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- Ten Years Later - 90/125 -
"Well, let us suppose that I have succeeded in finding that fortunate path."
"In that case, you are almost there, for you have nothing else to do but cross the labyrinth."
"_Nothing_ more than that? The deuce! so there is a labyrinth as well."
"Yes, and complicated enough too; even in daylight one may sometimes be deceived, - there are turnings and windings without end: in the first place, you must turn three times to the right, then twice to the left, then turn once - stay, is it once or twice, though? at all events, when you get clear of the labyrinth, you will see an avenue of sycamores, and this avenue leads straight to the pavilion in which M. de Guiche is lodging."
"Nothing could be more clearly indicated," said Manicamp; "and I have not the slightest doubt in the world that if I were to follow your directions, I should lose my way immediately. I have, therefore, a slight service to ask of you."
"What may that be?"
"That you will offer me your arm and guide me yourself, like another – like another - I used to know mythology, but other important matters have made me forget it; pray come with me, then?"
"And am I to be abandoned, then?" cried Malicorne.
"It is quite impossible, monsieur," said Montalais to Manicamp; "if I were to be seen with you at such an hour, what would be said of me?"
"Your own conscience would acquit you," said Manicamp, sententiously.
"Impossible, monsieur, impossible."
"In that case, let me assist Malicorne to get down; he is a very intelligent fellow, and possesses a very keen scent; he will guide me, and if we lose ourselves, both of us will be lost, and the one will save the other. If we are together, and should be met by any one, we shall look as if we had some matter of business in hand; whilst alone I should have the appearance either of a lover or a robber. Come, Malicorne, here is the ladder."
Malicorne had already stretched out one of his legs towards the top of the wall, when Manicamp said, in a whisper, "Hush!"
"What's the matter?" inquired Montalais.
"I hear footsteps."
In fact the fancied footsteps soon became a reality; the foliage was pushed aside, and Saint-Aignan appeared, with a smile on his lips, and his hand stretched out towards them, taking every one by surprise; that is to say, Malicorne upon the tree with his head stretched out, Montalais upon the round of the ladder and clinging to it tightly, and Manicamp on the ground with his foot advanced ready to set off. "Good-evening, Manicamp," said the comte, "I am glad to see you, my dear fellow; we missed you this evening, and a good many inquiries have been made about you. Mademoiselle de Montalais, your most obedient servant."
Montalais blushed. "Good heavens!" she exclaimed, hiding her face in both her hands.
"Pray reassure yourself; I know how perfectly innocent you are, and I shall give a good account of you. Manicamp, do you follow me: the hedge, the cross-paths, and labyrinth, I am well acquainted with them all; I will be your Ariadne. There now, your mythological name is found at last."
"Perfectly true, comte."
"And take M. Malicorne away with you at the same time," said Montalais.
"No, indeed," said Malicorne; "M. Manicamp has conversed with you as long as he liked, and now it is my turn, if you please; I have a multitude of things to tell you about our future prospects."
"You hear," said the comte, laughing; "stay with him, Mademoiselle Montalais. This is, indeed, a night for secrets." And, taking Manicamp's arm, the comte led him rapidly away in the direction of the road Montalais knew so well, and indicated so badly. Montalais followed them with her eyes as long as she could perceive them.
Chapter L: How Malicorne Had Been Turned Out of the Hotel of the Beau Paon.
While Montalais was engaged in looking after the comte and Manicamp, Malicorne had taken advantage of the young girl's attention being drawn away to render his position somewhat more tolerable, and when she turned round, she immediately noticed the change which had taken place; for he had seated himself, like a monkey, upon the wall, the foliage of the wild vine and honeysuckle curled around his head like a faun, while the twisted ivy branches represented tolerably enough his cloven feet. Montalais required nothing to make her resemblance to a dryad as complete as possible. "Well," she said, ascending another round of the ladder, "are you resolved to render me unhappy? have you not persecuted me enough, tyrant that you are?"
"I a tyrant?" said Malicorne.
"Yes, you are always compromising me, Monsieur Malicorne; you are a perfect monster of wickedness."
"What have you to do with Fontainebleau? Is not Orleans your place of residence?"
"Do you ask me what I have to do here? I wanted to see you."
"Ah, great need of that."
"Not as far as concerns yourself, perhaps, but as far as I am concerned, Mademoiselle Montalais, you know very well that I have left my home, and that, for the future, I have no other place of residence than that which you may happen to have. As you, therefore, are staying at Fontainebleau at the present moment, I have come to Fontainebleau."
Montalais shrugged her shoulders. "You wished to see me, did you not?" she said.
"Very well, you have seen me, - you are satisfied; so now go away."
"Oh, no," said Malicorne; "I came to talk with you as well as to see you."
"Very well, we will talk by and by, and in another place than this."
"By and by! Heaven only knows if I shall meet you by and by in another place. We shall never find a more favorable one than this."
"But I cannot this evening, nor at the present moment."
"Because a thousand things have happened to-night."
"Well, then, my affair will make a thousand and one."
"No, no; Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente is waiting for me in our room to communicate something of the very greatest importance."
"How long has she been waiting?"
"For an hour at least."
"In that case," said Malicorne, tranquilly, "she can wait a few minutes longer."
"Monsieur Malicorne," said Montalais, "you are forgetting yourself."
"You should rather say that it is you who are forgetting me, and that I am getting impatient at the part you make me play here indeed! For the last week I have been prowling about among the company, and you have not once deigned to notice my presence."
"Have you been prowling about here for a week, M. Malicorne?"
"Like a wolf; sometimes I have been burnt by the fireworks, which have singed two of my wigs; at others, I have been completely drenched in the osiers by the evening damps, or the spray from the fountains, - half- famished, fatigued to death, with the view of a wall always before me, and the prospect of having to scale it perhaps. Upon my word, this is not the sort of life for any one to lead who is neither a squirrel, a salamander, nor an otter; and since you drive your inhumanity so far as to wish to make me renounce my condition as a man, I declare it openly. A man I am, indeed, and a man I will remain, unless by superior orders."
"Well, then, tell me, what do you wish, - what do you require, - what do you insist upon?" said Montalais, in a submissive tone.
"Do you mean to tell me that you did not know I was at Fontainebleau?"
"Nay, be frank."
"I suspected so."
"Well, then, could you not have contrived during the last week to have seen me once a day, at least?"
"I have always been prevented, M. Malicorne."
"Ask my companion, if you do not believe me."
"I shall ask no one to explain matters, I know better than any one."
"Compose yourself, M. Malicorne: things will change."
"They must indeed."
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