The Spectre-Monk

The far-famed cabaret of the Pomme d’Eve was situated in the University, at the corner of the Rue de la Rondelle and the Rue du Bâtonnier. It consisted of one spacious room on the ground floor, the central arch of its very low ceiling supported by a heavy wooden pillar painted yellow. There were tables all round, shining pewter pots hanging on the walls, a constant crowd of drinkers, and girls in abundance. A single window looked on to the street; there was a vine at the door, and over the door a creaking sheet of iron having a woman and an apple painted on it, rusted by the rain and swinging in the wind— this was the sign-board.

Night was falling; the street was pitch-dark, and the cabaret, blazing with candles, flared from afar like a forge in the gloom, while through the broken window-panes came a continuous uproar of clinking glasses, feasting, oaths, and quarrels. Through the mist which the heat of the room diffused over the glass of the door a confused swarm of figures could be seen, and now and then came a roar of laughter. The people going to and fro upon their business hastened past this noisy casement with averted eyes. Only now and then some little ragamuffin would stand on tip-toe until he just reached the window-ledge, and shout into the cabaret the old jeering cry with which in those days they used to follow drunkards: “Aux Houls, saouls, saouls, saouls!”

One man, however, was pacing imperturbably backward and forward in forward in front of the noisy tavern, never taking his eye off it, nor going farther away from it than a sentry from his box. He was cloaked to the eyes, which cloak he had just purchased at a clothier’s shop near the Pomme d’Eve, perhaps to shield himself from the keen wind of a March night, perhaps also to conceal his dress. From time to time he stopped before the dim latticed casement, listening, peering in, stamping his feet.

At length the door of the cabaret opened— this was evidently what he had been waiting for— and a pair of boon companions came out. The gleam of light that streamed out of the doorway glowed for a moment on their flushed and jovial faces. The man in the cloak went and put himself on the watch again under a porch on the opposite side of the street.

“Corne et tonnerre!” said one of the two carousers. “It’s on the stroke of seven— the hour of my rendezvous.”

“I tell you,” said his companion, speaking thickly, “I don’t live in the Rue des Mauvaises-Paroles— indignus qui inter mala verba habitat. My lodging is in the Rue Jean-Pain-Mollet— in vico Johannis-Pain-Mollet, and you’re more horny than a unicorn if you say the contrary. Everybody knows that he who once rides on a bear’s back never knows fear again; but you’ve a nose for smelling out a dainty piece like Saint- Jacques de l’Hôpital!”

“Jehan, my friend, you’re drunk,” said the other.

His friend replied with a lurch. “It pleases you to say so, Phœbus; but it is proved that Plato had the profile of a hound.”

Doubtless the reader has already recognised our two worthy friends, the captain and the scholar. It seems that the man who was watching them in the dark had recognised them too, for he followed slowly all the zigzags which the scholar obliged the captain to make, who, being a more seasoned toper, had retained his self-possession. Listening intently to them, the man in the cloak overheard the whole of the following interesting conversation :

Corbacque! Try to walk straight, sir bachelor. You know that I must leave you anon. It is seven o’clock, and I have an appointment with a woman.”

“Leave me then! I see stars and spears of fire. You’re like the Château of Dampmartin that burst with laughter.”

“By the warts of my grandmother! Jehan, that’s talking nonsense with a vengeance! Look you, Jehan, have you no money left?”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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