I left the matter there for a moment, while I summoned La Font and the servants; whose rage, when, entering a-tiptoe and with some misgiving, they discovered how they had been deceived, and by whom, was scarcely to be restrained even by my presence. However, aided by Philibert's comicalities, I presently secured a truce, and the two strollers vacating in my honour the table by the fire--though they had not the slightest notion who I was we were soon on terms. I had taken the precaution to bring a meal with me, and while La Trape and his companion unpacked it, and I dried my riding boots, I asked the players who it was they had meant to frighten.
They were not very willing to tell me, but at length confessed, to my astonishment, that it was M. Grabot.
"Grabot--Grabot!" I said, striving to recollect where I had heard the name. "The Mayor of Bottitort?"
The solemn man made an atrocious grimace. Then, "Yes, monsieur, the Mayor of Bottitort," he said frankly. "A year ago he put Philibert in the stocks for a riddle; that is his affair. And the woman of this house has more than once befriended me, and he is for turning her out for a debt she does not owe; and that is my affair. However, your lordship's arrival has saved him for this time."
"You expected him here this evening, then?"
"He is coming," he answered, with more than his usual gloom. "He passed this way this morning, and announced that on his return he should spend the night here. We found the goodwife all of a tremble when we arrived. He is a hard man, monsieur," the mountebank continued bitterly. "She cried after him that she hoped that God would change his heart, but he only answered that even if St. Brieuc changed his body--you know the legend, monseigneur, doubtless--he should be here."
"And here he is," the other, who had been looking out of one of the windows, cried. "I see his lanthorn coming down the hill. And by St. Brieuc, I have it! I have it," the droll continued, suddenly spinning round in a wild dance of triumph on the floor, and then as suddenly stopping and falling into an attitude before us. "Monsieur, if you will help us, I have the richest jest ever played. Pierre, listen. You, gentlemen all, listen! We will pretend that he is changed. He is a pompous man; he thinks the Mayor of Bottitort equal to the Saint Pere. Well, Pierre shall be M. Grabot, Mayor of Bottitort. You, monsieur, that we may give him enough of mayors, shall be the Mayor of Gol, and I will be the Mayor of St. Just. This gentleman shall swear to us, so shall the servants. For him, he does not exist. Oh, we will punish him finely."
"But," I said, astounded by the very audacity of the rogue's proposition, "you do not flatter yourself that you will deceive him?"
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