List Of Contents | Contents of The Suitors of Yvonne, by Rafael Sabatini
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one.  I slackened speed somewhat and rode on, watching him sharply.  As I
came up, he walked his horse forward to meet me, and I beheld a man in the
uniform of the gardes du corps, in whom presently I recognised the little
sparrow Malpertuis, with whom I had exchanged witticisms at Choisy.  He was
the one man wanting to complete the trinity that had come upon us at the
inn of the Connétable.

It flashed across my mind that he might be the officer charged with my
arrest, and that he had arrived sooner than had been expected.  If so, it
was likely to go ill with him, for I was not minded to be taken until St.
Auban's soul sped hellwards.

He hailed me as I advanced, and indeed rode forward to meet me.

"You are come at last, M. de Luynes," was his greeting.  "I have waited for
you this hour past."

"How knew you I should ride this way?"

"I learnt that you would visit Canaples before noon.  Be good enough to
quit the road, and pass under those trees with me.  I have something to say
to you, but it were not well that we should be seen together."

"For the sake of your character or mine, M. Malappris?"

"Malpertuis!" he snapped.

"Malpertuis," I corrected.  "You were saying that we should not be seen

"St. Auban might hear of it."

"Ah!  And therefore?"

"You shall learn."  We were now under the trees, which albeit leafless yet
screened us partly from the road.  He drew rein, and I followed his

"M. de Luynes," he began, "I am or was a member of the cabal formed against
Mazarin's aims in the matter of the marriage of Mademoiselle de Canaples to
his nephew.  I joined hands with St. Auban, lured by his protestations that
it is not meet that such an heiress as Yvonne de Canaples should be forced
to marry a foreigner of no birth and less distinction, whilst France holds
so many noble suitors to her hand.  This motive, by which I know that even
Eugène de Canaples was actuated, was, St. Auban gave me to understand, his
only one for embarking upon this business, as it was also Vilmorin's.  Now,
M. de Luynes, I have to­day discovered that I had been duped by St. Auban
and his dupe, Vilmorin.  St. Auban lied to me; another motive brings him
into the affair.  He seeks himself, by any means that may present
themselves, to marry Yvonne--and her estates; whilst the girl, I am told,
loathes him beyond expression.  Vilmorin again is actuated by no less a
purpose.  And so, what think you these two knaves--this master knave and
his dupe--have determined?  To carry off Mademoiselle by force!"

"Sangdieu!" I burst out, and would have added more, but his gesture
silenced me, and he continued:

"Vilmorin believes that St. Auban is helping him in this, whereas St. Auban
is but fooling him with ambiguous speeches until they have the lady safe. 
Then might will assert itself, and St. Auban need but show his fangs to
drive the sneaking coward away from the prize he fondly dreams is to be

"When do these gentlemen propose to carry out their plan?  Have they
determined that?" I inquired breathlessly.

"Aye, they have.  They hope to accomplish it this very day.  Mademoiselle
de Canaples has received a letter wherein she is asked to meet her
anonymous writer in the coppice yonder, at the Angelus this evening, if she
would learn news of great importance to her touching a conspiracy against
her father."

"Faugh!" I sneered.  "'T is too poor a bait to lure her with."

"Say you so?  Believe me that unless she be dissuaded she will comply with
the invitation, so cunningly was the letter couched.  A closed carriage
will be waiting at this very spot.  Into this St. Auban, Vilmorin, and
their bravos will thrust the girl, then away through Blois and beyond it,
for a mile or so, in the direction of Meung, thereby misleading any chance
pursuers.  There they will quit the coach and take a boat that is to be in
waiting for them and which will bear them back with the stream to Chambord. 
Thereafter, God pity the poor lady if they get thus far without mishap."

"Mort de ma vie!" I cried, slapping my thigh, "I understand!"  And to
myself I thought of the assignation at St. Sulpice des Reaux, and the
reason for this, as also St. Auban's resolution to so suddenly quit Blois,
grew of a sudden clear to me.  Also did I recall the riddle touching
Vilmorin's conduct which a few moments ago I had puzzled over, and of which
methought that I now held the solution.

"What do you understand?" asked Malpertuis.

"Something that was told me this morning," I made answer, then spoke of
gratitude, wherein he cut me short.

"I ask no thanks," he said curtly.  "You owe me none.  What I have done is
not for love of you or Mancini--for I love neither of you.  It is done
because noblesse m'oblige.  I told St. Auban that I would have no part in
this outrage.  But that is not enough; I owe it to my honour to attempt the
frustration of so dastardly a plan.  You, M. de Luynes, appear to be the
most likely person to encompass this, in the interests of your friend
Mancini; I leave the matter, therefore, in your hands.  Good­day!"

And with this abrupt leave-taking, the little fellow doffed his hat to me,
and wheeling his horse he set spurs in its flanks, and was gone before a
word of mine could have stayed him.



"M. de Luynes is a wizard," quoth Andrea, laughing, in answer to something
that had been said.

It was afternoon.  We had dined, and the bright sunshine and spring-like
mildness of the weather had lured us out upon the terrace.  Yvonne and
Geneviève occupied the stone seat.  Andrea had perched himself upon the
granite balustrade, and facing them he sat, swinging his shapely legs to
and fro as he chatted merrily, whilst on either side of him stood the
Chevalier de Canaples and I.

"If M. de Luynes be as great a wizard in other things as with the sword,
then, pardieu, he is a fearful magician," said Canaples.

I bowed, yet not so low but that I detected a sneer on Yvonne's lips.

"So, pretty lady," said I to myself, "we shall see if presently your lip
will curl when I show you something of my wizard's art."

And presently my chance came.  M. de Canaples found reason to leave us, and
no sooner was he gone than Geneviève remembered that she had that day
discovered a budding leaf upon one of the rose bushes in the garden below. 
Andrea naturally caused an argument by asserting that she was the victim of
her fancy, as it was by far too early in the year.  By that means these two
found the plea they sought for quitting us, since neither could rest until
the other was convinced.

So down they went into that rose garden which methought was like to prove
their fool's paradise, and Yvonne and I were left alone.  Then she also
rose, but as she was on the point of quitting me:

"Mademoiselle," I ventured, "will you honour me by remaining for a moment? 
There is something that I would say to you."

With raised eyebrows she gave me a glance mingled with that
superciliousness which she was for ever bestowing upon me, and which, from
the monotony of it alone, grew irksome.

"What can you have to say to me, M. de Luynes?"

"Will you not be seated?  I shall not long detain you, nevertheless--"

"If I stand, perchance you will be more brief.  I am waiting, Monsieur."

I shrugged my shoulders rudely.  Why, indeed, be courteous where so little
courtesy was met with?

"A little while ago, Mademoiselle, when M. de Mancini dubbed me a wizard
you were good enough to sneer.  Now, a sneer, Mademoiselle, implies
unbelief, and I would convince you that you were wrong to disbelieve."

"If you have no other motive for detaining me, suffer me to depart," she
interrupted with some warmth.  "Whether you be a wizard or not is of no
moment to me."

"And yet I dare swear that you will be of a different mind within five
minutes.  A wizard is one who discloses things unknown to his fellow-men. 
I am about to convince you that I can do this, and by convincing you I am
about to serve you."

"I seek neither conviction nor service at your hands," she answered.

"Your courtesy dumfounds me, Mademoiselle!"

"No less than does your insolence dumfound me," she retorted, with crimson
cheeks.  "Do you forget, sir, that I know you for what you are--a gamester,
a libertine, a duellist, the murderer of my brother?"

"That your brother lives, Mademoiselle, is, methinks, sufficient proof that
I have not murdered him."

"You willed his death if you did not encompass it; so 't is all one.  Do
you not understand that it is because my father receives you here, thanks
to M. de Mancini, your friend--a friendship easily understood from the
advantages you must derive from it--that I consent to endure your presence
and the insult of your glance?  Is it not enough that I should do this, and
have you not wit enough to discern it, without adding to my shame by your
insolent call upon my courtesy?"

Her words cut me as no words that I ever heard, and, more than her words,
her tone of loathing and disgust unspeakable.  For half that speech I
should have killed a man--indeed, I had killed men for less than half.  And
yet, for all the passion that raged in my soul, I preserved upon my
countenance a smiling mask.  That smile exhausted her patience and
increased her loathing, for with a contemptuous exclamation she turned

"Tarry but a moment, Mademoiselle," I cried, with a sudden note of command. 
"Or, if you will go, go then; but take with you my assurance that before
nightfall you will weep bitterly for it."

My words arrested her.  The mystery of them awakened her curiosity.

"You speak in riddles, Monsieur."

"Like a true wizard, Mademoiselle.  You received a letter this morning in a
handwriting unknown, and bearing no signature."

She wheeled round and faced me again with a little gasp of astonishment.

"How know you that?  Ah!  I understand; you wrote it!"

"What shrewdness, Mademoiselle!" I laughed, ironically.  "Come; think
again.  What need have I to bid you meet me in the coppice yonder?  May I
not speak freely with you here?"

"You know the purport of that letter?"

"I do, Mademoiselle, and I know more.  I know that this hinted conspiracy
against your father is a trumped-up lie to lure you to the coppice."

"And for what purpose, pray?"

"An evil one,--your abduction.  Shall I tell you who penned that note, and
who awaits you?  The Marquis César de St. Auban."

She shuddered as I pronounced the name, then, looking me straight between
the eyes--"How come you to know these things?" she inquired.

"What does it signify, since I know them?"

"This, Monsieur, that unless I learn how, I can attach no credit to your
preposterous story."

"Not credit it!" I cried.  "Let me assure you that I have spoken the truth;
let me swear it.  Go to the coppice at the appointed time, and things will
fall out as I have predicted."

"Again, Monsieur, how know you this?" she persisted, as women will.

"I may not tell you."

We stood close together, and her clear grey eyes met mine, her lip curling
in disdain.

"You may not tell me?  You need not.  I can guess."  And she tossed her
shapely head and laughed.  "Seek some likelier story, Monsieur.  Had you
not spoken of it, 't is likely I should have left the letter unheeded.  But
your disinterested warning has determined me to go to this rendezvous. 
Shall I tell you what I have guessed?  That this conspiracy against my
father, the details of which you would not have me learn, is some evil of
your own devising.  Ah!  You change colour!" she cried, pointing to my
face.  Then with a laugh of disdain she left me before I had sufficiently
recovered from my amazement to bid her stay.

"Ciel!" I cried, as I watched the tall, lissom figure vanish through the
portals of the château.  "Did ever God create so crass and obstinate a
thing as woman?"

It occurred to me to tell Andrea, and bid him warn her.  But then she would
guess that I had prompted him.  Naught remained but to lay the matter
before the Chevalier de Canaples.  Already I had informed him of my fracas
with St. Auban, and of the duel that was to be fought that night, and he,
in his turn, had given me the details of his stormy interview with the
Marquis, which had culminated in St. Auban's dismissal from Canaples.  I
had not hitherto deemed it necessary to alarm him with the news imparted to
me by Malpertuis, imagining that did I inform Mademoiselle that would

Now, however, as I have said, no other course was left me but to tell him
of it.  Accordingly, I went within and inquired of Guilbert, whom I met in
the hall, where I might find the Chevalier.  He answered me that M. de
Canaples was not in the château.  It was believed that he had gone with M.
Louis, the intendant of the estates, to visit the vineyards at Montcroix.

The news made me choke with impatience.  Already it was close upon five
o'clock, and in another hour the sun would set and the Angelus would toll
the knell of Mademoiselle's preposterous suspicions, unless in the meantime
I had speech with Canaples, and led him to employ a father's authority to
keep his daughter indoors.

Fuming at the contretemps I called for my horse and set out at a brisk trot
for Montcroix.  But my ride was fruitless.  The vineyard peasants had not
seen the Chevalier for over a week.

Now, 'twixt Montcroix and the château there lies a good league, and to make
matters worse, as I galloped furiously back to Canaples, an evil chance led
me to mistake the way and pursue a track that brought me out on the very
banks of the river, with a strong belt of trees screening the château from
sight, and defying me to repair my error by going straight ahead.

I was forced to retrace my steps, and before I had regained the point where
I had gone astray a precious quarter of an hour was wasted, and the sun
already hung, a dull red globe, on the brink of the horizon.

Clenching my teeth, I tore at my horse's flanks, and with a bloody heel I
drove the maddened brute along at a pace that might have cost us both
dearly.  I dashed, at last, into the quadrangle, and, throwing the reins to
a gaping groom, I sprang up the steps.

"Has the Chevalier returned?" I gasped breathlessly.

"Not yet, Monsieur," answered Guilbert with a tranquillity that made me
desire to strangle him.  "Is Mademoiselle in the château?" was my next
question, mechanically asked.

"I saw her on the terrace some moments ago.  She has not since come

Like one possessed I flew across the intervening room and out on to the
terrace.  Geneviève and Andrea were walking there, deep in conversation. 
At another time I might have cursed their lack of prudence.  At the moment
I did not so much as remark it.

"Where is Mademoiselle de Canaples?" I burst out.

They gazed at me, as much astounded by my question and the abruptness of it
as by my apparent agitation.

Has anything happened?" inquired Geneviève, her blue eyes wide open.

"Yes--no; naught has happened.  Tell me where she is.  I must speak to

"She was here a while ago," said Andrea, "but she left us to stroll along

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