As he was not so curious as the Desvanneaux, it mattered little to him to what place they took him, so long as he should find Zibeline at the end of the journey.
At the appointed hour the brother and sister drove to the Gare du Nord. The Duke, a director of the road, who had been obliged to attend a convocation of the Council until noon, had preceded them. He was waiting for them beside the turnstile at the station, having already procured their tickets and reserved a carriage in one of the omnibus trains from Paris to Treport which make stops at various suburban stations.
“Will it be a very long journey?” Henri asked, on taking his place in the carriage.
“Barely three-quarters of an hour,” said the Duke, as the train started on its way.
THE VOW REDEEMED
The third road, constructed between the two lines which met at Creil, passing, the one by way of Chantilly, the other, by Pontoise, was not in existence in 1871, when, after the war, Jeanne and Henri de Prerolles went to visit the spot, already unrecognizable, where they had passed their childhood. L’Ile-d’Adam was at that time the nearest station; to day it is Presles, on the intermediate line, which they now took.
“This is our station,” said Madame de Montgeron, when the train stopped at Montsoult. They descended from the carriage, and found on the platform two footmen, who conducted them to a large char-a-banc, to which were harnessed four dark bay Percherons, whose bridles were held by postilions in Zibeline’s livery, as correct in their appearance as those belonging to the imperial stables, when the sojourn of the court was at Compiegne or at Fontainebleau.
“Where are we going now, Jeanne?” asked Henri, whose heart seemed to him to contract at the sight of Maffliers, which he knew so well.
“A short distance from here,” his sister replied.
The horses set off, and, amid the sound of bells and the cracking of whips, the carriage reached the national road from Paris to Beauvais, which, from Montsoult, passes around the railway by a rapid descent, from the summit of which is visible, on the right, the Chateau of Franconville; on the left, the village of Nerville perched on its crest.
One of the footmen on the rear seat held the reins, and a quarter of an hour later the carriage stopped just before arriving at the foot of Valpendant.
Valpendant had formerly been a feudal manor within the confines of Ile-de-France, built midway upon a hill, as its name indicated. On the side toward the plain was a moat, and the castle itself commanded the view of a valley, through which ran the little stream called Le Roi, which flows into the river Oise near the hamlet of Mours. Acquired in the fifteenth century by the lords of Prerolles, it had become an agricultural territory worked for their profit, first by forced labor, and later by farmers.