“You sent for me, madame,” said the girl, seeming to hesitate upon the threshold of the room, and her voice—a pleasant, boyish contralto—was very cold and conveyed a suggestion of disdain.

The Marquise detected that inauspicious note, and was moved by it to regret her already of having embarked upon so bold a game as to confront Monsieur de Garnache with Valerie. It was a step she had decided upon as a last means of convincing the Parisian of the truth of her statement touching the change that had taken place in mademoiselle’s inclinations. And she had provided for it as soon as she heard of Garnache’s arrival by informing mademoiselle that should she be sent for, she must tell the gentleman from Paris that it was her wish to remain at Condillac. Mademoiselle had incontinently refused, and madame, to win her compliance, had resorted to threats.

“You will do as you consider best, of course,” she had said, in a voice that was ominously sweet. “But I promise you that if you do otherwise than as I tell you, you shall be married before sunset to Marius, whether you be willing or not. Monsieur de Garnache comes alone, and if I so will it alone he shall depart or not at all. I have men enough at Condillac to see my orders carried out, no matter what they be.

“You may tell yourself that this fellow will return to help you. Perhaps he will; but when he does, it will be too late so far as you shall be concerned.”

Terrified by that threat, Valerie had blenched, and had felt her spirit deserting her.

“And if I comply, madame?” she had asked. “If I do as you wish, if I tell this gentleman that I no longer desire to go to Paris—what then?”

The Dowager’s manner had become more affectionate. She had patted the shrinking girl upon the shoulder. “In that case, Valerie, you shall suffer no constraint; you shall continue here as you have done.”

“And has there been no constraint hitherto?” had been the girl’s indignant rejoinder.

“Hardly, child,” the Dowager had returned. “We have sought to guide you to a wise choice—no more than that. Nor shall we do more hereafter if you do my pleasure now and give this Monsieur de Garnache the answer that I bid you. But if you fail me, remember—you marry Marius before nightfall.”

She had not waited for the girl to promise her compliance. She was too clever a woman to show anxiety on that score. She left her with that threat vibrating in her mind, confident that she would scare the girl into obedience by the very assurance she exhibited that Valerie would not dare to disobey.

But now, at the sound of that chill voice, at the sight of that calm, resolved countenance, madame was regretting that she had not stayed to receive the girl’s promise before she made so very sure of her pliability.

She glanced anxiously at Garnache. His eyes were upon the girl. He was remarking the slender, supple figure, moderately tall and looking taller in its black gown of mourning; the oval face, a trifle pale now from the agitation that stirred her, with its fine level brows, its clear, hazel eyes, and its crown of lustrous brown hair rolled back under the daintiest of white coifs. His glance dwelt appreciatively on the slender nose, with its delicate nostrils, the charming line of mouth and chin, the dazzling whiteness of her skin, conspicuous not only in neck and face but in the long, slender hands that were clasped before her.

These signs of breeding, everywhere proclaimed, left him content that here was no imposture; the girl before him was, indeed, Valerie de La Vauvraye.

At madame’s invitation she came forward. Marius hastened to close the door and to set a chair for her, his manner an admirable suggestion of ardour restrained by deference.

She sat down with an outward calm under which none would have suspected the full extent of her agitation, and she bent her eyes upon the man whom the Queen had sent for her deliverance.

After all, Garnache’s appearance was hardly suggestive of the role of Perseus which had been thrust upon him. She saw a tall, spare man, with prominent cheek-bones, a gaunt, high-bridged nose, very fierce mustachios, and a pair of eyes that were as keen as sword-blades and felt to her glance as penetrating. There was little about him like to take a woman’s fancy or claim more than a moderate share of her attention, even when circumstances rendered her as interested in him as was now Mademoiselle de La Vauvraye.

There fell a silence, broken at last by Marius, who leaned, a supple, graceful figure, his elbow resting upon the summit of Valerie’s chair.

“Monsieur de Garnache does us the injustice to find a difficulty in believing that you no longer wish to leave us.”

That was by no means what Garnache had implied; still, since it really expressed his mind, he did not trouble to correct Marius.

Valerie said nothing, but her eyes travelled to madame’s countenance, where she found a frown. Garnache observed the silence, and drew his own conclusions.

“So we have sent for you, Valerie,” said the Dowager, taking up her son’s sentence, “that you may yourself assure Monsieur de Garnache that it is so.”

Her voice was stern; it bore to the girl’s ears a subtle, unworded repetition of the threat the Marquise had already voiced. Mademoiselle caught it, and Garnache caught it too, although he failed to interpret it as precisely as he would have liked.

The girl seemed to experience a difficulty in answering. Her eyes roved to Garnache’s, and fell away in affright before their glitter. That man’s glance seemed to read her very mind, she thought; and suddenly the reflection that had terrified her became her hope. If it were as she deemed it, what matter what she said? He would know the truth, in spite of all.

“Yes, madame,” she said at last, and her voice was wholly void of expression. “Yes, monsieur, it is as madame says. It is my wish to remain at Condillac.”

From the Dowager, standing a pace or two away from Garnache, came the sound of a half-sigh. Garnache missed nothing. He caught the sound, and accepted it as an expression of relief. The Marquise stepped back a pace; idly, one might have thought; not so thought Garnache. It had this advantage: that it enabled her to stand where he might not watch her face without turning his head. He was content that such was her motive. To defeat her object, to show her that he had guessed it, he stepped back, too, also with that same idleness of air, so that he was once more in line with her. And then he spoke, addressing Valerie.

“Mademoiselle, that you should have written to the Queen in haste is deplorable now that your views have undergone this change. I am a stupid man, mademoiselle, just a blunt soldier with orders to obey and no authority to think. My orders are to conduct you to Paris. Your will was not taken into consideration. I know not how the Queen would have me act, seeing your reluctance; it may be that she would elect to leave you here, as you desire. But it is not for me to arrogate to determine the Queen’s mind. I can but be guided by her orders, and those orders leave me no course but one—to ask you, mademoiselle, to make ready immediately to go with me.”

The look of relief that swept into Valerie’s face, the little flush of colour that warmed her cheeks, hitherto so pale, were all the confirmation that he needed of what he suspected.

“But, monsieur,” said Marius, “it must be plain to you that since the Queen’s orders are but a compliance with mademoiselle’s wishes, now that mademoiselle’s wishes have altered, so too would Her Majesty’s commands alter to comply with them once more.”

“That may be plain to you, monsieur; for me, unfortunately, there are my orders for only guide,” Garnache persisted. “Does not mademoiselle herself agree with me?”

She was about to speak; her glance had looked eager, her lips had parted. Then, of a sudden, the little colour faded from her cheeks again, and she seemed stricken with a silence. Garnache’s eyes, directed in a sidelong glance to the Marquise’s face, surprised there a frown that had prompted that sudden change.

He half-turned, his manner changing suddenly to a freezing civility.

“Madame la Marquise,” said he, “I beg with all deference to suggest that I am not allowed the interview you promised me with Mademoiselle de La Vauvraye.”

The ominous coldness with which he had begun to speak had had a disturbing effect upon the Dowager; the words he uttered, when she had weighed them, brought an immense relief. It seemed, then, that he but needed convincing that this was Mademoiselle de La Vauvraye. This argued that for the rest he was satisfied.

“There, monsieur, you are at fault,” she cried, and she was smiling into his grave eyes. “Because once I put that jest upon you, you imagine—”

“No, no,” he broke in. “You misapprehend me. I do not say that this is not Mademoiselle de La Vauvraye; I do not say that—”

He paused; he was at the end of his resources. He did not know how to put the thing without giving offence, and it had been his resolve—realizing the necessity for it—to conduct this matter with a grave courtesy.

To feel that after having carried the affair so far with a for him—commendable lightness of touch, he should be at a loss for a delicate word to convey a harsh accusation began to anger him. And once Garnache began to be angered, the rest followed quickly. It was just that flaw in his character that had been the ruin of him, that had blighted what otherwise might have been a brilliant career. Astute and wily as a fox, brave as a lion, and active as a panther, gifted with intelligence, insight and resource, he had carried a dozen enterprises up to the very threshold of success, there to have ruined them all by giving way to some sudden excess of choler.

So was it now. His pause was but momentary. Yet in that moment, from calm and freezing that he had been, he became ruffled and hot. The change was visible in his heightened colour, in his flashing eyes, and in his twitching mustachios. For just a second he sought to smother his wrath; he had a glimmer of remembrance of the need for caution and diplomacy in the darkness of anger that was descending over him. Then, without further warning, he exploded.

His nervous, sinewy hand clenched itself and fell with a crash upon the table, overturning a flagon and sending a lake of wine across the board, to trickle over at a dozen points and form in puddles at the feet of Valerie. Startled, they all watched him, mademoiselle the most startled of the three.

“Madame,” he thundered, “I have been receiving dancing-lessons at your hands for long enough. It is time, I think, we did a little ordinary walking, else shall we get no farther along the road I mean to go and that is the road to Paris with mademoiselle for company.”

“Monsieur, monsieur!” cried the startled Marquise, placing herself intrepidly before him; and Marius trembled for her, for so wild did the man seem that he almost feared he might strike her.

“I have heard enough,” he blazed. “Not another word from any here in Condillac! I’ll take this lady with me now, at once; and if any here raises a finger to resist me, as Heaven is my witness, it will be the last resistance he will ever offer any man. Let a hand be laid upon me, or a sword bared before my eyes, and I swear, madame, that I’ll come back and burn this dunghill of rebellion to the ground.”

In the blindness of his passion all his fine keenness was cast to the wind, his all-observing watchfulness was smothered in the cloud of anger that oppressed his brain. He never saw the sign that madame made to her son, never so much as noticed Marius’s stealthy progress towards the door.

“Oh,” he continued, a satirical note running now through his tempestuous voice, “it is a fine thing to cozen each other with honeyed words, with smirks and with grimaces. But we have done with that, madame.” He towered grimly above her, shaking a threatening finger in her very face. “We have done with that. We shall resort to deeds, instead.”

“Aye, monsieur,” she answered very coldly, sneering upon his red-hot fury, “there shall be deeds enough to satisfy even your outrageous thirst for them.”

That cold, sneering voice, with its note of threat, was like a hand of ice upon his overheated brain. It cooled him on the instant. He stiffened, and looked about him. He saw that Marius had disappeared, and that mademoiselle had risen and was regarding him with singularly imploring eyes.

He bit his lip in mortified chagrin. He cursed himself inwardly for a fool and a dolt—the more pitiable because he accounted himself cunning above others. Had he but kept his temper, had he done no more than maintain the happy pretence that he was a slave to the orders he had received—a mere machine—he might have gained his ends by sheer audacity. At least, his way of retreat would have remained open, and he might have gone, to return another day with force at his heels.

As it was, that pretty whelp, her son, had been sent, no doubt, for men. He stepped up to Valerie.

“Are you ready, mademoiselle?” said he; for little hope though he might still have of winning through, yet he must do the best to repair the damage that was of his making.

She saw that the storm of passion had passed, and she was infected by the sudden, desperate daring that prompted that question of his.

“I am ready, monsieur,” said she, and her boyish voice had an intrepid ring. “I will come with you as I am.”

“Then, in God’s name, let us be going.”

They moved together towards the door, with never another glance for the Dowager where she stood, patting the head of the hound that had risen and come to stand beside her. In silence she watched them, a sinister smile upon her beautiful, ivory face.

Then came a sound of feet and voices in the anteroom. The door was flung violently open, and a half-dozen men with naked swords came blundering into the room, Marius bringing up the rear.

With a cry of fear Valerie shrank back against the panelled wall, her little hands to her cheeks, her eyes dilating with alarm.

Garnache’s sword rasped out, an oath rattled from his clenched teeth, and he fell on guard. The men paused, and took his measure. Marius urged them on, as if they had been a pack of dogs.

“At him!” he snapped, his finger pointing, his handsome eyes flashing angrily. “Cut him down!”

They moved; but mademoiselle moved at the same moment. She sprang before them, between their swords and their prey.

“You shall not do it; you shall not do it!” she cried, and her face looked drawn, her eyes distraught. “It is murder—murder, you curs!” And the memory of how that dainty little lady stood undaunted before so much bared steel, to shield him from those assassins, was one that abode ever after with Garnache.

“Mademoiselle,” said he, in a quiet voice, “if you will but stand aside there will be some murder done among them first.”

But she did not move. Marius clenched his hands, fretted by the delay. The Dowager looked on and smiled and patted her dog’s head. To her mademoiselle now turned in appeal.

“Madame,” she exclaimed, “you’ll not allow it. You’ll not let them do this thing. Bid them put up their swords, madame. Bethink you that Monsieur de Garnache is here in the Queen’s name.”

Too well did madame bethink her of it. Garnache need not plague himself with vexation that his rash temper alone had wrought his ruin now. It had but accelerated it. It was just possible, perhaps, that suavity might have offered him opportunities; but, for the rest, from the moment that he showed himself firm in his resolve to carry mademoiselle to Paris, his doom was sealed. Madame would never willingly have allowed him to leave Condillac alive, for she realized that did she do so he would stir up trouble enough to have them outlawed. He must perish here, and be forgotten. If questions came to be asked later, Condillac would know nothing of him.

“Monsieur de Garnache promised us some fine deeds on his own account,” she mocked him. “We but afford him the opportunity to perform them. If these be not enough for his exceeding valour, there are more men without whom we can summon.”

A feeling of pity for mademoiselle—perhaps of no more than decency—now overcame Marius. He stepped forward.

“Valerie,” he said, “it is not fitting you should remain.”

“Aye, take her hence,” the Dowager bade him, with a smile. “Her presence is unmanning our fine Parisian.”

Eager to do so, over-eager, Marius came forward, past his men-at-arms, until he was but some three paces from the girl and just out of reach of a sudden dart of Garnache’s sword.

Softly, very warily, Garnache slipped his right foot a little farther to the right. Suddenly he threw his weight upon it, so that he was clear of the girl. Before they understood what he was about, the thing had taken place. He had leaped forward, caught the young man by the breast of his shimmering doublet, leaped back to shelter beyond mademoiselle, hurled Marius to the ground, and planted his foot, shod as it was in his thickly mudded riding-boot, full upon the boy’s long, shapely neck.

“Move so much as a finger, my pretty fellow,” he snapped at him, “and I’ll crush the life from you as from a toad.”

There was a sudden forward movement on the part of the men; but if Garnache was vicious, he was calm. Were he again to lose his temper now, there would indeed be a speedy end to him. That much he knew, and kept repeating to himself, lest he should be tempted to forget it.

“Back!” he bade them in a voice so imperative that they stopped, and looked on with gaping mouths. “Back, or he perishes!” And dropping the point of his sword, he lightly rested it upon the young man’s breast.

In dismay they looked to the Dowager for instruction. She craned forward, the smile gone from her lips, a horror in her eyes, her bosom heaving. A moment ago she had smiled upon mademoiselle’s outward signs of fear; had mademoiselle been so minded, she might in her turn have smiled now at the terror written large upon the Dowager’s own face. But her attention was all absorbed by the swiftly executed act by which Garnache had gained at least a temporary advantage.

She had turned and looked at the strange spectacle of that dauntless man, erect, his foot upon Marius’s neck, like some fantastic figure of a contemporary Saint George and a contemporary dragon. She pressed her hands tighter upon her bosom; her eyes sparkled with an odd approval of that brisk deed.

But Garnache’s watchful eyes were upon the Dowager. He read the anxious fear that marred the beauty of her face, and he took heart at the sight, for he was dependent upon the extent to which he might work upon her feelings.

“You smiled just now, madame, when it was intended to butcher a man before your eyes. You smile no longer, I observe, at this the first of the fine deeds I promised you.”

“Let him go,” she said, and her voice was scarce louder than a whisper, horror-laden. “Let him go, monsieur, if you would save your own neck.”

“At that price, yes—though, believe me, you are paying too much for so poor a life as this. Still, you value the thing, and I hold it; and so you’ll forgive me if I am extortionate.”

“Release him, and, in God’s name, go your ways. None shall stay you,” she promised him.

He smiled. “I’ll need some security for that. I do not choose to take your word for it, Madame de Condillac.”

“What security can I give you?” she cried, wringing her hands, her eyes on the boy’s ashen face ashen from mingling fear and rage—where it showed beyond Garnache’s heavy boot.

“Bid one of your knaves summon my servant. I left him awaiting me in the courtyard.”

The order was given, and one of the cut-throats departed.

In a tense and anxious silence they awaited his return, though he kept them but an instant.

Rabecque’s eyes took on a startled look when he had viewed the situation. Garnache called to him to deprive those present of their weapons.

“And let none refuse, or offer him violence,” he added, “or your master’s life shall pay the price of it.”

The Dowager with a ready anxiety repeated to them his commands. Rabecque, understanding nothing, went from man to man, and received from each his weapons. He placed the armful on the windowseat, at the far end of the apartment, as Garnache bade him. At the other end of the long room, Garnache ordered the disarmed men to range themselves. When that was done, the Parisian removed his foot from his victim’s neck.

“Stand up,” he commanded, and Marius very readily obeyed him.

Garnache placed himself immediately behind the boy. “Madame,” said he, “no harm shall come to your son if he is but wise. Let him disobey me, or let any man in Condillac lift a hand against us, and that shall be the signal for Monsieur de Condillac’s death. Mademoiselle, it is your wish to accompany me to Paris?”

“Yes, monsieur,” she answered fearlessly, her eyes sparkling now.

“We will be going then. Place yourself alongside of Monsieur de Condillac. Rabecque, follow me. Forward, Monsieur de Condillac. You will be so good as to conduct us to our horses in the courtyard.”

They made an odd procession as they marched out of the hall, under the sullen eyes of the baulked cut-throats and their mistress. On the threshold Garnache paused, and looked over his shoulder.

“Are you content, madame? Have you seen fine deeds enough for one day?” he asked her, laughing. But, white to the lips with chagrin, she returned no answer.

Garnache and his party crossed the anteroom, after having taken the precaution to lock the door upon the Marquise and her men, and proceeding down a gloomy passage they gained the courtyard. Here Marius was consoled to find some men of the garrison of Condillac a half-score, or so—all more or less armed, surrounding the horses of Garnache and his lackey. At sight of the odd group that now appeared those ruffians stood at gaze, surprised, and with suspicions aroused by Garnache’s naked sword, ready for anything their master might demand of them.

Marius had in that instant a gleam of hope. Thus far, Garnache had been master of the situation. But surely the position would be reversed when Garnache and his man came to mount their horses, particularly considering how hampered they must be by Valerie. This danger Garnache, however, was no less quick to perceive, and with a dismaying promptness did he take his measures.

“Remember,” he threatened Monsieur de Condillac, “if any of your men show their teeth it will be the worse for you.” They had come to a halt on the threshold of the courtyard. “You will be so good as to bid them retreat through that doorway across the yard yonder.”

Marius hesitated. “And if I refuse?” he demanded hardily, but keeping his back to Garnache. The men stirred, and stray words of mingling wonder and anger reached the Parisian.

“You will not,” said Garnache, with quiet confidence.

“I think you make too sure,” Marius replied, and dissembled his misgivings in a short laugh. Garnache became impatient. His position was not being improved by delay.

“Monsieur de Condillac,” said he, speaking quickly and yet with an incisiveness of tone that made his words sound deliberate, “I am a desperate man in a desperate position. Every moment that I tarry here increases my danger and shortens my temper. If you think to temporize in the hope of gaining an opportunity of turning the tables upon me, you must be mad to dream that I shall permit it. Monsieur, you will at once order those men to leave the courtyard by that doorway, or I give you my word of honour that I shall run you through as you stand.”

“That would be to destroy yourself,” said Marius with an attempted note of confidence.

“I should be no less destroyed by delay,” answered Garnache; and added more sharply, “Give the word, monsieur, or I will make an end.”

From the movement behind him Marius guessed almost by instinct that Garnache had drawn back for a lunge. At his side Valerie looked over her shoulder, with eyes that were startled but unafraid. For a second Marius considered whether he might not attempt to elude Garnache by a wild and sudden dash towards his men. But the consequences of failure were too fearful.

He shrugged his shoulders, and gave the order. The men hesitated a moment, then shuffled away in the direction indicated. But they went slowly, with much half-whispered, sullen conferring and many a backward glance at Marius and those with him.

“Bid them go faster,” snapped Garnache. Marius obeyed him, and the men obeyed Marius, and vanished into the gloom of the archway. After all, thought Monsieur de Condillac, they need go no farther than that doorway; they must have appreciated the situation by now; and he was confident they would have the sense to hold themselves in readiness for a rush in the moment of Garnache’s mounting.

But Garnache’s next order shattered that last hope.

“Rebecque,” said he, without turning his head, “go and lock them in.” Before bidding the men go that way, he had satisfied himself that there was a key on the outside of the door. “Monsieur de Condillac,” he resumed to Marius, “you will order your men in no way to hinder my servant. I shall act upon any menace of danger to my lackey precisely as I should were I, myself, in danger.”

Marius’s heart sank within him, as sinks a stone through water. He realized, as his mother had realized a little while before, that in Garnache they had an opponent who took no chances. In a voice thick with the torturing rage of impotence he gave the order upon which the grim Parisian insisted. There followed a silence broken by the fall of Rabecque’s heavily shod feet upon the stones of the yard, as he crossed it to do his master’s bidding. The door creaked on its hinges; the key grated screaming in its lock, and Rabecque returned to Garnache’s side even as Garnache tapped Marius on the shoulder.

“This way, Monsieur de Condillac, if you please,” said he, and as Marius turned at last to face him, he stood aside and waved his left hand towards the door through which they had lately emerged. A moment stood the youth facing his stern conqueror; his hands were clenched until the knuckles showed white; his face was a dull crimson. Vainly he sought for words in which to vent some of the malicious chagrin that filled his soul almost to bursting-point. Then, despairing, with a shrug and an inarticulate mutter, he flung past the Parisian, obeying him as the cur obeys, with pendant tail and teeth-revealing snarl.

Garnache closed the door upon him with a bang, and smiled quietly as he turned to Valerie.

“I think we have won through, mademoiselle,” said he, with pardonable vanity. “The rest is easy, though you may be subjected to some slight discomfort between this and Grenoble.”

She smiled back at him, a pale, timid smile, like a gleam of sunshine from a wintry sky. “That matters nothing,” she assured him, and strove to make her voice sound brave.

There was need for speed, and compliments were set aside by Garnache, who, at his best, was not felicitous with them. Valerie felt herself caught by the wrist, a trifle roughly she remembered afterwards, and hurried across the cobbles to the tethered horses, with which Rabecque was already busy. She saw Garnache raise his foot to the stirrup and hoist himself to the saddle. Then he held down a hand to her, bade her set her foot on his, and called with an oath to Rabecque to lend her his assistance. A moment later she was perched in front of Garnache, almost on the withers of his horse. The cobbles rattled under its hooves, the timbers of the drawbridge sent up a booming sound, they were across—out of Condillac—and speeding at a gallop down the white road that led to the river; after them pounded Rabecque, bumping horribly in his saddle, and attempting wildly, and with awful objurgations, to find his stirrups.

They crossed the bridge that spans the Isere and took the road to Grenoble at a sharp pace, with scarce a backward glance at the grey towers of Condillac. Valerie experienced an overwhelming inclination to weep and laugh, to cry and sing at one and the same time; but whether this odd emotion sprang from the happenings in which she had had her part, or from the exhilaration of that mad ride, she could not tell. No doubt it sprang from both, owing a part to each. She controlled herself, however. A shy, upward glance at the stern, set face of the man whose arm encircled and held her fast had a curiously sobering effect upon her. Their eyes met, and he smiled a friendly, reassuring smile, such as a father might have bestowed upon a daughter.

“I do not think that they will charge me with blundering this time,” he said.

“Charge you with blundering?” she echoed; and the inflection of the pronoun might have flattered him had he not reflected that it was impossible she could have understood his allusion. And now she bethought her that she had not thanked him—and the debt was a heavy one. He had come to her aid in an hour when hope seemed dead. He had come single-handed—save for his man Rabecque; and in a manner that was worthy of being made the subject of an epic, he had carried her out of Condillac, away from the terrible Dowager and her cut-throats. The thought of them sent a shiver through her.

“Do you feel the cold?” he asked concernedly; and that the wind might cut her less, he slackened speed.

“No, no,” she cried, her alarm waking again at the thought of the folk of Condillac. “Make haste! Go on, go on! Mon Dieu! if they should overtake us!”

He looked over his shoulder. The road ran straight for over a half-mile behind them, and not a living thing showed upon it.

“You need have no alarm,” he smiled. “We are not pursued. They must have realized the futility of attempting to overtake us. Courage, mademoiselle. We shall be in Grenoble presently, and once there, you will have nothing more to fear.”

“You are sure of that?” she asked, and there was doubt in her voice.

He smiled reassuringly again. “The Lord Seneschal shall supply us with an escort,” he promised confidently.

“Still,” she said, “we shall not stay there, I hope, monsieur.”

“No longer than may be necessary to procure a coach for you.”

“I am glad of that,” said she. “I shall know no peace until Grenoble is a good ten leagues behind us. The Marquise and her son are too powerful there.”

“Yet their might shall not prevail against the Queen’s,” he made reply. And as now they rode amain she fell to thanking him, shyly at first, then, as she gathered confidence in her subject, with a greater fervour. But he interrupted her ere she had gone far, “Mademoiselle de La Vauvraye,” said he, “you overstate the matter.” His tone was chilling almost; and she felt as she had been rebuked. “I am no more than the emissary of Her Majesty—it is to her that your thanks are due.”

“Ah, but, monsieur,” she returned to the assault, “I owe some thanks to you as well. What other in your place would have done what you have done?”

“I know not that, nor do I greatly care,” said he, and laughed, but with a laugh that jarred on her. “That which I did I must have done, no matter whom it was a question of saving. I am but an instrument in this matter, mademoiselle.”

His thought was to do no more than belittle the service he had rendered her, to stem her flow of gratitude, since, indeed, he felt, as he said, that it was to the Queen-Regent her thanks were due. All unwitting was it—out of his ignorance of the ways of thought of a sex with which he held the view that it is an ill thing to meddle—that he wounded her by his disclaimer, in which her sensitive maiden fancy imagined a something that was almost contemptuous.

They rode in silence for a little spell, broken at last by Garnache in expression of the thoughts that had come to him as a consequence of what she had said.

“On this same subject of thanks,” said he—and as she raised her eyes again she found him smiling almost tenderly—“if any are due between us they are surely due from me to you.”

“From you to me?” she asked in wonder.

“Assuredly,” said he. “Had you not come between me and the Dowager’s assassins there had been an end to me in the hall of Condillac.”

Her hazel eyes were very round for a moment, then they narrowed, and little humorous lines formed at the corners of her lips.

“Monsieur de Garnache,” said she, with a mock coldness that was a faint echo of his own recent manner, “you overstate the case. That which I did I must have done, no matter whom it was a question of saving. I was but an instrument in this matter, monsieur.”

His brows went up. He stared at her a moment, gathering instruction from the shy mockery of her glance. Then he laughed with genuine amusement.

“True,” he said. “An instrument you were; but an instrument of Heaven, whereas in me you but behold the instrument of an earthly power. We are not quite quits, you see.”

But she felt, at least, that she was quits with him in the matter of his repudiation of her own thanks, and the feeling bridged the unfriendly gap that she had felt was opening out between them; and for no reason in the world that she could think of, she was glad that this was so.

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