“I know nothing of any Englishman,” he muttered.
“Yes, you do,” she rejoined insistently. “When poor Antoine Carre was somewhere in hiding and threatened with arrest, and his mother dared not write to him lest her letter be intercepted, she spoke to you about the English milor’, and the English milor’ found Antoine Carre and took him and his mother safely out of France. Mme. Carre is my godmother....I saw her the very night when she went to meet the English milor’ at his commands. I know all that happened then....I know that you were the intermediary.”
“And if I was,” he muttered sullenly as he fiddled with his pen and paper, “maybe I’ve had cause to regret it. For a week after that Carre episode I dared not show my face in the streets of Paris; for nigh on a fortnight I dared not ply my trade...I have only just ventured again to set up in business. I am not going to risk my old neck again in a hurry....”
“It is a matter of life and death,” urged Agnes, as once more the tears rushed to her pleading eyes and the look of misery settled again upon her face.
“Your life, citizeness?” queried the old man, “or that of citizen-deputy Fabrice?”
“Hush!” she broke in again, as a look of real terror now overspread her face. Then she added under her breath: “You know?”
“I know that Mademoiselle Agnes de Lucines is fiancee to the citizen-deputy Arnould Fabrice,” rejoined the old man quietly, “and that it is Mademoiselle Agnes de Lucines who is speaking with me now.”
“You have known that all along?”
“Ever since mademoiselle first tripped past me at the angle of the Pont Neuf dressed in winsey kirtle and wearing sabots on her feet....”
“But how?” she murmured, puzzled, not a little frightened, for his knowledge might prove dangerous to her. She was of gentle birth, and as such an object of suspicion to the Government of the Republic and of the Terror; her mother was a hopeless cripple, unable to move: this together with her love for Arnould Fabrice had kept Agnes de Lucines in France these days, even though she was in hourly peril of arrest.
“Tell me what has happened,” the old man said, unheeding her last anxious query. “Perhaps I can help...”
“Oh! you cannot—the English milor’ can and will if only we could know where he is. I thought of him the moment I received that awful man’s letter—and then I thought of you....”
“Tell me about the letter—quickly,” he interrupted her with some impatience. “I’ll be writing something—but talk away, I shall hear every word. But for God’s sake be as brief as you can.”
He drew some paper nearer to him and dipped his pen in the ink. He appeared to be writing under her dictation. Thin, flaky snow had begun to fall and settled in a smooth white carpet upon the frozen ground, and the footsteps of the passers-by sounded muffled as they hurried along. Only the lapping of the water of the sluggish river close by broke the absolute stillness of the air.