“Bien, Madame la Comtesse, we’ll do our best.”
No wonder that the servant of the Committee of Public Safety remained at attention, no longer thought of the storm or felt the cold blast chilling him to the marrow. Here was a wholly unexpected piece of good luck. “Madame la Comtesse!” Peste! There were not many such left in Paris these days. Unfortunately, the tempest of the wind and the rain made such a din that it was difficult to catch every sound which came from the interior of the lodge. All that Tournefort caught definitely were a few fragments of conversation.
“My good M. Bertin...” came at one time from a woman’s voice. “Truly I do not know why you should do all this for me.”
And then again: “All I possess in the world now are my diamonds. They alone stand between my children and utter destitution.”
The man’s voice seemed all the time to be saying something that sounded cheerful and encouraging. But his voice came only as a vague murmur to the listener’s ears. Presently, however, there came a word which set his pulses tingling. Madame said something about “Gentilly,” and directly afterwards: “You will have to be very careful, my dear M. Bertin. The chateau, I feel sure, is being watched.”
Tournefort could scarce repress a cry of joy. “Gentilly? Madame la Comtesse? The chateau?” Why, of course, he held all the necessary threads already. The ci-devant Comte de Sucy—a pestilential aristo if ever there was one!—had been sent to the guillotine less than a fortnight ago. His chateau, situated just outside Gentilly, stood empty, it having been given out that the widow Sucy and her two children had escaped to England. Well! she had not gone apparently, for here she was, in the lodge of the concierge of a mean house in one of the desolate quarters of Paris, begging some traitor to find her diamonds for her, which she had obviously left concealed inside the chateau. What a haul for Tournefort! What commendation from his superiors! The chances of a speedy promotion were indeed glorious now! He blessed the storm and the rain which had driven him for shelter to this house, where a poisonous plot was being hatched to rob the people of valuable property, and to aid a few more of those abominable aristos in cheating the guillotine of their traitorous heads.
He listened for a while longer, in order to get all the information that he could on the subject of the diamonds, because he knew by experience that those perfidious aristos, once they were under arrest, would sooner bite out their tongues than reveal anything that might be of service to the Government of the people. But he learned little else. Nothing was revealed of where Madame la Comtesse was in hiding, or how the diamonds were to be disposed of once they were found. Tournefort would have given much to have at least one of his colleagues with him. As it was, he would be forced to act single-handed