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Royal Magazine, December 1899

Sword and Mitre

by Rafael Sabatini

I

The Marquis de Castelroc stood smiling before me, and in his outstretched hand he held the appointment which, unsolicited, and even against my wishes, he had obtained for me in Lorraine.

For some moments I remained dumfounded by what I accounted a liberty which he had no right to take, and yet, imagining that feelings of kindly interest had dictated it, I had not the heart to appear resentful.

At length I broke the painful silence.

"Monsieur is extremely kind," I murmured, bowing; "but as I told you a week ago, when first you suggested this appointment to me, I cannot and will not accept it; nor can I fathom your motives for thus pressing it upon me."

The smile faded from his handsome, roué face, and the hard lines which characterized his mouth when in repose reappeared.

"You refuse it?" he inquired, and his voice had lost all that persuasive gentleness of a moment ago.

"I regret that I cannot accept it," I replied.

He dropped the parchment on to the table, and going over to the fireplace, leaned his elbow on the overmantel. With his gaze fixed on the ormolu clock, he appeared lost in thoughts of no pleasant character, to judge by the expression of his face.

I endured the ensuing silence for some moments; then, growing weary, and remembering a pair of bright eyes that were watching for my arrival in the Rue du Bac, I coughed to remind him of my presence.

He started at the sound; then turning, came slowly across to where I stood. Leaning lightly against the secretaire of carved oak, and laying a shapely hand, all ablaze with jewels, upon my shoulder, he gazed intently at me for a moment with those uncanny eyes of his.

"You are still a very young man, M. de Bleville," he began.

"Pardon me," I interrupted, impatiently; "but I was twenty-four last birthday."

"A great age," he sneered lightly; then quickly changing his tone as if he feared to offend me, "I speak comparatively," he continued. "You are young when compared with me, who am old enough to be your father. Youth, mon cher vicomte, is rash, and often does not recognize those things which would revert to its own advantage. Now, I mean you well."

"I doubt it not, monsieur."

"I mean you well and take more interest in you than you think. I have noticed that you are growing pale of late; the air of Paris does not agree with you, and a change would benefit you vastly."

"I thank you, but I am feeling passing well," I answered with some warmth.

"Still," he persisted, puckering his brows, "not so well as a young man of your years should do. Lorraine is a particularly healthy country. You will take the appointment."

"A plague on the appointment!" I exclaimed, unable longer to restrain the anger which his impertinence excited. "I do not want it! Do you not understand me, sir? Notre Dame! But your persistence grows wearisome. Permit me to bid you good night; I have a pressing matter to attend."

So saying, I reached out for my hat which lay on the table beside the lighted tapers. But he caught my arm in his hand with a grip that made me wince.

"Not yet, vicomte!" he cried huskily. "I take too great an interest in you to let you go thus. We must understand each other first."

His pale face had an evil scowl, and his voice a ring of mockery little to my taste.

"Your life is in danger, monsieur," he said presently; "and if you persist in your determination to remain in Paris, evil will befall you."

"And from whom, pray?" I inquired haughtily.

"My Lord Cardinal."

"Richelieu!" I gasped, and I know that I paled, although I strove not to do so.

He bent over until his lips were on a level with my ear. "Who killed Beausire?" he whispered suddenly.

I recoiled as if he had struck me. Then, in an access of fury, I sprang upon him, and seizing him by the costly lace about his throat, I shook him viciously in my grasp.

"What do you know?" I cried. "Answer me, sir, or I will strangle you. What do you know? Confess!"

With an effort he wrenched himself free, and flung me back against the wall.

"Enough to hang you," he snarled, panting for breath. "Keep your distance, you young dog, and listen to me, or it will be the worse for you."

Limp and mute, I remained where I was.

"You may not know me well, Bleville"—he spoke now in calm and deliberate accents—"but those who do will tell you that I am a dangerous man to thwart. Your presence in Paris is distasteful to me. I have determined that you shall quit it, and go you shall—either to Lorraine or the Bastille, as you choose."

"I choose neither, sir," I answered defiantly.

He shrugged his shoulders.

"There is no third course open for you, unless, indeed, it be Montfauçon and the hangman. Come, be reasonable; take this appointment and go to Lorraine to recruit your health. Remember, vicomte, the cardinal has not forgotten his nephew's death, and it will go hard with you if I but whisper your name in his ear."

"You cannot substantiate your calumny!" I exclaimed.

"Ho, ho! Calumny, eh?" he jeered.

"Yes, calumny," I repeated, thinking to have found a loophole.

But my hopes were soon dashed.

"Pish!" he said; "but I have proofs, boy; written proofs. I have a letter which Beausire wrote to his wife on the morning of his death, wherein he told her he was going to St. Germain to a rendezvous with de Bleville."

"And why," I inquired suspiciously, "if such be the case, why was this letter not shown to Monseigneur de Richelieu by the widow?"

"Because it contained a request that if he fell, no disclosure should be made. The widow was forced to respect his last wishes. But she died last week, as you may possibly be aware. She was my sister, as you may also know, and after her death I found this letter among other treasured papers.

"What do you say now? Will you accept the appointment?"

"It was an honorable duel," I murmured sullenly.

He laughed.

"You can explain that to His Eminence," he answered derisively, "if you think it will weigh with him."

I knew full well that it would not; for, besides the royal edicts which forbade dueling—and in virtue of which we had gone to St. Germain to fight without seconds, trusting to each other's honor, so that there might be no witnesses, and so that the survivor might not be pestered with the law—Beausire was the cardinal's nephew.

Again Castelroc repeated that monotonous question, "Will you accept the appointment?"

For an instant I wavered, and had it not been for the memory of Mlle. de la Haudraye, who, at that very moment, would, I knew, be waiting for me in the Rue de Bac, I believe I should have ended by assenting. As it was, I could not leave Paris then. It was but the night before that I had tasted of the cup of life's happiness, when she had promised to become the Vicomtesse de Bleville, and I would make a desperate stand before the cup was dragged from my lips.

"Would you vouchsafe to tell me why you desire my absence?" I inquired at length.

"Because your presence annoys me," he answered surlily.

"That is no explanation, monsieur. I must have a reason."

"And, by Heaven, you shall!" he retorted furiously. "Listen, sir. There is a certain lady in Paris whom I love and whom I desire to wed; but I may not do so while you are by."

The absurdity of his explanation was such that I could not withhold a laugh.

"I do not understand how my presence can affect your affaires du cœur."

"No more do I! Mort de ma vie, I do not!" he answered vehemently. "But women are strange things, and this one has the bad taste to prefer you to me."

"And you think," I answered banteringly, not because I believed his preposterous tale, but because I desired to humour his mendacity, "that if I were absent; if this amorous maid's heart were no longer set aflame by the sight of my beauty, she might turn kindly to you?"

"You have said it," he cried bitterly. "For you are young and rich, and she would marry you for your money alone, whereas I am not so young, and far from wealthy."

I loked at the richness of his apparel, and of the room wherein we stood and smiled.

"But. M. de Castelroc," I exclaimed, "how can I be guilty of all this? I do not seek to wed the maid."

He looked at me in blank astonishment.

"You do not seek to wed Mlle. de la Haudraye?"

"Who?" I thundered, starting forward.

"Mlle. de la Haudraye."

For a moment I stared at him; then, stimulated by anger and scorn, I burst into a long, loud laugh.

"It amuses you?" he said icily.

"Par Dieu! In truth it does! Imagine the presumption of a man of your years and reputation, aspiring to the hand of such a woman as Mlle. de la Haudraye! Mon Dieu, 'tis passing droll!"

And with my hands on my sides I gave unrestrained vent to my hilarity, forgetful for the moment of the cardinal and the dungeon yawning at my feet.

But Castelroc sobered me suddenly by picking up that plaguey parchment.

"When you have had your laugh, you young fool, perhaps you will reconsider the advisability of accepting this document," he snarled, white with passion.

"May the devil take you and your document," I answered, picking up my hat. "Do what you please. I remain in Paris."

"I will give you twenty-four hours to deliberate," he cried.

"My mind will be unaltered in twenty-four years."

"Then, mon Dieu, I will go at once."

He touched a bell that stood upon the table.

"My hat and cloak, Guitant," he said to the servant who answered his summons, "and order my carriage. I am going to the Palais Cardinal."

"And I to the Rue du Bac," I cried, as the door closed upon the lackey. "To the Rue du Bac, to tell Mlle. de la Haudraye what manner of man you are, and what you are about to do. Now, master mouchard!" I exclaimed triumphantly, "if you imagine that your suit will prosper after that; if you imagine that the Comte de la Haudraye will permit his daughter to wed one of the cardinal's spies, you are a greater fool than I hold you for."

It was a rash speech, but for the life of me I could not have withheld it.

"You shall not go!" he roared, turning livid. "You shall not leave here but to go to the Bastille." Then raising his voice: "Ho, there, some one! À moi!"

My sword was out in a trice, and I rushed wildly at him, for his threat had frightened me, and I saw that my rashness was like to cost me dear.

He drew as I sprang forward, and was barely in time to parry a stroke that threatened to end his intriguing for all time. Before I could disengage, my arms were seized from behind, and, struggling madly, I was held there at his mercy.

But he only laughed and, sheathing his sword, said the cardinal would deal with me.

I was flung rudely down, and while one servant pinned me to the ground, another fetched a rope wherewith they bound me firmly, hand and foot. Then Castelroc rolled me over and struck me on the face.

I opened my mouth to tell him in fitting terms what I thought of his act, when, quick as lightning, he gagged me with a poire d'angoisse; then, with a parting gibe, he strode away and, locking the door after him, left me there, stretched upon the ground, powerless, inert, and mute.

II

For perhaps ten minutes I lay where I had been thrown, too stunned by the rude manner in which I had been handled to indulge in active thought. I did not think—at least not coherently; I was content to lie, like the human log they had made me, with a dull sense of anger at my defeat and powerlessness, and with a dismal feeling of despair.

Presently, however, I revived somewhat. The ticking of the ormolu clock was irritating to me, and I felt a burning desire to dash it from its shelf and silence it. But as I gazed upon the ornament I turned my thoughts to the time it measured, and in spirit I followed the Marquis de Castelroc to the Palais Cardinal.

"Even now," I thought, "he will be there; say he is kept waiting five minutes, it will be half past eight before he has speech of the cardinal, another five minutes to relate his story, and ten minutes for his return, accompanied by an officer of Richelieu's guards or of the Mousquetaires.

"By a quarter to nine I shall be arrested; by nine o'clock I shall be in the Châtelet, and by to-morrow in the Bastille."

I shuddered and groaned alternately for the next minute—and groaning with a choke-pear in one's mouth is not easily accomplished.

Next I remembered that I had my own rash tongue to thank for the ropes about me. Had I held my peace I might have been left free to proceed to the Rue du Bac, and warn Adeline and her father of what was about to take place. I could have gone calmly to the Bastille, afterward, reassured by the vows which I knew my lady would utter, and—I thought—fulfill, to wait for me. She might have to wait a few years, but even the Cardinal de Richelieu could not live forever; he was already old, and, in the end, I should be released, and we might still be happy.

But to disappear in this fashion, as if the earth had consumed me—it was dreadful! She would not know that it had been Castelroc's handiwork, and after she had mourned me for a few weeks, with that villain at hand to console her, who could say what might happen?

Women, I told myself, were fickle things, and many had an unhealthy fancy for a profligate, especially when, like Castelroc, he chanced to be courtly, handsome, and gifted with a persuasive tongue.

As these thoughts paraded themselves tormentingly before my brain, I was nigh upon becoming mad with anger. In a paroxysm of rage I writhed like a wounded snake upon the polished floor, and rolled myself over and over, until I had almost broken my pinioned arms.

I paused at length in my futile struggles, and lay panting, on my back, staring stupidly at the hands of the time-piece, which now pointed to half past eight. In another quarter of an hour Castelroc would return.

Oh, if I could only have that quarter of an hour free, so that I might yet go to the Rue du Bac!

Then the thought of escape presented itself, and I was astonished that it had not occurred to me before. The next instant, however, I laughed inwardly—the choke-pear prevented me from laughing aloud—as I remembered how impossible it was. But I set myself to think.

If only I could release my hands! But how? I looked about. My sword lay on the ground, but I could devise no means of employing it.

Then my eyes alighted on the tapers that had been left burning, and my heart almost ceased to beat at the idea they suggested.

I glance at the clock. It was already twenty-five minutes to nine. If only I had time. And at the thought I fell to cursing myself for not having acted sooner.

In ten minutes Castelroc would be back. Yes, but that was if he gained immediate audience. What if the cardinal kept him waiting? He might spend a half hour, an hour, or even two hours in the antechamber. Richelieu was not particular, and he had tried the patience of better men than Castelroc in this fashion.

Still, fortune favors fools and rogues as well as brave men, so it would not do to build my hopes upon a moonbeam. Of ten minutes I was certain, and what a desperate man could do in ten minutes, I would do.

With the agility of a reptile I wriggled across the room, and having turned myself upon my face, I contrived to kneel. Next, with my chin upon the table, I strove to raise the weight of my body.

I had almost succeeded, when of a sudden my feet slipped, and I fell heavily to the ground, dragging the table with me. Two of the tapers spluttered and went out, but the third, fortunately, still burned upon the floor.

With a wildly thumping heart I lay there listening, wondering if the noise of my fall had attracted attention. But as all remained quiet, I crawled over to the lighted taper, and having gained my knees, I bent over it backward, holding the rope that bound my wrists in the flame, heedless of the searing of my flesh.

In half a minute my hands were free, although severely cut and scorched. To draw the gag from my mouth, and cut the cords at my ankles with my dagger, was the work of an instant.

Then, having righted the candle and recovered my sword, I made stealthily across the room to the window. It

minutes more.

III

I opened the window and looked out. It was a fine night, and clear enough, although the moon had not yet risen, for which I was thankful.

Pausing for a moment to inhale a deep, invigorating breath of the pure April air, I glanced about me for a means of escape, but groaned as I beheld the street pavement a good forty feet beneath, and nothing that might assist me to climb down, as I had hoped.

I wasted a full minute in cursing my ill-fortune, as I realized that, after all, there was nothing for it but to submit to the inevitable, and remain.

Only three minutes left! The thought acted on me like a dagger prod, and served to quicken my tumultuous thoughts. I turned wildly this way and that, and at last my eyes fastened upon the sloping roof of the adjoining house, not more than twelve feet below the window whereat I stood, but quite three feet away to the left.

For the moment I thought of jumping it; but the peril was too great. I would of a certainty have been dashed to pieces. Then a bright thought occurred to me, and I rushed back for my cloak, which lay in the room.

An iron stanchion protruded from the wall, a little to the left, and some two feet below the window. I know not what it did there, nor for the moment did I care. It was already a quarter to nine.

Reaching out, I tied with trembling hands a corner of my cloak to that most apropos of stanchions. Even as I completed the task, a carriage came rumbling down the street; I felt myself grow cold with apprehension. Could this be Castelroc?

I went near to dropping from my perch on the window sill at the thought. But the coach passed on, and I took its advent as a good omen. I would cheat the dog yet! Verily, I laughed as I lowered myself gently from the window.

For a moment I clung to the sill, suspended in mid-air; then, moving my right leg across, I got astride of the stanchion, wondering for the first time if it would bear my weight, and sweating with fear at the thought.

But the iron was stout and firmly planted. Presently I was sliding slowly down my cloak, until there was perhaps a yard of it above my head. Next, taking a firm hold, I set myself to swing backward and forward, until at length the roof of the adjoining house was immediately below my feet.

Twice might I have loosened my hold and dropped with safety, but a miserable fright made me hesitate each time until it was too late. The third time, however, realizing that the strain was beginning to tell upon my arms, and that I might not have strength enough left to swing across again, I commended my soul to God, and let go.

Down I came with a crash upon the tiles, and it is a miracle that I did not slide over the edge of the sloping roof, plunging into eternity. I did, indeed, slip for a foot or so, but in wild terror I clawed the roof like a cat, and caught myself betimes.

Panting, and covered with perspiration, I lay there for a minute or two to regain my breath and steady my shaken nerves, gazing at my still dangling cloak and at the lighted window above, and marveling greatly that I had had the daring to undertake so desperate a journey.

Castelroc had not yet returned, so I concluded that the cardinal had kept him waiting, Still, he might appear at any moment, and I was too near my prison to feel safe as yet.

So picking myself carefully up, I crawled along on hands and knees for a while, until presently, growing bolder with experience, I rose to my feet and hurried as rapidly as I dared along that elevated highway.

For some five minutes I pushed steadily onward, with naught save a stray cat or two to keep me company.

Albeit the road was passing new to me, and vastly interesting, I began to weary of it, and paused to think how I might descend to the more usual walks of men.

I had reached the corner of the Rue Trecart by then, and looking about me, I saw an attic window conveniently situated on one of the roofs to my left.

Turning, I wended my steps in that direction, and with infinite pains I crawled down until I stood beside it.

The window was fastened; but it was an easy matter to put my foot through it, and afterward my arm, and thus gain admittance.

I stood for a moment in a small, unfurnished room, to listen if there might be any one at hand to resent my intrusion. Hearing naught, I went forward, opened the door, passed out on to the landing, and in the dark I felt my way stealthily down the stairs.

I had reached the first floor and was debating whether I should go boldly down and quit the house in a rational manner by the street door, when suddenly, hearing male voices and a certain raucous laughter, suggestive of the bottle, I deemed it best to risk no meetings that might be avoided.

I applied my ear to the keyhole of the door by which I stood. As all remained still, I turned the handle and entered. There was nobody in the room, which I could just discern was tastily furnished, and contained a bed; so, closing the door after me, I stole across to the window, which opened on to a wooden balcony.

As I reached it my attention was arrested by the clash of steel below.

"What," I thought, "brawling at this hour, and in the very streets of Paris, in spite of the edicts?"

Softly I opened the window and stepped out on to the balcony. The sight which met my eyes filled me with astonishment and anger.

A tall, well-built cavalier, with his back against the wall immediately beneath me, the crown of his hat almost on a level with the balcony, which was not more than six feet from the ground, stood defending himself with masterly dexterity against the onslaught of three evil-looking knaves.

If these men had no respect for the laws of the king, they might at least have some for the laws of chivalry. I did not hesitate a moment what to do, and forgot my own affairs utterly. Drawing my sword, I vaulted over the low wooden railings and, like the warrior St. Michael from heaven to do battle for the right, I dropped, with a yell, into their astonished midst.

IV

Notre Dame! How those three ruffians stared at my unexpected and inexplicable advent!

And I, having seen what manner of men they were, felt no compunction at profiting by their surprise to run my sword through the nearest of them, from breast to back. He uttered a sharp cry, dropped his rapier, clawed the air for a moment; then, falling in a heap upon the ground, lay still.

With a shout of rage another one sprang at me before I could release my sword. The lunge he directed upon me would assuredly have sent me from the world unshriven, had not the cavalier interposed his blade and turned the murderous stroke aside.

The next moment, however, he had to defend his own skin from the third ruffian, who sought to take the same advantage of him that his fellow had endeavored to take of me.

But the respite had permitted me to regain my sword, and I now engaged my assailant across the body of his fallen comrade, and kept him busy, albeit the light was bad.

As I had expected, he was but a sorry swordsman, and his parries reminded one of a windmill. Nevertheless, he kept up a vigorous cut-and-thrust play of the old Italian school, which, although soon reckoned with in daylight, is mighty discomposing in the dark, and on a slippery ground with a body at your feet to stumble over if you lunge too far.

During the first few passes I laughed at his labors, and asked him banteringly if he were wielding a battle-ax; but presently, when I had been forced to turn my sword into a buckler three or four times, I recognized that the season was ill-timed for jesting.

If only I could catch that busy arm of his quiet for a second, I knew I should have him.

Presently he essayed a direct thrust, thinking to force my guard, but I caught his point, and with a sharp riposte, which ended in an engage in tierce, I brought his play to a standstill at last.

The opportunity was not to be wasted; so, with a quick one, two stroke, I sent my point round under his elbow, and while he went fumbling away to the right for my blade, it was grating against his ribs on the left. The man uttered no sound.

He fell heavily across his companion's body. Then, raising himself by a stupendous effort, he fastened one arm around my leg, and attempted to shorten his sword. The exertion soon overcame him, however, and as I kicked my leg free, he sank down in a swoon.

The whole affair had not lasted two minutes. The chevalier was still at work with his opponent; but when, turning, I advanced to his aid, the remaining ruffian sprang back, and setting off at a mad gallop down the street, was soon lost to our eyes and ears alike.

"I am deeply indebted to you, monsieur," said the chevalier in a curiously muffled voice, as he held out his left hand to me. "My right hand is bleeding slightly," he explained.

I took the proffered hand and, in answering him, I looked up at his face and saw he wore a mask.

"I am happy to have been of service to so valiant a gentleman," I said, bowing. "But how came you, if I may inquire, into such company?"

"I was decoyed hither," he answered with a bitter laugh. "I was bidden come alone, and I was foolish enough to accept the invitation."

Whereat, thinking that possibly there was some jealous lady in the matter, and knowing how such affairs are managed, I inquired no further.

"Had it not been for your timely arrival," my companion added, "there would have been an end of me by now. But whither are you bent?" he inquired suddenly.

"To the Rue du Bac," I answered, as my own forgotten affairs came back to my mind.

"Then I will take you there in my carriage; it is waiting not many yards from here. I can thus make up to you for the time that you have lost on my behalf. But let us see these knaves first."

We turned the two fellows over. One of them was but slightly wounded; but the other one—the first to fall—was quite dead. We dragged them under the balcony, and propped them against the wall.

"I will send some one to attend to them," said my companion. "Come, it is not safe to linger. The patrol may pass at any moment."

With that he linked his arm in mine, and drew me away from the spot. And as we went he fell to thanking me again, and ended by praising my swordsmanship—albeit he had seen but little of it himself—and saying that it was an accomplishment one should be thankful for.

"And yet, monsieur," I exclaimed, "although I am thankful enough to-night, since it has afforded me the opportunity of serving you, yet I am at this very moment in grievous trouble, thanks to my rapier play."

"Ah!" he murmured, with a show of interest. "And if I am not impertinent, what is this trouble? I may be able to assist you—who knows?"

I required no second invitation, for youth is ever ready with its confidences, and, as we walked along, I began my narrative. When I spoke of Castelroc as a spy of Richelieu's, he stopped abruptly.

"The Marquis de Castelroc is no spy of the cardinal's," he said coldly.

"Ah, pardon! I have offended you, monsieur!" I exclaimed. "Castelroc is a friend of yours."

"God forbid!" he ejaculated.

"But you know him?"

"Yes, for the greatest rogue unhanged. But pursue your tale. You interest me."

V

Briefly I told my story down to the point where I had sprung from the balcony to his assistance.

"The dastard!" he uttered, then quickly added, "Hélas, my poor friend, your case is indeed grave; but if you were to seek audience of the cardinal and explain to him—qui sait?—he might forgive. The affair is old and probably forgotten. Moreover, you appear to have been forced into this duel with Beausire, and, ma foi, I fail to see how a gentleman could have done otherwise than fight under such circumstances."

"Aye, monsieur," I answered, shaking my head; "but the cardinal will not trouble to inquire. His edicts forbid dueling. That is sufficient. But of more were needed—Beausire was his nephew."

"You misjudge him."

"Nay, monsieur, I do not, I recognize in His Eminence a great and just man, too just to err on the side of mercy."

At that juncture we turned the corner and walked full into a patrol coming in the opposite direction.

My companion surprised me by bidding the sergeant go attend to the wounded man we had left behind.

"Has there been a duel?" the fellow inquired.

"Possibly," answered the cavalier with great composure.

The sergaent eyed us suspiciously for a moment, then bade us return with him.

"We have business elsewhere, and the affair does not concern us," answered my companion.

"I know not that—" the other began, when suddenly:

"Peace, fool," the cavalier muttered, and drawing forth his right hand, which he had said was wounded, and hitherto kept carefully under his cloak, he held it up.

I knew not what magic was in those fingers, but at the sight of them the sergeant fell back with a cry of dismay; then, recovering himself, he bowed low before us, and bade us pass.

A moment later, and before I could master my surprise at what I had witnessed, we entered a carriage that stood waiting hard by.

"Palais Cardinal!" said my companion.

"No, no!" I exclaimed, making for the door; but the coach was already in motion. I turned to expostulate with my companion. He had removed his mask, and a wild panic seized me as, by the light of a street lamp, I recognized—the cardinal!

"Well, my young friend," he laughed, "you are in luck to-night; and since you have caught Richelieu breaking his own edicts, you have a right to expect that he will not judge you over harshly, and that for once, this 'great and just man' will err on the side of mercy."

"Your Eminence!" I cried.

He raised his hand, upon which I now beheld the sacred amethyst which had so subjugated the sergeant.

"Say no more," he said; "You owe me nothing, while I owe you my life. As for this Castelroc, I am sorry to keep you from Mlle. de la Haudraye for a few moments longer; but I shall be grateful if you will afford me the amusement of beholding his face when we walk in, arm in arm, to grant him the audience for which he is, no doubt, still waiting. I know the gentleman of old; he was involved in a Gascon plot last winter, and had a finger in one of Anne of Austria's tasty pies a few weeks ago. I have lately been thinking of finding him a change of lodging, and your story has decided me. I do not think a sojourn in the Bastille would be amiss, do you?"

I confessed with a laugh that I did not, and a few minutes later Richelieu's fancy for studying facial expressions found ample entertainment in the countenance of the marquis.

As ten was striking—so quickly did it all occur—Castelroc and I left the Palais Cardinal in separate carriages, he going to the Bastille with a mounted escort, and I—at last—to the Rue du Bac.


This story appears on The Life and Work of Rafael Sabatini web site.
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