“Well crowed, my bantam,” said Santerre; “and be good enough to tell me where you come from. No, friend Denot, no, we’ll have no dagger work just at present.” And putting his huge hand on the other’s shoulder, he dragged him back as he was about to plunge his knife into the little Chevalier.
“I came from the cherry wood there,” said Arthur. “Maybe you think I ought not to have run away, and deserted my lady love. Maybe I’m rather ashamed of my own self, but at any rate when you speak of it, say that I came back of my own accord. I’m not a bit afraid to die now,” and as he spoke he squeezed Agatha’s hand. His heart was full of apprehension, lest she should suspect for a moment that he had really fled from her through fear, but Agatha understood well his ready wit, and appreciated his more than boyish courage.
Santerre now made his arrangements for the night. All the inhabitants of the chateau were kept under strict surveillance. The Marquis, his daughter, and the Chevalier were allowed to remain together, and Denot was prevented from annoying them. At day-break the following morning Durbelliere was to be burnt, and Santerre, with his prisoners, would then proceed to join Westerman at Bressuire.
“Let him slaughter them, if he likes,” said he to himself, “I don’t care what he says of me. I am at any rate too well known to be suspected. I don’t know what came over me today, but had the Republic depended on it, I could not have done it,” and he flung himself down on one of Agatha’s sofas, and slept not the less soundly for having began his career of extermination in so vacillating a manner.
The little Chevalier had no intention of saving himself, and deserting his friends, when, on Santerre’s approach, he ran off, leaving Agatha and the Marquis at the garden door of the chateau. He knew that Chapeau was at the smith’s forge, with his own pony. He had himself sent him there; and as soon as he perceived, on running round the side of the house, that the whole front was occupied by the blues, his first idea was to go after his pony, and ride as fast as the animal could carry him to Echanbroignes, and bring the royalists from thence to the rescue of their friends at Durbelliere. With this object he clambered over the garden-wall, and well knowing every foot of the ground, reached the forge in a few minutes. Chapeau and the smith were there, as was also the pony, and a breathless countryman was already telling them that the chateau was surrounded by the whole army of blues.
“Here’s the Chevalier,” said Chapeau, stopping the peasant in his story. “In the name of Heaven, M. Arthur, what is all this?”
“That traitor, Denot, has brought a parcel of blues down upon the chateau,” said the Chevalier. “The Marquis and Mademoiselle Agatha are already in their hands; they will be murdered before morning. What is to be done? Oh! Chapeau, what are we to do to save them?”