Garnache spent a sleepless night at Grenoble, on guard throughout the greater part of it since nothing short of that would appease the fears of Valerie. Yet it passed without any bellicose manifestation on the part of the Condillacs such as Valerie feared and such as Garnache was satisfied would not—could not, indeed—take place.

Betimes next morning he dispatched Rabecque to the Auberge de France for the promised carriage, and broke his fast in the common-room what time he awaited his man’s return. The chamber was again occupied by the stranger of yesternight, who sat apart, however, and seemed no longer disposed to interfere with the Parisian. Garnache wondered idly, might this be due to the circumstance that that same stranger was supported now by one single companion, and was therefore less valorous than when he had been in the company of three.

At another table were two gentlemen, sprung he knew not whence, quiet in dress and orderly in manner, to whom he paid little heed until one of them a slender, swarthy, hawk-faced fellow—looking up suddenly, started slightly at sight of the Parisian and addressed him instantly by name. Garnache paused in the act of rising from table, half-turned, and sharply scrutinized the swarthy gentleman, but failed to recognize him. He advanced towards him.

“I have the honour to be known to you, monsieur?” he half-stated, half-inquired.

“Parbleu, Monsieur de Garnache!” exclaimed the other with a ready smile, the more winning since it lighted up a face that at rest was very sombre. “Lives there a Parisian to whom you are not known? I have seen you often at the Hotel de Bourgogne.”

Garnache acknowledged the courtesy by a slight inclination of the head.

“And once,” continued the other, “I had the honour to be presented to you by Monsieur le Duc himself. My name is Gaubert—Fabre Gaubert.” And as he introduced himself he rose out of respect for Garnache, who had remained standing. Garnache knew him not at all, yet never doubted that his tale was true; the fellow had a very courtly, winning air; moreover, Garnache was beginning to feel lonely in the wilds of Dauphiny, so that it rejoiced him to come into the company of one whom he might regard as something of a fellow-creature. He held out his hand.

“I am honoured in that you should have borne me in your memory, monsieur,” said he. He was about to add that he would be overjoyed if it should happen that Monsieur Gaubert was travelling to Paris, since he might give himself the pleasure of his company on that tedious journey; but he checked himself betimes. He had no reason to suspect this gentleman; and yet, all things considered, he bethought him suddenly that he would do well to observe the greatest circumspection. So with a pleasant but meaningless civility touching Monsieur Gaubert’s presence in those parts, Garnache passed on and gained the door. He paused in the porch, above which the rebus-like sign of the Sucking Calf creaked and grated in each gust of the chill wind that was blowing from the Alps. The rain had ceased, but the sky was dark and heavy with great banks of scudding clouds. In the street the men of his escort sat their horses, having mounted at his bidding in readiness for the journey. A word or two he exchanged with the sergeant, and then with a great rumble the clumsy carriage from the Auberge de France heralded its approach. It rolled up the street, a vast machine of wood and leather, drawn by three horses, and drew up at the door of the inn. Out sprang Rabecque, to be immediately sent by his master to summon mademoiselle. They would set out upon the instant.

Rabecque turned to obey; but in that same moment he was thrust rudely aside by a man with the air of a servant, who issued from he inn carrying a valise; after him, following close upon his heels, with head held high and eyes that looked straight before him and took no heed of Garnache, came the foreigner of yesternight.

Rabecque, his shoulders touching the timbers of the porch, against which he had been thrust, remained at gaze, following with resentful eye the fellow who had so rudely used him. Garnache, on the other side, watched with some wonder the advent of the ingenuous-looking stranger, but as yet with no suspicion of his intent.

Not until the servant had thrown open the door of the coach and deposited within the valise he carried, did Garnache stir. Not, indeed, until the foreigner’s foot was on the step preparatory to mounting did Garnache speak.

“Hi! monsieur,” he called to him, “what is your pleasure with my carriage?”

The stranger turned, and stared at Garnache with a look of wonder that artfully changed to one of disdainful recognition.

“Ah?” said he, and his eyebrows went up. “The apologetic gentleman! You said?”

Garnache approached him, followed a step not only by Rabecque, but also by Monsieur Gaubert, who had sauntered out a second earlier. Behind them, in the porch, lounged now the foreigner’s friend, and behind him again was to be seen the great face and staring, somewhat startled eyes of the landlord.

“I asked you, monsieur,” said Garnache, already at grips with that quick temper of his, “what might be your pleasure with my coach?”

“With your coach?” echoed the other, his superciliousness waxing more and more offensive. “Voyons! on! my apologetic friend, do all things in Grenoble belong to you?” He turned to the post-boy, who looked on stolidly. “You are from the Auberge de France, are you not?” quoth he.

“I am, monsieur,” replied the man. “This carriage was ordered last night by a gentleman lodging at the Veau qui Tete?”

“Perfectly,” replied the stranger, in a tone of finality. “It was ordered by me.” And he was about to turn away, when Garnache approached him by yet another step.

“I will ask you to observe, monsieur,” said he and for all that his tone and words were civil, that they were forcedly so was obvious from their quiver—“I will ask you to observe that the carriage was fetched by my own man there, who rode hither in it.”

The stranger looked him up and down with a curling lip.

“It seems, sir,” said he, with a broad sneer, “that you are one of those impertinent fellows who will be for ever thrusting themselves upon gentlemen with an eye to such profit as they can make.” He produced a purse and opened it. “Last night it was my supper you usurped. I suffered that. Now you would do the same by my coach, and that I shall not suffer. But there is for your pains, and to be quit of your company.” And he tossed a silver coin at the Parisian.

There was an exclamation of horror in the background, and Monsieur de Gaubert thrust himself forward.

“Sir, sir,” he exclaimed in an agitated voice, “you cannot know whom you are addressing. This is Monsieur Martin Marie Rigobert de Garnache, Mestre-de-Champ in the army of the King.”

“Of all those names the one I should opine might fit him best, but for his ugliness, is that of Marie,” answered the foreigner, leering, and with a contemptuous shrug he turned again to mount the carriage.

At that all Garnache’s self-control deserted him, and he did a thing deplorable. In one of his blind excesses of fury, heedless of the faithful and watchful Rabecque’s arresting tug at his sleeve, he stepped forward, and brought a heavy hand down upon the supercilious gentleman’s shoulder. He took him in the instant in which, with one foot off the ground and the other on the step of the carriage, the foreigner was easily thrown’ off his balance; he dragged him violently backward, span him round and dropped him floundering in the mire of the street-kennel.

That done, there fell a pause—a hush that was ominous of things impending. A little crowd of idlers that had gathered was quickly augmenting now, and from some there came a cry of “Shame!” at Garnache’s act of violence.

This is no moment at which to pause to moralize. And yet, how often is it not so? How often does not public sympathy go out to the man who has been assaulted without thought of the extent to which that man may have provoked and goaded his assailant.

That cry of “Shame!” did no more than increase the anger that was mastering Garnache. His mission in Grenoble was forgotten; mademoiselle above-stairs was forgotten; the need for caution and the fear of the Condillacs were forgotten; everything was thrust from his mind but the situation of the moment.

Amid the hush that followed, the stranger picked himself slowly up, and sought to wipe the filth from his face and garments. His servant and his friend flew to his aid, but he waved them aside, and advanced towards Garnache, eyes blazing, lips sneering.

“Perhaps,” said he, in that soft, foreign tone of his, laden now with fierce mock-politeness, “perhaps monsieur proposes to apologize again.”

“Sir, you are mad,” interposed Gaubert. “You are a foreigner, I perceive, else you would—”

But Garnache thrust him quietly aside. “You are very kind, Monsieur Gaubert,” said he, and his manner now was one of frozen calm—a manner that betrayed none of the frenzy of seething passion underneath. “I think, sir,” said he to the stranger, adopting something of that gentleman’s sardonic manner, “that it will be a more peaceful world without you. It is that consideration restrains me from apologizing. And yet, if monsieur will express regret for having sought, and with such lack of manners, to appropriate my carriage—”

“Enough!” broke in the other. “We are wasting time, and I have a long journey before me. Courthon,” said he, addressing his friend, “will you bring me the length of this gentleman’s sword? My name, sir,” he added to Garnache, “is Sanguinetti.”

“Faith,” said Garnache, “it sorts well with your bloody spirit.”

“And will sort well, no doubt, with his condition presently,” put in hawk-faced Gaubert. “Monsieur de Garnache, if you have no friend at hand to act for you, I shall esteem myself honoured.” And he bowed.

“Why, thanks, sir. You are most opportunely met. You should be a gentleman since you frequent the Hotel de Bourgogne. My thanks.”

Gaubert went aside to confer with Monsieur Courthon. Sanguinetti stood apart, his manner haughty and impressive, his eye roaming scornfully through the ranks of what had by now become a crowd. Windows were opening in the street, and heads appearing, and across the way Garnache might have beheld the flabby face of Monsieur de Tressan among the spectators of that little scene.

Rabecque drew near his master.

“Have a care, monsieur,” he implored him. “If this should be a trap.”

Garnache started. The remark sobered him, and brought to his mind his own suspicions of yesternight, which his present anger had for the moment lulled. Still, he conceived that he had gone too far to extricate himself. But he could at least see to it that he was not drawn away from the place that sheltered mademoiselle. And so he stepped forward, joining Courthon and Gaubert, to insist that the combat should take place in the inn—either in the common room or in the yard. But the landlord, overhearing this, protested loudly that he could not consent to it. He had his house to think of. He swore that they should not fight on his premises, and implored them in the same breath not to attempt it.

At that Garnache, now thoroughly on his guard, was for putting off the encounter.

“Monsieur Courthon,” said he—and he felt a flush of shame mounting to his brow, and realized that it may need more courage to avoid an encounter than to engage in one—“there is something that in the heat of passion I forgot; something that renders it difficult for me to meet your friend at present.”

Courthon looked at him as he might look at an impertinent lackey.

“And what may that be?” he inquired, mightily contemptuous. There was a snigger from some in the crowd that pressed about them, and even Monsieur Gaubert looked askance.

“Surely, sir,” he began, “if I did not know you for Monsieur de Garnache—”

But Garnache did not let him finish.

“Give me air,” he cried, and cuffed out to right and left of him at the grinning spectators, who fell back and grinned less broadly. “My reason, Monsieur de Courthon,” said he, “is that I do not belong to my self at present. I am in Grenoble on business of the State, as the emissary of the Queen-Regent, and so it would hardly become me to engage in private quarrels.”

Courthon raised his brows.

“You should have thought of that before you rolled Monsieur Sanguinetti in the mud,” he answered coldly.

“I will tender him my apologies for that,” Garnache promised, swallowing hard, “and if he still insists upon a meeting he shall have it in, say, a month’s time.”

“I cannot permit—” began Courthon, very fiercely.

“You will be so good as to inform your friend of what I have said,” Garnache insisted, interrupting him.

Cowed, Courthon shrugged and went apart to confer with his friend.

“Ah!” came Sanguinetti’s soft voice, yet loud enough to be heard by all present. “He shall have a caning then for his impertinence.” And he called loudly to the post-boy for his whip. But at that insult Garnache’s brain seemed to take fire, and his cautious resolutions were reduced to ashes by the conflagration. He stepped forward, and, virulent of tone and terrific of mien, he announced that since Monsieur Sanguinetti took that tone with him, he would cut his throat for him at once and wherever they should please.

At last it was arranged that they should proceed there and then to the Champs aux Capuchins, a half-mile away behind the Franciscan convent.

Accordingly they set out, Sanguinetti and Courthon going first, and Garnache following with Gaubert; the rear being brought up by a regiment of rabble, idlers and citizens, that must have represented a very considerable proportion of the population of Grenoble. This audience heartened Garnache, to whom some measure of reflection had again returned. Before such numbers it was unthinkable that these gentlemen—assuming them to be acting on behalf of Condillac—should dare to attempt foul measures with him. For the rest he had taken the precaution of leaving Rabecque at the Sucking Calf, and he had given the sergeant strict injunctions that he was not to allow any of his men to leave their posts during his absence, and that the troopers were to hold themselves entirely at the orders of Rabecque. Comparatively easy therefore in his mind, and but little exercised by any thought of the coming encounter, Garnache walked briskly along.

They came at last to the Champs aux Capuchins—a pleasant stretch of verdure covering perhaps half an acre and set about by a belt of beech-trees.

The crowd disposed itself on the fringe of the sward, and the duellists went forward, and set about the preparations. Principals and seconds threw off cloak and doublet, and Sanguinetti, Courthon, and Gaubert removed their heavy boots, whilst Garnache did no more than detach the spurs from his.

Sanguinetti, observing this, drew the attention of the others to it, and an altercation arose. It was Gaubert who came to beg Garnache that he should follow the example they had set him in that respect. But Garnache shook his head.

“The turf is sodden.”

“But it is precisely on that account, sir,” protested Gaubert very earnestly. “In your boots you will be unable to stand firm; you will run the risk of slipping every time that you break ground.”

“I venture to think, sir, that that is my affair,” said Garnache stiffly.

“But it is not,” the other cried. “If you fight in your boots, we must all do the same, and for myself—well, I have not come here to commit suicide.”

“Look you, Monsieur Gaubert,” said Garnache quietly, “your opponent will be Monsieur Courthon, and since he is in his stockinged feet, there is no reason why you yourself should not remain so too. As for me, I retain my boots, and Monsieur Sanguinetti may have all the advantage that may give him. Since I am content, in Heaven’s name let the fight go forward. I am in haste.”

Gaubert bowed in submission; but Sanguinetti, who had overheard, turned with an oath.

“By God, no!” said he. “I need no such advantage, sir. Courthon, be so good as to help me on with my boots again.” And there was a fresh delay whilst he resumed them.

At last, however, the four men came together, and proceeded to the measurement of swords. It was found that Sanguinetti’s was two inches longer than any of the other three.

“It is the usual length in Italy,” said Sanguinetti with a shrug.

“If monsieur had realized that he was no longer in Italy, we might perhaps have been spared this very foolish business,” answered Garnache testily.

“But what are we to do?” cried the perplexed Gaubert.

“Fight,” said Garnache impatiently. “Is there never to be an end to these preliminaries?”

“But I cannot permit you to oppose yourself to a sword two inches longer than your own,” cried Gaubert, almost in a temper.

“Why not, if I am satisfied?” asked Garnache. “Mine is the longer reach; thus matters will stand equal.”

“Equal?” roared Gaubert. “Your longer reach is an advantage that you had from God, his longer sword is one he had from an armourer. Is that equality?”

“He may have my sword, and I’ll take his,” cut in the Italian, also showing impatience. “I too am in haste.”

“In haste to die, then,” snapped Gaubert.

“Monsieur, this is not seemly,” Courthon reproved him.

“You shall teach me manners when we engage,” snapped the hawk-faced gentleman.

“Sirs, sirs,” Garnache implored them, “are we to waste the day in words? Monsieur Gaubert, there are several gentlemen yonder wearing swords; I make no doubt that you will find one whose blade is of the same length as your own, sufficiently obliging to lend it to Monsieur Sanguinetti.”

“That is an office that my friend can do for me,” interposed Sanguinetti, and thereupon Courthon departed, to return presently with a borrowed weapon of the proper length.

At last it seemed that they might proceed with the business upon which they were come; but Garnache was wrong in so supposing. A discussion now arose between Gaubert and Courthon as to the choice of spot. The turf was drenched and slippery, and for all that they moved from place to place testing the ground, their principals following, nowhere could they find the conditions sufficiently improved to decide upon engaging. To Garnache the utility of this was apparent from the first. If these gentlemen had thought to avoid slippery ground, they should have elected to appoint the meeting elsewhere. But having chosen the Champs aux Capuchins, it was idle to expect that one stretch of turf would prove firmer than another.

Wearied at last by this delay, he gave expression to his thoughts.

“You are quite right, monsieur,” said Courthon. “But your second is over-fastidious. It would simplify matters so much if you would remove your boots.”

“Look you, sirs,” said Garnache, taking a firm stand, “I will engage in my boots and on this very spot or not at all. I have told you that I am in haste. As for the slipperiness of the ground, my opponent will run no greater risks than I. I am not the only impatient one. The spectators are beginning to jeer at us. We shall have every scullion in Grenoble presently saying that we are afraid of one another. Besides which, sirs, I think I am taking cold.”

“I am quite of monsieur’s mind, myself,” drawled Sanguinetti.

“You hear, sir,” exclaimed Courthon, turning to Gaubert. “You can scarce persist in finding objections now.”

“Why, since all are satisfied, so be it,” said Gaubert, with a shrug. “I sought to do the best for my principal. As it is, I wash my hands of all responsibility, and by all means let us engage, sirs.”

They disposed themselves accordingly, Gaubert engaging Courthon, on Garnache’s right hand, and Garnache himself falling on guard to receive the attack of Sanguinetti. The jeers and murmurs that had been rising from the ever-growing crowd that swarmed about the outskirts of the place fell silent as the clatter of meeting swords rang out at last. And then, scarce were they engaged when a voice arose, calling angrily:

“Hold, Sanguinetti! Wait!”

A big, broad-shouldered man, in a suit of homespun and a featherless hat, thrust his way rudely trough the crowd and broke into the space within the belt of trees. The combatants had fallen apart at this commanding cry, and the newcomer now dashed forward, flushed and out of breath as if with running.

Vertudieu! Sanguinetti,” he swore, and his manner was half-angry, half-bantering; “do you call this friendship?”

“My dear Francois” returned the foreigner, “you arrive most inopportunely.”

“And is that all the greeting you have for me?”

Looking more closely, Garnache thought that he recognized in him one of Sanguinetti’s companions of yesternight.

“But do you not see that I am engaged?”

“Ay; and that is my grievance that you should be engaged upon such an affair, and that I should have no share in it. It is to treat me like a lackey, and have the right to feel offended. Enfin! It seems I am not come too late.”

Garnache cut in. He saw the drift of the fellow’s intentions, and he was not minded to submit to fresh delays; already more than half an hour was sped since he had left the Sucking Calf. He put it plainly to them that more than enough delay had there been already and he begged the newcomer to stand aside and allow them to terminate the business on which they were met. But Monsieur Francois—as Sanguinetti had called him—would not hear of it. He proved, indeed, a very testy fellow, and he had, moreover, the support of the others, including even Monsieur Gaubert.

“Let me implore you not to spoil sport, sir,” the latter begged Garnache. “I have a friend at the inn who would never forgive me if I permitted him to miss such a morning’s diversion as this gentleman is willing to afford him. Suffer me to go for him.”

“Look you, sir,” answered Garnache sharply, “however you may view this meeting, it is not with me an affair of jest or sport. I am in a quarrel that has been forced upon me, and—”

“Surely not, sir,” Courthon interrupted sweetly. “You forget that you rolled Monsieur Sanguinetti in the mud. That is hardly to have a quarrel forced upon you.”

Garnache bit his lip to the blood in his vexation.

“However the quarrel may have originated,” said Francois, with a great laugh, “I swear that it goes not forward until I am accommodated, too.”

“You had better accede, monsieur,” murmured Gaubert. “I shall not be gone five minutes, and it will save time in the end.”

“Oh, very well,” cried poor Garnache in his despair. “Anything to save time; anything! In God’s name fetch your friend, and I hope you and he and every man here will get his fill of fighting for once.”

Gaubert departed on his errand, and there were fresh murmurs in the mob until the reason of his going was understood. Five minutes sped; ten minutes, and yet he returned not. Grouped together were Sanguinetti and his two friends, in easy, whispered talk. At a little distance from them, Garnache paced up and down to keep himself warm. He had thrown his cloak over his shoulders again, and with sword tucked under arm and head thrust forward, he stamped backwards and forwards, the very picture of ill-humour. Fifteen minutes passed; twelve o’clock boomed from the Church of Saint Francois d’Assisi and still Monsieur Gaubert returned not. Garnache stood still a moment, in angry thought. This must not go on. There must be an end, and at once. The tastes and inclinations of brawlers were no concern of his. He had business of State—however unworthy—to dispatch. He turned, intending to demand of Monsieur Sanguinetti that they should engage at once and be done, when suddenly a fellow roughly dressed, with dirty face and a shock head of fair hair, pushed his way through the throng and advanced towards Monsieur Sanguinetti and his friends. Garnache checked in his movement to look at the fellow, for he recognized in him the ostler of the Auberge de France: He spoke at that moment, and Garnache overheard the words he uttered.

“Monsieur Sanguinetti,” said he, addressing that gentleman, “my master sends to inquire if you shall want the carriage you ordered for to-day. It has been standing for an hour at the door of the Auberge de France, awaiting you, and if you don’t want it—”

“Standing where?” asked Sanguinetti harshly.

“At the door of the Auberge de France.”

“Peste, fool!” cried the foreigner, “why is it there, when I bade it be sent to the Sucking Calf?”

“I don’t know, sir. I know no more than Monsieur l’Hote told me.”

“Now, a plague on Monsieur l’Hote,” swore Sanguinetti, and in that moment his eye fell upon Garnache, standing there, attentive. At sight of the Parisian he seemed lost in confusion. He dropped his glance and appeared on the point of turning aside. Then to the ostler: “I shall want the carriage, and I shall come for it anon. Carry that message to your master.” And with that he turned and advanced to Garnache. His whilom arrogance was all fallen from him; he wore instead an air of extreme contrition.

“Monsieur, what shall I say to you?” he asked in a voice that was rather small. “It seems there has been an error. I am deeply grieved, believe me—”

“Say no more, I beg,” cried Garnache, immensely relieved that at last there should be a conclusion to an affair which had threatened to be interminable. “Let me but express my regrets for the treatment you received at my hands.”

“I accept your expressions, and I admire their generosity,” returned the other as courteous now as subservient, indeed, in his courtesy—as he had been erstwhile fierce and intractable. “As for the treatment I received, I confess that my mistake and my opinionativeness deserved it me. I deplore to deprive these gentlemen of the entertainment to which they were looking forward, but unless you should prove of an excessive amiability I am afraid they must suffer with me the consequences of my error.”

Garnache assured him very briefly, and none too politely that he did not intend to prove of any excessive amiability. He spoke whilst struggling into his doublet. He felt that he could cheerfully have caned the fellow for the inconvenience he had caused him, and yet he realized that he had other more pressing matters to attend to. He sheathed his sword, took up his cloak and hat, made those gentlemen the compliments that became the occasion, in terms a trifle more brief, perhaps, than were usual, and, still wondering why Monsieur de Gaubert had not yet returned, he stalked briskly away. Followed by the booings of the disappointed crowd, he set out for the Sucking Calf at a sharp pace, taking the shorter way behind the Church and across the graveyard of Saint Francois.

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