“That may be, my good sergeant; but I do not like this room at all, and it seems to me so ugly by daylight, that I feel that I must get far away from it, and breathe some pure air.”
“Well, I will go with you; but I shall return. I do not want to leave this to chance. I know what John Mauprat is capable of; you don’t.”
“I do not wish to know; and if there is any danger here for myself or my friends, I do not wish you to return.”
Marcasse shook his head and said nothing. We went round the farm once more before departing. Marcasse was very much struck with a certain incident to which I should have paid but little attention. The farmer wished to introduce me to his wife, but she could not be persuaded to see me, and went and hid herself in the hemp-field. I attributed this to the shyness of youth.
“Fine youth, my word!” said Marcasse; “youth like mine fifty years old and more! There is something beneath it, something beneath, I tell you.”
“What the devil can there be?”
“Hum! She was very friendly with John Mauprat in her day. She found his crooked legs to her liking. I know about it; yes, I know many other things, too; many things—you may take my word!”
“You shall tell me them the next time we come; and that will not be so soon; for my affairs are going on much better than if I interfered with them; and I should not like to get into the habit of drinking Madeira to prevent myself from being frightened at my own shadow. And now, Marcasse, I must ask you as a favour not to tell any one what has happened. Everybody has not your respect for your captain.”
“The man who does not respect my captain is an idiot,” answered the hidalgo, in a tone of authority; “but, if you order me, I will say nothing.”
He kept his word. I would not on any account have had Edmee’s mind disturbed by this stupid tale. However, I could not prevent Marcasse from carrying out his design; early the following morning he disappeared, and I learnt from Patience that he had returned to Roche-Mauprat under the pretence of having forgotten something.
While Marcasse was devoting himself to serious investigations, I was spending days of delight and agony in Edmee’s presence. Her behaviour, so constant and devoted, and yet in many respects so reserved, threw me into continual alternations of joy and grief. One day while I was taking a walk the chevalier had a long conversation with her. I happened to return when their discussion had reached its most animated stage. As soon as I appeared, my uncle said to me: