Here I began to observe those signs of neglect and disorder which, at the close of the war, had been common in all parts of France, but in the more favoured districts had been erased by a decade of peace. Briars and thorns choked the roads, which ran through morasses, between fields which the husbandman had resigned to tares and undergrowth. Ruined hamlets were common, and everywhere wolves and foxes and all kinds of game abounded. But that which roused my ire to the hottest was the state of the bridges, which in this country, where the fords are in winter impassable, had been allowed to fall into utter decay. On all sides I found the peasants oppressed, disheartened, and primed with tales of the King's severity, which those who had just cause to dread him had instilled into them. Bands of robbers committed daily excesses, and, in a word, no one thing was wanting to give the lie to the rose-coloured reports with which Bareilles, the Governor of Gueret, had amused the Council.
I confess that, at sight and thought of these things--of this country so devoured, the King's authority so contemned, all evils laid at his door, all his profits diverted--my anger burned within me, and I said more to Parabere than was perhaps prudent, telling him, in particular, what I designed against Bareilles, of whose double-dealing I needed no further proof; by what means I proposed to lull his suspicions for the moment, since we must lie at Gueret, and how I would afterwards, on the first occasion, have him seized and punished.
I forgot, while I avowed these things, that one weakness of Parabere's character which rendered him unable to believe evil of anyone. Even of Bareilles, though the two were the merest acquaintances, he could only think indulgently, because, forsooth, he too was a Protestant. He began to defend him therefore, and, seeing how the ground lay, after a time I let the matter drop.
Still I did not think that he bad been serious in his plea, and that which happened on the following morning took me completely by surprise. We had left Crozant an hour, and I was considering whether, the road being bad, we should even now reach Gueret before night, when Parabere, who had made some excuse to ride forward, returned, to me with signs of embarrassment in his manner.
"My friend," he said, "here is a message from Bareilles."
"How?" I exclaimed. "A message? For whom?"
"For you," he said; "the man is here."
"But how did Bareilles know that I was coming?" I asked.
Reminder: Arrow keys left and right (← →) to turn pages forward and backward, up and down (↑ ↓) to scroll up and down, Enter key: return to the list