THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
BY BARONESS ORCZY
CHAPTER I PARIS: SEPTEMBER, 1792
CHAPTER II DOVER: "THE FISHERMAN'S REST"
CHAPTER III THE REFUGEES
CHAPTER IV THE LEAGUE OF THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
CHAPTER V MARGUERITE
CHAPTER VI AN EXQUISITE OF '92
CHAPTER VII THE SECRET ORCHARD
CHAPTER VIII THE ACCREDITED AGENT
CHAPTER IX THE OUTRAGE
CHAPTER X IN THE OPERA BOX
CHAPTER XI LORD GRENVILLE'S BALL
CHAPTER XII THE SCRAP OF PAPER
CHAPTER XIII EITHER—OR?
CHAPTER XIV ONE O'CLOCK PRECISELY!
CHAPTER XV DOUBT
CHAPTER XVI RICHMOND
CHAPTER XVII FAREWELL
CHAPTER XVIII THE MYSTERIOUS DEVICE
CHAPTER XIX THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
CHAPTER XX THE FRIEND
CHAPTER XXI SUSPENSE
CHAPTER XXII CALAIS
CHAPTER XXIII HOPE
CHAPTER XXIV THE DEATH-TRAP
CHAPTER XXV THE EAGLE AND THE FOX
CHAPTER XXVI THE JEW
CHAPTER XXVII ON THE TRACK
CHAPTER XXVIII THE PERE BLANCHARD'S HUT
CHAPTER XXIX TRAPPED
CHAPTER XXX THE SCHOONER
CHAPTER 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
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 amusing sight.
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 young Queen.
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
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 supernatural agency.
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
"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
"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 cart 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
"'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 cheeks.
"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
"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
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
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
"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 place.
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,
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
"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
"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
"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 fire.
"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
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
"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
"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 coffee room.
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 Rest" 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 of applause.
"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
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 great-grandfather 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 home-brewed ales.
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 hearth.
"Lud! did you ever see such a wet September, Mr. Jellyband?" asked Mr.
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
"No," replied Mr. Jellyband, sententiously, "I dunno, Mr. 'Empseed, as I
ever did. An' I've been in these parts nigh on sixty years."
"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
"Aye! that it do," assented the worthy 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
"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,
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 say—"
"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," feebly protested Mr. Hempseed, "I dunno as I
But Mr. Jellyband had at last succeeded in getting upon his favourite
hobby-horse, and had no intention of dismounting in any hurry.
"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
"I dunno what you mean, Mr. Jellyband," suggested Mr. Hempseed, "all I
"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
"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
"Indeed, and is that so, Mr. Hempseed?" inquired the stranger politely.
"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 things."
"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 exclamations:
"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
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.
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
wherever 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
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
"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 popular inn—"
"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
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
"Straight ahead, Comtesse, the door on your right," said a pleasant voice
"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 brightly-blazing hearth.
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
"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 voyage."
"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
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
"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
"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 countenances.
"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
"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
"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
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 the table.
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 Comtesse.
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
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 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
Not one of those at the supper table had noticed this curious and silent
manoeuvre, 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
"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 enemies."
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
"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
"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 immediate followers."
"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 designated 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
"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
"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
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 Barricade.
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
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 Terror."
"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
"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
"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 repeated
"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
Then suddenly a singularly sweet voice was heard through all the din.
"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 the consonants.
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 school-fellow.
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 consternation,—
"B-r-r-r-r! I am as wet as a herring! DIEU! has anyone ever seen such a
"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 aureole 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
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 bygone centuries.
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, 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 the 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
"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,
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
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
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
She gathered up her skirts and assuming a majestic gait, stalked towards
"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 intellectual Europe.
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
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 Paris.
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
"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
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
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
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
"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
"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 echoing 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!
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 another room."
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, alone 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
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
"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
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
"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 added earnestly.
"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, perpetual holiday.
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 have 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
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. They 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
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
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
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 the guillotine.
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 analyse.
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 country.
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
The stranger paused when he saw Marguerite coming quickly towards him, and
just as she was about to slip past him, he said very quietly:
"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
"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
"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
"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.
"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
"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
"How can I hope to succeed in that which Sir Percy Blakeney has failed to
"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 a 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 Marguerite.
"Will you render France a small service, citoyenne?" he asked, with a
sudden change of manner, which lent his thin, fox-like face a singular
"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 she—or you—want."
"Have you ever heard of the Scarlet Pimpernel, Citoyenne St. Just?" asked
"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 been 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
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 romantic glory.
"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 loyalty.
"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
"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
"You prefer to be insulted by every French aristocrat who comes to this
Chauvelin had taken sure aim when he shot this tiny shaft. Marguerite's
fresh young cheeks became a touch more pale and she bit her under lip, for
she would not let him see that the shaft had struck home.
"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
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
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
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
"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
"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 burning wood.
"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
"I need not ask, I suppose, whether you found the journey pleasant this
"No, friend, you need not ask," replied Sir Andrew, gaily. "It was all
"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
"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
"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
"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
attracted their attention, which seemed to come from the passage beyond.
"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 the ground.
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
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 beyond.
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
"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
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
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
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 audience itself.
"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
The distinguished diplomat had come forward and was shaking hands with the
"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
"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 premature
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
"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
"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
"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
"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 salute.
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
A discreet knock at the door roused her from her enjoyment.
"Come in," she said with some impatience, without turning to look at the
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 Marguerite's chair.
"A word with you, citoyenne," he said quietly.
Marguerite turned quickly, in alarm, which was not altogether feigned.
"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 she 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 the air."
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
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 feigned
"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 talk."
"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
"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 experience."
"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 Scarlet Pimpernel.
"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. Just."
"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
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, purposeless falsehoods.
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 imagination!"
"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
"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 aloud—
"'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 to-night."
"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 is,
"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
"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 safe."
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 . . . to-morrow."
"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 willing."
"That would be terrible indeed," he said quietly, "for you . . . and for
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 dream.
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 smile.
Marguerite sighed impatiently. Her last hope seemed suddenly to have
vanished away. She wrapped her cloak round her and without looking at her
"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 contentedly together.
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 ability.
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 Channel.
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 England.
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
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,
Lord Grenville went quickly to the door to receive his exalted guest.
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, Monsieur."
"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
"Ah, then," said the Prince, this time very graciously, "you are doubly
"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
"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 England."
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 another.
"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 mediation. . . . 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 Monseigneur."
"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
"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
"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
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 victory."
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 his hand: he could afford to remain silent and to wait events.
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 demmed
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
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 efforts.
"All done in the tying of a cravat," Sir Percy had declared to his clique
"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 of hazard.
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 passed.
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 their chief.
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 life.
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 chair—quick."
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 feel better."
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 candles.
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 tale anent the Marquis de St. Cyr, which in
England no one had credited, for the sake of Sir Percy, as well as for her
"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
"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
"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
"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 the ashes.
"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 to her.
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 figures.
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 conversation.
When the minuet was over, she asked Sir Andrew to take her into the next
"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
"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
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 sallies."
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
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 incessant ticking.
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 accomplished.
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 doorway.
"Lord Fancourt," she said to the Minister, "will you do me a service?"
"I am entirely at your ladyship's service," he replied gallantly.
"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 home soon."
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
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 of voice—
"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
"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
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 an answer.
"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 precisely."
"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 now."
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 lady."
"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 Pimpernel.'"
"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
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
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 sockets.
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 spine.
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 extreme penalty.
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 himself.
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
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 pale eyes.
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 excitement.
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 waiting.
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
"Ah!" she said, still very absently, "you found my husband, and gave him
"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
"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 oppressive."
"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 ladyship ask?"
"I know not . . . I . . . Did you notice the time when you were there?"
"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
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? But then—Armand!
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
"Shall I find out if your ladyship's coach is ready," he said at last,
"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, from him.
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 prey—Armand!
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 saw 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 strangely
"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 has
"What has happened, dear lady?" he said, with affected surprise. "Where?
"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
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 side.
"Quiet and peace reigned supreme, fair lady; at that hour I was asleep in
one corner of one sofa and Sir Percy Blakeney in another."
"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
"Which means that a brave man's blood will be on my hands," she said, with
"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
"I am only conscious of one hope, citoyen."
"And that is?"
"That Satan, your master, will have need of you elsewhere, before the sun
"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
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
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
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
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 told why.
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
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 nonchalance 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
"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
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 reminiscences."
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 ceremoniously.
"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 troublesome lap-dog?"
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
"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
"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 unnatural?"
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 check.
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 ever 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
"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
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
"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 as marble.
"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 again.
"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
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
He had bent his tall figure in a low ceremonious bow, as she finally, with
another bitter little sigh, began to mount the terrace steps.
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 fierce obstinacy.
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
CHAPTER XVII FAREWELL
When Marguerite reached her room, she found her maid terribly anxious
"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
"But, my lady . . ."
"Now, don't argue, Louise, but go to bed. Give me a wrap, and leave me
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
"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
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
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 existed?
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 the morning?
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, PERCY BLAKENEY."
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 have explained.
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
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
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
"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
"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 back?"
"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.
"And . . . 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
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
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
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 sight more than five hours
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 empty saddle.
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 friend.
Marguerite expected her eagerly; she longed for a chat about old
school-days 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 river.
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
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
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, while 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
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
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
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
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 girl's
"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
"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 narrative.
"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
"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
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 happiness.
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
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
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
"What is that?" asked Marguerite.
"Just come by runner, my lady."
Marguerite took the letter mechanically, and turned it over in her
"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 obedience.
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
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
A minute later the groom returned, followed by the runner who had brought
"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, your 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 once."
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
"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 together.
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 him.
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
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
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
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
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 husband.
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
"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
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 husband?"
"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
"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—were 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
"Faith, Madame, you must command me. Gladly would I or any of my comrades
lay down our lives for your 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,
"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 Pimpernel."
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
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 indefatigable; 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
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 gratefully sank.
"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
"Yes, my lady; I'll look after them. Shall Sally bring your ladyship some
"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
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
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
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 thunder.
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 mischievously inclined.
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 your
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 to-night."
"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
"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 to-night."
Marguerite at once understood what he meant. NO ONE included Chauvelin as
well as herself. She nodded pleasantly to Jellyband.
"Well, then, I must resign myself," she said to him. "Have you a room for
"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 quite
"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
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
"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
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 spent 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
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 surrounding haze.
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
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
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
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 attention.
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
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! 'tis 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 hole."
"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
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
"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 ground.
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 stock-pot.
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
"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
"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 muttered,—
"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,
"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 soon, 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 heaven-born 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
"But where is he now?—Do you know?" she asked eagerly, placing her
dainty white hand upon the dirty sleeve of his blue blouse.
"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
"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
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
"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 Blanchard's hut."
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
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
"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
"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 Channel."
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 husband's life.
"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
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
"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 returns."
She spoke 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
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 directing hand.
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
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
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, "SACRRREE SOUTANE!"
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
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
"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 accompanied him.
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, impatiently.
"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
Chauvelin spoke curtly and to the point, and every word he uttered struck
at Marguerite's heart like the death-knell of her fondest hopes.
"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 that clear?"
"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
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
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
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 events 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 his head.
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 to 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
He stood for a moment in the middle of the room, whilst Marguerite,
absolutely paralysed with horror, seemed unable even to breathe.
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
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-control 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 well 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
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
"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
"La!" said Sir Percy, with a good-humoured grin, "it did that quite,
"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
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
"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 and 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 cautious.
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
"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 plain 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 airily, "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
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
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
"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, Citoyen Desgas."
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 he 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
"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 pleased.
"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
"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
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 ultimately be.
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 consideration."
"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 this evening."
"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
"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 o'clock."
"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
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
"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 of
The eyes of the Jew shot a quick, keen glance at the gold in his
"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
"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
"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
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
"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 strength.
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 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
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 frequent halts.
"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
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
"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 conversation."
"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
"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
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 noiselessly along.
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
"About eight hundred meters from here, along the footpath," said the
soldier who had lately been directing the party, "and half-way down the
"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
"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 overpower him."
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
"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 head 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
"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
"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
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 Chauvelin's men.
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 doubly acute.
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
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 gazed, 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 moments 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
"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
wrist; 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 than 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,
"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 by 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, an 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 spring.
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
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
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
"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
"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; one 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
"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
"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 sergeant sullenly.
"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
"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 important capture.
They had no doubt reached one of the creeks which jut far out to sea 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
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
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 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 Englishman."
"I know of a short cut across the cliffs," said the soldier, and with an
enthusiastic shout, he rushed forward, followed closely by his comrades.
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
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 its movements.
"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 two soldiers,—
"I suppose now, that being a Jew, you have a good memory for bargains?"
"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
"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
"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 fulfil 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 confounded Jew."
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 as ever.
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 third party.
"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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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 needs forgiveness."
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
"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 loathsome 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
but 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
"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 now, 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 methodical husband."
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
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 God, 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
"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
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
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 her brother.
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 happiness.
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 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 Grenville's ball.