List Of Contents | Contents of St. Martin's Summer, by Rafael Sabatini
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tale of their resistance, was silenced for all time, and the carp
in the moat would be feasting by now upon what was left of him;
Valerie de La Vauvraye was in a dejected frame of mind that augured
well for the success of the Dowager's plans concerning her, and by
noon at latest there would be priests at Condillac, and, if Marius
still wished to marry the obstinate baggage, there would be no
difficulty as to that.

It was a glorious morning, mild and sunny as an April day, as though
Nature took a hand in the Dowager's triumph and wished to make the
best of its wintry garb in honour of it.

The presence of this gross suitor of hers afforded her another
source of satisfaction.  There would no longer be the necessity she
once had dreaded of listening to his suit for longer than it should
be her pleasure to be amused by him.  But when Tressan spoke, he
struck the first note of discord in the perfect harmony which the
Dowager imagined existed.

"Madame," said he, "I am desolated that I am not a bearer of better
tidings.  But for all that we have made the most diligent search,
the man Rabecque has not yet been apprehended.  Still, we have not
abandoned hope," he added, by way of showing that there was a silver
lining to his cloud of danger.

For just a moment madame's brows were knitted.  She had forgotten
Rabecque until now; but an instant's reflection assured her that in
forgetting him she had done him no more than such honour as he
deserved.  She laughed, as she led the way down the garden steps
 - the mildness of the day and the brightness of her mood had moved
her there to receive the Seneschal.

"From the sombreness of your tone one might fear your news to be of
the nature of some catastrophe.  What shall it signify that Rabecque
eludes your men?  He is but a lackey after all."

"True," said the Seneschal, very soberly; "but do not forget, I beg,
that he is the bearer of letters from one who is not a lackey."

The laughter went out of her face at that.  Here was something that
had been lost sight of in the all-absorbing joy of other things.
In calling the forgotten Rabecque to mind she had but imagined that
it was no more than a matter of the tale he might tell - a tale not
difficult to refute, she thought.  Her word should always weigh
against a lackey's.  But that letter was a vastly different matter.

"He must be found, Tressan," she said sharply.

Tressan smiled uneasily, and chewed at his beard.

"No effort shall be spared," he promised her.  "Of that you may be
very sure.  The affairs of the province are at a standstill," he
added, that vanity of his for appearing a man of infinite business
rising even in an hour of such anxiety, for to himself, no less
than to her, was there danger should Rabecque ever reach his
destination with the papers Garnache had said he carried.

"The affairs of the province are at a standstill," he repeated,
"while all my energies are bent upon this quest.  Should we fail to
have news of his capture in Dauphiny, we need not, nevertheless,
despond.  I have sent men after him along the three roads that lead
to Paris.  They are to spare neither money nor horses in picking up
his trail and effecting his capture.  After all, I think we shall
have him."

"He is our only danger now," the Marquise answered, "for Florimond
is dead - of the fever," she added, with a sneering smile which
gave Tressan sensations as of cold water on his spine.  "It were
an irony of fate if that miserable lackey were to reach Paris now
and spoil the triumph for which we have worked so hard."

"It were, indeed," Tressan agreed with her, "and we must see that
he does not."

"But if he does," she returned, "then we must stand together."  And
with that she set her mind at ease once more, her mood that morning
being very optimistic.

"Always, I hope, Clotilde," he answered, and his little eyes leered
up out of the dimples of fat in which they were embedded.  "I have
stood by you like a true friend in this affair; is it not so?"

"Indeed; do I deny it?" she answered half scornfully.

"As I shall stand by you always when the need arises.  You are a
little in my debt concerning Monsieur de Garnache."

"I - I realize it," said she, and she felt again as if the sunshine
were gone from the day, the blitheness from her heart.  She was
moved to bid him cease leering at her and to take himself and his
wooing to the devil.  But she bethought her that the need for him
might not yet utterly be passed.  Not only in the affair of Garnache
 - in which he stood implicated as deeply as herself - might she
require his loyalty, but also in the matter of what had befallen
yesterday at La Rochette; for despite Fortunio's assurances that
things had gone smoothly, his tale hung none too convincingly
together; and whilst she did not entertain any serious fear of
subsequent trouble, yet it might be well not utterly to banish the
consideration of such a possibility, and to keep the Seneschal her
ally against it.  So she told him now, with as much graciousness as
she could command, that she fully realized her debt, and when,
encouraged, he spoke of his reward, she smiled upon him as might a
girl smile upon too impetuous a wooer whose impetuosity she
deprecates yet cannot wholly withstand.

"I am a widow of six months," she reminded him, as she had reminded
him once before.  Her widowhood was proving a most convenient refuge.
"It is not for me to listen to a suitor, however my foolish heart
may incline.  Come to me in another six months' time."

"And you will wed me then?" he bleated.

By an effort her eyes smiled down upon him, although her face was
a trifle drawn.

"Have I not said that I will listen to no suitor?  and what is that
but a suitor's question?"

He caught her hand; he would have fallen on his knees there and
then, at her feet, on the grass still wet with the night's mist,
but that he in time bethought him of how sadly his fine apparel
would be the sufferer.

"Yet I shall not sleep, I shall know no rest, no peace until you
have given me an answer.  Just an answer is all I ask.  I will set
a curb upon my impatience afterwards, and go through my period of
ah - probation without murmuring.  Say that you, will marry me in
six months' time - at Easter, say."

She saw that an answer she must give, and so she gave him the answer
that he craved.  And he - poor fool! - never caught the ring of her
voice, as false as the ring of a base coin; never guessed that in
promising she told herself it would be safe to break that promise
six months hence, when the need of him and his loyalty would be

A man approached them briskly from the chateau.  He brought news
that a numerous company of monks was descending the valley of the
Isere towards Condillac.  A faint excitement stirred her, and
accompanied by Tressan she retraced her steps and made for the
battlements, whence she might overlook their arrival.

As they went Tressan asked for an explanation of this cortege, and
she answered him with Fortunio's story of how things had sped
yesterday at La Rochette.

Up the steps leading to the battlements she went ahead of him, with
a youthful, eager haste that took no thought for the corpulence and
short-windedness of the following Seneschal.  From the heights she
looked eastwards, shading her eyes from the light of the morning
sun, and surveyed the procession which with slow dignity paced down
the valley towards Condillac.

At its head walked the tall, lean figure of the Abbot of Saint
Francis of Cheylas, bearing on high a silvered crucifix that flashed
and scintillated in the sunlight.  His cowl was thrown back,
revealing his pale, ascetic countenance and shaven head.  Behind him
came a coffin covered by a black pall, and borne on the shoulders of
six black-robed, black cowled monks, and behind these again walked,
two by two, some fourteen cowled brothers of the order of Saint
Francis, their heads bowed, their arms folded, and their hands tucked
away in their capacious sleeves.

It was a numerous cortege, and as she watched its approach the
Marquise was moved to wonder by what arguments had the proud Abbot
been induced to do so much honour to a dead Condillac and bear his
body home to this excommunicated roof.

Behind the monks a closed carriage lumbered down the uneven mountain
way, and behind this rode four mounted grooms in the livery of
Condillac.  Of Marius she saw nowhere any sign, and she inferred
him to be travelling in that vehicle, the attendant servants being
those of the dead Marquis.

In silence, with the Seneschal at her elbow, she watched the
procession advance until it was at the foot of the drawbridge.  Then,
while the solemn rhythm of their feet sounded across the planks that
spanned the moat, she turned, and, signing to the Seneschal to
follow her, she went below to meet them.  But when she reached the
courtyard she was surprised to find they had not paused, as surely
would have been seemly.  Unbidden, the Abbot had gone forward through
the great doorway and down the gallery that led to the hall of
Condillac.  Already, when she arrived below, the coffin and its
bearers had disappeared, and the last of the monks was passing from
sight in its wake.  Leaning against the doorway through which they
were vanishing stood Fortunio, idly watching that procession and
thoughtfully stroking his mustachios.  About the yard lounged a
dozen or so men-at-arms, practically all the garrison that was left
them since the fight with Garnache two nights ago.

After the last monk had disappeared, she still remained there,
expectantly; and when she saw that neither the carriage nor the
grooms made their appearance, she stepped up to Fortunio to inquire
into the reason of it.

"Surely Monsieur de Condillac rides in that coach," said she.

"Surely," Fortunio answered, himself looking puzzled.  "I will go
seek the reason, madame.  Meanwhile will you receive the Abbot?
The monks will have deposited their burden."

She composed her features into a fitting solemnity, and passed
briskly through to the hall, Tressan ever at her heels.  Here she
found the coffin deposited on the table, its great black pall of
velvet, silver-edged, sweeping down to the floor.  No fire had been
lighted that morning nor had the sun yet reached the windows, so
that the place wore a chill and gloomy air that was perhaps well
attuned to the purpose that it was being made to serve.

With a rare dignity, her head held high, she swept down the length
of that noble chamber towards the Abbot, who stood erect as a
pikestaff: at the tablehead, awaiting her.  And well was it for
him that he was a man of austere habit of mind, else might her
majestic, incomparable beauty have softened his heart and melted
the harshness of his purpose.

He raised his hand when she was within a sword's length of him, and
with startling words, delivered in ringing tones, he broke the
ponderous silence.

"Wretched woman," he denounced her, "your sins have found you out.
Justice is to be done, and your neck shall be bent despite your
stubborn pride.  Derider of priests, despoiler of purity, mocker
of Holy Church, your impious reign is at an end."

Tressan fell back aghast, his face blenching to the lips; for if
justice was at hand for her, as the Abbot said, then was justice at
hand for him as well.  Where had their plans miscarried?  What flaw
was there that hitherto she had not perceived?  Thus he questioned
himself in his sudden panic.

But the Marquise was no sharer in his tremors.  Her eyes opened a
trifle wider; a faint colour crept into her cheeks; but her only
emotions were of amazement and indignation.  Was he mad, this
shaveling monk?  That was the question that leapt into her mind,
the very question with which she coldly answered his outburst.

"For madness only," she thought fit to add, "could excuse such rash
temerity as yours."

"Not madness, madame," he answered, with chill haughtiness - "not
madness, but righteous indignation.  You have defied the power of
Holy Church as you have defied the power of our sovereign lady,
and justice is upon you.  We are here to present the reckoning, and
see its payment made in full."

She fancied he alluded to the body in the coffin - the body of her
stepson - and she could have laughed at his foolish conclusions
that she must account Florimond's death an act of justice upon her
for her impiety.  But her rising anger left her no room for laughter.

"I thought, sir priest, you were come to bury the dead.  But it
rather seems you are come to talk."

He looked at her long and sternly.  Then he shook his head, and the
faintest shadow of a smile haunted his ascetic face.

"Not to talk, madame; oh, not to talk," he answered slowly.  "But
to act, I have come, madame, to liberate from this shambles the
gentle lamb you hold here prisoned."

At that some of the colour left her cheeks; her eyes grew startled:
at last she began to realize that all was not as she had thought -
as she had been given to understand.  - Still, she sought to hector
it, from very instinct.

"Vertudieu!" she thundered at him.  "What mean you?"

Behind her Tressan's great plump knees were knocking one against
the other.  Fool that he had been to come to Condillac that day,
and to be trapped thus in her company, a partner in her guilt.
This proud Abbot who stood there uttering denunciations had some
power behind him, else had he never dared to raise his voice in
Condillac within call of desperate men who would give little
thought to the sacredness, of his office.

"What mean you?" she repeated -- adding with a sinister smile, "in
your zeal, Sir Abbot, you are forgetting that my men are within call."

"So, madame, are mine," was his astounding answer, and he waved a
hand towards the array of monks, all standing with bowed heads and
folded arms.

At that her laughter rang.  shrill through the chamber.  "These poor
shavelings?" she questioned.

"Just these poor shavelings, madame," he answered, and he raised
his hand again and made a sign.  And then an odd thing happened,
and it struck a real terror into the heart of the Marquise and
heightened that which was already afflicting her fat lover,

The monks drew themselves erect.  It was as if a sudden gust of
wind had swept through their ranks and set them all in motion.
Cowls fell back and habits were swept aside, and where twenty monks
had stood, there were standing now a score of nimble, stalwart men
in the livery of Condillac, all fully armed, all grinning in
enjoyment of her and Tressan's dismay.

One of them turned aside and locked the door of the chamber.  But
his movement went unheeded by the Dowager, whose beautiful eyes,
starting with horror, were now back upon the grim figure of the
Abbot, marvelling almost to see no transformation wrought in him.

"Treachery!" she breathed, in an awful voice, that was no louder
than a whisper, and again her eyes travelled round the company,
and suddenly they fastened upon Fortunio, standing six paces from
her to the right, pulling thoughtfully at his mustachios, and

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