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The Vicomte glared at her without speaking. The Lieutenant, who had listened, not without admiration of the girl’s sense and firmness, seized the opening to intervene. “Were it not well, sir,” he said, his matter-of-fact tone calming the Vicomte’s temper, “if mademoiselle told us as nearly as possible what she has heard? And, as she has been somewhat shaken, perhaps you will permit her to sit down! She will then, I think, be able to tell us more quickly what we want.”

The Vicomte gave a surly assent, and the Lieutenant himself placed a stool for the girl where she could lean upon the table. Her father opened his eyes 佛山桑拿天堂网 at the attention, but something in des Ageaux’s face silenced the sneer on his lips, and he waited until Bonne began.

“The Countess lay at Pons last night, sir,” she said in a low tone. “There the lady who was formerly her gouvernante, and still rules her household, fell ill. The plague is in Western Poitou, and though the Countess would

have stayed, her physician insisted that she should proceed. Accordingly she left the invalid in his charge and that of some of her people, while she herself pursued her way through Jonsac and Barbesieux with a train reduced to fourteen persons, of whom eight were well armed.”

“This is what comes of travelling in such a fashion,” the Vicomte said contemptuously. “I remember when I never passed the gates without–but go on!”

“She now thinks that the gouvernante’s food was tampered with. Be 广东佛山桑拿体验报告 that as it may, her company passed our ford in the afternoon, and an hour later reached the ascent a league this side of Vlaye. They were midway on the ascent, when half a dozen shots were fired. Several of their horses were struck, and the rest seized by a number of men who sprang from the undergrowth. In the panic those who

were at the rear attempted to turn, but found their retreat cut off. The Countess alone, who rode in the middle with her steward, escaped through the devotion of a servant, who thrust his horse before the leader of the bandits and brought him down. Fulbert, her steward, saw the opportunity, seized her rein, and, plunging into the undergrowth, reached by good luck the bottom of the hill, and, hidden by the wood, gained a start. He knew, however, that her strength would not hold out, and at the first sound of 佛山南海区桑拿娱乐会所 pursuit he alighted in a coppice, drove on the horses, and crept away with her through the underwood. He hoped to take shelter here, but passed the entrance in the darkness and walked into the midst of a party of men encamped at the ford. Then he thought all lost, deeming them the band that had waylaid the Countess—-”

“And who were they, if they were not?” the Vicomte asked, unable to restrain his curiosity. “Eh? They were camping at the ford?”

“Some riders belonging to the household of the Lieutenant of Périgord, sir, on their way to join him in his government. They were so honest as to guard the Countess hither—-”

“And go again? The good Lord!” the Vicomte cried irritably. “Why?”

“I do not know, sir.”

“Go on, then. Why do you break off? But–enough!” The Vicomte looked at the other listeners with an air of triumph. 佛山桑拿蒲友 “Where is Vlaye in this? Because it was within a league of his castle, you put it on him, you baggage?”

“No, sir, indeed!” Bonne cried anxiously. “But Fulbert the steward knows M. de Vlaye well, and recognised him. He wore a mask, it seems, but when his horse fell, the mask slipped, and Fulbert saw his face and knew him. Moreover—-”


“One of the band rode a bald-faced black horse, which the steward saw in M. de Vlaye’s troop at Angoulême two months back, and to which he says he could swear among ten thousand.”

The Vicomte swore as one among a large number. But at length, “And what is this to do with me?” he fumed. “What is this to me? Time was, before Coutras, when I might have been expected to–to keep the roads, and stay such things! But now–body of Satan, what is it to me?”

No one spoke, and he looked about him 佛山桑拿部长电话 angrily, resenting their silence. “What is it?” he snarled. “What are you keeping back?”

“Nothing, sir,” Bonne answered.

“Then what would you?”

“If,” Bonne ventured desperately, “M. de Vlaye come to-morrow with my sister–with the Abbess, sir, as is not unlikely–and find the Countess here, will she be safe?”

The Vicomte’s mouth opened, and slowly consternation settled upon his features. “Mon Dieu!” he muttered. “I had not thought of that. But here–no, no, he would not dare! He would not dare!”

“He went very far to-day, sir,” Bonne objected, gaining courage from his face. “So far that he must go farther to ensure himself from the consequences.”

The Vicomte was silent.

The Lieutenant coughed. “If his object,” he said, “be to force a marriage with the Countess—-”

The Vicomte, with an oath, cut him short. “A marriage?” he 佛山桑拿干磨水磨服务 said. “A marriage? When he and my daughter the Abbess are–but who said aught of the kind? Who said aught of a marriage?”

The Lieutenant did not answer, and the Vicomte, after growling in his beard, turned to him. “Why,” he demanded in a tone that, though ungracious, was no longer violent, “why do you say that that was his object?”

“Because,” the Lieutenant answered, “I happen to know that M. de Longueville, who is her guardian, has his hands full. His wife and children are prisoners with the Spaniards, and he is moving heaven and earth and the court to procure their release. He has no thought to spare for the Countess, his cousin; and were she once married, however violently, I doubt if he or any would venture to dispute her possessions with a Vlaye, whose resources her wealth would treble. Such knights-errant,” he continued drily, “are not very common, M. le Vicomte. Set M. de Vlaye’s strength at three hundred men-at-arms—-”

“Four!” the Vicomte muttered, despite himself.

“Then double the four–as such a marriage, however effected, would double them–and I doubt,” with a courteous bow, “if even a Villeneuve would find it easy to avenge a wrong!”

The Vicomte fidgeted in his seat. “You seem to know a vast deal about it, sir,” he said, with ill-feigned contempt.

“I should feel it an honour,” the Lieutenant answered politely, “to be permitted to join in the defence.”

“Defence!” the Vicomte exclaimed, staring at him in astonishment. “You go fast, sir! Defence? What do you mean?”

“If M. de Vlaye learn that the Countess has taken refuge here–I fear it will come to that.”

“Pooh! Impossible! Defence, indeed! What are you dreaming of?”

But the guest continued to look grave, and the Vicomte, after muttering incoherently, and drumming on the table with his fingers, condescended to ask with a sneer what he would do–in the circumstances.

“I should keep her presence from him,” des Ageaux answered. “I have no right, I know,” he continued, in a more conciliatory tone, “to give counsel to one of your experience, M. le Vicomte. But I see no 佛山桑拿按摩论坛 choice save to do what I suggest, or to pull up the drawbridge.”

The Vicomte sat up straight. Pull up the drawbridge? Was he dreaming–he who had sat down to sup without a thought of misfortune? He with four hundred yards of wall to guard, and some seven pikes to hold it–to defy Vlaye and his four hundred ruffians? Body of Satan, he was not mad! Defy Vlaye, whom he feared even while he sneered at him as an adventurer? Vlaye, in whose star he believed even while he sneered. Or would he have dreamed of giving him his daughter? Pull up the drawbridge? Never!

“I am not mad,” he said coldly. But his hands trembled.

“Then, M. le Vicomte, it remains to keep it from him.”

“How? You talk at random,” the exasperated man answered. “Can I close the mouth of every gossip in the house? Can I cut out every woman’s tongue, beginning with that 佛山桑拿经理电话 girl’s? How can I keep out his men, or stop their ears over the wine-pot?”

“Could you not admit him only?”

“And proclaim from the housetop,” the Vicomte retorted with contempt, “that I have something to hide?”