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Part III Baroness Emmuska Orczy

XXXVIII Capitulation

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"You are prepared to direct us to the place where little Capet lies hidden?"

"I am prepared to do anything, sir, to get out of this d--d hole."

"Very well. My colleague, citizen Heron, has arranged for an escort of twenty men picked from the best regiment of the Garde de Paris to accompany us--yourself, him and me--to wherever you will direct us. Is that clear?"

"Perfectly, sir."

"You must not imagine for a moment that we, on the other hand, guarantee to give you your life and freedom even if this expedition prove unsuccessful."

"I would not venture on suggesting such a wild proposition, sir," said Blakeney placidly.

Chauvelin looked keenly on him. There was something in the tone of that voice that he did not altogether like--something that reminded him of an evening at Calais, and yet again of a day at Boulogne. He could not read the expression in the eyes, so with a quick gesture he pulled the lamp forward so that its light now fell full on the face of the prisoner.

"Ah! that is certainly better, is it not, my dear M. Chambertin?" said Sir Percy, beaming on his adversary with a pleasant smile.

His face, though still of the same ashen hue, looked serene if hopelessly wearied; the eyes seemed to mock. But this Chauvelin decided in himself must have been a trick of his own overwrought fancy. After a brief moment's pause he resumed dryly:

"If, however, the expedition turns out successful in every way--if little Capet, without much trouble to our escort, falls safe and sound into our hands--if certain contingencies which I am about to tell you all fall out as we wish--then, Sir Percy, I see no reason why the Government of this country should not exercise its prerogative of mercy towards you after all."

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"An exercise, my dear M. Chambertin, which must have wearied through frequent repetition," retorted Blakeney with the same imperturbable smile.

"The contingency at present is somewhat remote; when the time comes we'll talk this matter over.... I will make no promise ... and, anyhow, we can discuss it later."

"At present we are but wasting our valuable time over so trifling a matter.... If you'll excuse me, sir ... I am so demmed fatigued--"

"Then you will be glad to have everything settled quickly, I am sure."

"Exactly, sir."

Heron was taking no part ill the present conversation. He knew that his temper was not likely to remain within bounds, and though he had nothing but contempt for his colleague's courtly manners, yet vaguely in his stupid, blundering way he grudgingly admitted that mayhap it was better to allow citizen Chauvelin to deal with the Englishman. There was always the danger that if his own violent temper got the better of him, he might even at this eleventh hour order this insolent prisoner to summary trial and the guillotine, and thus lose the final chance of the more important capture.

He was sprawling on a chair in his usual slouching manner with his big head sunk between his broad shoulders, his shifty, prominent eyes wandering restlessly from the face of his colleague to that of the other man.

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El Dorado
Baroness Emmuska Orczy

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