List Of Contents | Contents of St. Martin's Summer, by Rafael Sabatini
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troopers he considered ample, as indeed they were.

On this errand he departed, wrapped tightly in his cloak, walking
briskly through the now heavier rain.

But at the Auberge de France a disappointment awaited him.  The
host had no horses and no carriage, nor would he have until the
following morning.  He was sorrow-stricken that the circumstance
should discompose Monsieur de Garnache; he was elaborate in his
explanations of how it happened that he could place no vehicle at
Monsieur de Garnache's disposal - so elaborate that it is
surprising Monsieur de Garnache's suspicions should not have been
aroused.  For the truth of the matter was that the folk of
Condillac had been at the Auberge de France before him - as they
had been elsewhere in the town wherever a conveyance might be
procurable - and by promises of reward for obedience and threats
of punishment for disobedience, they had contrived that Garnache
should hear this same story on every hand.  His mistake had lain
in his eagerness to obtain a guard from the Seneschal.  Had he
begun by making sure of a conveyance, anticipating, as he should
have done, this move on the part of the Condillacs - a move which
he did not even now suspect - it is possible that he might have
been spared much of the trouble that was to follow.

An hour or so later, after having vainly ransacked the town for
the thing he needed, he returned wet and annoyed to the Veau qui
Tote.  In a corner of the spacious common-room - a corner by the
door leading to the interior of the inn --- he saw the six troopers
at table, waxing a trifle noisy over cards.  Their sergeant sat a
little apart, in conversation with the landlord's wife, eyes
upturned adoringly, oblivious of the increasing scowl that gathered
about her watchful husband's brow.

At another table sat four gentlemen - seemingly travellers, by their
air and garb - in a conversation that was hushed at Garnache's
entrance.  But he paid no heed to them as he stalked with ringing
step across the rushstrewn floor, nor observed how covertly and
watchfully their glances followed him as returning, in passing the
sergeant's prompt salute he vanished through the doorway leading
to the stairs.

He reappeared again a moment later, to call the host, and give him
orders for the preparing of his own and Rabecque's supper.

On the landing above he found Rabecque awaiting him.

"Is all well?" he asked, and received from his lackey a reassuring

Mademoiselle welcomed him gladly.  His long absence, it appeared,
had been giving her concern.  He told her on what errand he had
been, and alarm overspread her face upon hearing its result.

"But, monsieur," she cried, "you are not proposing that I should
remain a night in Grenoble."

"What alternative have we?" he asked, and his brows met, impatient
at what he accounted no more than feminine whimsey.

"It is not safe," she exclaimed, her fears increasing.  "You do
not know how powerful are the Condillacs."

He strode to the fire, and the logs hissed under the pressure of
his wet boot.  He set his back to the blaze, and smiled down upon

"Nor do you know how powerful are we," he answered easily.  "I
have below six troopers and a sergeant of the Seneschal's regiment;
with myself and Rabecque we are nine men in all.  That should be a
sufficient guard, mademoiselle.  Nor do I think that with all their
power the Condillacs will venture here to claim you at the
sword point."

"And yet," she answered, for all that she was plainly reassured,
at least in part, "I would rather you had got me a horse, that we
might have ridden to Saint Marcellin, where no doubt a carriage
might be obtained."

"I did not see the need to put you to so much discomfort," he
returned.  "It is raining heavily."

"Oh, what of that?" she flung back impatiently.

"Besides," he added, "it seems there are no horses at the post-house.
A benighted place this Dauphiny of yours, mademoiselle."

But she never heeded the gibe at her native province.  "No horses?"
she echoed, and her hazel eyes looked up sharply, the alarm returning
to her face.  She rose, and approached him.  "Surely that is impossible."

"I assure you that it is as I say - neither at the post-house nor at
any of the inns I visited could I find me a spare horse."

"Monsieur," she cried, "I see the hand of Condillac in this."

"As how?" he inquired, and his tone again was quickened by impatience.

"They have anticipated you.  They seek to keep you here - to keep us
in Grenoble."

"But to what end?" he asked, his impatience growing.  "The Auberge
de France has promised me a carriage in the morning.  What shall it
avail them at Condillac to keep us here to-night?"

"They may have some project.  Oh, monsieur!  I am full of fears."

"Dismiss them," he answered lightly; and to reassure her he added,
smiling: "Rest assured we shall keep good watch over you, Rabecque
and I and the troopers.  A guard shall remain in the passage
throughout the night.  Rabecque and I will take turn about at
sentry-go.  Will that give you peace?"

"You are very good," she said, her voice quivering with feeling
and real gratitude, and as he was departing she called after him.
"You will be careful of yourself," she said.

He paused under the lintel, and turned, surprised.  "It is a habit
of mine," said he, with a glint of humour in his eye.

But there was no answering smile from her.  Her face was all anxiety.

"Beware of pitfalls," she bade him.  "Go warily; they are cruelly
cunning, those folk of Condillac.  And if evil should befall you. . ."

"There would still remain Rabecque and the troopers," he concluded.

She shrugged her shoulders.  "I implore you to be careful," she

"You may depend upon me," he said, and closed the door.

Outside he called Rabecque, and together they went below.  But
mindful of her fears, he dispatched one of the troopers to stand
sentry outside her door whilst he and his lackey supped.  That done,
he called the host, and set himself at table, Rabecque at his elbow
in attendance to hand him the dishes and pour his wine.

Across the low-ceilinged room the four travellers still sat in talk,
and as Garnache seated himself, one of them shouted for the host and
asked in an impatient tone to know if his supper was soon to come.

"In a moment, sir," answered the landlord respectfully, and he
turned again to the Parisian.  He went out to bring the latter's
meal, and whilst he was gone Rabecque heard from his master the
reason of their remaining that night in Grenoble.  The inference
drawn by the astute lackey - and freely expressed by him - from
the lack of horses or carriages in Grenoble that night, coincided
oddly with Valerie's.  He too gave it as his opinion that his master
had been forestalled by the Dowager's people, and without presuming
to advise Garnache to go warily - a piece of advice that Garnache
would have resented, to the extent perhaps of boxing the fellow's
ears - he determined, there and then, to keep a close watch upon
his master, and under no circumstances, if possible, permit him to
leave the Sucking Calf that night.

The host returned, bearing a platter on which there steamed a ragout
that gave out an appetizing odour; his wife followed with other
dishes and a bottle of Armagnac under her arm.  Rabecque busied
himself at once, and his hungry master disposed himself to satisfy
the healthiest appetite in France, when suddenly a shadow fell
across the table.  A man had come to stand beside it, his body
screening the light of one of the lamps that hung from a rafter of
the ceiling.

"At last!" he exclaimed, and his voice was harsh with ill-humour.

Garnache looked up, pausing in the very act of helping himself to
that ragout.  Rabecque looked up from behind his master, and his
lips tightened.  The host looked up from the act of drawing the cork
of the flagon he had taken from his wife, and his eyes grew big as
in his mind he prepared a judicious blend of apology and remonstrance
wherewith to soothe this very impatient gentleman.  But before he
could speak, Garnache's voice cut sharply into the silence.  An
interruption at such a moment vexed him sorely.

"Monsieur says?" quoth he.

"To you, sir - nothing," answered the fellow impudently, and looked
him straight between the eyes.

With a flush mounting to his cheeks, and his brows drawn together
in perplexity, Garnache surveyed him.  He was that same traveller
who had lately clamoured to know when he might sup, a man of rather
more than middle height, lithe and active of frame, yet with a
breadth of shoulder and depth of chest that argued strength and
endurance as well.  He had fair, wavy hair, which he wore rather
longer than was the mode, brown eyes, and a face which, without
being handsome, was yet more than ordinarily engaging by virtue of
its strength and frank ingenuousness.  His dress was his worst
feature.  It was flamboyant and showy; cheap, and tawdrily
pretentious.  Yet he bore himself with the easy dignity of a man
who counts more inferiors than superiors.

Despite the arrogant manner of his address, Garnache felt
prepossessed in the newcomer's favour.  But before he could answer
him, the host was speaking.

"Monsieur mistakes. . ." he began.

"Mistakes?" thundered the other in an accent slightly foreign.  "It
is you who mistake if you propose to tell me that this is not my
supper.  Am I to wait all night, while every jackanapes who follows
me into your pigsty is to be served before me?"

"Jackanapes?" said Garnache thoughtfully, and looked the man in the
face again.  Behind the stranger pressed his three companions now,
whilst the troopers across the room forgot their card-play to watch
the altercation that seemed to impend.

The foreigner - for such, indeed, his French proclaimed him - turned
half-contemptuously to the host, ignoring Garnache with an air that
was studiously offensive.

"Jackanapes?" murmured Garnache again, and he, too, turned to the
host.  "Tell me, Monsieur l'Hote," said he, "where do the jackanapes
bury their dead in Grenoble?  I may need the information."

Before the distressed landlord could utter a word, the stranger had
wheeled about again to face Garnache.  "What shall that mean?" he
asked sharply, a great fierceness in his glance.

"That Grenoble may be witnessing the funeral of a foreign bully by
to-morrow, Monsieur l'Etranger," said Garnache, showing his teeth
in a pleasant smile.  He became conscious in that moment of a
pressure on his shoulder blade, but paid no heed to it, intent on
watching the other's countenance.  It expressed surprise a moment,
then grew dark with anger.

"Do you mean that for me, sir?" he growled.

Garnache spread his hands.  "If monsieur feels that the cap fits
him, I shall not stay him in the act of donning it."

The stranger set one hand upon the table, and leaned forward towards
Garnache.  "May I ask monsieur to be a little more definite?" he

Garnache sat back in his chair and surveyed the man, smiling.  Quick
though his temper usually might be, it was checked at present by
amusement.  He had seen in his time many quarrels spring from the
flimsiest of motives, but surely never had he seen one quite so
self-begotten.  It was almost as if the fellow had come there of set
purpose to pick it with him.

A suspicion flashed across his mind.  He remembered the warning
mademoiselle had given him.  And he wondered.  Was this a trick to
lure him to some guet-apens?  He surveyed his man more closely; but
the inspection lent no colour to his suspicions.  The stranger
looked so frank and honest; then again his accent was foreign.  It
might very well be that he was some Savoyard lordling unused to being
kept waiting, and that his hunger made him irritable and impatient.
If that were so, assuredly the fellow deserved a lesson that should
show him he was now in France, where different manners obtained to
those that he displayed; yet, lest he should be something else,
Garnache determined to pursue a policy of conciliation.  It would
be a madness to embroil himself just then, whether this fellow were
of Condillac or not.

"I have asked you, monsieur," the stranger insisted, "to be a little
more definite."

Garnache's smile broadened and grew more friendly.  "Frankly," said
he, "I experience difficulty.  My remark was vague.  I meant it so
to be."

"But it offended me, monsieur," the other answered sharply.

The Parisian raised his eyebrows, and pursed his lips.  "Then I
deplore it," said he.  And now he had to endure the hardest trial of
all.  The stranger's expression changed to one of wondering scorn.

"Do I understand that monsieur apologizes?"

Garnache felt himself crimsoning; his self-control was slipping from
him; the pressure against his shoulder blade was renewed, and in
time he became aware of it and knew it for a warning from Rabecque.

"I cannot conceive, sir, that I have offended," said he at length,
keeping a tight hand upon his every instinct - which was to knock
this impertinent stranger down.  "But if I have, I beg that you will
believe that I have done so unwittingly.  I had no such intent."

The stranger removed his hand from the table and drew himself erect.

"So much for that, then," said he, provokingly contemptuous.  "If
you will be as amiable in the matter of the supper I shall be glad
to terminate an acquaintance which I can see no honour to myself in

This, Garnache felt, was more than he could endure.  A spasm of
passion crossed his face, another instant and despite Rabecque's
frantic proddings he might have flung the ragout in the gentleman's
face; when suddenly came the landlord unexpectedly to the rescue.

"Monsieur, here comes your supper now," he announced, as his wife
reentered from the kitchen with a laden tray.

For a moment the stranger seemed out of countenance.  Then he looked
with cold insolence from the dishes set before Garnache to those
which were being set for himself.

"Ah," said he, and his tone was an insult unsurpassable, "perhaps it
is to be preferred.  This ragout grows cold, I think."

He sniffed, and turning on his heel, without word or sign of
salutation to Garnache, he passed to the next table, and sat down
with his companions.  The Parisian's eyes followed him, and they
blazed with suppressed wrath.  Never in all his life had he exercised
such self-control as he was exercising then - which was the reason
why he had failed to achieve greatness - and he was exercising it
for the sake of that child above-stairs, and because he kept
ever-present in his mind the thought that she must come to grievous
harm if ill befell himself.  But he controlled his passion at the
cost of his appetite.  He could not eat, so enraged was he.  And so
he pushed the platter from him, and rose.

He turned to Rabecque, and the sight of his face sent the lackey
back a pace or two in very fear.  He waved his hand to the table.

"Sup, Rabecque," said he.  "Then come to me above."

And followed, as before, by the eyes of the stranger and his
companions, Garnache strode out of the room, and mounting the stairs

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