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|Part I||Baroness Emmuska Orczy|
XXI Back To Paris
|Page 2 of 8||
Then, quite suddenly, he felt wakeful and alert; quite a while--even before he heard the welcome signal--he knew, with a curious, subtle sense of magnetism, that the hour had come, and that his chief was somewhere near by, not very far.
Then he heard the cry--a seamew's call--repeated thrice at intervals, and five minutes later something loomed out of the darkness quite close to the hind wheels of the cart.
"Hist! Ffoulkes!" came in a soft whisper, scarce louder than the wind.
"Present!" came in quick response.
"Here, help me to lift the child into the cart. He is asleep, and has been a dead weight on my arm for close on an hour now. Have you a dry bit of sacking or something to lay him on?"
"Not very dry, I am afraid."
With tender care the two men lifted the sleeping little King of France into the rickety cart. Blakeney laid his cloak over him, and listened for awhile to the slow regular breathing of the child.
"St. Just is not here--you know that?" said Sir Andrew after a while.
"Yes, I knew it," replied Blakeney curtly.
It was characteristic of these two men that not a word about the adventure itself, about the terrible risks and dangers of the past few hours, was exchanged between them. The child was here and was safe, and Blakeney knew the whereabouts of St. Just--that was enough for Sir Andrew Ffoulkes, the most devoted follower, the most perfect friend the Scarlet Pimpernel would ever know.
Ffoulkes now went to the horse, detached the nose-bag, and undid the nooses of the hobble and of the tether.
"Will you get in now, Blakeney?" he said; "we are ready."
And in unbroken silence they both got into the cart; Blakeney sitting on its floor beside the child, and Ffoulkes gathering the reins in his hands.
The wheels of the cart and the slow jog-trot of the horse made scarcely any noise in the mud of the roads, what noise they did make was effectually drowned by the soughing of the wind in the bare branches of the stunted acacia trees that edged the towpath along the line of the canal.
Sir Andrew had studied the topography of this desolate neighbourhood well during the past twenty-four hours; he knew of a detour that would enable him to avoid the La Villette gate and the neighbourhood of the fortifications, and yet bring him out soon on the road leading to St. Germain.
Once he turned to ask Blakeney the time.
"It must be close on ten now," replied Sir Percy. "Push your nag along, old man. Tony and Hastings will be waiting for us."
It was very difficult to see clearly even a metre or two ahead, but the road was a straight one, and the old nag seemed to know it almost as well and better than her driver. She shambled along at her own pace, covering the ground very slowly for Ffoulkes's burning impatience. Once or twice he had to get down and lead her over a rough piece of ground. They passed several groups of dismal, squalid houses, in some of which a dim light still burned, and as they skirted St. Ouen the church clock slowly tolled the hour of midnight.
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Baroness Emmuska Orczy
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