Fortunio and the Marquise reached the window side by side, and they were in time to hear a dull splash in the waters fifty feet below them. There was a cloud over the little sickle of moon, and to their eyes, fresh from the blaze of candle-light, the darkness was impenetrable.

“He is in the moat,” cried the Marquise excitedly, and Valerie, who sat on the floor whither she had slipped when Fortunio shook her off, rocked herself in an agony of fear.

To the horrors about her—the huddled bodies lying so still upon the floor, the bloody footprints everywhere, the shattered furniture, and the groans of the man with the wounded thigh—to all this she was insensible. Garnache was dead, she told herself; he was surely dead; and it seemed as if the very thought of it were killing, too, a part of her own self.

Unconsciously she sobbed her fears aloud. “He is dead,” she moaned; “he is dead.”

The Marquise overheard that piteous cry, and turned to survey the girl, her brows lifting, her lips parting in an astonishment that for a second effaced the horrors of that night. Suspicion spread like an oil stain in her evil mind. She stepped forward and caught the girl by one of her limp arms. Marius, paler than his stunning had left him, leaned more heavily against the door-post, and looked on with bloodshot eyes. If ever maiden avowed the secret of her heart, it seemed to him that Valerie avowed it then.

The Marquise shook her angrily.

“What was he to you, girl? What was he to you?” she demanded shrilly.

And the girl, no more than half conscious of what she was saying, made answer:

“The bravest gentleman, the noblest friend I have ever known.”

Pah! The Dowager dropped her arm and turned to issue a command to Fortunio. But already the fellow had departed. His concern was not with women, but with the man who had escaped him. He must make certain that the fall had killed Garnache.

Breathless and worn as he was, all spattered now with blood from the scratch in his cheek, which lent him a terrific aspect, he dashed from that shambles and across the guard-room. He snatched up a lighted lantern that had been left in the doorway and leapt down the stairs and into the courtyard. Here he came upon Monsieur de Tressan with a half-dozen fellows at his heels, all more or less half clad, but all very fully armed with swords and knives, and one or two with muskets.

Roughly, with little thought for the dignity of his high office, he thrust the Lord Seneschal aside and turned the men. Some he ordered off to the stables to get horses, for if Garnache had survived his leap and swum the moat, they must give chase. Whatever betide, the Parisian must not get away. He feared the consequences of that as much for himself as for Condillac. Some five or six of the men he bade follow him, and never pausing to answer any of Tressan’s fearful questions, he sped across the courtyard, through the kitchens—which was the nearest way—into the outer quadrangle. Never pausing to draw breath, spent though he was, he pursued his flight under the great archway of the keep and across the drawbridge, the raising of which had been that night postponed to await the Lord Seneschal’s departure.

Here on the bridge he paused and turned in a frenzy to scream to his followers that they should fetch more torches. Meanwhile he snatched the only one at hand from the man-at-arms that carried it.

His men sprang into the guard-room of the keep, realizing from his almost hysterical manner the urgent need for haste. And while he waited for them, standing there on the bridge, his torch held high, he scanned by its lurid red light the water as far as eye could reach on either side of him.

There was a faint movement on the dark, oily surface for all that no wind stirred. Not more than four or five minutes could have elapsed since Garnache’s leap, and it would seem as if the last ripple from the disturbance of his plunge had not yet rolled itself out. But otherwise there was nothing here, nor did Fortunio expect aught. The window of the Northern Tower abutted on to the other side of the chateau, and it was there he must look for traces of the fugitive or for his body.

“Hasten!” he shouted over his shoulder. “Follow me!” And without waiting for them he ran across the bridge and darted round the building, his torch scattering a shower of sparks behind him on the night, and sending little rills of blood-red light down the sword which he still carried.

He gained the spot where Garnache must have fallen, and he stood below the radiance that clove the night from the shattered window fifty feet above, casting the light of his torch this way and that over the black bosom of the moat. Not a ripple moved now upon that even, steely surface. Voices sounded behind him, and with them a great glare of ruddy light came to herald the arrival of his men. He turned to them and pointed with his sword away from the chateau.

“Spread yourselves!” he shouted. “Make search yonder. He cannot have gone far.”

And they, but dimly realizing whom they sought, yet realizing that they sought a man, dashed off and spread themselves as he had bidden them, to search the stretch of meadowland, where ill must betide any fugitive, since no cover offered.

Fortunio remained where he was at the edge of the moat. He stooped, and waving his torch along the ground he moved to the far angle of the chateau, examining the soft, oozy clay. It was impossible that a man could have clambered out over that without leaving some impression. He reached the corner and found the clay intact; at least, nowhere could he discover a mark of hands or a footprint set as would be that of a man emerging from the water.

He retraced his steps and went back until he had reached the eastern angle of the chateau, yet always with the same result. He straightened himself at last, and his manner was more calm; his frenzied haste was gone, and deliberately he now raised his torch and let its light shine again over the waters. He pondered them a moment, his dark eyes musing almost regretfully.

“Drowned!” he said aloud, and sheathed his sword.

From the window overhead a voice hailed him. He looked up and saw the Dowager, and, behind her, the figure of her son. Away in the meadows the lights of his men’s torches darted hither and thither like playful jack-o’-lanterns.

“Have you got him, Fortunio?”

“Yes, madame,” he answered with assurance. “You may have his body when you will. He is underneath here.” And he pointed to the water.

They appeared to take his word for it, for they questioned him no further. The Marquise turned to mademoiselle, who was still sitting on the floor.

“He is drowned, Valerie,” she said slowly, watching the girl’s face.

Valerie looked up. Her eyes were very wide, and her lips moved for a second. Then she fell forward without a word. This last horror, treading on the heels of all those that already had assailed her, proved too great a strain for her brave spirit. She had swooned.

Tressan entered at that moment, full of questions as to what might be toward, for he had understood nothing in the courtyard. The Marquise called to him to help her with the girl, Marius being still too faint, and between them they bore her to her chamber, laid her on the bed, and, withdrawing, closed the door upon her. Then she signed to Marius and the Seneschal.

“Come,” she said; “let us go. The sight and smell of the place are turning me sick, although my stomach is strong enough to endure most horrors.”

She took up one of the candle-branches to light them, and they went below and made their way to the hall, where they found Marius’s page, Gaston, looking very pale and scared at the din that had filled the chateau during the past half-hour or so. With him was Marius’s hound, which the poor boy had kept by him for company and protection in that dreadful time.

The Marquise spoke to him kindly, and she stooped to pat the dog’s glossy head. Then she bade Gaston set wine for them, and when it was fetched the three of them drank in brooding, gloomy silence.

The draught invigorated Marius, it cheered Tressan’s drooping spirits, and it quenched the Dowager’s thirst. The Seneschal turned to her again with his unanswered questions touching the end of that butchery above-stairs. She told him what Fortunio had said that Garnache was drowned as a consequence of his mad leap from the window.

Into Tressan’s mind there sprang the memory of the thing Garnache had promised should befall him in such a case. It drove the colour from his cheeks and brought great lines of fearful care into sharp relief about his mouth and eyes.

“Madame, we are ruined!” he groaned.

“Tressan,” she answered him contemptuously, “you are chicken-hearted. Listen to me. Did he not say that he had left his man behind him when he came to Condillac? Where think you that he left his man?”

“Maybe in Grenoble,” answered the Seneschal, staring.

“Find out,” she told him impressively, her eyes on his, and calm as though they had never looked upon such sights as that very night had offered them. “If not in Grenoble, certainly, at least, somewhere in this Dauphiny of which you are the King’s Lord Seneschal. Turn the whole province inside out, man, but find the fellow. Yours is the power to do it. Do it, then, and you will have no consequences to fear. You have seen the man?”

“Ay, I have seen him. I remember him; and his name, I bethink me, is Rabecque.”

He took courage; his face looked less dejected.

“You overlook nothing, madame,” he murmured. “You are truly wonderful. I will start the search this very night. My men are almost all at Montelimar awaiting my commands. I’ll dispatch a messenger with orders that they are to spread themselves throughout Dauphiny upon this quest.”

The door opened, and Fortunio entered. He was still unwashed and terrible to look upon, all blood-bespattered. The sight of him drove a shudder through Tressan. The Marquise grew solicitous.

“How is your wound, Fortunio?” was her first question.

He made a gesture that dismissed the matter.

“It is nothing. I am over full-blooded, and if I am scratched, I bleed, without perceiving it, enough to drain another man.”

“Here, drink, mon capitaine,” she urged him, very friendly, filling him a cup with her own hands. “And you, Marius?” she asked. “Are you recovering strength?”

“I am well,” answered Marius sullenly. His defeat that evening had left him glum and morose. He felt that he had cut a sorry figure in the affair, and his vanity was wounded. “I deplore I had so little share in the fight,” he muttered.

“The lustiest fight ever I or any man beheld,” swore Fortunio. “Dieu! But he was a fighter, that Monsieur de Garnache, and he deserved a better end than drowning.”

“You are quite sure that he is drowned?”

Fortunio replied by giving his reasons for that conclusion, and they convinced both the Marquise and her son indeed they had never deemed it possible that the Parisian could have survived that awful leap. The Dowager looked at Marius, and from him to the captain.

“Do you think, you two, that you will be fit for tomorrow’s business?”

“For myself,” laughed Fortunio, “I am ready for it now.”

“And I shall be when I have rested,” answered Marius grimly.

“Then get you both to rest, you will be needing it,” she bade them.

“And I, too, madame,” said the Seneschal, bending over the hand she held out to him. “Good-night to you all.” He would have added a word to wish them luck in the morrow’s venture; but for the life of him he dared not. He turned, made another of his bows, and rolled out of the room.

Five minutes later the drawbridge was being raised after his departure, and Fortunio was issuing orders to the men he had recalled from their futile search to go clear the guard-room and antechamber of the Northern Tower, and to bear the dead to the chapel, which must serve as a mortuary for the time. That done he went off to bed, and soon after the lights were extinguished in Condillac; and save for Arsenio, who was, on guard, sorely perturbed by all that had befallen and marvelling at the rashness of his friend “Battista”—for he had no full particulars of the business—the place was wrapped in sleep.

Had they been less sure that Garnache was drowned, maybe they had slumbered less tranquilly that night at Condillac. Fortunio had been shrewd in his conclusions, yet a trifle hasty; for whilst, as a matter of fact, he was correct in assuming that the Parisian had not crawled out of the moat—neither at the point he had searched, nor elsewhere—yet was he utterly wrong to assume him at the bottom of it.

Garnache had gone through that window prepared to leap into another—and, he hoped, a better world. He had spun round twice in the air and shot feet foremost through the chill waters of the moat, and down until his toes came in contact with a less yielding substance, yet yielding nevertheless. Marvelling that he should have retained until now his senses, he realized betimes that he was touching mud—that he was really ankle deep in it. A vigorous, frantic kick with both legs at once released him, and he felt himself slowly re-ascending to the surface.

It has been often said that a drowning man in his struggles sees his whole life mirrored before him. In the instants of Garnache’s ascent through the half stagnant waters of that moat he had reviewed the entire situation and determined upon the course he should pursue. When he reached the surface, he must see to it that he broke it gently, for at the window above were sure to be watchers, looking to see how he had fared. Madame, he remembered, had sent Tressan for muskets. If he had returned with them and they should perceive him from above, a bullet would be sent to dispose of him, and it were a pity to be shot now after having come through so much.

His head broke the surface and emerged into the chill darkness of the night. He took a deep breath of cold but very welcome air, and moving his arms gently under water, he swam quietly, not to the edge of the moat but to the chateau wall, close under which he thought he would be secure from observation. He found by good fortune a crevice between two stones; he did not see it, his fingers found it for him as they groped along that granite surface. He clung there a moment and pondered the situation. He heard voices above, and looking up he saw the glare of light through the opening he had battered.

And now he was surprised to feel new vigour running through him. He had hurled himself from that window with scarce the power to leap, bathed in perspiration and deeming his strength utterly spent. The ice-cold waters of the moat had served, it would seem, to brace him, to wash away his fatigue, and to renew his energies. His mind was singularly clear and his senses rendered superacute, and he set himself to consider what he had best do.

Swim to the edge of the moat and, clambering out, take to his legs was naturally the first impulse. But, reflecting upon the open nature of the ground, he realized that that must mean his ruin. Presently they would come to see how he had fared, and failing to find him in the water they would search the country round about. He set himself in their place. He tried to think as they would think, the better that he might realize how they would act, and then an idea came to him that might be worth heeding. In any case his situation was still very desperate; on that score he allowed himself no illusions. That they would take his drowning for granted, and never come to satisfy themselves, he was not optimist enough to assume.

He abandoned his grip of the wall and began to swim gently toward the eastern angle. If they came out, they must lower the bridge; he would place himself so that in falling it should cover him and screen him from their sight. He rounded the angle of the building, and now the friendly cloud that had hung across the moon moved by, and a faint, silver radiance was upon the water under his eyes. But yonder, ahead of him, something black lay athwart the moat. At once he knew it for the bridge. It was down. And he had the explanation in that he remembered that the Lord Seneschal had not yet left Condillac. It mattered little to him one way or the other. The bridge was there, and he made the best of it.

A few swift, silent strokes brought him to it. He hesitated a moment before venturing into the darkness underneath; then, bethinking him that it was that or discovery, he passed under. He made for the wall, and as he groped along he found a chain depending and reaching down into the water. He caught at it with both hands and hung by it to await events.

And now, for the first time that night, his pulses really quickened. There in the dark he waited, and the moments that sped seemed very long to him, and they were very anxious. He had no good sword wherewith to defend himself were he attacked, no good, solid ground on which to take his stand. If he were discovered, he was helpless, at their mercy, to shoot, or take, or beat to death as best they listed. And so he waited, his pulses throbbing, his breath coming short and fast. The cold water that had invigorated him some minutes ago was numbing him now, and seemed to be freezing his courage as it froze the blood in his veins, the very marrow in his bones.

Presently his ears caught a rush of feet, a sound of voices, and Fortunio’s raised above the others. Heavy steps rang on the bridge over his head, and the thud of their fall was like thunder to the man beneath. A crimson splash of light fell on the moat on either side of him. The fellow on the bridge had halted. Then the steps went on. The light flared this way and that, and Garnache almost trembled, expecting at every moment that its rays would penetrate the spot where he was hanging and reveal him cowering there like a frightened water-rat. But the man moved on, and his light flared no longer.

Then others followed him. Garnache heard the sounds of their search. So overwrought was he that there was a moment when he thought of swimming to the edge and making across the country to the north while they were hunting the meadows to the east; but he repressed the impulse and stayed on. An eternity did it seem before those men returned and marched once more over his head. A further eternity was it until the clatter of hoofs on the courtyard stones and their thunder on the planks above him brought him the news that Tressan was riding home. He heard the hoofs quicken, and their loud rattle on the road that led down to the Isere, a half-mile away; and then, when the hoof-beats grew more distant, there came again the echo of voices up above.

Was it not over yet? Dear God! would it never end? He felt that a few moments more of this immersion and he should be done for utterly; his numbness must rob him of the power to cross the moat.

Suddenly the first welcome sound he had heard that night came to his ears. Chains creaked, hinges groaned, and the great black pall above him began gradually to rise. Faster it went, till, at last, it fell back into position, flat with the wall of the chateau, and such little light as there was from the moon was beating down upon his frozen face.

He let the chain go, and, with strokes swift and silent as he could contrive, he crossed the water. He clambered up the bank, almost bereft of strength. A moment he crouched there listening. Had he moved too soon? Had he been incautious?

Nothing stirred behind him to confirm his fears. He crept softly across the hard ground of the road where he had landed. Then, when the yielding, silent turf was under his feet, he gave not another thought for his numbness, but started to run as a man runs in a nightmare, so little did the speed of his movements match the pace of his desire to set a distance between himself and Condillac.

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