Part 5 out of 8
concierge--a lad about fifteen--was sent off by her lodger with a
message to No. 9 Rue St. Germain l'Auxerrois. That was the house
where Percy was staying all last week, where he kept disguises and
so on for us all, and where some of our meetings were held. Percy
evidently expected that Armand would try and communicate with him
at that address, for when the lad arrived in front of the house he
was accosted--so he says--by a big, rough workman, who browbeat
him into giving up the lodger's letter, and finally pressed a
piece of gold into his hand. The workman was Blakeney, of course.
I imagine that Armand, at the time that he wrote the letter, must
have been under the belief that Mademoiselle Lange was still in
prison; he could not know then that Blakeney had already got her
into comparative safety. In the letter he must have spoken of the
terrible plight in which he stood, and also of his fears for the
woman whom he loved. Percy was not the man to leave a comrade in
the lurch! He would not be the man whom we all love and admire,
whose word we all obey, for whose sake we would gladly all of us
give our life--he would not be that man if he did not brave even
certain dangers in order to be of help to those who call on him.
Armand called and Percy went to him. He must have known that
Armand was being spied upon, for Armand, alas! was already a
marked man, and the watch-dogs of those infernal committees were
already on his heels. Whether these sleuth-hounds had followed
the son of the concierge and seen him give the letter to the
workman in the Rue St. Germain l'Auxerrois, or whether the
concierge in the Rue de Ia Croix Blanche was nothing but a spy of
Heron's, or, again whether the Committee of General Security kept
a company of soldiers in constant alert in that house, we shall,
of course, never know. All that I do know is that Percy entered
that fatal house at half-past ten, and that a quarter of an hour
later the concierge saw some of the soldiers descending the
stairs, carrying a heavy burden. She peeped out of her lodge, and
by the light in the corridor she saw that the heavy burden was the
body of a man bound closely with ropes: his eyes were closed, his
clothes were stained with blood. He was seemingly unconscious.
The next day the official organ of the Government proclaimed the
capture of the Scarlet Pimpernel, and there was a public holiday
in honour of the event."
Marguerite had listened to this terrible narrative dry-eyed and
silent. Now she still sat there, hardly conscious of what went on
around her--of Suzanne's tears, that fell unceasingly upon her
fingers--of Sir Andrew, who had sunk into a chair, and buried his
head in his hands. She was hardly conscious that she lived; the
universe seemed to have stood still before this awful, monstrous
But, nevertheless, she was the first to return to the active
realities of the present.
"Sir Andrew," she said after a while, "tell me, where are my Lords
Tony and Hastings?"
"At Calais, madam," he replied. "I saw them there on my way
hither. They had delivered the Dauphin safely into the hands of
his adherents at Mantes, and were awaiting Blakeney's further
orders, as he had commanded them to do."
"Will they wait for us there, think you?"
"For us, Lady Blakeney?" he exclaimed in puzzlement.
"Yes, for us, Sir Andrew," she replied, whilst the ghost of a
smile flitted across her drawn face; "you had thought of
accompanying me to Paris, had you not?"
"But Lady Blakeney--"
"Ah! I know what you would say, Sir Andrew. You will speak of
dangers, of risks, of death, mayhap; you will tell me that I as a
woman can do nothing to help my husband--that I could be but a
hindrance to him, just as I was in Boulogne. But everything is so
different now. Whilst those brutes planned his capture he was
clever enough to outwit them, but now they have actually got him,
think you they'll let him escape? They'll watch him night and
day, my friend, just as they watched the unfortunate Queen; but
they'll not keep him months, weeks, or even days in prison--even
Chauvelin now will no longer attempt to play with the Scarlet
Pimpernel. They have him, and they will hold him until such time
as they take him to the guillotine."
Her voice broke in a sob; her self-control was threatening to
leave her. She was but a woman, young and passionately in love
with the man who was about to die an ignominious death, far away
from his country, his kindred, his friends.
"I cannot let him die alone, Sir Andrew; he will be longing for
me, and--and, after all, there is you, and my Lord Tony, and Lord
Hastings and the others; surely--surely we are not going to let
him die, not like that, and not alone."
"You are right, Lady Blakeney," said Sir Andrew earnestly; "we are
not going to let him die, if human agency can do aught to save
him. Already Tony, Hastings and I have agreed to return to Paris.
There are one or two hidden places in and around the city known
only to Percy and to the members of the League where he must find
one or more of us if he succeeds in getting away. All the way
between Paris and Calais we have places of refuge, places where
any of us can hide at a given moment; where we can find disguises
when we want them, or horses in an emergency. No! no! we are not
going to despair, Lady Blakeney; there are nineteen of us prepared
to lay down our lives for the Scarlet Pimpernel. Already I, as
his lieutenant, have been selected as the leader of as determined
a gang as has ever entered on a work of rescue before. We leave
for Paris to-morrow, and if human pluck and devotion can destroy
mountains then we'll destroy them. Our watchword is: 'God save
the Scarlet Pimpernel.'"
He knelt beside her chair and kissed the cold fingers which, with
a sad little smile, she held out to him.
"And God bless you all!" she murmured.
Suzanne had risen to her feet when her husband knelt; now he stood
up beside her. The dainty young woman hardly more than a child--
was doing her best to restrain her tears.
"See how selfish I am," said Marguerite. "I talk calmly of taking
your husband from you, when I myself know the bitterness of such
"My husband will go where his duty calls him," said Suzanne with
charming and simple dignity. "I love him with all my heart,
because he is brave and good. He could not leave his comrade, who
is also his chief, in the lurch. God will protect him, I know. I
would not ask him to play the part of a coward."
Her brown eyes glowed with pride. She was the true wife of a
soldier, and with all her dainty ways and childlike manners she
was a splendid woman and a staunch friend. Sir Percy Blakeney bad
saved her entire family from death, the Comte and Comtesse de
Tournai, the Vicomte, her brother, and she herself all owed their
lives to the Scarlet Pimpernel.
This she was not like to forget.
"There is but little danger for us, I fear me," said Sir Andrew
lightly; "the revolutionary Government only wants to strike at a
head, it cares nothing for the limbs. Perhaps it feels that
without our leader we are enemies not worthy of persecution. If
there are any dangers, so much the better," he added; "but I don't
anticipate any, unless we succeed in freeing our chief; and having
freed him, we fear nothing more."
"The same applies to me, Sir Andrew," rejoined Marguerite earnestly.
"Now that they have captured Percy, those human fiends will care
naught for me. If you succeed in freeing Percy I, like you, will
have nothing more to fear, and if you fail--"
She paused and put her small, white hand on Sir Andrew's arm.
"Take me with you, Sir Andrew," she entreated; "do not condemn me
to the awful torture of weary waiting, day after day, wondering,
guessing, never daring to hope, lest hope deferred be more hard to
bear than dreary hopelessness."
Then as Sir Andrew, very undecided, yet half inclined to yield,
stood silent and irresolute, she pressed her point, gently but
"I would not he in the way, Sir Andrew; I would know how to efface
myself so as not to interfere with your plans. But, oh!" she
added, while a quivering note of passion trembled in her voice,
"can't you see that I must breathe the air that he breathes else I
shall stifle or mayhap go mad?"
Sir Andrew turned to his wife, a mute query in his eyes.
"You would do an inhuman and a cruel act," said Suzanne with
seriousness that sat quaintly on her baby face, "if you did not
afford your protection to Marguerite, for I do believe that if you
did not take her with you to-morrow she would go to Paris alone."
Marguerite thanked her friend with her eyes. Suzanne was a child
in nature, but she had a woman's heart. She loved her husband,
and, therefore, knew and understood what Marguerite must be
Sir Andrew no longer could resist the unfortunate woman's earnest
pleading. Frankly, he thought that if she remained in England
while Percy was in such deadly peril she ran the grave risk of
losing her reason before the terrible strain of suspense. He knew
her to be a woman of courage, and one capable of great physical
endurance; and really he was quite honest when he said that he did
not believe there would be much danger for the headless League of
the Scarlet Pimpernel unless they succeeded in freeing their
chief. And if they did succeed, then indeed there would be
nothing to fear, for the brave and loving wife who, like every
true woman does, and has done in like circumstances since the
beginning of time, was only demanding with passionate insistence
the right to share the fate, good or ill, of the man whom she
PARIS ONCE MORE
Sir Andrew had just come in. He was trying to get a little warmth
into his half-frozen limbs, for the cold had set in again, and
this time with renewed vigour, and Marguerite was pouring out a
cup of hot coffee which she had been brewing for him. She had not
asked for news. She knew that he had none to give her, else he had
not worn that wearied, despondent look in his kind face.
"I'll just try one more place this evening," he said as soon as he
had swallowed some of the hot coffee--"a restaurant in the Rue de
la Harpe; the members of the Cordeliers' Club often go there for
supper, and they are usually well informed. I might glean
something definite there."
"It seems very strange that they are so slow in bringing him to
trial," said Marguerite in that dull, toneless voice which had
become habitual to her. "When you first brought me the awful news
that ... I made sure that they would bring him to trial at once,
and was in terror lest we arrived here too late to--to see him."
She checked herself quickly, bravely trying to still the quiver of
"And of Armand?" she asked.
He shook his head sadly.
"With regard to him I am at a still greater loss," he said: "I
cannot find his name on any of the prison registers, and I know
that he is not in the Conciergerie. They have cleared out all the
prisoners from there; there is only Percy--"
"Poor Armand I" she sighed; "it must be almost worse for him than
for any of us; it was his first act of thoughtless disobedience
that brought all this misery upon our heads."
She spoke sadly but quietly. Sir Andrew noted that there was no
bitterness in her tone. But her very quietude was heart-breaking;
there was such an infinity of despair in the calm of her eyes.
"Well! though we cannot understand it all, Lady Blakeney," he said
with forced cheerfulness, "we must remember one thing--that whilst
there is life there is hope."
"Hope!" she exclaimed with a world of pathos in her sigh, her
large eyes dry and circled, fixed with indescribable sorrow on her
Ffoulkes turned his head away, pretending to busy himself with the
coffee-making utensils. He could not bear to see that look of
hopelessness in her face, for in his heart he could not find the
wherewithal to cheer her. Despair was beginning to seize on him
too, and this he would not let her see.
They had been in Paris three days now, and it was six days since
Blakeney had been arrested. Sir Andrew and Marguerite had found
temporary lodgings inside Paris, Tony and Hastings were just
outside the gates, and all along the route between Paris and
Calais, at St. Germain, at Mantes, in the villages between
Beauvais and Amiens, wherever money could obtain friendly help,
members of the devoted League of the Scarlet Pimpernel lay in
hiding, waiting to aid their chief.
Ffoulkes had ascertained that Percy was kept a close prisoner in
the Conciergerie, in the very rooms occupied by Marie Antoinette
during the last months of her life. He left poor Marguerite to
guess how closely that elusive Scarlet Pimpernel was being
guarded, the precautions surrounding him being even more minute
than those which bad made the unfortunate Queen's closing days a
martyrdom for her.
But of Armand he could glean no satisfactory news, only the
negative probability that he was not detained in any of the larger
prisons of Paris, as no register which he, Ffoulkes, so
laboriously consulted bore record of the name of St. Just.
Haunting the restaurants and drinking booths where the most
advanced Jacobins and Terrorists were wont to meet, be had learned
one or two details of Blakeney's incarceration which he could not
possibly impart to Marguerite. The capture of the mysterious
Englishman known as the Scarlet Pimpernel had created a great deal
of popular satisfaction; but it was obvious that not only was the
public mind not allowed to associate that capture with the escape
of little Capet from the Temple, but it soon became clear to
Ffoulkes that the news of that escape was still being kept a
On one occasion he had succeeded in spying on the Chief Agent of
the Committee of General Security, whom he knew by sight, while
the latter was sitting at dinner in the company of a stout, florid
man with pock-marked face and podgy hands covered with rings.
Sir Andrew marvelled who this man might be. Heron spoke to him in
ambiguous phrases that would have been unintelligible to any one
who did not know the circumstances of the Dauphin's escape and the
part that the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel had played in it.
But to Sir Andrew Ffoulkes, who--cleverly disguised as a farrier,
grimy after his day's work--was straining his ears to listen
whilst apparently consuming huge slabs of boiled beef, it soon
became dear that the chief agent and his fat friend were talking
of the Dauphin and of Blakeney.
"He won't hold out much longer, citizen," the chief agent was
saying in a confident voice; "our men are absolutely unremitting
in their task. Two of them watch him night and day; they look
after him well, and practically never lose sight of him, but the
moment he tries to get any sleep one of them rushes into the cell
with a loud banging of bayonet and sabre, and noisy tread on the
flagstones, and shouts at the top of his voice: 'Now then,
aristo, where's the brat? Tell us now, and you shall he down and
go to sleep.' I have done it myself all through one day just for
the pleasure of it. It's a little tiring for you to have to shout
a good deal now, and sometimes give the cursed Englishman a good
shake-up. He has had five days of it, and not one wink of sleep
during that time--not one single minute of rest--and he only gets
enough food to keep him alive. I tell you he can't last. Citizen
Chauvelin had a splendid idea there. It will all come right in a
day or two."
"H'm!" grunted the other sulkily; "those Englishmen are tough."
"Yes!" retorted Heron with a grim laugh and a leer of savagery
that made his gaunt face look positively hideous--"you would have
given out after three days, friend de Batz, would you not? And I
warned you, didn't I? I told you if you tampered with the brat I
would make you cry in mercy to me for death."
"And I warned you," said the other imperturbably, "not to worry so
much about me, but to keep your eyes open for those cursed
"I am keeping my eyes open for you, nevertheless, my friend. If I
thought you knew where the vermin's spawn was at this moment I
"You would put me on the same rack that you or your precious
friend, Chauvelin, have devised for the Englishman. But I don't
know where the lad is. If I did I would not be in Paris."
"I know that," assented Heron with a sneer; "you would soon be
after the reward--over in Austria, what?--but I have your
movements tracked day and night, my friend. I dare say you are as
anxious as we are as to the whereabouts of the child. Had he been
taken over the frontier you would have been the first to hear of
it, eh? No," he added confidently, and as if anxious to reassure
himself, "my firm belief is that the original idea of these
confounded Englishmen was to try and get the child over to
England, and that they alone know where he is. I tell you it
won't be many days before that very withered Scarlet Pimpernel
will order his followers to give little Capet up to us. Oh! they
are hanging about Paris some of them, I know that; citizen
Chauvelin is convinced that the wife isn't very far away. Give
her a sight of her husband now, say I, and she'll make the others
give the child up soon enough."
The man laughed like some hyena gloating over its prey. Sir
Andrew nearly betrayed himself then. He had to dig his nails into
his own flesh to prevent himself from springing then and there at
the throat of that wretch whose monstrous ingenuity had invented
torture for the fallen enemy far worse than any that the cruelties
of medieval Inquisitions had devised.
So they would not let him sleep! A simple idea born in the brain
of a fiend. Heron had spoken of Chauvelin as the originator of
the devilry; a man weakened deliberately day by day by insufficient
food, and the horrible process of denying him rest. It seemed
inconceivable that human, sentient beings should have thought of
such a thing. Perspiration stood up in beads on Sir Andrew's brow
when he thought of his friend, brought down by want of sleep to--
what? His physique was splendidly powerful, but could it stand
against such racking torment for long? And the clear, the alert
mind, the scheming brain, the reckless daring--how soon would these
become enfeebled by the slow, steady torture of an utter want of rest?
Ffoulkes had to smother a cry of horror, which surely must have
drawn the attention of that fiend on himself had he not been so
engrossed in the enjoyment of his own devilry. As it is, he ran
out of the stuffy eating-house, for he felt as if its fetid air
must choke him.
For an hour after that he wandered about the streets, not daring
to face Marguerite, lest his eyes betrayed some of the horror
which was shaking his very soul.
That was twenty-four hours ago. To-day he had learnt little else.
It was generally known that the Englishman was in the Conciergerie
prison, that he was being closely watched, and that his trial
would come on within the next few days; but no one seemed to know
exactly when. The public was getting restive, demanding that
trial and execution to which every one seemed to look forward as
to a holiday. In the meanwhile the escape of the Dauphin had been
kept from the knowledge of the public; Heron and his gang, fearing
for their lives, had still hopes of extracting from the Englishman
the secret of the lad's hiding-place, and the means they employed
for arriving at this end was worthy of Lucifer and his host of
devils in hell.
From other fragments of conversation which Sir Andrew Ffoulkes had
gleaned that same evening, it seemed to him that in order to hide
their defalcations Heron and the four commissaries in charge of
little Capet had substituted a deaf and dumb child for the escaped
little prisoner. This miserable small wreck of humanity was
reputed to be sick and kept in a darkened room, in bed, and was in
that condition exhibited to any member of the Convention who had
the right to see him. A partition had been very hastily erected
in the inner room once occupied by the Simons, and the child was
kept behind that partition, and no one was allowed to come too
near to him. Thus the fraud was succeeding fairly well. Heron
and his accomplices only cared to save their skins, and the
wretched little substitute being really ill, they firmly hoped
that he would soon die, when no doubt they would bruit abroad the
news of the death of Capet, which would relieve them of further
That such ideas, such thoughts, such schemes should have
engendered in human minds it is almost impossible to conceive, and
yet we know from no less important a witness than Madame Simon
herself that the child who died in the Temple a few weeks later
was a poor little imbecile, a deaf and dumb child brought hither
from one of the asylums and left to die in peace. There was
nobody but kindly Death to take him out of his misery, for the
giant intellect that had planned and carried out the rescue of the
uncrowned King of France, and which alone might have had the power
to save him too, was being broken on the rack of enforced
THE BITTEREST FOE
That same evening Sir Andrew Ffoulkes, having announced his
intention of gleaning further news of Armand, if possible, went
out shortly after seven o'clock, promising to be home again about
Marguerite, on the other hand, had to make her friend a solemn
promise that she would try and eat some supper which the landlady
of these miserable apartments had agreed to prepare for her. So
far they had been left in peaceful occupation of these squalid
lodgings in a tumble-down house on the Quai de la Ferraille,
facing the house of Justice, the grim walls of which Marguerite
would watch with wide-open dry eyes for as long as the grey wintry
light lingered over them.
Even now, though the darkness had set in, and snow, falling in
close, small flakes, threw a thick white veil over the landscape,
she sat at the open window long after Sir Andrew had gone out,
watching the few small flicks of light that blinked across from
the other side of the river, and which came from the windows of
the Chatelet towers. The windows of the Conciergerie she could not
see, for these gave on one of the inner courtyards; but there was
a melancholy consolation even in the gazing on those walls that
held in their cruel, grim embrace all that she loved in the world.
It seemed so impossible to think of Percy--the laughter-loving,
irresponsible, light-hearted adventurer--as the prey of those
fiends who would revel in their triumph, who would crush him,
humiliate him, insult him--ye gods alive! even torture him,
perhaps--that they might break the indomitable spirit that would
mock them even on the threshold of death.
Surely, surely God would never allow such monstrous infamy as the
deliverance of the noble soaring eagle into the hands of those
preying jackals! Marguerite--though her heart ached beyond what
human nature could endure, though her anguish on her husband's
account was doubled by that which she felt for her brother--could
not bring herself to give up all hope. Sir Andrew said it
rightly; while there was life there was hope. While there was
life in those vigorous limbs, spirit in that daring mind, how
could puny, rampant beasts gain the better of the immortal soul?
As for Armand--why, if Percy were free she would have no cause to
fear for Armand.
She sighed a sigh of deep, of passionate regret and longing. If
she could only see her husband; if she could only look for one
second into those laughing, lazy eyes, wherein she alone knew how
to fathom the infinity of passion that lay within their depths; if
she could but once feel his--ardent kiss on her lips, she could
more easily endure this agonising suspense, and wait confidently
and courageously for the issue.
She turned away from the window, for the night was getting bitterly
cold. From the tower of St. Germain l'Auxerrois the clock slowly
struck eight. Even as the last sound of the historic bell died away
in the distance she heard a timid knocking at the door.
"Enter!" she called unthinkingly.
She thought it was her landlady, come up with more wood, mayhap,
for the fire, so she did not turn to the door when she heard it
being slowly opened, then closed again, and presently a soft tread
on the threadbare carpet.
"May I crave your kind attention, Lady Blakeney?" said a harsh
voice, subdued to tones of ordinary courtesy.
She quickly repressed a cry of terror. How well she knew that
voice! When last she heard it it was at Boulogne, dictating that
infamous letter--the weapon wherewith Percy had so effectually
foiled his enemy. She turned and faced the man who was her
bitterest foe--hers in the person of the man she loved.
"Chauvelin!" she gasped.
"Himself at your service, dear lady," he said simply.
He stood in the full light of the lamp, his trim, small figure
boldly cut out against the dark wall beyond. He wore the usual
sable-coloured clothes which he affected, with the primly-folded
jabot and cuffs edged with narrow lace.
Without waiting for permission from her he quietly and
deliberately placed his hat and cloak on a chair. Then he turned
once more toward her, and made a movement as if to advance into
the room; but instinctively she put up a hand as if to ward off
the calamity of his approach.
He shrugged his shoulders, and the shadow of a smile, that had
neither mirth nor kindliness in it, hovered round the corners of
his thin lips.
"Have I your permission to sit?" he asked.
"As you will," she replied slowly, keeping her wide-open eyes
fixed upon him as does a frightened bird upon the serpent whom it
loathes and fears.
"And may I crave a few moments of your undivided attention, Lady
Blakeney?" he continued, taking a chair, and so placing it beside
the table that the light of the lamp when he sat remained behind
him and his face was left in shadow.
"Is it necessary?" asked Marguerite.
"It is," he replied curtly, "if you desire to see and speak with
your husband--to be of use to him before it is too late."
"Then, I pray you, speak, citizen, and I will listen."
She sank into a chair, not heeding whether the light of the lamp
fell on her face or not, whether the lines in her haggard cheeks,
or her tear-dimmed eyes showed plainly the sorrow and despair that
had traced them. She had nothing to hide from this man, the cause
of all the tortures which she endured. She knew that neither
courage nor sorrow would move him, and that hatred for Percy--
personal deadly hatred for the man who had twice foiled him--
had long crushed the last spark of humanity in his heart.
"Perhaps, Lady Blakeney," he began after a slight pause and in his
smooth, even voice, "it would interest you to hear how I succeeded
in procuring for myself this pleasure of an interview with you?"
"Your spies did their usual work, I suppose," she said coldly.
"Exactly. We have been on your track for three days, and
yesterday evening an unguarded movement on the part of Sir Andrew
Ffoulkes gave us the final clue to your whereabouts."
"Of Sir Andrew Ffoulkes?" she asked, greatly puzzled.
He was in an eating-house, cleverly disguised, I own, trying to
glean information, no doubt as to the probable fate of Sir Percy
Blakeney. As chance would have it, my friend Heron, of the
Committee of General Security, chanced to be discussing with
reprehensible openness--er--certain--what shall I say?--certain
measures which, at my advice, the Committee of Public Safety have
been forced to adopt with a view to--"
"A truce on your smooth-tongued speeches, citizen Chauvelin," she
interposed firmly. "Sir Andrew Ffoulkes has told me naught of
this--so I pray you speak plainly and to the point, if you can."
He bowed with marked irony.
"As you please," he said. "Sir Andrew Ffoulkes, hearing certain
matters of which I will tell you anon, made a movement which
betrayed him to one of our spies. At a word from citizen Heron
this man followed on the heels of the young farrier who had shown
such interest in the conversation of the Chief Agent. Sir Andrew,
I imagine, burning with indignation at what he had heard, was
perhaps not quite so cautious as he usually is. Anyway, the man
on his track followed him to this door. It was quite simple, as
you see. As for me, I had guessed a week ago that we would see
the beautiful Lady Blakeney in Paris before long. When I knew
where Sir Andrew Ffoulkes lodged, I had no difficulty in guessing
that Lady Blakeney would not be far off."
"And what was there in citizen Heron's conversation last night,"
she asked quietly, "that so aroused Sir Andrew's indignation?"
"He has not told you?"
"Oh! it is very simple. Let me tell you, Lady Blakeney, exactly
how matters stand. Sir Percy Blakeney--before lucky chance at
last delivered him into our hands--thought fit, as no doubt you
know, to meddle with our most important prisoner of State."
"A child. I know it, sir--the son of a murdered father whom you
and your friends were slowly doing to death."
"That is as it may be, Lady Blakeney," rejoined Chauvelin calmly;
"but it was none of Sir Percy Blakeney's business. This, however,
he chose to disregard. He succeeded in carrying little Capet from
the Temple, and two days later we had him under lock, and key."
"Through some infamous and treacherous trick, sir," she retorted.
Chauvelin made no immediate reply; his pale, inscrutable eyes were
fixed upon her face, and the smile of irony round his mouth appeared
more strongly marked than before.
"That, again, is as it may be," he said suavely; "but anyhow for
the moment we have the upper hand. Sir Percy is in the
Conciergerie, guarded day and night, more closely than Marie
Antoinette even was guarded."
"And he laughs at your bolts and bars, sir," she rejoined proudly.
"Remember Calais, remember Boulogne. His laugh at your discomfiture,
then, must resound in your ear even to-day."
"Yes; but for the moment laughter is on our side. Still we are
willing to forego even that pleasure, if Sir Percy will but move a
finger towards his own freedom."
"Again some infamous letter?" she asked with bitter contempt;
"some attempt against his honour?"
"No, no, Lady Blakeney," he interposed with perfect blandness.
"Matters are so much simpler now, you see. We hold Sir Percy at
our mercy. We could send him to the guillotine to-morrow, but we
might be willing--remember, I only say we might--to exercise our
prerogative of mercy if Sir Percy Blakeney will on his side accede
to a request from us."
"And that request?"
"Is a very natural one. He took Capet away from us, and it is but
credible that he knows at the present moment exactly where the
child is. Let him instruct his followers--and I mistake not, Lady
Blakeney, there are several of them not very far from Paris just
now--let him, I say, instruct these followers of his to return the
person of young Capet to us, and not only will we undertake to
give these same gentlemen a safe conduct back to England, but we
even might be inclined to deal somewhat less harshly with the
gallant Scarlet Pimpernel himself."
She laughed a harsh, mirthless, contemptuous laugh.
"I don't think that I quite understand," she said after a moment
or two, whilst he waited calmly until her out-break of hysterical
mirth had subsided. "You want my husband--the Scarlet Pimpernel,
citizen--to deliver the little King of France to you after he has
risked his life to save the child out of your clutches? Is that
what you are trying to say?"
"It is," rejoined Chauvelin complacently, "just what we have been
saying to Sir Percy Blakeney for the past six days, madame."
"Well! then you have had your answer, have you not?"
"Yes," he replied slowly; "but the answer has become weaker day by
"Weaker? I don't understand."
"Let me explain, Lady Blakeney," said Chauvelin, now with measured
emphasis. He put both elbows on the table and leaned well
forward, peering into her face, lest one of its varied expressions
escaped him. "Just now you taunted me with my failure in Calais,
and again at Boulogne, with a proud toss of the head, which I own
is excessive becoming; you threw the name of the Scarlet Pimpernel
in my face like a challenge which I no longer dare to accept.
'The Scarlet Pimpernel,' you would say to me, 'stands for loyalty,
for honour, and for indomitable courage. Think you he would
sacrifice his honour to obtain your mercy? Remember Boulogne and
your discomfiture!' All of which, dear lady, is perfectly
charming and womanly and enthusiastic, and I, bowing my humble
head, must own that I was fooled in Calais and baffled in
Boulogne. But in Boulogne I made a grave mistake, and one from
which I learned a lesson, which I am putting into practice now."
He paused a while as if waiting for her reply. His pale, keen
eyes had already noted that with every phrase he uttered the lines
in her beautiful face became more hard and set. A look of horror
was gradually spreading over it, as if the icy-cold hand of death
had passed over her eyes and cheeks, leaving them rigid like stone.
"In Boulogne," resumed Chauvelin quietly, satisfied that his words
were hitting steadily at her heart--"in Boulogne Sir Percy and I
did not fight an equal fight. Fresh from a pleasant sojourn in
his own magnificent home, full of the spirit of adventure which
puts the essence of life into a man's veins, Sir Percy Blakeney's
splendid physique was pitted against my feeble powers. Of course
I lost the battle. I made the mistake of trying to subdue a man
who was in the zenith of his strength, whereas now--"
"Yes, citizen Chauvelin," she said, "whereas now--"
"Sir Percy Blakeney has been in the prison of the Conciergerie for
exactly one week, Lady Blakeney," he replied, speaking very
slowly, and letting every one of his words sink individually into
her mind. "Even before he had time to take the bearings of his
cell or to plan on his own behalf one of those remarkable escapes
for which he is so justly famous, our men began to work on a
scheme which I am proud to say originated with myself. A week has
gone by since then, Lady Blakeney, and during that time a special
company of prison guard, acting under the orders of the Committee
of General Security and of Public Safety, have questioned the
prisoner unremittingly--unremittingly, remember--day and night.
Two by two these men take it in turns to enter the prisoner's cell
every quarter of an hour--lately it has had to be more often--and
ask him the one question, 'Where is little Capet?' Up to now we
have received no satisfactory reply, although we have explained to
Sir Percy that many of his followers are honouring the
neighbourhood of Paris with their visit, and that all we ask for
from him are instructions to those gallant gentlemen to bring
young Capet back to us. It is all very simple, unfortunately the
prisoner is somewhat obstinate. At first, even, the idea seemed
to amuse him; he used to laugh and say that he always had the
faculty of sleeping with his eyes open. But our soldiers are
untiring in their efforts, and the want of sleep as well as of a
sufficiency of food and of fresh air is certainly beginning to
tell on Sir Percy Blakeney's magnificent physique. I don't think
that it will be very long before he gives way to our gentle
persuasions; and in any case now, I assure you, dear lady, that we
need not fear any attempt on his part to escape. I doubt if he
could walk very steadily across this room--"
Marguerite had sat quite silent and apparently impassive all the
while that Chauvelin had been speaking; even now she scarcely
stirred. Her face expressed absolutely nothing but deep
puzzlement. There was a frown between her brows, and her eyes,
which were always of such liquid blue, now looked almost black.
She was trying to visualise that which Chauvelin had put before
her: a man harassed day and night, unceasingly, unremittingly,
with one question allowed neither respite nor sleep--his brain,
soul, and body fagged out at every hour, every moment of the day
and night, until mind and body and soul must inevitably give way
under anguish ten thousand times more unendurable than any
physical torment invented by monsters in barbaric times.
That man thus harassed, thus fagged out, thus martyrised at all
hours of the day and night, was her husband, whom she loved with
every fibre of her being, with every throb of her heart.
Torture? Oh, no! these were advanced and civilised times that
could afford to look with horror on the excesses of medieval days.
This was a revolution that made for progress, and challenged the
opinion of the world. The cells of the Temple of La Force or the
Conciergerie held no secret inquisition with iron maidens and
racks and thumbscrews; but a few men had put their tortuous brains
together, and had said one to another: "We want to find out from
that man where we can lay our hands on little Capet, so we won't
let him sleep until he has told us. It is not torture--oh, no!
Who would dare to say that we torture our prisoners? It is only a
little horseplay, worrying to the prisoner, no doubt; but, after
all, he can end the unpleasantness at any moment. He need but to
answer our question, and he can go to sleep as comfortably as a
little child. The want of sleep is very trying, the want of
proper food and of fresh air is very weakening; the prisoner must
give way sooner or later--"
So these fiends had decided it between them, and they had put
their idea into execution for one whole week. Marguerite looked at
Chauvelin as she would on some monstrous, inscrutable Sphinx,
marveling if God--even in His anger--could really have created
such a fiendish brain, or, having created it, could allow it to
wreak such devilry unpunished.
Even now she felt that he was enjoying the mental anguish which he
had put upon her, and she saw his thin, evil lips curled into a
"So you came to-night to tell me all this?" she asked as soon as
she could trust herself to speak. Her impulse was to shriek out
her indignation, her horror of him, into his face. She longed to
call down God's eternal curse upon this fiend; but instinctively
she held herself in check. Her indignation, her words of loathing
would only have added to his delight.
"You have had your wish," she added coldly; "now, I pray you, go."
"Your pardon, Lady Blakeney," he said with all his habitual
blandness; "my object in coming to see you tonight was twofold.
Methought that I was acting as your friend in giving you authentic
news of Sir Percy, and in suggesting the possibility of your
adding your persuasion to ours."
"My persuasion? You mean that I--"
"You would wish to see your husband, would you not, Lady Blakeney?"
"Then I pray you command me. I will grant you the permission
whenever you wish to go."
"You are in the hope, citizen," she said, "that I will do my best
to break my husband's spirit by my tears or my prayers--is that
"Not necessarily," he replied pleasantly. "I assure you that we
can manage to do that ourselves, in time."
"You devil!" The cry of pain and of horror was involuntarily
wrung from the depths of her soul. "Are you not afraid that God's
hand will strike you where you stand?"
"No," he said lightly; "I am not afraid, Lady Blakeney. You see, I
do not happen to believe in God. Come!" he added more seriously,
"have I not proved to you that my offer is disinterested? Yet I
repeat it even now. If you desire to see Sir Percy in prison,
command me, and the doors shall be open to you."
She waited a moment, looking him straight and quite dispassionately
in the face; then she said coldly:
"Very well! I will go."
"When?" he asked.
"Just as you wish. I would have to go and see my friend Heron
first, and arrange with him for your visit."
"Then go. I will follow in half an hour."
"C'est entendu. Will you be at the main entrance of the
Conciergerie at half-past nine? You know it, perhaps--no? It is
in the Rue de la Barillerie, immediately on the right at the foot
of the great staircase of the house of Justice."
"Of the house of Justice!" she exclaimed involuntarily, a world of
bitter contempt in her cry. Then she added in her former
"Very good, citizen. At half-past nine I will be at the entrance
"And I will be at the door prepared to escort you."
He took up his hat and coat and bowed ceremoniously to her. Then
he turned to go. At the door a cry from her--involuntarily
enough, God knows!--made him pause.
"My interview with the prisoner," she said, vainly try mg, poor
soul! to repress that quiver of anxiety in her voice, "it will be
"Oh, yes! Of course," he replied with a reassuring smile. "Au
revoir, Lady Blakeney! Half-past nine, remember--"
She could no longer trust herself to look on him as he finally
took his departure. She was afraid--yes, absolutely afraid that
her fortitude would give way--meanly, despicably, uselessly give
way; that she would suddenly fling herself at the feet of that
sneering, inhuman wretch, that she would pray, implore--Heaven
above! what might she not do in the face of this awful reality, if
the last lingering shred of vanishing reason, of pride, and of
courage did not hold her in check?
Therefore she forced herself not to look on that departing,
sable-clad figure, on that evil face, and those hands that held
Percy's fate in their cruel grip; but her ears caught the welcome
sound of his departure--the opening and shutting of the door, his
light footstep echoing down the stone stairs.
When at last she felt that she was really alone she uttered a loud
cry like a wounded doe, and falling on her knees she buried her
face in her hands in a passionate fit of weeping. Violent sobs
shook her entire frame; it seemed as if an overwhelming anguish
was tearing at her heart--the physical pain of it was almost
unendurable. And yet even through this paroxysm of tears her mind
clung to one root idea: when she saw Percy she must be brave and
calm, be able to help him if he wanted her, to do his bidding if
there was anything that she could do, or any message that she
could take to the others. Of hope she had none. The last lingering
ray of it had been extinguished by that fiend when he said, "We
need not fear that he will escape. I doubt if he could walk very
steadily across this room now."
IN THE CONCIERGERIE
Marguerite, accompanied by Sir Andrew Ffoulkes, walked rapidly
along the quay. It lacked ten minutes to the half hour; the night
was dark and bitterly cold. Snow was still falling in sparse,
thin flakes, and lay like a crisp and glittering mantle over the
parapets of the bridges and the grim towers of the Chatelet
They walked on silently now. All that they had wanted to say to
one another had been said inside the squalid room of their
lodgings when Sir Andrew Ffoulkes had come home and learned that
Chauvelin had been.
"They are killing him by inches, Sir Andrew," had been the
heartrending cry which burst from Marguerite's oppressed heart as
soon as her hands rested in the kindly ones of her best friend.
"Is there aught that we can do?"
There was, of course, very little that could be done. One or two
fine steel files which Sir Andrew gave her to conceal beneath the
folds of her kerchief; also a tiny dagger with sharp, poisoned
blade, which for a moment she held in her hand hesitating, her
eyes filling with tears, her heart throbbing with unspeakable
Then slowly--very slowly--she raised the small, death-dealing
instrument to her lips, and reverently kissed the narrow blade.
"If it must be!" she murmured, "God in His mercy will forgive!"
She sheathed the dagger, and this, too, she hid in the folds of
"Can you think of anything else, Sir Andrew, that he might want?"
she asked. "I have money in plenty, in case those soldiers--"
Sir Andrew sighed, and turned away from her so as to hide the
hopelessness which he felt. Since three days now be had been
exhausting every conceivable means of getting at the prison guard
with bribery and corruption. But Chauvelin and his friends had
taken excellent precautions. The prison of the Conciergerie,
situated as it was in the very heart of the labyrinthine and
complicated structure of the Chatelet and the house of Justice,
and isolated from every other group of cells in the building, was
inaccessible save from one narrow doorway which gave on the
guard-room first, and thence on the inner cell beyond. Just as
all attempts to rescue the late unfortunate Queen from that prison
had failed, so now every attempt to reach the imprisoned Scarlet
Pimpernel was equally doomed to bitter disappointment.
The guard-room was filled with soldiers day and night; the windows
of the inner cell, heavily barred, were too small to admit of the
passage of a human body, and they were raised twenty feet from the
corridor below. Sir Andrew had stood in the corridor two days
ago, he bad looked on the window behind which he knew that his
friend must be eating out his noble heart in a longing for
liberty, and he had realised then that every effort at help from
the outside was foredoomed to failure.
"Courage, Lady Blakeney," he said to Marguerite, when anon they
had crossed the Pont au Change, and were wending their way slowly
along the Rue de la Barillerie; "remember our proud dictum: the
Scarlet Pimpernel never fails! and also this, that whatever messages
Blakeney gives you for us, whatever he wishes us to do, we are to a
man ready to do it, and to give our lives for our chief. Courage!
Something tells me that a man like Percy is not going to die at the
hands of such vermin as Chauvelin and his friends."
They had reached the great iron gates of the house of Justice.
Marguerite, trying to smile, extended her trembling band to this
faithful, loyal comrade.
"I'll not be far," he said. "When you come out do not look to the
right or left, but make straight for home; I'll not lose sight of
you for a moment, and as soon as possible will overtake you. God
bless you both."
He pressed his lips on her cold little hand, and watched her tall,
elegant figure as she passed through the great gates until the
veil of falling snow hid her from his gaze. Then with a deep sigh
of bitter anguish and sorrow he turned away and was soon lost in
Marguerite found the gate at the bottom of the monumental stairs
open when she arrived. Chauvelin was standing immediately inside
the building waiting for her.
"We are prepared for your visit, Lady Blakeney," he said, "and the
prisoner knows that you are coming."
He led the way down one of the numerous and interminable corridors
of the building, and she followed briskly, pressing her hand
against her bosom there where the folds of her kerchief hid the
steel files and the precious dagger.
Even in the gloom of these ill-lighted passages she realised that
she was surrounded by guards. There were soldiers everywhere; two
had stood behind the door when first she entered, and had
immediately closed it with a loud clang behind her; and all the
way down the corridors, through the half-light engendered by
feebly flickering lamps, she caught glimpses of the white facings
on the uniforms of the town guard, or occasionally the glint of
steel of a bayonet. Presently Chauvelin paused beside a door,
which he had just reached. His hand was on the latch, for it did
not appear to be locked, and he turned toward Marguerite.
"I am very sorry, Lady Blakeney," he said in simple, deferential
tones, "that the prison authorities, who at my request are
granting you this interview at such an unusual hour, have made a
slight condition to your visit."
"A condition?" she asked. "What is it?"
"You must forgive me," he said, as if purposely evading her
question, "for I give you my word that I had nothing to do with a
regulation that you might justly feel was derogatory to your
dignity. If you will kindly step in here a wardress in charge
will explain to you what is required."
He pushed open the door, and stood aside ceremoniously in order to
allow her to pass in. She looked on him with deep puzzlement and
a look of dark suspicion in her eyes. But her mind was too much
engrossed with the thought of her meeting with Percy to worry over
any trifle that might--as her enemy had inferred--offend her
She walked into the room, past Chauvelin, who whispered as she
"I will wait for you here. And, I pray you, if you have aught to
complain of summon me at once."
Then he closed the door behind her. The room in which Marguerite
now found herself was a small unventilated quadrangle, dimly
lighted by a hanging lamp. A woman in a soiled cotton gown and
lank grey hair brushed away from a parchment-like forehead rose
from the chair in which she had been sitting when Marguerite
entered, and put away some knitting on which she had apparently
"I was to tell you, citizeness," she said the moment the door had
been closed and she was alone with Marguerite, "that the prison
authorities have given orders that I should search you before you
visit the prisoner."
She repeated this phrase mechanically like a child who has been
taught to say a lesson by heart. She was a stoutish middle-aged
woman, with that pasty, flabby skin peculiar to those who live in
want of fresh air; but her small, dark eyes were not unkindly,
although they shifted restlessly from one object to another as if
she were trying to avoid looking the other woman straight in the
"That you should search me!" reiterated Marguerite slowly, trying
"Yes," replied the woman. "I was to tell you to take off your
clothes, so that I might look them through and through. I have
often had to do this before when visitors have been allowed inside
the prison, so it is no use your trying to deceive me in any way.
I am very sharp at finding out if any one has papers, or files or
ropes concealed in an underpetticoat. Come," she added more
roughly, seeing that Marguerite had remained motionless in the
middle of the room; "the quicker you are about it the sooner you
will be taken to see the prisoner."
These words had their desired effect. The proud Lady Blakeney,
inwardly revolting at the outrage, knew that resistance would be
worse than useless. Chauvelin was the other side of the door. A
call from the woman would bring him to her assistance, and
Marguerite was only longing to hasten the moment when she could be
with her husband.
She took off her kerchief and her gown and calmly submitted to the
woman's rough hands as they wandered with sureness and accuracy to
the various pockets and folds that might conceal prohibited
articles. The woman did her work with peculiar stolidity; she did
not utter a word when she found the tiny steel files and placed
them on a table beside her. In equal silence she laid the little
dagger beside them, and the purse which contained twenty gold
pieces. These she counted in front of Marguerite and then
replaced them in the purse. Her face expressed neither surprise,
nor greed nor pity. She was obviously beyond the reach of bribery--
just a machine paid by the prison authorities to do this unpleasant
work, and no doubt terrorised into doing it conscientiously.
When she had satisfied herself that Marguerite had nothing further
concealed about her person, she allowed her to put her dress on
once more. She even offered to help her on with it. When
Marguerite was fully dressed she opened the door for her.
Chauvelin was standing in the passage waiting patiently. At sight
of Marguerite, whose pale, set face betrayed nothing of the
indignation which she felt, he turned quick, inquiring eyes on the
"Two files, a dagger and a purse with twenty louis," said the
Chauvelin made no comment. He received the information quite
placidly, as if it had no special interest for him. Then he said
"This way, citizeness!"
Marguerite followed him, and two minutes later he stood beside a
heavy nail-studded door that had a small square grating let into
one of the panels, and said simply:
"This is it."
Two soldiers of the National Guard were on sentry at the door, two
more were pacing up and down outside it, arid had halted when
citizen Chauvelin gave his name and showed his tricolour scarf of
office. From behind the small grating in the door a pair of eyes
peered at the newcomers.
"Qui va la?" came the quick challenge from the guard-room within.
"Citizen Chauvelin of the Committee of Public Safety," was the
There was the sound of grounding of arms, of the drawing of bolts
and the turning of a key in a complicated lock. The prison was
kept locked from within, and very heavy bars had to be moved ere
the ponderous door slowly swung open on its hinges.
Two steps led up into the guard-room. Marguerite mounted them
with the same feeling of awe and almost of reverence as she would
have mounted the steps of a sacrificial altar.
The guard-room itself was more brilliantly lighted than the
corridor outside. The sudden glare of two or three lamps placed
about the room caused her momentarily to close her eyes that were
aching with many shed and unshed tears. The air was rank and
heavy with the fumes of tobacco, of wine and stale food. A large
barred window gave on the corridor immediately above the door.
When Marguerite felt strong enough to look around her, she saw
that the room was filled with soldiers. Some were sitting, others
standing, others lay on rugs against the wall, apparently asleep.
There was one who appeared to be in command, for with a word he
checked the noise that was going on in the room when she entered,
and then he said curtly:
"This way, citizeness!"
He turned to an opening in the wall on the left, the stone-lintel
of a door, from which the door itself had been removed; an iron
bar ran across the opening, and this the sergeant now lifted,
nodding to Marguerite to go within.
Instinctively she looked round for Chauvelin.
But he was nowhere to be seen.
THE CAGED LION
Was there some instinct of humanity left in the soldier who
allowed Marguerite through the barrier into the prisoner's cell?
Had the wan face of this beautiful woman stirred within his heart
the last chord of gentleness that was not wholly atrophied by the
constant cruelties, the excesses, the mercilessness which his
service under this fraternising republic constantly demanded of
Perhaps some recollection of former years, when first he served
his King and country, recollection of wife or sister or mother
pleaded within him in favour of this sorely-stricken woman with
the look of unspeakable sorrow in her large blue eyes.
Certain it is that as soon as Marguerite passed the barrier he put
himself on guard against it with his back to the interior of the
cell and to her.
Marguerite had paused on the threshold.
After the glaring light of the guard-room the cell seemed dark,
and at first she could hardly see. The whole length of the long,
narrow cubicle lay to her left, with a slight recess at its
further end, so that from the threshold of the doorway she could
not see into the distant corner. Swift as a lightning flash the
remembrance came back to her of proud Marie Antoinette narrowing
her life to that dark corner where the insolent eyes of the rabble
soldiery could not spy her every movement.
Marguerite stepped further into the room. Gradually by the dim
light of an oil lamp placed upon a table in the recess she began
to distinguish various objects: one or two chairs, another table,
and a small but very comfortable-looking camp bedstead.
Just for a few seconds she only saw these inanimate things, then
she became conscious of Percy's presence.
He sat on a chair, with his left arm half-stretched out upon the
table, his bead hidden in the bend of the elbow.
Marguerite did not utter a cry; she did not even tremble. Just for
one brief instant she closed her eyes, so as to gather up all her
courage before she dared to look again. Then with a steady and
noiseless step she came quite close to him. She knelt on the
flagstones at his feet and raised reverently to her lips the hand
that hung nerveless and limp by his side.
He gave a start; a shiver seemed to go right through him; he half
raised his head and murmured in a hoarse whisper:
"I tell you that I do not know, and if I did--"
She put her arms round him and pillowed her head upon his breast.
He turned his head slowly toward her, and now his eyes--hollowed
and rimmed with purple--looked straight into hers.
"My beloved," he said, "I knew that you would come." His arms
closed round her. There was nothing of lifelessness or of
weariness in the passion of that embrace; and when she looked up
again it seemed to her as if that first vision which she had had
of him with weary head bent, and wan, haggard face was not
reality, only a dream born of her own anxiety for him, for now the
hot, ardent blood coursed just as swiftly as ever through his
veins, as if life--strong, tenacious, pulsating life--throbbed
with unabated vigour in those massive limbs, and behind that
square, clear brow as though the body, but half subdued, had
transferred its vanishing strength to the kind and noble heart
that was beating with the fervour of self-sacrifice.
"Percy," she said gently, "they will only give us a few moments
together. They thought that my tears would break your spirit
where their devilry had failed."
He held her glance with his own, with that close, intent look
which binds soul to soul, and in his deep blue eyes there danced
the restless flames of his own undying mirth:
"La! little woman," he said with enforced lightness, even whilst
his voice quivered with the intensity of passion engendered by her
presence, her nearness, the perfume of her hair, "how little they
know you, eh? Your brave, beautiful, exquisite soul, shining now
through your glorious eyes, would defy the machinations of Satan
himself and his horde. Close your dear eyes, my love. I shall go
mad with joy if I drink their beauty in any longer."
He held her face between his two hands, and indeed it seemed as if
he could not satiate his soul with looking into her eyes. In the
midst of so much sorrow, such misery and such deadly fear, never
had Marguerite felt quite so happy, never had she felt him so
completely her own. The inevitable bodily weakness, which of
necessity had invaded even his splendid physique after a whole
week's privations, had made a severe breach in the invincible
barrier of self-control with which the soul of the inner man was
kept perpetually hidden behind a mask of indifference and of
And yet the agony of seeing the lines of sorrow so plainly writ on
the beautiful face of the woman he worshipped must have been the
keenest that the bold adventurer had ever experienced in the whole
course of his reckless life. It was he--and he alone--who was
making her suffer; her for whose sake he would gladly have shed
every drop of his blood, endured every torment, every misery and
every humiliation; her whom he worshipped only one degree less
than he worshipped his honour and the cause which he had made his
Yet, in spite of that agony, in spite of the heartrending pathos
of her pale wan face, and through the anguish of seeing her tears,
the ruling passion--strong in death--the spirit of adventure, the
mad, wild, devil-may-care irresponsibility was never wholly absent.
"Dear heart," he said with a quaint sigh, whilst he buried his
face in the soft masses of her hair, "until you came I was so d--d
He was laughing, and the old look of boyish love of mischief
illumined his haggard face.
"Is it not lucky, dear heart," he said a moment or two later,
"that those brutes do not leave me unshaved? I could not have
faced you with a week's growth of beard round my chin. By dint of
promises and bribery I have persuaded one of that rabble to come
and shave me every morning. They will not allow me to handle a
razor my-self. They are afraid I should cut my throat--or one of
theirs. But mostly I am too d--d sleepy to think of such a thing."
"Percy!" she exclaimed with tender and passionate reproach.
"I know--I know, dear," he murmured, "what a brute I am! Ah, God
did a cruel thing the day that He threw me in your path. To think
that once--not so very long ago--we were drifting apart, you and
I. You would have suffered less, dear heart, if we had continued
Then as he saw that his bantering tone pained her, he covered her
hands with kisses, entreating her forgiveness.
"Dear heart," he said merrily, "I deserve that you should leave me
to rot in this abominable cage. They haven't got me yet, little
woman, you know; I am not yet dead--only d--d sleepy at times.
But I'll cheat them even now, never fear."
"How, Percy--how?" she moaned, for her heart was aching with
intolerable pain; she knew better than he did the precautions
which were being taken against his escape, and she saw more
clearly than he realised it himself the terrible barrier set up
against that escape by ever encroaching physical weakness.
"Well, dear," he said simply, "to tell you the truth I have not
yet thought of that all-important 'how.' I had to wait, you see,
until you came. I was so sure that you would come! I have
succeeded in putting on paper all my instructions for Ffoulkes and
the others. I will give them to you anon. I knew that you would
come, and that I could give them to you; until then I had but to
think of one thing, and that was of keeping body and soul together.
My chance of seeing you was to let them have their will with me.
Those brutes were sure, sooner or later, to bring you to me, that
you might see the caged fox worn down to imbecility, eh? That you
might add your tears to their persuasion, and succeed where they
He laughed lightly with an unstrained note of gaiety, only
Marguerite's sensitive ears caught the faint tone of bitterness
which rang through the laugh.
"Once I know that the little King of France is safe," he said, "I
can think of how best to rob those d--d murderers of my skin."
Then suddenly his manner changed. He still held her with one arm
closely to, him, but the other now lay across the table, and the
slender, emaciated hand was tightly clutched. He did not look at
her, but straight ahead; the eyes, unnaturally large now, with
their deep purple rims, looked far ahead beyond the stone walls of
this grim, cruel prison.
The passionate lover, hungering for his beloved, had vanished;
there sat the man with a purpose, the man whose firm hand had
snatched men and women and children from death, the reckless
enthusiast who tossed his life against an ideal.
For a while he sat thus, while in his drawn and haggard face she
could trace every line formed by his thoughts--the frown of
anxiety, the resolute setting of the lips, the obstinate look of
will around the firm jaw. Then he turned again to her.
"My beautiful one," he said softly, "the moments are very
precious. God knows I could spend eternity thus with your dear
form nestling against my heart. But those d--d murderers will
only give us half an hour, and I want your help, my beloved, now
that I am a helpless cur caught in their trap. Will you listen
attentively, dear heart, to what I am going to say?
"Yes, Percy, I will listen," she replied.
"And have you the courage to do just what I tell you, dear?"
"I would not have courage to do aught else," she said simply.
"It means going from hence to-day, dear heart, and perhaps not
meeting again. Hush-sh-sh, my beloved," he said, tenderly placing
his thin hand over her mouth, from which a sharp cry of pain had
well-nigh escaped; "your exquisite soul will be with me always.
Try--try not to give way to despair. Why! your love alone, which I
see shining from your dear eyes, is enough to make a man cling to
life with all his might. Tell me! will you do as I ask you?"
And she replied firmly and courageously:
"I will do just what you ask, Percy."
"God bless you for your courage, dear. You will have need of it."
FOR THE SAKE OF THAT HELPLESS INNOCENT
The next instant he was kneeling on the floor and his hands were
wandering over the small, irregular flagstones immediately
underneath the table. Marguerite had risen to her feet; she
watched her husband with intent and puzzled eyes; she saw him
suddenly pass his slender fingers along a crevice between two
flagstones, then raise one of these slightly and from beneath it
extract a small bundle of papers, each carefully folded and
sealed. Then he replaced the stone and once more rose to his
He gave a quick glance toward the doorway. That corner of his
cell, the recess wherein stood the table, was invisible to any one
who had not actually crossed the threshold. Reassured that his
movements could not have been and were not watched, he drew
Marguerite closer to him.
"Dear heart," he whispered, "I want to place these papers in your
care. Look upon them as my last will and testament. I succeeded
in fooling those brutes one day by pretending to be willing to
accede to their will. They gave me pen and ink and paper and wax,
and I was to write out an order to my followers to bring the
Dauphin hither. They left me in peace for one quarter of an hour,
which gave me time to write three letters--one for Armand and the
other two for Ffoulkes, and to hide them under the flooring of my
cell. You see, dear, I knew that you would come and that I could
give them to you then."
He paused, and that, ghost of a smile once more hovered round his
lips. He was thinking of that day when he had fooled Heron and
Chauvelin into the belief that their devilry had succeeded, and
that they had brought the reckless adventurer to his knees. He
smiled at the recollection of their wrath when they knew that they
had been tricked, and after a quarter of an hour s anxious waiting
found a few sheets of paper scribbled over with incoherent words
or satirical verse, and the prisoner having apparently snatched
ten minutes' sleep, which seemingly had restored to him quite a
modicum of his strength.
But of this he told Marguerite nothing, nor of the insults and the
humiliation which he had had to bear in consequence of that trick.
He did not tell her that directly afterwards the order went forth
that the prisoner was to be kept on bread and water in the future,
nor that Chauvelin had stood by laughing and jeering while ...
No! he did not tell her all that; the recollection of it all had
still the power to make him laugh; was it not all a part and
parcel of that great gamble for human lives wherein he had held
the winning cards himself for so long?
"It is your turn now," he had said even then to his bitter enemy.
"Yes!" Chauvelin had replied, "our turn at last. And you will not
bend my fine English gentleman, we'll break you yet, never fear."
It was the thought of it all, of that hand to hand, will to will,
spirit to spirit struggle that lighted up his haggard face even
now, gave him a fresh zest for life, a desire to combat and to
conquer in spite of all, in spite of the odds that had martyred
his body but left the mind, the will, the power still unconquered.
He was pressing one of the papers into her hand, holding her
fingers tightly in his, and compelling her gaze with the ardent
excitement of his own.
"This first letter is for Ffoulkes," he said. "It relates to the
final measures for the safety of the Dauphin. They are my
instructions to those members of the League who are in or near
Paris at the present moment. Ffoulkes, I know, must be with
you--he was not likely, God bless his loyalty, to let you come to
Paris alone. Then give this letter to him, dear heart, at once,
to-night, and tell him that it is my express command that he and
the others shall act in minute accordance with my instructions."
"But the Dauphin surely is safe now," she urged. "Ffoulkes and the
others are here in order to help you."
"To help me, dear heart?" he interposed earnestly. "God alone can
do that now, and such of my poor wits as these devils do not
succeed in crushing out of me within the next ten days."
"I have waited a week, until this hour when I could place this
packet in your hands; another ten days should see the Dauphin out
of France--after that, we shall see."
"Percy," she exclaimed in an agony of horror, "you cannot endure
this another day--and live!"
"Nay!" he said in a tone that was almost insolent in its proud
defiance, "there is but little that a man cannot do an he sets his
mind to it. For the rest, 'tis in God's hands!" he added more
gently. "Dear heart! you swore that you would be brave. The
Dauphin is still in France, and until he is out of it he will not
really be safe; his friends wanted to keep him inside the country.
God only knows what they still hope; had I been free I should not
have allowed him to remain so long; now those good people at
Mantes will yield to my letter and to Ffoulkes' earnest appeal--
they will allow one of our League to convey the child safely out
of France, and I'll wait here until I know that he is safe. If I
tried to get away now, and succeeded--why, Heaven help us! the hue
and cry might turn against the child, and he might be captured
before I could get to him. Dear heart! dear, dear heart! try to
understand. The safety of that child is bound with mine honour,
but I swear to you, my sweet love, that the day on which I feel
that that safety is assured I will save mine own skin--what there
is left of it--if I can!"
"Percy!" she cried with a sudden outburst of passionate revolt,
"you speak as if the safety of that child were of more moment than
your own. Ten days!--but, God in Heaven! have you thought how I
shall live these ten days, whilst slowly, inch by inch, you give
your dear, your precious life for a forlorn cause?
"I am very tough, m'dear," he said lightly; "'tis not a question
of life. I shall only be spending a few more very uncomfortable
days in this d--d hole; but what of that?"
Her eyes spoke the reply; her eyes veiled with tears, that
wandered with heart-breaking anxiety from the hollow circles round
his own to the lines of weariness about the firm lips and jaw. He
laughed at her solicitude.
"I can last out longer than these brutes have any idea of," he
"You cheat yourself, Percy," she rejoined with quiet earnestness.
"Every day that you spend immured between these walls, with that
ceaseless nerve-racking torment of sleeplessness which these
devils have devised for the breaking of your will--every day thus
spent diminishes your power of ultimately saving yourself. You
see, I speak calmly--dispassionately--I do not even urge my claims
upon your life. But what you must weigh in the balance is the
claim of all those for whom in the past you have already staked
your life, whose lives you have purchased by risking your own.
What, in comparison with your noble life, is that of the puny
descendant of a line of decadent kings? Why should it be
sacrificed--ruthlessly, hopelessly sacrificed that a boy might
live who is as nothing to the world, to his country--even to his
She had tried to speak calmly, never raising her voice beyond a
whisper. Her hands still clutched that paper, which seemed to
sear her fingers, the paper which she felt held writ upon its
smooth surface the death-sentence of the man she loved.
But his look did not answer her firm appeal; it was fixed far away
beyond the prison walls, on a lonely country road outside Paris,
with the rain falling in a thin drizzle, and leaden clouds
overhead chasing one another, driven by the gale.
"Poor mite," he murmured softly; "he walked so bravely by my side,
until the little feet grew weary; then he nestled in my arms and
slept until we met Ffoulkes waiting with the cart. He was no King
of France just then, only a helpless innocent whom Heaven aided me
Marguerite bowed her head in silence. There was nothing more that
she could say, no plea that she could urge. Indeed, she had
understood, as he had begged her to understand. She understood
that long ago he had mapped out the course of his life, and now
that that course happened to lead up a Calvary of humiliation and
of suffering he was not likely to turn back, even though, on the
summit, death already was waiting and beckoning with no uncertain
hand; not until he could murmur, in the wake of the great and
divine sacrifice itself, the sublime words:
"It is accomplished."
"But the Dauphin is safe enough now," was all that she said, after
that one moment's silence when her heart, too, had offered up to
God the supreme abnegation of self, and calmly faced a sorrow
which threatened to break it at last.
"Yes!" he rejoined quietly, "safe enough for the moment. But he
would be safer still if he were out of France. I had hoped to take
him one day with me to England. But in this plan damnable Fate
has interfered. His adherents wanted to get him to Vienna, and
their wish had best be fulfilled now. In my instructions to
Ffoulkes I have mapped out a simple way for accomplishing the
journey. Tony will be the one best suited to lead the expedition,
and I want him to make straight for Holland; the Northern
frontiers are not so closely watched as are the Austrian ones.
There is a faithful adherent of the Bourbon cause who lives at
Delft, and who will give the shelter of his name and home to the
fugitive King of France until he can be conveyed to Vienna. He
is named Nauudorff. Once I feel that the child is safe in his
hands I will look after myself, never fear."
He paused, for his strength, which was only factitious, born of
the excitement that Marguerite's presence had called forth, was
threatening to give way. His voice, though he had spoken in a
whisper all along, was very hoarse, and his temples were throbbing
with the sustained effort to speak.
"If those friends had only thought of denying me food instead of
sleep," he murmured involuntarily, "I could have held out until--"
Then with characteristic swiftness his mood changed in a moment.
His arms closed round Marguerite once more with a passion of
"Heaven forgive me for a selfish brute," he said, whilst the ghost
of a smile once more lit up the whole of his face. "Dear soul, I
must have forgotten your sweet presence, thus brooding over my own
troubles, whilst your loving heart has a graver burden--God help
me!--than it can possibly bear. Listen, my beloved, for I don't
know how many minutes longer they intend to give us, and I have
not yet spoken to you about Armand--"
"Armand!" she cried.
A twinge of remorse had gripped her. For fully ten minutes now
she had relegated all thoughts of her brother to a distant cell of
"We have no news of Armand," she said. "Sir Andrew has searched
all the prison registers. Oh! were not my heart atrophied by all
that it has endured this past sennight it would feel a final throb
of agonising pain at every thought of Armand."
A curious look, which even her loving eyes failed to interpret,
passed like a shadow over her husband's face. But the shadow
lifted in a moment, and it was with a reassuring smile that he
said to her:
"Dear heart! Armand is comparatively safe for the moment. Tell
Ffoulkes not to search the prison registers for him, rather to
seek out Mademoiselle Lange. She will know where to find Armand."
"Jeanne Lange!" she exclaimed with a world of bitterness in the
tone of her voice, "the girl whom Armand loved, it seems, with a
passion greater than his loyalty. Oh! Sir Andrew tried to
disguise my brother's folly, but I guessed what he did not choose
to tell me. It was his disobedience, his want of trust, that
brought this unspeakable misery on us all."
"Do not blame him overmuch, dear heart. Armand was in love, and
love excuses every sin committed in its name. Jeanne Lange was
arrested and Armand lost his reason temporarily. The very day on
which I rescued the Dauphin from the Temple I had the good fortune
to drag the little lady out of prison. I had given my promise to
Armand that she should he safe, and I kept my word. But this
Armand did not know--or else--"
He checked himself abruptly, and once more that strange,
enigmatical look crept into his eyes.
"I took Jeanne Lange to a place of comparative safety," he said
after a slight pause, "but since then she has been set entirely
"Yes. Chauvelin himself brought me the news," he replied with a
quick, mirthless laugh, wholly unlike his usual light-hearted
gaiety. "He had to ask me where to find Jeanne, for I alone knew
where she was. As for Armand, they'll not worry about him whilst I
am here. Another reason why I must bide a while longer. But in
the meanwhile, dear, I pray you find Mademoiselle Lange; she lives
at No. 5 Square du Roule. Through her I know that you can get to
see Armand. This second letter," he added, pressing a smaller
packet into her hand, "is for him. Give it to him, dear heart; it
will, I hope, tend to cheer him. I fear me the poor lad frets;
yet he only sinned because he loved, and to me he will always be
your brother--the man who held your affection for all the years
before I came into your life. Give him this letter, dear; they
are my instructions to him, as the others are for Ffoulkes; but
tell him to read them when he is all alone. You will do that, dear
heart, will you not?"
"Yes, Percy," she said simply. "I promise."
Great joy, and the expression of intense relief, lit up his face,
whilst his eyes spoke the gratitude which he felt.
"Then there is one thing more," he said. "There are others in
this cruel city, dear heart, who have trusted me, and whom I must
not fail--Marie de Marmontel and her brother, faithful servants of
the late queen; they were on the eve of arrest when I succeeded in
getting them to a place of comparative safety; and there are
others there, too all of these poor victims have trusted me
implicitly. They are waiting for me there, trusting in my promise
to convey them safely to England. Sweetheart, you must redeem my
promise to them. You will?--you will? Promise me that you will--"
"I promise, Percy," she said once more.
"Then go, dear, to-morrow, in the late afternoon, to No. 98, Rue
de Charonne. It is a narrow house at the extreme end of that long
street which abuts on the fortifications. The lower part of the
house is occupied by a dealer in rags and old clothes. He and his
wife and family are wretchedly poor, but they are kind, good
souls, and for a consideration and a minimum of risk to themselves
they will always render service to the English milors, whom they
believe to be a band of inveterate smugglers. Ffoulkes and all
the others know these people and know the house; Armand by the
same token knows it too. Marie de Marmontel and her brother are
there, and several others; the old Comte de Lezardiere, the Abbe
de Firmont; their names spell suffering, loyalty, and hopelessness.
I was lucky enough to convey them safely to that hidden shelter.
They trust me implicitly, dear heart. They are waiting for me
there, trusting in my promise to them. Dear heart, you will go,
will you not?"
"Yes, Percy," she replied. "I will go; I have promised."
"Ffoulkes has some certificates of safety by him, and the old
clothes dealer will supply the necessary disguises; he has a
covered cart which he uses for his business, and which you can
borrow from him. Ffoulkes will drive the little party to Achard's
farm in St. Germain, where other members of the League should be
in waiting for the final journey to England. Ffoulkes will know
how to arrange for everything; he was always my most able
lieutenant. Once everything is organised he can appoint Hastings
to lead the party. But you, dear heart, must do as you wish.
Achard's farm would be a safe retreat for you and for Ffoulkes:
if ... I know--I know, dear," he added with infinite tenderness.
"See I do not even suggest that you should leave me. Ffoulkes
will be with you, and I know that neither he nor you would go even
if I commanded. Either Achard's farm, or even the house in the
Rue de Charonne, would he quite safe for you, dear, under
Ffoulkes's protection, until the time when I myself can carry you
back--you, my precious burden--to England in mine own arms, or
until ... Hush-sh-sh, dear heart," he entreated, smothering with
a passionate kiss the low moan of pain which had escaped her lips;
"it is all in God's hands now; I am in a tight corner--tighter
than ever I have been before; but I am not dead yet, and those
brutes have not yet paid the full price for my life. Tell me,
dear heart, that you have understood--that you will do all that I
asked. Tell me again, my dear, dear love; it is the very essence
of life to hear your sweet lips murmur this promise now."
And for the third time she reiterated firmly:
"I have understood every word that you said to me, Percy, and I
promise on your precious life to do what you ask."
He sighed a deep sigh of satisfaction, and even at that moment
there came from the guard-room beyond the sound of a harsh voice,
"That half-hour is nearly over, sergeant; 'tis time you
"Three minutes more, citizen," was the curt reply.
"Three minutes, you devils," murmured Blakeney between set teeth,
whilst a sudden light which even Marguerite's keen gaze failed to
interpret leapt into his eyes. Then he pressed the third letter
into her hand.
Once more his close, intent gaze compelled hers; their faces were
close one to the other, so near to him did he draw her, so tightly
did he hold her to him. The paper was in her hand and his fingers
were pressed firmly on hers.
"Put this in your kerchief, my beloved," he whispered. "Let it
rest on your exquisite bosom where I so love to pillow my head.
Keep it there until the last hour when it seems to you that
nothing more can come between me and shame .... Hush-sh-sh,
dear," he added with passionate tenderness, checking the hot
protest that at the word "shame" had sprung to her lips, "I cannot
explain more fully now. I do not know what may happen. I am only
a man, and who knows what subtle devilry those brutes might not
devise for bringing the untamed adventurer to his knees. For the
next ten days the Dauphin will be on the high roads of France, on
his way to safety. Every stage of his journey will be known to
me. I can from between these four walls follow him and his escort
step by step. Well, dear, I am but a man, already brought to
shameful weakness by mere physical discomfort--the want of
sleep--such a trifle after all; but in case my reason tottered--
God knows what I might do--then give this packet to Ffoulkes--it
contains my final instructions--and he will know how to act.
Promise me, dear heart, that you will not open the packet unless--
unless mine own dishonour seems to you imminent--unless I have
yielded to these brutes in this prison, and sent Ffoulkes or one
of the others orders to exchange the Dauphin's life for mine; then,
when mine own handwriting hath proclaimed me a coward, then and then
only, give this packet to Ffoulkes. Promise me that, and also that
when you and he have mastered its contents you will act exactly as
I have commanded. Promise me that, dear, in your own sweet name,
which may God bless, and in that of Ffoulkes, our loyal friend."
Through the sobs that well-nigh choked her she murmured the
promise he desired.
His voice had grown hoarser and more spent with the inevitable
reaction after the long and sustained effort, but the vigour of
the spirit was untouched, the fervour, the enthusiasm.
"Dear heart," he murmured, "do not look on me with those dear,
scared eyes of yours. If there is aught that puzzles you in what
I said, try and trust me a while longer. Remember, I must save the
Dauphin at all costs; mine honour is bound with his safety. What
happens to me after that matters but little, yet I wish to live
for your dear sake."
He drew a long breath which had naught of weariness in it. The
haggard look had completely vanished from his face, the eyes were
lighted up from within, the very soul of reckless daring and
immortal gaiety illumined his whole personality.
"Do not look so sad, little woman," he said with a strange and
sudden recrudescence of power; "those d--d murderers have not got
me yet--even now."
Then he went down like a log.
The effort had been too prolonged--weakened nature reasserted her
rights and he lost consciousness. Marguerite, helpless and almost
distraught with grief, had yet the strength of mind not to call
for assistance. She pillowed the loved one's head upon her
breast, she kissed the dear, tired eyes, the poor throbbing
temples. The unutterable pathos of seeing this man, who was always
the personification of extreme vitality, energy, and boundless
endurance and pluck, lying thus helpless, like a tired child, in
her arms, was perhaps the saddest moment of this day of sorrow.
But in her trust she never wavered for one instant. Much that he
had said had puzzled her; but the word "shame" coming from his own
lips as a comment on himself never caused her the slightest pang
of fear. She had quickly hidden the tiny packet in her kerchief.
She would act point by point exactly as he had ordered her to do,
and she knew that Ffoulkes would never waver either.
Her heart ached well-nigh to breaking point. That which she could
not understand had increased her anguish tenfold. If she could
only have given way to tears she could have borne this final agony
more easily. But the solace of tears was not for her; when those
loved eyes once more opened to consciousness they should see hers
glowing with courage and determination.
There had been silence for a few minutes in the little cell. The
soldiery outside, inured to their hideous duty, thought no doubt
that the time had come for them to interfere. The iron bar was
raised and thrown back with a loud crash, the butt-ends of muskets
were grounded against the floor, and two soldiers made noisy
irruption into the cell.
"Hola, citizen! Wake up," shouted one of the men; "you have not
told us yet what you have done with Capet!"
Marguerite uttered a cry of horror. Instinctively her arms were
interposed between the unconscious man and these inhuman
creatures, with a beautiful gesture of protecting motherhood.
"He has fainted," she said, her voice quivering with indignation.
"My God! are you devils that you have not one spark of manhood in
The men shrugged their shoulders, and both laughed brutally. They
had seen worse sights than these, since they served a Republic
that ruled by bloodshed and by terror. They were own brothers in
callousness and cruelty to those men who on this self-same spot a
few months ago had watched the daily agony of a martyred Queen, or
to those who had rushed into the Abbaye prison on that awful day
in September, and at a word from their infamous leaders had put
eighty defenceless prisoners--men, women, and children--to the
"Tell him to say what he has done with Capet," said one of the
soldiers now, and this rough command was accompanied with a coarse
jest that sent the blood flaring up into Marguerite's pale cheeks.
The brutal laugh, the coarse words which accompanied it, the
insult flung at Marguerite, had penetrated to Blakeney's slowly
returning consciousness. With sudden strength, that appeared
almost supernatural, he jumped to his feet, and before any of the
others could interfere he had with clenched fist struck the
soldier a full blow on the mouth.
The man staggered back with a curse, the other shouted for help;
in a moment the narrow place swarmed with soldiers; Marguerite was
roughly torn away from the prisoner's side, and thrust into the
far corner of the cell, from where she only saw a confused mass of
blue coats and white belts, and--towering for one brief moment
above what seemed to her fevered fancy like a veritable sea of
heads--the pale face of her husband, with wide dilated eyes
searching the gloom for hers.
"Remember!" he shouted, and his voice for that brief moment rang
out clear and sharp above the din.
Then he disappeared behind the wall of glistening bayonets, of
blue coats and uplifted arms; mercifully for her she remembered
nothing more very clearly. She felt herself being dragged out of
the cell, the iron bar being thrust down behind her with a loud
clang. Then in a vague, dreamy state of semi-unconsciousness she
saw the heavy bolts being drawn back from the outer door, heard
the grating of the key in the monumental lock, and the next moment
a breath of fresh air brought the sensation of renewed life into
"I am sorry, Lady Blakeney," said a harsh, dry voice close to
her; "the incident at the end of your visit was none of our
She turned away, sickened with horror at thought of contact with
this wretch. She had heard the heavy oaken door swing to behind
her on its ponderous hinges, and the key once again turn in the
lock. She felt as if she had suddenly been thrust into a coffin,
and that clods of earth were being thrown upon her breast,
oppressing her heart so that she could not breathe.
Had she looked for the last time on the man whom she loved beyond
everything else on earth, whom she worshipped more ardently day by
day? Was she even now carrying within the folds of her kerchief a
message from a dying man to his comrades?
Mechanically she followed Chauvelin down the corridor and along
the passages which she had traversed a brief half-hour ago. From
some distant church tower a clock tolled the hour of ten. It had
then really only been little more than thirty brief minutes since
first she had entered this grim building, which seemed less stony
than the monsters who held authority within it ; to her it seemed
that centuries had gone over her head during that time. She felt
like an old woman, unable to straighten her back or to steady her
limbs; she could only dimly see some few paces ahead the trim
figure of Chauvelin walking with measured steps, his hands held
behind his back, his head thrown up with what looked like
At the door of the cubicle where she had been forced to submit to
the indignity of being searched by a wardress, the latter was now
standing, waiting with characteristic stolidity. In her hand she
held the steel files, the dagger and the purse which, as
Marguerite passed, she held out to her.
"Your property, citizeness," she said placidly.
She emptied the purse into her own hand, and solemnly counted out
the twenty pieces of gold. She was about to replace them all into
the purse, when Marguerite pressed one of them back into her
"Nineteen will be enough, citizeness," she said; "keep one for
yourself, not only for me, but for all the poor women who come
here with their heart full of hope, and go hence with it full of
The woman turned calm, lack-lustre eyes on her, and silently
pocketed the gold piece with a grudgingly muttered word of thanks.
Chauvelin during this brief interlude, had walked thoughtlessly on
ahead. Marguerite, peering down the length of the narrow
corridor, spied his sable-clad figure some hundred metres further
on as it crossed the dim circle of light thrown by one of the
She was about to follow, when it seemed to her as if some one was
moving in the darkness close beside her. The wardress was even
now in the act of closing the door of her cubicle, and there were
a couple of soldiers who were disappearing from view round one end
of the passage, whilst Chauvelin's retreating form was lost in the
gloom at the other.
There was no light close to where she herself was standing, and
the blackness around her was as impenetrable as a veil; the sound
of a human creature moving and breathing close to her in this
intense darkness acted weirdly on her overwrought nerves.
"Qui va la?" she called.
There was a more distinct movement among the shadows this time, as
of a swift tread on the flagstones of the corridor. All else was
silent round, and now she could plainly hear those footsteps
running rapidly down the passage away from her. She strained her
eyes to see more clearly, and anon in one of the dim circles of
light on ahead she spied a man's figure--slender and darkly
clad--walking quickly yet furtively like one pursued. As he
crossed the light the man turned to look back. It was her brother
Her first instinct was to call to him; the second checked that
call upon her lips.
Percy had said that Armand was in no danger; then why should he be
sneaking along the dark corridors of this awful house of Justice
if he was free and safe?
Certainly, even at a distance, her brother's movements suggested
to Marguerite that he was in danger of being seen. He cowered in
the darkness, tried to avoid the circles of light thrown by the
lamps in the passage. At all costs Marguerite felt that she must
warn him that the way he was going now would lead him straight
into Chauvelin's arms, and she longed to let him know that she was
Feeling sure that he would recognise her voice, she made pretence
to turn back to the cubicle through the door of which the wardress
had already disappeared, and called out as loudly as she dared:
But Armand--who surely must have heard--did not pause at the
sound. Rather was he walking on now more rapidly than before. In
less than a minute he would be reaching the spot where Chauvelin
stood waiting for Marguerite. That end of the corridor, however,
received no light from any of the lamps; strive how she might,
Marguerite could see nothing now either of Chauvelin or of Armand.
Blindly, instinctively, she ran forward, thinking only to reach
Armand, and to warn him to turn back before it was too late;
before he found himself face to face with the most bitter enemy he
and his nearest and dearest had ever had. But as she at last came
to a halt at the end of the corridor, panting with the exertion of
running and the fear for Armand, she almost fell up against
Chauvelin, who was standing there alone and imperturbable,
seemingly having waited patiently for her. She could only dimly
distinguish his face, the sharp features and thin cruel mouth, but
she felt--more than she actually saw--his cold steely eyes fixed
with a strange expression of mockery upon her.
But of Armand there was no sign, and she--poor soul!--had
difficulty in not betraying the anxiety which she felt for her
brother. Had the flagstones swallowed him up? A door on the
right was the only one that gave on the corridor at this point; it
led to the concierge's lodge, and thence out into the courtyard.
Had Chauvelin been dreaming, sleeping with his eyes open, whilst
he stood waiting for her, and had Armand succeeded in slipping
past him under cover of the darkness and through that door to
safety that lay beyond these prison walls?
Marguerite, miserably agitated, not knowing what to think, looked
somewhat wild-eyed on Chauvelin; he smiled, that inscrutable,
mirthless smile of his, and said blandly:
"Is there aught else that I can do for you, citizeness? This is
your nearest way out. No doubt Sir Andrew will be waiting to
escort you home."
Then as she--not daring either to reply or to question--walked
straight up to the door, he hurried forward, prepared to open it
for her. But before he did so he turned to her once again: