“Monseigneur is much fatigued,” said Chapeau, “but apparently well; he is, however, still in bed.”
“And my sister?” said Henri.
“Mademoiselle has of course been much fatigued, but she is well; she is with your father, M. Henri.”
“And tell me, Chapeau, is it true, is it really true that M. Denot brought the blues here, and that since he has been here he has treated my sister in the manner they describe?”
“It is true as gospel, M. Henri. I knew that this would be the worst of the whole affair to you. I knew you would sooner the chateau should have been burnt than have heard this. We are only waiting for you and M. de Lescure, to hang him as a traitor from the big chestnut out on the road-side. You might have seen as you came in, that they have the ropes and everything ready.”
Henri shuddered as he followed his cousin into the house. The steps were crowded with his own followers, who warmly welcomed him, and congratulated him on the safety of his father, his sister, and his property; but he said very little to them; he was thinking of the friend whom he had loved so well, who had so vilely disgraced himself, and whose life he now feared he should be unable to save.
“Where is he?” said he to Chapeau.
“He is in the great salon, with Santerre, and Father Jerome, and the Chevalier, and three or four of the lads from Echanbroignes.”
“Charles,” said he, as he reached the door of the salon, “do you go in. You are better able to say what should be said, and to do what must be done, than I am. I will go up to my father. But, Charles,” and he spoke into his ear, so that no one else should hear him, “save his life—for my sake, save his life. He is mad, and does not know what he has been doing.” De Lescure pressed his cousin’s hand, and as Henri ran up stairs to his father, he entered the room, where the party abovementioned were sitting.
The occupants of the room certainly formed a very remarkable group. The first person whom de Lescure saw was Adolphe Denot; he was seated in a large arm-chair, placed against the wall immediately opposite the door, and between the stove and the folding-doors which opened into the other room. His legs were stretched out to their full length before him his hands were clasped together between his legs; his head was bent down, so that his chin rested on his breast; he was scowling awfully, his eyebrows nearly met above his eyes, and he continued constantly curling and twisting his lips, sometimes shewing his teeth, and sometimes completely covering his under with his upper lip. He had sat twelve hours, since Agatha had left the room in the morning, without speaking a word, or once changing his position. He had refused food when it had been brought to him, with an indignant shake of the head; and when Santerre had once half jocularly told him to keep up his spirits, and prove himself a man, he had uttered a horrible sound, which he had meant for a laugh of derision, such as is sometimes heard to proceed from dark-haired, diabolical, provincial tragedians.