El Dorado HTML version

5. The Temple Prison
It was close on midnight when the two friends finally parted company outside the
doors of the theatre. The night air struck with biting keenness against them when
they emerged from the stuffy, overheated building, and both wrapped their caped
cloaks tightly round their shoulders. Armand--more than ever now--was anxious
to rid himself of de Batz. The Gascon's platitudes irritated him beyond the bounds
of forbearance, and he wanted to be alone, so that he might think over the events
of this night, the chief event being a little lady with an enchanting voice and the
most fascinating brown eyes he had ever seen.
Self-reproach, too, was fighting a fairly even fight with the excitement that had
been called up by that same pair of brown eyes. Armand for the past four or five
hours had acted in direct opposition to the earnest advice given to him by his
chief; he had renewed one friendship which had been far better left in oblivion,
and he had made an acquaintance which already was leading him along a path
that he felt sure his comrade would disapprove. But the path was so profusely
strewn with scented narcissi that Armand's sensitive conscience was quickly
lulled to rest by the intoxicating fragrance.
Looking neither to right nor left, he made his way very quickly up the Rue
Richelieu towards the Montmartre quarter, where he lodged.
De Batz stood and watched him for as long as the dim lights of the street lamps
illumined his slim, soberly-clad figure; then he turned on his heel and walked off
in the opposite direction.
His florid, pock-marked face wore an air of contentment not altogether unmixed
with a kind of spiteful triumph.
"So, my pretty Scarlet Pimpernel," he muttered between his closed lips, "you
wish to meddle in my affairs, to have for yourself and your friends the credit and
glory of snatching the golden prize from the clutches of these murderous brutes.
Well, we shall see! We shall see which is the wiliest--the French ferret or the
English fox."
He walked deliberately away from the busy part of the town, turning his back on
the river, stepping out briskly straight before him, and swinging his gold-beaded
cane as he walked.
The streets which he had to traverse were silent and deserted, save occasionally
where a drinking or an eating house had its swing-doors still invitingly open.
From these places, as de Batz strode rapidly by, came sounds of loud voices,
rendered raucous by outdoor oratory; volleys of oaths hurled irreverently in the
midst of impassioned speeches; interruptions from rowdy audiences that vied
with the speaker in invectives and blasphemies; wordy war-fares that ended in
noisy vituperations; accusations hurled through the air heavy with tobacco smoke
and the fumes of cheap wines and of raw spirits.
De Batz took no heed of these as he passed, anxious only that the crowd of
eating-house politicians did not, as often was its wont, turn out pele-mele into the
street, and settle its quarrel by the weight of fists. He did not wish to be embroiled
in a street fight, which invariably ended in denunciations and arrests, and was