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93 I was wakened completely at last by the shooting of bolts. With the opening of the door I saw the figures of Gabord and Voban. My little friend the mouse saw them also, and scampered from the bread it had been eating, away among the corn, through which my footsteps had now made two rectangular paths, not disregarded by Gabord, who solicitously pulled Voban into the narrow track that he should not trespass on my harvest. I rose, showed no particular delight at seeing Voban, but greeted him easily—though my heart was bursting to ask him of Alixe—and arranged my clothes. Presently Gabord said, “Stools for barber,” and, wheeling, he left the dungeon. He was gone only an instant, but long enough for Voban to thrust a letter into my hand, which I ran into the lining of my waistcoat as I whispered, “Her brother—he is well?” “Well, and he have go to France,” he answered. “She make me say, look to the round window in the Château front.” We spoke in English—which, as I have said, Voban understood imperfectly. There was nothing more said, and if Gabord, when he returned, suspected, he showed no sign, but put down two stools, seating himself on one, as I seated myself on the other for Voban’s handiwork. Presently a soldier appeared with a bowl of coffee. Gabord Chapter IX A Little Concerning the Chevalier de la Darante 94 rose, took it from him, waved him away, and handed it to me. Never did coffee taste so sweet, and I sipped and sipped till Voban had ended his work with me. Then I drained the last drop and stood up. He handed me a mirror, and Gabord, fetching a fine white handkerchief from his pocket, said, “Here’s for your tears, when they drum you to heaven, dickey-bird.” But when I saw my face in the mirror I confess I was startled. My hair, which had been black, was plentifully sprinkled with white, my face was intensely pale and thin, and the eyes were sunk in dark hollows . I should not have recognised myself. But I laughed as I handed back the glass, and said, “All flesh is grass, but a dungeon’s no good meadow.” “’Tis for the dry chaff,” Gabord answered, “not for young grass— aho!” He rose and made ready to leave, Voban with him. “The commissariat camps here in an hour or so,” he said, with a ripe chuckle. It was clear the new state of affairs was more to his mind than the long year’s rigour and silence. During all that time I never was visited by Doltaire but once, and of that event I am about to write briefly here. It was about two months before this particular morning that he came, greeting me courteously enough. “Close quarters here,” said he, looking round as if the place were new to him and smiling to himself. “Not so close as we all come to one day,” said I. “Dismal comparison!” he rejoined; “you’ve lost your spirits.” “Not so,” I retorted; “nothing but my liberty.” “You know the way to find it quickly,” he suggested. “The letters for La Pompadour?” I asked. “A dead man’s waste papers,” responded he; “of no use to him or you, or any one save the Grande Marquise.” “Valuable to me,” said I. 95 “None but the Grande Marquise and the writer would give you a penny for them!” “Why should I not be my own merchant?” “You can—to me. If not to me to no one. You had your chance long ago, and you refused it. You must admit I dealt fairly with you. I did not move till you had set your own trap and fallen into it. Now, if you do not give me the letters—well, you will give them to none else in this world. It has been a fair game, and I am winning now. I’ve only used means which one gentleman might use with another. Had you been a lesser man I should have had you spitted long ago. You understand?” “Perfectly. But since we have played so long, do you think I’ll give you the stakes now—before the end?” “It would be wiser,” he answered thoughtfully. “I have a nation behind me,” urged I. “It has left you in a hole here to rot.” “It will take over your citadel and...


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