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17. The Babbling Of Ganymede
Never until that hour, as I stood in the porch of the Hotel de l'Epee, hearkening to
my henchman's narrative and to the bursts of laughter which ever and anon it
provoked from his numerous listeners, had I dreamed of the raconteur talents
which Rodenard might boast. Yet was I very far from being appreciative now that
I discovered them, for the story that he told was of how one Marcel Saint-Pol,
Marquis de Bardelys, had laid a wager with the Comte de Chatellerault that he
would woo and win Mademoiselle de Lavedan to wife within three months. Nor
did he stop there. Rodenard, it would seem, was well informed; he had drawn all
knowledge of the state of things from Castelroux's messenger, and later - I know
not from whom - at Toulouse, since his arrival.
He regaled the company, therefore, with a recital of our finding the dying
Lesperon, and of how I had gone off alone, and evidently assumed the name and
role of that proscribed rebel, and thus conducted my wooing under sympathy
inspiring circumstances at Lavedan. Then came, he announced, the very cream
of the jest, when I was arrested as Lesperon and brought to Toulouse and to trial
in Lesperon's stead; he told them how I had been sentenced to death in the other
man's place, and he assured them that I would certainly have been beheaded
upon the morrow but that news had been borne to him - Rodenard - of my plight,
and he was come to deliver me.
My first impulse upon hearing him tell of the wager had been to stride into the
room and silence him by my coming. That I did not obey that impulse was
something that presently I was very bitterly to regret. How it came that I did not I
scarcely know. I was tempted, perhaps, to see how far this henchman whom for
years I had trusted was unworthy of that trust. And so, there in the porch, I
stayed until he had ended by telling the company that he was on his way to
inform the King - who by great good chance was that day arrived in Toulouse - of
the mistake that had been made, and thus obtain my immediate enlargement and
earn my undying gratitude.
Again I was on the point of entering to administer a very stern reproof to that
talkative rogue, when of a sudden there was a commotion within. I caught a
scraping of chairs, a dropping of voices, and then suddenly I found myself
confronted by Roxalanne de Lavedan herself, issuing with a page and a woman
in attendance.
For just a second her eyes rested on me, and the light coming through the
doorway at her back boldly revealed my countenance. And a very startled
countenance it must have been, for in that fraction of time I knew that she had
heard all that Rodenard had been relating. Under that instant's glance of her