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JULY, 1941



Because of his promise to a
dying man, he must let the girl
he loved think him a coward
There was only one way in which
Montespan could protect her
and keep his honor

"YU have been like a son to me—Jacques—for the past three years. I— leave you—the task of caring for my granddaughter—Louise."

Jacques Montespan said gently, "I shall keep your trust."

The old man coughed—was coughing out his life in Jacques' arms. Blood flowed from a sword wound in the thin chest, flecked Du Loire's mouth with each rattling, painful word.

"You will—need to watch—Jussac," he continued. "Louise is only —seventeen—and he has turned her head—"

Jacques' face flushed in helpless anger at mention of Jussac's name. "Jussac gave you no chance, did he?"

Du Loire sighed. "He was too swift for me." An amber streak of Paris sunshine came through the leaded window above him, cast a halo about his leonine white head.

Jacques lifted his eyes. The year was 1670. Crossed blades of Toledo steel hung dustily on the far wall. Below them a desk had been mussed up, a drawer opened. The old man saw his glance, said: "Jussac is a dangerous man. He —came to me—demanding Louise's hand—in marriage. I refused —and he—killed me." The old man stiffened, clutched at the other's arm. "Also he—stole the rubies—which were to have been— Louise's dowry." His glazing eyes went toward the open drawer.

Jacques Montespan podded grimly. "Jussac's time will come."

Du Loire turned his filming gaze into the features of the younger man. "No, Jacques! You must—not—" His voice died in a moist, choking gurgle of sound; blood rattled in his throat. He died.

Very gently, Jacques lowered the old man's white head to the pillow of the couch. He closed those sightless, staring eyes with a touch as gentle as a man's. And then he turned swiftly as a door opened behind him.

A GIRL stood framed there in the doorway. Her flaming red hair hung braided down her back; her face was an ivory oval. From above her tightly-laced bodice gleamed the upper halves of her youthful breasts. She smiled at Jacques; and then her eyes came to rest on the body of Du Loire. "Grandfather!" she cried out, and ran swiftly toward the couch.

Jacques followed her. Tenderly he touched her, slipped an arm around her little waist, drew her back. "He is dead. There is nothing you can do, child."

She twisted around, faced him. "How did he die?" Her eyes were round, her face filled with a strange pallor.

Jacques' lips were...

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