“Rateau is sitting down... he has his back to the window... he has put his bundle down close beside him on the bench... he can’t speak for a minute, for he is coughing and spluttering like an old walrus.... A wench is bringing him a bottle of wine and a hunk of bread and cheese.... He has started talking... is talking volubly... the people are laughing... some are applauding.... And here comes Jean Victor, the landlord... you know him, citizen... a big, hulking fellow, and as good a patriot as I ever wish to see.... He, too, is laughing and talking to Rateau, who is doubled up with another fit of coughing—”
Chauvelin uttered an exclamation of impatience:
“Enough of this, citizen Tournefort. Keep your eye on the man and hold your tongue. I am spent with fatigue.”
“No wonder,” murmured Tournefort. Then he added insinuatingly: “Why not let me go in there and apprehend Rateau now? We should have the diamonds and—”
“And lose the ci-devant Comtesse de Sucy and the man Bertin,” retorted Chauvelin with sudden fierceness. “Bertin, who can be none other than that cursed Englishman, the—”
He checked himself, seeing Tournefort was gazing down on him, with awe and bewilderment expressed in his lean, hatchet face.
“You are losing sight of Rateau, citizen,” Chauvelin continued calmly. “What is he doing now?”
But Tournefort felt that this calmness was only on the surface; something strange had stirred the depths of his chief’s keen, masterful mind. He would have liked to ask a question or two, but knew from experience that it was neither wise nor profitable to try and probe citizen Chauvelin’s thoughts. So after a moment or two he turned back obediently to his task.
“I can’t see Rateau for the moment,” he said, “but there is much talking and merriment in there. Ah! there he is, I think. Yes, I see him!... He is behind the counter, talking to Jean Victor... and he has just thrown some money down upon the counter.... gold too! name of a dog....”
Then suddenly, without any warning, Tournefort jumped down from his post of observation. Chauvelin uttered a brief:
“What the-----are you doing, citizen?”
“Rateau is going,” replied Tournefort excitedly. “He drank a mug of wine at a draught and has picked up his bundle, ready to go.”
Once more cowering in the dark angle of a doorway, the two men waited, their nerves on edge, for the reappearance of their quarry.
“I wish citizen Gourdon were here,” whispered Tournefort. “In the darkness it is better to be three than two.”
“I sent him back to the Station in the Rue Mouffetard,” was Chauvelin’s curt retort; “there to give notice that I might require a few armed men presently. But he should be somewhere about here by now, looking for us. Anyway, I have my whistle, and if—”
He said no more, for at that moment the door of the cabaret was opened from within and Rateau stepped out into the street, to the accompaniment of loud laughter and clapping of hands which came from the customers of the “Bon Copain.”