“Pshaw! we are surely not to be turned from our path by a mere guess. There is the St. Germain cross-road about a mile below. When we reach it we can strike to the right along the south side of the river, and so change our course.”
“But we may not reach it.”
“If anyone bars our way we shall know how to treat with them.”
“You would fight, then?”
“What! with a dozen of them?”
“A hundred, if we are on the king’s errand.”
Amos Green shrugged his shoulders.
“You are surely not afraid?”
“Yes, I am, mighty afraid. Fighting’s good enough when there’s no help for it. But I call it a fool’s plan to ride straight into a trap when you might go round it.”
“You may do what you like,” said De Catinat angrily.
“My father was a gentleman, the owner of a thousand arpents of land, and his son is not going to flinch in the king’s service.”
“My father,” answered Amos Green, “was a merchant, the owner of a thousand skunk-skins, and his son knows a fool when he sees one.”
“You are insolent, sir,” cried the guardsman. “We can settle this matter at some more fitting opportunity. At present I continue my mission, and you are very welcome to turn back to Versailles if you are so inclined.” He raised his hat with punctilious politeness, sprang on to his horse, and rode on down the road.
Amos Green hesitated a little, and then mounting, he soon overtook his companion. The latter, however, was still in no very sweet temper, and rode with a rigid neck, without a glance or a word for his comrade. Suddenly his eyes caught something in the gloom which brought a smile back to his face. Away in front of them, between two dark tree clumps, lay a vast number of shimmering, glittering yellow points, as thick as flowers in a garden. They were the lights of Paris.
“See!” he cried, pointing. “There is the city, and close here must be the St. Germain road. We shall take it, so as to avoid any danger.”
“Very good! But you should not ride too fast, when your girth may break at any moment.”
“Nay, come on; we are close to our journey’s end. The St. Germain road opens just round this corner, and then we shall see our way, for the lights will guide us.”
He cut his horse with his whip, and they galloped together round the curve. Next instant they were both down in one wild heap of tossing heads and struggling hoofs, De Catinat partly covered by his horse, and his comrade hurled twenty paces, where he lay silent and motionless in the centre of the road.
“WHEN THE DEVIL DRIVES.”