Then one of the men looked up and stared, and another did likewise and exclaimed: “It is not Heriot!”
In a moment all was confusion, but confusion was the very essence of those hair-breadth escapes and desperate adventures which were as the breath of his nostrils to the Scarlet Pimpernel. Before those four men had had time to jump to their feet, or to realise that something was wrong with their friend Heriot, he had run across the room, his hand was on the knob of the door—the door that led to the antichambre and to freedom.
Bompard, Desgas, Jeanniot, Legros were at his heels, but he tore open the door, bounded across the threshold, and slammed it to with such a vigorous bang that those on the other side were brought to a momentary halt. That moment meant life and liberty to Blakeney; already he had crossed the antichambre. Quite coolly and quietly now he took out the key from the inner side of the main door and slipped it to the outside. The next second—even as the four men rushed helter-skelter into the antichambre he was out on the landing and had turned the key in the door.
His prisoners were safely locked in—in Heriot’s apartments—and Sir Percy Blakeney, calmly and without haste, was descending the stairs of the house in the Rue Cocatrice.
The next morning Agnes de Lucines received, through an anonymous messenger, the packet of letters which would so gravely have compromised Arnould Fabrice. Though the weather was more inclement than ever, she ran out into the streets, determined to seek out the old Public Letter-Writer and thank him for his mediation with the English milor, who surely had done this noble action.
But the old scarecrow had disappeared.
A FINE BIT OF WORK
“Sh!...sh!...It’s the Englishman. I’d know his footstep anywhere—”
“God bless him!” murmured petite maman fervently.
Pere Lenegre went to the door; he stepped cautiously and with that stealthy foot-tread which speaks in eloquent silence of daily, hourly danger, of anguish and anxiety for lives that are dear.
The door was low and narrow—up on the fifth floor of one of the huge tenement houses in the Rue Jolivet in the Montmartre quarter of Paris. A narrow stone passage led to it—pitch-dark at all times, but dirty, and evil-smelling when the concierge—a free citizen of the new democracy— took a week’s holiday from his work in order to spend whole afternoons either at the wineshop round the corner, or on the Place du Carrousel to watch the guillotine getting rid of some twenty aristocrats an hour for the glorification of the will of the people.
But inside the small apartment everything was scrupulously neat and clean. Petite maman was such an excellent manager, and Rosette was busy all the day tidying and cleaning the poor little home, which Pere Lenegre contrived to keep up for wife and daughter by working fourteen hours a day in the government saddlery.