The wind had triumphed and swept all the clouds from heaven. Only
a few vapours, as thin as moonlight, fleeting rapidly across the stars. It
was bitter cold; and by a common optical effect, things seemed almost
more definite than in the broadest daylight. The sleeping city was absolutely
still: a company of white hoods, a field full of little Alps, below the
twinkling stars. Villon cursed his fortune. Would it were still snowing!
Now, wherever he went, he left an indelible trail behind him on the glittering
streets; wherever he went he was still tethered to the house by the
cemetery of St. John; wherever he went he must weave, with his own
plodding feet, the rope that bound him to the crime and would bind him
to the gallows. The leer of the dead man came back to him with a new
significance. He snapped his fingers as if to pluck up his own spirits, and
choosing a street at random, stepped boldly forward in the snow.
Two things preoccupied him as he went: the aspect of the gallows at
Montfaucon in this bright windy phase of the night's existence, for one;
and for another, the look of the dead man with his bald head and garland
of red curls. Both struck cold upon his heart, and he kept quickening
his pace as if he could escape from unpleasant thoughts by mere
fleetness of foot. Sometimes he looked back over his shoulder with a sudden
nervous jerk; but he was the only moving thing in the white streets, Classic Tall
except when the wind swooped round a corner and threw up the snow,
which was beginning to freeze, in spouts of glittering dust.
Suddenly he saw, a long way before him, a black clump and a couple Coquette Casual
of lanterns. The clump was in motion, and the lanterns swung as though
carried by men walking. It was a patrol. And though it was merely crossing
his line of march, he judged it wiser to get out of eyeshot as speedily
as he could.