Part 5 out of 6
"It is a threat ... they would not dare! ..."
"Would not dare? ..."
'Tis old Andre Lemoine who has spoken, and he spits vigorously on the
ground. Andre Lemoine has been a soldier; he was in La Vendee. He was
wounded at Tours ... and he knows!
"Would not dare? ..." he says in a whisper. "I tell you, friends, that there's
nothing the present government would not dare. There was the Plaine
Saint Mauve ... Did you ever hear about that? ... little children fusilladed
by the score ... little ones, I say, and women with babies at their breasts
... weren't they innocent? ... Five hundred innocent people butchered in
La Vendee ... until the Headsman sank--worn not ... I could tell worse
than that ... for I know. ... There's nothing they would not dare! ..."
Consternation was so great that the matter could not even be discussed.
"We'll go to Gayole and see this woman at any rate."
Angry, sullen crowds assembled in the streets. The proclamation had
been read just as the men were leaving the public houses, preparing to go
home for the night.
They brought the news to the women, who, at home, were setting the
soup and bread on the table for their husbands' supper. There was no
thought of going to bed or of sleeping that night. The bread-winner in
every family and all those dependent on him for daily sustenance were
trembling for their lives.
Resistance to the barbarous order would have been worse than useless,
nor did the thought of it enter the heads of these humble and ignorant
fisher folk, wearied out with the miserable struggle for existence. There
was not sufficient spirit left in this half-starved population of a small
provincial city to suggest open rebellion. A regiment of soldiers come up
from the South were quartered in the Chateau, and the natives of
Boulogne could not have mustered more than a score of disused
blunderbusses between them.
Then they remembered tales which Andre Lemoine had told, the fate of
Lyons, razed to the ground, of Toulon burnt to ashes, and they did not
But brothers, fathers, sons trooped out towards Gayole, in order to have
a good look at the frowning pile, which held the hostage for their safety.
It looked dark and gloomy enough, save for one window which gave on
the southern ramparts. This window was wide open and a feeble light
flickered from the room beyond, and as the men stood about, gazing at
the walls in sulky silence, they suddenly caught the sound of a loud laugh
proceeding from within, and of a pleasant voice speaking quite gaily in a
language which they did not understand, but which sounded like English.
Against the heavy oaken gateway, leading to the courtyard of the prison,
the proclamation written on stout parchment had been pinned up. Beside
it hung a tiny lantern, the dim light of which flickered in the evening
breeze, and brought at times into sudden relief the bold writing and heavy
signature, which stood out, stern and grim, against the yellowish
background of the paper, like black signs of approaching death.
Facing the gateway and the proclamation, the crowd of men took its
stand. The moon, from behind them, cast fitful, silvery glances at the
weary heads bent in anxiety and watchful expectancy: on old heads and
young heads, dark, curly heads and heads grizzled with age, on backs
bent with toil, and hands rough and gnarled like seasoned timber.
All night the men stood and watched.
Sentinels from the town guard were stationed at the gates, but these
might prove inattentive or insufficient, they had not the same price at
stake, so the entire able-bodied population of Boulogne watched the
gloomy prison that night, lest anyone escaped by wall or window.
They were guarding the precious hostage whose safety was the
stipulation for their own.
There was dead silence among them, and dead silence all around, save for
that monotonous tok-tok-tok of the parchment flapping in the breeze.
The moon, who all along had been capricious and chary of her light,
made a final retreat behind a gathering bank of clouds, and the crowd, the
soldiers and the great grim walls were all equally wrapped in gloom.
Only the little lantern on the gateway now made a ruddy patch of light,
and tinged that fluttering parchment with the colour of blood. Every now
and then an isolated figure would detach itself from out the watching
throng, and go up to the heavy, oaken door, in order to gaze at the
proclamation. Then the light of the lantern illumined a dark head or a
grey one, for a moment or two: black or white locks were stirred gently
in the wind, and a sigh of puzzlement and disappointment would be
At times a group of three or four would stand there for awhile, not
speaking, only sighing and casting eager questioning glances at one
another, whilst trying vainly to find some hopeful word, some turn of
phrase of meaning that would be less direful, in that grim and ferocious
proclamation. Then a rough word from the sentinel, a push from the butt-
end of a bayonet would disperse the little group and send the men, sullen
and silent, back into the crowd.
Thus they watched for hours whilst the bell of the Beffroi tolled all the
hours of that tedious night. A thin rain began to fall in the small hours of
the morning, a wetting, soaking drizzle which chilled the weary watchers
to the bone.
But they did not care.
"We must not sleep, for the woman might escape."
Some of them squatted down in the muddy road, the luckier ones
managed to lean their backs against the slimy walls.
Twice before the hour of midnight they heard that same quaint and merry
laugh proceeding from the lighted room, through the open window. Once
it sounded very low and very prolonged, as if in response to a delightful
Anon the heavy gateway of Gayole was opened from within, and half a
dozen soldiers came walking out of the courtyard. They were dressed in
the uniform of the town-guard, but had evidently been picked out of the
rank and file, for all six were exceptionally tall and stalwart, and towered
above the sentinel, who saluted and presented arms as they marched out
of the gate.
In the midst of them walked a slight, dark figure, clad entirely in black,
save for the tricolour scarf round his waist.
The crowd of watchers gazed on the little party with suddenly awakened
"Who is it?" whispered some of the men.
"The citizen-governor," suggested one.
"The new public executioner," ventured another.
"No! no!" quoth Pierre Maxime, the doyen of Boulogne fishermen, and a
great authority on every matter public or private with the town; "no, no
he is the man who has come down from Paris, the friend of Robespierre.
He makes the laws now, the citizen-governor even must obey him. 'Tis he
who made the law that if the woman up yonder should escape ..."
"Hush! ... sh! ... sh! ..." came in frightened accents from the crowd.
"Hush, Pierre Maxine! ... the Citizen might hear thee," whispered the man
who stood closest to the old fisherman; "the Citizen might hear thee, and
think that we rebelled. ..."
"What are these people doing here?' queried Chauvelin as he passed out
into the street.
"They are watching the prison, Citizen," replied the sentinel, whom he
had thus addressed, "lest the female prisoner should attempt to escape."
With a satisfied smile, Chauvelin turned toward the Town Hall, closely
surrounded by his escort. The crowd watched him and the soldiers as
they quickly disappeared in the gloom, then they resumed the stolid,
wearisome vigil of the night.
The old Beffroi now tolled the midnight hour, the one solitary light in the
old Fort was extinguished, and after that the frowning pile remained dark
Chapter XXIX : The National Fete
"Citizens of Boulogne, awake!"
They had not slept, only some of them had fallen into drowsy
somnolence, heavy and nerve-racking, worse indeed than any
Within the houses, the women too had kept the tedious vigil, listening for
every sound, dreading every bit of news, which the wind might waft in
through the small, open windows.
If one prisoner escaped, every family in Boulogne would be deprived of
the bread-winner. Therefore the women wept, and tried to remember
those Paters and Aves which the tyranny of liberty, fraternity and equality
had ordered them to forget.
Broken rosaries were fetched out from neglected corners, and knees stiff
with endless, thankless toil were bent once more in prayer.
"Oh God! Good God! Do not allow that woman to flee!"
"Holy Virgin! Mother of God! Make that she should not escape!"
Some of the women went out in the early dawn to take hot soup and
coffee to their men who were watching outside the prison.
"Has anything been seen?"
"Have ye seen the woman?"
"Which room is she in?"
"Why won't they let us see her?"
"Are you sure she hath not already escaped?"
Questions and surmises went round in muffled whispers as the steaming
cans were passed round. No one had a definite answer to give, although
Desire Melun declared that he had, once during the night, caught sight of
a woman's face at one of the windows above: but as he could not
describe the woman's face, nor locate with any degree of precision the
particular window at which she was supposed to have appeared, it was
unanimously decided that Desire must have been dreaming.
"Citizens of Boulogne, awake!"
The cry came first from the Town Hall, and therefore from behind the
crowd of men and women, whose faces had been so resolutely set for all
these past hours towards the Gayole prison.
They were all awake! but too tired and cramped to move as yet, and to
turn in the direction whence arose that cry.
"Citizens of Boulogne, awake!"
It was just the voice of Auguste Moleux, the town-crier of Boulogne,
who, bell in hand, was trudging his way along the Rue Daumont, closely
followed by two fellows of the municipal guard.
Auguste was in the very midst of the sullen crowd, before the men even
troubled about his presence here, but now with many a vigorous "Allons
donc!" and "Voyez-moi ca, fais donc place, voyons!" he elbowed his way
through the throng.
He was neither tired nor cramped; he served the Republic in comfort and
ease, and had slept soundly on his paillasse in the little garret allotted to
him in the Town Hall.
The crowd parted in silence, to allow him to pass. Auguste was lean and
powerful, the scanty and meagre food, doled out to him by a paternal
government, had increased his muscular strength whilst reducing his fat.
He had very hard elbows, and soon he managed, by dint of pushing and
cursing to reach the gateway of Gayole.
"Voyons! enlevez-moi ca," he commanded in stentorian tones, pointing
to the proclamation.
The fellows of the municipal guard fell to and tore the parchment away
from the door whilst the crowd looked on with stupid amazement.
What did it all mean?
Then Auguste Moleux turned and faced the men.
"Mes enfants," he said, "my little cabbages! wake up! the government of
the Republic has decreed that to-day is to be a day of gaiety and public
"Gaiety? ... Public rejoicings forsooth, when the bread-winner of every
"Hush! Hush! Be silent, all of you," quoth Auguste impatiently, "you do
not understand! ... All that is at an end ... There is no fear that the woman
shall escape. ... You are all to dance and rejoice. ... The Scarlet Pimpernel
has been captured in Boulogne, last night ..."
"Qui ca the Scarlet Pimpernel?"
"Mais! 'tis that mysterious English adventurer who rescued people from
"A hero? quoi?"
"No! no! only an English spy, a friend of aristocrats ... he would have
cared nothing for the bread-winners of Boulogne ..."
"He would not have raised a finger to save them."
"Who knows?" sighed a feminine voice, "perhaps he came to Boulogne
to help them."
"And he has been caught anyway," concluded Auguste Moleux
sententiously, "and, my little cabbages, remember this, that so great is the
pleasure of the all-powerful Committee of Public Safety at this capture,
that because he has been caught in Boulogne, therefore Boulogne is to be
"Holy Virgin, who'd have thought it?"
"Sh ... Jeanette, dost not know that there's no Holy Virgin now?"
"And dost know, Auguste, how we are to be rewarded?"
It is a difficult matter for the human mind to turn very quickly from
despair to hope, and the fisherman of Boulogne had not yet grasped the
fact that they were to make merry and that thoughts of anxiety must be
abandoned for those of gaiety.
Auguste Moleux took out a parchment from the capacious pocket of his
coat; he put on his most solemn air of officialdom, and pointing with
extended forefinger to the parchment, he said:
"A general amnesty to all natives of Boulogne who are under arrest at the
present moment: a free pardon to all natives of Boulogne who are under
sentence of death: permission to all natives of Boulogne to quit the town
with their families, to embark on any vessel they please, in or out of the
harbour, and to go whithersoever they choose, without passports,
formalities or question of any kind."
Dead silence followed this announcement. Hope was just beginning to
crowd anxiety and sullenness out of the way.
"Then poor Andre Legrand will be pardoned," whispered a voice
suddenly; "he was to have been guillotined to-day."
"And Denise Latour! she was innocent enough, the gentle pigeon."
"And they'll let poor Abbe Foucquet out of prison too."
"And poor Felicite, who is blind!"
"M. l'Abbe would be wise to leave Boulogne with the children."
"He will too: thou canst be sure of that!"
"It is not good to be a priest just now!"
"Bah! calotins are best dead than alive."
But some in the crowd were silent, others whispered eagerly.
"Thinkest thou it would be safer for us to get out of the country whilst
we can?" said one of the men in a muffled tone, and clutching nervously
at a woman's wrist.
"Aye! aye! it might leak out about that boat we procured for ..."
"Sh! ... I was thinking of that ..."
"We can go to my aunt Lebrun in Belgium ..."
Others talked in whispers of England or the New Land across the seas:
they were those who had something to hide, money received from
refugee aristocrats, boats sold to would-be emigres, information
withheld, denunciations shirked: the amnesty would not last long, 'twas
best to be safely out of the way.
"In the meanwhile, my cabbages," quoth Auguste sententiously, "are you
not grateful to Citizen Robespierre, who has sent this order specially
down from Paris?"
"Aye! aye!" assented the crowd cheerfully.
"Hurrah for Citizen Robespierre!"
"Viva la Republique!"
"And you will enjoy yourselves to-day?"
"That we will!"
"Aye! with music and dancing."
Out there, far away, beyond the harbour, the grey light of dawn was
yielding to the crimson glow of morning. The rain had ceased and heavy
slaty clouds parted here and there, displaying glints of delicate turquoise
sky, and tiny ethereal vapours in the dim and remote distance of infinity,
flecked with touches of rose and gold.
The towers and pinnacles of old Boulogne detached themselves one by
one from the misty gloom of night. The old bell of the Beffroi tolled the
hour of six. Soon the massive cupola of Notre Dame was clothed in
purple hues, and the gilt cross on St. Joseph threw back across the square
a blinding ray of gold.
The town sparrows began to twitter, and from far out at sea in the
direction of Dunkirk there came the muffled boom of cannon.
"And remember, my pigeons," admonished Auguste Moleux solemnly,
"that in this order which Robespierre has sent from Paris, it also says that
from to-day onwards le bon Dieu has ceased to be!"
Many faces were turned towards the East just then, for the rising sun,
tearing with one gigantic sweep the banks of cloud asunder, now
displayed his magnificence in a gorgeous immensity of flaming crimson.
The sea, in response, turned to liquid fire beneath the glow, whilst the
whole sky was irradiated with the first blush of morning.
Le bon Dieu has ceased to be!
"There is only one religion in France now," explained Auguste Moleux,
"the religion of Reason! We are all citizens! We are all free and all able to
think for ourselves. Citizen Robespierre has decreed that there is no good
God. Le bon Dieu was a tyrant and an aristocrat, and, like all tyrants and
aristocrats, He has been deposed. There is no good God, there is no Holy
Virgin and no Saints, only Reason, who is a goddess and whom we all
And the townsfolk of Boulogne, with eyes still fixed on the gorgeous
East, shouted with sullen obedience:
"Hurrah! for the Goddess of Reason!"
"Hurrah for Robespierre!"
Only the women, trying to escape the town-crier's prying eyes, or the
soldiers' stern gaze, hastily crossed themselves behind their husbands'
backs, terrified lest le bon Dieu had, after all, not altogether ceased to
exist at the bidding of Citizen Robespierre.
Thus the worthy natives of Boulogne, forgetting their anxieties and fears,
were ready enough to enjoy the national fete ordained for them by the
Committee of Public Safety, in honour of the capture of the Scarlet
Pimpernel. They were even willing to accept this new religion which
Robespierre had invented: a religion which was only a mockery, with an
actress to represent its supreme deity.
Mais, que voulez-vous? Boulogne had long ago ceased to have faith in
God: the terrors of the Revolution, which culminated in that agonizing
watch of last night, had smothered all thoughts of worship and of prayer.
The Scarlet Pimpernel must indeed be a dangerous spy that his arrest
should cause so much joy in Paris!
Even Boulogne had learned by experience that the Committee of Public
Safety did not readily give up a prey, once its vulture-like claws had
closed upon it. The proportion of condemnations as against acquittals
was as a hundred to one.
But because this one man was taken, scores to-day were to be set free!
In the evening at a given hour--seven o'clock had Auguste Moleux, the
town-crier, understood--the boom of the cannon would be heard, the
gates of the town would be opened, the harbour would become a free
The inhabitants of Boulogne were ready to shout:
"Vive the Scarlet Pimpernel!"
Whatever he was--hero or spy--he was undoubtedly the primary cause of
all their joy.
By the time Auguste Moleux had cried out the news throughout the
town, and pinned the new proclamation of mercy up on every public
building, all traces of fatigue and anxiety had vanished. In spite of the fact
that wearisome vigils had been kept in every home that night, and that
hundreds of men and women had stood about for hours in the vicinity of
the Gayole Fort, no sooner was the joyful news known, than all lassitude
was forgotten and everyone set to with a right merry will to make the
great fete-day a complete success.
There is in every native of Normandy, be he peasant or gentleman, an
infinite capacity for enjoyment, and at the same time a marvellous faculty
for co-ordinating and systematizing his pleasures.
In a trice the surly crowds had vanished. Instead of these, there were
groups of gaily-visaged men pleasantly chattering outside every eating
and drinking place in the town. The national holiday had come upon
these people quite unawares, so the early part of it had to be spent in
thinking out a satisfactory programme for it. Sipping their beer or coffee,
or munching their cherries a l'eau-de-vie, the townsfolk of Boulogne, so
lately threatened with death, were quietly organizing processions.
There was to be a grand muster on the Place de la Senechaussee, then a
torchlight and lanthorn-light march, right round the Ramparts,
culminating in a gigantic assembly outside the Town Hall, where the
Citizen Chauvelin, representing the Committee of Public Safety, would
receive an address of welcome from the entire population of Boulogne.
The procession was to be in costume! There were to be Pierrots and
Pierettes, Harlequins and English clowns, aristocrats and goddesses! All
day the women and girls were busy contriving travesties of all sorts, and
the little tumbledown shops in the Rue de Chateau and the Rue Frederic
Sauvage--kept chiefly by Jews and English traders-- were ransacked for
old bits of finery, and for remnants of costumes, worn in the days when
Boulogne was still a gay city and Carnivals were held every year.
And then, of course, there would be the Goddess of Reason, in her
triumphal car! the apotheosis of the new religion, which was to make
everybody happy, rich and free.
Forgotten were the anxieties of the night, the fears of death, the great and
glorious Revolution, which for this one day would cease her perpetual
demand for the toll of blood.
Nothing was remembered save the pleasures and joys of the moment, and
at times the name of that Englishman--spy, hero or adventurer --the cause
of all this bounty: the Scarlet Pimpernel.
Chapter XXX : The Procession
The grandfathers of the present generation of Boulonnese remembered
the great day of the National Fete, when all Boulogne, for twenty- four
hours, went crazy with joy. So many families had fathers, brothers, sons,
languishing in prison under some charge of treason, real or imaginary; so
many had dear ones for whom already the guillotine loomed ahead, that
the feast on this memorable day of September, 1793, was one of never-
to-be-forgotten relief and thanksgiving.
The weather all day had been exceptionally fine. After that glorious
sunrise, the sky had remained all day clad in its gorgeous mantle of blue
and the sun had continued to smile benignly on the many varied doings of
this gay, little seaport town. When it began to sink slowly towards the
West a few little fluffy clouds appeared on the horizon, and from a
distance, although the sky remained clear and blue, the sea looked quite
dark and slaty against the brilliance of the firmament.
Gradually, as the splendour of the sunset gave place to the delicate purple
and grey tints of evening, the little fluffy clouds merged themselves into
denser masses, and these too soon became absorbed in the great, billowy
banks which the southwesterly wind was blowing seawards.
By the time that the last grey streak of dusk vanished in the West, the
whole sky looked heavy with clouds, and the evening set in, threatening
But this by no means mitigated the anticipation of pleasure to come. On
the contrary, the fast-gathering gloom was hailed with delight, since it
would surely help to show off the coloured lights of the lanthorns, and
give additional value to the glow of the torches.
Of a truth 'twas a motley throng which began to assemble on the Place de
la Senechaussee, just as the old bell of the Beffroi tolled the hour of six.
Men, women and children in ragged finery, Pierrots with neck frills and
floured faces, hideous masks of impossible beasts roughly besmeared in
crude colours. There were gaily-coloured dominoes, blue, green, pink
and purple, harlequins combining all the colours of the rainbow in one
tight-fitting garment, and Columbines with short, tarlatan skirts, beneath
which peeped bare feet and ankles. There were judges' perruqes, and
soldiers' helmets of past generations, tall Normandy caps adorned with
hundreds of streaming ribbons, and powdered headgear which recalled
the glories of Versailles.
Everything was torn and dirty, the dominoes were in rags, the Pierrot
frills, mostly made up of paper, already hung in strips over the wearers'
shoulders. But what mattered that?
The crowd pushed and jolted, shouted and laughed, the girls screamed as
the men snatched a kiss here and there from willing or unwilling lips, or
stole an arm round a gaily accoutred waist. The spirit of Old King
Carnival was in the evening air--a spirit just awakened from a long Rip
van Winkle-like sleep.
In the centre of the Place stood the guillotine, grim and gaunt with long,
thin arms stretched out towards the sky, the last glimmer of waning light
striking the triangular knife, there, where it was not rusty with stains of
For weeks now Madame Guillotine had been much occupied plying her
gruesome trade; she now stood there in the gloom, passive and
immovable, seeming to wait placidly for the end of this holiday, ready to
begin her work again on the morrow. She towered above these
merrymakers, hoisted up on the platform whereon many an innocent foot
had trodden, the tattered basket beside her, into which many an innocent
head had rolled.
What cared they to-night for Madame Guillotine and the horrors of
which she told? A crowd of Pierrots with floured faces and tattered neck-
frills had just swarmed up the wooden steps, shouting and laughing,
chasing each other round and round on the platform, until one of them
lost his footing and fell into the basket, covering himself with bran and
staining his clothes with blood.
"Ah! vogue la galere! We must be merry to-night!"
And all these people who for weeks past had been staring death and the
guillotine in the face, had denounced each other with savage callousness
in order to save themselves, or hidden for days in dark cellars to escape
apprehension, now laughed, and danced and shrieked with gladness in a
sudden, hysterical outburst of joy.
Close beside the guillotine stood the triumphal car of the Goddess of
Reason, the special feature of this great national fete. It was only a rough
market cart, painted by an unpractised hand with bright, crimson paint
and adorned with huge clusters of autumn-tinted leaves, and the scarlet
berries of mountain ash and rowan, culled from the town gardens, or the
country side outside the city walls.
In the cart the goddess reclined on a crimson-draped seat, she, herself,
swathed in white, and wearing a gorgeous necklace around her neck.
Desiree Candeille, a little pale, a little apprehensive of all this noise, had
obeyed the final dictates of her taskmaster. She had been the means of
bringing the Scarlet Pimpernel to France and vengeance, she was to be
honoured therefore above every other woman in France.
She sat in the car, vaguely thinking over the events of the past few days,
whilst watching the throng of rowdy merrymakers seething around her.
She thought of the noble-hearted, proud woman whom she had helped to
bring from her beautiful English home to sorrow and humiliation in a
dank French prison, she thought of the gallant English gentleman with his
pleasant voice and courtly, debonnair manners.
Chauvelin had roughly told her, only this morning, that both were now
under arrest as English spies, and that their fate no longer concerned her.
Later on the governor of the city had come to tell her that Citizen
Chauvelin desired her to take part in the procession and the national fete,
as the Goddess of Reason, and that the people of Boulogne were ready
to welcome her as such. This had pleased Candeille's vanity, and all day,
whilst arranging the finery which she meant to wear for the occasion, she
had ceased to think of England and of Lady Blakeney.
But now, when she arrived on the Place de la Senechaussee, and
mounting her car, found herself on a level with the platform of the
guillotine, her memory flew back to England, to the lavish hospitality of
Blakeney Manor, Marguerite's gentle voice, the pleasing grace of Sir
Percy's manners, and she shuddered a little when that cruel glint of
evening light caused the knife of the guillotine to glisten from out the
But anon her reflections were suddenly interrupted by loud and
prolonged shouts of joy. A whole throng of Pierrots had swarmed into
the Place from every side, carrying lighted torches and tall staves, on
which were hung lanthorns with many-coloured lights.
The procession was ready to start. A stentorian voice shouted out in
"En avant, la grosse caisse!"
A man now, portly and gorgeous in scarlet and blue, detached himself
from out the crowd. His head was hidden beneath the monstrous mask of
a cardboard lion, roughly painted in brown and yellow, with crimson for
the widely open jaws and the corners of the eyes, to make them seem
ferocious and bloodshot. His coat was of bright crimson cloth, with cuts
and slashings in it, through which bunches of bright blue paper were
made to protrude, in imitation of the costume of mediaeval times.
He had blue stockings on and bright scarlet slippers, and behind him
floated a large strip of scarlet flannel, on which moons and suns and stars
of gold had been showered in plenty.
Upon his portly figure in front he was supporting the big drum, which
was securely strapped round his shoulders with tarred cordages, the spoil
of some fishing vessel.
There was a merciful slit in the jaw of the cardboard lion, through which
the portly drummer puffed and spluttered as he shouted lustily:
And wielding the heavy drumstick with a powerful arm, he brought it
crashing down against the side of the mighty instrument.
"Hurrah! Hurrah! en avant les trompettes!"
A fanfare of brass instruments followed, lustily blown by twelve young
men in motley coats of green, and tall, peaked hats adorned with feathers.
The drummer had begun to march, closely followed by the trumpeters.
Behind them a bevy of Columbines in many-coloured tarlatan skirts and
hair flying wildly in the breeze, giggling, pushing, exchanging ribald jokes
with the men behind, and getting kissed or slapped for their pains.
Then the triumphal car of the goddess, with Demoiselle Candeille
standing straight up in it, a tall gold wand in one hand, the other resting
in a mass of scarlet berries. All round the car, helter-skelter, tumbling,
pushing, came Pierrots and Pierrettes, carrying lanthorns, and Harlequins
bearing the torches.
And after the car the long line of more sober folk, the older fisherman,
the women in caps and many-hued skirts, the serious townfolk who had
scorned the travesty, yet would not be left out of the procession. They all
began to march, to the tune of those noisy brass trumpets which were
thundering forth snatches from the newly composed "Marseillaise."
Above the sky became more heavy with clouds. Anon a few drops of rain
began to fall, making the torches sizzle and splutter, and scatter grease
and tar around and wetting the lightly-covered shoulders of tarlatan-clad
Columbines. But no one cared! The glow of so much merrymaking kept
the blood warm and the skin dry.
The flour all came off the Pierrots' faces, the blue paper slashings of the
drummer-in-chief hung in pulpy lumps against his gorgeous scarlet cloak.
The trumpeters' feathers became streaky and bedraggled.
But in the name of that good God who had ceased to exist, who in the
world or out of it cared if it rained, or thundered and stormed! This was a
national holiday, for an English spy was captured, and all natives of
Boulogne were free of the guillotine to-night.
The revellers were making the circuit of the town, with lanthorns
fluttering in the wind, and flickering torches held up aloft illumining
laughing faces, red with the glow of a drunken joy, young faces that only
enjoyed the moment's pleasure, serious ones that withheld a frown at
thought of the morrow. The fitful light played on the grotesque masques
of beasts and reptiles, on the diamond necklace of a very earthly goddess,
on God's glorious spoils from gardens and country-side, on smothered
anxiety and repressed cruelty.
The crowd had turned its back on the guillotine, and the trumpets now
changed the inspiriting tune of the "Marseillaise" to the ribald vulgarity of
the "Ca ira!"
Everyone yelled and shouted. Girls with flowing hair produced
broomsticks, and astride on these, broke from the ranks and danced a
mad and obscene saraband, a dance of witches in the weird glow of
sizzling torches, to the accompaniment of raucous laughter and of coarse
Thus the procession passed on, a sight to gladden the eyes of those who
had desired to smother all thought of the Infinite, of Eternity and of God
in the minds of those to whom they had nothing to offer in return. A
threat of death yesterday, misery, starvation and squalor! all the
hideousness of a destroying anarchy, that had nothing to give save a
national fete, a tinsel goddess, some shallow laughter and momentary
intoxication, a travesty of clothes and of religion and a dance on the
ashes of the past.
And there along the ramparts where the massive walls of the city
encircled the frowning prisons of Gayole and the old Chateau, dark
groups were crouching, huddled together in compact masses, which in
the gloom seemed to vibrate with fear. Like hunted quarry seeking for
shelter, sombre figures flattened themselves in the angles of the dank
walls, as the noisy carousers drew nigh. Then as the torches and
lanthorns detached themselves from out the evening shadows, hand
would clutch hand and hearts would beat with agonized suspense, whilst
the dark and shapeless forms would try to appear smaller, flatter, less
noticeable than before.
And when the crowd had passed noisily along, leaving behind it a trail of
torn finery, of glittering tinsel and of scarlet berries, when the boom of
the big drum and the grating noise of the brass trumpets had somewhat
died away, wan faces, pale with anxiety, would peer from out the
darkness, and nervous hands would grasp with trembling fingers the small
bundles of poor belongings tied up hastily in view of flight.
At seven o'clock, so 'twas said, the cannon would boom from the old
Beffroi. The guard would throw open the prison gates, and those who
had something or somebody to hide, and those who had a great deal to
fear, would be free to go whithersoever they chose.
And mothers, sisters, sweethearts stood watching by the gates, for loved
ones to-night would be set free, all along of the capture of that English
spy, the Scarlet Pimpernel.
Chapter XXXI : Final Dispositions
To Chauvelin the day had been one of restless inquietude and nervous
Collot d'Herbois harassed him with questions and complaints intermixed
with threats but thinly veiled. At his suggestion Gayole had been
transformed into a fully-manned, well-garrisoned fortress. Troops were
to be seen everywhere, on the stairs and in the passages, the guard-rooms
and offices: picked men from the municipal guard, and the company
which had been sent down from Paris some time ago.
Chauvelin had not resisted these orders given by his colleague. He knew
quite well that Marguerite would make no attempt at escape, but he had
long ago given up all hope of persuading a man of the type of Collot
d'Herbois that a woman of her temperament would never think of saving
her own life at the expense of others, and that Sir Percy Blakeney, in
spite of his adoration for his wife, would sooner see her die before him,
than allow the lives of innocent men and women to be the price of hers.
Collot was one of those brutish sots--not by any means infrequent among
the Terrorists of that time--who, born in the gutter, still loved to wallow
in his native element, and who measured all his fellow-creatures by the
same standard which he had always found good enough for himself. In
this man there was neither the enthusiastic patriotism of a Chauvelin, nor
the ardent selflessness of a Danton. He served the revolution and fostered
the anarchical spirit of the times only because these brought him a
competence and a notoriety, which an orderly and fastidious government
would obviously have never offered him.
History shows no more despicable personality than that of Collot
d'Herbois, one of the most hideous products of that utopian Revolution,
whose grandly conceived theories of a universal levelling of mankind only
succeeded in dragging into prominence a number of half-brutish creatures
who, revelling in their own abasement, would otherwise have remained
content in inglorious obscurity.
Chauvelin tolerated and half feared Collot, knowing full well that if now
the Scarlet Pimpernel escaped from his hands, he could expect no mercy
from his colleagues.
The scheme by which he hoped to destroy not only the heroic leader but
the entire League by bringing opprobrium and ridicule upon them, was
wonderfully subtle in its refined cruelty, and Chauvelin, knowing by now
something of Sir Percy Blakeney's curiously blended character, was never
for a moment in doubt but that he would write the infamous letter, save
his wife by sacrificing his honour, and then seek oblivion and peace in
With so much disgrace, so much mud cast upon their chief, the League of
the Scarlet Pimpernel would cease to be. THAT had been Chauvelin's
plan all along. For the end he had schemed and thought and planned,
from the moment that Robespierre had given him the opportunity of
redeeming his failure of last year. He had built up the edifice of his
intrigue, bit by bit, from the introduction of his tool, Candeille, to
Marguerite at the Richmond gala, to the arrest of Lady Blakeney in
Boulogne. All that remained for him to see now, would be the attitude of
Sir Percy Blakeney to-night, when, in exchange for the stipulated letter,
he would see his wife set free.
All day Chauvelin had wondered how it would all go off. He had stage-
managed everything, but he did not know how the chief actor would play
From time to time, when his feeling of restlessness became quite
unendurable, the ex-ambassador would wander round Fort Gayole and
on some pretext or other demand to see one or the other of his prisoners.
Marguerite, however, observed complete silence in his presence: she
acknowledged his greeting with a slight inclination of the head, and in
reply to certain perfunctory queries of his-- which he put to her in order
to justify his appearance--she either nodded or gave curt monosyllabic
answers through partially closed lips.
"I trust that everything is arranged for your comfort, Lady Blakeney."
"I thank you, sir."
"You will be rejoining the 'Day-Dream' to-night. Can I send a messenger
over to the yacht for you?"
"I thank you. No."
"Sir Percy is well. He is fast asleep, and hath not asked for your ladyship.
Shall I let him know that you are well?"
A nod of acquiescence from Marguerite and Chauvelin's string of queries
was at an end. He marvelled at her quietude and thought that she should
have been as restless as himself.
Later on in the day, and egged on by Collot d'Herbois and by his own
fears, he had caused Marguerite to be removed from No. 6.
This change he heralded by another brief visit to her, and his attitude this
time was one of deferential apology.
"A matter of expediency, Lady Blakeney," he explained, "and I trust that
the change will be for your comfort."
Again the same curt nod of acquiescence on her part, and a brief:
"As you command, Monsieur!"
But when he had gone, she turned with a sudden passionate outburst
towards the Abbe Foucquet, her faithful companion through the past
long, weary hours. She fell on her knees beside him and sobbed in an
agony of grief.
"Oh! if I could only know ... if I could only see him! ... for a minute ... a
second! ... if I could only know! ..."
She felt as if the awful uncertainty would drive her mad.
If she could only know! If she could only know what he meant to do.
"The good God knows!" said the old man, with his usual simple
philosophy, "and perhaps it is all for the best."
The room which Chauvelin had now destined for Marguerite was one
which gave from the larger one, wherein last night he had had his
momentous interview with her and with Sir Percy.
It was small, square and dark, with no window in it: only a small
ventilating hole high up in the wall and heavily grated. Chauvelin, who
desired to prove to her that there was no wish on his part to add physical
discomfort to her mental tortures, had given orders that the little place
should be made as habitable as possible. A thick, soft carpet had been laid
on the ground; there was an easy chair and a comfortable-looking couch
with a couple of pillows and a rug upon it, and oh, marvel! on the round
central table, a vase with a huge bunch of many-coloured dahlias which
seemed to throw a note as if of gladness into this strange and gloomy
At the furthest corner, too, a construction of iron uprights and crossway
bars had been hastily contrived and fitted with curtains, forming a small
recess, behind which was a tidy washstand, fine clean towels and plenty
of fresh water. Evidently the shops of Boulogne had been commandeered
in order to render Marguerite's sojourn here outwardly agreeable.
But as the place was innocent of window, so was it innocent of doors.
The one that gave into the large room had been taken out of its hinges,
leaving only the frame, on each side of which stood a man from the
municipal guard with fixed bayonet.
Chauvelin himself had conducted Marguerite to her new prison. She
followed him--silent and apathetic--with not a trace of that awful torrent
of emotion which had overwhelmed her but half-an-hour ago when she
had fallen on her knees beside the old priest and sobbed her heart out in a
passionate fit of weeping. Even the sight of the soldiers left her
outwardly indifferent. As she stepped across the threshold she noticed
that the door itself had been taken away: then she gave another quick
glance at the soldiers, whose presence there would control her every
The thought of Queen Marie Antoinette in the Conciergerie prison with
the daily, hourly humiliation and shame which this constant watch
imposed upon her womanly pride and modesty, flashed suddenly across
Marguerite's mind, and a deep blush of horror rapidly suffused her pale
cheeks, whilst an almost imperceptible shudder shook her delicate frame.
Perhaps, as in a flash, she had at this moment received an inkling of what
the nature of that terrible "either--or" might be, with which Chauvelin
was trying to force an English gentleman to dishonour. Sir Percy
Blakeney's wife had been threatened with Marie Antoinette's fate.
"You see, Madame," said her cruel enemy's unctuous voice close to her
ear, "that we have tried our humble best to make your brief sojourn here
as agreeable as possible. May I express a hope that you will be quite
comfortable in this room, until the time when Sir Percy will be ready to
accompany you to the 'Day-Dream.'"
"I thank you, sir," she replied quietly.
"And if there is anything you require, I pray you to call. I shall be in the
next room all day and entirely at your service."
A young orderly now entered bearing a small collation--eggs, bread, milk
and wine--which he set on the central table. Chauvelin bowed low before
Marguerite and withdrew. Anon he ordered the two sentinels to stand the
other side of the doorway, against the wall of his own room, and well out
of sight of Marguerite, so that, as she moved about her own narrow
prison, if she ate or slept, she might have the illusion that she was
The sight of the soldiers had had the desired effect on her. Chauvelin had
seen her shudder and knew that she understood of that she guessed. He
was now satisfied and really had no wish to harass her beyond endurance.
Moreover, there was always the proclamation which threatened the
bread-winners of Boulogne with death if Marguerite Blakeney escaped,
and which would be in full force until Sir Percy had written, signed and
delivered into Chauvelin's hands the letter which was to be the signal for
the general amnesty.
Chauvelin had indeed cause to be satisfied with his measures. There was
no fear that his prisoners would attempt to escape.
Even Collot d'Herbois had to admit everything was well done. He had
read the draft of the proposed letter and was satisfied with its contents.
Gradually now into his loutish brain there had filtrated the conviction that
Citizen Chauvelin was right, that that accursed Scarlet Pimpernel and his
brood of English spies would be more effectually annihilated by all the
dishonour and ridicule which such a letter written by the mysterious hero
would heap upon them all, than they could ever be through the relentless
work of the guillotine. His only anxiety now was whether the Englishman
would write that letter.
"Bah! he'll do it," he would say whenever he thought the whole matter
over: "Sacre tonnerre! but 'tis an easy means to save his own skin."
"You would sign such a letter without hesitation, eh, Citizen Collot," said
Chauvelin, with well-concealed sarcasm, on one occasion when his
colleague discussed the all-absorbing topic with him; "you would show
no hesitation, if your life were at stake, and you were given the choice
between writing that letter and ... the guillotine?"
"Parbleu!" responded Collot with conviction.
"More especially," continued Chauvelin drily, "if a million francs were
promised you as well?"
"Sacre Anglis!" swore Collot angrily, "you don't propose giving him that
money, do you?"
"We'll place it ready to his hand, at any rate, so that it should appear as if
he had actually taken it."
Collot looked up at his colleague in ungrudging admiration. Chauvelin
had indeed left nothing undone, had thought everything out in this
strangely conceived scheme for the destruction of the enemy of France.
"But in the name of all the dwellers in hell, Citizen," admonished Collot,
"guard that letter well, once it is in your hands."
"I'll do better than that," said Chauvelin, "I will hand it over to you,
Citizen Collot, and you shall ride with it to Paris at once."
"To-night!" assented Collot with a shout of triumph, as he brought his
grimy fist crashing down on the table, "I'll have a horse ready saddled at
this very gate, and an escort of mounted men ... we'll ride like hell's own
furies and not pause to breathe until that letter is in Citizen Robespierre's
"Well thought of, Citizen," said Chauvelin approvingly. "I pray you give
the necessary orders, that the horses be ready saddled, and the men
booted and spurred, and waiting at the Gayole gate, at seven o'clock this
"I wish the letter were written and safely in our hands by now."
"Nay! the Englishman will have it ready by this evening, never fear. The
tide is high at half-past seven, and he will be in haste for his wife to be
aboard his yacht, ere the turn, even if he ..."
He paused, savouring the thoughts which had suddenly flashed across his
mind, and a look of intense hatred and cruel satisfaction for a moment
chased away the studied impassiveness of his face.
"What do you mean, Citizen?" queried Collot anxiously, "even if he ...
"Oh! nothing, nothing! I was only trying to make vague guesses as to
what the Englishman will do AFTER he has written the letter," quoth
"Morbleu! he'll return to his own accursed country ... glad enough to
have escaped with his skin. ... I suppose," added Collot with sudden
anxiety, "you have no fear that he will refuse at the last moment to write
The two men were sitting in the large room, out of which opened the one
which was now occupied by Marguerite. They were talking at the further
end of it, close to the window, and though Chauvelin had mostly spoken
in a whisper, Collot had ofttimes shouted, and the ex-ambassador was
wondering how much Marguerite had heard.
Now at Collot's anxious query he gave a quick furtive glance in the
direction of the further room wherein she sat, so silent and so still, that it
seemed almost as if she must be sleeping.
"You don't think that the Englishman will refuse to write the letter?"
insisted Collot with angry impatience.
"No!" replied Chauvelin quietly.
"But if he does?" persisted the other.
"If he does, I send the woman to Paris to-night and have him hanged as a
spy in this prison yard without further formality or trial ..." replied
Chauvelin firmly; "so either way, you see, Citizen," he added in a
whisper, "the Scarlet Pimpernel is done for. ... But I think that he will
write the letter."
"Parbleu! so do I! ..." rejoined Collot with a coarse laugh.
Chapter XXXII : The Letter
Later on, when his colleague left him in order to see to the horses and to
his escort for to-night, Chauvelin called Sergeant Hebert, his old and
trusted familiar, to him and gave him some final orders.
"The Angelus must be rung at the proper hour, friend Hebert," he began
with a grim smile.
"The Angelus, Citizen?" quoth the Sergeant, with complete stupefaction,
"'tis months now since it has been rung. It was forbidden by a decree of
the Convention, and I doubt me if any of our men would know how to
set about it."
Chauvelin's eyes were fixed before him in apparent vacancy, while the
same grim smile still hovered round his thin lips. Something of that
irresponsible spirit of adventure which was the mainspring of all Sir Percy
Blakeney's actions, must for the moment have pervaded the mind of his
Chauvelin had thought out this idea of having the Angelus rung to-night,
and was thoroughly pleased with the notion. This was the day when the
duel was to have been fought; seven o'clock would have been the very
hour, and the sound of the Angelus to have been the signal for combat,
and there was something very satisfying in the thought, that that same
Angelus should be rung, as a signal that the Scarlet Pimpernel was
withered and broken at last.
In answer to Hebert's look of bewilderment Chauvelin said quietly:
"We must have some signal between ourselves and the guard at the
different gates, also with the harbour officials: at a given moment the
general amnesty must take effect and the harbour become a free port. I
have a fancy that the signal shall be the ringing of the Angelus: the
cannons at the gates and the harbour can boom in response; then the
prisons can be thrown open and prisoners can either participate in the
evening fete or leave the city immediately, as they choose. The
Committee of Public Safety has promised the amnesty: it will carry out its
promise to the full, and when Citizen Collot d'Herbois arrives in Paris
with the joyful news, all natives of Boulogne in the prisons there will
participate in the free pardon too."
"I understand all that, Citizen," said Hebert, still somewhat bewildered,
"but not the Angelus."
"A fancy, friend Hebert, and I mean to have it."
"But who is to ring it, Citizen?"
"Morbleu! haven't you one calotin left in Boulogne whom you can press
into doing this service?"
"Aye! calotins enough! there's the Abbe Foucquet in this very building ...
in No. 6 cell ..."
"Sacre tonnerre!" ejaculated Chauvelin exultingly, "the very man! I know
his dossier well! Once he is free, he will make straightway for England ...
he and his family ... and will help to spread the glorious news of the
dishonour and disgrace of the much-vaunted Scarlet Pimpernel! ... The
very man, friend Hebert! ... Let him be stationed here ... to see the letter
written ... to see the money handed over--for we will go through with
that farce--and make him understand that the moment I give him the
order, he can run over to his old church St. Joseph and ring the Angelus.
... The old fool will be delighted ... more especially when he knows that
he will thereby be giving the very signal which will set his own sister's
children free. ... You understand? ..."
"I understand, Citizen."
"And you can make the old calotin understand?"
"I think so, Citizen. ... You want him in this room. ... At what time?"
"A quarter before seven."
"Yes. I'll bring him along myself, and stand over him, lest he play any
"Oh! he'll not trouble you," sneered Chauvelin, "he'll be deeply interested
in the proceedings. The woman will be here too, remember," he added
with a jerky movement of the hand in the direction of Marguerite's room,
"the two might be made to stand together, with four of your fellows
"I understand, Citizen. Are any of us to escort the Citizen Foucquet when
he goes to St. Joseph?"
"Aye! two men had best go with him. There will be a crowd in the streets
by then ... How far is it from here to the church?"
"Less than five minutes."
"Good. See to it that the doors are opened and the bell ropes easy of
"It shall be seen to, Citizen. How many men will you have inside this
"Let the walls be lined with men whom you can trust. I anticipate neither
trouble nor resistance. The whole thing is a simple formality to which the
Englishman has already intimated his readiness to submit. If he changes
his mind at the last moment there will be no Angelus rung, no booming of
the cannons or opening of the prison doors: there will be no amnesty, and
no free pardon. The woman will be at once conveyed to Paris, and ... But
he'll not change his mind, friend Hebert," he concluded in suddenly
altered tones, and speaking quite lightly, "he'll not change his mind."
The conversation between Chauvelin and his familiar had been carried on
in whispers: not that the Terrorist cared whether Marguerite overheard
or not, but whispering had become a habit with this man, whose tortuous
ways and subtle intrigues did not lend themselves to discussion in a loud
Chauvelin was sitting at the central table, just where he had been last
night when Sir Percy Blakeney's sudden advent broke in on his
meditations. The table had been cleared of the litter of multitudinous
papers which had encumbered it before. On it now there were only a
couple of heavy pewter candlesticks, with the tallow candles fixed ready
in them, a leather-pad, an ink-well, a sand-box and two or three quill
pens: everything disposed, in fact, for the writing and signing of the
Already in imagination, Chauvelin saw his impudent enemy, the bold and
daring adventurer, standing there beside that table and putting his name
to the consummation of his own infamy. The mental picture thus evoked
brought a gleam of cruel satisfaction and of satiated lust into the keen,
ferret-like face, and a smile of intense joy lit up the narrow, pale-coloured
He looked round the room where the great scene would be enacted: two
soldiers were standing guard outside Marguerite's prison, two more at
attention near the door which gave on the passage: his own half-dozen
picked men were waiting his commands in the corridor. Presently the
whole room would be lined with troops, himself and Collot standing with
eyes fixed on the principal actor of the drama! Hebert with specially
selected troopers standing on guard over Marguerite!
No, no! he had left nothing to chance this time, and down below the
horses would be ready saddled, that were to convey Collot and the
precious document to Paris.
No! nothing was left to chance, and in either case he was bound to win.
Sir Percy Blakeney would either write the letter in order to save his wife,
and heap dishonour on himself, or he would shrink from the terrible
ordeal at the last moment and let Chauvelin and the Committee of Public
Safety work their will with her and him.
"In that case the pillory as a spy and summary hanging for you, my
friend," concluded Chauvelin in his mind, "and for your wife ... Bah, once
you are out of the way, even she will cease to matter."
He left Hebert on guard in the room. An irresistible desire seized him to
go and have a look at his discomfited enemy, and from the latter's
attitude make a shrewd guess as to what he meant to do to-night.
Sir Percy had been given a room on one of the upper floors of the old
prison. He had in no way been closely guarded, and the room itself had
been made as comfortable as may be. He had seemed quite happy and
contented when he had been conducted hither by Chauvelin, the evening
"I hope you quite understand, Sir Percy, that you are my guest here to-
night," Chauvelin had said suavely, "and that you are free to come and
go, just as you please."
"Lud love you, sir," Sir Percy had replied gaily, "but I verily believe that I
"It is only Lady Blakeney whom we have cause to watch until to-
morrow," added Chauvelin with quiet significance. "Is that not so, Sir
But Sir Percy seemed, whenever his wife's name was mentioned, to lapse
into irresistible somnolence. He yawned now with his usual affectation,
and asked at what hour gentlemen in France were wont to breakfast.
Since then Chauvelin had not seen him. He had repeatedly asked how the
English prisoner was faring, and whether he seemed to be sleeping and
eating heartily. The orderly in charge invariably reported that the
Englishman seemed well, but did not eat much. On the other hand, he had
ordered, and lavishly paid for, measure after measure of brandy and
bottle after bottle of wine.
"Hm! how strange these Englishmen are!" mused Chauvelin; "this so-
called hero is nothing but a wine-sodden brute, who seeks to nerve
himself for a trying ordeal by drowning his faculties in brandy ... Perhaps
after all he doesn't care! ..."
But the wish to have a look at that strangely complex creature-- hero,
adventurer or mere lucky fool--was irresistible, and Chauvelin in the
latter part of the afternoon went up to the room which had been allotted
to Sir Percy Blakeney.
He never moved now without his escort, and this time also two of his
favourite bodyguard accompanied him to the upper floor. He knocked at
the door, but received no answer, and after a second or two he bade his
men wait in the corridor and, gently turning the latch, walked in.
There was an odour of brandy in the air; on the table two or three empty
bottles of wine and a glass half filled with cognac testified to the truth of
what the orderly had said, whilst sprawling across the camp bedstead,
which obviously was too small for his long limbs, his head thrown back,
his mouth open for a vigorous snore, lay the imperturbable Sir Percy fast
Chauvelin went up to the bedstead and looked down upon the reclining
figure of the man who had oft been called the most dangerous enemy of
Of a truth, a fine figure of a man, Chauvelin was ready enough to admit
that; the long, hard limbs, the wide chest, and slender, white hands, all
bespoke the man of birth, breeding and energy: the face too looked
strong and clearly-cut in repose, now that the perpetually inane smile did
not play round the firm lips, nor the lazy, indolent expression mar the
seriousness of the straight brow. For one moment--it was a mere flash--
Chauvelin felt almost sorry that so interesting a career should be thus
ignominiously brought to a close.
The Terrorist felt that if his own future, his own honour and integrity
were about to be so hopelessly crushed, he would have wandered up and
down this narrow room like a caged beast, eating out his heart with self-
reproach and remorse, and racking his nerves and brain for an issue out
of the terrible alternative which meant dishonour or death.
But this man drank and slept.
"Perhaps he doesn't care!"
And as if in answer to Chauvelin's puzzled musing a deep snore escaped
the sleeping adventurer's parted lips.
Chauvelin sighed, perplexed and troubled. He looked round the little
room, then went up to a small side table which stood against the wall and
on which were two or three quill pens and an ink-well, also some loosely
scattered sheets of paper. These he turned over with a careless hand and
presently came across a closely written page.
----"Citizen Chauvelin:--In consideration of a further sum of one million
It was the beginning of the letter! ... only a few words so far ... with
several corrections of misspelt words ... and a line left out here and there
which confused the meaning ... a beginning made by the unsteady hand of
that drunken fool ... an attempt only at present. ...
But still ... a beginning.
Close by was the draft of it as written out by Chauvelin, and which Sir
Percy had evidently begun to copy.
He had made up his mind then. ... He meant to subscribe with his own
hand to his lasting dishonour ... and meaning it, he slept!
Chauvelin felt the paper trembling in his hand. He felt strangely agitated
and nervous, now that the issue was so near ... so sure! ...
"There's no demmed hurry for that, is there ... er ... Monsieur
Chaubertin? ..." came from the slowly wakening Sir Percy in somewhat
thick, heavy accents, accompanied by a prolonged yawn. "I haven't got
the demmed thing quite ready ..."
Chauvelin had been so startled that the paper dropped from his hand. He
stooped to pick it up.
"Nay! why should you be so scared, sir?" continued Sir Percy lazily, "did
you think I was drunk? ... I assure you, sir, on my honour, I am not so
drunk as you think I am."
"I have no doubt, Sir Percy," replied Chauvelin ironically, "that you have
all your marvellous faculties entirely at your command. ... I must
apologize for disturbing your papers," he added, replacing the half-
written page on the table, "I thought perhaps that if the letter was ready
"It will be, sir ... it will be ... for I am not drunk, I assure you. ... and can
write with a steady hand ... and do honour to my signature. ..."
"When will you have the letter ready, Sir Percy?"
"The 'Day-Dream' must leave the harbour at the turn of the tide," quoth
Sir Percy thickly. "It'll be demmed well time by then ... won't it, sir? ..."
"About sundown, Sir Percy ... not later ..."
"About sundown ... not later ..." muttered Blakeney, as he once more
stretched his long limbs along the narrow bed.
He gave a loud and hearty yawn.
"I'll not fail you ..." he murmured, as he closed his eyes, and gave a final
struggle to get his head at a comfortable angle, "the letter will be written
in my best cali ... calig. ... Lud! but I'm not so drunk as you think I am.
But as if to belie his own oft-repeated assertion, hardly was the last word
out of his mouth than his stertorous and even breathing proclaimed the
fact that he was once more fast asleep.
With a shrug of the shoulders and a look of unutterable contempt at his
broken-down enemy, Chauvelin turned on his heel and went out of the
But outside in the corridor he called the orderly to him and gave strict
commands that no more wine or brandy was to be served to the
Englishman under any circumstances whatever.
"He has two hours in which to sleep off the effects of all that brandy
which he had consumed," he mused as he finally went back to his own
quarters, "and by that time he will be able to write with a steady hand."
Chapter XXXIII : The English Spy
And now at last the shades of evening were drawing in thick and fast.
Within the walls of Fort Gayole the last rays of the setting sun had long
ago ceased to shed their dying radiance, and through the thick stone
embrasures and the dusty panes of glass, the grey light of dusk soon
failed to penetrate.
In the large ground-floor room with its window opened upon the wide
promenade of the southern ramparts, a silence reigned which was
oppressive. The air was heavy with the fumes of the two tallow candles
on the table, which smoked persistently.
Against the walls a row of figures in dark blue uniforms with scarlet
facings, drab breeches and heavy riding boots, silent and immovable, with
fixed bayonets like so many automatons lining the room all round; at
some little distance from the central table and out of the immediate circle
of light, a small group composed of five soldiers in the same blue and
scarlet uniforms. One of these was Sergeant Hebert. In the centre of this
group two persons were sitting: a woman and an old man.
The Abbe Foucquet had been brought down from his prison cell a few
minutes ago, and told to watch what would go on around him, after
which he would be allowed to go to his old church of St. Joseph and ring
the Angelus once more before he and his family left Boulogne forever.
The Angelus would be the signal for the opening of all the prison gates in
the town. Everyone to-night could come and go as they pleased, and
having rung the Angelus, the abbe would be at liberty to join Francois
and Felicite and their old mother, his sister, outside the purlieus of the
The Abbe Foucquet did not quite understand all this, which was very
rapidly and roughly explained to him. It was such a very little while ago
that he had expected to see the innocent children mounting up those
awful steps which lead to the guillotine, whilst he himself was looking
death quite near in the face, that all this talk of amnesty and of pardon
had not quite fully reached his brain.
But he was quite content that it had all been ordained by le bon Dieu, and
very happy at the thought of ringing the dearly-loved Angelus in his own
old church once again. So when he was peremptorily pushed into the
room and found himself close to Marguerite, with four or five soldiers
standing round them, he quietly pulled his old rosary from his pocket and
began murmuring gentle "Paters" and "Aves" under his breath.
Beside him sat Marguerite, rigid as a statue: her cloak thrown over her
shoulders, so that its hood might hide her face. She could not now have
said how that awful day had passed, how she had managed to survive the
terrible, nerve-racking suspense, the agonizing doubt as to what was
going to happen. But above all, what she had found most unendurable
was the torturing thought that in this same grim and frowning building
her husband was there ... somewhere ... how far or how near she could
not say ... but she knew that she was parted from him and perhaps would
not see him again, not even at the hour of death.
That Percy would never write that infamous letter and LIVE, she knew.
That he might write it in order to save her, she feared was possible,
whilst the look of triumph on Chauvelin's face had aroused her most
When she was summarily ordered to go into the next room, she realized
at once that all hope now was more than futile. The walls lined with
troops, the attitude of her enemies, and above all that table with paper,
ink and pens ready as it were for the accomplishment of the hideous and
monstrous deed, all made her very heart numb, as if it were held within
the chill embrace of death.
"If the woman moves, speaks or screams, gag her at once!" said Collot
roughly the moment she sat down, and Sergeant Hebert stood over her,
gag and cloth in hand, whilst two soldiers placed heavy hands on her
But she neither moved nor spoke, not even presently when a loud and
cheerful voice came echoing from a distant corridor, and anon the door
opened and her husband came in, accompanied by Chauvelin.
The ex-ambassador was very obviously in a state of acute nervous
tension; his hands were tightly clasped behind his back, and his
movements were curiously irresponsible and jerky. But Sir Percy
Blakeney looked a picture of calm unconcern: the lace bow at his throat
was tied with scrupulous care, his eyeglass upheld at quite the correct
angle, and his delicate-coloured caped coat was thrown back just
sufficiently to afford a glimpse of the dainty cloth suit and exquisitely
embroidered waistcoat beneath.
He was the perfect presentation of a London dandy, and might have been
entering a royal drawing-room in company with an honoured guest.
Marguerite's eyes were riveted on him as he came well within the circle
of light projected by the candles, but not even with that acute sixth sense
of a passionate and loving woman could she detect the slightest tremor in
the aristocratic hands which held the gold-rimmed eyeglass, nor the
faintest quiver of the firmly moulded lips.
This had occurred just as the bell of the old Beffroi chimed three-quarters
after six. Now it was close on seven, and in the centre of the room and
with his face and figure well lighted up by the candles, at the table pen in
hand sat Sir Percy writing.
At his elbow just behind him stood Chauvelin on the one side and Collot
d'Herbois on the other, both watching with fixed and burning eyes the
writing of that letter.
Sir Percy seemed in no hurry. He wrote slowly and deliberately, carefully
copying the draft of the letter which was propped up in front of him. The
spelling of some of the French words seemed to have troubled him at
first, for when he began he made many facetious and self-deprecatory
remarks anent his own want of education, and carelessness in youth in
acquiring the gentle art of speaking so elegant a language.
Presently, however, he appeared more at his ease, or perhaps less inclined
to talk, since he only received curt monosyllabic answers to his pleasant
sallies. Five minutes had gone by without any other sound, save the
spasmodic creak of Sir Percy's pen upon the paper, the while Chauvelin
and Collot watched every word he wrote.
But gradually from afar there had arisen in the stillness of evening a
distant, rolling noise like that of surf breaking against the cliffs. Nearer
and louder it grew, and as it increased in volume, so it gained now in
diversity. The monotonous, roll-like, far-off thunder was just as
continuous as before, but now shriller notes broke out from amongst the
more remote sounds, a loud laugh seemed ever and anon to pierce the
distance and to rise above the persistent hubbub, which became the mere
accompaniment to these isolated tones.
The merrymakers of Boulogne, having started from the Place de la
Senechaussee, were making the round of the town by the wide avenue
which tops the ramparts. They were coming past the Fort Gayole,
shouting, singing, brass trumpets in front, big drum ahead, drenched, hot,
and hoarse, but supremely happy.
Sir Percy looked up for a moment as the noise drew neared, then turned
to Chauvelin and pointing to the letter, he said:
"I have nearly finished!"
The suspense in the smoke-laden atmosphere of this room was becoming
unendurable, and four hearts at least were beating wildly with
overpowering anxiety. Marguerite's eyes were fixed with tender intensity
on the man she so passionately loved. She did not understand his actions
or his motives, but she felt a wild longing in her, to drink in every line of
that loved face, as if with this last, long look she was bidding an eternal
farewell to all hopes of future earthly happiness.
The old priest had ceased to tell his beads. Feeling in his kindly heart the
echo of the appalling tragedy which was being enacted before him, he
had put out a fatherly, tentative hand towards Marguerite, and given her
icy fingers a comforting pressure.
And in the hearts of Chauvelin and his colleague there was satisfied
revenge, eager, exultant triumph and that terrible nerve-tension which
immediately precedes the long-expected climax.
But who can say what went on within the heart of that bold adventurer,
about to be brought to the lowest depths of humiliation which it is in the
power of man to endure? What behind that smooth unruffled brow still
bent laboriously over the page of writing?
The crowd was now on the Place Daumont; some of the foremost in the
ranks were ascending the stone steps which lead to the southern
ramparts. The noise had become incessant: Pierrots and Pierrettes,
Harlequins and Columbines had worked themselves up into a veritable
intoxication of shouts and laughter.
Now as they all swarmed up the steps and caught sight of the open
window almost on a level with the ground, and of the large dimly-lighted
room, they gave forth one terrific and voluminous "Hurrah!" for the
paternal government up in Paris, who had given them cause for all this
joy. Then they recollected how the amnesty, the pardon, the national fete,
this brilliant procession had come about, and somebody in the crowd
"Allons! les us have a look at that English spy! ..."
"Let us see the Scarlet Pimpernel!"
"Yes! yes! let us see what he is like!"
They shouted and stamped and swarmed round the open window,
swinging their lanthorns and demanding in a loud tone of voice that the
English spy be shown to them.
Faces wet with rain and perspiration tried to peep in at the window.
Collot gave brief orders to the soldiers to close the shutters at once and
to push away the crowd, but the crowd would not be pushed. It would
not be gainsaid, and when the soldiers tried to close the window, twenty
angry fists broke the panes of glass.
"I can't finish this writing in your lingo, sir, whilst this demmed row is
going on," said Sir Percy placidly.
"You have not much more to write, Sir Percy," urged Chauvelin with
nervous impatience, "I pray you, finish the matter now, and get you gone
from out this city."
"Send that demmed lot away, then," rejoined Sir Percy calmly.
"They won't go. ... They want to see you ..."
Sir Percy paused a moment, pen in hand, as if in deep reflection.
"They want to see me," he said with a laugh. "Why, demn it all ... then,
why not let em? ..."
And with a few rapid strokes of the pen, he quickly finished the letter,
adding his signature with a bold flourish, whilst the crowd, pushing,
jostling, shouting and cursing the soldiers, still loudly demanded to see
the Scarlet Pimpernel.
Chauvelin felt as if his heart would veritably burst with the wildness of its
Then Sir Percy, with one hand lightly pressed on the letter, pushed his
chair away and with his pleasant ringing voice, said once again:
"Well! demn it ... let 'em see me! ..."
With that he sprang to his feet and up to his full height, and as he did so
he seized the two massive pewter candlesticks, one in each hand, and
with powerful arms well outstretched he held them high above his head.
"The letter ..." murmured Chauvelin in a hoarse whisper.
But even as he was quickly reaching out a hand, which shook with the
intensity of his excitement, towards the letter on the table, Blakeney, with
one loud and sudden shout, threw the heavy candlesticks onto the floor.
They rattled down with a terrific crash, the lights were extinguished, and
the whole room was immediately plunged in utter darkness.
The crowd gave a wild yell of fear: they had only caught sight for one
instant of that gigantic figure--which, with arms outstretched had seemed
supernaturally tall--weirdly illumined by the flickering light of the tallow
candles and the next moment disappearing into utter darkness before
their very gaze. Overcome with sudden superstitious fear, Pierrots and
Pierrettes, drummer and trumpeters turned and fled in every direction.
Within the room all was wild confusion. The soldiers had heard a cry:
"La fenetre! La fenetre!"
Who gave it no one knew, no one could afterwards recollect: certain it is
that with one accord the majority of the men made a rush for the open
window, driven thither partly by the wild instinct of the chase after an
escaping enemy, and partly by the same superstitious terror which had
caused the crowd to flee. They clambered over the sill and dropped down
on to the ramparts below, then started in wild pursuit.
But when the crash came, Chauvelin had given one frantic shout:
"The letter!!! ... Collot!! ... A moi. ... In his hand. ... The letter! ..."
There was the sound of a heavy thud, of a terrible scuffle there on the
floor in the darkness and then a yell of victory from Collot d'Herbois.
"I have the letter! A Paris!"
"Victory!" echoed Chauvelin, exultant and panting, "victory!! The
Angelus, friend Hebert! Take the calotin to ring the Angelus!!!"
It was instinct which caused Collot d'Herbois to find the door; he tore it
open, letting in a feeble ray of light from the corridor. He stood in the
doorway one moment, his slouchy, ungainly form distinctly outlined
against the lighter background beyond, a look of exultant and malicious
triumph, of deadly hate and cruelty distinctly imprinted on his face and
with upraised hand wildly flourishing the precious document, the brand of
dishonour for the enemy of France.
"A Paris!" shouted Chauvelin to him excitedly. "Into Robespierre's hands.
... The letter! ..."
Then he fell back panting, exhausted on the nearest chair.
Collot, without looking again behind him, called wildly for the men who
were to escort him to Paris. They were picked troopers, stalwart veterans
from the old municipal guard. They had not broken their ranks
throughout the turmoil, and fell into line in perfect order as they followed
Citizen Collot out of the room.
Less than five minutes later there was the noise of stamping and
champing of bits in the courtyard below, a shout from Collot, and the
sound of a cavalcade galloping at break-neck speed towards the distant
Chapter XXXIV : The Angelus
And gradually all noises died away around the old Fort Gayole. The
shouts and laugher of the merrymakers, who had quickly recovered from
their fright, now came only as the muffled rumble of a distant storm,
broken here and there by the shrill note of a girl's loud laughter, or a
vigorous fanfare from the brass trumpets.
The room where so much turmoil had taken place, where so many hearts
had beaten with torrent-like emotions, where the awesome tragedy of
revenge and hate, of love and passion had been consummated, was now
silent and at peace.
The soldiers had gone: some in pursuit of the revellers, some with Collot
d'Herbois, others with Hebert and the calotin who was to ring the
Chauvelin, overcome with the intensity of his exultation and the agony of
the suspense which he had endured, sat, vaguely dreaming, hardly
conscious, but wholly happy and content. Fearless, too, for his triumph
was complete, and he cared not now if he lived or died.
He had lived long enough to see the complete annihilation and dishonour
of his enemy.
What had happened to Sir Percy Blakeney now, what to Marguerite, he
neither knew nor cared. No doubt the Englishman had picked himself up
and got away through the window or the door: he would be anxious to
get his wife out of the town as quickly as possible. The Angelus would
ring directly, the gates would be opened, the harbour made free to
And Collot was a league outside Boulogne by now ... a league nearer to
So what mattered the humbled wayside English flower?--the damaged
and withered Scarlet Pimpernel? ...
A slight noise suddenly caused him to start. He had been dreaming, no
doubt, having fallen into some kind of torpor, akin to sleep, after the
deadly and restless fatigue of the past four days. He certainly had been
unconscious of everything around him, of time and of place. But now he
felt fully awake.
And again he heard that slight noise, as if something or someone was
moving in the room.
He tried to peer into the darkness, but could distinguish nothing. He rose
and went to the door. It was still open, and close behind it against the
wall a small oil lamp was fixed which lit up the corridor.
Chauvelin detached the lamp and came back with it into the room. Just as
he did so there came to his ears the first sound of the little church bell
ringing the Angelus.
He stepped into the room holding the lamp high above his head; its feeble
rays fell full upon the brilliant figure of Sir Percy Blakeney.
He was smiling pleasantly, bowing slightly towards Chauvelin, and in his
hand he held the sheathed sword, the blade of which had been fashioned
in Toledo for Lorenzo Cenci, and the fellow of which was lying now--
Chauvelin himself knew not where.
"The day and hour, Monsieur, I think," said Sir Percy with courtly grace,
"when you and I are to cross swords together; those are the southern
ramparts, meseems. Will you precede, sir? and I will follow."
At sight of this man, of his impudence and of his daring, Chauvelin felt an
icy grip on his heart. His cheeks became ashen white, his thin lips closed
with a snap, and the hand which held the lamp aloft trembled visibly. Sir
Percy stood before him, still smiling and with a graceful gesture pointing
towards the ramparts.
From the Church of St. Joseph the gentle, melancholy tones of the
Angelus sounding the second Ave Maria came faintly echoing in the
With a violent effort Chauvelin forced himself to self-control, and tried to
shake off the strange feeling of obsession which had overwhelmed him in
the presence of this extraordinary man. He walked quite quietly up to the
table and placed the lamp upon it. As in a flash recollection had come
back to him .. the past few minutes! ... the letter! and Collot well on his
way to Paris!
Bah! he had nothing to fear now, save perhaps death at the hand of this
adventurer turned assassin in his misery and humiliation!
"A truce on this folly, Sir Percy," he said roughly, "as you well know, I
had never any intention of fighting you with these poisoned swords of
yours and ..."
"I knew that, M. Chauvelin. ... But do YOU know that I have the
intention of killing you now ... as you stand ... like a dog! ..."
And throwing down the sword with one of those uncontrolled outbursts
of almost animal passion, which for one instant revealed the real, inner
man, he went up to Chauvelin and towering above him like a great
avenging giant, he savoured for one second the joy of looking down on
that puny, slender figure which he could crush with sheer brute force,
with one blow from his powerful hands.
But Chauvelin at this moment was beyond fear.
"And if you killed me now, Sir Percy," he said quietly and looking the
man whom he so hated fully in the eyes, "you could not destroy that
letter which my colleague is taking to Paris at this very moment."
As he had anticipated, his words seemed to change Sir Percy's mood in
an instant. The passion in the handsome, aristocratic face faded in a trice,
the hard lines round the jaw and lips relaxed, the fire of revenge died out
from the lazy blue eyes, and the next moment a long, loud, merry laugh
raised the dormant echoes of the old fort.
"Nay, Monsieur Chaubertin," said Sir Percy gaily, "but this is marvellous
... demmed marvellous ... do you hear that, m'dear? ... Gadzooks! but 'tis
the best joke I have heard this past twelve-months. ... Monsieur here
thinks ... Lud! but I shall die of laughing. ... Monsieur here thinks ... that
'twas that demmed letter which went to Paris ... and that an English
gentleman lay scuffling on the floor and allowed a letter to be filched
from him ..."
"Sir Percy! ..." gasped Chauvelin, as an awful thought seemed suddenly
to flash across his fevered brain.
"Lud, sir, you are astonishing!" said Sir Percy, taking a very much
crumpled sheet of paper from the capacious pocket of his elegant caped
coat, and holding it close to Chauvelin's horror-stricken gaze. "THIS is
the letter which I wrote at that table yonder in order to gain time and in
order to fool you. ... But, by the Lord, you are a bigger demmed fool
than ever I took you to be, if you thought it would serve any other
purpose save that of my hitting you in the face with it."
And with a quick and violent gesture he struck Chauvelin full in the face
with the paper.
"You would like to know, Monsieur Chaubertin, would you not? ..." he
added pleasantly, "what letter it is that your friend, Citizen Collot, is
taking in such hot haste to Paris for you. ... Well! the letter is not long
and 'tis written in verse. ... I wrote it myself upstairs to-day whilst you
thought me sodden with brandy and three-parts asleep. But brandy is
easily flung out of the window. ... Did you think I drank it all? ... Nay! as
you remember, I told you that I was not so drunk as you thought? ...
Aye! the letter is writ in English verse, Monsieur, and it reads thus:
"We seek him here! we seek him there! Those Frenchies seek him
everywhere! Is he in heaven? is he in hell? That demmed elusive
"A neat rhyme, I fancy, Monsieur, and one which will, if rightly
translated, greatly please your friend and ruler, Citizen Robespierre. ...
Your colleague Citizen Collot is well on his way to Paris with it by now.
... No, no, Monsieur ... as you rightly said just now ... I really could not
kill you ... God having blessed me with the saving sense of humour ..."
Even as he spoke the third Ave Maria of the Angelus died away on the
morning air. From the harbour the old Chateau there came the loud boom
The hour of the opening of the gates, of the general amnesty and free
harbour was announced throughout Boulogne.
Chauvelin was livid with rage, fear and baffled revenge. He made a
sudden rush for the door in a blind desire to call for help, but Sir Percy
had toyed long enough with his prey. The hour was speeding on: Hebert
and some of the soldiers might return, and it was time to think of safety
and of flight. Quick as a hunted panther, he had interposed his tall figure
between his enemy and the latter's chance of calling for aid, then, seizing
the little man by the shoulders, he pushed him back into that portion of
the room where Marguerite and the Abbe Foucquet had been lately
The gag, with cloth and cord, which had been intended for a woman
were lying on the ground close by, just where Hebert had dropped them,
when he marched the old Abbe off to the Church.
With quick and dexterous hands, Sir Percy soon reduced Chauvelin to an
impotent and silent bundle. The ex-ambassador after four days of
harrowing nerve-tension, followed by so awful a climax, was weakened
physically and mentally, whilst Blakeney, powerful, athletic and always
absolutely unperturbed, was fresh in body and spirit. He had slept calmly
all the afternoon, having quietly thought out all his plans, left nothing to
chance, and acted methodically and quickly, and invariably with perfect
Having fully assured himself that the cords were well fastened, the gag
secure and Chauvelin completely helpless, he took the now inert mass up
in his arms and carried it into the adjoining room, where Marguerite for
twelve hours had endured a terrible martyrdom.
He laid his enemy's helpless form upon the couch, and for one moment
looked down on it with a strange feeling of pity quite unmixed with
contempt. The light from the lamp in the further room struck vaguely
upon the prostrate figure of Chauvelin. He seemed to have lost
consciousness, for the eyes were closed, only the hands, which were tied
securely to his body, had a spasmodic, nervous twitch in them.
With a good-natured shrug of the shoulders the imperturbable Sir Percy
turned to go, but just before he did so, he took a scrap of paper from his
waistcoat pocket, and slipped it between Chauvelin's trembling fingers.
On the paper were scribbled the four lines of verse which in the next four
and twenty hours Robespierre himself and his colleagues would read.
Then Blakeney finally went out of the room.
Chapter XXXV : Marguerite
As he re-entered the large room, she was standing beside the table, with
one dainty hand resting against the back of the chair, her whole graceful
figure bent forward as if in an agony of ardent expectation.
Never for an instant, in that supreme moment when his precious life was
at stake, did she waver in courage or presence of mind. From the moment
that he jumped up and took the candlesticks in his hands, her sixth sense
showed her as in a flash what he meant to do and how he would wish her
When the room was plunged in darkness she stood absolutely still; when
she heard the scuffle on the floor she never trembled, for her passionate
heart had already told her that he never meant to deliver that infamous
letter into his enemies' hands. Then, when there was the general scramble,
when the soldiers rushed away, when the room became empty and
Chauvelin alone remained, she shrank quietly into the darkest corner of
the room, hardly breathing, only waiting. ... Waiting for a sign from him!
She could not see him, but she felt the beloved presence there,
somewhere close to her, and she knew that he would wish her to wait. ...
She watched him silently ... ready to help if he called ... equally ready to
remain still and to wait.
Only when the helpless body of her deadly enemy was well out of the
way did she come from out the darkness, and now she stood with the full
light of the lamp illumining her ruddy golden hair, the delicate blush on
her cheek, the flame of love dancing in her glorious eyes.
Thus he saw her as he re-entered the room, and for one second he paused
at the door, for the joy of seeing her there seemed greater than he could
Forgotten was the agony of mind which he had endured, the humiliations
and the dangers which still threatened: he only remembered that she
loved him and that he worshipped her.
The next moment she lay clasped in his arms. All was still around them,
save for the gentle patter-patter of the rain on the trees of the ramparts:
and from very far away the echo of laughter and music from the distant
And then the cry of the sea-mew thrice repeated from just beneath the
Blakeney and Marguerite awoke from their brief dream: once more the
passionate lover gave place to the man of action.
"'Tis Tony, an I mistake not," he said hurriedly, as with loving fingers still
slightly trembling with suppressed passion, he readjusted the hood over
"Lord Tony?" she murmured.
"Aye! with Hastings and one or two others. I told them to be ready for us
to-night as soon as the place was quiet."
"You were so sure of success then, Percy?" she asked in wonderment.
"So sure," he replied simply.
Then he led her to the window, and lifted her onto the sill. It was not
high from the ground and two pairs of willing arms were there ready to
help her down.
Then he, too, followed, and quietly the little party turned to walk toward
the gate. The ramparts themselves now looked strangely still and silent:
the merrymakers were far away, only one or two passers-by hurried
swiftly past here and there, carrying bundles, evidently bent on making
use of that welcome permission to leave this dangerous soil.
The little party walked on in silence, Marguerite's small hand resting on
her husband's arm. Anon they came upon a group of soldiers who were
standing somewhat perfunctorily and irresolutely close by the open gate
of the Fort.
"Tiens c'est l'Anglais!" said one.
"Morbleu! he is on his way back to England," commented another lazily.
The gates of Boulogne had been thrown open to everyone when the
Angelus was rung and the cannon boomed. The general amnesty had
been proclaimed, everyone had the right to come and go as they pleased,
the sentinels had been ordered to challenge no one and to let everyone
No one knew that the great and glorious plans for the complete
annihilation of the Scarlet Pimpernel and his League had come to naught,
that Collot was taking a mighty hoax to Paris, and that the man who had
thought out and nearly carried through the most fiendishly cruel plan ever
conceived for the destruction of an enemy, lay helpless, bound and
gagged, within his own stronghold.
And so the little party, consisting of Sir Percy and Marguerite, Lord
Anthony Dewhurst and my Lord Hastings, passed unchallenged through
the gates of Boulogne.
Outside the precincts of the town they met my Lord Everingham and Sir
Philip Glynde, who had met the Abbe Foucquet outside his little church
and escorted him safely out of the city, whilst Francois and Felicite with
their old mother had been under the charge of other members of the
"We were all in the procession, dressed up in all sorts of ragged finery,
until the last moment," explained Lord Tony to Marguerite as the entire
party now quickly made its way to the harbour. "We did not know what
was going to happen. ... All we knew was that we should be wanted
about this time--the hour when the duel was to have been fought--and
somewhere near here on the southern ramparts ... and we always have
strict orders to mix with the crowd if there happens to be one. When we
saw Blakeney raise the candlesticks we guessed what was coming, and
we each went to our respective posts. It was all quite simple."
The young man spoke gaily and lightly, but through the easy banter of his
tone, there pierced the enthusiasm and pride of the solider in the glory
and daring of his chief.
Between the city walls and the harbour there was much bustle and
agitation. The English packet-boat would lift anchor at the turn of the
tide, and as every one was free to get aboard without leave or passport,
there were a very large number of passengers, bound for the land of
Two boats from the "Day-Dream" were waiting in readiness for Sir Percy
and my lady and those whom they would bring with them.
Silently the party embarked, and as the boats pushed off and the sailors
from Sir Percy's yacht bent to their oars, the old Abbe Foucquet began
gently droning a Pater and Ave to the accompaniment of his beads.
He accepted joy, happiness and safety with the same gentle philosophy as
he would have accepted death, but Marguerite's keen and loving ears
caught at the end of each "Pater" a gently murmured request to le bon
Dieu to bless and protect our English rescuer.