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El Dorado

13.
Then Everything Was Dark
The night that Armand St. Just spent tossing about on a hard, narrow bed was
the most miserable, agonising one he had ever passed in his life. A kind of fever
ran through him, causing his teeth to chatter and the veins in his temples to throb
until he thought that they must burst.
Physically he certainly was ill; the mental strain caused by two great conflicting
passions had attacked his bodily strength, and whilst his brain and heart fought
their battles together, his aching limbs found no repose.
His love for Jeanne! His loyalty to the man to whom he owed his life, and to
whom he had sworn allegiance and implicit obedience!
These superacute feelings seemed to be tearing at his very heartstrings, until he
felt that he could no longer lie on the miserable palliasse which in these squalid
lodgings did duty for a bed.
He rose long before daybreak, with tired back and burning eyes, but unconscious
of any pain save that which tore at his heart.
The weather, fortunately, was not quite so cold--a sudden and very rapid thaw
had set in; and when after a hurried toilet Armand, carrying a bundle under his
arm, emerged into the street, the mild south wind struck pleasantly on his face.
It was then pitch dark. The street lamps had been extinguished long ago, and the
feeble January sun had not yet tinged with pale colour the heavy clouds that
hung over the sky.
The streets of the great city were absolutely deserted at this hour. It lay, peaceful
and still, wrapped in its mantle of gloom. A thin rain was falling, and Armand's
feet, as he began to descend the heights of Montmartre, sank ankle deep in the
mud of the road. There was but scanty attempt at pavements in this outlying
quarter of the town, and Armand had much ado to keep his footing on the uneven
and intermittent stones that did duty for roads in these parts. But this discomfort
did not trouble him just now. One thought--and one alone--was clear in his mind:
he must see Jeanne before he left Paris.
He did not pause to think how he could accomplish that at this hour of the day.
All he knew was that he must obey his chief, and that he must see Jeanne. He
would see her, explain to her that he must leave Paris immediately, and beg her
to make her preparations quickly, so that she might meet him as soon as maybe,
and accompany him to England straight away.
He did not feel that he was being disloyal by trying to see Jeanne. He had thrown
prudence to the winds, not realising that his imprudence would and did
jeopardise, not only the success of his chief's plans, but also his life and that of
his friends. He had before parting from Hastings last night arranged to meet him
in the neighbourhood of the Neuilly Gate at seven o'clock; it was only six now.
There was plenty of time for him to rouse the concierge at the house of the
Square du Roule, to see Jeanne for a few moments, to slip into Madame
Belhomme's kitchen, and there into the labourer's clothes which he was carrying
in the bundle under his arm, and to be at the gate at the appointed hour.
 
 
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