not earlier discover your presence and offer you my services. I do so now, with the hope that you will honour me by making use of them." "Merci, M. de St. Auban," replied the dark-haired one--whom I guessed to be none other than Yvonne de Canaples herself--"but, since this gentleman so gallantly cedes his apartments to us, all our needs are satisfied. It would be churlish to refuse that which is so graciously proffered." Her tone was cold in the extreme, as also was the inclination of her head wherewith she favoured the Marquis. In arrant contrast were the pretty words of thanks she addressed to Andrea, who stood by, blushing like a girl, and a damnable scowl did this contrast draw from St. Auban, a scowl that lasted until, escorted by the landlord, the two ladies had withdrawn. There was an awkward pause when they were gone, and methought from the look on St. Auban's face that he was about to provoke a fight after all. Not so, however, for, after staring at us like a clown whilst one might tell a dozen, he turned and strode to the door, calling for his horse and those of his companions. "Au révoir, M. de Luynes," he said significantly as he got into the saddle. "Au révoir, M. de Luynes," said also Malpertuis, coming close up to me. "We shall meet again, believe me." "Pray God that we may not, if you would die in your bed," I answered mockingly. "Adieu!" CHAPTER VI OF HOW ANDREA BECAME LOVE-SICK With what fictions I could call to mind I put off Andrea's questions touching the peculiar fashion of St. Auban's leave-taking. Tell him the truth and expose to him the situation whereof he was himself the unconscious centre I dared not, lest his high-spirited impetuosity should cause him to take into his own hands the reins of the affair, and thus drive himself into irreparable disaster. Andrea himself showed scant concern, however, and was luckily content with my hurriedly invented explanations; his thoughts had suddenly found occupation in another and a gentler theme than the ill-humour of men, and presently his tongue betrayed them when he drew the conversation to the ladies to whom he had resigned his apartments. "Pardieu! Gaston," he burst out, "she is a lovely maid--saw you ever a bonnier?" "Indeed she is very beautiful," I answered, laughing to myself at the thought of how little he dreamt that it was of Yvonne St. Albaret de Canaples that he spoke, and not minded for the while to enlighten him. "If she be as kind and gentle as she is beautiful, Gaston, well--Uncle Giulio's plans are likely to suffer shipwreck. I shall not leave Choisy until I have spoken to her; in fact, I shall not leave until she leaves." "Nevertheless, we shall still be able to set out, as we had projected, after dining, for in an hour, or two at most, they will proceed on their journey." He was silent for some moments, then: "To the devil with the Cardinal's plans!" quoth he, banging his fist on the table. "I shall not go to Blois." "Pooh! Why not?" "Why not?" He halted for a moment, then in a meandering tone--"You have read perchance in story-books," he said, "of love being born from the first meeting of two pairs of eyes, as a spark is born of flint and steel, and you may have laughed at the conceit, as I have laughed at it. But laugh no more, Gaston; for I who stand before you am one who has experienced this thing which poets tell of, and which hitherto I have held in ridicule. I will not go to Blois because--because--enfin, because I intend to go where she goes." "Then, mon cher, you will go to Blois. You will go to Blois, if not as a dutiful nephew, resigned to obey his reverend uncle's wishes, at least because fate forces you to follow a pair of eyes that have--hum, what was it you said they did?" "Do you say that she is going to Blois? How do you know?" "Eh? How do I know? Oh, I heard her servant speaking with the hostler." "So much the better, then; for thus if his Eminence gets news of my whereabouts, the news will not awaken his ever-ready suspicions. Ciel! How beautiful she is! Noted you her eyes, her skin, and what hair, mon Dieu! Like threads of gold!" "Like threads of gold?" I echoed. "You are dreaming, boy. Oh, St. Gris! I understand; you are speaking of the fair-haired chit that was with her." He eyed me in amazement. "'T is you whose thoughts are wandering to that lanky, nose-in-the-air Madame who accompanied her." I began a laugh that I broke off suddenly as I realised that it was not Yvonne after all who had imprisoned his wits. The Cardinal's plans were, indeed, likely to miscarry if he persisted thus. "But 't was the nose-in-the-air Madame, as you call her, with whom you spoke!" "Aye, but it was the golden-haired lady that held my gaze. Pshaw! Who would mention them in a breath?" "Who, indeed?" said I, but with a different meaning. Thereafter, seeing him listless, I suggested a turn in the village to stretch our limbs before dining. But he would have none of it, and when I pressed the point with sound reasoning touching the benefits which health may cull from exercise, he grew petulant as a wayward child. She might descend whilst he was absent. Indeed, she might require some slight service that lay, perchance, in his power to render her. What an opportunity would he not lose were he abroad? She might even depart before we returned; and than that no greater calamity could just then befall him. No, he would not stir a foot from the inn. A fig for exercise! to the devil with health! who sought an appetite? Not he. He wished for no appetite--could contrive no base and vulgar appetite for food, whilst his soul, he swore, was being consumed by the overwhelming, all-effacing appetite to behold her. Such meandering fools are most of us at nineteen, when the heart is young-- a flawless mirror ready to hold the image of the first fair maid that looks into it through our eyes, and as ready--Heaven knows!--to relinquish it when the substance is withdrawn. But I, who was not nineteen, and the mirror of whose heart--to pursue my metaphor--was dulled, warped, and cracked with much illusage, grew sick of the boy's enthusiasm and the monotony of a conversation which I could divert into no other channel from that upon which it had been started by a little slip of a girl with hair of gold and sapphire eyes--I use Andrea's words. And so I rose, and bidding him take root in the tavern, if so it pleased his fancy, I left him there. Wrapped in my cloak, for the air was raw and damp, I strode aimlessly along, revolving in my mind what had befallen at the Connétable that morning, and speculating upon the issue that this quaint affair might have. In matters of love, or rather, of matrimony--which is not quite the same thing--opposition is common enough. But the opposers are usually members of either of the interested families. Now the families--that is to say, the heads of the families--being agreed and even anxious to bring about the union of Yvonne de Canaples and Andrea de Mancini, it was something new to have a cabal of persons who, from motives of principle--as St. Auban had it--should oppose the alliance so relentlessly as to even resort to violence if no other means occurred to them. It seemed vastly probable that Andrea would be disposed of by a knife in the back, and more than probable that a like fate would be reserved for me, since I had constituted myself his guardian angel. For my own part, however, I had a pronounced distaste to ending my days in so unostentatious a fashion. I had also a notion that I should prove an exceedingly difficult person to assassinate, and that those who sought to slip a knife into me would find my hide peculiarly tough, and my hand peculiarly ready to return the compliment. So deeply did I sink into ponderings of this character that it was not until two hours afterwards that I again found myself drawing near the Connétable. I reached the inn to find by the door a coach, and by that coach Andrea; he stood bareheaded, despite the cold, conversing, with all outward semblances of profound respect, with those within it. So engrossed was he and so ecstatic, that my approach was unheeded, and when presently I noted that the coach was Mademoiselle de Canaples's, I ceased to wonder at the boy's unconsciousness of what took place around him. Clearly the farrier had been found at last, and the horse shod afresh during my absence. Loath to interrupt so pretty a scene, I waited, aloof, until these adieux should be concluded, and whilst I waited there came to me from the carriage a sweet, musical voice that was not Yvonne's. "May we not learn at least, Monsieur, the name of the gentleman to whose courtesy we are indebted for having spent the past two hours without discomfort?" "My name, Mademoiselle, is Andrea de Mancini, that of the humblest of your servants, and one to whom your thanks are a more than lavish payment for the trivial service he may have been fortunate enough to render you." Dame! What glibness doth a tongue acquire at Court! "M. Andrea de Mancini?" came Yvonne's voice in answer. "Surely a relative of the Lord Cardinal?" "His nephew, Mademoiselle." "Ah! My father, sir, is a great admirer of your uncle." From the half-caressing tone, as much as from the very words she uttered, I inferred that she was in ignorance of the compact into which his Eminence had entered with her father--a bargain whereof she was herself a part. "I am rejoiced, indeed, Mademoiselle," replied Andrea with a bow, as though the compliment had been paid to him. "Am I indiscreet in asking the name of Monsieur your father?" "Indiscreet! Nay, Monsieur. You have a right to learn the name of those who are under an obligation to you. My father is the Chevalier de Canaples, of whom it is possible that you may have heard. I am Yvonne de Canaples, of whom it is unlikely that you should have heard, and this is my sister Geneviève, whom a like obscurity envelops." The boy's lips moved, but no sound came from them, whilst his cheeks went white and red by turns. His courtliness of a moment ago had vanished, and he stood sheepish and gauche as a clown. At length he so far mastered himself as to bow and make a sign to the coachman, who thereupon gathered up his reins. "You are going presumably to Blois?" he stammered with a nervous laugh, as if the journey were a humorous proceeding. "Yes, Monsieur," answered Geneviève, "we are going home." "Why, then, it is possible that we shall meet again. I, too, am travelling in that direction. A bientôt, Mesdemoiselles!" The whip cracked, the coach began to move, and the creaking of its wheels drowned, so far as I was concerned, the female voices that answered his farewell. The coachman roused his horses into an amble; the amble became a trot, and the vehicle vanished round a corner. Some few idlers stopped to gaze stupidly after it, but not half so stupidly as did my poor Andrea, standing bareheaded where the coach had left him. I drew near, and laid my hand on his shoulder; at the touch he started like one awakened suddenly, and looked up. "Ah--you are returned, Gaston." "To find that you have made a discovery, and are overwhelmed by your error." "My error?" "Yes--that of falling in love with the wrong one. Hélas, it is but one of those ironical jests wherewith Fate amuses herself at every step of our lives. Had you fallen in love with Yvonne--and it passes my understanding why you did not--everything would have gone smoothly with your wooing. Unfortunately, you have a preference for fair hair--" "Have done," he interrupted peevishly. "What does it signify? To the devil with Mazarin's plans!" "So you said this morning." "Yes, when I did not even dream her name was Canaples." "Nevertheless, she is the wrong Canaples." "For my uncle--but, mille diables! sir, 't is I who am to wed, and I shall wed as my heart bids me." "Hum! And Mazarin?" "Faugh!" he answered, with an expressive shrug. "Well, since you are resolved, let us dine." "I have no appetite." "Let us dine notwithstanding. Eat you must if you would live; and unless you live--think of it!--you'll never reach Blois." "Gaston, you are laughing at me! I do not wish to eat." I surveyed him gravely, with my arms akimbo. "Can love so expand the heart of man that it fills even his stomach? Well, well, if you will not eat, at least have the grace to bear me company at table. Come, Andrea," and I took his arm, "let us ascend to that chamber which she has but just quitted. Who can tell but that we shall find there some token of her recent presence? If nothing more, at least the air will be pervaded by the perfume she affected, and since you scorn the humble food of man, you can dine on that." He smiled despite himself as I drew him towards the staircase. "Scoffer!" quoth he. "Your callous soul knows naught of love." "Whereas you have had three hours' experience. Pardieu! You shall instruct me in the gentle art." Alas, for those perfumes upon which I had proposed that he should feast himself. If any the beautiful Geneviève had left behind her, they had been smothered in the vulgar yet appetising odour of the steaming ragoût that occupied the table. I prevailed at length upon the love-lorn boy to take some food, but I could lead him to talk of naught save Geneviève de Canaples. Presently he took to chiding me for the deliberateness wherewith I ate, and betrayed thereby his impatience to be in the saddle and after her. I argued that whilst she saw him not she might think of him. But the argument, though sound, availed me little, and in the end I was forced--for all that I am a man accustomed to please myself--to hurriedly end my repast, and pronounce myself ready to start. As Andrea had with him some store of baggage--since his sojourn at Blois was likely to be of some duration--he travelled in a coach. Into this coach, then, we climbed--he and I. His valet, Silvio, occupied the seat beside the coachman, whilst my stalwart Michelot rode behind leading my horse by the bridle. In this fashion we set out, and ere long the silence of my thoughtful companion, the monotonous rumbling of the vehicle, and, most important of all factors, the good dinner that I had consumed, bred in me a torpor that soon became a sleep. From a dream that, bound hand and foot, I was being dragged by St. Auban and Malpertuis before the Cardinal, I awakened with a start to find that we were clattering already through the streets of Etrechy; so that whilst I had slept we had covered some six leagues. Twilight had already set in, and Andrea lay back idly in the carriage, holding a book which it was growing too dark to read, and between the leaves of which he had slipped his forefinger to mark the place where he had paused. His eyes met mine as I looked round, and he smiled. "I should not have thought, Gaston," he said, "that a man with so seared a conscience could have slept thus soundly."
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