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The Project Gutenberg Etext of The Scarlet Pimpernel
I. PARIS: SEPTEMBER, 1792
II. DOVER: "THE FISHERMAN'S REST"
III. THE REFUGEES
IV. THE LEAGUE OF THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
VI. AN EXQUISITE OF '92
VII. THE SECRET ORCHARD
VIII. THE ACCREDITED AGENT
IX. THE OUTRAGE
X. IN THE OPERA BOX
XI. LORD GRENVILLE'S BALL
XII. THE SCRAP OF PAPER
XIII. EITHER XIV. ONE O'CLOCK PRECISELY!
XVIII. THE MYSTERIOUS DEVICE
XIX. THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
XX. THE FRIEND
XXIV. THE DEATH XXV. THE EAGLE AND THE FOX
XXVI. THE JEW
XXVII. ON THE TRACK
XXVIII. THE PERE BLANCHARD'S HUT
XXX. THE SCHOONER
XXXI. THE ESCAPE
THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
CHAPTER I PARIS: SEPTEMBER, 1792
A surging, seething, murmuring crowd of beings that are human
only in name, for to the eye and ear they seem naught but savage
creatures, animated by vile passions and by the lust of vengeance and
of hate. The hour, some little time before sunset, and the place, the
West Barricade, at the very spot where, a decade later, a proud tyrant
raised an undying monument to the nation's glory and his own vanity.
During the greater part of the day the guillotine had been
kept busy at its ghastly work: all that France had boasted of in the
past centuries, of ancient names, and blue blood, had paid toll to her
desire for liberty and for fraternity. The carnage had only ceased at
this late hour of the day because there were other more interesting
sights for the people to witness, a little while before the final
closing of the barricades for the night.
And so the crowd rushed away from the Place de la Greve and
made for the various barricades in order to watch this interesting and
It was to be seen every day, for those aristos were such
fools! They were traitors to the people of course, all of them, men,
women, and children, who happened to be descendants of the great men
who since the Crusades had made the glory of France: her old
NOBLESSE. Their ancestors had oppressed the people, had crushed
them under the scarlet heels of their dainty buckled shoes, and now
the people had become the rulers of France and crushed their former
masters--not beneath their heel, for they went shoeless mostly in
these days--but a more effectual weight, the knife of the guillotine.
And daily, hourly, the hideous instrument of torture claimed
its many victims--old men, young women, tiny children until the day
when it would finally demand the head of a King and of a beautiful
But this was as it should be: were not the people now the
rulers of France? Every aristocrat was a traitor, as his ancestors
had been before him: for two hundred years now the people had sweated,
and toiled, and starved, to keep a lustful court in lavish
extravagance; now the descendants of those who had helped to make
those courts brilliant had to hide for their lives--to fly, if they
wished to avoid the tardy vengeance of the people.
And they did try to hide, and tried to fly: that was just the
fun of the whole thing. Every afternoon before the gates closed and
the market carts went out in procession by the various barricades,
some fool of an aristo endeavoured to evade the clutches of the
Committee of Public Safety. In various disguises, under various
pretexts, they tried to slip through the barriers, which were so well
guarded by citizen soldiers of the Republic. Men in women's clothes,
women in male attire, children disguised in beggars' rags: there were
some of all sorts: CI-DEVANT counts, marquises, even dukes, who
wanted to fly from France, reach England or some other equally
accursed country, and there try to rouse foreign feelings against the
glorious Revolution, or to raise an army in order to liberate the
wretched prisoners in the Temple, who had once called themselves
sovereigns of France.
But they were nearly always caught at the barricades, Sergeant
Bibot especially at the West Gate had a wonderful nose for scenting an
aristo in the most perfect disguise. Then, of course, the fun began.
Bibot would look at his prey as a cat looks upon the mouse, play with
him, sometimes for quite a quarter of an hour, pretend to be
hoodwinked by the disguise, by the wigs and other bits of theatrical
make-up which hid the identity of a CI-DEVANT noble marquise or count.
Oh! Bibot had a keen sense of humour, and it was well worth
hanging round that West Barricade, in order to see him catch an aristo
in the very act of trying to flee from the vengeance of the people.
Sometimes Bibot would let his prey actually out by the gates,
allowing him to think for the space of two minutes at least that he
really had escaped out of Paris, and might even manage to reach the
coast of England in safety, but Bibot would let the unfortunate wretch
walk about ten metres towards the open country, then he would send two
men after him and bring him back, stripped of his disguise.
Oh! that was extremely funny, for as often as not the
fugitive would prove to be a woman, some proud marchioness, who looked
terribly comical when she found herself in Bibot's clutches after all,
and knew that a summary trial would await her the next day and after
that, the fond embrace of Madame la Guillotine.
No wonder that on this fine afternoon in September the crowd
round Bibot's gate was eager and excited. The lust of blood grows
with its satisfaction, there is no satiety: the crowd had seen a
hundred noble heads fall beneath the guillotine to-day, it wanted to
make sure that it would see another hundred fall on the morrow.
Bibot was sitting on an overturned and empty cask close by the
gate of the barricade; a small detachment of citoyen soldiers was
under his command. The work had been very hot lately. Those cursed
aristos were becoming terrified and tried their hardest to slip out of
Paris: men, women and children, whose ancestors, even in remote ages,
had served those traitorous Bourbons, were all traitors themselves and
right food for the guillotine. Every day Bibot had had the
satisfaction of unmasking some fugitive royalists and sending them
back to be tried by the Committee of Public Safety, presided over by
that good patriot, Citoyen Foucquier-Tinville.
Robespierre and Danton both had commended Bibot for his zeal
and Bibot was proud of the fact that he on his own initiative had sent
at least fifty aristos to the guillotine.
But to-day all the sergeants in command at the various
barricades had had special orders. Recently a very great number of
aristos had succeeded in escaping out of France and in reaching
England safely. There were curious rumours about these escapes; they
had become very frequent and singularly daring; the people's minds
were becoming strangely excited about it all. Sergeant Grospierre had
been sent to the guillotine for allowing a whole family of aristos to
slip out of the North Gate under his very nose.
It was asserted that these escapes were organised by a band of
Englishmen, whose daring seemed to be unparalleled, and who, from
sheer desire to meddle in what did not concern them, spent their spare
time in snatching away lawful victims destined for Madame la
Guillotine. These rumours soon grew in extravagance; there was no
doubt that this band of meddlesome Englishmen did exist; moreover,
they seemed to be under the leadership of a man whose pluck and
audacity were almost fabulous. Strange stories were afloat of how he
and those aristos whom he rescued became suddenly invisible as they
reached the barricades and escaped out of the gates by sheer
No one had seen these mysterious Englishmen; as for their
leader, he was never spoken of, save with a superstitious shudder.
Citoyen Foucquier-Tinville would in the course of the day receive a
scrap of paper from some mysterious source; sometimes he would find it
in the pocket of his coat, at others it would be handed to him by
someone in the crowd, whilst he was on his way to the sitting of the
Committee of Public Safety. The paper always contained a brief notice
that the band of meddlesome Englishmen were at work, and it was always
signed with a device drawn in red--a little star-shaped flower, which
we in England call the Scarlet Pimpernel. Within a few hours of the
receipt of this impudent notice, the citoyens of the Committee of Public
Safety would hear that so many royalists and aristocrats had succeeded
in reaching the coast, and were on their way to England and safety.
The guards at the gates had been doubled, the sergeants in
command had been threatened with death, whilst liberal rewards were
offered for the capture of these daring and impudent Englishmen.
There was a sum of five thousand francs promised to the man who laid
hands on the mysterious and elusive Scarlet Pimpernel.
Everyone felt that Bibot would be that man, and Bibot allowed
that belief to take firm root in everybody's mind; and so, day after
day, people came to watch him at the West Gate, so as to be present
when he laid hands on any fugitive aristo who perhaps might be
accompanied by that mysterious Englishman.
"Bah!" he said to his trusted corporal, "Citoyen Grospierre
was a fool! Had it been me now, at that North Gate last week. . ."
Citoyen Bibot spat on the ground to express his contempt for
his comrade's stupidity.
"How did it happen, citoyen?" asked the corporal.
"Grospierre was at the gate, keeping good watch," began Bibot,
pompously, as the crowd closed in round him, listening eagerly to his
narrative. "We've all heard of this meddlesome Englishman, this
accursed Scarlet Pimpernel. He won't get through MY gate,
MORBLEU! unless he be the devil himself. But Grospierre was a fool.
The market carts were going through the gates; there was one laden
with casks, and driven by an old man, with a boy beside him.
Grospierre was a bit drunk, but he thought himself very clever; he
looked into the casks--most of them, at least--and saw they were
empty, and let the cart go through."
A murmur of wrath and contempt went round the group of
ill-clad wretches, who crowded round Citoyen Bibot.
"Half an hour later," continued the sergeant, "up comes a
captain of the guard with a squad of some dozen soldiers with him.
`Has a car gone through?' he asks of Grospierre, breathlessly. `Yes,'
says Grospierre, `not half an hour ago.' `And you have let them
escape,' shouts the captain furiously. `You'll go to the guillotine
for this, citoyen sergeant! that cart held concealed the CI-DEVANT
Duc de Chalis and all his family!' `What!' thunders Grospierre,
aghast. `Aye! and the driver was none other than that cursed
Englishman, the Scarlet Pimpernel.'"
A howl of execration greeted this tale. Citoyen Grospierre
had paid for his blunder on the guillotine, but what a fool! oh!
what a fool!
Bibot was laughing so much at his own tale that it was some
time before he could continue.
"`After them, my men,' shouts the captain," he said after a while,
"`remember the reward; after them, they cannot have gone far!'
And with that he rushes through the gate followed by his dozen soldiers."
"But it was too late!" shouted the crowd, excitedly.
"They never got them!"
"Curse that Grospierre for his folly!"
"He deserved his fate!"
"Fancy not examining those casks properly!"
But these sallies seemed to amuse Citoyen Bibot exceedingly;
he laughed until his sides ached, and the tears streamed down his
"Nay, nay!" he said at last, "those aristos weren't in the
cart; the driver was not the Scarlet Pimpernel!"
"No! The captain of the guard was that damned Englishman
in disguise, and everyone of his soldiers aristos!"
The crowd this time said nothing: the story certainly savoured
of the supernatural, and though the Republic had abolished God, it had
not quite succeeded in killing the fear of the supernatural in the
hearts of the people. Truly that Englishman must be the devil himself.
The sun was sinking low down in the west. Bibot prepared himself
to close the gates.
"EN AVANT The carts," he said.
Some dozen covered carts were drawn up in a row, ready to
leave town, in order to fetch the produce from the country close by,
for market the next morning. They were mostly well known to Bibot,
as they went through his gate twice every day on their way to and from
the town. He spoke to one or two of their drivers--mostly women--and
was at great pains to examine the inside of the carts.
"You never know," he would say, "and I'm not going to be
caught like that fool Grospierre."
The women who drove the carts usually spent their day on the
Place de la Greve, beneath the platform of the guillotine, knitting
and gossiping, whilst they watched the rows of tumbrils arriving with
the victims the Reign of Terror claimed every day. It was great fun
to see the aristos arriving for the reception of Madame la Guillotine,
and the places close by the platform were very much sought after.
Bibot, during the day, had been on duty on the Place. He recognized
most of the old hats, "tricotteuses," as they were called, who sat there
and knitted, whilst head after head fell beneath the knife, and they
themselves got quite bespattered with the blood of those cursed aristos.
"He! la mere!" said Bibot to one of these horrible hags,
"what have you got there?"
He had seen her earlier in the day, with her knitting and the
whip of her cart close beside her. Now she had fastened a row of
curly locks to the whip handle, all colours, from gold to silver, fair
to dark, and she stroked them with her huge, bony fingers as she
laughed at Bibot.
"I made friends with Madame Guillotine's lover," she said with
a coarse laugh, "he cut these off for me from the heads as they rolled
down. He has promised me some more to-morrow, but I don't know if I
shall be at my usual place."
"Ah! how is that, la mere?" asked Bibot, who, hardened soldier that
he was, could not help shuddering at the awful loathsomeness of this
semblance of a woman, with her ghastly trophy on the handle of her whip.
"My grandson has got the small-pox," she said with a jerk of
her thumb towards the inside of her cart, "some say it's the plague!
If it is, I sha'n't be allowed to come into Paris to-morrow."
At the first mention of the word small-pox, Bibot had stepped
hastily backwards, and when the old hag spoke of the plague,
he retreated from her as fast as he could.
"Curse you!" he muttered, whilst the whole crowd hastily
avoided the cart, leaving it standing all alone in the midst of the
The old hag laughed.
"Curse you, citoyen, for being a coward," she said. "Bah!
what a man to be afraid of sickness."
"MORBLEU! the plague!"
Everyone was awe-struck and silent, filled with horror for the
loathsome malady, the one thing which still had the power to arouse
terror and disgust in these savage, brutalised creatures.
"Get out with you and with your plague-stricken brood!"
shouted Bibot, hoarsely.
And with another rough laugh and coarse jest, the old hag
whipped up her lean nag and drove her cart out of the gate.
This incident had spoilt the afternoon. The people were
terrified of these two horrible curses, the two maladies which nothing
could cure, and which were the precursors of an awful and lonely
death. They hung about the barricades, silent and sullen for a while,
eyeing one another suspiciously, avoiding each other as if by
instinct, lest the plague lurked already in their midst. Presently,
as in the case of Grospierre, a captain of the guard appeared
suddenly. But he was known to Bibot, and there was no fear of his
turning out to be a sly Englishman in disguise.
"A cart,. . ." he shouted breathlessly, even before he had
reached the gates.
"What cart?" asked Bibot, roughly.
"Driven by an old hag. . . . A covered cart. . ."
"There were a dozen. . ."
"An old hag who said her son had the plague?"
"Yes. . ."
"You have not let them go?"
"MORBLEU!" said Bibot, whose purple cheeks had suddenly
become white with fear.
"The cart contained the CI-DEVANT Comtesse de Tourney and
her two children, all of them traitors and condemned to death."
"And their driver?" muttered Bibot, as a superstitious shudder
ran down his spine.
"SACRE TONNERRE," said the captain, "but it is feared that
it was that accursed Englishman himself--the Scarlet Pimpernel."
CHAPTER II DOVER: "THE FISHERMAN'S REST"
In the kitchen Sally was extremely busy--saucepans and
frying-pans were standing in rows on the gigantic hearth, the huge
stock-pot stood in a corner, and the jack turned with slow
deliberation, and presented alternately to the glow every side of a
noble sirloin of beef. The two little kitchen-maids bustled around,
eager to help, hot and panting, with cotton sleeves well tucked up
above the dimpled elbows, and giggling over some private jokes of
their own, whenever Miss Sally's back was turned for a moment. And
old Jemima, stolid in temper and solid in bulk, kept up a long and
subdued grumble, while she stirred the stock-pot methodically over the
"What ho! Sally!" came in cheerful if none too melodious
accents from the coffee-room close by.
"Lud bless my soul!" exclaimed Sally, with a good-humoured
laugh, "what be they all wanting now, I wonder!"
"Beer, of course," grumbled Jemima, "you don't `xpect Jimmy
Pitkin to `ave done with one tankard, do ye?"
"Mr. `Arry, `e looked uncommon thirsty too," simpered Martha,
one of the little kitchen-maids; and her beady black eyes twinkled as
they met those of her companion, whereupon both started on a round of
short and suppressed giggles.
Sally looked cross for a moment, and thoughtfully rubbed her
hands against her shapely hips; her palms were itching, evidently, to
come in contact with Martha's rosy cheeks--but inherent good-humour
prevailed, and with a pout and a shrug of the shoulders, she turned
her attention to the fried potatoes.
"What ho, Sally! hey, Sally!"
And a chorus of pewter mugs, tapped with impatient hands
against the oak tables of the coffee-room, accompanied the shouts for
mine host's buxom daughter.
"Sally!" shouted a more persistent voice, "are ye goin' to be
all night with that there beer?"
"I do think father might get the beer for them," muttered
Sally, as Jemima, stolidly and without further comment, took a couple
of foam-crowned jugs from the shelf, and began filling a number of
pewter tankards with some of that home-brewed ale for which "The
Fisherman's Rest" had been famous since that days of King Charles.
"`E knows `ow busy we are in `ere."
"Your father is too busy discussing politics with Mr. `Empseed to worry
'isself about you and the kitchen," grumbled Jemima under her breath.
Sally had gone to the small mirror which hung in a corner of
the kitchen, and was hastily smoothing her hair and setting her
frilled cap at its most becoming angle over her dark curls; then she
took up the tankards by their handles, three in each strong, brown
hand, and laughing, grumbling, blushing, carried them through into the
There, there was certainly no sign of that bustle and activity
which kept four women busy and hot in the glowing kitchen beyond.
The coffee-room of "The Fisherman's Rest" is a show place now
at the beginning of the twentieth century. At the end of the
eighteenth, in the year of grace 1792, it had not yet gained the
notoriety and importance which a hundred additional years and the
craze of the age have since bestowed upon it. Yet it was an old
place, even then, for the oak rafters and beams were already black
with age--as were the panelled seats, with their tall backs, and the
long polished tables between, on which innumerable pewter tankards had
left fantastic patterns of many-sized rings. In the leaded window,
high up, a row of pots of scarlet geraniums and blue larkspur gave the
bright note of colour against the dull background of the oak.
That Mr. Jellyband, landlord of "The Fisherman's Reef" at
Dover, was a prosperous man, was of course clear to the most casual
observer. The pewter on the fine old dressers, the brass above the
gigantic hearth, shone like silver and gold--the red-tiled floor was
as brilliant as the scarlet geranium on the window sill--this meant
that his servants were good and plentiful, that the custom was
constant, and of that order which necessitated the keeping up of the
coffee-room to a high standard of elegance and order.
As Sally came in, laughing through her frowns, and displaying
a row of dazzling white teeth, she was greeted with shouts and chorus
"Why, here's Sally! What ho, Sally! Hurrah for pretty Sally!"
"I thought you'd grown deaf in that kitchen of yours," muttered Jimmy
Pitkin, as he passed the back of his hand across his very dry lips.
"All ri'! all ri'!" laughed Sally, as she deposited the
freshly-filled tankards upon the tables, "why, what a `urry to be
sure! And is your gran'mother a-dyin' an' you wantin' to see the pore
soul afore she'm gone! I never see'd such a mighty rushin'"
A chorus of good-humoured laughter greeted this witticism,
which gave the company there present food for many jokes, for some
considerable time. Sally now seemed in less of a hurry to get back to
her pots and pans. A young man with fair curly hair, and eager,
bright blue eyes, was engaging most of her attention and the whole of
her time, whilst broad witticisms anent Jimmy Pitkin's fictitious
grandmother flew from mouth to mouth, mixed with heavy puffs of
pungent tobacco smoke.
Facing the hearth, his legs wide apart, a long clay pipe in
his mouth, stood mine host himself, worthy Mr. Jellyband, landlord of
"The Fisherman's Rest," as his father had before him, aye, and his
grandfather and greatgrandfather too, for that matter. Portly in
build, jovial in countenance and somewhat bald of pate, Mr. Jellyband
was indeed a typical rural John Bull of those days--the days when our
prejudiced insularity was at its height, when to an Englishman, be he
lord, yeoman, or peasant, the whole of the continent of Europe was a
den of immorality and the rest of the world an unexploited land of
savages and cannibals.
There he stood, mine worthy host, firm and well set up on his
limbs, smoking his long churchwarden and caring nothing for nobody at
home, and despising everybody abroad. He wore the typical scarlet
waistcoat, with shiny brass buttons, the corduroy breeches, and grey
worsted stockings and smart buckled shoes, that characterised every
self-respecting innkeeper in Great Britain in these days--and while
pretty, motherless Sally had need of four pairs of brown hands to do
all the work that fell on her shapely shoulders, worthy Jellyband
discussed the affairs of nations with his most privileged guests.
The coffee-room indeed, lighted by two well-polished lamps,
which hung from the raftered ceiling, looked cheerful and cosy in the
extreme. Through the dense clouds of tobacco smoke that hung about in
every corner, the faces of Mr. Jellyband's customers appeared red and
pleasant to look at, and on good terms with themselves, their host and
all the world; from every side of the room loud guffaws accompanied
pleasant, if not highly intellectual, conversation--while Sally's
repeated giggles testified to the good use Mr. Harry Waite was making
of the short time she seemed inclined to spare him.
They were mostly fisher-folk who patronised Mr. Jellyband's
coffee-room, but fishermen are known to be very thirsty people; the
salt which they breathe in, when they are on the sea, accounts for
their parched throats when on shore. but "The Fisherman's Rest" was
something more than a rendezvous for these humble folk. The London
and Dover coach started from the hostel daily, and passengers who had
come across the Channel, and those who started for the "grand tour,"
all became acquainted with Mr. Jellyband, his French wines and his
It was towards the close of September, 1792, and the weather
which had been brilliant and hot throughout the month had suddenly
broken up; for two days torrents of rain had deluged the south of
England, doing its level best to ruin what chances the apples and
pears and late plums had of becoming really fine, self-respecting
fruit. Even now it was beating against the leaded windows, and
tumbling down the chimney, making the cheerful wood fire sizzle in the
"Lud! did you ever see such a wet September, Mr. Jellyband?"
asked Mr. Hempseed.
He sat in one of the seats inside the hearth, did Mr.
Hempseed, for he was an authority and important personage not only at
"The Fisherman's Rest," where Mr. Jellyband always made a special
selection of him as a foil for political arguments, but throughout the
neighborhood, where his learning and notably his knowledge of the
Scriptures was held in the most profound awe and respect. With one
hand buried in the capacious pockets of his corduroys underneath his
elaborately-worked, well-worn smock, the other holding his long clay
pipe, Mr. Hempseed sat there looking dejectedly across the room at the
rivulets of moisture which trickled down the window panes.
"No," replied Mr. Jellyband, sententiously, "I dunno, Mr.
'Empseed, as I ever did. An' I've been in these parts nigh on sixty
"Aye! you wouldn't rec'llect the first three years of them sixty,
Mr. Jellyband," quietly interposed Mr. Hempseed. "I dunno as I ever
see'd an infant take much note of the weather, leastways not in these
parts, an' _I_'ve lived `ere nigh on seventy-five years, Mr. Jellyband."
The superiority of this wisdom was so incontestable that for the moment
Mr. Jellyband was not ready with his usual flow of argument.
"It do seem more like April than September, don't it?"
continued Mr. Hempseed, dolefully, as a shower of raindrops fell with
a sizzle upon the fire.
"Aye! that it do," assented the worth host, "but then what can you `xpect,
Mr. `Empseed, I says, with sich a government as we've got?"
Mr. Hempseed shook his head with an infinity of wisdom,
tempered by deeply-rooted mistrust of the British climate
and the British Government.
"I don't `xpect nothing, Mr. Jellyband," he said. "Pore folks
like us is of no account up there in Lunnon, I knows that, and it's
not often as I do complain. But when it comes to sich wet weather in
September, and all me fruit a-rottin' and a-dying' like the `Guptian
mother's first born, and doin' no more good than they did, pore dears,
save a lot more Jews, pedlars and sich, with their oranges and sich
like foreign ungodly fruit, which nobody'd buy if English apples and
pears was nicely swelled. As the Scriptures say--"
"That's quite right, Mr. `Empseed," retorted Jellyband, "and
as I says, what can you `xpect? There's all them Frenchy devils over
the Channel yonder a-murderin' their king and nobility, and Mr. Pitt
and Mr. Fox and Mr. Burke a-fightin' and a-wranglin' between them, if
we Englishmen should `low them to go on in their ungodly way. `Let
'em murder!' says Mr. Pitt. `Stop `em!' says Mr. Burke."
"And let `em murder, says I, and be demmed to `em." said Mr.
Hempseed, emphatically, for he had but little liking for his friend
Jellyband's political arguments, wherein he always got out of his
depth, and had but little chance for displaying those pearls of wisdom
which had earned for him so high a reputation in the neighbourhood and
so many free tankards of ale at "The Fisherman's Rest."
"Let `em murder," he repeated again, "but don't lets `ave sich rain in
September, for that is agin the law and the Scriptures which says--"
"Lud! Mr. `Arry, `ow you made me jump!"
It was unfortunate for Sally and her flirtation that this
remark of hers should have occurred at the precise moment when Mr.
Hempseed was collecting his breath, in order to deliver himself one of
those Scriptural utterances which made him famous, for it brought down
upon her pretty head the full flood of her father's wrath.
"Now then, Sally, me girl, now then!" he said, trying to force
a frown upon his good-humoured face, "stop that fooling with them
young jackanapes and get on with the work."
"The work's gettin' on all ri', father."
But Mr. Jellyband was peremptory. He had other views for his buxom
daughter, his only child, who would in God's good time become the owner
of "The Fisherman's Rest," than to see her married to one of these
young fellows who earned but a precarious livelihood with their net.
"Did ye hear me speak, me girl?" he said in that quiet tone,
which no one inside the inn dared to disobey. "Get on with my Lord
Tony's supper, for, if it ain't the best we can do, and `e not
satisfied, see what you'll get, that's all."
Reluctantly Sally obeyed.
"Is you `xpecting special guests then to-night, Mr.
Jellyband?" asked Jimmy Pitkin, in a loyal attempt to divert his
host's attention from the circumstances connected with Sally's exit
from the room.
"Aye! that I be," replied Jellyband, "friends of my Lord Tony
hisself. Dukes and duchesses from over the water yonder, whom the
young lord and his friend, Sir Andrew Ffoulkes, and other young
noblemen have helped out of the clutches of them murderin' devils."
But this was too much for Mr. Hempseed's querulous philosophy.
"Lud!" he said, "what do they do that for, I wonder? I don't
'old not with interferin' in other folks' ways. As the Scriptures
"Maybe, Mr. `Empseed," interrupted Jellyband, with biting
sarcasm, "as you're a personal friend of Mr. Pitt, and as you says
along with Mr. Fox: `Let `em murder!' says you."
"Pardon me, Mr. Jellyband," febbly protested Mr. Hempseed, "I
dunno as I ever did."
But Mr. Jellyband had at last succeeded in getting upon his
favourite hobby-horse, and had no intention of dismounting in any
"Or maybe you've made friends with some of them French chaps
'oo they do say have come over here o' purpose to make us Englishmen
agree with their murderin' ways."
"I dunno what you mean, Mr. Jellyband," suggested Mr.
Hempseed, "all I know is--"
"All _I_ know is," loudly asserted mine host, "that there was
my friend Peppercorn, `oo owns the `Blue-Faced Boar,' an' as true and
loyal an Englishman as you'd see in the land. And now look at
'im!--'E made friends with some o' them frog-eaters, `obnobbed with
them just as if they was Englishmen, and not just a lot of immoral,
Godforsaking furrin' spies. Well! and what happened? Peppercorn `e
now ups and talks of revolutions, and liberty, and down with the
aristocrats, just like Mr. `Empseed over `ere!"
"Pardon me, Mr. Jellyband," again interposed Mr. Hempseed feebly,
"I dunno as I ever did--"
Mr. Jellyband had appealed to the company in general, who were
listening awe-struck and open-mouthed at the recital of Mr.
Peppercorn's defalcations. At one table two customers--gentlemen
apparently by their clothes--had pushed aside their half-finished game
of dominoes, and had been listening for some time, and evidently with
much amusement at Mr. Jellyband's international opinions. One of them
now, with a quiet, sarcastic smile still lurking round the corners of
his mobile mouth, turned towards the centre of the room where Mr.
Jellyband was standing.
"You seem to think, mine honest friend," he said quietly,
"that these Frenchmen,--spies I think you called them--are mighty
clever fellows to have made mincemeat so to speak of your friend Mr.
Peppercorn's opinions. How did they accomplish that now, think you?"
"Lud! sir, I suppose they talked `im over. Those Frenchies,
I've `eard it said, `ave got the gift of gab--and Mr. `Empseed `ere
will tell you `ow it is that they just twist some people round their
little finger like."
"Indeed, and is that so, Mr. Hempseed?" inquired the stranger
"Nay, sir!" replied Mr. Hempseed, much irritated, "I dunno as
I can give you the information you require."
"Faith, then," said the stranger, "let us hope, my worthy
host, that these clever spies will not succeed in upsetting your
extremely loyal opinions."
But this was too much for Mr. Jellyband's pleasant equanimity.
He burst into an uproarious fit of laughter, which was soon echoed by
those who happened to be in his debt.
"Hahaha! hohoho! hehehe!" He laughed in every key, did my
worthy host, and laughed until his sided ached, and his eyes streamed.
"At me! hark at that! Did ye `ear `im say that they'd be upsettin'
my opinions?--Eh?--Lud love you, sir, but you do say some queer
"Well, Mr. Jellyband," said Mr. Hempseed, sententiously, "you know
what the Scriptures say: `Let `im `oo stands take `eed lest `e fall.'"
"But then hark'ee Mr. `Empseed," retorted Jellyband, still
holding his sides with laughter, "the Scriptures didn't know me. Why,
I wouldn't so much as drink a glass of ale with one o' them murderin'
Frenchmen, and nothin' `d make me change my opinions. Why! I've `eard
it said that them frog-eaters can't even speak the King's English, so,
of course, if any of `em tried to speak their God-forsaken lingo to
me, why, I should spot them directly, see!--and forewarned is
forearmed, as the saying goes."
"Aye! my honest friend," assented the stranger cheerfully, "I
see that you are much too sharp, and a match for any twenty Frenchmen,
and here's to your very good health, my worthy host, if you'll do me
the honour to finish this bottle of mine with me."
"I am sure you're very polite, sir," said Mr. Jellyband,
wiping his eyes which were still streaming with the abundance of his
laughter, "and I don't mind if I do."
The stranger poured out a couple of tankards full of wine, and
having offered one to mine host, he took the other himself.
"Loyal Englishmen as we all are," he said, whilst the same humorous
smile played round the corners of his thin lips--"loyal as we are,
we must admit that this at least is one good thing which comes to
us from France."
"Aye! we'll none of us deny that, sir," assented mine host.
"And here's to the best landlord in England, our worthy host,
Mr. Jellyband," said the stranger in a loud tone of voice.
"Hi, hip, hurrah!" retorted the whole company present. Then
there was a loud clapping of hands, and mugs and tankards made a
rattling music upon the tables to the accompaniment of loud laughter
at nothing in particular, and of Mr. Jellyband's muttered
"Just fancy ME bein' talked over by any God-forsaken
furriner!--What?--Lud love you, sir, but you do say some queer things."
To which obvious fact the stranger heartily assented. It was
certainly a preposterous suggestion that anyone could ever upset Mr.
Jellyband's firmly-rooted opinions anent the utter worthlessness of
the inhabitants of the whole continent of Europe.
CHAPTER III THE REFUGEES
Feeling in every part of England certainly ran very high at
this time against the French and their doings. Smugglers and
legitimate traders between the French and the English coasts brought
snatches of news from over the water, which made every honest
Englishman's blood boil, and made him long to have "a good go" at
those murderers, who had imprisoned their king and all his family,
subjected the queen and the royal children to every species of
indignity, and were even now loudly demanding the blood of the whole
Bourbon family and of every one of its adherents.
The execution of the Princesse de Lamballe, Marie Antoinette's
young and charming friend, had filled every one in England with
unspeakable horror, the daily execution of scores of royalists of good
family, whose only sin was their aristocratic name, seemed to cry for
vengeance to the whole of civilised Europe.
Yet, with all that, no one dared to interfere. Burke had
exhausted all his eloquence in trying to induce the British Government
to fight the revolutionary government of France, but Mr. Pitt, with
characteristic prudence, did not feel that this country was fit yet to
embark on another arduous and costly war. It was for Austria to take
the initiative; Austria, whose fairest daughter was even now a
dethroned queen, imprisoned and insulted by a howling mob; surely
'twas not--so argued Mr. Fox--for the whole of England to take up
arms, because one set of Frenchmen chose to murder another.
As for Mr. Jellyband and his fellow John Bulls, though they
looked upon all foreigners with withering contempt, they were royalist
and anti-revolutionists to a man, and at this present moment were
furious with Pitt for his caution and moderation, although they
naturally understood nothing of the diplomatic reasons which guided
that great man's policy.
By now Sally came running back, very excited and very eager.
The joyous company in the coffee-room had heard nothing of the noise
outside, but she had spied a dripping horse and rider who had stopped
at the door of "The Fisherman's Rest," and while the stable boy ran
forward to take charge of the horse, pretty Miss Sally went to the
front door to greet the welcome visitor.
"I think I see'd my Lord Antony's horse out in the yard,
father," she said, as she ran across the coffee-room.
But already the door had been thrown open from outside, and the
next moment an arm, covered in drab cloth and dripping with the heavy
rain, was round pretty Sally's waist, while a hearty voice echoed
along the polished rafters of the coffee-room.
"Aye, and bless your brown eyes for being so sharp, my pretty
Sally," said the man who had just entered, whilst worthy Mr. Jellyband
came bustling forward, eager, alert and fussy, as became the advent of
one of the most favoured guests of his hostel.
"Lud, I protest, Sally," added Lord Antony, as he deposited a
kiss on Miss Sally's blooming cheeks, "but you are growing prettier
and prettier every time I see you--and my honest friend, Jellyband
here, have hard work to keep the fellows off that slim waist of yours.
What say you, Mr. Waite?"
Mr. Waite--torn between his respect for my lord and his dislike of
that particular type of joke--only replied with a doubtful grunt.
Lord Antony Dewhurst, one of the sons of the Duke of Exeter,
was in those days a very perfect type of a young English
gentlemen--tall, well set-up, broad of shoulders and merry of face,
his laughter rang loudly whereever he went. A good sportsman, a
lively companion, a courteous, well-bred man of the world, with not
too much brains to spoil his temper, he was a universal favourite in
London drawing-rooms or in the coffee-rooms of village inns. At "The
Fisherman's Rest" everyone knew him--for he was fond of a trip across
to France, and always spent a night under worthy Mr. Jellyband's roof
on his way there or back.
He nodded to Waite, Pitkin and the others as he at last
released Sally's waist, and crossed over to the hearth to warm and dry
himself: as he did so, he cast a quick, somewhat suspicious glance at
the two strangers, who had quietly resumed their game of dominoes, and
for a moment a look of deep earnestness, even of anxiety, clouded his
jovial young face.
But only for a moment; the next he turned to Mr. Hempseed, who
was respectfully touching his forelock.
"Well, Mr. Hempseed, and how is the fruit?"
"Badly, my lord, badly," replied Mr. Hempseed, dolefully, "but
what can you `xpect with this `ere government favourin' them rascals
over in France, who would murder their king and all their nobility."
"Odd's life!" retorted Lord Antony; "so they would, honest
Hempseed,--at least those they can get hold of, worse luck! But we
have got some friends coming here to-night, who at any rate have
evaded their clutches."
It almost seemed, when the young man said these words, as if
he threw a defiant look towards the quiet strangers in the corner.
"Thanks to you, my lord, and to your friends, so I've heard it said,"
said Mr. Jellyband.
But in a moment Lord Antony's hand fell warningly on mine host's arm.
"Hush!" he said peremptorily, and instinctively once again
looked towards the strangers.
"Oh! Lud love you, they are all right, my lord," retorted
Jellyband; "don't you be afraid. I wouldn't have spoken, only I knew
we were among friends. That gentleman over there is as true and loyal
a subject of King George as you are yourself, my lord saving your
presence. He is but lately arrived in Dover, and is setting down in
business in these parts."
"In business? Faith, then, it must be as an undertaker, for I
vow I never beheld a more rueful countenance."
"Nay, my lord, I believe that the gentleman is a widower,
which no doubt would account for the melancholy of his bearing--but he
is a friend, nevertheless, I'll vouch for that-and you will own, my
lord, that who should judge of a face better than the landlord of a
"Oh, that's all right, then, if we are among friends," said
Lord Antony, who evidently did not care to discuss the subject with
his host. "But, tell me, you have no one else staying here, have you?"
"No one, my lord, and no one coming, either, leastways--"
"No one your lordship would object to, I know."
"Who is it?"
"Well, my lord, Sir Percy Blakeney and his lady will be here
presently, but they ain't a-goin' to stay--"
"Lady Blakeney?" queried Lord Antony, in some astonishment.
"Aye, my lord. Sir Percy's skipper was here just now. He
says that my lady's brother is crossing over to France to-day in the
DAY DREAM, which is Sir Percy's yacht, and Sir Percy and my lady
will come with him as far as here to see the last of him. It don't
put you out, do it, my lord?"
"No, no, it doesn't put me out, friend; nothing will put me
out, unless that supper is not the very best which Miss Sally can
cook, and which has ever been served in `The Fisherman's Rest.'"
"You need have no fear of that, my lord," said Sally, who all this
while had been busy setting the table for supper. And very gay and
inviting it looked, with a large bunch of brilliantly coloured dahlias
in the centre, and the bright pewter goblets and blue china about.
"How many shall I lay for, my lord?"
"Five places, pretty Sally, but let the supper be enough for
ten at least--our friends will be tired, and, I hope, hungry.
As for me, I vow I could demolish a baron of beef to-night."
"Here they are, I do believe," said Sally excitedly, as a
distant clatter of horses and wheels could now be distinctly heard,
drawing rapidly nearer.
There was a general commotion in the coffee-room. Everyone
was curious to see my Lord Antony's swell friends from over the water.
Miss Sally cast one or two quick glances at the little bit of mirror
which hung on the wall, and worthy Mr. Jellyband bustled out in order
to give the first welcome himself to his distinguished guests. Only
the two strangers in the corner did not participate in the general
excitement. They were calmly finishing their game of dominoes, and
did not even look once towards the door.
"Straight ahead, Comtesse, the door on your right," said a
pleasant voice outside.
"Aye! there they are, all right enough." said Lord Antony,
joyfully; "off with you, my pretty Sally, and see how quick you can
dish up the soup."
The door was thrown wide open, and, preceded by Mr. Jellyband,
who was profuse in his bows and welcomes, a party of four--two ladies
and two gentlemen--entered the coffee-room.
"Welcome! Welcome to old England!" said Lord Antony,
effusively, as he came eagerly forward with both hands outstretched
towards the newcomers.
"Ah, you are Lord Antony Dewhurst, I think," said one of the
ladies, speaking with a strong foreign accent.
"At your service, Madame," he replied, as he ceremoniously
kissed the hands of both the ladies, then turned to the men and shook
them both warmly by the hand.
Sally was already helping the ladies to take off their
traveling cloaks, and both turned, with a shiver, towards the
There was a general movement among the company in the
coffee-room. Sally had bustled off to her kitchen whilst Jellyband,
still profuse with his respectful salutations, arranged one or two
chairs around the fire. Mr. Hempseed, touching his forelock, was
quietly vacating the seat in the hearth. Everyone was staring
curiously, yet deferentially, at the foreigners.
"Ah, Messieurs! what can I say?" said the elder of the two
ladies, as she stretched a pair of fine, aristocratic hands to the
warmth of the blaze, and looked with unspeakable gratitude first at
Lord Antony, then at one of the young men who had accompanied her
party, and who was busy divesting himself of his heavy, caped coat.
"Only that you are glad to be in England, Comtesse," replied
Lord Antony, "and that you have not suffered too much from your trying
"Indeed, indeed, we are glad to be in England," she said,
while her eyes filled with tears, "and we have already forgotten all
that we have suffered."
Her voice was musical and low, and there was a great deal of
calm dignity and of many sufferings nobly endured marked in the
handsome, aristocratic face, with its wealth of snowy-white hair
dressed high above the forehead, after the fashion of the times.
"I hope my friend, Sir Andrew Ffoulkes, proved an entertaining
travelling companion, madame?"
"Ah, indeed, Sir Andrew was kindness itself. How could my
children and I ever show enough gratitude to you all, Messieurs?"
Her companion, a dainty, girlish figure, childlike and
pathetic in its look of fatigue and of sorrow, had said nothing as
yet, but her eyes, large, brown, and full of tears, looked up from the
fire and sought those of Sir Andrew Ffoulkes, who had drawn near to
the hearth and to her; then, as they met his, which were fixed with
unconcealed admiration upon the sweet face before him, a thought of
warmer colour rushed up to her pale cheeks.
"So this is England," she said, as she looked round with
childlike curiosity at the great hearth, the oak rafters, and the
yokels with their elaborate smocks and jovial, rubicund, British
"A bit of it, Mademoiselle," replied Sir Andrew, smiling, "but
all of it, at your service."
The young girl blushed again, but this time a bright smile,
fleet and sweet, illumined her dainty face. She said nothing, and Sir
Andrew too was silent, yet those two young people understood one
another, as young people have a way of doing all the world over, and
have done since the world began.
"But, I say, supper!" here broke in Lord Antony's jovial
voice, "supper, honest Jellyband. Where is that pretty wench of yours
and the dish of soup? Zooks, man, while you stand there gaping at the
ladies, they will faint with hunger."
"One moment! one moment, my lord," said Jellyband, as he
threw open the door that led to the kitchen and shouted lustily:
"Sally! Hey, Sally there, are ye ready, my girl?"
Sally was ready, and the next moment she appeared in the
doorway carrying a gigantic tureen, from which rose a cloud of steam
and an abundance of savoury odour.
"Odd's life, supper at last!" ejaculated Lord Antony, merrily,
as he gallantly offered his arm to the Comtesse.
"May I have the honour?" he added ceremoniously, as he led her
towards the supper table.
There was a general bustle in the coffee-room: Mr. Hempseed
and most of the yokels and fisher-folk had gone to make way for "the
quality," and to finish smoking their pipes elsewhere. Only the two
strangers stayed on, quietly and unconcernedly playing their game of
dominoes and sipping their wine; whilst at another table Harry Waite,
who was fast losing his temper, watched pretty Sally bustling round
She looked a very dainty picture of English rural life, and no
wonder that the susceptible young Frenchman could scarce take his eyes
off her pretty face. The Vicomte de Tournay was scarce nineteen, a
beardless boy, on whom terrible tragedies which were being enacted in
his own country had made but little impression. He was elegantly and
even foppishly dressed, and once safely landed in England he was
evidently ready to forget the horrors of the Revolution in the
delights of English life.
"Pardi, if zis is England," he said as he continued to ogle
Sally with marked satisfaction, "I am of it satisfied."
It would be impossible at this point to record the exact
exclamation which escaped through Mr. Harry Waite's clenched teeth.
Only respect for "the quality," and notably for my Lord Antony, kept
his marked disapproval of the young foreigner in check.
"Nay, but this IS England, you abandoned young reprobate,"
interposed Lord Antony with a laugh, "and do not, I pray, bring your
loose foreign ways into this most moral country."
Lord Antony had already sat down at the head of the table with
the Comtesse on his right. Jellyband was bustling round, filling
glasses and putting chairs straight. Sally waited, ready to hand
round the soup. Mr. Harry Waite's friends had at last succeeded in
taking him out of the room, for his temper was growing more and more
violent under the Vicomte's obvious admiration for Sally.
"Suzanne," came in stern, commanding accents from the rigid
Suzanne blushed again; she had lost count of time and of place
whilst she had stood beside the fire, allowing the handsome young
Englishman's eyes to dwell upon her sweet face, and his hand, as if
unconsciously, to rest upon hers. Her mother's voice brought her back
to reality once more, and with a submissive "Yes, Mama," she took her
place at the supper table.
CHAPTER IV THE LEAGUE OF THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
They all looked a merry, even a happy party, as they sat round
the table; Sir Andrew Ffoulkes and Lord Antony Dewhurst, two typical
good-looking, well-born and well-bred Englishmen of that year of grace
1792, and the aristocratic French comtesse with her two children, who
had just escaped from such dire perils, and found a safe retreat at
last on the shores of protecting England.
In the corner the two strangers had apparently finished their
game; one of them arose, and standing with his back to the merry
company at the table, he adjusted with much with much deliberation his
large triple caped coat. As he did so, he gave one quick glance all
around him. Everyone was busy laughing and chatting, and he murmured
the words "All safe!": his companion then, with the alertness borne of
long practice, slipped on to his knees in a moment, and the next had
crept noiselessly under the oak bench. The stranger then, with a loud
"Good-night," quietly walked out of the coffee-room.
Not one of those at the supper table had noticed this curious and silent
! Mammanoeuvre, but when the stranger finally closed the door of the coffee-room
behind him, they all instinctively sighed a sigh of relief.
"Alone, at last!" said Lord Antony, jovially.
Then the young Vicomte de Tournay rose, glass in hand, and
with the graceful affection peculiar to the times, he raised it aloft,
and said in broken English,--
"To His Majesty George Three of England. God bless him for
his hospitality to us all, poor exiles from France."
"His Majesty the King!" echoed Lord Antony and Sir Andrew as
they drank loyally to the toast.
"To His Majesty King Louis of France," added Sir Andrew, with
solemnity. "May God protect him, and give him victory over his
Everyone rose and drank this toast in silence. The fate of
the unfortunate King of France, then a prisoner of his own people,
seemed to cast a gloom even over Mr. Jellyband's pleasant countenance.
"And to M. le Comte de Tournay de Basserive," said Lord Antony, merrily.
"May we welcome him in England before many days are over."
"Ah, Monsieur," said the Comtesse, as with a slightly trembling hand
she conveyed her glass to her lips, "I scarcely dare to hope."
But already Lord Antony had served out the soup, and for the
next few moments all conversation ceased, while Jellyband and Sally
handed round the plates and everyone began to eat.
"Faith, Madame!" said Lord Antony, after a while, "mine was no
idle toast; seeing yourself, Mademoiselle Suzanne and my friend the
Vicomte safely in England now, surely you must feel reasurred as to
the fate of Monsieur le Comte."
"Ah, Monsieur," replied the Comtesse, with a heavy sigh, "I
trust in God--I can but pray--and hope. . ."
"Aye, Madame!" here interposed Sir Andrew Ffoulkes, "trust in
God by all means, but believe also a little in your English friends,
who have sworn to bring the Count safely across the Channel, even as
they have brought you to-day."
"Indeed, indeed, Monsieur," she replied, "I have the fullest
confidence in you and your friends. Your fame, I assure you, has
spread throughout the whole of France. The way some of my own friends
have escaped from the clutches of that awful revolutionary tribunal
was nothing short of a miracle--and all done by you and your friends--"
"We were but the hands, Madame la Comtesse. . ."
"But my husband, Monsieur," said the Comtesse, whilst unshed
tears seemed to veil her voice, "he is in such deadly peril--I would
never have left him, only. . .there were my children. . .I was torn
between my duty to him, and to them. They refused to go without
me. . .and you and your friends assured me so solemnly that my husband
would be safe. But, oh! now that I am here--amongst you all--in this
beautiful, free England--I think of him, flying for his life, hunted
like a poor beast. . .in such peril. . .Ah! I should not have left
him. . .I should not have left him!. . ."
The poor woman had completely broken down; fatigue, sorrow and
emotion had overmastered her rigid, aristocratic bearing. She was
crying gently to herself, whilst Suzanne ran up to her and tried to
kiss away her tears.
Lord Antony and Sir Andrew had said nothing to interrupt the
Comtesse whilst she was speaking. There was no doubt that they felt
deeply for her; their very silence testified to that--but in every
century, and ever since England has been what it is, an Englishman has
always felt somewhat ashamed of his own emotion and of his own
sympathy. And so the two young men said nothing, and busied
themselves in trying to hide their feelings, only succeeding in
looking immeasurably sheepish.
"As for me, Monsieur," said Suzanne, suddenly, as she looked
through a wealth of brown curls across at Sir Andrew, "I trust you
absolutely, and I KNOW that you will bring my dear father safely to
England, just as you brought us to-day."
This was said with so much confidence, such unuttered hope and
belief, that it seemed as if by magic to dry the mother's eyes, and to
bring a smile upon everybody's lips.
"Nay! You shame me, Mademoiselle," replied Sir Andrew;
"though my life is at your service, I have been but a humble tool in
the hands of our great leader, who organised and effected your escape."
He had spoken with so much warmth and vehemence that Suzanne's
eyes fastened upon him in undisguised wonder.
"Your leader, Monsieur?" said the Comtesse, eagerly. "Ah! of
course, you must have a leader. And I did not think of that before!
But tell me where is he? I must go to him at once, and I and my
children must throw ourselves at his feet, and thank him for all that
he has done for us."
"Alas, Madame!" said Lord Antony, "that is impossible."
"Because the Scarlet Pimpernel works in the dark, and his
identity is only known under the solemn oath of secrecy to his
"The Scarlet Pimpernel?" said Suzanne, with a merry laugh.
"Why! what a droll name! What is the Scarlet Pimpernel, Monsieur?"
She looked at Sir Andrew with eager curiosity. The young
man's face had become almost transfigured. His eyes shone with
enthusiasm; hero-worship, love, admiration for his leader seemed
literally to glow upon his face. "The Scarlet Pimpernel,
Mademoiselle," he said at last "is the name of a humble English
wayside flower; but it is also the name chosen to hide the identity of
the best and bravest man in all the world, so that he may better
succeed in accomplishing the noble task he has set himself to do."
"Ah, yes," here interposed the young Vicomte, "I have heard
speak of this Scarlet Pimpernel. A little flower--red?--yes! They
say in Paris that every time a royalist escapes to England that devil,
Foucquier-Tinville, the Public Prosecutor, receives a paper with that
little flower dessinated in red upon it. . . . Yes?"
"Yes, that is so," assented Lord Antony.
"Then he will have received one such paper to-day?"
"Oh! I wonder what he will say!" said Suzanne, merrily. "I
have heard that the picture of that little red flower is the only
thing that frightens him."
"Faith, then," said Sir Andrew, "he will have many more
opportunities of studying the shape of that small scarlet flower."
"Ah, monsieur," sighed the Comtesse, "it all sounds like a
romance, and I cannot understand it all."
"Why should you try, Madame?"
"But, tell me, why should your leader--why should you
all--spend your money and risk your lives--for it is your lives you
risk, Messieurs, when you set foot in France--and all for us French
men and women, who are nothing to you?"
"Sport, Madame la Comtesse, sport," asserted Lord Antony, with
his jovial, loud and pleasant voice; "we are a nation of sportsmen,
you know, and just now it is the fashion to pull the hare from between
the teeth of the hound."
"Ah, no, no, not sport only, Monsieur. . .you have a more
noble motive, I am sure for the good work you do."
"Faith, Madame, I would like you to find it then. . .as for
me, I vow, I love the game, for this is the finest sport I have yet
encountered.--Hair-breath escapes. . .the devil's own risks!--Tally
ho!--and away we go!"
But the Comtesse shook her head, still incredulously. To her
it seemed preposterous that these young men and their great leader,
all of them rich, probably wellborn, and young, should for no other
motive than sport, run the terrible risks, which she knew they were
constantly doing. Their nationality, once they had set foot in
France, would be no safeguard to them. Anyone found harbouring or
assisting suspected royalists would be ruthlessly condemned and
summarily executed, whatever his nationality might be. And this band
of young Englishmen had, to her own knowledge, bearded the implacable
and bloodthirsty tribunal of the Revolution, within the very walls of
Paris itself, and had snatched away condemned victims, almost from the
very foot of the guillotine. With a shudder, she recalled the events
of the last few days, her escape from Paris with her two children, all
three of them hidden beneath the hood of a rickety cart, and lying
amidst a heap of turnips and cabbages, not daring to breathe, whilst
the mob howled, "A la lanterne les aristos!" at the awful West
It had all occurred in such a miraculous way; she and her
husband had understood that they had been placed on the list of
"suspected persons," which meant that their trial and death were but a
matter of days--of hours, perhaps.
Then came the hope of salvation; the mysterious epistle,
signed with the enigmatical scarlet device; the clear, peremptory
directions; the parting from the Comte de Tournay, which had torn the
poor wife's heart in two; the hope of reunion; the flight with her two
children; the covered cart; that awful hag driving it, who looked like
some horrible evil demon, with the ghastly trophy on her whip handle!
The Comtesse looked round at the quaint, old-fashioned English
inn, the peace of this land of civil and religious liberty, and she
closed her eyes to shut out the haunting vision of that West
Barricade, and of the mob retreating panic-stricken when the old hag
spoke of the plague.
Every moment under that cart she expected recognition, arrest,
herself and her children tried and condemned, and these young
Englishmen, under the guidance of their brave and mysterious leader,
had risked their lives to save them all, as they had already saved
scores of other innocent people.
And all only for sport? Impossible! Suzanne's eyes as she sought
those of Sir Andrew plainly told him that she thought that HE at any
rate rescued his fellowmen from terrible and unmerited death, through
a higher and nobler motive than his friend would have her believe.
"How many are there in your brave league, Monsieur?" she asked timidly.
"Twenty all told, Mademoiselle," he replied, "one to command,
and nineteen to obey. All of us Englishmen, and all pledged to the
same cause--to obey our leader and to rescue the innocent."
"May God protect you all, Messieurs," said the Comtesse, fervently.
"He had done that so far, Madame."
"It is wonderful to me, wonderful!--That you should all be so
brave, so devoted to your fellowmen--yet you are English!--and in
France treachery is rife--all in the name of liberty and fraternity."
"The women even, in France, have been more bitter against us
aristocrats than the men," said the Vicomte, with a sigh.
"Ah, yes," added the Comtesse, while a look of haughty disdain
and intense bitterness shot through her melancholy eyes, "There was
that woman, Marguerite St. Just for instance. She denounced the
Marquis de St. Cyr and all his family to the awful tribunal of the
"Marguerite St. Just?" said Lord Antony, as he shot a quick
and apprehensive glance across at Sir Andrew.
"Marguerite St. Just?--Surely. . ."
"Yes!" replied the Comtesse, "surely you know her. She was a
leading actress of the Comedie Francaise, and she married an
Englishman lately. You must know her--"
"Know her?" said Lord Antony. "Know Lady Blakeney--the most
fashionable woman in London--the wife of the richest man in England?
Of course, we all know Lady Blakeney."
"She was a school-fellow of mine at the convent in Paris,"
interposed Suzanne, "and we came over to England together to learn
your language. I was very fond of Marguerite, and I cannot believe
that she ever did anything so wicked."
"It certainly seems incredible," said Sir Andrew. "You say
that she actually denounced the Marquis de St. Cyr? Why should she
have done such a thing? Surely there must be some mistake--"
"No mistake is possible, Monsieur," rejoined the Comtesse,
coldly. "Marguerite St. Just's brother is a noted republican. There
was some talk of a family feud between him and my cousin, the Marquis
de St. Cyr. The St. Justs' are quite plebeian, and the republican
government employs many spies. I assure you there is no
mistake. . . . You had not heard this story?"
"Faith, Madame, I did hear some vague rumours of it, but in
England no one would credit it. . . . Sir Percy Blakeney, her
husband, is a very wealthy man, of high social position, the intimate
friend of the Prince of Wales. . .and Lady Blakeney leads both fashion
and society in London."
"That may be, Monsieur, and we shall, of course, lead a very
quiet life in England, but I pray god that while I remain in this
beautiful country, I may never meet Marguerite St. Just."
The proverbial wet-blanket seemed to have fallen over the merry little
company gathered round the table. Suzanne looked sad and silent;
Sir Andrew fidgeted uneasily with his fork, whilst the Comtesse,
encased in the plate-armour of her aristocratic prejudices, sat,
rigid and unbending, in her straight-backed chair. As for Lord Antony,
he looked extremely uncomfortable, and glanced once or twice apprehensively
towards Jellyband, who looked just as uncomfortable as himself.
"At what time do you expect Sir Percy and Lady Blakeney?" he
contrived to whisper unobserved, to mine host.
"Any moment, my lord," whispered Jellyband in reply.
Even as he spoke, a distant clatter was heard of an
approaching coach; louder and louder it grew, one or two shouts became
distinguishable, then the rattle of horses' hoofs on the uneven cobble
stones, and the next moment a stable boy had thrown open the
coffee-room door and rushed in excitedly.
"Sir Percy Blakeney and my lady," he shouted at the top of his
voice, "they're just arriving."
And with more shouting, jingling of harness, and iron hoofs
upon the stones, a magnificent coach, drawn by four superb bays, had
halted outside the porch of "The Fisherman's Rest."
CHAPTER V MARGUERITE
In a moment the pleasant oak-raftered coffee-room of the inn
became the scene of hopeless confusion and discomfort. At the first
announcement made by the stable boy, Lord Antony, with a fashionable
oath, had jumped up from his seat and was now giving many and confused
directions to poor bewildered Jellyband, who seemed at his wits' end
what to do.
"For goodness' sake, man," admonished his lordship, "try to
keep Lady Blakeney talking outside for a moment while the ladies
withdraw. Zounds!" he added, with another more emphatic oath, "this
is most unfortunate."
"Quick Sally! the candles!" shouted Jellyband, as hopping
about from one leg to another, he ran hither and thither, adding to
the general discomfort of everybody.
The Comtesse, too, had risen to her feet: rigid and erect,
trying to hide her excitement beneath more becoming SANG-FROID, she
"I will not see her!--I will not see her!"
Outside, the excitement attendant upon the arrival of very
important guests grew apace.
"Good-day, Sir Percy!--Good-day to your ladyship! Your
servant, Sir Percy!"--was heard in one long, continued chorus, with
alternate more feeble tones of--"Remember the poor blind man! of your
charity, lady and gentleman!"
Then suddenly a singularly sweet voice was heard through all
"Let the poor man be--and give him some supper at my expense."
The voice was low and musical, with a slight sing-song in it,
and a faint SOUPCON of foreign intonation in the pronunciation of
Everyone in the coffee-room heard it and paused instinctively,
listening to it for a moment. Sally was holding the candles by the
opposite door, which led to the bedrooms upstairs, and the Comtesse
was in the act of beating a hasty retreat before that enemy who owned
such a sweet musical voice; Suzanne reluctantly was preparing to
follow her mother, while casting regretful glances towards the door,
where she hoped still to see her dearly-beloved, erstwhile
Then Jellyband threw open the door, still stupidly and blindly
hoping to avert the catastrophe, which he felt was in the air, and the
same low, musical voice said, with a merry laugh and mock
"B-r-r-r-r! I am as wet as a herring! DIEU! has anyone
ever seen such a contemptible climate?"
"Suzanne, come with me at once--I wish it," said the Comtesse,
"Oh! Mama!" pleaded Suzanne.
"My lady. . .er. . .h'm!. . .my lady!. . ." came in feeble
accents from Jellyband, who stood clumsily trying to bar the way.
"PARDIEU, my good man," said Lady Blakeney, with some impatience,
"what are you standing in my way for, dancing about like a turkey with
a sore foot? Let me get to the fire, I am perished with the cold."
And the next moment Lady Blakeney, gently pushing mine host on
one side, had swept into the coffee-room.
There are many portraits and miniatures extant of Marguerite
St. Just--Lady Blakeney as she was then--but it is doubtful if any of
these really do her singular beauty justice. Tall, above the average,
with magnificent presence and regal figure, it is small wonder that
even the Comtesse paused for a moment in involuntary admiration before
turning her back on so fascinating an apparition.
Marguerite Blakeney was then scarcely five-and-twenty, and her
beauty was at its most dazzling stage. The large hat, with its
undulating and waving plumes, threw a soft shadow across the classic
brow with the auerole of auburn hair--free at the moment from any
powder; the sweet, almost childlike mouth, the straight chiselled
nose, round chin, and delicate throat, all seemed set off by the
picturesque costume of the period. The rich blue velvet robe moulded
in its every line the graceful contour of the figure, whilst one tiny
hand held, with a dignity all its own, the tall stick adorned with a
large bunch of ribbons which fashionable ladies of the period had
taken to carrying recently.
With a quick glance all around the room, Marguerite Blakeney
had taken stock of every one there. She nodded pleasantly to Sir
Andrew Ffoulkes, whilst extending a hand to Lord Antony.
"Hello! my Lord Tony, why--what are YOU doing here in
Dover?" she said merrily.
Then, without waiting for a reply, she turned and faced the
Comtesse and Suzanne. Her whole face lighted up with additional
brightness, as she stretched out both arms towards the young girl.
"Why! if that isn't my little Suzanne over there. PARDIEU,
little citizeness, how came you to be in England? And Madame too?"
She went up effusive to them both, with not a single touch of
embarrassment in her manner or in her smile. Lord Tony and Sir Andrew
watched the little scene with eager apprehension. English though they
were, they had often been in France, and had mixed sufficiently with
the French to realise the unbending hauteur, the bitter hatred with
which the old NOBLESSE of France viewed all those who had helped to
contribute to their downfall. Armand St. Just, the brother of
beautiful Lady Blakeney--though known to hold moderate and
conciliatory views--was an ardent republican; his feud with the
ancient family of St. Cyr--the rights and wrongs of which no outsider
ever knew--had culminated in the downfall, the almost total extinction
of the latter. In France, St. Just and his party had triumphed, and
here in England, face to face with these three refugees driven from
their country, flying for their lives, bereft of all which centuries
of luxury had given them, there stood a fair scion of those same
republican families which had hurled down a throne, and uprooted an
aristocracy whose origin was lost in the dim and distant vista of
She stood there before them, in all the unconscious insolence of beauty,
and stretched out her dainty hand to them, as if she would, by that one act,
bridge over the conflict and bloodshed of the past decade.
"Suzanne, I forbid you to speak to that woman," said the Comtesse,
sternly, as she placed a restraining hand upon her daughter's arm.
She had spoken in English, so that all might hear and
understand; the two young English gentlemen was as well as the common
innkeeper and his daughter. The latter literally gasped with horror
at this foreign insolence, this impudence before her ladyship--who was
English, now that she was Sir Percy's wife, and a friend of the
Princess of Wales to boot.
As for Lord Antony and Sir Andrew Ffoulkes, their very hearts
seemed to stand still with horror at this gratuitous insult. One of
them uttered an exclamation of appeal, the other one of warning, and
instinctively both glanced hurriedly towards the door, whence a slow,
drawly, not unpleasant voice had already been heard.
Alone among those present Marguerite Blakeney and these Comtesse
de Tournay had remained seemingly unmoved. The latter, rigid, erect
and defiant, with one hand still upon her daughter's arm, seemed
the very personification of unbending pride. For the moment Marguerite's
sweet face had become as white as the soft fichu which swathed her throat,
and a very keen observer might have noted that the hand which held the tall,
beribboned stick was clenched, and trembled somewhat.
But this was only momentary; the next instant the delicate
eyebrows were raised slightly, the lips curved sarcastically upwards,
the clear blue eyes looked straight at the rigid Comtesse, and with a
slight shrug of the shoulders--
"Hoity-toity, citizeness," she said gaily, "what fly stings you, pray?"
"We are in England now, Madame," rejoined the Comtesse, coldly,
"and I am at liberty to forbid my daughter to touch your hand
in friendship. Come, Suzanne."
She beckoned to her daughter, and without another look at
Marguerite Blakeney, but with a deep, old-fashioned curtsey to the two
young men, she sailed majestically out of the room.
There was silence in the old inn parlour for a moment, as the
rustle of the Comtesse's skirts died away down the passage.
Marguerite, rigid as a statue followed with hard, set eyes the upright
figure, as it disappeared through the doorway--but as little Suzanne,
humble and obedient, was about to follow her mother, the hard, set
expression suddenly vanished, and a wistful, almost pathetic and
childlike look stole into Lady Blakeney's eyes.
Little Suzanne caught that look; the child's sweet nature went
out to the beautiful woman, scarcely older than herself; filial
obedience vanished before girlish sympathy; at the door she turned,
ran back to Marguerite, and putting her arms round her, kissed her
effusively; then only did she follow her mother, Sally bringing up the
rear, with a final curtsey to my lady.
Suzanne's sweet and dainty impulse had relieved the unpleasant tension.
Sir Andrew's eyes followed the pretty little figure, until it had quite
disappeared, then they met Lady Blakeney's with unassumed merriment.
Marguerite, with dainty affection, had kissed her hand to the
ladies, as they disappeared through the door, then a humorous smile
began hovering round the corners of her mouth.
"So that's it, is it?" she said gaily. "La! Sir Andrew, did
you ever see such an unpleasant person? I hope when I grow old I
sha'n't look like that."
She gathered up her skirts and assuming a majestic gait,
stalked towards the fireplace.
"Suzanne," she said, mimicking the Comtesse's voice, "I forbid
you to speak to that woman!"
The laugh which accompanied this sally sounded perhaps a
trifled forced and hard, but neither Sir Andrew nor Lord Tony were
very keen observers. The mimicry was so perfect, the tone of the
voice so accurately reproduced, that both the young men joined in a
hearty cheerful "Bravo!"
"Ah! Lady Blakeney!" added Lord Tony, "how they must miss you
at the Comedie Francaise, and how the Parisians must hate Sir Percy
for having taken you away."
"Lud, man," rejoined Marguerite, with a shrug of her graceful
shoulders, "`tis impossible to hate Sir Percy for anything; his witty
sallies would disarm even Madame la Comtesse herself."
The young Vicomte, who had not elected to follow his mother in
her dignified exit, now made a step forward, ready to champion the
Comtesse should Lady Blakeney aim any further shafts at her. But
before he could utter a preliminary word of protest, a pleasant though
distinctly inane laugh, was heard from outside, and the next moment an
unusually tall and very richly dressed figure appeared in the doorway.
CHAPTER VI AN EXQUISITE OF '92
Sir Percy Blakeney, as the chronicles of the time inform us,
was in this year of grace 1792, still a year or two on the right side
of thirty. Tall, above the average, even for an Englishman,
broad-shouldered and massively built, he would have been called
unusually good-looking, but for a certain lazy expression in his
deep-set blue eyes, and that perpetual inane laugh which seemed to
disfigure his strong, clearly-cut mouth.
It was nearly a year ago now that Sir Percy Blakeney, Bart.,
one of the richest men in England, leader of all the fashions, and
intimate friend of the Prince of Wales, had astonished fashionable
society in London and Bath by bringing home, from one of his journeys
abroad, a beautiful, fascinating, clever, French wife. He, the
sleepiest, dullest, most British Britisher that had ever set a pretty
woman yawning, had secured a brilliant matrimonial prize for which, as
all chroniclers aver, there had been many competitors.
Marguerite St. Just had first made her DEBUT in artistic
Parisian circles, at the very moment when the greatest social upheaval
the world has ever known was taking place within its very walls.
Scarcely eighteen, lavishly gifted with beauty and talent, chaperoned
only by a young and devoted brother, she had soon gathered round her,
in her charming apartment in the Rue Richelieu, a coterie which was as
brilliant as it was exclusive--exclusive, that is to say, only from
one point of view. Marguerite St. Just was from principle and by
conviction a republican--equality of birth was her motto--inequality
of fortune was in her eyes a mere untoward accident, but the only
inequality she admitted was that of talent. "Money and titles may be
hereditary," she would say, "but brains are not," and thus her
charming salon was reserved for originality and intellect, for
brilliance and wit, for clever men and talented women, and the
entrance into it was soon looked upon in the world of intellect--which
even in those days and in those troublous times found its pivot in
Paris--as the seal to an artistic career.
Clever men, distinguished men, and even men of exalted station
formed a perpetual and brilliant court round the fascinating young
actress of the Comedie Francaise, and she glided through republican,
revolutionary, bloodthirsty Paris like a shining comet with a trail
behind her of all that was most distinguished, most interesting, in
Then the climax came. Some smiled indulgently and called it
an artistic eccentricity, others looked upon it as a wise provision,
in view of the many events which were crowding thick and fast in Paris
just then, but to all, the real motive of that climax remained a
puzzle and a mystery. Anyway, Marguerite St. Just married Sir Percy
Blakeney one fine day, just like that, without any warning to her
friends, without a SOIREE DE CONTRAT or DINER DE FIANCAILLES or
other appurtenances of a fashionable French wedding.
How that stupid, dull Englishman ever came to be admitted
within the intellectual circle which revolved round "the cleverest
woman in Europe," as her friends unanimously called her, no one
ventured to guess--golden key is said to open every door, asserted the
more malignantly inclined.
Enough, she married him, and "the cleverest woman in Europe"
had linked her fate to that "demmed idiot" Blakeney, and not even her
most intimate friends could assign to this strange step any other
motive than that of supreme eccentricity. Those friends who knew,
laughed to scorn the idea that Marguerite St. Just had married a fool
for the sake of the worldly advantages with which he might endow her.
They knew, as a matter of fact, that Marguerite St. Just cared nothing
about money, and still less about a title; moreover, there were at
least half a dozen other men in the cosmopolitan world equally
well-born, if not so wealthy as Blakeney, who would have been only too
happy to give Marguerite St. Just any position she might choose to covet.
As for Sir Percy himself, he was universally voted to be
totally unqualified for the onerous post he had taken upon himself.
His chief qualifications for it seemed to consist in his blind
adoration for her, his great wealth and the high favour in which he
stood at the English court; but London society thought that, taking
into consideration his own intellectual limitations, it would have
been wiser on his part had he bestowed those worldly advantages upon a
less brilliant and witty wife.
Although lately he had been so prominent a figure in
fashionable English society, he had spent most of his early life
abroad. His father, the late Sir Algernon Blakeney, had had the
terrible misfortune of seeing an idolized young wife become hopelessly
insane after two years of happy married life. Percy had just been
born when the late Lady Blakeney fell prey to the terrible malady
which in those days was looked upon as hopelessly incurable and
nothing short of a curse of God upon the entire family. Sir Algernon
took his afflicted young wife abroad, and there presumably Percy was
educated, and grew up between an imbecile mother and a distracted
father, until he attained his majority. The death of his parents
following close upon one another left him a free man, and as Sir
Algernon had led a forcibly simple and retired life, the large
Blakeney fortune had increased tenfold.
Sir Percy Blakeney had travelled a great deal abroad, before
he brought home his beautiful, young, French wife. The fashionable
circles of the time were ready to receive them both with open arms;
Sir Percy was rich, his wife was accomplished, the Prince of Wales
took a very great liking to them both. Within six months they were
the acknowledged leaders of fashion and of style. Sir Percy's coats
were the talk of the town, his inanities were quoted, his foolish
laugh copied by the gilded youth at Almack's or the Mall. Everyone
knew that he was hopelessly stupid, but then that was scarcely to be
wondered at, seeing that all the Blakeneys for generations had been
notoriously dull, and that his mother died an imbecile.
Thus society accepted him, petted him, made much of him, since
his horses were the finest in the country, his FETES and wines the
most sought after. As for his marriage with "the cleverest woman in
Europe," well! the inevitable came with sure and rapid footsteps. No
one pitied him, since his fate was of his own making. There were
plenty of young ladies in England, of high birth and good looks, who
would have been quite willing to help him to spend the Blakeney
fortune, whilst smiling indulgently at his inanities and his
good-humoured foolishness. Moreover, Sir Percy got no pity, because
he seemed to require none--he seemed very proud of his clever wife,
and to care little that she took no pains to disguise that
good-natured contempt which she evidently felt for him, and that she
even amused herself by sharpening her ready wits at his expense.
But then Blakeney was really too stupid to notice the ridicule
with which his wife covered him, and if his matrimonial relations with
the fascinating Parisienne had not turned out all that his hopes and
his dog-like devotion for her had pictured, society could never do
more than vaguely guess at it.
In his beautiful house at Richmond he played second fiddle to
his clever wife with imperturbable BONHOMIE; he lavished jewels and
luxuries of all kinds upon her, which she took with inimitable grace,
dispensing the hospitality of his superb mansion with the same
graciousness with which she had welcomed the intellectual coterie of
Physically, Sir Percy Blakeney was undeniably handsome--always
excepting the lazy, bored look which was habitual to him. He was
always irreproachable dressed, and wore the exaggerated "Incroyable"
fashions, which had just crept across from Paris to England, with the
perfect good taste innate in an English gentleman. On this special
afternoon in September, in spite of the long journey by coach, in
spite of rain and mud, his coat set irreproachably across his fine
shoulders, his hands looked almost femininely white, as they emerged
through billowy frills of finest Mechline lace: the extravagantly
short-waisted satin coat, wide-lapelled waistcoat, and tight-fitting
striped breeches, set off his massive figure to perfection, and in
repose one might have admired so fine a specimen of English manhood,
until the foppish ways, the affected movements, the perpetual inane
laugh, brought one's admiration of Sir Percy Blakeney to an abrupt close.
He had lolled into the old-fashioned inn parlour, shaking the
wet off his fine overcoat; then putting up a gold-rimmed eye-glass to
his lazy blue eye, he surveyed the company, upon whom an embarrassed
silence had suddenly fallen.
"How do, Tony? How do, Ffoulkes?" he said, recognizing the
two young men and shaking them by the hand. "Zounds, my dear fellow,"
he added, smothering a slight yawn, "did you ever see such a beastly day?
Demmed climate this."
With a quaint little laugh, half of embarrassment and half of sarcasm,
Marguerite had turned towards her husband, and was surveying him from
head to foot, with an amused little twinkle in her merry blue eyes.
"La!" said Sir Percy, after a moment or two's silence, as no
one offered any comment, "how sheepish you all look. . .What's up?"
"Oh, nothing, Sir Percy," replied Marguerite, with a certain
amount of gaiety, which, however, sounded somewhat forced,
"nothing to disturb your equanimity--only an insult to your wife."
The laugh which accompanied this remark was evidently intended to
reassure Sir Percy as to the gravity of the incident. It apparently
succeeded in that, for echoing the laugh, he rejoined placidly--
"La, m'dear! you don't say so. Begad! who was the bold man
who dared to tackle you--eh?"
Lord Tony tried to interpose, but had no time to do so, for
the young Vicomte had already quickly stepped forward.
"Monsieur," he said, prefixing his little speech with an
elaborate bow, and speaking in broken English, "my mother, the
Comtesse de Tournay de Basserive, has offenced Madame, who, I see, is
your wife. I cannot ask your pardon for my mother; what she does is
right in my eyes. But I am ready to offer you the usual reparation
between men of honour."
The young man drew up his slim stature to its full height and
looked very enthusiastic, very proud, and very hot as he gazed at six
foot odd of gorgeousness, as represented by Sir Percy Blakeney, Bart.
"Lud, Sir Andrew," said Marguerite, with one of her merry
infectious laughs, "look on that pretty picture--the English turkey
and the French bantam."
The simile was quite perfect, and the English turkey looked
down with complete bewilderment upon the dainty little French bantam,
which hovered quite threateningly around him.
"La! sir," said Sir Percy at last, putting up his eye glass
and surveying the young Frenchman with undisguised wonderment, "where,
in the cuckoo's name, did you learn to speak English?"
"Monsieur!" protested the Vicomte, somewhat abashed at the way
his warlike attitude had been taken by the ponderous-looking Englishman.
"I protest `tis marvellous!" continued Sir Percy,
imperturbably, "demmed marvellous! Don't you think so, Tony--eh?
I vow I can't speak the French lingo like that. What?"
"Nay, I'll vouch for that!" rejoined Marguerite, "Sir Percy
has a British accent you could cut with a knife."
"Monsieur," interposed the Vicomte earnestly, and in still
more broken English, "I fear you have not understand. I offer you the
only posseeble reparation among gentlemen."
"What the devil is that?" asked Sir Percy, blandly.
"My sword, Monsieur," replied the Vicomte, who, though still
bewildered, was beginning to lose his temper.
"You are a sportsman, Lord Tony," said Marguerite, merrily;
"ten to one on the little bantam."
But Sir Percy was staring sleepily at the Vicomte for a moment
or two, through his partly closed heavy lids, then he smothered
another yawn, stretched his long limbs, and turned leisurely away.
"Lud love you, sir," he muttered good-humouredly. "demmit,
young man, what's the good of your sword to me?"
What the Vicomte thought and felt at that moment, when that
long-limbed Englishman treated him with such marked insolence, might
fill volumes of sound reflections. . . . What he said resolved itself
into a single articulate word, for all the others were choked in his
throat by his surging wrath--
"A duel, Monsieur," he stammered.
Once more Blakeney turned, and from his high altitude looked
down on the choleric little man before him; but not even for a second
did he seem to lose his own imperturbable good-humour. He laughed his
own pleasant and inane laugh, and burying his slender, long hands into
the capacious pockets of his overcoat, he said leisurely--a
bloodthirsty young ruffian, Do you want to make a hole in a
law-abiding man?. . .As for me, sir, I never fight duels," he added,
as he placidly sat down and stretched his long, lazy legs out before him.
"Demmed uncomfortable things, duels, ain't they, Tony?"
Now the Vicomte had no doubt vaguely heard that in England the
fashion of duelling amongst gentlemen had been surpressed by the law
with a very stern hand; still to him, a Frenchman, whose notions of
bravery and honour were based upon a code that had centuries of
tradition to back it, the spectacle of a gentleman actually refusing
to fight a duel was a little short of an enormity. In his mind he
vaguely pondered whether he should strike that long-legged Englishman
in the face and call him a coward, or whether such conduct in a lady's
presence might be deemed ungentlemanly, when Marguerite happily interposed.
"I pray you, Lord Tony," she said in that gentle, sweet,
musical voice of hers, "I pray you play the peacemaker. The child is
bursting with rage, and," she added with a SOUPCON of dry sarcasm,
"might do Sir Percy an injury." She laughed a mocking little laugh,
which, however, did not in the least disturb her husband's placid
equanimity. "The British turkey has had the day," she said.
"Sir Percy would provoke all the saints in the calendar and keep
his temper the while."
But already Blakeney, good-humoured as ever, had joined in the
laugh against himself.
"Demmed smart that now, wasn't it?" he said, turning
pleasantly to the Vicomte. "Clever woman my wife, sir. . . . You
will find THAT out if you live long enough in England."
"Sir Percy is right, Vicomte," here interposed Lord Antony,
laying a friendly hand on the young Frenchman's shoulder. "It would
hardly be fitting that you should commence your career in England by
provoking him to a duel."
For a moment longer the Vicomte hesitated, then with a slight shrug of
the shoulders directed against the extraordinary code of honour prevailing
in this fog-ridden island, he said with becoming dignity,--
"Ah, well! if Monsieur is satisfied, I have no griefs. You
mi'lor', are our protector. If I have done wrong, I withdraw myself."
"Aye, do!" rejoined Blakeney, with a long sigh of
satisfaction, "withdraw yourself over there. Demmed excitable little
puppy," he added under his breath, "Faith, Ffoulkes, if that's a
specimen of the goods you and your friends bring over from France, my
advice to you is, drop `em `mid Channel, my friend, or I shall have to
see old Pitt about it, get him to clap on a prohibitive tariff, and
put you in the stocks an you smuggle."
"La, Sir Percy, your chivalry misguides you," said Marguerite,
coquettishly, "you forget that you yourself have imported one bundle
of goods from France."
Blakeney slowly rose to his feet, and, making a deep and
elaborate bow before his wife, he said with consummate gallantry,--
"I had the pick of the market, Madame, and my taste is unerring."
"More so than your chivalry, I fear," she retorted sarcastically.
"Odd's life, m'dear! be reasonable! Do you think I am going
to allow my body to be made a pincushion of, by every little
frog-eater who don't like the shape of your nose?"
"Lud, Sir Percy!" laughed Lady Blakeney as she bobbed him a
quaint and pretty curtsey, "you need not be afraid! `Tis not the
MEN who dislike the shape of my nose."
"Afraid be demmed! Do you impugn my bravery, Madame? I don't
patronise the ring for nothing, do I, Tony? I've put up the fists with
Red Sam before now, and--and he didn't get it all his own way either--"
"S'faith, Sir Percy," said Marguerite, with a long and merry
laugh, that went enchoing along the old oak rafters of the parlour, "I
would I had seen you then. . .ha! ha! ha! ha!--you must have looked
a pretty picture. . . .and. . .and to be afraid of a little French
boy. . .ha! ha!. . .ha! ha!"
"Ha! ha! ha! he! he! he!" echoed Sir Percy, good-humouredly.
"La, Madame, you honour me! Zooks! Ffoulkes, mark ye that!
I have made my wife laugh!--The cleverest woman in Europe!. . .Odd's
fish, we must have a bowl on that!" and he tapped vigorously on the
table near him. "Hey! Jelly! Quick, man! Here, Jelly!"
Harmony was once more restored. Mr. Jellyband, with a mighty
effort, recovered himself from the many emotions he had experienced
within the last half hour. "A bowl of punch, Jelly, hot and strong,
eh?" said Sir Percy. "The wits that have just made a clever woman
laugh must be whetted! Ha! ha! ha! Hasten, my good Jelly!"
"Nay, there is no time, Sir Percy," interposed Marguerite.
"The skipper will be here directly and my brother must get on board,
or the DAY DREAM will miss the tide."
"Time, m'dear? There is plenty of time for any gentleman to
get drunk and get on board before the turn of the tide."
"I think, your ladyship," said Jellyband, respectfully, "that
the young gentleman is coming along now with Sir Percy's skipper."
"That's right," said Blakeney, "then Armand can join us in the
merry bowl. Think you, Tony," he added, turning towards the Vicomte,
"that the jackanapes of yours will join us in a glass? Tell him that
we drink in token of reconciliation."
"In fact you are all such merry company," said Marguerite,
"that I trust you will forgive me if I bid my brother good-bye in
It would have been bad form to protest. Both Lord Antony and
Sir Andrew felt that Lady Blakeney could not altogether be in tune
with them at the moment. Her love for her brother, Armand St. Just,
was deep and touching in the extreme. He had just spent a few weeks with
her in her English home, and was going back to serve his country, at the
moment when death was the usual reward for the most enduring devotion.
Sir Percy also made no attempt to detain his wife. With that
perfect, somewhat affected gallantry which characterised his every
movement, he opened the coffee-room door for her, and made her the
most approved and elaborate bow, which the fashion of the time
dictated, as she sailed out of the room without bestowing on him more
than a passing, slightly contemptuous glance. Only Sir Andrew
Ffoulkes, whose every thought since he had met Suzanne de Tournay
seemed keener, more gentle, more innately sympathetic, noted the
curious look of intense longing, of deep and hopeless passion, with
which the inane and flippant Sir Percy followed the retreating figure
of his brilliant wife.
CHAPTER VII THE SECRET ORCHARD
Once outside the noisy coffee-room, along in the dimly-lighted
passage, Marguerite Blakeney seemed to breathe more freely. She
heaved a deep sigh, like one who had long been oppressed with the
heavy weight of constant self-control, and she allowed a few tears to
fall unheeded down her cheeks.
Outside the rain had ceased, and through the swiftly passing
clouds, the pale rays of an after-storm sun shone upon the beautiful
white coast of Kent and the quaint, irregular houses that clustered
round the Admiralty Pier. Marguerite Blakeney stepped on to the porch
and looked out to sea. Silhouetted against the ever-changing sky, a
graceful schooner, with white sails set, was gently dancing in the
breeze. The DAY DREAM it was, Sir Percy Blakeney's yacht, which was
ready to take Armand St. Just back to France into the very midst of
that seething, bloody Revolution which was overthrowing a monarchy,
attacking a religion, destroying a society, in order to try and
rebuild upon the ashes of tradition a new Utopia, of which a few men
dreamed, but which none had the power to establish.
In the distance two figures were approaching "The Fisherman's
Rest": one, an oldish man, with a curious fringe of grey hairs round a
rotund and massive chin, and who walked with that peculiar rolling
gait which invariably betrays the seafaring man: the other, a young,
slight figure, neatly and becomingly dressed in a dark, many caped
overcoat; he was clean-shaved, and his dark hair was taken well back
over a clear and noble forehead.
"Armand!" said Marguerite Blakeney, as soon as she saw him
approaching from the distance, and a happy smile shone on her sweet
face, even through the tears.
A minute or two later brother and sister were locked in each
other's arms, while the old skipper stood respectfully on one side.
"How much time have we got, Briggs?" asked Lady Blakeney,
"before M. St. Just need go on board?"
"We ought to weigh anchor before half an hour, your ladyship,"
replied the old man, pulling at his grey forelock.
Linking her arm in his, Marguerite led her brother towards the cliffs.
"Half an hour," she said, looking wistfully out to sea, "half
an hour more and you'll be far from me, Armand! Oh! I can't believe
that you are going, dear! These last few days--whilst Percy has been
away, and I've had you all to myself, have slipped by like a dream."
"I am not going far, sweet one," said the young man gently, "a
narrow channel to cross-a few miles of road--I can soon come back."
"Nay, `tis not the distance, Armand--but that awful Paris. . .
just now. . ."
They had reached the edge of the cliff. The gentle sea-breeze
blew Marguerite's hair about her face, and sent the ends of her soft
lace fichu waving round her, like a white and supple snake. She tried
to pierce the distance far away, beyond which lay the shores of
France: that relentless and stern France which was exacting her pound
of flesh, the blood-tax from the noblest of her sons.
"Our own beautiful country, Marguerite," said Armand, who
seemed to have divined her thoughts.
"They are going too far, Armand," she said vehemently. "You
are a republican, so am I. . .we have the same thoughts, the same
enthusiasm for liberty and equality. . .but even YOU must think that
they are going too far. . ."
"Hush!--" said Armand, instinctively, as he threw a quick,
apprehensive glance around him.
"Ah! you see: you don't think yourself that it is safe even to
speak of these things--here in England!" She clung to him suddenly
with strong, almost motherly, passion: "Don't go, Armand!" she begged;
"don't go back! What should I do if. . .if. . .if. . ."
Her voice was choked in sobs, her eyes, tender, blue and
loving, gazed appealingly at the young man, who in his turn looked
steadfastly into hers.
"You would in any case be my own brave sister," he said
gently, "who would remember that, when France is in peril, it is not
for her sons to turn their backs on her."
Even as he spoke, that sweet childlike smile crept back into
her face, pathetic in the extreme, for it seemed drowned in tears.
"Oh! Armand!" she said quaintly, "I sometimes wish you had
not so many lofty virtues. . . . I assure you little sins are far
less dangerous and uncomfortable. But you WILL be prudent?" she
"As far as possible. . .I promise you."
"Remember, dear, I have only you. . .to. . .to care for me. . . ."
"Nay, sweet one, you have other interests now. Percy cares
for you. . . ."
A look of strange wistfulness crept into her eyes as she murmured,--
"He did. . .once. . ."
"But surely. . ."
"There, there, dear, don't distress yourself on my account.
Percy is very good. . ."
"Nay!" he interrupted energetically, "I will distress myself
on your account, my Margot. Listen, dear, I have not spoken of these
things to you before; something always seemed to stop me when I wished
to question you. But, somehow, I feel as if I could not go away and
leave you now without asking you one question. . . . You need not
answer it if you do not wish," he added, as he noted a sudden hard
look, almost of apprehension, darting through her eyes.
"What is it?" she asked simply.
"Does Sir Percy Blakeney know that. . .I mean, does he know
the part you played in the arrest of the Marquis de St. Cyr?"
She laughed--a mirthless, bitter, contemptuous laugh, which
was like a jarring chord in the music of her voice.
"That I denounced the Marquis de St. Cyr, you mean, to the
tribunal that ultimately sent him and all his family to the
guillotine? Yes, he does know. . . . . I told him after I married
him. . . ."
"You told him all the circumstances--which so completely
exonerated you from any blame?"
"It was too late to talk of `circumstances'; he heard the
story from other sources; my confession came too tardily, it seems. I
could no longer plead extenuating circumstances: I could not demean
myself by trying to explain--"
"And now I have the satisfaction, Armand, of knowing that the
biggest fool in England has the most complete contempt for his wife."
She spoke with vehement bitterness this time, and Armand St.
Just, who loved her so dearly, felt that he had placed a somewhat
clumsy finger upon an aching wound.
"But Sir Percy loved you, Margot," he repeated gently.
"Loved me?--Well, Armand, I thought at one time that he did,
or I should not have married him. I daresay," she added, speaking
very rapidly, as if she were about to lay down a heavy burden, which
had oppressed her for months, "I daresay that even you thought-as
everybody else did--that I married Sir Percy because of his
wealth--but I assure you, dear, that it was not so. He seemed to
worship me with a curious intensity of concentrated passion, which
went straight to my heart. I had never loved any one before, as you
know, and I was four-and-twenty then--so I naturally thought that it
was not in my nature to love. But it has always seemed to me that it
MUST be HEAVENLY to be loved blindly, passionately, wholly. . .
worshipped, in fact--and the very fact that Percy was slow and stupid
was an attraction for me, as I thought he would love me all the more.
A clever man would naturally have other interests, an ambitious man
other hopes. . . . I thought that a fool would worship, and think of
nothing else. And I was ready to respond, Armand; I would have
allowed myself to be worshipped, and given infinite tenderness in
return. . . ."
She sighed--and there was a world of disillusionment in that
sigh. Armand St. Just had allowed her to speak on without
interruption: he listened to her, whilst allowing his own thoughts to
run riot. It was terrible to see a young and beautiful woman--a girl
in all but name--still standing almost at the threshold of her life,
yet bereft of hope, bereft of illusions, bereft of all those golden
and fantastic dreams, which should have made her youth one long,
Yet perhaps--though he loved his sister dearly--perhaps he
understood: he had studied men in many countries, men of all ages, men
of every grade of social and intellectual status, and inwardly he
understood what Marguerite had left unsaid. Granted that Percy
Blakeney was dull-witted, but in his slow-going mind, there would
still be room for that ineradicable pride of a descendant of a long
line of English gentlemen. A Blakeney had died on Bosworth field,
another had sacrified life and fortune for the sake of a treacherous
Stuart: and that same pride--foolish and prejudiced as the republican
Armand would call it--must have been stung to the quick on hearing of
the sin which lay at Lady Blakeney's door. She had been young,
misguided, ill-advised perhaps. Armand knew that: her impulses and
imprudence, knew it still better; but Blakeney was slow-witted, he
would not listen to "circumstances," he only clung to facts, and these
had shown him Lady Blakeney denouncing a fellow man to a tribunal that
knew no pardon: and the contempt he would feel for the deed she had
done, however unwittingly, would kill that same love in him, in which
sympathy and intellectuality could never had a part.
Yet even now, his own sister puzzled him. Life and love have
such strange vagaries. Could it be that with the waning of her
husband's love, Marguerite's heart had awakened with love for him?
Strange extremes meet in love's pathway: this woman, who had had half
intellectual Europe at her feet, might perhaps have set her affections
on a fool. Marguerite was gazing out towards the sunset. Armand
could not see her face, but presently it seemed to him that something
which glittered for a moment in the golden evening light, fell from
her eyes onto her dainty fichu of lace.
But he could not broach that subject with her. He knew her
strange, passionate nature so well, and knew that reserve which lurked
behind her frank, open ways.
The had always been together, these two, for their parents had
died when Armand was still a youth, and Marguerite but a child. He,
some eight years her senior, had watched over her until her marriage;
had chaperoned her during those brilliant years spent in the flat of
the Rue de Richelieu, and had seen her enter upon this new life of
hers, here in England, with much sorrow and some foreboding.
This was his first visit to England since her marriage, and
the few months of separation had already seemed to have built up a
slight, thin partition between brother and sister; the same deep,
intense love was still there, on both sides, but each now seemed to
have a secret orchard, into which the other dared not penetrate.
There was much Armand St. Just could not tell his sister; the
political aspect of the revolution in France was changing almost every
day; she might not understand how his own views and sympathies might
become modified, even as the excesses, committed by those who had been
his friends, grew in horror and in intensity. And Marguerite could
not speak to her brother about the secrets of her heart; she hardly
understood them herself, she only knew that, in the midst of luxury,
she felt lonely and unhappy.
And now Armand was going away; she feared for his safety, she
longed for his presence. She would not spoil these last few
sadly-sweet moments by speaking about herself. She led him gently
along the cliffs, then down to the beach; their arms linked in one
another's, they had still so much to say that lay just outside that
secret orchard of theirs.
CHAPTER VIII THE ACCREDITED AGENT
The afternoon was rapidly drawing to a close; and a long,
chilly English summer's evening was throwing a misty pall over the
green Kentish landscape.
The DAY DREAM had set sail, and Marguerite Blakeney stood
alone on the edge of the cliff over an hour, watching those white
sails, which bore so swiftly away from her the only being who really
cared for her, whom she dared to love, whom she knew she could trust.
Some little distance away to her left the lights from the
coffee-room of "The Fisherman's Rest" glittered yellow in the
gathering mist; from time to time it seemed to her aching nerves as if
she could catch from thence the sound of merry-making and of jovial
talk, or even that perpetual, senseless laugh of her husband's, which
grated continually upon her sensitive ears.
Sir Percy had had the delicacy to leave her severely alone.
She supposed that, in his own stupid, good-natured way, he may have
understood that she would wish to remain alone, while those white
sails disappeared into the vague horizon, so many miles away. He,
whose notions of propriety and decorum were supersensitive, had not
suggested even that an attendant should remain within call.
Marguerite was grateful to her husband for all this; she always tried
to be grateful to him for his thoughtfulness, which was constant, and
for his generosity, which really was boundless. She tried even at
times to curb the sarcastic, bitter thoughts of him, which made
her--in spite of herself--say cruel, insulting things, which she
vaguely hoped would wound him.
Yes! she often wished to wound him, to make him feel that she
too held him in contempt, that she too had forgotten that she had
almost loved him. Loved that inane fop! whose thoughts seemed unable
to soar beyond the tying of a cravat or the new cut of a coat. Bah!
And yet!. . .vague memories, that were sweet and ardent and attuned to
this calm summer's evening, came wafted back to her memory, on the
invisible wings of the light sea-breeze: the tie when first he
worshipped her; he seemed so devoted--a very slave--and there was a
certain latent intensity in that love which had fascinated her.
Then suddenly that love, that devotion, which throughout his
courtship she had looked upon as the slavish fidelity of a dog, seemed
to vanish completely. Twenty-four hours after the simple little
ceremony at old St. Roch, she had told him the story of how,
inadvertently, she had spoken of certain matters connected with the
Marquis de St. Cyr before some men--her friends--who had used this
information against the unfortunate Marquis, and sent him and his
family to the guillotine.
She hated the Marquis. Years ago, Armand, her dear brother,
loved Angele de St. Cyr, but St. Just was a plebeian, and the Marquis
full of the pride and arrogant prejudices of his caste. One day
Armand, the respectful, timid lover, ventured on sending a small
poem--enthusiastic, ardent, passionate--to the idol of his dreams.
The next night he was waylaid just outside Paris by the valets of
Marquis de St. Cyr, and ignominiously thrashed--thrashed like a dog
within an inch of his life--because he had dared to raise his eyes to
the daughter of the aristocrat. The incident was one which, in those
days, some two years before the great Revolution, was of almost daily
occurrence in France; incidents of that type, in fact, led to bloody
reprisals, which a few years later sent most of those haughty heads to
Marguerite remembered it all: what her brother must have
suffered in his manhood and his pride must have been appalling; what
she suffered through him and with him she never attempted even to
Then the day of retribution came. St. Cyr and his kin had
found their masters, in those same plebeians whom they had despised.
Armand and Marguerite, both intellectual, thinking beings, adopted
with the enthusiasm of their years the Utopian doctrines of the
Revolution, while the Marquis de St. Cyr and his family fought inch by
inch for the retention of those privileges which had placed them
socially above their fellow-men. Marguerite, impulsive, thoughtless,
not calculating the purport of her words, still smarting under the
terrible insult her brother had suffered at the Marquis' hands,
happened to hear--amongst her own coterie--that the St. Cyrs were in
treasonable correspondence with Austria, hoping to obtain the
Emperor's support to quell the growing revolution in their own
In those days one denunciation was sufficient: Marguerite's
few thoughtless words anent the Marquis de St. Cyr bore fruit within
twenty-four hours. He was arrested. His papers were searched:
letters from the Austrian Emperor, promising to send troops against
the Paris populace, were found in his desk. He was arraigned for
treason against the nation, and sent to the guillotine, whilst his
family, his wife and his sons, shared in this awful fate.
Marguerite, horrified at the terrible consequences of her own
thoughtlessness, was powerless to save the Marquis: his own coterie,
the leaders of the revolutionary movement, all proclaimed her as a
heroine: and when she married Sir Percy Blakeney, she did not perhaps
altogether realise how severely he would look upon the sin, which she
had so inadvertently committed, and which still lay heavily upon her
soul. She made full confession of it to her husband, trusting his
blind love for her, her boundless power over him, to soon make him
forget what might have sounded unpleasant to an English ear.
Certainly at the moment he seemed to take it very quietly;
hardly, in fact, did he appear to understand the meaning of all she
said; but what was more certain still, was that never after that could
she detect the slightest sign of that love, which she once believed
had been wholly hers. Now they had drifted quite apart, and Sir Percy
seemed to have laid aside his love for her, as he would an ill-fitting
glove. She tried to rouse him by sharpening her ready wit against his
dull intellect; endeavouring to excite his jealousy, if she could not
rouse his love; tried to goad him to self-assertion, but all in vain.
He remained the same, always passive, drawling, sleepy, always
courteous, invariably a gentleman: she had all that the world and a
wealthy husband can give to a pretty woman, yet on this beautiful
summer's evening, with the white sails of the DAY DREAM finally
hidden by the evening shadows, she felt more lonely than that poor
tramp who plodded his way wearily along the rugged cliffs.
With another heavy sigh, Marguerite Blakeney turned her back
upon the sea and cliffs, and walked slowly back towards "The
Fisherman's Rest." As she drew near, the sound of revelry, of gay,
jovial laughter, grew louder and more distinct. She could distinguish
Sir Andrew Ffoulkes' pleasant voice, Lord Tony's boisterous guffaws,
her husband's occasional, drawly, sleepy comments; then realising the
loneliness of the road and the fast gathering gloom round her, she
quickened her steps. . .the next moment she perceived a stranger
coming rapidly towards her. Marguerite did not look up: she was not
the least nervous, and "The Fisherman's Rest" was now well within call.
The stranger paused when he saw Marguerite coming quickly
towards him, and just as she was about to slip past him, he said very
"Citoyenne St. Just."
Marguerite uttered a little cry of astonishment, at thus
hearing her own familiar maiden name uttered so close to her. She
looked up at the stranger, and this time, with a cry of unfeigned
pleasure, she put out both her hands effusively towards him.
"Chauvelin!" she exclaimed.
"Himself, citoyenne, at your service," said the stranger,
gallantly kissing the tips of her fingers.
Marguerite said nothing for a moment or two, as she surveyed
with obvious delight the not very prepossessing little figure before
her. Chauvelin was then nearer forty than thirty--a clever,
shrewd-looking personality, with a curious fox-like expression in the
deep, sunken eyes. He was the same stranger who an hour or two
previously had joined Mr. Jellyband in a friendly glass of wine.
"Chauvelin. . .my friend. . ." said Marguerite, with a pretty
little sigh of satisfaction. "I am mightily pleased to see you."
No doubt poor Marguerite St. Just, lonely in the midst of her
grandeur, and of her starchy friends, was happy to see a face that
brought back memories of that happy time in Paris, when she reigned--a
queen--over the intellectual coterie of the Rue de Richelieu. She did
not notice the sarcastic little smile, however, that hovered round the
thin lips of Chauvelin.
"But tell me," she added merrily, "what in the world, or whom
in the world, are you doing here in England?"
"I might return the subtle compliment, fair lady," he said.
"What of yourself?"
"Oh, I?" she said, with a shrug of the shoulders. "Je m'ennuie,
mon ami, that is all."
They had reached the porch of "The Fisherman's Rest," but
Marguerite seemed loth to go within. The evening air was lovely after
the storm, and she had found a friend who exhaled the breath of Paris,
who knew Armand well, who could talk of all the merry, brilliant
friends whom she had left behind. So she lingered on under the pretty
porch, while through the gaily-lighted dormer-window of the
coffee-room sounds of laughter, of calls for "Sally" and for beer, of
tapping of mugs, and clinking of dice, mingled with Sir Percy
Blakeney's inane and mirthless laugh. Chauvelin stood beside her, his
shrewd, pale, yellow eyes fixed on the pretty face, which looked so
sweet and childlike in this soft English summer twilight.
"You surprise me, citoyenne," he said quietly, as he took a
pinch of snuff.
"Do I now?" she retorted gaily. "Faith, my little Chauvelin,
I should have thought that, with your penetration, you would have
guessed that an atmosphere composed of fogs and virtues would never
suit Marguerite St. Just."
"Dear me! is it as bad as that?" he asked, in mock consternation.
"Quite," she retorted, "and worse."
"Strange! Now, I thought that a pretty woman would have found
English country life peculiarly attractive."
"Yes! so did I," she said with a sigh, "Pretty women," she
added meditatively, "ought to have a good time in England, since all
the pleasant things are forbidden them--the very things they do every
"You'll hardly believe it, my little Chauvelin," she said
earnestly, "but I often pass a whole day--a whole day--without
encountering a single temptation."
"No wonder," retorted Chauvelin, gallantly, "that the
cleverest woman in Europe is troubled with ENNUI."
She laughed one of her melodious, rippling, childlike laughs.
"It must be pretty bad, mustn't it?" she asked archly, "or I
should not have been so pleased to see you."
"And this within a year of a romantic love match. . .that's
just the difficulty. . ."
"Ah!. . .that idyllic folly," said Chauvelin, with quiet
sarcasm, "did not then survive the lapse of. . .weeks?"
"Idyllic follies never last, my little Chauvelin. . .They come
upon us like the measles. . .and are as easily cured."
Chauvelin took another pinch of snuff: he seemed very much
addicted to that pernicious habit, so prevalent in those days;
perhaps, too, he found the taking of snuff a convenient veil for
disguising the quick, shrewd glances with which he strove to read the
very souls of those with whom he came in contact.
"No wonder," he repeated, with the same gallantry, "that the
most active brain in Europe is troubled with ENNUI."
"I was in hopes that you had a prescription against the
malady, my little Chauvelin."
"How can I hope to succeed in that which Sir Percy Blakeney
has failed to accomplish?"
"Shall we leave Sir Percy out of the question for the present,
my dear friend? she said drily.
"Ah! my dear lady, pardon me, but that is just what we cannot
very well do," said Chauvelin, whilst once again his eyes, keen as
those of a fox on the alert, darted a quick glance at Marguerite. "I
have a most perfect prescription against the worst form of ENNUI,
which I would have been happy to submit to you, but--"
"There IS Sir Percy."
"What has he to do with it?"
"Quite a good deal, I am afraid. The prescription I would
offer, fair lady, is called by a very plebeian name: Work!"
Chauvelin looked at Marguerite long and scrutinisingly. It
seemed as if those keen, pale eyes of his were reading every one of
her thoughts. They were alone together; the evening air was quite
still, and their soft whispers were drowned in the noise which came
from the coffee-room. Still, Chauvelin took as step or two from under
the porch, looked quickly and keenly all round him, then seeing that
indeed no one was within earshot, he once more came back close to
"Will you render France a small service, citoyenne?" he asked,
with a sudden change of manner, which lent his thin, fox-like face a
"La, man!" she replied flippantly, "how serious you look all
of a sudden. . . . Indeed I do not know if I WOULD render France a
small service--at any rate, it depends upon the kind of service
"Have you ever heard of the Scarlet Pimpernel, Citoyenne St.
Just?" asked Chauvelin, abruptly.
"Heard of the Scarlet Pimpernel?" she retorted with a long and
merry laugh, "Faith man! we talk of nothing else. . . . We have hats
'a la Scarlet Pimpernel'; our horses are called `Scarlet Pimpernel';
at the Prince of Wales' supper party the other night we had a `souffle
a la Scarlet Pimpernel.'. . .Lud!" she added gaily, "the other day I
ordered at my milliner's a blue dress trimmed with green, and bless me,
if she did not call that `a la Scarlet Pimpernel.'"
Chauvelin had not moved while she prattled merrily along; he
did not even attempt to stop her when her musical voice and her
childlike laugh went echoing through the still evening air. But he
remained serious and earnest whilst she laughed, and his voice, clear,
incisive, and hard, was not raised above his breath as he said,--
"Then, as you have heard of that enigmatical personage,
citoyenne, you must also have guessed, and know, that the man who
hides his identity under that strange pseudonym, is the most bitter
enemy of our republic, of France. . .of men like Armand St. Just."
"La!.." she said, with a quaint little sigh, "I dare swear he
is. . . . France has many bitter enemies these days."
"But you, citoyenne, are a daughter of France, and should be
ready to help her in a moment of deadly peril."
"My brother Armand devotes his life to France," she retorted
proudly; "as for me, I can do nothing. . .here in England. . . ."
"Yes, you. . ." he urged still more earnestly, whilst his thin
fox-like face seemed suddenly to have grown impressive and full of
dignity, "here, in England, citoyenne. . .you alone can help us. . . .
Listen!--I have been sent over here by the Republican Government as
its representative: I present my credentials to Mr. Pitt in London
to-morrow. One of my duties here is to find out all about this League
of the Scarlet Pimpernel, which has become a standing menace to
France, since it is pledged to help our cursed aristocrats--traitors
to their country, and enemies of the people--to escape from the just
punishment which they deserve. You know as well as I do, citoyenne,
that once they are over here, those French EMIGRES try to rouse
public feeling against the Republic. . .They are ready to join issue
with any enemy bold enough to attack France. . .Now, within the last
month scores of these EMIGRES, some only suspected of treason,
others actually condemned by the Tribunal of Public Safety, have
succeeded in crossing the Channel. Their escape in each instance was
planned, organized and effected by this society of young English
jackanapes, headed by a man whose brain seems as resourceful as his
identity is mysterious. All the most strenuous efforts on the part of
my spies have failed to discover who he is; whilst the others are the
hands, he is the head, who beneath this strange anonymity calmly works
at the destruction of France. I mean to strike at that head, and for
this I want your help--through him afterwards I can reach the rest of
the gang: he is a young buck in English society, of that I feel sure.
Find that man for me, citoyenne!" he urged, "find him for France."
Marguerite had listened to Chauvelin's impassioned speech
without uttering a word, scarce making a movement, hardly daring to
breathe. She had told him before that this mysterious hero of romance
was the talk of the smart set to which she belonged; already, before
this, her heart and her imagination had stirred by the thought of the
brave man, who, unknown to fame, had rescued hundreds of lives from a
terrible, often an unmerciful fate. She had but little real sympathy
with those haughty French aristocrats, insolent in their pride of
caste, of whom the Comtesse de Tournay de Basserive was so typical an
example; but republican and liberal-minded though she was from
principle, she hated and loathed the methods which the young Republic
had chosen for establishing itself. She had not been in Paris for
some months; the horrors and bloodshed of the Reign of Terror,
culminating in the September massacres, had only come across the
Channel to her as a faint echo. Robespierre, Danton, Marat, she had
not known in their new guise of bloody judiciaries, merciless wielders
of the guillotine. Her very soul recoiled in horror from these
excesses, to which she feared her brother Armand--moderate republican
as he was--might become one day the holocaust.
Then, when first she heard of this band of young English
enthusiasts, who, for sheer love of their fellowmen, dragged women and
children, old and young men, from a horrible death, her heart had
glowed with pride for them, and now, as Chauvelin spoke, her very soul
went out to the gallant and mysterious leader of the reckless little
band, who risked his life daily, who gave it freely and without
ostentation, for the sake of humanity.
Her eyes were moist when Chauvelin had finished speaking, the
lace at her bosom rose and fell with her quick, excited breathing; she
no longer heard the noise of drinking from the inn, she did not heed
her husband's voice or his inane laugh, her thoughts had gone
wandering in search of the mysterious hero! Ah! there was a man she
might have loved, had he come her way: everything in him appealed to
her romantic imagination; his personality, his strength, his bravery,
the loyalty of those who served under him in that same noble cause,
and, above all, that anonymity which crowned him, as if with a halo of
"Find him for France, citoyenne!"
Chauvelin's voice close to her ear roused her from her dreams.
The mysterious hero had vanished, and, not twenty yards away from her,
a man was drinking and laughing, to whom she had sworn faith and
"La! man," she said with a return of her assumed flippancy,
"you are astonishing. Where in the world am I to look for him?"
"You go everywhere, citoyenne," whispered Chauvelin,
insinuatingly, "Lady Blakeney is the pivot of social London, so I am
told. . .you see everything, you HEAR everything."
"Easy, my friend," retorted Marguerite, drawing, herself up to
her full height and looking down, with a slight thought of contempt on
the small, thin figure before her. "Easy! you seem to forget that
there are six feet of Sir Percy Blakeney, and a long line of ancestors
to stand between Lady Blakeney and such a thing as you propose."
"For the sake of France, citoyenne!" reiterated Chauvelin, earnestly.
"Tush, man, you talk nonsense anyway; for even if you did know who this
Scarlet Pimpernel is, you could do nothing to him--an Englishman!"
"I'd take my chance of that," said Chauvelin, with a dry,
rasping little laugh. "At any rate we could send him to the
guillotine first to cool his ardour, then, when there is a diplomatic
fuss about it, we can apologise--humbly--to the British Government,
and, if necessary, pay compensation to the bereaved family."
"What you propose is horrible, Chauvelin," she said, drawing
away from him as from some noisome insect. "Whoever the man may be,
he is brave and noble, and never--do you hear me?--never would I lend
a hand to such villiany."
"You prefer to be insulted by every French aristocrat who
comes to this country?"
Chauvelin had taken sure aim when he shot this tiny shaft.
Marguerite's fresh young cheeks became a thought more pale and she bit
her under lip, for she would not let him see that the shaft had struck
"That is beside the question," she said at last with
indifference. "I can defend myself, but I refuse to do any dirty work
for you--or for France. You have other means at your disposal; you
must use them, my friend."
And without another look at Chauvelin, Marguerite Blakeney
turned her back on him and walked straight into the inn.
"That is not your last word, citoyenne," said Chauvelin, as a
flood of light from the passage illumined her elegant, richly-clad
figure, "we meet in London, I hope!"
"We meet in London," she said, speaking over her shoulder at
him, "but that is my last word."
She threw open the coffee-room door and disappeared from his
view, but he remained under the porch for a moment or two, taking a
pinch of snuff. He had received a rebuke and a snub, but his shrewd,
fox-like face looked neither abashed nor disappointed; on the
contrary, a curious smile, half sarcastic and wholly satisfied, played
around the corners of his thin lips.
CHAPTER IX THE OUTRAGE
A beautiful starlit night had followed on the day of incessant
rain: a cool, balmy, late summer's night, essentially English in its
suggestion of moisture and scent of wet earth and dripping leaves.
The magnificent coach, drawn by four of the finest
thoroughbreds in England, had driven off along the London road, with
Sir Percy Blakeney on the box, holding the reins in his slender
feminine hands, and beside him Lady Blakeney wrapped in costly furs.
A fifty-mile drive on a starlit summer's night! Marguerite had hailed
the notion of it with delight. . . . Sir Percy was an enthusiastic
whip; his four thoroughbreds, which had been sent down to Dover a
couple of days before, were just sufficiently fresh and restive to add
zest to the expedition and Marguerite revelled in anticipation of the
few hours of solitude, with the soft night breeze fanning her cheeks,
her thoughts wandering, whither away? She knew from old experience
that Sir Percy would speak little, if at all: he had often driven her
on his beautiful coach for hours at night, from point to point,
without making more than one or two casual remarks upon the weather or
the state of the roads. He was very fond of driving by night, and she
had very quickly adopted his fancy: as she sat next to him hour after
hour, admiring the dexterous, certain way in which he handled the
reins, she often wondered what went on in that slow-going head of his.
He never told her, and she had never cared to ask.
At "The Fisherman's Rest" Mr. Jellyband was going the round,
putting out the lights. His bar customers had all gone, but upstairs
in the snug little bedrooms, Mr. Jellyband had quite a few important
guests: the Comtesse de Tournay, with Suzannne, and the Vicomte, and
there were two more bedrooms ready for Sir Andrew Ffoulkes and Lord
Antony Dewhurst, if the two young men should elect to honour the
ancient hostelry and stay the night.
For the moment these two young gallants were comfortably installed in
the coffee-room, before the huge log-fire, which, in spite of the
mildness of the evening, had been allowed to burn merrily.
"I say, Jelly, has everyone gone?" asked Lord Tony, as the
worthy landlord still busied himself clearing away glasses and mugs.
"Everyone, as you see, my lord."
"And all your servants gone to bed?"
"All except the boy on duty in the bar, and," added Mr. Jellyband
with a laugh, "I expect he'll be asleep afore long, the rascal."
"Then we can talk here undisturbed for half an hour?"
"At your service, my lord. . . . I'll leave your candles on
the dresser. . .and your rooms are quite ready. . .I sleep at the top
of the house myself, but if your lordship'll only call loudly enough,
I daresay I shall hear."
"All right, Jelly. . .and. . .I say, put the lamp out--the fire'll give
us all the light we need--and we don't want to attract the passer-by."
"Al ri', my lord."
Mr. Jellyband did as he was bid--he turned out the quaint old
lamp that hung from the raftered ceiling and blew out all the candles.
"Let's have a bottle of wine, Jelly," suggested Sir Andrew.
"Al ri', sir!"
Jellyband went off to fetch the wine. The room now was quite
dark, save for the circle of ruddy and fitful light formed by the
brightly blazing logs in the hearth.
"Is that all, gentlemen?" asked Jellyband, as he returned with a
bottle of wine and a couple of glasses, which he placed on the table.
"That'll do nicely, thanks, Jelly!" said Lord Tony.
"Good-night, my lord! Good-night, sir!"
The two young men listened, whilst the heavy tread of Mr.
Jellyband was heard echoing along the passage and staircase.
Presently even that sound died out, and the whole of "The Fisherman's
Rest" seemed wrapt in sleep, save the two young men drinking in
silence beside the hearth.
For a while no sound was heard, even in the coffee-room, save
the ticking of the old grandfather's clock and the crackling of the
"All right again this time, Ffoulkes?" asked Lord Antony at last.
Sir Andrew had been dreaming evidently, gazing into the fire,
and seeing therein, no doubt, a pretty, piquant face, with large brown
eyes and a wealth of dark curls round a childish forehead.
"Yes!" he said, still musing, "all right!"
Lord Antony laughed pleasantly as he poured himself out
another glass of wine.
"I need not ask, I suppose, whether you found the journey
pleasant this time?"
"No, friend, you need not ask," replied Sir Andrew, gaily.
"It was all right."
"Then here's to her very good health," said jovial Lord Tony.
"She's a bonnie lass, though she IS a French one. And here's to
your courtship--may it flourish and prosper exceedingly."
He drained his glass to the last drop, then joined his friend
beside the hearth.
"Well! you'll be doing the journey next, Tony, I expect,"
said Sir Andrew, rousing himself from his meditations, "you and
Hastings, certainly; and I hope you may have as pleasant a task as I
had, and as charming a travelling companion. You have no idea,
Tony. . . ."
"No! I haven't," interrupted his friend pleasantly, "but I'll
take your word for it. And now," he added, whilst a sudden
earnestness crept over his jovial young face, "how about business?"
The two young men drew their chairs closer together, and
instinctively, though they were alone, their voices sank to a whisper.
"I saw the Scarlet Pimpernel alone, for a few moments in
Calais," said Sir Andrew, "a day or two ago. He crossed over to
England two days before we did. He had escorted the party all the way
from Paris, dressed--you'll never credit it!--as an old market woman,
and driving--until they were safely out of the city--the covered cart,
under which the Comtesse de Tournay, Mlle. Suzanne, and the Vicomte
lay concealed among the turnips and cabbages. They, themselves, of
course, never suspected who their driver was. He drove them right
through a line of soldiery and a yelling mob, who were screaming, `A
bas les aristos!' But the market cart got through along with some
others, and the Scarlet Pimpernel, in shawl, petticoat and hood,
yelled `A bas les aristos!' louder than anybody. Faith!" added the
young man, as his eyes glowed with enthusiasm for the beloved leader,
"that man's a marvel! His cheek is preposterous, I vow!--and that's
what carries him through."
Lord Antony, whose vocabulary was more limited than that of
his friend, could only find an oath or two with which to show his
admiration for his leader.
"He wants you and Hastings to meet him at Calais," said Sir
Andrew, more quietly, "on the 2nd of next month. Let me see! that
will be next Wednesday."
"It is, of course, the case of the Comte de Tournay, this
time; a dangerous task, for the Comte, whose escape from his chateau,
after he had been declared a `suspect' by the Committee of Public
Safety, was a masterpiece of the Scarlet Pimpernel's ingenuity, is now
under sentence of death. It will be rare sport to get HIM out of
France, and you will have a narrow escape, if you get through at all.
St. Just has actually gone to meet him--of course, no one suspects St.
Just as yet; but after that. . .to get them both out of the country!
I'faith, `twill be a tough job, and tax even the ingenuity of our
chief. I hope I may yet have orders to be of the party."
"Have you any special instructions for me?"
"Yes! rather more precise ones than usual. It appears that
the Republican Government have sent an accredited agent over to
England, a man named Chauvelin, who is said to be terribly bitter
against our league, and determined to discover the identity of our
leader, so that he may have him kidnapped, the next time he attempts
to set foot in France. This Chauvelin has brought a whole army of
spies with him, and until the chief has sampled the lot, he thinks we
should meet as seldom as possible on the business of the league, and
on no account should talk to each other in public places for a time.
When he wants to speak to us, he will contrive to let us know."
The two young men were both bending over the fire for the
blaze had died down, and only a red glow from the dying embers cast a
lurid light on a narrow semicircle in front of the hearth. The rest
of the room lay buried in complete gloom; Sir Andrew had taken a
pocket-book from his pocket, and drawn therefrom a paper, which he
unfolded, and together they tried to read it by the dim red firelight.
So intent were they upon this, so wrapt up in the cause, the business
they had so much at heart, so precious was this document which came
from the very hand of their adored leader, that they had eyes and ears
only for that. They lost count of the sounds around them, of the
dropping of the crisp ash from the grate, of the monotonous ticking of
the clock, of the soft, almost imperceptible rustle of something on
the floor close beside them. A figure had emerged from under one of
the benches; with snake-like, noiseless movements it crept closer and
closer to the two young men, not breathing, only gliding along the
floor, in the inky blackness of the room.
"You are to read these instructions and commit them to
memory," said Sir Andrew, "then destroy them."
He was about to replace the letter-case into his pocket, when
a tiny slip of paper fluttered from it and fell on to the floor. Lord
Antony stooped and picked it up.
"What's that?" he asked.
"I don't know," replied Sir Andrew.
"It dropped out of your pocket just now. It certainly does
not seem to be with the other paper."
"Strange!--I wonder when it got there? It is from the chief,"
he added, glancing at the paper.
Both stooped to try and decipher this last tiny scrap of paper
on which a few words had been hastily scrawled, when suddenly a slight
noise atrracted their attention, which seemed to come from the passage
"What's that?" said both instinctively. Lord Antony crossed
the room towards the door, which he threw open quickly and suddenly;
at that very moment he received a stunning blow between the eyes,
which threw him back violently into the room. Simultaneously the
crouching, snake-like figure in the gloom had jumped up and hurled
itself from behind upon the unsuspecting Sir Andrew, felling him to
All this occurred within the short space of two or three
seconds, and before either Lord Antony or Sir Andrew had time or
chance to utter a cry or to make the faintest struggle. They were
each seized by two men, a muffler was quickly tied round the mouth of
each, and they were pinioned to one another back to back, their arms,
hands, and legs securely fastened.
One man had in the meanwhile quietly shut the door; he wore a
mask and now stood motionless while the others completed their work.
"All safe, citoyen!" said one of the men, as he took a final
survey of the bonds which secured the two young men.
"Good!" replied the man at the door; "now search their pockets
and give me all the papers you find."
This was promptly and quietly done. The masked man having
taken possession of all the papers, listened for a moment or two if
there were any sound within "The Fisherman's Rest." Evidently
satisfied that this dastardly outrage had remained unheard, he once
more opened the door and pointed peremptorily down the passage. The
four men lifted Sir Andrew and Lord Antony from the ground, and as
quietly, as noiselessly as they had come, they bore the two pinioned
young gallants out of the inn and along the Dover Road into the gloom
In the coffee-room the masked leader of this daring attempt
was quickly glancing through the stolen papers.
"Not a bad day's work on the whole," he muttered, as he
quietly took off his mask, and his pale, fox-like eyes glittered in
the red glow of the fire. "Not a bad day's work."
He opened one or two letters from Sir Andrew Ffoulkes'
pocket-book, noted the tiny scrap of paper which the two young men had
only just had time to read; but one letter specially, signed Armand
St. Just, seemed to give him strange satisfaction.
"Armand St. Just a traitor after all," he murmured. "Now,
fair Marguerite Blakeney," he added viciously between his clenched
teeth, "I think that you will help me to find the Scarlet Pimpernel."
CHAPTER X IN THE OPERA BOX
It was one of the gala nights at Covent Garden Theatre, the
first of the autumn season in this memorable year of grace 1792.
The house was packed, both in the smart orchestra boxes and in
the pit, as well as in the more plebeian balconies and galleries
above. Gluck's ORPHEUS made a strong appeal to the more
intellectual portions of the house, whilst the fashionable women, the
gaily-dressed and brilliant throng, spoke to the eye of those who
cared but little for this "latest importation from Germany."
Selina Storace had been duly applauded after her grand ARIA
by her numerous admirers; Benjamin Incledon, the acknowledged
favourite of the ladies, had received special gracious recognition
from the royal box; and now the curtain came down after the glorious
finale to the second act, and the audience, which had hung spell-bound
on the magic strains of the great maestro, seemed collectively to
breathe a long sigh of satisfaction, previous to letting loose its
hundreds of waggish and frivolous tongues.
In the smart orchestra boxes many well-known faces were to be
seen. Mr. Pitt, overweighted with cares of state, was finding brief
relaxation in to-night's musical treat; the Prince of Wales, jovial,
rotund, somewhat coarse and commonplace in appearance, moved about
from box to box, spending brief quarters of an hour with those of his
more intimate friends.
In Lord Grenville's box, too, a curious, interesting
personality attracted everyone's attention; a thin, small figure with
shrewd, sarcastic face and deep-set eyes, attentive to the music,
keenly critical of the audience, dressed in immaculate black, with
dark hair free from any powder. Lord Grenville--Foreign Secretary of
State--paid him marked, though frigid deference.
Here and there, dotted about among distinctly English types of
beauty, one or two foreign faces stood out in marked contrast: the
haughty aristocratic cast of countenance of the many French royalist
EMIGRES who, persecuted by the relentless, revolutionary faction of
their country, had found a peaceful refuge in England. On these faces
sorrow and care were deeply writ; the women especially paid but little
heed, either to the music or to the brilliant audience; no doubt their
thoughts were far away with husband, brother, son maybe, still in
peril, or lately succumbed to a cruel fate.
Among these the Comtesse de Tournay de Basserive, but lately
arrived from France, was a most conspicuous figure: dressed in deep,
heavy black silk, with only a white lace kerchief to relieve the
aspect of mourning about her person, she sat beside Lady Portarles,
who was vainly trying by witty sallies and somewhat broad jokes, to
bring a smile to the Comtesse's sad mouth. Behind her sat little
Suzanne and the Vicomte, both silent and somewhat shy among so many
strangers. Suzanne's eyes seemed wistful; when she first entered the
crowded house, she had looked eagerly all around, scanning every face,
scrutinised every box. Evidently the one face she wished to see was
not there, for she settled herself quietly behind her mother, listened
apathetically to the music, and took no further interest in the
"Ah, Lord Grenville," said Lady Portarles, as following a
discreet knock, the clever, interesting head of the Secretary of State
appeared in the doorway of the box, "you could not arrive more _A_
PROPOS. Here is Madame la Comtesse de Tournay positively dying to
hear the latest news from France."
The distinguished diplomat had come forward and was shaking
hands with the ladies.
"Alas!" he said sadly, "it is of the very worst. The
massacres continue; Paris literally reeks with blood; and the
guillotine claims a hundred victims a day."
Pale and tearful, the Comtesse was leaning back in her chair,
listening horror-struck to this brief and graphic account of what went
on in her own misguided country.
"Ah, monsieur!" she said in broken English, "it is dreadful to
hear all that--and my poor husband still in that awful country. It is
terrible for me to be sitting here, in a theatre, all safe and in
peace, whilst he is in such peril."
"Lud, Madame!" said honest, bluff Lady Portarles, "your
sitting in a convent won't make your husband safe, and you have your
children to consider: they are too young to be dosed with anxiety and
The Comtesse smiled through her tears at the vehemence of her
friend. Lady Portarles, whose voice and manner would not have
misfitted a jockey, had a heart of gold, and hid the most genuine
sympathy and most gentle kindliness, beneath the somewhat coarse
manners affected by some ladies at that time.
"Besides which, Madame," added Lord Grenville, "did you not
tell me yesterday that the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel had pledged
their honour to bring M. le Comte safely across the Channel?"
"Ah, yes!" replied the Comtesse, "and that is my only hope. I
saw Lord Hastings yesterday. . .he reassured me again."
"Then I am sure you need have no fear. What the league have
sworn, that they surely will accomplish. Ah!" added the old diplomat
with a sigh, "if I were but a few years younger. . ."
"La, man!" interrupted honest Lady Portarles, "you are still
young enough to turn your back on that French scarecrow that sits
enthroned in your box to-night."
"I wish I could. . .but your ladyship must remember that in
serving our country we must put prejudices aside. M. Chauvelin is the
accredited agent of his Government. . ."
"Odd's fish, man!" she retorted, "you don't call those
bloodthirsty ruffians over there a government, do you?"
"It has not been thought advisable as yet," said the Minister,
guardedly, "for England to break off diplomatic relations with France,
and we cannot therefore refuse to receive with courtesy the agent she
wishes to send to us."
"Diplomatic relations be demmed, my lord! That sly little fox
over there is nothing but a spy, I'll warrant, and you'll find--an I'm
much mistaken, that he'll concern himself little with such diplomacy,
beyond trying to do mischief to royalist refugees--to our heroic
Scarlet Pimpernel and to the members of that brave little league."
"I am sure," said the Comtesse, pursing up her thin lips,
"that if this Chauvelin wishes to do us mischief, he will find a
faithful ally in Lady Blakeney."
"Bless the woman!" ejaculated Lady Portarles, "did ever anyone
see such perversity? My Lord Grenville, you have the gift of gab,
will you please explain to Madame la Comtesse that she is acting like
a fool. In your position here in England, Madame," she added, turning
a wrathful and resolute face towards the Comtesse, "you cannot afford
to put on the hoity-toity airs you French aristocrats are so fond of.
Lady Blakeney may or may not be in sympathy with those Ruffians in
France; she may or may not have had anything to do with the arrest and
condemnation of St. Cyr, or whatever the man's name is, but she is the
leader of fashion in this country; Sir Percy Blakeney has more money
than any half-dozen other men put together, he is hand and glove with
royalty, and your trying to snub Lady Blakeney will not harm her, but
will make you look a fool. Isn't that so, my Lord?
But what Lord Grenville thought of this matter, or to what
reflections this comely tirade of Lady Portarles led the Comtesse de
Tournay, remained unspoken, for the curtain had just risen on the
third act of ORPHEUS, and admonishments to silence came from every
part of the house.
Lord Grenville took a hasty farewell of the ladies and slipped
back into his box, where M. Chauvelin had sat through this
ENTR'ACTE, with his eternal snuff-box in his hand, and with his keen
pale eyes intently fixed upon a box opposite him, where, with much
frou-frou of silken skirts, much laughter and general stir of
curiosity amongst the audience, Marguerite Blakeney had just entered,
accompanied by her husband, and looking divinely pretty beneath the
wealth of her golden, reddish curls, slightly besprinkled with powder,
and tied back at the nape of her graceful neck with a gigantic black
bow. Always dressed in the very latest vagary of fashion, Marguerite
alone among the ladies that night had discarded the crossover fichu
and broad-lapelled over-dress, which had been in fashion for the last
two or three years. She wore the short-waisted classical-shaped gown,
which so soon was to become the approved mode in every country in
Europe. It suited her graceful, regal figure to perfection, composed
as it was of shimmering stuff which seemed a mass of rich gold embroidery.
As she entered, she leant for a moment out of the box, taking
stock of all those present whom she knew. Many bowed to her as she
did so, and from the royal box there came also a quick and gracious
Chauvelin watched her intently all through the commencement of
the third act, as she sat enthralled with the music, her exquisite
little hand toying with a small jewelled fan, her regal head, her
throat, arms and neck covered with magnificent diamonds and rare gems,
the gift of the adoring husband who sprawled leisurely by her side.
Marguerite was passionately fond of music. ORPHEUS charmed
her to-night. The very joy of living was writ plainly upon the sweet
young face, it sparkled out of the merry blue eyes and lit up the
smile that lurked around the lips. She was after all but
five-and-twenty, in the hey day of youth, the darling of a brilliant
throng, adored, FETED, petted, cherished. Two days ago the DAY
DREAM had returned from Calais, bringing her news that her idolised
brother had safely landed, that he thought of her, and would be
prudent for her sake.
What wonder for the moment, and listening to Gluck's
impassioned strains, that she forgot her disillusionments, forgot her
vanished love-dreams, forgot even the lazy, good-humoured nonentity
who had made up for his lack of spiritual attainments by lavishing
worldly advantages upon her.
He had stayed beside her in the box just as long as convention
demanded, making way for His Royal Highness, and for the host of
admirers who in a continued procession came to pay homage to the queen
of fashion. Sir Percy had strolled away, to talk to more congenial
friends probably. Marguerite did not even wonder whither he had
gone--she cared so little; she had had a little court round her,
composed of the JEUNESSE DOREE of London, and had just dismissed
them all, wishing to be alone with Gluck for a brief while.
A discreet knock at the door roused her from her enjoyment.
"Come in," she said with some impatience, without turning to
look at the intruder.
Chauvelin, waiting for his opportunity, noted that she was
alone, and now, without pausing for that impatient "Come in," he
quietly slipped into the box, and the next moment was standing behind
"A word with you, citoyenne," he said quietly.
Marguerite turned quickly, in alarm, which was not altogether
"Lud, man! you frightened me," she said with a forced little
laugh, "your presence is entirely inopportune. I want to listen to
Gluck, and have no mind for talking."
"But this is my only opportunity," he said, as quietly, and
without waiting for permission, he drew a chair close behind her--so
close that he could whisper in her ear, without disturbing the
audience, and without being seen, in the dark background of the box.
"This is my only opportunity," he repeated, as he vouchsafed him no
reply, "Lady Blakeney is always so surrounded, so FETED by her
court, that a mere old friend has but very little chance."
"Faith, man!" she said impatiently, "you must seek for another
opportunity then. I am going to Lord Grenville's ball to-night after
the opera. So are you, probably. I'll give you five minutes
then. . . ."
"Three minutes in the privacy of this box are quite sufficient
for me," he rejoined placidly, "and I think that you will be wise to
listen to me, Citoyenne St. Just."
Marguerite instinctively shivered. Chauvelin had not raised
his voice above a whisper; he was now quietly taking a pinch of snuff,
yet there was something in his attitude, something in those pale, foxy
eyes, which seemed to freeze the blood in her veins, as would the
sight of some deadly hitherto unguessed peril.
"Is that a threat, citoyen?" she asked at last.
"Nay, fair lady," he said gallantly, "only an arrow shot into
He paused a moment, like a cat which sees a mouse running
heedlessly by, ready to spring, yet waiting with that feline sense of
enjoyment of mischief about to be done. Then he said quietly--
"Your brother, St. Just, is in peril."
Not a muscle moved in the beautiful face before him. He could
only see it in profile, for Marguerite seemed to be watching the stage
intently, but Chauvelin was a keen observer; he noticed the sudden
rigidity of the eyes, the hardening of the mouth, the sharp, almost
paralysed tension of the beautiful, graceful figure.
"Lud, then," she said with affected merriment, "since `tis one
of your imaginary plots, you'd best go back to your own seat and leave
me enjoy the music."
And with her hand she began to beat time nervously against the
cushion of the box. Selina Storace was singing the "Che faro" to an
audience that hung spellbound upon the prima donna's lips. Chauvelin
did not move from his seat; he quietly watched that tiny nervous hand,
the only indication that his shaft had indeed struck home.
"Well?" she said suddenly and irrelevantly, and with the same
"Well, citoyenne?" he rejoined placidly.
"About my brother?"
"I have news of him for you which, I think, will interest you,
but first let me explain. . . . May I?"
The question was unnecessary. He felt, though Marguerite
still held her head steadily averted from him, that her every nerve
was strained to hear what he had to say.
"The other day, citoyenne," he said, "I asked for your
help. . . . France needed it, and I thought I could rely on you, but
you gave me your answer. . . . Since then the exigencies of my own
affairs and your own social duties have kept up apart. . .although
many things have happened. . . ."
"To the point, I pray you, citoyen," she said lightly; "the
music is entrancing, and the audience will get impatient of your
"One moment, citoyenne. The day on which I had the honour of
meeting you at Dover, and less than an hour after I had your final
answer, I obtained possession of some papers, which revealed another
of those subtle schemes for the escape of a batch of French
aristocrats--that traitor de Tournay amongst others--all organized by
that arch-meddler, the Scarlet Pimpernel. Some of the threads, too,
of this mysterious organization have come into my hands, but not all,
and I want you--nay! you MUST help me to gather them together."
Marguerite seemed to have listened to him with marked
impatience; she now shrugged her shoulders and said gaily--
"Bah! man. Have I not already told you that I care nought
about your schemes or about the Scarlet Pimpernel. And had you not
spoken about my brother. . ."
"A little patience, I entreat, citoyenne," he continued
imperturbably. "Two gentlemen, Lord Antony Dewhurst and Sir Andrew
Ffoulkes were at `The Fisherman's Rest' at Dover that same night."
"I know. I saw them there."
"They were already known to my spies as members of that
accursed league. It was Sir Andrew Ffoulkes who escorted the Comtesse
de Tournay and her children across the Channel. When the two young
men were alone, my spies forced their way into the coffee-room of the
inn, gagged and pinioned the two gallants, seized their papers, and
brought them to me."
In a moment she had guessed the danger. Papers?. . .Had
Armand been imprudent?. . .The very thought struck her with nameless
terror. Still she would not let this man see that she feared; she
laughed gaily and lightly.
"Faith! and your impudence pases belief," she said merrily.
"Robbery and violence!--in England!--in a crowded inn! Your men might
have been caught in the act!"
"What if they had? They are children of France, and have been
trained by your humble servant. Had they been caught they would have
gone to jail, or even to the gallows, without a word of protest or
indiscretion; at any rate it was well worth the risk. A crowded inn
is safer for these little operations than you think, and my men have
"Well? And those papers?" she asked carelessly.
"Unfortunately, though they have given me cognisance of
certain names. . .certain movements. . .enough, I think, to thwart
their projected COUP for the moment, it would only be for the
moment, and still leaves me in ignorance of the identity of the
"La! my friend," she said, with the same assumed flippancy of
manner, "then you are where you were before, aren't you? and you can
let me enjoy the last strophe of the ARIA. Faith!" she added,
ostentatiously smothering an imaginary yawn, "had you not spoken about
my brother. . ."
"I am coming to him now, citoyenne. Among the papers there
was a letter to Sir Andrew Ffoulkes, written by your brother, St.
"That letter shows him to be not only in sympathy with the
enemies of France, but actually a helper, if not a member, of the
League of the Scarlet Pimpernel."
The blow had been struck at last. All along, Marguerite had
been expecting it; she would not show fear, she was determined to seem
unconcerned, flippant even. She wished, when the shock came, to be
prepared for it, to have all her wits about her--those wits which had
been nicknamed the keenest in Europe. Even now she did not flinch.
She knew that Chauvelin had spoken the truth; the man was too earnest,
too blindly devoted to the misguided cause he had at heart, too proud
of his countrymen, of those makers of revolutions, to stoop to low,
That letter of Armand's--foolish, imprudent Armand--was in
Chauvelin's hands. Marguerite knew that as if she had seen the letter
with her own eyes; and Chauvelin would hold that letter for purposes
of his own, until it suited him to destroy it or to make use of it
against Armand. All that she knew, and yet she continued to laugh
more gaily, more loudly than she had done before.
"La, man!" she said, speaking over her shoulder and looking
him full and squarely in the face, "did I not say it was some
imaginary plot. . . . Armand in league with that enigmatic Scarlet
Pimpernel!. . .Armand busy helping those French aristocrats whom he
despises!. . .Faith, the tale does infinite credit to your
"Let me make my point clear, citoyenne," said Chauvelin, with
the same unruffled calm, "I must assure you that St. Just is
compromised beyond the slightest hope of pardon."
Inside the orchestra box all was silent for a moment or two.
Marguerite sat, straight upright, rigid and inert, trying to think,
trying to face the situation, to realise what had best be done.
In the house Storace had finished the ARIA, and was even now
bowing in her classic garb, but in approved eighteenth-century
fashion, to the enthusiastic audience, who cheered her to the echo.
"Chauvelin," said Marguerite Blakeney at last, quietly, and
without that touch of bravado which had characterised her attitude all
along, "Chauvelin, my friend, shall we try to understand one another.
It seems that my wits have become rusty by contact with this damp
climate. Now, tell me, you are very anxious to discover the identity
of the Scarlet Pimpernel, isn't that so?"
"France's most bitter enemy, citoyenne. . .all the more
dangerous, as he works in the dark."
"All the more noble, you mean. . . . Well!--and you would now
force me to do some spying work for you in exchange for my brother
Armand's safety?--Is that it?"
"Fie! two very ugly words, fair lady," protested Chauvelin,
urbanely. "There can be no question of force, and the service which I
would ask of you, in the name of France, could never be called by the
shocking name of spying."
"At any rate, that is what it is called over here," she said
drily. "That is your intention, is it not?"
"My intention is, that you yourself win the free pardon for
Armand St. Just by doing me a small service."
"What is it?"
"Only watch for me to-night, Citoyenne St. Just," he said
eagerly. "Listen: among the papers which were found about the person
of Sir Andrew Ffoulkes there was a tiny note. See!" he added, taking
a tiny scrap of paper from his pocket-book and handing it to her.
It was the same scrap of paper which, four days ago, the two
young men had been in the act of reading, at the very moment when they
were attacked by Chauvelin's minions. Marguerite took it mechanically
and stooped to read it. There were only two lines, written in a
distorted, evidently disguised, handwriting; she read them half
"`Remember we must not meet more often than is strictly
necessary. You have all instructions for the 2nd. If you wish to
speak to me again, I shall be at G.'s ball.'"
"What does it mean?" she asked.
"Look again, citoyenne, and you will understand."
"There is a device here in the corner, a small red
flower. . ."
"The Scarlet Pimpernel," she said eagerly, "and G.'s ball
means Grenville's ball. . . . He will be at my Lord Grenville's ball
"That is how I interpret the note, citoyenne," concluded
Chauvelin, blandly. "Lord Antony Dewhurst and Sir Andrew Ffoulkes,
after they were pinioned and searched by my spies, were carried by my
orders to a lonely house in the Dover Road, which I had rented for the
purpose: there they remained close prisoners until this morning. But
having found this tiny scrap of paper, my intention was that they
should be in London, in time to attend my Lord Grenville's ball. You
see, do you not? that they must have a great deal to say to their
chief. . .and thus they will have an opportunity of speaking to him
to-night, just as he directed them to do. Therefore, this morning,
those two young gallants found every bar and bolt open in that lonely
house on the Dover Road, their jailers disappeared, and two good
horses standing ready saddled and tethered in the yard. I have not
seen them yet, but I think we may safely conclude that they did not
draw rein until they reached London. Now you see how simple it all
"It does seem simple, doesn't it?" she said, with a final
bitter attempt at flippancy, "when you want to kill a chicken. . .you
take hold of it. . .then you wring its neck. . .it's only the chicken
who does not find it quite so simple. Now you hold a knife at my
throat, and a hostage for my obedience. . . . You find it
simple. . . . I don't."
"Nay, citoyenne, I offer you a chance of saving the brother
you love from the consequences of his own folly."
Marguerite's face softened, her eyes at last grew moist, as
she murmured, half to herself:
"The only being in the world who has loved me truly and
constantly. . . . But what do you want me to do, Chauvelin?" she
said, with a world of despair in her tear-choked voice. "In my
present position, it is well-nigh impossible!"
"Nay, citoyenne," he said drily and relentlessly, not heeding
that despairing, childlike appeal, which might have melted a heart of
stone, "as Lady Blakeney, no one suspects you, and with your help
to-night I may--who knows?--succeed in finally establishing the
identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel. . . . You are going to the ball
anon. . . . Watch for me there, citoyenne, watch and listen. . . .
You can tell me if you hear a chance word or whisper. . . . You can
note everyone to whom Sir Andrew Ffoulkes or Lord Antony Dewhurst will
speak. You are absolutely beyond suspicion now. The Scarlet
Pimpernel will be at Lord Grenville's ball to-night. Find out who he
is, and I will pledge the word of France that your brother shall be
Chauvelin was putting the knife to her throat. Marguerite
felt herself entangled in one of those webs, from which she could hope
for no escape. A precious hostage was being held for her obedience:
for she knew that this man would never make an empty threat. No doubt
Armand was already signalled to the Committee of Public Safety as one
of the "suspect"; he would not be allowed to leave France again, and
would be ruthlessly struck, if she refused to obey Chauvelin. For a
moment--woman-like--she still hoped to temporise. She held out her
hand to this man, whom she now feared and hated.
"If I promise to help you in this matter, Chauvelin," she said
pleasantly, "will you give me that letter of St. Just's?"
"If you render me useful service to-night, citoyenne," he
replied with a sarcastic smile, "I will give you that letter. . .
"You do not trust me?"
"I trust you absolutely, dear lady, but St. Just's life is
forfeit to his country. . .it rests with you to redeem it."
"I may be powerless to help you," she pleaded, "were I ever so
"That would be terrible indeed," he said quietly, "for
you. . .and for St. Just."
Marguerite shuddered. She felt that from this man she could
expect no mercy. All-powerful, he held the beloved life in the hollow
of his hand. She knew him too well not to know that, if he failed in
gaining his own ends, he would be pitiless.
She felt cold in spite of the oppressive air of opera-house.
The heart-appealing strains of the music seemed to reach her, as from
a distant land. She drew her costly lace scarf up around her
shoulders, and sat silently watching the brilliant scene, as if in a
For a moment her thoughts wandered away from the loved one who
was in danger, to that other man who also had a claim on her
confidence and her affection. She felt lonely, frightened for
Armand's sake; she longed to seek comfort and advice from someone who
would know how to help and console. Sir Percy Blakeney had loved her
once; he was her husband; why should she stand alone through this
terrible ordeal? He had very little brains, it is true, but he had
plenty of muscle: surely, if she provided the thought, and he the
manly energy and pluck, together they could outwit the astute
diplomatist, and save the hostage from his vengeful hands, without
imperilling the life of the noble leader of that gallant little band
of heroes. Sir Percy knew St. Just well--he seemed attached to
him--she was sure that he could help.
Chauvelin was taking no further heed of her. He had said his
cruel "Either--or--" and left her to decide. He, in his turn now,
appeared to be absorbed in the sour-stirring melodies of ORPHEUS,
and was beating time to the music with his sharp, ferret-like head.
A discreet rap at the door roused Marguerite from her
thoughts. It was Sir Percy Blakeney, tall, sleepy, good-humoured, and
wearing that half-shy, half-inane smile, which just now seemed to
irritate her every nerve.
"Er. . .your chair is outside. . .m'dear," he said, with his
most exasperating drawl, "I suppose you will want to go to that demmed
ball. . . . Excuse me--er--Monsieur Chauvelin--I had not observed
you. . . ."
He extended two slender, white fingers toward Chauvelin, who
had risen when Sir Percy entered the box.
"Are you coming, m'dear?"
"Hush! Sh! Sh!" came in angry remonstrance from different
parts of the house.
"Demmed impudence," commented Sir Percy with a good-natured
Marguerite sighed impatiently. Her last hope seemed suddenly
to have vanished away. She wrapped her cloak round her and without
looking at her husband:
"I am ready to go," she said, taking his arm. At the door of
the box she turned and looked straight at Chauvelin, who, with his
CHAPEAU-BRAS under his arm, and a curious smile round his thin lips,
was preparing to follow the strangely ill-assorted couple.
"It is only AU REVOIR, Chauvelin," she said pleasantly, "we
shall meet at my Lord Grenville's ball, anon."
And in her eyes the astute Frenchman, read, no doubt,
something which caused him profound satisfaction, for, with a
sarcastic smile, he took a delicate pinch of snuff, then, having
dusted his dainty lace jabot, he rubbed his thin, bony hands
CHAPTER XI LORD GRENVILLE'S BALL
The historic ball given by the then Secretary of State for
Foreign Affairs--Lord Grenville--was the most brilliant function of
the year. Though the autumn season had only just begun, everybody who
was anybody had contrived to be in London in time to be present there,
and to shine at this ball, to the best of his or her respective
His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales had promised to be
present. He was coming on presently from the opera. Lord Grenville
himself had listened to the two first acts of ORPHEUS, before
preparing to receive his guests. At ten o'clock--an unusually late
hour in those days--the grand rooms of the Foreign Office, exquisitely
decorated with exotic palms and flowers, were filled to overflowing.
One room had been set apart for dancing, and the dainty strains of the
minuet made a soft accompaniment to the gay chatter, the merry
laughter of the numerous and brilliant company.
In a smaller chamber, facing the top of the fine stairway, the
distinguished host stood ready to receive his guests. Distinguished
men, beautiful women, notabilities from every European country had
already filed past him, had exchanged the elaborate bows and curtsies
with him, which the extravagant fashion of the time demanded, and
then, laughing and talking, had dispersed in the ball, reception, and
card rooms beyond.
Not far from Lord Grenville's elbow, leaning against one of
the console tables, Chauvelin, in his irreproachable black costume,
was taking a quiet survey of the brilliant throng. He noted that Sir
Percy and Lady Blakeney had not yet arrived, and his keen, pale eyes
glanced quickly towards the door every time a new-comer appeared.
He stood somewhat isolated: the envoy of the Revolutionary
Government of France was not likely to be very popular in England, at
a time when the news of the awful September massacres, and of the
Reign of Terror and Anarchy, had just begun to filtrate across the
In his official capacity he had been received courteously by
his English colleagues: Mr. Pitt had shaken him by the hand; Lord
Grenville had entertained him more than once; but the more intimate
circles of London society ignored him altogether; the women openly
turned their backs upon him; the men who held no official position
refused to shake his hand.
But Chauvelin was not the man to trouble himself about these
social amenities, which he called mere incidents in his diplomatic
career. He was blindly enthusiastic for the revolutionary cause, he
despised all social inequalities, and he had a burning love for his
own country: these three sentiments made him supremely indifferent to
the snubs he received in this fog-ridden, loyalist, old-fashioned
But, above all, Chauvelin had a purpose at heart. He firmly
believed that the French aristocrat was the most bitter enemy of
France; he would have wished to see every one of them annihilated: he
was one of those who, during this awful Reign of Terror, had been the
first to utter the historic and ferocious desire "that aristocrats
might have but one head between them, so that it might be cut off with
a single stroke of the guillotine." And thus he looked upon every
French aristocrat, who had succeeded in escaping from France, as so
much prey of which the guillotine had been unwarrantably cheated.
There is no doubt that those royalist EMIGRES, once they had managed
to cross the frontier, did their very best to stir up foreign
indignation against France. Plots without end were hatched in
England, in Belgium, in Holland, to try and induce some great power to
send troops into revolutionary Paris, to free King Louis, and to
summarily hang the bloodthirsty leaders of that monster republic.
Small wonder, therefore, that the romantic and mysterious
personality of the Scarlet Pimpernel was a source of bitter hatred to
Chauvelin. He and the few young jackanapes under his command, well
furnished with money, armed with boundless daring, and acute cunning,
had succeeded in rescuing hundreds of aristocrats from France.
Nine-tenths of the EMIGRES, who were FETED at the English court,
owed their safety to that man and to his league.
Chauvelin had sworn to his colleagues in Paris that he would
discover the identity of that meddlesome Englishman, entice him over
to France, and then. . .Chauvelin drew a deep breath of satisfaction
at the very thought of seeing that enigmatic head falling under the
knife of the guillotine, as easily as that of any other man.
Suddenly there was a great stir on the handsome staircase, all
conversation stopped for a moment as the majordomo's voice outside
"His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales and suite, Sir Percy
Blakeney, Lady Blakeney."
Lord Grenville went quickly to the door to receive his exalted
The Prince of Wales, dressed in a magnificent court suit of
salmon-coloured velvet richly embroidered with gold, entered with
Marguerite Blakeney on his arm; and on his left Sir Percy, in gorgeous
shimmering cream satin, cut in the extravagant "Incroyable" style, his
fair hair free from powder, priceless lace at his neck and wrists, and
the flat CHAPEAU-BRAS under his arm.
After the few conventional words of deferential greeting, Lord
Grenville said to his royal guest,--
"Will your Highness permit me to introduce M. Chauvelin, the
accredited agent of the French Government?"
Chauvelin, immediately the Prince entered, had stepped
forward, expecting this introduction. He bowed very low, whilst the
Prince returned his salute with a curt nod of the head.
"Monsieur," said His Royal Highness coldly, "we will try to
forget the government that sent you, and look upon you merely as our
guest--a private gentleman from France. As such you are welcome,
"Monseigneur," rejoined Chauvelin, bowing once again.
"Madame," he added, bowing ceremoniously before Marguerite.
"Ah! my little Chauvelin!" she said with unconcerned gaiety,
and extending her tiny hand to him. "Monsieur and I are old friends,
your Royal Highness."
"Ah, then," said the Prince, this time very graciously, "you
are doubly welcome, Monsieur."
"There is someone else I would crave permission to present to
your Royal Highness," here interposed Lord Grenville.
"Ah! who is it?" asked the Prince.
"Madame la Comtesse de Tournay de Basserive and her family,
who have but recently come from France."
"By all means!--They are among the lucky ones then!"
Lord Grenville turned in search of the Comtesse, who sat at
the further end of the room.
"Lud love me!" whispered his Royal Highness to Marguerite, as
soon as he had caught sight of the rigid figure of the old lady; "Lud
love me! she looks very virtuous and very melancholy."
"Faith, your Royal Highness," she rejoined with a smile,
"virtue is like precious odours, most fragrant when it is crushed."
"Virtue, alas!" sighed the Prince, "is mostly unbecoming to
your charming sex, Madame."
"Madame la Comtesse de Tournay de Basserive," said Lord
Grenville, introducing the lady.
"This is a pleasure, Madame; my royal father, as you know, is
ever glad to welcome those of your compatriots whom France has driven
from her shores."
"Your Royal Highness is ever gracious," replied the Comtesse
with becoming dignity. Then, indicating her daughter, who stood
timidly by her side: "My daughter Suzanne, Monseigneur," she said.
"Ah! charming!--charming!" said the Prince, "and now allow
me, Comtesse, to introduce you, Lady Blakeney, who honours us with her
friendship. You and she will have much to say to one another, I vow.
Every compatriot of Lady Blakeney's is doubly welcome for her
sake. . .her friends are our friends. . .her enemies, the enemies of
Marguerite's blue eyes had twinkled with merriment at this
gracious speech from her exalted friend. The Comtesse de Tournay, who
lately had so flagrantly insulted her, was here receiving a public
lesson, at which Marguerite could not help but rejoice. But the
Comtesse, for whom respect of royalty amounted almost to a religion,
was too well-schooled in courtly etiquette to show the slightest sign
of embarrassment, as the two ladies curtsied ceremoniously to one
"His Royal Highness is ever gracious, Madame," said
Marguerite, demurely, and with a wealth of mischief in her twinkling
blue eyes, "but there is no need for his kind of meditation. . . .
Your amiable reception of me at our last meeting still dwells
pleasantly in my memory."
"We poor exiles, Madame," rejoined the Comtesse, frigidly,
"show our gratitude to England by devotion to the wishes of
"Madame!" said Marguerite, with another ceremonious curtsey.
"Madame," responded the Comtesse with equal dignity.
The Prince in the meanwhile was saying a few gracious words to
the young Vicomte.
"I am happy to know you, Monsieur le Vicomte," he said. "I
knew your father well when he was ambassador in London."
"Ah, Monseigneur!" replied the Vicomte, "I was a leetle boy
then. . .and now I owe the honour of this meeting to our protector,
the Scarlet Pimpernel."
"Hush!" said the Prince, earnestly and quickly, as he
indicated Chauvelin, who had stood a little on one side throughout the
whole of this little scene, watching Marguerite and the Comtesse with
an amused, sarcastic little smile around his thin lips.
"Nay, Monseigneur," he said now, as if in direct response to
the Prince's challenge, "pray do not check this gentleman's display of
gratitude; the name of that interesting red flower is well known to
me--and to France."
The Prince looked at him keenly for a moment or two.
"Faith, then, Monsieur," he said, "perhaps you know more about
our national hero than we do ourselves. . .perchance you know who he
is. . . . See!" he added, turning to the groups round the room, "the
ladies hang upon your lips. . .you would render yourself popular among
the fair sex if you were to gratify their curiosity."
"Ah, Monseigneur," said Chauvelin, significantly, "rumour has
it in France that your Highness could--an you would--give the truest
account of that enigmatical wayside flower."
He looked quickly and keenly at Marguerite as he spoke; but
she betrayed no emotion, and her eyes met his quite fearlessly.
"Nay, man," replied the Prince, "my lips are sealed! and the
members of the league jealously guard the secret of their chief. . .so
his fair adorers have to be content with worshipping a shadow. Here
in England, Monsieur," he added, with wonderful charm and dignity, "we
but name the Scarlet Pimpernel, and every fair cheek is suffused with
a blush of enthusiasm. None have seen him save his faithful
lieutenants. We know not if he be tall or short, fair or dark,
handsome or ill-formed; but we know that he is the bravest gentleman
in all the world, and we all feel a little proud, Monsieur, when we
remember that he is an Englishman.
"Ah, Monsieur Chauvelin," added Marguerite, looking almost
with defiance across at the placid, sphinx-like face of the Frenchman,
"His Royal Highness should add that we ladies think of him as of a
hero of old. . .we worship him. . .we wear his badge. . .we tremble
for him when he is in danger, and exult with him in the hour of his
Chauvelin did no more than bow placidly both to the Prince and
to Marguerite; he felt that both speeches were intended--each in their
way--to convey contempt or defiance. The pleasure-loving, idle Prince
he despised: the beautiful woman, who in her golden hair wore a spray
of small red flowers composed of rubies and diamonds--her he held in
the hollow of hand: he could afford to remain silent and to wait
A long, jovial, inane laugh broke the sudden silence which had
fallen over everyone.
"And we poor husbands," came in slow, affected accents from
gorgeous Sir Percy, "we have to stand by. . .while they worship a
Everyone laughed--the Prince more loudly than anyone. The
tension of subdued excitement was relieved, and the next moment
everyone was laughing and chatting merrily as the gay crowd broke up
and dispersed in the adjoining rooms.
CHAPTER XII THE SCRAP OF PAPER
Marguerite suffered intensely. Though she laughed and
chatted, though she was more admired, more surrounded, more FETED
than any woman there, she felt like one condemned to death, living her
last day upon this earth.
Her nerves were in a state of painful tension, which had
increased a hundredfold during that brief hour which she had spent in
her husband's company, between the opera and the ball. The short ray
of hope--that she might find in this good-natured, lazy individual a
valuable friend and adviser--had vanished as quickly as it had come,
the moment she found herself alone with him. The same feeling of
good-humoured contempt which one feels for an animal or a faithful
servant, made her turn away with a smile from the man who should have
been her moral support in this heart-rending crisis through which she
was passing: who should have been her cool-headed adviser, when
feminine sympathy and sentiment tossed her hither and thither, between
her love for her brother, who was far away and in mortal peril, and
horror of the awful service which Chauvelin had exacted from her, in
exchange for Armand's safety.
There he stood, the moral support, the cool-headed adviser,
surrounded by a crowd of brainless, empty-headed young fops, who were
even now repeating from mouth to mouth, and with every sign of the
keenest enjoyment, a doggerel quatrain which he had just given forth.
Everywhere the absurd, silly words met her: people seemed to have
little else to speak about, even the Prince had asked her, with a
little laugh, whether she appreciated her husband's latest poetic
"All done in the tying of a cravat," Sir Percy had declared to
his clique of admirers.
"We seek him here, we seek him there,
Those Frenchies seek him everywhere.
Is he in heaven?--Is he in hell?
That demmed, elusive Pimpernel"
Sir Percy's BON MOT had gone the round of the brilliant
reception-rooms. The Prince was enchanted. He vowed that life
without Blakeney would be but a dreary desert. Then, taking him by
the arm, had led him to the card-room, and engaged him in a long game
Sir Percy, whose chief interest in most social gatherings
seemed to centre round the card-table, usually allowed his wife to
flirt, dance, to amuse or bore herself as much as she liked. And
to-night, having delivered himself of his BON MOT, he had left
Marguerite surrounded by a crowd of admirers of all ages, all anxious
and willing to help her to forget that somewhere in the spacious
reception rooms, there was a long, lazy being who had been fool enough
to suppose that the cleverest woman in Europe would settle down to the
prosaic bonds of English matrimony.
Her still overwrought nerves, her excitement and agitation,
lent beautiful Marguerite Blakeney much additional charm: escorted by
a veritable bevy of men of all ages and of most nationalities, she
called forth many exclamations of admiration from everyone as she
She would not allow herself any more time to think. Her
early, somewhat Bohemian training had made her something of a
fatalist. She felt that events would shape themselves, that the
directing of them was not in her hands. From Chauvelin she knew that
she could expect no mercy. He had set a price on Armand's head, and
left it to her to pay or not, as she chose.
Later on in the evening she caught sight of Sir Andrew
Ffoulkes and Lord Antony Dewhurst, who seemingly had just arrived.
She noticed at once that Sir Andrew immediately made for little
Suzanne de Tournay, and that the two young people soon managed to
isolate themselves in one of the deep embrasures of the mullioned
windows, there to carry on a long conversation, which seemed very
earnest and very pleasant on both sides.
Both the young men looked a little haggard and anxious, but
otherwise they were irreproachably dressed, and there was not the
slightest sign, about their courtly demeanour, of the terrible
catastrophe, which they must have felt hovering round them and round
That the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel had no intention of
abandoning its cause, she had gathered through little Suzanne herself,
who spoke openly of the assurance she and her mother had had that the
Comte de Tournay would be rescued from France by the league, within
the next few days. Vaguely she began to wonder, as she looked at the
brilliant and fashionable in the gaily-lighted ball-room, which of
these worldly men round her was the mysterious "Scarlet Pimpernel,"
who held the threads of such daring plots, and the fate of valuable
lives in his hands.
A burning curiosity seized her to know him: although for
months she had heard of him and had accepted his anonymity, as
everyone else in society had done; but now she longed to know--quite
impersonally, quite apart from Armand, and oh! quite apart from
Chauvelin--only for her own sake, for the sake of the enthusiastic
admiration she had always bestowed on his bravery and cunning.
He was at the ball, of course, somewhere, since Sir Andrew
Ffoulkes and Lord Antony Dewhurst were here, evidently expecting to
meet their chief--and perhaps to get a fresh MOT D'ORDRE from him.
Marguerite looked round at everyone, at the aristocratic
high-typed Norman faces, the squarely-built, fair-haired Saxon, the
more gentle, humorous caste of the Celt, wondering which of these
betrayed the power, the energy, the cunning which had imposed its will
and its leadership upon a number of high-born English gentlemen, among
whom rumour asserted was His Royal Highness himself.
Sir Andrew Ffoulkes? Surely not, with his gentle blue eyes,
which were looking so tenderly and longingly after little Suzanne, who
was being led away from the pleasant TETE-A-TETE by her stern
mother. Marguerite watched him across the room, as he finally turned
away with a sigh, and seemed to stand, aimless and lonely, now that
Suzanne's dainty little figure had disappeared in the crowd.
She watched him as he strolled towards the doorway, which led
to a small boudoir beyond, then paused and leaned against the
framework of it, looking still anxiously all round him.
Marguerite contrived for the moment to evade her present
attentive cavalier, and she skirted the fashionable crowd, drawing
nearer to the doorway, against which Sir Andrew was leaning. Why she
wished to get closer to him, she could not have said: perhaps she was
impelled by an all-powerful fatality, which so often seems to rule the
destinies of men.
Suddenly she stopped: her very heart seemed to stand still,
her eyes, large and excited, flashed for a moment towards that
doorway, then as quickly were turned away again. Sir Andrew Ffoulkes
was still in the same listless position by the door, but Marguerite
had distinctly seen that Lord Hastings--a young buck, a friend of her
husband's and one of the Prince's set--had, as he quickly brushed past
him, slipped something into his hand.
For one moment longer--oh! it was the merest flash--Marguerite paused:
the next she had, with admirably played unconcern, resumed her walk
across the room--but this time more quickly towards that doorway whence
Sir Andrew had now disappeared.
All this, from the moment that Marguerite had caught sight of
Sir Andrew leaning against the doorway, until she followed him into
the little boudoir beyond, had occurred in less than a minute. Fate
is usually swift when she deals a blow.
Now Lady Blakeney had suddenly ceased to exist. It was
Marguerite St. Just who was there only: Marguerite St. Just who had
passed her childhood, her early youth, in the protecting arms of her
brother Armand. She had forgotten everything else--her rank, her
dignity, her secret enthusiasms--everything save that Armand stood in
peril of his life, and that there, not twenty feet away from her, in
the small boudoir which was quite deserted, in the very hands of Sir
Andrew Ffoulkes, might be the talisman which would save her brother's
Barely another thirty seconds had elapsed between the moment
when Lord Hastings slipped the mysterious "something" into Sir
Andrew's hand, and the one when she, in her turn, reached the deserted
boudoir. Sir Andrew was standing with his back to her and close to a
table upon which stood a massive silver candelabra. A slip of paper
was in his hand, and he was in the very act of perusing its contents.
Unperceived, her soft clinging robe making not the slightest
sound upon the heavy carpet, not daring to breathe until she had
accomplished her purpose, Marguerite slipped close behind him. . . .
At that moment he looked round and saw her; she uttered a groan,
passed her hand across her forehead, and murmured faintly:
"The heat in the room was terrible. . .I felt so faint. . .
Ah!. . ."
She tottered almost as if she would fall, and Sir Andrew,
quickly recovering himself, and crumpling in his hand the tiny note he
had been reading, was only apparently, just in time to support her.
"You are ill, Lady Blakeney?" he asked with much concern, "Let
me. . ."
"No, no, nothing--" she interrupted quickly. "A
She sank into a chair close to the table, and throwing back
her head, closing her eyes.
"There!" she murmured, still faintly; "the giddiness is
passing off. . . . Do not heed me, Sir Andrew; I assure you I already
At moments like these there is no doubt--and psychologists
actually assert it--that there is in us a sense which has absolutely
nothing to do with the other five: it is not that we see, it is not
that we hear or touch, yet we seem to do all three at once.
Marguerite sat there with her eyes apparently closed. Sir Andrew was
immediately behind her, and on her right was the table with the
five-armed candelabra upon it. Before her mental vision there was
absolutely nothing but Armand's face. Armand, whose life was in the
most imminent danger, and who seemed to be looking at her from a
background upon which were dimly painted the seething crowd of Paris,
the bare walls of the Tribunal of Public Safety, with
Foucquier-Tinville, the Public Prosecutor, demanding Armand's life in
the name of the people of France, and the lurid guillotine with its
stained knife waiting for another victim. . .Armand!. . .
For one moment there was dead silence in the little boudoir.
Beyond, from the brilliant ball-room, the sweet notes of the gavotte,
the frou-frou of rich dresses, the talk and laughter of a large and
merry crowd, came as a strange, weird accompaniment to the drama which
was being enacted here.
Sir Andrew had not uttered another word. Then it was that
that extra sense became potent in Marguerite Blakeney. She could not
see, for her two eyes were closed, she could not hear, for the noise
from the ball-room drowned the soft rustle of that momentous scrap of
paper; nevertheless she knew-as if she had both seen and heard--that
Sir Andrew was even now holding the paper to the flame of one of the
At the exact moment that it began to catch fire, she opened
her eyes, raised her hand and, with two dainty fingers, had taken the
burning scrap of paper from the young man's hand. Then she blew out
the flame, and held the paper to her nostril with perfect unconcern.
"How thoughtful of you, Sir Andrew," she said gaily, "surely
'twas your grandmother who taught you that the smell of burnt paper
was a sovereign remedy against giddiness."
She sighed with satisfaction, holding the paper tightly
between her jewelled fingers; that talisman which perhaps would save
her brother Armand's life. Sir Andrew was staring at her, too dazed
for the moment to realize what had actually happened; he had been
taken so completely by surprise, that he seemed quite unable to grasp
the fact that the slip of paper, which she held in her dainty hand,
was one perhaps on which the life of his comrade might depend.
Marguerite burst into a long, merry peal of laughter.
"Why do you stare at me like that?" she said playfully. "I
assure you I feel much better; your remedy has proved most effectual.
This room is most delightedly cool," she added, with the same perfect
composure, "and the sound of the gavotte from the ball-room is
fascinating and soothing."
She was prattling on in the most unconcerned and pleasant way,
whilst Sir Andrew, in an agony of mind, was racking his brains as to
the quickest method he could employ to get that bit of paper out of
that beautiful woman's hand. Instinctively, vague and tumultuous
thoughts rushed through his mind: he suddenly remembered her
nationality, and worst of all, recollected that horrible take anent
the Marquis de St. Cyr, which in England no one had credited, for the
sake of Sir Percy, as well as for her own.
"What? Still dreaming and staring?" she said, with a merry
laugh, "you are most ungallant, Sir Andrew; and now I come to think of
it, you seemed more startled than pleased when you saw me just now. I
do believe, after all, that it was not concern for my health, nor yet
a remedy taught you by your grandmother that caused you to burn this
tiny scrap of paper. . . . I vow it must have been your lady love's
last cruel epistle you were trying to destroy. Now confess!" she
added, playfully holding up the scrap of paper, "does this contain her
final CONGE, or a last appeal to kiss and make friends?"
"Whichever it is, Lady Blakeney," said Sir Andrew, who was
gradually recovering his self-possession, "this little note is
undoubtedly mine, and. . ."
Not caring whether his action was one that would be styled
ill-bred towards a lady, the young man had made a bold dash for the
note; but Marguerite's thoughts flew quicker than his own; her actions
under pressure of this intense excitement, were swifter and more sure.
She was tall and strong; she took a quick step backwards and knocked
over the small Sheraton table which was already top-heavy, and which
fell down with a crash, together with the massive candelabra upon it.
She gave a quick cry of alarm:
"The candles, Sir Andrew--quick!"
There was not much damage done; one or two of the candles had
blown out as the candelabra fell; others had merely sent some grease
upon the valuable carpet; one had ignited the paper shade aver it.
Sir Andrew quickly and dexterously put out the flames and replaced the
candelabra upon the table; but this had taken him a few seconds to do,
and those seconds had been all that Marguerite needed to cast a quick
glance at the paper, and to note its contents--a dozen words in the
same distorted handwriting she had seen before, and bearing the same
device--a star-shaped flower drawn in red ink.
When Sir Andrew once more looked at her, he only saw upon her
face alarm at the untoward accident and relief at its happy issue;
whilst the tiny and momentous note had apparently fluttered to the
ground. Eagerly the young man picked it up, and his face looked much
relieved, as his fingers closed tightly over it.
"For shame, Sir Andrew," she said, shaking her head with a
playful sigh, "making havoc in the heart of some impressionable
duchess, whilst conquering the affections of my sweet little Suzanne.
Well, well! I do believe it was Cupid himself who stood by you, and
threatened the entire Foreign Office with destruction by fire, just on
purpose to make me drop love's message, before it had been polluted by
my indiscreet eyes. To think that, a moment longer, and I might have
known the secrets of an erring duchess."
"You will forgive me, Lady Blakeney," said Sir Andrew, now as
calm as she was herself, "if I resume the interesting occupation which
you have interrupted?"
"By all means, Sir Andrew! How should I venture to thwart the
love-god again? Perhaps he would mete out some terrible chastisement
against my presumption. Burn your love-token, by all means!"
Sir Andrew had already twisted the paper into a long spill,
and was once again holding it to the flame of the candle, which had
remained alight. He did not notice the strange smile on the face of
his fair VIS-A-VIS, so intent was he on the work of destruction;
perhaps, had he done so, the look of relief would have faded from his
face. He watched the fateful note, as it curled under the flame.
Soon the last fragment fell on the floor, and he placed his heel upon
"And now, Sir Andrew," said Marguerite Blakeney, with the
pretty nonchalance peculiar to herself, and with the most winning of
smiles, "will you venture to excite the jealousy of your fair lady by
asking me to dance the minuet?"
CHAPTER XIII EITHER--OR?
The few words which Marguerite Blakeney had managed to read on
the half-scorched piece of paper, seemed literally to be the words of
Fate. "Start myself tomorrow. . . ." This she had read quite
distinctly; then came a blur caused by the smoke of the candle, which
obliterated the next few words; but, right at the bottom, there was
another sentence, like letters of fire, before her mental vision, "If
you wish to speak to me again I shall be in the supper-room at one
o'clock precisely." The whole was signed with the hastily-scrawled
little device--a tiny star-shaped flower, which had become so familiar
One o'clock precisely! It was now close upon eleven, the last
minuet was being danced, with Sir Andrew Ffoulkes and beautiful Lady
Blakeney leading the couples, through its delicate and intricate
Close upon eleven! the hands of the handsome Louis XV. clock
upon its ormolu bracket seemed to move along with maddening rapidity.
Two hours more, and her fate and that of Armand would be sealed. In
two hours she must make up her mind whether she will keep the
knowledge so cunningly gained to herself, and leave her brother to his
fate, or whether she will wilfully betray a brave man, whose life was
devoted to his fellow-men, who was noble, generous, and above all,
unsuspecting. It seemed a horrible thing to do. But then, there was
Armand! Armand, too, was noble and brave, Armand, too, was
unsuspecting. And Armand loved her, would have willingly trusted his
life in her hands, and now, when she could save him from death, she
hesitated. Oh! it was monstrous; her brother's kind, gentle face, so
full of love for her, seemed to be looking reproachfully at her. "You
might have saved me, Margot!" he seemed to say to her, "and you chose
the life of a stranger, a man you do not know, whom you have never
seen, and preferred that he should be safe, whilst you sent me to the
All these conflicting thoughts raged through Marguerite's
brain, while, with a smile upon her lips, she glided through the
graceful mazes of the minuet. She noted--with that acute sense of
hers--that she had succeeded in completely allaying Sir Andrew's
fears. Her self-control had been absolutely perfect--she was a finer
actress at this moment, and throughout the whole of this minuet, than
she had ever been upon the boards of the Comedie Francaise; but then,
a beloved brother's life had not depended upon her histrionic powers.
She was too clever to overdo her part, and made no further
allusions to the supposed BILLET DOUX, which had caused Sir Andrew
Ffoulkes such an agonising five minutes. She watched his anxiety
melting away under her sunny smile, and soon perceived that, whatever
doubt may have crossed his mind at the moment, she had, by the time
the last bars of the minuet had been played, succeeded in completely
dispelling it; he never realised in what a fever of excitement she
was, what effort it cost her to keep up a constant ripple of BANAL
When the minuet was over, she asked Sir Andrew to take her
into the next room.
"I have promised to go down to supper with His Royal
Highness," she said, "but before we part, tell me. . .am I forgiven?"
"Yes! Confess, I gave you a fright just now. . . . But
remember, I am not an English woman, and I do not look upon the
exchanging of BILLET DOUX as a crime, and I vow I'll not tell my
little Suzanne. But now, tell me, shall I welcome you at my
water-party on Wednesday?"
"I am not sure, Lady Blakeney," he replied evasively. "I may
have to leave London to-morrow."
"I would not do that, if I were you," she said earnestly; then
seeing the anxious look reappearing in his eyes, she added gaily; "No
one can throw a ball better than you can, Sir Andrew, we should so
miss you on the bowling-green."
He had led her across the room, to one beyond, where already
His Royal Highness was waiting for the beautiful Lady Blakeney.
"Madame, supper awaits us," said the Prince, offering his arm
to Marguerite, "and I am full of hope. The goddess Fortune has
frowned so persistently on me at hazard, that I look with confidence
for the smiles of the goddess of Beauty."
"Your Highness has been unfortunate at the card tables?" asked
Marguerite, as she took the Prince's arm.
"Aye! most unfortunate. Blakeney, not content with being the
richest among my father's subjects, has also the most outrageous luck.
By the way, where is that inimitable wit? I vow, Madam, that this
life would be but a dreary desert without your smiles and his
CHAPTER XIV ONE O'CLOCK PRECISELY!
Supper had been extremely gay. All those present declared
that never had Lady Blakeney been more adorable, nor that "demmed
idiot" Sir Percy more amusing.
His Royal Highness had laughed until the tears streamed down
his cheeks at Blakeney's foolish yet funny repartees. His doggerel
verse, "We seek him here, we seek him there," etc., was sung to the
tune of "Ho! Merry Britons!" and to the accompaniment of glasses
knocked loudly against the table. Lord Grenville, moreover, had a
most perfect cook--some wags asserted that he was a scion of the old
French NOBLESSE, who having lost his fortune, had come to seek it in
the CUISINE of the Foreign Office.
Marguerite Blakeney was in her most brilliant mood, and surely
not a soul in that crowded supper-room had even an inkling of the
terrible struggle which was raging within her heart.
The clock was ticking so mercilessly on. It was long past
midnight, and even the Prince of Wales was thinking of leaving the
supper-table. Within the next half-hour the destinies of two brave
men would be pitted against one another--the dearly-beloved brother
and he, the unknown hero.
Marguerite had not tried to see Chauvelin during this last
hour; she knew that his keen, fox-like eyes would terrify her at once,
and incline the balance of her decision towards Armand. Whilst she
did not see him, there still lingered in her heart of hearts a vague,
undefined hope that "something" would occur, something big, enormous,
epoch-making, which would shift from her young, weak shoulders this
terrible burden of responsibility, of having to choose between two
such cruel alternatives.
But the minutes ticked on with that dull monotony which they
invariably seem to assume when our very nerves ache with their
After supper, dancing was resumed. His Royal Highness had
left, and there was general talk of departing among the older guests;
the young were indefatigable and had started on a new gavotte, which
would fill the next quarter of an hour.
Marguerite did not feel equal to another dance; there is a
limit to the most enduring of self-control. Escorted by a Cabinet
Minister, she had once more found her way to the tiny boudoir, still
the most deserted among all the rooms. She knew that Chauvelin must
be lying in wait for her somewhere, ready to seize the first possible
opportunity for a TETE-A-TETE. His eyes had met hers for a moment
after the `fore-supper minuet, and she knew that the keen diplomat,
with those searching pale eyes of his, had divined that her work was
Fate had willed it so. Marguerite, torn by the most terrible
conflict heart of woman can ever know, had resigned herself to its
decrees. But Armand must be saved at any cost; he, first of all, for
he was her brother, had been mother, father, friend to her ever since
she, a tiny babe, had lost both her parents. To think of Armand dying
a traitor's death on the guillotine was too horrible even to dwell
upon--impossible in fact. That could never be, never. . . . As for
the stranger, the hero. . .well! there, let Fate decide. Marguerite
would redeem her brother's life at the hands of the relentless enemy,
then let that cunning Scarlet Pimpernel extricate himself after that.
Perhaps--vaguely--Marguerite hoped that the daring plotter,
who for so many months had baffled an army of spies, would still
manage to evade Chauvelin and remain immune to the end.
She thought of all this, as she sat listening to the witty
discourse of the Cabinet Minister, who, no doubt, felt that he had
found in Lady Blakeney a most perfect listener. Suddenly she saw the
keen, fox-like face of Chauvelin peeping through the curtained
"Lord Fancourt," she said to the Minister, "will you do me a
"I am entirely at your ladyship's service," he replied
"Will you see if my husband is still in the card-room? And if
he is, will you tell him that I am very tired, and would be glad to go
The commands of a beautiful woman are binding on all mankind,
even on Cabinet Ministers. Lord Fancourt prepared to obey instantly.
"I do not like to leave your ladyship alone," he said.
"Never fear. I shall be quite safe here--and, I think,
undisturbed. . .but I am really tired. You know Sir Percy will drive
back to Richmond. It is a long way, and we shall not--an we do not
hurry--get home before daybreak."
Lord Fancourt had perforce to go.
The moment he had disappeared, Chauvelin slipped into the
room, and the next instant stood calm and impassive by her side.
"You have news for me?" he said.
An icy mantle seemed to have suddenly settled round
Marguerite's shoulders; though her cheeks glowed with fire, she felt
chilled and numbed. Oh, Armand! will you ever know the terrible
sacrifice of pride, of dignity, of womanliness a devoted sister is
making for your sake?
"Nothing of importance," she said, staring mechanically before
her, "but it might prove a clue. I contrived--no matter how--to
detect Sir Andrew Ffoulkes in the very act of burning a paper at one
of these candles, in this very room. That paper I succeeded in
holding between my fingers for the space of two minutes, and to cast
my eyes on it for that of ten seconds."
"Time enough to learn its contents?" asked Chauvelin, quietly.
She nodded. Then continued in the same even, mechanical tone
"In the corner of the paper there was the usual rough device
of a small star-shaped flower. Above it I read two lines, everything
else was scorched and blackened by the flame."
"And what were the two lines?"
Her throat seemed suddenly to have contracted. For an instant
she felt that she could not speak the words, which might send a brave
man to his death.
"It is lucky that the whole paper was not burned," added
Chauvelin, with dry sarcasm, "for it might have fared ill with Armand
St. Just. What were the two lines citoyenne?"
"One was, `I start myself to-morrow,'" she said quietly, "the
other--'If you wish to speak to me, I shall be in the supper-room at
one o'clock precisely.'"
Chauvelin looked up at the clock just above the mantelpiece.
"Then I have plenty of time," he said placidly.
"What are you going to do?" she asked.
She was pale as a statue, her hands were icy cold, her head
and heart throbbed with the awful strain upon her nerves. Oh, this
was cruel! cruel! What had she done to have deserved all this? Her
choice was made: had she done a vile action or one that was sublime?
The recording angel, who writes in the book of gold, alone could give
"What are you going to do?" she repeated mechanically.
"Oh, nothing for the present. After that it will depend."
"On whom I shall see in the supper-room at one o'clock
"You will see the Scarlet Pimpernel, of course. But you do
not know him."
"No. But I shall presently."
"Sir Andrew will have warned him."
"I think not. When you parted from him after the minuet he
stood and watched you, for a moment or two, with a look which gave me
to understand that something had happened between you. It was only
natural, was it not? that I should make a shrewd guess as to the
nature of that `something.' I thereupon engaged the young man in a
long and animated conversation--we discussed Herr Gluck's singular
success in London--until a lady claimed his arm for supper."
"I did not lose sight of him through supper. When we all came
upstairs again, Lady Portarles buttonholed him and started on the
subject of pretty Mlle. Suzanne de Tournay. I knew he would not move
until Lady Portarles had exhausted on the subject, which will not be
for another quarter of an hour at least, and it is five minutes to one
He was preparing to go, and went up to the doorway where,
drawing aside the curtain, he stood for a moment pointing out to
Marguerite the distant figure of Sir Andrew Ffoulkes in close
conversation with Lady Portarles.
"I think," he said, with a triumphant smile, "that I may
safely expect to find the person I seek in the dining-room, fair
"There may be more than one."
"Whoever is there, as the clock strikes one, will be shadowed
by one of my men; of these, one, or perhaps two, or even three, will
leave for France to-morrow. ONE of these will be the `Scarlet
"I also, fair lady, will leave for France to-morrow. The
papers found at Dover upon the person of Sir Andrew Ffoulkes speak of
the neighborhood of Calais, of an inn which I know well, called `Le
Chat Gris,' of a lonely place somewhere on the coast--the Pere
Blanchard's hut--which I must endeavor to find. All these places are
given as the point where this meddlesome Englishman has bidden the
traitor de Tournay and others to meet his emissaries. But it seems
that he has decided not to send his emissaries, that `he will start
himself to-morrow.' Now, one of these persons whom I shall see anon
in the supper-room, will be journeying to Calais, and I shall follow
that person, until I have tracked him to where those fugitive
aristocrats await him; for that person, fair lady, will be the man
whom I have sought for, for nearly a year, the man whose energies has
outdone me, whose ingenuity has baffled me, whose audacity has set me
wondering--yes! me!--who have seen a trick or two in my time--the
mysterious and elusive Scarlet Pimpernel."
"And Armand?" she pleaded.
"Have I ever broken my word? I promise you that the day the
Scarlet Pimpernel and I start for France, I will send you that
imprudent letter of his by special courier. More than that, I will
pledge you the word of France, that the day I lay hands on that
meddlesome Englishman, St. Just will be here in England, safe in the
arms of his charming sister."
And with a deep and elaborate bow and another look at the
clock, Chauvelin glided out of the room.
It seemed to Marguerite that through all the noise, all the
din of music, dancing, and laughter, she could hear his cat-like
tread, gliding through the vast reception-rooms; that she could hear
him go down the massive staircase, reach the dining-room and open the
door. Fate HAD decided, had made her speak, had made her do a vile
and abominable thing, for the sake of the brother she loved. She lay
back in her chair, passive and still, seeing the figure of her
relentless enemy ever present before her aching eyes.
When Chauvelin reached the supper-room it was quite deserted.
It had that woebegone, forsaken, tawdry appearance, which reminds one
so much of a ball-dress, the morning after.
Half-empty glasses littered the table, unfolded napkins lay
about, the chairs--turned towards one another in groups of twos and
threes--very close to one another--in the far corners of the room,
which spoke of recent whispered flirtations, over cold game-pie and
champagne; there were sets of three and four chairs, that recalled
pleasant, animated discussions over the latest scandal; there were
chairs straight up in a row that still looked starchy, critical, acid,
like antiquated dowager; there were a few isolated, single chairs,
close to the table, that spoke of gourmands intent on the most
RECHERCHE dishes, and others overturned on the floor, that spoke
volumes on the subject of my Lord Grenville's cellars.
It was a ghostlike replica, in fact, of that fashionable
gathering upstairs; a ghost that haunts every house where balls and
good suppers are given; a picture drawn with white chalk on grey
cardboard, dull and colourless, now that the bright silk dresses and
gorgeously embroidered coats were no longer there to fill in the
foreground, and now that the candles flickered sleepily in their
Chauvelin smiled benignly, and rubbing his long, thin hands
together, he looked round the deserted supper-room, whence even the
last flunkey had retired in order to join his friends in the hall
below. All was silence in the dimly-lighted room, whilst the sound of
the gavotte, the hum of distant talk and laughter, and the rumble of
an occasional coach outside, only seemed to reach this palace of the
Sleeping Beauty as the murmur of some flitting spooks far away.
It all looked so peaceful, so luxurious, and so still, that
the keenest observer--a veritable prophet--could never have guessed
that, at this present moment, that deserted supper-room was nothing
but a trap laid for the capture of the most cunning and audacious
plotter those stirring times had ever seen.
Chauvelin pondered and tried to peer into the immediate
future. What would this man be like, whom he and the leaders of the
whole revolution had sworn to bring to his death? Everything about
him was weird and mysterious; his personality, which he so cunningly
concealed, the power he wielded over nineteen English gentlemen who
seemed to obey his every command blindly and enthusiastically, the
passionate love and submission he had roused in his little trained
band, and, above all, his marvellous audacity, the boundless impudence
which had caused him to beard his most implacable enemies, within the
very walls of Paris.
No wonder that in France the SOBRIQUET of the mysterious
Englishman roused in the people a superstitious shudder. Chauvelin
himself as he gazed round the deserted room, where presently the weird
hero would appear, felt a strange feeling of awe creeping all down his
But his plans were well laid. He felt sure that the Scarlet
Pimpernel had not been warned, and felt equally sure that Marguerite
Blakeney had not played him false. If she had. . . .a cruel look,
that would have made her shudder, gleamed in Chauvelin's keen, pale
eyes. If she had played him a trick, Armand St. Just would suffer the
But no, no! of course she had not played him false!
Fortunately the supper-room was deserted: this would make
Chauvelin's task all the easier, when presently that unsuspecting
enigma would enter it alone. No one was here now save Chauvelin
Stay! as he surveyed with a satisfied smile the solitude of
the room, the cunning agent of the French Government became aware of
the peaceful, monotonous breathing of some one of my Lord Grenville's
guests, who, no doubt, had supped both wisely and well, and was
enjoying a quiet sleep, away from the din of the dancing above.
Chauvelin looked round once more, and there in the corner of a
sofa, in the dark angle of the room, his mouth open, his eyes shut,
the sweet sounds of peaceful slumbers proceedings from his nostrils,
reclined the gorgeously-apparelled, long-limbed husband of the
cleverest woman in Europe.
Chauvelin looked at him as he lay there, placid, unconscious,
at peace with all the world and himself, after the best of suppers,
and a smile, that was almost one of pity, softened for a moment the
hard lines of the Frenchman's face and the sarcastic twinkle of his
Evidently the slumberer, deep in dreamless sleep, would not
interfere with Chauvelin's trap for catching that cunning Scarlet
Pimpernel. Again he rubbed his hands together, and, following the
example of Sir Percy Blakeney, he too, stretched himself out in the
corner of another sofa, shut his eyes, opened his mouth, gave forth
sounds of peaceful breathing, and. . .waited!
CHAPTER XV DOUBT
Marguerite Blakeney had watched the slight sable-clad figure
of Chauvelin, as he worked his way through the ball-room. Then
perforce she had had to wait, while her nerves tingled with
Listlessly she sat in the small, still deserted boudoir,
looking out through the curtained doorway on the dancing couples
beyond: looking at them, yet seeing nothing, hearing the music, yet
conscious of naught save a feeling of expectancy, of anxious, weary
Her mind conjured up before her the vision of what was,
perhaps at this very moment, passing downstairs. The half-deserted
dining-room, the fateful hour--Chauvelin on the watch!--then, precise
to the moment, the entrance of a man, he, the Scarlet Pimpernel, the
mysterious leader, who to Marguerite had become almost unreal, so
strange, so weird was this hidden identity.
She wished she were in the supper-room, too, at this moment,
watching him as he entered; she knew that her woman's penetration
would at once recognise in the stranger's face--whoever he might
be--that strong individuality which belongs to a leader of men--to a
hero: to the mighty, high-soaring eagle, whose daring wings were
becoming entangled in the ferret's trap.
Woman-like, she thought of him with unmixed sadness; the irony of
that fate seemed so cruel which allowed the fearless lion to succumb
to the gnawing of a rat! Ah! had Armand's life not been at stake!. . .
"Faith! your ladyship must have thought me very remiss," said a
voice suddenly, close to her elbow. "I had a deal of difficulty in
delivering your message, for I could not find Blakeney anywhere at
first. . ."
Marguerite had forgotten all about her husband and her message
to him; his very name, as spoken by Lord Fancourt, sounded strange and
unfamiliar to her, so completely had she in the last five minutes
lived her old life in the Rue de Richelieu again, with Armand always
near her to love and protect her, to guard her from the many subtle
intrigues which were forever raging in Paris in those days.
"I did find him at last," continued Lord Fancourt, "and gave
him your message. He said that he would give orders at once for the
horses to be put to."
"Ah!" she said, still very absently, "you found my husband,
and gave him my message?"
"Yes; he was in the dining-room fast asleep. I could not
manage to wake him up at first."
"Thank you very much," she said mechanically, trying to
collect her thoughts.
"Will your ladyship honour me with the CONTREDANSE until
your coach is ready?" asked Lord Fancourt.
"No, I thank you, my lord, but--and you will forgive me--I
really am too tired, and the heat in the ball-room has become
"The conservatory is deliciously cool; let me take you there,
and then get you something. You seem ailing, Lady Blakeney."
"I am only very tired," she repeated wearily, as she allowed
Lord Fancourt to lead her, where subdued lights and green plants lent
coolness to the air. He got her a chair, into which she sank. This
long interval of waiting was intolerable. Why did not Chauvelin come
and tell her the result of his watch?
Lord Fancourt was very attentive. She scarcely heard what he
said, and suddenly startled him by asking abruptly,--
"Lord Fancourt, did you perceive who was in the dining-room
just now besides Sir Percy Blakeney?"
"Only the agent of the French government, M. Chauvelin,
equally fast asleep in another corner," he said. "Why does your
"I know not. . .I. . .Did you notice the time when you were
"It must have been about five or ten minutes past one. . . .
I wonder what your ladyship is thinking about," he added, for
evidently the fair lady's thoughts were very far away, and she had not
been listening to his intellectual conversation.
But indeed her thoughts were not very far away: only one
storey below, in this same house, in the dining-room where sat
Chauvelin still on the watch. Had he failed? For one instant that
possibility rose before as a hope--the hope that the Scarlet Pimpernel
had been warned by Sir Andrew, and that Chauvelin's trap had failed to
catch his bird; but that hope soon gave way to fear. Had he failed?
Lord Fancourt had given up talking since he found that he had
no listener. He wanted an opportunity for slipping away; for sitting
opposite to a lady, however fair, who is evidently not heeding the
most vigorous efforts made for her entertainment, is not exhilarating,
even to a Cabinet Minister.
"Shall I find out if your ladyship's coach is ready," he said
at last, tentatively.
"Oh, thank you. . .thank you. . .if you would be so kind. . .I
fear I am but sorry company. . .but I am really tired. . .and,
perhaps, would be best alone.
But Lord Fancourt went, and still Chauvelin did not come. Oh!
what had happened? She felt Armand's fate trembling in the
balance. . .she feared--now with a deadly fear that Chauvelin HAD
failed, and that the mysterious Scarlet Pimpernel had proved elusive
once more; then she knew that she need hope for no pity, no mercy,
He had pronounced his "Either--or--" and nothing less would
content him: he was very spiteful, and would affect the belief that
she had wilfully misled him, and having failed to trap the eagle once
again, his revengeful mind would be content with the humble
Yet she had done her best; had strained every nerve for
Armand's sake. She could not bear to think that all had failed. She
could not sit still; she wanted to go and hear the worst at once; she
wondered even that Chauvelin had not come yet, to vent his wrath and
satire upon her.
Lord Grenville himself came presently to tell her that her
coach was ready, and that Sir Percy was already waiting for
her--ribbons in hand. Marguerite said "Farewell" to her distinguished
host; many of her friends stopped her, as she crossed the rooms, to
talk to her, and exchange pleasant AU REVOIRS.
The Minister only took final leave of beautiful Lady Blakeney
on the top of the stairs; below, on the landing, a veritable army of
gallant gentlemen were waiting to bid "Good-bye" to the queen of
beauty and fashion, whilst outside, under the massive portico, Sir
Percy's magnificent bays were impatient pawing the ground.
At the top of the stairs, just after she had taken final leave
of her host, she suddenly say Chauvelin; he was coming up the stairs
slowly, and rubbing his thin hands very softly together.
There was a curious look on his mobile face, partly amused and
wholly puzzled, as his keen eyes met Marguerite's they became
"M. Chauvelin," she said, as he stopped on the top of the
stairs, bowing elaborately before her, "my coach is outside; may I
claim your arm?"
As gallant as ever, he offered her his arm and led her
downstairs. The crowd was very great, some of the Minister's guests
were departing, others were leaning against the banisters watching the
throng as it filed up and down the wide staircase.
"Chauvelin," she said at last desperately, "I must know what
"What has happened, dear lady?" he said, with affected
surprise. "Where? When?"
"You are torturing me, Chauvelin. I have helped you
to-night. . .surely I have the right to know. What happened in the
dining-room at one o'clock just now?"
She spoke in a whisper, trusting that in the general hubbub of
the crowd her words would remain unheeded by all, save the man at her
"Quiet and peace reigned supreme, fair lady; at that hour I
was asleep in one corner of one sofa and Sir Percy Blakeney in
"Nobody came into the room at all?"
"Then we have failed, you and I?"
"Yes! we have failed--perhaps. . ."
"But Armand?" she pleaded.
"Ah! Armand St. Just's chances hang on a thread. . .pray heaven,
dear lady, that that thread may not snap."
"Chauvelin, I worked for you, sincerely, earnestly. . . remember. . . ."
"I remember my promise," he said quietly. "The day that the
Scarlet Pimpernel and I meet on French soil, St. Just will be in the
arms of his charming sister."
"Which means that a brave man's blood will be on my hands,"
she said, with a shudder.
"His blood, or that of your brother. Surely at the present
moment you must hope, as I do, that the enigmatical Scarlet Pimpernel
will start for Calais to-day--"
"I am only conscious of one hope, citoyen."
"And that is?"
"That Satan, your master, will have need of you elsewhere,
before the sun rises to-day."
"You flatter me, citoyenne."
She had detained him for a while, mid-way down the stairs,
trying to get at the thoughts which lay beyond that thin, fox-like
mask. But Chauvelin remained urbane, sarcastic, mysterious; not a
line betrayed to the poor, anxious woman whether she need fear or
whether she dared to hope.
Downstairs on the landing she was soon surrounded. Lady
Blakeney never stepped from any house into her coach, without an
escort of fluttering human moths around the dazzling light of her
beauty. But before she finally turned away from Chauvelin, she held
out a tiny hand to him, with that pretty gesture of childish appeal
which was essentially her own.
"Give me some hope, my little Chauvelin," she pleaded.
With perfect gallantry he bowed over that tiny hand, which
looked so dainty and white through the delicately transparent black
lace mitten, and kissing the tips of the rosy fingers:--
"Pray heaven that the thread may not snap," he repeated, with
his enigmatic smile.
And stepping aside, he allowed the moths to flutter more
closely round the candle, and the brilliant throng of the JEUNESSE
DOREE, eagerly attentive to Lady Blakeney's every movement, hid the
keen, fox-like face from her view.
CHAPTER XVI RICHMOND
A few minutes later she was sitting, wrapped in cozy furs,
near Sir Percy Blakeney on the box-seat of his magnificent coach, and
the four splendid bays had thundered down the quiet street.
The night was warm in spite of the gentle breeze which fanned
Marguerite's burning cheeks. Soon London houses were left behind, and
rattling over old Hammersmith Bridge, Sir Percy was driving his bays
rapidly towards Richmond.
The river wound in and out in its pretty delicate curves,
looking like a silver serpent beneath the glittering rays of the moon.
Long shadows from overhanging trees spread occasional deep palls right
across the road. The bays were rushing along at breakneck speed, held
but slightly back by Sir Percy's strong, unerring hands.
These nightly drives after balls and suppers in London were a
source of perpetual delight to Marguerite, and she appreciated her
husband's eccentricity keenly, which caused him to adopt this mode of
taking her home every night, to their beautiful home by the river,
instead of living in a stuffy London house. He loved driving his
spirited horses along the lonely, moonlit roads, and she loved to sit
on the box-seat, with the soft air of an English late summer's night
fanning her face after the hot atmosphere of a ball or supper-party.
The drive was not a long one--less than an hour, sometimes, when the
bays were very fresh, and Sir Percy gave them full rein.
To-night he seemed to have a very devil in his fingers, and
the coach seemed to fly along the road, beside the river. As usual,
he did not speak to her, but stared straight in front of him, the
ribbons seeming to lie quite loosely in his slender, white hands.
Marguerite looked at him tentatively once or twice; she could see his
handsome profile, and one lazy eye, with its straight fine brow and
drooping heavy lid.
The face in the moonlight looked singularly earnest, and
recalled to Marguerite's aching heart those happy days of courtship,
before he had become the lazy nincompoop, the effete fop, whose life
seemed spent in card and supper rooms.
But now, in the moonlight, she could not catch the expression
of the lazy blue eyes; she could only see the outline of the firm
chin, the corner of the strong mouth, the well-cut massive shape of
the forehead; truly, nature had meant well by Sir Percy; his faults
must all be laid at the door of that poor, half-crazy mother, and of
the distracted heart-broken father, neither of whom had cared for the
young life which was sprouting up between them, and which, perhaps,
their very carelessness was already beginning to wreck.
Marguerite suddenly felt intense sympathy for her husband.
The moral crisis she had just gone through made her feel indulgent
towards the faults, the delinquencies, of others.
How thoroughly a human being can be buffeted and overmastered
by Fate, had been borne in upon her with appalling force. Had anyone
told her a week ago that she would stoop to spy upon her friends, that
she would betray a brave and unsuspecting man into the hands of a
relentless enemy, she would have laughed the idea to scorn.
Yet she had done these things; anon, perhaps the death of that
brave man would be at her door, just as two years ago the Marquis de
St. Cyr had perished through a thoughtless words of hers; but in that
case she was morally innocent--she had meant no serious harm--fate
merely had stepped in. But this time she had done a thing that
obviously was base, had done it deliberately, for a motive which,
perhaps, high moralists would not even appreciate.
As she felt her husband's strong arm beside her, she also felt
how much more he would dislike and despise her, if he knew of this
night's work. Thus human beings judge of one another, with but little
reason, and no charity. She despised her husband for his inanities
and vulgar, unintellectual occupations; and he, she felt, would
despise her still worse, because she had not been strong enough to do
right for right's sake, and to sacrifice her brother to the dictates
of her conscience.
Buried in her thoughts, Marguerite had found this hour in the
breezy summer night all too brief; and it was with a feeling of keen
disappointment, that she suddenly realised that the bays had turned
into the massive gates of her beautiful English home.
Sir Percy Blakeney's house on the river has become a historic
one: palatial in its dimensions, it stands in the midst of exquisitely
laid-out gardens, with a picturesque terrace and frontage to the
river. Built in Tudor days, the old red brick of the walls looks
eminently picturesque in the midst of a bower of green, the beautiful
lawn, with its old sun-dial, adding the true note of harmony to its
foregrounds, and now, on this warm early autumn night, the leaves
slightly turned to russets and gold, the old garden looked singularly
poetic and peaceful in the moonlight.
With unerring precision, Sir Percy had brought the four bays
to a standstill immediately in front of the fine Elizabethan entrance
hall; in spite of the late hour, an army of grooms seemed to have
emerged from the very ground, as the coach had thundered up, and were
standing respectfully round.
Sir Percy jumped down quickly, then helped Marguerite to
alight. She lingered outside a moment, whilst he gave a few orders to
one of his men. She skirted the house, and stepped on to the lawn,
looking out dreamily into the silvery landscape. Nature seemed
exquisitely at peace, in comparison with the tumultuous emotions she
had gone through: she could faintly hear the ripple of the river and
the occasional soft and ghostlike fall of a dead leaf from a tree.
All else was quiet round her. She had heard the horses
prancing as they were being led away to their distant stables, the
hurrying of servant's feet as they had all gone within to rest: the
house also was quite still. In two separate suites of apartments,
just above the magnificent reception-rooms, lights were still burning,
they were her rooms, and his, well divided from each other by the
whole width of the house, as far apart as their own lives had become.
Involuntarily she sighed--at that moment she could really not have
She was suffering from unconquerable heartache. Deeply and
achingly she was sorry for herself. Never had she felt so pitiably
lonely, so bitterly in want of comfort and of sympathy. With another
sigh she turned away from the river towards the house, vaguely
wondering if, after such a night, she could ever find rest and sleep.
Suddenly, before she reached the terrace, she heard a firm
step upon the crisp gravel, and the next moment her husband's figure
emerged out of the shadow. He too, had skirted the house, and was
wandering along the lawn, towards the river. He still wore his heavy
driving coat with the numerous lapels and collars he himself had set
in fashion, but he had thrown it well back, burying his hands as was
his wont, in the deep pockets of his satin breeches: the gorgeous
white costume he had worn at Lord Grenville's ball, with its jabot of
priceless lace, looked strangely ghostly against the dark background
of the house.
He apparently did not notice her, for, after a few moments
pause, he presently turned back towards the house, and walked straight
up to the terrace.
He already had one foot on the lowest of the terrace steps,
but at her voice he started, and paused, then looked searchingly into
the shadows whence she had called to him.
She came forward quickly into the moonlight, and, as soon as
he saw her, he said, with that air of consummate gallantry he always
wore when speaking to her,--
"At your service, Madame!"
But his foot was still on the step, and in his whole attitude
there was a remote suggestion, distinctly visible to her, that he
wished to go, and had no desire for a midnight interview.
"The air is deliciously cool," she said, "the moonlight
peaceful and poetic, and the garden inviting. Will you not stay in it
awhile; the hour is not yet late, or is my company so distasteful to
you, that you are in a hurry to rid yourself of it?"
"Nay, Madame," he rejoined placidly, "but `tis on the other
foot the shoe happens to be, and I'll warrant you'll find the midnight
air more poetic without my company: no doubt the sooner I remove the
obstruction the better your ladyship will like it."
He turned once more to go.
"I protest you mistake me, Sir Percy," she said hurriedly, and
drawing a little closer to him; "the estrangement, which alas! has
arisen between us, was none of my making, remember."
"Begad! you must pardon me there, Madame!" he protested
coldly, "my memory was always of the shortest."
He looked her straight in the eyes, with that lazy
non-chalance which had become second nature to him. She returned his
gaze for a moment, then her eyes softened, as she came up quite close
to him, to the foot of the terrace steps.
"Of the shortest, Sir Percy! Faith! how it must have
altered! Was it three years ago or four that you saw me for one hour
in Paris, on your way to the East? When you came back two years later
you had not forgotten me."
She looked divinely pretty as she stood there in the
moonlight, with the fur-cloak sliding off her beautiful shoulders, the
gold embroidery on her dress shimmering around her, her childlike blue
eyes turned up fully at him.
He stood for a moment, rigid and still, but for the clenching
of his hand against the stone balustrade of the terrace.
"You desired my presence, Madame," he said frigidly. "I take
it that it was not with the view to indulging in tender
His voice certainly was cold and uncompromising: his attitude
before her, stiff and unbending. Womanly decorum would have suggested
Marguerite should return coldness for coldness, and should sweep past
him without another word, only with a curt nod of her head: but
womanly instinct suggested that she should remain--that keen instinct,
which makes a beautiful woman conscious of her powers long to bring to
her knees the one man who pays her no homage. She stretched out her
hand to him.
"Nay, Sir Percy, why not? the present is not so glorious but
that I should not wish to dwell a little in the past."
He bent his tall figure, and taking hold of the extreme tip of
the fingers which she still held out to him, he kissed them
"I' faith, Madame," he said, "then you will pardon me, if my
dull wits cannot accompany you there."
Once again he attempted to go, once more her voice, sweet,
childlike, almost tender, called him back.
"Your servant, Madame."
"Is it possible that love can die?" she said with sudden,
unreasoning vehemence. "Methought that the passion which you once
felt for me would outlast the span of human life. Is there nothing
left of that love, Percy. . .which might help you. . .to bridge over
that sad estrangement?"
His massive figure seemed, while she spoke thus to him, to
stiffen still more, the strong mouth hardened, a look of relentless
obstinacy crept into the habitually lazy blue eyes.
"With what object, I pray you, Madame?" he asked coldly.
"I do not understand you."
"Yet `tis simple enough," he said with sudden bitterness,
which seemed literally to surge through his words, though he was
making visible efforts to suppress it, "I humbly put the question to
you, for my slow wits are unable to grasp the cause of this, your
ladyship's sudden new mood. Is it that you have the taste to renew
the devilish sport which you played so successfully last year? Do you
wish to see me once more a love-sick suppliant at your feet, so that
you might again have the pleasure of kicking me aside, like a
She had succeeded in rousing him for the moment: and again she
looked straight at him, for it was thus she remembered him a year ago.
"Percy! I entreat you!" she whispered, "can we not bury the past?"
"Pardon me, Madame, but I understood you to say that your
desire was to dwell in it."
"Nay! I spoke not of THAT past, Percy!" she said, while a tone
of tenderness crept into her voice. "Rather did I speak of a
time when you loved me still! and I. . .oh! I was vain and frivolous;
your wealth and position allured me: I married you, hoping in my heart that
your great love for me would beget in me a love for you. . .but, alas!. . ."
The moon had sunk low down behind a bank of clouds. In the
east a soft grey light was beginning to chase away the heavy mantle of
the night. He could only see her graceful outline now, the small
queenly head, with its wealth of reddish golden curls, and the
glittering gems forming the small, star-shaped, red flower which she
wore as a diadem in her hair.
"Twenty-four hours after our marriage, Madame, the Marquis de
St. Cyr and all his family perished on the guillotine, and the popular
rumour reached me that it was the wife of Sir Percy Blakeney who
helped to send them there."
"Nay! I myself told you the truth of that odious tale."
"Not till after it had been recounted to me by strangers, with
all its horrible details."
"And you believed them then and there," she said with great
vehemence, "without a proof or question--you believed that I, whom you
vowed you loved more than life, whom you professed you worshipped,
that _I_ could do a thing so base as these STRANGERS chose to
recount. You thought I meant to deceive you about it all--that I
ought to have spoken before I married you: yet, had you listened, I
would have told you that up to the very morning on which St. Cyr went
to the guillotine, I was straining every nerve, using every influence
I possessed, to save him and his family. But my pride sealed my lips,
when your love seemed to perish, as if under the knife of that same
guillotine. Yet I would have told you how I was duped! Aye! I, whom
that same popular rumour had endowed with the sharpest wits in France!
I was tricked into doing this thing, by men who knew how to play upon
my love for an only brother, and my desire for revenge. Was it
Her voice became choked with tears. She paused for a moment
or two, trying to regain some sort of composure. She looked
appealingly at him, almost as if he were her judge. He had allowed
her to speak on in her own vehement, impassioned way, offering no
comment, no word of sympathy: and now, while she paused, trying to
swallow down the hot tears that gushed to her eyes, he waited,
impassive and still. The dim, grey light of early dawn seemed to make
his tall form look taller and more rigid. The lazy, good-natured face
looked strangely altered. Marguerite, excited, as she was, could see
that the eyes were no longer languid, the mouth no longer
good-humoured and inane. A curious look of intense passion seemed to
glow from beneath his drooping lids, the mouth was tightly closed, the
lips compressed, as if the will alone held that surging passion in
Marguerite Blakeney was, above all, a woman, with all a
woman's fascinating foibles, all a woman's most lovable sins. She
knew in a moment that for the past few months she had been mistaken:
that this man who stood here before her, cold as a statue, when her
musical voice struck upon his ear, loved her, as he had loved her a
year ago: that his passion might have been dormant, but that it was
there, as strong, as intense, as overwhelming, as when first her lips
met his in one long, maddening kiss.
Pride had kept him from her, and, woman-like, she meant to win
back that conquest which had been hers before. Suddenly it seemed to
her that the only happiness life could every hold for her again would
be in feeling that man's kiss once more upon her lips.
"Listen to the tale, Sir Percy," she said, and her voice was
low, sweet, infinitely tender. "Armand was all in all to me! We had
no parents, and brought one another up. He was my little father, and
I, his tiny mother; we loved one another so. Then one day--do you
mind me, Sir Percy? the Marquis de St. Cyr had my brother Armand
thrashed--thrashed by his lacqueys--that brother whom I loved better
than all the world! And his offence? That he, a plebeian, had dared
to love the daughter of the aristocrat; for that he was waylaid and
thrashed. . .thrashed like a dog within an inch of his life! Oh, how
I suffered! his humiliation had eaten into my very soul! When the
opportunity occurred, and I was able to take my revenge, I took it.
But I only thought to bring that proud marquis to trouble and
humiliation. He plotted with Austria against his own country. Chance
gave me knowledge of this; I spoke of it, but I did not know--how
could I guess?--they trapped and duped me. When I realised what I had
done, it was too late."
"It is perhaps a little difficult, Madame," said Sir Percy,
after a moment of silence between them, "to go back over the past. I
have confessed to you that my memory is short, but the thought
certainly lingered in my mind that, at the time of the Marquis' death,
I entreated you for an explanation of those same noisome popular
rumours. If that same memory does not, even now, play me a trick, I
fancy that you refused me ALL explanation then, and demanded of my
love a humiliating allegiance it was not prepared to give."
"I wished to test your love for me, and it did not bear the
test. You used to tell me that you drew the very breath of life but
for me, and for love of me."
"And to probe that love, you demanded that I should forfeit
mine honour," he said, whilst gradually his impassiveness seemed to
leave him, his rigidity to relax; "that I should accept without murmur
or question, as a dumb and submissive slave, every action of my
mistress. My heart overflowing with love and passion, I ASKED for
no explanation--I WAITED for one, not doubting--only hoping. Had
you spoken but one word, from you I would have accepted any
explanation and believed it. But you left me without a word, beyond a
bald confession of the actual horrible facts; proudly you returned to
your brother's house, and left me alone. . .for weeks. . .not knowing,
now, in whom to believe, since the shrine, which contained my one
illusion, lay shattered to earth at my feet."
She need not complain now that he was cold and impassive; his
very voice shook with an intensity of passion, which he was making
superhuman efforts to keep in check.
"Aye! the madness of my pride!" she said sadly. "Hardly had
I gone, already I had repented. But when I returned, I found you, oh,
so altered! wearing already that mask of somnolent indifference which
you have never laid aside until. . .until now."
She was so close to him that her soft, loose hair was wafted
against his cheek; her eyes, glowing with tears, maddened him, the
music in her voice sent fire through his veins. But he would not
yield to the magic charm of this woman whom he had so deeply loved,
and at whose hands his pride had suffered so bitterly. He closed his
eyes to shut out the dainty vision of that sweet face, of that
snow-white neck and graceful figure, round which the faint rosy light
of dawn was just beginning to hover playfully.
"Nay, Madame, it is no mask," he said icily; "I swore to
you. . .once, that my life was yours. For months now it has been your
plaything. . .it has served its purpose."
But now she knew that the very coldness was a mask. The
trouble, the sorrow she had gone through last night, suddenly came
back into her mind, but no longer with bitterness, rather with a
feeling that this man who loved her, would help her bear the burden.
"Sir Percy," she said impulsively, "Heaven knows you have been
at pains to make the task, which I had set to myself, difficult to
accomplish. You spoke of my mood just now; well! we will call it
that, if you will. I wished to speak to you. . .because. . .because I
was in trouble. . .and had need. . .of your sympathy."
"It is yours to command, Madame."
"How cold you are!" she sighed. "Faith! I can scarce believe
that but a few months ago one tear in my eye had set you well-nigh
crazy. Now I come to you. . .with a half-broken heart. . .and. . .
and. . ."
"I pray you, Madame," he said, whilst his voice shook almost
as much as hers, "in what way can I serve you?"
"Percy!--Armand is in deadly danger. A letter of his. . .
rash, impetuous, as were all his actions, and written to Sir Andrew
Ffoulkes, has fallen into the hands of a fanatic. Armand is
hopelessly compromised. . .to-morrow, perhaps he will be arrested. . .
after that the guillotine. . .unless. . .oh! it is horrible!". . .
she said, with a sudden wail of anguish, as all the events of the past
night came rushing back to her mind, "horrible!. . .and you do not
understand. . .you cannot. . .and I have no one to whom I can
turn. . .for help. . .or even for sympathy. . ."
Tears now refused to be held back. All her trouble, her
struggles, the awful uncertainty of Armand's fate overwhelmed her.
She tottered, ready to fall, and leaning against the tone balustrade,
she buried her face in her hands and sobbed bitterly.
At first mention of Armand St. Just's name and of the peril in
which he stood, Sir Percy's face had become a shade more pale; and the
look of determination and obstinacy appeared more marked than ever
between his eyes. However, he said nothing for the moment, but
watched her, as her delicate frame was shaken with sobs, watched her
until unconsciously his face softened, and what looked almost like
tears seemed to glisten in his eyes.
"And so," he said with bitter sarcasm, "the murderous dog of
the revolution is turning upon the very hands that fed it?. . .Begad,
Madame," he added very gently, as Marguerite continued to sob
hysterically, "will you dry your tears?. . .I never could bear to see
a pretty woman cry, and I. . ."
Instinctively, with sudden overmastering passion at the sight
of her helplessness and of her grief, he stretched out his arms, and
the next, would have seized her and held her to him, protected from
every evil with his very life, his very heart's blood. . . . But
pride had the better of it in this struggle once again; he restrained
himself with a tremendous effort of will, and said coldly, though
still very gently,--
"Will you not turn to me, Madame, and tell me in what way I
may have the honour to serve you?"
She made a violent effort to control herself, and turning her
tear-stained face to him, she once more held out her hand, which he
kissed with the same punctilious gallantry; but Marguerite's fingers,
this time, lingered in his hand for a second or two longer than was
absolutely necessary, and this was because she had felt that his hand
trembled perceptibly and was burning hot, whilst his lips felt as cold
"Can you do aught for Armand?" she said sweetly and simply.
"You have so much influence at court. . .so many friends. . ."
"Nay, Madame, should you not seek the influence of your French
friend, M. Chauvelin? His extends, if I mistake not, even as far as
the Republican Government of France."
"I cannot ask him, Percy. . . . Oh! I wish I dared to tell
you. . .but. . .but. . .he has put a price on my brother's head,
which. . ."
She would have given worlds if she had felt the courage then
to tell him everything. . .all she had done that night--how she had
suffered and how her hand had been forced. But she dared not give way
to that impulse. . .not now, when she was just beginning to feel that
he still loved her, when she hoped that she could win him back. She
dared not make another confession to him. After all, he might not
understand; he might not sympathise with her struggles and temptation.
His love still dormant might sleep the sleep of death.
Perhaps he divined what was passing in her mind. His whole
attitude was one of intense longing--a veritable prayer for that
confidence, which her foolish pride withheld from him. When she
remained silent he sighed, and said with marked coldness--
"Faith, Madame, since it distresses you, we will not speak of
it. . . . As for Armand, I pray you have no fear. I pledge you
my word that he shall be safe. Now, have I your permission to go?
The hour is getting late, and. . ."
"You will at least accept my gratitude?" she said, as she drew
quite close to him, and speaking with real tenderness.
With a quick, almost involuntary effort he would have taken
her then in his arms, for her eyes were swimming in tears, which he
longed to kiss away; but she had lured him once, just like this, then
cast him aside like an ill-fitting glove. He thought this was but a
mood, a caprice, and he was too proud to lend himself to it once
"It is too soon, Madame!" he said quietly; "I have done
nothing as yet. The hour is late, and you must be fatigued. Your
women will be waiting for you upstairs."
He stood aside to allow her to pass. She sighed, a quick sigh
of disappointment. His pride and her beauty had been in direct
conflict, and his pride had remained the conqueror. Perhaps, after
all, she had been deceived just now; what she took to be the light of
love in his eyes might only have been the passion of pride or, who
knows, of hatred instead of love. She stood looking at him for a
moment or two longer. He was again as rigid, as impassive, as before.
Pride had conquered, and he cared naught for her. The grey light of
dawn was gradually yielding to the rosy light of the rising sun.
Birds began to twitter; Nature awakened, smiling in happy response to
the warmth of this glorious October morning. Only between these two
hearts there lay a strong, impassable barrier, built up of pride on
both sides, which neither of them cared to be the first to demolish.
He had bent his tall figure in a low ceremonious bow, as she
finally, with another bitter little sigh, began to mount the terrace
The long train of her gold-embroidered gown swept the dead
leaves off the steps, making a faint harmonious sh--sh--sh as she
glided up, with one hand resting on the balustrade, the rosy light of
dawn making an aureole of gold round her hair, and causing the rubies
on her head and arms to sparkle. She reached the tall glass doors
which led into the house. Before entering, she paused once again to
look at him, hoping against hope to see his arms stretched out to her,
and to hear his voice calling her back. But he had not moved; his
massive figure looked the very personification of unbending pride, of
Hot tears again surged to her eyes, as she would not let him
see them, she turned quickly within, and ran as fast as she could up
to her own rooms.
Had she but turned back then, and looked out once more on to
the rose-lit garden, she would have seen that which would have made
her own sufferings seem but light and easy to bear--a strong man,
overwhelmed with his own passion and his own despair. Pride had given
way at last, obstinacy was gone: the will was powerless. He was but a
man madly, blindly, passionately in love, and as soon as her light
footsteps had died away within the house, he knelt down upon the
terrace steps, and in the very madness of his love he kissed one by
one the places where her small foot had trodden, and the stone
balustrade there, where her tiny hand had rested last.
CHAPTER XVII FAREWELL
When Marguerite reached her room, she found her maid terribly
anxious about her.
"Your ladyship will be so tired," said the poor woman, whose
own eyes were half closed with sleep. "It is past five o'clock."
"Ah, yes, Louise, I daresay I shall be tired presently," said
Marguerite, kindly; "but you are very tired now, so go to bed at once.
I'll get into bed alone."
"But, my lady. . ."
"Now, don't argue, Louise, but go to bed. Give me a wrap, and
leave me alone."
Louise was only too glad to obey. She took off her mistress's
gorgeous ball-dress, and wrapped her up in a soft billowy gown.
"Does your ladyship wish for anything else?" she asked, when
that was done.
"No, nothing more. Put out the lights as you go out."
"Yes, my lady. Good-night, my lady."
When the maid was gone, Marguerite drew aside the curtains and
threw open the windows. The garden and the river beyond were flooded
with rosy light. Far away to the east, the rays of the rising sun had
changed the rose into vivid gold. The lawn was deserted now, and
Marguerite looked down upon the terrace where she had stood a few
moments ago trying in vain to win back a man's love, which once had
been so wholly hers.
It was strange that through all her troubles, all her anxiety
for Armand, she was mostly conscious at the present moment of a keen
and bitter heartache.
Her very limbs seemed to ache with longing for the love of a
man who had spurned her, who had resisted her tenderness, remained
cold to her appeals, and had not responded to the glow of passion,
which had caused her to feel and hope that those happy olden days in
Paris were not all dead and forgotten.
How strange it all was! She loved him still. And now that
she looked back upon the last few months of misunderstandings and of
loneliness, she realised that she had never ceased to love him; that
deep down in her heart she had always vaguely felt that his foolish
inanities, his empty laugh, his lazy nonchalance were nothing but a
mask; that the real man, strong, passionate, wilful, was there
still--the man she had loved, whose intensity had fascinated her,
whose personality attracted her, since she always felt that behind his
apparently slow wits there was a certain something, which he kept
hidden from all the world, and most especially from her.
A woman's heart is such a complex problem--the owner thereof
is often most incompetent to find the solution of this puzzle.
Did Marguerite Blakeney, "the cleverest woman in Europe,"
really love a fool? Was it love that she had felt for him a year ago
when she married him? Was it love she felt for him now that she
realised that he still loved her, but that he would not become her
slave, her passionate, ardent lover once again? Nay! Marguerite
herself could not have told that. Not at this moment at any rate;
perhaps her pride had sealed her mind against a better understanding
of her own heart. But this she did know--that she meant to capture
that obstinate heart back again. That she would conquer once
more. . .and then, that she would never lose him. . . . She would
keep him, keep his love, deserve it, and cherish it; for this much was
certain, that there was no longer any happiness possible for her
without that one man's love.
Thus the most contradictory thoughts and emotions rushed madly
through her mind. Absorbed in them, she had allowed time to slip by;
perhaps, tired out with long excitement, she had actually closed her
eyes and sunk into a troubled sleep, wherein quickly fleeting dreams
seemed but the continuation of her anxious thoughts--when suddenly she
was roused, from dream or meditation, by the noise of footsteps
outside her door.
Nervously she jumped up and listened; the house itself was as
still as ever; the footsteps had retreated. Through her wide-open
window the brilliant rays of the morning sun were flooding her room
with light. She looked up at the clock; it was half-past six--too
early for any of the household to be already astir.
She certainly must have dropped asleep, quite unconsciously.
The noise of the footsteps, also of hushed subdued voices had awakened
her--what could they be?
Gently, on tip-toe, she crossed the room and opened the door
to listen; not a sound--that peculiar stillness of the early morning
when sleep with all mankind is at its heaviest. But the noise had
made her nervous, and when, suddenly, at her feet, on the very
doorstep, she saw something white lying there--a letter evidently--she
hardly dared touch it. It seemed so ghostlike. It certainly was not
there when she came upstairs; had Louise dropped it? or was some
tantalising spook at play, showing her fairy letters where none
At last she stooped to pick it up, and, amazed, puzzled beyond
measure, she saw that the letter was addressed to herself in her
husband's large, businesslike-looking hand. What could he have to say
to her, in the middle of the night, which could not be put off until
She tore open the envelope and read:--
"A most unforeseen circumstance forces me to leave for
the North immediately, so I beg your ladyship's pardon if I do
not avail myself of the honour of bidding you good-bye. My
business may keep me employed for about a week, so I shall not
have the privilege of being present at your ladyship's
water-party on Wednesday. I remain your ladyship's most
humble and most obedient servant,
Marguerite must suddenly have been imbued with her husband's
slowness of intellect, for she had perforce to read the few simple
lines over and over again, before she could fully grasp their meaning.
She stood on the landing, turning over and over in her hand
this curt and mysterious epistle, her mind a blank, her nerves
strained with agitation and a presentiment she could not very well
Sir Percy owned considerable property in the North, certainly,
and he had often before gone there alone and stayed away a week at a
time; but it seemed so very strange that circumstances should have
arisen between five and six o'clock in the morning that compelled him
to start in this extreme hurry.
Vainly she tried to shake off an unaccustomed feeling of
nervousness: she was trembling from head to foot. A wild,
unconquerable desire seized her to see her husband again, at once, if
only he had not already started.
Forgetting the fact that she was only very lightly clad in a
morning wrap, and that her hair lay loosely about her shoulders, she
flew down the stairs, right through the hall towards the front door.
It was as usual barred and bolted, for the indoor servants
were not yet up; but her keen ears had detected the sound of voices
and the pawing of a horse's hoof against the flag-stones.
With nervous, trembling fingers Marguerite undid the bolts one
by one, bruising her hands, hurting her nails, for the locks were
heavy and stiff. But she did not care; her whole frame shook with
anxiety at the very thought that she might be too late; that he might
have gone without her seeing him and bidding him "God-speed!"
At last, she had turned the key and thrown open the door.
Her ears had not deceived her. A groom was standing close by holding
a couple of horses; one of these was Sultan, Sir Percy's favourite and
swiftest horse, saddled ready for a journey.
The next moment Sir Percy himself appeared round the further
corner of the house and came quickly towards the horses. He had
changed his gorgeous ball costume, but was as usual irreproachably and
richly apparelled in a suit of fine cloth, with lace jabot and
ruffles, high top-boots, and riding breeches.
Marguerite went forward a few steps. He looked up and saw her.
A slight frown appeared between his eyes.
"You are going?" she said quickly and feverishly. "Whither?"
"As I have had the honour of informing your ladyship, urgent,
most unexpected business calls me to the North this morning," he said,
in his usual cold, drawly manner.
"But. . .your guests to-morrow. . ."
"I have prayed your ladyship to offer my humble excuses to His
Royal Highness. You are such a perfect hostess, I do not think I
shall be missed."
"But surely you might have waited for your journey. . .until
after our water-party. . ." she said, still speaking quickly and
nervously. "Surely this business is not so urgent. . .and you said
nothing about it--just now."
"My business, as I had the honour to tell you, Madame, is as
unexpected as it is urgent. . . . May I therefore crave your
permission to go. . . . Can I do aught for you in town?. . .on my way
"No. . .no. . .thanks. . .nothing. . .But you will be back soon?"
"Before the end of the week?"
"I cannot say."
He was evidently trying to get away, whilst she was straining
every nerve to keep him back for a moment or two.
"Percy," she said, "will you not tell me why you go to-day?
Surely I, as your wife, have the right to know. You have NOT been
called away to the North. I know it. There were no letters, no
couriers from there before we left for the opera last night, and
nothing was waiting for you when we returned from the ball. . . . You
are NOT going to the North, I feel convinced. . . . There is some
mystery. . .and. . ."
"Nay, there is no mystery, Madame," he replied, with a slight
tone of impatience. "My business has to do with Armand. . .there!
Now, have I your leave to depart?"
"With Armand?. . .But you will run no danger?"
"Danger? I?. . .Nay, Madame, your solicitude does me honour.
As you say, I have some influence; my intention is to exert it before
it be too late."
"Will you allow me to thank you at least?"
"Nay, Madame," he said coldly, "there is no need for that. My
life is at your service, and I am already more than repaid."
"And mine will be at yours, Sir Percy, if you will but accept
it, in exchange for what you do for Armand," she said, as,
impulsively, she stretched out both her hands to him. "There! I will
not detain you. . .my thoughts go with you. . .Farewell!. . ."
How lovely she looked in this morning sunlight, with her
ardent hair streaming around her shoulders. He bowed very low and
kissed her hand; she felt the burning kiss and her heart thrilled with
joy and hope.
"You will come back?" she said tenderly.
"Very soon!" he replied, looking longingly into her blue eyes.
"Any. . .you will remember?. . ." she asked as her eyes, in
response to his look, gave him an infinity of promise.
"I will always remember, Madame, that you have honoured me by
commanding my services."
The words were cold and formal, but they did not chill her
this time. Her woman's heart had read his, beneath the impassive mask
his pride still forced him to wear.
He bowed to her again, then begged her leave to depart. She
stood on one side whilst he jumped on to Sultan's back, then, as he
galloped out of the gates, she waved him a final "Adieu."
A bend in the road soon hid him from view; his confidential
groom had some difficulty in keeping pace with him, for Sultan flew
along in response to his master's excited mood. Marguerite, with a sigh
that was almost a happy one, turned and went within. She went back to
her room, for suddenly, like a tired child, she felt quite sleepy.
Her heart seemed all at once to be in complete peace, and,
though it still ached with undefined longing, a vague and delicious
hope soothed it as with a balm.
She felt no longer anxious about Armand. The man who had just
ridden away, bent on helping her brother, inspired her with complete
confidence in his strength and in his power. She marvelled at herself
for having ever looked upon him as an inane fool; of course, THAT was
a mask worn to hide the bitter wound she had dealt to his faith and
to his love. His passion would have overmastered him, and he would
not let her see how much he still cared and how deeply he suffered.
But now all would be well: she would crush her own pride,
humble it before him, tell him everything, trust him in everything;
and those happy days would come back, when they used to wander off
together in the forests of Fontainebleau, when they spoke little--for
he was always a silent man--but when she felt that against that strong
heart she would always find rest and happiness.
The more she thought of the events of the past night, the less
fear had she of Chauvelin and his schemes. He had failed to discover
the identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel, of that she felt sure. Both
Lord Fancourt and Chauvelin himself had assured her that no one had
been in the dining-room at one o'clock except the Frenchman himself
and Percy--Yes!--Percy! she might have asked him, had she thought of it!
Anyway, she had no fears that the unknown and brave hero would fall
in Chauvelin's trap; his death at any rate would not be at her door.
Armand certainly was still in danger, but Percy had pledged
his word that Armand would be safe, and somehow, as Marguerite had
seen him riding away, the possibility that he could fail in whatever
he undertook never even remotely crossed her mind. When Armand was
safely over in England she would not allow him to go back to France.
She felt almost happy now, and, drawing the curtains closely
together again to shut out the piercing sun, she went to bed at last,
laid her head upon the pillow, and, like a wearied child, soon fell
into a peaceful and dreamless sleep.
CHAPTER XVIII THE MYSTERIOUS DEVICE
The day was well advanced when Marguerite woke, refreshed by
her long sleep. Louise had brought her some fresh milk and a dish of
fruit, and she partook of this frugal breakfast with hearty appetite.
Thoughts crowded thick and fast in her mind as she munched her
grapes; most of them went galloping away after the tall, erect figure
of her husband, whom she had watched riding out of site more than five
In answer to her eager inquiries, Louise brought back the news
that the groom had come home with Sultan, having left Sir Percy in
London. The groom thought that his master was about to get on board
his schooner, which was lying off just below London Bridge. Sir Percy
had ridden thus far, had then met Briggs, the skipper of the DAY
DREAM, and had sent the groom back to Richmond with Sultan and the
This news puzzled Marguerite more than ever. Where could Sir
Percy be going just now in the DAY DREAM? On Armand's behalf, he
had said. Well! Sir Percy had influential friends everywhere.
Perhaps he was going to Greenwich, or. . .but Marguerite ceased to
conjecture; all would be explained anon: he said that he would come
back, and that he would remember.
A long, idle day lay before Marguerite. She was expecting a
visit of her old school-fellow, little Suzanne de Tournay. With all
the merry mischief at her command, she had tendered her request for
Suzanne's company to the Comtesse in the Presence of the Prince of
Wales last night. His Royal Highness had loudly applauded the notion,
and declared that he would give himself the pleasure of calling on the
two ladies in the course of the afternoon. The Comtesse had not dared
to refuse, and then and there was entrapped into a promise to send
little Suzanne to spend a long and happy day at Richmond with her
Marguerite expected her eagerly; she longed for a chat about
old schooldays with the child; she felt that she would prefer
Suzanne's company to that of anyone else, and together they would roam
through the fine old garden and rich deer park, or stroll along the
But Suzanne had not come yet, and Marguerite being dressed,
prepared to go downstairs. She looked quite a girl this morning in
her simple muslin frock, with a broad blue sash round her slim waist,
and the dainty cross-over fichu into which, at her bosom, she had
fastened a few late crimson roses.
She crossed the landing outside her own suite of apartments,
and stood still for a moment at the head of the fine oak staircase,
which led to the lower floor. On her left were her husband's
apartments, a suite of rooms which she practically never entered.
They consisted of bedroom, dressing and reception room, and at
the extreme end of the landing, of a small study, which, when Sir
Percy did not use it, was always kept locked. His own special and
confidential valet, Frank, had charge of this room. No one was ever
allowed to go inside. My lady had never cared to do so, and the other
servants, had, of course, not dared to break this hard-and-fast rule.
Marguerite had often, with that good-natured contempt which
she had recently adopted towards her husband, chaffed him about this
secrecy which surrounded his private study. Laughingly she had always
declared that he strictly excluded all prying eyes from his sanctum
for fear they should detect how very little "study" went on within its
four walls: a comfortable arm-chair for Sir Percy's sweet slumbers
was, no doubt, its most conspicuous piece of furniture.
Marguerite thought of all this on this bright October morning
as she glanced along the corridor. Frank was evidently busy with his
master's rooms, for most of the doors stood open, that of the study
amongst the others.
A sudden burning, childish curiosity seized her to have a peep
at Sir Percy's sanctum. This restriction, of course, did not apply to
her, and Frank would, of course, not dare to oppose her. Still, she
hoped that the valet would be busy in one of the other rooms, that she
might have that one quick peep in secret, and unmolested.
Gently, on tip-toe, she crossed the landing and, like Blue
Beard's wife, trembling half with excitement and wonder, she paused a
moment on the threshold, strangely perturbed and irresolute.
The door was ajar, and she could not see anything within. She
pushed it open tentatively: there was no sound: Frank was evidently
not there, and she walked boldly in.
At once she was struck by the severe simplicity of everything
around her: the dark and heavy hangings, the massive oak furniture,
the one or two maps on the wall, in no way recalled to her mind the
lazy man about town, the lover of race-courses, the dandified leader
of fashion, that was the outward representation of Sir Percy Blakeney.
There was no sign here, at any rate, of hurried departure.
Everything was in its place, not a scrap of paper littered the floor,
not a cupboard or drawer was left open. The curtains were drawn aside,
and through the open window the fresh morning air was streaming in.
Facing the window, and well into the centre of the room, stood
a ponderous business-like desk, which looked as if it had seen much
service. On the wall to the left of the desk, reaching almost from
floor to ceiling, was a large full-length portrait of a woman,
magnificently framed, exquisitely painted, and signed with the name of
Boucher. It was Percy's mother.
Marguerite knew very little about her, except that she had
died abroad, ailing in body as well as in mind, which Percy was still
a lad. She must have been a very beautiful woman once, when Boucher
painted her, and as Marguerite looked at the portrait, she could not
but be struck by the extraordinary resemblance which must have existed
between mother and son. There was the same low, square forehead,
crowned with thick, fair hair, smooth and heavy; the same deep-set,
somewhat lazy blue eyes beneath firmly marked, straight brows; and in
those eyes there was the same intensity behind that apparent laziness,
the same latent passion which used to light up Percy's face in the
olden days before his marriage, and which Marguerite had again noted,
last night at dawn, when she had come quite close to him, and had
allowed a note of tenderness to creep into her voice.
Marguerite studied the portrait, for it interested her: after
that she turned and looked again at the ponderous desk. It was
covered with a mass of papers, all neatly tied and docketed, which
looked like accounts and receipts arrayed with perfect method. It had
never before struck Marguerite--nor had she, alas! found it worth
while to inquire--as to how Sir Percy, whom all the world had credited
with a total lack of brains, administered the vast fortune which his
father had left him.
Since she had entered this neat, orderly room, she had been
taken so much by surprise, that this obvious proof of her husband's
strong business capacities did not cause her more than a passing
thought of wonder. But it also strengthened her in the now certain
knowledge that, with his worldly inanities, his foppish ways, and
foolish talk, he was not only wearing a mask, but was playing a
deliberate and studied part.
Marguerite wondered again. Why should he take all this trouble?
Why should he--who was obviously a serious, earnest man--wish to appear
before his fellow-men as an empty-headed nincompoop?
He may have wished to hide his love for a wife who held him in
contempt. . .but surely such an object could have been gained at less
sacrifice, and with far less trouble than constant incessant acting of
an unnatural part.
She looked round her quite aimlessly now: she was horribly
puzzled, and a nameless dread, before all this strange, unaccountable
mystery, had begun to seize upon her. She felt cold and uncomfortable
suddenly in this severe and dark room. There were no pictures on the
wall, save the fine Boucher portrait, only a couple of maps, both of
parts of France, one of the North coast and the other of the environs
of Paris. What did Sir Percy want with those, she wondered.
Her head began to ache, she turned away from this strange Blue
Beard's chamber, which she had entered, and which she did not understand.
She did not wish Frank to find her here, and with a fast look round,
she once more turned to the door. As she did so, her foot knocked
against a small object, which had apparently been lying close to the desk,
on the carpet, and which now went rolling, right across the room.
She stooped to pick it up. It was a solid gold ring, with a
flat shield, on which was engraved a small device.
Marguerite turned it over in her fingers, and then studied the
engraving on the shield. It represented a small star-shaped flower,
of a shape she had seen so distinctly twice before: once at the opera,
and once at Lord Grenville's ball.
CHAPTER XIX THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
At what particular moment the strange doubt first crept into
Marguerite's mind, she could not herself have said. With the ring
tightly clutched in her hand, she had run out of the room, down the
stairs, and out into the garden, where, in complete seclusion, alone
with the flowers, and the river and the birds, she could look again at
the ring, and study that device more closely.
Stupidly, senselessly, now, sitting beneath the shade of an
overhanging sycamore, she was looking at the plain gold shield, with
the star-shaped little flower engraved upon it.
Bah! It was ridiculous! she was dreaming! her nerves were
overwrought, and she saw signs and mysteries in the most trivial
coincidences. Had not everybody about town recently made a point of
affecting the device of that mysterious and heroic Scarlet Pimpernel?
Did she herself wear it embroidered on her gowns? set in gems
and enamel in her hair? What was there strange in the fact that Sir
Percy should have chosen to use the device as a seal-ring? He might
easily have done that. . .yes. . .quite easily. . .and. . .
besides. . .what connection could there be between her exquisite dandy
of a husband, with his fine clothes and refined, lazy ways, and the
daring plotter who rescued French victims from beneath the very eyes
of the leaders of a bloodthirsty revolution?
Her thoughts were in a whirl--her mind a blank. . .She did not
see anything that was going on around her, and was quite startled when
a fresh young voice called to her across the garden.
"CHERIE!--CHERIE! where are you?" and little Suzanne,
fresh as a rosebud, with eyes dancing with glee, and brown curls
fluttering in the soft morning breeze, came running across the lawn.
"They told me you were in the garden," she went on prattling
merrily, and throwing herself with a pretty, girlish impulse into
Marguerite's arms, "so I ran out to give you a surprise. You did not
expect me quite so soon, did you, my darling little Margot CHERIE?"
Marguerite, who had hastily concealed the ring in the folds of
her kerchief, tried to respond gaily and unconcernedly to the young
"Indeed, sweet one," she said with a smile, "it is delightful
to have you all to myself, and for a nice whole long day. . . . You
won't be bored?"
"Oh! bored! Margot, how CAN you say such a wicked thing.
Why! when we were in the dear old convent together, we were always
happy when we were allowed to be alone together."
"And to talk secrets."
The two young girls had linked their arms in one another's and
began wandering round the garden.
"Oh! how lovely your home is, Margot, darling," said little
Suzanne, enthusiastically, "and how happy you must be!"
"Aye, indeed! I ought to be happy--oughtn't I, sweet one?"
said Marguerite, with a wistful little sigh.
"How sadly you say it, CHERIE. . . . Ah, well, I suppose
now that you are a married woman you won't care to talk secrets with
me any longer. Oh! what lots and lots of secrets we used to have at
school! Do you remember?--some we did not even confide to Sister
Theresa of the Holy Angels--though she was such a dear."
"And now you have one all-important secret, eh, little one?"
said Marguerite, merrily, "which you are forthwith going to confide in
me. nay, you need not blush, CHERIE." she added, as she saw
Suzanne's pretty little face crimson with blushes. "Faith, there's
naught to be ashamed of! He is a noble and true man, and one to be
proud of as a lover, and. . .as a husband."
"Indeed, CHERIE, I am not ashamed," rejoined Suzanne,
softly; "and it makes me very, very proud to hear you speak so well of
him. I think maman will consent," she added thoughtfully, "and I
shall be--oh! so happy--but, of course, nothing is to be thought of
until papa is safe. . . ."
Marguerite started. Suzanne's father! the Comte de Tournay!--one
of those whose life would be jeopardised if Chauvelin succeeded
in establishing the identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel.
She had understood all along from the Comtesse, and also from
one or two of the members of the league, that their mysterious leader
had pledged his honour to bring the fugitive Comte de Tournay safely
out of France. Whilst little Suzanne--unconscious of all--save her
own all-important little secret, went prattling on. Marguerite's
thoughts went back to the events of the past night.
Armand's peril, Chauvelin's threat, his cruel "Either--or--"
which she had accepted.
And then her own work in the matter, which should have
culminated at one o'clock in Lord Grenville's dining-room, when the
relentless agent of the French Government would finally learn who was
this mysterious Scarlet Pimpernel, who so openly defied an army of
spies and placed himself so boldly, and for mere sport, on the side of
the enemies of France.
Since then she had heard nothing from Chauvelin. She had
concluded that he had failed, and yet, she had not felt anxious about
Armand, because her husband had promised her that Armand would be safe.
But now, suddenly, as Suzanne prattled merrily along, an awful
horror came upon her for what she had done. Chauvelin had told her
nothing, it was true; but she remembered how sarcastic and evil he
looked when she took final leave of him after the ball. Had he
discovered something then? Had he already laid his plans for catching
the daring plotter, red-handed, in France, and sending him to the
guillotine without compunction or delay?
Marguerite turned sick with horror, and her hand convulsively
clutched the ring in her dress.
"You are not listening, CHERIE," said Suzanne,
reproachfully, as she paused in her long, highly interesting
"Yes, yes, darling--indeed I am," said Marguerite with an
effort, forcing herself to smile." "I love to hear you talking. . .
and your happiness makes me so very glad. . . . Have no fear, we will
manage to propitiate maman. Sir Andrew Ffoulkes is a noble English
gentleman; he has money and position, the Comtesse will not refuse her
consent. . . . But. . .now, little one. . .tell me. . . what is the
latest news about your father?"
"Oh!" said Suzanne with mad glee, "the best we could possibly
hear. My Lord Hastings came to see maman early this morning. He said
that all is now well with dear papa, and we may safely expect him here
in England in less than four days."
"Yes," said Marguerite, whose glowing eyes were fastened on
Suzanne's lips, as she continued merrily:
"Oh, we have no fear now! You don't know, CHERIE, that that
great and noble Scarlet Pimpernel himself has gone to save papa. He
has gone, CHERIE. . .actually gone. . ." added Suzanne excitedly,
"He was in London this morning; he will be in Calais, perhaps,
to-morrow. . .where he will meet papa. . .and then. . .and then. . ."
The blow had fallen. She had expected it all along, though
she had tried for the last half-hour to delude herself and to cheat
her fears. He had gone to Calais, had been in London this
morning. . .he. . .the Scarlet Pimpernel. . .Percy Blakeney. . .her
husband. . .whom she had betrayed last night to Chauvelin.
Percy. . .Percy. . .her husband. . .the Scarlet Pimpernel. . .
Oh! how could she have been so blind? She understood it all now--all
at once. . .that part he played--the mask he wore. . .in order to
throw dust in everybody's eyes.
And all for the sheer sport and devilry of course!--saving
men, women and children from death, as other men destroy and kill
animals for the excitement, the love of the thing. The idle, rich man
wanted some aim in life--he, and the few young bucks he enrolled under
his banner, had amused themselves for months in risking their lives
for the sake of an innocent few.
Perhaps he had meant to tell her when they were first married;
and then the story of the Marquis de St. Cyr had come to his ears, and
he had suddenly turned from her, thinking, no doubt, that she might
someday betray him and his comrades, who had sworn to follow him; and
so he had tricked her, as he tricked all others, whilst hundreds now
owed their lives to him, and many families owed him both life and
The mask of an inane fop had been a good one, and the part
consummately well played. No wonder that Chauvelin's spies had failed
to detect, in the apparently brainless nincompoop, the man whose
reckless daring and resourceful ingenuity had baffled the keenest
French spies, both in France and in England. Even last night when
Chauvelin went to Lord Grenville's dining-room to seek that daring
Scarlet Pimpernel, he only saw that inane Sir Percy Blakeney fast
asleep in a corner of the sofa.
Had his astute mind guessed the secret, then? Here lay the
whole awful, horrible, amazing puzzle. In betraying a nameless
stranger to his fate in order to save her brother, had Marguerite
Blakeney sent her husband to his death?
No! no! no! a thousand times no! Surely Fate could not
deal a blow like that: Nature itself would rise in revolt: her hand,
when it held that tiny scrap of paper last night, would have surely have
been struck numb ere it committed a deed so appalling and so terrible.
"But what is it, CHERIE?" said little Suzanne, now genuinely alarmed,
for Marguerite's colour had become dull and ashen. "Are you ill, Marguerite?
What is it?"
"Nothing, nothing, child," she murmured, as in a dream. "Wait
a moment. . .let me think. . .think!. . .You said. . .the Scarlet
Pimpernel had gone today. . . . ?"
"Marguerite, CHERIE, what is it? You frighten me. . . ."
"It is nothing, child, I tell you. . .nothing. . .I must be
alone a minute--and--dear one. . .I may have to curtail our time
together to-day. . . . I may have to go away--you'll understand?"
"I understand that something has happened, CHERIE, and that
you want to be alone. I won't be a hindrance to you. Don't think of
me. My maid, Lucile, has not yet gone. . .we will go back
together. . .don't think of me."
She threw her arms impulsively round Marguerite. Child as she
was, she felt the poignancy of her friend's grief, and with the
infinite tact of her girlish tenderness, she did not try to pry into
it, but was ready to efface herself.
She kissed Marguerite again and again, then walked sadly back
across the lawn. Marguerite did not move, she remained there,
thinking. . .wondering what was to be done.
Just as little Suzanne was about to mount the terrace steps, a
groom came running round the house towards his mistress. He carried a
sealed letter in his hand. Suzanne instinctively turned back; her
heart told her that here perhaps was further ill news for her friend,
and she felt that poor Margot was not in a fit state to bear any more.
The groom stood respectfully beside his mistress, then he
handed her the sealed letter.
"What is that?" asked Marguerite.
"Just come by runner, my lady."
Marguerite took the letter mechanically, and turned it over in
her trembling fingers.
"Who sent it?" she said.
"The runner said, my lady," replied the groom, "that his
orders were to deliver this, and that your ladyship would understand
from whom it came."
Marguerite tore open the envelope. Already her instinct told
her what it contained, and her eyes only glanced at it mechanically.
It was a letter by Armand St. Just to Sir Andrew Ffoulkes--the
letter which Chauvelin's spies had stolen at "The Fisherman's Rest,"
and which Chauvelin had held as a rod over her to enforce her
Now he had kept his word--he had sent her back St. Just's
compromising letter. . .for he was on the track of the Scarlet Pimpernel.
Marguerite's senses reeled, her very soul seemed to be leaving
her body; she tottered, and would have fallen but for Suzanne's arm
round her waist. With superhuman effort she regained control over
herself--there was yet much to be done.
"Bring that runner here to me," she said to the servant, with
much calm. "He has not gone?"
"No, my lady."
The groom went, and Marguerite turned to Suzanne.
"And you, child, run within. Tell Lucile to get ready. I
fear that I must send you home, child. And--stay, tell one of the
maids to prepare a travelling dress and cloak for me."
Suzanne made no reply. She kissed Marguerite tenderly and
obeyed without a word; the child was overawed by the terrible,
nameless misery in her friend's face.
A minute later the groom returned, followed by the runner who
had brought the letter.
"Who gave you this packet?" asked Marguerite.
"A gentleman, my lady," replied the man, "at `The Rose and
Thistle' inn opposite Charing Cross. He said you would understand."
"At `The Rose and Thistle'? What was he doing?"
"He was waiting for the coach, you ladyship, which he had ordered."
"Yes, my lady. A special coach he had ordered. I understood
from his man that he was posting straight to Dover."
"That's enough. You may go." Then she turned to the groom:
"My coach and the four swiftest horses in the stables, to be ready at
The groom and runner both went quickly off to obey.
Marguerite remained standing for a moment on the lawn quite alone.
Her graceful figure was as rigid as a statue, her eyes were fixed, her
hands were tightly clasped across her breast; her lips moved as they
murmured with pathetic heart-breaking persistence,--
"What's to be done? What's to be done? Where to find
him?--Oh, God! grant me light."
But this was not the moment for remorse and despair. She had
done--unwittingly--an awful and terrible thing--the very worst crime,
in her eyes, that woman ever committed--she saw it in all its horror.
Her very blindness in not having guessed her husband's secret seemed
now to her another deadly sin. She ought to have known! she ought
to have known!
How could she imagine that a man who could love with so much
intensity as Percy Blakeney had loved her from the first--how could
such a man be the brainless idiot he chose to appear? She, at least,
ought to have known that he was wearing a mask, and having found that
out, she should have torn it from his face, whenever they were alone
Her love for him had been paltry and weak, easily crushed by
her own pride; and she, too, had worn a mask in assuming a contempt
for him, whilst, as a matter of fact, she completely misunderstood
But there was no time now to go over the past. By her own
blindness she had sinned; now she must repay, not by empty remorse,
but by prompt and useful action.
Percy had started for Calais, utterly unconscious of the fact
that his most relentless enemy was on his heels. He had set sail
early that morning from London Bridge. Provided he had a favourable
wind, he would no doubt be in France within twenty-four hours; no
doubt he had reckoned on the wind and chosen this route.
Chauvelin, on the other hand, would post to Dover, charter a
vessel there, and undoubtedly reach Calais much about the same time.
Once in Calais, Percy would meet all those who were eagerly waiting
for the noble and brave Scarlet Pimpernel, who had come to rescue them
from horrible and unmerited death. With Chauvelin's eyes now fixed
upon his every movement, Percy would thus not only be endangering his
own life, but that of Suzanne's father, the old Comte de Tournay, and
of those other fugitives who were waiting for him and trusting in him.
There was also Armand, who had gone to meet de Tournay, secure in the
knowledge that the Scarlet Pimpernel was watching over his safety.
All these lives and that of her husband, lay in Marguerite's hands;
these she must save, if human pluck and ingenuity were equal to the task.
Unfortunately, she could not do all this quite alone. Once in
Calais she would not know where to find her husband, whilst Chauvelin,
in stealing the papers at Dover, had obtained the whole itinerary.
Above every thing, she wished to warn Percy.
She knew enough about him by now to understand that he would
never abandon those who trusted in him, that he would not turn his
back from danger, and leave the Comte de Tournay to fall into the
bloodthirsty hands that knew of no mercy. But if he were warned, he
might form new plans, be more wary, more prudent. Unconsciously, he
might fall into a cunning trap, but--once warned--he might yet succeed.
And if he failed--if indeed Fate, and Chauvelin, with all the
resources at his command, proved too strong for the daring plotter
after all--then at least she would be there by his side, to comfort,
love and cherish, to cheat death perhaps at the last by making it seem
sweet, if they died both together, locked in each other's arms, with
the supreme happiness of knowing that passion had responded to
passion, and that all misunderstandings were at an end.
Her whole body stiffened as with a great and firm resolution.
This she meant to do, if God gave her wits and strength. Her eyes
lost their fixed look; they glowed with inward fire at the thought of
meeting him again so soon, in the very midst of most deadly perils;
they sparkled with the joy of sharing these dangers with him--of
helping him perhaps--of being with him at the last--if she failed.
The childlike sweet face had become hard and set, the curved
mouth was closed tightly over her clenched teeth. She meant to do or
die, with him and for his sake. A frown, which spoke of an iron will
and unbending resolution, appeared between the two straight brows;
already her plans were formed. She would go and find Sir Andrew
Ffoulkes first; he was Percy's best friend, and Marguerite remembered,
with a thrill, with what blind enthusiasm the young man always spoke
of his mysterious leader.
He would help her where she needed help; her coach was ready.
A change of raiment, and a farewell to little Suzanne, and she could
be on her way.
Without haste, but without hesitation, she walked quietly
into the house.
CHAPTER XX THE FRIEND
Less than half an hour later, Marguerite, buried in thoughts,
sat inside her coach, which was bearing her swiftly to London.
She had taken an affectionate farewell of little Suzanne, and
seen the child safely started with her maid, and in her own coach,
back to town. She had sent one courier with a respectful letter of
excuse to His Royal Highness, begging for a postponement of the august
visit on account of pressing and urgent business, and another on ahead
to bespeak a fresh relay of horses at Faversham.
Then she had changed her muslin frock for a dark traveling
costume and mantle, had provided herself with money--which her
husband's lavishness always placed fully at her disposal--and had
started on her way.
She did not attempt to delude herself with any vain and futile
hopes; the safety of her brother Armand was to have been conditional
on the imminent capture of the Scarlet Pimpernel. As Chauvelin had
sent her back Armand's compromising letter, there was no doubt that he
was quite satisfied in his own mind that Percy Blakeney was the man
whose death he had sworn to bring about.
No! there was no room for any fond delusions! Percy, the
husband whom she loved with all the ardour which her admiration for
his bravery had kindled, was in immediate, deadly peril, through her
hand. She had betrayed him to his enemy--unwittingly `tis true--but
she HAD betrayed him, and if Chauvelin succeeded in trapping him,
who so far was unaware of his danger, then his death would be at her
door. His death! when with her very heart's blood, she would have
defended him and given willingly her life for his.
She had ordered her coach to drive her to the "Crown" inn;
once there, she told her coachman to give the horses food and rest.
Then she ordered a chair, and had herself carried to the house in Pall
Mall where Sir Andrew Ffoulkes lived.
Among all Percy's friends who were enrolled under his daring
banner, she felt that she would prefer to confide in Sir Andrew
Ffoulkes. He had always been her friend, and now his love for little
Suzanne had brought him closer to her still. Had he been away from
home, gone on the mad errand with Percy, perhaps, then she would have
called on Lord Hastings or Lord Tony--for she wanted the help of one
of these young men, or she would indeed be powerless to save her
Sir Andrew Ffoulkes, however, was at home, and his servant
introduced her ladyship immediately. She went upstairs to the young
man's comfortable bachelor's chambers, and was shown into a small,
though luxuriously furnished, dining-room. A moment or two later Sir
Andrew himself appeared.
He had evidently been much startled when he heard who his lady
visitor was, for he looked anxiously--even suspiciously--at
Marguerite, whilst performing the elaborate bows before her, which the
rigid etiquette of the time demanded.
Marguerite had laid aside every vestige of nervousness; she
was perfectly calm, and having returned the young man's elaborate
salute, she began very calmly,--
"Sir Andrew, I have no desire to waste valuable time in much
talk. You must take certain things I am going to tell you for
granted. These will be of no importance. What is important is that
your leader and comrade, the Scarlet Pimpernel. . .my husband. . .
Percy Blakeney. . .is in deadly peril."
Had she the remotest doubt of the correctness of her
deductions, she would have had them confirmed now, for Sir Andrew,
completely taken by surprise, had grown very pale, and was quite
incapable of making the slightest attempt at clever parrying.
"No matter how I know this, Sir Andrew," she continued
quietly, "thank God that I do, and that perhaps it is not too late to
save him. Unfortunately, I cannot do this quite alone, and therefore
have come to you for help."
"Lady Blakeney," said the young man, trying to recover himself, "I. . ."
"Will you hear me first?" she interrupted. "This is how the
matter stands. When the agent of the French Government stole your
papers that night in Dover, he found amongst them certain plans, which
you or your leader meant to carry out for the rescue of the Comte de
Tournay and others. The Scarlet Pimpernel--Percy, my husband--has
gone on this errand himself to-day. Chauvelin knows that the Scarlet
Pimpernel and Percy Blakeney are one and the same person. He will
follow him to Calais, and there will lay hands on him. You know as
well as I do the fate that awaits him at the hands of the
Revolutionary Government of France. No interference from
England--from King George himself--would save him. Robespierre and
his gang would see to it that the interference came too late. But not
only that, the much-trusted leader will also have been unconsciously
the means of revealing the hiding-place of the Comte de Tournay and of
all those who, even now, are placing their hopes in him."
She had spoken quietly, dispassionately, and with firm,
unbending resolution. Her purpose was to make that young man trust
and help her, for she could do nothing without him.
"I do not understand," he repeated, trying to gain time, to
think what was best to be done.
"Aye! but I think you do, Sir Andrew. You must know that I
am speaking the truth. Look these facts straight in the face. Percy
has sailed for Calais, I presume for some lonely part of the coast,
and Chauvelin is on his track. HE has posted for Dover, and will
cross the Channel probably to-night. What do you think will happen?"
The young man was silent.
"Percy will arrive at his destination: unconscious of being
followed he will seek out de Tournay and the others--among these is
Armand St. Just my brother--he will seek them out, one after another,
probably, not knowing that the sharpest eyes in the world are watching
his every movement. When he has thus unconsciously betrayed those who
blindly trust in him, when nothing can be gained from him, and he is
ready to come back to England, with those whom he has gone so bravely
to save, the doors of the trap will close upon him, and he will be
sent to end his noble life upon the guillotine."
Still Sir Andrew was silent.
"You do not trust me," she said passionately. "Oh God!
cannot you see that I am in deadly earnest? Man, man," she added,
while, with her tiny hands she seized the young man suddenly by the
shoulders, forcing him to look straight at her, "tell me, do I look
like that vilest thing on earth--a woman who would betray her own
"God forbid, Lady Blakeney," said the young man at last,
"that I should attribute such evil motives to you, but. . ."
"But what?. . .tell me. . .Quick, man!. . .the very seconds are precious!"
"Will you tell me," he asked resolutely, and looking
searchingly into her blue eyes, "whose hand helped to guide M.
Chauvelin to the knowledge which you say he possesses?"
"Mine," she said quietly, "I own it--I will not lie to you,
for I wish you to trust me absolutely. But I had no idea--how COULD
I have?--of the identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel. . .and my brother's
safety was to be my prize if I succeeded."
"In helping Chauvelin to track the Scarlet Pimpernel?"
"It is no use telling you how he forced my hand. Armand is
more than a brother to me, and. . .and. . .how COULD I guess?. . .
But we waste time, Sir Andrew. . .every second is precious. . .in the
name of God!. . .my husband is in peril. . .your friend!--your
comrade!--Help me to save him."
Sir Andrew felt his position to be a very awkward one. The
oath he had taken before his leader and comrade was one of obedience
and secrecy; and yet the beautiful woman, who was asking him to trust
her, was undoubtedly in earnest; his friend and leader was equally
undoubtedly in imminent danger and. . .
"Lady Blakeney," he said at last, "God knows you have
perplexed me, so that I do not know which way my duty lies. Tell me
what you wish me to do. There are nineteen of us ready to lay down
our lives for the Scarlet Pimpernel if he is in danger."
"There is no need for lives just now, my friend," she said
drily; "my wits and four swift horses will serve the necessary
purpose. But I must know where to find him. See," she added, while
her eyes filled with tears, "I have humbled myself before you, I have
owned my fault to you; shall I also confess my weakness?--My husband
and I have been estranged, because he did not trust me, and because I
was too blind to understand. You must confess that the bandage which
he put over my eyes was a very thick one. Is it small wonder that I
did not see through it? But last night, after I led him unwittingly
into such deadly peril, it suddenly fell from my eyes. If you will
not help me, Sir Andrew, I would still strive to save my husband. I
would still exert every faculty I possess for his sake; but I might be
powerless, for I might arrive too late, and nothing would be left for
you but lifelong remorse, and. . .and. . .for me, a broken heart."
"But, Lady Blakeney," said the young man, touched by the
gentle earnestness of this exquisitely beautiful woman, "do you know
that what you propose doing is man's work?--you cannot possibly
journey to Calais alone. You would be running the greatest possible
risks to yourself, and your chances of finding your husband now--where
I to direct you ever so carefully--are infinitely remote.
"Oh, I hope there are risks!" she murmured softly, "I hope
there are dangers, too!--I have so much to atone for. But I fear you
are mistaken. Chauvelin's eyes are fixed upon you all, he will scarce
notice me. Quick, Sir Andrew!--the coach is ready, and there is not a
moment to be lost. . . . I MUST get to him! I MUST!" she
repeated with almost savage energy, "to warn him that that man is on
his track. . . . Can't you see--can't you see, that I MUST get to
him. . .even. . .even if it be too late to save him. . .at least. . .
to be by his side. . .at the least."
"Faith, Madame, you must command me. Gladly would I or any of
my comrades lay down our lives for our husband. If you WILL go
yourself. . ."
"Nay, friend, do you not see that I would go mad if I let you go
without me." She stretched out her hand to him. "You WILL trust me?"
"I await your orders," he said simply.
"Listen, then. My coach is ready to take me to Dover. Do you
follow me, as swiftly as horses will take you. We meet at nightfall
at `The Fisherman's Rest.' Chauvelin would avoid it, as he is known
there, and I think it would be the safest. I will gladly accept your
escort to Calais. . .as you say, I might miss Sir Percy were you to
direct me ever so carefully. We'll charter a schooner at Dover and
cross over during the night. Disguised, if you will agree to it, as
my lacquey, you will, I think, escape detection."
"I am entirely at your service, Madame," rejoined the young
man earnestly. "I trust to God that you will sight the DAY DREAM
before we reach Calais. With Chauvelin at his heels, every step the
Scarlet Pimpernel takes on French soil is fraught with danger."
"God grant it, Sir Andrew. But now, farewell. We meet
to-night at Dover! It will be a race between Chauvelin and me across
the Channel to-night--and the prize--the life of the Scarlet
He kissed her hand, and then escorted her to her chair. A
quarter of an hour later she was back at the "Crown" inn, where her
coach and horses were ready and waiting for her. The next moment they
thundered along the London streets, and then straight on to the Dover
road at maddening speed.
She had no time for despair now. She was up and doing and had
no leisure to think. With Sir Andrew Ffoulkes as her companion and
ally, hope had once again revived in her heart.
God would be merciful. He would not allow so appalling a
crime to be committed, as the death of a brave man, through the hand
of a woman who loved him, and worshipped him, and who would gladly
have died for his sake.
Marguerite's thoughts flew back to him, the mysterious hero,
whom she had always unconsciously loved, when his identity was still
unknown to her. Laughingly, in the olden days, she used to call him
the shadowy king of her heart, and now she had suddenly found that
this enigmatic personality whom she had worshipped, and the man who
loved her so passionately, were one and the same: what wonder that one
or two happier Visions began to force their way before her mind? She
vaguely wondered what she would say to him when first they would stand
face to face.
She had had so many anxieties, so much excitement during the
past few hours, that she allowed herself the luxury of nursing these
few more hopeful, brighter thoughts. Gradually the rumble of the
coach wheels, with its incessant monotony, acted soothingly on her
nerves: her eyes, aching with fatigue and many shed and unshed tears,
closed involuntarily, and she fell into a troubled sleep.
CHAPTER XXI SUSPENSE
It was late into the night when she at last reached "The
Fisherman's Rest." She had done the whole journey in less than eight
hours, thanks to innumerable changes of horses at the various coaching
stations, for which she always paid lavishly, thus obtaining the very
best and swiftest that could be had.
Her coachman, too, had been indefatigible; the promise of
special and rich reward had no doubt helped to keep him up, and he had
literally burned the ground beneath his mistress' coach wheels.
The arrival of Lady Blakeney in the middle of the night caused
a considerable flutter at "The Fisherman's Rest." Sally jumped
hastily out of bed, and Mr. Jellyband was at great pains how to make
his important guest comfortable.
Both of these good folk were far too well drilled in the
manners appertaining to innkeepers, to exhibit the slightest surprise
at Lady Blakeney's arrival, alone, at this extraordinary hour. No
doubt they thought all the more, but Marguerite was far too absorbed
in the importance--the deadly earnestness--of her journey, to stop and
ponder over trifles of that sort.
The coffee-room--the scene lately of the dastardly outrage on
two English gentlemen--was quite deserted. Mr. Jellyband hastily
relit the lamp, rekindled a cheerful bit of fire in the great hearth,
and then wheeled a comfortable chair by it, into which Marguerite
"Will your ladyship stay the night?" asked pretty Miss Sally,
who was already busy laying a snow-white cloth on the table,
preparatory to providing a simple supper for her ladyship.
"No! not the whole night," replied Marguerite. "At any rate,
I shall not want any room but this, if I can have it to myself for an
hour or two."
"It is at your ladyship's service," said honest Jellyband,
whose rubicund face was set in its tightest folds, lest it should
betray before "the quality" that boundless astonishment which the very
worthy fellow had begun to feel.
"I shall be crossing over at the first turn of the tide," said
Marguerite, "and in the first schooner I can get. But my coachman and
men will stay the night, and probably several days longer, so I hope
you will make them comfortable."
"Yes, my lady; I'll look after them. Shall Sally bring your
ladyship some supper?"
"Yes, please. Put something cold on the table, and as soon as
Sir Andrew Ffoulkes comes, show him in here."
"Yes, my lady."
Honest Jellyband's face now expressed distress in spite of
himself. He had great regard for Sir Percy Blakeney, and did not like
to see his lady running away with young Sir Andrew. Of course, it was
no business of his, and Mr. Jellyband was no gossip. Still, in his
heart, he recollected that her ladyship was after all only one of them
"furriners"; what wonder that she was immoral like the rest of them?
"Don't sit up, honest Jellyband," continued Marguerite kindly,
"nor you either, Mistress Sally. Sir Andrew may be late."
Jellyband was only too willing that Sally should go to bed.
He was beginning not to like these goings-on at all. Still, Lady
Blakeney would pay handsomely for the accommodation, and it certainly
was no business of his.
Sally arranged a simple supper of cold meat, wine, and fruit
on the table, then with a respectful curtsey, she retired, wondering
in her little mind why her ladyship looked so serious, when she was
about to elope with her gallant.
Then commenced a period of weary waiting for Marguerite. She
knew that Sir Andrew--who would have to provide himself with clothes
befitting a lacquey--could not possibly reach Dover for at least a
couple of hours. He was a splendid horseman of course, and would make
light in such an emergency of the seventy odd miles between London and
Dover. He would, too, literally burn the ground beneath his horse's
hoofs, but he might not always get very good remounts, and in any
case, he could not have started from London until at least an hour
after she did.
She had seen nothing of Chauvelin on the road. Her coachman,
whom she questioned, had not seen anyone answering the description his
mistress gave him of the wizened figure of the little Frenchman.
Evidently, therefore, he had been ahead of her all the time.
She had not dared to question the people at the various inns, where
they had stopped to change horses. She feared that Chauvelin had
spies all along the route, who might overhear her questions, then
outdistance her and warn her enemy of her approach.
Now she wondered at what inn he might be stopping, or whether
he had had the good luck of chartering a vessel already, and was now
himself on the way to France. That thought gripped her at the heart
as with an iron vice. If indeed she should not be too late already!
The loneliness of the room overwhelmed her; everything within
was so horribly still; the ticking of the grandfather's
clock--dreadfully slow and measured--was the only sound which broke
this awful loneliness.
Marguerite had need of all her energy, all her steadfastness of
purpose, to keep up her courage through this weary midnight waiting.
Everyone else in the house but herself must have been asleep.
She had heard Sally go upstairs. Mr. Jellyband had gone to see to her
coachman and men, and then had returned and taken up a position under
the porch outside, just where Marguerite had first met Chauvelin about
a week ago. He evidently meant to wait up for Sir Andrew Ffoulkes,
but was soon overcome by sweet slumbers, for presently--in addition to
the slow ticking of the clock--Marguerite could hear the monotonous
and dulcet tones of the worthy fellow's breathing.
For some time now, she had realised that the beautiful warm
October's day, so happily begun, had turned into a rough and cold
night. She had felt very chilly, and was glad of the cheerful blaze
in the hearth: but gradually, as time wore on, the weather became more
rough, and the sound of the great breakers against the Admiralty Pier,
though some distance from the inn, came to her as the noise of muffled
The wind was becoming boisterous, rattling the leaded windows
and the massive doors of the old-fashioned house: it shook the trees
outside and roared down the vast chimney. Marguerite wondered if the
wind would be favourable for her journey. She had no fear of the
storm, and would have braved worse risks sooner than delay the
crossing by an hour.
A sudden commotion outside roused her from her meditations.
Evidently it was Sir Andrew Ffoulkes, just arrived in mad haste, for
she heard his horse's hoofs thundering on the flag-stones outside,
then Mr. Jellyband's sleepy, yet cheerful tones bidding him welcome.
For a moment, then, the awkwardness of her position struck
Marguerite; alone at this hour, in a place where she was well known,
and having made an assignation with a young cavalier equally well
known, and who arrived in disguise! What food for gossip to those
The idea struck Marguerite chiefly from its humorous side:
there was such quaint contrast between the seriousness of her errand,
and the construction which would naturally be put on her actions by
honest Mr. Jellyband, that, for the first time since many hours, a
little smile began playing round the corners of her childlike mouth,
and when, presently, Sir Andrew, almost unrecognisable in his
lacquey-like garb, entered the coffee-room, she was able to greet him
with quite a merry laugh.
"Faith! Monsieur, my lacquey," she said, "I am satisfied with
Mr. Jellyband had followed Sir Andrew, looking strangely
perplexed. The young gallant's disguise had confirmed his worst
suspicions. Without a smile upon his jovial face, he drew the cork
from the bottle of wine, set the chairs ready, and prepared to wait.
"Thanks, honest friend," said Marguerite, who was still
smiling at the thought of what the worthy fellow must be thinking at
that very moment, "we shall require nothing more; and here's for all
the trouble you have been put to on our account."
She handed two or three gold pieces to Jellyband, who took
them respectfully, and with becoming gratitude.
"Stay, Lady Blakeney," interposed Sir Andrew, as Jellyband was
about to retire, "I am afraid we shall require something more of my
friend Jelly's hospitality. I am sorry to say we cannot cross over
"Not cross over to-night?" she repeated in amazement. "But we
must, Sir Andrew, we must! There can be no question of cannot, and
whatever it may cost, we must get a vessel to-night."
But the young man shook his head sadly.
"I am afraid it is not a question of cost, Lady Blakeney.
There is a nasty storm blowing from France, the wind is dead against
us, we cannot possibly sail until it has changed."
Marguerite became deadly pale. She had not foreseen this.
Nature herself was playing her a horrible, cruel trick. Percy was in
danger, and she could not go to him, because the wind happened to blow
from the coast of France.
"But we must go!--we must!" she repeated with strange,
persistent energy, "you know, we must go!--can't you find a way?"
"I have been down to the shore already," he said, "and had a
talk to one or two skippers. It is quite impossible to set sail
to-night, so every sailor assured me. No one," he added, looking
significantly at Marguerite, "NO ONE could possibly put out of Dover
Marguerite at once understood what he meant. NO ONE
included Chauvelin as well as herself. She nodded pleasantly to
"Well, then, I must resign myself," she said to him. "Have
you a room for me?"
"Oh, yes, your ladyship. A nice, bright, airy room. I'll see
to it at once. . . . And there is another one for Sir Andrew--both
"That's brave now, mine honest Jelly," said Sir Andrew, gaily,
and clapping his worth host vigorously on the back. "You unlock both
those rooms, and leave our candles here on the dresser. I vow you are
dead with sleep, and her ladyship must have some supper before she
retires. There, have no fear, friend of the rueful countenance, her
ladyship's visit, though at this unusual hour, is a great honour to
thy house, and Sir Percy Blakeney will reward thee doubly, if thou
seest well to her privacy and comfort."
Sir Andrew had no doubt guessed the many conflicting doubts
and fears which raged in honest Jellyband's head; and, as he was a
gallant gentleman, he tried by this brave hint to allay some of the
worthy innkeeper's suspicions. He had the satisfaction of seeing that
he had partially succeeded. Jellyband's rubicund countenance
brightened somewhat, at the mention of Sir Percy's name.
"I'll go and see to it at once, sir," he said with alacrity,
and with less frigidity in his manner. "Has her ladyship everything
she wants for supper?"
"Everything, thanks, honest friend, and as I am famished and
dead with fatigue, I pray you see to the rooms."
"Now tell me," she said eagerly, as soon as Jellyband had gone
from the room, "tell me all your news."
"There is nothing else much to tell you, Lady Blakeney,"
replied the young man. "The storm makes it quite impossible for any
vessel to put out of Dover this tide. But, what seems to you at first
a terrible calamity is really a blessing in disguise. If we cannot
cross over to France to-night, Chauvelin is in the same quandary.
"He may have left before the storm broke out."
"God grant he may," said Sir Andrew, merrily, "for very likely
then he'll have been driven out of his course! Who knows? He may now
even be lying at the bottom of the sea, for there is a furious storm
raging, and it will fare ill with all small craft which happen to be
out. But I fear me we cannot build our hopes upon the shipwreck of
that cunning devil, and of all his murderous plans. The sailors I
spoke to, all assured me that no schooner had put out of Dover for
several hours: on the other hand, I ascertained that a stranger had
arrived by coach this afternoon, and had, like myself, made some
inquiries about crossing over to France.
"Then Chauvelin is still in Dover?"
"Undoubtedly. Shall I go waylay him and run my sword through him?
That were indeed the quickest way out of the difficulty."
"Nay! Sir Andrew, do not jest! Alas! I have often since last
night caught myself wishing for that fiend's death. But what you
suggest is impossible! The laws of this country do not permit of
murder! It is only in our beautiful France that wholesale slaughter
is done lawfully, in the name of Liberty and of brotherly love."
Sir Andrew had persuaded her to sit down to the table, to partake of
some supper and to drink a little wine. This enforced rest of at least
twelve hours, until the next tide, was sure to be terribly difficult to
bear in the state of intense excitement in which she was. Obedient in
these small matters like a child, Marguerite tried to eat and drink.
Sir Andrew, with that profound sympathy born in all those who
are in love, made her almost happy by talking to her about her
husband. He recounted to her some of the daring escapes the brave
Scarlet Pimpernel had contrived for the poor French fugitives, whom a
relentless and bloody revolution was driving out of their country. He
made her eyes glow with enthusiasm by telling her of his bravery, his
ingenuity, his resourcefulness, when it meant snatching the lives of
men, women, and even children from beneath the very edge of that
murderous, ever-ready guillotine.
He even made her smile quite merrily by telling her of the
Scarlet Pimpernel's quaint and many disguises, through which he had
baffled the strictest watch set against him at the barricades of
Paris. This last time, the escape of the Comtesse de Tournay and her
children had been a veritable masterpiece--Blakeney disguised as a
hideous old market-woman, in filthy cap and straggling grey locks, was
a sight fit to make the gods laugh.
Marguerite laughed heartily as Sir Andrew tried to describe
Blakeney's appearance, whose gravest difficulty always consisted in
his great height, which in France made disguise doubly difficult.
Thus an hour wore on. There were many more to spend in
enforced inactivity in Dover. Marguerite rose from the table with an
impatient sigh. She looked forward with dread to the night in the bed
upstairs, with terribly anxious thoughts to keep her company, and the
howling of the storm to help chase sleep away.
She wondered where Percy was now. The DAY DREAM was a strong,
well-built sea-going yacht. Sir Andrew had expressed the opinion
that no doubt she had got in the lee of the wind before the storm
broke out, or else perhaps had not ventured into the open at all,
but was lying quietly at Gravesend.
Briggs was an expert skipper, and Sir Percy handled a schooner as well
as any master mariner. There was no danger for them from the storm.
It was long past midnight when at last Marguerite retired to
rest. As she had feared, sleep sedulously avoided her eyes. Her
thoughts were of the blackest during these long, weary hours, whilst
that incessant storm raged which was keeping her away from Percy. The
sound of the distant breakers made her heart ache with melancholy.
She was in the mood when the sea has a saddening effect upon the
nerves. It is only when we are very happy, that we can bear to gaze
merrily upon the vast and limitless expanse of water, rolling on and
on with such persistent, irritating monotony, to the accompaniment of
our thoughts, whether grave or gay. When they are gay, the waves echo
their gaiety; but when they are sad, then every breaker, as it rolls,
seems to bring additional sadness, and to speak to us of hopelessness
and of the pettiness of all our joys.
CHAPTER XXII CALAIS
The weariest nights, the longest days, sooner or later must
perforce come to an end.
Marguerite had spent over fifteen hours in such acute mental
torture as well-nigh drove her crazy. After a sleepless night, she
rose early, wild with excitement, dying to start on her journey,
terrified lest further obstacles lay in her way. She rose before
anyone else in the house was astir, so frightened was she, lest she
should miss the one golden opportunity of making a start.
When she came downstairs, she found Sir Andrew Ffoulkes
sitting in the coffee-room. He had been out half an hour earlier, and
had gone to the Admiralty Pier, only to find that neither the French
packet nor any privately chartered vessel could put out of Dover yet.
The storm was then at its fullest, and the tide was on the turn. If
the wind did not abate or change, they would perforce have to wait
another ten or twelve hours until the next tide, before a start could
be made. And the storm had not abated, the wind had not changed, and
the tide was rapidly drawing out.
Marguerite felt the sickness of despair when she heard this
melancholy news. Only the most firm resolution kept her from totally
breaking down, and thus adding to the young man's anxiety, which
evidently had become very keen.
Though he tried to hide it, Marguerite could see that Sir
Andrew was just as anxious as she was to reach his comrade and friend.
This enforced inactivity was terrible to them both.
How they spend that wearisome day at Dover, Marguerite could
never afterwards say. She was in terror of showing herself, lest
Chauvelin's spies happened to be about, so she had a private
sitting-room, and she and Sir Andrew sat there hour after hour, trying
to take, at long intervals, some perfunctory meals, which little Sally
would bring them, with nothing to do but to think, to conjecture, and
only occasionally to hope.
The storm had abated just too late; the tide was by then too
far out to allow a vessel to put off to sea. The wind had changed,
and was settling down to a comfortable north-westerly breeze--a
veritable godsend for a speedy passage across to France.
And there those two waited, wondering if the hour would ever
come when they could finally make a start. There had been one happy
interval in this long weary day, and that was when Sir Andrew went
down once again to the pier, and presently came back to tell
Marguerite that he had chartered a quick schooner, whose skipper was
ready to put to sea the moment the tide was favourable.
From that moment the hours seemed less wearisome; there was
less hopelessness in the waiting; and at last, at five o'clock in the
afternoon, Marguerite, closely veiled and followed by Sir Andrew
Ffoulkes, who, in the guise of her lacquey, was carrying a number of
impedimenta, found her way down to the pier.
Once on board, the keen, fresh sea-air revived her, the breeze
was just strong enough to nicely swell the sails of the FOAM CREST,
as she cut her way merrily towards the open.
The sunset was glorious after the storm, and Marguerite, as
she watched the white cliffs of Dover gradually disappearing from
view, felt more at peace and once more almost hopeful.
Sir Andrew was full of kind attentions, and she felt how lucky
she had been to have him by her side in this, her great trouble.
Gradually the grey coast of France began to emerge from the
fast-gathering evening mists. One or two lights could be seen
flickering, and the spires of several churches to rise out of the
Half an hour later Marguerite had landed upon French shore.
She was back in that country where at this very moment men slaughtered
their fellow-creatures by the hundreds, and sent innocent women and
children in thousands to the block.
The very aspect of the country and its people, even in this
remote sea-coast town, spoke of that seething revolution, three
hundred miles away, in beautiful Paris, now rendered hideous by the
constant flow of the blood of her noblest sons, by the wailing of the
widows, and the cries of fatherless children.
The men all wore red caps--in various stages of
cleanliness--but all with the tricolor cockade pinned on the
left-side. Marguerite noticed with a shudder that, instead of the
laughing, merry countenance habitual to her own countrymen, their
faces now invariably wore a look of sly distrust.
Every man nowadays was a spy upon his fellows: the most
innocent word uttered in jest might at any time be brought up as a
proof of aristocratic tendencies, or of treachery against the people.
Even the women went about with a curious look of fear and of hate
lurking in their brown eyes; and all watched Marguerite as she stepped
on shore, followed by Sir Andrew, and murmured as she passed along:
"SACRES ARISTOS!" or else "SACRES ANGLAIS!"
Otherwise their presence excited no further comment. Calais,
even in those days, was in constant business communication with
England, and English merchants were often seen on this coast. It was
well known that in view of the heavy duties in England, a vast deal of
French wines and brandies were smuggled across. This pleased the
French BOURGEOIS immensely; he liked to see the English Government
and the English king, both of whom he hated, cheated out of their
revenues; and an English smuggler was always a welcome guest at the
tumble-down taverns of Calais and Boulogne.
So, perhaps, as Sir Andrew gradually directed Marguerite
through the tortuous streets of Calais, many of the population, who
turned with an oath to look at the strangers clad in English fashion,
thought that they were bent on purchasing dutiable articles for their
own fog-ridden country, and gave them no more than a passing thought.
Marguerite, however, wondered how her husband's tall, massive
figure could have passed through Calais unobserved: she marvelled what
disguise he assumed to do his noble work, without exciting too much
Without exchanging more than a few words, Sir Andrew was
leading her right across the town, to the other side from that where
they had landed, and the way towards Cap Gris Nez. The streets were
narrow, tortuous, and mostly evil-smelling, with a mixture of stale
fish and damp cellar odours. There had been heavy rain here during
the storm last night, and sometimes Marguerite sank ankle-deep in the
mud, for the roads were not lighted save by the occasional glimmer
from a lamp inside a house.
But she did not heed any of these petty discomforts: "We may
meet Blakeney at the `Chat Gris,'" Sir Andrew had said, when they
landed, and she was walking as if on a carpet of rose-leaves, for she
was going to meet him almost at once.
At last they reached their destination. Sir Andrew evidently
knew the road, for he had walked unerringly in the dark, and had not
asked his way from anyone. It was too dark then for Marguerite to
notice the outside aspect of this house. The "Chat Gris," as Sir
Andrew had called it, was evidently a small wayside inn on the outskirts
of Calais, and on the way to Gris Nez. It lay some little distance
from the coast, for the sound of the sea seemed to come from afar.
Sir Andrew knocked at the door with the knob of his cane, and
from within Marguerite heard a sort of grunt and the muttering of a
number of oaths. Sir Andrew knocked again, this time more
peremptorily: more oaths were heard, and then shuffling steps seemed
to draw near the door. Presently this was thrown open, and Marguerite
found herself on the threshold of the most dilapidated, most squalid
room she had ever seen in all her life.
The paper, such as it was, was hanging from the walls in
strips; there did not seem to be a single piece of furniture in the
room that could, by the wildest stretch of imagination, be called
"whole." Most of the chairs had broken backs, others had no seats to
them, one corner of the table was propped up with a bundle of faggots,
there where the fourth leg had been broken.
In one corner of the room there was a huge hearth, over which
hung a stock-pot, with a not altogether unpalatable odour of hot soup
emanating therefrom. On one side of the room, high up in the wall,
there was a species of loft, before which hung a tattered blue-and-white
checked curtain. A rickety set of steps led up to this loft.
On the great bare walls, with their colourless paper, all
stained with varied filth, there were chalked up at intervals in great
bold characters, the words: "Liberte--Egalite--Fraternite."
The whole of this sordid abode was dimly lighted by an
evil-smelling oil-lamp, which hung from the rickety rafters of the
ceiling. It all looked so horribly squalid, so dirty and uninviting,
that Marguerite hardly dared to cross the threshold.
Sir Andrew, however, had stepped unhesitatingly forward.
"English travellers, citoyen!" he said boldly, and speaking in French.
The individual who had come to the door in response to Sir
Andrew's knock, and who, presumably, was the owner of this squalid
abode, was an elderly, heavily built peasant, dressed in a dirty blue
blouse, heavy sabots, from which wisps of straw protruded all round,
shabby blue trousers, and the inevitable red cap with the tricolour
cockade, that proclaimed his momentary political views. He carried a
short wooden pipe, from which the odour of rank tobacco emanated. He
looked with some suspicion and a great deal of contempt at the two
travellers, muttering "SACRRRES ANGLAIS!" and spat upon the ground
to further show his independence of spirit, but, nevertheless, he
stood aside to let them enter, no doubt well aware that these same
SACCRES ANGLAIS always had well-filled purses.
"Oh, lud!" said Marguerite, as she advanced into the room,
holding her handkerchief to her dainty nose, "what a dreadful hole!
Are you sure this is the place?"
"Aye! `this the place, sure enough," replied the young man
as, with his lace-edged, fashionable handkerchief, he dusted a chair
for Marguerite to sit on; "but I vow I never saw a more villainous
"Faith!" she said, looking round with some curiosity and a
great deal of horror at the dilapidated walls, the broken chairs, the
rickety table, "it certainly does not look inviting."
The landlord of the "Chat Gris"--by name, Brogard--had taken
no further notice of his guests; he concluded that presently they
would order supper, and in the meanwhile it was not for a free citizen
to show deference, or even courtesy, to anyone, however smartly they
might be dressed.
By the hearth sat a huddled-up figure clad, seemingly, mostly
in rags: that figure was apparently a woman, although even that would
have been hard to distinguish, except for the cap, which had once been
white, and for what looked like the semblance of a petticoat. She was
sitting mumbling to herself, and from time to time stirring the brew
in her stock-pot.
"Hey, my friend!" said Sir Andrew at last, "we should like
some supper. . . . The citoyenne there," he added, "is concocting
some delicious soup, I'll warrant, and my mistress has not tasted food
for several hours.
It took Brogard some few minutes to consider the question. A
free citizen does not respond too readily to the wishes of those who
happen to require something of him.
"SACRRRES ARISTOS!" he murmured, and once more spat upon the
Then he went very slowly up to a dresser which stood in a
corner of the room; from this he took an old pewter soup-tureen and
slowly, and without a word, he handed it to his better-half, who, in
the same silence, began filling the tureen with the soup out of her
Marguerite had watched all these preparations with absolute
horror; were it not for the earnestness of her purpose, she would
incontinently have fled from this abode of dirt and evil smells.
"Faith! our host and hostess are not cheerful people," said
Sir Andrew, seeing the look of horror on Marguerite's face. "I would
I could offer you a more hearty and more appetising meal. . .but I
think you will find the soup eatable and the wine good; these people
wallow in dirt, but live well as a rule."
"Nay! I pray you, Sir Andrew," she said gently, "be not anxious
about me. My mind is scarce inclined to dwell on thoughts of supper."
Brogard was slowly pursuing his gruesome preparations; he had
placed a couple of spoons, also two glasses on the table, both of
which Sir Andrew took the precaution of wiping carefully.
Brogard had also produced a bottle of wine and some bread, and
Marguerite made an effort to draw her chair to the table and to make
some pretence at eating. Sir Andrew, as befitting his ROLE of
lacquey, stood behind her chair.
"Nay, Madame, I pray you," he said, seeing that Marguerite
seemed quite unable to eat, "I beg of you to try and swallow some
food--remember you have need of all your strength."
The soup certainly was not bad; it smelt and tasted good.
Marguerite might have enjoyed it, but for the horrible surroundings.
She broke the bread, however, and drank some of the wine.
"Nay, Sir Andrew," she said, "I do not like to see you
standing. You have need of food just as much as I have. This
creature will only think that I am an eccentric Englishwoman eloping
with her lacquey, if you'll sit down and partake of this semblance of
supper beside me."
Indeed, Brogard having placed what was strictly necessary upon
the table, seemed not to trouble himself any further about his guests.
The Mere Brogard had quietly shuffled out of the room, and the man
stood and lounged about, smoking his evil-smelling pipe, sometimes
under Marguerite's very nose, as any free-born citizen who was
anybody's equal should do.
"Confound the brute!" said Sir Andrew, with native British
wrath, as Brogard leant up against the table, smoking and looking down
superciliously at these two SACRRRES ANGLAIS.
"In Heaven's name, man," admonished Marguerite, hurriedly,
seeing that Sir Andrew, with British-born instinct, was ominously
clenching his fist, "remember that you are in France, and that in this
year of grace this is the temper of the people."
"I'd like to scrag the brute!" muttered Sir Andrew, savagely.
He had taken Marguerite's advice and sat next to her at table,
and they were both making noble efforts to deceive one another, by
pretending to eat and drink.
"I pray you," said Marguerite, "keep the creature in a good
temper, so that he may answer the questions we must put to him."
"I'll do my best, but, begad! I'd sooner scrag him than
question him. Hey! my friend," he said pleasantly in French, and
tapping Brogard lightly on the shoulder, "do you see many of our
quality along these parts? Many English travellers, I mean?"
Brogard looked round at him, over his near shoulder, puffed
away at his pipe for a moment or two as he was in no hurry, then
"Ah!" said Sir Andrew, carelessly, "English travellers always
know where they can get good wine, eh! my friend?--Now, tell me, my
lady was desiring to know if by any chance you happen to have seen a
great friend of hers, an English gentleman, who often comes to Calais
on business; he is tall, and recently was on his way to Paris--my lady
hoped to have met him in Calais."
Marguerite tried not to look at Brogard, lest she should
betray before him the burning anxiety with which she waited for his
reply. But a free-born French citizen is never in any hurry to answer
questions: Brogard took his time, then he said very slowly,--
"Yes, to-day," muttered Brogard, sullenly. Then he quietly
took Sir Andrew's hat from a chair close by, put it on his own head,
tugged at his dirty blouse, and generally tried to express in
pantomime that the individual in question wore very fine clothes.
"SACRRE ARISTO!" he muttered, "that tall Englishman!"
Marguerite could scarce repress a scream.
"It's Sir Percy right enough," she murmured, "and not even in disguise!"
She smiled, in the midst of all her anxiety and through her
gathering tears, at the thought of "the ruling passion strong in
death"; of Percy running into the wildest, maddest dangers, with the
latest-cut coat upon his back, and the laces of his jabot unruffled.
"Oh! the foolhardiness of it!" she sighed. "Quick, Sir Andrew!
ask the man when he went."
"Ah yes, my friend," said Sir Andrew, addressing Brogard, with
the same assumption of carelessness, "my lord always wears beautiful
clothes; the tall Englishman you saw, was certainly my lady's friend.
And he has gone, you say?"
"He went. . .yes. . .but he's coming back. . .here--he ordered supper. . ."
Sir Andrew put his hand with a quick gesture of warning upon
Marguerite's arm; it came none too sone, for the next moment her wild,
mad joy would have betrayed her. He was safe and well, was coming
back here presently, she would see him in a few moments perhaps. . . .
Oh! the wildness of her joy seemed almost more than she could bear.
"Here!" she said to Brogard, who seemed suddenly to have been
transformed in her eyes into some heavenborn messenger of bliss.
"Here!--did you say the English gentleman was coming back here?"
The heaven-born messenger of bliss spat upon the floor, to
express his contempt for all and sundry ARISTOS, who chose to haunt
the "Chat Gris."
"Heu!" he muttered, "he ordered supper--he will come back. . .
SACRRE ANGLAIS!" he added, by way of protest against all this fuss
for a mere Englishman.
"But where is he now?--Do you know?" she asked eagerly,
placing her dainty white hand upon the dirty sleeve of his blue
"He went to get a horse and cart," said Brogard, laconically,
as with a surly gesture, he shook off from his arm that pretty hand
which princes had been proud to kiss.
"At what time did he go?"
But Brogard had evidently had enough of these questionings.
He did not think that it was fitting for a citizen--who was the equal
of anybody--to be thus catechised by these SACRRES ARISTOS, even
though they were rich English ones. It was distinctly more fitting to
his newborn dignity to be as rude as possible; it was a sure sign of
servility to meekly reply to civil questions.
"I don't know," he said surlily. "I have said enough,
VOYONS, LES ARISTOS!. . .He came to-day. He ordered supper. He
went out.--He'll come back. VOILA!"
And with this parting assertion of his rights as a citizen and
a free man, to be as rude as he well pleased, Brogard shuffled out of
the room, banging the door after him.
CHAPTER XXIII HOPE
"Faith, Madame!" said Sir Andrew, seeing that Marguerite
seemed desirous to call her surly host back again, "I think we'd
better leave him alone. We shall not get anything more out of him,
and we might arouse his suspicions. One never knows what spies may be
lurking around these God-forsaken places."
"What care I?" she replied lightly, "now I know that my
husband is safe, and that I shall see him almost directly!"
"Hush!" he said in genuine alarm, for she had talked quite
loudly, in the fulness of her glee, "the very walls have ears in
France, these days."
He rose quickly from the table, and walked round the bare,
squalid room, listening attentively at the door, through which Brogard
has just disappeared, and whence only muttered oaths and shuffling
footsteps could be heard. He also ran up the rickety steps that led
to the attic, to assure himself that there were no spies of
Chauvelin's about the place.
"Are we alone, Monsieur, my lacquey?" said Marguerite, gaily,
as the young man once more sat down beside her. "May we talk?"
"As cautiously as possible!" he entreated.
"Faith, man! but you wear a glum face! As for me, I could
dance with joy! Surely there is no longer any cause for fear. Our
boat is on the beach, the FOAM CREST not two miles out at sea, and
my husband will be here, under this very roof, within the next half
hour perhaps. Sure! there is naught to hinder us. Chauvelin and his
gang have not yet arrived."
"Nay, madam! that I fear we do not know."
"What do you mean?"
"He was at Dover at the same time that we were."
"Held up by the same storm, which kept us from starting."
"Exactly. But--I did not speak of it before, for I feared to
alarm you--I saw him on the beach not five minutes before we embarked.
At least, I swore to myself at the time that it was himself; he was
disguised as a CURE, so that Satan, his own guardian, would scarce
have known him. But I heard him then, bargaining for a vessel to take
him swiftly to Calais; and he must have set sail less than an hour
after we did."
Marguerite's face had quickly lost its look of joy. The
terrible danger in which Percy stood, now that he was actually on
French soil, became suddenly and horribly clear to her. Chauvelin was
close upon his heels; here in Calais, the astute diplomatist was
all-powerful; a word from him and Percy could be tracked and arrested
and. . .
Every drop of blood seemed to freeze in her veins; not even
during the moments of her wildest anguish in England had she so
completely realised the imminence of the peril in which her husband
stood. Chauvelin had sworn to bring the Scarlet Pimpernel to the
guillotine, and now the daring plotter, whose anonymity hitherto had
been his safeguard, stood revealed through her own hand, to his most
bitter, most relentless enemy.
Chauvelin--when he waylaid Lord Tony and Sir Andrew Ffoulkes
in the coffee-room of "The Fisherman's Rest"--had obtained possession
of all the plans of this latest expedition. Armand St. Just, the
Comte de Tournay and other fugitive royalists were to have met the
Scarlet Pimpernel--or rather, as it had been originally arranged, two
of his emissaries--on this day, the 2nd of October, at a place
evidently known to the league, and vaguely alluded to as the "Pere
Armand, whose connection with the Scarlet Pimpernel and disavowal
of the brutal policy of the Reign of Terror was still unknown to
his countryman, had left England a little more than a week ago,
carrying with him the necessary instructions, which would enable him
to meet the other fugitives and to convey them to this place of safety.
This much Marguerite had fully understood from the first, and
Sir Andrew Ffoulkes had confirmed her surmises. She knew, too, that
when Sir Percy realized that his own plans and his directions to his
lieutenants had been stolen by Chauvelin, it was too late to communicate
with Armand, or to send fresh instructions to the fugitives.
They would, of necessity, be at the appointed time and place, not knowing
how grave was the danger which now awaited their brave rescuer.
Blakeney, who as usual had planned and organized the whole
expedition, would not allow any of his younger comrades to run the
risk of almost certain capture. Hence his hurried note to them at
Lord Grenville's ball--"Start myself to-morrow--alone."
And now with his identity known to his most bitter enemy, his
every step would be dogged, the moment he set foot in France. He
would be tracked by Chauvelin's emissaries, followed until he reached
that mysterious hut where the fugitives were waiting for him, and
there the trap would be closed on him and on them.
There was but one hour--the hour's start which Marguerite and
Sir Andrew had of their enemy--in which to warn Percy of the imminence
of his danger, and to persuade him to give up the foolhardy
expedition, which could only end in his own death.
But there WAS that one hour.
"Chauvelin knows of this inn, from the papers he stole," said
Sir Andrew, earnestly, "and on landing will make straight for it."
"He has not landed yet," she said, "we have an hour's start on
him, and Percy will be here directly. We shall be mid-Channel ere
Chauvelin has realised that we have slipped through his fingers.
She spoke excitedly and eagerly, wishing to infuse into her
young friend some of that buoyant hope which still clung to her heart.
But he shook his head sadly.
"Silent again, Sir Andrew?" she said with some impatience.
"Why do you shake your head and look so glum?"
"Faith, Madame," he replied, "`tis only because in making your
rose-coloured plans, you are forgetting the most important factor."
"What in the world do you mean?--I am forgetting nothing. . . .
What factor do you mean?" she added with more impatience.
"It stands six foot odd high," replied Sir Andrew, quietly,
"and hath name Percy Blakeney."
"I don't understand," she murmured.
"Do you think that Blakeney would leave Calais without having
accomplished what he set out to do?"
"You mean. . .?"
"There's the old Comte de Tournay. . ."
"The Comte. . .?" she murmured.
"And St. Just. . .and others. . ."
"My brother!" she said with a heart-broken sob of anguish.
"Heaven help me, but I fear I had forgotten."
"Fugitives as they are, these men at this moment await with
perfect confidence and unshaken faith the arrival of the Scarlet
Pimpernel, who has pledged his honour to take them safely across the
Indeed, she had forgotten! With the sublime selfishness of a
woman who loves with her whole heart, she had in the last twenty-four
hours had no thought save for him. His precious, noble life, his
danger--he, the loved one, the brave hero, he alone dwelt in her mind.
"My brother!" she murmured, as one by one the heavy tears
gathered in her eyes, as memory came back to her of Armand, the
companion and darling of her childhood, the man for whom she had
committed the deadly sin, which had so hopelessly imperilled her brave
"Sir Percy Blakeney would not be the trusted, honoured leader
of a score of English gentlemen," said Sir Andrew, proudly, "if he
abandoned those who placed their trust in him. As for breaking his
word, the very thought is preposterous!"
There was silence for a moment or two. Marguerite had buried
her face in her hands, and was letting the tears slowly trickle
through her trembling fingers. The young man said nothing; his heart
ached for this beautiful woman in her awful grief. All along he had
felt the terrible IMPASSE in which her own rash act had plunged them
all. He knew his friend and leader so well, with his reckless daring,
his mad bravery, his worship of his own word of honour. Sir Andrew
knew that Blakeney would brave any danger, run the wildest risks
sooner than break it, and with Chauvelin at his very heels, would make
a final attempt, however desperate, to rescue those who trusted in him.
"Faith, Sir Andrew," said Marguerite at last, making brave
efforts to dry her tears, "you are right, and I would not now shame
myself by trying to dissuade him from doing his duty. As you say, I
should plead in vain. God grant him strength and ability," she added
fervently and resolutely, "to outwit his pursuers. He will not refuse
to take you with him, perhaps, when he starts on his noble work;
between you, you will have cunning as well as valour! God guard you
both! In the meanwhile I think we should lose no time. I still believe
that his safety depends upon his knowing that Chauvelin is on his track."
"Undoubtedly. He has wonderful resources at his command. As
soon as he is aware of his danger he will exercise more caution: his
ingenuity is a veritable miracle."
"Then, what say you to a voyage of reconnaissance in the
village whilst I wait here against his coming!--You might come across
Percy's track and thus save valuable time. If you find him, tell him
to beware!--his bitterest enemy is on his heels!"
"But this is such a villainous hole for you to wait in."
"Nay, that I do not mind!--But you might ask our surly host if
he could let me wait in another room, where I could be safer from the
prying eyes of any chance traveller. Offer him some ready money, so
that he should not fail to give me word the moment the tall Englishman
She spike quite calmly, even cheerfully now, thinking out her
plans, ready for the worst if need be; she would show no more
weakness, she would prove herself worthy of him, who was about to give
his life for the sake of his fellow-men.
Sir Andrew obeyed her without further comment. Instinctively
he felt that hers now was the stronger mind; he was willing to give
himself over to her guidance, to become the hand, whilst she was the
He went to the door of the inner room, through which Brogard
and his wife had disappeared before, and knocked; as usual, he was
answered by a salvo of muttered oaths.
"Hey! friend Brogard!" said the man peremptorily, "my lady friend
would wish to rest here awhile. Could you give her the use of
another room? She would wish to be alone."
He took some money out of his pocket, and allowed it to jingle
significantly in his hand. Brogard had opened the door, and listened,
with his usual surly apathy, to the young man's request. At the sight
of the gold, however, his lazy attitude relaxed slightly; he took his
pipe from his mouth and shuffled into the room.
He then pointed over his shoulder at the attic up in the wall.
"She can wait up there!" he said with a grunt. "It's comfortable,
and I have no other room."
"Nothing could be better," said Marguerite in English; she at
once realised the advantages such a position hidden from view would
give her. "Give him the money, Sir Andrew; I shall be quite happy up
there, and can see everything without being seen."
She nodded to Brogard, who condescended to go up to the attic,
and to shake up the straw that lay on the floor.
"May I entreat you, madam, to do nothing rash," said Sir
Andrew, as Marguerite prepared in her turn to ascend the rickety
flight of steps. "Remember this place is infested with spies. Do
not, I beg of you, reveal yourself to Sir Percy, unless you are
absolutely certain that you are alone with him."
Even as he spoke, he felt how unnecessary was this caution:
Marguerite was as calm, as clear-headed as any man. There was no fear
of her doing anything that was rash.
"Nay," she said with a slight attempt at cheerfulness, "that I
can faithfully promise you. I would not jeopardise my husband's life,
nor yet his plans, by speaking to him before strangers. Have no fear,
I will watch my opportunity, and serve him in the manner I think he
needs it most."
Brogard had come down the steps again, and Marguerite was
ready to go up to her safe retreat.
"I dare not kiss your hand, madam," said Sir Andrew, as she
began to mount the steps, "since I am your lacquey, but I pray you be
of good cheer. If I do not come across Blakeney in half an hour, I
shall return, expecting to find him here."
"Yes, that will be best. We can afford to wait for half an
hour. Chauvelin cannot possibly be here before that. God grant that
either you or I may have seen Percy by then. Good luck to you,
friend! Have no fear for me."
Lightly she mounted the rickety wooden steps that led to the
attic. Brogard was taking no further heed of her. She could make
herself comfortable there or not as she chose. Sir Andrew watched her
until she had reached the curtains across, and the young man noted
that she was singularly well placed there, for seeing and hearing,
whilst remaining unobserved.
He had paid Brogard well; the surly old innkeeper would have no object
in betraying her. Then Sir Andrew prepared to go. At the door he
turned once again and looked up at the loft. Through the ragged
curtains Marguerite's sweet face was peeping down at him, and the
young man rejoiced to see that it looked serene, and even gently smiling.
With a final nod of farewell to her, he walked out into the night.
CHAPTER XXIV THE DEATH-TRAP
The next quarter of an hour went by swiftly and noiselessly.
In the room downstairs, Brogard had for a while busied himself with
clearing the table, and re-arranging it for another guest.
It was because she watched these preparations that Marguerite
found the time slipping by more pleasantly. It was for Percy that
this semblance of supper was being got ready. Evidently Brogard had a
certain amount of respect for the tall Englishman, as he seemed to
take some trouble in making the place look a trifle less uninviting
than it had done before.
He even produced, from some hidden recess in the old dresser,
what actually looked like a table-cloth; and when he spread it out,
and saw it was full of holes, he shook his head dubiously for a while,
then was at much pains so to spread it over the table as to hide most
of its blemishes.
Then he got out a serviette, also old and ragged, but
possessing some measure of cleanliness, and with this he carefully
wiped the glasses, spoons and plates, which he put on the table.
Marguerite could not help smiling to herself as she watched
all these preparations, which Brogard accomplished to an accompaniment
of muttered oaths. Clearly the great height and bulk of the
Englishman, or perhaps the weight of his fist, had overawed this
free-born citizen of France, or he would never have been at such
trouble for any SACRRE ARISTO.
When the table was set--such as it was--Brogard surveyed it
with evident satisfaction. He then dusted one of the chairs with the
corner of his blouse, gave a stir to the stock-pot, threw a fresh
bundle of faggots on to the fire, and slouched out of the room.
Marguerite was left alone with her reflections. She had
spread her travelling cloak over the straw, and was sitting fairly
comfortably, as the straw was fresh, and the evil odours from below
came up to her only in a modified form.
But, momentarily, she was almost happy; happy because, when
she peeped through the tattered curtains, she could see a rickety
chair, a torn table-cloth, a glass, a plate and a spoon; that was all.
But those mute and ugly things seemed to say to her that they were
waiting for Percy; that soon, very soon, he would be here, that the
squalid room being still empty, they would be alone together.
That thought was so heavenly, that Marguerite closed her eyes
in order to shut out everything but that. In a few minutes she would
be alone with him; she would run down the ladder, and let him see her;
then he would take her in his arms, and she would let him see that,
after that, she would gladly die for him, and with him, for earth
could hold no greater happiness than that.
And then what would happen? She could not even remotely
conjecture. She knew, of course, that Sir Andrew was right, that
Percy would do everything he had set out to accomplish; that she--now
she was here--could do nothing, beyond warning him to be cautious,
since Chauvelin himself was on his track. After having cautioned him,
she would perforce have to see him go off upon the terrible and daring
mission; she could not even with a word or look, attempt to keep him
back. She would have to obey, whatever he told her to do, even
perhaps have to efface herself, and wait, in indescribable agony,
whilst he, perhaps, went to his death.
But even that seemed less terrible to bear than the thought
that he should never know how much she loved him--that at any rate
would be spared her; the squalid room itself, which seemed to be
waiting for him, told her that he would be here soon.
Suddenly her over-sensitive ears caught the sound of distant
footsteps drawing near; her heart gave a wild leap of joy! Was it
Percy at last? No! the step did not seem quite as long, nor quite as
firm as his; she also thought that she could hear two distinct sets of
footsteps. Yes! that was it! two men were coming this way.
Two strangers perhaps, to get a drink, or. . .
But she had not time to conjecture, for presently there was a
peremptory call at the door, and the next moment it was violently open
from the outside, whilst a rough, commanding voice shouted,--
"Hey! Citoyen Brogard! Hola!"
Marguerite could not see the newcomers, but, through a hole in
one of the curtains, she could observe one portion of the room below.
She heard Brogard's shuffling footsteps, as he came out of the
inner room, muttering his usual string of oaths. On seeing the
strangers, however, he paused in the middle of the room, well within
range of Marguerite's vision, looked at them, with even more withering
contempt than he had bestowed upon his former guests, and muttered,
Marguerite's heart seemed all at once to stop beating; her
eyes, large and dilated, had fastened on one of the newcomers, who, at
this point, had taken a quick step forward towards Brogard. He was
dressed in the soutane, broad-brimmed hat and buckled shoes habitual
to the French CURE, but as he stood opposite the innkeeper, he threw
open his soutane for a moment, displaying the tri-colour scarf of
officialism, which sight immediately had the effect of transforming
Brogard's attitude of contempt, into one of cringing obsequiousness.
It was the sight of this French CURE, which seemed to freeze the very
blood in Marguerite's veins. She could not see his face, which was
shaded by his broad-brimmed hat, but she recognized the thin, bony hands,
the slight stoop, the whole gait of the man! It was Chauvelin!
The horror of the situation struck her as with a physical
blow; the awful disappointment, the dread of what was to come, made
her very senses reel, and she needed almost superhuman effort, not to
fall senseless beneath it all.
"A plate of soup and a bottle of wine," said Chauvelin imperiously
to Brogard, "then clear out of here--understand? I want to be alone."
Silently, and without any muttering this time, Brogard obeyed.
Chauvelin sat down at the table, which had been prepared for the tall
Englishman, and the innkeeper busied himself obsequiously round him,
dishing up the soup and pouring out the wine. The man who had entered
with Chauvelin and whom Marguerite could not see, stood waiting close
by the door.
At a brusque sign from Chauvelin, Brogard had hurried back to
the inner room, and the former now beckoned to the man who had
In him Marguerite at once recognised Desgas, Chauvelin's
secretary and confidential factotum, whom she had often seen in Paris,
in days gone by. He crossed the room, and for a moment or two
listened attentively at the Brogards' door.
"Not listening?" asked Chauvelin, curtly.
For a moment Marguerite dreaded lest Chauvelin should order
Desgas to search the place; what would happen if she were to be
discovered, she hardly dared to imagine. Fortunately, however,
Chauvelin seemed more impatient to talk to his secretary than afraid
of spies, for he called Desgas quickly back to his side.
"The English schooner?" he asked.
"She was lost sight of at sundown, citoyen," replied Desgas,
"but was then making west, towards Cap Gris Nez."
"Ah!--good!--" muttered Chauvelin, "and now, about Captain
Jutley?--what did he say?"
"He assured me that all the orders you sent him last week have
been implicitly obeyed. All the roads which converge to this place
have been patrolled night and day ever since: and the beach and cliffs
have been most rigorously searched and guarded."
"Does he know where this `Pere Blanchard's' hut is?"
"No, citoyen, nobody seems to know of it by that name. There
are any amount of fisherman's huts all along the course. . .but. . ."
"That'll do. Now about tonight?" interrupted Chauvelin,
"The roads and the beach are patrolled as usual, citoyen, and
Captain Jutley awaits further orders."
"Go back to him at once, then. Tell him to send
reinforcements to the various patrols; and especially to those along
the beach--you understand?"
Chauvelin spoke curtly and to the point, and every word he
uttered struck at Marguerite's heart like the death-knell of her
"The men," he continued, "are to keep the sharpest possible
look-out for any stranger who may be walking, riding, or driving,
along the road or the beach, more especially for a tall stranger, whom
I need not describe further, as probably he will be disguised; but he
cannot very well conceal his height, except by stooping. You understand?"
"Perfectly, citoyen," replied Desgas.
"As soon as any of the men have sighted a stranger, two of
them are to keep him in view. The man who loses sight of the tall
stranger, after he is once seen, will pay for his negligence with his
life; but one man is to ride straight back here and report to me. Is
"Absolutely clear, citoyen."
"Very well, then. Go and see Jutley at once. See the
reinforcements start off for the patrol duty, then ask the captain to
let you have a half-a-dozen more men and bring them here with you.
You can be back in ten minutes. Go--"
Desgas saluted and went to the door.
As Marguerite, sick with horror, listened to Chauvelin's
directions to his underling, the whole of the plan for the capture of
the Scarlet Pimpernel became appallingly clear to her. Chauvelin
wished that the fugitives should be left in false security waiting in
their hidden retreat until Percy joined them. Then the daring plotter
was to be surrounded and caught red-handed, in the very act of aiding
and abetting royalists, who were traitors to the republic. Thus, if
his capture were noised abroad, even the British Government could not
legally protest in his favour; having plotted with the enemies of the
French Government, France had the right to put him to death.
Escape for him and them would be impossible. All the roads
patrolled and watched, the trap well set, the net, wide at present,
but drawing together tighter and tighter, until it closed upon the
daring plotter, whose superhuman cunning even could not rescue him
from its meshes now.
Desgas was about to go, but Chauvelin once more called him
back. Marguerite vaguely wondered what further devilish plans he
could have formed, in order to entrap one brave man, alone, against
two-score of others. She looked at him as he turned to speak to
Desgas; she could just see his face beneath the broad-brimmed,
CURES'S hat. There was at that moment so much deadly hatred, such
fiendish malice in the thin face and pale, small eyes, that
Marguerite's last hope died in her heart, for she felt that from this
man she could expect no mercy.
"I had forgotten," repeated Chauvelin, with a weird chuckle,
as he rubbed his bony, talon-like hands one against the other, with a
gesture of fiendish satisfaction. "The tall stranger may show fight.
In any case no shooting, remember, except as a last resort. I want
that tall stranger alive. . .if possible."
He laughed, as Dante has told us that the devils laugh at the
sight of the torture of the damned. Marguerite had thought that by
now she had lived through the whole gamut of horror and anguish that
human heart could bear; yet now, when Desgas left the house, and she
remained alone in this lonely, squalid room, with that fiend for
company, she felt as if all that she had suffered was nothing compared
with this. He continued to laugh and chuckle to himself for awhile,
rubbing his hands together in anticipation of his triumph.
His plans were well laid, and he might well triumph! Not a
loophole was left, through which the bravest, the most cunning man
might escape. Every road guarded, every corner watched, and in that
lonely hut somewhere on the coast, a small band of fugitives waiting
for their rescuer, and leading him to his death--nay! to worse than death.
That fiend there, in a holy man's garb, was too much of a devil to allow
a brave man to die the quick, sudden death of a soldier at the post of duty.
He, above all, longed to have the cunning enemy, who had so
long baffled him, helpless in his power; he wished to gloat over him,
to enjoy his downfall, to inflict upon him what moral and mental
torture a deadly hatred alone can devise. The brave eagle, captured,
and with noble wings clipped, was doomed to endure the gnawing of the
rat. And she, his wife, who loved him, and who had brought him to
this, could do nothing to help him.
Nothing, save to hope for death by his side, and for one brief
moment in which to tell him that her love--whole, true and
passionate--was entirely his.
Chauvelin was now sitting close to the table; he had taken off
his hat, and Marguerite could just see the outline of his thin profile
and pointed chin, as he bent over his meagre supper. He was evidently
quite contented, and awaited evens with perfect calm; he even seemed
to enjoy Brogard's unsavoury fare. Marguerite wondered how so much
hatred could lurk in one human being against another.
Suddenly, as she watched Chauvelin, a sound caught her ear, which
turned her very heart to stone. And yet that sound was not calculated
to inspire anyone with horror, for it was merely the cheerful sound
of a gay, fresh voice singing lustily, "God save the King!"
CHAPTER XXV THE EAGLE AND THE FOX
Marguerite's breath stopped short; she seemed to feel her very
life standing still momentarily whilst she listened to that voice and
to that song. In the singer she had recognised her husband.
Chauvelin, too, had heard it, for he darted a quick glance towards the
door, then hurriedly took up his broad-brimmed hat and clapped it over
The voice drew nearer; for one brief second the wild desire
seized Marguerite to rush down the steps and fly across the room, to
stop that song at any cost, to beg the cheerful singer to fly--fly for
his life, before it be too late. She checked the impulse just in
time. Chauvelin would stop her before she reached the door, and,
moreover, she had no idea if he had any soldiers posted within his
call. Her impetuous act might prove the death-signal of the man she
would have died to save.
"Long reign over us, God save the King!"
sang the voice more lustily than ever. The next moment the door was
thrown open and there was dead silence for a second or so.
Marguerite could not see the door; she held her breath, trying
to imagine what was happening.
Percy Blakeney on entering had, of course, at once caught
sight of the CURE at the table; his hesitation lasted less than five
seconds, the next moment, Marguerite saw his tall figure crossing the
room, whilst he called in a loud, cheerful voice,--
"Hello, there! no one about? Where's that fool Brogard?"
He wore the magnificent coat and riding-suit which he had on
when Marguerite last saw him at Richmond, so many hours ago. As
usual, his get-up was absolutely irreproachable, the fine Mechlin lace
at his neck and wrists were immaculate and white, his fair hair was
carefully brushed, and he carried his eyeglass with his usual affected
gesture. In fact, at this moment, Sir Percy Blakeney, Bart., might
have been on his way to a garden-party at the Prince of Wales',
instead of deliberately, cold-bloodedly running his head in a trap,
set for him by his deadliest enemy.
He stood for a moment in the middle of the room, whilst
Marguerite, absolutely paralysed with horror, seemed unable even to
Every moment she expected that Chauvelin would give a signal,
that the place would fill with soldiers, that she would rush down and
help Percy to sell his life dearly. As he stood there, suavely
unconscious, she very nearly screamed out to him,--
"Fly, Percy!--'tis your deadly enemy!--fly before it be too late!"
But she had not time even to do that, for the next moment
Blakeney quietly walked to the table, and, jovially clapped the CURE
on the back, said in his own drawly, affected way,--
"Odds's fish!. . .er. . .M. Chauvelin. . . . I vow I never
thought of meeting you here."
Chauvelin, who had been in the very act of conveying soup to
his mouth, fairly choked. His thin face became absolutely purple, and
a violent fit of coughing saved this cunning representative of France
from betraying the most boundless surprise he had ever experienced.
There was no doubt that this bold move on the part of the enemy had
been wholly unexpected, as far as he was concerned: and the daring
impudence of it completely nonplussed him for the moment.
Obviously he had not taken the precaution of having the inn
surrounded with soldiers. Blakeney had evidently guessed that much,
and no doubt his resourceful brain had already formed some plan by
which he could turn this unexpected interview to account.
Marguerite up in the loft had not moved. She had made a
solemn promise to Sir Andrew not to speak to her husband before
strangers, and she had sufficient self-concontrol not to throw herself
unreasoningly and impulsively across his plans. To sit still and
watch these two men together was a terrible trial of fortitude.
Marguerite had heard Chauvelin give the orders for the patrolling of
all the roads. She knew that if Percy now left the "Chat Gris"--in
whatever direction he happened to go--he could not go far without
being sighted by some of Captain Jutley's men on patrol. On the other
hand, if he stayed, then Desgas would have time to come back with the
dozen men Chauvelin had specially ordered.
The trap was closing in, and Marguerite could do nothing but
watch and wonder. The two men looked such a strange contrast, and of
the two it was Chauvelin who exhibited a slight touch of fear.
Marguerite knew him well enough to guess what was passing in his mind.
He had no fear for his own person, although he certainly was alone in
a lonely inn with a man who was powerfully built, and who was daring
and reckless beyond the bounds of probability. She knew that
Chauvelin would willingly have braved perilous encounters for the sake
of the cause he had at heart, but what he did fear was that this
impudent Englishman would, by knocking him down, double his own
chances of escape; his underlings might not succeed so sell in
capturing the Scarlet Pimpernel, when not directed by the cunning hand
and the shrewd brain, which had deadly hate for an incentive.
Evidently, however, the representative of the French
Government had nothing to fear for the moment, at the hands of his
powerful adversary. Blakeney, with his most inane laugh and pleasant
good-nature, was solemnly patting him on the back.
"I am so demmed sorry. . ." he was saying cheerfully, "so very
sorry. . .I seem to have upset you. . .eating soup, too. . .nasty,
awkward thing, soup. . .er. . .Begad!--a friend of mine died once. . .
er. . .choked. . .just like you. . .with a spoonful of soup.
And he smiled shyly, good-humouredly, down at Chauvelin.
"Odd's life!" he continued, as soon as the latter had somewhat
recovered himself, "beastly hole this. . .ain't it now? La! you
don't mind?" he added, apologetically, as he sat down on a chair close
to the table and drew the soup tureen towards him. "That fool Brogard
seems to be asleep or something."
There was a second plate on the table, and he calmly helped
himself to soup, then poured himself out a glass of wine.
For a moment Marguerite wondered what Chauvelin would do. His
disguise was so good that perhaps he meant, on recovering himself, to
deny his identity: but Chauvelin was too astute to make such an
obviously false and childish move, and already he too had stretched
out his hand and said pleasantly,--
"I am indeed charmed to see you Sir Percy. You must excuse
me--h'm--I thought you the other side of the Channel. Sudden surprise
almost took my breath away."
"La!" said Sir Percy, with a good-humoured grin, "it did that
quite, didn't it--er--M.--er--Chaubertin?"
"I beg pardon--a thousand times. Yes--Chauvelin of course. . . .
Er. . .I never could cotton to foreign names. . . ."
He was calmly eating his soup, laughing with pleasant good-humour,
as if he had come all the way to Calais for the express purpose of
enjoying supper at this filthy inn, in the company of his arch-enemy.
For the moment Marguerite wondered why Percy did not knock the
little Frenchman down then and there--and no doubt something of the
sort must have darted through his mind, for every now and then his
lazy eyes seemed to flash ominously, as they rested on the slight
figure of Chauvelin, who had now quite recovered himself and was also
calmly eating his soup.
But the keen brain, which had planned and carried through so
many daring plots, was too far-seeing to take unnecessary risks. This
place, after all, might be infested with spies; the innkeeper might be
in Chauvelin's pay. One call on Chauvelin's part might bring twenty
men about Blakeney's ears for aught he knew, and he might be caught
and trapped before he could help, or, at least, warn the fugitives.
This he would not risk; he meant to help the others, to get THEM
safely away; for he had pledged his word to them, and his word he
WOULD keep. And whilst he ate and chatted, he thought and planned,
whilst, up in the loft, the poor, anxious woman racked her brain as to
what she should do, and endured agonies of longing to rush down to
him, yet not daring to move for fear of upsetting his plans.
"I didn't know," Blakeney was saying jovially, "that you. . .
er. . .were in holy orders."
"I. . .er. . .hem. . ." stammered Chauvelin. The calm impudence
of his antagonist had evidently thrown him off his usual balance.
"But, la! I should have known you anywhere," continued Sir
Percy, placidly, as he poured himself out another glass of wine,
"although the wig and hat have changed you a bit."
"Do you think so?"
"Lud! they alter a man so. . .but. . .begad! I hope you
don't mind my having made the remark?. . .Demmed bad form making
remarks. . . . I hope you don't mind?"
"No, no, not at all--hem! I hope Lady Blakeney is well," said
Chauvelin, hurriedly changing the topic of conversation.
Blakeney, with much deliberation, finished his plate of soup,
drank his glass of wine, and, momentarily, it seemed to Marguerite as
if he glanced all round the room.
"Quite well, thank you," he said at last, drily. There was a
pause, during which Marguerite could watch these two antagonists who,
evidently in their minds, were measuring themselves against one
another. She could see Percy almost full face where he sat at the
table not ten yards from where she herself was crouching, puzzled, not
knowing what to do, or what she should think. She had quite
controlled her impulse now of rushing down hand disclosing herself to
her husband. A man capable of acting a part, in the way he was doing
at the present moment, did not need a woman's word to warn him to be
Marguerite indulged in the luxury, dear to every tender
woman's heart, of looking at the man she loved. She looked through
the tattered curtain, across at the handsome face of her husband, in
whose lazy blue eyes, and behind whose inane smile, she could now so
plainly see the strength, energy, and resourcefulness which had caused
the Scarlet Pimpernel to be reverenced and trusted by his followers.
"There are nineteen of us ready to lay down our lives for your
husband, Lady Blakeney," Sir Andrew had said to her; and as she looked
at the forehead, low, but square and broad, the eyes, blue, yet
deep-set and intense, the whole aspect of the man, of indomitable
energy, hiding, behind a perfectly acted comedy, his almost superhuman
strength of will and marvellous ingenuity, she understood the
fascination which he exercised over his followers, for had he not also
cast his spells over her heart and her imagination?
Chauvelin, who was trying to conceal his impatience beneath
his usual urbane manner, took a quick look at his watch. Desgas
should not be long: another two or three minutes, and this impudent
Englishman would be secure in the keeping of half a dozen of Captain
Jutley's most trusted men.
"You are on your way to Paris, Sir Percy?" he asked carelessly.
"Odd's life, no," replied Blakeney, with a laugh. "Only as
far as Lille--not Paris for me. . .beastly uncomfortable place Paris,
just now. . .eh, Monsieur Chaubertin. . .beg pardon. . .Chauvelin!"
"Not for an English gentleman like yourself, Sir Percy,"
rejoined Chauvelin, sarcastically, "who takes no interest in the
conflict that is raging there."
"La! you see it's no business of mine, and our demmed
government is all on your side of the business. Old Pitt daren't say
'Bo' to a goose. You are in a hurry, sir," he added, as Chauvelin
once again took out his watch; "an appointment, perhaps. . . . I pray
you take no heed of me. . . . My time's my own."
He rose from the table and dragged a chair to the hearth.
Once more Marguerite was terribly tempted to go to him, for time was
getting on; Desgas might be back at any moment with his men. Percy
did not know that and. . .oh! how horrible it all was--and how
helpless she felt.
"I am in no hurry," continued Percy, pleasantly, "but, la! I don't want
to spend any more time than I can help in this God-forsaken hole! But,
begad! sir," he added, as Chauvelin had surreptitiously looked at his
watch for the third time, "that watch of yours won't go any faster for
all the looking you give it. You are expecting a friend, maybe?"
"Not a lady--I trust, Monsieur l'Abbe," laughed Blakeney;
"surely the holy church does not allow?. . .eh?. . .what!
But, I say, come by the fire. . .it's getting demmed cold."
He kicked the fire with the heel of his boot, making the logs
blaze in the old hearth. He seemed in no hurry to go, and apparently
was quite unconscious of his immediate danger. He dragged another
chair to the fire, and Chauvelin, whose impatience was by now quite
beyond control, sat down beside the hearth, in such a way as to command
a view of the door. Desgas had been gone nearly a quarter of an hour.
It was quite plane to Marguerite's aching senses that as soon as he arrived,
Chauvelin would abandon all his other plans with regard to the fugitives,
and capture this impudent Scarlet Pimpernel at once.
"Hey, M. Chauvelin," the latter was saying arily, "tell me, I
pray you, is your friend pretty? Demmed smart these little French
women sometimes--what? But I protest I need not ask," he added, as he
carelessly strode back towards the supper-table. "In matters of taste
the Church has never been backward. . . . Eh?"
But Chauvelin was not listening. His every faculty was now
concentrated on that door through which presently Desgas would enter.
Marguerite's thoughts, too, were centered there, for her ears had
suddenly caught, through the stillness of the night, the sound of
numerous and measured treads some distance away.
It was Desgas and his men. Another three minutes and they
would be here! Another three minutes and the awful thing would have
occurred: the brave eagle would have fallen in the ferret's trap!
She would have moved now and screamed, but she dared not; for whilst she
heard the soldiers approaching, she was looking at Percy and watching
his every movement. He was standing by the table whereon the remnants
of the supper, plates, glasses, spoons, salt and pepper-pots were
scattered pell-mell. His back was turned to Chauvelin and he was
still prattling along in his own affected and inane way, but from his
pocket he had taken his snuff-box, and quickly and suddenly he emptied
the contents of the pepper-pot into it.
Then he again turned with an inane laugh to Chauvelin,--
"Eh? Did you speak, sir?"
Chauvelin had been too intent on listening to the sound of
those approaching footsteps, to notice what his cunning adversary had
been doing. He now pulled himself together, trying to look
unconcerned in the very midst of his anticipated triumph.
"No," he said presently, "that is--as you were saying, Sir Percy--?"
"I was saying," said Blakeney, going up to Chauvelin, by the
fire, "that the Jew in Piccadilly has sold me better snuff this time
than I have ever tasted. Will you honour me, Monsieur l'Abbe?"
He stood close to Chauvelin in his own careless, DEBONNAIRE
way, holding out his snuff-box to his arch-enemy.
Chauvelin, who, as he told Marguerite once, had seen a trick
or two in his day, had never dreamed of this one. With one ear fixed
on those fast-approaching footsteps, one eye turned to that door where
Desgas and his men would presently appear, lulled into false security
by the impudent Englishman's airy manner, he never even remotely
guessed the trick which was being played upon him.
He took a pinch of snuff.
Only he, who has ever by accident sniffed vigorously a dose of
pepper, can have the faintest conception of the hopeless condition in
which such a sniff would reduce any human being.
Chauvelin felt as if his head would burst--sneeze after sneeze
seemed nearly to choke him; he was blind, deaf, and dumb for the
moment, and during that moment Blakeney quietly, without the slightest
haste, took up his hat, took some money out of his pocket, which he
left on the table, then calmly stalked out of the room!
CHAPTER XXVI THE JEW
It took Marguerite some time to collect her scattered senses;
the whole of this last short episode had taken place in less than a
minute, and Desgas and the soldiers were still about two hundred yards
away from the "Chat Gris."
When she realised what had happened, a curious mixture of joy
and wonder filled her heart. It all was so neat, so ingenious.
Chauvelin was still absolutely helpless, far more so than he could
even have been under a blow from the fist, for now he could neither
see, nor hear, nor speak, whilst his cunning adversary had quietly
slipped through his fingers.
Blakeney was gone, obviously to try and join the fugitives at
the Pere Blanchard's hut. For the moment, true, Chauvelin was
helpless; for the moment the daring Scarlet Pimpernel had not been
caught by Desgas and his men. But all the roads and the beach were
patrolled. Every place was watched, and every stranger kept in sight.
How far could Percy go, thus arrayed in his gorgeous clothes, without
being sighted and followed?
Now she blamed herself terribly for not having gone down to
him sooner, and given him that word of warning and of love which,
perhaps, after all, he needed. He could not know of the orders which
Chauvelin had given for his capture, and even now, perhaps. . .
But before all these horrible thoughts had taken concrete form
in her brain, she heard the grounding of arms outside, close to the
door, and Desgas' voice shouting "Halt!" to his men.
Chauvelin had partially recovered; his sneezing had become
less violent, and he had struggled to his feet. He managed to reach
the door just as Desgas' knock was heard on the outside.
Chauvelin threw open the door, and before his secretary could
say a word, he had managed to stammer between two sneezes--
"The tall stranger--quick!--did any of you see him?"
"Where, citoyen?" asked Desgas, in surprise.
"Here, man! through that door! not five minutes ago."
"We saw nothing, citoyen! The moon is not yet up, and. . ."
"And you are just five minutes too late, my friend," said
Chauvelin, with concentrated fury.
"Citoyen. . .I. . ."
"You did what I ordered you to do," said Chauvelin, with
impatience. "I know that, but you were a precious long time about it.
Fortunately, there's not much harm done, or it had fared ill with you,
Desgas turned a little pale. There was so much rage and
hatred in his superior's whole attitude.
"The tall stranger, citoyen--" he stammered.
"Was here, in this room, five minutes ago, having supper at
that table. Damn his impudence! For obvious reasons, I dared not
tackle him alone. Brogard is too big a fool, and that cursed
Englishman appears to have the strength of a bullock, and so he
slipped away under your very nose."
"He cannot go far without being sighted, citoyen."
"Captain Jutley sent forty men as reinforcements for the
patrol duty: twenty went down to the beach. He again assured me that
the watch had been constant all day, and that no stranger could
possibly get to the beach, or reach a boat, without being sighted."
"That's good.--Do the men know their work?"
"They have had very clear orders, citoyen: and I myself spoke
to those who were about to start. They are to shadow--as secretly as
possible--any stranger they may see, especially if he be tall, or
stoop as if her would disguise his height."
"In no case to detain such a person, of course," said
Chauvelin, eagerly. "That impudent Scarlet Pimpernel would slip
through clumsy fingers. We must let him get to the Pere Blanchard's
hut now; there surround and capture him."
"The men understand that, citoyen, and also that, as soon as a
tall stranger has been sighted, he must be shadowed, whilst one man is
to turn straight back and report to you."
"That is right," said Chauvelin, rubbing his hands, well
"I have further news for you, citoyen."
"What is it?"
"A tall Englishman had a long conversation about
three-quarters of an hour ago with a Jew, Reuben by name, who lives
not ten paces from here."
"Yes--and?" queried Chauvelin, impatiently.
"The conversation was all about a horse and cart, which the
tall Englishman wished to hire, and which was to have been ready for
him by eleven o'clock."
"It is past that now. Where does that Reuben live?"
"A few minutes' walk from this door."
"Send one of the men to find out if the stranger has driven
off in Reuben's cart."
Desgas went to give the necessary orders to one of the men.
Not a word of this conversation between him and Chauvelin had escaped
Marguerite, and every word they had spoken seemed to strike at her
heart, with terrible hopelessness and dark foreboding.
She had come all this way, and with such high hopes and firm
determination to help her husband, and so far she had been able to do
nothing, but to watch, with a heart breaking with anguish, the meshes
of the deadly net closing round the daring Scarlet Pimpernel.
He could not now advance many steps, without spying eyes to
track and denounce him. Her own helplessness struck her with the
terrible sense of utter disappointment. The possibility of being the
slightest use to her husband had become almost NIL, and her only
hope rested in being allowed to share his fate, whatever it might
For the moment, even her chance of ever seeing the man she
loved again, had become a remote one. Still, she was determined to
keep a close watch over his enemy, and a vague hope filled her heart,
that whilst she kept Chauvelin in sight, Percy's fate might still be
hanging in the balance.
Desgas left Chauvelin moodily pacing up and down the room,
whilst he himself waited outside for the return of the man whom he had
sent in search of Reuben. Thus several minutes went by. Chauvelin
was evidently devoured with impatience. Apparently he trusted no one:
this last trick played upon him by the daring Scarlet Pimpernel had
made him suddenly doubtful of success, unless he himself was there to
watch, direct and superintend the capture of this impudent Englishman.
About five minutes later, Desgas returned, followed by an
elderly Jew, in a dirty, threadbare gaberdine, worn greasy across the
shoulders. His red hair, which he wore after the fashion of the
Polish Jews, with the corkscrew curls each side of his face, was
plentifully sprinkled with grey--a general coating of grime, about his
cheeks and his chin, gave him a peculiarly dirty and loathsome
appearance. He had the habitual stoop, those of his race affected in
mock humility in past centuries, before the dawn of equality and
freedom in matters of faith, and he walked behind Desgas with the
peculiar shuffling gait which has remained the characteristic of the
Jew trader in continental Europe to this day.
Chauvelin, who had all the Frenchman's prejudice against the
despised race, motioned to the fellow to keep at a respectful
distance. The group of the three men were standing just underneath
the hanging oil-lamp, and Marguerite had a clear view of them all.
"Is this the man?" asked Chauvelin.
"No, citoyen," replied Desgas, "Reuben could not be found, so
presumably his cart has gone with the stranger; but this man here
seems to know something, which he is willing to sell for a
"Ah!" said Chauvelin, turning away with disgust from the
loathsome specimen of humanity before him.
The Jew, with characteristic patience, stood humbly on one
side, leaning on the knotted staff, his greasy, broad-brimmed hat
casting a deep shadow over his grimy face, waiting for the noble
Excellency to deign to put some questions to him.
"The citoyen tells me," said Chauvelin peremptorily to him,
"that you know something of my friend, the tall Englishman, whom I
desire to meet. . .MORBLEU! keep your distance, man," he added
hurriedly, as the Jew took a quick and eager step forward.
"Yes, your Excellency," replied the Jew, who spoke the
language with that peculiar lisp which denotes Eastern origin, "I and
Reuben Goldstein met a tall Englishman, on the road, close by here
"Did you speak to him?"
"He spoke to us, your Excellency. He wanted to know if he
could hire a horse and cart to go down along the St. Martin road, to a
place he wanted to reach to-night."
"What did you say?"
"I did not say anything," said the Jew in an injured tone,
"Reuben Goldstein, that accursed traitor, that son of Belial. . ."
"Cut that short, man," interrupted Chauvelin, roughly, "and go
on with your story."
"He took the words out of my mouth, your Excellency: when I
was about to offer the wealthy Englishman my horse and cart, to take
him wheresoever he chose, Reuben had already spoken, and offered his
half-starved nag, and his broken-down cart."
"And what did the Englishman do?"
"He listened to Reuben Goldstein, your Excellency, and put his
hand in his pocket then and there, and took out a handful of gold,
which he showed to that descendant of Beelzebub, telling him that all
that would be his, if the horse and cart were ready for him by eleven
"And, of course, the horse and cart were ready?"
"Well! they were ready for him in a manner, so to speak, your
Excellency. Reuben's nag was lame as usual; she refused to budge at
first. It was only after a time and with plenty of kicks, that she at
last could be made to move," said the Jew with a malicious chuckle.
"Then they started?"
"Yes, they started about five minutes ago. I was disgusted
with that stranger's folly. An Englishman too!--He ought to have
known Reuben's nag was not fit to drive."
"But if he had no choice?"
"No choice, your Excellency?" protested the Jew, in a rasping
voice, "did I not repeat to him a dozen times, that my horse and cart
would take him quicker, and more comfortably than Reuben's bag of
bones. He would not listen. Reuben is such a liar, and has such
insinuating ways. The stranger was deceived. If he was in a hurry,
he would have had better value for his money by taking my cart."
"You have a horse and cart too, then?" asked Chauvelin, peremptorily.
"Aye! that I have, your Excellency, and if your Excellency wants
to drive. . ."
"Do you happen to know which way my friend went in Reuben Goldstein's cart?"
Thoughtfully the Jew rubbed his dirty chin. Marguerite's heart was
beating well-nigh to bursting. She had heard the peremptory question;
she looked anxiously at the Jew, but could not read his face beneath
the shadow of his broad-brimmed hat. Vaguely she felt somehow as if
he held Percy's fate in his long dirty hands.
There was a long pause, whilst Chauvelin frowned impatiently
at the stooping figure before him: at last the Jew slowly put his hand
in his breast pocket, and drew out from its capacious depths a number
of silver coins. He gazed at them thoughtfully, then remarked, in a
quiet tone of voice,--
"This is what the tall stranger gave me, when he drove away
with Reuben, for holding my tongue about him, and his doings."
Chauvelin shrugged his shoulders impatiently.
"How much is there there?" he asked.
"Twenty francs, your Excellency," replied the Jew, "and I have
been an honest man all my life."
Chauvelin without further comment took a few pieces of gold
out of his own pocket, and leaving them in the palm of his hand, he
allowed them to jingle as he held them out towards the Jew.
"How many gold pieces are there in the palm of my hand?" he asked quietly.
Evidently he had no desire to terrorize the man, but to conciliate him,
for his own purposes, for his manner was pleasant and suave. No doubt
he feared that threats of the guillotine, and various other persuasive
methods of that type, might addle the old man's brains, and that he would
be more likely to be useful through greed of gain, than through terror
The eyes of the Jew shot a quick, keen glance at the gold in
his interlocutor's hand.
"At least five, I should say, your Excellency," he replied obsequiously.
"Enough, do you think, to loosen that honest tongue of yours?"
"What does your Excellency wish to know?"
"Whether your horse and cart can take me to where I can find my friend
the tall stranger, who has driven off in Reuben Goldstein's cart?"
"My horse and cart can take your Honour there, where you please."
"To a place called the Pere Blanchard's hut?"
"Your Honour has guessed?" said the Jew in astonishment.
"You know the place?"
"Which road leads to it?"
"The St. Martin Road, your Honour, then a footpath from there to the cliffs."
"You know the road?" repeated Chauvelin, roughly.
"Every stone, every blade of grass, your Honour," replied the Jew quietly.
Chauvelin without another word threw the five pieces of gold
one by one before the Jew, who knelt down, and on his hands and knees
struggled to collect them. One rolled away, and he had some trouble
to get it, for it had lodged underneath the dresser. Chauvelin
quietly waited while the old man scrambled on the floor, to find the
piece of gold.
When the Jew was again on his feet, Chauvelin said,--
"How soon can your horse and cart be ready?"
"They are ready now, your Honour."
"Not ten meters from this door. Will your Excellency deign to look."
"I don't want to see it. How far can you drive me in it?"
"As far as the Pere Blanchard's hut, your Honour, and further
than Reuben's nag took your friend. I am sure that, not two leagues
from here, we shall come across that wily Reuben, his nag, his cart
and the tall stranger all in a heap in the middle of the road."
"How far is the nearest village from here?"
"On the road which the Englishman took, Miquelon is the
nearest village, not two leagues from here."
"There he could get fresh conveyance, if he wanted to go further?"
"He could--if he ever got so far."
"Will your Excellency try?" said the Jew simply.
"That is my intention," said Chauvelin very quietly, "but
remember, if you have deceived me, I shall tell off two of my most
stalwart soldiers to give you such a beating, that your breath will
perhaps leave your ugly body for ever. But if we find my friend the
tall Englishman, either on the road or at the Pere Blanchard's hut,
there will be ten more gold pieces for you. Do you accept the bargain?"
The Jew again thoughtfully rubbed his chin. He looked at the money
in his hand, then at this stern interlocutor, and at Desgas, who
had stood silently behind him all this while. After a moment's pause,
he said deliberately,--
"Go and wait outside then," said Chauvelin, "and remember to
stick to your bargain, or by Heaven, I will keep to mine."
With a final, most abject and cringing bow, the old Jew
shuffled out of the room. Chauvelin seemed pleased with his
interview, for he rubbed his hands together, with that usual gesture
of his, of malignant satisfaction.
"My coat and boots," he said to Desgas at last.
Desgas went to the door, and apparently gave the necessary orders, for
presently a soldier entered, carrying Chauvelin's coat, boots, and hat.
He took off his soutane, beneath which he was wearing close-fitting
breeches and a cloth waistcoat, and began changing his attire.
"You, citoyen, in the meanwhile," he said to Desgas, "go back
to Captain Jutley as fast as you can, and tell him to let you have
another dozen men, and bring them with you along the St. Martin Road,
where I daresay you will soon overtake the Jew's cart with myself in
it. There will be hot work presently, if I mistake not, in the Pere
Blanchard's hut. We shall corner our game there, I'll warrant, for
this impudent Scarlet Pimpernel has had the audacity--or the
stupidity, I hardly know which--to adhere to his original plans. He
has gone to meet de Tournay, St. Just and the other traitors, which
for the moment, I thought, perhaps, he did not intend to do. When we
find them, there will be a band of desperate men at bay. Some of our
men will, I presume, be put HORS DE COMBAT. These royalists are
good swordsmen, and the Englishman is devilish cunning, and looks very
powerful. Still, we shall be five against one at least. You can
follow the cart closely with your men, all along the St. Martin Road,
through Miquelon. The Englishman is ahead of us, and not likely to
look behind him."
Whilst he gave these curt and concise orders, he had completed
his change of attire. The priest's costume had been laid aside, and
he was once more dressed in his usual dark, tight-fitting clothes. At
last he took up his hat.
"I shall have an interesting prisoner to deliver into your
hands," he said with a chuckle, as with unwonted familiarity he took
Desgas' arm, and led him towards the door. "We won't kill him
outright, eh, friend Desgas? The Pere Blanchard's hut is--an I
mistake not--a lonely spot upon the beach, and our men will enjoy a
bit of rough sport there with the wounded fox. Choose your men well,
friend Desgas. . .of the sort who would enjoy that type of sport--eh?
We must see that Scarlet Pimpernel wither a bit--what?--shrink and
tremble, eh?. . .before we finally. . ." He made an expressive
gesture, whilst he laughed a low, evil laugh, which filled
Marguerite's soul with sickening horror.
"Choose your men well, Citoyen Desgas," he said once more, as
he led his secretary finally out of the room.
CHAPTER XXVII ON THE TRACK
Never for a moment did Marguerite Blakeney hesitate. The last
sounds outside the "Chat Gris" had died away in the night. She had
heard Desgas giving orders to his men, and then starting off towards
the fort, to get a reinforcement of a dozen more men: six were not
thought sufficient to capture the cunning Englishman, whose
resourceful brain was even more dangerous than his valour and his
Then a few minutes later, she heard the Jew's husky voice
again, evidently shouting to his nag, then the rumble of wheels, and
noise of a rickety cart bumping over the rough road.
Inside the inn, everything was still. Brogard and his wife,
terrified of Chauvelin, had given no sign of life; they hoped to be
forgotten, and at any rate to remain unperceived: Marguerite could not
even hear their usual volleys of muttered oaths.
She waited a moment or two longer, then she quietly slipped
down the broken stairs, wrapped her dark cloak closely round her and
slipped out of the inn.
The night was fairly dark, sufficiently so at any rate to hide
her dark figure from view, whilst her keen ears kept count of the
sound of the cart going on ahead. She hoped by keeping well within
the shadow of the ditches which lined the road, that she would not be
seen by Desgas' men, when they approached, or by the patrols, which
she concluded were still on duty.
Thus she started to do this, the last stage of her weary
journey, alone, at night, and on foot. Nearly three leagues to
Miquelon, and then on to the Pere Blanchard's hut, wherever that fatal
spot might be, probably over rough roads: she cared not.
The Jew's nag could not get on very fast, and though she was
wary with mental fatigue and nerve strain, she knew that she could
easily keep up with it, on a hilly road, where the poor beast, who was
sure to be half-starved, would have to be allowed long and frequent
rests. The road lay some distance from the sea, bordered on either
side by shrubs and stunted trees, sparsely covered with meagre foliage,
all turning away from the North, with their branches looking in the
semi-darkness, like stiff, ghostly hair, blown by a perpetual wind.
Fortunately, the moon showed no desire to peep between the
clouds, and Marguerite hugging the edge of the road, and keeping close
to the low line of shrubs, was fairly safe from view. Everything
around her was so still: only from far, very far away, there came like
a long soft moan, the sound of the distant sea.
The air was keen and full of brine; after that enforced period
of inactivity, inside the evil-smelling, squalid inn, Marguerite would
have enjoyed the sweet scent of this autumnal night, and the distant
melancholy rumble of the autumnal night, and the distant melancholy
rumble of the waves; she would have revelled in the calm and stillness
of this lonely spot, a calm, broken only at intervals by the strident
and mournful cry of some distant gull, and by the creaking of the
wheels, some way down the road: she would have loved the cool
atmosphere, the peaceful immensity of Nature, in this lonely part of
the coast: but her heart was too full of cruel foreboding, of a great
ache and longing for a being who had become infinitely dear to her.
Her feet slipped on the grassy bank, for she thought it safest
not to walk near the centre of the road, and she found it difficult to
keep up a sharp pace along the muddy incline. She even thought it
best not to keep too near to the cart; everything was so still, that
the rumble of the wheels could not fail to be a safe guide.
The loneliness was absolute. Already the few dim lights of
Calais lay far behind, and on this road there was not a sign of human
habitation, not even the hut of a fisherman or of a woodcutter
anywhere near; far away on her right was the edge of the cliff, below
it the rough beach, against which the incoming tide was dashing itself
with its constant, distant murmur. And ahead the rumble of the
wheels, bearing an implacable enemy to his triumph.
Marguerite wondered at what particular spot, on this lonely
coast, Percy could be at this moment. Not very far surely, for he had
had less than a quarter of an hour's start of Chauvelin. She wondered
if he knew that in this cool, ocean-scented bit of France, there
lurked many spies, all eager to sight his tall figure, to track him to
where his unsuspecting friends waited for him, and then, to close the
net over him and them.
Chauvelin, on ahead, jolted and jostled in the Jew's vehicle,
was nursing comfortable thoughts. He rubbed his hands together, with
content, as he thought of the web which he had woven, and through
which that ubiquitous and daring Englishman could not hope to escape.
As the time went on, and the old Jew drove him leisurely but surely
along the dark road, he felt more and more eager for the grand finale
of this exciting chase after the mysterious Scarlet Pimpernel.
The capture of the audacious plotter would be the finest leaf
in Citoyen Chauvelin's wreath of glory. Caught, red-handed, on the
spot, in the very act of aiding and abetting the traitors against the
Republic of France, the Englishman could claim no protection from his
own country. Chauvelin had, in any case, fully made up his mind that
all intervention should come too late.
Never for a moment did the slightest remorse enter his heart,
as to the terrible position in which he had placed the unfortunate
wife, who had unconsciously betrayed her husband. As a matter of
fact, Chauvelin had ceased even to think of her: she had been a useful
tool, that was all.
The Jew's lean nag did little more than walk. She was going
along at a slow jog trot, and her driver had to give her long and
"Are we a long way yet from Miquelon?" asked Chauvelin from
time to time.
"Not very far, your Honour," was the uniform placid reply.
"We have not yet come across your friend and mine, lying in a
heap in the roadway," was Chauvelin's sarcastic comment.
"Patience, noble Excellency," rejoined the son of Moses, "they
are ahead of us. I can see the imprint of the cart wheels, driven by
that traitor, that son of the Amalekite."
"You are sure of the road?"
"As sure as I am of the presence of those ten gold pieces in
the noble Excellency's pockets, which I trust will presently be mine."
"As soon as I have shaken hands with my friend the tall
stranger, they will certainly be yours."
"Hark, what was that?" said the Jew suddenly.
Through the stillness, which had been absolute, there could
now be heard distinctly the sound of horses' hoofs on the muddy road.
"They are soldiers," he added in an awed whisper.
"Stop a moment, I want to hear," said Chauvelin.
Marguerite had also heard the sound of galloping hoofs, coming
towards the cart and towards herself. For some time she had been on
the alert thinking that Desgas and his squad would soon overtake them,
but these came from the opposite direction, presumably from Miquelon.
The darkness lent her sufficient cover. She had perceived that the
cart had stopped, and with utmost caution, treading noiselessly on the
soft road, she crept a little nearer.
Her heart was beating fast, she was trembling in every limb;
already she had guessed what news these mounted men would bring.
"Every stranger on these roads or on the beach must be shadowed,
especially if he be tall or stoops as if he would disguise his height;
when sighted a mounted messenger must at once ride back and report."
Those had been Chauvelin's orders. Had then the tall stranger been
sighted, and was this the mounted messenger, come to bring the great
news, that the hunted hare had run its head into the noose at last?"
Marguerite, realizing that the cart had come to a standstill,
managed to slip nearer to it in the darkness; she crept close up,
hoping to get within earshot, to hear what the messenger had to say.
She heard the quick words of challenge--
"Liberte, Fraternite, Egalite!" then Chauvelin's quick query:--
Two men on horseback had halted beside the vehicle.
Marguerite could see them silhouetted against the midnight
sky. She could hear their voices, and the snorting of their horses,
and now, behind her, some little distance off, the regular and
measured tread of a body of advancing men: Desgas and his soldiers.
There had been a long pause, during which, no doubt, Chauvelin
satisfied the men as to his identity, for presently, questions and
answers followed each other in quick succession.
"You have seen the stranger?" asked Chauvelin, eagerly.
"No, citoyen, we have seen no tall stranger; we came by the
edge of the cliff."
"Less than a quarter of a league beyond Miquelon, we came
across a rough construction of wood, which looked like the hut of a
fisherman, where he might keep his tools and nets. When we first
sighted it, it seemed to be empty, and, at first we thought that there
was nothing suspicious about, until we saw some smoke issuing through
an aperture at the side. I dismounted and crept close to it. It was
then empty, but in one corner of the hut, there was a charcoal fire,
and a couple of stools were also in the hut. I consulted with my
comrades, and we decided that they should take cover with the horses,
well out of sight, and that I should remain on the watch, which I did."
"Well! and did you see anything?"
"About half an hour later, I heard voices, citoyen, and
presently, two men came along towards the edge of the cliff; they
seemed to me to have come from the Lille Road. One was young, the
other quite old. They were talking in a whisper, to one another, and
I could not hear what they said."
One was young, and the other quite old. Marguerite's aching
heart almost stopped beating as she listened: was the young one
Armand?--her brother?--and the old one de Tournay--were they the two
fugitives who, unconsciously, were used as a decoy, to entrap their
fearless and noble rescuer.
"The two men presently went into the hut," continued the
soldier, whilst Marguerite's aching nerves seemed to catch the sound
of Chauvelin's triumphant chuckle, "and I crept nearer to it then.
The hut is very roughly built, and I caught snatches of their
"Yes?--Quick!--What did you hear?"
"The old man asked the young one if he were sure that was
right place. `Oh, yes,' he replied, `'tis the place sure enough,' and
by the light of the charcoal fire he showed to his companion a paper,
which he carried. `Here is the plan,' he said, `which he gave me
before I left London. We were to adhere strictly to that plan, unless
I had contrary orders, and I have had none. Here is the road we
followed, see. . .here the fork. . .here we cut across the St. Martin
Road. . .and here is the footpath which brought us to the edge of the
cliff.' I must have made a slight noise then, for the young man came
to the door of the hut, and peered anxiously all round him. When he
again joined his companion, they whispered so low, that I could no
longer hear them."
"Well?--and?" asked Chauvelin, impatiently.
"There were six of us altogether, patrolling that part of the
beach, so we consulted together, and thought it best that four should
remain behind and keep the hut in sight, and I and my comrade rode
back at once to make report of what we had seen."
"You saw nothing of the tall stranger?"
"If your comrades see him, what would they do?"
"Not lose sight of him for a moment, and if he showed signs of
escape, or any boat came in sight, they would close in on him, and, if
necessary, they would shoot: the firing would bring the rest of the
patrol to the spot. In any case they would not let the stranger go."
"Aye! but I did not want the stranger hurt--not just yet,"
murmured Chauvelin, savagely, "but there, you've done your best. The
Fates grant that I may not be too late. . . ."
"We met half a dozen men just now, who have been patrolling
this road for several hours."
"They have seen no stranger either."
"Yet he is on ahead somewhere, in a cart or else. . .Here!
there is not a moment to lose. How far is that hut from here?"
"About a couple of leagues, citoyen."
"You can find it again?--at once?--without hesitation?"
"I have absolutely no doubt, citoyen."
"The footpath, to the edge of the cliff?--Even in the dark?"
"It is not a dark night, citoyen, and I know I can find my
way," repeated the soldier firmly.
"Fall in behind then. Let your comrade take both your horses back
to Calais. You won't want them. Keep beside the cart, and direct
the Jew to drive straight ahead; then stop him, within a quarter of
a league of the footpath; see that he takes the most direct road."
Whilst Chauvelin spoke, Desgas and his men were fast
approaching, and Marguerite could hear their footsteps within a
hundred yards behind her now. She thought it unsafe to stay where she
was, and unnecessary too, as she had heard enough. She seemed
suddenly to have lost all faculty even for suffering: her heart, her
nerves, her brain seemed to have become numb after all these hours of
ceaseless anguish, culminating in this awful despair.
For now there was absolutely not the faintest hope. Within
two short leagues of this spot, the fugitives were waiting for their
brave deliverer. He was on his way, somewhere on this lonely road,
and presently he would join them; then the well-laid trap would close,
two dozen men, led by one whose hatred was as deadly as his cunning
was malicious, would close round the small band of fugitives, and
their daring leader. They would all be captured. Armand, according
to Chauvelin's pledged word would be restored to her, but her husband,
Percy, whom with every breath she drew she seemed to love and worship
more and more, he would fall into the hands of a remorseless enemy,
who had no pity for a brave heart, no admiration for the courage of a
noble soul, who would show nothing but hatred for the cunning
antagonist, who had baffled him so long.
She heard the soldier giving a few brief directions to the
Jew, then she retired quickly to the edge of the road, and cowered
behind some low shrubs, whilst Desgas and his men came up.
All fell in noiselessly behind the cart, and slowly they all
started down the dark road. Marguerite waited until she reckoned that
they were well outside the range of earshot, then, she too in the
darkness, which suddenly seemed to have become more intense, crept
CHAPTER XXVIII THE PERE BLANCHARD'S HUT
As in a dream, Marguerite followed on; the web was drawing
more and more tightly every moment round the beloved life, which had
become dearer than all. To see her husband once again, to tell him
how she had suffered, how much she had wronged, and how little
understood him, had become now her only aim. She had abandoned all
hope of saving him: she saw him gradually hemmed in on all sides, and,
in despair, she gazed round her into the darkness, and wondered whence
he would presently come, to fall into the death-trap which his
relentless enemy had prepared for him.
The distant roar of the waves now made her shudder; the
occasional dismal cry of an owl, or a sea-gull, filled her with
unspeakable horror. She thought of the ravenous beasts--in human
shape--who lay in wait for their prey, and destroyed them, as
mercilessly as any hungry wolf, for the satisfaction of their own
appetite of hate. Marguerite was not afraid of the darkness, she only
feared that man, on ahead, who was sitting at the bottom of a rough
wooden cart, nursing thoughts of vengeance, which would have made the
very demons in hell chuckle with delight.
Her feet were sore. Her knees shook under her, from sheer
bodily fatigue. For days now she had lived in a wild turmoil of
excitement; she had not had a quiet rest for three nights; now, she
had walked on a slippery road for nearly two hours, and yet her
determination never swerved for a moment. She would see her husband,
tell him all, and, if he was ready to forgive the crime, which she had
committed in her blind ignorance, she would yet have the happiness of
dying by his side.
She must have walked on almost in a trance, instinct alone
keeping her up, and guiding her in the wake of the enemy, when
suddenly her ears, attuned to the slightest sound, by that same blind
instinct, told her that the cart had stopped, and that the soldiers
had halted. They had come to their destination. No doubt on the
right, somewhere close ahead, was the footpath that led to the edge of
the cliff and to the hut.
Heedless of any risks, she crept up quite close up to where
Chauvelin stood, surrounded by his little troop: he had descended from
the cart, and was giving some orders to the men. These she wanted to
hear: what little chance she yet had, of being useful to Percy,
consisted in hearing absolutely every word of his enemy's plans.
The spot where all the party had halted must have lain some
eight hundred meters from the coast; the sound of the sea came only
very faintly, as from a distance. Chauvelin and Desgas, followed by
the soldiers, had turned off sharply to the right of the road,
apparently on to the footpath, which led to the cliffs. The Jew had
remained on the road, with his cart and nag.
Marguerite, with infinite caution, and literally crawling on
her hands and knees, had also turned off to the right: to accomplish
this she had to creep through the rough, low shrubs, trying to make as
little noise as possible as she went along, tearing her face and hands
against the dry twigs, intent only upon hearing without being seen or
heard. Fortunately--as is usual in this part of France--the footpath
was bordered by a low rough hedge, beyond which was a dry ditch,
filled with coarse grass. In this Marguerite managed to find shelter;
she was quite hidden from view, yet could contrive to get within three
yards of where Chauvelin stood, giving orders to his men.
"Now," he was saying in a low and peremptory whisper, "where
is the Pere Blanchard's hut?"
"About eight hundred meters from here, along the footpath,"
said the soldier who had lately been directing the party, "and
half-way down the cliff."
"Very good. You shall lead us. Before we begin to descend the cliff,
you shall creep down to the hut, as noiselessly as possible, and
ascertain if the traitor royalists are there? Do you understand?"
"I understand, citoyen."
"Now listen very attentively, all of you," continued
Chauvelin, impressively, and addressing the soldiers collectively,
"for after this we may not be able to exchange another word, so
remember every syllable I utter, as if your very lives depended on
your memory. Perhaps they do," he added drily.
"We listen, citoyen," said Desgas, "and a soldier of the Republic
never forgets an order."
"You, who have crept up to the hut, will try to peep inside.
If an Englishman is there with those traitors, a man who is tall above
the average, or who stoops as if he would disguise his height, then
give a sharp, quick whistle as a signal to your comrades. All of
you," he added, once more speaking to the soldiers collectively, "then
quickly surround and rush into the hut, and each seize one of the men
there, before they have time to draw their firearms; if any of them
struggle, shoot at their legs or arms, but on no account kill the tall
man. Do you understand?"
"We understand, citoyen."
"The man who is tall above the average is probably also strong
above the average; it will take four or five of you at least to
There was a little pause, then Chauvelin continued,--
"If the royalist traitors are still alone, which is more than
likely to be the case, then warn your comrades who are lying in wait
there, and all of you creep and take cover behind the rocks and
boulders round the hut, and wait there, in dead silence, until the
tall Englishman arrives; then only rush the hut, when he is safely
within its doors. But remember that you must be as silent as the wolf
is at night, when he prowls around the pens. I do not wish those
royalists to be on the alert--the firing of a pistol, a shriek or call
on their part would be sufficient, perhaps, to warn the tall personage
to keep clear of the cliffs, and of the hut, and," he added
emphatically, "it is the tall Englishman whom it is your duty to
"You shall be implicitly obeyed, citoyen."
"Then get along as noiselessly as possible, and I will follow you."
"What about the Jew, citoyen?" asked Desgas, as silently like
noiseless shadows, one by one the soldiers began to creep along the
rough and narrow footpath.
"Ah, yes; I had forgotten about the Jew," said Chauvelin, and,
turning towards the Jew, he called him peremptorily.
"Here, you. . .Aaron, Moses, Abraham, or whatever your
confounded name may be," he said to the old man, who had quietly stood
beside his lean nag, as far away from the soldiers as possible.
"Benjamin Rosenbaum, so it please your Honour," he replied humbly.
"It does not please me to hear your voice, but it does please
me to give you certain orders, which you will find it wise to obey."
"So it please your Honour. . ."
"Hold your confounded tongue. You shall stay here, do you
hear? with your horse and cart until our return. You are on no
account to utter the faintest sound, or to even breathe louder than
you can help; nor are you, on any consideration whatever, to leave
your post, until I give you orders to do so. Do you understand?"
"But your Honour--" protested the Jew pitiably.
"There is no question of `but' or of any argument," said
Chauvelin, in a tone that made the timid old man tremble from heat to
foot. "If, when I return, I do not find you here, I most solemnly
assure you that, wherever you may try to hide yourself, I can find
you, and that punishment swift, sure and terrible, will sooner or
later overtake you. Do you hear me?"
"But your Excellency. . ."
"I said, do you hear me?"
The soldiers had all crept away; the three men stood alone together
in the dark and lonely road, with Marguerite there, behind the hedge,
listening to Chauvelin's orders, as she would to her own death sentence.
"I heard your Honour," protested the Jew again, while he tried
to draw nearer to Chauvelin, "and I swear by Abraham, Isaac and Jacob
that I would obey your Honour most absolutely, and that I would not
move from this place until your Honour once more deigned to shed the
light of your countenance upon your humble servant; but remember, your
Honour, I am a poor man; my nerves are not as strong as those of a
young soldier. If midnight marauders should come prowling round this
lonely road, I might scream or run in my fright! And is my life to be
forfeit, is some terrible punishment to come on my poor old head for
that which I cannot help?
The Jew seemed in real distress; he was shaking from head to foot.
Clearly he was not the man to be left by himself on this lonely road.
The man spoke truly; he might unwittingly, in sheer terror, utter the
shriek that might prove a warning to the wily Scarlet Pimpernel.
Chauvelin reflected for a moment.
"Will your horse and cart be safe alone, here, do you think?"
he asked roughly.
"I fancy, citoyen," here interposed Desgas, "that they will be
safer without that dirty, cowardly Jew than with him. There seems no
doubt that, if he gets scared, he will either make a bolt of it, or
shriek his head off."
"But what am I to do with the brute?"
"Will you send him back to Calais, citoyen?"
"No, for we shall want him to drive back the wounded presently,"
said Chauvelin, with grim significance.
There was a pause again--Desgas waiting for the decision of
his chief, and the old Jew whining beside his nag.
"Well, you lazy, lumbering old coward," said Chauvelin at
last, "you had better shuffle along behind us. Here, Citoyen Desgas,
tie this handkerchief tightly round the fellow's mouth."
Chauvelin handed a scarf to Desgas, who solemnly began winding
it round the Jew's mouth. Meekly Benjamin Rosenbaum allowed himself
to be gagged; he, evidently, preferred this uncomfortable state to
that of being left alone, on the dark St. Martin Road. Then the three
men fell in line.
"Quick!" said Chauvelin, impatiently, "we have already wasted
much valuable time."
And the firm footsteps of Chauvelin and Desgas, the shuffling
gait of the old Jew, soon died away along the footpath.
Marguerite had not lost a single one of Chauvelin's words of
command. Her every nerve was strained to completely grasp the
situation first, then to make a final appeal to those wits which had
so often been called the sharpest in Europe, and which alone might be
of service now.
Certainly the situation was desperate enough; a tiny band of
unsuspecting men, quietly awaiting the arrival of their rescuer, who
was equally unconscious of the trap laid for them all. It seemed so
horrible, this net, as it were drawn in a circle, at dead of night, on
a lonely beach, round a few defenceless men, defenceless because they
were tricked and unsuspecting; of these one was the husband she
idolised, another the brother she loved. She vaguely wondered who the
others were, who were also calmly waiting for the Scarlet Pimpernel,
while death lurked behind every boulder of the cliffs.
For the moment she could do nothing but follow the soldiers
and Chauvelin. She feared to lose her way, or she would have rushed
forward and found that wooden hut, and perhaps been in time to warn
the fugitives and their brave deliverer yet.
For a second, the thought flashed through her mind of uttering
the piercing shrieks, which Chauvelin seemed to dread, as a possible
warning to the Scarlet Pimpernel and his friends--in the wild hope
that they would hear, and have yet time to escape before it was too
late. But she did not know if her shrieks would reach the ears of the
doomed men. Her effort might be premature, and she would never be
allowed to make another. Her mouth would be securely gagged, like
that of the Jew, and she, a helpless prisoner in the hands of
Like a ghost she flitted noiselessly behind that hedge: she
had taken her shoes off, and her stockings were by now torn off her
feet. She felt neither soreness nor weariness; indomitable will to
reach her husband in spite of adverse Fate, and of a cunning enemy,
killed all sense of bodily pain within her, and rendered her instincts
She heard nothing save the soft and measured footsteps of Percy's
enemies on in front; she saw nothing but--in her mind's eye--that
wooden hut, and he, her husband, walking blindly to his doom.
Suddenly, those same keen instincts within her made her pause
in her mad haste, and cower still further within the shadow of the
hedge. The moon, which had proved a friend to her by remaining hidden
behind a bank of clouds, now emerged in all the glory of an early
autumn night, and in a moment flooded the weird and lonely landscape
with a rush of brilliant light.
There, not two hundred metres ahead, was the edge of the
cliff, and below, stretching far away to free and happy England, the
sea rolled on smoothly and peaceably. Marguerite's gaze rested for an
instant on the brilliant, silvery waters; and as she gazed, her heart,
which had been numb with pain for all these hours, seemed to soften
and distend, and her eyes filled with hot tears: not three miles away,
with white sails set, a graceful schooner lay in wait.
Marguerite had guessed rather than recognized her. It was the
DAY DREAM, Percy's favourite yacht, and all her crew of British
sailors: her white sails, glistening in the moonlight, seemed to
convey a message to Marguerite of joy and hope, which yet she feared
could never be. She waited there, out at sea, waited for her master,
like a beautiful white bird all ready to take flight, and he would
never reach her, never see her smooth deck again, never gaze any more
on the white cliffs of England, the land of liberty and of hope.
The sight of the schooner seemed to infuse into the poor,
wearied woman the superhuman strength of despair. There was the edge
of the cliff, and some way below was the hut, where presently, her
husband would meet his death. But the moon was out: she could see her
way now: she would see the hut from a distance, run to it, rouse them
all, warn them at any rate to be prepared and to sell their lives
dearly, rather than be caught like so many rats in a hole.
She stumbled on behind the hedge in the low, thick grass of
the ditch. She must have run on very fast, and had outdistanced
Chauvelin and Desgas, for presently she reached the edge of the cliff,
and heard their footsteps distinctly behind her. But only a very few
yards away, and now the moonlight was full upon her, her figure must have
been distinctly silhouetted against the silvery background of the sea.
Only for a moment, though; the next she had cowered, like some
animal doubled up within itself. She peeped down the great rugged
cliffs--the descent would be easy enough, as they were not
precipitous, and the great boulders afforded plenty of foothold.
Suddenly, as she grazed, she saw at some little distance on her left,
and about midway down the cliffs, a rough wooden construction, through
the wall of which a tiny red light glimmered like a beacon. Her very
heart seemed to stand still, the eagerness of joy was so great that it
felt like an awful pain.
She could not gauge how distant the hut was, but without hesitation
she began the steep descent, creeping from boulder to boulder, caring
nothing for the enemy behind, or for the soldiers, who evidently had
all taken cover since the tall Englishman had not yet appeared.
On she pressed, forgetting the deadly foe on her track,
running, stumbling, foot-sore, half-dazed, but still on. . .When,
suddenly, a crevice, or stone, or slippery bit of rock, threw her
violently to the ground. She struggled again to her feet, and started
running forward once more to give them that timely warning, to beg
them to flee before he came, and to tell him to keep away--away from
this death-trap--away from this awful doom. But now she realised that
other steps, quicker than her own, were already close at her heels.
The next instant a hand dragged at her skirt, and she was down on her
knees again, whilst something was wound round her mouth to prevent her
uttering a scream.
Bewildered, half frantic with the bitterness of disappointment,
she looked round her helplessly, and, bending down quite close to her,
she saw through the mist, which seemed to gather round her, a pair of keen,
malicious eyes, which appeared to her excited brain to have a weird,
supernatural green light in them. She lay in the shadow of a great boulder;
Chauvelin could not see her features, but he passed his thin, white fingers
over her face.
"A woman!" he whispered, "by all the Saints in the calendar."
"We cannot let her loose, that's certain," he muttered to himself.
"I wonder now. . ."
Suddenly he paused, after a few moment of deadly silence, he gave forth
a long, low, curious chuckle, while once again Marguerite felt, with a
horrible shudder, his thin fingers wandering over her face.
"Dear me! dear me!" he whispered, with affected gallantry,
"this is indeed a charming surprise," and Marguerite felt her
resistless hand raised to Chauvelin's thin, mocking lips.
The situation was indeed grotesque, had it not been at the
same time so fearfully tragic: the poor, weary woman, broken in
spirit, and half frantic with the bitterness of her disappointment,
receiving on her knees the BANAL gallantries of her deadly enemy.
Her senses were leaving her; half choked with the tight grip
round her mouth, she had no strength to move or to utter the faintest
sound. The excitement which all along had kept up her delicate body
seemed at once to have subsided, and the feeling of blank despair to
have completely paralyzed her brain and nerves.
Chauvelin must have given some directions, which she was too
dazed to hear, for she felt herself lifted from off her feet: the
bandage round her mouth was made more secure, and a pair of strong
arms carried her towards that tiny, red light, on ahead, which she had
looked upon as a beacon and the last faint glimmer of hope.
CHAPTER XXIX TRAPPED
She did not know how long she was thus carried along, she had
lost all notion of time and space, and for a few seconds tired nature,
mercifully, deprived her of consciousness.
When she once more realised her state, she felt that she was placed with
some degree of comfort upon a man's coat, with her back resting against
a fragment of rock. The moon was hidden again behind some clouds,
and the darkness seemed in comparison more intense. The sea was
roaring some two hundred feet below her, and on looking all round
she could no longer see any vestige of the tiny glimmer of red light.
That the end of the journey had been reached, she gathered
from the fact that she heard rapid questions and answers spoken in a
whisper quite close to her.
"There are four men in there, citoyen; they are sitting by the
fire, and seem to be waiting quietly."
"Nearly two o'clock."
"Coming in quickly."
"Obviously an English one, lying some three kilometers out.
But we cannot see her boat."
"Have the men taken cover?"
"They will not blunder?"
"They will not stir until the tall Englishman comes, then they
will surround and overpower the five men."
"Right. And the lady?"
"Still dazed, I fancy. She's close beside you, citoyen."
"And the Jew?"
"He's gagged, and his legs strapped together. He cannot move or scream."
"Good. Then have your gun ready, in case you want it.
Get close to the hut and leave me to look after the lady."
Desgas evidently obeyed, for Marguerite heard him creeping away along
the stony cliff, then she felt that a pair of warm, thin, talon-like
hands took hold of both her own, and held them in a grip of steel.
"Before that handkerchief is removed from your pretty mouth,
fair lady," whispered Chauvelin close to her ear, "I think it right to
give you one small word of warning. What has procured me the honour
of being followed across the Channel by so charming a companion, I
cannot, of course, conceive, but, if I mistake it not, the purpose of
this flattering attention is not one that would commend itself to my
vanity and I think that I am right in surmising, moreover, that the
first sound which your pretty lips would utter, as soon as the cruel
gag is removed, would be one that would prove a warning to the cunning
fox, which I have been at such pains to track to his lair."
He paused a moment, while the steel-like grasp seemed to tighten round
her waist; then he resumed in the same hurried whisper:--
"Inside that hut, if again I am not mistaken, your brother,
Armand St. Just, waits with that traitor de Tournay, and two other men
unknown to you, for the arrival of the mysterious rescuer, whose
identity has for so long puzzled our Committee of Public Safety--the
audacious Scarlet Pimpernel. No doubt if you scream, if there is a
scuffle here, if shots are fired, it is more than likely that the same
long legs that brought this scarlet enigma here, will as quickly take
him to some place of safety. The purpose then, for which I have
travelled all these miles, will remain unaccomplished. On the other
hand it only rests with yourself that your brother--Armand--shall be
free to go off with you to-night if you like, to England, or any other
place of safety."
Marguerite could not utter a sound, as the handkerchief was
would very tightly round her mouth, but Chauvelin was peering through
the darkness very closely into her face; no doubt too her hand gave a
responsive appeal to his last suggestion, for presently he continued:--
"What I want you to do to ensure Armand's safety is a very simple thing,
"What is it?" Marguerite's hand seemed to convey to his, in response.
"To remain--on this spot, without uttering a sound, until I
give you leave to speak. Ah! but I think you will obey," he added,
with that funny dry chuckle of his as Marguerite's whole figure seemed
to stiffen, in defiance of this order, "for let me tell you that if
you scream, nay! if you utter one sound, or attempt to move from
here, my men--there are thirty of them about--will seize St. Just, de
Tournay, and their two friends, and shoot them here--by my
orders--before your eyes."
Marguerite had listened to her implacable enemy's speech with
ever-increasing terror. Numbed with physical pain, she yet had
sufficient mental vitality in her to realize the full horror of this
terrible "either--or" he was once more putting before her;
"either--or" ten thousand times more appalling and horrible, that the
one he had suggested to her that fatal night at the ball.
This time it meant that she should keep still, and allow the
husband she worshipped to walk unconsciously to his death, or that she
should, by trying to give him a word of warning, which perhaps might
even be unavailing, actually give the signal for her own brother's
death, and that of three other unsuspecting men.
She could not see Chauvelin, but she could almost feel those
keen, pale eyes of his fixed maliciously upon her helpless form, and
his hurried, whispered words reached her ear, as the death-knell of
her last faint, lingering hope.
"Nay, fair lady," he added urbanely, "you can have no interest
in anyone save in St. Just, and all you need do for his safety is to
remain where you are, and to keep silent. My men have strict orders
to spare him in every way. As for that enigmatic Scarlet Pimpernel,
what is he to you? Believe me, no warning from you could possibly
save him. And now dear lady, let me remove this unpleasant coercion,
which has been placed before your pretty mouth. You see I wish you to
be perfectly free, in the choice which you are about to make."
Her thoughts in a whirl, her temples aching, her nerves
paralyzed, her body numb with pain, Marguerite sat there, in the
darkness which surrounded her as with a pall. From where she sat she
could not see the sea, but she heard the incessant mournful murmur of
the incoming tide, which spoke of her dead hopes, her lost love, the
husband she had with her own hand betrayed, and sent to his death.
Chauvelin removed he handkerchief from her mouth. She certainly
did not scream: at that moment, she had no strength to do anything
but barely to hold herself upright, and to force herself to think.
Oh! think! think! think! of what she should do. The
minutes flew on; in this awful stillness she could not tell how fast
or how slowly; she heard nothing, she saw nothing: she did not feel
the sweet-smelling autumn air, scented with the briny odour of the
sea, she no longer heard the murmur of the waves, the occasional
rattling of a pebble, as it rolled down some steep incline. More and
more unreal did the whole situation seem. It was impossible that she,
Marguerite Blakeney, the queen of London society, should actually be
sitting here on this bit of lonely coast, in the middle of the night,
side by side with a most bitter enemy; and oh! it was not possible
that somewhere, not many hundred feet away perhaps, from where she
stood, the being she had once despised, but who now, in every moment
of this weird, dreamlike life, became more and more dear--it was not
possible that HE was unconsciously, even now walking to his doom,
whilst she did nothing to save him.
Why did she not with unearthly screams, that would re-echo
from one end of the lonely beach to the other, send out a warning to
him to desist, to retrace his steps, for death lurked here whilst he
advanced? Once or twice the screams rose to her throat--as if my
instinct: then, before her eyes there stood the awful alternative: her
brother and those three men shot before her eyes, practically by her
orders: she their murderer.
Oh! that fiend in human shape, next to her, knew human--female--nature well.
He had played upon her feelings as a skilful musician plays upon an instrument.
He had gauged her very thoughts to a nicety.
She could not give that signal--for she was weak, and she was
a woman. How could she deliberately order Armand to be shot before
her eyes, to have his dear blood upon her head, he dying perhaps with
a curse on her, upon his lips. And little Suzanne's father, too! he,
and old man; and the others!--oh! it was all too, too horrible.
Wait! wait! wait! how long? The early morning hours sped
on, and yet it was not dawn: the sea continued its incessant mournful
murmur, the autumnal breeze sighed gently in the night: the lonely
beach was silent, even as the grave.
Suddenly from somewhere, not very far away, a cheerful, strong
voice was heard singing "God save the King!"
CHAPTER XXX THE SCHOONER
Marguerite's aching heart stood still. She felt, more than
she heard, the men on the watch preparing for the fight. Her senses
told her that each, with sword in hand, was crouching, ready for the
The voice came nearer and nearer; in the vast immensity of
these lonely cliffs, with the loud murmur of the sea below, it was
impossible to say how near, or how far, nor yet from which direction
came that cheerful singer, who sang to God to save his King, whilst he
himself was in such deadly danger. Faint at first, the voice grew
louder and louder; from time to time a small pebble detached itself
apparently from beneath the firm tread of the singer, and went rolling
down the rocky cliffs to the beach below.
Marguerite as she heard, felt that her very life was slipping
away, as if when that voice drew nearer, when that singer became
entrapped. . .
She distinctly heard the click of Desgas' gun close to her. . . .
No! no! no! no! Oh, God in heaven! this cannot be! let Armand's
blood then be on her own head! let her be branded as his murderer!
let even he, whom she loved, despise and loathe her for this, but God!
oh God! save him at any cost!
With a wild shriek, she sprang to her feet, and darted round
the rock, against which she had been cowering; she saw the little red
gleam through the chinks of the hut; she ran up to it and fell against
its wooden walls, which she began to hammer with clenched fists in an
almost maniacal frenzy, while she shouted,--
"Armand! Armand! for God's sake fire! your leader is near!
he is coming! he is betrayed! Armand! Armand! fire in Heaven's name!"
She was seized and thrown to the ground. She lay there moaning, bruised,
not caring, but still half-sobbing, half-shrieking,--
"Percy, my husband, for God's sake fly! Armand!
Armand! why don't you fire?"
"One of you stop that woman screaming," hissed Chauvelin, who hardly
could refrain from striking her.
Something was thrown over her face; she could not breathe, and
perforce she was silent.
The bold singer, too, had become silent, warned, no doubt, of
his impending danger by Marguerite's frantic shrieks. The men had
sprung to their feet, there was no need for further silence on their
part; the very cliffs echoed the poor, heart-broken woman's screams.
Chauvelin, with a muttered oath, which boded no good to her,
who had dared to upset his most cherished plans, had hastily shouted
the word of command,--
"Into it, my men, and let no one escape from that hut alive!"
The moon had once more emerged from between the clouds: the
darkness on the cliffs had gone, giving place once more to brilliant,
silvery light. Some of the soldiers had rushed to the rough, wooden
door of the hut, whilst one of them kept guard over Marguerite.
The door was partially open; on of the soldiers pushed it further,
but within all was darkness, the charcoal fire only lighting with a dim,
red light the furthest corner of the hut. The soldiers paused
automatically at the door, like machines waiting for further orders.
Chauvelin, who was prepared for a violent onslaught from
within, and for a vigorous resistance from the four fugitives, under
cover of the darkness, was for the moment paralyzed with astonishment
when he saw the soldiers standing there at attention, like sentries on
guard, whilst not a sound proceeded from the hut.
Filled with strange, anxious foreboding, he, too, went to the
door of the hut, and peering into the gloom, he asked quickly,--
"What is the meaning of this?"
"I think, citoyen, that there is no one there now," replied
one of the soldiers imperturbably.
"You have not let those four men go?" thundered Chauvelin,
menacingly. "I ordered you to let no man escape alive!--Quick, after
them all of you! Quick, in every direction!"
The men, obedient as machines, rushed down the rocky incline
towards the beach, some going off to right and left, as fast as their
feet could carry them.
"You and your men will pay with your lives for this blunder,
citoyen sergeant," said Chauvelin viciously to the sergeant who had
been in charge of the men; "and you, too, citoyen," he added turning
with a snarl to Desgas, "for disobeying my orders."
"You ordered us to wait, citoyen, until the tall Englishman
arrived and joined the four men in the hut. No one came," said the
"But I ordered you just now, when the woman screamed, to rush
in and let no one escape."
"But, citoyen, the four men who were there before had been
gone some time, I think. . ."
"You think?--You?. . ." said Chauvelin, almost choking with
fury, "and you let them go. . ."
"You ordered us to wait, citoyen," protested the sergeant,
"and to implicitly obey your commands on pain of death. We waited."
"I heard the men creep out of the hut, not many minutes after
we took cover, and long before the woman screamed," he added, as
Chauvelin seemed still quite speechless with rage.
"Hark!" said Desgas suddenly.
In the distance the sound of repeated firing was heard.
Chauvelin tried to peer along the beach below, but as luck would have
it, the fitful moon once more hid her light behind a bank of clouds,
and he could see nothing.
"One of you go into the hut and strike a light," he stammered at last.
Stolidly the sergeant obeyed: he went up to the charcoal fire
and lit the small lantern he carried in his belt; it was evident that
the hut was quite empty.
"Which way did they go?" asked Chauvelin.
"I could not tell, citoyen," said the sergeant; "they went
straight down the cliff first, then disappeared behind some boulders."
"Hush! what was that?"
All three men listened attentively. In the far, very far
distance, could be heard faintly echoing and already dying away, the
quick, sharp splash of half a dozen oars. Chauvelin took out his
handkerchief and wiped the perspiration from his forehead.
"The schooner's boat!" was all he gasped.
Evidently Armand St. Just and his three companions had managed
to creep along the side of the cliffs, whilst the men, like true
soldiers of the well-drilled Republican army, had with blind
obedience, and in fear of their own lives, implicitly obeyed
Chauvelin's orders--to wait for the tall Englishman, who was the
They had no doubt reached one of the creeks which jut far out
to see on this coast at intervals; behind this, the boat of the DAY
DREAM must have been on the lookout for them, and they were by now
safely on board the British schooner.
As if to confirm this last supposition, the dull boom of a gun
was heard from out at sea.
"The schooner, citoyen," said Desgas, quietly; "she's off."
It needed all Chauvelin's nerve and presence of mind not to
give way to a useless and undignified access of rage. There was no
doubt now, that once again, that accursed British head had completely
outwitted him. How he had contrived to reach the hut, without being
seen by one of the thirty soldiers who guarded the spot, was more than
Chauvelin could conceive. That he had done so before the thirty men
had arrived on the cliff was, of course, fairly clear, but how he had
come over in Reuben Goldstein's cart, all the way from Calais, without
being sighted by the various patrols on duty was impossible of
explanation. It really seemed as if some potent Fate watched over
that daring Scarlet Pimpernel, and his astute enemy almost felt a
superstitious shudder pass through him, as he looked round at the
towering cliffs, and the loneliness of this outlying coast.
But surely this was reality! and the year of grace 1792:
there were no fairies and hobgoblins about. Chauvelin and his thirty
men had all heard with their own ears that accursed voice singing "God
save the King," fully twenty minutes AFTER they had all taken cover
around the hut; by that time the four fugitives must have reached the
creek, and got into the boat, and the nearest creek was more than a
mile from the hut.
Where had that daring singer got to? Unless Satan himself had
lent him wings, he could not have covered that mile on a rocky cliff
in the space of two minutes; and only two minutes had elapsed between
his song and the sound of the boat's oars away at sea. He must have
remained behind, and was even now hiding somewhere about the cliffs;
the patrols were still about, he would still be sighted, no doubt.
Chauvelin felt hopeful once again.
One or two of the men, who had run after the fugitives, were
now slowly working their way up the cliff: one of them reached
Chauvelin's side, at the very moment that this hope arose in the
astute diplomatist's heart.
"We were too late, citoyen," the soldier said, "we reached the
beach just before the moon was hidden by that bank of clouds. The
boat had undoubtedly been on the look-out behind that first creek, a
mile off, but she had shoved off some time ago, when we got to the
beach, and was already some way out to sea. We fired after her, but
of course, it was no good. She was making straight and quickly for
the schooner. We saw her very clearly in the moonlight."
"Yes," said Chauvelin, with eager impatience, "she had shoved off
some time ago, you said, and the nearest creek is a mile further on."
"Yes, citoyen! I ran all the way, straight to the beach,
though I guessed the boat would have waited somewhere near the creek,
as the tide would reach there earliest. The boat must have shoved off
some minutes before the woman began to scream."
"Bring the light in here!" he commanded eagerly, as he once
more entered the hut.
The sergeant brought his lantern, and together the two men
explored the little place: with a rapid glance Chauvelin noted its
contents: the cauldron placed close under an aperture in the wall, and
containing the last few dying embers of burned charcoal, a couple of
stools, overturned as if in the haste of sudden departure, then the
fisherman's tools and his nets lying in one corner, and beside them,
something small and white.
"Pick that up," said Chauvelin to the sergeant, pointing to
this white scrap, "and bring it to me."
It was a crumpled piece of paper, evidently forgotten there by
the fugitives, in their hurry to get away. The sergeant, much awed by
the citoyen's obvious rage and impatience, picked the paper up and
handed it respectfully to Chauvelin.
"Read it, sergeant," said the latter curtly.
"It is almost illegible, citoyen. . .a fearful scrawl. . ."
"I ordered you to read it," repeated Chauvelin, viciously.
The sergeant, by the light of his lantern, began deciphering
the few hastily scrawled words.
"I cannot quite reach you, without risking your lives
and endangering the success of your rescue. When you receive
this, wait two minutes, then creep out of the hut one by one,
turn to your left sharply, and creep cautiously down the
cliff; keep to the left all the time, till you reach the first
rock, which you see jutting far out to sea--behind it in the
creek the boat is on the look-out for you--give a long, sharp
whistle--she will come up--get into her--my men will row you
to the schooner, and thence to England and safety--once on
board the DAY DREAM send the boat back for me, tell my men
that I shall be at the creek, which is in a direct line
opposite the `Chat Gris' near Calais. They know it. I shall
be there as soon as possible--they must wait for me at a safe
distance out at sea, till they hear the usual signal. Do not
delay--and obey these instructions implicitly."
"Then there is the signature, citoyen," added the sergeant, as
he handed the paper back to Chauvelin.
But the latter had not waited an instant. One phrase of the
momentous scrawl had caught his ear. "I shall be at the creek which
is in a direct line opposite the `Chat Gris' near Calais": that phrase
might yet mean victory for him.
"Which of you knows this coast well?" he shouted to his men
who now one by one all returned from their fruitless run, and were all
assembled once more round the hut.
"I do, citoyen," said one of them, "I was born in Calais, and
know every stone of these cliffs."
"There is a creek in a direct line from the `Chat Gris'?"
"There is, citoyen. I know it well."
"The Englishman is hoping to reach that creek. He does NOT
know every stone of these cliffs, he may go there by the longest way
round, and in any case he will proceed cautiously for fear of the
patrols. At any rate, there is a chance to get him yet. A thousand
francs to each man who gets to that creek before that long-legged
"I know of a short cut across the cliffs," said the soldier,
and with an enthusiastic shout, he rushed forward, followed closely by
Within a few minutes their running footsteps had died away in the distance.
Chauvelin listened to them for a moment; the promise of the reward was
lending spurs to the soldiers of the Republic. The gleam of hate and
anticipated triumph was once more apparent on his face.
Close to him Desgas still stood mute and impassive, waiting
for further orders, whilst two soldiers were kneeling beside the
prostrate form of Marguerite. Chauvelin gave his secretary a vicious
look. His well-laid plan had failed, its sequel was problematical;
there was still a great chance now that the Scarlet Pimpernel might
yet escape, and Chauvelin, with that unreasoning fury, which sometimes
assails a strong nature, was longing to vent his rage on somebody.
The soldiers were holding Marguerite pinioned to the ground,
though, she, poor soul, was not making the faintest struggle.
Overwrought nature had at last peremptorily asserted herself, and she
lay there in a dead swoon: her eyes circled by deep purple lines, that
told of long, sleepless nights, her hair matted and damp round her forehead,
her lips parted in a sharp curve that spoke of physical pain.
The cleverest woman in Europe, the elegant and fashionable
Lady Blakeney, who had dazzled London society with her beauty, her wit
and her extravagances, presented a very pathetic picture of tired-out,
suffering womanhood, which would have appealed to any, but the hard,
vengeful heart of her baffled enemy.
"It is no use mounting guard over a woman who is half dead,"
he said spitefully to the soldiers, "when you have allowed five men
who were very much alive to escape."
Obediently the soldiers rose to their feet.
"You'd better try and find that footpath again for me, and
that broken-down cart we left on the road."
Then suddenly a bright idea seemed to strike him.
"Ah! by-the-bye! where is the Jew?"
"Close by here, citoyen," said Desgas; "I gagged him and tied
his legs together as you commanded."
From the immediate vicinity, a plaintive moan reached
Chauvelin's ears. He followed his secretary, who led the way to the
other side of the hut, where, fallen into an absolute heap of
dejection, with his legs tightly pinioned together and his mouth
gagged, lay the unfortunate descendant of Israel.
His face in the silvery light of the moon looked positively
ghastly with terror: his eyes were wide open and almost glassy, and
his whole body was trembling, as if with ague, while a piteous wail
escaped his bloodless lips. The rope which had originally been wound
round his shoulders and arms had evidently given way, for it lay in a
tangle about his body, but he seemed quite unconscious of this, for he
had not made the slightest attempt to move from the place where Desgas
had originally put him: like a terrified chicken which looks upon a
line of white chalk, drawn on a table, as on a string which paralyzes
"Bring the cowardly brute here," commanded Chauvelin.
He certainly felt exceedingly vicious, and since he had no
reasonable grounds for venting his ill-humour on the soldiers who had
but too punctually obeyed his orders, he felt that the son of the
despised race would prove an excellent butt. With true French
contempt of the Jew, which has survived the lapse of centuries even to
this day, he would not go too near him, but said with biting sarcasm,
as the wretched old man was brought in full light of the moon by the
"I suppose now, that being a Jew, you have a good memory for
"Answer!" he again commanded, as the Jew with trembling lips
seemed too frightened to speak.
"Yes, your Honour," stammered the poor wretch.
"You remember, then, the one you and I made together in Calais,
when you undertook to overtake Reuben Goldstein, his nag and
my friend the tall stranger? Eh?"
"B. . .b. . .but. . .your Honour. . ."
"There is no `but.' I said, do you remember?"
"Y. . .y. . .y. . .yes. . .your Honour!"
"What was the bargain?"
There was dead silence. The unfortunate man looked round at
the great cliffs, the moon above, the stolid faces of the soldiers,
and even at the poor, prostate, inanimate woman close by, but said nothing.
"Will you speak?" thundered Chauvelin, menacingly.
He did try, poor wretch, but, obviously, he could not. There was no doubt,
however, that he knew what to expect from the stern man before him.
"Your Honour. . ." he ventured imploringly.
"Since your terror seems to have paralyzed your tongue," said
Chauvelin sarcastically, "I must needs refresh your memory. It was
agreed between us, that if we overtook my friend the tall stranger,
before he reached this place, you were to have ten pieces of gold."
A low moan escaped from the Jew's trembling lips.
"But," added Chauvelin, with slow emphasis, "if you deceived
me in your promise, you were to have a sound beating, one that would
teach you not to tell lies."
"I did not, your Honour; I swear it by Abraham. . ."
"And by all the other patriarchs, I know. Unfortunately, they
are still in Hades, I believe, according to your creed, and cannot
help you much in your present trouble. Now, you did not fulful your
share of the bargain, but I am ready to fulfil mine. Here," he added,
turning to the soldiers, "the buckle-end of your two belts to this
As the soldiers obediently unbuckled their heavy leather
belts, the Jew set up a howl that surely would have been enough to
bring all the patriarchs out of Hades and elsewhere, to defend their
descendant from the brutality of this French official.
"I think I can rely on you, citoyen soldiers," laughed
Chauvelin, maliciously, "to give this old liar the best and soundest
beating he has ever experienced. But don't kill him," he added drily.
"We will obey, citoyen," replied the soldiers as imperturbably
He did not wait to see his orders carried out: he knew that he
could trust these soldiers--who were still smarting under his
rebuke--not to mince matters, when given a free hand to belabour a
"When that lumbering coward has had his punishment," he said
to Desgas, "the men can guide us as far as the cart, and one of them
can drive us in it back to Calais. The Jew and the woman can look
after each other," he added roughly, "until we can send somebody for
them in the morning. They can't run away very far, in their present
condition, and we cannot be troubled with them just now."
Chauvelin had not given up all hope. His men, he knew, were
spurred on by the hope of the reward. That enigmatic and audacious
Scarlet Pimpernel, alone and with thirty men at his heels, could not
reasonably be expected to escape a second time.
But he felt less sure now: the Englishman's audacity had
baffled him once, whilst the wooden-headed stupidity of the soldiers,
and the interference of a woman had turned his hand, which held all
the trumps, into a losing one. If Marguerite had not taken up his
time, if the soldiers had had a grain of intelligence, if. . .it was a
long "if," and Chauvelin stood for a moment quite still, and enrolled
thirty odd people in one long, overwhelming anathema. Nature, poetic,
silent, balmy, the bright moon, the calm, silvery sea spoke of beauty
and of rest, and Chauvelin cursed nature, cursed man and woman, and
above all, he cursed all long-legged, meddlesome British enigmas with
one gigantic curse.
The howls of the Jew behind him, undergoing his punishment
sent a balm through his heart, overburdened as it was with revengeful
malice. He smiled. It eased his mind to think that some human being
at least was, like himself, not altogether at peace with mankind.
He turned and took a last look at the lonely bit of coast,
where stood the wooden hut, now bathed in moonlight, the scene of the
greatest discomfiture ever experienced by a leading member of the
Committee of Public Safety.
Against a rock, on a hard bed of stone, lay the unconscious
figure of Marguerite Blakeney, while some few paces further on, the
unfortunate Jew was receiving on his broad back the blows of two stout
leather belts, wielded by the stolid arms of two sturdy soldiers of
the Republic. The howls of Benjamin Rosenbaum were fit to make the
dead rise from their graves. They must have wakened all the gulls
from sleep, and made them look down with great interest at the doings
of the lords of the creation.
"That will do," commanded Chauvelin, as the Jew's moans became
more feeble, and the poor wretch seemed to have fainted away,
"we don't want to kill him."
Obediently the soldiers buckled on their belts, one of them
viciously kicking the Jew to one side.
"Leave him there," said Chauvelin, "and lead the way now
quickly to the cart. I'll follow."
He walked up to where Marguerite lay, and looked down into her
face. She had evidently recovered consciousness, and was making
feeble efforts to raise herself. Her large, blue eyes were looking at
the moonlit scene round her with a scared and terrified look; they
rested with a mixture of horror and pity on the Jew, whose luckless
fate and wild howls had been the first signs that struck her, with her
returning senses; then she caught sight of Chauvelin, in his neat,
dark clothes, which seemed hardly crumpled after the stirring events
of the last few hours. He was smiling sarcastically, and his pale
eyes peered down at her with a look of intense malice.
With mock gallantry, he stooped and raised her icy-cold hand
to his lips, which sent a thrill of indescribable loathing through
Marguerite's weary frame.
"I much regret, fair lady," he said in his most suave tones,
"that circumstances, over which I have no control, compel me to leave
you here for the moment. But I go away, secure in the knowledge that
I do not leave you unprotected. Our friend Benjamin here, though a
trifle the worse for wear at the present moment, will prove a gallant
defender of your fair person, I have no doubt. At dawn I will send an
escort for you; until then, I feel sure that you will find him
devoted, though perhaps a trifle slow."
Marguerite only had the strength to turn her head away. Her
heart was broken with cruel anguish. One awful thought had returned
to her mind, together with gathering consciousness: "What had become
of Percy?--What of Armand?"
She knew nothing of what had happened after she heard the
cheerful song, "God save the King," which she believed to be the
signal of death.
"I, myself," concluded Chauvelin, "must now very reluctantly
leave you. AU REVOIR, fair lady. We meet, I hope, soon in London.
Shall I see you at the Prince of Wales garden party?--No?--Ah, well,
AU REVOIR!--Remember me, I pray, to Sir Percy Blakeney.
And, with a last ironical smile and bow, he once more kissed
her hand, and disappeared down the footpath in the wake of the
soldiers, and followed by the imperturbable Desgas.
CHAPTER XXXI THE ESCAPE
Marguerite listened--half-dazed as she was--to the
fast-retreating, firm footsteps of the four men.
All nature was so still that she, lying with her ear close to
the ground, could distinctly trace the sound of their tread, as they
ultimately turned into the road, and presently the faint echo of the
old cart-wheels, the halting gait of the lean nag, told her that her
enemy was a quarter of a league away. How long she lay there she knew
not. She had lost count of time; dreamily she looked up at the
moonlit sky, and listened to the monotonous roll of the waves.
The invigorating scent of the sea was nectar to her wearied
body, the immensity of the lonely cliffs was silent and dreamlike.
Her brain only remained conscious of its ceaseless, its intolerable
torture of uncertainty.
She did not know!--
She did not know whether Percy was even now, at this moment,
in the hands of the soldiers of the Republic, enduring--as she had
done herself--the gibes and jeers of his malicious enemy. She did not
know, on the other hand, whether Armand's lifeless body did not lie
there, in the hut, whilst Percy had escaped, only to hear that his
wife's hands had guided the human bloodhounds to the murder of Armand
and his friends.
The physical pain of utter weariness was so great, that she
hoped confidently her tired body could rest here for ever, after all
the turmoil, the passion, and the intrigues of the last few
days--here, beneath that clear sky, within sound of the sea, and with
this balmy autumn breeze whispering to her a last lullaby. All was so
solitary, so silent, like unto dreamland. Even the last faint echo of
the distant cart had long ago died away, afar.
Suddenly. . .a sound. . .the strangest, undoubtedly, that
these lonely cliffs of France had ever heard, broke the silent
solemnity of the shore.
So strange a sound was it that the gentle breeze ceased to
murmur, the tiny pebbles to roll down the steep incline! So strange,
that Marguerite, wearied, overwrought as she was, thought that the
beneficial unconsciousness of the approach of death was playing her
half-sleeping senses a weird and elusive trick.
It was the sound of a good, solid, absolutely British "Damn!"
The sea gulls in their nests awoke and looked round in astonishment;
a distant and solitary owl set up a midnight hoot, the tall cliffs
frowned down majestically at the strange, unheard-of sacrilege.
Marguerite did not trust her ears. Half-raising herself on
her hands, she strained every sense to see or hear, to know the
meaning of this very earthly sound.
All was still again for the space of a few seconds; the same
silence once more fell upon the great and lonely vastness.
Then Marguerite, who had listened as in a trance, who felt she
must be dreaming with that cool, magnetic moonlight overhead, heard
again; and this time her heart stood still, her eyes large and
dilated, looked round her, not daring to trust her other sense.
"Odd's life! but I wish those demmed fellows had not hit quite so hard!"
This time it was quite unmistakable, only one particular pair
of essentially British lips could have uttered those words, in sleepy,
drawly, affected tones.
"Damn!" repeated those same British lips, emphatically.
"Zounds! but I'm as weak as a rat!"
In a moment Marguerite was on her feet.
Was she dreaming? Were those great, stony cliffs the gates of paradise?
Was the fragrant breath of the breeze suddenly caused by the flutter
of angels' wings, bringing tidings of unearthly joys to her, after
all her suffering, or--faint and ill--was she the prey of delirium?
She listened again, and once again she heard the same very
earthly sounds of good, honest British language, not the least akin to
whisperings from paradise or flutter of angels' wings.
She looked round her eagerly at the tall cliffs, the lonely
hut, the great stretch of rocky beach. Somewhere there, above or
below her, behind a boulder or inside a crevice, but still hidden from
her longing, feverish eyes, must be the owner of that voice, which
once used to irritate her, but now would make her the happiest woman
in Europe, if only she could locate it.
"Percy! Percy!" she shrieked hysterically, tortured between doubt
and hope, "I am here! Come to me! Where are you? Percy! Percy!. . ."
"It's all very well calling me, m'dear!" said the same sleepy,
drawly voice, "but odd's life, I cannot come to you: those demmed
frog-eaters have trussed me like a goose on a spit, and I am weak as a
mouse. . .I cannot get away."
And still Marguerite did not understand. She did not realise
for at least another ten seconds whence came that voice, so drawly, so
dear, but alas! with a strange accent of weakness and of suffering.
There was no one within sight. . .except by that rock. . .Great
God!. . .the Jew!. . .Was she mad or dreaming?. . .
His back was against the pale moonlight, he was half crouching,
trying vainly to raise himself with his arms tightly pinioned.
Marguerite ran up to him, took his head in both her hands. . .
and look straight into a pair of blue eyes, good-natured, even a
trifle amused--shining out of the weird and distorted mask of the Jew.
"Percy!. . .Percy!. . .my husband!" she gasped, faint with the
fulness of her joy. "Thank God! Thank God!"
"La! m'dear," he rejoined good-humouredly, "we will both do
that anon, an you think you can loosen these demmed ropes,
and release me from my inelegant attitude."
She had no knife, her fingers were numb and weak, but she
worked away with her teeth, while great welcome tears poured from her
eyes, onto those poor, pinioned hands.
"Odd's life!" he said, when at last, after frantic efforts on
her part, the ropes seemed at last to be giving way, "but I marvel
whether it has ever happened before, that an English gentleman allowed
himself to be licked by a demmed foreigner, and made no attempt to
give as good as he got."
It was very obvious that he was exhausted from sheer physical pain,
and when at last the rope gave way, he fell in a heap against the rock.
Marguerite looked helplessly round her.
"Oh! for a drop of water on this awful beach!" she cried in
agony, seeing that he was ready to faint again.
"Nay, m'dear," he murmured with his good-humoured smile,
"personally I should prefer a drop of good French brandy! an you'll
dive in the pocket of this dirty old garment, you'll find my
flask. . . . I am demmed if I can move."
When he had drunk some brandy, he forced Marguerite to do likewise.
"La! that's better now! Eh! little woman?" he said, with a
sigh of satisfaction. "Heigh-ho! but this is a queer rig-up for Sir
Percy Blakeney, Bart., to be found in by his lady, and no mistake.
Begad!" he added, passing his hand over his chin, "I haven't been
shaved for nearly twenty hours: I must look a disgusting object. As
for these curls. . ."
And laughingly he took off the disfiguring wig and curls, and
stretched out his long limbs, which were cramped from many hours'
stooping. Then he bent forward and looked long and searchingly into
his wife's blue eyes.
"Percy," she whispered, while a deep blush suffused her
delicate cheeks and neck, "if you only knew. . ."
"I do know, dear. . .everything," he said with infinite gentleness.
"And can you ever forgive?"
"I have naught to forgive, sweetheart; your heroism, your
devotion, which I, alas! so little deserved, have more than atoned
for that unfortunate episode at the ball."
"Then you knew?. . ." she whispered, "all the time. . ."
"Yes!" he replied tenderly, "I knew. . .all the time. . . .
But, begad! had I but known what a noble heart yours was, my Margot,
I should have trusted you, as you deserved to be trusted, and you
would not have had to undergo the terrible sufferings of the past few
hours, in order to run after a husband, who has done so much that
They were sitting side by side, leaning up against a rock, and
he had rested his aching head on her shoulder. She certainly now
deserved the name of "the happiest woman in Europe."
"It is a case of the blind leading the lame, sweetheart, is it
not?" he said with his good-natured smile of old. "Odd's life! but I
do not know which are the more sore, my shoulders or your little feet."
He bent forward to kiss them, for they peeped out through her torn
stockings, and bore pathetic witness to her endurance and devotion.
"But Armand. . ." she said with sudden terror and remorse, as in
the midst of her happiness the image of the beloved brother,
for whose sake she had so deeply sinned, rose now before her mind.
"Oh! have no fear for Armand, sweetheart," he said tenderly,
"did I not pledge you my word that he should be safe? He with de
Tournay and the others are even now on board the DAY DREAM."
"But how?" she gasped, "I do not understand."
"Yet, `tis simple enough, m'dear," he said with that funny,
half-shy, half-inane laugh of his, "you see! when I found that that
brute Chauvelin meant to stick to me like a leech, I thought the best
thing I could do, as I could not shake him off, was to take him along
with me. I had to get to Armand and the others somehow, and all the
roads were patrolled, and every one on the look-out for your humble
servant. I knew that when I slipped through Chauvelin's fingers at
the `Chat Gris,' that he would lie in wait for me here, whichever way
I took. I wanted to keep an eye on him and his doings, and a British
head is as good as a French one any day."
Indeed it had proved to be infinitely better, and Marguerite's
heart was filled with joy and marvel, as he continued to recount to
her the daring manner in which he had snatched the fugitives away,
right from under Chauvelin's very nose.
"Dressed as the dirty old Jew," he said gaily, "I knew I
should not be recognized. I had met Reuben Goldstein in Calais
earlier in the evening. For a few gold pieces he supplied me with
this rig-out, and undertook to bury himself out of sight of everybody,
whilst he lent me his cart and nag."
"But if Chauvelin had discovered you," she gasped excitedly,
"your disguise was good. . .but he is so sharp."
"Odd's fish!" he rejoined quietly, "then certainly the game
would have been up. I could but take the risk. I know human nature
pretty well by now," he added, with a note of sadness in his cheery,
young voice, "and I know these Frenchmen out and out. They so loathe
a Jew, that they never come nearer than a couple of yards of him, and
begad! I fancy that I contrived to make myself look about as
loathesome an object as it is possible to conceive."
"Yes!--and then?" she asked eagerly.
"Zooks!--then I carried out my little plan: that is to say, at
first I only determined to leave everything to chance, but when I
heard Chauvelin giving his orders to the soldiers, I thought that Fate
and I were going to work together after all. I reckoned on the blind
obedience of the soldiers. Chauvelin had ordered them on pain of
death not to stir until the tall Englishman came. Desgas had thrown
me down in a heap quite close to the hut; the soldiers took no notice
of the Jew, who had driven Citoyen Chauvelin to this spot. I managed
to free my hands from the ropes, with which the brute had trussed me;
I always carry pencil and paper with me wherever I go, and I hastily
scrawled a few important instructions on a scrap of paper; then I
looked about me. I crawled up to the hut, under the very noses of the
soldiers, who lay under cover without stirring, just as Chauvelin had
ordered them to do, then I dropped my little note into the hut through
a chink in the wall, and waited. In this note I told the fugitives to
walk noiselessly out of the hut, creep down the cliffs, keep to the
left until they came to the first creek, to give a certain signal,
when the boat of the DAY DREAM, which lay in wait not far out to
sea, would pick them up. They obeyed implicitly, fortunately for them
and for me. The soldiers who saw them were equally obedient to
Chauvelin's orders. They did not stir! I waited for nearly half an
hour; when I knew that the fugitives were safe I gave the signal,
which caused so much stir."
And that was the whole story. It seemed so simple! and Marguerite
could be marvel at the wonderful ingenuity, the boundless pluck and
audacity which had evolved and helped to carry out this daring plan.
"But those brutes struck you!" she gasped in horror, at the
bare recollection of the fearful indignity.
"Well! that could not be helped," he said gently, "whilst my
little wife's fate was so uncertain, I had to remain here by her side.
Odd's life!" he added merrily, "never fear! Chauvelin will lose
nothing by waiting, I warrant! Wait till I get him back to
England!--La! he shall pay for the thrashing he gave me with
compound interest, I promise you."
Marguerite laughed. It was so good to be beside him, to hear
his cheery voice, to watch that good-humoured twinkle in his blue
eyes, as he stretched out his strong arms, in longing for that foe,
and anticipation of his well-deserved punishment.
Suddenly, however, she started: the happy blush left her
cheek, the light of joy died out of her eyes: she had heard a stealthy
footfall overhead, and a stone had rolled down from the top of the
cliffs right down to the beach below.
"What's that?" she whispered in horror and alarm.
"Oh! nothing, m'dear," he muttered with a pleasant laugh,
"only a trifle you happened to have forgotten. . .my friend,
Ffoulkes. . ."
"Sir Andrew!" she gasped.
Indeed, she had wholly forgotten the devoted friend and
companion, who had trusted and stood by her during all these hours of
anxiety and suffering. She remembered him how, tardily and with a
pang of remorse.
"Aye! you had forgotten him, hadn't you, m'dear?" said Sir
Percy merrily. "Fortunately, I met him, not far from the `Chat Gris.'
before I had that interesting supper party, with my friend
Chauvelin. . . . Odd's life! but I have a score to settle with that
young reprobate!--but in the meanwhile, I told him of a very long,
very circuitous road which Chauvelin's men would never suspect, just
about the time when we are ready for him, eh, little woman?"
"And he obeyed?" asked Marguerite, in utter astonishment.
"Without word or question. See, here he comes. He was not in
the way when I did not want him, and now he arrives in the nick of
time. Ah! he will make pretty little Suzanne a most admirable and
In the meanwhile Sir Andrew Ffoulkes had cautiously worked his
way down the cliffs: he stopped once or twice, pausing to listen for
whispered words, which would guide him to Blakeney's hiding-place.
"Blakeney!" he ventured to say at last cautiously, "Blakeney!
are you there?"
The next moment he rounded the rock against which Sir Percy
and Marguerite were leaning, and seeing the weird figure still clad in
the Jew's long gaberdine, he paused in sudden, complete bewilderment.
But already Blakeney had struggled to his feet.
"Here I am, friend," he said with his funny, inane laugh, "all
alive! though I do look a begad scarecrow in these demmed things."
"Zooks!" ejaculated Sir Andrew in boundless astonishment as he
recognized his leader, "of all the. . ."
The young man had seen Marguerite, and happily checked the
forcible language that rose to his lips, at sight of the exquisite Sir
Percy in this weird and dirty garb.
"Yes!" said Blakeney, calmly, "of all the. . .hem!. . .My
friend!--I have not yet had time to ask you what you were doing in
France, when I ordered you to remain in London? Insubordination?
What? Wait till my shoulders are less sore, and, by Gad, see the
punishment you'll get."
"Odd's fish! I'll bear it," said Sir Andrew with a merry
laugh, "seeing that you are alive to give it. . . . Would you have
had me allow Lady Blakeney to do the journey alone? But, in the name
of heaven, man, where did you get these extraordinary clothes?"
"Lud! they are a bit quaint, ain't they?" laughed Sir Percy,
jovially, "But, odd's fish!" he added, with sudden earnestness and
authority, "now you are here, Ffoulkes, we must lose no more time:
that brute Chauvelin may send some one to look after us."
Marguerite was so happy, she could have stayed here for ever,
hearing his voice, asking a hundred questions. But at mention of
Chauvelin's name she started in quick alarm, afraid for the dear life
she would have died to save.
"But how can we get back?" she gasped; "the roads are full of
soldiers between here and Calais, and. . ."
"We are not going back to Calais, sweetheart," he said, "but
just the other side of Gris Nez, not half a league from here. The
boat of the DAY DREAM will meet us there."
"The boat of the DAY DREAM?"
"Yes!" he said, with a merry laugh; "another little trick of
mine. I should have told you before that when I slipped that note
into the hut, I also added another for Armand, which I directed him to
leave behind, and which has sent Chauvelin and his men running full
tilt back to the `Chat Gris' after me; but the first little note
contained my real instructions, including those to old Briggs. He had
my orders to go out further to sea, and then towards the west. When
well out of sight of Calais, he will send the galley to a little creek
he and I know of, just beyond Gris Nez. The men will look out for
me--we have a preconcerted signal, and we will all be safely aboard,
whilst Chauvelin and his men solemnly sit and watch the creek which is
`just opposite the "Chat Gris."'"
"The other side of Gris Nez? But I. . .I cannot walk, Percy,"
she moaned helplessly as, trying to struggle to her tired feet, she
found herself unable even to stand.
"I will carry you, dear," he said simply; "the blind leading
the lame, you know."
Sir Andrew was ready, too, to help with the precious burden,
but Sir Percy would not entrust his beloved to any arms but his own.
"When you and she are both safely on board the DAY DREAM,"
he said to his young comrade, "and I feel that Mlle. Suzanne's eyes
will not greet me in England with reproachful looks, then it will be
my turn to rest."
And his arms, still vigorous in spite of fatigue and
suffering, closed round Marguerite's poor, weary body, and lifted her
as gently as if she had been a feather.
Then, as Sir Andrew discreetly kept out of earshot, there were
many things said, or rather whispered, which even the autumn breeze
did not catch, for it had gone to rest.
All his fatigue was forgotten; his shoulders must have been
very sore, for the soldiers had hit hard, but the man's muscles seemed
made of steel, and his energy was almost supernatural. It was a weary
tramp, half a league along the stony side of the cliffs, but never for
a moment did his courage give way or his muscles yield to fatigue. On
he tramped, with firm footstep, his vigorous arms encircling the
precious burden, and. . .no doubt, as she lay, quiet and happy, at
times lulled to momentary drowsiness, at others watching, through the
slowly gathering morning light, the pleasant face with the lazy,
drooping blue eyes, ever cheerful, ever illumined with a good-humoured
smile, she whispered many things, which helped to shorten the weary
road, and acted as a soothing balsam to his aching sinews.
The many-hued light of dawn was breaking in the east, when at
last they reached the creek beyond Gris Nez. The galley lay in wait:
in answer to a signal from Sir Percy, she drew near, and two sturdy
British sailors had the honour of carrying my lady into the boat.
Half an hour later, they were on board the DAY DREAM. The
crew, who of necessity were in their master's secrets, and who were
devoted to him heart and soul, were not surprised to see him arriving
in so extraordinary a disguise.
Armand St. Just and the other fugitives were eagerly awaiting
the advent of their brave rescuer; he would not stay to hear the
expressions of their gratitude, but found the way to his private cabin
as quickly as he could, leaving Marguerite quite happy in the arms of
Everything on board the DAY DREAM was fitted with that
exquisite luxury, so dear to Sir Percy Blakeney's heart, and by the
time they all landed at Dover he had found time to get into some of
the sumptuous clothes which he loved, and of which he always kept a
supply on board his yacht.
The difficulty was to provide Marguerite with a pair of shoes,
and great was the little middy's joy when my lady found that she could
put foot on English shore in his best pair.
The rest is silence!--silence and joy for those who had
endured so much suffering, yet found at last a great and lasting
But it is on record that at the brilliant wedding of Sir
Andrew Ffoulkes, Bart., with Mlle. Suzanne de Tournay de Basserive, a
function at which H.R.H. the Prince of Wales and all the ELITE of
fashionable society were present, the most beautiful woman there was
unquestionably Lady Blakeney, whilst the clothes of Sir Percy Blakeney
wore were the talk of the JEUNESSE DOREE of London for many days.
It is also a fact that M. Chauvelin, the accredited agent of
the French Republican Government, was not present at that or any other
social function in London, after that memorable evening at Lord
End of the Project Gutenberg Etext of THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL