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The roisterers went their devious ways, sobered and subdued. So deep
was their distraction that the watch passed unmolested. Usually a rout
was rounded out and finished by robbing the watch of their staffs and
lanterns; by singing in front of the hôtel of the mayor or the
episcopal palace; by yielding to any extravagant whim suggested by
mischief. But to-night mischief itself was quiet and uninventive. Had
there been a violent death among them, the roisterers would have
accepted the event with drunken philosophy. The catastrophe of this
night, however, was beyond their imagination: they were still-voiced
and horrified. The Chevalier du Cévennes, that prince of good fellows
. . . was a nobody, a son of the left hand! Those who owed the
Chevalier money or gratitude now recollected with no small satisfaction
that they had not paid their indebtedness. Truly adversity is the
crucible in which the quality of friendship is tried.
On the way to the Corne d'Abondance the self-made victim of this
night's madness and his friend exchanged no words. There was nothing
to be said. But there was death in the Chevalier's heart; his chin was
sunken in his collar, and he bore heavily on Victor's arm; from time to
time he hiccoughed. Victor bit his lips to repress the sighs which
urged against them.
"Where do you wish to go, Paul?" he asked, when they arrived under the
green lantern and tarnished cherubs of the tavern.
"Have I still a place to go?" the Chevalier asked. "Ah well, lead on,
wherever you will; I am in your keeping."