“To pass this gentleman out of the city,” said Georges; “and here is the order.”
“Very good,” replied the Swiss.
The Chevalier climbed into the saddle. Breton was to follow with the personal effects. The barriers creaked, opened the way, and the Chevalier passed forth. There was a cheering word or two, a waving of hats, and then the barriers fell back into place. A quarter of a mile away, having reached an elevation, the exile stopped his horse and turned in the saddle. As he strained his bloodshot eyes toward the city, the mask of intoxication fell away from his face, leaving it worn and wretched. The snow lay everywhere, white, untrampled, blinding. The pale yellow beams of the sun broke in brilliant flashes against the windows of the Priory of Jacobins, while above the city, the still sleeping city, rose long spiral threads of opal-tinted smoke.
Five years. And for what? Friendship. How simple to have told Mazarin that he had loaned the cloak to Victor de Saumaise. A dozen words. His head was throbbing violently and his throat was hot. He took off his hat and the keen air of morning cooled his damp forehead. Five years. He could see this year drag itself to its dismal end, and another, and another, till five had come and gone, each growing infinitely longer and duller and more hopeless. Of what use were youth and riches without a Paris? Friendship? Was he not, as Mazarin had pointed out, a fool for his pains? It was giving away five years of life and love. A word? No. He straightened in the saddle, and the fumes of wine receded from his brain, leaving a temporary clearness. Yes, he was right, a hundred times right. Victor would have done the same for him, and he could do no less for Victor. And there was something fine and lofty in the sacrifice to him who until now had never sacrificed so much as an hour from his worldly pleasures. It appealed to all that was good in him, leaving a wholesomeness in his heart that was tonic and elevating.
And yet . . . How strongly her face appeared before him! If only he could have stayed long enough to explain to her, to convince her of his loyalty; ah, then would this exile be a summer’s rustication. He fumbled at his throat and drew forth a ruby-studded miniature. He kissed it and hid it from sight. By proxy she had turned him aside in contempt. Why? What had he done? . . . Did she think him guilty of De Brissac’s death? or, worse still, of conducting an intrigue with Madame de Brissac, whom he had never seen?
“Ah, well, Victor offered his life for mine. I can do no less than give him five years in exchange. And where is yesterday?” He had passed along this very road yesterday. “Eh, where indeed is yesterday?”
He looked once more toward Paris, then turned his back toward it forever.
THE HORN OF PLENTY AND MONSIEUR DE SAUMAISE’S POTPIE