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121 A t last I was roused by Gabord’s voice. He sat down, and drew the leaves of faded corn between his fingers. “’Tis a poor life, this in a cage, after all—eh, dickey-bird? If a soldier can’t stand in the field fighting, if a man can’t rub shoulders with man, and pitch a tent of his own somewhere, why not go travelling with the Beast—aho? To have all the life sucked out like these—eh? To see the flesh melt and the hair go white, the eye to be one hour bright like a fire in a kiln, and the next like mother on working vinegar—that’s not living at all—no.” The speech had evidently cost him much thinking, and when he ended, his cheeks puffed out and a soundless laugh seemed to gather, but it burst in a sort of sigh. I would have taken his hand that moment, if I had not remembered when once he drew back from such demonstrations . I did not speak, but nodded assent, and took to drawing the leaves of corn between my fingers as he was doing. After a moment, cocking his head at me as might a surly schoolmaster in a pause of leniency, he added, “As quiet, as quiet, and never did he fly at door of cage, nor peck at jailer—aho!” I looked at him a minute seriously, and then, feeling in my coat, handed to him the knife which I had secreted, with the words, “Enough for pecking with, eh?” Chapter XI The Coming of Doltaire 122 He looked at me so strangely, as he weighed the knife up and down in his hand, that I could not at first guess his thought; but presently I understood it, and I almost could have told what he would say. He opened the knife, felt the blade, measured it along his fingers, and then said, with a little bursting of the lips, “Poom! But what would ma’m’selle have thought if Gabord was found dead with a hole in his neck—behind? Eh?” He had struck the very note that had sung in me when the temptation came; but he was gay at once again, and I said to him, “What is the hour fixed?” “Seven o’clock,” he answered, “and I will bring your breakfast first.” “Good-night, then,” said I. “Coffee and a little tobacco will be enough.” When he was gone I lay down on my bag of straw, which, never having been renewed, was now only full of worn chaff, and, gathering myself in my cloak, was soon in a dreamless sleep. I waked to the opening of the dungeon door, to see Gabord entering with a torch and a tray that held my frugal breakfast. He had added some brandy, also, of which I was glad, for it was bitter cold outside, as I discovered later. He was quiet, seeming often to wish to speak, but pausing before the act, never getting beyond a stumbling aho! I greeted him cheerfully enough. After making a little toilette I drank my coffee with relish. At last I asked Gabord if no word had come to the citadel for me; and he said none at all, nothing save a message from the Governor , before midnight, ordering certain matters. No more was said, until, turning to the door, he told me he would return to fetch me forth in a few minutes. But when halfway out he suddenly wheeled, came back, and blurted out, “If you and I could only fight it out, m’sieu’! ’Tis ill for a gentleman and a soldier to die without thrust or parry.” “Gabord,” said I, smiling at him, “you preach good sermons always, and I never saw a man I’d rather fight and be killed by than you!” Then, with an attempt at rough humour, I added, “But, as I told you 123 once, the knot isn’t at my throat, and I’ll tie another one yet elsewhere if God loves honest men.” I had no hope at all, yet I felt I must say it. He nodded, but said nothing, and presently I was alone. I sat down on my straw couch and composed myself to think; not upon my end, for my mind was made up as to that, but upon the girl who was so dear to me, whose life had crept into mine and filled...


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