“Ouf!” said he to his companion, when they had gone out into the street, and the cool, night air blew refreshingly upon his heated face, “here am I rid of my money, and a free man again. It is strange that it should always make such a brute of me. It surprises me no longer that rich men should invariably be such stupid fools. Now, that I haven’t a penny left, I feel as gay as a lark—ready for anything. Brilliant ideas buzz about my brain, like bees around the hive. Lampourde’s himself again. But there’s the Samaritan striking twelve, and a friend of mine must be waiting for me down by the bronze Henri IV, so goodnight.”
He quitted his companion and walked quickly to the rendezvous, where he found Merindol, diligently studying his own shadow in the moonlight; and the two ruffians, after looking carefully about them to make sure that there was no one within ear-shot, held a long consultation, in very low tones. What they said we do not know; but, when Lampourde quitted the agent of the Duke of Vallombreuse, he joyously jingled the handful of gold pieces in his pocket, with an imprudent audacity that showed conclusively how much he was respected by the thieves and cut throats who haunted the Pont-Neuf.
Jacquemin Lampourde, after parting company with Merindol, seemed in great uncertainty as to which way he should go, and had not yet decided when he reached the end of the Pont-Neuf. He was like the donkey between two bundles of hay; or, if that comparison be not pleasing, like a piece of iron between two magnets of equal power. On the one side was lansquenet, with the fascinating excitement of rapidly winning and losing the broad gold pieces that he loved; and on the other the tavern, with its tempting array of bottles; for he was a drunkard as well as a gambler, this same notorious Jacquemin Lampourde. He stood stock still for a while, debating this knotty point with himself, quite unable to come to a decision, and growing very much vexed at his own hesitation, when suddenly a brilliant idea occurred to him, and, plunging his hand into his well-filled pocket, he drew forth a gold piece, which he tossed into the air, crying, “Head for the tavern, tail for lansquenet.” The coin rang upon the pavement as it fell, and he kneeled down to see what fate had decided for him; head was up. “Very well,” said he, philosophically, as he picked up the piece of money, carefully wiped off the mud, and put it back in his pocket, “I’ll go and get drunk.” Then, with long strides, he made off to his favourite tavern, which had the advantage of being in the immediate vicinity of his own lodgings, so that with a few zigzags he was at home, after he had filled himself with wine from the soles of his boots to the apple in his throat. It was not an inviting-looking place, this same tavern, with the odd device of an enormous radish, bearing a golden crown—now rather tarnished—which