"MON DIEU!" he cried--while the girl moaned in terror, the Breton crossed himself, and La Trape looked uncomfortable--"the place is bewitched!"
"Nonsense!" I said. "Who is in the house, girl?"
"Only my mother," she wailed. "Oh, my poor mother!"
I silenced her, scolding them all for fools, and her first; and La Font, recovering himself, did the same. But this was the year of that strange appearance of the spectre horseman at Fontainebleau of which so much has been said; and my servants, when we had approached the house a little nearer, and it still remained silent and, as it were, dead to the eye, would go no farther, but stood in sheer terror and permitted me to go on alone with La Font. I confess that the loneliness of the house, and the dreary waste that surrounded it (which seemed to exclude the idea of trickery) were not without their effect on my spirits; and that as I dismounted and approached the door, I felt a kind of chill not remarkable under the circumstances.
But the courage of the gentleman differs from that of the vulgar in that he fears yet goes; and I lifted the latch, and entered boldly. The scene which met my eyes inside was sufficiently commonplace to reassure me. At the farther end of a long bare room, draughty, half-lighted, and having an earthen floor, yet possessing that air of homeliness which a wood fire never fails to impart, sat a single traveller; who had drawn his small table under the open chimney, and there, with his feet almost in the fire, was partaking of a poor meal of black bread and onions. He was a tall, spare man, with sloping shoulders and a long sour face, of which, as I entered, he gave me the full benefit.
I looked round the room, but look as I might I could see no one else, nor anything that explained what we had witnessed and I accosted the man civilly, wishing him good evening. He made an answer, but indistinctly, and, this done, went on with his meal like one who viewed our arrival with little pleasure; while I, puzzled and astonished by the ordinary look of things and the stillness of the house, affected to warm my feet at the logs. At length, espying no signs of disturbance anywhere, I asked him if he was alone.
"I was, sir," he answered gravely.
I was going on to tell him, though reluctantly, what we had seen outside, and to question him upon it, when on a sudden, before I could speak again, he leaned towards me and accosted me with startling abruptness. "Sir," he said, "I should like to have your opinion of Louis Eleven."
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