List Of Contents | Contents of The Suitors of Yvonne, by Rafael Sabatini
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care has saved my life, Mademoiselle; your kindness, methinks, has saved my
soul.  For it seems to me that I am no longer the same man whom Michelot
fished out of the Loire that night two months ago.  I would thank you,
Mademoiselle, for the happiness that has been mine during the past few
days--a happiness such as for years has not fallen to my lot.  To another
and worthier man, the task of thanking you might be an easy one; but to me,
who know myself to be so far beneath you, the obligation is so overwhelming
that I know of no words to fitly express it."

"Monsieur, Monsieur, I beseech you!  Already you have said overmuch."

"Nay, Mademoiselle; not half enough."

"Have you forgotten, then, what you did for me?  Our trivial service to you
is but unseemly recompense.  What other man would have come to my rescue as
you came, with such odds against you--and forgetting the affronting words
wherewith that very day I had met your warning?  Tell me, Monsieur, who
would have done that?"

"Why, any man who deemed himself a gentleman, and who possessed such
knowledge as I had."

She laughed a laugh of unbelief.

"You are mistaken, sir," she answered.  "The deed was worthy of one of
those preux chevaliers we read of, and I have never known but one man
capable of accomplishing it."

Those words and the tone wherein they were uttered set my brain on fire.  I
turned towards her; our glances met, and her eyes--those eyes that but a
while ago had never looked on me without avowing the disdain wherein she
had held me--were now filled with a light of kindliness, of sympathy, of
tenderness that seemed more than I could endure.

Already my hand was thrust into the bosom of my doublet, and my fingers
were about to drag forth that little shred of green velvet that I had found
in the coppice on the day of her abduction, and that I had kept ever since
as one keeps the relic of a departed saint.  Another moment and I should
have poured out the story of the mad, hopeless passion that filled my heart
to bursting, when of a sudden--"Yvonne, Yvonne!" came Geneviève's fresh
voice from the other end of the terrace.  The spell of that moment was

Methought Mademoiselle made a little gesture of impatience as she answered
her sister's call; then, with a word of apology, she left me.

Half dazed by the emotions that had made sport of me, I leaned over the
balustrade, and with my elbows on the stone and my chin on my palms, I
stared stupidly before me, thanking God for having sent Geneviève in time
to save me from again earning Mademoiselle's scorn.  For as I grew sober I
did not doubt that with scorn she would have met the wild words that
already trembled on my lips.

I laughed harshly and aloud, such a laugh as those in Hell may vent. 
"Gaston, Gaston!" I muttered, "at thirty-two you are more a fool than ever
you were at twenty."

I told myself then that my fancy had vested her tone and look with a
kindliness far beyond that which they contained, and as I thought of how I
had deemed impatient the little gesture wherewith she had greeted
Geneviève's interruption I laughed again.

From the reverie into which, naturally enough, I lapsed, it was
Mademoiselle who aroused me.  She stood beside me with an unrest of manner
so unusual in her, that straightway I guessed the substance of her talk
with Geneviève.

"So, Mademoiselle," I said, without waiting for her to speak, "you have
learned what is afoot?"

"I have," she answered.  "That they love each other is no news to me.  That
they intend to wed does not surprise me.  But that they should contemplate
a secret marriage passes my comprehension."

I cleared my throat as men will when about to embark upon a perilous
subject with no starting-point determined.

"It is time, Mademoiselle," I began, "that you should learn the true cause
of M. de Mancini's presence at Canaples.  It will enlighten you touching
his motives for a secret wedding.  Had things fallen out as was intended by
those who planned his visit--Monsieur your father and my Lord Cardinal--it
is improbable that you would ever have heard that which it now becomes
necessary that I should tell you.  I trust, Mademoiselle," I continued,
"that you will hear me in a neutral spirit, without permitting your
personal feelings to enter into your consideration of that which I shall

"So long a preface augurs anything but well," she interposed, looking
monstrous serious.

"Not ill, at least, I hope.  Hear me then.  Your father and his Eminence
are friends; the one has a daughter who is said to be very wealthy and whom
he, with fond ambition, desires to see wedded to a man who can give her an
illustrious name; the other possesses a nephew whom he can ennoble by the
highest title that a man may bear who is not a prince of the blood,--and
borne indeed by few who are not,--and whom he desires to see contract an
alliance that will bring him enough of riches to enable him to bear his
title with becoming dignity."  I glanced at Mademoiselle, whose cheeks were
growing an ominous red.

"Well, Mademoiselle," I continued, "your father and Monseigneur de Mazarin
appear to have bared their heart's desire to each other, and M. de Mancini
was sent to Canaples to woo and win your father's elder daughter."

A long pause followed, during which she stood with face aflame, averted
eyes, and heaving bosom, betraying the feelings that stormed within her at
the disclosure of the bargain whereof she had been a part.  At length--"Oh,
Monsieur!" she exclaimed in a choking voice, and clenching her shapely
hands, "to think--"

"I beseech you not to think, Mademoiselle," I interrupted calmly, for,
having taken the first plunge, I was now master of myself.  "The ironical
little god, whom the ancients painted with bandaged eyes, has led M. de
Mancini by the nose in this matter, and things have gone awry for the
plotters.  There, Mademoiselle, you have the reason for a clandestine
union.  Did Monsieur your father guess how Andrea's affections have"--I
caught the word "miscarried" betimes, and substituted--"gone against his
wishes, his opposition is not a thing to be doubted."

"Are you sure there is no mistake?" she inquired after a pause.  "Is all
this really true, Monsieur?"

"It is, indeed."

"But how comes it that my father has seen naught of what has been so plain
to me--that M. de Mancini was ever at my sister's side?"

"Your father, Mademoiselle, is much engrossed in his vineyard.  Moreover,
when the Chevalier has been at hand he has been careful to show no greater
regard for the one than for the other of you.  I instructed him in this
duplicity many weeks ago."

She looked at me for a moment.

"Oh, Monsieur," she cried passionately, "how deep is my humiliation!  To
think that I was made a part of so vile a bargain!  Oh, I am glad that M.
de Mancini has proved above the sordid task to which they set him--glad
that he will dupe the Cardinal and my father."

"So am not I, Mademoiselle," I exclaimed.  She vouchsafed me a stare of
ineffable surprise.


"Diable!" I answered.  "I am M. de Mancini's friend.  It was to shield him
that I fought your brother; again, because of my attitude towards him was
it that I went perilously near assassination at Reaux.  Enemies sprang up
about him when the Cardinal's matrimonial projects became known.  Your
brother picked a quarrel with him, and when I had dealt with your brother,
St. Auban appeared, and after St. Auban there were others.  When it is
known that he has played this trick upon 'Uncle Giulio' his enemies will
disappear; but, on the other hand, his prospects will all be blighted, and
for that I am sorry."

"So that was the motive of your duel with Eugène!"

"At last you learn it."

"And," she added in a curious voice, "you would have been better pleased
had M. de Mancini carried out his uncle's wishes?"

"It matters little what I would think, Mademoiselle," I answered guardedly,
for I could not read that curious tone of hers.

"Nevertheless, I am curious to hear your answer."

What answer could I make?  The truth--that for all my fine talk, I was at
heart and in a sense right glad that she was not to become Andrea's wife--
would have seemed ungallant.  Moreover, I must have added the explanation
that I desired to see her no man's wife, so that I might not seem to
contradict myself.  Therefore--

"In truth, Mademoiselle," I answered, lying glibly, "it would have given me
more pleasure had Andrea chosen to obey his Eminence."

Her manner froze upon the instant.

"In the consideration of your friend's advancement," she replied, half
contemptuously, "you forget, M. de Luynes, to consider me.  Am I, then, a
thing to be bartered into the hands of the first fortune-hunter who woos me
because he has been bidden so to do, and who is to marry me for political
purposes?  Pshaw, M. de Luynes!" she added, with a scornful laugh, "after
all, I was a fool to expect aught else from--"

She checked herself abruptly, and a sudden access of mercy left the
stinging "you" unuttered.  I stood by, dumb and sheepish, not understanding
how the words that I had deemed gallant could have brought this tempest
down upon my head.  Before I could say aught that might have righted
matters, or perchance made them worse--"Since you leave Canaples to-
morrow," quoth she, "I will say 'Adieu,' Monsieur, for it is unlikely that
we shall meet again."

With a slight inclination of her head, and withholding her hand
intentionally, she moved away, whilst I stood, as only a fool or a statue
would stand, and watched her go.

Once she paused, and, indeed, half turned, whereupon hope knocked at my
heart again; but before I had admitted it, she had resumed her walk towards
the house.  Hungrily I followed her graceful, lissom figure with my eyes
until she had crossed the threshold.  Then, with a dull ache in my breast,
I flung myself upon a stone seat, and, addressing myself to the setting sun
for want of a better audience, I roundly cursed her sex for the knottiest
puzzle that had ever plagued the mind of man in the unravelling.



"Gaston," quoth Andrea next morning, "you will remain at Canaples until to-
morrow?  You must, for to-morrow I am to be wed, and I would fain have your
good wishes ere you go."

"Nice hands, mine, to seek a benediction at," I grumbled.

"But you will remain?  Come, Gaston, we have been good friends, you and I,
and who knows when next we shall meet?  Believe me, I shall value your 'God
speed' above all others."

"Likely enough, since it will be the only one you'll hear."

But for all my sneers he was not to be put off.  He talked and coaxed so
winningly that in the end--albeit I am a man not easily turned from the
course he has set himself--the affectionate pleading in his fresh young
voice and the affectionate look in his dark eyes won me to his way.

Forthwith I went in quest of the Chevalier, whom, at the indication of a
lackey, I discovered in the room it pleased him to call his study--that
same room into which we had been ushered on the day of our arrival at
Canaples.  I told him that on the morrow I must set out for Paris, and
albeit he at first expressed a polite regret, yet when I had shown him how
my honour was involved in my speedy return thither, he did not urge me to
put off my departure.

"It grieves me, sir, that you must go, and I deeply regret the motive that
is taking you.  Yet I hope that his Eminence, in recognition of the
services you have rendered his nephew, will see fit to forget what cause
for resentment he may have against you, and render you your liberty.  If
you will give me leave, Monsieur, I will write to his Eminence in this
strain, and you shall be the bearer of my letter."

I thanked him, with a smile of deprecation, as I thought of the true cause
of Mazarin's resentment, which was precisely that of the plea upon which M.
de Canaples sought to obtain for me my liberation.

"And now, Monsieur," he pursued nervously, "touching Andrea and his visit
here, I would say a word to you who are his friend, and may haply know
something of his mind.  It is over two months since he came here, and yet
the--er--affair which we had hoped to bring about seems no nearer its
conclusion than when first he came.  Of late I have watched him and I have
watched Yvonne; they are certainly good friends, yet not even the frail
barrier of formality appears overcome betwixt them, and I am beginning to
fear that Andrea is not only lukewarm in this matter, but is forgetful of
his uncle's wishes and selfishly indifferent to Monseigneur's projects and
mine, which, as he well knows, are the reason of his sojourn at my château. 
What think you of this, M. de Luynes?"

He shot a furtive glance at me as he spoke, and with his long, lean
forefinger he combed his beard in a nervous fashion.

I gave a short laugh to cover my embarrassment at the question.

"What do I think, Monsieur?" I echoed to gain time.  Then, thinking that a
sententious answer would be the most fitting,--"Ma foi!  Love is as the
spark that lies latent in flint and steel: for days and weeks these two may
be as close together as you please, and naught will come of it; but one
fine day, a hand--the hand of chance--will strike the one against the
other, and lo!--the spark is born!"

"You speak in parables, Monsieur," was his caustic comment.

"'T is in parables that all religions are preached," I returned, "and love,
methinks, is a great religion in this world."

"Love, sir, love!" he cried petulantly.  "The word makes me sick!  What has
love to do with this union?  Love, sir, is a pretty theme for poets,
romancers, and fools.  The imagination of such a sentiment--for it is a
sentiment that does not live save in the imagination--may serve to draw
peasants and other low­bred clods into wedlock.  With such as we--with
gentlemen--it has naught to do.  So let that be, Monsieur.  Andrea de
Mancini came hither to wed my daughter."

"And I am certain, Monsieur," I answered stoutly, "that Andrea will wed
your daughter."

"You speak with confidence."

"I know Andrea well.  Signs that may be hidden to you are clear to me, and
I have faith in my prophecy."

He looked at me, and fell a victim to my confidence of manner.  The
petulancy died out of his face.

"Well, well!  We will hope.  My Lord Cardinal is to create him Duke, and he
will assume as title his wife's estate, becoming known to history as Andrea
de Mancini, Duke of Canaples.  Thus shall a great house be founded that
will bear our name.  You see the importance of it?"


"And how reasonable is my anxiety?"


"And you are in sympathy with me?"

"Pardieu!  Why else did I go so near to killing your son?"

"True," he mused.  Then suddenly he added, "Apropos, have you heard that
Eugène has become one of the leaders of these frondeur madmen?"

"Ah!  Then he is quite recovered?"

"Unfortunately," he assented with a grimace, and thus our interview ended.

That day wore slowly to its close.  I wandered hither and thither in the

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