A shadow fell across the Vicomte’s face. “Not against him,” he said shortly.
“No, of course not,” des Voeux replied. “I had forgotten. You have the Crocans also at no great distance. I was forgetting them.”
The sudden rigidity of his younger listeners, and the silence
which fell on all, warned him, as soon as he had spoken, that he had said something amiss. Nor was the silence all. When his host next spoke–after an interval–it was with a passion as far removed from the cynical rudeness to which he had treated his children as are the poles apart. “That name is not named in this house!” he cried, his voice thin and tremulous. “By no one!” he struck the table with a shaking hand. “Understand me, sir, by no one! God’s curse on them! Ay, and on all who—-”
“No, sir, no!” The cry came from the girl. “Do not curse him!”
She was on her feet. For an instant the Lieutenant, seeing her father’s distorted face, feared that he would strike her. But the result was different. The opposition that might have maddened the angry man, had the effect of sobering him. “Sit down!” he muttered, passing his napkin over his face. “Sit down, fool! Sit down! And you”–he paused a moment, striving to regain the gibing tone that was habitual to him–“you, sir, may now see how it is. I told you we had no manners. You have now the proof of it. I doubt I must keep you, until the Abbess, my daughter, pays her next visit, that you may see at least one Villeneuve who is neither clown nor dotard!”
Man of the world as he was, the King’s Lieutenant knew not what to say to this outburst. He murmured a vague apology, and thought how different all was from the anticipations which the scent of hay and the farmyard peace had raised in him on his arrival. This old man, rotting in the husk of his former greatness, girding at his helpless children, gnawing, in the decay of his family’s grandeur, on his heart and theirs, returning scorn for scorn, and spite for spite, but on those who were innocent of either, ignorant of either–this was a picture to the painting of which the most fanciful must have brought some imagination. Under the surface lay something more; something that had to do with the Crocans. He fancied that he could make a guess at the secret; and that it had to do with the girl’s lover. But the meal was closing, the Vicomte’s rising interrupted his thoughts, and whatever interest the question had for him, he was forced to put it away for the time.
The Vicomte bowed a stiff good-night. “Boor as he is, I fear that you must now put up with my son,” he said, smiling awry. “He has the Tower Room, where, in my time, I have known the best company in the province lie, when good company was; it has been scarce,” he continued bitterly, “since Coutras. He will find you a lodging there, and if the accommodation be rough, and your room-fellow what you see him,” shrugging his shoulders, “at least you will have space enough and follow good gentry. I have known the Governor of Poitou and the Lieutenant of Périgord, with two of the Vicomtes of the Limousin, lie there–and fourteen truckle-beds about them. In those days was little need to bar our gates at night. Solomon! The lanthorn, fool! I bid you good-night, sir!”
Des Ageaux bowed his acknowledgements, and following in the train of an older serving-man than he had yet seen; who, bearing a lanthorn, led him up a small staircase. Roger the hapless followed. On the first floor the guest noted the doors of four rooms, two on either side of a middle passage, that got its light from a window at the end of the house. Such rooms–or rooms opening one through the other–were at that date reserved for the master and mistress of the chateau, and their daughters, maiden or married. For something of the old system which secluded women, and a century before had forbidden their appearance at Court, still prevailed; nor was the Lieutenant at all surprised when his guide, turning from these privileged apartments, 长沙桑拿最好最高端 led him up a flight of four or five steps at the hither end of the passage. And so through a low doorway.
He passed the door, and was surprised to find himself in the open air on the roof of the hall, the stars above him, and the night breeze cooling his brow. The steeply-pitched lead ended in a broad, flat gutter, fenced by a rail fixed in the parapet. The servant led him along the path which this gutter provided to a door in the wall of the great round tower that rose twenty feet above the house. This gave entrance to a small chamber–one of those commonly found between the two skins of such old buildings–which served both for landing and ante-room. From it the dark opening of a winding staircase led upwards on one hand; on the other a low-browed door masked the course of the downward flight.
Across this closet–bare 长沙桑拿会所 as bare walls could make it–the grey-bearded servant led him in two strides, and opening a farther door introduced him into the chamber which had seen so much good company. It was a gloomy, octagonal room of great size, lighted in the daytime by four deep-sunk windows, and occupying–save for such narrow closets as that through which they entered–a whole storey of the tower. The lanthorn did but make darkness visible, but Solomon proceeded to light two rushlights that stood in iron sconces on the wall, and by their light the Lieutenant discerned three truckle-beds laid between two of the windows. He could well believe, so vast was the apartment, that fourteen had not cumbered its bareness. At this date a couple of chests, as many stools, a bundle of old spears and a heavy three-legged table made up, with some dingy, tattered 长沙桑拿攻略 hangings, the whole furniture of the chamber.
The old serving-man set down the lanthorn and looked about him sorrowfully.
“Thirty-four I’ve seen sleep here,” he said. “The Governor of Poitou, and the Governor of Périgord, and the four Vicomtes of the Limousin, and twenty-eight gentles in truckles.”
“Twenty-eight?” the Lieutenant questioned, measuring in some astonishment the space with his eye. “But your master said—-”
“Twenty-eight, by your leave,” the man answered obstinately. “And every man his dog! A gentleman was a gentleman then, and a Vicomte a Vicomte. But since that cursed battle at Coutras set us down and put these Huguenots up, there is an end of gentry almost. Ay, thirty–was it thirty, I said?”
“Four, you said. Thirty-four,” des Ageaux answered, smiling. “Good-night.”
The man shook his head sombrely, bade 长沙桑拿场子 them goodnight, and closed the door on them.
An instant later he could be heard groping his way back through the closet and over the roof. The Lieutenant, as soon as the sound ceased, looked round and thought that he had seldom lain in a gloomier place. The windows were but wooden lattices innocent of glass, and through the slats of the nearest a strong shoot of ivy grew into the room. The night air entered with it and stirred the ragged hangings that covered a part of the walls; hangings that to add to the general melancholy had once been black, a remnant, it is possible, of the funeral trappings of some dead Vicomte. Frogs croaked in a puddle without; one of the lattices creaked open at intervals, only to close again with a hollow report; the rushlights flared sideways in the draught. Des Ageaux had read of such a room in the old romances, in Bevis of Hampton, or the History of Armida; a room of shadows and gloom, owl-flittings and dead furnishings. But he smiled at the thoughts it called up. He had often lain in his cloak under the sky amid dead men. Nevertheless, “Do you sleep here alone?” he asked, turning to his companion, who had seated himself despondently on one of the beds.
The lad, oppressed by what had gone forward downstairs, barely looked up. “Yes,” he began, “since”–and then, breaking off, he added sullenly, “Yes, I do.”