Book the Second - the Golden Thread
8. VIII. Monseigneur in the Country
Few children were to be seen, and no dogs. As to the men and women,
their choice on earth was stated in the prospect--Life on the lowest
terms that could sustain it, down in the little village under the
mill; or captivity and Death in the dominant prison on the crag.
Heralded by a courier in advance, and by the cracking of his
postilions' whips, which twined snake-like about their heads in the
evening air, as if he came attended by the Furies, Monsieur the
Marquis drew up in his travelling carriage at the posting-house gate.
It was hard by the fountain, and the peasants suspended their
operations to look at him. He looked at them, and saw in them,
without knowing it, the slow sure filing down of misery-worn face and
figure, that was to make the meagreness of Frenchmen an English
superstition which should survive the truth through the best part of
a hundred years.
Monsieur the Marquis cast his eyes over the submissive faces that
drooped before him, as the like of himself had drooped before
Monseigneur of the Court--only the difference was, that these faces
drooped merely to suffer and not to propitiate--when a grizzled
mender of the roads joined the group.
"Bring me hither that fellow!" said the Marquis to the courier.
The fellow was brought, cap in hand, and the other fellows closed
round to look and listen, in the manner of the people at the Paris
"I passed you on the road?"
"Monseigneur, it is true. I had the honour of being passed on the road."
"Coming up the hill, and at the top of the hill, both?"
"Monseigneur, it is true."
"What did you look at, so fixedly?"
"Monseigneur, I looked at the man."
He stooped a little, and with his tattered blue cap pointed under the
carriage. All his fellows stooped to look under the carriage.