Honoré and the Rue des Bons Enfants, in the sorriest frame of mind conceivable. The lady in the coach had saved my life, and for that I was more grateful perchance than my life was worth. Out of gratitude sprang a regret for the pain that I had undoubtedly caused her, and the sorrow which it might have been my fate to cast over her life. Still, regret, albeit an admirable sentiment, was one whose existence was usually brief in my bosom. Dame! Had I been a man of regrets I might have spent the remainder of my days weeping over my past life. But the gods, who had given me a character calculated to lead a man into misfortune, had given me a stout heart wherewith to fight that misfortune, and an armour of recklessness against which remorse, regrets, aye, and conscience itself, rained blows in vain. And so it befell that presently I laughed myself out of the puerile humour that was besetting me, and, finding myself chilled by inaction in my wet clothes, I set off for the Palais Royal at a pace that was first cousin to a run. Ten minutes later I stood in the presence of the most feared and hated man in France. "Cospetto!" cried Mazarin as I entered his cabinet. "Have you swum the Seine in your clothes?" "No, your Eminence, but I have been serving you in the rain for the past hour." He smiled that peculiar smile of his that rendered hateful his otherwise not ill-favoured countenance. It was a smile of the lips in which the eyes had no part. "Yes," he said slowly, "I have heard of your achievements." "You have heard?" I ejaculated, amazed by the powers which this man wielded. "Yes, I have heard. You are a brave man, M. de Luynes." "Pshaw, your Eminence!" I deprecated; "the poor are always brave. They have naught to lose but their life, and that is not so sweet to them that they lay much store by it. Howbeit, Monseigneur, your wishes have been carried out. There will be no duel at St. Germain this evening." "Will there not? Hum! I am not so confident. You are a brave man, M. de Luynes, but you lack that great auxiliary of valour--discretion. What need to fling into the teeth of those fine gentlemen the reason you had for spitting Canaples, eh? You have provoked a dozen enemies for Andrea where only one existed." "I will answer for all of them," I retorted boastfully. "Fine words, M. de Luynes; but to support them how many men will you have to kill? Pah! What if some fine morning there comes one who, despite your vaunted swordsmanship, proves your master? What will become of that fool, my nephew, eh?" And his uncanny smile again beamed on me. "Andrea is now packing his valise. In an hour he will have left Paris secretly. He goes--but what does it signify where he goes? He is compelled by your indiscretion to withdraw from Court. Had you kept a close tongue in your foolish head--but there! you did not, and so by a thoughtless word you undid all that you had done so well. You may go, M. de Luynes. I have no further need of you-- and thank Heaven that you leave the Palais Royal free to go whither your fancy takes you, and not to journey to the Bastille or to Vincennes. I am merciful, M. de Luynes--as merciful as you are brave; more merciful than you are prudent. One word of warning, M. de Luynes: do not let me learn that you are in my nephew's company, if you would not make me regret my clemency and repair the error of it by having you hanged. And now, adieu!" I stood aghast. Was I indeed dismissed? Albeit naught had been said, I had not doubted, since my interview with him that morning, that did I succeed in saving Andrea my rank in his guards--and thereby a means of livelihood--would be restored to me. And now matters were no better than they had been before. He dismissed me with the assurance that he was merciful. As God lives, it would have been as merciful to have hanged me! He met my astonished look with an eye that seemed to ask me why I lingered. Then reading mayhap what was passing in my thoughts, he raised a little silver whistle to his lips and blew softly upon it. "Bernouin," said he to his valet, who entered in answer to the summons, "reconduct M. de Luynes." I remember drawing down upon my bedraggled person the curious gaze of the numerous clients who thronged the Cardinal's ante-chamber, as I followed Bernouin to the door which opened on to the corridor, and which he held for me. And thus, for the second time within twenty-four hours, did I leave the Palais Royal to wend my way home to the Rue St. Antoine with grim despondency in my heart. I found Michelot on the point of setting out in search of me, with a note which had been brought to my lodging half an hour ago, and which its bearer had said was urgent. I took the letter, and bidding Michelot prepare me fresh raiment that I might exchange for my wet clothes, I broke the seal and read: "A thousand thanks, dear friend, for the service you have rendered me and of which his Eminence, my uncle, has informed me. I fear that you have made many enemies for yourself through an action which will likely go unrewarded, and that Paris is therefore as little suited at present to your health as it is to mine. I am setting out for Blois on a mission of exceeding delicacy wherein your advice and guidance would be of infinite value to me. I shall remain at Choisy until to-morrow morning, and should there be no ties to hold you in Paris, and you be minded to bear me company, join me there at the Hôtel du Connétable where I shall lie to-night. Your grateful and devoted ANDRE." So! There was one at least who desired my company! I had not thought it. "If there be no ties to hold you in Paris," he wrote. Dame! A change of air would suit me vastly. I was resolved--a fig for the Cardinal's threat to hang me if I were found in his nephew's company! "My suit of buff, Michelot," I shouted, springing to my feet, "and my leather jerkin." He gazed at me in surprise. "Is Monsieur going a journey?" I answered him that I was, and as I spoke I began to divest myself of the clothes I wore. "Pack my suit of pearl grey in the valise, with what changes of linen I possess; then call Master Coupri that I may settle with him. It may be some time before we return." In less than half an hour I was ready for the journey, spurred and booted, with my rapier at my side, and in the pocket of my haut-dechausses a purse containing some fifty pistoles--best part of which I had won from Vilmorin at lansquenet some nights before, and which moderate sum represented all the moneys that I possessed. Our horses were ready, my pistols holstered, and my valise strapped to Michelot's saddle. Despite the desperate outlook of my fortunes, of which I had made him fully cognisant, he insisted upon clinging to me, reminding me that at Rocroi I had saved his life and that he would leave me only when I bade him go. As four o'clock was striking at Nôtre Dame we crossed the Pont Neuf, and going by the Quai des Augustins and the Rue de la Harpe, we quitted Paris by the St. Michel Gate and took the road to Choisy. The rain had ceased, but the air was keen and cold, and the wind cut like a sword-edge. CHAPTER V MAZARIN, THE MATCH-MAKER Twixt Paris and Choisy there lies but a distance of some two leagues, which, given a fair horse, one may cover with ease in little more than half an hour. So that as the twilight was deepening into night we drew rein before the hostelry of the Connétable, in the only square the little township boasts, and from the landlord I had that obsequious reception which is ever accorded to him who travels with a body-servant. I found Andrea installed in a fair-sized and comfortable apartment, to the original decoration of which he added not a little by bestowing his boots in the centre of the floor, his hat, sword, and baldrick on the table, his cloak on one chair, and his doublet on another. He himself sat toasting his feet before the blazing logs, which cast a warm, reddish glow upon his sable hair and dainty shirt of cambric. He sprang up as I entered, and came towards me with a look of pleasure on his handsome, high-bred face, that did me good to see. "So, you have come, De Luynes," he cried, putting forth his hand. "I did not dare to hope that you would." "No," I answered. "Truly it was not to be expected that I could be easily lured from Paris just as my fortunes are nearing a high tide, and his Eminence proposing to make me a Marshal of France and create me Duke. As you say, you had scant grounds for hoping that my love for you would suffice to make me renounce all these fine things for the mere sake of accompanying you on your jaunt to Blois." He laughed, then fell to thanking me for having rid him of Canaples. I cut him short at last, and in answer to his questions told him what had passed 'twixt his Eminence and me that afternoon. Then as the waiter entered to spread our supper, the conversation assumed a less delicate character, until we were again alone with the table and its steaming viands between us. "You have not told me yet, Andrea, what takes you to Blois," quoth I then. "You shall learn. Little do you dream how closely interwoven are our morning adventures with this journey of mine. To begin with, I go to Blois to pay my dévoirs to the lady whom his Eminence has selected for my future wife." "You were then right in describing this as a mission of great delicacy." "More than you think--I have never seen the lady." "Never seen her? And you go a-wooing a woman you have never seen?" "It is so. I have never seen her; but his Eminence has, and 't is he who arranges the affair. Ah, the Cardinal is the greatest matchmaker in France! My cousin Anna Martinozzi is destined for the Prince de Conti, my sisters Olympia and Marianne he also hopes to marry to princes of the blood, whilst I dare wager that he has thoughts of seating either Maria or Hortensia upon the throne of France as the wife of Louis XIV., as soon as his Majesty shall have reached a marriageable age. You may laugh, De Luynes, nevertheless all this may come to pass, for my uncle has great ambitions for his family, and it is even possible that should that poor, wandering youth, Charles II. of England, ever return to the throne of his fathers he may also become my brother-in-law. I am likely to become well connected, De Luynes, so make a friend of me whilst I am humble. So much for Mazarin's nieces. His nephews are too young for alliances just yet, saving myself; and for me his Eminence has chosen one of the greatest heiresses in France--Yvonne St. Albaret de Canaples." "Whom?" I shouted. He smiled. "Curious, is it not? She is the sister of the man whom I quarrelled with this morning, and whom you fought with this afternoon. Now you will understand my uncle's reasons for so strenuously desiring to prevent the duel at St. Germain. It appears that the old Chevalier de Canaples is as eager as the Cardinal to see his daughter wed to me, for his Eminence has promised to create me Duke for a wedding gift. 'T will cost him little, and 't will please these Canaples mightily. Naturally, had Eugène de Canaples and I crossed swords, matters would have been rendered difficult." "When did you learn all this?" I inquired. "To-day, after the duel, and when it was known what St. Auban and Montmédy had threatened me with. My uncle thought it well that I should withdraw from Paris. He sent for me and told me what I have told you, adding that I had best seize the opportunity, whilst my presence at Court was undesirable, to repair to Blois and get my wooing done. I in part agreed with him. The lady is very rich, and I am told that she is beautiful. I shall see her, and if she pleases me, I'll woo her. If not, I'll return to Paris." "But her brother will oppose you." "Her brother? Pooh! If he doesn't die of the sword-thrust you gave him, which I am told is in the region of the lung and passing dangerous, he will at least be abed for a couple of months to come." "But I, mon cher André? What rôle do you reserve for me, that you have desired me to go with you?" "The rôle of Mentor if you will. Methought you would prove a merry comrade to help one o'er a tedious journey, and knowing that there was little to hold you to Paris, and probably sound reasons why you should desire to quit it, meseemed that perhaps you would consent to bear me company. Who knows, my knight errant, what adventures may await you and what fortunes? If the heiress displeases me, it may be that she will please you--or mayhap there is another heiress at Blois who will fall enamoured of those fierce moustachios." I laughed with him at the improbability of such things befalling. I carried in my bosom too large a heart, and one that was the property of every wench I met--for just so long as I chanced to be in her company. It was no more than in harmony with this habit of mine, that when, next morning in the common-room of the Connétable, I espied Jeanneton, the landlord's daughter, and remarked that she was winsome and shapely, with a complexion that would not have dishonoured a rose-petal, I permitted myself to pinch her dainty cheek. She slapped mine in return, and in this pleasant manner we became acquainted. "Sweet Jeanneton," quoth I with a laugh, "that was mightily ill-done! I did but pinch your cheek as one may pinch a sweet-smelling bud, so that the perfume of it may cling to one's fingers." "And I, sir," was the pert rejoinder, "did but slap yours as one may slap a misbehaving urchin's; so that he may learn better manners." Nevertheless she was pleased with my courtly speech, and perchance also with my moustachios, for a smile took the place of the frown wherewith she had at first confronted me. Now, if I had uttered glib pleasantries in answer to her frowns, how many more did not her smiles wring from me! I discoursed to her in the very courtliest fashion of cows and pullets and such other matters as interesting to her as they were mysterious to me. I questioned her in a breath touching her father's pigs and the swain she loved best in that little township, to all of which she answered me with a charming wit, which would greatly divert you did I but recall her words sufficiently to set them down. In five minutes we had become the best friends in the world, which was attested by the protecting arm that I slipped around her waist, as I asked her whether she loved that village swain of hers better than she loved me, and refused to believe her when she answered that she did. Outside two men were talking, one calling for a farrier, and when informed that the only one in the village was absent and not likely to return till noon, demanding relays of horses. The other--probably the hostler-- answered him that the Connétable was not a post-house and that no horses were to be had there. Then a woman's voice, sweet yet commanding, rose above theirs. "Very well, Guilbert," it said. "We will await this farrier's return."
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