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|Part II||Baroness Emmuska Orczy|
|Page 4 of 4||
But in spite of sorrow, in spite of anguish so terrible that she could not imagine Death itself to have a more cruel sting, she wished above all to safeguard that final, attenuated thread of hope which was wound round the packet that lay hidden on her breast.
She wanted, above all, not to arouse Chauvelin's suspicions by markedly refusing to visit the prisoner again--suspicions that might lead to her being searched once more and the precious packet filched from her. Therefore she said to him earnestly now:
"I thank you, citizen, for your solicitude on my behalf, but you will understand, I think, that my visit to the prisoner has been almost more than I could bear. I cannot tell you at this moment whether to-morrow I should be in a fit state to repeat it."
"As you please," he replied urbanely. "But I pray you to remember one thing, and that is--"
He paused a moment while his restless eyes wandered rapidly over her face, trying, as it were, to get at the soul of this woman, at her innermost thoughts, which he felt were hidden from him.
"Yes, citizen," she said quietly; "what is it that I am to remember?"
"That it rests with you, Lady Blakeney, to put an end to the present situation."
"Surely you can persuade Sir Percy's friends not to leave their chief in durance vile. They themselves could put an end to his troubles to-morrow."
"By giving up the Dauphin to you, you mean?" she retorted coldly.
"And you hoped--you still hope that by placing before me the picture of your own fiendish cruelty against my husband you will induce me to act the part of a traitor towards him and a coward before his followers?"
"Oh!" he said deprecatingly, "the cruelty now is no longer mine. Sir Percy's release is in your hands, Lady Blakeney--in that of his followers. I should only be too willing to end the present intolerable situation. You and your friends are applying the last turn of the thumbscrew, not I--"
She smothered the cry of horror that had risen to her lips. The man's cold-blooded sophistry was threatening to make a breach in her armour of self-control.
She would no longer trust herself to speak, but made a quick movement towards the door.
He shrugged his shoulders as if the matter were now entirely out of his control. Then he opened the door for her to pass out, and as her skirts brushed against him he bowed with studied deference, murmuring a cordial "Good-night!"
"And remember, Lady Blakeney," he added politely, "that should you at any time desire to communicate with me at my rooms, 19, Rue Dupuy, I hold myself entirely at your service.
Then as her tall, graceful figure disappeared in the outside gloom he passed his thin hand over his mouth as if to wipe away the last lingering signs of triumphant irony:
"The second visit will work wonders, I think, my fine lady," he murmured under his breath.
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Baroness Emmuska Orczy
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