List Of Contents | Contents of St. Martin's Summer, by Rafael Sabatini
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you little to storm and shout at them that you are Marquise de
Condillac.  As a murderess and a rebel shall you be tried, and as
both or either it is odds you will be broken on the wheel - and your
son with you.  So make your choice, madame."

He ceased.  Valerie had caught him by the arm.  At once his fury
fell from him.  He turned to her.

"What is it, child?"

"Do not compel her, if she will not wed him," said she.  "I know -
and - she did not - how terrible a thing it is."

"Nay, patience, child," he soothed her, smiling now, his smile as
the sunshine that succeeds a thunderstorm.

"It is none so bad with her.  She is but coy.  They had plighted
their troth already, so it seems.  Besides, I do not compel her.
She shall marry him of her own free will - or else go to Paris and
stand her trial and the consequences."

"They had plighted their troth, do you say?"

"Well - had you not, Monsieur le Seneschal?"

"We had, monsieur," said Tressan, with conscious pride; "and for
myself I am ready for these immediate nuptials."

"Then, in God's name, let Madame give us her answer now.  We have
not the day to waste."

She stood looking at him, her toe tapping the ground, her eyes
sullenly angry.  And in the end, half-fainting in her great
disdain, she consented to do his will.  Paris and the wheel formed
too horrible an alternative; besides, even if that were spared her,
there was but a hovel in Touraine for her, and Tressan, for all
his fat ugliness, was wealthy.

So the Abbot, who had lent himself to the mummery of coming there
to read a burial service, made ready now, by order of the Queen's
emissary, to solemnize a wedding.

It was soon done.  Fortunio stood sponsor for Tressan, and Garnache
himself insisted upon handing the Lord Seneschal his bride, a stroke
of irony which hurt the proud lady of Condillac more than all her
sufferings of the past half-hour.

When it was over and the Dowager Marquise de Condillac had been
converted into the Comtesse de Tressan, Garnache bade them depart
in peace and at once.

"As I have promised, you shall be spared all prosecution, Monsieur
de Tressan," he assured the Seneschal at parting.  "But you must
resign at once the King's Seneschalship of Dauphiny, else will you
put me to the necessity of having you deprived of your office - and
that might entail unpleasant consequences."

They went, madame with bowed head, her stubborn pride broken at
last as the Abbot of Saint Francis had so confidently promised her.
After them went the Abbot and the lackeys of Florimond, and Fortunio
went with these to carry out Garnache's orders that the men of the
Dowager's garrison be sent packing at once, leaving with the
Parisian, in the great hall, just Mademoiselle de La Vauvraye.



Uneasy in his mind, seeking some way to tell the thing and acquit
himself of the painful task before him, Garnache took a turn in the

Mademoiselle leaned against the table, which was still burdened by
the empty coffin, and observed him.  His ponderings were vain; he
could find no way to tell, his story.  She had said that she did not
exactly love this Florimond, that her loyalty to him was no more
than her loyalty to her father's wishes.  Nevertheless, he thought,
what manner of hurt must not her pride receive when she learned that
Florimond had brought him home a wife?  Garnache was full of pity
for her and for the loneliness that must be hers hereafter, mistress
of a vast estate in Dauphiny, alone and friendless.  And he was a
little sorry for himself and the loneliness which, he felt, would
be his hereafter; but that was by the way.

At last it was she herself who broke the silence.

"Monsieur," she asked him, and her voice was strained and husky,
"were you in time to save Florimond?"

"Yes, mademoiselle," he answered readily, glad that by that question
she should have introduced the subject.  "I was in time."

"And Marius?" she inquired.  "From what I heard you say, I take it
that he has suffered no harm."

"He has suffered none.  I have spared him that he might participate
in the joy of his mother at her union with Monsieur de Tressan."

"I am glad it was so, monsieur.  Tell me of it."  Her voice sounded
formal and constrained.

But either he did not hear or did not heed the question.

"Mademoiselle," he said slowly.  "Florimond is coming - "

"Florimond?" she broke in, and her voice went shrill, as if with a
sudden fear, her cheeks turned white as chalk.  The thing that for
months she had hoped and prayed for was come at last, and it struck
her almost dead with terror.

He remarked the change, and set it down to a natural excitement.
He paused a moment.  Then:

"He is still at La Rochette.  But he does no more than wait until he
shall have learned that his stepmother has departed from Condillac."

"But - why - why - ?  Was he then in no haste to come to me?" she
inquired, her voice faltering.

"He is - "  He stopped and tugged at his mustachios, his eyes
regarding her sombrely.  He was close beside her now, where he had
halted, and he set his hand gently upon her shoulder, looked down
into that winsome little oval face she raised to his.

"Mademoiselle," he inquired, "would it afflict you very sorely if
you were not destined, after all, to wed the Lord of Condillac?"

"Afflict me?" she echoed.  The very question set her gasping with
hope.  "No - no, monsieur; it would not afflict me."

"That is true?  That is really, really true?" he cried, and his tone
seemed less despondent.

"Don't you know how true it is?" she said, in such accents and with
such a shy upward look that something seemed suddenly to take
Garnache by the throat.  The blood flew to his cheeks.  He fancied
an odd meaning in those words of hers - a meaning that set his
pulses throbbing faster than joy or peril had ever set them yet.
Then he checked himself, and deep down in his soul he seemed to
hear a peal of mocking laughter - just such a burst of sardonic
mirth as had broken from his lips two nights ago when on his way
to Voiron.  Then he went back to the business he had in hand.

"I am glad it is so with you," he said quietly.  "Because Florimond
has brought him home a wife."

The words were out, and he stood back as stands a man who, having
cast an insult, prepares to ward the blow he expects in answer.  He
had looked for a storm, a wild, frantic outburst; the lightning of
flashing, angry eyes; the thunder of outraged pride.  Instead, here
was a gentle calm, a wan smile overspreading her sweet, pale face,
and then she hid that face in her hands, buried face and hands upon
his shoulder and fell to weeping very quietly.

This, he thought, was almost worse than the tempest he had looked
for.  How was he to know that these tears were the overflow of a
heart that was on the point of bursting from sheer joy?  He patted
her shoulder; he soothed her.

"Little child," he whispered in her ear.  "What does it matter?  You
did not really love him.  He was all unworthy of you.  Do not grieve,
child.  So, so, that is better."

She was looking up at him, smiling through the tears that suffused
er eyes.

"I am weeping for joy, monsieur," said she.

"For you?" quoth he.  "Vertudieu!  There is no end to the things a
woman weeps for!"

Unconsciously, instinctively almost, she nestled closer to him, and
again his pulses throbbed, again that flush came to overspread his
lean countenance.  Very softly he whispered in her ear:

"Will you go to Paris with me, mademoiselle?"

He meant by that question no more than to ask whether, now that here
in Dauphiny she would be friendless and alone, it were not better
for her to place herself under the care of the Queen-Regent.  But
what blame to her if she misunderstood the question, if she read in
it the very words her heart was longing to hear from him?  The very
gentleness of his tone implied his meaning to be the one she desired.
She raised her hazel eyes again to his, she nestled closer to him,
and then, with a shy fluttering of her lids, a delicious red
suffusing her virgin cheek, she answered very softly:

"I will go anywhere with you, monsieur - anywhere."

With a cry he broke from her.  There was no fancying now; no
possibility of misunderstanding.  He saw how she had misread his
question, how she had delivered herself up to him in answer.  His
almost roughness startled her, and she stared at him as he stamped
down the apartment and back to where she stood, seeking in vain to
master the turbulence of his feelings.  He stood still again.  He
took her by the shoulders and held her at arms' length, before him,
thus surveying her, and there was trouble in his keen eyes.

"Mademoiselle, mademoiselle!" he cried.  "Valerie, my child, what
are you saying to me?"

"What would you have me say?" she asked, her eyes upon the floor.
"Was I too forward?  It seemed to me there could not be question of
such a thing between us now.  I belong to you.  What man has ever
served a woman as you have served me?  What better friend, what
nobler lover did ever woman have?  Why then need I take shame at
confessing my devotion?"

He swallowed hard, and there was a mist before his eyes - eyes that
had looked unmoved on many a scene of carnage.

"You know not what you do," he cried out, and his voice was as the
voice of one in pain.  "I am old."

"Old?" she echoed in deep surprise, and she looked up at him, as if
she sought evidence of what he stated.

"Aye, old," he assured her bitterly.  "Look at the grey in my hair,
the wrinkles in my face.  I am no likely lover for you, child.
You'll need a lusty, comely young gallant."

She looked at him, and a faint smile flickered at the corners of her
lips.  She observed his straight, handsome figure; his fine air of
dignity and of strength.  Every inch a man was he; never lived there
one who was more a man; and what more than such a man could any maid

"You are all that I would have you," she answered him, and in his
mind he almost cursed her stubbornness, her want of reason.

"I am peevish and cross-grained," he informed her, "and I have grown
old in ignorance of woman's ways.  Love has never come to me until
now.  What manner of lover, think you, can I make?"

Her eyes were on the windows at his back.  The sunshine striking
through them seemed to give her the reply she sought.

"To-morrow will be Saint Martin's Day," she told him; "yet see with
a warmth the sun is shining."

"A poor, make-believe Saint Martin's Summer," said he.  "I am fitly
answered by your allegory."

"Oh, not make-believe, not make-believe," she exclaimed.  "There is
no make-believe in the sun's brightness and its warmth.  We see it
and we feel it, and we are none the less glad of it because the
time of year should be November; rather do we take the greater joy
in it.  And it is not yet November in your life, not yet by many

"What you say is apt, perhaps," said he, "and may seem more apt than
it is since my name is Martin, though I am no saint."  Then he shook
off this mood that he accounted selfish; this mood that would take
her - as the wolf takes the lamb - with no thought but for his own

"No, no!" he cried out.  "It were unworthy in me!"

"When I love you, Martin?" she asked him gently.

A moment he stared at her, as if through those clear eyes he would
penetrate to the very depths of her maiden soul.  Then he sank on
to his knees before her as any stripling lover might have done, and
kissed her hands in token of the fact that he was conquered.

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