"Choice! Listen to him!"cried the same scowling red-cap. "As if it was not a favour to be protected from the lamp-iron!"
"It is always as the good patriot says,"observed the functionary. "Rise and dress yourself, emigrant."
Darnay complied, and was taken back to the guard-house, where other patriots in rough red caps were smoking, drinking, and sleeping, by a watch-fire. Here he paid a heavy price for his escort, and hence he started with it on the wet, wet roads at three o'clock in the morning.
The escort were two mounted patriots in red caps and tri-coloured cockades, armed with national muskets and sabres, who rode one on either side of him.
The escorted governed his own horse, but a loose line was attached to his bridle, the end of which one of the patriots kept girded round his wrist. In this state they set forth with the sharp rain driving in their faces: clattering at a heavy dragoon trot over the uneven town pavement, and out upon the mire-deep roads. In this state they traversed without change, except of horses and pace, all the mire- deep leagues that lay between them and the capital.
They travelled in the night, halting an hour or two after daybreak, and lying by until the twilight fell. The escort were so wretchedly clothed, that they twisted straw round their bare legs, and thatched their ragged shoulders to keep the wet off. Apart from the personal discomfort of being so attended, and apart from such considerations of present danger as arose from one of the patriots being chronically drunk, and carrying his musket very recklessly, Charles Darnay did not allow the restraint that was laid upon him to awaken any serious fears in his breast; for, he reasoned with himself that it could have no reference to the merits of an individual case that was not yet stated, and of representations, confirmable by the prisoner in the Abbaye, that were not yet made.
But when they came to the town of Beauvais — which they did at eventide, when the streets were filled with people — he could not conceal from himself that the aspect of affairs was very alarming. An ominous crowd gathered to see him dismount of the posting-yard, and many voices called out loudly, "Down with the emigrant!"
He stopped in the act of swinging himself out of his saddle, and, resuming it as his safest place, said:
"Emigrant, my friends! Do you not see me here, in France, of my own will?"
"You are a cursed emigrant,"cried a farrier, making at him in a furious manner through the press, hammer in hand; "and you are a cursed aristocrat!"
The postmaster interposed himself between this man and the rider's bridle (at which he was evidently making), and soothingly said, "Let him be; let him be! He will be judged at Paris."
"Judged!"repeated the farrier, swinging his hammer. "Ay! and condemned as a traitor."At this the crowd roared approval.
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