“Absolutely, milor,” replied Lenegre, even as he made ready to obey Sir Percy’s orders, “but what about you? You cannot get out of this house, milor,” he urged; “it is watched, I tell you.”
“La!” broke in Blakeney, in his light-hearted way, “and do you think I didn’t know that? I had to come and tell you about Pierre, and now I must give those worthy gendarmes the slip somehow. I have my rooms downstairs on the ground floor, as you know, and I must make certain arrangements so that we can all get out of Paris comfortably this evening. The demmed place is no longer safe either for you, my good Lenegre, or for petite maman and Rosette. But wherever I may be, meanwhile, don’t worry about me. As soon as the gendarmes have been and gone, I’ll go over to the Rue Ste. Anne and let you know what arrangements I’ve been able to make. So do as I tell you now, and in Heaven’s name let me look after myself.”
Whereupon, with scant ceremony, he hustled the old man out of the room.
Pere Lenegre had contrived to kiss petite maman and Rosette before he went. It was touching to see the perfect confidence with which these simple-hearted folk obeyed the commands of milor. Had he not saved Pierre in his wonderful, brave, resourceful way? Of a truth he would know how to save Pere Lenegre also. But, nevertheless, anguish gripped the women’s hearts; anguish doubly keen since the saviour of Pierre was also in danger now.
When Pere Lenegre’s shuffling footsteps had died away along the flagged corridor, the stranger once more turned to the two women.
“And now, petite maman,” he said cheerily, as he kissed the old woman on both her furrowed cheeks, “keep up a good heart, and say your prayers with Rosette. Your old man and I will both have need of them.”
He did not wait to say good-bye, and anon it was his firm footstep that echoed down the corridor. He went off singing a song, at the top of his voice, for the whole house to hear, and for that traitor, Jean Baptiste, to come rushing out of his room marvelling at the impudence of the man, and cursing the Committee of Public Safety who were so slow in sending the soldiers of the Republic to lay this impertinent Englishman by the heels.
A quarter of an hour later half dozen men of the Republican Guard, with corporal and sergeant in command, were in the small apartment on the fifth floor of the tenement house in the Rue Jolivet. They had demanded an entry in the name of the Republic, had roughly hustled petite maman and Rosette, questioned them to Lenegre’s whereabouts, and not satisfied with the reply which they received, had turned the tidy little home topsy-turvy, ransacked every cupboard, dislocated every bed, table or sofa which might presumably have afforded a hiding place for a man.
Satisfied now that the “suspect” whom they were searching for was not on the premises, the sergeant stationed four of his men with the corporal outside the door, and two within, and himself sitting down in the centre of the room ordered the two women to stand before him and to answer his questions clearly on pain of being dragged away forthwith to the St. Lazare house of detention.