Part 1 out of 4
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UNDER THE RED ROBE
STANLEY J. WEYMAN
CHAPTER I. AT ZATON'S
CHAPTER II. AT THE GREEN PILLAR
CHAPTER III. THE HOUSE IN THE WOOD
CHAPTER IV. MADAM AND MADEMOISELLE
CHAPTER V. REVENGE
CHAPTER VI. UNDER THE PlC DU MIDI
CHAPTER VII. A MASTER STROKE
CHAPTER VIII. A MASTER STROKE--Continued
CHAPTER IX. THE QUESTION
CHAPTER X. CLON
CHAPTER XI. THE ARREST
CHAPTER XII. THE ROAD TO PARIS
CHAPTER XIII. AT THE FINGER-POST
CHAPTER XIV. ST MARTIN'S EVE
CHAPTER XV. ST MARTIN'S SUMMER
UNDER THE RED ROBE
There were a score round us when the fool, little knowing the man
with whom he had to deal, and as little how to lose like a
gentleman, flung the words in my teeth. He thought, I'll be
sworn, that I should storm and swear and ruffle it like any
common cock of the hackle. But that was never Gil de Berault's
way. For a few seconds after he had spoken I did not even look
at him. I passed my eye instead--smiling, BIEN ENTENDU--round
the ring of waiting faces, saw that there was no one except De
Pombal I had cause to fear; and then at last I rose and looked at
the fool with the grim face I have known impose on older and
'Marked cards, M. l'Anglais?' I said, with a chilling sneer.
'They are used, I am told, to trap players--not unbirched
'Yet I say that they are marked!' he replied hotly, in his queer
foreign jargon. 'In my last hand I had nothing. You doubled the
stakes. Bah, sir, you knew! You have swindled me!'
'Monsieur is easy to swindle--when he plays with a mirror behind
him,' I answered tartly.
At that there was a great roar of laughter, which might have been
heard in the street, and which brought to the table everyone in
the eating-house whom his voice had not already attracted. But I
did not relax my face. I waited until all was quiet again, and
then waving aside two or three who stood between us and the
entrance, I pointed gravely to the door.
'There is a little space behind the church of St Jacques, M.
l'Etranger,' I said, putting on my hat and taking my cloak on my
arm. 'Doubtless you will accompany me thither?'
He snatched up his hat, his face burning with shame and rage.
'With pleasure!' he blurted out. 'To the devil, if you like!'
I thought the matter arranged, when the Marquis laid his hand on
the young fellow's arm and checked him.
'This must not be,' he said, turning from him to me with his
grand, fine-gentleman's air. 'You know me, M. de Berault. This
matter has gone far enough.'
'Too far! M. de Pombal,' I answered bitterly. 'Still, if you
wish to take your friend's place, I shall raise no objection.'
'Chut, man!' he retorted, shrugging his shoulders negligently.
'I know you, and I do not fight with men of your stamp. Nor need
'Undoubtedly,' I replied, bowing low, 'if he prefers to be caned
in the streets.'
That stung the Marquis.
'Have a care! have a care!' he cried hotly. 'You go too far,
'De Berault, if you please,' I objected, eyeing him sternly. 'My
family has borne the DE as long as yours, M. de Pombal.'
He could not deny that, and he answered, 'As you please;' at the
same time restraining his friend by a gesture. 'But none the
less,' he continued, 'take my advice. The Cardinal has forbidden
duelling, and this time he means it! You have been in trouble
once and gone free. A second time it may fare worse with you.
Let this gentleman go, therefore, M. de Berault. Besides--why,
shame upon you, man!' he exclaimed hotly; 'he is but a lad!'
Two or three who stood behind me applauded that, But I turned and
they met my eye; and they were as mum as mice.
'His age is his own concern,' I said grimly. 'He was old enough
a while ago to insult me.'
'And I will prove my words!' the lad cried, exploding at last.
He had spirit enough, and the Marquis had had hard work to
restrain him so long. 'You do me no service, M. de Pombal,' he
continued, pettishly shaking off his friend's hand. 'By your
leave, this gentleman and I will settle this matter.'
'That is better,' I said, nodding drily, while the Marquis stood
aside, frowning and baffled. 'Permit me to lead the way.'
Zaton's eating-house stands scarcely a hundred paces from St
Jacques la Boucherie, and half the company went thither with us.
The evening was wet, the light in the streets was waning, the
streets themselves were dirty and slippery. There were few
passers in the Rue St Antoine; and our party, which earlier in
the day must have attracted notice and a crowd, crossed unmarked,
and entered without interruption the paved triangle which lies
immediately behind the church. I saw in the distance one of the
Cardinal's guard loitering in front of the scaffolding round the
new Hotel Richelieu; and the sight of the uniform gave me pause
for a moment. But it was too late to repent.
The Englishman began at once to strip off his clothes. I closed
mine to the throat, for the air was chilly. At that moment,
while we stood preparing, and most of the company seemed a little
inclined to stand off from me, I felt a hand on my arm, and
turning, saw the dwarfish tailor at whose house, in the Rue
Savonnerie, I lodged at the time. The fellow's presence was
unwelcome, to say the least of it; and though for want of better
company I had sometimes encouraged him to be free with me at
home, I took that to be no reason why I should be plagued with
him before gentlemen. I shook him off, therefore, hoping by a
frown to silence him.
He was not to be so easily put down, however, and perforce I had
to speak to him.
'Afterwards, afterwards,' I said hurriedly. 'I am engaged now.
'For God's sake, don't, sir!' the poor fool cried, clinging to
my sleeve. 'Don't do it! You will bring a curse on the house.
He is but a lad, and--'
'You, too!' I exclaimed,losing patience. 'Be silent, you scum!
What do you know about gentlemen's quarrels? Leave me; do you
'But the Cardinal!' he cried in a quavering voice. 'The
Cardinal, M. de Berault! The last man you killed is not
forgotten yet. This time he will be sure to--'
'Leave me, do you hear?' I hissed. The fellow's impudence
passed all bounds. It was as bad as his croaking. 'Begone!' I
added. 'I suppose you are afraid that he will kill me, and you
will lose your money.'
Frison fell back at that almost as if I had struck him, and I
turned to my adversary, who had been awaiting my motions with
impatience. God knows he did look young as he stood with his
head bare and his fair hair drooping over his smooth woman's
forehead--a mere lad fresh from the college of Burgundy, if they
have such a thing in England. I felt a sudden chill as I looked
at him: a qualm, a tremor, a presentiment. What was it the
little tailor had said? That I should--but there, he did not
know. What did he know of such things? If I let this pass I
must kill a man a day, or leave Paris and the eating-house, and
'A thousand pardons,' I said gravely, as I drew and took my
place. 'A dun. I am sorry that the poor devil caught me so
inopportunely. Now however, I am at your service.'
He saluted and we crossed swords and began. But from the first I
had no doubt what the result would be. The slippery stones and
fading light gave him, it is true, some chance, some advantage,
more than he deserved; but I had no sooner felt his blade than I
knew that he was no swordsman. Possibly he had taken half-a-
dozen lessons in rapier art, and practised what he learned with
an Englishman as heavy and awkward as himself. But that was all.
He made a few wild clumsy rushes, parrying widely. When I had
foiled these, the danger was over, and I held him at my mercy.
I played with him a little while, watching the sweat gather on
his brow and the shadow of the church tower fall deeper and
darker, like the shadow of doom, on his face. Not out of cruelty
--God knows I have never erred in that direction!--but because,
for the first time in my life, I felt a strange reluctance to
strike the blow. The curls clung to his forehead; his breath
came and went in gasps; I heard the men behind me and one or two
of them drop an oath; and then I slipped--slipped, and was down
in a moment on my right side, my elbow striking the pavement so
sharply that the arm grew numb to the wrist.
He held off. I heard a dozen voices cry, 'Now! now you have
him!' But he held off. He stood back and waited with his breast
heaving and his point lowered, until I had risen and stood again.
on my guard.
'Enough! enough!' a rough voice behind me cried. 'Don't hurt
the man after that.'
'On guard, sir!' I answered coldly--for he seemed to waver, and
be in doubt. 'It was an accident. It shall not avail you
Several voices cried 'Shame!' and one, 'You coward!' But the
Englishman stepped forward, a fixed look in his blue eyes. He
took his place without a word. I read in his drawn white face
that he had made up his mind to the worst, and his courage so won
my admiration that I would gladly and thankfully have set one of
the lookers-on--any of the lookers-on--in his place; but that
could not be. So I thought of Zaton's closed to me, of Pombal's
insult, of the sneers and slights I had long kept at the sword's
point; and, pressing him suddenly in a heat of affected anger, I
thrust strongly over his guard, which had grown feeble, and ran
him through the chest.
When I saw him lying, laid out on the stones with his eyes half
shut, and his face glimmering white in the dusk--not that I saw
him thus long, for there were a dozen kneeling round him in a
twinkling--I felt an unwonted pang. It passed, however, in a
moment. For I found myself confronted by a ring of angry faces
--of men who, keeping at a distance, hissed and cursed and
threatened me, calling me Black Death and the like.
They were mostly canaille, who had gathered during the fight, and
had viewed all that passed from the farther side of the railings.
While some snarled and raged at me like wolves, calling me
'Butcher!' and 'Cut-throat!' or cried out that Berault was at
his trade again, others threatened me with the vengeance of the
Cardinal, flung the edict in my teeth, and said with glee that
the guard were coming--they would see me hanged yet.
'His blood is on your head!' one cried furiously. 'He will be
dead in an hour. And you will swing for him! Hurrah!'
'Begone,' I said.
'Ay, to Montfaucon,' he answered, mocking me.
'No; to your kennel!' I replied, with a look which sent him a
yard backwards, though the railings were between us. And I wiped
my blade carefully, standing a little apart. For--well, I could
understand it--it was one of those moments when a man is not
popular. Those who had come with me from the eating-house eyed
me askance, and turned their backs when I drew nearer; and those
who had joined us and obtained admission were scarcely more
But I was not to be outdone in SANG FROID. I cocked my hat, and
drawing my cloak over my shoulders, went out with a swagger which
drove the curs from the gate before I came within a dozen paces
of it. The rascals outside fell back as quickly, and in a moment
I was in the street. Another moment and I should have been clear
of the place and free to lie by for a while--when, without
warning, a scurry took place round me. The crowd fled every way
into the gloom, and in a hand-turn a dozen of the Cardinal's
guards closed round me.
I had some acquaintance with the officer in command, and he
saluted me civilly.
'This is a bad business, M. de Berault,' he said. 'The man is
dead they tell me.'
'Neither dying nor dead,' I answered lightly. 'If that be all
you may go home again.'
'With you,' he replied, with a grin, 'certainly. And as it
rains, the sooner the better. I must ask you for your sword, I
'Take it,' I said, with the philosophy which never deserts me.
'But the man will not die.'
'I hope that may avail you,' he answered in a tone I did not
like. 'Left wheel, my friends! To the Chatelet! March!'
'There are worse places,' I said, and resigned myself to fate.
After all, I had been in a prison before, and learned that only
one jail lets no prisoner escape.
But when I found that my friend's orders were to hand me over to
the watch, and that I was to be confined like any common jail-
bird caught cutting a purse or slitting a throat, I confess my
heart sank. If I could get speech with the Cardinal, all would
probably be well; but if I failed in this, or if the case came
before him in strange guise, or if he were in a hard mood
himself, then it might go ill with me. The edict said, death!
And the lieutenant at the Chatelet did not put himself to much
trouble to hearten me. 'What! again M. de Berault?' he said,
raising his eyebrows as he received me at the gate, and
recognised me by the light of the brazier which his men were just
kindling outside. 'You are a very bold man, or a very foolhardy
one, to come here again. The old business, I suppose?'
'Yes, but he is not dead,' I answered coolly. 'He has a trifle
--a mere scratch. It was behind the church of St Jacques.'
'He looked dead enough, my friend,' the guardsman interposed. He
had not yet left us.
'Bah!' I answered scornfully. 'Have you ever known me make a
mistake When I kill a man I kill him. I put myself to pains, I
tell you, not to kill this Englishman. Therefore he will live.'
'I hope so,' the lieutenant said, with a dry smile. 'And you had
better hope so, too, M. de Berault, For if not--'
'Well?' I said, somewhat troubled. 'If not, what, my friend?'
'I fear he will be the last man you will fight,' he answered.
'And even if he lives, I would not be too sure, my friend. This
time the Cardinal is determined to put it down.'
'He and I are old friends,' I said confidently.
'So I have heard,' he anwered, with a short laugh. 'I think that
the same was said of Chalais. I do not remember that it saved
This was not reassuring. But worse was to come. Early in the
morning orders were received that I should be treated with
especial strictness, and I was given the choice between irons and
one of the cells below the level. Choosing the latter, I was
left to reflect upon many things; among others, on the queer and
uncertain nature of the Cardinal, who loved, I knew, to play with
a man as a cat with a mouse; and on the ill effects which
sometimes attend a high chest-thrust however carefully delivered.
I only rescued myself at last from these and other unpleasant
reflections by obtaining the loan of a pair of dice; and the
light being just enough to enable me to reckon the throws, I
amused myself for hours by casting them on certain principles of
my own. But a long run again and again upset my calculations;
and at last brought me to the conclusion that a run of bad luck
may be so persistent as to see out the most sagacious player.
This was not a reflection very welcome to me at the moment.
Nevertheless, for three days it was all the company I had. At
the end of that time, the knave of a jailor who attended me, and
who had never grown tired of telling me, after the fashion of his
kind, that I should be hanged, came to me with a less assured
'Perhaps you would like a little water?' he said civilly.
'Why, rascal?' I asked.
'To wash with,' he answered.
'I asked for some yesterday, and you would not bring it,' I
grumbled. 'However, better late than never. Bring it now. If I
must hang, I will hang like a gentleman. But depend upon it, the
Cardinal will not serve an old friend so scurvy a trick.'
'You are to go to him,' he announced, when he came back with the
'What? To the Cardinal?' I cried.
'Yes,' he answered.
'Good!' I exclaimed; and in my joy and relief I sprang up at
once, and began to refresh my dress. 'So all this time I have
been doing him an injustice,' I continued. 'VIVE MONSEIGNEUR!
Long live the little Bishop of Luchon! I might have known it,
'Don't make too sure!' the man answered spitefully. Then he
went on, 'I have something else for you. A friend of yours left
it at the gate,' and he handed me a packet.
'Quite so!' I said, leading his rascally face aright. 'And you
kept it as long as you dared--as long as you thought I should
hang, you knave! Was not that so? But there, do not lie to me.
Tell me instead which of my friends left it.' For, to confess
the truth, I had not so many friends at this time and ten good
crowns--the packet contained no less a sum--argued a pretty
staunch friend, and one of whom a man might reasonably be proud.
The knave sniggered maliciously. 'A crooked dwarfish man left
it,' he said. 'I doubt I might call him a tailor and not be far
'Chut!' I answered--but I was a little out of countenance,
nevertheless. 'I understand. An honest fellow enough, and in
debt to me! I am glad he remembered. But when am I to go,
'In an hour,' he answered sullenly. Doubtless he had looked to
get one of the crowns; but I was too old a hand for that. If I
came back I could buy his services; and if I did not I should
have wasted my money.
Nevertheless, a little later, when I found myself on my way to
the Hotel Richelieu under so close a guard that I could see
nothing in the street except the figures that immediately
surrounded me, I wished that I had given him the money. At such
times, when all hangs in the balance and the sky is overcast, the
mind runs on luck and old superstitions, and is prone to think a
crown given here may avail there--though THERE be a hundred
The Palais Richelieu was at this time in building, and we were
required to wait in a long, bare gallery, where the masons were
at work. I was kept a full hour here, pondering uncomfortably on
the strange whims and fancies of the great man who then ruled
France as the King's Lieutenant-General, with all the King's
powers, and whose life I had once been the means of saving by a
little timely information. On occasion he had done something to
wipe out the debt; and at other times he had permitted me to be
free with him, and so far we were not unknown to one another.
Nevertheless, when the doors were at last thrown open, and I was
led into his presence, my confidence underwent a shock. His cold
glance, that, roving over me, regarded me not as a man but an
item, the steely glitter of his southern eyes, chilled me to the
bone. The room was bare, the floor without carpet or covering.
Some of the woodwork lay about, unfinished and in pieces. But
the man--this man, needed no surroundings. His keen pale face,
his brilliant eyes, even his presence--though he was of no great
height, and began already to stoop at the shoulders--were enough
to awe the boldest. I recalled, as I looked at him, a hundred
tales of his iron will, his cold heart, his unerring craft. He
had humbled the King's brother, the splendid Duke of Orleans, in
the dust. He had curbed the Queen-mother. A dozen heads, the
noblest in France, had come to the block through him. Only two
years before he had quelled Rochelle; only a few months before he
had crushed the great insurrection in Languedoc: and though the
south, stripped of its old privileges, still seethed with
discontent, no one in this year 1630 dared lift a hand against
him--openly, at any rate. Under the surface a hundred plots, a
thousand intrigues, sought his life or his power; but these, I
suppose, are the hap of every great man.
No wonder, then, that the courage on which I plumed myself sank
low at sight of him; or that it was as much as I could do to
mingle with the humility of my salute some touch of the SANG
FROID of old acquaintanceship.
And perhaps that had had been better left out. For it seemed
that this man was without bowels. For a moment, while he stood
looking at me, and before he spoke to me, I gave myself up for
lost. There was a glint of cruel satisfaction in his eyes that
warned me, before he opened his mouth, what he was going to say
'I could not have made a better catch, M. de Berault,' he said,
smiling villainously, while he gently smoothed the fur of a cat
that had sprung on the table beside him. 'An old offender, and
an excellent example. I doubt it will not stop with you. But
later, we will make you the warrant for flying at higher game.'
'Monseigneur has handled a sword himself,' I blurted out. The
very room seemed to be growing darker, the air colder. I was
never nearer fear in my life.
'Yes?' he said, smiling delicately. 'And so--?'
'Will not be too hard on the failings of a poor gentleman.'
'He shall suffer no more than a rich one,' he replied suavely as
he stroked the cat. 'Enjoy that satisfaction, M. de Berault. Is
'Once I was of service to your Eminence,' I said desperately.
'Payment has been made,' he answered, 'more than once. But for
that I should not have seen you.'
'The King's face!' I cried, snatching at the straw he seemed to
He laughed cynically, smoothly. His thin face, his dark
moustache, and whitening hair, gave him an air of indescribable
'I am not the King,' he said. 'Besides, I am told that you have
killed as many as six men in duels. You owe the King, therefore,
one life at least. You must pay it. There is no more to be
said, M. de Berault,' he continued coldly, turning away and
beginning to collect some papers. 'The law must take its
I thought that he was about to nod to the lieutenant to withdraw
me, and a chilling sweat broke out down my back. I saw the
scaffold, I felt the cords. A moment, and it would be too late!
'I have a favour to ask,' I stammered desperately, 'if your
Eminence will give me a moment alone.'
'To what end?' he answered, turning and eyeing me with cold
disfavour. 'I know you--your past--all. It can do no good, my
'No harm!' I cried. 'And I am a dying man, Monseigneur!'
'That is true,' he said thoughtfully. Still he seemed to
hesitate; and my heart beat fast. At last he looked at the
lieutenant. 'You may leave us,' he said shortly. 'Now,' he
continued, when the officer had withdrawn and left us alone,
'what is it? Say what you have to say quickly. And, above all,
do not try to fool me, M. de Berault.'
But his piercing eyes so disconcerted me now that I had my
chance, and was alone with him, that I could not find a word to
say, and stood before him mute. I think this pleased him, for
his face relaxed.
'Well?' he said at last. 'Is that all?'
'The man is not dead,' I muttered.
He shrugged his shoulders contemptuously.
'What of that?' he said. 'That was not what you wanted to say
'Once I saved your Eminence's life,' I faltered miserably.
'Admitted,' he answered, in his thin, incisive voice. 'You
mentioned the fact before. On the other hand, you have taken six
to my knowledge, M. de Berault. You have lived the life of a
bully, a common bravo, a gamester. You, a man of family! For
shame! Do you wonder that it has brought you to this! Yet on
that one point I am willing to hear more,' he added abruptly.
'I might save your Eminence's life again,' I cried. It was a
'You know something?' he said quickly, fixing me with his eyes.
'But no,' he continued, shaking his head gently. 'Pshaw! The
trick is old. I have better spies than you, M. de Berault.'
'But no better sword,' I cried hoarsely. 'No, not in all your
'That is true,' he said slowly. 'That is true.'
To my surprise, he spoke in a tone of consideration; and he
looked down at the floor. 'Let me think, my friend,' he
He walked two or three times up and down the room, while I stood
trembling. I confess it, trembling. The man whose pulses danger
has no power to quicken, is seldom proof against suspense; and
the sudden hope his words awakened in me so shook me that his
figure as he trod lightly to and fro with the cat rubbing against
his robe and turning time for time with him, wavered before my
eyes. I grasped the table to steady myself. I had not admitted
even in my own mind how darkly the shadow of Montfaucon and the
gallows had fallen across me.
I had leisure to recover myself, for it was some time before he
spoke. When he did, it was in a voice harsh, changed,
imperative. 'You have the reputation of a man faithful, at
least, to his employer,' he said. 'Do not answer me. I say it
is so. Well, I will trust you. I will give you one more chance
--though it is a desperate one. Woe to you if you fail me! Do
you know Cocheforet in Bearn? It is not far from Auch.'
'No, your Eminence.'
'Nor M. de Cocheforet?'
'No, your Eminence.'
'So much the better,' he replied. 'But you have heard of him.
He has been engaged in every Gascon plot since the late King's
death, and gave more trouble last year in the Vivarais than any
man twice his years. At present he is at Bosost in Spain, with
other refugees, but I have learned that at frequent intervals he
visits his wife at Cocheforet which is six leagues within the
border. On one of these visits he must be arrested.'
'That should be easy,' I said.
The Cardinal looked at me. 'Chut, man! what do you know about
it?' he answered bluntly. 'It is whispered at Cocheforet if a
soldier crosses the street at Auch. In the house are only two or
three servants, but they have the countryside with them to a man,
and they are a dangerous breed. A spark might kindle a fresh
rising. The arrest, therefore, must be made secretly.'
'One resolute man inside the house,' the Cardinal continued,
thoughtfully glancing at a paper which lay on the table, 'with
the help of two or three servants whom he could summon to his aid
at will, might effect it. The question is, Will you be the man,
I hesitated; then I bowed. What choice had I?
'Nay, nay, speak out!' he said sharply. 'Yes or no, M. de
'Yes, your Eminence,' I said reluctantly. Again, I say, what
choice had I?
'You will bring him to Paris, and alive. He knows things, and
that is why I want him. You understand?'
'I understand, Monseigneur,' I answered.
'You will get into the house as you can,' he continued with
energy. 'For that you will need strategy, and good strategy.
They suspect everybody. You must deceive them. If you fail to
deceive them, or, deceiving them, are found out later, I do not
think that you will trouble me again, or break the edict a second
time. On the other hand, should you deceive me'--he smiled still
more subtly, but his voice sank to a purring note--'I will break
you on the wheel like the ruined gamester you are!'
I met his look without quailing. 'So be it!' I said recklessly.
'If I do not bring M. de Cocheforet to Paris, you may do that to
me, and more also!'
'It is a bargain!' he answered slowly. 'I think that you will
be faithful. For money, here are a hundred crowns. That sum
should suffice; but if you succeed you shall have twice as much
more. That is all, I think. You understand?'
'Then why do you wait?'
'The lieutenant?' I said modestly.
The Cardinal laughed to himself, and sitting down wrote a word or
two on a slip of paper. 'Give him that,' he said in high good-
humour. 'I fear, M. de Berault, you will never get your deserts
--in this world!'
AT THE GREEN PILLAR
Cocheforet lies in a billowy land of oak and beech and chestnuts
--a land of deep, leafy bottoms and hills clothed with forest.
Ridge and valley, glen and knoll, the woodland, sparsely peopled
and more sparsely tilled, stretches away to the great snow
mountains that here limit France. It swarms with game--with
wolves and bears, deer and boars. To the end of his life I have
heard that the great king loved this district, and would sigh,
when years and State fell heavily on him, for the beech groves
and box-covered hills of South Bearn. From the terraced steps of
Auch you can see the forest roll away in light and shadow, vale
and upland, to the base of the snow peaks; and, though I come
from Brittany and love the smell of the salt wind, I have seen
few sights that outdo this.
It was the second week of October, when I came to Cocheforet,
and, dropping down from the last wooded brow, rode quietly into
the place at evening. I was alone, and had ridden all day in a
glory of ruddy beech leaves, through the silence of forest roads,
across clear brooks and glades still green. I had seen more of
the quiet and peace of the country than had been my share since
boyhood, and for that reason, or because I had no great taste for
the task before me--the task now so imminent--I felt a little
hipped. In good faith, it was not a gentleman's work that I was
come to do, look at it how you might.
But beggars must not be choosers, and I knew that this feeling
would not last. At the inn, in the presence of others, under the
spur of necessity, or in the excitement of the chase, were that
once begun, I should lose the feeling. When a man is young he
seeks solitude, when he is middle-aged, he flies it and his
thoughts. I made therefore for the 'Green Pillar,' a little inn
in the village street, to which I had been directed at Auch, and,
thundering on the door with the knob of my riding switch, railed
at the man for keeping me waiting.
Here and there at hovel doors in the street--which was a mean,
poor place, not worthy of the name--men and women looked out at
me suspiciously. But I affected to ignore them; and at last the
host came. He was a fair-haired man, half-Basque, half-
Frenchman, and had scanned me well, I was sure, through some
window or peephole; for when he came out he betrayed no surprise
at the sight of a well-dressed stranger--a portent in that out-
of-the-way village--but eyed me with a kind of sullen reserve.
'I can lie here to-night, I suppose?' I said, dropping the reins
on the sorrel's neck. The horse hung its head.
'I don't know,' he answered stupidly.
I pointed to the green bough which topped a post that stood
opposite the door.
'This is an inn, is it not?' I said.
'Yes,' he answered slowly. 'It is an inn. But--'
'But you are full, or you are out of food, or your wife is ill,
or something else is amiss,' I answered peevishly. 'All the
same, I am going to lie here. So you must make the best of it,
and your wife too--if you have one.'
He scratched his head, looking at me with an ugly glitter in his
eyes. But he said nothing, and I dismounted.
'Where can I stable my horse?' I asked.
'I'll put it up,' he answered sullenly, stepping forward and
taking the reins in his hand.
'Very well,' I said. 'But I go with you. A merciful man is
merciful to his beast, and wherever I go I see my horse fed.'
'It will be fed,' he said shortly. And then he waited for me to
go into the house. 'The wife is in there,' he continued, looking
at me stubbornly.
'IMPRIMIS--if you understand Latin, my friend,' I answered. 'the
horse in the stall.'
He saw that it was no good, turned the sorrel slowly round, and
began to lead it across the village street. There was a shed
behind the inn, which I had already marked, and taken for the
stable, I was surprised when I found that he was not going there,
but I made no remark, and in a few minutes saw the horse made
comfortable in a hovel which seemed to belong to a neighbour.
This done, the man led the way back to the inn, carrying my
'You have no other guests?' I said, with a casual air. I knew
that he was watching me closely.
'No,' he answered.
'This is not much in the way to anywhere, I suppose?'
That was so evident, that I never saw a more retired place. The
hanging woods, rising steeply to a great height, so shut the
valley in that I was puzzled to think how a man could leave it
save by the road I had come. The cottages, which were no more
than mean, small huts, ran in a straggling double line, with many
gaps--through fallen trees and ill-cleared meadows. Among them
a noisy brook ran in and out, and the inhabitants--charcoal-
burners, or swine-herds, or poor devils of the like class, were
no better than their dwellings. I looked in vain for the
Chateau. It was not to be seen, and I dared not ask for it.
The man led me into the common room of the tavern--a low-roofed,
poor place, lacking a chimney or glazed windows, and grimy with
smoke and use. The fire--a great half-burned tree--smouldered on
a stone hearth, raised a foot from the floor. A huge black pot
simmered over it, and beside one window lounged a country fellow
talking with the goodwife. In the dusk I could not see his face,
but I gave the woman a word, and sat down to wait for my supper.
She seemed more silent than the common run of her kind; but this
might be because her husband was present. While she moved about
getting my meal, he took his place against the door-post and fell
to staring at me so persistently that I felt by no means at my
ease. He was a tall, strong fellow, with a shaggy moustache and
brown beard, cut in the mode Henri Quatre; and on the subject of
that king--a safe one, I knew, with a Bearnais--and on that
alone, I found it possible to make him talk. Even then there was
a suspicious gleam in his eyes that bade me abstain from
questions; so that as the darkness deepened behind him, and the
firelight played more and more strongly on his features, and I
thought of the leagues of woodland that lay between this remote
valley and Auch, I recalled the Cardinal's warning that if I
failed in my attempt I should be little likely to trouble Paris
The lout by the window paid no attention to me; nor I to him,
when I had once satisfied myself that he was really what he
seemed to be. But by-and-by two or three men--rough, uncouth
fellows--dropped in to reinforce the landlord, and they, too
seemed to have no other business than to sit in silence looking
at me, or now and again to exchange a word in a PATOIS of their
own. By the time my supper was ready, the knaves numbered six in
all; and, as they were armed to a man with huge Spanish knives,
and made it clear that they resented my presence in their dull
rustic fashion--every rustic is suspicious--I began to think
that, unwittingly, I had put my head into a wasps' nest.
Nevertheless, I ate and drank with apparent appetite; but little
that passed within the circle of light cast by the smoky lamp
escaped me. I watched the men's looks and gestures at least as
sharply as they watched mine; and all the time I was racking my
wits for some mode of disarming their suspicions, or failing
that, of learning something more of the position, which far
exceeded in difficulty and danger anything that I had expected.
The whole valley, it would seem, was on the look-out to protect
I had purposely brought with me from Auch a couple of bottles of
choice Armagnac; and these had been carried into the house with
my saddle bags. I took one out now and opened it and carelessly
offered a dram of the spirit to the landlord. He took it. As he
drank it, I saw his face flush; he handed back the cup
reluctantly, and on that hint I offered him another, The strong
spirit was already beginning to work, and he accepted, and in a
few minutes began to talk more freely and with less of the
constraint which had before marked us all. Still, his tongue ran
chiefly on questions--he would know this, he would learn that;
but even this was a welcome change. I told him openly whence I
had come, by what road, how long I had stayed in Auch, and where;
and so far I satisfied his curiosity. Only, when I came to the
subject of my visit to Cocheforet I kept a mysterious silence,
hinting darkly at business in Spain and friends across the
border, and this and that; in this way giving the peasants to
understand, if they pleased, that I was in the same interest as
their exiled master.
They took the bait, winked at one another, and began to look at
me in a more friendly way--the landlord foremost. But when I had
led them so far, I dared go no farther, lest I should commit
myself and be found out. I stopped, therefore, and, harking back
to general subjects, chanced to compare my province with theirs.
The landlord, now become almost talkative, was not slow to take
up this challenge; and it presently led to my acquiring a curious
piece of knowledge. He was boasting of his great snow mountains,
the forests that propped them, the bears that roamed in them, the
izards that loved the ice, and the boars that fed on the oak
'Well,' I said, quite by chance, 'we have not these things, it is
true. But we have things in the north you have not. We have
tens of thousands of good horses--not such ponies as you breed
here. At the horse fair at Fecamp my sorrel would be lost in the
crowd. Here in the south you will not meet his match in a long
'Do not make too sure of that,' the man replied, his eyes bright
with triumph and the dram. 'What would you say if I showed you a
better--in my own stable?'
I saw that his words sent a kind of thrill through his other
hearers, and that such of them as understood for two or three of
them talked their PATOIS only--looked at him angrily; and in a
twinkling I began to comprehend. But I affected dullness, and
laughed in scorn.
'Seeing is believing,' I said. 'I doubt if you knows good horse
when you see one, my friend.'
'Oh, don't I?' he said, winking. 'Indeed!'
'I doubt it,' I answered stubbornly.
'Then come with me, and I will show you one,' he retorted,
discretion giving way to vain-glory. His wife and the others, I
saw, looked at him dumbfounded; but, without paying any heed to
them, he rose, took up a lanthorn, and, assuming an air of
peculiar wisdom, opened the door. 'Come with me,' he continued.
'I don't know a good horse when I see one, don't I? I know a
better than yours, at anyrate!'
I should not have been surprised if the other men had interfered;
but I suppose he was a leader among them, they did not, and in a
moment we were outside. Three paces through the darkness took us
to the stable, an offset at the back of the inn. My man twirled
the pin, and, leading the way in, raised his lanthorn. A horse
whinnied softly, and turned its bright, mild eyes on us--a
baldfaced chestnut, with white hairs in its tail and one white
'There!' my guide exclaimed, waving the lanthorn to and fro
boastfully, that I might see its points. 'What do you say to
that? Is that an undersized pony?'
'No,' I answered, purposely stinting my praise. 'It is pretty
fair--for this country.'
'Or any country,' he answered wrathfully. 'Or any country, I
say--I don't care where it is! And I have reason to know! Why,
man, that horse is--But there, that is a good horse, if ever you
saw one!' And with that he ended--abruptly and lamely; lowered
the lanthorn with a sudden gesture, and turned to the door. He
was on the instant in such hurry to leave that he almost
shouldered me out.
But I understood. I knew that he had neatly betrayed all--that
he had been on the point of blurting out that that was M. de
Cocheforet's horse! M. Cocheforet's COMPRENEZ BIEN! And while I
turned away my face in the darkness that he might not see me
smile, I was not surprised to find the man in a moment changed,
and become, in the closing of the door, as sober and suspicious
as before, ashamed of himself and enraged with me, and in a mood
to cut my throat for a trifle.
It was not my cue to quarrel, however. I made therefore, as if I
had seen nothing, and when we were back in the inn praised the
horse grudgingly, and like a man but half convinced. The ugly
looks and ugly weapons I saw round me were fine incentives to
caution; and no Italian, I flatter myself, could have played his
part more nicely than I did. But I was heartily glad when it was
over, and I found myself, at last, left alone for the night in a
little garret--a mere fowl-house--upstairs, formed by the roof
and gable walls, and hung with strings of apples and chestnuts.
It was a poor sleeping-place--rough, chilly, and unclean. I
ascended to it by a ladder; my cloak and a little fern formed my
only bed. But I was glad to accept it, for it enabled me to he
alone and to think out the position unwatched.
Of course M. de Cocheforet was at the Chateau. He had left his
horse here, and gone up on foot; probably that was his usual
plan. He was therefore within my reach, in one sense--I could
not have come at a better time--but in another he was as much
beyond it as if I were still in Paris. For so far was I from
being able to seize him that I dared not ask a question, or let
fall a rash word, or even look about me freely. I saw I dared
not. The slightest hint of my mission, the faintest breath of
distrust, would lead to throat-cutting--and the throat would be
mine; while the longer I lay in the village, the greater
suspicion I should incur, and the closer would be the watch kept
In such a position some men might have given up the attempt in
despair, and saved themselves across the border. But I have
always valued myself on my fidelity, and I did not shrink. If
not to-day, to-morrow; if not this time, next time. The dice do
not always turn up aces. Bracing myself, therefore, to the
occasion, I crept, as soon as the house was quiet, to the window,
a small, square, open lattice, much cobwebbed, and partly stuffed
with hay. I looked out. The village seemed to be asleep. The
dark branches of trees hung a few feet away, and almost obscured
a grey, cloudy sky, through which a wet moon sailed drearily.
Looking downwards, I could at first see nothing; but as my eyes
grew used to the darkness--I had only just put out my rushlight--
I made out the stable door and the shadowy outlines of the
I had hoped for this, for I could now keep watch, and learn at
least whether Cocheforet left before morning. If he did not, I
should know he was still here. If he did, I should be the better
for seeing his features, and learning, perhaps, other things that
might be of use to me in the future.
Making up my mind to the uncomfortable, I sat down on the floor
by the lattice, and began a vigil that might last, I knew, until
morning. It did last about an hour, at the end of which time I
heard whispering below, then footsteps; then, as some persons
turned a corner, a voice speaking aloud and carelessly. I could
not catch the words or meaning, but the voice was a gentleman's,
and its bold accents and masterful tone left me in no doubt that
the speaker was M. de Cocheforet himself. Hoping to learn more,
I pressed my face nearer to the opening, and had just made out
through the gloom two figures--one that of a tall, slight man,
wearing a cloak, the other, I fancied, a woman's, in a sheeny
white dress--when a thundering rap on the door of my garret made
me spring back a yard from the lattice, and lie down hurriedly on
my couch. The summons was repeated.
'Well?' I cried, rising on my elbow, and cursing the untimely
interruption. I was burning with anxiety to see more. 'What is
it? What is the matter?'
The trap-door was lifted a foot or more. The landlord thrust up
'You called, did you not?' he said.
He held up a rushlight, which illumined half the room and lit up
his grinning face.
'Called--at this hour of the night, you fool?' I answered
angrily. 'No! I did not call. Go to bed, man!'
But he remained on the ladder, gaping stupidly. 'I heard you,'
'Go to bed! You are drunk,' I answered, sitting up. 'I tell you
I did not call.'
'Oh, very well,' he answered slowly. 'And you do not want
'Nothing--except to be left alone,' I replied sourly.
'Umph!' he said. 'Good-night!'
'Good-night! Good-night!' I answered with what patience I
might. The tramp of the horse's hoofs as it was led out of the
stable was in my ears at the moment. 'Good-night!' I continued
feverishly, hoping that he would still retire in time, and I have
a chance to look out. 'I want to sleep.'
'Good,' he said, with a broad grin. 'But it is early yet, and
you have plenty of time.'
And then, at last, he slowly let down the trap-door, and I heard
him chuckle as he went down the ladder.
Before he reached the bottom I was at the window. The woman,
whom I had seen, still stood below in the same place, and beside
her was a man in a peasant's dress, holding a lanthorn. But the
man, the man I wanted to see, was no longer there. He was gone,
and it was evident that the others no longer feared me; for while
I gazed the landlord came out to them with another lanthorn
swinging in his hand, and said something to the lady, and she
looked up at my window and laughed.
It was a warm night, and she wore nothing over her white dress.
I could see her tall, shapely figure and shining eyes, and the
firm contour of her beautiful face, which, if any fault might be
found with it, erred in being too regular. She looked like a
woman formed by nature to meet dangers and difficulties, and to
play a great part; even here, at midnight, in the midst of these
desperate men, she did not seem out of place. I could fancy--I
did not find it impossible to fancy--that under her queenly
exterior, and behind the contemptuous laugh with which she heard
the landlord's story, there lurked a woman's soul, a soul capable
of folly and tenderness. But no outward sign betrayed its
presence--as I saw her then.
I scanned her very carefully; and secretly, if the truth be told,
I was glad to find that Madame de Cocheforet was such a woman. I
was glad that she had laughed as she had--with a ring of disdain
and defiance; glad that she was not a little, tender, child-like
woman, to be crushed by the first pinch of trouble. For if I
succeeded in my task, if I contrived to--but, pish! Women, I
told myself, were all alike. She would find consolation quickly
I watched until the group broke up, and Madame, with one of the
men, went her way round the corner of the inn, and out of my
sight. Then I retired to bed again, feeling more than ever
perplexed what course I should adopt. It was clear that to
succeed I must obtain admission to the house, which was
garrisoned, according to my instructions, by two or three old
men-servants only, and as many women; since Madame, to disguise
her husband's visits the more easily, lived, and gave out that
she lived, in great retirement. To seize her husband at home,
therefore, might be no impossible task; though here, in the heart
of the village, a troop of horse might make the attempt, and
But how was I to gain admission to the house--a house guarded by
quick-witted women, and fenced with all the precautions love
could devise? That was the question; and dawn found me still
debating it, still as far as ever from an answer. Anxious and
feverish, I was glad when the light came, and I could get up. I
thought that the fresh air might inspire me, and I was tired of
my stuffy closet. I crept stealthily down the ladder, and
managed to pass unseen through the lower room, in which several
persons were snoring heavily. The outer door was not fastened,
and in a hand-turn I was in the street.
It was still so early that the trees stood up black against the
reddening sky, but the bough upon the post before the door was
growing green, and in a few minutes the grey light would be
everywhere. Already, even in the roadway, there was a glimmering
of it; and as I stood at the corner of the house--where I could
command both the front and the side on which the stable opened
--sniffing the fresh air, and looking for any trace of the
midnight departure, my eyes detected something light-coloured
lying on the ground. It was not more than two or three paces
from me, and I stepped to it and picked it up curiously, hoping
that it might be a note. It was not a note, however, but a tiny
orange-coloured sachet such as women carry in the bosom. It was
full of some faintly-scented powder, and bore on one side the
initial 'E,' worked in white silk; and was altogether a dainty
little toy, such as women love.
Doubtless Madame de Cocheforet had dropped it in the night. I
turned it over and over; and then I put it in my pouch with a
smile, thinking that it might be useful sometime, and in some
way. I had scarcely done this, and turned with the intention of
exploring the street, when the door behind me creaked on its
leather hinges, and in a moment the host stood at my elbow, and
gave me a surly greeting.
Evidently his suspicions were again aroused, for from this time
he managed to be with me, on one pretence or another until noon.
Moreover, his manner grew each moment more churlish, his hints
plainer; until I could scarcely avoid noticing the one or the
other. About mid-day, having followed me for the twentieth time
into the street, he came to the point by asking me rudely if I
did not need my horse.
'No,' I said. 'Why do you ask?'
'Because,' he answered, with an ugly smile, 'this is not a very
healthy place for strangers.'
'Ah!' I retorted. 'But the border air suits me, you see,'
It was a lucky answer, for, taken with my talk the night before,
it puzzled him, by suggesting that I was on the losing side, and
had my reasons for lying near Spain. Before he had done
scratching his head over it, the clatter of hoofs broke the
sleepy quiet of the village street, and the lady I had seen the
night before rode quickly round the corner, and drew her horse on
to its haunches. Without looking at me, she called to the
innkeeper to come to her stirrup.
He went. The moment his back was turned, I slipped away, and in
a twinkling was hidden by a house. Two or three glum-looking
fellows stared at me as I passed down the street, but no one
moved; and in two minutes I was clear of the village, and in a
half-worn track which ran through the wood, and led--if my ideas
were right--to the Chateau. To discover the house and learn all
that was to be learned about its situation were my most pressing
needs; and these, even at the risk of a knife thrust, I was
determined to satisfy.
I had not gone two hundred paces along the path, however, before
I heard the tread of a horse behind me, and I had just time to
hide myself before Madame came up and rode by me, sitting her
horse gracefully, and with all the courage of a northern woman.
I watched her pass, and then, assured by her presence that I was
in the right road, I hurried after her. Two minutes walking at
speed brought me to a light wooden bridge spanning a stream. I
crossed this, and, as the wood opened, saw before me first a
wide, pleasant meadow, and beyond this a terrace. On the
terrace, pressed upon on three sides by thick woods, stood a grey
mansion, with the corner tourelles, steep, high roofs, and round
balconies, that men loved and built in the days of the first
It was of good size, but wore a gloomy aspect. A great yew
hedge, which seemed to enclose a walk or bowling-green, hid the
ground floor of the east wing from view, while a formal rose
garden, stiff even in neglect, lay in front of the main building.
The west wing, of which the lower roofs fell gradually away to
the woods, probably contained the stables and granaries.
I stood a moment only, but I marked all, and noted how the road
reached the house, and which windows were open to attack; then I
turned and hastened back. Fortunately, I met no one between the
house and the village, and was able to enter my host's with an
air of the most complete innocence.
Short as had been my absence, however, I found things altered
there. Round the door lounged three strangers--stout, well-armed
fellows, whose bearing, as they loitered and chattered, suggested
a curious mixture of smugness and independence. Half a dozen
pack-horses stood tethered to the post in front of the house; and
the landlord's manner, from being rude and churlish only, had
grown perplexed and almost timid. One of the strangers, I soon
found, supplied him with wine; the others were travelling
merchants, who rode in the first one's company for the sake of
safety. All were substantial men from Tarbes--solid burgesses;
and I was not long in guessing that my host, fearing what might
leak out before them, and, particularly, that I might refer to
the previous night's disturbance, was on tenter-hooks while they
For a time this did not suggest anything to me. But when we had
all taken our seats for supper, there came an addition to the
party. The door opened, and the fellow whom I had seen the night
before with Madame de Cocheforet entered and took a stool by the
fire. I felt sure that he was one of the servants at the
Chateau; and in a flash his presence inspired me with the most
feasible plan for obtaining admission which I had yet hit upon.
I felt myself grow hot at the thought--it seemed so full of
promise, yet so doubtful--and, on the instant, without giving
myself time to think too much, I began to carry it into effect.
I called for two or three bottles of better wine, and, assuming a
jovial air, passed it round the table. When we had drunk a few
glasses I fell to talking, and, choosing politics, took the side
of the Languedoc party and the malcontents in so reckless a
fashion that the innkeeper was beside himself at my imprudence.
The merchants, who belonged to the class with whom the Cardinal
was always most popular, looked first astonished and then
enraged. But I was not to be checked; hints and sour looks were
lost upon me. I grew more outspoken with every glass, I drank to
the Rochellois, I swore it would not be long before they raised
their heads again; and, at last, while the innkeeper and his wife
were engaged lighting the lamp, I passed round the bottle and
called on all for a toast.
'I'll give you one to begin,' I bragged noisily. 'A gentleman's
toast! A southern toast! Here is confusion to the Cardinal, and
a health to all who hate him!'
'MON DIEU!' one of the strangers cried, springing from his seat
in a rage. 'I am not going to stomach that! Is your house a
common treason-hole,' he continued, turning furiously on the
landlord, 'that you suffer this?'
'Hoity-toity!' I answered, coolly keeping my seat. 'What is all
this? Don't you relish my toast, little man?'
'No--nor you!' he retorted hotly; 'whoever you may be!'
'Then I will give you another,' I answered, with a hiccough.
'Perhaps it will be more to your taste. Here is the Duke of
Orleans, and may he soon be King!'
THE HOUSE IN THE WOOD
Words so reckless fairly shook the three men out of their anger.
For a moment they glared at me as if they had seen a ghost. Then
the wine merchant clapped his hand on the table.
'That is enough,' he said, with a look at his companions. 'I
think that there can be no mistake about that. As damnable
treason as ever I heard whispered! I congratulate you, sir, on
your boldness. As for you,' he continued, turning with an ugly
sneer to the landlord, 'I shall know now the company you keep! I
was not aware that my wine wet whistles to such a tune!'
But if he was startled, the innkeeper was furious, seeing his
character thus taken away; and, being at no time a man of many
words, he vented his rage exactly in the way I wished, raising in
a twinkling such an uproar as can scarcely be conceived. With a
roar like a bull's, he ran headlong at the table, and overturned
it on the top of me. Fortunately the woman saved the lamp, and
fled with it into a corner, whence she and the man from the
Chateau watched the skirmish in silence; but the pewter cups and
platters flew spinning across the floor, while the table pinned
me to the ground among the ruins of my stool. Having me at this
disadvantage--for at first I made no resistance the landlord
began to belabour me with the first thing he snatched up, and
when I tried to defend myself, cursed me with each blow for a
treacherous rogue and a vagrant. Meanwhile the three merchants,
delighted with the turn things had taken, skipped round us
laughing, and now hounded him on, now bantered me with 'how is
that for the Duke of Orleans?' and 'How now, traitor?'
When I thought that this had lasted long enough--or, to speak
more plainly, when I could stand the innkeeper's drubbing no
longer--I threw him off, and struggled to my feet; but still,
though the blood was trickling down my face, I refrained from
drawing my sword. I caught up instead a leg of the stool which
lay handy, and, watching my opportunity, dealt the landlord a
shrewd blow under the ear, which laid him out in a moment on the
wreck of his own table.
'Now,' I cried, brandishing my new weapon, which fitted the hand
to a nicety, 'come on! Come on! if you dare to strike a blow,
you peddling, truckling, huckstering knaves! A fig for you and
your shaveling Cardinal!'
The red-faced wine merchant drew his sword in a one-two.
'Why, you drunken fool,' he said wrathfully, 'put that stick
down, or I will spit you like a lark!'
'Lark in your teeth!' I cried, staggering as if the wine were in
my head. 'And cuckoo, too! Another word, and I--'
He made a couple of savage passes at me, but in a twinkling his
sword flew across the room.
'VOILA!' I shouted, lurching forward, as if I had luck and not
skill to thank for my victory. 'Now, the next! Come on, come
on--you white-livered knaves!' And, pretending a drunken frenzy,
I flung my weapon bodily amongst them, and seizing the nearest,
began to wrestle with him.
In a moment they all threw themselves upon me, and, swearing
copiously, bore me back to the door. The wine merchant cried
breathlessly to the woman to open it, and in a twinkling they had
me through it, and half-way across the road. The one thing I
feared was a knife-thrust in the MELEE; but I had to run that
risk, and the men were honest, and, thinking me drunk, indulgent.
In a trice I found myself on my back in the dirt, with my head
humming; and heard the bars of the door fall noisily into their
I got up and went to the door, and, to play out my part, hammered
on it frantically; crying out to them to let me in. But the
three travellers only jeered at me, and the landlord, coming to
the window, with his head bleeding, shook his fist at me, and
cursed me for a mischief-maker.
Baffled in this, I retired to a log which lay in the road a few
paces from the house, and sat down on it to await events. With
torn clothes and bleeding face, hatless and covered with dirt, I
was in little better case than my opponent. It was raining, too,
and the dripping branches swayed over my head. The wind was in
the south--the coldest quarter. I began to feel chilled and
dispirited. If my scheme failed, I had forfeited roof and bed to
no purpose, and placed future progress out of the question. It
was a critical moment.
But at last that happened for which I had been looking. The door
swung open a few inches, and a man came noiselessly out; it was
quickly barred behind him. He stood a moment, waiting on the
threshold and peering into the gloom; and seemed to expect to be
attacked. Finding himself unmolested, however, and all quiet, he
went off steadily down the street--towards the Chateau.
I let a couple of minutes go by, and then I followed. I had no
difficulty in hitting on the track at the end of the street, but
when I had once plunged into the wood, I found myself in darkness
so intense that I soon strayed from the path, and fell over
roots, and tore my clothes with thorns, and lost my temper twenty
times before I found the path again. However, I gained the
bridge at last, and thence caught sight of a light twinkling
before me. To make for it across the meadow and terrace was an
easy task; yet, when I had reached the door and had hammered upon
it, I was so worn out, and in so sorry a plight that I sank down,
and had little need to play a part, or pretend to be worse than I
For a long time no one answered. The dark house towering above
me remained silent. I could hear, mingled with the throbbings of
my heart, the steady croaking of the frogs in a pond near the
stables; but no other sound. In a frenzy of impatience and
disgust, I stood up again and hammered, kicking with my heels on
the nail-studded door, and crying out desperately,--
'A MOI! A MOI!'
Then, or a moment later, I heard a remote door opened; footsteps
as of more than one person drew near. I raised my voice and
'Who is there?' a voice asked.
'A gentleman in distress,' I answered piteously, moving my hands
across the door. 'For God's sake open and let me in. I am hurt,
and dying of cold.'
'What brings you here?' the voice asked sharply. Despite its
tartness, I fancied that it was a woman's.
'Heaven knows!' I answered desperately. 'I cannot tell. They
maltreated me at the inn, and threw me into the street. I
crawled away, and have been wandering in the wood for hours.
Then I saw a light here.'
On that some muttering took place on the other side of the door--
to which I had my ear. It ended in the bars being lowered. The
door swung partly open, and a light shone out, dazzling me. I
tried to shade my eyes with my fingers, and, as did so, fancied I
heard a murmur of pity. But when I looked in under screen of my
hand, I saw only one person--the man who held the light, and his
aspect was so strange, so terrifying, that, shaken as I was by
fatigue, I recoiled a step.
He was a tall and very thin man, meanly dressed in a short,
scanty jacket and well-darned hose. Unable, for some reason, to
bend his neck, he carried his head with a strange stiffness.
And that head--never did living man show a face so like death.
His forehead was bald and yellow, his cheek-bones stood out under
the strained skin, all the lower part of his face fell in, his
jaws receded, his cheeks were hollow, his lips and chin were thin
and fleshless. He seemed to have only one expression--a fixed
While I stood looking at this formidable creature, he made a
quick movement to shut the door again, smiling more widely. I
had the presence of mind to thrust in my foot, and, before he
could resent the act, a voice in the background cried,--
'For shame, Clon! Stand back, stand back! do you hear? I am
afraid, Monsieur, that you are hurt.'
Those words were my welcome to that house; and, spoken at an hour
and in circumstances so gloomy, they made a lasting impression.
Round the hall ran a gallery, and this, the height of the
apartment, and the dark panelling seemed to swallow up the light.
I stood within the entrance (as it seemed to me) of a huge cave;
the skull-headed porter had the air of an ogre. Only the voice
which greeted me dispelled the illusion. I turned trembling
towards the quarter whence it came, and, shading my eyes, made
out a woman's form standing in a doorway under the gallery. A
second figure, which I took to be that of the servant I had seen
at the inn, loomed uncertainly beside her.
I bowed in silence. My teeth were chattering. I was faint
without feigning, and felt a kind of terror, hard to explain, at
the sound of this woman's voice.
'One of our people has told me about you, she continued, speaking
out of the darkness. 'I am sorry that this has happened to you
here, but I am afraid that you were indiscreet.'
'I take all the blame, Madame,' I answered humbly. 'I ask only
shelter for the night.'
'The time has not yet come when we cannot give our friends that!'
she answered with noble courtesy. 'When it does, Monsieur, we
shall be homeless ourselves.'
I shivered, looking anywhere but at her; for, if the truth be
told, I had not sufficiently pictured this scene of my arrival--I
had not foredrawn its details; and now I took part in it I felt a
miserable meanness weigh me down. I had never from the first
liked the work, but I had had no choice, and I had no choice now.
Luckily, the guise in which I came, my fatigue, and wound were a
sufficient mask, or I should have incurred suspicion at once.
For I am sure that if ever in this world a brave man wore a hang-
dog air, or Gil de Berault fell below himself, it was then and
there--on Madame de Cocheforet's threshold, with her welcome
sounding in my ears.
One, I think, did suspect me. Clon, the porter, continued to
hold the door obstinately ajar and to eye me with grinning spite,
until his mistress, with some sharpness, bade him drop the bars
and conduct me to a room.
'Do you go also, Louis,' she continued, speaking to the man
beside her, 'and see this gentleman comfortably disposed. I am
sorry,' she added, addressing me in the graceful tone she had
before used, and I thought that I could see her head bend in the
darkness, 'that our present circumstances do not permit us to
welcome you more fitly, Monsieur. But the troubles of the times
--however, you will excuse what is lacking. Until to-morrow, I
have the honour to bid you good-night.'
'Good-night, Madame,' I stammered, trembling. I had not been
able to distinguish her face in the gloom of the doorway, but her
voice, her greeting, her presence unmanned me. I was troubled
and perplexed; I had not spirit to kick a dog. I followed the
two servants from the hall without heeding how we went; nor was
it until we came to a full stop at a door in a white-washed
corridor, and it was forced upon me that something was in
question between my two conductors that I began to take notice.
Then I saw that one of them, Louis, wished to lodge me here where
we stood. The porter, on the other hand, who held the keys,
would not. He did not speak a word, nor did the other--and this
gave a queer ominous character to the debate; but he continued to
jerk his head towards the farther end of the corridor; and, at
last, he carried his point. Louis shrugged his shoulders, and
moved on, glancing askance at me; and I, not understanding the
matter in debate, followed the pair in silence.
We reached the end of the corridor, and there for an instant the
monster with the keys paused and grinned at me. Then he turned
into a narrow passage on the left, and after following it for
some paces, halted before a small, strong door. His key jarred
in the lock, but he forced it shrieking round, and with a savage
flourish threw the door open.
I walked in and saw a mean, bare chamber with barred windows.
The floor was indifferently clean, there was no furniture. The
yellow light of the lanthorn falling on the stained walls gave
the place the look of a dungeon. I turned to the two men. 'This
is not a very good room,' I said. 'And it feels damp. Have you
Louis looked doubtfully at his companion. But the porter shook
his head stubbornly.
'Why does he not speak?' I asked with impatience.
'He is dumb,' Louis answered.
'Dumb!' I exclaimed. 'But he hears.'
'He has ears,' the servant answered drily. 'But he has no
I shuddered. 'How did he lose it?' I asked.
'At Rochelle. He was a spy, and the king's people took him the
day the town surrendered. They spared his life, but cut out his
'Ah!' I said. I wished to say more, to be natural, to show
myself at my ease. But the porter's eyes seemed to burn into me,
and my own tongue clave to the roof of my mouth. He opened his
lips and pointed to his throat with a horrid gesture, and I shook
my head and turned from him--'You can let me have some bedding?'
I murmured hastily, for the sake of saying something, and to
'Of course, Monsieur,' Louis answered. 'I will fetch some.'
He went away, thinking doubtless that Clon would stay with me.
But after waiting a minute the porter strode off also with the
lanthorn, leaving me to stand in the middle of the damp, dark
room and reflect on the position. It was plain that Clon
suspected me. This prison-like room, with its barred window, at
the back of the house, and in the wing farthest from the stables,
proved so much. Clearly, he was a dangerous fellow, of whom I
must beware. I had just begun to wonder how Madame could keep
such a monster in her house, when I heard his step returning. He
came in, lighting Louis, who carried a small pallet and a bundle
The dumb man had, besides the lanthorn, a bowl of water and a
piece of rag in his hand. He set them down, and going out again,
fetched in a stool. Then he hung up the lanthorn on a nail, took
the bowl and rag, and invited me to sit down.
I was loth to let him touch me; but he continued to stand over
me, pointing and grinning with dark persistence, and rather than
stand on a trifle I sat down at last and gave him his way. He
bathed my head carefully enough, and I daresay did it good; but
I understood. I knew that his only desire was to learn whether
the cut was real or a pretence, and I began to fear him more and
more; until he was gone from the room, I dared scarcely lift my
face lest he should read too much in it.
Alone, even, I felt uncomfortable, this seemed so sinister a
business, and so ill begun. I was in the house. But Madame's
frank voice haunted me, and the dumb man's eyes, full of
suspicion and menace. When I presently got up and tried my door,
I found it locked. The room smelt dank and close--like a vault.
I could not see through the barred window, but I could hear the
boughs sweep it in ghostly fashion; and I guessed that it looked
out where the wood grew close to the walls of the house, and that
even in the day the sun never peeped through it.
Nevertheless, tired and worn out, I slept at last. When I awoke
the room was full of grey light, the door stood open, and Louis,
looking ashamed of himself, waited by my pallet with a cup of
wine in his hand, and some bread and fruit on a platter.
'Will Monsieur be good enough to rise?' he said. 'It is eight
'Willingly,' I answered tartly. 'Now that the door is unlocked.'
He turned red. 'It was an oversight,' he stammered 'Clon is
accustomed to lock the door, and he did it inadvertently,
forgetting that there was anyone--'
'Inside,' I said drily.
'Ah!' I replied. 'Well, I do not think the oversight would
please Madame de Cocheforet if she heard of it?'
'If Monsieur would have the kindness not to--'
'Mention it, my good fellow?' answered, looking at him with
meaning as I rose. 'No. But it must not occur again.'
I saw that this man was not like Clon. He had the instincts of
the family servant, and freed from the influences of fear and
darkness felt ashamed of his conduct. While he arranged my
clothes, he looked round the room with an air of distaste, and
muttered once or twice that the furniture of the principal
chambers was packed away.
'M. de Cocheforet is abroad, I think?' I said as I dressed.
'And likely to remain there,' the man answered carelessly,
shrugging his shoulders. 'Monsieur will doubtless have heard
that he is in trouble. In the meantime, the house is TRISTE, and
Monsieur must overlook much, if he stays. Madame lives retired,
and the roads are ill-made and visitors few.'
'When the lion was ill the jackals left him,' I said.
Louis nodded. 'It is true,' he answered simply. He made no
boast or brag on his own account, I noticed; and it came home to
me that he was a faithful fellow, such as I love. I questioned
him discreetly, and learned that he and Clon and an older man who
lived over the stables were the only male servants left of a
great household. Madame, her sister-in-law, and three women
completed the family.
It took me some time to repair my wardrobe, so that I daresay it
was nearly ten when I left my dismal little room. I found Louis
waiting in the corridor, and he told me that Madame de Cocheforet
and Mademoiselle were in the rose garden, and would be pleased to
receive me. I nodded, and he guided me through several dim
passages to a parlour with an open door, through which the sun
shone gaily on the floor. Cheered by the morning air and this
sudden change to pleasantness and life, I stepped lightly out.
The two ladies were walking up and down a wide path which
bisected the garden. The weeds grew rankly in the gravel
underfoot, the rose bushes which bordered the walk thrust their
branches here and there in untrained freedom, a dark yew hedge
which formed the background bristled with rough shoots and sadly
needed trimming. But I did not see any of these things. The
grace, the noble air, the distinction of the two women who paced
slowly to meet me--and who shared all these qualities, greatly as
they differed in others--left me no power to notice trifles.
Mademoiselle was a head shorter than her BELLE-SOEUR--a slender
woman and petite, with a beautiful face and a fair complexion; a
woman wholly womanly. She walked with dignity, but beside
Madame's stately figure she had an air almost childish. And it
was characteristic of the two that Mademoiselle as they drew near
to me regarded me with sorrowful attention, Madame with a grave
I bowed low. They returned the salute. 'This is my sister,'
Madame de Cocheforet said, with a very slight air of
condescension, 'Will you please to tell me your name, Monsieur?'
'I am M. de Barthe, a gentleman of Normandy,' I said, taking on
impulse the name of my mother. My own, by a possibility, might
Madame's face wore a puzzled look. 'I do not know that name, I
think,' she said thoughtfully. Doubtless she was going over in
her mind all the names with which conspiracy had made her
That is my misfortune, Madame,' I said humbly.
'Nevertheless I am going to scold you,' she rejoined, still
eyeing me with some keenness. 'I am glad to see that you are
none the worse for your adventure--but others may be. And you
should have borne that in mind, sir.'
'I do not think that I hurt the man seriously,' I stammered.
'I do not refer to that,' she answered coldly. 'You know, or
should know, that we are in disgrace here; that the Government
regards us already with an evil eye, and that a very small thing
would lead them to garrison the village, and perhaps oust us from
the little the wars have left us. You should have known this,
and considered it,' she continued. 'Whereas--I do not say that
you are a braggart, M. de Barthe. But on this one occasion you
seem to have played the part of one.'
'Madame, I did not think,' I stammered.
'Want of thought causes much evil,' she answered, smiling.
'However, I have spoken, and we trust that while you stay with us
you will be more careful. For the rest, Monsieur,' she continued
graciously, raising her hand to prevent me speaking, 'we do not
know why you are here, or what plans you are pursuing. And we do
not wish to know. It is enough that you are of our side. This
house is at your service as long as you please to use it. And if
we can aid you in any other way we will do so.'
'Madame!' I exclaimed; and there I stopped. I could say no
more. The rose garden, with its air of neglect, the shadow of the
quiet house that fell across it, the great yew hedge which backed
it, and was the pattern of one under which I had played in
childhood--all had points that pricked me. But the women's
kindness, their unquestioning confidence, the noble air of
hospitality which moved them! Against these and their placid
beauty in its peaceful frame I had no shield, no defence. I
turned away, and feigned to be overcome by gratitude.
'I have no words--to thank you!' I muttered presently. 'I am a
little shaken this morning. I--pardon me.'
'We will leave you for a while,' Mademoiselle de Cocheforet said
in gentle pitying tones. 'The air will revive you. Louis shall
call you when we go to dinner, M. de Barthe. Come, Elise.'
I bowed low to hide my face, and they nodded pleasantly--not
looking closely at me--as they walked by me to the house. I
watched the two gracious, pale-robed figures until the doorway
swallowed them, and then I walked away to a quiet corner where
the shrubs grew highest and the yew hedge threw its deepest
shadow, and I stood to think.
And, MON DIEU, strange thoughts. If the oak can think at the
moment the wind uproots it, or the gnarled thorn-bush when the
landslip tears it from the slope, they may have such thoughts, I
stared at the leaves, at the rotting blossoms, into the dark
cavities of the hedge; I stared mechanically, dazed and
wondering. What was the purpose for which I was here? What was
the work I had come to do? Above all, how--my God! how was I to
do it in the face of these helpless women, who trusted me, who
believed in me, who opened their house to me? Clon had not
frightened me, nor the loneliness of the leagued village, nor the
remoteness of this corner where the dread Cardinal seemed a name,
and the King's writ ran slowly, and the rebellion long quenched
elsewhere, still smouldered. But Madame's pure faith, the
younger woman's tenderness--how was I to face these?
I cursed the Cardinal--would he had stayed at Luchon. I cursed
the English fool who had brought me to this, I cursed the years
of plenty and scarceness, and the Quartier Marais, and Zaton's,
where I had lived like a pig, and--
A touch fell on my arm. I turned. It was Clon. How he had
stolen up so quietly, how long he had been at my elbow, I could
not tell. But his eyes gleamed spitefully in their deep sockets,
and he laughed with his fleshless lips; and I hated him. In the
daylight the man looked more like a death's-head than ever. I
fancied that I read in his face that he knew my secret, and I
flashed into rage at sight of him.
'What is it?' I cried, with another oath. 'Don't lay your
corpse-claws on me!'
He mowed at me, and, bowing with ironical politeness, pointed to
'Is Madame served?' I said impatiently, crushing down my anger.
'Is that what you mean, fool?'
'Very well,' I retorted. 'I can find my way then. You may go!'
He fell behind, and I strode back through the sunshine and
flowers, and along the grass-grown paths, to the door by which I
had come I walked fast, but his shadow kept pace with me, driving
out the unaccustomed thoughts in which I had been indulging.
Slowly but surely it darkened my mood. After all, this was a
little, little place; the people who lived here--I shrugged my
shoulders. France, power, pleasure, life, everything worth
winning, worth having, lay yonder in the great city. A boy might
wreck himself here for a fancy; a man of the world, never. When
I entered the room, where the two ladies stood waiting for me by
the table, I was nearly my old self again. And a chance word
presently completed the work.
'Clon made you understand, then?' the young woman said kindly,
as I took my seat.
'Yes, Mademoiselle,' I answered. On that I saw the two smile at
one another, and I added: 'He is a strange creature. I wonder
that you can bear to have him near you.'
'Poor man! You do not know his story?' Madame said.
'I have heard something of it,' I answered. 'Louis told me.'
'Well, I do shudder at him sometimes,' she replied, in a low
voice. 'He has suffered--and horribly, and for us. But I wish
that it had been on any other service. Spies are necessary
things, but one does not wish to have to do with them! Anything
in the nature of treachery is so horrible.'
'Quick, Louis!' Mademoiselle exclaimed, 'the cognac, if you have
any there! I am sure that you are--still feeling ill, Monsieur.'
'No, I thank you,' I muttered hoarsely, making an effort to
recover myself. 'I am quite well. It was--an old wound that
sometimes touches me.'
MADAME AND MADEMOISELLE
To be frank, however, it was not the old wound that touched me so
nearly, but Madame's words; which, finishing what Clon's sudden
appearance in the garden had begun, went a long way towards
hardening me and throwing me back into myself. I saw with
bitterness--what I had perhaps forgotten for a moment--how great
was the chasm that separated me from these women; how impossible
it was that we could long think alike; how far apart in views, in
experience, in aims we were. And while I made a mock in my heart
of their high-flown sentiments--or thought I did--I laughed no
less at the folly which had led me to dream, even for a, moment,
that I could, at my age, go back--go back and risk all for a
whim, a scruple, the fancy of a lonely hour.
I daresay something of this showed in my face; for Madame's eyes
mirrored a dim reflection of trouble as she looked at me, and
Mademoiselle talked nervously and at random. At any rate, I
fancied so, and I hastened to compose myself; and the two, in
pressing upon me the simple dainties of the table soon forgot, or
appeared to forget, the incident.
Yet in spite of this CONTRETEMPS, that first meal had a strange
charm for me. The round table whereat we dined was spread inside
the open door which led to the garden, so that the October
sunshine fell full on the spotless linen and quaint old plate,
and the fresh balmy air filled the room with the scent of sweet
herbs. Louis served us with the mien of a major-domo, and set on
each dish as though it had been a peacock or a mess of ortolans.
The woods provided the larger portion of our meal; the garden did
its part; the confections Mademoiselle had cooked with her own
By-and-by, as the meal went on, as Louis trod to and fro across
the polished floor, and the last insects of summer hummed
sleepily outside, and the two gracious faces continued to smile
at me out of the gloom--for the ladies sat with their backs to
the door--I began to dream again, I began to sink again into
folly, that was half-pleasure, half-pain. The fury of the
gaming-house and the riot of Zaton's seemed far away. The
triumphs of the fencing-room--even they grew cheap and tawdry. I
thought of existence as one outside it, I balanced this against
that, and wondered whether, after all, the red soutane were so
much better than the homely jerkin, or the fame of a day than
ease and safety.
And life at Cocheforet was all after the pattern of this dinner.
Each day, I might almost say each meal, gave rise to the same
sequence of thoughts. In Clon's presence, or when some word of
Madame's, unconsciously harsh, reminded me of the distance
between us, I was myself. At other times, in face of this
peaceful and intimate life, which was only rendered possible by
the remoteness of the place and the peculiar circumstances in
which the ladies stood, I felt a strange weakness, The loneliness
of the woods that encircled the house, and only here and there
afforded a distant glimpse of snow-clad peaks; the absence of any
link to bind me to the old life, so that at intervals it seemed
unreal; the remoteness of the great world, all tended to sap my
will and weaken the purpose which had brought me to this place.
On the fourth day after my coming, however, something happened to
break the spell. It chanced that I came late to dinner, and
entered the room hastily and without ceremony, expecting to find
Madame and her sister already seated. Instead, I found them
talking in a low tone by the open door, with every mark of
disorder in their appearance; while Clon and Louis stood at a
little distance with downcast faces and perplexed looks.
I had time to see all this, and then my entrance wrought a sudden
change. Clon and Louis sprang to attention; Madame and her
sister came to the table and sat down, and all made a shallow
pretence of being at their ease. But Mademoiselle's face was
pale, her hand trembled; and though Madame's greater self-command
enabled her to carry off the matter better, I saw that she was
not herself. Once or twice she spoke harshly to Louis; she fell
at other times into a brown study; and when she thought that I
was not watching her, her face wore a look of deep anxiety.
I wondered what all this meant; and I wondered more when, after
the meal, the two walked in the garden for an hour with Clon.
Mademoiselle came from this interview alone, and I was sure that
she had been weeping. Madame and the dark porter stayed outside
some time longer; then she, too, came in, and disappeared.
Clon did not return with her, and when I went into the garden
five minutes later, Louis also had vanished. Save for two women
who sat sewing at an upper window, the house seemed to be
deserted. Not a sound broke the afternoon stillness of room or
garden, and yet I felt that more was happening in this silence
than appeared on the surface. I begin to grow curious--
suspicious, and presently slipped out myself by way of the
stables, and skirting the wood at the back of the house, gained
with a little trouble the bridge which crossed the stream and led
to the village.
Turning round at this point I could see the house, and I moved a
little aside into the underwood, and stood gazing at the windows,
trying to unriddle the matter. It was not likely that M. de
Cocheforet would repeat his visit so soon; and, besides, the
women's emotions had been those of pure dismay and grief, unmixed
with any of the satisfaction to which such a meeting, though
snatched by stealth, must give rise. I discarded my first
thought therefore--that he had returned unexpectedly--and I
sought for another solution.
But no other was on the instant forthcoming. The windows
remained obstinately blind, no figures appeared on the terrace,
the garden lay deserted, and without life. My departure had not,
as I half expected it would, drawn the secret into light.
I watched awhile, at times cursing my own meanness; but the
excitement of the moment and the quest tided me over that. Then
I determined to go down into the village and see whether anything
was moving there. I had been down to the inn once, and had been
received half sulkily, half courteously, as a person privileged
at the great house, and therefore to be accepted. It would not
be thought odd if I went again, and after a moment's thought, I
started down the track.
This, where it ran through the wood, was so densely shaded that
the sun penetrated to it little, and in patches only. A squirrel
stirred at times, sliding round a trunk, or scampering across the
dry leaves. Occasionally a pig grunted and moved farther into
the wood. But the place was very quiet, and I do not know how it
was that I surprised Clon instead of being surprised by him.
He was walking along the path before me with his eyes on the
ground--walking so slowly, and with his lean frame so bent that I
might have supposed him ill if I had not remarked the steady
movement of his head from right to left, and the alert touch with
which he now and again displaced a clod of earth or a cluster of
leaves. By-and-by he rose stiffly, and looked round him
suspiciously; but by that time I had slipped behind a trunk, and
was not to be seen; and after a brief interval he went back to
his task, stooping over it more closely, if possible, than
before, and applying himself with even greater care.
By that time I had made up my mind that he was tracking someone.
But whom? I could not make a guess at that. I only knew that
the plot was thickening, and began to feel the eagerness of the
chase. Of course, if the matter had not to do with Cocheforet,
it was no affair of mine; but though it seemed unlikely that
anything could bring him back so soon, he might still be at the
bottom of this. And, besides, I felt a natural curiosity. When
Clon at last improved his pace, and went on to the village, I
took up his task. I called to mind all the wood-lore I had ever
learned, and scanned trodden mould and crushed leaves with eager
eyes. But in vain. I could make nothing of it all, and rose at
last with an aching back and no advantage.
I did not go on to the village after that, but returned to the
house, where I found Madame pacing the garden. She looked up
eagerly on hearing my step; and I was mistaken if she was not
disappointed--if she had not been expecting someone else. She
hid the feeling bravely, however, and met me with a careless
word; but she turned to the house more than once while we talked,
and she seemed to be all the while on the watch, and uneasy. I
was not surprised when Clon's figure presently appeared in the
doorway, and she left me abruptly, and went to him. I only felt
more certain than before that there was something strange on
foot. What it was, and whether it had to do with M. de
Cocheforet, I could not tell. But there it was, and I grew more
curious the longer I remained alone.
She came back to me presently, looking thoughtful and a trifle
'That was Clon, was it not?' I said, studying her face,
'Yes,' she answered. She spoke absently, and did not look at me.
'How does he talk to you?' I asked, speaking a trifle curtly.
As I intended, my tone roused her. 'By signs,' she said.
'Is he--is he not a little mad?" I ventured. I wanted to make
her talk and forget herself.
She looked at me with sudden keenness, then dropped her eyes,
'You do not like him?' she said, a note of challenge in her
voice. 'I have noticed that, Monsieur.'
'I think he does not like me,' I replied.
'He is less trustful than we are,' she answered naively. 'It is
natural that he should be. He has seen more of the world.'
That silenced me for a moment, but she did not seem to notice it.
'I was looking for him a little while ago, and I could not find
him,' I said, after a pause
'He has been into the village,' she answered.
I longed to pursue the matter further; but though she seemed to
entertain no suspicion of me, I dared not run the risk. I tried
her, instead, on another tack.
'Mademoiselle de Cocheforet does not seem very well to-day?' I
'No?' she answered carelessly. 'Well, now you speak of it, I do
not think that she is. She is often anxious about--one we love.'
She uttered the last words with a little hesitation, and looked
at me quickly when she had spoken them. We were sitting at the
moment on a stone seat which had the wall of the house for a
back; and, fortunately, I was toying with the branch of a
creeping plant that hung over it, so that she could not see more
than the side of my face. For I knew that it altered. Over my
voice, however, I had more control, and I hastened to answer,
'Yes, I suppose so,' as innocently as possible.
'He is at Bosost, in Spain. You knew that, I conclude?' she
said, with a certain sharpness. And she looked me in the face
again very directly.