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- The Suitors of Yvonne - 1/36 -
The Suitors of Yvonne Being a Portion of the Memoirs of the Sieur Gaston de Luynes
by Rafael Sabatini
I. OF HOW A BOY DRANK TOO MUCH WINE, AND WHAT CAME OF IT
II. THE FRUIT OF INDISCRETION
III. THE FIGHT IN THE HORSE-MARKET
IV. FAIR RESCUERS
V. MAZARIN, THE MATCH-MAKER
VI. OF HOW ANDREA BECAME LOVESICK
VII. THE CHÂTEAU DR CANAPLES
VIII. THE FORESHADOW OF DISASTER
IX. OF HOW A WHIP PROVED A BETTER ARGUMENT THAN A TONGUE
X. THE CONSCIENCE OF MALPERTUIS
XI. OF A WOMAN'S OBSTINACY
XII. THE RESCUE
XIII. THE HAND OF YVONNE
XIV. OF WHAT BEFELL AT REAUX
XV. OF MY RESURRECTION
XVI. THE WAY OF WOMAN
XVII. FATHER AND SON
XVIII. OF HOW I LEFT CANAPLES
XIX. OF MY RETURN TO PARIS
XX. OF HOW THE CHEVALIER DE CANAPLES BECAME A FRONDEUR
XXI. OF THE BARGAIN THAT ST. AUBAN DROVE WITH MY LORD CARDINAL
XXII. OF MY SECOND JOURNEY TO CANAPLES
XXIII. OF HOW ST. AUBAN CAME TO BLOIS
XXIV. OF THE PASSING OF ST. AUBAN
OF HOW A BOY DRANK TOO MUCH WINE, AND WHAT CAME OF IT
Andrea de Mancini sprawled, ingloriously drunk, upon the floor. His legs were thrust under the table, and his head rested against the chair from which he had slipped; his long black hair was tossed and dishevelled; his handsome, boyish face flushed and garbed in the vacant expression of idiocy.
"I beg a thousand pardons, M. de Luynes," quoth he in the thick, monotonous voice of a man whose brain but ill controls his tongue,--"I beg a thousand pardons for the unseemly poverty of our repast. 'T is no fault of mine. My Lord Cardinal keeps a most unworthy table for me. Faugh! Uncle Giulio is a Hebrew--if not by birth, by instinct. He carries his purse-strings in a knot which it would break his heart to unfasten. But there! some day my Lord Cardinal will go to heaven--to the lap of Abraham. I shall be rich then, vastly rich, and I shall bid you to a banquet worthy of your most noble blood. The Cardinal's health--perdition have him for the niggardliest rogue unhung!"
I pushed back my chair and rose. The conversation was taking a turn that was too unhealthy to be pursued within the walls of the Palais Mazarin, where there existed, albeit the law books made no reference to it, the heinous crime of lèse-Eminence--a crime for which more men had been broken than it pleases me to dwell on.
"Your table, Master Andrea, needs no apology," I answered carelessly. "Your wine, for instance, is beyond praise."
"Ah, yes! The wine! But, ciel! Monsieur," he ejaculated, for a moment opening wide his heavy eyelids, "do you believe 't was Mazarin provided it? Pooh! 'T was a present made me by M. de la Motte, who seeks my interest with my Lord Cardinal to obtain for him an appointment in his Eminence's household, and thus thinks to earn my good will. He's a pestilent creature, this la Motte," he added, with a hiccough,--"a pestilent creature; but, Sangdieu! his wine is good, and I'll speak to my uncle. Help me up, De Luynes. Help me up, I say; I would drink the health of this provider of wines."
I hurried forward, but he had struggled up unaided, and stood swaying with one hand on the table and the other on the back of his chair. In vain did I remonstrate with him that already he had drunk overmuch.
"'T is a lie!" he shouted. "May not a gentleman sit upon the floor from choice?"
To emphasise his protestation he imprudently withdrew his hand from the chair and struck at the air with his open palm. That gesture cost him his balance. He staggered, toppled backward, and clutched madly at the tablecloth as he fell, dragging glasses, bottles, dishes, tapers, and a score of other things besides, with a deafening crash on to the floor.
Then, as I stood aghast and alarmed, wondering who might have overheard the thunder of his fall, the fool sat up amidst the ruins, and filled the room with his shrieks of drunken laughter.
"Silence, boy!" I thundered, springing towards him. "Silence! or we shall have the whole house about our ears."
And truly were my fears well grounded, for, before I could assist him to rise, I heard the door behind me open. Apprehensively I turned, and sickened to see that that which I had dreaded most was come to pass. A tall, imposing figure in scarlet robes stood erect and scowling on the threshold, and behind him his valet, Bernouin, bearing a lighted taper.
Mancini's laugh faded into a tremulous cackle, then died out, and with gaping mouth and glassy eyes he sat there staring at his uncle.
Thus we stayed in silence while a man might count mayhap a dozen; then the Cardinal's voice rang harsh and full of anger.
"'T is thus that you fulfil your trust, M. de Luynes!" he said.
"Your Eminence--" I began, scarce knowing what I should say, when he cut me short.
"I will deal with you presently and elsewhere." He stepped up to Andrea, and surveyed him for a moment in disgust. "Get up, sir!" he commanded. "Get up!"
The lad sought to obey him with an alacrity that merited a kinder fate. Had he been in less haste perchance he had been more successful. As it was, he had got no farther than his knees when his right leg slid from under him, and he fell prone among the shattered tableware, mumbling curses and apologies in a breath.
Mazarin stood gazing at him with an eye that was eloquent in scorn, then bending down he spoke quickly to him in Italian. What he said I know not, being ignorant of their mother tongue; but from the fierceness of his utterance I'll wager my soul 't was nothing sweet to listen to. When he had done with him, he turned to his valet.
"Bernouin," said he, "summon M. de Mancini's servant and assist him to get my nephew to bed. M. de Luynes, be good enough to take Bernouin's taper and light me back to my apartments."
Unsavoury as was the task, I had no choice but to obey, and to stalk on in front of him, candle in hand, like an acolyte at Notre Dame, and in my heart the profound conviction that I was about to have a bad quarter of an hour with his Eminence. Nor was I wrong; for no sooner had we reached his cabinet and the door had been closed than he turned upon me the full measure of his wrath.
"You miserable fool!" he snarled. "Did you think to trifle with the trust which in a misguided moment I placed in you? Think you that, when a week ago I saved you from starvation to clothe and feed you and give you a lieutenancy in my guards, I should endure so foul an abuse as this? Think you that I entrusted M. de Mancini's training in arms to you so that you might lead him into the dissolute habits which have dragged you down to what you are--to what you were before I rescued you--to what you will be to-morrow when I shall have again abandoned you?"
"Hear me, your Eminence!" I cried indignantly. "'T is no fault of mine. Some fool hath sent M. de Mancini a basket of wine and--"
"And you showed him how to abuse it," he broke in harshly. "You have taught the boy to become a sot; in time, were he to remain under your guidance, I make no doubt but that he would become a gamester and a duellist as well. I was mad, perchance, to give him into your care; but I have the good fortune to be still in time, before the mischief has sunk farther, to withdraw him from it, and to cast you back into the kennel from which I picked you."
"Your Eminence does not mean--"
"As God lives I do!" he cried. "You shall quit the Palais Royal this very night, M. de Luynes, and if ever I find you unbidden within half a mile of it, I will do that which out of a misguided sense of compassion I do not do now--I will have you flung into an oubliette of the Bastille, where better
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