“There is one more important question. What is the distance from Monsieur d’Escorval’s window to the ground?”
“It is about forty feet from the base of the tower.”
“Good! And from the base of the tower to the foot of the precipice—how far is that?”
“Really, I scarcely know. Sixty feet, at least, I should think.”
“Ah, that is high, terribly high. The baron fortunately is still agile and vigorous.” The duke began to be impatient.
“Now,” said he to his son, “will you be so kind as to explain your plan?”
Martial had gradually resumed the careless tone which always exasperated his father.
“He is sure of success,” thought Marie-Anne.
“My plan is simplicity itself,” replied Martial. “Sixty and forty are one hundred. It is necessary to procure one hundred feet of strong rope. It will make a very large bundle; but no matter. I will twist it around me, envelop myself in a large cloak, and accompany you to the citadel. You will send for Corporal Bavois; you will leave me alone with him in a quiet place; I will explain our wishes.”
M. de Sairmeuse shrugged his shoulders.
“And how will you procure a hundred feet of rope at this hour in Montaignac? Will you go about from shop to shop? You might as well trumpet your project at once.”
“I shall attempt nothing of the kind. What I cannot do the friends of the Escorval family will do.”
The duke was about to offer some new objection when his son interrupted him.
“Pray do not forget the danger that threatens us,” he said, earnestly, “nor the little time that is left us. I have committed a fault, leave me to repair it.”
And turning to Marie-Anne:
“You may consider the baron saved,” he pursued; “but it is necessary for me to confer with one of his friends. Return at once to the Hotel de France and tell the cure to meet me on the Place d’Armes, where I go to await him.”
Though among the first to be arrested at the time of the panic before Montaignac, the Baron d’Escorval had not for an instant deluded himself with false hopes.
“I am a lost man,” he thought. And confronting death calmly, he now thought only of the danger that threatened his son.
His mistake before the judges was the result of his preoccupation.
He did not breathe freely until he saw Maurice led from the hall by Abbe Midon and the friendly officers, for he knew that his son would try to confess connection with the affair.
Then, calm and composed, with head erect, and steadfast eye, he listened to the death-sentence.
In the confusion that ensued in removing the prisoners from the hall, the baron found himself beside Chanlouineau, who had begun his noisy lamentations.
“Courage, my boy,” he said, indignant at such apparent cowardice.