Lomaque beckoned to Trudaine to leave her, and whispered to him: “The prescription has worked well. You are safe for to-day. Break the news to your sister as gently as you can. Danville—” He stopped and listened till he satisfied himself, by the sound of the deputy-jailer’s footsteps, that the man was lounging toward the further end of the corridor. “Danville,” he resumed, “after having mixed with the people outside the grate yesterday, and having heard your names read, was arrested in the evening by secret order from Robespierre, and sent to the Temple. What charge will be laid to him, or when he will be brought to trial, it is impossible to say. I only know that he is arrested. Hush! don’t talk now; my friend outside is coming back. Keep quiet—hope everything from the chances and changes of public affairs; and comfort yourself with the thought that you are both safe for to-day.”
“And to-morrow?” whispered Trudaine.
“Don’t think of to-morrow,” returned Lomaque, turning away hurriedly to the door “Let to-morrow take care of itself.”
On a spring morning, in the year seventeen hundred and ninety-eight, the public conveyance then running between Chalons-sur-Marne and Paris sat down one of its outside passengers at the first post-station beyond Meaux. The traveler, an old man, after looking about him hesitatingly for a moment or two, betook himself to a little inn opposite the post-house, known by the sign of the Piebald Horse, and kept by the Widow Duval—a woman who enjoyed and deserved the reputation of being the fastest talker and the best maker of gibelotte in the whole locality.
Although the traveler was carelessly noticed by the village idlers, and received without ceremony by the Widow Duval, he was by no means so ordinary and uninteresting a stranger as the rustics of the place were pleased to consider him. The time had been when this quiet, elderly, unobtrusive applicant for refreshment at the Piebald House was trusted with the darkest secrets of the Reign of Terror, and was admitted at all times and seasons to speak face to face with Maximilian Robespierre himself. The Widow Duval and the hangers-on in front of the post-house would have been all astonished indeed if any well-informed personage from the metropolis had been present to tell them that the modest old traveler with the shabby little carpet-bag was an ex-chief agent of the secret police of Paris!