“Why not get Fabrice and Mlle. de Lucines safely over to England?”
“Fabrice would not come. He is not of the stuff that emigres are made of. He is not an aristocrat; he is a republican by conviction, and a demmed honest one at that. He would scorn to run away, and Agnes de Lucines would not go without him.”
“Then what can we do?”
“Filch those letters from that brute Heriot,” said Blakeney calmly.
“House-breaking, you mean!” commented Sir Andrew Ffoulkes dryly.
“Petty theft, shall we say?” retorted Sir Percy. “I can bribe the lout who has charge of Heriot’s rooms to introduce us into his master’s sanctum this evening when the National Assembly is sitting and the citizen-deputy safely out of the way.”
And the two men—one of whom was the most intimate friend of the Prince of Wales and the acknowledged darling of London society—thereupon fell to discussing plans for surreptitiously entering a man’s room and committing larceny, which in normal times would entail, if discovered, a long term of imprisonment, but which, in these days, in Paris, and perpetrated against a member of the National Assembly, would certainly be punished by death.
Citizen Rondeau, whose business it was to look after the creature comforts of deputy Heriot, was standing in the antichambre facing the two visitors whom he had just introduced into his master’s apartments, and idly turning a couple of gold coins over and over between his grimy fingers.
“And mind, you are to see nothing and hear nothing of what goes on in the next room,” said the taller of the two strangers; “and when we go there’ll be another couple of louis for you. Is that understood?”
“Yes! it’s understood,” grunted Rondeau sullenly; “but I am running great risks. The citizen-deputy sometimes returns at ten o’clock, but sometimes at nine.... I never know.”
“It is now seven,” rejoined the other; “we’ll be gone long before nine.”
“Well,” said Rondeau surlily, “I go out now for my supper. I’ll return in half an hour, but at half-past eight you must clear out.”
Then he added with a sneer:
“Citizens Legros and Desgas usually come back with deputy Heriot of nights, and citizens Jeanniot and Bompard come in from next door for a game of cards. You wouldn’t stand much chance if you were caught here.”
“Not with you to back up so formidable a quintette of stalwarts,” assented the tall visitor gaily. “But we won’t trouble about that just now. We have a couple of hours before us in which to do all that we want. So au revoir, friend Rondeau...two more louis for your complaisance, remember, when we have accomplished our purpose.”
Rondeau muttered something more, but the two strangers paid no further heed to him; they had already walked to the next room, leaving Rondeau in the antichambre.