Two days had passed away since the reception of the Empress Josephine, and only one remained of the time which had been allowed to my cousin Sibylle in which she might save her lover, and capture the terrible Toussac. For my own part I was not so very anxious that she should save this craven lover of hers, whose handsome face belied the poor spirit within him. And yet this lonely beautiful woman, with the strong will and the loyal heart, had touched my feelings, and I felt that I would help her to anything—even against my own better judgment, if she should desire it. It was then with a mixture of feelings that late in the afternoon I saw her and General Savary enter the little room in which I lodged at Boulogne. One glance at her flushed cheeks and triumphant eyes told me that she was confident in her own success.
‘I told you that I would find him, Cousin Louis!’ she cried; ’I have come straight to you, because you said that you would help in the taking of him.’
‘Mademoiselle insists upon it that I should not use soldiers,’ said Savary, shrugging his shoulders.
‘No, no, no,’ she cried with vehemence. ’It has to be done with discretion, and at the sight of a soldier he would fly to some hiding-place, where you would never be able to follow him. I cannot afford to run a risk. There is too much already at stake.’
‘In such an affair three men are as useful as thirty,’ said Savary. ’I should not in any case have employed more. You say that you have another friend, Lieutenant—?’
‘Lieutenant Gerard of the Hussars of Bercheny.’
’Quite so. There is not a more gallant officer in the Grand Army than Etienne Gerard. The three of us, Monsieur de Laval, should be equal to any adventure.’
‘I am at your disposal.’
‘Tell us then, mademoiselle, where Toussac is hiding.’
‘He is hiding at the Red Mill.’
‘But we have searched it, I assure you that he is not there.’
‘When did you search it?’
‘Two days ago.’
’Then he has come there since. I knew that Jeanne Portal loved him. I have watched her for six days. Last night she stole down to the Red Mill with a basket of wine and fruit. All the morning I have seen her eyes sweeping the country side, and I have read the terror in them whenever she has seen the twinkle of a bayonet. I am as sure that Toussac is in the mill as if I had seen him with my own eyes.’
‘In that case there is not an instant to be lost,’ cried Savary. ’If he knows of a boat upon the coast he is as likely as not to slip away after dark and make his escape for England. From the Red Mill one can see all the surrounding country, and Mademoiselle is right in thinking that a large body of soldiers would only warn him to escape.’