List Of Contents | Contents of The Suitors of Yvonne, by Rafael Sabatini
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"Did you answer him?"

"Pardieu!  I should be worthy of the title he bestowed upon me had I not
done so.  Oh, I answered him--not in words.  I threw my hat in his face."

"That was a passing eloquent reply!"

"So eloquent that it left him speechless with amazement.  He thought to
bully with impunity, and see me slink into hiding like a whipped dog,
terrified by his blustering tongue and dangerous reputation.  But there!"
he broke off, "a meeting has been arranged for four o'clock at St.

"A meeting!" I exclaimed.

"What else?  Do you think the affront left any alternative?"


"Yes, yes, I know," he interrupted, tossing his head.  "I am going to be
killed.  Verville has sworn that there shall be one less of the Italian
brood.  That is why I have come to you, Luynes--to ask you to be my second. 
I don't deserve it, perhaps.  In my folly last night I did you an ill turn. 
I unwittingly caused you to be stripped of your commission.  But if I were
on my death-bed now, and begged a favour of you, you would not refuse it. 
And what difference is there 'twixt me and one who is on his death-bed?  Am
I not about to die?"

"Peste! I hope not," I made answer with more lightness than I felt.  "But
I'll stand by you with all my heart, Andrea."

"And you'll avenge me?" he cried savagely, his Southern blood a-boiling. 
"You'll not let him leave the ground alive?"

"Not unless my opponent commits the indiscretion of killing me first.  Who
seconds M. de Canaples?"

"The Marquis de St. Auban and M. de Montmédy."

"And who is the third in our party?"

"I have none.  I thought that perhaps you had a friend."

"I!  A friend?" I laughed bitterly.  "Pshaw, Andrea! beggars have no
friends.  But stay; find Stanislas de Gouville.  There is no better blade
in Paris.  If he will join us in this frolic, and you can hold off Canaples
until either St. Auban or Montmédy is disposed of, we may yet leave the
three of them on the field of battle.  Courage, Andrea!  Dum spiramus,

My words seemed to cheer him, and when presently he left me to seek out the
redoubtable Gouville, the poor lad's face was brighter by far than when he
had entered my room.

Down in my heart, however, I was less hopeful than I had led him to
believe, and as I dressed after he had gone, 't was not without some
uneasiness that I turned the matter over in my mind.  I had, during the
short period of our association, grown fond of Andrea de Mancini.  Indeed
the wonted sweetness of the lad's temper, and the gentleness of his
disposition, were such as to breed affection in all who came in contact
with him.  In a way, too, methought he had grown fond of me, and I had
known so few friends in life,--truth to tell I fear me that I had few of
the qualities that engender friendship,--that I was naturally prone to
appreciate a gift that from its rareness became doubly valuable.

Hence was it that I trembled for the boy.  He had shown aptitude with the
foils, and derived great profit from my tuition, yet he was too raw by far
to be pitted against so cunning a swordsman as Canaples.

I had but finished dressing when a coach rumbled down the street and halted
by my door.  Naturally I supposed that someone came to visit Coupri, the
apothecary,--to whom belonged this house in which I had my lodging,--and
did not give the matter a second thought until Michelot rushed in, with
eyes wide open, to announce that his Eminence, Cardinal Mazarin, commanded
my presence in the adjoining room.

Amazed and deeply marvelling what so extraordinary a visit might portend, I
hastened to wait upon his Eminence.

I found him standing by the window, and received from him a greeting that
was passing curt and cavalier.

"Has M. de Mancini been here?" he inquired peremptorily, disregarding the
chair I offered him.

"He has but left me, Monseigneur."

"Then you know, sir, of the harvest which he has already reaped from the
indiscretion into which you led him last night?"

"If Monseigneur alludes to the affront put upon M. de Mancini touching his
last night's indiscretion, by a bully of the Court, I am informed of it."

"Pish, Monsieur!  I do not follow your fine distinctions--possibly this is
due to my imperfect knowledge of the language of France, possibly to your
own imperfect acquaintance with the language of truth."


"Faugh!" he cried, half scornfully, half peevishly.  "I came not here to
talk of you, but of my nephew.  Why did he visit you?"

"To do me the honour of asking me to second him at St. Germain this

"And so you think that this duel is to be fought?--that my nephew is to be

"We will endeavour to prevent his being--as your Eminence daintily puts 
it--murdered.  But for the rest, the duel, methinks, cannot be avoided."

"Cannot!" he blazed.  "Do you say cannot, M. de Luynes?  Mark me well, sir:
I will use no dissimulation with you.  My position in France is already a
sufficiently difficult one.  Already we are threatened with a second
Fronde.  It needs but such events as these to bring my family into
prominence and make it the butt for the ridicule that malcontents but wait
an opportunity to slur it with.  This affair of Andrea's will lend itself
to a score or so of lampoons and pasquinades, all of which will cast an
injurious reflection upon my person and position.  That, Monsieur, is,
methinks, sufficient evil to suffer at your hands.  The late Cardinal would
have had you broken on the wheel for less.  I have gone no farther than to
dismiss you from my service--a clemency for which you should be grateful. 
But I shall not suffer that, in addition to the harm already done, Andrea
shall be murdered by Canaples."

"I shall do my best to render him assistance."

"You still misapprehend me.  This duel, sir, must not take place."

I shrugged my shoulders.

"How does your Eminence propose to frustrate it?  Will you arrest

"Upon what plea, Monsieur?  Think you I am anxious to have the whole of
Paris howling in my ears?"

"Then possibly it is your good purpose to enforce the late king's edict
against duelling, and send your guards to St. Germain to arrest the men
before they engage?"

"Benone!" he sneered.  "And what will Paris say if I now enforce a law that
for ten years has been disregarded?  That I feared for my nephew's skin and
took this means of saving him.  A pretty story to have on Paris's lips,
would it not be?"

"Indeed, Monseigneur, you are right, but I doubt me the duel will needs be

"Have I not already said that it shall not be fought?"

Again I shrugged my shoulders.  Mazarin grew tiresome with his repetitions.

"How can it be avoided, your Eminence?"

"Ah, Monsieur, that is your affair."

"My affair?"

"Assuredly.  'T was through your evil agency he was dragged into this
business, and through your agency he must be extricated from it."

"Your Eminence jests!"

"Undoubtedly,--'t is a jesting matter," he answered with terrible irony. 
"Oh, I jest!  Per Dio! yes.  But I'll carry my jest so far as to have you
hanged if this duel be fought--aye, whether my nephew suffers hurt or not. 
Now, sir, you know what fate awaits you; fight it--turn it aside--I have
shown you the way.  The door, M. de Luynes."



I let him go without a word.  There was that in his voice, in his eye, and
in the gesture wherewith he bade me hold the door for him, that cleared my
mind of any doubts touching the irrevocable character of his determination. 
To plead was never an accomplishment of mine; to argue, I saw, would be to
waste the Cardinal's time to no purpose.

And so I let him go,--and my curse with him,--and from my window I watched
his coach drive away in the drizzling rain, scattering the crowd of awe-
stricken loiterers who had collected at the rumour of his presence.

With a fervent prayer that his patron saint, the devil, might see fit to
overset his coach and break his neck before he reached the Palace, I turned
from the window, and called Michelot.

He was quick to answer my summons, bringing me the frugal measure of bread
and wine wherewith it was my custom to break my fast.  Then, whilst I
munched my crust, I strode to and fro in the little chamber and exercised
my wits to their utmost for a solution to the puzzle his Eminence had set

One solution there was, and an easy one--flight.  But I had promised Andrea
de Mancini that I would stand beside him at St. Germain; there was a
slender chance of saving him if I went, whilst, if I stayed away, there
would be nothing left for his Eminence to do but to offer up prayers for
the rest of his nephew's soul.

Another idea I had, but it was desperate--and yet, so persistently did my
thoughts revert to it that in the end I determined to accept it.

I drank a cup of Armagnac, cheered myself with an oath or two, and again I
called Michelot.  When he came, I asked him if he were acquainted with M.
de Canaples, to which he replied that he was, having seen the gentleman in
my company.

"Then," I said, "you will repair to M. de Canaples's lodging in the Rue des
Gesvres, and ascertain discreetly whether he be at home.  If he is, you
will watch the house until he comes forth, then follow him, and bring me
word thereafter where he is to be found.  Should he be already abroad
before you reach the Rue des Gesvres, endeavour to ascertain whither he has
gone, and return forthwith.  But be discreet, Michelot.  You understand?"

He assured me that he did, and left me to nurse my unpleasant thoughts for
half an hour, returning at the end of that time with the information that
M. de Canaples was seated at dinner in the "Auberge du Soleil."

Naught could have been more attuned to my purpose, and straightway I drew
on my boots, girt on my sword, and taking my hat and cloak, I sallied out
into the rain, and wended my way at a sharp pace towards the Rue St.

One o'clock was striking as I crossed the threshold of the "Soleil" and
flung my dripping cloak to the first servant I chanced upon.

I glanced round the well-filled room, and at one of the tables I espied my
quarry in company with St. Auban and Montmédy--the very gentlemen who were
to fight beside him that evening--and one Vilmorin, as arrant a coxcomb and
poltroon as could be found in France.  With my beaver cocked at the back of
my head, and a general bearing that for aggressiveness would be hard to
surpass, I strode up to their table, and stood for a moment surveying them
with an insolent stare that made them pause in their conversation.  They
raised their noble heads and bestowed upon me a look of haughty and
disdainful wonder,--such a look as one might bestow upon a misbehaving
lackey,--all save Vilmorin, who, with a coward's keen nose for danger,
turned slightly pale and fidgeted in his chair.  I was well known to all of
them, but my attitude forbade all greeting.

"Has M. de Luynes lost anything?" St. Auban inquired icily.

"His wits, mayhap," quoth Canaples with a contemptuous shrug.

He was a tall, powerfully built man, this Canaples, with a swart, cruel
face that was nevertheless not ill-favoured, and a profusion of black hair.

"There is a temerity in M. de Canaples's rejoinder that I had not looked
for," I said banteringly.

Canaples's brow was puckered in a frown.

"Ha!  And why not, Monsieur?"

"Why not?  Because it is not to be expected that one who fastens quarrels
upon schoolboys would evince the courage to beard Gaston de Luynes."

"Monsieur!" the four of them cried in chorus, so loudly that the hum of
voices in the tavern became hushed, and all eyes were turned in our

"M. de Canaples," I said calmly, "permit me to say that I can find no more
fitting expression for the contempt I hold you in than this."

As I spoke I seized a corner of the tablecloth, and with a sudden tug I
swept it, with all it held, on to the floor.

Dame! what a scene there was!  In an instant the four of them were on their
feet,--as were half the occupants of the room, besides,--whilst poor
Vilmorin, who stood trembling like a maid who for the first time hears
words of love, raised his quavering voice to cry soothingly, "Messieurs,

Canaples was livid with passion, but otherwise the calmest in that room,
saving perhaps myself.  With a gesture he restrained Montmédy and St.

"I shall be happy to give Master de Luynes all the proof of my courage that
he may desire, and more, I warrant, than he will relish."

"Bravely answered!" I cried, with an approving nod and a beaming smile. 
"Be good enough to lead the way to a convenient spot."

"I have other business at the moment," he answered calmly.  "Let us say to-
morrow at--"

"Faugh!" I broke in scornfully.  "I knew it!  Confess, Monsieur, that you
dare not light me now lest you should be unable to keep your appointments
for this evening."

"Mille diables!" exclaimed St. Auban, "this insolence passes all bounds."

"Each man in his turn if you please, gentlemen," I replied.  "My present
affair is with M. de Canaples."

There was a hot answer burning on St. Auban's lips, but Canaples was
beforehand with him.

"Par la mort Dieu!" he cried; "you go too far, sir, with your 'dare' and
'dare not.'  Is a broken gamester, a penniless adventurer, to tell Eugène
de Canaples what he dares?  Come, sir; since you are eager for the taste of
steel, follow me, and say your prayers as you go."

With that we left the inn, amidst a prodigious hubbub, and made our way to
the horse-market behind the Hôtel Vendôme.  It was not to be expected,
albeit the place we had chosen was usually deserted at such an hour, that
after the fracas at the "Soleil" our meeting would go unattended.  When we
faced each other--Canaples and I--there were at least some twenty persons
present, who came, despite the rain, to watch what they thought was like to
prove a pretty fight.  Men of position were they for the most part,
gentlemen of the Court with here and there a soldier, and from the manner
in which they eyed me methought they favoured me but little.

Our preparations were brief.  The absence of seconds disposed of all
formalities, the rain made us impatient to be done, and in virtue of it
Canaples pompously announced that he would not risk a cold by stripping. 
With interest did I grimly answer that he need fear no cold when I had done
with him.  Then casting aside my cloak, I drew, and, professing myself also
disposed to retain my doublet, we forthwith engaged.

He was no mean swordsman, this Canaples.  Indeed, his reputation was
already widespread, and in the first shock of our meeting blades I felt
that rumour had been just for once.  But I was strangely dispossessed of
any doubts touching the outcome; this being due perchance to a vain
confidence in my own skill, perchance to the spirit of contemptuous
raillery wherewith I had from the outset treated the affair, and which had
so taken root in my heart that even when we engaged I still, almost
unwittingly, persisted in it.

In my face and attitude there was the reflection of this bantering,

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