List Of Contents | Contents of The Suitors of Yvonne, by Rafael Sabatini
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only shall your sword be returned to you, but you shall travel to Paris
with all comfort and dignity."

Now, so amazed was I that I paused to stare at the officer who was young
enough to make such a proposal to a man of my reputation.  He turned his
face towards me, and in the moonlight I could make out his questioning

"Eh, bien, Monsieur?"

"I am more than grateful to you, M. de Montrésor," I replied, "and I freely
give you my word of honour to seek no means of eluding you, nor to avail
myself of any that may be presented to me."

I said this loud enough for those behind to hear, so that no surprise was
evinced when the lieutenant bade the man who bore my sword return it to me.

If he who may chance to read these simple pages shall have gathered aught
of my character from their perusal, he will marvel, perchance, that I
should give the lieutenant my parole, instead rather of watching for an
opportunity to--at least--attempt an escape.  Preeminent in my thoughts,
however, stood at that moment the necessity to remove St. Auban, and
methought that by acting as I did I saw a way by which, haply, I might
accomplish this.  What might thereafter befall me seemed of little moment.

"M. de Montrésor," I said presently, "your kindness impels me to set a
further tax upon your generosity."

"That is, Monsieur?"

"Bid your men fall back a little, and I will tell you."

He made a sign to his troopers, and when the distance between us had been
sufficiently widened, I began:

"There is a man at present across the river, yonder, who has done me no
little injury, and with whom I have a rendezvous at nine o'clock to-night
at St. Sulpice des Reaux, where our swords are to determine the difference
between us.  I crave, Monsieur, your permission to keep that appointment."

"Impossible!" he answered curtly.

I took a deep breath like a man who is about to jump an obstacle in his

"Why impossible, Monsieur?"

"Because you are a prisoner, and therefore no longer under obligation to
keep appointments."

"How would you feel, Montrésor, if, burning to be avenged upon a man who
had done you irreparable wrong, you were arrested an hour before the time
at which you were to meet this man, sword in hand, and your captor--whose
leave you craved to keep the assignation--answered you with the word

"Yes, yes, Monsieur," he replied impatiently.  "But you forget my position. 
Let us suppose that I allow you to go to St. Sulpice des Reaux.  What if
you do not return?"

"You mistrust me?" I exclaimed, my hopes melting.

"You misapprehend me.  I mean, what if you are killed?"

"I do not think that I shall be."

"Ah!  But what if you are?  What shall I say to my Lord Cardinal?"

"Dame!  That I am dead, and that he is saved the trouble of hanging me. 
The most he can want of me is my life.  Let us suppose that you had come an
hour later.  You would have been forced to wait until after the encounter,
and, did I fall, matters would be no different."

The young man fell to thinking, but I, knowing that it is not well to let
the young ponder overlong if you would bend them to your wishes, broke in
upon his reflections--"See, Montrésor, yonder are the lights of Blois; by
eight o'clock we shall be in the town.  Come; grant me leave to cross the
Loire, and by ten o'clock, or half-past at the latest, I shall return to
sup with you or I shall be dead.  I swear it."

"Were I in your position," he answered musingly, "I know how I would be
treated, and, pardieu! come what may I shall deal with you accordingly. 
You may go to your assignation, M. de Luynes, and may God prosper you."

And thus it came to pass that shortly after eight o'clock, albeit a
prisoner, I rode into the courtyard of the Lys de France, and, alighting, I
stepped across the threshold of the inn, and strode up to a table at which
I had espied Michelot.  He sat nursing a huge measure of wine, into the
depths of which he was gazing pensively, with an expression so glum upon
his weather-beaten countenance that it defies depicting.  So deep was he in
his meditations, that albeit I stood by the table surveying him for a full
minute, he took no heed of me.

"Allons, Michelot!" I said at length.  "Wake up."

He started up with a cry of amazement; surprise chased away the grief that
had been on his face, and a moment later joy unfeigned, and good to see,
took the place of surprise.

"You have escaped, Monsieur!" he cried, and albeit caution made him utter
the words beneath his breath, a shout seemed to lurk somewhere in the

Pressing his hand I sat down and briefly told him how matters stood, and
how I came to be for the moment free.  And when I had done I bade him,
since his wound had not proved serious, to get his hat and cloak and go
with me to find a boat.

He obeyed me, and a quarter of an hour after we had quitted the hostelry he
was rowing me across the stream, whilst, wrapped in my cloak, I sat in the
stern, thinking of Yvonne.

"Monsieur," said Michelot, "observe how swift is the stream.  If I were to
let the boat drift we should be at Tours to-morrow, and from there it would
be easy to defy pursuit.  We have enough money to reach Spain.  What say
you, Monsieur?"

"Say, you rascal?  Why, bend your back to the work and set me ashore by St.
Sulpice in a quarter of an hour, or I'll forget that you have been my
friend.  Would you see me dishonoured?"

"Sooner than see you dead," he grumbled as he resumed his task. 
Thereafter, whilst he rowed, Michelot entertained me with some quaint ideas
touching that which fine gentlemen call honour, and to what sorry passes it
was wont to bring them, concluding by thanking God that he was no gentleman
and had no honour to lead him into mischief.

At last, however, our journey came to an end, and I sprang ashore some five
hundred paces from the little chapel, and almost exactly opposite the
Château de Canaples.  I stood for a moment gazing across the water at the
lighted windows of the château, wondering which of those eyes that looked
out upon the night might be that of Yvonne's chamber.

Then, bidding Michelot await me, or follow did I not return in half an
hour, I turned and moved away towards the chapel.

There is a clearing in front of the little white edifice--which rather than
a temple is but a monument to the martyr who is said to have perished on
that spot in the days before Clovis.

As I advanced into the centre of this open patch of ground, and stood clear
of the black silhouettes of the trees, cast about me by the moon, two men
appeared to detach themselves from the side wall of the chapel, and
advanced to meet me.

Albeit they were wrapped in their cloaks--uptilted behind by their
protruding scabbards--it was not difficult to tell the tall figure and
stately bearing of St. Auban and the mincing gait of Vilmorin.

I doffed my hat in a grave salutation, which was courteously returned.

"I trust, Messieurs, that I have not kept you waiting?"

"I was on the point of expressing that very hope, Monsieur," returned St.
Auban.  "We have but arrived.  Do you come alone?"

"As you perceive."

"Hum!  M. le Vicomte, then, will act for both of us."

I bowed in token of my satisfaction, and without more ado cast aside my
cloak, pleased to see that the affair was to be conducted with decency and
politeness, as such matters should ever be conducted, albeit impoliteness
may have marked their origin.

The Marquis, having followed my example and divested himself of his cloak
and hat, unsheathed his rapier and delivered it to Vilmorin, who came
across with it to where I stood.  When he was close to me I saw that he was
deadly pale; his teeth chattered, and the hand that held the weapon shook
as with a palsy.

"Mu--Monsieur," he stammered, "will it please you to lend me your sword
that I may mu-measure it?"

"What formalities!" I exclaimed with an amused smile, as I complied with
his request.  "I am afraid you have caught a chill, Vicomte.  The night air
is little suited to health so delicate."

He answered me with a baleful glance, as silently he took my sword and set
it--point to hilt--with St. Auban's.  He appeared to have found some slight
difference in the length, for he took two steps away from me, holding the
weapons well in the light, where for a moment he surveyed them attentively. 
His hands shook so that the blades clattered one against the other the
while.  But, of a sudden, taking both rapiers by the hilt, he struck the
blades together with a ringing clash, then flung them both behind him as
far as he could contrive, leaving me thunderstruck with amazement, and
marvelling whether fear had robbed him of his wits.

Not until I perceived that the trees around me appeared to spring into life
did it occur to me that that clashing of blades was a signal, and that I
was trapped.  With the realisation of it I was upon Vilmorin in a bound,
and with both hands I had caught the dog by the throat before he thought of
flight.  The violence of my onslaught bore him to the ground, and I, not to
release my choking grip, went with him.

For a moment we lay together where we had fallen, his slender body twisting
and writhing under me, his swelling face upturned and his protruding,
horror-stricken eyes gazing into mine that were fierce and pitiless. 
Voices rang above me; someone stooped and strove to pluck me from my
victim; then below the left shoulder I felt a sting of pain, first cold
then hot, and I knew that I had been stabbed.

Again I felt the blade thrust in, lower down and driven deeper; then, as
the knife was for the second time withdrawn, and my flesh sucked at the
steel,--the pain of it sending a shudder through me,--the instinct of
preservation overcame the sweet lust to strangle Vilmorin.  I let him go
and, staggering to my feet, I turned to face those murderers who struck a
defenceless man behind.

Swords gleamed around me: one, two, three, four, five, six, I counted, and
stood weak and dazed from loss of blood, gazing stupidly at the white
blades.  Had I but had my sword I should have laid about me, and gone down
beneath their blows as befits a soldier.  But the absence of that trusty
friend left me limp and helpless--cowed for the first time since I had
borne arms.

Of a sudden I became aware that St. Auban stood opposite to me, hand on
hip, surveying me with a malicious leer.  As our eyes met--"So, master
meddler," quoth he mockingly, "you crow less lustily than is your wont."

"Hound!" I gasped, choking with rage, "if you are a man, if there be a
spark of pride or honour left in your lying, cowardly soul, order your
assassins to give me my sword, and, wounded though I be, I'll fight with
you this duel that you lured me here to fight."

He laughed harshly.

"I told you but this morning, Master de Luynes, that a St. Auban does not
fight men of your stamp.  You forced a rendezvous upon me; you shall reap
the consequences."

Despite the weakness arising from loss of blood, I sprang towards him,
beside myself with fury.  But ere I had covered half the distance that lay
between us my arms were gripped from behind, and in my spent condition I
was held there, powerless, at the Marquis's mercy.  He came slowly forward
until we were but some two feet apart.  For a second he stood leering at
me, then, raising his hand, he struck me--struck a man whose arms another
held!--full upon the face.  Passion for the moment lent me strength, and in
that moment I had wrenched my right arm free and returned his blow with

With an oath he got out a dagger that hung from his baldrick.

"Sang du Christ!  Take that, you dog!" he snarled, burying the blade in my
breast as he spoke.

"My God!  You are murdering me!" I gasped.

"Have you discovered it?  What penetration!" he retorted, and those about
him laughed at his indecent jest!

He made a sign, and the man who had held me withdrew his hands.  I
staggered forward, deprived of his support, then a crashing blow took me
across the head.

I swayed for an instant, and with arms upheld I clutched at the air, as if
I sought, by hanging to it, to save myself from falling; then the moon
appeared to go dark, a noise as of the sea beating upon its shore filled my
ears, and I seemed to be falling--falling--falling.

A voice that buzzed and vibrated oddly, growing more distant at each word,
reached me as I sank.

"Come," it said.  "Fling that carrion into the river."

Then nothingness engulfed me.



Even as the blow which had plunged me into senselessness had imparted to me
the sinking sensation which I have feebly endeavoured to depict, so did the
first dim ray of returning consciousness bring with it the feeling that I
was again being buoyed upwards through the thick waters that had enveloped
me, to their surface, where intelligence and wakefulness awaited.

And as I felt myself borne up and up in that effortless ascension, my
senses awake and my reason still half-dormant, an exquisite sense of
languor pervaded my whole being.  Presently meseemed that the surface was
gained at last, and an instinct impelled me to open my eyes upon the light,
of which, through closed lids, I had become conscious.

I beheld a fair-sized room superbly furnished, and flooded with amber
sunlight suggestive in itself of warmth and luxury, the vision of which
heightened the delicious torpor that held me in thrall.  The bed I lay upon
was such, I told myself, as would not have disgraced a royal sleeper.  It
was upheld by great pillars of black oak, carved with a score of fantastic
figures, and all around it, descending from the dome above, hung curtains
of rich damask, drawn back at the side that looked upon the window.  Near
at hand stood a table laden with phials and such utensils as one sees by
the bedside of the wealthy sick.  All this I beheld in a languid,
unreasoning fashion through my half-open lids, and albeit the luxury of the
room and the fine linen of my bed told me that this was neither my Paris
lodging in the Rue St. Antoine, nor yet my chamber at the hostelry of the
Lys de France, still I taxed not my brain with any questions touching my

I closed my eyes, and I must have slept again: when next I opened them a
burly figure stood in the deep bay of the latticed window, looking out
through the leaded panes.

I recognised the stalwart frame of Michelot, and at last I asked myself
where I might be.  It did not seem to occur to me that I had but to call
him to receive an answer to that question.  Instead, I closed my eyes
again, and essayed to think.  But just then there came a gentle scratching
at the door, and I could hear Michelot tiptoeing across the room; next he
and the one he had admitted tiptoed back towards my bedside, and as they
came I caught a whisper in a voice that seemed to drag me to full

"How fares the poor invalid this morning?"

"The fever is gone, Mademoiselle, and he may wake at any moment; indeed, it
is strange that he should sleep so long."

"He will be the better for it when he does awaken.  I will remain here

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