List Of Contents | Contents of St. Martin's Summer, by Rafael Sabatini
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Church's law despite?"

Garnache took the Abbot by the sleeve of his rough habit and drew
him gently towards the window.  There was a persuasive smile on his
lips and in his keen eyes which the monk, almost unconsciously,

"I will tell you," said Garnache, "and at the same time I shall
seek to turn you from your harsh purpose."

At the hour at which Monsieur de Garnache was seeking to persuade
the Abbot of Saint Francis of Cheylas to adopt a point of view more
kindly towards a dead man, Madame de Condillac was at dinner, and
with her was Valerie de La Vauvraye.  Neither woman ate appreciably.
The one was oppressed by sorrow, the other by anxiety, and the
circumstance that they were both afflicted served perhaps to render
the Dowager gentler in her manner towards the girl.

She watched the pale face and troubled eyes of Valerie; she observed
the almost lifeless manner in which she came and went as she was
bidden, as though a part of her had ceased to exist, and that part
the part that matters most.  It did cross her mind that in this
condition mademoiselle might the more readily be bent to their will,
but she dwelt not overlong upon that reflection.  Rather was her
mood charitable, no doubt because she felt herself the need of
charity, the want of sympathy.

She was tormented by fears altogether disproportionate to their
cause.  A hundred times she told herself that no ill could befall
Marius.  Florimond was a sick man, and were he otherwise, there was
still Fortunio to stand by and see to it that the right sword
pierced the right heart, else would his pistoles be lost to him.

Nevertheless she was fretted by anxiety, and she waited impatiently
for news, fuming at the delay, yet knowing full well that news could
not yet reach her.

Once she reproved Valerie for her lack of appetite, and there was
in her voice a kindness Valerie had not heard for months - not since
the old Marquis died, nor did she hear it now, or, hearing it, she
did not heed it.

"You are not eating, child," the Dowager said, and her eyes were

Valerie looked up like one suddenly awakened; and in that moment
her eyes filled with tears.  It was as if the Dowager's voice had
opened the floodgates of her sorrow and let out the tears that
hitherto had been repressed.  The Marquise rose and waved the page
and an attendant lackey from the room.  She crossed to Valerie's
side and put her arm about the girl's shoulder.

"What ails you, child?" she asked.  For a moment the girl suffered
the caress; almost she seemed to nestle closer to the Dowager's
shoulder.  Then, as if understanding had come to her suddenly, she
drew back and quietly disengaged herself from the other's arms.  Her
tears ceased; the quiver passed from her lip.

"You are very good, madame," she said, with a coldness that rendered
the courteous words almost insulting, "but nothing ails me save a
wish to be alone."

"You have been alone too much of late," the Dowager answered,
persisting in her wish to show kindness to Valerie; for all that,
had she looked into her own heart, she might have been puzzled to
find a reason for her mood - unless the reason lay in her own
affliction of anxiety for Marius.

"Perhaps I have," said the girl, in the same cold, almost strained
voice.  "It was not by my own contriving."

"Ah, but it was, child; indeed it was.  Had you been reasonable you
had found us kinder.  We had never treated you as we have done,
never made a prisoner of you."

Valerie looked up into the beautiful ivory-white face, with its
black eyes and singularly scarlet lips, and a wan smile raised the
corners of her gentle mouth.

"You had no right - none ever gave it you - to set constraint and
restraint upon me."

" I had - indeed, indeed I had," the Marquise answered her, in a
tone of sad protest.  "Your father gave me such a right when he gave
me charge of you."

"Was it a part of your charge to seek to turn me from my loyalty to
Florimond, and endeavour to compel me by means gentle or ungentle
into marriage with Marius?"

"We thought Florimond dead; or, if not dead, then certainly unworthy
of you to leave you without news of him for years together.  And if
he was not dead then, it is odds he will be dead by now."  The words
slipped out almost unconsciously, and the Marquise bit her lip and
straightened herself, fearing an explosion.  But none came.  The
girl looked across the table at the fire that smouldered on the
hearth in need of being replenished.

"What do you mean, madame?" she asked; but her tone was listless,
apathetic, as of one who though uttering a question is incurious as
to what the answer may be.

"We had news some days ago that he was journeying homewards, but
that he was detained by fever at La Rochette.  We have since heard
that his fever has grown so serious that there is little hope of
his recovery."

"And it was to solace his last moments that Monsieur Marius left
Condillac this morning?"

The Dowager looked sharply at the girl; but Valerie's face continued
averted, her gaze resting on the fire.  Her tone suggested nothing
beyond a natural curiosity.

"Yes," said the Dowager.

"And lest his own efforts to help his brother out of this world
should prove insufficient he took Captain Fortunio with him?" said
Valerie, in the same indifferent voice.

"What do you mean?" the Marquise almost hissed into the girl's ear.

Valerie turned to her, a faint colour stirring in her white face.

"Just what I have said, madame.  Would you know what I have prayed?
All night was I upon my knees from the moment that I recovered
consciousness, and my prayers were that Heaven might see fit to
let Florimond destroy your son.  Not that I desire Florimond's
return, for I care not if I never set eyes on him again.  There is
a curse upon this house, madame," the girl continued, rising from
her chair and speaking now with a greater animation, whilst the
Marquise recoiled a step, her face strangely altered and suddenly
gone grey, "and I have prayed that that curse might be worked out
upon that assassin, Marius.  A fine husband, madame, you would
thrust upon the daughter of Gaston de La Vauvraye."

And turning, without waiting for an answer, she moved slowly down
the room, and took her way to her own desolate apartments, so full
of memories of him she mourned - of him, it seemed to her, she must
always mourn; of him who lay dead in the black waters of the moat
beneath her window.

Stricken with a sudden, inexplicable terror, the Dowager, who for
all her spirit was not without a certain superstition, felt her
knees loosen, and she sank limply into a chair.  She was amazed at
the extent of Valerie's knowledge, and puzzled by it; she was
amazed, too, at the seeming apathy of Valerie for the danger in
which Florimond stood, and at her avowal that she did not care if
she never again beheld him.  But such amazement as came to her was
whelmed fathoms-deep in her sudden fears for Marius.  If he should
die!  She grew cold at the thought, and she sat there, her hands
folded in her lap, her face grey.  That mention of the curse the
Church had put upon them had frozen her quick blood and turned her
stout spirit to mere water.

At last she rose and went out into the open to inquire if no
messenger had yet arrived, for all that she knew there was not
yet time for any messenger to have reached the chateau.  She mounted
the winding staircase of stone that led to the ramparts, and there
alone, in the November sunshine, she paced to and fro for hours,
waiting for news, straining her eyes to gaze up the valley of the
Isere, watching for the horseman that must come that way.  Then,
as time sped on and the sun approached its setting and still no one
came, she bethought her that if harm had befallen Marius, none would
ride that night to Condillac.  This very delay seemed pregnant with
news of disaster.  And then she shook off her fears and tried to
comfort herself.  There was not yet time.  Besides, what had she to
fear for Marius?  He was strong and quick, and Fortunio was by his
side.  A man was surely dead by now at La Rochette; but that man
could not be Marius.

At last, in the distance, she espied a moving object, and down on
the silent air of eventide came the far-off rattle of a horse's hoofs.
Some one was riding, galloping that way.  He was returned at last.
She leaned on the battlements, her breath coming in quick, short
gasps, and watched the horseman growing larger with every stride of
his horse.

A mist was rising from the river, and it dimmed the figure; and she
cursed the mist for heightening her anxiety, for straining further
her impatience.  Then a new fear was begotten in her mind.  Why came
one horseman only where two should have ridden?  Who was it that
returned, and what had befallen his companion?  God send, at least,
it might be Marius who rode thus, at such a breakneck pace.

At last she could make him out.  He was close to the chateau now,
and she noticed that his right arm was bandaged and hanging in a
sling.  And then a scream broke from her, and she bit her lip hard
to keep another in check, for she had seen the horseman's face, and
it was Fortunio's.  Fortunio - and wounded!  Then, assuredly, Marius
was dead!

She swayed where she stood.  She set her hand on her bosom, above
her heart, as if she would have repressed the beating of the one,
the heaving of the other; her soul sickened, and her mind seemed to
turn numb, as she waited there for the news that should confirm her

The hoofs of his horse thundered over the planks of the drawbridge,
and came clatteringly to halt as he harshly drew rein in the
courtyard below.  There was a sound of running feet and men sprang
to his assistance.  Madame would have gone below to meet him; but
her limbs seemed to refuse their office.  She leaned against one of
the merlons of the embattled parapet, her eyes on the spot where he
should emerge from the stairs, and thus she waited, her eyes
haggard, her face drawn.

He came at last, lurching in his walk, being overstiff from his
long ride.  She took a step forward to meet him.  Her lips parted.

"Well?" she asked him, and her voice sounded harsh and strained.
"How has the venture sped?"

"The only way it could," he answered.  "As you would wish it."

At that she thought that she must faint.  Het lungs seemed to writhe
for air, and she opened her lips and took long draughts of the
rising mist, never speaking for a moment or two until she had
sufficiently recovered from this tremendous revulsion from her

"Then, where is Marius?" she asked at last.

"He has remained behind to accompany the body home.  They are
bringing it here."

"They?" she echoed.  "Who are they?"

"The monks of Saint Francis of Cheylas," he answered.

A something in his tone, a something in his shifty eyes, a cloud
upon his fair and usually so ingenuous looking countenance aroused
her suspicions and gave her resurrected courage pause.

She caught him viciously by the arms, and forced his glance to meet
her own in the fading daylight.

"It is the truth you are telling me, Fortunio?" she snapped, and
her voice was half-angry, half-fearful.

He faced her now, his eyes bold.  He raised a hand to lend emphasis
to his words.

"I swear, madame, by my salvation, that Monsieur Marius is sound
and well."

She was satisfied.  She released his arm.

"Does he come to-night?" she asked.

"They will be here to-morrow, madame.  I rode on to tell you so."

"An odd fancy, this of his.  But" - and a sudden smile overspread
her face - "we may find a more useful purpose for one of these monks."

An hour ago she would willingly have set mademoiselle at liberty in
exchange for the assurance that Marius had been successful in the
business that had taken him over the border into Savoy.  She would
have done it gladly, content that Marius should be heir to Condillac.
But now that Condillac was assured her son, she must have more for
him; her insatiable greed for his advancement and prosperity was
again upon her.  Now, more than ever - now that Florimond was dead
 - must she have La Vauvraye for Marius, and she thought that
mademoiselle would no longer be difficult to bend.  The child had
fallen in love with that mad Garnache, and when a woman is crossed
in love, while her grief lasts it matters little to her where she
weds.  Did she not know it out of the fund of her own bitter
experience?  Was it not that - the compulsion her own father had
employed to make her find a mate in a man so much older than herself
as Condillac - that had warped her own nature, and done much to
make her what she was?

A lover she had had, and whilst he lived she had resisted them, and
stood out against this odious marriage that for convenience' sake
they forced upon her.  He was killed in Paris in a duel, and when
the news of it came to her, she had folded her hands and let them
wed her to whom they listed.

Of just such a dejection of spirit had she observed the signs in
Valerie; let them profit by it while it lasted.  They had been long
enough without Church ceremonies at Condillac.  There should be two
to-morrow to make up for the empty time - a wedding and a burial.

She was going down the stairs, Fortunio a step behind her, when her
mind reverted to the happening at La Rochette.

"Was it well done?" she asked.

"It made some stir," said he.  "The Marquis had men with him, and
had the affair taken place in France ill might have come of it."

"You shall give me a full account of it," said she, rightly thinking
that there was still something to be explained.  Then she laughed
softly.  "Yes, it was a lucky chance for us, his staying at La
Rochette.  Florimond was born under an unlucky star, I think, and
you under a lucky one, Fortunio."

"I think so, too, as regards myself," he answered grimly, and he
thought of the sword that had ploughed his cheek last night and
pierced his sword-arm that morning, and he thanked such gods as
in his godlessness he owned for the luck that had kept that sword
from finding out his heart.



On the morrow, which was a Friday and the tenth of November - a date
to be hereafter graven on the memory of all concerned in the affairs
of Condillac - the Dowager rose betimes, and, for decency's sake,
having in mind the business of the day, she gowned herself in black.

Betimes, too, the Lord Seneschal rode out of Grenoble, attended by a
couple of grooms, and headed for Condillac, in doing which - little
though he suspected it - he was serving nobody's interests more
thoroughly than Monsieur de Garnache's.

Madame received him courteously.  She was in a blithe - and happy
mood that morning - the reaction from her yesterday's distress of
mind.  The world was full of promise, and all things had prospered
with her and Marius.  Her boy was lord of Condillac; Florimond, whom
she had hated and who had stood in the way of her boy's advancement,
was dead and on his way to burial; Garnache, the man from Paris who
might have made trouble for them had he ridden home again with the

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