Thus, the gods, having had their fill of play, relented.
A MARQUIS DONS HIS BALDRIC
They were men, the marquis and his contemporaries. They were born in rough times, they lived and died roughly. They were men who made France what it was in life and is to-day in history, resplendent. The marquis never went about his affairs impetuously; he calculated this and balanced that. When he arrived at a conclusion or formed a purpose, it was definite. He never swerved nor retreated. To-night he had formed a purpose, and he proceeded toward it directly, as was his custom.
“Jehan, my campaign rapier,” he said.
“Campaign rapier, Monsieur!” repeated the astonished lackey. Monsieur le Marquis had not worn that weapon in almost ten years.
“Take care, Jehan; you know that I am not particularly fond of repeating commands. Certainly my old basket-hilt took the journey with me.”
Jehan went rummaging among his master’s personal effects, and soon returned. He buckled on the marquis’s shoulder a worn baldric pendent to which was the famous basket-sword which had earned for its owner the sobriquet of “Prince of a hundred duels.”
“It has grown heavy since the last time I put it on,” observed the marquis, thoughtfully, weighing the blade on his palms. “Those were merry days,” reminiscently.
“Monsieur goes abroad to-night?” essayed the lackey, experiencing an old-time thrill.
“Yes, but alone. Now, a cup of wine undiluted. Monsieur de Leviston is still in the hospital?”
“Through the kindly offices of Monsieur de Saumaise.”
“Who is a gallant fellow.”
To this Monsieur le Marquis readily agreed. “But Monsieur d’Herouville is no longer confined. I saw him abroad this afternoon.”
“They say that he is a furious swordsman, Monsieur,” ventured Jehan, trembling.
The marquis threw a keen glance at his servant. “What did they say of me, even ten years ago?”
“You had no peer in all France, Monsieur . . . ten years ago.”
The marquis smiled. “I have grown thin in ten years, that is all.”
“Shall you leave any commands, Monsieur?”
“You may have the evening to yourself, and don’t return till midnight.”
Jehan bowed. There was nothing for him to say.
At dinner the marquis was unusually brilliant and witty. He dazzled the governor and his ladies, and unbent so far as to accept four glasses of burgundy. On one side sat Anne de Vaudemont, on the other the governor’s son, and directly opposite, Madame de Brissac, an unnamed mystery to them all save Anne. Madame, despite her antagonism and the terror lest she be discovered and unmasked by those remarkable grey eyes, found herself irresistibly drawn toward and fascinated by this remarkable exponent of a past epoch. She forgot the stories she had heard regarding his past, she forgot the sinister shadow he had cast over her own life, she forgot all save that without such men as this there would and could be no history. And she was quite ignorant of the fact that her scrutiny was being returned in kind.