“Ah, Captain,” said Chaumonot, “it is good to see you again.”
“Major, Father; Major.”
“You have received your commission, then?”
“Congratulations! Will you direct me at once to the Hotel de Perigny? I must see the marquis to-night, since we sail to-morrow.”
“As soon as you have completed your supper,” said Du Puys. Then lowering his voice: “The marquis’s son is in yonder room.”
“Then the marquis has a son?” said Brother Jacques, with an indescribable smile. “And by what name is he known?”
“The Chevalier du Cevennes.”
Strange fires glowed in the young Jesuit’s eyes. He plucked at his rosary. “The Chevalier du Cevennes: the ways of God are inscrutable.”
“In what way, my son?” asked Chaumonot.
“I met the Chevalier in Paris.” Brother Jacques folded his arms and stared absently at his plate.
THE PHILOSOPHY OF MONSIEUR LE MARQUIS DE PERIGNY
The Hotel de Perigny stood in the Rue des Augustines, diagonally opposite the historic pile once occupied by Henri II and Diane de Poitiers, the beautiful and fascinating Duchesse de Valentinois of equivocal yet enduring fame. It was constructed in the severe beauty of Roman straight lines, and the stains of nearly two centuries had discolored the blue-veined Italian marble. A high wall inclosed it, and on the top of this wall ran a miniature cheval-de-frise of iron. Nighttime or daytime, in mean or brilliant light, it took on the somber visage of a kill-joy. The invisible hand of fear chilled and repelled the curious: it was a house of dread. There were no gardens; the flooring of the entire court was of stone; there was not even the usual vine sprawling over the walls.
Men had died in this house; not always in bed, which is to say, naturally. Some had died struggling in the gloomy corridors, in the grand salon, on the staircase leading to the upper stories. In the Valois’s time it had witnessed many a violent night; for men had held life in a careless hand, and the master of fence had been the law-giver. Three of the House of Perigny had closed their accounts thus roughly. The grandsire and granduncle of the present marquis, both being masters of fence, had succumbed in an attempt to give law to each other. And the apple of discord, some say, had been the Duchesse de Valentinois. The third to die violently was the ninth marquis, father of the present possessor of the title. History says that he died of too much wine and a careless tongue. Thus it will be seen that the blood in the veins of this noble race was red and hot.