List Of Contents | Contents of The Suitors of Yvonne, by Rafael Sabatini
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"Let me go, Monsieur!" cried Jeanneton.  "Some one comes."

Now for myself I cared little who might come, but methought that it was
likely to do poor Jeanneton's fair name no benefit, if the arm of Gaston de
Luynes were seen about her waist.  And so I obeyed her, but not quickly
enough; for already a shadow lay athwart the threshold, and in the doorway
stood a woman, whose eye took in the situation before we had altered it
sufficiently to avert suspicion.  To my amazement I beheld the lady of the
coach--she who had saved me from the mob in Place Vendôme, and touching
whose identity I could have hazarded a shrewd guess.

In her eyes also I saw the light of recognition which swiftly changed to
one of scorn.  Then they passed from me to the vanishing Jeanneton, and
methought that she was about to call her back.  She paused, however, and,
turning to the lackey who followed at her heels.

"Guilbert," she said, "be good enough to call the landlord, and bid him
provide me with an apartment for the time that we may be forced to spend

But at this juncture the host himself came hurrying forward with many bows
and endless rubbing of hands, which argued untold deference.  He regretted
that the hostelry of the Connétable, being but a poor inn, seldom honoured
as it was at that moment, possessed but one suite of private apartments,
and that was now occupied by a most noble gentleman.  The lady tapped her
foot, and as at that moment her companion (who was none other than the
fair-haired doll I had seen with her on the previous day) entered the room,
she turned to speak with her, whilst I moved away towards the window.

"Will this gentleman," she inquired, "lend me one of his rooms, think you?"

"Hélas, Mademoiselle, he has but two, a bedroom and an ante-chamber, and he
is still abed."

"Oh!" she cried in pretty anger, "this is insufferable!  'T is your fault,
Guilbert, you fool.  Am I, then, to spend the day here in the common-room?"

"No, no, Mademoiselle," exclaimed the host in his most soothing accents. 
"Only for an hour, or less, perhaps, until this very noble lord is risen,
when assuredly--for he is young and very gallant--he will resign one or
both of his rooms to you."

More was said between them, but my attention was suddenly drawn elsewhere. 
Michelot burst into the room, disaster written on his face.

"Monsieur," he cried, in great alarm, "the Marquis de St. Auban is riding
down the street with the Vicomte de Vilmorin and another gentleman."

I rapped out an oath at the news; they had got scent of Andrea's
whereabouts, and were after him like sleuth-hounds on a trail.

"Remain here, Michelot," I answered in a low voice.  "Tell them that M. de
Mancini is not here, that the only occupant of the inn is your master, a
gentleman from Normandy, or Picardy, or where you will.  See that they do
not guess our presence--the landlord fortunately is ignorant of M. de
Mancini's name."

There was a clatter of horses' hoofs without, and I was barely in time to
escape by the door leading to the staircase, when St. Auban's heavy voice
rang out, calling the landlord.

"I am in search of a gentleman named Andrea de Mancini," he said.  "I am
told that he has journeyed hither, and that he is here at present.  Am I
rightly informed?"

I determined to remain where I was, and hear that conversation to the end.

"There is a gentleman here," answered the host, "but I am ignorant of his
name.  I will inquire."

"You may spare yourself the trouble," Michelot interposed.  "That is not
the gentleman's name.  I am his servant."

There was a moment's pause, then came Vilmorin's shrill voice.

"You lie, knave!  M. de Mancini is here.  You are M. de Luynes's lackey,
and where the one is, there shall we find the other."

"M. de Luynes?" came a voice unknown to me.  "That is Mancini's sword-blade
of a friend, is it not?  Well, why does he hide himself?  Where is he? 
Where is your master, rascal?"

"I am here, Messieurs," I answered, throwing wide the door, and appearing,
grim and arrogant, upon the threshold.

Mort de ma vie!  Had they beheld the Devil, St. Auban and Vilmorin could
not have looked less pleased than they did when their eyes lighted upon me,
standing there surveying them with a sardonic grin.

St. Auban muttered an oath, Vilmorin stifled a cry, whilst he who had so
loudly called to know where I hid myself--a frail little fellow, in the
uniform of the gardes du corps--now stood silent and abashed.

The two women, who had withdrawn into a dark and retired corner of the
apartment, stood gazing with interest upon this pretty scene.

"Well, gentlemen?" I asked in a tone of persiflage, as I took a step
towards them.  "Have you naught to say to me, now that I have answered your
imperious summons?  What!  All dumb?"

"Our affair is not with you," said St. Auban, curtly.

"Pardon!  Why, then, did you inquire where I was?"

"Messieurs," exclaimed Vilmorin, whose face assumed the pallor usual to it
in moments of peril, "meseems we have been misinformed, and that M. de
Mancini is not here.  Let us seek elsewhere."

"Most excellent advice, gentlemen," I commented,--"seek elsewhere."

"Monsieur," cried the little officer, turning purple, "it occurs to me that
you are mocking us."

"Mocking you!  Mocking you?  Mocking a gentleman who has been tied to so
huge a sword as yours.  Surely--surely, sir, you do not think--"

"I'll not endure it," he broke in.  "You shall answer to me for this."

"Have a care, sir," I cried in alarm as he rushed forward.  "Have a care,
sir, lest you trip over your sword."

He halted, drew himself up, and, with a magnificent gesture: "I am Armand
de Malpertuis, lieutenant of his Majesty's guards," he announced, "and I
shall be grateful if you will do me the honour of taking a turn with me,

"I am flattered beyond measure, M. Malappris--"

"Mal-per-tuis," he corrected furiously.

"Malpertuis," I echoed.  "I am honoured beyond words, but I do not wish to
take a turn."

"Mille diables, sir!  Don't you understand?  We must fight."

"Must we, indeed?  Again I am honoured; but, Monsieur, I don't fight

"Gentlemen!  Gentlemen!" cried St. Auban, thrusting himself between us. 
"Malpertuis, have the goodness to wait until one affair is concluded before
you create a second one.  Now, M. de Luynes, will you tell me whether M. de
Mancini is here or not?"

"What if he should be?"

"You will be wise to withdraw--we shall be three to two."

"Three to two!  Surely, Marquis, your reckoning is at fault.  You cannot
count the Vicomte there as one; his knees are knocking together; at best he
is but a woman in man's clothes.  As for your other friend, unless his
height misleads me, he is but a boy.  Therefore, Monsieur, you see that the
advantage is with us.  We are two men opposed to a man, a woman, and a
child, so that--"

"In Heaven's name, sir," cried St. Auban, again interposing himself betwixt
me and the bellicose Malpertuis, "will you cease this foolishness?  A word
with you in private, M. de Luynes."

I permitted him to take me by the sleeve, and lead me aside, wondering the
while what curb it was that he was setting upon his temper, and what wily
motives he might have for adopting so conciliatory a tone.

With many generations to come, the name of César de St. Auban must perforce
be familiar as that of one of the greatest roysterers and most courtly
libertines of the early days of Louis XIV., as well as that of a rabid
anti-cardinalist and frondeur, and one of the earliest of that new cabal of
nobility known as the petits-maîtres, whose leader the Prince de Condé was
destined to become a few years later.  He was a man of about my own age,
that is to say, between thirty-two and thirty-three, and of my own frame,
tall, spare, and active.  On his florid, débonnair countenance was stamped
his character of bon-viveur.  In dress he was courtly in the extreme.  His
doublet and haut-de-chausses were of wine-coloured velvet, richly laced,
and he still affected the hanging sleeves of a fast-disappearing fashion. 
Valuable lace filled the tops of his black boots, a valuable jewel
glistened here and there upon his person, and one must needs have
pronounced him a fop but for the strength and resoluteness of his bearing,
and the long rapier that hung from his gold-embroidered baldrick.  Such in
brief is a portrait of the man who now confronted me, his fine blue eyes
fixed upon my face, wherein methinks he read but little, search though he

"M. de Luynes," he murmured at last, "you appear to find entertainment in
making enemies, and you do it wantonly."

"Have you brought me aside to instruct me in the art of making friends?"

"Possibly, M. de Luynes; and without intending an offence, permit me to
remark that you need them."

"Mayhap.  But I do not seek them."

"I have it in my heart to wish that you did; for I, M. de Luynes, seek to
make a friend of you.  Nay, do not smile in that unbelieving fashion.  I
have long esteemed you for those very qualities of dauntlessness and
defiance which have brought you so rich a crop of hatred.  If you doubt my
words, perhaps you will recall my attitude towards you in the horse-market
yesterday, and let that speak.  Without wishing to remind you of a service
done, I may yet mention that I stood betwixt you and the mob that sought to
avenge my friend Canaples.  He was my friend; you stood there, as indeed
you have always stood, in the attitude of a foe.  You wounded Canaples,
maltreated Vilmorin, defied me; and yet but for my intervention, mille
diables sir, you had been torn to pieces."

"All this I grant is very true, Monsieur," I made reply, with deep
suspicion in my soul.  "Yet, pardon me, if I confess that to me it proves
no more than that you acted as a generous enemy.  Pardon my bluntness also-
-but what profit do you look to make from gaining my friendship?"

"You are frank, Monsieur," he said, colouring slightly, "I will be none the
less so.  I am a frondeur, an anti-cardinalist.  In a word, I am a
gentleman and a Frenchman.  An interloping foreigner, miserly, mean-souled,
and Jesuitical, springs up, wins himself into the graces of a foolish,
impetuous, wilful queen, and climbs the ladder which she holds for him to
the highest position in France.  I allude to Mazarin; this Cardinal who is
not a priest; this minister of France who is not a Frenchman; this
belittler of nobles who is not a gentleman."

"Mort Dieu, Monsieur--"

"One moment, M. de Luynes.  This adventurer, not content with the millions
which his avaricious talons have dragged from the people for his own
benefit, seeks, by means of illustrious alliances, to enrich a pack of
beggarly nieces and nephews that he has rescued from the squalor of their
Sicilian homes to bring hither.  His nieces, the Mancinis and Martinozzis,
he is marrying to Dukes and Princes.  'T is not nice to witness, but 't is
the affair of the men who wed them.  In seeking, however, to marry his
nephew Andrea to one of the greatest heiresses in France, he goes too far. 
Yvonne de Canaples is for some noble countryman of her own--there are many
suitors to her hand--and for no nephew of Giulio Mazarini.  Her brother
Eugène, himself, thinks thus, and therein, M. de Luynes, you have the real
motive of the quarrel which he provoked with Andrea, and which, had you not
interfered, could have had but one ending."

"Why do you tell me all this, Monsieur?" I inquired coldly, betraying none
of the amazement his last words gave birth to.

"So that you may know the true position of affairs, and, knowing it, see
the course which the name you bear must bid you follow.  Because Canaples
failed am I here to-day.  I had not counted upon meeting you, but since I
have met you, I have set the truth before you, confident that you will now
withdraw from an affair to which no real interest can bind you, leaving
matters to pursue their course."

He eyed me, methought, almost anxiously from under his brows, as he awaited
my reply.  It was briefer than he looked for.

"You have wasted time, Monsieur."

"How?  You persist?"

"Yes.  I persist.  Yet for the Cardinal I care nothing.  Mazarin has
dismissed me from his service unjustly and unpaid.  He has forbidden me his
nephew's company.  In fact, did he know of my presence here with M. de
Mancini, he would probably carry out his threat to hang me."

"Ciel!" cried St. Auban, "you are mad, if that be so.  France is divided
into two parties, cardinalists and anti-cardinalists.  You, sir, without
belonging to either, stand alone, an enemy to both.  Your attitude is

"Nay, sir, not alone.  There is Andrea de Mancini.  The boy is my only
friend in a world of enemies.  I am growing fond of him, Monsieur, and I
will stand by him, while my arm can wield a sword, in all that may advance
his fortunes and his happiness.  That, Monsieur, is my last word."

"Do not forget, M. de Luynes," he said--his suaveness all departed of a
sudden, and his tone full of menace and acidity--"do not forget that when a
wall may not be scaled it may be broken through."

"Aye, Monsieur, but many of those who break through stand in danger of
being crushed by the falling stones," I answered, entering into the spirit
of his allegory.

"There are many ways of striking," he said.

"And many ways of being struck," I retorted with a sneer.

Our words grew sinister, our eyes waxed fiery, and more might have followed
had not the door leading to the staircase opened at that moment to admit
Andrea himself.  He came, elegant in dress and figure, with a smile upon
his handsome young face, whose noble features gave the lie to St. Auban's
assertion that he had been drawn from a squalid Sicilian home.  Such faces
are not bred in squalor.

In utter ignorance of the cabal against him, he greeted St. Auban--who was
well known to him--with a graceful bow, and also Vilmorin, who stood in the
doorway with Malpertuis, and who at the sight of Mancini grew visibly ill
at ease.  In coming to Choisy, the Vicomte had clearly expected to do no
more than second St. Auban in the duel which he thought to see forced upon
Andrea.  He now realised that if a fight there was, he might, by my
presence, be forced into it.  Malpertuis looked fierce and tugged at his
moustachios, whilst his companions returned Andrea's salutation--St. Auban
gravely, and Vilmorin hesitatingly.

"Ha, Gaston," said the boy, advancing towards me, "our host tells me that
two ladies who have been shipwrecked here wish to do me the honour of
occupying my apartments for an hour or so.  Ha, there they are," he added,
as the two girls came suddenly forward.  Then bowing--"Mesdames, I am
enchanted to set the poor room at your disposal for as long as it may
please you to honour it."

As the ladies--of whose presence St. Auban had been unaware--appeared
before us, I shot a glance at the Marquis, and, from the start he gave upon
beholding them, I saw that things were as I had suspected.

Before they could reply to Andrea, St. Auban suddenly advanced:

"Mesdemoiselles," quoth he, "forgive me if in this miserable light I did

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