“I am very much obliged to you for your kindness, citizen,” he said to the blouse-wearer, who had returned with the coach. “Here,” pressing a twenty-sou piece into the man’s palm, “is something for your trouble. I wish you would come with me to help hunt for this little girl’s home. If you have time, and will come with me, you shall be paid for your trouble.”
“Can’t do it, citizen; my wife is expecting me at home. Just you trust this coachman; he will help you find the place. He ’s a clever youth—are n’t you, Peroquin? You have made many a night journey about Paris, have n’t you? See that you earn your twenty francs to-night, too!”
That the coachman was also in the service of the secret police the young man knew very well; but he did not betray his knowledge by word or mien.
The blouse-wearer now shook hands cordially with the young man, and said:
“Adieu, citizen. I beg your pardon if I offended you. I ’ll leave you now. I am going to my wife, or to the tavern; who can tell the future?”
He waited until the young man had entered the coach with his charge; then, instead of betaking himself to his wife or to the tavern, he crossed the street, and took up his station in the recess of a doorway opposite the house with the swinging lantern. . . .
“Where to?” asked the coachman of the young man.
“Well, citizen,” was the smiling response, “if I knew that, all would be well. But that is just what I don’t know; and the little countess, here, who has strayed from her home, can’t remember the street, nor the number of the house, in which she lives. She can only remember that her mama’s palace is on a square in which there is a fountain. We must therefore visit all the fountains in turn until we find the right one.”
The coachman made no further inquiries, but climbed to the box, and drove off in quest of the fountains of Paris.
Two fountains were visited, but neither of them proved to be the right one. The young man now bade the coachman drive through a certain street to a third fountain. It was a narrow, winding street—the Rue des Blancs Manteaux.
When the coach was opposite a low, one-storied house, the young man drew the strap, and told the driver he wished to stop for a few moments. As the vehicle drew up in front of the house, the door opened, and a tall, stalwart man in top-boots came forth, accompanied by a sturdy dame who held a candle, which she protected from the wind with the palm of her hand.
“Is that you, Raoul?” called the young man from the coach window.
There was no response from the giant, who, instead, sprang nimbly to the box, and, flinging one arm around the astonished coachman, thrust a gag into his mouth. Before the captive could make a move to defend himself, his fare was out of the coach, and had pinioned his arms behind his back. The giant and the young man now lifted the coachman from the box and carried him into the house, the woman followed with the trembling child, whom she had carefully lifted from the coach.