Part 7 out of 8
necessary orders for the morning's expedition, returned to the
Conciergerie, and found his colleague Chauvelin waiting for him in
"Well?" he asked with febrile impatience--" the prisoner?
"He seems better and stronger," replied Chauvelin. "Not too well,
"No, no, only just well enough."
"You have seen him--since his supper?"
"Only from the doorway. It seems he ate and drank hardly at all,
and the sergeant had some difficulty in keeping him awake until
"Well, now for the letter," concluded Heron with the same marked
feverishness of manner which sat so curiously on his uncouth
personality. "Pen, ink and paper, sergeant!" he commanded.
"On the table, in the prisoner's cell, citizen," replied the
He preceded the two citizens across the guard-room to the doorway,
and raised for them the iron bar, lowering it back after them.
The next moment Heron and Chauvelin were once more face to face
with their prisoner.
Whether by accident or design the lamp had been so placed that as
the two men approached its light fell full upon their faces, while
that of the prisoner remained in shadow. He was leaning forward
with both elbows on the table, his thin, tapering fingers toying
with the pen and ink-horn which had been placed close to his hand.
"I trust that everything has been arranged for your comfort, Sir
Percy?" Chauvelin asked with a sarcastic little smile.
"I thank you, sir," replied Blakeney politely.
"You feel refreshed, I hope?"
"Greatly so, I assure you. But I am still demmed sleepy; and if
you would kindly be brief--"
"You have not changed your mind, sir?" queried Chauvelin, and a
note of anxiety, which he vainly tried to conceal, quivered in his
"No, my good M. Chambertin," replied Blakeney with the same urbane
courtesy, "I have not changed my mind."
A sigh of relief escaped the lips of both the men. The prisoner
certainly had spoken in a clearer and firmer voice; but whatever
renewed strength wine and food had imparted to him he apparently
did not mean to employ in renewed obstinacy. Chauvelin, after a
moment's pause, resumed more calmly:
"You are prepared to direct us to the place where little Capet
"I am prepared to do anything, sir, to get out of this d--d hole."
"Very well. My colleague, citizen Heron, has arranged for an
escort of twenty men picked from the best regiment of the Garde de
Paris to accompany us--yourself, him and me--to wherever you will
direct us. Is that clear?"
"You must not imagine for a moment that we, on the other hand,
guarantee to give you your life and freedom even if this
expedition prove unsuccessful."
"I would not venture on suggesting such a wild proposition, sir,"
said Blakeney placidly.
Chauvelin looked keenly on him. There was something in the tone
of that voice that he did not altogether like--something that
reminded him of an evening at Calais, and yet again of a day at
Boulogne. He could not read the expression in the eyes, so with a
quick gesture he pulled the lamp forward so that its light now
fell full on the face of the prisoner.
"Ah! that is certainly better, is it not, my dear M. Chambertin?"
said Sir Percy, beaming on his adversary with a pleasant smile.
His face, though still of the same ashen hue, looked serene if
hopelessly wearied; the eyes seemed to mock. But this Chauvelin
decided in himself must have been a trick of his own overwrought
fancy. After a brief moment's pause he resumed dryly:
"If, however, the expedition turns out successful in every way--if
little Capet, without much trouble to our escort, falls safe and
sound into our hands--if certain contingencies which I am about to
tell you all fall out as we wish--then, Sir Percy, I see no reason
why the Government of this country should not exercise its
prerogative of mercy towards you after all."
"An exercise, my dear M. Chambertin, which must have wearied
through frequent repetition," retorted Blakeney with the same
"The contingency at present is somewhat remote; when the time
comes we'll talk this matter over.... I will make no promise ...
and, anyhow, we can discuss it later."
"At present we are but wasting our valuable time over so trifling
a matter.... If you'll excuse me, sir ... I am so demmed
"Then you will be glad to have everything settled quickly, I am
Heron was taking no part ill the present conversation. He knew
that his temper was not likely to remain within bounds, and though
he had nothing but contempt for his colleague's courtly manners,
yet vaguely in his stupid, blundering way he grudgingly admitted
that mayhap it was better to allow citizen Chauvelin to deal with
the Englishman. There was always the danger that if his own
violent temper got the better of him, he might even at this
eleventh hour order this insolent prisoner to summary trial and
the guillotine, and thus lose the final chance of the more
He was sprawling on a chair in his usual slouching manner with his
big head sunk between his broad shoulders, his shifty, prominent
eyes wandering restlessly from the face of his colleague to that
of the other man.
But now he gave a grunt of impatience.
"We are wasting time, citizen Chauvelin," he muttered. "I have
still a great deal to see to if we are to start at dawn. Get the
d--d letter written, and--"
The rest of the phrase was lost in an indistinct and surly murmur.
Chauvelin, after a shrug of the shoulders, paid no further heed to
him; he turned, bland and urbane, once more to the prisoner.
"I see with pleasure, Sir Percy," he said, "that we thoroughly
understand one another. Having had a few hours' rest you will, I
know, feel quite ready for the expedition. Will you kindly
indicate to me the direction in which we will have to travel?"
"Northwards all the way."
"Towards the coast?"
"The place to which we must go is about seven leagues from the
"Our first objective then will be Beauvais, Amiens, Abbeville,
Crecy, and so on?"
"As far as the forest of Boulogne, shall we say?"
"Where we shall come off the beaten track, and you will have to
trust to my guidance."
"We might go there now, Sir Percy, and leave you here."
"You might. But you would not then find the child. Seven leagues
is not far from the coast. He might slip through your fingers."
"And my colleague Heron, being disappointed, would inevitably send
you to the guillotine."
"Quite so," rejoined the prisoner placidly. "Methought, sir, that
we. had decided that I should lead this little expedition?
Surely," he added, "it is not so much the Dauphin whom you want as
my share in this betrayal."
"You are right as usual, Sir Percy. Therefore let us take that as
settled. We go as far as Crecy, and thence place ourselves
entirely in your hands."
"The journey should not take more than three days, sir."
"During which you will travel in a coach in the company of my
"I could have chosen pleasanter company, sir; still, it will
"This being settled, Sir Percy. I understand that you desire to
communicate with one of your followers."
"Some one must let the others know ... those who have the Dauphin
in their charge."
"Quite so. Therefore I pray you write to one of your friends that
you have decided to deliver the Dauphin into our hands in exchange
for your own safety."
"You said just now that this you would not guarantee," interposed
"If all turns out well," retorted Chauvelin with a show of
contempt, "and if you will write the exact letter which I shall
dictate, we might even give you that guarantee."
"The quality of your mercy, sir, passes belief."
"Then I pray you write. Which of your followers will have the
honour of the communication?"
"My brother-in-law, Armand St. Just; he is still in Paris, I
believe. He can let the others know."
Chauvelin made no immediate reply. He 'paused awhile, hesitating.
Would Sir Percy Blakeney be ready--if his own safety demanded
it--to sacrifice the man who had betrayed him? In the momentous
"either--or" that was to be put to him, by-and-by, would he choose
his own life and leave Armand St. Just to perish? It was not for
Chauvelin--or any man of his stamp--to judge of what Blakeney
would do under such circumstances, and had it been a question of
St. Just alone, mayhap Chauvelin would have hesitated still more
at the present juncture.
But the friend as hostage was only destined to be a minor leverage
for the final breaking-up of the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel
through the disgrace of its chief. There was the wife--Marguerite
Blakeney--sister of St. Just, joint and far more important hostage,
whose very close affection for her brother might prove an additional
trump card in that handful which Chauvelin already held.
Blakeney paid no heed seemingly to the other's hesitation. He did
not even look up at him, but quietly drew pen and paper towards
him, and made ready to write.
"What do you wish me to say?" he asked simply.
"Will that young blackguard answer your purpose, citizen
Chauvelin?" queried Heron roughly.
Obviously the same doubt had crossed his mind. Chauvelin quickly
"Better than any one else," he said firmly. "Will you write at my
dictation, Sir Percy?
"I am waiting to do so, my dear sir."
"Begin your letter as you wish, then; now continue."
And he began to dictate slowly, watching every word as it left
"'I cannot stand my present position any longer. Citizen Heron,
and also M. Chauvelin--, Yes, Sir Percy, Chauvelin, not Chambertin
... C, H, A, U, V, E, L, I, N.... That is quite right--' have
made this prison a perfect hell for me.'"
Sir Percy looked up from his writing, smiling.
"You wrong yourself, my dear M. Chambertin!" he said; "I have
really been most comfortable."
"I wish to place the matter before your friends in as indulgent a
manner as I can," retorted Chauvelin dryly.
"I thank you, sir. Pray proceed."
"... a perfect hell for me,'" resumed the other. "Have you that?
... 'and I have been forced to give way. To-morrow we start from
here at dawn; and I will guide citizen Heron to the place where he
can find the Dauphin. But the authorities demand that one of my
followers, one who has once been a member of the League of the
Scarlet Pimpernel, shall accompany me on this expedition. I
therefore ask you'--or 'desire you' or 'beg you'--whichever you
prefer, Sir Percy ..."
"'Ask you' will do quite nicely. This is really very interesting,
"... 'to be prepared to join the expedition. We start at dawn,
and you would be required to be at the main gate of the house of
Justice at six o'clock precisely. I have an assurance from the
authorities that your life should be in-violate, but if you refuse
to accompany me, the guillotine will await me on the morrow.'"
"'The guillotine will await me on the morrow.' That sounds quite
cheerful, does it not, M. Chambertin?" said the prisoner, who had
not evinced the slightest surprise at the wording of the letter
whilst he wrote at the other's dictation. "Do you know, I quite
enjoyed writing this letter; it so reminded me of happy days in
Chauvelin pressed his lips together. Truly now he felt that a
retort from him would have been undignified, more especially as
just at this moment there came from the guard room the sound of
mn's voices talking and laughing, the occasional clang of steel,
or of a heavy boot against the tiled floor, the rattling of dice,
or a sudden burst of laughter--sounds, in fact, that betokened the
presence of a number of soldiers close by.
Chauvelin contented himself with a nod in the direction of the
"The conditions are somewhat different now," he said placidly,
"from those that reigned in Boulogne. But will you not sign your
letter, Sir Percy?"
"With pleasure, sir," responded Blakeney, as with an elaborate
flourish of the pen he appended his name to the missive.
Chauvelin was watching him with eyes that would have shamed a lynx
by their keenness. He took up the completed letter, read it
through very carefully, as if to find some hidden meaning behind
the very words which he himself had dictated; he studied the
signature, and looked vainly for a mark or a sign that might
convey a different sense to that which he had intended. Finally,
finding none, he folded the letter up with his own hand, and at
once slipped it in the pocket of his coat.
"Take care, M. Chambertin," said Blakeney lightly; "it will burn a
hole in that elegant vest of yours."
"It will have no time to do that, Sir Percy," retorted Chauvelin
blandly; "an you will furnish me with citizen St. Just's present
address, I will myself convey the letter to him at once."
"At this hour of the night? Poor old Armand, he'll be abed. But
his address, sir, is No. 32, Rue de la Croix Blanche, on the first
floor, the door on your right as you mount the stairs; you know
the room well, citizen Chauvelin; you have been in it before. And
now," he added with a loud and ostentatious yawn, "shall we all to
bed? We start at dawn, you said, and I am so d--d fatigued."
Frankly, he did not look it now. Chauvelin himself, despite his
matured plans, despite all the precautions that be meant to take
for the success of this gigantic scheme, felt a sudden strange
sense of fear creeping into his bones. Half an hour ago he had
seen a man in what looked like the last stage of utter physical
exhaustion, a hunched up figure, listless and limp, hands that
twitched nervously, the face as of a dying man. Now those outward
symptoms were still there certainly; the face by the light of the
lamp still looked livid, the lips bloodless, the hands emaciated
and waxen, but the eyes!--they were still hollow, with heavy lids
still purple, but in their depths there was a curious, mysterious
light, a look that seemed to see something that was hidden to
Citizen Chauvelin thought that Heron, too, must be conscious of
this, but the Committee's agent was sprawling on a chair, sucking
a short-stemmed pipe, and gazing with entire animal satisfaction
on the prisoner.
"The most perfect piece of work we have ever accomplished, you and
I, citizen Chauvelin," he said complacently.
"You think that everything is quite satisfactory?" asked the other
with anxious stress on his words.
"Everything, of course. Now you see to the letter. I will give
final orders for to-morrow, but I shall sleep in the guard-room."
"And I on that inviting bed," interposed the prisoner lightly, as
he rose to his feet. "Your servant, citizens!"
He bowed his head slightly, and stood by the table whilst the two
men prepared to go. Chauvelin took a final long look at the man
whom he firmly believed he had at last brought down to abject
Blakeney was standing erect, watching the two retreating figures--
one slender hand was on the table. Chauvelin saw that it was
leaning rather heavily, as if for support, and that even whilst a
final mocking laugh sped him and his colleague on their way, the
tall figure of the conquered lion swayed like a stalwart oak that
is forced to bend to the mighty fury of an all-compelling wind.
With a sigh of content Chauvelin took his colleague by the arm,
and together the two men walked out of the cell.
Two hours after midnight Armand St. Just was wakened from sleep by
a peremptory pull at his hell. In these days in Paris but one
meaning could as a rule be attached to such a summons at this hour
of the night, and Armand, though possessed of an unconditional
certificate of safety, sat up in bed, quite convinced that for
some reason which would presently be explained to him he had once
more been placed on the list of the "suspect," and that his trial
and condemnation on a trumped-up charge would follow in due course.
Truth to tell, he felt no fear at the prospect, and only a very
little sorrow. The sorrow was not for himself; he regretted
neither life nor happiness. Life had become hateful to him since
happiness had fled with it on the dark wings of dishonour; sorrow
such as he felt was only for Jeanne! She was very young, and
would weep bitter tears. She would be unhappy, because she truly
loved him, and because this would be the first cup of bitterness
which life was holding out to her. But she was very young, and
sorrow would not be eternal. It was better so. He, Armand St.
Just, though he loved her with an intensity of passion that had
been magnified and strengthened by his own overwhelming shame, had
never really brought his beloved one single moment of unalloyed
From the very first day when he sat beside her in the tiny boudoir
of the Square du Roule, and the heavy foot fall of Heron and his
bloodhounds broke in on their first kiss, down to this hour which
he believed struck his own death-knell, his love for her had
brought more tears to her dear eyes than smiles to her exquisite
Her he had loved so dearly, that for her sweet sake he had
sacrificed honour, friendship and truth; to free her, as he
believed, from the hands of impious brutes he had done a deed that
cried Cain-like for vengeance to the very throne of God. For her
he had sinned, and because of that sin, even before it was
committed, their love had been blighted, and happiness had never
Now it was all over. He would pass out of her life, up the steps
of the scaffold, tasting as he mounted them the most entire
happiness that he had known since that awful day when he became a
The peremptory summons, once more repeated, roused him from his
meditations. He lit a candle, and without troubling to slip any
of his clothes on, he crossed the narrow ante-chamber, and opened
the door that gave on the landing.
"In the name of the people!"
He had expected to hear not only those words, but also the
grounding of arms and the brief command to halt. He had expected
to see before him the white facings of the uniform of the Garde de
Paris, and to feel himself roughly pushed back into his lodging
preparatory to the search being made of all his effects and the
placing of irons on his wrists.
Instead of this, it was a quiet, dry voice that said without undue
"In the name of the people!"
And instead of the uniforms, the bayonets and the scarlet caps
with tricolour cockades, he was confronted by a slight, sable-clad
figure, whose face, lit by the flickering light of the tallow
candle, looked strangely pale and earnest.
"Citizen Chauvelin!" gasped Armand, more surprised than frightened
at this unexpected apparition.
"Himself, citizen, at your service," replied Chauvelin with his
quiet, ironical manner. "I am the bearer of a letter for you from
Sir Percy Blakeney. Have I your permission to enter?"
Mechanically Armand stood aside, allowing the other man to pass
in. He closed the door behind his nocturnal visitor, then, taper
in hand, he preceded him into the inner room.
It was the same one in which a fortnight ago a fighting lion had
been brought to his knees. Now it lay wrapped in gloom, the
feeble light of the candle only lighting Armand's face and the
white frill of his shirt. The young man put the taper down on the
table and turned to his visitor.
"Shall I light the lamp?" he asked.
"Quite unnecessary," replied Chauvelin curtly. "I have only a
letter to deliver, and after that to ask you one brief question."
From the pocket of his coat he drew the letter which Blakeney had
written an hour ago.
"The prisoner wrote this in my presence," he said as he handed the
letter over to Armand. "Will you read it?"
Armand took it from him, and sat down close to the table; leaning
forward he held the paper near the light, and began to read. He
read the letter through very slowly to the end, then once again
from the beginning. He was trying to do that which Chauvelin had
wished to do an hour ago; he was trying to find the inner meaning
which he felt must inevitably lie behind these words which Percy
had written with his own hand.
That these bare words were but a blind to deceive the enemy Armand
never doubted for a moment. In this he was as loyal as Marguerite
would have been herself. Never for a moment did the suspicion
cross his mind that Blakeney was about to play the part of a
coward, but he, Armand, felt that as a faithful friend and follower
he ought by instinct to know exactly what his chief intended, what
he meant him to do.
Swiftly his thoughts flew back to that other letter, the one which
Marguerite had given him--the letter full of pity and of friendship
which had brought him hope and a joy and peace which he had thought
at one time that he would never know again. And suddenly one sentence
in that letter stood out so clearly before his eyes that it blurred
the actual, tangible ones on the paper which even now rustled in his hand.
But if at any time you receive another letter from me--be its
contents what they may--act in accordance with the letter, but
send a copy of it at once to Ffoulkes or to Marguerite.
Now everything seemed at once quite clear; his duty, his next
actions, every word that he would speak to Chauvelin. Those that
Percy had written to him were already indelibly graven on his
Chauvelin had waited with his usual patience, silent and
imperturbable, while the young man read. Now when he saw that
Armand had finished, he said quietly:
"Just one question, citizen, and I need not detain you longer.
But first will you kindly give me back that letter? It is a
precious document which will for ever remain in the archives of
But even while he spoke Armand, with one of those quick intuitions
that come in moments of acute crisis, had done just that which he
felt Blakeney would wish him to do. He had held the letter close
to the candle. A corner of the thin crisp paper immediately
caught fire, and before Chauvelin could utter a word of anger, or
make a movement to prevent the conflagration, the flames had
licked up fully one half of the letter, and Armand had only just
time to throw the remainder on the floor and to stamp out the
blaze with his foot.
"I am sorry, citizen," he said calmly; "an accident."
"A useless act of devotion," interposed Chauvelin, who already had
smothered the oath that had risen to his lips. The Scarlet
Pimpernel's actions in the present matter will not lose their
merited publicity through the foolish destruction of this document."
"I had no thought, citizen," retorted the young man, "of
commenting on the actions of my chief, or of trying to deny them
that publicity which you seem to desire for them almost as much as
"More, citizen, a great deal more! The impeccable Scarlet
Pimpernel, the noble and gallant English gentleman, has agreed to
deliver into our hands the uncrowned King of France--in exchange
for his own life and freedom. Methinks that even his worst enemy
would not wish for a better ending to a career of adventure, and a
reputation for bravery unequalled in Europe. But no more of this,
time is pressing, I must help citizen Heron with his final
preparations for his journey. You, of course, citizen St. Just,
will act in accordance with Sir Percy Blakeney's wishes?"
"Of course," replied Armand.
"You will present yourself at the main entrance of the house of
Justice at six o'clock this morning."
"I will not fail you."
"A coach will be provided for you. You will follow the expedition
as hostage for the good faith of your chief."
"I quite understand."
"H'm! That's brave! You have no fear, citizen St. Just?"
"Fear of what, sir?
"You will be a hostage in our hands, citizen; your life a
guarantee that your chief has no thought of playing us false. Now
I was thinking of--of certain events--which led to the arrest of
Sir Percy Blakeney."
"Of my treachery, you mean," rejoined the young man calmly, even
though his face had suddenly become pale as death. "Of the
damnable lie wherewith you cheated me into selling my honour, and
made me what I am--a creature scarce fit to walk upon this earth."
"Oh!" protested Chauvelin blandly.
"The damnable lie," continued Armand more vehemently, "that hath
made me one with Cain and the Iscariot. When you goaded me into
the hellish act, Jeanne Lange was already free."
"Free--but not safe."
"A lie, man! A lie! For which you are thrice accursed. Great
God, is it not you that should have cause for fear? Methinks were
I to strangle you now I should suffer less of remorse."
"And would be rendering your ex-chief but a sorry service,"
interposed Chauvelin with quiet irony. "Sir Percy Blakeney is a
dying man, citizen St. Just; he'll be a dead man at dawn if I do
not put in an appearance by six o'clock this morning. This is a
private understanding between citizen Heron and myself. We agreed
to it before I came to see you."
"Oh, you take care of your own miserable skin well enough! But
you need not be afraid of me--I take my orders from my chief, and
he has not ordered me to kill you."
"That was kind of him. Then we may count on you? You are not
"Afraid that the Scarlet Pimpernel would leave me in the lurch
because of the immeasurable wrong I have done to him?" retorted
Armand, proud and defiant in the name of his chief. "No, sir, I
am not afraid of that; I have spent the last fortnight in praying
to God that my life might yet be given for his."
"H'm! I think it most unlikely that your prayers will be granted,
citizen; prayers, I imagine, so very seldom are; but I don't know,
I never pray myself. In your case, now, I should say that you
have not the slightest chance of the Deity interfering in so
pleasant a manner. Even were Sir Percy Blakeney prepared to wreak
personal revenge on you, he would scarcely be so foolish as to
risk the other life which we shall also hold as hostage for his
"The other life?"
"Yes. Your sister, Lady Blakeney, will also join the expedition
to-morrow. This Sir Percy does not yet know; but it will come as
a pleasant surprise for him. At the slightest suspicion of false
play on Sir Percy's part, at his slightest attempt at escape, your
life and that of your sister are forfeit; you will both be
summarily shot before his eyes. I do not think that I need be more
precise, eh, citizen St. Just?"
The young man was quivering with passion. A terrible loathing for
himself, for his crime which had been the precursor of this
terrible situation, filled his soul to the verge of sheer physical
nausea. A red film gathered before his eyes, and through it he
saw the grinning face of the inhuman monster who had planned this
hideous, abominable thing. It seemed to him as if in the silence
and the hush of the night, above the feeble, flickering flame that
threw weird shadows around, a group of devils were surrounding
him, and were shouting, "Kill him! Kill him now! Rid the earth
of this hellish brute!"
No doubt if Chauvelin had exhibited the slightest sign of fear, if
he had moved an inch towards the door, Armand, blind with passion,
driven to madness by agonising remorse more even than by rage,
would have sprung at his enemy's throat and crushed the life out
of him as he would out of a venomous beast. But the man's calm,
his immobility, recalled St. Just to himself. Reason, that had
almost yielded to passion again, found strength to drive the enemy
back this time, to whisper a warning, an admonition, even a
reminder. Enough harm, God knows, had been done by tempestuous
passion already. And God alone knew what terrible consequences
its triumph now might bring in its trial, and striking on Armand's
buzzing ears Chauvelin's words came back as a triumphant and
"He'll be a dead man at dawn if I do not put in an appearance by
The red film lifted, the candle flickered low, the devils
vanished, only the pale face of the Terrorist gazed with gentle
irony out of the gloom.
"I think that I need not detain you any longer, citizen, St.
Just," he said quietly; "you can get three or four hours' rest yet
before you need make a start, and I still have a great many things
to see to. I wish you good-night, citizen."
"Good-night," murmured Armand mechanically.
He took the candle and escorted his visitor back to the door. He
waited on the landing, taper in hand, while Chauvelin descended
the narrow, winding stairs.
There was a light in the concierge's lodge. No doubt the woman
had struck it when the nocturnal visitor had first demanded
admittance. His name and tricolour scarf of office had ensured
him the full measure of her attention, and now she was evidently
sitting up waiting to let him out.
St. Just, satisfied that Chauvelin had finally gone, now turned
back to his own rooms.
GOD HELP US ALL
He carefully locked the outer door. Then he lit the lamp, for the
candle gave but a flickering light, and he had some important work
Firstly, he picked up the charred fragment of the letter, and
smoothed it out carefully and reverently as he would a relic.
Tears had gathered in his eyes, but he was not ashamed of them,
for no one saw them; but they eased his heart, and helped to
strengthen his resolve. It was a mere fragment that had been
spared by the flame, but Armand knew every word of the letter by
He had pen, ink and paper ready to his band, and from memory wrote
out a copy of it. To this he added a covering letter from himself
This--which I had from Percy through the hands of Chauvelin--I
neither question nor understand.... He wrote the letter, and I
have no thought but to obey. In his previous letter to me he
enjoined me, if ever he wrote to me again, to obey him implicitly,
and to communicate with you. To both these commands do I submit
with a glad heart. But of this must I give you warning, little
mother--Chauvelin desires you also to accompany us to-morrow....
Percy does not know this yet, else he would never start. But
those fiends fear that his readiness is a blind ... and that he
has some plan in his head for his own escape and the continued
safety of the Dauphin.... This plan they hope to frustrate
through holding you and me as hostages for his good faith. God
only knows how gladly I would give my life for my chief ... but
your life, dear little mother ... is sacred above all.... I think
that I do right in warning you. God help us all.
Having written the letter, he sealed it, together with the copy of
Percy's letter which he had made. Then he took up the candle and
There was no longer any light in the concierge's lodge, and Armand
had some difficulty in making himself heard. At last the woman
came to the door. She was tired and cross after two interruptions
of her night's rest, but she had a partiality for her young
lodger, whose pleasant ways and easy liberality had been like a
pale ray of sunshine through the squalor of every-day misery.
"It is a letter, citoyenne," said Armand, with earnest entreaty,
"for my sister. She lives in the Rue de Charonne, near the
fortifications, and must have it within an hour; it is a matter of
life and death to her, to me, and to another who is very dear to
The concierge threw up her hands in horror.
"Rue de Charonne, near the fortifications," she exclaimed, "and
within an hour! By the Holy Virgin, citizen, that is impossible.
Who will take it? There is no way."
"A way must be found, citoyenne," said Armand firmly, "and at
once; it is not far, and there are five golden louis waiting for
Five golden louis! The poor, hardworking woman's eyes gleamed at
the thought. Five louis meant food for at least two months if one
was careful, and--
"Give me the letter, citizen," she said, "time to slip on a warm
petticoat and a shawl, and I'll go myself. It's not fit for the
boy to go at this hour."
"You will bring me back a line from my sister in reply to this,"
said Armand, whom circumstances had at last rendered cautious.
"Bring it up to my rooms that I may give you the five louis in
He waited while the woman slipped back into her room. She heard
him speaking to her boy; the same lad who a fortnight ago had
taken the treacherous letter which had lured Blakeney to the house
into the fatal ambuscade that had been prepared for him.
Everything reminded Armand of that awful night, every hour that he
had since spent in the house had been racking torture to him. Now
at last he was to leave it, and on an errand which might help to
ease the load of remorse from his heart.
The woman was soon ready. Armand gave her final directions as to
how to find the house ; then she took the letter and promised to
be very quick, and to bring back a reply from the lady.
Armand accompanied her to the door. The night was dark, a thin
drizzle was falling; he stood and watched until the woman's
rapidly walking figure was lost in the misty gloom.
Then with a heavy sigh he once more went within.
WHEN HOPE WAS DEAD
In a small upstairs room in the Rue de Charonne, above the shop of
Lucas the old-clothes dealer, Marguerite sat with Sir Andrew
Ffoulkes. Armand's letter, with its message and its warning, lay
open on the table between them, and she had in her hand the sealed
packet which Percy had given her just ten days ago, and which she
was only to open if all hope seemed to be dead, if nothing
appeared to stand any longer between that one dear life and
A small lamp placed on the table threw a feeble yellow light on
the squalid, ill-furnished room, for it lacked still an hour or so
before dawn. Armand's concierge had brought her lodger's letter,
and Marguerite had quickly despatched a brief reply to him, a
reply that held love and also encouragement.
Then she had summoned Sir Andrew. He never had a thought of
leaving her during these days of dire trouble, and he had lodged
all this while in a tiny room on the top-most floor of this house
in the Rue de Charonne.
At her call he had come down very quickly, and now they sat
together at the table, with the oil-lamp illumining their pale,
anxious faces; she the wife and he the friend holding a
consultation together in this most miserable hour that preceded
the cold wintry dawn.
Outside a thin, persistent rain mixed with snow pattered against
the small window panes, and an icy wind found out all the crevices
in the worm-eaten woodwork that would afford it ingress to the
room. But neither Marguerite nor Ffoulkes was conscious of the
cold. They had wrapped their cloaks round their shoulders, and
did not feel the chill currents of air that caused the lamp to
flicker and to smoke.
"I can see now," said Marguerite in that calm voice which comes so
naturally in moments of infinite despair--"I can see now exactly
what Percy meant when he made me promise not to open this packet
until it seemed to me--to me and to you, Sir Andrew--that he was
about to play the part of a coward. A coward! Great God!" She
checked the sob that had risen to her throat, and continued in the
same calm manner and quiet, even voice:
"You do think with me, do you not, that the time has come, and
that we must open this packet?"
"Without a doubt, Lady Blakeney," replied Ffoulkes with equal
earnestness. "I would stake my life that already a fortnight ago
Blakeney had that same plan in his mind which he has now matured.
Escape from that awful Conciergerie prison with all the
precautions so carefully taken against it was impossible. I knew
that alas! from the first. But in the open all might yet be
different. I'll not believe it that a man like Blakeney is
destined to perish at the hands of those curs."
She looked on her loyal friend with tear-dimmed eyes through which
shone boundless gratitude and heart-broken sorrow.
He had spoken of a fortnight! It was ten days since she had seen
Percy. It had then seemed as if death had already marked him with
its grim sign. Since then she had tried to shut away from her
mind the terrible visions which her anguish constantly conjured up
before her of his growing weakness, of the gradual impairing of
that brilliant intellect, the gradual exhaustion of that mighty
"God bless you, Sir Andrew, for your enthusiasm and for your
trust," she said with a sad little smile; "but for you I should
long ago have lost all courage, and these last ten days--what a
cycle of misery they represent--would have been maddening but for
your help and your loyalty. God knows I would have courage for
everything in life, for everything save one, but just that, his
death; that would be beyond my strength--neither reason nor body
could stand it. Therefore, I am so afraid, Sir Andrew," she added
"Of what, Lady Blakeney?"
"That when he knows that I too am to go as hostage, as Armand says
in his letter, that my life is to be guarantee his, I am afraid
that he will draw back--that he will--my God!" she cried with
sudden fervour, "tell me what to do!"
"Shall we open the packet?" asked Ffoulkes gently, "and then just
make up our minds to act exactly as Blakeney has enjoined us to
do, neither more nor less, but just word for word, deed for deed,
and I believe that that will be right--whatever may betide--in the
Once more his quiet strength, his earnestness and his faith
comforted her. She dried her eyes and broke open the seal. There
were two separate letters in the packet, one unaddressed,
obviously intended for her and Ffoulkes, the other was addressed
to M. le baron Jean de Batz, 15, Rue St. Jean de Latran a Paris.
"A letter addressed to that awful Baron de Batz," said Marguerite,
looking with puzzled eyes on the paper as she turned it over and
over in her hand, "to that bombastic windbag! I know him and his
ways well! What can Percy have to say to him?"
Sir Andrew too looked puzzled. But neither of them had the mind
to waste time in useless speculations. Marguerite unfolded the
letter which was intended for her, and after a final look on her
friend, whose kind face was quivering with excitement, she began
slowly to read aloud:
I need not ask either of you two to trust me, knowing that you
will. But I could not die inside this hole like a rat in a
trap--I had to try and free myself, at the worst to die in the
open beneath God's sky. You two will understand, and
understanding you will trust me to the end. Send the enclosed
letter at once to its address. And you, Ffoulkes, my most sincere
and most loyal friend, I beg with all my soul to see to the safety
of Marguerite. Armand will stay by me--but you, Ffoulkes, do not
leave her, stand by her. As soon as you read this letter--and you
will not read it until both she and you have felt that hope has
fled and I myself am about to throw up the sponge--try and
persuade her to make for the coast as quickly as may be.... At
Calais you can open up communications with the Day-Dream in the
usual way, and embark on her at once. Let no member of the League
remain on French soil one hour longer after that. Then tell the
skipper to make for Le Portal--the place which he knows--and there
to keep a sharp outlook for another three nights. After that make
straight for home, for it will he no use waiting any longer. I
shall not come. These measures are for Marguerite's safety, and
for you all who are in France at this moment. Comrade, I entreat
you to look on these measures as on my dying wish. To de Batz I
have given rendezvous at the Chapelle of the Holy Sepulchre, just
outside the park of the Chateau d'Ourde. He will help me to save
the Dauphin, and if by good luck he also helps me to save myself I
shall be within seven leagues of Le Portal, and with the Liane
frozen as she is I could reach the coast.
But Marguerite's safety I leave in your hands, Ffoulkes. Would
that I could look more clearly into the future, and know that
those devils will not drag her into danger. Beg her to start at
once for Calais immediately you have both read this. I only beg,
I do not command. I know that you, Ffoulkes, will stand by her
whatever she may wish to do. God's blessing be for ever on you
Marguerite's voice died away in the silence that still lay over
this deserted part of the great city and in this squalid house
where she and Sir Andrew Ffoulkes had found shelter these last ten
days. The agony of mind which they had here endured, never
doubting, but scarcely ever hoping, had found its culmination at
last in this final message, which almost seemed to come to them
from the grave.
It had been written ten days ago. A plan had then apparently
formed in Percy's mind which he had set forth during the brief
half-hour's respite which those fiends had once given him. Since
then they had never given him ten consecutive minutes' peace;
since then ten days had gone by how much power, how much vitality
had gone by too on the leaden wings of all those terrible hours
spent in solitude and in misery?
"We can but hope, Lady Blakeney," said Sir Andrew Ffoulkes after a
while, "that you will be allowed out of Paris; but from what
"And Percy does not actually send me away," she rejoined with a
pathetic little smile.
"No. He cannot compel you, Lady Blakeney. You are not a member
of the League."
"Oh, yes, I am!" she retorted firmly; "and I have sworn obedience,
just as all of you have done. I will go, just as he bids me. and
you, Sir Andrew, you will obey him too?"
"My orders are to stand by you. That is an easy task."
"You know where this place is?" she asked--"the Chateau d'Ourde?"
"Oh, yes, we all know it! It is empty, and the park is a wreck;
the owner fled from it at the very outbreak of the revolution; he
left some kind of steward nominally in charge, a curious creature,
half imbecile; the chateau and the chapel in the forest just
outside the grounds have oft served Blakeney and all of us as a
place of refuge on our way to the coast."
"But the Dauphin is not there?" she said.
"No. According to the first letter which you brought me from
Blakeney ten days ago, and on which I acted, Tony, who has charge
of the Dauphin, must have crossed into Holland with his little
"I understand," she said simply. "But then--this letter to de
"Ah, there I am completely at sea! But I'll deliver it, and at
once too, only I don't like to leave you. Will you let me get you
out of Paris first? I think just before dawn it could be done.
We can get the cart from Lucas, and if we could reach St. Germain
before noon, I could come straight back then and deliver the
letter to de Batz. This, I feel, I ought to do myself; hut at
Achard's farm I would know that you were safe for a few hours."
"I will do whatever you think right, Sir Andrew," she said simply;
"my will is bound up with Percy's dying wish. God knows I would
rather follow him now, step by step,--as hostage, as prisoner--any
way so long as I can see him, but--"
She rose and turned to go, almost impassive now in that great calm
born of despair.
A stranger seeing her now had thought her indifferent. She was
very pale, and deep circles round her eyes told of sleepless
nights and days of mental misery, but otherwise there was not the
faintest outward symptom of that terrible anguish which was
rending her heartstrings. Her lips did not quiver, and the source
of her tears had been dried up ten days ago.
"Ten minutes and I'll be ready, Sir Andrew," she said. "I have
but few belongings. Will you the while see Lucas about the cart?"
He did as she desired. Her calm in no way deceived him; he knew
that she must be suffering keenly, and would suffer more keenly
still while she would be trying to efface her own personal
feelings all through that coming dreary journey to Calais.
He went to see the landlord about the horse and cart, and a
quarter of an hour later Marguerite came downstairs ready to
start. She found Sir Andrew in close converse with an officer of
the Garde de Paris, whilst two soldiers of the same regiment were
standing at the horse's head.
When she appeared in the doorway Sir Andrew came at once up to her.
"It is just as I feared, Lady Blakeney," he said; "this man has
been sent here to take charge of you. Of course, he knows nothing
beyond the fact that his orders are to convey you at once to the
guard-house of the Rue Ste. Anne, where he is to hand you over to
citizen Chauvelin of the Committee of Public Safety."
Sir Andrew could not fail to see the look of intense relief which,
in the midst of all her sorrow, seemed suddenly to have lighted up
the whole of Marguerite's wan face. The thought of wending her own
way to safety whilst Percy, mayhap, was fighting an uneven fight
with death had been well-nigh intolerable; but she had been ready
to okey without a murmur. Now Fate and the enemy himself had
decided otherwise. She felt as if a load had been lifted from her
"I will at once go and find de Batz," Sir Andrew contrived to
whisper hurriedly. "As soon as Percy's letter is safely in his
hands I will make my way northwards and communicate with all the
members of the League, on whom the chief has so strictly enjoined
to quit French soil immediately. We will proceed to Calais first
and open up communication with the Day-Dream in the usual way.
The others had best embark on board her, and the skipper shall
then make for the known spot of Le Portel, of which Percy speaks
in his letter. I myself will go by land to Le Portel, and thence,
if I have no news of you or of the expedition, I will slowly work
southwards in the direction of the Chateau d'Ourde. That is all
that I can do. If you can contrive to let Percy or even Armand
know my movements, do so by all means. I know that I shall be
doing right, for, in a way, I shall be watching over you and
arranging for your safety, as Blakeney begged me to do. God bless
you, Lady Blakeney, and God save the Scarlet Pimpernel!"
He stooped and kissed her hand, and she intimated to the officer
that she was ready. He had a hackney coach waiting for her lower
down the street. To it she walked with a firm step, and as she
entered it she waved a last farewell to Sir Andrew Ffoulkes.
THE GUARD-HOUSE OF THE RUE STE. ANNE
The little cortege was turning out of the great gates of the house
of Justice. It was intensely cold; a bitter north-easterly gale
was blowing from across the heights of Montmartre, driving sleet
and snow and half-frozen rain into the faces of the men, and
finding its way up their sleeves, down their collars and round the
knees of their threadbare breeches.
Armand, whose fingers were numb with the cold, could scarcely feel
the reins in his hands. Chauvelin was riding dose beside him, but
the two men had not exchanged one word since the moment when the
small troop of some twenty mounted soldiers had filed up inside
the courtyard, and Chauvelin, with a curt word of command, had
ordered one of the troopers to take Armand's horse on the lead.
A hackney coach brought up the rear of the cortege, with a man
riding at either door and two more following at a distance of
twenty paces. Heron's gaunt, ugly face, crowned with a battered,
sugar-loaf hat, appeared from time to time at the window of the
coach. He was no horseman, and, moreover, preferred to keep the
prisoner closely under his own eye. The corporal had told Armand
that the prisoner was with citizen Heron inside the coach--in
irons. Beyond that the soldiers could tell him nothing; they knew
nothing of the object of this expedition. Vaguely they might have
wondered in their dull minds why this particular prisoner was thus
being escorted out of the Conciergerie prison with so much
paraphernalia and such an air of mystery, when there were
thousands of prisoners in the city and the provinces at the
present moment who anon would be bundled up wholesale into carts
to be dragged to the guillotine like a flock of sheep to the
But even if they wondered they made no remarks among themselves.
Their faces, blue with the cold, were the perfect mirrors of their
own unconquerable stolidity.
The tower clock of Notre Dame struck seven when the small
cavalcade finally moved slowly out of the monumental gates. In
the east the wan light of a February morning slowly struggled out
of the surrounding gloom. Now the towers of many churches loomed
ghostlike against the dull grey sky, and down below, on the right,
the frozen river, like a smooth sheet of steel, wound its graceful
curves round the islands and past the facade of the Louvres
palace, whose walls looked grim and silent, like the mausoleum of
the dead giants of the past.
All around the great city gave signs of awakening; the business of
the day renewed its course every twenty-four hours, despite the
tragedies of death and of dishonour that walked with it hand in
hand. From the Place de La Revolution the intermittent roll of
drums came from time to time with its muffled sound striking the
ear of the passer-by. Along the quay opposite an open-air camp was
already astir; men, women, and children engaged in the great task
of clothing and feeding the people of France, armed against
tyranny, were bending to their task, even before the wintry dawn
had spread its pale grey tints over the narrower streets of the
Armand shivered under his cloak. This silent ride beneath the
laden sky, through the veil of half-frozen rain and snow, seemed
like a dream to him. And now, as the outriders of the little
cavalcade turned to cross the Pont au Change, he saw spread out on
his left what appeared like the living panorama of these three
weeks that had just gone by. He could see the house of the Rue
St. Germain l'Auxerrois where Percy had lodged before he carried
through the rescue of the little Dauphin. Armand could even see
the window at which the dreamer had stood, weaving noble dreams
that his brilliant daring had turned into realities, until the
hand of a traitor had brought him down to--to what? Armand would
not have dared at this moment to look back at that hideous, vulgar
hackney coach wherein that proud, reckless adventurer, who had
defied Fate and mocked Death, sat, in chains, beside a loathsome
creature whose very propinquity was an outrage.
Now they were passing under the very house on the Quai de La
Ferraille, above the saddler's shop, the house where Marguerite
had lodged ten days ago, whither Armand had come, trying to fool
himself into the belief that the love of "little mother" could be
deceived into blindness against his own crime. He had tried to
draw a veil before those eyes which he had scarcely dared
encounter, but he knew that that veil must lift one day, and then
a curse would send him forth, outlawed and homeless, a wanderer on
the face of the earth.
Soon as the little cortege wended its way northwards it filed out
beneath the walls of the Temple prison; there was the main gate
with its sentry standing at attention, there the archway with the
guichet of the concierge, and beyond it the paved courtyard.
Armand closed his eyes deliberately; he could not bear to look.
No wonder that he shivered and tried to draw his cloak closer
around him. Every stone, every street corner was full of
memories. The chill that struck to the very marrow of his bones
came from no outward cause; it was the very hand of remorse that,
as it passed over him, froze the blood in his veins and made the
rattle of those wheels behind him sound like a hellish knell.
At last the more closely populated quarters of the city were left
behind. On ahead the first section of the guard had turned into
the Rue St. Anne. The houses became more sparse, intersected by
narrow pieces of terrains vagues, or small weed-covered bits of
Then a halt was called.
It was quite light now. As light as it would ever be beneath this
leaden sky. Rain and snow still fell in gusts, driven by the
Some one ordered Armand to dismount. It was probably Chauvelin.
He did as he was told, and a trooper led him to the door of an
irregular brick building that stood isolated on the right,
extended on either side by a low wall, and surrounded by a patch
of uncultivated land, which now looked like a sea of mud.
On ahead was the line of fortifications dimly outlined against the
grey of the sky, and in between brown, sodden earth, with here and
there a detached house, a cabbage patch, a couple of windmills
deserted and desolate.
The loneliness of an unpopulated outlying quarter of the great
mother city, a useless limb of her active body, an ostracised
member of her vast family.
Mechanically Armand had followed the soldier to the door of the
building. Here Chauvelin was standing, and bade him follow. A
smell of hot coffee hung in the dark narrow passage in front.
Chauvelin led the way to a room on the left.
Still that smell of hot coffee. Ever after it was associated in
Armand's mind with this awful morning in the guard-house of the
Rue Ste. Anne, when the rain and snow beat against the windows,
and he stood there in the low guard-room shivering and half-numbed
There was a table in the middle of the room, and on it stood cups
of hot coffee. Chauvelin bade him drink, suggesting, not
unkindly, that the warm beverage would do him good. Armand
advanced further into the room, and saw that there were wooden
benches all round against the wall. On one of these sat his
When she saw him she made a sudden, instinctive movement to go to
him, but Chauvelin interposed in his usual bland, quiet manner.
"Not just now, citizeness," he said.
She sat down again, and Armand noted how cold and stony seemed her
eyes, as if life within her was at a stand-still, and a shadow
that was almost like death had atrophied every emotion in her.
"I trust you have not suffered too much from the cold, Lady
Blakeney," resumed Chauvelin politely; "we ought not to have kept
you waiting here for so long, but delay at departure is sometimes
She made no reply, only acknowledging his reiterated inquiry as to
her comfort with an inclination of the head.
Armand had forced himself to swallow some coffee, and for the
moment he felt less chilled. He held the cup between his two
hands, and gradually some warmth crept into his bones.
"Little mother," he said in English, "try and drink some of this,
it will do you good."
"Thank you, dear," she replied. "I have had some. I am not
Then a door at the end of the room was pushed open, and Heron
"Are we going to be all day in this confounded hole?" he queried
Armand, who was watching his sister very closely, saw that she
started at the sight of the wretch, and seemed immediately to
shrink still further within herself, whilst her eyes, suddenly
luminous and dilated, rested on him like those of a captive bird
upon an approaching cobra.
But Chauvelin was not to be shaken out of his suave manner.
"One moment, citizen Heron," he said; "this coffee is very
comforting. Is the prisoner with you?" he added lightly.
Heron nodded in the direction of the other room.
"In there," he said curtly.
"Then, perhaps, if you will be so good, citizen, to invite him
thither, I could explain to him his future position and our own."
Heron muttered something between his fleshy lips, then he turned
back towards the open door, solemnly spat twice on the threshold,
and nodded his gaunt head once or twice in a manner which
apparently was understood from within.
"No, sergeant, I don't want you," he said gruffly; "only the
A second or two later Sir Percy Blakeney stood in the doorway; his
hands were behind his back, obviously hand-cuffed, but he held
himself very erect, though it was clear that this caused him a
mighty effort. As soon as he had crossed the threshold his quick
glance had swept right round the room.
He saw Armand, and his eyes lit up almost imperceptibly.
Then he caught sight of Marguerite, and his pale face took on
suddenly a more ashen hue.
Chauvelin was watching him with those keen, light-coloured eyes of
his. Blakeney, conscious of this, made no movement, only his lips
tightened, and the heavy lids fell over the hollow eyes,
completely hiding their glance.
But what even the most astute, most deadly enemy could not see was
that subtle message of understanding that passed at once between
Marguerite and the man she loved; it was a magnetic current,
intangible, invisible to all save to her and to him. She was
prepared to see him, prepared to see in him all that she had
feared; the weakness, the mental exhaustion, the submission to the
inevitable. Therefore she had also schooled her glance to express
to him all that she knew she would not be allowed to say--the
reassurance that she had read his last letter, that she had obeyed
it to the last word, save where Fate and her enemy had interfered
with regard to herself.
With a slight, imperceptible movement--imperceptible to every one
save to him, she had seemed to handle a piece of paper in her
kerchief, then she had nodded slowly, with her eyes--steadfast,
reassuring--fixed upon him, and his glance gave answer that he had
But Chauvelin and Heron had seen nothing of this. They were
satisfied that there had been no communication between the
prisoner and his wife and friend.
"You are no doubt surprised, Sir Percy," said Chauvelin after a
while, "to see Lady Blakeney here. She, as well as citizen St.
Just, will accompany our expedition to the place where you will
lead us. We none of us know where that place is--citizen Heron
and myself are entirely in your hands--you might be leading us to
certain death, or again to a spot where your own escape would be
an easy matter to yourself. You will not be surprised, therefore,
that we have thought fit to take certain precautions both against
any little ambuscade which you may have prepared for us, or
against your making one of those daring attempts at escape for
which the noted Scarlet Pimpernel is so justly famous."
He paused, and only Heron's low chuckle of satisfaction broke the
momentary silence that followed. Blakeney made no reply.
Obviously he knew exactly what was coming. He knew Chauvelin and
his ways, knew the kind of tortuous conception that would find
origin in his brain; the moment that he saw Marguerite sitting
there he must have guessed that Chauvelin once more desired to put
her precious life in the balance of his intrigues.
"Citizen Heron is impatient, Sir Percy," resumed Chauvelin after a
while, "so I must be brief. Lady Blakeney, as well as citizen St.
Just, will accompany us on this expedition to whithersoever you
may lead us. They will be the hostages which we will hold against
your own good faith. At the slightest suspicion--a mere suspicion
perhaps--that you have played us false, at a hint that you have
led us into an ambush, or that the whole of this expedition has
been but a trick on your part to effect your own escape, or if
merely our hope of finding Capet at the end of our journey is
frustrated, the lives of our two hostages belong to us, and your
friend and your wife will be summarily shot before your eyes."
Outside the rain pattered against the window-panes, the gale
whistled mournfully among the stunted trees, but within this room
not a sound stirred the deadly stillness of the air, and yet at
this moment hatred and love, savage lust and sublime
self-abnegation--the most power full passions the heart of man can
know--held three men here enchained; each a slave to his dominant
passion, each ready to stake his all for the satisfaction of his
master. Heron was the first to speak.
"Well!" he said with a fierce oath, "what are we waiting for? The
prisoner knows how he stands. Now we can go."
"One moment, citizen," interposed Chauvelin, his quiet manner
contrasting strangely with his colleague's savage mood. "You have
quite understood, Sir Percy," he continued, directly addressing
the prisoner, "the conditions under which we are all of us about
to proceed on this journey?"
"All of us?" said Blakeney slowly. "Are you taking it for granted
then that I accept your conditions and that I am prepared to
proceed on the journey?"
"If you do not proceed on the journey," cried Heron with savage
fury, "I'll strangle that woman with my own hands--now!"
Blakeney looked at him for a moment or two through half-closed
lids, and it seemed then to those who knew him well, to those who
loved him and to the man who hated him, that the mighty sinews
almost cracked with the passionate desire to kill. Then the
sunken eyes turned slowly to Marguerite, and she alone caught the
look--it was a mere flash, of a humble appeal for pardon.
It was all over in a second; almost immediately the tension on the
pale face relaxed, and into the eyes there came that look of
acceptance--nearly akin to fatalism--an acceptance of which the
strong alone are capable, for with them it only comes in the face
of the inevitable.
Now he shrugged his broad shoulders, and once more turning to
Heron he said quietly:
"You leave me no option in that case. As you have remarked
before, citizen Heron, why should we wait any longer? Surely we
can now go."
THE DREARY JOURNEY
Rain! Rain! Rain! Incessant, monotonous and dreary! The wind
had changed round to the southwest. It blew now in great gusts
that sent weird, sighing sounds through the trees, and drove the
heavy showers into the faces of the men as they rode on, with
heads bent forward against the gale.
The rain-sodden bridles slipped through their hands, bringing out
sores and blisters on their palms; the horses were fidgety,
tossing their heads with wearying persistence as the wet trickled
into their ears, or the sharp, intermittent hailstones struck
their sensitive noses.
Three days of this awful monotony, varied only by the halts at
wayside inns, the changing of troops at one of the guard-houses on
the way, the reiterated commands given to the fresh squad before
starting on the next lap of this strange, momentous way; and all
the while, audible above the clatter of horses' hoofs, the
rumbling of coach-wheels--two closed carriages, each drawn by a
pair of sturdy horses; which were changed at every halt. A soldier
on each box urged them to a good pace to keep up with the
troopers, who were allowed to go at an easy canter or light
jog-trot, whatever might prove easiest and least fatiguing. And
from time to time Heron's shaggy, gaunt head would appear at the
window of one of the coaches, asking the way, the distance to the
next city or to the nearest wayside inn; cursing the troopers, the
coachman, his colleague and every one concerned, blaspheming
against the interminable length of the road, against the cold and
against the wet.
Early in the evening on the second day of the journey he had met
with an accident. The prisoner, who presumably was weak and
weary, and not over steady on his feet, had fallen up against him
as they were both about to re-enter the coach after a halt just
outside Amiens, and citizen Heron had lost his footing in the
slippery mud of the road. head came in violent contact with the
step, and his right temple was severely cut. Since then he had
been forced to wear a bandage across the top of his face, under
his sugar-loaf hat, which had added nothing to his beauty, but a
great deal to the violence of his temper. He wanted to push the
men on, to force the pace, to shorten the halts; but Chauvelin
knew better than to allow slackness and discontent to follow in
the wake of over-fatigue.
The soldiers were always well rested and well fed, and though the
delay caused by long and frequent halts must have been just as
irksome to him as it was to Heron, yet he bore it imperturbably,
for he would have had no use on this momentous journey for a
handful of men whose enthusiasm and spirit had been blown away by
the roughness of the gale, or drowned in the fury of the constant
downpour of rain.
Of all this Marguerite had been conscious in a vague, dreamy kind
of way. She seemed to herself like the spectator in a moving
panoramic drama, unable to raise a finger or to do aught to stop
that final, inevitable ending, the cataclysm of sorrow and misery
that awaited her, when the dreary curtain would fall on the last
act, and she and all the other spectators--Armand, Chauvelin,
Heron, the Soldiers--would slowly wend their way home, leaving the
principal actor behind the fallen curtain, which never would be
After that first halt in the guard-room of the Rue Ste. Anne she
had been bidden to enter a second hackney coach, which, followed
the other at a distance of fifty metres or so, and was, like that
other, closely surrounded by a squad of mounted men.
Armand and Chauvelin rode in this carriage with her; all day she
sat looking out on the endless monotony of the road, on the drops
of rain that pattered against the window-glass, and ran down from
it like a perpetual stream of tears.
There were two halts called during the day--one for dinner and one
midway through the afternoon--when she and Armand would step out
of the coach and be led--always with soldiers close around
them--to some wayside inn, where some sort of a meal was served,
where the atmosphere was close and stuffy and smelt of onion soup
and of stale cheese.
Armand and Marguerite would in most cases have a room to
themselves, with sentinels posted outside the door, and they would
try and eat enough to keep body and soul together, for they would
not allow their strength to fall away before the end of the
journey was reached.
For the night halt--once at Beauvais and the second night at
Abbeville--they were escorted to a house in the interior of the
city, where they were accommodated with moderately clean lodgings.
Sentinels, however, were always at their doors; they were
prisoners in all but name, and had little or no privacy; for at
night they were both so tired that they were glad to retire
immediately, and to lie down on the hard beds that had been
provided for them, even if sleep fled from their eyes, and their
hearts and souls were flying through the city in search of him who
filled their every thought.
Of Percy they saw little or nothing. In the daytime food was
evidently brought to him in the carriage, for they did not see him
get down, and on those two nights at Beauvais and Abbeville, when
they caught sight of him stepping out of the coach outside the
gates of the barracks, he was so surrounded by soldiers that they
only saw the top of his head and his broad shoulders towering
above those of the men.
Once Marguerite had put all her pride, all her dignity by, and
asked citizen Chauvelin for news of her husband.
"He is well and cheerful, Lady Blakeney," he had replied with his
sarcastic smile. "Ah!" he added pleasantly, "those English are
remarkable people. We, of Gallic breed, will never really
understand them. Their fatalism is quite Oriental in its quiet
resignation to the decree of Fate. Did you know, Lady Blakeney,
that when Sir Percy was arrested he did not raise a hand. I
thought, and so did my colleague, that he would have fought like a
lion. And now, that he has no doubt realised that quiet submission
will serve him best in the end, he is as calm on this journey as I
am myself. In fact," he concluded complacently, "whenever I have
succeeded in peeping into the coach I have invariably found Sir
Percy Blakeney fast asleep."
He--" she murmured, for it was so difficult to speak to this
callous wretch, who was obviously mocking her in her misery--
"he--you--you are not keeping him in irons?"
"No! Oh no!" replied Chauvelin with perfect urbanity. "You see,
now that we have you, Lady Blakeney, and citizen St. Just with us
we have no reason to fear that that elusive Pimpernel will spirit
A hot retort had risen to Armand's lips. The warm Latin blood in
him rebelled against this intolerable situation, the man's sneers
in the face of Marguerite's anguish. But her restraining, gentle
hand had already pressed his. What was the use of protesting, of
insulting this brute, who cared nothing for the misery which he
had caused so long as he gained his own ends?
And Armand held his tongue and tried to curb his temper, tried to
cultivate a little of that fatalism which Chauvelin had said was
characteristic of the English. He sat beside his sister, longing
to comfort her, yet feeling that his very presence near her was an
outrage and a sacrilege. She spoke so seldom to him, even when
they were alone, that at times the awful thought which had more
than once found birth in his weary brain became crystallised and
more real. Did Marguerite guess? Had she the slightest suspicion
that the awful cataclysm to which they were tending with every
revolution of the creaking coach-wheels had been brought about by
her brother's treacherous hand?
And when that thought had lodged itself quite snugly in his mind
he began to wonder whether it would not be far more simple, far
more easy, to end his miserable life in some manner that might
suggest itself on the way. When the coach crossed one of those
dilapidated, parapetless bridges, over abysses fifty metres deep,
it might be so easy to throw open the carriage door and to take
one final jump into eternity.
So easy--but so damnably cowardly.
Marguerite's near presence quickly brought him back to himself.
His life was no longer his own to do with as he pleased; it
belonged to the chief whom he had betrayed, to the sister whom he
must endeavour to protect.
Of Jeanne now he thought but little. He had put even the memory
of her by--tenderly, like a sprig of lavender pressed between the
faded leaves of his own happiness. His hand was no longer fit to
hold that of any pure woman--his hand had on it a deep stain,
immutable, like the brand of Cain.
Yet Marguerite beside him held his hand and together they looked
out on that dreary, dreary road and listened to of the patter of
the rain and the rumbling of the wheels of that other coach on
ahead--and it was all so dismal and so horrible, the rain, the
soughing of the wind in the stunted trees, this landscape of mud
and desolation, this eternally grey sky.
THE HALT AT CRECY
"Now, then, citizen, don't go to sleep; this is Crecy, our last
Armand woke up from his last dream. They had been moving steadily
on since they left Abbeville soon after dawn; the rumble of the
wheels, the swaying and rocking of the carriage, the interminable
patter of the rain had lulled him into a kind of wakeful sleep.
Chauvelin had already alighted from the coach. He was helping
Marguerite to descend. Armand shook the stiffness from his limbs
and followed in the wake of his sister. Always those miserable
soldiers round them, with their dank coats of rough blue cloth,
and the red caps on their heads! Armand pulled Marguerite's hand
through his arm, and dragged her with him into the house.
The small city lay damp and grey before them; the rough pavement
of the narrow street glistened with the wet, reflecting the dull,
leaden sky overhead; the rain beat into the puddles; the
slate-roofs shone in the cold wintry light.
This was Crecy! The last halt of the journey, so Chauvelin had
said. The party had drawn rein in front of a small one-storied
building that had a wooden verandah running the whole length of
The usual low narrow room greeted Armand and Marguerite as they
entered; the usual mildewed walls, with the colour wash flowing
away in streaks from the unsympathetic beam above; the same
device, "Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite!" scribbled in charcoal
above the black iron stove; the usual musty, close atmosphere, the
usual smell of onion and stale cheese, the usual hard straight
benches and central table with its soiled and tattered cloth.
Marguerite seemed dazed and giddy; she had been five hours in that
stuffy coach with nothing to distract her thoughts except the
rain-sodden landscape, on which she had ceaselessly gazed since
the early dawn.
Armand led her to the bench, and she sank down on it, numb and
inert, resting her elbows on the table and her head in her hands.
"If it were only all over!" she sighed involuntarily. Armand, at
times now I feel as if I were not really sane--as if my reason had
already given way! Tell me, do I seem mad to you at times?"
He sat down beside her and tried to chafe her little cold hands.
There was a knock at the door, and without waiting for permission
Chauvelin entered the room.
"My humble apologies to you, Lady Blakeney," he said in his usual
suave manner, "but our worthy host informs me that this is the
only room in which he can serve a meal. Therefore I am forced to
intrude my presence upon you."
Though he spoke with outward politeness, his tone had become more
peremptory, less bland, and he did not await Marguerite's reply
before he sat down opposite to her and continued to talk airily.
"An ill-conditioned fellow, our host," he said--"quite reminds me
of our friend Brogard at the Chat Gris in Calais. You remember
him, Lady Blakeney?"
"My sister is giddy and over-tired," interposed Armand firmly. "I
pray you, citizen, to have some regard for her."
"All regard in the world, citizen St. Just," protested Chauvelin
jovially. "Methought that those pleasant reminiscences would
cheer her. Ah! here comes the soup," he added, as a man in blue
blouse and breeches, with sabots on his feet, slouched into the
room, carrying a tureen which he incontinently placed upon the
table. "I feel sure that in England Lady Blakeney misses our
excellent croutes-au-pot, the glory of our bourgeois cookery--Lady
Blakeney, a little soup?"
"I thank you, sir," she murmured.
"Do try and eat something, little mother," Armand whispered in her
ear; "try and keep up your strength for his sake, if not for
She turned a wan, pale face to him, and tried to smile.
"I'll try, dear," she said.
"You have taken bread and meat to the citizens in the coach?"
Chauvelin called out to the retreating figure of mine host.
"H'm!" grunted the latter in assent.
"And see that the citizen soldiers are well fed, or there will be
"H'm!" grunted the man again. After which he banged the door to
"Citizen Heron is loath to let the prisoner out of his sight,"
explained Chauvelin lightly, "now that we have reached the last,
most important stage of our journey, so he is sharing Sir Percy's
mid-day meal in the interior of the coach."
He ate his soup with a relish, ostentatiously paying many small
attentions to Marguerite all the time. He ordered meat for
her--bread, butter--asked if any dainties could be got. He was
apparently in the best of tempers.
After he had eaten and drunk he rose and bowed ceremoniously to
"Your pardon, Lady Blakeney," he said, "but I must confer with the
prisoner now, and take from him full directions for the
continuance of our journey. After that I go to the guard-house,
which is some distance from here, right at the other end of the
city. We pick up a fresh squad here, twenty hardened troopers
from a cavalry regiment usually stationed at Abbeville. They have
had work to do in this town, which is a hot-bed of treachery. I
must go inspect the men and the sergeant who will be in command.
Citizen Heron leaves all these inspections to me; he likes to stay
by his prisoner. In the meanwhile you will be escorted back to
your coach, where I pray you to await my arrival, when we change
guard first, then proceed on our way."
Marguerite was longing to ask him many questions; once again she
would have smothered her pride and begged for news of her husband,
but Chauvelin did not wait. He hurried out of the room, and
Armand and Marguerite could hear him ordering the soldiers to take
them forthwith back to the coach.
As they came out of the inn they saw the other coach some fifty
metres further up the street. The horses that had done duty since
leaving Abbeville had been taken out, and two soldiers in ragged
shirts, and with crimson caps set jauntily over their left ear,
were leading the two fresh horses along. The troopers were still
mounting guard round both the coaches; they would be relieved
Marguerite would have given ten years of her life at this moment
for the privilege of speaking to her husband, or even of seeing
him--of seeing that he was well. A quick, wild plan sprang up in
her mind that she would bribe the sergeant in command to grant her
wish while citizen Chauvelin was absent. The man had not an
unkind face, and he must be very poor--people in France were very
poor these days, though the rich had been robbed and luxurious
homes devastated ostensibly to help the poor.
She was about to put this sudden thought into execution when
Heron's hideous face, doubly hideous now with that bandage of
doubtful cleanliness cutting across his brow, appeared at the
He cursed violently and at the top of his voice.
"What are those d--d aristos doing out there?" he shouted.
"Just getting into the coach, citizen," replied the sergeant
And Armand and Marguerite were immediately ordered back into the
Heron remained at the window for a few moments longer; he bad a
toothpick in his hand which he was using very freely.
"How much longer are we going to wait in this cursed hole?" he
called out to the sergeant.
"Only a few moments longer, citizen. Citizen Chauvelin will be
back soon with the guard."
A quarter of an hour later the clatter of cavalry horses on the
rough, uneven pavement drew Marguerite's attention. She lowered
the carriage window and looked out. Chauvelin had just returned
with the new escort. He was on horseback; his horse's bridle,
since he was but an indifferent horseman, was held by one of the
Outside the inn he dismounted; evidently he had taken full command
of the expedition, and scarcely referred to Heron, who spent most
of his time cursing at the men or the weather when he was not
lying half-asleep and partially drunk in the inside of the
The changing of the guard was now accomplished quietly and in
perfect order. The new escort consisted of twenty mounted men,
including a sergeant and a corporal, and of two drivers, one for
each coach. The cortege now was filed up in marching order; ahead
a small party of scouts, then the coach with Marguerite and Armand
closely surrounded by mounted men, and at a short distance the
second coach with citizen Heron and the prisoner equally well
Chauvelin superintended all the arrangements himself. He spoke for
some few moments with the sergeant, also with the driver of his
own coach. He went to the window of the other carriage, probably
in order to consult with citizen Heron, or to take final
directions from the prisoner, for Marguerite, who was watching
him, saw him standing on the step and leaning well forward into
the interior, whilst apparently he was taking notes on a small
tablet which he had in his hand.
A small knot of idlers had congregated in the narrow street; men
in blouses and boys in ragged breeches lounged against the
verandah of the inn and gazed with inexpressive, stolid eyes on
the soldiers, the coaches, the citizen who wore the tricolour
scarf. They had seen this sort of thing before now--aristos being
conveyed to Paris under arrest, prisoners on their way to or from
Amiens. They saw Marguerite's pale face at the carriage window.
It was not the first woman's face they had seen under like
circumstances, and there was no special interest about this
aristo. They were smoking or spitting, or just lounging idly
against the balustrade. Marguerite wondered if none of them had
wife, sister, or mother, or child; if every sympathy, every kind
of feeling in these poor wretches had been atrophied by misery or
At last everything was in order and the small party ready to
"Does any one here know the Chapel of the Holy Sepulchre, close by
the park of the Chateau d'Ourde?" asked Chauvelin, vaguely
addressing the knot of gaffers that stood closest to him.
The men shook their heads. Some had dimly heard of the Chateau
d'Ourde; it was some way in the interior of the forest of
Boulogne, but no one knew about a chapel; people did not trouble
about chapels nowadays. With the indifference so peculiar to
local peasantry, these men knew no more of the surrounding country
than the twelve or fifteen league circle that was within a walk of
their sleepy little town.
One of the scouts on ahead turned in his saddle and spoke to
"I think I know the way pretty well; citizen Chauvelin," he said;
"at any rate, I know it as far as the forest of Boulogne."
Chauvelin referred to his tablets.
"That's good," he said; "then when you reach the mile-stone that
stands on this road at the confine of the forest, bear sharply to
your right and skirt the wood until you see the hamlet of--Le--
something. Le--Le--yes--Le Crocq--that's it in the valley below."
"I know Le Crocq, I think," said the trooper.
"Very well, then; at that point it seems that a wide road strikes
at right angles into the interior of the forest; you follow that
until a stone chapel with a colonnaded porch stands before you on
your left, and the walls and gates of a park on your right. That
is so, is it not, Sir Percy?" he added, once more turning towards
the interior of the coach.
Apparently the answer satisfied him, for he gave the quick word of
command, "En avant!" then turned back towards his own coach and
finally entered it.
"Do you know the Chateau d'Ourde, citizen St. Just?" he asked
abruptly as soon as the carriage began to move.
Armand woke--as was habitual with him these days--from some gloomy
"Yes, citizen," he replied. "I know it."
"And the Chapel of the Holy Sepulchre?"
"Yes. I know it too."
Indeed, he knew the chateau well, and the little chapel in the
forest, whither the fisher-folk from Portel and Boulogne came on a
pilgrimage once a year to lay their nets on the miracle-working
relic. The chapel was disused now. Since the owner of the
chateau had fled no one had tended it, and the fisher-folk were
afraid to wander out, lest their superstitious faith be counted
against them by the authorities, who had abolished le bon Dieu.
But Armand had found refuge there eighteen months ago, on his way
to Calais, when Percy had risked his life in order to save
hi--Armand--from death. He could have groaned aloud with the
anguish of this recollection. But Marguerite's aching nerves had
thrilled at the name.
The Chateau d'Ourde! The Chapel of the Holy Sepulchre! That was
the place which Percy had mentioned in his letter, the place where
he had given rendezvous to de Batz. Sir Andrew had said that the
Dauphin could not possibly be there, yet Percy was leading his
enemies thither, and had given the rendezvous there to de Batz.
And this despite that whatever plans, whatever hopes, had been
born in his mind when he was still immured in the Conciergerie
prison must have been set at naught by the clever counter plot of
Chauvelin and Heron.
"At the merest suspicion that you have played us false, at a hint
that you have led us into an ambush, or if merely our hopes of
finding Capet at the end of the journey are frustrated, the lives
of your wife and of your friend are forfeit to us, and they will
both be shot before your eyes."
With these words, with this precaution, those cunning fiends had
effectually not only tied the schemer's hands, but forced him
either to deliver the child to them or to sacrifice his wife and
The impasse was so horrible that she could not face it even in her
thoughts. A strange, fever-like heat coursed through her veins,
yet left her hands icy-cold; she longed for, yet dreaded, the end
of the journey--that awful grappling with the certainty of coming
death. Perhaps, after all, Percy, too, had given up all hope.
Long ago he had consecrated his life to the attainment of his own
ideals; and there was a vein of fatalism in him; perhaps he had
resigned himself to the inevitable, and his only desire now was to
give up his life, as he had said, in the open, beneath God's sky,
to draw his last breath with the storm-clouds tossed through
infinity above him, and the murmur of the wind in the trees to
sing him to rest.
Crecy was gradually fading into the distance, wrapped in a mantle
of damp and mist. For a long while Marguerite could see the sloping
slate roofs glimmering like steel in the grey afternoon light, and
the quaint church tower with its beautiful lantern, through the
pierced stonework of which shone patches of the leaden sky.
Then a sudden twist of the road hid the city from view; only the
outlying churchyard remained in sight, with its white monuments
and granite crosses, over which the dark yews, wet with the rain
and shaken by the gale, sent showers of diamond-like sprays.
THE FOREST OF BOULOGNE
Progress was not easy, and very slow along the muddy road; the two
coaches moved along laboriously, with wheels creaking and sinking
deeply from time to time in the quagmire.
When the small party finally reached the edge of the wood the
greyish light of this dismal day had changed in the west to a dull
reddish glow--a glow that had neither brilliance nor incandescence
in it; only a weird tint that hung over the horizon and turned the
distance into lines of purple.
The nearness of the sea made itself already felt; there was a
briny taste in the damp atmosphere, and the trees all turned their
branches away in the same direction against the onslaught of the
The road at this point formed a sharp fork, skirting the wood on
either side, the forest lying like a black close mass of spruce
and firs on the left, while the open expanse of country stretched
out on the right. The south-westerly gale struck with full
violence against the barrier of forest trees, bending the tall
crests of the pines and causing their small dead branches to break
and fall with a sharp, crisp sound like a cry of pain.
The squad had been fresh at starting; now the men had been four
hours in the saddle under persistent rain and gusty wind; they
were tired, and the atmosphere of the close, black forest so near
the road was weighing upon their spirits.
Strange sounds came to them from out the dense network of
trees--the screeching of night-birds, the weird call of the owls,
the swift and furtive tread of wild beasts on the prowl. The cold
winter and lack of food had lured the wolves from their
fastnesses--hunger had emboldened them, and now, as gradually the
grey light fled from the sky, dismal howls could be heard in the
distance, and now and then a pair of eyes, bright with the
reflection of the lurid western glow, would shine momentarily out
of the darkness like tiny glow-worms, and as quickly vanish away.
The men shivered--more with vague superstitious fear than with
cold. They would have urged their horses on, but the wheels of
the coaches stuck persistently in the mud, and now and again a
halt had to be called so that the spokes and axles might he
They rode on in silence. No one had a mind to speak, and the
mournful soughing of the wind in the pine-trees seemed to check
the words on every lip. The dull thud of hoofs in the soft road,
the clang of steel bits and buckles, the snorting of the horses
alone answered the wind, and also the monotonous creaking of the
wheels ploughing through the ruts.
Soon the ruddy glow in the west faded into soft-toned purple and
then into grey; finally that too vanished. Darkness was drawing
in on every side like a wide, black mantle pulled together closer
and closer overhead by invisible giant hands.
The rain still fell in a thin drizzle that soaked through caps and
coats, made the bridles slimy and the saddles slippery and damp.
A veil of vapour hung over the horses' cruppers, and was rendered
fuller and thicker every moment with the breath that came from
their nostrils. The wind no longer blew with gusty fury--its
strength seemed to have been spent with the grey light of day--
but now and then it would still come sweeping across the open
country, and dash itself upon the wall of forest trees, lashing
against the horses' ears, catching the corner of a mantle here, an
ill-adjusted cap there, and wreaking its mischievous freak for a
while, then with a sigh of satisfaction die, murmuring among the
Suddenly there was a halt, much shouting, a volley of oaths from
the drivers, and citizen Chauvelin thrust his head out of the
"What is it?" he asked.
"The scouts, citizen," replied the sergeant, who had been riding
close to the coach door all this while; "they have returned."
"Tell one man to come straight to me and report."
Marguerite sat quite still. Indeed, she had almost ceased to live
momentarily, for her spirit was absent from her body, which felt
neither fatigue, nor cold, nor pain. But she heard the snorting
of the horse close by as its rider pulled him up sharply beside
the carriage door.
"Well?" said Chauvelin curtly.
"This is the cross-road, citizen," replied the man; "it strikes
straight into the wood, and the hamlet of Le Crocq lies down in
the valley on the right."
"Did you follow the road in the wood?"
"Yes, citizen. About two leagues from here there is a clearing
with a small stone chapel, more like a large shrine, nestling
among the trees. Opposite to it the angle of a high wall with
large wrought-iron gates at the corner, and from these a wide
drive leads through a park."