“Oh, no, no!” she exclaimed fervently. “Tell me what to do, milor, and I will do it.”
“At sundown,” he said, sinking his voice so low that even she could scarcely hear, “when I and the three others have started on our way, go straight to the house I spoke to you about in the Rue Dauphine—you know where it is?”
“Oh, yes, milor.”
“You will know the house by its tumbledown portico and the tattered red flag that surmounts it. Once there, push the door open and walk in boldly. Then ask to speak with citizen Robespierre.”
“Robespierre?” exclaimed the child in terror.
“You must not be afraid, Yvonne,” he said earnestly; “you must think of me and of what you are doing for me. My word on it—Robespierre will listen to you most kindly.”
“What shall I tell him?” she murmured.
“That a mysterious party of Englishmen are in hiding in this house—that their chief is known among them as the Scarlet Pimpernel. The rest leave to Robespierre’s discretion. You see how simple it is?”
It was indeed very simple! Nor did the child recoil any longer from the ugly task which milor, with suave speech and tender voice, was so ardently seeking to impose on her.
A few more words of love, which cost him nothing, a few kisses which cost him still less, since the wench loved him, and since she was young and pretty, and Yvonne was as wax in the hands of the traitor.
Silence reigned in the low-raftered room on the ground floor of the house in the Rue Dauphine.
Citizen Robespierre, chairman of the Cordeliers Club, the most bloodthirsty, most Evolutionary club of France, had just re-entered the room.
He walked up to the centre table, and through the close atmosphere, thick with tobacco smoke, he looked round on his assembled friends.
“We have got him,” he said at last curtly.
“Got him! Whom?” came in hoarse cries from every corner of the room.
“That Englishman,” replied the demagogue, “the Scarlet Pimpernel!”
A prolonged shout rose in response—a shout not unlike that of a caged herd of hungry wild beasts to whom a succulent morsel of flesh has unexpectedly been thrown.
“Where is he?” “Where did you get him?” “Alive or dead?” And many more questions such as these were hurled at the speaker from every side.
Robespierre, calm, impassive, immaculately neat in his tightly fitting coat, his smart breeches, and his lace cravat, waited awhile until the din had somewhat subsided. Then he said calmly:
“The Scarlet Pimpernel is in hiding in one of the derelict houses in the Rue Berthier.”
Snarls of derision as vigorous as the former shouts of triumph drowned the rest of his speech.
“Bah! How often has that cursed Scarlet Pimpernel been said to be alone in a lonely house? Citizen Chauvelin has had him at his mercy several times in lonely houses.”