The marquis followed the poor man. They entered a thicket. Here was the beggar's den. It was a sort of room that a grand old oak had let this man have in its heart. It was hollowed out under its roots, and covered with its branches. It was dark, low, concealed, out of sight. There was room for two people in it.
"I foresaw that I was going to have a guest," said the beggar.
This sort of underground dwelling, more common than one would suppose in Brittany, is called in the language of the peasants, "carnichot." This name also applies to hiding-places made inside of thick walls.
It was furnished with several pots, a pallet of straw or seaweed, washed and dried, with a thick covering of kersey; some tallow dips, with a tinder-box, and hollow twigs of furze for matches.
They bent down, crept along a little way, entered the room, cut up into odd compartments by the great tree-roots, and sat down on a heap of seaweed, which formed the bed. The space between two roots, where they entered, and which served as a doorway, let in some light. Night had come, but the eye adjusts itself to darkness, and there is always a trace of light to be found in darkness. A reflection of moonlight threw a mysterious pallor over the entrance. In a corner there was a jug of water, a loaf of buckwheat bread, and some chestnuts.
"Let us have some supper," said the poor man.
They shared the chestnuts; the marquis added his piece of biscuit: they bit the same loaf of buckwheat, and drank from the jug one after the other.
They talked together.
The marquis began to question the man.
"So, whether anything happens or not, it is all the same to you?"
"Very nearly. You are seigneurs, you people. These are your affairs."
"But what happens——"
"Happens beyond our reach."
The beggar added, "And then there are other things happening still farther away from us, the sun rising, the moon waxing and waning; it is with such things that I am concerned."
He took a sip from the jug, and said,—