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|Part III||Baroness Emmuska Orczy|
|Page 1 of 6||
What occurred within the inner cell of the Conciergerie prison within the next half-hour of that 16th day of Pluviose in the year II of the Republic is, perhaps, too well known to history to need or bear overfull repetition.
Chroniclers intimate with the inner history of those infamous days have told us how the chief agent of the Committee of General Security gave orders one hour after midnight that hot soup, white bread and wine be served to the prisoner, who for close on fourteen days previously had been kept on short rations of black bread and water; the sergeant in charge of the guard-room watch for the night also received strict orders that that same prisoner was on no account to be disturbed until the hour of six in the morning, when he was to be served with anything in the way of breakfast that he might fancy.
All this we know, and also that citizen Heron, having given all necessary orders for the morning's expedition, returned to the Conciergerie, and found his colleague Chauvelin waiting for him in the guard-room.
"Well?" he asked with febrile impatience--" the prisoner?
"He seems better and stronger," replied Chauvelin. "Not too well, I hope?"
"No, no, only just well enough."
"You have seen him--since his supper?"
"Only from the doorway. It seems he ate and drank hardly at all, and the sergeant had some difficulty in keeping him awake until you tame."
"Well, now for the letter," concluded Heron with the same marked feverishness of manner which sat so curiously on his uncouth personality. "Pen, ink and paper, sergeant!" he commanded.
"On the table, in the prisoner's cell, citizen," replied the sergeant.
He preceded the two citizens across the guard-room to the doorway, and raised for them the iron bar, lowering it back after them.
The next moment Heron and Chauvelin were once more face to face with their prisoner.
Whether by accident or design the lamp had been so placed that as the two men approached its light fell full upon their faces, while that of the prisoner remained in shadow. He was leaning forward with both elbows on the table, his thin, tapering fingers toying with the pen and ink-horn which had been placed close to his hand.
"I trust that everything has been arranged for your comfort, Sir Percy?" Chauvelin asked with a sarcastic little smile.
"I thank you, sir," replied Blakeney politely.
"You feel refreshed, I hope?"
"Greatly so, I assure you. But I am still demmed sleepy; and if you would kindly be brief--"
"You have not changed your mind, sir?" queried Chauvelin, and a note of anxiety, which he vainly tried to conceal, quivered in his voice.
"No, my good M. Chambertin," replied Blakeney with the same urbane courtesy, "I have not changed my mind."
A sigh of relief escaped the lips of both the men. The prisoner certainly had spoken in a clearer and firmer voice; but whatever renewed strength wine and food had imparted to him he apparently did not mean to employ in renewed obstinacy. Chauvelin, after a moment's pause, resumed more calmly:
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Baroness Emmuska Orczy
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