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He nursed his wrist a moment, looking askance at her, and thinking deeply and darkly. Assured at length that the swoon was no feint to take him unawares, he went to the door by which he had entered, passed through the empty ante-room, and thence into the Captain of Vlaye’s apartments. In the passage outside the farther door of these a sleepy valet was on guard. He was not surprised by the Duke’s appearance, for half an hour before–only half 佛山桑拿一条龙多少钱 an hour!–he had allowed him and his guide to enter.
“M. de Vlaye wishes to see the Captain of the gate,” the Duke said curtly. “Bid him come, and quickly.” And to show that he looked for no answer he turned his back on the man, and, without looking behind him, passed through the rooms again to the one he had left.
Here he did a strange thing. On a side table which had escaped the general disaster stood some dishes removed from the chief table, a plate or two, a bread trencher, and a silver decanter of wine. After a moment’s thought he drew a chair to this table, laid his sword on it beside the dishes, and, helping himself to food, began to eat and drink, with his eyes on the door. After the lapse of two or three minutes, during which he more than once scanned the room with a strange and inexplicable satisfaction, a knock was heard at the door.
“Enter!” said the Duke, his mouth half-full.
The door opened, and a grizzled man with a square-cut beard stepped in. He wore a breastpiece over a leather coat, and held his steel cap in his hand.
“Shut the door!” the Duke said sharply.
The man did so mechanically, and turned again, and–his mouth opened. After a few seconds of silence “Mon Dieu!” he whispered. “Mon Dieu!”
“He is quite dead,” the Duke said, raising his glass to his lips. “But you had better satisfy yourself. When you have done so, listen to me.”
Had the Duke been in any other attitude it is probable that the man had turned in a panic, flung the door wide, and yelled for help. But, seeing a stranger calmly eating and drinking and addressing him with a morsel on the point of his knife, the man stared helplessly, and then did mechanically as he was told–stooped, listened, felt for the life that had for ever departed. When he rose again “Now, listen to me,” said the other. “I am the Duke of Joyeuse–you know my name? You know me? Yes, I did it. That is not your affair–but I did it. Your affair is with the thing we have next to do. No–she is not dead.”
“Mon Dieu!” the man whispered. Old war-dog as he was, his cheeks were sallow, his hand trembled. A hundred dead, in the open, on the rampart, under God’s sky, had not scared him as this lighted room with its medley of horror and wealth, its curtained windows and its suffocating tapestry, scared him.
“Your affair,” the Duke repeated, “is with what is to follow.” He raised his glass, and held it between his eye and the light. “Do you take my side or his? He is dead–you see him. I am alive–you know me. Now hear my terms. But first, my man, what do you number?”
The man made an effort, vain for the most part, to collect himself. But he managed to whisper, after a moment’s hesitation, that they mustered four hundred and thirty, all told.
The man moved his lips without sound, but the other understood that he assented.
“Very well,” the Duke said. “All that is here I give you. Understand, all. Divide, sack, spoil; make your bundles. He is dead,” with a glance at Vlaye’s body, “he’ll not say you nay. And a free pardon for all; and for as many as please–my service. All that I give, on condition that you open your gates to me and render the place three hours after sunrise to-morrow.”
The man gaped. The position was new, but he began to see his way. “I can do nothing by myself,” he muttered.
“You can have first search,” Joyeuse retorted brutally. “There he lies, and his buttons are jewelled. And ten gold crowns I will give you for yourself when the place is mine. You know me, and I keep my word. I told your friend there, who got me entrance”–he pointed to the man Vlaye had stabbed–“that if his master laid a finger on him I would kill his master with these hands. I did it. And there’s an end.”
The grizzled man’s face was changed. It had grown cunning. His eyes shone with cupidity. His cheekbones were flushed. “And if they will not come into your terms, my lord?” he asked, his head on one side, his fingers in his beard, “what must I say you will do?”
“Hang while rope lasts,” the Duke answered. “But, name of God, man!”–staring–“beyond the spoils of the place what do you want? He is dead, you have no leader. What matter is it of yours or of theirs who leads?”
The old soldier nodded. “That is true,” he said: “we follow our wages.”
“One thing more–nay, three things,” Joyeuse continued, pushing his cup and plate aside and rising to his feet. “The lady there–I trust her to you. Lock her up where she will be safe, and at daybreak see that she is sent to the convent. M. des Ageaux, whom you have below–not a hair of his head must be injured. Lastly, you must do no harm in the town.”
“I will remember, my lord, and tell them.”
“And now see me through the gates.”
The man grinned cunningly; but as one who wished to prove his astuteness, not as one who intended to refuse. “That is number four, my lord,” he said, “and the chiefest of all.”
“Not so,” the Duke answered. “It was on that condition I spared your life, fool, when you came in.”
“Then you knew—-”
“I knew that his buttons were jewelled.”
“My lord,” the man said with admiration, “I vow you’d face the devil.”
“You will do that whether you will or no,” the Duke replied drily, “some day. But that reminds me.” He turned from his companion. He looked on the bloodshed about him, and gradually his face showed the first signs of compunction that had escaped him. Something of disgust, almost of distress, appeared in his manner. He glanced from one prostrate form to another as if he scarce knew what to do and
presently he crossed himself. “Lift her to the couch there,” he said. And when it was done, “My friend,” he continued, in a lower tone, “wait without the door one minute. But do not go beyond call.”
The old soldier raised his eyebrows, but he, thoroughly won over, obeyed. Once outside, however, he pondered cunningly. Why had he been sent out? And thoughts of his jewelled buttons overcame him. After a moment’s hesitation–for Joyeuse had put fear into him–he dropped softly to his knee and set his eye to a crack in the door.
M. de Joyeuse was kneeling between the dead, his palms joined before his breast, his rosary between them. The lights of the feast, that shone ghastly on the grim faces and on the blood-pool about them, shone also on his uplifted face, from which the last trace of the tremendous rages to which he was prone had fled, leaving it pale indeed and worn–for the marks of his illness were still upon it–but calm and sublime. His eyes were upward bent. Those eyes that a few minutes earlier had burned with a hatred almost sub-human now shone with a light soft and ecstatic, such as shines in the eyes of those who see visions and hear voices. His lips moved without sound. The beads dropped one by one through his fingers.
* * * * *
The hewers of wood and feeders of oxen who herded together in the town under the castle walls were timidly aware of the festivities above their heads. The sounds of brawling and dancing, of the tambour and glee, descended to them and kept them waiting far into the night. On occasions, rare, it is true, the war-lords above had broken loose from their bonds, and, mad with drink and frenzied with excitement, had harried their own town. Once, to teach a lesson, the thing had been done–but more completely and cruelly–by Vlaye’s express order. The memory of these occasions remained, burned shamefully into the towns-folk’s mind; and many a cotter looked up this night in trembling from his humble window, many a woman with her hood about her head stood in the alley whispering to her neighbour and quaked as she listened. Something beyond the ordinary was passing above, in the stronghold that at once protected and plundered them; something that a sad experience told them boded no good. Two or three young women of the better class went so far as to seek a sanctuary in Father 佛山桑拿第一站 Benet’s chapel; while their fathers hid their little hoards, and their mothers took heed to quench the fires, and some threw water on the thatch–sad precautions which necessity had made second nature in many a hamlet and many a market-town of France.
Had they known, these poor folk who paid for all, that their lord lay dead in the lighted room above, had they guessed that the hand which had held those turbulent troopers in order was nerveless at last, never again to instil fear or strike a blow, not even these precautions had contented them. They would have risen and fled, and in the marshes by the river or in remote meadows would have hidden themselves from the first violence of the troopers’ outbreak. But they did not know, and they remained. And though those who were most fearful or least sleepy, women or men, noted that 佛山夜生活在哪个地方 the lights above burned all night and that the tumult, albeit its note changed, held till dawn, they slept or kept vigil in security. The Duke’s command availed. And no man, until the day was broad, left the castle.
Then the gates were opened, and a procession numbering four score troopers–those who had the most to fear from justice or the least bent towards honest service–issued from them, and rode two abreast down the hill and through the town, They were in strange guise. Every man had a great bundle on his crupper, and some a woman; and every man rode gorgeous in silk or Genoa, or rich furs, with feathers and such like gewgaws. One had a headpiece damascened beyond price swinging at his shoulders, another flaunted trappings of silver, a third had a jewelled hilt, a fourth a bunch of clinking cups or a swollen belt. 佛山夜生活无忧 Behind them came a dozen spare horses, roped head and tail and high laden with casks and skins of wine; while hunting-dogs ran at the stirrups, and two or three monkeys and thrice as many chained hawks balanced themselves on the swaying casks. The men rode jauntily, with high looks and defiant voices, jesting and singing as they passed; and now and again a one aimed a blow at a clown, or, with rude laughter, flung a handful of coppers to the townsfolk, who shrank into their doorways to see them pass. But no man vouchsafed a word of explanation; only the last rider as he passed under the arch of the town gate turned, and, with his hands joined, flung behind him a derisive gesture of farewell.
The townsfolk wondered, for the men were rich laden. Many a one carried a year’s pay on his shoulders; and what they hid in their bundles 佛山夜生活论坛飞机网 might amount to many times as much. Moreover, they swaggered as men who mind no master. What then had happened? Nay, what was still happening? For it was plain that something was amiss above. From the castle proceeded a strange and continuous hum; a dull noise, as of bees swarming; a murmur compound of many sounds, and full of menace.
But no man who was not in the secret guessed the truth or even came near it. And the sun had travelled far and the lads had driven the cows to pasture before the green valley of the Dronne, that had lain so long under the spell of fear, awoke to find its burden gone and to learn that a better time, bringing law, order, and justice, was at hand. About seven a body of horsemen were seen crossing the narrow plain which divided the place from the northern heights; and as these approached the bridge a 佛山桑拿会所按摩全套 lad, one of those who had first espied them, was sent to carry the alarm to the castle. The townsfolk looked to see a rush of armed men to the outer gate; or, if not that, something akin. But nothing of the kind followed, and while they stood gaping, uncertain whether to stand their ground or flee to hiding, the advancing horsemen, who numbered about two hundred, marched across the bridge with every sign of confidence.
The Duke was not among them. Fatigue and the weakness caused by his wound had stood in the way of his return, and at this hour he lay in utter collapse in his quarters in the peasants’ camp. His place was occupied by the Bat, who rode in the van with Charles de Villeneuve on his right and Roger on his left. The young men’s minds were clouded by thoughts of their sister and her plight; but, in spite of this, it 佛山桑拿男人加油站 was a day of pride to them, a day of triumph and revenge–and they rode in that spirit. The Bat, to whom Hecuba was naught–it was long since a woman had troubled his peace–wore none the less a grave face. For time had pressed, the Duke’s explanation had been brief though fervid, and the men had saddled and started within an hour of his return. Consequently all might be well, or it might be ill. The Captain of Vlaye’s troops might surrender the place without a blow, or they might not. For his part, the Bat would not have risked his purse on their promise.
But to risk his life and his men was in the way of war. And he moved steadily up the street, and gave no sign of doubt. Nevertheless it was his ear that, as they debouched into the market-place, caught the tread of a galloping horse on the flat beyond the river; and it was 佛山桑拿按摩全套图 his hand that halted the men–apparently that the stragglers might move up and take their places.
A minute or two later the galloping horse pounded under the gateway and clattered recklessly up the paved street. The sound of those hurrying hoofs told of news; and the men turned in their saddles and looked to learn who followed. The rider appeared in the open. It was Bonne de Villeneuve.