Milor that night mingled with the crowd who waited on the human hyena to be cured of their hurts. It was a motley crowd that filled the dreaded pro-consul’s ante-chamber—men, women and children—all of them too much preoccupied with their own troubles to bestow more than a cursory glance on the stranger who, wrapped in a dark mantle, quietly awaited his turn. One or two muttered curses were flung at the aristo, one or two spat in his direction to express hatred and contempt, then the door which gave on the inner chamber would be flung open—a number called—one patient would walk out, another walk in—and in the ever-recurring incident the stranger for the nonce was forgotten.
His turn came—his number being called—it was the last on the list, and the ante-chamber was now quite empty save for him. He walked into the presence of the pro-consul. Claude Lemoine, who was on guard in the room at the time, told me that just for the space of two seconds the two men looked at one another. Then the stranger threw back his head and said quietly:
“There’s a child dying of pleurisy, or worse, in an attic in the Rue des Pipots. There’s not a doctor left in Lyons to attend on him, and the child will die for want of medical skill. Will you come to him, citizen doctor?”
It seems that for a moment or two Laporte hesitated.
“You look to me uncommonly like an aristo, and therefore a traitor,” he said, “and I’ve half a mind—”
“To call your guard and order my immediate arrest,” broke in milor with a whimsical smile, “but in that case a citizen of France will die for want of a doctor’s care. Let me take you to the child’s bedside, citizen doctor, you can always have me arrested afterwards.”
But Laporte still hesitated.
“How do I know that you are not one of those English spies?” he began.
“Take it that I am,” rejoined milor imperturbably, “and come and see the patient.”
Never had a situation been carried off with so bold a hand. Claude Lemoine declared that Laporte’s mouth literally opened for the call which would have summoned the sergeant of the guard into the room and ordered the summary arrest of this impudent stranger. During the veriest fraction of a second life and death hung in the balance for the gallant English milor. In the heart of Laporte every evil passion fought the one noble fibre within him. But the instinct of the skilful healer won the battle, and the next moment he had hastily collected what medicaments and appliances he might require, and the two men were soon speeding along the streets in the direction of the Rue des Pipots.
* * * * * *
During the whole of that night, milor and Laporte sat together by the bedside of M. le Vicomte. Laporte only went out once in order to fetch what further medicaments he required. Mme. la Marquise took the opportunity of running out of her hiding-place in order to catch a glimpse of her child. I saw her take milor’s hand and press it against her heart in silent gratitude. On her knees she begged him to go away and leave her and the boy to their fate. Was it likely that he would go? But she was so insistent that at last he said: