For some time back we have had the sound of cannon in
our ears; and now, a little past
Franchard, we find a mounted
trooper holding a led horse, who brings the wagonette to a stand.
The artillery is practising in the Quadrilateral, it appears;
passage along the Route Ronde formally interdicted for the moment.
There is nothing for it but to draw up at the glaring cross-roads
and get down to make fun with the notorious Cocardon, the most
ungainly and ill-bred dog of all the ungainly and ill-bred dogs of
Barbizon, or clamber about the sandy banks. And meanwhile the
doctor, with sun umbrella, wide Panama, and patriarchal beard, is
busy wheedling and (for aught the rest of us know) bribing the too
facile sentry. His speech is smooth and dulcet, his manner
dignified and insinuating. It is not for nothing that the Doctor
has voyaged all the world over, and speaks all languages from
French to Patagonian. He has not come borne from perilous journeys
to be thwarted by a corporal of horse. And so we soon see the
soldier's mouth relax, and his shoulders imitate a relenting heart.
'En voiture, Messieurs, Mesdames,' sings the Doctor; and on we go
again at a good round pace, for black care follows hard after us,
and discretion prevails not a little over valour in some timorous
spirits of the party. At any moment we may meet the sergeant, who
will send us back.
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