Part 1 out of 6
I. PARIS: SEPTEMBER, 1792
II. DOVER: "THE FISHERMAN'S REST"
III. THE REFUGEES
IV. THE LEAGUE OF THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
VI. AN EXQUISITE OF '92
VII. THE SECRET ORCHARD
VIII. THE ACCREDITED AGENT
IX. THE OUTRAGE
X. IN THE OPERA BOX
XI. LORD GRENVILLE'S BALL
XII. THE SCRAP OF PAPER
XIV. ONE O'CLOCK PRECISELY!
XVIII. THE MYSTERIOUS DEVICE
XIX. THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
XX. THE FRIEND
XXIV. THE DEATH
XXV. THE EAGLE AND THE FOX
XXVI. THE JEW
XXVII. ON THE TRACK
XXVIII. THE PERE BLANCHARD'S HUT
XXX. THE SCHOONER
XXXI. THE ESCAPE
THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
CHAPTER I PARIS: SEPTEMBER, 1792
A surging, seething, murmuring crowd of beings that are human
only in name, for to the eye and ear they seem naught but savage
creatures, animated by vile passions and by the lust of vengeance and
of hate. The hour, some little time before sunset, and the place, the
West Barricade, at the very spot where, a decade later, a proud tyrant
raised an undying monument to the nation's glory and his own vanity.
During the greater part of the day the guillotine had been
kept busy at its ghastly work: all that France had boasted of in the
past centuries, of ancient names, and blue blood, had paid toll to her
desire for liberty and for fraternity. The carnage had only ceased at
this late hour of the day because there were other more interesting
sights for the people to witness, a little while before the final
closing of the barricades for the night.
And so the crowd rushed away from the Place de la Greve and
made for the various barricades in order to watch this interesting and
It was to be seen every day, for those aristos were such
fools! They were traitors to the people of course, all of them, men,
women, and children, who happened to be descendants of the great men
who since the Crusades had made the glory of France: her old
NOBLESSE. Their ancestors had oppressed the people, had crushed
them under the scarlet heels of their dainty buckled shoes, and now
the people had become the rulers of France and crushed their former
masters--not beneath their heel, for they went shoeless mostly in
these days--but a more effectual weight, the knife of the guillotine.
And daily, hourly, the hideous instrument of torture claimed
its many victims--old men, young women, tiny children until the day
when it would finally demand the head of a King and of a beautiful
But this was as it should be: were not the people now the
rulers of France? Every aristocrat was a traitor, as his ancestors
had been before him: for two hundred years now the people had sweated,
and toiled, and starved, to keep a lustful court in lavish
extravagance; now the descendants of those who had helped to make
those courts brilliant had to hide for their lives--to fly, if they
wished to avoid the tardy vengeance of the people.
And they did try to hide, and tried to fly: that was just the
fun of the whole thing. Every afternoon before the gates closed and
the market carts went out in procession by the various barricades,
some fool of an aristo endeavoured to evade the clutches of the
Committee of Public Safety. In various disguises, under various
pretexts, they tried to slip through the barriers, which were so well
guarded by citizen soldiers of the Republic. Men in women's clothes,
women in male attire, children disguised in beggars' rags: there were
some of all sorts: CI-DEVANT counts, marquises, even dukes, who
wanted to fly from France, reach England or some other equally
accursed country, and there try to rouse foreign feelings against the
glorious Revolution, or to raise an army in order to liberate the
wretched prisoners in the Temple, who had once called themselves
sovereigns of France.
But they were nearly always caught at the barricades, Sergeant
Bibot especially at the West Gate had a wonderful nose for scenting an
aristo in the most perfect disguise. Then, of course, the fun began.
Bibot would look at his prey as a cat looks upon the mouse, play with
him, sometimes for quite a quarter of an hour, pretend to be
hoodwinked by the disguise, by the wigs and other bits of theatrical
make-up which hid the identity of a CI-DEVANT noble marquise or count.
Oh! Bibot had a keen sense of humour, and it was well worth
hanging round that West Barricade, in order to see him catch an aristo
in the very act of trying to flee from the vengeance of the people.
Sometimes Bibot would let his prey actually out by the gates,
allowing him to think for the space of two minutes at least that he
really had escaped out of Paris, and might even manage to reach the
coast of England in safety, but Bibot would let the unfortunate wretch
walk about ten metres towards the open country, then he would send two
men after him and bring him back, stripped of his disguise.
Oh! that was extremely funny, for as often as not the
fugitive would prove to be a woman, some proud marchioness, who looked
terribly comical when she found herself in Bibot's clutches after all,
and knew that a summary trial would await her the next day and after
that, the fond embrace of Madame la Guillotine.
No wonder that on this fine afternoon in September the crowd
round Bibot's gate was eager and excited. The lust of blood grows
with its satisfaction, there is no satiety: the crowd had seen a
hundred noble heads fall beneath the guillotine to-day, it wanted to
make sure that it would see another hundred fall on the morrow.
Bibot was sitting on an overturned and empty cask close by the
gate of the barricade; a small detachment of citoyen soldiers was
under his command. The work had been very hot lately. Those cursed
aristos were becoming terrified and tried their hardest to slip out of
Paris: men, women and children, whose ancestors, even in remote ages,
had served those traitorous Bourbons, were all traitors themselves and
right food for the guillotine. Every day Bibot had had the
satisfaction of unmasking some fugitive royalists and sending them
back to be tried by the Committee of Public Safety, presided over by
that good patriot, Citoyen Foucquier-Tinville.
Robespierre and Danton both had commended Bibot for his zeal
and Bibot was proud of the fact that he on his own initiative had sent
at least fifty aristos to the guillotine.
But to-day all the sergeants in command at the various
barricades had had special orders. Recently a very great number of
aristos had succeeded in escaping out of France and in reaching
England safely. There were curious rumours about these escapes; they
had become very frequent and singularly daring; the people's minds
were becoming strangely excited about it all. Sergeant Grospierre had
been sent to the guillotine for allowing a whole family of aristos to
slip out of the North Gate under his very nose.
It was asserted that these escapes were organised by a band of
Englishmen, whose daring seemed to be unparalleled, and who, from
sheer desire to meddle in what did not concern them, spent their spare
time in snatching away lawful victims destined for Madame la
Guillotine. These rumours soon grew in extravagance; there was no
doubt that this band of meddlesome Englishmen did exist; moreover,
they seemed to be under the leadership of a man whose pluck and
audacity were almost fabulous. Strange stories were afloat of how he
and those aristos whom he rescued became suddenly invisible as they
reached the barricades and escaped out of the gates by sheer
No one had seen these mysterious Englishmen; as for their
leader, he was never spoken of, save with a superstitious shudder.
Citoyen Foucquier-Tinville would in the course of the day receive a
scrap of paper from some mysterious source; sometimes he would find it
in the pocket of his coat, at others it would be handed to him by
someone in the crowd, whilst he was on his way to the sitting of the
Committee of Public Safety. The paper always contained a brief notice
that the band of meddlesome Englishmen were at work, and it was always
signed with a device drawn in red--a little star-shaped flower, which
we in England call the Scarlet Pimpernel. Within a few hours of the
receipt of this impudent notice, the citoyens of the Committee of Public
Safety would hear that so many royalists and aristocrats had succeeded
in reaching the coast, and were on their way to England and safety.
The guards at the gates had been doubled, the sergeants in
command had been threatened with death, whilst liberal rewards were
offered for the capture of these daring and impudent Englishmen.
There was a sum of five thousand francs promised to the man who laid
hands on the mysterious and elusive Scarlet Pimpernel.
Everyone felt that Bibot would be that man, and Bibot allowed
that belief to take firm root in everybody's mind; and so, day after
day, people came to watch him at the West Gate, so as to be present
when he laid hands on any fugitive aristo who perhaps might be
accompanied by that mysterious Englishman.
"Bah!" he said to his trusted corporal, "Citoyen Grospierre
was a fool! Had it been me now, at that North Gate last week. . ."
Citoyen Bibot spat on the ground to express his contempt for
his comrade's stupidity.
"How did it happen, citoyen?" asked the corporal.
"Grospierre was at the gate, keeping good watch," began Bibot,
pompously, as the crowd closed in round him, listening eagerly to his
narrative. "We've all heard of this meddlesome Englishman, this
accursed Scarlet Pimpernel. He won't get through MY gate,
MORBLEU! unless he be the devil himself. But Grospierre was a fool.
The market carts were going through the gates; there was one laden
with casks, and driven by an old man, with a boy beside him.
Grospierre was a bit drunk, but he thought himself very clever; he
looked into the casks--most of them, at least--and saw they were
empty, and let the cart go through."
A murmur of wrath and contempt went round the group of
ill-clad wretches, who crowded round Citoyen Bibot.
"Half an hour later," continued the sergeant, "up comes a
captain of the guard with a squad of some dozen soldiers with him.
`Has a car gone through?' he asks of Grospierre, breathlessly. `Yes,'
says Grospierre, `not half an hour ago.' `And you have let them
escape,' shouts the captain furiously. `You'll go to the guillotine
for this, citoyen sergeant! that cart held concealed the CI-DEVANT
Duc de Chalis and all his family!' `What!' thunders Grospierre,
aghast. `Aye! and the driver was none other than that cursed
Englishman, the Scarlet Pimpernel.'"
A howl of execration greeted this tale. Citoyen Grospierre
had paid for his blunder on the guillotine, but what a fool! oh!
what a fool!
Bibot was laughing so much at his own tale that it was some
time before he could continue.
"`After them, my men,' shouts the captain," he said after a while,
"`remember the reward; after them, they cannot have gone far!'
And with that he rushes through the gate followed by his dozen soldiers."
"But it was too late!" shouted the crowd, excitedly.
"They never got them!"
"Curse that Grospierre for his folly!"
"He deserved his fate!"
"Fancy not examining those casks properly!"
But these sallies seemed to amuse Citoyen Bibot exceedingly;
he laughed until his sides ached, and the tears streamed down his
"Nay, nay!" he said at last, "those aristos weren't in the
cart; the driver was not the Scarlet Pimpernel!"
"No! The captain of the guard was that damned Englishman
in disguise, and everyone of his soldiers aristos!"
The crowd this time said nothing: the story certainly savoured
of the supernatural, and though the Republic had abolished God, it had
not quite succeeded in killing the fear of the supernatural in the
hearts of the people. Truly that Englishman must be the devil himself.
The sun was sinking low down in the west. Bibot prepared himself
to close the gates.
"EN AVANT The carts," he said.
Some dozen covered carts were drawn up in a row, ready to
leave town, in order to fetch the produce from the country close by,
for market the next morning. They were mostly well known to Bibot,
as they went through his gate twice every day on their way to and from
the town. He spoke to one or two of their drivers--mostly women--and
was at great pains to examine the inside of the carts.
"You never know," he would say, "and I'm not going to be
caught like that fool Grospierre."
The women who drove the carts usually spent their day on the
Place de la Greve, beneath the platform of the guillotine, knitting
and gossiping, whilst they watched the rows of tumbrils arriving with
the victims the Reign of Terror claimed every day. It was great fun
to see the aristos arriving for the reception of Madame la Guillotine,
and the places close by the platform were very much sought after.
Bibot, during the day, had been on duty on the Place. He recognized
most of the old hats, "tricotteuses," as they were called, who sat there
and knitted, whilst head after head fell beneath the knife, and they
themselves got quite bespattered with the blood of those cursed aristos.
"He! la mere!" said Bibot to one of these horrible hags,
"what have you got there?"
He had seen her earlier in the day, with her knitting and the
whip of her cart close beside her. Now she had fastened a row of
curly locks to the whip handle, all colours, from gold to silver, fair
to dark, and she stroked them with her huge, bony fingers as she
laughed at Bibot.
"I made friends with Madame Guillotine's lover," she said with
a coarse laugh, "he cut these off for me from the heads as they rolled
down. He has promised me some more to-morrow, but I don't know if I
shall be at my usual place."
"Ah! how is that, la mere?" asked Bibot, who, hardened soldier that
he was, could not help shuddering at the awful loathsomeness of this
semblance of a woman, with her ghastly trophy on the handle of her whip.
"My grandson has got the small-pox," she said with a jerk of
her thumb towards the inside of her cart, "some say it's the plague!
If it is, I sha'n't be allowed to come into Paris to-morrow."
At the first mention of the word small-pox, Bibot had stepped
hastily backwards, and when the old hag spoke of the plague,
he retreated from her as fast as he could.
"Curse you!" he muttered, whilst the whole crowd hastily
avoided the cart, leaving it standing all alone in the midst of the
The old hag laughed.
"Curse you, citoyen, for being a coward," she said. "Bah!
what a man to be afraid of sickness."
"MORBLEU! the plague!"
Everyone was awe-struck and silent, filled with horror for the
loathsome malady, the one thing which still had the power to arouse
terror and disgust in these savage, brutalised creatures.
"Get out with you and with your plague-stricken brood!"
shouted Bibot, hoarsely.
And with another rough laugh and coarse jest, the old hag
whipped up her lean nag and drove her cart out of the gate.
This incident had spoilt the afternoon. The people were
terrified of these two horrible curses, the two maladies which nothing
could cure, and which were the precursors of an awful and lonely
death. They hung about the barricades, silent and sullen for a while,
eyeing one another suspiciously, avoiding each other as if by
instinct, lest the plague lurked already in their midst. Presently,
as in the case of Grospierre, a captain of the guard appeared
suddenly. But he was known to Bibot, and there was no fear of his
turning out to be a sly Englishman in disguise.
"A cart,. . ." he shouted breathlessly, even before he had
reached the gates.
"What cart?" asked Bibot, roughly.
"Driven by an old hag. . . . A covered cart. . ."
"There were a dozen. . ."
"An old hag who said her son had the plague?"
"Yes. . ."
"You have not let them go?"
"MORBLEU!" said Bibot, whose purple cheeks had suddenly
become white with fear.
"The cart contained the CI-DEVANT Comtesse de Tourney and
her two children, all of them traitors and condemned to death."
"And their driver?" muttered Bibot, as a superstitious shudder
ran down his spine.
"SACRE TONNERRE," said the captain, "but it is feared that
it was that accursed Englishman himself--the Scarlet Pimpernel."
CHAPTER II DOVER: "THE FISHERMAN'S REST"
In the kitchen Sally was extremely busy--saucepans and
frying-pans were standing in rows on the gigantic hearth, the huge
stock-pot stood in a corner, and the jack turned with slow
deliberation, and presented alternately to the glow every side of a
noble sirloin of beef. The two little kitchen-maids bustled around,
eager to help, hot and panting, with cotton sleeves well tucked up
above the dimpled elbows, and giggling over some private jokes of
their own, whenever Miss Sally's back was turned for a moment. And
old Jemima, stolid in temper and solid in bulk, kept up a long and
subdued grumble, while she stirred the stock-pot methodically over the
"What ho! Sally!" came in cheerful if none too melodious
accents from the coffee-room close by.
"Lud bless my soul!" exclaimed Sally, with a good-humoured
laugh, "what be they all wanting now, I wonder!"
"Beer, of course," grumbled Jemima, "you don't `xpect Jimmy
Pitkin to `ave done with one tankard, do ye?"
"Mr. `Arry, `e looked uncommon thirsty too," simpered Martha,
one of the little kitchen-maids; and her beady black eyes twinkled as
they met those of her companion, whereupon both started on a round of
short and suppressed giggles.
Sally looked cross for a moment, and thoughtfully rubbed her
hands against her shapely hips; her palms were itching, evidently, to
come in contact with Martha's rosy cheeks--but inherent good-humour
prevailed, and with a pout and a shrug of the shoulders, she turned
her attention to the fried potatoes.
"What ho, Sally! hey, Sally!"
And a chorus of pewter mugs, tapped with impatient hands
against the oak tables of the coffee-room, accompanied the shouts for
mine host's buxom daughter.
"Sally!" shouted a more persistent voice, "are ye goin' to be
all night with that there beer?"
"I do think father might get the beer for them," muttered
Sally, as Jemima, stolidly and without further comment, took a couple
of foam-crowned jugs from the shelf, and began filling a number of
pewter tankards with some of that home-brewed ale for which "The
Fisherman's Rest" had been famous since that days of King Charles.
"`E knows `ow busy we are in `ere."
"Your father is too busy discussing politics with Mr. `Empseed to worry
'isself about you and the kitchen," grumbled Jemima under her breath.
Sally had gone to the small mirror which hung in a corner of
the kitchen, and was hastily smoothing her hair and setting her
frilled cap at its most becoming angle over her dark curls; then she
took up the tankards by their handles, three in each strong, brown
hand, and laughing, grumbling, blushing, carried them through into the
There, there was certainly no sign of that bustle and activity
which kept four women busy and hot in the glowing kitchen beyond.
The coffee-room of "The Fisherman's Rest" is a show place now
at the beginning of the twentieth century. At the end of the
eighteenth, in the year of grace 1792, it had not yet gained the
notoriety and importance which a hundred additional years and the
craze of the age have since bestowed upon it. Yet it was an old
place, even then, for the oak rafters and beams were already black
with age--as were the panelled seats, with their tall backs, and the
long polished tables between, on which innumerable pewter tankards had
left fantastic patterns of many-sized rings. In the leaded window,
high up, a row of pots of scarlet geraniums and blue larkspur gave the
bright note of colour against the dull background of the oak.
That Mr. Jellyband, landlord of "The Fisherman's Reef" at
Dover, was a prosperous man, was of course clear to the most casual
observer. The pewter on the fine old dressers, the brass above the
gigantic hearth, shone like silver and gold--the red-tiled floor was
as brilliant as the scarlet geranium on the window sill--this meant
that his servants were good and plentiful, that the custom was
constant, and of that order which necessitated the keeping up of the
coffee-room to a high standard of elegance and order.
As Sally came in, laughing through her frowns, and displaying
a row of dazzling white teeth, she was greeted with shouts and chorus
"Why, here's Sally! What ho, Sally! Hurrah for pretty Sally!"
"I thought you'd grown deaf in that kitchen of yours," muttered Jimmy
Pitkin, as he passed the back of his hand across his very dry lips.
"All ri'! all ri'!" laughed Sally, as she deposited the
freshly-filled tankards upon the tables, "why, what a `urry to be
sure! And is your gran'mother a-dyin' an' you wantin' to see the pore
soul afore she'm gone! I never see'd such a mighty rushin'"
A chorus of good-humoured laughter greeted this witticism,
which gave the company there present food for many jokes, for some
considerable time. Sally now seemed in less of a hurry to get back to
her pots and pans. A young man with fair curly hair, and eager,
bright blue eyes, was engaging most of her attention and the whole of
her time, whilst broad witticisms anent Jimmy Pitkin's fictitious
grandmother flew from mouth to mouth, mixed with heavy puffs of
pungent tobacco smoke.
Facing the hearth, his legs wide apart, a long clay pipe in
his mouth, stood mine host himself, worthy Mr. Jellyband, landlord of
"The Fisherman's Rest," as his father had before him, aye, and his
grandfather and greatgrandfather too, for that matter. Portly in
build, jovial in countenance and somewhat bald of pate, Mr. Jellyband
was indeed a typical rural John Bull of those days--the days when our
prejudiced insularity was at its height, when to an Englishman, be he
lord, yeoman, or peasant, the whole of the continent of Europe was a
den of immorality and the rest of the world an unexploited land of
savages and cannibals.
There he stood, mine worthy host, firm and well set up on his
limbs, smoking his long churchwarden and caring nothing for nobody at
home, and despising everybody abroad. He wore the typical scarlet
waistcoat, with shiny brass buttons, the corduroy breeches, and grey
worsted stockings and smart buckled shoes, that characterised every
self-respecting innkeeper in Great Britain in these days--and while
pretty, motherless Sally had need of four pairs of brown hands to do
all the work that fell on her shapely shoulders, worthy Jellyband
discussed the affairs of nations with his most privileged guests.
The coffee-room indeed, lighted by two well-polished lamps,
which hung from the raftered ceiling, looked cheerful and cosy in the
extreme. Through the dense clouds of tobacco smoke that hung about in
every corner, the faces of Mr. Jellyband's customers appeared red and
pleasant to look at, and on good terms with themselves, their host and
all the world; from every side of the room loud guffaws accompanied
pleasant, if not highly intellectual, conversation--while Sally's
repeated giggles testified to the good use Mr. Harry Waite was making
of the short time she seemed inclined to spare him.
They were mostly fisher-folk who patronised Mr. Jellyband's
coffee-room, but fishermen are known to be very thirsty people; the
salt which they breathe in, when they are on the sea, accounts for
their parched throats when on shore. but "The Fisherman's Rest" was
something more than a rendezvous for these humble folk. The London
and Dover coach started from the hostel daily, and passengers who had
come across the Channel, and those who started for the "grand tour,"
all became acquainted with Mr. Jellyband, his French wines and his
It was towards the close of September, 1792, and the weather
which had been brilliant and hot throughout the month had suddenly
broken up; for two days torrents of rain had deluged the south of
England, doing its level best to ruin what chances the apples and
pears and late plums had of becoming really fine, self-respecting
fruit. Even now it was beating against the leaded windows, and
tumbling down the chimney, making the cheerful wood fire sizzle in the
"Lud! did you ever see such a wet September, Mr. Jellyband?"
asked Mr. Hempseed.
He sat in one of the seats inside the hearth, did Mr.
Hempseed, for he was an authority and important personage not only at
"The Fisherman's Rest," where Mr. Jellyband always made a special
selection of him as a foil for political arguments, but throughout the
neighborhood, where his learning and notably his knowledge of the
Scriptures was held in the most profound awe and respect. With one
hand buried in the capacious pockets of his corduroys underneath his
elaborately-worked, well-worn smock, the other holding his long clay
pipe, Mr. Hempseed sat there looking dejectedly across the room at the
rivulets of moisture which trickled down the window panes.
"No," replied Mr. Jellyband, sententiously, "I dunno, Mr.
'Empseed, as I ever did. An' I've been in these parts nigh on sixty
"Aye! you wouldn't rec'llect the first three years of them sixty,
Mr. Jellyband," quietly interposed Mr. Hempseed. "I dunno as I ever
see'd an infant take much note of the weather, leastways not in these
parts, an' _I_'ve lived `ere nigh on seventy-five years, Mr. Jellyband."
The superiority of this wisdom was so incontestable that for the moment
Mr. Jellyband was not ready with his usual flow of argument.
"It do seem more like April than September, don't it?"
continued Mr. Hempseed, dolefully, as a shower of raindrops fell with
a sizzle upon the fire.
"Aye! that it do," assented the worth host, "but then what can you `xpect,
Mr. `Empseed, I says, with sich a government as we've got?"
Mr. Hempseed shook his head with an infinity of wisdom,
tempered by deeply-rooted mistrust of the British climate
and the British Government.
"I don't `xpect nothing, Mr. Jellyband," he said. "Pore folks
like us is of no account up there in Lunnon, I knows that, and it's
not often as I do complain. But when it comes to sich wet weather in
September, and all me fruit a-rottin' and a-dying' like the `Guptian
mother's first born, and doin' no more good than they did, pore dears,
save a lot more Jews, pedlars and sich, with their oranges and sich
like foreign ungodly fruit, which nobody'd buy if English apples and
pears was nicely swelled. As the Scriptures say--"
"That's quite right, Mr. `Empseed," retorted Jellyband, "and
as I says, what can you `xpect? There's all them Frenchy devils over
the Channel yonder a-murderin' their king and nobility, and Mr. Pitt
and Mr. Fox and Mr. Burke a-fightin' and a-wranglin' between them, if
we Englishmen should `low them to go on in their ungodly way. `Let
'em murder!' says Mr. Pitt. `Stop `em!' says Mr. Burke."
"And let `em murder, says I, and be demmed to `em." said Mr.
Hempseed, emphatically, for he had but little liking for his friend
Jellyband's political arguments, wherein he always got out of his
depth, and had but little chance for displaying those pearls of wisdom
which had earned for him so high a reputation in the neighbourhood and
so many free tankards of ale at "The Fisherman's Rest."
"Let `em murder," he repeated again, "but don't lets `ave sich rain in
September, for that is agin the law and the Scriptures which says--"
"Lud! Mr. `Arry, `ow you made me jump!"
It was unfortunate for Sally and her flirtation that this
remark of hers should have occurred at the precise moment when Mr.
Hempseed was collecting his breath, in order to deliver himself one of
those Scriptural utterances which made him famous, for it brought down
upon her pretty head the full flood of her father's wrath.
"Now then, Sally, me girl, now then!" he said, trying to force
a frown upon his good-humoured face, "stop that fooling with them
young jackanapes and get on with the work."
"The work's gettin' on all ri', father."
But Mr. Jellyband was peremptory. He had other views for his buxom
daughter, his only child, who would in God's good time become the owner
of "The Fisherman's Rest," than to see her married to one of these
young fellows who earned but a precarious livelihood with their net.
"Did ye hear me speak, me girl?" he said in that quiet tone,
which no one inside the inn dared to disobey. "Get on with my Lord
Tony's supper, for, if it ain't the best we can do, and `e not
satisfied, see what you'll get, that's all."
Reluctantly Sally obeyed.
"Is you `xpecting special guests then to-night, Mr.
Jellyband?" asked Jimmy Pitkin, in a loyal attempt to divert his
host's attention from the circumstances connected with Sally's exit
from the room.
"Aye! that I be," replied Jellyband, "friends of my Lord Tony
hisself. Dukes and duchesses from over the water yonder, whom the
young lord and his friend, Sir Andrew Ffoulkes, and other young
noblemen have helped out of the clutches of them murderin' devils."
But this was too much for Mr. Hempseed's querulous philosophy.
"Lud!" he said, "what do they do that for, I wonder? I don't
'old not with interferin' in other folks' ways. As the Scriptures
"Maybe, Mr. `Empseed," interrupted Jellyband, with biting
sarcasm, "as you're a personal friend of Mr. Pitt, and as you says
along with Mr. Fox: `Let `em murder!' says you."
"Pardon me, Mr. Jellyband," febbly protested Mr. Hempseed, "I
dunno as I ever did."
But Mr. Jellyband had at last succeeded in getting upon his
favourite hobby-horse, and had no intention of dismounting in any
"Or maybe you've made friends with some of them French chaps
'oo they do say have come over here o' purpose to make us Englishmen
agree with their murderin' ways."
"I dunno what you mean, Mr. Jellyband," suggested Mr.
Hempseed, "all I know is--"
"All _I_ know is," loudly asserted mine host, "that there was
my friend Peppercorn, `oo owns the `Blue-Faced Boar,' an' as true and
loyal an Englishman as you'd see in the land. And now look at
'im!--'E made friends with some o' them frog-eaters, `obnobbed with
them just as if they was Englishmen, and not just a lot of immoral,
Godforsaking furrin' spies. Well! and what happened? Peppercorn `e
now ups and talks of revolutions, and liberty, and down with the
aristocrats, just like Mr. `Empseed over `ere!"
"Pardon me, Mr. Jellyband," again interposed Mr. Hempseed feebly,
"I dunno as I ever did--"
Mr. Jellyband had appealed to the company in general, who were
listening awe-struck and open-mouthed at the recital of Mr.
Peppercorn's defalcations. At one table two customers--gentlemen
apparently by their clothes--had pushed aside their half-finished game
of dominoes, and had been listening for some time, and evidently with
much amusement at Mr. Jellyband's international opinions. One of them
now, with a quiet, sarcastic smile still lurking round the corners of
his mobile mouth, turned towards the centre of the room where Mr.
Jellyband was standing.
"You seem to think, mine honest friend," he said quietly,
"that these Frenchmen,--spies I think you called them--are mighty
clever fellows to have made mincemeat so to speak of your friend Mr.
Peppercorn's opinions. How did they accomplish that now, think you?"
"Lud! sir, I suppose they talked `im over. Those Frenchies,
I've `eard it said, `ave got the gift of gab--and Mr. `Empseed `ere
will tell you `ow it is that they just twist some people round their
little finger like."
"Indeed, and is that so, Mr. Hempseed?" inquired the stranger
"Nay, sir!" replied Mr. Hempseed, much irritated, "I dunno as
I can give you the information you require."
"Faith, then," said the stranger, "let us hope, my worthy
host, that these clever spies will not succeed in upsetting your
extremely loyal opinions."
But this was too much for Mr. Jellyband's pleasant equanimity.
He burst into an uproarious fit of laughter, which was soon echoed by
those who happened to be in his debt.
"Hahaha! hohoho! hehehe!" He laughed in every key, did my
worthy host, and laughed until his sided ached, and his eyes streamed.
"At me! hark at that! Did ye `ear `im say that they'd be upsettin'
my opinions?--Eh?--Lud love you, sir, but you do say some queer
"Well, Mr. Jellyband," said Mr. Hempseed, sententiously, "you know
what the Scriptures say: `Let `im `oo stands take `eed lest `e fall.'"
"But then hark'ee Mr. `Empseed," retorted Jellyband, still
holding his sides with laughter, "the Scriptures didn't know me. Why,
I wouldn't so much as drink a glass of ale with one o' them murderin'
Frenchmen, and nothin' `d make me change my opinions. Why! I've `eard
it said that them frog-eaters can't even speak the King's English, so,
of course, if any of `em tried to speak their God-forsaken lingo to
me, why, I should spot them directly, see!--and forewarned is
forearmed, as the saying goes."
"Aye! my honest friend," assented the stranger cheerfully, "I
see that you are much too sharp, and a match for any twenty Frenchmen,
and here's to your very good health, my worthy host, if you'll do me
the honour to finish this bottle of mine with me."
"I am sure you're very polite, sir," said Mr. Jellyband,
wiping his eyes which were still streaming with the abundance of his
laughter, "and I don't mind if I do."
The stranger poured out a couple of tankards full of wine, and
having offered one to mine host, he took the other himself.
"Loyal Englishmen as we all are," he said, whilst the same humorous
smile played round the corners of his thin lips--"loyal as we are,
we must admit that this at least is one good thing which comes to
us from France."
"Aye! we'll none of us deny that, sir," assented mine host.
"And here's to the best landlord in England, our worthy host,
Mr. Jellyband," said the stranger in a loud tone of voice.
"Hi, hip, hurrah!" retorted the whole company present. Then
there was a loud clapping of hands, and mugs and tankards made a
rattling music upon the tables to the accompaniment of loud laughter
at nothing in particular, and of Mr. Jellyband's muttered
"Just fancy ME bein' talked over by any God-forsaken
furriner!--What?--Lud love you, sir, but you do say some queer things."
To which obvious fact the stranger heartily assented. It was
certainly a preposterous suggestion that anyone could ever upset Mr.
Jellyband's firmly-rooted opinions anent the utter worthlessness of
the inhabitants of the whole continent of Europe.
CHAPTER III THE REFUGEES
Feeling in every part of England certainly ran very high at
this time against the French and their doings. Smugglers and
legitimate traders between the French and the English coasts brought
snatches of news from over the water, which made every honest
Englishman's blood boil, and made him long to have "a good go" at
those murderers, who had imprisoned their king and all his family,
subjected the queen and the royal children to every species of
indignity, and were even now loudly demanding the blood of the whole
Bourbon family and of every one of its adherents.
The execution of the Princesse de Lamballe, Marie Antoinette's
young and charming friend, had filled every one in England with
unspeakable horror, the daily execution of scores of royalists of good
family, whose only sin was their aristocratic name, seemed to cry for
vengeance to the whole of civilised Europe.
Yet, with all that, no one dared to interfere. Burke had
exhausted all his eloquence in trying to induce the British Government
to fight the revolutionary government of France, but Mr. Pitt, with
characteristic prudence, did not feel that this country was fit yet to
embark on another arduous and costly war. It was for Austria to take
the initiative; Austria, whose fairest daughter was even now a
dethroned queen, imprisoned and insulted by a howling mob; surely
'twas not--so argued Mr. Fox--for the whole of England to take up
arms, because one set of Frenchmen chose to murder another.
As for Mr. Jellyband and his fellow John Bulls, though they
looked upon all foreigners with withering contempt, they were royalist
and anti-revolutionists to a man, and at this present moment were
furious with Pitt for his caution and moderation, although they
naturally understood nothing of the diplomatic reasons which guided
that great man's policy.
By now Sally came running back, very excited and very eager.
The joyous company in the coffee-room had heard nothing of the noise
outside, but she had spied a dripping horse and rider who had stopped
at the door of "The Fisherman's Rest," and while the stable boy ran
forward to take charge of the horse, pretty Miss Sally went to the
front door to greet the welcome visitor.
"I think I see'd my Lord Antony's horse out in the yard,
father," she said, as she ran across the coffee-room.
But already the door had been thrown open from outside, and the
next moment an arm, covered in drab cloth and dripping with the heavy
rain, was round pretty Sally's waist, while a hearty voice echoed
along the polished rafters of the coffee-room.
"Aye, and bless your brown eyes for being so sharp, my pretty
Sally," said the man who had just entered, whilst worthy Mr. Jellyband
came bustling forward, eager, alert and fussy, as became the advent of
one of the most favoured guests of his hostel.
"Lud, I protest, Sally," added Lord Antony, as he deposited a
kiss on Miss Sally's blooming cheeks, "but you are growing prettier
and prettier every time I see you--and my honest friend, Jellyband
here, have hard work to keep the fellows off that slim waist of yours.
What say you, Mr. Waite?"
Mr. Waite--torn between his respect for my lord and his dislike of
that particular type of joke--only replied with a doubtful grunt.
Lord Antony Dewhurst, one of the sons of the Duke of Exeter,
was in those days a very perfect type of a young English
gentlemen--tall, well set-up, broad of shoulders and merry of face,
his laughter rang loudly whereever he went. A good sportsman, a
lively companion, a courteous, well-bred man of the world, with not
too much brains to spoil his temper, he was a universal favourite in
London drawing-rooms or in the coffee-rooms of village inns. At "The
Fisherman's Rest" everyone knew him--for he was fond of a trip across
to France, and always spent a night under worthy Mr. Jellyband's roof
on his way there or back.
He nodded to Waite, Pitkin and the others as he at last
released Sally's waist, and crossed over to the hearth to warm and dry
himself: as he did so, he cast a quick, somewhat suspicious glance at
the two strangers, who had quietly resumed their game of dominoes, and
for a moment a look of deep earnestness, even of anxiety, clouded his
jovial young face.
But only for a moment; the next he turned to Mr. Hempseed, who
was respectfully touching his forelock.
"Well, Mr. Hempseed, and how is the fruit?"
"Badly, my lord, badly," replied Mr. Hempseed, dolefully, "but
what can you `xpect with this `ere government favourin' them rascals
over in France, who would murder their king and all their nobility."
"Odd's life!" retorted Lord Antony; "so they would, honest
Hempseed,--at least those they can get hold of, worse luck! But we
have got some friends coming here to-night, who at any rate have
evaded their clutches."
It almost seemed, when the young man said these words, as if
he threw a defiant look towards the quiet strangers in the corner.
"Thanks to you, my lord, and to your friends, so I've heard it said,"
said Mr. Jellyband.
But in a moment Lord Antony's hand fell warningly on mine host's arm.
"Hush!" he said peremptorily, and instinctively once again
looked towards the strangers.
"Oh! Lud love you, they are all right, my lord," retorted
Jellyband; "don't you be afraid. I wouldn't have spoken, only I knew
we were among friends. That gentleman over there is as true and loyal
a subject of King George as you are yourself, my lord saving your
presence. He is but lately arrived in Dover, and is setting down in
business in these parts."
"In business? Faith, then, it must be as an undertaker, for I
vow I never beheld a more rueful countenance."
"Nay, my lord, I believe that the gentleman is a widower,
which no doubt would account for the melancholy of his bearing--but he
is a friend, nevertheless, I'll vouch for that-and you will own, my
lord, that who should judge of a face better than the landlord of a
"Oh, that's all right, then, if we are among friends," said
Lord Antony, who evidently did not care to discuss the subject with
his host. "But, tell me, you have no one else staying here, have you?"
"No one, my lord, and no one coming, either, leastways--"
"No one your lordship would object to, I know."
"Who is it?"
"Well, my lord, Sir Percy Blakeney and his lady will be here
presently, but they ain't a-goin' to stay--"
"Lady Blakeney?" queried Lord Antony, in some astonishment.
"Aye, my lord. Sir Percy's skipper was here just now. He
says that my lady's brother is crossing over to France to-day in the
DAY DREAM, which is Sir Percy's yacht, and Sir Percy and my lady
will come with him as far as here to see the last of him. It don't
put you out, do it, my lord?"
"No, no, it doesn't put me out, friend; nothing will put me
out, unless that supper is not the very best which Miss Sally can
cook, and which has ever been served in `The Fisherman's Rest.'"
"You need have no fear of that, my lord," said Sally, who all this
while had been busy setting the table for supper. And very gay and
inviting it looked, with a large bunch of brilliantly coloured dahlias
in the centre, and the bright pewter goblets and blue china about.
"How many shall I lay for, my lord?"
"Five places, pretty Sally, but let the supper be enough for
ten at least--our friends will be tired, and, I hope, hungry.
As for me, I vow I could demolish a baron of beef to-night."
"Here they are, I do believe," said Sally excitedly, as a
distant clatter of horses and wheels could now be distinctly heard,
drawing rapidly nearer.
There was a general commotion in the coffee-room. Everyone
was curious to see my Lord Antony's swell friends from over the water.
Miss Sally cast one or two quick glances at the little bit of mirror
which hung on the wall, and worthy Mr. Jellyband bustled out in order
to give the first welcome himself to his distinguished guests. Only
the two strangers in the corner did not participate in the general
excitement. They were calmly finishing their game of dominoes, and
did not even look once towards the door.
"Straight ahead, Comtesse, the door on your right," said a
pleasant voice outside.
"Aye! there they are, all right enough." said Lord Antony,
joyfully; "off with you, my pretty Sally, and see how quick you can
dish up the soup."
The door was thrown wide open, and, preceded by Mr. Jellyband,
who was profuse in his bows and welcomes, a party of four--two ladies
and two gentlemen--entered the coffee-room.
"Welcome! Welcome to old England!" said Lord Antony,
effusively, as he came eagerly forward with both hands outstretched
towards the newcomers.
"Ah, you are Lord Antony Dewhurst, I think," said one of the
ladies, speaking with a strong foreign accent.
"At your service, Madame," he replied, as he ceremoniously
kissed the hands of both the ladies, then turned to the men and shook
them both warmly by the hand.
Sally was already helping the ladies to take off their
traveling cloaks, and both turned, with a shiver, towards the
There was a general movement among the company in the
coffee-room. Sally had bustled off to her kitchen whilst Jellyband,
still profuse with his respectful salutations, arranged one or two
chairs around the fire. Mr. Hempseed, touching his forelock, was
quietly vacating the seat in the hearth. Everyone was staring
curiously, yet deferentially, at the foreigners.
"Ah, Messieurs! what can I say?" said the elder of the two
ladies, as she stretched a pair of fine, aristocratic hands to the
warmth of the blaze, and looked with unspeakable gratitude first at
Lord Antony, then at one of the young men who had accompanied her
party, and who was busy divesting himself of his heavy, caped coat.
"Only that you are glad to be in England, Comtesse," replied
Lord Antony, "and that you have not suffered too much from your trying
"Indeed, indeed, we are glad to be in England," she said,
while her eyes filled with tears, "and we have already forgotten all
that we have suffered."
Her voice was musical and low, and there was a great deal of
calm dignity and of many sufferings nobly endured marked in the
handsome, aristocratic face, with its wealth of snowy-white hair
dressed high above the forehead, after the fashion of the times.
"I hope my friend, Sir Andrew Ffoulkes, proved an entertaining
travelling companion, madame?"
"Ah, indeed, Sir Andrew was kindness itself. How could my
children and I ever show enough gratitude to you all, Messieurs?"
Her companion, a dainty, girlish figure, childlike and
pathetic in its look of fatigue and of sorrow, had said nothing as
yet, but her eyes, large, brown, and full of tears, looked up from the
fire and sought those of Sir Andrew Ffoulkes, who had drawn near to
the hearth and to her; then, as they met his, which were fixed with
unconcealed admiration upon the sweet face before him, a thought of
warmer colour rushed up to her pale cheeks.
"So this is England," she said, as she looked round with
childlike curiosity at the great hearth, the oak rafters, and the
yokels with their elaborate smocks and jovial, rubicund, British
"A bit of it, Mademoiselle," replied Sir Andrew, smiling, "but
all of it, at your service."
The young girl blushed again, but this time a bright smile,
fleet and sweet, illumined her dainty face. She said nothing, and Sir
Andrew too was silent, yet those two young people understood one
another, as young people have a way of doing all the world over, and
have done since the world began.
"But, I say, supper!" here broke in Lord Antony's jovial
voice, "supper, honest Jellyband. Where is that pretty wench of yours
and the dish of soup? Zooks, man, while you stand there gaping at the
ladies, they will faint with hunger."
"One moment! one moment, my lord," said Jellyband, as he
threw open the door that led to the kitchen and shouted lustily:
"Sally! Hey, Sally there, are ye ready, my girl?"
Sally was ready, and the next moment she appeared in the
doorway carrying a gigantic tureen, from which rose a cloud of steam
and an abundance of savoury odour.
"Odd's life, supper at last!" ejaculated Lord Antony, merrily,
as he gallantly offered his arm to the Comtesse.
"May I have the honour?" he added ceremoniously, as he led her
towards the supper table.
There was a general bustle in the coffee-room: Mr. Hempseed
and most of the yokels and fisher-folk had gone to make way for "the
quality," and to finish smoking their pipes elsewhere. Only the two
strangers stayed on, quietly and unconcernedly playing their game of
dominoes and sipping their wine; whilst at another table Harry Waite,
who was fast losing his temper, watched pretty Sally bustling round
She looked a very dainty picture of English rural life, and no
wonder that the susceptible young Frenchman could scarce take his eyes
off her pretty face. The Vicomte de Tournay was scarce nineteen, a
beardless boy, on whom terrible tragedies which were being enacted in
his own country had made but little impression. He was elegantly and
even foppishly dressed, and once safely landed in England he was
evidently ready to forget the horrors of the Revolution in the
delights of English life.
"Pardi, if zis is England," he said as he continued to ogle
Sally with marked satisfaction, "I am of it satisfied."
It would be impossible at this point to record the exact
exclamation which escaped through Mr. Harry Waite's clenched teeth.
Only respect for "the quality," and notably for my Lord Antony, kept
his marked disapproval of the young foreigner in check.
"Nay, but this IS England, you abandoned young reprobate,"
interposed Lord Antony with a laugh, "and do not, I pray, bring your
loose foreign ways into this most moral country."
Lord Antony had already sat down at the head of the table with
the Comtesse on his right. Jellyband was bustling round, filling
glasses and putting chairs straight. Sally waited, ready to hand
round the soup. Mr. Harry Waite's friends had at last succeeded in
taking him out of the room, for his temper was growing more and more
violent under the Vicomte's obvious admiration for Sally.
"Suzanne," came in stern, commanding accents from the rigid
Suzanne blushed again; she had lost count of time and of place
whilst she had stood beside the fire, allowing the handsome young
Englishman's eyes to dwell upon her sweet face, and his hand, as if
unconsciously, to rest upon hers. Her mother's voice brought her back
to reality once more, and with a submissive "Yes, Mama," she took her
place at the supper table.
CHAPTER IV THE LEAGUE OF THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
They all looked a merry, even a happy party, as they sat round
the table; Sir Andrew Ffoulkes and Lord Antony Dewhurst, two typical
good-looking, well-born and well-bred Englishmen of that year of grace
1792, and the aristocratic French comtesse with her two children, who
had just escaped from such dire perils, and found a safe retreat at
last on the shores of protecting England.
In the corner the two strangers had apparently finished their
game; one of them arose, and standing with his back to the merry
company at the table, he adjusted with much with much deliberation his
large triple caped coat. As he did so, he gave one quick glance all
around him. Everyone was busy laughing and chatting, and he murmured
the words "All safe!": his companion then, with the alertness borne of
long practice, slipped on to his knees in a moment, and the next had
crept noiselessly under the oak bench. The stranger then, with a loud
"Good-night," quietly walked out of the coffee-room.
Not one of those at the supper table had noticed this curious and silent
! Mammanoeuvre, but when the stranger finally closed the door of the coffee-room
behind him, they all instinctively sighed a sigh of relief.
"Alone, at last!" said Lord Antony, jovially.
Then the young Vicomte de Tournay rose, glass in hand, and
with the graceful affection peculiar to the times, he raised it aloft,
and said in broken English,--
"To His Majesty George Three of England. God bless him for
his hospitality to us all, poor exiles from France."
"His Majesty the King!" echoed Lord Antony and Sir Andrew as
they drank loyally to the toast.
"To His Majesty King Louis of France," added Sir Andrew, with
solemnity. "May God protect him, and give him victory over his
Everyone rose and drank this toast in silence. The fate of
the unfortunate King of France, then a prisoner of his own people,
seemed to cast a gloom even over Mr. Jellyband's pleasant countenance.
"And to M. le Comte de Tournay de Basserive," said Lord Antony, merrily.
"May we welcome him in England before many days are over."
"Ah, Monsieur," said the Comtesse, as with a slightly trembling hand
she conveyed her glass to her lips, "I scarcely dare to hope."
But already Lord Antony had served out the soup, and for the
next few moments all conversation ceased, while Jellyband and Sally
handed round the plates and everyone began to eat.
"Faith, Madame!" said Lord Antony, after a while, "mine was no
idle toast; seeing yourself, Mademoiselle Suzanne and my friend the
Vicomte safely in England now, surely you must feel reasurred as to
the fate of Monsieur le Comte."
"Ah, Monsieur," replied the Comtesse, with a heavy sigh, "I
trust in God--I can but pray--and hope. . ."
"Aye, Madame!" here interposed Sir Andrew Ffoulkes, "trust in
God by all means, but believe also a little in your English friends,
who have sworn to bring the Count safely across the Channel, even as
they have brought you to-day."
"Indeed, indeed, Monsieur," she replied, "I have the fullest
confidence in you and your friends. Your fame, I assure you, has
spread throughout the whole of France. The way some of my own friends
have escaped from the clutches of that awful revolutionary tribunal
was nothing short of a miracle--and all done by you and your friends--"
"We were but the hands, Madame la Comtesse. . ."
"But my husband, Monsieur," said the Comtesse, whilst unshed
tears seemed to veil her voice, "he is in such deadly peril--I would
never have left him, only. . .there were my children. . .I was torn
between my duty to him, and to them. They refused to go without
me. . .and you and your friends assured me so solemnly that my husband
would be safe. But, oh! now that I am here--amongst you all--in this
beautiful, free England--I think of him, flying for his life, hunted
like a poor beast. . .in such peril. . .Ah! I should not have left
him. . .I should not have left him!. . ."
The poor woman had completely broken down; fatigue, sorrow and
emotion had overmastered her rigid, aristocratic bearing. She was
crying gently to herself, whilst Suzanne ran up to her and tried to
kiss away her tears.
Lord Antony and Sir Andrew had said nothing to interrupt the
Comtesse whilst she was speaking. There was no doubt that they felt
deeply for her; their very silence testified to that--but in every
century, and ever since England has been what it is, an Englishman has
always felt somewhat ashamed of his own emotion and of his own
sympathy. And so the two young men said nothing, and busied
themselves in trying to hide their feelings, only succeeding in
looking immeasurably sheepish.
"As for me, Monsieur," said Suzanne, suddenly, as she looked
through a wealth of brown curls across at Sir Andrew, "I trust you
absolutely, and I KNOW that you will bring my dear father safely to
England, just as you brought us to-day."
This was said with so much confidence, such unuttered hope and
belief, that it seemed as if by magic to dry the mother's eyes, and to
bring a smile upon everybody's lips.
"Nay! You shame me, Mademoiselle," replied Sir Andrew;
"though my life is at your service, I have been but a humble tool in
the hands of our great leader, who organised and effected your escape."
He had spoken with so much warmth and vehemence that Suzanne's
eyes fastened upon him in undisguised wonder.
"Your leader, Monsieur?" said the Comtesse, eagerly. "Ah! of
course, you must have a leader. And I did not think of that before!
But tell me where is he? I must go to him at once, and I and my
children must throw ourselves at his feet, and thank him for all that
he has done for us."
"Alas, Madame!" said Lord Antony, "that is impossible."
"Because the Scarlet Pimpernel works in the dark, and his
identity is only known under the solemn oath of secrecy to his
"The Scarlet Pimpernel?" said Suzanne, with a merry laugh.
"Why! what a droll name! What is the Scarlet Pimpernel, Monsieur?"
She looked at Sir Andrew with eager curiosity. The young
man's face had become almost transfigured. His eyes shone with
enthusiasm; hero-worship, love, admiration for his leader seemed
literally to glow upon his face. "The Scarlet Pimpernel,
Mademoiselle," he said at last "is the name of a humble English
wayside flower; but it is also the name chosen to hide the identity of
the best and bravest man in all the world, so that he may better
succeed in accomplishing the noble task he has set himself to do."
"Ah, yes," here interposed the young Vicomte, "I have heard
speak of this Scarlet Pimpernel. A little flower--red?--yes! They
say in Paris that every time a royalist escapes to England that devil,
Foucquier-Tinville, the Public Prosecutor, receives a paper with that
little flower dessinated in red upon it. . . . Yes?"
"Yes, that is so," assented Lord Antony.
"Then he will have received one such paper to-day?"
"Oh! I wonder what he will say!" said Suzanne, merrily. "I
have heard that the picture of that little red flower is the only
thing that frightens him."
"Faith, then," said Sir Andrew, "he will have many more
opportunities of studying the shape of that small scarlet flower."
"Ah, monsieur," sighed the Comtesse, "it all sounds like a
romance, and I cannot understand it all."
"Why should you try, Madame?"
"But, tell me, why should your leader--why should you
all--spend your money and risk your lives--for it is your lives you
risk, Messieurs, when you set foot in France--and all for us French
men and women, who are nothing to you?"
"Sport, Madame la Comtesse, sport," asserted Lord Antony, with
his jovial, loud and pleasant voice; "we are a nation of sportsmen,
you know, and just now it is the fashion to pull the hare from between
the teeth of the hound."
"Ah, no, no, not sport only, Monsieur. . .you have a more
noble motive, I am sure for the good work you do."
"Faith, Madame, I would like you to find it then. . .as for
me, I vow, I love the game, for this is the finest sport I have yet
encountered.--Hair-breath escapes. . .the devil's own risks!--Tally
ho!--and away we go!"
But the Comtesse shook her head, still incredulously. To her
it seemed preposterous that these young men and their great leader,
all of them rich, probably wellborn, and young, should for no other
motive than sport, run the terrible risks, which she knew they were
constantly doing. Their nationality, once they had set foot in
France, would be no safeguard to them. Anyone found harbouring or
assisting suspected royalists would be ruthlessly condemned and
summarily executed, whatever his nationality might be. And this band
of young Englishmen had, to her own knowledge, bearded the implacable
and bloodthirsty tribunal of the Revolution, within the very walls of
Paris itself, and had snatched away condemned victims, almost from the
very foot of the guillotine. With a shudder, she recalled the events
of the last few days, her escape from Paris with her two children, all
three of them hidden beneath the hood of a rickety cart, and lying
amidst a heap of turnips and cabbages, not daring to breathe, whilst
the mob howled, "A la lanterne les aristos!" at the awful West
It had all occurred in such a miraculous way; she and her
husband had understood that they had been placed on the list of
"suspected persons," which meant that their trial and death were but a
matter of days--of hours, perhaps.
Then came the hope of salvation; the mysterious epistle,
signed with the enigmatical scarlet device; the clear, peremptory
directions; the parting from the Comte de Tournay, which had torn the
poor wife's heart in two; the hope of reunion; the flight with her two
children; the covered cart; that awful hag driving it, who looked like
some horrible evil demon, with the ghastly trophy on her whip handle!
The Comtesse looked round at the quaint, old-fashioned English
inn, the peace of this land of civil and religious liberty, and she
closed her eyes to shut out the haunting vision of that West
Barricade, and of the mob retreating panic-stricken when the old hag
spoke of the plague.
Every moment under that cart she expected recognition, arrest,
herself and her children tried and condemned, and these young
Englishmen, under the guidance of their brave and mysterious leader,
had risked their lives to save them all, as they had already saved
scores of other innocent people.
And all only for sport? Impossible! Suzanne's eyes as she sought
those of Sir Andrew plainly told him that she thought that HE at any
rate rescued his fellowmen from terrible and unmerited death, through
a higher and nobler motive than his friend would have her believe.
"How many are there in your brave league, Monsieur?" she asked timidly.
"Twenty all told, Mademoiselle," he replied, "one to command,
and nineteen to obey. All of us Englishmen, and all pledged to the
same cause--to obey our leader and to rescue the innocent."
"May God protect you all, Messieurs," said the Comtesse, fervently.
"He had done that so far, Madame."
"It is wonderful to me, wonderful!--That you should all be so
brave, so devoted to your fellowmen--yet you are English!--and in
France treachery is rife--all in the name of liberty and fraternity."
"The women even, in France, have been more bitter against us
aristocrats than the men," said the Vicomte, with a sigh.
"Ah, yes," added the Comtesse, while a look of haughty disdain
and intense bitterness shot through her melancholy eyes, "There was
that woman, Marguerite St. Just for instance. She denounced the
Marquis de St. Cyr and all his family to the awful tribunal of the
"Marguerite St. Just?" said Lord Antony, as he shot a quick
and apprehensive glance across at Sir Andrew.
"Marguerite St. Just?--Surely. . ."
"Yes!" replied the Comtesse, "surely you know her. She was a
leading actress of the Comedie Francaise, and she married an
Englishman lately. You must know her--"
"Know her?" said Lord Antony. "Know Lady Blakeney--the most
fashionable woman in London--the wife of the richest man in England?
Of course, we all know Lady Blakeney."
"She was a school-fellow of mine at the convent in Paris,"
interposed Suzanne, "and we came over to England together to learn
your language. I was very fond of Marguerite, and I cannot believe
that she ever did anything so wicked."
"It certainly seems incredible," said Sir Andrew. "You say
that she actually denounced the Marquis de St. Cyr? Why should she
have done such a thing? Surely there must be some mistake--"
"No mistake is possible, Monsieur," rejoined the Comtesse,
coldly. "Marguerite St. Just's brother is a noted republican. There
was some talk of a family feud between him and my cousin, the Marquis
de St. Cyr. The St. Justs' are quite plebeian, and the republican
government employs many spies. I assure you there is no
mistake. . . . You had not heard this story?"
"Faith, Madame, I did hear some vague rumours of it, but in
England no one would credit it. . . . Sir Percy Blakeney, her
husband, is a very wealthy man, of high social position, the intimate
friend of the Prince of Wales. . .and Lady Blakeney leads both fashion
and society in London."
"That may be, Monsieur, and we shall, of course, lead a very
quiet life in England, but I pray god that while I remain in this
beautiful country, I may never meet Marguerite St. Just."
The proverbial wet-blanket seemed to have fallen over the merry little
company gathered round the table. Suzanne looked sad and silent;
Sir Andrew fidgeted uneasily with his fork, whilst the Comtesse,
encased in the plate-armour of her aristocratic prejudices, sat,
rigid and unbending, in her straight-backed chair. As for Lord Antony,
he looked extremely uncomfortable, and glanced once or twice apprehensively
towards Jellyband, who looked just as uncomfortable as himself.
"At what time do you expect Sir Percy and Lady Blakeney?" he
contrived to whisper unobserved, to mine host.
"Any moment, my lord," whispered Jellyband in reply.
Even as he spoke, a distant clatter was heard of an
approaching coach; louder and louder it grew, one or two shouts became
distinguishable, then the rattle of horses' hoofs on the uneven cobble
stones, and the next moment a stable boy had thrown open the
coffee-room door and rushed in excitedly.
"Sir Percy Blakeney and my lady," he shouted at the top of his
voice, "they're just arriving."
And with more shouting, jingling of harness, and iron hoofs
upon the stones, a magnificent coach, drawn by four superb bays, had
halted outside the porch of "The Fisherman's Rest."
CHAPTER V MARGUERITE
In a moment the pleasant oak-raftered coffee-room of the inn
became the scene of hopeless confusion and discomfort. At the first
announcement made by the stable boy, Lord Antony, with a fashionable
oath, had jumped up from his seat and was now giving many and confused
directions to poor bewildered Jellyband, who seemed at his wits' end
what to do.
"For goodness' sake, man," admonished his lordship, "try to
keep Lady Blakeney talking outside for a moment while the ladies
withdraw. Zounds!" he added, with another more emphatic oath, "this
is most unfortunate."
"Quick Sally! the candles!" shouted Jellyband, as hopping
about from one leg to another, he ran hither and thither, adding to
the general discomfort of everybody.
The Comtesse, too, had risen to her feet: rigid and erect,
trying to hide her excitement beneath more becoming SANG-FROID, she
"I will not see her!--I will not see her!"
Outside, the excitement attendant upon the arrival of very
important guests grew apace.
"Good-day, Sir Percy!--Good-day to your ladyship! Your
servant, Sir Percy!"--was heard in one long, continued chorus, with
alternate more feeble tones of--"Remember the poor blind man! of your
charity, lady and gentleman!"
Then suddenly a singularly sweet voice was heard through all
"Let the poor man be--and give him some supper at my expense."
The voice was low and musical, with a slight sing-song in it,
and a faint SOUPCON of foreign intonation in the pronunciation of
Everyone in the coffee-room heard it and paused instinctively,
listening to it for a moment. Sally was holding the candles by the
opposite door, which led to the bedrooms upstairs, and the Comtesse
was in the act of beating a hasty retreat before that enemy who owned
such a sweet musical voice; Suzanne reluctantly was preparing to
follow her mother, while casting regretful glances towards the door,
where she hoped still to see her dearly-beloved, erstwhile
Then Jellyband threw open the door, still stupidly and blindly
hoping to avert the catastrophe, which he felt was in the air, and the
same low, musical voice said, with a merry laugh and mock
"B-r-r-r-r! I am as wet as a herring! DIEU! has anyone
ever seen such a contemptible climate?"
"Suzanne, come with me at once--I wish it," said the Comtesse,
"Oh! Mama!" pleaded Suzanne.
"My lady. . .er. . .h'm!. . .my lady!. . ." came in feeble
accents from Jellyband, who stood clumsily trying to bar the way.
"PARDIEU, my good man," said Lady Blakeney, with some impatience,
"what are you standing in my way for, dancing about like a turkey with
a sore foot? Let me get to the fire, I am perished with the cold."
And the next moment Lady Blakeney, gently pushing mine host on
one side, had swept into the coffee-room.
There are many portraits and miniatures extant of Marguerite
St. Just--Lady Blakeney as she was then--but it is doubtful if any of
these really do her singular beauty justice. Tall, above the average,
with magnificent presence and regal figure, it is small wonder that
even the Comtesse paused for a moment in involuntary admiration before
turning her back on so fascinating an apparition.
Marguerite Blakeney was then scarcely five-and-twenty, and her
beauty was at its most dazzling stage. The large hat, with its
undulating and waving plumes, threw a soft shadow across the classic
brow with the auerole of auburn hair--free at the moment from any
powder; the sweet, almost childlike mouth, the straight chiselled
nose, round chin, and delicate throat, all seemed set off by the
picturesque costume of the period. The rich blue velvet robe moulded
in its every line the graceful contour of the figure, whilst one tiny
hand held, with a dignity all its own, the tall stick adorned with a
large bunch of ribbons which fashionable ladies of the period had
taken to carrying recently.
With a quick glance all around the room, Marguerite Blakeney
had taken stock of every one there. She nodded pleasantly to Sir
Andrew Ffoulkes, whilst extending a hand to Lord Antony.
"Hello! my Lord Tony, why--what are YOU doing here in
Dover?" she said merrily.
Then, without waiting for a reply, she turned and faced the
Comtesse and Suzanne. Her whole face lighted up with additional
brightness, as she stretched out both arms towards the young girl.
"Why! if that isn't my little Suzanne over there. PARDIEU,
little citizeness, how came you to be in England? And Madame too?"
She went up effusive to them both, with not a single touch of
embarrassment in her manner or in her smile. Lord Tony and Sir Andrew
watched the little scene with eager apprehension. English though they
were, they had often been in France, and had mixed sufficiently with
the French to realise the unbending hauteur, the bitter hatred with
which the old NOBLESSE of France viewed all those who had helped to
contribute to their downfall. Armand St. Just, the brother of
beautiful Lady Blakeney--though known to hold moderate and
conciliatory views--was an ardent republican; his feud with the
ancient family of St. Cyr--the rights and wrongs of which no outsider
ever knew--had culminated in the downfall, the almost total extinction
of the latter. In France, St. Just and his party had triumphed, and
here in England, face to face with these three refugees driven from
their country, flying for their lives, bereft of all which centuries
of luxury had given them, there stood a fair scion of those same
republican families which had hurled down a throne, and uprooted an
aristocracy whose origin was lost in the dim and distant vista of
She stood there before them, in all the unconscious insolence of beauty,
and stretched out her dainty hand to them, as if she would, by that one act,
bridge over the conflict and bloodshed of the past decade.
"Suzanne, I forbid you to speak to that woman," said the Comtesse,
sternly, as she placed a restraining hand upon her daughter's arm.
She had spoken in English, so that all might hear and
understand; the two young English gentlemen was as well as the common
innkeeper and his daughter. The latter literally gasped with horror
at this foreign insolence, this impudence before her ladyship--who was
English, now that she was Sir Percy's wife, and a friend of the
Princess of Wales to boot.
As for Lord Antony and Sir Andrew Ffoulkes, their very hearts
seemed to stand still with horror at this gratuitous insult. One of
them uttered an exclamation of appeal, the other one of warning, and
instinctively both glanced hurriedly towards the door, whence a slow,
drawly, not unpleasant voice had already been heard.
Alone among those present Marguerite Blakeney and these Comtesse
de Tournay had remained seemingly unmoved. The latter, rigid, erect
and defiant, with one hand still upon her daughter's arm, seemed
the very personification of unbending pride. For the moment Marguerite's
sweet face had become as white as the soft fichu which swathed her throat,
and a very keen observer might have noted that the hand which held the tall,
beribboned stick was clenched, and trembled somewhat.
But this was only momentary; the next instant the delicate
eyebrows were raised slightly, the lips curved sarcastically upwards,
the clear blue eyes looked straight at the rigid Comtesse, and with a
slight shrug of the shoulders--
"Hoity-toity, citizeness," she said gaily, "what fly stings you, pray?"
"We are in England now, Madame," rejoined the Comtesse, coldly,
"and I am at liberty to forbid my daughter to touch your hand
in friendship. Come, Suzanne."
She beckoned to her daughter, and without another look at
Marguerite Blakeney, but with a deep, old-fashioned curtsey to the two
young men, she sailed majestically out of the room.
There was silence in the old inn parlour for a moment, as the
rustle of the Comtesse's skirts died away down the passage.
Marguerite, rigid as a statue followed with hard, set eyes the upright
figure, as it disappeared through the doorway--but as little Suzanne,
humble and obedient, was about to follow her mother, the hard, set
expression suddenly vanished, and a wistful, almost pathetic and
childlike look stole into Lady Blakeney's eyes.
Little Suzanne caught that look; the child's sweet nature went
out to the beautiful woman, scarcely older than herself; filial
obedience vanished before girlish sympathy; at the door she turned,
ran back to Marguerite, and putting her arms round her, kissed her
effusively; then only did she follow her mother, Sally bringing up the
rear, with a final curtsey to my lady.
Suzanne's sweet and dainty impulse had relieved the unpleasant tension.
Sir Andrew's eyes followed the pretty little figure, until it had quite
disappeared, then they met Lady Blakeney's with unassumed merriment.
Marguerite, with dainty affection, had kissed her hand to the
ladies, as they disappeared through the door, then a humorous smile
began hovering round the corners of her mouth.
"So that's it, is it?" she said gaily. "La! Sir Andrew, did
you ever see such an unpleasant person? I hope when I grow old I
sha'n't look like that."
She gathered up her skirts and assuming a majestic gait,
stalked towards the fireplace.
"Suzanne," she said, mimicking the Comtesse's voice, "I forbid
you to speak to that woman!"
The laugh which accompanied this sally sounded perhaps a
trifled forced and hard, but neither Sir Andrew nor Lord Tony were
very keen observers. The mimicry was so perfect, the tone of the
voice so accurately reproduced, that both the young men joined in a
hearty cheerful "Bravo!"
"Ah! Lady Blakeney!" added Lord Tony, "how they must miss you
at the Comedie Francaise, and how the Parisians must hate Sir Percy
for having taken you away."
"Lud, man," rejoined Marguerite, with a shrug of her graceful
shoulders, "`tis impossible to hate Sir Percy for anything; his witty
sallies would disarm even Madame la Comtesse herself."
The young Vicomte, who had not elected to follow his mother in
her dignified exit, now made a step forward, ready to champion the
Comtesse should Lady Blakeney aim any further shafts at her. But
before he could utter a preliminary word of protest, a pleasant though
distinctly inane laugh, was heard from outside, and the next moment an
unusually tall and very richly dressed figure appeared in the doorway.
CHAPTER VI AN EXQUISITE OF '92
Sir Percy Blakeney, as the chronicles of the time inform us,
was in this year of grace 1792, still a year or two on the right side
of thirty. Tall, above the average, even for an Englishman,
broad-shouldered and massively built, he would have been called
unusually good-looking, but for a certain lazy expression in his
deep-set blue eyes, and that perpetual inane laugh which seemed to
disfigure his strong, clearly-cut mouth.
It was nearly a year ago now that Sir Percy Blakeney, Bart.,
one of the richest men in England, leader of all the fashions, and
intimate friend of the Prince of Wales, had astonished fashionable
society in London and Bath by bringing home, from one of his journeys
abroad, a beautiful, fascinating, clever, French wife. He, the
sleepiest, dullest, most British Britisher that had ever set a pretty
woman yawning, had secured a brilliant matrimonial prize for which, as
all chroniclers aver, there had been many competitors.
Marguerite St. Just had first made her DEBUT in artistic
Parisian circles, at the very moment when the greatest social upheaval
the world has ever known was taking place within its very walls.
Scarcely eighteen, lavishly gifted with beauty and talent, chaperoned
only by a young and devoted brother, she had soon gathered round her,
in her charming apartment in the Rue Richelieu, a coterie which was as
brilliant as it was exclusive--exclusive, that is to say, only from
one point of view. Marguerite St. Just was from principle and by
conviction a republican--equality of birth was her motto--inequality
of fortune was in her eyes a mere untoward accident, but the only
inequality she admitted was that of talent. "Money and titles may be
hereditary," she would say, "but brains are not," and thus her
charming salon was reserved for originality and intellect, for
brilliance and wit, for clever men and talented women, and the
entrance into it was soon looked upon in the world of intellect--which
even in those days and in those troublous times found its pivot in
Paris--as the seal to an artistic career.
Clever men, distinguished men, and even men of exalted station
formed a perpetual and brilliant court round the fascinating young
actress of the Comedie Francaise, and she glided through republican,
revolutionary, bloodthirsty Paris like a shining comet with a trail
behind her of all that was most distinguished, most interesting, in
Then the climax came. Some smiled indulgently and called it
an artistic eccentricity, others looked upon it as a wise provision,
in view of the many events which were crowding thick and fast in Paris
just then, but to all, the real motive of that climax remained a
puzzle and a mystery. Anyway, Marguerite St. Just married Sir Percy
Blakeney one fine day, just like that, without any warning to her
friends, without a SOIREE DE CONTRAT or DINER DE FIANCAILLES or
other appurtenances of a fashionable French wedding.
How that stupid, dull Englishman ever came to be admitted
within the intellectual circle which revolved round "the cleverest
woman in Europe," as her friends unanimously called her, no one
ventured to guess--golden key is said to open every door, asserted the
more malignantly inclined.
Enough, she married him, and "the cleverest woman in Europe"
had linked her fate to that "demmed idiot" Blakeney, and not even her
most intimate friends could assign to this strange step any other
motive than that of supreme eccentricity. Those friends who knew,
laughed to scorn the idea that Marguerite St. Just had married a fool
for the sake of the worldly advantages with which he might endow her.
They knew, as a matter of fact, that Marguerite St. Just cared nothing
about money, and still less about a title; moreover, there were at
least half a dozen other men in the cosmopolitan world equally
well-born, if not so wealthy as Blakeney, who would have been only too
happy to give Marguerite St. Just any position she might choose to covet.
As for Sir Percy himself, he was universally voted to be
totally unqualified for the onerous post he had taken upon himself.
His chief qualifications for it seemed to consist in his blind
adoration for her, his great wealth and the high favour in which he
stood at the English court; but London society thought that, taking
into consideration his own intellectual limitations, it would have
been wiser on his part had he bestowed those worldly advantages upon a
less brilliant and witty wife.
Although lately he had been so prominent a figure in
fashionable English society, he had spent most of his early life
abroad. His father, the late Sir Algernon Blakeney, had had the
terrible misfortune of seeing an idolized young wife become hopelessly
insane after two years of happy married life. Percy had just been
born when the late Lady Blakeney fell prey to the terrible malady
which in those days was looked upon as hopelessly incurable and
nothing short of a curse of God upon the entire family. Sir Algernon
took his afflicted young wife abroad, and there presumably Percy was
educated, and grew up between an imbecile mother and a distracted
father, until he attained his majority. The death of his parents
following close upon one another left him a free man, and as Sir
Algernon had led a forcibly simple and retired life, the large
Blakeney fortune had increased tenfold.
Sir Percy Blakeney had travelled a great deal abroad, before
he brought home his beautiful, young, French wife. The fashionable
circles of the time were ready to receive them both with open arms;
Sir Percy was rich, his wife was accomplished, the Prince of Wales
took a very great liking to them both. Within six months they were
the acknowledged leaders of fashion and of style. Sir Percy's coats
were the talk of the town, his inanities were quoted, his foolish
laugh copied by the gilded youth at Almack's or the Mall. Everyone
knew that he was hopelessly stupid, but then that was scarcely to be
wondered at, seeing that all the Blakeneys for generations had been
notoriously dull, and that his mother died an imbecile.
Thus society accepted him, petted him, made much of him, since
his horses were the finest in the country, his FETES and wines the
most sought after. As for his marriage with "the cleverest woman in
Europe," well! the inevitable came with sure and rapid footsteps. No
one pitied him, since his fate was of his own making. There were
plenty of young ladies in England, of high birth and good looks, who
would have been quite willing to help him to spend the Blakeney
fortune, whilst smiling indulgently at his inanities and his
good-humoured foolishness. Moreover, Sir Percy got no pity, because
he seemed to require none--he seemed very proud of his clever wife,
and to care little that she took no pains to disguise that
good-natured contempt which she evidently felt for him, and that she
even amused herself by sharpening her ready wits at his expense.
But then Blakeney was really too stupid to notice the ridicule
with which his wife covered him, and if his matrimonial relations with
the fascinating Parisienne had not turned out all that his hopes and
his dog-like devotion for her had pictured, society could never do
more than vaguely guess at it.
In his beautiful house at Richmond he played second fiddle to
his clever wife with imperturbable BONHOMIE; he lavished jewels and
luxuries of all kinds upon her, which she took with inimitable grace,
dispensing the hospitality of his superb mansion with the same
graciousness with which she had welcomed the intellectual coterie of
Physically, Sir Percy Blakeney was undeniably handsome--always
excepting the lazy, bored look which was habitual to him. He was
always irreproachable dressed, and wore the exaggerated "Incroyable"
fashions, which had just crept across from Paris to England, with the
perfect good taste innate in an English gentleman. On this special
afternoon in September, in spite of the long journey by coach, in
spite of rain and mud, his coat set irreproachably across his fine
shoulders, his hands looked almost femininely white, as they emerged
through billowy frills of finest Mechline lace: the extravagantly
short-waisted satin coat, wide-lapelled waistcoat, and tight-fitting
striped breeches, set off his massive figure to perfection, and in
repose one might have admired so fine a specimen of English manhood,
until the foppish ways, the affected movements, the perpetual inane
laugh, brought one's admiration of Sir Percy Blakeney to an abrupt close.
He had lolled into the old-fashioned inn parlour, shaking the
wet off his fine overcoat; then putting up a gold-rimmed eye-glass to
his lazy blue eye, he surveyed the company, upon whom an embarrassed
silence had suddenly fallen.
"How do, Tony? How do, Ffoulkes?" he said, recognizing the
two young men and shaking them by the hand. "Zounds, my dear fellow,"
he added, smothering a slight yawn, "did you ever see such a beastly day?
Demmed climate this."
With a quaint little laugh, half of embarrassment and half of sarcasm,
Marguerite had turned towards her husband, and was surveying him from
head to foot, with an amused little twinkle in her merry blue eyes.
"La!" said Sir Percy, after a moment or two's silence, as no
one offered any comment, "how sheepish you all look. . .What's up?"
"Oh, nothing, Sir Percy," replied Marguerite, with a certain
amount of gaiety, which, however, sounded somewhat forced,
"nothing to disturb your equanimity--only an insult to your wife."
The laugh which accompanied this remark was evidently intended to
reassure Sir Percy as to the gravity of the incident. It apparently
succeeded in that, for echoing the laugh, he rejoined placidly--
"La, m'dear! you don't say so. Begad! who was the bold man
who dared to tackle you--eh?"
Lord Tony tried to interpose, but had no time to do so, for
the young Vicomte had already quickly stepped forward.
"Monsieur," he said, prefixing his little speech with an
elaborate bow, and speaking in broken English, "my mother, the
Comtesse de Tournay de Basserive, has offenced Madame, who, I see, is
your wife. I cannot ask your pardon for my mother; what she does is
right in my eyes. But I am ready to offer you the usual reparation
between men of honour."
The young man drew up his slim stature to its full height and
looked very enthusiastic, very proud, and very hot as he gazed at six
foot odd of gorgeousness, as represented by Sir Percy Blakeney, Bart.
"Lud, Sir Andrew," said Marguerite, with one of her merry
infectious laughs, "look on that pretty picture--the English turkey
and the French bantam."
The simile was quite perfect, and the English turkey looked
down with complete bewilderment upon the dainty little French bantam,
which hovered quite threateningly around him.
"La! sir," said Sir Percy at last, putting up his eye glass
and surveying the young Frenchman with undisguised wonderment, "where,
in the cuckoo's name, did you learn to speak English?"
"Monsieur!" protested the Vicomte, somewhat abashed at the way
his warlike attitude had been taken by the ponderous-looking Englishman.
"I protest `tis marvellous!" continued Sir Percy,
imperturbably, "demmed marvellous! Don't you think so, Tony--eh?
I vow I can't speak the French lingo like that. What?"
"Nay, I'll vouch for that!" rejoined Marguerite, "Sir Percy
has a British accent you could cut with a knife."
"Monsieur," interposed the Vicomte earnestly, and in still
more broken English, "I fear you have not understand. I offer you the
only posseeble reparation among gentlemen."
"What the devil is that?" asked Sir Percy, blandly.
"My sword, Monsieur," replied the Vicomte, who, though still
bewildered, was beginning to lose his temper.
"You are a sportsman, Lord Tony," said Marguerite, merrily;
"ten to one on the little bantam."
But Sir Percy was staring sleepily at the Vicomte for a moment
or two, through his partly closed heavy lids, then he smothered
another yawn, stretched his long limbs, and turned leisurely away.
"Lud love you, sir," he muttered good-humouredly. "demmit,
young man, what's the good of your sword to me?"
What the Vicomte thought and felt at that moment, when that
long-limbed Englishman treated him with such marked insolence, might
fill volumes of sound reflections. . . . What he said resolved itself
into a single articulate word, for all the others were choked in his
throat by his surging wrath--
"A duel, Monsieur," he stammered.
Once more Blakeney turned, and from his high altitude looked
down on the choleric little man before him; but not even for a second
did he seem to lose his own imperturbable good-humour. He laughed his
own pleasant and inane laugh, and burying his slender, long hands into
the capacious pockets of his overcoat, he said leisurely--a
bloodthirsty young ruffian, Do you want to make a hole in a
law-abiding man?. . .As for me, sir, I never fight duels," he added,
as he placidly sat down and stretched his long, lazy legs out before him.
"Demmed uncomfortable things, duels, ain't they, Tony?"
Now the Vicomte had no doubt vaguely heard that in England the
fashion of duelling amongst gentlemen had been surpressed by the law
with a very stern hand; still to him, a Frenchman, whose notions of
bravery and honour were based upon a code that had centuries of
tradition to back it, the spectacle of a gentleman actually refusing
to fight a duel was a little short of an enormity. In his mind he
vaguely pondered whether he should strike that long-legged Englishman
in the face and call him a coward, or whether such conduct in a lady's
presence might be deemed ungentlemanly, when Marguerite happily interposed.
"I pray you, Lord Tony," she said in that gentle, sweet,
musical voice of hers, "I pray you play the peacemaker. The child is
bursting with rage, and," she added with a SOUPCON of dry sarcasm,
"might do Sir Percy an injury." She laughed a mocking little laugh,
which, however, did not in the least disturb her husband's placid
equanimity. "The British turkey has had the day," she said.
"Sir Percy would provoke all the saints in the calendar and keep
his temper the while."
But already Blakeney, good-humoured as ever, had joined in the
laugh against himself.
"Demmed smart that now, wasn't it?" he said, turning
pleasantly to the Vicomte. "Clever woman my wife, sir. . . . You
will find THAT out if you live long enough in England."
"Sir Percy is right, Vicomte," here interposed Lord Antony,
laying a friendly hand on the young Frenchman's shoulder. "It would
hardly be fitting that you should commence your career in England by
provoking him to a duel."
For a moment longer the Vicomte hesitated, then with a slight shrug of
the shoulders directed against the extraordinary code of honour prevailing
in this fog-ridden island, he said with becoming dignity,--
"Ah, well! if Monsieur is satisfied, I have no griefs. You
mi'lor', are our protector. If I have done wrong, I withdraw myself."
"Aye, do!" rejoined Blakeney, with a long sigh of
satisfaction, "withdraw yourself over there. Demmed excitable little
puppy," he added under his breath, "Faith, Ffoulkes, if that's a
specimen of the goods you and your friends bring over from France, my
advice to you is, drop `em `mid Channel, my friend, or I shall have to
see old Pitt about it, get him to clap on a prohibitive tariff, and
put you in the stocks an you smuggle."
"La, Sir Percy, your chivalry misguides you," said Marguerite,
coquettishly, "you forget that you yourself have imported one bundle
of goods from France."
Blakeney slowly rose to his feet, and, making a deep and
elaborate bow before his wife, he said with consummate gallantry,--
"I had the pick of the market, Madame, and my taste is unerring."
"More so than your chivalry, I fear," she retorted sarcastically.
"Odd's life, m'dear! be reasonable! Do you think I am going
to allow my body to be made a pincushion of, by every little
frog-eater who don't like the shape of your nose?"
"Lud, Sir Percy!" laughed Lady Blakeney as she bobbed him a
quaint and pretty curtsey, "you need not be afraid! `Tis not the
MEN who dislike the shape of my nose."
"Afraid be demmed! Do you impugn my bravery, Madame? I don't
patronise the ring for nothing, do I, Tony? I've put up the fists with
Red Sam before now, and--and he didn't get it all his own way either--"
"S'faith, Sir Percy," said Marguerite, with a long and merry
laugh, that went enchoing along the old oak rafters of the parlour, "I
would I had seen you then. . .ha! ha! ha! ha!--you must have looked
a pretty picture. . . .and. . .and to be afraid of a little French
boy. . .ha! ha!. . .ha! ha!"
"Ha! ha! ha! he! he! he!" echoed Sir Percy, good-humouredly.
"La, Madame, you honour me! Zooks! Ffoulkes, mark ye that!
I have made my wife laugh!--The cleverest woman in Europe!. . .Odd's
fish, we must have a bowl on that!" and he tapped vigorously on the
table near him. "Hey! Jelly! Quick, man! Here, Jelly!"
Harmony was once more restored. Mr. Jellyband, with a mighty
effort, recovered himself from the many emotions he had experienced
within the last half hour. "A bowl of punch, Jelly, hot and strong,
eh?" said Sir Percy. "The wits that have just made a clever woman
laugh must be whetted! Ha! ha! ha! Hasten, my good Jelly!"
"Nay, there is no time, Sir Percy," interposed Marguerite.
"The skipper will be here directly and my brother must get on board,
or the DAY DREAM will miss the tide."
"Time, m'dear? There is plenty of time for any gentleman to
get drunk and get on board before the turn of the tide."
"I think, your ladyship," said Jellyband, respectfully, "that
the young gentleman is coming along now with Sir Percy's skipper."
"That's right," said Blakeney, "then Armand can join us in the