All was settled; and, as soon as night came, Jacques and Trumence, taking a candle with them, slipped down into the cellar, and went to work. It was a hard task to get through this old wall, and Jacques would never have been able to accomplish it alone. The thickness was even less than what Blangin had stated it to be; but the hardness was far beyond expectation. Our fathers built well. In course of time the cement had become one with the stone, and acquired the same hardness. It was as if they had attacked a block of granite. The vagrant had, fortunately, a strong arm; and, in spite of the precautions which they had to take to prevent being heard, he had, in less than an hour, made a hole through which a man could pass. He put his head in; and, after a moment’s examination, he said,—
“All right! The night is dark, and the place is deserted. Upon my word, I will risk it!”
He went through; Jacques followed; and instinctively they hastened towards a place where several trees made a dark shadow. Once there, Jacques handed Trumence a package of five-franc notes, and said,—
“Add this to the hundred Napoleons I have given you before. Thank you: you are a good fellow, and, if I get out of my trouble, I will not forget you. And now let us part. Make haste, be careful, and good luck!”
After these words he went off rapidly. But Trumence did not march off in the opposite direction, as had been agreed upon.
“Anyhow,” said the poor vagrant to himself, “this is a curious story about the poor gentleman. Where on earth can he be going?”
And, curiosity getting the better of prudence, he followed him.
Jacques de Boiscoran went straight to Mautrec Street. But he knew with what horror he was looked upon by the population; and in order to avoid being recognized, and perhaps arrested, he did not take the most direct route, nor did he choose the more frequented streets. He went a long way around, and well-nigh lost himself in the winding, dark lanes of the old town. He walked along in Feverish haste, turning aside from the rare passers-by, pulling his felt hat down over his eyes, and, for still greater safety, holding his handkerchief over his face. It was nearly half-past nine when he at last reached the house inhabited by Count and Countess Claudieuse. The little gate had been taken out, and the great doors were closed.
Never mind! Jacques had his plan. He rang the bell.
A maid, who did not know him, came to the door.
“Is the Countess Claudieuse in?” he asked.
“The countess does not see anybody,” replied the girl. “She is sitting up with the count, who is very ill to-night.”
“But I must see her.”
“Tell her that a gentleman who has been sent by M. Galpin desires to see her for a moment. It is the Boiscoran affair.”