Savary, deadly pale, was leaning with his hand to his side against the table. It was not for nothing that those mighty arms had been thrown round him.
‘I feel as if I had been hugged by a bear,’ said he. ’Well, there is one dangerous man the less in France, and the Emperor has lost one of his enemies. And yet he was a brave man too!’
‘What a soldier he would have made!’ said Gerard thoughtfully. ’What a quartermaster for the Hussars of Bercheny! He must have been a very foolish person to set his will against that of the Emperor.’
I had seated myself, sick and dazed, upon the settee, for scenes of bloodshed were new to me then, and this one had been enough to shock the most hardened. Savary gave us all a little cognac from his flask, and then tearing down one of the curtains he laid it over the terrible figure of my Uncle Bernac.
‘We can do nothing here,’ said he. ’I must get back and report to the Emperor as soon as possible. But all these papers of Bernac’s must be seized, for many of them bear upon this and other conspiracies.’ As he spoke he gathered together a number of documents which were scattered about the table—among the others a letter which lay before him upon the desk, and which he had apparently just finished at the time of Toussac’s irruption.
‘Hullo, what’s this?’ said Savary, glancing over it. ’I fancy that our friend Bernac was a dangerous man also. “My dear Catulle—I beg of you to send me by the very first mail another phial of the same tasteless essence which you sent three years ago. I mean the almond decoction which leaves no traces. I have particular reasons for wanting it in the course of next week, so I implore you not to delay. You may rely upon my interest with the Emperor whenever you have occasion to demand it."’
‘Addressed to a chemist in Amiens,’ said Savary, turning over the letter. ’A poisoner then, on the top of his other virtues. I wonder for whom this essence of almonds which leaves no trace was intended.’
‘I wonder,’ said I.
After all, he was my uncle, and he was dead, so why should I say further?
General Savary rode straight to Pont de Briques to report to the Emperor, while Gerard returned with me to my lodgings to share a bottle of wine. I had expected to find my Cousin Sibylle there, but to my surprise there was no sign of her, nor had she left any word to tell us whither she had gone.