Never was there a man with a better stomach for a fight than Martin de Garnache, nor did he stop to consider that here his appetite in that direction was likely to be indulged to a surfeit. The sight of those three men opposing him, swords drawn and Fortunio armed in addition with a dagger, drove from his mind every other thought, every other consideration but that of the impending battle.

He fell on guard to receive their onslaught, his eyes alert, his lips tight set, his knees like springs of steel, slightly flexed to support his well-poised body.

But they paused a moment in the extremity of their surprise, and Fortunio called to him in Italian to know the meaning of this attitude of his as well as that of Marius, who lay huddled where he had fallen.

Garnache, reckless now, disdaining further subterfuge nor seeking to have recourse to subtleties that could avail him nothing, retorted in French with the announcement of his true name. At that, perceiving that here was some deep treachery at work, they hesitated no longer.

Led by Fortunio they attacked him, and the din they made in the next few minutes with their heavy breathing, their frequent oaths, their stamping and springing this way and that, and, ringing above all, the clash and clatter of sword on sword, filled the chamber and could be heard in the courtyard below.

Minutes sped, yet they gained no advantage on this single man; not one, but a dozen swords did he appear to wield, so rapid were his passes, so ubiquitous his point. Had he but stood his ground there might have been a speedy end to him, but he retreated slowly towards the door of the antechamber. Valerie still stood there, watching with fearful eyes and bated breath that tremendous struggle which at any moment she expected to see terminate in the death of her only friend.

In her way she was helping Garnache, though she little realized it. The six tapers in the candle-branch she held aloft afforded the only light for that stormy scene, and that light was in the eyes of Garnache’s assailants, showing him their faces yet leaving his own in shadow.

He fell back steadily towards that door. He could not see it; but there was not the need. He knew that it was in a direct line with the one that opened upon the stairs, and by the latter he steered his backward course. His aim was to gain the antechamber, although they guessed it not, thinking that he did but retreat through inability to stand his ground. His reasons were that here in this guardroom the best he could do would be to put his back to the wall, where he might pick off one or two before they made an end of him. The place was too bare to suit his urgent, fearful need. Within the inner room there was furniture to spare, with which he might contrive to hamper his opponents and give them such a lusty fight as would live in the memory of those who might survive it for as long as they should chance to live thereafter.

He had no thought of perishing himself, although, to any less concerned, his death, sooner or later, must seem inevitable—the only possible conclusion to this affray, taken as he was. His mind was concerned only with this fight; his business to kill, and not himself to be slain. He knew that presently others would come to support these three. Already, perhaps, they were on their way, and he husbanded his strength against their coming. He was proudly conscious of his own superior skill, for he had studied the art of fence in Italy—its home—during his earlier years, and there was no trick of sword-play with which he was not acquainted, no ruse of service in a rough-and-tumble in which he was unversed. He was proudly conscious, too, of his supple strength, his endurance, and his great length of reach, and upon all these he counted to help him make a decent fight.

Valerie, watching him, guessed his purpose to be the gaining of the inner chamber, the crossing of the threshold on which she was standing. She drew back a pace or two, almost mechanically, to give him room. The movement went near to costing him his life. The light no longer falling so pitilessly upon Fortunio’s eyes, the captain saw more clearly than hitherto, and shot a swift, deadly stroke straight at the region of Garnache’s heart. The Parisian leapt back when it was within an inch of his breast; one of the bravoes followed up, springing a pace in advance of his companions and lengthening his arm in a powerful lunge. Garnache caught the blade almost on his hilt, and by the slightest turn of the wrist made a simultaneous presentment of his point at the other’s outstretched throat. It took the fellow just above the Adam’s apple, and with a horrid, gurgling cry he sank, stretched as he still was in the attitude of that murderous lunge that had proved fatal only to himself.

Garnache had come on guard again upon the instant. Yet in the briefest of seconds during which his sword had been about its work of death, Fortunio’s rapier came at him a second time. He beat the blade aside with his bare left hand and stopped with his point the rush of the other bravo. Then he leapt back again, and his leap brought him to the threshold of the anteroom. He retreated quickly a pace, and then another. He was a sword’s length within the chamber, and now he stood, firm as a rock and engaged Fortunio’s blade which had followed him through the doorway. But he was more at his ease. The doorway was narrow. Two men abreast could not beset him, since one must cumber the movements of the other. If they came at him one at a time, he felt that he could continue that fight till morning, should there still by then be any left to face him.

A wild exultation took him, an insane desire to laugh. Surely was sword-play the merriest game that was ever devised for man’s entertainment. He straightened his arm, and his steel went out like a streak of lightning. But for the dagger on which he caught its edge, the blade had assuredly pierced the captain’s heart. And now, fighting still, Garnache called to Valerie. He had need of her assistance to make his preparations ere others came.

“Set down your tapers, mademoiselle,” he bade her, “on the mantel shelf at my back. Place the other candle branch there too.”

Swiftly, yet with half-swimming senses, everything dim to her as to one in a nightmare, she ran to do his bidding; and now the light placed so at his back, gave him over his opponents the same slight advantage that he had enjoyed before. In brisk tones he issued his fresh orders.

“Can you move the table, mademoiselle?” he asked her. “Try to drag it here, to the wall on my left, as close to the door as you can bring it.”

“I will try, monsieur,” she panted through dry lips; and again she moved to do his bidding. Quickened by the need there was, her limbs, which awhile ago had seemed on the point of refusing their office, appeared to gather more than ordinary strength. She was unconsciously sobbing in her passionate anxiety to render him what help was possible. Frenziedly she caught at the heavy oaken table, and began to drag it across the room as Garnache had begged her. And now, Fortunio seeing what was toward, and guessing Garnache’s intentions, sought by a rush to force his way into the Chamber. But Garnache was ready for him. There was a harsh grind of steel on steel, culminating in a resounding rush, and Fortunio was back in the guard-room, whither he had leapt to save his skin. A pause fell at that, and Garnache lowered his point to rest his arm until they should again come at him. From beyond the doorway the captain called upon him to yield. He took the summons as an insult, and flew into a momentary passion.

“Yield?” he roared. “Yield to you, you cut-throat scum? You shall have my sword if you will come for it, but you shall have it in your throat.”

Angered in his turn, Fortunio inclined his head to his companion’s ear, issuing an order. In obedience to it, it was the bravo now who advanced and engaged Garnache. Suddenly he dropped on to his knees, and over his head Garnache found his blade suddenly opposed by Fortunio’s. It was a clever trick, and it all but did Garnache’s business then. Yet together with the surprise of it there came to him the understanding of what was intended. Under his guard the kneeling man’s sword was to be thrust up into his vitals. As a cry of alarm broke from mademoiselle, he leapt aside and towards the wall, where he was covered from Fortunio’s weapon, and turning suddenly he passed his sword from side to side through the body of the kneeling mercenary.

The whole thing he had performed mechanically, more by instinct than by reason; and when it was done, and the tables were thus effectively turned upon his assailants, he scarcely realized how he had accomplished it.

The man’s body cumbered now the doorway, and behind him Fortunio stood, never daring to advance lest a thrust of that sword which he could not see—Garnache still standing close against the wall—should serve him likewise.

Garnache leaned there, in that friendly shelter, to breathe, and he smiled grimly under cover of his mustache. So long as he had to deal with a single assailant he saw no need to move from so excellent a position. Close beside him, leaning heavily against the table she had dragged thus far, stood Valerie, her face livid as death, her heart sick within her at the horror inspired her by that thing lying on the threshold. She could not take her eyes from the crimson stain that spread slowly on the floor, coming from under that limply huddled mass of arms and legs.

“Do not look, mademoiselle,” Garnache implored her softly. “Be brave, child; try to be brave.”

She sought to brace her flagging courage, and by an effort she averted her eyes from that horrid heap and fixed them upon Garnache’s calm, intrepid face. The sight of his quietly watchful eyes, his grimly smiling lips, seemed to infuse courage into her anew.

“I have the table, monsieur,” she told him. “I can bring it no nearer to the wall.”

He understood that this was not because her courage or her strength might be exhausted, but because he now occupied the spot where he had bidden her place it. He motioned her away, and when she had moved he darted suddenly and swiftly aside and caught the table, his sword still fast in his two first fingers, which he had locked over the quillons. He had pushed its massive weight halfway across the door before Fortunio grasped the situation. Instantly the captain sought to take advantage of it, thinking to catch Garnache unawares. But no sooner did he show his nose inside the doorpost than Garnache’s sword flashed before his eyes, driving him back with a bloody furrow in his cheek.

“Have a care, Monsieur le Capitaine,” Garnache mocked him. “Had you come an inch farther it might have been the death of you.”

A clatter of steps sounded upon the stairs, and the Parisian bent once more to his task, and thrust the table across the open doorway. He had a moment’s respite now, for Fortunio stung—though lightly—was not likely to come again until he had others to support him. And while the others came, while the hum of their voices rose higher, and finally their steps clattered over the bare boards of the guard-room floor, Garnache had caught up and flung a chair under the table to protect him from an attack from below, while he had piled another on top to increase and further strengthen the barricade.

Valerie watched him agonizedly, leaning now against the wall, her hands pressed across her bosom, as if to keep down its tempestuous heaving. Yet her anguish was tempered by a great wonder and a great admiration of this man who could keep such calm eyes and such smiling lips in the face of the dreadful odds by which he was beset, in the face of the certain death that must ultimately reach him before he was many minutes older. And in her imagination she conjured up a picture of him lying there torn by their angry swords and drenched in blood, his life gone out of him, his brave spirit, quenched for ever—and all for her unworthy sake. Because she— little, worthless thing that she was—would not marry as they listed, this fine, chivalrous soul was to be driven from its stalwart body.

An agony of grief took her now, and she fell once more to those awful sobs that awhile ago had shaken her. She had refused to marry Marius that Florimond’s life should be spared, knowing that before Marius could reach him she herself would have warned her betrothed. Yet even had that circumstance not existed, she was sure that still she would have refused to do the will of Marius. But equally sure was she that she would not so refuse him were he now to offer as the price of her compliance the life of Garnache, which she accounted irrevocably doomed.

Suddenly his steady, soothing voice penetrated her anguished musings.

“Calm yourself, mademoiselle; all is far from lost as yet.”

She thought that he but spoke so to comfort her; she did not follow the working of his warlike mind, concentrated entirely upon the business of the moment, with little thought—or care, for that matter—for what might betide anon. Yet she made an effort to repress her sobs. She would be brave, if only to show herself worthy of the companionship and friendship of so brave a man.

Across his barricade he peered into the outer room to ascertain with what fresh opponents he might have to reckon, and he was surprised to see but four men standing by Fortunio, whilst behind them among the thicker shadows, he dimly made out a woman’s figure and, beside her, another man who was short and squat.

He bethought him that the hour, and the circumstance that most of the mercenaries would be in their beds, accounted for the reinforcement not being greater.

The woman moved forward, and he saw as he had suspected, that it was the Dowager herself. The squat figure beside her, moving with her into the shaft of light that fell from the doorway Garnache defended, revealed to him the features of Monsieur de Tressan. If any doubt he had still entertained concerning the Seneschal’s loyalty, that doubt was now dispelled.

And now the Dowager uttered a sudden cry of fear. She had caught sight of the fallen Marius, and she hurried to his side. Tressan sped after her and between them they raised the boy and helped him to a chair, where he now sat, passing a heavy hand across his no doubt aching brow. Clearly he was recovering, from which Garnache opined with regret that his blow had been too light. The Dowager turned to Fortunio, who had approached her, and her eyes seemed to take fire at something that he told her.

“Garnache?” the Parisian heard her say, and he saw Fortunio jerk his thumb in the direction of the barricade.

She appeared to forget her son; she stepped suddenly from his side, and peered through the doorway at the stalwart figure of Garnache, dimly to be seen through the pile of furniture that protected him to the height of his breast. No word said she to the Parisian. She stood regarding him a moment with lips compressed and a white, startled, angry face. Then:

“It was by Marius’s contrivance that he was placed sentry over the girl,” he heard her tell Fortunio, and he thought she sneered.

She looked at the two bodies on the floor, one almost at her feet, the other just inside the doorway, now almost hidden in the shadows of the table. Then she issued her commands to the men, and fiercely she bade them pull down that barricade and take the dog alive.

But before they could move to do her bidding, Garnache’s voice rang imperatively through the chamber.

“A word with you ere they begin, Monsieur de Tressan,” he shouted, and such was the note of command he assumed that the men stood arrested, looking to the Dowager for fresh orders. Tressan changed colour, for all that there was surely naught to fear, and he fingered his beard perplexedly, looking to the Marquise for direction. She flashed him a glance, lifted one shoulder disdainfully, and to the men:

“Fetch him out,” said she, and she pointed to Garnache. But again Garnache stayed them.

“Monsieur de Tressan,” he called impressively, “to your dying day—and that will be none so distant—shall you regret it if you do not hear me.”

The Seneschal was stirred by those words and the half-threat, half-warning; they seemed to cover. He paused a moment, and this time his eyes avoided the Marquise’s. At last, taking a step forward,

“Knave,” said he, “I do not know you.”

“You know me well enough. You have heard my name. I am Martin Marie Rigobert de Garnache, Her Majesty’s emissary into Dauphiny to procure the enlargement of Mademoiselle de La Vauvraye from the Chateau de Condillac, where she is detained by force and for the serving of unscrupulous ends. Now you know me and my quality.”

The Dowager stamped her foot.

“Fetch him out!” she commanded harshly.

“Hear me first, Monsieur le Seneschal, or it will be the worse for you.” And the Seneschal, moved by that confident promise of evil, threw himself before the men-at-arms.

“A moment, I beseech you, Marquise,” he cried, and the men, seeing his earnestness and knowing his quality, stood undecided, buffeted as they were between his will and the Marquise’s. “What have you to say to me?” Tressan demanded, seeking to render arrogant his tone.

“This: That my servant knows where I am, and that should I fail within a very few days to come forth safe and sound from Condillac to rejoin him, he is to ride to Paris with certain letters I have given him. Those letters incriminate you to the full in this infamous matter here at Condillac. I have set forth in them how you refused me help, how you ignored the Queen’s commands of which I was the bearer; and should it be proved, in addition, that through your treachery and insubordination my life has been lost, I promise you that nothing in all this world will save you from a hanging.”

“Never listen, monsieur,” cried the Dowager, seeing Tressan start back like a man in sudden fear. “It is no more than the ruse of a desperate man.”

“Heed me or not, at your choice,” Garnache retorted, addressing himself ever to Tressan. “You have had your warning. I little thought to see you here to-night. But seeing you confirms my worst suspicions, and if I am to die, I can die easy in my conscience at the thought that in sacrificing you to Her Majesty’s wrath I have certainly not sacrificed an innocent man.”

“Madame—” the Seneschal began, turning to the Dowager. But she broke in impatiently upon his intended words, upon the prayer that bubbled to his lips that she should pause a while ere she made an end of this Parisian.

“Monsieur,” said she, “you may bargain with him when he is taken. We will have him alive. Go in,” she bade her men, her voice so resolute now that none dared tarry longer. “Fetch the knave out—alive.”

Garnache smiled at mademoiselle as the words were uttered.

“They want me alive,” said he. “That is a hopeful state of things. Bear up, child; I may need your help ere we are through.”

“You shall find me ready, monsieur,” she assured him for all her tremors. He looked at the pale face, composed now by an effort of her will, and at the beautiful hazel eyes which strove to meet his with calm and to reflect his smile, and he marvelled at her courage as much as did she at his.

Then the assault began, and he could have laughed at the way in which a couple of those cut-throats—neither wishing to have the honour of meeting him singly—hindered each other by seeking to attack him at once.

At last the Dowager commanded one of them to go in. The fellow came, and he was driven back by the sword that darted at him from above the barricade.

There matters might have come to a deadlock, but that Fortunio came forward with one of his men to repeat the tactics which had cost him a life already. His fellow went down on his knees, and drove his sword under the table and through the frame of the chair, seeking to prick Garnache in the legs. Simultaneously the captain laid hold of an arm of the chair above and sought to engage Garnache across it. The ruse succeeded to the extent of compelling the Parisian to retreat. The table seemed likely to be his undoing instead of helping him. He dropped like lightning to one knee, seeking to force the fellow out from underneath. But the obstacles which should have hindered his assailants hindered Garnache even more at this juncture. In that instant Fortunio whipped the chair from the table-top, and flung it forward. One of its legs caught Garnache on the sword arm, deadening it for a second. The sword fell from his hand, and Valerie shrieked aloud, thinking the battle at an end. But the next moment he was on his feet, his rapier firmly gripped once more, for all that his arm still felt a trifle numbed. As seconds passed the numbness wore away, but before that had taken place the table had been thrust forward, and the man beneath it had made it impossible for Garnache to hinder this. Suddenly he called to Valerie.

“A cloak, mademoiselle! Get me a cloak!” he begged. And she, stemming her fears once more, ran to do his bidding.

She caught up a cloak that lay on a chair by the door of her bed-chamber, and brought it to him. He twisted it twice round his left arm, letting its folds hang loose, and advanced again to try conclusions with the gentleman underneath. He cast the garment so that it enmeshed the sword when next it was advanced. Stepping briskly aside, he was up to the table, and his busy blade drove back the man who assailed him across it. He threw his weight against it, and thrust it back till it was jammed hard once more against the doorposts, leaving the chair at his very feet. The man beneath had recovered his sword by this, and again he sought to use it. That was the end of him. Again Garnache enmeshed it, kicked away the chair, or, rather, thrust it aside with his foot, stooped suddenly, and driving his blade under the table felt it sink into the body of his tormentor.

There was a groan and a spluttering cough, and then before Garnache could recover he heard mademoiselle crying out to him to beware. The table was thrust suddenly forward almost on top of him; its edge caught his left shoulder, and sent him back a full yard, sprawling upon the ground.

To rise again, gasping for air—for the fall had shaken him—was the work of an instant. But in that instant Fortunio had thrust the table clear of the doorway, and his men were pouring into the room.

They came at Garnache in a body, with wild shouts and fierce mockery, and he hurriedly fell on guard and gave way before them until his shoulders were against the wainscot and he had at least the assurance that none could take him in the rear. Three blades engaged his own. Fortunio had come no farther than the doorway, where he stood his torn cheek drenched in blood, watching the scene the Marquise beside him, and Tressan standing just behind them, very pale and scared.

Yet Garnache’s first thought even in that moment of dire peril was for Valerie. He would spare her the sight that must before many moments be spread to view within that shambles.

“To your chamber, mademoiselle,” he cried to her. “You hinder me,” he added by way of compelling her obedience. She did his bidding, but only in part. No farther went she than the doorway of her room, where she remained standing, watching the fray as earlier she had stood and watched it from the door of the antechamber.

Suddenly she was moved by inspiration. He had gained an advantage before, by retreating through a doorway into an inner room. Might he not do the same again, and be in better case if he were to retreat now to her own chamber? Impulsively she called to him.

“In here, Monsieur de Garnache. In here.”

The Marquise looked across at her, and smiled in mockery. Garnache was too well occupied, she thought, to attempt any such rashness. If he but dared remove his shoulders from the wall there would be a speedier end to him than as things were.

Not so, however, thought Garnache. The cloak twisted about his left arm gave him some advantage, and he used it to the full. He flicked the slack of it in the face of one, and followed it up by stabbing the fellow in the stomach before he could recover guard, whilst with another wave of that cloak he enmeshed the sword that shot readily into the opening he had left.

Madame cursed, and Fortunio echoed her imprecations. The Seneschal gasped, his fears lost in amazement at so much valour and dexterity.

Garnache swung away from the wall now, and set his back to mademoiselle, determined to act upon her advice. But even in that moment he asked himself for the first time since the commencement of that carnage—to what purpose? His arms were growing heavy with fatigue, his mouth was parched, and great beads of perspiration stood upon his brow. Soon he would be spent, and they would not fail to take a very full advantage of it.

Hitherto his mind had been taken up with the battle only, and if he had thought of retreating, it was but to the end that he might gain a position of some vantage. Now, conscious of his growing fatigue, his thoughts turned them at last to the consideration of flight. Was there no way out of it? Must he kill every man in Condillac before he could hope to escape?

Whimsically, and almost mechanically, he set himself, in his mind, to count the men. There were twenty mercenaries all told, excluding Fortunio and himself. On Arsenio he might rely not to attack him, perhaps even to come to his assistance at the finish. That left nineteen. Four he had already either killed outright or effectively disabled; so that fifteen remained him. The task of dealing with those other fifteen was utterly beyond him. Presently, no doubt, the two now opposing him would be reinforced by others. So that if any possible way out existed, he had best set about finding it at once.

He wondered could he cut down these two, make an end of Fortunio, and, running for it, attempt to escape through the postern before the rest of the garrison had time to come up with him or guess his purpose. But the notion was too wild, its accomplishment too impossible.

He was fighting now with his back to mademoiselle and his face to the tall window, through the leaded panes of which he caught the distorted shape of a crescent moon. Suddenly the idea came to him. Through that window must lie his way. It was a good fifty feet above the moat, he knew, and if he essayed to leap it, it must be an even chance that he would be killed in leaping. But the chance of death was a certain one if he tarried where he was until others came to support his present opponents. And so he briskly determined upon the lesser risk.

He remembered that the window was nailed down, as it had remained since mademoiselle’s pretended attempt at flight. But surely that should prove no formidable obstacle.

And now that his resolve was taken his tactics abruptly changed. Hitherto he had been sparing of his movements, husbanding his strength against the long battle that seemed promised him. Suddenly he assumed the offensive where hitherto he had but acted in self-defence, and a most deadly offensive was it. He plied his cloak, untwisting it from his arm and flinging it over the head and body of one of his assailants, so that he was enmeshed and blinded by it. Leaping to the fellow’s flank, Garnache, with a terrific kick, knocked his legs from under him so that he fell heavily. Then, stooping suddenly, the Parisian ran his blade under the other brave’s guard and through the fellow’s thigh. The man cried out, staggered, and then went down utterly disabled.

One swift downward thrust Garnache made at the mass that wriggled under his cloak. The activity of its wriggles increased in the next few seconds, then ceased altogether.

Tressan felt wet from head to foot with a sweat provoked by horror of what he saw. The Dowager’s lips were pouring forth a horrid litany of guard-room oaths, and meanwhile Garnache had swung round to meet Fortunio, the last of all who had stood with him.

The captain came on boldly, armed with sword and dagger, and in that moment, feeling himself spent, Garnache bitterly repented having relinquished his cloak. Yet he made a stubborn fight, and whilst they fenced and stamped about that room, Marius came to watch them, staggering to his mother’s side and leaning heavily upon Tressan’s shoulder. The Marquise turned to him, her face livid to the lips.

“That man must be the very fiend,” Garnache heard her tell her son. “Run for help, Tressan, or, God knows, he may escape us yet. Go for men, or we shall have Fortunio killed as well. Bid them bring muskets.”

Tressan, moving like one bereft of wits, went her errand, while the two men fought on, stamping and panting, circling and lunging, their breath coming in gasps, their swords grinding and clashing till sparks leapt from them.

The dust rose up to envelop and almost choke them, and more than once they slipped in the blood with which the floor was spattered, whilst presently Garnache barely recovered and saved himself from stumbling over the body of one of his victims against which his swiftly moving feet had hurtled.

And the Dowager, who watched the conflict and who knew something of sword-play, realized that, tired though Garnache might be, unless help came soon or some strange chance gave the captain the advantage, Fortunio would be laid low with the others.

His circling had brought the Parisian round, so that his back was now to the window, his face to the door of the bedchamber, where mademoiselle still watched in ever-growing horror. His right shoulder was in line with the door of the antechamber, which madame occupied, and he never saw her quit Marius’s side and creep slyly into the room to speed swiftly round behind him.

The only one from whom he thought that he might have cause to fear treachery was the man whom he had dropped with a thigh wound, and he was careful to keep beyond the reach of any sudden sword-thrust from that fellow.

But if he did not see the woman’s movements, mademoiselle saw them, and the sight set her eyes dilating with a new fear. She guessed the Dowager’s treacherous purpose. And no sooner had she guessed it than, with a choking sob, she told herself that what madame could do that could she also.

Suddenly Garnache saw an opening; Fortunio’s eyes, caught by the Dowager’s movements, strayed for a moment past his opponent, and the thing would have been fatal to the captain but that in that moment, as Garnache was on the point of lunging, he felt himself caught from behind, his arms pinioned to his sides by a pair of slender ones that twined themselves about him, and over his shoulder, the breath of it fanning his hot cheek, came a vicious voice—

“Stab now, Fortunio!”

The captain asked nothing better. He raised his weary sword-arm and brought his point to the level of Garnache’s breast, but in that instant its weight became leaden. Imitating the Marquise, Valerie had been in time. She seized Fortunio’s half-lifted arm and flung all her weight upon it.

The captain cursed her horridly in a frenzy of fear, for he saw that did Garnache shake off the Marquise there would be an end of himself. He sought to wrench himself free of her detaining grasp, and the exertion brought him down, weary as he was, and with her weight hanging to him. He sank to his knees, and the girl, still clinging valiantly, sank with him, calling to Garnache that she held the captain fast.

Putting forth all his remaining strength, the Parisian twisted from the Dowager’s encircling grasp and hurled her from him with a violence he nowise intended.

“Yours, madame, are the first woman’s arms that ever Martin de Garnache has known,” said he. “And never could embrace of beauty have been less welcome.”

Panting, he caught up one of the overturned chairs. Holding it by the back he made for the window. He had dropped his sword, and he called to mademoiselle to hold the captain yet an instant longer. He swung his chair aloft and dashed it against the window. There was a thundering crash of shivered glass and a cool draught of that November night came to sweeten the air that had been fouled by the stamping of the fighters.

Again he swung up his chair and dashed it at the window, and yet again, until no window remained, but a great, gaping opening with a fringe of ragged glass and twisted leadwork.

In that moment Fortunio struggled to his feet, free of the girl, who sank, almost in a swoon. He sprang towards Garnache. The Parisian turned and flung his now shattered chair toward the advancing captain. It dropped at his feet, and his flying shins struck against an edge of it, bringing him, hurt and sprawling, to the ground. Before he could recover, a figure was flying through the open gap that lately had been a window.

Mademoiselle sat up and screamed.

“You will be killed, Monsieur de Garnache! Dear God, you will be killed!” and the anguish in her voice was awful.

It was the last thing that reached the ears of Monsieur de Garnache as he tumbled headlong through the darkness of the chill November night.

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