List Of Contents | Contents of The Suitors of Yvonne, by Rafael Sabatini
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"I have not slept soundly," I grumbled, recalling my dream.

"Pardieu! you have slept long, at least."

"Out of self-protection; so that I might not hear the name of Geneviève de
Canaples.  'T is a sweet name, but you render it monotonous."

He laughed good-humouredly.

"Have you never loved, Gaston?"


"Ah--but I mean did you never conceive a great passion?"

"Hundreds, boy."

"But never such a one as mine!"

"Assuredly not; for the world has never seen its fellow.  Be good enough to
pull the cord, you Cupid incarnate.  I wish to alight."

"You wish to alight!  Why?"

"Because I am sick of love.  I am going to ride awhile with Michelot whilst
you dream of her coral lips, her sapphire eyes, and what other gems
constitute her wondrous personality."

Two minutes later I was in the saddle riding with Michelot in the wake of
the carriage.  As I have already sought to indicate in these pages,
Michelot was as much my friend as my servant.  It was therefore no more
than natural that I should communicate to him my fears touching what might
come of the machinations of St. Auban, Vilmorin, and even, perchance, of
that little firebrand, Malpertuis.

Night fell while we talked, and at last the lights of Étampes, where we
proposed to lie, peeped at us from a distance, and food and warmth.

It was eight o'clock when we reached the town, and a few moments later we
rattled into the courtyard of the Hôtel de l'Épée.

Andrea was out of temper to learn that Mesdemoiselles de Canaples had
reached the place two hours earlier, taken fresh horses, and proceeded on
their journey, intending to reach Monnerville that night.  He was even mad
enough to propose that we should follow their example, but my sober
arguments prevailed, and at Étampes we stayed till morning.

Andrea withdrew early.  But I, having chanced upon a certain M. de la
Vrillière, a courtier of Vilmorin's stamp, with whom I had some slight
acquaintance, and his purse being heavier than his wits, I spent a passing
profitable evening in his company.  This pretty gentleman hailed my advent
with a delight that amazed me, and suggested that we should throw a main
together to kill time.  The dice were found, and so clumsily did he use
them that in half an hour, playing for beggarly crowns, he had lost twenty
pistoles.  Next he lost his temper, and with an oath pitched the cubes into
the fire, swearing that they were toys for children and that I must grant
him his révanche with cards.  The cards were furnished us, and with a
fortune that varied little we played lansquenet until long past midnight. 
The fire died out in the grate, and the air grew chill, until at last, with
a violent sneeze, La Vrillière protested that he would play no more.

Cursing himself for the unluckiest being alive, the fool bade me good-
night, and left me seventy pistoles richer than when I had met him.



Despite the strenuous efforts which Andrea compelled us to put forth, we
did not again come up with Mesdemoiselles de Canaples, who in truth must
have travelled with greater speed than ladies are wont to.

This circumstance bred much discomfort in Andrea's bosom; for in it he read
that his Geneviève thought not of him as he of her, else, knowing that he
followed the same road, she would have retarded their progress so that he
might overtake them.  Thus argued he when on the following night, which was
that of Friday, we lay at Orleans.  But when towards noon on Saturday our
journey ended with our arrival at Blois, he went so far as to conclude that
she had hastened on expressly to avoid him.  Now, from what I had seen of
Mademoiselle Yvonne, methought I might hazard a guess that she it was who
commanded in these--and haply, too, in other--matters, and that the manner
of their journey had been such as was best to her wishes.

With such an argument did I strive to appease Andrea's doubts; but all in
vain--which is indeed no matter for astonishment, for to reason with a man
in love is to reason with one who knows no reason.

After a brief halt at the Lys de France--at which hostelry I hired myself a
room--we set out for the Château de Canaples, which is situated on the left
bank of the Loire, at a distance of about half a league from Blois in the
direction of Tours.

We cut a brave enough figure as we rode down the Rue Vieille attended by
our servants, and many a rustic Blaisois stopped to gape at us, to nudge
his companion, and point us out, whispering the word "Paris."

I had donned my grey velvet doublet--deeming the occasion worthy of it--
whilst Andrea wore a handsome suit of black, with gold lace, which for
elegance it would have been difficult to surpass.  An air of pensiveness
added interest to his handsome face and courtly figure, and methought that
Geneviève must be hard to please if she fell not a victim to his wooing.

We proceeded along the road bordering the Loire, a road of rare beauty at
any other season of the year, but now bare of foliage, grey, bleak, and
sullen as the clouds overhead, and as cold to the eye as was the sharp wind
to the flesh.  As we rode I fell to thinking of what my reception at the
Château de Canaples was likely to be, and almost to regret that I had
permitted Andrea to persuade me to accompany him.  Long ago I had known the
Chevalier de Canaples, and for all the disparity in our ages--for he
counted twice my years--we had been friends and comrades.  That, however,
was ten years ago, in the old days when I owned something more than the
name of Luynes.  To-day I appeared before him as a ruined adventurer, a
soldier of fortune, a ruffler, a duellist who had almost slain his son in a
brawl, whose details might be known to him, but not its origin.  Seeing me
in the company of Andrea de Mancini he might--who could say?--even deem me
one of those parasites who cling to young men of fortune so that they may
live at their expense.  That the daughter would have formed such a conceit
of me I was assured; it but remained to see with what countenance the
father would greet me.

From such speculations I was at length aroused by our arrival at the gates
of the Canaples park.  Seeing them wide open, we rode between the two
massive columns of granite (each surmounted by a couchant lion holding the
escutcheon of the Canaples) and proceeded at an ambling pace up the avenue. 
Through the naked trees the château became discernible--a brave old castle
that once had been the stronghold of a feudal race long dead.  Grey it was,
and attuned, that day, to the rest of the grey landscape.  But at its base
the ivy grew thick and green, and here and there long streaks of it crept
up almost to the battlements, whilst in one place it had gone higher yet
and clothed one of the quaint old turrets.  A moat there had once been, but
this was now filled up and arranged into little mounds that became flower-
beds in summer.

Resigning our horses to the keeping of our servants, we followed the grave
maître d'hôtel who had received us.  He led us across the spacious hall,
which had all the appearance of an armoury, and up the regal staircase of
polished oak on to a landing wide and lofty.  Here, turning to the left, he
opened a door and desired us to give ourselves the trouble of awaiting the
Chevalier.  We entered a handsome room, hung in costly Dutch tapestry, and
richly furnished, yet with a sobriety of colour almost puritanical.  The
long windows overlooked a broad terrace, enclosed in a grey stone
balustrade, from which some half-dozen steps led to a garden below.  Beyond
that ran the swift waters of the Loire, and beyond that again, in the
distance, we beheld the famous Château de Chambord, built in the days of
the first Francis.

I had but remarked these details when the door again opened, to admit a
short, slender man in whose black hair and beard the hand of time had
scattered but little of that white dust that marks its passage.  His face
was pale, thin, and wrinkled, and his grey eyes had a nervous, restless
look that dwelt not long on anything.  He was dressed in black, with simple
elegance, and his deep collar and ruffles were of the finest point.

"Welcome to Canaples, M. de Mancini!" he exclaimed, as he hurried forward,
with a smile so winning that his countenance appeared transfigured by it. 
"Welcome most cordially!  We had not hoped that you would arrive so soon,
but fortunately my daughters, to whom you appear to have been of service at
Choisy, warned me that you were journeying hither.  Your apartments,
therefore, are prepared for you, and we hope that you will honour Canaples
by long remaining its guest."

Andrea thanked him becomingly.

"In truth," he added, "my departure from Paris was somewhat sudden, but I
have a letter here from Monseigneur my uncle, which explains the matter."

"No explanation is needed, my dear Andrea," replied the old nobleman,
abandoning the formalities that had marked his welcoming speech.  "How left
you my Lord Cardinal?" he asked, as he took the letter.

"In excellent health, but somewhat harassed, I fear, by the affairs of

"Ah, yes, yes.  But stay.  You are not alone."  And Canaples's grey eyes
shot an almost furtive glance of inquiry in my direction.  A second glance
followed the first and the Chevalier's brows were knit.  Then he came a
step nearer, scanning my face.

"Surely, surely, Monsieur," he exclaimed before Andrea had time to answer
him.  "Were you not at Rocroi?"

"Your memory flatters me, Monsieur," I replied with a laugh.  "I was indeed
at Rocroi--captain in the regiment of chévaux-légers whereof you were
Mestre de Champ."

"His name," said Andrea, "is Gaston de Luynes, my very dear friend,
counsellor, and, I might almost say, protector."

"Pardieu, yes!  Gaston de Luynes!" he ejaculated, seizing my hand in an
affectionate grip.  "But how have you fared since Rocroi was fought?  For a
soldier of such promise, one might have predicted great things in ten

"Hélas, Monsieur!  I was dismissed the service after Senlac."

"Dismissed the service!"

"Pah!" I laughed, not without bitterness, 't is a long story and an ugly
one, divided 'twixt the dice-box, the bottle, and the scabbard.  Ten years
ago I was a promising young captain, ardent and ambitious; to-day I am a
broken ruffler, unrecognised by my family--a man without hope, without
ambition, almost without honour."

I know not what it was that impelled me to speak thus.  Haply the wish that
since he must soon learn to what depths Gaston de Luynes had sunk, he
should at least learn it from my own lips at the outset.

He shuddered at my concluding words, and had not Andrea at that moment put
his arm affectionately upon my shoulder, and declared me the bravest fellow
and truest friend in all the world, it is possible that the Chevalier de
Canaples would have sought an excuse to be rid of me.  Such men as he seek
not the acquaintance of such men as I.

To please Andrea was, however, of chief importance in his plans, and to
that motive I owe it that he pressed me to remain a guest at the château. 
I declined the honour with the best grace I could command, determined that
whilst Andrea remained at Canaples I would lodge at the Lys de France in
Blois, independent and free to come or go as my fancy bade me.  His
invitation that I should at least dine at Canaples I accepted; but with the
condition that he should repeat his invitation after he had heard something
that I wished to tell him.  He assented with a puzzled look, and when
presently Andrea repaired to his apartments, and we were alone, I began.

"You have doubtlessly received news, Monsieur, of a certain affair in which
your son had recently the misfortune to be dangerously wounded?"

We were standing by the great marble fireplace, and Canaples was resting
one of his feet upon the huge brass andirons.  He made a gesture of
impatience as I spoke.

"My son, sir, is a fool!  A good-for-nothing fool!  Oh, I have heard of
this affair, a vulgar tavern brawl, the fifth in which his name has been
involved and besmirched.  I had news this morning by a courier dispatched
me by my friend St. Simon, who imagines that I am deeply concerned in that
young profligate.  I learn that he is out of danger, and that in a month or
so, he will be about again and ready to disgrace the name of Canaples
afresh.  But there, sir; I crave your pardon for the interruption."

I bowed, and when in answer to my questions he told me that he was in
ignorance of the details of the affair of which I spoke, I set about laying
those details before him.  Beginning with the original provocation in the
Palais Royal and ending with the fight in the horse-market, I related the
whole story to him, but in an impersonal manner, and keeping my own name
out of my narrative.  When I had done, Canaples muttered an oath of the
days of the fourth Henry.

"Ventre St. Gris!  Does the dog carry his audacity so far as to dare come
betwixt me and my wishes, and to strive against them?  He sought to kill
Mancini, eh?  Would to Heaven he had died by the hand of this fellow who
shielded the lad!"

"Monsieur!" I cried, aghast at so unnatural an expression.

"Pah!" he cried harshly.  "He is my son in name alone, filial he never

"Nevertheless, Monsieur, he is still your son, your heir."

"My heir?  And what, pray, does he inherit?  A title--a barren, landless
title!  By his shameful conduct he alienated the affection of his uncle,
and his uncle has disinherited him in favour of Yvonne.  'T is she who will
be mistress of this château with its acres of land reaching from here to
Blois, and three times as far on the other side.  My brother, sir, was the
rich Canaples, the owner of all this, and by his testament I am his heir
during my lifetime, the estates going to Yvonne at my death.  So that you
see I have naught to leave; but if I had, not a dénier should go to my
worthless son!"

He spread his thin hands before the blaze, and for a moment there was
silence.  Then I proceeded to tell him of the cabal which had been formed
against Mancini, and of the part played by St. Auban.  At the mention of
that name he started as if I had stung him.

"What!" he thundered.  "Is that ruffian also in the affair?  Sangdieu!  His
motives are not far to seek.  He is a suitor--an unfavoured suitor--for the
hand of Yvonne, that seemingly still hopes.  But you have not told me,
Monsieur, the name of this man who has stood betwixt Andrea and his

"Can you not guess, Monsieur?" quoth I, looking him squarely in the face. 
"Did you not hear Andrea call me, even now, his protector."

"You?  And with what motive, pray?"

"At first, as I have told you, because the Cardinal gave me no choice in
the matter touching your son.  Since then my motive has lain in my
friendship for the boy.  He has been kind and affectionate to one who has
known little kindness or affection in life.  I seek to repay him by
advancing his interests and his happiness.  That, Monsieur, is why I am
here to-day--to shield him from St. Auban and his fellows should they

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