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Published on 2023-12-02 23:37:30 source:Spring Breeze and Summer Rain

The light in the basin flared up a little, casting dark shadows on the ceiling, and at the same moment the shutter, which I had failed to fasten securely, fell open with a grinding sound. One of the curtains swayed a little in the breeze, "I have robbed my master," I said, slowly.

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"A hundred and twenty thousand crowns."

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The bed shook until the boards creaked under it; but this time no hand grasped the curtains. Instead, a strained voice--thick and coarse, yet differing from that muffled tone which we had heard before--asked, "Who are you?"

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I waited. The King, who understood nothing but had listened to my answers with eager attention, and marked no less closely the agitation which they caused in the unknown, leant forward to listen. But the bed creaked no more; the curtain hung still; even the voice, which at last issued from the curtains, was no more like the ordinary accents of a man than are those which he utters in the paroxysms of epilepsy. "Are you--sorry?" the unknown muttered--involuntarily, I think; hoping against hope; not daring to depart from a formula which had become second nature. But I could fancy him clawing, as he spoke, at his choking throat.

France, however, had suffered too long at the hands of that race of men, and I had been too lately vilified by them to feel much pity; and for answer I lifted a voice that to the quailing wretch must have been the voice of doom. "Sorry?" I said grimly. "I must be--or hang! For to-morrow the King examines his books, and the next day I--hang!"

The King's hand was on mine, to stop me before the last word was out; but his touch came too late. As it rang through the room one of the curtains before us was twitched aside, and a face glared out, so ghastly and drawn and horror-stricken, that few would have known it for that of the wealthy fermier, who had grown sleek and fat on the King's revenues. I do not know whether he knew us, or whether, on the contrary, he found this accusation, so precise, so accurate, coming from an unknown source, still more terrible than if he had known us; but on the instant he fell forward in a swoon.

"St. Gris!" Henry cried, looking on the body with a shudder, "you have killed him, Grand Master! It was true, was it?"

"Yes, sire," I answered. "But he is not dead, I think." And going to the window I whistled for Maignan, who in a minute came to us. He was not very willing to touch the man, but I bade him lay him on the bed and loosen his clothes and throw water on his face; and presently M. Fauchet began to recover.

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