I was paralyzed by the suddenness of the ill-fortune which had befallen, but I was to be allowed no day of grace in which to plan a line of conduct. My face had been turned all this while toward the sea, there being something soothing to me about the long, even sweep of those bright, blue waters in the south.
Jacques faced the town. I noted a deprecatory gesture, and following his gaze saw the Chevalier himself coming our way at a good round pace. My knees did quake, and the veriest poltroon might have well been ashamed of the overweening fear which possessed me. In defense of which I may say, I believe it was due in large part to my great respect and fondness for de la Mora, as well as a deep consciousness of the justice of his cause. From long habit I looked first to my weapons, but for once felt no joy in them.
"Captain de Mouret," he greeted me with a soldier's formal courtesy.
"Chevalier de la Mora."
"Captain, I have the honor to return to you a note which I believe bears your name," and he handed me the unfortunate billet.
"Am I right? Is that your hand?"
I scorned to lie, and answered him evenly;
"Is that note properly directed? To Madame de la Mora?"
"It is, but—"
"Have you any explanation, sir, to offer?"
For the life of me I could think of nothing to say; I