El Dorado HTML version

What occurred within the inner cell of the Conciergerie prison within the next half-
hour of that 16th day of Pluviose in the year II of the Republic is, perhaps, too
well known to history to need or bear overfull repetition.
Chroniclers intimate with the inner history of those infamous days have told us
how the chief agent of the Committee of General Security gave orders one hour
after midnight that hot soup, white bread and wine be served to the prisoner, who
for close on fourteen days previously had been kept on short rations of black
bread and water; the sergeant in charge of the guard-room watch for the night
also received strict orders that that same prisoner was on no account to be
disturbed until the hour of six in the morning, when he was to be served with
anything in the way of breakfast that he might fancy.
All this we know, and also that citizen Heron, having given all necessary orders
for the morning's expedition, returned to the Conciergerie, and found his
colleague Chauvelin waiting for him in the guard-room.
"Well?" he asked with febrile impatience--" the prisoner?
"He seems better and stronger," replied Chauvelin. "Not too well, I hope?"
"No, no, only just well enough."
"You have seen him--since his supper?"
"Only from the doorway. It seems he ate and drank hardly at all, and the sergeant
had some difficulty in keeping him awake until you tame."
"Well, now for the letter," concluded Heron with the same marked feverishness of
manner which sat so curiously on his uncouth personality. "Pen, ink and paper,
sergeant!" he commanded.
"On the table, in the prisoner's cell, citizen," replied the sergeant.
He preceded the two citizens across the guard-room to the doorway, and raised
for them the iron bar, lowering it back after them.
The next moment Heron and Chauvelin were once more face to face with their
Whether by accident or design the lamp had been so placed that as the two men
approached its light fell full upon their faces, while that of the prisoner remained
in shadow. He was leaning forward with both elbows on the table, his thin,
tapering fingers toying with the pen and ink-horn which had been placed close to
his hand.
"I trust that everything has been arranged for your comfort, Sir Percy?" Chauvelin
asked with a sarcastic little smile.
"I thank you, sir," replied Blakeney politely.
"You feel refreshed, I hope?"
"Greatly so, I assure you. But I am still demmed sleepy; and if you would kindly
be brief--"
"You have not changed your mind, sir?" queried Chauvelin, and a note of
anxiety, which he vainly tried to conceal, quivered in his voice.
"No, my good M. Chambertin," replied Blakeney with the same urbane courtesy,
"I have not changed my mind."