Madame saw this movement, and called M. de Saint-Remy.
“This is not the time for gossiping, but working,” said she, with the tone of an angry housekeeper.
M. de Saint-Remy hastened to break the circle formed by the officers round Raoul, so that the latter was able to gain the ante-chamber.
“Care will be taken of that gentleman, I hope,” added Madame, addressing M. de Saint-Remy.
The worthy man immediately hastened after Raoul. “Madame desires refreshments to be offered to you,” said he; “and there is, besides, a lodging for you in the castle.”
“Thanks, M. de Saint-Remy,” replied Raoul; “but you know how anxious I must be to pay my duty to M. le Comte, my father.”
“That is true, that is true, Monsieur Raoul; present him, at the same time, my humble respects, if you please.”
Raoul thus once more got rid of the old gentleman, and pursued his way. As he was passing under the porch, leading his horse by the bridle, a soft voice called him from the depths of an obscure path.
“Monsieur Raoul!” said the voice.
The young man turned round, surprised, and saw a dark complexioned girl, who, with a finger on her lip, held out her other hand to him. This young lady was an utter stranger.
Raoul made one step towards the girl who thus called him.
“But my horse, madame?” said he.
“Oh! you are terribly embarrassed! Go yonder way — there is a shed in the outer court: fasten your horse, and return quickly!”
“I obey, madame.”
Raoul was not four minutes in performing what he had been directed to do; he returned to the little door, where, in the gloom, he found his mysterious conductress waiting for him, on the first steps of a winding staircase.
“Are you brave enough to follow me, monsieur knight errant?” asked the girl, laughing at the momentary hesitation Raoul had manifested.
The latter replied by springing up the dark staircase after her. They thus climbed up three stories, he behind her, touching with his hands, when he felt for the banister, a silk dress which rubbed against each side of the staircase. At every false step made by Raoul, his conductress cried, “Hush!” and held out to him a soft perfumed hand.
“One would mount thus to the belfry of the castle without being conscious of fatigue,” said Raoul.
“All of which means, monsieur, that you are very much perplexed, very tired, and very uneasy. But be of good cheer, monsieur; here we are, at our destination.”
The girl threw open a door, which immediately, without any transition, filled with a flood of light the landing of the staircase, at the top of which Raoul appeared, holding fast by the balustrade.
The girl continued to walk on — he followed her; she entered a chamber — he did the same.