List Of Contents | Contents of The Suitors of Yvonne, by Rafael Sabatini
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appear again, as I believe they will."

The old man stood up and eyed me for a moment as steadily as his
vacillating glance would permit him, then he held out his hand.

"I trust, Monsieur," he said, "that you will do me the honour to dine with
us, and that whilst you are at Blois we shall see you at Canaples as often
as it may please you to cross its threshold."

I took his hand, but without enthusiasm, for I understood that his words
sprang from no warmth of heart for me, but merely from the fact that he
beheld in me a likely ally to his designs of raising his daughter to the
rank of Duchess.

Eugène de Canaples may have been a good-for-nothing knave; still, methought
his character scarce justified the callous indifference manifested by this
selfish, weak-minded old man towards his own son.

There was a knock at the door, and a lackey--the same Guilbert whom I had
seen at Choisy in Mademoiselle's company--appeared with the announcement
that the Chevalier was served.



In the spacious dining salon of the Château de Canaples I found the two
daughters of my host awaiting us--those same two ladies of the coach in
Place Vendôme and of the hostelry at Choisy, the dark and stately icicle,
Yvonne, and the fair, playful doll, Geneviève.

I bowed my best bow as the Chevalier presented me, and from the corner of
my eye, with inward malice, I watched them as I did so.  Geneviève curtsied
with a puzzled air and a sidelong glance at her sister.  Yvonne accorded me
the faintest, the coldest, inclination of her head, whilst her cheeks
assumed a colour that was unwonted.

"We have met before, I think, Monsieur," she said disdainfully.

"True, Mademoiselle--once," I answered, thinking only of the coach.

"Twice, Monsieur," she corrected, whereupon I recalled how she had
surprised me with my arm about the waist of the inn-keeper's daughter, and
had Heaven given me shame I might have blushed.  But if sweet Yvonne
thought to bring Gaston de Luynes to task for profiting by the good things
which God's providence sent his way, she was led by vanity into a
prodigious error.

"Twice, indeed, Mademoiselle.  But the service which you rendered me upon
the first occasion was so present to my mind just now that it eclipsed the
memory of our second meeting.  I have ever since desired, Mademoiselle,
that an opportunity might be mine wherein to thank you for the preservation
of my life.  I do so now, and at your service do I lay that life which you
preserved, and which is therefore as much yours as mine."

Strive as I might I could not rid my tone of an ironical inflection.  I was
goaded to it by her attitude, by the scornful turn of her lip and the
disdainful glance of her grey eyes--she had her father's eyes, saving that
her gaze was as steadfast as his was furtive.

"What is this?" quoth Canaples.  "You owe your life to my daughter?  Pray
tell me of it."

"With all my heart," I made haste to answer before Mademoiselle could
speak.  "A week ago, I disagreed upon a question of great delicacy with a
certain gentleman who shall be nameless.  The obvious result attended our
disagreement, and we fought 'neath the eyes of a vast company of
spectators.  Right was on my side, and the gentleman hurt himself upon my
sword.  Well, sir, the crowd snarled at me as though it were my fault that
this had so befallen, and I flouted the crowd in answer.  They were a
hundred opposed to one, and so confident did this circumstance render them
of their superiority, that for once those whelps displayed sufficient
valour to attack me.  I fled, and as a coach chanced to come that way, I
clutched at the window and hung there.  Within the coach there were two
ladies, and one of them, taking compassion upon me, invited me to enter and
thus rescued me.  That lady, sir," I ended with a bow, "was Mademoiselle
your daughter."

In his eyes I read it that he had guessed the name of my nameless

The ladies were struck dumb by my apparent effrontery.  Yvonne at last
recovered sufficiently to ask if my presence at the château arose from my
being attached to M. de Mancini.  Now, "attached" is an unpleasant word.  A
courtier is attached to the King; a soldier to the army; there is
humiliation in neither of these.  But to a private gentleman, a man may be
only attached as his secretary, his valet, or, possibly, as his bravo. 
Therein lay the sting of her carefully chosen word.

"I am M. de Mancini's friend," I answered with simple dignity.

For all reply she raised her eyebrows in token of surprise; Canaples looked
askance; I bit my lip, and an awkward silence followed, which, luckily, was
quickly ended by the appearance of Andrea.

The ladies received him graciously, and a faint blush might, to searching
eyes, have been perceived upon Geneviève's cheek.

There came a delicate exchange of compliments, after which we got to table,
and for my part I did ample justice to the viands.

I sat beside Geneviève, and vis-à-vis with Andrea, who occupied the place
of the honoured guest, at the host's right hand, with Yvonne beside him. 
Me it concerned little where I sat, since the repast was all that I could
look for; not so the others.  Andrea scowled at me because I was nearer to
Geneviève than he, and Yvonne frowned at me for other reasons.  By
Geneviève I was utterly disregarded, and my endeavours to converse were
sorely unsuccessful--for one may not converse alone.

I clearly saw that Yvonne only awaited an opportunity to unmask me, and
denounce me to her father as the man who had sought his son's life.

This opportunity, however, came not until the moment of my departure from
the château, that evening.  I was crossing the hail with the Chevalier de
Canaples, and we had stopped for a moment to admire a piece of old chain
armour of the days of the Crusaders.  Andrea and Geneviève had preceded us,
and passed out through the open doorway, whilst Yvonne lingered upon the
threshold looking back.

"I trust, M. de Luynes," said Canaples, as we moved towards her, "that you
will remember my invitation, and that whilst you remain at Biois we shall
see you here as often as you may be pleased to come; indeed, I trust that
you will be a daily visitor."

Before I could utter a reply--"Father," exclaimed Mademoiselle, coming
forward, "do you know to whom you are offering the hospitality of

"Why that question, child?  To M. de Luynes, M. de Mancini's friend."

"And the would-be murderer of Eugène," she added fiercely.

Canaples started.

"Surely such affairs are not for women to meddle with," he cried. 
"Moreover, M. de Luynes has already given me all details of the affair."

Her eyes grew very wide at that.

"He has told you?  Yet you invite him hither?" she exclaimed.

"M. de Luynes has naught wherewith to reproach himself, nor have I.  Those
details which he has given me I may not impart to you; suffice it, however,
that I am satisfied that his conduct could not have been other than it was,
whereas that of my son reflects but little credit upon his name."

She stamped her foot, and her eyes, blazing with anger, passed from one to
the other of us.

"And you--you believe this man's story?"


"Possibly," I interposed, coolly, "Mademoiselle may have received some
false account of it that justifies her evident unbelief in what I may have
told you."

It is not easy to give a lie unless you can prove it a lie.  I made her
realise this, and she bit her lip in vexation.  Dame!  What a pretty viper
I thought her at that moment!

"Let me add, Yvonne," said her father, "that M. de Luynes and I are old
comrades in arms."  Then turning to me--"My daughter, sir, is but a child,
and therefore hasty to pass judgment upon matters beyond her understanding. 
Forget this foolish outburst, and remember only my assurance of an ever
cordial welcome."

"With all my heart," I answered, after a moment's deliberation, during
which I had argued that for once I must stifle pride if I would serve

"Ough!" was all Mademoiselle's comment as she turned her back upon me. 
Nevertheless, I bowed and flourished my beaver to her retreating figure.

Clearly Mademoiselle entertained for me exactly that degree of fondness
which a pious hermit feels for the devil, and if I might draw conclusions
from what evidences I had had of the strength of her character and the
weakness of her father's, our sojourn at Blois promised to afford me little
delectation.  In fact, I foresaw many difficulties that might lead to
disaster should our Paris friends appear upon the scene--a contingency this
that seemed over-imminent.

It was not my wont, howbeit, to brood over the evils that the future might
hold, and to this I owe it that I slept soundly that night in my room at
the Lys de France.

It was a pleasant enough chamber on the first floor, overlooking the
street, and having an alcove attached to it which served for Michelot.

Next day I visited the Château de Canaples early in the afternoon.  The
weather was milder, and the glow of the sun heralded at last the near
approach of spring and brightened wondrously a landscape that had yesterday
worn so forbidding a look.

This change it must have been that drew the ladies, and Andrea with them,
to walk in the park, where I came upon them as I rode up.  Their laughter
rippled merrily and they appeared upon the best of terms until they espied
me.  My advent was like a cloud that foretells a storm, and drove
Mesdemoiselles away, when they had accorded me a greeting that contained
scant graciousness.

All unruffled by this act, from which I gathered that Yvonne the strong had
tutored Geneviève the frail concerning me, I consigned my horse to a groom
of the château, and linked arms with Andrea.

"Well, boy," quoth I, "what progress?"

He smiled radiantly.

"My hopes are all surpassed.  It exceeds belief that so poor a thing as I
should find favour in her eyes--what eyes, Gaston!"  He broke off with a
sigh of rapture.

"Peste, you have lost no time.  And so, already you know that you find
favour, eh!  How know you that?"

"How?  Need a man be told such things?  There is an inexpressible--"

"My good Andrea, seek not to express it, therefore," I interrupted hastily. 
"Let it suffice that the inexpressible exists, and makes you happy.  His
Eminence will doubtless share your joy!  Have you written to him?"

The mirth faded from the lad's face at the words, as the blossom fades
'neath the blighting touch of frost.  What he said was so undutiful from a
nephew touching his uncle--particularly when that uncle is a prelate--that
I refrain from penning it.

We were joined just then by the Chevalier, and together we strolled round
to the rose-garden--now, alas! naught but black and naked bushes--and down
to the edge of the Loire, yellow and swollen by the recent rains.

"How lovely must be this place in summer," I mused, looking across the
water towards Chambord.  "And, Dame," I cried, suddenly changing my
meditations, "what an ideal fencing ground is this even turf!"

"The swordsman's instinct," laughed Canaples.

And with that our talk shifted to swords, swordsmen, and sword-play, until
I suggested to Andrea that he should resume his practice, whereupon the
Chevalier offered to set a room at our disposal.

"Nay, if you will pardon me, Monsieur, 't is not a room we want," I
answered.  "A room is well enough at the outset, but it is the common error
of fencing-masters to continue their tutoring on a wooden floor.  It
results from this that when the neophyte handles a real sword, and defends
his life upon the turf, the ground has a new feeling; its elasticity or
even its slipperiness discomposes him, and sets him at a disadvantage."

He agreed with me, whilst Andrea expressed a wish to try the turf.  Foils
were brought, and we whiled away best part of an half-hour.  In the end,
the Chevalier, who had watched my play intently, offered to try a bout with
me.  And so amazed was he with the result, that he had not done talking of
it when I left Canaples a few hours later--a homage this that earned me
some more than ordinarily unfriendly glances from Yvonne.  No doubt since
the accomplishment was mine it became in her eyes characteristic of a bully
and a ruffler.

During the week that followed I visited the château with regularity, and
with equal regularity did Andrea receive his fencing lessons.  The object
of his presence at Canaples, however, was being frustrated more and more
each day, so far as the Cardinal and the Chevalier were concerned.

He raved to me of Geneviève, the one perfect woman in all the world and
brought into it by a kind Providence for his own particular delectation. 
In truth, love is like a rabid dog--whom it bites it renders mad; so open
grew his wooing, and so ardent, that one evening I thought well to take him
aside and caution him.

"My dear Andrea," said I, "if you will love Geneviève, you will, and
there's an end of it.  But if you would not have the Chevalier pack you
back to Paris and the anger of my Lord Cardinal, be circumspect, and at
least when M. de Canaples is by divide your homage equally betwixt the two. 
'T were well if you dissembled even a slight preference for Yvonne--she
will not be misled by it, seeing how unmistakable at all other seasons must
be your wooing of Geneviève."

He was forced to avow the wisdom of my counsel, and to be guided by it.

Nevertheless, I rode back to my hostelry in no pleasant frame of mind.  It
was more than likely that a short shrift and a length of hemp would be the
acknowledgment I should anon receive from Mazarin for my participation in
the miscarriage of his desires.

I felt that disaster was on the wing.  Call it a premonition; call it what
you will.  I know but this; that as I rode into the courtyard of the Lys de
France, at dusk, the first man my eyes alighted on was the Marquis César de
St. Auban, and, in conversation with him, six of the most arrant-looking
ruffians that ever came out of Paris.



"I crave Monsieur's pardon, but there is a gentleman below who desires to
speak with you immediately."

"How does this gentleman call himself, M. l'Hote?"

"M. le Marquis de St. Auban," answered the landlord, still standing in the

It wanted an hour or so to noon on the day following that of St. Auban's
arrival at Blois, and I was on the point of setting out for the château on
an errand of warning.

It occurred to me to refuse to see the Marquis, but remembering betimes
that from your enemy's speech you may sometimes learn where to look for his
next attack, I thought better of it and bade my host admit him.

I strode over to the fire, and stirring the burning logs, I put my back to
the blaze, and waited.

Steps sounded on the stairs; there was the shuffling of the landlord's
slippered feet and the firm tread of my visitor, accompanied by the jingle
of spurs and the clank of his scabbard as it struck the balustrade.  Then
my door was again opened, and St. Auban, as superbly dressed as ever, was

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