The Grey Cloak (Chapter 7, page 1 of 17)


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Chapter 7

The Hotel de Périgny stood in the Rue des Augustines, diagonally
opposite the historic pile once occupied by Henri II and Diane de
Poitiers, the beautiful and fascinating Duchesse de Valentinois of
equivocal yet enduring fame. It was constructed in the severe beauty
of Roman straight lines, and the stains of nearly two centuries had
discolored the blue-veined Italian marble. A high wall inclosed it,
and on the top of this wall ran a miniature cheval-de-frise of iron.
Nighttime or daytime, in mean or brilliant light, it took on the somber
visage of a kill-joy. The invisible hand of fear chilled and repelled
the curious: it was a house of dread. There were no gardens; the
flooring of the entire court was of stone; there was not even the usual
vine sprawling over the walls.

Men had died in this house; not always in bed, which is to say,
naturally. Some had died struggling in the gloomy corridors, in the
grand salon, on the staircase leading to the upper stories. In the
Valois's time it had witnessed many a violent night; for men had held
life in a careless hand, and the master of fence had been the
law-giver. Three of the House of Périgny had closed their accounts
thus roughly. The grandsire and granduncle of the present marquis,
both being masters of fence, had succumbed in an attempt to give law to
each other. And the apple of discord, some say, had been the Duchesse
de Valentinois. The third to die violently was the ninth marquis,
father of the present possessor of the title. History says that he
died of too much wine and a careless tongue. Thus it will be seen that
the blood in the veins of this noble race was red and hot.

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