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El Dorado

15.
The Gate Of La Villette
And now the shades of evening had long since yielded to those of night. The
gate of La Villette, at the northeast corner of the city, was about to close.
Armand, dressed in the rough clothes of a labouring man, was leaning against a
low wall at the angle of the narrow street which abuts on the canal at its further
end; from this point of vantage he could command a view of the gate and of the
life and bustle around it.
He was dog-tired. After the emotions of the past twenty-four hours, a day's hard
manual toil to which he was unaccustomed had caused him to ache in every
limb. As soon as he had arrived at the canal wharf in the early morning he had
obtained the kind of casual work that ruled about here, and soon was told off to
unload a cargo of coal which had arrived by barge overnight. He had set-to with a
will, half hoping to kill his anxiety by dint of heavy bodily exertion. During the
course of the morning he had suddenly become aware of Sir Andrew Ffoulkes
and of Lord Anthony Dewhurst working not far away from him, and as fine a pair
of coalheavers as any shipper could desire.
It was not very difficult in the midst of the noise and activity that reigned all about
the wharf for the three men to exchange a few words together, and Armand soon
communicated the chief's new instructions to my Lord Tony, who effectually
slipped away from his work some time during the day. Armand did not even see
him go, it had all been so neatly done.
Just before five o'clock in the afternoon the labourers were paid off. It was then
too dark to continue work. Armand would have liked to talk to Sir Andrew, if only
for a moment. He felt lonely and desperately anxious. He had hoped to tire out
his nerves as well as his body, but in this he had not succeeded. As soon as he
had given up his tools, his brain began to work again more busily than ever. It
followed Percy in his peregrinations through the city, trying to discover where
those brutes were keeping Jeanne.
That task had suddenly loomed up before Armand's mind with all its terrible
difficulties. How could Percy--a marked man if ever there was one--go from
prison to prison to inquire about Jeanne? The very idea seemed preposterous.
Armand ought never to have consented to such an insensate plan. The more he
thought of it, the more impossible did it seem that Blakeney could find anything
out.
Sir Andrew Ffoulkes was nowhere to be seen. St. Just wandered about in the
dark, lonely streets of this outlying quarter vainly trying to find the friend in whom
he could confide, who, no doubt, would reassure him as to Blakeney's probable
movements in Paris. Then as the hour approached for the closing of the city
gates Armand took up his stand at an angle of the street from whence he could
see both the gate on one side of him and the thin line of the canal intersecting
the street at its further end.
Unless Percy came within the next five minutes the gates would be closed and
the difficulties of crossing the barrier would be increased a hundredfold. The
market gardeners with their covered carts filed out of the gate one by one; the
 
 
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