But the smile was fading from the eyes of the man whom England preferred to recognize as Andre Duchemin.
“But where on earth is one to go?” “Don’t ask me,” the Englishman protested. “And above all, don’t tell me. I don’t want to know. Since I’ve been on this job, I’ve learned to believe in telepathy and mind reading and witchcraft and all manner of unholy rot. And I don’t want you to come to a sudden end through somebody’s establishing illicit intercourse with my subconscious mind.”
He took his leave shortly after that; and Monsieur Duchemin settled down in the chair which his guest had quitted to grapple with his problem: where under Heaven to go?
After a wasted while, he picked up in abstraction the book which Wertheimer had been reading—and wondered if, by any chance, he had left it there on purpose, so strong seemed the hint. It was Stevenson’s ‘Travels with a Donkey.’ Duchemin was familiar enough with the work, and had no need to dip anew into its pages to know it offered one fair solution to his quandary.
If—he assured himself—there were any place in Europe where one might count on being reasonably secure from the solicitous attentions of the grudge-bearing Bolsheviki, it was the Cevennes, those little-known hills in the south of France, well inland from the sea.
A little place called Le Monastier, in a pleasant highland valley fifteen miles from Le Puy ... notable for the making of lace, for drunkenness, for freedom of language, and for unparalleled political dissension was Mr. Stevenson’s point of departure on his Travels with a Donkey. Monsieur Duchemin made it his as well; and on the fourth morning of his hegira from England set out from Le Monastier afoot, a volume of Montaigne in his pocket, a stout stick in his fist—the fat rucksack strapped to his shoulders enabling this latter-day traveller to dispense with the society of another donkey.
The weather was fine, his heart high, he was happy to be out of harness and again his own man. More than once he laughed a little to think of the vain question of his whereabouts which was being mooted in the underworld of Europe, where (as well he knew) men and women spat when they named him. For his route from the Channel coast to Le Monastier had been sufficiently discreet and devious to persuade him that his escape had been as cleanly executed as it was timely instigated.
Thus for upwards of a fortnight he fared southward in the footsteps of Mr. Stevenson; and much good profit had he of the adventure. For it was his common practice to go to bed with the birds and rise with the sun; and more often than not he lodged in the inn of the silver moon, with moss for a couch, leafy boughs for a canopy and the stars for night-lights—accommodations infinitely more agreeable than those afforded by the grubby and malodorous auberge of the wayside average. And between sun and sun he punished his boots famously.