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Bardelys the Magnificent

20. The "Bravi" At Blagnac
I was glad to be in the open once more - glad of the movement, as I rode at the
head of my brave company along the bank of the Garonne and in the shade of
the golden, autumn-tinted trees.
I was in a measure angry with myself that I had driven such a bargain with
Roxalanne, in a measure angry with her that she had forced me to it by her
obstinacy. A fine gentleman I, on my soul, to have dubbed Chatellerault a cheat
for having done no worse than I had now brought myself to do! Yet, was it so?
No, I assured myself, it was not. A thousand times no! What I had done I had
done as much to win Roxalanne to me as to win her from her own
unreasonableness. In the days to come she should thank me for my harshness,
for that which now she perhaps accounted my unfairness.
Then, again, would I ask myself, was I very sure of this? And so the two
questions were flung the one against the other; my conscience divided itself into
two parties, and they waged a war that filled me with a depressing uncertainty.
In the end shame was overthrown, and I flung back my head with a snort of
assurance. I was doing no wrong. On the contrary, I was doing right - both by
myself and by Roxalanne. What matter that I was really cheating her? What
matter that I had said I would not leave Lavedan until I had her promise, whilst in
reality I had hurled my threat at Saint-Eustache that I would meet him at
Toulouse, and passed my word to the Vicomtesse that I would succour her
husband?
I gave no thought to the hidden threat with which Saint-Eustache had retorted
that from Lavedan to Toulouse was a distance of some twenty leagues. Had he
been a man of sterner purposes I might have been uneasy and on my guard. But
Saint-Eustache pshaw!
It is ill to underestimate an enemy, be he never so contemptible, and for my
disdain of the Chevalier I might have paid dearly had not Fortune - which of late
had been practising singular jests upon me after seemingly abandoning me,
returned to my aid at the last moment.
It was Saint-Eustache's purpose that I should never reach Toulouse alive, for in
all the world I was the one man he feared, the one man who would encompass
his undoing and destruction by a word. And so he had resolved and disposed
that I should be removed, and to accomplish this he had left a line of bravi along
the road I was to pass.
 
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