“There is something below all this. Did he pay you those pistoles he lost to you in December?”
“To the last coin.”
“Have you played with him since?”
“Yes, and won. Last night he won back the amount he lost to me; and with these fifty pistoles our accounts are square. What have you against the vicomte? I have always found him a man. And of all those who called themselves my friends, has not he alone stood forth?”
“There is some motive,” still persisted the poet.
“Time will discover it.”
“Oh, the devil, Paul! he loves Madame de Brissac; and my gorge rises at the sight of him.”
“What! is all Paris in love with Madame de Brissac? You have explained your antipathy. Every man has a right to love.”
“I know it.”
“I wonder how it happens that I have never seen this daughter of the Montbazons?”
“You have your own affair.”
“Past tense, my lad, past tense. Now, I wish to be alone. I have some thinking to do which requires complete isolation. Go to bed and sleep, and do not worry about me. Come at seven; I shall be awake.” The Chevalier stood and held forth his arms. They embraced. Once alone the outcast blew out the candle, folded his arms on the table, and hid his face in them. After that it was very still in the private assembly, save for the occasional moaning in the chimney.
THE DILIGENCE FROM ROUEN AND THE MASQUERADING LADIES
The diligence from Rouen rolled and careened along the road to Rochelle. Eddies of snow, wind-formed, whirled hither and thither, or danced around the vehicle like spirits possessed of infinite mischief. Here and there a sickly tree stretched forth its barren arms blackly against the almost endless reaches of white. Sometimes the horses struggled through drifts which nearly reached their bellies; again, they staggered through hidden marsh pools. The postilion, wrapped in a blanket, cursed deeply and with ardor. He swung his whip not so much to urge the horses as to keep the blood moving in his body. Devil take women who forced him to follow the king’s highway in such weather! Ten miles back they had passed a most promising inn. Stop? Not they! Rochelle, Rochelle, and nothing but Rochelle!
“How lonely!” A woman had pushed aside the curtain and was peering into the night. There was no light save that which came from the pallor of the storm, dim and misty. “It has stopped snowing. But how strange the air smells!”
“It is the sea . . . We are nearing the city. It is abominably cold.”
“The sea, the sea!” The voice was rich and young, but heavy with weariness. “And we are nearing Rochelle? Good! My confidence begins to return. You must hide me well, Anne.”
“Mazarin shall never find you. You will remain in the city till I take leave of earthly affairs.”