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El Dorado

16.
The Weary Search
Blakeney was not at his lodgings when Armand arrived there that evening, nor
did he return, whilst the young man haunted the precincts of St. Germain
l'Auxerrois and wandered along the quays hours and hours at a stretch, until he
nearly dropped under the portico of a house, and realised that if he loitered
longer he might lose consciousness completely, and be unable on the morrow to
be of service to Jeanne.
He dragged his weary footsteps back to his own lodgings on the heights of
Montmartre. He had not found Percy, he had no news of Jeanne; it seemed as if
hell itself could hold no worse tortures than this intolerable suspense.
He threw himself down on the narrow palliasse and, tired nature asserting
herself, at last fell into a heavy, dreamless torpor, like the sleep of a drunkard,
deep but without the beneficent aid of rest.
It was broad daylight when he awoke. The pale light of a damp, wintry morning
filtered through the grimy panes of the window. Armand jumped out of bed,
aching of limb but resolute of mind. There was no doubt that Percy had failed in
discovering Jeanne's whereabouts; but where a mere friend had failed a lover
was more likely to succeed.
The rough clothes which he had worn yesterday were the only ones he had.
They would, of course, serve his purpose better than his own, which he had left
at Blakeney's lodgings yesterday. In half an hour he was dressed, looking a fairly
good imitation of a labourer out of work.
He went to a humble eating house of which he knew, and there, having ordered
some hot coffee with a hunk of bread, he set himself to think.
It was quite a usual thing these days for relatives and friends of prisoners to go
wandering about from prison to prison to find out where the loved ones happened
to be detained. The prisons were over full just now; convents, monasteries, and
public institutions had all been requisitioned by the Government for the housing
of the hundreds of so-called traitors who had been arrested on the barest
suspicion, or at the mere denunciation of an evil-wisher.
There were the Abbaye and the Luxembourg, the erstwhile convents of the
Visitation and the Sacre-Coeur, the cloister of the Oratorians, the Salpetriere,
and the St. Lazare hospitals, and there was, of course, the Temple, and, lastly,
the Conciergerie, to which those prisoners were brought whose trial would take
place within the next few days, and whose condemnation was practically
assured.
Persons under arrest at some of the other prisons did sometimes come out of
them alive, but the Conciergerie was only the ante-chamber of the guillotine.
Therefore Armand's idea was to visit the Conciergerie first. The sooner he could
reassure himself that Jeanne was not in immediate danger the better would he
be able to endure the agony of that heart-breaking search, that knocking at every
door in the hope of finding his beloved.
If Jeanne was not in the Conciergerie, then there might be some hope that she
was only being temporarily detained, and through Armand's excited brain there
 
 
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