Andre-Louis looked at him, smiling wanly.
“I swore an oath to-day which it would damn my soul to break.”
“You mean that you’ll go in spite of anything that I may say?” Impetuous as he was inconsequent, M. de Kercadiou was bristling again. “Very well, then, go... Go to the devil!”
“I will begin with the King’s Lieutenant.”
“And if you get into the trouble you are seeking, don’t come whimpering to me for assistance,” the seigneur stormed. He was very angry now. “Since you choose to disobey me, you can break your empty head against the windmill, and be damned to you.”
Andre-Louis bowed with a touch of irony, and reached the door.
“If the windmill should prove too formidable,” said he, from the threshold, “I may see what can be done with the wind. Good-bye, monsieur my godfather.”
He was gone, and M. de Kercadiou was alone, purple in the face, puzzling out that last cryptic utterance, and not at all happy in his mind, either on the score of his godson or of M. de La Tour d’Azyr. He was disposed to be angry with them both. He found these headstrong, wilful men who relentlessly followed their own impulses very disturbing and irritating. Himself he loved his ease, and to be at peace with his neighbours; and that seemed to him so obviously the supreme good of life that he was disposed to brand them as fools who troubled to seek other things.
There was between Nantes and Rennes an established service of three stage-coaches weekly in each direction, which for a sum of twenty-four livres — roughly, the equivalent of an English guinea — would carry you the seventy and odd miles of the journey in some fourteen hours. Once a week one of the diligences going in each direction would swerve aside from the highroad to call at Gavrillac, to bring and take letters, newspapers, and sometimes passengers. It was usually by this coach that Andre-Louis came and went when the occasion offered. At present, however, he was too much in haste to lose a day awaiting the passing of that diligence. So it was on a horse hired from the Breton arme that he set out next morning; and an hour’s brisk ride under a grey wintry sky, by a half-ruined road through ten miles of flat, uninteresting country, brought him to the city of Rennes.
He rode across the main bridge over the Vilaine, and so into the upper and principal part of that important city of some thirty thousand souls, most of whom, he opined from the seething, clamant crowds that everywhere blocked his way, must on this day have taken to the streets. Clearly Philippe had not overstated the excitement prevailing there.
He pushed on as best he could, and so came at last to the Place Royale, where he found the crowd to be most dense. From the plinth of the equestrian statue of Louis XV, a white-faced young man was excitedly addressing the multitude. His youth and dress proclaimed the student, and a group of his fellows, acting as a guard of honour to him, kept the immediate precincts of the statue.