Bardelys the Magnificent
13. The Eleventh Hour
Castelroux visited me upon the following morning, but he brought no news that
might be accounted encouraging. None of his messengers were yet returned, nor
had any sent word that they were upon the trail of my followers. My heart sank a
little, and such hope as I still fostered was fast perishing. Indeed, so imminent did
my doom appear and so unavoidable, that later in the day I asked for pen and
paper that I might make an attempt at setting my earthly affairs to rights. Yet
when the writing materials were brought me, I wrote not. I sat instead with the
feathered end of my quill between my teeth, and thus pondered the matter of the
disposal of my Picardy estates.
Coldly I weighed the wording of the wager and the events that had transpired,
and I came at length to the conclusion that Chatellerault could not be held to
have the least claim upon my lands. That he had cheated at the very outset, as I
have earlier shown, was of less account than that he had been instrumental in
violently hindering me.
I took at last the resolve to indite a full memoir of the transaction, and to request
Castelroux to see that it was delivered to the King himself. Thus not only would
justice be done, but I should - though tardily - be even with the Count. No doubt
he relied upon his power to make a thorough search for such papers as I might
leave, and to destroy everything that might afford indication of my true identity.
But he had not counted upon the good feeling that had sprung up betwixt the little
Gascon captain and me, nor yet upon my having contrived to convince the latter
that I was, indeed, Bardelys, and he little dreamt of such a step as I was about to
take to ensure his punishment hereafter.
Resolved at last, I was commencing to write when my attention was arrested by
an unusual sound. It was at first no more than a murmuring noise, as of at sea
breaking upon its shore. Gradually it grew its volume and assumed the shape of
human voices raised in lusty clamour. Then, above the din of the populace, a gun
boomed out, then another, and another.
I sprang up at that, and, wondering what might be toward, I crossed to my barred
window and stood there listening. I overlooked the courtyard of the jail, and I
could see some commotion below, in sympathy, as it were, with the greater
Presently, as the populace drew nearer, it seemed to me that the shouting was of
acclamation. Next I caught a blare of trumpets, and, lastly, I was able to
distinguish above the noise, which had now grown to monstrous proportions, the
clattering hoofs of some cavalcade that was riding past the prison doors.