Stories By English Authors: France (Selected by Scribners)

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Stories By English Authors:
France (Selected by Scribners)

The Project Gutenberg EBook of Stories By English Authors: France,
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Title: Stories By English Authors: France
Author: Various
Release Date: March 25, 2006 [EBook #2359]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ASCII

Produced by Dagny; and John Bickers


STORM by Ouida A TERRIBLY STRANGE BED by Wilkie Collins
by Stanley J. Weyman

A LODGING FOR THE NIGHT, By Robert Louis Stevenson
It was late in November, 1456. The snow fell over Paris with rigorous,
relentless persistence; sometimes the wind made a sally and scattered it
in flying vortices; sometimes there was a lull, and flake after flake
descended out of the black night air, silent, circuitous, interminable. To
poor people, looking up under moist eyebrows, it seemed a wonder
where it all came from. Master Francis Villon had propounded an
alternative that afternoon, at a tavern window: was it only pagan Jupiter
plucking geese upon Olympus? or were the holy angels moulting? He
was only a poor Master of Arts, he went on; and as the question
somewhat touched upon divinity, he durst not venture to conclude. A
silly old priest from Montargis, who was among the company, treated
the young rascal to a bottle of wine in honour of the jest and grimaces
with which it was accompanied, and swore on his own white beard that
he had been just such another irreverent dog when he was Villon's age.
The air was raw and pointed, but not far below freezing; and the flakes
were large, damp, and adhesive. The whole city was sheeted up. An
army might have marched from end to end and not a footfall given the
alarm. If there were any belated birds in heaven, they saw the island
like a large white patch, and the bridges like slim white spars on the
black ground of the river. High up overhead the snow settled among the
tracery of the cathedral towers. Many a niche was drifted full; many a
statue wore a long white bonnet on its grotesque or sainted head. The
gargoyles had been transformed into great false noses, drooping toward
the point. The crockets were like upright pillows swollen on one side.
In the intervals of the wind there was a dull sound dripping about the
precincts of the church.

The cemetery of St. John had taken its own share of the snow. All the
graves were decently covered; tall white housetops stood around in
grave array; worthy burghers were long ago in bed, be-nightcapped like
their domiciles; there was no light in all the neighbourhood but a little
peep from a lamp that hung swinging in the church choir, and tossed
the shadows to and fro in time to its oscillations. The clock was hard on
ten when the patrol went by with halberds and a lantern, beating their
hands; and they saw nothing suspicious about the cemetery of St. John.
Yet there was a small house, backed up against the cemetery wall,
which was still awake, and awake to evil purpose, in that snoring
district. There was not much to betray it from without; only a stream of
warm vapour from the chimney-top, a patch where the snow melted on
the roof, and a few half-obliterated footprints at the door. But within,
behind the shuttered windows, Master Francis Villon, the poet, and
some of the thievish crew with whom he consorted, were keeping the
night alive and passing round the bottle.
A great pile of living embers diffused a strong and ruddy glow from the
arched chimney. Before this straddled Dom Nicolas, the Picardy monk,
with his skirts picked up and his fat legs bared to the comfortable
warmth. His dilated shadow cut the room in half; and the firelight only
escaped on either side of his broad person, and in a little pool between
his outspread feet. His face had the beery, bruised appearance of the
continual drinker's; it was covered with a network of congested veins,
purple in ordinary circumstances, but now pale violet, for even with his
back to the fire the cold pinched him on the other side. His cowl had
half fallen back, and made a strange excrescence on either side of his
bull-neck. So he straddled, grumbling, and cut the
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