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Bardelys the Magnificent

4. A Maid In The Moonlight
I do not know whether it was the influence of that thing lying in a corner of the
barn under the cloak that Rodenard had flung over it, or whether other influences
of destiny were at work to impel me to rise at the end of a half-hour and
announce my determination to set out on horseback and find myself quarters
more congenial.
"To-morrow," I instructed Ganymede, as I stood ready to mount, "you will retrace
your steps with the others, and, finding the road to Lavedan, you will follow me to
the chateau."
"But you cannot hope to reach it to-night, monseigneur, through a country that is
unknown to you," he protested.
"I do not hope to reach it to-night. I will ride south until I come upon some hamlet
that will afford me shelter and, in the morning, direction."
I left him with that, and set out at a brisk trot. Night had now fallen, but the sky
was clear, and a crescent moon came opportunely if feebly to dispel the gloom.
I quitted the field, and went back until I gained a crossroad, where, turning to the
right, I set my face to the Pyrenees, and rode briskly amain. That I had chosen
wisely was proved when some twenty minutes later. I clattered into the hamlet of
Mirepoix, and drew up before an inn flaunting the sign of a peacock - as if in irony
of its humbleness, for it was no better than a wayside tavern. Neither stable-boy
nor ostler was here, and the unclean, overgrown urchin to whom I entrusted my
horse could not say whether indeed Pere Abdon the landlord would be able to
find me a room to sleep in. I thirsted, however; and so I determined to alight, if it
were only to drink a can of wine and obtain information of my whereabouts.
As I was entering the hostelry there was a clatter of hoofs in the street, and four
dragoons headed by a sergeant rode up and halted at the door of the Paon. They
seemed to have ridden hard and some distance, for their horses were jaded
almost to the last point of endurance.
Within, I called the host, and having obtained a flagon of the best vintage -
Heaven fortify those that must be content with his worst! --I passed on to make
inquiries touching my whereabouts and the way to Lavedan. This I learnt was but
some three or four miles distant. About the other table - there were but two within
the room - stood the dragoons in a whispered consultation, of which it had been
well had I taken heed, for it concerned me more closely than I could have
dreamt.
 
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