List Of Contents | Contents of The Suitors of Yvonne, by Rafael Sabatini
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the Marquis replied that he was unversed in the ways of trade and barter,
and that he had no mind to enter into them.  From bargaining the Cardinal
passed on to threatening and from threatening to whining, and so on until
the end--St. Auban preserving a firm demeanour--the comedy was played out
and Mazarin fell in with his proposal and his terms.

"Mille diables!" I cried.  "And has St. Auban set out?"

"He starts to-morrow, and I go with him.  When finally the Cardinal had
consented, the Marquis demanded and obtained from him a promise in writing,
signed and sealed by Mazarin, that he should receive a third of the
Canaples estates and the demesne on the outskirts of Blois, in exchange for
the body of Armand de Canaples, dead or alive, and a proof of treason
sufficient to warrant his arrest and the confiscation of his estates. 
Next, seeing in what regard the Seigneur is held by the people of Blois,
and fearing that his arrest might be opposed by many of his adherents, the
Marquis has demanded a troop of twenty men.  This Mazarin has also granted
him, entrusting the command of the troop to me, under St. Auban.  Further,
the Marquis has stipulated that the greatest secrecy is to be observed, and
has expressed his purpose of going upon this enterprise disguised and
masked, for--as he rightly opines--when months hence he enters into
possession of the demesne of Canaples in the character of purchaser, did
the Blaisois recognise in him the man who sold the Chevalier, his life
would stand in hourly peril."

I heard him through patiently enough; yet when he stopped, my pent-up
feelings burst all bonds, and I resolved there and then to go in quest of
that Judas, St. Auban, and make an end of his plotting, for all time.  But
Montrésor restrained me, showing me how futile such a course must prove,
and how I risked losing all chance of aiding those at Canaples.

He was right.  First I must warn the Chevalier--afterwards I would deal
with St. Auban.

Someone knocked at that moment, and with the entrance of Michelot, my talk
with Montrésor came perforce to an end.  For Michelot brought me the news
that for days I had been awaiting; Madame de Chevreuse had returned to
Paris at last.

But for Montrésor's remonstrances it is likely that I should have set out
forthwith to wait upon her.  I permitted myself, however, to be persuaded
that the lateness of the hour would render my visit unwelcome, and so I
determined in the end--albeit grudgingly--to put off my departure for Blois
until the morrow.

Noon had but struck from Nôtre Dame, next day, as I mounted the steps of
the Hôtel de Luynes.  My swagger, and that brave suit of pearl grey velvet
with its silver lace, bore me unchallenged past the gorgeous suisse, who
stood, majestic, in the doorway.

But, for the first mincing lackey I chanced upon, more was needed to gain
me an audience.  And so, as I did not choose to speak my name, I drew a
ring from my finger and bade him bear it to the Duchesse.

He obeyed me in this, and presently returning, he bowed low and begged of
me to follow him, for, as I had thought, albeit Madame de Chevreuse might
not know to whom that ring belonged, yet the arms of Luynes carved upon the
stone had sufficed to ensure an interview.

I was ushered into a pretty boudoir, hung in blue and gold, which
overlooked the garden, and wherein, reclining upon a couch, with a book of
Bois Robert's verses in her white and slender hand, I found my beautiful

Of this famous lady, who was the cherished friend and more than sister of
Anne of Austria, much has been written; much that is good, and more--far
more--that is ill, for those who have a queen for friend shall never lack
for enemies.  But those who have praised and those who have censured have
at least been at one touching her marvellous beauty.  At the time whereof I
write it is not possible that she could be less than forty-six, and yet her
figure was slender and shapely and still endowed with the grace of
girlhood; her face delicate of tint, and little marked by time--or even by
the sufferings to which, in the late king's reign, Cardinal de Richelieu
had subjected her; her eyes were blue and peaceful as a summer sky; her
hair was the colour of ripe corn.  He would be a hardy guesser who set her
age at so much as thirty.

My appearance she greeted by letting fall her book, and lifting up her
hands--the loveliest in France--she uttered a little cry of surprise.

"Is it really you, Gaston?" she asked.

Albeit it was growing wearisome to be thus greeted by all to whom I showed
myself, yet I studied courtesy in my reply, and then, 'neath the suasion of
her kindliness, I related all that had befallen me since first I had
journeyed to Blois, in Andrea de Mancini's company, withholding, however,
all allusions to my feelings towards Yvonne.  Why betray them when they
were doomed to be stifled in the breast that begat them?  But Madame de
Chevreuse had not been born a woman and lived six and forty years to no

"And this maid with as many suitors as Penelope, is she very beautiful?"
she inquired slyly.

"France does not hold her equal," I answered, falling like a simpleton into
the trap she had set me.

"This to me?" quoth she archly.  "Fi donc, Gaston!  Your evil ways have
taught you as little gallantry as dissimulation."  And her merry ripple of
laughter showed me how in six words I had betrayed that which I had been at
such pains to hide.

But before I could, by protestations, plunge deeper than I stood already,
the Duchesse turned the conversation adroitly to the matter of that letter
of hers, wherein she had bidden me wait upon her.

A cousin of mine--one Marion de Luynes, who, like myself, had, through the
evil of his ways, become an outcast from his family--was lately dead. 
Unlike me, however, he was no adventurous soldier of fortune, but a man of
peace, with an estate in Provence that had a rent-roll of five thousand
livres a year.  On his death-bed he had cast about him for an heir,
unwilling that his estate should swell the fortunes of the family that in
life had disowned him.  Into his ear some kindly angel had whispered my
name, and the memory that I shared with him the frowns of our house, and
that my plight must be passing pitiful, had set up a bond of sympathy
between us, which had led him to will his lands to me.  Of Madame de
Chevreuse--who clearly was the patron saint of those of her first husband's
nephews who chanced to tread ungodly ways--my cousin Marion had besought
that she should see to the fulfilment of his last wishes.

My brain reeled beneath the first shock of that unlooked-for news.  Already
I saw myself transformed from a needy adventurer into a gentleman of
fortune, and methought my road to Yvonne lay open, all obstacles removed. 
But swiftly there followed the thought of my own position, and truly it
seemed that a cruel irony lay in the manner wherein things had fallen out,
since did I declare myself to be alive and claim the Provence estates, the
Cardinal's claws would be quick to seize me.

Thus much I told Madame de Chevreuse, but her answer cheered me, and said
much for my late cousin's prudence.

"Nay," she cried.  "Marion was ever shrewd.  Knowing that men who live by
the sword, as you have lived, are often wont to die by the sword,--and that
suddenly at times,--he has made provision that in the event of your being
dead his estates shall come to me, who have been the most indulgent of his
relatives.  This, my dear Gaston, has already taken place, for we believed
you dead; and therein fortune has been kind to you, for now, while
receiving the revenues of your lands--which the world will look upon as
mine--I shall contrive that they reach you wherever you may be, until such
a time as you may elect to come to life again."

Now but for the respect in which I held her, I could have taken the pretty
Duchesse in my arms and kissed her.

Restraining myself, however, I contented myself by kissing her hand, and
told her of the journey I was going, then craved another boon of her.  No
matter what the issue of that journey, and whether I went alone or
accompanied, I was determined to quit France and repair to Spain.  There I
would abide until the Parliament, the Court, or the knife of some chance
assassin, or even Nature herself should strip Mazarin of his power.

Now, at the Court of Spain it was well known that my aunt's influence was
vast, and so, the boon I craved was that she should aid me to a position in
the Spanish service that would allow me during my exile to find occupation
and perchance renown.  To this my aunt most graciously acceded, and when at
length I took my leave--with such gratitude in my heart that what words I
could think of seemed but clumsily to express it--I bore in the breast of
my doublet a letter to Don Juan de Cordova--a noble of great prominence at
the Spanish Court--and in the pocket of my haut-de-chausses a rouleau of
two hundred gold pistoles, as welcome as they were heavy.



An hour after I had quitted the Hôtel de Luynes, Michelot and I left Paris
by the barrier St. Michel and took the Orleans road.  How different it
looked in the bright June sunshine, to the picture which it had presented
to our eyes on that February evening, four months ago, when last we had set
out upon that same journey!

Not only in nature had a change been wrought, but in my very self.  My
journey then had been aimless, and I had scarcely known whither I was bound
nor had I fostered any great concern thereon.  Now I rode in hot haste with
a determined purpose, a man of altered fortunes and altered character.

Into Choisy we clattered at a brisk pace, but at the sight of the inn of
the Connétable such memories surged up that I was forced to draw rein and
call for a cup of Anjou, which I drank in the saddle.  Thereafter we rode
without interruption through Longjumeau, Arpajon, and Etrechy, and so well
did we use our horses that as night fell we reached Étampes.

From inquiries that Michelot had made on the road, we learned that no troop
such as that which rode with St. Auban had lately passed that way, so that
't was clear we were in front of them.

But scarce had we finished supper in the little room which I had hired at
the Gros Paon, when, from below, a stamping of hoofs, the jangle of arms,
and the shouts of many men told me that we were overtaken.

Clearly I did not burn with a desire to linger, but rather it seemed to me
that although night had closed in, black and moonless, we must set out
again, and push on to Monnerville, albeit our beasts were worn and the
distance a good three leagues.

With due precaution we effected our departure, and thereafter had a spur
been needed to speed us on our way that spur we had in the knowledge that
St. Auban came close upon our heels.  At Monnerville we slept, and next
morning we were early afoot; by four o'clock in the afternoon we had
reached Orleans, whence--with fresh horses--we pursued our journey as far
as Meung, where we lay that night.

There we were joined by a sturdy rascal whom Michelot enlisted into my
service, seeing that not only did my means allow, but the enterprise upon
which I went might perchance demand another body servant.  This recruit was
a swart, powerfully built man of about my own age; trusty, and a lover of
hard knocks, as Michelot--who had long counted him among his friends--
assured me.  He owned the euphonious name of Abdon.

I spent twenty pistoles in suitable raiment and a horse for him, and as we
left Meung next day the knave cut a brave enough figure that added not a
little to my importance to have at my heels.

This, however, so retarded our departure, that night had fallen by the time
we reached Blois.  Still our journey had been a passing swift one.  We had
left Paris on a Monday, the fourth of June--I have good cause to remember,
since on that day I entered both upon my thirty-second year and my altered
fortunes; on the evening of Wednesday we reached Blois, having covered a
distance of forty-three leagues in less than three days.

Bidding Michelot carry my valise to the hostelry of the Vigne d'Or, and
there await my coming, I called to Abdon to attend me, and rode on, jaded
and travel-stained though I was, to Canaples, realising fully that there
was no time to lose.

Old Guilbert, who came in answer to my knock at the door of the château,
looked askance when he beheld me, and when I bade him carry my compliments
to the Chevalier, with the message that I desired immediate speech of him
on a matter of the gravest moment, he shook his grey head and protested
that it would be futile to obey me.  Yet, in the end, when I had insisted,
he went upon my errand, but only to return with a disturbed countenance, to
tell me that the Chevalier refused to see me.

"But I must speak to him, Guilbert," I exclaimed, setting foot upon the top
step.  "I have travelled expressly from Paris."

The man stood firm and again shook his head.

"I beseech you not to insist, Monsieur.  M. le Chevalier has sworn to
dismiss me if I permit you to set foot within the château."

"Mille diables!  This is madness!  I seek to serve him," I cried, my temper
rising fast.  "At least, Guilbert, will you tell Mademoiselle that I am
here, and that I--"

"I may carry no more messages for you, Monsieur," he broke in.  "Listen! 
There is M. le Chevalier."

In reality I could hear the old knight's voice, loud and shrill with anger,
and a moment later Louis, his intendant, came across the hall.

"Guilbert," he commanded harshly, "close the door.  The night air is keen."

My cheeks aflame with anger, I still made one last attempt to gain an

"Master Louis," I exclaimed, "will you do me the favour to tell M. de

"You are wasting time, Monsieur," he interrupted.  "M. de Canaples will not
see you.  He bids you close the door, Guilbert."

"Pardieu!  he shall see me!"

"The door, Guilbert!"

I took a step forward, but before I could gain the threshold, the door was
slammed in my face, and as I stood there, quivering with anger and
disappointment, I heard the bolts being shot within.

I turned with an oath.

"Come, Abdon," I growled, as I climbed once more into the saddle, "let us
leave the fool to the fate he has chosen."



In silence we rode back to Blois.  Not that I lacked matter for
conversation.  Anger and chagrin at the thought that I had come upon this
journey to earn naught but an insult and to have a door slammed in my face
made my gorge rise until it went near to choking me.  I burned to revile
Canaples aloud, but Abdon's was not the ear into which I might pour the hot
words that welled up to my lips.

Yet if silent, the curses that I heaped upon the Chevalier's crassness were
none the less fervent, and to myself I thought with grim relish of how soon
and how dearly he would pay for the affront he had put upon me.

That satisfaction, however, endured not long; for presently I bethought me

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