The Prince of Conde and Cardinal Mazarin were in arms against one another. The Queen and her son were devoted to Mazarin. The loyal folk in Paris held to the King, and were fain to swallow the Cardinal because Conde was in open rebellion. Monsieur was trying to hold the balance with the help of the Parliament, but was too great an ass to do any such thing. the mob was against everybody, chiefly against the Cardinal, and the brutal ruffians of the Prince’s following lurked about, bullying every one who gave them umbrage, with some hope of terrifying the Parliament magistrates into siding with them.
It was therefore no great surprise to Eustace and Sir Francis Ommaney the next evening, when they were coming back on foot from the Louvre, to hear a scuffle in one of the side streets.
They saw in a moment half of dozen fellows with cudgels falling on a figure in black, who vainly struggled to defend himself with a little thin walking rapier. Their English blood was up in a moment two masked figures and hearing them egging on their bravoes with ’Hola, there! At him! Teach him to look at a lady of rank.’
The little rapier had been broken. A heavy blow had made the victim’s arm fall, he had been tripped up, and the rascals were still belabouring him, when Eustace and Sir Francis sprang in among them, crying, ‘Hold, cowardly rascals!’ striking to the right and left, though with the flat of their swords, of which they were perfect masters, for even in their wrath they remembered that these rogues were only tools. And no doubt they were not recognized in the twilight, for one of the masked gentlemen exclaimed:
’Stop, sir! this is not a matter for gentlemen. This is the way we punish the insolence of fellows whose muddy blood would taint the swords of a noble.’
At the same moment Eustace saw that the victim, who had begun to raise himself, was actually Clement Darpent. He knew, too, the voice from the mask, and, in hot wrath, exclaimed:
’Solivet, you make me regret that you are my brother, and that I cannot punish such a cowardly outrage.’
‘But I am no brother of yours!’ cried d’Aubepine, flying at him. ‘Thus I treat all who dare term me coward.’
Eustace, far taller and more expert in fence, as well as with strength of arm that all his ill-health had not destroyed, parried the thrust so as to strike the sword out of d’Aubepine’s hand, and then said:
’Go home, Monsieur. Thank your relationship to my sister that I punish you no further, and learn that to use other men’s arms to strike the defenceless is a stain upon nobility.’
And as the wretched little Count slunk away he added
‘Solivet, I had though better things of you.’
To which Solivet responded, with the pretension derived from his few years of seniority: