Tải bản đầy đủ

Under the red robe


UNDERTHEREDROBE
by
STANLEYJ.WEYMAN
*
CONTENTS
*CHAPTERI.ATZATON’S
*CHAPTERII.ATTHEGREENPILLAR
*CHAPTERIII.THEHOUSEINTHEWOOD
*CHAPTERIV.MADAMANDMADEMOISELLE
*CHAPTERV.REVENGE
*CHAPTERVI.UNDERTHEPlCDUMIDI
*CHAPTERVII.AMASTERSTROKE
*CHAPTERVIII.AMASTERSTROKE—Continued
*CHAPTERIX.THEQUESTION
*CHAPTERX.CLON
*CHAPTERXI.THEARREST
*CHAPTERXII.THEROADTOPARIS
*CHAPTERXIII.ATTHEFINGER-POST
*CHAPTERXIV.STMARTIN’SEVE
*CHAPTERXV.STMARTIN’SSUMMER



*
UNDERTHEREDROBE


CHAPTERI
ATZATON’S
‘Markedcards!’
Therewereascorerounduswhenthefool,littleknowingthemanwithwhom
hehadtodeal,andaslittlehowtoloselikeagentleman,flungthewordsinmy
teeth.Hethought,I’llbesworn,thatIshouldstormandswearandruffleitlike
anycommoncockofthehackle.ButthatwasneverGildeBerault’sway.Fora
fewsecondsafterhehadspokenIdidnotevenlookathim.Ipassedmyeye
instead—smiling,BIENENTENDU—roundtheringofwaitingfaces,sawthat
therewasnooneexceptDePombalIhadcausetofear;andthenatlastIrose
andlookedatthefoolwiththegrimfaceIhaveknownimposeonolderand
wisermen.
‘Markedcards,M.l’Anglais?’Isaid,withachillingsneer.‘Theyareused,Iam
told,totrapplayers—notunbirchedschoolboys.’
‘YetIsaythattheyaremarked!’herepliedhotly,inhisqueerforeignjargon.‘In
mylasthandIhadnothing.Youdoubledthestakes.Bah,sir,youknew!You
haveswindledme!’
‘Monsieuriseasytoswindle—whenheplayswithamirrorbehindhim,’I
answeredtartly.
Atthattherewasagreatroaroflaughter,whichmighthavebeenheardinthe
street,andwhichbroughttothetableeveryoneintheeating-housewhomhis
voicehadnotalreadyattracted.ButIdidnotrelaxmyface.Iwaiteduntilallwas
quietagain,andthenwavingasidetwoorthreewhostoodbetweenusandthe
entrance,Ipointedgravelytothedoor.
‘ThereisalittlespacebehindthechurchofStJacques,M.l’Etranger,’Isaid,
puttingonmyhatandtakingmycloakonmyarm.‘Doubtlessyouwill
accompanymethither?’
Hesnatcheduphishat,hisfaceburningwithshameandrage.


‘Withpleasure!’heblurtedout.‘Tothedevil,ifyoulike!’
Ithoughtthematterarranged,whentheMarquislaidhishandontheyoung
fellow’sarmandcheckedhim.
‘Thismustnotbe,’hesaid,turningfromhimtomewithhisgrand,finegentleman’sair.‘Youknowme,M.deBerault.Thismatterhasgonefarenough.’


‘Toofar!M.dePombal,’Iansweredbitterly.‘Still,ifyouwishtotakeyour
friend’splace,Ishallraisenoobjection.’
‘Chut,man!’heretorted,shrugginghisshouldersnegligently.‘Iknowyou,andI
donotfightwithmenofyourstamp.Norneedthisgentleman.’
‘Undoubtedly,’Ireplied,bowinglow,‘ifhepreferstobecanedinthestreets.’
ThatstungtheMarquis.
‘Haveacare!haveacare!’hecriedhotly.‘Yougotoofar,M.Berault.’
‘DeBerault,ifyouplease,’Iobjected,eyeinghimsternly.‘Myfamilyhasborne
theDEaslongasyours,M.dePombal.’
Hecouldnotdenythat,andheanswered,‘Asyouplease;’atthesametime
restraininghisfriendbyagesture.‘Butnonetheless,’hecontinued,‘takemy
advice.TheCardinalhasforbiddenduelling,andthistimehemeansit!Youhave
beenintroubleonceandgonefree.Asecondtimeitmayfareworsewithyou.
Letthisgentlemango,therefore,M.deBerault.Besides—why,shameuponyou,
man!’heexclaimedhotly;‘heisbutalad!’
Twoorthreewhostoodbehindmeapplaudedthat,ButIturnedandtheymetmy
eye;andtheywereasmumasmice.
‘Hisageishisownconcern,’Isaidgrimly.‘Hewasoldenoughawhileagoto
insultme.’
‘AndIwillprovemywords!’theladcried,explodingatlast.Hehadspirit
enough,andtheMarquishadhadhardworktorestrainhimsolong.‘Youdome
noservice,M.dePombal,’hecontinued,pettishlyshakingoffhisfriend’shand.
‘Byyourleave,thisgentlemanandIwillsettlethismatter.’


‘Thatisbetter,’Isaid,noddingdrily,whiletheMarquisstoodaside,frowning
andbaffled.‘Permitmetoleadtheway.’
Zaton’seating-housestandsscarcelyahundredpacesfromStJacquesla
Boucherie,andhalfthecompanywentthitherwithus.Theeveningwaswet,the
lightinthestreetswaswaning,thestreetsthemselvesweredirtyandslippery.
TherewerefewpassersintheRueStAntoine;andourparty,whichearlierinthe
daymusthaveattractednoticeandacrowd,crossedunmarked,andentered
withoutinterruptionthepavedtrianglewhichliesimmediatelybehindthe
church.IsawinthedistanceoneoftheCardinal’sguardloiteringinfrontofthe
scaffoldingroundthenewHotelRichelieu;andthesightoftheuniformgaveme
pauseforamoment.Butitwastoolatetorepent.
TheEnglishmanbeganatoncetostripoffhisclothes.Iclosedminetothethroat,
fortheairwaschilly.Atthatmoment,whilewestoodpreparing,andmostofthe
companyseemedalittleinclinedtostandofffromme,Ifeltahandonmyarm,
andturning,sawthedwarfishtailoratwhosehouse,intheRueSavonnerie,I
lodgedatthetime.Thefellow’spresencewasunwelcome,tosaytheleastofit;
andthoughforwantofbettercompanyIhadsometimesencouragedhimtobe
freewithmeathome,ItookthattobenoreasonwhyIshouldbeplaguedwith
himbeforegentlemen.Ishookhimoff,therefore,hopingbyafrowntosilence
him.
Hewasnottobesoeasilyputdown,however,andperforceIhadtospeakto
him.
‘Afterwards,afterwards,’Isaidhurriedly.‘Iamengagednow.
‘ForGod’ssake,don’t,sir!’thepoorfoolcried,clingingtomysleeve.‘Don’tdo
it!Youwillbringacurseonthehouse.Heisbutalad,and—’
‘You,too!’Iexclaimed,losingpatience.‘Besilent,youscum!Whatdoyouknow
aboutgentlemen’squarrels?Leaveme;doyouhear?’
‘ButtheCardinal!’hecriedinaquaveringvoice.‘TheCardinal,M.deBerault!
Thelastmanyoukilledisnotforgottenyet.Thistimehewillbesureto—’
‘Leaveme,doyouhear?’Ihissed.Thefellow’simpudencepassedallbounds.It
wasasbadashiscroaking.‘Begone!’Iadded.‘Isupposeyouareafraidthathe
willkillme,andyouwillloseyourmoney.’


FrisonfellbackatthatalmostasifIhadstruckhim,andIturnedtomy
adversary,whohadbeenawaitingmymotionswithimpatience.Godknowshe
didlookyoungashestoodwithhisheadbareandhisfairhairdroopingoverhis
smoothwoman’sforehead—amereladfreshfromthecollegeofBurgundy,if
theyhavesuchathinginEngland.IfeltasuddenchillasIlookedathim:a
qualm,atremor,apresentiment.Whatwasitthelittletailorhadsaid?ThatI
should—butthere,hedidnotknow.Whatdidheknowofsuchthings?IfIlet
thispassImustkillamanaday,orleaveParisandtheeating-house,andstarve.
‘Athousandpardons,’Isaidgravely,asIdrewandtookmyplace.‘Adun.Iam
sorrythatthepoordevilcaughtmesoinopportunely.Nowhowever,Iamatyour
service.’
Hesalutedandwecrossedswordsandbegan.ButfromthefirstIhadnodoubt
whattheresultwouldbe.Theslipperystonesandfadinglightgavehim,itis
true,somechance,someadvantage,morethanhedeserved;butIhadnosooner
felthisbladethanIknewthathewasnoswordsman.Possiblyhehadtakenhalfa-dozenlessonsinrapierart,andpractisedwhathelearnedwithanEnglishman
asheavyandawkwardashimself.Butthatwasall.Hemadeafewwildclumsy
rushes,parryingwidely.WhenIhadfoiledthese,thedangerwasover,andIheld
himatmymercy.
Iplayedwithhimalittlewhile,watchingthesweatgatheronhisbrowandthe
shadowofthechurchtowerfalldeeperanddarker,liketheshadowofdoom,on
hisface.Notoutofcruelty—GodknowsIhavenevererredinthatdirection!—
butbecause,forthefirsttimeinmylife,Ifeltastrangereluctancetostrikethe
blow.Thecurlsclungtohisforehead;hisbreathcameandwentingasps;Iheard
themenbehindmeandoneortwoofthemdropanoath;andthenIslipped—
slipped,andwasdowninamomentonmyrightside,myelbowstrikingthe
pavementsosharplythatthearmgrewnumbtothewrist.
Heheldoff.Iheardadozenvoicescry,‘Now!nowyouhavehim!’Butheheld
off.Hestoodbackandwaitedwithhisbreastheavingandhispointlowered,
untilIhadrisenandstoodagain.onmyguard.
‘Enough!enough!’aroughvoicebehindmecried.‘Don’thurtthemanafter
that.’
‘Onguard,sir!’Iansweredcoldly—forheseemedtowaver,andbeindoubt.‘It


wasanaccident.Itshallnotavailyouagain.’
Severalvoicescried‘Shame!’andone,‘Youcoward!’ButtheEnglishman
steppedforward,afixedlookinhisblueeyes.Hetookhisplacewithoutaword.
Ireadinhisdrawnwhitefacethathehadmadeuphismindtotheworst,andhis
couragesowonmyadmirationthatIwouldgladlyandthankfullyhavesetone
ofthelookers-on—anyofthelookers-on—inhisplace;butthatcouldnotbe.So
IthoughtofZaton’sclosedtome,ofPombal’sinsult,ofthesneersandslightsI
hadlongkeptatthesword’spoint;and,pressinghimsuddenlyinaheatof
affectedanger,Ithruststronglyoverhisguard,whichhadgrownfeeble,andran
himthroughthechest.
WhenIsawhimlying,laidoutonthestoneswithhiseyeshalfshut,andhisface
glimmeringwhiteinthedusk—notthatIsawhimthuslong,fortherewerea
dozenkneelingroundhiminatwinkling—Ifeltanunwontedpang.Itpassed,
however,inamoment.ForIfoundmyselfconfrontedbyaringofangryfaces—
ofmenwho,keepingatadistance,hissedandcursedandthreatenedme,calling
meBlackDeathandthelike.
Theyweremostlycanaille,whohadgatheredduringthefight,andhadviewed
allthatpassedfromthefarthersideoftherailings.Whilesomesnarledand
ragedatmelikewolves,callingme‘Butcher!’and‘Cut-throat!’orcriedoutthat
Beraultwasathistradeagain,othersthreatenedmewiththevengeanceofthe
Cardinal,flungtheedictinmyteeth,andsaidwithgleethattheguardwere
coming—theywouldseemehangedyet.
‘Hisbloodisonyourhead!’onecriedfuriously.‘Hewillbedeadinanhour.
Andyouwillswingforhim!Hurrah!’
‘Begone,’Isaid.
‘Ay,toMontfaucon,’heanswered,mockingme.
‘No;toyourkennel!’Ireplied,withalookwhichsenthimayardbackwards,
thoughtherailingswerebetweenus.AndIwipedmybladecarefully,standinga
littleapart.For—well,Icouldunderstandit—itwasoneofthosemomentswhen
amanisnotpopular.Thosewhohadcomewithmefromtheeating-houseeyed
measkance,andturnedtheirbackswhenIdrewnearer;andthosewhohad
joinedusandobtainedadmissionwerescarcelymorepolite.


ButIwasnottobeoutdoneinSANGFROID.Icockedmyhat,anddrawingmy
cloakovermyshoulders,wentoutwithaswaggerwhichdrovethecursfromthe
gatebeforeIcamewithinadozenpacesofit.Therascalsoutsidefellbackas
quickly,andinamomentIwasinthestreet.AnothermomentandIshouldhave
beenclearoftheplaceandfreetoliebyforawhile—when,withoutwarning,a
scurrytookplaceroundme.Thecrowdfledeverywayintothegloom,andina
hand-turnadozenoftheCardinal’sguardsclosedroundme.
Ihadsomeacquaintancewiththeofficerincommand,andhesalutedmecivilly.
‘Thisisabadbusiness,M.deBerault,’hesaid.‘Themanisdeadtheytellme.’
‘Neitherdyingnordead,’Iansweredlightly.‘Ifthatbeallyoumaygohome
again.’
‘Withyou,’hereplied,withagrin,‘certainly.Andasitrains,thesoonerthe
better.Imustaskyouforyoursword,Iamafraid.’
‘Takeit,’Isaid,withthephilosophywhichneverdesertsme.‘Butthemanwill
notdie.’
‘Ihopethatmayavailyou,’heansweredinatoneIdidnotlike.‘Leftwheel,my
friends!TotheChatelet!March!’
‘Thereareworseplaces,’Isaid,andresignedmyselftofate.Afterall,Ihadbeen
inaprisonbefore,andlearnedthatonlyonejailletsnoprisonerescape.
ButwhenIfoundthatmyfriend’sordersweretohandmeovertothewatch,and
thatIwastobeconfinedlikeanycommonjail-birdcaughtcuttingapurseor
slittingathroat,Iconfessmyheartsank.IfIcouldgetspeechwiththeCardinal,
allwouldprobablybewell;butifIfailedinthis,orifthecasecamebeforehim
instrangeguise,orifhewereinahardmoodhimself,thenitmightgoillwith
me.Theedictsaid,death!
AndthelieutenantattheChateletdidnotputhimselftomuchtroubletohearten
me.‘What!againM.deBerault?’hesaid,raisinghiseyebrowsashereceived
meatthegate,andrecognisedmebythelightofthebrazierwhichhismenwere
justkindlingoutside.‘Youareaveryboldman,oraveryfoolhardyone,tocome
hereagain.Theoldbusiness,Isuppose?’


‘Yes,butheisnotdead,’Iansweredcoolly.‘Hehasatrifle—amerescratch.It
wasbehindthechurchofStJacques.’
‘Helookeddeadenough,myfriend,’theguardsmaninterposed.Hehadnotyet
leftus.
‘Bah!’Iansweredscornfully.‘HaveyoueverknownmemakeamistakeWhenI
killamanIkillhim.Iputmyselftopains,Itellyou,nottokillthisEnglishman.
Thereforehewilllive.’
‘Ihopeso,’thelieutenantsaid,withadrysmile.‘Andyouhadbetterhopeso,
too,M.deBerault,Forifnot—’
‘Well?’Isaid,somewhattroubled.‘Ifnot,what,myfriend?’
‘Ifearhewillbethelastmanyouwillfight,’heanswered.‘Andevenifhelives,
Iwouldnotbetoosure,myfriend.ThistimetheCardinalisdeterminedtoputit
down.’
‘HeandIareoldfriends,’Isaidconfidently.
‘SoIhaveheard,’heanwered,withashortlaugh.‘Ithinkthatthesamewassaid
ofChalais.Idonotrememberthatitsavedhishead.’
Thiswasnotreassuring.Butworsewastocome.Earlyinthemorningorders
werereceivedthatIshouldbetreatedwithespecialstrictness,andIwasgiven
thechoicebetweenironsandoneofthecellsbelowthelevel.Choosingthe
latter,Iwaslefttoreflectuponmanythings;amongothers,onthequeerand
uncertainnatureoftheCardinal,wholoved,Iknew,toplaywithamanasacat
withamouse;andontheilleffectswhichsometimesattendahighchest-thrust
howevercarefullydelivered.Ionlyrescuedmyselfatlastfromtheseandother
unpleasantreflectionsbyobtainingtheloanofapairofdice;andthelightbeing
justenoughtoenablemetoreckonthethrows,Iamusedmyselfforhoursby
castingthemoncertainprinciplesofmyown.Butalongrunagainandagain
upsetmycalculations;andatlastbroughtmetotheconclusionthatarunofbad
luckmaybesopersistentastoseeoutthemostsagaciousplayer.Thiswasnota
reflectionverywelcometomeatthemoment.
Nevertheless,forthreedaysitwasallthecompanyIhad.Attheendofthattime,
theknaveofajailorwhoattendedme,andwhohadnevergrowntiredoftelling


me,afterthefashionofhiskind,thatIshouldbehanged,cametomewithaless
assuredair.
‘Perhapsyouwouldlikealittlewater?’hesaidcivilly.
‘Why,rascal?’Iasked.
‘Towashwith,’heanswered.
‘Iaskedforsomeyesterday,andyouwouldnotbringit,’Igrumbled.‘However,
betterlatethannever.Bringitnow.IfImusthang,Iwillhanglikeagentleman.
Butdependuponit,theCardinalwillnotserveanoldfriendsoscurvyatrick.’
‘Youaretogotohim,’heannounced,whenhecamebackwiththewater.
‘What?TotheCardinal?’Icried.
‘Yes,’heanswered.
‘Good!’Iexclaimed;andinmyjoyandreliefIsprangupatonce,andbeganto
refreshmydress.‘SoallthistimeIhavebeendoinghimaninjustice,’I
continued.‘VIVEMONSEIGNEUR!LonglivethelittleBishopofLuchon!I
mighthaveknownit,too.’
‘Don’tmaketoosure!’themanansweredspitefully.Thenhewenton,‘Ihave
somethingelseforyou.Afriendofyoursleftitatthegate,’andhehandedmea
packet.
‘Quiteso!’Isaid,leadinghisrascallyfacearight.‘Andyoukeptitaslongasyou
dared—aslongasyouthoughtIshouldhang,youknave!Wasnotthatso?But
there,donotlietome.Tellmeinsteadwhichofmyfriendsleftit.’For,to
confessthetruth,Ihadnotsomanyfriendsatthistimeandtengoodcrowns—
thepacketcontainednolessasum—arguedaprettystaunchfriend,andoneof
whomamanmightreasonablybeproud.
Theknavesniggeredmaliciously.‘Acrookeddwarfishmanleftit,’hesaid.‘I
doubtImightcallhimatailorandnotbefarout.’
‘Chut!’Ianswered—butIwasalittleoutofcountenance,nevertheless.‘I
understand.Anhonestfellowenough,andindebttome!Iamgladhe


remembered.ButwhenamItogo,friend?’
‘Inanhour,’heansweredsullenly.Doubtlesshehadlookedtogetoneofthe
crowns;butIwastoooldahandforthat.IfIcamebackIcouldbuyhisservices;
andifIdidnotIshouldhavewastedmymoney.
Nevertheless,alittlelater,whenIfoundmyselfonmywaytotheHotel
RichelieuundersocloseaguardthatIcouldseenothinginthestreetexceptthe
figuresthatimmediatelysurroundedme,IwishedthatIhadgivenhimthe
money.Atsuchtimes,whenallhangsinthebalanceandtheskyisovercast,the
mindrunsonluckandoldsuperstitions,andispronetothinkacrowngivenhere
mayavailthere—thoughTHEREbeahundredleaguesaway.
ThePalaisRichelieuwasatthistimeinbuilding,andwewererequiredtowait
inalong,baregallery,wherethemasonswereatwork.Iwaskeptafullhour
here,ponderinguncomfortablyonthestrangewhimsandfanciesofthegreat
manwhothenruledFranceastheKing’sLieutenant-General,withalltheKing’s
powers,andwhoselifeIhadoncebeenthemeansofsavingbyalittletimely
information.Onoccasionhehaddonesomethingtowipeoutthedebt;andat
othertimeshehadpermittedmetobefreewithhim,andsofarwewerenot
unknowntooneanother.
Nevertheless,whenthedoorswereatlastthrownopen,andIwasledintohis
presence,myconfidenceunderwentashock.Hiscoldglance,that,rovingover
me,regardedmenotasamanbutanitem,thesteelyglitterofhissoutherneyes,
chilledmetothebone.Theroomwasbare,thefloorwithoutcarpetorcovering.
Someofthewoodworklayabout,unfinishedandinpieces.Buttheman—this
man,needednosurroundings.Hiskeenpaleface,hisbrillianteyes,evenhis
presence—thoughhewasofnogreatheight,andbeganalreadytostoopatthe
shoulders—wereenoughtoawetheboldest.Irecalled,asIlookedathim,a
hundredtalesofhisironwill,hiscoldheart,hisunerringcraft.Hehadhumbled
theKing’sbrother,thesplendidDukeofOrleans,inthedust.Hehadcurbedthe
Queen-mother.Adozenheads,thenoblestinFrance,hadcometotheblock
throughhim.OnlytwoyearsbeforehehadquelledRochelle;onlyafewmonths
beforehehadcrushedthegreatinsurrectioninLanguedoc:andthoughthesouth,
strippedofitsoldprivileges,stillseethedwithdiscontent,nooneinthisyear
1630daredliftahandagainsthim—openly,atanyrate.Underthesurfacea
hundredplots,athousandintrigues,soughthislifeorhispower;butthese,I
suppose,arethehapofeverygreatman.


Nowonder,then,thatthecourageonwhichIplumedmyselfsanklowatsightof
him;orthatitwasasmuchasIcoulddotominglewiththehumilityofmy
salutesometouchoftheSANGFROIDofoldacquaintanceship.
Andperhapsthathadhadbeenbetterleftout.Foritseemedthatthismanwas
withoutbowels.Foramoment,whilehestoodlookingatme,andbeforehe
spoketome,Igavemyselfupforlost.Therewasaglintofcruelsatisfactionin
hiseyesthatwarnedme,beforeheopenedhismouth,whathewasgoingtosay
tome.
‘Icouldnothavemadeabettercatch,M.deBerault,’hesaid,smiling
villainously,whilehegentlysmoothedthefurofacatthathadsprungonthe
tablebesidehim.‘Anoldoffender,andanexcellentexample.Idoubtitwillnot
stopwithyou.Butlater,wewillmakeyouthewarrantforflyingathigher
game.’
‘Monseigneurhashandledaswordhimself,’Iblurtedout.Theveryroom
seemedtobegrowingdarker,theaircolder.Iwasnevernearerfearinmylife.
‘Yes?’hesaid,smilingdelicately.‘Andso—?’
‘Willnotbetoohardonthefailingsofapoorgentleman.’
‘Heshallsuffernomorethanarichone,’herepliedsuavelyashestrokedthe
cat.‘Enjoythatsatisfaction,M.deBerault.Isthatall?’
‘OnceIwasofservicetoyourEminence,’Isaiddesperately.
‘Paymenthasbeenmade,’heanswered,‘morethanonce.ButforthatIshould
nothaveseenyou.’
‘TheKing’sface!’Icried,snatchingatthestrawheseemedtoholdout.
Helaughedcynically,smoothly.Histhinface,hisdarkmoustache,and
whiteninghair,gavehimanairofindescribablekeenness.
‘IamnottheKing,’hesaid.‘Besides,Iamtoldthatyouhavekilledasmanyas
sixmeninduels.YouowetheKing,therefore,onelifeatleast.Youmustpayit.
Thereisnomoretobesaid,M.deBerault,’hecontinuedcoldly,turningaway
andbeginningtocollectsomepapers.‘Thelawmusttakeitscourse.’


Ithoughtthathewasabouttonodtothelieutenanttowithdrawme,anda
chillingsweatbrokeoutdownmyback.Isawthescaffold,Ifeltthecords.A
moment,anditwouldbetoolate!
‘Ihaveafavourtoask,’Istammereddesperately,‘ifyourEminencewillgiveme
amomentalone.’
‘Towhatend?’heanswered,turningandeyeingmewithcolddisfavour.‘Iknow
you—yourpast—all.Itcandonogood,myfriend.’
‘Noharm!’Icried.‘AndIamadyingman,Monseigneur!’
‘Thatistrue,’hesaidthoughtfully.Stillheseemedtohesitate;andmyheartbeat
fast.Atlasthelookedatthelieutenant.‘Youmayleaveus,’hesaidshortly.
‘Now,’hecontinued,whentheofficerhadwithdrawnandleftusalone,‘whatis
it?Saywhatyouhavetosayquickly.And,aboveall,donottrytofoolme,M.
deBerault.’
ButhispiercingeyessodisconcertedmenowthatIhadmychance,andwas
alonewithhim,thatIcouldnotfindawordtosay,andstoodbeforehimmute.I
thinkthispleasedhim,forhisfacerelaxed.
‘Well?’hesaidatlast.‘Isthatall?’
‘Themanisnotdead,’Imuttered.
Heshruggedhisshoulderscontemptuously.
‘Whatofthat?’hesaid.‘Thatwasnotwhatyouwantedtosaytome.’
‘OnceIsavedyourEminence’slife,’Ifalteredmiserably.
‘Admitted,’heanswered,inhisthin,incisivevoice.‘Youmentionedthefact
before.Ontheotherhand,youhavetakensixtomyknowledge,M.deBerault.
Youhavelivedthelifeofabully,acommonbravo,agamester.You,amanof
family!Forshame!Doyouwonderthatithasbroughtyoutothis!Yetonthat
onepointIamwillingtohearmore,’headdedabruptly.
‘ImightsaveyourEminence’slifeagain,’Icried.Itwasasuddeninspiration.


‘Youknowsomething?’hesaidquickly,fixingmewithhiseyes.‘Butno,’he
continued,shakinghisheadgently.‘Pshaw!Thetrickisold.Ihavebetterspies
thanyou,M.deBerault.’
‘Butnobettersword,’Icriedhoarsely.‘No,notinallyourguard!’
‘Thatistrue,’hesaidslowly.‘Thatistrue.’Tomysurprise,hespokeinatoneof
consideration;andhelookeddownatthefloor.‘Letmethink,myfriend,’he
continued.
Hewalkedtwoorthreetimesupanddowntheroom,whileIstoodtrembling.I
confessit,trembling.Themanwhosepulsesdangerhasnopowertoquicken,is
seldomproofagainstsuspense;andthesuddenhopehiswordsawakenedinme
soshookmethathisfigureashetrodlightlytoandfrowiththecatrubbing
againsthisrobeandturningtimefortimewithhim,waveredbeforemyeyes.I
graspedthetabletosteadymyself.Ihadnotadmittedeveninmyownmindhow
darklytheshadowofMontfauconandthegallowshadfallenacrossme.
Ihadleisuretorecovermyself,foritwassometimebeforehespoke.Whenhe
did,itwasinavoiceharsh,changed,imperative.‘Youhavethereputationofa
manfaithful,atleast,tohisemployer,’hesaid.‘Donotanswerme.Isayitisso.
Well,Iwilltrustyou.Iwillgiveyouonemorechance—thoughitisadesperate
one.Woetoyouifyoufailme!DoyouknowCocheforetinBearn?Itisnotfar
fromAuch.’
‘No,yourEminence.’
‘NorM.deCocheforet?’
‘No,yourEminence.’
‘Somuchthebetter,’hereplied.‘Butyouhaveheardofhim.Hehasbeen
engagedineveryGasconplotsincethelateKing’sdeath,andgavemoretrouble
lastyearintheVivaraisthananymantwicehisyears.AtpresentheisatBosost
inSpain,withotherrefugees,butIhavelearnedthatatfrequentintervalshe
visitshiswifeatCocheforetwhichissixleagueswithintheborder.Ononeof
thesevisitshemustbearrested.’
‘Thatshouldbeeasy,’Isaid.


TheCardinallookedatme.‘Chut,man!whatdoyouknowaboutit?’he
answeredbluntly.‘ItiswhisperedatCocheforetifasoldiercrossesthestreetat
Auch.Inthehouseareonlytwoorthreeservants,buttheyhavethecountryside
withthemtoaman,andtheyareadangerousbreed.Asparkmightkindleafresh
rising.Thearrest,therefore,mustbemadesecretly.’
Ibowed.
‘Oneresolutemaninsidethehouse,’theCardinalcontinued,thoughtfully
glancingatapaperwhichlayonthetable,‘withthehelpoftwoorthreeservants
whomhecouldsummontohisaidatwill,mighteffectit.Thequestionis,Will
youbetheman,myfriend?’
Ihesitated;thenIbowed.WhatchoicehadI?
‘Nay,nay,speakout!’hesaidsharply.‘Yesorno,M.deBerault?’
‘Yes,yourEminence,’Isaidreluctantly.Again,Isay,whatchoicehadI?
‘YouwillbringhimtoParis,andalive.Heknowsthings,andthatiswhyIwant
him.Youunderstand?’
‘Iunderstand,Monseigneur,’Ianswered.
‘Youwillgetintothehouseasyoucan,’hecontinuedwithenergy.‘Forthatyou
willneedstrategy,andgoodstrategy.Theysuspecteverybody.Youmustdeceive
them.Ifyoufailtodeceivethem,or,deceivingthem,arefoundoutlater,Idonot
thinkthatyouwilltroublemeagain,orbreaktheedictasecondtime.Onthe
otherhand,shouldyoudeceiveme’—hesmiledstillmoresubtly,buthisvoice
sanktoapurringnote—‘Iwillbreakyouonthewheelliketheruinedgamester
youare!’
Imethislookwithoutquailing.‘Sobeit!’Isaidrecklessly.‘IfIdonotbringM.
deCocheforettoParis,youmaydothattome,andmorealso!’
‘Itisabargain!’heansweredslowly.‘Ithinkthatyouwillbefaithful.For
money,hereareahundredcrowns.Thatsumshouldsuffice;butifyousucceed
youshallhavetwiceasmuchmore.Thatisall,Ithink.Youunderstand?’
‘Yes,Monseigneur.’


‘Thenwhydoyouwait?’
‘Thelieutenant?’Isaidmodestly.
TheCardinallaughedtohimself,andsittingdownwroteawordortwoonaslip
ofpaper.‘Givehimthat,’hesaidinhighgood-humour.‘Ifear,M.deBerault,
youwillnevergetyourdeserts—inthisworld!’

CHAPTERII.
ATTHEGREENPILLAR
Cocheforetliesinabillowylandofoakandbeechandchestnuts—alandof
deep,leafybottomsandhillsclothedwithforest.Ridgeandvalley,glenand
knoll,thewoodland,sparselypeopledandmoresparselytilled,stretchesawayto
thegreatsnowmountainsthatherelimitFrance.Itswarmswithgame—with
wolvesandbears,deerandboars.TotheendofhislifeIhaveheardthatthe
greatkinglovedthisdistrict,andwouldsigh,whenyearsandStatefellheavily
onhim,forthebeechgrovesandbox-coveredhillsofSouthBearn.Fromthe
terracedstepsofAuchyoucanseetheforestrollawayinlightandshadow,vale
andupland,tothebaseofthesnowpeaks;and,thoughIcomefromBrittanyand
lovethesmellofthesaltwind,Ihaveseenfewsightsthatoutdothis.
ItwasthesecondweekofOctober,whenIcametoCocheforet,and,dropping
downfromthelastwoodedbrow,rodequietlyintotheplaceatevening.Iwas
alone,andhadriddenalldayinagloryofruddybeechleaves,throughthe
silenceofforestroads,acrossclearbrooksandgladesstillgreen.Ihadseen
moreofthequietandpeaceofthecountrythanhadbeenmysharesince
boyhood,andforthatreason,orbecauseIhadnogreattasteforthetaskbefore
me—thetasknowsoimminent—Ifeltalittlehipped.Ingoodfaith,itwasnota
gentleman’sworkthatIwascometodo,lookatithowyoumight.
Butbeggarsmustnotbechoosers,andIknewthatthisfeelingwouldnotlast.At
theinn,inthepresenceofothers,underthespurofnecessity,orinthe
excitementofthechase,werethatoncebegun,Ishouldlosethefeeling.Whena
manisyoungheseekssolitude,whenheismiddle-aged,hefliesitandhis
thoughts.Imadethereforeforthe‘GreenPillar,’alittleinninthevillagestreet,
towhichIhadbeendirectedatAuch,and,thunderingonthedoorwiththeknob


ofmyridingswitch,railedatthemanforkeepingmewaiting.
Hereandthereathoveldoorsinthestreet—whichwasamean,poorplace,not
worthyofthename—menandwomenlookedoutatmesuspiciously.ButI
affectedtoignorethem;andatlastthehostcame.Hewasafair-hairedman,
half-Basque,half-Frenchman,andhadscannedmewell,Iwassure,through
somewindoworpeephole;forwhenhecameouthebetrayednosurpriseatthe
sightofawell-dressedstranger—aportentinthatout-of-the-wayvillage—but
eyedmewithakindofsullenreserve.
‘Icanliehereto-night,Isuppose?’Isaid,droppingthereinsonthesorrel’sneck.
Thehorsehungitshead.
‘Idon’tknow,’heansweredstupidly.
Ipointedtothegreenboughwhichtoppedapostthatstoodoppositethedoor.
‘Thisisaninn,isitnot?’Isaid.
‘Yes,’heansweredslowly.‘Itisaninn.But—’
‘Butyouarefull,oryouareoutoffood,oryourwifeisill,orsomethingelseis
amiss,’Iansweredpeevishly.‘Allthesame,Iamgoingtoliehere.Soyoumust
makethebestofit,andyourwifetoo—ifyouhaveone.’
Hescratchedhishead,lookingatmewithanuglyglitterinhiseyes.Buthesaid
nothing,andIdismounted.
‘WherecanIstablemyhorse?’Iasked.
‘I’llputitup,’heansweredsullenly,steppingforwardandtakingthereinsinhis
hand.
‘Verywell,’Isaid.‘ButIgowithyou.Amercifulmanismercifultohisbeast,
andwhereverIgoIseemyhorsefed.’
‘Itwillbefed,’hesaidshortly.Andthenhewaitedformetogointothehouse.
‘Thewifeisinthere,’hecontinued,lookingatmestubbornly.
‘IMPRIMIS—ifyouunderstandLatin,myfriend,’Ianswered.‘thehorseinthe


stall.’
Hesawthatitwasnogood,turnedthesorrelslowlyround,andbegantoleadit
acrossthevillagestreet.Therewasashedbehindtheinn,whichIhadalready
marked,andtakenforthestable,IwassurprisedwhenIfoundthathewasnot
goingthere,butImadenoremark,andinafewminutessawthehorsemade
comfortableinahovelwhichseemedtobelongtoaneighbour.
Thisdone,themanledthewaybacktotheinn,carryingmyvalise.
‘Youhavenootherguests?’Isaid,withacasualair.Iknewthathewaswatching
meclosely.
‘No,’heanswered.
‘Thisisnotmuchinthewaytoanywhere,Isuppose?’
‘No.’
Thatwassoevident,thatIneversawamoreretiredplace.Thehangingwoods,
risingsteeplytoagreatheight,soshutthevalleyinthatIwaspuzzledtothink
howamancouldleaveitsavebytheroadIhadcome.Thecottages,whichwere
nomorethanmean,smallhuts,raninastragglingdoubleline,withmanygaps
—throughfallentreesandill-clearedmeadows.Amongthemanoisybrookran
inandout,andtheinhabitants—charcoal-burners,orswine-herds,orpoordevils
ofthelikeclass,werenobetterthantheirdwellings.Ilookedinvainforthe
Chateau.Itwasnottobeseen,andIdarednotaskforit.
Themanledmeintothecommonroomofthetavern—alow-roofed,poorplace,
lackingachimneyorglazedwindows,andgrimywithsmokeanduse.Thefire
—agreathalf-burnedtree—smoulderedonastonehearth,raisedafootfromthe
floor.Ahugeblackpotsimmeredoverit,andbesideonewindowloungeda
countryfellowtalkingwiththegoodwife.IntheduskIcouldnotseehisface,
butIgavethewomanaword,andsatdowntowaitformysupper.
Sheseemedmoresilentthanthecommonrunofherkind;butthismightbe
becauseherhusbandwaspresent.Whileshemovedaboutgettingmymeal,he
tookhisplaceagainstthedoor-postandfelltostaringatmesopersistentlythatI
feltbynomeansatmyease.Hewasatall,strongfellow,withashaggy
moustacheandbrownbeard,cutinthemodeHenriQuatre;andonthesubjectof


thatking—asafeone,Iknew,withaBearnais—andonthatalone,Ifoundit
possibletomakehimtalk.Eventhentherewasasuspiciousgleaminhiseyes
thatbademeabstainfromquestions;sothatasthedarknessdeepenedbehind
him,andthefirelightplayedmoreandmorestronglyonhisfeatures,andI
thoughtoftheleaguesofwoodlandthatlaybetweenthisremotevalleyand
Auch,IrecalledtheCardinal’swarningthatifIfailedinmyattemptIshouldbe
littlelikelytotroubleParisagain.
Theloutbythewindowpaidnoattentiontome;norItohim,whenIhadonce
satisfiedmyselfthathewasreallywhatheseemedtobe.Butby-and-bytwoor
threemen—rough,uncouthfellows—droppedintoreinforcethelandlord,and
they,tooseemedtohavenootherbusinessthantositinsilencelookingatme,or
nowandagaintoexchangeawordinaPATOISoftheirown.Bythetimemy
supperwasready,theknavesnumberedsixinall;and,astheywerearmedtoa
manwithhugeSpanishknives,andmadeitclearthattheyresentedmypresence
intheirdullrusticfashion—everyrusticissuspicious—Ibegantothinkthat,
unwittingly,Ihadputmyheadintoawasps’nest.
Nevertheless,Iateanddrankwithapparentappetite;butlittlethatpassedwithin
thecircleoflightcastbythesmokylampescapedme.Iwatchedthemen’slooks
andgesturesatleastassharplyastheywatchedmine;andallthetimeIwas
rackingmywitsforsomemodeofdisarmingtheirsuspicions,orfailingthat,of
learningsomethingmoreoftheposition,whichfarexceededindifficultyand
dangeranythingthatIhadexpected.Thewholevalley,itwouldseem,wason
thelook-outtoprotectmyman!
IhadpurposelybroughtwithmefromAuchacoupleofbottlesofchoice
Armagnac;andthesehadbeencarriedintothehousewithmysaddlebags.Itook
oneoutnowandopeneditandcarelesslyofferedadramofthespirittothe
landlord.Hetookit.Ashedrankit,Isawhisfaceflush;hehandedbackthecup
reluctantly,andonthathintIofferedhimanother,Thestrongspiritwasalready
beginningtowork,andheaccepted,andinafewminutesbegantotalkmore
freelyandwithlessoftheconstraintwhichhadbeforemarkedusall.Still,his
tongueranchieflyonquestions—hewouldknowthis,hewouldlearnthat;but
eventhiswasawelcomechange.ItoldhimopenlywhenceIhadcome,bywhat
road,howlongIhadstayedinAuch,andwhere;andsofarIsatisfiedhis
curiosity.Only,whenIcametothesubjectofmyvisittoCocheforetIkepta
mysterioussilence,hintingdarklyatbusinessinSpainandfriendsacrossthe
border,andthisandthat;inthiswaygivingthepeasantstounderstand,ifthey


pleased,thatIwasinthesameinterestastheirexiledmaster.
Theytookthebait,winkedatoneanother,andbegantolookatmeinamore
friendlyway—thelandlordforemost.ButwhenIhadledthemsofar,Idaredgo
nofarther,lestIshouldcommitmyselfandbefoundout.Istopped,therefore,
and,harkingbacktogeneralsubjects,chancedtocomparemyprovincewith
theirs.Thelandlord,nowbecomealmosttalkative,wasnotslowtotakeupthis
challenge;anditpresentlyledtomyacquiringacuriouspieceofknowledge.He
wasboastingofhisgreatsnowmountains,theforeststhatproppedthem,the
bearsthatroamedinthem,theizardsthatlovedtheice,andtheboarsthatfedon
theoakmast.
‘Well,’Isaid,quitebychance,‘wehavenotthesethings,itistrue.Butwehave
thingsinthenorthyouhavenot.Wehavetensofthousandsofgoodhorses—not
suchponiesasyoubreedhere.AtthehorsefairatFecampmysorrelwouldbe
lostinthecrowd.Hereinthesouthyouwillnotmeethismatchinalongday’s
journey.’
‘Donotmaketoosureofthat,’themanreplied,hiseyesbrightwithtriumphand
thedram.‘WhatwouldyousayifIshowedyouabetter—inmyownstable?’
Isawthathiswordssentakindofthrillthroughhisotherhearers,andthatsuch
ofthemasunderstoodfortwoorthreeofthemtalkedtheirPATOISonly—
lookedathimangrily;andinatwinklingIbegantocomprehend.ButIaffected
dullness,andlaughedinscorn.
‘Seeingisbelieving,’Isaid.‘Idoubtifyouknowsgoodhorsewhenyouseeone,
myfriend.’
‘Oh,don’tI?’hesaid,winking.‘Indeed!’
‘Idoubtit,’Iansweredstubbornly.
‘Thencomewithme,andIwillshowyouone,’heretorted,discretiongiving
waytovain-glory.Hiswifeandtheothers,Isaw,lookedathimdumbfounded;
but,withoutpayinganyheedtothem,herose,tookupalanthorn,and,assuming
anairofpeculiarwisdom,openedthedoor.‘Comewithme,’hecontinued.‘I
don’tknowagoodhorsewhenIseeone,don’tI?Iknowabetterthanyours,at
anyrate!’


Ishouldnothavebeensurprisediftheothermenhadinterfered;butIsupposehe
wasaleaderamongthem,theydidnot,andinamomentwewereoutside.Three
pacesthroughthedarknesstookustothestable,anoffsetatthebackoftheinn.
Mymantwirledthepin,and,leadingthewayin,raisedhislanthorn.Ahorse
whinniedsoftly,andturneditsbright,mildeyesonus—abaldfacedchestnut,
withwhitehairsinitstailandonewhitestocking.
‘There!’myguideexclaimed,wavingthelanthorntoandfroboastfully,thatI
mightseeitspoints.‘Whatdoyousaytothat?Isthatanundersizedpony?’
‘No,’Ianswered,purposelystintingmypraise.‘Itisprettyfair—forthis
country.’
‘Oranycountry,’heansweredwrathfully.‘Oranycountry,Isay—Idon’tcare
whereitis!AndIhavereasontoknow!Why,man,thathorseis—Butthere,that
isagoodhorse,ifeveryousawone!’Andwiththatheended—abruptlyand
lamely;loweredthelanthornwithasuddengesture,andturnedtothedoor.He
wasontheinstantinsuchhurrytoleavethathealmostshoulderedmeout.
ButIunderstood.Iknewthathehadneatlybetrayedall—thathehadbeenonthe
pointofblurtingoutthatthatwasM.deCocheforet’shorse!M.Cocheforet’s
COMPRENEZBIEN!AndwhileIturnedawaymyfaceinthedarknessthathe
mightnotseemesmile,Iwasnotsurprisedtofindthemaninamoment
changed,andbecome,intheclosingofthedoor,assoberandsuspiciousas
before,ashamedofhimselfandenragedwithme,andinamoodtocutmythroat
foratrifle.
Itwasnotmycuetoquarrel,however.Imadetherefore,asifIhadseennothing,
andwhenwewerebackintheinnpraisedthehorsegrudgingly,andlikeaman
buthalfconvinced.TheuglylooksanduglyweaponsIsawroundmewerefine
incentivestocaution;andnoItalian,Iflattermyself,couldhaveplayedhispart
morenicelythanIdid.ButIwasheartilygladwhenitwasover,andIfound
myself,atlast,leftaloneforthenightinalittlegarret—amerefowl-house—
upstairs,formedbytheroofandgablewalls,andhungwithstringsofapplesand
chestnuts.Itwasapoorsleeping-place—rough,chilly,andunclean.Iascended
toitbyaladder;mycloakandalittlefernformedmyonlybed.ButIwasglad
toacceptit,foritenabledmetohealoneandtothinkouttheposition
unwatched.


OfcourseM.deCocheforetwasattheChateau.Hehadlefthishorsehere,and
goneuponfoot;probablythatwashisusualplan.Hewasthereforewithinmy
reach,inonesense—Icouldnothavecomeatabettertime—butinanotherhe
wasasmuchbeyonditasifIwerestillinParis.ForsofarwasIfrombeingable
toseizehimthatIdarednotaskaquestion,orletfallarashword,orevenlook
aboutmefreely.IsawIdarednot.Theslightesthintofmymission,thefaintest
breathofdistrust,wouldleadtothroat-cutting—andthethroatwouldbemine;
whilethelongerIlayinthevillage,thegreatersuspicionIshouldincur,andthe
closerwouldbethewatchkeptuponme.
Insuchapositionsomemenmighthavegivenuptheattemptindespair,and
savedthemselvesacrosstheborder.ButIhavealwaysvaluedmyselfonmy
fidelity,andIdidnotshrink.Ifnotto-day,to-morrow;ifnotthistime,nexttime.
Thedicedonotalwaysturnupaces.Bracingmyself,therefore,totheoccasion,I
crept,assoonasthehousewasquiet,tothewindow,asmall,square,open
lattice,muchcobwebbed,andpartlystuffedwithhay.Ilookedout.Thevillage
seemedtobeasleep.Thedarkbranchesoftreeshungafewfeetaway,and
almostobscuredagrey,cloudysky,throughwhichawetmoonsaileddrearily.
Lookingdownwards,Icouldatfirstseenothing;butasmyeyesgrewusedtothe
darkness—Ihadonlyjustputoutmyrushlight—Imadeoutthestabledoorand
theshadowyoutlinesofthelean-toroof.
Ihadhopedforthis,forIcouldnowkeepwatch,andlearnatleastwhether
Cocheforetleftbeforemorning.Ifhedidnot,Ishouldknowhewasstillhere.If
hedid,Ishouldbethebetterforseeinghisfeatures,andlearning,perhaps,other
thingsthatmightbeofusetomeinthefuture.
Makingupmymindtotheuncomfortable,Isatdownonthefloorbythelattice,
andbeganavigilthatmightlast,Iknew,untilmorning.Itdidlastaboutanhour,
attheendofwhichtimeIheardwhisperingbelow,thenfootsteps;then,assome
personsturnedacorner,avoicespeakingaloudandcarelessly.Icouldnotcatch
thewordsormeaning,butthevoicewasagentleman’s,anditsboldaccentsand
masterfultoneleftmeinnodoubtthatthespeakerwasM.deCocheforet
himself.Hopingtolearnmore,Ipressedmyfacenearertotheopening,andhad
justmadeoutthroughthegloomtwofigures—onethatofatall,slightman,
wearingacloak,theother,Ifancied,awoman’s,inasheenywhitedress—when
athunderingraponthedoorofmygarretmademespringbackayardfromthe
lattice,andliedownhurriedlyonmycouch.Thesummonswasrepeated.


‘Well?’Icried,risingonmyelbow,andcursingtheuntimelyinterruption.Iwas
burningwithanxietytoseemore.‘Whatisit?Whatisthematter?’
Thetrap-doorwasliftedafootormore.Thelandlordthrustuphishead.
‘Youcalled,didyounot?’hesaid.
Hehelduparushlight,whichilluminedhalftheroomandlituphisgrinning
face.
‘Called—atthishourofthenight,youfool?’Iansweredangrily.‘No!Ididnot
call.Gotobed,man!’
Butheremainedontheladder,gapingstupidly.‘Iheardyou,’hesaid.
‘Gotobed!Youaredrunk,’Ianswered,sittingup.‘ItellyouIdidnotcall.’
‘Oh,verywell,’heansweredslowly.‘Andyoudonotwantanything?’
‘Nothing—excepttobeleftalone,’Irepliedsourly.
‘Umph!’hesaid.‘Good-night!’
‘Good-night!Good-night!’IansweredwithwhatpatienceImight.Thetrampof
thehorse’shoofsasitwasledoutofthestablewasinmyearsatthemoment.
‘Good-night!’Icontinuedfeverishly,hopingthathewouldstillretireintime,
andIhaveachancetolookout.‘Iwanttosleep.’
‘Good,’hesaid,withabroadgrin.‘Butitisearlyyet,andyouhaveplentyof
time.’
Andthen,atlast,heslowlyletdownthetrap-door,andIheardhimchuckleashe
wentdowntheladder.
BeforehereachedthebottomIwasatthewindow.Thewoman,whomIhad
seen,stillstoodbelowinthesameplace,andbesideherwasamaninapeasant’s
dress,holdingalanthorn.Buttheman,themanIwantedtosee,wasnolonger
there.Hewasgone,anditwasevidentthattheothersnolongerfearedme;for
whileIgazedthelandlordcameouttothemwithanotherlanthornswingingin
hishand,andsaidsomethingtothelady,andshelookedupatmywindowand


laughed.
Itwasawarmnight,andsheworenothingoverherwhitedress.Icouldseeher
tall,shapelyfigureandshiningeyes,andthefirmcontourofherbeautifulface,
which,ifanyfaultmightbefoundwithit,erredinbeingtooregular.Shelooked
likeawomanformedbynaturetomeetdangersanddifficulties,andtoplaya
greatpart;evenhere,atmidnight,inthemidstofthesedesperatemen,shedid
notseemoutofplace.Icouldfancy—Ididnotfinditimpossibletofancy—that
underherqueenlyexterior,andbehindthecontemptuouslaughwithwhichshe
heardthelandlord’sstory,therelurkedawoman’ssoul,asoulcapableoffolly
andtenderness.Butnooutwardsignbetrayeditspresence—asIsawherthen.
Iscannedherverycarefully;andsecretly,ifthetruthbetold,Iwasgladtofind
thatMadamedeCocheforetwassuchawoman.Iwasgladthatshehadlaughed
asshehad—witharingofdisdainanddefiance;gladthatshewasnotalittle,
tender,child-likewoman,tobecrushedbythefirstpinchoftrouble.ForifI
succeededinmytask,ifIcontrivedto—but,pish!Women,Itoldmyself,were
allalike.Shewouldfindconsolationquicklyenough.
Iwatcheduntilthegroupbrokeup,andMadame,withoneofthemen,wenther
wayroundthecorneroftheinn,andoutofmysight.ThenIretiredtobedagain,
feelingmorethaneverperplexedwhatcourseIshouldadopt.Itwasclearthatto
succeedImustobtainadmissiontothehouse,whichwasgarrisoned,according
tomyinstructions,bytwoorthreeoldmen-servantsonly,andasmanywomen;
sinceMadame,todisguiseherhusband’svisitsthemoreeasily,lived,andgave
outthatshelived,ingreatretirement.Toseizeherhusbandathome,therefore,
mightbenoimpossibletask;thoughhere,intheheartofthevillage,atroopof
horsemightmaketheattempt,andfail.
ButhowwasItogainadmissiontothehouse—ahouseguardedbyquick-witted
women,andfencedwithalltheprecautionslovecoulddevise?Thatwasthe
question;anddawnfoundmestilldebatingit,stillasfaraseverfromananswer.
Anxiousandfeverish,Iwasgladwhenthelightcame,andIcouldgetup.I
thoughtthatthefreshairmightinspireme,andIwastiredofmystuffycloset.I
creptstealthilydowntheladder,andmanagedtopassunseenthroughthelower
room,inwhichseveralpersonsweresnoringheavily.Theouterdoorwasnot
fastened,andinahand-turnIwasinthestreet.
Itwasstillsoearlythatthetreesstoodupblackagainstthereddeningsky,but


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