List Of Contents | Contents of St. Martin's Summer, by Rafael Sabatini
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Seneschal was enjoying himself.  If he had been bullied and
browbeaten, here, at least, was one upon whom he, in his turn,
might taste the joys of bullying and browbeating.

"You lazy, miserable calf," he stormed, "I might be better served
by a wooden image.  Go!  It seems I must rely upon myself.  It is
always so.  Wait!" he thundered; for the secretary, only too glad
to obey his last order, had already reached the door.  "Tell
Anselme to bid the Captain attend me here at once."

Babylas's bowed and went his errand.

A certain amount of his ill-humour vented, Tressan made an effort
to regain his self-control.  He passed his handkerchief for the
last time over face and head, and resumed his wig.

When d'Aubran entered, the Seneschal was composed and in his wonted
habit of ponderous dignity.  "Ah, d'Aubran," said he, "your men
are ready?"

"They have been ready these four-and-twenty hours, monsieur."

"Good.  You are a brisk soldier, d'Aubran.  You are a man to be
relied upon."

D'Aubran bowed.  He was a tall, active young fellow with a pleasant
face and a pair of fine black eyes.

"Monsieur le Seneschal is very good."

With a wave of the hand the Seneschal belittled his own goodness.

"You will march out of Grenoble within the hour, Captain, and you
will lead your men to Montelimar.  There you will quarter them, and
await my further orders.  Babylas will give you a letter to the
authorities, charging them to find you suitable quarters.  While
there, d'Aubran, and until my further orders reach you, you will
employ your time in probing the feeling in the hill district.  You

"Imperfectly," d'Aubran confessed.

"You will understand better when you have been in Montelimar a week
or so.  It may, of course, be a false alarm.  Still, we must
safeguard the King's interests and be prepared.  Perhaps we may
afterwards be charged with starting at shadows; but it is better to
be on the alert from the moment the shadow is perceived than to
wait until the substance itself has overwhelmed us."

It sounded so very much as if the Seneschal's words really had some
hidden meaning, that d'Aubran, if not content with going upon an
errand of which he knew so little, was, at least, reconciled to
obey the orders he received.  He uttered words that conveyed some
such idea to Tressan's mind, and within a half-hour he was marching
out of Grenoble with beating drums, on his two days' journey to



As Captain d'Aubran and his troop were speeding westwards from
Grenoble, Monsieur de Garnache, ever attended by his man, rode
briskly in the opposite direction, towards the grey towers of
Condillac, that reared themselves towards the greyer sky above the
valley of the Isere.  It was a chill, dull, autumnal day, with a
raw wind blowing from the Alps; its breath was damp, and foretold
of the rain that was likely to come anon, the rain with which the
clouds hanging low about the distant hills were pregnant.

But Monsieur de Garnache was totally insensible to his surroundings;
his mind was very busy with the interview from which he had come,
and the interview to which he was speeding.  Once he permitted
himself a digression, that he might point a moral for the benefit
of his servant.

"You see, Rebecque, what a plague it is to have to do with women.
Are you sufficiently grateful to me for having quelled your
matrimonial ardour of two months ago?  No, you are not.  Grateful
you may be; sufficiently grateful, never; it would be impossible.
No gratitude could be commensurate with the benefit I conferred
upon you.  Yet if you had married, and discovered for yourself
the troubles that come from too close an association with that sex
which some wag of old ironically called the weaker, and of which
contemporary fools with no sense of irony continue so to speak in
good faith, you could have blamed only yourself.  You would have
shrugged your shoulders and made the best of it, realizing that no
other man had put this wrong upon you.  But with me - thousand
devils! - it is very different.  I am a man who, in one particular
at least, has chosen his way of life with care; I have seen to it
that I should walk a road unencumbered by any petticoat.  What
happens?  What comes of all my careful plans?

"Fate sends an infernal cut-throat to murder our good king - whose
soul God rest eternally!  And since his son is of an age too
tender to wield the sceptre, the boy's mother does it in his name.
Thus, I, a soldier, being subject to the head of the State, find
myself, by no devising of my own, subject to a woman.

"In itself that is bad enough.  Too bad, indeed - Ventregris! - too
bad.  Yet Fate is not content.  It must occur to this woman to
select me - me of all men - to journey into Dauphiny, and release
another woman from the clutches of yet a third.  And to what shifts
are we not put, to what discomforts not subjected?  You know them,
Rabecque, for you have shared them with me.  But it begins to break
upon my mind that what we have endured may be as nothing to what
may lie before us.  It is an ill thing to have to do with women.
Yet you, Rabecque, would have deserted me for one of them!"

Rabecque was silent.  Maybe he was ashamed of himself; or maybe
that, not agreeing with his master, he had yet sufficient
appreciation of his position to be discreetly silent where his
opinions might be at variance.  Thus Garnache was encouraged to

"And what is all this trouble about, which they have sent me to
set right?  About a marriage.  There is a girl wants to marry one
man, and a woman who wants to marry her to another.  Ponder the
possibilities of tragedy in such a situation.  Half this world's
upheavals have had their source in less.  Yet you, Rabecque,
would have married!"

Necessity at last turned his discourse to other matters.

"Tell me, now," said he abruptly, in a different tone, "is there
hereabouts a ford?"

"There is a bridge up yonder, monsieur," returned the servant,
thankful to have the conversation changed.

They rode towards it in silence, Garnache's eyes set now upon the
grey pile that crowned the hillock, a half-mile away, on the
opposite bank of the stream.  They crossed the bridge and rode up
the gently rising, bare, and rugged ground towards Condillac.  The
place wore an entirely peaceful air, strong and massive though it
appeared.  It was encircled by a ditch, but the drawbridge was
down, and the rust on its chains argued that long had it been so.

None coming to challenge them, the pair rode across the planks,
and the dull thud of their hooves started into activity some one
in the gatehouse.

A fellow rudely clad - a hybrid between man-at-arms and lackey - lounged on a musket to
confront them in the gateway.  Monsieur de Garnache announced his name, adding that he came
to crave an audience of Madame la Marquise, and the man stood aside to admit him.  Thus he
and Rabecque rode forward into the roughly paved courtyard.

>From several doorways other men emerged, some of martial bearing,
showing that the place was garrisoned to some extent.  Garnache
took little heed of them.  He flung his reins to the man whom he
had first addressed - the fellow had kept pace beside him - and
leapt nimbly to the ground, bidding Rabecque await him there.

The soldier lackey resigned the reins to Rabecque, and requested
Monsieur de Garnache to follow him.  He led the way through a door
on the left, down a passage and across an anteroom, and ushered the
visitor finally into a spacious, gloomy hall, panelled in black oak
and lighted as much by the piled-up fire that flared on the noble
hearth as by the grey daylight that filtered through the tall
mullioned windows.

As they entered, a liver-coloured hound that lay stretched before
the fire growled lazily, and showed the whites of his eyes.  Paying
little attention to the dog, Garnache looked about him.  The
apartment was handsome beyond praise, in a sombre, noble fashion.
It was hung with pictures of departed Condillacs - some of them
rudely wrought enough - with trophies of ancient armour, and with
implements of the chase.  In the centre stood an oblong table of
black oak, very richly carved about its massive legs, and in a
china bowl, on this, an armful of late roses filled the room with
their sweet fragrance.

Then Garnache espied a page on the window-seat, industriously
burnishing a cuirass.  He pursued his task, indifferent to the
newcomer's advent, until the knave who had conducted thither the
Parisian called the boy and bade him go tell the Marquise that a
Monsieur de Garnache, with a message from the Queen-Regent, begged
an audience.

The boy rose, and simultaneously, out of a great chair by the
hearth, whose tall back had hitherto concealed him, there rose
another figure.  This was a stripling of some twenty summers -
twenty-one, in fact - of a pale, beautifully featured face, black
hair and fine black eyes, and very sumptuously clad in a suit of
shimmering silk whose colour shifted from green to purple as he

Monsieur de Garnache assumed that he was in the presence of Marius
de Condillac.  He bowed a trifle stiffly, and was surprised to have
his bow returned with a graciousness that amounted almost to

"You are from Paris, monsieur?" said the young man, in a gentle,
pleasant voice.  "I fear you have had indifferent weather for your

Garnache thought of other things besides the weather that he had
found indifferent, and he felt warmed almost to the point of anger
at the very recollection.  But he bowed again, and answered amiably

The young man offered him a seat, assuring him that his mother would
not keep him waiting long.  The page had already gone upon his errand.

Garnache took the proffered chair, and sank down with creak and
jingle to warm himself at the fire.

"From what you have said, I gather that you are Monsieur Marius de
Condillac," said he.  "I, as you may have heard me announced by your
servant, am Martin Marie Rigobert de Garnache - at your service."

"We have heard of you, Monsieur de Garnache," said the youth as he
crossed his shapely legs of silken violet, and fingered the great
pearl that depended from his ear.  "But we had thought that by now
you would be on your way to Paris."

"No doubt - with Margot," was the grim rejoinder.

But Marius either gathered no suggestion from its grimness, or did
not know the name Garnache uttered, for he continued:

"We understood that you were to escort Mademoiselle de La Vauvraye
to Paris, to place her under the tutelage of the Queen-Regent.  I
will not conceal from you that we were chagrined at the reflection
cast upon Condillac; nevertheless, Her Majesty's word is law in
Dauphiny as much as it is in Paris."

"Quite as much, and I am relieved to hear you confess it," said
Garnache drily, and he scanned more closely the face of this young
man.  He found cause to modify the excellent impression he had
received at first.  Marius's eyebrows were finely pencilled, but
they arched a shade too much, and his eyes were set a trifle too
closely; the mouth, which had seemed beautiful at first, looked,
in addition, on this closer inspection, weak, sensual, and cruel.

There fell upon the momentary silence the sound of an opening door,
and both men rose simultaneously to their feet.

In the splendid woman that entered, Monsieur de Garnache saw a
wonderful likeness to the boy who stood beside him.  She received
the emissary very graciously.  Marius set a chair for her between
the two they had been occupying, and thus interchanging phrases of
agreeable greeting the three sat down about the hearth with every
show of the greatest amity.

A younger man might have been put out of countenance; the woman's
surpassing beauty, her charm of manner, her melodious voice, falling
on the ear soft and gentle as a caress, might have turned a man of
less firmness a little from his purpose, a little perhaps from his
loyalty and the duty that had brought him all the way from Paris.
But Monsieur de Garnache was to her thousand graces as insensible
as a man of stone.  And he came to business briskly.  He had no mind
to spend the day at her fireside in pleasant, meaningless talk.

"Madame," said he, "monsieur your son informs me that you have heard
of me and of the business that brings me into Dauphiny.  I had not
looked for the honour of journeying quite so far as Condillac; but
since Monsieur de Tressan, whom I made my ambassador, appears to
have failed so signally, I am constrained to inflict my presence
upon you."

"Inflict?" quoth she, with a pretty look of make-believe dismay.
"How harsh a word, monsieur!"

The smoothness of the implied compliment annoyed him.

"I will use any word you think more adequate, madame, if you will
suggest it," he answered tartly.

"There are a dozen I might suggest that would better fit the case
 - and with more justice to yourself," she answered, with a smile
that revealed a gleam of white teeth behind her scarlet lips.
"Marcus, bid Benoit bring wine.  Monsieur de Garnache will no doubt
be thirsting after his ride."

Garnache said nothing.  Acknowledge the courtesy he would not;
refuse it he could not.  So he sat, and waited for her to speak,
his eyes upon the fire.

Madame had already set herself a course.  Keener witted than her
son, she had readily understood, upon Garnache's being announced to
her, that his visit meant the failure of the imposture by which she
had sought to be rid of him.

"I think, monsieur," she said presently, watching him from under
her lids, "that we have, all of us who are concerned in Mademoiselle
de La Vauvraye's affairs, been at cross-purposes.  She is an
impetuous, impulsive child, and it happened that some little time
ago we had words - such things will happen in the most united
families.  Whilst the heat of her foolish anger was upon her, she
wrote a letter to the Queen, in which she desired to be removed
from my tutelage.  Since then, monsieur, she has come to repent her
of it.  You, who no doubt understand a woman's mind - "

"Set out upon no such presumption, madame," he interrupted.  "I
know as little of a woman's mind as any man who thinks he knows a
deal - and that is nothing."

She laughed as at an excellent jest, and Marius, overhearing
Garnache's retort as he was returning to resume his seat, joined
in her laugh.

"Paris is a fine whetstone for a man's wits," said he.

Garnache shrugged his shoulders.

"I take it, madame, that you wish me to understand that Mademoiselle
de La Vauvraye, repenting of her letter, desires no longer to repair
to Paris; desires, in fact, to remain here at Condillac in your
excellent care."

"You apprehend the position exactly, monsieur."

"To my mind," said he, "it presents few features difficult of

Marius's eyes flashed his mother a look of relief; but the Marquise,
who had an ear more finely trained, caught the vibration of a second
meaning in the emissary's words.

"All being as you say, madame," he continued, "will you tell me why,

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