List Of Contents | Contents of The Suitors of Yvonne, by Rafael Sabatini
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of how heavily the punishment would fall upon Yvonne--and yet, of how she
would be left to the mercy of St. Auban, whose warrant from Mazarin would
invest with almost any and every power at Canaples.

I ground my teeth at the sudden thought, and for a moment I was on the
point of going back and forcing my way into the château at the sword point
if necessary, to warn and save the Chevalier in spite of himself and

It was not in such a fashion that I had thought to see my mission to
Canaples accomplished; I had dreamt of gratitude, and gratitude unbars the
door to much.  Nevertheless, whether or not I earned it, I must return, and
succeed where for want of insistence I had failed awhile ago.

Of a certainty I should have acted thus, but that at the very moment upon
which I formed the resolution Abdon drew my attention to a dark shadow by
the roadside not twenty paces in front of us.  This proved to be the
motionless figure of a horseman.

As soon as I was assured of it, I reined in my horse, and taking a pistol
from the holster, I levelled it at the shadow, accompanying the act by a

"Who goes there?"

The shadow stirred, and Michelot's voice answered me:

'T is I, Monsieur.  They have arrived.  I came to warn you."

"Who has arrived?" I shouted.

"The soldiers.  They are lodged at the Lys de France."

An oath was the only comment I made as I turned the news over in my mind. 
I must return to Canaples.

Then another thought occurred to me.  The Chevalier was capable of going to
extremes to keep me from entering his house; he might for instance greet me
with a blunderbuss.  It was not the fear of that that deterred me, but the
fear that did a charge of lead get mixed with my poor brains before I had
said what I went to say, matters would be no better, and there would be one
poor knave the less to adorn the world.

"What shall we do, Michelot?" I groaned, appealing in my despair to my

"Might it not be well to seek speech with M. de Montrésor?" quoth he.

I shrugged my shoulders.  Nevertheless, after a moment's deliberation I
determined to make the attempt; if I succeeded something might come of it.

And so I pushed on to Blois with my knaves close at my heels.

Up the Rue Vieille we proceeded with caution, for the hostelry of the Vigne
d'Or, where Michelot had hired me a room, fortunately overlooking the
street, fronted the Lys de France, where St. Auban and his men were housed.

I gained that room of mine without mishap, and my first action was to deal
summarily with a fat and well-roasted capon which the landlord set before
me--for an empty stomach is a poor comrade in a desperate situation.  That
meal, washed down with the best part of a bottle of red Anjou, did much to
restore me alike in body and in mind.

From my open window I gazed across the street at the Lys de France.  The
door of the common-room, opening upon the street, was set wide, and across
the threshold came a flood of light in which there flitted the black
figures of maybe a dozen amazed rustics, drawn thither for all the world as
bats are drawn to a glare.

And there they hovered with open mouths and stupid eyes, hearkening to the
din of voices that floated out on the tranquil air, the snatches of ribald
songs, the raucous bursts of laughter, the clink of glasses, the clank of
steel, the rattle of dice, and the strange soldier oaths that fell with
every throw, and which to them must have sounded almost as words of some
foreign tongue.

Whilst I stood by my window, the landlord entered my room, and coming up to

"Thank Heaven they are not housed at the Vigne d'Or," he said.  "It will
take Maître Bernard a week to rid his house of the stench of leather.  They
are part of a stray company that is on its way to fight the Spaniards," he
informed me.  "But methinks they will be forced to spend two or three days
at Blois; their horses are sadly jaded and will need that rest before they
can take the road again, thanks to the pace at which their boy of an
officer must have led them.  There is a gentleman with them who wears a
mask.  'T is whispered that he is a prince of the blood who has made a vow
not to uncover his face until this war be ended, in expiation of some sin
committed in mad Paris."

I heard him in silence, and when he had done I thanked him for his
information.  So!  This was the story that the crafty St. Auban had spread
abroad to lull suspicion touching the real nature of their presence until
their horses should be fit to undertake the return journey to Paris, or
until he should have secured the person of M. de Canaples.

Towards eleven o'clock, as the lights in the hostelry opposite were burning
low, I descended, and made my way out into the now deserted street.  The
troopers had apparently seen fit--or else been ordered--to seek their beds,
for the place had grown silent, and a servant was in the act of making fast
the door for the night.  The porte-cochère was half closed, and a man
carrying a lantern was making fast the bolt, whistling aimlessly to
himself.  Through the half of the door that was yet open, I beheld a window
from which the light fell upon a distant corner of the courtyard.

I drew near the fellow with the lantern, in whom I recognised René, the
hostler, and as I approached he flashed the light upon my face; then with a
gasp--"M. de Luynes," he exclaimed, remembering me from the time when I had
lodged at the Lys de France, three months ago.

"Sh!" I whispered, pressing a louis d'or into his hand.  "Whose window is
that, René?"  And I pointed towards the light.

"That," he replied, "is the room of the lieutenant and the gentleman in the

"I must take a look at them, René, and whilst I am looking I shall search
my pocket for another louis.  Now let me in."

"I dare not, Monsieur.  Maître Bernard may call me, and if the doors are
not closed--"

"Dame!" I broke in.  "I shall stay but a moment."


"And you will have easily earned a louis d'or.  If Bernard calls you--
peste, tell him that you have let fall something, and that you are seeking
it.  There, let me pass."

1 got past him at last, and made my way swiftly towards the other end of
the quadrangle.

As I approached, the sound of voices smote my ear, for the lighted window
stood open.  I stopped within half a dozen paces of it, and climbed on to
the step of a coach that stood there.  Thence I could look straight into
the room, whilst the darkness hid me from the eyes of those I watched.

Three men there were; Montrésor, the sergeant of his troop, and a tall man
dressed in black, and wearing a black silk mask.  This I concluded to be
St. Auban, despite the profusion of fair locks that fell upon his
shoulders, concealing--I rightly guessed--his natural hair, which was as
black as my own.  It was a cunning addition to his disguise, and one well
calculated to lead people on to the wrong scent hereafter.

Presently, as I watched them, St. Auban spoke, and his voice was that of a
man whose gums are toothless, or else whose nether lip is drawn in over his
teeth whilst he speaks.  Here again the dissimulation was as effective as
it was simple.

"So; that is concluded," were the words that reached me.  "To-morrow we
will install our men at the château, for while we remain here it is
preposterous to lodge them at an inn.  On the following day I hope that we
may be able to set out again."

"If we could obtain fresh horses--" began the sergeant, when he of the mask
interrupted him.

"Sangdieu!  Think you my purse is bottomless?  We return as we came, with
the Cardinal's horses.  What signify a day or two, after all?  Come--call
the landlord to light me to my room."

I had heard enough.  But more than that, whilst I listened, an idea had of
a sudden sprung up in my mind which did away with the necessity of gaining
speech with Montresor--a contingency, moreover, that now presented
insuperable difficulties.

So I got down softly from my perch and made my way out of the yard, and,
after fulfilling my part of the bargain with René, across to the Vigne d'Or
and to my room, there to sit and mature the plan that of a sudden I had



Dame!  What an ado there was next day in Blois, when the news came that the
troopers had installed themselves at the Château de Canaples and that the
Chevalier had been arrested for treason by order of the Lord Cardinal, and
that he would be taken to Paris, and--probably--the scaffold.

Men gathered in little knots at street corners, and with sullen brows and
threatening gestures they talked of the affair; and the more they talked,
the more clouded grew their looks, and more than one anti-cardinalist
pasquinade was heard in Blois that day.

Given a leader those men would have laid hands upon pikes and muskets, and
gone to the Chevalier's rescue.  As I observed them, the thought did cross
my mind that I might contrive a pretty fight in the rose garden of Canaples
were I so inclined.  And so inclined I should, indeed, have been but for
the plan that had come to me like an inspiration from above, and which
methought would prove safer in the end.

To carry out this plan of mine, I quitted Blois at nightfall, with my two
knaves, having paid my reckoning at the Lys de France, and given out that
we were journeying to Tours.  We followed the road that leads to Canaples,
until we reached the first trees bordering the park.  There I dismounted,
and, leaving Abdon to guard the horses, I made my way on foot, accompanied
by Michelot, towards the garden.

We gained this, and were on the point of quitting the shadow of the trees,
when of a sudden, by the light of the crescent moon, I beheld a man walking
in one of the alleys, not a hundred paces from where we stood.  I had but
time to seize Michelot by the collar of his pourpoint and draw him towards
me.  But as he trod precipitately backwards a twig snapped 'neath his foot
with a report that in the surrounding stillness was like a pistol shot.

I caught my breath as he who walked in the garden stood still, his face,
wrapped in the shadows of his hat, turned towards us.

"Who goes there?" he shouted.  Then getting no reply he came resolutely
forward, whilst I drew a pistol wherewith to welcome him did he come too

On he came, and already I had brought my pistol to a level with his head,
when fortunately he repeated his question, "Who goes there?"--and this time
I recognised the voice of Montrésor, the very man I could then most wish to

"Hist!  Montrésor!" I called softly.  "'T is I--Luynes."

"So!" he exclaimed, coming close up to me.  "You have reached Canaples at

"At last?" I echoed.

"Whom have you there?" he inquired abruptly.

"Only Michelot."

"Bid him fall behind a little."

When Michelot had complied with this request, "You see, M. de Luynes,"
quoth the officer, "that you have arrived too late."

There was a certain coldness in his tone that made me seek by my reply to
sound him.

"Indeed, I trust not, my friend.  With your assistance I hope to get M. de
Canaples from the clutches of St. Auban."

He shook his head.

"It is impossible that I should help you," he replied with increasing
coldness.  "Already once for your sake have I broken faith to those who pay
me, by setting you in a position to forestall St. Auban and get M. de
Canaples away before his arrival.  Unfortunately, you have dallied on the
road, M. de Luynes, and Canaples is already a prisoner--a doomed one, I

"Is that your last word, Montrésor?" I inquired sadly.

"I am sorry," he answered in softened tones, "but you must see that I
cannot do otherwise.  I warned you; more you cannot expect of me."

I sighed, and stood musing for an instant.  Then--"You are right,
Montrésor.  Nevertheless, I am still grateful to you for the warning you
gave me in Paris.  God pity and help Canaples!  Adieu, Montrésor.  I do not
think that you will see me again."

He took my hand, but as he did so he pushed me back into the shadow from
which I had stepped to proffer it him.

"Peste!" he ejaculated.  "The moon was full upon your face, and did St.
Auban chance to look out, he must have seen you."

I followed the indication of his thumb, and noted the lighted window to
which he pointed.  A moment later he was gone, and as I joined Michelot, I
chuckled softly to myself.

For two hours and more I sat in the shrubbery, conversing in whispers with
Michelot, and watching the lights in the château die out one by one, until
St. Auban's window, which opened on to the terrace balcony, was the only
one that was not wrapt in darkness.

I waited a little while longer, then rising I cautiously made a tour of
inspection.  Peace reigned everywhere, and the only sign of life was the
sentry, who with musket on shoulder paced in front of the main entrance, a
silent testimony of St. Auban's mistrust of the Blaisois and of his fears
of a possible surprise.

Satisfied that everyone slept I retraced my steps to the shrubbery where
Michelot awaited me, watching the square of light, and after exchanging
word with him, I again stepped forth.

When I was half way across the intervening space of garden, treading with
infinite precaution, a dark shadow obscured the window, which a second
later was thrown open.  Crouching hastily behind a boxwood hedge, I watched
St. Auban--for I guessed that he it was--as he leaned out and gazed

For a little while he remained there, then he withdrew, leaving the
casement open, and presently I caught the grating of a chair on the parquet
floor within.  If ever the gods favoured mortal, they favoured me at that

Stealthily as a cat I sprang towards the terrace, the steps to which I
climbed on hands and knees.  Stooping, I sped silently across it until I
had gained the flower-bed immediately below the window that had drawn me to
it.  Crouching there--for did I stand upright my chin would be on a level
with the sill--I paused to listen for some moments.  The only sound I
caught was a rustle, as of paper.  Emboldened, I took a deep breath, and
standing up I gazed straight into the chamber.

By the light of four tapers in heavy silver sconces, I beheld St. Auban
seated at a table littered with parchments, over which he was intently
poring.  His back was towards me, and his long black hair hung straight
upon his shoulders.  On the table, amid the papers, lay his golden wig and
black mask, and on the floor in the centre of the room, his back and breast
of blackened steel and his sword.

It needed but little shrewdness to guess those parchments before him to be
legal documents touching the Canaples estates, and his occupation that of
casting up exactly what profit he would reap from his infamous work of

So intent was the hound upon his calculations that my cautious movements
passed unheeded by him as I got astride of the window ledge.  It was only
when I swung my right leg into the room that he turned his head, but before
his eyes reached me I was standing upright and motionless within the

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