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Bardelys the Magnificent

8. The Portrait
Into the mind of every thoughtful man must come at times with bitterness the
reflection of how utterly we are at the mercy of Fate, the victims of her every
whim and caprice. We may set out with the loftiest, the sternest resolutions to
steer our lives along a well-considered course, yet the slightest of fortuitous
circumstances will suffice to force us into a direction that we had no thought of
taking.
Now, had it pleased Monsieur de Marsac to have come to Lavedan at any
reasonable hour of the day, I should have been already upon the road to Paris,
intent to own defeat and pay my wager. A night of thought, besides strengthening
my determination to follow such a course, had brought the reflection that I might
thereafter return to Roxalanne, a poor man, it is true, but one at least whose
intentions might not be misconstrued.
And so, when at last I sank into sleep, my mind was happier than it had been for
many days. Of Roxalanne's love I was assured, and it seemed that I might win
her, after all, once I removed the barrier of shame that now deterred me. It may
be that those thoughts kept me awake until a late hour, and that to this I owe it
that when on the morrow I awakened the morning was well advanced. The sun
was flooding my chamber, and at my bedside stood Anatole.
"What's o'clock?" I inquired, sitting bolt upright.
"Past ten," said he, with stern disapproval.
"And you have let me sleep?" I cried.
"We do little else at Lavedan even when we are awake," he grumbled. "There
was no reason why monsieur should rise." Then, holding out a paper, "Monsieur
Stanislas de Marsac was here betimes this morning with Mademoiselle his sister.
He left this letter for you, monsieur."
Amaze and apprehension were quickly followed by relief, since Anatole's words
suggested that Marsac had not remained. I took the letter, nevertheless, with
some misgivings, and whilst I turned it over in my hands I questioned the old
servant.
"He stayed an hour at the chateau, monsieur," Anatole informed me. "Monsieur
le Vicomte would have had you roused, but he would not hear of it. 'If what
Monsieur de Saint-Eustache has told me touching your guest should prove to be
true,' said he, 'I would prefer not to meet him under your roof, monsieur.'
'Monsieur de Saint-Eustache,' my master replied, 'is not a person whose word
 
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