“I hide myself!” exclaimed Moranges, with a swaggering air. “What are you thinking of? I remain.”
It would have been better for him to have followed her advice, as may very well have occurred to the youth two minutes later, as a tall, muscular young man entered in a state of intense excitement. Angelique rushed to meet him, crying—
“Ah! Monsieur le duc, is it you?”
“What is this I hear, Angelique?” said the Duc de Vitry. “I was told below that three men had visited you this evening; but only two have gone out—where is the third? Ha! I do not need long to find him,” he added, as he caught sight of the chevalier, who stood his ground bravely enough.
“In Heaven’s name!” cried Angelique,—“in Heaven’s name, listen to me!”
“No, no, not a word. Just now I am not questioning you. Who are you, sir?”
The chevalier’s teasing and bantering disposition made him even at that critical moment insensible to fear, so he retorted insolently—
“Whoever I please to be, sir; and on my word I find the tone in which you put your question delightfully amusing.”
The duke sprang forward in a rage, laying his hand on his sword. Angelique tried in vain to restrain him.
“You want to screen him from my vengeance, you false one!” said he, retreating a few steps, so as to guard the door. “Defend your life, sir!”
“Do you defend yours!”
Both drew at the same moment.
Two shrieks followed, one in the room, the other behind the tapestry, for neither Angelique nor the widow had been able to restrain her alarm as the two swords flashed in air. In fact the latter had been so frightened that she fell heavily to the floor in a faint.
This incident probably saved the young man’s life; his blood had already begun to run cold at the sight of his adversary foaming with rage and standing between him and the door, when the noise of the fall distracted the duke’s attention.
“What was that?” he cried. “Are there other enemies concealed here too?” And forgetting that he was leaving a way of escape free, he rushed in the direction from which the sound came, and lunged at the tapestry-covered partition with his sword. Meantime the chevalier, dropping all his airs of bravado, sprang from one end of the room to the other like a cat pursued by a dog; but rapid as were his movements, the duke perceived his flight, and dashed after him at the risk of breaking both his own neck and the chevalier’s by a chase through unfamiliar rooms and down stairs which were plunged in darkness.
All this took place in a few seconds, like a flash of lightning. Twice, with hardly any interval, the street door opened and shut noisily, and the two enemies were in the street, one pursued and the other pursuing.
“My God! Just to think of all that has happened is enough to make one die of fright!” said Mademoiselle de Guerchi. “What will come next, I should like to know? And what shall I say to the duke when he comes back?”