And with that, and scarcely an expression of civility, he left me. Some may wonder, I know, that, having in the Edict of Blois, which forbade duelling and made it a capital offence, an answer to convince even his arrogance, I did not use this weapon; but, as a fact, the edict was not published until the following June, when, partly in consequence of this affair and at my instance, the King put it forth.
Saintonge could scarcely have cleared the gates before his prediction was fulfilled. His enemy arrived hot foot, and entered to me with a mien so much lowered by anxiety and trouble that I hardly knew him for the man who had a hundred times rebuffed me, and whom the King's offers had found consistently obdurate. All I had ever known of M. de Clan heightened his present humility and strengthened his appeal; so that I felt pity for him proportioned not only to his age and necessity, but to the depth of his fall. Saintonge had rightly anticipated his request; the first, he said, with a trace of his old pride, that he had made to the King in eleven years: his son, his only son and only child--the single heir of his name! He stopped there and looked at me; his eyes bright, his lips trembling and moving without sound, his hands fumbling on his knees.
"But," I said, "your son wishes to fight, M. de Clan?"
He shrugged his shoulders grimly. "No," he said; "he is a St. Germain."
"Well, that is just my case," I answered. "You see this young fellow St. Mesmin was commended to me, and is, in a manner, of my household; and that is a fatal objection. I cannot possibly act against him in the manner you propose. You must see that; and for my wishes, he respects them less than your son regards yours."
M. de Clan rose, trembling a little on his legs, and glaring at me out of his fierce old eyes. "Very well," he said, "it is as much as I expected. Times are changed--and faiths--since the King of Navarre slept under the same bush with Antoine St. Germain on the night before Cahors! I wish you good-day, M. le Marquis."
I need not say that my sympathies were with him, and that I would have helped him if I could; but in accordance with the maxim which I have elsewhere explained, that he who places any consideration before the King's service is not fit to conduct it, I did not see my way to thwart M. de Saintonge in a matter so small. And the end justified my inaction; for the duel, taking place that evening, resulted in nothing worse than a serious, but not dangerous, wound which St. Mesmin, fighting with the same fury as in the morning, contrived to inflict on his opponent.
For some weeks after this I saw little of the young firebrand, though from time to time he attended my receptions and invariably behaved to me with a modesty which proved that he placed some bounds to his presumption. I heard, moreover, that M. de Saintonge, in acknowledgment of the triumph over the St. Germains which he had afforded him, had taken him up; and that the connection between the families being publicly avowed, the two were much together.
Reminder: Arrow keys left and right (← →) to turn pages forward and backward, up and down (↑ ↓) to scroll up and down, Enter key: return to the list