"Yes," said Lagardere, "they were very long and tempting. We resumed the argument elsewhere. It was brief. Good-bye, Brissac! But as the good king, thanks to the good cardinal, now frowns upon duelling, I am exiled when I ought to be rewarded." Cocardasse sighed. "There is no encouragement for virtue nowadays."

Lagardere turned to the king and spoke more solemnly: "The second is in the grave." Gonzague laughed. "The dead cannot speak." Lagardere still looked menacingly at Gonzague. "To-night the dead will speak. The proofs of your guilt are in that sealed packet, stolen from me by assassins in your pay." Gonzague turned to the king, protesting: "Sire!"

"If the gentleman will return me my sword," he said, "I will not lose it again so lightly." Lagardere looked at him with kind-hearted compassion. "If I returned you your sword twenty times," he said, "its fate would be twenty times the same. Take your sword and use it hereafter to defend women, not to insult them."

"Sir, you have made charges you could not prove, promises you could not keep. You shall answer for this before your judges." Bonnivet made as if to arrest Lagardere, but Lagardere held up his hand. "Stop!" he cried; "let no man dare to touch me. I have here your majesty's safe-conduct, signed and sealed 'free to come, free to go' that was your promise, sire." Gonzague protested.

He paused, and Cocardasse questioned: "But you don't laugh now?" Lagardere answered him, gravely: "Not a laugh. I waited for Nevers one evening outside the Louvre and saluted him. 'Sir, I said, in my grandest manner, 'I rely upon your courtesy to give me a moonlight lesson in your secret thrust. Lord, how he started. 'Who the devil are you? says he. I made him a magnificent bow.

Lagardere answered him, slowly: "Madame de Nevers gave this little lady to me just now from yonder window, taking me for you. There is a plot to kill the child, to kill you." Nevers gave a groan. "This is the hate of the Marquis de Caylus." "I don't know who is doing the job," Lagardere answered, "but what I do know is that the night is alive with assassins.

"I offer this deluded girl protection. It is for me to see that she is properly provided for." Gabrielle gave him a glance that pierced through his specious protestations. "You wish the daughter of Nevers to die. If you have killed Lagardere, I have no wish to live." Gonzague answered her, urbanely: "You take the matter too seriously. You have shared an imposture.

He looked up sharply, glancing right and left, and Æsop and Staupitz fell back in confusion, while Lagardere spoke to them, mocking them: "You will dub me eccentric; you will nickname me whimsical; you will damn me for a finicking stickler, and all because I am such an old-fashioned rascal as to wish to keep my correspondence to myself. There, there, don't be crestfallen.

Æsop was the incarnation of everything that was detestable in the eyes of a man like Lagardere. A splendid swordsman, his sword was always lightly sold to evil causes. He prostituted the noble weapon that Lagardere idolized to the service of the assassin, the advantage of the bully, and the revenge of the coward.

The world is wide, and it has always work for good swords to do." Cocardasse looked at him admiringly. "Your sword will never rust for want of use," he said, with approval. Lagardere answered him, briskly: "Why should it? 'Tis the best friend in the world. What woman's eye ever shone as brightly as its blade, what woman's tongue ever discoursed such sweet music?"