Part 4 out of 6
nothing, it was true; but she remembered how sarcastic and evil he
looked when she took final leave of him after the ball. Had he
discovered something then? Had he already laid his plans for catching
the daring plotter, red-handed, in France, and sending him to the
guillotine without compunction or delay?
Marguerite turned sick with horror, and her hand convulsively
clutched the ring in her dress.
"You are not listening, CHERIE," said Suzanne,
reproachfully, as she paused in her long, highly interesting
"Yes, yes, darling--indeed I am," said Marguerite with an
effort, forcing herself to smile." "I love to hear you talking. . .
and your happiness makes me so very glad. . . . Have no fear, we will
manage to propitiate maman. Sir Andrew Ffoulkes is a noble English
gentleman; he has money and position, the Comtesse will not refuse her
consent. . . . But. . .now, little one. . .tell me. . . what is the
latest news about your father?"
"Oh!" said Suzanne with mad glee, "the best we could possibly
hear. My Lord Hastings came to see maman early this morning. He said
that all is now well with dear papa, and we may safely expect him here
in England in less than four days."
"Yes," said Marguerite, whose glowing eyes were fastened on
Suzanne's lips, as she continued merrily:
"Oh, we have no fear now! You don't know, CHERIE, that that
great and noble Scarlet Pimpernel himself has gone to save papa. He
has gone, CHERIE. . .actually gone. . ." added Suzanne excitedly,
"He was in London this morning; he will be in Calais, perhaps,
to-morrow. . .where he will meet papa. . .and then. . .and then. . ."
The blow had fallen. She had expected it all along, though
she had tried for the last half-hour to delude herself and to cheat
her fears. He had gone to Calais, had been in London this
morning. . .he. . .the Scarlet Pimpernel. . .Percy Blakeney. . .her
husband. . .whom she had betrayed last night to Chauvelin.
Percy. . .Percy. . .her husband. . .the Scarlet Pimpernel. . .
Oh! how could she have been so blind? She understood it all now--all
at once. . .that part he played--the mask he wore. . .in order to
throw dust in everybody's eyes.
And all for the sheer sport and devilry of course!--saving
men, women and children from death, as other men destroy and kill
animals for the excitement, the love of the thing. The idle, rich man
wanted some aim in life--he, and the few young bucks he enrolled under
his banner, had amused themselves for months in risking their lives
for the sake of an innocent few.
Perhaps he had meant to tell her when they were first married;
and then the story of the Marquis de St. Cyr had come to his ears, and
he had suddenly turned from her, thinking, no doubt, that she might
someday betray him and his comrades, who had sworn to follow him; and
so he had tricked her, as he tricked all others, whilst hundreds now
owed their lives to him, and many families owed him both life and
The mask of an inane fop had been a good one, and the part
consummately well played. No wonder that Chauvelin's spies had failed
to detect, in the apparently brainless nincompoop, the man whose
reckless daring and resourceful ingenuity had baffled the keenest
French spies, both in France and in England. Even last night when
Chauvelin went to Lord Grenville's dining-room to seek that daring
Scarlet Pimpernel, he only saw that inane Sir Percy Blakeney fast
asleep in a corner of the sofa.
Had his astute mind guessed the secret, then? Here lay the
whole awful, horrible, amazing puzzle. In betraying a nameless
stranger to his fate in order to save her brother, had Marguerite
Blakeney sent her husband to his death?
No! no! no! a thousand times no! Surely Fate could not
deal a blow like that: Nature itself would rise in revolt: her hand,
when it held that tiny scrap of paper last night, would have surely have
been struck numb ere it committed a deed so appalling and so terrible.
"But what is it, CHERIE?" said little Suzanne, now genuinely alarmed,
for Marguerite's colour had become dull and ashen. "Are you ill, Marguerite?
What is it?"
"Nothing, nothing, child," she murmured, as in a dream. "Wait
a moment. . .let me think. . .think!. . .You said. . .the Scarlet
Pimpernel had gone today. . . . ?"
"Marguerite, CHERIE, what is it? You frighten me. . . ."
"It is nothing, child, I tell you. . .nothing. . .I must be
alone a minute--and--dear one. . .I may have to curtail our time
together to-day. . . . I may have to go away--you'll understand?"
"I understand that something has happened, CHERIE, and that
you want to be alone. I won't be a hindrance to you. Don't think of
me. My maid, Lucile, has not yet gone. . .we will go back
together. . .don't think of me."
She threw her arms impulsively round Marguerite. Child as she
was, she felt the poignancy of her friend's grief, and with the
infinite tact of her girlish tenderness, she did not try to pry into
it, but was ready to efface herself.
She kissed Marguerite again and again, then walked sadly back
across the lawn. Marguerite did not move, she remained there,
thinking. . .wondering what was to be done.
Just as little Suzanne was about to mount the terrace steps, a
groom came running round the house towards his mistress. He carried a
sealed letter in his hand. Suzanne instinctively turned back; her
heart told her that here perhaps was further ill news for her friend,
and she felt that poor Margot was not in a fit state to bear any more.
The groom stood respectfully beside his mistress, then he
handed her the sealed letter.
"What is that?" asked Marguerite.
"Just come by runner, my lady."
Marguerite took the letter mechanically, and turned it over in
her trembling fingers.
"Who sent it?" she said.
"The runner said, my lady," replied the groom, "that his
orders were to deliver this, and that your ladyship would understand
from whom it came."
Marguerite tore open the envelope. Already her instinct told
her what it contained, and her eyes only glanced at it mechanically.
It was a letter by Armand St. Just to Sir Andrew Ffoulkes--the
letter which Chauvelin's spies had stolen at "The Fisherman's Rest,"
and which Chauvelin had held as a rod over her to enforce her
Now he had kept his word--he had sent her back St. Just's
compromising letter. . .for he was on the track of the Scarlet Pimpernel.
Marguerite's senses reeled, her very soul seemed to be leaving
her body; she tottered, and would have fallen but for Suzanne's arm
round her waist. With superhuman effort she regained control over
herself--there was yet much to be done.
"Bring that runner here to me," she said to the servant, with
much calm. "He has not gone?"
"No, my lady."
The groom went, and Marguerite turned to Suzanne.
"And you, child, run within. Tell Lucile to get ready. I
fear that I must send you home, child. And--stay, tell one of the
maids to prepare a travelling dress and cloak for me."
Suzanne made no reply. She kissed Marguerite tenderly and
obeyed without a word; the child was overawed by the terrible,
nameless misery in her friend's face.
A minute later the groom returned, followed by the runner who
had brought the letter.
"Who gave you this packet?" asked Marguerite.
"A gentleman, my lady," replied the man, "at `The Rose and
Thistle' inn opposite Charing Cross. He said you would understand."
"At `The Rose and Thistle'? What was he doing?"
"He was waiting for the coach, you ladyship, which he had ordered."
"Yes, my lady. A special coach he had ordered. I understood
from his man that he was posting straight to Dover."
"That's enough. You may go." Then she turned to the groom:
"My coach and the four swiftest horses in the stables, to be ready at
The groom and runner both went quickly off to obey.
Marguerite remained standing for a moment on the lawn quite alone.
Her graceful figure was as rigid as a statue, her eyes were fixed, her
hands were tightly clasped across her breast; her lips moved as they
murmured with pathetic heart-breaking persistence,--
"What's to be done? What's to be done? Where to find
him?--Oh, God! grant me light."
But this was not the moment for remorse and despair. She had
done--unwittingly--an awful and terrible thing--the very worst crime,
in her eyes, that woman ever committed--she saw it in all its horror.
Her very blindness in not having guessed her husband's secret seemed
now to her another deadly sin. She ought to have known! she ought
to have known!
How could she imagine that a man who could love with so much
intensity as Percy Blakeney had loved her from the first--how could
such a man be the brainless idiot he chose to appear? She, at least,
ought to have known that he was wearing a mask, and having found that
out, she should have torn it from his face, whenever they were alone
Her love for him had been paltry and weak, easily crushed by
her own pride; and she, too, had worn a mask in assuming a contempt
for him, whilst, as a matter of fact, she completely misunderstood
But there was no time now to go over the past. By her own
blindness she had sinned; now she must repay, not by empty remorse,
but by prompt and useful action.
Percy had started for Calais, utterly unconscious of the fact
that his most relentless enemy was on his heels. He had set sail
early that morning from London Bridge. Provided he had a favourable
wind, he would no doubt be in France within twenty-four hours; no
doubt he had reckoned on the wind and chosen this route.
Chauvelin, on the other hand, would post to Dover, charter a
vessel there, and undoubtedly reach Calais much about the same time.
Once in Calais, Percy would meet all those who were eagerly waiting
for the noble and brave Scarlet Pimpernel, who had come to rescue them
from horrible and unmerited death. With Chauvelin's eyes now fixed
upon his every movement, Percy would thus not only be endangering his
own life, but that of Suzanne's father, the old Comte de Tournay, and
of those other fugitives who were waiting for him and trusting in him.
There was also Armand, who had gone to meet de Tournay, secure in the
knowledge that the Scarlet Pimpernel was watching over his safety.
All these lives and that of her husband, lay in Marguerite's hands;
these she must save, if human pluck and ingenuity were equal to the task.
Unfortunately, she could not do all this quite alone. Once in
Calais she would not know where to find her husband, whilst Chauvelin,
in stealing the papers at Dover, had obtained the whole itinerary.
Above every thing, she wished to warn Percy.
She knew enough about him by now to understand that he would
never abandon those who trusted in him, that he would not turn his
back from danger, and leave the Comte de Tournay to fall into the
bloodthirsty hands that knew of no mercy. But if he were warned, he
might form new plans, be more wary, more prudent. Unconsciously, he
might fall into a cunning trap, but--once warned--he might yet succeed.
And if he failed--if indeed Fate, and Chauvelin, with all the
resources at his command, proved too strong for the daring plotter
after all--then at least she would be there by his side, to comfort,
love and cherish, to cheat death perhaps at the last by making it seem
sweet, if they died both together, locked in each other's arms, with
the supreme happiness of knowing that passion had responded to
passion, and that all misunderstandings were at an end.
Her whole body stiffened as with a great and firm resolution.
This she meant to do, if God gave her wits and strength. Her eyes
lost their fixed look; they glowed with inward fire at the thought of
meeting him again so soon, in the very midst of most deadly perils;
they sparkled with the joy of sharing these dangers with him--of
helping him perhaps--of being with him at the last--if she failed.
The childlike sweet face had become hard and set, the curved
mouth was closed tightly over her clenched teeth. She meant to do or
die, with him and for his sake. A frown, which spoke of an iron will
and unbending resolution, appeared between the two straight brows;
already her plans were formed. She would go and find Sir Andrew
Ffoulkes first; he was Percy's best friend, and Marguerite remembered,
with a thrill, with what blind enthusiasm the young man always spoke
of his mysterious leader.
He would help her where she needed help; her coach was ready.
A change of raiment, and a farewell to little Suzanne, and she could
be on her way.
Without haste, but without hesitation, she walked quietly
into the house.
CHAPTER XX THE FRIEND
Less than half an hour later, Marguerite, buried in thoughts,
sat inside her coach, which was bearing her swiftly to London.
She had taken an affectionate farewell of little Suzanne, and
seen the child safely started with her maid, and in her own coach,
back to town. She had sent one courier with a respectful letter of
excuse to His Royal Highness, begging for a postponement of the august
visit on account of pressing and urgent business, and another on ahead
to bespeak a fresh relay of horses at Faversham.
Then she had changed her muslin frock for a dark traveling
costume and mantle, had provided herself with money--which her
husband's lavishness always placed fully at her disposal--and had
started on her way.
She did not attempt to delude herself with any vain and futile
hopes; the safety of her brother Armand was to have been conditional
on the imminent capture of the Scarlet Pimpernel. As Chauvelin had
sent her back Armand's compromising letter, there was no doubt that he
was quite satisfied in his own mind that Percy Blakeney was the man
whose death he had sworn to bring about.
No! there was no room for any fond delusions! Percy, the
husband whom she loved with all the ardour which her admiration for
his bravery had kindled, was in immediate, deadly peril, through her
hand. She had betrayed him to his enemy--unwittingly `tis true--but
she HAD betrayed him, and if Chauvelin succeeded in trapping him,
who so far was unaware of his danger, then his death would be at her
door. His death! when with her very heart's blood, she would have
defended him and given willingly her life for his.
She had ordered her coach to drive her to the "Crown" inn;
once there, she told her coachman to give the horses food and rest.
Then she ordered a chair, and had herself carried to the house in Pall
Mall where Sir Andrew Ffoulkes lived.
Among all Percy's friends who were enrolled under his daring
banner, she felt that she would prefer to confide in Sir Andrew
Ffoulkes. He had always been her friend, and now his love for little
Suzanne had brought him closer to her still. Had he been away from
home, gone on the mad errand with Percy, perhaps, then she would have
called on Lord Hastings or Lord Tony--for she wanted the help of one
of these young men, or she would indeed be powerless to save her
Sir Andrew Ffoulkes, however, was at home, and his servant
introduced her ladyship immediately. She went upstairs to the young
man's comfortable bachelor's chambers, and was shown into a small,
though luxuriously furnished, dining-room. A moment or two later Sir
Andrew himself appeared.
He had evidently been much startled when he heard who his lady
visitor was, for he looked anxiously--even suspiciously--at
Marguerite, whilst performing the elaborate bows before her, which the
rigid etiquette of the time demanded.
Marguerite had laid aside every vestige of nervousness; she
was perfectly calm, and having returned the young man's elaborate
salute, she began very calmly,--
"Sir Andrew, I have no desire to waste valuable time in much
talk. You must take certain things I am going to tell you for
granted. These will be of no importance. What is important is that
your leader and comrade, the Scarlet Pimpernel. . .my husband. . .
Percy Blakeney. . .is in deadly peril."
Had she the remotest doubt of the correctness of her
deductions, she would have had them confirmed now, for Sir Andrew,
completely taken by surprise, had grown very pale, and was quite
incapable of making the slightest attempt at clever parrying.
"No matter how I know this, Sir Andrew," she continued
quietly, "thank God that I do, and that perhaps it is not too late to
save him. Unfortunately, I cannot do this quite alone, and therefore
have come to you for help."
"Lady Blakeney," said the young man, trying to recover himself, "I. . ."
"Will you hear me first?" she interrupted. "This is how the
matter stands. When the agent of the French Government stole your
papers that night in Dover, he found amongst them certain plans, which
you or your leader meant to carry out for the rescue of the Comte de
Tournay and others. The Scarlet Pimpernel--Percy, my husband--has
gone on this errand himself to-day. Chauvelin knows that the Scarlet
Pimpernel and Percy Blakeney are one and the same person. He will
follow him to Calais, and there will lay hands on him. You know as
well as I do the fate that awaits him at the hands of the
Revolutionary Government of France. No interference from
England--from King George himself--would save him. Robespierre and
his gang would see to it that the interference came too late. But not
only that, the much-trusted leader will also have been unconsciously
the means of revealing the hiding-place of the Comte de Tournay and of
all those who, even now, are placing their hopes in him."
She had spoken quietly, dispassionately, and with firm,
unbending resolution. Her purpose was to make that young man trust
and help her, for she could do nothing without him.
"I do not understand," he repeated, trying to gain time, to
think what was best to be done.
"Aye! but I think you do, Sir Andrew. You must know that I
am speaking the truth. Look these facts straight in the face. Percy
has sailed for Calais, I presume for some lonely part of the coast,
and Chauvelin is on his track. HE has posted for Dover, and will
cross the Channel probably to-night. What do you think will happen?"
The young man was silent.
"Percy will arrive at his destination: unconscious of being
followed he will seek out de Tournay and the others--among these is
Armand St. Just my brother--he will seek them out, one after another,
probably, not knowing that the sharpest eyes in the world are watching
his every movement. When he has thus unconsciously betrayed those who
blindly trust in him, when nothing can be gained from him, and he is
ready to come back to England, with those whom he has gone so bravely
to save, the doors of the trap will close upon him, and he will be
sent to end his noble life upon the guillotine."
Still Sir Andrew was silent.
"You do not trust me," she said passionately. "Oh God!
cannot you see that I am in deadly earnest? Man, man," she added,
while, with her tiny hands she seized the young man suddenly by the
shoulders, forcing him to look straight at her, "tell me, do I look
like that vilest thing on earth--a woman who would betray her own
"God forbid, Lady Blakeney," said the young man at last,
"that I should attribute such evil motives to you, but. . ."
"But what?. . .tell me. . .Quick, man!. . .the very seconds are precious!"
"Will you tell me," he asked resolutely, and looking
searchingly into her blue eyes, "whose hand helped to guide M.
Chauvelin to the knowledge which you say he possesses?"
"Mine," she said quietly, "I own it--I will not lie to you,
for I wish you to trust me absolutely. But I had no idea--how COULD
I have?--of the identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel. . .and my brother's
safety was to be my prize if I succeeded."
"In helping Chauvelin to track the Scarlet Pimpernel?"
"It is no use telling you how he forced my hand. Armand is
more than a brother to me, and. . .and. . .how COULD I guess?. . .
But we waste time, Sir Andrew. . .every second is precious. . .in the
name of God!. . .my husband is in peril. . .your friend!--your
comrade!--Help me to save him."
Sir Andrew felt his position to be a very awkward one. The
oath he had taken before his leader and comrade was one of obedience
and secrecy; and yet the beautiful woman, who was asking him to trust
her, was undoubtedly in earnest; his friend and leader was equally
undoubtedly in imminent danger and. . .
"Lady Blakeney," he said at last, "God knows you have
perplexed me, so that I do not know which way my duty lies. Tell me
what you wish me to do. There are nineteen of us ready to lay down
our lives for the Scarlet Pimpernel if he is in danger."
"There is no need for lives just now, my friend," she said
drily; "my wits and four swift horses will serve the necessary
purpose. But I must know where to find him. See," she added, while
her eyes filled with tears, "I have humbled myself before you, I have
owned my fault to you; shall I also confess my weakness?--My husband
and I have been estranged, because he did not trust me, and because I
was too blind to understand. You must confess that the bandage which
he put over my eyes was a very thick one. Is it small wonder that I
did not see through it? But last night, after I led him unwittingly
into such deadly peril, it suddenly fell from my eyes. If you will
not help me, Sir Andrew, I would still strive to save my husband. I
would still exert every faculty I possess for his sake; but I might be
powerless, for I might arrive too late, and nothing would be left for
you but lifelong remorse, and. . .and. . .for me, a broken heart."
"But, Lady Blakeney," said the young man, touched by the
gentle earnestness of this exquisitely beautiful woman, "do you know
that what you propose doing is man's work?--you cannot possibly
journey to Calais alone. You would be running the greatest possible
risks to yourself, and your chances of finding your husband now--where
I to direct you ever so carefully--are infinitely remote.
"Oh, I hope there are risks!" she murmured softly, "I hope
there are dangers, too!--I have so much to atone for. But I fear you
are mistaken. Chauvelin's eyes are fixed upon you all, he will scarce
notice me. Quick, Sir Andrew!--the coach is ready, and there is not a
moment to be lost. . . . I MUST get to him! I MUST!" she
repeated with almost savage energy, "to warn him that that man is on
his track. . . . Can't you see--can't you see, that I MUST get to
him. . .even. . .even if it be too late to save him. . .at least. . .
to be by his side. . .at the least."
"Faith, Madame, you must command me. Gladly would I or any of
my comrades lay down our lives for our husband. If you WILL go
yourself. . ."
"Nay, friend, do you not see that I would go mad if I let you go
without me." She stretched out her hand to him. "You WILL trust me?"
"I await your orders," he said simply.
"Listen, then. My coach is ready to take me to Dover. Do you
follow me, as swiftly as horses will take you. We meet at nightfall
at `The Fisherman's Rest.' Chauvelin would avoid it, as he is known
there, and I think it would be the safest. I will gladly accept your
escort to Calais. . .as you say, I might miss Sir Percy were you to
direct me ever so carefully. We'll charter a schooner at Dover and
cross over during the night. Disguised, if you will agree to it, as
my lacquey, you will, I think, escape detection."
"I am entirely at your service, Madame," rejoined the young
man earnestly. "I trust to God that you will sight the DAY DREAM
before we reach Calais. With Chauvelin at his heels, every step the
Scarlet Pimpernel takes on French soil is fraught with danger."
"God grant it, Sir Andrew. But now, farewell. We meet
to-night at Dover! It will be a race between Chauvelin and me across
the Channel to-night--and the prize--the life of the Scarlet
He kissed her hand, and then escorted her to her chair. A
quarter of an hour later she was back at the "Crown" inn, where her
coach and horses were ready and waiting for her. The next moment they
thundered along the London streets, and then straight on to the Dover
road at maddening speed.
She had no time for despair now. She was up and doing and had
no leisure to think. With Sir Andrew Ffoulkes as her companion and
ally, hope had once again revived in her heart.
God would be merciful. He would not allow so appalling a
crime to be committed, as the death of a brave man, through the hand
of a woman who loved him, and worshipped him, and who would gladly
have died for his sake.
Marguerite's thoughts flew back to him, the mysterious hero,
whom she had always unconsciously loved, when his identity was still
unknown to her. Laughingly, in the olden days, she used to call him
the shadowy king of her heart, and now she had suddenly found that
this enigmatic personality whom she had worshipped, and the man who
loved her so passionately, were one and the same: what wonder that one
or two happier Visions began to force their way before her mind? She
vaguely wondered what she would say to him when first they would stand
face to face.
She had had so many anxieties, so much excitement during the
past few hours, that she allowed herself the luxury of nursing these
few more hopeful, brighter thoughts. Gradually the rumble of the
coach wheels, with its incessant monotony, acted soothingly on her
nerves: her eyes, aching with fatigue and many shed and unshed tears,
closed involuntarily, and she fell into a troubled sleep.
CHAPTER XXI SUSPENSE
It was late into the night when she at last reached "The
Fisherman's Rest." She had done the whole journey in less than eight
hours, thanks to innumerable changes of horses at the various coaching
stations, for which she always paid lavishly, thus obtaining the very
best and swiftest that could be had.
Her coachman, too, had been indefatigible; the promise of
special and rich reward had no doubt helped to keep him up, and he had
literally burned the ground beneath his mistress' coach wheels.
The arrival of Lady Blakeney in the middle of the night caused
a considerable flutter at "The Fisherman's Rest." Sally jumped
hastily out of bed, and Mr. Jellyband was at great pains how to make
his important guest comfortable.
Both of these good folk were far too well drilled in the
manners appertaining to innkeepers, to exhibit the slightest surprise
at Lady Blakeney's arrival, alone, at this extraordinary hour. No
doubt they thought all the more, but Marguerite was far too absorbed
in the importance--the deadly earnestness--of her journey, to stop and
ponder over trifles of that sort.
The coffee-room--the scene lately of the dastardly outrage on
two English gentlemen--was quite deserted. Mr. Jellyband hastily
relit the lamp, rekindled a cheerful bit of fire in the great hearth,
and then wheeled a comfortable chair by it, into which Marguerite
"Will your ladyship stay the night?" asked pretty Miss Sally,
who was already busy laying a snow-white cloth on the table,
preparatory to providing a simple supper for her ladyship.
"No! not the whole night," replied Marguerite. "At any rate,
I shall not want any room but this, if I can have it to myself for an
hour or two."
"It is at your ladyship's service," said honest Jellyband,
whose rubicund face was set in its tightest folds, lest it should
betray before "the quality" that boundless astonishment which the very
worthy fellow had begun to feel.
"I shall be crossing over at the first turn of the tide," said
Marguerite, "and in the first schooner I can get. But my coachman and
men will stay the night, and probably several days longer, so I hope
you will make them comfortable."
"Yes, my lady; I'll look after them. Shall Sally bring your
ladyship some supper?"
"Yes, please. Put something cold on the table, and as soon as
Sir Andrew Ffoulkes comes, show him in here."
"Yes, my lady."
Honest Jellyband's face now expressed distress in spite of
himself. He had great regard for Sir Percy Blakeney, and did not like
to see his lady running away with young Sir Andrew. Of course, it was
no business of his, and Mr. Jellyband was no gossip. Still, in his
heart, he recollected that her ladyship was after all only one of them
"furriners"; what wonder that she was immoral like the rest of them?
"Don't sit up, honest Jellyband," continued Marguerite kindly,
"nor you either, Mistress Sally. Sir Andrew may be late."
Jellyband was only too willing that Sally should go to bed.
He was beginning not to like these goings-on at all. Still, Lady
Blakeney would pay handsomely for the accommodation, and it certainly
was no business of his.
Sally arranged a simple supper of cold meat, wine, and fruit
on the table, then with a respectful curtsey, she retired, wondering
in her little mind why her ladyship looked so serious, when she was
about to elope with her gallant.
Then commenced a period of weary waiting for Marguerite. She
knew that Sir Andrew--who would have to provide himself with clothes
befitting a lacquey--could not possibly reach Dover for at least a
couple of hours. He was a splendid horseman of course, and would make
light in such an emergency of the seventy odd miles between London and
Dover. He would, too, literally burn the ground beneath his horse's
hoofs, but he might not always get very good remounts, and in any
case, he could not have started from London until at least an hour
after she did.
She had seen nothing of Chauvelin on the road. Her coachman,
whom she questioned, had not seen anyone answering the description his
mistress gave him of the wizened figure of the little Frenchman.
Evidently, therefore, he had been ahead of her all the time.
She had not dared to question the people at the various inns, where
they had stopped to change horses. She feared that Chauvelin had
spies all along the route, who might overhear her questions, then
outdistance her and warn her enemy of her approach.
Now she wondered at what inn he might be stopping, or whether
he had had the good luck of chartering a vessel already, and was now
himself on the way to France. That thought gripped her at the heart
as with an iron vice. If indeed she should not be too late already!
The loneliness of the room overwhelmed her; everything within
was so horribly still; the ticking of the grandfather's
clock--dreadfully slow and measured--was the only sound which broke
this awful loneliness.
Marguerite had need of all her energy, all her steadfastness of
purpose, to keep up her courage through this weary midnight waiting.
Everyone else in the house but herself must have been asleep.
She had heard Sally go upstairs. Mr. Jellyband had gone to see to her
coachman and men, and then had returned and taken up a position under
the porch outside, just where Marguerite had first met Chauvelin about
a week ago. He evidently meant to wait up for Sir Andrew Ffoulkes,
but was soon overcome by sweet slumbers, for presently--in addition to
the slow ticking of the clock--Marguerite could hear the monotonous
and dulcet tones of the worthy fellow's breathing.
For some time now, she had realised that the beautiful warm
October's day, so happily begun, had turned into a rough and cold
night. She had felt very chilly, and was glad of the cheerful blaze
in the hearth: but gradually, as time wore on, the weather became more
rough, and the sound of the great breakers against the Admiralty Pier,
though some distance from the inn, came to her as the noise of muffled
The wind was becoming boisterous, rattling the leaded windows
and the massive doors of the old-fashioned house: it shook the trees
outside and roared down the vast chimney. Marguerite wondered if the
wind would be favourable for her journey. She had no fear of the
storm, and would have braved worse risks sooner than delay the
crossing by an hour.
A sudden commotion outside roused her from her meditations.
Evidently it was Sir Andrew Ffoulkes, just arrived in mad haste, for
she heard his horse's hoofs thundering on the flag-stones outside,
then Mr. Jellyband's sleepy, yet cheerful tones bidding him welcome.
For a moment, then, the awkwardness of her position struck
Marguerite; alone at this hour, in a place where she was well known,
and having made an assignation with a young cavalier equally well
known, and who arrived in disguise! What food for gossip to those
The idea struck Marguerite chiefly from its humorous side:
there was such quaint contrast between the seriousness of her errand,
and the construction which would naturally be put on her actions by
honest Mr. Jellyband, that, for the first time since many hours, a
little smile began playing round the corners of her childlike mouth,
and when, presently, Sir Andrew, almost unrecognisable in his
lacquey-like garb, entered the coffee-room, she was able to greet him
with quite a merry laugh.
"Faith! Monsieur, my lacquey," she said, "I am satisfied with
Mr. Jellyband had followed Sir Andrew, looking strangely
perplexed. The young gallant's disguise had confirmed his worst
suspicions. Without a smile upon his jovial face, he drew the cork
from the bottle of wine, set the chairs ready, and prepared to wait.
"Thanks, honest friend," said Marguerite, who was still
smiling at the thought of what the worthy fellow must be thinking at
that very moment, "we shall require nothing more; and here's for all
the trouble you have been put to on our account."
She handed two or three gold pieces to Jellyband, who took
them respectfully, and with becoming gratitude.
"Stay, Lady Blakeney," interposed Sir Andrew, as Jellyband was
about to retire, "I am afraid we shall require something more of my
friend Jelly's hospitality. I am sorry to say we cannot cross over
"Not cross over to-night?" she repeated in amazement. "But we
must, Sir Andrew, we must! There can be no question of cannot, and
whatever it may cost, we must get a vessel to-night."
But the young man shook his head sadly.
"I am afraid it is not a question of cost, Lady Blakeney.
There is a nasty storm blowing from France, the wind is dead against
us, we cannot possibly sail until it has changed."
Marguerite became deadly pale. She had not foreseen this.
Nature herself was playing her a horrible, cruel trick. Percy was in
danger, and she could not go to him, because the wind happened to blow
from the coast of France.
"But we must go!--we must!" she repeated with strange,
persistent energy, "you know, we must go!--can't you find a way?"
"I have been down to the shore already," he said, "and had a
talk to one or two skippers. It is quite impossible to set sail
to-night, so every sailor assured me. No one," he added, looking
significantly at Marguerite, "NO ONE could possibly put out of Dover
Marguerite at once understood what he meant. NO ONE
included Chauvelin as well as herself. She nodded pleasantly to
"Well, then, I must resign myself," she said to him. "Have
you a room for me?"
"Oh, yes, your ladyship. A nice, bright, airy room. I'll see
to it at once. . . . And there is another one for Sir Andrew--both
"That's brave now, mine honest Jelly," said Sir Andrew, gaily,
and clapping his worth host vigorously on the back. "You unlock both
those rooms, and leave our candles here on the dresser. I vow you are
dead with sleep, and her ladyship must have some supper before she
retires. There, have no fear, friend of the rueful countenance, her
ladyship's visit, though at this unusual hour, is a great honour to
thy house, and Sir Percy Blakeney will reward thee doubly, if thou
seest well to her privacy and comfort."
Sir Andrew had no doubt guessed the many conflicting doubts
and fears which raged in honest Jellyband's head; and, as he was a
gallant gentleman, he tried by this brave hint to allay some of the
worthy innkeeper's suspicions. He had the satisfaction of seeing that
he had partially succeeded. Jellyband's rubicund countenance
brightened somewhat, at the mention of Sir Percy's name.
"I'll go and see to it at once, sir," he said with alacrity,
and with less frigidity in his manner. "Has her ladyship everything
she wants for supper?"
"Everything, thanks, honest friend, and as I am famished and
dead with fatigue, I pray you see to the rooms."
"Now tell me," she said eagerly, as soon as Jellyband had gone
from the room, "tell me all your news."
"There is nothing else much to tell you, Lady Blakeney,"
replied the young man. "The storm makes it quite impossible for any
vessel to put out of Dover this tide. But, what seems to you at first
a terrible calamity is really a blessing in disguise. If we cannot
cross over to France to-night, Chauvelin is in the same quandary.
"He may have left before the storm broke out."
"God grant he may," said Sir Andrew, merrily, "for very likely
then he'll have been driven out of his course! Who knows? He may now
even be lying at the bottom of the sea, for there is a furious storm
raging, and it will fare ill with all small craft which happen to be
out. But I fear me we cannot build our hopes upon the shipwreck of
that cunning devil, and of all his murderous plans. The sailors I
spoke to, all assured me that no schooner had put out of Dover for
several hours: on the other hand, I ascertained that a stranger had
arrived by coach this afternoon, and had, like myself, made some
inquiries about crossing over to France.
"Then Chauvelin is still in Dover?"
"Undoubtedly. Shall I go waylay him and run my sword through him?
That were indeed the quickest way out of the difficulty."
"Nay! Sir Andrew, do not jest! Alas! I have often since last
night caught myself wishing for that fiend's death. But what you
suggest is impossible! The laws of this country do not permit of
murder! It is only in our beautiful France that wholesale slaughter
is done lawfully, in the name of Liberty and of brotherly love."
Sir Andrew had persuaded her to sit down to the table, to partake of
some supper and to drink a little wine. This enforced rest of at least
twelve hours, until the next tide, was sure to be terribly difficult to
bear in the state of intense excitement in which she was. Obedient in
these small matters like a child, Marguerite tried to eat and drink.
Sir Andrew, with that profound sympathy born in all those who
are in love, made her almost happy by talking to her about her
husband. He recounted to her some of the daring escapes the brave
Scarlet Pimpernel had contrived for the poor French fugitives, whom a
relentless and bloody revolution was driving out of their country. He
made her eyes glow with enthusiasm by telling her of his bravery, his
ingenuity, his resourcefulness, when it meant snatching the lives of
men, women, and even children from beneath the very edge of that
murderous, ever-ready guillotine.
He even made her smile quite merrily by telling her of the
Scarlet Pimpernel's quaint and many disguises, through which he had
baffled the strictest watch set against him at the barricades of
Paris. This last time, the escape of the Comtesse de Tournay and her
children had been a veritable masterpiece--Blakeney disguised as a
hideous old market-woman, in filthy cap and straggling grey locks, was
a sight fit to make the gods laugh.
Marguerite laughed heartily as Sir Andrew tried to describe
Blakeney's appearance, whose gravest difficulty always consisted in
his great height, which in France made disguise doubly difficult.
Thus an hour wore on. There were many more to spend in
enforced inactivity in Dover. Marguerite rose from the table with an
impatient sigh. She looked forward with dread to the night in the bed
upstairs, with terribly anxious thoughts to keep her company, and the
howling of the storm to help chase sleep away.
She wondered where Percy was now. The DAY DREAM was a strong,
well-built sea-going yacht. Sir Andrew had expressed the opinion
that no doubt she had got in the lee of the wind before the storm
broke out, or else perhaps had not ventured into the open at all,
but was lying quietly at Gravesend.
Briggs was an expert skipper, and Sir Percy handled a schooner as well
as any master mariner. There was no danger for them from the storm.
It was long past midnight when at last Marguerite retired to
rest. As she had feared, sleep sedulously avoided her eyes. Her
thoughts were of the blackest during these long, weary hours, whilst
that incessant storm raged which was keeping her away from Percy. The
sound of the distant breakers made her heart ache with melancholy.
She was in the mood when the sea has a saddening effect upon the
nerves. It is only when we are very happy, that we can bear to gaze
merrily upon the vast and limitless expanse of water, rolling on and
on with such persistent, irritating monotony, to the accompaniment of
our thoughts, whether grave or gay. When they are gay, the waves echo
their gaiety; but when they are sad, then every breaker, as it rolls,
seems to bring additional sadness, and to speak to us of hopelessness
and of the pettiness of all our joys.
CHAPTER XXII CALAIS
The weariest nights, the longest days, sooner or later must
perforce come to an end.
Marguerite had spent over fifteen hours in such acute mental
torture as well-nigh drove her crazy. After a sleepless night, she
rose early, wild with excitement, dying to start on her journey,
terrified lest further obstacles lay in her way. She rose before
anyone else in the house was astir, so frightened was she, lest she
should miss the one golden opportunity of making a start.
When she came downstairs, she found Sir Andrew Ffoulkes
sitting in the coffee-room. He had been out half an hour earlier, and
had gone to the Admiralty Pier, only to find that neither the French
packet nor any privately chartered vessel could put out of Dover yet.
The storm was then at its fullest, and the tide was on the turn. If
the wind did not abate or change, they would perforce have to wait
another ten or twelve hours until the next tide, before a start could
be made. And the storm had not abated, the wind had not changed, and
the tide was rapidly drawing out.
Marguerite felt the sickness of despair when she heard this
melancholy news. Only the most firm resolution kept her from totally
breaking down, and thus adding to the young man's anxiety, which
evidently had become very keen.
Though he tried to hide it, Marguerite could see that Sir
Andrew was just as anxious as she was to reach his comrade and friend.
This enforced inactivity was terrible to them both.
How they spend that wearisome day at Dover, Marguerite could
never afterwards say. She was in terror of showing herself, lest
Chauvelin's spies happened to be about, so she had a private
sitting-room, and she and Sir Andrew sat there hour after hour, trying
to take, at long intervals, some perfunctory meals, which little Sally
would bring them, with nothing to do but to think, to conjecture, and
only occasionally to hope.
The storm had abated just too late; the tide was by then too
far out to allow a vessel to put off to sea. The wind had changed,
and was settling down to a comfortable north-westerly breeze--a
veritable godsend for a speedy passage across to France.
And there those two waited, wondering if the hour would ever
come when they could finally make a start. There had been one happy
interval in this long weary day, and that was when Sir Andrew went
down once again to the pier, and presently came back to tell
Marguerite that he had chartered a quick schooner, whose skipper was
ready to put to sea the moment the tide was favourable.
From that moment the hours seemed less wearisome; there was
less hopelessness in the waiting; and at last, at five o'clock in the
afternoon, Marguerite, closely veiled and followed by Sir Andrew
Ffoulkes, who, in the guise of her lacquey, was carrying a number of
impedimenta, found her way down to the pier.
Once on board, the keen, fresh sea-air revived her, the breeze
was just strong enough to nicely swell the sails of the FOAM CREST,
as she cut her way merrily towards the open.
The sunset was glorious after the storm, and Marguerite, as
she watched the white cliffs of Dover gradually disappearing from
view, felt more at peace and once more almost hopeful.
Sir Andrew was full of kind attentions, and she felt how lucky
she had been to have him by her side in this, her great trouble.
Gradually the grey coast of France began to emerge from the
fast-gathering evening mists. One or two lights could be seen
flickering, and the spires of several churches to rise out of the
Half an hour later Marguerite had landed upon French shore.
She was back in that country where at this very moment men slaughtered
their fellow-creatures by the hundreds, and sent innocent women and
children in thousands to the block.
The very aspect of the country and its people, even in this
remote sea-coast town, spoke of that seething revolution, three
hundred miles away, in beautiful Paris, now rendered hideous by the
constant flow of the blood of her noblest sons, by the wailing of the
widows, and the cries of fatherless children.
The men all wore red caps--in various stages of
cleanliness--but all with the tricolor cockade pinned on the
left-side. Marguerite noticed with a shudder that, instead of the
laughing, merry countenance habitual to her own countrymen, their
faces now invariably wore a look of sly distrust.
Every man nowadays was a spy upon his fellows: the most
innocent word uttered in jest might at any time be brought up as a
proof of aristocratic tendencies, or of treachery against the people.
Even the women went about with a curious look of fear and of hate
lurking in their brown eyes; and all watched Marguerite as she stepped
on shore, followed by Sir Andrew, and murmured as she passed along:
"SACRES ARISTOS!" or else "SACRES ANGLAIS!"
Otherwise their presence excited no further comment. Calais,
even in those days, was in constant business communication with
England, and English merchants were often seen on this coast. It was
well known that in view of the heavy duties in England, a vast deal of
French wines and brandies were smuggled across. This pleased the
French BOURGEOIS immensely; he liked to see the English Government
and the English king, both of whom he hated, cheated out of their
revenues; and an English smuggler was always a welcome guest at the
tumble-down taverns of Calais and Boulogne.
So, perhaps, as Sir Andrew gradually directed Marguerite
through the tortuous streets of Calais, many of the population, who
turned with an oath to look at the strangers clad in English fashion,
thought that they were bent on purchasing dutiable articles for their
own fog-ridden country, and gave them no more than a passing thought.
Marguerite, however, wondered how her husband's tall, massive
figure could have passed through Calais unobserved: she marvelled what
disguise he assumed to do his noble work, without exciting too much
Without exchanging more than a few words, Sir Andrew was
leading her right across the town, to the other side from that where
they had landed, and the way towards Cap Gris Nez. The streets were
narrow, tortuous, and mostly evil-smelling, with a mixture of stale
fish and damp cellar odours. There had been heavy rain here during
the storm last night, and sometimes Marguerite sank ankle-deep in the
mud, for the roads were not lighted save by the occasional glimmer
from a lamp inside a house.
But she did not heed any of these petty discomforts: "We may
meet Blakeney at the `Chat Gris,'" Sir Andrew had said, when they
landed, and she was walking as if on a carpet of rose-leaves, for she
was going to meet him almost at once.
At last they reached their destination. Sir Andrew evidently
knew the road, for he had walked unerringly in the dark, and had not
asked his way from anyone. It was too dark then for Marguerite to
notice the outside aspect of this house. The "Chat Gris," as Sir
Andrew had called it, was evidently a small wayside inn on the outskirts
of Calais, and on the way to Gris Nez. It lay some little distance
from the coast, for the sound of the sea seemed to come from afar.
Sir Andrew knocked at the door with the knob of his cane, and
from within Marguerite heard a sort of grunt and the muttering of a
number of oaths. Sir Andrew knocked again, this time more
peremptorily: more oaths were heard, and then shuffling steps seemed
to draw near the door. Presently this was thrown open, and Marguerite
found herself on the threshold of the most dilapidated, most squalid
room she had ever seen in all her life.
The paper, such as it was, was hanging from the walls in
strips; there did not seem to be a single piece of furniture in the
room that could, by the wildest stretch of imagination, be called
"whole." Most of the chairs had broken backs, others had no seats to
them, one corner of the table was propped up with a bundle of faggots,
there where the fourth leg had been broken.
In one corner of the room there was a huge hearth, over which
hung a stock-pot, with a not altogether unpalatable odour of hot soup
emanating therefrom. On one side of the room, high up in the wall,
there was a species of loft, before which hung a tattered blue-and-white
checked curtain. A rickety set of steps led up to this loft.
On the great bare walls, with their colourless paper, all
stained with varied filth, there were chalked up at intervals in great
bold characters, the words: "Liberte--Egalite--Fraternite."
The whole of this sordid abode was dimly lighted by an
evil-smelling oil-lamp, which hung from the rickety rafters of the
ceiling. It all looked so horribly squalid, so dirty and uninviting,
that Marguerite hardly dared to cross the threshold.
Sir Andrew, however, had stepped unhesitatingly forward.
"English travellers, citoyen!" he said boldly, and speaking in French.
The individual who had come to the door in response to Sir
Andrew's knock, and who, presumably, was the owner of this squalid
abode, was an elderly, heavily built peasant, dressed in a dirty blue
blouse, heavy sabots, from which wisps of straw protruded all round,
shabby blue trousers, and the inevitable red cap with the tricolour
cockade, that proclaimed his momentary political views. He carried a
short wooden pipe, from which the odour of rank tobacco emanated. He
looked with some suspicion and a great deal of contempt at the two
travellers, muttering "SACRRRES ANGLAIS!" and spat upon the ground
to further show his independence of spirit, but, nevertheless, he
stood aside to let them enter, no doubt well aware that these same
SACCRES ANGLAIS always had well-filled purses.
"Oh, lud!" said Marguerite, as she advanced into the room,
holding her handkerchief to her dainty nose, "what a dreadful hole!
Are you sure this is the place?"
"Aye! `this the place, sure enough," replied the young man
as, with his lace-edged, fashionable handkerchief, he dusted a chair
for Marguerite to sit on; "but I vow I never saw a more villainous
"Faith!" she said, looking round with some curiosity and a
great deal of horror at the dilapidated walls, the broken chairs, the
rickety table, "it certainly does not look inviting."
The landlord of the "Chat Gris"--by name, Brogard--had taken
no further notice of his guests; he concluded that presently they
would order supper, and in the meanwhile it was not for a free citizen
to show deference, or even courtesy, to anyone, however smartly they
might be dressed.
By the hearth sat a huddled-up figure clad, seemingly, mostly
in rags: that figure was apparently a woman, although even that would
have been hard to distinguish, except for the cap, which had once been
white, and for what looked like the semblance of a petticoat. She was
sitting mumbling to herself, and from time to time stirring the brew
in her stock-pot.
"Hey, my friend!" said Sir Andrew at last, "we should like
some supper. . . . The citoyenne there," he added, "is concocting
some delicious soup, I'll warrant, and my mistress has not tasted food
for several hours.
It took Brogard some few minutes to consider the question. A
free citizen does not respond too readily to the wishes of those who
happen to require something of him.
"SACRRRES ARISTOS!" he murmured, and once more spat upon the
Then he went very slowly up to a dresser which stood in a
corner of the room; from this he took an old pewter soup-tureen and
slowly, and without a word, he handed it to his better-half, who, in
the same silence, began filling the tureen with the soup out of her
Marguerite had watched all these preparations with absolute
horror; were it not for the earnestness of her purpose, she would
incontinently have fled from this abode of dirt and evil smells.
"Faith! our host and hostess are not cheerful people," said
Sir Andrew, seeing the look of horror on Marguerite's face. "I would
I could offer you a more hearty and more appetising meal. . .but I
think you will find the soup eatable and the wine good; these people
wallow in dirt, but live well as a rule."
"Nay! I pray you, Sir Andrew," she said gently, "be not anxious
about me. My mind is scarce inclined to dwell on thoughts of supper."
Brogard was slowly pursuing his gruesome preparations; he had
placed a couple of spoons, also two glasses on the table, both of
which Sir Andrew took the precaution of wiping carefully.
Brogard had also produced a bottle of wine and some bread, and
Marguerite made an effort to draw her chair to the table and to make
some pretence at eating. Sir Andrew, as befitting his ROLE of
lacquey, stood behind her chair.
"Nay, Madame, I pray you," he said, seeing that Marguerite
seemed quite unable to eat, "I beg of you to try and swallow some
food--remember you have need of all your strength."
The soup certainly was not bad; it smelt and tasted good.
Marguerite might have enjoyed it, but for the horrible surroundings.
She broke the bread, however, and drank some of the wine.
"Nay, Sir Andrew," she said, "I do not like to see you
standing. You have need of food just as much as I have. This
creature will only think that I am an eccentric Englishwoman eloping
with her lacquey, if you'll sit down and partake of this semblance of
supper beside me."
Indeed, Brogard having placed what was strictly necessary upon
the table, seemed not to trouble himself any further about his guests.
The Mere Brogard had quietly shuffled out of the room, and the man
stood and lounged about, smoking his evil-smelling pipe, sometimes
under Marguerite's very nose, as any free-born citizen who was
anybody's equal should do.
"Confound the brute!" said Sir Andrew, with native British
wrath, as Brogard leant up against the table, smoking and looking down
superciliously at these two SACRRRES ANGLAIS.
"In Heaven's name, man," admonished Marguerite, hurriedly,
seeing that Sir Andrew, with British-born instinct, was ominously
clenching his fist, "remember that you are in France, and that in this
year of grace this is the temper of the people."
"I'd like to scrag the brute!" muttered Sir Andrew, savagely.
He had taken Marguerite's advice and sat next to her at table,
and they were both making noble efforts to deceive one another, by
pretending to eat and drink.
"I pray you," said Marguerite, "keep the creature in a good
temper, so that he may answer the questions we must put to him."
"I'll do my best, but, begad! I'd sooner scrag him than
question him. Hey! my friend," he said pleasantly in French, and
tapping Brogard lightly on the shoulder, "do you see many of our
quality along these parts? Many English travellers, I mean?"
Brogard looked round at him, over his near shoulder, puffed
away at his pipe for a moment or two as he was in no hurry, then
"Ah!" said Sir Andrew, carelessly, "English travellers always
know where they can get good wine, eh! my friend?--Now, tell me, my
lady was desiring to know if by any chance you happen to have seen a
great friend of hers, an English gentleman, who often comes to Calais
on business; he is tall, and recently was on his way to Paris--my lady
hoped to have met him in Calais."
Marguerite tried not to look at Brogard, lest she should
betray before him the burning anxiety with which she waited for his
reply. But a free-born French citizen is never in any hurry to answer
questions: Brogard took his time, then he said very slowly,--
"Yes, to-day," muttered Brogard, sullenly. Then he quietly
took Sir Andrew's hat from a chair close by, put it on his own head,
tugged at his dirty blouse, and generally tried to express in
pantomime that the individual in question wore very fine clothes.
"SACRRE ARISTO!" he muttered, "that tall Englishman!"
Marguerite could scarce repress a scream.
"It's Sir Percy right enough," she murmured, "and not even in disguise!"
She smiled, in the midst of all her anxiety and through her
gathering tears, at the thought of "the ruling passion strong in
death"; of Percy running into the wildest, maddest dangers, with the
latest-cut coat upon his back, and the laces of his jabot unruffled.
"Oh! the foolhardiness of it!" she sighed. "Quick, Sir Andrew!
ask the man when he went."
"Ah yes, my friend," said Sir Andrew, addressing Brogard, with
the same assumption of carelessness, "my lord always wears beautiful
clothes; the tall Englishman you saw, was certainly my lady's friend.
And he has gone, you say?"
"He went. . .yes. . .but he's coming back. . .here--he ordered supper. . ."
Sir Andrew put his hand with a quick gesture of warning upon
Marguerite's arm; it came none too sone, for the next moment her wild,
mad joy would have betrayed her. He was safe and well, was coming
back here presently, she would see him in a few moments perhaps. . . .
Oh! the wildness of her joy seemed almost more than she could bear.
"Here!" she said to Brogard, who seemed suddenly to have been
transformed in her eyes into some heavenborn messenger of bliss.
"Here!--did you say the English gentleman was coming back here?"
The heaven-born messenger of bliss spat upon the floor, to
express his contempt for all and sundry ARISTOS, who chose to haunt
the "Chat Gris."
"Heu!" he muttered, "he ordered supper--he will come back. . .
SACRRE ANGLAIS!" he added, by way of protest against all this fuss
for a mere Englishman.
"But where is he now?--Do you know?" she asked eagerly,
placing her dainty white hand upon the dirty sleeve of his blue
"He went to get a horse and cart," said Brogard, laconically,
as with a surly gesture, he shook off from his arm that pretty hand
which princes had been proud to kiss.
"At what time did he go?"
But Brogard had evidently had enough of these questionings.
He did not think that it was fitting for a citizen--who was the equal
of anybody--to be thus catechised by these SACRRES ARISTOS, even
though they were rich English ones. It was distinctly more fitting to
his newborn dignity to be as rude as possible; it was a sure sign of
servility to meekly reply to civil questions.
"I don't know," he said surlily. "I have said enough,
VOYONS, LES ARISTOS!. . .He came to-day. He ordered supper. He
went out.--He'll come back. VOILA!"
And with this parting assertion of his rights as a citizen and
a free man, to be as rude as he well pleased, Brogard shuffled out of
the room, banging the door after him.
CHAPTER XXIII HOPE
"Faith, Madame!" said Sir Andrew, seeing that Marguerite
seemed desirous to call her surly host back again, "I think we'd
better leave him alone. We shall not get anything more out of him,
and we might arouse his suspicions. One never knows what spies may be
lurking around these God-forsaken places."
"What care I?" she replied lightly, "now I know that my
husband is safe, and that I shall see him almost directly!"
"Hush!" he said in genuine alarm, for she had talked quite
loudly, in the fulness of her glee, "the very walls have ears in
France, these days."
He rose quickly from the table, and walked round the bare,
squalid room, listening attentively at the door, through which Brogard
has just disappeared, and whence only muttered oaths and shuffling
footsteps could be heard. He also ran up the rickety steps that led
to the attic, to assure himself that there were no spies of
Chauvelin's about the place.
"Are we alone, Monsieur, my lacquey?" said Marguerite, gaily,
as the young man once more sat down beside her. "May we talk?"
"As cautiously as possible!" he entreated.
"Faith, man! but you wear a glum face! As for me, I could
dance with joy! Surely there is no longer any cause for fear. Our
boat is on the beach, the FOAM CREST not two miles out at sea, and
my husband will be here, under this very roof, within the next half
hour perhaps. Sure! there is naught to hinder us. Chauvelin and his
gang have not yet arrived."
"Nay, madam! that I fear we do not know."
"What do you mean?"
"He was at Dover at the same time that we were."
"Held up by the same storm, which kept us from starting."
"Exactly. But--I did not speak of it before, for I feared to
alarm you--I saw him on the beach not five minutes before we embarked.
At least, I swore to myself at the time that it was himself; he was
disguised as a CURE, so that Satan, his own guardian, would scarce
have known him. But I heard him then, bargaining for a vessel to take
him swiftly to Calais; and he must have set sail less than an hour
after we did."
Marguerite's face had quickly lost its look of joy. The
terrible danger in which Percy stood, now that he was actually on
French soil, became suddenly and horribly clear to her. Chauvelin was
close upon his heels; here in Calais, the astute diplomatist was
all-powerful; a word from him and Percy could be tracked and arrested
and. . .
Every drop of blood seemed to freeze in her veins; not even
during the moments of her wildest anguish in England had she so
completely realised the imminence of the peril in which her husband
stood. Chauvelin had sworn to bring the Scarlet Pimpernel to the
guillotine, and now the daring plotter, whose anonymity hitherto had
been his safeguard, stood revealed through her own hand, to his most
bitter, most relentless enemy.
Chauvelin--when he waylaid Lord Tony and Sir Andrew Ffoulkes
in the coffee-room of "The Fisherman's Rest"--had obtained possession
of all the plans of this latest expedition. Armand St. Just, the
Comte de Tournay and other fugitive royalists were to have met the
Scarlet Pimpernel--or rather, as it had been originally arranged, two
of his emissaries--on this day, the 2nd of October, at a place
evidently known to the league, and vaguely alluded to as the "Pere
Armand, whose connection with the Scarlet Pimpernel and disavowal
of the brutal policy of the Reign of Terror was still unknown to
his countryman, had left England a little more than a week ago,
carrying with him the necessary instructions, which would enable him
to meet the other fugitives and to convey them to this place of safety.
This much Marguerite had fully understood from the first, and
Sir Andrew Ffoulkes had confirmed her surmises. She knew, too, that
when Sir Percy realized that his own plans and his directions to his
lieutenants had been stolen by Chauvelin, it was too late to communicate
with Armand, or to send fresh instructions to the fugitives.
They would, of necessity, be at the appointed time and place, not knowing
how grave was the danger which now awaited their brave rescuer.
Blakeney, who as usual had planned and organized the whole
expedition, would not allow any of his younger comrades to run the
risk of almost certain capture. Hence his hurried note to them at
Lord Grenville's ball--"Start myself to-morrow--alone."
And now with his identity known to his most bitter enemy, his
every step would be dogged, the moment he set foot in France. He
would be tracked by Chauvelin's emissaries, followed until he reached
that mysterious hut where the fugitives were waiting for him, and
there the trap would be closed on him and on them.
There was but one hour--the hour's start which Marguerite and
Sir Andrew had of their enemy--in which to warn Percy of the imminence
of his danger, and to persuade him to give up the foolhardy
expedition, which could only end in his own death.
But there WAS that one hour.
"Chauvelin knows of this inn, from the papers he stole," said
Sir Andrew, earnestly, "and on landing will make straight for it."
"He has not landed yet," she said, "we have an hour's start on
him, and Percy will be here directly. We shall be mid-Channel ere
Chauvelin has realised that we have slipped through his fingers.
She spoke excitedly and eagerly, wishing to infuse into her
young friend some of that buoyant hope which still clung to her heart.
But he shook his head sadly.
"Silent again, Sir Andrew?" she said with some impatience.
"Why do you shake your head and look so glum?"
"Faith, Madame," he replied, "`tis only because in making your
rose-coloured plans, you are forgetting the most important factor."
"What in the world do you mean?--I am forgetting nothing. . . .
What factor do you mean?" she added with more impatience.
"It stands six foot odd high," replied Sir Andrew, quietly,
"and hath name Percy Blakeney."
"I don't understand," she murmured.
"Do you think that Blakeney would leave Calais without having
accomplished what he set out to do?"
"You mean. . .?"
"There's the old Comte de Tournay. . ."
"The Comte. . .?" she murmured.
"And St. Just. . .and others. . ."
"My brother!" she said with a heart-broken sob of anguish.
"Heaven help me, but I fear I had forgotten."
"Fugitives as they are, these men at this moment await with
perfect confidence and unshaken faith the arrival of the Scarlet
Pimpernel, who has pledged his honour to take them safely across the
Indeed, she had forgotten! With the sublime selfishness of a
woman who loves with her whole heart, she had in the last twenty-four
hours had no thought save for him. His precious, noble life, his
danger--he, the loved one, the brave hero, he alone dwelt in her mind.
"My brother!" she murmured, as one by one the heavy tears
gathered in her eyes, as memory came back to her of Armand, the
companion and darling of her childhood, the man for whom she had
committed the deadly sin, which had so hopelessly imperilled her brave
"Sir Percy Blakeney would not be the trusted, honoured leader
of a score of English gentlemen," said Sir Andrew, proudly, "if he
abandoned those who placed their trust in him. As for breaking his
word, the very thought is preposterous!"
There was silence for a moment or two. Marguerite had buried
her face in her hands, and was letting the tears slowly trickle
through her trembling fingers. The young man said nothing; his heart
ached for this beautiful woman in her awful grief. All along he had
felt the terrible IMPASSE in which her own rash act had plunged them
all. He knew his friend and leader so well, with his reckless daring,
his mad bravery, his worship of his own word of honour. Sir Andrew
knew that Blakeney would brave any danger, run the wildest risks
sooner than break it, and with Chauvelin at his very heels, would make
a final attempt, however desperate, to rescue those who trusted in him.
"Faith, Sir Andrew," said Marguerite at last, making brave
efforts to dry her tears, "you are right, and I would not now shame
myself by trying to dissuade him from doing his duty. As you say, I
should plead in vain. God grant him strength and ability," she added
fervently and resolutely, "to outwit his pursuers. He will not refuse
to take you with him, perhaps, when he starts on his noble work;
between you, you will have cunning as well as valour! God guard you
both! In the meanwhile I think we should lose no time. I still believe
that his safety depends upon his knowing that Chauvelin is on his track."
"Undoubtedly. He has wonderful resources at his command. As
soon as he is aware of his danger he will exercise more caution: his
ingenuity is a veritable miracle."
"Then, what say you to a voyage of reconnaissance in the
village whilst I wait here against his coming!--You might come across
Percy's track and thus save valuable time. If you find him, tell him
to beware!--his bitterest enemy is on his heels!"
"But this is such a villainous hole for you to wait in."
"Nay, that I do not mind!--But you might ask our surly host if
he could let me wait in another room, where I could be safer from the
prying eyes of any chance traveller. Offer him some ready money, so
that he should not fail to give me word the moment the tall Englishman
She spike quite calmly, even cheerfully now, thinking out her
plans, ready for the worst if need be; she would show no more
weakness, she would prove herself worthy of him, who was about to give
his life for the sake of his fellow-men.
Sir Andrew obeyed her without further comment. Instinctively
he felt that hers now was the stronger mind; he was willing to give
himself over to her guidance, to become the hand, whilst she was the
He went to the door of the inner room, through which Brogard
and his wife had disappeared before, and knocked; as usual, he was
answered by a salvo of muttered oaths.
"Hey! friend Brogard!" said the man peremptorily, "my lady friend
would wish to rest here awhile. Could you give her the use of
another room? She would wish to be alone."
He took some money out of his pocket, and allowed it to jingle
significantly in his hand. Brogard had opened the door, and listened,
with his usual surly apathy, to the young man's request. At the sight
of the gold, however, his lazy attitude relaxed slightly; he took his
pipe from his mouth and shuffled into the room.
He then pointed over his shoulder at the attic up in the wall.
"She can wait up there!" he said with a grunt. "It's comfortable,
and I have no other room."
"Nothing could be better," said Marguerite in English; she at
once realised the advantages such a position hidden from view would
give her. "Give him the money, Sir Andrew; I shall be quite happy up
there, and can see everything without being seen."
She nodded to Brogard, who condescended to go up to the attic,
and to shake up the straw that lay on the floor.
"May I entreat you, madam, to do nothing rash," said Sir
Andrew, as Marguerite prepared in her turn to ascend the rickety
flight of steps. "Remember this place is infested with spies. Do
not, I beg of you, reveal yourself to Sir Percy, unless you are
absolutely certain that you are alone with him."
Even as he spoke, he felt how unnecessary was this caution:
Marguerite was as calm, as clear-headed as any man. There was no fear
of her doing anything that was rash.
"Nay," she said with a slight attempt at cheerfulness, "that I
can faithfully promise you. I would not jeopardise my husband's life,
nor yet his plans, by speaking to him before strangers. Have no fear,
I will watch my opportunity, and serve him in the manner I think he
needs it most."
Brogard had come down the steps again, and Marguerite was
ready to go up to her safe retreat.
"I dare not kiss your hand, madam," said Sir Andrew, as she
began to mount the steps, "since I am your lacquey, but I pray you be
of good cheer. If I do not come across Blakeney in half an hour, I
shall return, expecting to find him here."
"Yes, that will be best. We can afford to wait for half an
hour. Chauvelin cannot possibly be here before that. God grant that
either you or I may have seen Percy by then. Good luck to you,
friend! Have no fear for me."
Lightly she mounted the rickety wooden steps that led to the
attic. Brogard was taking no further heed of her. She could make
herself comfortable there or not as she chose. Sir Andrew watched her
until she had reached the curtains across, and the young man noted
that she was singularly well placed there, for seeing and hearing,
whilst remaining unobserved.
He had paid Brogard well; the surly old innkeeper would have no object
in betraying her. Then Sir Andrew prepared to go. At the door he
turned once again and looked up at the loft. Through the ragged
curtains Marguerite's sweet face was peeping down at him, and the
young man rejoiced to see that it looked serene, and even gently smiling.
With a final nod of farewell to her, he walked out into the night.
CHAPTER XXIV THE DEATH-TRAP
The next quarter of an hour went by swiftly and noiselessly.
In the room downstairs, Brogard had for a while busied himself with
clearing the table, and re-arranging it for another guest.
It was because she watched these preparations that Marguerite
found the time slipping by more pleasantly. It was for Percy that
this semblance of supper was being got ready. Evidently Brogard had a
certain amount of respect for the tall Englishman, as he seemed to
take some trouble in making the place look a trifle less uninviting
than it had done before.
He even produced, from some hidden recess in the old dresser,
what actually looked like a table-cloth; and when he spread it out,
and saw it was full of holes, he shook his head dubiously for a while,
then was at much pains so to spread it over the table as to hide most
of its blemishes.
Then he got out a serviette, also old and ragged, but
possessing some measure of cleanliness, and with this he carefully
wiped the glasses, spoons and plates, which he put on the table.
Marguerite could not help smiling to herself as she watched
all these preparations, which Brogard accomplished to an accompaniment
of muttered oaths. Clearly the great height and bulk of the
Englishman, or perhaps the weight of his fist, had overawed this
free-born citizen of France, or he would never have been at such
trouble for any SACRRE ARISTO.
When the table was set--such as it was--Brogard surveyed it
with evident satisfaction. He then dusted one of the chairs with the
corner of his blouse, gave a stir to the stock-pot, threw a fresh
bundle of faggots on to the fire, and slouched out of the room.
Marguerite was left alone with her reflections. She had
spread her travelling cloak over the straw, and was sitting fairly
comfortably, as the straw was fresh, and the evil odours from below
came up to her only in a modified form.
But, momentarily, she was almost happy; happy because, when
she peeped through the tattered curtains, she could see a rickety
chair, a torn table-cloth, a glass, a plate and a spoon; that was all.
But those mute and ugly things seemed to say to her that they were
waiting for Percy; that soon, very soon, he would be here, that the
squalid room being still empty, they would be alone together.
That thought was so heavenly, that Marguerite closed her eyes
in order to shut out everything but that. In a few minutes she would
be alone with him; she would run down the ladder, and let him see her;
then he would take her in his arms, and she would let him see that,
after that, she would gladly die for him, and with him, for earth
could hold no greater happiness than that.
And then what would happen? She could not even remotely
conjecture. She knew, of course, that Sir Andrew was right, that
Percy would do everything he had set out to accomplish; that she--now
she was here--could do nothing, beyond warning him to be cautious,
since Chauvelin himself was on his track. After having cautioned him,
she would perforce have to see him go off upon the terrible and daring
mission; she could not even with a word or look, attempt to keep him
back. She would have to obey, whatever he told her to do, even
perhaps have to efface herself, and wait, in indescribable agony,
whilst he, perhaps, went to his death.
But even that seemed less terrible to bear than the thought
that he should never know how much she loved him--that at any rate
would be spared her; the squalid room itself, which seemed to be
waiting for him, told her that he would be here soon.
Suddenly her over-sensitive ears caught the sound of distant
footsteps drawing near; her heart gave a wild leap of joy! Was it
Percy at last? No! the step did not seem quite as long, nor quite as
firm as his; she also thought that she could hear two distinct sets of
footsteps. Yes! that was it! two men were coming this way.
Two strangers perhaps, to get a drink, or. . .
But she had not time to conjecture, for presently there was a
peremptory call at the door, and the next moment it was violently open
from the outside, whilst a rough, commanding voice shouted,--
"Hey! Citoyen Brogard! Hola!"
Marguerite could not see the newcomers, but, through a hole in
one of the curtains, she could observe one portion of the room below.
She heard Brogard's shuffling footsteps, as he came out of the
inner room, muttering his usual string of oaths. On seeing the
strangers, however, he paused in the middle of the room, well within
range of Marguerite's vision, looked at them, with even more withering
contempt than he had bestowed upon his former guests, and muttered,
Marguerite's heart seemed all at once to stop beating; her
eyes, large and dilated, had fastened on one of the newcomers, who, at
this point, had taken a quick step forward towards Brogard. He was
dressed in the soutane, broad-brimmed hat and buckled shoes habitual
to the French CURE, but as he stood opposite the innkeeper, he threw
open his soutane for a moment, displaying the tri-colour scarf of
officialism, which sight immediately had the effect of transforming
Brogard's attitude of contempt, into one of cringing obsequiousness.
It was the sight of this French CURE, which seemed to freeze the very
blood in Marguerite's veins. She could not see his face, which was
shaded by his broad-brimmed hat, but she recognized the thin, bony hands,
the slight stoop, the whole gait of the man! It was Chauvelin!
The horror of the situation struck her as with a physical
blow; the awful disappointment, the dread of what was to come, made
her very senses reel, and she needed almost superhuman effort, not to
fall senseless beneath it all.
"A plate of soup and a bottle of wine," said Chauvelin imperiously
to Brogard, "then clear out of here--understand? I want to be alone."
Silently, and without any muttering this time, Brogard obeyed.
Chauvelin sat down at the table, which had been prepared for the tall
Englishman, and the innkeeper busied himself obsequiously round him,
dishing up the soup and pouring out the wine. The man who had entered
with Chauvelin and whom Marguerite could not see, stood waiting close
by the door.
At a brusque sign from Chauvelin, Brogard had hurried back to
the inner room, and the former now beckoned to the man who had
In him Marguerite at once recognised Desgas, Chauvelin's
secretary and confidential factotum, whom she had often seen in Paris,
in days gone by. He crossed the room, and for a moment or two
listened attentively at the Brogards' door.
"Not listening?" asked Chauvelin, curtly.
For a moment Marguerite dreaded lest Chauvelin should order
Desgas to search the place; what would happen if she were to be
discovered, she hardly dared to imagine. Fortunately, however,
Chauvelin seemed more impatient to talk to his secretary than afraid
of spies, for he called Desgas quickly back to his side.
"The English schooner?" he asked.
"She was lost sight of at sundown, citoyen," replied Desgas,
"but was then making west, towards Cap Gris Nez."
"Ah!--good!--" muttered Chauvelin, "and now, about Captain
Jutley?--what did he say?"
"He assured me that all the orders you sent him last week have
been implicitly obeyed. All the roads which converge to this place
have been patrolled night and day ever since: and the beach and cliffs
have been most rigorously searched and guarded."
"Does he know where this `Pere Blanchard's' hut is?"
"No, citoyen, nobody seems to know of it by that name. There
are any amount of fisherman's huts all along the course. . .but. . ."
"That'll do. Now about tonight?" interrupted Chauvelin,
"The roads and the beach are patrolled as usual, citoyen, and
Captain Jutley awaits further orders."
"Go back to him at once, then. Tell him to send
reinforcements to the various patrols; and especially to those along
the beach--you understand?"
Chauvelin spoke curtly and to the point, and every word he
uttered struck at Marguerite's heart like the death-knell of her
"The men," he continued, "are to keep the sharpest possible
look-out for any stranger who may be walking, riding, or driving,
along the road or the beach, more especially for a tall stranger, whom
I need not describe further, as probably he will be disguised; but he
cannot very well conceal his height, except by stooping. You understand?"
"Perfectly, citoyen," replied Desgas.
"As soon as any of the men have sighted a stranger, two of
them are to keep him in view. The man who loses sight of the tall
stranger, after he is once seen, will pay for his negligence with his
life; but one man is to ride straight back here and report to me. Is
"Absolutely clear, citoyen."
"Very well, then. Go and see Jutley at once. See the
reinforcements start off for the patrol duty, then ask the captain to
let you have a half-a-dozen more men and bring them here with you.
You can be back in ten minutes. Go--"
Desgas saluted and went to the door.
As Marguerite, sick with horror, listened to Chauvelin's
directions to his underling, the whole of the plan for the capture of
the Scarlet Pimpernel became appallingly clear to her. Chauvelin
wished that the fugitives should be left in false security waiting in
their hidden retreat until Percy joined them. Then the daring plotter
was to be surrounded and caught red-handed, in the very act of aiding
and abetting royalists, who were traitors to the republic. Thus, if
his capture were noised abroad, even the British Government could not
legally protest in his favour; having plotted with the enemies of the
French Government, France had the right to put him to death.
Escape for him and them would be impossible. All the roads
patrolled and watched, the trap well set, the net, wide at present,
but drawing together tighter and tighter, until it closed upon the
daring plotter, whose superhuman cunning even could not rescue him
from its meshes now.
Desgas was about to go, but Chauvelin once more called him
back. Marguerite vaguely wondered what further devilish plans he
could have formed, in order to entrap one brave man, alone, against
two-score of others. She looked at him as he turned to speak to
Desgas; she could just see his face beneath the broad-brimmed,
CURES'S hat. There was at that moment so much deadly hatred, such
fiendish malice in the thin face and pale, small eyes, that
Marguerite's last hope died in her heart, for she felt that from this
man she could expect no mercy.
"I had forgotten," repeated Chauvelin, with a weird chuckle,
as he rubbed his bony, talon-like hands one against the other, with a
gesture of fiendish satisfaction. "The tall stranger may show fight.
In any case no shooting, remember, except as a last resort. I want
that tall stranger alive. . .if possible."
He laughed, as Dante has told us that the devils laugh at the
sight of the torture of the damned. Marguerite had thought that by
now she had lived through the whole gamut of horror and anguish that
human heart could bear; yet now, when Desgas left the house, and she
remained alone in this lonely, squalid room, with that fiend for
company, she felt as if all that she had suffered was nothing compared
with this. He continued to laugh and chuckle to himself for awhile,
rubbing his hands together in anticipation of his triumph.
His plans were well laid, and he might well triumph! Not a
loophole was left, through which the bravest, the most cunning man
might escape. Every road guarded, every corner watched, and in that
lonely hut somewhere on the coast, a small band of fugitives waiting
for their rescuer, and leading him to his death--nay! to worse than death.
That fiend there, in a holy man's garb, was too much of a devil to allow
a brave man to die the quick, sudden death of a soldier at the post of duty.
He, above all, longed to have the cunning enemy, who had so
long baffled him, helpless in his power; he wished to gloat over him,
to enjoy his downfall, to inflict upon him what moral and mental
torture a deadly hatred alone can devise. The brave eagle, captured,
and with noble wings clipped, was doomed to endure the gnawing of the
rat. And she, his wife, who loved him, and who had brought him to
this, could do nothing to help him.
Nothing, save to hope for death by his side, and for one brief
moment in which to tell him that her love--whole, true and
passionate--was entirely his.
Chauvelin was now sitting close to the table; he had taken off
his hat, and Marguerite could just see the outline of his thin profile
and pointed chin, as he bent over his meagre supper. He was evidently
quite contented, and awaited evens with perfect calm; he even seemed
to enjoy Brogard's unsavoury fare. Marguerite wondered how so much
hatred could lurk in one human being against another.
Suddenly, as she watched Chauvelin, a sound caught her ear, which
turned her very heart to stone. And yet that sound was not calculated
to inspire anyone with horror, for it was merely the cheerful sound
of a gay, fresh voice singing lustily, "God save the King!"
CHAPTER XXV THE EAGLE AND THE FOX
Marguerite's breath stopped short; she seemed to feel her very
life standing still momentarily whilst she listened to that voice and
to that song. In the singer she had recognised her husband.
Chauvelin, too, had heard it, for he darted a quick glance towards the
door, then hurriedly took up his broad-brimmed hat and clapped it over
The voice drew nearer; for one brief second the wild desire
seized Marguerite to rush down the steps and fly across the room, to
stop that song at any cost, to beg the cheerful singer to fly--fly for
his life, before it be too late. She checked the impulse just in
time. Chauvelin would stop her before she reached the door, and,
moreover, she had no idea if he had any soldiers posted within his
call. Her impetuous act might prove the death-signal of the man she
would have died to save.
"Long reign over us, God save the King!"
sang the voice more lustily than ever. The next moment the door was
thrown open and there was dead silence for a second or so.
Marguerite could not see the door; she held her breath, trying
to imagine what was happening.
Percy Blakeney on entering had, of course, at once caught
sight of the CURE at the table; his hesitation lasted less than five
seconds, the next moment, Marguerite saw his tall figure crossing the
room, whilst he called in a loud, cheerful voice,--
"Hello, there! no one about? Where's that fool Brogard?"
He wore the magnificent coat and riding-suit which he had on
when Marguerite last saw him at Richmond, so many hours ago. As
usual, his get-up was absolutely irreproachable, the fine Mechlin lace
at his neck and wrists were immaculate and white, his fair hair was
carefully brushed, and he carried his eyeglass with his usual affected
gesture. In fact, at this moment, Sir Percy Blakeney, Bart., might
have been on his way to a garden-party at the Prince of Wales',
instead of deliberately, cold-bloodedly running his head in a trap,
set for him by his deadliest enemy.
He stood for a moment in the middle of the room, whilst
Marguerite, absolutely paralysed with horror, seemed unable even to
Every moment she expected that Chauvelin would give a signal,
that the place would fill with soldiers, that she would rush down and
help Percy to sell his life dearly. As he stood there, suavely
unconscious, she very nearly screamed out to him,--
"Fly, Percy!--'tis your deadly enemy!--fly before it be too late!"
But she had not time even to do that, for the next moment
Blakeney quietly walked to the table, and, jovially clapped the CURE
on the back, said in his own drawly, affected way,--
"Odds's fish!. . .er. . .M. Chauvelin. . . . I vow I never
thought of meeting you here."
Chauvelin, who had been in the very act of conveying soup to
his mouth, fairly choked. His thin face became absolutely purple, and
a violent fit of coughing saved this cunning representative of France
from betraying the most boundless surprise he had ever experienced.
There was no doubt that this bold move on the part of the enemy had
been wholly unexpected, as far as he was concerned: and the daring
impudence of it completely nonplussed him for the moment.
Obviously he had not taken the precaution of having the inn
surrounded with soldiers. Blakeney had evidently guessed that much,
and no doubt his resourceful brain had already formed some plan by
which he could turn this unexpected interview to account.
Marguerite up in the loft had not moved. She had made a
solemn promise to Sir Andrew not to speak to her husband before
strangers, and she had sufficient self-concontrol not to throw herself
unreasoningly and impulsively across his plans. To sit still and
watch these two men together was a terrible trial of fortitude.
Marguerite had heard Chauvelin give the orders for the patrolling of
all the roads. She knew that if Percy now left the "Chat Gris"--in
whatever direction he happened to go--he could not go far without
being sighted by some of Captain Jutley's men on patrol. On the other
hand, if he stayed, then Desgas would have time to come back with the
dozen men Chauvelin had specially ordered.
The trap was closing in, and Marguerite could do nothing but
watch and wonder. The two men looked such a strange contrast, and of
the two it was Chauvelin who exhibited a slight touch of fear.
Marguerite knew him well enough to guess what was passing in his mind.
He had no fear for his own person, although he certainly was alone in
a lonely inn with a man who was powerfully built, and who was daring
and reckless beyond the bounds of probability. She knew that
Chauvelin would willingly have braved perilous encounters for the sake
of the cause he had at heart, but what he did fear was that this
impudent Englishman would, by knocking him down, double his own
chances of escape; his underlings might not succeed so sell in
capturing the Scarlet Pimpernel, when not directed by the cunning hand
and the shrewd brain, which had deadly hate for an incentive.
Evidently, however, the representative of the French
Government had nothing to fear for the moment, at the hands of his
powerful adversary. Blakeney, with his most inane laugh and pleasant
good-nature, was solemnly patting him on the back.
"I am so demmed sorry. . ." he was saying cheerfully, "so very
sorry. . .I seem to have upset you. . .eating soup, too. . .nasty,
awkward thing, soup. . .er. . .Begad!--a friend of mine died once. . .
er. . .choked. . .just like you. . .with a spoonful of soup.
And he smiled shyly, good-humouredly, down at Chauvelin.
"Odd's life!" he continued, as soon as the latter had somewhat
recovered himself, "beastly hole this. . .ain't it now? La! you
don't mind?" he added, apologetically, as he sat down on a chair close
to the table and drew the soup tureen towards him. "That fool Brogard
seems to be asleep or something."
There was a second plate on the table, and he calmly helped
himself to soup, then poured himself out a glass of wine.
For a moment Marguerite wondered what Chauvelin would do. His
disguise was so good that perhaps he meant, on recovering himself, to
deny his identity: but Chauvelin was too astute to make such an
obviously false and childish move, and already he too had stretched
out his hand and said pleasantly,--
"I am indeed charmed to see you Sir Percy. You must excuse
me--h'm--I thought you the other side of the Channel. Sudden surprise
almost took my breath away."
"La!" said Sir Percy, with a good-humoured grin, "it did that
quite, didn't it--er--M.--er--Chaubertin?"
"I beg pardon--a thousand times. Yes--Chauvelin of course. . . .
Er. . .I never could cotton to foreign names. . . ."
He was calmly eating his soup, laughing with pleasant good-humour,
as if he had come all the way to Calais for the express purpose of
enjoying supper at this filthy inn, in the company of his arch-enemy.
For the moment Marguerite wondered why Percy did not knock the
little Frenchman down then and there--and no doubt something of the
sort must have darted through his mind, for every now and then his
lazy eyes seemed to flash ominously, as they rested on the slight
figure of Chauvelin, who had now quite recovered himself and was also
calmly eating his soup.
But the keen brain, which had planned and carried through so
many daring plots, was too far-seeing to take unnecessary risks. This
place, after all, might be infested with spies; the innkeeper might be
in Chauvelin's pay. One call on Chauvelin's part might bring twenty
men about Blakeney's ears for aught he knew, and he might be caught
and trapped before he could help, or, at least, warn the fugitives.
This he would not risk; he meant to help the others, to get THEM
safely away; for he had pledged his word to them, and his word he
WOULD keep. And whilst he ate and chatted, he thought and planned,
whilst, up in the loft, the poor, anxious woman racked her brain as to
what she should do, and endured agonies of longing to rush down to
him, yet not daring to move for fear of upsetting his plans.
"I didn't know," Blakeney was saying jovially, "that you. . .
er. . .were in holy orders."
"I. . .er. . .hem. . ." stammered Chauvelin. The calm impudence
of his antagonist had evidently thrown him off his usual balance.
"But, la! I should have known you anywhere," continued Sir
Percy, placidly, as he poured himself out another glass of wine,
"although the wig and hat have changed you a bit."
"Do you think so?"
"Lud! they alter a man so. . .but. . .begad! I hope you