THE TWO MEN IN BLACK
THE person who entered wore a black robe and a gloomy expression. What instantly struck our friend Jehan (who, as one might expect, had so disposed himself in his corner that he could see and hear everything just as he wished) was the absolute dreariness of the newcomer's dress and features. There was, however, a certain air of gentleness about that face, but the gentleness of a cat or a judge, an affected gentleness. He was very grey, wrinkled, not far off 60, with blinking eyes, white eyebrows, drooping lip and large hands. When Jehan saw that that was all there was to it, that this man was no doubt a physician or a magistrate, and that his nose was a long way from his mouth, a sign of stupidity, he curled up again in his hole, in despair at having to spend an indefinite time in such an uncomfortable position and in such poor company.
The archdeacon, however, had not even stood up for this person. He had bidden him with a sign to sit down on a stool by the door, and after a few moments' silence, which seemed to be the continuation of some previous meditation, he said somewhat patronizingly: 'Good-day, Maître Jacques.'
'Greetings, maitre!' the man in black answered.
In the two ways of pronouncing respectively ' Maître Jacques' and the deferential 'maitre' there was the same difference as that between monseigneur and monsieur, domine and domne. This was clearly a meeting between master and disciple.
'Well,' the archdeacon went on after a fresh silence, which Maître Jacques took care not to disturb, 'are you having any success?'
'Alas, master,' the other said with a sad smile, 'I keep on at my bellows. All the ash I could wish. But not a sparkle of gold.'