List Of Contents | Contents of St. Martin's Summer, by Rafael Sabatini
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me, by noon to-morrow."

He bowed, with a flourish of his plumed hat, and would with that have
taken his departure but that the Seneschal stayed him.

"Monsieur, monsieur," he cried, in piteous affright, "you do not know
the Dowager of Condillac."

"Why, no.  What of it?"

"What of it?  Did you know her, you would understand that she is not
the woman to be driven.  I may order her in the Queen's name to
deliver up Mademoiselle de La Vauvraye.  But she will withstand me."

"Withstand you?" echoed Garnache, frowning into the face of this
fat man, who had risen also, brought to his feet by excitement.
"Withstand you - you, the Lord Seneschal of Dauphiny?  You are
amusing yourself at my expense."

"But I tell you that she will," the other insisted in a passion.
"You may look for the girl in vain tomorrow unless you go to
Condillac yourself and take her."

Garnache drew himself up and delivered his answer in a tone that
was final.

"You are the governor of the province, monsieur, and in this matter
you have in addition the Queen's particular authority - nay, her
commands are imposed upon you.  Those commands, as interpreted by
me, you will execute in the manner I have indicated."

The Seneschal shrugged his shoulders, and chewed a second at his

"It is an easy thing for you to tell me what to do.  Tell me, rather,
how to do it, how to overcome her opposition."

"You are very sure of opposition - strangely sure, monsieur," said
Garnache, looking him between the eyes.  "In any case, you have

"And so has she, and the strongest castle in southern France - to
say nothing of the most cursed obstinacy in the world.  What she
says, she does."

"And what the Queen says her loyal servants do," was Garnache's
rejoinder, in a withering tone.  "I think there is nothing more to
be said, monsieur," he added.  "By this time to-morrow I shall
expect to receive from you, here, the charge of Mademoiselle de La
Vauvraye.  A demain, donc, Monsieur le Seneschal."

And with another bow the man from Paris drew himself erect, turned
on his heel, and went jingling and creaking from the room.

The Lord Seneschal sank back in his chair, and wondered to himself
whether to die might not prove an easy way out of the horrid
situation into which chance and his ill-starred tenderness for the
Dowager of Condillac had thrust him.

At his desk sat his secretary, who had been a witness of the
interview, lost in wonder almost as great as the Seneschal's own.

For an hour Tressan remained where he was, deep in thought and
gnawing at his beard.  Then with a sudden burst of passion,
expressed in a round oath or two, he rose, and called for his horse
that he might ride to Condillac.



Promptly at noon on the morrow Monsieur de Garnache presented
himself once more at the Seneschal's palace, and with him went
Rabecque, his body-servant, a lean, swarthy, sharp-faced man, a
trifle younger than his master.

Anselme, the obese master of the household, received them with
profound respect, and at once conducted Garnache to Monsieur de
Tressan's presence.

On the stairs they met Captain d'Aubran, who was descending.  The
captain was not in the best of humours.  For four-and-twenty hours
he had kept two hundred of his men under arms, ready to march as
soon as he should receive his orders from the Lord Seneschal, yet
those instructions were not forthcoming.  He had been to seek them
again that morning, only to be again put off.

Monsieur de Garnache had considerable doubt, born of his yesterday's
interview with the Seneschal, that Mademoiselle de La Vauvraye would
be delivered into his charge as he had stipulated.  His relief was,
therefore, considerable, upon being ushered into Tressan's presence,
to find a lady in cloak and hat, dressed as for a journey, seated in
a chair by the great fireplace.

Tressan advanced to meet him, a smile of cordial welcome on his lips,
and they bowed to each other in formal greeting.

"You see, monsieur," said the Seneschal, waving a plump hand in the
direction of the lady, "that you have been obeyed.  Here is your

Then to the lady: "This is Monsieur de Garnache," he announced, "of
whom I have already told you, who is to conduct you to Paris by order
of Her Majesty.

"And now, my good friends, however great the pleasure I derive from
your company, I care not how soon you set out, for I have some
prodigious arrears of work upon my hands."

Garnache bowed to the lady, who returned his greeting by an
inclination of the head, and his keen eyes played briskly over her.
She was a plump-faced, insipid child, with fair hair and pale blue
eyes, stolid and bovine in their expressionlessness.

"I am quite ready, monsieur," said she, rising as she spoke, and
gathering her cloak about her; and Garnache remarked that her voice
had the southern drawl, her words the faintest suggestion of a
patois.  It was amazing how a lady born and bred could degenerate
in the rusticity of Dauphiny.  Pigs and cows, he made no doubt, had
been her chief objectives.  Yet, even so, he thought he might have
expected that she would have had more to say to him than just those
five words expressing her readiness to depart.  He had looked for
some acknowledgment of satisfaction at his presence, some utterances
of gratitude either to himself or to the Queen-Regent for the
promptness with which she had been succoured.  He was disappointed,
but he showed nothing of it, as with a simple inclination of the
head -

"Good!" said he.  "Since you are ready and Monsieur le Seneschal is
anxious to be rid of us, let us by all means be moving.  You have a
long and tedious journey before you, mademoiselle."

"I - I am prepared for that," she faltered.

He stood aside, and bending from the waist he made a sweeping
gesture towards the door with the hand that held his hat.  To the
invitation to precede him she readily responded, and, with a bow
to the Seneschal, she began to walk across the apartment.

Garnache's eyes, narrowing slightly, followed her, like points of
steel.  Suddenly he shot a disturbing glance at Tressan's face, and
the corner of his wild-cat mustachios twitched.  He stood erect, and
called her very sharply.


She stopped, and turned to face him, an incredible shyness seeming
to cause her to avoid his gaze.

"You have, no doubt, Monsieur le Seneschal's word for my identity.
But I think it is as well that you should satisfy yourself.  Before
placing yourself entirely in my care, as you are about to do, you
would be well advised to assure yourself, that I am indeed Her
Majesty's emissary.  Will you be good enough to glance at this?"

He drew forth as he spoke the letter in the queen's own hand, turned
it upside down, and so presented it to her.  The Seneschal looked
on stolidly, a few paces distant.

"But certainly, mademoiselle, assure yourself that this gentleman
is no other than I have told you."

Thus enjoined, she took the letter; for a second her eyes met
Garnache's glittering gaze, and she shivered.  Then she bent her
glance to the writing, and studied it a moment, what time the man
from Paris watched her closely.

Presently she handed it back to him.

"Thank you, monsieur," was all she said.

"You are satisfied that it is in order, mademoiselle?" he inquired,
and a note of mockery too subtle for her or the Seneschal ran
through his question.

"I am quite satisfied."

Garnache turned to Tressan.  His eyes were smiling, but unpleasantly,
and in his voice when he spoke there was something akin to the
distant rumble that heralds an approaching storm.

"Mademoiselle," said he, "has received an eccentric education."

"Eh?" quoth Tressan, perplexed.

"I have heard tell, monsieur, of a people somewhere in the East who
read and write from right to left; but never yet have I heard tell
of any - particularly in France - so oddly schooled as to do their
reading upside down."

Tressan caught the drift of the other's meaning.  He paled a little,
and sucked his lip, his eyes wandering to the girl, who stood in
stolid inapprehension of what was being said.

"Did she do that?" said he, and he scarcely knew what he was saying;
all that he realized was that it urged him to explain this thing.
"Mademoiselle's education has been neglected - a by no means uncommon
happening in these parts.  She is sensitive of it; she seeks to hide
the fact."

Then the storm broke about their heads.  And it crashed and thundered
awfully in the next few minutes.

"O liar! O damned, audacious liar," roared Garnache uncompromisingly,
advancing a step upon the Seneschal, and shaking the parchment
threateningly in his very face, as though it were become a weapon of
offence.  "Was it to hide the fact that she had not been taught to
write that she sent the Queen a letter pages-long?  Who is this
woman?"  And the finger he pointed at the girl quivered with the
rage that filled him at this trick they had thought to put upon him.

Tressan sought refuge in offended dignity.  He drew himself up,
threw back his head, and looked the Parisian fiercely in the eye.

"Since you take this tone with me, monsieur -"

"I take with you - as with any man - the tone that to me seems best.
You miserable fool!  As sure as you're a rogue this affair shall
cost you your position.  You have waxed fat and sleek in your
seneschalship; this easy life in Dauphiny appears to have been well
suited to your health.  But as your paunch has grown, so, of a
truth, have your brains dwindled, else had you never thought to
cheat me quite so easily.

"Am I some lout who has spent his days herding swine, think you,
that you could trick me into believing this creature to be
Mademoiselle de La Vauvraye - this creature with the mien of a
peasant, with a breath reeking of garlic like a third-rate
eating-house, and the walk of a woman who has never known footgear
until this moment?  Tell me, sir, for what manner of fool did you
take me?"

The Seneschal stood with blanched face and gaping mouth, his fire
all turned to ashes before the passion of this gaunt man.

Garnache paid no heed to him.  He stepped to the girl, and roughly
raised her chin with his hand so that she was forced to look him in
the face.

"What is your name, wench?" he asked her.

"Margot," she blubbered, bursting into tears.

He dropped her chin, and turned away with a gesture of disgust.

"Get you gone," he bade her harshly.  "Get you back to the kitchen
or the onion-field from which they took you."

And the girl, scarce believing her good fortune, departed with a
speed that bordered on the ludicrous.  Tressan had naught to say,
no word to stay her with; pretence, he realized, was vain.

"Now, my Lord Seneschal," quoth Garnache, arms akimbo, feet planted
wide, and eyes upon the wretched man's countenance, "what may you
have to say to me?"

Tressan shifted his position; he avoided the other's glance; he was
visibly trembling, and when presently he spoke it was in faltering

"It - it - seems, monsieur, that - ah - that I have been the victim
of some imposture."

"It had rather seemed to me that the victim chosen was myself."

"Clearly we were both victims," the Seneschal rejoined.  Then he
proceeded to explain.  "I went to Condillac yesterday as you desired
me, and after a stormy interview with the Marquise I obtained from
her - as I believed - the person of Mademoiselle de La Vauvraye.
You see I was not myself acquainted with the lady."

Garnache looked at him.  He did not believe him.  He regretted
almost that he had not further questioned the girl.  But, after all,
perhaps it might be easier and more expedient if he were to appear
to accept the Seneschal's statement.  But he must provide against
further fraud.

"Monsieur le Seneschal," said he in calmer tones, putting his anger
from him, "at the best you are a blunderer and an ass, at the worst
a traitor.  I will inquire no further at present; I'll not seek to
discriminate too finely."

"Monsieur, these insults - " began the Seneschal, summoning dignity
to his aid.  But Garnache broke in:

"La, la!  I speak in the Queen's name.  If you have thought to aid
the Dowager of Condillac in this resistance of Her Majesty's mandate,
let me enjoin you, as you value your seneschalship - as you value
your very neck - to harbour that thought no longer.

"It seems that, after all, I must deal myself with the situation.
I must go myself to Condillac.  If they should resist me, I shall
look to you for the necessary means to overcome that resistance.

"And bear you this in mind: I have chosen to leave it an open
question whether you were a party to the trick it has been sought
to put upon the Queen, through me, her representative.  But it is
a question that I have it in my power to resolve at any moment - to
resolve as I choose.  Unless, monsieur, I find you hereafter - as
I trust - actuated by the most unswerving loyalty, I shall resolve
that question by proclaiming you a traitor; and as a traitor I shall
arrest you and carry you to Paris.  Monsieur le Seneschal, I have
the honour to give you good-day!"

When he was gone, Monsieur de Tressan flung off his wig, and mopped
the perspiration from his brow.  He went white as snow and red as
fire by turns, as he paced the apartment in a frenzy.  Never in the
fifteen years that were sped since he had been raised to the
governorship of the province had any man taken such a tone with him
and harangued him in such terms.

A liar and a traitor had he been called that morning, a knave and
a fool; he had been browbeaten and threatened; and he had swallowed
it all, and almost turned to lick the hand that administered the
dose.  Dame!  What manner of cur was he become?  And the man who
had done all this - a vulgar upstart out of Paris, reeking of
leather and the barrack-room still lived!

Bloodshed was in his mind; murder beckoned him alluringly to take
her as his ally.  But he put the thought from him, frenzied though
he might be.  He must fight this knave with other weapons; frustrate
his mission, and send him back to Paris and the Queen's scorn,
beaten and empty-handed.

"Babylas's!" he shouted.

Immediately the secretary appeared.

"Have you given thought to the matter of Captain d'Aubran?" he
asked, his voice an impatient snarl.

"Yes, monsieur, I have pondered it all morning."

"Well?  And what have you concluded?"

"Helas! monsieur, nothing."

Tressan smote the table before him a blow that shook some of the
dust out of the papers that cumbered it.  "Ventregris!  How am I
served?  For what do I pay you, and feed you, and house you,
good-for-naught, if you are to fail me whenever I need the things
you call your brains?  Have you no intelligence, no thought, no
imagination?  Can you invent no plausible business, no likely
rising, no possible disturbances that shall justify my sending
Aubran and his men to Montelimar - to the very devil, if need be.

The secretary trembled in his every limb; his eyes shunned his
master's as his master's had shunned Garnache's awhile ago.  The

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