“Tonnerre de Brest!” cried the delighted driver; “jump in quick: we are losing time!”
And, whipping up his lean horses, he galloped them down the Rue de Valois at lightning speed.
Leaving the little station of Vesinet, we come upon two roads. One, to the left, macadamized and kept in perfect repair, leads to the village, of which there are glimpses here and there through the trees. The other, newly laid out, and just covered with gravel, leads through the woods.
Along the latter, which before the lapse of five years will be a busy street, are built a few houses, hideous in design, and at some distance apart; rural summer retreats of city merchants, but unoccupied during the winter.
It was at the junction of these two roads that Prosper stopped the hack.
The driver had gained his hundred francs. The horses were completely worn out, but they had accomplished all that was expected of them; M. Verduret could distinguish the lamps of a hack similar to the one he occupied, about fifty yards ahead of him.
M. Verduret jumped out, and, handing the driver a bank-note, said:
“Here is what I promised you. Go to the first tavern you find on the right-hand side of the road as you enter the village. If we do not meet you there in an hour, you are at liberty to return to Paris.”
The driver was overwhelming in his thanks; but neither Prosper nor his friend heard them. They had already started up the new road.
The weather, which had been inclement when they set out, was now fearful. The rain fell in torrents, and a furious wind howled dismally through the dense woods.
The intense darkness was rendered more dreary by the occasional glimmer of the lamps at the distant station, which seemed about to be extinguished by every new gust of wind.
M. Verduret and Prosper had been running along the muddy road for about five minutes, when suddenly the latter stopped and said:
“This is Raoul’s house.”
Before the gate of an isolated house stood the hack which M. Verduret had followed. Reclining on his seat, wrapped in a thick cloak, was the driver, who, in spite of the pouring rain, was already asleep, evidently waiting for the person whom he had brought to this house a few minutes ago.
M. Verduret pulled his cloak, and said, in a low voice:
“Wake up, my good man.”
The driver started, and, mechanically gathering his reins, yawned out:
“I am ready: come on!”
But when, by the light of the carriage-lamps, he saw two men in this lonely spot, he imagined that they wanted his purse, and perhaps his life.
“I am engaged!” he cried out, as he cracked his whip in the air; “I am waiting here for someone.”
“I know that, you fool,” replied M. Verduret, “and only wish to ask you a question, which you can gain five francs by answering. Did you not bring a middle-aged lady here?”