’Lieutenant Gerard chanced to meet me, and escorted me through the camp,’ said my cousin. ’He has been kind enough to give me sympathy in my trouble.’
‘And so do I, Sibylle,’ I cried; ’you carried yourself like an angel, and it is a lucky man who is blessed with your love. I trust that he may be worthy of it.’
She turned cold and proud in an instant when anyone threw a doubt upon this wretched lover of hers.
‘I know him as neither the Emperor nor you can do,’ said she. ’He has the heart and soul of a poet, and he is too high-minded to suspect the intrigues to which he has fallen a victim. But as to Toussac, I should have no pity upon him, for I know him to be a murderer five times over, and I know also that there will be no peace in France until he has been taken. Cousin Louis, will you help me to do it?’
The lieutenant had been tugging at his moustache and looking me up and down with a jealous eye.
‘Surely, mademoiselle, you will permit me to help you?’ he cried in a piteous voice.
‘I may need you both,’ said she. ’I will come to you if I do. Now I will ask you to ride with me to the edge of the camp and there to leave me.’
She had a quick imperative way which came charmingly from those sweet womanly lips. The grey horse upon which I had come to the camp was waiting beside that of the hussar, so we were soon in the saddle. When we were clear of the huts my cousin turned to us.
‘I had rather go alone now,’ said she. ’It is understood, then, that I can rely upon you.’
‘Entirely,’ said I.
‘To the death,’ cried Gerard.
‘It is everything to me to have two brave men at my back,’ said she, and so, with a smile, gave her horse its head and cantered off over the downland in the direction of Grosbois.
For my part I remained in thought for some time, wondering what plan she could have in her head by which she hoped to get upon the track of Toussac. A woman’s wit, spurred by the danger of her lover, might perhaps succeed where Fouche and Savary had failed. When at last I turned my horse I found my young hussar still staring after the distant rider.
‘My faith! There is the woman for you, Etienne!’ he kept repeating. ’What an eye! What a smile! What a rider! And she is not afraid of the Emperor. Oh, Etienne, here is the woman who is worthy of you!’
These were the little sentences which he kept muttering to himself until she vanished over the hill, when he became conscious at last of my presence.
‘You are mademoiselle’s cousin?’ he asked. ’You are joined with me in doing something for her. I do not yet know what it is, but I am perfectly ready to do it.’
‘It is to capture Toussac.’
‘In order to save the life of her lover.’
There was a struggle in the face of the young hussar, but his more generous nature won.