“See him?” querulously. “No! He has his hut and I mine. I see no one! No one!”
“And he does not come and talk to you?”
“Talk? No. Talk? You do not know what it is like. I am alone, I tell you, alone!”
“Then if I were to take your place he would not find it out?”
The Countess started violently–and then was still. “Take my place?” she echoed in a different tone. “In their camp, do you mean?”
“But you would not,” the other retorted. “You would not.” Then before Bonne could answer, “What do you mean? Do you mean anything?” she cried. “Do you mean you would go?”
“In my place?”
“If you will let me,” Bonne replied. She flushed a little, conscience telling her that it was not entirely, not quite entirely for the other’s sake that she was willing to do this. “If you will let me I will go,” she continued. “I am bigger than you, but I can stoop, and in a riding-cloak and hood I think I can pass for you. And it will be dusk too. I am sure I can pass for you.”
The Countess shivered. The boon was so great, the gift so tremendous, if she could accept it! But she was Rochechouart. What would men say if they discovered that she had not gone, that she had let another take her place and run her risk? She pondered with parted lips. If it might be!
“You are not fit to go,” Bonne continued. “You will faint or fall. You are ill now.”
“But they will find out!” the Countess wailed, hiding her face on Bonne’s shoulder. “They will find out!”
“They will not find out,” Bonne replied firmly. “And I–why should I not go? You have done one night. I will do one.”
“Oh, if you would! But will you–not be afraid?” The Countess’s eyes were full of longing. If only she could accept with honour!
“I shall not be afraid,” Bonne answered confidently. “And no one need know, no one shall know. M. des Ageaux does not talk to you?”
“No. But if it be found out, everybody–ah, I shall die of shame! Your brother, Roger, too–and everybody!”
“No one shall know,” Bonne answered stoutly. “No one. Besides, you have been once. It is not as if you had not been!”
And the child, with the memory of the night pressing upon her, jumped at that. “Then I shall go to-morrow night,” she said. “I shall go to-morrow night.”
Bonne was clear that she was not fit to go again. But she let that be for the moment. “That shall be as you wish,” she answered comfortably. “We will talk about that to-morrow. For to-night it is settled. And now you must try if you cannot go to sleep. If you do not sleep you will be ill.”
CHAPTER XVI. TO DO OR NOT TO DO?
To do or not to do? How many a one has turned the question in his mind; this one in the solitude of his locked room, seated with frowning face and eyes fixed on nothingness; that one amid the babble of voices and laughter, masking anxious thought under set smiles. How many a one has viewed the act she meditated this way and that, askance and across, in the hope of making the worse appear the better, and so of doing her pleasure with a light heart. Others again, trampling the scruple under foot, have none the less hesitated, counting the cost and striving to view dispassionately–with eyes that, the thing done, will never see it in that light again–how it will be with them afterwards, how much better outwardly, how much worse inwardly, and so to strike a balance for or against–to do or not to do. And some with burning eyes, and minds unswervingly bent on the thing they desire have yet felt hands pluck at them, and something–be it God or the last instinct of good–whispering them to pause–to pause, and not to do!
The Abbess pondered, while the Duke, reclining in the opening of his hut, from which the screen had been drawn back that he might enjoy the air, had no more accurate notion of her thoughts than had the Lieutenant’s dog sleeping a few paces away. The missal had fallen from her hands and lay in her lap. Her eyes fixed on the green slope before her betrayed naught that was not dove-like; while the profound stillness of her form which permitted the Duke to gaze at will breathed only the peace of the cloister and the altar, the peace that no change of outward 佛山桑拿全套按摩论坛 things can long disturb. Or so the Duke fancied; and eyeing her with secret rapture, felt himself uplifted in her presence. He felt that here was a being congenial with his better self, and a beauty as far above the beauty to which he had been a slave all his life as his higher moods rose above his worst excesses.
He had gained strength in the three days which had elapsed since his arrival in the camp. He could now sit up for a short time and even stand, though giddily and with precaution. Nor were these the only changes which the short interval had produced. The Countess’s spears, to the number of thirty, were here, and their presence augmented the safety of the Vicomte’s party. But indirectly, in so far as it fed the peasants’ suspicions, it had a contrary effect. The Crocans submitted indeed to be drilled, sometimes by 佛山夜生活桑拿论坛 the Bat, sometimes by his master; and reasonable orders were not openly disobeyed. But the fear of treachery which a life-time of ill-usage had instilled was deepened by the presence of the Countess’s men. The slightest movements on des Ageaux’ part were scanned with jealousy. If he conferred too long with the Villeneuves or the Countess men exchanged black looks, or muttered in their beards. If he strayed a hundred paces down the valley a score were at his heels. Nor were there wanting those who, moving secretly between the camp and the savage horde upon the hill–the Old Crocans, as they were called–kept these apprised of their doubts and fears.
To eyes that could see, the position was critical, even dangerous. Nor was it rendered more easy by a feat of M. de Vlaye’s men, who, reconnoitring up to the gates one evening, cut 佛山桑拿飞机网 off a dozen peasants. The morning light discovered the bodies of six of these hanged on a tree below the Old Crocans’ station, and well within view from the ridge about the camp. That the disaster might not have occurred had des Ageaux been in his quarters, instead of being a virtual prisoner, went for nothing. He bore the blame, some even thought him privy to the matter. From that hour the gloom grew deeper. Everywhere, and at all times, the more fanatical or the more suspicious drew together in corners, and while simpler clowns cursed low or muttered of treachery, darker spirits whispered devilish plans. Those who had their eyes open noted the more frequent presence of the Old Crocans, who wandered by twos and threes through the camp; and though these, when des Ageaux’ eye fell on them, fawned and cringed, or hastened to 佛山夜网 withdraw themselves, they spat when his back was turned, and with stealthy gestures they gave him to hideous deaths.
In a word, fear like a dark presence lay upon the camp; and to add to the prevailing irritation, the heat was great. The giant earth-wall which permitted the Lieutenant to mature his plans and await his reinforcements shut out the evening breezes. Noon grilled his men as in a frying-pan; all night the air was hot and heavy. The peasants sighed for the cool streams of Brant?me and the voices of the frogs. The troopers, accustomed to lord it and impatient of discomfort, were quick with word and hand, and prone to strike, when a blow was as dangerous as a light behind a powder screen. Without was Vlaye, within was fear; while, like ravens waiting for the carnage, the horde of Old Crocans on the hill looked down from 佛山桑拿哪里好玩 their filthy eyrie.
No one knew better than the Abbess that the least thing
might serve for a spark. And she pondered. Not for an hour since its birth had the plan she had imagined been out of her mind; and still–there was so much good in her, so much truth–she recoiled. The two whom she doomed, if she acted, were her enemies; and yet she hesitated. Her own safety, her father’s, her sister’s, the safety of all, those two excepted, was secured by the Rochechouart reinforcement. Only her enemies would perish, and perhaps the poor fool whose presence she must disclose. And yet she could not make up her mind. To do or not to do?
It might suffice to detach Joyeuse. But the time was short, and the Duke’s opinion of her high; and she shrank from risking it by a premature move. He had placed her on a pinnacle and worshipped her: 佛山桑拿全套一条龙 if she descended from the pinnacle he might worship no longer.
Meantime, if she waited until his troopers rode in, and on their heels a second levy from Rochechouart, it might be too late to act, too late to detach him, too late to save Vlaye. To do or not to do?
A dozen paces from her, old Solomon was pouring garrulous inventions into the ear of the Countess’s steward; who, dull, faithful man, took all for granted, and gaped more widely at every lie. Insensibly her mind began to follow and take in the sense of their words.
“Six on one tree!” Solomon was saying, in the contemptuous tone of one to whom Montfaucon was an every-day affair. “‘Tis nothing. You never saw the like at Rochechouart, say you? Perhaps not. Your lady is merciful.”
“Three I have!”
“And who were they?” Solomon asked, with a sniff of contempt.
“Cattle-stealers. 佛山桑拿qq照片 At least so it was said. But the wife of one came down next day and put it on another, and it was complained that they had suffered wrongfully. But three they were.”
“Three?” Solomon’s nose rose in scorn. “If you had seen the elm at Villeneuve in my lord’s father’s time! They were as acorns on an oak. Ay, they were! Fifteen in one forenoon.”
“God ha’ mercy on us!”
“And ten more when he had dined!”
“God ha’ mercy on us!” Fulbert replied, staring in stricken surprise. “And what had they done?”
“Done?” Solomon answered, shrugging his shoulders after a careless fashion. “Just displeased him. And why should he not?” he continued, bristling up. “What worse could they do? Was he not lord of Villeneuve?”
And she was making a scruple of two lives. Of two lives that stood in her path! Still–life was life. But what was that they were saying now? Hang Vlaye? Hang–the Captain of Vlaye?
It was Solomon had the word; and this time the astonishment was on his side. “What is that you say?” he repeated. “Hang M. de Vlaye?”
“And why for not?” the steward replied doggedly, his face red with passion, his dull intelligence sharpened by his lady’s wrongs. “And why for not?”