“Such being the case, my dear Captain of Mousquetaires, and governor of a province—soon to be—have your horse saddled, and come with me to the Chateau of Vallombreuse, so that I may formally present you to the prince, my father, as the favoured suitor of the Comtesse de Lineuil, my sister. Isabelle has refused even to think of the Chevalier de Vidalinc, or the Marquis de l’Estang, as aspirants to her hand—both right handsome, attractive, eligible young fellows, by Jove!—but I am of opinion that she will accept, without very much persuasion, the Baron de Sigognac.”
The next day the duke and the baron were riding gaily forward, side by side, on the road to Paris.
CHAPTER XX. CHIQUITA’S DECLARATION OF LOVE
A compact crowd filled the Place de Greve, despite the early hour indicated by the clock of the Hotel de Ville.
The tall buildings on the eastern side of the square threw their shadows more than half-way across it, and upon a sinister-looking wooden framework, which rose several feet above the heads of the populace, and bore a number of ominous, dull red stains. At the windows of the houses surrounding the crowded square, a few heads were to be seen looking out from time to time, but quickly drawn back again as they perceived that the interesting performance, for which all were waiting, had not yet begun. Clinging to the transverse piece of the tall stone cross, which stood at that side of the open square nearest the river, was a forlorn, little, ragged boy, who had climbed up to it with the greatest difficulty, and was holding on with all his might, his arms clasped round the cross-piece and his legs round the upright, in a most painful and precarious position. But nothing would have induced him to abandon it, so long as he could possibly maintain himself there, no matter at what cost of discomfort, or even actual distress, for from it he had a capital view of the scaffold, and all its horribly fascinating details—the wheel upon which the criminal was to revolve, the coil of rope to bind him to it, and the heavy bar to break his bones.
If any one among the anxious crowd of spectators, however, had carefully studied the small, thin countenance of the child perched up on the tall stone cross, he would have discovered that its expression was by no means that of vulgar curiosity. It was not simply the fierce attractions of an execution that had drawn thither this wild, weird-looking young creature, with his sun-burned complexion, great, flashing, dark eyes, brilliant white teeth, unkempt masses of thick, black hair, and slender brown hands—which were convulsively clinging to the rough, cold stone. The delicacy of the features would seem to indicate a different sex from the dress—but nobody paid any attention to the child, And all eyes were turned towards the scaffold, or the direction from which the cart bearing the condemned criminal was