Under the Red Robe
Part 2 out of 4
'Yes,' I answered, beginning to tremble.
'I suppose you have heard, too, that he--that he sometimes
crosses the border?' she continued in a low voice, but with a
certain ring of insistence in her tone. 'Or, if you have not
heard it, you guess it?'
I was in a quandary, and grew, in one second, hot all over.
Uncertain what amount of knowledge I ought to admit, I took
refuge in gallantry.
'I should be surprised if he did not,' I answered, with a bow,
'being, as he is, so close, and having such an inducement to
She drew a long, shivering sigh, at the thought of his peril, I
fancied, and she sat back against the wall. Nor did she say any
more, though I heard her sigh again. Is a moment she rose.
'The afternoons are growing chilly,' she said; 'I will go in and
see how Mademoiselle is. Sometimes she does not come to supper.
If she cannot descend this evening, I am afraid that you must
excuse me too, Monsieur.'
I said what was right, and watched her go in; and, as I did so, I
loathed my errand, and the mean contemptible curiosity which it
had planted in my mind, more than at any former time. These
women--I could find it in my heart to hate them for their
frankness, for their foolish confidence, and the silly
trustfulness that made them so easy a prey!
NOM DE DIEU! What did the woman mean by telling me all this? To
meet me in such a way, to disarm one by such methods, was to take
an unfair advantage. It put a vile--ay, the vilest--aspect, on
the work I had to do.
Yet it was very odd! What could M. de Cocheforet mean by
returning so soon, if M. de Cocheforet was here? And, on the
other hand, if it was not his unexpected presence that had so
upset the house, what was the secret? Whom had Clon been
tracking? And what was the cause of Madame's anxiety? In a few
minutes I began to grow curious again; and, as the ladies did not
appear at supper, I had leisure to give my brain full licence,
and, in the course of an hour, thought of a hundred keys to the
mystery. But none exactly fitted the lock, or laid open the
A false alarm that evening helped to puzzle me still more. I was
sitting about an hour after supper, on the same seat in the
garden--I had my cloak and was smoking--when Madame came out like
a ghost, and, without seeing me, flitted away through the
darkness toward the stables. For a moment I hesitated, and then
I followed her. She went down the path and round the stables,
and, so far, I saw nothing strange in her actions; but when she
had in this way gained the rear of the west wing, she took a
track through the thicket to the east of the house again, and so
came back to the garden. This gained, she came up the path and
went in through the parlour door, and disappeared--alter making a
clear circuit of the house, and not once pausing or looking to
right or left! I confess I was fairly baffled. I sank back on
the seat I had left, and said to myself that this was the lamest
of all conclusions. I was sure that she had exchanged no word
with anyone. I was equally sure that she had not detected my
presence behind her. Why, then, had she made this strange
promenade, alone, unprotected, an hour after nightfall? No dog
had bayed, no one had moved, she had not once paused, or
listened, like a person expecting a rencontre. I could not make
it out. And I came no nearer to solving it, though I lay awake
an hour beyond my usual time.
In the morning, neither of the ladies descended to dinner, and I
heard that Mademoiselle was not so well. After a lonely meal,
therefore I missed them more than I should have supposed--I
retired to my favourite seat and fell to meditating.
The day was fine, and the garden pleasant. Sitting there with my
eyes on the old fashioned herb-beds, with the old-fashioned
scents in the air, and the dark belt of trees bounding the view
on either side, I could believe that I had been out of Paris not
three weeks, but three months. The quiet lapped me round. I
could fancy that I had never loved anything else. The wood-doves
cooed in the stillness; occasionally the harsh cry of a jay
jarred the silence. It was an hour after noon, and hot. I think
On a sudden, as if in a dream, I saw Clon's face peering at me
round the angle of the parlour door. He looked, and in a moment
withdrew, and I heard whispering. The door was gently closed.
Then all was still again.
But I was wide awake now, and thinking. Clearly the people of
the house wished to assure themselves that I was asleep and
safely out of the way. As clearly, it was to my interest to be
in the way. Giving place to the temptation, I rose quietly, and,
stooping below the level of the windows, slipped round the east
end of the house, passing between it and the great yew hedge.
Here I found all still and no one stirring; so, keeping a wary
eye about me, I went on round the house--reversing the route
which Madame had taken the night before--until I gained the rear
of the stables. Here I had scarcely paused a second to scan the
ground before two persons came out of the stable-court. They
were Madame and the porter.
They stood a brief while outside and looked up and down. Then
Madame said something to the man, and he nodded. Leaving him
standing where he was, she crossed the grass with a quick, light
step, and vanished among the trees.
In a moment my mind was made up to follow; and, as Clon turned at
once and went in, I was able to do so before it was too late.
Bending low among the shrubs, I ran hotfoot to the point where
Madame had entered the wood. Here I found a narrow path, and ran
nimbly along it, and presently saw her grey robe fluttering among
the trees before me. It only remained to keep out of her sight
and give her no chance of discovering that she was followed; and
this I set myself to do. Once or twice she glanced round, but
the wood was of beech, the light which passed between the leaves
was mere twilight, and my clothes were dark-coloured. I had
every advantage, therefore, and little to fear as long as I could
keep her in view and still remain myself at such a distance that
the rustle of my tread would not disturb her.
Assured that she was on her way to meet her husband, whom my
presence kept from the house, I felt that the crisis had come at
last, and I grew more excited with each step I took. I detested
the task of watching her; it filled me with peevish disgust. But
in proportion as I hated it I was eager to have it done and be
done with it, and succeed, and stuff my ears and begone from the
scene. When she presently came to the verge of the beech wood,
and, entering a little open clearing, seemed to loiter, I went
cautiously. This, I thought, must be the rendezvous; and I held
back warily, looking to see him step out of the thicket.
But he did not, and by-and-by she quickened her pace. She
crossed the open and entered a wide ride cut through a low, dense
wood of alder and dwarf oak--a wood so closely planted and so
intertwined with hazel and elder and box that the branches rose
like a solid wall, twelve feet high, on either side of the track.
Down this she passed, and I stood and watched her go, for I dared
not follow. The ride stretched away as straight as a line for
four or five hundred yards, a green path between green walls. To
enter it was to be immediately detected, if she turned, while the
thicket itself permitted no passage. I stood baffled and raging,
and watched her pass along. It seemed an age before she at last
reached the end, and, turning sharply to the right, was in an
instant gone from sight.
I waited then no longer. I started off, and, running as lightly
and quietly as I could, I sped down the green alley. The sun
shone into it, the trees kept off the wind, and between heat and
haste I sweated finely. But the turf was soft, and the ground
fell slightly, and in little more than a minute I gained the end.
Fifty yards short of the turning I stopped, and, stealing on,
looked cautiously the way she had gone.
I saw before me a second ride, the twin of the other, and a
hundred and fifty paces down it her grey figure tripping on
between the green hedges. I stood and took breath, and cursed
the wood and the heat and Madame's wariness. We must have come a
league, or two-thirds of a league, at least. How far did the man
expect her to plod to meet him? I began to grow angry. There is
moderation even in the cooking of eggs, and this wood might
stretch into Spain, for all I knew!
Presently she turned the corner and was gone again, and I had to
repeat my manoeuvre. This time, surely, I should find a change.
But no! Another green ride stretched away into the depths of the
forest, with hedges of varying shades--here light and there dark,
as hazel and elder, or thorn, and yew and box prevailed--but
always high and stiff and impervious. Halfway down the ride
Madame's figure tripped steadily on, the only moving thing in
sight. I wondered, stood, and, when she vanished, followed-only
to find that she had entered another track, a little narrower but
in every other respect alike.
And so it went on for quite half an hour. Sometimes Madame
turned to the right, sometimes to the left. The maze seemed to
be endless. Once or twice I wondered whether she had lost her
way, and was merely seeking to return. But her steady,
purposeful gait, her measured pace, forbade the idea. I noticed,
too, that she seldom looked behind her--rarely to right or left.
Once the ride down which she passed was carpeted not with green,
but with the silvery, sheeny leaves of some creeping plant that
in the distance had a shimmer like that of water at evening. As
she trod this, with her face to the low sun, her tall grey figure
had a pure air that for the moment startled me--she looked
unearthly. Then I swore in scorn of myself, and at the next
corner I had my reward. She was no longer walking on. She had
stopped, I found, and seated herself on a fallen tree that lay in
For some time I stood in ambush watching her, and with each
minute I grew more impatient. At last I began to doubt--to have
strange thoughts. The green walls were growing dark. The sun
was sinking; a sharp, white peak, miles and miles away, which
closed the vista of the ride, began to flush and colour rosily.
Finally, but not before I had had leisure to grow uneasy, she
stood up and walked on more slowly. I waited, as usual, until
the next turning hid her. Then I hastened after her, and, warily
passing round the corner came face to face with her!
I knew all in a moment saw all in a flash: that she had fooled
me, tricked me, lured me away. Her face was white with scorn,
her eyes blazed; her figure, as she confronted me, trembled with
anger and infinite contempt.
'You spy!' she cried. 'You hound! You--gentleman! Oh, MON
DIEU! if you are one of us--if you are really not of the
CANAILLE--we shall pay for this some day! We shall pay a heavy
reckoning in the time to come! I did not think,' she continued,
and her every syllable was like the lash of a whip, 'that there
was anything so vile as you in this world!'
I stammered something--I do not know what. Her words burned into
me--into my heart! Had she been a man, I would have struck her
'You thought that you deceived me yesterday,' she continued,
lowering her tone, but with no lessening of the passion, the
contempt, the indignation, which curled her lip and gave fullness
to her voice. 'You plotter! You surface trickster! You thought
it an easy task to delude a woman--you find yourself deluded.
God give you shame that you may suffer!' she continued
mercilessly. 'You talked of Clon, but Clon beside you is the
most spotless, the most honourable of men!'
'Madame,' I said hoarsely--and I know that my face was grey as
ashes--'let us understand one another.'
'God forbid!' she cried on the instant. 'I would not soil
'Fie! Madame,' I said, trembling. But then, you are a woman.
That should cost a man his life!'
She laughed bitterly.
'You say well,' she retorted. 'I am not a man--and if you are
one, thank God for it. Neither am I Madame. Madame de
Cocheforet has spent this afternoon--thanks to your absence and
your imbecility--with her husband. Yes, I hope that hurts you!'
she went on, savagely snapping her little white teeth together.
'I hope that stings you; to spy and do vile work, and do it ill,
Monsieur Mouchard--Monsieur de Mouchard, I should say--I
'You are not Madame de Cocheforet?' I cried, stunned, even in
the midst of my shame and rage, by this blow.
'No, Monsieur!' she answered grimly. 'I am not! I am not. And
permit me to point out--for we do not all lie easily--that I
never said I was. You deceived yourself so skilfully that we had
no need to trick you.'
'Mademoiselle, then?' I muttered.
'Is Madame!' she cried. 'Yes, and I am Mademoiselle de
Cocheforet. And in that character, and in all others, I beg from
this moment to close our acquaintance, sir. When we meet again
--if we ever do meet, which God forbid!' she went on, her eyes
sparkling--'do not presume to speak to me, or I will have you
flogged by the grooms. And do not stain our roof by sleeping
under it again. You may lie to-night in the inn. It shall not
be said that Cocheforet,' she continued proudly, 'returned even
treachery with inhospitality; and I will give orders to that end.
But to-morrow begone back to your master, like the whipped cur
you are! Spy and coward!'
With those last words she moved away. I would have said
something, I could almost have found it in my heart to stop her
and make her hear. Nay, I had dreadful thoughts; for I was the
stronger, and I might have done with her as I pleased. But she
swept by me so fearlessly, as I might pass some loathsome cripple
on the road, that I stood turned to stone. Without looking at
me, without turning her head to see whether I followed or
remained, or what I did, she went steadily down the track until
the trees and the shadow and the growing darkness hid her grey
figure from me; and I found myself alone.
And full of black rage! Had she only reproached me, or,
turning on me in the hour of MY victory, said all that
she had now said in the moment of her own, I could have
borne it. She might have shamed me then, and I might
have taken the shame to myself and forgiven her. But,
as it was, I stood there in the gathering dusk, between
the darkening hedges, baffled, tricked, defeated! And
by a woman! She had pitted her wits against mine, her
woman's will against my experience, and she had come off
the victor. And then she had reviled me! As I took it
all in, and began to comprehend also the more remote
results, and how completely her move had made further
progress on my part impossible, I hated her. She had
tricked me with her gracious ways and her slow-coming
smile. And, after all--for what she had said--it was
this man's life or mine. 'What had I done that another
man would not do? MON DIEU! in the future there was
nothing I would not do. I would make her smart for
those words of hers! I would bring her to her knees!
Still, hot as I was, an hour might have restored me to
coolness. But when I started to return, I fell into a
fresh rage, for I remembered that I did not know my way
out of the maze of rides and paths into which she had
drawn me; and this and the mishaps which followed, kept
my rage hot. For a full hour I wandered in the wood,
unable, though I knew where the village lay, to find any
track which led continuously in one direction.
Whenever, at the end of each attempt, the thicket
brought me up short, I fancied that I heard her laughing
on the farther side of the brake; and the ignominy of
this chance punishment, and the check which the
confinement placed on my rage, almost maddened me. In
the darkness I fell, and rose cursing; I tore my hands
with thorns; I stained my suit, which had suffered sadly
once before. At length, when I had almost resigned
myself to lie in the wood, I caught sight of the lights
of the village, and, trembling between haste and anger,
pressed towards them. In a few minutes I stood in the
The lights of the inn shone only fifty yards away; but
before I could show myself even there pride suggested
that I should do something to repair my clothes. I
stopped, and scraped and brushed them; and, at the same
time, did what I could to compose my features. Then I
advanced to the door and knocked. Almost on the instant
the landlord's voice cried from the inside, 'Enter,
I raised the latch and went in. The man was alone,
squatting over the fire warming his hands. A black pot
simmered on the ashes, As I entered he raised the lid
and peeped inside. Then he glanced over his shoulder.
'You expected me?' I said defiantly, walking to the
hearth, and setting one of my damp boots on the logs.
'Yes,' he answered, nodding curtly. 'Your supper is
just ready. I thought that you would be in about this
He grinned as he spoke, and it was with difficulty I
suppressed my wrath.
'Mademoiselle de Cocheforet told you,' I said, affecting
indifference, 'where I was?'
'Ay, Mademoiselle--or Madame,' he replied, grinning
So she had told him; where she had left me, and how she
had tricked me! She had, made me the village laughing-
stock! My rage flashed out afresh at the thought, and,
at the sight of his mocking face, I raised my fist.
But he read the threat in my eyes, and was up in a
moment, snarling, with his hand on his knife.
'Not again, Monsieur!' he cried, in his vile patois.
'My head is sore still. raise your hand and I will rip
you up as I would a pig!'
'Sit down, fool,' I said. 'I am not going to harm you.
Where is your wife?'
'About her business.'
'Which should be getting my supper,' I retorted.
He rose sullenly, and, fetching a platter, poured the
mess of broth and vegetables into it. Then he went to a
cupboard and brought out a loaf of black bread and a
measure of wine, and set them also on the table.
'You see it,' he said laconically.
'And a poor welcome!' I replied.
He flamed into sudden passion at that. Leaning with
both his hands on the table he thrust his rugged face
and blood-shot eyes close to mine. His moustachios
bristled, his beard trembled.
'Hark ye, sirrah!' he muttered, with sullen emphasis,
'be content! I have my suspicions. And if it were not
for my lady's orders I would put a knife into you, fair
or foul, this very night. You would lie snug outside,
instead of inside, and I do not think anyone would be
the worse. But as it is, be content. Keep a still
tongue; and when you turn your back on Cocheforet
to-morrow keep it turned.'
'Tut! tut!' I said--but I confess that I was a little
out of countenance. 'Threatened men live long, you
'In Paris!' he answered significantly. 'Not here,
He straightened himself with that, nodded once, and went
back to the fire; and I shrugged my shoulders and began
to eat, affecting to forget his presence. The logs on
the hearth burned sullenly, and gave no light. The poor
oil-lamp, casting weird shadows from wall to wall,
served only to discover the darkness. The room, with
its low roof and earthen floor, and foul clothes flung
here and there, reeked of stale meals and garlic and
vile cooking. I thought of the parlour at Cocheforet,
and the dainty table, and the stillness, and the scented
pot-herbs; and though I was too old a soldier to eat the
worse because my spoon lacked washing, I felt the
change, and laid it savagely at Mademoiselle's door.
The landlord, watching me stealthily from his place by
the hearth, read my thoughts and chuckled aloud.
'Palace fare, palace manners!' he muttered scornfully.
'Set a beggar on horseback, and he will ride--back to
'Keep a civil tongue, will you!' I answered, scowling
'Have you finished?' he retorted.
I rose, without deigning to reply, and, going to the
fire, drew off my boots, which were wet through. He, on
the instant, swept off the wine and loaf to the
cupboard, and then, coming back for the platter I had
used, took it, opened the back door, and went out,
leaving the door ajar. The draught which came in beat
the flame of the lamp this way and that, and gave the
dingy, gloomy room an air still more miserable. I rose
angrily from the fire, and went to the door, intending
to close it with a bang.
But when I reached it, I saw something, between door and
jamb, which stayed my hand. The door led to a shed in
which the housewife washed pots and the like. I felt
some surprise, therefore, when I found a light there at
this time of night; still more surprise when I saw what
she was doing.
She was seated on the mud floor, with a rush-light
before her, and on either side of her a high-piled heap
of refuse and rubbish. From one of these, at the moment
I caught sight of her, she was sorting things--horrible
filthy sweepings of road or floor--to the other; shaking
and sifting each article as she passed it across, and
then taking up another and repeating the action with it,
and so on--all minutely, warily, with an air of so much
patience and persistence that I stood wondering. Some
things--rags--she held up between her eyes and the
light, some she passed through her fingers, some she
fairly tore in pieces. And all the time her husband
stood watching her greedily, my platter still in his
hand, as if her strange occupation fascinated him.
I stood looking, also, for half a minute, perhaps; then
the man's eye, raised for a single second to the door-
way, met mine. He started, muttered something to his
wife, and, quick as thought, he kicked the light out,
leaving the shed in darkness. Cursing him for an ill-
conditioned fellow, I walked back to the fire, laughing.
In a twinkling he followed me, his face dark with rage.
'VENTRE-SAINT-GRIS!' he exclaimed, thrusting himself
close to me. 'Is not a man's house his own?'
'It is, for me,' I answered coolly, shrugging my
shoulders. 'And his wife: if she likes to pick dirty
rags at this hour, that is your affair.'
'Pig of a spy!' he cried, foaming with rage.
I was angry enough at bottom, but I had nothing to gain
by quarrelling with the fellow; and I curtly bade him
'Your mistress gave you orders,' I said contemptuously.
He spat on the floor, but at the same time he grew
'You are right there,' he answered spitefully. 'What
matter, after all, since you leave to-morrow at six?
Your horse has been sent down, and your baggage is
'I will go to it,' I retorted. 'I want none of your
company. Give me a light, fellow!'
He obeyed reluctantly, and, glad to turn my back on him,
I went up the ladder, still wondering faintly, in the
midst of my annoyance, what his wife was about that my
chance detection of her had so enraged him. Even now he
was not quite himself. He followed me with abuse, and,
deprived by my departure of any other means of showing
his spite, fell to shouting through the floor, bidding
me remember six o'clock, and be stirring; with other
taunts, which did not cease until he had tired himself
The sight of my belongings--which I had left a few hours
before at the Chateau--strewn about the floor of this
garret, went some way towards firing me again. But I
was worn out. The indignities and mishaps of the
evening had, for once, crushed my spirit, and after
swearing an oath or two I began to pack my bags.
Vengeance I would have; but the time and manner I left
for daylight thought. Beyond six o'clock in the morning
I did not look forward; and if I longed for anything it
was for a little of the good Armagnac I had wasted on
those louts of merchants in the kitchen below. It might
have done me good now.
I had wearily strapped up one bag, and nearly filled the
other, when I came upon something which did, for the
moment, rouse the devil in me. This was the tiny
orange-coloured sachet which Mademoiselle had dropped
the night I first saw her at the inn, and which, it will
be remembered, I picked up. Since that night I had not
seen it, and had as good as forgotten it. Now, as I
folded up my other doublet, the one I had then been
wearing, it dropped from my pocket.
The sight of it recalled all--that night, and
Mademoiselle's face in the lantern light, and my fine
plans, and the end of them; and, in a fit of childish
fury, the outcome of long suppressed passion, I snatched
up the sachet from the floor and tore it across and
across, and flung the pieces down. As they fell, a
cloud of fine pungent dust burst from them, and with the
dust, something more solid, which tinkled sharply on the
boards, as it fell. I looked down to see what this was
--perhaps I already repented of my act; but for a moment
I could see nothing. The floor was grimy and
uninviting, the light bad.
In certain moods, however, a man is obstinate about
small things, and I moved the taper nearer. As I did so
a point of light, a flashing sparkle that shone for a
second among the dirt and refuse on the floor, caught my
eye. It was gone in a moment, but I had seen it. I
stared, and moved the light again, and the spark flashed
out afresh, this time in a different place. Much
puzzled, I knelt, and, in a twinkling, found a tiny
crystal. Hard by it lay another--and another; each as
large as a fair-sized pea. I took up the three, and
rose to my feet again, the light in one hand, the
crystals in the palm of the other.
They were diamonds! Diamonds of price! I knew it in a
moment. As I moved the taper to and fro above them, and
watched the fire glow and tremble in their depths, I
knew that I held in my hand that which would buy the
crazy inn and all its contents a dozen times over! They
were diamonds! Gems so fine, and of so rare a water--or
I had never seen gems--that my hand trembled as I held
them, and my head grew hot and my heart beat furiously.
For a moment I thought that I dreamed, that my fancy
played me some trick; and I closed my eyes and did not
open them again for a minute. But when I did, there
they were, hard, real, and angular. Convinced at last,
in a maze of joy and fear, I closed my hand upon them,
and, stealing on tip-toe to the trap-door, laid first my
saddle on it and then my bags, and over all my cloak,
breathing fast the while.
Then I stole back, and, taking up the light again, began
to search the floor, patiently, inch by inch, with naked
feet, every sound making me tremble as I crept hither
and thither over the creaking boards. And never was
search more successful or better paid. In the fragments
of the sachet I found six smaller diamonds and a pair of
rubies. Eight large diamonds I found on the floor.
One, the largest and last found, had bounded away, and
lay against the wall in the farthest corner. It took me
an hour to run that one to earth; but afterwards I spent
another hour on my hands and knees before I gave up the
search, and, satisfied at last that I had collected all,
sat down on my saddle on the trap-door, and, by the last
flickering light of a candle which I had taken from my
bag, gloated over my treasure--a treasure worthy of
Hardly could I believe in its reality, even now.
Recalling the jewels which the English Duke of
Buckingham wore on the occasion of his visit to Paris in
1625, and whereof there was so much talk, I took these
to be as fine, though less in number. They should be
worth fifteen thousand crowns, more or less. Fifteen
thousand crowns! And I held them in the hollow of my
hand--I, who was scarcely worth ten thousand sous.
The candle going out cut short my admiration. Left in
the dark with these precious atoms, my first thought was
hour I might dispose of them safely; which I did, for
the time, by secreting them in the lining of my boot.
My second thought turned on the question how they had
come where I had found them, among the powdered spice
and perfumes in Mademoiselle de Cocheforet's sachet.
A minute's reflection enabled me to come very near the
secret, and at the same time shed a flood of light on
several dark places, What Clon had been seeking on the
path between the house and the village, what the
goodwife of the inn had sought among the sweepings of
yard and floor, I knew now the sachet--knew, too, what
had caused the marked and sudden anxiety I had noticed
at the Chateau--the loss of this sachet.
And there for a while I came to a check But one step
more up the ladder of thought brought all in view. In a
flash I guessed how the jewels had come to be in the
sachet; and that it was not Mademoiselle but M. de
Cocheforet who had mislaid them. I thought this last
discovery so important that I began to pace the room
softly, unable, in my excitement, to remain still.
Doubtless he had dropped the jewels in the hurry of his
start from the inn that night! Doubtless, too, he had
carried them in that bizarre hiding-place for the sake
of safety, considering it unlikely that robbers, if he
fell into their hands, would take the sachet from him;
as still less likely that they would suspect it to
contain anything of value. Everywhere it would pass for
a love-gift, the work of his mistress.
Nor did my penetration stop there. I guessed that the
gems were family property, the last treasure of the
house; and that M. de Cocheforet, when I saw him at the
inn, was on his way to convey them out of the country;
either to secure them from seizure by the Government, or
to raise money by selling them--money to be spent in
some last desperate enterprise. For a day or two,
perhaps, after leaving Cocheforet, while the mountain
road and its chances occupied his thoughts, he had not
discovered his loss. Then he had searched for the
precious sachet, missed it, and returned hot-foot on his
The longer I considered the circumstances the more
certain I was that I had hit on the true solution; and
all that night I sat wakeful in the darkness, pondering
what I should do. The stones, unset as they were, could
never be identified, never be claimed. The channel by
which they had come to my hands could never be traced.
To all intents they were mine; mine, to do with as I
pleased! Fifteen thousand crowns, perhaps twenty
thousand crowns, and I to leave at six in the morning,
whether I would or no! I might leave for Spain with the
jewels in my pocket. Why not?
I confess I was tempted. And indeed the gems were so
fine that I doubt not some indifferently honest men
would have sold salvation for them. But--a Berault his
honour? No. I was tempted, I say; but not for long.
Thank God, a man may be reduced to living by the
fortunes of the dice, and may even be called by a woman
'spy' and 'coward,' without becoming a thief! The
temptation soon left me--I take credit for it--and I
fell to thinking of this and that plan for making use of
them. Once it occurred to me to take the jewels to the
Cardinal and buy my pardon with them; again, to use them
as a trap to capture Cocheforet; again, to--and then,
about five in the morning, as I sat up on my wretched
pallet, while the first light stole slowly in through
the cobwebbed, hay-stuffed lattice, there came to me the
real plan, the plan of plans, on which I acted.
It charmed me I smacked my lips over it, and hugged
myself, and felt my eyes dilate in the darkness, as I
conned it. It seemed cruel, it seemed mean; I cared
nothing. Mademoiselle had boasted of her victory over
me, of her woman's wits and her acuteness and of my
dullness. She had said that her grooms should flog me.
She had rated me as if I had been a dog. Very well; we
would see now whose brains were the better, whose was
the master mind, whose should be the whipping.
The one thing required by my plan was that I should get
speech with her; that done, I could trust myself and my
new-found weapon for the rest. But that was absolutely
necessary, and, seeing that there might be some
difficulty about it, I determined to descend as if my
mind were made up to go; then, on pretence of saddling
my horse, I would slip away on foot, and lie in wait
near the Chateau until I saw her come out. Or if I
could not effect my purpose in that way--either by
reason of the landlord's vigilance, or for any other
cause--my course was still easy. I would ride away, and
when I had proceeded a mile or so, tie up my horse in
the forest and return to the wooden bridge. Thence I
could watch the garden and front of the Chateau until
time and chance gave me the opportunity I sought.
So I saw my way quite clearly; and when the fellow below
called me, reminding me rudely that I must be going, and
that it was six o'clock, I was ready with my answer. I
shouted sulkily that I was coming, and, after a decent
delay, I took up my saddle and bags and went down.
Viewed by the light of a cold morning, the inn-room
looked more smoky, more grimy, more wretched than when I
had last seen it. The goodwife was not visible. The
fire was not lighted. No provision, not so much as a
stirrup-cup or bowl of porridge cheered the heart.
I looked round, sniffing the stale smell of last night's
lamp, and grunted.
'Are you going to send me out fasting?' I said,
affecting a worse humour than I felt.
The landlord was standing by the window, stooping over a
great pair of frayed and furrowed thigh-boots which he
was labouring to soften with copious grease.
'Mademoiselle ordered no breakfast,' he answered, with a
'Well it does not much matter,' I replied grandly. 'I
shall be at Auch by noon.'
'That is as may be,' he answered with another grin.
I did not understand him, but I had something else to
think about, and I opened the door and stepped out,
intending to go to the stable. Then in a second I
comprehended. The cold air laden with woodland moisture
met me and went to my bones; but it was not that which
made me shiver. Outside the door, in the road, sitting
on horseback in silence, were two men. One was Clon.
The other, who had a spare horse by the rein--my horse--
was a man I had seen at the inn, a rough, shock-headed,
hard-bitten fellow. Both were armed, and Clon was
booted. His mate rode barefoot, with a rusty spur
strapped to one heel.
The moment I saw them a sure and certain fear crept into
my mind: it was that which made me shiver But I did not
speak to them. I went in again and closed the door
behind me. The landlord was putting on his boots.
'What does this mean?' I said hoarsely--though I had a
clear prescience of what was coming. 'Why are these men
'Orders,' he answered laconically.
'Whose orders?' I retorted.
'Whose?' he answered bluntly. 'Well, Monsieur, that is
my business. Enough that we mean to see you out of the
country, and out of harm's way.'
'But if I will not go?' I cried.
'Monsieur will go,' he answered coolly. 'There are no
strangers in the village to-day,' he added, with a
'Do you mean to kidnap me?' I replied, in a rage.
But behind the rage was something else--I will not call
it terror, for the brave feel no terror but it was near
akin to it. I had had to do with rough men all my life,
but there was a grimness and truculence in the aspect of
these three that shook me. When I thought of the dark
paths and narrow lanes and cliff sides we must traverse,
whichever road we took, I trembled.
'Kidnap you, Monsieur?' he answered, with an every-day
air. 'That is as you please to call it. One thing is
certain, however,' he continued, maliciously touching an
arquebuss which he had brought out, and set upright
against a chair while I was at the door; if you attempt
the slightest resistance, we shall know how to put an
end to it, either here or on the road.'
I drew a deep breath, the very imminence of the danger
restoring me to the use of my faculties. I changed my
tone and laughed aloud.
'So that is your plan, is it?' I said. 'The sooner we
start the better, then. And the sooner I see Auch and
your back turned, the more I shall be pleased.'
He rose. 'After you, Monsieur,' he said.
I could not restrain a slight shiver. His new-born
politeness alarmed me more than his threats. I knew the
man and his ways, and I was sure that it boded ill to
But I had no pistols, and only my sword and knife, and I
knew that resistance at this point must be worse than
vain. I went out jauntily, therefore, the landlord
coming after me with my saddle and bags.
The street was empty, save for the two waiting horsemen
who sat in their saddles looking doggedly before them,
The sun had not yet risen, the air was raw. The sky was
grey, cloudy, and cold. My thoughts flew back to the
morning on which I had found the sachet--at that very
spot, almost at that very hour, and for a moment I grew
warm again at the thought of the little packet I carried
in my boot. But the landlord's dry manner, the sullen
silence of his two companions, whose eyes steadily
refused to meet mine, chilled me again. For an instant
the impulse to refuse to mount, to refuse to go, was
almost irresistible; then, knowing the madness of such a
course, which might, and probably would, give the men
the chance they desired, I crushed it down and went
slowly to my stirrup.
'I wonder you do not want my sword,' I said by way of
sarcasm, as I swung myself up.
'We are not afraid of it,' the innkeeper answered
gravely. 'You may keep it--for the present.'
I made no answer--what answer had I to make?--and we
rode at a footpace down the street; he and I leading,
Clon and the shock-headed man bringing up the rear. The
leisurely mode of our departure, the absence of hurry or
even haste, the men's indifference whether they were
seen, or what was thought, all served to sink my spirits
and deepen my sense of peril. I felt that they
suspected me, that they more than half guessed the
nature of my errand at Cocheforet, and that they were
not minded to be bound by Mademoiselle's orders. In
particular, I augured the worst from Clon's appearance.
His lean malevolent face and sunken eyes, his very
dumbness chilled me. Mercy had no place there.
We rode soberly, so that nearly half an hour elapsed
before we gained the brow from which I had taken my
first look at Cocheforet. Among the dwarf oaks whence I
had viewed the valley we paused to breathe our horses,
and the strange feelings with which I looked back on the
scene may be imagined. But I had short time for
indulging in sentiment or recollections. A curt word,
and we were moving again.
A quarter of a mile farther on, the road to Auch dipped
into the valley. When we were already half way down
this descent the innkeeper suddenly stretched out his
hand and caught my rein.
'This way!' he said.
I saw that he would have me turn into a by-path leading
south-westwards--a mere track, faint and little trodden
and encroached on by trees, which led I knew not
whither. I checked my horse.
'Why?' I said rebelliously. 'Do you think I do not
know the road? The road we are in is the way to Auch.'
'To Auch--yes,' he answered bluntly. 'But we are not
going to Auch,'
'Whither then?' I said angrily.
'You will see presently,' he replied with an ugly smile.
'Yes, but I will know now!' I retorted, passion getting
the better of me. 'I have come so far with you. You
will find it more easy to take me farther if you tell me
'You are a fool!' he cried with a snarl.
'Not so,' I answered. 'I ask only to know whither I am
'Into Spain,' he said. 'Will that satisfy you?'
'And what will you do with me there?' I asked, my heart
giving a great bound.
'Hand you over to some friends of ours,' he answered
curtly, 'if you behave yourself. If not, there is a
shorter way, and one that will save us some travelling.
Make up your mind, Monsieur. Which shall it be?'
So that was their plan. Two or three hours to the southward, the
long, white, glittering wall stretched east and west above the
brown woods. Beyond that lay Spain. Once across the border, I
might be detained, if no worse happened to me, as a prisoner of
war; for we were then at war with Spain on the Italian side. Or
I might be handed over to one of the savage bands, half
smugglers, half brigands, that held the passes; or be delivered,
worse fate of all, into the power of the French exiles, of whom
some would be likely to recognise me and cut my throat.
'It is a long way into Spain,' I muttered, watching in a kind of
fascination Clon handling his pistols.
'I think you will find the other road longer still,' the landlord
answered grimly. 'But choose, and be quick about it.'
They were three to one, and they had firearms. In effect I had
'Well, if I must I must?' I cried, making up my mind with
seeming recklessness. 'VOGUE LA GALERE! Spain be it. It will
not be the first time I have heard the dons talk.'
The men nodded, as much as to say that they had known what the
end would be; the landlord released my rein; and in a trice we
were riding down the narrow track, with our faces set towards the
On one point my mind was now more easy. The men meant fairly by
me, and I had no longer to fear, as I had feared, a pistol-shot
in the back at the first convenient ravine. As far as that went,
I might ride in peace. On the other hand, if I let them carry me
across the border my fate was sealed. A man set down without
credentials or guards among the wild desperadoes who swarmed in
war-time in the Asturian passes might consider himself fortunate
if an easy death fell to his lot. In my case I could make a
shrewd guess what would happen. A single nod of meaning, one
muttered word, dropped among the savage men with whom I should be
left, and the diamonds hidden in my boot would go neither to the
Cardinal nor back to Mademoiselle--nor would it matter to me
whither they went.
So while the others talked in their taciturn fashion, or
sometimes grinned at my gloomy face, I looked out over the brown
woods with eyes that saw yet did not see. The red squirrel
swarming up the trunk, the startled pigs that rushed away
grunting from their feast of mast, the solitary rider who met us,
armed to the teeth, and passed northwards after whispering with
the landlord--all these I saw. But my mind was not with them.
It was groping and feeling about like a hunted mole for some way
of escape. For time pressed. The slope we were on was growing
steeper. By-and-by we fell into a southward valley, and began to
follow it steadily upwards, crossing and recrossing a swiftly
rushing stream. The snow peaks began to be hidden behind the
rising bulk of hills that overhung us, and sometimes we could see
nothing before or behind but the wooded walls of our valley
rising sheer and green a thousand paces high on either hand; with
grey rocks half masked by fern and ivy jutting here and there
through the firs and alders.
It was a wild and sombre scene even at that hour, with the mid-
day sun shining on the rushing water and drawing the scent out of
the pines; but I knew that there was worse to come, and sought
desperately for some ruse by which I might at least separate the
men. Three were too many; with one I might deal. At last, when
I had cudgelled my brain for an hour, and almost resigned myself
to a sudden charge on the men single-handed--a last desperate
resort --I thought of a plan: dangerous, too, and almost
desperate, but which still seemed to promise something. It came
of my fingers resting, as they lay in my pocket, on the fragments
of the orange sachet; which, without having any particular design
in my mind, I had taken care to bring with me. I had torn the
sachet into four pieces--four corners. As I played mechanically
with them, one of my fingers fitted into one, as into a glove; a
second finger into another. And the plan came.
Before I could move in it, however, I had to wait until we
stopped to bait the flagging horses, which we did about noon at
the head of the valley. Then, pretending to drink from the
stream, I managed to secure unseen a handful of pebbles, slipping
them into the same pocket with the morsels of stuff. On getting
to horse again, I carefully fitted a pebble, not too tightly,
into the largest scrap, and made ready for the attempt.
The landlord rode on my left, abreast of me; the other two knaves
behind. The road at this stage favoured me, for the valley,
which drained the bare uplands that lay between the lower hills
and the base of the real mountains, had become wide and shallow.
Here were no trees, and the path was a mere sheep-track covered
with short, crisp grass, and running sometimes on this bank of
the stream and sometimes on that.
I waited until the ruffian beside me turned to speak to the men
behind. The moment he did so, and his eyes were averted, I
slipped out the scrap of satin in which I had placed the pebble,
and balancing it carefully on my right thigh as I rode, I flipped
it forward with all the strength of my thumb and finger. I meant
it to fall a few paces before us in the path, where it could be
seen. But alas for my hopes! At the critical moment my horse
started, my finger struck the scrap aslant, the pebble flew out,
and the bit of stuff fluttered into a whin-bush close to my
stirrup--and was lost!
I was bitterly disappointed, for the same thing might happen
again, and I had now only three scraps left. But fortune
favoured me, by putting it into my neighbour's head to plunge
into a hot debate with the shock-headed man on the nature of some
animals seen on a distant brow; which he said were izards, while
the other maintained that they were common goats. He continued,
on this account, to ride with his face turned from me, and I had
time to fit another pebble into the second piece of stuff.
Sliding it on to my thigh, I poised it, and flipped it.
This time my finger struck the tiny missile fairly in the middle,
and shot it so far and so truly that it dropped exactly in the
path ten paces in front of us. The moment I saw it fall I kicked
my neighbour's nag in the ribs; it started, and he, turning in a
rage, hit it. The next instant he pulled it almost on to its
'SAINT GRIS!' he cried; and sat glaring at the bit of yellow
satin, with his face turned purple and his jaw fallen.
'What is it!' I said, staring at him in turn, 'What is the
'Matter?' he blurted out. 'MON DIEU!'
But Clon's excitement surpassed even his. The dumb man no sooner
saw what had attracted his comrade's attention, than he uttered
an inarticulate and horrible noise, and tumbling off his horse,
more like a beast than a man threw himself bodily on the precious
The innkeeper was not far behind him. An instant and he was
down, too, peering at the thing; and for an instant I thought
that they would fight over it. However, though their jealousy
was evident, their excitement cooled a little when they
discovered that the scrap of stuff was empty; for, fortunately,
the pebble had fallen out of it. Still, it threw them into such
a fever of eagerness as it was wonderful to witness. They nosed
the ground where it had lain, they plucked up the grass and turf,
and passed it through their fingers, they ran to and fro like
dogs on a trail; and, glancing askance at one another, came back
always together to the point of departure. Neither in his
jealousy would suffer the other to be there alone.
The shock-headed man and I sat our horses and looked on; he
marvelling, and I pretending to marvel. As the two searched up
and down the path, we moved a little out of it to give them
space; and presently, when all their heads were turned from me, I
let a second morsel drop under a gorse-bush. The shock-headed
man, by-and-by, found this, and gave it to Clon; and as from the
circumstances of the first discovery no suspicion attached to me,
I ventured to find the third and last scrap myself. I did not
pick it up, but I called the innkeeper, and he pounced upon it as
I have seen a hawk pounce on a chicken.
They hunted for the fourth morsel, but, of course, in vain, and
in the end they desisted, and fitted the three they had together;
but neither would let his own portion out of his hands, and each
looked at the other across the spoil with eyes of suspicion. It
was strange to see them in that wide-stretching valley, whence
grey boar-backs of hills swelled up into the silence of the snow
--it was strange, I say, in that vast solitude, to see these two,
mere dots on its bosom, circling round one another in fierce
forgetfulness of the outside world, glaring and shifting their
ground like cocks about to engage, and wholly engrossed--by three
scraps of orange-colour, invisible at fifty paces!
At last the innkeeper cried with an oath, 'I am going back. This
must be known down yonder. Give me your pieces, man, and do you
go on with Antoine. It will be all right.'
But Clon, waving a scrap of the stuff in either hand, and
thrusting his ghastly mask into the other's face, shook his head
in passionate denial. He could not speak, but he made it as
clear as daylight that if anyone went back with the news, he was
the man to go.
'Nonsense!' the landlord rejoined fiercely, 'We cannot leave
Antoine to go on alone with him. Give me the stuff.'
But Clon would not. He had no thought of resigning the credit of
the discovery; and I began to think that the two would really
come to blows. But there was an alternative--an alternative in
which I was concerned; and first one and then the other looked at
me. It was a moment of peril, and I knew it. My stratagem might
react on myself, and the two, to put an end to their difficulty,
agree to put an end to me. But I faced them so coolly, and
showed so bold a front, and the ground where we stood was so
open, that the idea took no root. They fell to wrangling again
more viciously than before. One tapped his gun and the other his
pistols. The landlord scolded, the dumb man gurgled. At last
their difference ended as I had hoped it would.
'Very well then, we will both go back!' the innkeeper cried in a
rage. 'And Antoine must see him on. But the blame be on your
head. Do you give the lad your pistols.'
Clon took one pistol, and gave it to the shock-headed man.
'The other!' the innkeeper said impatiently.
But Clon shook his head with a grim smile, and pointed to the
By a sudden movement, the landlord snatched the pistol, and
averted Clon's vengeance by placing both it and the gun in the
shock-headed man's hands.
'There!' he said, addressing the latter, 'now can you do? If
Monsieur tries to escape or turn back, shoot him! But four
hours' riding should bring you to the Roca Blanca. You will find
the men there, and will have no more to do with it.'
Antoine did not see things quite in that light, however. He
looked at me, and then at the wild track in front of us; and he
muttered an oath and said he would die if he would.
But the landlord, who was in a frenzy of impatience, drew him
aside and talked to him, and in the end seemed to persuade him;
for in a few minutes the matter was settled.
Antoine came back, and said sullenly, 'Forward, Monsieur,' the
two others stood on one side, I shrugged my shoulders and kicked
up my horse, and in a twinkling we two were riding on together
--man to man. I turned once or twice to see what those we had
left behind were doing, and always found them standing in
apparent debate; but my guard showed so much jealousy of these
movements that I presently shrugged my shoulders again and
I had racked my brains to bring about this state of things.
Strange to say, now I had succeeded, I found it less satisfactory
than I had hoped. I had reduced the odds and got rid of my most
dangerous antagonists; but Antoine, left to himself, proved to be
as full of suspicion as an egg of meat. He rode a little behind
me, with his gun across his saddlebow, and a pistol near his
hand; and at the slightest pause on my part, or if I turned to
look at him, he muttered his constant 'Forward, Monsieur!' in a
tone which warned me that his finger was on the trigger. At such
a distance he could not miss; and I saw nothing for it but to go
on meekly before him to the Roca Blanca--and my fate.
What was to be done? The road presently reached the end of the
valley and entered a narrow pine-clad defile, strewn with rocks
and boulders, over which the torrent plunged and eddied with a
deafening roar. In front the white gleam of waterfalls broke the
sombre ranks of climbing trunks. The snow line lay less than
half a mile away on either hand; and crowning all--at the end of
the pass, as it seemed to the eye--rose the pure white pillar of
the Pic du Midi shooting up six thousand feet into the blue of
heaven. Such a scene so suddenly disclosed, was enough to drive
the sense of danger from my mind; and for a moment I reined in my
horse. But 'Forward, Monsieur!' came the grating order. I fell
to earth again, and went on. What was to be done?
I was at my wits' end to know. The man refused to talk, refused
to ride abreast of me, would have no dismounting, no halting, no
communication at all. He would have nothing but this silent,
lonely procession of two, with the muzzle of his gun at my back.
And meanwhile we were fast climbing the pass. We had left the
others an hour--nearly two. The sun was declining; the time, I
supposed, about half-past three.
If he would only let me come within reach of him! Or if anything
would fall out to take his attention! When the pass presently
widened into a bare and dreary valley, strewn with huge boulders
and with snow lying here and there in the hollows, I looked
desperately before me, and scanned even the vast snow-fields that
overhung us and stretched away to the base of the ice-peak. But
I saw nothing. No bear swung across the path, no izard showed
itself on the cliffs. The keen, sharp air cut our cheeks and
warned me that we were approaching the summit of the ridge. On
all sides were silence and desolation.
MON DIEU! And the ruffians on whose tender mercies I was to be
thrown might come to meet us! They might appear at any moment.
In my despair I loosened my hat on my head, and let the first
gust carry it to the ground, and then with an oath of annoyance
tossed my feet from the stirrups to go after it. But the rascal
roared to me to keep my seat.
'Forward, Monsieur!' he shouted brutally. 'Go on!'
'But my hat!' I cried. 'MILLE TONNERRES, man! I must--'
'Forward, Monsieur, or I shoot!' he replied inexorably raising
his gun. 'One--two--'
And I went on. But, ah, I was wrathful! That I, Gil de Berault,
should be outwitted, and led by the nose like a ringed bull, by
this Gascon lout! That I, whom all Paris knew and feared--if it
did not love--the terror of Zaton's, should come to my end in
this dismal waste of snow and rock, done to death by some pitiful
smuggler or thief! It must not be. Surely in the last resort I
could give an account of one man, though his belt were stuffed
But how? Only, it seemed, by open force. My heart began to
flutter as I planned it; and then grew steady again. A hundred
paces before us a gully or ravine on the left ran up into the
snow-field. Opposite its mouth a jumble of stones and broken
rocks covered the path, I marked this for the place. The knave
would need both his hands to hold up his nag over the stones,
and, if I turned on him suddenly enough, he might either drop his
gun or fire it harmlessly.
But, in the meantime, something happened; as, at the last moment,
things do happen. While we were still fifty yards short of the
place, I found his horse's nose creeping forward on a level with
my crupper; and, still advancing, still advancing, until I could
see it out of the tail of my eye, and my heart gave a great
bound. He was coming abreast of me: he was going to deliver
himself into my hands! To cover my excitement, I began to
'Hush!' he muttered fiercely, his voice sounding so strange and
unnatural, that my first thought was that he was ill; and I
turned to him. But he only said again,--
'Hush! Pass by here quietly, Monsieur.'
'Why?' I asked mutinously, curiosity getting the better of me.
For had I been wise I had taken no notice; every second his horse
was coming up with mine. Its nose was level with my stirrup
'Hush, man!' he said again. This time there was no mistake
about the panic in his voice. 'They call this the Devil's
Chapel, God send us safe by it! It is late to be here. Look at
those!' he continued, pointing with a finger which visibly
I looked. At the mouth of the gully, in a small space partly
cleared of stones, stood three broken shafts, raised on rude
'Well?' I said in a low voice. The sun, which was near setting,
flushed the great peak above to the colour of blood; but the
valley was growing grey and each moment more dreary. 'Well, what
of those?' I said.
In spite of my peril and the excitement of the coming struggle I
felt the chill of his fear. Never had I seen so grim, so
desolate, so God-forsaken a place! Involuntarily I shivered.
'They were crosses,' he muttered in a voice little above a
whisper, while his eyes roved this way and that in terror. 'The
Cure of Gabas blessed the place, and set them up. But next
morning they were as you see them now. Come on, Monsieur; come
on!' he continued, plucking at my arm. 'It is not safe here
after sunset. Pray God, Satan be not at home!'
He had completely forgotten in his panic that he had anything to
fear from me. His gun dropped loosely across his saddle, his leg
rubbed mine. I saw this, and I changed my plan of action. As
our horses reached the stones I stooped, as if to encourage mine,
and, with a sudden clutch, snatched the gun bodily from his hand,
at the same time that I backed my horse with all my strength. It
was done in a moment! A second and I had him at the end of the
gun, and my finger was on the trigger. Never was victory more
He looked at me between rage and terror, his jaw fallen.
'Are you mad?' he cried, his teeth chattering as he spoke. Even
in this strait his eyes left me and wandered round in alarm.
'No, sane!' I retorted fiercely. 'But I do not like this place
any better than you do.' Which was true enough, if not quite
true. 'So, by your right, quick march!' I continued
imperatively. 'Turn your horse, my friend, or take the
He turned like a lamb, and headed down the valley again, without
giving a thought to his pistols. I kept close to him, and in
less than a minute we had left the Devil's Chapel well behind us,
and were moving down again as we had come up. Only now I held
When we had gone have a mile or so--until then I did not feel
comfortable myself, and though I thanked heaven that the place
existed, I thanked heaven also that I was out of it--I bade him
'Take off your belt,' I said curtly, 'and throw it down. But,
mark me, if you turn I fire.'
The spirit was quite gone out of him, and he obeyed mechanically.
I jumped down, still covering him with the gun, and picked up the
belt, pistols and all. Then I remounted, and we went on. By-
and-by he asked me sullenly what I was going to do.
'Go back,' I said, 'and take the road to Auch when I come to it.'
'It will be dark in an hour,' he answered sulkily.
'I know that,' I retorted. 'We must camp and do the best we
And as I said, we did. The daylight held until we gained the
skirts of the pine-wood at the head of the pass. Here I chose a
corner a little off the track, and well sheltered from the wind,
and bade him light a fire. I tethered the horses near this and
within sight. Then it remained only to sup. I had a piece of
bread: he had another and an onion. We ate in silence, sitting
on opposite sides of the fire.
But after supper I found myself in a dilemma; I did not see how I
was to sleep. The ruddy light which gleamed on the knave's swart
face and sinewy hands showed also his eyes, black, sullen, and
watchful. I knew that the man was plotting revenge; that he
would not hesitate to plant his knife between my ribs should I
give him the chance; and I could find only one alternative to
remaining awake. Had I been bloody-minded, I should have chosen
it and solved the question at once and in my favour by shooting
him as he sat.
But I have never been a cruel man, and I could not find it in my
heart to do this. The silence of the mountain and the sky-which
seemed a thing apart from the roar of the torrent and not to be
broken by it--awed me. The vastness of the solitude in which we
sat, the dark void above, through which the stars kept shooting,
the black gulf below in which the unseen waters boiled and
surged, the absence of other human company or other signs of
human existence, put such a face upon the deed that I gave up the
thought of it with a shudder, and resigned myself, instead, to
watch through the night--the long, cold, Pyrenean night.
Presently he curled himself up like a dog and slept in the blaze,
and then for a couple of hours I sat opposite him, thinking. It
seemed years since I had seen Zaton's or thrown the dice. The
old life, the old employments--should I ever go back to them?--
seemed dim and distant. Would Cocheforet, the forest and the
mountain, the grey Chateau and its mistresses, seem one day as
dim? And if one bit of life could fade so quickly at the
unrolling of another, and seem in a moment pale and colourless,
would all life some day and somewhere, and all the things we--But
enough! I was growing foolish. I sprang up and kicked the wood
together, and, taking up the gun, began to pace to and fro under
the cliff. Strange that a little moonlight, a few stars, a
breath of solitude should carry a man back to childhood and
. . . . . .
It was three in the afternoon of the next day, and the sun lay
hot on the oak groves, and the air was full of warmth as we began
to climb the slope, midway up which the road to Auch shoots out
of the track. The yellow bracken and the fallen leaves underfoot
seemed to throw up light of themselves; and here and there a
patch of ruddy beech lay like a bloodstain on the hillside. In
front a herd of pigs routed among the mast, and grunted lazily;
and high above us a boy lay watching them. 'We part here,' I
said to my companion.
It was my plan to ride a little way along the road to Auch so as
to blind his eyes; then, leaving my horse in the forest, I would
go on foot to the Chateau. 'The sooner the better!' he answered
with a snarl. 'And I hope I may never see your face again,
But when we came to the wooden cross at the fork of the roads,
and were about to part, the boy we had seen leapt out of the fern
and came to meet us.
'Hollo!' he cried in a sing-song tone.
'Well,' my companion answered, drawing rein impatiently. 'What
'There are soldiers in the village.'
'Soldiers" Antoine cried incredulously.
'Ay, devils on horseback,' the lad answered, spitting on the
ground. 'Three score of them. From Auch.'
Antoine turned to me, his face transformed with fury.
'Curse you!' he cried. 'This is some of your work. Now we are
all undone. And my mistresses? SACRE! if I had that gun I
would shoot you like a rat.'
'Steady, fool,' I answered roughly. 'I know no more of this than
Which was so true that my surprise was at least as great as his,
and better grounded. The Cardinal, who rarely made a change of
front, had sent me hither that he might not be forced to send
soldiers, and run the risk of all that might arise from such a
movement. What of this invasion, then, than which nothing could
be less consistent with his plans? I wondered. It was possible
that the travelling merchants, before whom I had played at
treason, had reported the facts; and that on this the Commandant
at Auch had acted. But it seemed unlikely since he had had his
orders too, and under the Cardinal's rule there was small place
for individual enterprise. Frankly I could not understand it,
and found only one thing clear; I might now enter the village as
'I am going on to look into this,' I said to Antoine. 'Come, my
man.' He shrugged his shoulders, and stood still.
'Not I!' be answered, with an oath. 'No soldiers for me I have
lain out one night, and I can lie out another.'
I nodded indifferently, for I no longer wanted him; and we
parted. After this, twenty minutes' riding brought me to the
entrance of the village, and here the change was great indeed.
Not one of the ordinary dwellers in the place was to be seen:
either they had shut themselves up in their hovels, or, like
Antoine, they had fled to the woods. Their doors were closed,
their windows shuttered. But lounging about the street were a
score of dragoons, in boots and breastplates, whose short-
barrelled muskets, with pouches and bandoliers attached, were
piled near the inn door. In an open space, where there was a gap
in the street, a long row of horses, linked head to head, stood
bending their muzzles over bundles of rough forage; and on all
sides the cheerful jingle of chains and bridles and the sound of
coarse jokes and laughter filled the air.
As I rode up to the inn door an old sergeant, with squinting eyes
and his tongue in his cheek, scanned me inquisitively, and
started to cross the street to challenge me. Fortunately, at
that moment the two knaves whom I had brought from Paris with me,
and whom I had left at Auch to await my orders, came up. I made
them a sign not to speak to me, and they passed on; but I suppose
that they told the sergeant that I was not the man he wanted, for
I saw no more of him.
After picketing my horse behind the inn--I could find no better
stable, every place being full--I pushed my way through the group
at the door, and entered. The old room, with the low, grimy roof
and the reeking floor, was half full of strange figures, and for
a few minutes I stood unseen in the smoke and confusion. Then
the landlord came my way, and as he passed me I caught his eye.
He uttered a low curse, dropped the pitcher he was carrying, and
stood glaring at me like a man possessed.
The soldier whose wine he was carrying flung a crust in his face,
'Now, greasy fingers! What are you staring at?'
'The devil!' the landlord muttered, beginning to tremble.
'Then let me look at him!' the man retorted, and he turned on
He started, finding me standing over him.
'At your service!' I said grimly. 'A little time and it will be
the other way, my friend.
A MASTER STROKE
I have a way with me which commonly commands respect; and when
the landlord's first terror was over and he would serve me, I
managed to get my supper--the first good meal I had had in two
days--pretty comfortably in spite of the soldiers' presence. The
crowd, too, which filled the room, soon began to melt. The men
strayed off in groups to water their horses, or went to hunt up
their quarters, until only two or three were left. Dusk had
fallen outside; the noise in the street grew less. The firelight
began to glow and flicker on the walls, and the wretched room to
look as homely as it was in its nature to look. I was pondering
for the twentieth time what step I should take next, and
questioning why the soldiers were here, and whether I should let
the night pass before I moved, when the door, which had been
turning on its hinges almost without pause for an hour, opened
again, and a woman came in.
She paused a moment on the threshold looking round, and I saw
that she had a shawl on her head and a milk-pitcher in her hand,
and that her feet and ankles were bare. There was a great rent
in her coarse stuff petticoat, and the hand which held the shawl
together was brown and dirty. More I did not see: for,
supposing her to be a neighbour stolen in, now that the house was
quiet, to get some milk for her child or the like, I took no
farther heed of her. I turned to the fire again and plunged into
But to get to the hearth where the goodwife was fidgeting the
woman had to pass in front of me; and as she passed I suppose
that she stole a look at me from under her shawl. For just when
she came between me and the blaze she uttered a low cry and
shrank aside--so quickly that she almost stepped on the hearth.
The next moment she turned her back to me, and was stooping
whispering in the housewife's ear. A stranger might have thought
that she had trodden on a hot ember.
But another idea, and a very strange one, came into my mind; and
I stood up silently. The woman's back was towards me, but
something in her height, her shape, the pose of her head hidden
as it was by her shawl, seemed familiar. I waited while she hung
over the fire whispering, and while the goodwife slowly filled
her pitcher out of the great black pot. But when she turned to
go, I took a step forward so as to bar her way. And our eyes
I could not see her features; they were lost in the shadow of the
hood. But I saw a shiver run through her from head to foot. And
I knew then that I had made no mistake.
'That is too heavy for you, my girl,' I said familiarly, as I
might have spoken to a village wench. 'I will carry it for you.'
One of the men, who remained lolling at the table, laughed, and
the other began to sing a low song. The woman trembled in rage
or fear; but she kept silence and let me take the jug from her
hands; and when I went to the door and opened it, she followed
mechanically. An instant, and the door fell to behind us,
shutting off the light and glow, and we two stood together in the
'It is late for you to be out, Mademoiselle,' I said politely.
'You might meet with some rudeness, dressed as you are. Permit
me to see you home.'
She shuddered, and I thought that I heard her sob, but she did
not answer. Instead, she turned and walked quickly through the
village in the direction of the Chateau, keeping in the shadow of
the houses. I carried the pitcher and walked close to her,
beside her; and in the dark I smiled. I knew how shame and
impotent rage were working in her. This was something like
Presently I spoke.
'Well, Mademoiselle,' I said, 'where are your grooms?'
She gave me one look, her eyes blazing with anger, her face like
hate itself; and after that I said no more, but left her in
peace, and contented myself with walking at her shoulder until we
came to the end of the village, where the track to the great
house plunged into the wood. There she stopped, and turned on me
like a wild creature at bay.
'What do you want?' she cried hoarsely, breathing as if she had
'To see you safe to the house,' I answered coolly. 'Alone you
might be insulted.'
'And if I will not?' she retorted.
'The choice does not lie with you, Mademoiselle,' I answered
sternly, 'You will go to the house with me, and on the way you
will give me an interview--late as it is; but not here. Here we
are not private enough. We may be interrupted at any moment, and
I wish to speak to you at length.'
'At length?' she muttered.
I saw her shiver. 'What if I will not?" she said again.
'I might call to the nearest soldiers and tell them who you are,'
I answered coolly. 'I might do that, but I should not. That
were a clumsy way of punishing you, and I know a better way. I
should go to the Captain, Mademoiselle, and tell him whose horse
is locked up in the inn stable. A trooper told me--as someone
had told him--that it belonged to one of his officers; but I
looked through the crack, and I knew the horse again.'
She could not repress a groan. I waited; still she did not
'Shall I go to the Captain?' I said ruthlessly.
She shook the hood back from her face and looked at me.
'Oh, you coward! you coward!' she hissed through her teeth.
'If I had a knife!'
'But you have not, Mademoiselle,' I answered, unmoved. 'Be good
enough, therefore, to make up your mind which it is to be. Am I
to go with my news to the captain, or am I to come with you?'
'Give me the pitcher,' she said harshly.
I did so, wondering. In a moment she flung it with a savage
gesture far into the bushes.
'Come!' she said, 'if you will. But some day God will punish
Without another word she turned and entered the path through the
trees, and I followed her. I suppose that every one of its
windings, every hollow and broken place in it had been known to
her from childhood, for she followed it swiftly and unerringly,
barefoot as she was. I had to walk fast through the darkness to
keep up with her. The wood was quiet, but the frogs were
beginning to croak in the pool, and their persistent chorus
reminded me of the night when I had come to the house-door, hurt
and worn out, and Clon had admitted me, and she had stood under
the gallery in the hall. Things had looked dark then. I had
seen but a very little way ahead then. Now all was plain. The
commandant might be here with all his soldiers, but it was I who
held the strings.
We came to the little wooden bridge and saw beyond the dark
meadows the lights of the house. All the windows were bright.
Doubtless the troopers were making merry.
'Now, Mademoiselle,' I said quietly, 'I must trouble you to stop
here, and give me your attention for a few minutes. Afterwards
you may go your way.'
'Speak!' she said defiantly. 'And be quick! I cannot breathe
the air where you are! It poisons me!'
'Ah!' I said slowly. 'Do you think that you make things better
by such speeches as those?'
'Oh!' she cried and I heard her teeth click together. 'Would
you have me fawn on you?'
'Perhaps not,' I answered. 'Still you make one mistake.'
'What is it?' she panted.
'You forget that I am to be feared as well as--loathed,
Mademoiselle! Ay, Mademoiselle, to be feared!' I continued
grimly. 'Do you think that I do not know why you are here in
this guise? Do you think that I do not know for whom that
pitcher of broth was intended? Or who will now have to fast to-
night? I tell you I know all these things. Your house was full
of soldiers; your servants were watched and could not leave. You
had to come yourself and get food for him?'
She clutched at the handrail of the bridge, and for an instant
clung to it for support. Her face, from which the shawl had
fallen, glimmered white in the shadow of the trees. At last I
had shaken her pride. At last!
'What is your price?' she murmured faintly.
'I am going to tell you,' I replied, speaking so that every word
might fall distinctly on her ears, and sating my eyes the while
on her proud face. I had never dreamed of such revenge as this!
'About a fortnight ago, M. de Cocheforet left here at night with
a little orange-coloured sachet in his possession.'
She uttered a stifled cry, and drew herself stiffly erect.
'It contained--but there, Mademoiselle, you know its contents,' I
went on. 'Whatever they were, M. de Cocheforet lost it and them
at starting. A week ago he came back--unfortunately for himself
--to seek them.'
She was looking full in my face now. She seemed scarcely to
breathe in the intensity of her surprise and expectation.
'You had a search made, Mademoiselle,' I continued quietly.
'Your servants left no place unexplored The paths, the roads, the
very woods were ransacked, But in vain, because all the while the
orange sachet lay whole and unopened in my pocket.'
'No!' she cried impetuously. 'There, you lie sir, as usual!
The sachet was found, torn open, many leagues from this place!'
'Where I threw it, Mademoiselle,' I replied, 'that I might
mislead your rascals and be free to return to you. Oh! believe
me,' I continued, letting something of my true self, something of
my triumph, appear at last in my voice. 'You have made a
mistake! You would have done better had you trusted me. I am no
bundle of sawdust, Mademoiselle, though once you got the better
of me, but a man; a man with an arm to shield and a brain to
serve, and--as I am going to teach you--a heart also!'
'In the orange-coloured sachet that you lost I believe that there
were eighteen stones of great value?'
She made no answer, but she looked at me as if I fascinated her.
Her very breath seemed to pause and wait on my words. She was so
little conscious of anything else, of anything outside ourselves,
that a score of men might have come up behind her, unseen and
A MASTER STROKE--Continued
I took from my breast a little packet wrapped in soft leather,
and I held it towards her.
'Will you open this?' I said. 'I believe that it contains what
your brother lost. That it contains all I will not answer,
Mademoiselle, because I spilled the stones on the floor of my
room, and I may have failed to find some. But the others can be
recovered; I know where they are.'
She took the packet slowly and began to unroll it, her fingers
shaking. A few turns and the mild lustre of the stones shone
out, making a kind of moonlight in her hands--such a shimmering
glory of imprisoned light as has ruined many a woman and robbed
many a man of his honour. MORBLEU! as I looked at them and as
she stood looking at them in dull, entranced perplexity--I
wondered how I had come to resist the temptation.
While I gazed her hands began to waver.
'I cannot count,' she muttered helplessly. 'How many are there?'
'In all, eighteen.'
'There should be eighteen,' she said.
She closed her hand on them with that, and opened it again, and
did so twice, as if to reassure herself that the stones were real
and that she was not dreaming. Then she turned to me with sudden
fierceness, and I saw that her beautiful face, sharpened by the
greed of possession, was grown as keen and vicious as before.
'Well?' she muttered between her teeth.
'Your price, man? Your price?'
'I am coming to it now, Mademoiselle,' I said gravely. 'It is a
simple matter. You remember the afternoon when I followed you
--clumsily and thoughtlessly perhaps--through the wood to restore
these things? In seeming that happened about a month ago. I
believe that it happened the day before yesterday. You called me
then some very harsh names, which I will not hurt you by
repeating. The only price I ask for the restoration of your
jewels is that you on your part recall those names.'
'How?' she muttered. 'I do not understand.'
I repeated my words very slowly. 'The only price or reward I
ask, Mademoiselle, is that you take back those names and say that
they were not deserved.'
'And the jewels?' she exclaimed hoarsely.
'They are yours. They are not mine. They are nothing to me.
Take them, and say that you do not think of me--Nay, I cannot say
the words, Mademoiselle.'
'But there is something--else! What else?' she cried, her head
thrown back, her eyes, bright as any wild animal's, searching
mine. 'Ha! my brother? What of him? What of him, sir?'
'For him, Mademoiselle--I would prefer that you should tell me no
more than I know already,' I answered in a low voice. 'I do not
wish to be in that affair. But yes; there is one thing I have
not mentioned. You are right.'
She sighed so deeply that I caught the sound.
'It is,' I continued slowly, 'that you will permit me to remain
at Cocheforet for a few days while the soldiers are here. I am
told that there are twenty men and two officers quartered in your
house. Your brother is away. I ask to be permitted,
Mademoiselle, to take his place for the time, and to be
privileged to protect your sister and yourself from insult. That
She raised her hand to her head. After a long pause,--
'The frogs!' she muttered, 'they croak! I can not hear.'
Then, to my surprise, she turned quickly and suddenly on her
heel, and walked over the bridge, leaving me standing there. For
a moment I stood aghast, peering after her shadowy figure, and
wondering what had taken her. Then, in a minute or less, she
came quickly back to me, and I understood. She was crying.
'M. de Barthe,' she said, in a trembling voice, which told me
that the victory was won, 'is there nothing else? Have you no
other penance for me?'
She had drawn the shawl over her head, and I no longer saw her
'That is all you ask?' she murmured.
'That is all I ask--now,' I answered.
'It is granted,' she said slowly and firmly. 'Forgive me if I
seem to speak lightly--if I seem to make little of your
generosity or my shame; but I can say no more now. I am so deep
in trouble and so gnawed by terror that--I cannot feel anything
keenly to-night, either shame or gratitude. I am in a dream; God
grant that it may pass as a dream! We are sunk in trouble. But
for you and what you have done, M. de Barthe--I--' she paused and
I heard her fighting with the sobs which choked her--'forgive
me... I am overwrought. And my--my feet are cold,' she added,
suddenly and irrelevantly. 'Will you take me home?'
'Ah, Mademoiselle,' I cried remorsefully, 'I have been a beast!
You are barefoot, and I have kept you here.'
'It is nothing,' she said in a voice which thrilled me. 'My
heart is warm, Monsieur--thanks to you. It is many hours since
it has been as warm.'
She stepped out of the shadow as she spoke--and there, the thing
was done. As I had planned, so it had come about. Once more I
was crossing the meadow in the dark to be received at Cocheforet,
a welcome guest. The frogs croaked in the pool and a bat swooped
round us in circles; and surely never--never, I thought, with a
kind of exultation in my breast--had man been placed in a
Somewhere in the black wood behind us--probably in the outskirts
of the village--lurked M. de Cocheforet. In the great house
before us, outlined by a score of lighted windows, were the
soldiers come from Auch to take him. Between the two, moving
side by side in the darkness, in a silence which each found to be
eloquent, were Mademoiselle and I: she who knew so much, I who
knew all--all but one little thing!
We reached the house, and I suggested that she should steal in
first by the way she had come out, and that I should wait a
little and knock at the door when she had had time to explain
matters to Clon.
'They do not let me see Clon,' she answered slowly.
'Then your woman must tell him,' I rejoined, 'or he may do
something and betray me.'
'They will not let our women come to us.'
'What?' I cried, astonished. 'But this is infamous. You are
Mademoiselle laughed harshly.
'Are we not? Well, I suppose not; for if we wanted company,
Captain Larolle said that he would be delighted to see us--in the
'He has taken your parlour?' I said.
'He and his lieutenant sit there. But I suppose that we rebels
should be thankful,' she added bitterly; 'we have still our
bedrooms left to us.'
'Very well,' I said. 'Then I must deal with Clon as I can. But
I have still a favour to ask, Mademoiselle. It is only that you
and your sister will descend to-morrow at your usual time. I
shall be in the parlour.'
'I would rather not,' she said, pausing and speaking in a
'Are you afraid?'
'No, Monsieur, I am not afraid,' she answered proudly, 'but--'
'You will come?' I said.
She sighed before she spoke. At length,--
'Yes, I will come--if you wish it,' she answered. And the next
moment she was gone round the corner of the house, while I
laughed to think of the excellent watch these gallant gentlemen
were keeping. M. de Cocheforet might have been with her in the
garden, might have talked with her as I had talked, might have
entered the house even, and passed under their noses scot-free.
But that is the way of soldiers. They are always ready for the
enemy, with drums beating and flags flying--at ten o'clock in the
morning. But he does not always come at that hour.
I waited a little, and then I groped my way to the door and
knocked on it with the hilt of my sword. The dogs began to bark
at the back, and the chorus of a drinking-song, which came
fitfully from the east wing, ceased altogether. An inner door
opened, and an angry voice, apparently an officer's, began to
rate someone for not coming. Another moment, and a clamour of
voices and footsteps seemed to pour into the hall, and fill it.
I heard the bar jerked away, the door was flung open, and in a
twinkling a lanthorn, behind which a dozen flushed visages were
dimly seen, was thrust into my face.
'Why, who the fiend is this?' one cried, glaring at me in
'MORBLEU! It is the man!' another shrieked. 'Seize him!'
In a moment half a dozen hands were laid on my shoulders, but I
only bowed politely.
'The officer, my friends,' I said, 'M. le Capitaine Larolle.
'Where is he?'
'DIABLE! but who are you, first?' the lanthorn-bearer retorted
bluntly. He was a tall, lanky sergeant, with a sinister face.
'Well, I am not M. de Cocheforet,' I replied; 'and that must
satisfy you, my man. For the rest, if you do not fetch Captain
Larolle at once and admit me, you will find the consequences
'Ho! ho!' he said with a sneer. 'You can crow, it seems.
Well, come in.'
They made way, and I walked into the hall keeping my hat on. On
the great hearth a fire had been kindled, but it had gone out.
Three or four carbines stood against one wall, and beside them
lay a heap of haversacks and some straw. A shattered stool,
broken in a frolic, and half a dozen empty wine-skins strewed the
floor, and helped to give the place an air of untidiness and
disorder. I looked round with eyes of disgust, and my gorge
rose. They had spilled oil, and the place reeked foully.
'VENTRE BLEU!' I said. 'Is this conduct in a gentleman's house,
you rascals? MA VIE! If I had you I would send half of you to
the wooden horse!'
They gazed at me open-mouthed; my arrogance startled them. The
sergeant alone scowled. When he could find his voice for rage--
'This way!' he said. 'We did not know that a general officer
was coming, or we would have been better prepared!' And
muttering oaths under his breath, he led me down the well-known
passage. At the door of the parlour he stopped. 'Introduce
yourself!' he said rudely. 'And if you find the air warm, don't
I raised the latch and went in. At a table in front of the
hearth, half covered with glasses and bottles, sat two men
playing hazard. The dice rang sharply as I entered, and he who
had just thrown kept the box over them while he turned, scowling,
to see who came in. He was a fair-haired, blonde man, large-
framed and florid. He had put off his cuirass and boots, and his
doublet showed frayed and stained where the armour had pressed on
it. Otherwise he was in the extreme of last year's fashion. His
deep cravat, folded over so that the laced ends drooped a little
in front, was of the finest; his great sash of blue and silver
was a foot wide. He had a little jewel in one ear, and his tiny
beard was peaked A L'ESPAGNOLE. Probably when he turned he
expected to see the sergeant, for at the sight of me he rose
slowly, leaving the dice still covered.
'What folly is this?' he cried, wrathfully. Here, sergeant!
Sergeant!--without there! What the--! Who are you, sir?'
'Captain Larolle,' I said uncovering politely, 'I believe?'
'Yes, I am Captain Larolle,' he retorted. 'But who, in the
fiend's name, are you?' You are not the man we are after!'
'I am not M. Cocheforet,' I said coolly. 'I am merely a guest in
the house, M. le Capitaine. I have been enjoying Madame de
Cocheforet's hospitality for some time, but by an evil chance I
was away when you arrived.' And with that I walked to the
hearth, and, gently pushing aside his great boots which stood
there drying, I kicked the logs into a blaze.
'MILLE DIABLES!' he whispered. And never did I see a man more
confounded. But I affected to be taken up with his companion, a
sturdy, white-moustachioed old veteran, who sat back in his
chair, eyeing me with swollen cheeks and eyes surcharged with
'Good evening, M. le Lieutenant,' I said, bowing gravely. 'It is
a fine night.'
Then the storm burst.
'Fine night!' the Captain shrieked, finding his voice at last.
'MILLE DIABLES! Are you aware, sir, that I am in possession of
this house, and that no one harbours here without my permission?
Guest? Hospitality? Bundle of fiddle-faddle! Lieutenant, call
the guard! Call the guard!' he continued passionately. 'Where
is that ape of a sergeant?'
The Lieutenant rose to obey, but I lifted my hand.
'Gently, gently, Captain,' I said. 'Not so fast. You seem
surprised to see me here. Believe me, I am much more surprised
to see you.'
'SACRE!' he cried, recoiling at this fresh impertinence, while
the Lieutenant's eyes almost jumped out of his head.
But nothing moved me.
'Is the door closed?' I said sweetly. 'Thank you; it is, I see.
Then permit me to say again, gentlemen, that I am much more
surprised to see you than you can be to see me. For when
Monseigneur the Cardinal honoured me by sending me from Paris to
conduct this matter, he gave me the fullest--the fullest powers,
M. le Capitaine--to see the affair to an end. I was not led to
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