The Suitors of Yvonne Being a Portion of the Memoirs of the Sieur Gaston de Luynes by Rafael Sabatini CONTENTS CHAPTER I. OF HOW A BOY DRANK TOO MUCH WINE, AND WHAT CAME OF IT II. THE FRUIT OF INDISCRETION III. THE FIGHT IN THE HORSE-MARKET IV. FAIR RESCUERS V. MAZARIN, THE MATCH-MAKER VI. OF HOW ANDREA BECAME LOVESICK VII. THE CHÂTEAU DR CANAPLES VIII. THE FORESHADOW OF DISASTER IX. OF HOW A WHIP PROVED A BETTER ARGUMENT THAN A TONGUE X. THE CONSCIENCE OF MALPERTUIS XI. OF A WOMAN'S OBSTINACY XII. THE RESCUE XIII. THE HAND OF YVONNE XIV. OF WHAT BEFELL AT REAUX XV. OF MY RESURRECTION XVI. THE WAY OF WOMAN XVII. FATHER AND SON XVIII. OF HOW I LEFT CANAPLES XIX. OF MY RETURN TO PARIS XX. OF HOW THE CHEVALIER DE CANAPLES BECAME A FRONDEUR XXI. OF THE BARGAIN THAT ST. AUBAN DROVE WITH MY LORD CARDINAL XXII. OF MY SECOND JOURNEY TO CANAPLES XXIII. OF HOW ST. AUBAN CAME TO BLOIS XXIV. OF THE PASSING OF ST. AUBAN XXV. PLAY-ACTING XXVI. REPARATION CHAPTER I OF HOW A BOY DRANK TOO MUCH WINE, AND WHAT CAME OF IT Andrea de Mancini sprawled, ingloriously drunk, upon the floor. His legs were thrust under the table, and his head rested against the chair from which he had slipped; his long black hair was tossed and dishevelled; his handsome, boyish face flushed and garbed in the vacant expression of idiocy. "I beg a thousand pardons, M. de Luynes," quoth he in the thick, monotonous voice of a man whose brain but ill controls his tongue,--"I beg a thousand pardons for the unseemly poverty of our repast. 'T is no fault of mine. My Lord Cardinal keeps a most unworthy table for me. Faugh! Uncle Giulio is a Hebrew--if not by birth, by instinct. He carries his purse-strings in a knot which it would break his heart to unfasten. But there! some day my Lord Cardinal will go to heaven--to the lap of Abraham. I shall be rich then, vastly rich, and I shall bid you to a banquet worthy of your most noble blood. The Cardinal's health--perdition have him for the niggardliest rogue unhung!" I pushed back my chair and rose. The conversation was taking a turn that was too unhealthy to be pursued within the walls of the Palais Mazarin, where there existed, albeit the law books made no reference to it, the heinous crime of lèse-Eminence--a crime for which more men had been broken than it pleases me to dwell on. "Your table, Master Andrea, needs no apology," I answered carelessly. "Your wine, for instance, is beyond praise." "Ah, yes! The wine! But, ciel! Monsieur," he ejaculated, for a moment opening wide his heavy eyelids, "do you believe 't was Mazarin provided it? Pooh! 'T was a present made me by M. de la Motte, who seeks my interest with my Lord Cardinal to obtain for him an appointment in his Eminence's household, and thus thinks to earn my good will. He's a pestilent creature, this la Motte," he added, with a hiccough,--"a pestilent creature; but, Sangdieu! his wine is good, and I'll speak to my uncle. Help me up, De Luynes. Help me up, I say; I would drink the health of this provider of wines." I hurried forward, but he had struggled up unaided, and stood swaying with one hand on the table and the other on the back of his chair. In vain did I remonstrate with him that already he had drunk overmuch. "'T is a lie!" he shouted. "May not a gentleman sit upon the floor from choice?" To emphasise his protestation he imprudently withdrew his hand from the chair and struck at the air with his open palm. That gesture cost him his balance. He staggered, toppled backward, and clutched madly at the tablecloth as he fell, dragging glasses, bottles, dishes, tapers, and a score of other things besides, with a deafening crash on to the floor. Then, as I stood aghast and alarmed, wondering who might have overheard the thunder of his fall, the fool sat up amidst the ruins, and filled the room with his shrieks of drunken laughter. "Silence, boy!" I thundered, springing towards him. "Silence! or we shall have the whole house about our ears." And truly were my fears well grounded, for, before I could assist him to rise, I heard the door behind me open. Apprehensively I turned, and sickened to see that that which I had dreaded most was come to pass. A tall, imposing figure in scarlet robes stood erect and scowling on the threshold, and behind him his valet, Bernouin, bearing a lighted taper. Mancini's laugh faded into a tremulous cackle, then died out, and with gaping mouth and glassy eyes he sat there staring at his uncle. Thus we stayed in silence while a man might count mayhap a dozen; then the Cardinal's voice rang harsh and full of anger. "'T is thus that you fulfil your trust, M. de Luynes!" he said. "Your Eminence--" I began, scarce knowing what I should say, when he cut me short. "I will deal with you presently and elsewhere." He stepped up to Andrea, and surveyed him for a moment in disgust. "Get up, sir!" he commanded. "Get up!" The lad sought to obey him with an alacrity that merited a kinder fate. Had he been in less haste perchance he had been more successful. As it was, he had got no farther than his knees when his right leg slid from under him, and he fell prone among the shattered tableware, mumbling curses and apologies in a breath. Mazarin stood gazing at him with an eye that was eloquent in scorn, then bending down he spoke quickly to him in Italian. What he said I know not, being ignorant of their mother tongue; but from the fierceness of his utterance I'll wager my soul 't was nothing sweet to listen to. When he had done with him, he turned to his valet. "Bernouin," said he, "summon M. de Mancini's servant and assist him to get my nephew to bed. M. de Luynes, be good enough to take Bernouin's taper and light me back to my apartments." Unsavoury as was the task, I had no choice but to obey, and to stalk on in front of him, candle in hand, like an acolyte at Notre Dame, and in my heart the profound conviction that I was about to have a bad quarter of an hour with his Eminence. Nor was I wrong; for no sooner had we reached his cabinet and the door had been closed than he turned upon me the full measure of his wrath. "You miserable fool!" he snarled. "Did you think to trifle with the trust which in a misguided moment I placed in you? Think you that, when a week ago I saved you from starvation to clothe and feed you and give you a lieutenancy in my guards, I should endure so foul an abuse as this? Think you that I entrusted M. de Mancini's training in arms to you so that you might lead him into the dissolute habits which have dragged you down to what you are--to what you were before I rescued you--to what you will be to-morrow when I shall have again abandoned you?" "Hear me, your Eminence!" I cried indignantly. "'T is no fault of mine. Some fool hath sent M. de Mancini a basket of wine and--" "And you showed him how to abuse it," he broke in harshly. "You have taught the boy to become a sot; in time, were he to remain under your guidance, I make no doubt but that he would become a gamester and a duellist as well. I was mad, perchance, to give him into your care; but I have the good fortune to be still in time, before the mischief has sunk farther, to withdraw him from it, and to cast you back into the kennel from which I picked you." "Your Eminence does not mean--" "As God lives I do!" he cried. "You shall quit the Palais Royal this very night, M. de Luynes, and if ever I find you unbidden within half a mile of it, I will do that which out of a misguided sense of compassion I do not do now--I will have you flung into an oubliette of the Bastille, where better men than you have rotted before to-day. Per Dio! do you think that I am to be fooled by such a thing as you?" "Does your Eminence dismiss me?" I cried aghast, and scarce crediting that such was indeed the extreme measure upon which he had determined. "Have I not been plain enough?" he answered with a snarl. I realised to the full my unenviable position, and with the realisation of it there overcame me the recklessness of him who has played his last stake at the tables and lost. That recklessness it was that caused me to shrug my shoulders with a laugh. I was a soldier of fortune--or should I say a soldier of misfortune?--as rich in vice as I was poor in virtue; a man who lived by the steel and parried the blows that came as best he might, or parried them not at all--but never quailed. "As your Eminence pleases," I answered coolly, "albeit methinks that for one who has shed his blood for France as freely as I have done, a little clemency were not unfitting." He raised his eyebrows, and his lips curled in a malicious sneer. "You come of a family, M. de Luynes," he said slowly, "that is famed for having shed the blood of others for France more freely than its own. You are, I believe, the nephew of Albert de Luynes. Do you forget the Marshal d'Ancre?" I felt the blood of anger hot in my face as I made haste to answer him: "There are many of us, Monseigneur, who have cause to blush for the families they spring from--more cause, mayhap, than hath Gaston de Luynes." In my words perchance there was no offensive meaning, but in my tone and in the look which I bent upon the Cardinal there was that which told him that I alluded to his own obscure and dubious origin. He grew livid, and for a moment methought he would have struck me: had he done so, then, indeed, the history of Europe would have been other than it is to-day! He restrained himself, however, and drawing himself to the full height of his majestic figure he extended his arm towards the door. "Go," he said, in a voice that passion rendered hoarse. "Go, Monsieur. Go quickly, while my clemency endures. Go before I summon the guard and deal with you as your temerity deserves." I bowed--not without a taint of mockery, for I cared little what might follow; then, with head erect and the firm tread of defiance, I stalked out of his apartment, along the corridor, down the great staircase, across the courtyard, past the guard,--which, ignorant of my disgrace, saluted me,-- and out into the street. Then at last my head sank forward on my breast, and deep in thought I wended my way home, oblivious of all around me, even the chill bite of the February wind. In my mind I reviewed my wasted life, with the fleeting pleasures and the enduring sorrows that it had brought me--or that I had drawn from it. The Cardinal said no more than truth when he spoke of having saved me from starvation. A week ago that was indeed what he had done. He had taken pity on Gaston de Luynes, the nephew of that famous Albert de Luynes who had been Constable of France in the early days of the late king's reign; he had made me lieutenant of his guards and maître d'armes to his nephews Andrea and Paolo de Mancini because he knew that a better blade than mine could not be found in France, and because he thought it well to have such swords as mine about him. A little week ago life had been replete with fresh promises, the gates of the road to fame (and perchance fortune) had been opened to me anew, and now--before I had fairly passed that gate I had been thrust rudely back, and it had been slammed in my face because it pleased a fool to become a sot whilst in my company. There is a subtle poetry in the contemplation of ruin. With ruin itself, howbeit, there comes a prosaic dispelling of all idle dreams--a hard, a grim, a vile reality. Ruin! 'T is an ugly word. A fitting one to carve upon the tombstone of a reckless, godless, dissolute life such as mine had been. Back, Gaston de Luynes! back, to the kennel whence the Cardinal's hand did for a moment pluck you; back, from the morning of hope to the night of despair; back, to choose between starvation and the earning of a pauper's fee as a master of fence! CHAPTER II THE FRUIT OF INDISCRETION Despite the dejection to which I had become a prey, I slept no less soundly that night than was my wont, and indeed it was not until late next morning when someone knocked at my door that I awakened. I sat up in bed, and my first thought as I looked round the handsome room-- which I had rented a week ago upon receiving the lieutenancy in the Cardinal's guards--was for the position that I had lost and of the need that there would be ere long to seek a lodging more humble and better suited to my straitened circumstances. It was not without regret that such a thought came to me, for my tastes had never been modest, and the house was a fine one, situated in the Rue St. Antoine at a hundred paces or so from the Jesuit convent. I had no time, however, to indulge the sorry mood that threatened to beset me, for the knocking at my chamber door continued, until at length I answered it with a command to enter. It was my servant Michelot, a grizzled veteran of huge frame and strength, who had fought beside me at Rocroi, and who had thereafter become so enamoured of my person--for some trivial service he swore I had rendered him--that he had attached himself to me and my luckless fortunes. He came to inform me that M. de Mancini was below and craved immediate speech with me. He had scarce done speaking, however, when Andrea himself, having doubtless grown tired of waiting, appeared in the doorway. He wore a sickly look, the result of his last night's debauch; but, more than that, there was stamped upon his face a look of latent passion which made me think at first that he was come to upbraid me. "Ah, still abed, Luynes?" was his greeting as he came forward. His cloak was wet and his boots splashed, which told me both that he had come afoot and that it rained. "There are no duties that bid me rise," I answered sourly. He frowned at that, then, divesting himself of his cloak, he gave it to Michelot, who, at a sign from me, withdrew. No sooner was the door closed than the boy's whole manner changed. The simmering passion of which I had detected signs welled up and seemed to choke him as he poured forth the story that he had come to tell. "I have been insulted," he gasped. "Grossly insulted by a vile creature of Monsieur d'Orleans's household. An hour ago in the ante-chamber at the Palais Royal I was spoken of in my hearing as the besotted nephew of the Italian adventurer." I sat up in bed tingling with excitement at the developments which already I saw arising from his last night's imprudence. "Calmly, Andrea," I begged of him, "tell me calmly." "Mortdieu! How can I be calm? Ough! The thought of it chokes me. I was a fool last night--a sot. For that, perchance, men have some right to censure me. But, Sangdieu! that a ruffler of the stamp of Eugène de Canaples should speak of it--should call me the nephew of an Italian adventurer, should draw down upon me the cynical smile of a crowd of courtly apes--pah! I am sick at the memory of it!"
db3nf.com screen-capture.net floresca.net simonova.net flora-source.com flora-source.com sourcecentral.com sourcecentral.com geocities.com