upon a week in the
saddle - no little thing to a man who has acquired certain habits of
life and developed a taste for certain minor comforts which he is
very reluctant to forgo.  I have fed and slept at inns, living on
the worst of fares and sleeping on the hardest, and hardly the
cleanest, of beds.  Ventregris!  Figure to yourself that last night
we lay at Luzan, in the only inn the place contained - a hovel,
Monsieur le Seneschal, a hovel in which I would not kennel a dog
I loved."

His face flushed, and his voice rose as he dwelt upon the things
he had undergone.

"My servant and I slept in a dormitory'- a thousand devils! monsieur,
in a dormitory!  Do you realize it?  We had for company a drunken
vintner, a pedlar, a pilgrim on his way to Rome, and two peasant
women; and they sent us to bed without candles, for modesty's sake.
I ask you to conceive my feelings in such a case as that.  I could
tell you more; but that as a sample of what I have undergone could
scarcely be surpassed."

"Truly-truly outrageous," sympathized the Seneschal; yet he grinned.

"I ask you -have I not suffered inconvenience enough already in the
service of Mademoiselle de La Vauvraye that you can blame me if I
refuse to go a single step further than my orders bid me?"

The Seneschal stared at him now in increasing dismay.  Had his own
interests been less at issue he could have indulged his mirth at
the other's fiery indignation at the inconveniences he recited.  As
it was, he had nothing to say; no thought or feeling other than what
concerned finding a way of escape from the net that seemed to be
closing in about him - how to seem to serve the Queen without turning
against the Dowager of Condillac; how to seem to serve the Dowager
without opposing the wishes of the Queen.

"A plague on the girl!" he growled, unconsciously uttering his
thoughts aloud.  "The devil take her!"

Garnache smiled grimly.  "That is a bond of sympathy between us,"
said he.  "I have said those very words a hundred times - a thousand
times, indeed - between Paris and Grenoble.  Yet I scarcely see that
you can damn her with as much justice as can I.

"But there, monsieur; all this is unprofitable.  You have my message.
I shall spend the day at Grenoble, and take a well-earned rest.  By
this time to-morrow I shall be ready to start upon my return journey.
I shall have then the honour to wait upon you again, to the end that
I may receive from you the charge of Mademoiselle de La Vauvraye.  I
shall count upon your having her here, in readiness to set out with

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