List Of Contents | Contents of The Suitors of Yvonne, by Rafael Sabatini
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We bowed formally, as men bow who are about to cross swords, and whilst I
waited for him to speak, I noted that his face was pale and bore the
impress of suppressed anger.

"So, M. de Luynes, again we meet."

"By your seeking, M. le Marquis."

"You are not polite."

"You are not opportune."

He smiled dangerously.

"I learn, Monsieur, that you are a daily visitor at the Château de

"Well, sir, what of it?"

"This.  I have been to Canaples this morning and, knowing that you will
learn anon, from that old dotard, what passed between us, I prefer that you
shall hear it first from me."

I bowed to conceal a smile.

"Thanks to you, M. de Luynes, I was ordered from the house.  I--César de
St. Auban--have been ordered from the house of a provincial upstart! 
Thanks to the calumnies which you poured into his ears."

"Calumnies!  Was that the word?"

"I choose the word that suits me best," he answered, and the rage that was
in him at the affront he had suffered at the hands of the Chevalier de
Canaples was fast rising to the surface.  "I warned you at Choisy of what
would befall.  Your opposition and your alliance with M. de Mancini are
futile.  You think to have gained a victory by winning over to your side an
old fool who will sacrifice his honour to see his daughter a duchess, but I
tell you, sir--"

"That you hope to see her a marchioness," I put in calmly.  "You see, M. de
St. Auban, I have learned something since I came to Blois."

He grew livid with passion.

"You shall learn more ere you quit it, you meddler!  You shall be taught to
keep that long nose of yours out of matters that concern you not."

I laughed.

"Loud threats!" I answered jeeringly.

"Never fear," he cried, "there is more to follow.  To your cost shall you
learn it.  By God, sir! do you think that I am to suffer a Sicilian
adventurer and a broken tavern ruffler to interfere with my designs?"

Still I kept my temper.

"So!" I said in a bantering tone.  "You confess that you have designs. 
Good!  But what says the lady, eh?  I am told that she is not yet
outrageously enamoured of you, for all your beauty!"

Beside himself with passion, his hand sought his sword.  But the gesture
was spasmodic.

"Knave!" he snarled.

"Knave to me?  Have a care, St. Auban, or I'll find you a shroud for a
wedding garment."

"Knave!" he repeated with a snarl.  "What price are you paid by that boy?"

"Pardieu, St. Auban!  You shall answer to me for this."

"Answer for it?  To you!"  And he laughed harshly.  "You are mad, my
master.  When did a St. Auban cross swords with a man of your stamp?"

"M. le Marquis," I said, with a calmness that came of a stupendous effort,
"at Choisy you sought my friendship with high-sounding talk of principles
that opposed you to the proposed alliance, twixt the houses of Mancini and
Canaples.  Since then I have learned that your motives were purely
personal.  From my discovery I hold you to be a liar."


"I have not yet done.  You refuse to cross swords with me on the pretext
that you do not fight men of my stamp.  I am no saint, sir, I confess.  But
my sins cannot wash out my name--the name of a family accounted as good as
that of St. Auban, and one from which a Constable of France has sprung,
whereas yours has never yet bred aught but profligates and debauchees.  You
are little better than I am, Marquis; indeed, you do many things that I
would not do, that I have never done.  For instance, whilst refusing to
cross blades with me, who am a soldier and a man of the sword, you seek to
pick a fight with a beardless boy who hardly knows the use of a rapier, and
who--wittingly at least--has done you no wrong.  Now, my master, you may
call me profligate, ruffler, gamester, duellist--what you will; but there
are two viler things you cannot dub me, and which, methinks, I have proven
you to be--liar and craven."

And as I spoke the burning words, I stood close up to him and tapped his
breast as if to drive the epithets into his very heart.

Rage he felt, indeed, and his distorted countenance was a sight fearful to

"Now, my master," I added, setting my arms akimbo and laughing brutally in
his face, "will you fight?"

For a moment he wavered, and surely meseemed that I had drawn him.  Then:

"No," he cried passionately.  "I will not do dishonour to my sword."  And
turning he made for the door, leaving me baffled.

"Go, sir," I shouted, "but fame shall stalk fast behind you.  Liar and
craven will I dub you throughout the whole of France."

He stopped 'neath the lintel, and faced me again.

"Fool," he sneered.  "You'll need dispatch to spread my fame so far.  By
this time to-morrow you'll be arrested.  In three days you will be in the
Bastille, and there shall you lie until you rot to carrion."

"Loud threats again!" I laughed, hoping by the taunt to learn more.

"Loud perchance, but not empty.  Learn that the Cardinal has knowledge of
your association with Mancini, and means to separate you.  An officer of
the guards is on his way to Blois.  He is at Meung by now.  He bears a
warrant for your arrest and delivery to the governor of the Bastille. 
Thereafter, none may say what will betide."  And with a coarse burst of
laughter he left me, banging the door as he passed out.

For a moment I stood there stricken by his parting words.  He had sought to
wound me, and in this he had succeeded.  But at what cost to himself?  In
his blind rage, the fool had shown me that which he should have zealously
concealed, and what to him was but a stinging threat was to me a timely
warning.  I saw the necessity for immediate action.  Two things must I do;
kill St. Auban first, then fly the Cardinal's warrant as best I could.  I
cast about me for means to carry out the first of these intentions.  My eye
fell upon my riding-whip, lying on a chair close to my hand, and the sight
of it brought me the idea I sought.  Seizing it, I bounded out of the room
and down the stairs, three steps at a stride.

Along the corridor I sped and into the common-room, which at the moment was
tolerably full.  As I entered by one door, the Marquis was within three
paces of the other, leading to the courtyard.

My whip in the air, I sprang after him; and he, hearing the rush of my
onslaught, turned, then uttered a cry of pain as I brought the lash
caressingly about his shoulders.

"Now, master craven," I shouted, "will that change your mind?"

With an almost inarticulate cry, he sought to draw there and then, but
those about flung themselves upon us, and held us apart--I, passive and
unresisting; the Marquis, bellowing, struggling, and foaming at the mouth.

"To meet you now would be to murder you, Marquis," I said coolly.  "Send
your friends to me to appoint the time."

"Soit!" he cried, his eyes blazing with a hate unspeakable.  "At eight to-
morrow morning I shall await you on the green behind the castle of Blois."

"At eight o'clock I shall be there," I answered.  "And now, gentlemen, if
you will unhand me, I will return to my apartments."

They let me go, but with many a growl and angry look, for in their eyes I
was no more than a coarse aggressor, whilst their sympathy was all for St.



And so back to my room I went, my task accomplished, and so pleased was I
with what had passed that as I drew on my boots--preparing to set out to
Canaples--I laughed softly to myself.

St. Auban I would dispose of in the morning.  As for the other members of
the cabal, I deemed neither Vilmorin nor Malpertuis sufficiently formidable
to inspire uneasiness.  St. Auban gone, they too would vanish.  There
remained then Eugène de Canaples.  Him, however, methought no great evil
was to be feared from.  In Paris he might be as loud-voiced as he pleased,
but in his father's château--from what I had learned--'t was unlikely he
would so much as show himself.  Moreover, he was wounded, and before he had
sufficiently recovered to offer interference it was more than probable that
Andrea would have married one or the other of Mesdemoiselles de Canaples--
though I had a shrewd suspicion that it would be the wrong one, and there
again I feared trouble.

As I stood up, booted and ready to descend, there came a gentle tap at my
door, and, in answer to my "Enter," there stood before me a very dainty and
foppish figure.  I stared hard at the effeminate face and the long fair
locks of my visitor, thinking that I had become the dupe of my eyes.

"M. de Vilmorin!" I murmured in astonishment, as he came forward, having
closed the door.  "You here?"

In answer, he bowed and greeted me with cold ceremoniousness.

"I have been in Blois since yesterday, Monsieur."

"In truth I might have guessed it, Vicomte.  Your visit flatters me, for,
of course, I take it, you are come to pay me your respects," I said
ironically.  "A glass of wine, Vicomte?"

"A thousand thanks, Monsieur--no," he answered coldly in his mincing tones. 
"It is concerning your affair with M. le Marquis de St. Auban that I am
come."  And drawing forth a dainty kerchief, which filled the room with the
scent of ambregris, he tapped his lips with it affectedly.

"Do you come as friend or--in some other capacity?"

"I come as mediator."

"Mediator!" I echoed, and my brow grew dark.  "Sdeath!  Has St. Auban's
courage lasted just so long as the sting of my whip?"

He raised his eyebrows after a supercilious fashion that made me thirst to
strike the chair from under him.

"You misapprehend me; M. de St. Auban has no desire to avert the duel.  On
the contrary, he will not rest until the affront you have put upon him be
washed out--"

"It will be, I'll answer for it."

"Your answer, sir, is characteristic of a fanfarron.  He who promises most
does not always fulfil most."

I stared at him in amazement.

"Shall I promise you something, Vicomte?  Mortdieu!  If you seek to pick a
quarrel with me--"

"God forbid!" he ejaculated, turning colour.  And his suddenly awakened
apprehensions swept aside the affectation that hitherto had marked his
speech and manner.

"Then, Monsieur, be brief and state the sum of this mediation."

"It is this, Monsieur.  In the heat of the moment, M. le Marquis gave you,
in the hearing of half a score of people, an assignation for to-morrow
morning.  News of the affair will spread rapidly through Blois, and it is
likely there will be no lack of spectators on the green to witness the
encounter.  Therefore, as my friend thinks this will be as unpalatable to
you as it is to him, he has sent me to suggest a fresh rendezvous."

"Pooh, sir," I answered lightly.  "I care not, for myself, who comes.  I am
accustomed to a crowd.  Still, since M. de St. Auban finds it discomposing,
let us arrange otherwise."

"There is yet another point.  M. de St. Auban spoke to you, I believe, of
an officer who is coming hither charged with your arrest.  It is probable
that he may reach Blois before morning, so that the Marquis thinks that to
make certain you might consent to meet him to-night."

"Ma foi.  St. Auban is indeed in earnest then!  Convey to him my
expressions of admiration at this suddenly awakened courage.  Be good
enough, Vicomte, to name the rendezvous."

"Do you know the chapel of St. Sulpice des Reaux?"

"What!  Beyond the Loire?"

"Precisely, Monsieur.  About a league from Chambord by the river side."

"I can find the place."

"Will you meet us there at nine o'clock to­night?"

I looked askance at him.

"But why cross the river?  This side affords many likely spots!"

"Very true, Monsieur.  But the Marquis has business at Chambord this
evening, after which there will be no reason--indeed, it will inconvenience
him exceedingly--to return to Blois."

"What!" I cried, more and more astonished.  "St. Auban is leaving Blois?"

"This evening, sir."

"But, voyons, Vicomte, why make an assignation in such a place and at
night, when at any hour of the day I can meet the Marquis on this side,
without suffering the inconvenience of crossing the river?"

"There will be a bright moon, well up by nine o'clock.  Moreover, remember
that you cannot, as you say, meet St. Auban on this side at any time he may
appoint, since to-night or to-morrow the officer who is in search of you
will arrive."

I pondered for a moment.  Then:

"M. le Vicomte," I said, "in this matter of ground 't is I who have the
first voice."

"How so?"

"Because the Marquis is the affronted one."

"Therefore he has a right to choose."

"A right, yes.  But that is not enough.  The necessity to fight is on his
side.  His honour is hurt, not mine; I have whipped him; I am content.  Now
let him come to me."

"Assuredly you will not be so ungenerous."

"I do not care about journeying to Reaux to afford him satisfaction."

"Does Monsieur fear anything?"

"Vicomte, you go too far!" I cried, my pride gaining the mastery.  "Since
it is asked of me,--I will go."

"M. le Marquis will be grateful to you."

"A fig for his gratitude," I answered, whereupon the Vicomte shrugged his
narrow shoulders, and, his errand done, took his leave of me.

When he was gone I called Michelot, to tell him of the journey I must go
that night, so that he might hold himself in readiness.

"Why--if Monsieur will pardon me," quoth he, "do you go to meet the Marquis
de St. Auban at St. Sulpice des Reaux by night?"

"Precisely what I asked Vilmorin.  The Marquis desires it, and--what will
you?--since I am going to kill the man, I can scarce do less than kill him
on a spot of his own choosing."

Michelot screwed up his face and scratched at his grey beard with his huge

"Does no suspicion of foul play cross your mind, Monsieur?" he inquired

"Shame on you, Michelot," I returned with some heat.  "You do not yet
understand the ways of gentlemen.  Think you that M. de St. Auban would
stoop to such a deed as that?  He would be shamed for ever!  Pooh, I would
as soon suspect my Lord Cardinal of stealing the chalices from Nôtre Dame. 
Go, see to my horse.  I am riding to Canaples."

As I rode out towards the château I fell to thinking, and my thoughts
turning to Vilmorin, I marvelled at the part he was playing in this little
comedy of a cabal against Andrea de Mancini.  His tastes and instincts were
of the boudoir, the ante-chamber, and the table.  He wore a sword because
it was so ordained by fashion, and because the hilt was convenient for the
display of a jewel or two.  Certainly 't was not for utility that it hung
beside him, and no man had ever seen it drawn.  Nature had made him the
most pitiable coward begotten.  Why then should he involve himself in an
affair which promised bloodshed, and which must be attended by many a risk
for him?  There was in all this some mystery that I could not fathom.

From the course into which they had slipped, my thoughts were diverted,
when I was within half a mile of the château, by the sight of a horseman
stationed, motionless, among the trees that bordered the road.  It occurred
to me that men take not such a position without purpose--usually an evil

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